Friday 26 February 2010

heather ross spoonflowers *

I love Heather Ross's fabric designs, so unique, quirky and beautifully drawn. I really enjoy her blog too so I was really intrigued to read a while ago that she was going to be rereleasing some of her fabrics printed to order by Spoonflower.

You may remember I had some fabrics printed by Spoonflower last year. The service was still in Beta back then.

I find it very exciting that an industry professional like Heather is happy to release her designs in this format. I must go back and sample the service again, see how the quality of printing has improved in the last year.

Its going to be really interesting to see how the fabric is recieved. I know for myself that there are some discontinued designs of Heather's that I'd love to buy, the goldfish and firefly patterns being top of the list. Heather has started a new blog page to share info about this collaboration.

Another cool thing is you could print some of your own fabric and pick up some gnomes at the same time!

* I'm just stopping back in here to share this Flickr thread which raises the issue of unacceptable levels of fading in Spoonflower fabrics, specifically the Heather Ross printings. Stephen Fraser has replied with a comment about their disappointment in the results shown and has said that Spoonflower are going to look into this issue. I know we all want Spoonflower to succeed, such a fantastic concept. I truly hope they can resolve these issues successfully.

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend coming up! I'm looking forward to a quiet one with time to potter. But first, to all of you that came and read the first Show & Tell interview with Kristina, below, and to all the lovely peeps who left such lovely, encouraging and generous comments -
A BIG THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kristina and I were really delighted and touched by the response.

I can't wait for the next interview, which will come in March. I know you're going to love that one too. Thanks friends.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

show & tell - kristina sostarko

Welcome everyone to the first Australian Blogger feature! I'm so very happy today to introduce the first of my interviewees - the talented Kristina Sostarko of Inaluxe! I came across Kristina's work very recently and loved her designs. But I'll leave it to Kristina to tell us more about herself and show us some work. You'll love her mix of favourite artists and what her mother called her working style! Please make her very welcome!

Kristina Sostarko

Short description of your blog/style/work

My work would best be described as traditional painting or illustration. I use brushes and gouache mostly. I love that technology allows me to scan and reproduce my work, and turn them into prints, cards, posters, etc. I seem to have several styles, which used to bother me, as everyone tells you to find your 'one' style. Apparently as an illustrator you need a 'style' which I'm still trying to understand - with no real success.

Lately, I seem to remember a conversation I had with my painting teacher telling me how he and my graphics teacher said I would have a quandary on my hands as I showed an aptitude for both graphics and painting. I didn't really understand what they meant all those years ago, but I do now. I have now made a decision that it's OK to not have one style, and there is room for all my multiple (art) personalities.

1. Why blog? How did you start?

I started blogging about three years ago, and I can't for the life of me recall what exactly motivated me, but I think it would easily have been looking at other people's blogs, and thinking 'Wow, that looks like so much fun!'

Initially my blog was a way for me to share what I was doing with my Etsy shop customers, and people who were interested in my work, but pretty quickly I realised there is a whole amazing blog community out there. Now I love to look, read, chat, and have a laugh with other people. I also find (on a personal note) documenting my work does help me greatly in stepping away from it, or looking at it through a different light. If that makes sense. It really is an online journal of sorts. It helps me stay focused, and connected too - especially if I'm tired, and can't be bothered. I just think "No, get on with it, and keep things going..." It's a wonderful motivator. I love all the people out there in blogland too. They are what really makes it all worthwhile.

2. Family taught/Self-taught/Trained?

I have formal art training to thank for my manic approach and madness to creating. I really loved art school. It was like coming home, and that life before the age of sixteen was really meaningless. Maybe a little melodramatic there! Seriously, it provided me the opportunity to learn different techinques, and approaches very fast.

3. Workspace - studio or kitchen table?
I have a studio. It's lovely, but it's usually an absolute mess. I also use the dining room table, and the kitchen table. I have art work in the study too, next to the scanner. My mother came round recently and she said I'm like a chicken - scattering things all over the place. I don't think anyone has ever described me so perfectly before. Ha ha!

Ironically, I am very aesthetically motivated, and I do need order in my home, and I'm fussy about what lives here. Our home, and my studio are an eclectic mix of old and new, there isn't one look, or one decade, it's all over the shop, and sometimes I just look at it all, and I desperatley feel the need for a giant vacuum to come and suck it all out into the backyard so I can start again. Deep down I'm a minimalist. Approaching each corner as if it were a canvas, looking at every room through my invisible/built in viewfinder. I think the house, like my art work, and my studio will always be a 'work in progress' and that's OK.

4. Blog/Shop name, where does it come from?
My partner thought of it years ago. "ina" - are the last three letters from my name, and the "luxe" is from my love of The Cramps, and in this instance 'Lux Interior' (who sadly passed away more recently).

5. Favourite medium to work in?
At the moment I would say paint. Gouache mostly. Although I love oil more and more , and acrylic is fun, and highly practical. I love a good paper, and have found super smooth papers work best for scanning my art work, and there's nothing quite as satisfying as a stretched canvas. I am also really getting back into fabric, with a particular love of linen, and embroidery.
Another thing, I'm now addicted to Giclee prints. I get mine professionally printed in Melbourne, and I love the way they come out - so beautiful - the tactile aspect of the paper and colours is definitely addictive!

6. Ambitions/future directions/future projects/medium you'd like to try?
I really need to do some embroidery work soon. I'm already having fantasies about it - daily! In terms of other ambitions, I guess growing the inaluxe card and postcard range and moving into more wholesale is definately something I'm working on now. I'd love to have my cards, and some of my art work printed in letterpress, and am working on getting this happening in the next six months.

I sometimes think about textiles, but I'm trying to keep it simple and do at least one thing right, rather than ten things kind of maybe not quite right, or even horribly. :)

7. Are you neat and organised or, ahem, creatively messy?
Messy. But organised. I get very fixated in the moment, and I also get very excited. I am thankful we have floorboards, as I don't know the meaning of 'newspaper' or preparation when it comes to painting. Why prepare when you could actually just be doing?! that's my philosophy, and I stand by it!

8. Favourite handmade item you own?
I have so many. But I think one of my all time favourites is this vase I bought in an op-shop about 7 years ago. It makes me think of abstract expressionism - makes me think of the 1950's. I like the tactile, and textured aspect of it, the shape, how heavy it is, and the minimal black and cream. It's awesome, and I don't know who made it. If anyone sees this, and knows who made it, I'd love to know.

Favourite handmade items and Kibikibi, Kristina and partner's two year old Chihuahua x. "She's a goof-ball, and cracks us up constantly."

9. Favourite food/recipe?
I love fresh yummy things from the garden. Salads, organic fresh bread, and I love home made vegetarian lasagne. I make a pretty mean baked ricotta cheesecake with blueberries, and my partner makes this crazy Jamie Oliver foccacia bread with little cherry tomatoes, oilives, and feta cheese squished in before baking. It's heaven. All of that said - coffee is by far my favourite food. Made properly, it's very ooohhh ahhhh worthy.

10. Favourite colour?
At the moment it is shades of aqua, turquoise, and mint.

11. Star sign?

12. Favourite place, landscape (not necessarily Australian)?
The rural beach anywhere, and I just love Europe. I spent six months living there when I was 14, and I'll never forget it. It is where I sometimes think I'd like to move to, but what country, and where exactly, I don't know. Either Europe, or some lovely Australian rural beach property. Complete with huge old gumtrees.

13. Any tricks for juggling life/work/family with creative pursuits?
I haven't sorted this one out yet. It's tricky. I do find it easier if I stop going off into tangents and wanting to create 10 different new things at once. But it's easier said than done.

14. Favourite artists?
There are so many, literally hundreds, but going back from the early days - Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, Jasper Johns, Davida Allen, Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore, Grace Cossington Smith, Mark Rothko, Sean Scully, Joan Miro, Amedeo Modigliani, and I must say Frank Lloyd Wright hit the nail on the head with architecture.

15. Three words to describe you?
passionate, idealistic, manic

16. What do you like to do besides creating?
Interior design - moving furniture around, changing rooms, gardening, and growing organic vegetables and herbs. I love going to the beach, and getting away. But I only like quiet beaches - winter time is the best. Watching great films, sleeping in, trying new things, making plans, op-shopping, moving, changing, etc.

Sunday 21 February 2010

technical difficulties

This past week my laptop, microwave and sewing machine have all stopped working. Blah! I'm feeling a bit jinxed!

However, I am still hoping to post the first of my blogger features tomorrow!!

I'm hoping the series, to be called Show & Tell, will help celebrate some of our wonderful Australian art, craft and design bloggers. I've thought long and hard about the mix of questions which I'm hoping will show many sides of each talented artist. Luckily I managed to save my files to this desktop machine but it is so slow!! So please bear with me as I try to get it up.

I'd love you all to come back for that, to read all about my first brave interviewee. She's sharing lots of interesting thoughts and images (and a cute dog photo!) so come and help me celebrate and support some great online talent.

p.s. This favourite beautiful botanical illustration is by celebrated botanical artist Margaret Flockton who helped pioneer the field in Australia.

Thursday 18 February 2010

learn to sew - cushion cover

I have sewn with my RickRack fabric once before, I made my sister a RickRack headband in a mad rush before Christmas (very cute it was too, I'll show it here some day - just as soon as I draft the pattern to share).

Yesterday though I got to make something for home and I was delighted to see that my little fabric washes, irons and sews beautifully. The mix of cotton with the linen makes ironing a breeze, while the linen gives the fabric a beautiful crispness and drape that is missing from 100% cotton.

I used a tutorial that Lara had on her blog to make a cushion cover with a concealed zip for our new couch. Such a cinch to make and it looks so neat! Inside is an inexpensive feather insert from Ikea (Fjadrar), these come in a square format too and in foam, which is even cheaper.

So look out for cushion covers in the shop this year, though I need an overlocker/serger first. I'm not sure where to start with that. If anyone has any advice for me I'd love it, I want to start with a cheap second hand model but I don't know what to look for.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

party time

Most of the parties I go to end with lolly bags and cake but last weekend it was grown ups only. I went to a friend's 40th at The Victoria Room in Darlinghurst (below). What a fabulous space, its decorated a la English Raj with dim lighting, damask wallpaper, persian carpets and ceiling fans mixed with English tea cups, globes and oil paintings.

We met early and had high tea with a glass of sparkling rosé. The guys joined us later for champagne, bar food and laughs. It was late when Mr F and I finally tore ourselves away for the cab ride home.

This weekend we have another party on the other side of the city. The kids have sleepovers and we're staying in a hotel with a balcony looking out to sea (woo hoo!). I found this old favourite vintage dress at the back of my wardrobe and I'm thinking it might work for the dance floor on Saturday night!

Picture 51

Friday 12 February 2010

hugh grant's macaroni cheese

Around here this favourite recipe is known as Hugh Grant's macaroni cheese or simply Hugh Grant, as in "What will we have for dinner?", "What about Hugh Grant." This is because it comes from a very old magazine clipping describing Hugh's favourite dish at LA restaurant Mimosa.

From what I can see online Mimosa is sadly now closed. But it seems the recipe lives on, I'm obviously not the only one who loves this. There's a slightly different version on Epicurious. Though that said we've adapted it quite a bit over the years, and our version is quite different. Here's the original:

Hugh Grant's Macaroni Cheese (serves one)

1/4 cup elbow macaroni
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp chopped prosciutto
pinch ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (392 F)
In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups salted water to boil.
Add macaroni and cook till barely tender.
Drain well. In a medium bowl combine macaroni, milk, cream, parmesan, prosciutto, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Place mixture in a shallow baking dish. Top with Swiss cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned. Rest for 5 minutes. Serve.

As I said we've modified it over the years. For a start we obviously make lots more than one serve. Poor old Hugh was obviously eating on his own. Adjust it to how much pasta you usually eat, last time I made it I used about 3 cups of dry pasta. However hard I try though to make enough for leftovers the next day (for my lunch!) it never happens. And three cups made two dishes worth as it needs to be quite shallow to stay crunchy. About two inches deep max.

We often use sour cream for cooking, we like the slight tang and it keeps well in the fridge so we substitute that. I also like to add some colour and vitamin C to the recipe so I add a couple of handfuls of defrosted frozen peas and small pieces of roasted pumpkin. Just roll the small pumpkin chunks in olive oil and sea salt and bake them till soft and then mix them in.

Mr F doesn't like prosciutto (?!) so we usually use bacon. (And this year we are trying to buy all our meat free range and pasture fed - we're lucky to have a couple of butchers close by that sell this - but its hard not to grab a pack when you're at the supermarket, we'll see how we go.) We precook our bacon and if your kids aren't adverse to onion you could fry some well and add that.

I also mix quite a lot of the Swiss cheese through the mix. To me its the best part and I like it to be on every bite!

One last thing, if you haven't tried real nutmeg you are missing out. I love mine which Dad bought me years ago. And it lasts for ages. And I also love the little mini grater that goes with it!

Serve with green salad or something like this, grape tomatoes, green beans and avocado.

And that's it, my present to you kind readers :-) Have a happy weekend.

Thursday 11 February 2010

handmade nation

Handmade luminary Faythe Levine, artist, gallery owner, photographer and filmmaker whose documentary of the current crafting movement Handmade Nation has been so loved (and the book of which I got for my birthday) was one of the jurors in the recent Poppies voting.

Imagine my surprise and delight when she posted her short lists on her Handmade Nation blog recently, and Flower Press was on it in the Textiles section!

Read and explore Faythe's curated lists for her favourites in each category. I jumped up and down a lot after I read them, but its not obligatory ;-)

Tuesday 9 February 2010

a patch of sky

Such a good day today, the rain has stopped - blue sky at last, the house is clean and I had hours in a row to devote to Flower Press, for the first time in a long while. All of this made it the perfect time for an experiment I've been dreaming of since, oh, the last decade.

I love linen, and while I love it white and natural I also love the look of it dyed in simple colours. For a while now I've been thinking how beautiful my tea towels would look dyed, both plain and printed. Of how nice it would be to put colour in the fabric, not just in the print.

Today I broke out the dye that I bought before Christmas and muddled my way through the process, you'll recognise this colour I think, a lovely clear piece of sky to brighten the darkest day.

I only made a few of these towels to experiment and I've listed just one so far in the shop I've got more plans for these...

And it feels so nice to be exploring a new direction, suddenly my brain is going a million miles an hour and I'm finally feeling the potential of this new year and wondering which way it will take me and my little shop!

And on another tangent, big fat congratulations to all the fantastically talented Poppies winners, but especially to Ink & Spindle and Skinny Laminx for their win in the Favourite Handmade Textiles' public and jury selection categories respectively (Yay!). Both awards are really well deserved and I'm very proud to have come fourth(!) to these girls and Dotti Angel (whose blog I read too!) in the vote! Amazing company :-)

Thursday 4 February 2010

lucienne day (1917-2010)

I read today via Red Ruby Rose's beautiful blog about the passing of Lucienne Day the influential 20th century pattern designer. While you might not recognise the name I'm sure you would recognise her iconic designs.

(This piece from the Guardian gives a lovely insight into Lucienne and her achievements.)
Jonathan Glancy says of her:
"... most of Lucienne's designs held a wide appeal, and sold well – something that mattered very much to her and her husband [furniture designer Robin Day]. Both came from the "nothing is too good for ordinary people" tradition. The idea was that good, intelligent design should be part, parcel and fabric of everyday life."

A woman after my own heart! See below one of her tea towel designs ;-)

Happy weekend everyone, my little sister arrives tomorrow for a flying visit from her home in Vietnam, I haven't seen her for over a year so I can't wait! Coincidentally my English Uncle passes through Sydney at the same time so it will be fun.

See you next week (p.s. I've signed up a couple of really interesting, and lovely, guinea pigs to feature on my Aussie blogging segment, so its really going to happen... can't wait!)

Wednesday 3 February 2010

rose cuttings part two

Do you remember my rose cuttings? I took them back in December and posted a tutorial at the time on growing roses from cuttings. I'm afraid the poor things have done it hard since then. Overcrowded to start with then left to bake in the hot sun on my kitchen windowsill while I went on holidays for a month.

Before I left the few that browned off straight away were removed as soon as I noticed, fungal problems are common with rose cuttings and its good to weed them out before it spreads. Stems go brown at the top or bottom and this means the cuttings are goners (see cutting on the right of the pot, below). On the other hand its common for existing leaves to brown and drop off, make sure you remove these occasionally to keep things happy, but if the stem's still green leave it there.

When I got back from holidays I pulled out more dead stems and put this pot which I didn't hold much hope for, still in its plastic bag/greenhouse out in a shadier spot. And then I promptly forgot about it again.

Today when I remembered it again, I noticed a green leaf through the bag and when I took it off here is what I found. One dead stem but also one live cutting, healthy roots appearing from the bottom of the pot, new leaves appearing at three growth tips.

This time of year is great for cuttings, I noticed May's rose (above) is covered in flowers. If these had failed I still have another chance to try again this summer.

If you get this far be gentle on your cutting, don't pull it out of its sheltered world too quickly, keep the bag over it but slowly introduce more air, keep it in the shade.

This poor thing will be looked after from here on in. I'm feeling like a bad parent and I plan to overcompensate with lots of attention and love. Until I get distracted again!

Monday 1 February 2010

aussie bloggers feature

I love it when you look around a corner on the web and find a whole community of bloggers that you somehow haven't run into. And its even more exciting when they're local craft bloggers full of humour and inspiration, great photos, great ideas and cool crafting.

Just lately that seems to be happening to me a lot. Almost every week I've been adding great new blogs to my already groaning google reader roll.

Which got me to thinking it might be nice to have a regular feature on local bloggers on flower press. To learn more about these talented people, share some of their images and ideas. Of course I'd love to feature the whole world and all the fabulous international bloggers I love, but I thought an Aussie list would be an interesting perspective and make it a more manageable project!

As usual life is way beyond busy at present so it might take a little while to get off the ground. But I'm excited about it, the idea has been rolling around in my head for quite a while, and I couldn't wait any longer to share it!

I'd love input from everyone (not just australians) about questions I should ask, or people to feature (I already have a long list off the top of my head!) a name to call it or any other ideas. I'd love it if you left a comment or emailled me - (see my profile for my email address, I hesitate to put it here in case I'm offered even more Viagra!)

I'm not neccessarily looking for established bloggers or people with shops, I'm open to all suggestions. Exciting!

For something else exciting, have a look at Jesse's new Print Specs blog, where she's asking printmakers to share their secrets about tools and inks etc. It makes fascinating reading for new, experienced and aspiring printmakers. I'm going to write up my Gocco and fabric printing resources (such as they are!) soon. Come and join us.

Image from here.