Friday, April 29, 2011

plastic awareness challenge

Last Friday was, as we know, Earth Day and I issued a challenge, a plastic awareness challenge. I gave two ways to do this. One was to list all the things plastic that you touched in a single day or to save and list all the plastic you would throw away (not including recycled plastic) in one week.

Here are my lists:

All the things plastic I touched on Earth Day, 4/22/11:

  1. reading glasses
  2. pill caddy
  3. filtered water container
  4. computer/keyboard/mouse
  5. handle of the coffee maker carafe
  6. laminate that covers kitchen cabinet doors, kitchen and bath counters and drawing table
  7. floor tiles in kitchen and bath
  8. bag inside the cereal box
  9. beverage carton
  10. refrigerator handle and door coating
  11. light switch
  12. automatic pencil
  13. erasure holder
  14. truck (so many plastic things in and on it)
  15. phone
  16. spiral on my notebook
  17. sunglasses
  18. grocery bag
  19. bulk food container and scoop
  20. various product packaging
  21. turtle and fish food containers
  22. various food packaging
  23. kitchen scale
  24. pitcher
  25. various re-used small plastic containers I use in my work, jars of frit
  26. plastic food wrap
  27. hose and sprayer nozzle
  28. beverage (juice) bottle
  29. whiskey bottle

Here's my throw away plastic for one week (7 days - Friday the 22nd thru Thursday the 28th):

  1. plastic coated silk container
  2. styrofoam meat tray
  3. paper label from meat tray with plastic wrapping stuck to it
  4. plastic/paper pad from meat tray
  5. two cheese wrappers
  6. chicken plastic wrapper
  7. 2 chip bags
  8. packaging for salmon
  9. coffee seal
  10. applicator and packaging for cat flea treatment
  11. 2 caps and stoppers
  12. twist tie

My week of throw away plastic is pretty typical, some weeks more items, some weeks less.

So. Did anybody else make a list?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

K is for...

K is for...kites

I have three kites hanging in the big room (part of the studio part of the house), two dragon kites and a butterfly kite. They are very cool and I won't fly them because I don't seem able to hang on to a kite. I get them airborne and then hand the string over to one grandkid or another and the next thing I know the kite is in the top of a tree across the street.

We flew kites sometimes when I was a kid down at the beach. The wind is constant there and if you get it aloft then it will pretty much stay there until you haul it down. Not much challenge.

Not much wind available to you when you live in the middle of a big city though. I think I probably took my kids down to the park at the end of our street in the city, to the open field where they play baseball and soccer and tried to loft a kite or two with little success.

Soon after the kids were born, I saw an article in National Geographic about the kite fights in Japan. One image in particular of a tangle of kites in the air really appealed to me and I did a full lite panel for our front door using that photograph as a design. I loved that piece of glass. It was very simple, done in the days before we really started to explore the possibilities, just etched and clear, but it always remained one of my favorite things. Our son broke it during his teenage years, quite by accident, but broken nonetheless. I don't care for the hurry up replacement that has stood in it's place all these years and never have. A moot point by now since we don't live there any longer.

Granny, the string broke.”

That's how we lost the last kite. I paid a whopping two bucks for it at the grocery store. I already don't remember what it's picture was. Cheap kite, cheap string.

The kite before that one got lost because the string was not tied onto the handle. A different g'kid let all the string out and away it went. It was shaped like a white owl. Still, a cheap plastic kite bought at the grocery store.

They wanted to fly one of my kites. No, no, I don't think so. The butterfly kite, at least, is very fragile. It's made of heavy painted tissue paper (or close enough) and is starting to tear with the least tug. I've had it the longest, about 12 or 15 years.

Out here at the country house, we get a nice south wind off the 13 acre field and we have that handy empty half acre right next to us. Perfect for wind powered entertainment. I think we will try our hand at making our own kites this summer when the g'kids come visit, one at a time.

In the meantime, the grocery store has a large display of kites ranging from $2 to $9. I was tempted by another dragon kite the other day, this one for the g'kids to fly but in the end I couldn't make up my mind and Marc was gesturing to me wildly in the check out stand so I didn't get one.

That was a couple of weeks ago. I imagine the selection is now somewhat slim.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

cuteness abounds

It's just a regular wildlife safari around here.

I've been trying to get a picture of the baby wren for days but now that it has attained true flight, it's not very cooperative. The little family stays in my yard, in one tree or shrub or another around the house. The whole family was in the garage a half hour ago but flew out when I poked my head out the door. Here it is in the yew tree outside my bedroom window.

Yesterday I was standing on the concrete apron outside the garage/shop when two little baby squirrels scampered right past me, pausing in the grass about 5' from my feet looking at me curiously and not the least alarmed as I looked back at them. Then off they went to explore the new shop and I ran in to get my camera, shouting 'baby squirrels' into the interior of the house.

By the time I got back out there, camera in hand they had exited at the other end.

Investigating the row of crepe myrtles along one long side.

Dashing off to the next bit of fun.

Back through the shop.

Lady, would you please stop with the pictures already!

This morning I finally saw one of the rabbits that live in the wild space and the 13 acre field behind us. I've been seeing their poop for three years.

I thought I might as well check on the little frogs that live in my water collector, which is all but empty.

OK, I know this guy isn't exactly cute but he was about 3' from my back door last week and very frightened by the attentions of the stupidly fearless cat.

And I wonder why it's taking me so long to get these pieces finished.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


So I know I told you that I quit watching television and that's mostly true. That doesn't mean that it isn't on all the time or that someone else isn't watching it, usually in the other room.

Though I will admit that I watch soap operas during the day while I work. My interest in the story lines waxes and wanes but it's like having a very long book read to you with pictures. Mostly I just listen and look up every now and then.

This isn't about that even though two of the three soap operas I watch are finally being cancelled this year and not even Oprah can save them. Apparently she was prevailed upon to add them to her network. She replied (and I'm paraphrasing here), “Honey, those shows have been on for over 30 years. If there was still a penny to be made from them, somebody would already be making it.”

But I digress.

Friday, I got called from the other room.

Hey Ellen, come look at this.”

'This' turned out to be a segment on the Today Show, an interview with 23 year old virtuoso, Hahn-Bin, a classical violin prodigy and protege of Itzhak Pearlman. It was so visually unexpected and his mastery so complete, he such a unique individual, that I had to look it up on the web and watch it again. And then I googled him to find out more.

I took the following from his website:

Born in Seoul, Hahn-Bin made his international debut at age twelve at the 42nd Grammy Awards performing in honor of Isaac Stern. Following a decade under the tutelage of Itzhak Perlman at The Juilliard School, Hahn-Bin made his critically-acclaimed debut in 2009 at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall as the recipient of the Peter Marino Concert Prize, following his First Prize win at the prestigious Young Concert Artists International Auditions.

And then on to youtube. Instead of my trying to describe this amazing individual, you must experience him for yourself.

This first clip is a little over 4 minutes, excerpts from a single performance I think.

This second clip is an interview with Hahn-Bin interspersed with his music, about 7 minutes.

The third clip is a bit longer, 13 minutes but a complete piece.

And this last one is very short, 1 ½ minutes and is an ad for his performance at MoMA. If you didn't watch any of the others, at least watch/listen to this one.

Friday, April 22, 2011

earth day

I've been busy this week and haven't been very active in blogland. It seems the only thing on my mind lately is work or the gardens and I imagine everyone is tired of hearing about both. Or maybe I'm tired of writing about both. Since I quit watching TV, more or less, I have even less exposure to the outside world and to other things that might set me off on a blog post. And I've followed so may blogs now that I just can't get to every one every day, write my own and still get any kind of work done.

I was going to do an Earth Day post since this planet is near and dear to my heart, but here it is, Earth Day, and I have written nothing. So I thought I would just re-post my little rant from last year only I couldn't figure out how to do it without removing it from it's original spot in the line up. So here is a link to it:

Instead of a new post about saving the only home we've got and our disposable mentality, I have a challenge for you, a plastic awareness challenge. You can do this one or two ways (or both).

Make a list of every plastic thing you touch in just one day, any day. You can pick the day.

This is my list so far today and all I've done is get dressed and sit here with my coffee:

  1. the frames of my reading glasses
  2. my pill caddy
  3. the filtered water container
  4. my computer/keyboard/mouse
  5. the handle of the coffee maker carafe
  6. the laminate that covers my cabinet doors and drawing table
  7. the floor tiles in kitchen and bath

This is the other challenge. Save all the plastic you would throw away for one week and then make a list of that. Don't include the plastic that you recycle (assuming, of course, that you do recycle), only the things that would go in the landfill.

I'm going to do both and will publish my results next Friday.

And remember...refuse, reuse, recycle!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

printing on glass

About a year ago, Houston's first 'glass center' opened. What I mean by that is that there have always been personal stained glass studios or stained glass/fusing studios whose proprietors also taught classes and there are a few private glass blowing studios, one of which offers classes, although this is more of a 'warm' glass community since our climate does not really lend itself to having a furnace running year 'round.

We also have the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft that has an artist-in-residence program and offers workshops, but their kilns are not really suitable for glass and they really don't like how messy glass can be. Lamp workers they are OK with as it is fairly self contained but casting is a messy deal and they really didn't like that.

So when Bob Paterson opened Hot Glass Houston, a resource outlet for Bullseye glass, a company that specializes in facilitating artists using glass as a medium, he not only provided a local resource for the glass many of us use but he also brings in very accomplished guest artists to do workshops in an amazing array of techniques.

And so, this past Monday and Tuesday, I participated in a workshop on transferring imagery to glass in an effort to finally figure out how I want to make the 'pictures' for the memory box.

There are several ways this can be accomplished...fusible decals, emulsion stencils for sandblasting, painting with enamels. This particular workshop taught by Carrie Iverson is a technique she developed from classic printing techniques coming from a printing background as she does. She prints on paper, on fabric and other substrates and she got interested in glass.

In this workshop, we used a traditional lithography printing technique that had been modified slightly for glass. I did take my camera but I did not take a single picture because almost from the moment I picked up the brayer and rolled it in ink, my hands were covered with ink and gum. Basically what we did was this:

We mixed printer's oil-based ink with a waxy substance and used a roller, a 'brayer', to transfer the ink to a laser print that had been coated with a gum solution first. After enough ink had been transferred to the print (the ink only stuck to the black of the image on the paper), we picked up the paper and flipped it over onto a 6" x 6" piece of glass, ink side down, and burnished it transferring the ink from the paper to the glass. The next step was to sift glass powder onto the still wet ink. Then you fire it and the ink burns off and the glass powder fires in.

My first impression was that this might be the way I wanted to go but then I thought maybe the results wouldn't be crisp enough. The first day we did two pieces in the morning, each on a single layer of glass, one fired to tack fused (you can still feel the texture of the glass powder on the glass), the other to full fuse (feels completely smooth).

black powder tack fused on clear

black powder full fused on white

In the afternoon we did three pieces, each two layers thick and fired to full fuse. There's a whole lot in here about colors of ink, colors of frit, colors of glass, reactives, layering, tones, etc. that I'm not going to go into but here is the result of my first day. I worked with the images provided by the class.

On the way there on the second day, before I had seen these, I was pretty convinced this wasn't going to give me the look I wanted, not crisp enough, or maybe, since this is a reliquary for a memory, that would be better because memories fade, right?

I was pleasantly surprised by the results of the previous day.

That second day we did three more pieces 2 layers thick, all to full fuse. I still didn't have any images of my own to bring in, being as we were at the city house, but several others in the workshop did and they shared around.

I haven't seen my pieces from the second day, that will have to wait til the next time we are in Houston, I'm kind of curious about one of them though. I wondered how it would look on sandblasted, etched, glass so on one of my tiles I used the blast booth to sandblast one of the clear pieces and then 'printed' the image on the sandblasted surface and stacked it on another piece of clear. Might be an interesting technique for the architectural work.

Anyway, I'm intrigued enough to try some on my own.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

J is for...

J is for...journal, journey, joining, jukebox

J is for jukebox.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, jukeboxes were everywhere. My parents even had friends who had one in their bay house. As kids we used to love begging our parents for quarters and taking turns picking out songs and as teenagers, we put plenty in, often loading it up with a queue. You don't see them much anymore, new technology and all that.

This is intended primarily as a visual journey but here's few facts lifted straight from

one of the first selective jukeboxes was introduced in 1927 by the Automated Musical Instrument Company, later known as AMI.

The term "jukebox" came into use in the United States around 1940, apparently derived from the familiar usage "juke joint” from the Gullah word "juke" or "joog" meaning disorderly, rowdy, or wicked.

Wallboxes were an important, and profitable, part of any jukebox installation. Serving as a remote control, they enabled patrons to select tunes from their table or booth.

Initially playing music recorded on wax cylinders, the shellac 78 rpm record dominated jukeboxes in the early part of the 20th century. The Seeburg Corporation introduced an all 45 rpm vinyl record jukebox in 1950 leading to the 45 rpm record becoming the dominant jukebox media for the last half of the 20th century.

Jukeboxes were most popular from the 1940s through the mid-1960s, particularly during the 1950s.

Styling progressed from the plain wooden boxes in the early thirties to beautiful light shows with marbleized plastic and color animation in the Wurlitzer 850 Peacock of 1941. But after the United States entered the war, metal and plastic were needed for the war effort. Jukeboxes were considered "nonessential", and none were produced until 1946.

Many consider the 1940s to be the "golden age" of jukebox styling.

All images off the web.