Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Barcelona 2

A few weeks back (though it seems ages ago!), I was in Barcelona. This was my second visit to the beautiful city, but this time I was taking no chances on the Sagrada Familia -- bought my ticket online, well in advance. On my first visit to Barcelona in 2012 the queues to get in the fabulous Gaudi building were huge and daunting, so I just slowly walked around the building viewing its amazing exterior.

This time, though, I was able to see all the interior details. The bronze doors leading in to the church were intricate and fabulous. I love irises.

A Gaudi trademark salamander in bronze.

Gaudi was inspired completely by nature, and the columns within the church were like tall trees in a forest.

The stained glass was incredible and colour-themed for the time of day (i.e. pinks and yellows for dawn; yellows, oranges and greens for midday, etc.)/

A real treat, and worth every penny of the price, was an elevator trip up the Passion Tower (the highest of two visitor accessible towers). One took the elevator up and then walked down - 400 steps - with viewing stops along the way.

As well as being able to see architectural features and construction, 

the city and sea were on show.

"God's Easter Eggs". Gaudi paid attention to every detail - even features that could only be seen by the angels.

 The three dimensional mosaics were just gorgeous.

400 stairs down to exit into the church. There was a rail to hang on to on one side -- I did not look down that's for sure! Frightening, especially to one suffering from vertigo, but I did it with no regrets! I would definitely have regretted NOT seeing this!

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Barcelona 1

My recent break to Barcelona started with a walking tour around the Gothic Quarter. I had earwigged on part of a walking tour during my first trip to the city in 2012 and was so impressed that I hung on to the Travel Bar leaflet and simply looked them up once my recent trip was planned. I highly recommend the tour, and also the friendly bar that is headquarters to a number of tours.

It is impossible to walk through the Gothic Quarter without taking note of gargoyles; this picture features a unicorn and (middle right) an "elephant" -- crafted by someone who had obviously never seen an elephant before!

One lovely building houses a Moorish ceiling, a fantastic piece of architecture.

This same building, the Viceroy's Palace, is also home to a modern bronze door - also a fantastic piece of work. The St George door was created by Josep Maria Subirachs in 1975.

St George/Sant Jorda is the patron saint of Catalonia and appears in lots of carved embellishments around the Gothic Quarter. 

Rambling around the old city of Barcino history is written on its very walls: the various rulers made their mark by building on top of other buildings; the castle is a mish-mash of architectural styles and building methods. 

In the foyer of an apartment building one can view Roman columns that were formerly part of a temple to Caesar.

 The tour guide spoke of  festivals in Barcelona and how there was always a celebration of Catalonian sport -- castelling. During any festival their are competitions of "castellers", i.e. human towers. Although I did not see any castelling while I was in the city, I saw the gorgeous sculpture by Antoni Liena i Font, "Homenatge als Castellers" (Homage to Castellers), which commemorates the height of a human tower that was created in an adjoining square.

The stainless steel sculpture is 26.5 metres high and was unveiled in 2012.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Happy Hallowe'en!

Happy Hallowe'en! It's that time of year again - the clocks have gone back an hour, the sun is setting really early, and I have taken my winter coat and scarf out of the cupboard. The heat has been on a few times now as there is a definite chill in the air. 

This year's pumpkins seem a little more abstract than in previous years. The lower pumpkin, carved by my husband was inspired by our recent trip to the Picasso Museum in Barcelona and seeing Picasso's version of "Las Meninas".

When the two pumpkins were carved (by husband and teen), it was up to me to wash and roast the seeds. This is an easy and tasty snack and I have given more details here.

Using last year's pumpkin mush (a few packs left in the freezer), we had made muffins earlier. It was a family affair as we decorated the muffins when cooled, after the pumpkins were carved. Details of how to make pumpkin mush after Hallowe'en are here and the muffin recipe is here.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Raku event - October 2018

Members of the three ceramics workshops, facilitated by James Hayes at Signal Arts Centre, prepared pots last spring for a raku event planned for the autumn. The pots had all been bisque fired and glazed and waited over the summer in anticipation!

James had also built a new kiln from an old oil drum, bowdlerising some materials from the old square kiln. This kiln was much more efficient and heated to temperature in about an hour.

After removing one of his pots from the oil drum kiln, James gave a demonstration of some raku design techniques.

Touched to the hot pot, the feather burns a design into the pot.

Sugar can also be (gently) thrown at the pot to create random blotching effects.

The final chance possibility is to place the pot in a "smoker". Here we used a metal trash can full of sawdust and paper. Any part of the pot that is unglazed will hopefully become black in the "smoker".

From experience gained at the previous raku event, many people - including me - had been collecting hair to burn onto the pots. I collected my own hair (which is curly) from my hairbrush and also had some bits of my daughter's straight hair. After being removed from the "smoker" the pots are dunked into cold water.

It was obvious to everyone at the event that things were especially working well and there were lots of "oohs" and "aahhhhs" as final pieces were removed from the cooling water bucket.

Here is a view of my two finished pieces. I used a red and a white glaze; the black is from the smoker. As well as a crackle effect from the raku process, the designs were created by hair, feathers and sugar. I was surprised that ghostly hair effects are visible in the black areas and in some parts the hair looks metallic. I am very pleased with the results!

Raku is originally a Japanese ceramic process, the word meaning "comfort", "ease" and "release", among other possible translations. Here is another view of my two raku "goblets".

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Street rubbings

Since moving to Ireland in the late 1980s, I have always noticed and wondered at the design of the "shore" coverings that gave access to water pipes and other utilities. Some of the designs were exquisite, and I have many times thought they would make good rubbings. As a summer job, when I was in university in the early 1980s, I found myself working for a special exhibit -- The London Brass Rubbing Cenre -- at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The exhibit came from the parent centre in London, and my job was as an instructor to visitors, setting them up with paper and hard wax crayons, and a reproduction brass taken from a tomb in the UK (images of knights and ladies, and such).

The old shore coverings in my home town now always bring this to mind. So, one of the first things I did when I started my studio residency at Signal Arts Centre last week was cut some paper, don my boiler suit, and walk around the corner from the arts centre with copper, black, and gold pieces of hard wax; I took a few rubbings from a particularly nice water pipe access covering. By the way, in Irish "uisce" means "water".

I liked the copper rubbing the best. One has to work quickly and hold the paper down so that it doesn't move. If the paper moves while working, then it is time to start a new rubbing.

The decorative old shores (left) are uniquely Irish, as opposed to the replacement modern shores, though at least the "uisce" is retained.

I have since found some other shores that I plan to do rubbings of, but I am at the mercy of the weather. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Studio residency!

As the previous artist in residence left a few days early, I was handed the keys last Thursday while I was at the ceramics workshop. This gave me the opportunity to view the space again while it was basically empty - several tables, an easel, some boards and two chairs come with the space.

The studio is on the second floor of the arts centre and there are two windows so it is a fairly bright space. There are also two sinks! With the space in mind, I started packing things to bring with me for the immediate future of working.

After a quick sweep, I put kraft paper on all the tables and started unpacking some boxes of supplies.

 I knew I wanted to set up various specific work stations, with a focus on the tables.

I set up the easel beside one of the tables, and set up the canvases I have been working on the past few weeks (with their ground coats). I know these are the first things I want to work on. A smaller table on wheels is perfect as a painting table. This station takes up half the room and the sinks are just opposite the canvases.

This table was a bit wonky when I leaned on it, so I thought it was a good place to put things I wanted to keep clean, and the cutting board (for cutting paper from the roll of acid-free rag I brought with me).

I put up a sheet of paper on the drawing board I brought with me, and unpacked some of the other materials: pastels, charcoal, inks, etc. I will use this table to work on drawings, but also to design and cut small woodcuts and lino blocks. I will wait till I am finished with painting, to convert that space to a printing area. I have not brought down my bookbinding materials yet, but I am planning to. This is really exciting for me to have many things to do and realising that I can leave something as is, ready to work on immediately the next time I enter the room!

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Recipe: Imam Bayildi made easy!

Although traditionally this delicious Turkish recipe is complicated to prepare because the final appearance of the aubergines (eggplants) is striped, through scoring of the skin, I decided to adjust the recipe so that it was a one-pot dish. The adjusted recipe tastes just as wonderful as the complicated recipe, so the Imam (and anyone else who eats it) may still faint because it tastes so good! [NB: the translation for "Imam Bayildi" is "the Imam fainted".]

This is a vegetarian dish, which can be eaten as a full meal (with rice) or in smaller portions as a side or starter.

The ingredients: 2 med/large aubergines. 1 large onion (or 3 small onions as I have used), 3 tomatoes, 2-3 garlic cloves, 1/4 cup water, juice of 1/2 lemon, large handful of chopped parsley, large handful of chopped dillweed, pinch of salt (if desired), 2/3 cup olive oil, tsp sugar.

Use some of the olive oil to cover the bottom of lidded casserole dish Chop tomatoes and aubergines, slice onions and crush garlic; add to casserole dish. Then add chopped parsley, dill, sugar, salt (if using), lemon juice, water and the rest of the olive oil to the casserole.

Cover casserole and bake at 180C for about 40 minutes. Stir the casserole at least twice during this time. Serve with lemon slices and rice; I prefer wild rice with this treat of a dish. Some warm pitta or crusty bread is also nice to have with this dish as the juices are gorgeous.

You can see how large the casserole dish is from this photo before I turned on the oven.

I meant to take a picture of the cooked meal, but forgot! Or maybe I fainted...