How Irises Almost Led Me to a Life of Crime

I have always been a sucker for irises. They are my favorite flower. And of all the colors irises come in, my favorite is purple. Purple irises impede my judgment faster than a couple of shots of whiskey on an empty stomach. The closest analogy I can make is to people who turn stupid and gaga at the sight of a cute baby. They struggle to maintain a sense of boundaries and decency as they poke some stranger’s child and go kitchy-coo. I feel the same loss of control when I see a purple iris. I want to pluck it and take it hostage. I am an adult woman and these days, I manage to control myself when I see irises. But when I saw the riot of purple irises you see below during a recent walk in Philadelphia, I was taken back to my youth and recalled the time I did something that could have gone terribly wrong.

I was attending a small college in central Pennsylvania. My dormitory was next to a ramshackle wooden house with a detached garage that was not part of the college. A fence surrounded the house which had a small yard and garden. I never paid much attention to it.

But one day when I was coming back from class, there they were. The irises. Purple irises, bales and bales of them growing like crazy in the yard, under the fence and fairly stuffed into a narrow strip of ground between the fence and the sidewalk. Hundreds and hundreds of irises. I had never seen so many irises. I was gobsmacked.

I decided right then and there to liberate some of the irises. But not in the light of day-no I didn’t dare. I didn’t want to hear the disdainful clucks of any townies or my fellow students who, I felt, were so judgmental and so conservative that they ironed creases in their jeans. So I hatched a plan. I set my alarm to wake me at 5:00 am on a Sunday morning when I figured most people would be sleeping. I threw a coat on over my pajamas and crept out of my dormitory with a pair of sharp scissors, a flashlight, and a paper grocery bag. I made my way down the road and crept behind the garage where the irises where growing profusely. I knelt down and began to saw away with my scissors.

“Do you go to college here?” I heard a voice behind me. My heart jumped. It was a woman’s voice and it sounded pleasant enough, but maybe she was softening me up for the kill before marching me off to the Dean’s office where she would tell the Dean, in a shrieking and not so pleasant voice this time, what I had done. Then the Dean would call my parents. I had visions of drama. Much drama. The kind of drama only my parents were capable of. Followed by my father having a fit of apoplexy and exploding into little bits (which he never did) or screaming and threatening to write me out of his will (which he did all the time.)

I decided to play it cool, and took a deep breath. “Yes, ” I replied trying to sound as innocent as I could, trying to sound like secreting myself behind an old garage dressed in a coat and pajamas, and cutting some stranger’s flowers and shoving them into a grocery sack as fast as I could at 5:00 am on a Sunday morning was a normal activity for a college student.

I looked up and she was holding some small magazines fanned out like a deck of cards. “Would you like one?” She asked. I didn’t dare say no. “Sure,” I replied, “I’ll take one. She pulled one out and handed it to me. When I saw the name of the magazine, I knew I was home free. There would be no visit to the Dean’s office and no drama.

“I’ve heard of The Watchtower,” I said, “but I never read one. I’ll take a look at this. Thanks.”

“Do you think any of your classmates would be interested?” she asked, pressing the rest of the magazines into my hand. “They might be, ” I replied, “I can put these in the student union lounge.””Thank you, she replied, “and have a blessed day.

I returned to my room, and put my purloined irises into a jar. I can’t remember if I put the magazines in the student union building. I probably did, after my heart stopped pounding. But that is the last time I ever helped myself to anyone else’s flowers. Not that I haven’t been tempted.

Beading from Wolf Hall

I’ve been doing a lot of reading during the Pandemic.  I’m currently working my way through Wolf Hall  by Hilary Mantel, a book I heartily recommend. It takes place during the reign of Henry VIII and focuses on the life and career of Thomas Cromwell, one of his closest advisors.   I’ve written before how I find distasteful (!) many of the aspects of the Elizabethan world. (Although I am also working on family genealogy and learning a little about what life was like for some of my ancestors who lived through it.)  Let’s just say that religious fanaticism is nothing new and leave it at that.

I’ve gotten to the part in the book where Anne Boleyn becomes queen.  The book concentrates more on the history and personalities and does not contain detailed descriptions  of clothing and jewelry.  Still, there are some and it got me to thinking and I pulled out some of my unfinished bead design projects.  I was trying to design a necklace as a surprise afor a person (who I considered a part of my funky extended family) who loved Renaissance Fairs and was also into beading.  But she died unexpectedly and I put the project on mothballs.

Maybe I’ll take it up again.  Many of the pieces use cubic right angle weave, a stitch that was very hot at the time.  I also love cross-weave beading (right angle weave is but one form of this)  and was experimenting with that stitch as well.  Here are some pictures. Rest easy Wendy and thanks for inspiring me.

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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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.