Wednesday, 13 February 2019

2019 ceramics workshop - one month in!

Last December I did some sketches of tree and stone imagery that I thought would be nice glaze-painted on tiles. When the ceramics workshop resumed in the new year, I was ready to do four small glaze paintings on ceramic tiles.


 When I was doing the "liminal" sketches of stones on the shore, I made the forms and colouring more complex than the more basic stick images.


With this in mind, I decided to paint the tree tiles first. Even here, I overlapped a few glazes anyway (reds & oranges, blues & greens) to see what would happen.


I was pleased enough with the results. I always lean towards Fauvism when I think of trees and colour at least one of them red.


Glaze painting is always a pleasant surprise as it is impossible to know how the pre-fired glazes will react with each other when fired. There is a certain amount of looseness when painting with glaze on a tile, but its exact colouring can never really be pinpointed.


The trees tiles were put away when I was painting the stones and I decided, in keeping with the sketches, to make the forms more complex. I did take pictures of the tiles before they were fired, but deleted them by mistake. I took especial care over the sand areas, as I did not want them to appear too solid. I glazed first with a bright orange and then, after the orange glaze had dried, took a smaller brush and dotted a bright yellow glaze overtop.


I am very pleased with the colouring and randomness of the glazes.


Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Phoenix tail salad & sesame soy dressing

To celebrate Chinese New Year, we prepare a feast that always begins with a lovely "phoenix tail salad". The phoenix is a mythological creature and you can find more details of it here. In China, the closest thing to the phoenix is the equally mythological and fearsome peacock-tailed bird Fenghuang.
I think this salad really refers to Fenghuang, as the point of it is to display the ingredients like a peacock's tail. The salad provides a lovely centre piec.


These are pictures from a few different years, so the ingredients and placement of veggies may differ slightly, but the overall effect is the same. Start with a bed of greens (spinach, rocket, coriander, parsley or a mixture) and layer slices of hardboiled egg above the centre of your plate. Shredded green onion, strips of red pepper and/or thin sticks of celery can be tucked behind egg, peeking out of the "tail". Slices of tomato circle the bottom area of the plate, and add sticks of carrot as a final touch. One year I used cherry tomatoes and also added thinly sliced radishes. Another year I included snow peas/mangetout in the mix. The exact placement of ingredients and the ingredients themselves can be left to your own imagination and preference.


The sesame soy salad dressing should be kept separate with a small serving spoon, to individually ladle onto the salad once you have chosen your ingredients for your own plate. The tasty dressing is simple to make: combine 3 tblsp soy sauce, 2 tblsp rice or white wine vinegar, and 2 tsp sesame oil.
This is a delicious and healthy start to any meal, but won't be a centrepiece for long!


Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Chinese New Year is next week, Tues Feb 5 2019 - Year of the Pig. At my house we will be having a little celebration feast on Saturday as it is more convenient for us. So in preparation, the decorations came out last weekend and it was my task to update the changing design we have for the heart decoration. I googled images of pigs and the Chinese character for pig, and did a quick sketch to see how the image would fit in the decoration.


I remember when my child was about three years old, we decorated a bunch of dragon line drawings. We put several on popsicle sticks and had a type of dragon puppet show. Now these dragons sit in vases for the festivities.


Red is considered lucky in China, so I reproduced my sketch in red ink and white-tacked it onto the decoration. This decoration has it's place on the door between the kitchen and hall. It will over-look our feast on Saturday evening.


 2019: Year of the Pig. Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Art studio drop in!

At the end of last year I found out that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Arts Office ran an adult art studio drop-in at the fantastic Lexicon (art gallery, library, lecture & workshop space) in Dún Laoghaire. The drop in is every Friday between 11 am and 1 pm, and while facilitated by an artist (one whom I admire, as it turns out - Emma Finucane) artists of all abilities are welcome at the drop-in to avail of as much or as little assistance as required. Since my own studio space won't be up and running for at least another month, I resolved that I would make use of this opportunity for workspace.


As a newbie at the studio drop-in, I wanted to check out what materials were available. There were lovely drawing pencils of all sorts and some good drawing sketch pads. I had brought one of my sketchbooks with me, to work from, and chose some 5B pencils and a few sheets of the toothy drawing paper.


Once I had warmed into my drawing, I decided a quick watercolour of persimmons was in order.


 Although I liked the large soft brushes provided, I resolved to bring my own brushes the following week and planned to do some acrylic sketches.


It had been a rainy, cold morning as I took the train into Dún Laoghaire, so it was appropriate that I dream of the sunny days in Antibes and choose Fort Carré as my subject to focus on.


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Incognito 2019 and other work...

I've got a few things that I'm working on at the moment, hopefully to bear fruit in the coming months. But one of the most pressing things I must do now is actually organise all the artwork I created during my ten week studio residency at Signal Arts Centre. The past few months have also coincided with a new studio being built in the backyard for my husband (sculptor James Hayes) and this currently empty space provided a great area for the photographing of the artwork.


For the past few years I have been participating in Incognito, an annual fundraiser in support of The Jack & Jill Children's Foundation. For this fundraiser, artists create and donate small pieces of art on cards; the cards are exhibited and sold in a Dublin gallery (this year a gallery in Cork is also involved).


There are no signatures on the front of the cards, so buyers do not know whose work they have bought until the work is sold - hence the name of the fundraiser. All cards are sold for €50 with the entire proceeds going to Jack & Jill. This is "Fracture" - a tiny painting that I adhered to one of my cards in 2017.


This is a lino block print that I affixed to one of last year's cards. The rosary beads image of "Prayers for My Children" was inspired by the same circumstances that inspired a short story of the same name, which was published online in Tales from the Forest last year.


In fact, this blog began with showcasing the Big Egg Hunt Dublin! It was a more labour intensive fundraiser, and probably not as lucrative for Jack & Jill as "Incognito", but it was a lot of fun.


At the end of the event, my piece was bought by IBM Legal in Dublin. This is an amalgamation view of my egg, "Wild Roses".


Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Coconut Maccaroons

This is a delicious & easy recipe and very useful when you are making something else that calls for egg yolks only (like custard) as it requires egg whites only! The ingredients: 1+1/3 cups dessicated coconut; 1/3 cup sugar; 1 oz flour; 1/8 tsp salt; 2 egg whites; 1/2 tsp almond extract; 1/2 cup chopped almonds; candied cherry halves or whole almonds for decoration.


Mix dry ingredients together then mix in wet ingredients.


Form little balls of the mix and place on lightly greased cookie sheets, slightly fllattening from the top. NB the balls don't really hold together well, but they bake together!


Decorate each maccaroon, before baking, with candied cherry halves or whole almonds. Bake at 325F/160C for about 15 mins (until lightly browned).


This recipe usually makes about a dozen but this depends on how big or small you make your balls from the mix. Every New Year's Eve, I have these as a nice treat with the chocolate fondue, but these are delicious plain or you can drizzle some chocolate on them after being baked. Enjoy!


Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Happy New Year!

Every New Year's Day in my family, we light the xmas pudding and serve with custard that I make for the occasion. I have to make it in advance, since only the egg yolks are used and the egg whites are used for coconut maccaroons, which we have on New Year's Eve for one of the dessert items to dip in the chocolate fondue!


Next week I will post a recipe for the maccaroons, but here first is the recipe for the custard (in both imperial and metric measurements):

1 cup/250 ml sugar; 3 tblsp/45 ml cornstarch (called corn flour in Ireland); 1/4 cup/50 ml flour; 1/8 tsp/0.5 ml salt; 1/3 cup/75 ml cold water; 3 egg yolks; 2 cups/500 ml boiling water; 2 tblsp/30 ml butter; 1 tsp vanilla extract.

In a mixing bowl, mix together dry ingredients.


In the top of a double boiler, beat cold water and egg yolks together, before adding dry ingredients.


Stir until smooth, then add the boiling water.


Cook on med-high (not too high or it will burn) heat, stirring constantly, until smooth - about 15  minutes.


Whisk in butter and vanilla extract; remove from heat.


This custard can be divided into portions and frozen. Even though I exclusively make it for New Year's, it is a lovely dessert year-round!


Also, I originally adapted this recipe from a lemon meringue pie recipe, so if you want to make lemon meringue pie, add 1/2 cup/125 ml lemon juice and grated zest from one lemon when you are whisking in the butter. Cool the lemon custard and add to a pie shell. Use the egg whites to make a meringue: beat 3 egg whites  with a pinch of salt and slowly add 6 tblsp/90 ml sugar, beating until stiff. Top the pie with the meringue before baking for about 10 minutes at 375F/190C or until meringue is lightly browned.

I have also previously adapted this recipe to make a coconut cream pie! As with the lemon meringue pie, add about 1/2 cup/125 ml dessicated coconut to custard when whisking in the butter. Add the coconut custard to a pie shell and top with meringue made from the egg whites and bake as above.