Saturday, February 24, 2018

On the Sunny Side

This seems to have been a long hot summer here in Australia.... so when Tag Tuesday's theme was announced last week as "Use a Quote" , I began to think of some 'sunny' quotes. 

Both of these tags use quotations which have been printed on my laser printer and then transferred using a 'sticky tape' method.  Here is a video which describes this technique well. 

The first tag also has magazine images, a water coloured sun and a background of gelli -plate printed paper. The second tag is an eco print which I originally thought was not so great, but it seems to have worked for this tag. 

As an aside, I was really interested to find out whether we do in fact have a lot of sunny days...  I live in Newcastle NSW  and my home town is Townsville, Queensland, so compared these two places with a few of the Australian State capitals. 

Average total days a year with sun
City                                                Sunny   Partly Sunny       Total Days 

Melbourne, Victoria                      46          139                         185
Newcastle, New South Wales       79          141                         220
Perth, Western Australia              144         121                         265
Sydney, New South Wales           107         129                         236
Townsville, Queensland               116         148                         264

Natural sunlight is a free and available mood enhancer. It encourages us to produce vitamin D and protects us from seasonal mood changes. However, because society is more aware than ever of skin cancer and sun damage, most of us have significantly reduced our exposure to natural sunlight and from those numbers above, you can understand why we Australians wear sunscreen! 

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Red Dog and an Orange Cake.

Today begins the Lunar Year of the Dog... I started well  last week preparing my greeting cards  incorporating 'red' in my art works in time for giving and posting. Why are these so red?  Most of you can answer that as it is commonly known that the colour red for Chinese symbolises  good fortune and happiness. It is certainly the Chinese celebratory colour - unavoidable during Chinese New Year and other traditional and official holidays.

Being the year of the dog, so many cute images of dogs appear in both traditional and contemporary New Year designs. I used Christmas Island stamps on my cards. The stylised  patterned image of a little dog is adapted from the Chinese character -very modern and festive.  Although I think the little red dog looks pensive, it is certainly a lovable and a reassuring  image. This thoughtful dog image certainly fits with what  Chinese astrologer Linda Lau predicts for this year....

"The earth element makes this a gentler dog than other elements. This element encourages us to take a cooler-headed approach to problems, rather than letting our emotions flare up and get the better of our reasoning...the year of the Dog is a great time to reach out to those around you and become a friendly presence in their lives, if not a true friend. And, if you're already speaking out for your values, you just might get an energizing boost this year."
And the orange cake? As I am writing  my orange cake is cooking. My childhood training would never allow me to turn up at someone's house empty handed, especially on New Year's Day.  It is traditional to give oranges at this time of the year, again to signify a wish for good luck. Why? The word for oranges in Chinese closely resembles the word for good fortune. And besides the colour and shape just says 'abundance'. So my take on this traditional gift is a home baked orange cake for our friends when we visit later this evening. 

This cake is such a winner. It is so easy to make. It uses whole cooked oranges (skin and all) and has no flour, milk or oil, so is gluten and dairy free and has the additional Chinese associated ingredient of almonds. Here is the recipe: 

Flourless Orange Cake  ( from 
250 grams cooked whole oranges 
6 eggs 
250 grams castor sugar 
250 grams almond meal 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
Boil the oranges whole for about two hours. Cool, remove any seeds and pulp in a food processor 
Measure out 250 grams of pulp ( I cook a whole bag of oranges at one time, measure out the weight and put in containers to freeze ready for the next time ) 
Beat eggs and sugar until light and creamy . Fold in the combined almond meal, baking powder and orange pulp. Pour into a greased and floured cake tin ( springform preferably) and bake at 180degrees C for approx, 40 minutes or until set. 

And here it is - out of the oven cooled and decorated with eight orange slices ( 8 is a lucky Chinese number! ) and ready to be packed for transport and giving. 

Happy Chinese New Year - Happiness and Prosperity 恭喜發財

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Have a Heart for Tag Tuesday

"Have a Heart" is a happy theme for Tag Tuesday's fortnightly challenge  - already some brilliant tags have been posted here. Hope you will go and have a look,
My offering is a very simple tag, - a cut out house from a piece of painted paper ( paper used to take the excess paint off a brayer), a cut out bit of scenery from a magazine, and of course, a cut out heart shape.  The background is an old book page, with a little bit of coloured pencil shading. Then I traced around the outlines with black felt tipped pen.
The time taken to make a tag like this is between 15-30 minutes, depending on if you can find the bits and pieces you need quickly or not!
" Home is where the heart is" - a reminder to "have a heart " - be kind to someone today!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Fish Flower Bird - Textile Art Flags

Take a carved wood block, print , sew, cut and stitch.... this is what I did to create some simple but arty flags.  The wood blocks were carved by a local print maker, Bob Seal, for use in works for the annual exhibition of the Newcastle Creative Embroiders and Textiles Artists.  You can see my other work here, in a previous post.  I had three prints left so I made these decorative  flags.

The technique is my version of reverse applique. Firstly, I printed onto a cotton fabric and then appliqued it on to the background. Then, I layered other fabrics underneath and cut out shapes.  Usually, in reverse applique, the edges are neatly turned under and stitched by hand, or if raw edges are left, they are embroidered to ensure that no fraying occurs. I did a blanket stitch around the outside edges , but on all the other edges, because I used a strip of fusible adhesive on the edges, I just machine stitched to secure. In fact, I did a lot of free machine stitching.

Fabric printed with the wood block... 

The background fabric is a commercial batik dyed cotton, and on the back of the flags I have used a Laurel Burch print from my stash . I was keeping this fabric for a special project, but then what's a special project if it's not the one you're currently working on.
I really enjoyed working with so much colour and like the way they brighten a wall. These flags are currently travelling around Australia as part of the NCEATA ( Newcastle Creative Embroiderers and Textile Artists) Travelling Suitcase Exhibition 2018.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Garden Stories Textile Art

In my most recent series of works, Garden Stories, I drew inspiration from a workshop I did  in 2017 with British textile artist Anne Kelly. These  new works are a series of folded stitched books in response to the exhibition challenge by NCEATA ( Newcastle Creative Embroiderers and Textile Artists). We were challenged to print from wood blocks created by a local artist, Bob Seal. The blocks were stylised natural elements - a bird, a fish and a flower. When I saw the flower block, I immediately thought of a sunflower, so the plan was born...

I have also recently become a fan of reverse applique so I knew I wanted to incorporate that as well as develop the layering and stitching approach we took in Anne Kelly's workshop. I used only one of the blocks  - the flower for this set of books, but added one other feature on each - bees, birds, or butterflies.

The background is an old , recycled cotton table cloth  with a stamped, unworked embrodiery pattern), cut into three for each of the books. All books include bits of applique from an old patterned cushion with a sunflower pattern, embroidery, photo transfers on silk and organza,  stitched tea bag motifs  under a layer of tea dyed silk organza.
More stitching has been applied over the top of the organza to create a softer toning. Each has been finished on the back with eco dyed natural silk wth a wooden button and twisted cord wrap.

Most people who have seen these fabric books have remarked that it so unlike my previous work, and although it has been a "diversion", I really enjoyed using my sewing machine a little more creatively