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Sunday 27 March 2011

At Home in Japan: Geffrye Museum exhibition

Visiting the Japan at Home Exhibition
Last week saw the unveiling of the new temporary exhibition at The Geffrye - At Home in Japan, an installation that transports you inside a typical Japanese home, dispelling all the myths you've ever had about Japan being all about technology and minimalism. Two Japanese people told me today how authentic the exhibition is and that it made them feel at home, so I was eager to take a look myself.
View from an apartment window
Inside, the exhibition consists of photos taken from Japanese homes, surrounded by real interior items so you can physically feel as though you are there with views to boot. This is my favourite image - the photos are blown up so they are lifelike. I was surprised to discover that there's so much character evident in the residences and not a hint of plain white walls. Many of the apartments in Japan are lined with greenery and pot plants to evoke the sensation of being outdoors since gardens are unheard of.
Good luck owls and cats are placed in the entrance to Japanese houses
Shoes are not worn inside Japanese homes and so the entrance hall consists of racks of shoes along with good luck charms. Gifts and items brought back from travels are also a key feature of the Japanese home. Personally I'm very keen to go to Japan on a shopping spree - clothes shopping as well as buying some quirky kitsch homey things to brighten up my life (I used to live with a Japanese girl who had amazing magazines filled with images of cool and colourful clothes and gifts that had me salivating with envy!)
 The exhibition referenced the fact that hi-tech loos, with warming seats do exist but most folk have a normal bathrooms, like this one above.
Amazing fish print fabric
 There was also some amazing fish print fabric hanging in the loo which you can't quite see, but take my word for it, it was very sweet.
Cutlery drawer
 The cutlery drawer amused me as rather than be filled with ordinary knives and forks there were so many types of chopsticks and tiny ceramic bowls. I'm terrible with them. I actually went for a Japanese meal on Friday but shamefully used a fork. Although when I eat noodles at home I do use a pair of plastic chopsticks only joined together, and I think that's called cheating?
Bunny print screen
 I also fell in love with this sweet rabbit screen. Screens remind me of being on holiday, as I've never been inside a British home that own uses them. One day I think I'll have one in my flat, just because they are so unique over here. 
School year book
My favourite exhibit was a coffee table filled with photo albums. Education in Japan is taken very seriously yet the school year book was full of character - each pupil posing in humorous ways. I wish I'd had fun school photos like these.

Maybe I'm biased (I've been working at The Geffrye for four years as an arts and crafts teacher) but I honesty believe that they do have some of the best temporary exhibitions - very imaginative, and they effect your senses and emotions at the same time - I've felt that after every one I've been too. It may be a small museum and a fairly small space but they know how to use it.

So my recommendation is drop by, see something different and feel inspired to appreciate your own home a little more.

The exhibition runs until August 29th and costs £5, £3 concessions and under 16 are free.
A special symposium takes place on May 14th where experts will be talking about the Japanese home more detail. There's also a range of creative and craft workshops for all ages over the next couple of months. 

There's also a great book if you can't get there - thanks Lisa!

Saturday 19 March 2011

Cowboy Cushions

When a friend of mine recently returned from San Francisco and said he'd found some amazing fabric that I simply had to make him cushions from, I had no idea what to expect!  Then he presented me with this fabulous cotton depicting bare-chested cowboys...shame I had to give them away!
First of all I cut the fabric in half which resulted in two equally sized squares - my measurements were restricted as he'd already bought the cushion pads to go inside and the only way they would fit was if I used all the fabric - not even a millimetre went to waste.
Next I folded over one edge of each square by 1mm and ironed along it to create a fold - I loathe ironing and avoid is as much as possible - sewing is the only time I pick one up. I never buy clothes that need an iron so it's lucky I don't have a normal office job as I couldn't handle having to have crease-free shirts. 
Then I pinned the zip along the inside edges - if you position the pins like this you can stitch directly over them.

I stitched one side using a straight stitch on my sewing machine...
And then the other...
Finally I unzipped it, stitched the front and back squares together, neatened the inside edges  then turned it through.

And here are the pair in situ in his flat.

If you fancy an equally attractive cushion in your own home, I've also found some other 'hunk' cotton variations:

AH Heavy Equipment Navy 1/2 METRE

Workmen fabric from FabricInspirations.

Firemen fabric from J and O fabrics (who also sell the cowboy print).

Hmm, now then, what to make for myself...

Sunday 6 March 2011

Introducing Miss Pricklesworth...

My African Pygmy Hedgehog is now eight weeks old...it's a tricky time for her, as just like babies start teething which is painful, Miss Pricklesworth (also known as Miss P) looses her first spikes. This can take a couple of weeks or a couple of months,  it's horrible and makes her feel grumpy. She hasn't entered this stage yet but I'm guessing it's about to start.

Alot of people wonder whether you can stroke a hedgehog and what I've read and am discovering is that the more you hold her the 'tamer' she is and doesn't put her spikes up, when they are flat she's perfectly happy to be handled and is very playful. She is infact very friendly and as I write this, is running around my floor, and exploring all the hideaway places in my room like under the bookshelf, sewing machine table and amongst my ever growing tower of magazines. Infact she was so affectionate a few minutes ago that she did  a big number two followed by a number 1 right on me...ah the perils of owning a hedgehog. I just can't get her to litter train! She eats catfood and should use cat litter but she's not taking to it! Lucky she is so cute that I can forgive her very easily.

She has a particular love for tickling Matt. In fact she likes Matt's alot and even has an attachment to my neighbour also called Matt who's cardigan pockets she likes to hide away in. 
One of the most amusing things about hedgehogs is the way their little snouts are always sniffing out new scents. When they find one they particularly like they start self anointing which involves licking what they've discovered  and then licking themselves which creates a white foam - just like washing up liquid. It's most peculiar yet very exciting when it happens.  She's so far done this licking the back of a picture frame, inside a muddy bag and the base of the metal lamp in the living room.

Miss P is my first pet and so far a very lovely creature to have around, no problems, no fuss, just very, very sweet.

If you fancy finding out more or getting one yourself, then contact Kelly at Fragglewood Hedgehogs, a specialist breeder in Essex where I found her. More updates to follow!

Saturday 5 March 2011

My top knitting books for World Book Night

In honour of tonight's World National Book Night  I've decided to round up the best knitting books to have have been published in the last few months:

1. Best in Show Incredible projects of every kind of dog imaginable, split into all the dog show categories, you can knit your own whippet, poodle, pug..all the projects are like life and ever so sweet! 10/10 for 'knits you want to own'.

2. 75 birds... There's something about this title that reminds me of my old school garden...a great resource for teachers, crafts practitioners and ordinary knit wits - imagine how amazing it would be to make everything in this book and then make a giant garden knitted mural....

 2. Probably the best designed craft book I've seen in ages, each knitted pet is photographed in it's own homely setting. Animals include a snake and chameleon! 10/10 for cuteness.

3. I haven't seen this book in person as it's not published until later this month. In case you missed it, 'The K Factor' was a slot on Harry Hill's TV Burp a few months ago and viewers were asked to send in knitted characters which were judged each episode, X Factor stye. There are still some great clips on line - I've seen numerous characters that featured in the challenge on sale on Ebay so you could buy a fake from there or knit one yourself.

4. I discovered this title on twitter, DeadlyKnitshade was tweeting about it - 10/10 for amusement factor..and while other's are 'cashing in' on the royal wedding, nice to see a way to celebrate the wedding for free!

5. These three fun amusing titles are all written by Susie Johns who is a) amazing b)inspiring c) runs my local knitting group in Greenwich. Admittedly it's been ages since I've actually shown up but I will return when I actually have time to do some more knitting myself.  Each food is amazingly life like, there's a 4th that's she's done on knitted egg cosies that came out a couple of weeks ago too. I've always loved the idea of knitting every day objects far more than knitting a jumper. 

So that's my Spring time inspiration, I recommend getting hold of any of these books and getting your needles out, they are all fab books. Happy Knitting x