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megabubbles in evening light

megabubbles in evening light

Photo Rende Zoutewelle

This is me playing. It could turn into my new art form – it requires only soap, water, air and light. One has no control over the colours or forms, and it is extremely ephemeral.

You can’t interpret it, you can’t put a price tag on it, you can’t sell it, and you can’t market anything but the equipment used to make it, (which I happily leave to others), or I suppose you could charge for being a performing bubble artist.

As I practice it more, I’m discovering that it really is a skill. You have to be aware of the humidity, and be alert to every nuance of breeze and wind.You can regulate the forms somewhat by opening and closing the loop at different intervals, and can do virtuoso bubble blowing by trying to blow one bubble inside another. When I do it on the street, it makes most motorists slow down and smile – equally important on our road where people constantly abuse the 30km speed limit.

I’ve also been up to some yarn bombing. It was a good way to give some love to a dead tree at the end of our front garden, and once more, bring a smile to the faces of passers by going slowly enough to see it. The first crocheted mandalas started to curl,

how things looked in May

how things looked in May

so I took them all down and treated them with a fabric stiffener (Modgepodge), and now they hold their shape. I’ve sewn the felt leaves by hand, and our neighbour children helped me place some of them.

In order to try to slow down some of the traffic coming through our village, the province placed some  cement obstacles up and down the road. One is so close to our garden, I decided to extend our garden onto it and make it an edible green spot. Unfortunately, despite careful care and watering, the plants (nasturtium, strawberry, lettuce, violas) pined away there, they didn’t like the traffic, the direct sun, the fumes? Who knows? So now I’ve got some hardy geraniums on there to see how they do.

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Painting has ground to a halt for now. I’m writing, though,  not sure if there will be an end product.But with luck it could consolidate into a book on many of the themes touched on here and on tendingtime, my other wordpress blog.

 

 

Sonia Demetriou’s new book

Sonia, whose blog I’ve been following for awhile now, has recently self-published a truly beautiful hybrid cookbook. It is a great mix of reminiscences as well as new discoveries of her family’s heritage on the island of Cyprus.

Androula’s kitchen, Cyprus on a plate, contains a wonderful variety of  personal anecdotes and practical information about current and lost ways of life on Cyprus. Sonia also follows up her passion for the island’s traditional skills such as pottery, weaving and basket making, letting us see current examples of the crafts through beautiful photos accompanied by informative explanations. You really get a taste of daily life on the island, and we haven’t even got to the recipes yet.

The second half of the book is given over to ‘Food glorius food”.  What makes it unique is the personal element- nearly all of the traditional recipes were either made in Sonia’s cousin Androula’s kitchen, or given by relatives and friends in the village. Where the recipes are more general, various friend-cooks give handy tips and snippets of history and anecdote to accompany the bread, soup or pudding being made.

I love to read cookbooks, and this one is my favourite kind to have- you get all kinds of background stories that put the dish in a context and add so much more to its enjoyment.

In Sonia’s own words….

‘…this book is a record of my journey in search of some of the island’s local traditions and crafts, which have been integral to the Cypriot way of life for centuries. It is a tale of the people I met, the food we made and enjoyed in Androula’s kitchen, and some of the Cypriot’s best loved recipes, which I collected along the way. The ancient history of Cyprus is well documented; I wanted to find out about the mundane life of yesterday and its place in modern Cyprus’.

This book is brimming with spices, landscapes, stories, characters, seasonings, sweets, art, and handwork, but most of all a lot of heart and soul. It is a  real gift, and it makes an ideal one as well.

No I’m not getting a cut, this is an unsolicited endorsement of a fellow writer’s worthwhile and beautiful creative product.

Hands-on and happy

July 22, 2012

I’ve had some time this summer to play with materials and do a small wall painting I’d been planning.

After painting all those flowers on harpsichords, I thought our home deserved a little bit of that decorative cheer. More on that further down.

First, though, here is a sheepy button I found at a textile fair: the little feet dangle free on tiny ropes.

Happy sheep button

Actually, I couldn’t resist making him wearable, so I made a brooch:

Needle-felted hill with embroidered heather, and a needle felted cloud on a wool felt blue sky

I like to think of someone smiling as they put this on and discover the flower on the back

Next I decided to tackle two ugly oil stains on a favorite pair of workpants. Ok they are work pants, but still.
I’d bought a scarf for 50 cents at a rummage sale and cut out some designs from it. I sewed them on, wrong side up, which made the colours more muted and matched the faded trousers better.

Cutting up the scarf

Patched

Happy black drawstrings

And finally, there was a small, neglected bit of wall just inside our back door, outside the bathroom (WC for our UK readers).  I’d been wanting to jazz it up for a long while.

Unjazzed

Voila, a piece of summer garden to welcome

Sweet pea detail

This was done with tempera on wall paint, which worked like watercolours.  I was ok with it when I stopped trying to get the deep rich colours of tempera on beautifully prepared sound board wood.

The work, by the way, was back-breaking, it took about 8 sittings, painting over parts several times where I didn’t like the curves.

I’ll choose a wall where I can stand and sit normally next time.

For photos of a mural I did years ago, on a slightly different scale, see below and click here .

Starting the waterfall for Jeroen’s Jungle

Bead feed

May 18, 2012

When I’m at ease, free of deadlines,  then before too long, the craft supplies come out.

The annual bead and jewelry fair was in Groningen last weekend, I thought I held back fairly well.  In one stall, there were about 400 (!)colours of size 11 seed beads to choose from! Here is a portion of my purchases, filling in the pink, hot red colurways. And a beautiful range of sage greens, metallic and frosted forest greens, as well as some misty greys and pearls.

fun at the bead fair

And below is a part of my existing seed bead collection.

Mostly tending towards blues, purples and aubergines

And what do I do when I’m let loose on all these gorgeous materials? Below, Evelyn’s necklace in progress.

Multi-strand necklace in progress

My aunt wears a lot of beiges and pastels. My sense of the colours was an antique, cameo feeling, soft golds and ochres, and shell purple and dusty pinks. I finished the multi-strand, then including some hand blown glass beads from Eastern Europe, made a separate strand to wear with it or separately.

Finished necklaces

Here below is my current project, inspired by bracelets I saw at the stall where I got my seed beads, for Dutch readers, Monique’s website is definitely worth a visit. I purchased the directions from her, I”ve never done this particular type of beadwork before and am enjoying the meditative work of threading this (late) mother’s day gift for my mother-in-law.

Some of the bracelets on display were fairly bling bling qua colour, I chose smokey blues, greys and irridescent blacks instead.

Tanny’s bracelet in progress

Detail

Well, the painting of the song board is completed. Johan came to pick it up this past week.

The etalage is incredibly empty. It was like having a friend there, a real presence,  waiting every morning. I’d look at the work of the past day and plan what the steps for today would be- and by some miracle, flower by flower by flower, it all got done.

It took close to 80 hours spread over 8 weeks, not counting the planning and design. Those hours aren’t all painting time, they also include drawing, transferring, some research,  and reworking some flower drawings.

I always have a bit of resistance to adding the final blue arabesques, those clumps of curls and swirls around the edges. I’d prefer a more streamlined look. But the blue decorations are trademarks of these Ruckers Flemish instruments from around this time (1638), so they are not optional. They are fun to do, and the artist can hide all kinds of inside jokes in the complicated strokes. You may be able to spot a few that are not just designs but contain figurative elements. Once I hid a bike, a mermaid, and even a boxer (dog).

The lines, scallops and arabesques are done with an applicator so that they will be raised in relief. Originally this was done with a mixture of cobalt glass and casein binder. I use gouache and casein with a smidge of acylic gel for elasticity.

Here are Johan and I, Johan has just finished playing air harpsichord, Bach’s flower concerto I think.

And now the instrument is back with its creator, Matthias, who will add strings, keyboard and base, several layers of paint (on the outside!!!) and  other finishing touches. All of us involved with the birth of this instrument are enjoying seeing it come alive as each person does his/her part. It is one of the most rewarding (and intense) projects  I’ve worked on. I’m so grateful it is safely back in Germany in Matthias’ workshop.

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All photos by Rende Zoutewelle

Well, it is an all-consuming project. I do have a life….I think. But I basically wake up and go to sleep thinking about which flowers fit where, color balance, leaf size contrasts etc.

Rende’s photos have captured some of  the atmosphere of the étalage (aka shop or oil painting studio) where I’m working on the instrument. It is a small space – not even enough to walk completely around the case. A new instrument like this needs to be kept at an even temperature and humidity to prevent drying out, so it is on the chilly side – about 15 degrees centigrade. I wrap up well before I go to ‘work’.

Despite that inconvenience, I do like having it all concentrated down here, the previous ones took over my entire attic studio. That meant I really couldn’t do anything else.

Johan said that with the sound board being painted, the instrument is starting to come alive.

As soon as it was brought here, I felt it already had a soul from the amazing amount of love and care that the builder, Matthias, had put into it, and from all the thought that had gone into it even before the case was built. Now that I’m adding my part, there is such a strong visual emphasis, it is hard to remember that

the real soul of this instrument lies in the sound it will make.

Anyway, it is a really cool project to be involved in. I have to slow down to paint each plant and animal portrait as if it were the only one. And one by one they are forming a whole painted songboard.

woodpecker attacks songboard

Definitely connected to the long tradition of songboard painting, and yet also belonging to the 21st century in the choices we’ve made, both visually and in content.  For example, Johan had requests for various flowers and other elements to be included which are personal symbols connected to his own life. For a few people, beside the aesthetic quality, there will be added layers of meaning to the things painted on the instrument.

When it goes back to Germany at the end of the month, Matthias will make the keyboards (there are two) and attach the strings. And then it will be able to sing.

Ingrid and Stuart outside of Bon Papillon Gallery,Café, Framers, & Shop

I was lucky enough to stumble on Bon Papillon last summer when in Edinburgh. I’d just visited the wool shop nearby and needed a cup of tea and a place to just chill for awhile.  It was festival time, and my search for knitting wools had brought me onto a side street off busy Prince’s street, a good way down the hill. It was a relief to get away from the intense bustle and crowds, and when I saw the little terrace and art gallery offering cake and coffee, I couldn’t resist.

Bon Papillon had just opened a few months earlier. Once inside I sat down at a wooden table in a lovely, warm and intriguing interior and had the best cake and coffee I can remember having in a long time. And the prices were as friendly as the owners. I chatted a bit with Ingrid Nilsson about her art and this new venture she was embarking on with her partner Stuart Allan. It turns out Ingrid is an exhibiting artist, and Stuart has 20 years experience in catering. Judging from the deliciousness factor of the food there (11 on a scale from 1-10), that’s not hard to believe.

How can you choose????

Stuart's Beet & Ginger cake with lemon frosting

I have mixed feelings about sharing this here, because part of the pleasure, of course, is the surprise in discovering a gem like this. I’d hate to see it overrun and the owners start to consider expanding; the appeal is in the intimacy of a small 2 person place with so much attention to detail. For me the charm lies in the combination of amazing, food made with  pure, natural ingredients, the friendly ambiance which leads to conversation between tables should you wish (people bring their knitting and sketchbooks), the reasonable prices, and the great selection of art. I should add that Stuart has started a framing shop in the back, and it looks like this too is done with the same care and high standard as his cooking. Even though it is not edible!

Café interior

Stuart framing

So, when you are in Edinburgh, do go to this little haven on Howe street, say hi to Ingrid and Stuart,and eat some cake for me.

Oh almost forgot to say, they carry my felt brooches.
Tip- they’ve got some wonderful art shows coming up, see their blog .

Hanzeclavecimbel progress

January 28, 2012

Classic rosette wreath around sound hole

The above photo is from a previous instrument painted in 2007 (made by H.van Gelder). The ‘rose’ is not yet added, the rose is a metal, usually gold-leafed, emblem of the particular instrument builder.

Because of the labour intensive nature of painting the harpsichord, I’ve not had the time/energy to blog. But I’ve got everything set up and am painting now, so there is a moment to touch in.

The above photo shows a fairly classical treatment of the rosette wreath around the sound- hole of these 17th century Flemish harpsichords.

Johan, my client (and new friend), wanted a slightly different take on it. Indeed, the whole harpsichord is shaping up to be firmly rooted in the best tradition, yet entirely of this age as well.

As I mentioned before, there are at least 3 of us directly involved with the hands-on birthing this instrument (plus there are many more supporters of this project behiind the scenes): Matthias Griewisch, the master builder/creator: Johan Hofmann, accomplished harpsichord player, musician, and teacher; and me, Sarah, the sound board decorator/flower factory.  And each one has their craft and input. The collaboration is fun and inspiring.  (Johan on left, Matthias on right).

Johan and Matthias in Matthias's workshop

As far as we (and music historians) know, this instrument has never been replicated before. It is a world premier and won’t be unveiled until the Peter de Groot music festival in Holland  this July. It has some surprising, unconvenitonal details, so I can only give you tantalizing glimpses of the work process.

Where this is all leading to is that the rosette wreath is done. On this instrument it is flowerless. Johan chose for bay leaf and ivy. Here it is,  Compare it to the one above, it has a whole different feel.

Rosette wreath around the Hanzeclavecimbel

Photos of harpsichords by Rende Zoutewelle. Photo in workshop, Bert Kiewiet

Ex-shop and oil painting studio ready for harpsichord

In December 2010, Johan Hofmann a respected Dutch harpsichordist and teacher, contacted me about an exciting project. He was having a new instrument made by Matthias Griewisch. Griewisch is considered by some to be one of the best period instrument builders working today.  My part in this would be to paint the songboard full of flowers as is traditionally done with Flemish keyboard instruments from around the mid-1600’s. The image below is of an instrument made by Herwil van Gelder for Jan Dirk Immelman. I painted it in 2007.

harpsichord decoration

I am deeply honoured to be involved in this project. In August last year I went to Edinburgh’s Museum of old instruments, St Cecilia’s and studied the original, unrestored version of this rare double manual harpsichord.

Ruckers double manual harpsichord circa 1638 photo St Cecilia's-

Johan and I (and Matthias via Johan) have been brainstorming about this instrument for a year now- how it would look, what we wanted to keep from the tradition, what we could change to reflect the times we live in as well as Johan and Matthias’ aesthetic preferences. And of course my sense of how this would all influence the sound board decoration.

It has been a fun and exciting collaboration so far, punctuated by dinner out on the terrace here, a pastry-filled birthday meeting, and climaxing in Johan and friend Bert’s return from Germany yesterday and the delivery of the ‘case’. (The case is the upper body of the harpsichord containing the songboard- the strings and keyboard will be added later).

It is so beautiful. It is just so beautiful. (I’ve been listening a lot to Aerial by Kate Bush, these words should be heard as music, they are about 45 seconds into the video).

It/she/he already has a soul. Here is a picture of him/her under wraps, awaiting adornment with garlands, flowers and arabesques. This will take about 6-8 weeks.

More will be revealed later.

Under wraps

In his’ Making and Connecting’, Gauntlett hits up against a basic dilemma- how to work with a gift in a market based society. How could a discussion of craft and art not touch this issue?

This upsurge of people making things and sharing them in on and offline communities is distinguished by a strong current of giving and sharing. Think of book drops,art  postcard crossing, many forms of guerilla art, etc. So much of this tendency is a reaction against the present system where the worth of things…(and people!) is determined purely economically.

So how do we reconcile this genuine desire to share our creative efforts outside an economic framework with the just as real need to earn a living?

Free platforms as exploited labour*

*(This subhead is a direct quote from the book).

OK, we have some new channels for sharing our art and ideas- YouTube, Facebook, Flickr etc. These are open platforms where, for no charge, with no credentials, and hardly any conditions, we can put our stuff out there.

Some people claim that You Tube, for example, makes gobs of advertising money off the millions of people posting and viewing videos there. Gauntlett has done some research and writes that it actually costs YouTube more to host the site than they are receiving through ads. (Based on 2009 figures, YouTube makes a bout $1.20 per video on ads per year and spends $3 per video to host the site).

We generally accept that no ads would mean no free sites.

He also says that most of us don’t care about the ‘free labour’ harvested by these sites because we want to share our work and we have ‘no thoughts of economic value’ except being glad that we don’t have to pay to share our creative work online.

Around a campfire

David suggests that the atmosphere in most of the open platform sites is like being around a campfire. Maybe my singing voice is beautiful and I could print out tickets and charge a fee, but that would completely change the underlying agreement of mutual sharing.

OK, fair enough. But then he goes on to rightly say, that in a society where everyone gets paid for what they produce, creative people should also get paid for their efforts. This is where it gets tricky.

Gauntlett cites the  example of the music business to illustrate this point. People seem to feel entitled to download music free of charge while most of the musicians are struggling to survive from their music. Some established bands or star status artists make good money from their products and tours, but they represent only a fraction of the whole profession. As a rule, it is the managers, PR people and other middlemen who are making big bucks off the musicians ‘backs. Gauntlett has a suggestion to remedy this. Read the rest of this entry »