Category Archives: Techniques

Birthday Bread

Today, the 1st of July, happens to be Canada Day. It would’ve been also Princess Diana’s birthday. It is also my birthday.

I’d been meaning to try out this recipe that I came across on Pinterest. It’s for a round loaf of crusty bread that needs no kneading. The idea of using a cast iron pot, instead of a loaf pan, appealed to me. I must confess I’m not very good at making breads. They always come out flat, or grey. Sometimes both at once. So this no-knead, “Dutch oven” crusty loaf recipe seemed too good to be true.

Here is the link to that recipe.
http://www.jocooks.com/bakery/breads/crusty-bread/

I didn’t follow the measurements in the recipe per se. I had bought a box of Laucke soy and linseed bread mix, so all I did was mix it with the amount of water and yeast as specified, and only from thereon did I follow the Dutch Oven recipe.

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You have to leave the dough to rise for 12-18 hours. I’d prepared 2 lots of dough last night, and left them to their own devices overnight.

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This is the batch The Kid mixed.

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And this is the batch I mixed.

So, roll on the morning. The recipe says to preheat the oven to 450 Farenheit (around 225 Celsius). The cast iron pot you use (aka the “Dutch Oven”) also needs to preheat.

Next, all I had to do next was flour my kitchen worktop, scoop out the risen dough, form it into a ball, and drop it into the preheated pot. Like so.
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And then, put the lid on the pot. Pop the whole thing into the preheated oven for 30 minutes. The lid is important for ensuring a crusty crust, as it keeps the moisture in as the loaf bakes. After the 30 minutes are up, take the lid off and continue baking for 15-20 minutes, to brown up the crust.

Et voila! C’est incroyable!

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This is the loaf just after removing the lid.

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Here it is after browning up.

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And here it is in all its magnificent crustiness. Yum yum yum! Happy Birthday to me!

(I made 2 loaves. My neighbour Diane had baked me a loaf in her breadmaker, and The Kid loved it so much he urged me to get a breadmaker so we could have freshly baked bread every day. But I figured, if this recipe really works, then there’d be no need for a breadmaking machine. So I’m giving Diane a loaf and sharing the recipe with her).

Ta Daaa!
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I’ve just realised something. Bread makes me happy!

Artist Inspiration : Emily Williams

I first came across the work of Emily Williams in an article by Jenny Zhang for My Modern Met. Wowzer! I’d never heard of “flameworked glass” before, so my interest was piqued. Also, I couldn’t help but be awed and intrigued by the fluid, organic forms of Emily’s creations.

Here is the link to Jenny Zhang’s article. You’ll enjoy Jenny’s excellent full-length, exclusive interview with the artist, which provides insight into how Emily’s family background and experiences helped shape her fascination for biological lifeforms and the artistic format she has chosen for herself.

No artist emerges from a vacuum; ideas and creations stem from our experiences and interactions with others, which form our opinions and beliefs and which provide our sources of inspiration. When I blog about artists who inspire me, under my “Artist Inspiration” titles, it’s actually about 2 things: 1) the Artists who inspire me, and their subjects or techniques, or any other intriguing point of view that makes them stand out from the crowd, and 2) how the Artist in Me is inspired by them, and what lessons or creative ideas I gain from learning about them.

Here is the link to Emily Williams’ own website: http://www.emilywilliamssculpture.com/

Here are some of Emily Williams’ beautifully flameworked borosilicate glass sculptures. I’ve curated them from Google Images, Pinterest and also from the My Modern Met article, and included several images that show Emily at work on a piece, to give you an idea of scale. These are not tiny, delicate handblown glass pieces, these are large pieces painstakingly worked with glass rods and a handheld flame torch, and they can take months to complete.

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Here also is a YouTube video by Emily showing her work process.
http://youtu.be/c3NhykkiFcI

Artist Inspiration : Igor Simanowicz

Most photographers have their niches or chosen subjects. Some specialise in landscapes, or street photography, or flower macros, or water drops, or animals, or architecture, or travel etc. It’s what they have found that they excel in, or that they truly enjoy. More often than not, it’s a calling or vocation, rather than a commercial requirement.

Igor Simanowicz’s specialty is in insects, reptiles and arachnids. Yes, the creepy crawlies. The ones that, if I met them on a sunny day, I’d normally be running from, screaming “Eeeek eeek eeek!” I can’t help it, the only insects I actually like are ants, bees and ladybirds/ladybugs. The only reptiles I like are those safely behind glass. As for arachnids…shudder!! Hey, I’m only human.

Having admitted that I’m not a big fan of insects, Igor Simanowicz’s photographic skills are amazing, in how he manages to seemingly anthropomorphize them or capture his subjects posing and doing creepily human-like things. Things like hugging, or smiling, or posing cheekily with raised arms a la Village People and YMCA!

Igor is a scientist foremost, and photographer second. In the lab where he works, he studies how insects capture their prey. This entails close-ups of parts such as insect jaws. It naturally flows that close-up or macro photography is a useful tool for this purpose.

Igor took up photography around 10 years ago, to keep his mind off the winter blues, and to satisfy his own quirky sense of humour. He uses the same kind of lighting and staging that a fashion photographer would use, only Igor’s “models” are of the winged and scaly kind.

Here are some interesting articles I found on Igor while searching Google:

http://www.hhmi.org/bulletin/spring-2013/beautiful-beasts

http://www.pxleyes.com/blog/2010/10/mindblowing-macro-photography-from-the-micro-cosmos-by-blepharopsis-with-exclusive-interview/

I had a look at other Google Image hits, and it appears Igor Simanowicz has also ventured into Micro photography and photo manipulation. He’s also won several photography awards, most notably the Olympys Bioscapes Comptletition http://www.olympusbioscapes.com/gallery/photographer/igor-siwanowicz

The following images are all curated from Google Images. Enjoy!

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And here’s the man himself.

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Fish!

I was sorting through my thousands of photos in my mobile phone’s camera roll the other day, and came across some poor abandoned, orphaned half-processed images of my Japanese Koi fish. I remembered that at the time of editing those photos, I’d been playing with an App called Trimaginator. And then some other project of mine superceded it, and it got buried under an avalanche of new photos.

My favourite App for blending images on my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is “Photo Blender“. It offers more blend modes than you can think of, and is super-easy to use.

Another favourite App of mine for creating colourfield backgrounds is “Impressionist Fingerpaint“. I have a folder in my phone that is just for backgrounds I’ve created using that App.

I decided to have a play with my Fish images, Photo Blender and Impressionist Fingerpaint. The only other App used here is Photo Editor, for tweaking various parameters of the resulting blended images.

Such fun! And I really like the results too. Here are some of them. Please refrain from copying these images, full copyright remains with me, although I have submitted them to my Licensor for licensing on homewares.

These images hold bittersweet memories for me, personally. The fish you see are my own Koi, and since the photos were taken, the number has fallen from 12 down to 4. I’m not very good at keeping fish, and I’m determined to NOT replenish stocks anymore. When the last 4 go, that’s it.

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Square Collage Project

I made this mixed media collage a while back, but never got round to blogging about it, as the photos I took got buried under thousands of other photos in my camera roll.

Until now.

This collage was made using paper ephemera, washi tape and acrylic paints. The whole project, once completed was sealed with several layers of spray varnish. The substrate or base used is a cradled wooden panel that I’d made last year. For instructions how to make cradled wooden panels, read here.

I didn’t take any photos of the collage while creating it, just of the finished result, including some shots of the sides (which are also collaged) and also some close-ups. So, here they are:

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In case you’re wondering how a couple of the ephemera elements appear to be “floating” off the background…it’s done very simply with a black watercolour pencil. Neat, huh? :-)

Artist Inspiration : Rex Ray

Rex Ray is a San Francisco-based artist whose bright, colourful and eminently cheerful works have graced numerous magazines, been used in advertising and marketing campaigns, i.e he is a successful commercial artist.

I first came across Rex Ray’s art on Pinterest, very recently. It was this:

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…and it reminded me strongly of my childhood days. One of my earliest childhood memories was being in my Maternal Grandmother’s house and playing with some sheets of paper and a tub of magic marker pens. I remember doodling circular and oval shapes like Rex Ray’s example above, then drawing lines and patterns inside them for colouring in. Obviously my efforts were not as accomplished as this…I was only around 4 or 5 years old then.

I love when an artist’s work triggers off memories or emotions in me. It’s like opening a door into hitherto forgotten fantastic kingdoms, and it motivates my own creativity by providing fodder for my imagination.

Rex Ray’s art does just that. His work is so accessible it has tremendous commercial potential and therefore translates very well to home furnishings, wall hangings and decor, mobile device cases, scarves, bags, rugs, advertising posters, music albums etc. Here’s what he says about himself on his site:

I have worked in both fine art and commercial art for twenty-five years. Because my artwork references and rehabilitates ideas of decoration in art it seems only natural for the work to also apply to various products. I think the role of the artist is very different today. The artist doesn’t have to work alone in the studio consumed with angst but can work in many diverse ways. Some of my influences include Dada, kitsch, pattern and design, pop art, and commercial art – therefore the work translates well onto various consumer products.

It’s exciting to take my aesthetic and my view of the world and mash it up onto a box or a scarf and see how it affects the medium and the see how the work is affected by this new application.

With my Rex Ray Studio line I plan to extend my artwork into new mediums in the home decor universe. I’m intrigued by the idea of providing the basic elements for people to create their own ‘Rex Rays’ in their homes. I like the idea of my work reaching as wide an audience as possible and affecting people’s environments.

Here are my favourite Rex Rays, curated from Google Images. I’ve included some photos of the artist himself, and also examples of how well his art transposes onto homewares and garments:

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For information on where you can buy Rex Ray’s artwork, as well as what forms they take, and how much they cost etc, head to Rex’s site first and foremost. A word of warning – they are on the high-end, pricewise, and if you happen to live outside the USA like me, before you go trolley-happy and load up on Rex Ray goodies, please do yourself a favour and check the postage first. I went to a print-on-demand site that boasted over 4 pages of Rax Ray’s prints at affordable prices…and when I checked postage costs to Australia, found that it would cost nearly US$100 on postage alone, 5 times what the print itself cost.

Juicy Journals with Word Bands

I snagged myself a set of 12 Ranger Tim Holtz Word Bands on eBay recently. They cost me around AUD$20 in total, and that’s invlcluding postage. When the word bands arrived in the post, I knew they would be perfect for my next Juicy Journal project. (For the unitiated, my Juicy Journals are Gelli Plate printed and inked pages torn into segments and bundled together into booklets, to be either enjoyed as they are, as artist books, or they can be scribbled/doodled/painted/collaged on as you like. Both sides of the paper are printed. No 2 pages are ever the same i.e they are monoprints).

This is what the Tim Holtz Word Bands look like:
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They’ve words of inspiration etched on them, like “possibility begins with imagination”, “dream as if you’ll live forever”, “life is about creating yourself” etc. There’s a handy loop on each end of the 2-inch tags, perfect for securing and binding to my Juicy Journals.

I used a modified Ledger binding for this project. I’ve written about that project previously here. This time, I didn’t tie the loose ends together, as that would’ve created a tented look where the threads joined, and would’ve partially obscured the word tags and detracted from the overall look. Instead, I simply tied up each loose end with a double shoelace knot.

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I used 8 A3-sized art papers, Gelliprinted on both sides using children’s texture mats and various other stamps made from household items. Out of the 8 A3 sized sheets of 190gsm weight paper I was able to make 4 Juicy Journals.

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Sweet, aren’t they? I’m considering putting up some of my Juicy Journals for sale on my Etsy store. Currently, all I have on offer there are Lenormand divination cards that I designed myself. Do visit my Etsy store! :-)

Handmade : Ledger

Here’s my attempt at ledger binding some Juicy Journals. I wanted to try out a different type of binding, and also a different size and shape of journal. I’d used a texture mat (read placemat) that looked like snakeskin, so the idea came to me to create a journal that was longer than it was high.

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Here are the strips of Gelli printed paper that I’ve torn to size. They’re printed on both sides of the paper.

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Make 2 holes through all the layers of your stack of papers. Take an 8 inch piece of twine (I used hemp) and, starting from the end edge on the left as in the photo above, thread the twine into the hole and out the top edge. Then continue over the edge and thread back into the same hole. Your twine should end up on the left edge, underneath the stack. Tie both ends of twine together.

Turn the paper stack over and repeat the step above for the other hole.
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Your stack will look like the photo above.

Now, simply tie the loose ends of the twine together. You may want to use an bead, for added interest. I didn’t have any beads, but I did have some Ranger Tim Holtz thingys (I never know what to call them), so I used them instead.

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It reminds me of an old Chinese coin. That, and the snakeskin effect Gelli prints and the shimmery ink effect I used, add to the Oriental effect of this project.

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Here are the completed ledger-bound Juicy Journals. They can be “read” the conventional way, from left to right or horizontally.
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Or, they can be hung up on a wall vertically, to be enjoyed as wall hangings.

Swinger

Don’t let the title fool you. This post isn’t about what you think it is. I’m just teasing you 😄.

Swinger is just the name of a fairground ride I saw in Baldivis last month. It’s one of those aerial merry-go-round swing things that fly around using centrifugal forces, jolly good old-fashioned fun, if you ask me. I used to love going on those rides, I think the last time I was on one was in Disneyland Paris, back in 2008.

I was only able to take a few photos of the Swinger, but I now present to you 2 sides of carnival life: the Light, and the Dark.

Apps used: Pic Blender, Photo Editor, Snapseed. Snapseed updated its App recently, but I’ve been away from photo editing for a good while, and so I have had to learn how to navigate its new user interface. It’s a great improvement on the old model, I must say. Bravo, Nik Software/Google! A great thumbs up from me.

For the Light: think happy circus and carnival colours – bright, vivid, cheerful.

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Now, for the Dark: think American Horror Story “Freak Show” (currently my favourite AMS series, after the previous one, “Coven”. If you like your stories morbid, twisted, cynical and ironic, I recommend American Horror Story, where a stable of well-known actors star in each story, playing different characters each time). Now, the skies are stormy and roiling with thunder and lightning, and the faces of the people on the ride are frozen in a rictus of fear, not joy. Mouths open to scream with terror, not exhilaration. Even the colours have been bleached out, the textures grunged up. Sinister dexterity was needed here, to capture the terror of flying through space out of control.

Excuse my morbid sense of humour. Snapseed’s Textures always bring that out in me…the last time I devoted my time on a project featuring graveyard angel statues, I found myself skulking around Fremantle’s cemetery in the pouring rain. And enjoying every minute of it.

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3 Juicy Journals from 2 Sheets of Paper

Ok, make that 2 BIG sheets of paper. 58 x 42 cm each, to be exact. Or 22.5 x 16.5 inches, if you’re Imperial.

For this project, I wanted to create some square Juicy Journals. I decided to lop off 8 x 17 cm from the two 58 x 42 cm sheets of paper that I’d already Gelli printed on both sides. This meant I could then divide the sheets up into strips of 50 x 25 cm. When folded in half, this would give me a booklet 25 x 25 cm square.

From the 2 large sheets, I was able to get 16 strips of 50 x 25 cm, and the leftovers were enough to make another Juicy Journal, not quite a square one though.

image The 8 pieces that I further divided into 2, to get the 16 strips.

image The 16 strips that will be folded in half to create square signatures of 8 pages each. I’m going to bind 2 signatures together, to get 16 pages per Juicy Journal.

image Each signature consists of 4 strips of 50 x 25 cm, folded in half to create 8 pages.

imageI’m using a pamphlet stitch, so I’ll need 3 holes in each booklet.

Basically, this technique is a really simple one, and is an optical illusion. You simply put two 8-page signatures together and sew them using a pamphlet stitch, and then fold the pages back into their respective signatures. The stitches will be hidden within the pages. I could take this a step further and create a hard cover, but I like to show off my Gelli printing, so I’ll leave them naked, so to speak.

imageHere’s how I sewed the Juicy Journal. Stand the 2 signatures you want to join together like in the photo. Open them up and align their holes. Bind all 8 layers together using a pamphlet stitch.

imageSewing the pamphlet stitch.

imageTying the knot to secure all 8 layers together.

imageFold the 2 signatures back to their respective starting points. This technique produces a booklet with a very neat finish at the spine. The stitches are hidden inside the pages.

imageFrom my 2 big sheets of Gelli printed paper, I managed to create 2 square Juicy Journals and 1 not-so-square one (from the leftover paper). That’s the one on the right, with the pamphlet stitch’s final knot showing on the outside.

imageI like the square format and think I might create some more of these. They require a bit more thought in measuring and tearing to size, but the results are very encouraging.

I also like the technique of sewing 2 signatures together, with the stitches hidden on the inside of the booklet. Might make more the same, too.

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial! :-)