Friday, August 30, 2019

searching and anticipating

Thursday: The kiln is at 830˚ on it's way down. Since I can't make any more progress til it's out I've been going through folder after folder of pictures looking for the oldest/biggest version I can find of waxes and molds in which I have a nicely documented sequence of stages of making a wax model and filling a mold and finished piece. They have to be large format because it's for a possible article about us for a glass art magazine. It would be perfect if I could find both those sequences of one piece. What I have discovered is that my images are not nearly as organized as I thought. Yesterday I spent rummaging for pictures of some of the large scale etched/carved glass installations we've done. I'd love to do the glass in the back bedroom, the old entrance to our shop in Houston, but the only camera I have right now is the one in my phone and etched glass is very hard to photograph because of the light which expands and totally washes out the detail of the design.

As mentioned previously, green pecans have been and continue to fall. The squirrels are doing their part as many have been gnawed on. My neighbor thinks a lot of the ones that are falling are really being knocked off by squirrels when they grab one to test.

We got a little bit of rain yesterday, about half an inch. Not nearly enough but much better than the scant 1/4” last Sunday.

Friday: After I wrote that I decided to try and consolidate and organize my photos of the pate de verre work a little better. So far I'm still sorting images in the iPhoto app, haven't even started on all the folders in the finder.

This morning the kiln is at 121˚ so it may come out this evening, tomorrow for sure. Then the last two pieces go in and I start the grinding off of the excess glass on the box and fine tuning the heron head inlay to fit in the recessed area.

Also this morning it felt like maybe, possibly, the weather is going to break some. I won't go so far as to say it was feeling like fall might be around the corner because, historically, that doesn't usually happen until late September and sometimes not even til October.

But it is that time of year when the grackles swarm through, hundreds of them on the ground, in the trees, lining the edges of the turtle pond and on the top rail of the fence, in the birdbaths, on the roof. They are so loud thumping around on the roof of the house it sounds like something is running around up there. And noisy. Omg, they are so noisy! It's hard to get a good picture that shows just how many there are because as soon as they detect any motion they scatter.

Labor Day weekend, two more months til the holiday season starts. The year is winding down even if the heat isn't. We got word that the open house is on again for this year so I guess I need to get my butt in gear and start making those snowflake christmas ornaments I've got planned as well as a few new high end pieces. Plus I want to come up with a new cheaper way to display some of the work from last year and save those pricey stands for future more expensive work.

Well, the grackles seem to have moved on to the next yard and two hummingbirds are busy trying to chase each other off the feeder to the end that neither is getting to eat. And speaking of eating, it's time for my breakfast.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

the nut at the wheel and other things

The latest piece of Trump's insanity that has come to our attention...he thinks nuking hurricanes to prevent them from hitting the US is a fine idea. What could possibly go wrong? He denies saying it of course, just like he denies saying everything people ridicule him for saying, which as far as I'm concerned only confirms that he did float the idea. And then, of course, he spent his final press conference at the G7 in France promoting his floundering bedbug infested property Doral in Florida for next years G7 meeting to be held in the US. 

We still have 17 more months of his insanity/inanity, minimum, because Congress won't get off it's ass for whatever justification and stop him so it's up to us, the American people. Vote blue no matter who.

Oh well, on to other topics. They lied again. They told us we were going to get rain this weekend. It rained in El Campo to the west, it rained in Houston to the east, it rained on the coast to the south. Us? We got a scant 1/4” of rain Sunday. But it was overcast all day and so stayed in the high 80˚s all day.

I took advantage of the cooler weather and got the last wax slab poured and basically all the cold work done that I can do for now. 

the last two molds to be made

I still have lots of fine tuning and grinding to do once the last three pieces are out of the kiln. I rummaged around and determined I have just enough glass to fill the box mold and the two gray slabs which I also got altered or trimmed down and ready for molds on Sunday.

I haven't filled the box mold yet even though time is ticking away because I've been waiting for it to dry out a little. The castings come out much cleaner when the mold is dry and I'm using dry frit  but that's on the agenda for today

And then this also happened Sunday (click to bigify)...


It's hard to tell but this is a huge limb on one of the pecan trees that broke but is resting on another big limb lower down preventing it from completely breaking off and crashing to the ground. So now we need to find a tree service to come take it down. My sister also lost a big limb on one of her pecan trees this weekend and driving through town I saw several others down, a result of no rain and high winds. Pecan trees are bad about self-pruning when they feel stressed. They've also been dropping lots of green nuts, big ones too.

Another miserably hot day out there. 9 AM and it's 83˚ and 85% humidity, high predicted to be 97˚. I'll be hanging out in the house today y'all.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

try and try again

Remember these little miniatures from last week? 

We went to the second half of that estate sale, the garage and two more rooms, and I looked at them again. About half had been sold and when I picked one up that looked like an old steam iron, the top flipped open and it was a pencil sharpener! They were all pencil sharpeners! Anyway, the second half was a waste of time for us as it was all tools and garage men's stuff and fishing lures and hooks and molds to make your own wigglers and some craft stuff and a boat load of arrows and split feathers for fletching and all kinds of stuff like metal summer camp dinner trays and if they had one of something they had a dozen of it. At least. I think all the skunks were still there. Oh and here's something I meant to show before...a box of creepy clown doll heads with a few frogs thrown in.

Thursday was the second attempt at making the mold for the heron box. Let's just say it wasn't a total and complete disaster as the wax box was recovered undamaged. This time Marc used boards screwed together to make the casting box, instead of the cardboard box I had constructed, and sealed the corners and around the bottom with clay. After he poured the investment it started leaking out at the bottom and there was no stopping it so he quickly unscrewed one of the sides and pulled out the model so he could rinse it off. Remember when I was doing the water measure for the first mold and when I picked it up the bottom separated and water went all over me, all over the table, and all over the floor? Yeah, like that. It poured out all over the table swallowing a putty knife, a screwdriver, and screws and an even bigger puddle on the concrete.

So, back to the drawing board. We went back to the cardboard box since that didn't leak, just ballooned out, and used the board box to support the sides of the cardboard box. Took me the rest of the day to make a new cardboard box and construct the wood box around that and then replace the wax sprues that got damaged (these create a tunnel through the mold for air to escape instead of getting trapped and creating a hole in your piece) so that today all Marc had to do was level it up, and mix and pour the plaster and then do the de-waxing which is plenty especially in that hot shop.

And as they say, third time's the charm. We have a mold.

I got the water measure done while it was still wet and it's about a pound less glass than the first attempt, the difference in getting an accurate water measure.

Now, of course, because I already don't know if I have enough time to get it finished on time, I'm adding another piece to the whole. It's just a slab, gray like the top but it will go between the bottom and the feet and be the same gray. Sorta like this...

So I have to alter the wax slab for the top and make another one for the bottom. I'm glad he hadn't made that mold yet. But! I have written out the river vignette that goes inside it but I need to get some manuscript vellum to print it out.

The weather is beautiful; days sunny and warm with cool, clear, star-filled Milky Way nights. Up at dawn, quiet contemplation before breakfast and breaking camp. Finally we are loaded and I push off with a sigh as I feel the first tug of the current pulling us into the river, carrying us on through the quiet beauty of the canyons. We are in no hurry as we dip our paddles in the river. We come upon a blue heron at the river's edge and it spreads its wings and flies downriver as we approach. Again and again we chase the heron downstream until it reaches the end of its territory and turns back to fly over us back upriver.

Anyway, working on this piece is going to be about all I'm doing between now and the middle of September.

And after all this trouble, it better be fucking fabulous.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

the fucking absurdity of our healthcare system

Yesterday was such a relief. It was overcast all day and the temperatures stayed in the mid to high 80˚s. No rain though. The city an hour from us gets it all. All that concrete sending up heat waves. Did I take advantage of it and do cold work over at the shop? No, no I did not.

I got an email the other day from the Memorial Hermann Hospital System for my recent procedure and hospital stay. It was a bill that said I owed $9,484. Click here to pay! A bit of a shock since at no time was I told that I would owe this amount. The co-pay they asked for when I arrived for the procedure was $200 which I paid at the time. So I clicked and got this itemized bill. This is a screen shot but online I could click on all those little plus signs and get even more detail about the charges.


Insurance and provider adjustments winnowed it down to $18,355.55 of which I owed $200 and had paid and my balance was zero. I'm on the phone immediately. What the hell? Oh, she says, that email was a mistake, you shouldn't have received it, just ignore it. So I don't owe anything, this online statement is correct? Yes, she says. I also got a separate bill from the electrophysiologist for $84 which is fine considering they have never asked for the $40 co-pay for office visits I'm supposed to pony up.

Before I agreed to the flutter ablation, I had researched on-line to see about what it would cost. Depending on where and what facility, costs ranged from about $20,000 to $35,000. So what the fuck is the point of this $100,000+ charge if they are willing to accept $18,000 for it. I wonder, if I had had the ablation with no insurance if this is the amount, $109,691.75, they would have charged me?

Some doctors/hospitals have a 'cash' price. I know because I always asked what the charge would be pre-insurance and while I never had to have a hospital procedure I know someone who did and he negotiated the cash price with the hospital in advance.

This country is so fucked up. Billions for war and aggression but national health care, well, too expensive, no money for that. Instead, Americans without insurance or with a crappy policy have to engage in medical tourism to get excellent care for a fraction of what you would be charged here. Here, you go without or you go bankrupt. My granddaughter had to have an emergency appendectomy before they had any insurance and my daughter is going to be paying that bill, also over $100K, for the rest of her life. Fortunately, the hospital is content with the small payment she can send every month, for now anyway.

The richest country in the world and we can't manage what most every other nation can and for their population.

Monday, August 19, 2019

the doldrums of August

I finished the second heron box model Saturday. It's glued down and waiting for the mold to be made. I found the timesheet for the first one...27+/- hours. I didn't keep track this time but I think it went faster especially since I didn't carve the wavy lines like before but incised them instead and scraping more lines in between with a wire brush. Still, it took me a week. 

I like it in wax.

I didn't keep track of my time this time because I've decided to stop doing that. The point was to help me come up with pricing but in reality, it only made me realize how little I get when a piece sells because you can't price artwork by how much time you have in it unless you are one of those artists who have people clamoring for your work.

After I finished the box wax I sorted through my color samples and picked out three dark blue ones 

and then tweaked the formulas for nine new samples which went in the kiln yesterday. And as long as I was at it, I made pure color samples of the 7 colors I have acquired since the last time I did this. I meant to take a picture after I had filled all the little squares with frit but forgot. Here's my set-up though. 

The two sections on pieces of firebrick are tilted up at an angle so I'll get a sample that is thin at one end and thick at the other. At least that's the plan. The kiln was 130something˚ when I looked at it a little while ago.

And here they are out of the kiln.

Nothing much else going on around here. Still hot, flirting with near triple digits, still no rain despite the scant 1/4” we got the other day and were getting into the first stages of drought, still going out and watering first thing in the mornings and usually in the evenings as well, still trying to keep all three bird baths filled with fresh water.

The white wing doves hang out at the one in the little backyard, just to the left out of sight in this picture.

Saturday I caught sight of one of the local red shouldered hawks perched on the naked lady's head but it flew off before I could get the camera up for a sneak pic through the door glass.

Friday, August 16, 2019

collections and obsessions

Still working on the wax box getting the wavy lines incised. I got them too deep on the face of the box as the wax was softer. Not sure what I'm going to do about it. Maybe fill them in and start over. Might finish today.

Yesterday was estate sale day and my sister and I went to one of the more interesting ones. This was a small old room, dining room, kitchen, utility room (where the bathroom was located) and two bedrooms. You had to walk through one bedroom to get to the other one which was filled with cameras! Film cameras and lenses and attachments and dark room stuff and plates and I don't know what all, well over 100 cameras and the woman who does these estate sales says this isn't even all of them. Plenty more in the garage, she says, which she won't give access to til next weekend.

And then there was the skunk collection. This is only one of three groupings of skunk figurines.

And the glass collection, also just one of the tables with this stuff on it.

But my favorite were these little metal miniatures, all 2” - 3” tall with moving parts.

This last picture was at a different estate sales months ago but just thought I would tag in on here.

galoshes for horses

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

anniversary, wax, and yard stuff

Today is our anniversary. 43 years. Over half my life, 3 years shy of 2/3 of my life. In reality it's about 86 years since we have lived and worked together for all that time. No gimme a kiss, have a nice day at work, see you when you get home; our marriage has been 24/7. We may or may not do something. Our go to celebration for things like anniversaries and birthdays is a movie and dinner out but there's not a movie we are anxious to see and local places for dinner out aren't exactly exciting.

What I've been doing this week is remaking the wax model for the box. I poured all my slabs last Sunday, Monday I planed them all down to the correct thickness, 

yesterday I fabricated the box out of the slabs. 

Today or tomorrow I'll fill in the joins on the sides and make repairs to the outside and add the wavy lines and texture and then it will be ready for a second attempt. Still have to do some color samples.

The other thing I've been doing is watering the flower beds. I get up and go outside and water about a third of the yard, come in, have my coffee and then breakfast and then get started on whatever. In the evening I'll water another section of the yard but it doesn't seem to be making much difference. It is so hot that even the sun loving zinnias go into serious wilt by the end of the day and I water them every day! I may have to drag out the shade cloth til this heat breaks. Dog walks are short with no socializing as everyone and their dog is hunkered down inside. Neighbor Gary who generally takes his evening walk about 5 PM has been waiting til 7 PM to venture out. The only thing that seems unfazed by this heat are the plumerias and the mexican bird of paradise 

and the morning glory bush over at the shop. I don't water it at all and it's been gorgeous.

Minnie is convinced throughout the day that she wants to go outside 

until she actually gets outside. She lays in the sun for a few minutes and then retreats to the garage waiting for me to get through with whatever I'm doing watering though the other day I heard her barking hysterically and when I went to investigate I saw she had treed a young raccoon.

Well, I'd best get to work if I want to make any progress today.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

one disaster led to another

My luck ran out and that disaster of a mold produced a disaster of a casting. No amount of cold work can make this usable. I'm not sure why it cast so badly, need to consult with my gurus. If I want to make this piece, I have to start over with a new wax model for the box. I've already pulled out my drawings and made a list of sizes for the wax slabs. I'll start on those tomorrow while I'm grinding away on the heron head and the egg. After another hour and a half yesterday morning I freed the sticks. It was after I came back from that that Marc showed me the box. Well, I know a few things I'll change. The color for one. I like it but not enough contrast with the heron. I'll go darker blue. And no billet. From what I can see, I don't like it. I think I'll do some color samples, see if I can come up with a combination with enough of what I have on hand. I may also not carve the wavy lines if I can come up with a texture I like  or do them differently because I'm not sure I like them.

As mentioned, I finished taking all the excess glass off the sticks.

This morning I got up at 7 AM, went out and watered for 45 minutes and then went over to the shop where I set up and poured the wax for four of the six slabs I need to remake the model

and used the ring saw to cut off most of the extra glass on the heron head inlay 

and then ground off some of the thickness. Came back to the house at 9 AM for my coffee and then back to the shop about 45 minutes later where I used a different machine to grind off the excess glass on the egg and then finished it off on my make-shift flat lap, back to the house for Sunday brunch at 11:30 AM and then back to the shop to set up and pour the wax for the last two slabs and the 1/8” thick sheet and back to the house at 1 PM.

So yeah it's hot and we've exceeded the high 90s forecast and have hit triple digits and I may be done for the day, except for maybe doing the dishes that I've been ignoring while I've been working over at the shop the last three days (and no, I'm not going to show you a picture of my messy kitchen) but not for a while yet.

Friday, August 9, 2019

working in the heat

It is so hot and humid out there I can/will only work outside for about half an hour and that's in the shade! The south wind coming off that field behind us is like standing in front of  a hair dryer on high. I finally got all the gone by easter lilies cut back and I was soaked with sweat by the time I finished, had to peel my clothes off me. Now I'm working on taking out a small flower bed around a tree along the driveway that I put in years ago that was too hard to maintain and it has gone to weeds and wild fall asters, cutting that shit to the ground and reclaiming the paver bricks that border it. Took two days to get this much done.

There's another area at the back of the property that I am trying to do the same thing to. It's the old burn pile turned brush pile that these 10' tall weeds have grown up around while the brush pile has composted down. I want to get rid of the whole thing and start mowing over that area.

I haven't been over at the shop to start the cold work yet because we are having some of our hottest temperatures so far, high today of 97˚ and the rest of this week and 98˚ half of next week and the chance of rain in the single other words no chance of rain. I can't imagine how hot it is in that metal shop building even with all the bay doors and the two measly windows open. I may have to start getting up really early gasp! I suppose I ought to get out my model making stuff and/or the modeling glass and start on the next piece I have in mind.

So that was yesterday. This morning I got up an hour early and went across the street to the shop and worked over there for about an hour and a half but not on the glass pieces. That shop is such a mess, I haven't even so much as hosed down the floor after the flood. My neighbor has a workbench to give me and I want to use it for my cold working since right now my setup is very makeshift (also since the flood) so I went over there and rearranged the kilns so I could pull out the big A-frame on wheels that we used to move glass around during our etched glass days. It's going to be dismantled since we don't need two keeping the smaller A-frame on wheels that will fit in the back of the truck. So I pulled the big one out of the single bay parking it by the sandblast booth and then I moved the smaller one from the double bay into the single bay and then moved the kilns back where they were which gave me more room in the double bay for the new worktable. Then I hosed the floor down in the half of the double bay where my cold work stuff is set up, sweeping all the water and muck from the flood out and pulled out a metal shelving unit and hosed it down too. I want to bring that over to the house as I need more shelving as long as I'm working over here and not in the shop.

Still have not ground a single bit of glass. Maybe later, maybe tomorrow. But that hour and a half this morning was enough for my hair and the crotch of my shorts and my panties to be soaked with sweat.

Well, as it turned out, I went back over there after breakfast and worked for about 2 hours grinding excess glass off the sticks. I cut as much off with the ring saw as I could but I still have at least another hour and probably more before I get it all off so that just the sticks remain. I'll give it another go tomorrow morning.

This is a piece of 1/2” glass with 60 mesh silicon carbide (very hard, very sharp) and water to make a slurry on which I use a circular motion to slowly grind off the excess glass on the bottom. When the sludge of glass builds up too much it has to be cleaned off and fresh grit sprinkled on. The sludge can be rinsed out and the grit used over and over but eventually the plate glass has to be replaced because it gets ground down as well and will become slightly concave over time and use.

It wasn't really terrible over there while I was working, I had the windmaker fan blowing on me, or didn't seem so at the time. But that three and a half hours, even split up with AC time in between, just about wiped me out. I had thought I would start emptying the bookcase so I could move it to the back bedroom and make room for the metal shelving unit but I'm thinking I'll go settle down on the couch with my current book.

I might even take a nap.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

more work on the heron box

I've reassembled the mold for the box part of the heron piece, you'll remember it had broken in three pieces, and I'm ready to start filling it with glass.

you can see along the inside edge of the mold at the top some of the damage that it sustained

with the reservoir on top

I'm going to use some billet and some frit. 

frit left, billet right; same color

The difference between billet and frit is not just that one is solid and the other is crushed but also the amount of air that gets trapped and the resultant 'cloudiness'. A nice solid piece of glass will melt and not trap any air giving the piece clarity. Frit will trap zillions of air bubbles throughout the piece, the smaller the grain size, the more air trapped, giving the piece a more translucent look. So while I have cast a piece using all billet and pieces using using all frit I have never cast a piece using both so I have no idea, no vision in my head, how it will look re the intensity of the color and the amount of clarity or how even those qualities will be throughout, though since every surface of the box will have come in contact with the mold surface or been ground down, no part of it will have the smooth shiny surface of the billet. I finally settled on these percentages: 1/4 gray blue billet, 1/4 clear medium frit, and 1/2 gray blue fine frit, a little less than 6 1/2 pounds.

I didn't think all the glass was going to fit in the mold and reservoir but it did (that dark color in the center is the billet pieces peeking through) and now it's in the kiln. Won't know how it comes out til Monday, maybe.

This is the biggest box I've attempted so far. I've done them with the same length and width but not nearly as deep or if as deep then not nearly as long. The other components have been cast and washed but no finish work done on them yet and I still have to fix the piece for the top. The egg and sticks cast perfectly! Yay!

And the heron head inlay came out well I think except for the end of the beak which is not under fired but a form of devitrification, so one of my gurus tells me, probably because of too wet a mold, packed in too tight, too much intermingling of the silica in the glass and the silica in the mold. I'm hoping some cold work will remedy it good enough and I can avoid re-firing it.

All that glass that isn't egg or sticks or heron head has to be cut or ground off.

I'll be spending weeks on that part which is the cold work, the grinding off of excess glass, softening rough spots, and smoothing out all the surfaces. It will be anything but cold as I'll have to do that work over at the shop in, of course, the hottest part of the summer.