Setting the Angel free

Expanding my collection of dog silhouettes, I’ve added some marble dogs. A customer inquired whether I have any designs that are not ‘that colourful’ but rather monochrome. As I didn’t I felt it was high time to change that, especially since marble is one of those timeless classics that will never really be out of fashion when it comes to interior design. In fact, 2015 saw once more the rise of this elegant material not only as floor and wall covering but also as material for a multitude of decor items, from marble cubes to marble fruit, plant containers, clocks and even tea cups, and it is sure to be a trend to hang around for some time.

So, marble. I was doing some research, and there are about a gazillion different types of marble, which you can look up here, if you’re interested, however, for me, the only name that pops into my mind is Carrara marble. Carrara, Italy. The city Carrara is in Tuscany, a bit north of Florence, and, interestingly, it’s motto is Fortitudo mea in rota (Latin: “My strength is in the wheel”). I suppose it makes sense, considering that the wheel would have played a big role in the marble production for centuries.

I have never really owned any marble items, other than the black cube which you can see in the photos next to the marble dogs, and whilst I have been in Tuscany, I have never been to Carrara. However, I can claim some first-hand knowledge and photos, as my husband was there in 1989. Obviously, marble blocks are big, and the pictures, apart from the wiring and some machinery, remind me a lot of Asterix and Obelix comics:)

Carrara

Clearly, it is quite a beautiful product. I’m probably reaching a bit far when I quote Michelangelo here: ‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’ If nothing else I managed to weave this quote, which long has been a favourite, into a blog post of mine:)

As always, my marble dogs are available in my Made It store.

 


Getting Ready for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is just a few weeks away.

As a Mum I don’t much care about this ‘Mother of all Days to celebrate Mums’, although I confess I did drop a hint or two. With soccer season in full swing I’m usually just glad if we have time to sit together for a nice lunch or afternoon coffee.

My own Mum is far away, and any gift is long in the mail, and a double gift it is, too, as her birthday is May 7th.

As a photographer, Mother’s Day has been on my mind for months. A few very organized clients have purchased Mini-Shoot Gift Vouchers and a fair few of my photography greeting cards will be given to Mums, too.

For the first time I’ve participated in a shopping guide, and what a fine shopping guide it is. Check it out: Mother’s Day with madeit.com.au. 21 pages of fabulous items and ideas, but page 3 is my favourite, just saying:)

And of course, being the Mum of a furbaby counts too on Mother’s Day.

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Let’s not forget Dad’s though. I seriously feel sorry for any father who has a birthday on Mother’s Day. That’s where this little beauty comes in.

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Above acrylic blocks and the dog silhouette print are available in my store. For session gift vouchers or photography cards please contact me directly.

 

 

 

 

 


A Lament Over Chocolate

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The two (in my opinion) main chocolate feasts of the year, Easter and Christmas, coincide with the hotter months of the year. It’s a really bad combination, because who likes to eat melted chocolate?

For most Australians this is the norm, they grew up with it, they don’t know any different, for but for an European flower like myself, the switched seasons are still one of the harder aspects to overcome Down Under, even after all the years we’ve been here.

When the kids were little we lived in Canberra, where spring and autumn generally deliver a pleasant 20 degree temperature difference between day and night, and where winters do get well below 0 degrees. It made perfect sense that the Easter Bunny brought new warm house shoes and a new winter pajama every year. And the early morning Easter Egg Hunts were a pleasant, non-perspiring affair, and chocolates melted only once tightly gripped by small children’s hands, not during the 2 minutes ‘hiding’ in the grass or in this or that garden bed.

All different now, even though the kids are older now and the ‘hunt’ is done in a jiffy. Still, this Easter Sunday we turned on the air condition around lunch time, because the chocolate eggs were melting in their baskets.

Which gave me the idea of a shoot. And rise to the lament over chocolate. Because chocolate is not what it used to be. If you delve into this subject you will find many consumer sites that complain about changes in recipes, changes in production processes, changes in quality of well-known chocolates that have been around since their childhood, and are just now … different.

So for this shoot, in my head, I had this idea of a chocolate Easter Bunny melting, the chocolate dripping down, oozing, glossy, wonderful, delectable chocolate. Judging by how fast chocolate melts in children’s hands and in the sun, I thought this would be no problem whatsoever. I set up the studio, set up the chocolate Bunny, got the camera ready and started melting the chocolate with the help of a hair dryer.

The bunny started looking exactly how I’d imagined it: glossy and chocolately melty. And that was it. After that stage no more melting. Eventually the bunny just collapsed. I tried it several more times, different brands, different price range, I used some chocolate Santas that I had kept for this experiment … You see the result. The better brand chocolate didn’t even get glossy, but left a puddle of yuk at the bottom, lovely fatty yuk. Brrrr.

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My scientist husband remarked that it was either the hair dryer or the fact that it was chocolate that had been melted previously to get into its shape that my experiment failed. He’s used to experiments failing, I’m not so much. So for now my enthusiasm is a little deflated, which doesn’t mean I’ll try a different approach some time in the future. Meh.

 

 


For the Love of Beer

Digital restorations of old photographs can be tricky. Some can be outright nightmarish. The more one zooms into the image, the more damage becomes visible. Somehow it becomes quite obsessive to fix ‘everything’ and I have had nights where I’ve been dreaming in pixels after a long session at the computer during the day.

In this beer advertising from the 1950s, the very pretty model with the very elegant hands holds this for today’s standards very unbeer-ish glass in the air, a bit like a chalice. It’s a fine piece of photography, but the 8×10″ print has suffered over time.

Resto

As always, my main goal is to get the digital restoration as close to what the image would have looked like on the day it was printed as possible. There’s a fine line in overdoing it.

In the original, the only things in sharp focus are the hands and the glass, the bottle was deliberately left slightly blurry, and the face of the model was totally out of focus. I did not change that, but made sure I worked very neatly on the hands and glass, which are the main focus.

In the close-ups you can see the damage, the scratches, all the little spots and specks, that needed to go.

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And the fingerprint. It always makes my heart skip a beat, when I find fingerprints on photos. Yes, paper and inks back then were different, but please, please, please don’t ever handle photos, old or new, it doesn’t matter, unless you hands are clean and dry, and hold by the edges only. The white glove thing is a myth, I have attached a link to that here, if you’re interested in reading up on that.

And I have done some research on the beer, which is a fine brew from the Swan Brewery in Perth. You can purchase this very label for a reasonable amount on e-bay, if that takes your fancy.

Love the history part of old photos:)

 


Melting Crayons

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Yes, it seems they are everywhere, certainly Pinterest is brimming with photos of great and successfully created Melted Crayon Art.

The madeit blog kindly did a ‘how to’, in their first of hopefully many more monthly DIY project how to’s. I had been mulling this melting crayon idea around in my head for some time, had wanted to tackle it in the school holidays, but alas ….

On an otherwise rather middle range exciting Wednesday I could have done the accounting and some cleaning and tidying but the ‘Crayation’ beckoned.

Since the kids are no more little there are no more bits of crayons in the house. I got two packs at the last grocery dash. And I already had a canvas, an oblong shape which I’ve had for ages with no real idea what to do with it. Now it time had come.

As a photographer, I like negative space, my cropping is usually such that the subject is not in the middle, but rather off center and even to the very sides of the image. It’s a thing.

And on Pinterest I spotted a few melted crayon images using negative space as well, negative space as in shapes and outlines of names etc. As the oblong shape of the canvas kind of lend itself to something longish I attempted a dolphin.

The blog also had pointed out that chasing bits of half melted crayon on kitchen bench and floor was an undesirable side-effect once the hair dryer is getting its work-out. Duly noted, which is why I decided to not break my crayons into pieces but somehow stick them on the canvas. Good old blue tac helped with that. Before that, I drew a rough outline of a dolphin with pencil on the canvas, and peeled the paper off the crayons. THAT was a really annoying and time consuming part … almost went back to accounting …. almost.

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In sections, I went around the canvas, sticking complimenting colours of crayons on and, with the hair dryer on low, started melting the crayons. Generally, it worked really well, however, eventually the crayons just melt too much – and yes, blue tac melts, too – so the angle of the hairdryer did matter a lot. Regardless, many times bits of breaking off melting crayon just flew across the canvas.

You can see the trails of these runaway pieces in the picture.

After I finished the whole outline of the dolphin, I used some crayons to put some extra drips and swirls into the paintwork. Crayons melt really quickly, and dry really quickly, too, so one has to be reasonably fast.

I took a few photos before, but got totally absorbed during the process, and quite dirty, and my camera and dirty fingers are a no no. Plus I was literally running out of time, as this dolphin took me a good 2 hours to finish …. dinner and sports drives were waiting.

Whilst I love the pools of melted colour, really cool actually, I would not recommend doing this activity with children. I burnt my fingers quite a bit and still have crayon blue under my fingernails today. And if you’re not careful and are holding the hairdryer too sideways or too low the hot wax does splatter everywhere.

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But I’m quite pleased with this attempt and the dolphin now keeps me company in the office and makes me smile while I do some bookkeeping.

 

 


madeit in Australia

madeit.com.au is an e-commerce site dedicated to showcase handmade items created by crafty people who physically reside in Australia. It doesn’t matter whether sellers do create for a living or as a hobby, as long as it’s their creation, it can be listed in their store on the madeit website.

As the world is big and I’m not quite ready to expose myself to it, I liked this idea and so az pictured set up a store about a year ago.

I was still doing some markets in 2015 and spending a lot of energy to get my stall stocked and a lot of time being present on said markets. Unfortunately, I think, apart from a few very successful upmarket designer-type markets, the down the road once-a-month small to middle-size market is pretty much dead, a lament repeated by countless other market stall holders I became friends with. Market insurance and market stall fees keep going up, customers continue to be happy spending money on food and anything to do with the kids, but by large, they hold their purses tight. And if they shop they expect to be able to use their credit card, pay wave, chip and what not … all of which is not that easy and uncomplicated and seldom free and mostly not feasible for small businesses.

Anyway. Since I was still focusing on markets I didn’t put too much effort into my store on madeit and – no surprise – had a bit of a slow start.

Towards the end of last year I stepped it up, and madeit itself has undergone some changes and began the new year with some well thought-through and exciting changes, with a new look newsletter, improved blog and quality presence on social media platforms. All makes sense and looks awesome and it’s so exciting to be a part of it.

And to top the excitement, January has brought me a couple of features in the shopping guides and a stint as a guest pick-editor plus a few sales … insert happy little dance emoticon.

Following madeit more closely has also exposed me to the craft and creativity of other sellers and their fabulous products. A few birthdays are already sorted:)

If you like to support handmade in Australia, check out madeit.com.au :)

madeit

 

 


Love Pulses

Since 1960, the United Nations promote international awareness and action on certain issues by creating special observances designated to days, weeks, years or decades. Scrolling down the list, one can find such wide ranging topics as Human Rights, Co-Operation, Anti-Apartheid, Volunteers, Thanksgiving, Microcredit, Physics, Freshwater, Rapprochement of Cultures, Natural Fibers, Family Farming, Crystallography, the Potato and many more.

While 2015 brought us the Year of Light and Light-based Technologies as well as the Year of Soils, 2016 is the Year of the Pulses. I confess, I didn’t see it coming. I should have remembered an interview I saw years ago, where Matt Preston, the well-known, mostly colourfully suited and tied food critic and judge on Masterchef, was raving about ancient grains and announced Quinoa as the true trend for the upcoming (then 2012) year, and sure enough, we got the International Year of Quinoa in 2013.

Maybe I should have paid attention to the recipes in magazines over winter, and the ‘super home-cooking ideas’ from a certain supermarket, because, looking back, there were a lot of peas and lentils and the like. Hm. Well, we know now why.

Funny enough when I googled ideas for images for the Year of the Pulses towards the end of last year, I found quite the confusion, as many times it was the Year of the Pulse, or the Year of Pulses, a funny little translation mishap possibly, which in most cases seems to have been rectified by now.

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In any case, 2016 and Pulses it is.

Stock up on your pulses, ‘get creative’ with green and yellow peas, lentils, chickpeas and eat ‘delicious, nutritious and sustainable’, as the slogan of the Global Pulse Confederation tells us. Yes, there is such a thing.

Well, I’ve started off with a little bit of creativity, we’ll see how it translates into the kitchen.

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Clean Sheet

It’s a new year. Yay. It was a lovely festive season in our house, and once the rush and bustle of the festive season was over we had a lovely evening at a friend’s place, where the new year began with laughter and chatter and sparklers and bubbly.

Now the new year is a week old. Facebook and especially Instagram feeds are still flooded with New Year resolutions of all kind, and frankly, I’m getting a bit fed up with them all.

I remember that even as a child it made not much sense to me when the adults talked at length about what they were wanting to change the following year. I’m probably to pragmatic about that. If you want to change it, just do it. Which proves why this slogan of a very famous sports brand is not only very clever but also very to the point. No more excuses. No more blabla. Just do it.

Anyways. As different religions and regional cultures celebrate new year at different times of the year, each with their own outbursts of great plans and resolutions, we are but a small drop in the ocean and are mostly taken ourselves way to serious yet again.

If anything I quite like to be reminded that January is named after Janus, the Roman god of gates, doors and beginnings, who, with his two faces was said to look both forward as well as backwards. For me, New Years is more for reflection and looking backwards than looking forward with great plans.

Forward is a clean sheet. Clean like the new calendars, which are still empty and stress free and not filled to the brim with things to do, to remember, to organise, to buy.

Here’s to a new year, with all that it may bring our way:)

Hello2016

 

 


Hedgehog of a Different Kind

We had the first fresh mangoes on the weekend. So I guess we’ve declared it to be SUMMER.

The mango is widely considered to be THE summer fruit in Australia. 23 Million Australians enjoy about 8 million trays of mango every year.
Last year was even a record year of 9.5 million trays but we’re already told that the national crop will be down due to troubles with flowering and a late season.

The juicy stone fruit originates in Malaya and eastern Asia, where Buddhist monks took mango plants on voyages as early as the 4th and 5th centuries BC. By the 10th century AD Persian traders had taken the fruit to the Middle East and East Africa, and on Portugese ships it made its way to India, South America, the Philippines and West Africa. The mango arrived in Australia in the 1800s and has been cultivated commercially throughout tropical and subtropical areas around the world ever since.

In fact, the mango is the national fruit of India, Pakistan and the Philippines, and the national tree of Bangladesh, where it even gets a mention in the national anthem “The fragrance from your mango groves/Makes me wild with joy,/Ah, what a thrill.”
I read that the EU contemplated a ban on the import of Indian mangoes last year, due to them not meeting their health and hygiene regulations. Seeing that India only accounts for less than 1% of the international trade even though they are worldwide the largest producer, I suspect they might not be too worried.
Apparently all things mango are the third national obsession in India, alongside cricket and Bollywood.

In Australia mangoes are grown in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.
The mango harvest is made up of several varieties “Kensington Pride” is the most common (65%), followed by Calypso™ (20%), “R2E2” (6%), Honey Gold™ (4%) and Keitt (3%). 92% of the Australian crop are consumed in Australia, 95% as fresh fruit and the rest in the food processing sector. Only 8% are exported.

Traditionally, the first tray of mangoes is sold at the annual Brisbane Mango Auction at the Brisbane Markets in late September/early October, and all proceeds go to charity. This year’s winning bid of $30.000 was split between Diabetes Australia and Life Education Queensland.

Ah mangoes. They are best eaten fresh, and straight from the fridge. Nothing more refreshing on a hot summers day than a mango hedgehog. However, as they don’t last long (because they don’t last long, and because they DON’T last long) I have always a pack of frozen fruit in the freezer, for smoothies. Yum Yum Yum

References 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Mango


Change the Face of Men’s Health

There is the Chevron a la Magnum, the Dali (don’t confuse it with the handle bar), the Walrus a la the guy from Myth Busters, the Painter’s Brush which is the thing Brad Pitt sprouted for a while and several others, in fact too many to remember.

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You might gather from my tone I’m not a fan of facial hair and I have put a total ban on it in our house. The husband had one before my time and tried to re-create it some years later when I was already around. He tried it briefly. Very briefly.

But as the goal of Movember is to ‘change the face of men’s health’ and raise awareness for prostate and testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity (which are but some of the health issues faced by men), and with a husband and two sons, I feel it is triple important to spread the word.

What still gets me the most, and I think is the most unspoken fact, is that Suicide is still the most leading cause of deaths for Australians aged between 15 and 44, with three in five being male.

So who cares that the dog is a girl and I fail as a photographer because she hates the camera no matter how much I’ve tried to train her to be the perfect dog-model, and there’s no mo’s in our house.

There are plenty of ways to participate, check out the website, there is also an option to donate $50 or more using Visa Checkout and they’ll boost your donation by $25, for free, which is pretty cool.

Fact is, men are dying too young, spread the word, people.

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