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

TPA Winter 2017

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

 

 

 

 

The Apron

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This fabric called out to me one day and told me I needed an apron.  A lined, pleated, top stitched apron.  In patch work.  No matter that I had never made one before.  It didn’t  matter that I didn’t have a pattern because I was not sure how to follow one anyway.  I had the pattern in my head.

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Do you think I cut these pockets wrong?

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Do you this think I made the pockets too small?

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Grab a plate to mark a curve in bigger pockets.  Now I inherited my Mother-in Law’s sewing tools including her French curve ruler.  But I never knew what you used it for until I saw it in a sewing video in YouTube, after I finished the apron!

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Small pockets look good on the big pockets.  Wait a minute, is this turning into a cargo apron?

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Box pleats seemed easy enough

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Magnetic jewelry clasps make a handy needle picker upper

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Bottom is done

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Sewing on the waist band and sash to the apron bib which my husband suggested I add.   I top stitched around the  bib and the skirt at the suggestion of Marie Elcin who is a fiber artist that I was taking a design class with at the Fleisher Art Memorial.

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Rip out and resew three times

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And Voila!

Next Stop NextFab

NextFab

Last December, the intrepid Ellen Marshall and I toured the NextFab Studio located at 2025 Washington Street in Philadelphia.   Our  purported mission was to learn about 3D printing, which we did.  But the tour, led by NextFab head of Institutional Relations Alex Kaplan, got to see all the facilities and equipment available to people who join the Studio and take the requisite safety and beginning classes.  

What I did not know was that in addition to providing facilities for members, giving classes and sponsoring community outreach programs, NextFab  is a for-profit organization that provides technical consulting, custom fabrication and prototyping services to businesses and individuals.  For more information, press here.

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Bukito 3D printer

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3D printed items

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City Hall Model

3D printed City Hall

 

3d print labMore 3D printed items including the face in the corner

3d printerGiant 3D printer used for industrial applications

 

giant2DprinterWide format 2D digital printer

2d printSolar system picture printed in wide format

LaserPrinterLaser Printer

NextFab also offers woodworking and metal fabrication facilities, and an electronics lab.

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Alex Kaplan in the woodshop

Alex Kaplan in the Wood Shop holding a cutting board from a beginner’s wood shop safety class that members have to take before they are allowed to work independently. My friend Patty has  joined NextFab  and  reports that  these beginning safety workshops are also project oriented  which is great because not only do you learn about safety in the shop and how to use tools properly, you also come away with a nifty item you made yourself. 

To learn more about NextFab, go to their blog or website, take one of their classes offered to the public or take a tour of their facilities.