I Think the First One’s a Chicken

 I have posted before about the work of Isaiah Zagar’s walls and his Magic Garden.  You don’t always have the good fortune to see a work in progress but that’s what happened to me during a walk in my neighborhood.    I stumbled on what appears to be the latest installation in the neighborhood.

Here’s a photo of a work around the corner to give you a general idea of Zagar’s work.  You can never tell how something like this will turn out though.  It looks like a few of the pictures might be portraits including one of the artist, and I think one of the figures in the first picture is a chicken.  Will it remain a chicken?  I will post pictures of the finished wall when its done

Enjoy this cool video

Metal Lentils

Here’s a pair of earrings I made this Summer.  First I etched some copper sheet with a Japanese wave pattern and then I cut out  four 1 1/2 inch circles to make disks.

I filed the edges of disks so they were all even,  put holes in the center of each one with hole punch pliers  and dapped a gentle curve into the disks with a wood dapping block.

I sanded the bottom of each disk in preparation for soldering.  The edges had to meet all the way around with no gaps.

Getting a bottom half ready for soldering.  I have pickled and fluxed the discs and am using medium solder.  I like to flash my flux with the flame to dry it out before laying the solder because then the solder doesn’t skitter around because the flux is bubbling.

A lentil bead ready for soldering.  You notice that I’m bit using binding wire.  I’ve never had much luck with it anyway.  Lexi Erickson (see below) suggests pinning the bead to the firebrick through the holes.  This worked beautifully for me.

After soldering before pickling and cleaning

I am learning to use less solder.  It means less cleanup!

I patinated both sides of the lentil beads with a butane torch.




I finished the earrings with brass washers that I dapped to conform to the curve of the lentil beads, and decided to use carbon steel wire to attach the earrings to the ear wires.  I like the look of mixed metals.

I recommend both of Lexi Erickson’s soldering DVDs. They are packed with useful information and common sense tips.  You can order them from Interweave’s Jewelry Making Daily Shop.

Bead Soup Simmering

Recipe for Bead Soup

The process of designing jewelry from bead soup is similar to  making a stew from ingredients you have on hand.  With both, you have to consider what ingredients will work and then let your ideas sit (let the soup simmer), wait for the flavors to blend (a cohesive design to emerge in your mind), make what adjustments you need  (check the seasoning) and serve it forth.

Here is the recipe I am  working on now.

One package of bead soup  donated by Your Beading Heart  bead store

Consider various stringing materials to see what works best.

 Black crochet cotton will provide a neutral background that won’t compete with the flavors of the soup.

Assorted seed beads from my stash picked to hi light the colors of the chips

A method for combining the bead soup ingredients into a tasty creation.  Crocheting the chips together with the seed beads will really bring out their flavor.  Since I changed the thread from white to black,  I had to re string everything and start over.  This is slow cooking bead soup style.   You don’t know how it will turn out until it’s done.

What other ingredients can I add to the bead soup to make it hearty but not overwhelming?  Here I  audition some of my lampworked beads next to the bead soup mixture.

And here is most of the bead soup crocheted with seed beads and some extra chips from my stash. I don’t cook with  work with gemstone chips that often and have never crocheted with them.  The construction of the rest of the piece will be a challenge but I think I am up to it.  I still have the great looking metal beads I want to incorporate into the blend.




  At the right point, I will correct the seasonings and serve the result.  But for now, the ingredients are simmering.  Stay tuned!

Creativity Can Be Messy

Creativity can be messy. If you don’t believe me, you probably kept your crayons in perfect condition when you were a kid, organized by color in a box that  nobody ever stepped on and crushed. Go away. I hate you.

I exhibited a creative bent early in life when I took up sculpting with strained carrots. I soon switched to mashed potatoes which I liked better because of their tactile qualities. I made a Devils Tower years before Richard Dreyfus. With gravy. They retired finger paints for the year after I had my way with them in Kindergarten. And they are still trying to scrub the chalk off the sidewalks of the neighborhood where I grew up.

As I got older I became proficiently messy in several media. Some examples:

I spilled a quart of melted wax (during my candle making phase) onto the kitchen floor. My mother kept her composure and within a month, my father built me a workbench in the basement so I could move my operations down there. I never learned what she had to do in order to get my father, a world class procrastinator, to act so quickly. I’m sure it’s better that way.

I got spray paint on the (brick) front steps of our house. My father was so upset he had an out of body experience right there in the driveway. The neighbors were amazed.

I dripped oil paint on the wood floor in my bedroom. This time my mother suffered a fit of apoplexy but we cleaned her up and got her into bed before the neighbors caught on.

As an adult, I got the prize for the messiest person in the pottery studio. My overalls were so caked with clay that if I went out for coffee, people would stop me and try to give me money

Then there is the Jackson Pollack washer.

OK, I am trying to reform. But they say that the darkest hour is always before the dawn, and I am living proof of that. Which brings me to the heart of this week’s post.

I have always wanted hardwood floors in my house, mostly because of my allergies. And now, after 22 years in my little house, I have taken the plunge and the work is in progress as I write. But things are not going swimmingly. My house is the reason. It probably dates to the 1840’s and has been rehabbed, renovated, sanded and expanded over the years. This means that there isn’t one thing in the house that’s straight. The upstairs hallway meanders like a river. The floor in my bedroom has hills and valleys. The bathtub leans to the left; the doorways are wider at the top than the bottom, and the ceilings meet the walls in random places which makes planning for floor to ceiling bookcases rather challenging. Everything is wopperjawed. Kittywompus.. You get the idea.

I have known Robin, the person I hired to install the floors for maybe thirty years. And he is creative. First, he is a photographer and a poet (a good one) in carpenter’s clothing and secondly, he has had to be an extremely innovative carpenter in order to make the hardwood happy on my floor. No, this is definitely not a job for a technician. Robin could very well be to floors what Michelangelo is to ceilings. (If you saw The Agony and the Ecstasy, you know that painting the Sistine chapel was messy too.) It’s all going slowly because Robin must come up with creative solutions to coax the wood into looking like it was laid straight in a tract house and not in a fakakta South Philly house. So as the work slowly proceeds, my house is a mess. But there is a silver lining here: any housework I do at this stage of the job won’t matter. All I can do is move the dirt around. So I am off housework duty (save kitchen and bathroom) for the time being.

Here are some pictures of how things look.

Wood piled in the living room.

Debris piled high in the dining room

The meandering hallway half finished

Plumpton sleeping on Robin’s tool bag

 Plumpton is holding up well even though he has to eat in the basement for the time being.  He is an adaptable Puss.

The lesson for me  is that a hardwood floor is not quickly laid in a crooked house.  If Robin is still speaking to me after the floor is in, we’ll see how crooked things are in the kitchen.