Monday, 30 May 2011

Owlish fun with Artist Trading Cards

My latest ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) are for an owl themed swap over at Willowing. It is a two-for-two swap with an assigned swap partner.

I have had a life long love for owls which probably started with the Czech / German children's cult film "Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel" (Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella).

In the movie the friendly barn owl "Rosalie" looks after Cinderella's treasures in the attic. In Cinderella's jewellery box are among other things a little cluster of three (magical) hazelnuts which each grant a wish when thrown on the floor, and turn into a hunting outfit, a ball gown and a wedding dress respectively.

It is a sweet movie with imaginative costumes, a wonderful cast and a lovely soundtrack. Even though the movie was made in 1973 it has a timeless appeal and a huge fan base. It still shows each winter on the German speaking channels on TV in Europe. Generations have grown up with it and still make time to watch it again and again, like a ritual that will get you into a winter and festive mood.

Here's a video clip that will give you a glimpse of the film and the theme music, it is without words so you are not missing the story and you get a glimpse of Rosalie, the owl.


I am really bad at learning things by heart but for this movie I could have been employed as a prompter as I know the lines by heart and can speak along with the actors throughout the film. And yet I still watch it at least once a year, now in Australia and from a video cassette.

But I digress... back to the owl cards: I needle felted one owl and glued it on to a leather background and attached tiny sea green pompom trim around it.

I wanted to keep with the theme for the second card and decided to stick to the same colour theme. For the second owl I cut out tiny feather shapes out of the leather and glued them into an owl shape. For the beak and ears I used sections of leather with a stitched seam. I used an offcut of purple Chinese brocade and painted a branch with cherry blossoms onto the background fabric for the owl to stand on. The eyes are made of coiled yarn with a sequin and seed bead glued on top.

Owl ATCs 
I hope my swap partner in the US will be happy with my creations.

And now I shall leave you with this riddle from the movie:

"Die Wangen sind mit Asche beschmutzt, aber der Schornsteinfeger ist es nicht.

Ein Hütchen mit Federn, die Armbrust über der Schulter, aber ein Jäger ist es nicht.

Zum Dritten: Ein silbergewirktes Kleid mit Schleppe zum Ball, aber eine Prinzessin ist nicht mein holder Herr."

Which translates to:

"The cheeks are stained with ashes, but the chimney sweep it is not.

A hat with feathers, the crossbow over the shoulder, but a hunter it is not.

Thirdly: a silver knit dress with a train to the ball, but a princess it is not my gracious Lord."

Who is it?

Monday, 23 May 2011

Art journaling in the "Surreal" journal

I am coordinating an art journal round robin over at Milliande: thirteen women from around the world work in thirteen journals with thirteen different themes.
Today I am working in Gabby's journal from England. Gabby has chosen the theme "Surreal" for her journal. I must confess at first this was one of the more difficult topics for me. So I started out by looking up the definition of surreal: unexpected juxtapositions. bizarre.

And just like that comes my inspiration for this journal: the Winged Horse of Le Pont, Switzerland, it is one of the most surreal things I have seen and one that has left a lasting impression on me.

So imagine then this lovely Swiss landscape if you will: in the foreground a small lake only barely 10km long and a background of gently rolling wooded hills dotted with old houses that, rather than impose on the landscape blend in. 

Now imagine a 14 meter high concrete Pegasus statue placed in this lake. There are no soft rounded lines in this sculpture, no, it is made of sharp angled raw concrete form work. There is not an extraneous line on this winged equine, the whole animal has been pared back to its essential lines and planes to give it its shape. Its only organic concession are the lichen that grow on its base. 

Cheval ailé (photo courtesy of  Cédric Dutoit used with permission)
The statue was a gift from the Forces de Joux (the local energy company), the Pegasus symbolises water sources. This seems an instant where the gifting company becomes more important than the artist who actually created it, but after much research I find the name of the artist: André Lasserre. The official title of the artwork is Cheval ailé (Winged Horse), which he created it in 1959.

I first glimpsed this winged abstraction at the tender age of nine or ten on a family holiday in Le Pont. It seemed eerie to me and a little scary. And I must confess I did not particularly like it. Nevertheless it made a deep impression on me and even years later this winged horse sometimes appears in my dreams, not as the scary beast of my childhood but rather as an old friend that I enjoy seeing again.

So this is my creation in Gabby's art journal, a loose interpretation of the winged horse and its surroundings. I used pen, Pitt pens and water soluble wax crayons. I enjoyed loosing myself in the many angles and facets of the winged horse and in trying to draw it, I became aware that the lines and shapes are more complicated than they look and I have come to appreciate André Lasserre's vision.

I would like to think that I am shaped by the art that I love, that which is beautiful.  But I am coming to the conclusion that art that challenges me and pushes me out of my comfort zone can be just as influential. As much as I would like to dream of Del Kathryn Barton's, Rothko's, Klimt's, or Frida's works which I all truly admire and love, I appreciate André Lasserre's Cheval ailé's appearences in my dreams.

Until next time...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Gnome Dotee Dolls

Daisy is on the lookout

Shh! Can you hear something? I hear a faint tinkling sound and the grass is rustling lightly. Even Daisy is watching closely:

Tired from their hard day spent labouring deep underground the gnomes slowly emerge from their tunnel and begin to make their way  through the undergrowth, passing a few fly agaric on their way home.
Each carries a little netting sack with gemstones, their days' findings. Their rusty bells attached to their hats help them locate each other in the darkness  underground.
The gnome parade

I made these for a Dotee doll gnome swap over at Milliande's and organised by the always inspiring Liz Monaghan.

I have needle felted the faces, leaves and fly agarics and embellished them with beads. The gnomes' hair and beards are made from sheep's fleece also needle felted in place. In the tails I have used seed beads and beads I received from a textile bead swap a while back.
I have bribed the gnomes (with cookies) into a quick photo shoot before they get sent off into the wide world to start tunneling in different lands.

Until next time, keep creating and if you hear a strange sound in the garden remember to grab your camera quickly.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Ode to Quince

The sweet aroma of quinces pervades our humble abode. If only this Blog had a smell button you would be in for a treat! Quince is a fruit I have held a life long fascination for.

I still remember clearly the first time I caught a glimpse of yellow in a tree near where I lived in Bern, Switzerland. The tree was quite small but there were huge fruit hanging in it. I pointed to that tree and asked my grandma what those were. "Quinces," came the reply. "Can we eat one?" "No, you cannot eat them, they are hard like wood." And with that the topic of quinces seemed over for my Grandmother but only just beginning for me.

Quinces were deemed an old fashioned fruit. In our family of food lovers we never ate quinces. When later I discovered quince jelly in the Migros supermarket it was a must have, my grandma obliged and thus my life long love affair with quinces began.

The delicate aroma and colour of the jelly was beautiful in every way, the picture on the label of the jar was studied while eating my breakfast of bread, butter and quince jelly. Switzerland having four official languages everything must be written in German, French and Italian to cater for its linguistically diverse population. The names of quinces in three languages were memorised: Quitten Gelee,  Gelée de coings, Mela Cotogna.

The Quince is like a book with seven seals, you must be patient as you unlock this fruit: The shape of the quince is like no other fruit's, it looks a bit like an over sized, mangled and misshapen pear. Even the beautiful yellow colour of the skin is camouflaged under a light brown down. If you sniff it, it has a delicate fruity smell. If you cut it you noticed how woody and unpalatable it seems. The inside looks a lot like an apple or pear to both of which the quince is related to. The flesh will turn brown with exposure to air just like an apple or pear so having a bowl of acidulated water (water with a splash of lemon or lime juice) ready is advisable.  

Now comes the dilemma: Will it be stewed fruit? Quince Jam? (the term marmalade originally meant quince jam from the Portuguese word "marmelo" meaning Quince), or maybe some quince jelly? Whatever you decide on as soon as the fruit is cooking the unforgettable aroma will waft through your kitchen and the previously bland looking fruit will turn a beautiful ruby red.

I am attempting a Maggie Beer recipe: Quince, Chocolate and Almond Tart. You can find the recipe HERE.
I have cooked too much of the quince and used the leftover fruit to make my first quince ice cream.
Quince, Chocolate and Almond Tart with Quince ice cream

Quince Ice Cream Recipe:
For the Quince ice cream I made a basic Vanilla ice cream based on this Tessa Kiros' recipe. Just before I poured the custard into the ice cream maker I added 2 tablespoons of Amaretto liqueur, the left over quince finely cubed as well as the left over syrup from stewing the quince. I did not have any glycerin otherwise I would have added a teaspoon to the mixture to help it freeze less hard. The result is a refreshing ice cream with a slightly tangy quince flavour and a hint of bitter almond from the Amaretto.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Bird Shrines

I have signed up for a Bird Shrine Matchbox Swap over at Milliande's and hosted by the lovely Palma.
All participants make three decorated matchboxes (either we make our own boxes or use existing matchboxes) which will get swapped on May 18th.
Here are my boxes:


Spoiler Alert: If you are participating in the Bird Shrine Swap  you may not want to read the rest of this post or see the following photos as I show what is inside the boxes.

I really enjoyed working on my boxes and the hours of fiddling around with scraps, Air Dry clay, wire, beads, needle felting, Mica etc. Oh the joy, when things I have been keeping for ages suddenly fit into a project! An example is the paper cast birds hiding inside the largest of my bird shrines. I fashioned them into a little bird mobile suspended from an over sized bottle cap (another one of my long term stash items).

I made a second mobile, this one is for my godchild in Switzerland

"Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." - Henry Van Dyke

The second Bird Shrine is more about caged birds and has an old illustration of Cockatoos on the lid. I used my homemade onion skin ink to further enhance the vintage look.

Here's the inside of this box:

The little bird I made with air dry clay, in the background is another old Cockatoo illustration, some pink dyed Emu feathers and some vintage fabric covered buttons. 

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

- Maya Angelou

The smallest of the Bird shrines is covered with an old German text about parrots. The top has different bird stamps glued to it and the words "Bird Wisdom" stamped on it. In the needle felted nest sits a freshly hatched chick. Inside the drawer are several scrolls of bird wisdom.

My new Motto is: Letting go.
I feel I can no longer hold on to things but rather if a bead or trinket or fabric matches or fits into an art project I use it, knowing that new things will find their way into my stash to be used at some future time.
As artists we are like a vessel through which inspiration flows; we add to it of ourselves: emotionally, physically and materially until our roots are entwined with the piece we have created and our art has become an extension of ourselves. As we let go of a piece we have created our roots gets severed and it hurts and I think that is how it should be. It means we have poured ourselves generously into our art.

I hope whatever you do you will pour generously of your Self into it.

Until next time...

"There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before." - Robert Lynd

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Frugal Chicken Stock Magic

So here I am again, writing about food instead of my arty adventures. My friend Milliande apparently forgets to eat, well that does not happen to me as much as I'd like it to!
Northey Street Organic Farmers Market
Coming home from our wonderful organic farmer's market with a basket and several bags full of colourful, fresh fruit and veg I am inspired to cook.

The shelf in the freezer is full of saved chicken carcasses and I have several veggies in the fridge that need to be used but are a bit past their best. Out comes the stockpot and in with the chicken carcasses. Next I fill the pot with water and add a good tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and let the whole thing thaw,soak and rest for an hour. The acidity of the vinegar draws out the minerals in the chicken bones. I find a lime half and squeeze that in as well.

Next I clean out the fridge to make room for the new veggies. Anything that is still good for the stockpot gets chopped and washed: Celery stalks including the leaves, carrots, coriander roots (cilantro), onion, garlic, snow pea and red cabbage trimmings, broccoli including the stalk, ginger root, leek, spring onion, tomato, mushrooms.
Veggies for the Stock Pot

In the meantime with the fresh basil from the market I make a pesto. The basil stalks get chopped for the stock.

When the stock has come to the boil I skim it. This apparently takes impurities out. I add some bay leaves, a couple of cloves. My Mum, the kitchen goddess usually puts juniper berries in roasts so I try and add a teaspoon of juniper berries. Next the veggies go in and after it has come back to the boil I reduce the heat and let it simmer covered for hours, up to 24 hours. While I have made this stock many times before I have never added that many ingredients and I am hoping the result will be good.
Simmering Stock

Once it will be finished I will strain it and then freeze it in portions for future use in soups, risottos and sauces.

There are parallels between cooking and mixed media art: In both cases I make a terrible mess! The kitchen bench looks as colourful and messy as my art table. And while I can let my arty mess fester I must go and take care of the kitchen. So until next time, cook up a storm whether in the kitchen or in your studio.