A Very Crafting Christmas

I have spent the festive period at home in Wales.  Despite the deadline of my thesis hand-in looming large, it is very difficult to do any work when there is a constant distraction of wine, cats, neighbours and just about anything else.  I tried, but failed miserably.

Nevertheless, productivity has found some alternative outlets during the last month in the form of crafts.  I don’t generally do much ‘crafting’, owing to the fact that I should be using my time to be doing my thesis, and I live in a rented house in Oxford which I shouldn’t really be covering in glue, woodshavings or paint.  But if Christmas isn’t a time for gluing your fingers together in a misguided attempt to make a scaffold out of cocktail sticks, what is it!?

So, following on from the success of the great cake bake, and in liu of my dwindling funds, I decided to make all my Christmas presents this year, roving into previously uncharted crafting territory: clay and oil.

Anyway, the recipients seemed pretty pleased, though I wonder how much they were humoring me – I thought I’d share with you some of the creations.

Out of air-drying clay that I picked up (and then had to carry home in its extremely heavy 5kg block) I sculpted some owl tealight holders each with their individual personality:

Family of owl tealight holders. Air-drying clay and acrylic. Leila Battison 2011

These were pretty easy and fun to make, taking about 1hr45mins in total, and then drying slowly (to avoid cracking) over a period of about three days.  After drying they were painted with pearlescent acrylic paint and a thin layer of varnish.  Here’s a video of the making of one not pictured here.

Sticking with the owl theme, I made an odds-and-ends jar for my mum, sculpted slightly differently with thin plates of clay, but finished in the same way.  The result is heavy but not too unbecoming.

Owl jar. Air-drying clay and acrylic. Leila Battison 2011

Buoyed by the success of these small scale projects, I decided to ramp up the ambition and recreate something I had seen for sale in an rather unaffordable gallery in Oxford – hares.  These were constructed differently, with a card and wet newspaper inner structure and an air-drying clay outer.  Mostly this worked, but it gave them a bit of a haggard emaciated look.  I’m going to pretend that was what I was going for all along.  They were an absolute bugger to transport, and I’m still having nightmares about those ears, but luckily the emaciated look lends itself to rough mends.

Sitting Hares. Air-drying clay and acrylic. Leila Battison 2011

After battling with these two for several days, I had pretty much lost my temper with clay, so turned my hand to another new and untested medium – oil.  After my autumn trip to Anglesey and Portmeirion I drew a pen and ink landscape of the village.  But my black and white ink work doesn’t fit very well into my parents home, so I wanted to do something in colour for them.  I don’t get on overy well with watercolours – they are sneaky and change colour on the page, so oils it was.  This was the outcome.  I still thing there is some way to go, and in the end I ran out of time to fiddle with it to my satisfaction, but there it was.  It is now fully dry and awaiting a frame in my mothers possession.

Portmeirion. Oil on canvas. Leila Battison 2011

So that was what I did during December.  But it wasn’t just me that was crafting.  I also received some delightful crafty gifts.  Earlier last year I tweeted about some amazing looking knitted microbes.  My mother has discovered twitter, and believed that its primary purpose is to subtly communicate gift requests.  So along with a large wooly jumper, I also received these happy fellows…

Knitted Microbes, Wool. Lesley Battison 2001

They are thoroughly adorable, and mean much more than any gift money can buy.

All round a very crafty Christmas, but I think I’d better put the glue away and concentrate on some science for a while…

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