Thursday, 15 February 2018

Learning to Screen Print

I destroyed so much fabric when I was young trying to either design a wonderful dress, before I became a patternmaker, or attempting to paint some fabulous creation whenever I got a plain piece. This was fabric that my Mum bought for me from the local travelling salesman and since we were not a wealthy family you can imagine what she thought of my wastage. Dad, being the artistic one, never worried about it.

Most of my career has been focussed on my bespoke bridal/evening wear business and patternmaking for companies, both here in Australia, England where I lived during the 1980s and of course in Auckland, where I was born and studied.
It bought in the funds for me to do exciting things such as travel and photography but the beginning of 2017 saw a new love emerge for me, water colour sketching via a lovely Instagram sketching community #momentsketchers 

It is now February 2018 and I have just completed an amazing 4 day screen printing course at in Petersham, Sydney owned and run by the very talented, and patient, Laura Walsh. I chose a viscose/spandex and also a silk voile to print on. This has definitely set me on another path to develop proficiency in Photoshop and Illustrator, in an attempt to become more conversant with the digital format and produce my own screen printing. It is frustrating and makes me want to tear my hair out, but immensely enjoyable at the same time.

 1974- Hand painted Rupert Bear on a dress I wore for the Miss Auckland Contest, which my sister  entered me into. I was lucky to win Miss Friendship and a trip to Tahiti.

1998-Hand painted angel on a T-shirt for my niece, Lauren.

2012- My first attempt at screen printing

                        2017- Original sketches for Seraphina (above) and Sophronia (below)

February 2018-First layout in Photoshop
February 2018-Screen printing course, lining up the 2 layers of film
                                      Washing the exposed screen in readiness for printing

                                   Very exciting watching it come alive on the actual fabric
                                   My niece, Lauren's beautiful Burmese, Gypsy helped me cut out!

                                                     The finished top in viscose spandex-front
                                                     Silk/voile skirt lined with a grey rayon

The beautiful plaited kangaroo leather belt was made for me by
in Berrima in the beautiful Southern Highlands.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

My Love Affair With Big Cats

I visited a lion park down in Hamilton in the middle of the North Island in New Zealand in the 1970s and fell in love as I held onto a baby lion. He was very heavy but, my goodness, I did not want to let him go. He was utterly adorable.

I have mentioned in a previous blog that one of my most favourite set of books when I was about 7 years old, and still is today, is 'Born Free' written in 1960 and 'Living Free' written in 1961. It is the story of Elsa and her cubs by Joy Adamson and it ignited in me an intense love of cats, the bigger the better. I'd had a dream to work with them or at least pat one during my lifetime. The closest I had got to seeing them in their natural habitat was when I visited Kenya in the mid 1990s and got to stay at Kichwa Tembo. We got up very early and went on a drive from our camp right out onto the Serengeti Plains. It took all day and, just as a massive downpour was about to erupt, our driver spotted two cheetahs running after a hoped for meal. We were driving at nearly 110 km and we still couldn't get anywhere near them. It was an amazing sight, but we had to leave them because the torrential downpour sent us back to camp.

I visited Canberra Zoo 2009 with a dear friend to 'Meet the Cheetah' and it set my heart on fire, I got such a surprise to pat these beautiful animals and have them lick me and purr so loudly.

I was now on a mission to find out where I could travel to in Africa to either work with these magnificent cats or at least see them close up in their natural habitat. I found a place in South Africa and finally got to work with cheetahs, lions and wolves for one week. Unfortunately I did not have the time to spend longer there but it is one of the highlights of my life to have worked so closely with these wonderful animals. The wolves are so timid and extremely sensitive, so I was honoured when I sat down on the ground and they walked all around sniffing me then let me hug them. The days were long and very hot and, even though I lived in Sydney and come from Auckland, I found the heat more bearable in Africa, primarily because it was a dry heat and not humid. It was sheer magic to come home to our rondavel after work and relax in the pool staring up onto the clear moonlit African sky.

Absolute magic.

Here are some pictures of me in Hamilton Lion Park, New Zealand:

Me in Africa:

Don't Wash Clothes When You Spill Oil On Them! Do This Instead!!

You're at your favourite restaurant and you accidentally spill oil on your favourite top – an expensive silk, voile or other natural fibre garment. What do you do?!

Or perhaps you're a machinist and the machine has dropped some oil on you while sewing?

Don't just put your clothes in the wash!

The very best thing to do immediately if you're out at dinner is blot the stain gently between two pieces of clean paper towel or paper serviettes, not a fabric serviette in case it is made of a synthetic, which won't be absorbent. Then leave it alone until you get home. I'm sorry but, until then, you will have to cover your stain with your wrap, hand or handbag. If you fiddle with it, the oil from your hands will make it much worse.

Instead, follow these instructions and you'll be fine:
  • Never ever wash or try to rub the oil off, just blot as described above.
  • When you get home, lay the oil marked section on top of a couple of layers of paper towel, then heavily sprinkle baby powder onto the stain and leave it alone for at least 24 hours or overnight. I only use Johnson's Baby Powder but if you find a brand with the exact same composition, it may be alright to use. There are some nasty powders on the market so do be careful, for your fabric and baby's sake. 
  • The powder will slowly soak up all the oil, but if it looks like there could be some residue after that time then repeat the process again: put the fabric on top of fresh paper towel and pthen ut fresh baby powder on top. 
  • After it has been sitting undisturbed for approximately 24 hours, shake the excess powder off then completely submerge and wash your garment in lukewarm water and gentle laundry liquid, never spot wash a section as it will leave a watermark ring. If you prefer to dry clean your garment, you can still sprinkle the baby powder onto the stain and tell the dry cleaners what you have done.
  • After washing, hang your fabric out on the line to dry.
  • Once completely dry, iron. 
Below are some photos that show all this in practice!

Before oil:

Oil spill!!!

Baby power on top:

Shake off the power:

See the oil clumping the powder:

Wash the fabric:



Tuesday, 5 December 2017

My Immersion Into My Art Continues.......

Wow, so much has happened since my last post! Last year I was taking control of my art by expanding and exploring my techniques and materials. This year, my sketching has evolved and I’ve now left my coloured pencils rather lonely on the shelf in favour of watercolours, sketching pens and graphite pencils 

I am my gentle father's daughter, although I confess to owning a headstrong nature courtesy of my mother.  
I’ve always admired Dad's innate talent and dedication – he even managed to take his artistry to work, by decorating huge cakes for special occasions. When art is in your blood, it tends to arise at every opportunity! Luckily for me, that started at school, where I was top in art and won awards. Life often gets in the way of pursuing your passions, however, and so I’m extremely grateful to be focusing on it again right now.

I saw a delightful watercolour sketch in National Geographic back in 2012 and it stirred something in me. I realised I needed to get back into art and attempt watercolours. I didn’t know then who the artist was, and only saw the seemingly simple style that reminded me of one of my favourite childhood books, "Caroline and Her Friends" written and illustrated by Pierre Probst (which I also mentioned in an earlier blog post), and its delightful ink outlines filled in with watercolour, almost diaphanous in places. It was and still is that quality about watercolour that I find so appealing, quite magical and ethereal, I can lose myself in it's quality and dream.

Candace Rose Rardon was the artist and her website is definitely ‘a must’ to thoroughly devour with invaluable information about sketching and travel. She also has quite a following on Instagram and other social media with #momentsketchers. She started this hashtag at the beginning of 2017, inviting all her 'Friends' from over the world to sketch something on the first weekend of each month, of an outdoor scene, while physically sketching outside, then post it on Instagram. Anyone can take part! So naturally I have been participating when I can. 

There is something absolutely magical and supportive about this 'Family' of artists around the world. I get so excited at the beginning of every month to get outside and draw, but more so because I can't wait to see what everyone has sketched, plus I get to learn so much about countries and also towns and cities that quite frankly, I’ve never heard about. It’s so much fun!

Please go to Candace's website or Instagram page and have a look. Better still, come join us, we are a very supportive community and love sharing our art and information, everyone is welcome. Do not worry if you think you can't draw. Just lift a pencil and try, you'll be so surprised.

Art also has an amazing effect on the way you view life. The more I create, the more the creative landscape becomes all consuming for me, and even controls my thoughts. Moving from fashion back into my first love of art, and now writing, has forced me to re-evaluate myself and learn patience. Learn to take it slowly and observe. How people move, how buildings are constructed, the thought process and desire behind a designers' depiction of his/her work, even how waves at the beach constantly redesign the sand. Nature is magic, just look at up at the wondrous sky at night.

So I guess it’s no surprise that my artistic mind has expressed itself in the form of animals this year, because I of course have an absolute obsession with animals, predominantly cats, to the point of fanaticism. Working with cheetahs and baby lions in Africa in 2010 was one of the highlights of my life. It is fascinating to hear a cheetah purr so loudly and to watch how their mannerisms compare to house cats – they are very similar, just with bigger claws!

As a result, I now have a series of designer cat sketches, of quirky characters with unusual backgrounds, which I have started selling on Etsy. Seraphina is one such character, being a famous fashion designer with discerning feline tastes. Her handsome boyfriend Sebastian and best friend Sophronia often accompany her on adventures. They have a delightful little friend called Marlene Mouse. When you have a moment, I’d love you to pop over there and have a look – perhaps you know someone who’d love an original sketch as a gift?
If you like what you see, I can also sketch your own pet, or the pet of a friend of relative, on commission. I love getting to know other people’s pets! Our pets are our babies, they are an integral part of our family and loved as such. It is absolutely paramount to get the expression in their eyes perfect, and I enjoy the thrill of perfecting that in particular. It depends on my time availability of course, as it often takes six to seven weeks to complete an original artwork of this nature. So please get in touch if you’re interested!