Say it with Flowers

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.”

“Oh.”

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.

 

What Happens When You Fool Around

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I don’t know if you expected a post on teenage pregnancy but that’s not what I mean by fooling around.  I mean playing.  I’ve always liked to play and to try new things.   My wild imagination has confused and alarmed most of the adults that I’ve met since the age of 12.   Those who can roll with it and play along usually become friends.

Creativity is currently a sexy topic Internet topic, (maybe not as popular as pictures of cats) and people are exhorted to play with color, try strange and exotic spices and  have experiences rather than collect consumer durables.

A website called,  Creative Something.Net says

“Play is more than just important for creativity, it’s often necessary.  Without a play-like attitude, creative insights hide from us behind fear and uncertainty. When we don’t embark on activities that involve play, being creative becomes a challenge.”

Remember, creativity brings something valuable to most things in life (OK, so maybe not accounting.)

I ‘ve been playing in my workshop lately.  I haven’t come up with anything new yet, but I’m having fun and trying new things.   Here are some pictures.

Fooling around with bronze wire which I squared in the rolling mill.  How would it look if I soldered the rings together and bent them into a cuff bracelet?

Fooling around with shapes to see what would make an interesting cuff bracelet

What can I do with a fork?

What can I do with rings I never finished and jump rings?  The medallions on the right are Hadar’s white bronze clay which is not a favorite of mine because it is fragile.  Still, I like the medallions.  They remind me of old miraculous medals.

Here is some more white bronze clay I fooled around with.  I think the dangles look a little like sea urchins.  I wrapped the ones on the left as if they were briolettes.  I think I like that better than the ones on the right with the jump rings.  I like the way the clay turned color and  I  decided to leave them like tha.

I am trying the rings and medals as embellishments for polymer bangle bracelets.  I also used some pre-made gear charms.

I am also fooling around with bronze metal clay.  The picture on the right shows torch-fired Prometheus Clay on the left and kiln-fired BRONZclay on the right.

Next: I’m going to try to make my own gear embellishments using Five Star metal bronze clay Something good is bound to emerge.  I hope.   That’s usually what happens when I fool around long enough.

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.

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

There’s Many a Slip ‘Twixt the Mug and the Lip

 

Isn’t that the old artistic dilemma?  You have a vision and you can’t quite realize it.  But for me, the fun is in the exploration.   I experimented with handle shapes and tried mixing Mason Stains into  Amaco Velvet Underglazes to enhance the colors of the surface decoration.

The mugs are glazed with a clear satin glaze on the outside and a white glaze on the inside.  I like the way the colors turned out.  The handles are another matter. Some of them look great but are not comfortable to use.   Other handles look awkward but are extremely comfortable in the hand.  Unless your handle is tried and true, there’s no way of knowing how the mug will feel until it’s fired and filled with its first serving of Java or tea.   But experimenting is all part of the fun.

 

Line by Line

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I am happy to announce that an article I wrote, The Art of Emily Squires Levine” appears in the latest issue of The Polymer Arts.   You can access a sample version of the magazine here.   Besides writing about the gorgeous, colorful, vessels works of art that Emily constructs from  the dinky plastic dough made for children that we call polymer, writing the article sparked a personal exploration of why the process of artistic growth, or any type of growth at all, can be so achingly frightening.   Even when we know what we must do.   

The process of shifting from one stage to another involves leaving part of one’s self behind.   This process can be made less painful when it is part of a ritualized experience  (think of your first day of school), or a group experience.  But we are usually on our own when it comes to personal transformation.  And it is so hard to let go of what is familiar  and what (we tell ourselves) has worked so long.  Why change?

I think that all change involves letting go, but our human nature and instinct for survival can make us resist letting go.  Letting go involves a death of sorts.  But without letting go, things don’t change.  We don’t change.

How to let go?  Acting in love is one possibility.  Love can help us do things we never thought possible.   There are  concrete examples of this in The Art of Emily Squires Levine. ” 

 I am still thinking about all of this and would like to know how you feel if you care to share your thoughts.  

 

 

No One Creates Alone

That’s one of the conclusions reached in an article I recently read in Psychology Today. Another one is that “discovery cannot be produced by chance.” In other words, someone who has not logged sufficient time in pursuit of a given endeavor does not have the tools to recognize a significant discovery.     Read the article for yourself and see what you think, Deciding to Create.  

My creative pursuits have been proceeding by fits and starts.  I have thrown away almost all of the pottery that I have made this year because of glaze disasters and “what was I thinking?” moments.  But I am learning and trying new things.  And I am very fortunate to share studio time with some creative and generous people.

Here are some pictures of a few things I made last year.

 

We Need to Get Creative Right Now!

I have been posting on this little blog every week for almost ten years.  I rarely write about politics because the blog is supposed to be about creativity in its many forms and incarnations.  And this post will (I hope) be no different.  Not because I don’t have opinions, because I do.  Very strong opinions shaped, in large part, by an insatiable curiosity about history and a career that enabled me to witness parts of American life that many of my fellow white middle class Americans don’t ever get to see.  But I digress.

3-march4I went to Women’s March Philadelphia last week and came away with the feeling that people on both sides of the political arena are scared.  Some are scared by globalization and the instability it brings.  They want to move the clock back, but things can  never be like they were before because the world has changed.  Community has broken down, technology is racing ahead and people are migrating throughout the world on planes, boats and the Internet.  The frightened response is to circle the wagons and hunker down. But this is not as simple as it seems because every action has consequences.    The yearning for a simpler time raises the possibility of  draconian measures that will imact public health,  national security, women’s health and reproductive rights, funding for arts and eduction, and, some fear, racial relations and religious tolerance.  No one knows what is going to happen.  And prediction is hard, especially when it is about the future.   Where does that leave us?    I came away from the march with the feeling that it will be a long time before things settle down.  Probably not in my lifetime.

My proposal: let’s get creative.  In the future, all kinds of organizations are going to need help if  funding  is cut for health care, legal services for the poor, education, the arts, mental health and drug rehab, community groups, child care and similar things.

Right now, people are fired up to volunteer,  give money and to get involved.  That momentum must not be lost.    Organizations that need help will have to be able to draw from beyond their traditional volunteer pool. People who want to volunteer need the ability to connect with  the right organization for their skills and passions.  Some organizations will be flooded and others will go begging unless there is a means by which they can make their needs known.

This also applies to fund raising.  Groups must be able to raise money to serve their communities and clients.  They need a way to reach beyond their  traditional pool of donors.  

We need something new.  I envision a kind of Craig List to do the job.  Why the Craig’s List model?  It is local and it is national.  It contains an abundance of categories to  facilitate the exchange of goods and services and to connect people with one another.  It is constantly updated by the people who use it.  It is organized and  easy to navigate.

A tool based on the Craig’s List model could also pair volunteers with programs, solicit donations of items like clothing, books and school supplies, publicize  community events, and alert the public  to vital issues related to the community, the nation and the world.

It goes without saying that there also has to be a way to maintain contact and to reach out to groups and individuals that are marginalized or feel uncomfortable getting involved or don’t use the internet.

Developing a tool like this is a huge undertaking that would need the expertise of programmers, tech companies, charitable foundations, libraries, designers and more.  But things have changed drastically in the past year and new tools are called for.  I ask everyone reading this post spread the word and get people thinking about how my proposal could be improved and implemented.  There is no way that I could do it but I hope someone takes this idea or another one like it and runs with it.  Maybe someone has already started!

And now, some creative posts about the past few weeks from around the Internet.

Sign making and the Boston Women’s March from the Be Creative Mary blog

For us visual thinkers,  A guide to Trump care from economixcomix

From The Economist, a Visual Guide to the Trump Administration

What you can do now,  10 Actions for the First 100 Days

And finally, let me point out that this is not the first time in world history that existing societies could not address the challenges of rapid change.  For those interested in looking at the past to see how other societies reacted to turbulent change, check out  The Axial Ages of World History: Lessons for the 21st Century  by Ken Baskin, Dmitri M. Bondarenko.  [Disclaimer:  I am married to Ken Baskin.]  This is the short version of a longer book they plan to write.  

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Color Wheels

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I volunteered to help in the ColorWheels mobile community art program  run by the Fleisher Art Memorial and participated in my first program on Saturday outside the Donatucci branch of the Philadelphia Free Library. After helping to set up the ColorWheels tent, I and other volunteers helped  the neighborhood kids make Gelli prints using leaves we found on the sidewalk and supplies from the ColorWheels art van.  It was a lot of fun and the kids jumped right in picking out paint and leaves, and turning out prints that twe hung up to dry for them.

We ended up closing a little early because it started raining.  Still, it was a great way to spend a Saturday.

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Mixing Premo with Bacon Bits?

I know that everything is supposed to go better with bacon and somewhere, somebody has already baked Premo with bacon.  But not I, she said.

This post is about failure.  Not only my failure to hear correctly when someone recommended mixing Premo with Bake and Bend (not bacon bits) so it would be more flexible, but also about the failure of my experiment to make an easy-off-easy-on flexible bangle out of polymer.

I know, I know, there are dozens of ways to do it and I have in fact make a few bangles myself quite successfully.  Still, when a new possibiliy for ruining clay comes my way, I jump at it. <Ahem>  Shall we begin?

 

 

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I began by extruding 10 inch hollow polymer tubes and baking them for an hour.

 

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Then I rolled out a sheet of clay on the pasta machine on #3 and textured it to hide the inevitable dings.
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I placed the clay textured side down on a tile, arranged the tubes and filled in the middle with a sheet of clay rolled on the thickest setting.
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I folded the ends of the clay over the tubes.
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And coaxed them into place.
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I used my tissue blade to move the clay as dinglessly as possible.
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I was able to smooth everything pretty well. I used Genesis Medium to make sure everything was adhered. After baking for another hour, I tossed the strip into some ice water to cool.
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The ends trimmed off to show the hollow tubes.
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I threaded memory wire through both tubes. The clay was super flexible and it was not difficult to curl it to accommodate the wire.
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But I had wire ends to contend with and the bracelet was a bit too short to accommodate any kind of closure. So I decided to cover the ends with fresh polymer and rebake the bracelet
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Aside from the wacko colors, I managed to shape some clay around the wire ends. The ends were embedded in the clay and I used the Genesis Medium to attach everything.

 

I put the bracelet into bake and it was then that my troubles began.  The mess you see below is what came out of the oven.

 

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Oddly enough, the clay on the inside of the bracelet is unaffected and  the clay is so flexible I can bend the bracelet back on itself without the inside clay cracking.  So what went wrong?

Looks like it’s  back to the drawing board!  Suggestions welcome.

Learn to Sew in a Butcher’s Shop

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Amalia Petherbridge (Mali, pronounced “Molly”) is the founder and  tireless proprietor of the Butcher’s Sew Shop in the Bella Vista neighborhood of South Philadelphia.  While she has been sewing nearly as long as she has been walking, it was not until after college graduation, a stint working in the non-profit sector and  taking some sewing classes for fun  that she decided to go back to school and study sewing full time.

Mali was not sure what direction her career would take after she completed her course work in design and pattern making.   But she  discovered that she loved teaching when she started giving her friends sewing lessons sewing in her home. “I loved seeing things click for other people,” she recalled,  “and I still  love seeing adults learning those skills for the first time.  It’s really empowering for them.  Even something as simple as being able to hem your own pants.   It’s a life skill and it’s a great creative outlet,  too.”

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So she decided to open a business and teach sewing.  This is hardly surprising; many of the  women from Mali’s childhood  combined creativity and entrepreneurship  in their careers. An Aunt had a line of children’s clothing.  Mali’s mother built pipe organs in a home studio.  Mali’s step mother was a seamstress and quilt maker.

Mali located her shop in Bella Vista because she knew and loved the neighborhood.  “I think it has a great vibe and when I saw the for rent sign in the window  I just instinctively felt that it would be a good place.” And that turned out to be true.  “The neighbors are so supportive; it feels like a little community and we do have a lot of students who are from the neighborhood, although we get most of our students from Internet traffic.”

When Mali signed the lease, she did not know the space  8th and Catharine Streets had been a butcher shop. The shop had been a bodega after the butcher shop closed, and looked completely different when Mali first saw it.

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Mali  tackled the renovations herself  with the help of many friends.   She found gleaming white tiles behind the peeling dry wall.   The drop ceiling hid an old fashioned  punched tin ceiling.  As the renovations progressed, she uncovered more relics and artifacts.

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Transforming the shop was an intensely personal process for her; she felt a deep connection to the space. At some point in the process she learned the store had been a butcher shop.  But one day, purely by serendipity, she found out that one family had operated the butcher shop for eighty years. That’s when she started to research the history of the shop and the family behind it.  “Because here I am opening my first business,” she explained,” and I’m just trying to make it through the first month and to think that family kept a business alive here for generations!”

She located the family and asked them if they would allow her to name her business Butcher’s Sew Shop in their honor. “Butchers work with their hands, too.   It’s a craft and I felt that energy in the space and loved the idea of being able to honor that.” The family was delighted and sent her copies of old pictures and other information about the butcher shop which you can see on the web site here.

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“Our core adult student is a young professional  who wants some kind of creative release outside of work.  Some of the people who come in have some kind of vision.  They want to learn how to make something for themselves or to mend their clothes or we have young mothers who want to sew for their kids.  But a lot of people just come in to try it  and they end up taking more and more classes.”

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“Half of our business is a sister program where we teach kids.  They are so creative and they soak up things like sponges!  We have kids who have been here for a few years and they can sit down at the machine and do pretty much anything at this point.  We start at age 5 and go to 14.  And we have the five year olds on the machines too.”

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The Butcher’s Sew Shop is stocked with heavy duty Singer Sewing machines and plenty of sewing tools and equipment.  Students also have access to two sergers.  They are also welcome to bring in their own machines; Mali and her staff will help them learn how to operate them.

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In June, the Butcher’s Sew Shop is opening  a second location at  1912 South Street which it will share with  Loop Yarn who will offer knitting classes in the rear.  Programs are planned to start in July or August.  Mali is excited about this expansion which will give her more room for children’s classes.

For the full schedule of classes and activities at the Butcher’s Sew Shop, go to the web site here.  For information on the exciting  summer, afternoon and weekend programs for kids offered  through Sew Philly, click here.

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BUTCHER’S SEW SHOP  800 S. 8th St  PHILADELPHIA, PA 19147  

TEL: 215-678-7671

www.butcherssewshop.com