Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Origami bag

I have had the good fortune recently to be invited to another part of the beautiful country I live in and spend the weekend with a couple of very good friends. They moved to their new old cottage a few years back and as it is a good 4 hour drive to visit them and my pregnancy with twins got in the way of my last planned visit I had not spend more than just a few hours with one of them in the last years. I decided to take one of my sons with me and I was very happy when he got along splendidly with my friends daughters.
We drove down on a Friday evening and on Saturday morning we went to a lovely market in a neighbouring town. There was plenty of organic good food, antique jewelry, semi precious gemstones and lots of other goodies to be bought there, my local towns do not usually sport such an interesting array of stalls (my local towns market has 2 stalls).
In one of the sralls a little carved wood figurine caught my eye, it was a small sculpture of two baby elephants. My youngest son is very big into elephants so naturally I spot them everywhere. And this one was particularly special since the sculpture has twin elephants and I happen to have twins as well. I bought it and when I went home I spotted 2 small holes underneath it in the base. I remembered a few months back a friend over on had shared something about a type of japanese carved button (?) and I spend about half an hour going through all the relevant threads this post might have been in, I think I finally found it in a post from March of this year. 
This type of "button" is called a "Netsuke", and back when Kimonos without pockets were a common garment in Japan the Netsuke was tucked behind the belt to secure a small box called an Inró. Both the Netsuke and the Inró could be carved and decorated in the most elaborate and skillfull ways.ō

Now, I am not claiming to own an antique or very valuable Netsuke, but to me it holds a special value because I had heard of them on my online trading site, admiring the craftsmanship then, and then to discover by coincidence that mine has clearly found me.
I had to make something with it, and what better thing to make than something to put it to its intended use? An Inró would be way out of my league, but a small drawstring bag? I had seen tutorials for origami drawstring bags on Pinterest in the past and here is the tutorial I ended up following.

It is in russian but the pictures are an excellent guide.

These are the two contrasting fabrics I chose to use. I cut them to 10" square size.

I then marked my seam allowance on the reverse of the lighter fabric and pinned all around. For some reason I already forgot I decided to be lazy and not take out my sewing machine for this but to sew it by hand. Now I wonder how this decision ever made sense, but hey...

I will spare you all the different steps in between, if you checked out the tutorial you have seen them. So instead here is the finished little drawstring bag, with decorative buttons and the little Netsuke on the left.

Side view...

And this is what it looks like when it is opened. I am not sure yet when and how to use it but it was a bery satisfying process making it anyway ;-)

Friday, 12 May 2017

Random dyed paper

The country I live in (Ireland) is known for a few things: St. Patricks day, Guinness, celtic designs and... steady weather throughout the year. And with steady weather I mean rain. Rain in all its wonderful shapes and forms: drizzling, pouring, lashing and even the kind that looks like less than a harmless drizzle and has you soaked to the skin in 2 minutes.
In the last two to three weeks however we were very lucky because the weather was beautiful, sunshine and a slight not too cold breeze made a welcome change to the usual damp conditions. 

I decided to use the opportunity to create a new stash of pre-dyed paper to use later for arting and drawing on. I came to appreciate the random effect of the dye to create a background for the drawn design.

To dye your paper for later drawing you really want your dye to be waterproof; I tend to work a lot with Inktense pencils and watercolour and I would not want the background colour to reactivate and interfere with my intended later drawing. So I started doing a lot of research until I came across a number of artists on that use fabric dye for exactly this purpose. Some use Jaquard dyes, I have Dylon dyes readily available in the stores around where I live.
The following picture shows the basic supplies I use for pre-dyeing my watercolour paper: warm water, dyes, paper, pipettes and - yes - coffee!

I like to vary the colours I use each time, this time I used Sunflower Yellow, Bahama Blue, Blush Pink and Goldfish Orange. The blue and yellow are suitable to make a lovely vibrant green together.

On the ground I spread an opened rubbish bag to sprinkle my dyes onto and dye my paper.

I do an initial layer of dyes, and I tend to to this layer with tone in tone colours like yellow and orange in the next picture. Then I let that dry completely!

After the first layer is dry I go at it again and this time I can use contrasting colour as well, like the lovely green shows. If I was to add the green onto a wet layer of orange I would get a murky brown colour.

Sometimes I want the two colours to mix, like the yellow and blue, and create a paper with a green hue to it, I can then go back later maybe with an orange or another colour.

Here you can see a little murkyness happening with the orange and pink and blue, I admit I did not wait long enough to add the paints. Right now the Dandelions are in full swing spreading their seeds and a few landed on my wet papers. I left them on and hoped for a nice effect like you would get from salt on wet watercolours. The effect is too subtle to be noticed, and maybe I would have had to dump a tonne of seeds onto my papers to really make a difference.

Now I have a good supply of pre-dyed watercolour papers and I hope they will last me for a few months. Who knows, maybe if you are trading on you might be a future recipient of drawings made on these?

Thursday, 27 April 2017

My new Mehndi supplies box

I am doing a lot of Mehndi inspired art for a few months now, trying to learn more designs and patterns, coming up with my own, too. The one thing that annoys me is that I still have all my Henna related supplies in a paper bag on (sometimes under) my art table. In this baggie I have my mylar foil to make the cones, a supply of sellotape, spare stockings for filtering the powder and de-clumping the henna paste, just simple, basic Henna sundries. 
So I decided to take another one of my blank wooden boxes and art it up to hold my supplies, of course when I get to do Mehndi in public it will also come with me. 

I started out by painting it all black with acrylic paint, and after it dried I took a chalk fabric marker to sketch out my designs I wanted on the different sides.

I then used some metallic rusty colour to mehndi up my box.

All the sides have a different floral design on it because I really enjoy painting different kinds of petals, but they are all kept simple to allow for further embellishment with...


The light blue glitter in the flower and the paisleys was white in the little pack. Depending on how you hold the lid it now shimmers blue or green...

The best part about this is that I have sooo much glitter in my stash, sooo many different types of craft glue, and making your own glitter glue is sooo easy! I love easy! 

Making your own glitter glue also means you have greater flexibility, you can choose from more colours, how fine you want the glitter to be, and even how you want to apply it. I used an old paint brush but I have also used a mylar cone filled with glitter glue for previous projects.

The picture above shows one of the short sides of my box, the two holes are for a carrier rope. I have replaced the rope in the holes since I took the pictures.

So this is my new Henna supplies box, after the last bit of glitter glue had dried I gave it a couple of coats of thinned waterbased varnish to protect the wood.
Inside I store some small bowls set aside specifically for mixing Henna paste, some small spoons used only for Henna, my stash of mylar/wrapping foil for my cones, sellotape, scissors and it also fits a small notebook for my designs.

Confetti Quilt Scene

I had the great pleasure last November to participate in a class held by an extremely talented and innovative quilter by the name of Ethelda Ellis. You can check out her blog here

She was giving this class for my monthly patchwork group and she was teaching us a technique she calls confetti quilts. This is a great technique as it utilises the tiniest pieces of leftover and scrap fabric you might find in your sewing room and under your sewing table. 
Ethelda was so kind as to provide us with enlarged copies of photographs she took of forest scenes and trees, we each picked a picture and went to work to create a little quilt, approximately 8" x 11" in size, depicting what we saw in the picture.

Here is the picture I chose, I was drawn to the autumn colours.

She then taught us how to break up the big picture into small colour sections and we gradually built up the fabric and fibre layers to show the scene (or individual tree) we each had chosen. Everything was then covered with netting and quilted roughly with invisible thread to hold the layers together, but for me the great fun started with the real quilting, with coloured thread. I made leaf shapes in various autumn colours, chose a different quilting pattern for the sky and the underbrush. The only thing I did not get finished that day was shading the trees and binding the piece. I finally got a chance to do this during my patchwork groups last patchwork meeting and I am very pleased with how it turned out. I might still appliqué some single leaf shapes onto the border in a corner, to be honest, I haven't yet made up my mind. What do you think?

Here is a close-up of some of the quilting and shading. You might be able to see how small the fabric pieces are.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Henna on wood

Todays post is about an art fail. I still love the end result but I made several mistakes along the way, little things I knew better at the time and ignored my own cautionary council.
Recently I made a hennaed wood box. And I loved how it turned out in the end, the thing that bugs me is that it could have gone better. When you henna wood (or anything for that matter) the key is patience, henna takes some time to work and stain properly as well as heat, a little acid and sugar. The acid (eg lemon juice) releases the lawsone, that's what stains your skin. The heat makes the stain stronger, the sugar prevents the paste from drying too quickly and flaking off prematurely before a good stain is achieved. 
So far the basics, I have a lot of pics in this post and we will get to the rest as we go along. First up is the beautiful box without anything on it. This was a wine box at some stage, now it houses different treasures.

In the next few pictures you can see the henna design on the box, I had to leave the sides to dry in between so I would not smear the design as I worked along.

The following photo shows the front and bottom, the front was dried when I signed the bottom and you can see the henna on the edge flaking off a bit. Here is one of my mistakes, I had done henna on wood before and I had added sugar and had then trouble taking the henna off the wood without scratching the stained surface off. So I left the sugar out, resulting in paste cracking and flaking off as it dried. I also have to admit I was a bit of a miser here, I used some very cheap henna I had from a few years ago and had not stored properly. You have to store the powder in an airtight container in the freezer, else it looses its staining power...

Now you get to see the box after all the paste was taken off, the stain is usually quite light after paste removal and has to oxidise a little to mature to a darker shade.

However, below you can see that the henna stained the wood differently all over, depending on how and where the grain was positioned. I don't know enough about wood grain directions and its influences on stain absorbancy to make an educated guess about what happened here. In part I made the paste maybe a little too wet and so the moisture started "bleeding" into the surrounding areas, leaving the design fuzzy and with very little contrast, and in another part the wood grain messed it up, too. On the bottom of the next pic you can see how the stain is "supposed" to turn out, nice and sharp, a lovely shade of reddy brown.

Well, once you start the henna process you are commited to it, and as we are dealing with organic materials here there will always be unexpected aspects to the outcome. I left the box to mature for a few weeks, the stains took on a nicely browny shade instead of the initial fresh green they were before.

And then I sealed it inside and out with several layers of clear satin waterbased varnish. I usually thin my varnish with water for workability and so it takes more than just one coat to achieve a proper seal. The box looks slightly yellow in the next few photographs, it is not. But you can compare the outlines to the first few pictures with the paste on and you can see what I mean by fuzzy outlines, especially on the sideview. The outlines should be sharp and crisp.

I have stained wood with henna before and I will see if I can do another post for you, showing you what the outcome usually is. All in all I really like my little box, I like the design and even the "mistakes", it is a pretty reminder to not take shortcuts with this sort of thing... and maybe research woodgrain information for the future. Until then I might give wooden items a coat of acrylic paint and do the meh di design with acrylic paints also, that makes for quicker drying times, too. And greater colour variety... maybe even glitter?

Would you like to see the treasures I have in my box now?

Monday, 20 March 2017

Girl Series

This post has been a long time coming. Most of the following drawings have been completed or started in July of last year and I only now got to finish them. They remained unfinished for so long in part due to time restraints; there is always a lot to do but only one of me. And also partly I dreaded coming back to them because this series came to be during a very difficult phase in my life. 
The last year was emotionally and mentally quite tough for me, it took me a while to get out of the swamp of negativity I found my self in.
I was so glad to find that I was able to translate a few of the issues into my art, actually giving my other half a good scare in the process. All he knew of my art so far was that it was... nice and... pretty and -well- harmless. Then I learned how to draw whimsical human faces; the endless possibilities that lay ahead now...
The first girl kind of started the whole series, I made her using only Caran D'ache Neocolor watersoluble crayons simply because I had just bought them new and wanted to try them. About two days after drawing her I got a very bad tonsilitis, when I went to see the doctor about it I had to write everything down because I could not talk at all.

I really love this girl, she is so creepy and scary and so tormented.

The next girl you might already be familiar with if you hang out on, I am using her as my avatar there. She is very different to the Shroom Girl because she is pretty more so than creepy. She very beautifully illustrates what my mind felt like over the summer of last year. A boiling and fiery mess about to overflow and explode.
To make her I used Inktense Pencils, acrylic paint, iridescent medium and glitter glue.

This next girl I tend to call Golem Girl, but that is not what or who she is, she does not need a scroll with secret writing placed in her mouth to tell her what to do. She ties in very closely with the first two girls, dealing with the need but inability to communicate what is going on inside of her. She -to me- personifies the martyr aspect of the Queen of Swords in the Tarot: a very brave and passionate person that just deals with whatever is thrown at her and happening around her without whining about it. This can be driven into the extreme as seen here in her martyr aspect.
Again I used Inktense Pencils, acrylic paint, iridescent medium and (this time home made) glitter glue. The glitter really emphasizes her crackling clay surface, revealing the heat within.

And so far the last girl in this series, the Gooey Thoughts Girl. My guess is we have all had the feeling of trying to think in quicksand at some point in our lives. Sluggish reasoning, not getting any decent thinking done, not being able to focus... thinking in quicksand. While at the same time looking at a diseased, pestilent world and not even being close to having any solutions for our own problems, let alone societies. Seeing things around you turn to sh** and being aware that you are watching "history" unfold... You know, "history", the stuff you heard about in school, the stuff you thought modern society had learnt from and risen above...

These last two girls are the ones that still needed finishing, and they have been waiting very patiently. I am glad and proud I made them, I find them all beautiful in their intensity and also in what they represent for me. 
Hopefully you aren't overly shocked about them, they are in each and every one of us to some extend or another, they are extremes that need to be faced. Facing them makes us stronger.

There will be more of them.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Coconut Shrine

This post is just going to be a really short one. A while back I was attending the preliminary festivities for an indian-irish wedding, it was my husband that attended the wedding itself. The couple gave out wedding favours in small golden fabric bags and I was very fortunate that he was so considerate as to bring one of these baggies home with him. He had seen some chocolates inside, what he had missed was the brass Ganesha figurine that was tucked away in the bag under the chocolates.
For a while Ganesha found a new home on top of our computer/tv screen, in a prime spot overlooking our daily family life. Unfortunately he lost his neat home when we had to get a new screen and the new flat screen is so flat, Ganesha can't perch on top anymore. He needed a new home, and what better way to give the patron of new endeavours, new life and the arts (!) than to art him one.
I used half a coconut.

I started by painting the shell all in black acrylics, then I filled a mylar cone with some copper acrylic paint and did a leaf garland around the rim inside a d also on the outside. Behind himself I painted an Om symbol because Om is the sound associated with him. When we hung his shrine coconut it kept twisting sideways, facing away from the room, so to stabilise it we twisted an LED christmas light around the rope and into the shell, backlighting the little figurine as you can see in the next picture.

And this is how Ganesha found his new and hopefully permanent home, overlooking our daily family life again. 
With this small project I found I quite enjoy making a little shrine, I also liked to use the coconut shape and paint the interior to reflect the purpose of it. I might be making more of these, I have a few more coconut half shells ;-)

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Birthday gift for my wonderful husband...

I usually start my blog entry with a short introduction to the theme I am writing about. This time is a little different. I decided to start my entry with this beautiful picture my husband took of the quilt I made for his birthday. Ok, I admit his birthday was a couple of months back, but in my defense I am a busy woman and I am only about 2 months late finishing the quilt, so I am not doing overly bad. I started working on it about this time last year, and I could have finished it a lot quicker had I not wanted it to be a surprise, so I had to work in secret, only one evening a week when I was out at a patchwork group meeting. I know, I am sooo romantic ;-)

Next up is a close up of the tree trunk details and some of the snowflakes, too. The picture really doesn't show up the detail all too well but the light situation in the room is a bit on the shady side. 
The quilt background, the snow flakes and the tree labyrinth are made from raw silk, the tree trunk and the moon are made from a collection of different coloured cotton batiks and prints. I made the trunk by drawing a rough guide on some paper, so I would know where the labyrinth starts and how I wanted the trunk to be shaped. I then chose my fabrics and roughly cut out random strips, only taking care about the shape when it came to cutting out the branches. I then pinned all these bits onto the background and under the labyrinth/tree crown and proceeded to appliqué them with an ordinary running stitch with my sewing machine.

For the snowflakes I used cream and white raw silk. You can't see it on the pictures, but I used the cream for the snowflakes that fall further away behind the tree and the white for the flakes in the foreground in front of the tree. I wanted them to have a dimensional quality so I only appliquéd them on with a circular seam, leaving the edges rough and slightly raised, this goes through all the layers of the quilt and was done with a gold metallic thread.

I used a batik cotton fabric for the moon. The fabric has a design that was already sporting a "crater like" pattern. A friend from my patchwork group "The Schoolhouse Quilters" was so good as to let me use some of her metallic iron on effect foil to give the moon some extra bling, and also making the whole piece a mixed media piece really...

I wanted to bring out the craters a bit more and quilted star shaped lines going out from the crater centres as shown in the next picture. If you look closely you can see the gold thread I chose to quilt the moon and the snow flakes. 

In retrospect I find it fascinating how this quilt came into being. It really started that I thought I wanted to make my husband a nice, easy and quick quilt. Maybe only using two colours, appliquéing the labyrinth onto the burgundy silk background. As soon as  I had the continueous lines pinned I thought it looked like the crown of a tree. But how to make a halfway realistic trunk? So another evening was spent just layering and pinning the tree trunk onto paper, and another repinning it onto the burgundy background. Yet still something was missing. I was thinking I might add leaves and a friend (the same that gave me the metallic foil to use) suggested making it a tree in winter; I take it she wanted to make it easier for me. 

This whole piece kept growing over the months and I can say I am very happy with how it turned out. I hope himself likes it, too :-)

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

A special award for a special friend

I have been making a lot of Henna art lately, and I really do mean... a lot! So this post and possibly the next post will be dedicated to art with Henna or just Henna inspired art. 
todays post is about a project I started (and finished) for a friend of mine in Canada. We have been trading here and there for a while now over on, and also we have been giving each other a lot of encouragement over the last year so I decided to make her a little birthday present. That said I should mention that her birthday was in December, but hey, these things take a while, and as long as I get stuff done eventually all is good in my book. 

So for my friends project I needed a container or a box to ship it in, and as I was basically plastering Henna all over the place I decided to go for Henna inspired art with acrylic paints. In the first picture you can see all the stuff needed for some acrylic Henna art, the (still plain) barrel box I was planning to use for my project.

I will mercifully spare you the gory details of toiling over this barrel, paint cone in hand, quietly swearing under my breath with every stroke that is not 100% "perfect"...
Instead I give you a nice all around view of the finished vessel, I used a dark violet acrylic for the main colour and a copper acrylic in the paint cone for the mehndi art.

Of course this lovely barrel also has a lid...

After all the acrylic paints had dried I used a waterbased clear satin varnish to seal everything. The varnish tends to raise the unpainted woodgrain a little bit but I could not really sand it back to smooth, I was afraid I might damage the black rims around the painted details. Instead I opted for several varnish coats to make up for it.

And inside was the proper surprise and (very) late birthday gift, my friends very own little award, a tiny polymer clay dragon cradling a needle felted oak seedling and acorn, who knows, maybe the beginning a mighty tree of life? 

And even if it was just an ordinary oak, how could anybody resist this cute little dragon?