Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Preparing pumpkin mush for cakes, muffins and pies

I know I posted details of making pumpkin mush a few years ago, here, but decided to again while pumpkin muffins were on my mind: I made a huge batch of them a few days ago, in advance of Valentine's Day. The main thing is to make use of all the pumpkins available in October (in my family we usually get two to carve for Hallowe'en and then cut them up for cooking when the festivities are over). Basically the pumpkins are cut into cubes, after removing the hard outer skin.The cubes are cooked with some water (not too much as they contain a lot of water), lemon zest, and lemon juice.

Drain the fluid when all cubes are fully cooked and softened.


When cool measure into 400-450g bags and freeze.

I usually have about 6 or 7 bags for the freezer, which is enough to last me the whole year, making cakes and muffins and pies for special occasions. For Valentine's Day I made nearly four dozen muffins but forgot to take a picture of the muffins after I iced them. Today there are only 4 left! The muffins are light and delicious, the pumpkin mush makes them moist. The recipe I use for muffins and cake is here. One 450g bag of pumpkin mush will make 2 delicious pies, though I have not posted that recipe YET!

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Shamrock bowls - revamped!

In 2018 I made two foliage bowls, which I was really happy with from a beautiful results point of view, but realised that I put such a huge amount of effort into their making that I wanted them to remain unique, for my own use only. Last autumn I wondered if there was a way for me to create several similar bowls that I would be happy to sell at a reasonable price. I decided that I would make the bowls using one plant and that I would make them without "feet" thereby removing the necessity to take them home in order to complete. Details of making the fern and wild rose leaf foliage bowls are here and images of those finished bowls are here. I had a pot of shamrock in bloom, so I brought it into the ceramics workshop and cut sprigs from it for my design.

I was using plastic pudding bowls (I had 3 different sizes) as formers. Each bowl need a cling-film lining and then I swirled long sprigs of shamrock inside the bowls.

The clay was wedged and rolled out into a a large slab, from which I cut random pieces, which were fitted together as I worked.

I used my fingers to press the pieces together, letting the finger dents remain as part of the interior bowl form.

From the outside, one can see how the shamrock has been embedded into the clay from the pressure of joining the pieces. The cling-film creases will also add to the final design, apparent in the glazing process.

Here are the five bowls posing with the shamrock. Normally they need to be leather-hard dry before removal from the bowls, but since I was not adding feet to the bowls I could leave them until they were totally dry and ready for firing.

I glazed all the shamrock bowls with a food-safe green, wiping the glaze on the exterior in order to allow the glaze to only be in the plant and crease areas. I liked the way the glaze worked on the interior, accentuating the finger marks, however, I thought it was a bit too pale on the outside. I did submit them to the craft fair (more pictures can be seen here) but when they returned to me, I took the opportunity to make them better bowls.

For each of the five bowls I made feet that I thought were an aesthetic improvement. I knew that once they were fired some glaze could be used as a glue and the bowls could be re-fired with their feet.

I also took the opportunity to use a darker glaze on the exterior, with not such aggressive wiping in order that the creases were more apparent as well as a stronger appearance of the shamrock. For the deeper bowls I made tall feet.

For the two shorter bowls I made feet rings that were appropriately shallow. I am quite pleased with the results.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

A Short Walk to Fort Carré - in progress

Towards the end of my studio residency at Signal Arts Centre in 2018, I created a number of drawings based on my many visits to Antibes. The size of the drawings corresponded to the size of my lino blocks and I had the intention of returning to these images during my planned studio residency the following year, i.e., in 2019. My focus for the residency at Signal last Autumn was printmaking and bookbinding, and it was relatively easy for me to return to the Antibes drawings of the previous year. I prepared them and transferred the drawings to the lino blocks.

Each plate was carefully cut, and I decided that the connection between the images, while specific to Antibes, was more exactly descriptive of a short observational walk between the apartment where I usually stay in the South of France and Fort Carré.

The images consisted of flora en route, Vauban Harbour, and a corner of the fort itself. My end plan is to make a small edition of prints and bind them in a portfolio.

 I did a number of test prints using black ink. This enabled me to see if any additional cutting needed to be done on the lino plate.

I tried a number of colours before I decided on final tones for the series. I was delighted to be able to borrow a small printer to create the prints. I made a heavy card "window" for the lino blocks to sit in
so the press would not have to deal with the high relief of a lino block.

I have chosen the prints and decided their order of the eight images to reflect A Short Walk to Fort Carré. In the end I was not satisfied with the image of Port Vauban or a zoom shadow, so they will not be bound in this portfolio, in its edition of three.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Draped slab ceramic serving dishes

In the late autumn last year I started making some draped slab serving dishes. My intention was to make them quickly and sell them at the xmas craft in December. Of course, things always take a bit longer than I expect, but they worked out fine. I had two formers, one of wood and the other of plaster, bowl-shaped and I overturned them in order to simply drape a slab over them, with a cling-film layer between the clay and the former.

I've been doing a new style of foot lately, in two pieces - two arcs making dishes "float" above a table surface.

I never took photos of how I attached the feet to the 2019 dishes, but I did for recent ones (note the date). After deciding where the clay arcs would be placed and tracing their outlines, the areas would be scored and slipped.

The feet are also scored and slipped, and after affixing to the dish, I lightly paddle them down (with a wooden paddle) in order to ensure that there is no air between the dish and the foot. This is usually apparent when some slip oozes from the joint.

Dried and ready for the first firing, here are two terracotta and one white buff draped slab serving dishes.

After bisque firing the pots are ready to glaze. I decided to glaze the underside of the dishes so the texture when handling wouldn't feel abrasive.

Though this may look like only one glaze, there are actually three different glazes on the terracotta dishes: a base layer of cobalt blue with splashes of two runny glazes (aquamarine and sea green).

I had already witnessed these colours interacting in a lovely way, and was not disappointed.

Both dishes were bought within two days of being for sale, so again I was pleased.

While I made a draped slab dish from white buffclay, I later made two smaller dishes from grey buff. I decided, since I was including them in the xmas fair that I would glaze paint a holly design on them.

I forgot to take pictures of the finished grey dishes before they sold, but they had a white glaze underneath the holly. The white buff dish simply has a clear glaze underneath the holly design. This dish is larger than the grey ones and I'll see it again on my Christmas table setting!

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Kingswood - large painting

Last spring I started a new body of work based on memories of the homes in which I have lived. I discussed the beginnings of this project here and here. I wrote further about this work in relation to printmaking here and again more about it here. But in the summer I began work on the large painting, Kingswood, representing the house in Toronto where I lived for about 18 formative years. The ground is not canvas, but a type of pressed cloth used for domestic blinds, so there is a type of floral watermark design throughout.

I had a lot of research pix on different flowers (hollyhocks, lilac, apple blossoms, and the tiny white hedge flowers whose name I don't remember) as well as floral sketches, and the main composition sketch that I worked from.

I quickly found out that the ground behaved very differently from ungessoed canvas - REALLY soaking up every drop of paint. I worked loosely and thinned the paint out with water and medium (a mix of matte and gloss).

I had already decided on the 3 figures representing various stages of my life: my very young self on my Communion day (though I neglected to include the bridal veil I wore, I was more interested in the fashionable purple cape made for me by my Mum), my teenage self who spent most summers reading on the front steps of the house. and my young adult self who left home. 

This is a large painting, so it was necessary to use the step ladder to reach areas at the top and I had a cushion to kneel on when working in the bottom areas. The composition sketch was affixed to the wall the whole time I was working.

Any marks made would be visible in the finished painting. This whole painting would also be about process, and I was pleased that nothing would be hidden

There were several lilac trees in the backyard - purple and white lilacs - but my especial interest in the lilac in my painting was the heart-shaped leaves. The crabapple tree bore inedible fruit, but provided great ammunition in our "wars" with neighbourhood friends (a laneway between streets was adjacent to our house, so it was a great fort from which passersby could be pelted),

A plaid shirt and "painter" pants were my favourite clothing articles for a few years in my late teens-early 20s until art school got the better of my fashion sense and long flowy skirts were replaced by punk and neo-punk black.

As planned, I finished and signed the painting by mid-December.

Kingswoodacrylic on pressed cloth, approx 228 cm x 200 cm, 2019

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Home Project - Memory is My Homeland

Last spring I finalised a title for the body of work, which I had been alternately thinking of as "The Home Project" and "Stories of Home". I finally settled on "Memory is My Homeland", a phrase which I extrapolated from a quote by artist Anselm Kiefer. The beginnings of this work can be seen in previous blog posts here and here. The third small piece in this series is based on the view from my window, from the first time I moved from the family home - I lived here for one month, and almost would not even include it in thinking of my various homes, but for the number of stories that I associate with this one month. I think this work gives an indication of some of these stories!

Dunn Ave, oilstick & graphite on wood, 25.4 cm x 25.4 cm, 2019

In July I did a sketch for a larger work related to the house that I grew up in. I would describe it as being about "growing up, leaving home, and trees & flowers". Kingswood, in the east end of Toronto.

I finished the large painting before the end of 2019, but that will provide a blog post on its own. I used the image from the corner of this painting (a memory of my Communion Day, though for the painting I removed the veil) to feature in some prints.

I previously blogged about going to the Trinity Arts Workshop to learn about carborundum (which can be found here) and it was after printing out the carborundum prints that I decided I wanted to include some linework in the final print. I returned to the TAW to etch a corresponding copper plate and was shown how off-setting a print from the carborundum would facilitate a perfect correspondence. I had never encountered this process before, so it was like magic!

While I was resident at Signal Arts Centre at the end of last year, I did a few more test prints of the carborundum plate. I still have access to a small press and plan to finish the copperplate in drypoint before combining the plates for a final print edition.

I used the Communion image again for a monoprint, but unfortunately I think I applied too much pressure when running through the press, and the ink stuck to and ripped the paper. This is the actual plate before I put it through the press.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Handbag book gift

I have made a number of "handbag books" by cutting the leather from my Mum's old handbags, which I received after she died a few years ago. I decided I would make a sketchbook for my child as a xmas present from one of MY old handbags. I chose a black vinyl handbag because of it's size (for a decent sketchbook) and because I thought it would look cool! I also thought it would be great to have a working pocket on the front cover, and there was a zipped pocket on the bag.

Of course once the bag was decided upon, the paper had to be prepared. This simply involves taking measurements and using a metal ruler to tear the paper to size for a deckled effect. Full details on the Japanese stab binding technique can be found here; this is the binding technique I planned to use for this bag. I blogged about the turquoise handbag books that I made from one of my Mum's handbags in 2018 and that can be found here.

Once I had all the paper prepared, including endpapers, I put everything together as a package and marked where the binding holes would be. The holes were made with a drill press - much easier than an awl!

Since my endpapers were yellow, I used yellow cotten embroidery thread for binding.

In order that the pocket was neat on the inside and did not cause any damage to the sketchbook paper or endpapers, I affixed some paper to the inside covers (and weighted down) prior to preparing the final package for binding.