Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Circular journey through Lapland, Sweden & Norway - the Story of the Travel Journal

Taking a journey as far north as possible has always been a dream of mine.  So when we had an opportunity to travel to Sweden, I decided that we will do just that - go as far north as we can in 14 days with a family of 4 - my sweetheart, me, my 5-year old daughter Angeli and my mom - all the way into the Arctic Circle.

I always travel with a journal and make a point of journaling everyday. The marks that I make on paper while experiencing the sounds, sights, smells and textures in another country is for me, just magically different from what it would be if I'd waited until I got home.  Even if it means just jotting down a bulleted list of highlights of the day in pencil or one smear of paint accross a page.

Before the trip, I received the gift of a lovely vintage geography book written in Swedish.  So I decided to alter it and recycle it as my travel journal.  I separated the book block from the book cover, then I reassembled my own signatures and put it in the cover before we left.  Once we landed in Sweden I bought Finnish paper in Stockholm that I added to the book pages.  Meanwhile I started journaling on the loose pages.  5 days into the journey, I made the book by stitching the signatures into the cover.  It was in the middle of our first night in Lapland.  I was too excited to sleep, and I was peeking outside every few minutes in the hope of seeing the Aurora Borealis.  Now the book itself has much more meaning.

I plan to add more imagery and ephemera that I collected during the trip, some more writing, and incorporate more of my own photographs.  I will be working on it a bit more because that way I get to enjoy the journey for longer.

Here is a flip through my journal.

Music: Le Soleil Sur Nizas by Herman Bergman from the album: Mahai

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Highlights of 2016 & Big Dreams for 2017

Before the 1st month of 2017 is out - I'd like to wish you a wonderful year. Hoping that the excitement and inspiration of a fresh start remains with you throughout 2017!
Looking back isn't always a good thing, but when it comes to gearing up to a new year, I find that gratitude for the journey behind me is something that helps to propel me forward.
So here are the highs of 2016:

- 8 in-house workshops in the Play Café - my Studio & Workshop in Pretoria dedicated to the transformative practice of visual journaling
- Sluierspel - A LEEF Magazine Creative Retreat, Cape Town
- Sluierspel - A LEEF Magazine Creative Retreat, Johannesburg
- JournalJoy - a 2-day retreat in Stellenbosch
- JournalJoy - a 2-day retreat in Pretoria
- Sluierspel Mpumalanga 1-day retreat
- Doxa Deo North Campus Evening Journaling Retreat
- Dubai Visual Journaling Playdate with Fadwa Al Qasem, May Shbaklo & Janice Clarke
- Circle route through Stockholm, Swedish Lapland, the Arctic Circle, Lofoten Islands and    the Fjords of Norway
- Thesen's Island Summer Break
- October Journaling Forest Retreat
- My babygirl Angeli turning 6
- Musical collaborations: Suitcase Ensemble & Kersfees in Augustus
- Solo music gigs: Winterbegin & A Spring-kling of Afternoon Jazz

As I list these, I am especially grateful for the people that support me to do what I am supposed to do.  My husband, Werner, my daughter, Angeli, my family, Christine Ferreira and her exceptional team at LEEF Magazine, Leandri du Preez, my friends who were very vocal and practical in their support of my visual journaling workshops and my music - Liezl le Roux, Sonja Blignaut, Helge Herbst, Yolandi Ferreira, Renate Gombault, Lize Duvenhage (who also happens to be my sister), Glen & Mariette Waterston, Muller & Annie Crauwkamp, Johan Kelber & Henry Holloway.  And a huge thank you to every single person who came to a visual journaling workshop or a music gig.  I could not do this if it weren't for all of you! Here are some of those precious moments...

The album - Mahai -  is available on iTunes here

Looking forward to 2017, I am very excited to roll out more themed visual journaling workshops, a weekend retreat in October, musical collaborations, solo shows, a Carpenters Tribute Show and possibly a sabbatical in the United States & Canada.

So without further ado (drum roll, please...!) here are the initial dates for visual journaling workshops in the Play Café for the year:

24 February 2017, Play Café, Pretoria,18h00-21h00: 
Ikonic Journaling
Bible-based meditation - visual journaling as worship & dialogue

25 February 2017Play Café, Pretoria, 8h30-13h00 :
I want you to know …./Ek wil hê jy moet weet …
Life is short - while we have our loved ones with us, we need to say and demonstrate that love. 
With February being the month of love, we will be working in a miniature visual journal as a gift for a loved one - using appreciative enquiry, 3 supplies, ephemera & phrases.

11-12 March 2017, Stellenbosch, Western Cape, 8h30-17h00 & 9h00-13h00:
'n Topografiese Woordwewery/Topographical Wordweavery
A 2-day Visual Journaling Retreat during the last weekend of the 2017 Stellenbosch Woordfees

7 April 2017, Play Café, Pretoria, 18h00-21h00:
Ikonic Journaling
Bible-based meditation - visual journaling as worship & dialogue

8 April 2017, Play Café, Pretoria, 8h30-13h00:
By Special Request: Visual Journaling Collaboration for Mom & Kiddo
An adventurous dialogue between moms & kids (5-12yrs) - using bookmaking and visual journaling as instruments for connection.

30 June 2017, Play Café, Pretoria, 18h00-21h00:
Ikonic Journaling
Bible-based meditation & visual journaling as worship & dialogue

1 July 2017, Play Café, Pretoria, 8h30-13h00:
Foraging for Treasure
Visual journaling as instrument of restoration - we will be journaling with lost, found & discarded ephemera in altered books

18-19 August 2017, Play Café, Pretoria, 8h30-17h00 & 9h00-13h00:
'n Topografiese Woordwewery/Topographical Wordweavery
A 2-day Visual Journaling Retreat

16 September 2017, Play Café, Pretoria:, 18h00-21h00 

Ikonic Journaling
Bible-based meditation & visual journaling as worship & dialogue

17 September 2017, Play Café, Pretoria, 8h30-13h00: 

Altered States
Letting go and trusting the unknown to make unique images and collage papers for use in our visual journals.

13-15 October 2017, Lakenvlei Forest Lodge, Mpumalanga: 
Visual Journaling in the Forest
Chronicling poetry, photography, nature & self-portraiture in visual journals in order to reconnect & nurture & inspire.

Please leave me a note in the comments or email me at for details. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Exquisite & Delicate - The Journals of Derika Volpi

This coming Saturday, 17 September, I am very excited to be hosting a visual journaling workshop at the Play Café which will be taught by my wonderful friend and artist, Derika Volpi.  She holds a BA (Fine Arts) degree in Information Design, and is passionate about hand lettering, typography, layout, sketching and photography.  Have a look at her instagram profile (@derikavol) and you'll see what I mean!

Derika's visual journals as well as her photography highlights all the wonderful detail that most of us tend to overlook when we see beautiful big landscapes or when we travel to new and unknown places. We are so often overwhelmed and taken by everything that is "bigger and better" that we lose so much of the exceptionally beautiful detail that surrounds us.  This is a theme that keeps emerging in much of her work.

She prefers to work in small and portable formats mostly. As a busy home-schooling mother of 2, many of her journal pages are done in her tiny A6 Moleskine Diary - which is a practice that she has inspired me to follow too.  She believes in a minimalist approach to art materials.  Derika's pages are often a combination of 3 elements only - collage, sketches and hand lettering.

She adores paper and prefers to use old labels, postage stamps, pages from old journals, vintage book papers, even the patterned insides of used envelopes as well as tiny seeds and leaves discovered during nature trips - which she loves taking with her family.

During the workshop, she will be guiding us through the creation of tiny journals made with recycled papers, and also introduce us to her unique style elements as we create our own visual journal pages.

Message me if you'd like to attend - and I'll forward you the details.

Here's a sneek peak into some of her wonderful journals:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Play Café Retreats & Workshop News

I've had the amazing opportunity to facilitate two 1-day retreats during the past winter months.  It is a little slice of heaven for me to be able to spend an entire day with beautiful likeminded souls and to share with them the incredible practice of visual journaling which I am so passionate about.

The first one was held in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.

Then came LEEF Magazine's Creative Retreat in the beautiful Cape Town where 52 courageous women journaled their hearts out at the gorgeous Altydlig Wine Estate.  What an amazing experience to be able to work with this team!  I'll be doing one of these again - this time in Johannesburg on 19 November - and feeling blessed to be working with Christine and her wonderful team once again.

Seriously wished I could put these two in my pocket and take them home with me!

Stunning view of Table Mountain covered in a rainshower in the distance.

And here's a rundown of what's happening in-house this term at the Play Café Studio/Workshop in Pretoria:

Our first workshop took place on 27 August.  We made flag journals....that became banners of love...  So much beauty came from these girls as they poured their hearts into these flags. 
17 September's workshop is 2 weeks away.  Are you coming?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Brewing at the Play Café...

5 new workshops are brewing at the Play Café this term.
One of them will take place in the beautiful Stellenbosch  - during the Stellenbosch Woordfees
(Word Festival).  So appropriate - considering we'll be spilling our souls on paper, making our own books and filling them with our own profound words and images.
Email me if you'd like to know more -

Friday, January 29, 2016

2016 and "being busy"

I wanted to start my first blog entry of 2016 with an overview of 2015.
Then I discovered this unpublished post in my blog's "back room" - written in August 2015.
And looking back on the year, this is so profound that I feel it needs to be heard.
Unknowingly I seemed to have written this as a message for the future - for 2016.

August 2015:
I wrote, "I'm happy to say that my days of immobility in terms of movement and being unable to drive are now over.  Although I still have not regained full mobility of my right arm and shoulder.  Bone growth is progressing at a slower rate than expected.  I am able to do most of the basic day to day tasks.  But my year has not been as productive as I planned it to be.

Maybe it actually has!
Why do I measure success in terms of productivity?
And what does it mean to be "productive"?
Does the work that we do on the we overcome our own obstacles and fears, how we deal with adversity...not count when we measure productivity?
Is it just about OUTput then?
I'm somewhat shocked at my own values in this regard while I'm writing this.
Productivity seems to be weighed according to what we can measure, that which is quantifiable - that is how I've been conditioned.  Is that perhaps because external behaviour is visible and measurable and exchangeable for that other visible and measurable commodity that dictates most of our lives - money?
If we're physically busy, then we are seen as productive and successful, it seems.

Today I'm challenging my own views.

You see, I've spent almost half of the year so far on my back.  But I got to read many pages that I've always wanted to, but never gotten around to doing before.  I had time to contemplate and think things through.  I had an opportunity to practice working, writing and sketching with my non-dominant hand.  I kept a journal - The Left Hand Chronicles - because I could only use my left hand and basic art materials at the time.  My lines were childlike but they were the most authentic marks I'd ever made on paper.

Deep processes of healing and growth were unfolding way beneath the layers of my skin.  Like the slow, deep movements of magma, water and tectonic plates under the earth's surface.  In time, some of those changes make it out to the surface of the earth and into the atmosphere.  The magnitude of those changes become visible to the eye only after they have actually occurred - sometimes months or even years later.

Productivity is not just that which can be measured and quantified in terms of behaviour.   Success has no set definition either.  The criteria that define it are uniquely personal and very different for each individual.

I saw a wonderful quote the other day.
Beware the barenness of a busy life

So here's to a wonderful 2016 and to living your own, unique brand of success.  
And may your sense of peace and contentment flourish as a result.
With love

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sketchbook Travel to the Gingerbread Houses of Dictionary Land

It has been two weeks since my last post.  My nocturnal studio sessions came to an abrupt end on 28 March when I sustained a concussion, broke my right clavicle and - confirmed by my orthopaedic surgeon only yesterday - 4 ribs were fractured in a horse riding accident. Who knew that by the time I write my next blog post, I would be lying on my bed for 6 weeks and using my left hand to edit pictures and write this post. Life sure is full of surprises!  So now I've been able to start something that has been one of my goals for this year - to digitally combine 15 years of travel photography and travel sketches.

5 of us were crammed into the ancient Toyota Land Cruiser of our trusty driver and tour guide Ahmed.  It still played cassette tapes! We spent 14 days exploring the mountains, the canyons, the sea and the desert of Yemen. A fascinating and arid place which writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith named Dictionary Land.  Because the Arabic dialect that is spoken here, is rumoured to be closest to the Classical Arabic that is taught by academic institutions today.  A country that provides you with the most authentic experience of what Old Arabia could have been before the modern age set in.

It is the place where Sam, son of Noah had settled after the Great Flood and the land where the palace ruins of the Queen of Sheba can be explored - according to legend.  And if you ever wondered where the world's old Land Cruisers go?  Well, they find an afterlife in Yemen - the ones that can still be fixed manually at the roadside by its driver, that is.  Extremely essential in this remote part of the world!

As for my travel sketches - there was no time for leisurely sketching.  We were constantly on the move so most sketches were quick impressions while the landscape flashed past our moving vehicle.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Slideshow: Sketchbook Travels to Yemen
Music: Hijaz by Magamat (The Legend of Oud)

For more Yemeni/Arabic inspired material:
READ: Tim Mackintosh-Smith, Wilfred Thesiger, Freya Stark
WATCH: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
LISTEN: The Legend of Oud by Magamat

Here is a beautiful Jewish Yemeni folk song by Noa and friends: