Posts Tagged ‘art’


When I first saw Joël Penkman’s work, all kinds of superlatives came to mind: Incredible. Gorgeous. Exquisite. Amazing. Beautiful!




Many of her egg tempura on gesso board still life food paintings look so realistic you might easily mistake them for photographs. Originally from New Zealand, Joël now lives and works in the UK — Liverpool, England, to be exact.







She portrays her subjects on clean, neutral backgrounds to allow the viewer to bring his/her own context to the paintings. Food is by far her favorite subject, but she also enjoys graphically representing everyday objects inspired by British life.




Naturally I especially love her sweets, but I’m equally enamored of her food packaging subjects,










and her 100 teacups collection!






Recently, she was commissioned to paint 125 food items for Colman Andrews’s THE TASTE OF AMERICA (Phaidon Press, 2013). It’s wonderful to see familiar foods like hot dogs, avocados, bagels, and cherry tomatoes along with regional favorites like Old Bay Seasoning, Café du Monde Beignet Mix, Goo Goo Clusters, and Vermont Common Crackers. I also learned about quite a few brands I’d never seen before (Rancho Gordo Prepared Hominy, Graeter’s Ice Cream, Kim’s Pork Cracklings).













Since she likes to paint from real life models, these foods were sent to her across the pond. She said it felt like Christmas whenever a new shipment arrived. :)

For the literary minded, check out Joël’s collection of Fictional Food (yes, there’s Paddington’s favorite marmalade sandwiches!):

Holly Golightly's Breakfast

Holly Golightly’s Breakfast

Paddington's Marmalade Sandwiches

Paddington’s Marmalade Sandwiches

Snow White's Poison Apple

Snow White’s Poison Apple

Edmund's Turkish Delight

Edmund’s Turkish Delight

Indulge yourself even more by visiting Joël Penkman’s Official Website and Etsy Shop, where she sells both originals and giclée prints.




It’s easy to see why I’m such a big fan of Joël’s work. But there’s also this: when asked in an interview what she would take if her house was burning down, she said her cats, their 2 teddy bears and her laptop. You should have heard the cheers in the Alphabet Soup kitchen! We love an artist who’s got her priorities straight. :)




Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved. 

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1. It’s always exciting to discover a quirky new alphabet book — even better when it features fruits and veggies like you’ve never seen them before. Check out Aitch’s Veggie Fruit Alphabet, which the Romanian artist describes as “a playful approach on the traditional alphabet book. Each letter features a fruit or vegetable, depicted as a morph between the fruit’s or veggie’s shape and the female body, a beautiful tribute to natural diversity. Each character has a companion page featuring an illustration of the letter itself and a hand painted pattern based on the fruit or veggie.”

This 56-page gem has super shiny covers, and there’s also a cool art print you can purchase separately (my fave is a toss-up between the Eggplant and the Watermelon). Visit Aitch’s Etsy Shop for more info.


2. You may have noticed that I am slightly mad for English pottery and china. I squealed with delight when I stumbled upon Stokesay Ware — dollhouse miniature china (1:12 scale) in classic English patterns made by hand using completely authentic materials and techniques. The designs/patterns are not applied with decals. Instead, the “decoration is made using specially drawn artwork and hand printed by silk screen using specialist onglaze enamels which are coloured with metal oxides.”

Nursery Tea Set

Sovereign Red

Blue Willow

Victorian Kitchen Ware

Imagine serving your dolls or teddy bears on patterns such as Blue Willow, Asiatic Pheasant, Jubilee Gold, or Sovereign Red or Blue! And there’s an adorable Nursery pattern featuring the alphabet. It almost makes me want to get a dollhouse . . .


3. How about a quilted spot of tea? Canadian quilt pattern designer Laurraine Yuyama combined her love of tea and Japanese country patchwork in these adorable fabric teapots, cups and saucers.

My style has been described as “country chic” which mixes elements of old and new to create a sophisticated timeless quality. I like to incorporate machine-appliqué, hand-embroidery and buttons along with at least a splash of linen in everything I make. I enjoy combining elements from both my passions of patchwork and pottery– creating dishes with patches of intricate patterns, and quilting three-dimensional teapots and teacups.

Such a unique idea! Laurraine began selling patterns online when the demand for finished pieces became overwhelming. To date, her patterns have been included in at least 11 craft books, and she hopes to publish her own book someday. Find out more about her downloadable pattern booklets here, and view more of her finished work here.


4. Whoever thought “biting the biscuit” could be so creative, stylish and fun? Behold the Hairdo Cookie Cutter designed by Avihai Shurin! Now with each bite you can style Sam’s hair :). A little nibble here, a strategic munch there, go short or shaggy, round or square. It’s totally up to you. No such thing as a bad hair day when your cookies taste so good. :)


5. It’s never too early to think about holiday gifts, especially those you’d like to have personalized. What about a lovely  folk art print by Catherine Holman? Ever dream of having your own cupcake or tea shoppe? Maybe you have a friend who’d love to see her name on the awning of this cute and cozy cakery and cafe.

Visit Catherine’s Etsy Shop to see her selection of personalized and other folk art prints, all of which come signed and dated by the artist. Thanks to Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for the link!


6. Love this delicious post by Cara Nicoletti which was featured at Food52 recently. You may know Cara from her wonderful blog Yummy Books. In “Cook Like Hermione Granger and 11 Other Ladies of Literature,” Cara serves up a splendid dinner party menu inspired by some of her favorite characters.

Tomato Jam Toast|Harriet M. Welsch|Harriet the Spy

Though we see the likes of Elizabeth Bennet’s White Gazpacho and Bathsheba Everdene’s Grilled Corn with Basil Butter, the majority of dishes are linked to children’s book characters (Anne Shirley, Jo March, Lucy Pevensie, Ramona Quimby, Mary Lennox).

Cara’s new book Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books (Little, Brown, 2015), was just released August 18, and is definitely on my TBR list!


7. It’s here, it’s here! Though its official pub date is September 15, Jeannine Atkins’s Little Woman in Blue (She Writes Press, 2015), is already available via online booksellers. In her first historical novel for adults, Jeannine shines the spotlight on the youngest Alcott sister May.

At last, a book about the other artistic Alcott sister. May Alcott, dismissed in Little Women as the pampered youngest March sister Amy, explodes onto the pages of this wonderful novel as a real and hugely likeable woman, passionate about life, art, and adventure, and struggling to make sense of her relationship with an older sister who will never appreciate her for who she really is. Thank you, Jeannine, for giving Amy March a voice of her own! (Gabrielle Donnelly, author of The Little Woman Letters)

I’ve only just started to read it, but so far — wow! As one might expect from an author who’s also a poet, each sentence, each scene is beautifully crafted, informed by thorough research and illuminated by an indeniable passion for her subject. Friends who’ve finished the book have deemed it a must read. A rivalry between two talented sisters, and May’s internal struggle over the desire for artistic achievement as well as having a family of her own will make for a compelling read. Check out these excellent reviews by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman and Melodye Shore.


8. Start with the alphabet, end with the alphabet. Love Emma Block’s beautiful floral alphabet, now available as an archival print at her Etsy Shop. All prints are signed and dated by Emma, whom we spotlighted in this interview. A is for Anenome, J is for Jasmine, O is for Orchid. Perfect for the flower lover and/or gardener on your list (and for you)!


Be kind. Don’t forget to smile, and have a lovely Tuesday!


Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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Recently, while I was innocently browsing online, this adorable crocheted teddy bear winked at me.

Never one to ignore a mischievous ursine smart enough to get my attention, I knew I had to investigate.

I discovered he was created by plush artist Dawn Treacher of York, England, who designs and makes other Amigurumi animals like the bear, in addition to a wide range of sock animals, fleece plushies, and soft sculptures. Some of Dawn’s creatures are inspired by real animals (foxes, bunnies, giraffes, elephants, badgers, birds), while others represent wild flights of the imagination — brightly colored alien one-eyed monsters in odd shapes with elongated ears and limbs.





Clearly this is an artist with a kid’s heart who loves to play. :)

All of Dawn’s Treacher Creatures are lovingly hand-sewn and one-of-a-kind. Each has a distinct personality. Whether sweet, comical, serene, endearing, cunning or coy, they’re bound to make you smile and wonder what they’ve been up to. Not surprisingly, Dawn is also an aspiring children’s book author and illustrator (in addition to being a fine landscape painter) — so maybe someday soon some of her creatures will have their own books!





I’m happy she agreed to join us today to tell us more. You’ll never look at your socks the same way again. Enjoy!

*   *   *


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1. Loving the bright and colorful screen printed greeting cards and paper goods by The Seapink, a NewYork-based design studio owned by Boyoun Kim and Sue Jean Ko. These talented gals originally met several years ago in printmaking class at the School of Visual Arts and bonded over their mutual love for silkscreen printing. Their cards and prints exude a cheerful childlike innocence and are just the thing to brighten up any occasion.

Of course I especially love their food and tea time designs, but their animals and flowers are equally happy-making. Check out their website and Etsy Shop for more. :)


2. Tolkien fans will enjoy this scenic tour of Hobbiton recently featured at Literary Vittles. You probably know the Lord of the Rings films were shot in New Zealand. Thanks to blogger Alina and photographer Greg, we can all enjoy a peek of The Shire movie set with notable quotes from the books! What a gorgeous, magical place — you kind of expect Bilbo Baggins, Mr. Frodo or Sam to pop out at any moment. Best thing about hobbits? Hairy feet and big appetites. :)


3. From Epicurious, “57 Things You Can Do to Be a Better Cook Right Now.” Lots of great tips here and it was fun to see which things on the list I’m already doing. The suggestions range from the very simple “Buy a new kitchen sponge,” to the interesting “Buy your avocados at a Mexican grocery store,” to the sensible “Bake your pies in glass pans,” to the slightly eyebrow-raising “Get your knives professionally sharpened.” Cause there’s always room for improvement, right?



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#52 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.


“Isn’t that the only way to curate a life? To live among things that make you gasp with Delight?” ~ Maira Kalman



TheRe You Are.

Are you ready
to REAd the


perhAps you should
put on youR
(but don’t think too much)

Pretty much everything Maira Kalman does makes me gasp with delight.

I don’t know how she does it, or why it happens, but with each new book that delight intensifies. I am convinced she must eat magical cakes or a proliferation of napoleons prepared by exceedingly handsome mustachioed pastry chefs, or as in the case of this particular picture book, artfully burnt toast and ginger tea (steeped in whimsy).

In Ah-hA to Zig-Zag, her new alphabet book written especially for kids and the forever young at heart, the letter A stands for CAP, F for a hat From France that is “fluffy and frothy and fantastic and funny,” and Q for “quite the toaster.”

Though the book cleverly spotlights “31 Funny Excellent Beautiful Surprising Helpful Amazing Objects” from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in NYC (to celebrate its re-opening in December 2014), only three objects actually begin with their corresponding letters — Pocket, Umbrella, and Zig-Zag (Chair). 

But that’s just what makes this book so totally Maira. Instead of the conventional, “A is for Apple” format, this alphabet à la Maira is an idiosyncratic commentary, an affectionate conversation with YOU where she free associates with her chosen objects in funny, unexpected, and surprisingly profound ways. We get a good dose of those 26 beautiful letters alright, along with a fascinating design history primer spanning centuries.


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