Monday, January 31, 2011

A woe filled tale of two hearts

Ok, this is the tale of many hearts that came out of my last firing. But a tale of two hearts just sounded so much better. Kind of like the title of some gothic romance novel.

But not these hearts up there in the sweet circle. I am perfectly happy with these. They are made of a chocolately stone ware clay that I found in my studio the other day. The clay is lots of years old and left over from an ancient tile project. I pressed and cut these hearts from a scaled up version of the photo polymer plates that I showed you here.

But these hearts in porcelain? I am not so happy. Love the glaze. It's actually a very ugly glaze that I've given a little twist. But that twist is entirely off topic and I like to be on track. See those arrows up there? There are flaws in the porcelain. Teeny, tiny little surface cracks. Nothing structural. Doesn't show up until after final kiln firing. I don't like them.

But I can fix it (I think :-). Not these hearts. They are done. They are toast. It all has to do with how these hearts get made. And I kinda stuffed up. There's another step that needs to happen in making these. I say this with great confidence but it's really just another step in the process of working with a new method of making. It's entirely possible the whole thing could get scrapped. But if I can fix this up I will be mighty happy because I really like the impressions these photopolymer plates make.

And here is a totally unrelated error in the porcelain hearts. It's a little tiny blister in the glaze. These reds are so prone to it. It annoys me because I really, really like this colour. Which is weird because I am not a red/pink kind of girl. If you look very closely I think you will find some of those tiny little cracks in these hearts too.

And this one too, has those bitty cracks. This is like having the gauntlet thrown down. There's a problem here. How do I fix that? It's a challenge. How do I solve this problem. It's a bit of what keeps me coming back to the studio. If it were all easy and worked out perfectly each time, I'd get sooooo bored.

I'm curious. What do you do when you have a set back when you try something new?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bead Soup Sneak Peek and a Give Away

I'm pretty sure there is a definite kind of theme going on in the bead soup going out to Melissa. Here's a little peak at what went out to the post yesterday.

This is my first time ever participating in the Bead Soup Blog Party hosted by Lori Anderson. There are so many many talented people involved. My partner Melissa Meman makes beautiful things and I love her use of metal and wire. No, I did not send her any wire.

To tell you the truth, I am just a little intimidated by all of this. Yes, you've seen some jewelry on my blog. But I really don't make all that much jewelry. So this is definitely a challenge for me. But a really good one. I love the idea of working outside of my comfort zone.

There is just a whole lot of love going around with the blog party so I thought maybe I'd celebrate that with a little give away. What better way to do that than with a bronze heart pendant? Tis the season after all with Valentines Day just around the corner.

All you have to do is leave me a comment by Thursday at midnight, February 3rd and this heart could be yours. I'll announce the winner on Friday. Please leave me a way to contact you if I can't do it through your blog profile. Or just be sure to check back on Friday, OK?

It's not necessaary to spread the word about this give away. But if you do, then come back and let me know and I'll give you another entry. This heart will ship anywhere in the world that USPS goes.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dead skunk in the overhead or under the seat?

I had a birthday last week. I have had soooo many of them that I really didn't think that this one was anything particularly special. But it was. And what on earth does that have to do with dead skunks? Well I got this card from my sweetie.

"That's just great. Hear that, Harold? One carrion per person." read the card from my sweetie. Now that may not sound sentimental and it sure didn't come with a 'fly first class on your birthday ticket.' But it came with this great appreciation of my love for a good play on words.  Yes, it's a bit quirky and slightly twisted and, now, you too have a little insight to my quirky sense of humor.  I loved it.

My daughter in law called at a the crack of dawn because she wanted to be the first to wish me a happy birthday. My daughter called from work to ask if I would be home for a few hours. Yes, of course, I am usually home. The flowers arrived not much later. My son phoned from Afghanistan and the orchids he sent arrived at the same time as we were talking, half a world away from each other.  So special to open them while we chatted.

All of these experiences were surprises. I felt absolutely wrapped in the arms of my little family's love.

I've spent a week reflecting on how much little things in life mean to the everyday. I am grateful for this life that I have been given. Ups, downs, it's a good life.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday Tangle

This is the sad tale of a tangle gone wrong. This weeks challenge over at I am the Diva, uses a  tangle pattern from  the Zentangle Newsletter called IXORUS. It's kind of a complicated tangle but pretty cool. Laura did say that sometimes she needs get comfortable with a new tangle pattern by having a few goes at it. That makes a lot of sense.

So I made this little practice tangle. I'm not even sure that I got this right. But I do sort of like the way it looks. Then I got this brilliant idea. Which turns out not to be so brilliant and in many ways defeats the whole purpose of doing a tangle.

You see I've been having owls on my mind lately. So I thought to myself that this new pattern might look kind of cool on an owl wing. So I made myself a little pencil sketch of a pretty funky looking owl. In zen tangle terms, he's my string. Yes, I am nearly certain that the gender of this owl is male.

And then I proceeded to put patterns into the sketch, starting with IXORUS on the wing. Oops, there are some lines missing. It's a tangle gone wrong. Not horribly wrong. But a little wrong. But once again, I come away from doing this feeling just fine because it really isn't about making a perfect owl or even a perfect IXORUS. It's a little play time and this was a bit like colouring outside the lines.  And look. I even managed to leave some white space.

You should head over to Laura's blog and see her IXORUS. There are links there to see what other people have done as well. Even if you don't want to see her IXORUS, you should go look at the tangles she did on her babies leg casts. He's got a foot condition that has required a couple surgeries and he's in his last set of casts. These casts are incredibly smart looking. In fact I wouldn't mind having some leggins that look just like this. But I'm not really as cute and adorable as this little guy is so maybe that's not a great idea.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Yes, by golly, I think I am in love

I have had not one, not two, but three dates with my new bronze clay. Now I know three dates may not be enough to declare love but....I really, really do think I love this new material. Not as much as I love Peter or my children, but maybe almost as much as I love the dogs. Oh, wait, that can't be, the dogs are the center of my universe. Well, at least they think they are. Anyway, I digress.

I started using BronzClay brand a couple of years ago when it was just fresh out on the market. It was a tough task master. It was sticky. It warped. It went off in a bad way and wouldn't fire properly. But I loved the colour.

Now there are heaps of metal clay suppliers out there. But I like to stick with what and who I know. Loyal, I guess, just like my dogs. So I hung in there. I bought a packet of the new Fast Fire BronzClay. It sat in my fridge for months. Until I had a bit of time. The difference is night and day in terms of handling. It is just lovely.

But the fired colour? Well not really to my liking. Fresh out of the kiln it's got a greyish cast that is kind of icky. See that up there. Those are tumbled pieces and to me they are just not at all nice in terms of colour.

Patina has been a bit of a challenge. I've put together a little two step process that I'm happy with. The dragonfly on the right is fresh out of the tumbler. No dress up. Kind of like having gotten up in the morning. You know, still not quite ready for the day and gotta get the lippy on before you can step out. The piece on the right has got it's makeup on. Two two different patinas and I am pretty happy with this.

What I love most of all is the detail that I can get with this bronze. See that wee little heart right down at the bottom of the key up there. I love that I can add almost secret little detail to a piece.

The best part of all is that when this bronze is fired it rings like a bell. It's got a weight and density to it that, really, you just have to feel to appreciate it. I am in love. Or at least in infatuation. The only thing that could be better is if they could fix up the formula for CopprClay to make it so beautiful as the bronze.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The New Tool and I am in Love

Today, I made all of these pieces using the new tool. I know, they look a little like cookies but they are not. They are bronze clay pieces that are tucked away in the kiln right now. It's the new fast fire bronze and I am hoping they will fire fine. I've never used it before and it's a lot different from what I'm used to.

Yes, I know you are impatient. I know you are tired of the suspense of waiting to hear about the new tool. So without further ado, here it is.

Cool, right? All sort of high tech and sci fi looking. It's a UV exposure lamp just like the jobs they use for acrylic finger nails. You are not supposed to look at the light. And I didn't, just my camera was looking. If you did look at the light all sorts of nasty things can happen to your eyes and things will look strange when you look away. But I have no personal experience of blue halos and blurry vision from looking at the light.

It's an off label use for this type of lamp and I'm using it to develop photopolymer plates. I've been wanting to this for a long time. These photopolymer plates were first used in the printing industry and the technology has been picked up by metal clay artists for use in making texture plates and shallow relief molds. I thought it would be way too complicated and expensive for me. But as it turns out it is neither.

Let me show you how it works.

You start with a drawing that you make into a transparency (top left). Then you make a photo negative from the transparency (top right). There's a special word for this negative but I can't remember what it is. I'm visual you know and words tend to slip out of my head pretty quickly. This all gets developed in the ubeaut new tool. Then you use the negative to develop the photopolymer plate (bottom). There are some scrubbing steps in here too. But you get the idea.  Tonya Davidson made a video of the process for Whole Lotta Whimsey. You can see that here and it's a lot more iteresting than me describing it to you. This is just the nutshell version.

Oh and guess what? You can even get everything you need at Whole Lotta Whimsey. Or you can build your own equipment. But I am an instant gratification kinda girl and didn't want to fiddle around with that. But if you did want to do that, you can find some information here at Silver Clay art in an article written by Maggie Bergman.

Here's a close up of my new key design. Look at that fine detail. I am in looooove! I may also be in love with the new fast fire bronze clay. But we've only had our first date and I think it's way too early to declare undying love after the first date.

And, hey, if none this works out in the long run, I think I will open a small, exclusive nail salon. You've seen my hands and nails. I'd be good at this.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday Tangle

This weeks zen tangle over at I am the diva was to start with circles. I like circles. My circles came out all sort of lumpy. But I'm OK with that. I don't think the point of this is to have preconceived notions of how things will come out. I did notice that I seem to have an aversion to white space when I do one of these. Which is strange given that I actually like lots of white space and simple paired down things. But not with a zen tangle, no siree Bob, I am going to keep adding until the whole thing is chockers with patterns.

I did notice that I seemed to have needed to add a lot of black lines and boundaries around things in this one. I'm OK with that too. Because when I look at this I think that maybe I am trying to tell myself something. I've been having one of those weeks where there are so many ideas going around in my head that I am having a hard time settling into doing anything at all. Maybe my little tangle exercise is telling me to corral some of those things and put them into some organized compartments. Who knows?

But then maybe this means nothing at all. Doesn't really matter as I quite enjoy the mental break of just sitting down with a nice black marker and drawing without any purpose at all.

I have actually gotten a few things done and promise I will show you some studio things soon. I've got a new tool. It's exciting. It's still in the box. I'm getting it out now. This is building suspense, isn't it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's pretty, sort of, kinda

But I am glad that I am home and snuggled up in my nice warm house. And that I'm just seeing this snow in the photos my daughter sent. I got off the phone with my her a little while ago. She's in Hartford, Connecticut watching the snow come down. She can't really do a lot else as they've got 30 inches right now and it's still coming down. I grew up with snow, lots of snow, but I don't think I've ever seen anything like this.

Sarah is not going to work today. At least not in her own car. This is her parking lot at 20 inches of snow this morning. The hospital has sent out 4 wheel drive vehicles to pick up nurses for their shifts. Sarah's been waiting 6 hours. She's pretty sure that she won't be going in at all. In fact as I was talking to her, she heard that a state of emergency has been declared.

There are technical difficulties you might never even have thought of when there is this much snow. This is Chester. He's about 15" tall. His bathroom is out in the snow and he's had a little difficulty balancing. Poor little guy fell face first and is embarrased.

Kramer, who is 10" tall and has the same bathroom arrangements as Chester, refuses to go out. But really, can you blame him? The snow is 3 times deeper than he is tall. Just in case you're wondering, they've cleared a little space on the balcony for him.

I hope all of you who are living out there in this terrible weather are snuggled up warm and toasty with a nice cup of hot chocolate. I'm thinking nice warm no snow thoughts for you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

View From The Road

We've just come back from a few days in Denver, Colorado. Peter had a conference and the dogs and I went along to keep him company. I was going to get all sorts of things done while I was there. I actually managed to get through 2 murder mysteries, dark psycho thriller works with deep meaning and great literary value. My taxes and plans for the year did not see their way out of their carefully packed files. There's always tomorrow for that. Those novels needed to be read.

Saturday we drove up to Central City, not so much for the destination but more for the drive. Central City is more or less completely filled with casinos which could be fun if you like that sort of thing. The drive is beautiful and a very short little day trip out of Denver. We used to take this same drive when I was a child when we'd come out to visit my Auntie and cousins.

 We left on Sunday morning. It was snowing. I have no photos leaving Denver. I was busy helping Peter drive. You know, braking, holding my breath, praying we would drive out of the snow before hitting Colorado Springs or at least New Mexico.

I like the view from the window in New Mexico. I like that there are these low eroded mountains in the distance. I like topographic relief. I would have liked some on our drive up to Denver through the Texas panhandle and eastern Colorado. I have no photos of the drive up. One photo would have served to represent the entire 9 hour drive. Grass, nothing but brown grass, on some of the flattest land I have ever seen. And that is saying a lot given I live in West Texas and I thought this was flat. I was so excited when we would see the occasional herd of cows or gathering of antelopes. But I could have used a hill or just a little turn or twist in the road. It was very much like driving for hours but not really going anywhere. I think surreal with a bit of Texas Chain Saw Masacre imagery thrown in pretty much sums up where my mind was during this part of the trip.

Aw, but even in New Mexico the landscape flattens out, really flattens out. But then there is the occasional extinct volcano to provide a little variety.


Are we there yet, Mum? Just about darling. Just a few more miles.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Tangled as in ZenTangle, not as in the movie, which I did see over the holidays. Fantastic movie, highly recomend it. I even cried at during the scene of the floating lights. It was just so so beautiful. Disney and it has me crying. Who would have thought.

Anyways, on to the tangles. I came across this yesterday when I was over at Marsha Neil's blog. I was just so intrigued by this whole concept that I spent a delightful hour just looking around the web at zen tangles and doodles. I used to spend countless hours doing doodles during boring meetings making aimless patterns just to distract myself from the tedium. I had no idea that this whole practice had been legitimized. OK, this concept is a little more purpose driven than my scribbles at inappropriate times.

I can't even pretend to know much about this practice but you can find out more by searching the web or flickr for zen tangles. There is a website that can give you some background. It's something of an art form  'where anyone can create beautiful images using repetitive patterns.' Marsha had a link to a blog by Laura Harms where she's hosting a weekly zen tangle challange. This week is the 'Eyes Wide Shut' challange where you start  by drawing  on your tile (paper) with your eyes closed.  So in my full on procrastinating mode, I decided this was absolutely the thing I needed to do right now! That photo up there is just a snippet of the final 4 inch by 4 inch 'drawing' I ended up with.

This photo is my starting point. I'm telling you when I had my eyes closed, I felt like I had this squiggle out to edges of the paper. I looked at it completely baffled. Where do I start? What do I do?  How do I make this into something? Oh wait, that's not really the point is it?

Curiously, when I just let my mind empty, the pattern just flowed from my pen. I can't even see where the starting point is in this final drawing. There is no beginning, no end, it just is. And this was like a vacation from the everyday.

This was fun. It was like a little bit of meditation with a pen.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Word Chose Me

The end of 2010 has come and gone and we're into 2011. I'm happy 2010 is over. Not so much because it was a bad year. It wasn't. But the number kind of bothers me. 20 minus 10 is 10, 10 plus 10 is 20, that sort of thing. 2010 is kind of freakish number. I'm just weird that way.

We've been home for a week now and we've both had the worst colds we've had in years. Lots of naps, not much done, a lot of time for introspection. Soul searching even, and to me that means looking inside your heart.

A while back Erin at Treasures Found, talked about chosing a word for the year as an alternative to a New Year resolution. A word that could give you direction for the year. I like that idea. I don't like resolutions. They often do not feel like they come from the heart for me. But I do like the idea of having direction. Something like a star to guide your navigation.

Which got me to thinking did I have a word? Did I have one last year? I didn't actively choose a word last year but one chose me. Healing. Behind the scenes here at Summers Studio an intense year of healing occured. It was an ever present theme in my life. Old memories, old wounds to my heart, the core of my being  were excavated, dusted off, examined.

And along the way, my heart began to open in ways that I never dreamed possible. I feel good. I feel in control despite the fact that their are many uncertainties facing us this next year. Now if this nasty cold would leave, I might even feel powerful!

But it seems another word has chosen me. Transformation. Not in the Websters definition of 'change in appearance, altering the composition, etc.' But a deeper more spiritual inner change. One that can't be seen but can really only be felt in your heart.  It feels good.

I don't know how it will effect my art. I know that healing already has. I can look and see the emotional hurdles I've leapt across and see how it is expressed in what I make. I'm ready to hitch my navigation this next year to the star of transformation. And I trust my heart will follow.

I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing my world with you and getting a peek into yours. You've all been such an important part of my life over the last year. I really can't thank you enough.

Wishing the very best for this new bright shiny year!