100 Days of Teacup (Set 1)

The 100 Day Project, how to play

Earlier this month, I pledged to spend 100 days of teacup in #The100DayProject.

May I show you my first 20 teacups?

Day 1: A study of edges + shadows

Day 1: A study of edges + shadows. Pencil and watercolour crayon drawing of peppermint tea, enjoyed at Sydney Airport on our way home from the farm. The crayons still work nicely, even after 20+ years.

Day 2: Acrylic on canvas

Day 2: Acrylic on canvas. I wanted to try making textures with paint, as people have told me you can do with oils. Oils are nicer to work with, but I will stick with acrylic until I learn not to get paint on everything.

Day 3: Origami

Day 3: Origami. Original "teatime" design by Tomohiro Tachi. I followed the MrViolinPeter tutorial on youtube. It looks complicated, but if you can fold 45° angles, you can totally do this.

Day 4: Crochet teacup

Day 4: Crochet teacup. I was really pleased with this, even though I'm not in love with amigurumi. The free Lion Brand tutorial is easy-teasy. :) The base is weighted with beans, the rest is filled with wadding.

Day 5: Paper art teacup

Day 5: Paper art teacup. A friend gave me a stack of beautiful washi paper, which I left untouched in a box of precious things. I found it again while KMing and decided it was time to help those beautiful papers fulfil their life purpose.

Day 6: Doodle on a napkin

Day 6: Doodle on a napkin stolen from a whiskey workshop at Whipper Snapper Distillery. If you're in Perth, love whiskey, and enjoy learning interesting things, go sign up for the 2-hour workshop. You learn about distilling, get to do some tasting - and The Royal is close enough for some good food after.

Day 7: Off-hand

Day 7: Off-hand. Felt-tip on paper. I have a drinking game I like to play with people. The first part is to get nicely sozzled and draw a teacup with your non-dominant hand. I wasn't drunk for this, though. Usually it doesn't go as well.

Day 8: Off-hand, eyes shut

Day 8: Off-hand, eyes shut. Marker on paper. The second part of the game is to shut your eyes and draw with your non-dominant hand. Once in a while, things look how they were meant to.

Day 9: Jute and glue

Day 9: Jute and glue. Because the glue took so long to dry, this took 3 days to complete. It stinks of PVA. I'd like to explore this more if I could find a less smelly adhesive.

Day 10: Layered pop-up card

Day 10: Layered pop-up card. Definitely something to be said here about using good quality materials. I used glossy labels salvaged from bedsheet packaging - annoying to work with. It might be fun to try again with nicer paper.

Day 11: Chalk pastel on paper

Day 11: Chalk pastel on paper. Again, good paper will make a good experience.

Day 12: Tea from a passionfruit shell

Day 12: Tea from a passionfruit shell. Even though I'm used to seeing Chinese and Japanese teacups, I don't find them very teacuppy without the other parts of a tea set. So I got a pot of tea and our last biscuit. It was nice. There was a hint of passionfruit aroma. :)

Day 13: Body paint on skin

Day 13: Body paint on skin. Neshka from Little Magic - Art & Design let me try her face paint. This is a lovely type of art. And the very temporary nature makes it feel so delightful. I would probably feel differently if I was covered in it, but something tiny like this is OK.

Day 14: LED dot matrix display

Day 14: LED dot matrix display. I was working on a LED display for a project; a teacup emerged. The Freetronics DMD is great. It comes with the cable, you just plug it into the arduino - so easy. I expected to struggle, but it only took an hour-ish to get the software, play around, then make the picture appear. That includes the nervous procrastination preceding all my projects. A more experienced maker could do it in half the time.

Day 15: Charcoal on paper

Day 15: Charcoal on paper. Some study of light and shadow. I did the top wrong. I know. :(

Day 16: Watercolour

Day 16: Watercolour. This was fun. Watercolour, let's date each other.

Day 17: Ink fingerpainting

Day 17: Ink fingerpainting. Normally, I try to prevent ink from getting on my fingers. But the stamp pad was just there. Finger was still black the next day. B-, would fingerpaint again, but won't use ink.

Day 18: Puff pastry and mozarella

Day 18: Puff pastry and mozarella. The fails are in the background. Beauty only matters for the photo. They were all equally yummy.

Day 19: Mouth drawing

Day 19: Mouth drawing. This felt weird. I think you have to use your tongue for finer control, but I didn't want to get licky with my pen. It's hard with a fineliner, cos too much slanting lifts the tip off the page. This could be worth trying with a paintbrush.

Day 20: Foot drawing

Day 20: Foot drawing. Also feels weird, also want to try with a paintbrush.

"Show up, show up, show up," says one of the posters for #The100DayProject. After 20 days of showing up, I realise art is more about perspiration than inspiration. Ideas flow fast and free when you're in the right state of mind, but it takes discipline and perseverance to turn it into something you can behold.

There are days my discipline wavers, but I want to make it to 100. It's like exercising muscles. I want to come out the other end with the creative process feeling like the natural course of things. I am still nervous about art, but starting to feel more confident.

The bit I enjoy most is having an excuse to try new stuff, or try new ways of doing old stuff. I don't know what you call these things. Art forms? Mediums? Some of them I've wanted to try for ages, but never got around to it. This is wonderful incentive.

I'll post sets here every 20 days, but if you'd like to follow the days, check out my instagram or 100 Days of Teacup album on Facebook.

So, that's it for now. 80 days to go.

Waaaaaaah~ 80 is a such a big number. T___T

Why I blog

quiet nook in a book store

Recently, a friend asked why I blog. I've been blogging since the 90s, so this question comes up a lot, yet it still catches me off guard. I ask myself all the time and end up second-guessing the answer.

This is maybe due in part to growing up in the 'teen domain scene', a period on the internet from 1997 to 2003, which was when I started blogging. We didn't call them blogs then; they were online journals. You were a journaller, or a diarist.

This was before Wordpress, or even Blogger. Think back to Livejournal and Xanga. Then further back to Diaryland. Then even further back to when it was something to brag about if you did it all with raw HTML by hand in Notepad (not even Dreamweaver or Hot Dog), then copypasted, uploaded or FTP'ed your updates online.

And at first, it wasn't even a journal that I kept. It was my site news, where I'd include thoughts and bits of what went on in my life. No archives. Just a page. So primitive.

I don't say this to show you how cool I am, but to give you an idea of the times. We were naïve, exploratory, adolescent webmasters... webmistresses? The scene was very female domainted, which makes me apprehensive about the "shortage of women in tech" problems I hear about today. If you chatted on forums, if you ran your own site, if you had AOL Instant Messenger, you'd connect with hundreds of girls like you, and be part of the scene. The evolution of personal websites in that era mirrored our teenage optimism and drama.

It wasn't actually called the 'teen domain scene' until later, when top-level domains suddenly became affordable and accessible for whomever. Kids my age and much younger were buying domains with stylish names, and hosting their friends. If you were hosted on a private domain (ie. not Geocities, Angelfire, Tripod, etc.), you were regarded in the upper echelons of our society.

Today's Domain Online, 2001

This screencap is a section of Today's Domain Online from 2001. If the scene was a town, the market square was discussion forums (UBB!) and AIM. Today's Domain Online would have been a combination of the town hall, local paper, and noticeboard.

Most of the girls in the scene were into writing, myself included. Fiction, poetry, rants, essays, journal entries, etc. I had favourite writers/webmistresses, who happened to like my stuff and each other's stuff too. Consequently, we kept in contact and linked to each other's sites. Normal, right?

But you know how things go in a crowd full of teenage girls. People started to view us as an exclusive clique. They called us the "inner circle" like we were all super cool best friends who were too good to hang out with anyone else. In reality, I think only 2 of the group were best friends irl. In case you're unfamiliar, 'irl' means 'in real life' - back then, your online life was considered separate to your offline (real) life.

There was nothing special about our group. We just got on, enjoyed writing, worked on our sites, and fangirled over cute boys and girls - never bothering with exclusivity and cliques. At least that's how I remember it.

And I remember when I got invited to a super cool private domain by one of the "inner circle" girls. The owner found it so stupid that a private domain raised your social status, and how everyone made a big deal over who was getting invited and who wasn't. So she registered uninvited.net and invited her friends as a tongue-in-cheek statement that getting hosted privately only meant you had a friend who used dad's credit card that one time. I'm pretty sure we were the only ones who appreciated the joke, but she was a sweetheart so it was FUNNY.

Well, now you see the emotional pressure cooker we grew up in, full of nuance you can only navigate if you're a teenager. So if you imagine the growing trend of publishing your life amidst the angsty, moody undercurrent of youth, you can understand my inner turmoil over blogging.

Because of course if you share anything personal, you're doing it for the attention. And omg if you say something that stands out just a little bit, then don't update for a while, your supporters worry you attempted suicide, and your detractors are scathing in their criticisms. This kind of thing happens to adults too for sure, but as an adult, you're more aware of the alternatives, and more accustomed to your hormones. At 16, 17, even 18, it can be overwhelming.

I don't mean to blame the scene for my insecurities. Just that whatever tendency for self-doubt I started with was surely amplified by these colourful and precarious, very cerebral, teenage years. Some insecurities hang around a while.

Over the years, I've faced cynics who will find negative reasons for everything I do or represent. I've encountered pessimists who artfully suggest I shouldn't share because they themselves don't, despite having "always wanted to try". I've dealt with paranoids and creepers, who think I'm sending secret messages to them in my blog posts. And garden variety snarky types who only ever cluck amongst themselves, so are generally harmless if you don't pay attention.

All this makes me hyper-aware of the consequences of sharing, so I constantly question my motives. If you do A knowing B will happen, does that mean you do it because you want B to happen, or are you only concerned with A? The answer, in practice, can be so complicated and sensitive to context.

I shouldn't be one-sided here. The good experiences far outweigh the bad. People are, for the most part, so supportive. I've had email accounts suspended because they filled up with too many nice messages (thanks, Rocketmail). I've gotten touching letters from young people who tell me they got into art or design because they were inspired by me and my work. Hearing that from a stranger is humbling, a huge wake-up call to try and be more responsible and brave.

What gets me most is hearing from people who got through a tough time after reading what I shared about going through a tough time. That gets me right in the feels. It gives suffering a purpose.

top 10 best moments in life

So, why do I blog?

There are practical reasons - practising writing and photography, keeping records, having a point of reference for my hobbies and thoughts, sharing knowledge, etc. And if that's the kind of answer you want, there's no need to read any further. It's all true, and the benefits are useful. I'd encourage anyone, especially creative or thinky people, to blog for this reason. Or at least keep a diary, if you don't like stuff in the public eye.

That's the real question, isn't it - why keep a public blog when a private diary will do? I keep many offline diaries, yet still publish a blog online.

There's this idea that as social creatures, humans are driven toward empathy - that's giving and getting. A private journal gives you a way to express, examine, and crystallise your thoughts away from bias and premature judgement, but it doesn't demand the level of accountability and consideration of things shared with other thinking, feeling individuals. When blogging, the act of creating for a shared space forces me to think about what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, who I'm doing it for, and how I put it into action.

It's not so much presenting only your best self for appearances' sake, though I'm sure that happens too. It's more that I'm always going to be myself by accident, so it's nice to learn how to do it considerately. It's an ongoing project in crafting the self from the inside out.

I also blog because I've been introduced to so many things via other people's blogs - things that made me look at life in new ways, and expand the boundaries of what I believe is possible. I've connected with people who hit the same obstacles I do, and in relating to their battles, I can get through mine. So, sharing is a way to contribute knowledge back into the pool, so others like me can find comfort.

Once upon a time, I feared this was a sugar-coated cover for being an attention-seeker, but now I realise 'attention-seeker' is actually the cop-out used by frightened people to avoid being brave and compassionate. Becauase it is scary being brave and compassionate. When you let your walls down to help others, you're vulnerable to attack.

Blogging with these motivations means I'm accumulating a site that is more or less an extension of my self. Which means I have a way to look at myself from the inside and the outside. At the risk of sounding conceited, I do read my own blog, and subscribe to it in my own feeds. I'm not famliar with "know thyself" philosophy, but as a concept and life pursuit, it feels important. I feel knowing myself will help me fare better in the world, fit more neatly into situations, and do right by others without ending up depleted. I blog as a way to contemplate the world and how I fit into it.

This has been a very long blog post on probably the most overdone, most boring topic to blog about. I still prefer to call it online journalling, and it's been part of my life for a very long time. This site in particular is more than a decade old. I ruminate often, and spend much time introspecting - blogging feels natural to me, maybe for that reason. Or maybe it's just habit now.

I get excited when people tell me they've started blogging, or are thinking of starting. In my experience, it's great for re-centering. Some people aren't into writing for themselves, so the presence of an audience can spark self-expression and clearer self-reflection. This is a fast and noisy fucking world, and we all have to make it from birth to death in ways that suit us individually. So I feel happy for people who take on projects that might settle the agitation within.

I do feel guilty about being happy. The innermost feelings of others are none of my business. But I guess if someone puts them online, it means they're OK with sharing. We can connect over very human feelings and moments, as considerate extensions of ourselves.

This feels nice. :)

Say your name and what you do

dismantled calculator buttons

This weekend, I played an icebreaker game, where you state your name and occupation for the group. Once upon a time, it was so easy; I could say "web designer" and that would be that. But I'm not one of those any more.

I haven't been one for a few years, actually, so I've felt awkward about this game for a while. A few things ran through my head this time. "Unemployed bum haha", but I start my new job tomorrow, so that would be a lie. My job title makes it look like "I work in marketing", but that's the minority of my week, so that's not true either.

This made me realise how compelling it is to define yourself by what someone pays you to be. What if you could afford to not work - what would you say then?

I could have said artist, but that's such a loose word. I believe everyone is an artist in their own way. I often say maker online, but typing it to people who understand is different to saying it out loud to people who very fairly might not. In retrospect, I should have said "cat minder" - that would have been the most accurate.

But after all that, I still defaulted to "web designer". I am disappointed with myself, because I did not mean it. It's my fast, no-think response, so leaning on it reinforces a habit of complacency. In all my side projects and activities, I don't pay enough attention to relating my self and passions to others, which has caught me out before. I know I must do better there, and this game was a reminder to keep at it.

Postcards from the country

dog in a box

We are home from a lovely Easter weekend trip to rural New South Wales. As always, getting away from normal life and the usual haunts makes me think about what I leave for and come back to.

For the first time in ages, I did not come home feeling the need to make big changes or start giant projects. We're in the midst of flux, of movement; I don't feel the raging turmoil that comes with being stagnant and not realising it yet.

Today, I'm taking time to settle back in, with a little drawing, a little writing, and reminiscing about peaceful country getaways~

flowers on the breakfast table

flowers in a vase with a painting in the background

kitsch country decor

glass botle shelf decoration

profile of cute King Charles Cavalier spaniel

a garlic braid

butter on a toasted hot cross bun

flowers in a vase

patterns on a couch cushion button

carpentry with wood planks

a bent nail in a wooden pillar

a brass tap with cobwebs looking out across a field

wire sculptures between trees

fog over a paddock

foggy roadside

a tree in the fog

a path leading into the fog

a labrador x kelpie relaxes on the lawn

a cow peers at you

clouds of fog over land

a quad bike with a farm-made box

pink flowers in a country garden

rose and rosehips in a country garden

lavender silhouettes against clouds and sky

more beautiful country roses

roast pork dinner

a cosy fire before bed

Making a wooden box

my box

I made a box! And not a shit one like last year's either. This one is made of jarrah and American white ash. And I used proper tools like a jointer, a router, an orbital sander, and Japanese wood nails. And finished it with tung oil.

It looks real pro, guys. Just like a bought one. :)

my open box

my gaping open box

The inner lining has a slant cut into it, so you push the lid down to see-saw the other end open. It's a cleverly designed little thing, requiring a range of woodworking skills to make.

my box lid open

screws in my box

spot on my box

All this was done in the Introductory Woodworking course run by Perth Wood School. For just under $300 each, we got high quality instruction in an intimate small group setting, access to awesome tools and, of course, awesome wood.

small class at Perth Wood School

They've got a neat setup at PWS. It's pretty much a big warehouse full of work benches, machines, tools and timber. They run a bunch of classes throughout the year in addition to renting out machine and workspace time.

Our tutor, Dave, is an ex-highschool woodwork teacher who wanted to give people an opportunity to pick up woodcraft. You'd think it would be boring to hear some guy talk about wood for an hour, but Dave is a full-on wood nerd and his passion was contagious. I've never wanted to know more about how to identify wood.

Dave holding up a piece of wood

So here's what to expect from their 2-part 6-hour Introductory Woodworking course. Sorry for my spy-camera looking photos. One day, I will have a cameraphone that's better with low light.

timber stacks at Perth Wood School

The first hour covers the safety prologue, a history of the school, and a rundown of popular wood available in Perth. Naturally, you'll be raring to go, but it's worth paying attention here. The story of school and wood helps you appreciate what you're working with. And safety is a must, as woodworking machines can injure soft human bodies in irreversible ways.

You get stuck in pretty quickly. They show you the box you'll end up making, you go "no way!", they go "yes way" and let you pick a nice plank of jarrah to get started with.

jointer and upside-down jointer

3/4 view of jointer and upside-down jointer

This machine is called a jointer. It shaves your wood to give you a nice flat surface. You run your jarrah through the jointer to ensure it's flat and at the right thickness for your box.

sandpaper an cork block

Next, you learn about sanding, and how it's better to use a cork sanding block instead of a piece of wood so your arm doesn't get as sore as quickly. 120-grain smooths out the natural roughness of the wood; 180-grain smooths out the scratches left by the 120-grain; 240-grain gives what's left a lovely sheen.

sanding along the grain

Always sand along the grain, not across the grain - unless you love scratches.

using a table saw

When your plank is nice and smooth, you use a table saw to cut a groove, so you can insert a bottom for your box. The same saw is used to cut the plank into the right sized pieces for assembly.

using an inverted rounter to cut a shoulder joint

Two of your pieces require a lapped rebate joint, for which you'll use a mounted, inverted router. It is very cool to watch the router at work - it's basically a big, sharp, spinning tooth that chews up the wood as you feed it across.

a jig for holding wood

We were told routers are generally pretty safe until you invert it and mount it to a table. Then it's worth making a holding device (a jig) to keep your hands as far as possible from the spinning tooth.

box pieces glued and clamped

You get a piece of wood veneer for the bottom, and learn about traditional and modern wood glues, and clamping. The first session ends with you cleaning any excess glue off the corners.

wood nails in the corners

By the time you return the following week for the second part of the course, the glue will have dried, and you're ready to finish your box. You jump straight into it, learning how to effectively hold a drill, and insert Japanese wood nails into your work.

Wood nails are so so expensive, but they're so so beautiful. I'm glad we got to use them here. They really give the box some character.

hand planing tools

These tools are the hand-powered version of the jointer. Or should I say they're the originals, and the jointer is a motor-powered version.

underside of a hand planer

The box's inner lining needs to be carefully hand-shaved to the right shape for allowing the lid to open.

wood shavings

It's hard to describe in words how this works, but when you do it yourself, it'll be plane to see.

^____^

shaving the box lid

You pick and cut the wood for the lid as well. I was hoping to try out the jointer, but it was just as educational watching Dave do it for us. Probably for the best, as this is one of the most dangerous tools in the workshop. The effect on hands and fingers was described as "pink mist", leaving nothing to sew back on. :\

iron-on veneer

As usual, I was the odd one out for something. I had picked wood that was too small for my box. I guess this was lucky, as I got to learn how to extend a piece of wood.

Dave pulled out a big roll of white ash veneer tape, which came with heat-activated glue on the back. He ironed the tape onto the edge of the lid and trimmed the excess with a chisel.

trimming veneer with a chisel

This blew my mind. It was so simple. I never thought it would be that simple.

Prepping the inner lining and the lid sees you playing with a belt sander, an orbital sander, a mini router, and an air gun.

They really did put a lot of thought into this box, so you'd learn all sorts of basic skills you can use to make more complicated things later. The base of the box itself uses the same blueprint as for a cabinet - they use the same design in their other courses where you make proper furniture.

I hope I haven't spoilered this too much for you. It is worth having a go, even with spoilers, as there's nothing more satisfying than doing it yourself. I feel heaps more confident now about making stuff out of wood. And it's way more interesting than drilling a tree stump. No, I haven't been paid to say this. I bloody well paid for it myself and had a ruddy good time.

If you do go, don't wear nice clothes. You'll be covered in so much dust. Wear closed-toe shoes. Shorts are fine cos it's bloody hot in summer. And remember your fitbit if you have one cos you'll do a lot of stepping. :)

My soap kit arrived!

Toys toys toys! -- Err, I mean, serious grown-up business supplies.

My mind has constantly wandered to soap. Making soap, the history of soap, regard for soap in various cultures. It's odd to suddenly give a shit about it. Though, actually, maybe quite predictable for someone like me.

It was Dwarf Fortress that got me interested. I love games where you start with nothing and eke out a civilisation using wit and wilderness (and as much beer as you can brew without your villagers starving to death). Soap is one of your manufactured items. You take fat from butchered livestock, and lye made from furnace ash, and come out with this vital commodity in dwarven healthcare.

In case the apocalypse happens, I want to know how to make the stuff that'll keep my underarms clean, so it's time to learn how to make soap.

Yesterday, I ordered the "Scrubby" starter kit and a book on soap-making from Aussie Soap Supplies. Hooray, hooray, they're in WA, so mail arrived today. I'm not working with lye yet. I am scared of hazardous chemicals, and want to make sure I'm comfortable going through the motions before getting my science face on.

The kit comes with pre-made soap, where all the lye has been used up in the saponification process. To make a nice bar of end-user soap, you simply melt the pre-made stuff, mix it with lovely things - oils, fragrances, grits, butters, etc. - and pour it in a mold to set.

Simple, yah?

From this step, I hope to get a feel for ingredient and mixture textures, and how they behave throughout the process. And to get my head around good hygeine practices, cos that'll be so important when it's time to use (and eventually make) the caustic lye.

I'm real excited about this. But can't start today. We just got a call from our rental agent about the house move, so the rest of my week will be spent prepping for prospective tenants to come through. Maybe it's for the best if I can't start soaping until after we've moved. Our kitchen isn't the best size for separating chemical things and food things. To be extra careful, I'll also avoid making soap that looks and smells like food.

Stay tuned. Learn with me. :)