Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Three highlights of 2011

If I were to narrow down the highlights of 2011 to three events/experiences, they would be
  • The building of my Studio "The Garden Room"! (See Studio for the building of it, including the very funny video. Or see here for more about this amazing fortune.) 
  • Learning to Weave at college. (See Weaving post)

My dear friends,  I would like to wish you a great year ahead
 in which all your dreams come true. 
And ... I'd love to hear/read about your three highlights?
(preferably here on the blog... comment box below) 

XX Corina

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Winning an Equality Tribunal case ...

... and all that went before it.

In 2009 I was working on a story which later became my first children’s book (The Cirrus Chronicles). As part of this project, I booked a trip to the Edinburgh Book Festival. I was booked in for a workshop with children's author Linda Strachan, who also publishes books on how to write for children, and aspired to meet with publishers and other writers to make my book the best it could be, to maybe even find a publisher for it. A very exciting time!

As I travel with a mobility scooter I am obliged to inform the airline, in this case Aer Arann, about my needs and the mobility aid I would be travelling with. I did this two weeks prior to travelling, informing them that I had a mobility scooter with an airline approved battery and read out the details of the “wet, non-spillable battery”.

On the 26th August I was dropped off at the airport. I had brought a copy of the scooter's battery's details, but the young woman who checked me in didn't need to see it. I was told that my scooter would be tagged at the boarding gate.

Having made my way to the gate about an hour before travelling, I heard my name being announced about half an hour later. Having made my way back to the security personnel, I was asked questions about the safety of the scooter battery. I showed the leaflet about the battery and lifted the battery out of the scooter (the battery is in a sealed box and does not require any disconnecting of wires). The leaflet with safety information was scanned and forwarded to the headquarters of Aer Arann in Dublin.
I remember talking with one of the security men about how this scooter has enabled me to travel on my own, even in other countries (I had been to Holland with Aer Lingus on several occasions, bringing the scooter with me). The fact that I didn't need a 'pusher' anymore for my wheelchair, made a huge difference in my life, a life I prefer to live as independently as possible.
Other passengers had started to board. When the staff came my way I held out my boarding pass (even writing this gets my heart beating fast...). I was told that I was not allowed onto the plane. The battery was deemed dangerous.

I panicked. I asked to speak to Aer Arann personnel to discuss this problem. The battery was airline-approved. I had booked it in two weeks prior and had been at the airport for an hour.  I was told there was nobody from Aer Arann in Cork Airport. Servisair does their handling. I asked to be taken on board and leave my scooter behind in Cork, to be picked up by my friend. (I had read in the Festival brochure that there were courtesy wheelchairs available, and figured that if the organisers heard my story they would lend me one).
“No, you are not going on that plane, your suitcase has been taken off.”

I felt like a criminal. All this was said in front of 'fellow' passengers boarding the plane. "Maybe they're glad I am not on that plane as I am a security risk," I thought.
I cried. I cried seeing my small purple suitcase standing on the tarmac beside the plane. I was not allowed on the plane, with or without my scooter. I felt it was about me not just my scooter. I see this as the most horrendous, humiliating, painful experience of living with a disability so far. I felt that my rights to travel were taken away and that this whole episode was very badly handled.
The plane left for Edinburgh. I waited to be picked up and was very distressed. I was given the option to come back the following day, with my wheelchair, but I was too distraught, complete bereft of any energy and would have missed the most important workshop in any case.

Home, after an 'angry' rest, I decided to write about my experiences, and looked up the airlines policy on disabled travellers, etc. Writing is my way of dealing with challenges. On the suggestion of the friends I was to stay with in Edinburgh, I forwarded my writing to two papers. The Irish Times and the Irish Examiner. Both contacted me immediately, and articles were published on the 28th August 2009. The Irish Times article was published on page 2 and the story ended up being taken up US paper The Irish Immigrant.
Aer Arann stated in this article that the scooter battery was a danger to be brought on board an airplane and safety (understandably) is their main objective. All I wanted was an apology in writing.

I talked with the Equality Authority and with a recommended solicitor in Dublin. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to go with the services of this solicitor.

It took until December 2010 to get a date for the Equality Tribunal hearing. This was later postponed as “3 of the 5 witnesses were unable to attend”. My heart sank. So many witnesses. I was ready to give up the case, not because I had given up on my conviction that I was right, but the stress was too much to bear. My energy is precious. It started to feel like the David versus Golliath story...
A new date was set for January 2011. The case was heard in private in a hotel in Waterford. A friend asked, and was given permission, to stay with me during the hearing for which I am forever grateful. The room we were in was the Lismore Suite. I felt strong and at home (Lismore is the town where I live).
I don't want to bore you with the details, but there were a lot of arguments about dry- versus wet cell batteries. In short, the only true dry cell batteries are those in your watch, or alarm clock. Wet batteries are the ones in your car, the ones that need topping up at times. These are also used in some more advanced electric wheelchairs. The wet, non-spillable, as in my scooter, is regarded as dry (by most airlines) and therefore safe.
The hearing took most of the day. Thank goodness they talked to me first, when I was still somewhat 'alert'. My barrister interviewed me and I was later cross-examined by the Aer Arann team. I stuck to my story and was grateful to have researched the issue in more detail, and for the good understanding with my solicitor and barrister. To relay the whole day would take too long, but you can read the Equality Officer Orlaith Mannion's report at: Full Case Report

Overall, I was exhausted, but pleased with my 'performance'. I knew my story. I felt my story. I was treated badly on the day of my planned flight, and I wanted an apology. In writing.
In July 2011 I was told that I had won the case. But that Aer Arann still had 45 days to decide if they were to appeal. The Irish Times journalist who had initially written about my case in 2009 published another article about my success.

Aer Arann did not appeal the case. I was awarded €3,000 (just over half of the maximum allowed), on the grounds that I had been discriminated on the grounds of disability. This money was a welcome bonus to help me fund my other big event of the year, the building of my studio.
I am so grateful to all the friends and supporters who kept me going as I fought the case, and to solicitor and barrister for their expertise and for not charging me for their time.
Aer Arann is currently in the process of fulfilling the other order from the Tribunal’s report: to conduct a review of its policies and procedures (to include their terms and conditions of carriage and their Ground Operations manual)

 I still would be happier if I had made it to the Edinburgh Festival on that day in 2009, but as that was not the case, I am glad that I stood up for my rights and those of people with disabilities.

I am grateful to all of you whom were aware of this case but didn't make it public when it was too sensitvie to do so. For all the support I received to stay with my story and to fight the fight to allow a person with a diasabilty to travel like anyone else. For all the support I recieved when the news came out that the case was won. For the Editor of * to invite me to write about living with a disabilty in modern day Ireland.
For solicitor Joe Durkan and barristor Siobhan Phelen for not charging me for their time.

A big thank you to all of you! I could not have done this without you.

To find out more my art, writing, and thoughts on life, visit: (website and blog)

This article was published in the Summer '12 Edition of Spokeout, the lifestyle magazine of the Irish Wheelchair Organisation (IWA)
ps... As always it is lovely to know that you stopped by to read my musing and follow my creative adventures. It would make my day, if you leave a comment... preferably here, on the blog...?

Many thanks & Lots of love

Links to some items in this story:
The book I was writing in 2009 Cirrus Chronicles
Children's author: Linda Strachan
Article in Irish Times 2011 here
Article in see here

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The stuff of dreams

One of the highlights of this year was (and is) that I fulfilled a dream dating back about 10 years:  Attending college. Albeit only for the one class, every second week, I still see it as a dream come true. I chose Weaving.
First paper weaving

We started off with 'Paper weaving'. We were given colour photocopies of images, told how to cut them into strips how to weave them together. It was quite amazing to see the different works that were created, even if identical pages were used, the end results were totally different. The teacher Pascale explored all our work and showed us the possibilities of design- colour- 'tell a message'- straight lines or strips cut of different width, etc

The Stuff of Dreams' paper weaving
The 'tell a story' option inspired me to create The Stuff of Dreams. I made a collage of my 'dreams' writing-books-art-women-nature. And wrote a piece about my dreams- like attending college and sharing my creativity with others, and woven the two together.
First 'Sampler'
Then it was time to start real weaving. With yarn. On a loom. Made from copper pipe! (see image below). The weaving bug started to sneak it's way into my being....
Second 'Sampler'
For the second sampler, we had to create 'blocks'. And I realized that I am not fond of just plain blocks of colour. I simply  had to explore with interweaving colours to see what weaving can do...!
Third 'Sampler'
Then..  angles were the topic.. and curves. This piece is actually shown here sideways. The straight purple line is the bottom of the work. As I had reached what is now the middle of the piece, I was lying on the couch and looked at my weaving sideways, and was surprised to find that there was a face in my weaving. 
I could see it, but thought that was because of an overactive creative mind... To my relief, the teacher and fellow students saw it too! I finished the piece with curves, creating a kind of headscarf.

As there would be holiday break coming up, so no class for about 1 month, I set up the loom again to have a project to work on over the Christmas... Yes, I am definately hooked.
After a bit of trial and error I started to work on creating a poppy flower. I had taken some bits of yarn home from the college, but not pink, and my poppy was to be pink. As a solution I wound three strands of sewing thread together to make pink about the same thinkness as the yarn, and as a result became even more hooked on weaving. The possibilities of making subtle differences in colour were very exciting.
Poppy to be
I found myself not just weaving for an hour or so every few nights, but also in the middle of the night (during a sleepless night), and weaving on a Sunday morning at 11.30 am, still in my pajamas...
Weaving addiction had started in earnest!

To my horror I realized that I would not have enough green yarn to 'feed my weaving addiction'
I contacted the teacher (now a creative friend) and asked if she could give some yarn to her colleague, another friend of mine, whom I more than likely would meet over the Christmas period.
The response that I got was "Boy, I didn't know I was going to end up being a dealer :-). Sure we'll get it sorted"
My 'drugs' were delivered with the great smile of a VERY satisfied teacher. She had won over one more soul into the world of weaving!
"Weaving drugs" Lots of it!
 * (For more about entering college see here )

ps... As always it is lovely to know that you stopped by to read my musing and follow my creative adventures. It would make my day, if you leave a comment... preferably here, on the blog...?
Many thanks & Lots of love

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Your Christmas card...

Me and my teddy. Aged 2, or 3 I think.
(me that is, the teddy was much older.)
Christmas has made a tentative start for me this morning with the help of the wonderful children of the Liosmor Mochuda National School. I was invited to their carol-service-with-a-difference.
Their imagination worked wonders again. The Christmas story was told in song and play, with a modern twist: The cost for the rent of the stable was discussed, "that's too much, boy" (a very local expression); the shepherds wore tea towels on their heads; Maria explained how to read books and how to use a laptop. Maria and Joseph communicated via skype...
Some of the children were just pleased to be in the limelight, their only focus was their parents in the audience. Some wonderful errors were made: "...And the baby will be called Joseph. Oh, Jesus".
Where else would you find it?

Until today I just couldn't get my head around Christmas, and even now it is still a bit of a blur to be honest. Every year, even the years that I was unable to do much of anything, I made, and posted Christmas cards. And enjoyed doing so. This year I've made none, and posted none.
This doesn't mean that you, my friends and readers, are not on my mind. On the contrary. I know that if it wasn't for your kindness, compassion, love and care I would not be alive today. With your support I managed to stay in the present moment and although there were hard at times, I was glad to be alive. Waking up in the morning was all that mattered.
So what happened this year?
It feels like Christmas has come too soon. It doesn't seem twelve months ago that I created a handmade book, which became Flying on Little Wing; The winter hasn't started; Or maybe I just don't have the energy to put into the Christmas this year, maybe I am finally listening to my body's messages, and not do what is expected in a way.

Possibly the most important thought about this year's Christmas is about the people that have absolutely nothing. Not even a house.
I remember the time that I was at the brink of homelessness. I had one day left in rented accommodation and was pretty much bed/house bound at the time. Bed bound but homeless.
When these thoughts arose, I decided to go with my feelings, and make a donation to Focus Ireland, an Irish charity for the homeless with the special interest in woman and children, instead of spending money on Christmas cards or presents.

So my dear friend, here is an abstract from an email from Focus Ireland, which is Your Christmas card and present.

Thank you for your support over the years. For your friendship, your love and compassion. 
From the deepest part of my being, I wish you a peaceful and healthy year ahead. 

Lots of love
and Focus Ireland

Dear Corina Duyn,

On behalf of people who are homeless and all at Focus Ireland thank you so much for your donation in support of our work.

Last year more than 5,000 people used our services; we are there for everyone who needs us, regardless of their status. In Focus Ireland we are committed to helping people out of homelessness and supporting them to move on with their lives. We offer residential programmes to young people leaving state care in Dublin and in many of our housing developments across the country. Our Caretakers Hostel and Crisis Intervention Service were all developed to work with youngsters who are homeless, these projects provide young people with a safe place away from the streets, as well as someone to help them make choices that will move them out of homelessness. Our Aftercare Programmes also work with young people who are in accommodation outside of Focus Ireland, helping them to settle in and providing them with the support and care that most young teenagers take for granted.

This support means we can continue to identify and develop much needed services. We truly could do little, without the support of so many people like you who share our belief that everyone has a right to a place they can call home. Thank you.

Yours sincerely

Fiona Griffin
Fundraising Officer
Donor Care

ps... As always it is lovely to know that you stopped by to read my musing and follow my creative adventures. It would make my day, if you leave a comment... preferably here, on the blog...?
Many thanks & Lots of love

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Artist Doll"

"Little Leek"
© Corina Duyn '11
Remember the leeks in my garden?
The leeks that weren't eaten and were allowed to grow to whatever height they wished?
They grew. They grew some more... People stopped to look at them and commented about this little patch of wonder in my front garden. Overall there were about 20 leeks. See here for more photos
I loved every stage of them, the emerging pod, the shell slowly turning into "paper" and finally showing the flowers they had been hiding.
After heavy wind, and the start of colder weather, I had to cut them back. To my surprise new tiny leeks had started to grow at the base of it's taller parent.

Many of the long stems with flowery heads are now drying in my studio. I used one as a "swing" for a little doll. "Little Leek" She is about 20cm tall (seated on the leek flower), overall the art-piece is about 60cm tall. (she's just been sold, and is going to live near the seaside)
All my work, including this one, is a one-of-a-kind Artist Doll.
"Little Leek"
© Corina Duyn '11
Emerging leek flower
© Corina Duyn '11
See Here for a handmade artist book with follows the story of Little Leek

ps... As always it is lovely to know that you stopped by to read my musing and follow my creative adventures. It would make my day, if you leave a comment... preferably here, on the blog...?
Many thanks & Lots of love

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's a Puppet's life

As promised:

for more about these puppets, please see here

ps... As always it is lovely to know that you stopped by to read my musing and follow my creative adventures. It would make my day, if you leave a comment... preferably here, on the blog...?
Many thanks & Lots of love

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Creative adventures

ConePuppet 'Pascale'
© Corina Duyn '11             
One of the puppets I used to make in the Fantasy Folk range before becoming ill with M.E., were "ConePuppets".
When friends came to visit my new studio, my very first ConePuppet from about 18 years ago (?) was lying on the table. A bit battered by time, and nibbled on by mice when in storage in a friends garage.
Still the interactive wonder did not stop over time.

I was encouraged to make them again. I did.
I managed to make three puppets to bring to the Tallow Christmas Market last Sunday. I only had one night to acquaint myself with my new "babies" as all three are already sold.

The first to go was the one on the left here. The puppet was handled like a baby. Precious. The cone cradled in one hand, the head slowly pushes up with the stick.
ConePuppets 'Pascale', 'Wendy' and 'Phyllis',
A happy bunch
© Corina Duyn '11
The interaction I saw develop in front of me was one of love, of healing. Watching this filled my heart with  awe. With complete appreciation, and gratitude towards the buyer of this puppet, and towards my own creative being.
I was overwhelmed that something that I had created can have such a powerful affect on another person. I felt and feel that I am on the right track.

The day after, I also realised how significant this puppet is for my own healing. It is a kind of "coming out", a re-emerging into the world, but still having the protection of the cone.
My friend Spark made the connection with my egg images. True.
Also the movement of the puppet is significant- I think. I still have the desire to be free in my body, to move freely.

Artist Tamsin Bending made a little video of the puppets. See here

These puppets are also the start of teaching again. Of sharing what I've learned. I've decided to work on a one-to-one basis. See Classes. The"pupil" can choose a project to work on and I'll guide them through the process. I have classes booked and more interest on the way.
What a journey I have already made since the creation of my beloved studio.

If you would like to order a puppet of your own, please go to my shop. I will put your name down for the next one to be made. All are originals, so I can't promise what it will look like in advance... Or give someone a Gift Voucher so that they can choose a doll, book or ...

On another note. It is nearly Christmas and to me Books are a wonderful gift to give and receive. With this in mind I have some offers, see Books. No postage to anywhere in the world; A "stocking-filler" pack of 5 Flying on Little Wings books, and most importantly I will donate 10% of proceeds to Focus Ireland ( a registered charity that works to prevent people becoming, remaining or returning to homelessness.) Offer valid until 24 December '11

Thanking you all for your support over the year(s).
Lots of love

ps... As always it is lovely to know that you stopped by to read my musing and follow my creative adventures. It would make my day, if you leave a comment... preferably here, on the blog...?
Many thanks & Lots of love