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!
After two and a half months of work, Tama is finally complete! I am so relieved. And what better time is there to showcase her than today, the 7th of July, which is the famous tanabata festival in Japan!
KIMONO CAT PROFILE
Name: Tama (たま)
Kimono type: Yukata
Occasion: Summer festival
Time of year/season: July/Summer
Name meaning: Tama meansball/bead in Japanese. It is probably the most cliché Japanese cat name of all time. Maybe her mum was running out of ideas by the time Tama emerged.
Her Story: Tama is just growing out of kittenhood and she demands to be taken seriously, but being the runt of the litter means that no one actually ever does. She’s not so adult-cat enough yet to deny the fact that she still loves eating taiyaki and fishing out a mizu fuusen or two at the summer festival though. Plus, it’s a good chance to be seen in her beloved kingyo yukata!
KIMONO CAT EXPLANATION
1.Yukata (浴衣) – Tama is wearing a yukata, which is a summer kimono that can be worn to casual events like festivals, firework displays, parties and at Japanese inns or ryokan (旅館) after bathing. The yukata is usually made of cotton or other light fabrics and is unlined.
Women, men and children wear the yukata, with younger people generally wearing bright, colourful patterns and older people wearing darker colours with little or no pattern. Tama’s yukata has a goldfish or kingyo (金魚) pattern to represent summer and because, well, she’s a cat. I also included bubbles in the design because of her name.
The yukata is known for its short sleeve length (See A) and womens’ yukata sleeves typically reach their wrists, while the mens’ is shorter and reaches just past their elbows. Yukata, like all kimono, are always worn with the left side over right (See B) because the opposite – right over left – is used to dress bodies for funerals.
When putting on the yukata, you must always leave a a folded portion hanging out from under the obi – this is called the ohashori (おはしょり) (See C). Then the left side of the yukata must come around to line up with your outer right leg (See D).
2. Obi (帯) – The yukata is kept in place by tying a long sash or obi around the waist. Womens’ obi are usually a contrasting colour to the kimono and is the center piece of the whole outfit. Although obi can be tied into over a hundred different knots for different occasions, young womens’ yukata usually use the butterfly knot or the chou chou musubi (蝶々結び) like the one Tama has on (See 2). It resembles a big ribbon and is one of the easiest knots to tie (even I can tie one on myself!).
3. Geta (下駄) – The geta are sandals/clogs made of wood and are the footwear worn with yukata. Geta are worn with bare feet, unlike other kimono sandals where you have to wear special socks or tabi (足袋) with it. Womens’ geta are usually sized a little bit smaller than the feet wearing them.
4. Mizu fuusen (水風船) – Mizu fuusen is a game stall found at Japanese festivals. A mizu fuusen is a small balloon hanging from a rubber band with a little bit of water inside, which you can loop onto your finger and hit with your hand in a yo-yo motion. With the stall game, you are given a small hook tied to paper and the aim of the game is to fish out one of the balloons in a pool by hooking onto the rubber band loop before the paper hook rips in the water.
5. Kingyo sukui (金魚すくい) – Like mizu fuusen, kingyo sukui is also a game stall at festivals. The game is similar to mizu fuusen but this time you have a small paper hoop to try and catch a real goldfish from the tank. If you catch one, you usually get to take the goldfish home in a clear bag filled with water, like Tama’s. And yes, that is real water in Tama’s bag.
6. Taiyaki (たい焼き) – Taiyaki is a fish shaped cake that is sold at festival stalls or yatai (屋台). It is usually made with a sweet batter and filled with a red bean paste, but they can also be filled with other flavours like vanilla custard, chocolate or even cheese.
7. Matsuri uchiwa (祭りうちわ) – Summer nights are hot in Japan and a lot of people carry around fans to keep themselves cool. People bring their own, buy one or are even given free fans by workers at the festivals as a form of advertisement. Tama’s fan is a classic Japanese festival fan which has the kanji meaning of festival or matsuri (祭り) written on it.
So, did you like meeting Tama?
Did you learn something new about Japanese culture?
Stay tuned for the next lovable feline in my Kimono Cat Collection!
The Making of Tama Part 3 is finally here! Phew, this leg of the journey took a long, long time. I thought the painting part of this process would be a breeze and I would finish it all quickly but nope…this took the longest!
I should probably also update you on things I added between the end of Part 2 and now. After painting a couple of coats of Gesso and white paint on Tama, I realised that before I started painting with colour, I wanted to make a base and smooth down some kinks that were bothering me with the yukata. Great timing for this revelation, I know.
So I mixed up some Apoxie Sculpt and smoothed out the uneven yukata surface and made a base so that she was finally standing on her own. In a perfect world, I would have liked the sculpture to be free standing without a base or even be fixed onto a wooden base, but I hadn’t really planned that in advance, so a last minute flat blob of a base was just going to have to do.
Now that those little things had been dealt with, it was time to start blocking out some colours! The reason the painting process took so long for me was not because it physically took a long time to paint her (quite the contrary, in fact) but because I couldn’t flippin’ decide on what colour combinations to paint the sculpture (I can be very indecisive at times).
Usually I would already have my original concept drawings in colour so I’d know what colours to paint, but I didn’t this time; thinking I would just wing it when I got up to that point with the sculpture. But this, this was not winging it.
From the start, I’d imagined Tama to be a grey and white cat so I painted her those colours at first, only to discover that it didn’t really go with the colour I’d already decided on for the yukata. So I switched to black and white instead.
The next headache was the obi colour. I could not for the life of me decide on one colour. First I painted it light pink, then light yellow, bright orange, back to yellow, bright red for a while and then finally…watermelon pink.
Painting on the mini goldfish design of the yukata also took a while. Everything was so fiddly and to my annoyance, painting on the sculpture destroyed my fine brushes pretty quickly, so I had to get new ones.
I also couldn’t decide on the eye colour. They changed from dark blue, to light blue, to lighter blue and then finally, light grey.
Now that my sculpture was nearly finished, it was time to make the accessories with Super Sculpey. They were pretty fun to make, despite being Arrietty sized.
Another detail I’d envisioned making from the start were festival lanterns so I could hang them in the background for the final photos. I bought little wooden beads and metal hooks from the craft section at Müller and then mixed some Apoxie Sculpt to make little lantern bases and attach the hooks.
I then proceeded to paint them with Gesso and then finally the traditional Japanese festival colours of red and white.
You know, when I read back on my Making of Tama posts, it seems like I’m always surging forward with absolute clarity with what I’m doing but the truth is, this whole process was riddled with a lot of doubts.
Firstly, I wasn’t even sure if I would be any good at sculpting since I had never done it before. There were a lot of moments at the start when things went wrong and I wondered if I was just wasting my time and my money for buying all of these materials that I may not even use again.
There were a few disheartening moments when I was painting that I lost a bit of faith in my ability because I couldn’t get it to the level of perfection that I’d envisioned in my head.
And then I thought how these situations could be likened to life. Even when things are looking like absolute rubbish, you can make it better so long as you keep trying. If you just abandon it and give up at that moment when things look awful, you never really gave it a chance to be anything better.
So I’m glad that I kept battling through the rough patches with this sculpture. I’m glad that I didn’t give up on Tama and I didn’t lose faith in myself. Even though there are things that I still want to change and make better, I’m still proud that I made something – my Kimono Cat – right from scratch. Something that was just an image in my mind is now in a 3D state in the physical world. It’s like I’m a 3D printer ha-ha.
Art is creating something out of nothing.
So, did you like Part Three of the making of my first Kimono Cat?
Click on the button below to finally meet the finished Tama!
We’re off to Cologne tomorrow to see Taylor Swift live at Lanxess Arena for her 1989 World Tour and I am SO EXCITED. I’ve been listening to Taylor since I was a young whippersnapper in her Tim McGraw and Our Song days, which is nearly ten years ago now (man, she has done a lot in that time).
I missed her the last time she was in New Zealand for her Red Tour and the 1989 Tour isn’t even going there this time, so I was determined not to miss this opportunity while I was in Germany. Plus, my sweet Schnucki got me tickets last Christmas (thank you!). So in honour of this special occasion, I decided to paint a T-shirt for tomorrow night.
Now, in an ideal world where I would actually prepare things in advance, I would have drawn up a design weeks ago and then sent it away to get professionally printed onto a T-shirt. But this is the real world and I am a lazy person that only does things at the last minute and under pressure. So…here we go.
First, I went out and bought a basic white T-shirt at H & M. I think I got it for just under five Euros.
I got a piece of cardboard and put it inside the top and stretched the fabric over it as tight as it would go, then pegged all of the corners down. This would make it easier to paint on and keep everything in its place.
Next, I got my trusty Acrylic Gesso out and painted a circle on my T-shirt board. The Gesso provides a nice foundation for the acrylic paint, which I was going to use afterwards. Again, in a perfect world, I would have used proper fabric paint so the top could be washed and worn again, but I was running out of time and resources, so acrylic paint was just going to have to do.
Now it was time to block out the main shapes and colours with acrylic.
Then it was time for some detail. I always liked the seagull imagery used on the 1989 CD cover, so I knew I wanted to incorporate that into my painting somehow.
And then a little more detail and…we’re done! Easy peasy. I still wish I had gotten onto this quicker and had a design professionally printed but maybe next time, huh.
So, did you like my T-shirt design?
Are you going to any of the Taylor Swift 1989 Tour dates too?
Welcome to Part 2 of of how I made my first Kimono Cat called Tama! In the first installment, I left you at the cliffhanger of whether Tama made it out alive after the third time in the oven. Let’s see how she did…
Our heroine has emerged from the oven unscathed! Pop the champagne, everybody!
Before I put Tama in the oven, I also made a bow to fit on the back of her obi. I purposefully made it separately because I could tell that it would be easier to paint it first and then stick it onto the obi, rather than sticking it on first and having to awkwardly paint around and behind it. I made the diamond pattern by rolling one of my sculpting tools over it, which had this pattern around the handle.
The bow came out nicely after the oven too. Please excuse me while I high five my other hand.
Now it was time for Tama to get some feet. In order to do this, I needed a stand which would hold her upright and off the ground. So, I cut a hole in another Amazon box and stuck her in. Example two of Kiwi ingenuity right there, guys.
Once I finished the bottom of the yukata, her feet and the footwear called geta, it was time to put her in the oven for the fourth and final time. Since I’d only worked on the bottom half of the sculpture, I wanted the bottom half to be closest to the heat in the oven. I figured that putting her upside down in the mug would do the trick nicely and proceeded to bake her for about 40 -50 minutes.
Yeah…it turned out that the whole ‘upside down’ thing wasn’t a very good idea. While the bottom half of her cured, one ear was lost in the battle. A sacrifice had been made.
No worries – I had Apoxie Sculpt as an ally so I fashioned her a nice, brand new ear in no time. I also used the Apoxie to work on some smaller details on the obi, geta and tail.
Now that I’d finished with the oven baking, it was time to insert some whiskers next to her nose. During my research, I’d found out that some people stripped feathers down and used the quills as whiskers for their various creatures. I tried that too but they were too stiff for my liking, so I used nylon thread instead. Ahh yes, much more whiskery.
After I’d left the Apoxie alone for 24 hours, it was finally time to start prepping the sculpture for painting. This was the first time for me to use Acrylic Gesso and I have to say, I was very pleased with the results. I applied about two coats of Gesso and then went over it with white acrylic paint to get a nice white canvas ready for painting.
Yes, it looks like I dunked her in a bucket of milk…or Twink!
So, did you like Part 2 of The Making of Tama?
Click on the button below for the third and final installment!
I’ve been working on a top secret project for the past few weeks and I think it’s finally time to reveal what I’ve been doing. Before I get into that though, I have to first talk about kimono.
The kimono (Japan’s traditional garment) is something that I’ve always adored – the patterns and embroidery work is so intricate and beautiful – it is like wearable art. It is also an art to wear it right, at the right time.
In Japan, different types of kimono are worn to specific occasions and the sleeve length and patterns can reflect your age, marital status and even the season. It is considered a serious faux pas to wear the wrong kimono to the wrong occasion. Thanks to my mother, I’ve always been able to wear and admire them because she owns a lot of them at home.
I also happen to love drawing kimono. I started drawing a series of cats in different types of kimono at various occasions, to show the types of kimono that are worn to specific Japanese events. That was all good and all but what I really wanted to do was showcase them in a way that was easier for the viewer to see the sometimes subtle differences between the kimono types…and then I stumbled across an amazing artist who sculpts maquette figures with Super Sculpey.
When I saw her work, I was mesmerised. I suddenly got this overwhelming feeling that this was what I was supposed to do, like, rightnow. I needed to make my characters 3D! So I assembled all of the tools I was going to need as quickly as I could (it took two weeks) and then I got stuck right into it. Here is Part One of how I made my first Kimono Cat called Tama.
Please note that this is my first time sculpting so, you know, go easy on me. We’ve all got to start somewhere!
First off I needed to make my cat’s armature, which is like the skeleton/base for the body. I wanted my cat to be about 15 – 20 cm tall so I roughly measured the aluminium wire against my original drawing and then twisted the wire into shape using pliers and my fingers. As you can see from the photo, it didn’t end so well.
I scrapped the first one and tried a second time. This one went much better! I left the wires longer than they needed to be, so I could snip them to the proper length later. I didn’t have any wooden base or vice handy so I made a makeshift stand out of an Amazon box. Kiwi ingenuity right there, guys.
Next, I mixed some white Apoxie Sculpt together and squished it around the torso to stabilise the whole structure and make sure nothing wobbled around anymore. I left it overnight and it was hard as a rock the next day – magic!
Now it was time to bulk up the structure with aluminium foil. I’d heard from various sources that it was best to bulk it up as much as possible, so that is what I tried. I wasn’t sure if I should make the sleeves with foil but I did it anyway for the time being.
Finally, it was time to start using some Super Sculpey! I blocked out the main shape of the cat, trying not to put too much clay on all at once. If the clay is too thick when you bake it, there’s a higher chance of it cracking or not curing right through – 12mm is the limit, according to the box. So I obeyed.
As I finished blocking out the main shape, I realised that having the foil and wire under the sleeves would be a bad idea. I wanted the sleeves to ‘flow’ and fold almost like natural sleeves and having it bulked up with foil underneath was just not going to work, so I took it all off and left spaghetti arms in its wake.
The Super Sculpey Firm was really easy to use and I had fun testing out my new sculpting tools. The only annoying thing was that no matter how many times I smoothed surfaces over, I would get finger smudges or nail marks in the clay. So after getting the main details of the face and tail I decided to bake it, just to ‘set things in stone’, as it were.
Since my cat was not set in a wooden base, I needed to find something that would keep the sculpture upright in the oven. I borrowed a nice sturdy mug from our communal kitchen (I live in a student house) and I hoped no one would miss it. I stuffed the mug with foil and stuck our heroine in. Ta-da!
Now it was time to bake. I’d read on all sorts of sources that the first thing you’ve got to do is ignore the baking instructions on the box which is: bake for 15 minutes per 6mm of thickness. Hm, okay. Consider that ignored.
The majority of people said that 15 minutes was definitely not long enough – some baked for half an hour, some even baked for more than two hours at a time. A lot of them said that baking times differed depending on your oven and whether it could maintain the same temperature for long periods of time.
Since I knew that my cat’s torso and head had some thicker parts of clay, I decided I would bake it for an hour at 130 degrees Celsius, just to be safe. The above photo is an after-oven shot. She came out safe and crack-free with all detail still intact. Brilliant!
Now I could work on the arms and details on the face (like eyelids) without the fear that I would smudge and ruin what I’d already done. Super Sculpey can be baked multiple times, so I put Tama in the oven again so the arms and other details I’d just finished could cure. I think I baked her for about 35 – 45 minutes the second time.
Tama came out safe and sound, except for a tiny hairline crack or two, which wasn’t so major. Now that her body was done I could get to the really juicy part – making the yukata (a type of kimono). This proved to be trickier than I initially thought, though.
The first yukata I draped and moulded onto her was too thick, so I tore that off (2 or 3 hours work) and started again. The second time I wasn’t happy with it, so I tore all of that (3 hours) work off and started again. By the third time I figured out that I had to make the strips of clay really, really thin so that it would fold and flow like real sleeves would. But being so thin meant that it was really delicate to handle and it ripped more than once.
Humph, so frustrating! And then there was the obi which just wouldn’t look right no matter what I did. It was pretty disheartening at times when I had to rip three or more hours of work off and start from scratch again. But then I thought that even if I didn’t like it at that moment, I could always add more or change things with Apoxie Sculpt after baking.
And here is Tama in her yukata-like thing. I was 80% happy with it but there was no way in heck I was going to rip it all off again, so it was off to the oven for the third time. The yukata clay was really thin, so I figured around 30 minutes in the oven would do the trick. I also put foil around her ears and tail to keep them from getting burnt or discoloured (I wasn’t sure if this would actually happen, but just to be on the safe side).
And yes, she does in fact look like a cat in witch robes getting foils at the hairdresser’s. It was just the look I was going for…
So, did you enjoy Part One of The Making of Tama?
Will she come out of the oven fine for the third time? Click below to find out!
On October 25th last year, I attended the opening night of The Day 100 Show, and what a night it was!
The final exhibition of The 100 Days Project was held at four venues last year including Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne and IJsselstein in the Netherlands. Over 2,000 people from 17 different countries participated in the project and although I was at the biggest 100 Day Show which was in Auckland, the works exhibited there represented less than ten percent of all projects.
“The Project goes on for too long to be just fun. It really does become work.” – Emma Rogan, creator of The 100 Days Project
The Auckland show was held at the Thievery Studios on K’ Road and although it wasn’t such a big venue, 100 Day artwork covered every available wall space, nook and cranny. The opening night was PACKED with people – and I mean the I-can’t-even-move-or-breathe-because-there’s-so-many-people-in-here sort of packed.
There was free pizza, soft drinks and wine handed out by Emma’s team and it really was the perfect way to celebrate the end of 100 days of everyone’s art, creativity and pure determination. There were so many amazing and thoughtful works made out of all sorts of materials by people from all walks of life – just to look through them all was inspiring.
Here are some of my favourite projects from The 100 Day Show:
(I apologise for not knowing the artists’ names to credit their work!)
One of my favourite projects to follow throughout the 100 Days was the one above, which was made by design graduates who showed their frustration at not being able to find full-time work. As I was also a recent grad last year, I could completely relate to their trails and tribulations.
I wasn’t able to complete my 100 drawings, but I got my project shown on the projector screen at the exhibition.
What I really love about the idea of The 100 Days Project is that anyone can participate. You don’t have to be a professional, you don’t even have to know much about art, all you have to do is create.
So, did you like the show? Will you also be giving The 100 Days Project a go this year?
I participated in The 100 Days Project from July to October last year and to be quite honest, it was a bit of a creative breakthrough for me.
The 100 Days Project was created by Emma Rogan (from New Zealand, yay!) and it is a project that anyone, anywhere, any age, can participate in. There are only two rules:
1. You will repeat a simple creative task every day for the duration. 2. You will record each days effort.
The project is wonderfully simple, yet deceptively challenging.
Some people took a photo every day for 100 days, some people wrote a poem, some people did yoga poses; each project was as different as each individual taking part. I decided to do what I love best – draw.
I’d read about people who had done the project the previous year and the advice everyone gave was the same: KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID (K.I.S.S!). With this in mind, I decided I would keep my theme wide open, and draw whatever inspired me at the time. I drew and painted my pictures on size A5 paper and at the start it was going really well…until it wasn’t anymore.
I had an awful full-time job at the time which had ridiculously long hours and I was hardly ever home, let alone with enough time to draw. But I knew that would be the case when I started the project – I’d already accepted that. What I hadn’t accepted was that an A5 drawing/painting a day for 100 days was actually too much, it wasn’t simple at all!
In the end, even though I wasn’t able to reach Day 100, I did get to exhibit my work at the final 100 Day Show. Despite juggling my job and my art, I was so proud of myself for just trying to make my art a priority, for once. That and seeing my work at the final exhibition, on show for everyone to see – now that was an awesome feeling of achievement.
Here are my top favourites from my 100 Days Project 2014:
I felt so relieved once the project was over. It was so much harder than you’d think it would be.
But don’t worry, this won’t be the last you’ll see of me. I am coming back with a vengeance for this year’s 100 Days Project – I am determined to finish it once and for all!
On a side note, if you need inspiration for gifts, I made Christmas presents for my family by getting some of my drawings printed onto t-shirts and they loved them! (I got one for myself too, naturally).
If you want to know more about the project and its inception, here is Emma Rogan (the creator of The 100 Days Project) talking about it at a TEDx conference in Auckland. It’s a really good watch!
So, which was your favourite out of my drawings? Will you be participating in this year’s 100 Days Project too?
If you haven’t heard about Iris Grace yet, I’m here to tell you about her now.
I’ve been following Iris’ adventures on her Facebook page for over two years and her world never fails to astound me.
Iris Grace Halmshaw is a six year old living in Britain who has Autism. She struggles with words and social interactions but what she expresses through her paintings is something truly magnificent. Initially, painting just started out as another form of therapy for Iris, a way to relax her, but the way she painted with skill well beyond her years even surprised her parents.
Iris’ parents shared her paintings and her story to spread awareness for Autism – and it went global. Iris’ paintings weren’t the only reason her story went viral however, because in 2014 after cat-sitting a cat and seeing Iris’ positive reaction towards it, her parents decided to get her a friend…and so Iris met Thula (pronounced Too-la).
Thula is a Maine Coon cat, which is a breed known for their intelligence and loving nature. Iris took to Thula immediately, and they started doing everything together. Napping, playing, biking, painting – Thula even played in the bath with Iris!
The friendship between these two is so heart warming and beautiful. It really shows the deeply therapeutic effect animals can have on humans. Iris’ mother Arabella is a photographer, so naturally she takes amazing shots of Iris and Thula together.
Iris’ parents went to a lot of trouble to find a school that might be suitable for Iris’ needs but after no luck, they decided to home-school her for the moment.
Arabella also started an Autism friendly home based activity group called The Little Explorer’s Club, which runs every Saturday with all sorts of fun activities for the kids like music workshops, animals encounters, cooking and much more.
When I was in primary school, there was a boy with Autism in my class who had a tutor that would help him every day. A few years later I met him by chance on the public bus, and not only did he remember me, he told me that he had a job and could travel on his own now. His family and his workplace would call his cell phone and check up on him occasionally, but it was so cool to see him like that, so independent.
Everyone deserves a chance to be something great.
I love seeing Iris and Thula pop up on my Facebook newsfeed and it’s astounding how much progress Iris has made with her words and the ways she handles social situations over the past few years. If you’re curious about Iris and Thula’s ongoing adventures too, I suggest you like her Facebook page.
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away” – Pablo Picasso
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been making and drawing things for other people and giving them away as gifts. I really enjoy the challenge of coming up with an idea of a drawing or painting that I think the person would A: like and B: suit their personality.
If you’ve ever received a present that was handmade by me, I hope you realised that it was my way of saying: “I care about you. Thank you for being in my life.”
Or…maybe it just meant, “Sorry, I didn’t have enough time or money to buy you a proper present!”
Either way, I would much rather give and receive thoughtful and heartfelt presents, handmade or not.
Here are some of my favourite gifts I’ve made for my friends and family in recent years.
Did you like the gifts I’ve made? Which one was your favourite?