Try Something New

Autumn is upon us (although we keep regressing back to Summer in Philadelphia).  Time to try something new!  I sold my beloved kiln and controller that I used for bead annealing, fusing glass and, most recently, metal clay.  I want to upgrade to a kiln that can handle cone 6 firing so I can work with porcelain on a regular basis.  Here are some new baubles I’m currently working on.  Cone 6 white porcelain and Mason stains, unglazed.

YouTube videos

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The same, with a cold finish
Five Star Bronze Clay Torch Fired

I wrote a  review of Prometheus Clay while back.  This time I tried Five Star Bronze Clay which is also torch fireable.  And I can say that Prometheus clay wins hands down, at least for torch firing.  I find Prometheus easier to condition, easier to work with and I got more consistent results with the torch.  I have not tried kiln firing with 5 Star Bronze yet.  I’ll let you know the results when I do.   But the BIG story is that I am now making my own bronze clay.  I saw Alan Wiggens’ YouTube videos on the subject and decided to give it a try.  I read about metallurgy to get an understanding of the sintering process so I could find the best deal on a powdered bronze that would work.  Preliminary torch fire tests have been successful!  Not in making a finished product, but in making metal that I can pound out with a hammer.    I am eager to test my homemade clay in a kiln which is how Alan Wiggens recommends firing it.    Stay tuned.

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Bronze clay ready for my future kiln.  The lighter clay is my homemade clay.  The darker clay is Five Star Bronze.

My mother made bread every week when I was growing up so the process is no mystery to me.   I generally throw flour into a bowl,  add yeast and some honey and sugar to feed the yeast and park it under the kitchen tap and turn on the water.  No measuring, no recipe.  And no salt.

I have a friend who says that the flour and bread we buy in the United States is stale and a bit moldy and that is the reason most (not all) people have a problem with gluten.  (I have another friend who gets sick every time she eats pasta in the U.S. but can eat all the bread an pasta she wants when she goes to Italy).   So I decided to grind my own flour.  I got a grinding mill and 40 lbs of wheat berries.  Grinding your own flour is not cheaper than buying it, although there are wheat berry bargains to be had.  And the process is labor intensive.  First, you have to drag the 40 lb bucket into the house.  Then you have an argument with your husband about where to set up the mill.   Then you and your husband have to watch an [expletive deleted] video to figure out how to get the [expletive deleted]  lid off of the [expletive deleted] bucket of [expletive deleted] wheat berries.

Bread1

Next comes the grinding.  After hand cranking the wheat berries,  we learned why we refer to arduous tasks as a “grind.” (Or maybe he knew already.  He has a Ph.D. in English Literature).

Bread2

Here is the flour.  What you don’t see is all the[expletive deleted] flour around my kitchen.

Bread4

Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven,. Well, almost nothing.

Bread3

BreadMill

And in the spirit of trying something new,  let me introduce you to our new motor for the grain mill.  It makes a sound like squealing pigs on steroids, but it does the job.  And the towel is to keep down the flour dust.

Now, on to trying the autolyze process.

On a final note, even Boris is trying something new.  He is off the Prescription Diet and is now eating a new, almost as expensive Hills Science cat food.  And he likes it!

Boris8748

 

Say It with Beaded Flowers

This week, more work from Beading Yoda.  Lovely beaded flowers.

 

Colorful Herringbone

 

And bracelets inspired by Contemporary Geometric Beadwork.

 

I’ve started beading again after a long absence.  I dug out my Delicas and treated myself to copies of  Kate McKinnon’s Contemporary Geometric Beadwork, Vol. I and II.  Then a friend gave me a copy of Jean Power’s  Contemporary Geometric Beadwork Volume 2.  I’ll have plenty to keep me busy.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

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

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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!