>>>III<<<   Crowns workshop sells out!

The 20 seats for Brigita Strodas Melbourne crowns workshop sold out in a flash. As there has been so much interest, I have moved the workshop into the small hall at Latvian House. So many people want to hear Brigita’s inspiring presentation on the origins of crowns, that I will be selling tickets to the talk separately. People coming to the workshop have the talk included in workshop ticket. Saturday March 18th 2017, Melbourne Latvian House.  

Workshop is full, but enrol for the talk by contacting contacting Māra Baumanis on 0433 812 244.

I am amazed at how linked the Latvian community is across the world. I had young Melbourne ladies calling me, desperate to get into this workshop, as their Latvian friends from Canada or England had said this workshop is fabulous, as they had participated at the 2x2 camp, or elsewhere in Latvia! 

 

>>>III<<<   Lastroda crowns come to Melbourne

I’m organising a workshop for the inimitable Brigita Strods from Latvia, who will be at Latvian House in Melbourne to present her fabulous crowns workshop. Learn about the history of crowns, about Latvia’s crowns and wreaths and be inspired by a multitude of beautiful images as you fashion your own crown. All welcome, presentation in English and Latvian.

Saturday March 18th 2017, Melbourne Latvian House, at 10:30am.  $35 includes material: $25 for students and Latvian Australian Artisans’ Association members. Enrol today through Facebook, or by contacting Māra Baumanis on 0433 812 244.

This is a fabulous opportunity to participate in an empowering event, and meet an inspiring woman. Brigita has had several crowns exhibitions, her work has repeatedly featured in the Latvian press, and she has held many workshops in Latvia and elsewhere in Europe to great acclaim. Her company name is Lastroda, check out her work!  : http://lastroda.com/

Places are limited to 20, and 5 are already taken. Don’t fluff around, or you may miss out! PS Come early or stay late to enjoy the Baltic goodies from the Melbourne Latvian House café.

Gorgeous photo of Brigita by  Ritvars Skuja

>>>III<<<   Next artisan workshop date set

Our Melbourne artisan workshops have grown exponentially in popularity over the past 5 years. Mark Saturday and Sunday May 6th and 7th 2017 in your diaries and get ready to head tp Latvian House in Melbourne. These workshops are unique in Australia, and I know there is nothing like them in the USA. Take the opportunity to learn old school skills. The program has not yet been finalized, but last time 14 presenters taught 9 workshops to 32 participants. Not bad, eh!?

 

>>>III<<<   Interview on Latvian radio

I am completely chuffed that Latvian media personality Ansis Bogustovs has published a 35-minute interview about our Artisans’ Exhibition. It’s in Latvian, and is called “Is a folk costume different if it is sewn elsewhere”. This seemingly trite question is not directly discussed in the interview, but themes of nationality and identity are. Traditional textile artisans Ārija Baumane and Aija Grosa, as well as master jeweller Atika Rea, talk about how their Latvian heritage has, or has not influenced their work. 

During the interview, both the interviewer Bogustovs and Latvian master weaver Maniņš, urge me to participate in the 100 year celebrations of Latvia in 2018. What a buzz! Who would have thought, that my career would take such a turn! 

Listen here http://lr1.lsm.lv/lv/raksts/21.-gadsimta-latvietis/vai-tautas-terps-ir-atskirigs-ja-to-suj-latvietis-kas-dzivo-citv.a79705/

 

>>>III<<<   Amazing volunteers all!

The exhibition was a huge success. Hundreds of people came to the first Australian Latvian Culture Festival Applied Arts Exhibition in many years. Although this festival happens bi-annually, it has been so many years since there has been a crafts component, that no-one can remember when there was last such an event!

There were close to 50 artisans exhibiting from both Australia and Latvia, showcasing hundreds of pieces: archeological, traditional and modern. We ran a very successful market and a small café. The kitchen not only supplied the café, it also fed the exhibition staff of up to 12 people, every day.  

And you know what? It was all done by volunteers! There were around 40 people who gave up their time: during the Christmas break, during the attractive Australian summer, during the super culture festival, which is chock-full of other attractive events, to run this event. Not one of us is paid. All of us working hard, in sometimes very stressful situations. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you! Thanks to the members of the Latvian Australian Artisans’ Association who were the core of the workers, but a super special thanks to the friends, husbands and supporters who donated their efforts during this so very hectic tine of the year. You are all the heroes of this magic event!

>>>III<<<   Working with artisans from Latvia

I love that Latvians from Latvia and Latvian communities from outside Latvia are working increasingly effectively together and actively supporting each other. I am certainly working to promote the interaction of Latvian and Aussie-Latvian artisans. The Australia Latvian Artisans’ Association was instrumental in bringing Rīga master weaver Māris Maniņš to Australia. 

Maniņš has been a fabulous asset to this exhibition. We have all learnt so much from his experience in setting up exhibitions. His hard work, energy and unflappability have been a godsend! After the exhibition, he travels to the Latvian Summer High School in South Australia where he will be teaching both staff and students.

>>>III<<<   Works from Latvia

I am proud of having involved so many marvelous artisans from Latvia in this exhibition. Longins Švirevičs’ traditional jewellery is spectacular! Švirēvičs leads the jewellery studio Cilnis  in Rīga, and is not only a jeweller, but a master in chasing and repousse, which are such key skills in these traditional pieces. I have spent a day in Švirevics studio learning the secrets of making the hollow Zemgale beads. I only made one, and it took ages, but I just loved learning from the old master who is a very sweet gentleman. Making a whole necklace like this takes many, many days. 

>>>III<<<   Exhibition opening: what a high!

The Minister of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, Dace Melbārde, found the time to open our Australian Latvian Artisan Exhibition. What a high!! The building was buzzing with people, art, French champagne and pīragi: a dazzling combination! It was also great to host Inga Oliņa, who plays many important cultural roles in Latvia, including being the initiator of the influential program " A folk costume for each of us" (Katram savu tautas tērpu). 

Click on the side of an image below to see more.

>>>III<<<   Exhibition bump in

A small group of Latvian Australian Artisans Association members and supporters have spent four full days setting up the rich exhibition which opens on the 27th December. Beautiful examples of work from the 1930s to the present day. Jewellery, textiles, ceramics, glass, wood… And a surprising array of quality items for sale, both from the exhibition and from the adjoining artisan market. 

>>>III<<<   AL56KDs

I’m curating the Artisans’ Exhibition at the 56th Australian Latvian Culture Festival to be held in Melbourne between Christmas and New Year. Almost 40 artisans with a blend of vintage and contemporary works. There will also be a pop-up café and an artisans’ market with some amazing pieces and bargains. And all in a unique area of Melbourne: well worth the visit to the

Latvian RSL, 87 Chetwynd Street,  North Melbourne

27th – 31st December    10am – 4pm

>>>III<<<   Amber talks

I continue getting great feedback about my talks on amber from both Melbourne and Sydney. I guess we are all surprised about how much we don’t know, or have forgotten, about the Baltic treasure that is amber.

Talking about how to distinguish real amber from fake at Latvian House in Sydney.

Talking about how to distinguish real amber from fake at Latvian House in Sydney.

>>>III<<< Next market: October 11th 2015

I'll be participating at the  Baltic Festival in South Melbourne on October 11th. It is shaping up to be quite an event with Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians and Finns showing off their cultures.  It's at Lithuanian House, right in the centre of busy, and very cool, Errol Street in North Melbourne: so why not make a day of it!

 

 

>>>III<<<   Amber expertise

P8041355.jpg

I just spent an amazing day with third generation amber expert Harijs Jākobsons at his workshop in Sigulda. He is such a generous, super-knowledgable teacher!! I learnt buckets of stuff! He is also the author of the very readable book Dzintars…īsts vai viltots (Amber..real or fake) published in 2014 and available from Jānis Roze bookshops.

 

August 4, 2015

 

 

>>>III<<<   Heide and Mirka Mora

Līga Ejups at NGV Heidi

Līga Ejups at NGV Heidi

Līga Ejups and I both enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the Heide Museum of Modern Art, http://www.heide.com.au

We loved this innovative sound and movement installation, as well as the Mirka Mora Exhibition. 

 

October 1, 2014

>>>III<<<   Adressing the people

Today I addressed the Latvian Teachers’ Conference. It is great to see how many people volunteer their time to teach in community schools (and attend conferences on a Sunday!) My talk was called “How not to be a boring teacher”. I enjoyed the research, although working out how to express some of the terms, like “multiple intelligences” and “digital natives” was a challenge.

 

I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Līga Ejups. She is a fabulous lady, but also a museum curator, teacher and writer of innovative art and culture programs for schools. She is also the Director of the Cultural Office of the American Latvian Association. Her talk about how to teach language via visual art at the Latvian Teachers’ Conference was nothing short of inspirational. I was gob-smacked when she started her talk with a slide of a threshing barn painted by Latvian American artist Jānis Kalmite, as I have a very similar one on my wall at home. Mum brought it back from a trip to America in the late 1970s. I will respect it even more now!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jānis_Kalmīte rija.

 

September 28, 2014

>>>III<<<   Etched box

This was a great commission! A lovely lady rang up and wanted something that represented Australia and Latvia for a special Christening in Ireland. It needed to be unique and was not to be jewellery. We came up with the idea of a box.

 

 

I designed and hand cut a Latvian sun and a eucalypt image into lino using Aussie artist Margaret Preston’s style as inspiration. I used that as a resist and etched the metal.

 

Then I hand formed it into a box. As I don’t have the specialist tools, that was a huge challenge of improvisations, which included using a street pole as a mandrel!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lid is opened by lifting a sterling silver latch made in the shape of a eucalypt leaf. The inside is lined with merino wool, which is dyed in the colours of the Australian bush. I loosely felted that into the shape of a eucalypt.

 

 

 

 

I love the result, which is reminiscent of an old dowry box or treasure chest with exposed hinges and rivets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 17, 2014

>>>III<<<   Baltic Festival 2014

I spent another magical day being transported from North Melbourne to the ancient forests and glades of the Baltics. I love to compare and contrast the costumes: jewellery, colours, textures. Here are three beauties from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Geographically so near, yet also so far. Of course the decades are also widely disparate. 

And as for the bling...yummmm! I feel so privileged that these ladies shared their treasures.

On the left: Lithuanian. ON the right: Estonian.

 

 

This Latvian costume features so many metal tassels that the wearer’s every step jangles with a thousand harmonious sounds, evoking the magic of times past. This costume is a direct antecedent of the many tassel designs in Latvian jewellery. Mine included! What an amazing thrill: feeling an immediate link from what I am doing at my bench today to such a distinguished and ancient past!

 

 

 

 

 

BTW, the ancient Latvians from this area buried their dead, rather than burned them on a pyre as was the custom in the rest of Latvia. The abundance of metal meant that the costume was very well preserved for the archeological reveal. So we know that reproductions like this are true: right down to the colour of the fabric: unreal, huh?

 

 

 

September 14, 2014

>>>III<<<   Amber glow

amber necklace.jpg

I’m understanding amber increasingly well. Its inner glow is so warming. But it is so very soft: easy to burn and break.

 

August 22, 2014

>>>III<<<   Prehistory at my bench

Check the mosquito in this bead of amber: I can clearly see its head, wings and even the hairs on its legs. I hope there is not enough dinosaur DNA in its belly to reconstitute a monster! A lucky find indeed.

mosquito in amber.jpg

 

March 16, 2014

>>>III<<<   Next market Latvian Village Wantirna March 29

Check out my new range of 7 day rings and traditional brooch-based jewellery as well as lots of other goodies: 60 Fraser Crescent Wantirna South.

 

March 5, 2014

>>>III<<<   Busy summer!

I’ve had a long break from the bench. My summer featured working at the Latvian Summer School in Normanville, close to Adelaide. Fabulous students and staff and a thoroughly inspirational experience! But VERY HOT!!

 

February 16, 2014

 >>>III<<<   More famous artisans!

India Flint! http://www.indiaflint.com

The inimitable textile artist India Flint, who teaches and exhibits around the world, took up my invite to come to the Latvian Summer School. She drove 4 hours to meet Māris Maniņš and give a talk to the senior students about her work. Respect! Her family is Latvian and she has a piece in the Latvian Museum of Design in Rīga. It was fabulous to see Māris and India drop straight into a professional rave. I love this pic I took in the café in Normanville. India gave me a hand dyed silk/wool scarf. I love it. To think that Halle Berry and I wear the same clothes!!! J (India’s wonderful apparel is available at Church Boutique and yes, Ms Berry has an India Flint dress! http://churchboutique.comin Hollywood)

 

February 16, 2014 

>>>III<<<   Famous artisans!

Summer in Adelaide meant that I met some amazing artisans. I worked with the LTMF (Australian Latvian Artisan’s Guild) team to bring the famous weaver Māris Maniņš from Rīga, Latvia to the Australian Latvian Summer School to teach weaving. He is an award winning weaver and a fabulous teacher.  He worked so hard in insufferable heat and the result was something like 80 woven objects and a whole new world opened to the school community. A great effort all round!

 

February 16, 2014

>>>III<<<   Heritage wedding rings

A lovely couple asked me to make their wedding rings. After discussing a number of options, they loved my suggestion of using the gold from the wedding ring of the bride’s father to make a contrast feature. The moment of melting the old gold ring was poignant, but the joy of incorporating a piece of such personal history into the new rings was exquisite.

 

December 22, 2013

 >>>III<<<   Latvian Artisan Workshops

The inaugural Latvian Artisan Workshops run over two days at Latvian House in Melbourne were a huge success. It was just fabulous to see so many people of such a wide age range come and try Latvian crafts. The jewellery workshop was full to the brim!

 

December 30, 2013

>>>III<<<   Next market November 17!

I’m already getting heaps of orders for Christmas and school graduations. Think ahead, please, to give me time to make things. I will have a stall at Latvian House Melbourne, on November 17th (for the Latvian Independence Day celebrations).

November 1, 2013

 

>>>III<<<   New 7 day rings!

I finished my new range of 7 day rings for the Baltic Festival and they went like hot cakes!!! They look just fabulous. They are show stoppers: heavy with silver and meaning. A unique symbol isdeeply etched into each side of the tassels. I spent ages researching the symbols and making my own versions of the designs. My rings are, of course, made from quality materials and made to last. Earrings of different lengths to match. Fabulous! So proud!

 

October 15, 2013

>>>III<<<   New 7 day ring range.

I know some of you are keenly waiting for new stock of my bronze tasseled 7 day ring. But my kiln issues have not yet been resolved, so there are none of those in the pipe line at the moment. However, I'm very happy to let you know that I'm working on a fabulous new 7 day ring design. This time with Latvian symbols. I love delving into  Lativan symbology and I've chosen the 7 strongest symbols for women for the range. I'm still in the design phase with heaps of sketches littering my life. 

 

August 8, 2013

 >>>III<<<   Exhibition a huge success!

People raved about it! A fabulous long and hot weekend. Here's me at the gates of Latvian House in Elwood, greeting the Multicultural Affairs Minister Nicholas Kotsiras  with two of the great young people who volunteered to help with the exhibition opening. 

And this is my vibrant octogenerian Godmother with one of her lamps at the exhibition with the works of other Latvian artisans. 

 

March 14, 2013

 >>>III<<<   No Fine Design Market in Doncaster for March and April.

Please note, my wonderful regulars, that Vasara Jewellery will not be going to the Fine Design Market in March and April.  Conflicting responsibilities see below.

 

>>>III<<<   Huge Latvian Crafts Exhibition March 9 – 11, 2013

Latvian House, 3 Dickins Street Elwood.

Sat 9th 11- 6pm

Sun 10th 11 – 6pm

Mon 11th 11 – 3pm

The Aussie-Latvian community in Melbourne is staging a huge, one-off exhibition and sale of vintage Latvian ceramics, weaving, woodwork, leatherwork, glass, jewellery and embroidery. The several hundred pieces were created mainly in Australia between the 1950s and the 1990s, with some contemporary exhibits as well. Some pieces have been exhibited around the world and many are for sale and priced to sell.

 Profits from the exhibition will be donated to the AZVV Latvian Summer High School (run near Adelaide in January for Aussie Latvian kids) to enable future generations to learn the folk art skills, which are such an integral part of Latvian cultural identity.

 The exhibition will be opened by the Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs & Citizenship, Nicholas Kotsiras and it will run for the long weekend of March 9-11, 2013. Please come along and bring your friends. You wont see art like this anywhere else. You can't buy art like this anymore.

 I’m helping with the event and will be there (with my jewellery) all long weekend. Do drop by and bring your friends.

 Check this image of wonderful work by Latvian expats being readied for exhibition.

 >>>III<<<   The wonders of the internet.

I just found this image and article on the web. I don’t know who wrote it and who took the pic of my jewellery, but it’s true: my daughter and I sell our handmade work at the local market called the Fine Design Market in Doncaster, Melbourne. It’s on the second Sunday of each month.

 Posted January 14, 2013

 

>>>III<<<   Latvian culture festival in Adelaide

 

So much has been happening in my jewellery world! I gave a speech about the rich, unique and, frankly, amazing Latvian jewellery at the Australian Latvian Culture Festival in Adelaide in December. I was nervous, as I saw many important Latvian Aussie dignitaries taking their seats. As usual, I thought to myself “If I can do this, I can do anything”: the mantra took its calming affect and I launched off, talking to 170 (referenced) images. 

 

At the end I was blown away when an enthusiastic, personable lady came up to congratulate me: it was the Minister of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, Žaneta Jaunzeme-Grende! I knew she was at the festival, of course, but I’d only seen her from a distance, and I hadn’t twigged.  I felt so honoured that this important lady had found the time to listen to my speech. She agreed with some of the controversial points I had made about the wearing of the Latvian national costume. But what stuck in my mind, is that she said “We are one nation”. For the first time I felt that maybe us second, third generation immigrants can still contribute something of value to the old country.

 

Posted January 10, 2013

  

>>>III<<<   I participated at the Baltic Festival in Melbourne last weekend. It was the first time I’ve seen so many Lithuanian costumes close up. They are simply stunning: such colourful, contrasting textiles! Although geographically and linguistically we are so close, the costumes are quite different from the Latvian costumes. But most amazing to me was the almost complete lack of metal adornment. I spoke with many of the Lithuanian ladies and they confirmed that, apart from metal clasps on some of the vests, there is no other metal. Instead, they wore a beautiful, profuse array of amber. How different from the Latvians, where metal plays such an important role of many of our costumes! For example check this Latvian costume from Zemgale, which is exhibited at the National History Museum of Latvia.

 

The Estonians and Finns wore some lovely metal jewellery. This one was a simply stunning example of their Viking-inspired brooches. The elderly lady didn’t know the particulars of its provenance: only that it had belonged to her mother and that it came form Estonia. The detail of the workmanship and the unique, strong design made me feel it could be sitting proudly in the Estonian National Museum. What a privilege to have seen it here in Melbourne!

Posted September 14, 2012

 

 

Daumants Kalniņš is an inspiring man. He has dedicated his life to researching ancient Latvian jewellery and he has created the Latvian heart and soul of ancient jewellery knowledge, which now reaches out across the world. I’m not talking about a multi-national empire where the key players lounge on yachts.  Daumants has worked for decades with his own hands and a hammer, often in very difficult circumstances, to work out just how jewellery was made in ancient Latvia, then he recreated the tools to make authentic replicas. Daumants battled with soviet administrations and lack of funds to build a smithy out of found objects and unwanted offcuts in the beautiful medieval Cēsis castle. Over the years he has gathered over 100 jewellery objects which make up the smithy museum.  People from Latvia, the Baltics and from around the world turn to Daumants for information about ancient Baltic craftsmanship. Daumants found that his knowledge is unique and he has written books, addressed and organised conferences and he hosts a stream of tourists who come to see his smithy during their visit to the beautiful medieval castle.

 

The two days I spent working in the smithy, under the charming, humorous guidance of Daumants were a pleasure, honour and inspiration to treasure for a life-time. Check out his website for further insight into this living treasure of Latvian culture: http://kalve.cesis.lv/?lang=en

 

 

>>>III<<<   I’ve just returned from a wonderful trip to northern Europe, which was packed full of visiting friends, markets, museums and galleries in Latvia, Estonia and Finland. Absolute hightlights were a 2 day masterclass with the famous jeweller of ancient Latvian jewellery, Daumants Kalniņš in his smithy at Cēsis castle, as well as a lengthy visit with the head of the Ethnographic Department of the National History Museum of Latvia, Ilze Zinģīte.  Spending two days at the Latvian Open Air Museum’s massive annual craft fair was also a priviledge that all my senses are grateful for. I am stunned, awed and insired by the majesty and sheer amount of Latvian jewellery.     Posted August 15, 2012

 

 

>>>III<<<   The Mother’s Day speech about Latvian jewellery was a big hit. Over 100 people heard a 45 minute presentation including 89 (referenced) images. Great feedback and two invites for repeat performances. I loved learning so much about my amazing jewellery heritage!    Posted May 18, 2012