Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Do you like seeing the creative process behind products, do you like knowing more about the makers and hearing their story first hand.
You know that I do, I was actually banging on about that in one of my last posts. I love it when a maker shares a process video or behind the scenes pics. I love to hear the genesis of an idea and seeing a product in action.
New Australian site Pitchi does just that by combining video with buying to give you a little more insight into lots of creative products. This site gives little businesses with great ideas a short video format listing to share their story.
I love video, I’ve outed myself before as a visual learner and my current addiction is to online courses via sites like Skillshare, Creativebug and my old friend Youtube.
So buying with video seems like a no brainer. Pitchi is like an addictive cross between Vine and Etsy.
I loved discovering new products browsing through the site and a couple, like these innovative shoe clips, this neat little key ring or this clever magnetic cord holder are bookmarked for present ideas this Christmas.
For process images these boot makers just blew me away:
And the story behind these rugs is fascinating.
But I think its the handmade, handcrafted videos that show the whole story and include some process that I find really fascinating. Like this pitchi about handcrafted sandstone lights:
I’m very tempted to make an epic tea towel video to post on the site, so stay tuned for that. But in the meantime if you are inspired and make one yourself, or pass the idea on to an entrepreuner or inventor you know send me the link!
This post in collaboration with Pitchi.
Wednesday, 3 December 2014
I make apricot jam every year. There is nothing like homemade apricot jam, have you tried it? It is delicious, like golden summer in a jar. I savour mine all year on my toast until that last precious jar runs out.
Because of the timing of the apricot season it is a tradition that marks for me the last weeks of the year when everything is on fast forward and the lovely slow days of summer holidays beckon. Its always hard to fit a batch of jam into that crazy mix, but its imperative, because I'm away after that and its my only chance for a year of jamminess.
On the weekend I made my annual batch of apricot jam. It was quick and easy and worked beautifully. The jam gods were smiling on me.
I looked at those lovely glowing jars, and I thought about all the people I know who love apricot jam, and the smiles on their face when I gift a jar, and I decided to make another two batches. In my experience small batches work best, I've been burned trying to double or triple up so I don't do it anymore.
So jam making is really not that hard. And if you haven't made jam before then apricot is the perfect place to start. My recipe is cobbled together from a few places, jam recipes are basically half fruit/half sugar. This year I based my quantities and most of the technique on Stephanie Alexander's recipe from the Cooks Companion (here on Nigella's site).
This is how I make it.
1.5kg apricots, quartered, seed and stem removed.
1 cup water
juice from half a lemon, abt 2tbsp
Take the apricots and rip them open to remove the stone and stem, then rip them into smaller pieces. You can do this with a knife but I find it quicker and easier with my hands (that photo above of neatly cut apricots is from another year!).
Put those apricots in a big stock pot. You want a big pot for jam so when it bubbles up it doesn't overflow.
Add the juice of half a lemon, about two tablespoons, and one cup of water. Put the pan on to simmer till the apricots are soft, about twenty minutes.
Meanwhile warm the sugar in a low oven (about 100 degrees celsius) for about ten minutes, till its warm to the touch. You don't have to do this but its a simple step and it keeps the jam from cooling.
Take the stones from about half the apricots and crack them open to reveal the kernels then wrap these kernels in a piece of muslin or light cotton (vintage sheets make a good muslin bag) and throw into the pot. The kernels help impart pectin which is the magic setting ingredient. The lemon juice does this too.
Once the apricots collapse squish them up a bit and add the warm sugar, stirring so it mixes through.
Then turn the heat up to high and bring to a rapid boil. You want your jam really hot so it reaches setting point. This takes about 15-20 minutes. Keep stirring so it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pot. I use the Sally Wise hint about adding a couple of stainless steel forks to the pot to help avoid sticking.
Don't walk away and leave the jam at this point. You do not want to burn your jam!
I test jam set by putting two saucers in the freezer and when I think the jam is set I take one out and smear a bit on a my very cold saucer. Leave for a moment and then run your finger through the jam and if it doesn't flood back in where your finger has been, and if you can sort of push the jam so it wrinkles up then your jam is set. Don't worry if it doesn't seem fully firm when you put it in jars as this process continues as it cools. Keep trying this every few minutes swapping the saucers back into the freezer until you have success.
Checking set is really the only tricky bit in this process, but you get more confident about it as you make more jam. You can also put a tablespoon of jam in a small bowl and put it in the fridge, this should set a bit and show you are on the right track.
I watch the jam as it boils and there is a point where you see the bubbles change texture, they look stronger, more toffee like. The foamy watery layer has died down and you can see the sugars turn glossy.
To sterilise my jars I put them sitting upright in a big stock pot with watering covering, lids off but in the pot as well. Bring them to the boil and boil for at least ten minutes. Its easy to have them on another hotplate as you make your jam so they are ready at the same time. Turn the burner off when they are done and take them out with tongs when you are ready to bottle.
Remove the muslin bag and forks, and jar up the jam while its warm. This helps to seal the jars. I save my jars obsessively all year round, I like the recycling aspect, and I love a mishmash of jars, but you could buy some from a kitchen shop if you wanted them all to match!
Now stand back and admire your beautiful golden orange apricot jam. Perfect on a piece of pane di casa from the local bread shop!
Thursday, 27 November 2014
The photos in this post are a catchup of my fortnight. Building, baking (by one of my boys for school), tired feet, a night out, some lunches, screenprinting new turquoise teapots... and the exciting news, which I can finally share, I will be teaching two workshops at the Sydney Finders Keepers Markets in December!!
My popular Fabric Printing with Hand Carved stamps class will run on Friday night December 12th and on Saturday morning December 13th in the wonderful space of the Technology Park at Alexandria Its going to be fun, I can't wait to workshop in amongst all that creative buzz and surrounded by fantastic inspiration. And get some shopping in too. If that sounds like something you'd like to do too please come and join us!
The other thing that happened recently, and I'm a tad late, is my seventh blogging anniversary which was on November 11th!
Seven years, phew!
I've been thinking and talking a bit about blogging this year. Thinking and talking about my corner of the blog community. Trying to articulate what I write about and why I write it.
Its a big call but over that time I've seen the slow, handmade, creative, family-centric, sustainable, artisanal, craft and making blogs and their popularity change the world in their own little way. Yes that is a big call, but I'm making it!
Over those years I've seen the handmade, handcrafted, homegrown and heritage movements become more fashionable and more mainstream. I'm really proud to be part of that. I am a big believer in what we celebrate with these journals and I'm glad to see the best of those values catching hold.
From small beginnings online, blogging has helped like-minded souls find and support each other. Its been easier to document and share the making of our lives and homes. Now from being a small corner on the internet this movement, this documenting, has grown and thrived, along with the shared ideas, as people have seen and read and been inspired to join in.
Funnily enough I never imagined that I would be blogging so long when I started out on my first tentative posts. I thought the whole concept a bit strange. But once online I met so many like souls and quickly developed a whole new world of friends, a virtual community, the strength of which keeps me here.
So many of those first few friends I made online are still my friends today. Lovely friends, real friends, the type I could ask something of and it would arrive without question. Special people. Makers and doers mostly. Inspiring women who combine family, growing, making, art, cooking, small business, big business, writing, selling, life. Thank you friends!
This sort of sharing seems so common now when everyone mini blogs on Instagram. Social media is the theme of the times and visual diaries like ours are much more common and widely shared.
It takes a bit more time and discipline to write a real blog on top of that. For me though I find its worth it to write my blog and read those others. I like the back story - how things work, what inspired it, where the recipe is, what yarn you used, where you got that cute pattern, which tutorial you used, what that landscape is, who those people are, what you ate and most importantly, how you felt.
I love the writing and reading behind the pictures.
That said I'm probably more selective these days on which blogs I read, I used to have a million on my reader, but not any more. And I probably drop in less, though with my favourites I rarely miss a post.
Blogging has given me so much in seven years, more than I can quantify, friendships, inspiration, education, opportunities, publicity, community, swaps, my small business, laughs, tears, conversations, great recipes, patterns, techniques, motivation. So I'm going to keep on blogging a little longer. Thanks for visiting and commenting and being my friend.
Friday, 14 November 2014
Wow, that was a big week! How was it at your place?
Mine started last Friday afternoon bumping in for the Etsy Markets that are part of the Village Bizarre at the Rocks. Turns out we were in a great spot next to the the crazy German performance artist and the Love caravan, and around the corner from the Gin Mill Social bar and assorted food stalls. Lauren and I were also just next to the Etsy photobooth where people queued all night to have their photos taken and a KPop flash mob dropped in to entertain.
The Bizarre and different Sydney Etsy Team sellers will be there for the next six weeks so if you get a chance, its really worth a visit.
We both had lots of lovely customers and it was really nice to meet the people buying Flower Press wares in person for a change. I loved debuting my ceramics and was so pleased when pieces went home with really nice people where I know they'll be loved!
I was also lucky enough to be instagrammed on the night by Inside Out magazine and I was interviewed for the Herald's mystery shopper column online and in tomorrow's Spectrum liftout!! I was especially tickled that the reporter liked my 'delicately hand spun ceramics'! There will be more of those next year and I will be selling online, that's a promise for 2015.
On Sunday I got to teach another workshop at SewMakeCreate. I enjoy these so much, its so interesting to see the designs people dream up and the layouts they print. I love helping people find their creative side, I believe everyone has creativity, but some people don't know it yet! And making really is good for the soul!
If you want to come and learn this easy and adaptable skill I have one more workshop for the year, on the 28th November. Which means its not too late to make those handmade Xmas gifts you've been meaning to! Everyone prints a tea towel, a tote and some fabric at each class and you get to go home with some rubber and a carver to keep printing more!
The rest of the week was catching up with a big stack of orders, paying bills and sorting stuff for my other day job, with a bit of brick cleaning for our little renovation thrown in for good measure. I've been taking some progress pics of the work at our house which I'm going to share next week. Its very exciting!
You know we've actually been dreaming of putting this big new deck on our little house since the very first day we bought it - which in a strange coincidence was exactly ten years ago yesterday!
Hard to believe it was ten years ago we stood biting our fingernails under the big tree out the front before making one last bid, the limit of our funds. We couldn't believe it when everyone else was suddenly silent, the auctioneer banged his gavel and it was ours!
Mr Flowerpress and I finally got to sneak in a long planned and overdue lunch date to celebrate that milestone yesterday. We had dumplings together at the White Rabbit Gallery teahouse and then squeezed in a bit of Daiso shopping action at the nearby Central Park.
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
Hey guess what, I'm having a stall at the Sydney Etsy team's night markets on Friday night as part of The Rocks Village Bizarre!
I'm very excited about it, I love that part of Sydney don't you, I always think its a bit magical even without a festival.
For those of you that don't know it The Rocks is the oldest settled part of Sydney, full of narrow streets and old sandstone buildings. Its right next to Circular Quay where the Museum of Contemporary Art is, where the big cruise ships park side by side with the tiny ferries gliding back and forth between the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Magic!
I have been scrambling this month to get ready for the market, the Flower Press shop has been a bit neglected so it was nice to spend time sorting things out and fast tracking some long planned products to the range.
Please meet the new and improved Teapot tea towel! I've always loved this image which in an early incarnation was one of the first designs in the Flower Press family. Here it is new and revamped and on a tea towel! I love these ones and they go beautifully with the rest of my designs.
Perfect for a tea party, these come in deep Ocean Blue (can't go past blue and white crockery!) and a vibrant Rose pink for all those garden parties you are planning. More colours later as I get time, suggestions welcome.
As well as that I'll have new Flower Press greeting cards, some Lego block pencil cases, some cushions and well... you'll have to come and see!
One thing I'm really excited about is finally sharing my ceramic work - selected pieces will be for sale for the first time on Friday night. I've been teasing you for long enough on Instagram! These are mostly one of a kind too so its first in best dressed.
Do you remember the little ceramic milk bottles I made back here? Well they are back fired and glazed and looking even prettier than before, I love them! I will have just a few on Friday (though I'm hoping to keep at least one for me!) but I'm hoping these lovelies will become a standard item after Xmas when my kiln is set up.
I got some more exciting news today about some fun things happening next month. I can't wait to share that with you as soon as I'm allowed. So stay tuned to hear more about that!!
Thursday, 30 October 2014
I was away last week. My mum was in hospital and I flew up north to look after her.
I spent the week keeping her company, visiting my Dad and looking after the house and the dog. She's out now and on the mend we hope and my brother is there to help her transition home. My sister was there too, last month, I love my family.
I had lots of time to think last week, at home alone each night and on the long drive to and from the hospital.
And I found myself thinking a lot about kindness and community and generosity.
I was going to write an essay here about good people and how they restore your faith in humanity but I think I'll just say this small something: My mum is really well loved in her community. She is kind, thoughtful, funny, clever and in return she attracts really kind and lovely people.
And in these bad news days I was reminded about how wonderful people can be. Friends came out in force to offer help and support to our little family, my gang helped let me take the time I needed, and she was surrounded in hospital by kind nurses, doctors, cleaners and orderlies doing their job with a smile.
I think most people are good. Not all of them and not all the time, but lots of people are doing good every day, watching out for others and giving without thought of receiving in return.
I strongly believe this sort of giving is its own reward and I believe in a sort of karma. I try to keep an eye out for my neighbours, my community, my family and in return they reward me with love and care a thousand times over. I know they have my back.
You guys are my community too and I love the way the online world works in that same way. I love that social media like blogs and instagram can enhance our feeling of community so it spreads out even further and we are all a bit closer to each other's lives, most times for the better.
And that's what I was thinking as I drove to and fro.
Monday, 27 October 2014
A couple of months ago I finished glazing my second batch of pots and drove them out to Homebush Pottery for firing. As you may have seen on Instagram I got there only to find out they had moved to Brisbane. Boo!
I was in a tizz for a while, disappointed and wondering what to do, but then I remembered that Blackwattle Pottery Supplies which I'd visited once before has a firing service too. Its in Ingleburn, a much longer drive from me, about twice as far, but they are so nice there that its always worth the trip.
I'd noticed on their site earlier in the year that they run a few specialised ceramics courses too. And you know I love a craft workshop. I was really interested in learning about mold making which I'd been stalking on youtube so it seemed like fate when my last batch of pots was ready the day they ran the biannual mold making course again. I booked in straight away.
You may not know but lots of ceramics you use every day are mold made. Its one way of producing multipe items the same. And you can make a mold from just about anything, so it opens up even more wonderful possibilities for making.
John and Amanda run Blackwattle Pottery and between them have decades of ceramics knowledge. What they don't know about ceramics isn't really worth knowing. They are also the nicest people and really generous with their skills and knowledge.
There were three of us in the class and we spent the day making molds. Amanda showed us one of her molds and poured it with slip first up. Its a wonderful process which relies on the plaster molds to draw the water out and solidify the liquid clay slip.
After that we brought out the objects we'd brought along to mold and used different techniques to set them up. I took along this little vintage glass milk bottle to use as my mold and we set it up in a little wooden frame using right angle cottle boards. As you can see the other items used different setups so we got to see a range of techniques.
At the end of the day I came home with a couple of molds and lots of new thoughts and ideas in my head. It was really inspiring.
Of course because of our renovation (week 6!) I have no space or outside areas to experiment at the moment, but I did manage to use my mold a few times to make these little ceramic milk bottles. They have been fired once and are now back at Blackwattle for a final glaze firing.
Hopefully they'll be ready for my stall at the Etsy run markets at The Rocks Village Bizarre. This event looks like lots of fun and sees music, magic, shows and markets running from November 7th till 19th December in the magical surrounds of The Rocks.
My stall is the first week, Friday November 7th and I will finally be selling a few of my little ceramics. I'll also have tea towels, prints, cushion covers and more. The markets are on the corner of Playfair and George streets in The Rocks and run from 6.30pm-10. A great chance to kick your Handmade Christmas shopping off with a bang! It looks like there will be lots of fun stuff happening alongside too, so I hope I might see you there.