Clay Cutter Magic from the Mind of Robin Milne

This has been another one hell of a week. I won’t go into details, but humor always helps. As I opened up the web browser on my newly-repaired computer to write this post, one of those real provocative headlines you see on the Internet shot across the screen. You know the kind I’m talking about: Stuff like “If You Have One of These in Your Kitchen, There’s a Ninety Percent Chance You Are a Narcissist,” or “The Ten Things Your Dog Does Not Want You to Know,” or “Scientists are Begging Seniors to Wash This One Body Part.” The headline that I saw was “Seven Things You Should Never Do With a Magic Eraser.” Only seven? I can think of lots more.

Let’s see, you should never insert a Magic Eraser into your Blue Ray drive. You should never give a Magic Eraser to a panhandler on the street and expect a thank you. Don’t think you can cut a pocket in a Magic Eraser and stuff it with falafel. Ok, maybe you can, but that doesn’t mean you should. And finally, (do I really need to tell you this?) don’t roll them into tubes, shove them up your nose, and go food shopping. I could list more things you should never do with a Magic Eraser, but I’ll stop here. I think you get the picture.

Besides, I digress. This week’s post is about one of my friends, Robin Milne, who I am convinced comes from a family of geniuses. Robin is a talented artist in several mediums including polymer clay. Her latest project is developing a line of 3D printed, high-quality clay cutters (although you could use them for cookies, too) . 3D printing has always intrigued me, so I asked Robin how she got into it.

Robin’s Canes

My father got me a small 3D printer 5 years ago for my birthday. One of the first things I made was a cutter in the shape of M.C. Escher’s tessellating lizard. I wanted to use that cutter to make a sample of all the polymer veneers I made and connect them all together. Once I had learned how to use the printer, I upgraded to a bigger, higher quality printer and started designing. I made a stamp with my gym’s logo to mark the attendance sheet that I had been to class. That led me to start making initial stamps for artists to mark their polymer clay pieces. A year and a half ago, I upgraded to an even better printer that can print larger items. Since then, I’ve been learning and printing and designing all kinds of things. I brought 3D prints of about 10 different cutters styles sets to Clayathon this past February and almost sold out.

“People were really happy with them and I got requests for new shapes. When I got home I stocked up again, printing as many as I could to take to the next retreat but then Covid happened. Since I can’t take the cutters to a retreat, I have been taking requests and making customs cutters and mailing them out. I have a lot more cutters I want to design and I also plan to make texture sheets and rollers. I have always loved clay tools and now I can make my own.”

The good news is that Robin opened an online shop! You can buy her beautifully designed and reasonably priced cutters , here. Support the arts and small business! Robin’s adding new designs all the time. I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Try Something Different and See What Happens

I did something different today.  I wrote a letter.  A real letter, not a card.  With a pen.  In cursive. On notepaper.  And I addressed it.  And put a stamp on it.  There’s a mail box on the corner across from my house.  I fought my fear that there were corona virus germs on the mail box handle.  I pulled  the handle down, and dropped the letter through the slot.   And then I looked across the street toward St. Paul’s church and saw this.

St. Paul'sChurch
Saint Paul’s Church, South Philadelphia

Actually, St. Peter is the one in the picture.  How do I know?  Peter’s the one with the keys to the pearly gates and I think the big book he’s holding  is where all your transgressions are recorded.  You die, you go to the pearly gates of heaven,and St. Peter meets you like a  bouncer at an exclusive night club and decides whether you get in.

How do I know all this?  Twelve years of Catholic school.  That and the fact that I had a mother who had a hard time allowing herself to relax, and enjoy something like a nice outfit or a yummy dessert without feeling guilty.  And when I got older, I would ask her, “Why tease yourself?  It’s not like there’s a prize for the person who suffers the most.  It’s not like St. Peter’s gonna meet you at the pearly gates with a ******* Kewpie doll.”

St. Paul is down at the end of the block out of camera range, and he is wearing a mask too.  And he’s holding a sword to smack the heads of passers by who might not be wearing a mask or observing proper social distancing.  Which is why I did not go down there to take his picture.  Because even though I was wearing a mask, I knew he was down there waiting to see if I would screw up.  Twelve years of Catholic school will do that.  I’m scarred for life.

Try something different and see what happens.  It just might spark your creativity.

Stay safe and well.

 

Week Three and My Hair Looks Great!

 

IMG_4352Social distancing has changed my life.  I have finally learned how to clean and operate the various remote controls scattered around my living room.   I have learned how to use less toilet paper.  I have spotless  door knobs.  I have become acquainted with Joe Exotic, and wonder whether he had to remove his body piercings and start wearing underwear when he went to prison.   I have learned that when you can’t find tofu at the neighborhood Acme or Whole Foods, that a nearby Asian supermarket will have it in stock and everyone there will be wearing face masks.

I don’t have to worry about missing a manicure, because my nails are snowy white from all the hand washing and bleach.  I  don’t have to worry about my roots growing in, because they are the same color as the rest of my hair.  And I don’t have to worry about missing a haircut because my hairdresser and I are sheltering in place together.  Here’s how that happened.

A few years ago, I sent away for a hair cutting kit,  gave it to my husband along with a sharp pair of scissors and asked him to watch a YouTube video on how to use it.  Then I asked him to cut my hair.   Why did I do this?  I knew I needed to start getting regular haircuts but did not relish the idea of scheduling trips to a hair salon.   I see my dentist as recommended and that’s about all I can manage. But quite frankly I was getting to that age where every woman must pay attention to  personal grooming lest she start to resemble Alice the Goon.  And why did I pick my husband?  Because all men who love me must suffer.

My husband is not one to embrace new experiences.  He does not run from them so much as sidestep toward them kicking and screaming with one eye closed and his arms waving frantically.   But for some reason known only to him,  he watched the video then cut my hair.  And  he did a great job!  I was still working at the time and my office colleagues loved my new look.   When they asked me who cut my hair, I replied, “Mr. Ken.”  When they asked for his number, I said it was the same as mine.

So if you are fretting about your hair, hand your significant other a pair of scissors and have at it.  This coronavirus thing is not going away any time soon, so if your partner screws up your hair, you will have one more reason to stay inside.   And support  your hairdresser when this is over.   They will need your business more than ever.   Check out this link for more information.

 

Mr. Ken recommended this video.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Greek Tragedy

I went to the hand doctor today. I can’t believe it’s been more than two months since they rebuilt my thumb joint. I am progressing nicely and should be back to throwing pots by February. Which is good because I pretty much sold all of the pottery I brought to Handmade for the Holidays, and a nice amount of the jewelry too.

So I haven’t been doing too much making lately. I am hoping that will change soon.

I leave you with a story.

I walked into the living room where my husband was watching a movie called Troy the Odyssey. I noticed the cheap vinyl piping on the actors’ costumes that was supposed to pass for Greek warrior gear. I commented that it must not be a very good movie.

My husband replied that the movie was so tragically bad that it could only have been written by Sophocles.

“Sophocles?” I asked, Didn’t he write plays? ”

“He wrote Oedipus,” my husband responded.

“And Antigone,” I added, remembering my Greek tragedies.

“He did write Antigone,” my husband informed me. And the great tragedy there was that she never wrote back.”

Cats and Cookery Happy Thanksgiving

Who knew cats could cook?  Not that Boris cooks.  He expects to be waited on and is the type of cat who would have all the best take out places on speed dial if we let him have a phone.  Which we don’t for obvious reasons.

But our bridge kitty Plumpton was quite a cook .  In fact, one of this recipes was published.Feline-Lcookbookcover

Here is the recipe

Plumpton'ssalad

I have never tried it and never made it for Boris.  Even though I have an adventurous palate, I find some of the ingredients, well, a little off-putting.

We will not be making a turkey tomorrow because we will be delivering a cookbook to Boris’s penpals with whom we will be spending the day.   Here he is posing with the cookbook.

On this Thanksgiving, Boris is thankful for friends, (especially his young penpals),  for a safe and cozy home, and people who love him (even if we don’t feed him as often as he would like).   What are you thankful for?

 

Boris Dream of Drumsticks

Boris (dreaming of drumsticks) wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving,

Going to Pittsburgh

They are busy awarding Nobel Prizes this week.  And I know I will never get one.  Why?  Because, as my doctor informed me today, the hand surgery  I had  a week ago was major hand surgery.  And yet tomorrow I leave for the Pittsburgh Polymer Clay Guild’s retreat.

I will not be bringing any clay.  I will be bringing a bottle of Jim Beam because I have stopped taking my prescription pain killers and I need some other way to console myself.  I will also be taking my Delicas and working on my geometric beadwork.

I was born left handed and still do many things left handed.  I am not ambidextrous.  I am merely mixed up.  I can bead left handed and I started doing it when the whole flare up that led to the surgery started.  I recently learned that while I can’t saw a straight line in metal with my right hand, I can do it with my left.  Go figure.

Boris inspects my sling

This is Boris rooting around in my arm sling for a treat I threw in there.  I had a notion that I was going to make him a Cat Taco costume for Halloween.  He told me to get that thought right out of my mind and to bring more treats.

bracelet

They took out my stitches today (ouch!) and made me a thumb splint.  I told them I was leaving for Pittsburgh tomorrow.  “What for?” they asked.  “A thumb wrestling conference,” I replied.  ONLY KIDDING!  I like the way the cuff bracelet dresses up the splint.  But I had to take it off and replace it with the third padded strap that goes with the splint. ginkgo

I am not going to Pittsburgh empty handed.  This is a bronze clay ginkgo leaf pendant for the Pittsburgh Guild’s auction.

LPCNo poker chips for Left Right Center.  But I have some glass cabs and ceramic components I made awhile ago.  I think these will work.

Happy Thanksgiving!

BorissaysYum!                                       Boris wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving.

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

2
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.

9
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 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.

 

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.