Thursday, 13 June 2019

Flashback: I Grew Potatoes!

Last year I grew potatoes. I mentioned it in one of my previous posts, but I didn't make a full post about it because I'd lost half of the in-process photos. Yesterday I found them again on my computer, plus it's the right time of year to start growing them again, so I thought I may as well share it now.

I started out with four normal potatoes from the supermarket. There are special seeding potatoes available from nurseries but I'd read that you can use normal ones too, so I decided to try that. (I felt like I was bucking the system a little bit!) I'd also read that some supermarkets use a sprout inhibitor spray on their potatoes to stop them from sprouting so they can be on shelves for longer. If that was the case, there was nothing I could do about it, but I got some unwashed potatoes as I thought they might be less likely to have been sprayed. Thankfully, it wasn't a problem.

I put the potatoes in an egg carton so they had plenty of air and didn't touch each other. It's best to put them in a place that does get sunlight or at least daylight, not in a dark place as I'd assumed before I started. I put them on my indoor plant trolley and waited. It took nearly a month before I saw any signs of change. When the potatoes sprout it's called chitting. As the sprouts grow bigger, the potato itself shrinks and goes wrinkly.

After about 2-3 months, the potatoes were ready to be planted out. (Apologies I can't remember the exact timelines as it was last year!) This would have been in early Spring, around September. I'm not sure if the sprouts are a good size or too big and I should have planted them earlier, to be honest.

I used a Tatey Bag that I bought from Digger's Club, but you can use a sturdy garbage bag, or a barrel or even an old tyre. The bag has drainage holes in the bottom. As per the instructions, I filled it halfway with compost, then folded down the edges of the bag for maximum sunlight.

I placed the potatoes on the compost and added a little more so they were just covered, with the sprouts poking out. It was a little difficult as the sprouts stuck out every which way and I couldn't decide which way was up!

The sprouts started to grow quite quickly and within a month or so I had some decent potato plants growing. The compost provided all the nutrients they needed, and I just needed to water them regularly. To get the maximum amount of potatoes, you're supposed to add more compost or straw regularly. This encourages the plants to grow taller and put down more roots and hence more potatoes. That's why the bag is folded over -- you can unfold it in stages as you add more straw.

The instructions say to keep repeating this process until the leaves start to turn yellow. Then it's time to dig up the potatoes. However, one day in late Summer (around February) I went outside and the plants were all brown! I wasn't sure if the plants were supposed to do that or if they'd just died. It was hard to keep them watered and safe from the sun as the summers here are very hot. To be safe, I decided to harvest them straight away. I started digging down but it was easier (and more fun!) to just tip out the bag and go through it to find the potatoes.

As you can see I got a small potato haul! By volume it's probably about the same as what I started with. All it cost me was half a bag of compost and a small amount of straw. The potatoes were very fresh and tender. I ate them boiled until just done and they had a different taste from storebought potatoes -- a fresher taste, though that's hard to describe for potatoes! I was also pleased that they were all different sizes. Supermarket potatoes tend to be all the same size, or there are normal size and mini size. It was strangely satisfying to have ones of many different sizes all together, especially the tiny fingernail-sized one!

I would definitely like to try growing potatoes again. Things I might do differently are:
✷ try growing 3 potatoes instead of 4. The instructions say you can grow up to 4 potatoes per bag, but I want to try less in case they were crowded last time.
✷ add straw more regularly. I wasn't very conscientious with this and only added two or three times. I'm sure I could get more potatoes if I did this more often.
✷ protect the potatoes in hot weather better. I could make sure I water every day, and move the bag to a more sheltered spot on very hot days.

It's almost time for the cycle to start again!

Friday, 7 June 2019

101 Things in 1,001 Days : Year 1 Update

I can't believe it's been one year since I started my second 101 Things in 1,001 Days challenge already. It feels as though I've done more than I did at the one-year point the first time I did the challenge, but I can't really be sure. I've completed 11 items -- that's ten percent. I guess it's not too bad. Here are a few highlights:

read Ulysses by James Joyce - this book is considered to be one of the hardest to read in the English language, and I can see why. It's so beautiful and complex that I couldn't even attempt to review it. I would never have read it if it weren't for the Reading Ulysses with Conner Habib course. The course is run once a year to coincide with Bloomsday, which (actually coincidentally) is next week, on the 16th of June.

finish making a blanket - yes, it's true, I have several blankets in progress, one of which I started when I was 14, and until a few months ago, had never actually finished one. If you read this blog at all, you'll recognise it as the one I made for my first solo art exhibition. I cherish it not only for the art in it, but the craft in it.

get another tattoo - as with my other tattoos, I decided to get one design at first, but then changed my mind in the end. I got a candle in remembrance of all the forgotten people, all the people who have had violence done against them, who should be here but aren't. I chose a rose, poppy and peony for the flowers. The artist told me she usually does one flower showing from the back as her signature style, and I agreed to that. It only took 3 hours, and, I have to confess, it hardly hurt at all.

watch 50 new movies - I finished this one very early, thanks to Netflix. I guess I'll increase it again next time, assuming we still have Netflix then!

do nanowrimo - but isn't NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November? Yes, it is. But I still haven't finished my story, so I consider it to be 'In Progress'. I'm pleased to say that I'm up to the final editing stage though. After those few final tweaks, all that remains is formatting it (after figuring out how it needs to be formatted), creating a cover image, and then uploading it to some self-publishing site (after I choose which one/s). I can't say when it'll be done, but I'll be sure to let you know when it is.

go to 15 exhibitions - It seems I'll finish this point early, too. I've been to 12 so far, big and small, from paintings to jewellery. It's been very inspiring! I want to make it a regular occurrence, if I can. I saw an original Frida Kahlo! A Yayoi Kusama! And so much more.

go to 30 new restaurants - since Husband and I started having regular lunches with our foodie friend, this point has been easy to work towards. I/We have been to 25 so far, from Korean to Colombian.

donate 101 items (new) - I recently replaced a point I no longer wanted to do with this one. So far I have donated 15 items. 11 of them were books I gave to the Melbourne Central Little Library. I bought a box of 25 random children's books from an op shop for a bit of light reading, so there will be plenty more to donate soon.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

My April & May

I didn't post an update for April, because it wasn't very varied -- I spent the first half working, and the second half crocheting! I finished up my job just before Easter and put all my efforts into finishing the art piece for my exhibition. I wrote about that a few posts ago, so I won't go into a lot of detail here.

The exhibition came, and the exhibition went. I'm talking like it just happened, but I made it happen! I did all the work. (Lately I'm trying to be more aware of when I'm downplaying myself, and give myself more credit when it's due!) Perhaps I'll write more about the whole experience later. After the installation, I concentrated on other art projects, which I talked about in this post.

Yeah, I did that! And it's in a window in front of an art gallery!!!

What I've been trying ...
I tried Lucet braiding for the first time -- and I made it into a video! Lucet braiding is an ancient craft, known to be practiced by the Vikings and is probably even older. The fork-shaped tool creates a braid that's strong and slightly springy. Watch the video to see if I master the craft or not!
(The answer is, um, not really!)

What I've been reading ...
After waiting months, I finally began reading Lord of the Rings. It's on my 101 Things in 1,001 Days list to re-read this classic, and I was waiting until Winter (or late Autumn at the very least) to begin. I read The Hobbit first, of course, and I'm currently about to begin the Council of Elrond section, if you're familiar with the story. When I first began reading, I became completely obsessed with Hobbit foods and collected a large treasury of recipes. But that's a post for another time!

What I've been playing ...
I've been absolutely obsessed with a site called Chicken Smoothie since I discovered it at the start of May. It's just one of those sites where you collect things (pets in this case) and hang around on the forums. The average player seems to be quite a bit less than half my age, but I don't care, I'm enjoying it! It's run by a couple from New Zealand, and the pets and other elements are all designed by independent artists, so I feel like I'm not only having fun, but supporting a small business. I collected my first Unicorn yesterday!

Pet's name: Bunilla
Adopt virtual pets at Chicken Smoothie!

What I've been eating ...
I went to brunch at a French restaurant called Bon Ap' in Fitzroy. It was a simple spread, with bread, cheese and ham, but every element was such high quality and it came together into a memorable feast. Words can’t describe how wonderful it was.

Selections from Instagram
It seems my cat has started watching Youtube....

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Hobonichi Art Diary Update

I've started journalling in my Hobonichi art diary again, after a lull of many months. In general I really enjoy kawaii/cute journalling, but I sometimes have phases where I hesitate, because of feeling like it's not good enough (not cute enough?), comparison envy, not having the stickers, washi tapes, etc that I wish I had, or simply because I feel like my life is too boring to document.

Up until the start of this month, I'd only made about 5 entries in this years' book. At the start of this month though, I had an urge to write, not to draw or decorate, but pure diary writing. I didn't care how boring my day was, I wanted to document it. It also gave me a chance to use the beautiful fountain pen I was given as a going-away present from my last job (two jobs ago now, actually). I've been writing almost every day, filling up the pages and only using the bare minimum of decoration.

So for the past month, my art diary has been more diary than art. Don't get me wrong: I still love washi tapes and stickers and coloured pens. But it's my fountain pen and my need to record the little things that's been getting me to open up my Hobo every night, and whatever makes that happen, I'm happy with it.

Of course, some sections are too personal, but here are a few pages:

This spread has some washi tape samples I received in my Patreon reward from Rainbowholic, and most of the stickers are from Daiso.

The pages aren't meant to be arranged aesthetically, but just have a few stickers in strategic spots, and washi tape covering up the text at the bottom. This one is a little more like my 'old' style pages, with a separate box for a snippet of information, and I stuck in the business card for Coco Glez, whose Etsy shop order I received that day.

As you might have read in the pages, during this time I was watching My Mad Fat Diary. I started it after I began writing in my own diary again, but I think it spurred me to keep going. I loved the show and I'd recommend it to anyone who has mental health issues, is fat, is a teenager, loves 90s music and aesthetic, or just about anyone really!

More recently I joined in on Rainbowholic's Reset Kawaii Journalling challenge. It's all about self-care and relaxing ... not to mention journalling and decorating! More details and the challenge page to save/print are here. I love Rainbowholic's challenges because they're so chill -- there's no pressure to finish every prompt, and the time given is very generous.

Here the right-hand page is still in progress. I decided to draw my comfort foods as I don't have many stickers representing foods, plus I want to practice drawing. I haven't decided yet if I'll colour them in with pencil or watercolour.

The challenge is not only fun, but a good way to fill up all those blank pages. I know a lot of people who do kawaii (and other kinds of) journalling have swapped from a Hobonichi to a journal with undated pages, but at times like this, I'm glad I didn't.

And finally, here's a picture of my beautiful fountain pen!:

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

New Art and Craft Projects

After finishing off my blanket, which you can see in my last post, I was a little bored. Crocheting back and forth, back and forth for 13 months, I really wanted to do something different. Though, kind of strangely, I still wanted to make things with crochet. So I started this scumble. Scumbles are freeform crochet -- they can be any mixture of stitches, shapes and textures. This one evolved in a completely un-planned way. I started out just mucking around, sticking with a blue and green colour scheme, then decided to add some sequins and beads. Then I decided to make it round and attach it to a backing board to make it easier to hang. Some bamboo plates I found at the supermarket make perfect backings. It just needs to be filled out around the edges now. I'll probably stuff parts of it to make it more 3-D. Maybe there'll be bits hanging off it. Who knows.

I also had an urge to make another plushy monster, so here is Splodge. All they need is some stuffing, attaching the arms and adding hair to be complete. Hopefully that won't take too long.

I've been working on this paint-by-number for a while, and it's almost finished. The kitten is finished, anyway. I want to add some text, and I've ordered a stencil for that. I hope it arrives soon!

Finally, well, I've already warned you that I can't draw, but I want to improve. I had an urge to use my dip pen to try some drawing, so I did pictures of Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo. I always get the urge to draw them in the darker part of the year. Though it's not quite Winter yet here, they're as good a subject for drawing as any. I confess: I smudged them a few times and tried to make it look like it was deliberate. Perhaps I'll practice some more before I waste any more good watercolour paper.

I've ordered some wool for making a Newt Scamander scarf, so perhaps you'll see that soon!

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Preparing for My Exhibition

After the sadness of my last post I haven't felt like communicating much. But life went on. I had an exhibition to prepare for!

I finished the blanket over a week ago. That was the easy part. I've been crocheting for 30 years and I know how to do that. Everything that came after it was new, and I was nervous! The first thing I did was create some postcards. I really like the idea that people have something they can take away with them, like a small gift. Instead of a normal flier, I made up postcards that are a little more durable, so people can use them as a bookmark, hang them up on the fridge, or whatever they wish.

Sharick seems to approve -- he kept trying to sit on them!

Designing the postcards was easy, and taking photos of the blanket was much easier than I thought it would be. I have to thank my photographer friend for his advice there. The text was much harder. I needed to summarise my ideas in a few short sentences, in a way that would make sense to other people. I've lived with this project for over a year, and I know it inside out. I was worried that I was too close to it to be able to explain it to a newcomer. I took some advice normally given to writers, and slept on it (and also did a spell, but that's a story for another post!). The next day I re-wrote it completely and I was happy with it. I ordered the cards and they came on time.

Then I needed an idea of what the space would look like. I already knew that I wanted some signs and accompanying materials that would explain what I was trying to achieve. To be honest, I just kind of bashed something out, as it's hard to know what everything is going to look like and exactly how much space there'll be.

I know the blanket will be in the centre and it will be very wide, so I printed two copies of each sign so one copy can go on each side. Then I don't have to worry that people will miss out on seeing all the signs. There's one with the title of the exhibition, a sign explaining what it's about, a mock invoice that shows what you'd pay for the blanket if you really wanted to pay a fair hourly rate, and just for fun, a 'Crafter's Resume'. Aside from being fun, I'd like to think that people might consider craft work in comparison with office work. I'm also including some photos of the blanket in progress to give it a more personal feel and to prove that I really made the whole thing!

I printed out the larger (A3-size) signs at my local big-box stationery store as my home printer doesn't print larger than A4. The process was surprisingly smooth -- I just emailed the files to their email address and received a code in return. At the shop, I got a pay card, entered in the code and it was done! I bought a folio so I can carry the papers around and keep them safe. It's pretty boring (the cool one was too expensive) but I'll decorate it when I have time.

Install day is tomorrow, so I needed to pack everything! I checked the blanket one more time and folded it up. Sharick very kindly helped me with this. He always looks grumpy in photos but he was actually purring away madly and seemed to be having a lovely time.

I popped everything in a bag and put it by the front door ready to take to the gallery tomorrow. Voila! An exhibition in a bag!

What Is This Handmade Blanket Really Worth? is on at NOIR Darkroom 13th - 26th May 2019.
57 Moreland Road, Coburg. Open Wed-Sun until 6pm. My blanket is in the front window so you'll be able to see it 24 hours a day! There will also be a rad zine exhibition on in the main gallery at the same time. I can't wait to see it and I hope you'll check it out.

P.S. This is actually my first solo exhibition! I can hardly believe it!

Monday, 29 April 2019

Art and Loss

Today's post is a bit more personal than normal, and it's been hard to write, but I feel it's important.

My job finished up just before Easter, and since then I've been working on my art project. I was excited to have unlimited time to work on it, and was feeling confident that I'd finish on time and everything would go swimmingly. I was having ideas for new pieces and tucked them away in my brain for later. I even started on one, but just a little bit here and there, knowing I'd have plenty of time later.

Then I got some news that changed everything. An artist that I admired and knew a little had died. She was only a few years older than me and her name was Natalie Uhing. Her art was exuberant, playful and colourful with a dark twist. You can see much of it on her Instagram here. I had been following her long enough to see the changes in her style and influences. When she started a mail art subscription just over a year ago, sending a beautifully decorated letter once a month, I signed up straight away. Each letter told a story from her life, of travel and adventures and encounters with people, all written in the most beautiful calligraphic hand. I feel lucky to have every letter she produced.

Even though I felt I came to know Nat through her letters, as I mentioned, I only knew her slightly. I never met her "in real life", only exchanging a few messages through Instagram and Patreon. It's hard to describe a friendship with someone you've never met. The internet hasn't been around long enough for there to be words for that. Even still, acquaintance is probably the best word. She did mention once that she'd never been to Melbourne, and if she did visit one day, it would be great to meet up. I was excited at the prospect, but it will never happen now.

I don't mean for this blog post to be depressing or to garner pity. Nat was a happy, curious, passionate person from all accounts, and that's what should be remembered about her. Her art will continue to inspire me, even though the person who created it is gone. It's also driven home to me that we don't have unlimited time left. Even if I'm only half-way through my life, that's still not very long.

Since hearing of Nat's death, I've had a great sense of what the Germans call torschlusspanik. Literally meaning "gate-closing panic", it's come to signify the fear that life is passing you by. If you don't act now to do the things you want to do, you might never get the chance. None of the doubts and insecurities I have about my art and writing seem to matter anymore in the face of this feeling. Of course, I still have my anxieties, and I still let them hold me back -- it's only been a few weeks, after all, to get used to this new way of living -- but I try to overcome them and create anyway. There's no better way to say it than Nat did herself on the tagline of her blog:

Express yourself. It is later than you think.