Friday, May 24, 2013

Fruits, drupes, and berries

This week's contest theme was Greek Mythology. I really enjoyed studying that in school (plus Egyptian and Norse mythology). A number of contenders came to mind - Athena (emerging from Zeus' head, or with her owl - though owls are drastically over-represented on fabrics already), Persephone, the whole pantheon of gods, the twelve labors of Hercules?

I ended up gravitating towards a few symbolic representations of myths. First of all, olives, since they so omnipresent in the culture, plus were supposedly introduced by Athena. Then, golden apples, which figure into the myth of Atlanta as well as the whole business with Troy. And finally, pomegranate seeds for Persephone. I was originally going to try to make all of the fruits look shiny and 3D with shading, but I ended up liking the way they looked as flat graphic shapes. I had a really hard time getting the pomegranate seeds look evenly spread - there kept being accidental clusters and bare patches. I think I managed to get the overall distribution pretty satisfying.

Golden apples, pomegranate seeds, and olives

This came in 71 out of 166 with 130 votes. My favorite entry was Persephone's Garden, which came in second and reminded me very much of this poem. I also absolutely loved these extremely cute Pegasi, and want very much to have had a shirt made of this when I was six. I also liked this sweet unicorn design, which if the previous is for a six-year-old, then this one is more for an eleven-year-old. The Greek warrior design that won was totally amazing, but then everything that designer (who goes by Spellstone) does is amazing.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Birthday meerkats

My son turned two a few weeks ago. Amazing! We had a family party at our house on the day of his birthday (since it was a Sunday), and I managed to squeeze in a few crafty things. I tried to think of something that a toddler would actually consider a fun, special treat for a birthday party. Well, something he likes to do, but rarely gets to, is pull out Kleenex. So how about he gets a whole bunch of his very own Kleenex boxes he can pull as much from as he wants? In addition, when we've taken him to the zoo, his favorite animals were the meerkats. So I made meerkat Kleenex boxes!

Meerkat Kleenex boxes

I drew this using these photos as reference [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] and got it printed on the new wrapping paper option at Spoonflower. (You may recognize the background as being the same one I used for the brolgas, in a more "dried grass" colorway.) The rows are five inches tall to match the boxes, so I just cut them in to strips and glue-sticked them on. I also tried to make the repeat match the circumference of these boxes, but I made an error somewhere so it's about 1/4" too long. Oh well!

Continuing the meerkat theme, I also made meerkat cupcakes.

Meerkat cupcakes

These are banana bread. I was originally going to try to make cream cheese frosting and color it with jam, but then I saw the speculoos (like ground up cookie paste) at Trader Joe's and used that instead. No mixing needed! The ears and eye patches are quartered prunes, and the eyes and noses are blueberries. I have wonderful memories of all the themed decorated cakes my mom made for my birthday each year, and even though my son is too young to request his own, I had a lot of fun continuing the tradition.

However, I think my son's favorite part of his birthday was that we removed the baby gate blocking off the kitchen for the day, to make it easier to serve lunch to everybody. The side effect of course, was that he could wander in whenever he wanted and open all the cabinets. That was just beyond exciting.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Geek chic, a fit of pique, and candle mystique, so to speak

It's "Fabric8" time again - the yearly contest run by Spoonflower where the winner gets to make a mass-produced fabric collection for Robert Kaufman. This year's theme was geek chic. For some reason they always schedule these so that the Fabric8 contest closes on the same day as a normal contest (so one evening is the final deadline for two contests). They pick 100 entries out of the lot (750 or so this year they said!) and we all get to vote on those. The top eight go on to make a mini-collection of four fabrics and then we all vote again in a few weeks. Anyway, just like the last time (and the one they did with Timeless Treasures but the same setup), sadly I didn't make it into the voting round. I'm a little more sad about this one than the previous times, because I did feel that mine had a unique point of view. It did seem that the glasses/bowties/mustaches axis was, shall we say, amply represented. In any case, I'm happy with how mine turned out.

My idea was to make literal the names of some of the most common programming languages and put them all together. Take a gander and see if you can puzzle them out:

Programming languages made literal (Java, JavaScript, Ruby, Perl, C++, Shell)

So, it's coffee for Java, and fancy scrolly initial J's on the coffee cups for JavaScript. The rubies and pearls are for, well, Ruby and Perl. In the background are sea-colored pairs of plus signs, for C++, and shells, for shell script.

My favorite entry was this isometric arrangement. A close second were these colorful icons. I also liked these two very dreamy patterns, and these two very cute ones. None of those made it into the final eight, alas.

The contest that closed last week was to inaugurate the new option to print on wrapping paper instead of fabric - a pattern for birthday paper! I figured most people would go more towards designs for kids, so I wanted to make something you wouldn't be embarrassed about using for an adult. I wasn't sure what, so I was browsing birthday-themed palettes on Colourlovers and found this one:

Color by COLOURlovers

Perfect! It immediately made me think of candles in a darkened room, so that's what I went for.

Nighttime Birthday Party

This came in 43 out of 226, with 154 votes. Not too shabby! Obviously there were a lot of other candle-themed entries, of which I liked this best; for the other predominate theme, of cake, this was my favorite. My favorite overall was this confection of birds and flowers, that came in sixth, and the one I'd be most likely to use to wrap a gender-neutral present is the one that won.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Chickens of the sea

Two contests to catch up on! First, the challenge was chickens, but using a Pop Art style in some manner. Obviously the first thing that comes to mind is Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, but I knew there'd be a ton of those references, so I thought some more. I tried to think of something in pop culture that had lots of appeal - and then I remembered the famous collaboration where Takashi Murakami made a super-colorful (and apparently astonishingly expensive) version of the Louis Vuitton handbag. So I decided to remake that print with chickens and chicken-related stuff.

Chickens after Murakami

I'm a little disappointed how this came out. It uses the same colors, but is much more leaden and garish than the original. I think a big part of the problem is that Murakami's uses much more negative space within the repeating icons. I could go on about the shortcomings, but it doesn't do to be TOO self-deprecating on my own blog. Oh well, another for the "redo someday" file!

This came in 63 out of 199 with 111 votes, so it actually did pretty well. My favorite entries were these two graphic, outlined, collage-style montages (the first of which came in fifth). I also really like these understated chicken feather dots. The funniest was this take on the chicken crossing the road. As expected, some of the most common themes were takes on Roy Lichtenstein's comic book panels and Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroes. My favorites of each of those were this and this, respectively.

Then, this week's contest was one of those where we're given a set of colors to use:

Color by COLOURlovers

Plus, the theme was "sailing." Originally I wanted to try doing a bunch of different knots, but I started with the figure-eight knot and liked it so much I stuck to just that one.

Figure-Eight Knots

This came in 41 out of 247 with 198 votes - definitely one of my better showings! There were some other knot entries as well - my favorite was this large print (that came in eighth), though I liked the little ditsy one too. There were also a few appearances of nautical code flags, of which I liked this one the most. I also really liked these textured seagulls, the flotsam and jetsam print, the ships in bottles (that came in fifth), and this cutesy illustration reminiscent of old tattoos.

The most common type of design was of course scattered prints of boats on a water-like background, with various other evocative icons. My favorite was this one that used crosshatching to cleverly give the appearance of more colors - and indeed, that was the overall winner this week. Tied for second in my mind are this in a modern, flat style, and this very cute one with excellent typographic elements.  I also really liked the treasure map and this one with stylized schools of fish. And these two had a great sense of movement (the former of which came in fourth). As usual, the limited palette contests always seem to draw out a ton of really great entries!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 13 (Finale Part 1)

Before the designers are sent home with $10K to make a twelve-look collection. They are told to make it a fit for the Fall season, and focus on outerwear. I can't recall them ever getting those kinds of specific targets on previous seasons of the show, but I could just be forgetting. Michelle in particular is ecstatic about the outerwear aspect.

Next, we have one of the most charming segments of each season - the mid-collection home checkup from Tim Gunn. First, a visit to Patricia in Taos, NM. He gets a lovely home-cooked feast with her family in their traditional adobe home, and gets to see her huge amazing studio. As usual with her, she has a ton of different techniques going on. Tim steers her away from the most literal and crafty of the things she shows him - a bunch of little paintings she was going to piece together.

Next, he goes to Michelle in Portland. He likes her lone wolf/huntress/final kill collection, but warns her from over-designing. In particular he is not so sure about a sweater with a literal bleeding heart image knit into it. Michelle puts up a confident face for Tim, but confides to the camera that she is way behind where she wants to be.

Next, we're off to see Daniel in Austin, where he's grown Neil Gaiman hair. (Or as Tim Gunn describes it, "you look like a chia pet!") Daniel's inspirations are the cosmos (i.e. astronomical images), Berlin, and Salvador Dali. Tim likes it, but warns him off one light blue cashmere jacket that he can't heap enough insults on - it's simply horrible, brings down the collection, get rid of it!!

With Stanley, the item Tim gets him to edit out is an orange dress. His inspirations are the sixties and Renaissance Spain, and he has "so much fab, he has to edit it down," to which Tim replies "It's a high-class problem!" Tim also lets Stanley know that, to each of the other three designers, HE is the number one competition.

Fast forward to just a few days before the final show, and the designers are summoned to a penthouse in New York. It turns out Daniel is still holding a bit of a grudge with Michelle about their time together (i.e. the whole "21-year-old" rant), and they have to have a very awkward conversation about leaving the past in the past before it gets smoothed over again. Next, it's off to the workroom so everyone can peek at what everyone else has done so far. It's immediately apparent that Stanley has a ton of work to do. Patricia thinks Daniel's is too safe. Daniel thinks Michelle's is trying too hard. Stanley simply notes that Patricia's is "not [his] style." Michelle thinks Stanley has set himself up for failure, since the producers are sure to spring something on them that will interfere with all his remaining sewing.

The task before them now is to pick three looks to send out as a mini collection, which will be the basis of the judges deciding the final three. And once again they get other designers as sewing helpers. Stanley is happy to get Richard again - apparently Richard's supposedly limited skill set is still what Richard needs even though Patricia found it utterly lacking for her purposes. Daniel is pleased to work with Samantha, and hopes she will help youthen up his work. Michelle is happy with Amanda, and Patricia is also happy with the (very pregnant!) Layana, and is ready to have her plunge right in and sew on sequins.

Tim warns of Michelle from including ALL of the clip-on bags that go on one of her coats. She decides to ignore that advice, however, since she can always remove them during the judging if the judges think it's too much. She sees that Stanley's collection has that Old Hollywood glamour but "the volume is not turned up." Tim has tried to advise Stanley to show a little more skin (on his models, that is, not himself...) but Stanley isn't buying it since it is, after all, a collection for fall.

Patricia shows off her amazing horsehair headpieces. Tim Gunn looks at them silently, blank-faced, for a long moment. Finally, he says, "I'm having a positive response." Well, I guess most people would have smiled and said "I like it!" Her clothes, however, are not quite coalescing. She still has a lot in progress, so her options for the first three looks are limited. Tim does convince her to not use the plaid leather shirt, as it doesn't seem to go with her other two and looks "lumberjack-y."

Daniel is not seeming worried even though he's having lots of fit issues with heavy fabrics that can't be let out. Michelle also wishes she had left more seam allowance in some of her pants. Layana is very concerned about Patricia's stuff and has whispered conferences with Samantha while Patricia is in the sewing room. Stanley is getting very stressed about finishing his garments, so he's getting in barking mode again with Richard, causing the other designers to roll their eyes.

But, as always, they do all get their stuff walking down the runway.


  • A plunging peplum jacket and leather capri pants - styled with a fedora that somehow makes it all look like a very luxe Raiden from Mortal Kombat.
  • A very blah black knit sweater with tuxedo pants with a stingray-skin stripe down the side
  • A black apron dress with more stingray on the T-back
Patricia's collection was definitely the most like clothes I would ever want to wear. Michelle's had a very strong steampunk/Firefly vibe going on. Daniel's and Stanley's were much more conventional - the shiny black clothes you see in magazines all the time.

The judges are pretty happy with Michelle's. They wish for more color, and do indeed think all the bags together on the coat is too much, but like the range (casual to dressy) and love the wolf sweater. Overall their comments sound like advice on how to style it (like putting a shirt underneath the jacket!) than criticisms that could lead to an elimination.

Daniel included stingray skin on all of his outfits, which is apparently expensive and very hard to deal with. The judges appreciate that he took on that challenge, but are underwhelmed. They've seen that dress many times and the sweater has no shape or drama. They deem his effort the most disappointing.

Their issues with Stanley are much the same as with Daniel. Not enough ideas, too little wow, proportions not quite sexy or modern, not young or hip. Some elements, like the zipper up the back of the skirt, are passé. With Stanley though, they feel the styling is a large part of the issue, and they do like the cohesiveness and luxuriousness.

For Patricia, as usual Heidi loves her (especially that cape!) and Nina can barely contain her rage that such a person is still on the show. The blue dress (with headpiece) is described as a Tina Turner Smurf, or something out of Dr Seuss. They aren't fond of her styling and get the sense from this three-look sample that there's no way her full collection could be cohesive. There are special details, but they get overshadowed. Nina is just not buying it, but Heidi says she'd rather see Patricia's show than "one of the snooze boys!"

Backstage, Michelle has convinced herself that they're not going to eliminate anyone - that all four will get to show their collections and be considered. Which brings up the question - what was the plan with the eliminations? If Michelle hadn't been given her second chance and had been eliminated for her so-called "t-shirt and pants", then we would have been down to three at this point already. So were they already planning on leaving one designer behind in New York for the "whirlwind European tour" episode? Or was it really an unplanned reprieve they way they would have us believe?

Michelle is in. Patricia is in. (Apparently Heidi carried the point!) Stanley is in. And, alas, Michelle is wrong - Daniel is out. The previews for part two of the finale would have us believe that Stanley still has a TON of work left to do on the rest of his collection. Plus, Michael Kors will be back to judge the finale! In celebration, go watch his most iconic quips.