Sally opens natural medicine clinic

My extraordinary wife, Sally, has recently opened a natural medicine clinic in Sydney. The clinic is called ben&biao.

And what does ben&biao mean? It describes a method of Chinese Medicine diagnosis which treats the symptoms and the cause – to resolve the conflicts of the mind, body and spirit you must treat the branch (biao) and the root (ben).

Sally has approached this new venture with her formidable enthusiasm and energy, and I know the clinic will do well.

Goodly and I will continue our creative endeavours at home while my darling wife treats people’s health problems in a ben and biao fashion.


Her Master’s Work

It seems no time at all since I got my wife, Sally, back from a stint in Chengdu, China where she was finishing off her four year UTS course of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

And now she’s off unexpectedly to London for an acupuncture convention.

Now I’m in charge of keeping things going here and I thought I’d send you a picture of my constant companion who supervises my activities and keeps me from getting lonely.

Goodly Poussel is her name and she is a Russian Blue pussycat with one white foot. I resisted the obvious cliché of calling her Sock or Patch or White-Footie and she is extremely grateful for that. She even answers to her name; that is, when she thinks it is reasonable to do so. As you will have heard, dogs have Masters and Mistresses, cats have Staff.

I have had dogs and cats all my life, sometimes in fours and fives, but when I was given my first Russian Blue I had no idea that all other pet avenues had been closed to me. She, (all of my cats have been and for ever will be girls, sorry, Ladies,) was named Mousl. This was an attempt at Russian sounding name as well as with a hint of hunting influence.

Since then I was blessed with Muy Simpatico who was a Paragon of all that her breed offers, loyalty, affection, encouragement, constant company without any of the sometimes annoying character idiosyncrasies of most other highly bred feline representatives. Yes, I know that Muy Simpatico does not seem particularly Russian, that being because it’s Spanish and indeed the masculine form. However I don’t apologise for that, and Muy didn’t ever question any of my decisions. As I have tried to explain she was perfect and I never had a sadder day than when she left me by myself with only my Sally to indulge me.

Irreplaceable though she was I now have Goodly Poussel who has a distinctly different personality. But the unmistakable Russian Blue-ness of total loyalty and constant interest in her human and his activities is as strong as all of her relatives.  (I have so far resisted the temptation of likening her behaviour to that of a perfect dog, an unforgivable comparison but as she hasn’t so far learned to read, – I think – I hope I can get away with it.)

I am attaching these photographs of her to give you an idea of her keen critical interest in my artistic career. She likes this particular painting of the Australian interior. She often sits for quite some time analyzing my observations of the subjects that attract my interest.

I hope that perhaps you also might find some pleasure in the representations included in my website. I, and Goodly, recommend them to you.

Light of Andalucía

Sally and I have just heard from some friends who are holidaying in Spain; currently in Granada to be precise. They’re finding the time as happy and as inspiring as we did some six years ago.

It will soon become more so with their planned visit to la Alhambra, the magnificent Moorish palace overlooking the Albayzin. Here is a magical maze of ridiculously narrow streets, buildings, tumbling and fragrant gardens, ancient walls and stairs and blind alleys formed over centuries of habitation; of building and destruction and building again.

There over the ages Jews, Christians and Moslems lived peacefully together in a co-operative acceptance of one another’s beliefs, which inevitably broke down sometimes, overwhelmed by disruptive influences mostly from the outside. During its tumultuous history the Albayzin became a despised ruin, gradually crumbling away, from around 1570 until its rescue in 1994 by Unesco. The Albayzin was declared a World Heritage Site and now it shines and captures the imagination of the residents and visitors once again.

I’m telling you this because I have just finished reading a fascinating book called ‘Granada – The Light of Andalucía’ by Steven Nightingale. If you too are an Espagniofile, to coin a phrase, I recommend it to you. It’s an absorbing story; one of unfolding and unprecedented intellectual blossoming during the centuries after the post-Roman period and leading up to 1492. Few realise the debt the Western world owes to Spain’s scholars, artists and philosophers.

But with the calamitous advent of Ferdinand and Isabella, that Golden age came to an end and all that had been achieved was unforgivably wasted. Spain became an intellectual and cultural backwater instead of the shining light in scientific and philosophical discovery that it had been. And the rest of poor old us had to wait centuries to catch up with many of those forgotten discoveries.

As a simple artist there’s not much I can do about that. But I can dream; and I have photographs and strongly instilled memories of the atmosphere, the sky, the sounds and the silences – the overwhelming feeling that the past is ever present. Its influence is with me still. Perhaps I will be able to share with you a little of its magic.

I have done only a few SiPaddings and paintings inspired by our Spanish trip; there will be more to come.

But at the moment I’m a bit consumed with the unfamiliar involvement in this website. It presents challenges of a kind that I thought I’d left behind me when I grew up. I must be still waiting to do that; grow up i.e. Well, at least I don’t blame the Spanish for inventing the Internet.

(Although if it hadn’t been for Ferdie and Isabella, who knows?)

Introduction to SiPaddings


I’m pretty good at most things in which I’m interested.

Being interested in the computer I thought I’d get the hang of it even though I’d never be a computer expert.

But I struggled with what my dear wife claimed to be simple basic operations. She gave me no sympathy when my brave attempts got me absolutely nowhere. I found difficulty with things like files or folders; of where to put them or find them or even just what they did. And I could sometimes send an email successfully but attachments were a mystery.

And the Internet??  I became convinced that it perceived me as a threat to its continued wellbeing, or worse, its continued existence.

When my attempts to make friendly contact were greeted with ‘freezing’, or the deletion of vital and apparently irrecoverable material I felt I was a Computer Illiterate. Most damning of all responses was the chilling accusation that I ‘had performed an illegal operation’.

I was a criminal abject failure as a user of modern communication in constant danger of breaking my (or worse, my wife’s) computer.

Then I discovered Apps.  New horizons!!!

I started with the simplest apps for creating images, for drawing and for painting –

Chalk, Colour-Pencil, Watercolour and so on. I saw that here was a means of solving problems for my oil paintings. I could experiment with composition and colour balance and rearrange and manipulate it without much trouble. And I could erase it immediately if I wished.

A lot of apps pandered to the mass market. They tried to ‘make you an artist,’ by ‘beautifying’ your lines and by filling your spaces with wall to wall colour or a predetermined pattern, using things like Vectorisation. In other words, they would do the mechanics for you.

But not for me they wouldn’t!  They were invaluable for an animator or an illustrator but I wanted to use them as raw materials; to develop my own style.

I started as I’d originally meant to; I freely thought of compositions and introduced different elements and colours, and freely experimented in how to use them in my paintings. And the key word here is ‘freely’.

With the first brushstroke or line or “mark,” my subconscious starts the process of editing my next step.  As I work on that mark there is a danger that I might subconsciously begin to avoid the possibility of losing it, of losing my way back to it.  As I work I will continuously reach crossroads that can lead forward to improvements or small failures or completely new ideas. That’s good. That’s creative. But it’s not constructive to just go back and recapture what I have now changed. Even if I try, I’ve glimpsed what’s newly possible and I’m both consciously and subconsciously committed to a new course.  And I must confidently follow it.

This is how I believe that you will reach satisfaction in your artistic efforts. Your subconscious may fear loss and failure and can play safe and sometimes lead to your inability to take even moderate risks. (Writers call it Writer’s Block.) And your success may often partly depend upon how free your subconscious believes it is. So you must consciously trust that you won’t ‘lose your way.’

When I started to make ‘marks’ with the apps on the iPad, my subconscious enjoyed the freedom that I was allowing it.  After all I was merely using a tool for the creation of other works. No pressure. And hey presto! That enjoyment easily started on an inevitable journey towards creating works in their own right, my SiPaddings.

Very exiting! Freedom, technical ease, easily changed decisions, permanent work-in-progress for reference, great fun. Where next?

To be continued…..

Simon Chilvers’ Jewellery Blog 


My life as a jeweller has just become more exciting. For years now I have yearned for a Rolling Mill. But my other creative endeavours – painting, drawing,  SiPadding etc, also demand concentrated effort so I have to make the most of my limited time.

As my jewellery output is not regular I couldn’t justify the expense of a Rolling Mill and had almost resigned myself to never owning one.

But not really wishing to give up the hunt I placed my faith in the Online Fairy even though I had no tooth to put under my pillow. And she came good.  I found not a full size mill nor even one by the top maker but a small one made in India. And even with postage, the cost to me was far less. So I gleefully raided my stock-pile of rupees and now my dream has been realised.

It’s now possible for me to melt silver and gold, (as well as other metals,) to cast them into an ingot and with the mill roll it into wire or sheet of various gauges. So I don’t need to send my scrap off-cuts to the refinery, I’m much more independent.

However this step forward is even more exciting because of my main reason for wanting the mill. I can make my version of Mokume Gane !!!

“Oh! Fantastic!” I hear some of you cry.  But it really is, because, as those of you who know about it can tell you, it’s a Japanese way of combining various metals and achieving a sort of ‘woodgrain’ effect.

It needs the jeweller to combine with great heat, (really authentically to ‘fuse,’) alternate layers of two or three or sometimes more metals. In my case, without the professional equipment, I have to settle for second-best and use solder.   And that limits the results I can achieve but hey, how much better than no results at all?

You end up with what is called a billet made up of layers of different metals  which, if you have a rolling mill, you can flatten to about half its thickness.

You saw that in half and then solder the two halves together, one on top of the other.  And roll it through your trusty rolling mill to half thickness again.

You guessed it! You repeat this process two or three more times, or more, dependant on how good your soldering has been.

You now can saw, file, bend or make depressions in the resultant material and by cleverly filing the surface, reveal the different layers as a wonderful, magically-grained pattern.

And then you turn the metal into rings or brooches or earrings or whatever strikes your fancy. Sure, at great expense you can buy the stuff made by others but you’ve made this yourself – all of it – and (in my case) all through the help of the Internet Fairy.

Of course it’s more complicated than that but I wanted to give you an idea of what it can be like to have your horizons opened by a new piece of equipment. Or a new process. Or a new idea.

And that’s why I am obsessed in something most of the time.

SiPaddings Part 2


The journey of my SiPaddings has been an exciting one. Finding the apps was easy, there are so many of them. Of course, straight away I fell into the trap of downloading almost all I could find that interested me. I now have a computer full of them; for drawing and painting with chalk, with pencil, with pen and ink, oil paint, watercolour, you name it.

I am fascinated by jewellery, precious stone cutting and polishing and carving. I am fascinated by all the distractions of Youtube, by my books, CDs, DVDs, dealing with art, music, theatre and my various other consuming passions. So I had enough around me to keep me busy all day, every day for the rest of my life without ever leaving my armchair. Yet now here I was, fascinated by my iPad.

I studied the apps and what each of them offered and spent a lot of time just playing with them. I avoided at all costs being dictated to and the results gradually became more and more interesting. The results were not always successful but all contributed to my learning process and development of my own style.

I was encouraged by other people seeming to like what I was producing. Some wanted to buy them but of course they only existed on my iPad. I could print them photographically but that wasn’t really satisfactory. A friend of my wife had a printer and was selling her prints on the internet.

She generously printed some of my images and they looked terrific. But the ink is very expensive and I really couldn’t afford to produce enough to make it a worthwhile proposition.

As fate would have it the stars came into alignment at just the right time in the form of the husband of another of Sally’s friends; Brendon the Brilliant. (By the way, I must encourage Sally to make more friends.)

Brendon saw some of my SiPaddings, heard about our problem and said ”You need a website. I can do that for you.” He set about manipulating and photographing and after much devoted effort produced a digital record of all my artwork. A huge quantity requiring more resources than any of us could deal with. We had found a fantastic printer, Haroon of Vision Image Lab, one of the only printers in Sydney capable of producing Art Prints of museum quality . So all we needed to do was to actually create the website.

Along came Deb of Brilliant Blue, web designer extraordinaire, and we were away. What we are now presenting to you is the means for you to view and, if you choose, to purchase wonderful prints of my humble efforts.

Having refined the number of apps that I work with to three or four, I’m now thinking of keeping things fresh by re-visiting my original scatter-gun method of using a great many. Of course there is a price to pay. The creators of these apps didn’t make them at all friendly to one another.. Very un-obliging of them. So in many cases there are limitations, which is why some of the prints are not available in all sizes.

But I think that the plusses are much greater than the minuses.

So forward, onward and, dare I hope, upward? We’ll see!

How I became interested in making jewellery


I was asked the other day how I came to be so interested in making jewellery.

In 1970 I was helping my father in his Mont Albert licensed grocery shop. Across the road I saw a sign on a private house advertising ’Jewellery Lessons’ and in my usually dilettante way I thought ‘that’d be fun,’ enrolled for a couple of weeks and was shown the rudiments of soldering silver jewellery. I was hooked! I bought some basic tools and started producing silver things, very much by trial-and-error. I mostly made rings, still do actually, and some people seemed to like them.

I went on like this for some years, making presents for people and selling the odd one or two, but being an actor who, like Michael Cain (I wish) never turned any work down, it was very much a part-time thing.

Fast forward to 1982 – the first year of my year off from the MTC –
and I was cast in the film ‘Buddies.’ This was set in Rubyvale, centre of the sapphire-mining fields of Queensland. It was a fabulous six weeks experience of central Australian life, one which was so foreign to this simple Melbourne boy that it is never very distant in my memory and day-dreams. I fell in love with Australian Rough Sapphires, worn chunks of unpreposessing rock, second in hardness only to diamond.

I learned how to look for the various colours by squinting through them held in the crook of my little finger against the light, I saw someone carving them on wooden wheels set on an arbor, using diamond dust and pressure, and I saw magic happen as the grade of diamond became finer and finer until -the ‘Bielby’ effect – which results in the ultimate magic transformation – a flawless brilliant polish.

There are differing opinions on how this transformation occurs; some say that the surface texture becomes so fine that naturally there is just no further to go, others say that the surface melts, spreading into a gleaming layer. I personally believe the latter is true, I’m sure that I’ve seen it, but no matter what is true, I find the result spell-binding.

When I wasn’t filming I was glued to the work of the sapphire carver. I discussed what equipment I should look for, what tricks and techniques I might follow, I picked his brains for information and shamelessly exploited his considerable generosity.
When I returned to my Melbourne ‘civilised’ way of life I was armed with a handful of precious pieces of romance to play with, to dream over, to bend to my fantasy, and finally to complete the journey that I commenced with my earlier silver jewellery adventures – I could set my own sapphires into my own silver jewellery.

Of course typically, I had chosen to teach myself lapidary on the hardest-to-work stones other than diamond. Trial-and-error, is there any other way?

When I’d made a few successful attempts I felt that I could look into the other precious and semi-precious stones – the aquamarines, the topazes, opals, jade, peridots, chrysoprase, all the quartzes and agates and amethysts and ametrines and citrines and ……..

But that’ll be another story…later on.

Rings are my main focus of interest in jewellery making

Rings are my main focus of interest in jewellery making. The first one that I made was a representation of a Moth set with a black star sapphire .

In order to display the ‘star’ in such a sapphire is to shape it as a cabochon. I believe that this is the Middle French word for ‘bald head’ and it describes very accurately the appearance of such a ‘cut’ of any kind of stone used in jewellery, smooth not faceted. Lit from above the ‘star’ is usually seen as having six points radiating from the centre.

At the time of creating this ring I also unwittingly adopted an approach which has stuck with me for my forty-odd years of jewellery making: I usually allow the stone to suggest the form of the design, almost as a sculptural process. I rarely design a piece beyond a very basic suggestion; from the beginning, the design comes from finding the solution to a problem – how to hold the stone firmly, and one hopes permanently, in the setting.

This first ring was made from scrap pieces of silver, some of it coin silver, which has a content close to that of Sterling but alloyed with other elements to harden it for constant handling.   I shaped and fitted and bent, sawed and hammered and through solving the problem of securing the sapphire I was presented with something suggesting wings and a central body. From there I followed whatever design, balance and taste instincts I may have been blessed with and the result was my First Moth.

From what I’m writing here you may guess at my secrets – probably to all of my life’s activities. Fascination, often short-term single-mindedness,  experiment,  love of ‘smallness,’ of miniaturisation and detail,  an opportunist’s dependence on accident and above all, on luck, the invaluable magic ingredient.

I love making things, I love the ‘doing’ of things.  Luck shaped the success of my acting career and a probably undeserved facility for interpretation and the ability to display it before the public sustained it for about thirty five years,  and finally Luck, tired of my dependence on it, brought it unceremoniously to an end in the form of Multiple Sclerosis.    Never a star, either by inclination or achievement, I had been a devoted Company member, a theatrical problem solver, and since I have become unable to ‘do’ the Theatre, my interest in it has changed. My respect for it remains and my love and admiration for all my friends who are still ‘doing’ it,  but, My Goodness, I’m not as entertained by it as I always was,  and of course I can’t be fulfilled by it.

And because it’s in my genes I now am filled, indeed consumed by other interests, passions if you like. My painting, which was always my first love, (possibly because I find it so difficult,) my SiPaddings, a new wonderful discovery, and my jewellery-making, among other things.

I can’t describe the satisfaction I get from carving and polishing my precious and semi-precious jewels. I don’t facet them, I don’t particularly like faceted stones and I find no interest in diamonds.

The way I deal with the jewels is to sculpt them I suppose, to make irregular cabochons, trying where possible to be directed by the overall shape of the rough material. As I have said I love rings, I make pendants, actually I like jewellery that touches the skin. However because of the sculptural possibilities I’m thinking of

possibly branching out into brooches. And the Moths are always fluttering in the back of my mind along with all their Insect relatives. I’ve also formed a romantic attachment to Bats and Frogs.

But at the moment I think there is enough to keep me busy, and to talk about.  (I’ll try not be quite so autobiographical as I’ve been here but I’ll probably fail.)  When the website was suggested to me I thought  “I have nothing to say, I have no great philosophical message to offer to the world.”  I still feel that to be true, but I’ve been encouraged to engage in this blog as part of my website adventure and so with your indulgence I’ll keep going, mainly about my ‘doing’ but also about anything that crosses my mind which interests me.

Perhaps with some of my afore-mentioned Luck you might be interested too.

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