Tuesday, 17 March 2015

DIY Watermelon Wall Art


Most of you know about my studio heartache already - I am back home working from the spare room, but as I am still planning on moving I thought there was no point moving everything back and unpacking it all, so my studio is currently running on just the essentials. One thing that is still all packed up are all my knick knacks and wall art, which made the space feel so fun and inspiring. So I figured it might be fun to try and create some little pieces to put on the wall in the meantime....


I bought some cheap canvases from Tiger (told you I love that shop!) and decided to turn this one into a watermelon repeat pattern. I am definitely no artist - that's not me being modest or anything, I genuinely have no talent when it comes to drawing or painting. But I do like creating simple patterns, and even I could manage to paint a (very wonky) semi circle with a few dots on!

 

I'm so pleased with this painting - it took me about half an hour to do, and cost about £3 to make. Cheap and quick equals my kind of DIY project! It was also very relaxing just sitting and painting - I've always avoided this kind of crafting because I know I can't draw to save my life. But this isn't a GCSE art class - I can draw or paint whatever I like and it doesn't matter if it looks like it or not! Now the question is what to paint next...

Goodbye Sweet Treats


 Today is my last ceramics class - I will be sad to finish as it has been really fun, and I have learnt a lot! But I thought I'd make some sweet treats for my classmates and tutors just to say goodbye and thanks. I decided yesterday to do some baking, so had to find recipes that only used ingredients I had to hand (check me out with my serious lack of planning!) Plus I wanted to make bite size treats, rather than a whole cake say, so it would be easy to package up for people to take home. I knew we wouldn't be able to eat them in class, as working with clay gets mucky, so decided to make individual parcels of goodies for each person to take away.


I ended up settling on Chocolate Truffle Cookies and Coconut Macaroons, both of which are from the Hummingbird Bakery's 'Home Sweet Home' book. I halved the macaroon mix though as I only had 200g of dessicated coconut, and doubled the ingredients for the cookie mix. The macaroons came out really awesome, though next time I will use more condensed milk than the recipe says, or less coconut, as I like my macaroons a bit more gooey. The cookies I think I left in the oven a tad too long - they aren't burnt or anything, but just not as moist as I reckon they should be. For a first attempt though I am pretty darn pleased!


A few days ago in Tiger (pretty much the best shop EVER, am I right?!) I bought three colours of this super cute cello wrap because at £1 a roll I basically couldn't leave it behind! I used it to wrap the baked goods up in little parcels, and tied them off with some white ribbon and handmade tags. I love being able to use up supplies I already have, though mainly because it gives me a good excuse to go and buy more!


One thing I really miss about working in a job with other people is having excuses to make cakes and treats - I do still make them from time to time, but it seems kind of greedy to make a tray of brownies just for myself! I want to join some sort of club or group so I have people to give them to on a regular basis! Maybe I should start a cake eating club or something?!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Books to Inspire You


If you've been following me a while you'll know I'm a real bibliophile. I absolutely adore books, of all shapes and sizes and subjects! I posted my 'to read' list for 2015 earlier in the year, and have been making steady progress with it, athough I'm currently reading Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger and have to admit I am struggling. I flew through Catcher in the Rye and thought this would be the same, but I've been reading it for three weeks and am only about a third of the way through! Whenever I get bored reading a book I end up buying more books to read as a sort of incentive to finish the boring book, so I bought The Maze Runner series to tempt myself with. Fingers crossed I can get into Franny and Zooey and get it finished soon because I'm really looking forward to starting something new!

But on to the real subject of this post - I have so many books that I love browsing and dipping in and out of for inspiration, and I thought it'd be nice to start sharing a selection of them on here each month. I absolutely love getting recommendations of new books so thought some of you might too!


 I've always been really into Japanese culture, particularly the 'kawaii' aspect, so obviously I had to get this book! It has small sections (small because they aren't whole chapters, some are just two pages, others are up to ten pages) on a huge variety of areas of cute culture in Japan, from brands to artists, to trends. Lots of the areas it covers I knew about already (I read a LOT of books about Japanese culture!) but there were some new ones too. Plus it was great to read more about artists and companies that I'd hear of but didn't really know a lot about.

 

 Also, it's such a feast for the eyes which I KNOW sounds so cliched, but it's really true here! Every page features colourful photos and illustrations so there is tons to look at, even if you don't fancy reading the whole accompanying text!


 Who would have thought you can buy a book dedicated to vintage American signs? I've always loved novelty signs - hot dog signs shaped like giant hot dogs? Heck yes! With neon lighting? Even better! When we were in Austin, Texas last year I took more photos of amazing signs and typography than I did of anything else.

 

 I think my absolute favourite has to be the 'Pancake Place' sign - I wish I could just travel around America and photograph old signs. Why don't we have ones like these in the UK?! The book isn't just a cornucopia of vintage artwork and typography though - it's also super interesting reading about the history of this type of sign.


 Pretty sure everyone knows by now that I'm a huge Wes Anderson fan, and The Grand Budapest is possibly my favourite of his movies. So when the accompanying book to the film came out I knew it was going to be incredible, and it doesn't disappoint! Packed full of sketches, interviews, behind the scenes photos, stills, storyboards, and so much more, if you loved the move then this book is for you!


 Like everything Wes Anderson touches the book is visually stunning, and I love just flicking through and looking at the images. But it's also incredibly interesting reading all the background behind creating the movie, the characters, and hearing Wes speak about his artistic process.


 This is the only book I could find on Amazon about Margaret Keane and her work. Although it is primarily an accompaniment to the 'Big Eyes' movie by Tim Burton, it does also contain lots of information about Margaret's life and her artwork, including pages and pages of images of her paintings.


It's so nice to finally have a book about her life and work - I've adored her art for such a long time. If you are also a fan I cannot recommend this book enough - even if you're not specifically a fan of Margaret Keane, the book encapsulates something of the life of an artist in that era which is so interesting in itself. I'm really excited to see the movie now!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

DIY simple flower arrangement


 For mother's day (and as a treat for myself) I wanted to put together some simple little flower arrangements using some glass jars and bottles. I prettified the containers using some basic craft supplies - washi tape, tissue paper, and a few other bits.


My sister got me the flowers from the florist where she works - just some basic flowers, plus a few roses add in for good measure. I picked up this neon pink polka dot tissue paper in Paperchase and had to get some - I love how it looks with the flowers. I made the little flag stuck on the front using a toothpick and some message washi tape.


 I decorated these bottles in a gold theme - I got some gold sequin thread in Tiger which I wrapped around one of the bottles, and cut some gold self-adhesive vinyl into sprinkle shaped bits to stick on to another one. Lately I've been trying to make things using supplies I already have because, let's be honest, I have a hell of a lot of craft supplies and need to start making use of some of them.


 In future when I give someone flowers I will put them in a decorated container first because I feel as though it makes the gift feel much more thoughtful and personal. You could coordinate the decorations to tie in with a room in their house or something that they like - next up I want to try making crocheted holders for glass jars.

 

These decorated containers took me about 15 minutes to put together, most of which was spent arranging the flowers! So simple but so effective, and perfect for any occasion, from a birthday to a 'thanks for being a friend.'

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

My Neighbour Totoro Biscuits


 I found these cookie cutters on Etsy a while ago and bought them on a bit of a whim. For some reason I find random things I don't really have a need for the best reward for working hard. Offer me an ASOS voucher, or some new shoes, or a nice meal, and I'm still unmotivated. Dangle some plastic Totoro themed cookie cutters in front of me and I will work like my life depended on it. Weird, huh?

But anyway, they arrived a few days ago, and I have been itching to try them out, but thought I should wait for the perfect occasion to use them. Lord knows what occasion I thought would arise that required Totoro biscuits, but there you go.... Then I got a hankering for shortbread and well, this is the result!


 I made the shortbread using this recipe - I modified it slightly as I am a bit addicted to ground almonds right now, and think they are awesome in shortbread. So I used about 240g of flour, and 50g ground almonds. Plus I used zest from two lemons, although it still wasn't as lemony as I'd like, so next time I will use three lemons.

Oh also a few pointers - pop your dough in the fridge (wrapped in cling film) for an hour before you try and roll it out and cut shapes, otherwise it is super sticky and it's almost impossible. And, spread your biscuits out on the baking tray because they seem to want to all join together like weird conjoined Totoros! Make sure you let them cool on the tray for a bit before you try and move them on to the cooling rack - shortbread is still soft while its warm, so you might risk them cracking or bits falling off.

Sadly I don't think I made the markings quite deep enough (I wasn't sure whether you were meant to push that part right in) and some of the definition has been lost in baking, but I still absolutely adore them. My Neighbour Totoro is still my favourite Ghibli film, and probably always will be, and anything with that cute fuzzy forest creature on makes me smile.


Apparently dogs also like Totoro. Or maybe they were just after the shortbread? Either way we are now a two dog family - my Nan is in hospital still and her dog Poppy is living with us for the forseeable future. It definitely makes taking photos of food (and really anything related to food) a lot more interesting. Happy hump day everyone, I hope your weeks have been filled with things just as exciting as Totoro shortbread biscuits!