Wednesday 26 June 2019

Tomnafinnoge Sculpture Symposium

I visited Tomnafinnoge Wood last week, on the last day of a sculpture symposium. Five sculptors had been working in the woods, in mostly fine weather, for the past ten days. From  left to right they are Con Gent, Niall O'Neill, Dave Kinane, Róisín Flood and James Hayes.

Niall O'Neill was busy at work on an enormous piece of fallen oak. The sculptors could only use hand tools in the forest, and could not damage living trees.

A local child enjoyed assisting Niall in brushing wood dust from the carving.

Con Gent carved an abstract face into one end of a large branching tree limb and the final touch was to stand it up as a tripod.

It appeared to be almost walking, spider-like through the woods.

Dave Kinane’s constructed sculpture was the culmination of ten days of measuring, hand-drilling holes, and carving custom dowels to put together numerous saplings into a curving, open-mesh structure.

Kinane's piece has an Irish title which tranlates to "The Sanctuary of the Hooded Crow". The sculpture is open-ended and may very well provide sanctuary to birds and other fauna in need.

Róisín Flood’s work also required calculated thought and meticulous awareness as she wove together branches into a curved structure, which will eventually disappear into the woods.

When I visited, Flood was applying finishing touches of ferns and moss in the hopes that animals may build comfortable homes within her piece.

In addition to O’Neill and Gent, James Hayes was also woodcarving. He carved two blocky caryatid figures into short columns and they seemed to provide a portal into a glade.

The figures. male and female, represent a duality within nature, both benign and malign in its disinterest.

 The carvings are roughly chiselled and appear both ancient and contemporary.

The concern for the environment and importance of craftsmanship was obvious in the work of the five artists on the symposium. Both local artists and the general community are hoping that this wood symposium will become a regular event.

Wednesday 19 June 2019

ceramic handbuilt bowls

I made four bowls to go with my tulip dinnerware set, which can be seen in progress and finished here, here, here and here. A medium-size pudding bowl was used as a former (lined with cling film of course!).

You can see the feet on the bowls are made by two half-moon, measured slab pieces similar to the feet on the small plates in the set. They were affixed when the bowls were leather hard, in the usual manner of scoring and slipping.

I drew tulip designs on each bowl's exterior. I think the interiors will be the solid speckled turquoise glaze that I used for the background on the plates (so they will also connect with the backgrounds on the bowl exteriors). The speckled turquoise glaze has a bit of a rough texture, though, so I will also do a top coat of clear glaze to hopefully smooth it out.

A glaze firing was going to be put on, so I shelved these bowls, knowing that the glaze-painting of the designs would take a bit more time than I had. I quickly glazed a smaller, simpler bowl so it would go in that firing.

This turned out to be a good plan! Using only two glazes - fire engine red for the interior and rose gold for the exterior - my small terracotta bowl turned out quite lovely. I call it Libation Bowl. Though I am sure this is suitable for blood sacrifices, it will probably get most use as a peanut bowl. 

Wednesday 12 June 2019

Summer bean salad!

It's Irish summer, which means -- maybe there'll be warm, dry days, maybe there'll be cold, wet days. In other words, not much change from weather any other season! As I write, it's cold, wet, grey and miserable. There was hail a couple of days ago. But last weekend was sunny, dry and quite warm, perfect for at least one bbq. I suspected it would be so, in advance, and started making my favourite summery bean salad. This is a simple recipe, though it has to be made in two stages, which means two days. It is perfect for making in anticipation of a bbq, but also works as a fresh veg accompaniment to any meal, or with pitta or crusty bread as a meal in itself.

Even though I say a two stage recipe, I really have to start the night before stage one as I prefer to use dried chick peas (garbanzo beans) and kidney beans, rather than canned. They need to be fully soaked and then boiled the next day. I always add some bay leaves when boiling; the flavour they add is subtle but the house sure smells nice while the beans are boiling!

The other stage one ingredients are an onion, red pepper, runner beans, vinegar, sunflower oil, sugar. Chop vegetables, and in a large bowl add 2 tlbsp vinegar, 4 tblsp oil, and 4-6 tblsp sugar. Cover and leave overnight, periodically stirring. I never have room in my fridge, but because I live in Ireland there are plenty of cool storage spaces. If you live in a country that has a hot summer, do be sure to refrigerate!

The next day drain and rinse well.

For the second stage dressing, which will stay in the salad, I go all out and use olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar, but this is not necessary (so go ahead and continue to use sunflower oil, regular vinegar, white sugar). My version is just a little more special and decadent, but the original recipe I found did not use these ingredients.

Again, leave refrigerated overnight, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to your taste. This is an incredibly fresh and tasty salad.

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Delicious tomato pizza sauce!

In my family, we all love pizza! With the final exam and the ending of school for the summer, I decided it would be a great treat to have homemade pizzas for dinner.

 This fairly simple sauce for pizza is only time consuming in that you have to wait for it to cool before whizzing in the food processor. So what I do is make the sauce in the morning, go about my day and whizz it just before I put together the pizzas in the evening. Anything left over can be frozen. I made my own pizza dough once the sauce was made, but everyone has their own favourite dough recipe or convenient store-bought pizza bases to use, so I am just concentrating on the sauce here.

The ingredients: 4 cans peeled tomatoes; small onion, garlic, oregano (fresh or dried), bay leaves, tomato purée (I just use half this tube), black pepper, about 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and some oil for sautéeing onion and garlic before adding the rest of the ingredients. Cook it all up for about 20 mins to half an hour. Cool and remove the bay & oregano leaves before processing to make a smooth sauce. This amount made about 3 ice cream tub containers, which was plenty to cover four cookie trays of pizza! In fact, less than half the sauce was actually used, so I put the rest in the freezer for next time.

I use cookie trays and bake the pizza in the oven for about 20 mins at 180C, for thin crusted pizza. Everyone has their own favourite toppings, but I put the sauce down first and add the grated mozzarella last, over whatever toppings I want on my pizza as the mozzarella browns a bit, which I like. Delicious delish! If there is any leftover pizza, it also tastes great warmed up the next day.