Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My First Jewelry Wedding Gig

I was SO fortunate this year that my awesome friend, Sienna had recommend me to do a bridal jewelry for her sister, Garmisch who is now happily married to her husband, Tim in Australia last month.

It was my first bridal request so it was VERY exciting and lots of new experiences had been learnt. Since I’m currently living in Jakarta, Garmisch and I communicate a lot via emails. She’s the best client anyone would ever want really. She sent me so many helpful pictures of what she wants that when I finally did come up with some jewelry, no further alteration was needed. When trying to come up what sort of jewelry I'm going to make, color theme is my no.1 concern. The design, and all the rest comes second. I asked about her flowers and what the bridesmaids are wearing. In this case, Garmisch is wearing white, and her flowers and bridesmaids are going to be yellow.

This is one of the picture Garmisch had sent me of the Bridesmaids dress to let me have an idea about what sort of 'yellow' is in her colour theme.

When I went to Australia for holiday, I used this opportunity to discuss the details with her in person. I also took measurement of her, and her bridesmaids wrists to get their bracelets properly fitted. We meet up in the city’s cafĂ© and she even brought her dress over!!!

These are the final result of the jewelry:

For the bridesmaids, I use predominantly peach rice pearls to match their dresses.

Fo Garmisch, she requested a chandelier style earrings and a matching 3 layered bracelet. After looking at many photos and conversations, this is what we came up with:

A few weeks ago, Sienna sent me a link on to the photos from the wedding. These amazing photos are taken by Tate Needham on the courtesy of t8photography (www.t8photography.com) So amazing in fact I'm considering him to do photos for my own wedding now. So, If you're getting married in Canberra, he's your man! ;)

This is a photo of Sienna wearring the peach earrings.

Misch looking absolutely stunning in her dress, flowers and the jewelry.

I’m not there at the wedding, but seeing my jewelry had made it there in those photos made me feel like a piece of me had been there at there, especially when I saw this photo here:

A big congratulations to the new Mr and Mrs. Riley! And thanks Sienna and Garmisch for your friendship and support! You guys rock my world…!!!


A couple of weeks later I was approached by another customer, Carrie from Ohio, USA. She requested to make 3 sets of necklace/earrings set for her bridesmaids. Her wedding is in May. She loved a necklace I had made, but wanted the colors to be predominantly black, red, pink and


Then there’s a hiccup, my supplier had run out of those oval hoops, so I had to buy hoops that are larger. After experimenting with it a couple of times the result wasn’t very good.

So I went back to the shop and looked around for other alternatives. I found round hoops that I quite like, so I made these Christmas necklace to test it out:

It was really cool because Carrie ended up liking this one better than the original oval hoops! Yay for both of us! But there’s another challenge. Carrie requested that I use non- iridescent swarovski crystals rather than the iridescent ones that I use. So I rang up all my suppliers, and none of them supply a 6mm round non-iridescent crystals. I found that rather irritating because personally, I also prefer non-iridescent crystals, and I think they used to have it. They also stop ruby colored crystals coming in… and I like to use a lot of ruby. That’s the downside of the bead market in Jakarta. They like to stop supplying whatever that doesn’t sell without any warning.

I happened to be very lucky this time because I had to go to Singapore to attend a 3 day conference. I have a bead shop over there that I normally go to, so I bought the non-iridescent crystals over there.

So this is the final outcome! Carrie said that it looked exactly as she imagined, and that made us both very VERY happy! Yaaay! =D

Looking back at this project, it did take a long time for us to work this pieces of jewelry out, and there are times when I feel that the nature of my suppliers are very unstable that I’m going to hit a dead end several times. But God has been extremely good to me. With a lot of faith, it’s just so amazing to see how it all just work out by itself in the end.

Thanks Carrie for your patience and trusting me with this project! I really appreciate it. I also can’t wait to see the photos in May of course! =)

Finally thanks to Etsy for making it possible for me to work with people from around the world. I absolutely LOVE it…!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Many weeks ago now, I met up with one of my jewelry customer as a face to face delivery. I went through a lot of problems trying to meet her at the Four Seasons Hotel- I had to go a couple of hours early, take several detours, got lost, even ran out of mobile credit at the same time. I think I was especially unlucky that morning. But it was actually worth the visit after all.

Her name is Betty. She looks like she’s much older than my mum but younger than my grandmother. She works for citibank in Singapore, my dad is her client- she saw my jewelry when I advertised it on facebook. We ended up talking for awhile, and I found her one of the most amazing woman I’ve ever met! But this blog entry is not about Betty. It’s about one of my favorite topic to wrestle with in my head: identity.

Let me build up to that now.

When I finished high school and on my way to go to the music school, Monique DiMattina, my former jazz piano teacher sent me an sms,

“Whatever you do, be yourself.”

I respect and adore Monique, and I knew that as an artist, she knows exactly what she’s talking about. I constantly kept her words at the back of my mind. But at that time I also know that even though it sounds easy, I wouldn’t understand fully what she says.

Sure enough, I faced the world, struggle through uni dodging criticism, trying to please my lectures to get the grades. My identity had been put through a very rough test. University made me come to a short conclusion: It’s very hard to be yourself, so hard that it’s almost not worth it…- until I met Betty.

I’m not really sure what we were talking about to come to this topic, but she happened to say, “It’s very easy to be yourself.” And of course I snapped, “No it isn’t! It’s very hard!” Then she said, “Being yourself is the easiest thing to do. Not being yourself is much harder.” I fell silent. I thought that my struggles all this time had proven a point, but it hasn’t. This journey is not over yet.

“If you do what you don’t want, you will be unhappy, and whatever the result is in the end, you will not be satisfied. If you do what you want and be yourself, it is much easier to do, and you will be satisfied in the end.”

“But it’s not easy!”

“Yes it is! It's the easiest thing to do! But you must remember that when you be yourself, people will dislike you.”

I immediately thought, “She’s completely right!”. I don’t have problem with being myself, I let peoples criticism hurt me, have effect on me, let them shaped me in the way I don’t want to and it makes things very confusing and hard. I like the way she was not hesitant about it. It’s not “People might, they may or may not dislike you.” She says, “People WILL dislike you”. It’s inescapable…, but happiness is at the brim of the horizon.

And then something happen at work.

I was designing a picture to go on mugs, and it took me a lot of effort because I’m still trying to get familiar to photoshop and in using my wacom. When they're done my boss immdediately offered them to our customers, but none of them wanted it. So I got a bit upset thinking that my effort is now wasted.

My boss was so nice to me that she tried to cheer me up by telling me that my design is not ugly, it’s just that sometimes it's hard to know what the market is like. “You know, there’s this design, it’s so ugly and I hate it. I don’t even want to make sample for it because I don’t want to be responsible for it if it doesn’t sell. But they liked it and we had a lot of repeat order for it. Even export wanted it!”

I feel rather hopeless and bewildered. For awhile I find myself thinking of how ugly can I possibly let myself draw for the mugs to be able to sell.

I also learnt other exceptions when selling in local Indonesian market:

-Don’t use too much purple because it’s symbol for widows.
-Don’t use too much yellow because it’s the colour of death.
-Make sure that the design is very colourful no matter what
-Don’t draw dogs because they are considered unclean.

That night at dinner time, I was complaining about this situation to my parents. My dad says, “Well… you know the story, if you’re trying to catch fish, you can’t use a bait that you like… like donuts. You have to feed them worms, even if you don’t like worms.”

But … but … but… why would I wanna catch fish if I’ve already got my donut?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gettin into Wire!

I’ve been spending a lot of time on my beading desk, as a result of an excessive amount bead shopping. I feel rather motivated to get all the money I spent back. I mean, it is almost Christmas, and I have to be prepared in expecting the best out of my sales. Plus my ideas had been flying around everywhere ever since I got more familiar with wire.

I’ve managed to get a few rolls of artistic wire during my last trip to Aus. For Au$9 per roll they are very dear, but the colours are so great I can’t just stick with the usual silver or gold. I got like, 10 rolls of different colours and different gauge, and at that stage, I’ve never even coiled a wire in my life. Now I’m glad I got that many wires because they’re running out very fast.

Summer is approaching in Australia, and my friends had been out (even in the midst of their essays and exams) flying kites, swimming in the lake, going for barbecue picnics, late night games, movies and such. Being alone in Jakarta makes me miss them even more knowing that they’re having fun. Though, like Proverbs said, there is a time for everything. I’ve had my 3 weeks of fun when I visit them, and it’s time to sit on my bum and try to earn some again. I can’t complain, cause making things with wire is a lot of fun too.

If I was living in Australia, I’d be too tempted to go out fly a kite, swim in the lake and stay up with friends instead of staying at home making jewelry. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s why I didn’t do so well in uni. Uni was driven entirely by pressure, I'm not fased so much about what I'm going to do when I grow up so I'd much rather be out playing around. I have to admit, I’ve done some pretty stupid pointless things (for some reason having a race of rolling down commonwealth hill comes to mind). In a way I think I did the right thing, I knew those days weren’t going to last forever.

Here's a photo from 2006, taken right before we decide it'll be a good idea to race rolling down the hill... aaah memories...!

This time around, tempted or not, I’d rather be spending time at home, being in touch with my creative senses, interacting with my ideas.

It started out with a bunch of failed experiment…

I figured that it was silly to experiment on expensive wires, so I did a couple of sketches to plan ahead and use cheaper wire to make sure the idea worked. (yes I use my keyboard as a bench... I just don't have that much space in my room for all my stuff. I don't think my keyboard is very impressed with me right now.)

And then doing whatever it takes to make those sketches work.

I wrote a sign in front of me on the mirror that says, “Clean up mess after each session” in bright red. But it’s not working, only sometimes when I’m out of ideas and getting a little bored, but a the moment, there’s wires flying everywhere!

And so, voila!
(All these can be found in my Etsy shop of course!)

I’m drawn in, I’m immersed… I think I’m addicted.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The 'Artist' Within

I have discovered recently that I am, naturally, a very lazy person. It’s probably very obvious, but it’s never too late to find out these things. If I had my choice, I could be ultra lazy and ultra can’t be bothered trying new stuff, going to new places or meeting new people. So the question is, what makes me want to do stuff?

Here’s the story…

A couple of days ago I was super duper cranky at work. What happen was that, while I was away on holiday, someone had taken my artwork and modified them without my permission to sell. It’s wrong, but I shouldn’t complain because we are working in the same company, and if the company makes money then who cares what we sell. It’s all about what the customers want right?


I think this whole grabbing my artwork without my permission is a lot of crap. I’m so angry how everyone these days just treat artwork like it just fell out of the sky or something! We artist have to have the talents, the vision, the idea! We have to read, research, dream, go through trial and error process, be in the mood to come up with these things, and then some thoughtless, heartless people out there just take them like art is just something that comes from a mass production factory somewhere. Cheap!

Anyway, I don't really mean to go on about that.

That situation brought me to the next natural progress of spilling to my boyfriend over skype after work. As he was trying his best to respond accordingly ( which he’s getting better at by the way) he said, “Well… obviously there’s this little artist inside you that’s trying to get out”

The title ‘little artist’ just kindda stuck with me. Suddenly it made me see little creative fairies living in me.

I never really see myself as an ‘artist’ until early on this year. I went through some really tough times last year and as I was trying to find ways to make my life easier. So yes, basically I was having an identity crisis at 23. What I decided to do was to go to my parents holiday house, by myself, in the mountains with a book my aunt gave me about self-discovery. For 3 days I was evaluating myself and the situation I'm in and figuring out why I was so miserable.

I came out of the 3 days more confident than ever knowing for sure that I am an artist- not because of what I’ve done, but because I’ve been born that way. Some people may have issues with me believing that. Some people think that you can’t be born an artist, you have to earn it. Maybe it’s true for some people, but for other people that I’ve met and know, they just are.

So, about the little baby fairies… they have always been there, and they’re keeping me going. If I don’t respect my art, express myself in music, create things using my sight, hands, my voice, hearing, they will start to cry. And if they cry, it really hurts.

Ok, so it may sound like my being is divided into a couple of different void, but that’s exactly what keeps me going. I don’t want to be drawing, or singing all the time, 16 hours a day. I’m not some crazy art maniac and I still want to live it up a bit, but if I don’t do art, something within me is starved and I could literally go crazy. This could be one of the reason why art can be depreciated. Some people survive on art like we survive on food. Honest and true artists would keep making art even if they don't get a commission or ever be rich.

That's the same little faeries inside them playing in...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wedding Bells in February

By this December, Greg and I would have been going out for 3 years, which is for us, is an Ok amount of time for not being engaged yet. But apparently, 3 years of waiting is a little bit too long for most of our friends.

It’s only October, but it looks like my Calendar is already full for next year’s February. All these wedding dates are flying at me only in the past couple of weeks, and they all happen to land on February.

Greg’s sister, Joanne is getting married to Henry on the 6th of February. They had been going out for 3 years and the relationship has been striving through a painful long distance since Henry lives, and is from Bangladesh. They met at Bible school in Australia. They’ve been trying to get married for awhile but Henry has been having problems in applying for a VISA to get in the country to get married. Their July 09 wedding is delayed till February 2010.

Our friend Nick is getting married to Anita on that same day. That's a photo of Nick there, the only one I have of himself.... Actually, I don’t really know this couple. I’ve seen Anita around at church years ago but never really had a proper conversation. I don’t even know Nick. When I recently came to Canberra for a visit, Nick randomly appeared to crash my lemon dinner party. It was rather surprising since we don’t even know each other but now I guess I’m entitled to go to his wedding if I wanted to. I think it’s only been a year since they’ve been going out.

This Tuesday at work, what I thought is going to be a boring morning turns out to be quite an eventful one. I checked my Etsy account finding a sale from Melissa’s boyfriend, Nat. He left me a message there saying, “Are you going to be around next year’s February? Wedding bells might be just around the corner!”
I… was… ecstatic!!!

My quiet American friend Melissa had only met Nat a couple of months ago. Mel spent half her life on the computer so it’s nor surprising to hear that they had met through facebook. They finally met in person a couple of months later to find that they couldn’t stay away from each other.

When we met Nat, we immediately thought that he looks, talks, and thinks exactly like Mel. I thought this is kindda creepy, because I always thought that Mel is very unique, but at the same time, this is really cool stuff! I told my German friend, David about this via skype. His response was,

“So… Mel is getting married to herself?”- as if he wasn’t sure of what I just said or something.
“Well... more like the male version of herself.”

The couple is flying over to Boston this November to meet Mel’s parents, and if it all goes smoothly, then just like Nat said, there’ll be an extra wedding bells ringing by February. If they do get married by then, that means they had been going through the whole 3 process of going out, getting engaged and getting married within 9 months.

Half an hour later, I got an email from my friend Sally who is currently living in London with her boyfriend. “Good news! We’re engaged!”

…And apparently that’s not enough ‘good news’ for the week.

Today Greg sent me an sms saying, “I have good news! You better ring me back!” but then I never did cause my phone died and I never get that message. 4 hours later when I turn on my phone and did find out that there is a good news, Greg said to me, “Actually, I can’t tell you about it now cause they rang me back saying that they wanted to let you know themselves.”

…I think I nearly died with curiosity. My imagination ranges from my best friend Lyndell is pregnant to my friend Caroline (who is happily single) is going out with Greg’s cousin (which is just impossible really). It was really killing me! I had to ring Greg and begged him to tell me who's the person involved in this 'good news'. I think Greg took pity on me and have kindly rang the mysterious person and ask them if he can just break the news to me. But instead, they just went, "It's killing her? Good! Tell her we'll ring her on skype by 9pm, otherwise you can tell her"

I finally got a call from Skype… slightly past 9pm though. It turns out to be none of all of my guesses. It was one of my really good mate, Fizz who’s been living in Sydney. He is now engaged to his girlfriend, Sarah. He knew me well enough to know he’d get a mad reaction out of me when he break the news. I found myself taking deep breaths and yelled at him over and over again for keeping me in a torturous suspense, “DON’T YOU EVER DO THAT TO ME AGAIN!!!”

And guess what? They are getting married at the end of January or February.

So now, I am freaking out. How the hell am I going to get back to Australia this February?!?!?!

And by the way, later in the evening Greg said to me, “Maybe we should get married in February… it seems to be the way to go!”

The Cats Who Own Me

I’m starting to find things that I can appreciate out of living in a slightly chaotic place like Jakarta. As far as I know of, we have zero urban animal control. We have lots of strayed cats and dogs running around everywhere. A couple of years ago in Singapore, they had mass killings of strayed cats. They would chipped the ears of the cats that they don't kill to mark them. In New Zealand it’s very important to track all cats in the country to protect their birds. In Australia, they had mass killings of kangaroos because there are too many of them around. Recently they’ve decided that it’s a good idea to eat them. So now Australians can buy kangaroo meat in their supermarkets. Subsequently kangaroo meat is cheaper, and a good substitute for beef.

While it’s very hard to buy or keep a pet in modern countries, it’s very easy to adopt one here if you’re not fuss on what type of cats and dogs you want. You just pick them off a street... that’s how my family got our cats.

It started out when my little brother Vincent came home with a mommy cat from school that just gave birth to 2 little kittens. When the kittens no longer need their mum, we kept the kittens but return the mum to the school.

Vincent had named these cats, but I never knew what they are. I naturally call the guy cat “Fatty” cause he’s got a small head but has a fat belly that made him look so disproportionate. I named the girl cat Mimi as she is a very self-centered cat. She always meow’s “Me, me, me, me…” and looked at me like she needs something. But really, she just wants to get into my room and hi-jacked my bed. Then one day, mum decided to take the cats to the doctor to get them sterilized. The doc asked her what the cat’s names are for documentation purposes. Surely enough, she had no clue what they are, so she made them up on the spot…. And that’s how our cats ended up with 3 sets of different names.

A couple of months later, as I was going for a morning stroll in a tea plantation with Simon and Daniel, a little boy kitten approached us. That kitten followed us for the whole walk as loyal as a dog. The walk wasn't easy, it was very hilly and rocky. When we nearly reached the end, he lied down and stopped following us. We didn’t have the heart to leave him there as he looked very tired and hungry… so we took him. After watching Ice Age 3 the night before, we christened the cat as ‘Rudy’, and unlike the other cats, his name remained consistent thus far.

I’m enjoying the ups and downs of keeping these cats, but I'm especially close to Mimi. Maybe it's because she's a girl. She is a really good companion for me when I get sick or lonely. She’ll sit quietly on my lap as I’m beading or working on the computer. She’ll even sit next to me and put her paws on my shoulder when I’m sick in bed. She likes to meow outside my room and sit there till I open the door just to get a pat... or to hijack my bed. As you can see on the photos, she could REALLY get comfortable in my bed! I'm starting to get used to it, besides, I get to take all of these really funny photos. And the best thing is, even if they do wake up because of your flash or whatever, they just look at you, yawned, stretch a bit, and just go back to sleep peacefully, unaware of the evil things you are plotting behind their back....

When I first decided to adopt Rudy... he was never meant to live with us for a long time. I didn't know how we can keep another cat in the house. Though, over time I think he had stole my mum's heart, especially when my niece who is only a couple months old loves playing with him. During the holidays when all of us weren't around, he must've got bored and he disappeared for days. My mum got panicked and got everyone around the neighbourhood to look for him. We finally found him in a neighbour's house with another cat.

I also enjoy watching little thrills that these cats do to keep me amused around the house. Like this photo! Today was an especially hot day. As I opened the fridge for an orange juice, Rudy jumped in and made himself fully comfortable inside the fridge. Instead of immediately taking him out of the fridge, I ran to my room and grabbed a camera to take this photo. I just hope that my parents won't see this... :p

So yes... the joy of living in a country with no complex pet order is getting a free pet. My x housemate Melissa looooooooves cats. I think she's almost famous for it. But unfortunately, most rental properties won't allow pets. When she found out that I have 3 cats at home through facebook, I think she was very jealous! All I have to say to her is, "Come and live in Indonesia! You can have 10 cats for free if you want!"

I reckon this can be a selling point in a 'Come and live in Indonesia' brochure... if there is any....

Money, money, money

I’m so broke at the moment… and as much as I hate being broke, I think I deserve it. If I count my blessings and really think about how much I have and done with the money, all the travelling that I did, I should be glad that I’m broke. I don’t think I have enough room if I ever plan to play around!

I got myself a new gadget yesterday. It’s a small Wacom intuos 4. I couldn’t afford to pay for it so dad helped me. He wants me to have it anyway and it’s part of the deal that if I pay him the huge amount of sum that I borrowed of him, he’ll help me pay for the wacom. I’ve owed him a lot of money since June. I borrowed the money to pay my travels around Indonesia with Simon and Daniel, then ticket and VISA to go to Australia. I calculated it tonight and it totaled to US$1700. I gasp, thinking that it’s $200 more than I thought it was… leaving me with only $200 in the bank… plus I need to pay $60 for the beads I just ordered. Being a part time Indonesian worker, I really don’t get too much. I have to say that at times like this, I’m just glad that I’m living under my parents wing… and I’m not ashamed of it!

Though, I feel like I just got hit in the head and I’m starting to think of ways to get out of this… better get cracking with my jewelry then!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Addicted to Glass

I have a very specific urge to go learn glass bead making during my stay in Canberra. I don’t even know what is involved, how much it cost, or even if they offer a class, but I didn't think much of it. One day I found a class over searching in google and emailing people, so off I went! (and yes, I’m pretty impulsive to new ideas that comes to my head. 2 years before this, it was floristry, a year before this, opening a shop on Etsy, and now, this....)

My teacher is Mrs. Carole Griffith, and since we came in contact via email, I never really knew what she looked like before the class. While Greg was driving me to my first lesson, we tried to imagine what Carole would looke like. Originally I thought she’d be in her thirties with long black hair, rather gothic and mysterious.

Carole came a bit late... and oddly enough she didn’t look like anything I imagined. Medium height, red curly hair, chirpy, happy, and a little bit crazy. She told us she just came back from a medical appointment. They told her that she had to quit coffee, which is poison to her system. Have I told you that she’s a little crazy? I mean it in a very good way though.

Carole is a great teacher and very good in keeping an eye with beginners like me. She watches me like a hawk, even when she’s talking to other students, she would make a glance or two at me to make sure I’m alright. That made me feel secure with my beads, and playing with this torch in front of me that is blowing at 2000 degrees. I find looking at molten hot glass, observing patiently and slowly shaping itself into it’s most comfortable shape (round) is very mezmerizing and super relaxing. There’s something very peaceful in letting gravity slowly doing it’s work to perfecting this object in the flame. I met a lot of other students who’d take lessons as a relaxation or recreational thing, even a treat for their birthdays! I took 6 classes and had met two people who said that there’s nothing else they’d rather do in their birthday.

(Carole's treasured glass supply that we can freely use! :D )

For the first lesson, Carole just got me to make normal beads over and over again... and I was ecstatic! When Greg picked me up after class to go for lunch, my brain was on a roll. I got really jumpy and happy and won’t stop talking to him about what I learnt, and telling him what Carole is like. It feels like I just met the guy of my dreams, and I’m stupidly head over heels in love!!! Except it’s not with a person, it’s with glass.

I took 6 lessons in total during my stay and out of that 6 lessons, I only made a couple of beads that I can actually use. Most of them are random beads, and lots of complete stuff ups which breaks my heart everytime I look at them. I learnt how to draw dots, raised dote, flowers, putting air bubble inside the bead, making multiple colour bead, make lentil beads, shaping beads, making stringers and drawing with the stringers.

I was the only student on my last lesson, and I had a great time with Carole. There's this really nice guy next door who's a violin maker. I see him almost every class for coffee breaks and he always order a small flat white. Carole was getting upset for not being able to drink coffee or chocolate, and this guy said to her, "Carole, why don't you just except the fact that you can't drink coffee, and embrace drinking tea instead!" His words must hit her straight in the head because 2 days later, she came into class with a couple of grams of the most expensive tea in the world, glass teacup, tea heater, and around 500 tea lights because it's cheaper in bulk. Being a tea lover, I thought I was in heaven. We were sipping hot tea out of this funky mug that's made by some madman in between making beads.

Aaah... this is life, how can anything be any better than this?

Now that it’s all over, I really miss, and crave to make more beads. I’m just sad that they cost a lot to set up, and I have no idea how I would supply the materials to make these beads, but I’m pretty sure that I’ll work it out sooner than later.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jewelry photoshoot session for Etsy, in Canberra

I've been trying to make the most out of my time here in Canberra, and getting a jewelry photoshoot was one of those attempt.

The original plan was to take photos outdoor in the beautiful Canberra landscape as the background. Fresh green spring grass on the hills and clear blue sky. Not just that, but I wanted to have 3 models with 3 different skin tones and getting them to change their costumes that fits my jewellry... basically try doing whatever I can't do at home.

As it turns out... things aren’t as simple and romantic as my head makes it to be. I didn’t know that I was asking pretty much the impossible until my friend/photographer Ben said, “Ok... we’ll try to keep aiming high now...”

As he said that, the 5 of us (me, 3 of my girl friends as models and Ben) were standing in this patch of grass next to our flat freezing our head off trying to take photos out door. It was super windy... and it’s 6’C outside. There goes my plan...

There’s a lot of things that I wish could be done better. First, the weather. I should’ve hired someone to chase the wind away.

It has been forcasted to rain days before and no matter how many times I’ve prayed, it looks like it’s meant to be cold, windy and raining... but at least we are allowed small dosages of sun. It’s been 20 plus degrees in the past couple of weeks in Canberra, but then it decided to drop down to 6 degrees on the Saturday, with an occasional drizzling rain and horrible wind blowing Bens prop away while we’re trying to take photos. Plus, because the wind is blowing very hard, the clouds are moving very fast which change the lighting very quickly. So Ben would instruct us, "Hold the prop, take it out, put it back on, take it out..." - something like that...

Second, timing. I wanted the girls to be sorted out before Ben arrived. I slept in and woke up 15 minutes before the time I said for everyone to meet up. Melissa is an American and she lives with me so I had no problem with that. Prabha, the Indian-Singaporean arrived half an hour late with her boyfriend Brendan. And since she’s in the middle of doing her PHD thesis, she got her laptop with her to check on her experiment simulations when I needed her to get change. Sienna is a Phillipino who lives outside of town and she was feeling quite ill the night before so I didn’t expect her to come, but she came anyway, although she was an hour late. So... when Ben rocks up, the girls aren’t ready and I panicked. I didn’t realize how much stuff I had to do either. I had to allocate who’s going to wear what jewellry, with what dress. I had to put make up on some of them and also directing the photoshoot itself.

So, note to self: the more organised you are, the better... and I guess that rule can apply to most things that I do.

The weather was so horrible but we tried to push for it anyway... 20 minutes later, we came back inside. Ben helped me decide to take photos on the verandah cause there’s not enough light inside the flat and it’s too cold to be outside. So, there goes my romantic outdoor photo session. But Ben was right, we started to get a lot of results in the verandah. I’ve learnt that it’s either you change your costumes or you change your venue a lot. Originally, I wanted us to go out for a walk around the area and find nice background to take photos against, but thats not going to work because the girls need to get change in between shots. So it's easier to stick to one venue in this case.

I love the tiny camera remote thing that Ben's holding. What an awesome gadget to have!

Now this is the bit where I write about how thankful I am to my friends who are willing to stand in the cold, letting me take photos of them, torturing them just to take some photos for my Etsy shop. I guess I went a little too overboard. But I couldn’t say that I didn’t do this without laughter. The flat became full of people going in and out. Our boyfriends were there making us girls laugh and smile and not shiver as much when the wind suddenly came gushing down. My friend Caroline is making us tea and amazing mini lemon meringue cupcakes keeping us full and warm. Oh, I really love these moments. Ben is angel sent really.... unlike me, he came very prepared. He even bought a new prop to experiment with during my photoshoot. He has an eye for detail and lighting that I definitely don’t have. I also like him because he has and always been so full of wisdom I dare not disobey his commands and suggestion- which helps a lot because I’m often very indecisive.

Taking photos is always something that I never look forward to when it comes into listing items in Etsy, so whoever thought that I would be working this hard in taking photos that is probably not worth the money the jewellry is worth. Ben said to me, “Do you love it though?” The indecisive me for once answered a very confident “Yes! Ofcourse!”

Well, At least I don’t have to take the photos so I’m not sure what I was answering yes to... Probably organizing this whole thing.... Getting stuff done and allocating people to do jobs that I can’t do. it’s a lot of fun, good experience and brings people together. I love my friends, and being around them makes me happy.

... and thanks Mel for all the great shots in documenting this photoshoot. You're awesome!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Back home

27 Sept 09... around 2am

I’m currently on a vacation in Canberra right now. I’ve been here for 2 weeks and I’ve got another week to go. I don’t feel like I’m on a holiday, it feels more like being back home. I haven’t been back here for a year, which means that I haven’t seen a lot of my friends for a year and have been apart from my boyfriend Greg for 9 months. It’s insane to think that we’re still together really.... I almost forgot what he looks like 3D.

The first couple of days here I felt so incredibly happy it’s almost ridiculous. I’m so excited about every little thing that I’m doing and getting to know what my friends had been up to. There are times when I couldn’t stop smiling, talking and laughing like an idiot until my friends think that I was drunk. I pity them for not having experienced extreme happiness :p. There’s a lot in Canberra that I’ve missed while being in Jakarta. A lot of them are simple things that I’ve never noticed when I was living here for 4 years. I love it how everything in here is so systematic. I love it that when I go grocery shopping, I don’t have to decide if I want to buy ‘import’ or ‘local’ of the same type of vegetable. I love how Australians are actually proud of their Australian 'made' or 'owned' products. I love the fact that the mall is not the only place to go shopping, and just being able to look up to a clear, clean blue sky for a change makes me feel very happy.

I’ve done a lot of things in the past 2 weeks that I thought, “I have to come back and do this again soon” like, catching up with certain people more than once, having fancy dinner with my boyfriend, go to that market, this bead shop or book store more than twice, watch movies... but of course it’s not as if I'm going to fit them all in in the my last week here. I'll just have to come back again... and God knows when that will be!

I felt that even in this midst of happiness, I can’t really grasp this feeling because I know it’s going to be over. Besides, time flies when you’re having fun! I feel like being happy is just so fantastic but they’re never long enough. They always come and go as fast as lightning. I’m trying very hard to keep this feelings last. I make sure that I have my camera in my pocket every time I go out. Not in my bag, in my pocket- for easy access. Every time I see something that makes me happy and instantly daydream I have to immediately take photo of it... and then continue daydreaming.

Right now, I’m sitting on a sofa bed at Greg's parents house in a farm of 4500 of acres wide. Their farm is located just outside a little town with only around 3500 population called West Wyalong. West Wyalong is 3 hours drive away from Canberra. The feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, with all this space is just so novel and peaceful to me.

I’ll be going to church and spend a lot of time with Greg’s family tomorrow and on top of that, I’m looking forward to drive around the farm and speed like crazy.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Stories From Sumba

I learned that Germans kiss each other’s cheeks to say goodbye. Javanese do that too but a bit different. They’d do a ‘nose’ kiss on each other’s cheeks to say hello... and then there’s the Sumbanese. they literally ‘flick’ each others, nose to nose to say ‘hello’. Simon and I stood in half bewilderment and half amused when we saw our Sumbanese friend and guide, Yubi demonstrate this to us. I thought to myself, “Who’s the creative chum that come up with that?”. I guess I always knew that I’m in for a cultural treat.

The most interesting topic to talk about Sumba is, of course its tradition. Sure we’re driving around the place using a modern transportation vehicle like a car or a motorbike. But when we visited the traditional village, I feel like I’ve gone back thousands of years before my time and witnessed the real deal. Well... it’s either that or I feel like I’m a 60’s Hollywood movie set.

Yubi took us for a day trip to West Sumba to visit some of these villages. It took us 3-4 hours for us to get to West Sumba from the East. The main city in West Sumba is called Waikabubak. ‘Wai’ meaning water and ‘bubak’ meaning bubbling. I’m guessing it must means bubbling spring water. The main city in East Sumba where we were staying is called “Waingapu” but I never did find out what “Gapu” means. Sounds like “Garpu” which is ‘fork’ in Indonesian, but "Water fork" wouldn’t make any sense, so I guess not.

These traditional villages can be found in most places, but the most interesting one is the one that sits on top of a hill, in the middle of a ‘modern’ city. It is really bizarre how these people prefer to stick to their traditional way of living when everyone around them have changed.

Though... we found satellites sitting next to some of the traditional houses... gotta love that twist!

So, what’s up with the shape of the house? The shape of the house symbolizes 3 things, lower life (hell), the present world, and the heavenly life. They usually keep their animals in the lower part of the house, the people live in the middle of the house, and they keep their idols at the upper part of their house.... I can't help but wonder what its like to sleep above your pet goats or pigs....

We managed to go inside one of the house. It was very interesting and surprisingly cozy. It’s made entirely of bamboo and they actually have room dividers for the bedroom. The kitchen is a simple stove in the middle of the house. They keep their rice in huge barrels just behind the front door.
Traditional Marapu people bury their relatives around their houses.... hence the many block of stones outside their houses. Marapu people believe that their relatives spirit still lingers around the area. The more elaborate the grave is, the more respectable the person was. I found it funny how some of these people still dry out their laundry on these tomb stones. Also, when I was on the site, I forgot how odd it was to be standing in the middle of these graves.

The grave in this photo here obviously belong to some important person...it's HUGE!

Some of the marapu women activities is to make handmade items. Such as this woman, she is making a cloth using the ‘tying’ technique using this traditional machine there. And there was also another lady is making little ‘boxes’ from janur which is young coconut leaves.

We drove to a beach after we visited Waikabubak. Though we didn’t stay there for long because we were getting eaten by sandflies the second we got out of the car. I didn’t even get to soak my feet in the water! But from what I can see it was a nice beach if only the sandflies weren’t there. If you like taking pictures, Sumba has got so many breathtaking landscapes. We saw so many good views as we were driving along.

There's a story that along this beach somewhere, a group of Sumbanese tribe had to move a large sacred stone from one place to another. They tied the giant sacred rock with special rope and dragged it across the beach to get to their destination. One day the special rope snapped. I can’t be sure why, but limited in their beliefs and tradition, they cant use just any other rope to drag the stone away. The only solution was to plant some cotton, wait for it to grow, harvest it, spin it into a rope, and continue dragging the rock again. I think this story is so ridiculous it's funny.

The previous day, Simon had the opportunity to explore more of Sumba while I stayed in the hotel because I was suffering on leg cramp and some crazy itch.
Simon visited kampung raja which literally mean “King’s village” in East Sumba. When we were there, the king had been deceased for awhile. We don’t know exactly how long, but the body is still sitting there inside the house. When a king passed away in Sumba, they will keep the body inside a house for one year. In that one year, they will sacrifice animals like, a chicken or a pig every night before the king is buried in his tombstone for the following year. His servants would sleep in the same room as the body for security reasons. The term ‘servant’ in this village is different to a slave. When someone becomes a king in this village, he is responsible for the well-being of everyone, including the servants. I guess that’s why a king is so respected here. He’s probably isn’t that rich either.

Another interesting story is that as soon as a king died, they will also have to kill his horse. They believe that the spirit of the king will need to ride the horse to go to heaven or something like that. So, what happen to everyone else when they die? Well... I guess they just have to walk... or hitchhike to get to heaven. Though, I don’t think they do this type of ceremony anymore.

Simon also visited a very poor family that lives on the hills. They are so poor the kids had to walk around half an hour away from their house to collect water from the well. The father’s job is to collect dry grass around the field. When Simon came back to show me the photos, he told me a sad story about this family.

One of the daughter had reached middle school and the school is too far away to walk so she needs to get a driver to get there. However, the family didn’t have enough money to pay for the transport. A driver offered the family her transport if only she would sleep with him. Desperate for her to gain higher education, the family agrees and gave her away. I don’t know if she finished school or not, but she ended up getting pregnant and giving birth to a child, so I guess not. The driver guy just disappeared. I felt very heart broken when I heard this. I wasn’t there to see the family, but the house must be so full of kids, and by the looks of the photo, no one really seem to be upset. I guess they will never be lonely.

Our second night in Sumba, we got invited by ibu Sari, for dinner. She is Yubi’s sister in law. We had such a good night and learned a lot about Sumba’s culture. She told us that having a a foster child in Sumba is normal. She’s got several children living in her house. Though, these foster children are related to her and she took care of them because their parents can’t. Her family pays for their education and therefore giving them hope for the future. They didn’t join us for dinner though, they were serving us dinner so I guess they had to do some service for her by living in the house.

Another interesting cultural aspect in Sumba is that the relationship between uncles/aunts and their niece is supposed to be closer than the relationship between the kids and their own parents. Say, when they kids are growing up and are making life decisions such as, what to study at uni, who to marry, what to do for a living, etc, their aunts and uncles are the ones who will have to approve, and their parents are not allowed to disagree. Also, regarding marriage, when a person is getting married before a sibling that is older than him/her, that person will have to ask permission from the oldest sibling if he/she can get married earlier than them. If they approve, then go ahead, but if they don’t, they’ll have to wait until the oldest person get married.

So, Simon and I left Sumba after spending 3 nights/days there. While I was there, I got bitten by some sort of evil flea that gives me unbearable itch all over my body. It wouldn’t go away no matter what I do. I couldn’t wait to get rid of it and I know it will disappear as soon as I leave Sumba. Yubi is worried that I will never go back to Sumba because of this. And up till now, I think Simon still feels bad about ‘dragging’ me there. But even when I was suffering those itch, I didn’t really mind. When I woke up in the middle of the night because it really hurts, I just prayed and will eventually go back to sleep without fail. I knew that in a larger scheme of things, stuff like this wouldn’t matter much, because the trip was very memorable. At least I know that the next time I go back there, I will have to bring my own sleeping bag and an endless supply of insect repellent.

I guess Africa must be next on the line for Simon....

Have a look at my facebook photo album for more photos and other smaller stories of Sumba: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=149067&id=522165445&l=86627a7172