Sunday, November 30, 2014

fall reading list

Sovereign by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee – the last book of of The Book Of Mortals trilogy. It's been a couple of years since I read books one and two but their reviews are in the archives somewhere. At the end of book 2, the Sovereign (read savior) Jonathon allows himself to be killed by the Dark Blood Saric and his (Jonathon's) most ardent followers inject his dying blood into their veins to achieve the final awakening but it only serves to create a schism between the nomads (Immortals) and the newly created Sovereigns. Feyn has been turned into a Dark Blood and she reigns over the world and the dead Mortals. Six years has passed now and the Sovereigns have been hunted and killed by both the Dark Bloods and the Immortals and the 30 some odd left are in hiding in the catacombs under the citadel. The Sovereigns' alchemist (scientist) has created a virus that will kill all Dark Bloods and Immortals and intends to release it in 6 days but their leaders Rom and Jordin set off on different paths to prevent it's release because, you know, Jonathon wouldn't like it. Rom turns himself into Feyn in a last attempt to convert her back to Jonathon's love and aliveness. (Rom is a fanatic going on and on and on about Jonathon's blood). Jordin sets off to find and kill an Immortal and injects his blood into her veins to become an Immortal (apparently in this place and time all humans only have one blood type except for the three characteristics...Sovereign, Immortal, Dark Blood) so that she can convince Roland (the Prince of the Immortals) to attack and kill Feyn and also to try and convert him to Sovereign so he won't die when the virus is released. Anyway, it's all about faith or loss of it and resurrection and blah blah blah. When, the authors were just telling the story, it was a good enough action tale but then they would go off on the whole Jonathon/Jesus riff and I got tired of that. In the end, Jordin finds her faith, Rom converts Feyn, Jordin converts Roland and the few remaining Immortals but not until almost everyone else dies.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman - A middle aged man goes back to his home town for a funeral and feels drawn to visit the pond at the end of the lane, a place he thinks he has not been to since he was 7. As he sits and reflects, the memories of that year come back to him, the year when his parent's lodger took their car and drove to the end of the lane onto the Hempstock farm and committed suicide, an act which unleashed a 'flea' as Old Mrs. Hempstock calls their kind. 11 year old Lettie Hempstock collects the boy and takes him to her family's farmhouse while his father deals with the police and the situation. Privy to a mysterious conversation, he goes home to wake one morning soon after, choking on a coin and discovers Lettie waiting for him at the end of his drive. What follows is a little wander into the supernatural dark side with Lettie promising to protect him 'no matter what'. Still, the flea manages to evade the binding. It's a short read, not even 200 pages, but a good story and probably not the one you think. I liked it.

The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg – a new series by Janet, this one starring a female ex Navy seal FBI special agent who has devoted her life to catching world renown con man and thief extraordinaire Nick Fox, which she does right away. Fox makes a deal with Kate O'Hare's superiors to use his skills to help bring down other untouchable criminals, untouchable because of their wealth or position in society, and her bosses pair her with Nick much to her chagrin while at the same time telling them they will be operating in an unofficial capacity and if they get caught, the FBI will deny all knowledge. Their first 'job' is to recover half a billion dollars and bring to justice an ex investment firm CEO who embezzled the money and fled and only one man knows where he is, his lawyer. Several recurring characters are introduced.

The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg – the second book with Kate and Nick, this time they must recover a bronze artifact that was stolen from the Smithsonian and a forgery put in it's place when the government decides to return it to China. The con and retrieval goes smoothly until the collector, Carter Grove the ex White House chief of staff and now head and owner of the BlackRhino private security firm that hires only the meanest and deadliest characters, discovers the con and vows to not only get the bronze statue back but also to kill Kate and Nick but Kate and Nick have other plans.

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich - the continuing adventures of Stephanie Plum, Bounty Hunter and her two men. I still enjoy them. This one made me chuckle more than once. It has everything we've come to blown up, people to apprehend, interaction with Ranger and Morelli.

A Question Of Blood by Ian Rankin – a detective novel set in Scotland. A man walks into a private school lounge room and shoots three teens, killing two of them and then shoots and kills himself. The investigation, besides discovering exactly what happened and in what order, also tries to figure out the motive of the apparent perpetrator, a loner and ex special army forces member who makes his living taking people water skiing and teaching them to sail. The head of the investigation requests the aid of detectives John Rebus and Siobhan Clark to help undercover the connection between these private school boys and Lee Herdman, the dead shooter, even though one of the dead boys is related to Rebus who is about to be investigated for a different murder and his scalded hands seem to point to his guilt. When two army investigators show up and start searching Herdman's boats, the backstory becomes even more complex. A decent enough read though it kind of bogs down a little.

The Lost Island by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - a new series, it seems, by the authors of the Pendergast novels. This is the third Gideon Crew novel. Gideon is hired by Eli Glenn to steal an illuminated page from an ancient book on loan by the Scottish government in an impossibly secure room. When he pulls it off and delivers the page he is astonished and dismayed to see Glenn's scientists dissolve the inks to reveal an even more ancient map on the vellum that is supposed to lead to the site of a miraculous healing substance. Gideon and another Glenn recruit, Amy, are sent on a mission to the Caribbean to find this place and substance. They encounter trouble almost right away in the form of treasure hunters and heavy seas from a nearby tropical storm. Amy has her own theory about the map and the journey it depicts and convinces Gideon to go along with her instead of calling Glenn when things get tight.

Mr. Mercedes by Steven King – I know I swore I would never read another Steven King novel after slugging my way through The Gunslinger but I finished my book on Saturday night and so Sunday Marc was through with this one I picked it up. This is not a horror or woo woo tale. It's a story of a sociopath who decides to 'borrow' a car and run down a bunch of people waiting in line for a job fair and gets away with it. The lead detective on the case retires without solving the case and several months into his retirement he gets a letter from the 'perk'. Now 'Mr. Mercedes' has turned his attention to trying to get the detective to commit suicide, something he did successfully to the woman whose car he used. Hodges, the detective, proves to be a tougher nut to crack and soon things escalate and the race is on. Hodges and his unlikely partners, Jerome, his 17 yr. old neighbor, and Holly, the 40 something niece of the suicide with 'problems', are acting outside the law and with only their wits to aid them must find and stop Mr. Mercedes before he pushes the button for his grand exit, taking thousands of others with him. I wouldn't go so far as to say Steven King has been redeemed in my eyes but he does know how to tell a good story and this one was worth reading.

Friday, November 28, 2014

what is up, comes down...and the selfie

I hope everybody had a good Thanksgiving gathering with family and/or friends yesterday.

We don't often get much fall color, none if it's a mild winter. To get fall color we have to have a front dip into freezing early on. Otherwise, the trees just give up their leaves when the days get short enough.

And so, we did get a dip into freezing last week and some of the trees have responded, those that still had leaves and are of the sort that loses it's leaves.

I posted a pick of one of my ginkgo trees before but this is the other.

This is what it looks like today.

We've been having fine weather the last several days and since I have all but finished the cold work on the six new castings, I've been able to run some errands that had been given second class status. I got the pecans sold, about 280 pounds worth...55¢ a pound for over 100 pounds. Still have the biggest box and the smallest box which are getting added to daily but it has now trickled down to a handful or so every time we go out plus the heavy leaf cover makes it harder to see them.

I also ran out to a peach orchard and left a note in the mailbox on the highway. They do have a small stack, about 8 logs, that looks like the same wood as the trees so I was hoping they would get my note and call. As it turned out, today while I was at the frame shop trying to cajole Margaret into doing these two little frames for me by Friday (which she is), I happened to ask her if she knew who owned the peach orchard on 1301 as I have asked nearly everyone I run across and she said yes! Turns out, it is the same people who run the pecan buyer/sellers that I had sold my pecans to. So I stopped in on my way back and asked about the wood and they said get what I wanted. So now I guess I'm going to have the top to the peach box made out of wood.

Sometimes the universe just wants you to get what you want.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

dead things

Did I mention I have another dead critter in the wall of my house exactly where the last one died? Probably another rat. I heard gnawing in the wee hours in the wall behind the stove several weeks ago. It was directly above the access to beneath the house (we're on pier and beam) that I had opened up about 4 years ago so the plumbers could do some repairs on the kitchen sink plumbing. I had replaced the wire mesh but when I looked it had been pushed enough to allow entrance.

Have I mentioned how much I hate rats in the walls? The old house in the city had them and in the winter they would wake me up gnawing in the walls by my head in the bed. I hate killing things. I don't kill things with a few exceptions...copperheads if they are near the house, rats if they are in the house, wasps if they are building a nest in my areas of activity otherwise I leave them alone.

So I put one of the poison baits (which I really hate, it seems so cowardly but how else to get rid of a rat in the wall?) through the hole in the wire mesh and tried to close up the hole and forgot about it. Until last week. The odor is fading now and I suppose I should be glad the weather is cooler. Even so, why, why do they always want to die in my walls!

Speaking of dead things, there was a dead red shouldered hawk on the roadside a couple of streets down from ours. I saw it when we were heading in to the city Saturday. I sure hope it's not our local hawk, the one who comes to visit to get water and a bath.

We got back late and it was rainy so Sunday morning I jumped in the truck with leather gloves in hand to check it out, hoping it hadn't been run over, which it had. I threw the water logged thing in the truck anyway for closer inspection at home. I couldn't tell if the skull was damaged but it's lower beak was a bit broken. I wonder if it was intent on some prey and blasted into the side of a moving vehicle. I can't imagine how else it would come to be dead on the side of the road.

Anyway, I got the long handled nippers and cut it's head off which is now buried in a fire ant bed. It will make a nice addition to my bird skull collection if it's not too damaged. I also took one wing that I have no idea what I am going to do with (the other was too damaged) and the feet with talons, also buried in a fire ant bed. Don't ask me why.  


Sunday, November 23, 2014

the results of all that cooking

Well, that was fun. We had our Thanksgiving dinner yesterday because the Girl and her family are going on vacation over the Thanksgiving holiday week. Instead of everyone coming out to our place though, we went in to theirs. The Boy and Wife came too so everyone was there and the food was all really good and it was great to all be together and be having a good time.

mold material cleaned off but not washed

Before we left, Marc opened the kiln and broke the little castings out of their molds. They all came out pretty well, even the peach. It came out pretty darn good. I was a little nervous about the peach and the first report was that I might be disappointed as it looked kind of dark and when I went over there to check it out, it did look dark in the mold, in the kiln. But once popped out of the mold and brushed off, it looked pretty good. I even gave it a quick wash and set it in it's little recess on the side of the cast box.

As you can see, the box still needs to have some excess glass ground off. And I might have changed my mind about having the feet cast in bronze and just use actual peach pits since I'm not making any progress on the finding a foundry mostly because I'm not looking. And instead of casting the top in glass or bronze, I've been thinking about making one of wood only that will only work if I can find a piece of peach wood big enough to make it. There's a small peach orchard down the road so I'm going to go see if they have any dead trees.

So, those few nights of the temperature dipping down to freezing last week triggered the two ginkos and Friday I thought they looked definitely lime green and this morning, they had turned yellow. I think this is the first time the whole tree has turned yellow. Usually, they just drop their leaves over a period of time or the weather will come later when they are already naked from the top to the middle. And the sky has been clear blue and dry today so they have had a beautiful blue background.

Well, I got the last mold filled today and so the last two are in the kiln. Tomorrow I will start the cold work.

For those that wanted the pecan pie recipe, here it is:

Pecan Pie

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup blue label Karo
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups pecans
1/2 stick butter, melted

Beat eggs, then add sugar,Karo, salt,vanilla, and 1/2 the butter. Stir well. Stir in pecans. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Springkle the remaining butter over top of pie – give pecans a kind of glaze. Bake at 350˚ for 45 minutes. Be sure and get blue label Karo – that makes the difference.

Friday, November 21, 2014

cooking one thing or another and yay, the Friday selfie!

I woke up to rain this morning and Emma the cat was huddled against the back door waiting for someone to let her in. Fortunately it wasn't raining too hard and we have deep eaves around the house. It has stopped now but still overcast.

The molds are in the kiln, went in yesterday instead of Wednesday. Marc moved the other kiln over to the shop and by the time he figured out why it wasn't coming on, he decided to wait. As you can see, there are 5 molds in the kiln. The one in the middle is the peach mold. I finally took the bull by the horns and and selected some colors and filled it and, as so often happens, I changed my mind at the last minute about using a combination of transparent and opal glass and used only transparent. So, fingers crossed.

I know y'all are probably sick of hearing about all the pecans I am still picking up. Today I intended to take the bulk of them to the wholesaler and sell, but because of the rain the back of the truck has water in it and they are all contained in one form of paper or another. In the last picture there were 7 containers. I've added two more large brown paper grocery bags and another small box (I'll spare you a picture) and I still haven't managed to get all the ones off the ground because they keep falling! OK, I just did some rough calculations and I've determined I have at least 300 pounds of pecans sitting on the floor of my workroom right now.

I did finish filling the bee/flower mold today that I started late yesterday and I finally got the dressing in the oven for our Thanksgiving dinner which we are having tomorrow in Houston because the Girl and her family are going on vacation during Thanksgiving week. Marc cooked the turkey today and I made the cornbread yesterday and 

I was in there getting started but I relinquished the kitchen so Marc could quickly make the pie.

yes, that is a pecan pie and yes, I did shell those pecans

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

filling the molds

Friday I intended to get at least two molds filled. I got one done, the simple bee. It took me a while to get set up, trying to decide where in the shop, but get set up I did, got my colors out and measured and my tools and I reached for the gum arabic solution I mix with the dry frit...and no gum arabic. It was at home in the refrigerator.

When I went back to get it, it had a big hunk of nasty looking mold floating in it. Fortunately Marc was on his way into the city so I called him and he brought me back some new. In the meantime, I used a very small amount of a different bottle of gum arabic I had left over from a printing with powder sort of lithography technique class I took. I'm sure it will be OK. I could have used Karo syrup which burns out clean. Later, in the middle of measuring out more glass frit, the battery on my scale died. So off to the store for a new battery.

On top of all that, when I opened my notebook I saw that it has been over a year since the last time I filled a mold and while I hadn't completely lost my skill set, I was a little rusty.

The bee is very detailed and takes over an hour just to get the frit in the negative bee space. Here, the frit is flush with the surface. The colors have to be built up from here because the frit packed into the negative space contains a lot of air and as the glass melts it sinks down so to be sure the proper color fills the entire space after firing, the frit has to be built up at least as high as the negative space is deep.

Here I am starting to add in the background/block color, building up the bee colors as well.

Most of the frit I use is size 'fine' which is about the same consistency as sand. Sometimes, I will use powder for really tiny areas like the toes of the lizard though here I have noodled fine frit into those toes. I don't usually like using powder because it comes out more chalky looking. And sometimes I will use size 'medium' frit, which is about the size of minced garlic, for backgrounds but mostly I use the size 'fine'.

I did manage to remember to photograph the lizard on the bark throughout the process. I think I have posted about filling molds before but it's been a while so here it is again.

the mold and the colors for the lizard and the acorn

filling in the lizard

this chameleon will be changing colors

building up the frit and filling in the acorn

lizard and acorn complete

laying in the color for the bark

bark color filled in

a thick layer of size medium clear frit to allow for a soft illumination from the sides

a thin layer of white for the very bottom

Now they are ready to go in the kiln where it will take about three days to heat up, cast, and cool down.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

botanicas, tropicals, and pecans

Cold, overcast, and drippy though it is supposed to get up to 62˚ today.

I'll be over in the shop filling the other finished molds later. I got one done last Friday, a sort of comedy of errors which I'll go into next post.

While I have been waiting for Marc to get the molds made, I did the finish work and mounted the last of the cast Botanicas. Well, except for two which I have to grind some extra glass off or re-fire them but they are sitting in their frames for this pic.

After we get the little lizard and bee pieces finished for the open house, we will start casting the last seven, the new models, of the Botanicas. I'm really excited about that since these have been in the making for over 3 years. It's been over a year since the last time I cast any (all that commission work and then moving the shop).

I moved the tropicals...plumerias, desert rose, nun's orchid, staghorn fern, night blooming cirrius (produced four blooms this summer and I missed every single one!), and other cold sensitive last Wednesday. We will still have warm days but it dipped down to 30˚ Thursday night so in they came and in they will remain til spring. I am not hauling those things in and out until winter settles in.

Here's an update on the pecan harvest (not counting the ones I have shelled and I've lost count of those):

this is from 5 trees, two of which are natives

and still there are pecans laying on the ground and in the trees. I could just let them lay but if I do I'll be digging them up in the spring after they sprout as new trees.

OK, need to get over to the shop and get started. I'm already an hour late.

Friday, November 14, 2014

mold making and the Friday selfie

Here's an example of the reproduction molds we use. These are RTV, room temperature vulcanization Part A Part B rubber. These were made from plastic toys like Bag-O-Bugs from the toy store. I make molds of things I find in nature too like rocks and acorns and sticks (I have a butt load of stick molds) and tree bark and shells and other stuff.

You can also use a liquid silicone or latex or silicone caulk. I use all these materials depending on what I am making a mold of and how long I want it to last. The latex molds have the shortest life and take the longest to make.

After I'm done with the model and it is glued down (because it is not heavy enough to not float in the mold mix) with the piece of styrofoam (extra space to hold the crushed glass), Marc paints on isopropol alcohol which acts as a bubble release so that air won't get trapped on the surface of the model and create holes in the mold.

If I am worried about air getting trapped during casting, I will sprue the small, narrow, or deep parts. The blue wax wires will become tunnels that let the air escape to the top of the mold.

Next he builds a dam around the piece

and then pours a mix of hydro-cal plaster, silica flour, and water around the model until it is covered by the mold mix.

Then it sits until it has set, about an hour, and he removes the glass pieces that comprised the dam from the hardened plaster mold.

Now the model is encased in plaster and the next step is to remove it.

styrofoam has been removed

He places the mold wax side down on a piece of hardware cloth over a pan of boiling, steaming water. A bucket over it will help hold and direct the steam into the mold and melt the wax out.

the ready, steamed out molds

This is why it is called a lost wax process, because we are losing the wax model after the mold is made.

We also lose the molds which are called 'waste molds', to answer your question Steve, because they can only be used one time. Most of my work has deep undercuts so the only way to get the finished casting out of the mold is to destroy the mold which is very soft after firing. If the model were perfectly drafted, it would just fall out of the mold and then the mold could be reused. In that case, we would use a different stronger mold material formula.

One last step before I start to fill the molds...measure the volume and convert it to grams of glass. I do this by weighing a container of water, then pouring water into the mold up the the 'fill' point, weigh the container of water again, find the difference and multiply by the specific gravity of the glass to get the amount of grams (or ounces depending on what unit of measure you use) needed to make the casting.

So, here is me, bundled up in the shop on the coldest day of the season so far to start filling molds. I could have done it in the warm house except I have already moved all my frit (crushed glass) over here. Actually, it's not that bad now that the sky has cleared and the sun is warming up the metal building.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

stocking up

We went shopping yesterday. We both needed some new winter clothes and so even though it was still not winter; nice warm day yesterday, south wind being sucked in by the approaching northern wave of cold; now is the only time you can find your size if you are average. Even so, there was a definite lack of size M. I tried on 2 shirts; one, a size small, the shoulders hung way down and the sleeves hung past my fingertips, the other a medium which had a very weird boat neck that stood out. Held up a couple pair of pants and had a few inches of leg still laying on the floor and I'm not short, still stand 5'4", not tall but not short and the pants lay on the ground. Who do they make these for?

Anyway, Marc got a flannel shirt and we both got some new winter lounge pants. My choices by weight and feel were limited to Hello Kitty, Princess Elsa, Disney characters, and superheroes, specifically BatWoman and SuperGirl. Those are the ones I got.

On to another store for new long underwear. I have always preferred silk and will pay the extra for the lightweight warmth. They wear out fast though so I usually need to buy new ones every other year. Academy sports used to carry them but apparently not anymore so I had to settle for modern synthetics. But I did find a decent work-day long sleeve shirt.

Then the liquor warehouse and then a Costco run, where Marc scored another flannel shirt, and it was time to double back and hit Home Depot for a shop vac on the way home. Since, on the way in, right before our first exit off the highway, we passed an 18 wheeler that was being consumed by fire on the outbound side (fire trucks and police already on the scene) and traffic was backed up as far as our farthest exit and still at a standstill, we took some country roads and circled around til we could get past the truck.

I'm headed back to Costco today for a heater we saw for the shop, mused over, and then didn't get. A little butt kicking going on here since the first really cold front is early and imminent and we are working in the shop this week making molds and casting.

More on that next post.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

back to life

I spent last week making little models for the up-coming open house. I don't expect to sell anything. We haven't, really, for the last two years. People just aren't coming like they used to. Too many other choices of artist studio weekends now. And Dick and Kathy have been so busy with other important parts of their lives, glassblowing is a low priority for them right now. They aren't even going to turn the furnace on this year though we will have demos using the glory hole and the garage and recycling bottles. I think. Something like that. To tell the truth, I don't know why they are even doing this as they won't have even one single new thing, which is not to say they won't have many beautiful things because they will.

I'm planning six new little sculptures, three lizard pieces and three bee pieces. I tried to do one very simple, one with a little more detail and work, and one that was even more work. The lizard on the leaf took me a whole day to make whereas I did both the others in one day. The bee on the flower also one whole day and the other two of the bee pieces, both in one day.

I don't carve the lizards and bees each time. I have reproduction molds for those and I just pour melted wax in them. Same for the acorn and the bark background and the slabs so it's mostly just assembling the pieces though I do work on the bees and carve out under their wings and I usually have to rebuild the little toes of the lizard. The leaf and the flower though I carved out of 1/4” thick slabs of wax.

Marc is working on making the molds now. He cut some styrofoam for the reservoir to hold all the glass for the casting and then he glued them together. Now they are being glued down onto a piece of plate glass on which he will make the mold.

These will be the first things we have cast since this time last year when we were getting ready for this. We've been busy with other things as well...commission work, selling the city property and then moving, summer and the grandkid visits. I expect we will spend the winter casting the 7 new botanicas and, I hope, other things. Like the peach inlay for the peach box. 

I've had this mold for over a year. I'm a little afraid of it which is why I have let it languish. I'm afraid that my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach won't work out. I've been disappointed more than once and I've only got one shot at this.

I could should do some color samples if I'm so worried about it, right? But...nah!

What's the fun in that?