My Studio Then and Now

Libby Mills ran a series on her blog a few years ago called Studio Snapshot and she was kind enough to feature my workspace in one of her posts.  I thought it would be fun to do a then and now post of my space.

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Then
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Now

A little neater. now, don’t you think?  I have to confess that one of the reasons it’s so orderly is because I am not in the middle of any projects now, because I am recovering from hand surgery and because I have been cleaning.   Our boiler and water heater entered into a mutual suicide pact last week which necessitated replacing them both with this new gizmo.  Which necessitated drilling through the foundation.  Which created lots of dust.

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The New Gizmo

New Gizmo does not need to use the chimney as it is vented out the side of the house, and the workshop is so clean is because I have been steam cleaning the fine layer of dust off of everything.

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Chimney opening

This means I can move my kiln and my polymer oven to the back basement, install a ventilation system  like this one that will blow out the chimney, and gain some space in the front basement.    I do not plan to add anything else to the front basement because I like the idea of having more room to stretch,  something I did not always have. But I will have to have some electrical work done in the back so I can run my kiln, oven, and ventilation system there.  I haven’t done any lamp working for a few years but I have worked with bronze metal clay, porcelain clay, and have done some glass fusing.

 

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Pretty Cluttered

I have donated all but my very favorite beads ( which leaves quite a lot of them) and have installed new lighting in the work space.  And I have gotten rid of a TON of supples, paints, fabric, glues, found objects, old tools, metal and more to good homes.

I replaced all my old furniture with Ikea Helmer cabinets and Linmon table tops  When I like about this is when you want to move supplies, you can simply switch drawers. Everything fits! And everything’s on wheels which makes it doubly convenient.  You can move things around without a lot of fuss.

 

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I still have my old watchmaking bench but I use it for display and to hold supplies

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When your space is as small as mine, something has to go every time you bring something new in.  I snagged this cabinet for $5.00 at a house sale.  I am still deciding what to toss.

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I don’t think I will ever have enough hammers though.

 

Home Organizing Tips and My Old Camera

I spent today cleaning out old paperwork and files that were taking up precious space in my small home.   I work fast.  I am not one to get sentimental about old tax returns or even the copy of my marriage license that I found buried in a file.  And I didn’t find any pictures to take me back to my (not so) wild youth.  No cat pictures either (except a blurry Polaroid of my Bridge Kitty Pooky sitting by our old rowing machine.  I don’t know why I kept it.)

I have learned some things about home organization in the past few weeks.  Tools, boxes and bags that are supposed to help you stay organized are no good if they have nooks and crannies where things can hide.  That’s why I spent three years wondering where my miter  vise and  the wedge to my ring clamp were hiding.   They were under my nose the whole time, secreted in one of these.  And some things are so big (I tossed this behemoth after I had emptied it) that it’s easer to store  the things they contain in a drawer and have done with it.  Enough of that.

My cleaning out trip down memory lane didn’t stall due to sentimentality  until I stumbled on my first digital camera hidden on a shelf behind some books.  (Fortunately  for me, I was almost finished purging, so the discovery didn’t derail  my good intentions.)

My first digital camera  was a  Fuji Fine Pix 2800   It only had 2 megapixels but it also had 6X optical zoom which was unheard of for a budget camera in those days (2002). And it took beautiful pictures although the files were small and not really suitable for print media.

Here are some of the pictures I found on the huge  Smart Media  cards used with the camera:

 

AfrBeads1

GlassBeads

 

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ClaspMakingBeadSwapBarcelona Cat

I took some new pictures of a project I am working out to see if  the camera still functioned:

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I would keep the camera for web-based photography, but I  like the flexibility that larger files give.  So, I will erase all the media cards, find a spare card reader (the big media cards won’t fit into a standard computer slot) and donate the camera to a thrift shop.

 

Bye old friend!

Making a Box

Continue reading “Making a Box”

Beyond The Words: Robin Hiteshew’s Portraits of Irish Writers

 

It was 1989 and my friend Robin Hiteshew asked if I wanted to attend a poetry reading by Seamus Heaney at Swarthmore College.  I was familiar enough Heaney’s work to jump at the chance.  Later I got to meet him, but was too shy to do anything but mumble and shake his hand.

 

 

Thirty years later, at the opening of his show, “Portraits of Irish Writers” Robin compared  a photo portrait of Heaney he took during that visit to Swarthmore with one he took almost a decade later in Cambridge where Heaney was teaching at Harvard.  In the first photo,  a slightly disheveled Heaney struck a casual pose under a tree on the Swarthmore campus.  In the second picture, Heaney was wearing a tailored jacket  “Look,” said Robin pointing to the first picture, “his trousers are rolled.  That’s before he won the Nobel prize and the game got more serious.”

Robin Hiteshew has been photographing Irish writers (and musicians) for more than forty years and it has been a labor of love.  His portraits are personal and revealing in a way that is truly beyond the words.   And he has a story to go with each one.

Robin’s new show, “Beyond the Words: Portraits of Irish Writers” will run until June 26 at the McNichol Gallery which is located in the Thomas A. Bruder, Jr. Life Center at  Neumann University. Admission is free.  For directions, press here.

 

In My Workshop Right Now (as of Yesterday)

Colored porcelain jewelry elements waiting to be bisque fired.

 

Experimenting with different textures.

 

 

Colored porcelain pinch pots.

 

The cracks can stay

 

I work on fabric or canvas

The polymer side of the table

 

Making fish (taught by Amy Sutryn at May meeting of Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild)

 

One lazy Bluefish

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.

My True Colors

I’ve decided that it’s time to redo my powder room and master bedroom.  I’ve been wanting to paint the bedroom for a while while but could not decide on the paint color.  I  finally settled on Special Gray by Sherwin Williams.  I needed something that went with the purple headboard  I painted on the wall years ago.  People thought I was insane to paint a headboard on my wall back then.  Now, I am happy to say,  the Internet is loaded with images and ideas for painting a headboard on the wall.   Those who came to scoff stayed to paint.

I have started prepping the powder room for painting.  I’ve selected Positive Red for the walls and Gulfstream for the trim and the funky ornate framed mirror that I found at a thrift shop.  I’ll post pictures if I ever finish.  In the meantime, here are some pictures of some unconventional paint jobs in my house.

 

headboard

 

My insanity is not limited to headboards.    I went through a funky painted furniture stage.  This is my husband’s nightstand.  He said he quit drinking because he was afraid of waking up one morning with a hangover and seeing it first thing.

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And this is the broken mirror mirror that goes with it.

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These are some shots of the upstairs hallway.   I made the built-in bookcase on the left  from an old wooden ladder and paneling.    Necessity is a mother.

This is the kitchen door and the third floor dormer.  I painted clouds on the dormer walls because it’s the highest room in the house.

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This is the front door.  Yes, that’s a picture frame in the right hand corner. Here’s the story behind that:   My husband  threw a shoe at the door during a rather heated discussion we were having.  The shoe left the perfect image of a shoe on the then white door. We ceased our donnybrook to admire the image. Better than a marriage counselor.  When I painted the door, I put a frame around the image and dated it to preserve the memory.  My Stepson noted that the image resembles George Bernard Shaw from a certain angle.  And so it does.

 

These images show a counter that I tiled and a wall of empty frames in the living room.  The counter mosaic consists of cut up scrap stained glass, broken dishes, and pottery.  Most of the frames are street finds or flea market purchases.

Boris

Boris  likes to hang out in the hallway so I guess he approves.

Rings For Friends

I used to love to bake.  I would try any recipe-the harder the better-and was generally successful.  But learning how to make petit fours was difficult.  Not the baking so much as the assembly and decoration.  Each little cake was a project in itself and if I  had an exposed cake crumb or a blob of icing, the cake was no good and had to be discarded.  Or fed to a friend who would sit happily in my parent’s kitchen (this was while I was in high school) and gobble down whatever rejects came his way.  And still managed to maintain his girlish figure, I might add.

Nowadays I am learning how to make rings and set stones.  One good thing about learning how to make rings is that they’re small.  You can make a ring a day for a month and still fit them in a small box.  (Not so when you are learning how to throw pots.)  Another good thing about making a lot of rings is that you can give them to friends.  Oh, I know, people ask me why I don’t sell them.  As if all I’d have to do was open up an Etsy store and the orders would come flooding in.  And then I’d have to make them.  I’m not sure I want to go that route.

Making rings is fun and designing them is fun and giving them to my friends is fun.  Here are some pictures of rings I have given away and some that have been promised to adoptive fingers:

Chalcedony and sterling silver.  I am having fun with twisted wire shanks, too.

I  made three of these rings and still have to give two of them to their new owners.  The stone, an Amazonite, is actually a bead that I  set to look like a cabochon.

Knot

Here are three love knot rings.  The one in the middle is the one destined for a friend’s finger.  It’s made of 16 gauge sterling wire.  The one on the right is 14 gauge sterling and it’s really too thick for this design.  The one on the left is 18 gauge white brass and a little too delicate for my taste.

This is my split-shank “Sword in the Stone” Plume Agate.  Why Sword in the Stone?  Because I didn’t think it would ever fit anyone, but it fits my friend, Sherman, beautifully.  And so it is his when next I see him.  I should have given it to him when he first tried it on, but we were going to wait and do a trade.  We probably still will, but it is his in any case.  Hear that Sherman?

Return to Thorpe Abbotts

My Father served in the 100th Bomb Group during the Second World War and was stationed at an airfield in Thorpe Abbotts, England.   After he completed 35 missions, the Army shipped him to a hospital where he learned how to talk again.   Then he started his life over.

He never wanted to return to Thorpe Abbotts and I can’t say I blame him. But I had always wanted to visit the place that must have changed him so much.  I finally got to visit Thorpe Abbotts on my last trip to England.  And I felt closer to him than I have ever been.  Strange that it took a visit to such a far away place to feel this way.  I made the  journey for me, but I had returned for him.

 I caught a train from London at Liverpool Street Station on the Norfolk line and traveled to Diss, the station closest to Thorpe Abbotts.  A few years ago, I found a stub a train ticket stub for a London to Diss journey in my Father’s old wallet among some family papers.  He had taken the same route from Liverpool Street Station when he returned to Thorpe Abbotts after a leave in London in March of 1944.  

Thorpe Abbotts is a country village surrounded by millions of acres of farmland near the east coast of England.  A perfect place for an airbase and there were many  of them up and down the English coast.  Before World War Two, Thorpe Abbots had a population of about 40.  When the airbase opened,  the Americans station there increased the population  to 3,500.

Now it is a quiet village again and the rich and valuable farmland  has been given back to the farmers to grow crops.  

Here are some pictures:

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09.UniformsandJackets10.ViewfromControlTower1944

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06.OldRunway05.ModelofBase203.InsideControlTower02.FlakJacket

01.FieldsAroungTA

08.ThorpeAbbottsRoad

The tall structure on the left side of the road is All Saint’s Church.  Some members of the 100th Bomb Group were married there.  Many more had funeral services there.

If you are in the area, try to visit Thorpe Abbotts and the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum,  started in 1977 by the locals.

 

(Some of) What I Made (Last) Year

Made in the pottery studio, that is.  I experimented with hand-built forms, screen printing and  textures, and made glazed ceramic beads for the first time.

 

 

 

But now it’s next year and I am off in new directions.  I think I’m finally finding my way. I will post pictures of my newer work soon.