Thursday, September 30, 2010

the beeb

Imagine my surprise when in my morning mental fog, I scroll down the BBC News front page to see this:

 That's my shoe!

I had to rub my eyes and make sure I wasn't imagining things while half-asleep, but sure enough, my Fluevog Mini Zazas were featured in an article about crowdsourcing— and because I had absolutely no idea this piece had been written, I nearly fell on the floor! You can read this fascinating article about the latest trend in marketing on the BBC News website.

If you've got an idea for a fabulous shoe floating around in your head, why not submit your design to Fluevog's Open Source Footwear. Who knows? Your shoe might become a reality too!

Wow, BBC News. How cool is that?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Beneath the layers of city
the drip, drip, drip of ancient water
ghostly grey carp, like whispers
glide past the glitter of countless currencies.

Medusa, your head in two
silent serpents twisted
green algae
the city upon your chin, at your temples.

the eyes of the seraphim

It's a wonderful thing to have guests in town— you end up with a perfect excuse to play the tourist again. Today I relished in wandering around the magnificent Aya Sofya, and though I have known the former church and mosque since I was seven years old, I found myself grinning from ear to ear with a pounding heart, like a child. There are a million and more ways to see something, and my goodness... I never tire of this beauty.

Do buildings have a memory? How many people have stood at this window to behold the Blue Mosque over the centuries?  How many personal histories hang like breath between these walls, under this enormous dome?

My own small history has woven itself around these well-worn columns—
my feet, in various sizes over decades, have helped smooth the stone floor.
The eyes of the seraphim have watched me grow.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Little stones I collected
during important moments in Nepal
that I wanted to carry with me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

between europe and asia

I had some errands to run on the Asian side today, namely the purchasing of art supplies. It was a fantastically coloured day of every possible shade of grey— pale greys, blue-greys, green-greys, charcoal— what better way to appreciate such colours than from the windswept deck of a ferry? I just love ferries, and will always choose a boat over a bus.

The Bosphorus was a stunning, deep silvery green...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010


It's Şeker Bayram— a three and a half day festival of eating sweets and spending time with loved ones in celebration of the end of Ramazan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims. Istanbul is buzzing with happy faces— children laughing and playing in shiny new shoes, lovers meandering with hands entwined in a lovestruck daze, fishermen grinning with satisfaction at their glistening catch. Hot pink candy floss, corn on the cob, juicy red watermelon. The energy in the city is electric, and though the crowds can be a bit much at times, you can't help but feel like a kid at the fair again.

precious things

Walking down the hill yesterday afternoon, I found these four little treasures and hid them in my palette for safekeeping: a feather, an acorn, a bumblebee and a beetle shell. Inspired by their beauty, I went home and began to paint tiny paintings in their honour.

Friday, September 10, 2010

a few recent portraits

While I've been back in Istanbul, I've been busy with a few portraits— two for the Moly-X Portrait Exchange, and one drawing of Melissa drinking a tea. I snapped the photo of Melissa when we stopped at a little tea house on the way down from our Shivapuri hike, taking shelter from the pounding rain. I really liked the photo, and planned on using it as a reference for a future drawing that I'd send to her as a gift— which is precisely what I did.

The portraits in the first Moleskine below are of artist Emma Kidd, accompanied by yours truly, getting away with stealing your Love letters. I've been holding onto Emma's book for a while now, wallowing in a creative block. I'm such a huge fan of Emma's, and while we're in several exchanges together, I got nervous every time I put my pen to the paper. I really wanted something bright and exciting, with an element of fantasy, reflecting her artwork. I must say I'm quite proud of the result. The book is now on its way to America, to be drawn in by another artist in the exchange.

In the second set of portraits above, I'm standing beside the multi-talented artist Jan Allsopp, staring in awe or expectation, at the mischievous crows who are stealing our necklaces. I'm not sure why I've been into the concept of thievery lately— I suppose the idea of taking something that doesn't belong to you fascinates me. It's not something I really understand.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

forgetting the search

On the very last morning, as I waited for my ride to the airport, there, from the rooftop of Ngudrup Guesthouse, I finally saw the mountains around Kathmandu. I can't help but feel it was somehow meant to be; that I was supposed to forget the search in order to see what I had been looking for. It felt mythological, standing there on the rooftop, staring at those white peaks in the pale distance that had been right behind me all along.

Until we meet again.

sounds of boudha

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Petals float gently
Light curving into colour
I stand by, smiling.

Stunning flower arrangements at my favourite restaurant in Boudha, Garden Kitchen.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

a heart's home

My goodness, what can I possibly say about my experience at Shree Mangal Dvip that could adequately capture what I felt and feel inside? I felt welcomed. I felt loved and appreciated. I felt a kindness that seems to be harder and harder to find these days. There's a light inside the students of SMD— an insatiable curiosity, a positivity and compassion, and it moved me. I feel changed somehow.

Shree Mangal Dvip is a school founded by The Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche to provide Himalayan children with an education, housing, medical and dental care that they would otherwise not have access to in their remote mountain villages. Many of the villages are without roads, electricity, sanitation, schools and hospitals— and with Nepal being the poorest nation in Asia, recently ravaged by a civil war, many of the children were accepted on a life-or-death basis. The children are Buddhist, most of them culturally Tibetan— minorities, considered lower on the Hindu caste system. One of the main goals of SMD is to preserve the culture, language and Buddhist way of life of the Himalayas. The school integrates monks, nuns and laychildren, most of whom board at the school and have not seen their family in a very, very long time. One young student told me she hadn't seen her parents in five years. Roads are not always passable, and most of the children's villages are a further week to two weeks trek.

Shree Mangal Dvip runs entirely on donations. The school is bursting at the seams with a terribly long waiting list of deserving kids. I can't tell you how bright these children are— their dedication to learning and to each other is inspiring. Older children are often seen playing with and helping out the wee ones— their sense of responsibility is incredible. I don't know about you, but when I was a child, I got to a point where I just wanted to be around older kids, and found the younger ones a nuisance (and I naturally, was a nuisance to the big kids myself!). The students really look after each other— and the seniors! Oh the seniors, my heart has a special place for them. I have never met a more responsible and caring bunch of teenagers. Twenty-three teenage boys and girls live in a flat together with no furniture except their beds and a long, low table on the floor for dining. The seniors learn how to earn a living by working at the school, they learn to budget by paying the rent and utilities for their flat (owned by the school), and help one another by chipping in to purchase supplies, cook dinner and clean.

In addition to working in the library cataloguing and repairing books, I taught after-school art classes to a bunch of extremely gifted and hard-working students. I was so impressed by their enthusiasm for drawing and desire to learn. I couldn't believe how far they had come in such a short time— and they have little to work with in terms of supplies— what they could do with a plain old pencil and an A4 sheet of copy paper!

Ladies and Gents, I now present to you The After School Artists, working hard on their portraits of each other:

Needless to say, I plan on returning. The experience I had at SMD was one of those pivotal life-changing, life-brightening moments that pass far too quickly but are remembered for a lifetime. There are a number of ways you can help— visit the school's website and click on the How You Can Help section. SMD also has a wishlist on Amazon, where you can purchase books for the library.

To the students and staff of Shree Mangal Dvip, thank you, thank you, thank you. You all have a home in my heart.

tiny brushes, steady hands

I was quite taken by the extraordinary details and level of skill involved in creating a thangka, a traditional Buddhist painting used as a tool of focus during meditation. A thangka often depicts deities or a mandala, and is painted with a mixture of finely ground natural pigment, water and animal glue on stretched cotton or silk. Some of the brushes the painters were using appeared to have about four hairs in them! The lines were so fine and patterns so intricate, I was reminded of Ottoman miniature painting. I'd love to spend some time with a master and learn some techniques— I'm wild about the line work and colour application.