Marina Meier

Marina.

A magical, sparkly shop was where we scheduled our meeting, surrounded by stained glass lighting, imported handcrafted Turkish rugs and handbags, time pieces hanging from every wall, sparkling jewels and trinkets on every surface. The aroma of the coffee machine seduced us away from the window shopping and straight to Bengü, Gallery B’s exotic owner. Marina and I took our preferred beverages to the alfresco area at the back of this little wonderland.

Marina is a woman I have worked with before, I wanted to know her story, and how she found herself specialising in boudoir photography. She starts by telling me the photo sessions are a process of healing, healing for herself and the woman that she is working with. She takes a deep breath and starts what she tells me is a long story. How she feels she was pushed into the decision to take this path, but the backstory is important part of her journey that she feels is her destiny.

“As you know I was born in Kazakhstan, which was part of the Soviet Union. I have a German / Russian background and am from a small village, so quiet conservative. After the revolution there was all of this equality, and woman could do whatever men could do. There was no limits they could be engineers, they could be astronaut if they wanted. But at the same time, it was two extremes woman in Soviet Union was like traditional woman, who take of the family, who takes cares of the children, cooks, cleans, and takes care of her husband like another child. But she goes to work as well full-time”.

“But there is still a lot of degrading thoughts about woman like “chicken is not a bird and woman is not a human”. Of course it isn’t the whole society but it is still part of the culture. Woman body, nude body, sexuality, sex there was no talks at all about this. It is all taboo. There was all negativity around the body and it wasn’t like I had that sort of relationship with my mum where we would talk, when I was becoming a young woman. So everything about that body image and sexuality was taboo and it was dirty and it was bad.

Marina remembers negative dialog around a woman that had left the village in her twenties unmarried, studied, had her own money, apartment, a career women. Listening to this harmful gossip as a child Marina thought no little girl would want to grow up like this woman. Much the same if you got pregnant out of wedlock or divorced, women were pushed into a mould of being a second class citizen. Marina tells me about her beloved Grandma’s story.

“I feel her presence at the moment. My grandma had quite a difficult life, she was divorced. My grandfather he was an alcoholic and quiet aggressive when he was drunk, my mum tell stories that she would break a window to run away, when he was in this aggressive mood. And I guess if my grandfather didn’t leave the family then my grandmother wouldn’t get divorced from him because it was taboo and he left the family when my mum was young. My grandma, single mother of four, working full time. They did not get married because of love, they got married because my great- grandfather and grandfather were drinking together one time and well it became more or less an arranged marriage, it wasn’t love at first sight, it wasn’t a beautiful life and I think that it is best for my grandmother that grandfather left, but it certainly didn’t make her life easier. She never married or had another partner. At any family wedding or event my grandmother would sit in the furthest part of the room from my grandfather. When they were buried, there graves are next to each other. It is quiet ironic, it wasn’t planned, it just happened, my grandmother died first and then my grandfather died a couple of years later”.

“When we moved to Germany I was eighteen. I married when I was twenty. I started to study photography at the same time and the first few years, I was still influenced by my Russian/ German background. The first day when I went into the photo studio where I met my mentor who became my best friend, I opened the door and walked in, and there were pictures everywhere framed and unframed. The first picture that got my attention was a picture mounted behind the counter. It was a black and white a2 size, it was a pregnant women, just the torso. I couldn’t see much of her face it was turned to the side, she was a silhouette. She was nude. She was completely naked. I could see her bare breasts, I was looking at a nude pregnant woman. A nude picture of a pregnant woman on the wall. It was a shock for me. Who would do that! Why would they do that! In my head everything about nudity was supposed to be private and intimate. Your nude body is supposed to be very, very private, and it was kind of dirty. It was so shocking. I was so shocked”.

marina photo 1

“So every day I started to come to this classic portrait photo studio. Classic, you know, families, babies, new borns, pregnancy, weddings, passport pictures, corporate portraits, communion photos. But she also specialised in art nudes, studio boudoir sessions. There were not many at the time showcasing pictures like this, it was a speciality that she really loved. Sometimes, when we would put pictures in the window to display them, we could come the next morning to the studio and have a lot of cigarette butts in front of the window, there was also a lot of rotten eggs thrown at the window!

As her internship progressed Marina immersed herself in her role, the work, the people and their stories, she thrived on this experience where everything was different and new. She came to recognise that the women in these photos weren’t models. But, beautiful normal people, everyday women, teachers, mums, accountants, all beautiful.

“Looking at these made me see that, oh my god, these are normal people, it’s not Sodom and Gomorrah, they not prostitutes, it’s not dirty. At that moment I was 20 and I was naïve and had all of these background stories in my head. Then I started to meet these people because I was assisting my mentor while she was photographing. Over the years I would get to know these people, because they would be photographed when they first become a couple when they are so in love, and they wanted pictures for the Christmas for the family and then photograph their wedding and then photograph the pregnancy and the first baby and the second baby and then first day of school. Then mum comes in and says: “I feel like I have lost myself I want to feel sexy, I now you can take these pictures, can you take these pictures of me? I mean I know I have cellulite and my belly isn’t beautiful anymore because of the stretch marks.”

“I really did feel like a part of a family. We were giving pieces of our souls, because it was all analogue photography and I was standing in the dark room developing these images, and I would stand there and cry, because, I would remember the story she would tell us. The intimate stories, the sad stories, the happy stories and they would all make me cry”.

That is how Marina started as a photographer, she eventually out grew her surroundings in her professional and personal story. She needed to escape, so she ran as far away as possible, to travel and study English. She landed on Australian soil on the 26th October 2007. Flying back to Germany she resigned from her job seeking professional and personal growth elsewhere. Berlin became her new residence and her new partner her home. At the time, in the back of her mind was a dream to be self-employed one day. But she never felt ready, she knew she had the talent and skill to be successful and thrived on the connection with her clients. However, arriving in Berlin she was took on a job as Manager of a photography studio.

“When I started the job in Berlin it was very different because I was on my own, I was managing the studio, and at some point I got apprentice’s that I was responsible for. I didn’t have as much contact with the clients anymore, there was a separate studio and shop and to make it more efficient I only had contact with the clients when I photographed them. I never had a chance to meet them before the session or when they would pick up the images. It started to become more money making and not about connection and that’s what made me burn out”.

Marina’s health started to suffer. Marina wasn’t eating or sleeping, her body was expressing her soul’s unhappiness as physical symptoms. Doctors couldn’t find anything wrong. The studio’s clients were happy with what they were getting, but this didn’t sustain Marina, she had lost the connection with the whole process. Her creative work wasn’t coming from her heart anymore, it was money making. Boudoir photography was growing in Marina’s portfolio in the time she was burning out at the studio. Boudoir is founded on trust. Photographer and client would meet before the shoot, she painted the faces of her client and then Marina captured the essence of the woman in images, during their three hours together. Marina would not be rushed with these creative connections with her clients.

“The boudoir shoot is how I got to know my clients, they come to the shoot and I was doing the makeup. This is where they were telling their stories, they were sharing things they probably never shared with anyone. I photograph them and see the transformation from shy and nervous, to working half nude in front of me, and we become friends, that was magical.

marina and bengu

Boudoir is not about sex, I see more of the sensual, intimate, yes it could be sexy but it is not necessary for it. It’s about the 40 something years old mum with five children that comes to me and says, “I can’t look at myself in the mirror, what I see there is so disgusting”. From being a young woman, to the abuse, to the five children, she is an amazing person I see the beauty in her eyes. Yes, she has wrinkles, her body carried five children, she nourished five children. I see the miracle of life, the miracle of giving life, the miracle and beauty of her. When she looks in the mirror she has lost the connection to her femininity. She lost connection to herself, to who she is. She is working full time, she is a mum, she is a wife, she’s a friend, a daughter, there is so much and she always puts herself last. Somehow there was something in her that realised she needs to change something that is why she has started to do things outside of her comfort zone. That is when she discovered what I am doing”.

After chasing this same connection with her clients from continuing her work at the studio and increasing her boudoir sessions, she applied for a job in Switzerland, she travelled for three days to explore the possibility. She cried for the three days, at the end of this release Marina’s heart told her that if she took this job she would be in the same situation but with a different view.

Big changes started unfolding for Marina, her dream to be self-employed started to manifest. She was petrified, fear of financial instability, but she had the support of her partner who was also going through changes at work. They started having hard conversations with life changing questions. Where do you want to be employed? Do you want to be self-employed here? Do you want to move somewhere else? They decided there new chapter would be in the place they met, the place Marina dreamed of as a magical country when she was a child, a place as far away from possible from all the struggle. They landed in Australia 14th October 2014.

Arriving in a new country Marina felt like a new woman, an independent woman, still fearful but excited. This is the part of the story where she was pushed into boudoir photography. The owner of the studio she worked for in Berlin, forbid her from using the images she had created and added to her online portfolio when applying for jobs in Australia.

“The images that I created the last four or five years I wasn’t able to use them, I mean I can understand if I was doing this and making my own studio maybe five hundred metres away from him but I was going on the other side of the world. It was devastating for me, this was my work, how do I apply for jobs without being able to show my work, fresh work. I was now depending on my partner, he got his visa and I was on the partner visa, I had a right to work and I had a right to become self-employed. I had no job and no website with images that I could use. I had to think about what had given me the most joy. When I was in this difficult time of depression and burn out I was thinking of quitting photography completely. I have been doing this for 13 years. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else! What else could I do? This is when I started the process of self-development. I realised I didn’t love myself.

marina 2

That is where boudoir photography and loving yourself and loving your body, loving you as is, that’s where it all comes together. Seeing woman coming to me and willing to change something, willing to see themselves in a different way, wanting me to show them a different side to them, wanting to reconnect to their femininity or even discover their femininity. I felt like I was seeing this as a whole picture, and boudoir was something that I could without a studio. It was something that I was enjoying most from all the stages of my photography.

I was scared to focus, I was scared that it was too focussed. I was thinking things like; there are so many people who don’t like it, who don’t get it, who don’t understand it. Why on earth would you focus on that! You would lose so many clients, if you do family portraits everyone loves family portraits. Everyone loves baby photography! Everyone loves a new born photo, families spend so much money on it that would be easier. But, the best work I do is one on one that is where I can get to know them and connect. It doesn’t have to be boudoir it can be fine art, it can be editorial. So I kept myself safe with fine art, editorial and boudoir. When I would go to the networking events or telling people what I do I was hiding myself behind fine art and editorial photography. If I said boudoir people then say, what is that? Then when I would show pictures, some would get it wrong and then think it was dirty again, and then some would be like, “ohh, who wants to do that”!

marina workng

I wasn’t standing my ground. Now I say I am a boudoir photographer. It was a process of the last three years. There were moments where I was thinking, “gosh it is kind of going nowhere”. No, I won’t give it up. I know stories of the woman I have photographed. I have photographed a woman who’s 74 years old, who has got a husband who is sick for many, many years and she is caring for him, but she fell in love. She is 74 years old and she fell in love with another guy and she is having an affair. Or is it! I don’t know, I don’t care. She is a wonderful beautiful person and I don’t think it is bad, she is great, she is a woman, she is a human being, she’s got her needs, and it’s ok. I mean she cares for her husband. But, she is in love with someone else, and she came to me and wanted me to photograph her. For me, I want to be like her when I am 74, not the sick husband, but in love and still wanting sex and live my sexuality and not thinking, “oh, ok I am 40 and life is done”. There are so many more woman like this and I know what impact it has on their lives. It is addicting to hear their stories, and see them change and transform it is addicting. And it heals me. It is ok to love your body, doesn’t matter the scars, it doesn’t matter shape, size or age. It’s ok”.

Devoting her life’s work to women and their stories, what is the definition of woman for Marina?

“Woman there is so much that pops into my head, though the first things maybe that silhouette. The next thing is pain and growth and love and seeds, like plants and their seeds. Growing the seeds putting them into the earth and seeing them come up and growing and giving fruit”.

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Yvonne Rinaldi

matriarch

ˈmeɪtrɪɑːk

noun: matriarch; plural noun: matriarchs

  1. a woman who is the head of a family or tribe.

“in some cultures the mother proceeds to the status of a matriarch”

    • an older woman who is powerful within a family or organization.

“a domineering matriarch”

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I am perched on the edge of the visitors chair in Yvonne’s office that is reminiscent of a fishbowl. Two of the four walls in her office are floor to ceiling windows looking over the grounds of Caboolture Montessori School. Next to me is Yvonne’s collection of Elephants, every colour every size. I draw in a deep breath while taking in these beauties, thinking of the traits I know about these extraordinary mammals and the matriarchs that lead them – wisdom, strength, intelligence, natural born facilitators, social intelligence, openness, decisiveness, patience, confidence, and compassion. The banging in my chest, the fluttering of wings in my belly and my shaky hands, do not at all mirror the woman sitting comfortably in her office chair, stockinged legs crossed, arms lounging on the arm rests, chest, heart and face open, smiling and confident.

The planning of Caboolture Montessori 20 years ago, was the result of two women making a decision to commit their passion, time, and money into a venture that they wanted to succeed.

“Then three years later I left and went to a bigger school, then nine, nearly ten years ago I heard that they were looking for a principal here.

I decided to come back home.”

Yvonne, like Dr Montessori has training in the medical field. Medical technology and haematology were the fields that Yvonne first trained in, she held a position working with children in Zulu land looking at protein calorie malnutrition. Working closely with little ones she discovered that children were a lot more than physical entities, that they have an amazing capacity. Ever the student, Yvonne needed to know how to understand children on a deeper level than she had been trained for. About to become a mother herself, she sought a type of schooling that would nourish the whole child, the answer was given to her through word of mouth.

“That was 39 years ago, after that I looked at education, I managed to get myself two degrees. Firstly traditional education, and when I was doing my masters, I decided that again Montessori seemed the best thing because it was appealing to all areas of learning. So Montessori is it”

Yvonne’s education on a cellular and intellectual level of children’s development and growth is what sustains her. Her wise assessment and constant wonder of watching a child be able to do things for themselves, their own development and education and not being held to the “monkey see, monkey do” phrase, influences her. She takes her job seriously in influencing others to see the wonder that she sees.

“To get the best out of who they are as adults is looking for the best in children. It’s really not words and I really believe that so strongly. That every child is magic, and it’s up to us to remove those barriers to allow the magic to happen, and then provide scaffolding for them. I have millions of these moments for me. I mean for me it’s a daily occurrence. When I see one of the students and their eyes brighten up and they say over and over again, “I have done it” and you know they have done it. That to me is a glorious moment”.

When selecting people that she can nurture, learn from, teach, be playful with as well have the strength to lead, Yvonne seeks people that: lead with their heart, must be open to learning, know how to be professional, but, most importantly knowing that their own learning is vital for the children. That it is essential for the children to see their role modelling.

“Three or four times a week, I refer to Dr Montessori’s readings and books. And read them again. When you read things again you see if from a different perspective every time. I tell the kids that. I tell the staff that. Learning doesn’t happen in one go it takes repetition, but, repetition when you are ready and you’re ready at different stages, in different areas of your life.

It is always good to go back to good things. Good books, good memories, good people. You will gather more information”.

“They really are my children. Yes my staff are my kids – in a way. It is one on one when you want to reach a person it’s not just about relationships it’s about inter-relationships and intra-relationships. If you know who you are then you will give the best to the other person. So it has to be one on one first, when you are talking to a group absolutely you will start getting a conversation going. But if you are a leader when you are in a group, you try and get everyone else to talk. When it’s two of you, you can really focus on each other. Individuality in the class room is the same you still have to have your focus on everybody, but when you are talking to a student it’s just the two of you in that space. It encourages active listening and most of all trust. If you trust somebody you will give them the best and you will want to do your best. If you don’t trust them it is superficial, you don’t go down inside. Growth is from everyone. When people say look around look what you have done. I am not being patronising when I say that, it’s not what I have done, it’s what we have done as a group. There is no way. No way, that one person alone could’ve every achieved what we’ve got here. It’s just not possible. I have staff that are so committed, so passionate and when I know that they have got that, I can aspire and push for bigger things. Yes, what we have done is phenomenal and it is not ending, now it is what is coming next? What is the next challenge?”

 

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A well respected and wise matriarch with an ability to communicate, know when to take charge and know when to listen, when to connect with other leaders and draw from their wisdom in making decisions. Yvonne, shares with me her perspective on her first five years as the head of her tribe.

“My first five years of being a principal were absolutely terrifying. Terrifying. You feel that there is so much weight on your shoulders and you really don’t have that person next to you to say, “Well let’s do this or let’s do that”. So your decision making, your perception and how you see things is totally reliant on you. The responsibility was phenomenal and at the time, I didn’t have all the knowledge and I didn’t have the experience, I mean experience is something that nobody can buy or teach you. You learn through the process. So there hadn’t been enough process, I had been a teacher, I had been a curriculum director with others helping me make decisions. Those first five years was, “you breathe, you get in do the best”. Every time. Every time I was in a difficult situation, I would go to the bathroom, if I needed privacy,

“I would say think with your heart and do the best that you can with your heart not just your head. If it’s wrong then it will be wrong, but, you have done it with the best you can give at that very moment”

Now days when I look back I think, I was ok. I don’t know if I am proud yet, but I feel that I can relax more, I still have the moments when a big decision comes my way, now I don’t feel like I will crumble, I feel like I look around and grab people to support me. I have learnt that lesson, that, there are people that will help you and I also have an amazing board. When you have people above you and you know that they are there for you it helps a lot”.

Yvonne also draws on the life of other phenomenal humans.

“Mother Theresa I feel that, that, woman spent so much time in so much angst with no support that she was phenomenal. I mean Jo of Arc is another woman that is phenomenal. I need to bring in a man. Leonardo Da Vinci, I mean that man, the brain that really says it all for Montessori. The creative side of the brain, the logical side of the brain. I mean he had art, technical skills and information. I mean if I could have them all here, I would crawl under the table and let them go for it, they could do it all. But I can’t so I suck out the elements of each. If I could have anyone working beside me in the school? I mean the obvious choice would be Dr Montessori. But I think really I would like Madame Curie, she was an explorer, she was one that never felt she had enough and even what she found and discovered she was not happy with that, she kept going.

Seeking more of her openness and female intelligence I ask what the word “woman” means to her;

“Apart from Mother I think woman to me is arms outstretched and positive and powerful”

Of course finishing of for the quote of the day is none other than the Montessori quote.

“Let me do it by myself”.

I am grateful for Yvonne for sharing her story, her journey of wisdom, strength, intelligence, social intelligence, openness, decisiveness, patience, confidence, compassion, and for being the matriarch that has guided my family through our Montessori journey for eight years. She has shown every single one of these traits to the most important boys in my world.

 

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Grandma

GRANDMA

family-history
Noun
(plural family histories)

1. an extension to genealogy in which the life and times of the people concerned are investigated
Family history puts flesh on the bones of genealogy.

Mum phoned Grandma and papa, and told them we would pop down for a cuppa and morning tea. I selfishly want my grandma’s story, I want to know about the life and experience that lead her to sixty plus years of marriage. I want to know her stories so I can have a deeper understanding of the blood that runs in my veins, I want to know our similarities. I want to know her traditions and the memories she holds dear. We took our morning tea party to the front of the house and enjoyed the sun. I sat on the brick stairs, with a cup of coffee in my lap, papa supplied the tim-tam biscuits on the table. Grandma had Papa sitting on her left hand side, Grandma’s hands were fidgeting in her lap, her body leaned towards papa, and her eyes continually peeked at him, her voice held the same wobble I get when I am nervous, she was afraid to move in case my phone didn’t pick up her voice. My whole being vibrated with love for my grandma, my eyes misted over at the details she remembered and what she didn’t recall she would lean to her left and ask Papa for the answer. My papa a proud and determined man, softened as he listened to the woman that he has been married to for 62 years was reminiscing about their early years together. The longer she chatted about Papa, her immediate family and extended family the wobble left her voice and the memories kept surfacing, the conversation had her glowing.
“I was 12 when my brother went away. Jackie, my brother turned 18 and went to Kingaroy for training, then went to Canada and then England. He was flying plains for the air force, he flew planes over Germany, the war finished in 45, and he got home in 46, I think. I mean there was so many troops to try and get home, it took them along time. Bobbie trained as well and was set to go to New Guinea, but the war ended. My dad worked at the post office in parcels post in Queen Street, he would get all the telegrams. If you ever saw the telegram boy in your street, you just felt so sick. That happened one night when I was at Aunty Dot’s. In the middle of the night there was a knock on the door, there was a young man standing there in uniform. Oh, we felt ill. When Aunty Dot answered the door it was nothing. Just a silly young drunk boy, looking for the people across the road”.
A favourite thing, we loved when growing up was Guy Fawkes Night, cracker night. It was great. We would go and buy our crackers and light them up.
“Remember, Remember the 5th of November.”

We would make a big bonfire and let off all the crackers. One night we were all trying to light the bonfire, it wouldn’t light. Later, we found out the miserable old sod at the back had hosed our bonfire. There was also always the bad kids going round and lighting up all the letter boxes”.

“I was 14 when I finished school. The teacher sent us into Brisbane to go to the chemist to buy the toiletries she needed for the week. We went in to the chemist, Della Huntys. We got the tram to go back to school. I forgot it was a one way street. I got off the tram and walked around the front and was hit by a truck. I was in hospital for about a month, then was sent home to recuperate from a fractured skull. Once I was better I got a job with my sister Valda at Leutneggers. I just went in and asked for a job, they gave it to me. I had a job sewing hats, some buy machine, mostly by hand though, they were sold in shops all over Brisbane. So there was half a dozen girls on every table, we all sat in a row and sew. I was there from when I was 15 and left when I was 18, when mum and dad moved to Redcliffe to live. All the girls back then were either milliners or dressmakers. I was never wrapped up in it. I mean it was just a job, I didn’t love it. Once I left I never thought of making another hat again. While I was still working in Brisbane I stayed with my Aunty Dot. I worked at Woolworths in the city, when I finished at the milliners, then when they opened a shop in Redcliffe I moved down there.”

grandma
I am fascinated about how young girls and women led there life in the 1940’s and 50’s, but I want to hear the love story of my grandparents. Papa gives a little deep chuckle, Grandma shakes her head and pats papa’s hand.
“Oh, it was terrible. I met papa at Rosalie while I was living with Aunty Dot. He was walking up the road with a couple of friends. I was standing outside talking to a boy, he was just a friend”. She says as she pats papa’s hand and send him a sneaky smile.
“Papa had a nice blue jumper on and he looked over and saw me looking and he said “would you like me to take it off for you”? “Oh”, I said to my friend “I hope I never have papato talk to him again”. Papa lets out a belly laugh while grandma shakes her head.
“Well, Papa’s mother heard what he said as he walked past me, and told him to “get over there and apologise.”

“Aunty Dot didn’t have a phone at the house, so we had to use the one in the local shop. The shop lady would call out to all the neighbours when they were wanted on the phone. The next day she called out “Fay, your wanted on the phone”. It was papa. Papa was on the ship working and called me asking if I wanted to go to the movies. I wasn’t very impressed but I said “oh! Yes ok”. He bought me a box of chocolates. We were sitting there and he told me a friend of his bought a girl a box of chocolates and she ate them all herself. So all through the movie I kept asking him: “would you like a chocolate” every single time he would say “no thanks”! I couldn’t even enjoy the movie, I was too worried about the chocolates”. We were about 16. Then he went off to sea, he could be gone for up to six weeks, he went to England at one time. I would check the newspaper every week to see when his ship was coming back to Brisbane. When I moved to Redcliffe, I would catch the red bus up to Brisbane to see papa. Papa would be waiting at the bus stop for me, I would leave Redcliffe about 5pm and get to Brisbane about 8.00pm. We would go to Bon’s café, we loved the pork sausages. We were married in 1955 at Sacred Heart church, Rosalie in Brisbane. I went and bought my dress from a shop in the Brisbane arcade. After my wedding, it was handed down to my sister-in-law and then I sold it for 10 pounds. We had the reception next to the Broncos leagues club, there was a big reception hall there, oh there was about 100 at the wedding. A wedding back then you just invited everybody. The football was on that night, the reception was everyone listening to the football. We had booked to go away for our honeymoon, but, oh we couldn’t afford it so we cancelled. We had a rented flat and we moved in the night we got married. I hated the colour of the walls, so papa painted them for me”.

grandma papa weddding
“Papa was working on the wharf at the time. We had 3 cents to our name after the wedding. It was hard living in those days. Papa was only paid when there was work. If there was no ships in we didn’t get paid. We listened to the radio every day, to hear his number, 2565 when it was called. Everybody that worked the wharves had a number, the numbers were called at random at 6.00am every day, if your number was called you had work for that day, no number no work. We lived in Stafford St at Paddington, we didn’t have a phone at the house, and papa would have to run up the hill to get to a phone box to call the wharf to say he would work. I would watch him out the window and if he was running down the hill he would have work. Sometimes we could go a week with him walking home which meant he had missed out on the job and was without work. Once we had the kids I would be yelling out to be quiet, so we could hear if their father had work for the day. There were ships in everyday, but, I mean there was so many water side workers”.
“Your mother was born at the Royal Brisbane hospital. There were no men allowed to be around when the baby was being born. Nobody was allowed to go in with you when you were delivering the baby, you went in all by yourself”. Grandma tells me this with a shrug. My mind and heart are spinning at the thought of having to deliver your baby with only a room full of strangers supporting you.
“I went in to the hospital, the week before all my babies were born. My water always broke the week before they were born. I would have a dry birth. I had Doctors and Professors studying me because it was so unusual that it happened with them all. The husbands were only allowed to view the babies through the glass in the nursery. Papa was only permitted to visit between 7pm and 8pm every night and at 8pm the nurse would be like; “righto, out!”
“One day I bought your grandma some strawberries and cream in a bowl. There were too many visitors at the time, a nursing sister came, got the strawberries and cream and closed the door in my face. I was left outside waiting to go and see grandma. I couldn’t get in until some of the visitors were leaving”.
“Oh, the nursing sisters! It was just like they were trained in the army, I think may have been. No one was allowed to sit on the bed, they would march up and down the ward, glaring at everybody. We had to stay in the hospital for nine days after delivering the babies, we weren’t allowed out of bed, not even for the toilet. They would bring all the babies around in a long trolley at feeding time. We would also have to express milk for the babies whose mothers couldn’t feed them, you had to express every day, and the nursing staff would get cranky at you if you didn’t give enough”.
With grandma’s recall of events I have thoughts flying through my head like: what if they mix up the babies? Nine days in bed actually sounds pretty good to just rest. Express for other babies! Is that healthy?
“Once discharged, I got a taxi home. We lived in Red Hill, I got the taxi driver to take me home so I could pack a bag and go to papa’s mother’s house. I left your mother on the seat of the taxi, went inside, opened up the flat and packed a bag, now days they would call child services if you did that”. She says with a chuckle.
“Oh, yes when we moved to Redcliffe. I mean your mother went to kindy on the bus on her own when she was 3. The bus driver would help her on the bus. Your mum would wait at the butcher shop, get on the bus. Then the same in the afternoon, they would get her on the bus and she would get out at the butcher shop and walk home, sometimes my mum would meet her there and walk with her. I was still working full time then at Woollies and your mother had kindy. So! When your mother went to school, my dad would make hot chips and take them to the school and have lunch with her. At night we would have to rush through dinner and baths so that we could watch television. We were the only house in the street that had tv. All the neighbours would come every night and watch our tv. Quiet often we couldn’t get a seat in our lounge room because all the neighbours would be there. Either that or everyone would go to the shop windows and watch the tv. When we first went to Redcliffe no one had phones, so we would go to the telephone boxes you would call the exchange and they would tell you to wait your turn. Once they connected you, after 3 minutes the operator would say “are you extending?” We would have to say yes or no and put more money in. You would talk really quickly so we didn’t have to put more money in”.
I look to my right and see my two boys 15 and 12 playing on their smart phones as grandma tells me about waiting your turn to call someone.
When we moved to where we are now in Redcliffe, this was just a big pineapple farm and dirt roads. Pineapples were still growing when we bought the land, we didn’t get neighbours for two years after we moved in. If there was a car coming up the road we would know we were having visitors. We were the only ones in the street, I would have time to yell out to the kids “hurry up and tidy up”.
So Grandma what’s the secret to having a marriage for 62 years?
“Do what your bloody told!”. My papa says laughing while wrapping his arm around Grandma, while she pats him on the leg and says.
“Oh, but it has been a lovely life here with papa.”

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My absolute favourite photo with my Grandparents.

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Ania Caffarena

Ania Caffarena

I walked into the space at the Festival of design where Ania and Kat had their art displayed. The blonde and brunette haired beauties, one from Germany and one from Italy, made use of pine wood pallets as supports for black and white pencil drawings of whales, fish and swim suits. Green leafy branches from palm trees added colour, a quick shade in the same colour as the foliage and its poles allowed Ania to hang her whales and white flowing material softened and gave the display a beachy feel.

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I had just finished having a speedy interview with Kat about her drawings and asked Ania if she would also be interested in a quick chat. I could’ve spoken and listened to these interesting and extremely talented ladies with their European accents for a lot longer, but it was a market type feel with people walking around and I didn’t want to take up too much of their time.

Ania told me that she started to make the three dimensional whales in February. “It was a strange thing. I had been doing this back in Italy just for an hobby. But then I came here to Australia and I met this girl she is an artist too” and she said “you should try and sell your stuff.”

She sent some pictures to a really famous interior stylist in Sydney. And this stylist wrote me back and said “I want to buy your whales!”

Laughing she tells me “And I was like oh my god, ok!” So since then I have been starting to sell them, to Sibella Court, Sibella Court Society Inc, and she is from Sydney. Since then I have been selling to shops and galleries, off my own website.

Ania tells me that when she came to Australia and landed in Darwin she had no idea what she was going to do here. She proudly and with a big smiles say “and now I am in artist in Australia.”

Ania spent time in Italy making flat metal sculptures and in Australia embarked on making three dimensional whales, she told me she finds these so much more fun to do, and they are so much more challenging.

“I just love whales there is something so magic and they are so poetic, I just love them, there is a special connection with the ocean and I wanted to do something to represent that”.

In November the whales are playing in the waters off Byron Bay Ania said “it was just crazy seeing them in the ocean in Byron bay, they were jumping and I was jumping.” Watching them in nature added to her research on the whales form and movement. This research is also backed up from Ania’s study of design in Italy, yacht design actually. “I left university and I came to Australia because yacht design back in Italy is not really mmm you know”, she says with a shrug of her shoulders and lifting of her hands. “I mean the technical yacht design and drawings for the yachts are very similar to the whales.”

“I usually go on YouTube and watch videos and study and sketch the movements and study the three dimensional part. I make lots of sketch and then I go free hand.”

After the sketches are completed she gets down to making the sculpture, she explained to me that first time was difficult creating the three dimensional pieces because of course she didn’t know what she was doing. So this could take like two, three days. “But now I am quicker. I love it, I love when I find a new position or something new to add or do.”

From Ania’s expression and body language she loves Australia as much as the whales. “I have been here for one year and I am here for sure until July, I just want to stay. I will be a student my whole life if I have to, so that I can stay here.” She recounts her travels and how her sculptures support her life here. “I love travelling here so much. I have a van, I landed with my sister in Darwin and we got a van and we crossed the desert and we saw Uluru and the Great Ocean Road, then up to Noosa and then back again, then down to Tasmania for two months. I am always driving. My van is nice, it is a super old van, it is a thirty one years old van, so everyone looks at my van and it is a good display for my whales. On the side of my van in the window I always put my whales, on the side with my website.”

Ania Caffarena can be contacted on

@aniacaffarena – Instagram

www.aniacaffarena.com

aniacaffarena@gmail.com

 

Kat Deschan

I asked Kat Deschan Illustrator, if she would have a quick chat with me, while I was admiring her stunning hand drawn art work, she was kind enough to say yes. Her art work was on display at the Byron Bay Festival of Design. The black and white pencil A1 drawing of a pair of one piece togs, covered in sunflowers and strawberries is the art work I was admiring. Kat told me that it took her about 25 hours of work.

I wish this was my sole income source, this is all I want to do. I just want to draw. I have a lot of support from my friends, but I have never really shown anyone my art work, this is the first time today. I really hope one day that this will be it for me. I loved her instantly, as this is exactly how I feel about my writing. She was honest and generous in how open she was, especially as I put her on the spot with the interview.

“So you have never sold your art work?”

“No. Nowhere, I mean I have never tried to.”

“Seriously? You have never tried to sell this beautiful art work!”

“No, I mean I have sold some things, I have done mostly drawings for friends. My friends are happy to pay for my art.”

I studied design and photography and film. When I was studying I got carried away and thought that I wanted to work in film, I finished my study, but soon realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I came to Australia from Germany and met my partner about two years ago. Only a couple of months ago, I remembered that I like to draw. I did draw when I was small. And now I am back doing it. But this is what I want to do now that I am in Byron Bay.

I have my Instagram account for now but will eventually get someone to set up a website for me. I would love to do workshops that would be so much fun. Where I work everyone is so interested and want me to show them how to do it. I mean it is so relaxing. At home I listen to audio books and music and draw. I would be happy to do that all day, twenty four seven.

 

Please check out Kats Instagram account of her art work. She can also be contacted on her email: katharina.deschan@gmx.com.

Peta Hughes

I have always known Peta, to be a woman that waves the flag very passionately for feminism, and celebrating women and their accomplishments. I have known her, to be a loyal and devoted friend to the people around her. Peta is very aware of her emotions, and from conversations with her, she tries to live very closely to her core values. I knew that Peta had been in the navy but I didn’t know her role.

I saw a post on Facebook, celebrating the anniversary of the day, she was the first woman, in the Royal Australian Navy to fire a missile. I was so proud of her, and it solidified for me, her passion and commitment to feminism and celebrating women. Because, she had done something so significant, and bad ass in a male dominated profession. I couldn’t wait for our interview.

“I was on the HMAS Sydney, I was the second woman to do the job of fire control technician on frigates. Frigates at this point hadn’t long had women on board.”

“Really, all male crew into the early nineties? How?

“Because it was the whole warfare thing, women were not allowed to go to war, the job that I did was combat role, and I was on a frigate which is a war ship.”

“So why did you choose the job you did?”

“In 1993 when I joined there was three jobs available. They were recruiting for chefs, stewards. My mum and dad had been in the navy, and dad said, “you will be totally bored doing the chef and steward’s job. You could easily do this job of electronics technician.” I had absolutely no interest in technicians I just wanted to travel.”

“If it was all male, why start recruiting women to combat roles?”

“More opportunities where coming up and they had roles that needed to be filled. But you know the thought of sending a women off to war, I mean it’s tradition to protect the little woman and all that. War is the last bastion isn’t it.  Women can be nurses, teachers. Well I mean she can fire a missile too you know. I mean later on I went to east Timor and the Persian Gulf. I didn’t go during the war, I was in Kuwait after the war though.”

“The rank that I was, was a seaman that is bottom rung. I was 22 when I was posted on there, you know a ship is so rank orientated. You need to prove yourself. When I was at Cerberus in Melbourne – Port Phillip Bay, there was 10 female technicians, amongst 400 blokes. We really stood out, we couldn’t hide. When you look at this through a feminist microscope there is sexism and misogyny everywhere, patriarchy everywhere.”

“Ships are like a very, very small towns, people talk. As a naval woman early on in my career I learnt to keep my head down and just do my job. As a woman I was always a little bit afraid of being judged. I felt an enormous amount of pressure being in such a male dominated job.”

“There was aptitude testing to do this role, I passed those. I really liked that it was the crème de la crème of the techos. This was the job that happened to keep me at sea a lot as well, so I was able to do a lot of travel. Out of ten years I spent six on ships. Twelve months of that was in San Diego with my radar and missile course. There is the radar and there is a 3 inch and a 5 inch gun on the launcher and it tracks the target. I mean fire control, I was like oh yeah I want to do that. It was really, really fun, at the time we were so young and so arrogant.”

“So in relation to the missile, the girl ahead of me never go to fire it, all the boys had a turn, I was just lucky really when it came to my turn. I was working for the weapons electrical engineering officer, as a technician, we were operators and maintainers, I was a maintainer technician. But we operated the radar as well, and that is how I came to fire the missile. The gunnery officer directed us what to shoot at, where and when.”

“We had trained and trained and trained, I had my chief, my petty officer, the leading seaman we all worked together. Lots of testing of signals and safety stuff goes on. We would do a preparation called ballistics, so it would take in the weather, wind speed, the temperature anything that would alter where the missile was going to go. So what I fired was an anti-air missile,  it would be a drone remote control air-craft, towing a target, on a very long 2km line. The target was a computer as well. We didn’t want to blow up the target, the missile was designed to blow up near the target. But well I actually blew up the target.”

“I was always really good under pressure, we had been trained to be a machine, we did so much training, so many drills, it was constant, there was sleep deprivation, and there was more pressure. We were machines, our emotions were ignored.”

“My gunnery officer said to me “this is for navy news”. I said without hesitation, nope. I didn’t want to bring attention to myself, I didn’t want to be different to the guys.”

“Really this was such an important step for women in the navy”.

“Yep I know”

“It wasn’t celebrated!”

“Nope, maybe I was thinking it would divisive, I mean in order to survive you just have to get on board with things that are going on around you.”

“I was always good friends with the guys, I never got on board with all the sexist jokes or anything, but I was just quiet, got on with my job and was friends with most people. But above all I had the girls back. When I was on the Melbourne I was an able seaman, and the leading hand in the mess for two years, because I did a great job. And I always was like what happens in the mess stays in the mess. I was always like don’t be talkin’ shit about the sisters here, cause it will not be tolerated. We need to stick to together to be a force.”

“In communal living it is all about honesty and respect for others. If someone needs to be left alone, leave them alone. Wash your clothes, wear your deodorant. Cause someone will tell you, you stink.”

“The absolute best thing about the navy for me was the friends I made, I am still friends with a lot of them. The water was also a saving grace for me. All that water, looking out at the ocean on a starry night with the moon reflecting off the ocean, seeing the dolphins and the whales.”

“By the time I was finishing I couldn’t wait to get away, I was done. I had done my 10 years and I just thought I can’t wait to get away from the patriarchy. The navy has a really poor environmental record which really pissed me off. I had enough of going to sea, I mean they own you. They run everything, tell you when to eat, you just have to do what they say. Once you sign on the dotted line they own you.”

 

Why back me financially, by having to pay to read the interviews? Because I am creating a platform for me to showcase my best work, build a community and get paid to keep on creating. The more patrons in our community means more interviews, and more stories. A portion of this money will be used to pay it forward, sharing the love with other women and girls and raising their voice.

Day 7

Boy 1: “Mum what is for breakfast” (every single morning, he asks this question.)

Me: “toast, muesli, weetbix”

Boy 1: “mmm can you please cook me poached eggs on toast?”

Me: “Of course”.

Boy 2: “Can I please play the PlayStation?”

Me: (laughing) “No.”

Boy 1: “are my eggs ready?”

Me: “No”

Boy 2: “Why can’t I play, the PlayStation?”

Me: “Have you finished your book review?”

Boy 2: “No”

Boy 1: “What happened to the eggs?

Me: “Nothing. They are poached like you asked.”

Boy 2: “I hate reading and book reviews”

Me: “That’s ok, you still need to do it. So start.”

Boy 1: “I hate poached eggs”

Me: “That’s ok, I just cooked them for you and you will eat them. So start”.

This was the 6.30am start of day 7. Grateful, this frustrating start didn’t set the tone for the day.

I spent time again in the garden, for the Womankind nature challenge, wrote my diary entry for that. (the feature photo, me and the big guy hanging out in nature on a tree stump.)

This afternoon just before school pick-up, I had another interview at Double Brass my local coffee shop. I honestly cannot wait to sit down and write about it.  I am loving this new little project that I have going on. I am getting positive feedback, and it is not only inspiring me but my boy’s as well. I was telling boy 1 about the interview during our after school chat in the car, sitting in school traffic.  He was so intrigued, impressed and interested in everything that I was telling him about the lady that I interviewed. (the interview is with the first lady to fire a missile in the Royal Australian Navy and will be published on the 9th September).

End of day 7

Looking forward to putting my little darlings to bed, and then pigging out on the mars bar pods that my husband left for me in the fridge.

Found a pile of wood that my husband cut for me to burn, while he is at work.