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Creative Challenge Finale

Creative Challenge Finale

So...we've arrived at the end of our year long creative journey, and what a year it's been. Creating a significant piece every week is a big undertaking, so congratulations to the creative challenge team for a year of absolutely fabulous design and creation. Here's what we've made to celebrate our grand finale.

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has completely finished refurbishing his century old camera, and he took her out yesterday for a test drive. She worked beautifully and was easy to carry around and use. He’s decided to call her Beatrice, and is looking forward to a long and meaningful relationship.

Camera refurbishment
Steve's old camera

The photos below are of Kama Nature Reserve and the Academy of Science at the ANU.

Kama Nature Reserve
Kama Nature Reserve

Georgia Bennett

The Lonely Road Georgia Bennett

Georgia Bennett recorded her first EP in July. It will be available for sale on iTunes shortly, but in the meantime here's a sneak preview of a couple of her songs. Georgia wrote all the songs on the album, and she recorded the guitar part and all the vocal parts as well. This is a huge achievement, and a brilliant result. Have a listen.

A few months ago, Georgia did a gig in Gold Creek dressed as the Black Widow from Captain America to support a local charity. One of the organisers liked her costume so much that she asked Georgia to model for a photo shoot to advertise a new cosplay event in Canberra that she's starting up. Georgia had a great time, and the photos are amazing.

Singer songwriter Georgia Bennett

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has made a wrap this week, inspired by the paving in the Spanish village at Balboa Park in San Diego. 

San Diego

She laid painters’ tape on a piece of brown silk chiffon and covered it with 2 layers of fleece. She then felted it and cut the fleece along the taped lines, felting a little more to seal the edges. She's very happy with the result and thinks it is a lovely reminder of her travels.

Telena's wrap and pullover

Telena has also managed to finish the pullover she's been knitting, with a little help from her furbaby, Hazel! She's already thinking about her next knitting project and has decided that she has OCKD….obsessive compulsive knitting disorder.

Telena has had some lichen stewing for the past few months in a concoction of water and ammonia. It needs exposure to sunlight to help the colour develop into a more purple hue before she can use it in a dye bath. She's glad it's lost the strong eye-watering smell it had when she first made it. 

Lichen eco-dyeing

Telena says she's really enjoyed the 52 week challenge - the excitement of creating new work and the challenge of trying new techniques. She plans to continue to challenge herself this way in the future. Good news.

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has managed a quick trip home to Sydney this week, and it gave him a chance to create a fresh look for a lampshade he picked up from the gutter (where else?) using a scrap of wallpaper and some trim from the local Indian supermarket. It took him a total of 20 minutes, and he says that measuring was the hardest part. As rush jobs go, Kanen says it was a quick and satisfying transformation.

lamp makeover

Kanen is back in Melbourne now, and he spotted these little dazzlers on sale in the window of Windsor Smith. He thought they were rather dishy, but he wasn't as keen on the price. His solution? Off to Rivers he went, and for $30 he had his own pair ready to be transformed. One hour later, and his new glitzy boots are drying on his balcony. They're cheap, cheery and every bit as marvelous as the real deal for a fraction of the price. Go for gold!

shoe makeover
shoe makeover

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, is in Venice this week.

While there's bound to be cooking on the horizon, she's been out and about with her camera to capture some shots for our last creative challenge. It's hard to top photos of Venice, after all. Check these out.

Trish Urquhart in Venice

I must also mention that the bells of San Marco were tolling in the background as Trish emailed her photos through. Don't you hate it when that happens?

Trish and Richard are in Venice to run an Allaboutwriting writing retreat. Trish says that the apartments and palazzo are stunning, and the host very kind and helpful. She's enjoyed shopping at the Rialto market and surrounding shops, buying fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, and she plans to go with the cook during the week to shop for their participants.

Trish sends a big thank you to everyone in the creative challenge group for all the fun and inspiration over the past 12 months.

Trish Urquhart in Venice

Keryn Clark

Keryn's garden - before

South African born writer, florist and textile designer, Keryn Clark, has completely transformed her life over the course of our creative challenge. She's moved from Perth to the Gold Coast and has been gradually turning her new backyard into a more inviting living space. Here's a quick reminder of Keryn's starting point.


And here's the transformation below. While the weather still hasn't allowed for abundant growth, there have been significant changes. How fabulous does the garden look? Keryn has transformed her backyard from a concrete wilderness to an inviting outdoor living space. Great work.

garden transformation
Keryn's garden - after

Scarlet Bennett

I've created a series of pieces to commemorate our final creative challenge blog. This journey started (for me) with a horse, so I've ended it with a talisman that celebrates my love of horses. This set is made from sterling silver and carnelian.

Carnelian horse

I have a lot of different pendants (many of which I've made over the course of this creative challenge) that I wear with a plain black necklet. To provide a bit of variety, I made a simple black onyx and sterling silver necklet with a bolt ring centrepiece that will allow me to add any pendant I like. It doesn't look like much on it's own, but it's going to be the perfect backdrop for my pendants. This piece going to be a staple in my wardrobe.

I also made a carnelian necklet to wear with the carnelian pendant I made a few months ago. It's more vintage than classic, and I've got just the outfit to wear with it.

Scarlet's gemstone chokers

My final piece is made with sterling silver and denim lapis lazuli. I made it for my daughter Hannah, who's having a birthday in a couple of weeks. I hope she'll like it.

Hannah's lapis lazuli choker

Hearty thanks to the creative challenge team for a truly inspiring year. Thanks, also, to the readers who've sent encouragement along the way. It's been a really great year.

Week 50: Creative Challenge 52

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, sends greetings from sunny Wodonga today. He is, he says, time poor but glitter rich, and he's whipped up these little Target lovelies in a sparkling frenzy for his tour manager, Libby Hill, who greatly admired last week's blue effort. Libby swears that she'll wear the boots to their first regional performance of Remembrance.

Kanen's shoe makeover

The shoe makeover took Kanen all of 90 minutes - he's getting speedy and slap dash in his old age, he says. Speedy perhaps, but I can see no sign of the slap dash. These shoes are just splendid.

Kanen's shoe makeover

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been impressively creative with the fruit she's been picking along the river bank this past week.

Trish made spiced roasted plums, which she says are delicious on oat porridge, with yoghurt, and also with cheese and crackers. She made sloe gin, which will take at least six months to mature (but will it last that long without someone giving in to the urge to sample it?). Still working with free fruit, Trish made apple, elderberry and sloe jelly. She also made a tomato tart tatin, and she's taken photos to show the making of it. Do check out Trish's food blog to see more of her fabulous food adventures.

Trish's tomato tart tatin

Trish has also been busy with travel photography this week and she's shared a photo of Godmanchester at night. Stunning.


Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been busy preparing for an overseas trip. That meant lots of packing and giving extra lessons to prepare her students for exams too.

She decided to felt a cover for her ipad so she can slip it into her handbag while sightseeing. Telena estimated the size of her pattern before shrinkage and laid out the base layer of a silvery grey fleece with a more colourful fleece laid on top. She had to felt carefully to avoid getting ridges around the edges, measuring at each step to make sure the ipad would fit. Telena was very pleased to discover that she can turn the felt cover inside out because both sides are attractive.

Telena's felt ipad cover

Telena has also been indulging her passion for knitting, and she's been working on the sleeves to a jumper she showed us not so long ago. She thinks she'll have it finished just in time for the warmer weather, but is happy to have it ready for when the cold sets in next year.

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has had a man-cold all week, so he's been a bit under the weather creatively. He did, however, find a camellia flower on our pathway this morning, and he took a very nice photograph of it.


He also finished his camera renovation project this week, and here are the finished bellows, ready to go. Nice job.


Scarlet Bennett

It's still too cold in Canberra to be soldering, hammering and filing downstairs in my jewellery studio, so I've been making pieces that I can put together on the couch in our warm living room.

I played around with some copper wire and black lava stone this week, creating a necklace that I put together with sterling silver links and findings. I made a pair of earrings to match too.

Copper lava stone jewellery

I also made a necklace and earring set using amber stones with mixed sterling silver findings.

Amber and sterling silver necklace set

Week 49: Creative Challenge 52

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has recently been in Orange and, while she was there, she visited Sassy Wines, a small boutique winery. The owner, Felicia, expressed interest in having some of Telena's textiles in the gallery at her cellar door, and she gave Telena a bag of mixed merino/polworth fleece to use in her creations.

Telena's felt scarves

Telena experimented with the fleece this week, finding that it created a softer felt than pure merino, and she's excited by the possibilities.

Telena's felting process
Telena's crocheted squares

She made two long skinny scarves, one with fleece alone and the other a mix of fleece and silk chiffon. Telena hasn't decided how she'll dye them yet, whether she'll eco-dye with leaves or aim for brighter hues.

Telena has also been making crocheted granny squares as she's going overseas and is hoping that a bamboo crochet hook will be deemed a safe travelling accessory by the authorities who determine what we can and can't take on flights.

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, reports that the tedious events of last week (when Kanen received a homophobic taunt from a heckler in the crowd after he sang the national anthem at a nationally televised basketball match in Melbourne) have deterred his itchy glitter-finger not a jot! So he presents this week's dazzling offerings with a gay and defiant heart. Bravo.

Kanen's glitter tie

Kanen hasn't shared his creative process since he assumes that, by now, we're all too familiar with his methods. He did, however, experiment with a new technique that's turned out quite splendidly. He dropped into Riot Arts and Craft for a bottle of acrylic medium because he's been struggling with the consistency of the gorgeous Glitterlites paints he so adores. It's very thick in the jar and doesn't spread very well on fabric, requiring several coats to achieve uniform coverage. Kanen thought he'd see if it might apply more evenly if it was dispersed in an appropriate medium.

Kanen's painted boots

His hypothesis was resoundingly confirmed and he says this is an important development because the thinner coats allow greater flexibility in the finished shoe, which means no cracks or sparkle loss where the shoe bends with the foot.

Are we glad to know this, he asks. Absolutely! I'm loving those new wheels sick.

Kanen's shoe makeover

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has contributed a wonderful recipe for her contribution this week.

Trish and Richard have started the return journey in their narrowboat, Patience, to their mooring in Braunston and, as they travelled through various locks, Trish discovered a bounty of hedgerow fruit - apples, plums, elderberries, haws, blackberries and sloes.

Trish's hedgerow crumble

Trish has mountains of fruit still to process, but for now she's created a brilliant hedgerow crumble, and she's shared the recipe on her blog. Do check it out. It looks delicious. As does her greengage clafoutis below. Yum!

Trish's hedgerow crumble

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has nearly finished renovating the camera he started work on last week and all that remains is to secure the bellows to the frames. He's very pleased with how it's turned out and, with the hardest part of the job behind him, he's looking forward to finishing the task.

Steve's camera renovation

We're just back from a trip to Sydney, returning to Canberra via Kiama and Berry, to shoot a couple of marketing videos. Steve took every possible opportunity to grap some landscape shots while we were there. He took these photos in Manly.

Manly Beach

The next photo was taken in Kiama, and rest at Berry.

Masonic Temple Kiama

Scarlet Bennett

I've got two new online courses that will launch in the next couple of weeks and I wanted to make videos for each of them to include on my website.

These are substantial programs - roughly six months in duration - and, although they're both peak performance courses, the content is very different because the professional demands of each profession differ so greatly.

So...we went to Sydney to film a video for the Peak Performance for Performers course because we wanted footage with the gorgeous Sydney cityscape in the background. We filmed at dusk and into the night to capture the amazing view of the city lights. Steve took a photo to capture my creative effort.

Filming for Peak Performance Psychology for Performers

This morning we drove to Kiama for some ocean footage, and the weather just couldn't have been better. The rain held off, but the sky was blanketed in grey clouds, giving us fabulous, soft light to work with. It was a bit of a flying tour, but we got the job done and now it's over to Steve to put the videos together.

Video for Peak Performance Psychology for Writers

There wasn't much time for recreation on this trip, but we did manage a walk around Manly Beach this morning and a book indiscretion at some point on our journey was inevitable. The impressive thing is...I only bought one!

Manly video trip

Week 47: Creative Challenge 52

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, is showcasing a jacket transformation this week. He bought this jacket from Topshop, largely because it was on sale for $35 (down from $200). It fits Kanen like a glove, but is a shade too plain for his taste, so he knew it would need 'the treatment' when he bought it.

Kanen bought the sequined butterflies at a garage sale that "Sarah Jane", a local fashion boutique was having, and this week the garment and the sparkles have officially met!

He's sewn them on, but not rigidly in case further inspiration strikes. But for now, the jacket flies with him to Melbourne for another four week stint.

Kanen's jacket

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been indulging her passion for landscape photography again, with very successful results. She took these shots on the River Great Ouse just outside Ely a few nights ago.

Trish's landscape photography

Trish has also been busy cooking this past week. She's made red currant jelly and samphire, and she still has ingredients left to play with today. She's planning a busy day in the kitchen.

Trish's red currant jelly
Trish's red currant jelly

Trish created an extraordinary tart tatin using beetroot, along with some beetroot cured salmon, and beetroot greens and lentil soup. She's posted her recipes on her fabulous food blog. Do check it out.

Trish's samphire

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, managed to snatch some time between teaching this week to continue dyeing some scarves with leaves she collected on a recent trip to Orange.

She found a variety of different eucalypts, and bundled them up in an iron water dye bath. She soaked a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt in soy milk overnight because cotton reacts differently to wool and silk, and needs a protein mordent to help the dyeing process.

Telena's eco-dyeing

Telena laid out the leaves and rolled the fabric around a dowel. Then she boiled it for two hours in the iron water. She couldn't wait to unwrap it and is very excited by the result.

The shirt is still wet in her photo, and the oxidisation process will continue as it dries.

Telena's eco-dyed t-shirt

Telena also made a dye bath from some of the remaining eucalypt leaves (being careful not to use the ones that she knows give red/orange tones) to create dye her scarves this lovely colour.

Telena's eco-dyeing

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett is very excited and can hardly sit still this week because he's close to getting his 90 year old Century Universal 8x10 camera functioning, and he can’t wait to use it.

He had a functioning  Sinar 8x10 camera, but sold it a couple of years ago as it was too heavy and bulky to cart around. His friend Pete gave him this camera (a much lighter, more compact field camera), but it needed extensive restoration, in particular, a new bellows and carrying handle. The poor old thing is battered and scratched, as you can see, and is missing a couple of small mechanical items.

Steve's old camera

Good news, however. A new bellows has just arrived from China, and a leather craftsman in Canberra has made a replacement leather handle. So all that remains is to figure out how to fit the bellows properly, find a few alternatives to the missing bits, and put it all together again.

Steve's camera refurbishment project

The two photos below are 8x10s that Steve made with his previous Sinar camera at Bombo near Kiama. The rock formation is known as The Cathedral.

The Cathedral

Scarlet Bennett

I've written thousands of words this week, giving my forensic psychology manuscript a real boost. That creativity isn't ready to share, however, so I've put together a quick terrarium today. I planted it out in my trifle dish, which is sacrilege in one sense, I know, but it's been years since I've made trifle and the dish has sat in the cupboard for years, neglect and unused. I decided it would be better off serving some function, albeit an unconventional one.

Scarlet's terrarium

Week 45: Creative Challenge 52

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been eco-dyeing again this week, as she's had some enquiries about her dyed silk scarves. So...out came the camping stove and fortunately the rain held off. Telena made up the iron water, wrapped the leaves in silk and immersed them in the hot water, then left them to do their magic for an hour. She also briefly dipped some previously dyed scarves into the iron water to bring out some different hues.

Telena's silk scarves
Telena's eco-dyeing

Telena took advantage of yesterday's beautiful winter sun, spending some time outdoors knitting gumnut beanies, this time in girly colours for another new arrival. She's also had a busy week encouraging her students to be diligent in the lead up to their exams.

Telena's knitted hats

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has just landed in Sydney (along with his gargantuan hangover) to beautiful blue skies. That wouldn't have been his experience if he'd flown into Canberra today!

Kanen has had a big week of shows, 8 in 6 days - unheard of for opera singers. He says it was very challenging but also rewarding. He loves Sweeney Todd and the audiences were really involved so Kanen found it a brief but wonderful pleasure.

He's submitted some pictures of the transformation he made every day this past week, from mild-mannered glitterphile to the dastardly Beadle Bamford, a fun little role with lots of nasty dialogue and some ridiculous, dandy-ish music. Clearly, broad brush strokes were encouraged and, up close, Kanen says he looks like he's in Cats, but he's reliably informed that from about Row F, his efforts were quite effective. God bless the wig, Kanen says - it was the cherry on the cake. Nice chest!

Kanen's Sweeney Todd makeover
Kanen Breen as The Beadle

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been a busy bee this past week (this is a terrible pun that you'll only truly appreciate when you read on).

Trish faced a difficult dilemma: Wade through six months worth of tax documents or go and watch some friends harvesting honey. Guess which option proved more attractive?  Do read Trish's blog about this. It's funny. And Trish shares a delicious oat pancake recipe, which she sourced to provide an accompaniment for the fresh honey and some fresh herbs she picked while she was visiting.

Trish's oat pancakes

During the week, Trish and Richard stopped their narrowboat at Wilton Marina to pick up a couple of things at the chandlery. There were four huge cherry trees outside laden with perfectly ripe cherries, and when Trish was paying she asked if it was okay to pick some. The result was an apple and cherry jelly flavoured with fennel and black pepper. This looks so delicious.

Trish's berries
Trish's apple and cherry jelly

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett had an hour to kill while his car was being fixed earlier this week, so he took his camera and went for a walk around Mitchell, which is an industrial area in Canberra, looking for some urban abstracts. He's rather pleased with the two buildings he photographed and he loves the triptych of tree shadows on walls. Not usually an urban photography afficionado, he enjoyed the experience so much that he's decided to try his hand at some more.

Steve's urban industrial photography
Steve's urban industrial photography
Steve's urban tree shadows

Scarlet Bennett

April, May and June are always frantically busy months in my occupational psychology business, and this year has been no exception. With the 14 July release of my novel in the mix, it's been even busier than usual and, I have to confess, I've been stretched a bit thin, to the point where I've been fantasising about taking a holiday.

That can only be a fantasy, because there will be no rest for me until the summer rolls around, so I've opted for the next best thing - a change.

I was facilitating a leadership workshop this week, and one of my participants mentioned that she makes terrariums in her spare time. You can imagine how quickly that captured my interest. Aha! I thought. This week's Creative Challenge sorted! Terrariums are very different from my previous creations, making them an ideal substitute for a holiday (I know, there's no substitute for a holiday, but this is a helpful delusion so please indulge me).

Here are my first efforts, not exactly masterpieces, but lovely to have in our home nevertheless. The downside was that it's been bitterly cold in Canberra today, so I put them together on the kitchen table. Let's not talk about the mess...

Scarlet's terrarium
Scarlet's terrarium
Scarlet's terrarium

Week 43: Creative Challenge 52

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been exploring The Culinary Delights of the Riverbank this week. Do check out her fabulous blog. You'll be amazed by what Trish has made with the ingredients she collected.

If you've been following our year long Creative Challenge, you'll know that Trish and Richard have been travelling around the UK in their narrowboat, Patience. This has given Trish an opportunity to explore wild produce on their travels. She came across some blackcurrants at one of the locks yesterday, and created some delicious blackcurrant jelly with her find.

Trish's blackcurrant jelly

Traveling around the UK has also given Trish an opportunity to shop at a variety of different markets - just the ticket for a gourmet cook. This week she's made mushroom risotto flavoured with truffle cheese, beetroot tart tatin, and a beetroot and green lentil soup flavoured with sherry vinegar and smoked paprika. All in the little galley kitchen in their narrowboat. Very impressive! To see more of Trish's food adventures, please visit her fabulous food blog.

Trish's mushroom risotto

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, had a very busy and successful craft show last weekend, and she's enjoyed a more relaxed time this past week. She had a lovely excursion to Virginia Farm in Annangrove with a friend, where she bought some Corriedale fleece - a coarser fleece for more sculptural felting. Telena then spent another happy day teaching her friend to nuno felt so she could make some gifts to give to family on an overseas trip.

Telena happily knitted while issuing instructions, and her friend rolled and rolled and rolled her creations.

Telena's felting

Feeling inspired, Telena drew up a pattern and a resist for a sculptural form. She's been planning to create a hanging bird nest for the garden for a while now. She laid out the cream coloured Corriedale around the resist, and made a long, thick dreadlock to attach to the nest. She gently felted, taking care around the edges to avoid creating ridges. As the fabric thickened and shrank, Telena cut a slot and pulled out the resist. She then felted harder until the fabric was strong and dense. Telena plans to eco-dye this piece with some eucalyptus leaves once she's made a few more in various shapes and sizes.

Telena's felting

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, is still in Melbourne rehearsing Sweeney Todd and the weather, he says is bitterly cold, wet and windy (reminds me of Canberra) - perfect for creating masterpieces indoors.

Original purse

A Sweeney colleague presented Kanen with an old purse for a make-over this week, after having admired his red and gold sparkly boots - as you do. Kanen says he loved the old, lived-in version of the purse, but she was gagging for some gold sparkle, so he humbly presents the new 'improved' model. He says there was very little work involved at all, but she loves it, and it's a project befitting a time-poor, very busy week of stage calls. Nice!

Kanen's purse makeover

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett's offering comes to you from the Blue Mountains this week. He took Hannah and Georgia to visit his parents in Leura for a few days. Amongst other things, the trio undertook the delightful Grand Canyon walk, fitting in a quick trip to Govett's Leap while they were in Blackheath.

Hannah and Georgia

Steve is pleased to announce that his Tactical 5.11 trousers were a huge success in the wilds of the canyon, but he was less impressed with his new Vibram soled outdoorsman shoes. He ventured forth into a frothing creek to photograph some small waterfalls, and unfortunately the grip of the Vibram sole didn't entirely match the slip quotient of the wet rocks, resulting in a bit of a tumble, a dinged knee, and wet socks. Fortunately, the water cooled feet were rather beneficial on the steep and unrelenting climb back out of the canyon, resulting in a springy and bouyant photographer reaching the top and motoring merrily back to base camp. Ah, the joys of the outdoors.

Banksia flowers
Grand canyon steps
Hannah and Georgia
Grose Valley
Mt Solitary

Scarlet Bennett

I've been working all day, every day for weeks now to get some online courses ready to launch on my website. The plan was to have the courses ready to go live on the 14th of July when my book is published. I'm going to make that deadline, but only by the skin of my teeth.

For this week's Creative Challenge, I'm going to share the link to my Psychology for Writers program, and the video I made as part of its marketing. If you have any thoughts before the page goes live on Tuesday, I'd be delighted to receive your feedback. Check out the content on this link: Psychology for Writers.

Week 37: Creative Challenge 52

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been knitting up a storm this week, and she has a new striped jumper to prove it. She started knitting this pullover a few years ago before putting it aside and she's happy to find that it still fits.

telenas knitted pullover

Telena says she loves knitting and creating but finds the stitching up boring, so after all her hard work some creations take a while to reach their finished form. In this case, the colours were singing to her and she could hardly wait to get this piece off her knitting needles and completed. You won't miss her wearing this, she says. No boring beige for Telena.

Telena has also raided her rather large stash of wool and she's picked out some colours in a different palette for her next project. The weather's certainly cold enough for lots of woollies now.

telenas wool stash

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, is back in Sydney for all of six days before heading west to Adelaide - ample time to gussy up this rather plain IKEA found object, he says.

kanens cupboard makeover

Kanen had borrowed Jacqui's car a year ago to drop something off in Potts Point and he came across this piece in his apartment building's communal dumping ground. He squeezed it into the boot and dumped it in the garage of horrors from whence it was plucked a couple of months ago to replace a rather gorgeous vintage sideboard in Jacqui's kitchen that had finally succumbed to age.

IKEA furniture is cheap, hardy and practical, but not really to either Kanen or Jacqui's taste aesthetically, so it's been a prime target for some creative challenge magic ever since.

Kanen never needs much of an excuse to go and visit the Wallcandy wallpaper shop - and, in particular, its El Cheapo off-cuts section - so he says it was lovely to spend an hour or so there during the week with the gorgeous girls, discussing all things paper and thumbing their amazing sample books. They all agreed, apparently, that they're better than porn!

The actual 'doing' on a job like this is minimal. A bit of measuring, a bit of blade and ruler work, and a bit of wallpaper glue and you're done. Kanen likes the fact that, due to the reflective nature of the paper, the rather gaudy pattern becomes lessened under light (natural or electric) so that from certain angles you don't see it at all, yet from other perspectives it proudly declares its full 1970s appallingness.

You may notice evidence of Jacqui's birthday celebrations in some of the photos. Kanen says he did the measuring and cutting while drunk, so it's miraculous it came out as intact as it did. That man can pull a creative rabbit out of his hat rain, hail or shine.

kanens cupboard makeover

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has had a hugely busy week. Exploring the British canals in a narrowboat is not all beer and skittles, you know.

trishs cooking

Trish and Richard left Paddington Basin yesterday, and after a six or seven hour journey, are now docked in Limehouse Basin. It was a grueling day after a stressful working week, and Trish was grateful to look out over the inky black water at the reflected lights at the end of it.

Nevertheless, ever the creative, Trish still managed to exercise her artistic spirit. Firstly, she made a fabulous raw courgette pasta. It's based on last week's togarashi recipe and she's calling it her three step, low carb, raw pasta. If you'd like to make this yourself, here's the recipe:

Step 1: Microplane the courgette and marinate it in a dressing of lemon juice, lemon rind, olive oil and garlic.

Step 2: Make a cooked creamy sauce. Trish used shallots, bacon, aubergine and cream.

Step 3: Add goat's cheese coated with togarashi.

Trish's other culinary creation was rhubarb with sugar and togarashi and served with creme fraiche. Yum! Never one to blow her own trumpet, Trish observed that both dishes were sublime. Coming from her, that's high praise indeed.

Trish has also indulged her passion for travel photography this week and she's shared some pictures of Limehouse, which she took on her phone.

Oh, and she'll be cross with me for mentioning this, but it's her birthday today, so please send her your birthday regards!

trishs travel photography

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has been busy with some woodworking this week. He's been working on a job that he's been meaning to get to for a while.

steves new music stand

His singing teaching set-up needs constant tweaking, and the music holding facilities above his keyboard have been somewhat inadequate. This week he devised a music stand with greater display capacity along with an improved retention strip along the bottom to accommodate thicker scores, and with hinges attached to the CD shelf so he can lift the stand back when he wants to gain access to the keyboard control display.

He says his new set-up is a big improvement and he's very happy with the result.

steves custom made music stand

Steve also went out with Georgia today and did the videography on her latest You Tube clip. She sang while he recorded and their biggest challenge was traffic, which kept passing and interrupting them at inopportune moments. It took a few takes, but they got there. I'm so pleased she recorded this song. I love what she does with it.

Scarlet Bennett

Continuing on with the project I started last week, I've been working on some jewellery giveaways for my forthcoming book blog tour. I made a few new pairs of earrings this week and Steve has kindly photographed them for me. The Heart of a Rose earrings below are one of my all-time-favourite designs. I sometimes make them with pearls. This time I made them with sterling silver and rose quartz.

Heart of a Rose earrings

I also made some earrings with amethyst, rose quartz and sterling silver. They're long and dangling and not what I usually make, but I quite like them.

amethyst and rose quartz earrings

I embarked on a project yesterday to make something special for a friend. She's never worn pearls before and I wanted to introduce her to the sheer joy of wearing them. I started by making her a necklace with freshwater pearls and sterling silver, and I added an adaptable centrepiece for maximum versatility. The silver centrepiece will allow her to switch pendants around depending upon her mood. I gave her a gorgeous silver heart to wear when she only wants pearls, and I've called this design Pearls with Love.

Pearls with Love necklace

I also made her a black onyx pendant for days when she wants more of a vintage look, and in this iteration I'm thinking of it as Pearls with Everything.

Pearls with Everything

I'm working on a smaller pendant to complete the set and I'll have that ready in time for next week's creative challenge.

In the meantime, I'm absolutely loving this pearl design and I'm thinking I'll have to make some more. Pearls are like flowers. You just can't have too many in your life.

Week 4: Creative Challenge 52

South African born writer, florist, painter and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, has baked a mouth-watering delicacy today - a passion fruit Victorian sponge, known in South Africa as a granadilla cake.

Keryns Granadilla Tea party.JPG

Keryn wasn't raised by her mother. Instead she was cared for by her grandmother, and it was her grandmother who taught her how to bake. Despite her mother's uselessness at anything to do with domesticity (you go, girl!), she was inspired by granadilla cake. One day she arrived back in South Africa without warning, just in time for Keryn's school fete. This inspired her to slap on an apron and march into the kitchen with the grand announcement that she was going to bake a granadilla cake.  But tradition bored Keryn's mother and she added her own personality to the cake, which included peppermint flavouring and blue icing.  The cake didn’t rise and it looked a sorry offering on the ladies cake counter at the fete. Imagine a flat blue cake with granadilla seeds lodged like dead flies in the icing. Keryn's never forgotten that cake because they took it home with them unsold. I have to confess that blue icing has that effect on me too.

This week, when Keryn's Country Home magazine arrived, there was a story in it about a retired man who bakes for his family, and he'd declared the Victorian Passion Fruit sponge the all-time family favourite. Keryn was inspired to make one in memory of her mother, and she thinks this recipe worked out well. She likes to think that, sans peppermint, she's inherited some of her mother's drama. Fortunately for us, she hasn't inherited her sense of aesthetics.

P.S. A little birdie told me that the granadilla cake is no longer, and that Keryn ate two slices. Well, you would, wouldn't you...

Keryn's granadilla cake

Keryn's granadilla cake

Kanen Breen

Kanen's in-progress screen transformation

Kanen's in-progress screen transformation

Opera singer and strange bedfellow, Kanen Breen, says we'll have to take his word for the fact that he's been consumed this week with writing a duet for the Strange Bedfellows performance, Under the Covers, at The Vanguard on December 16.

A number of factors have contributed to this being the case, apparently: 1) He's never written a song before, let alone a duet; 2) he can hardly play the piano; 3) the app he's using on his iPhone to score it legibly keeps crashing and erasing his efforts, which means that whatever section he's been working on has to be reconstructed from his bizarre and meandering, illegible scribbles. The end result of this is that he gets a completely different result every time. Very frustrating (in light of these developments, a blood pressure check may be in order, Mr Breen).

In spite of these limitations, the duet has gone from being a two and a half minute ditty to a full blown ten minute rock opera involving some pretty salacious behaviours in which Jacqui will be required to do her best Michael Hutchence impersonation (you'd best come home from Honkers toute suite, Jacqui, because all manner of mischief is underway in your absence).

Kanen's really been enjoying the challenge of trying to get a musical notion out of his brain and onto the page intact. The lyrics have been coming to him at all hours of the day and night, so he's been keeping a sparkly pink notebook beside him at all times to soak up the 'poetry' as it flows forth. One can only imagine. The lyrics have been coming to him at all hour

He can, of course, reveal none of this before the premiere, but he assures us that his composition will divide the punters and horrify his parents should they choose to attend. Isn't that precisely what children are for?

Lest we think his efforts too intangible this week, he's provided evidence of another (unexpected) screen transformation, which got underway yesterday. He went and saw a great act at The Vanguard in Newtown last week, and noticed an annoying door at the back of the stage that breaks the mood onstage every time someone steps through it. This, of course, prompted a creative inspiration, and Kanen immediately thought of four IKEA doors that he found on the nature strip near Jacqui's place that have languished in her garage ever since, waiting for a purpose. Their wait is now over and they're destined to become quite fabulous in due course. If you've been following Kanen's work, you'll find this very easy indeed to believe.

Trish Urquhart


Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been getting about twenty passion fruit a week off her vines. They've built up over the past couple of weeks, so she decided to make a passion fruit and apple jelly for this week's creative contribution.

The recipe was largely based on a recipe for passion fruit jelly from a beautiful book called 'Salt Sugar Smoke' by Diana Henry. Trish followed it fairly roughly, and referred to and borrowed bits from the Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall recipe for hedgerow jelly that has become her trusted recipe for all jellies. And because she can't resist playing around, she added a hint of chopped fresh chilli and a couple of bay leaves. Why oh why did she not make notes, she wonders. She's going to have to make it again, keeping proper notes, so she can post it to her fabulous food blog. But, of course, that's hardly a problem - the jelly is a gorgeous tart and tangy delight, and her passion fruit vine is obligingly producing an abundance of fruits all year round. This is the kind of problem it's rather nice to have.

Trish made some pre-dinner snacks featuring the jelly:

  1. Buckwheat blini with cream cheese, passion fruit jelly and fennel.
  2. Fried goats cheese haloumi served with lovage and passion fruit jelly.

For dinner, she made baked fish with lemon and olive oil. She served it with roasted broccoli and, of course, a passion fruit and apple jelly accompaniment. Way to dine in style, Trish.


Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has roped in her resources to create some funky jewellery this week. She's been making felt ropes - a.k.a. dreadlocks - to turn into necklaces. The necklaces are light and colourful, just the thing to wear with one of Telena's exotic creations.

Telena is busy creating a stock of these for the Christmas Show of the North Shore Craft Group in November. She tries to always have some new ideas for these exhibitions, and the dreadlocks are fun and quite quick to make.

Telena starts by rolling long lengths of fleece in a bamboo blind, joining each piece into a loop, and felting until they've shrunk and become thick, dense felt. When they're strong enough, she can hit them hard on her table, so they have therapeutic as well as aesthetic value - a great way to release those inner frustrations.

Bang! Pow! Wallop! Ah...I feel better now.


Georgia Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, has been on holidays this past week and she was determined to put a positive, creative foot forward. She's written a few new songs that she wanted to record, and she also wanted to re-record some songs that she posted to her You Tube channel and website a few months ago, because our primitive technology let her down then and we've invested in some better equipment since.

Like most great plans, this one went awry. She spent days recording her songs, only to later discover that the technology was still delivering a sub-optimal result, in spite of the fact that it all looked good when she checked it on the video recorder at the time. So her planning, efforts and early preparation came to naught, and she's had a frantic dash to the finishing line today, with Steve helping to get the audio working better. This is a live recording made with pretty basic equipment, but it's the best we've managed yet and she still sounds awesome.

Georgia's recording set up

Georgia's recording set up

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has been a legend this week, all but finishing our new garden infrastructure to allow us to grow more flowers. It was hot here today, so it took a heroic effort to finish these front beds. We need to get in a bit more soil, and we're still trying to decide whether or not to pave the pathways with some kind of mosaic design, but the beds are almost finished. It's been a huge job over the past few weeks and I know Steve's looking forward to getting back to his usual creative pursuits.

Steves Garden Infrastructure

Steve has also been busy with his camera, taking photos for our urban farming blog, photographing my jewellery, and getting out and about for the odd landscape shot whenever he can. He's particularly pleased with the abstract images he was able to create with the photos he took of a few stumps he found lying about. They're really very cool.

Steves Stumps
Steves Urban Farming Triptych

Scarlet Bennett

Yama's pendant

Yama's pendant

I've been juggling creative activities with some pretty heavy work commitments this past week, and I was grateful for the public holiday on Monday, which allowed me to make a couple of pieces that were high on my priority list.

Reiki practitioner, Yama Mehry, commissioned me to make him a lapis lazuli pendant. It wasn't a small piece by any means, not when you consider the size of the gemstones in your standard retail outlet, but it was definitely small by my standards, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quick and easy it was to make. I'd forgotten that the challenges I deal with when setting very large stones are unique to large stones. Far be it from me to ever chose the easy road.

Still on a lapis theme, I made a large pendant for my friend Linda, to accompany the blue polymer flower I made her last week. This is a big piece, roughly 40mm x 30mm, and the stone is an absolute beauty - a deep, dark blue flecked with gold and featuring a sparkling gold stripe. Linda's really going to look the business in this.


Yesterday I indulged myself by playing around with a design that I've been thinking about for a while.

I've had a lot of positive feedback about the red polymer flower I made in our 30 day creative challenge. Every time I wear it, I get compliments, and I like it so much myself that I've been thinking about adding more flowers to my repertoire. I'm absolutely brimming with ideas, but I decided to start with a flower ring. I made the rose out of polymer, using some rose leaves from the garden as moulds, and I strengthened the flower and gave it a glass-like finish with resin. I set the rose on a blackened copper base with a sterling silver ring shank that I etched with a floral design.

It was hard to do justice to this piece with a camera because the surface is so reflective, but 'in the flesh' it's really quite gorgeous. If I'd had any doubts about it's potential popularity, they were dispelled early in the construction process. I had two 'commissions' for the ring before it was even finished. Hannah and Georgia took one look and said 'please could you make me one of those, but with a pink rose?'. The answer is yes, but I can do better than that. Brace yourself for an onslaught flowers in the coming weeks.