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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Girl's head, bluebells, blackbird chick and the book I always wanted to buy.

Hi everyone. This morning, I have worked on a female model I was talking about yesterday.In order to take photographs, I used this little vase. I like it! This could be a source of my new work!
I like this composition.

Mike has thrown more bowls and he turned three of them this evening. They look good.
Mike's bowls

Every rain eventually stops. Ours stopped this afternoon. We went to see bluebells on campus with our dogs, Pearl and Topaz.
Bluebells after rain
That was a mistake. They found a bunny and started barking very loud! So I went to see flowers alone whilst Mike held them somewhere else. They are so beautiful. There are usually faint scent, but there wasn't today. It might be because of the heavy rain.
Our blackbird chick

There is a good new today. I was reunited to the book I have wanted to buy since the day I saw it in The daily Telegraph three years ago. Unfortunately, I misplaced the information and couldn't find it nor search for it on Internet neither. The lovely artist couple I visited this afternoon showed me some books I might be interested in. Imagine my surprise. 'I know it! I have always wanted to buy the book, but lost the details!'. It is called 'Natural Fashion, Tribal Decoration from Africa' by Hans Silvester(2007 Thames & Hudson).

As the title suggests, it is the photograph book of body decoration of African people. They are very artistic. The first time I saw the article on it, I was deeply fascinated. I will get an order from Amazon tomorrow. I can't wait for it arrive!

Alison is a very good at baking, as well as lots of other things. She treated me with wonderful cheese scones. I love cheese scones. They are my most favourite at tea time. I was also given some lovely chocolate cup cakes and cheese scones for Mike, as well. Of course, Mike was delighted. She promised to give me a recipe. It would be lovely to reproduce her taste at home!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Our ceramics session on a rainy Saturday

Hi everyone! It has been raining all day. The good news is that our blackbird chick has survived. He is a bit wet, but he follows dad and mum, and copies what they do. I hope he will soon learn how to find his own food.

We did ceramics in the afternoon. Mike threw three bowls. I made a girl's head. I found old photo albums on the book shelf last night. Well, they have been always there, but I forgot about them for years. I found lots of photographs of me and my friends in The University of Kent when I was a post-graduate.

Wow, I was surprised how young we looked at that time. So long time ago, I had forgotten! lol The one of the photos caught my eyes. My friend and I were sitting on my bed in my room on campus. We look young and pretty, but also a bit uncertain. At that time my friend was studying Viola da Gamba at Conseratoire Royale de Brusells. I was here at UKC. We didn't know what was waiting for us after schools. In fact, we were both mid-20's, but we both looked much younger, almost girls. I wanted to make us as models. Something is our faces attracted me, especially as I knew what happened to us after this photo was taken. Also recently, I joined facebook to 'meet' my old high school friends in Japan, whom I haven't seen for a long long time. Talking with them reminded me of lots of memories. That's why I probably picked up the photo albums to begin with.

So this sounds like a sentimental journey, but modelling isn't. I like to express two young women's anxiety and unawareness of their fates as well as the beauty of youth in a complex way. It is a challenge, but I would love to try.



Friday, 27 April 2012

Bluebells and a view to Canterbury Cathedral

Hello, everyone. It has been bright today. How was your week?  Ours was fantastic. Lots of flowers opened, despite the weather. Mike's vegetable seedling germinated. My three veltheima start opening flowers for the first time in four years. I grew them from seed, and usually wilted before flowering.

Mike took a camera with him today. He wanted to take photos of falcons and bluebells. On Friday a falconer and his beautiful bird visit in front of Mike's office, on campus. They come to scare seagulls and pigeons. But the falcon was not flown in the area this morning.

But bluebells are with us.
Bluebells on campus
It is breathtakingly beautiful and mysterious. There is usually nobody around. When weather is a bit better, I would sit on tree stump, and soak myself in the air. I could also believe that fairies exist. Air is filled with fragrance. It is dreamy.  

One of the best experience in UK for me is to be able to walk woods, and see bluebells, mushrooms, birds and butterflies. If you think it is nothing, you should reconsider. I am from Tokyo region of Japan, and I have never seen anything wild and beautiful like this over there. So whenever friends come to visit us at this time of year, I will take them to this little wood. It is only 4 minutes on foot from our house. What do you think they do? They will usually visit it again next day. It is so special and magical.
a carpet of bluebells
We can see the Cathedral from just outside of the woods. It is our local and national pride. Its history goes back to 597AD. University of Kent students go to graduation ceremony to the Cathedral. It was very thrilling and incredible experience.
Canterbury cathedral

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Apple and cherry blossoms and enamelling ceramics

Hi, everyone. We have had stormy weather recently. Lots of rain and strong wind. I am happy to stay inside on such  days. But if you have canine friends, as we do, you just brave yourselves to dash out between rains. On the day like this, I would meet more dog walkers than usual. Obviously everyone thinks same.

However, suddenly this afternoon, the sun appeared. We had a bright, albeit windy, afternoon here in Canterbury. Our apple blossoms opened, and eating cherries also blossomed. Despite recent strong wind and torrential rain, they held on to it.

Apple blossoms in the garden. Can you spot a little spider?

Eating cherries

Last Monday, Mike drove me to the post office at lunch time. This post office has only a few parking slots, so just in case, I ask Mike to come with me. On that day it was also rainy; I hope they all travel sound and safe!

This is one of ceramic works I fired for enamel. I enamelled her eyes. They look more defined than before. I like her look.

'Malta Kano' from Haruki Murakami's novel

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

My favourite walk to the cemetery and Mike's baby vegetables

We are having a storm today, here in Canterbury. It has also rained this week. But we have had sunny spot last Sunday.
I love lime green new leaves!

Mike and I walked Pearl and Topaz to my favourite destination, the Cemetery. I like the tranquillity of cemetery, but also the architecture. It is inspiring and uplifting. Japanese cemeteries have spooky atmosphere. So it was a nice surprise to me to find English cemeteries so serene and beautiful.
The main gate tower

Beautiful Celtic cross
Mike had been busy with his vegetable seedlings. I used to grow some of them, but now he does everything.We like to eat lots of vegetables in summer, especially beans, peas, aubergines, courgettes as well as cucumbers. The intense taste of home grown vegetables are irreplaceable. 

Mike's seedlings


Sunday, 22 April 2012

Little chameleon, friend visit and cheesecake

Hello everyone. Did you have a good day? Mike checked out our new kiln to see if there were any apparent faults. He assured me that everything is ok. Out first full test will be next weekend if the weather permits.

Our little kiln
I have been busy with packing of our ceramics. Unlike some other items, it is so important to pack them securely. I take the utmost care, and there was no accident so far (Touch wood!). but I am aware of that this is one of the most important process indeed.

This morning, I found a very nice lady in US who bought my medium sized chameleon, named now Griffin, about a month ago purchased my little one at Etsy. I was, of course, so delighted, but when I read her mail and feedback, I was deeply moved. Thank you very much, Sandra. I am going to print it and frame it. I always appreciate feedbacks. Direct feedbacks are one of the two missing things in Internet sales. The other is of course that the customers can't touch our ceramics. I read each of them either through Etsy or eBay carefully, and treasure them. I am certain that all other artist/craft people sellers are same. Feedback from our customers are the drive for us to create something new again.

This little chameleon is leaving for USA tomorrow.

Coincidentally, we invited a retired artists couple for tea today. They bought my largest chameleon at the Artists' Open House andthey named him 'Jubjub' and they also bought a little 'Son of Jubjub' last weekend. They are so inspirational. They have given me lots of advice, and I appreciate every word from them. They commissioned me to make a large chameleon. I am very keen to work on it. Our tea time was so relaxing, yet, filled with stimulating conversation. We love having them so much.

We served out cheesecake that we baked yesterday. It was well received.
Our cheesecake

Cheesecake recipe (Dia. 18cm cake tin)

This cheesecake is taster after one or two days in the fridge.


Tea biscuits 50g
Butter 35g
Cream cheese 250g
Sugar 40g
Eggs 2
Vanilla essence

Sour cream 285ml
Sugar 40g
Vanilla essence

Line a cake tin with Greaseproof paper.

Make the base from tea biscuits ground finely and 50Gof melted butter mixed together with well, pat down evenly into the cake tin.

Mix 250g of cream cheese, 40g of sugar, two eggs and some vanilla essence and beat for a couple of minutes until very light then pour into the cake tin. Bake at 180C for about 20-25 mins. You can add some raisins soaked in rum at this stage.

Allow to cool and then mix 285ml of sour cream, 40g of sugar and some vanilla essence and beat for a couple of minutes then pour into the cake tin. Bake at 150C for 10-15 mins.


Saturday, 21 April 2012

Feet samples, cheesecake and eBay

Hello everyone! there have been several showers in Canterbury today. Not good for drying laundry or dog walks. lol

We have had a good eBay this evening. It is SO nice to know that people come back to buy our ceramics. Thank you so much!

This morning, I fired several sculptures with enamel decoration. It was a success. Phew. I forgot to take photos of them, so I will show you tomorrow.

From late morning to early afternoon I also made samples of, well, feet! I made three, and I like these two.
Feet samples
In the afternoon, Mike made a cheesecake. I helped him. We are going to have a lovely artist couple for tea tomorrow. They adopted Jubjub, the largest chameleon, and one of the small ones. They called the little one 'Son of Jubjub. lol
Cheesecake in action
The first layer goes in...
This cheesecake is originally my recipe, but I guess it should be called his now. It is delicious and easy. I will type it here tomorrow with a photo.

In the meantime, despite all the action, our princess, Pearl, was enjoying her great sleep. She sleeps about 22 hours or a bit more a day. Not exaggerated.  

Friday, 20 April 2012

New rabbit girl

Hi everyone! I have had a good laugh today. They say laughing is good for health, I believe that. I feel laughing releases blocking in the body and head.

Rabbit girl
 This is my new rabbit girl. I say a girl, but she is actually a young woman. It is flax paper porcelain clay. I tend not to be able to sleep well after a busy day at office. But when I do a bit of ceramic, I usually fall to sleep easily and don't remember anything much until next morning. Touching clay is, I think, therapeutic, but also using a part of my brain which controls creativity removes edgyness derives from my tense day work.


Thursday, 19 April 2012

Our kiln and Blackbird chicks

Hello everyone. It has become quite chilly and stormy in Canterbury. Our kiln arrived yesterday. We are hoping to power it with solar energy. I told Perin, a ceramic friend in New Zealand about it. He and his fiancee like to know how we get on with this new adventure. Perin, watch this space!

Our new kiln
This kiln doesn't require 3 phases. So we could use it straightaway.The capacity is 40L. As you could imagine, we are excited and very keen to run a test once the sun appears again.
A little kiln-40L
Every year wild bird chicks appear in our garden. Sometimes we have to rescue them from our enclosed vegetable patch. Sometimes, I have to work downstairs to keep an eye on then in case cats or crows come to attack them. They often can't fly. A couple of days ago, we found two blackbird chicks are here.  They can't fly very well yet. Father and mother are very busy feeding them. We were worried if they were ok in the torrential rain. But they are so far fine. 
Blackbird chick in the garden

Once we had a tame blackbird who used to come into the dinning room. We also saved one injured blackbird who laid down in front of the garden door. I thought he was dead, but he had an injury on one leg, and couldn't feed himself. At that time, I was breeding mealworms for my breeding finches, so I gave them to him. After one week he had recovered. We have soft spots for blackbirds. We love wild birds anyway, but blackbirds tend to stay in the garden and sing proudly. It is difficult not to love them.      

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Titian at the National Gallery

Our bus stop was just in front of the hotel. I kept admiring architecture whilst waiting for our No. 91 to come. Poor Mike was shivering from cold. It was a chilly day.

The ticket machine at the bus stop was in the middle of repair. Have you seen inside the ticket machine? I hadn't. There are lots of circuit boards. Interesting!
Nelson column

We enjoyed the ride. Soon, we were at Trafalgar square. Titian's paintings were wonderful. The Flight into Egypt was on loan from Hermitage at St. Petersburg, where I have always wanted to visit. So it was even more special to me.
The Flight into Egypt

Diana and Callisto is a new acquisition. It is going to be exhibited all over the country. What I like most about Titian's paintings are bright colours, the emotion and the drama. But this one is less dramatic than his other paintings. Lots of wild animals are depicted, and landscape is lovely.
Titian | Diana and Callisto | NG6616 | The National Gallery, London

We also saw some other works of 16th century and 19th century. One of my favourites is Philip IV by Velazquez. He painted the king several times. I always enjoy looking at each of them.

We moved on to 18-19 century. When we were looking at Gogh's Sunflower, I could see his wheatfield nearby. I told Mike that I could see some madness in the painting, so I wouldn't bother to see it. He shrugged, and said something like he likes it, and went to see the painting. After seeing it, he came to me with a surprised look, and said 'The board said it was painted during his asylum at the Institution'. I replied 'See, I felt insanity in it!'. My feeling was Sunflower was on the border line. Few people paint yellow sunflowers on the yellow background. Logically it is not a good idea, but that is a point where sanity and insanity merged and made a great work, because it worked for him.
Gogh's wheatfield

I was interested in Inside Art, a small exhibition by young offenders. I liked it. I saw some talent there. I also felt some intelligence in some of their works. To me, try to 'read' their works was like doing some psychological detective work.

The National Gallery

Trafalgar square after shower
Piccadilly Circus
We dropped by Japan Centre to buy some Nori. Then I found more things I liked to have. One was Tofu. There are various tofu there: firm, medium firm, soft etc. They are much cheaper than those of Quorn, which we usually buy at Canterbury.

Not only historical buildings, but also I enjoy modern building like this (above) in London. It reminds me of Bauhaus.

And this (below) is next to the above. I like how they put the top floor although it might be awkward to use the space under the windows.

When we got back to St Pancras, we hurried to Le Pain Quotidien and bought four almond croissants and espresso. Then we realised we had just missed the direct train.
So, we went to Yo Sushi(our first), and bought a pack of sushi to have in the train. 

Of course, this last photo is specially for my dear friend Mimi, who is very keen to try one, but alas she is in Japan. Mimi, you should come to try one or two soon!

Crispy organic almond croissants

Monday, 16 April 2012

The St Pancras Renaissance - architecture

Yesterday was such a cold day. We needed winter coats again. Mike and I went to the National Gallery to see Titian's paintings. He has been one of my favourite painters. I love his vivid bright colours, and the drama. I couldn't miss this opportunity to see The Flight into Egypt, the first time exhibited out of Russia since 1768, and Diana and Callisto, the recent acquisition.

Our train arrived at St Pancras on time.
Without hesitation, we marched to Le Pain Quotidient for organic almond croissant and espresso. It is my strict routine! We could see blue sky through the glass roof!

Today we are going to take a bus to Trafalgar Square. I have always preferred riding busses to tube because I could enjoy London much better on the ground, also because I hate to walk to get tubes. My feet usually start getting tired by the time I get on the tube train. Roads are quiet on Sundays, so it is perfect for bus rides. 

A secret gate?
Funnily enough, we have never come out of this end of the St Pancras before. So when we saw the facade, our minds were blown away due to the magnificent architecture. It looked to me like a castle!

The St Pancras Renaissance is five-start hotel. I have seen its gorgeous interior in magazines before, but its exterior is as beautiful as inside. And massive! This is a wonderful part of London. You see old architecture packed with modern comfort inside.

The St Pancras Renaissance

You can go to the station through this arched entrance.
This is Hotel's entrance.

Detail, dragons

Detail - dragons nibbling lion's ears

To be continued.