Sunday, June 12, 2011

Another Alan Dunn class

I cannot believe it has been over a month since I last posted!  Time certainly does fly when you are having fun.  Needless to say I have been incredibly busy these past few weeks, what with cakes, work, horses and my family.  So busy that even when I have had a moment to spare, I have been simply too shattered to write anything.  Now I am in the middle of a long holiday weekend and had (gasp) only one order for a dozen cupcakes to deal with.

So, my dear readers, here's what I have been up to since last I wrote: Last weekend, just barely over a month after I traipsed over to England to learn the art of sugarcrafting with Alan Dunn, I find myself yet again attending a course of his.  This time  the venue was in Donderen, Holland, in the company of about 20 other women.  Never in my wildest dreams did I forsesee learning from him again so soon, yet there I was; bright eyed and bushy tailed, eager to learn.  Donderen is a tiny, adorable little village about 4 hours drive north from when I live, so when I realized Alan was going to be teaching there, I signed up right away (with Alan's help!).
 The two day course aimed at teaching us how to make a Clematis, nigella corsage out of either sugar paste or cold porcelain.  I chose the latter as it is less fragile and therefore easier to transport.  When he announced that we would be making one clematis flower with one nigella flower to accompany it, I naively thought this would be a nice, relaxing wrong I was!  First of all, all the other women were professionals, and possibly half of them were sugarcraft teachers themselves.  Talk about feeling like the newbie!  Secondly, the pace was relentless and by Sunday noon I was seriously fighting panic.  It seemed to me that everyone else was so much faster and more proficient than I was.

First I got impatient making the centre of the clematis; so many stamens to make and glue on.  I realized afterwards that I hadn't made nearly enough.  it's fiddly, exacting work and my eyes were having serious trouble focusing on such small detail.  I really do need to go get my eyes checked.........Then there were so many leaves to make. Each leaf is made of three leaflets.  The leaves are arranged in pairs up the stem and we had to make AT LEAST 8 pairs of leaves.  That's 48 leaflets that need to be individually shaped, veined, wired and dusted.  I was barely half way through making the leaves when Alan was already demonstrating how the needle-like leaves of the nigella plant are made.  Each stem had to have 5 sets of 3 leaflets and we were supposed to make lots of stems.  I never got further than 2 stems.

Making the clematis flower itself was rewarding work, although I had a few moments of insecurity when I compared mine to my classmates' flowers.  Mine seemed so plain and anemic next to the vivid purples and blues that were being made.  I don't know why I chose pink; probably because no one else chose pink!  Again, although we were supposed to make only one flower, several women managed to find the time to make two, or even three!!!!!  We were also supposed to make butterflies, but I opted out when I realised I wouldn't have enough time as it was.  Besides, only a month earlier Alan had shown me how to make his gorgeous butterflies.

Class was supposed to end at 16:30 on Saturday afternoon, but at 18:30 we were still working hard.  At 19:30 we left in a cavalcade to a neighbouring village for dinner, after emptying our wallets in Ellen's charming little store (see picture below).  I have to say that the pizza we ate was the toughest, most leathery pizza I have ever eaten.  2 hours of dogged sawing and jaw-numbing chewing later, not one of us had finished our pizza!  We were definitely hungry, but after so much effort we were too exhausted to continue eating!  With seemingly endless reserves of energy Ellen invited us all to her charmingly cluttered home for drinks after dinner.  By now it was close to midnight and I at least was flagging.

My hotel was about 3km from Ellen's place, but when I got there it seemed to me that all the doors were locked!  I had been given a key for the front door, but none of the doors I tried had locks that matched the key!  00:30 and I'm getting seriously worried.  Worst of all, I had left my notebook with all the necessary phone numbers at the course venue.  Finally, after creeping all round the hotel I located the kitchen door, which amazingly was open!  Frowning at the poor level of security, but happy for the carelessness, I entered the hotel through the kitchen, much to the consternation of the bartender who was still on duty.  I explained to him my difficulty getting in, whereupon he showed me a side door I had not noticed earlier, which was open, saying that that door was the front door to the hotel...and it was  open!  Ooooooohhhhh.....Feeling mightily foolish I slunk upstairs to my room and to bed.

Sunday morning saw all of us present at the course venue no later than 9:15 ready to start the day.  This being despite Alan saying he was not going to be there before 10:00.  I spent my time catching up with my leaves.  When it came time to show us how to do the nigella flower, he showed us two versions.  One was a very impressive, showy flower with feathery petals in the most delicate of pink and white shades.  The second was a much simpler version which could be done in pale blue or white and green.  Just about everyone else chose to do the fancier version, whereas I, being pragmatic, realized I would never have time to complete this version, chose the simpler one.  Hopefully I will have time soon to try making the fancy nigella, just for my own satisfaction.

If all we had to do on Sunday was the nigella, I would have been fine.  But no, we had to make endless stems of grass and lollipop shaped seed heads, the name of which escapes me now.  They were not difficult, but for me at least, they were inordinately time consuming.  Again, I made the fewest of all, for no other reason than lack of time.  By 16:00 Alan offered to dust, ie colour my grass stems for me.  Boy was I grateful for that help!  He was bent hell on dusting the seed heads in aubergine and I was just as adamant that they would NOT be aubergine.  In the end I got my way, even though they looked more like lavender than grass in the end.

Knowing I had a long drive home ahead of me in stormy conditions, I reluctantly left by 17:00.  Unfortunately, my sat nav decided not to function, and after 35 km of driving north instead of south I realized to my horror that I didn't have a road map in the car after all!  I never strayed on to the wrong road, having listed them on a piece of paper, but more than once I merrily drove in the direction, for a grand total of nearly and hour and a half.  I was tired and grumpy by the time I got home, but my daughter, who had been left to her own devices all weekend was lonely and had soooo much to tell me that I couldn't go straight to bed.  Never has it been harder to get up for work on a Monday morning as it was the following day!

It was a week before I had the time to photograph my corsage and upload all my pictures from the weekend.  Once I had uploaded pictures of the clematis I saw it in different eyes.  Yes, it had been one of the least showy versions made, but now I am much happier with the results than I was last week.  I have to keep reminding myself that I have only really been making sugarpaste flowers for a few months now, when all the others had years of experience.  I have had the supreme fortune of being taught by the very best and in time I will be much, much better than I am now.  In addition to more lessons, I need to find the time to simply keep practicing.

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