Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sartorial Sunday: Megan Hess

Today's Sartorial Sunday is devoted to the work of talented Melbourne fashion illustrator, Megan Hess. On March 6, Megan's illustrations jumped off the pages of The Age's M mag in the lead up to L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival and I wanted to see more.
 Regular readers will know that the images above and below, with their pops of yellow, were a sure fire way of getting my heart to sing a little happy tune as I searched the web for more.

It was soon obvious that Megan Hess is no newcomer to the fashion world with a list of impressively chic clients as Vogue, Chanel, Tiffany & Co and Bloomingdales, New York.

This talented Aussie has even illustrated Candace Bushnall's novels, such as Sex and the City.

In a previous post, I ogled the work of another fashion illustrator, David Downton, with our guest room wall in mind. My heart has now wandered to a talent closer to home. If I was the type to "commission" pieces, I would be looking up Ms Hess right away. Happy Sunday!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Imitating designer prints for the living room

When trawling through magazines, blogs and websites for inspiration of the interior variety, as I so often do, many of the same prints keep popping up on fabrics and wallpapers. Of course, these are not usually available at local fabric and wallpaper suppliers and when a stockist is found at a specialty shop, you quickly realise that there is a specialty price tag that has you scurrying back from whence you came.

L-R: Florence Broadhurst Aubrey and Florence Broadhurst Tropical Floral ($143 per metre)

Almost four years ago now, I took matters into my own hands and painted two Florence Broadhurst designs (Tropical Floral and Aubrey, the latter of which happens to be one of my brother's names) onto small canvases measuring 30 x 40cm. By painted, I mean copied. Painstakingly so, by hand. As part of my living room makeover, I'm currently copying another Florence design, a Kelly Wearstler design and one by Kravet onto canvases of the same size. It's all part of the plan to add bold, graphical prints to the room.

L-R: Kelly Wearstler Imperial Trellis and Florence Broadhurst Circles and Squares

Kravet Velvet Gate Tuxedo (you may remember me falling in love with this on Carrie and Big's headboard in SATC2)

After starting Circles and Squares freehand, and remembering how long that takes, I decided to try the others with a home-made stencil. For the Imperial Trellis, I printed a piece of the pattern on A3 paper, cut out all the black and painted over it. Later I touched up all the bleeding to give a nicer finish.  For the Kravet Velvet Gate, it was a little trickier because the stencil would have fallen apart if I cut all the black out. I also had to create a repeating pattern myself of the computer first as I could only find one repeat online (as above). In the photo below, you can see I cut some of the pattern out then used a pencil to trace it and now I'm filling in with paint.

My Kravet Velvet Gate Tuxedo stencil

Progress shots of my painted imitations of Imperial Trellis, Velvet Gate Tuxedo and Circles and Squares. Plus a sneak peek of new cushions from Etsy.

I'm quite pleased with the progress so far, although I'm starting to wonder if I should be learning to screenprint or, better yet, creating my own original designs. I do love the addition of designer prints in the room though, albeit with a home-made twist. To make six canvases in total, I need to find another iconic design to copy. As always, the hunt for things that make my heart sing continues!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dark chocolate and salted caramel tart

Salted caramel seems to be the flavour of the moment and I won't be complaining any time soon. It's deadly, but totally delicious. With an eager spring in my step, I made a dark chocolate and salted caramel tart at the weekend from the BBC GoodFood website.

Some lovely girlfriends were coming over for an afternoon tea, so the table was set in pretty pastels and florals. I cut the placemats from floral wrapping paper and picked the tea set up at the West Footscray op shop!

The thought of the tart had me salivating all morning, so at 2pm I set off for a quick run around the neighborhood. These are the things you have to do when you want to seriously indulge! After a cold shower, it was time to make the cucumber sandwiches and then serve with Gordon Ramsey's rosewater meringues.

It was a delightful afternoon of guilt-free indulging. A batch of Pimm's punch washed things down a treat. Cups of tea rounded out the flavours. As day turned to night, our male friends were allowed to join us and more food was consumed. Some guilt crept in as our bellies started to groan. Totally worth it though. Tonight, I finished the last sliver of tart, making sure I scraped every last tasty morsel from the plate!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sewing a Union Jack


The Union Jack has been making its mark on interiors for quite awhile now and I'm a real fan of the bright, bold trend. Always being one for a bargain, I could never bring myself to spend the better part of a hundred dollars on a cushion in this design - no matter how much this pop of colour would suit our study (see it here and here). I was very tempted by the one over at the wonderfully colourful Table Tonic. That is, until I stumbled on a stack of tea towels at bargain store Dimmeys in West Footscray last year. Union Jack tea towels, no less. As I dropped to my knees in the aisle to rummage through the stack of blue, red and white, I had to inwardly shout "be still my beating heart"! At $1.50 a pop, I grabbed at least four - two for a cushion, one for my kitchen and one for my Nanna.

In 1959, my grandparents boarded the Fairsea in England with three children in tow and began the six-week journey to Australia. No matter how many times they talk about it, I'm still amazed that they moved across the other side of the world and started a new life at a time when restrictive overseas travel made visits back to see family very few and far between. Here they are, ready to board the ship:

The little boy up the back is my dad (with his hand on my grandfather's shoulder). 

Their voices and mannerisms may still show signs of their motherland, but for the most part, Nanna and Grandad have embraced Australia as their home. Never have I heard my grandparents regret their decision nor do I know them to have union jacks or pictures of the royal family adorning their homes. That's not stopping me though! Nanna thought her tea towel was a hoot.

When I purchased these joyful cloths, I didn't have a sewing machine and my latest sewing experience dated back to Year Nine textiles. Luckily, I must come across as some sort of wannabe domestic goddess looking to improve my skills in all manner of homemaking as I received an email all the way from Abu Dhabi offering me a sewing machine. It was December by that stage so I told anyone who listened that Santa was bringing me a sewing machine. In reality, it was a loan from Aunty Celine, always keen to put a smile on a face. It was stored in her childhood home in country Victoria, so she wouldn't be needing it for awhile.

And so it came to be that I started beginner sewing lessons at the Yarraville Community Centre three weeks ago with my "new" machine. Instead of my class homework that week (some things never change), I sewed two of the tea towels together and attached press studs in place of a zip. They are hardly visible from the front and side...

Unless you look really close...

Our class will be learning to insert zippers next week so until then, it's press studs for me. All you need is a hammer and a surface safe to let loose on (like a scrap of thick ply wood). Got brownie points from the teacher for attempting something on my own. No detention for the missed homework either :)

This sewing business is so fun and satisfying so far. My heart still sings when I see my $3 Union Jack cushion looking so bright and cheery on my yellow chair. Long live England my enthusiasm and God bless the Queen Aunty Cele and her sewing machine!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lighting up my life one lamp at a time

A few things are slowly coming along for our living area, although nothing complete. This week, I'm trying to light up my life with some lamps (excuse the lame pun!). As mentioned in my living room inspiration post, I want a pair of lamps either side of a sofa for some symmetry.  These rooms with their lovely lamps made my heart skip a beat...


 Cottage Home via Apartment Therapy

A touch of French moderne by Jan Showers

Bold, statement lamps are taking my fancy...

 Still inhaling yellow at every turn. These are Shine by SHO lamps. 

 Loving other lamp makeovers like these from Small Shop. And look at the bookends!

 Artichoke lamps from Psyunne. Almost edible. I also like all the kitsch animal lamps around but my decorating ethos is to stick to things I love and animals aren't really up there!

 Contrasting trim on lamp shades is to-die-for, as is this arrangement from the blog Southern Hospitality.

And now I have to hunt down some lamp shades of my own because I've picked up some lamp bases on eBay. They received no bids the first time they were auctioned. I couldn't quite decide if they were 'right' and missed the end of the auction. Luckily they re-listed and I took the plunge the second time around and got the pair (in working order) for 46 buckaroos! Here's a sneak peek of them squished onto the mantle (not where they will live):

No, they are not black and white. No, I'm not a fan of maroon/burgundy. Yes, I can buy a can of spray paint at my local Bunnings. Ta da!

Spray painting was so fun. Hopefully the high was a natural one and not related to paint fumes :) Can't wait to find other things to spray.

Before threading the light fitting back through, I will give them a final coat as some areas look a little dark. I painted the gold thingy under the globe socket too and it looks really good.  I'm glad I took the chance on these. They are certainly not finished but after a bit of paint, I'm excited by their potential. Have to learn to trust my vision.

Now my attention is on lamp shades. I'm thinking a large black drum shade to which I'll add white trim. Down the track, I think I'll cover the shades with a geometric print. I'm still inspired by the Florence Broadhurst Circles & Squares material seen on lamps back when I visited Black & Spiro in Brisbane.

I still fantasise about that dreamy store! Of course, my dreams are in black and white or yellow.

I will, of course, report back when they are fini and provide a photo in better light. For now, my friends, it's lights out.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sweet, squid Sunday

Usual programming of Sartorial Sunday is being interrupted to bring you the latest creation from the Charles Whyte kitchen. This squid is not one to share the limelight.

Yes, I made a squid cake. It's almost ghastly, isn't it?! So much icing, so little cake. Why a squid?

Not long after starting my job last year and revealing my interest in baking, Rhona told me of her obsession with squids and a long-held dream for a squid cake. After exclaiming that I couldn't make anything of the sort, I went to my old friend Google for some advice. Google had, of course, seen and done this sort of thing before and he basically told me that making a squid cake would really make my new colleague's heart sing. So I saved a few images and waited for her birthday to roll around to take on the challenge.

Fast forward a few months to last Sunday night when I spent an evening with a cake, two boxes of Orchard ready made icing and a lot of food dye. The cake needed to be something dense to withstand the weight of the icing so I went with a pound cake. I chose the recipe for purely selfish reasons as I wanted to make use of a birthday gift from my big brother - Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2 by Julia Child and Simone Beck. To ice the cake and create a base for the squid, I decided on a fluffy meringue icing that I have used and written about previously (click here for recipe). When dyed blue and spooned on in peaks, this created an ocean for our little sea creature!

Then the work of manipulating the ready made icing began. I sprinkled red Queen food colouring into the icing and kneaded away, adding more and more colouring to reduce the pink look. Eventually I had to stop adding colouring as it was making the icing too moist and hard to roll (I'll have to try food colouring pastes). To create the squid's head, I secured a rounded, upturned dip bowl onto a small, round cake (make by cooking some of the pound cake batter in a ramekin) with icing, then covered it in the rolled icing and placed it in the centre of the 'ocean' (larger cake). The eye is a large white chocolate covered in uncoloured meringue icing with a mini M&M as the eyeball. The tentacles are pure sugar! Just rolled logs of ready made icing shaped at the ends and dangled over the cake.

To cut a long story short, Rhona's birthday at work was made a little sweeter with a very heavy squid. It was more a sugar sculpture than a cake given the overwhelming proportion of icing but the birthday girl seemed to love it. It was so nice for me to make a cake that made someone else so excited. Two singing hearts!



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