Last week I got an 80 gig very sexy black iPod. Downloading vodcasts has become a bit of an obsession. One of my favourite shows so far is Not Quite Art, a show from the ABC that documents the fascinating art scenes of Melbourne, Newcastle and Glascow. Only have three episodes so far, not sure if there are any more of them. After watching this and chatting on the FaceBook message board for Save Our Newcastle I am seriously considering submitting an application to council to launch an artspace simular to Sushi and Cigarettes. Submissions are at the end of march, so I'll have to move quickly, but am definitely going to look into it more and see what I can come up with.
My name is Emma Stronach and I am an artist and small business operator living in Newcastle, NSW. I am currently enrolled in the government initiative NEIS, which supports me for a year while I get my new business venture off the ground. I paint, create artworks out of origami paper and make plush toys. So here’s my story, so far... how I came to be where I am today, and why I do what I do.
I began making Origami when I was ten. My family had a Japanese exchange student stay with us through the Rotary Exchange program. Her name was Mie. She told me the story of ‘Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes’, the book of which is now read to most Australian primary school students. Sadako lived on the outskirts of Hiroshima and contracted leukaemia after its bombing in the second World War. In accordance with the Japanese tradition, Sadako began making paper cranes to recover from her illness. The legend tells that the crane lives for 1000 years, and the Japanese believe that by folding a thousand of these beautiful little paper creatures they will live a long life.
I have struggled in recent years with serious illness (long undiagnosed Coeliac disease and an immune systemic response to wheat and gluten which results in anaphylaxis if ingested). About six months ago a friend reminded me of Sadako’s story and I decided that I would make a thousand paper cranes myself, thereby psychosomatically healing myself... or at least getting a better immune system or some appeasement from the allergy gods.
Once I completed my thousand cranes I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with them. I started suspending them from a giant Smiggle paper clip on fishing line, using colourful beads as spacers. Friends and family who saw these commented on their delicate beauty and asked if I would sell them. I had mildly considered this, selling these results of my hobby, but I was more interested in engaging others in this act of creation, so I began making kits containing everything needed to make a string of cranes, so that people could make them for themselves. For a bit of a diversion, I also developed a line of soft toys made from felt, based on my drawings, to fill up the rest of the stall I had booked at the markets. I’m working on a kit for these as well.
It’s been almost six months since I started on this path. I now run a fortnightly market stall and have my work for sale at several specialty stores and the Maitland Regional Art Gallery Shop. My dreams are evolving, I am no longer an admin assistant engaging in a very occasional hobby, but an artist who sells art and craft products to other creatives. I’m making the kits, for both origami strings of cranes and the plush toys, so that kids can make their own versions of my Creatures. So much art these days is locked away in a cupboard somewhere, hung high up on a wall out of reach, priced way out of the budgets of normal aesthetes... I thought it was about time that someone made art that kids could afford (or at least art that was priced so reasonably that the pester power factor would work). So I imagine myself back in a time when there were fairies in the bottom of the garden and monsters under the bed and I make things that I would have loved back then.
Been such a long time since we got back from Melbourne and I still haven't done a proper post about it. Thing is though, much inspiration and interesting things were found there, but most of it I want to keep to myself. Working on making toy kits (so that kids can make their own ninja or Voodoo Susan) and painting... a lot. Just which I had some sort of agent or manager to do the pimping for me, hate the selling part.
Ok, so its no secret that I think vegetarians are idiots. Why anyone would want to voluntarily deny themselves an entire food group, is absolutely beyond me. The big brained and always amusing Andrew Denton put it much better than I ever could:
Vegetarians are essentially betraying our species. It has been given to us, as the most intelligent animals on the planet, to kill whatever we may choose- and I think if we back off from things like cows and chickens, they'll sense our hesitation and will organise and over run us.
I found this article on the Women's Day website, totally cracked me up. Followed a link from Oh No They Didn't and found this story about a girl who fed her preachy vegetarian flatmate meat:
As soon as I had cut and served the lamb, Simone cleared her throat and stood up. My stomach back flipped as she proceeded to give each of my friends the same lecture she always gave to me, calling them slaughterers, and murderers, and animal haters. Several of my friends, who in fact loved animals very much, got very upset at this and left, while all the rest of us could do was pick at our food unhappily after Simone had finished her tirade. The party was ruined.
The magnificent Ten and I took a trip to the MRAG to visit the critters and see the set up that they have up there. The gallery has a fantastic layout, big high ceilings in one of Maitland's gorgeous heritage buildings, plenty of space. The exhibition that was on comprised of portraits (painted) with a selection of photos of famous artists down the side hall that were really quite awesome. The gallery shop is set up beautifully, full kudos to their merchandiser. Got a bit teary when I saw all my creatures on display on their own little shelf. I get so ridiculously attatched to them, very hard to let them go.
At my market stall I get to chat to whoever is buying the critter. Usually I take a picture of them with their new toy, just so I can remember the thing and who it went to. Don't get to do that at the gallery, but its probably a good thing. Stops me being a sentimental clot.
The market on last sunday was a little slow. Feels like I lost some momentum, because I was away in Melbourne for the one previous. So much of my business seems to come from people who have a look one session, then come back to buy the next. Had my painting "Jenny and the Crane Kites" (version 2) on display. A lady took my number and is supposed to be dropping by later this week to pick it up. Hopefully she comes through, but even if she doesn't it was very exciting to generate interest for that side of things. The plan, such as it is, was for the creatures to supplement the creation of paintings and other original artworks. Looks like this not be as fantastical an idea as I thought it was at first. Basically I want to make original artworks that an average family can afford to buy for their kids' rooms or living rooms (or wherever). So much art is inaccessible these days, but so many people are creative and interested in new works... so yeah, here's hoping.
Getting ready for Friday's stall in the Hunter st Mall. The Mercury is docking again, bringing with it a bunch of American tourists to our fine city. It's lovely to see the Mall full of life again. Such an exciting project to be a part of. Fingers crossed the weather is ok...
I’ve been gluten free for roughly three years now. Diagnosed with an immune systemic response to wheat and gluten, rapid onset anaphylaxis meant I didn’t have much of a choice.
Believe me, if I could walk into Maccas right now and order a Cheeseburger I would.
For me this illness has been a watershed. I’ve changed direction utterly in the years since it invaded my life. I have gone from being chronically ill to own small business operator, selling my art, origami and creatures. Where I was an autobot, living on rice and vegetables because I was too scared to eat anything else, am I now a healthy, happy and creatively fulfilled 28 year old girl. I have a boyfriend who supports and enthrals me, fantastic family and most excellent friends. I regularly eat out at delicious world class restaurants. I eat cereal (almost) every day, along with delicious snacks and fresh, totally scrummy recipes I adapt from my many cookbooks and magazines.
Part of my present happiness comes from knowing what I need and how to ask for it. For this reason in the last 12 months I have used my epipen maybe twice, whereas the year before, my thigh was bruised for approximately half of it.
When I walk into a restaurant I haven’t been to before, I walk up to the waiter and ask “do you provide gluten free meals here?” and if they do, excellent, I’ll eat there. I will then reinforce gluten free and its importance when I order from the menu, getting them to physically write it on the ticket before they take it back to the kitchen. I know this is possibly overkill. Most chefs are waaay ahead of me (in my home city of Newcastle they definitely are), and have already designated gluten free items on the menu. Once all this is gone through, I get a fantastic meal, and my upper thigh may remain unpunctured.
What prompts me to write is a strange new trend I see solidifying out of the mist before me. The disease du jour- faux food allergies. I’m not talking about your average Coeliac, Crohns sufferer or the highly food allergic. I’m not even talking about the allergy lite food intolerance crowd.
I’m talking about those girls (yes, this does seem to be a gender specific affliction) who show up at a restaurant, sometimes checking that their choice be low in fat but never allergen free. They then, after about twenty mins of eating, summon the waiter and complain that they have a food allergy that means they cannot eat carrot/pine nut/egg/entrees (yes really) and that they are now very sick.
They threaten histrionics (well not openly, they just go into them). They demand free meals, and in some cases drinks. They get a whole lot of attention, which is quite possibly the very point of the whole thing.
You see, I’m not one of life’s natural born attention seekers. In fact, if it were all up to me, we would all live on our own little island. On my island people have to phone me on my coconut phone before they rock over for a visit, and nobody ever has to wear bras or drink anything less than Verve. I’m the eldest child, so I’m not trying to get anyone to look at me. Makes it far harder for me to get away with shenanigans if everyone is watching. Do you think Old Hollywood would be so revered if they had the paparazzi young celebrities have to deal with today?
This is why I don’t ever want to be famous. I hate having my photo taken. For a hot looking girl, I come off looking pretty silly or drunk in shots taken of me. I don’t know what it is; I’m just not that photogenic. Perhaps my scorn for it shows in my face. Shouldn’t look like that, the wind might change one day.
Since diagnosis I have had several girls and women come up to me to confide in their new web diagnosed or nutritionist suggested allergy. Strangely, the next time I see them, six months or a year later, their passion for Mars Bars or Baileys or something they ‘shouldn’t have’ means that they do not have this allergy anymore.
There is a massive difference between “I cannot have...” and “I do not like” or “it makes my tummy ache”. All complaints are of course valid, but I just wish that people would learn to make the appropriate level of complaint. People like me with serious food allergies and sensitivities get lumped with those who just don’t like sweet potato. Don’t tail our ride just because you don’t have the stones to say you don’t like something.
For me, its humiliating having to put a waiter through their paces, to lay out for all and sundry my body’s ridiculous decision to elevate a common ingredient into a death threat. I try to keep a low profile at restaurants. This is why I am loyal to several in my area. So I only have to say it once.
For these people to come along and posit themselves as ambassadors for allergies is deeply scary. My need for respect in the restaurant arena is paramount. I need the waiter to trust me when I say that I cannot have something. I’m sick of having to send back my supposedly “gluten free” meal to the chef because it has had a slice of bread placed on the pasta or risotto or bacon and eggs. I hate telling waitresses that they cannot just take the bread off the plate; it all has to be cooked again.
If you suspect that you are dining with one of these faux allergetes that I have been writing about, watch to see if they sample the meals of their friends. If someone really had a food allergy, there is no way they would do this. They would carry an epipen, because it is the ONLY way of preventing the very scary anaphylaxis. They would possibly be wearing a medialert explaining their condition. They would dine happy, knowing that they had done everything they can to ensure a safe meal. If the worst does happen, a waitress fails to relay instructions to the chef or something messes up, they will go somewhere quiet, probably the lavatories, whereupon they will administer their epipen. They will then have a quiet word with the chef before they go, accepting whatever recompense is offered, and everyone gets on with their evening. The faux allergete is the person making the most noise. She is surrounded by concerned waiters and then a concerned medico. She will not be visibly anything, except perhaps flushed from the attention.
When will these girls realise that being strong is cool. Guys that respect you and think that you are scorchin will stand the test of time over guys that grab your arse and call you their woman. Use your wits to delight all and sundry; don’t rely on sympathy to generate focus. You’ll be old and wrinkly one day like everyone else. No one is a glamazon in a nursing home. So slow your roll and let the actually allergic people have the limelight in restaurants. Then we will make it to old age to be your friend in the nursing home.