Sunday, January 30, 2011

notes from the country yard

I guess it's been awhile since I shared some of the country life around here. We had some amazing sunsets in January, at least when it wasn't overcast which was most of the month.

I started pruning the roses back yesterday. The conventional wisdom for pruning roses is to do it on Valentine's Day. If I wait that long, it will be too late as they will already be putting buds on. Flower buds. And whereas that might not stop some people, I can't bring my self to cut off branches full of flower buds. You might remember I didn't cut them back at all last year after the terrible freezing winter we had, they were the only green thing left in the yard. These are heritage roses, very sturdy, very thorny. Picking up the cut branches, I'm not holding onto them so much as they are holding on to me.

Did I say it was an off year for pecans this year? Was that me talking? I have already picked up 68 pounds of pecans (and these are the ones I kept, am shelling and do not include the months of picking up the immature nuts that fell and went on the burn pile) and I have a 12” x 12” x 12” box that is full to overflowing that I haven't weighed and the ground still looks like this...

This has actually been a good year for pecans. Well, maybe not for the cultivars, the big ones (I'm getting about 25% good ones off my trees) but the natives paid high prices this year (avg. $1.40 a pound) and the buyers bought tons of them. Apparently they have become all the rage in Japan.

I only have one native pecan and it's at the back end of the property on the property line. This is the first year it has had any nuts on it since my neighbor poisoned it two years ago albeit inadvertently. Like most country folk, he sees no harm in using heinous herbicides on the back of his property next to mine where he has his storage buildings. He sprayed right before a rain and then that area had standing water and the tree just soaked up the poison. Nearly killed it.

Speaking of dying trees, we think the small maple is dying. You might remember that we built the new shop long and narrow to spare the two maple trees. The top third of the small maple died during the drought the summer of '09 and the other day it finally broke off and fell during one of our strong winds. The section that fell was hollow inside which we think does not bode well for the whole tree. It was slow to come out last spring and the big maple already has swelling buds on it. Nothing so far on the small maple. Well, if it does go, it will allow us to build out from the side of the shop which would be nice. That is if we ever get the first part of it finished. We're in another holding pattern on that.

I have spied two daffodil buds shooting up! I think they must be planted in the sunniest part of the yard this time of year. The other daffs back behind the new shop are just starting to poke up and no sign at all of the ones in the front yard. It's been a warm several days, temps in the 60s and the next several should get in the low 70s. Hmmmmm. I may have to go looking for spring.

Winter will be back next week though and I just saw several Vs of geese, at least a couple of hundred, flying low and still heading south.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

notes from the studio

Wednesday, I laid out the fiber paper shapes for the first of the three panels in the kiln, Gene cut the glass and we positioned them in place, dammed the edges of the glass so it wouldn't puddle out, and turned on the kiln. I meant to take pictures but forgot until we were already on our way home. We are headed back in town Friday to see how it came out and perhaps to get the second panel started, that is if Gene doesn't need to use his kiln.

I'm all nervous about it. I did a small sample of a different design that they were considering and that was what the clients saw when they decided to go with the kiln formed glass even though it had to be done in three panels instead of the one panel of glass if they had gone for the etching. I was thinking all the way home that I should have done a sample of the design they choose first so that I could be sure all the detail of the over-lapping 3/32” fiber paper would show up but that's just not my way. Gene assures me it will. Or rather, he says 'it should'. Will and should are not always the same thing.

I know a lot of artists that do tests and color samples out the wazoo before they fuse or cast a piece. Not me. I fly by the seat of my pants. I make my choices on the run. Not that I don't have a bunch of color samples. I do, but they are made for their own existence, not as a test for any particular piece I'm working on. Mostly it works for me. I hope it does this time too.

We will also finish the etched piece for the art consultant's showroom on Friday, the first of several 'art pieces' I plan to do for them which they will mount in a sort of shadow box. These will serve two purposes, they will function as representations of our work for his clients and they will also be available for sale. He has a big presentation coming up in mid-February and has told me that for this job he has an area in the small lobby (as opposed to the big lobby) earmarked for our work.

I wouldn't say the dam has broken as far as work is concerned but it appears to be weakening. I have some sketches and a proposal to do for a pair of doors and a proposal I gave in November may be about to come around in February. Another project in Colorado might be ready for us this summer and I'm still holding out for the two proposals to the Methodist Church which I had hoped would be funded by now. Still, a job for a shower door slipped through my fingers when the first people they talked to said they couldn't do it and then called back five minutes after the client called me to say they could do it after all. Probably just as well since it was a tight deadline and it had to be shipped to Colorado within that time frame. But it would have been a welcome infusion of income.

not finished yet

I'm also working on the first wax model for the set of nine 4” square blocks. I haven't spent much time back there model making lately since I have had to devote so much time to marketing and kicking some life back into my profession. And finally getting to the production stage of our current job. But in the meantime, we have been casting some of the things I already had ready. The top to the wren box came out and it didn't cast great, has a few 'suckies' on it. 'Suckies' are roundish depressions on the surface of your cast piece, like a shallow crater. They are a particular problem in closed molds. This was actually an open face mold but it had some characteristics of a closed mold around parts of the model.

Oh and the last thing...I stabbed myself today with a #11 hobby knife blade trying to change the blade. The old one was stuck and then it was stuck in me. Right in the pad beneath my ring finger on my right hand. Owww! It bled for a long time. I even took a picture of it but decided to spare you all at the last minute.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


image via

Today my blog is two years old.

This second year has found me finally moved to the country house and settled into country life, the new shop mostly built with economic challenges, karmic lessons, a death experience and the return finally! of my desire to work in the pate de verre technique. I read somewhere that the life of the average blog is two years and though I don't post as frequently as I did that first year, I'm nowhere near finished sorting through the stuff in my head.

I'm not even sure now why I started in the first place. I think it had something to do with wanting more of who I am to pass down through future generations. We've tracked our genealogy back to the late 1500s but mostly all we have is names and nothing about who these ancestors were as people. Or it could have been to give the world at large the benefit of my wisdom hee hee. I keep thinking I will print out my pages and have them bound into book form. hmmm, let's see, two years and counting and have only printed out about the first ten pages, yeah, that's gonna happen.

I never imagined that I would find this community when I started. I had never read blogs before I started one and I had never had any success writing a journal before I started this endeavor either. Now I find myself with friends scattered all over. Some have stuck with me throughout, some have disappeared into the ether of the internet, still on my 'friend' list but absent. Some comment on nearly every post, some only once in awhile and some never but I am grateful for every one of my followers. It is for those who come to share my life with me, for those who still find me interesting even when I think I am not, that I continue.

So on to and through my third year, to my daily activities as I continue this life as an artist, as I muddle through personal relationships, as I ponder the imponderables or rant at the stupidities I see around me.

Here's to my peeps. Everyone of you, my readers and commenters, are important to me and whether I reply to your comments or not, regardless of why I started in the first place, you keep me going. Thank you for the company and for accompanying me on my journey.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

C is for...

not 'the' trestle

C is, concussion, canoeing, courage, climbing

C is for...climbing. And courage too but that comes in later.

I don't remember if I was much of a climber when I was a kid. I remember we had a chinese tallow tree in our backyard because in the summer we would have chinaberry wars. I think the tree was probably pretty young and so was I and I may or may not have climbed in it. As vivid as some of those memories still remain, there are not many of them. I know we were forbidden by our mother to climb in the young mimosa tree in the front yard. I remember I was furious with one of the neighbor boys and I went over to his house and 'climbed right up him' as I heard it described later but I don't know if that counts. Billy Hughes. I don't remember why I was so mad but I still remember his name.

When I was six or seven we moved to the house I did the rest of my growing up in which was carved out of the piney woods at the edge of the city. Our street paralleled a railroad track, took a 90˚ left turn, another 90˚ right turn and then lazed off to the right running parallel to the bayou and ending in a cul-de-sac. Minimum lot size was one acre and most people had several. On the other side of the bayou was (is) one of the largest city parks kept undeveloped except for a few areas.

We had only one acre and half of it was kept wooded with a thick layer of pine needles on the ground (and pinecones, you went barefoot out there at your own peril) and though these trees and I were definitely big enough to climb you can't really climb pine trees. Everyone else mostly kept their extra space wild as well, so we kids had lots of woods and ravines to roam around in and though our house was not one of the ones that backed up to the bayou, no one minded us kids cutting through their properties to go play down there. I imagine I did my share of clambering and climbing.

One day when I was about 12 or 13 I think...I don't remember exactly how old I was. Before I became a 'teenager' I'm sure because by then I had abandoned that kind of play in the woods. Young enough to confuse stupid with invincible but old enough to be out there by myself without worrying anybody about being gone all day...I decided for whatever reason...I could have wanted to explore on the other side of the bayou or I might have wanted to get to the top as a short cut to the 7/ climb to the top of the train trestle I had finally come too as I had wandered along the bayou's edge. This was the same train track that our street ran parallel to when you first turned off onto it and this was the trestle that bridged the bayou for the train.

I was out there by myself and with no one to dissuade me from this bone-headed idea, scaring me with how dangerous it was, I started climbing up. There is a big new modern trestle over this spot now but back then it was one of those old timber creosoted bridges. Lower down the cross pieces were closer together but as I got higher they got farther apart until finally I could go no higher. The track above me was out of reach. And then I looked down.

I don't know how high that trestle was. 30 feet? 40? I don't know what the grade slope of the land was at that point where I was on the bayou in relation to street level. But from where I was crouched looking down, it was pretty damn high. It might as well have been 60 feet or 100. High enough that if I fell it would seriously injure me if not outright kill me so I did what any respectable kid would do. I froze with fear and cried. Couldn't go up and couldn't get down. I don't know how long I sat up there. Long enough to get bored and over my initial paralyzing fear. Long enough to talk some sense into my head. No one knew where I was and I wouldn't be missed til dinner and then no telling how long it would take for them to find me. Long enough to convince myself that if I had gotten up there, I could get myself back down. Long enough to know that if my parents had to call out for my rescue, they'd kill me themselves.

And so I finally gathered up my courage and started my shaky descent down. Obviously I made it. I was so glad to be on the ground again I sat down and cried a little more. I got home, no one had missed me and I never mentioned it to anyone. I knew that it was a stupid thing to do in hindsight and telling about it would only bring me grief.

Later in my adult life I found myself in many a scary and precarious situation boulder scrambling in mountains and in river canyons, scaling cliff faces and middens, following goat tracks to get up to the paleo-native american shelters to look at the pictographs and paintings they left behind.

I'd like to say I had learned some sort of lesson that day but apparently not. Maybe it was the courage that stayed with me.

*I have changed the font.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

check list

Email inbox cleaned out - check

First stab at a newsletter done and sent on it's first mass mailing – check. Unfortunately, I made a bone-headed mistake and put the mailing list in the CC address line instead of the BCC address line. Not very professional of me. I won't make that mistake again. Assuming, of course, that I don't get an avalanche of 'remove' requests.

Web site updated – check

Start on first 4” square wax model – check.

Day in the city to get business taken care of and dinner with friends – check.

It all comes at a price though which was not reading any blogs. Boy, get busy for a day or two and the number of posts is overwhelming.


Still in the city. We brought yard tools as the property here is in dire need of some maintenance. Now if it will just warm up a little bit I'll be able to pry myself away from the heater, the cheap natural gas space heater which is cranked up as high as it will go. We're having some of our coldest weather of the year to date but it's a sunny day and the weather prognosticators are saying it's going to warm up.

Perhaps the poking and prodding I have been doing to the business the last couple of weeks may be doing some good. Turns out our business was not completely dead, just mostly dead. I've already had one response from the newsletter I sent out to the design professional community. It's only an inquiry at this point but that's where jobs start.

We'll be spending several days in the city next week. That's the down side of having work. I have three box forms, some feet and perhaps by next week a lid to grind excess glass off so I'll be spending the better part of a day at my friend's studio working on their flat lap. Then over to another friend's studio to lay out the fiber paper shapes on the kiln shelf to get the first of the three panels for this job cast.

This is my first time to do this type of work, this 'kiln carving'. I think I described the technique here. I'm a bit nervous about it. Didn't charge enough, didn't really know how to charge for it. Hopefully, it won't cost me anything and I will have learned something for the next time I propose something I have no direct experience with. Which I do. I get these ideas, sell them and then have to figure out how to make it work.


Well, it's warming up nicely out there. The picture is of just one small area in my yard in the city that is covered with these small lilies. What you see now is just the foliage. They started coming up last month and in another month or so these areas will be a sea of small red flowers blanketing the yard.

If I took a long shot of the yard you would see these everywhere with just a few paths through between gates and door. I discouraged grass in the city yard years and years ago and so usually have one wildflower after another instead. These are not actually wildflowers but they turned out to be highly invasive. This yard full of these lilies and next door in my daughter's yard as well started out with one 8” diameter clay pot (I don't know their proper name, the tag in the pot said African Lily). After they bloom and go to seed, the foliage dies down.

I'm always amazed at this early harbinger of spring.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

river vignette 11 – the Rio Grande

Kinda busy and uninspired right now. The in-box on my email account is overflowing and needs to be cleaned out, I really need to compose the newsletter that I plan on sending out to the mailing list I've spent the last couple of weeks compiling (my latest attempt at marketing), gotta do a day trip into the city and the insomnia is back but at least the day dawned clear today.

Thought I would pause for a little moment of tranquility before diving in.

I was lagging behind, the last boat in our group, enjoying the solitude when I heard this thundering noise and in front of me two brown mares and a colt came galloping over the rise and down to the river. Then came a pinto stallion. When he got there the two mares and the colt walked into the water to drink. The pinto stood on the bank, looked back over the rise and whinnied. Twin colts came galloping over the rise and down to the water as I glided silently by.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dear Sir

I wanted to thank you for the lovely comment you made on my last post all about how we American women are 'the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don't know how to cook or clean, don't want to have children' and are so 'immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste and utterly disgusting'. I thought it was especially sweet considering you don't know me and don't know anything about me or the life I have led except for what you have learned from my blog although I'm pretty sure you have not read my blog. I have to say that I'm at a loss to understand how my post about Stevie Ray Vaughan and the blues musical genre offended you so much.

I was also impressed by how much you stand by your opinions being anonymous and all and making sure that no one can respond to your comment by hiding your profile and not providing an email address. It's quite admirable of you to post such sentiments on a stranger's blog while making sure that you cannot be held accountable and adding the link to your blog was so considerate. It made it easy for me to know where to go the next time I feel like being insulted by men who don't know me.

So, what's the matter Hon, aren't we American women subservient enough for you? Don't care for equality between the sexes? Can't handle a confident capable woman who will stand up for herself? Personally, I think it's an excellent idea for you and your fellows to boycott American women. You'll be doing us all a big favor.

I'm sorry but I won't be helping to spread your message as I have deleted your comment. And if you somehow find your way back here, do us both a favor and move on.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

B is for...

B is for...body, birth, boobs, breath, books, belief, blues. These are the words I ran through, a little free association and what the hell was I thinking?, before I got to blues. I had 'bear' up there too for a while because of a vague memory of a story my mother told me concerning a forbear's encounter with a bear in her new dress with the row of buttons down the back but my sister could not confirm the story and now that I think about it, was pretty far-fetched. So I took it out. So...

B is for...blues.

As in 'the blues'. I could listen to the blues all day. I like to listen to a lot of different kinds of blues but a natural favorite is, of course, Texas blues. And who else but Stevie Ray Vaughan?

This is what Wikipedia has to say about Stevie Ray Vaughan:

Stephen "Stevie" Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was one of the most influential American guitarists of the late 20th century. Born in Dallas, Vaughan moved to Austin at the age of 17. He began his career there when in 1983, record producer John H. Hammond arranged him a deal with Epic Records. Accompanied by bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton as Double Trouble, Vaughan was an important figure in Texas blues, a loud, swing-driven fusion of blues and rock. He became the leading musician of the newly popular blues rock sound with a series of network television appearances and charting albums. His energized interpretations of blues music and style made him hugely popular. Vaughan's debut Texas Flood, released in June 1983, became a double-platinum record.

Unfortunately Stevie Ray left us far too soon, dying in a helicopter crash in the Rockies in 1990.

I listened to and watched several videos on trying to pick out the best, but they are all great so here are just three selections from the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan.

And if you haven't had enough of the blues yet, go on over to Marguerite's blog Cajun Delights for a little bayou blues (scroll down to the end of her post).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

best laid plans

This week has not gone quite like I planned. My main accomplishments were supposed to be finishing the full size art work for the job we have and meeting with the art consultant to discuss the sketches I emailed him on Monday.

For one thing, I discovered on Monday that I had made an error in my math concerning the width of the three panels and so the enlargement I had had made was not large enough. Small errors like that were just annoying when we lived in the city and I could just dash over to the reprographics place and get it done over. Now, out here in the middle of nowhere it's a major problem. I have to make a trip into the city.

For the other, the art consultant is out of town til tomorrow. And who knows if he will have time to meet with me this week. I'm going to aim for Friday since I have to be there on Saturday for the first meeting for a probable job, a pair of interior doors.

Add into the mix that it is cold and overcast, our coldest weather to date, and I can't think of anything clever for the letter B and I am thoroughly disgruntled.

Also, I found out that our friend who does the fused glass and who I am depending on to complete the job we have and the job the church is getting funded, had a stent put in his heart last week. He had had two instances of serious jaw pain while exercising so went to the doctor who referred him to a cardiologist who did the procedure on him the very next day. He showed up at the clinic at 5:30, was in surgery by 6:30 and home by 1:00 PM. They went in through his wrist he said, no cracked chest, no heart surgery. I don't know about you but I find that frickin' incredible. Through his wrist! And I'm delighted my friend will be here to help me with these jobs (and not just because of that). As we all get older I'm beginning to realize just how dependent I am on others to be able to do my own work.

Speaking of which, as if I'm not slow enough already, this cold weather just isn't helping. But here's another peek at the wren box as it progresses as well as another I'm working on that I refer to in my head as the memory box.

left: wren box, cast with plaster removed but not cleaned
right: memory box, cast, cleaned but still needs excess glass ground off bottom

the two boxes with their respective inlays

I still need to cast the feet for the wren box and the tops to both but I've already cast the feet for the memory box. In it will be half a dozen or so photos that are etched on thin pieces of glass. The inlays don't fit perfectly yet. I'll have to do some grinding on both the inlay and the indentation, sort of like fitting a dental crown.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Alphabet Game - A is for...

Art. The obvious choice so for that reason alone I'm not going to use it.

I thought this was a clever little exercise that madamebutterfly is doing over at A New Start so I thought I'd give it a try.

A is No, no.

A is for...Ambrosia.

The Nectar of the Gods. When I was growing up, ambrosia was served at our table only once a year and that was on Christmas Eve. It was part of the dessert to our formal meal with the fine china and crystal and fancy duds. My father would wear his tux, my brother in his suit, my sister and I in our best fancy dresses and our mother in her finest evening gown and often we had guests as well. We even had servants. Well, we had a servant 5 nights a week but on Christmas Eve we had three servants. There was the young man and his wife my father hired to tend bar at parties and our regular maid. Our maid would cook the dinner and Cecil and Ruby would serve it and clean up.

We also had a once a year salad which was made from canned spiced pears, which were red, with cream cheese applied with a decorator frosting tip so that the pears became a Santa face with beard and hat.

The ambrosia was served with angel food cake. I actually thought for a long time that what we called ambrosia and had for dessert was what the Greek gods ate in the stories. I had started reading stories about the Greek gods in the third grade so I knew about these things. I'm pretty sure now though that what we were eating and what they were eating was not the same thing. What we were eating was really just a fruit salad consisting of peeled and sectioned oranges and grapefruit with bananas and coconut. None of which is particularly exotic. I think what elevated it to the status of ambrosia was the amount of work that went into preparing it. Peeling and sectioning citrus fruit is a task unto itself, getting all the white stuff off, slipping the knife between the fruit and the thin membrane that separated the pieces. That and the coconut.

The coconut which we would buy whole. Deciding which one to get took careful examination and plenty of shaking to make sure we could hear the milk inside. Once we got it home it went through the ritual of seeing who could drive the screwdriver through an eye with the hammer with all of us wanting to try on each other. Eventually the holes would be made and the milk drained out with each of us daring the other to drink it. With the milk drained we'd bash it with the hammer til it broke up in smaller pieces and we could pry the meat out. I love fresh coconut and would grab several chunks and eat them on the spot. And have my hand slapped away the rest of the day as I tried to steal away more.

I don't know where the tradition came from, it just always was and was to be ever so if our mother had anything to say about it. The thing is, no one really liked either the ambrosia or the angel food cake. The grapefruit was always sour and the oranges weren't always sweet and not every one was a fan of bananas and I had long had my fill of coconut by that time and the angel food cake more often than not tasted like cardboard.

But every year we had ambrosia and angel food cake for dessert on Christmas Eve.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

friday night at the movies

We watched a Quenton Tarantino film last night. It was originally released as a three hour double feature with fake trailers and everything. The other film was Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez) and the whole thing together, I gather, was called Grindhouse. It's been split up now and the one we saw was Grindhouse Presents Death Proof. It still had the quirky little preview film trailers at the beginning. I admit to liking Quenton Tarantino's work and this particular little film starred Kurt Russell and I'm a huge Kurt Russell fan. I have a short list of favorite male actors...Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Nickolas Cage among others and Kurt Russell probably tops the list. I'm not sure my marriage would survive if he showed up on my doorstep wanting me to run away with him. I know that won't happen cause he's hooked up and I'm only slightly mollified by the fact that he's hooked up with, well, Goldie Hawn.

Anyway, I digress.

Here are some quotes from a review on Nights And Weekends.Com:

Death Proof (the second movie in the original double feature) tells the story of two groups of girls-and of one creepy guy and his equally creepy car. The first group of girls meet Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) in an old bar in Austin. And the second group-an actress, a make-up artist, and a couple of stuntwomen-meet him a year later, while they're shooting a movie in Tennessee.

Stuntman Mike is just as scary as he is smooth-and there's obviously something not quite right about him. But when he gets behind the wheel of his beloved car-the stuntman in him takes over, and the outcome is always deadly.


The high point of the movie is definitely Russell, whose performance as Stuntman Mike is stellar (well, him and the infamous 18-minute car-chase scene). He's so creepy it'll make your skin crawl-but, at the same time, he's absolutely hilarious, too. And I can't think of any other actor who could have pulled off the role quite like he did.

Yeah, that's my man Kurt.