Why make art and coconut cake.

I routinely ask myself why I even bother to make artwork that hangs on a wall simply to make our rooms look nice.  Really.  When some folks have barely enough coins to feed themselves and others with no walls at all to hang things on, I question my motives.

But the reality is that, like most artists, I simply have to create.  A light flashes in my minds eyes and I see an image that I must quickly sketch out to preserve the thought.  The process of producing the image in my medium may take weeks or months, long after the inspiration is gone.  Paint, more paint, setting the paint, cutting, stitching, cutting, stitching, quilting, stretching; it’s a process that is so labor intensive I must record the inspiration so I can recall the image later as I go along.

But sometimes I have to do something quickly to satisfy the urge.  Case in point; cake.  I had just been inspired and Halloween colors were dancing in my head when David requested my incredibly delicious, yet white on white on white, coconut cake.  Not feeling very neutral, the cake became my quick canvas for color.  Enjoy my recipe below and come to my Open Studio Nov. 3rd and 4th, 2018 to see some of my sketches and the finished works of art!

Jane’s Quadruple Coconut Cake

Prepare two 8″ cake pans.  Trace around the bottom of a pan onto folded waxed paper using a knife or scissors then cut the tracing yielding two circles.  Liberally grease the bottom and sides of the pan with unrefined coconut oil.  Stick a round of waxed paper onto the bottom of each pan smoothing it out then grease over it.  Sprinkle and shake flour around in each pan until it is evenly coated; shake out the excess.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°

Sift together and set aside:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose wheat flour*
  • 1 5/8 tsp baking powder
  • 3/8 tsp salt

Mix together and set aside:

  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Separate then set aside:

  • 3 eggs

In a stand mixer or with hand-held mixer mix until very creamy:

  • 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter that is room temperature and squishy soft

Add to the butter bit by bit mixing until it is light and fluffy:

  • 1 cup + 2T granulated sugar

Add to this mixture one at a time until creamy:

  • 3 egg yolks

Add reserved flour mixture alternating with milk mixture, one then the other in three batches, mixing very well after each, scraping down the sides of your mixer with a spatula.

Whip the egg whites with:

  • a heaping 1/8 tsp of cream of tartar.

When creamy and white, add bit by bit whipping until soft peaks form:

  • 3T granulated sugar

Fold these whipped egg whites into cake mixture.  Scoop into prepared pans and smooth.  Drop pan firmly on counter to level batter and get rid of air bubbles.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let rest for 10 minutes in pan then run knife around edges to loosen and turn out onto a rack to cool.  Peel off waxed paper.  Let cool completely before frosting.

* Any flour will work but the taste of fresh wheat flour enhances the coconuttiness of the cake.  I use King Arthur unbleached all-purpose white flour.

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Whip together in mixer until light:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature and super squishy

Add and whip until smooth, light and spreadable:

  • 3 cups powdered confectioners sugar
  • 3-6T coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Spread frosting between the layers then frost entire cake.  Press coconut into the frosting.  Add sprinkles.

To tint coconut, put 3 drops of yellow food coloring and 1 drop of red food coloring in the bottom of a bowl.  Mix together with a toothpick to make orange.  Add 2 cups sweetened coconut and toss until colored.

Post card graphic OS 2018

Color stories

What is your color story?  Bright hues told boldly because you were feeling summer?   Or perhaps the barn-yard neutral saga because of your recent magazine reads?  We are what we are influenced by; where we live and how often we see something affects our choices, even what colors we surround ourselves with.

The commercial color industry knows this so writes a different story each season to boost newness and drive color sales.  With each company writing their own, these romantic anthologies are adapted by manufacturing so the story keeps getting shared and shared until it is all we see. We fall in love with what we are presented with, but is it our own? 

Knowing all this, I challenge myself to write my own stories independent of what is currently popular and use them in my life for the 3 P’s; projects, purpose and pleasure.  Following is some of my stories; I hope they inspire you to make some of your own!

  • Inspiration:  the gardens outside my studio door this summer
  • Color scheme: complimentary
  • Project: art quilt

"Because"; janebalshaw.com

Color stories; art quilt. janebalshaw.com

  • Inspiration: end of summer garden harvest
  • Color scheme:  Split Complimentary
  • Pleasure: arrangement on my kitchen counter

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Color stories; end of harvest. janebalshaw.com

  • Inspiration: Herbs I have been harvesting
  • Color scheme: triadic
  • Purpose: new header for my other website

Scan

Header #7 2018

Color stories; herbs. janebalshaw.com

 

The Ergonomics of being Creative

It’s all about the brushes and scissors and glue. But the what they don’t tell you about in “creative school” is your hands and neck and back.

Conversation with myself:
ME: Yes, yes, yes…color swirling, this way, blend, right-angles, numeric calculations, cut here, scrunch there…

MYSELF: Ouch, no, dang it thumbs, ugh, no, bad neck ergonomics, dizzy, stop scrunching…

ME: Hair frizzled, glasses smudged, elevated bliss, color, texture, inspiration, just a while longer…

MYSELF: Ouch, pinching, stop now, blurred vision, stretch again, frozen shoulder, ears ringing, locked finger joints, stop, stop, stop…

What is the one thing that cellists, facialists, writers and artists all have in common? We all lean over and curl around our creations. And while we all know how we should counteract this bad posture, 8 hours a day at one’s craft retrains the body for the worst.

I have been dealing with this accumulation of wear and tear on my body parts for these last number of months—which is why I have been writing these blog posts so infrequently. And after bouts of crippling muscle entanglements and resulting fractured vision earlier this year, this is what I have learned about the ergonomics of being creative.

  1. Lap top key boards are bad for most people and especially for those with a wide shoulder span. It forces our hands too close together resulting in a collapse of the shoulders and a pinched neck.
  2. All standard key boards and mice force your hands flat which trains your arms to hang at your side backs-facing-forward, like a gorilla. This pulls your neck and shoulder muscles out of alignment which pinch nerves and make your hands go numb. An ergonomic key board and mouse will force your hands side-ways preventing the gorilla stance.
  3. We should view our work straight ahead rather than leaning over with a tilted neck. I have elevated my computer monitor, put my sewing machine cabinet up on blocks and will finally realize the potential of my mother’s tilted art easel that has been stored in the basement all these years. Next project up…
  4. Standing is better than sitting so we do not cut off circulation through the center of our body. I have not yet figured that out with my sewing machine but make myself walk to the ironing board and design wall so I can cut down on my sitting time.
    If we must sit (like many of us do all day) our body should be at a right angle. Back straight, thighs out straight at a right angle with lower part of leg straight down; arms also resting at a right angle straight out from the body. For some people this many mean an elevated foot rest. For me, since I am short-legged with a long torso, my seat is low and I wear clogs that lift my legs upward a bit.
  5. Lastly, stretch out those muscles that get over used to counteract the positioning. I use a hard rubber ball against the wall to create a release of tightness and a good chiropractor and a good Physical Therapist massage technician has also been so very, very helpful. Yoga, of course, is awesome but that requires daily discipline, something I struggle with.

Can’t stop creating though.  From my studio to yours; a new painted and pieced quilt in progress…enjoy!

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As always these posts view better directly from my website rather than simply your email inbox.  Please always click through.  Thank you!

Art and light of Christmas Montreal

As David said, it wasn’t cold enough in New Hampshire so we headed north to Montreal, Canada last week for a few days of snowy Christmas-y-ness in the historic old city.  Cold it was—2º one morning—but walking in it added to the charm, invigorated one’s spirits and burnt off a lot of calories!  Let me share some of the sights with you seen through my artist’s eyes.

All entrance ways were decked…

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It was cold so stopped for tea…

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…and stopped for cappuccino in the most magnificent building.

So much attention to ceilings…

In a season of darkness Montreal has mastered the art of color and light.  Outdoor light displays were everywhere and we saw a most incredibly breathtaking light show INSIDE the Notre-Dame Basilica.  The pre-show that focused on the outer-edge shrines was in itself amazing.  See video below…cameras not allowed during main show.

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Near the water front where the original 1642 settlement was formed, fireworks lit the sky and historic reenactments were projected on the 19th century buildings.  An underground tour of the remains of the original settlement showcased the river turned sewer, eventually encased in stone masonry, turned art-light display.  See video below..

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Many artistic inspirations from this trip…we will go back.

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Open Studio; a labor of love

We labor all year on our arts and crafts preparing for an Open Studio in the hope that someone will come and recognize our inspired process.  We hope that our souls will be seen through our work, that the spark that drives us will be showcased and that the viewer will be touched.  It’s a lot of work.  It’s a lot of deadlines.  But it’s a labor of love.

In this past month in preparation for my 11/4 & 5 Open Studio I have updated my website, designed & mailed a postcard, designed & published an email newsletter, uploaded pictures to Facebook & Instagram, personally invited past patrons and reorganized my studio.  It’s a lot of work but it’s a labor of love.

Today I am photographing and writing a blog post.  It’s a lot of work but it’s a labor love.

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In this next week I will be completing several new works, adding a new artistic touch to my road sign and posting more to Facebook and Instagram.  It’s a lot of work but it’s a labor of love.

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In the last week before Open Studio I will be completing more new work, hanging the show, making refreshments, cleaning up my yard & entrance way and keeping my fingers crossed that people will come.  It’s a lot of work but it’s a labor of love.

Why do we make art?  Why do we put ourselves through this intensive process?  It’s a big topic and there are many inspirations, but, basically it’s love.

In this troubled world we need art and artists to comfort ourselves and remind us what love feels like and to rekindle the fire in our own soul.  So rule of thumb; if you ever see an Open Studio sign any time, any place  or any where; stop.  It means the world to those who have gone through this process and you just might feel good yourself.

Come to my Open Studio and visit all my fellow Canterbury Artisans that will be open on the same days, November 4th and 5th.  We are part of the state-wide NH Open Doors Tour in association with the League of NH Craftsmen, supporting and encouraging artisans since 1932.

Fooling mother nature: Autumn color study

The Autumn chill is really late in coming this year here in my tree surrounded property and much of my summer garden is still perky. So I have had a creative impulse to see if I could keep it that way until my Open Studio on November 4th and 5th utilizing some frost gardening tricks gleaned from my years in California.

When I woke early the other morning I saw that temps were dropping at sunrise to 32°; our first frost—and a surprise. So I scooted out with head lamp donned to bring in the last of the vegetable garden across the road. Fried green tomatoes, chili tomato chutney and the rest to dry and grind into powder.

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But in the gardens on our side of the road at my home and studio doors, I was not yet ready to let them go. The turkish eggplants are just now turning orange and I had envisioned that splash of color into autumn. The dahlias on the other side of the walkway are still going and, because I love the combination of the two tones flanking the walkway as we enter the home and studio, I decided to try to keep them going.

I put plastic garbage bags over the eggplant and a heavy sheet over the dahlia. It worked! I put some mulch around their bases for further protection and will continue to cover them when the temps get low at night. With days still going into the 70’s my little green-house effect may keep them going until Open Studio. Fingers crossed!

Trukish eggplant and dalias- janebalshaw.com

Color theory 10:15:17- janebalshaw.com

Gradations of warm to cool, orange to pink, yellow to green.

Color theory class Recognizing Color; Learning to see Hue.  Saturday January 13, 2018.

 

 

In the mind of a creative

IMG_5385I finally sat down, exhausted, and looked around me. Piles on the floor creeping towards me, carefully engineered desktop “filing” teetering, bags exploding over boxes, one inspiration after another layered on work surfaces…. I have done it again. I creatived myself into a mountain of mess.

My mind never really stops. The creative ideas come faster than I can actually execute them; but still I try. There are nasty things that get in the way of execution; like eating and sleeping never mind keeping a somewhat clean house and tidy yard. So to discipline myself to do these somewhat mundane things I turn them into a creative project. You know where I am going with this. New recipes to develop, a seasonal decorative change in the bedroom, a new system for cleaning in a newly appointed room, a redesigned more efficient garden bed… IT NEVER ENDS.

I just can’t seem to help myself.  But I know I am not alone.   Every other artist I know has the occasional (or more than occasional) break down when in the flurry of finishing a project or getting ready for a show the mountain caves in on them.  Where are the 911 head-lamped art-rescue crews when you need them?

I do it to myself in business too.  I remember advising a younger artist that just because she could do something doesn’t mean she had to do it.  But I guess I don’t listen to myself very often because if you look at all I offer here on this website [as I reflectively have just done] I do seem perhaps a little all over the map.

Where do we draw the lines?  It may have something to do with ratio or proportioned time allotment but this does not account for the inspired rush of the moment.  Stop in the middle and you lose the inspirational flow.  In a flash the idea is gone.  Perhaps all creatives need little gnomes to follow them around dabbing the sweat from their brows, feeding them chocolate and sweeping up their messes at the end of each flurry. An aproned housewife might do; or perhaps a toga-clad roman slave type might do nicely too.  Pick your pleasure.

This a rich topic.  I would love it if you commented and we started a discussion.  When I reply it is on this post so check back. Thanks for listening.