In honour of all things new... a new year! a new banner! some new products in the pipeline! I am having a samples and seconds sale over in my Etsy store. There you'll find some of the test items I've been sharing with you recently, such as...
A black plaster ampersand
Three plaster asterisk brooches - heavy! For coats only!
Four plaster asterisks
I've had such fun with this! Do drop over for a look. Happy New Year!
There has been quite a lot of christmas action happening around here.
There has been the making of cards and the sprinkling of glitter.
There has been much construction of lunch-paper pompoms to adorn presents and bonbon hats.
There has been the acquisition of a casuarina for our family christmas tree, undertaken with a certain degree of stealth, at dusk. (Thinned from the side of the road down near the creek... since the bushfire two years ago they've grown up so thickly they can't all survive!)
There has been the cutting of my Ma's christmas cake.
There has been a daily inspection by the chooks about how things are going inside the house. "Get out, Boyd!"
... and there has been some degree of craftiness going on. It's time to clean up! Wrap those last presents! Crack open a bottle of Rekorderlig Strawberry and Lime cider and... "ahhhh!"
That christmassy feeling has come early for me this year. I mean, I was as disgusted as the next person when I heard the first twinklings of 'Jingle Bells' down at the supermarket at the end of October. (Funnily enough the staff must have felt the same - they were back to elevatoresque for at least another month after that!) No... this year I was inspired by a visit to a dear friend up at the Sunshine Coast, last week. Her tree was up and her house was bursting with advent calendars and decorations... I came home and immediately pulled out my two boxes of christmasnessiness.
Now, I know in the past I have been guilty of the too-stylish christmas tree sin. It's all those years working as a window-dresser! This year, my theme is 'all or nothing', meaning that I crammed every decoration I could find onto the dead stick which, rather embarrassingly, has been adorning my house since I used it for christmas last year! You know how you amass a collection of odd decorations that people have given you? Blue holographic sequins! Mirrored raised-trunk elephants! CRAM THEM ALL ON!
Rummaging through the boxes was a lovely reminiscence, too. "Here's a lovely handmade bird given to me by a work friend last year!" "Look at this little rooster that I bought from that Christmas Shoppe on the High Street in Edinburgh, in June!" I found the pink shiny cardboard stars that I'd made for a tree when I lived with my friend Sarah, about ten years ago.
I do like to add to the collection every year. Inspired by the pink stars, I found some fabric scraps and experimented with some fabric baubling.
No more colour-coordinated trees for me... it's like a festival going on over there in the corner!
So. Time to sort out my christmas cards. Time to stock up on festive bubbles at the bottle shop. Time to read Margaret Mahy's 'The Tricksters', an annual event for me because her descriptions of a wonderfully chaotic beachy pine-treey New Zealand family christmas are just fab! and never fail to put me in the mood.
I thought I'd give this ink bath thing another go, as I'd really liked the grey concrete-y outcome. In a previous post I'd mentioned that the indian ink had a real pong to it. I am pleased to report that after about three weeks the reek from my initial testing has faded!
This time I thought I'd try a whole word to see the effect. So, in went some plaster letters for a 24-hour bath.
... and a scrub with an old toothbrush.
Too smelly for my Etsy store? I'm not sure! I like it, though!
I had another idea about how to colour the Gedeo resin plaster I use to cast my letters. I added a good whack of black acrylic paint to the mix, and things were looking promising until I'd waited three days for it to set and it still hadn't! So I gave it a week.In drying, the mix in the mould had shrunk a little, making the backs of these asterisks concave. However they did have an exquisite chalkiness which was pretty nice.
So chalky, in fact, that they just broke apart upon handling! What a shame.So. Concrete colourant it is. Watch this space!
I've had a few queries recently as to whether it was possible to colour my plaster letters. It is - they do pretty well with a coat of plain acrylic paint, in which case you can match them to your wall colour if you want.
However, one of the things I really like about casting these letters in white plaster is that the original letter I hand-carved was from white plaster. It had that lovely matte finish and the dry texture of the surface really appealed to me. So, in casting a letter that was originally in white plaster, with white plaster, I get a recreation of that beautiful original matte surface, which I love. Painting over it seems to be a shame, to me.
So, I looked at how I could colour the plaster mix itself - maybe I could retain the dry-looking matte surface?
Here, I tried adding black Indian ink to the water that I mix with the dry resin plaster. I used a very strong mix (one part ink to three parts water) and as a result the plaster took well over 24 hours to set hard - normally it's ready for demoulding in less than an hour. It also stuck pretty fiercely to the mould (even though I'd talc-ed it well beforehand) and left pieces of itself behind - not a success.
Then I thought 'well, if that's not going to work, perhaps I can soak a letter in the ink, neat.' and after a 24-hour bath, this was the result.
A grey, rather than black outcome. It has a great concrete-y industrial look that may work really nicely. However, in playing with the Indian ink, I noticed something a bit gross about it. It stinks. I mean, it reeks, and I'm afraid the vomity pong lingers in the cast result, even after a very good scrub and a long sit in the sun!
Then I tried a product that was designed to do approximately what I'm trying to achieve - concrete colourant. It's used to colour grout, too, so I figured it was bound to work. I did have to add way more water than usual to make the plaster wet enough to cast, so I don't really know the correct water/colourant ratio. It did set in a reasonable time though, but most importantly - it has that dry matte finish that I like so much. Hoorah!
The only downside I discovered was that in scrubbing off the talc under the tap after demoulding, I got black all over my hands, which means that the colourant isn't waterproof. This surprised me, as it's designed for grout, and surely it would be used in wet areas? This isn't really a problem as I don't recommend installing these plaster letters where they'll get wet - it's more of a production challenge.
Aaah, how lovely is it to return to a beloved home after a long while away! The first opening of the door... the familiar smell of my house... the remembering of all the little possessions that make my home 'mine'. Seedpods on a bookshelf, a postcard tucked into the edge of a frame, a pebble found on a previous holiday sitting on top of the piano.
What I like most, though, is how I've just stepped from a darkening blustery European autumn into a fragrant pre-summer Brisbane blissfulness! The breeze feels like the sea, and it makes Christmas seems to be just around the corner. The jacarandas in my street are going all kinds of crazy and the jasmine just outside my doors is outdoing itself. The nights (through which I am finally sleeping after picking up a dreadful airport cold!) are scented and only-just-cool, and in the mornings I'm amazed by how many birds start singing so early. My feet are getting used to being bare. It's so good to be home!
What's more, the garden is absolutely full of self-seeded cherry tomatoes, perfect for roasting up with some garlic and onion to have on hand for spaghetti.
Hi there. I've been overseas on holiday for a while now, and as it's going-home-time soon, I'm starting to think 'What happens next?' We've been holed up in this place in France for two months now, long enough to really settle in and give our brains a good rest after a start to the year that was unusually frantic. I think that's one of my favourite things about going away. You think about home and remember how nice it is, and then think of all the things you want to do when you get back there. I'm not homesick, not at all - just enjoying the perspective!
So far, the 'What now?' list is headed up by completing my tax return (ugh) but then moving on to more interesting things like reopening my Etsy store. Living out of a suitcase for this long has reinforced my suspicion that I have too much 'stuff' hanging about in boxes at home, and some of it needs to go to eBay or the opshops. I'd like to make a start on a Summer vegie garden (sweet potatoes and pumpkins first up) and have resolved to not bother trying to grow things that I know are wrong for a humid climate. I'd like to drink less wine, and am keen on starting my no-sugar regime again.
I'm also looking forward to new creative things. I've been looking about, and surprising myself by what I'm interested in - one thing I've really noticed a lot has been rocks. We'd drive through a cutting on a road and I'd think 'Oooh, I bet there are fossils in that shaley stuff', and so we'd stop and poke about, finding that others had been there before us and left mounds of stone, picked over. On a beach I'd find my interest caught in the variety of pebbles - the textures and colours of the different types of stone - and easily spend hours wandering slowly about, finding wonderful things like this: It's a crystal-filled geode, slightly ocean-worn, and completely delightful! Having never been into rocks in any way before, I'm starting to feel like I could be. I wish I was a jeweller so I could make stone beads to thread on battered silver bracelets. Carving plaster, carving stone - it's a natural progression, isn't it? As an aside, I've rediscovered one of my first forays into plaster typography, a project that I did on a previous visit here. A wall had been torn down, and there was a large piece of thick plaster, almost a brick of it, in the debris. One blunt chisel and several wet grey afternoons resulted in this; a carved address to leave by the door. Hooray to plaster carving! It's been good for my soul for a long time! See you soon.
It's 6.30am and I'm leaving for a long holiday today. There's an empty suitcase over there in the corner, and little piles of things lying all over my house. I'm experiencing a vague sense of panic but I think all the little piles will end up in my suitcase, and I'll be able to leave by 9.00am. What am I talking about? That's plenty of time! I've got enough for a leisurely shower, another cup of tea, and more sitting admiring my dear friend Sarah's 'departure' flowers from her garden!
So! I've resigned from my job, and will be away until the end of October. C and I are headed to America first, where we'll hire a car and camp, hike around my favourite mountain, attend an enormous music festival, and hopefully not find too many things we want to buy here. From New York we'll be shipping it across to Europe, to spend a good long time in France. Hooray!
I think I might even have time to go and give Boyd a good squeeze. He won't mind!
What am I talking about now? GO AND PACK, you nitwit!
There've been too many disasters in the world of late - I've been feeling the weight of the world. Flooding here in my home-town of Brisbane, the earthquake in New Zealand, the tsunami and nuclear emergency in Japan, all of them devastating. Sometimes I just can't look at the footage on the television any more.
It amazes me that life goes on. Yesterday I read the most perfect quote which covers that quite nicely. "We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen." which is from DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. So, I've been trying to focus on the small, local things that bring me joy.
Like this: all the rain over this past summer has meant that there has just been a bumper crop of guavas. Guava trees often spring up in urban spots - I gathered kilos of them from a tree on my local railway cutting and made my first batch of guava jelly.
And like this: I bought my very first pair of proper hiking boots in anticipation of climbing a mountain. As soon as they arrived I put them on with my new proper hiking socks and just fell in love. When I walk in them I feel tall and strong, like I'm standing up straighter. I've done all my previous hiking in Blundstone boots, but no more. No more!
(As an aside, I've also been enjoying Hipstamatic on a borrowed iPhone. My own phone is six years old and doesn't have a camera - I can certainly see the attraction.)
And most definitely like this: by hatching eggs. I have Pekin bantam chickens, and last year I ordered some fertile eggs from a breeder and put them under two broody hens. Of the 12 eggs, 8 hatched, and of them 5 were roosters! So, SO handsome - I wished I could have kept them all, but so far I've found lovely homes for 4 of them, and the last boy remains with me - at least - until the neighbours complain. He's only just starting to crow. Anyway, his biggest brother was much more advanced and was happily performing his roosterly duty with my older hen, Birkenstock. After he went to his new home my Ma took a couple of her eggs and put them under yet another broody. "Those eggs won't be fertile," I said. "He's too young." My Ma replied "Let's put them under Sylvia and find out!" Last weekend - look what happened!
Recently I've found myself with a few spare days off work. I've tried:
A. Moonlighting as a builder's labourer. This is varyingly successful depending on how hot and humid it is on any given day. Moving bits of scaffolding in the withering sun at midday = wobbles and heatstroke. Hiding under a tarpaulin to paint the ends of beams = more my style.
B. Staring at the stockmarket hoping for divine inspiration. None yet.
C. Making many batches of dextrose-sweetened icecream in my new icecream-maker. Vanilla bean is particularly nice, as is chocolate made with Dutch cocoa.
D. Pekin-bantam wrangling. It's a great time-waster but Otto just doesn't understand that if he continues to practice his crowing (he's only 3 months old) then the neighbours will be most upset and he'll have to be re-homed sooner than expected.
and E. Mildly contemplating why it is that I haven't made any Beasties for a while!
So, out with the stout gloves and tin-snips!
Chop! Snip! Bend out the corrugations! Give them all a good scrub and sit them in the sun to dry! Hello Beasties!