My Plus-Size Diva

My first statute (which has been nicknamed “Shirley Bassey” by some friends) is all painted and varnished, and she’s now ready for the garden:

Shirley FrontShirley BackClose-upand so far, I’m very happy with my makeover of that broken statue I found a couple of years ago – she really has become a diva!

Concrete DivaDiva FrontConcrete DivaDiva Side2Diva Side1Concrete DivaDiva BackI need to sand her, and depending on the result, I might also need to apply a thin coat of render to get a good finish before I can paint her into a swimsuit.

This course has been great fun, and I’m sad that it’s over.

However, Dev said that he’ll hold another course later in the year when he has some free time, so between now and then, I’m going to buy some cheap clay, and try to work out how I’m going to make those concrete heads.

I’ll need a lot of practice forming facial features – it’s one thing drawing a face, but another thing entirely doing in in 3-D!

Concreting the Statue

Sorry for the long break between posts – I haven’t been in the right frame of mind to write.

The class has been great fun, and over three lessons, I finished the statue.

I had to make some changes – she ended up wearing a long dress instead of a bikini, as the chicken wire armature was too big to allow me to shape her as I wanted – she would have had HUGE legs which would have detracted from the parts of her that were actually supposed to be huge!

And she won’t be holding a planter as her arms aren’t strong enough to hold a pot filled with soil.

Other than that, I’m happy with my first attempt…

Lesson 2

Using a wet and rough mix of concrete, small gravel, and sand (and wearing rubber gloves) we squeezed the mix into the metal armature:

Statue baseStatue bodyfinished1finished2

finished3I wasn’t too sure about her at this stage – she looked more like ET than a woman!

Lesson 3

This time, we wet the statue with water, brushed it with concrete glue, and started to build it up with a mix of concrete and sand (no gravel).

I soon learned that you had to do it in stages – I tried to add big boobs and a big bottom – but the concrete was too heavy, and kept sliding and falling off.

Patience, Veronique, patience.

FrontSideBackLesson 3

More water, concrete glue and concrete, this time adding bulk, shape and detail:

FrontSideBackI realised at this stage that I’d given her feet instead of hands – she has heels on her hands! Haha!

Lesson 4

To finish her off, I used medium-grade sandpaper to smooth off any rough bits, and then brushed her with cement glue to fill in small holes, and to even-out the surface:

FrontSideBackShe’s now back at home, and I’m currently painting her…once that’s done, I’ll give her a few coats of varnish, and she’ll be ready for the garden.

Dev’s Cement Garden

I mentioned that I was taking a cement sculpture course – well, we started last week, and it was so much fun, that I’m already thinking about what my next cement project will be!

The instructor, Dev, owns an art gallery in Point aux Piments (at the start of the road that leads to the Maritim Hotel).

Gallery entrance

Gallery entrance

Main gallery

Main gallery

Plaster casts

Plaster casts

Dev taught art at a tertiary level for many years before deciding to become a full-time sculptor, and over time has created a garden full of, sometimes whimsical, sometimes historical, sculptures.

He asked us to bring clay sculptures of our projects to the first class, so I made my first one ever, based on a statue we bought in Bangkok:

side…and on my painting:

big bumsback viewShe’ll be holding a pot filled with succulents:

with potThat’s the plan, anyway!

Dev had tables set up under the banyan tree:

Under the banyanwhere he taught us how to make the armature, which is the internal metal reinforcement for the statue – from calculating proportions, to cutting the metal and shaping it.

It was also where some of my classmates decided to play Tarzan:

Me Tarzan

…or should that be Jane?

Because my sculpture required the simplest armature, he used it as an example, and made the whole thing (another reason I need to make another statue – I want to have a go!):


Note the welding mask sitting ignored on the ground!

WeldingOnce the basic shape had been welded together, he twisted on wire to give shape and bulk to the hands and head:

Wire headAnd finally, he covered the main body and base with chicken wire:

Chicken wire

In addition to providing strength, the wire will give the cement something to grab on to.

Finally, I actually got to do some work – painting the armature with metal primer to prevent rust :


Smile, why don’t you – it’s fun!!!

Drying in the sun

Drying in the sun

Looks quite good as it is – I’m a little nervous about the cement stage – the clay was easy to work with – I hope the cement is too.

We’ll see come Thursday!

Thai Buddhist Amulet Artwork

Whenever we visit Bangkok, we inevitably end up at an amulet market  – they’re situated around the main temples (the best one is held on Sundays near Wat Mahathat).

Thais buy amulets for good luck or protection.

I buy them because I like looking at them – I love their colours, textures, detail, and shapes.

As the amulets we buy cost between 10 and 50 baht each (rs10-rs50, or 35c-$1.75), they’re obviously mass-produced, but authentic ones blessed by monks can cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.

Amazingly, despite both Alf and I selecting them without checking to see what the other has bought, we didn’t have a single duplicate.

Over the years, we’ve amassed a nice little collection, and now, I’ve finally thought of a way of displaying them.

I’m going to glue them onto painted canvasses, and hang them in our stairwell.


Here, I’ve roughly laid out the amulets, and mixed a sample of the paint colour

I’ve chosen a maroon background – the paler amulets will stand out nicely against it, but the dark ones will need a little help – I’ll rub on some gold gilding paste to highlight them and to bring out the detail:

Gilding Paste

Only the top halves have been gilded in this photo

As you can see, red-based paint doesn’t give good coverage on white surfaces, so I’ll undercoat the canvasses with black paint.

Some of the amulets are made from clay or wood, but others are metal, which means they’re pretty heavy, so I’ll attach everything with 2-part epoxy to ensure they don’t fall off as a result of gravity, or summer heat and humidity.

As I don’t have maroon paint, I have to mix scarlet and purple together.

I’ll need a fair bit of paint to cover three canvasses, so I’ll mix one big batch for each coat, as I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to replicate the same shade if I were to run out halfway through.

(With the black undercoat, I only needed two topcoats.)

Though they’re small canvasses, they’re fairly busy – so when Alf hung them, he spaced them out, so that you can appreciate them individually.

If you like standing in stairwells and looking at stuff, that is.

Anyway, that was the background to this project, and now, here are the finished canvasses (the maroon is actually much darker – the flash brightened everything – I really need to take a photography course!):

AmuletsAmuletsAmuletsFinally, they’ll get the presentation they deserve, instead of being stored in the spare-room wardrobe.

And who knows – they might even bring us luck – here’s to health, love, prosperity, and happiness!

Windchime – Part 2

Remember this from Part 1?

Old windchimeWell, it’s been sitting here, partially-completed, waiting for me to brave the curious stares of passing motorists, and gather an armful of sugarcane leaves from a nearby cane field.

Once safely home with my pilfered goodies, I cut the leaves into short lengths, and glued them onto the existing thatching:

The first layer

Gluing on the first layer

Building up the layers

Building up the layers

During this stage, I had serious doubts about my plan (and my sanity – why didn’t I just buy a new one?) as it looked like this:

Side view

Guess it’s not only me who has bad hair days!

But I persevered, and once I trimmed the bottom edge, it started to look more like the real thing:


Using the original bamboo ring as a cutting guide

I  wound raffia around the pointy bit to hide the rough edges:

Raffiaand then decided to paint the raffia, as it was a completely different colour to the cane leaves.

I varnished the top layer of leaves to match the body of the windchime, and finally, to give it that authentic “Mauritian thatched roof” look, I secured it with nylon bird mesh.

Bird meshIt took a while, but it was fun to do.

Back view

Back view

Front view

Front view

Besides, every garden needs a little kitsch!

Transforming a 1960’s Stool into a Garden Planter

Sadly, I can’t make one of these for myself as I don’t think I could find a retro stool in Mauritius.

But back in Perth, whenever I saw one at a garage sale, I’d snap it up – they were only a couple of dollars each.

They’d come in gold-coloured metal, with a vinyl, or horribly matted fake fur cushion, so I’d spraypaint the metalwork in matte black, and recover the seat in (new and clean) fake zebra fur.

Look to the right(Sorry, the stool isn’t exactly front and centre –  but this is the only old photo I can find – my focus at the time was on our cat, Psst, who liked to squish herself into small spaces, which would make me laugh)

Anyway, the stools weren’t very comfortable to sit on (unless you had incredibly short legs and a well-padded derrière!), but they looked good, and were handy short-term seating when friends visited.


Stool planter

Source: gatsbysgardens

…had I seen this picture back then, I would have removed the seat altogether with an angle-grinder, and inserted a hanging basket (minus the chains) in the resulting hole. After spraypainting the metalwork in a bright gloss of course. I love spraypaint.

The stools I bought didn’t have backs – but I’m pretty sure I could have worked something out with metal coat hangers and wire.

Unless you really enjoy angle-grinding, check underneath the cushion, so you don’t buy one that looks like this:

Too many bars

Source: Some etsy page charging a fortune for a $2 “vintage stool”!

All the ones I bought must have been the cheap version back in their day, as they had just two cross-bars holding the cushion up.

Planting-wise, I would go with a non-aggressive climber to slowly twist its way up, something bright and upright in the centre, and a trailing plant to spill over the edges of the basket.

I love the unusual.

In hindsight, I wish we’d brought a couple of stools to Mauritius with us.

Mmm, let me think…who are our next visitors from Australia?????

You know who you are. Any space left?

Those stools weigh nothing!


They’re just slightly bulky.

Windchime – Part 1

This has been hanging around for a few years (unintentional pun!), waiting for a permanent spot in the garden:

Old windchimeBut now that I’ve found the right spot, it’s falling apart, and generally looking a little worse for wear.

Rather than throwing it out and buying a new one (which had been my first inclination), I decided to revamp it.


I lightly sanded the parts made out of bamboo to remove any remaining bits of varnish.

(Varnish is oil-based, and my paint is water-based so it wouldn’t adhere properly if I left the varnish on.)

Then I painted it using the same colours and a similar design to the one I used on the sharks:


The thatching was in worse condition than I thought – most of it crumbled to the touch – so I  trimmed it hard, removing anything that doesn’t have much life left in it:

Trimmed thatching(If you’re wondering how I painted such perfectly round dots, I’ll let you in on my secret – I didn’t.

I dipped the end of a bamboo skewer into paint and pressed it on.)

Anyway, I then gave everything a thick coat of varnish to:

a) prevent any further deterioration to the existing thatching, and

b) to stop the sun from fading the artists acrylic paints that I used

And then I ran out of ideas.

Ho hum!

It sat there for a couple of weeks while I stared at it, but nothing was happening in that little brain of mine.

I couldn’t work out how to repair the thatching.

Then yesterday, on our way back from shopping, Alf suggested that we go for lunch at a restaurant called “Le Gout du Large” (translates to “a taste of the ocean”) .

We’d been there before, hadn’t liked the food, and never went back.

But as we’d heard through the grapevine that it had changed hands, we decided to give it another go, as the setting is wonderful.

(As you look at the photos, bear in mind that it’s the middle of winter in Mauritius, and weep!)

It’s right on the beach in Grand Baie – look at the view from our table:

View of Grand Baie from Le Gout du Large

Towards Grand Baie

View of Pointe aux Cannoniers

Looking over at Pointe aux Cannoniers

Almost worth eating mediocre and overpriced food (very expensive), and putting up with mediocre (but pleasant enough) service.

Just not quite worth it.

We won’t bother eating there again, though we’ll stop by on our way home every now and then, to have a drink and look at the view. Why wouldn’t you?

Anyway, why do I ramble so?

We chose to sit at an outdoor table under a thatched umbrella (see, I’m back on track!) and I finally worked out how to finish off my windchime.

I looked up, and voila:

Under the umbrellaThen I checked out the other umbrellas…

Thatched umbrella…and looked closely:

Close-up of thatchingI just need to collect sugarcane leaves, buy some nylon mesh, and work out how to put it all together.


But it may be a while until you see Part 2!

Hanging Baskets

As it’s winter, there’s not much happening in the garden – everything’s just doing its own thing – growing quietly and slowly.

So over the next few weeks, I’ll be turning my hand to little projects that have been awaiting my attention for way too long.

I’m starting with these…

Coir matting in hanging baskets always falls apart and looks ratty.

Coir liningAs I had about half a metre of shadecloth left over from the raised bed, and I like to recycle, I used it to line the undersides of the baskets.

I removed some of the soil to make it easier to lift the lining, inserted the shadecloth, and replaced the lining.

(I left a fair amount of soil in the lining – you need some weight in there for the next step)

Once I had the shadecloth in place, I pulled it taut (the aforementioned weight stops the lining from lifting), and trimmed it, leaving a 2cm overhang.

I then turned the raw edges under, and roughly handstitched it over the rim of the basket.

Sewing the ShadeclothFinished basketIt’s not pretty, but it looks tidier, and I won’t have to keep replacing the linings.

And, being shadecloth, it might even act as an insulator, keep the soil cooler, and stop it from drying out so quickly.

Though that’s probably just wishful thinking.

Finally, if you plant something “weeping” that falls over the edges, no-one will ever notice your dodgy sewing!

I’m still looking for something that looks tropical, but “weeps” – preferably brightly-coloured, as that part of the garden looks dull because it’s in front of bland cream-coloured walls.

Any suggestions?

Spice up Your Spice Jars

I can’t remember where I saw this idea, but I do remember thinking “How simple – why doesn’t everyone do it?”.

I store all of my herbs and spices in recycled asparagus jars (yes, I eat a lot of cheese and asparagus toasted sandwiches).

Before shot

I don’t have the jars on display, so I don’t really need to do this, I just want to – plus I have some paint left over from when I painted a napkin holder:

Napkin holder

I’m not a fan of Shabby Chic, so a quick spray, and…

Blue napkin holder

…much better!

Anyway, back to the spice jars (or any storage jars, as long as the lids are metallic).

Even if all your jars are mismatched, this will unify them, and beautify your kitchen (or in our case, the inside of our cupboard).

Alf’s shaking his head.


Rest the lids on wooden skewers so that they don’t stick to the newspaper (I only thought of that after I’d sprayed the first coat, and spent a few panicked minutes picking off shreds of newspaper).

LidsThen spraypaint them. Two or three light coats.

Painted lids

They’re not baby blue, I’m just a bad photographer!

Don’t get paint on the insides as:

a) they won’t screw back on properly, and

b) your herbs will taste of paint

Let them dry in a well-ventilated place, till the fumes evaporate, and the paint hardens. At least 24 hours.

In the meantime, print off some labels, glue them on to the jars, cover them with stickytape to protect them…

Attaching labelsand, voila!

After shotAs I said, simple.

Stop shaking your head at me, Alf – you’ll thank me next time you open that cupboard!

Or probably, because you’re a man, you’ll never notice the difference.

It’s a sad, but true, fact.

Universally, not Alf-specific.

Mosaic Tiles for the Pot Stands

We’ve been fairly busy despite taking a couple of days off to celebrate our birthdays (which are a day apart), as well as our wedding anniversary (which falls on Alf’s birthday).

They were unusual birthdays this year – I was born in 1961, so turned 52, and Alf was born in 1952, so turned 61. Bet that doesn’t happen often!

Anyway, we finally found tiles that we like (it only took us two years!), so Joselito, our builder, is tiling both the upstairs and downstairs patio floors. As he’s on a long term contract elsewhere, he’s doing it on the weekends, so it’ll be a little while before he’s done, but here’s a preview:


It’ll look better once it’s been grouted!

Floor tilesPatio TilesWe’ve started work on the raised bed (with a little help from our friends), but the mountain of soil in the driveway needs to be wheelbarrowed in – and our wheelbarrow does not have a pneumatic tyre, so it’s a pretty hard slog!

The only thing I have finished, are the mosaic tiles to go underneath the pot stands.

I used tile offcuts from our kitchen backsplash and counter.

I glued the mosaic tiles onto the back of the kitchen tile with tile adhesive. I did it on the back because the front is glazed, and I didn’t think that the adhesive would work on a glossy surface:

Back of tileTile adhesiveI then used terracotta grout as it tones down the bright blue of the tiles, and gives them a purplish tinge:Terracotta grout

Aerial view

(I love the shadows on the wall)

Purple stand

White stand

No – I still haven’t managed to remove the pot!

Hopefully, they’ll keep the stand feet relatively dry – but even if they don’t, at least they look nice!