Saturday, July 31, 2021

an outing and a finished model

So, did I mention I finished the second trumpet flower model. Friday between breakfast and lunch I took care of the minor issues, scuffed up the background (because there's no way to get the background smooth and unblemished and it looks better overall if it has a slight and random texture to it) and then after lunch smoothed it all out. I do this with naptha (a solvent similar to lighter fluid. It slightly dissolves the wax and I use my finger or a small piece of chamois dipped into the naptha.

Saturday I got a piece of styrofoam and cut it on the bandsaw to the right size but the block was 2 inches thick so I had to slice it into three thicknesses, glued two of them down on glass and then glued the models onto the styrofoam. The styrofoam is the reservoir to hold all the glass that won't fit in the mold. So now they are set up to have their molds made.

Before I did that on Saturday though, Pam and I went to the Hungerford (a dinky little town down the road) for their art and craft fair. The goods on offer were pretty predictable for a small town art and craft venue...canned and baked goods, costume jewelry of various kinds, big flashy seasonal wreaths, quilts and other homemade stuffed toys, plants from the local nursery, wood art of various kinds (lots of crosses), wine glasses and jiggers etched with a small dremel, etc. There was a woman whose son makes ballpoint pens with turned wood barrels which were very nice but also pricey and I doubt she sold any to that crowd and another woman who makes natural personal products...soap, shampoo bars, deodorant, insect repellant, lotion bars, stuff like that. I came away with a jar of pickled okra and a shampoo bar which I have been wanting to try.

After that we checked out the two new women's boutiques, both located in bad places as far as I'm concerned. The first was in the back half of a building that has a salon and while the salon faces one of the main streets around the square, this little clothing shop has no street frontage. The clothes were nice enough, not a large inventory, nothing I would buy but mostly because everything was made out of synthetic slippery stuff that all had to be hand washed or dry cleaned. The other shop had a bigger inventory but is tucked into a corner of the other big retail area in town and once again you really have to know it's there or you won't see it. She had a few things that we liked but for the most part everything was synthetic or skin tight or stretchy or all three and not one thing that we could find that you could just throw in the washer and dryer (do they not make clothes out of cotton or cotton/linen anymore?). Well, I hope they do well.

Then we went to the Peach Creek Market on the highway for more peaches and I think these are the best ones so far but they are ready so I'll have to do something with them tomorrow.

Back to work stuff, I looked for the wax cutout of the luna moth that I know I have, have looked in every container in which I have wax objects and I cannot find it! I've looked in everything two or three times. And you know, as soon as I finally give up and cut out a new one, then it'll pop right up.

I had thought to post some pictures from the garden but, next time. Meanwhile, Buddha ponders

Thursday, July 29, 2021

almost and the hawk

A couple more hours Monday and I've got all the carving done. Now just have to fine tune, clean up, and polish.

I could have finished it on Tuesday but we met our glass artist friend Gene in Fulshear for lunch. You might recall Gene is the one who stored his studio in our shop for three years while he was getting his house put back together after moving it, as in the whole house, not just it's contents, and getting his new shop built. He lives an hour and a half away so Fulshear is about midway. We chose a barbecue place because they have an outdoor patio but there were so few people there we ate inside instead. It was a good visit as it had been over a year since we had seen him. We missed a turn on our way though so instead of the 40 minutes or so it should have taken us, it took us an hour to get there.

I don't really have anything to report unless I want to wade into politics, and there is plenty of that to wade into but I just don't have the focus right now, my mind being on my work even when I'm not actively working on it (Marc put the drowned feather piece in the kiln Wednesday) and it would take some valuable time to compose.

I did my three hours over at the studio Wednesday between breakfast and lunch, cleaned up the two small flowers and am almost through with the big one so I might be able to finish after lunch Thursday but I'll only have an hour and a half so probably not. I might have it ready to polish though.

This one is just giving me fits at this point. Everytime I take a picture I see a flaw. Almost ready to polish.

Right now, at the time of this writing (which was Wednesday afternoon), I'm just waiting for 4:40 to get here as that's when I leave for yoga class. This is my least favorite time of year for class where we meet. With school out and the metal building closed up all day it gets really hot in there even with the giant fan. We do roll up the sides about halfway but it still takes some time for the built up heat to dissipate. Abby does a noon class in the air conditioned bowling alley that she manages but going then takes a near two hour chunk out of my day right in the middle of my most productive time. I may complain about the heat but I still show up.

The hawk was back Wednesday evening, this time sitting on a tree branch, closer than the fence rail, with its attendant mockingbird screeching at it. It's hard to see the mockingbird sitting on the same branch far left. I had to be sneaky to get these pictures
, shot through the glass in the door,  without alarming the hawk.

Easier to see the mockingbird in this picture in the upper left corner.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

more progress and what's blooming

Another 4 hours or so on Saturday and I'm done with this model. I could probably fiddle with it another whole day but doubt any improvement would be worth the extra time.

And I forgot to put this picture in my last post, some of the tools I use for carving wax.

Minnie goes where I go but she is bored silly after a couple of weeks of spending 3 to 5 hours in the studio nearly every day with the air conditioner thunking away. Her internal clock tells her when it's lunch time and dinner time and she will get up from her bed over there and tell me. The past several days she'll get up after an hour or so and go to the door. I'll let her out and she'll go about 10 feet and when I don't follow she heaves a big sigh and comes back in, or she'll sit in the sun for awhile and then want back in.

Before I went over to the studio Sunday to start on the next model I got out there early, well, early for me, and cut back all the gone by purple cone flowers in the front flower bed scattering seed as I did. I didn't purposely scatter the seed but every time I cut a handful of bloom stalks I could hear the seed falling. I really don't need more cone flowers in that bed. And while the mosquitoes weren't bad (!) by the time I came in after about after 45 minutes I was dripping sweat.

And then I went out after I had cooled off to walk the big backyard, something I haven't done in several days, and was surprised by the swamp lily which has put up a bloom stalk

and the pink ginger is finally blooming. 

Some of my zinnias have finally started blooming but not very profusely

and the morning glory seeds I planted last early spring and were slow to start are growing madly now but I haven't gotten a single bloom and no buds apparent today either. The tall orange cosmos is out of control growing everywhere but few blooms. The mexican bird of paradise is blooming though.

And the black and blue salvia with a little green spider.

A couple of hours on Sunday in the studio and then Minnie let me know it was her lunch time. Instead of going right back, I got the ladder out and raked as many of the fallen leaves and branches off the section of roof on the driveway side of the house as I could reach without actually getting on the roof. Then I picked up the armloads of branches big and small on that side and tossed them in the truck and then I got the long handled nippers and pruned off all the new branches that had sprouted on the trunks of the two tallow trees by the driveway after the deep freeze and tossed those in the truck. There were a lot. These two trees put out a lot of new growth because a lot of the upper branches died back from the extreme cold. There's a lot of maintenance I haven't been able to do in the yard because it's either been raining or I've been working in the studio so getting these three chores done was good.

I put in another hour and a half and here's my progress for the day. Maybe this one will go a little faster. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

busy days

Yesterday at SHARE was busy! The busiest day so far since I have been volunteering there...25 clients for food. I was non-stop filling baskets for the first two hours. Fortunately it slowed down a little so that Gary and I could restock my shelves. I had thought I would go over to the studio after lunch and get an hour and a half in before yoga class last night but decided to read and nap instead.

The night blooming cereus flowers did open Wednesday night and I got a few pictures. I've taken better pictures but I was holding the camera in one hand, the flashlight in the other, and trying to fight off the mosquitoes all at the same time. I needed three hands. Anyway, if the past is an indication then this minor bloom will be followed with a big bloom in August and hopefully I'll be able to get better pictures.

And speaking of blooms, none of the ginger is blooming yet though one or two buds are finally starting to form. The pink and white and yellow should have started long before now. And with the exception of four varieties, none of the day lilies have bloomed and those that did did not bloom as much as in the past. I assume the deep freeze is the culprit though it wouldn't hurt to give them and the ginger some fertilizer. I also wonder if the growing tree canopy has cut down on the sun.

Here's today's progress on the model. About five hours worth. I'm done with the rough carving and am just about done with the detail. Still have the leaf to do more work on and then the cleaning up and smoothing. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

setting up for carving, a hawk, and a flower bud

Starting on the next two pieces, the yellow angel trumpets. Monday I moved the wax pot and the plaster bats into the air conditioned studio from the third bay where I have had it set up for the past five years or so but I'm becoming more intolerant to the heat and just the thought of doing the next step in there made me woozy. So I cleared off the mold making table and set up on it. I cut a piece of cardboard the necessary width and length, soaked the plaster bats until saturated (so the melted wax wouldn't stick to them), set up the forms around the cardboard,

removed the cardboard,

and ladled in the melted wax.

Tuesday I cleaned up the blanks and rounded the corners

and then started cutting the layers out of the wax sheets I had made previously and building them up on the blanks. The design consists of four layers.

wax sheets

cutting out the first layer

building up the layers and scoring the details.

Now I'm ready to start carving them down and rounding the shapes. Wednesday's progress on the rough shaping.

The red shouldered hawk that came and perched on the top rail of the fence the other day is back with an attendant mockingbird screeching at it. They were in the cedar tree by the shop driveway when I went over there earlier. For some reason I think this might be a young one that it's parents have quit feeding. It's been hanging out in the general area for several days. Now it's flown to my neighbor's yard on the ground pecking at something. It keeps raising its wings and jumping around as if the little toads that still scatter with every step are freaking it out. And now it's flown off into the wild space.

The night blooming cereus has four buds on it and I think they might open tonight. I've set an alarm so I don't miss it.

So we got more rain Monday of course we did, a shower around 5 PM and then sometime during the night thunder, lightning, and hard rain, 2” worth, ditch half full this morning. All this rain and wind has caused the big branch to finally disconnect from the tree, held up now by only a thin strip of bark.


Monday, July 19, 2021

in the kitchen

We've had more dry days. Notice I didn't say the 'R' word. No sense in invoking the gods since the last time I used it it rained the next day. Marc might actually get the yard mowed today. Or not. Mower won't start. He messed with it some more today and yay, the yard is mowed. Should help cut down some on those black flying monsters mentioned next.

Once again the mosquitoes are just fierce. Big black ones and they swarm you almost immediately. Even with mosquito repellent on, so says Marc. And I swear, they know where the doors are and hang out by them.

I spent all day Saturday in the kitchen dealing with butternut squash and peaches. I roasted the biggest one,

scooped out the flesh from the peel and mashed it and put it in the freezer for a future casserole, roasted the 'twins', because they flowered the same day and grew right next to each other on the same vine, and peeled and cubed them for the freezer. Then I picked out four of the larger ones for two neighbors, two each with recipes. Picked out and skinned the nine ripest peaches and made a peach cobbler and while that was cooking delivered the squash to my neighbors. Then I made a butternut skillet dish with bacon, onion, spinach, and pecans for dinner with the cubed squash I had put up last March.

Gotta use the oldest first. Still have nine small ones, all in the 6” – 7” range.

I used to make peach pies every season but there's just two of us and by the fourth day the last two slices were pretty soggy. Then I switched over to crostatas, courtesy of Joanne from Cup On The Bus, because they were smaller and quicker to make but since my last blood test showed high blood sugar I switched over to peach cobbler which is even easier and quicker to make because I thought it uses less sugar than the crostata but I think really, it's the same amount, the difference being with a cobbler the sugar is in the dough instead of in the fruit.

Sitting here at my desk, getting my working drawings ready for wax work model making I looked up to see a red shouldered hawk sitting on the top rail of the fence on Sunday. It sat there a while but flew off before I could creep around to the door to get a picture through the glass.

Here're the drawings for the next two pieces.

I got my work table over at the studio cleared off and the base slabs of wax poured today. And I think I've decided on a luna moth for the small stand. I did one many years ago on a vase form and I still have a backup shape in wax that I've been shuffling around all this time. I think maybe I rejected it because it was too small. Here's the vase, luna moth on one side, dogwood flowers on the other.

6”w x 6”d x 7”h

Typical summer sky these days

unless it looks like this.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

finally done so on to the next

We had one brief shower Thursday, one of those that happens while the sun is shining. We were moderately busy at SHARE which I suppose means President Biden's policies of helping people recover from the pandemic and reducing child poverty is having some effect. When I wasn't filling baskets, I was restocking my shelves and when I wasn't doing either of those I chatted with some of the volunteers or flattened cardboard boxes for taking to the recycling center which I do on my way home. My first day, when we went back to Thursdays last fall, towards closing, the Elders (two young men, and by young I mean 20ish, from the Mormon church here doing their volunteer work, they load the carts of food into the client's cars) had thrown all the cardboard into the dumpster. The next week I told them don't do that, I'll take it to the recycling center. It just astounds me that even now with the planet warming up, landfills full up, the planet running out of resources that people, especially young people, don't think to recycle, even the one thing that is most easily recycled, cardboard.

I managed to get another hour and a half in before yoga Thursday night. I finished all around the feather, once again building up the white or black, so no more fussiness.

Some of y'all have asked how I learned this. We are self-taught as there was no instruction in this technique when I first decided I wanted to do this type of glass casting back in 1995 (and hardly any now either though there is a wide range of glass art now being made as pate de verre but it's far different than what I do). I had seen some pictures of the work produced by the handful of 19th century French artists, all of whom were very secretive of their processes and to this day there is some uncertainty about how they actually did what they did. My favorite is Almeric Walter but Argy Rousseau's family released some (but not all) of his workbooks on his technique and we bought the book on his work that included this information. Then it was trial and error gleaning pertinent information from jewelry making and bronze casting and ceramics, buying books as they became available with any information by other artists on their own efforts and glass casting in general. We experimented with different plasters and formulas for mold making. There was already an industry for making rubber or silicon reproduction molds. We had a lot of failures but slowly, eventually our failure rate declined and we started producing a series of sculpted small bowls (2 part mold) then larger ones, then a cup form (3 part mold) and then finally now I mostly stick to the easier open face molds. I'm not that interested in pushing the boundaries anymore.

Anyway, I've written about it before so I'm going to refer you to an old post about early days and a link to my website about the technique and our process.

This is a link to the last in a series of posts I did about becoming a glass artist and it explains how we started in this technique.  There's also a link to all 13 of the posts in the very first paragraph.

This is a link to the technique page on my website that shows the step by step process of making one of my little sculptures or wall pieces.  Also on that page in the upper left hand corner is a link to a page with the history of this ancient form of glass casting.

Two and a half hours on Friday before lunch and all the rocks are done.

Two hours after lunch and I'm done. I decided at the last minute not to use the black sand mix as I put the color sample next to one of the big rocks in the mold and decided there wouldn't be enough definition between the two, that they would just all blend together and I spent too much damn time on those rocks to have them disappear so I chose the next darkest sand color (it will darken after it's fired). Of course last night in the middle of the night I'm kicking myself for not adding in a small percentage of black. Now it goes in the kiln.

And I am glad to be finally getting done with this series, four 10” x 10” and six small ones of various dimensions. I made all the models 4 years ago in 2017 right before Harvey and the house flooding. The six little ones and one big one got cast before the end of that year. In 2018 another of the big ones got cast, in 2019 the third big one got cast, and finally now the last one in 2021. Of course those years after Harvey I was dealing with getting the house fixed and then the pandemic and getting Pam's house set up which just took the wind out of my sails.

After this last one is cast and finished I'll post all 10 pictures.

I'll probably take the weekend off though I'll have to go over and clean up and put away all the mold filling tools and materials so that I can get out all the model making stuff and start on the models for the two angel trumpet plaques.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

dammit all

More fucking rain.

I got both my errands done Tuesday morning plus a minor rescue, going to get my sister from the tire store (flat tire, can't be fixed, nobody has the right one, has to be ordered, leaving her car at the tire shop), and got over to the shop and worked for an hour and a half, came home for lunch and General Hospital (don't judge) and as soon as it was over and I was ready to go back over to the studio it started raining. Really?! Had only rained hard for about 5 minutes before water started standing in the side yard and probably in the front and back as well. That's how saturated the ground is. It let up enough for me to get back over to the studio after about 40 minutes and I put in another 2 hours or so.

So here's Tuesday's progress. First I went around the edge of the feather with the black where the rocks are, built up the white a little more in various places as I went, and then started in filling in the rocks. As you can see I only got four done but now it ought to go faster. I don't have to be quite so meticulous with the rocks as the background will be the black sand mix.

I expect some of the black will bleed into the edges of the feather as it will melt before the white does (that whole soft vs stiff glass I mentioned before) and normally I hate when one color bleeds into the space of another color because I'm anal like that so I'm hoping it won't be too bad. At any rate, I've told myself that whatever, You. Are. Going. To. Like. It. Since it can't be helped and it was my choice to put black next to white though the feather is supposed to be gray. I'm at the point now where I'm second guessing the feather. Did I sift enough of the transparent gray powder? Did the water droplets I used adding the second layer of white disrupt the gray powder underneath? Just suck it up and continue on.

Wednesday's progress, shy of another two and a half hours, built up the black against the feather and the white as needed, more rocks.

And now for something completely different...

I'm turning a blind eye to politics lately. Just can't deal with it. Nothing seems to be changing for the better, the two democrat senators in name only holding up the show and in the meantime republicans are bearing down with their authoritarianism. Fucking Texas governor Abbott and the fucking under indictment lt. governor Paxton and the fucking republican state congress passed a heartbeat bill making abortion illegal in the state once a heartbeat is detected usually at about 6 weeks before most women even know they are pregnant and it's the size of a pea. Not satisfied with that, they legalized a $10,000 bounty for anyone who turns in a woman who had an abortion after 6 weeks and of course the doctor and the women will be prosecuted (fortunately a lawsuit has already been filed). And the democrats had to leave the state to prevent republicans from passing their voter suppression bill facing arrest when they return. And the gov wants Texans to pony up to continue to build The Wall along the state's border with Mexico. Our failing power grid? No concern about that, they're making money so what's the prob? And this is just local politics. I can't even read Heather Cox Richardson's newsletters anymore. So I'm glad to be back in the studio and away from the internet.

Pssst. Come closer, I don't want to say this too loud. Whispers it didn't rain here yesterday. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

tedious and fussy

It did not rain Saturday!!!

And I did get over to the studio and made some progress on the mold.

First I filled the quill with white and a mixture of gray and white opaque powder,

then I sifted in light gray and clear transparent powder,

then I filled in with white opaque powder til it was flush with the surrounding level of the mold and quit for the day.

This is a slow and meticulous process. After each sifting all the excess that falls outside the feather shape has to be picked up with a wet brush, the powder needs to be pressed down and made sure that all the small spaces like the tips of the feather are filled.

I don't really keep track of time but I think this took me somewhere between 2 and 3 hours.

It did not rain Sunday!!!

Sundays, I don't eat lunch. We have a big late breakfast, brunch, and an early dinner or rather an earlier dinner. After brunch we watched the last two episodes of season 2 of the Mandalorian and then I went over to the shop to work on the mold some more.

Because of all the air involved in powder and frit, as mentioned last post, the voids in the mold need to have the glass built up with frit at least as high as they are deep so that when it all melts it will completely fill the void with the proper color. So that's what I did Sunday. I built up on the powder I had already filled the feather with flush. This is a pain in the ass when I don't finish a void all in one sitting because now the previous day's work is dry and wet powder and frit does not want to stick to dry powder so I'm constantly having to drip water with a little pipette on the area I'm working on though I found if I dipped my little tool in water before I used it to manipulate the powder I was adding to the tips of the feathers it worked a little better. All this is complicated by the fact that the mold itself is dryer than I usually work with. The dry plaster/silica just sucks the moisture out of the glass 'pastes' as soon as they hit the surface of the mold. Usually I would have completely rehydrated the mold before starting but I didn't want to do that for reason already written about though I may have to do it anyway. Once I got all the fussy feather tips built up with white powder I mixed the white powder with white fine frit and filled in the rest of the feather. It's a constant manipulation and then of course going around the outside edge of the feather tidying it up and cleaning up any glass in the wrong place. Anyway, I'm done with the feather, the hardest part of this particular mold.

I know it doesn't look much different from the previous picture but I added a minimum of a 1/8” layer of glass to what I had done on Saturday. It took me nearly 4 hours.

I did not have time to work on it Monday as I put off going to the grocery store til the last possible day and that was Monday. And it's a yoga day and there's no point trying to get anything done unless I have at least a two, preferably three, hour time slot.

The other thing I did Sunday was pick all the butternut squashes.

this is the entire harvest sans the one we ate and the two we already gave away.

Half the vines were in the standing water and they're all starting to yellow and sag. Two of them were picked a little early but if they don't ripen on the window sill, it's not like we're going to go without. What the hell am I going to do with all those butternuts, you may ask,? I'm going to give them away.

It did not rain Monday!!! I think I'm going to swoon. Three days in a row with no rain. Mosquitoes are back though. I had four tasks to do shopping, taking Robin to get her second vaccine shot, another store for the eye vitamins and a window fan, and more peaches from the Market down the road. I got the first two done.

Today the plan is to get the last two errands done and spend the rest of the day working on the mold.