Follow your passion!

Last week I put in a plug for the African Children’s Choir which has been touring Australia and has a concert this coming Saturday night on the Sunshine Coast This week, get to know the woman who is organising the choir’s visit to the Sunshine Coast: Yvonne Corstorphin—musical director of the Cool Harmonies Community Choir, Zumba Gold instructor, and terrifically BOLD!

Yvonne is someone who has followed her passion, and she inspires me to keep following my interests and see where they lead me. I hope she inspires you too!
Yvonne established Cool Harmonies in 2007 and she shares how her interest in choirs was first ignited by joining Frock Rock —a group of singers passionate about women’s issues. In 1992, Yvonne with Aussie husband Wayne and baby daughter Hollie had just arrived at ‘sleepy little Coolum’ on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast from her home city of London when she heard about Frock Rock:
'I am from Wimbledon, the straightest family you can imagine. We suddenly turn up in Coolum and they say there is this women’s singing group signup at Yandina. Yandina at that stage to me felt that it was in the middle of nowhere….In this shed pouring with rain, Hollie six months old, and I find myself amongst a group of strong alternative independent women singing about equal rights and …[I thought] what the helI am I doing here! But they were the most beautiful women who I love to death and they became and still are close family friends.'

After about five years with Frock Rock, Yvonne realised she ‘really enjoyed singing in choirs’ and joined a choir in Maroochydore facilitated by Brian Martin who was starting a program to teach people how to run choirs. As Yvonne recalls: 
It was very fortunate that I was part of his choir when he began the Facilitator Training Course and I was one of four people who joined the program. The course was very interactive and we were given the opportunity to build our musical and facilitating skills and then practice them first hand. After around 18 months, I started up the Cool Harmonies Choir. It wasn’t really something I had planned on doing. It just kind of materialised.

Yvonne has a background in community development, having worked for the Office of Women and as a volunteer with Amnesty International and the International Women’s Development Agency. For Yvonne, ‘community development is what builds not only a sense of community but a sense of self' and she feels that this is what she is doing right now.

Yvonne explains that: ‘Community choirs allow people to step out of their comfort zone and discover the joy of singing with others—which is why it has such a great appeal. Most are non-auditioned so anyone can join. I asked her if this ever causes problems:  ‘Never, that’s the beauty of collective voices creating harmony.  But without exception, every single person who walks through the door for the first time —even people who have amazing voices—come in saying “I can’t sing you know!” I make a mental note not to do this when I apply to join Cool Harmonies!

Yvonne certainly galvanises others and nurtures the spirit of community, but I was also interested in what her work means for her:
‘I absolutely love and adore it. Some mornings I can wake up feeling tired, or a bit under the weather, but as soon as I step through that door I am totally energised and come away floating on cloud nine!
My passion is teaching people how to sing in harmony. Creating the sound and experiencing the love and friendship that happens within that support network is pure joy.
It is like an umbilical cord between me and those standing in the circle. There is a beautiful energy exchange and then two hours is just gone!  And I always go away feeling uplifted regardless of the session. I just love it!

My fix is exactly the same as their fix!’

I asked Yvonne what were the main skills in conducting:
‘You need to have a good ear, you need to have good rhythm and you need to clearly communicate all the things that you want your choir to do. Singing a capella creates a wonderful pure sound but there is a lot involved in teaching four part harmony.
But essentially if you have a relaxed and open exchange happening with a group of people—like any facilitator—you are 80% there!’

Surprisingly, Yvonne said that she hadn’t been particularly musical before joining her first choir: ‘I played the recorder at school and dabbled with the clarinet but not very much. But I always loved listening to music and loved going out dancing.

Yvonne’s love of dancing is undoubtedly reflected in her other role as a Zumba Gold instructor. Once again, it was something that happened without planning: ‘I have always loved dancing but I had never considered teaching at all. It happened once again by default.’ In 2011,Yvonne went to Uganda with her husband and daughter to work with the African Children’s Choir through an organisation called KawYa Australia Inc. It was designed to be a singing and cultural exchange:
‘… singers from all over Australia went to not only sing with the children, but to build infrastructure in their schools, and to run cultural exchange classes such as  drama, ukulele, and indigenous culture. They wanted someone to run a dance class and I said “I do Zumba”…. then suddenly found myself completing an instructors course specifically to teach the kids whilst we were over there.  I loved it so much that when I came back I decided I would start up my own classes here.

I went on to do a Zumba Gold instructors’ course which is for the older active adult—designed for people in their 50s and over. It combines high-energy and motivating music including salsa, rock and roll and swing with easy to follow choreograph, and I’ve found that  older women really enjoy this community oriented ‘feel happy’ dance class as it keeps you fit and builds muscle tone with simple and modified  low impact moves. You never feel like you are doing a workout but you go away feeling exhausted!’

In 2013, Yvonne went back a second time to Uganda and worked with Johnathan Welch who established the Choir of Hard Knocks (now known as the Choir of Hope and Inspiration She said this was a 'wonderful experience'. And then, as Yvonne explains: ‘Kwaya Australia organised for the African Children’s Choir to come to Australia and tour here for the first time. Cool Harmonies hosted them on that visit and it was so successful we asked if we could host them again on their second tour.

While on the Sunshine Coast, the African Children’s Choir are doing only one performance of their ‘Under One Sky’ concert, and this will be at Lake Kawana Community Centre on Saturday night, so if you are within cooee of Kawana, this is a treat you won’t want to miss.

There are also other events for us locals: a cultural exchange workshop at 2 pm Sunday, 21 June at Coolum State School ( and something I think will be a load of fun—a Zumba Dance Party being held at the Coolum Civic Centre on Tuesday 23 June from 6 pm till 7 pm. You can buy tickets at the door: $10 for adults and $2 for child under 10 years. Yvonne says: ‘Come and groove to the music with the kids whilst raising funds for their long term education program.’ 

Meet Wendy Sugars from Coolum Yoga Centre

I interviewed Wendy on a rather chilly morning at the Bent Banana Café in Peregian. I have been going to Wendy’s yoga classes for about three years. I go because I love being pain free, and physically able. I also like the feeling of quietness that settles on me towards the end of a class—preparing me for a busy day or helping me unwind at the end of one.
As we sip our coffees, I put the following questions to Wendy:

You are a certified senior Iyengar yoga teacher who has been a student of yoga since 1977 and a teacher of Iyengar Yoga since 1986. What first drew you to yoga?
I was in the film industry and I needed something to balance the craziness of my world. It helped me cope with the film industry pressure. I tried going to the gym but it wasn’t for me, I also did tai chi but it was yoga that gave me the energy and centredness to cope.
I tried quite a few different kinds of yoga and found that Iyengar  gave me the best result. What makes Iyengar Yoga different from other forms of yoga is the:
  • ·         precision and alignment in all postures of the poses so that the stacking of the bones eventually creates an effortless pose
  • ·         sequencing—what pose follows after another
  • ·         length of time you hold each pose
  • ·         the use of props.
Wendy laughs as she tells that she went through an addictive phase where she was 
constantly doing yoga to a place where she is now not so obsessive.
 What do you gain from yoga now?
Yoga continues to give me balance. The poses create space in the body— releasing tensions and allowing it to expand; and this is transferred to my outlook on life. Yoga has become part of my life. It has been a tool for developing my character, and it makes me feel more courageous handling life.
With Iyengar Yoga, you are not doing the same thing all the time. There are a variety of ways to achieve the same results. This keeps me creative and inspired.
The poses in Iyengar Yoga are adapted to suit different cultures and groups. You
can  go anywhere in the world and go to an Iyengar class: you may notice variations, but they all have the same foundation.

Yoga is often associated with a meditative and spiritual aspect. How do you see this side of yoga?
I define spirituality as your connection with yourself. When you do yoga, you connect with yourself  and your breath through the poses. How the poses affect you, and what you bring to the poses is different for everyone.
When things get tough—doesn’t matter what it is—I go to my yoga room, and doing my yoga poses helps me to deal with whatever is troubling me. The poses are a tool for handling emotions. Yesterday, standing poses were what I needed to centre and ground myself. There are specific poses for specific emotions. There is not one pose that is more effective than another. Each has its own role within the physiology of the body.
It was the physical aspect that first drew me to yoga. I didn’t realise at first the difference that yoga makes to other aspects of your life.

Do you need to have a certain level of fitness to do Iyengar Yoga?
None, you just need to want to do it—to have a willingness to explore your own body. Iyengar Yoga is about health and wellbeing— looking after yourself.
My students’ abilities vary as age does not matter, and bodies need different things. The class may not be the same for everyone, and it depends on what each individual person needs and how far they can go with their body.
Injuries are strengthened by working around the area. Pain is to be backed away from. This is why we use props for different individuals, such as blankets, belts, chairs and blocks; and encourage the student to learn how to read the needs of their own body.
Different forms of yoga suit different people. As a teacher, I am quite specific in my instructions, and use physical touch to assist and adjust people in their poses. Some people hate being told what to do; hate being touched.

What is involved in being a senior Iyengar teacher?
To be a certified Iyengar teacher, you have to go through rigorous assessments; train with the Iyengars in Pune, Maharashtra in India and with other senior teachers; attend conferences; and be a member of the Iyengar Institute. Senior teachers can take on the role of examining newer teachers; and a requirement is that I go to Pune every three years.
I have a love-hate relationship with India. I have come to realise that where my head is at when I enter India—where I am emotionally at the time—sometimes influences the degree, or lack, of affection that I have for India while I am there. India does test you on every level—daily and quite strenuously: but I always go back.

Is there a book on yoga that you would recommend?
Yes, the books by BKS Iyengar:  ‘Light on Yoga’, ’The Path to Holistic Health’ and ‘Light on Life .  The books are available in local bookshops and online in Australia. They explain the philosophy and practice of yoga, and clearly describe poses and breathing exercises.

What brings you the greatest sense of fulfilment in teaching?
Learning from my students—the reciprocity. I love challenges. I enjoy my students challenging me. I like imparting my knowledge—getting people to connect with their bodies and breath; seeing people develop. Teaching yoga has mellowed me out in life and is a joy.
It is the exchange of knowledge that brings me the greatest sense of fulfilment.
I feel fortunate to have found such a dynamic and experienced teacher of yoga to learn from. Wendy doesn’t only teach yoga, however, she also has qualifications in massage, nutrition, aromatherapy, reflexology and counselling.
Wendy certainly personifies our idea of boldness. To find out more about Wendy's yoga studio,

Linda Jones

Sanchay Jewellery

Phone 0414 181 841

I’m so happy to introduce you to an amazing bold woman, a friend since high school, who is never afraid to follow her heart and do the things that bring her joy.  She told me she loves being creative and never hesitates to put any new skills into practice.  Today I heard about the woman behind Sanchay Jewellery and discovered what inspired her to become a silversmith, creating unique pieces using quality gold and silver.   She designs and crafts exclusive jewellery (no two pieces the same) from her Caloundra studio and has customers from Melbourne to Cairns and as far away as Europe.  Introducing Linda Jones and Sanchay Jewellery:


1.     Linda, where have you come from? – I grew up in Strathpine and attended Pine Rivers State School and then Pine Rivers State High School.  From an early age I had a love of fashion and style. In contrast to the ‘in’ fashion and what my friends were wearing at the time, I entered a modelling competition dressed in black gaucho pants, yellow shirt, black boots and a black sombrero hat.  It was 1972 and I was 15 - I won the competition - a Vicki Keo deportment and modelling course.  At the same time I was offered a hairdressing apprenticeship and chose that over modelling.  Not pursuing a modelling career didn’t really bother me at the time because my generation was focused on getting a job and setting ourselves up for our future and, to be honest, hairdressing appealed to me more.  I started my apprenticeship at the Lawnton Beauty Salon, owned and run by Phyllis McNamara.  I had already been working for her as a tea and tidy on the weekends and school holidays and loved the industry so it really wasn’t a hard decision to make. 
2.     A bold question - how old are you?  I am 57 years bold, have experienced a lot of  things, gained a lot of knowledge and believe it or not have ticked off my bucket list, achieving everything I wanted to do.  I am enjoying life – sharing with my husband, lovingly ‘putting up’ with four very special little people (grandchildren) and filling my days being creative, hairdressing, making jewellery, and my new love… befriending the native birds that come to feed on my back deck. I have at least nine king parrots, lost count of the lorikeets as well as a beautiful pair of pale-faced rosellas visit daily.  I also feed the kookaburras by hand.  I have a real connection with the birds.  My friends call me the bird lady – I’m happy with that.   
Feeding the kookaburras off my back deck
3.    When did you decide to change career and become a silversmith? When I finished with the café. I needed something to get me back on track, back to normality. I had the time then – I hadn’t had the time or energy before.
4.     What has made you change directions in the past?  I have changed directions a number of times throughout my life - trying new things, but always in parallel to my hairdressing - I worked for five years with kinesiology and published two gluten free cookbooks.  My daughter had severe allergies and was gluten intolerant.  To help her and to ensure she didn’t miss out on eating a variety of foods, I developed gluten free recipes. Wanting to help others as well, I published these in a series of cook books.  
It was inevitable - my interest in food and creating recipes led me to setting up and running my own café.  Quickly I learnt how to cook, how to run a café and how to be a barista - and all at the same time.  We had the cafe for two and a half years and honestly, it nearly killed me.  After it was sold and still high on adrenalin from constantly running flat out, it took me months to get back to normal.  It had been ‘go, go, go’ for so long my body had forgotten how to relax.  To help wind down I decided to have one-on-one classes with a silversmith I had been introduced to through the cafe and I really enjoyed it.    And so I began learning the art of crafting jewellery and becoming a silversmith - the last thing on my bucket list.
5.    What drew you to jewellery?  It is something I always wanted to do –as I said, it was the last thing on my bucket list and when Nick’s wife handed me his card at the café I knew I had to follow it up (btw…Nick is the silversmith who taught me). I love silver smithing as I can create whatever I want whenever I want.  I love being creative, love learning, and vow to never stop until the day I die! 
6.    How did you get started?  I attended lessons for over a year and practised, practised, practised.  My first collection sold out not long after its release so I started on my second - it grew from there.  The silversmith told me that he had taught me ‘too well’. I learnt from a master; he was a great teacher.
7.    It is such dirty rough work in contrast to you? – I love being in my studio and I love being in the zone where and when I can get as dirty as I want! It can be a big day and often my entire face is black with silver dust after banging and cutting, soldering, chiselling, filing and polishing.  Sometimes I blow things up and sometimes it is a perfect day and everything goes to plan.  At the end of the day, tired and satisfied I can easily have a shower, fluff myself up and look nice again for my husband and for me.  I feel good about what I have achieved, I am content.

8.    A really important question! - I have known you for a long time and your fingernails have always been perfect, what happened?  I have some ‘ok’ nails at the moment but more often than not they are black - and it’ not nail polish!  Sometimes I file part of them away while working or I chip and tear them, but what I produce during that time far outweighs my broken and dirty fingernails.  What I thought was important when I was younger is not so important to me now.  Don’t get me wrong, I do make an effort to look after my hands and nails but I would rather show off my jewellery (it gives me more satisfaction) than my nails. These days it is more about the way I feel – not so much about how I look.  Maybe this comes from fifty-seven years of experience, growing as a person and knowing what fulfils me as I age - what is important to me.

9.    You talk about being in the zone - What puts you in the zone?  When I am inspired from things I see - perhaps develop a different take on them - I just have to get into my studio and start working.  Being in the zone comes when I want to create - produce something different. I have total focus and time seems to stand still.  I am only aware of what I am making.  Then, if everything goes to plan, at the end of the day I can sit back and be proud of what is in front of me - ‘fantastic’ - then I know I have been in the zone.  When someone loves my jewellery so much so that they want to buy it and then they tell me they love wearing it, my work becomes worthwhile and so rewarding.  I want people to feel joy from my creations.  It makes the dirt and heat worthwhile.  It makes getting in the zone meaningful.
10. From what I hear it is a tough market - what keeps you going?  It is a very tough market but I have had some fantastic sales and I always get great feedback. Because I work with different mediums such as coins and spoons and melt my own silver and gold I can usually create something for everyone.  The gold I use is either 9ct or 22gold and sometimes 14crt.  It all depends what I am working with. The silver is a gentian fine silver. All my pieces are solid silver and gold, not hollow like a lot of the jewellery these days.  My finished pieces are crafted with love, exclusive in design and made from quality materials so they tend to sell themselves.  Even a twenty-three year old client who buys regularly from me commented that in comparison to pieces she had purchased overseas my pieces were of much higher quality silver and that she loves all the new designs -  not bad for an out there 57 year bold.
11. What has been the highlight of your career as a silversmith? There have been a few - the enthusiasm and satisfaction that came from learning something totally different each week in class then practising what I learnt in my studio.  I remember how exciting my first soldering and blow torch lesson was and then when I cut my own pieces I couldn’t have been happier (except when people actually bought them and offered only positive feedback). The greatest highlight however and the ongoing one is being able to get my ideas from inside my head –out - into the physical form. 
12. Where do you get inspiration for your jewellery? Not from my husband that’s for sure!    No seriously, sometimes I will see something and think, ‘I could do this or I could do a rendition of that’. I start working, with something specific in mind, but it usually morphs and takes on its own character.  A design – one off – and something I will never, ever make the same again even if I tried.  The piece is as unique as the mental and physical process that created it.
13. What people have inspired you? Without a doubt, Matteo from San Gimignano, Italy.  Matteo is a silversmith I watched working in his studio in Tuscany.  I watched in awe as he worked - his raw work and his rustic studio, the pieces he was creating - I knew right there and then that I wanted to do the same.  Before we left San Gimignano I returned to his studio, had coffee with him and bought some pieces. I vowed I would set up my own studio.  Another person who continues to inspire me with his inspirational feel good music is Jason Morz.  The song he performs which really connects to my heart and soul is The Sunshine Song  It is, and has been one of my biggest inspirations -in bad times and in good.  It moves me, and it keeps me moving.

14. What piece of jewellery do you enjoy making the most?  ‘Rings, necklaces, bracelets’ I enjoy making all of them.  I do, especially love rings and I love men’s jewellery - the chunkiness and the uniqueness of what I can create.  I have made pieces for my sons who are thirty-four and they love them - they don’t take them off!  That really says it all and makes me feel great. My sons have their own unique style so I am happy I am able to tune in to their style and create something that they love. 

15. How long does it take to make jewellery:  Some pieces can take days! Some take only a few hours if they go to plan.  Time is largely determined by whether the piece is planned or is created as it goes.  The value of the pieces that take days to craft is never reflected in their sale price. The value for me, however, does even out in the long term because some pieces take only a short time to make.
16. Without giving away any secrets, what is your process when creating a piece? I work with my head and illustrate with my hands.  To cut a long process short - I cut or roll the silver to suit what I have chosen to make, hammer, bevel, carve and solder as required then file off edges, etc. to making sure everything is smooth.  Then I sand and polish.  I ticket the item with price and details and offer it to the market. And, then I wait, sometimes impatiently, for responses and sales.  I think my unique pieces have personality and their design and quality materials are as good as anybody else’s handcrafted pieces on the market.
17.  What is your favourite piece?  A necklace which has been sold and one I nearly kept for myself because I loved it so much.  It was a huge round 5 cm silver hammered disc with a labradorite (semi-precious stone) in the centre.  I ended up selling it, far too cheaply, to a close friend who recently has been challenged with a serious health issue. I hope she gets soulful healing, happiness and joy from the piece.  It was sold to her with love and obviously she loved it too.
18.   How do you market your pieces?   Facebook only and word of mouth.  The occasional weekend local markets if I feel like it.  The jewellery sells itself.  I think the love that goes into each piece shows and people can connect with that.
19.  Where do you sell your pieces? On Facebook, at my studio in Caloundra and at the markets. Most sales are from referrals. Sometimes on request I do presentations at client’s homes.
20.  Is there anything else you would like to add?  Yes - I support and commend anyone who commits to learning anything new.   I say, don’t back off, don’t sit down, don’t think you can’t do something you really want to do and don’t give up.  There is a whole world out there and you are never too old.  I believe keeping your brain active keeps you younger and I think there is some truth in the saying ‘you either use it or lose it’.   You may be surprised at what you can achieve!  I believe there is nothing outside of anyone’s reach – just get out there and have a go - just do it.

Check out designs and get pricing at Sanchay Jewellery Facebook Page or call Linda on 0414 181 841 to pace an order, arrange an exclusive viewing or get more information. 


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