An Antidote to Fear

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Some years ago, I decided to interview any elderly relative who would share family stories with me.  I planned to tape and transcribe the conversations for the rest of the family.

Those who agreed to talk to me told me stories of  wars, epidemics, natural disasters, and the early  deaths of their children.   (And no, they weren’t used to that in the old days any more than we are now.) They told me their stories and recounted stories they heard from their  parents, and from their grandparents. They talked for hours, and I wrote everything down.

I was surprised by what I took away.  I discovered that I had taken so much for granted about the lives of other people.

For the first time,  I got a real sense of  the anguish that historical events could cause when they played out in the lives of real people.   I got a sense of the despair an Uncle felt as he  recounted stories of growing up as a teenager during the Depression,   I had never thought about the mantle of uncertainty he lived under-how he felt his life was on hold because he had no prospects- and how nobody around him knew when or even if  the Depression would  end,  because nothing like it had ever happened before.

And in my extended conversations  with my Mother  about her family’s daily life during the Second World War,  I got a kind of understanding of the fear and anxiety she lived with every day because no one knew how things would play out.

None one bit of this had occurred to me when I studied these things in school.  There was no suspense; we already knew how the Depression and World War 2 would end.  But it was different living through it.  Which brings me to the present.  Because this is where we are now.

Every day, I see draconian pandemic  headlines in the newspaper and online that are  geared to alarm people and gain readers, not to inform.   We don’t need toxic nonsense like this in our lives.  It’s  useless. As  Neils Bohr  said, “prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”     But we humans have a deep-seated need to fill in the blanks.  We have a hard time with uncertainty.   Where does that leave us?

When the world seems enigmatic, it helps to be  pragmatic.  And creative.  Theodore Roosevelt said   “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” 

If ever there was a time for creative thinking, it is now.   And people are creating.    Dyson is making ventilators.  Hospitals are developing ways to reuse N95 masks. There are many more examples.  Like this one.

The innovators, the makers and the creative thinkers will help us to get through this.  Creativity, coupled with effective leadership, and a rejection of ego-driven solutions are the best hope we have.  Of course no one knows how this is going to play out.  Don’t listen to those who claim to know and don’t forget to embrace your creative side.

Some more practical stuff:

Life coach and fellow creative Phyllis Mufson, @phyllismufson, recommends this article on health insurance for the newly-unemployed.

Here is another pattern for a face mask that has just four seams and no bias tape. Easy Sew Face Mask

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

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:

 

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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.
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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.

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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.

 

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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.