So it’s my birthday…again! This time of the year seems to come around faster and faster every year. (It’s freaking me out, but more on that later.) It’s also the third anniversary of this blog, which means it’s time for the annual let’s-stop-and-see-where-my-life-is-at post.
The Big Move. I left my heart behind in my beloved Passau at the start of this year and made the big move back to New Zealand, after being overseas for more than two years. It was a devastating and triumphant homecoming in equal measure. Devastating because I was leaving my other half behind on the other side of the world, and triumphant because I was coming back to do something that I loved, something that I felt was in my very bones.
My bones turned out to be dead on: coming back to study was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I took to it like a duck to water. The only side effect was that I missed my Passau life so much, much more than I’d ever let on. Passau was where I lived in a place where I didn’t know the language or people and I built up my life there from scratch. I grieved that life for months after coming back, it took a while until I wasn’t crying every other week. But it did get better.
This time last year I was celebrating my birthday in Innsbruck, Austria. What a trip that was! I miss travelling around Europe too, the ease of it, the different countries at your fingertips. But I’m determined to go back very soon! Japan, Taiwan and Australia are on the cards for me this year and I’m especially excited about exploring Taiwan – a new realm for me.
Thank you as always to you, for reading this, for taking an interest and thanks to my family, friends and darling Schnucki for the constant love and support! I am truly blessed to the moon and back to have everyone that I know in my life. Let’s keep striving to be the best that we can be and keep chasing bigger dreams!
Thank you again to everyone that has been following and supporting me so far!
Here’s to another epic year of travels, art and happiness!
It was Kimono Day in Japan yesterday (November 15th), so I thought the perfect way to celebrate the occasion is by finally posting about my Kimono Cat Collection exhibition!
The Kunstnacht (Art Night) here in Passau is on in midsummer every year and it is arguably the biggest event on the social calender. Every art gallery and atelier in the Altstadt throws open their doors to the public and the majority of the townspeople turn up; crowding the streets, perusing art, wine-ing, dining and having a great time.
I attended the event for the first time last year, and I was absolutely blown away with the lively atmosphere and the sheer number of galleries that were usually hidden behind closed doors and crooked alleyways lit up and shining like gems in the night.
The local schools were also open with music concerts and refreshment stations and the bars had ministands along the streets offering food and cocktails. I was so awestruck with this one night wonder that I vowed to be a part of it the next year if I still happened to be living in Passau.
So fast forward to July of this year: I was still in Passau and I was still determined to be a part of the Kunstnacht. I sent the organisation messages to plead my case months beforehand, along with photos of my Kimono Cats but I received no answers in return. I was busy with work at the time and I hadn’t finished my latest Maiko cat anyway, so I eventually lost hope and left the matter alone.
The day of Kunstnacht rolled around and I was at work about to finish my shift when my Schnucki came bursting in, saying that he had called one of the organisers for me and that they still had an empty space that they needed to fill. The meeting with the room owner was in an hour and he asked me if I wanted to take it: I said yes, of course!
We promptly went to meet the owner and his room – it was a pretty little thing that had just finished its renovation that day. It was so new that the owner didn’t want to put holes in the walls by hanging the other artists’ paintings, so they were all propped up against the walls around the room. The centre of the room was empty, so we carried an old garden table up from the backyard to put in the middle of the room, as the centerpiece for my cats.
After meeting with the owner I was in full panic mode – I had to get ready for this exhibiton within a few hours and I had no idea where to start. I rushed off to buy some much needed supplies like the matching white frames for my paintings which also happened to be on sale (lucky!).
Once I got home, I was on triple speed trying to get everything ready. I carefully wrapped up my cats up in white stuffing that I had just bought and loaded them into a box, praying that they wouldn’t break. Then I had to make and print out short explanations about the cats (that I never ended up using) and business cards. I left total destruction in my wake, my room looking like a bombsite afterwards.
After getting ready I headed off with my laptop (so I could put on some music in the gallery) and clutched my box of cats for dear life as I walked, knowing one wrong move could damage everything. I got to the gallery early and set everything up (my cats were safe and sound, thank goodness) and then I could finally breathe a sigh of relief, sit down and enjoy the night.
A lot of people came in throughout the night and my cats were a hit – making people laugh and there were comments about Pokémon more than once. To my delight, children were also enthralled with my cats and there were even some offers to buy them from the adults.
All in all it was a fantastic night and a real dream come true for me. I am eternally grateful to my Schnucki for making this opportunity for me possible and I hope that I can take part in another exhibition soon!
So, did you enjoy my impromptu exhibition? Which one was your favourite piece?
Today is my birthday and it is also the second anniversary of this blog! Yippee!
I can’t believe how fast this past year has flown by, but I’ve managed to do a lot of amazing travelling and artistic projects in that time. Last year I vowed to put myself and my happiness first after a string of stressful and terrible jobs that left me empty and burned out. I’ve worked at two different jobs whilst here in Germany; one that was not so great again but another that was probably the best I’ve ever had.
Now that I’m another year older, I’ve been getting a bit of pressure from others to decide where I want to be next year and what I want to do with this blank canvas called life. I don’t yet know where I want to go next year, but I’ve known for a while now that all I want to keep doing is travelling and making art. These are my top priorities at the moment and if I could somehow spin a profession out of that, then that would be the dream.
My travel highlights of the past year would definitely include the magical white Christmas with my family in the Swiss Alps, our charming trip to Copenhagen, London and Innsbruck with my darling Schnucki and reuniting with my high school friends in the Greek Islands.
One of my greatest artistic moments this year was when I got to exhibit my Kimono Cat Collection at the Kunst Nacht or art night here in Passau, which is one of the biggest events on the social calender. My Schnucki set this opportunity up for me and I am eternally grateful to him – it really was a dream come true (read this post here!).
I am so thankful for all of these opportunities and amazing people in my life and I really do count my lucky stars every day. I hope the coming year will also be full of love and happiness and that I’ll be able to achieve the goals that I am striving for!
P.S. The biggest lesson that I have to keep reminding myself about this year is: stop giving so much of yourself away when you’re receiving nothing back. This applies to work, friends and basically anything else. If you keep putting so much effort and time into people and things when you’re getting nothing in return, it’s time to stop and let it go. Otherwise you’ll just drive yourself into a frustrated ruin. Remember to look after yourself and put your own oxygen mask on before helping others!
So, thank you to everyone that has been following and supporting me so far!
Here’s to another epic year of travels, art and happiness!
Welcome to the making of the fourth feline from my Kimono Cat Collection! This is where I show you the process and behind-the-scenes of how I made my latest clay creation, the lovely Maiko cat called Fukunae. So, without further ado, let’s begin!
First things first, I always start by making the armature, which is the skeleton of the model. I used 2mm aluminium wire for the main frame and 1mm wire to twist tightly around the arms so when I put clay on later it can grip onto it better.
This cat was going to be without a tail (you’ll see why later) which made things a lot easier for me construction-wise. After twisting the wires into the desired shape, it was time to squish blobs of Apoxie Sculpt around the torso and paws of the cat to make sure the armature would be stable and strong.
Now it was time for my feline to hit the gym and ‘bulk up’ (with tinfoil, that is). I’ve found with my three other cats that it’s really worth the extra effort and time to shape the body shape you want properly when bulking up the frame (especially the head) because it can make the next sculpting step a lot easier!
After the bulking up, it was time to put on the first layer of Super Sculpey, which in Fukunae’s case was to smooth out all of her limbs and head shape and add ‘fur’ to the bits that wouldn’t be covered by kimono. And then it was off to the oven for the first bake!
Now it was time for layer number two! This stage was more interesting because I could start making the under layers of the typical Maiko’s kimono, including the draping collar and the kimono front she would be holding up.
I also added hair decorations and the shoes with Apoxie at this point, even though I wasn’t sure if it would survive in the oven (it did brilliantly, just saying).
And then it was time for the final layer – the draping furisode sleeves. I left these until last because I needed the under layers to cure before I could start on these fiddly long sleeves that always got in the way of everything when sculpting!
So there we have it, after three bakes in the oven, it was finally time to add the whiskers! (These are left until after the baking stages are finished because I am pretty sure they would melt otherwise). The whiskers were made by threading thin nylon thread into Apoxie and letting it cure overnight.
Here is the back view of Fukunae after all on the baking stages. She can stand up on her own very elegantly and she is probably the lightest cat I have made so far. (This is a good sign as you want to use as little clay as possible, because the layers have to be thin enough to cure properly and it also saves you more clay for your next projects!).
So, after all of the foundations were finished, it was white out time! I painted light coats of Acrylic Gesso over the sculpture and let it dry, which makes it a great canvas to paint on later. After the Gesso, I also did a few coats of white acrylic paint to make sure everything was smooth, even and ready for colour!
Now, this was where the fun really began! I love painting the sculptures and the kimono pattern I was basing this one on was much easier to paint than Tsubasa’s repetitive pattern, so I had a lot of fun with Fukunae. It was also a joy to do softer spring colours and pastels this time, with some tiny details in the coloured strips. Plus, painting the Maiko hairdo was a different change too!
On a side note, I finally bought myself a cutting mat (the green mat you can see above) and it is a life saver when rolling out clay and measuring and cutting straight lines. (I can see why everyone has them now haha) I highly recommend getting one for yourself from the start!
I whizzed through all of these stages with Fukunae up until this point so quickly – in under a month, in fact! I was determined not to leave her untouched for weeks on end like my other cats, but unfortunately this super productive streak of mine didn’t last (I wasn’t surprised).
Even now, I have her sitting on my shelf ninety-nine percent finished, so I really need to get that last one percent done and you can all finally meet her finished and fabulous!
This is one of those instances where one click on the internet can really change your life…my life, to be exact.
It all started about a year ago when I was on WordPress Reader (you have to know that I’m rarely on WordPress Reader, so this story starts off with an unusual occurrence already), and I just happened to notice the ‘recommended blogs for you’ bit on the left hand panel of the page.
Usually I ignore those things, but there were about three recommended blogs listed there, and I suppose one of them caught my eye, so I clicked on it. That one fateful click took me to Maryanna Hoggatt‘s old WordPress blog, which she doesn’t use anymore but she keeps accessible anyway (thank goodness!) and then I saw her artwork:
Her Animal Battle maquette sculptures was what really got me. I’d never seen anything like them before -it was pure imagination in three dimensional form.
Art that is the most inspiring to me always has to take me to another realm, another world of rich stories and possibilities, whether it be through traditional art form, music or books. And Maryanna’s work did just that.
I loved the story line she had created for her characters and I could imagine their individual personalities with ease. It was awe-inspiring and it probably would have stayed at just that level for me, if she hadn’t also posted how she had made her first few sculptures.
This was the real catalyst for change within me. Maryanna had written with such detail on how she had made her first character Tolly, with what tools she’d bought and how she’d gone about making him with photos at every step, that by the end of it I just knew I had to try this out for myself.
I had such an overwhelming feeling that I needed to do this – like it was a sudden and unshakable call of destiny or something, that I researched more about sculpting right away and gathered all of the materials that I would need for it as fast as I could.
And so Tama and my Kimono Cat Collection were born. I love artists who are generous enough to share the process of how they make their work and I’m especially grateful to Maryanna. She provided me with an invaluable insight into something new like sculpting, which I had never even considered doing before, but now love to do.
It is so strange how life can lead you to big things with the smallest of starts – as small as one click onto an internet link.
Name meaning: Tsubasa means ‘wings’ in Japanese and it symbolises the ‘wings’ she has gained from completing her education to fly off freely into the adult working world.
Her Story: After three years of university studies, Tsubasa is proud to graduate dressed in her furisode kimono and hakama. She’s unsure of what the future holds in her new full time job that she’s due to be starting soon, but for the moment she’s enjoying the graduation ceremony with friends and excited about their graduation trip around Europe!
KIMONO CAT EXPLANATION
Hakama (袴) – Tsubasa is wearing a hakama, which are wide pleated trousers worn over kimono for formal occasions. A lot of women wear the hakama for their university graduation, but they can also be seen at the Coming of Age Ceremony. The hakama can be worn by both women and men, and other occasions where hakama are worn include weddings, funerals, tea ceremonies, shrines and martial arts like kendo and aikido.
At university graduations, women typically wear their hakama with either black boots with a slight heel (like Tsubasa’s) or the more traditional zōri (草履) sandals. Men’s hakama are usually stripy in design while women’s hakama are one colour or dyed in different hues.
The book that Tsuabasa is proudly showing off is a booklet containing her university degree which she received on stage at the graduation ceremony. Traditional books in Japan still tend to open from right to left but the majority of modern books now have adopted the Western way of left to right.
The graduation ceremony sign reads: ‘Congratulations on your graduation.’
So, did you like meeting Tsubasa? Which Kimono Cat is your favourite so far?
Feline number four is already underway so keep your eyes peeled for updates!
My third feline of my Kimono Cat Collection is nearing completion and I can’t wait to show you all! This cat hasn’t taken nearly as much time to finish as the other two, and the construction has been smooth sailing compared to the drama and frustration with my second cat Ageha. So let’s begin with the making of Tsubasa..!
As always, I started off by making the armature which is the skeleton of the sculpture. I used 2mm aluminium wire for the main frame and 1mm wire to wrap tightly around the arms and tail. This allows the clay to have something to grip onto later. Then I lumped some Apoxie Sculpt around the torso and wire ends to make the frame strong and secure and left it overnight to cure.
Now it was time to bulk up the sculpture with tinfoil. I already knew the shape outline I needed, which was to have the foil gradually flare out from the waist to the feet (you’ll see why later!). It looks rather bizarre at this stage, doesn’t it?
Now it was time to start the best part: sculpting. As usual, I used Super Sculpey Firm and made the first layer, and then put it in the oven at 130 degrees Celsius.
After that it was time for the second layer, which was always much more interesting because it included the clothes and more detail on the face, like eyelids.
Unlike the other two cats, Tsubasa was going to be wearing a hakama, which are pleated formal trousers worn over kimono. I was unsure as to how I was going to make the hakama pleats, but it was easier than expected when I just cut long, thin strips of clay and layered them over each other. I loved how it turned out!
Normally I would have been done after two oven bakes, but I wanted the hakama to cure before I did the long kimono sleeves (this one was a furisode again) so I put her in the oven before making the sleeves, so they wouldn’t get in the way.
Now that we were all done with the oven, it was time to get the Apoxie Sculpt out again. I inserted nylon thread into the Apoxie to make whiskers, and then made paw pads and smoothed out the shoulders. I even made the whole tail out of Apoxie this time!
So, with all the main things done, it was white out time! I always enjoy this step of painting a few coats of Acrylic Gesso (even though it ruins my brushes because it’s so gritty) and then a few coats of white paint to prepare the sculpture for colour.
A detail that annoyed me was this inverted nose that Tsubasa had, so after the Gesso and white paint (great timing for adjustments…not!) I decided to fashion her a new one.
After reconstructed nose surgery – much better! (Voldemort may have been in need of this service too…)
The painting process of Tsubasa didn’t nearly have as much agony as Ageha’s did, but there were still times when I left Tsubasa on the shelf untouched for days on end. Asides from that though, everything went according to plan and I got her finished quicker than the other two, even though it still took the course of over two months.
As I was nearing completion, I made the accessories for Tsubasa which included a book, a bag and a bow for the front of her hakama.
I wanted the book to be able to open, so I cut out a small rectangle of tinfoil and then pressed thin squares of Super Sculpey to either side. I left a thin strip of foil untouched down the middle, so it would be able to open and close and to my great delight, the idea turned out perfectly after the oven!
The painting process definitely takes the most time and as any artist could tell you, sometimes it can be really hard to know when to just stop and call it finished. I could probably keep painting over little details of the sculpture forever, trying to get it ‘perfect’, but I’ve learnt from these last two cats that there comes a point where I have to put down the paintbrush once and for all, and say that it’s finally DONE. So I did!
So, did you like the making of Tsubasa?
Click the button below to meet the finished version!
Occasion: Seijinshiki (成人式) – Coming of Age Ceremony
Time of year/season: January/Winter
Name meaning: Ageha is a type of butterfly in Japanese and it can also be used as a girl’s name. Ageha has butterflies on her kimono – which could also symbolise the metamorphosis of ‘coming of age’.
Her Story: Ageha is dressed up in her furisode kimono andis ready to head off to the Coming of Age Day celebrations. She knows the formalities at the town hall to receive her certificate might be a little tedious, but she’s excited to get photos and celebrate with friends afterwards. It’s going to be a great night on the town where she can buy drinks herself (finally!) with some good old karaoke. Being an adult never felt so easy!
KIMONO CAT EXPLANATION
1.Furisode (振り袖) – Ageha is wearing a furisode kimono, which is a lined kimono and it literally means ‘swinging sleeves’ because the sleeves are so long. The sleeve length can range from 85cm to 114cm. The furisode is the most formal type of kimono a young, unmarried woman can wear in Japan and it is usually rented or bought by parents for their daughter(s) to wear on the Coming of Age Day.
The Coming of Age Day is a Japanese holiday held every year on the second Monday of January for those that have turned 20 in the past year. The day is to congratulate and celebrate their journey into adulthood and they receive a certificate at their local city office or town hall. The majority of young women get dressed up in furisode for the occasion, while most young men wear suits or sometimes the hakama. Turning 20 in Japan means that you can vote, purchase alcohol and marry without your parents’ permission – so you officially become an adult in the eyes of the law and society.
2.Haneri (半衿) and kasaneeri (重ね衿)- is the type of collar the furisode kimono typically has. The thin green fabric aligning the white collar (haneri) is called the kasaneeri. The green fabric tucked in behind the obi but made to be seen is called the obiage (帯揚).
3. Obijime (帯締め) – The obijime is a thick cord tied around the waist over the obi that helps the obi shape stay together.
4. Ohashori (おはしょり) – When putting on a kimono or yukata, you must always leave a folded portion of fabric hanging out from under the obi.
5. Obi(帯) – The obi is the long sash tied around the waist and is the focal point of womens’ kimono. It is usually a contrasting colour to the kimono and it can be tied into hundreds of different knots for different occasions. Ageha’s obi is tied into a knot known as the fukura suzume (ふくらすずめ) or ‘chubby sparrow’ knot which is used exclusively for furisode and is commonly used for Coming of Age Day festivities.
6. Zōri (草履) – Zōri are the formal sandals worn with kimono, along with the white one-toed tabi (足袋) socks. The zōri are typically a matching colour to the obi or kimono.
The accessories typically worn with the Coming of Age Day festivities include a matching small handbag and the rather iconic fluffy white shawl which looks like a fur scarf.
The furisode kimono and obi is difficult to put on by yourself (although it is possible) and most people don’t know how to do it anymore. A lot of young people rent the kimono at specialised shops where they can get all of the matching accessories, get dressed by professionals and also get their hair and make up done. It is also typical to get professional photos taken at the studio while you are dressed up in your furisode.
Ageha’s kimono was actually inspired by my mum’s furisode kimono which she wore to her seijinshiki when she was 20. It’s an insanely gorgeous kimono which I have also worn on a number of occasions. The obi knot shown here is an even more complex style than the fukura suzume knot.
So, did you like meeting Ageha?
Did you learn something new about Japanese culture?
Watch this space for the next lovable feline in my Kimono Cat Collection!
My second Kimono Cat is finally near completion and I’m so excited! This one has taken far too long for my liking – and not because of reasons you may expect (more on this later).
So, as I did with my first Kimono Cat called Tama, here is the making of my second feline called Ageha. This making is much shorter than Tama’s one because I knew more of what I was doing this time.
I think you can appreciate something a lot more once you know the process of how it was made, and it’s no different with art. When you find out how much time was spent, how many different materials were used and the setbacks it took to get it to completion, you may just begin to see things in a whole different light…so let’s start!
First things first, it was time to make another armature out of aluminium wire! This one was much easier to do because I could scale the size and height against Tama.
As you may be able to tell from my concept drawing, the kimono this time around was going to be a lot more challenging in shape and in pattern design. From the start, I knew that I wanted this cat to be taller than Tama and I also wanted her to be able to stand on her own, rather than have a base. So I proceeded with these things in mind.
Next, it was time for my trusty ally, Apoxie Sculpt. I squished it around the torso and also at the ends of the wires to make nice, rounded endings which hardened overnight. My Schucki saw the armature like this and said that it ‘looked friendly’. I agreed!
Now it was time to bulk up the armature with tinfoil! I raced through these first few steps quicker than last time because I knew what to do and I found I was better at bulking up the armature this time around.
Next, it was time to get the Super Sculpey Firm out again and start sculpting the first layer. Ageha was going to be a based on a slinky Siamese cat, so I wanted to make her with nice big ears and Dobby-like globular eyes. I found that I used a lot less clay at this point than with Tama and I got better results quicker, which I was delighted with.
Once I had this first layer of clay down, it was time for the first oven bake. I put her in at around 130 degrees Celsius for about an hour and everything cured according to plan with no mishaps. I liked how the ears turned out!
After sculpting on little details like the eyelids, it was time for the really fun part – the kimono. This kimono was going to be a furisode, which meant that the sleeves were going to be really, really long. It took a few tries of rolling out super long and thin pieces of clay and draping them on the arms to get the length and shape right.
(Note that she is standing on her own without a base – yahoo!)
Then it was time for the oven again. Since this kimono layer was really thin, I put her in there for about 35 minutes at 130 degrees Celsius. I had a moment of terror when I took her out of the oven and found that the sleeves were still floppy, but they cured safely after I left her alone overnight. Phew, so far so good!
If you’ve read the Making of Tama, you would know that I put her through the oven four times because my layering technique was messy and I didn’t know better, but with Ageha I was done with the oven after two times. Which meant that I could then insert the whiskers and make paw pads with Apoxie Sculpt (these bits are so much fun!).
Now that everything had gone to plan clay-wise, I got out my Acrylic Gesso to start prepping the sculpture for painting. After a few thin coats of Gesso and white paint, Ageha was ready for colour!
At this point I was super excited because I had gotten through all of the clay stages so fast that I thought this sculpture would be finished in no time – all I had to do now was paint it. For some reason I always underestimate the painting part…because this was when the real nightmare began.
This kimono was based on a real one that my mum owns and I knew the colours and patterns that were going to be involved this time around, so in theory it should have been easy to replicate it. Oh boy, was I wrong.
I painted the orange base colour for the kimono at least four or five times until I finally got the shade I was looking for…and don’t even get me started on the intricate, super fiddly pattern of butterflies and flowers. They drove me absolutely mad.
I love drawing detailed patterns on paper but when it comes to painting them on a sculpture with paint, it really drives me up the wall because I can’t get them as perfect as I want them to be. Sigh…the daily struggles of a perfectionist, huh.
In this period of frustration where nothing was going right, I accidentally knocked the sculpture over and her tail snapped clean in two. This was the point where I very nearly gave up. I think I put Ageha back on the shelf then and didn’t touch her for more than a week, maybe even two.
Eventually I did go back to her and start working on her again, albeit very slowly. I fixed her tail by filling it with Apoxie Sculpt and then painting over it again.
Once the sculpture itself was nearing completion, I decided it was time to make the accessories. These three were fun and relatively easy to make – I especially liked how the obi and bag turned out. I made the obi by pressing a flat piece of Apoxie Sculpt to the back of the sculpture where the obi would go and then I sculpted Super Sculpey around the Apoxie mould so I could get the perfect size and shape.
One thing you have to know about me is that I only do things when I really feel like it. Sure, you’re probably thinking: ‘I’m like that too,’ but I take this personal ‘quirk’ to the most extreme degree.
Along the way of making my second Kimono Cat, there were times (especially at the start) where I would work on it a lot every day, making tonnes of progress really quickly but then there would be times where I would just…stop. Regardless of whether it was going well or not, I would just stop working on it for no apparent reason. Days passed, sometimes even weeks until I would be in the mood to pick it back up again.
That’s why this cat has taken so long to make – almost to the point where I was sick of it! But hey, I (somehow) pulled through in the end, as did Ageha. So I’m proud of us.
So, did you like The Making Of Ageha?
Click the button below to finally meet the finished Ageha!
I’ve rediscovered my love for the Victorian era recently, so I started drawing this fox called Vivien wearing Victorian dresses inspired by 1870’s fashion, which had some of the most interesting bustles and silhouettes of the time.
For anyone interested in watching/reading stories set in the Victorian era, here are some of my top favourites:
Film: The Prestige, The Young Victoria, Sweeney Todd
TV: The Paradise, Emma (Japanese)
Books: Sherlock Holmes, The Infernal Devices trilogy, The Sally Lockhart trilogy
So, did you like my Foxy Victorian series?
Which one was your favourite? Watch this space for more foxes!