Tuesday, September 30, 2014

pursuits and illumination

I have a list of exhibitions on my marker board with the dates for submission. I decided that I would start again, submitting to juried exhibitions and publications (there is a book to be published of cast work). I don't know where I expect that to lead me. Recognition, at least among my peers, or rather reconnection. Gallery representation perhaps though I still am not very prolific with my work. The last several years have been pretty full with commission work for which I am grateful, so I don't know exactly what I want to get out of it.

With the deadline today for submission to a publication, New Glass Review, published every year by the Corning Museum, I selected three of the Botanicas and rephotographed them and I readied and submitted my entry yesterday. This is the first time in very many years that I have submitted to it but, what the hell.

I was supposed to start the full size art work for our last-one-on-the-books commission yesterday so that's what I'm doing today.

Also yesterday we finally put the new light fixture up. You might remember that I commissioned Carol Nickol to make me a light fixture like one she had in her home that I had seen when we visited one day of the residency last year. I received it a week or so ago and we finally got it up. It was going to go in the dining room but now I have the chandelier from the old city house. If I ever get it cleaned up, we will put it in the dining room. So now the new one hangs in the room where I spend most my time. No complaints about that.

Pretty cool, don't ya think? Now I think I need another, different, one to go on the other ceiling fixture in that room.

Friday, September 26, 2014

an exhibition and a selfie

We're leaving in a little while to drive into the city for the opening of the CraftTexas exhibition in which we have a piece, the wren box, one of only four glass pieces in the show of 49 works. Two glass pieces are by the same artist and are basically just solid blocks and the fourth is cast glass circles and steel. I submitted three pieces but they only chose the one of mine. They've already published the catalog on-line and you can see it here: CraftTexas 2014 

I've been working this week on another model and finished it today. Now I have only one more small one and the two big ones to do and I will be finished with this series. I say I'll be finished but I'm already thinking of doing some in clay that are thinner and simpler versions. We'll see. I've been wanting to get started on my 'river stories' work but I think I might put that off for another idea, 9 x 9.

The idea for 9 x 9 came to me while I was on vacation and photographing all those feathers on the beach. So now I'm thinking about nine sets of nine pieces. Maybe that's where the simpler botanicas will fit in.

A cool front finally made it down to us so now we are have some really nice weather. Cool in the mornings, 80s during the day. AC off, doors open.

It's Friday, selfie day, and I thought I would take my selfie at the show but then it wouldn't get posted til tomorrow so y'all are just going to get an unrelated pic of me with mostly wet hair cause it's time for me to get ready to go.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

the youngsters

The juvenile cardinals are being endlessly entertaining. They are so timid and unsure. There are two males and at least one female. They have been sitting in the shrub next to the tea cup bird feeder for several weeks watching all the chickadees and the titmice and the adult cardinals come and go and they will look and sort of move around and almost get up the courage to flit to the teacup and then they will startle and fly away.

Finally, they have all managed to screw up their courage and come to the cup. But I have to be completely still even though I talk to them. The two males have not got their complete color in yet nor their red beaks and are looking a little mangy being all spotty red and brown. And both of them have met with something that left them fewer tail feathers. One is missing the tail feathers in the middle. He comes to the cup and he looks directly at me through the window trying to decide if I am a threat or not. The other male has most of his color but his tail feathers are missing or mangled on one side.

All three of them are very shy.

The pictures aren't great since I was having to be very sneaky and was using the zoom and the camera kept wanting to focus on the foliage.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


I spent most of the day Saturday catching up on everyone's blogs. Good thing it was slow at the store. When I am model making I'm pretty single minded. Even when I stop for the day or take a break, my mind is still on the piece and process.

I'm feeling positively giddy that I have three new models, two from this recent effort and the one I managed to produce last fall before all the commission work kicked in. I've started a new model, still getting it set up for carving. Strike while the iron is hot, right? I sure would like to get these finished.

Speaking of fall, I guess the days have finally gotten short enough to trigger leaf fall in the trees. I've noticed the tallows and the gingkoes and the crepe myrtles are starting to drop their leaves. The pecans are still dropping some immature nuts though not nearly so many as before. I guess all the rain we have had on and off the last two weeks has helped. We might even have our first handful of mature nuts. I'm going to let these dry out a little before I crack a few.

In other signs that fall is eminent, the acorns are starting to fall as I hear them bouncing off the roof in the morning while I'm having my coffee.

And the oxblood lilies are springing up.

And the confederate rose suddenly has burst out in buds.

And the farmer is finally able, in between rainy days, to finish harvesting his cotton.

Other bits and pieces:

I'm thinking maybe I need to feed Big Mama a little more frequently. She's been acting aggressively towards the fish. Doesn't want them anywhere near when I am feeding her. She has been known to chase an offending goldfish that dares to steal a nibble from whatever I am feeding her, and don't kid yourself, she can distinguish between individual fish and she will chase that little fucker all over the pond until I can distract her with another bite. But the last several days, she has been chasing whatever hapless goldfish that happens to be next to her after every bite whether it is trying to get a taste or not.

Our daughter and son-in-law bought 5 acres of wooded land out here. Their property is 12 miles away so it's not like they are living next door again but I am so happy that they will be close by (now if the boy would follow suit, I'd be delirious). Their plan is to build a small cabin for a weekend getaway and maybe eventually retire out here. They have great plans for a big pond and natural habitat. In the meantime, Mike is spending his spare time out here clearing land, getting the proper permits etc for electricity, a well, and a septic system and building a storage building. The whole fam was out here today hoping to get the roof frame up on the storage building.

Life is good.

Friday, September 19, 2014

today's lesson and the selfie

I thought I would give a more complete explanation of how I do my wax work, or at least how I'm doing the models for the botanicas.

I start with a square of wax 4” x 4” x 1” thick made by pouring melted wax into a prepared form or mold.

First I select my image. I have a folder full of close up pictures of flowers that I collect. Once I pick my image, I convert the photograph into a line drawing.

Next I deconstruct the line drawing into layers...bottom layer being the parts of the image that are furthest away, next layer being the next most forward elements, the third layer the next most forward elements, and so forth. It averages about 4 layers.

Then I use a copy of the line drawing to cut out each layer out of a 1/8” sheet of wax. We make these by pouring melted wax on a hydrated plaster 'bat', a round or rectangular shaped slab of plaster about 1/2” thick. The wax won't stick to the hydrated plaster.

Once that is done, I stack the layers on the block and seal the edges together and the layers to the block using a rubber tipped or wood tool. Everywhere two pieces of wax come together, the join must be sealed or else plaster will flow into unwanted spaces later.

After all the layers are stacked and joined together, I have a rough, flat 3 dimensional form that is ready to be carved into it's final shape.

These are the tools I use to do that...small wire tools, large wire tools, metal carvers, and miscellaneous wood tools and rubber tipped tools.

I use them to carve away big amounts or shave away small amounts. Sometimes I add wax and reshape.

When I'm satisfied with the main carving, then I go back with my small wire tools and make small adjustments.

Sometimes, depending on the piece, I will go over the finished carving with 'scrubbie' after all the carving and cleaning up is done before I smooth it all out, which I have done here.

The last step is smoothing the wax. For this I use naptha, a solvent like lighter fluid. Using either my finger tips or a small piece of chamois or the rubber tipped tools, I try to go over the whole surface. Finally, I textured the stamens by stippling them with a small tool.

I kind of hurried on this one as I wanted to finish it today for the post but also because tomorrow I work at the antique store and I don't want it to linger. I'll go over it one more time as I can see a few areas that need attention but this one is done.

And so am I.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

staying on task

I finished the model this morning.

layers added for the mound in the center

carved into shape

Then I cleaned up my work space and went to pick up the next set of frames for the botanicas but she hadn't finished putting on the mounting devices yet. I had thought the next thing I would do is grind off the excess glass on two of the first three botanicas. One we just re-fired but we haven't gotten around to doing that for these two.

Since I don't have a loose grit flat lap or (slurry grinder as some people call it), I was going to do it the old fashioned way with a piece of heavy glass as my plate and 60 mesh aluminum oxide (it would be better if I had silicon carbide) and just make a slurry on the glass plate and rotate my cast pieces in circles until I've taken off enough.

But it's raining today, an unexpected rainy day. In fact, the sun was shining when it started raining. Anyway, I didn't want to go out and open the shop in the rain although I should have as sometimes there is water in there after a rain and we want to see where it's coming from.

So now, I guess I'm going to get out my model making stuff again and start on the next one. No matter. Now I have a good clean work space to start with. I have two more images picked out and need to pick a new, last, one since I abandoned the one I had been working on. Abandoned and destroyed, used it's base block on this one just completed. I love the picture but I couldn't capture it.

finished model

Monday, September 15, 2014

little green snake

So, the other morning, Marc went out and hooked up the trailer and pulled it into the driveway and happened to notice this little green snake entwined in the tail gate/ramp.

I say little but it was easily 24” long.

We put the ramp down

and I herded it, as well as you can herd a snake, into the grass.

Friday, September 12, 2014

wax work and the weekly selfie

As I mentioned, I got my model making stuff out and have been happily sculpting away. When I finish this one, I will have my original series done...3 - 6” x 6” and 12 - 4” x 4”. I still plan to do the 5 extra but I may not wait to send these off to a gallery.

Today is the first full day I've had since I got my tools out that I have had to work on it. Had other chores and stuff up until today. Today it is raining so I am not distracted by the outdoors or by continuing my organizing of the new shop.

Still have a ways to go, adding layers for the center of the flower, finding holes, sealing contact points, shaping, and cleaning it up but It's looking pretty good I think.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


There is a big stack of dishes in the kitchen that I don't want to do. I'll have to do them sometime today though as all the plates are dirty.

I spent the day yesterday running errands in the city. My second errand took me to my old neighborhood and I wasn't going to drive by the old property but as I got to the corner to turn to get to the store that was my destination, I didn't turn. At the last minute I decided, what the hell, it's only four blocks and three blocks away. So I did drive by it and they haven't done a damn thing once they cleared the land. In fact, there's a mattress on it now that someone dumped.

My fourth errand was to where my son works to take him my hot pen for wax work that quit working over a year ago and hadn't worked well for several years before that. My son likes to tinker with electronic stuff so I hoped he could fix it. Before I got done with my fifth errand which was still in the general vicinity, he'd fixed it and cleaned it up.

My fifth errand was delivering the wren box to the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, my accepted entry for the biennial CraftTexas exhibition.

I made four more stops between there and home (not counting picking up my hot pen) but I still have to go back in the next few days as the reprographics shop didn't get to my job before I headed out of town.

I finally have my wax model making stuff spread out on my work table in the house. Actually, I spread it out late Monday but today will be my first opportunity to get to work, that is if I ignore all the others things I need to do, like the dishes.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

maybe the barest hint

It's rather pleasant out there this morning. It rained around us all day yesterday so while we didn't get any rain, we are reaping the coolness. Coolness as in mid-70s. It will get up to 90 later and the rest of the week a little hotter each day.

I'm seeing some signs of impending cooler weather. The cotton in the field is ready to harvest. The pampas grass is sending up it's blooms. The crepe myrtles are starting to shed their leaves. Baby anoles are hatching. 

And, of course, the days are getting shorter and shorter. It would be nice if the air temperature would reflect it as well.

Still have a few day lilies blooming and an early, different spring day lily is putting up another bloom scape. And the swamp lily is blooming.

I checked to see if the little praying mantis was still on the mexican bird of paradise. First I saw this.

I didn't realize that mantids shed their skin as they grew. Now she's half again as big as she was.

Some other creatures in the yard.

I've been watching this sphinx moth caterpillar chowing down on the morning glory bush all last week. This dude is easily 5” long. He's huge and stripping one stem of it's leaves.

Seems to be leaving the flower buds intact though so I'll still get to enjoy the blooms.

The dogs are gone home now so I think I might try to organize part of the shop space today. Or start on a new model. Or both. Maybe I'll work in the shop until it gets too hot.