Wednesday, 23 November 2011

WIP Wednesday

Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
Stranger: Indeed?
Cassilda: Indeed, it's time. We have all laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.
Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tyger Version 2

Now finished:

Looks far better this time. 'Spears' is a very pretty work (last six stitches/characters of the longest line). 'tears' (last five of the line below spears) is pretty, too, of course.

Now begins the Iliad.

Friday, 18 November 2011

WIP whenever

There was no point in a WIP Wednesday this week, because I'm just working on another draft of The Tyger. At the moment I've only done the black, or half the black, anyway. So it's not even as if I can show how different it looks this time.

But I figured I'd share some rough experiments this time, so here are two "canvasses" where I was trying to explore meta-text-art. I was going to extend the work with two more canvasses to explore translation issues, too.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Tiger (version 1)

And here's the finished thing. It's a good job I did a test, because the colours are all wrong. Retrospectively I should have realised before ever putting needle to aida that using the pale pinks for the three most common letters wasn't a good idea. I'll be trying again, again with the tiger, with slightly more sophisticated methods of colour selection. It fits rather well do to another version of The Tiger (and actually, I have a final piece of aida left of just the right size, so I might even do a third version) since each printed version Blake produced would have subtle and deliberate differences in illustration, colouring, etc. I'm just following his lead.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

WIP Wednesday ( what do you mean, it's Thursday??)

So in an attempt to help me keep to some sort of regular schedule, I decided to dedicate one day each week to showing WIPs. This piece is something I'm working on as a test before I begin a much larger project of the same type so I can work through all the unforeseen problems in advance.

But what is it? It's William Blake's poem The Tiger in in cross stitch, with each letter of the alphabet substituted for a different colour. I'd chosen a red pallet for the larger work, so The Tiger seemed a good choice to try it out on, as the pallet seemed to suit this poem, too. Then I thought 'hey, if I stuck black lines in between the text it'd look like a tiger!' and since this is just a test, well, why not try it out? But how to decide the length of the black lines?

In the end I turned to Blake's companion piece to The Tiger: The Lamb. The Tiger poem appears in a book of poetry called 'Songs of Experience' which is a companion, and juxtaposition to the poems in the ion 'Songs of Innocence', in which the poem The Lamb appears. Since Ny interpretation or translation of one poem would be incomplete without the other it seemed appropriate to try and get The Lamb in there somehow. So the length of the black lines is dictated by the length of the lines of The Lamb, excluding spaces and punctuation, which is also missing from my translation of The Tiger.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Better than Nothing

Once again trying to get into the swing of this 'frequent update' idea. I'm just not good with this kind of thing because I'm a perfectionist. I always put off making a post because I just want to get a better photo first, or if I wait a few days longer I'll probably have finished the project and then I can... etc. etc. etc. And I'm just not that good at kidding myself that anyone actually cares what I write here, and, well, I don't really need this for my own benefit. But maybe I should try and use it for my own benefit – sort of like a logbook. Ho hum.

The above illustration is the only other original picture I managed to complete for the previously mentioned Portfolio contest. The rest of it I filled with old stuff. This is a picture I started over 2 years ago, in a completely different style. It wasn't photo-realism, but it was a lot more realistic, and played around a lot more with light. But I just couldn't get it right. As far as I can figure, my biggest problem was the combination of the composition and the style. I was working from a reference, so the chin and lips were definitely in the right place, but without the rest of the face to give a better perspective, and context the chin just looked huge. And for some reason I didn't have the confidence to say 'well, I'll carry on painting in this style, but just move the stupid chin'. When I eventually went back to it I started changing one thing then another, and finally ended up with this. I still have the original half-finished painting so maybe one day I'll finish that. Or not. I'm not good with finishing stuff.

The theme this piece was done for was 'Silence'. The title of the illustration is 'You Make Me...'

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Reviews for Fables from Ovid

A few months ago a fellow MA student (Helena Hoyle) and I co-wrote a drama: Metamorphoses: Fables from Ovid. It's been performed twice now by the All-Female Hecate Theatre Company. Watching something you wrote being performed is well... weird. I had no idea what it would look, sound, or feel like in performance and the depth of characterisation presented by the actors was well beyond what my feeble imagination had managed to conjure. Does that make me a really bad playwright? Is that normal? obviously we didn't write stage directions for every emotion the character's should display or feel; very few scripts do... but still. It was odd. I guess I'd just never considered that aspect of a play before from the point of view of the writer.

Anyway, I wanted to share some of the reviews for it because, well I'm proud. Not just of my work, but of Helena's, and the actresses, director, composer and, well, everyone from Hecate Theatre.

Audrey Tang on Remote Goat gave us a four star review. Her most interesting comment for me was that "The opening with the beautifully voiced "Invocation" into the faux childishness just seemed a little jarring." The invocation is the beginning of Ovid's Metamorphoses translated into English. Pretty sure they were using A.D. Melville's translation, used in the Oxford World's Classics Series. I rather liked the juxtaposition it created – jarring changes aren't always bad. They shock, make you think, they're fittingly Ovidian. The play does rather swing between extremes of comedy and horror. I certainly hope Ms. Tang didn't find the stories of Myrrah or Procne & Philomel marred by "faux childishness".

Rebecca Tatlow writing for Cherwell also gave us a positive review, so I'll just about forgive her for using the dread "comprised of" ('comprised' does not take 'of', people! It consists of x & y, it comprises x & y). For me, her most interesting comment was this: "Occasionally the dialogue seemed as though it was trying too hard to shock and modernise these ancient fables, but this again evoked the uneasiness and desire to impress experienced by teenagers desperate to prove that they've left childhood behind. The presence of the matron's character throughout as an often silent observer was a useful way of generating leniency among audience members at crucial moments." It interests me because I'm not really sure what to do with such feedback. It seems to say "this part wasn't great, but worked anyway." She seems to suggest that it appears to the audience that the character's are trying too hard rather than we, the writers and actors. But as a writer I'm aware that this wasn't an impression I was consciously trying to give, so it must in fact have been me trying too hard. Some of the content is shocking stuff, and I wanted to generate a sense of hysteria, that this acting was actually getting out of control without it always toppling over into farce. I don't know if her comment shows that I/we succeeded in that or not, or whether I perhaps need to rethink certain parts.

The final review is by Sam Rkaina of This is Bristol I don't know where Rkaina got the idea that there are only fifteen stories in Ovid's epic from (well, okay, I suspect I do. There are fifteen books in the epic, but certainly more than fifteen stories), but my favourite line from the review just has to be: "Don't be fooled by the fresh faces and lily-white dresses, this play's themes make the Saw films look like Dora the Explorer." Rkaina's most interesting comment, though, was "Perhaps unsurprisingly for students, some of these re-interpretations feature a healthy dose of Monty Python – the Castle Anthrax sequence from Holy Grail especially." Interesting because whilst writing, Monty Python had never crossed my mind, and I have to admit, I struggle to see the connection to Castle Anthrax (though I'm guessing it's the behaviour of the girls when trying to convince Matron to let them tell more stories. In which case, I'd say Kitty and Lydia in Pride and Prejudice are more probable sources of inspiration. Ditzy girls were around long before the Pythons – Maybe Kitty and Lydia influenced them, too?). Obviously Monty Python is part of our cultural background, and I certainly don't find comparisons to their work insulting, but it did catch me off-guard. Perhaps the Python's influence on my generation is so pervasive it's not even conscious most of the time.

Our lecturers also seemed to like it, which is good. So I think, officially, we have "academic acclaim". There were suggestions that we should take it to the Edinburgh Fringe, but that didn't happen this year. But perhaps it will next year. Helena and I were both too busy before to really be able to put any energy into making that happen, and the performance and following suggestions were done too late to try and get any funding from the university for it. But we might try and make it happen for the next festival.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Portfolio Contest: Content

Contentment of an Egg

This is one of my entries for the Portfolio contest over on Elftown. The theme for week one was 'content'. Someone who'd entered the photo section of the contest submitted a photo of a broken Robin's egg with the theme 'content of an egg', I couldn't resist parodying it to show the other meaning of 'content.'

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Masks - The Swan and Allegretto

Damnit! I'd written the entire post, and then accidentally clicked 'back' and lost it all. *shakes fist at sky*. Anyway, this year I've made quite a few masks so far – some for another play (for which I also did the costumes), one as a present and one as commission. I'll start with the commission and the present, and save the image heavy posts for later.

This first mask is called 'Allegretto' (for obvious reasons). The printed music is Vivaldi, the other side if Bach – with a deliberate mistake: it was from my Cello music selection, so it was written in base clef, but I stuck a treble clef in front of it. Partly because treble clefs just look prettier, but also because a treble clef is more recognisable to non-musicians. I expect practically everyone to recognise a treble clef even if they cant name it, I don't expect the same of the base clef. In retrospect, I'm not sure I'd make that decision again. I always hate it when I see a photograph where the model has been told to hold the instrument in completely the wrong way because "it looks prettier" – not to musicians it doesn't, it just looks painful! And it completely ruins the photo for us, we just stand there, looking, and going '...ow. Ow. Ow.' I've always held that if you're a good photographer then you'd be able to find an angle that produced a good photo without making the musicians look like an idiot who's never held their instrument before... I'm not sure if what I've done here is really any better than that.

Apart from that I was quite pleased with how the edging round the printed music turned out, not so pleased with how the '3D paint' worked and overjoyed at the discovery of gesso. This is the first mask I used it on, and it helped it look notably smoother (though the guy in the shop I bought it from seemed to object to my proposed use of it "that's not what it's for!" – I don't care, it's what I'm going to use it for :D) There is actually a gradient on the blue: darker at the top, lighter at the bottom, it's not just a trick of the light. Though I find metallic paint really hard to photograph well: the slightest hint of direct light and all you get is white.

It was made for someone attending the University of Bristol's Goldney Ball. The theme this year was 'Masquerade'. Apparently he ended up swapping masks with his partner because she liked it so much and it matched her dress. I hope those were the only reasons, and not because he didn't like it/it didn't fit him very comfortably! >_<

This next mask is called The Swan (again, for obvious reasons, I think), and was a birthday present for someone. It's the first mask where I've actually been able to leave the lips intact, knowing it wasn't going to be worn. I spent ages shaping the lips on the clay model the cast was taken from, so it was good to finally be able to show them off. I also experimented with some acrylic ink, too. I kinda' like it, though I suspect it might work better on the gesso, or at least not on the gold spray-paint.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Recipe: Banana and White Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is my recipe for banana and white chocolate chip cookies. It's not triple-tested (yet) but it's double-tested, and has been a success so far. Measurements are all posted in metric, imperial, and American cup-measurements.

- 200g / 12 oZ white chocolate chips (or plain or milk, if you wish)
- 2 overly ripe bananas
- 1 egg yolk
- 200g/ 7oZ /1 cup caster/superfine sugar
- 250g/ 9oZ /2 cups plain flour
- 150g/ 5oZ / 1 stick plus 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 tsp vanilla essence
- pinch of baking powder
- pinch of salt (optional)

Makes around 15

1. preheat oven to gas mark 5/190oC / 375 Degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a bowl, mash the two bananas thoroughly.

3. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, and stir in.

4. Add the butter and stir in (I zap the butter in the microwave for a few seconds beforehand just to soften it).

5. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and choc chips.

6. Combine wet and dry ingredients, and mix well.

7. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Scoop up heaped table-spoon sized dollops of the mixture and place on the baking tray. Place in oven for 15 minutes, or until golden.

8. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes.

9. Transfer to a wire-rack to cool completely, or enjoy now while the chocolate is still gooey.

Notes & Tips:
- Cooking white chocolate tends to taste nothing like white chocolate, so if you're going to make white chocolate cookies I would recommend splashing out for a proper bar of white chocolate to use. I go for Green & Blacks.

- White chocolate also burns very easily, so be careful when baking. The bottom will burn especially easily if you keep using the same baking tray, so if possible switch to another while waiting for the first one to cool.

- It doesn't matter a huge amount if the banana isn't overly ripe, but riper bananas are softer (easier to mash) and slightly sweeter.

- Vegan butter works just fine for this, though in my experience soya-based butter works better than sunflower oil-based butter for cooking)

- If you're not a fan of chocolate, try substituting it for chopped almonds.

If you try this recipe, please let me know how it works out for you! :)

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Moppit Baby Blanket

So this one was one of the biggest projects of the summer, now completed! it's for a friend to give as a present at a baby shower.

The bunny is Moppit, of course. She's slowly taking over the world. Soon this will be in America.

It's not quite perfect, because somehow I managed to go frequently wrong following my own pattern, I'd suddenly find the pink patch was two stitches too far to the right, despite it being just the right amount of stitches to the right when I started it, and so on. But it still turned out okay, I think. :

This whole project was actually quite fun. We started just from 'I want a baby blanket', and discussed different designs, before settling on 'I want a tapestry crochet baby blanket', then discussed even more designs. Then I produced a few sketches, which she rejected, I drew some more, she loved one, and I made it!

I actually really like it when people reject my first designs. It gives me the confidence that I'm producing something they actually do like and want – that they've not settled for something that wasn't quite what they had in mind just out of politeness. :)

I would have liked to have given it a better edging, but I was limited to how much yarn I could buy, and I didn't have much left, so I had to do something which I had enough yarn for.

Anyways, here are a few of the rejected designs:

We settled pretty quickly on the idea that it should have a rabbit on it, so all the designs are rabbit-based.

She wanted something a bit gender-neutral, just in case the doctors were wrong about whether the baby was a boy or a girl.

In this one I went for pink and blue to hit a balance between girly and boyish.

And in this one, I just went for green, which to me is a fairly gender-neutral colour. There were a few designs that incorporated yellow, too, but I wasn't so keen on those. These two designs might still see the light of day in another form (the latter possibly on a sweater for Domi).

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Crafty To-do List, Summer 2011: version 1.0

So, apart from writing my dissertation, trying to find a job, completing the editing course and preparing for MA 2.0 next year (Coventry; Contemporary Art Practice) I also have a load of crafty stuff to do. Some craft-trades, some commissions, and some personal project that I'd really like to get finished.

- Moppit Baby Blanket for Alexxi (working on now)
- Longcat scarf for Linderel (started)
- Viking Cthulhu for Viking
- Hat for Sunrose (basically finished, just need to go get a ribbon)
- Bookmark for bookmark exchange (Finished, and has been for months and months, but I never have the money to post it to America >_< But I get paid very soon, so I'll finally be able to send it).
- Skull blanket for me (started, on hold)
- Goth Shawl (for me - which reminds me - need to go buy more skull buttons before I leave Bristol)
- Elder Sign (tantalizingly close to being finished)
- Final skull cushion cover (started, but still a long way to go)
- Make masks!
- Zombunny.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Catch up, catch up, catch up

So, let's just ignore the absence for several months, shall we? It was full of work, essays, masks, costumes, lions, tigers, bears, etc. Well, okay, no tigers or bears. But lions. And cats. And bunnies.

I'll be posting stuff from the past few months over the next few days. That was such a pretty sentence. But it would be more ironically ordered 'over the next few days I'll be posting stuff from the past few months' - which in some ways would perhaps be more fitting, since it fits with the idea of dragging into the present the past. Format fits content. Glorious.

Let's start with hats. This is one I made over Christmas, from a single ball of wool that I'd picked up from a sale somewhere. I should really start keeping better track of these things. It was thick stuff - I used a 10mm hook, and worked in half DCs (American). The design was inspired by a bauble on our Christmas tree. The flower was made with some left-over purple fabric, ruched into a circle; the button was from my button-box.

It's currently entered into a 'design a hat contest' over on Elftown. I've got another hat that I'm working on at the moment which I hope to be my second entry. There are also two more hats that I've made: one as part of a craft trade, other as a request for a friend. They're the same design as the original raspberry hat, just in different colours. I'll post photos of those later, when my camera has recharged itself (the battery has an annoying habit of dying just as I come to upload stuff).

Next post: My crafty to-do list. After that: longcat and longlion, and maybe other play stuff too.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The crocheted Presents:

On the left is Tangle. On the right is Fred, the reference for Tangle. Fred is a Jellycat Truffles Highland Cow, and I adore him. I have a whole set of them, but Fred was the first. It's impossible to stay grumpy if you have one of these moocows, they have such a lovely, self-satisfied smile. They always look incredibly proud of themselves. Domi also loves them, so I made him his very own for Christmas. The fur was done with some old wool my mother had left over from years ago and a 7mm hook, the horns, ears, feet, etc were done in DK and a 3.5mm hook. Her feet are full of rice, so I had to sew little sacks to put the rice in before I could put them in the feet. I also had to make a little sack to stuff for her head, otherwise the stuffing would have been far too easy to see and pull out through the holes. Her smile isn't quite as captivating as Fred's, but I'm proud of her nonetheless, and Domi loved her, which is the important thing.

A totoro, following Lucy Ravenscar's pattern, posted on Ravelry. The other present I made for Domi (he got a bunch of other presents, too, but these were the hand-made ones). The eyes are buttons, which were originally red, but felt-tipped black with permanent marker (they were the only buttons the right size). Domi's already asking for a crocheted version of the big totoro, scaled to be proportional to this one. And a longcow scarf. I'm not sure about either of those, but it's good to have a partner who appreciates the presents. :)

The Knitted Present:

Really not the best photo, I know, but it was the best I could do at the time. This was my present for my mother - a cardigan/waistcoat thing in moss stitch, from Manos Del Uruguay wool Classica. 5 balls in total. My wallet groaned a little, but it's such lovely wool. And I knew the colour would suit her. I wasn't 100% sure about the design, but she seems to like it, though she needs a brooch or something now to fasten it. My lecturer seemed rather surprised at how fast I manage to knit it. Possibly because she assumed I was doing more uni work than I actually am. *slinks away guiltily*