I'm currently spending a lot of time thinking about which way I want to go with my artwork (subjects, style, size, price range, exhibitions or publications and much more). I've also spent a lot of time de cluttering my studi and my art-related computer files.
As part of all this, I put together an image document of all my completed art quilts in roughly chronological order (and very roughly to scale). It's helpful for me to see how my work has developed, as well as to think about which artworks and which elements I am happiest with. And visitors to my studio and exhibitions are very often interested in how my work has progressed through the years, so I thought I'd share the images here too. The first two quilts shown here were made in 2006.
While I'm not done with 'analysis and future planning' (doesn't that sound official?!), this exercise has already confirmed a few things for me. I still love using the cotton-linen blend fabric that features in the background of many of my newer artworks. I also still absolutely love the quilts that simply feature leaves. Although they are not as challenging to construct as the childhood pieces, I always love how they turn out. However, I think it might be time to tackle some eucalyptus blossoms again (you all love them so much!).
The childhood artworks don't sell as well as the botanical pieces, but I love the joy and challenge of creating those, so they'll be here for a while still, and hey, I need to make the most of the busy little models that live here while they are still little!
Creating the larger artworks is so much fun, because I can tell a much fuller and more complex 'story' with those, but I also realise that the large pieces are out of most people's price and space range. When I look at the artworks that remain in my studio, compared to those that have gone to new homes, I still have a lot of the larger childhood pieces left, so maybe I need to restrain myself a little when it comes to those. Or maybe I will just say 'who cares, let's just have fun making them anyway!'. Oh, the decisions and dilemmas, but, oh, the possibilities!
You know, I’m not sure if it’s acceptable for a textile artist to say this, but I think I actually enjoy visiting the hardware shop more than the fabric shop. Walking through always gives me itchy fingers and makes me want to do and make and organise.
So I thought I’d share some of my current favourite finds:
Flexible black buckets
I know these are very common, but I still love them. We use them to store toys in (they last much longer than baskets and other plastic tubs, and are super cheap. We also use them to store shoes in the kids rooms, and for camping. I try to stick to black because I like having a consistent look to my storage containers if possible.
I found this beauty last week. $7. Enough said.
I got eight of these from the kids for my birthday a couple of years ago. I use them so often, that I recently purchased some more. There are currently a few holding the fabric drop cloth in place on my printing table. There are also some holding up a photography backdrop. And several more still holding the remnants of a cubby in place (these are the PERFECT cubby-building tool). They are not expensive and I like the look of the metal ones so much more than the plastic ones you can get. (Wrap four of these together with a flat sheet for a fort-building kit for a little person in your life!)
This Kinchrome tray was a bit more of a splurge, but I love it! (And my kids have their eyes on it too.) I’m going to use this one to store a smallish selection of Lego. I have been frustrated with the mess that the younger boys make of all our Lego, so the rule now is that the Lego gets put away on Sunday night and opened up again on Friday after school. But I’d like to have a little bit out for Marcus to play with during the week. I also noticed, when we stayed at my parents house recently, how nicely the boys played with a much smaller selection of Lego. Like it wasn’t quite so overwhelming and they could just knuckle down and start building. This tray has lot’s of little containers in it for compartments. I might take them out for now and put them back in when Marcus is a little bit older.
Actually, really, just sell me all the tool boxes. Some time ago Phil put me on a basket ban, declaring that we have way too many baskets in the house. Thankfully he didn’t say anything about tool boxes! The tool box collection is steadily growing. We have several small red ones. I use one for a sewing box for my hand work and I ne of the children stores all his stationary in another small red one. My most recent tool box purchase is this one. This one stores a range of seasonal wear (snow jackets and mittens from our trip to NSW last year) and we have another one that houses the Lego trains and train tracks. I love that these are basic and no-nonsense. And I love the industrial look of them too.
So now I’m curious… What gets you excited in the hardware shop?
This has absolutely nothing to do with my usually textile-related blog posts except for the fact that it results from a no-sew day I had last week. It was Caleb's birthday and I'd planned to have a slow day, while the older kids were at school. The only thing I needed to achieve was to assemble and decorate the birthday cake. As a result I had a lovely slow and creative morning with Marcus, making teeny tiny party hats and balloons for the birthday cake toppers. (The kind of craft which I used to do a lot more of before I got caught up making art quilts). Which got me to thinking about sharing how I cater for a children's party. Nothing earth-shattering, but sometimes it's nice to read about how other people do these things, isn't it? It is for me!
1. The cake. It's almost not a birthday without a cake, is it?
My go-to cake recipe is the white cake one listed below. It's pretty much fail-safe. It's a recipe from my childhood, and I remember sitting at Aaron and Hannah's earlier birthday parties exchanging amused glances with a childhood friend as we tucked into the kids birthday cake while the other mother's passed it by. They had no idea what they were missing out on! Oh, and that's another thing about the cake. I used to make something more ladylike for any mum's who came along. I've stopped that, though. My philosophy is 'adult's cake for an adult's birthday and children's cake for a child's birthday'. That keeps things a bit simpler.
|3||t baking powder|
|1 1/4||C sugar|
|1.||Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Beat butter, gradually add sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.|
|2.||Two 8inch tins or one springform tin. 350F. 30-50 minutes.|
I usually make a buttercream icing. I take it from the Women's Weekly Birthday Cake book (did you grow up with that one too?), but I'm sure there are plenty of recipes online. Now cake decorating is totally not my forte (I can never get them to look like the ones in the book), so my preferred strategy is a very simple looking cake with a fun cake topper or ten. These party animals were a winner! (The idea came from here – check out those teeny tiny 'cakes'). My absolute favourite birthday cake though, is white cake iced with buttercream icing and covered all over with smarties. So good still days after the party! (Simple is so often the best).
Having said all that, this cake was a packet chocolate cake sandwiched with cream and jam, and coated with blue-tinted cream. And it went down very well!
2. Accompaniments. Lollies, chips. Yes, lollies and chips. It's a birthday party after all! Some years I have made all kinds of fancy extra food (biscuits, mini pizzas and quiches, pastry twists and more), but it's really a little bit lost on children. And really not on my priority list at this point in time.
3. Some good stuff. Fruit, vegies. A plate of watermelon is the best, but sometimes I do a mixed plate of fruit, or vegies and dip.
4. Drinks. Water, juice. I have used individual juice boxes or water bottles before. Now, though, I use two of those glass drink dispensers that you find everywhere at the moment. If you cater for groups fairly often, these are so worth investing in! They're not too expensive anymore, and they look always fancy even if they only contain juice and water. Oh, that's one thing I've learnt along the away – to always offer water. There are always some children who prefer water, and it's so much better for them too!
5. Halfway through. Some people like to put some hot snacks in the oven. That all sounds like too much hard work to me (having to remember to put them in on time, and then also take them out on time). I prefer to offer an icy pole or icecream of some sort, if possible. And preferably to be eaten outside.
I could have made a sixth point, but this is really more about what I don't do. Party bags. I won't hand out a bag choc full of lollies as kids leave my house. If I've offered them plenty of party food, there is no need for me to load them up with more on their way out the door (to be perfectly blunt). I've also had countless instances where children have asked me what's going to be in their party bag, or have asked to have one. It's a pity that children (including my own) have come to take these so much for granted. At the same time I do like the concept of some sort of 'thank you for coming to my party' token, so I'm a little torn over this. If we do give something, it is never a bag full of lollies, and we definitely try to avoid or minimise the food component.
What is your go-to birthday treat, or catering tip? I'd love to know!
On another similar note, you can read more about how I organise my studio in this interview over at Heather Power’s blog.
I'm figuring that thirty-something weeks pregnant is a good enough excuse for a random rambly post, isn't it? A number of things:
- The bump and associated baby are both growing at an alarming rate.
- This doesn't stop the two year old baby from snuggling up and getting comfortable. (He's in for a rude shock soon, when someone else claims 'his spot').
- The two year old is very pleasant company during the day, but loves it when his siblings are home before and after school, so that he can do grown-up things like make and pack his own 'school lunch' (four slices at a time) and 'practice' spelling words.
- Every couple of days I feel like I have the energy and drive to conquer the world, so I have been doing some naughty things like preserving fruit (don't ask, just smile and nod) and buying and painting rocking chairs (vital baby preparation). (Phil was away on a work trip so I could get away with it :)). Marcus has hidden the self-adhesive felt strips I bought for on the bottom, so it's staying upside down until they reappear.
- Every other day I pay for all the extra activity with intense Braxton Hicks contractions and other complaining muscles.
- Thankfully I have a knitting project to keep me sane while I spend time on the couch with my feet up. Little foxes for our up-and-coming little 'Fox'. Just awaiting some clothes now. Daniel in particular, loves watching projects like this take shape. He was home when my yarn from Bendigo Woollen Mills arrived in the mail, and has emphatically requested 'knitting sticks' and a parcel of yarn for his fifth birthday.
- I'm trying to be super organised for the summer (e.g. Christmas meat, menu and grocery shopping). That has included birthday shopping for Daniel's fifth birthday, mid-January (because that's not something I want to tackle in the first weeks of the year with potentially six kids in tow:)). I think we're on to a winner with this lot – a random assortment of goodies for our random bundle of joy. I'm considering wrapping/packaging it all as if it's come via the postman, as he so loves opening my packages. He's also requested skis and a pot plant. I think we'll pass in the skis, but might still manage a pot plant 😉
- There you have it, everything you did and didn't want to know about life at our house at the moment!
I hope you are not feeling too daunted by end-of-year busyness at your house? (Here's my tip: pregnancy is a great excuse/reason for keeping things manageable!)
So simple, so sweet, but so good!