Oct 7, 2014

Marbled Paper Magic.

My workroom all set for a fun evening.
I do love my big workroom( /diningroom) and so now and then when I manage to tidy up and remove the bits left over from a project or 2, (3 or 4,) and set out my tables, there is a lot of space. Enough space to invite the little Crafty Chicks group I'm a member of, and have some fun together. As happened some months ago.
This time one of us wanted to show us how to marble paper, so that we could use it in the future for making some note-books.

The Crafty Chicks in action.
Of course I had seen this paper before in old books as the end-papers inside the covers, and I even have an old book that has the edges of the pages marbled. But I had never seen it done.
But it involved colours and paint and mucky stuff, so I was in!
Nothing better for a bunch of ladies in their 40's with busy lives to play, like you are at Kindergarten...!
Our wet marbled papers drying on the kitchen floor.
We made up a solution of water and wallpaper paste (2 tablespoons of "Sellys wall paper lightweight paste, step 3") stirred until it felt slimy like egg white. Acrylic paint was quite watered down in plastic cups and drops of paint were dropped onto the surface, which had sat for 5 minutes or so. These drops spread onto the surface, unless not thin enough, which meant they fell through the mixture to the bottom of the container. The paper only goes on the surface, so the paint has to lay on top.
 We swirled the colours on the surface with wooden skewers from the kitchen and we even used a plastic wide toothed comb, to comb the colours together.
Ooohs and Aaahs all round when the first pieces of paper were carefully laid on top of the mixture in the shallow containers and lifted up! Wow!!
My kitchen floor became a riot of colours with the dripping wet marbled papers.
That wasn't going to work for very long with my cats around...

A much better solution for drying the marbled papers.
Out came my old drying frame, which I popped onto 1 of the tables . That's where it stayed for the next 3 days( at least) because after the ladies left, I kept on experimenting for 3 more afternoons, and reading up on it on the inter web. The different patterns have names and history ( some more than 800 years!) and geographical links.
Oh the stuff you can learn ! And again: Youtube is just fabulous with little how to videos from all over the world.

Swirled nonpareil pattern with Spanish Moire water ripple effect.

Red Swirled nonpareil pattern with Turkish Ebru hearts and Spanish Moire ripples.

Small Turkish Ebru style shapes just big enough for a card.
I now have a lovely pile of different marbled papers, and have already made 3 notebooks!
Super Fun!
Have you learned any new techniques lately?

Oct 5, 2014

Exhibition Success!

Hastings Community Art Centre.
I belong to a local Fibre-arts Club, which in turn belongs to a group of clubs under the Hawkes' Bay Fibrecraft umbrella, which are all affiliated to the national body under the Creative Fibre umbrella. This way all fibre artisans; spinners, weavers, felters, machine-knitters and even basket weavers and others in our country are all connected with each other. Which keeps quality and information up to date. It is a good system, I believe. Our H.B. umbrella group holds a bi-annual sale and exhibition for all the local clubs in our province. So if you belong to a club you can put items in, unless of course they are shoddily made. The ladies will tell you so...
Nuno-felted wrap.
 I put in lots of hand-spun yarns for sale, and sold some too. I also put in a few items into the exhibition. And my red reversible wrap sold as well! Total bonus!

My Favourite; the Hobbit House!

Reversible silk and merino nuno-felted  wrap.
But the best thing about entering items into the exhibition part was getting the comments from the judges. These are people that know what they are looking at and usually experienced fibre artisans themselves. To get good comments from them is very supporting of your own skills.
School colours blankie.
At the beginning of the winter now passed,( judging by our glorious blue skies, and the daffodils and freesias all finished blooming) I made a felt lap-blanket for one of my special needs children at school. In playtime when it wasn't raining, she goes outside of course, but the icy southerly winds make her very cold just sitting in a wheelchair. The other kids run around like lunatics, getting hot cheeks, but her legs and fingers feel like ice cubes. Most of the time here in Hawkes' Bay children don't wear coats, and even when the snow lies on the ranges in the distance, and there was a frost in the morning, the day will have lovely sunshine and children just kick their shoes off and run around bare feet. Most boys wear shorts all year round.
Personally I wear layers of soft merino in the cold seasons, I swear by it. I hate being cold.
So I made a blankie for her to go out in to the playground with. Something she can pop her hands under. In the school colours of course, that way she won't stand out too much.
She likes it, thank goodness...

Oct 4, 2014

A Pondering Post of Success.

Winter Blossoms.
 I have been pondering lately. On and off like, not every day. 
But I am on school holiday at the moment with a lovely heavy bout of bronchitis, with a by-product of laryngitis, and unable to speak to anyone except thinking to myself, and I was therefore pondering the meaning of success. 
 What does success mean to me? And ought I not get some more of it?

Ruffled felt.
I know when I was growing up, in my family it meant earning lots of money, and getting a job that would allow you to do so, and probably also owning a big flash house in the end. Success seemed to be something very measurable in financial figures.
And of course it would entail a great deal of comparing your financial figures to other peoples' little numbers, and feelings of envy, because there are always people with bigger wealth, bigger houses etc.
For some people this works, and it makes them happy. It might even spur them on to get bigger figures.
So I married an apprentice gardener, because I loved him. And I became a stay at home mum, because we really wanted to have children and be a family.
The financial figures stayed very small, and I became extremely successful at budgeting, op-shopping, sewing children's clothes and preserving produce. It kept me very busy, and I never had time for envy. I took pride in the challenges.
My husband was home for family dinners around the table every night, and was never called away on the weekends. Our children learned the value of a dollar and knew when a treat was a treat and were thankful for presents. Our family was a success!

White merino and green silk scarf for a bride.
For a while there I pondered that maybe I should become very well known for what I do, maybe even famous. But seriously, fame isn't all that it is cracked up to be. It is basically having to live up to other peoples' expectations and getting pulled into directions you had not thought you wanted to go in. And then you have to please the audience, or you'll lose the fame. While you are famous, others will experience envy of you. Somehow that is not success in my book either.

Reds and Pinks, merino and silk scarf.
I experience success these days in my morning life as a teacher-aide (or our new name: learning assistants ), when the special-needs child answers a maths question correctly, without counting on his fingers, or when the meek child suddenly speaks up and asks for help. Or when I get a Thank-you-card from the parents who suddenly realise that they have never done so, after I've been working with their wheel-chair bound child for more then 2 years.
Small successes, but a success nevertheless. However immeasurable, as there are no figures possible.

River blues for a blond girl.
I experience success these days in my other life as a textile artist, when I dream up a new idea, scribble it down, perhaps sketch the picture in my head as well. Then I let my hands make it and it turns out just like the picture, sometimes even better! Awesome Success!

My idea of a successful day is one where I have been able to make something, or do just a stage of it, or figured out a new idea and how to get there. Maybe just a little crochet, a bit of stitching, a layer of paper and paint, or worked on a new technique.

 If I have been able in a day to go into that Magical, all Enveloping, (and for me) Mystical and Spiritual state of mind, known as Creative Flow;  then that was a Good day.
That is what success means to me.
And hopefully I'll get the chance again the next day. I'll strive for it over and over.

Forest shades in merino and bronze silk.
So I am pondering that I will simply keep going this way with success and what it means to me.
And see where it will take me.
Because it makes me so darn happy...without measure!
What is your meaning of success?

Jun 30, 2014

How To Make a Hobbit Terrarium.

Frodo walking up to Bag End.

A new idea was sprouted, inspired by the amount of moss growing on our property this winter and my recent Pinterest obsession. "Oh Mum, you should go on pinterest, you'll love it...!" sounded my two daughters' well meaning advice.
And I did. And I do love it. And I am getting new ideas.
But I don't really need more ideas.....
But I can't stop; there are so many clever and creative people out there, and so many handy how-to's. And I have 18 boards already, and other Pinners are following them....

However I am rather enamoured with tiny worlds, especially enclosed in a jar.

So I started gathering up moss, and lichens still attached to the fallen twigs from the pohutukawa tree, and found some liverwort plants. We live in a very clean-air part of the world, and several prolific species of lichens live on the trees right outside the house, and hardy urban moss has established itself into little cracks in the concrete paths and road asphalt outside.
I also colllected gravel from the drive, used activated charcoal from the brewers shop in town, and I used spoons to put everything into a big glass jar with a cork lid from the Sallies.
The little round door was made by painting a clean stone with 1 flat side with acrylic paint, and acrylic sealer.

How to assemble your terrarium
1: Layer of gravel or pebbles, for drainage.
2: Thin layer of activated charcoal, which will stop bad bacteria that can grow mold and slime.
3: Layer of cheesecloth, or dried sphagnum moss (from the florist), to stop the soil falling into the gravel layer. If the soil clogs up the gravel layer, your terrarium can't drain.
4: Thicker layer of fine compost soil, enough for any roots of little plants to become established.
You can shape this soil with a spoon, or your fingers, into little hillocks, or place some larger stones as decoration.
5: Start putting down your moss, hopefully gathered carefully, with the underlying soil still attached, you can do this by collecting moss on a wet day with a flattish spoon, and slow scraping movements.
Gently press down the moss onto your little sloped garden. Don't let the moss press against the glass, for it won't be able to "breathe" and will die.
6: Keep your terrarium in indirect sunlight, otherwise your plants might cook.
Make sure that the soil is moist, sprinkle a little water if needed.
Close the jar. There should only be slight condensation on the glass, if it is too wet, as if it is positively raining in there, you can leave it open for a little while, to disperse some of it. Your moss should keep looking lush and alive, if it dries out, well, you'll have to add some water, but you shouldn't have to do that for a long while. Months even.
7: And if you have created a little scene in there with imaginary inhabitants, please do have a giggle! Keep playing!

And so this will be the year of the living room, in our D.I.Y. house. My lovely builder has already taken off several inside walls, and put insulation in, and replaced the boards, he has even done some rough plastering so far. We are also in the process of contemplating wallpapers, it will be a toss-up between 2, but until the sample gets here, we're still not quite sure. Our new gas fire-place is humming along pleasantly. It is very nice to wake up at 6:45a.m. and get into a warm living-space, without any effort on our part.
A new idea has arisen also; what about wooden floors here as well as in the dining room/workroom?
The lovely native matai wood flooring from the 1940's is sitting right underneath the carpet...

But before we do all that however, a small leak has been discovered in 1 of the walls of the shower cabin, and that does have to be dealt with unfortunately.
My husband reminds me, that it is a "first world problem". How lucky we are to have a roof above our heads in the first place! With food in the cupboard and enough work to earn money...
Are you that fortunate too?

Jun 22, 2014

Summer Songs and Autumn Games.

Our bare oaktree.
 Recently we had our little nephew staying with us for a weekend, which is not a common happening, but it all went splendidly. The best game ever was jumping into a humongous pile of dried leaves, which are plentiful at this house. Our oaktree loses its leaves early on in the season, and only takes about 2 or 3 weeks to go completely bare, giving us lots of light in the house during winter.

Best game in a big pile of leaves.
 Jumping in, diving in, crawling in, and back out. Until his fingers and ears were cold, and he came inside for dinner.
But this is an even bigger pile of leaves!
 And the next day there was an even bigger pile, made by uncle, hours worth of Play!

A summer singing assemblage, using encaustic medium.
 I've had another go at beeswax, or encaustic art. This time to adhere and cover natural materials, lichens, dried flowers, a cicada husk, a piece of seaglass, and paper cut-outs.
There is an exhibition coming up in our local bookshop, of matchbox art, and an auction will be held to raise funds for the new community art centre.

Assemblage using natural materials and paper cut-out.
Inspiration came from a little poem about a little boy who kept a beetle in a matchbox.

Assemblage art in a matchbox.
Teeny, tiny art...

May 22, 2014

Collaging Merrily Down the Stream.

Hedgehog pixie collage.
Another art experiment was had in my lovely room. First I made a small collage on canvas over hard board, and although I wanted to have a quick image, of course it took on a life of its own and became a story. 
Hedgehog pixie dreaming merrily down the stream, with her fish companion. 

I added lots of different media; handwritten pages underneath, gesso, magazine papers, water-colour tree, black ink stamps, acrylic paint, white gel pen and permanent markers.

Collage finished with 2 layers of wallpaper sizing.
 When it was done, I wanted to try out an encaustic layer, or beeswax melted over the top.

Problem no.1 my beloved people kept saying, but you might ruin it, and it is really nice!
Problem no.2 acrylics, including gesso, don't mix with wax, it won't keep sticking. So I can't use an acrylic sealer over the top. And if the magazine papers don't get sealed the wax will penetrate and show what is on the other side of the paper.

Solution no.1 make photo of unwaxed pixie. Ignore all other comments.
Solution no.2 make up jar of wall paper sizing, which is made from some kind of flour, and dries clear, but is not plastic. Brush on 2 good layers.
2 layers of encaustic beeswax .
When it was good and dry, I started playing with the hot wax. I mixed beeswax (from a candle) with 10% paraffin "drops" to make it a little tougher. That's my own experimental idea.
I melted it in a chocolate-fondue set ($5 opshop) with a little tea-candle underneath. It smelled lovely!
After warming up the artwork with the heat gun, I brushed on a layer of wax with a wide brush, then used the heatgun to warm it up again, so it glistened, but didn't run off.
And again with another layer, more on the sides then in the middle.
I used the heatgun to smooth out the irregular areas, it was fun!
As you can see, there is some darkening in patches on her dress and neck, so I think next time another couple of layers of wallpaper sizing to seal it a bit more.
I like the way the wax has created deeper layering and made the picture look more "dreamy".
I will definitely play more with this medium!

Bellbird at the nectar bowl.
Managed to take a sharp photo of one of our neighbourhoods' bellbirds, I think it is a female, the male has a darker throat. Such a gorgeous colour green, and yes, they have ruby coloured eyes. Bellbirds are quite shy and move very quickly, always on the look out for that rascal tui, that thinks it owns this nectar bowl.

Treasure Hunt Showcase ;

Pip-studio cups found in opshop.
Could not believe my luck! Staring at me from a shelf of ugly mugs and stained teacups, were these 2 gorgeous red and pink Pip-studio cups... I snatched them up! I already had the blue one at home, an expensive purchase a few years ago from Wellington.
Not a chip off them, ooh pretty, pretty! Just $4 together....
Can I bring myself to drink tea out of them, or will I only admire them in a spot where I walk past every day....
$5 worth of vintage linen and napkins.
So how does that work, when you have a colour co-ordinated thrifting spree?
All these sweet lollie colours go together, they will all be dunked into a bucket of nappisan and ironed, and remade into cute things.
These are the kind of opshop finds that make my day, my week even, and have me going back for more treasure thrills.
Some people get their thrills bungee-jumping, or binge-drinking.
Well , I go treasure hunting for sweet bargains, never knowing what I might find!
Aah! It's the little things...

May 5, 2014

Zombie Party to let your Hair Down, or Up...

Realistic felted dreadlocks by hubbie!
 So now and then my brother and sis-in-law throw a party. These are always very popular and creative events;  always dress-up parties with a particular theme. They hadn't had one for a number of years, so for no particular occasion, they announced a new party!
"Channel Your Inner Zombie..."
Yeah!! time to let your hair down : drink, eat, talk, laugh, and dance till the wee hours with lots of wonderful people!
My own accessories...
It was super-fun getting our costumes together, op-shop finds mostly, with some special paint jobs.

My man Baron Samdi.

 I decided I didn't want to have blood and guts everywhere, I actually wanted to wear a nice dress. So I chose to become a Voodoo Priestess, who according to legend, started the whole zombie thing in the first place. There is another character in this culture, and that's Baron Samdi, a kind of demi-god who stands guard between the dead and the living world.
Perfect, my man got to wear a suit!
Voodoo Priestess, with awesome dreadlocks!

Zombie Housewife (sis.i.l.) checking on her ribs.

Brother Zombie with amazing latex make-up job, all his own work.
 ALL the guests, and that was quite a number, had gone all out with their costumes. Zombie-brides, -clowns,-toothfairy,-cyclists,-computernerds,-lawnmower guy,-hunter,-medical staff and others.
There were even barricades to get through to get to the house with creepy zombie noises, and several wood braziers were burning for those having a breather outside. Inside there were zombie movies-best-bits playing, a laser light dance floor with smoke machine, and a lot of "blood" splattered sheets and other props.
Dance I did!!
It was a great night ( and early morning...)
Eyeball snacks and brain schnapps.

May 2, 2014

Easter Egg Dyeing with Natural Colours and Leaf Resists.

Resist dyed leaf patterns.
 About time I showed you what I did with the kids at school for Easter.
 First I explained about the connection with Spring and Easter, or rather let the kids think about why we were celebrating eggs, bunnies, chicks, and flowers at Autumn time! Yes, of course I mentioned the other celebration of Jesus as well, but in passing. This was about dyeing eggs, and it is a secular school.
And the kids did come up with the answer; we're on the other side of the world of where these traditions started! So I said, we are going to make Autumn-Leaves Easter Eggs.

New Zealand Primary school classroom.
 This is my "base" classroom, since I work in 4 different rooms at the moment. That's the teacher, she has phenomenal energy, I am in her class for the second year in a row. The children are having "mat-time"in the picture. In between different activities they come and sit on the mat, or the carpet in front of the teaching desk. It gives them movement and a different pace and signals that they need to pay attention to the teacher while she talks about something in detail. It's also where they eat their morning-tea, or listen to a story.
That big white board is an "interactive white board" on which you can bring up the internet, or computer programmes, with which you can use an electronic pen to write or draw on the board, print it out, or even send to another computer in the school. Nearly all our senior classes in our school are completely "technology classrooms", in which each child does their work on their individual laptops, then sends their work to the teacher. She/he can also monitor their work in their files, and checks if the kids access things they shouldn't. It seems to keep the kids' attention quite well!

Anyway, back to the eggs...
Simmering red cabbage.
 At home I prepared the dyes. I could have done this at school too, but seriously; boiling cabbage and onion skins for half an hour is not that pleasant a smell in a classroom...
So I simmered (in a stainless steel pot, since iron or aluminium can change the colour) half a red cabbage with salt (making it alkaline) and the other half with a dash of white vinegar (making it acid), just under boiling point for half an hour. With all the windows open...
Then drained the cabbage out, reserving the intensely coloured dye-water.

Red and brown onion skins.
 I did the same with 2 big handfuls of mainly red onion skins. Nothing added.

Cheese-cloth (with small leaves inserted) wrapped hardboiled eggs .
 When the dyes were cool enough, I poured them into clean plastic fizzy drink bottles for easy transportation to school. I also took some glass and steel bowls, again other metals react different to natural dyes, and plastic bowls will stain.
I picked a tray of small leaved plant material from my garden, like maiden hair ferns and young fern fronds, young ivy leaves, and clover.
I cut lots of squares of cotton cheesecloth and some white yarn to wrap the eggs into

O.K. the eggs themselves.... I thought that would be easy, right? Get some white eggs from the shop, as you can't  make brown eggs blue or pink.
By George! I had some serious problems there!! No white eggs to be found in either Napier or Hastings supermarkets, Farmers' Markets, or egg Farms..... Incredible!
The lady at an egg farm told me that they can't actually buy the hens anymore that lay white eggs. And that people think that brown eggs are healthier looking, you know like a sun tan, or like brown bread versus white bread.
That's mono-culture farming for you...
Did you know that some type of hens lay blueish eggs, or speckled?
Anyway she had these trays of commercial eggs, these are usually bought by baking companies, the eggs are irregular sized, have bumps or spots, are thin, or very pale.
So we found 30 of the palest brown eggs, it was very kind of her to help me. But some did crack during the hardboiling. They would simply have to do...

I hard boiled them, for about 5 minutes. That way they were still pleasantly edible for the kids. And not so breakable.
I added a drop of dishwash liquid to the water to remove any chicken-bum grease, that might prevent the dye penetrating the shell.

The hard boiled eggs were left overnight in the dyes.
 So the children placed some little leaves in the cheesecloth in their hand and wrapped their egg in it and tied it up. Well, as I thought, that was a super tricky action, most 7 year olds these days can't tie a knot if their life depended on it... They are the velcro-generation, hahaha!
And if they did manage to totally knot up their egg, the cheesecloth was loose. For the resist method to work, the leaves need to lie tightly against the egg while dyeing.
Luckily there were 3 adults in the room.
We also wrote their initials on the egg with a white crayon.

Now they got to choose which dye pot their egg was going to soak overnight in, but I warned them that   their egg would be a different colour then what they could see...
Since I wasn't sure of the outcome I wasn't going to promise them a particular colour, and it was excitingly mysterious...

After cutting off the wraps and drying the eggs.
We were all happily surprised the next day. I cut off all the cotton wraps, and most of the resists had worked nicely. The red onion skin liquid had turned a deep orange brown, the purple red-cabbage-with-salt liquid had left a sky blue colour.
And the purple-pink dye made from the red-cabbage-with-vinegar went a more lavender hue, that could probably have done with another dash of white vinegar to go towards pink.
Science/ Art/ Culture experiment successfully completed!

Apr 25, 2014

Anzac Day Battles and a Fighter of a Different Kind.

 Today is Anzac Day. A national day off work, and our national day of remembering those that have fought or were affected in wars past and present. Starting with The Great War (that would end all wars...) 1914-1917.
This morning my man and I attended our first Dawn Service at the Cenotaph, walking down the hill before the birds woke, to join a large crowd of at least two thousand people, in silence. Watching our young soldiers marching with the old veterans with their medals glinting in the street lamps. Followed by a group of relatives, including young children, wearing their inherited medals from their fathers, grandfathers or uncles that served long ago, and some not so long ago. We listened to the prayers, national anthems (Australia as well) and speeches delivered by respected people of our community, including a girl and a boy from the local highschools. A triple gun salute, a bugle played the last salute, and a bagpipe a lament.
Then the 99th Dawn Parade dissolved, people laid flowers at the monument, and talked to each other. The sun was up above the sea. It was time to climb back up our hill, with the singing birds and have breakfast.

A friend of ours gave us a box of books from his mother whom passed away recently, knowing I like old books, to use in artwork or just for looking at. Amongst the books was an old postcard album, chock-full of mainly scenic cards from around the world, but the best thing for me were the messages on the back, and the old script in curly inked or pencilled letters.

 Most were dated between 1906-1918. Including some cards sent from Egypt written by soldier Cecil, to Alf in New Zealand.
- "17/11/1915, on active service,  Dear Alf,How do you like this kind of building. It is a great change to see some good work. I don't expect we shall be here long though, soon be at the front. Cecil." 

It arrived at its' destination in Jan.1916.

The other postcard from Egypt doesn't have postmarks or address, so it would have been included within a letter.

- "Dear Alf. This is to let you know I am still alive & kicking, we are just resting after our first fight, which happened on Christmas day and we are very tired, we had to march a long way, but we got over it alright, and I am glad to say we got the best of it. I am unable to tell you where we are, but we are in fighting line at last. Will write a letter later on. I have heard from home. Cecil."

Did Cecil make it back home in one piece? 

Our friend doesn't know who either fellow was. Just one of the 20% of new Zealand men that left New Zealand at that time, that made the months-long journey by ship to the other side to help Mother England.

 "Lest we forget..."

Cutting off some long curls from my friends' head.

Some well practiced hands giving a loving service.
My lovely friend N. is recovering from her first round of chemotherapy. And her hair is starting to fall out, everywhere. She asked us to do her a service; a number 4 haircut please.  We obliged, and much laughter accompanied this task. I had already spend the afternoon with her buying hats and oodles of scarves, and drinking coffee at the beach front.
We googled how to tie them attractively and above all feminine-like, not tied as if you were going to spring clean the house.
One should always retain one's decorum...
She looked just fine after the buzzcut. The same N. just shorter hair. As a matter of fact it also took some years off!
Nice bonus.