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).