Friday, December 19, 2008

Fantails are cute

This week I took part in my first ever craft swap, participating in the In Stitches Christmas tree ornament secret Santa swap.

Now that the secret is out, I can reveal that my recipient was Emily. Here are the results of my extensive initial research:

1. Emily is from ...I want to say Colorado, but now that it comes to committing it to the page, I'm worried I might have just made that up. Emily is from one of the United States.
2. She likes tramping and gardening.
3. Perhaps most importantly, her favourite colours are brown and tan.

So upon beginning my project, my first question was: what's cute, brown, quintessentially New Zealandy and looks good in a tree?

I did come up with more than one answer but really, it had to be a fantail.

Somewhat naively, I decided to make it 3D. I figured there would be small 3D bird making instructions all over the internet, but this proved to be slightly optimistic. And so I embarked on a mission to create my own pattern. It wasn't easy. There may have been small pieces of felt thrown down in frustration and there may have been name-calling. But after all that, I think he turned out quite well.

Motivated by the outcome, I am currently working on a small flock of fantails, so I will take more photos this time around and publish a "Making of...". If you leave a comment on this post, I may even be persuaded to publish a tutorial.

So tied up was I in the production of my ornament, that I forgot that I would get one too! I had the good fortune to receive an ornament from the lovely and supremely talented Millie, who gave me a gorgeous and as yet unphotographed tiki. I will add a photo of it installed on the tree this weekend.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sticky toes

Helen and I went for a wander on Tuesday and discovered Roma Street Parkland, which is a lovely garden in central Brisbane. We met many lizards, which we have since identified as Eastern Water Dragons – they look like this:

It was like walking through Jurassic Park, seriously.

Back at Dilia's place, the lizards are of a smaller variety. They run about on the outside of the house and occasionally the inside (Teflon is the only known surface to which a gecko cannot stick) and they make a noise you wouldn't expect a gecko to make. Well I didn't. It sounds like across between a chirp and a knock on the door.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

One small amphibian

Brisbane, day one. Dilia's house.

After a period of indecision as to whether this was a cute little frog or an ugly toad, the final verdict is juvenile cane toad. Not cutie cutie.

The antidote to ugly cane toads is young Ava, who, without wishing to get too mushy, is adorable.

I tried my luck at taking a crochet hook in my cabin luggage, but alas it was deemed a potential weapon of mass destruction. As Dilia pointed out, anyone who could kill using a size 3.5 bamboo crochet hook is likely to be quite capable of doing so without a bamboo crochet hook, but this line of reasoning would seem to be a little too rational when it comes to airline security.

Consequently, instead of a productive three and a half hours of baby cardigan crochet, I was forced to watch The X-Files: I Wanted To Believe – "The truth is out there. And so is the plot" was the accurate summing up in the in-flight magazine.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cranes and geraniums

Following my acquisition of Japanese treasures, I was inspired to try making origami cranes. My plan is to hang these from string across my ceiling. Here's my flock so far:

With no idea of my current crane compulsion, yesterday my friend Jan surprised me with a birthday gift (not my birthday, hence the surprise) of a pair of tiniest origami crane earrings. They are tiny and beautiful, dark green with a light green and gold pattern. This photo doesn't come close to doing them justice, but at least shows how small and cute they are:

This week sees the establishment of pink and white geraniums in Board of Design's window box, as part of a New Regent Street beautification initiative. What has this got to do with cranes? Well, geraniums are also known as cranesbills, so called for the appearance of the seed-heads, which have the same shape as the bill of a crane. The genus name is derived from the Greek γέρανος, géranos, or γερανός, geranós, crane.

Quite interestingly, according to Stephen Fry, ozone smells of geraniums.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Japanese treasures

In Napier last week Amy and I discovered a lovely Japanese shop called Raku. I'm not usually a big leisure shopper, but I was seriously tempted by all the pretty things. I finally managed to narrow my purchases down to four cotton bandanas (three of which were nice colours and the fourth of which had bunnies on, enough said), a packet of little rabbit shaped fabric stickers (okay, so I may have a bunny problem), a packet of gorgeous origami paper and half a metre of beautiful printed cotton, which I intend to line a bag with.

The man who served me was absolutely meticulous and used a ruler as his cutting edge - none of your Fabric Vision chop and rip here. Then he folded everything into a little bundle, placed it in a cute printed paper bag, and added an origami crane. It was all in all a very pleasant shopping experience and if you ever visit Napier, you should definitely visit Raku.

Monday, October 20, 2008

VOLUME Contemporary Craft/Object Symposium

I spent this past weekend in Hawke's Bay attending the Volume Contemporary Craft/Object Symposium in Napier. Hosted by Hawke's Bay Museum & Art Gallery, this was an exploration into the state of contemporary craft and the function, position and future of the crafted object in New Zealand.

The key note speaker was Justin Patton, director of Christchurch Art Gallery. In discussing his thoughts on the place of craft and its function, he made a key point which I felt was beautifully simple: that objects speak - to us, for us or about us. Instead of focussing on the obvious connection between maker and object, he spoke about the connection between object and the person experiencing it.

Quickfire presentations by Genevieve Packer, Anna Marie White, Renee Bevan, Paul Rayner, Esther Lamb, Caroline Billing, Matt Blomely and Karl Chitham yielded a wide variety of work by new and established New Zealand craft artists, among them Tim Main, who has a sculpture exhibition opening at Milford Galleries Auckland in November, and Karen Denis, whose vandalised vintage under the pseudonym Trixie Delicious is frequently featured in home magazines worldwide.

Tim Main, Rangiora II (2007) DETAIL

Trixie Delicious, Vandalised Vintage

I was also engaged by Douglas Lloyd Jenkins' talk and the ensuing discussion on the declining quality of craft and design education. Essential skills and knowledge in these areas are falling victim to "credentialing" culture, as Polytechnics shift their focus away from practical training and toward providing qualifications. There was speculation on how early craft skills should be introduced into the curriculum and how we instill value for these skills in future generations.

All in all it was a stimulating conference and a welcome reminder of the passion that drives artists, designers and craftspeople to create.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

On Punctuation

As a frequent Skyper and big fan of online chat generally, I've always enjoyed the creative potential of having a conversation written down. The challenge is to express yourself eloquently without any form of vocalisation and an extremely limited palette of non-verbal cues. As a result, there's a certain kind of humour or wit that's particular to chat, and as with spoken conversation, everyone has their own style.

Recently I was forced to examine my style of communication by a friend who is philosophically opposed to smilies. Her feeling is that smilies or emoticons are used too much as compensation for tact or an inability to communicate clearly. And to an extent, I agree (hence the self-evaluation). David McRaney points out the irony of this in his in-depth analysis of Lolcats:
"Strangely enough, though American culture is far less literate than in previous decades, we read all day long and communicate through written language possibly more than ever so in history. Words are the currency of text messaging, emails, blogs and websites. This may or may not be a good thing, considering how our communications within these arenas are so economical and utilitarian. The long-form, eloquent email is a rare bird in the cyberjungle."

In terms of email, which is after all the digital equivalent of a letter, I think it's fair to say that smilies shouldn't be necessary and certainly in a work context, it would cut out a lot of wasted time and frustration if a little more time, thought and relevant punctuation was put into email communications.

However, in the context of chat, I am still hopelessly hooked on emoticons. There's much that can be expressed with a well-placed emoticon, not to mention the entertainment value. As my friend David says:
"Really when you think about it... you are going to need a lot of words to describe Microsoft Powerpoint when it can be done more succinctly with a little yellow guy puking"

Interestingly (and only very tenuously related), in the entry for non-verbal cues on Wikipedia, the section on clinical studies mentions that "women with premenstrual syndrome were found to possess diminished abilities to read these cues". Curious. I wonder if it helps to know that.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

America surrenders her right to bare arms

This week the orders started coming in on Etsy as the Northern Hemisphere moves into winter, and for my third year running I'll spend most of my spare time between now and Christmas making armwarmers.

Last year's record was 13 pairs sold in a week, and although I'd be quite happy not to exceed that, I do have a few more colours available this year, so it's anyone's guess how many all-night sewing sessions I'll be pulling.

So that I don't go crazy making the same thing over and over again, I'm working on some new variations. The first is a simple short sleeve to layer over the top of the existing armwarmers, which has the added bonus of using up all my short ends. So far I've done these in green (modeled by Mel) - the next pair will be dark brown, to layer over mid-brown armwarmers (double chocolate, yum!).

The other idea I have is to make double layer armwarmers with shapes cut out of the top layer. This is a bit more experimental - I'm not really sure how well it will work with the merino fabric - but if it does work I think it'll look cool. If it doesn't work then perhaps applique is worth a try. I'm open to suggestions - if you're inspired, leave me a comment...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Unnatural Selection

Tomorrow night is the opening of Mel's exhibition, Unnatural Selection, which promises to be intriguing and quirky. Mel is an awesome photographer and creates curious narratives in her panoramas using odd characters and Photoshop trickery.

Opening night is from 6pm till 8pm tomorrow (Tuesday 16th September) at L'Estrange Gallery in Sumner. The show runs until 12th October, so if you don't make it to the opening, there's still heaps of time to make a trip out to Sumner and check it out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Pyjama Plan

I found some lovely fabric for two new pairs of pyjama bottoms - or to put it more elegantly and justify me spending more time wearing them, lounge pants. You can call it semantics, but lounge pants suggests to me a whole new level of pyjama-wearing. It conjures up glamorous Bright Young Things and G&Ts in the conservatory.

But I digress.

Pyjama Plan 1 is a blue, green and white floral print, William Morris styles, with a mint green ribbon.

Pyjama Plan 2 is brown with butterflies. I'm not usually keen on beige, but a beige ribbon seemed to work best with these.

Making my new lounge pants involves unpicking my much-loved and previously glamorous favourite pair of pyjamas. These are so cherished that when I'm putting them on my foot has to navigate carefully down the leg to avoid coming out through the wrong hole, so as much as I love them, it does seem timely to retire them.

Punky is a big fan of pyjamas and will happily follow any pair of pyjama-clad legs that happens to go by. He also likes playing in floor length curtains, so I suspect it has something to do with loosely hanging fabrics. Most of his strange habits can be traced to survival instincts or warren etiquette, but as yet I've failed to establish how a love of drapery could be interpreted in this way. Rabbits are mysterious things.

Monday, September 1, 2008


In an effort to learn from recent experiences, this week I've been reading about emotional resilience. I'm currently intrigued with the idea of sensitivity and whether to be sensitive is a strength or a weakness. Unfortunately the books I've read so far haven't been terribly helpful and I draw more consolation from this quote from Alain de Botton, author of at least one, possibly more, of my all-time favourite books.

"What annoys me about most self-help books is that they have no tragic sense. They have no sense that life is fundamentally incomplete rather than accidentally incomplete. I find a certain kind of pessimism consoling and helpful. Part of fulfilment might be recognising how awful life is."

If this sounds negative, consider the beauty and depth of feeling that makes life what it is. Without pain and loss and grief we wouldn't have joy and excitement and pleasure. Or as my friend Sue puts it, "It sucks. But it's beautiful! But it sucks. But it's beautiful!"

And in keeping with my theme of the human condition, here's a tragic love song by Bill Bailey, who I'll be seeing live in about 2 hours, yaay!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Expensive bunnies!

Beatrix Potter’s Christmas rabbits fetch £289,000 at Sotheby's
If I had £289,500, I must admit I would be tempted to spend it on this.