Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Wintery White World

I woke up this morning at 2 am to thunder, lightning, wind and torrential rain. One dog whimpering, the other really needing to be in bed with us, all 60 pounds of her. I went to an early morning appointment on flooded streets and came home to this. It was snowing so hard that when got back in the car, after smashing the windscreen wipers free of ice, and I looked in the mirror, I had a pile of snow on my head. Not pretty. Heck, it is supposed to be fairly nice here in winter. I don't even own a parka. I have no idea where my gloves are.

This is one of my favourite corners of my back garden. Not so good for sitting right now but the snow frosting on everything is sort of pretty.

It's kind of pretty until you start to notice how low all of the branches are. Then you look up and realize how much ice and wet snow is on everything.

That's my neighbors car up there being kept from being swept away in our little storm by the branch of an ancient cedar. There are huge limbs down every where. One end of my street has half a tree over the road. This is really not nice snow. I like a bit of fluffy beautiful snow now and again. Especially the kind that goes away in a couple of days. And it is still snowing.
Yes, I know. Just 6 days ago I told you all about our dust storm. Our potential for explosive fire. The potential for raining mud. The 72F weather. I'm really just sitting here asking myself, what's next? Locusts?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This year is gonna be different!

Instead of making some of these, I spent a great deal of time today figuring out one of these:

Now I am not complaining about having to file my taxes. And the 1040 C is actually a very simple form, only 2 pages, and only 11 pages of quite clear instructions. The economist in our house takes care of the rest of it. For which I am grateful. So it is very little to ask that I fill out my own self employment form and keep track of my expenses, income, etc. In fact one might reasonably argue that this would be good business practice and that you could even find some useful information from these sorts of records.
The problem is that my records consist of 12 envelopes of receipts and what not, one for each month of the year. I generally have a pretty good idea of what's coming in and what's going out. Every year I look at accounting programs and record keeping systems, and sigh. I don't want to learn anything new. I then head out to the studio.
And then today, after much groaning and sorting those envelopes, it all kind of clicked. I don't actually need bells and whistles, the IRS wants very little from me, I don't need to learn anything new. How many years did I spend managing huge research projects and budgets?

I just set myself up an Excell spread sheet system, one for each month, and one that collects a running total of income and expenses for the year. The best part is the IRS already had things organized for me. I just used the schedule C, typed up my particular needs for income, expenses, and costs, and voila! I have a system. I like Excell because in its most basic form it is just a calculator and the formulas you type in are simple and intuitive. For example, when I want to sum up a collumn of numbers, I just type in sum=(, point my mouse to the top of a column and slide to the bottom, hit enter and there it is the total. Yeah! Gosh that's a lot clearer in my head than written here. You can do all sorts of complicated things but for my needs, this works.
You can click on that pic up there and it will get large enough to read my categories. Basically, its just divided into income, expenses (office, packaging, etc), and the actual cost associated with producing my jewelry components and pottery. This is really just broad strokes of where I'm at business wise. It's no good for figuring out the cost of producing a single item. I do that in a much more tedious and boring way. Oh yes, there are things even more boring than tax record keeping. But I can get an idea of where I'm at overall, and if, Lord forbid, I need to set aside tax money.
I can live with this. My headache is going away now. And I promise, promise, really promise myself that I will keep this up every month. This year will be different!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Blue Skies and Butterflies

I am pretty much into spring mode judging by the colour pallete of the new butterfly pendants. You know, I don't always (almost never) plan just exactly how I'm going to finish up a design when it comes to the final pieces. Sometimes I have a very clear idea. Other times it's a matter of how the mood strikes me when I get out the glazes and go to work. Most of the time it seems like I am very much influenced by the light and season around me. This time it seems pretty clearly that I am thinking blue skies, spring, and soft shoots of new green coming up in the garden. I am very ready for spring and it is only January. Ah, but spring does come early here. I am so ready.

A good few of you looked in on our dusty world out here in W TX last Friday. This is my normal winter sky up there, looking through one of the pecan trees. Fabulous blue we get out here. It's cooler. No raining mud. Or at least if it did, it was while I was asleep while the rains came through. Thank goodness. I am ever so relived that Donna commented that she has actually seen it rain mud. I was beginning to think that I had figmented raining mud out of my own imagination.

Friday, January 22, 2010

On Wind

And not the winds of change. See that grey sky up there? It almost looks like rain is coming doesn't it? Well that in fact is dust. And that is what we get out here in West Texas when the wind gusts to 60 mph. The dust gets everywhere. The dogs become covered in it then carry it into the house. All over the house. It takes your breath away. It is nasty. Am I whinging? Well yes, as a matter of fact I am. This weather makes it darned hard to enjoy a 72F day.

We are under a red flag weather alert. Which according to the weather service means that a combination of strong winds, low humidity, and warm temperatures creates explosive fire growth potential. Well, I was planning on firing a kiln tonight but somehow firing to 2300F in explosive fire growth potential conditions seems unwise.

The good news is that we may get rain tonight. In West Texas rain is generally a cause for rejoicing. When it comes in a dust storm like now there is another peculiar phenomenon that happens. It rains mud. I am not joking. This is a very interesting effect. Unless of course you are out in the rain as the mud comes plopping out of the sky. I have never lived anywhere in my entire life where it can rain mud. So I will be looking forward to this potential novelty. Kind of makes putting up with the dust worthwhile.

To my knowledge it has never rained frogs here.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Do you remember way back when, I was working on drawing (doodles) based on Japanese fabric? Well that drawing has been modified, edited, pared down, and these are the first pressings of one of the finalists. Sometimes it takes me an incredibly long time settle on a final form. Actually, there are two contenders for this particular design and one of them failed in the molding. Oh, well. I'll make another one later.

I love butterflies. I love watching them hover over my flowers, flitting from one flower to the next. I am ready for spring and it is only mid January. Fortunately, for me, spring comes early here compared to where I grew up. We've been having warm weather over the past few days. I am ready for it to be consistently warm. Are you ready for spring? I am so wanting my iris to come into bloom. But that's a couple months off. Instead I'll just create a little artifical spring with butterfly pendants and other bits of garden lovlies.

And thank you all for such wonderful birthday wishes!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Looking Forward

Whew, it's been a while since my last blog post. But there is a good reason for that. It's my birthday today. Although I am pretty low key about birthdays, I have in fact spent the last few days celebrating. Thanks to Martin Luther King day , my son was able to come home for a long weekend. We've spent a lot of time, cooking, chatting, watching movies, and playing endless rounds of Skip Bo. And laughing, lots of laughing.

Those African violets up there were a gift from my son. I haven't had any for many years. Not since he was small. I'd forgotten how much I love them and their lovely range of purples. He's located an ideal spot for them in the lounge room and in clear sight so I will be unlikely to neglect them. The sun shines through their blossoms and lights up the petals. Beautiful.

Mostly I look forward in life. But this year I couldn't help but look back to last year at this time. We spent from mid December until now waiting for word of my son's return from Iraq. It was a brutal 15 month deployment, many lost comrades, his own humvee blown up 2 days before he left theater. And finally, home, on my birthday. I thought I would never have a more beautiful birthday. But this year closes a circle of remarkable emotional recovery for all of us. What more could one ask for.

But then this beautiful gift of violets, that brings me back to his childhood and my absolute most beautiful gifts in life, my children.

Yes, I am indeed looking forward to celebrating another year of life and all it brings.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Heart Hearts

Or so it would appear. I don't normally make too many things in heart shapes. But I've really enjoyed shaping these free form without molds or cutters. This ones a little larger version and a little flatter. If I made it into a plump one like the little ones, it would be a bit like hanging a bolder around your neck. That might look good for the Flinstones but I don't think it's very practical, really.

Here's the little fat ones. (oops, plump sound so much better). I love the feel of these and actually hate to part with them. They feel very nice in your hand and I can imagine that if I were wearing one of these I would spend a great deal of time just touching it. That could either be very distracting or come in really handy if you were, for example, in a very boring meeting.

These are my favourite. While I like the saturated colours of the glazed pieces, there is something irresistable about naked porcelain. I fired these to maturity so they are almost like glass. Then I tumbled them for a long time. They really do feel a lot like river stones. I think I'll make some of these without holes for a couple of special people I know, so they can carry them in their pockets.

Hope you've all had a great start to the week. Cheers!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Beads of Clay Color Challenge!!!!

The Beads of Clay Blog is hosting a fun challenge based on the color wheel. Eight challenges in all! These challenges are open to everyone. But you must use a clay bead in your submission. This is a fantastic opportunity to stretch your color wings!

You can read all about it here.

This month the challenge is a monochromatic scheme like this lovely necklace from Kristi at Artisan Clay. The guidelines are available over on the Beads of Clay blog.

And of course, there will be prizes! Clay bead and button sets from BOC members!

Thanks Kristi for putting together this fantastic set of challenges.

I hope you all will come join the fun.

A little note here to avoid confusion. You don't need to make beads for this. You can use clay beads made by others.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Puffy Hearts and Moist Clay

Every so often I need to feel moist clay in my hands. No molds, no stamps, just the feel of it as I gently push it into a little form. That happened to be how I was feeling this week. It’s cold. My studio is barely heated. It was gloomy. Much better to be inside where it is warm, with my dogs at my feet. So I brought in a bit of moist clay and sat at the dining room table and made these little hearts.

I like the feel of these. They are all rounded and plump, a little like river stones that have been tumbled in the current. Most of the time, I have a picture in my mind of how something will be finished. Not this time. My temptation is to leave them unglazed and tumble polish them. I do love the feel of bright white porcelain when it’s been polished. They are in the kiln now. I’ll decide tomorrow what they will become. For now, I am just happy with having quietly sat with a few little lumps of clay in my hands.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not, and All Those Cards

I love getting Christmas cards. It’s the time of year when we hear from family and friends, distant and near. We catch up on all of the family goss with the Christmas letters. We line the mantel with cards in a colourful row of good cheer.

And then, the inevitable happens. Christmas is over, the tree is taken down, the stockings are stowed, and there are all of those beautiful cards. What to do? I am basically a pack rat but there is probably a limit to how much can be stored away. In fact, I don’t think I need to save the card from the insurance agent, beautiful though the card is. But I really do hate to throw them away.

So I took the front of some of my favourite cards and made them into little pillow boxes. They turned out a perfect size for earrings, pendants, and small stocking stuffers. Yes, there is one in every crowd who starts prep for Christmas in January. Usually, that is not me. So I’m feeling quite virtuous now with my creative re-use & advance Christmas prep. These little boxes are folded flat and put away where I can find them next year. In the closet with all of those Christmas bags that I saved and the little bits of wrapping paper that were still good. Once a string saver, always a string saver. And if you’d like to feel virtuous too, you can find instructions and a handy template here.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year

That’s the full moon, blue moon, seen from my house on New Years Eve. As I look at that photo I realize how familiar seeing the moon through the branches of the old pecan tree has become. Just a few years here in our home, that I’ve considered our new home. How comfortable and familiar it has become. All of that has happened with scarcely a passing thought from me.

This time of year is a time of quiet reflection for me. But not a time of resolutions. I’m no good with those. Another year gone and the promise of the new year and all that it might hold. Full like the moon.

I’ve been so fortunate to have come to know so many of you over the past year. You’ve laughed with me, supported me, and sparked creative growth that I am so grateful for. It’s been a good year. Many thanks!

I wish you all a year full of wonderful things.