Sunday, January 16, 2011


I watched the Golden Globes tonight. The first in the series of awards shows I inhale as the breath of life and inspiration that culminates in the Oscars. Usually I weep pretty much all the way through, just from an excess of emotion. These various awards recognize, by varying criteria and sometimes baffingly, excellence in my business. Whenever I watch any of them I am filled with desire. I want to be part of it again, and I know what I have to do to get there.

Ricky Gervais was the host again. He pretty much went to the edge of every line, crossed it, and risked offending almost everyone he introduced. That's the hallmark of his comedy. He says himself that nothing should be off limits for a comedian, that the joke is in the telling, the time and place, not the subject matter. He strikes me as being fearless, knowing the consequences of his actions, but going ahead regardless. Not allowing fear of criticism to stop him. Or maybe he's just arrogant...I don't know. I prefer to think of him as fearless.

One theme of the night seemed to be courage. Producers perservering and risking unknown yet-to-be stars, actors stretching themselves into difficult roles, Michael Douglas making jokes about the hard way to get a standing ovation, Temple Grandin standing in a very crowded room and hugging winner Claire Danes. I've seen that picture; a hug is a big deal to Ms. Grandin. And let's just not get started on Aron Ralston.

Chris Colfer (Glee) was evidently stunned when he won.

"Thank you...most importantly to all the amazing kids who watch our show, the kids that our show celebrates, who are constantly told "no" by the people and the environments, by the bullies at school, that they can't be who they are or have what they want because of who they are...well, screw that kids!"

Thanks Chris - it was the best speech of the night for my money.

Bravery is not the absence of fear, but going ahead despite fear. Perhaps being fearless is the belief that the task, one's own action, is more important than the risk of a bad result.

People around me, unschoolers and friends, are talking about finding the word that represents their aspiration for this year. I've been mulling it around and now two weeks in to the new year, I think I have finally come up with the word and the idea that I intend to claim as my personal quest for this year - the year I turn 50 by the way - and that is Fearless.

Yes. This year I will become brave so that I too can claim the word - Fearless.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Why I Love My Job

Yesterday was the Feast of the Epiphany, Christmas Day for Eastern Orthodox Christian churches, or for the Western churches the day on which the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem, and Jesus was revealed to the world as the Son of God. January 6th is therefore the Twelfth Day of Christmas with 12 Drummers Drumming being quite a lively announcement.

Aside from the manifestation of a deity meaning, defines Epiphany as:
"a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience."

I've been working at Michaels Arts and Crafts store for 7 months now, going in for two or three shifts a week. My very recent epiphany is that I love my job there. I'm surprised because this is not my first foray into the world of retail. As a school leaver I worked at Grace Brothers part time  - a department store like Macy's. I worked at the Information Desk at the Broadway flagship store and that was fun, and then I worked in Men's Knitwear at Bondi Junctions and that was appallingly dull. Dreadful. Dreary. Monotonous. Luckily I got a theater job and was able to quit.

Now I have come to realize that it wasn't retail itself that was the problem - it was the department.

Working at Michaels fills me with joy - just walking into the store makes me start smiling. But why?

First of all, I constantly receive positive validation from the customers. To my own surprise I know tons more about almost every craft that Michaels covers than I realized I knew. A shallowish but expansively broad sea of knowledge with a few deep sinkholes. I find I can help just about everyone who needs it - and some people really need it. I get to share my knowledge with people who really do want to hear what I have to say, and are grateful for my suggestions.

Second, working at Michaels is a nice workplace environment. The management is flexible about schedules, and at least at my store, very involved and present. They encourage self-development, reward good work, are gentle over mistakes. I have a special dispensation on cashiering. I don't do it, won't ever do it, can't be made to do it. That's another story.

The other associates are lovely, likeable people, each and every one fun and creative. We workers have a huge amount of autonomy. We see what needs to be done and just do it - recovery, go backs. There is never a moment when I feel bored. On the contrary, my shifts fly by regardless of length.

The store itself is a delight. There is always some new product to discover, new materials, more old favorites; the fact is that as a customer I would wander these aisles just for fun. For a crafter, it's like being paid to hang out in a beautiful garden with your friends while music plays in the distance.

Finally I realize that this job, even "closing" - that is to say restoring the store to a functional and tidy appearance after store hours in preparation for the next day - fulfils my liking for neatness, "a place for everything, everything in its place", that my sadly overstuffed home does not permit. I did not realize how much I craved order, ever unattainable at home, until I was in a position to experience it on the grand scale of a well recovered store.

I'm so grateful to be here. To be helping and being of service, to be learning, to be getting paid something at least, for the staff discount, for the opportunity to have epiphanies and share them.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Plastics for Crafting 2 - footnotes

Here are some links and additional resources connected to my article in Natural Life Magazine (Jan/Feb 2011).

Some information about landfills may be found at the Waste Management site.
They also have a nice downloadable brochure.

CNBC has a production entitled the Secret Life of Garbage.

One landfill in San Francisco has an Artists-in-Residence program that is fascinating.

There is an endless stream of useful information at the Container Recycling Institute, including publications of research papers, and information about Bottle Bills.

Here is an article about the somewhat controversial Freegans. By contrast here is another article about scavenging in the developing world. It's a pretty contentious issue both locally and internationally.

The Basel Action Network is a site devoted to enforcing compliance with bans in international trade in hazardous materials - lots of links, and news stories.

PET Soda bottle Tornado , a gorgeous Lamp Shade by Sarah Turner (pictured above), Zippered Coin Purse (sigh). Look, I know a lot of people really like the bottle bottom coin purse idea because it looks ingeniously cute. But the problem with a hard sided, clam shell type of container for small items like coins is that when you unzip, you risk spilling the contents. Plus you can only fill it half way for the same reason. I just don't think it's practical.

Totally awesome plastic Milk Bottle Storm Trooper helmet costume, and another post about fairy houses from milk bottles - actually if you have young kids just go to Filth Wizardry and search under the "recycling" keyword. I wish I lived next door.

Recycling and Plastic History Sidebar

Many photos about recycling in WWII  and a nice little article about the products of the recycling drive.

History of Plastics invention on, and another history at Plastipedia.

Shellac and the history of Bakelite.


You can subscribe to the paper or digital editions of Natural Life Magazine at the website.