Tuesday, March 31, 2009

snaky...with pecans

We went down to the country house a day early last week and didn't come back til today.  Didn’t really have any pressing reason to stay in the city as I could do the art work I need to do down there and my sister and I were having a garage sale on Saturday so I thought it would be good to get there a day early and help get things organized.  The weather turned cold on Saturday so the garage sale was something of a bust but Wharton is having it’s first ‘city-wide’ garage sale in June so we’ll just try again then.

Since I’ve had too many kitties hit by cars at night, Emma spends the nights indoors, which means that she wants out as soon as it gets light.  She very quietly, insistently, mews until one of us gets up and lets her out.  When we are in the country house, we leave the back door slightly ajar, so she can get back in, and then crawl back in bed because we are not early risers.

So I’m sitting there, Friday morning, in the den (the room with the back door) with my coffee and I look down and about 12” from my feet is a snake.  ‘Snake!’, I yelled and pulled my feet up.  Well, it was a small snake, 6” or 7”, but I’m not used to finding them in my house.  It was brown with tan markings, a little rat snake.  I got a container and scooped it up and let it go outside, far from any of my doors.

When we bought the country house, it had a built in buffet in the dining area and since we have a piece of furniture for that, we took it out and put it against the back wall of the garage.  It’s a nice piece so I wanted to put it in the garage sale.  To that end, Friday night, we were out there getting it put in the back of the truck.  We got it pulled away from the wall and I went around to the side and there was another snake, only it was big.  ‘Big snake!’, I yelled and started doing my snake dance.  This one was about 30”, same brown with tan markings, a much bigger rat snake.  Rat snakes are good to have around so I didn’t want to hurt it, I just didn’t want it where I could see it and it wasn’t too happy being seen.  It kept trying to get in the wall.  So I got a stick and tried to move it along.  Ever tried to herd a snake?  Doesn’t work too well.  I finally annoyed it enough that it slithered off underneath one of the shelving units on the other side of the garage.  

Saturday morning, I’m at my sister’s unloading the last few things, one of which was a piece of wall to wall carpet that we took out of the back room and which had been laying on the floor of the garage.  It was rolled up and I just leaned it up against the tailgate of the truck.  My sister flipped it open so people could see what it looked like and two handfuls of pecans rolled down to the ground.  Some little creature was stealing pecans out of the container I have them in and stashing them in the carpet.  Probably the reason the rat snake was in the garage.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

no, I'm sorry, I don't need a security camera

I know the economic downturn is starting to hit Houston because the only calls I get lately are from people trying to sell me stuff.  Well, that’s not entirely true, but at least one potential job has dried up and blown away and another asked for a revised proposal that was less ambitious.  Certainly not the first time.  We’ve weathered several serious downturns in the local economy but in the past, other parts of the country were still doing well and we were able to get work out of state.  The whole country is in the tank this time with Texas seemingly being the only area that is holding it’s own, more or less.  

The problem with being an artist is that when money starts to get tight, art is the first thing people stop buying.  Even in the functional architectural work, the decoration gets dropped.  Right now, I’m thinking, I should have been a jeweler.  People always buy jewelry, no matter how bad things get.  I try not to worry about it overmuch.  I might get hit by a bus tomorrow and the whole thing will be moot.  

The drop in sales at the galleries (and not just my work) is discouraging for me.  I know I should continue to do the pate de verre work and I have a lot of pieces in my head that I want to do, but I just can’t seem to get motivated to invest the time and money in a piece that is probably just going to sit around.  Besides, I need the time to do the architectural jobs I have to make the money to fund the pate de verre work.  It’s a hard balance to strike sometimes.  I enjoy the architectural work, mostly, but it is work to please other people.  The pate de verre work is done to please me.  Part of the problem is that half my stuff for casting is here in Houston and the other half is at the country house.

Ah, well, it is just an interlude and this too shall pass.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

poison ivy

I’m allergic to poison ivy.  I have been allergic to poison ivy all my life.  This was a real bummer to me as a kid since my house was on an acre of piney woods in a small neighborhood where that was one of the smaller plots and it was all mostly wooded.  Our house didn’t back up onto Buffalo Bayou but some of the ones down the street did and it was about a five minute walk to get there...through the woods.  Since there weren’t a lot of kids my age and all the kids in general were spread out, I spent a lot of time by myself in those woods.  Before I learned how to spot poison ivy in all it’s permutations, I came home with some whopping cases.  I’ve been covered from my toes to my knees on more than one occasion, also all over my arms and on my face.  I’d say that that would be the worst but I still remember the torment on my feet and legs and the terrible terrible itching.  

The reason I bring this up is that I think I have poison ivy on my toe.  It’s been many many years since I got poison ivy.  Most of my outdoor activities have been in places where either it doesn’t grow or it is easy to avoid.  It grows out there at the country house, mostly in the little thicket behind the shed at the back edge of the property where I don’t go.  I’m happy to leave that spot to the wild things.  It does, however, pop up in the yard around the house and then I dig it up and throw it away.  Poison ivy does not go on the burn pile.  I’ve already dug it up in two spots in the last week but I guess I must have brushed against it before I spotted it on Friday.  I’m in the process of digging up a large stand of cannas on one side of the shed, cannas aren’t my favorite and these are the unimpressive native orange ones, and it was hidden by the dead foliage from last year.  I guess next time I won't dig in sandals.

Monday, March 23, 2009

this and that

I took a major step last week towards moving to the country house.  I took all my clothes and my chest of drawers.  From now on, instead of taking what clothes I think I will need for Friday through Monday, I will bring back what I think I’ll need for Monday through Thursday or Friday.  We tend to do this moving in spurts.  We’ll move stuff for a couple of weekends and then a month or two will go by and we will have moved nothing.  One hold up is that we want to buy a new couch but don’t have funds available for that right now, too many other more pressing things on the list to buy, but the main hold up is not being able to work out there.  Our current job, though, is at the full size art work stage and that I can do out there.

We’ve been leaving on Friday afternoons and coming in on Monday mornings but being out there all last week with the grandkids was really nice.  Didn’t get a lick of work done but I made lots of cookies and worked in the yard and messed around with the kids.  I also mounted a major offensive against the fire ants which are abundant.  Pot after pot of boiling water was poured on the mounds in and around the garden and flower beds.  It’s amazing how many gallons of boiling water some of those mounds absorbed before there was no sign of activity.

In the garden this last week, Marc put in tomatos, japanese eggplant, and banana peppers although we lost one when a limb from the tallow fell on it.  I’m happy to report that the beans just jumped out of the ground so fast you could almost see them growing and the spinach finally has sprouted.  No bell peppers yet and I still have to get some cucumbers in.

The burn ban was lifted after the rain last week so we torched the burn pile.  Took all day and well into the night for it to burn down as we had three trees taken down while we were out there, two pines (one dead, the other dying) and a small chinese tallow.  The other thing the rain did was to really bring out the wildflowers.  The pastures are blanketed with indian paintbrush, evening primrose and bluebonnets.

The far end of the 13 acre field behind us.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

spring break

This week is spring break for the grandkids so we’ve been spending the week out at the country house with them.  Not all at once though which is what their parents would have preferred as they wanted to refinish the wood floor in their living room.  All four of them for two days is about all we can handle.  There’s a reason women are most fertile when they’re young.  We had the youngest and one of her friends for two days, the boy for two days and now the twins who decided to put their two days each together and get four days.  I’ve been driving back and forth to drop off and pick up but this will be the last time til next Monday.

See ya when I get back.

Monday, March 16, 2009

blessed rain and other stories

We have finally received some rain...three days of gentle constant soaking in rain.  Of course it came with really cold temperatures, 40s and 50s.  I was standing at the check out at the grocery store in the country Saturday afternoon and the very proper little old lady next in line, in her early 70s I would guess, remarked to me how wonderful the rain was, how badly it was needed.  I agreed with her saying too bad it came with such cold weather.  “I don’t care about that.” she said.  “I would dance naked out in it but I would have to be alone because”, she says to me, “no one wants to see that.”  Cracked me up.

In the garden, spinach and beans are still no shows.  Our neighbor and his wife have run a nursery for 50 some odd years and he came over a couple of weeks ago to make sure we didn’t buy our tomato plants from Walmart (which is the store of last resort for me and unfortunately the only big store in Wharton), because, he says, they are forced and once in the garden, will expire.  He has some really great vintage tomato plants that he grows, collects his own seeds every year.  In fact, his whole garden rocks, so we will get our tomato plants from him this week and get them in.  

Went over to my sister’s yesterday so my granddaughter could collect the eggs.  They also have three ducks and one of the hens keeps fluttering over the fence and into the pen with the ducks.  My sister throws it back over and the next day, it’s back with the ducks.  She has finally given up and lets this particular hen live with the ducks.  I was standing there waiting for Robin to finish trying to catch one of the ducks and the hen was right next to the fence, waiting as it turned out, for one of the hens in the chicken yard to wander too close to the fence.  The duck hen attacked the other hen through the fence and then they started getting it on.  I’ve never seen chickens brawl before.  They stretched their necks up and ruffled their feathers up and down and pecked at each other through the fence.  As soon as the other hens saw what was going on, three of them ran over to the fence to back up their buddy.  Who knew chickens had posses.  Anyway, that was the end of the fight.  The duck hen didn’t like the odds so they just glared at each other through the fence after that.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Back in December ‘08, Marc and I went to the opening of the current show at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft called Hot Glass, Cool Collections.  The exhibition is a selection of art glass from Houston area glass collectors.  It’s quite a display of the familiar names...Dale Chihuly, Dante Marioni, LinoTagliapetra, Bill Morris, Toots Zynsky, Preston Singletary, 3 different Littletons, Richard Marquis, Bertil Vallien, Steven Weinberg and other lesser knowns and some unknown to me.   Also a selection of paperweights, Paul Stankard and Rick Ayotte among others, and beads.  Anyway, we were standing in the lobby having a glass or two of wine and chatting people up before we went in to see the show when one of our acquaintances came up and asked if we had seen our piece.  In this show?, I asked skeptically.  We don’t have a piece in this show, I told him.  Oh yes you do, was the reply.  No way, you’re pulling my leg.  No, really, go look, he urged.  So I grabbed Marc, we slugged down the rest of our wine and went in to see the show and sure enough, in a case with a piece by Susan Taylor Glasgow and Klaus Moje, was one of our small bowls.  To say I was thrilled is the under statement of the year.

We went back and looked at the show later when the crowd was gone, and for all those impressive names, the show was mostly uninspiring (except for that one brilliant stroke...hee, hee).  I don’t know if it’s because the examples of these artists’ work is not their best or it’s all early work or because of the way it was displayed.  Even Bill Morris’ two big pieces seemed sort of mediocre.  If I had to judge these artists by the quality of the one or two examples of their work in this show, I’d have to wonder how they got to be such big names.  Maybe I’ve just gotten jaded or, being a glass artist and having seen much better work by these same artists, I’m harder to impress.  I liked Scott Chaseling’s vessel and Flo Perkins’ cactus flower.  Bertil Vallien’s small boat was nice and I liked Thermon Statom’s chair.  There was a box of chocolates by the Hulets.  There were a few others I liked real well, but being new at this review business, I didn’t take notes and now I can’t remember who and what.

The show is about to end and Paul Stankard is in town today to do some demonstrations at the Craft Center.  Paul Stankard, in case you don’t know, is probably the finest paperweight maker in the world.  His weights are miniature worlds encased in glass.  We’ve met Paul several times at Glass Collector’s Weekend and SOFA Chicago.  He is friends with a collector here who has several of our small sculptural pieces so we always take the opportunity to introduce ourselves to him using our friend’s name by way of introduction.  He is always very gracious and I’m sure he still doesn’t have a clue as to who we are the next time we speak to him.  That’s OK.  We’re headed over there now so we can go schmooze with Paul and the collectors who, we hope, will be coming as well.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


You wouldn’t think a not quite 10 pound cat could shake the house when she runs in from outdoors.  Well, maybe the house doesn’t actually shake but she makes at least as much noise as I do when I am pissed off and stomping through the house.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

6. the Houston Glass Artists Association

In 1977, Gene Hester, a friend who does stained glass (and now fused glass) and Marc and I co-founded the Houston Glass Artists Association.  The way this came about was Gene was offered exhibition space at a bank downtown but he didn’t have enough work to fill the space.  So he came to us and another artist and we planned an exhibition.  We thought it would sound more professional and impressive if we had a fancy name so we called it the HGAA.  We did framed panels and somehow hung them in the space.  We did this another year and the third year we decided to open the exhibition to other glass artists in the area.  Thus began our co-presidency with Gene that lasted til around 1982 when the members had a revolt and wanted to elect their leaders.  The stained glass retailers took over and we left it to them.  It wasn’t that we weren’t interested if we couldn’t be in charge, it was that the focus of the group changed.  They sponsored several more exhibitions but I think the group finally petered out in 1985.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

5. the joke's on me

(just a reminder that the numbered entries are chapters in how we got here)

Marc quit his job at the factory early in 1977 and by the time the year was over, we were both committed to our endeavor.  Somewhere in my head I have a memory swirling around of my talking him into it.  Come be an artist with me, I told him.  We can do it, I told him.  (Many years later it dawned on me that most all the working artists I knew had a working spouse that was not an artist to help with the cash flow.  Doh!)

It seemed like a good idea at the time and fun too, but there were many soul searching discussions in the next five years or so.  Our daughter was born in 1977, our son in 1979.  We struggled, counted our pennies, counted on our friends.  Marc would take part time jobs when necessary but we found that when he worked outside the studio, the studio didn’t make much progress when I was left with two preschoolers.  Each discussion ended up with deciding to hold on a little longer, hang in there, have faith that we were doing the right thing and always it seemed, just at the last moment, something would come in and buoy us up again and we were good for the next six months.

Monday, March 9, 2009

peas, peaches and pecans

Because we come back on Mondays, my head is still full of country stuff.  Did more planting in the garden this weekend.  Marc put in the bush beans so now we have peas, which have started coming up; spinach, which has not; a few volunteer butternut squash because I buried the kitchen scraps in the garden all winter; a couple of volunteer tomatos and, of course, the bush beans.  We are rookies at this food growing thing and expect to make all the rookie mistakes but it will be fun.

baby peas

We have a peach tree that has gone native.  At least we think that’s what happened since the trunks are coming out of the ground below where a graft would be.  It makes peaches about the size of a chocolate egg, a pit with about 1/8” of flesh over it.  Not good for eating but the flowers are pretty.

I am still picking up pecans, buckets worth.  I swear they are oozing up from the earth like rocks in a field.  They’re not any good, dried up or moldy inside.  I think these are the ones that fell last summer because of the drought and the husks are finally drying and breaking away.  Considering I must have picked up at least 25 gallons of nuts last fall, I can’t imagine what kind of crop we’ll get if it ever starts raining again.  We are already 5” behind in our yearly rainfall.  I’m still picking them up because besides the fact that I like to go barefoot outside and stepping on those things is not wonderful, I’m not entirely convinced they won’t still sprout and grow into trees.  Three pecan trees are enough.

bluebonnets in the front

Friday, March 6, 2009

presentation is everything

I did a presentation yesterday for the new chapel at John Wesley United Methodist Church.  The new chapel combines what used to be the lobby to the sanctuary and the outdoor vestibule or porte cochere to the lobby.  Consequently, it has 5 large windows where the outdoor part used to be.  The largest one, the window behind where the altar is going to be, is 10’ x 13’.  It was framed in using metal mullions and so is divided into 12 panels.  At their request I did some drawings and a proposal and they are going to submit it for funding.

We are already doing the entry wall along the hall which consists of a pair of doors and the two side walls.  The design for the entry has dogwood trees, one on each end, one in flower and one in leaf, with ferns and sunflowers filling in along the bottom.  The trees and sunflowers have birds and the ferns and violets along the bottom have a variety of wildlife.  

This is not quite the concept of the compositional sketch I first presented to them for which they gave me an art fee to develop at 1/3 full size.  The trees and birds are the same but the original idea for the bottom was wildflowers under the trees and sort of an english cottage garden in the middle sections.  When the configuration of the side wall panels changed, it adversely affected the tree at each far end, so I drew a different tree, one more true to how a dogwood grows, more spread out with multiple trunks and this affected everything else.  And then I just could not make any progress.  I spent about two weeks drawing and erasing stuff.  I finally settled on ferns along the bottom and the only thing blooming in my yard was one lone field sunflower left over from last year.  It made me start thinking about the analogy and the play on words.  Sunflowers follow the sun across the sky and Christians follow the Son throughout their lives.  So that’s how the sunflowers got there.  I also represented the life cycle, the sunrise and sunset so to speak, through the blooms, from bud to seed head.  I like this better than the original idea of a confusing jumble of flowers.  It's more serene and hopeful, comforting even, and that's what they wanted.  They approved the design with one or two minor changes, this bird for that, add a squirrel, so now I am ready to do the full size art work.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

what's the problem here?

My azaleas are not blooming.  Azaleas all over the neighborhood are blooming, but not mine.  This may not sound so unusual except that they have always been too eager, starting in December.  Give them a few warm days and flowers would start to pop out.  Then it would get cold again, then warm again and a few more would open.  Indecent really how eager they were.  This would go on for two and a half months until finally, at the proper time, whatever buds were left would open.  Last year for the first time in I can’t remember, probably back when we still had winter, they bloomed all at once.  It was a magnificent display.  Hopefully, I’ll be treated to the same this year.  I guess it is still a little early but I went out and gave them a good watering in case they were waiting for rain or something.

Last year’s display.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

some pictures

Dew on the bluebonnets after a foggy morning a couple of weeks ago.

We’ve been having some extraordinary sunsets here in Houston the last two nights, all pink and golden streaks in the blue until it looks like the sky is on fire.  Made me wish I was out in Wharton since we don’t have a good view here in the city.  We’ve been getting some good sunsets out in the country too.  This one is from the weekend before last.

I took this one last weekend after the fiery colors faded.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

4. growing in more ways than one

I started this account of how I got to be a glass artist last month (February).  Then I went back and numbered them so as to set them out from their neighbors.  From now on, that is how I will denote another entry.  This account will try to follow a time line but you never know.  And it’s not just about being a glass artist.  It’s really about how we adopted this way of life.  

Mid 1975, I became inspired with the need to buy a house.  I wanted a place that was mine and a place where I could live and have my studio, sandblasting and all.  I had been using my parent’s backyard and then had tried to rent space in an edgy neighborhood but that didn’t work out.  I finally worked out a deal with a cabinet maker but he was getting tired of the arrangement.  So with the help of my parents, a family friend who had a realtor’s license and the advice of a friend of mine on areas of town, I bought a house in a marginal working class inner city neighborhood, mixed, by race and age, with more deteriorated areas around it.  In fact, it got worse before it got better, but that’s a different story.

Also mid 1975, I met Marc who worked third shift at Hughes Tool Co.  By early spring 1976 we had joined households and he basically helped support me while I did small art/craft shows and got the occasional commission.  We married in late summer of that year and a week later, I was pregnant.  By the time I was 6 months along, it became increasingly difficult for me to do all the work so Marc took over doing the sandblasting.  My little nascent studio had moved out of the house and into the two car garage. 

Monday, March 2, 2009

three short notes...

This is how spring goes here...three or four days of warm beautiful days with highs in the mid 70s and then 2 or 3 days of lows in the low 30s.  Last Friday was short sleeve weather.  When we got up Saturday morning the wind had started blowing from the northwest.  It blew strong and steady for two days.  It was not bad in the sun if you were protected from the wind, but the thing about the country house with all the open fields on three sides of us is that there is no protection from the wind.  Great in the summer when we have a nice breeze coming from the south, not so great in the winter when it comes from the north.  My plans of working out in the yard all weekend were blown away...literally.

The little birdbath continues to be a popular place.  There was a line waiting for it’s use yesterday.  First a mockingbird, then a male cardinal came to drink and bathe. As soon as he flew off, the female cardinal took her place.  She took her sweet time to drink and bathe and preen and bathe again much to the frustration of a little chickadee waiting impatiently for it’s turn.  At one point, the chickadee dive bombed the female cardinal in an attempt to hurry her along.

The bluebonnets have started blooming, what there is of them.  Last year the front half of the vacant half acre next to us was solid with bluebonnets.  Also the strip of our front yard along the street.  This year, while we have less than half as many bluebonnets as last, the vacant half acre has almost none, victim of the terrible drought this part of the state is going through.  The farmers should have already done their spring planting but the ground is too dry.  Now they are having to decide what to do...go ahead anyway and hope for rain or wait longer and chance the corn burning up during the summer or plant something else for a later crop and ruin the regular rotation.  Not a happy place to be if you’re a farmer.