Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Which bronze clay to use? - Prometheus, Hadar's or Fast Fire Bronzclay

While I was with Angie and Marly last week, instead of doing a collaboration project together we decided to do an investigation instead!  Angie and Marly do a lot of work in bronze and copper - using Hadar's powder clays.  While I've tried the variety of bronze clays, I've never found one that suits my needs.  But, as there is a new FastFire Bronzclay on the market, I took a packet of that to Ontario and some Prometheus bronze and they made up a batch of Hadar's bronze clay and the experiment began!

We wrote out a list of characteristics that we could rate each of the products on, including:
  • general feel, 
  • ability to take and retain texture, 
  • cracking, 
  • ease of joining, 
  • ease of sanding, 
  • firing, 
  • finishing 
and then began our testing!
I'll share my comments and findings over a couple of blog posts - but please note that it is all personal. What I like doesn't mean that everyone will like it - and most importantly,  the clays that I like best are going to be those that work for sculptural pieces, as that it what I do.  Just because one might not be good for making an "anyone" figure, doesn't mean it won't be excellent for flat textured purposes.

The look and feel of each one was really quite different.  I find Hadar's always feels dry initially but after a couple of rolls, that quickly disappears and it has a nice feel to it. The Bronzclay had a different sort of wet sand feel to it.  The Prometheus didn't feel good - a bit gritty and dry.

From left to right....FastFire Bronzclay, Hadar's, Prometheus

I decided to try the same pieces with each clay so as to be able to compare them directly.  I made a round tube bead, a square tube bead, one of my little songbirds, and a wing to try carving on (and for one of the clays I also tried making an "anyone" figure).

I'll tell you more about the "wet" working stage tomorrow.

Which have you tried and which did you like?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday's Millinery Musings - France on Foot Part 3: Getting lost


There are several ways of responding to getting lost on the trail: 1) Panic, not advised, or 2) Surrender wholeheartedly to being lost. The last option is by far the more interesting. Suddenly one becomes a different person inhabiting a wild new world.

Several years ago we were lost in a forest in Burgundy. We had cut back and forth in the hills for several hours on a very hot day. We ran out of water. At some point we realized that we had been led off trail by a series of mis-marked and missing blazes (trail markers). We found ourselves good and lost. At this point we abandoned the trail markings and went straight back to the compass and the blessed Serie Bleu map, which also has topographic detail. Dave, quite the accomplished boy scout, eventually  put us on the right track. But that didn't help with water.

Finally headed in the right direction, we slogged through the underbrush, sweat running down our bodies, and the dull headaches of dehydration our constant companion. The thirst was ferocious. After some time we found ourselves facing a very small, white sign with black lettering that said  "Le Source", a spring!  The narrow trail eventually widened  into a shady opening in the forest and there to our astonishment was Saint Anne

St Anne, mother of Mary

A grotto of large and small stones had been roughly fashioned and in a niche stood a small statue of Saint Anne. She stood calmly in her stone robes.  Other niches held sprays of plastic flowers: yellow sunflowers, pink roses, and a vase of spent blue irises. Clear, cold, spring water poured out from a small pipe under St. Anne's feet and flowed into a reflecting pool that collected water as it ran out of an opening between the stones into another pool. It was a nearly unbelievable sight!

When the lost are found, when thirst is quenched, the single most crystalline feeling is of joy. Pure and simple joy of the heart and mind. All cares fall away. We dropped our backpacks and sat a long while with Saint Anne and took comfort from her. We drank deeply from the spring and bathed our sunburned faces in the cool freshness of this tiny refuge that seemed to materialize just for us. We found our way easily after that to our village hotel and a good meal. This experience gave us much to think about and be thankful for.

I wish you simple joys as you walk along your way. You may feel lost sometimes, but you will find yourself. Not to worry.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday's Spotlight - Doncaster or Bust


Pam and I had one of those days last Wednesday. Instead of taking a week's holiday away - we couldn't find any suitable place in north Norfolk that wasn't already booked - we decided to go out for day trips and spend the nights sleeping at home.

I had first visited Doncaster about 55 years ago. I had to change trains there on my way to college and one day I decided to spend a few hours there rather than go straight onto academia. In those days Doncaster was a large railway town and junction but today much of that railway base has disappeared.

A few years ago, we took Pam's sister, Ann, and her husband, Alan, to Doncaster on one of their visits here from Canada. We carefully chose a market day because this gives the visitor more to see. Even its most ardent supporters would hesitate to classify Doncaster as picturesque, however, the market is outstanding and it was to this that we took Ann and Alan. We had lunch, on that occasion, in a pub close to the market. The meals turned out to be  enormous, even though the prices were ridiculously low. Alan was so impressed by this that he took photographs of the meals. Some 18 months later Pam and I returned to Doncaster and sought out this pub but discovered that it had then closed down: more than likely due to the generous meals they were serving so cheaply.

We go back to Doncaster from time to time and always seem to go on market day. Earlier in the week I had checked on the Internet to find out what was the main market day. I was told that it was Wednesday so when Wednesday came we went down to our railway station nice and early to catch the fast train to Doncaster. The weather that day was perfect and we were hoping for another full and interesting time there.

However, things didn't quite turn out as we anticipated. The market was there and all the stores we would expect to see in the open market were present, but many of the stalls in the indoor markets were closed with only about 10% open. Pam looks forward to visiting the card making stalls at the market, but was most disappointed to find these were also closed.  It's been about 35 years since Wednesday stopped being a shopping half day in this country with stores closing for the afternoon,  but obviously Doncaster has not caught on because not only were many of the market stalls closed but quite a few of the individual shops were closed as well. I even found some charity shops were closed for the day. Oh well, we decided we'd just have to lump it and like it.

But then came lunch..... which we decided to have in one of the national departmental stores. Mistake! Pam's "all day breakfast" looked and tasted as though it had been on the hotplate "all day". My panini, when heated, resembled in both texture and taste an oblong piece of concrete. I must confess, though, in fairness to the unnamed national store that I am not an expert when it comes to the taste of concrete - at least I wasn't before this visit. Even the coffee offered a remarkable resemblance to washing-up water - in both taste and appearance.

We wandered around the many closed shops in town until the time to catch the train back to Lincoln. The train we were after was the equivalent of a fast connection that brought us from Lincoln to Doncaster in 50 minutes. We went to the correct platform and there was a train with "Lincoln Central" written on the front as its destination. Unfortunately, for us, the particular train that we caught was not the fast version express from Doncaster to Lincoln but a slow train  went via Sheffield and took the best part of 2 1/2 hours to arrive at our destination. We saw the train we should have caught as we were pulling out of the station and all we could do was wave to it and go on our way to the steel city. The train wasn't even comfortable. Northern Railway carriages resemble the old-fashioned type of double-decker bus seating, which wasn't renown for comfort. So by the time we arrived at Lincoln our "bums were numb".

There wasn't much we could do about the day except to determine that the next time we go to Doncaster it will not be on a Wednesday.

To cheer up the post - I include some photos from the Pinchbeck flower festival that I have worked on. Hope you like them.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Weekly Bird in the Hand

I've spent the week in Ontario with my wonderful friends Angie and Marly.  We've had such fun.  So it's easy to figure the basis of my weekly "bird in the hand" - the things I'm grateful/happy about that happened this week.

Photo by striatic
  • The friendship of Angie and Marly
  • Having the opportunity to meet (and laugh with!) Sue McNenly after being email buddies for quite a while
  • Snuggling under a blanket outside listening to live music - (Dala and Zoe Janzen)
  • The low humidity in California!
  • Finding new foods - like Za'atar
  • Having time to experiment with metal clay - (we tried three different bronze clays this week and I'll blog about which we liked best and why next week)

  •  Having friends to share ideas, dreams and goals with
  •  Lake Houses 
  •  Cocktail hour (but then I guess that could go on every week's list!)
Hope you had a great week too with lots of be thankful for.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Merry Go Round - Photo Inspiration Challenge

It''s time for another ride on the merry-go-round! Jump on and join a group of 9 artists/crafts-women as they link around the world and tell you a little about their lives in art and craft.

This month's topic is a photo challenge.  We all submitted a photo and then we voted on the one we found most inspiring.  Our challenge was then to create something inspired by the photo. 

Here is the photo that got the most votes:

The colors seemed such an important part of the photo so I decided to not use silver but get back to doing some anodized aluminum or anodised aluminium - depending where you live!

Here are the earrings that I made - inspired by the photo:

I think they capture the "happy"  and "fun" style of the photo too.

They are very slightly domed so circles, on circles, on circles..

I hope you'll check out how the happy water balloon photo inspired the other merriers by clicking on the links below.  We live in many different places around the world which means different time zones so some may post later than others.

Thanks for looking.
Alison at Tweed Delights - http://idreamoftweed.blogspot.com
Mitsy at ArtMind - http://artmind-etcetera.blogspot.com
Kim at Vilt a la Kim - http://viltalakim.blogspot.com
Sara at Crafts of Texture - http://sarastexturecrafts.blogspot.com  
Fabienne at Easterya Jewellery Creations - http://easterya.blogspot.com
Mariana at Florcita - http://www.florcita.eu/
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent - http://lebarduvent.blogspot.com
Lily at Lily Pang Art and Design - http://lilypangart.blogspot.com

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Animal Tracks bracelet and Findlay the Frog get out there!

I just received the latest Fire Mountain Gems catalog for 2010-2011 and saw two of my older pieces in it!

The first was my "animal tracks" bracelet

And then also Findlay the Frog as "Stuck on You"! 

It seems so long ago since I created them, but how nice to flick through a catalog and unexpectedly see your own work.

We are off to Lake Huron today, taking in a matinee play along the way.  Sounds like a perfect day....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Visiting Ontario and friends

I arrived in Toronto very late Sunday night and my friends Angie and Marly picked me up Monday morning.  It's so lovely to see them again...

We spent the morning and a wonderful lunch time in Toronto and then headed out to meet another metal clay artist friend - Sue McNenly.

Sue and I often correspond by email, and read each others blogs etc - and find many interesting connections in our lives and often obscure links in what we are currently working on.  So much so, we have frequently come to the conclusion that we are twins, separated at birth!  As we'd never met, and I just happened to be in Ontario, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get together and also a chance to  introduce her to Angie and Marly, who live relatively close by.

We both share a love of whimsy and enjoy a little play on words in our work.  If you haven't seen her work - you must check out her blog and website.  She makes delightful framed vignettes - here are a couple - and like my pieces - the title is integral to the piece:

"She's come undone"

"Water Baby"

Seeing her work close up you really can appreciate the tiny details and scale of what she is doing - like the tiny tags in the back of the dresses and the shoe buttons... Just beautiful work.

We spent a few hours together laughing and chatting and also getting to see her new home and studio......and by the time we got in the car to leave, my face was aching from all the laughing we had been doing!

I'm so glad we got a chance to meet up and had such a great visit. Next time - she'll have to come to Wine Country in California and visit me - which I know will be such a chore for her and her husband .....

"Twisted Sisters"

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mondays with Marly - California Comes to Ontario!


Angie and I are SO excited that Ruth is coming for a visit to Waterloo! As you read this blog, we will be having fun together in Toronto!  We’ll have to post lots of pictures of our adventures together! It is always wonderful to spend time with Ruth. There’s lot of laughter, sharing of ideas, and interesting metal clay collaborations. It is so enriching to have the opportunity to share ideas and studio time with another metal clay enthusiast!

 I am very fortunate to have a wonderful friend and business partner, Angie, who I can collaborate with on a daily basis. I’d like to dedicate this blog to her and thank her for her constant support, encouragement, and inspiration. She is a talented and creative artisan and I am lucky to have her presence in my life! Below are some of her beautiful metal clay creations!

Ancient Treasure

Dream Box
Dream Spinner 

Love Letter
Mushroom Stones
Tribal Drums
Varanasai Sun

Stay tuned for the further adventures of Ruth, Angie and Marly in Waterloo.  Ontario will NEVER be the same!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday's spotlight - Summer Holidays


As a child, August meant only one thing for me. Holidays! Freedom from the restrictions of the formal state education that was enforced upon all children of my age. Six weeks of doing absolutely what ever you wanted to do. Well, not quite everything.

After just a few days at home, spent in the company of my friends, my mother and I set forth for the vast dark expanses of North Yorkshire. Goodbye any North Yorkshire readers of this blog.   It is not going to be as bad as you fear so stick with it if you can and, if you feel like it, defend your county by sending in a comment.

My destination in North Yorkshire was the market town of Stokesley. I must have been a big shock to my parents when my mother discovered she was expecting me. My sister is 10 years older than me and five years younger than my brother and so they, my Mum and Dad suddenly found themselves with another son.  

Our Yorkshire trip to Stokesley was so that we could spend four and a half weeks with my brother and his wife. They ran a cafe and catering business in the town. I have an everlasting memory of endless Saturday afternoon weddings in various village halls all around the district and the hours I spent washing up. If I was lucky, there just might be a jelly fruit salad left over from the guests that I could finish off.

It was my brother who introduced me to speedway racing. The Middlesbrough team had their track halfway between Middlesborough and Stockton. I forget which night they had their meetings on but I do remember that Bill, my brother, and I were regular visitors there. When we returned to Southampton I visited the speedway there each week, going with a friend of my sister's. This lady was a real fanatical speedway follower. The only rider whose name I can remember now was a chap called Split Waterman. In those days I used to wonder what kind of parents he must have had who would christen him "Split"!

I used to borrow my brothers father-in-law's bicycle after trips to Middlesborough speedway. There was a long and dusty pathway leading to a farm off Stokesley Lane and I could practice my back wheel skid there to my heart's content.  Pity about the tyres, though!

The photos included here are all of Stokesley.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weekly Bird in the Hand

Photo by Dave_S.
 It's been a busy week this week with our fast trip over to the UK.  My "bird in the hand" (grateful/happy) moments were:

  • Being able to spend time with family
  • Safe traveling
  • My mention and photos in the Sunday New York Times
  • The great responses from friends, family and strangers re. the NYTimes article
  • Our pet sitter Kelly for looking after Harold while we were away.
I head out again tomorrow to Ontario, Canada to spend the week with Marly (my guest blogger "Mondays with Marly") and Angie.  Sooooooo looking forward to seeing them again.  You'll hear my blogs from there for the next week. Hope you have a great week too.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Birdland Creations New York Times article

Eventually I flew home yesterday after 3 hours delay in the flight......  It was a long day......

And today I was happy to receive a copy of the Sunday New York Times Article to see for myself what they had included.

Here are the three photos of me and my birds:

Happily they didn't use the real close-up one they had on the slideshow!  I struggle having my photo taken at the best of times, but that close-up was....well, close up!!!!

And here is what the full page in the Business section looked like:

It felt so good to be included and get all that free publicity!

The New York Times this week....who knows what comes next??  :-D

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New vine grafts in the vineyard

If you regularly read this blog, you may recall that we did some "bud over" in our vineyard in spring - where we grafted a white grape variety over a few of our Merlot vines.  That was at the end of the May - so I thought I'd share with you some photos of the vines now to see the progress.

There is quite a lot of variation in different vines in as much as how they have taken and grown.  You can see from this one, that maybe it  is just taking, as there is a little bit of growth on the new bud on the right:

 Next there are some with a few inches of growth from one or both of the new buds:

Then there are some vines that have grown as tall as trees!:

On these bigger ones, there are even some bunches of grapes.  This first photo shows them still as flowers - you can just see the tiny bits of flowers...and the second photo shows them as new tiny grapes:

 The majority of grafts have taken and each week we count to see how many are 4 inches or more in height.  At the moment it's 240 out of 325 - with lots more that may well be 4 inches by the time we get home.

It's been interesting to see them all start and I'd never have thought we would get so much variation.  All this growth also means we have to do lots of suckering - which is taking off any new buds and shoots that appear BELOW the graft - as they would then come up as Merlot.  So it's been quite a bit of work. 

We'll see how they fair through the fall and hopefully the numbers of grafts taken will continue to rise.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Knitter's Assistant

I was asked to design a pendant for a customer that she could give to a friend of hers who is a keen knitter.  She is also a cat owner so wondered if I could combine that into the design too....and so I came up with "The Knitter's Assistant"

.... a little cat holding onto two balls of wools and some knitting needles!  she definitely has her paws full!