A seed is sown
Back in December, I was asked if I spoke at quilting groups. I replied that I hadn't really thought about it, but... sure? And then I got home and fretted about what I would actually say at such an event! So I asked the Facebook, because that's what one does these days.
Shortly afterwards, I received a message request from a lady called Alicia:
"I saw your post about samples. I have made a few samples for a friend using her own published pattern, but using a fabric line to benefit the fabric designer and the pattern designer. I would be interested in working with you if you need samples made. Let me know if you are interested! Good luck with your business!!"
We started chatting, and I explained that I wanted to showcase my fabric designs. I sent her the link to my Spoonflower store, and an example of the Spoonflower Fill-A-Yard "cheater quilt" layout - and a photo of my hand with the one I had printed, for scale!
Her response was very positive: "OMG! These are genius! I'm getting the chills looking at them and I've only seen about 15 so far!!"
Well, this is a great start, I thought! So we began throwing ideas around, and I discovered how very little I know about quilt top designs, and how very many options there are out there!
I decided that what I really wanted was to let a skilled maker make the quilt she felt was right - so we agreed to make it a surprise.
"Just to be clear - these are designed to be materials for you to cut up and turn into a quilt, using your quilter's eye - so I am not making any design decisions, just giving you the equivalent of a jelly roll pack or something to get you started :)"
I made four 1-yard cheater quilts - two in greens and mustards, and two in teals and purples - and sent them off to become Proper Quilts.
In the meantime, I concentrated on learning how to use my new camera set-up to make time-lapses of my drawing process.
I ordered the fabric on the 9th (NZ time) and it arrived on the 18th - inconceivably fast for me! Orders usually take around a month, if not longer, to reach NZ - and then another week or more getting through Customs (sigh).
The making of the quilt
The process of making a quilt involves a lot of planning, a lot of cutting, a lot of pressing, and then painstakingly sewing 'blocks' together.
Each block is then combined into a quilt top, which is then layered with batting, and in this case, a second top (as this quilt is double-sided), and then quilted. The quilting part is the part where everything is sewn together, through all the layers. That can be a very simple diamond pattern of diagonal lines, or a more complex and whimsical design. Finally, the edges are bound (with bias binding), and the quilt is finished!
Here are some photos of the process!
The two quilt tops, all sewn together and ready for quilting, already look quite amazing. I'm not sure if I would have the courage to let them out of my hands for someone else to quilt, but Alicia has worked with her longarmer, Joyce, enough times that she felt confident to send them off to be quilted - and they came back even more amazing!
The final masterpiece, quilted and bound and ready to head to New Zealand!
The surprise bonus
As well as my lovely lap quilt, Alicia included some amazing bonus pieces - a place-mat, table runner, and bowl cosy - to use up the remaining fabric. Amazing! I had no clue, so it was such a treat to find these extra items in the box!
The epic journey home
February 11th: "Hello, hello, Catherine! Your quilt is completely done. I picked it up yesterday from Joyce's house and I finished putting the binding on today. Yay!"
February 17th - we finish figuring out the complexities of shipping, and my quilt begins its journey.
February 23rd: "The quilt has made it to NZ, yay! It's being held by customs though..."
After weeks of trying to figure out what was required, we finally got the package released from Customs... and it arrived on Friday, March 16th. Woo!
The Great Unboxing
So my quilt has finally arrived, and it's time to see it for the very first time! I'm excited, but I also like to savour the anticipation - so I stop to take lots of photos :)
Wow, extra things! What is this? Is it a hat? Oh, I see! It's a bowl cosy :)
Ooh, and a lovely placemat, and a table runner! What on earth!? How amazing!
And finally, it's time to see my QUILT.
First impressions - it's colourful, beautifully made, feels sturdy and snuggly - and it's HUGE. I had no idea how large a lap quilt was! But I was so overwhelmed at seeing something so amazing made with my own fabrics that it took George to point out the fact that the quilting was all Steampunk designs - what a thoughtful touch! We were genuinely moved. How lovely, to take the time to add a touch of steam to our gorgeous quilt!
I was far too excited to leave my quilt at home, so it came with us to this year's March Madness fair, even though we hadn't come up with a hanging solution for it yet. Check out our little clip of Alicia's beautiful creations at the Copper Catkin stall!
An American friend of mine has been struggling through some pretty tough times recently. She's dealing with serious family illness, and all the horrible internal politics that go with it. I've been watching developments helplessly from here in NZ, wishing there was something I could do - but there simply wasn't anything more than giving support through the internet.
She comes from a place called Lake Havasu, Arizona. A local publication there runs a column called 'orchids and onions', where residents can express their gratitude or vent their frustration by assigning orchids or onions to someone. Since she has been back home with her sick relative, she has used the format in her own Facebook posts, and it caught my imagination - mainly because I have a tendency to have a black thumb, and no meal I make is complete without at least one member of the onion family! It's rather a lovely motif, though, and the imagery kept coming back to me as I thought about what might be a nice thing to cheer her up.
Although the orchids represent the positive, and the onions the negative, I chose to combine them in a philosophical "when life gives you lemons"-style design. You take the good with the bad, and you try to make something pretty out of it anyway. That's kind of her signature move. She's a tough chick, and she handles a lot of difficult things without losing touch with what makes it all worthwhile.
I wish that I could share some photos with you of her lovely home - she has been doing an inspirational job of decluttering her life, and her carefully-curated home reflects her efforts beautifully. As a result, I know of her passion for teal turquoise shades, and her love of orchids - so I had both subject matter and colour scheme covered. I hope very much that my designs will fit with her aesthetic!
After consulting my friend's husband, we decided to go ahead with a design to match one of her favourite orchids on a teal background, and that I would send it to her on one of Redbubble's throw pillows - so I got started with a plan in mind.
Onions posed no challenge - I have drawn them many times, and as most people would be, I am intimately familiar with their structure, so the only thing I needed to do was decide what kind of onion to draw, and what colour. I settled rapidly on red onions, to go with my friend's favourite orchid (photo credit to her husband).
After a lot of research and practice (including actually tracing some photos to try to learn more about how the flowers worked), I managed to gain enough of an understanding of the structure of the orchid flower to make some decent sketches, and the design evolved rapidly from there.
Once the colours started to work, the design really came together quickly. I couldn't decide on the best background colour, though! The turquoise is wonderfully lurid - but what if it's not the right shade? But the moss didn't quite pop enough...
The end result
Once I used the Redbubble mock-up feature, it became abundantly clear that the turquoise was the best choice. I decided to give her a set of two cushions, and as a result, I now also have a new stripe in my arsenal - win/win!
The cushions are already winging their way to her place as we speak - one of the things I love the most about working in the digital medium! A day's work and a site like Redbubble, and custom-printed cushion covers can appear on the doorstep of a friend to give her the comfort that I can't give from the other side of the world.
UPDATE: They've arrived!!! And they look amazing!
A date amongst the blueberry bushes
My husband and I work very hard. When we're not working on Copper Catkin stuff, or Wrought stuff, or Petone Winter Markets stuff, or any of our other projects, we're doing housework, working on our lifestyle property, looking after our pets, or working at our actual day jobs - I'm between contracts, but George works full-time hours as well as everything else he does!
We're not very good at taking time to just enjoy each other's company and have a break - so for 2018, we have decided to make sure we have regular dates.
One such date was a trip out to Pauatahanui on January 13th. We had brunch at a local cafe, then we went blueberry picking at a PYO (pick-your-own) orchard. Neither of us has done PYO blueberries - we've both helped harvest fruit and veg from large family gardens, but nothing on this scale. It was a lot of fun, and we highly recommend it!
We got home, and made many things with blueberries in them, and then froze the rest of our considerable haul - it took 2 hours to pick them in the incredible summer heat, but we have savoured every berry since!
I have had a couple of practice runs with my new time lapse set-up, but I decided that this was going to be the big one - the end-to-end process time lapse, from photo ideas all the way through to finished jewellery items.
Before I got started, I made sure that I had the right kind of audio - I knew from previous experience that the length of this clip was going to be much longer than most of the audio tracks I would be able to source, so I spent some time on the free music archive looking for some good matches, and I was lucky enough to find Ian Sutherland's "Behind The Lines (Alternate Version)":
The next step is the easiest to explain, and the most time-consuming to do - I scanned, tidied up, and coloured the images digitally. Then, I used the initial drawings to build fabric repeat designs.
Because I didn't film or record this part of the process, I had to create a little animation (my first!) to represent the process. I made a separate clip of it to test it, and then incorporated it into the final video once it was up to scratch (my standards aren't too high yet, as you can see!) #closeenough
I absolutely love the way it has come out - the earrings look amazing, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the fabrics come out!
After a great many more hours of battling the application and my own very steep learning curve, I had a rough cut to show friends. I took their feedback into account, and tweaked it as best I could. Here's my 'final' version - I hope you enjoy it!
Yes, bearded fashion-plate ladies.
So I have been watching a lot of Drag Race and Project Runway for company while I work, and whilst most of my designs have been fairly PG and 'normal', if quirky, every now and then, the full-on whimsical side has to get an airing. So, here are some 'fashion' poses with a beardy twist. I've been drawing this kind of elongated figure since I was a kid - it's fun!
I've given them a sneaky soft-launch in the jewellery, mainly because I just didn't have the time to post about them!
I admit, I also get a bit bored with the 'standard', mainstream options for sewing projects, so I am making these available as colour-cut-and sew dolls! I've just finished drawing the backs, too. Parental guidance recommended. They will be available in colour-cut-and-sews within the next month or so - keep an eye out for them!
As with my water lilies, this design was inspired by some amazing travel photos taken by my stepfather. I like to challenge myself to use new palettes, and these photos used beautiful shades of orange and green that I usually don't incorporate into my artwork.
Some time ago, I ordered some ring bezels on a whim because they looked like they were going to be an amazing metallic lime green... but when they arrived, they were more of a blue-green. I put them away to wait for the perfect project - and here it is!
What does Kōwhai mean?
"Kōwhai (Māori pronunciation: [kɔːɸai] or [kɔːfai]) are small woody legume trees within the genus Sophora that are native to New Zealand. There are eight species, with Sophora microphylla and S. tetraptera being the most recognised as large trees. Their natural habitat is beside streams and on the edges of forest, in lowland or mountain open areas. Kōwhai trees grow throughout the country and are a common feature in New Zealand gardens. Outside of New Zealand, kōwhai tend to be restricted to mild temperate maritime climates.
The blooms of the kōwhai are widely regarded as being New Zealand's national flower, although they have no official status as such.
The word kōwhai is also used in the Māori language for the colour yellow, because of the colour of the flowers."
Chocolate Lemon Slice
So in our family, Chocolate Lemon Slice is an absolute treasure. It's not exactly hard to make, but it's time-consuming - and it gets eaten so fast! So it's a special occasion treat.
When I saw that one of the October Spoonflower teatowel challenges was about family recipes, I was thrilled! While we were at the family bach in 2014, I considered making a teatowel using a drawing of the lemons on the tree and mum's handwritten recipe, but I never got further than a quick ideas board. This challenge was a great chance to revisit the design and make it work, as Tim Gunn would say!
Some time ago, while we were in Geneva, my mother chaired a Cookbook Committee for the American Women's Club of Geneva. Although it was purportedly for American women, in practice, many expats from all over the world were involved - and my Kiwi mum was in charge! For those who know her, this will not come as any kind of a surprise. She's the source of my organisational skills.
Chocolate Lemon Slice - the recipe
1/2 cup (120g) butter
1 cup (120g) powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups (180g) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Cream butter and sugar; add egg, then beat again and add flour and baking powder. Press into a greased 10x14” (25x35cm) pan. Bake in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes. When cool, cover with filling.
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup (60g) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
Filling – method:
Combine butter, powdered sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and lemon rind and juice. Heat until smooth and pourable. Cover base and leave until set. When set, cover with icing.
2 cups (240g) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
Icing – method:
Mix powdered sugar, cocoa, and vanilla in a bowl. Bring butter and water to a boil and add to powdered sugar mixture. Beat until smooth.
Drizzle over filling and smooth out as much as possible – don’t worry if it’s a little uneven. Cut into squares to serve. Makes about 30 pieces.
The squares keep well in an airtight container – if they last that long!
I took the original drawing that I did at the bach three years ago, redrew it on a larger scale (with finer lines), drew some extra lemons, and created a background.
Then, I typed up the recipe (another reason to have it on the blog, lol), coloured in my lemons, and tadaaa! Ready to go :)
Family Recipe teatowel - the brief
"Family traditions are especially present during the holidays as everyone gathers in merriment and celebration around the dinner table. For this week’s challenge, share a family recipe that is a yearly staple. Whether it’s Grandma’s famous casserole or the wiggly fruit jelly salad that mysteriously makes an appearance, we want to see what recipe completes your holiday traditions! Entries will be submitted at the Linen Cotton Canvas fat quarter size (27″ x 18”) but previewed during voting as a Spoonflower Special Edition Tea Towel (16″ x 24″). Submissions close October 3, 2017 at 3 p.m. eastern daylight time. Voting begins October 5, 2017. See official rules."
From the Spoonflower blog
I hope that you will vote for my entry when voting begins!
Here it is on Spoonflower now:
I print my fabrics through Spoonflower, an amazing and unique service that allows designers to upload their digital designs and print short runs in a range of fabrics, gift wrap, and even wallpaper. Through their sister companies, Roostery and Sprout, designers can make their designs available as ready-to-sew patterns and homewares.
Spoonflower fosters a great community of creatives, and one of the ways that they do that is through their weekly design challenges. I have set myself the target of entering as many challenges this month as I can.
"Ring in the new year with a favorite Spoonflower design tradition: Tea Towel Calendars. Celebrate 2018 (the year of the dog!) with a tea towel calendar design for the new year ahead. Need a little design kick-start? Find a 2018 calendar template here!* Entries will be submitted at the Linen Cotton Canvas fat quarter size (27″ wide x 18” high, landscape orientation) but previewed during voting as a Spoonflower Special Edition Tea Towel (16″ wide x 24″ high, portrait orientation). Submissions close September 26, 2017 at 3 p.m. eastern daylight time. Voting begins September 28, 2017. See official rules."
From the Spoonflower blog
I've been following the posts of the Island Bay Marine Education Centre for some time now, and I just love all the photographs that they share. One of their star creatures is the magnificent Fabio the octopus.
I mean, seriously. Just LOOK at him. He's amazing. You can visit Fabio and all his friends every Sunday from 10am to 3pm until 17 December 2017. The Centre will re-open on Sunday 21st January 2018.
I had so much fun choosing and sketching portraits of Fabio. This is the final drawing - I love the movement that the tentacles give him - almost like a dramatic, Dracula-cape flourish.
I combined Fabio with some elements from my Rockpool design range to create my colourable teatowel entry to the competition. The drawing's the thing - I don't mind at all where I place. It's more a case of getting it done.
Looking forward to seeing the other entries!
Why Halloween in NZ, though?
So the other day, I noticed that craft shops here in NZ already have Halloween decorations for sale. One part of me rebelled - it's an American tradition, and it's not something that has ever been a big deal in NZ. But then I thought about the fact that I have an international audience, and Halloween is certainly fun. And when Spoonflower's Vintage Halloween Design Challenge came through, I thought, "why not?", and posted an Inspiration Competition on my Facebook page. I do these periodically to stop myself from getting too complacent - it's fun to challenge myself to draw what people suggest, too!
There were a lot of good suggestions, so while I waited for them to percolate through and see if a design came out, I decided to revisit an old drawing style from my secondary school years.
The days of the old school yard
I was lucky enough to attend International schools as a child - and it was a real culture shock to step back into the NZ school system in my second year of secondary school. It really felt like putting on the brakes - and art class was no different, although it seemed promising at first. In my first year back, we had a wonderful art teacher, Mr. Coke, who called me 'My Good Man' as his running dad-joke (my maiden name is 'Goodman'). He was an excellent teacher. Unfortunately, we got another teacher for the next year. I don't know what was going on with her, but several of the other students suggested that she drank. She certainly spent a lot of time in the back room, although I never remember her smelling of alcohol. It was a frustrating time - we weren't allowed to go and get supplied ourselves, we had to ask her - and she would come back, a solid 5 minutes later, with something completely different.
She was also not terribly inspiring. We spent most of our time with the uninspiring choice of glass bottles or gourds as a still life. It was School Certificate year, so we were very driven and busy, and our work was guided by the need to finish the year with a portfolio and workbook - so we had other distractions.
Please - no more gourds...
Sixth form was internally assessed - and didn't have a portfolio requirement. The pressure was off - but the gourds? The gourds were still there. It felt like month after month, we had nothing but them to work from - so I got frustrated, and started adding some surrealist touches to my (bored) painting. I eventually decorated my portfolio cover, and my chest of drawers, with these fairly silly, if somewhat menacing, designs.
Given that, what with the Halloween design I was mulling, there were probably going to be pumpkins in my near future, I decided that it would be fun to revisit the fanciful gourds-with-faces motif.
Halloween inspiration challenge winner
Now that I had taken some time to think and draw, I went back and read through the entries for my competition - and one stood out, both for originality and humour.
Of course, this was a must-draw, even if I couldn't necessarily do the idea justice. I did a bit of research on poses, then got drawing.
I used the colours from my new 'Halloween Stripe' design, and leaves from my 'Autumn Bouquet' range, and the jack-o-lantern pumpkin from the sketch itself.
This design has now been added to my Halloween series, and once our proofs arrive, it will be available for sale in my Spoonflower shop, too!
In the beginning
I spend a great deal of my time on Facebook. That's an established fact. Memes fascinate me. I like to stay up-to-date with the latest lingo, the music, the things people are into. It's fun, and it keeps me connected. So when the fascination with mudskippers came about, I was right there in the forefront, keen as mustard. This was just one of many mudskipper photos being shared and re-shared, but it stuck in my head.