Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Szechuan cucumbers

Kung Hei Fat Choy! This is the Chinese new year greeting, easy to remember, as The Year of the Dog begins (Feb 16 2018). My friend from Hong Kong assures me that the new year's celebrations traditionally go on for two weeks, so there is plenty of time to include this easy-to-prepare and absolutely delicious Oriental pickle to accompany any meal.


Ingredients: 3 cucumbers (washed but not peeled); 3-4 garlic cloves (sliver); 4.5 tsp salt; 4 dried hot red peppers*** (I haven't been able to get whole dried chillies in years, so I just use a few tsp chilli flakes); 4 tblsp sesame oil; 6 tblsp white vinegar (I use white wine vinegar, but if you have rice vinegar that would be great); 65 g/2.5 oz sugar.


To prepare cucumbers, slice half lengthwise and using a teaspoon, scrape out the seeds. This is easy to do. Though it may seem wasteful, this part of the cucumber is mostly water - I usually drain before putting the seedy pulp into my compost bin (if you are using an outdoor compost, you don't need to bother). Cut the cucumber halves into approximately 1 cm slices (as below). Place in a container and sprinkle with salt. LEAVE FOR ABOUT 4 HOURS BEFORE CONTINUING.


Drain, rinse, drain, and maybe rinse and drain again. Place cucumbers, garlic slivers and chillies in a serving dish (not plastic as you'll be adding hot ingredients to it!). Heat up sesame oil in small pot on high heat till it begins to smoke and pour over mix. Heat up vinegar in same pot and pour it over the mix too.


Add the sugar and stir the whole lot well before adding to a container for refrigeration. Again leave this for about 4 hours before you plan to serve. This recipe will last a week in the fridge (though it has never lasted that long in my house!).


Wednesday, 14 February 2018

spectacular failure!

Last month there was a very welcome surprise at my house, in the form of a florist bearing a magnificent bouquet of yellow tulips. The flowers were a post-xmas treat from my husband's uncle in the US and yellow tulips happen to be my favourite flower. To round the treat off, the bouquet was in a gorgeously simple white ceramic vase.


When the flowers had run their course naturally, I set about to design a composition to be glaze painted on the vase. I was hyped up by the previous success of my glaze paintings on pre-made ceramic tiles. I took measurements and did an idea sketch.


To me, the vase was a surface just waiting to be re-born in my ceramics workshop. But who could have suspected that the white glaze was, in fact, not a white glaze...


I had decided to make the tulips larger in my final design, and set about glaze painting the vase.


For the inside, I continued with some of the outer glazes, allowing them to spontaneously drip over the white. I spread glass pieces (stained glass left over from a mosaic commission of ten years ago) over the inside bottom of the vase for a big splash of colour.


When the kiln was opened after the firing, the glass on the bottom seemed to have survived...


...but the rest of the glazed decoration had turned to dust! What seemed to be a white glaze on the vase was probably just varnished paint. When it burnt off in the high firing it took the glaze with it. All is not lost, however -- there is still a fine ceramic vase beneath the wreckage. After a clean up and sanding, I will glaze paint my design again. I can deal with the déja vu, and may even look forward to it.


Wednesday, 7 February 2018

New work // old work

 A few weeks ago a huge, beautiful bouquet of yellow tulips arrived at the door - a cheery post-xmas gift from my husband's uncle in the US.


Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that yellow tulips are my all-time favourite flower. I have recently been looking through some old sketchbooks for inspiration from my various flower sketches. This crayon and graphite sketch depicts a bouquet in front of one of my abstracted yellow tulip paintings. The sketch is from 1982.


Another sketch from 1982 of the same bouquet in front of another abstracted yellow tulip painting. I remember perfectly well that the dining nook in my apartment in 1982 (in Scarborough, Canada) had three wall spaces, each of which had a large abstracted yellow tulip painting on it! The vase that the tulips are set in is also my work, a ceramic slab wrap-around vase.


It was either in 1981 or 1982 that I began drawing and painting flowers with a vengeance. This particular pastel and graphite sketch is of a bouquet that a friend gave me after my wisdom teeth were removed. One of the four teeth was impacted, so I was laid up for at least a week.


This is a crayon and graphite sketch of a close-up of a really vibrant red tulip from that same period (more than 30 years ago!). The great thing about having all these flower drawings is that they provide references for the glaze paintings I have begun on ceramic tiles. The recent bouquet of tulips arrived in a gorgeous, simple white glazed ceramic vase. I am planning to do a glaze painting on that in the near future.