Dear Fleisher 2018

Dear Fleisher, 4×6 Inches of Art is a biennial fundraising exhibition showcasing the work of hundreds of artists from Philadelphia and beyond. Artists submit original postcard-size works in a wide range of media and styles, each of which is exhibited anonymously and sold on a first-come, first served basis for $50.

DearFleisher2018

My contribution this year was all about repurposing.  The screen-printed fabric is an old shopping tote turned inside out.  I made the dangle from a silver candelabra I found in the trash.   I sawed off off the drip pans and milled the round metal arms into square wire that I forged into the dangle hanging from the porcelain pendant.  I added a chain and jump rings.

 

I couldn’t make it to the sale this year.  There was one piece in particular that I really wanted to buy.  Can you guess which one it was from the pictures below?

So many outstanding works of art by so many talented people.  And a great way to raise money for a wonderful institution.

IMG_20180911_115949-01

Say it with Flowers

I had intended to write this week’s post about Beading Yoda’s lovely beaded flowers.   But that will have to wait.

What a week this has been.   Boris is almost recovered from the Benjimonster and is much less stressed.  I cannot say the same for myself.  It all started so innocently.  My health insurance company decided to give its customers a discount on their premiums if they enrolled in a program called Active Health to learn about healthy habits,  adiet, exercise, and so on.  You get points for each module you complete. Collect 100 points and you get your discount.   Easy, right?  Wrongo Bongo!

I logged onto the program’s website and managed to enroll after numerous calls to customer service to learn how to navigate a website obviously designed by Dr. Mengels.

In the weeks that followed, I duly entered my blood pressure, my cholesterol,  completed questionnaires, and studied health topics.  As I completed each module, I was awarded a certain number of points.  I was on my way to my discount.

Nor so fast.

Yesterday, I foolishly downloaded the Active Health iPad app for the program and completed more tasks.  As I tracked my progress, I noted the app was not saving anything.  And there was no option for me to save. I tried to contact customer service online.  There was a place to write a message but no way to send the message.  So, I called customer service.

I was referred to another number.  Then a third number.  Then I spent almost an hour  with a service rep who tried to guide me through the website.  But, as I repeatedly reminded her, I was using the app, not the website.   Alas,  she could neither help me nor refer me to someone who could.  “And yet,” as the saying goes, “she  persisted.”  As I hung up I wondered where she got her stamina.

Later that evening, I decided to try again on the website instead of the app.  I ran into the same problem.   I called customer service again.  As the conversation with a different rep wore on, I realized that he knew that the website did not work,and that tech support was non existant. But the rep was  creative-I’ll give him that-he suggested that I abandon the online health education module altogether and opt for phone counseling in order to get my points  So I agreed. We scheduled an appointment with a health counselor.  Then the rep started to rattle on about the Philadelphia Eagles.  Time to say goodbye.

The health counselor called the next day at the appointed time.   “What health issues would you like to work on? ” she asked.

“Stress,” I replied, “I really need to work on my stress.”

“What gives you stress? ” she queried.

“I was doing pretty good before I enrolled in the Active Health program,” I admitted, “but broken website coupled with service reps who don’t have the resources they need to do their job  has caused me a great deal of stress.”

“Oh.”

The counselor suggested that I meditate and gave me a number I to call if the stress became overwhelming.  “There are counselors there to help you,” she informed me.

“Is this covered by my insurance?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she responded.  “Let’s schedule another session.”

“How’d it go?” my husband asked me later that day.  “Not as bad as I thought it would be,” I admitted.  “In fact, I’ve decided to start smoking again so at our next session she can give me advice on how to quit.”

Only two more counseling sessions to go.

And now, to keep myself honest, here are pictures of flowers taken on my walks around Philadelphia.

 

Benji, Boris, and Boston

This week was quite a week.  I drove up to Boston to pick up a friend and her dog Benji to bring them to Philadelphia for a visit.   Benji is a Yorkshire Terrier who has a thing for stealing glasses and chasing cats.

Benji                                                      Benji the terror and cat chaser

BenjiwithGlasses copy                                                            Benji the glasses thief.

Boris spent the week in the basement with his toys and food.  An attempted meeting betwen Benji and Boris was a disaster.  Only then did we learn that Benji is a cat chaser.

I got lost in the Big Dig tunnel in Boston after I dropped Benji and his human companion back at their apartment.  So I got a tour of downtown Boston which has changed immensely since Benji’s human companion and I were students at Emerson College.

Boston

 

We were able to get together with a third friend from Emerson before I drove back.   We were so young when we first met.  Now we are grandmothers.

Boris      Boris has reclaimed his house now that Benji the cat chaser is gone.

What Happens When You Fool Around

10

I don’t know if you expected a post on teenage pregnancy but that’s not what I mean by fooling around.  I mean playing.  I’ve always liked to play and to try new things.   My wild imagination has confused and alarmed most of the adults that I’ve met since the age of 12.   Those who can roll with it and play along usually become friends.

Creativity is currently a sexy topic Internet topic, (maybe not as popular as pictures of cats) and people are exhorted to play with color, try strange and exotic spices and  have experiences rather than collect consumer durables.

A website called,  Creative Something.Net says

“Play is more than just important for creativity, it’s often necessary.  Without a play-like attitude, creative insights hide from us behind fear and uncertainty. When we don’t embark on activities that involve play, being creative becomes a challenge.”

Remember, creativity brings something valuable to most things in life (OK, so maybe not accounting.)

I ‘ve been playing in my workshop lately.  I haven’t come up with anything new yet, but I’m having fun and trying new things.   Here are some pictures.

Fooling around with bronze wire which I squared in the rolling mill.  How would it look if I soldered the rings together and bent them into a cuff bracelet?

Fooling around with shapes to see what would make an interesting cuff bracelet

What can I do with a fork?

What can I do with rings I never finished and jump rings?  The medallions on the right are Hadar’s white bronze clay which is not a favorite of mine because it is fragile.  Still, I like the medallions.  They remind me of old miraculous medals.

Here is some more white bronze clay I fooled around with.  I think the dangles look a little like sea urchins.  I wrapped the ones on the left as if they were briolettes.  I think I like that better than the ones on the right with the jump rings.  I like the way the clay turned color and  I  decided to leave them like tha.

I am trying the rings and medals as embellishments for polymer bangle bracelets.  I also used some pre-made gear charms.

I am also fooling around with bronze metal clay.  The picture on the right shows torch-fired Prometheus Clay on the left and kiln-fired BRONZclay on the right.

Next: I’m going to try to make my own gear embellishments using Five Star metal bronze clay Something good is bound to emerge.  I hope.   That’s usually what happens when I fool around long enough.

A Day at the Franklin Institute

 

Outside

Most people who grew up in the Philadelphia area went to the Franklin Institute as kids. Guess what?  It’s still as much fun now as it was them.  Maybe even more so because there aren’t any field trip monitors or other well-intentioned adults to boss you around.  The Step Potato and his little brother the Step Banana were in town with their parents last weekend so a trip to the Franklin Institute was in order.  Much of the museum was as I remember it.

Heart

The Heart

Frabklin

 

Ben

FoucaultsPend

 

Foucault’s Pendulum

But much had changed.  For one, it was Minecraft Day. And the special exhibit was Game Masters which took me on a video game trip down memory lane as I revisited old favorites and tried some new games.   The exhibit I enjoyed the most, however, was Your Brain. Not only was it interesting, it was visually absorbing.

Brain2

The kids had a marvelous time crawling around the neurons of a huge model brain.  It was the cerebral version of a hopping discotheque which I suppose is an apt description of what your brain is up to 24/7.

Brain

By the time we got out of the brain, I was ready for the Fels Planetarium where I learned about the danger of asteroids hurling themselves at the earth.  Not on my watch, I hope.

Winding down

Outsidemirrors

Outside mirrors moving in the wind,

while the brain boogies on.

 

 

 

Fake Rothko in the Redrum

Powder room redo would have been a more conventional title for this post, but what fun is that?entryMy powder room sits on the landing between my first floor and my basement.  Someone bumped out the back wall so they could fit in a toilet and the rest is history.

2You have a nice view of the basement steps from the toilet.  I wanted to give people something to look at while they rode my porcelain Honda.  Hence, the fake Rothko. To see a fake, fake Rothko, click here.

FakeRothko

My fake Rothko is a real fake Rothko.  But I digress.  Here are more pictures of the powder room.

contrastThe paint is Real Red by Sherwin Williams.  I think the other color is Adriatic Sea.

1I bought the mirror at a thrift store and painted it.  I already had a great mirror but I wanted a change.

mirror2I relocated the other mirror to the opposite wall next to the toilet and

detail1installed a coyote on a shelf by the same artist.  (I don’t know his name.  These items belonged to my sister-in-law Shari so they have a great deal of sentimental value.)

SwitchI spray painted the toilet paper holder and switch plate.   The storage box on the back of the toilet is an Amazon box covered with fabric.

towelI spray painted the towel holder, too.  And I stole the red and white towel years ago from a maid in a hotel in The Hague.   Just for this bathroom.

detail3I had a photograph I took in Singapore that had a bit of red in it.  This graces the wall on the other side of the toilet.

sink

A friend graciously installed the new faucet which weighs about as much as the sink.  You can read about that drama in this post.
pipe2I spent too much time obsessing over how to treat the ugly pipes under the sink. A sink skirt?  A cabinet?  The room is tiny-too small for a cabinet and a sink skirt would have been visually cluttering.    I finally decided to embrace the ugly pipes with polka dots.

pipe

mirrorfishThe fish used to be in the kitchen; now he is in the powder room.

Wall2My husband gave me the little mirror years ago after we had a fight.  When he gets unruly,  I take it down and threaten to use it to bop him on his keppy

Some more mirror pictures.

Window

The rear window. Redrum.

Make Stamps for Ceramic Clay with Polymer

Another thing I did at  Clay ConneCTion was to make myself a bunch of new stamps to use with my pottery.    You can make pottery stamp from ceramic clay but polymer is so much easier!   Since polymer does not shrink, you know how big to make the design.  Plus you can cure the polymer much more quickly than you can fire ceramic stamps.  And they don’t break when you drop them on the floor.  And you can use scrap clay!  All you need to do is roll sheets of clay on the thickest pasta machine setting and then cut and stack the sheets to make a rectangle about one-inch square and two inches long.  You can make designs by carving the soft clay,  adding coils and shapes, or impressing textures into the clay.  If your clay is pretty firm, as mine was, you can put a design on each end and use the sides for more designs.  After you bake the clay, you can make more stamps with the design in reverse.  I recommend that you condition the clay well and bake the stamps for an hour.

There’s another polymer stamp making tutorial on the Ceramics Network site. And there are plenty of design ideas around the Internet.   Check out Hair of the Rabbit  And don’t forget Pinterest.

 

Beads

Porcelain beads ready for the kiln.  I can’t wait to see how they come out.

Connecting with Clayers in Connecticut

I just got back from ClayConneCTion 2018, the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild’s bi-annual retreat.   The event took place on the Connecticut College campus.  The food was great, the demos even greater and the campus was in full flower.

The birch trees outside the dorm I stayed in looked so spooky at night!

I spent some time walking around the campus which is loaded with trees and plants.  There were some new residents living behind the Crozier-Williams College Center where our workroom was located.  They were very sociable and eager to pose for pictures, unlike Boris.

HensandRoosters

Here are some more pictures of the campus.

And here is the spacious workroom.

Workroom

Two things I love about the Connecticut retreat.  1.) They allow pasta machine motors (no, I didn’t bring mine but I like the idea.) and 2.) Oven Anarchy is the order of the day.  Each person decides when her work goes in or comes out of the oven.  There are no oven monitors, no schedules, no sign-up sheets and no hassles.  And it all works very well.  Remember, anarchy does not mean no rules; it means no government.

I didn’t make much this year being distracted by a few matters including misplacing my iPad. I am due for an upgrade and everything was backed up. But Debbie from Rhode Island found it for me! Thanks!!!

MyWork

I experimented with some new bracelet shapes and hollow beads.

NewBeads

My friend and travel partner, Patty Pickup, was downright prolific.  Look at this wonderful Octopus necklace!

PattyOctopus

More of Patty’s stuff

And here are the entries in the Bottle of Hope contest.

BottlesofHope

Thanks to all the great people who planned Clay ConneCTion 2018 and kept things running flawlessly! Let’s do it again in 2020!

What A Little Paint Can Do

I’m done!  I have finished painting my bedroom and redoing my powder room.  Of course, nothing is easy in my funky little South Philly house.

HeadboARD2See the before picture here.

I bought a new fixture for the powder room sink which a friend offered to install for a dinner in return.  The faucet install, which should have taken one hour tops, took five hours and entailed trying a myriad of tools (most of which I had, believe it or not).  Why?  Because the person who first installed the sink attached the old faucet first and then nailed the sink to the wall effectively blocking the gaskets that would have to be removed 28 years later to install a new faucet.  After trying a number of things, Mike ended up chipping off the old gaskets v-e-r-y carefully with a chisel and a rubber mallet.  headboardEveryone was starving by the time we sat down to dinner.   The homemade crab and scallop pasta was good but the flourless chocolate cake almost made up for the funky faucet install.  Get the recipe here.

The walls are not straight in my bedroom and you feel like you are working on a ship in a storm as you are cutting in the paint line near the ceiling.  At least I did.

 

But at least I didn’t hit the ceiling fan with my paint pole.  That was my biggest fear.
Chiffarobe

I decided to try some decorative painting on our ultra cheap and wobbly closet doors.

 

Mirror

I think the broken mirror mirror looks better on the newly-gray walls.      Before

 

Windows

I painted the decorative frames around the windows silver with black accents.  They had been gold.

I think the gray paint sets off my husband’s night table nicely, too.

                    Camillerelaxing

I will post pictures from the powder room redo in the fullness of time.  But for now, I gotta get packing.  I’m heading to  ClayConnection2018 later this week.

Wiggling and Faceting: More DIY Pottery Tools

I’m taking a throwing class at The Clay Studio this summer with a wonderful teacher.    At our last class, we learned how to throw faceted pots.  Read more about faceted pots here.

FacetedPots

Some examples of faceted pots we saw in class

Then the teacher showed us a faceting tool with a wiggle wire instead of a straight wire.  It left interesting patterns when it was dragged across the clay to cut facets, and there are a number of ways you can drag the wiggle wire through the clay to decorate your pot. Take a look at some examples here.

I have always liked the look of mugs that were cut off the wheel with wiggle wires, but I never invested in a tool to do it.  That and the faceting tool got me to thinking.  Why not make myself some wiggle wire tools?  And that’s what I did.

 

I made a cut-off tool first.  I had an old straight wire cut-off tool that was a bit frayed.   I simply coiled the wire around a mandrel and it kept its shape when I removed the mandrel.

 

If you don’t have a spare cut-off tool, you might try coiling stainless steel wire which is more difficult to do and not as flexible, but if you coil a long enough piece, it should work.  I would recommend a 22 gauge or so wire. Crafting and similar type wires are probably too soft and liable to rust.   Attach the ends to washers or dowels and voila!  a wiggle wire cut-off tool.

For the faceting tool you will need a piece of wood about the size of a small pocket comb, say four or five inches long and an inch or so wide.   I cut off part of a paint stirrer that was thick enough to accommodate screws but I would recommend a sturdier wood for a better tool.

I  drilled holes to accommodate two flat-head screws and two holes on each side for the screw eyes.

I coiled some 22 gauge stainless steel wire around a mandrel.  I recommend that you secure the mandrel and wire in a vise before winding.  It will make the job much easier.

 

 

Insert the hardware.  You might want to add a drop of wood or epoxy glue in the screw hole if you are using a soft wood.

Uncoil the wire.  It will be stiff.   Make several wraps around the screw eye and feed a straight section through the slot in the nearest screw. You might have to straighten out a bit of the wire with flat pliers to do this. The picture shows you how you should have your screw angled and why a Phillips head screw won’t work.

Stretch the wire over to the next screw and make sure it fits into the screw slot before winding the rest around the other screw eye.  Be careful when you cut this wire because it is stiff and can go flying.  You can tighten the wire by turning the screw eyes.

 

You can also try pulling out springs you might have around the house and using them to facet pots.  But I think the tool would give you more control.

Two more tools to add to my vast and growing collection!     Here’s a video showing how to put facets on a pot with a wiggle wire.