Listen to the road

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Old colors

My PC gave up after 8+ years of loyal service so we've been running around finding the laptop that is now on my desk. Hadn't budgeted for this but that's life. While it was down I continued dying some of the linens/trim with color combinations hinting at the shadowy colors old stuff takes on while resting in a drawer over the years.
I like the way they look as a crazy quilt. Making this into a bag. This will be the front flap.
Happy New year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

What I've learned about felting

-Thrift stores are the best sources for wool sweaters. 
-Wool blends will felt if the blend is at least 85% wool.
-Remove seams, tags, zippers, buttons and cuffs away for flat, non distorted felt.
-Wash like colors in hot water with a high agitation cycle.
-I dry as well with heat for more dense felt.
-Small dogs make motivated supervisors of pre felting sorting.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Creative momentum

I won't be posting every day's collage. Making one every morning is a great way to begin the decision making, eye-hand, creative process.
After finishing a quick collage my hands and mind are working together once more with trust.
I can clearly hear the wee voice in my mind asking 'what if'...

It rained all day yesterday as I sat at the machine with a box of felted wool and worked a different kind of
collage. These three hats go off to my shop this morning.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Collage 3 Watching the Ships

Watching the ships...a recurring dream. Air ships and water ships move in huge convoys
 at night along the James River. They fly and sail out to the Chesapeake Bay and then to the ocean.
I watch behind overhanging branches, standing at the shoreline with fish swimming around my feet. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Collage a day

I was reading Cathy Cullis' blog this morning and she wrote about committing to making one 'something'
daily. I followed her daily head sculpting last year with fascination.  Each head was a different personality, each had a back story plain to see. If I was learning so much by following along then she must have been learning so much more by making them.

This as a kind of daily meditation on making, a trust that ideas will come. This morning I began my collage a day habit and will post a few here and there. Good kick start in my sunny, clean workroom.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Little altars everywhere!

Every flat surface in the house is covered with these shrines/mementos/altars in some stage of being made.
Some have Boddhisattvas, some have skulls (reminder of death so we can get on with living), some have photos of people who whispered a story when I looked at their faces. Every step has been a learning process-the most exciting part of making.
Once finished I'll hang them for sale in my room at Plantiques.
Also must give my little friend a bath so he can go to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The last leaf and well come (good will)

For several days now I've been watching the last leaf on my cherry tree.
Do you see it there in the upper right quad of the photo above? It's been hanging on for two windy days. That's remarkable as I watched the final 20 or so leaves drop the past few days. Anyway, in my new, nonworking existence my front yard is much more familiar.

This...and many others are
what I've been making with the small molds and plaster boxes. This shrine goes to my special friends' new home in Wales. The Kwan Yin and Lotus are symbols dear to us. The open hand at the top is one of my new important symbols.

This summer I noticed that as we drive down our narrow, rural roads in the Va back country that those who live out here usually lift at least the top half of their hand above the steering wheel while passing. When folks don't offer this gesture I feel a bit uneasy so I did some researching that gesture.

An Open Hand is to show evidence of No Weapon. Odd, but this must have roots in our bones. So at the top of the welcome shrine for my friends' new home an open hand shows no malice toward all who enter.  Well Come. And to the leaves...well gone. See you again next spring if I'm lucky!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Making small molds for casting part 2

Notice that I dropped plaster as a material I use with molds. Last week I went to Jerry's Artarama and got an 8 lb box of white sculpey ($32.00-much better buy than the 1 lb box) and I've been using this in molds with great results. Do NOT mix the softener with it...just use it as it comes out of the box. I've experimented all week and learned lots more.

Silicone caulk; the fast drying caulk (the kind you use the giant squirt gun thing with) leaves lots of air holes, cracks fast but also dries FAST. The tubed caulk (Elmers Squeez'n caulk and Loctite tub and tile ultra sealant-clear) worked the best and have not cracked from multiple casts.You can use this caulk for the first layer of the mold. I've been using veg oil on the matrix to ease the mold off.  The silicone giant squirt gun kind is good to build up the backs of the thinner, slower drying first caulk molds.

After trying oil (messy) and alcohol (ditto) I came upon an online article mentioning plain old talc powder as a mold release. This is just perfect and I've been getting great mold castings. (sorry for the poor photos-I'm in need of a better camera)

So, I'm using Sculpey to make the molds with a talc release.I dust the mold with the powder, then push a small kneaded ball of Sculpey into the mold until I feel sure the details are picked up.
Then I flip it sculpey side down on the enamel butcher's tray and push from the outside of the mold to make the back somewhat flat. This also makes the casting stick to the enamel.
Carefully I lift up the silicone mold (flexibility of the mold is what makes this so much easier) and you will have a good casting.
You can make multiple molds like these skulls and cast them together or apart;
Then it's time to bake. I was lucky to find a thrift store Black and Decker toaster oven with a timer and thermostat. Remember, you're not going to ever use this for food so if it's a yucky, used one it doesn't matter.
Line the pan with alum foil and use the scraper tool or a metal spatula to place (similar thickness) pieces on the pan. Then tent them with more foil to guard against burning. Even so, some will burn but I'm going to paint these in the end it's no matter.
The fan is directing any fumes out the sliding door...

Note my muse...also note that I don't let him in the room while baking Sculpey. His lungs are tiny and it wouldn't take many fumes to irritate him. He just supervises before and after. If you have a cat, keep it out of the baking room as well. My oven has a timer bell which is really nice.
Once the timer goes off I wait several minutes for them to completely cool inside the oven. I think this helps the curing process inside. See what I mean about burning? There's no distortion of the image so it's ok.
To check that they are cooked and cured I press a fingernail into the back. If no mark is left they're good to go. I've used E-6000 glue to attach them to unpainted plaster and it's a good hold. Hope this saves you a little time with your mold making adventures!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Making small molds for plaster casting part 1

Awhile back I took Stephanie Lee's plaster workshop online. I've been experimenting with making smallish
molds to use in my work so I thought I'd share what I've learned about 3 mold making materials that don't cost as much as materials dedicated to molding.

Part one will be making the actual mold-what I learned about the materials I tried. Part two will be using the molds to make small, low relief items.

The first material I used was silicon caulk. I used Elmer's Squeez'n Caulk (clear) because I already had it. I'm sure you can find cheaper silicon caulk in larger sizes for less per oz.
If the object you're using to make the mold (I'll call this the matrix from now on) is metal or painted it will be affected by the silicon (turn green, paint will come off).

If the matrix has a hole in it sew it down to freezer paper. This keeps it stable while you're applying the caulk. Use freezer paper under the silicon mold. It'll be easier to remove when it's dry.

I'd suggest using the clear silicon caulk. It goes down milky white but becomes transparent as it dries, letting you know when it's time to remove the mold. Apply the caulk in several layers, letting each layer dry before applying the next one.

Your mold will be flexible after it dries, making it easier to remove the molded object. This material takes the longest to dry/cure but the flexibility is a big plus for me.

The second mold making material I tried was Das air hardening clay.
I did some online study before using this and one person said it can be baked in a 300 degree oven if it's too thick to air dry. The drying time is several days in a sunny inside location. Mine have been drying for 3 days and still are very cool, a sign that the inside is still damp. For an air dry clay, this takes wonderful detail. I didn't find the reported shrinkage (up to 3% reported by some users) to be a problem. With small molds this could be a problem. It took deep relief with no distortion. The mold is rigid when dry.

It comes out of the package ready to use with no real conditioning. In fact, it's better not to fold it as fold lines are hard to smooth out. I learned online to put it in a ziplock and keep it in the fridge. Completely non
toxic so that's ok.

The next mold making material I used was Sculpy. I have arthritis in two fingers so splurged on 'mold making' sculpy softener along with the large white block so I wouldn't have to condition (knead) it so much.
I cut a piece of each in this proportion; 1/4 conditioner, 3/4 sculpy. ONLY use this for making molds. It's too squishy to use in molds and will get stuck permanently in small areas.

The toxicity of sculpy hasn't been cleared up in my mind. When I bake it I have the toaster oven in front of the window with a fan blowing all fumes out of the house or, better still, put the toaster oven outside when baking it. Also, pick up a used toaster oven at the thrift store and only use it for sculpy-not for food.

Adding the softener made it very easy to condition. It took the matrix with deep relief. There was slight distortion of the mold as I removed it. This material has little shrinkage but must be cooked/cured completely.
So with my 3/8" thick molds I cooked it in two sessions at 275 degrees for 20 minutes each. I think this won't be such a good mold for plaster as the silicon but we'll see. Next, I'll try each mold and share what I've learned.

Here's a great website for polymer clay.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I just met Mary Nohl

Mary Nohl spent her life making things. Angela Recada wrote recently about a visit to Mary's former home and shared photos of the outside garden and a link to her book.

Mary died in 2001 but her home and work is now part of a foundation (even if it isn't open for visitors). I was unaware of this inspiring artist. Her work and life remind me of all the people who can't NOT make things even if they don't sell them in some gallery or make a living at making. Her work is joyful. Angela has included a video of Mary Nohl in an interview. Go here to see photos and a video of her work.
Thank you, Angela!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Did you know...

That if bees become extinct due to our pesticide use, invading species and lack of natural hives (hollow trees) that within 4 years our crop harvest will fail and we'll face starvation as a planet? That Colony Collapse is one of the situations threatening the US bee population? A number of viruses, etc, are a real threat to bees.

That male bees do nothing but mate with the queen then die (all of the bees in this hive are female). Males don't gather nectar, build the hive or maintain it. The girls kick them out when it gets cold as the girls must
live off what they've gathered. No free riders!

That bees are very tidy creatures and remove all filth and dead bees from the hive. They're also 'house trained' and won't 'go' in the hive. The boy in the photo is smelling a piece of sweet smelling beeswax.

That bees have a special dance to show other bees where to find a good nectar source.

That honey bees can't reach the nectar in bees balm as the flower shape is too elongated. That sunflowers are the perfect source of nectar for bees?

When the hive becomes too crowded half the bees will 'swarm' and wait until a new home is found by scouts. If you see a swarm in your yard please don't kill them. They will be gone in several hours. If you need them gone sooner Google 'beekeepers' to find a LOCAL Guild and they'll come move the swarm to a new home.

This was one of my last programs for the library and I've become a bee lover! Maybe all the kids who saw this will remember how important bees are.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Halloween surprise...

Oh my...

Can it be?????
Oh my!!!
I quit my job! In an economy that says "old" people can't get jobs. Now let's see what happens next...(I'm sleeping better that's for sure!).

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Gift in My Garden

One last gift from the garden I noticed this morning. Morning glories, tilting toward the sun this cool autumn day. Arranged by mother nature, thank you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The difference a smile makes

I thought this was finished. Then I realized it was frowning.
So I gave it a smile!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Sewing and unearthing

I have about 24 children in my story times-all of them under 5 years old. We stomp and make animal noises and do lots of silly stuff to make books more fun. Some days (not all) I can't believe I get paid to do my job. For Christmas I wanted to give each of them something so have begun the story time bear project. I have lots of fabric I bought when I began sewing-pretty reproductions of old feed sack prints and other colorful fabric. This is a great way to use this fabric which I probably won't use on much else.
I've appliqued an "I love books" heart onto each bear. A nice side effect of sewing all these shapes on my machine is that I've gained more control in my free motion quilting. Kind of like warming up before drawing something.
Totally unrelated is this stone we unearthed from the old homestead area across the yard (which burned down many years ago). This must have been made when they built the old house. Funny, I come across pet 'gravestones' sometimes, hand written in concrete slabs. And the field behind where the old house sat always offers up pottery shards, ceramic doll heads, clay pipes, etc after the farmer plows the field for winter. Must have been where they put the trash. Once found the most delicate doll hand with fingers intact. Oh, and a ton of marbles. I've embedded all these in a cement collage outside the sun room door to remember those who lived here before us.

 With summer ending and all the leaves falling many things are becoming visible again. Fences, spidery patterns in the trees limbs, old farm machinery, birch bark, old broken down houses. This may be why I love fall and winter so. These seasons show the bones of the land. These are the parts I like to look at. They remain-even when all other living things are sleeping. Bones and dreams.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rotary blade sharpener

Before I bought this tool I asked lots of people if it works and no one I asked had tried it. I just used it to sharpen a dull blade and it works very well! So happy to extend the life of those expensive rotary blades.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Irene Aug 2011

This was the view from our cozy sun room last Sat when Hurricane Irene came to visit. My trees were dancing and bobbing but none fell-thank you trees! The storm caused suffering for people up the east coast and lack of power for us for several days. Bob has decided to wire the camper up to the new, large generator so we will have a small place with hot water, stove and lights when (not 'if' around here) the power fails next time.                                                                                                                                                                        
This is Judy Irene who was visiting us last week. She beat me at gin rummy every game of the marathon we had. Bob kept running out to fill the tiny generator which kept the well primed and freezer on.

A local news commentator kept leaning into the wind on TV (before we lost power) and he couldn't help trying it out himself.
            We woke the next day to bright sun and clear sky. So, of course, we went shoe shopping. Only lost one big limb. Five days without power made us appreciate hot food, clean laundry and lights...                                                             

Monday, August 22, 2011

Busy time

We're moving mom from her big house into a retirement apartment. Packing stuff, taking stuff to the charity shops, moving the smallest amount of stuff into her cozy new home. It's like seeing off someone to college! Her new apartment has house cleaning services, dinner included, yoga, painting, other people and planned activities.
She's a people person and won't be stuck alone inside her house with bad weather. In all, it's a very good move. And the prospect of not having to cook is wonderful for her.

When I'm not shifting things, packing and all that I'm resting. Opie and I putter around clearing out our own house (hard to get out of that mode) and reading with feet up (both of us, Opie's are straight up).
I've also been 'drawing' with stitches, the only creative project going right now as I just have small bits of time to make anything. Here's a hedgehog with attitude that I'm pleased with. We have a fun family member coming for the weekend. Looking forward to cooler weather and more time in my sun room sewing. Summer always lasts long enough to satisfy, then autumn is very welcome.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hummingbird hangout

While I work in the sunroom this little guy and many of his friends buzz in, have a drink then fly away. At times
a hornet will find the sugar water and stand there on its hind insect legs shooing the hummingbirds off. Someone told me to put an apple core to the side so they won't do this. It works!

Been cleaning up, clearing out and organizing today. It sure feels good to know where everything is!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sewing therapy

In the evening I like to hand stitch-it's my way of slowing down and coming home after work which is (right now)
full of stress. Our Monday Summer Reading programs have been almost too successful. Last week had 190
children in our very small library. 190 children who were excited by petting crocodiles, boas and other animals.
190 children who were being asked to do the impossible; sit in a very confined space after being excited by
contact with an animal then being asked to sit quietly while he man took the animal all through the crowd. It
was a 'set up' and very unfair, IMO. They were so revved up and loud and why, I ask, did the grown ups not
expect it? OK, I'm off my soap box. But it was stressful for all.

So, in the evenings I'm using Laura Wasilowski's
method of fusing to make evening sewing projects. Embroidery is what makes these little guys really sing. Here are a few for this coming week of 'therapy'.
See how the embroidery fills out the composition? I do love seeing it grow.
Here is Laura's blog with lots of information on how she makes

The little dog with ears flying is going to be fun to embroider. The solid shape only suggests who he's going to turn out to become.

BTW, at a daycare storytime I gave on Friday a 4 year old boy leaned over and said "I love you". Also, when I was making my elephant's roar the front row of children had questions about my dental work. Children keep us humble don't they?