Monday 30 June 2008

whale and etsy problems!

I finally saw my first whale, off Wanda Beach at Cronulla on Saturday.
Somehow, I've managed to miss them all these years though it seems they form a traffic jam along the East coast these days, cruising up and back at different times of the year.
Just a reminder of what an amazing city Sydney is.

Oh and just a note, I am locked out of Etsy because they are moving their server or somesuch, I don't think I'm alone in this and I'm hoping that it will be resolved soon - I'm having withdrawals already!

Friday 27 June 2008


I've recently become a fully fledged member of Printsy, an Etsy team dedicated to printmaking and printmakers. There are some amaaaaazing people in the group and I am very proud to be counted amongst its members.
Printsy has a blog featuring great interviews with Prinsty members and a Flickr group showing some of the wonderful work being made by Prinsters. They discuss technique and inspiration and show their work and method. Printsy members have also been making some wonderful Etsy Treasuries of Printsy art. I happily happened across this new one made by urbanbird tonight. A lovely surprise to see my Ruby Slippers in such fantastic company.
Here is another great Printsy treasury, this one made the front page. I love the colours and it shows the great depth of talent in this group.

Wednesday 25 June 2008

wrap with love

I'm not a great knitter but last year I got all enthused and knitted three hats and four scarves! Quite an achievement for me. I really got addicted to the meditative routine of knitting.
This winter I haven't really got the bug yet but with lots of wool and needles from last year's enthusiasm I thought I'd turn my hand to a project I've been hearing about for a few years, called Wrap With Love. This is an Australian initiative as far as I know, I'm sure other similar schemes exist in other countries. People volunteer knitted squares which are sewn together to make blankets for people in need.

As it says on the Wrap With Love site - "There are millions of people in the world suffering extreme cold. In 1982 Wrap with Love began with the idea to help as many people as possible by providing warm Wraps to ward off hypothermia."
From 1992 when it started to last year, 2007 they have distributed 157046 wraps!
The deadline this year is August 1 when volunteers collect and sew together all the squares. If you want to make your own squares, here is the page which shows instructions.
I am aiming to make at least four, a drop in the bucket, but with enough drops it all adds up. Next year I will start earlier.

Monday 23 June 2008


I ordered these labels quite a while ago and just found out today that they have been sitting at the post office for over two weeks because the postman didn't leave a card. Oh well, at least they are here now and not lost, and I do love them. Very grown up! I wish they had arrived a tiny bit earlier so I could have sewn them on the tea towels my friend bought on the weekend to give as presents. Next time!
Anyway, I am so pleased now that they are here, now I just have to decide how to sew them to the tea towels when they come back from the printer. I can't wait to list them in the shop.
The labels are from Fancyweaver in Hong Kong who were by far the most reasonably priced supplier I could find. And they are just lovely to deal with.

Saturday 21 June 2008

vintage block print wallpaper

One of my favourite tv shows is 'Grand Designs' an English program which follows couples as they build their dream home. Thursday night's episode was an old one which followed a couple as the renovated the most amazing Georgian house in the centre of London. In one part of the show they visited a shop where they sold block printed wallpaper designs from the period. I fell in love with the design they chose 'Regency Tile'. Alas I can't seem to find a picture of it online. It was a really simple pattern which nevertheless was printed with a number of blocks and a batch of rolls would take someone three weeks to print. And the price reflected that!
Wandering online I found this beautiful site Adelphi Paper Hangings which has similarly exquisite reproduction wallpapers, in the most fantastic colours and designs. Here are some pics
of some that caught my eye.

Wonderful that these dramatic wallpapers are back in vogue. Of course Australia was home to one of the most amazing wallpaper designers Florence Broadhurst whos designs are having a renaissance at the moment (her designs below).

Tuesday 17 June 2008

block printing

As I mentioned below I've signed up for Jesse's Swatch Swap. This inspired me to get out the lino the other day and transfer a pattern I've been thinking about for a while. The design I had in mind was quite detailed though and I struggled to cut the lino. I'm out of practice.
I still have some softcut left from my experiments in stamping so I swapped to that. By using a knife to outline the areas and then gouging areas between lines I got much better results. Can I say though I am still amazed at the results some people can get and I am going to practice and work more slowly next time.
This afternoon, despite having a million more pressing (boring) things to do I pulled out some material I had left over from screenprinting. This was already washed and I quickly ironed it to get a good surface. I have a large container of red screenprinting inks and following a hint, which I think I saw on Jezzeblog a sponge roller I bought at the hardware a while ago.
I've tried using a hard roller but I find the fabric ink is much thinnner than block printing ink and just rolls into the cracks, giving a patchy result.
The sponge roller is a great idea and gives a much denser cover.

Cutting the blocks from the background gave me a nice clean background and meant I wasn't limited in my layout. It was a bit fiddly though. I laid it out by eye but I'd be interested in learning better methods for lining up designs. It would also be good to have a group of softcut shapes arranged on a wooden block so larger areas can be covered quickly and with even pressure, and I'd love to have a go at two or more colours.
I am a visual person and someone who needs to try things to be able to understand what results I can get so it was great to experiment. As she mentioned on her blog today, I emailled Jesse the other day to suggest a Flickr group for her Swap. I thought it would be great to share information about successes, failures, materials, process etc. I really hope that other people will share their printing and we can all learn from each other.

Monday 16 June 2008

pink and black treasury

My pink and black camellia cards made the front page of Etsy the other day in a dramatic pink and black treasury (aren't I lucky!). They are on sale at the moment as part of the Yart Sale mixnmatch cards or can be bought as a three card set. I'm a big fan of Cubist Literature (t-shirt bottom left) if you haven't seen his Etsy site it's worth a look, and I need a pair of those black mary janes bottom right!

Friday 13 June 2008

swatch makers

I was surprised when I looked that I haven't mentioned Jesse Breytenbach, her inspiring Jezzeblog and her Etsy shops Jezze and Jezzeprints before. She has appeared on these pages though, in my treasury that recently made the front page of Etsy.
Her blog is one I really enjoy reading. Along with friend 'Skinny Laminx' her work covers a range of materials and disciplines. She is one of those multi-talented people that manages to make beautiful things in a variety of media.
The other day she blogged about her idea to do a Swatch Swap, swapping 20cm square hand printed fabric with other people, around the world, which she's going to use to make a quilt. I've signed up, along with a roll call of talented and enthusiastic artists and crafters, some who say they haven't printed fabric before. What great inspiration and motivation, and at that size you can afford to experiment. So if you want to do some fabric printing and join in to swap for some of Jesse's beautiful block printed fabrics, sign up! I can't wait to get a swatch of this in my mailbox (photos above and below).

I'm trying to do and learn as much as I can about fabric design at the moment so I was also delighted to see that Jessica (from another of my must read blogs How About Orange) has posted about the way she came to be a fabric designer and some of her method (pic below). Lots of great information and her link to an Illustrator tutorial builds on the simple handmade repeat ideas from Julia Rothman that I posted earlier.

Jessica also mentions Spoonflower, which I first heard of on Poppytalk. This new company prints custom fabric designs from small swatch sizes up. At the moment it is in Beta and you have to wait for an invitation before you can use the service. I put my name on the waiting list about three seconds after I heard about it. What a great way to trial designs or get small print runs. I will be interested to see prices and shipping costs. I do know they will send internationally which is great news.

Anyway, lots of resources and inspiration for those of us aspiring to make some cloth!! If anyone knows of more good fabric design/make resources I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday 11 June 2008

yart sale

I've joined the Yart Sale on Etsy. Yay!
Quite a few Etsy sellers have joined together to offer discounted items for the week June 11-20. I've made a new listing offering some of my cards for $2.50 each and I'm not charging additional postage for the time of the sale. Also if you buy four cards I'll throw in the fifth one free. CRazy BaRgains :-) In my shop now.

Tuesday 10 June 2008

flower rescue

When she's in town my sister in law and a friend often go out in early morning to the Flemington flower markets. She especially likes to rescue those bunches which aren't quite perfect, the ones destined for the dump bin. Sort of like a flower rescue service. This morning I sorted through the armful of bunches she gave me, trimming leaves and damaged blooms and choosing vases.

As you can see they are still very beautiful and often only a couple of buds are damaged. The other thing I love about it is it helps me to justify my large vase collection.
I've had this old shell vase for many years. I love the shape and the beautiful pastel colours. I remember years ago when the op shops were full of wonderful finds like this. These days if you can find them they are usually much more expensive to buy.
These crysanthemums are the perfect colour match.

Sunday 8 June 2008

fiona hall

Last Sunday we all headed in to the MCA, Museum of Contemporary Art here in Sydney, on the harbour at Circular Quay, right next to the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
It was the last day of a Fiona Hall retrospective 'Force Field'. This contemporary Australian artist makes the most detailed and amazing work. One of my favourite series is Paradisus Terrestrus, the sardine tin above. The skull above that is fashioned from beaded wire and the series below are leaves intricately painted on to different banknotes.

Saturday 7 June 2008

threadless submission

I've had this t-shirt design for a while and the other day I submitted it to Threadless. This morning I found out they'd included it.
Threadless is an amazing site where people submit designs for tshirts and the most popular ones get printed. I think I need a few fives to make it through though the competition is pretty stiff!
Oh and they have their big sale on now!

Friday 6 June 2008

winter arrives

Last year a friend of mine gave me a beautiful gourmet jar of beetroot chutney after I babysat her dog. It was so nice, perfect with cheese. And we love chutneys and pickles around here. I've made batches of our favourite chilli plum sauce a few times. So I've been wanting to try making a beetroot chutney of my own since then. The beetroot in the shops is so beautiful at the moment, we've had it a few times roasted in the oven with garlic and olive oil.

Then the other day I heard a woman called Sally Wise on the radio. She has a new book about bottling vegetables and gave a simple marmalade recipe which I wrote down. I was prompted to look online for a beetroot chutney recipe and coincidentally found one from the same Sally Wise.

Yesterday after collecting all the ingredients I made both, chutney and marmalade, one after the other (not too exhausting). At my clever mil's suggestion (she's the queen of chutneys and jams) I changed the marmalade recipe slightly swapping some of the orange for a grapefruit, a blood grapefruit in the end because that's what was at the greengrocer. I like a slightly sour taste in marmalade and with this and the lemon it came out with just the right amount of tartness.

There is something very satisfying about producing jars of preserves and lining them up on the shelf. I think it might be addictive! My dad makes jams and chutneys, and my uncle just won first prize in a show for his mango chutney :-) Me, I'm thinking of Onion Marmalade next.

Both the marmalade and the chutney are beautiful in their jars. The marmalade has a slightly orange fleck and while I did fish out quite a lot of rind, including the grapefruit which went a beautiful red colour but seemed quite chewy, I left some for the beautiful look of it. The beetroot is the most fantastic magenta purple (as was a lot of my kitchen at various points in the process, and a lot of my tea towels!)

I have recently discovered the world of food blogs, one especially has become a must see - Smitten Kitchen. The photography on this blog is so beautiful. I need to stop adding blogs to my bloglines reading list but this one will be staying. And I will be cooking some more this winter.

Tuesday 3 June 2008

of droughts and flooding rains

After another long dry period we've had some welcome rain this week. Yesterday the drops caught my eye.

Monday 2 June 2008

microwave paint

Recently I came across this fantastic recipe for microwave paint while looking for craft/art ideas to make with my sons' class. I found this wonderful, simple idea on the One Crafty Mumma blog, which has some fabulous kid's craft ideas and great pictures. The recipe is very simple, take equal parts of self raising/all purpose flour and salt (start with one tablespoon). Add water to form a paste and a few drops of food colouring.
When you paint it needs to be 'blobby', the thicker it is the higher it will rise. Use a thick card too so it doesn't warp when you put the wet dough on it. We used cotton buds to paint with.
When its finished put the picture in the microwave for 30 secs (maybe a bit more if the paint is thick). The painted areas rise up. The whole class loved this activity, especially the excitement of watching their pictures transform. We put their cards together to make a large design - looks great. Next week: pet rocks!