Thursday, December 27, 2007

Making greener packaging choices

Listening to History Never Repeats by Split Enz

I have been getting back into reading New Scientist. I don’t have much time for leisure beyond getting home, eating and getting onto the internet except on my days off, so it’s nice to catch up on that. It’s always been such an interesting read, full of nifty conversation starters and the occasional inspiration for an artwork. Some of the information presented is particularly pertinent to everyday life and our environnment’s well being.

There was an article about packaging (7 April, 2007) and how to be environmentally aware in the choices you make when shopping. Going by this and other things I've read, I would say the bigger issue these days isn't landfill but energy consumption.

Traditionally plastic has been seen as bad and paper things as good, the most obvious example being bags. However there has always been the little known fact that it takes a lot more energy to produce a paper bag than a plastic one. It's something I have mentioned to customers who argue that we should have paper bags. Did you know that the old fashioned, non-biodegradable McDonald's containers were actually much greener in terms of the energy consumed to produce them? When you think about how many of those are being made every year... I think the main issue with both of these examples is that the end users aren't disposing of their rubbish thoughtfully.

Anyhooo back to what I gleaned from the article and some facts to help you make choices next time you go shopping.

> The following is the simplest, healthiest and cheapest shopping choice you can make. If you find the rest of what I have to share from the article too confusing or too much effort then just try this one.

Reduce the amount of packaging you consume by buying more fresh produce.

Preferably shop at a green grocer, butcher, bakery, deli etc where you are given minimal, to no packaging if you bring your own reusable bags etc. Even at the supermarket choosing a fresh head of lettuce instead of packaged, chopped bag of it, is still greener and cheaper. Some produce will be in better condition when you buy it loose rather than in a bag, apples being a good example. Yes it will take you a little longer to prepare, and yes you may have more kitchen waste. That's why you need a compost bin or a worm farm :)

> Choose refillable packaging and refill it. Apart from dedicated refill packs - quite common with cleaning and laundry products - one way you might refill a pack is to...

> ...Buy in bulk. All of those little snack size convenience packs you see advertised on TV are a big NO! Buy a big quantity/container of the same stuff and serve it out in a bowl, or put it in little, reusable, plastic lunch boxes for portability.

> Plastics are now seen by sustainability experts as a less environmentally damaging choice, in particular recyclable plastics. Glass, paper, and metal are particularly demanding in terms of energy consumption. In the Netherlands soft drinks are no longer sold in cans for this reason. Recycled aluminium is actually okay energywise so if you do use it be sure to recycle it. Steel uses less energy than aluminium in manufacture but because it weighs a bit more it costs more to transport. Glass while easy to recycle or refill is heavy and uses a lot of energy in manufacture recycled or not. Avoid glass, aluminium and steel cans where practical, unless you can reuse or refill them.

EDITED: It's Plastic Free July 2015 and while most of what was said still applies, plastic is here forever. Avoid processed foods. Buy in bulk and bring your own reusable containers and bags. 

The best policy is to avoid single use packaging and single use plastic products.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mitaka Canal, Local Wildlife

Walking back to the station after seeing the Studio Ghibli Museum*, we went along the canal where there was a bit of local wildlife including, one golden koi swimming among dark koi and a tortoise sunning itself.

 photo goldenkoi0307_zps74382664.jpg
The Golden Koi, Mitaka Canal, drawing enlarged
March 2007
pencil and ink

 photo sunnytortoise_zpsf161870b.jpg
Sunning Tortoise, Mitaka Canal, drawing elnlarged
March 2007

*A must see for anyone who is a fan of their movies - fantastic! You do need to buy your ticket months before you go there. Selected travel agents outside of Japan sell them. While the shuttle bus from the station isn't a cat bus it was very cute and the bus stop itself was kinda funky as well :)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Venice Warming

Here's the scene:
In a busy Venetian restaurant 3 couples share a table for dinner. On one end is an English couple, in the middle is an American couple in which the woman is pregnant, on the end is an Australian couple (M and I). The English and American couple ignored us in terms of inclusion in the conversation. Frankly I don't think we had much to talk about with them anyway. The cartoon below gives you an idea why.

Venice Warming
Venice Warming
pencil, ink
March 2007

I found it incredibly ironic that this conversation occurred in Venice of all places.

When it comes to accelerated global warming caused by human activity, I am a believer. If you're not, then consider this.
What's the worst that could happen if the growing number of scientists, general public and myself are wrong?
We get a stuffed up global economy, but global life as we know it is saved for the most part.
What's the worst that could happen if you're wrong?
Increased worldwide 'natural' disasters, floods, droughts, rising sea levels, famine, disease, cyclones/hurricanes, species extinctions, habitats destroyed, biodiversity reduced and the list goes on.

I don't write all of this because I want a heated discussion with my readers. If I can convince any one of you to make a green decision rather than a hip pocket one, to read up on the topic and make yourself extra informed, then my blog has made the world a little bit better.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How to make a fascinator

Making my own fascinator is something I have wanted to do since they became fashionable attire during the Spring Racing Carnival. I've never actually attended the races, but I enjoy the millinery. Before that I always thought that dainty little black veils and dark lipstick looked especially glamorous.

So last month I combined the two and made my own fascinator.


I was well chuffed with the final result and received many compliments - especially when I mentioned that I'd made it myself. The veil is delicate enough not to hamper vision though if driving I would fold it up just in case.

Materials and how to choose them

Making a stunning fascinator is very much about strong composition. For some of us this comes naturally, others may find it hard to make it come together. Even if you have an artistic eye, for your first attempt I highly recommend doing a bit of research first. Some of the materials are fragile and don't take to reworking kindly.

I bought most of mine from Lincraft in October when they became seasonally available. When I decided to buy my materials, the cheaper round base with sewn on slide comb was not available. I had to opt for the more expensive base and separate slide comb, which I sewed on. I already had some sheer ribbon saved from a gift wrapping (see - hoarding stuff for years pays off!), and a small pick of plain black, trimmed feathers.

iris fascinator, $10.99
slide comb, 79c
hat veiling, 35cm at $5.99 a metre, $2.10
flower, $5.99
iridescent black, trimmed feather pick $4.99
total $24.86

While this may seem quite an outlay for raw materials, you will find this is only the starting price for a basic ready made one that isn't likely to be as well crafted or fancy as one you can make yourself. I estimate I put 4 hours work into mine. To buy one like it would definitely be over $50, and probably closer to $100. Part of the pleasure of such a project of course, is not just the monetary saving but the creative part and knowing you have something at the end that is unique, and made especially for you by you. That is priceless :)

Look around and see ready made fascinators.
Fashion shops such as Portmans and Sportsgirl, as well as the millinery department of Myer sold them this season. Notice the shape and composition. Some are spikey and architectural, others are softer or fluffier. This will give you a stronger idea about how to compose your own, and what will suit your style.

Think about the style and colour of the outfit you plan to wear it with and decide on a colour scheme.
I went for something that will go with a range of outfits rather than one in particular, and my favourite colours.

Choose your base first, then have a play around with the assortment of materials until you find a composition that is pleasing to your eye.

The feathers, flowers and etcetera you choose is the star, not the base. Make sure you have enough. I made 6 little fans in burgundy sheer ribbon to provide body, contrast and help break up the shape of the base. It makes a cheap and easy filler, but because it's gauzy it's not visually too heavy.

Consider your partner if you have one, by avoiding trims such as big, rigid feather quills that may take his eye out!

Hand sewing it all is best, though a little craft glue here and there may also be helpful.
Have a mirror handy thoughout the process as you are constructing the fascinator to suit your face.
Check out fascinators online to see how they are worn in terms of placement on the head.
In front of a mirror decide where on your head you will wear it. This will help you know how best to sew your slide comb or other hair accessory to the base. Take note of where it is in relation to a facial feature such as the corner of your eye, and draw a simple diagram of this. It will assist the fitting process and ensure consistency.

If you are making a veil this is where it gets fiddly and you can expect to have a few tries before you get the shape just right. Seeing veiled fascinators on the internet and the different ways they can sit is particularly helpful.
Trim the edges straight. I trimmed mine to each intersection.
In front of the mirror, put the base on your head. Fold the veil so that it wraps around your face.
For mine I did a bit of folding at the corners with a little bit of bunching in the middle. The veil material is fine so when it is a little bunched it isn't very bulky and easily concealed by a feather etc. Once I found the right veil shape I held it in place with my fingers while carefully slipping the base off my head. After lightly sewing it in place, I rechecked the fit and added a few more stitches.*

With the aid of a mirror I decided how I wanted the main feathery plume to sit. Note how its curve curls around my head, and does not stand up like a cockatoo. That is what makes it classy rather than sassy. Not that there's anything wrong with sassy but that wasn't the flavour I was going for.

The trimmed feathers add a bit of volume and textural interest.
They were attached to the main plume with stitching and a bit of craft glue to hold the stitches in place.
Next I added the flower, again with the aid of a mirror, to ensure it sat right when worn. This was stitched and glued to the feathers, which in turn were stitched to the base.
Lastly I made a series of simple mini fans out of sheer ribbon. In addition to colour and contrast they also help conceal the ends of the feathers and the stump of the flower stem. To make them, I carefully folded them like paper fans about 1cm wide, stitched them together when I thought they were thick enough, then snipped them from the length of ribbon (rather than snipping lengths of ribbon then folding them). I quickly sealed the raw ribbon edges with a lighter to prevent fraying. I made about 3, sewed them on then decided I needed about 3 more.

Hope that was helpful :D

*Hint:If after all of that you find your veil isn't sitting perfectly you might be able to cheat a little by hooking it into bobby pins in your hair, as I did on one side.

[edit 16/02/08]
As promised (see comments) a photograph showing just the fascinator, which should make my explanation that little clearer, and the project a little bit more tempting as well!

fascinator only

EDIT November 2009:
Here's another facinator project to tempt you
How to Make a Fascinator: Part 2.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ron Mueck - Artist of Humanity

Sitting in my local library today I found a contemporary, Australian art magazine featuring one of my favourite artists, Ron Mueck. Why is he a favourite? I greatly admire the technical skill and thought he puts into his work; his attention to detail, the expressive, strong, simplicity of the statements made, the hushed awe being in front of one of his pieces inspires.

This artist's striking sculptural work is sometimes described as hyper-realist and more commonly as photo-realist. His pieces are a statement about the human body, its vulnerability and our humanity. Using specialist model making techniques, Mueck's sculptures play with scale, featuring lovingly added detail and bodily blemishes/flaws. Originally from Melbourne, and now based in the UK, Mueck's internationally most recognisable piece would be his giant crouching Boy as seen at the Venice Biennale. Locally in Australia, the expressive, 2 metre tall Pregnant Woman would be the best known. It's owned by the National Gallery of Australia and was featured in his first Australian show at the MCA, Circular Quay in Sydney in 2003. I was lucky enough to see that show .

Photograph by Pollyanna Sutton

Prior to becoming an artistic sculptor, Mueck produced models and puppets in advertising and film, starting out in Australian childrens' TV as a puppeteer. His most well known turn as a puppeteer is from Jim Henson's Labyrinth as the gentle giant Ludo, whom he also voiced. Check out Muppet Wiki for more info on his work with the Jim Henson Creature Shop.

The following clips provide insight into the production methods Mueck uses.
WARNING: These clips contain artistic nudity.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Even more fragile? Tastier!

Listening to: Starlight by Muse

Usually when a cardboard box contains something fragile the symbol used is a black glass shape, commonly a wine glass (probably red). The other week I was unpacking some games (which actually aren't what I would call fragile) and this was stuck to the box:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

So not only is it fragile, it also contains a liquid? I like how the fragile cocktail has a garnish. Delish!

I expressed to my colleague my mock disappointment at the box's contents including no cocktails {Where's my martini, dammit?!}, umbrellas nor arrows :P

Website of the Day
Muppet Wikipedia.
Enough said.