Thursday, January 29, 2015

clown car and congress

I see the Republican clown car of presidential contenders is full and careening around. All the usual suspects...Sarah Palin who couldn't even finish one term as governor, Jeb oh god not another Bush, Mitt Romney who only ran last time because everybody kept asking him too, Rick good hair Perry who has a felony indictment against him, Dominionist* con-man Ted Cruz the anointed king and savior who wants to slice and dice the constitution, and then there's Rand Paul or any number of other idiots trying to crowd in.

All that's just pre-game entertainment though since the Koch Brothers have pledged 889 million dollars towards the next presidential election. Nearly a billion dollars to buy the presidency for the person of their choice. I read somewhere that might be Scott Walker. Hell, they already own the Republican Party and Mitch McConnell has admitted as much. If that doesn't enrage you, then what the fuck does it take?

In the meantime the Republicans who promised to 'get stuff done' if elected into a majority of both houses, are continuing to do nothing. Well, not nothing. First thing off the bat they had a little infighting. Since then they have appointed Ted Cruz, who hates NASA and has been trying to defund it, to oversee it. They passed a resolution to not allow actual scientists to testify to science committees but businesses with an interest can. They passed a resolution that OK, yes, climate change is real, but there's no way humans are accountable for it. They tried to pass an abortion ban after 20 weeks and only failed because some of the female Republicans balked. They did vote to fast-track the Keystone XL pipeline even though it will not benefit Americans one whit but will spill the dirtiest tar sands onto American citizens' property. And they still want to get rid of the ACA even though they have nothing to replace it with. Not to mention they continue throwing up roadblocks and undermining the president every chance they get, bordering on treason especially with Boehner's latest stunt inviting Netanyahu to speak to Congress.

And while the clown car is entertaining, what Congress is doing and trying to do is not. Now that Republicans have the opportunity to govern, they are still the party of showing any kind of respect for the president, no jobs, no health care, no restraining wall street, no restraining businesses, definitely no protecting the environment, no raising taxes unless it's on those who can least afford it, no social security, no disability, no humane treatment of 'illegal' immigrants even if they have been here since they were children and are productive members of society, no infrastructure repair, no support for the hungry and homeless, no raising the minimum wage, no fucking equality thank you very much.

Is this really what they mean when they say America is the greatest country on earth?

I hope Obama has his veto pen ready cause he is going to need it.

* I was going to provide a link to info about Dominionism but couldn't find one in the 5 seconds I looked that I wanted to read through but you should read up on this and these people. Scary. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

short stories 16

Winter - After moaning about winter last post, we are having a week of fine weather predicted, sunny skies in the 60s and 70s. It was beautiful today. I got the last two botanicas mounted in their frames and the sealant is curing now and I got my rat-killing done, taking care of different errands, one of which was going by the Medina Farm Store to see what fresh organic produce they had in. I got some golden beets, purple mustard greens, a cabbage, a cauliflower, and beautiful organic farm eggs.

Birthday - We went in to the city Sunday to see our grandson who turned 18 that day. It doesn't seem possible that that little baby The Girl and Husband brought over on their way home from the hospital is now 18 years old. That boy has lived next door to us up until last summer since he was 18 months old. I gave him some cash and told him to remember that he was now an adult in the eyes of the law. He'll be graduating high school this year. And he still likes to come out here and hang out with his grandparents.

Loom - And since we hadn't seen our son and daughter-in-law since Thanksgiving, we went and visited with them. They have bought a loom and a spinning wheel and she was showing me all the stuff she had been doing. It was very cool. She's been spinning some of her own yarn to weave with and just practicing with small things, getting her skill set down. The big loom has string heddles! The heddles are the guides that the threads of the warp go through to keep them in place (if I have this wrong I hope Joanne will correct me) about in the middle of the whole contraption. Anyway I loved the whole look of her little weaving room with the rack of beautifully colored spools of cotton warp thread and the loops of yarn and her samples of weaving and wish like hell I had taken some pictures.

Bird - While I was sitting here earlier today, here being where I sit at my desk and work table and look out the window at the tea cup bird feeder under the eave and the shrub outside, I saw a bird that I had never seen before sitting in the shrub. Just about the time I noticed it, long enough to exclaim 'what are you?', a bigger cardinal flew in and this other little bird hopped to a higher branch out of my view unless I hunched down and looked up. I reached blindly for my camera and was trying to get in a good position to snap and picture but it flew away before I could. This little bird was a little bigger than a titmouse, was black except for a bright red breast, not just a patch of red, but the whole breast from the throat/neck down. And not rust red or brownish red or orange red but brilliant red and as bright as a cardinal. I couldn't find it in any of my bird books so I did an image search on-line and found it right away...a red-breasted blackbird, a member of the meadowlark family but way out of it's range of from Costa Rica south to northern South America. It doesn't seem likely, but this is the bird I saw.*

* OK. I could be mistaken about the red-breasted blackbird. It could have been an orchard oriole which is far more likely, but the oriole is more rust colored.

Bird - Saw another bird in the sky the other night. A firebird.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

endurance test

We are creeping into the last week of January, typically some of our coldest temps of the season, now through February though February can have some nice warm days. Anyway, this winter has not been as bad as last year, so far, and definitely not as bad as the year previous and even the winter previous to that. We've had a spate of harsh winters and after many years of almost no winter, with tropicals that were able to grow to 10' - 12' tall, it seems especially unfair to me. I liked those mild winters and summers that would get hot but not like the last 4 or 5. I even remember owning a winter coat growing up and for some of my adult life but I also can't remember when I bought my last coat. Jackets, long johns, heavy sweaters, yes, but a coat?

I don't like being cold. I used to be a lot more sensitive to it before, ya know, menopause. I was a skinny kid and pools and the Gulf would suck the heat right out of me even in the summer and after 30 minutes or so my lips and nail beds would be blue. The coldest I've ever been though was the winter I spent in Chicago going to school there. I was totally unprepared in the clothes department for one thing, but that snow and ice and wind just froze me to the bone. It was painful to be so cold. It was the most miserable I have ever been and one winter of that was enough for me.

This winter it seems like we have had a lot of consecutive overcast and cold and rainy days interspersed with a few nice days. I have a hard time getting motivated when it's cold and wet and gloomy out. Like today. Another reason I don't like to be cold.

Earlier this week though, while we were having nice spring like days and I was able to go barefoot outside for the first time in weeks, I realized another reason I don't like to be cold. I have to wear shoes which in itself is bad enough since unless I'm cold or I'm leaving the house, I'm barefoot. So it's not that I don't like to wear shoes, which I don't, but that I'm not in touch with the earth. I find contact with the earth to be essential. I think people suffer in detrimental ways from lack of contact with the earth.

Working outside, digging in the dirt, nurturing the living ecosystem is part of what makes us healthy and happy. Microbes in the soil activate the dopamine in our brains. Getting dirty bolsters our immune systems. Skin touching the earth absorbs the energy the earth emanates.

I know we need winter. Nature has her cycles of growth and rest and rest is essential but for me winter, real winter, is something to be endured rather than enjoyed. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

foggy dew laden morning

Tuesday morning dawned very foggy. It burned off eventually and we had another beautiful spring-like day but while the fog was still heavy, I went out determined to get some pictures.

While most everything is just old and frost damaged foliage,

we do still have a few roses blooming.

The fall blooming tall orange cosmos are just skeletons and seed heads.

The native peach tree at the back of the property is a little confused I think with it's two little blooms.

The vibrant fuchsia miniature gladiolas are emerging.

The shrimp plant seems unbothered by the cold.

A dewey spider web

and an erotic fungus.

The buddha contemplates all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I know, another post about work

Thank you everyone for the lovely compliments you give me when I post pictures of my work.

last night's sunset

Yesterday was very springlike, nice and warm with a beautiful blue sky. This morning is very foggy but it is supposed to warm up to the low 70s this afternoon. It won't last with more cold weather coming later in the week but right now I'm loving it. Even turned the heater off yesterday.

this morning

Since the weather was so nice I decided to take advantage of it and do the cold work on the bowls. Because we haven't moved the cold work equipment over to the new shop yet, I was working here in the garage. It was a struggle to get started. I had to work on a piece of equipment that had gotten stuck before I was through using it and it took me a while to figure out what and why and where so I got that to work and finished cutting off the excess glass that had oozed out during firing and then the next machine needed changing water hoses (because apparently the hose that I used to supply water to the first machine is spewing out weird black sticky stuff) so it wouldn't get gummed up which I already have to deal with because of our hard water out here and the small orifices get clogged up and every hose was cranked down so tight I had to get a wrench which was across the street in the shop and then that done the stupid little orifice was already stopped up but I had smartly been soaking the other one in vinegar for a couple of days and I changed it out and so I finally got started with the grinding and shaping of the rims of the bowls.

And that's what I did all the rest of the day. I got the rims done and now I'm having to do a lot of carving on the oleander bowl. The second oleander bowl. The colors came out good this time but it didn't cast that great. The universe is really driving home that we are DONE with these small sculpted bowls. So, we'll see. I'm finishing it but it may not get sent.

Next post will NOT be about work.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

blue sky and more shop talk

After nearly 8 consecutive days of cold, wet, and overcast we finally got some sun. It is even warm enough that Big Mama is out sunning herself. I strolled around the yard looking for something to photograph but without snow to disguise all the dead foliage, that's all that's out there...dead foliage. Not very photogenic.

Today would be a good day to work out in the yard, not to cut back the aforementioned dead foliage, that will stay til spring to help protect the still living parts of the plants, but to dig and to transplant. I still have many things in pots that need to go in the ground. But I won't be doing that.

What I will be doing is packing up the 13 finished Botanicas to send them to a gallery for their Feb. 5 opening. They won't be part of the show which is local artists, but they will be installed on the front wall opposite the door and they are going to send out a special announcement about the installation.

The two missing ones in this photo are at the frame shop.

My preference has always been to wait til they are all finished and to have them be part of a show with an opening but I have been vacillating back and forth over that. I had hoped we would have the last seven pieces finished by the end of January but then we had to do those pieces for the show in March for a different gallery and the one interested in the Botanicas offered me this opportunity because the first available show slot they have will be in the middle of the year, if then. So, I have decided to send them and when the last 7 are done, I will send them as a small installation. And speaking of those last 7, Marc has finally started on the molds for them so maybe they will be finished by the end of February or mid-March at the latest.

So, the last small sculpted bowl is in the kiln. The LAST one. Doing these the last month has brought home to us just how much work they are and just how little we got/get compensated for them so it's a relief in another way to know we are done with them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

three giant steps

After grumbling all morning about another consecutive cold wet overcast day of winter yesterday (and today made 7 in a row) I finally got my butt over to the shop and worked out on my make shift flat lap. I say worked out because my arms were pretty sore when I finally quit for the day. I took a little more off one of the botanicas, ground off all the excess glass on the peach box, finished grinding off the excess glass on the flower sculpture that will be positioned on the top for the box, and started to flatten the back side of the peach inlay piece.

After all that work on the cluster of peach flowers, I may start over with a new one as I've never been completely happy with this one. A couple of the leaves didn't cast completely and the color came out too dark to suit me. We'll see.

I did finally get the wax peach pits cast in bronze (thank you John Kurman) and they look great and I think will look great as the feet to this box. The previously obtained peach logs are in the hands of a guy who is going to mill down a piece for me for the top.

None of the pieces in this image, except the bronze pits, has had any finish work done on them beyond the basic grinding. Now the box no longer has the flange at the bottom that stuck out about 1/4” all around the bottom and the flower sculpture was reduced in a similar way. The peach looks flat but it is actually more rounded especially around the edges, so now it has a nice wide flat spot underneath. I'll probably work on it some more before I fit it into it's spot on the box.

Looks like I may actually get the peach box finished before too much longer. 'May' being the operative word here but I have overcome a considerable hurdle or two.

Monday, January 12, 2015

easy come, easy go

I have lost my diamond studs. I'm pretty sure they got washed away in the washing machine. They are not in any of the places I would have put them. Granted, there were a lot of places but I checked them all. Plus, I seem to think I put them in my pants pocket before I went to work at the antique store on a Monday, which is weird because I hadn't been wearing them and I had selected a different pair of dangly earrings to wear that day and did in fact wear them though I didn't get them in until I got to the store. I can't imagine what I thought I was going to need the diamond studs for. And I never rarely put my earrings in my pocket. I usually put them in the small zippered bag I use as a wallet. Anyway, I didn't think about the studs until the following Wednesday morning when I wanted them again. And then I remembered that Marc had done the wash the previous day.

They were nice but I won't try to replace them. I liked them because they reminded me of a woman who had a beach house across the canal from us back in the day. Her name was Jean and she and her husband were very wealthy ranchers from the Valley if I recall correctly. She wore diamond studs that were easily three times bigger than mine and she also wore a big honkin' diamond ring and she was loud and smoked and drank and cussed like a sailor and didn't give a hoot what other people thought of her. She was very impressive.

My mother liked her because, I think, she wished she had the courage to be like Jean but Mother was a doctor's wife and doctors' wives did not act like that. My parents were very socially conscious and every time I got in trouble they would trot out the ole 'what will our friends and colleagues think' as if to shame me but I, like Jean, didn't give a hoot what other people thought of me or my parents.

Well, now I have to find some new every day studs. I used to wear three different studs. In one ear a yin/yang and in the other ear with two holes a pearl stud and a smaller diamond stud to represent the moon and the morning star. When I inherited the big diamond studs, I put the little yin/yang in the second hole and gave my daughter the pearl studs.

Right now I'm wearing ones my grandgirl Autumn made this summer.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

failure rates and learning curves

To answer Ms Moon's question, what do I do with the ones that don't pass muster?

Well, I don't finish them for one thing. They usually go on a shelf somewhere until they get put in a box and eventually thrown away. This one will go next to another oleander failure, one that was over-fired. The last time we did one of these we had to do it twice.

This is how the turquoise bowl was supposed to turn out.

If it's a casting defect and I think I can salvage it with a little creative cold work, I'll make the effort but mostly a bad cast can't be remedied. This piece cast well but the colors didn't work out. That in itself, while disappointing, is not an immediate reason for rejection. I've sold many a small bowl whose colors didn't come out the way I envisioned. But on this one, the colors were just too extreme on the one hand, the blue, and the white did not show up adequately and was pixelated to boot and when illuminated from above nearly disappears altogether.

Failure is always a possibility with this technique and now that we are only doing one of a kind pieces, that danger is a little more present. When we were doing the small bowls, a form we had done over and over, a couple hundred times, we got so good at them that our failure rate was almost non-existent. But when we switched to a taller form, I stopped trying the 6" tall vase because after the first two that came out perfect, we couldn't seem to get one that didn't need extensive cold work. The last one we made was so perfectly cast except for the top inch and a half which was a total ruin that it made me cry.

And while most of the failures come from bad casts...over-fired and full of pits, under-fired and granular, mold cracking during firing, not holding at the casting temperature long enough...other failures come from how the mold was filled...too much glass overall, not enough glass, not enough of a color or too much of a color, mixing colors together that react badly with each other, putting a dark color behind a light color. And then there is always the mold itself which can be weak and full of bubbles if not made properly.

I know that every time I try a new form, like the boxes, I'll have a few failures so I try to ease into it. I'm trying to do things that are simpler in some more two and three part molds. Well, two part molds but easier two part molds. These days I'm doing work that can be cast in open face molds, the easiest of all.

This technique is the most difficult, time consuming, detail oriented, and sometimes frustrating thing I have ever done, and infinitely rewarding when it all works out right. It's a good thing there were two of us while we were working on our learning curve because there were many times when one of us was ready to give up. Fortunately, neither of us were ever ready to give up at the same time.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

work and winter

The holidays are well over and it's been back to work here. You may remember that we are working on three small sculpted bowls for a gallery show in March. You may also remember that while I was working on the oleander design wax I vowed that those three would be the VERY LAST! Well, I should know better than to invoke the gods because, of course, the oleander bowl did not come out well even though I followed my notes on one that came out exceedingly well in the past. At least I thought I did but the combination of clear/white did not result in the completely white flowers it was supposed to and the bowl color is so intense as to make my eyes hurt. Even the least bit of light to illuminate the bowl completely washes out the white and the flowers turn blue. Yesterday, after I filled what was the third bowl mold and should have been the last, I checked my notes again on the oleander design. Oops. I totally mis-read my notes on the clear/turquoise proportions.

Out of the mold and washed but no finish work done.*

So, today, I am chasing a new wax of the oleander design.

On the upside, the sea fan design cast well.

Also out of the mold and washed but no finish work done.

And I have high hopes for the lizard and ivy design which is in the kiln as I write.

The first three days of this week were quite pleasant with a sunny sky and not so cold temps. That ended last night with a dip into the 20s. This morning, the bird baths were frozen solid and the buckets of rain water and the tub with the parrot feather all had a thick coating of ice.

This is unacceptable people!

I'm glad I covered my four tenders...three angel trumpets and the star of india which took forever to come back out after the late hard freeze last March.

The little warbler is continuing to entertain me though I think there is more than one visiting now. This one displays more nervousness and reached over from the teacup and tapped the window glass a couple of times.

* the bowl looks better in the picture than it actually is

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

one feisty little bird

This little yellow warbler showed up day before yesterday, flitting all around the shrub, flying at the tea cup and veering off, hovering in front of the window all morning until it finally got up the courage to land on the tea cup.

Once there though, it could not be budged.

The other visitors have their patterns. The cardinals dine in until they are done; the titmice do kamikazi runs, grabbing a seed and flying off; the chickadees grab a seed and then flit to the shrub to eat.

This little warbler, smaller even than the chickadees, stays and stands it's ground. The chickadees and the titmice cannot budge it much to their dismay.

Usually, all it takes for a smaller bird to give way to a larger bird is for the larger bird to fly to the cup. Not so this little warbler. It defends the cup, fending off the larger chickadees and titmice.

The warblers winter over down here. I see them every year in the front around the regular bird feeder but this is the first year one has discovered the tea cup.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

here I am, late to the party and probably dressed inappropriately

Already the 4th and no end-of-the-year/new-year post but I have been having fun with my three grandgirls cooking and snuggling on the couch watching movies and working on the jigsaw puzzle and going to all the little shops on the Square and our favorite re-sale shop in Glen Flora and sleeping late. Needless to say, I have not made even a tiny bit of progress on the work I feel behind on.

They were fetched home yesterday evening.

So...2014. It was a year of momentous changes starting out with a heavy load of commission work which we didn't complete til June and during that time we were agonizing over whether to sell the old homestead or not but even if we did not sell, things would change drastically anyway since our daughter and son-in-law who lived next door were definitely selling. Then, last April, the opportunity we thought we had lost to buy the old auto body shop across the street, came around again and we bit the bullet and bought it. Now there was no doubt about selling the city property but it was not easy. Oh, it was easy enough to find a buyer who gave us a premium price but extricating ourselves from a place we had occupied for nearly 40 years was hard on everyone. The Boy and Wife had to find a new place to live and it took them two moves to get settled. The Girl and her family didn't find a rental until the very last second and the uprooting and re-settling was emotional. And as for me, I had to turn a hard heart to my house because I knew deep down that once I left it it would be torn down, which it was, and now for the first time in my life, I had no base of operations in the city. But summer was full of the visits from the grandkids and moving and too damn hot to do anything in the new shop which was just a jumble since, during the nearly two months it took us to move completely out of the house and move the shop, we just put stuff in there helter skelter. Fall came and with it cooler temperatures and we got in there and sort of arranged it and got to work on the two small commissions we had and the small castings for the annual open house in which we participate and also starting on the small bowls for the gallery show in March. And I finished the last 7 models for the Botanicas. Fall has usually brought a new round of commission work but not so far which was a little bit of wish fulfillment as I want time to focus on the cast glass work, something I haven't had much of for the last two years.


So, New Year's Eve the rest of the grandgirls' family came out and we had a fireworks extravaganza. No photos of the aerials as I could watch them or try to successfully photograph them.

The bone piles.