Saturday, 18 February 2017

Order from Auberginen Art on Etsy

Even though I'm on a bit of a spending ban, I couldn't resist buying these adorable things from Auberginen Art on Etsy. I've been reading Dominika's blog for a couple of years and also following her Instagram, and I told myself that when she next released her knitting-themed badges, I'd get myself some.

The parcel was nicely packaged, with cute washi tape decorating the outside, and also sealing the clear cellophane which enclosed the goodies inside. It was sent very fast - the day after I ordered (though it could even have been the same day with the time difference!)

The badges I chose were Cats & Knits, Knitting & Witchcraft, and Hogwarts Knitting Club, all things I adore. In the past I haven't worn badges or brooches very much, even though I have a growing collection. I want to start wearing them more often, and these will be the perfect way to encourage me to do that.

I also chose the set of 3 Herbal Tea Fairies prints, though I had trouble choosing between them and the Japanese Tea Fairies as they are all so pretty. They are printed on thick matte card and I'm looking forward to adding them to my inspiration wall in my hobby room when it's set up.

Dominika also very kindly added a lovely note, plus a sticker and a packet of jelly babies. I'm obsessed with stickers at the moment, and this is going straight into my Hobonichi art diary. It will be the perfect way to remember receiving my parcel in my diary. I was so thrilled with this order and will definitely follow Auberginen's future offerings with interest.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Movie Review: La La Land

As always, I will try not to give spoilers,
although you may want to see the movie before reading my review!

La La Land is a 2016 movie in the musical genre, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and set in Hollywood. The title refers both to the nickname for Hollywood, and to a person who has unrealistic expectations: "living in La La Land". The story begins with Mia Dolan (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress who works as barista in the Warner studios coffee shop. She regularly sees famous actors and is exposed to life on set, but despite being a competent actress, all of her own auditions are disastrous. One day she runs into Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a musician passionate about jazz, but unable to find a satisfying job in a world where jazz music is no longer fashionable.

This first third of the movie is the typical "girl meets boy and they hate each other at first but reluctantly realise that they love each other" story. To accompany this, the style of presentation is very stylised -- everything is bright and colourful, there are regular dance sequences, and the characters only wear primary-coloured outfits; the colour seemed to differ dependent on their mood.

However, thankfully the movie is much deeper than that. Mia and Sebastian move in together, while both working towards their dreams. Both are on the brink of success, but both need to travel to different parts of the world, and it seems their relationship may not survive. This portion of the movie is portrayed in a much more realistic way, with soulful jazz music, a darker mood, and the struggles of real life intervening. I noticed that the characters wear non-primary colours like purple, and different coloured separates, which I think is supposed to represent the complexity of their feelings.

I found the ending unsatisfying and difficult to accept at first. After some thought though, I came to see it as bittersweet. It was realistic and I cannot fault that it was mature. In a way, it almost contrasted with way the story was told as a stylised fantasy. Normally I don't like musicals very much, but I do like jazz music, so I found it enjoyable to watch. Neither of the actors had particularly strong voices, and I think they were chosen for their star cachet rather than their musical talent. Although I did read that Ryan Gosling learned to play the piano for the role, which is quite impressive. I also liked that the "famous actors" who Mia and Sebastian see on their walks around the studio are played by no-one recognisable, allowing the viewer to concentrate on the two main characters.

Overall, what began as yet another cheesy romance movie revealed itself to be something deeper and more meaningful. It reflected the messiness of real life: the need to compromise in order to achieve your dreams. For this, I liked it much more than I thought I would.

Would I watch it again? Yes!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

My January

I did several new and different things in January, some of which I began in December, so it feels like the old year flowed easily into the new, in many ways. I displayed my art in an exhibition, I went to a herbal balm making workshop, experimented with doll photography, and renewed my commitment to KonMari'ing my house.

Weatherwise, it's been a strange month. There's less rain, as expected in the middle of Summer, but just about every second day has been overcast, which makes me less enthusiastic about going outside, and it's often even a little depressing. The temperature is often still quite high though, so it looks like Winter but still feels like Summer. I think it's left me feeling a bit disoriented.

What I've been making ...
My quest to craft more this year is going well so far. I think that making a list of top 5 projects to work on helped very much in keeping me focussed. I haven't finished anything yet, but I'm feeling much more optimistic about it. For my Granny Land blanket, I decided to make it 7x5, which means 35 squares. I counted them yesterday and I have 28 complete and 3 in progress. I was very pleased with that.

What I've been working on ...
I did an online course called Path of Colouring. It came with a printable colouring book of monsters to colour. The monsters represent the negative voices in your head, and colouring them is a fun way to interact with them. Each lesson, we coloured a monster while contemplating a question, and then wrote as much as we liked about it afterwards. The two biggest things I learned from the course (in a nutshell) are: 1. it's possible (perhaps even preferable!) to approach your issues in a playful and roundabout way. 2. Colouring is awesome!

What I've been planning ...
Ever since I did the herbal balm making workshop, I've been much more enthusiastic about my garden. I've filled in the details of my plan, and more importantly, spent time outside almost every day, actually doing things. Even if it's something simple like watering the plants or checking on them, I enjoy it.

Selections from Instagram

Monday, 30 January 2017

I Want to Make a Temperature Scarf

Since the start of the year I have been following Jillian of One Pink Hippo as she makes a Temperature Blanket. I'm feeling inspired to try something similar! The weather in Melbourne is so changeable that I'm sure the result would be very interesting. A blanket is a bit too much of a commitment for me at the moment: I really can't see myself crocheting/knitting a whole row every day. It's also a financial commitment to purchase enough yarn in enough different colours. A scarf seems much more manageable. I've been doing some research to work out the details.

Jillian's hexie blanket, about 2 weeks in. Picture Source

A Temperature Scarf/Blanket/etc is a conceptual project -- different colours are assigned to temperature ranges in your local area (e.g. on a 11-15 degree day, you might knit a light blue row; on a 6-10 degree day, a dark blue row). At the end of a year, you'll have a record of the daily temperature in crafty form. The project can take any form you like, any pattern, any combination of colours. There are so many ways of going about this project that it's a bit daunting! Jillian's method of making a hexagon-shaped granny square every day is cute and wouldn't take too much work, but on the downside, there will be a lot of ends to weave in, and she has to make adjustments to plan for the fact that 365 squares won't fit neatly into a square afghan.

A straight granny stitch afghan. Picture Source

I had the idea of making 12 granny squares, one for each month, and a row for each day. That would make a nice blanket size/shape, and you could start the next month before finishing the previous one if you fall behind. However the downsides of that are: having to adjust for shorter/longer months to make the squares the same size; having increasingly long rounds to crochet by the end of each month; possibly many ends to weave in; not telling the 'temperature story' in a flowing way.

A finished blanket embroidered with the year. Picture Source

Several others that I've seen made scarves using double/circular knitting, which I've done before in making the Harry Potter scarf. I'm really drawn to this idea, as there isn't too much knitting to have to do each day, I know it makes a nice smooshy scarf, and -- the BIG upside -- there's no weaving in. You can just knot the ends and hide them on the inside of the tube. The downside is that there's a visible jog in colour changes with this type of continuous knitting, but that can be hidden a bit on the edge of the scarf.

A circular-knitted Temperature Scarf in progress. Picture Source

I also saw various other cute ideas such as: making the width the same number of stitches as the person's age; adding in a metallic thread on snowy days or important dates; making the stitches taller or narrower as the days grew longer or shorter; adding in a second narrower row between each main one to record the minimum temperature as well as the maximum.

I adore the colours in this finished scarf. Picture Source

Of course, 1st January has well passed, but I feel like it would be more appropriate to start the scarf in Autumn, rather than the middle of Summer. So I'll wait until 1st March. That will give me a month to go through my stash and purchase any colours that I need, as well as think a little more about taking on a year-long commitment like this.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Magical Herbal Balms Workshop

Last Sunday I went to a workshop on making magical herbal balms, hosted by Raheli of Belladonna and Bones. I had previously bought some of her subscription boxes, and found them wonderful, with very informative booklets accompanying them. As soon as I found out she was doing workshops, I signed up immediately.

I apologise for the quality of most of the photos in this post -- I took them using my ipod which is more convenient to carry around, but the camera isn't very good. (Yet another reason to upgrade my phone!)

The workshop was held at her house (in her garage, to be exact!) which was happily not that far from my house. Melbourne is such a large city that it can take 2 hours to drive from one end to the other, so it's always pleasing when there's something near me.

After some fresh mint tea and a discussion on herbal medicine, we got started making the balms. Each of the 6 participants was asked to think of a specific purpose we would like our balms to serve, whether it be physical, medicinal, emotional or magical. She then suggested herbs for each, explaining why they would be appropriate. Some were fresh from the garden, and others already dried in a forest of jars on a side table.

I asked for a balm to help with anxiety, and also separating my own feelings from others'. Something I've noticed a lot more in the last year or so is that I tend to pick up on the feelings of others and it's hard to tell what's mine and what's not. Raheli chose Lemon Balm (aka Melissa) for its calming effect and ability to enact change, and Valerian for its earthy, grounding properties.

While the herbs were steeping in the oil, Raheli took us on a tour of her garden. Raheli's garden was wonderful, a magical fairyland of herbs and cool, shadowy corners. Even though it was no larger than a standard block, there were hundreds of different herbs and other plants. I was so impressed by her knowledge of all the plants.

Once the balms were finished, we went back out into the garden and talked more about how they can be used for magical purposes, and about how to connect with plants and ask them to help us.

I learned so much from the workshop, and am grateful to Raheli for opening up her home and sharing her knowledge. I'm also going the second workshop in the series, on making tinctures and potions, and I can't wait! I purchased two plant friends: a skullcap (left) and yarrow (right). I don't know much about these herbs, but they wanted to come home with me, and I've been doing some research on how to look after them.

Here is the finished balm on my special shelf at home.

Belladonna and Bones website
Youtube Channel -- Raheli posts seasonal garden tour videos so you can see her garden for yourself!
her Instagram

Friday, 20 January 2017

My First Exhibition

I've hinted in a few posts recently that something big was coming up for me. I've been too nervous to talk about it so far, but I should probably mention it, as it's happening tonight! On the theme of chronic illness, it's called Flare Up, and it's on for one night only at a small gallery called YGender in Carlton.

I will be showing some paintings and offering my new zine, along with about 10 other artists. (See how I just called myself an artist there?) This week has been very busy getting everything ready. I'm excited but also extremely anxious at the same time. Not only will I be meeting a lot of new people, but they'll be looking at my art which I haven't shown to anyone yet. Not to mention the possibility of selling some! I don't know what would make me more anxious -- selling it or not selling any at all!

Some of my friends have also said they would come along. I'm very grateful for the support but also anxious as most of them haven't seen my work yet, and they'll be seeing a new side of me. I'm worried about whether they'll accept it or not. The zine is something I've been meaning to do for years, so it was a good opportunity for me to knuckle down and get it done. Though it did turn out to be more personal and eccentric than I'd originally envisioned. I've written zines before and sold them, so I feel relatively confident about it.

Unlike the zine, the paintings are something new. I've never shown any artwork before. Also, the work I'd been doing previously was different -- brightly coloured with lots of patterns, featuring one of my dream characters. Overlaying the theme of chronic illness transformed it into something darker and stranger. I feel like it doesn't really represent what I'm doing right now, so I have some reservations about showing it. But I guess it's not really that different, when I think about it. And it was a lot of fun to do.

In preparation for the exhibition and what may come after it, I made the decision to use an alternative surname, an artist name, I guess you could say. I feel really uncomfortable using my real surname as it's rare and there are people from my past that I'd rather not come across. I had some biz cards made up, and created a Facebook page, for people who prefer to communicate that way. I honestly feel like conceited and even a bit of a sham to have these things! But it's part of the overall plan for what I want to do with the rest of my life, and there will always be challenges and less comfort-zoney parts to it.

I'd better go and finish getting ready now! Wish me luck!

Monday, 16 January 2017

In Progress: Top 5 Craft Projects

One of my resolutions this year was to do more crafts. I have a huge number of craft projects in progress -- 52! (Or even 56 depending on what I classify as a craft.) Even to me, that seems incredibly high, but I practice many different crafts, from crochet and knitting through to hama beads and embroidery. I realised that I had quite a few I'm never going to finish, for various reasons. I didn't like the colours anymore, or the little person it was for had outgrown it, or it just didn't pique my interest anymore.

Back in December, I decided to cull 12 projects. That would bring it down to 40, which is still high, but not quite as bad! It wasn't as hard to choose as I thought it would be. I have all of my craft projects listed on a spreadsheet, which is incredibly handy because it would take me hours if I'd had to sight each one physically, digging through boxes and tubs. Some of the projects I culled were:

✖ a baby blanket with squares that puckered
✖ a scarf I didn't like the colours of anymore. Also it was supposed to replace one I'd made years ago which is getting a bit ratty, but which I still wear. (Also, I'd rather put my energy into making a Hufflepuff scarf instead.)
✖ a scarf for my Lammily doll, though I might re-work it one day
✖ a sewn handbag which I can't find anymore. I already have a lot of handbags anyway.
✖ an experimental monster plushie which I didn't like the way it was turning out. I tried knitting it, but I've decided I prefer crocheting them.

Once that was done, my craftload seemed much more manageable and I felt lighter. However, deciding which project to work on in any given session was still a bit overwhelming. So I made a Top 5 Projects list. It includes some small projects that I can finish quickly for (almost) instant gratification, plus some larger projects that I want to have finished sooner or later. I collected them all together in my craft basket in the lounge room for easy access. Here's the Top 5:

1. Pink Flower Cushion
I bought a flower loom a while back and made this flower while learning to use it. I didn't want to waste it, but didn't know what to do with it for a long time. The obvious solution was a hair deco, but the colour doesn't work for me. I finally had the idea of making a doll floor cushion and sewing the flower to the front.

2. Polka Dot Coathangers
My dream is to have nothing but nice coathangers in my wardrobe. For some reason I always make them in sets of 3, because it seems easier to make them in batches, but also because I like the idea of matching ones. I had nearly finished knitting the second one when I found a third one I'd started ages ago which is sort of polkadotty, so the project is even further along than I'd thought.

3. Travel Bunny
It's a small, simple bunny that I'm going to make into a trackable. The method of turning it from a plain square into a bunny seems quite clever. I'll explain further in a future post. To finish it, I'll have to find the website with the instructions again...

4. Swedish Christmas Shawl
I call this the Swedish Christmas shawl because it was inspired by the shawl a girl was wearing in a TV ad comparing Australian Christmas to Swedish Christmas. The pattern is just a simple straight granny stitch, so it's good for mindless crocheting. It's incredibly long though, and I think it will take quite some time to finish.

5. Granny Land Blanket
I always have at least one blanket or afghan in progress. This one was inspired by Pinterest and I want to make it large enough to really snuggle under in Winter. I haven't thought about how I'm going to join the squares yet, but there are plenty of methods to choose from. The internet is a wonderful thing!