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!
A long and winding road
Sometimes, it helps to look back at where you came from to help understand where you're going next. Copper Catkin is only just over a year old, but I have been making things my whole life.
This post is a bit of a summary of how I got here - my 'market cred', if you will.
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."
Many of my designs are inspired by our beautiful home up here in the Western Hills, in our own micro-climate, away from the rest of the Hutt Valley. The idea for the 'meadow' theme came from all the lovely flora and fauna with which we are surrounded. I also keep being asked to incorporate more reds into my designs, so that drove the inclusion of the amanitae muscariae and the ladybirds. I wandered around the property for some more inspiration, and it came together really nicely.
Plaids and stripes have always been an important part of my personal design aesthetic, especially when I mix patterns in the same outfit.