Inspired by Reading: The Swan Thieves

This month in the Inspired by Reading Book Club and challenge our book was The Swan Thives: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova. It was a big book but surprisingly readable for all that, with a dash of intrigue, a psychological element and a good dose of art history. In any case I enjoyed it! 

The premise of the story is a psychiatrist trying to understand his patient — renowned painter Rob Oliver — who has attacked a painting purported to be by a particular artist of the French impressionist school. Oliver’s story is told largely to Dr Marlow by his wife and his ex-lover, and gradually uncovers an obsession with a young French  woman, an impressionist painter torn between her respectable marriage and her passion for art. Ultimately the mystery is solved by the psychiatrist. 

Although I sometimes found the jumping between the characters confusing, I thought that the author painted a good picture of  Oliver and the obsession that overtakes his art. And I loved the author’s vivid imagery, which suited a book about painters. 

There were two elements of the book that I wanted to explore with my Jewellery but unfortunately I only had time this month for one. The angle I didn’t have time to take was to look at some of the impressionist paintings mentioned in the book, including those by Alfred Sisley, who painted a number of streetscapes in the towns of Louveciennes and Moret-sur-Loing, both mentioned in the course of the story. I even picked out a set of boro lampwork beads in the colours of a winter streetscape that I wanted to use, but I realized I need to figure out the best way to highlight the beautiful beads. 

But the other scene that grabbed my attention was from early in the book, when the psychiatrist Andrew Marlow was visiting the scene of his patient’s crime at the National Gallery of Art. He meets a young woman (who unbeknownst to him will become crucial to the story) and it is his description of the Jewellery she wore that got my attention:

… on her collarbone she wore a necklace if knotted leather strung with long ceramic beads that looked as if they could have had prayer parchments rolled up inside them. (Chapter 6, The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova)

I came across a polymer clay bead made by local artisan Jenny Church (she doesn’t have a website but she sells through the Facebook group Australian Art Beads), that was long and covered in mysterious writing. I asked Jenny if she would make me some matching beads, and knotted them all together on leather with some Greek ceramic beads with a grey and gold look. I used more of the Greek ceramics to make a button and loop closure to the necklace. 

  
I was quite pleased with the chunky look of the piece, it’s not often that I use big beads in my jewellery designs. 

For more about the challenge, and to see what others have been inspired to make by the book, visit the Inspired by Reading Facebook page

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Oh you’ve got green eyes, oh you’ve got blue eyes, oh you’ve got grey eyes

Were you a child of the 80s? I was, and when I was looking for inspiration for Art Jewelry Elements’ Eye Love Beads challenge this month, the song Temptation by New Order kept running through my mind. 

Oh, you’ve got green eyes

Oh, you’ve got blue eyes

Oh, you’ve got grey eyes

And I’ve never seen anyone quite like you before

No, I’ve never met anyone quite like you before

Thankfully, Melissa Gabelle, aka The Clay Hen, popped up at the right time with a trio of head pins featuring eyes, in fact one blue eye and two greenish grey eyes. But I wondered how I would put them together. In the end I used the blue eye and one of the greenish grey eyes, a pair of vivid aqua blue lamp work bead from a bag of orphans I got from Sue Kennedy a couple of years ago and an eyelash fringe of black waxed linen completed a pair of same-same but different earrings. 

  
Keep an eye out for the final eyeball from the trio, I have plans for it! 

Thanks for the fun challenge AJE.  And visit the blogs of the other participants to see what they’ve made:

Guests

Melissa Trudinger of Beadrecipes <– you are here! 

Tammy of PaisleyLizardDesigns

Alison Herrington

Kelly Rodgers

AJE Members – 

Jenny Davies-Reazor

Diana Ptaszynski

Susan Kennedy

Caroline Dewison

Lindsay Starr

Lesley Watt

Jen Cameron

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns! 

It’s Easter weekend here in Australia. I’m not religious but I am culturally Christian and to me Easter means spending time with family and friends, eating chocolate and enjoying the autumn weather.

Traditional Easter food in Australia almost always includes lamb, maybe some fish. Chocolate Easter eggs, bunnies and chickens are a favorite with the kids and everyone has their preference, be it a Cadbury cream egg, a Lindt bunny or artisan chocolate in flavours like salted caramel.

But one thing that almost all Aussies love is the hot cross bun. Traditionally these are spicy and filled with currants and mixed candied fruit peel. In the last few years though, chocolate hot cross buns have become really popular. They appear in the supermarkets in early January and by the time it’s Lent all the bakeries have them too.

This year I have been baking sourdough bread using a starter from Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. I’ll post about my bread making adventures one of these days soon, but for now I’ll talk about making hot cross buns. Celia has an easy recipe for sourdough buns that became my starting point. But because  my kids far prefer the chocolate hot cross buns I tinkered with the recipe, adding dried cranberries instead as well as a good handful of chocolate chips.

With sourdough, the proving takes a lot longer, so I got the starter going the day before and let it rise overnight. Luckily they don’t take long at all to cook. And even less time to eat, especially with three hungry kids and a husband hovering around the kitchen looking hopeful.



Sourdough hot cross buns with cranberries and chocolate 

Makes 12 buns

200g sourdough starter (at 166% hydration i.e. fed at ratio of 1c flour to 1c water)

160ml milk at room temp (I used light milk as that’s what I had)

500g bakers flour

8-10g fine sea salt

60g brown sugar

0.5 tsp ground cinnamon

60g butter, melted and cooled

2 large free range eggs

100g dried cranberries

Zest from one orange

50g choc chips or chopped chocolate

Cross: 2tb self raising flour mixed with 2tb water

Glaze: 2tb milk and 2tb sugar, plus a dash of vanilla paste
Combine all of the dough ingredients except the chocolate in a large bowl. Use hands to squelch it all together until a rough dough forms — it’s quite a stiff dough. Cover with plastic wrap and sit for about 30 minutes. Then knead dough for 1-2 minutes in the bowl, cover again and leave overnight.

Preheat oven to 240c. Tear off a piece of baking paper big enough to line a metal rectangular baking dish (about 23 X 20cm) — no need to cut it to shape, just fold in the corners loosely.

Turn dough out onto floured bench. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top. Fold the outside thirds over the middle and repeat several times to knead the dough and mix the chips in. Cut into 12 pieces, roll each into a ball and place into baking dish in 4 rows of 3. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest in a warm place.

Allow buns to rise for 30-60 mins, then pipe the cross paste across each bun. Spritz the buns with water and put into oven, immediately turning temperature down to 220C (with fan). Bake for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 200C and bake for another 10 minutes.

While the buns are baking, combine the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Brush the glaze generously over buns while hot, wait a couple of minutes and brush a second coat over. Cool on a rack.

Eat with lashings of butter!

Notes:
1. Feed your starter a couple of times to get it ready. With my starter I feed 1/2 cup with 1/4 cup each of bakers flour and filtered water at about lunchtime. In the late afternoon I feed again with 1/2 cup each of flour and water. I set the dough up mid evening, when the starter is very bubbly.

2. If you don’t have a starter, you can make the buns with yeast instead. I haven’t done that though, so you’ll need to find a recipe yourself!

3. When you roll the buns into a ball, try to keep most of the fruit and chocolate inside the bun as they burn easily.

Inspired by Reading Book Club: A Wrinkle in Time

I’ve joined the Inspired by Reading Book Club, a crafty group of jewellery designers and more. The group was started by Andrew Thornton, and I’ve been sitting on the fence for sometime, wanting to join. I finally took the plunge this month, and I hope I can keep up with a design a month! The reading itself shouldn’t be a problem!

Anyway the idea is to read the book and then create a piece (or more) inspired by the book. This month’s book is A Wrinkle in Time, a classic children’s book by Madeline L’Engle, published in 1963. I first read this book when I was a child, and I was thrilled to find it just as readable as an adult, although somewhat dated. As the title might imply, it is a science fiction novel,  with travel through space and time through the tesseract, a form of travel akin to traveling through a wormhole. Meg Murray, a “difficult” and “different” child and her equally different little brother Charles, as well as school friend Calvin, have to rescue Meg’s father, a physicist who has been missing for a couple of years, and is stuck on a far away planet in a far away galaxy. At the heart of the book is the classic struggle between good and evil, with love conquering all in the end.

I did think about creating some pieces with the space theme. In fact, I have made various resin pendants, cufflinks and earrings fairly recently featuring images of space including nebulae and more.

IMG_3587

However the passage in the book that inspired me was a simple description of one of the book’s characters, Mrs Whatsit. Appearing early in the book as an old lady with the appearance of a tramp, she plays an important role as one of the guides through time and space. But her description is what hooked me. She is described as being completely bundled up in clothes, with several scarves of assorted colours tied about the head:

Mrs Whatsit untied a blue and green Paisley scarf, a red and yellow flowered print, a gold Liberty print, a red and black bandanna.

I initially thought I would create a necklace combining these colour schemes, but I ended up creating 4 necklaces, one for each scarf (and hence I’m late posting this blog update!).

The paisley scarf became a necklace featuring a paisley pendant from Humblebeads, knotted on waxed linen with a collection of flowers and leaves in similar shades of green, blue and purple.

Paisley scarf necklace

The red and yellow flowered print scarf uses a pendant I made myself using a scrap of Liberty of London print floral fabric and a clever miniature embroidery hoop from Melbourne-based Etsy seller Dandelyne (these come in a variety of shapes and sizes—this particular one is 4cm in diameter). I attached it to a long copper chain embellished with dainty Czech glass flowers.

red-yellow floral scarf necklace

The gold Liberty print uses another embroidery hoop pendant featuring a scrap of Liberty fabric with gold and purple flowers and leaves. This time I have paired it with a trio of seed bead strands in shades of purple, gold and bronze and finished it with brass chain.

gold liberty scarf necklace

Finally the red and black bandanna is represented by a red pendant by Peruzi and a selection of black and red beads. Although the pendant is very Art Deco in style, I think the geometric nature of it reminds me of bandanna prints.

red-black bandanna necklace

And here they are all together!

Mrs Whatsits scarves