Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Making strawberry jam

This wedding craft was what we made to give to guests - tiny jars of either either marmalade or strawberry jam. As we had a very small wedding of mostly family it was easy to make enough jars for everyone. Helps that hubby is a chef and we had access to a big kitchen to do it in. I printed names onto luggage tags and tied them on with string. Then tied a ribbon around with a bow. They then doubled as place cards at tables.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pottery therapy

Hi craft world.  I started a 10-week pottery class after a break up. Yes, it's a bit of a cliche, but one I would recommend to anyone. A full 3 -hour stretch once a week to just be absorbed in something to do with your hands, and enough to concentrate on without any real stress attached. All for $20 a class, plus clay.

I've learned a little bit about the nature of the clay, how it needs to be handled, and the wetness/dryness/ cracking behaviour. I've gone through the process of several weeks till you have a finished product - which has enforced patience and a certain letting go, because the results aren't always as expected, things crack and can't be finished, some glazes were faulty and didn't look right, etc. But overall it's been totally great. Low key chats with other people, some with a few terms of work, others just starting out.  A nice group dynamic emerges over 10 weeks and people are genuinely pleased to see each other's work emerge from the kilns and give you lots of positive feedback and exclamations.

I'm in my second term now, and have a new set of items which use decorating slip, before the first firing. I get to see them bisque fired next week and I'm very excited to see how they've turned out. I tried to take more care with these, as I'm learning how rushing the early stages means a bunch of little faults and imperfections later on.

If you are only going once a week - the stages are 1) moulding the wet clay (we started using rolled out pancakes of clay draped over moulds), 2) semi-drying in a plastic bag till its "leather hard", then doing finishing stuff like smoothing edges or punching holes, carving, etc  3) bisque fired so you can paint glazes on  4) ready to collect with glazes fired. Four weeks is the quickest this can happen but because it's a community centre, then they don't always get to fire everything every week so you can wait longer.  I like all the different tasks, and even the glazing which I didn't expect to! The layering weird colours is cool, but I get a bit indecisive over which of many different colour combos to try, because there's always a risk it will stuff up.Also - do I want lots of mis-matched items, thanks to wild colour experiments, or do I want o build up an earthy, ocean-y, brick-y, sandy kind of collection.
All the big questions.

There's wheels too, but I only had one go on them and have gone back to hand building. Wheels seemed to require more practice with zero out put, to just get the knack of throwing. And no  objects to hold and look at at the end. There's something to be said for the tactile.

Anyway, here's some pics from first term.
indents done with a banksia pod

stencil - worked well
failure - this lid sticks in the base, because of an indent in the clay.

Final platter combo. Still a bit more 'rustic' than I planned but, hey. And it's huge.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hand-made cards

I've really gotten into making my own cards for special occasions. It gives me a good impetus to get creative, it keeps costs down and its a chance to give someone a one-off piece of art.

For my Christmas cards this year I experimented with masks. Not the kind you wear over your face, but the kind that help keep areas of your page clear.

I used very low adhesive scotch-tape for my masking. For this batch of cards I just used the one thickness of tape, but placed the tape in different configurations to get different compositions. I also cut circles into paper so I had a stencil I could make round shapes with.

I did a few quick initial sketches to get some ideas for compositions, and then just went for it straight onto the cards. Each card was different for the other; and most were abstract and improvised on the spot. But the general feel I was aiming for was candy cane, so lots of stripes. And some circles to represent baubles or holly.  Soant for water colour paint.

Colours were typically Christmassy - greens and reds. I wanted to keep the colours simple, but alternate them on each stripe to get the candy cane effect. I used a mix of felt-tip pens of different thicknesses. The nibs of some of the pens were a little worn, so lines weren't always solid and even. But I quite liked this as it gave the cards a hand-printed feel.

Some were more successful than others. They tended to be the ones I didn't overload with elements; leaving lots of white space. The scotch tape worked very well as a masking agent and was very easy to work with; though it did get grubby after a few uses and smudged the pen work a little (I actually didn't mind this as it just added to the hand-printed look).

This was actually a birthday card I made for my mum about the same time as the Christmas cards. I masked the edges of the card, but did the rest freehand. I sketched the contours of the peony in pencil first, using an image form the web. Then used markers to add hatching to give tone. Same card stock as the Christmas cards.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Free range crochet

Some interesting crochet embellishments on a bamboo wall outside a building site for an eco-centre in downtown Barcelona. They seem to be weathering the elements just fine.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Cracking a Christmas piñata

For Christmas 2014 I decided to make my young niece and two nephews a bauble-shaped piñata. My inspiration came from a dear friend of mine who made one for a Christmas party she went to. As I was on a budget I thought it would be a fun activity for the kids on Christmas day.

My friend made her's following the steps on this website. Which was my starting point. This was my first experience making a piñata, but I have a bit of experience with papier-mache so thought it wouldn't be too difficult.

I used a balloon as the mould. As I couldn't find proper papier-mache glue, I made my own by mixing water and flower. Tearing newspaper into strips took considerably longer than I thought, but it was rather therapeutic.

I deviated slightly from the website instructions and covered the whole balloon in layers, including the top. I think I ended up with about five or six layers, leaving each layer to dry thoroughly before starting the next one.

Once the mache was completed, I popped the balloon and gave the piñata a lobotomy; slicing off its lid. I filled it with sweets, toys and tiny pieces of paper of different colours (which I tore by hand!).

I also made a hole in the lid and bottom of the piñata and and threaded through some heavy duty twine (I wanted to make sure it was strong enough to hold the heavy piñata up). I intertwined the twine with some tinsel to make it more Christmassy.

Then I fixed the lid back on and paper-mached it to the body. I also reinforced the base to make sure it was strong enough that the twine handle wouldn't tear through when the piñata was hung.

My piñata wasn't looking more pear-shaped than round (tip: actually use round balloons!); so I made a shallow cone with cardboard and fixed this to the bottom to give the piñata a more tapered appearance. This also served to hide the knot of the twine handle.

It was now ready to decorate. I decided against using strips of tissue paper to decorate the bauble as I thought it would be too fiddly. So I decided to spray paint it gold and then decorated it with a message to my niece and nephews.

I also added a crown to the top, to make to look more like a bauble I made this from cardboard which I spray painted gold; adding a strip of back paper behind the 'teeth' for added effect.

It was ready. Probably about four hours work all up (plus drying time).

On Christmas day I hung it up on the clothes-line. And everyone gathered around to watch the destruction.

It took about 9 minutes to crack open. A few adults had a turn as well; it proved to be quite the stress reliever! It was great fun watching everyone try to crack it open. Quite a highlight of Christmas day in my opinion.

In hindsight; the piñata was probably too thick. The layers of paper with the thick flour glue made the walls of the piñata more like thick cardboard than delicate paper. Hence, it took quite some effort to crack open. But then again, that just prolonged the fun.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Stamp your feet stamp your hands stamp your everything

I've been inspired by other people's stamp making, after a few years of playing with mixed media art and seeing stamps that other people have made. I have a background of dabbling in printmaking, so if I'm honest, to begin with I was a bit snobby about making your own stamps. I thought they were the dumbed down version of relief printing. I also am a bit averse to using other people's stamps in my work because it doesn't feel like mine. I know some people use heaps of stamps and love them, and create great effects using them, I don't have any problem with that, it's just a personal preference for me. But anyway, to cut a long story short, I felt the need to try making some stamps, and around the same time I rediscovered a very soft, rubber carving plate I had bought for printmaking - and voila! the project was born.
To start with I used 'lino' and cut it into smallish squares, using standard lino cutting tools. Then I swapped to the rubber plate and cut that up, and oh my goodness, a world of difference. So much softer! My hands did not ache from the cutting! Quicker to do as well. I really really recommend not using lino if you want to make quick stamps. Another technique I've heard of is using just standard white erasers, which seems great - cheap and accessible, but perhaps limited to their standard sizes. I used a fairly standard and cheapish water based printmaking ink to prig with. Next round I'm gong to try gouache (because I have more colours in that) and slightly watered down acrylic to see how that goes. Once I got started on printing it was endlessly fun and I could have kept going for days, it was really very fun. You can see in the image below how the stamps came out on white, or Kraft brown recycled envelopes. I like both. In fact I still have the project materials out in my kitchen because I feel like 'any day now' I might whip up another batch of envelopes, or maybe some letter paper. As a bonus, I'm using a combination of these shapes to form my new logo for art therapy work (recently graduated). I thoroughly recommend stamping up a storm.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Christmas wreath from my first cold Christmas

Catching up on sharing some of the things I made over the busy Christmas period while travelling. This wreath / candle decoration was made using berries and leaves foraged from hedgerows in the English village we were staying in, and from my sister-in-law's garden. I was so tickled to see holly with actual red berries on it (being in the northern hemisphere for Christmas rather than in Australia where I normally am) that I just had to pick some and bring it inside. I didn't have any grand ideas on how to poll this off technically speaking so I just used a flat bowl to arrange the leaves and berries on. Features pine cones, holly, rose hips and many things I didn't recognise. Lasted a good few days looking fresh without any water.