9. Inspiration at Cullendulla Nature Reserve

One scorching day in January, we hid indoors and only ventured out at dusk as the high winds and bushfire smoke were clearing. Our plan was to amble the Cullendulla Creek Nature Reserve, just outside Batemans Bay. We were hopeful that the menagerie described in NSW National Parks & Wildlife brochures- echidnas, oystercatchers, soldier crabs, black swans and the southern emu wren would join us.

The Cullendulla Reserve is a special estuarine wetland area. Despite being so close to residential suburbs, it attracts international teams of scientists. Geologists in particular are interested in its unusual low dune formations called ‘cheniers’. The sand in these dunes record an amazing 7000 years of shoreline changes and are the only such examples of the formation south of Northern Queensland. Botanists visit for the endangered Swamp Oak forest and Spotted Gum trees as well as dense beds of sea grass.

Cullendulla is also special to aboriginal people of the Walbanja language group. Large middens around the estuary tell of hundreds of seasonal gatherings and feasts of oysters, cockles and fish.


Salt- encrusted sand crackled under our feet as the casuarinas whispered overhead. Poking out of tall grass were some wooden rails and rusted iron sheets- perhaps from the tramway that carried felled timber throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. 

As we laced our way along raised boardwalk we found bench seats nestling among the unusual mixture of grey and river mangrove trees. These seats gave us ideal resting spots to spy on scores of shy soldier crabs. Fingerlings of presumably whiting, flathead and bream shimmered in rivulets among the ‘pneumatophores’ (mangrove roots). 

The path brought us out onto the beach just as dusk was settling. Against a backdrop of gently lapping waves, we poked our noses into the densely tangled roots of fallen trees. They gave up treasures in the form of lost fishing tackle, a two-cent coin and numerous shells through which gnarly fingers had grown.


As ducks and honeyeaters bid us farewell, I knew I would return- for study, pleasure, and creative inspiration. For more information about walking tracks in the sanctuary, visithttp://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/nationalparks/parkWalking.aspx?id=N0805


One rainy Winter Thursday in Queanbeyan, the mayor opened a specially prepared book and the new local library was officially opened. Sandwiched between stacks, I peeked out on the invited guests including Aboriginal elders, engineers, artists, poets, bureaucrats, librarians and significant locals. All of us had assembled to celebrate the birth of the new public library, which was fondly coined the ‘living room of Queanbeyan’.

As the speeches progressed in a cadence of references to stories, children, education and communal gatherings, my eyes fell on shelved titles that I would like to browse on a separate occasion (‘The Encyclopedia of Symbols’; ‘Ancient Chinese Embroidery’; ‘Sacred and Profane’…).

It was clear from the community’s response to the opening that all of us had gained immeasurably from library membership- ranging from casual browsing to concerted study. Whilst comparatively humble in its aspect and offerings, this local library nevertheless presents a set of ‘information keys’. They silently but surely jangle with the prospect of linking with the world- unlocking time and cultures and questions. Right then, between the stacks, rain falling outside, speeches unfolding; my utter freedom of enquiry again struck me as an enormous privilege…

For the public library artworks, local artists were invited to interpret the theme ‘the word and its many expressions’. For several months prior, I had been playing with the mid 18th century European concept of miniature theatrical sets. I had been taken with the interwoven simplicity and imagination in these sets. Mostly for the children’s amusement, I had been mocking up family holiday scenes and pop up gift cards. When I learned of the commission opportunity I decided to tell the story of the development of the written word in a series of large-scale polymer clay panels (my preferred medium).

My work began with research into the origin of words, in particular, which cultures had made significant contributions to the development of written words; in what form; and what was an identifiable artistic style of the relevant time. To convey my concept to the judging panel, I mocked up a large cardboard model. This embodied all my design decisions about colours, placement, order and content. This initial work consumed at least 60 hours over about 3 weeks. Fortunately I was able to draw on some of my background in archaeology and even some of the research behind early collections of my polymer clay accessories.



I delivered my tunnel book model to the library in a big blue cloth bag- both emblazoned with my name and telephone number in bold black indelible ink. To my amusement, (when the time came to collect my model and begin work), the librarians handed over the bag with relief. They had been tripping over it and declared ‘we had no idea who to contact in order to return this’! So much for the word if it is never read!




My series of tunnel book panels begins with an artistic impression of the latest bamboo-covered e-reader and culminates with humanity’s beginning: a kindled hearth and the earliest known prehistoric cave paintings (from Chauvet in France). As if the viewer is researching the origin of words, the remaining pages traverse time and space, featuring writing and artwork inspired by:

  1. Persia: Achaemenid / Old Persian script (525BC)
  2. China: Oracle Bone script (1200BC)
  3. Aegean/ Greece: Minoan Linear A script (1700BC)
  4. Egypt: hieroglyphs (2700BC)
  5. Sumeria: cuneiform (2900BC)

Each polymer clay panel (with acrylic, metal leaf, alcohol ink, metal beads) has been textured, shaped and oven-cured before assembly. I used a variety of techniques, including caning, carving, sculpting and painting. I made each panel in pieces, regretting always that my baking was restricted by my oven size. Panels measure A3 but the oven could accommodate marginally more than A4. Concealing joins occupied a good proportion of my assembly time, as did fiddling with an assortment of uncured shapes (to maximize baking cycles).

Making and baking, including sealing/ varnishing occupied around 60 hours. Working late into the night- often up to 2am in order to meet the deadline, I was ever grateful that I had prepared such a detailed model. I needed only to scale up the design by 20%. I departed only once from my original design and this occurred in the Egyptian panel. About two inches from the base of the panel, I had designed a carved strip bearing agricultural scenes (rows of ducks, oxen and their attendants, threshing wheat etc). I ultimately omitted this strip because I felt the detail in it would be lost against the metal leaf and alcohol inks in the Egyptian panel and the sea of the Minoan panel.

I fixed polymer clay panels to each other with cyanoacrylate glue and panels to their frames with two-part epoxy resin. In order to strengthen finer polymer clay pieces and guard against slumping over time, I cut a fine latticework of MDF pieces and glued them to the mainframe behind the more fragile polymer clay pieces. Since I could not rush the drying time of the glue, assembly was a cyclical process taking several nights per panel. I used an antique gold furniture wax to buff the edges of the frames- to suggest the gold gilt edges of antique books. Assembly occupied around 20 hours.

Someone might be interested to know how I feel about the finished work. I regard it as a successful execution of my concept and quite unique- it is the only polymer clay tunnel book I have ever seen in Australia or overseas. The scale of the work also exceeds the regular scale of polymer clay works, including my own, so I feel I have met a private challenge. I am most delighted with my execution of the Sumerian king- carving him required reverse engineering of the original artisan’s handiwork. What a thrill to tie my hand an eye to the work of a once attentive hand and eye from once upon a time…






7. Designing For The Future

Out in the studio, I have been busy preparing for new clay classes (to be held at Benedict House from 2 May 2012). My courses will explore fundamental, intermediate and advanced techniques. Each class will be an informal experience designed to inspire imagination and experimentation.

The class preparation has given me an excuse to try out some new techniques. One example is making text beads with inkjet waterslide transfers. I found the instructions straightforward, even suspiciously easy. Sure enough, I would add a further printed caution:- ensure that no moisture seeps under the transfer at the edges (or the text will blur). Until baking, my transfer appeared to be a success. The text was crisp; the backing slid off easily; and there was firm and smooth adhesion between the bead surface and the skin-like printed film.

For years I have listened to my father (a material scientist and retired conservator) caution against the mixing of unlike materials. His words came to life before my eyes. Microscopic air bubbles and wrinkles had formed during baking. Clearly, the transfer film (being of a different material) did not shrink at the 1% rate of the underlying polymer clay. I tried to heal the flaws by piercing the air bubbles and applying a thin slip of translucent clay.

Ultimately, I abandoned the bead. I pared back the transfer, sanded back the core and started afresh with a laser transfer directly onto liquid polymer clay- matching like with like. Whilst the first bead looked fine, I was not confident that the bead would wear well over time. The two unlike materials would continue to resist each other. In the rough and tumble of daily wear, the marriage would eventually break down.

Incidentally, the beads commemorate the sinking of the Titanic, which occurred 100 years ago in mid April. I was inspired by late night radio programs about the musicians aboard the vessel and the effect of the accident on those who saved themselves at the expense of others (including children). The Titanic endures as a controversial reminder of fatal human pride and the need to consider the future in real, not imagined terms.

I have also been experimenting with alcohol inks and metal foils. This enabled me to give life to some miniature sculptural projects I have had on the backburner. Mushrooms, pumpkin, ikebana, and even the Majishan Grottoes feature in these works.


If you are interested in seeing some of this work, please get in contact directly or come and visit Benedict House in Queanbeyan on May 6 for a ‘Form and Fashion’ exhibition.

Also on the subject of designing for the future, we were recently digging footings for a new garden bed. My crowbar-wielding husband spotted a tiny frog at his feet. We were thrilled to see the little creature. It confirmed for us that our former hard work (sinking a recycled bath into our garden as a pond) was worth the effort for struggling wildlife. Google later showed us that the frog was a rare and endangered Boorolong frog. Such frogs are found only in limited littoral forests throughout NSW. They have virtually disappeared from Victoria and do not live in other parts of Australia. We did not see it again but talk of frogs burbled from the children throughout the afternoon, accompanied by the trickle of water from our new solar powered water fountain…








Meanwhile, the tomatoes keep coming. When the self-sown plants popped up in paths and concrete cracks and the odd pot in Spring, I hoped that re-planting them under the fruit trees would bring us a tasty crop. I had no idea that I would be filling a 10L bucket every 3 days well into Autumn! The chokos too are now forming another refrigerator glut- hard up against the zucchini glut that we have just got under control. Who said gardening is a peaceful activity (a non-gardener!)?



Somewhere in Queanbeyan, two young children sit astride their bicycles. Surrounded by enormous dahlias and oriental lilies, Miss 4 is shouting across the yard to Mr 5- ‘I don’t want your virgin, I want my own virgin.’

For the edification of the neighbourhood, their argument concerned the lyrics of a song that Mr 5 had recently mastered. Miss 4 preferred the version she learned from Mamma. Mr 5 shouted back ‘I go to school. You are only 4. I KNOW the words. It goes like this: Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques; door in view, door in view; someone let him in; someone let him in; ding dong dang, ding dong dang.’

The winds of God are always blowing but you must set the sails’ (Anon)

Shortly before Christmas, I was informed that I was not among finalists for a design competition I had entered to celebrate the Centenary of Canberra. For this competition (that consumed months of research, design and liaison), I organised a new collaboration of artisans in Tasmania and the ACT. We were all excited about the prospective launch of a new product that showcased all our skills.

I received no explanation for the blandly stated rejection. It was hardest for me to let the others down, especially without the judge’s explanation. I explored proceeding outside the competition parameters. Some of my contacts had moved on and predictions of ‘Eurogeddon’ worsened my prospects in the retail industry. Ultimately I let the product go… at least until the trade winds blow more favourably.

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life’ (Mark Twain)

A friend I hadn’t seen for 8 years, popped in over Christmas and we caught up some years with easy familiarity. It turned out I had been listening to a radio reading of a book she had been meaning to send me. Even after 4 weeks, the Singapore orchids she gave me are still enlivening our dinner table. She later sent me that book and I have been enjoying snatching moments to read it over tea and occasionally to the children. Later, another of my friends dropped in and we shared a homegrown home cooked lunch. I made her some new clips as a gift for her friends' children. I plan to make more of these and take them to market. 



Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and richness to life that nothing else can bring.’ (Oscar Wilde)

On the day I learned that another museum buyer was not interested in taking on my work, I also achieved a goal I nursed for 10 years. That is to grow and plait my own onions- ‘a la Toscana’ (Tuscan-style). I harvested and plaited up 6 fragrant bunches. As I mulled over new disappointments, the eldest of all our new chooks began to feed from my hand. That was ample compensation.



Out in the yard, the beans and trombone zucchini are thriving. The choko has enveloped the fence and is lustily advancing on the plumcott tree. Our plums and apricots have finished, having made their way into cordials, jams and iceblocks. The cool weather since Christmas has only afforded us a small handful of tomatoes. The cucumbers are enjoying the shade of the sunflowers but the sunflowers are attracting more cockatoos. One morning, these rascals turned their attention to our apples. They littered the ground with pieces of Granny Smith in pursuit of a paltry sum of apple seeds!




Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.’ (Thomas Huxley)

All around me in the marketplace, I encounter inverted value. Being in the business of convincing others about the value of my handiwork compared with other products, the question of value often confronts me. Curious juxtapositions emerge...

In preparation for the new school year, I brought home a 48-page exercise book. It cost 5 cents. Reaching for the top shelf in a fluorescent lit, air-conditioned aisle jingling with ‘golden oldies’, it struck me that there had been an error. Somewhere there had been an error! Think of the decades-old trees that make the pulp for the paper; the fossil fuels that drive the machines that cut them down in seconds; the wage earning workers that build the machines that apply the ink to every page; the mine that gives up its ore to make the metal to make the staples that bind the book; the navigators that bring the crates of books from China to Australian shores; and the drivers and shelf stackers that keep the aisles full… and all this cost me 5 cents.

The very night before I listened to a radio program in which an old lady described a letter she had found in her attic. It was written by one of her relatives to another relative overseas. Simply to preserve the then scarce paper, the author of the letter had written first in one direction. They then rotated the page 90 degrees and wrote across the letter. She wondered at its legibility, evidently with a deep respect…

See you around!



This month, I am looking forward to having some precious time off with my family. At this time, while so many people increase their efforts to find Christmas gifts for their near and dear, I also send a heartfelt thanks to friends of Findi Flooshki.

It has been my pleasure to meet you at local markets; catch up with you from week to week; work with you on special orders; and most recently, announce a winner of my latest competition. I always enjoy learning your personal stories and look forward to sharing more of them in 2012.

This afternoon, I had a chance to wander at leisurely pace around our garden. The shadows were lengthening but the sunshine was still warm. From one corner in the vegie patch, the calendulas were creating sunshine of their own. And the onion flowers answered them with lunar brilliance.


Using proceeds from the latest Findi Flooshki sales, we bought bales of sugar cane mulch in preparation for the long hot summer days ahead. We laid down a good thick blanket around the sweet corn, Italian beans and peas. Our heritage crops- banana onions, trombone zucchini and zebra tomatoes appear to love it. The Californian capsicums and carrots are also thriving.


We also ordered and strung up more than 50 organic insect traps. They look like wannabe Christmas tree decorations blowing in the wind. The pheromone-impregnated glue is working wonders to attract the aphids that had been decimating particularly our cherry trees. We continue to struggle with cherry slug on the pear trees. The Japanese mandarins are swelling with delicious green intensity. Happily, last year’s katydid plague has not yet revisited them.


Back in the studio I am beginning to design a new collection around ice age artwork from the scenic valley of the Ardeche River in France. The mineral stained limestone, charcoal and ochre presents a fascinating challenge for polymer clay. I love the idea of tracing by hand designs that were first hand drawn around 32000 years ago.

What a contrast to my planning for designs based on Persian miniature paintings! And what a contrast to internet surfing for vintage metal buttons! And yet they are woven together over thousands of years with an undeniable thread of human interest in design, pigments and significance.

I am also keenly awaiting the outcome of a competition for the design of an innovative and engaging product of memorabilia that is intended to commemorate the Centenary of Canberra. To manufacture this product, I formed a new collaboration of designers in the ACT and Tasmania. I hope to have more news about this competition in mid-December.

Thank you again to all friends of Findi Flooshki. I am still available to take last minute Christmas orders until 14 December. Have a safe and peaceful Christmas period. 

4. Does the world need Findi Flooshki?


Conceive what life would mean for us if every object from the smallest to the greatest presented itself immediately to our minds in all its attributes and relations. That would, indeed, be living a waking life in this world.” A.R.Orage


More than once people have stood at my market stall and been ‘wowed’ with the array of designs they find there. I enjoy their pleasure in inspecting my designs and their smallest details. I also enjoy their marvel that I would care to include the smallest detail in my accessories in a culture that increasingly neglects small details. Most especially I enjoy people finding something in my work, which has come to mean a great deal to them.

Creating visually appealing pieces is one of my clear aims. However, there is more to a Findi Flooshki than meets the eye. It is this that enables me to answer the 'barbeque stopping' question- 'in a world of gross inequality, does the world really need Findi Flooshki?' 

Take, for example, my Fortune Teller Barrette:


The inspiration for this barrette originates in Caravaggio’s painting ‘The Fortune Teller’. It was painted in 1594 and is presently housed in the Capitoline Museums in Rome. If you look closely at the Fortune Teller’s collar, you will observe that the barrette mimics its fine gold detail and creased fabric and even the ragged edge of the painted ribbon…



I have been fortunate to visit and study this painting in person. I like its triangulation (his and her face with their hands; and his face and his two hands) as well as the protagonists’ postures- so deliciously representative of their characters. One of the things I most like about Caravaggio is his revolutionary insistence on painting from life. At his time, it was more common for Renaissance artists to copy established masters in order to establish their own credentials. Caravaggio’s work reminds me of my own inspiration from ordinary life- a walk to my letterbox reveals miniscule treasures flowering in my succulent garden; a daily drive past the school median strip reveals gorgeous spring grasses bristling with life; the exquisitely crafted gum nut under my foot shows up the limits of my dexterity!


The barrette is composed of polymer clay- a plastic-based modelling material that was first formulated in Germany prior to the Second World War. In Germany, the material was developed for doll making purposes (FIMO) whilst in America industrial manufacturers (unsuccessfully) tried to use it for insulating transformers and then produced it for toy manufacture (Sculpey). Polymer clay comprises various pigments, plasticizers and binders, which are polymerised by baking. Recipes vary between companies and products and have evolved over time to increase workability and deliver better colour saturation. I use Sculpey “Premo!” partly because it no longer contains harmful phthalates. Whilst polymer clay was first (and for a long time) associated with children’s craft and novelty hobbies, international sculptors, jewellers and designers have now established it as a serious art medium. Dedicated polymer clay communities have sprung up around the globe to showcase the dynamic potential of the medium and stunning craftsmanship.


Turning the barrette over, you will find a heavy gauge 80mm auto-lock barrette. This barrette was made in France, around 17000km away from my home in Australia. The barrette style originated in France and the French still contribute a world best standard in metal barrettes.

The barrette dates back to at least the 1870s when it was popular to wear hair in a plait or twisted braid gathered on the nape of the neck (the ‘Catogan’). Most 19th Century barrettes were made of metal, horn or tortoiseshell and were either rectangular or crescent shaped. The barrette underwent a decade-long decline in popularity, which reversed around 1895. During this time, it became an important accessory well adapted for showcasing art nouveau designs (most notably, ivy and sycamore leaves and curvilinear themes). The barrette continued to be fashionable well into the 1930s when small enamel and diamante barrettes were popular ways to clip hair on the side of the head. The popularity of the barrette again declined during the 1940s when shorter hairstyles were in vogue. During the 1950s and 1960s, the wearing of hats assumed the place of many hair accessories. Mass produced alternatives such as plastic combs and elastic bands, cheaper metal barrettes and decline in traditional care and craftsmanship have all eroded the place of the barrette in modern times.


The barrette can be used to fasten hair in many styles from a formal ponytail or chignon to a loose and casual up dos. A barrette can also be used to fasten a pashmina or scarf. In some countries, women use more decorative barrettes to adorn their handbags when not in use in their hair.


I expect a Findi Flooshki barrette to last many years because the French barrette is made to last and polymer clay is very durable once baked. Some chemicals can adversely affect polymer clay but if you observe the simple care and cleaning instructions that I include with every Findi Flooshki, the barrette will last a long time. I also offer a repair or replacement service for your barrette. If your barrette should come to harm please do not hesitate to contact me and I will do my best to repair or replace it.


More can be added to the origin, history, relations, use and future of the Fortune Teller Barrette! For example, I know nothing about its future owner- her appearance, her experience, her outlook or her values.

The point is not to painfully assemble facts about this barrette for her. Rather, I seek to encourage her to bring her own knowledge to it. More importantly, I hope she deliberately tries to simultaneously hold in her mind all she perceives about her barrette every time she reaches for it. I hope she feels the difference between first laying eyes on her barrette and then under standing it.  




3. Time is Ticking: Valuing an Artisan's Creative Time

In the course of conversation with my peers at the Australian Polymer Clay Guild about pricing our polymer items, it was noted that ‘most people don't understand and often don't care about the amount of time that goes into making what we make.’

It seems many in the polymer clay community have resigned themselves to never recouping their time spent making unique handmade artistic works.

What a contrast to my other discipline of law where time charging is strongly supported- in 6-minute units to be precise! All the plumbers and electricians who have ever attended to services for me charge by the hour. Even travel time for freelancers to get to and from work may be tax deductible.

The value of time seems as plastic as the clay we polymeristas love to manipulate!

When I visit the doctor, I am regularly expected to accept waiting an hour after my scheduled appointment time (for which I was expected to be punctual). More starkly, on the verge of delivering my third baby, the midwife asked me to ‘hang on for 2 minutes’ for the obstetrician to arrive. Every parent of young children knows that time stands still during 5 minutes alone with a hot coffee!

How do we polymeristas value our own work? By time? By formulas addressing material costs and market tolerance? By educating our audience about the time we spend and the value it provides?

In case someone out there IS interested in the time it takes me to make one of my items, I offer the following explanation for one of my most popular pieces- ‘Dusk Cherry Blossoms’:


Time Spent

Design/ research/ colour selection.

45 minutes

Open packages, slice and condition sheet of black, blue and silver- up to 5 minutes depending on environmental temperature.

5 minutes

Make Skinner Blend of blue and silver

2 minutes

Select template shape; cut conditioned clay sheets to shape; and overlay colours. Trim.

4 minutes

Cut flowers. Texture internal flower parts with needle. Hand roll blue centre.

10 minutes.

Cut and hand roll sakura branch parts.

5 minutes

Place formed flowers and branches on background. Remove air bubbles. Trim.

10 minutes. 


30 minutes

Cool in iced water.

5 minutes

Wet sand with 400, 600, 800, 2400 and denim.

15 minutes

Apply signature disc and finding. Allow to dry.

5 mins

Inspect. Test fine detail and attachments by rubbing with toothbrush and fingers.

3 mins


30- 60 minutes

Internet listing.

60 minutes


2 minutes


ACTUAL TIME FOR ME: around 4 hours

In April, 2011 ‘Dusk Cherry Blossoms’ is on sale for $33. This price reflects what the public expects to pay for a polymer clay item presented by a previously unknown self-made artist.

Taking into account my material costs, I am charging myself out at far less than Australian Award Wages. Aside from how you value my artisanship, you would have to agree that the economics of my time does not make sense.

Originally, I thought the price I was asking was generous and clearly designed to promote my products. Yet when I browsed one of the most popular Internet sites for handmade items- Etsy- I found polymer clay hair accessories for $2. $2- $5 was so regularly posted, my prices began to seem exorbitant and I blushed! Those economics really do not make sense to me. It was at that point I coined two new terms:

  • Promo sapien: human being specifically evolved to self-promote at the expense of their peers and the reputation of their craft.
  • Etzilla- lovely to look at on Etsy but awful to know in real life.

The international renown of artisans struggling to make a living needs no introduction. I recently encountered a poignant example in Italy in October last year.

After 7 years of Italian language training in Australia, award of art and language prizes from the Dante Alighieri Society, and personal study of art, food and culture, I finally visited Florence, Rome and Sorrento.

My travel companions were my baby daughter and my parents (I left my two other children with my supportive husband at home). For my parents, the trip also brought long-awaited fulfillment. 30 years prior, they had the opportunity to stop in Florence. However their then 3 young daughters accompanied them. Navigating the family campervan through narrow cobbled streets and securely parking the van were nightmare enough, let alone traipsing through the crowded Uffizi with toddlers! With regret, they were compelled to bypass it.

My parents finally set foot on Florentine soil on what would have been my grandfather’s 100th birthday- 10.10.2010, with one of their daughters and her baby daughter… a coincidence we celebrated.

While we were in Sorrento, I met an aged shell cameo carver. He inhabited a tiny dark shop close to the sea, which was stuffed full of pink and white cameos. Every time I sighted him from our apartment balcony overhead, he was poring over antiquated leather bound books, loose-leaf papers and sepia photographs in antiquated albums. His tiny shop stayed open from 10am until midnight every day of the week.

I spent some time with this white haired artisan asking questions about his craft and studying his handcrafted wares. He showed me his aged chisels, shaped perfectly to his gnarled hands. He explained to me how the shells were chosen and cut and carved. (Anyone who is interested in learning about this can have a look at the following informative link: http://www.cascosrl.it/en.cameoproduction.htm). He complained with feeling that his art was dying and that there were only 6 authentic cameo artisans left in Sorrento. Furthermore, not even the mass producers in China and India felt it worthwhile to reproduce such detailed cameos.

I met many artisans like him in Italy- in papermaking, leather craft, mosaics, dollhouse furniture, and puppetry. They were all the last baton carriers of their craft, all highly skilled, all lonely and hungry to share the human side of their business and the tragic loss of long cherished and developed traditions.

Projecting myself into their position 50 years from now, I slowly came to a realization. A realization that has continued to emerge from my polymer clay like an exquisite treasure.

Time is a precious, finite resource. Along that finite continuum, there are moments that can intersect and resonate in eternity. The moment an artisan steps up in them self, the result endures well beyond the economics and the casual buyers and the tourists of their art. What a rich treasure for them, what a gift, what a moment for us to hunt among all the overstuffed shops and Internet sites and books and galleries testifying to an artisan’s life.

The old artisan I met in Sorrento hinted at it. He waved a dismissive hand over his entire shop. ‘I have carved these women for 30 years. They are all good and they all sell. After thirty years, they are all the same to me.’ He indicated a far inferior carving of a faun-like creature. ‘This design is my design. For me, it is much better work. It is three times the price...’



2. The Australian story

The inspiration from this collection dates back to my time spent as an undergraduate archaeology student at the Australian National University. As part of my course requirements, I participated in a dig in the Snowy Mountains country of Kiandra.

For two weeks, we were stationed at Cabramurra- a small town of less than 100 residents, which is known as the highest permanently inhabited township in Australia. Cabramurra was established as part of the Snowy Mountains Scheme development in the 1950s. At the time, I worked under the nickname ‘Dirt Girl’ since I was tasked with soil analyses across the site.

In class, the professors had led us to expect structures from the early 1900s. This was sufficiently exciting to prompt hard work from an eclectic bunch of students. First, we painstakingly removed alpine grass and topsoil from the designated site, which adjoined the main road. Then we gridded and on hands and knees, recorded every inch of ground across the site before beginning the dig. Old timers stopped their cars and stared at our work. Some even stopped by and showed us albums of black and white photographs of bygone landscapes.

Thousands of sifted and catalogued artifacts, March Fly bites and skinned knuckles later, I was responsible for shutting down a third of the dig on account of my discovery of loose asbestos fibres in the soil. My analyses also showed a higher proportion of fibro than would be expected of structures from the 1900s. Then my name really was mud!

Down time from the dig saw me taking long walks through the alpine summer landscape. It was intimate time with nature- serene plays of light on tussocks, roads straddled by the smooth limbs of stunningly patterned snow gums. The sky was so blue it pierced my retinas and the pace of life there settled on me like liquid amber or pilgrimage. In patches, tiny alpine flowers and grasses competed with wild strawberries, pelargonium, cotoneaster- introduced species that must have escaped from long since destroyed or removed cottage gardens.

Sometimes, when I am driving my children home, I catch sight of a tussock of grass beside the road. Tussocks that would be at home in many of Australia’s extreme alpine or desert landscapes. I want to stop the car and admire it- it’s toughness and its raw beauty and its simple design… I am instantly transported back to the honeyed solitude I found in the mountains.

Eucalyptus pauciflora/ snow gums are now helping dendroclimatologists to build an Australian climate record spanning the past 500 years. Their slow growth and sensitivity to cold leads to clarity in their tree rings. This is enabling Australian National University scientists to build a picture of climate change in Australia.  It is hoped that this information will inform policy makers in the future (see more at http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/snowgum-tree-rings-shed-light-on-past-climate.htm).

For all admirers of natural landscapes, and who carry a little of these landscapes inside them, I offer you my Australian collection.  


1. In the beginning: handmade accessories to catch and keep attention

Findi Flooshki offers you handmade accessories that aim to catch and keep attention.

At present I choose to specialize in handmade hair accessories including hair clips, combs, hairpins, bridal accessories and hair ornaments.

My interest in hair accessories arose from a childhood among sisters; my father’s work as an art conservator; and my mother’s artistic hands incessantly busy among sewing, embroidery, silk painting and knitting. 

A degree in archaeology and my adult travels throughout Europe and Asia forged a serious appreciation for artisanship and the fine arts. My travels always take me to art museums and antiquities museums. There I have found that collectors worldwide share my fascination for hair ornaments. These date further back than the Bronze Age. (What I would have given for any gorgeous comb as my wriggling babies tousle my locks and fluster my photographs in museums!)

Men and women from antiquity made and wore hair ornaments that were made from natural materials: wood, bone, stone, leather, shell, textiles and ivory. Bronze, gold, silver and other precious metals were later joined by vulcanized rubber and celluloid as popular materials for hair accessories.

When I started the Findi Flooshki journey, I knew that if I was to put my own hands to work in tribute to artisans past, and in service to modern people, I needed a really versatile medium. I needed a material that was durable, light and comfortable. It must be capable of suggesting the hard-won, closely guarded and meticulously transmitted skills that I cherish. It also needed to be capable of proudly carrying the mantel of fine art. At the time, I had no idea such a material existed.

The solution came one day in a phone conversation with an Australian precious metal clay guild member. She recommended a book or three to me. Then, with arresting earnestness and a whisper of wistfulness, she told me that if she had discovered polymer clay before precious metal clay, her creative horizons would have been more broadly opened and so more deeply satisfied.

Many of the peoples who inspire my designs have now vanished, sometimes taking with them the secrets to which they were entrusted. The name ‘Findi Flooshki’ also has its origins in a time gone by, handed down to me by my grandfather, who used to tease his granddaughters’ love of small treasures.

When you wear one of my handmade pieces, I would like you to feel unique and look fantastic with the minimum of fuss. As the high quality modern findings allow, try wearing Findi Flooshki also as brooches, pendants, scarf ties, shoe clips and bag accessories. 

You already appreciate the value of hand making. I would like you to know that wearing Findi Flooshki is a tribute to artisanship, as well as beauty and personal care with substance