March 27, 2008

Morris & Co.

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

William Morris 1834 to 1896

These are the words of William Morris, famous pattern designer during the 1800's and the man behind the firm Morris & Co. Although I couldn't find his birth date anywhere, the man must be a Taurus, because those words pretty much sum up how I feel. Taurus' are famous for having homes of comfort, grace and beauty.

I went to the Christchurch Art Gallery today with a friend and took in the William Morris exhibit which completely blew me away. I have never heard of him prior to this day, but his art seems comfortably familiar and I'm sure I have seen it before, or something very similar. I imagine he has influenced countless artists.

Pimpernel wallpaper, 1896

This guy was a master of patterns. He used British plants, flowers, birds and fruit in most of his motifs for fabric, wallpaper, carpets and tapestries. And what most extraordinary was these designs were all applied by hand, using hand-carved wooden blocks.

Strawberry Thief, 1883

Not only are the prints amazing in their detail and color, but most were designed to repeat seamlessly, especially the wallpapers.

He was one talented man. He and his wife also did amazing hand-embroidered tapestries, most using heavy silk thread on silk. These pieces seemed to positively glow on the walls of the gallery today.

The above tapestry looks small on my blog, but in real life they are enormous. One like this would be about 8 feet long. He also did furniture, tiles, textiles, stained glass, books and ceramics. That was one talented dude.

Membland tile motif

March 25, 2008

Granny Square Hats

These are two hats I've made over the past week. They are made from the Granny Squares I have recently become addicted to, then I pick up stitches along the top and bottom and finish by knitting. The best of both worlds!! I really am having fun making them and they are so super cute on.

March 24, 2008

Easter Excursion

Happy Easter to everyone, no matter which side of the International Dateline you are on!

Yesterday (Easter here in New Zealand), I went on a long drive with my friend Jude again and her trusty hound Crocket. Our destination was Akaroa Harbor, about a 2 hour drive from Christchurch.

The dominate land feature in this area is Banks Peninsula, an old volcano from eons past. Akaroa Harbor is the center of the cone. Here's a map:

The green line is the route we took to Akaroa and the pink line is the one we took back. We stopped at Little River, a tiny rural community tucked into a cozy fold of hills. There is an amazing art gallery/store/coffee spot there that is well worth the stop. The shop has all kinds of hand-made art and crafts from local artists with a proper gallery on one side highlighting one artist in particular. We had a nice coffee and lunch on the outdoor patio.

We continued on to Akaroa, stopping at the top to enjoy the view. Below us is Akaroa Harbor. At the tail end of summer here, it is wonderful to still see so much green.

Feeling relaxed from the serene drive, we decided some retail therapy was just the thing that was needed to revive us. So we hit all of Jude's favorite shops. There were lots of people in town, strolling along the beach walk...seems like everyone woke up Easter morning and said, "hey, let's go to Akaroa!"

The beach and harbor at Akaroa.

Believe me, there were about 100 people just outside the edges of this photo (I might be exaggerating a teeny bit).

One of the charming cottages that grace the quiet lanes of this French-heritage community.

While there, I had my picture painted by a local artist. I tried to make conversation, but he was pretty quiet. Probably just really immersed in his art.

After several hours, we decided to head back, but on the way we took at detour to visit some friends of Jude that have a bach ("batch" -- a 'vacation home') down in a little secluded bay called Port Levy ("lee-vee"). We drove back to Little River, but turned off on a side road that quickly turned to gravel. It wound up the steep side of a valley and along the way we saw some pretty cool trees.


We crested the top and saw Port Levy way down below.

After arriving at the bach and introductions, Jude's friends Dave and Diane treated us to some freshly caught and battered flounder and cole slaw while we got to know the family a little. The view from the bach.

Jude sharing a tender moment with her pup (who was doing his best to wriggle free).

Back on the road as the sun fell and the night descended, Crocket doing what dogs in cars do best.

March 22, 2008

Taylor's Mistake

I hiked over to Taylor's Mistake today with my good friend Jude. Yes, it's an odd name for a beach, I know. It's a secluded surfing spot just south of Sumner, Christchurch's most famous beach. The walk over there is up the side of a very steep hill, on paths winding amongst tiny homes nestled like birdhouses on the hillside, then meandering around the point along sea cliffs.

Baches on the beach at Taylor's Mistake.

Crocket the dog.

This was the only time during the entire hike that he stood in one place for more than 2 seconds.

Jude was part of the Scott Base winter crew in 1999, which was also Anthony's first winter. She was the only woman in a crew of 10 and she kept them all in line. I met them both that winter.

On the way back we met Moira the Irish Donkey and her daughter.

It took all of Jude's strength to contain her wriggling and whining beagle. He wanted to play with the donkeys so very much.

Donkeys are cute. I want one.

March 18, 2008

It's Hip to be Granny Square

How does one define addiction?

If it means putting one thing before anything else, even sleep, food, exercise, watering the garden and other chores, or even other desirable craft pasttimes, then I suppose I am addicted to Granny Squares.

I just taught myself to make them the other night from a book. It was a good brain-strengthening exercise to figure out the secret Granny Square code. But I stayed up until 3am and finally figured it out. Here I am just this morning. I did manage breakfast, coffee and some emailing, but not sure if anything else will get done today.

I think the appeal is that they have the instant gratification factor going for them. I mean, you can make one square in about 10-20 minutes, depending on size and speed. They quickly start multiplying like rabbits. Then you have a bunch of them and you go nuts thinking of all the fun stuff you can make with them. Hat, scarf, blankie, handbag? And all the color combos! Don't get me started!

Before the days of internet, cell phones and reality TV, there were Granny Squares. Remember your Mom or your Auntie working away in the car or at the train station or the doctor's office? They were addicted too. They just didn't have the awareness that we have today.

My Mom once made me a Granny Square blanket. Where is that blanket today? I wish I still had it. If somone gives you one, treasure it!

Okay, so segway into silver smithing...

I made progress on my new ring last night. It is a chunky ring, made from very thick silver. It has a oval-shaped sodalite stone that is the is the focal point of the ring. The sodalite is a really cool deep blue color that reminds me of denim.

This is how the ring looks now (in the lovely morning sun). Last night I shaped the bezel collar piece so it would fit on the curve of the ring. This took a long time and required numerous passes with a half-round file to get just exactly the right shape. The shaping has to be near perfect (no gaps) before soldering or else the solder joint won't hold.

The ring looks kind of funky, I know. That is because the soldering process leaves behind residue that needs to be soaked off in a sulphuric acid mixture. There is gorgeous silver under the haze. There is still a ton of filing, shaping and polishing that needs to be done before the ring will be in its final, shiny, gorgeous state.

This is approximately what the ring will look like when done. The stone is just 'sitting' in the bezel right now. Later the edges of the bezel will be flattened down around the edges of the stone.

I particularly like the design I came up with on this ring. Always has to be something different, and unique with me. Notice the interesting curve of the ring from the underside. And the fit is spot on!

It is amazing to think that this ring is made simply from two thicknesses of sheet silver, that was cut out with a saw. Nothing fancy at all...just requires some basic skills. Isn't it exciting!

March 17, 2008

The Undersea World of... Yarn?

I found this very talented woman, Helle Jorgensen who has a blog called 'Gooseflesh' who makes the most amazing crocheted sea creatures. She uses yarn but also I found, she makes 'yarn' out of plastic shopping bags, then crochets them into works of art (bottom image). People send her bags from all over the world which is why she is able to achieve such wonderful colors.

She gives instructions on the website on how to make the plastic bag yarn so you can give it a try if you'd like.

For me, it is a wonderful thing to see such beauty made from stuff that more often than not ends up in a landfill.

March 15, 2008

When Art Finds You

I updated my iPod music list today, adding the Chemical Brothers, 'We Are The Night' album and the latest Bob Dylan album, 'Modern Times.' Honestly, I bought the Chemical Brothers album for one song...the Salmon Dance, but I do like the rest of the album. For those of you who haven't heard the Salmon Dance, I highly recommend it. It also has a brilliant video with lip-syncing fish. The actual 'Chemical Brothers' are the divers at the very end of the video.

As for Amy Winehouse, until recently I wondered what the all the fuss was about. Surely people were over-reacting. I hadn't heard any of her music, but how good could she be, rrrreallly? Then my friend put on the song, 'Rehab' and I thought, 'oh okay, yeah, now I get it.' The rest of the songs on her album, 'Back to Black' are great too.

I created a new playlist called 'Jump Around' and it has had me doing that all evening long. I've been preparing the ingredients for a killer lasagne that I am going to bake up tomorrow. The music has greatly moved this effort along.

So for a killer lasagne, you need killer cheese. So earlier today I visited the Canterbury Cheese Mongers off Victoria Street in Christchurch. My friend Annie turned me on to this place and now I'm hooked, just as she is. I was greeted by Martin, one of the owners and I told him the specifics of my cheese quest. He took me into the humidity-controlled cheese vault and proceeded to slice off heavenly bits of cheese for me to taste.

I found a couple of amazing Parmesans, plus a Swiss Gruyere to die for, and a Curio Bay Pecorino. Oh and I also picked up some authentic buffalo mozzarella and fresh ricotta for the lasagne.

So, how could this day get any better after visiting Cheese Heaven? I didn't think it was possible. All I had left to do was run a few errands at the South City seemingly uneventful.

I arrived and walked briskly into the mall and right past an exhibit of original paintings innocently arranged in the middle of the mall. I didn't think to look at the paintings because in the past, when I had paused to look at these mall exhibits, I found the paintings to be not to my taste and/or (sorry artists), somewhat cheesy.

I had already walked past on my way to the pharmacy, when some tiny, quiet voice inside me whispered, 'turn back.' I wheeled around and looked and immediately made contact with a painting. It grabbed me and sucked me in...I was defenseless against its pull. It was love at first sight.

This is a oil painting of South Bay, Kaikoura on the east coast of the South Island, north of Christchurch. It is by a 70-something woman named L. Logan Smith. I think Kaikoura is one of the loveliest stretches of coastline in New Zealand. When the sun is out, the water is the most unreal shades of milky aqua and green and seems to glow in an almost unnatural way. This painting captures that effect for me.

I told the woman tending the show that I wanted to buy the painting, but could she please hold it for me while I did a bit of shopping? No worries. She took it down and started wrapping it up. When I came back she said that another couple had asked her where the painting of Kaikoura had gone. She told them it had just sold. They were really disappointed. Had I waited only a few minutes, I would have been too late. Sometimes you just have to full-body-tackle an opportunity, or it might be gone, just like that.

I had been searching for a piece of art for our living room for nearly two years. Nothing I have seen has done the trick. I have been contemplating creating an artwork for that space myself. Today my search ended. It totally pulls the room together. I love it!

Oh gawd, it's 1am...must go to bed!

March 13, 2008


I finished these fingerless "fetching" mittens tonight. They are my first mittens ever. The pattern is good but I would add a few rows to the end of the pattern so the gloves cover more of the knuckles of the hand next time (doesn't quite cover when you bend your fingers down and the knuckles pop up).

The bind-off makes a cute, scallopy edge. My cables were mostly perfect. Somehow on the second glove, even though I was convinced I was cabling exactly as I should have been, two of the cables go the wrong direction. But the amazing thing is they ended up on the bottom of the glove so from the top, no one will EVER know!

Click on the word link above if you would like the pattern.

Ok, so I haven't exactly been a good blogger the past week. But I've been distracted. This is what has distracted me: Harry Potter book #7, buying a bathing suit (don't get me started on this one!), scrapbooking, messes in the house, the garage, sleep, cat videos on YouTube, catching up on emails, counting gray hairs, laundry...the list goes on.

But the thing that I HAVE to do, that I really don't want to do, truly my least favorite subject of all time is...


Oh yes, taxes. My hate/hate relationship. I am one of those lucky few that get to file taxes in two different countries. Oh joy! Double the fun! So this is what my living area looks like at the moment.

The only happy ending to this story is that I am actually doing this early...and not two days before they are due.

Let this be a reminder to all to get started. It's much nicer when it's done.

I'm happy to report no strange noises in the middle of the night for the past few nights since the garage door came alive.

March 11, 2008

2:30am Adrenaline Rush

There's nothing like a good old-fashioned adrenaline rush in the middle of the night to make every atom feel instantly alive and kicking.

My knees are still weak with unrequited fear.

Obviously, something woke me up. And fast. I was startled awake by a huge crashing noise. When I sprung out of bed, the motion-sensor lights were on in the front of our house -- the lights that only come on when something has moved in the close proximity of the front door (which is very close to the bedroom as well). Blimey!

I grabbed a cordless phone and darted up the stairs in the dark. Higher ground = safer.

From upstairs, from the kitchen window which is directly above the front door, most of the front area of the property can be seen. I stopped. I listened, my ears straining for a tell-tale sign of ominous mischief above the sound of my heart crashing against my chest. I watched, eyes overly-round. Like an animal. I saw or heard nothing.

Then I noticed that the garage door was wide open. Oh shit. A fresh wave of adrenaline surged through me. I repeated all of the above, ears and eyes reaching into space for a sign, my fingers poised above the phone's keypad. None came. Not a sound. Common sense told me that if someone had broken into the garage, I would have known about it by now.

Ok, regroup. Calm thyself down. Sneak downstairs on shaky legs. Turn on all the lights. Get dressed. Sneak up to the inside door to the garage and listen once again for good measure. Nothing. Open the door as if surprising someone doing something naughty. Ah ha! Caught you, you little bugger. But no one there, just the night critters singing and the distance sound of the surf.

Ok, then. Jeez. What the heck did happen here? Investigative mode began. Standing in the middle of the garage, I smelled something odd. Like a machine. Was it Antz' motorbike? Nothing seems to be amiss or broken (there's all kinds of stuff piled at the front of the garage since I've been sorting it, but nothing seemed to have fallen or broken when the garage door opened). Good sign. The sound that woke me was simply the garage door opening. All by Itself.

Ok, try the button. I pushed the button that would normally spring the garage door into life. Nothing. Dude, it's broken. That explains the machine smell -- must be the motor to the opener. This still doesn't explain why it opened, but oh well. Right, what would Antz do? I think the thingie that moves along the chain disengages somehow. Although I'm certain he wouldn't call it a thingie.

Most prudent to turn the power off first. I grabbed my trusty old softball bat (that incidentally almost made the 'garage sale' pile -- because when will I ever play softball again? ...well maybe I'll just take it down to the park and hit a few balls yeah, I'll keep it for now). I used the bat to turn off the power switch on the ceiling above the unit. Ok, pull the handle on the chain. Wa la, disengaged! I closed the garage door and turned the handle to engage the locking pins. With no power and pins engaged, there is no frikin' chance that door will open again by Itself anytime soon. Sorted!

Now I'm wide awake for sure and for heaven knows how long and thought, what better time to update my blog? But before I do, I think I've found a new home for my softball bat.

March 06, 2008

Mixed Bag Day

Today the sky is grey and my mood seems to be mirroring it. Mostly I hesitate to get into it, but I want to present an honest and balanced view of my life through this blog, so lets just say that it's not always perfect for me.

Anthony is my anchor and my buoy, so with him away on the ice, I have to keep myself afloat. I am finding the adjustment challenging at times. It may sound like I don't like the situation much, but in a way I know this is good for me and necessary. We should all strive to be whole and complete people on our own. But I do miss him.

I just went for a long walk on the beach, which I know helps everything. I brought my camera this time and took some photos of what I normally see on my beach walks.

Somebody has "planted" this large driftwood tree at the beach side of the access and this lets me know I have arrived at my street.

The cliff with houses on it is Sumner.

A driftwood stump.

After crossing back over the dunes and back onto the street, I walked past an area that has a bunch of large sculptures hidden in and amongst the grass and trees.

It has always been a mystery to me who is doing these sculptures, and today the question was answered. I came upon three ladies and a man, all working on sculptures. The woman who seemed to be the main sculptor/teacher is named "Bon." She had a large hammer and chisel in hand, her arms covered with dust, working away at a chunk of limestone.

I tentatively started a conversation since they all seemed so involved in what they were doing my presence felt like an interruption. Bon comes down to this area to sculpt every Thursday and sometimes on the weekends. She has a gallery on Ferry Road. She appears to be in her 50's. I thought, here's a woman, an artist, who is out here doing it. She is dedicated to her craft. She has a business.

I want to be this woman. These observations of mine only seem to intensify the general feeling of self-doubt that I have am having about myself today. It seems to be an issue of action. I feel so scattered...I have trouble focusing. I think, I imagine, I dream, but it's all up there in the grey matter. The action behind all of it is the key to everything. There is no ONE THING that I really LOVE in the creative realm. I kind of LIKE everything. I feel I am still searching for an elusive feeling of passion. Am I really an artist? Do I have what it takes to be successful? Why am I so scared? These are difficult questions for me. It's these feelings that I am constantly having to quell. Of course I am talented. Duh. Yes, I do have what it takes! The hardest part is just letting it be okay to have this time to explore my creativity without judging. I am without question my own harshest critic.

Okay, so to catch you up on the classes, here is my latest scrapbooking page. I really had fun at this class last Tuesday night. I felt more adventurous and bold with my layout. It's like anything, I am learning the basics and I guess I'll just get better and better.

March 03, 2008

Surprise Visitor

Tonight was my silversmithing class at the Art Centre in downtown Christchurch. I made great progress on my pinkie ring -- in fact I finished it. After lots of filing and sanding, I dunked the ring in a boiling hot liver of sulphur solution which turns the silver black. And yes, it smells just like rotten eggs. Once the ring was blackened, I then polished all the raised surfaces to a brilliant shine and the dark bits stayed in the recessed areas of the ring. This is a popular technique with jewellery artists as it gives depth and contrast to a piece.

While I was happily immersed in filing and sanding the ring, I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned around and lo and behold, found Harry Fishel standing there. Many of you know Harry -- he is a frequent summer contractor at McMurdo Station -- and an accomplished silversmith. It was his 5-week class that he taught on the ice that introduced me to silversmithing...and he was the one that told me about the silversmithing course (that I am currently taking) at the Art Centre.

I had written an email to Harry to tell him that I was taking the course he recommended, but never thought he'd stop by the class once he'd left Antarctica.

What a marvelous surprise! I am kicking myself for not getting a photo of us even though my camera was right there in my handbag. Harry is on his way to Australia to look for opals (I think he is a bit mad about opals and he has shown me some truly amazing specimens). Good luck Harry...hope you find some good ones!

I also did the finishing touches on my other PMC and dichroic glass pendant that I collected from the teacher Anita last week. I hung it on a nice chain by a couple of decorative jump rings and finished shaping the earwires for the earrings (not shown). I think it turned out quite nice!

Mom, by the way, the yellow labradorite (stones) arrived and they are gorgeous! I will have to see if I can work them into a project soon. Thank you so much for sending them!

March 02, 2008

Making Progress

I am feeling a little better about the garage workspace. This is how it looks at the end of the day today. Notice I didn't take a photo of the other side of the garage. Even though there is still a bit to do, it is much, much better than it was.

I unearthed some treasures that I haven't seen for a while. This is a beaded pin I made in my 20's. It still looks like new and I am somewhat surprised at my good craftsmanship. The yellow stone is called 'Serpentine.'

It was a weird day of weather. It started out sunny and warm this morning, then a gusty nor'wester started up, rattling the windows in the house. Then it clouded over and started to rain again. Just like they say, "if you don't like the weather in New Zealand, wait 5 minutes."

Last night at about midnight, I opened up this new program that came with my Wacom Tablet called Corel Painter (Essentials 3). It is a program that allows you to "paint" on the computer, with all kinds of brushes and different effects. It works best with the Wacom Tablet, but I haven't had a chance to hook it back up to my computer, I had a play with the program with just my mouse. This is just a quick, fun piece I did just to try out the program.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

March 01, 2008

Shoulds vs. Want To's

I titled this entry to pay homage to the struggle between what I want to do and what I should do. So many times the shoulds win. I should finish my book (Antz is my biggest literary fan and very encouraging), I should exercise today, I should go to bed. But what I WANTED to do tonight was sit in front of the TV with a jar of peanut butter, a bag of chocolate chips and a spoon...and that is what I did. And you know, it felt GREAT.

Well, great, but a little lonesome in this quiet house with the rain falling gently on the roof.

Maybe it is because the butterfly left me today. I know he had to go and I would be selfish to want him to stay, so I wished him well as he fluttered away on his new, perfect wings. This was taken moments before first flight. It all happened so fast...

I wonder if parents feel the same way with their kids after 18 years, even though my flutter-bye child was only with me one week.

Catching up on creative stuff...I visited a friend (also named Christine) yesterday who lives in Lincoln, a 40 minute drive from my house. I've only ever met her once, but she is a fellow crafter and has recently relocated to Christchurch. We met in Hawera, in the North Island, in Anthony's home town. She hosted a weekly quilters group that I had the opportunity to be a part of a couple times while we were visiting. Christine is a gifted and prolific quilter and also does gorgeous paintings of stylized seed pods (sorry I didn't get a photo).

So I brought my unfinished quilt to show her and to try and get some feedback and inspiration to finish it. We layed it on her floor and decided it really is quite a lovely quilt and I really should finish it (there we go again with the 'shoulds').

I only need to make 14 more blocks just like these, then spend the rest of my life quilting it.

I also picked up one of my PMC pieces I made. It is a 'fold over pendant' and I added a little square crystal to it. Not bad for a beginner, I reckon.

Still, it is soooo dang easy to want to criticize my work...but I will not, I refuse. Take a lesson from the butterfly (that makes sense to me, hope it does to you too).

So, guess I SHOULD get into bed.