Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Queen of Tarts...

I’ve been putting off this post for a whole week now, just waiting until I’ve sewn enough to be able to show you. But alas, they’re taking a wee bit longer to finish off than expected; it’s all that figuring out and cutting real fruit to see exactly what’s on the inside, and drawing patterns, and trying things that look wonderful in my imagination, but not so wonderful once sewn and in my hands.
That, and the visiting of patisseries for inspiration (and treats – I really can’t help myself. It’s absolutely ridiculous).

So, launching this year, alongside our gorgeous petit fours, are fruit tarts – perfect for play and picnics and made from the softest, most gorgeous wool blend felt. Each one is hand and machine sewn, and based loosely on tarts found in my favourite local haunts – Banneton Bakery and the famous Samford Patisserie. I swear, if I could make up a bed in either of these places, I’d quite happily live there and eat tarts for every meal.

They’ll have their debut, along with a whole new Q&I market look, at our first booking for the year, Mathilda’s Market, on the 24th of March. And they’ll be making their way to our Etsy store this week – delish!

My sewing nook is looking so wonderfully colourful with all this gorgeous new stock – it definitely inspires me to keep creating, to keep trying new things.

Oh! I almost forgot!
I have one tart shell left to fill – it’s made up of a pastry base and chocolate filling. Any ideas as to what could go on top?


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Being Creative = Nurturing Creativity

Sometimes creativity needs a boost, you know? Something to help it along, to inspire; and adequate time for an idea to take root in your mind, and pester you until the mock, the very first one, is in your hands.

Since the hiatus over the summer, I’ve been feeling a bit out of practice, creatively speaking. I’ll often sit down to blank paper to brainstorm ideas, and sometimes can’t seem to pull what’s in my imagination out onto the page. But instead of getting discouraged and feeling wretched, I decided to fix it: by seeking out creative avenues and small simple projects that allow me to think in a more artistic way, and totally outside of all the handmade loveliest we produce for Quill & Ink.

It was during a trawl of artistic blogs on the internet that I first discovered Keri Smith, who has formulated the most wonderful creative prompt list – you can find it here.
It didn’t take me long to begin rummaging through boxes to find a blank journal, and to steal Lou’s coloured pencils and begin sketching; and it felt wonderfully good to be doing this simple creative thing that wasn’t for anyone else but me (and now you).
And best of all? It’s fun.

The challenge today: to draw all of the things in my bag. Paper is slightly scrunchy because the kids wanted a better look at what I was up to.

Sometimes there are a couple of weeks between entries, other times it’s a matter of hours. I’ve not bound myself to a strict deadline, which ends up freeing the experience even more. I just pick out a square at random, whenever I have the time, and think of a creative way to do what it says.

I have noticed though, that slowly, very slowly, a small creative spark seems to be elbowing its way back to the forefront of my imagination. And there have been some strange little ideas born over the last week that I’m all curious to try out. I guess that’s the best thing about having a creative break; you never know what direction your rested imagination will take once it’s put back in to action…

How do you ignite or restore creativity in your own life? Or, how do you deal with creative lulls?


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Over the holidays, I watched the movie Amelie again, for the first time in a long time. If you know it, you may remember that Amelie goes on a mission to return a small box of treasure, found hidden in a secret cavity in her bathroom. After some delightful detective work, she finds the now grown-up owner and returns the box to him anonymously; and the memories that flood back as the man rifles through his childhood box of treasure, welled up with emotion, leave Amelie changed – she resolves to do good all her days.

While I watched the movie, Judah’s treasure box sat on the couch next to me. It was given to him at Christmas, lovingly and beautifully made by Kim and filled with the most wondrous things: an old fashioned metal robot, shells, a metal cog, a small spanner, random chess pieces, a spinning top, a hand-carved zebra from Africa, dice, rocks and a wooden spoon. Judah has added his own small treasures: a five-cent piece, an old metal fighter plane, a small plastic frog, and tiny corkscrew shells he finds at the beach.

The box was the catalyst: before we knew it, he’d embraced collecting and treasure, moved on from robots and mechanical things, and jumped headfirst (arrrrrr, me-hearties!) into the world of pirates roaming the high seas.

Obsessed, I tell you.

Actually, I can’t begin to tell you how fun this phase is; there are plenty of hand-drawn maps and more cause for armour (yeah, I didn’t know that pirates wore armour either!), eye patches, and toilet roll spyglasses with bright cellophane stuck to one end. Beach visits see him spending a considerable amount of time scanning the horizon watching for approaching tall ships, and digging in the sand at random intervals, just in case visiting pirates buried their loot.

At home, the treasure box now lives securely in a treasure chest; his fanciful stories have scary monsters that morph into hooked/peg-legged pirates (that fly through the sky chasing our magic dog, Ella and superhero sister Lou, who eats cake while sitting on the sun), and driving sees us playing a version of ‘Where’s Wally,’ pirate-style.
For the record, pirates seem to camp out a lot in trees, hide in clouds, and like visiting McDonalds for ice-cream. Who would have guessed?

Personally, I love treasure. And I wished that I had my own small wonders still tucked away somewhere, safe in a rusty box or buried beneath one of our old Queenslanders in the cool under-the-house dirt. My box may have contained paper dolls, pressed flowers, small hand-drawn pictures, pages from picture books and magazines, little dolls, and handwritten notes in envelopes with crinkle-edged stamps.

What would your treasure box contain?


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Unlikely Baker

As a young adult, in my secret heart of hearts, I wanted to be a patisserie chef. I loved to bake, had an authoritative sweet tooth, and just loved the way that cakes and tarts and other sweet goodies were put together, layer upon layer, to become a miniature masterpiece.

Baking wasn’t the road I ended up following, but I’ve managed to come back to it in the most unlikely way – through hand-sewn cakes, pies and tarts - our beloved new range available this year at all our markets.
I’ve been busy experimenting with toppings and fruit, and have a whole bakery stand prepared for Mathilda’s next month. And because they’re now sold individually, you can pick out the ones you really love – maybe a banoffie pie, or a caramel and strawberry mud cake, or maybe even a light and fluffy vanilla sponge with bright pink icing, deliciously dripping and stamped with a sugar heart…

This week, I’m putting the finishing touches on my patterns for tarts and pies, and will start to sew the first batch. I’m so hoping they’ll be as sweet as they are in my imagination!

Do you have a favourite tart or cake?
I’m always looking for inspiration, so let me know!