Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Abyssal Chimera


A torch fired enamel I made in Ken Bova's class at the Ranch, set in a layered assembly of copper, tube rivets and nickel (German silver) with a stainless steel pin stem and a tube-set citrine.  I used some recycled leather to insulate the enamel, which should help protect it from chipping.  There was minor soldering involved here, just to secure the pin assembly and the stone setting.  And guess what?  The enamel is all either white or black, with firing technique causing wonderful color changes.  That's a specialty of Ken's, and you should see what he does with this style of enameling, which he teaches in workshops like the one I attended.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Wishing you renewed wonder and compassion in servings so generous you must share!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Varmint Alert!

Theme Music; Click Here

Definition of VARMINT

: an animal considered a pest; specifically : one classed as vermin and unprotected by game law
: a contemptible person : rascalbroadly : personfellow

Examples of VARMINT

  1. rats, mice, and other varmints
  2. The sheriff in the movie gets revenge on the dirty varmint who killed his brother.

Origin of VARMINT

alteration of vermin
First Known Use: circa 1539

Related to VARMINT

Synonyms: bastardbeastbleeder [British], blighter[chiefly British], boorbounderbuggerbuzzardcadchuffchurlclowncreepcretincrud [slang], crumb [slang], cur,dirtbag [slang], dogfinkheelhoundjokerlouseloutpill,ratrat finkreptilerotterschmuck [slang], scumscumbag[slang], scuzzball [slang], skunksleazesleazebag [slang],sleazeball [slang], slimeslimeball [slang], slobsnakeso-and-sosod [chiefly British], stinkardstinkerswinetoadjerkvermin

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snowy Day & Dog Yoga

We woke up to a fresh load of Cascade Concrete this morning.  That's the stuff that is very wet, almost rain, definitely not powder, that freezes up over night and demands metal edges on your cross country skis, not to mention special wax.

No snow closure at the bird feeder. This morning I had visits from chestnut back chickadees, mountain chickadees, juncos, song sparrow, rosy breasted nuthatch and a very jaunty, but shy, red eyed towhee.

But still the dang squirrel problem. The eastern gray squirrel is not a nice creature; it raids birds' nests, eats eggs and young.  Abbie is still out of commission and can't do squirrel patrol as usual, so I keep an eye out, but it's hopeless. We need more effective squirrel control!

Abbie is getting better every day, and I think she will return to full abilities, although there must be restriction of stairs and jumping. Here she is working on a good rawhide bone treat, in the full flying squirrel posture (feet straight back, pads in full view, too cute), evidence that her back is pain free. Before her surgery, she would do the half flying squirrel posture only, favoring a painful lower back.

I'm gradually pecking away at the dreadful mess in my studio. I have a load of new tools coming soon, and want to be able to work there without the distraction of chaos creeping into my peripheral vision.

Friday, December 14, 2012

New Neckpiece

A new neck piece, suitable for either gender, assembled from:
  • A child's playset cookie tray from the turn of the century, with peeling, chippy green paint,
  • An open box made from recycled tin, bolted to the little tray, collaged with a face cut from sheet music of 1913, a watchmaker's vial, and encaustic medium,
  • A scrap of leather and text from a 1860s novel,
  • A polymer clay bead masquerading as a Warring States bead, sold to me as imported glass paste contemporary made in Iran, by a dishonest shopkeeper in Seattle. But it's still cute.

The steel bead chain and copper eyelets complete an industrial, but rustic look.

On the back, to cusion the bolts that were finished as rivets (because, drat, they  were my last two and the nuts that would fit them are disappeared), I papered over with a classic face, either Plato or Socrates (I don't think they would mind the confusion), from an old magazine from Uruguay (from Fanciful Devices, of course).

There may be a story here about what is real, true or genuine, a discourse between Plato and Socrates, but I simply enjoy the way it looks.

The chain is quite long; the assembly slips on over the head and hangs just above the waist.

All these parts hung around my studio for years and somehow introduced themselves to each other  only after being neighbors for a long time.

I love wearing things like this, and may just keep it for myself.

It'll remind me not to get taken in by dishonest bead salesmen, although that is getting more and more unlikely as I get more experienced. That bead was made before I even knew what polymer clay was. I don't really mind having the bead, but it wasn't priced fairly. Well, Plato and Socrates both might advise not to get taken in by illusion.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ma Petit Chou

This just in! My little 2-hour hinged box of upcycled burnt tin from Marlene True's class over the weekend at The Ranch.  Soundtrack, please.

If you want to really upcycle tin, and treat it like pure gold, Marlene's the one to see.  This box began with her pattern cut from a disassembled old whiskey bottle tin. I wasn't enamored of the orange, green and yellow 60s fridge color theme, so when Marlene suggested I torch it, that is just what I did.  And oh, the suble color play and sweet patina that resulted.  Such a great improvement.

Next, oh what to do with such a pretty little, somewhat torqued outta shape little thing? Well, paper over it for starters. But that all started with a wonderful seed catalog ad from The Modern Priscilla, February 1916, collaged to plastic cut from a putty knife, and covered with lovely mica. Still, it seemed a bit underwhelming, but it popped when I used some text behind the oval, and the interplay between the text shaded by the shiny mica and the text as-is introduced some action. At that point, I decided it had to be a brooch, my favorite kind of jewelry to make and wear, especially because the scale is large for that use, but the box has a deceptive simplicity.

Next, I remembered those old corked vials of seeds Randi gave me, after her trip to Haystack in Maine, home of some of the best found goodies ever.

Et voila!  I have a wonderful little wearable wunderkammer.  And this one's mine, all mine.  Besides, I have a way to go before I can fabricate a box that is True-true, untorqued and unwonky.  Meanwhile, I have learned to measure twice and cut once.  A hint for you folks who want to try using the beautiful tin:  use hair-fine sawblades, at least 6/0, and be prepared to break a few getting the hang of it.  Better yet, sign up for one of Marlene's workshops.  What you learn will go straight from class to your work bench, guaranteed.  You can't beet that.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Jingle Bells & Ten Cent Stamps

Theme music.  Warning, it is that music you hear over and over this time of year, but it's Glenn Miller!  So it swings.

You know that tatty old holiday corsage, the one that looks like it's made of a bottle brush and pipe cleaners, trying to be a fir tree and peppermint sticks?

Retire it!

Here's a replacement that I came up with:  a 1974 Christmas stamp (10 cents) with a Currier & Ives  gliding over the snow, held in a rustic frame made from a cookie tin, with a hand dyed ribbon bow and antique bell.  I made the pin from steel wire.

That sort of bell is actually known as a "crotal bell," meant to be worn on harnesses of horses or reindeer to jingle and sound a warning to people on the roadway of approaching traffic. Way better than blatting horns and rude gestures, I'd say, although "crotal bells, crotal bells, crotal all the way," doesn't seem to work very well. But then, it might make it so much less popular you wouldn't have to tolerate it in every elevator and grocery store for two months until the season passes.

I made another one of these with the 1973 stamp, only 8 cents, Raphael's Madonna and Child from the National Gallery of Art.

On both, I used encaustic wax and resin to cover the stamp, and in the case of the Raphael, I added a little fine canyon dirt around the edges for the look of a fine old thing that could perhaps use a touch of restoration.  And around the edges of each I added some faux gold foil for a little bit of shiny bright.  Just right for a sweater, coat lapel, or vest.

And here's Abbie, who is getting better every day and wants to get out of the pen where she has to stay to restrict activity while she heals.

She is wishing our friend, Kumiko, a happy birthday, even though she has to be at work today.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Abbie Has Surgery

My lively, dancing corgi, Abbie, had a bad spell of back pain just after Thanksgiving. We went to the emergency vet and were told she had signs of IVDD, or a possible ruptured disc. After a couple of days of conservative care with pain treatment, I began to see that it was necessary to know exactly what the problem was and what could be done to bring my girl back to her jolly self. Pain affects our personalities, you know.  I'm lucky that my friend Kumi works for one of the best veterinary neurosurgeons in our area, and she set up an appointment for us at Seattle Veterinary Specialists. After an excellent checkup and consult, we scheduled her for an MRI, and found she had a ruptured disc, a frequent malady of corgis and dachsunds, as well as humans. Next, my girl went to surgery, where the surgeon, Dr. Sean Sanders, removed the portion of the disc that was pressing on her spine.  Now she's home, with discharge papers, pages of instructions and lots of pills.  She has to be kept resting for the next 6 weeks, which means she's in the penalty box, poor baby, and she is assisted to the backyard business with the help of a supporting sling.

Here she is, with the zipper installed.  Please send some healing vibrations so we can go hiking in 2013!

She still barks when someone knocks at the door, appetite is undiminished, and once again can roll over on her side for belly rubs, and I am giving lots of those!

About the pills, friends.  You may think you can hide them in peanut butter or whatever, but they have a way of showing up again in the next few hours, mysteriously peanut butter free.  Puhtoooeee!  Go to the pet goodies place and get Pill Pockets and save yourself the frustration.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Provenance Unknown

I have been keeping (well, hoarding) this beautiful painted bakelite moth inlaid with rhinestones for quite a while.  But now that the holidays are on us, I am having a sparkle attack. Trouble is, I know nothing at all about this piece. It came to me roughly repaired with crack just the right of center. Was that where the comb or brooch fixture was removed? We'll never know.

What do we know? It is bakelite, and faux tortoise shell, with picque treatment not unlike antique tortoise shell pieces. Look closely and see an incised design with green in it, possibly once metallic paint.  All the rhinestones are intact, but some have gone dark (a look I love, so rich, so nuanced).  It is molded.  So it is definitely bakelite because the galalaith ("French bakelite") doesn't mold.  It is carved.  The design puts it somewhere close to Art Deco.  The workmanship is definitely European, most likely French.  I fantasize a producer who moved from tortoise shell (a cruel industry) crafting to Bakelite, treating the material in much the same way. After all, technically, both are resin.

What did I do? First removed the ham fisted glob of unidentifiable glue that served as an erstwhile patch, and inspected the break. Not too bad, but must remember that if I use the piece as a pendant, that area is weak and the crack could spread.  So, in a bricolage fashion, I used watch crystal cement to seal the crack, and once cured, papered over the area with antique text soaked in resin.  I then wired a harness to the piece that would hold the grand old boullion tassel and a rope of old stock glass pearls and Swarovski crystals.  I then papered over that.  Voila!  A flapper's sautoir, of tiny pearls and crystals recycled from abandoned jewelry, right down to the nice spring loaded catch, many, many knots later.

Here's a close up of the repair, the harness, and the antique text. Sometimes random words out of context can be so provoking. I love it when that happens.

I think the tassel and rope of pearls are just right with this beautiful antique, which I prefer to think of as a moth.  Velvet wings, jewel colors, small spangles reflecting a lone lantern, etc.; very romantic. Go ahead, invite the sheik into your tent. You are young only once in this life!  So wear this with your satin chemise and dancing pumps to the Hot Club de France, and don't skimp on the toddy.  And click the link, it's Django Reinhardt, probably the most influential jazz guitarist of the 20th century, burning the air with his rendition of "Sheik of Araby."  Now, are you in the mood to party?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I am thankful I figured out how to use these pretty little antique mirrored whatsits in a pair of festive (think pure frippery) earrings.  After carefully drawing a bead on the end of a very thin bit of brass wire, it was threaded through the central hole, with a bead cap serving as a boss for a finished look, coiled around in the back and on the sides, and then brought back into a loop for suspending.  The ingredients are:  dirty pearls (a personal fave in recycled materials; you know the kind:  she wore them every day, thickly crusting them with hairspray and talcum powder, and chipping away the nacre in places); old pearlized wired glass drops, etc.  Once wiring was done, I papered over the backs with text from an old French grammar.  And the major part, sequin covered balls from some time back, who knows when for sure.  Sweetly shabby and tres bricolage!


And then I finished off a pair of earrings made of another favorite material: salvaged tin; in this case a tin imprinted with a chewing gum logo and the name, "Chris," which had fallen to the ground, was run over and flattened by a car and then rusted for a few seasons until I found it.  There's no amount of faux antiquing that can reproduce the authentic look of this one.  I papered the back with text from a 1913 edition of The Modern Priscilla and added a pretty red glass bead and some steel findings of my own design.   

I'm thankful for found objects, you see.  They provoke thoughts of use and abandonment, also wastefulness, but they give us a second chance when we can wear them for personal adornment.

Abbie is thankful, too.

We wish all a peaceful holiday with ample opportunities to appreciate good fortune and love our abundant planetary home and fellow Earthlings.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Take Five

Here's the theme for the experience.  After that, try this.

Why five?  Well, I've just completed five days of study with master silversmith and designer, Valentin Yotkov, on the art of chasing and repousse.  Hands-on study of the great archaelogical treasure of his native Bulgaria is the foundation of his art.  You see, the art of chasing and repousse is indeed an ancient one, and we were privileged to have a master teach us what he has learned in a lifetime of study and application.

Another reason for the theme?  Our workpiece was based on 5 part symmetry.  So as we executed our workpiece we got to repeat each motif -- if you look at mine, you can probably tell where I began; that would be the weaker part.  One improves with repetition and drill, as in calligraphy or drawing.  It is a very tactile art, but also one of reflected light and a sense of volume and motion.  I could go on and on, since it is one of my favorite things to do as a metalsmith, but let's just cut to the pictures.

This is an example of Maestro's work, which he provided for us to study as a guideline.

The five part symmetry provides many contrasts, as well:  high relief, lower, and flat; and the rope motif, which was saved as the last step, and the most demanding.

Chasing is a combination of working on the front surface ("chasing) with liner and planishing tools, as well as a matte tool for texture on the background, and using punches on the back surface to raise the metal ("repousse").  Good practice produces a design that appears to be much deeper than it actually is.

Here's a view of the back of the piece above, so you can see that just because it is the back, doesn't mean it shouldn't be beautiful and cleanly executed. 

Here is our most excellent master, who shared generously of his hard won expertise -- in five short days, we learned secrets of the art that took him years to discover.

That's because there are few people who actually teach this art -- I studied some of the technique in college when I took a silversmithing degree, but these last five days taught more.  I feel grateful and excited, and ready to make at least five more of the workpiece, as Valentin recommends.  It takes critical practice to learn to handle the hammer and tools in a way that produces work that has vitality and expression, just as it takes a painter long effort in the studio to capture  "effortless" beauty.

Not quite finished, far to go, my own pitch pot, with the tools Valentin makes and provides for use in his classes.  The difference in his tools and the ones I had left from student days can't really be described.  Handled properly, his liners move across the metal with a sort of buttery silkiness.

When I finally clean the workpiece, and add some patina, wax it and buff it to show off the high spots, I will imagine it as an artifact found in the sands of the silk road and after that, I will sit down with it and make it better the next time.

It's all about take five, which means to take the time you need.  I'll take five from feeling that each thing I do has to be ready for sale, from counting the time it takes to make something and weighing it against a price.  I'll take five from even thinking I have to be "good" at it, or from thinking about the other things I "should" be doing.  I'll take five to enter a meditative state and work mindfully.   Thanks to Valentin for teaching that went far beyond the scope of the task at hand!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dip Draw Dry & Fire

A fun weekend at The Ranch resulted in these enamels from a class taught by Ken Bova.

A small raised bowl (actually not raised, but shell formed on a wood stump without stretching the metal much).  Two firings, black over white, in liquid enamels.  The first firing was overfired in a  kiln, then torched while still hot, to bring up the coppery greens as oxides invaded the white enamel.  We weren't at all certain the colors would survive the next firing, in black, but they actually intensified.  It's a funny feeling when your first effort turns out so well, because you know you didn't intend, predict, or do anything but just get out of the way and let it happen.  What an approach to art, yes?

I'm calling it "Licorice Allsorts."

Here's the back side.  I think the color array is amazing, considering this was only 2, well 2 and a half firings and two colors.  Ken is specializing in the effect, which he describes as painting with a torch.  Do visit the link I've provided and get a real visual treat -- Ken's work is very painterly and personal, you might say narrative driven, so that what you see goes far beyond the object, into the shared sensibilities of both artist and viewer.  That means you get to take part in what you see -- well you actually do all the time, but Ken understands this and opens his heart to it.

Evil Eye Charm with great graphic presence.

Deep sea monster fish begging to become a brooch.

It's really a large shift from working intuitively with found objects to the intention and technical involvement of enamels -- or is it?  I will probably keep these pieces for a good simmer on my mental back burner and then make something with them, so that they are rather like found objects later on.  The monster fish is really talking to me, though.

If you have an interest in enamels and dread the painstaking shop techniques of classical enamels (think champleve, basse taille, cloissone, etc.), torch firing is an easier entry point, and it offers exciting results.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dans Macabre

Never mind the ad, watch the feature!

And of course, a Silly Symphony short.
I don' need no steenkin' wand, I got my nose, and I'm gonna use it to cast a spell on all manufacturers of  hats for dogs.
not like dressup
but do like treats

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

les feuilles mortes

OK, you romantic, yearning hearts, tap this up in another window and come back: Now the mood has been set.  The leaves of autumn and the musings to which they give rise can never be trite, will always be sweetly sad. Think the western version of wabi sabi. Give yourself a large serving of this nostalgia and watch Yves Montand recite the original poem and lyrics -- you may find the song much older than you thought.

Then tap it up one more time for a sound track and take a look at my latest musings on the subject, a work in progress.

The leaf on the right is actually fold-formed copper with torch fired enamel. The enamel shine was tamed with Armor Etch and then buffed down with a Scotchbrite scouring pad. In places where the enamel pulled back from the edges, copper was left exposed. The buffing allowed me to bring on the verdigris with salt and vinegar. I think the shine removal makes it look like a real leaf, and shows the subtle undulations of the fold formed surface.  I will wax it with Renaissance wax to protect the patina.

Hint: the Armor Etch is also a good way to make a new glass bead look old, like it had been buried in desert sands for a few thousand years.  The possibilities are endless.

I left the back (or is it the front) slightly more shiney. The "rib" of the leaf is upstanding on that side, and I pierced it, planning to have a chain or thong pass through there.  The scar you see on the lower half is a mark left by the trivet that held the leaf while the enamel was being fired. It actually adds to the real-leaf quality of the piece, I think.  The white spangles of counter enamel could be frost.

For now, I plan to use hand braided, hand spun linen to suspend the piece around the neck, probably with some sort of button closure, perhaps even a horse chestnut I found on a walk.  So far, I have braided about 3 yards.  I like having a goodly supply for future projects.

I was able to order the linen from a supplier in Latvia, on Etsy.  It was single spun and is slubby. There's something so honest about it.  I could drill that horse chestnut (after it is truly dry) and pass the braid through it with a good knot, maybe even a fancy "monkey's fist" or "Chinese button" knot, and a loop on the other end.

It would be good, at least to me, with just the leaf, but other pendants could be added.  True simplicity can be a difficult step to take!

Just to be sure the hole in the pendant is smooth enough not to cut the linen braid, I will ream it to size and add a copper eyelet, which will also give it a good finish.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cavewoman Jeweller

At last, the truth is out!  It took them only a few millenia to understand that women make jewellery and always have.  They're saying the discovery "rewrites gender history."  Well, doesn't that make a statement?  Whatever history has assumed, women jewellers have always been around.  Nevertheless, it's nice to see it proven.  And here are some links to prove it again: 


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Ground Is Carpeted With Jewels

No need to be starved for inspiration.  It's everywhere this time of year.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fold Forming Coming Soon

Things are getting noisy around here pretty soon.  Almost done with the clean up-put up (ugh) in my studio (get serious, it's the teeny third bedroom in a townhouse condo).  Abbie is not so fat as this unflattering pic would make her seem, it's the focus and her short legs (so the woolies can't clock her when she herds them, that's why; the hooves just past over a corgi's head).  Clearing a little space for the dreaded, scary map gas rig so I can do some torch fired enamel, on fold formed copper.  Or maybe just a little kiln instead, but I do love the bumpy, bubbly, rustic look of torch fired enamel.  Progress reports will be forthcoming; or at least that's my plan.  It will require constructing a 3 sided fire proof cubicle for safety, so there's some time involved in this project, most of it procrastination, as I get up the gumption for construction.  I also have a few experimental samples somewhere in the bottom of the pile that I may retrieve and photograph.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Corvus Corax: Magical Mystery Bird

So I'm walking my dear Abbie on our morning constitutional and I notice next to the sprinkled green lawns of the apartments across the street, the sidewalk has been seriously groomed:  an assiduous gardner has tackled the moss in the cracks along the curb and in between the paving sections.  Pretty high standards for that outfit, I thought, and that's when I ran into the crew from Corvus Corax Moss Removal Co., hard at work.

I took it as a reminder that I had to finish, photograph and list these earrings:

They are called "El cuervo y el clavo," the raven and the nail.  The birds are old, old black Oaxaca pottery beads, with dappled blood red glass beads from India, and my latest fave, used horseshoe nails drilled and turned into charms, all assembled and hanging from a steel ring caught in a leather loop, in turn hanging from niobium wires.  I think these have to be in chucho style -- also notice the copper sequins either side of the red beads.  Those are there because the holes in the beads are inconsistent, one is larger than the other, and I wanted the beads to sit on their stringing wire without covering the loop beneath, so there's a function, but I like that little flash of coppery color, too.  Somehow ravens, blood red and nails seem right together, and make these mysteriously talismanic.  I know that in many natural, spiritual practices (that is hoodoo, voudun, etc.), the steel nail is a potent protector.  And the raven we know in Northwest tribal culture as a great trickster who stole the moon and released the first humans from a clamshell.  Pecking away at it, not meaning to loose an invasive species on the planet, just looking for something to eat.  Just like those two across the street doing moss removal.  A corvid's gotta eat.