Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Beautifying and highlighting imperfections in the home

If you've read my waffle for the past 9 and a half years (seriously, that is how long I've been blogging. That is scary.) you'll know how I'm not big on perfection. Perfect spaces, perfect people, perfect things - they are not real to me. Add a little wonkiness to a house, some mess to the waves of someone's hair or a few tell-tale signs of age on items and they become more interesting to me. And usually more beautiful. Recently I read about Kintsugi - a Japanese art form that sees damaged items repaired with gold (or silver). Rather than throw away broken crockery or smooth over cracks in rendered walls, the imperfections are highlighted with gold leaf and sealed with lacquer, creating an interesting feature of a home or allowing a favourite plate to continue dishing out your meals - with a little bling on the side. The method humanises things - giving them some attention, patching them up and letting them continue on their merry way rather than just giving up on them at the first sign of a breakdown. It's giving even the most ho-hum items a history, a story and a chance to shine. It's such a sweet sentiment in this throwaway world, and because I love gold leaf - and maybe because Marie Kondo and her whole "socks have feelings too" craziness has rubbed off on me more than I thought - I had to try it out on some damaged things I had around the house. 

First up: the small wooden bowl Steve found in the water on one of our walks a few years ago. It was green and gooey on one side and stunk like goodness knows what, but we thought it might clean up ok. So we soaked it and scrubbed it and it did clean up beautifully - but it was cracked in several places. So in went the size, and in went the gold leaf. It's certainly not the neatest follow-the-line I've ever done, but that's the whole point about this method: imperfections can be beautiful, and the wonkiness just gives it even more character. I love the glimmer on the rustic wood - I could never tire of that combo! 

Next, I hit up the kitchen cabinet where my Nana's dishes were. The pink floral plate was part of a few sets my grandparents bought many decades ago for my mum's wedding. I had a full set once - complete with tea cups and saucers - and accidentally threw the wrong box on the charity pile (and managed to keep a whole bunch of unwanted crap on the keep pile instead! Eek!) so I only have a few pieces left. I knew there was a big chip out of one of the side plates, so a few minutes later that chip looked a whole lot chipper (sorry) with its new gold coat - especially since the plate is gold-rimmed. I also blinged up a few op-shop pieces - several chips in a little star candlestick and the tiniest crack in a milk-glass bowl.

I actually thought that was all I had when a few nights later I decided to try my hand at making a wooden spoon out of a piece of driftwood and a lino-carving tool. Obviously, neither of these things are going to work as well as, say, proper wood and a real wood-carving knife. But I wanted to see what it was like to do before I invested in a proper knife and so had a play. It was strangely addictive - I drew a shape, cut and carved with the rounded lino tool (and yes, cut myself several times) and in an hour or so had a pretty cool shaped spoon. Except a knot was right where the rounded end of the spoon was and soon became a hole! And then, while wondering when I should quit it on the handle -  SNAP! I wondered too long so the whole thing broke. I originally threw it on the compost, but decided to keep my very first attempt at spoon carving because I really enjoyed doing it - even if it was never going to be able to be used as a spoon, was not even close to smooth and had a hole in a crucial part of it. Steve glued it together for me and I gave it the gold treatment. Now, rather than just being a weird unfinished, holey, broken wooden spoon, it's got a story, a history and a little bit of prettiness about it. I love that!

It's kind of an addictive idea - I can't help look around the house and see other imperfections I'd love to highlight somehow: holes in the floorboards from old knots, cracks in the concrete driveway... I'm completely in love with both of these ideas, above, from the original article I read about kintsugi. The art form is not just about gold leaf, but also patching things with similar materials but in different shapes, colours or patterns - such as adding the odd patterned tile in a bathroom wall of solid colour tiles. It really is giving the less-than-perfect aspects of a home some time in the spotlight to shine. And who doesn't like that occasionally?

{Top 3 images by Belinda Graham for The Happy Home. Concrete and gold leaf image is an part of an installation called Seam by Catherine Bertolt via Workplace Gallery; Patchwork timber floorboard via Material Valley}

Friday, July 15, 2016

DIY: wooden peg star fairy wand

With a gold-sequin tutu, gold wings and gold butterfly mask, my golden girl Immy was just missing a gold fairy wand to complete her outfit. You see, she had a silver fairy wand. And apparently, one cannot mix their metallics when dressing as a fairy. So inspired by Sofia's so-pretty gold Christmas stars made from wooden pegs (do you remember making wooden peg crafts at school? I made a trivet), I decided to adapt it slightly to include a stick for a wand. And now her look is complete! So we celebrated with a sprinkle of gold confetti and glitter because, well, why not! Want to DIY? Here's how... (I do apologise for my lack of images. I thought I'd taken more...) 


  • 8 wooden pegs
  • Two long thin and flat paddle pop sticks (I honestly don't know if that's what they are. They are from one of those dollar store craft shops.)
  • Glue (I used craft glue to stick the pegs together but a hot glue gun to create the star)
  • Gold spray paint (I will never buy cheap spray paint again. I've tried a whole bunch of paints and usually stick to Rustoleum or White Knight.)

How to:

Step 1: Remove the metal spring holding the two peg pieces together by gently twisting the peg until it starts to pop off (haha "pop off" - my kids would be so happy I wrote that).

Step 2: Flip the two halves of the peg so the outside edges are now flush against each other. Glue together ensuring the two halves are in perfect alignment. Repeat until seven of the eight pegs have been glued inside-out. Leave to dry.

Step 3: Glue the two paddle pop sticks together. Leave to dry.

Step 4: Sandwich the paddle pop stick between the last peg halves and glue in place. You might want to use a hot glue gun here too for extra hold.

Step 5: Using four of the pegs, create a cross by matching the diagonal edges of the end of the peg together. They will fit naturally. Glue together with a hot glue gun.

Step 6: In the gaps of the cross, glue in another peg, creating a star wand. Spray paint and leave to dry. Wave around and watch pretend magic happen!

I'm not sure how long it will last, but it's fun for now. So much fun that Immy had to take it on our walk the other day after I took these pictures. It was getting late and cold so she quickly winterised her outfit (below). Ha!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Kids craft DIY: food and flora collage

My favourite crafts are the ones where you can use what you have already - or use things from a little hunt and gather around the neighbourhood. Then it's a drawn-out craft with bonus exercise! I was looking at the bow pasta the other day thinking how cute it would look as a little bow tie on a illustration. And so today's craft idea was born! I told Layla what I was thinking and she was in - she went around and picked some flowers and greenery from the garden, thought up her scenario of a ballet dancer and asked me to draw the girl. She then glued on the tutu from flower petals, painted a tree ("an autumn tree") and after changing her mind from rice snow to glitter snow, she then painted an ice rink and drew some ice skates onto her ballet shoes! She thought the couple would look pretty smart with a top hat with a feather and framed with some elbow pasta. I love watching her in creative mode and seeing what she comes up with. We hunted around the craft cupboard for little beads and other sequins and had fun getting creative - I had to make one too! This kind of craft is really only limited by your imagination - so many things in your garden, your pantry and craft cupboard can be used: beads, gum nuts, sticks, tiny stones, foil, confetti, leaves, feathers, sequins, buttons... you get the idea. I think a really small version could be sweet made up as gift tags or a birthday card. And while white or coloured backgrounds would look great too, I can't help but think things stand out a little more on the black cardboard. And happily, the watercolours worked too - although a little less bright than they'd appear on a white background.

Black cardboard
White ink pen
Watercolours - these ones are the best (Spotlight also sells it). I must have bought 5 of these palettes over the past couple of years. The colours are pretty and they dry so quickly - I've even used them on the wall of my home.
An assortment of food, flora and any other crafty bits and pieces you can gather together

Easy how to:

Step 1: Suggest a scenario or have your child think something up. Draw the basics - a simple person is easy and they can "dress" them and fill in their surroundings. A house is also a good one.

Step 2: Let them go! Let them paint, glue, rearrange and sprinkle till their heart's content. The pasta can be painted before or after it's glued in place. It's really not worth of a step-by-step, is it?! Here are  some close ups of the others...

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Kids craft DIY: paper plate lion mask

I have this great love of paper plates. I use them for everything. A pile of 50 goes really, really quickly in my house. Aside from parties, they're often folded up into little boxes for mini craft storage or picnic packaging, cut up into gift tags or just used as craft paper - they kids draw on them and cut them up into all sorts of random things - and then we even make good use of the off-cuts for maths homework working out! They're also so brilliant for crafts. I'm running a free kids craft stand at an upcoming fete and decided pretty quickly I'd create some crafts around paper plates. One of them will be these lion masks for the younger kids. We'll most likely shred some newspaper or whatever paper we can get our hands on for the fete, but these shades of tissue paper and tinsel are perfect for a lion's mane. 

Paper plate
Shredded tissue paper and tinsel (from dollar stores)
Single hole punch (or just use the scalpel)
Face paint or eyeliner pencil

Easy how-to:

 Step 1: Cut around the base of the paper plate with the scalpel so you have a hole.

Step 2: Using the circle you've just cut out, cut two ears and set aside.

Step 3: Punch a hole on either side of the plate. Thread and tie your elastic to create a mask.

Step 4: Cut your shredded tissue paper and tinsel into smaller pieces so they're not too much longer than the edge of the plate. Mix them up a little for a more "natural" mane! Glue the face of the paper plate and stick the mane in place.

Step 5: Glue the ears in place.

  Step 6: Gently cut around the inside of the mask to trim away excess "hair" so it doesn't tickle your child's face! Be careful not to snip through the elastic.

Step 7: Leave to dry in the sun and in the meantime, paint on a nose and some whiskers. Once the glue is dry, pop the mask on your child's head. The plate can be popped outwards to sit nicer on their face. ROAAR!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Kids craft DIY: winter nature crown

 Ugh, winter. We don't get on at all. I quite enjoyed winter when it was still summer-like weather, but then the cold had to come and ruin everything. And now the school holidays are here and of course so is the rain! ALL WEEK, apparently. So it's going to be one big craft-a-thon here these next few days, me thinks. I have a few up my sleeve and I'll do my best to post them here in case you're in the same boat and after some kids craft inspiration. 

Perhaps you could start with a nature crown. Last week, a flower hunt on the walk home from school yielded lots of pretty flowers, so I added them to a stick crown I'd started making a day earlier. A little greenery sandwiched in-between and it became quite the flora headpiece. It's not one to last for long - and it's hardly made delicately (hello glue gun!) - but they'll have fun feeling like a woodland fairy queen for a day...

Two strips of fabric
Sticks in assorted lengths
An assortment of flowers
A bit of greenery - we used a few sprigs from our conifer trees
A hot glue gun

Easy how-to
1. Glue your sticks to one length of the fabric in the centre.
2. Glue on the greenery followed by flowers
3. Run the glue gun along the whole length of the fabric over the flowers and press the second strip over the top, sandwiching the sticks and flowers in-between the two strips of fabric.
4. Wrap around the head and pin place or use velcro dots to hold in place.

See? Easy! I'd have made the fabric strips slightly narrower as it did swamp Layla's little head! Ha! Contrary to the first few pics where she is all Grumplestiltskin* (because my camera not focusing was keeping her from running on the rocks. The horror), she loved the crown. Tomorrow? We're making lion masks. Rrrrrooooarr.

*Grumplestiltskin is my favourite tease for when they're grumpy. Annika is the grumpiest Grumplestiltskin of all. She's hilarious.