Boris wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Here is the flour. What you don’t see is all the[expletive deleted] flour around my kitchen.
Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven,. Well, almost nothing.
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!
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.”
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.
Powder room redo would have been a more conventional title for this post, but what fun is that?My 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.
You 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.
I bought the mirror at a thrift store and painted it. I already had a great mirror but I wanted a change.
I relocated the other mirror to the opposite wall next to the toilet and
installed 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.)
I 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.
I 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.
I 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.
A friend graciously installed the new faucet which weighs about as much as the sink. You can read about that drama in this post.
I 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.
The fish used to be in the kitchen; now he is in the powder room.
My 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.
The rear window. Redrum.
This has been a frustrating week. Pictures have disappeared from my hard drive. MS Word has chosen to save parts of documents and not others. I spent time circling the gas pumps trying to figure out how to get the fuel tank on the rental car to the correct side to pump gas. And what do you call it when you’re about to finish sewing something, prick your finger with the needle, and bleed on the fabric? (It’s a good thing I know the cold water dab don’t rub trick.) At this point, I could write a book entitled Tips and Tricks for Idiots. And to top it off, I have to start brushing Boris’s teeth. Oh, the humanity.
Which brings me to the matter of the vent. My studio is in my basement and I would like to be able to solder and make glass beads in the winter time. But the ventilation is not so good with all the windows shut. So I decided to get me some ventilation. I first asked my plumber who was doing some work on my house and he proposed something that was expensive and more like the kind of ventilation you would need in a dairy barn with 500 lactating cows. Except that I love my plumber (how many of you can say that?) And maybe it was my fault. Maybe I asked for too much. I have a habit of doing that to men. Just ask my husband. Or my plumber.
Plan B-YouTube. Mymy there are a lot of YouTubers out there growing vegetables. And flowers. In tents, There is a lot of information on how to ventilate your <cough, cough> crops. If you don’t like gardening, jeweler Nancy Hamilton has a good tute on how to set up a fume extractor system for jewelry soldering here. There are also a lot of instructive images on that famous time sucker, Pinterest. Very few how-tos, though. I didn’t know how to connect duct work or how to install an in-line fan. But when has a lack of knowledge ever stopped me? I got married, didn’t I?
Here’s what I did. But first, allow me to vent. Will you look at this window? It’s 14 X 6. Whoever heard of a window like that except in South Philly? It’s probably the only one in the world. I needed to cut something to fit said window, and then cut a 4 inch circle out of that to put the dryer hose through. I grabbed an old plastic storage container, cut it to size, made the hole, got a vent collar at Home Depot and I had my hole to the outside.
I needed an inline fan with a speed controller that was not too noisy. I ordered this from Amazon waited two weeks for it and then they cancelled my order and gave the option to reorder. Wha? I asked them, how about you give me free overnight delivery and I order it again. They said yes and it came the next day.
Now, I don’t know the numbskull who designs these things, but there was no room for a drill or screwdriver to allow me to attach it to the wall. So I had to brace a couple of stud scraps, run the screws through backwards, fasten the stud to the wall and fasten the fan to the stud with nuts. Nuts I to that say.
While I am venting, I learned that the adjustable clamps are next to useless for attaching duct reducers to the fan or ducks to ducts. Or ducts to ducks or ducts to ducts. But I learned (through thorough research those indoor gardeners know everything!) about self tapping machine screws. Except mine would not self tap. They were probably worried about going blind. Do you even get that joke? I ended up making the holes for them and all was well.
The speed controller which is also the on-off switch is off to the side.
Here is the completed venting system. I put a blast gate on the other side of the T duct because I might want to extend the system. I then have to put another blast gate on the bottom of the T duct to close it off. That project comes under the heading of maybe later or maybe never. My favorite part of the system is the hood with is a trash-picked wok cover that I cut a hole in. I got the rest of the stuff from Amazon and Home Depot.
How does it work? Look at the picture. I’m happy. All the parts even with my mistakes cost about $100.00.
This has been a good week for spinning my wheels, losing things and taking forever to get things done. I will not bore you with the sordid details.
I had the good fortune to visit Edinburgh, Scotland recently and took hundreds and hundreds of pictures. I decided to skip the scenic travel pictures and share the more unconventional ones ones with you.
My husband, apparently encountering a clown on his way to a circus dress rehearsal.
It’s no stranger than an English sign in China, but the juxtaposition of “Tartan Weaving Mill” caught my eye.
What us this world welcoming us into?
A new world disorder?
We can meet at the pub at The World’s End
And if the Zombies find us.
We can escape to Edinburgh Castle
I am in the process of tearing my studio apart and doing a major purge in preparation for replacing my kiln. I have had a Jen-Ken Bead Annealer for years and have used it for bead annealing and glass fusing. I have been very happy with it. A few years ago, I got a great deal on a programmable remote controller to go with the kiln. And then I started to use the kiln to fire copper clay which necessitated resetting the controller to handle metal firing schedules which go to a higher temperature than glass. So my kiln will now reach a maximum of 2000 F which is suitable for low fire ceramic clays. (cone 04)
Except I love porcelain and stoneware which fire at cone 6. (Some porcelain fires at cone 10 but I am interested in working at cone 6. ). My work space is relatively small but I do a lot of things in it including sewing, polymer, beading, lamp working, fusing, mixed media and metal smithing. I have a couple of enameling kilns that I don’t use that often but that I want to hold onto.
So now that I have done a major purge and rearrangement, I plan to install ventilation for soldering and lamp working and for a new kiln so I can do luster firing and cone 6 firing. And I have to figure how to either sell the old kiln or trade it towards a new model. We’ll see
In the meantime, I really wanted to show you some of the new pottery I’ve been working on. But WordPress is buggy tonight (as it sometimes is-hey I love WordPress but sometimes it’s buggy!)
Instead of uploading pictures of eight different pieces, I have managed to upload one picture eight times. I am utterly baffled at how things like this can happen. This is the second time I have tried to upload the pictures with the same mystifying result. My friend Toni would say that Mercury is in retrograde. But in retrograde in my computer?
I hope you enjoy my picture. 🙂
A dear friend died in May, 2010. He was so supportive when his close friend and our friend Ray died and during Shari’s illness and death soon after. The fact that he died so soon after they did seems surreal. But he loved to laugh and he loved the outdoors. He took to the Appalachian Trail in Spring of 2009. He sent out the pictures you see here when he returned.
There remains the matter of the skunk. Before he died, he gave me permission to post the video (see below) on this blog, provided that I identified him by his stage name, Raoul McCool. He sent out the video to friends who knew his secret identity with this note:
“Please recall that, among the photographs of his Appalachian Trail hike that he sent to you in May , were several that clearly showed [Raoul] in close conversation with a small black and white striped creature that many of you correctly identified as a skunk. Unfortunately, [Raoul] was profoundly saddened to learn that some of you expressed doubt as to the authenticity of the said skunk. Some of you went so far as to opine audaciously that the said skunk was, in fact, a stuffed skunk that [Raoul] had carried with him for some 50 treacherous miles over the mountains. Some of you even stated that you would not be convinced of [Raoul’s] near supernatural ability to psychically commune with our little tuxedoed terrorists of the terai unless you saw a video of him conversing with an real independently moving skunk.
Well, you nattering nabobs of negativity. Cast your doubting eyes upon the attached video file, oh ye of little faith, and thence go forth and doubt no more.” -Raoul McCool
Goodbye Raoul. You were a good friend and you made us laugh. We will all miss you terribly. Especially the skunk.