Colour is such a pleasure to work with in any material. I love mixing printing inks or chalk paint, plant-dyeing yarn, planning a garden, tying a bouquet, sewing cushions and clothes, glazing pots, drawing pictures. Lately I’ve been making a lot of drawings on my computer, mostly for design clients, and thoroughly enjoying theme and variation in intense colour and texture. The antidote to the cross-eyed effects of too much technology is to get up and work with tangible objects. Colourful quilting fabrics are just the thing. I find finished quilting works quite modern, yet painterly, like early modern art. Here are some of the pieces I’ve designed for learning good old fashioned quilting skills, and making a little piece for your wall or your table while you’re at it.

golden pindot & checked triangles quilt

The triangles quilt, a new golden pindot variation for springtime.

formal flowers & lime stripe nine-patch quilt

And a new nine-patch in sprouting greens.

floral & blue gingham triangles quilt

The original triangles quilt, which I made in the movie tutorial, “Quilting Triangles“;

liberty floral & blue gingham nine-patch quilt

And the original nine-patch, from “Quilting Squares.”


A variation in appley patterns and Liberty fabrics. You might recognise the apple fabric from my little pinnies, it’s a favourite.

chartreuse floral triangles quilt

Chartreuse, such a joyful hue. I love the scale of these tiny prints mixing with larger prints. A small quilt is a great place to get wilder with colour than I might in a frock or in a large quilt. All of these homemade project kits are in the appleturnovershop. I’m looking forward to getting into more colourwork and pattern, making some new clothes using very old patterns, working in leather, revisiting my old friend, the silkscreen, and with some luck, getting back to the pottery wheel!


Watercolours, in all their simplicity, make my list of indispensable art materials. Like a set of good, rich drawing pencils, and a fine black pen, a paintbox of fine colours is essential.


I like to make sure my children have professional materials to work with, and watercolours are an inexpensive, non-toxic, easy-to-clean solution. We share our materials, though I must watch that the best paintbrushes aren’t left in murky water to permanently turn left!


Archival watercolour paper is tempting, and gorgeous brushes are needful things, never mind box easels and palettes, but I am regularly amazed at the effects that can be achieved with the simplest materials.


Water, pigment, paper. These are so elemental in artistic expression, and we return to the old materials again and again. I bring out the watercolours in the summer especially, inspired by that wonderful old tradition of painting en plein air. Peaceful habit. Ever so grounding. I’d like to sit down to paint more often.


p>These paintings are my children’s experiments, very old and very recent; they’re completely different from their pen and pencil drawings; I love how materials can break you out into new territory. You might like to see some gorgeous pen and ink drawings that my lovely friend Sania Pell made with her child. Ever so inspiring.

painted bathtub

For months I’ve been casting sideways looks at the roll-top painted bathtub in the four-hundred-year-old cottage. The colour! That particular shade is dramatic on the inside of the craft cupboard, but I was searching for something else for the tub.

bathtub before © elisa rathje 2012

My wonderful, perceptive friend Heather visited us, and being a brilliant colour consultant and interior designer, she solved the problem immediately. The greys of the galvanised bucket. Oh yes!

bathtub after © elisa rathje 2012

Now, paint has a life of its own, and the same french linen chalk paint that I used on the daybed and the bellows turned rather a warmer dusty cocoa shade on the tub. I’m quite surprised by the hue. What do you think?

chalk paint

From painter and designer Annie Sloan, her own homemade tried & true. I’m honoured to have her here. Annie Sloan’s chalk paints are essential to replicate the long tradition of hand painted furniture, and can be thickened to impasto, thinned to a wash, distressed and waxed to produce a beautiful patinated surface. Her colours are inspired by 18th century European furniture, and are bright and pure, so they can be easily mixed without becoming dull. I love that the woodwork needs no priming or preparation, brushes can be washed out easily, and that when I leave a paint can open, it only thickens the paint, which can be thinned again with water. I love that this paint allows a surface to breathe and I’m told it is incredibly ecologically sound. Annie has written many books, including the companion, The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques.

chalk paint © elisa rathje 2011

I was initially very interested in homemade paint; making paint from earth and a binder such as eggs or milk as well as other binders like glue. All over the world this has occurred, although the Swedish painters really developed it into a very fine art. I found out about pigments all over the world too – from earth pigments to made pigments; I love the historical and geographical aspect, such as how Swedish historical colours developed out of the geography. These ideas were taken to the US too, so early American interiors had very simple paintwork using homemade paints.

chalk paint © elisa rathje 2011

I developed my paints twenty years ago, with reference to history and colour. This was coupled with fine art background; seven years at art school makes me a modern painter, so that’s in the mix too. I Love the Charleston Farmhouse Bloomsbury group painters. My paints, techniques and my books come from all these ideas, as well as a desire to empower people with a certain creativity.

chalk paint © elisa rathje 2011

So fascinating! This adds so much depth to my understanding of the materials. I used Annie’s chalk paint on my antique french bed, and side tables;

chalk paint © elisa rathje 2011

As well as on several antique tables and chairs. They are such a pleasure to work with. Thank you so much, Annie.

Get the appleturnover postcards to hear about more great projects at appleturnover.

street banners

Next in the little series on my early work is a public art installation, street banners made for the city of Vancouver in celebration of the millennium. Like the postage stamp machine project, I worked with the street banners in a way that engaged a fascination with printed multiples and moving image stills.

00:00:00:00"© elisa rathje 2000

Since the banners in Vancouver are displayed in pairs, I designed them as if they were one image sliced in two.

00:00:00:00"© elisa rathje 2000

In reference to video and millennial concerns with counting, I used timecode along the base of each image – only the counting was binary. The entire image poses as a web browser window, and in fact we did once have a web site at the address on the banners, where you could see the images animate.

00:00:00:00"© elisa rathje 2000

It was extraordinary to make images that would be screenprinted the size of a door, and yet read as small, repeating objects. Riding my bicycle or driving a car past the city’s street banners made me think of a flip book. (I’d just made a flip book of a friend and I leaping in the air and falling over. It took me another year or more to realise that I’d like to try drawing animations, after playing with the still for years!) I persuaded the lovely folk at City Hall to let me produce a series of images as if they were stills from an animation, so that moving through the city might effect the persistence of vision, the illusion of movement.

00:00:00:00"© elisa rathje 2000

So there are four sets of images that repeated along the streets. Crossing Burrard Street Bridge and reaching through downtown toward the harbour, red banners.

00:00:00:00"© elisa rathje 2000

From City Hall and across the Cambie Bridge, yellow banners.

00:00:00:00"© elisa rathje 2000

My sweetheart helped me make the video stills of myself in flight. I jumped on a trampoline at my old high school, following a wild failure at catching images of myself in the air while leaping into a neighbour’s very cold swimming pool!

00:00:00:00"© elisa rathje 2000

On Georgia Street from the new library to Stanley Park, magenta banners. I quite like how the patches of blue almost seem to be bits of the sky popping through! I’d hoped they might. The light through the dyed fabric was gorgeous on a bright day, and the colours held clear through November.

00:00:00:00"© elisa rathje 2000

I loved choosing colours for the printer and watching the screen printing of the fabric. When the banners came down at the end of the year they were sold for charity, and we used to hear of folks using them as dividers in their office or turning them into shopping bags. I would’ve liked a complete set.

© vancouver courier, 2000

A newspaper article, if you’d like to know more. Were you in Vancouver in 2000? Do you remember the banners? They were such a great pleasure to make.