Monday, June 21, 2010

Quilting (of sorts)

Here's the final outworking of a process that took more than six months in the making.

We wanted to give a really unique wedding present to Mrs and Mrs Rutherford

So we decided to make a quilt, based on a photo that Malcolm took, of the side of an old boat, in Brittany, France.

All the fabric was second hand, bought at the glouster green market and at charity shops and at orinoco. we bought a lot of vintage thread too, and a new bamboo and cotton inner.

with no idea how to actually make a quilt, and no prior experience embarking on a creative project together we didn't realise quite what an undertaking it was going to be....

We soon found our we had quite different working styles. I am not a planner, or a measurer. Malcolm is. I have a definate creative vision that I am quite sure about, but also not entirely good at communicating. We eventually figure out it was best to discuss, and then designate, and go away and work on the quilt at seperate times. Malcolm did a lot of sewing while watching the winter olympics. It was even quite fun to see it progress from work that each other had done.

We made the biggest piece of nuno felting I think I'll ever make, using merino and silk.

We wanted it to have the feeling of the sea, of texture and roughness, but beauty at the same time. it had to look rugged like the side of the boat that inspired it. We sewd on glass beads to make it sparkle in places and put hundreds of little stitches on it. We were pretty happy with the end result, and I think Mr and Mrs Rutherford were too :-)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

elderflower champagne.

I'm a little bit crazy for elderflowers (Sambuccas Nigra). Their strong, heady perfume is so intense it almost borders on unpleasantness. In fact they are fairly toxic plants (but people have been drinking and cooking with them for years so hopefully we'll be ok). They only flower for a few weeks, late may till late June this year in the UK.

So we went out just before a thunderstorm, and gathered bagfuls of them.

I used this recipe posted on selfsufficientish (great name for a blog)

It's a nice sloppy recipe, I'm not one for precision. I put the flowers and sugar into our 25 litre brewing bucket, and left it to stew, with a bit of citric acid added, for 3 days, stirring it once a day. Then I strained it, and bottled half of it as cordial. I diluted the rest of it a little more,added some cider yeast (tolerates higher alcohol), left it a couple more days, then bottled it. Now we have oodles of fizzy, fragrant, fairly alcoholic 'champagne'. I've kept 4 more litres in demijohns, and once it's stable and has stopped fermenting I will bottle it, keep it for 3 months and voila, wine. Though I hold our less hope for our wine, our elderberry wine is still foul. I'm holding out hope for it to mellow with time. I'm chuffed, cordial, champagne and wine from one picking, and relatively little effort. Yum.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The age of the image

A while back, I made a bit of a comment about how the image is so prevalent in our digitised world. Well, I was pleased to hear one woman's perspective about the impact of exactly this. Professor Jean Seaton, professor of Media History at University of Westminster and author of 'Power without responsibility, came and did a Wednesday seminar for the Reuter's Institute (my work).

According to Prof. Seaton, the trend toward visualisation in the way media covers issues has impacted politics significantly. Not only do we now judge politicians a whole lot more by their looks, their carefully managed 'image', but also there is a breakdown in the private/public divide. Politicians are almost guaranteed to have all aspects of their life and past scrutinised intently, regardless of how it affects their actual ability to lead. Brings to mind Bill Clinton, who smoked but 'did not inhale' a certain substance while at Oxford University. Presumably in the same way he 'did not have sexual relations' with that woman. A vegetarian cookbook I once owned had a few interesting facts in its inside cover - of two real world leaders, one was a teetotaler, a vegetarian and exercised regularly. The other smoked, drank and was blatantly sexist, and rather portly. Who would you rather have as your leader? the first was Hitler, the second Churchill. Martin Luther king apparently cheated on his wife (which the FBI then used to blackmail him). Seemingly upright private lives don't necessarily mean someone will be a good leader. And maybe, vice versa. Its a strange issue, what is private and what is public, and how these interact.

As far as gender goes, the visual trend puts further pressure on women, as we often saw in NZ one of the favourite things to criticise about Helen Clark was her looks, and her 'mannish' voice, in a way that just didn't happen for male prime ministers. In the UK, during the election campaign, brutal emphasis was put on what the candidate's wives wore. As if that was their major role in life. We are what we look like, apparently.

The other thing Prof Seaton talked about was the way in which the media has power to set the agenda - not just in terms of how things are discussed, but what gets discussed in the first place. What is determined as news. In particular, things that have good 'images' to go with them tend to be news. Climate change is a tricky one to report on partly for this reason. One of the other speakers who put on a seminar for my work talked about the increasing number of journalists being killed while reporting. In part, this is due to the demand for close up, dramatic, centre of action images, which places the journalists and cameramen in much more risky situations.

On a lighter note, Malcolm often look out for good headlines, particularly small NZ newspapers come up with some stunners. "elderly woman found in home" "swimmer gets stung by bee" are two particularly ridiculous ones. In the UK, there was one about a horse listening to a radio show. Yep. One of these days I'll get around to reading Chomsky, I have a feeling he'd have a thing to say about the trivialisation of news. infotainment again.

In other news, Malcolm has started a new blog that's gorgeous. take a peek.

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