Sunday, July 28, 2013

My weekend: 'Notes on a Scandal' and another sketch

After a weekend spent doing very little and feeling fairly rubbishy, I'm forcing myself to write blog post with a couple of things I have done recently. I thought I'd do another book review and I'll try to keep it brief and not to give too much away.

Last week I got an enormous craving to read something new and as all my things - including my books - are packed away in boxes for the time being, I went off to join the library. I came back with a stack of books and proceeded to spend the next eight hours curled on my bed completely engrossed.

I read 'Notes on a Scandal' by Zoƫ Heller (yep, all in one evening) and actually I think it's possibly the first time I've preferred a film to a book. If you haven't seen the film, I really recommend it. Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett are both fantastic in the lead roles, and it's one of those films that doesn't quite turn out as you'd expect.

The plot centres around Sheba, a schoolteacher who has an affair with one of her pupils, but told from the point of view of Barbara, Sheba's friend and fellow teacher. After a while though, it becomes clear that the story of Sheba and her boyfriend Steven is really only peripheral and actually it's about Sheba and Barbara's relationship (despite Barbara's frank claim early on, 'This is not a story about me'). Barbara is a bloodsucker; she becomes fixated on certain people, desperate to befriend them, thinking there is a larger connection between them than there really is.

For me the film captured Barbara's character much better than the book did. She is truly sinister, but also sad (there's heartbreaking monologue that's lifted pretty much word-for-word from the novel that describes the kind of loneliness that stems from not just a few weeks or months, but years of being alone). The ending was completely changed in the film, with Sheba leaving and Barbara finding a new 'friend', and I thought it suited Sheba to be a bit more gutsy than she is in the book.

The book is very well written though (I feel like I'm being too down on it). There are moments of completely clarity when, within a sentence or two of character description or social interaction, you just 'get' it. I also like that Heller doesn't shy away from exploring the bodily and sexual, but that may well be personal preference and some people might find certain descriptions a bit full on. I think I might look up her other two novels when I'm next in the library and give those a try too.

Oh yes, and I did get around to drawing a bilby this weekend. Bit annoyed that she's too big to fit on my piece of paper and there's no room for her tail, but never mind, she's cute nevertheless. I'm thinking of putting together a 'Creatures Wall' of all my little sketches. I don't really like pictures behind glass, so I might just mount them on card and stick them up somehow.

Has anyone else read/watched 'Notes on a Scandal'? How have you spent your weekend?

Song of the day: 'Fistfull of Love' - Anthony and the Johnsons

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rope bowl

A few days ago, I saw this post on Geneva Vanderzeil's website a pair & a spare. It's a DIY to make a bowl using thin rope (or piping cord as I think upholsterers call it). I thought it was a really nice idea, and pretty simple to do if you know how to use a sewing machine. So the other evening I gave it a go.

(Sorry about the photo quality, I can't seem to find anywhere in this house with good light. I'm working on it!)

The method shared on a pair & a spare is really simple, so I just followed it pretty much exactly, sewing in a zig zag stitch around and around, coiling the rope as I went. Starting it off was the hard bit as sewing in circles that small is difficult, but after that it went okay, but as you can see from the next picture, I didn't manage to do it very neatly. The only thing I did differently was to coat the inside with PVA glue once I'd finished to strengthen it. It dries clear so it isn't visible.

I've since thought of loads of different variations for these bowls. I wanted to make a fruit bowl as I don't have one, but 10 metres of cord (the amount I bought) was only enough to make this quite small bowl. I've since found different colours of the cord on eBay, so I might try that. Or maybe painting the cord different colours first so that the bowl is multicoloured. Endless possibilities... I might even make placemats for my table although usually I hate those kind of unnecessary things.

I think this bowl might live in my bedroom as a receptacle for hair ties and kirby grips and jewellery, all those little things that accumulate and don't really have a proper home.

Has anyone else ever tried anything like this? You can make similar things by weaving paper together too (tutorial here) which I was thinking of trying soon too.

Song of the day: 'I'll Fly Away' - Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Experiments with old paper and new drawings

So today I started on a project that I've been meaning to do for ages. Because (as I have mentioned about five times already) I am moving into a new flat soon, I decided a while ago I would buy some new things, recycle some old things, and make a few things for the new house. I've spent the last three years in the same student house and while it was great (and had a balcony with amazing views of a marina) I get bored of looking at the same furniture and same pictures on the walls everyday.

A few months ago, I found three of these small frames in Sainsburys, reduced to around £3 I think, so I bought them without being quite sure what to do with them.

Around the same time, I was browsing through Etsy and I came across a few shops selling vintage early 20th century paper, so I bought some thinking that it would come in handy for a project at some point. They don't seem to be selling the exact bundle I bought anymore, but I got mine from here.

As you can see from the picture, and more closely in the following one, the pages are from all sorts of things. Some are in Greek (I tried to teach myself Ancient Greek for a bit, so I should be able to decipher at least a tiny bit of it, but nope, all that knowledge has emptied itself out of my head it seems), some are from plays and one is from some kind of textbook with a chapter on 'Inorganic Chemistry.'

So anyway, it wasn't until recently that the thought occurred to me that I could combine these two purchases and make some new pictures to hang in the next place I lived. I've also wanted to get back into drawing for a while, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to start. Here's what I came up with this afternoon:

It's an armadillo! Kinda pleased with the way he turned out actually. I love drawing in black biro, it's really good for working in texture and shading. I usually sketch an outline in pencil first though. He's the first of three I'm hoping to do, so I'll have a little triptych on my wall. I thought maybe drawing over a page of text might be too much, but actually I like the layers it creates, it feels somehow like an old encyclopaedia drawing, like this.

Here he is again in close-up:

Song of the day: 'Tessellate' - Alt-J

P.S. Has anyone been watching a new drama on BBC2 called Top of the Lake? It's on Saturday nights around 9.15 and it's really good! Basically a twelve-year-old girl is pregnant and the six episodes follow what happens to her and the police that are investigating her case. Everyone seems to have an ulterior motive though, and you're not sure which characters you can trust, which I love.

Joining the blogging community (one step at a time)

Just a quick note to say that you can now follow this blog through both Bloglovin' and Google Friend Connect if you still use it (and yes, I am following my own blog - got to boost my numbers somehow, right?) Just click on the links on the right-hand-side of this page. I've also just created a Facebook page for Jungle Noises, you can visit it here. I'll be updating it soon.

I'll be back later with a little drawing I've been working on for my new house.

Hope everyone is enjoying a nice, lazy Sunday.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer lovin': The little things

I'm job-hunting at the moment, and (for me, anyway) it gets pretty disheartening when you put time into writing out an application and covering letter only to hear nothing back. It's particularly hard for me because I'm still not sure exactly what it is I want to do. But the sun is still shining and there are small things to keep me cheerful. Here are four of them:

I've owned the bracelet on the left since I was about 17 and I have literally worn it everyday since. I love simple silver jewellery and these bracelets are beautiful for two reasons. 1. They're handmade and the jeweller makes them to the size of your wrist so each one is different and completely personal (I have small hands and wrists so usual bangle bracelets slip off me really easily so I can't wear them). And 2. wearing them each day and having them rub against your skin and clothes actually polishes them, so they start to get more and more shiny over time. A few weeks ago, as a finishing my degree present, my mum surprised me with two new ones, so now I have 3 jangling away on my arm!

This was our bargain of the week. We move into a new flat in a couple of weeks, and my boyfriend Shane happened to come across these amazing yellow pans on eBay. They were a local listing, so no one else was really bidding for them, so we got BOTH for £1.20! Plus we had a nice evening walk going to collect them. There'll be a lot of stews happening in my house this winter...

I was in Primark earlier in the week buying knickers because, to cut a long story short, someone stole mine from the washing line. Yep, I know, very weird and creepy. But while I was there I saw this light green top reduced to £2 so of course it snuck into my hand. I love this colour at the moment - I have a jumper in it too - and the peplum is kinda cute. It is more see-through than I first realised, so I've worn it with a vest underneath. Maybe this will be the beginning of a love affair between me and pastels, who knows?

Lastly, I think it's perfectly legitimate to pick flowers from other people's gardens if they are intruding onto a public footpath, don't you? I found these hanging over a wall a few doors up from the house I'm staying in. Flowers always make me feel better, especially if they're free!

What are your plans for the weekend?

Song of the day: 'Crazy Love Vol. II' - Paul Simon

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A (belated) Easter walk

These photos were taken around Easter time, so not exactly the most recent, but I was browsing through my iPhoto folders and just wanted to share some of them. They were taken on one of those rare (in England anyway) unashamedly sunny days that are still a bit cold and crisp too. While we were at home in Somerset for the holidays, my boyfriend and I drove a few miles to this big pond/small lake and walked through the woods and then around the edge of the water.

I love photos of water for some reason, especially when the reflections aren't perfect, like the photo above with all the branches becoming tangled and confused.

Are there any places near where you live that are really special? Also, I've recently moved, so if anyone happens to read this and lives in Devon, give me some new places to explore!

Song of the day: 'Worried Shoes' - Karen O and the Kids

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Being productive? I made a felt rat.

I'm thinking of setting up an Etsy shop sometime soon, and I've been thinking about what to make. Some kind of animal toys/collectibles seems like the best option for me as I love sewing and all kinds of creatures!

So to get some practice in and also because I've never really made a pattern myself before (I'm one of those people who can't visualise things flat - I can't read a map or work out the layout of a building) I decided I would unpick a soft toy rat that I have. I got it from IKEA ages ago - I think they're about £2 - and once when I came back to my student house after the Christmas holiday, my mum, who had been staying in my house for a weekend break, had stitched the rat to a cushion and left it on our sofa, presumably to make us jump before we realised it wasn't a real rat.

Anyway, I forgot to take a photo of the rat before and now it's all in pieces, so here's what they look like (photo taken from IKEA website):
So after I'd unpicked all the bits, I ironed them flat and drew around them to create a pattern. I thought once I'd made the rat I could see how long it took and how difficult it was and then adapt the pattern to create other animals - maybe a guinea pig or a hedgehog to begin with.

Here are my pattern pieces, all cut out and labelled:

Then it was just a question of cutting all the pieces on grey felt (I used felt because it's so easy - it doesn't fray, both sides are the same and there's no pile or pattern so it doesn't matter which way round you cut the pieces out) and hand-stitching it back together. Actually, the sewing was a little trickier than I thought, mainly because I'd forgotten exactly how it fitted together, but luckily I did remember to label all the pieces so with a bit of trial and error I got there. And of course I managed to sew one of the legs on the wrong way, but that was remedied in a few minutes.

The best bit with making something like this is always turning it the right way around (because you're always working with it inside-out when sewing the seams) and seeing it for the first time how it's supposed to be. That's the fun bit, when you get to sew the features on and it seems to get its own personality.

Here's my rat chilling with our new peace lily:

I actually recycled the feet and tail from the original rat, because they were fiddly and frankly I couldn't really be bothered to make new ones! The eyes and nose are just embroidered on in black thread, although he's probably look better with buttons for eyes as they catch the light.

I'm not really that impressed with how he turned out. He's kinda cute, but I don't really want to make another one. Still, it was good pattern practice and I'm sure I can find somewhere for him to live or someone to love him.

Check back in soon for my next bizarre and probably underwhelming project!
It's still boiling so this is my song today. It always makes me think of summer.
Moby - 'South Side' (Yeah, I'm not so keen on the version with Gwen Stefani)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Summer reading: Annie Proulx

Sunglasses - Primark    |    Red headscarf - Charity shop    |    Sandals -

Phew, it's been hot today! I was thinking about it and this must be the hottest weather I have ever experienced in England. I'm not much of a sunbather, plus I'm very pale and don't really tan, but I have been slathering on the factor-50 and sitting out on the patio for an hour or so every afternoon with my book.

Because I've been doing an English degree for the last three years, I haven't had a huge amount of freedom with what I could read, usually having a long reading list of specific books to get through at all times. So now that I've finished I don't quite know where to begin again, and my interests have changed too, so I eased myself in with Annie Proulx's collection of short stories Bad Dirt. It had been on my shelf for a long time so I thought it was finally time to read it.

Proulx is a pretty well-known modern writer - she's published a number of novels and short stories, won the Pulitzer Prize and wrote 'Brokeback Mountain' which of course became a film - and her style is just beautiful. All the stories in Bad Dirt are set in Wyoming, a place that I know almost nothing about, and characters recur in different stories and interact with other characters so you get a sense of the communities in these sparse little towns. Although it's not description-heavy, the landscape really comes across in the language, especially the difficulties of living in such a rugged, bare and lonely environment.

I found this photo to give you some idea (from here

Most of the characters are men - quirky, dour and often not particularly likeable. A lot of them work with the land in some way, as ranchers or game wardens and I think it's the connection between people and place that really drew me into these stories (I'm always really interested in why people are living where they do and the things that happened to them that meant they have ended up here or there). I also love the names Proulx gives her characters: Creel Zmundzinski, Gilbert Wolfscale, Fiesta Punch... Often, stories incorporate generations of the same family, so almost a hundred years is covered over a few pages. Proulx manages this really deftly though, you never feel lost or swamped and her style is really breathtaking. One of the reviews inside the cover says that Proulx manages to be 'humorous and existentially black at the same time' and I think this sums up her style pretty damn accurately. There are some lovely bizarre, witty moments (a sinkhole in a tarmac car park that kills unsuspecting game poachers, for example) but ultimately the stories are of people struggling, against each other, against their environment, against the stranglehold the government invariably has them in, but at the same time they are not asking for the reader's pity, and would most likely throw it right back if it was offered.

I will admit it's probably not the most apt book to be reading on a sunny weekend during a British heatwave, but my tastes are probably slightly odd. It is a really beautifully written collection though, and I'd urge anyone interested in short stories or contemporary American fiction to look it up.

Song of the day: Hot Chip - 'I Feel Better'

What are you up to this sunny weekend?

P.S. On a completely different note, I've just discovered that ASOS now stock Monki! Might have to indulge soon...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Needle felt animals

A little while ago, mainly as procrastination from writing essays in my final year at uni, I starting doing some needle felting. Not exactly the first occupation that springs to mind when you imagine how an undergraduate might be spending their free time, but hey, each to their own. I bought a starter pack from eBay with twelve different coloured wool rovings, ten needles and a spongy mat so that I don't stab myself (it almost worked, but I still managed a couple of bleeding fingers - those needles are sharp!)

Here are a couple of my attempts:

The elephant was for a friend's birthday and the camel was requested my another friend. Camels are such weirdly shaped animals, it was difficult and I had to make it sitting down in the end, the legs would've been too thin for it to stand up, but I persevered because it was around the same time that I found out she was pregnant, and nothing says congratulations quite like a needle-felted camel!

A word of warning if you want to try needle felting yourself: it takes aaaaagggges to finish something. Much longer than you would expect. But if you're like me and quite enjoy repetitive tasks, it can be pretty rewarding. Especially if you have a good TV series to catch up on... I think I got through quite a lot of Nashville while making my camel.

Next time I make one, I'll take photos of each stage and explain my process. It's surprisingly easy, just takes time, as I said.

Any ideas for what type of animal I should attempt next?


Hello! My name is Jess and this is officially my first post on this new blog that I have been fiddling with for ages as I am a complete technophobe. It's a work in progress, so please bear with me (or alternatively, give me tips!).

I'm 24 and I just finished an English with Creative Writing degree and moved to Exeter to live with my boyfriend and search for a job. Whilst I'm doing that, I thought starting a blog would be a good way of sharing the things I make, draw, eat and read, to keep me motivated to continue doing these things and to interact with other people who share my passion for silly drawings, literature and all things potato-based.

I'm not sure exactly how posts will pan out yet, but I'm planning on sharing a few of my creations that will be adorning the walls of my new flat when I move in a few weeks, so check back for those soon.

Pleased to meet you,

P.S. The above photo is a semi-frozen lake I visited in Sweden a couple of years ago. It was so beautiful.

Song of the day: 'Love is Rare' - Morcheeba!/album/Fragments+Of+Freedom/1130526 (track 3)