Remember: We’re Resilient

This is the second week that I have been “sheltering in place” with Boris and my spouse (who has been doing the grocery shopping and duly sanitizing household surfaces.)  We are probably getting some things wrong, but doing our best.

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The stay home order in Philadelphia does allow residents to go outside for, among other things,  exercise so long as we observe social distancing rules.

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We’ve been having some beautiful weather here, so I’ve been trying to get out hen the weather is nice.  The streets are nearly deserted.  Most of the people we encounter are cheerful and careful to keep the prescribed distance.  Perfect for an introvert who just wants to take a walk.

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Lombard Street near dusk
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Moshulu Penn’s Landing
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Turtle, who lives in Bob’s koi pond, catching a few rays on a sunny afternoon
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Boris relaxing on his cat tree with his stuffed cat, Sweetie.
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I got a new hair cut courtesy of my husband, and made some masks in case friends or neighbors need them later on.

And now for some useful stuff.  Press here for information on sites offering longer free trial video streaming.  I’ve cut my cable, but I might actually try some of these.   I already have tried the live streaming from the Metropolitan Opera.  If you think you hate opera, try streaming one of the Met’s operas complete with subtitles.  For more information, press here. Or explore some  art museums online here.

And finally, a recommendation by my friend Olivia.   Even if you are a non-believer, this is sure to lift up your spirits.  We are nothing but resilient and need a reminder from time to  time.

Creativity in the Time of Coronavirus

WMost of us are stuck at home and the more fortunate of us are merely apprehensive or bored. Not knowing what’s going to happen is a scary, but think about it-when did we ever know what the future held?  And if we did, who among us is smart enough to know what to do with it?  With brings me to today’s question:

Should we wear face masks to protect ourselves from the coronavirus?  Here’s one point of view.  Here’s the other.   This link goes to an article that says that DIY face masks can offer protection from Coronavirus.  I am not prepared to debate this with anyone because I simply don’t know the answer.  I have resolved this question for myself with an “off label” application of Pascal’s wager.   I  know that wearing a face mask does not offer immunity or an excuse to dispense with hand washing, etc.  But if you are already taking all the precautions you can, how can it hurt?  That leaves the question of where to get face masks.  They have become a precious commodity.

I already have some N 95 respirators that I use for enameling and metalwork.  But you can’t wash them and they say to throw them away after one use.  Who knows how long the pandemic will last?  I need a better face mask option.   For me, the option is to make some face masks.  Will they offer any protection?   As you can see from the chart below,   certain materials offer more protection than others.

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I don’t have many vacuum cleaner bags, but I have many dish towels (a more accurate description would be old fashioned tea towels-a closely woven cotton fabric made for drying dishes and glass ware).  Here is a link to the kind of tea towels you would use to make face masks.  I would not use terrycloth or micro fiber.  You have to breathe while you wear the mask.

There are many sites with directions for sewing face masks.  Most of them use two or three layers of material.  The tea towel fabric is tightly woven, however, so you will have to adapt any pattern you use to make it work for you.  A single layer with a thin cotton fabric as a liner might be best.  I plan to experiment.

Here are some links if you are interested in making face masks.

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Medical Mask for cancer or COPD patient (including child’s masks)

 

Hand-sewn mask

And here is some helpful advice from Ana Belchi

 

Since I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, the CDC has changed its no face mask position.  The CDC now advises that wearing non-medical grade face masks might help to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.  For instructions on how to make a no-sew face mask, press here.

 

Fleisher Student Show 2020

SS59Fleisher Art Memorial cancelledl the closing ceremony for  its  122nd annual Student Exhibition because of the Coronavirus.  That didn’t stop me from taking pictures of some of my favorite entries.

Pottery and Ceramics

Painting

Works on Paper and Prints

Fiber Art and Mixed Media and Mosaics

SS67Sandrine Sheon won the Student Advisory Council award for her ceramic piece, Credit None, Trash Walk, 2019

This is my contribution,  Eleanor Rigby’s Secret Jar.SS63, SS60

The World According to Rina Banerjee

Colonialism. The policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically

Make Me a Summary of the World  was a 2019  PAFA  exhibition of  Rina Banerjee’s  work.  Banerjee’s paintings, mixed media sculpture and installations serve as her commentary on what she calls “the splintered experience of identity, tradition, and culture within diasporic communities.”   Banerjee’s  powerful  work seemed all the more compelling to me because it was juxtaposed  with  the more traditional Western works of art  gracing the hallowed halls of the Academy.

 

Banerjee’s  recurring themes are environmental awareness, colonialism, the perils of globalism and the “splintered experiences of identity, tradition, and culture, prevalent in diasporic communities.”

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A World Lost

A World Lost is Banerjee’s representation of how an imaginary island changed after pollution set in,the water evaporated,  the population migrated, and the wildlife became extinct.

Banerje’s sculpture is replete with found objects:  eggshells, discarded plastic,  light bulbs, shells, ornaments, doll parts, rocks, feathers, stones and anything else needed to carry the message.

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One of my favorites inspired by Banerjee’s daughter.  The background is a schematic rendering of the air duct and electrical system of the Columbia office of the CDC that the artist found in a dumpster near her studio.
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Detail

Other recurring themes include feminism, mythology and the impact of colonialism.  There was a lot to see in this exhibit and even more to think about.

For more information on Rina Banerjee and her work press here and here.

New Earrings (Ugly Cane School Part 3)

I have pretty much exhausted my supply of ugly canes, but I think I have put them to good use.

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These earrings are what can happen when you chop up ugly canes in a mini chopper.  (I found one like this  at a thrift shop for $6.00) and add a few lumps of contrasting clay for interest.

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Another example

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So I have all these components that I plan to take  with me to Clayathon to play around with and try new combinations for earrings.    I have also been experimenting with making my own clay cutters with this kit I got on Amazon.  I will post a tutorial and a review in the future.

I’ll have a  lot to keep me busy!  Clayathon starts February 12 and goes until February 20.  A week of polymer bliss with Kathleen Dustin as this year’s guest artist.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

 

Ugly Cane School Part Two

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Did someone say ugly canes?  How is working with this waste clay supposed to get me out of my creative slump?  I won’t say these are the ugliest canes in the world (at least they have some contrast.  Well,  of them anyway), but they do not thrill me.

I decided to slice and bake this time with the idea that I could turn out components that would look good in earrings.    I must say that I was partly inspired by these cutters I bought at Clayathon from Linda Prais of Linda’s Art Spot .
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But cool cutters will not turn ugly canes into pretty ones:

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Here’s an attempt to turn some of those less than perfect canes into earring components.  Not too successful, but I am learning.  “It’s like dating,” I tell myself. “You learn what you like by learning what you don’t like.”   Well, I am sure learning what I don’t like.

 

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Aaugh!  Oodles and oodles of ugly components.  Most of them will go into the trash can.  But I am learning and I am even starting to be inspired.  More next week.

 

Ugly Cane School and Some Inspiration

I must confess that I have been singularly uninspired these past few weeks.  This hardly ever happens to me.  I’m back in the pottery studio and even threw a few pots last week which is great considering that I had CMC joint reconstruction surgery in October.

I have amassed a collection of canes over the years that I haven’t used and that have become crumbly with age.  A few years ago, I played with a bunch of them to see what I could come up with.   Today,  I dug up a few of the components I made and they’re not bad.  I think I’ll take a few to Clayathon and see if I can combine them with wire work to make some necklaces.    In the meantime,  I am going to dig through my old canes to see if I can do anything with them.  More on that next week.

Anyway, here are some results from my first ugly cane experiment.  I made veneers by passing sliced canes through the pasta machine and laminating them on sheets of clay.  I kept rolling and laminating until I came up with something interesting.  I set some of the pieces in metal, mostly heavy-gauge copper wire which I squared in my rolling mill.   I limited my color palate, something I did not do with the ugly cane experiments you will see next week. Let’s see where these ugly canes take me.

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Lentil-shaped component
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Unfinished piece.  I was still trying things out.

I made some pendants using jump rings to attach the lentil-shaped front component to a back component. While most lentil beads are attached at the edges, the parts of these swing freely.

 

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I also tried different ways of setting the polymer bezels in the metal.  This one is suspended by a jump ring drilled into the big ring which is soldered onto the long bail

I attached the polymer piece to this pendant by drilling holes in the polymer and threading 30 gauge wire to wrap around the metal frame.

 

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I attached the polymer here with tabs I soldered onto the frame and bent around the polymer.  Read this post for more information on tab setting.

 

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Simple earrings with grommets and silver wire.   They are very light.

More examples of  uses for ugly canes next week.

A Cane Slicer on the Cheap!

I am gearing up for Clayathon 2020. I haven’t touched polymer in a while but started working with it again recently because I figured it would be good therapy for my hand and thumb.

I used to make a lot of canes and even wrote a little article on making geometric canes which you can read here.   There is so much better information on Youtube nowadays. But once you make the canes, you have to slice them. Below are two videos showing how to make inexpensive cane cutters. I made the first video (which I totally forgot about until someone saw it on YouTube this week and left a comment) to send to a friend to see if it was feasible to manufacture and sell an inexpensive cane cutter. Maybe it would have been, but the project never came to be. None of my ideas for the cane cutter, however,  are particularly brilliant. If you find anything that inspires you, please feel free to copy, share, or whatever.  I

 

The second video by Unruly Housewife, shows how to make a cane cutter that works on the same basic principles as mine (which were not original with me), but that is much easier to make.  Her instructions are clearer and her video is definitely better shot than mine.

A third low-cost option for a cane slicer is this one developed by Sherman Oberson and sold through Penn State Industries. Not very high tech, but it holds all shapes of canes steady for slicing and its small size makes it handy to throw into your toolbox.

 

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Happy cane slicing!

 

Happy Holidays

A Christmas Eve post this year.

Some pictures from around my neighborhood.

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Isgro’s Pastries.  A South Philadelphia institution.  Cranking out the cannolis since 1904!

And back by popular demand, guest blogger Boris tells the story of how the Tabby got its “M”.

 

 

Still on Hold

I wrote a few weeks ago about how my basement studio was in a state of upheaval due to the installation of New Gizmo in the back part of the basement.   Since New Gizmo replaced the  boiler and hot water heater,  does not use the chimney for ventilation,   I decided to move my kiln and polymer convection oven to the back basement and install a ventilation system using the chimney.  I already have a ventilation system in the front basement that I installed for soldering but which I found worked beautifully when I was cooking polymer and firing bronze clay.  Read more about that one here.

I still haven’t decided whether to install a downdraft vent for the kiln or to go with a hooded vent that I can use for the kiln and the convection oven.   I already made a plenum cup that fits into the kiln’s rolling stand  right under the kiln, but I have hesitated to drill the small hole in the bottom of the kiln that the downdraft vent would need to function.  If I made a downdraft vent for the kiln,  I would have to be able to detach it from the inline fan and connect separate ductwork to hood to ventilate while the convection oven is operating.      I think I am going to set up hooded vent first and see how it does before I make the final decision.

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Here’s the inline fan I ordered from Amazon.  It’s the same one I have in the front basement.  It’s not too loud, has a variable speed controller, and does not require any special wiring.   I will have to bolt it to a piece of wood to steady it.   I could bolt it from the ceiling, too.    I will need two 4″ to 6″ vent reducer/increasers to connect each side of the fan to the ductwork.  I also ordered them from Amazon.   One will connect to ductwork that hooks into the  4″ chimney opening behind the fan and the other one will connect on the other side of the fan to a longer section of ductwork and the vent hood.

My electrician installed an extra outlet  for the fan and the convection oven.   The Paragon Max 119 kiln runs on 120 volts but does require some additional wiring and a special outlet which Stubewan the electrician also installed.   He also left me some metal tape and ductwork to use.  Thanks, Stu!

I used a wok lid for the vent hood in the front basement.  I will use a stainless steel mixing bowl for the vent hood in the rear basement.

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Bought at a house sale for $5.00.  I will saw out a hole in the top and  attach the ductwork.

At this point, I plan to attach the ductwork and hood to the wood beams in my basement ceiling and raise and lower the hood with a chain.

 

 

I plan to stow the kiln under the stairs and move it out to the middle of the floor for firing.   I was hoping to get it all hooked up this week, but Amazon sent the wrong size reducers.  Back they go and new ones ordered.

Wish me luck!