Sunday, November 29, 2009

sandblasting 101

I have been asked some questions in the comments of the posts about this job (previous posts 'working on paper', 'the next step' and 'starting fabrication') none of which I have answered so I thought I would do that now.

Alix asks...

How did you come to learn this wonderful craft?...Beyond watching a friend sandblast a crude stenciled rose on a piece of glass, we are completely self taught.  There was no instruction back then and so we just used the ‘trial and error’ method.    

Do you enjoy every stage of the work, or is it stressful?...I do and I don’t.  Doing the intermediate and full size art work is probably my favorite part.  I’d say the most stressful part (aside from deadlines) is the composition and design part.  It’s hard to get started sometimes.  I wander around a lot at this stage until I finally settle down.  The fabrication is just grunt work...cut the stencil, make the diagram, do the sandblasting, in this case cut the stencil again, do the cream etch and finally glue on the jewels.  A lot of steps but at that point it’s just technique.  I still like that part of it too.  I like the drawing part but I also really like the making part.

What happens if the glass breaks?

Have you ever lost a piece?...Well, you know, glass breaks.  It is unforgiving.  It’s doesn’t bend, it doesn’t absorb.  And so, yes, we have lost pieces.  I personally have not broken a piece in a very long time.  Nor has Marc.  But it’s not always in our possession.  Usually, if it gets broken, it happens during installation.  Twice we have lost a piece from having a suction cup fail.  One a nail clipped the edge when the molding was being put in.  But what can you do?  Getting upset does not solve the problem.  You just gotta suck it up and do it over.  And I hate doing them over.

steven (didn’t really ask anything) commented about 

breathing and holding the breath re precision....I too was in the unselfconscious habit of holding my breath while I worked.  I was scolded for this habit over and over so I have tried to learn to incorporate my breath as I work.  But sometimes I do breathe out for a very long time.

Now that the stencils are cut, they go through the sandblasting process.  Peeling the cut pieces of the stencil off in a sequential order, Marc sandblasts those areas as they become exposed.

Here’s the sandblasting booth.

Marc wears the air supplied helmet hanging by the door so he won’t breathe the dust.  The yellow tank on the wall is the filter for the air he breathes.  The small blue cylinder on the wall near the floor is a water trap to keep moisture out of the pressure pot (the metal tank with the green hose in the back) which holds the aluminum oxide he blasts with.  At the end of that green hose is the nozzle he points at the glass when he turns the system on.  It’s run by a large air compressor (not in this picture) and the air is piped in.  The square on the back wall is a filter in front of the exhaust fan.  The brown stuff all over the floor is the blasting grit.

Here are some details from the sandblasting process.

Here’s a little slide show that shows one of the panels from start to finish.  You might notice that the first 6 are upside down (that’s right side up to you).  He works on them right side up, upside down, sideways, whichever is easiest to get where he needs.  Most of this panel was done upside down.

I know that last picture in the slideshow, where all the rest of the tree is etched, it’s hard to see all the detail, but it’s just the photo, the glass all dusty.  The detail of the leaves will show up when it is cleaned off and held up to the light.

Now we have to prepare them for the background etching technique.

Friday, November 27, 2009

short stories 2

You may have noticed that I haven’t been playing with fonts lately.  I’ve decided that I rather like Chalkboard so I am abandoning Comic Sans.

An artist friend of mine, a sculptor and teacher at a college in Chicago, has recently started a blog.  He’s got about 6 posts so far and 1 follower (me).  John is a very smart guy and has an interesting mind, a little edgy.  Not only that, we are doing a trade and I gotta say, I think I got the better end of it.  If you are surfing the web this holiday weekend, stop by Random Walks and check it out.

Son and DIL came out to the country house for Thanksgiving.  Since they are both vegetarians we didn’t do a turkey.  Instead, I made a nut loaf.  I needed two cups of ground nuts and I thought the different layers looked really cool in the measuring cup.  From bottom to top the layers are almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, pecans and walnuts.  We had a butternut cranberry casserole and a green salad among other dishes.  And my son made a brandied fig and pecan pie.  The pecans in the dishes are the ones I collected and shelled.  The butternut squash came from our garden this summer and the green peppers in the salad came from our winter garden.

brandied fig and pecan pie (and yes, that’s three leaves and a stegosaurus)

I took another load of pecans to the crackers today.  It took me about two weeks to shell the first 31 pounds.  This time it was only 19 pounds.  This time I separated the good nuts from the obviously bad ones first.  For some reason I thought this was a better strategy.  At least it doesn’t look like so many to wade through.

I found a new store in Wharton today.  Historical Hardware and Antiques.  I actually went in to inquire about the cabinet maker catty-cornered from them, if he kept regular hours or not.  One of the drawers in my buffet needs repair.  I wish I had had my camera with me.  I could lose time in that place.  In fact, when I walked in I told the lady I could easily spend all day here.  She told me that was fine, she would be here but it would take me longer than a day.  We started to chat a bit.  She’s about my age.  By the time I left, the cabinet maker was there so I got my other bit of business taken care of.  I chatted with him a little as well.  It’s nice to find some of the local artisans.

I can already see the glimmers of spring to come.  The rocket larkspur seeds I spread out a couple of weeks ago have already sprouted.  The baby-blue-eyes that volunteer every year have sprouted as well.  They might even start blooming in early February.  And the bluebonnets and evening primrose are filling in the bare spots in the lawn from the hot summer.  And though winter has not really settled on us yet, these little beauties are already giving me a promise.

I’ve been unpacking some of our things.  Now that we are comfortable with the way the furniture is arranged I’m willing to hang pictures and put out the ‘stuff’.  I packed most of this stuff over a year ago and so I am rediscovering some things.  For instance, I found a simple little sculpture I made years ago that I didn’t remember packing.  I’ve been looking all over for this little item, sorely distressed by it’s disappearance.  Things are slowly finding their places.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

things I am thankful for

in no particular order...

blue skies and rainy days





sunrises and sunsets

my husband/partner/lover/friend

my children and their spouses

my grandchildren

my siblings and other family

good health

my avocation for my vocation


physical and virtual friends

enough food

my old house in the city that nutured and sheltered my family

my new house in the country

wide open spaces

the night sky


my cat

lizards and snakes and turtles


the randomness of my birth in this time and place


the fullness of the earth

all the blessings that have not come to mind

Monday, November 23, 2009

I dream therefore I am

‘Dream Caused By The Flight Of A Bee’ by Salvador Dali, 1944

Some people have exotic dreams spawned by the inconsequential.  Dali painted this after a bee buzzed his ear while he was sleeping.  Mosquitos buzz my ear and the only dream I get is me waving my hand at it only it’s not going away because my hand is actually snuggled in my blanket as I am sleeping.

I dream.  Sometimes I’m better at remembering them than others.  I know writing them down would help considerably but so far I haven’t been able to engender the habit.  My dream life is not so fantastic as Dali’s but it is deep and rich.  Sometimes waking is like being pulled from one reality to another.  I remember, I remember and as I get nearer to waking I remember less of the details until at some critical moment I have crossed dimensions and I am now in this one.  I’m awake and the door to that other world is closed, gone.  Sometimes I can recall partial bits, sometimes enough to string along into a sort of beginning and end, an outline of the dream but lots of blank spaces.  Sometimes I can remember them in great detail.  

I have recurring themes like the ones where I dream I have to go to the bathroom and I’m searching for a toilet but every time I find one it’s not functioning or it is so disgustingly dirty I can’t bear to touch it or it’s in a deep dank basement or locker room or it’s so bizarre I can’t figure out how to make it work.  My subconscious knows no bounds to making them unusable.  It’s telling me to ‘wake up you eejit before you wet the bed!’  I figure if I found a working toilet, that that is exactly what I would do.  So now I have trained myself to just wake up instead of the incessant searching.

I also have the classic anxiety dreams of being late for the year end exam in a class that I’ve cut classes to all year, haven’t even cracked the book or read a single page and on top of that I don’t even know where the classroom is.  But at least I’ve got clothes on.  The last time I had a naked dream I and my companion were being chased and we took refuge amongst circus people because we felt we would be less conspicuous there, being naked and all.

Some of my favorites are the house dreams.  I love these, finding hidden rooms, finding whole new wings, sometimes coming upon a brand new house, exploring room after room with all the different contents.  One time I had a sex dream and a house dream combined, the house beckoned but I was with a really sexy guy who wasn’t exactly interested in exploring that house over there.  After a little enticing, neither was I.

And did I mention the sex dreams?  

I remember a dream fragment from many decades ago:  There is an endless row of artists of which I am one, painters, on the beach with their easels and brushes working away, they are swept away by a tsunami; artists, easels, canvasses tumbling submerged in the water.  But I am swimming hovering there breathing the water watching it all swirl by.

I have many fragments like that. 

Some whole dreams I have written down but they are long and this is too long already. 

I have quite a few dreams though that have me mystified.  Dreams that are so bizarre that it’s hard to make sense of them, dreams that are somewhat mundane but leave me feeling the same way.  A recent one...

There were some children in the house with water balloons.  One of them had a big balloon which I filled with water.  It was the size of a basketball, bigger.  Don’t throw those in the house, I tell them which of course, the words are no sooner out of my mouth than I am hit with the big one.  Water goes everywhere.  Gallons and gallons of water.  The children are put to the task of picking up all the wet stuff off the floor while I get a mop.  This mop has a head on it about 2” wide.  I’m horrified to see that the wood floor is starting to warp.  In the kitchen, I hear two people arguing about whose fault it was.  This really pisses me off so I go in there and yell at them to shut up and help...’it doesn’t matter whose fault it was’.  They grudgingly come in to help.  There is newspaper on the floor and when we pick it up we see that the newsprint has come off on the floor but it comes off with a little scrubbing.

Sometimes I am left wondering which is the real reality.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

globes, beer and plates

Gene’s and Liz’s globe (you can see a couple of others in the far distance)

We spent the day in the city yesterday, driving in about noon.  It was a totally different experience than what we are used to because, although we did stop by the house to pick up a few things we forgot, we didn’t go to town to work.  We went to play.  And run a few errands.  We went to the art supply store and the hardware store and then we headed downtown to Discovery Green Park.  

There is a display of globes there, much like the previous cows we had here and the horses I’ve heard of in other places.  You know how it goes, the blank ’sculptures’ are sponsored by different groups and then they contract artists or school kids to paint and or otherwise alter the blank to suit their theme.  Unlike the cows, these are not distributed throughout the city, but rather are all on display at Discovery Green Park, the city’s new jewel of downtown.  

A friend of ours who works in architectural stained and fused glass was part of a two person team that did one of the globes so we went to see it.  We only looked at a few since we found his early on and the weather was misty/drizzly and cold.  I noticed though that they were setting up the outdoor skating rink, having isolated and frozen part of the lake.  This is where I took the grandgirls ice skating last year, but that’s a different post.

The real reason we went into town though was to help our friend Craig, the tunnel rat (although, to be fair, I don’t think he uses the tunnels much), celebrate his ‘plate’ at a beer tavern a couple of blocks from his condo.  

This place (I hesitate to call it a bar as it serves food and mainly beer) is called the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium and when you walk in you understand why.  It is a very high ceilinged place and the walls (and even some on the ceiling) are covered with plates.  Row after row of all sizes and patterns of china and decorative plates.  They also have rows on rows of special wide gold rimmed dinner sizes plates with different colored centers on which different peoples names and little bits of humor and a number are.  

The Flying Saucer is a small (and as I understand it, family owned) chain with others in Austin, Fort Worth, San Antonio and cities in 5 other states.  What they do is beer.  They have hundreds of beers (click on the link above and then on 'beer' for a list) available either on tap or in a bottle.  And they also have ‘visiting’ beers, something not available everyday.  It’s a whole cult, a whole culture.

The other thing about the Flying Saucer is they have a club.  If you register, you get a card that keeps track of the beers you have had and when you get 200 different beers, you get a plate.  The first 200 and you get a black label on your plate.  There are 8 levels so to get a ‘white’ plate you have to have had 1600 beers (in 200 beer increments, each level cannot have repeats, but you can drink yourself through the same 200 different beers list for each level).  But then where would the fun be in that?

It was a little overwhelming when we first got there.  Craig was getting his plate unveiled and they give you $100 credit towards food and drink for a little party.  They had a free-standing bar reserved for Craig so half of us one one side, half on the other on barstools.  Eventually there were 9 people...8 guys and me.  

I never knew beer was so vast and varied.  I also never knew that different types of beers are correctly served in their proper glass, stem, stein.  I was lost amongst all the choices.  There was no way I could know even where to begin.  That’s why their wait-staff is highly trained and very knowledgeable about beer.  Our waitress, the Beer Goddess (it said on her t-shirt and that’s how we referred to her), selected my first for me after quizzing me on my likes.  She brought me an amber ale.  It was very good.  By the time I finished my first I wasn’t feeling quite so intimidated.  Craig had printed out a bunch of slips from his account describing some of the beers he’s had so I picked my second beer from those.  I can’t remember what it was either but it was very good.  A darker brew than before but a little sweeter.  And we all tasted each other’s different choices.  It was amazing how different each of the different beers tasted.  Husband and I limited ourselves to two each because we were driving back to Wharton, not having come prepared to spend the night.  But it was so interesting, and good, that we are planning to have another go at it but this time we’ll stay with Craig so all we have to do is walk a few blocks to get home.

And Craig's plate?  # 677

Friday, November 20, 2009

starting fabrication

The rough full size drawing

My last post on the Oklahoma Heart Hospital Chapel art glass left off with the intermediate size art work completed.  This is generally 1/4 - 1/3 full size.  Using dimensions from a field measure, I sent the now detailed intermediate drawings to be enlarged to full size.  Once again, I re-drew the enlargements, this time just tracing the them.  I have to do this because when you enlarge a pencil line 387%, it’s nearly 1/8” wide.

tracing the enlargement

The full size drawings were completed and then the waiting game began while they decided what to do about my dissatisfaction with the depth of the channel that would hold the art glass.  It was not sufficient to adequately hide the edges of the glass.  That aesthetically, they would not be happy.  

And really, it was a paltry 1/4”.  What were they thinking?  Eventually, they had the channels re-routed to 1/2”.  I finally got my tight dimensions November 5.

I got the tight dimensions from the guy at the cabinet company who measured them.  The measurements for the full size drawings came from the designer who went to Oklahoma and measured them.  The two sets of measurements for the height of the small panels was off by 1/4”.  Man, I hate when that happens. Two sets of measurements both field measured and both different.  I used the ones from after they had been rerouted.  I still am uneasy about it though.  That’s one of the problems when you do work out of town.  Unless you make the trip, you have to rely on someone else.  I don’t mind making the trip, but most clients don’t want to pay for it.

numbering the diagram

I ordered the glass.  While I waited for the glass to arrive, I had two copies of the full size art work made.  One becomes the pattern for the stencil and the other becomes the diagram that directs the sandblasting.  Once the glass arrives we are single minded into fabrication.  Everything else gets put aside til we are done.

the clear glass

The first thing is to cover the clear side of the glass with a thin adhesive plastic that protects it from getting scratched while we work on it.

Next, the other side of the glass is cleaned and covered with the 8 mil stencil material.

The design is trimmed and applied to the tape covered glass with spray adhesive.

I cut the stencil by ‘tracing’ the design on the paper with a craft knife and a #11 blade, cutting through the paper and the stencil material at the same time.

Once the stencil is cut, the pieces of the pattern are removed in numerical order and marked on the stencil itself.  

The glass is now ready to be carved.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


buttermilk coconut pie

This is what I had for dinner Tuesday night.  Pie.  Well, there was some baked chicken and beets in there too, but it was mostly pie.  

My granddaughters' school had a fund raiser and the item they were selling was pies from the Pie In The Sky Pie Company.  We bought two and they were delivered Tuesday.  The pecan pie we put in the freezer but the buttermilk coconut pie, we ate.  And it’s really good too.

We’re very busy right now trying to keep three jobs moving along but there are many times when we don’t have any work at all.  I know you’re asking yourself what’s this got to do with pie.  So Husband/Partner decides in his infinite wisdom that it’s because we don’t have a catchy name.  

“We need something like ‘A Pane in the Glass’”, he says.

“Um, no.” I say.

He tries again, “’Two Glassy Lassies’?”

“Besides the obvious fact that you’re not a girl, no.”

“Ok,” he says “how about ’Lucy In The Sky With Pie’”. 

“’Lucy In The Sky With Pie’, I like that.” I tell him.

It should be Lucy In The Sky With Glass, but glass just doesn’t have the same zing.

So the other thing about being busy with work is that neither of us feels much like cooking when we’ve both put in long days.  Guess what we had for dinner last night?


I just love being a grown-up.

Tomorrow I’m getting the new business cards printed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

another minute of fame

I’ve just learned that my blog is being featured on Magaly’s blog Pagan Culture today.  I’m thrilled and honored.  I just wish I had a stunning post ready.  I was planning on coasting on yesterday’s.  If I was really ambitious I’d have a list of links to some of my better efforts but you’re just going to have to stumble around instead.

I’ve just found Magaly’s blog recently and she is such a sweetie to do these features on other bloggers.  If any of my regular readers have not visited her before then you should scoot on over there.

Monday, November 16, 2009

pining for the river

Pictures courtesy of my friend S. Green who did the Pecos this spring.

Painted Canyon on the Pecos River, W. Texas

With Thanksgiving coming up it has got me thinking about being on the water.

Most of my holidays, for about 10 years, were spent on the water.  This was during my river guide days.  Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving.  That was how I marked the passing of the year, from one river trip to the next.  The long winter between Thanksgiving and Easter was sometimes broken up by a private trip with friends and semi-regular day trips on Buffalo Bayou in the city.

Now that I don’t do the river guide thing anymore and my river camping buddies have mostly moved away (and with them the various gear spread out amongst us that made the trips possible), I find myself here, and at loose ends, during the holidays.  

I miss being on the river for days at a time, sleeping out under the stars, anticipating and dealing with the weather, being 24/7 out in nature, pooping in the can.  Well, OK, maybe I don’t miss the pooping in the can bit.  

On the short trips, you usually could get away with not having to deal with the weather but if you were going to be gone more than 3 or 4 days, you could count on a change in the weather.    

One trip with friends, on the Pecos, on our second to last night at Painted Canyon, we got rained on.  We watched the lightning come in from the South until it got pretty gusty and the rain started.  It sort of skirted us, coming and going several times.  We got one crack of lightning pretty close that made us all jump.  Everytime you thought it would quit, it would start up again.  Rained like that for four, five hours or so.  We pitched our tent up against a rock wall because we didn’t want to haul all our gear up on top and I woke up in the middle of the night to find about 2” of water in the tent and rapidly rising.  All the rain was pouring off the rock wall and into our tent.  Experienced guides and campers r us.  I finally had to cut a hole in the lowest corner to give the water an exit.  See, only an experienced guide and camper would know to do that. The other two couples didn’t fare much better and we all had our stuff spread out the next morning to dry while we fixed breakfast and broke camp.  Fortunately, in the desert, it doesn’t take long for stuff to dry.

Now you might think that that would have put us all in a terrible mood, but it didn’t.  Life is so real and immediate out there that when the day dawned clear and bright, when we emerged from a night without real shelter from the elementals, we were elated.  We laughed and sang, we gloried in the day and set out on the water again with a light heart.

tinajas further up the side canyon

Saturday, November 14, 2009

shilling for god

god is a many petaled flower and each petal is essential to the whole

Proselytizers came to my door last week.  It’s surprising how often this happens here at the country house.  I’m used to it happening occasionally in the city, but here in small town Texas, it’s like preaching to the choir.  I mean every small town in Texas is so religious the churches almost outnumber the residents.  Every small town in Texas IS the choir.  Except for the occasional heathen in their midst.  Like me.  

I’m against the whole idea of proselytizing.  I think it is an arrogant behavior, one that shows no respect for the variety of life, ideas, cultures, ways of being, ways of seeing.     

I have no problem with religions welcoming seekers who come to them.  It’s the ones who go out in the world armed with self-righteousness, the ones who see you as lost to the grace of god because you believe or worship differently that I find repugnant.  Especially the ones that offer aid only so long as they can count on collecting your soul.

I was raised a christian, I raised my children jewish, I am currently a heathen.  I define a heathen as someone who is without religion.  That does not exclude a belief system that may or may not include a ‘creator’ or a spiritual outlook and practice or an acceptance of a ‘higher power’.  I do not equate religion with knowing god.

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing my pecan meditation, just starting really, when I looked up to see these two young men crossing the vacant half acre from the street, making a beeline for me.  As soon as we make eye contact, they hail me.

“Good morning!” he says.  

“Hello”, I return with a faint smile and a small movement of the hand.  I can see immediately that they are proselytizers by the way they are dressed and the fact that they are carrying written material.  I don’t like proselytizing but I do like to engage them in conversation when I have the time.  Or I guess you chould say, I like to challenge them.  

After some preliminary niceties, he asks “Wouldn’t it be nice if we knew what god wanted us to do?”

Can’t argue with that so I agreed, “Yes it would.”

“Do you think that god has sent prophets to us to tell us what he wants?” he asks.

“Oh yes”, I say, “there have been many prophets in the past, now today, and will be in the future.  Many paths, one destination, all beloved”

I kept on in this manner, agreeing while disagreeing until he finally got around to presenting his agenda, his prophet, his church.  I told him I didn’t do religion, that I had a personal relationship with the deity, that I didn’t find it particularly difficult to know how god wanted me to behave.  He tried again and that is when I politely told him that I disagreed and would like to get on with my meditation and my day.

Last week another pair stopped by.  Husband went out to engage the ladies.  I was busy trying to get the house buttoned down for our three days in the city.

“The end times are near”, she says.

“No they’re not”, he says.  “Dates have come and gone even within your own religion, and the world is still here.”

“The signs have never been so numerous, famine never so severe” she replies.

“No, they’re not,” he says, “The world has never been so prosperous or abundant, the only reason there is famine is for political reasons.  People have never had so much, been so healthy, lived so long.”  Food is grown in abundance and shipped all over the globe.  

Armageddon is not a concept we have ever entertained.  I’m sure we humans will probably do ourselves in sooner rather than later because we are so destructive in nature.  And by destructive, I don’t mean evil.  Eventually we will pass and the next great thing will come along just as we replaced the dominant life forms before us.  But the world destroyed during a battle between good and evil, the righteous being raised up to heaven in bodily form, all who do not accept their version of the almighty laid waste and condemned?  A horror tale to scare us into submission.

I used to agree with them about Armageddon, that yes it had already happened, the world that those soothsayers knew is gone, their way of life destroyed, the people scattered to the winds.

I don’t like proselytizing but I will talk to them, challenge them, hopefully even make them think and maybe question or at the very least become more open minded about the nature of the godhead and it’s capacity for love and acceptance of all.  But I would never go to their door, their home, their country and assume they need saving because their beliefs were different than mine.