We don’t need no steenking resolutions!

Happy New Year to all of my 2.8 readers!

Today was the start of a new year, obviously. It’s one that I hope will be significantly better than the last because, well, frankly 2013 sucked. 2012 sucked too but not quite as hard as 2013. 2013 was fraught with joblessness, money worries, relationship woes, pet health scares… all that wonderful stuff that makes for the sort of stress that see a person bury under a doona and watch Youtube 19 hours a day…

Oh… wait…

Yeah, I did that.

Really.

2014 will be interesting as I have some big thoughts bouncing around in the old grey matter – some good, some bad, some kick-arse and some arse-kicker.

Since starting on my “weight loss journey” a few years ago, I’ve gotten over the whole idea of goals and resolutions. I’ve found that limiting myself to a goal means that the achievement of such overshadows the effort to get to that goal. There’s much to be proud of by trying and failing as much as there is to succeeding.

I may not have reached a particular weight goal last year but I’m sure as hell fitter and stronger for trying.

I may not have gone out and been as social as I would liked to last year (even though what I did do was a still a major step forward for a home-bly hermit such as myself) but I made a huge group of new, wonderful friends in the process.

I may not have taken as many photographs as I would have liked or published many new artworks but I attended workshops and networked with artistic people and garnered new inspiration for future work.

I may not have made as much jewellery as I would have liked to but I’ve learned a fair few new techniques through the generosity of those new friends I made too.

In terms of what I would like to do this year… I guess I could list it but that would just be putting unnecessary pressure on myself.

But I won’t lie and say that my list of “to-dos” doesn’t include losing enough weight to fit into some regular size 16 jeans I have sitting in the bottom of my wardrobe.

(It may also include blogging every day – but we’ll see how that goes.)

Renlish.com - A fucking goodyear

I love it when a plan comes together… in a steampunkish kind of way.

Be warned, this is somewhat long-winded.

But since when have I ever been short-winded?

Back in July, one of my good friends surprised me with a request to be her best girl at her wedding.

She said “Steampunk!”

I said, “Hells YEAH!”

Well, it wasn’t an actual steampunk wedding as such, it was more of an east-meets-west-carnival-type thing. Our bride, a lovely Russian girl (complete with that accent that seems to make any level-headed male melt into a puddle of goo), was planning on being a Russian gypsy. Her husband-to-be was a dapper English gentleman sort…

It really has the hallmarks of a typical romance novel, eh?

So we were set for an awesome February, late 1800s New Orleans-esque Steampunky type wedding carnival.

Except for one little hitch.

The bride was pregnant and would already be a mum come March 2014. So clearly there was suddenly way less time for everything because this wedding needed to happen before the “little monster” hatched into the world.

Due to a plethora of other reasons, a lot of thinking about the wedding after this point was put on hold but a couple months out we finally got our crap together and went on a shopping trip to find some inspiration and some clothes for me to wear. Unlucky on that day, I started to worry. Where in hell would I get a costume worthy of a wedding? A little under two months out from the day, I didn’t have time to order from my favourite online steampunk shops.

At a loss, I looked through my cupboards to see if there was something that I could fashion into some sort of a costume.

Unfortunately due to the fact that I am several sizes smaller than I used to be, most of the clothes I remembered having which would have been helpful for steampunkery had already gone to “good will” at least 18 months before. Alas and alack, all I found was a grotty old skirt (that was too big for me) which I had meant to put on ebay ages ago.

It was clearly not enough on it’s own but I figured I could do something with it. Maybe. After a bit more fiddling around and looking up steampunk reference picture after steampunk reference picture, I figured out that I could build the costume in layers – and I think that really is the key to good steampunk fashion. It’s all in the layers.

Kinda like dressing for Melbourne weather.

So using the skirt as a jumping point, I started searching for corsets (because corsets go with steampunk like tomato sauce goes with meat pies) and found this “sleeved” number at Angels and Divas who provided very good customer service, I might add, when I asked them a question about sizing.

So then we had this:

Renlish.com - Steampunk Costume Creation

Ignore the mess behind me! And yes, my bra is stripy.

A little more tavern wench than steampunk at this point, I know. But the ideas were forming! Unfortunately they were forming in ways that I had no idea how to recreate.

So… at a loss, I went to the Stitches and Craft Show here in Melbourne and bought a most excellent book called “Steampunk Your Wardrobe”:

Renlish.com - Steampunk Costume Creation

Steampunk Your Wardrobe, by Calista Taylor

The projects in the book centre around re-purposing old clothes and basic stitchery to create steampunk fashion, it’s bare-bones stuff but it was what I needed to cobble together the rest of my ideas to form my outfit. I knew I wanted a shirt to go beneath the corset and an underskirt so that I could bustle up the brown skirt into some sort of Victorian-esque masterpiece.

The only real problem was that I really don’t sew. Really. I don’t own a sewing machine and my hand-stitching doesn’t go beyond darning socks and stitching buttons back on.

So who ya gunna call?

MUM!

Yes, mum to the rescue!

Mum was awesome and calmly suggested that we go to Spotlight (the Aussie version of shops like Joanne’s and Michael’s, except sucky by comparison) and look at patterns and see if we can come up with any new ideas for the outfit. In the end, we picked out a couple of Simplicity patterns:

Renlish.com - Steampunk Costume Creation

Simplicity pattern – 4046 Misses Costumes. The pattern is actually a dress, however we cut it off at the waist as it was going under the corset I was wearing.

…and…

Renlish.com - Steampunk Costume Creation

Simplicity 5006 Misses Costumes, Misses Lingerie

A warning about the above patterns – if you’re new to the whole sewing bizznizz, do find someone with a little experience to help you decipher the pattern instructions. They are not very clear and for a complete newbie they may be mind-boggling – unless you’re a natural adept at sewing in which case I’ll shut up and let you figure it out.

ANYWAY…

For the underskirt we chose a basic black satin and added some lace around the edging and for the shirt I chose a lovely warm beige (as white would have been too stark) lace material with a matching cotton to line the bodice. Following the instructions from my new book, mum and I bustled my brown skirt into the aforementioned Victorian-esque masterpiece and then made the underskirt and shirt based on the patterns we bought.

Of course, while all of this stitching fun was going on, I went looking for accessories.

Because what is steampunk without a hat, AMIRITE?

Well, I found one.

Renlish.com - Steampunk Costume Creation

Beautiful steampunk mini top hat by Corinne of ChikiBird.

I died. Well, not really, but after a week of staring at this thing, I bought it. Couldn’t help myself. Corinne makes the most sublime fascinator hats and mico mini hats. The level of detail in them is exquisite and I totally recommend her. I had my hat arrive from the States to Melbourne within days. Sadly on the day of the wedding my hair simply would not cooperate and I could not wear it, so it stayed hidden away but I definitely look forward to the chance to use it when I play dress-ups again!

The last thing I needed was a belt – as all steampunk costumes need some sort of utility belt. Unfortunately there was simply not enough time (two days out from the wedding at this point) to fashion a proper utility belt with pouches and such, so I bought a cheap brown belt from KMart and attached all manner of brass chains and huge charms bought from Kays Artycles to it, with the finishing touch being a cheap set of goggles that the manbeast bought for his costume but didn’t use in the end.

A pair of fishnet stockings and some awesome new Bennetts “Jia” Boots later, we had our costume!

Ta-dah!

Renlish.com - Steampunk Costume Creation

The finished product! With a parasol!
Photograph by Lisa Otteraa.

A little bit wenchy, a little bit piratey, a little bit steampunky!

And just so you can see the awesomeness that is the skirt and my boots:

Renlish.com - Steampunk Costume Creation

The gypsy bride herself and her steampunk best girl.

What do you see?

My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company. — Jane Austen

I had an awesome day today. Sore tonsil and all, it was great.

Every six weeks or so I get together with a bunch of wonderfully creative people and we all sit around laughing, talking and making stuff – usually anything to do with beading. There’s many a rude joke and swearing session when threads get tangled or beading trays get dropped. And, of course, the husbands are not there so there’s a fair bit of group relationship therapy at times. It’s fun.

Today was our little Christmas party since we won’t be seeing each other much before the new year. Apart from eating way too much as I usually do at these gatherings because I have no self-control whatsoever when faced with goodies like home-made salted caramel fudge and vanillekipferl, we also had Kris Kingle presents and photos – as ya do.

So this was one of the silly photos taken:

All the pretty ladies.

As usual, these images are taken on phones and uploaded immediately to Facebook, which is cool.

Except when people say hurtful things.

Like this idiot:

“looks like a weight watchers class:P”

Wow. Classy.

I just froze when I saw that. But then I looked at the picture and it was only then that I noticed that 99% of the people in that image are fat. It took some twerp on the intarwebs to point it out for me to see that, though. All I see are my friends, smiling and happy – deservedly so. They’re awesome.

But to anyone else looking at this image and only seeing a bunch of fat women, here’s a run-down what you’re also seeing:

Me; a photographer, a crafter, an artist, a burgeoning fitness freak and someone who is just learning to like herself for the first time.

My mother; intelligent, witty, quietly sly world traveler, dedicated to her health almost more than myself and stoically attends training sessions with my personal trainer who takes no prisoners and makes no exceptions, even for 60 year-old ladies with bad knees.

A bloke who has taken out awards for his bead work and who also makes the most awesome chainmaille EVERYTHING you could possibly imagine.

A woman who, 18 months ago, woke up to find her teenage son dead in his bed due to a rare heart condition no one knew he had and is using bead craft as therapy to heal her soul.

Another woman who has traveled the world taking photos and is now doing the most magnificent pastel drawings…

I could go on.

Many of this group have been featured in magazines about their creativity and artwork. Many happily teach, without hesitation, and pass on their skills to newbies or those wanting to increase their repertoire. ALL of them have dirty minds and even dirtier mouths – with the exception of my mother who sits quietly and giggles at everything. She’s just got the dirty mind.

Each person in that image is a talented, beautiful soul and yet all this other person can see is “fat”.

I see friendship. I see love. I see support.

To anyone else who might also only see “fat”, might I suggest you indulge in some sex and travel?

Yes, that means fuck off.

Losing and gaining perspective…

It was a question I got from a friend a few weeks ago.

“Have you stopped losing weight?”

It wasn’t meant in a malicious way at all – it was simply curiosity brought on by observation. Correct observation.

I’ve stopped losing weight.

Of course, if I could count up how many times I’ve lost the kilos between the numbers of 105-102, I would have lost about another 30-odd kilos by now.

I am back to feeling the fraud. Weighed in at 103kg today.

Six weeks ago, my last blog post was full of positivity and joy and enthusiasm.

I’m back to where I was the week before that. At a loss.

I seem to have no control when sweets are put before me. I reach for the cake and the biscuits and chocolate.

It’s hard. I know I can just not have it. So many times people say “Ren, just don’t eat it!”

And yeah, they’re right. I should “just” not eat it.

Wouldn’t life be simple if we could just switch off what’s become almost innate within ourselves? 30 years of eating emotions doesn’t just go away. 30 years of living a certain way doesn’t just stop.

The weight loss industry would be seriously fucked if that was the case.

There would be many a starving personal trainer.

Anyway, the thing I find the hardest to deal with is “occasion eating”. Almost every week for the past six weeks or so there’s been a birthday or an outing or something happening that centres around food. And it’s bloody difficult to not eat. And particularly not eat all those sweet things. I make plans along the lines of “Ok, I will only have a small piece of cake and one small sweet”… but when I get there, control FLIES out of the fucking window.

If I don’t allow myself anything at all, then I turn into an absolute hag because I WANT to eat it then. It becomes deprivation and those of us with experience in this game knows just how well that works.

And of course, I turn into a hag when I come down off the sugar rush too.

It’s a lose-lose.

So, as a result, I will have a huge gain over the weekend, fight through the week to re-balance, then start again the following week only to have another occasion thrown at me.

Of course I fell off the tracking wagon again as a result. I don’t want to know or care. Lazy apathy plays a part and that old feeling of “SO SICK OF THIS!” is back, though at the moment I am fairly certain that has more to do with the fact that I’ve only had a few hours sleep after the flight the manbeast was on last night was seriously delayed. Didn’t get home until about 2.30am. Had to be up at 7.15am. ARGH.

Tiredness makes everything seem so much worse.

All of the above means that some friends are noticing that I am not shrinking anymore, when clearly I have a lot further to go.

I do. I set a goal of 77kg to lose. I’ve got another 28kg to knock off.

Sometimes I feel as though I am disappointing them. So many of my friends have found inspiration from me, just like I found inspiration from those who came before me and now – even though I know they’re not – I feel as if they’re looking at me and quietly asking “What’s happened?”

I’m trying to figure out that bit myself.

Just as an aside, upon reading the above post (originally published today on my WW blog), one of my readers left this message for me:

Perspective, hey?

That there is the reason I started doing this, it’s the reason why I still cling to the hope that I can see it through to the end and lead a long, happy life unhindered by excess weight and the pain and illness that is caused by it.

Sunday Review – Rebecca Vaughan, Make-up Artist

Before I get started on the review, I just wanted to let my faithful readers (all four of you) that I will be updating this bloggery thing here and making it a more functional website.  Don’t worry, it’ll still be a blog but it’ll be prettier and hopefully more useful to the both of us.

Anyhoo…

A few weeks ago I was after a make-up artist to assist me on a shoot that I was doing with my lovely friend Elle.  This was to be a boudoir session and I really wanted to pull out all of the stops to make it good for Elle and also yield a good result for my own portfolio.

Because I am pretty much a penniless photographer, I put out put out a call on Facebook page for local models, stylists and photographers for a MUA/hair stylist to assist me on a “trade for time/file” collaboration basis.  I had a few takers but Rebecca’s images impressed me the most and I immediately got back to her to arrange her services.

Unfortunately I’ve been involved in a few shoots where the MUA has cancelled at the last minute or simply not even shown up at all. There have also been cases where if they did decide to grace us with their presence, they were late or ran overtime or just had shockingly bad attitudes and delusions of grandeur – and even worse, their work wasn’t as good as the photos in their portfolio had promised.  It all equals up to a pretty sour experience. So I will admit to bringing my own makeup kit with me, JUST IN CASE.

I need not have worried at all.

Rebecca is a relative newcomer to the make-up industry and is also building her portfolio but if her current level of service and professionalism continues apace, she will be one of the best in the business and I am sure will be called on for loads of jobs.  She turned up on time, listened to what I was after and delivered in spades.  Elle really enjoyed having her make-up and hair done and appreciated Rebecca’s chatty but professional personality.  With Rebecca doing her thing, I was able to do some planning in the room and gather my ideas for the shoot ahead.

Now, Elle is gorgeous already without makeup but Rebecca’s styling brought out her best and was complimented the style of the shoot perfectly.  I couldn’t have been happier and neither could Elle.

Shades of Douglas Kirkland's wonderful Marilyn Monroe photographs.

Shades of Douglas Kirkland’s wonderful Marilyn Monroe photographs.

Elle looked fantastic and knew it.

Elle looked fantastic and knew it.

You can find Rebecca on her Facebook page – Rebecca Vaughan Make-up Artist and on her own blog, Just Wing It. I’m recommending her to all an sundry now. She’s even doing the bridal makeup for another friend of mine.

Oh, and by the way. Elle is in her late forties.

Yes, you can curl up and die of jealousy now. I have a thousand times already.

Sunday Review – Blushie Bath and Body

And welcome to a new Sunday Review.

Those who know me also know that since I started losing weight I have taken a keen interest in not only making myself healthy on the inside but pretty on the outside as well. Which of course means MAKEUP!

And smelling nice, but mostly makeup.

So when I discovered long time friend and US correspondent, Megan, was not only selling her beautiful hand-crafted soaps but also tinted mineral lip glosses, I was ALL OVER THAT SHIT.

While not vegan, the lip balms are made with natural ingredients and smell lovely. The mica shimmers add a wonderful depth to the gloss and stand out on the lips.

I bought a handful of the sample size glosses because I had no idea which colour would suit me best. I need not have worried, they all look awesome. The glosses are very, very sheer with the first swipe leaving just a hint of colour and shimmer. They are build-able to a small extent but I found that more than about three swipes and the gloss tended to look streaky and uneven on my lips. I would suggest layering these over a matte lipstick or lip pencil that matches the the colour of the gloss if you want properly coloured lips.

The thing I really love about the lip glosses are that they really feel just like a lip balm. I’ve come to really dislike the “sticky” feeling of lip gloss and avoid it in preference of tinted lip balms or my trusty Lucas Paw-Paw ointment instead.

You can buy Megan’s Blushie products – including hand-made soaps, soy candles, lip glosses and balms and perfume oils – from her online shop, Blushie or Etsy. She’s also got a Facebook page.

The glosses currently run for about $8.50 each after the current exchange rates to AUD from USD. They’re still a bargain so go buy!

Anyway, here are some pictures of the colours that I bought from Megan:

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Blushie

Size comparison, left to right: Sample, Lip Balm and Mineral Lip Gloss

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Blushie

The lip gloss in Berry Wine is my favourite. It’s cool red-purple berry colour suits my skin perfectly. I wear this one when I go out a lot. This one is probably the one that gives the most coverage on it’s own. So pretty!

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Blushie

Golden Harvest is a beautiful orangey-coral, very warm-toned gloss. The colour payoff is great and the gold mica shimmers. This is probably just a little too warm for me but I love it anyway!

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Blushie

First Blush is a neutral shade for me. It actually matches the natural colour of my lips. It’s got a cool, white shimmer that is NOT frosty but adds a sparkle to the lips. Instalove.

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Blushie

Winter Rose is a slightly deeper than First Blush, but still very neutral on me. It’s a cool mauve colour with pinky-tan highlights and blue shimmer, which means it suits my colouring perfectly again. It’s another that I wear a lot and will be buying in full size!

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Blushie

Just as an aside, I also bought the French Vanilla lip balm. Yeah – as a vanilla freak, I will happily admit that this stuff makes me want to eat my own face. I’m too scared to buy the balm in Gingerbread because I may actually do myself some damage if it smells as good as the vanilla.

All images property of Megan O’Keefe, Blushie Bath and Body.

“I’m sure your client loved it!”

As a photographer… ok… a wannabe photographer… I enjoy perusing many different forums and groups on Facebook and around the webs for my chosen niche just to see what people are doing and to give advice or feedback. As I said, I am a wannabe photographer – I know just enough to be dangerous and I like to believe I can give a fair critique of an image based on my knowledge and also what I like to see in photographs.

In doing so, however, I’ve come to recognise certain phrases that keep popping up, particularly when someone posts a very average-looking picture.

“Does it look right to you?”

Translation: “The image is completely naff. Focus is off. Composition is all wrong. Lighting is totally fucked up. Why in hell did you post this rubbish?”

“Did you achieve what you wanted to achieve?”

Translation: “I could do this so much better than you.”

“I’m sure your client loved it.”

Translation: “It’s a questionable, ill-conceived pose – probably suggested by the client and you didn’t know how to suggest any better. Or it was your idea and you have no clue what you’re doing.”

“I like the tonality.”

Translation: “You slapped an Instagram filter on that, didn’t you?”

“Lovely shot…”

Translation: “THIS IS SO BLAND I WANT TO STAB MYSELF IN THE EYE WITH A FORK.”

“I think that the most important thing is that you and the client ends up loving them and wanting to buy them.”

Translation: “Now use the money you’ve made and get some photography lessons.”

“Wow.”

Translation: Actually, I am still trying to figure this one out.

Renlish.com - Boudoir Photography

The glorious Ms E.

So how’s my tonality?

Sunday Review – Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery

Welcome to another Sunday Review – the blog posts where I spruik my mates’ businesses!

Last week we had gears and cogs, this week we have refined elegance.

Annette Piper has long been an acquaintance and inspiration of mine. Having met her through the Aussie Beading Forum, I’d watched her show creation after beautiful creation using the most beautiful gemstones I’d ever seen. We’re both attracted to natural and colourful pretties. Annette’s style is simple, her work really lets the gems do all the talking. There’s no fluffy bits or anything that takes the focus away from the main attraction of her work.

Not only is she a brilliant jewellery designer, but, as the the name suggests, she’s a qualified aficionado of beautiful gems. The girl knows her stuff.

Annette teams her beads up with sterling silver or gold wire and findings, making gorgeous classic pieces that will stand the test of time, regardless of the current trends.

You can catch Annette at various markets in New South Wales (Australia) and she also sells online via her luscious website and on Facebook. For up-to-date details on her market endeavours, make sure you like her page! She’ll actually be at the Willow Markets in the Hunter Valley region TODAY (if you happen to be reading this early enough).

Here’s a select few of my favourite pieces:
(Click on images to zoom in!)

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery

Nuggets of turquoise lusciousness.

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery

Striking green – brilliant for Summer and Spring

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery

Crazy colour!

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery

Baroque pearls.

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery

Oh the drippy, gemmie gorgeousness.

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery

This one is all class.

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery

Lovely crystal quartz.

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery

Seriously, this needs no fancy embellishment. LOOKITTHEGREEN!

All photographs property of Annette Piper, Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery.

Sunday Review – Germano Arts Handcrafted Jewellery

Welcome to the inaugural Sunday Review! I know a large handful of hugely talented and successful folks who all have their own boutique businesses and I figured this is the perfect platform to do it.

If you have a small home or boutique business, I would love to do a review for you. Feel free to contact me via my contact page.

Anyway, onto the review…

Teena is a relatively new friend of mine whom I met via other friends within the Australian Beading Forum. Teena has her own boutique business, Germano Arts and she creates some of the most stunning jewellery I have had the pleasure of viewing, fondling and eventually buying for myself!

Teena’s style is hard to describe. It’s undoubtedly Steampunk but with a pretty garden party twist. She has taken the current vintage palette trend of brass and copper and truly made it her own, adding cogs, toggles and screws and teaming it up with flowers and some of the most gorgeous sparkly beads you’ve ever seen. She sources her supplies from all over the world and even makes her own polymer clay and metal-work feature components and uses a combination of layering and cold connections as well as soldering to create her jewellery, all of which results in a unique and beautiful handcrafted piece which will last forever.

Did I say that Teena’s jewellery was hard to describe? Maybe it was just hard to describe in a few words.

You can find Teena regularly at the Kallista Market (Victoria, Australia) on the first Saturday of every month. She has also been featured in Australian Beading and has published designs and tutorials in Australia’s new Digital Beading magazine.

Online, you can find Germano Arts on MadeIt and Facebook!

Anyway, here’s a (albeit, large) taste of the kind of jewellery you were find at Germano Arts…

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Germano Arts Handcrafted Jewellery

Swallows and cogs go together like brass and copper.

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Germano Arts Handcrafted Jewellery

This one is MINE! After lusting after this double-drop beauty for the better part of a month, I practically threw money at Teena the day I saw it in person. It’s now one of my favourite pieces of jewellery, ever.

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Germano Arts Handcrafted Jewellery

A beautiful example of Teena’s polymer clay work teamed with her clever layering and enameling to create this awesome bib-style statement piece.

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Germano Arts Handcrafted Jewellery

Even the reverse sides of her jewellery are pretty features all on their own.

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Germano Arts Handcrafted Jewellery

Flora is a major feature of Teena’s work.

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Germano Arts Handcrafted Jewellery

It wouldn’t be Steampunk without a key!

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Germano Arts Handcrafted Jewellery

Lovely lampwork and crystal teamed up with filigree is always a winner.

Renlish.com - Sunday Review - Germano Arts Handcrafted Jewellery

Teena sources beautiful, unique shapes and components to incorporate into her designs.

All pictures are property of Teena Germano, Germano Arts Handcrafted Jewellery.