Wednesday 20 December 2017

Xmas and butter tarts!

The month of December is about birthdays and xmas in my house - and cooking! We did the annual gingerbread cookies earlier in the month (I posted the recipe last December), made birthday cake for my husband shortly after and decorated the tree last weekend. My last ceramics workshop of the year took place last Thursday, and my husband & I were gifted with this beautiful wreath by a fellow workshopper who has also been taking a flower arranging course! 

I have plans to make my annual butter tarts in the next few days. The filling recipe is courtesy of my Newfie sister-in-law, and I only started making the tarts when she moved back to Canada about ten years ago. [Prior to that, the butter tarts were her annual "Canadian" xmas treat!]

Use your favourite pastry recipe for a dozen tarts. I use an easy one from DK's The Ultimate Cooking Book by Jane Bull: 1) Rub 125g/4 oz butter into 250g/8 oz plain flour 2) Add 4-8 tsp water to flour-butter mix 3) Squeeze into a dough ball, roll out, and cut with a pastry cutter or the floured top of a glass (that's what I use!).

For the filling: 1) Cream together 50g/2 oz softened butter and 120g/4.5 oz brown sugar 2) Beat in 1 egg, 1/2 tblsp lemon juice and 40g/1.5 oz  currants or raisins. 3) Add mix to pastry shells (in greased tart tin) and 4) Bake at 190C in preheated oven for about 15 mins (edges of pastry are delicately browned).

Yum! Happy Christmas and a safe, healthy and wondrous 2018!

Wednesday 13 December 2017

William Crozier: The Edge of the Landscape

I was really glad that I went to see the painting exhibition William Crozier: The Edge of the Landscape at IMMA (The Irish Museum of Modern Art). I had only recently heard of Crozier (1930-2011) because of advertising for this exhibition and another exhibition of his work in Cork.

From black and white ads, however, I have to admit I wasn't hugely interested, so it was a great surprise to see large, vibrant paintings when I found myself at the show!

Because of the layout of the exhibition space, I  was coming at the show from more recent work and moving backward through time.

This was fine as I encountered the really colourful, oft-times politically engaged work that he created after moving first to Spain in the 1960s and then to the west of Ireland in the 1970s.

I was attracted to the wild colouring of his paintings

and also to the drawing aspects within the paintings.

When I got to the final rooms (actually the historical start of the exhibition)

I was intrigued by the starkness of the images

but again there was the beautiful painterly drawing! I even thought it quite beautiful the way Crozier incised his signature, rather than painting it (something that oil painting allows easily).

These are works painted in Britain in the 1960s, expressing a bleakness and sorrow for the post-war world. Crozier was a young teen at the end of the war and horrified by post war images that came out of Germany and he later associated with the philosophy of Existentialism.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Stones - a stick book!

My original idea was that the book Stones would be a created as a stick book, companion piece to Sticks. I talk about the two books in a previous blog, along with showing simplified templates for both. In order to put Stones together I worked methodically: I scored the Khadi paper prior to printing and scored the Fabriano endpapers. The covers were made of a heavy duty, acid free blotting paper; only the front cover needed to be scored to facilitate folding when opening the finished book. 

Stones is a book of five intaglio prints based on pebbles at the seaside. The intaglio is done on 800 micron acetate plates and I printed the plates using my pasta press. I have given extensive details on how to convert a pasta machine into a miniature flatbed printer here.

After all prints were created, I decided on the page order. This is the first printed page.

Page 2.

Page 3.

Page 4.

Page 5.

Page six is an information page (signature, title, edition number, date). The pages were sandwiched between the endpapers and then wrapped with the blotting paper cover. I used a page of white paper, some corrugated cardboard and a lion clip to hold everything in place while binding holes were created using a drill press.

Stick binding is a variation of Japanese stab binding (instructions here). The stick, however, allows the binding thread to pass through the same hole consecutively, without unravelling. Although I originally planned to use real sticks, I was hit by a bolt of lightening and decided to create my own sticks in the ceramic workshop I am taking weekly. I simply rolled out some coils, hand-formed end bits, and used a real twig to press in some texture. Because of the colour of my prints (various mixes of Permanent Green, Payne's Grey, and Cobalt Blue) I chose a slate blue glaze for the sticks. I matched this colour to the six strand cotton embroidery thread I used for binding.

I started binding at the top, back to front and around the top of the stick then down to the next hole, and so on. This process was repeated going back up the book, tying several knots at the top back and trimming to the desired length. This is the back of the book.

Here are several of the bound books, showing the slight variation in the ceramic sticks.

I was very pleased with the finished books. Stones is in an edition of ten books.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Visit to London - part 3

My last day in London was spent at the magnificent British Museum. Well, actually, it wasn't a full day, so a lot of things I didn't have time to revisit (like the section that has a crazy amount of Egyptian sarcophagi). It was just as well that a royal visit was expected in another area that was closed off, as I didn't have time for it anyway!

My favourite parts of the museum include the rooms that have the Celtic, Norse, and Anglo Saxon treasures (especially the items from the Sutton Hoo find). Other favourites are the Assyrian statues and the rooms of relief carvings.

Though the royal lion hunt looks barbaric, the carvings are amazing.

The Assyrians were incredibly adept at portraying lions in agony.

It is interesting that the figures look so emotionally cold while the animals are so lifelike and detailed in their wounded demeanor.

A view of another mural, that had a large amount of cuneiform writing. Perhaps I just missed it, but I was surprised that there was no translation of all the writing (even if just a synopsis of the story).

The "man bags" were an item of curiosity! Apparently they are part of rituals of purification  and/or fertility as magical objects.

Again, it is the detailed lifelike forms of the animals which intrigue me the most.

I also spent a fair bit of time in the money room, which contained a whole history of barter, historical coins, etc. As a long time Dr Who fan, I was drawn to the fake ten pound note that was created for a specific episode; the display also contained a looped video of the relevant scene of that episode/

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Visit to London - part 2

My daughter absolutely loves The Science Museum, so it was a must-do on our London city itinerary and we wanted to get there before the school rush. I loved this fascinating optical sculpture

 and the accompanying photo by Berenice Abbott which inspired it's re-creation.

My daughter's hoodie had a galaxy pattern, so we attempted to envisage the infinite!

After an early lunch, we headed to the Victoria and Albert Museum. So much to see there! The Chihuly chandelier at the entrance signifies the start of the afternoon of exploration.

I didn't remember seeing this huge Burne-Jones painting on previous visits, so perhaps I had never been in this stairwell before? The V&A is a large museum, it is easy enough to get (happily) lost!

I was excited to see an advert about a Winnie-ther-Pooh exhibition, then disappointed when the dates didn't coincide with my trip to London. So when I came across the hallway of original illustrations, including several by EH Shepard I was quite delighted.

I thought I recognised the work of Edmund Dulac, one of my favourite golden age illustrators but I was wrong. This 1911 watercolour of King Mark and La Belle Isoud from Malory's Morte D'Arthur is by William  Russell Flint.

There was a Dulac nearby, however. It is difficult to take pictures of these illustrations, because they are behind glass, but the image is from Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen. The snow queen's carriage is brightening the left of the picture.

I was curious about this illustration by John Everett Millais. I have recently seen the film Effie Gray, who romantically became his wife after an unconsummated first marriage to John Ruskin.

There was a whole section of the museum devoted to performance and theatre which was delightful, and again, a section I had not explored on previous visits. This circus poster is (most obviously!) the inspiration for The Beatles' song Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.

There is so much to see at the V&A that repeated visits are a must. Exit through the gift shop is always interesting...A plethora of ceramic buttons caught my attention.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Visit to London - part 1

I was in London for a few days, just over a week ago. First I spent a couple of days in Surbiton (just outside London) with my cousin and her partner. Back in 1981, my cousin was visiting Toronto (where I originate) and I gave her a couple of monoprints before she returned home to Ireland.

My cousin moved to England in the late 1980s and took the prints with her. I am happy to say that she got them framed and they have been hanging in her home ever since. I remember that these monoprints were part of a series of abstracted flower prints, but I am pretty sure they are the only ones left in existence now, thanks to my cousin who really liked them.

While in Surbiton, we took a cab to Kingston-on-Thames to enjoy a bbq dinner and evening of live music at the Ram Jam blues club. It was an excellent night, and I was especially impressed by the young double bass player - she was amazing!

Last Monday we took the train into the city. It was a very roundabout route as there had been a train derailment the night before that was still causing schedule disruptions. Despite this, we got to our hotel near Earlscourt in good time and walked over to the Natural History Museum. When we had been there a few years ago, a lot of the museum was closed for renovation, so it was delightful to walk around in the late afternoon, and revisit the beautiful halls.

The architecture in the great hall is stunning!

Actually, the architectural details in the whole museum is quite breathtaking. Both the old sections and the contemporary sections have amazing details. Though I have no pictures of the contemporary areas, I do recommend the environmental display areas, and my favourite -- the big earth ball installation near the side entrance that an escalator will facilitate a journey through.

It was dark when we left the museum, and all the trees were decorated with fairy lights - showing off nature's architecture!