Wednesday, 30 November 2016
A while ago I got an email from Tim at Crafty Candle Supplies asking if I wanted to have a play with their products. As a craft tragic and candle lover the answer was a big yes!
Candlemaking has been on my craft wish list for a while but its one of those things that seem a bit tricky, a specialised craft with specialised equipment so I've never got round to it.
I've just poured my second set of candles though and the good news is its so easy, especially with a kit. I managed to melt up some wax, use two different fragrances and some colour and I poured five little vessels in under an hour.
It helped that Crafty have simple candle guides on their website, but really, this is a craft you can enjoy with no previous experience. And the highest temperature the wax gets to is 80 degrees celsius which is cooler than boiling water.
I was sent a small selection of specialised candle vessels - mason jar, hammered copper tin, and some amber glass lidded jars. I also bought some vintage tea cups at the op shop, I've seen these used for candles before. Its a nice new life for these and the slight chips or staining aren't as important and often hidden by wax. In fact the op shop is a perfect place to find unique and original candle holders, just make sure they are heat proof and sealed.
I also used some flowerpress ceramics which are fully glazed inside and out, I want to give these as gifts and I love the idea that after the candle burns you can rinse out the pot and use it for other things, a gift that gives twice!
Making your own candles is great for gift giving, perfect for this time of year, and the wax is set within 24 hours so you don't have to plan too far ahead.
I have my eye on some of Crafty Candle sets for Christmas. I love the way its a one stop shop and the wooden boxes are great for presentation and storage. I used the lid to set up the wax containers as it didn't matter if I got wax on it. The wax is pretty easy clean though and washes off in hot water.
The only hard part is choosing from the fragrances... I do love a smelly candle!
Luckily on my last candle making try I realised that I could melt all the wax in one go but add fragrances individually, as long as I wrote down the measurements of each pot so I knew how much to decant and add scent to. And also I needed to rinse the scented wax from the pouring jug before adding more.
My other advice is to check the flash point for fragrances before you start so you have that information in hand. This refers to the perfect temperature to add fragrance to the hot wax and varies for different scents.
I wrote out my notes on the whole process so I wasn't looking it up online during the making, you could easily print it out also. Different containers take different wicks and these are easily attached using wick stickums, a double sided tape that fits onto the wick base perfectly.
On my second try I coloured some wax. The colour block I used was so pretty and as you can see a small piece added to the melting wax gave my teacup a beautiful pink colour, which matched the pattern perfectly!
All in all I found candlemaking a simple and rewarding craft I'm going to enjoy experimenting more!
Thursday, 20 October 2016
My journey in ceramics of the last few years has come to an exciting point this week, I've started adding my little vases to my Etsy shop. I didn't want to sell any ceramics until they were perfect in my eyes and something I wanted to share with the world.
To see my vases and buy one of your own you can go to the ceramics section of my Flowerpress Etsy Shop.
For those of you who follow my craft wanderings you will know that its been a while now since my first steps in this craft (how funny are those lumpy first pots!). I've been practicing and learning this skill since 2013, an itch I'd been wanting to scratch for ages.
The impetus was a blog story about a working ceramicist. I loved watching the process of her work and as my crafting has always been about making beautiful pieces to live with everyday, the idea of crafting my own ceramic pieces just seemed like a wonderful thing to work towards.
And it is, I love it!
What I didn't know when I started that process was that ceramics has a hugely steep learning curve. Much of it is complex and can only be learnt slowly by trial and failure. I went into it at a sprint, only to learn it is a marathon.
I like that too. I like the idea that the skills are hard won, my appreciation of ceramic work has grown so much as I explore all the processes involved.
Throwing on a wheel is hard. I'm often reminded of the idea that 10,000 hours of practice brings mastery in a skill. I'm slowly whittling away at that number, and enjoying it more as my skills increase.
It feels good to have earned a modest skill at throwing pots. It feels hard won.
Tuesday, 13 September 2016
This winter we all switched to oats for breakfast and we haven't looked back. We eat it as oatmeal or muesli with honey, brown sugar, fruit or yoghurt on top.
Oats are delicious and they're a superfood so I feel healthy and virtuous eating them. And its made me extra happy to see the boys head off to school with a healthy filling breakfast. I like that they are good for Mr F's cholesterol too.
Check out this link which explains the many different ways oats are fabulous for you.
I like my oats granola-ed too. If you make your own you can fill the granola with other healthy stuff you love.
When I made my first batch on a whim I just used what I could find in the pantry, I had some leftover cashews and currants and slivered almonds, sultanas, coconut and sesame seeds and we always have maple syrup and brown sugar for cooking and pancakes.
You can't always rely on pantry staples though and this is my current quick, cheap, low fuss method. Buying the additions as mixed bags of nuts and seeds and fruits makes it quick and easy, they sit in the cupboard until I make another batch and its cheaper to get a good variety. Much cheaper than store bought granola too.
I've added a list below to give you some other ideas for ingredients. You could use as many or as few as you liked. The best thing about homemade granola is tailoring it to your own tastes, you can lower the sugar content, omit the salt, make it nutfree and add or leave out anything you want. This version is high in additions. If there are too many for you just add more oats.
Home Made Granola
5 cups traditional oats (don't use instant)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 egg whites (optional, for crispiness)
1tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 pack Paleo mix or similar
1 pack Orchard mix or similar or see the list of additions below, I like pecans, goji berries and apricots.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius fan forced.
Measure oats into a large bowl. Add oil, maple syrup and brown sugar. Add egg whites and salt and vanilla extract.
Mix to coat.
Lay out oat mix on baking trays. Use a couple so that you don't have to make the oats too deep and they all get cooked.
Cook for 15 minutes on 180 degrees.
Check at ten minutes so it doesn't get burned.
Meanwhile some of the nuts in the premixed packs I buy aren't peeled or chopped. I soak the skins off the almonds (cover with boiling water for five minutes or until the skins just rub off). And then I chop them all into smaller pieces. You can sliver your almonds too if you have the patience!
I use the premixed paleo and orchard mixes because they give me a really good range of additions without buying them all individually. I like the variety and its simple. Alternatively, and if you are going to make this regularly, buy the things you like in bulk and mix them yourself. My mixes have walnuts and cranberries, pepitas and coconut amongst other things, you can see them in the pics above.
Turn oven down to 160 degrees Celcius.
Add the mixed nuts and seeds and fruit and stir through. Cook 8 minutes.
I cook the oats first and then mix in the additions later once I've lowered the heat. Its easy to burn the sultanas and other fruit and while I like mine cooked they can cook too much. If you don't like your fruit cooked add it to the crunchy oats at the end. Or add the nuts earlier and hold back the fruit.
Make it how you like it!
Take out and turn and cook another 10 minutes. Keep going till its like you like it, but be careful not to burn it.
The added oil and egg whites help to make the crunch so if you don't like it crunchy omit them. I've made a batch without oil too and its fine if you want to be healthier. Similarly lower the sugar content or swap the syrup and brown sugar out for honey or another sweetener.
As I've said, the best thing about homemade Granola is tailoring it to your own tastes. To me the goji berries are especially nice toasted, they turn into little soft crunchy versions of themselves. I've always avoided them as a health fad, but they're delicious! I also like nuts like cashews and walnuts in my granola for their nutty crunch, and I cut up dried apricots for the burst of sweetness they spread through each mouthful.
Grain - Spelt, Barley, Wheat, Oats
Oils - Vegetable, peanut, grape seed, olive.
Egg whites - for crunchiness. Optional.
Seeds - pepitas, sesame seeds, linseed, pumpkin seeds.
Dried fruit - currants, sulatanas, dried banana, apricot, dates, pineapple, pawpaw, cranberries, blueberries, apple, dessicated or flaked coconut, dried figs or dates, goji berries.
Sweetness - maple syrup, honey, brown sugar
Nuts - almonds, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamias, walnuts, pistachios
Flakes - wheat, wheatgerm, bran, quinoa
vanilla extract, cinnamon
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
At the end of June our beautiful girl set off for to see the world on her big Gap Year trip. It was exciting but just a little nerve wracking watching her go. She and her friends have been planning this trip for ever though and I'm so proud of them for saving up and doing it!
She's off for five months around Asia and Europe. We'll miss her but already its fun sharing her travels vicariously through stories and photos.
Luckily, as a distraction, we'd booked a week in Tasmania for the school holidays and on Monday last week my three boys and I packed our own bags and headed for the airport!
None of us has been to Tassie before and I planned our itinerary to see as much as we could in the six days which meant lots of driving round the place at the start of the week.
We landed in Hobart on Monday, staying right on Constitution Dock.
A big icebreaker ship, the Aurora Australis sits right at the Dock. This is the ship that transports people and supplies to Antarctica, and there's something very romantic about having a bright orange icebreaker parked outside your hotel! On our walk around the area we filled up on local scallops and chips then visited the replica of Mawson's Hut.
It was raining when we arrived and a planned trip up Mount Wellington was thwarted by ice on the road. Hobart sits below this cloud capped mountain with a huge river harbour flowing down the middle. Its a beautiful city.
The next morning we woke to more rain but managed to beat the clouds by heading north and east towards the coast. By the time we reached Spiky Beach and Spiky Bridge blue skies had opened up, and we were blessed by great weather from then on through the week.
We headed back in from the coast and arrived in Launceston that afternoon. The city is sited on a big hill overlooking a wetland river, the grand Tamar. Tasmania is an island of majestic lakes and rivers, huge rocky crags and rolling green hills. Its really beautiful and perfect for a roadtrip in that the distances between places are relatively close.
Day three we visited Cradle Mountain. The two plus hour drive from Launceston is jaw dropping and passes through some beautiful green country overlooked by craggy mountain ranges. At Cradle Mountain we did a two hour bush walk around Dove Lake, time to take in this most beautiful landscape.
Back in Launceston we had enough just enough energy for a gourmet burger from Burger Junkie food truck. Highly recommended.
Day four we drove the Tamar Valley up as far as Bass Strait. At Beauty Point we did a guided tour at Seahorse World and held some seahorses in our hand. It was great. On the drive back down south was one of the highlights of the trip for me - visiting a valley where my ancestors lived in the 1800s.
How amazing to find the beautiful weatherboard church and stand beside my great great great aunties' Margaret and Alice's graves. They came out with their mother and sister, my great great grandmother from Ireland in 1848, to be reunited with their father, transported eight years earlier.
They went on to become respected pioneers in this idyllic rural valley... but more of that another time, I think it deserves its own post.
Back in Hobart we made another attempt at the peak of Mount Wellington. This time the road was open but the top was fogged in! Next time I come to Tasmania, and there will be a next time, I hope to see the view from up here. I bet its spectacular!
Day five was our trip to MONA. For readers who don't know about MONA it is the celebrated private gallery of Old and New Art on the banks of the Derwent, a great drawcard for the city and something everyone had recommended to us. If you get a chance, do go. It was the gallery space that really amazed me. Carved from rock the galleries take you down into the centre of a hill into the most magical reality. I need some more time here next visit too. It is a testament to its popularity that we ran into neighbours of ours on the MONA ferry and friends from Sydney who'd flown down for a weekend in the first gallery!
Day six, the day we left, we headed south to Port Arthur. On the way we dropped in to Unzoo and saw them feed the Tassie Devils, and Spotted Quolls. We patted kangaroos and fed Green Rosellas and walked down to the water to look across to Flinders Bay the site of the now disappeared Flinders Bay Probation Station where my ancestor Richard Clancy spent his sentence cutting wood.
Port Arthur is a major site of Tasmania's Penal program, but also the site of a modern day massacre which changed the course of Australian gun laws. It is a deeply resonant site, but to me the positive spirits have the stronger voice.
After Port Arthur we headed for the airport, tired but happy, dropping on Doo Town and its blowhole on the way. We flew out of Hobart late arriving home tired but happy, to the familiar lights of Sydney.
We loved Tasmania, it was great to go somewhere where we didn't know what to expect, to a most beautiful natural landscapes, this island with the purest air in the world and new and interesting birds and animals is a great family adventure, and we will definitely be going back, there is still so much to see.
Tuesday, 24 May 2016
My blog voice is rusty.
I have been back to this space many times, trying to craft a post, to get the machinery moving again. But the longer you stop the harder it is to start again.
So please accept this photo heavy post about the part of my creative life that is getting the most attention and taking the most of my time - Ceramics.
I want to document this part of the journey before I travel on further. You can see how I ended up here by using the #clay tag which I've added to all my ceramics posts.
Its all about clay at the moment, which you will know if you follow my instagram @flowerpress, or definitely if you've seen my new clay themed account @flowerpressclay!
There is something about the meditation of throwing in particular, the slow journey to improve at this very difficult skill that is consuming all my creative brain.
And it can't be rushed, so I'm learning patience along with my practice.
After a few weekends at the wheel I have a big batch of thrown pots now sitting waiting for decoration and to be fired. But this post records some of the pots I've made so far this year, before I rush off to that next batch.
As you can see I've tackled handles, and found them not quite as scary as I thought. There's something wonderful about the shapes they make and the magic of their strength.
I've also experimented with different styles of decoration too, wax resist, mishima, crackle glaze, underglaze and pooling glaze.
I promise another blogging in the not too distant future.