Thursday, 1 December 2016

What I learnt from doing the 100 days project

My 100 day project theme was 'The Botanical Series'. By signing up I committed to draw a plant a day from my garden and surrounding neighbourhood for 100 consecutive days. 


I knew it wasn't going to be easy, not only because making the time to draw daily isn't always practical and I didn't think I had access to so many plants. The later start in August. this round, meant we were heading into spring. Just when I thought what was I going to draw, the next day another plant would start flowering and there I'd have a botanical muse. I did draw some foliage-only plants, a few bought flowers and a pomegranate fruit!


So here's what I learned.

Practice does help you improve - drawing the plant form became easier and I became braver and faster at drawing

Plants are wonderfully inspiring for providing variety and subject matter

Understanding the anatomy of a plant helps to get a sense of the spatial form and how the parts are connected

Being part of a signed up project gave me permission to draw every day and my family and friends supported it 

Focusing on one thing everyday was a mindful activity that helped me forget my daily worries and stresses and wrapped me in a cloak of calm and stillness

Posting my photos to Instagram made me accountable and gave me motivation to meet my commitment

Completing all 100 days of the project gave me a great sense of achievement. Now if only I could do the same with giving up sugar!

The Instagram community was ever encouraging and supportive and for which I am grateful. As a token of thanks, I created a calendar as a giveaway that @coffeepaperyarn won in the lucky draw (please visit her feed!). 



If interested, all my pics are tagged to the hashtag #ab_100days on Instagram.

With the countdown to Christmas, its easy to think of the next creative project. What's yours?
- Claudia x

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Planthunting inspiration

A mindfulness  activity for me is being out in my garden where so easily I can spend hours pottering around, pulling out weeds, moving plants around or simply listening to the sounds of the garden. "I am a lucky woman" as Mma Precious  Ramotswe of the No. 1 Detective Agency always tells her readers. Lucky to have the luxury of time and space to 'just be' in this peaceful place over the weekend in my spare time. Lucky to be able to sit down with a cuppa and dream of what I would do if I had the energy (my ideas involve a lot of landscaping!).

As I sit and sip my tea, I reflect on my gardening influences. There are two people who come to mind. My aunt Dibbs, and her mother-in-law, Granny Mary.

Granny Mary lived in a cottage perched on huge granite boulders with a secret path winding down between massive rocks, to the beach. At high tide the path would be impassable as the icy water  raced up the narrow channel and splashed against the rocks. Granny Mary's steep section meant that she had various 'rooms' nestled in amongst the boulders with a series of paths winding between and through the garden rooms. Sweet fragrances would envelope you as you meandered along the footpath while stepping lightly over the abundant perennials and flowering bulbs proudly displayed on their elegant stems. A terraced rockery was traversed by a narrow path that zigzagged its way to the top.

Garden ornaments to delight any child, including gnomes, fairies and bird baths were plentiful and scattered throughout, presenting surprises around every corner. A total wonderland to play in as wind chimes gently filled the hazy ocean air and competed with the restless ocean bashing against the rocks as the tide came in.

Sadly, I do not have a photograph of her lovely garden, but it will be forever imprinted in my mind. It is what I reference for garden design ideas. Little curved paths carved into flower beds, with a feature at the end. A garden chair placed so that you can be immersed in the garden  to sit and ponder or just sit. A bowl of water for the birds (or cat!) to drink from.

My other influence, was my lovely aunt, Dibbs, who sowed the seeds of goodness and kindness and helped me grow my approach to life. She stepped in when I lost my mother at a young age and treated me like her own. I do not know where my life would have lead were it not for the love and generosity she gave selflessly. I hope I am able to spread a mere glimmer of the joy and goodness she caste over me, which makes me a happy, and not only, a "lucky woman".

Have a great week x
  

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Hooray - the #ab_onmytableseries winners announced!

Helen Naylor @helen_a_naylor, the creative and inspiring ceramic artist who I am featuring for the Instagram #ab_onmytableseries photo-challenge in August, has chosen a winner. In fact, Helen has decided on sending small gifts to all of those she mentions below.Thank you Helen, what a wonderful, generous soul you are!

I shall hand over to Helen now to tell you in her own words why she chose the selections she did. Congratulations to all of you and please DM Helen on IG with your postal addresses and Helen will send you your prizes. (And lucky me, I am getting a gift too. Thank you Helen x).
Claudia x

"This was so much fun and so difficult at the same time. Every single one of you that took the time to follow Claudia's blog, commit to the rules and decide what to share with us all, what was going on, on your private table tops, deserve a prize and special mention. I really do mean that. There is not one image that I did not like looking at.

In the end I really had to pull in all sorts of issues to try to make decisions. If only I had more bowls.

Drum roll please, Claudia ..........



In 1st place is the image of Christall Lowe's @underthekowhaitree_christall outside work space illuminated by light from all directions. A table filled with all sorts of items ready to play with and two chairs. I keep looking at the wood of the table, chairs and basket and want to run my hands over them and experience them.

You can never have too many work spaces. I felt odd when we started talking about building me a second studio at the other corner at the bottom of our garden, but our spaces are so necessary even if it is a shelf in a cupboard, we all need our spaces. 

In 2nd place is ...

@elkprints - I love feathers. We had a little bird, our baby as we still call him, for six weeks shy of his twentieth birthday. Not a day goes by that we do not miss him. I love that there are the real ones to take inspiration from and her idea of them. What I like the most is the story that she is making this for her son. Well done. 

In 3rd place is 

@helen_recycledinteriors - Purple is my favourite colour, I love green with it. These kokedama plant balls, I covet, but fear I will kill them, so do not have any. The mirror, to make sure we remember who we are, along with the earthy trees behind. Well the whole setting just speaks to me. I like the light reflecting off the shinny things. If you get bored of this scene please ship them off to me please.


To our four runners up.

@partial2patina - I so want this whole box with all these lovelies inside of it. Linda, you drew me in with your words to go with this. Friendship is so important and you know how to look after your friends from what I read in this post. Again when you are bored of any of these they have a home here.



The light coming in on @junk.beaucoup's paint worn side table, which I want! Makes me think of a different light than that I have now been living with for more than half my life. Light is different on the other side of our planet. I am a sucker for Cornishware, time pieces, spoons and little tables. I have to be near the ocean too. I have my name down for your table, cup and time faces. Hahahahaha.

@che_crc's Christmas in July just tugged at me. Chrystal, glass, clay and silver with red and green with a splash of yellow, so lovely. I do miss a cold Christmas with all the rellies and frozen toes in wellies. I always think in August, oh we forgot to do Christmas in July again. The old bells given as gifts were a great dinner gift for guest. I am sure they all want to be invited again next year.

@fourcornersdesign. Cogs, time pieces, feathers, keys - oh my word! And all on dots. I would have liked to see what you made with all of these.

Well that's my wild jabberings about the pieces. I would have liked to have written more and more about all the others that came so close too. All of these were so close to the winner. It really was a hard hard task to do. I hope you are all not too disappointed that your have not been included. As I said I see you as all winners and I hope you all feel wonderful from making your images and chatting to all the others about their images and that you have found some new friends. I hope that my feed will continue to hold your interest and you will stay following me to see my journey with my son, my clay, my love of cake and this planet we live on called home.

Thank-you for waiting and being understanding while I had my surprise trip to hospital at midnight. Your words and thought were a great comfort to me, they really were. Please know that I think you're all special, lovely ladies. Thank-you.

Thank-you Claudia for your wonderful feed and blog. Thank-you for asking me to be involved with you. It was such a heart singing moment when you asked me I could not believe it. I am still smiling ear to ear.
P.S. Your bowl will be making its way down to you very soon. Helen"

Saturday, 23 July 2016

What's on your table?

Helen Naylor, potter, creative and lover of life, is my featured artist this month. For anyone who is unsure about whether to take the leap into a creative life, read what Helen has to say below.

You can find Helen on Facebook and Instagram and in Queensland, her pottery is available at this St Barts storeHelen will be exhibiting hebotanical series bowls and Stir The Pot Spoons at this @life_instyle fair which showcases emerging hot trends in design and is held in Melbourne from 4-7 August. So if your'e in Melbourne, head on down.

Below is Helen's Aeropunk series with impressions from aircraft parts that are no longer usable. "Aircraft have lives that are timed by hours in the sky and hours lived." The black vases/cups are a new black clay Helen is playing with. She says "Messy, but fun. I have to take my wheel outside and hose it off. Actually I am going to start throwing this clay out in the garden so I don’t have the massive task of cleaning up the studio each time. Spring time will be extra fun in this garden."  


A dinner service Helen uses at home from her Sari series.
Photos courtesy, Helen Naylor 2016

1. Have you always been interested in creating and how did you become involved with pottery?

Helen: Well that is a long story. I am a traditional Animator, you know cartoons on TV made the old way, without a computer. It is pretty involved and having a perfectionist personality really helps. Except when you want to relax. Don't get me wrong it is relaxing for me, but I felt I needed to let go. I don't know why I decided on working with clay. It is over twenty years ago that I started this curious playing. It could have been from my father. He used to go pot holing for his own clay. I really hoped the clay would be freeing from the precise procedures needed to make an Animated film or TV commercial. I am still trying to convince the clay it is in charge and that I am not.

2.  What artists inspire you and why? 

Helen: Hmm this is a tricky one. I tend to keep to myself when it comes to looking at other artists. I am always worried if I see some-thing it will influence my thoughts and I would end up copying them by accident.

3. How do you sell your works and how do you stay focused when you are building up stock?

Helen: Building stock is soooooo hard for me. Have you seen my web site ! Oh dear. I am very social and people stop in for tea a lot. I always say the house might not be straight but the kettle is always on, please stop in, and they do. Which means a trip down to the pottery to see what is there. Which means pieces leave to new homes or for gifts to new homes by those said tea drinking visitors that I love.

Staying focused is so hard. I build up collections of thingies that I want to use in my clay soon. They sit there on the shelves and talk to me saying "come on, when is it our turn ? We want to play in the clay now " yes I can not resist they win and before I have finished exploring the last topic thee it is the next shinny thing is off the shelf and being played with. You know they don't actually talk to me ! I don't hear voices ! I have decided to just let it happen. It will sort itself out some-where along the path. The main thing is to have fun, isn't it ?

Where do I sell ? I used to have an Etsy shop but that was not working for me. Don't know why. My main supplier is St Barts. The most amazing homewears shop here on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia. They have a shop in James Street in the Vally in Brisbane too. I generally can not keep the stock up to them. Which is so good for my heart, it makes it sing so load with the joy I receive from this news. The owner is amazing to me.

I am also represented by 19Karen Contemporary Art Gallery on the Gold Coast. This is a brilliant gallery. Nothing like it on the coast. The oddest location but worth going. They have a wide range of artists from all over our lovely planet.

4. What are you happiest doing creatively and why? 

Helen: Hmmmm this a trick question for me. Ask me before I gave birth to my greatest work of art, my son and you would get a different answer. Right now I am most happiest building towers out of blocks before he sends them crashing down with a heck of a noise. Drawing on his magnetic drawing tablet with him - this really makes me happy as I am able to practice my circles and lines.

Baby aside. I think the answer to this is I really don't know. I love it all. I really enjoy mucking about and being in the process. If it is not feeling right for me at that time I move onto some-thing else or drink tea and stare at the trees in my garden. I know the next time I work on it or with that medium it will come and be wonderful.

5. What approach do you take when you find you are creatively stuck? 

Helen:I know I should say I just keep at it, but no I walk away, I drink tea, I play with other things. I don't put any pressure on myself so I think that might be why I don't get stuck. 

6. Where would you like to be creatively in five years' time? 

Helen: In five years time I would like to be still walking this path I am walking on now. Playing around with all that makes me smile. I really like where I am. 

7. For someone's starting down this track what is the best piece of advice you could give? 

Helen:Jump jump jump. Don't look down. Don't listen to the voices that give you worry that you are being daft. Once you are over that line the voices on the other side will be happy ones singing and cheering you on. It is much nicer on the other side of the line so go ahead and jump.

I am not saying give up your day job as I hear of people doing that and then there is so much pressure on them to make art that sells. Just ease into it, leave your safety net there to calm your mind.

This month's challenge on Instagram: 

One lucky person will be the recipient of one of Helen's pieces (wish I could enter!). So please keep your entries rolling over the next few weeks and Helen will select a winner. The theme is 'on the table' and you'll see why when looking at her work. 

This is the piece that Helen will provide as the prize - in production and complete


Photos courtesy, Helen Naylor 2016

The comp is open worldwide and closes on 15 August
To enter:
2. Take a new pic that features your favourite items on a table surface and tag #ab_onmytableseries
3. Invite a friend to join in the fun 

Hope you will join us!

Claudia x

Sunday, 26 June 2016

When life gives you lemons

It was my son's 21st coming up and I was stuck for ideas for a party theme. Mid-winter in Auckland with not much colour around and being a male's party I couldn't get away with a 'pretty' look and lots of flowers. Also my canvas was a simple football club room with not much aesthetics to work with.

It so happened that a week before the party, I attended a soirée hosted by Un Deux Trois at which Stylist Fiona Hughes from Gatherum Collectif gave table styling tips. Fiona and her business partner, Jani Shepherd, create inviting occasion settings and displays of food that can regularly been seen in Taste Magazine and within the covers of Your Garden and Home magazine. So, who better to find out about table displays than from these two.

What I love about their style is that it's relaxed, but carefully considered. It's as if you have come across an occasion, mid-way through.  

These are some of the things I learnt.
  1. Use nature from your garden or neighbourhood in your displays. In winter use bare tree branches. Magnolias are beautiful.
  2. Consider what is seasonal and use local produce or plants to keep costs down.
  3. Be true to your theme.
  4. Provide height to your displays or consider suspending decorations from a height.
  5. Use your own collections (a perfect opportunity to dip into your hoarder cupboard!).
With these simple tips in mind, I came up with these ideas. 

The theme would be black, yellow and white. The clubs's colours are yellow and white so the colour scheme could fit in with the yellow buntings hanging from the ceiling.
  1. I used herbs from the garden - rosemary twigs on the food tables with leek flowers and small posies of herbs - flat leaf parsley and mint with a few calendula flowers for colour on the tables, each surrounded with snacks. 
  2. In addition, instead of buying bunches of flowers I bought some flowering seedlings - daisies and primulas and cheap clay pots and bases. The bases were used to hold dips and cheese.

  1. My lemon tree groaning with lemons, providing the additional colour, and worked well with the food, whole, sliced or segmented. 
  2. My cork collection created a festive addition. 

It's amazing how carefully perusing the garden, using what's in season and buying only a few props that can be re-used either in the kitchen or garden, can be so effective. 
Happy sustainable decorating. And if you find you have leftover food like we did, the Auckland City Mission would be glad to have what remains.

Claudia x

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Weaving a harakeke putiputi

There is therapy in weaving. Even weaving a single piece of harakeke (flax) helps to focus on one thing and not be distracted. This is what some of us did at our Matariki celebration at work last week. 

Matariki is the Māori New Year. It's a celebration after the harvest and when the  cluster of stars known as the Pleiades rises, normally near mid- winter. 


For some simple and clear instructions on how to weave a harakeke (flax) putiputi - rose, see this Youtube video

Would love to hear if you have tried weaving using flax or other plants and a Happy Matariki to you.

Claudia x

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Flower Crown workshop

On Saturday morning I attended a delightful workshop on how to make a floral crown with Anna Cunningham from 'Florrie's. Flowers. Always.' The workshop was set up on the stage of the Mt Eden War Memorial Hall and was launched at the Crafternoon Tea pop up market. We were so immersed in our activity that we weren't even aware of the bustling craft market being held on the hall floor below us. 

No sooner had we sat down and Anna had us twisting florists' wire around stems and taping them to the crown base, using floral tape. We were hooked immediately.


It took a little over an an hour to complete our floral crowns and was lovely to see the various colour and flower combinations. Working with flowers is such an uplifting activity and Anna's organised layout with everything we needed at hand, meant that each of us could leave at the end of the workshop with a completed crown. Creatively satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable! 

Anna is a mobile florist, but you can find her in St Heliers during the week, and online at her website  and on Facebook and Instagram @florriesflowersalways

My daughter was celebrating her 15th birthday and I managed to convince her to wear it briefly, but apparently not the coolest head gear for a 15 year old, so off it came. Very quickly. 

Perhaps it could make a beautiful floral cake decoration ...


Instructions for making a floral crown are published on Steller Stories: