Life’s Purpose…

I often find myself contemplating the meaning of life… over my lifetime I’ve drawn inspiration from quotes and concepts like that of the The 14th Dalai Lama’s ‘The true meaning of life’

We are visitors on this planet

We are here for ninety

or a hundred years

at the very most.

During that period,

we must try to do something

good, something useful,

with our lives.

if you contribute to other

people’s happiness, you will

find the goal,

the true meaning of life.

But there are still times when I feel my efforts are lacking and purpose is unclear…

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Recently while pondering the meaning of life I’ve found solace in the act of capturing, it is as though my inner yearning to feel as alive as I did back when I was a full-time photographer is becoming subconsciously unbearable. So I’ve been keeping my camera close at hand and have even travelled with the intention of capturing that which inspires me and will hopefully inspire others. I seek to capture a way of being, a way of living, that which represents a life of purpose. Working in solitude I have had to make a conscious effort to break up my week and spend Wednesday outside of the studio, off our little property on the hill, on the edge of our rural village, and engage with others in person. With a full production schedule it’s not always easy to allow myself that time, but I know it is necessary so I make it happen.

 

 

The other day I planned to tie these two must do’s into the one day, starting with a yoga class, followed by a walk around town, chatting with friends, shop owners & anyone who crossed my path… then I ventured off to seek out inspiration to capture through my lens. I drove through streets of Yass that I’ve not driven down before just to see where they would lead and found myself here!

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What better place is there to appreciate life than a cemetery?

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It suddenly struck me that I had not, in the 6 years of living in this region, been to this cemetery. Although I have attended funerals or memorial services for friends and acquaintances from this region, I had not physically been to the cemetery, nor did I even know where it was. I literally stumbled across it. I wasn’t looking at street signs while I was driving, just taking in the beautiful homes that adorn our streets and the spectacular vistas of those homes. This cemetery is probably the least manicured I’ve ever been to, but  it was certainly the most beautiful that I have ever visited… the view is breath taking!

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As I walked around the segmented grounds, sectioned into faiths and religions, I found myself captivated by the differences in graves and head stones, some obviously from very wealthy bloodlines, and others so very obviously not, and then another realisation hit me… it matters not in the end what your position in society or you financial status, everybody ends up lying side by side, in the same place, with the same magnificent view.

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So this begs the question, does money and status mean a better life lived OR a lack of money mean a life spent serving others rather than serving self? I feel the best option is try to live a life of purpose rather than power and if you can combine the two even better! So although we’ll end up in the same place as our final resting place, with a head stone that is either weathered and illegible or etched in stone for all to see and read for years to come, it matters not. What matters more is how we spent the journey toward reaching that final destination and the impact we had on those we left behind or interacted with along the way.

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xx

 

Ps. Here are a few extra pics from that day…

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Gateway to the afterlife… not as flash as some would hope 😉

 

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The all knowing tree that creaked eerily as I stood beneath it… whispering untold tales of those who have entered these grounds.

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Meandering paths of simplicity, nothing flash about these grounds… manicured grounds are not necessary when you’re surrounded by such natural magnificence.

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The ‘opt out’ passage…

 

WHY Leather & NOT Polyurethane

This is a rather contentious topic for some… which I’ve experienced first hand, face to face with market goers… I am NOT AT ALL an advocate of animal cruelty, factory farming or caging animals in order to make clothes. Just as much as I am NOT an advocate of the production of fabrics and clothing that destroy our environment and/or communities in countries that we cannot see with our own eyes from the comfort of a shopping mall… the devastation of mass produced clothing is causing them to be easily overlooked when all we focus on is how much it will cost to purchase an item. So, all that said I’d like to share with you why I choose leather over polyurethane…

In an endeavour to utilise as much of a resource as possible, when I first started making guitar cases out of old woollen blankets, I expanded into totes and satchels, which led me to create my RESCUED AND REPURPOSED product range. I chose to work with kangaroo leather for the bag straps and closures, as I came across a tannery that specialised in tanning roo skins and cutting lacing out of them, the remaining pieces (the limbs) were of no use to them so I saw potential in rescuing these too… just like the blankets. In expanding on my leather work skills I have also stemmed into working with hair on hide which is still based on the skill of sewing but just with a different medium.

For years I have been talking to customers about the quality and benefits of old woollen blanket material, it’s insulating and protective as an instrument case, it breaths and water beads on the surface rather than penetrating… along with the fact that these character filled blankets should be treasured rather than discarded. With the introduction of kangaroo leather to my range many conversations have been had about the benefits of roo hide, with it being light weight yet strong, along with numerous conversations about the benefit of using this rescourse, especially with the culling of kangaroos in our country. It’s far better to use the flesh and hide than just let them go to waste… also far better than opting to use a man made product that is not environmentally friendly in place of a natural fibre!

Before making my hair on hide vest I only had a synthetic fur vest which I bought second hand and adored… it’s a rather fun, faux shaggy goat hair… I wore that vest a lot over the past 2-3 years. Vests are great if you just need to break the chill and keep your core warm, but the difference between wearing the synthetic vest lined in a synthetic opposed to a natural fibre unlined vest is phenomenal… the natural fibre breaths and does not make you sweat as easily for starters. Recently I wore my kangaroo hair on hide vest on a day that would be considered too hot for fur, but I wore it almost all day, granted I was wearing a light weight sleeveless top underneath it, but I am certain had I worn my synthetic vest instead I would have had to take it off much sooner.

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Nature has things all worked out, it knows how to keep things in balance, it’s what we humans do to it that throws it out of whack. It concerns me that some people are opting to use manmade materials in the name of stopping animals from being harmed and yet overlook the impacts the production of these materials are having on the communities that reside within the area of those factories, as well as the impact this having on our environment.  The tanning of leather using the vegetable tanning process is not as harmful to the environment as the production of plastic based products… plus leather is biodegradable, while polyurethane is not at 500 years to breakdown! Before opting to buy a polyurethane garment in place of a natural fibre like leather, because you  think it’s not fair on the animal ask yourself is this material actually healthy for me to wear… and are the lives of others along with the preservation of our environment not important too?

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xx

 

PS. Happy Earth Day… let’s work together on preserving this beautiful planet we call home… for us, our children, our global community & animal kingdom alike!

PPS. Kangaroo Fur Adjustable Vest is now available, individually & meticulously handcrafted in a sustainable manner, made to order, here.

PPPS. Kangaroo Leather Satchel with featured lacing design available here.

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no [wo]man is an island…

“No man is an island” by John Donne

This quote has been hot topic in our little home over the past few weeks… particularly in relation to how what we choose to engage in can affect those around us, at times the affect is a negative one on others even if we do not mean for it to be. This affect can be in your immediate surroundings or it could be abroad, choices we make daily affect more than just ourselves. Aside from this though we’ve also discussed how in order for us to achieve our family goals we rely on everyone contributing.

Over the weekend while hubby & I worked together in the kitchen preserving our harvest Master 12 was outside digging a new garden bed so we could plant more garlic and Master 7 assisted him, by helping take out the rocks that lay beneath the soil. Aside for the physical assistance, just having someone else working along side of Master 12 while he dug the bed seemed to provide the extra motivation he needed to complete the task. Upon completion of which, both the boys came inside, joined us in the kitchen and shared stories of their experience digging the bed. It was wonderful to see them beaming with a such sense of achievement and teamwork.

This same sort of support and encouragement often takes place between hubby and I, at times one will set to work on a task and that the other may not feel inclined to commence but the simple fact that one of us has started the other naturally starts to assist, resulting in not only the task being completed faster but with us sharing the burden or in most cases the joy! Even as a sole trader I too rely on the support of others to achieve my goals, in many different forms, a small example of that this week was having three separate people in my network of friends source blankets on my behalf.

Over the course of the years, I have had many people contribute to my ‘rescued & repurposed’ mission, from furniture for our home to resources for my work. I also rely on the knowledge and skills of others that I myself do not have or have not yet developed. It is impossible to be everything all at once, so even as a sole trader enlisting the help of others is necessary, as is being open to working with others who compliment your skill set and fill in the gaps. Something that my husband and I have developed over the years in our home is the understanding of which skills and strengths we each have that enable us to work together to achieve our goals more effectively. Letting someone else lead is not letting go of a sense of self if have more skill or natural ability in an area. We often swap the leading role depending on the task at hand. Unfortunately we are not in a position at the moment where we can work side by side full time career wise, but our personal skills, goals and aspirations compliment each other and would be well suited to a working collaboration. Even if we were working together, it is would still be important to stay physically connected to a network of people beyond our four walls or fences… which is why I have volunteered my time over the years to community groups. Ofcourse I still rely on earning an income through my own work and cannot devote all my time, but providing the physical [wo]man power required to make positive changes within our community is so very important to both of us.

Fostering a sense of pride, connectedness despite difference and building on skills within a community is something we have both had as personal and career goals for many years. We have always hoped to contribute in this way to the community in which we bought our own place in… now that that time has come, the seed inside us that has lay dormant waiting for just the right conditions to germinate is starting to sprout. The bigger picture of this goal will require the support of others as well as working in collaboration with others… but it is one that we hope will give back threefold, so nurturing this sprouting seed has become all the more important right now. It is exciting to be in this position and see the possibilities of bigger dreams reaching the point of possibly becoming reality. But… “no [wo]man is an island”… there is still a lot more work to be done!

Hoping you too feel connectedness… with your community… in both the physical and digital realm.

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xx

Do you know what’s in your shoes?

Towards the end of my professional photography career I was asked to photograph a wedding, that I was also going to be a guest at, so I wanted to buy a pair of shoes that suited my outfit but were practical to work in. The shoes I bought were not cheap necessarily, but they were on sale and heavily reduced in price, which at the time I thought was a bonus. When I got home and opened the box there was an overwhelming toxic smell that wafted out… I instantly thought it must just be the glue they used, so I placed them out on the verandah to air out. On the day of the wedding the smell had not completely disappeared but had worn off, so I wore my new shoes and happily snapped away. But over the course of the day I developed this uncomfortable feeling in my legs, it was an unusual feeling, one I had not experienced before. The only experience I could liken it to, was when I was put under a general anaesthetic and could feel the substance slowly flowing through my veins up my arm. It felt like there was something penetrating up from my feet up through my legs. By the time we got to the reception venue my legs were aching, I could not take it any more, so I took the shoes off, as that was the only explanation I could come up with for this most unpleasant feeling. All I could think of was that toxic smell that came out of the box, which could have meant a toxic substance may have been entering my body via my feet.

So just as much as we need to be aware of where our clothing is made, which is hot topic at the moment (and rightly so) so too should we be more mindful about the production of our foot ware. Not only for our own health and well being but for those who are given the task of making them. The substance used in the construction of those shoes that made my legs ache could not be good for the people handling it day after day, mass producing thousands of pairs of shoes. Not to mention the destruction it is most likely causing in their immediate environment with chemicals being washed into their water ways. The list goes on of how harmful cheaply made shoes are for us and our global community.

In my childhood I recall driving across to the other side of Melbourne with my father to pick up his handcrafted shoes. He had two pairs custom made by a cobbler in an industrial area of Melbourne, I cannot recall the name of the area, but I do recall the experience vividly and I can even see the building in my minds eye. Two pairs of shoes handcrafted leather shoes with wooden heels… custom fitted, one pair in brown and the other black. It would not surprise me if he still has those shoes, I recall him wearing them to work every day and even wearing them out on the weekend. He cleaned and polished them every weekend and treated them with the utmost respect. His first job was as a shoe pattern maker for a cobbler on the little island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean where he moved to from the even smaller island Rodrigues where he was born. The art of making shoes has always fascinated me, I have spoken to my husband about my desire to learn to make shoes many times over the years and been taking small steps along the way, developing skills that compliment the craft, I have not been in a hurry to reach this goal, as I have had many other goals I have been working towards along side this one. Recently though I attended a Jandals (leather sandals) making workshop at the tannery I purchase my leather from. It was run by a professional shoe maker who specialises in custom made shoes, and was a fantastic introduction into constructing very simple foot ware. At the end of the workshop I left with my jandals at this stage…

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Then over the following week I used skills I have developed through my current leather work to finish them off. I bevelled the edges then stamped them with my signature, a quote, patterns & the shoe size. Then stained & sealed them with the eco-friendly stain and sealer that I use for my cuffs and personalised labels. To finished them off I added some metal beads to help weigh down the straps and give them that special little extra detail touch.

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I also plaited a second set of straps in kangaroo leather which I adorned with beads & charms… giving me the option to transform one pair of Jandals into two completely different looks.

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Since my experience with the toxic shoes, I have opted to buy better quality shoes and have less. I find open leather sandals most comfortable to wear in the extreme summer heat we experience down here, over winter I opt for well crafted leather boots. I look forward to the weather warming up so that I can test out my new leather Jandals properly, but until then I shall hang them up and admire them, especially since they were handcrafted by me… eventually Jandals will make their way into my product line, once I have thoroughly road tested them and refined their construction.

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So the next time you go to buy a new pair of shoes remember to ask yourself; is it worth compromising on your own health and quality of living for others in order to obtain many pairs of cheaply made shoes? Wouldn’t you rather invest in less and purchase shoes that are made ethically and with respect for our environment and global community? Knowing where your products come from is possible… by choosing to support local producers gives you have the opportunity to ask first hand what it is they use to create their product. Doing so also keeps the artisan skills and techniques thriving in our own community & country. There are many people just like me out there who actually enjoy the process of creating a product and digging deeper into understanding the process, refining their skill, producing a quality handcrafted item for you to enjoy!

What change do you wish to see in the world?

Over the weekend we visited a market that I often trade at, but this time as shoppers. It was so lovely to be able to just walk around at leisure, talk to stall holders without the concern of having to get back to my stall and simply observe the activities of the market throughout the entire market rather than just the view from my stall.

We were so pleased and surprised to see a fellow stall holder there who also travels to trade, our surprise was due to the fact that he and his wife usually only trade at this particular market in the summer. So of course we opened with; “What a surprise to see you here, it’s autumn! A nice surprise of course… how are you?” He looked up at us with sadness in is his eyes and said; “Our son died earlier this year, he was walking down the street pushing the pram with his 8 week old and toddler inside and he was struck by lightning! They managed to revived the children but could not revive him. So my wife is currently staying with our daughter in law helping out with the kids. She told me to get out and sell my wares today… so I did!” This man lives 3 hours drive away from this market and they usually travel there and back in a day. The courage it took for him to pack the car, make the trip, set up and then face shoppers, some of whom would probably be in the age group of the son he recently had to say goodbye to forever… as his products are children focused… it represents just how strong humans are capable of being. This is only a small part of the bigger story of the challenges this couple have faced throughout their life.

I could tell you numerous stories of heart ache, courage, strength all just through the people I have met trading at markets. This is something that I absolutely love about markets; the strength of the people there, their hope to create a happier better world despite all odds.

One of my favourite sayings is by Mahatma Ghandi “Be the change you wish to see in the world” The philosophy behind my business is “take the old & discarded and transform them into statement pieces!” The concept of this came about through both necessity and an appreciation for craftsmanship and quality. Our way of living is also based on a similar belief system, growing & making our own food as much as possible, raising our children knowing where their food comes from, spending time with their parents, getting to know who we are rather than just seeing us briefly throughout their formative years.

In reading the news this week it has been difficult to feel positive about the state of our world, but as the Dalai Lama’s post on Facebook read last night; “You are the seeds of a better future.” Our time on earth should not be spent shaking our heads and throwing our arms up in defeat, but doing what we can to provide a better existence for others and the hope that one is actually possible. The other day we spent the entire day cooking up a storm, preserving our harvest and I photographed and posted our progress on Instragram and Facebook along the way. At one point Master 12 asked me why I do this, to which I responded; “To give people something positive to view on social media. There is so much hurt, anger, negativity… I feel like people need to feel hopeful that life can be different.”

Not long after this conversation, a message came though from another fellow stall holder and friend, from a different market. Sharing their recent heartbreaking experiences and again a demonstration of sheer strength. The message ended with; “…Iove seeing the pictures of your new place and the produce etc. You guys look really happy.”  And we are… even on the days when we feel hopeless, that life’s against us having to deal with some of our own challenges, deep down inside we always feel safe and loved… which is more than we could ever hope for really.

Our life is not perfect, we spent many hours putting out spot fires (the morning of our big cook up) between our boys, but we managed to guide them towards doing something positive for themselves and the rest of the family and rest of the day was beautiful because of it.

What I hope for all of you… and anyone out there who is suffering from pain that is caused by someone else, pain beyond their control, is inner peace. My wish for a change in the world is that more people simply care about the people around them, despite a difference of opinion, religion, life choices… the more people demonstrate kindness and respect the further it will hopefully spread!

Cheers, to being the seeds for a better world… the change we wish to see in the world.

Wishing all peace, love and happiness… and hope for a better future!

<<= by marie-nicole =>> 

xx

Peace Sign