Wednesday, August 31, 2011

35/52 - Bird a week - Peek a boo!

Look who I saw peaking out of her little hole in one of the olive trees today:

A sweet little bronze birdie called "peek-a-boo", coming out to say hello. 

As I've been working in steel clay for the last couple of weeks, I thought I should re-try bronze again.  The steel clay requires firing in charcoal - as does the bronze and copper clays.  I've had good success with the steel clay firings so figured I'd use the same set up for the bronze.  I made two little pieces - one will have to wait until next week!  They both fired well and easily. I was using fastfire bronzclay. The bronze was lovely to carve into - soft and sand-like. The firing was only 2 hours from start to finish.

I think she has taken up permanent residence in that tree and I'm going to leave her there and see if anyone else ever finds her!  Remember, if you ever come and visit - don't forget to look for peek-a-boo!

Gosh - week 35 of the year already and September starts tomorrow.  That means only 17 more birds to make this year for our year long challenge!

Check out the links below to see what others have been making for their weekly bird:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Father and Daughter collaboration - Stained glass windows

Today's bracelets are a collaboration between my father and myself.  Any of you who remember him as my guest blogger for a few years, writing "Sunday's spotlight" may well recall that he loves photographing churches/cathedrals and flowers.  Yes, a few other buildings get thrown in occasionally, but it's very rare to find people in his photos.

I was checking his Flickr site the other day as he had added some new photos and saw a lovely photograph of a stained glass window from Peterborough cathedral.  It was a beautiful bright window, with such rich colors. 

Photo by Pete2010
Immediately, I thought it would make a wonderful color anodized aluminum bangle.

And indeed it, I think it does! The richness of the reds, blues and greens contrast so nicely with the silver of the aluminum and the black.  It is just rich!  You can see the saint with a bird here in this bangle (- maybe my dad knows the background to the window and who this is?):

I'm loving wearing one. And yes, it's shiny!  Quite a contrast for me who normally wears matt!

I think I'll be taking some down to Grace cathedral when we start singing there again next week and see what reaction I get.  What do you think?

Thanks Dad. It was great to take something you created and use it in one of my creations.  There may well be more of these in the future!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Silly Sunday - Hinge tape

Look at this cool tape!  Wouldn't it make your wrapping more interesting?  Sticky tape with piccies of hinges on! 

Found from Optical Illusion
 I may have to pass over my birdie tape and move to hinges!!  Do you use a decorative tape for your packages?  Here's mine:

Birdie Bright

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekly bird in the hand

Here is this week's bird in the hand - the things I am grateful for:

Amazing photo by John Soong
  • My nephew Matt. He just got his GCSE exam results and got 8 A*'s and 2 A's!  Well done Matt.
  • Meeting new friends and enjoying each other's company straight away.
  • Having new plans in life and getting excited about them!
  • Day trips with friends to new places.
  • Being on the best seller list on Dawanda.
  • During a busy week, having my "bird a week" challenge ensure that I at least make one new thing!  
  • Enjoying a whole day with my friend Carol.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Merry go round - Has your blogging style changed?

It's the last Friday of the month, so join us on our merry go round for a quick spin.  The merry go round is where a group of 11 artists/craftwomen link together around the world and tell you a little about their art and craft, through blogging on the same topic.

This month's topic is "Since you started blogging, has your style/content/feeling about blogging changed?"

I started blogging on July 1st 2008.  Actually, it was a couple of weeks earlier when I tried out blogging to see what I would write about.  It was a real exploration for those first few posts, then I realized what I wanted to write about, so deleted the first blog!  Since that time, I've written 1,132 blog posts. Some of those were written by guest bloggers...but over a thousand were from my hand.  I have been blogging daily for nearly 2 years, but took a break this month ....and it did feel strange!

Since July 2008, yes, my content, style, and feeling about blogging has changed in that time.

My new Cathedral Window bracelet

First of all, I now love blogging!  I just really enjoy sitting down - normally at cocktail hour! - and sharing new pieces that I have just made. To begin with, it didn't feel natural and I had to think up what to write. Now the story behind the piece just comes out, or why I named it what I did, etc etc.  Blogging also encourages my productivity greatly, as I want to have something to write about.  So I tend to make sure I finish new pieces each week so that I have something to share.

Although I generally blog daily, it isn't a time consuming thing.  I guess I've become quite efficient at it.  I do wish I had a little more time to be more creative with my photos however. I really enjoy it when I do "staged" photos - ie adding props and things to my bird and animal pieces, to create a little scene. 

Style-wise, I occasionally introduce regular topics each week and let them run for a few months, like my "inspiration" posts or my "business matter" posts from a few years ago or like this "merry go round" post and my current Saturday "bird in the hand" posts.  It's nice to have some structure in there but also some flexibility.

I have enjoyed having guest bloggers but currently just have my husband blogging once a month about our vineyard.  I'd like to find another guest blogger who would write maybe a couple of times a month also.....

I find blogging a great way to connect to people - to friends, customers, potential customers, casual readers, other bloggers and also my family.  This audience expands beyond blogger as my blog automatically publishes to  Facebook and Twitter as well. It's great to get comments - hint, hint - and get feedback on what you are doing.  I find it really useful for my business.

I can't imagine myself not blogging!  It's definitely become part of my life.  If you don't blog - I highly recommend giving it a try.  And if you don't like it when you start, you can - like me - delete that and start again when you get in the flow of it.  Give it a try!

To find out what the other members of the merry go round think about blogging and how their style has changed, click on the links below:

Samantha at Vintage is for lovers -
Jen at Painted Fish Studio -
Bethany at Dirksen Dabbles -
Laura at Blue Terracotta -
Monika at Red2White -
Mitsy at ArtMind -
Kim at Vilt a la Kim -
Sara at Crafts of Texture -
Mariana at Florcita -
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent -
Ruth at Birdland Creations -

Or else you can click on the blog hop below.  If you are a merry go round participant, please add your link if it's not already included. You can then copy the code and put it on your blog post too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

34/52 Bird a week - Time for me to fly

Back trying out the steel clay again.  This time, I decided to utilize it's magnetic powers and create a magnetic pin/brooch.  Thus "Time for me to fly" was born. My 34th bird in the bird a week challenge.

He's a happy little bird, legs a-flappin' (and they wiggle as you wear him), and tucked under his wing is a little yellow feather.

The wing is removable as it is attached using the magnet that secures this pin/brooch to your clothes.  This means you can change the feather for a different colored one, or else you can omit the feather if you prefer and just angle the wing however you would like it (- or depending how fast he is flying!!).

Here he is, borrowing one of Harold's feathers (my pet parrot!)

A versatile little fella, don't you think??! And yes, the magnet is strong enough that he stays in place on your clothes, (without a pin creating a hole) and keeps his wings and feathers in place too!

Gotta go now - time for me to fly!

You can see the other birds that have created this week by clicking on the links below.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Birdland Vineyards in August

By guest blogger John

It's hard to believe that we are more than 1/2 way through August already as we really haven't had any hot weather yet. The mornings are misty and the temperature gets to about 85F or so in the afternoon. That's lovely weather to be outside but the grapes could use a bit more heat to get them ripening.

As you can see from this photo some of the bunches are just starting to change color and every day a few more grapes show that they are starting to ripen but I think we are going to be harvesting late this year. I started irrigating the upper rows a couple of weeks ago as the vines seemed to have stopped growing and now need some water to keep them with plenty of leaves.

We did have a very unusual 'grape' on one of the vines, much bigger than normal! Hope you enjoy this photo that was not set up by us at all - pure mother nature!

What happened is that some of the tendrils on the grape vines stretched over towards the apple tree and wrapped themselves around the stalk of the apple!  The pull of the vine and tendril actually picked the apple but then held onto it too!  Now it looks like we have apples growing on our grape vines!  Makes you think that you don't want to stand still too long near the vines or they may drag you in!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Weekly bird in the hand

The things I am grateful for this week:

Photo by Steve (huz001); back in Missouri
  • A few weeks ago we got the wonderful news that there will be two new additions to our family in the new year.  This week, we heard one will be a little girl. Still waiting a couple of weeks to hear on the other.  Yippee-yeye-yeah!!! 
  • Walking in nature.  I love my daily walks, watching the deer, birds, lizards, squirrels etc all busy with their lives.  I wonder if they enjoy watching us too?
  • Success at getting a reservation for The French Laundry restaurant in Yountville (best restaurant in our area) with our friends in October. I've tried quite a few times to get a reservation there and never been successful. Now we get to try it. 
  • Our book club.  Yesterday was our August meeting and it was just a lovely way to spend the morning and then lunch.  Great group of women.
  • Meeting new friends and finding out all that you have in common with them.
  • Enjoying my latest food heaven: pumpkin seeds. I've recently been toasting my own for salads etc but now found "eden foods" low salt spicy pumpkin seeds and just adore them.  For those Brits reading, the flavour sort of reminds me of twiglets you get in England and I haven't had in years - but the pumpkin seeds are a little spicier - and gluten free.
  • Seeing a stranger have a good old laugh! It is quite contagious and definitely brought a smile to my face!
  • My gentle dental hygienist.  She is so considerate and I really do appreciate that!
Hope your week has been full of good things too.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Anyone can.......

Or: Hadar's Pearl Grey Steel XT metal clay - Part IV!

My third trial piece that I made in steel XT metal clay, along with the ring and cracked bird, was my little "anyone can" figure.  Can you guess what this "fitness" anyone is called?  Keep guessing as you read this blog post.....

He worked fine. The body parts attached very nicely and easily using the clay. In fact, I think attachment with this clay is even easier than with the silver clay.  However, when I sculpt, I attach all the different pieces together when they are all wet clay. I don't wait for one part to dry before adding the next part. This is because they each have their own contours, so it's good to get a good match and seal in contours and easier to do when each component is still malleable clay.

While this method works very easily with this clay in terms of joining, I do now think it is a little more difficult to sand and finish the steel clay in those hard to reach areas - such as those attachment sites.  I think that in future, for example with "anyone", I will make the body first and let it dry and then sand it.  Only after all the sanding is finished on that part, will I then add additional body parts.  I think this will give a nicer finish to the whole piece, rather than having the joints looks a little rough.

Anyhow, firing and sintering all went well. And I'm learning something new with every piece I try.....

So have you managed to guess what this "anyone" is called?  I did say he was a "fitness" piece......Yes, he is:
"Anyone can.... have abs of steel" 

- as he does indeed, have abs of steel!!!! :=D

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

33/52 Bird a week challenge - You crack me up!

My bird this week wasn't exactly successful, but he is still a different bird that I made as part of the challenge. The challenge doesn't have to be all successful birds!  Poor No. 33!  Here is "you crack me up" bird.  Yes, he has big cracks in him!!!

I made him as one of my trials with the new pearl grey steel XT clay from Hadar Jacobson.  My other blog posts this week are all about my tests with this new clay.

By the look of the cracks, my suspicion is that he wasn't totally dry inside before I fired him.  He'd been drying for quite a while on a coffee warmer and felt completely dry and sanded well, but this was the first steel piece that I had used the coffee warmer for, so maybe the outside was totally dry but the inside wasn't?? I did however also fire this bird using a different container than my first couple of pieces, but I don't think it's that.  The only way I'll tell is if I do some more trials....So I guess I will.

The other problem with this birdie is that I think he looks like a fish!!!  OK, so he has a beak ...but I still think there is something fishy about him! Don't you?  Maybe he is a parrot fish???

I guess he won't be winning any big prizes in my 52 birds that I do this year, one each week - but he is one that I will learn from!

Follow the links to see the other birds that people are making this week:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hadar's Pearl Grey Steel XT Clay - Part II

Continuing my trials with Hadar's Pearl Grey Steel XT metal clay, here is the fired ring that I mentioned in yesterday's post:

The firing all went well and I love the color of it. It's tough. I've been wearing it for a couple of days now, and really like it next to the white and yellow gold ring that I have.

The sanding was easy - like sanding the silver clays. Some of the other base metal clays are much more difficult to sand and need rougher sand paper to start, but this was fine. I sanded it just like the silver clay, finishing with the fiber wheel for a matt finish.

Shrinkage was interesting.  The ring size  - ie inner circle - seemed to shrink hardly at all - maybe less than half a size but the thickness of the band did shrink quite a bit.  It's standing up to hard wear so I'm confident that sintering was successful. 

I like it. I consider my first test  a success.  I've now also finished the second firing of my next two samples so I'll tell you more about them later.

Have you given this steel clay a try yet? What are your experiences? I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hadar's Pearl Grey Steel XT Clay - Part I

I read Hadar Jacobson's blog post of a week or so ago, about her new formula for Pearl Grey Steel XT clay - one of her base metal clays - and got excited! Hadar said her new clay "brought me back 14 years, to when I first learned about [original] silver clay, and it felt like the sky was the limit."  I didn't delay and ordered some straight away!

The clay comes in powder form, like all Hadar's clay, so you make up just as much as you need, by adding water.  When it's made up - it's delightful.  It is similar in feel to the original PMC silver formulation - and I found it easy to make up and easy to use.

I've tried all Hadar's clays, and many other brands too, but have never got excited with the base metal clays like bronze and copper.  They seemed unreliable and not consistent.....or else I don't like the feel of them when I work with them.

But I have high hopes for the Pearl Grey Steel XT!

I have started out by making three trial pieces to see how several different factors/techniques go, including getting the firing schedule correct for my kiln.  I'll show you these pieces this week and let you know how it goes.

My first trial was to make a very simple ring. The idea was to see how the clay joins. I rolled a snake of the clay and squidged it to make it uneven in shape. Then I joined the two ends together to form a shape roughly round.

Unfired steel clay ring

It formed and joined like a dream.  It felt strong in it's dry state and sanded nicely. I'm not a texture person so didn't add any texture.

I fired it to Hadar's schedule for a muffle kiln and it fired perfectly!  I am loving my new ring. I'll post photos of the fired ring tomorrow! It's so simple but I love the color of the pearl grey steel.

More tomorrow......

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Silly Sunday - Banana carving

A different type of carving. Haven't tried it myself yet! What do you think?  Maybe a Banana bird is in my future, especially as I just bought some bananas not even 10 minutes ago!

I found this on Design Swan's blog. It's a wonderful blog - interesting and unusual things everyday. I suggest you subscribe! I know you'll enjoy it!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Weekly bird in the hand

Here is this week's list of things I am grateful for:

"Shall we dance?"  Photo by mikebaird
  • Matt, Peter, Mary and Fin - my sister and her family, who arrive back in England today :-(. We'll miss them. After staying with us, they enjoyed a few days in Yosemite and some in SF. We had dinner with them on Wednesday night.  We so enjoyed our time together.
  • Our pond. I've taken to trying to find a little time each day to sit at our pond. It's so peaceful - apart from all the wildlife!  I love watching the great blue heron; the turtle on the duck platform, soaking up the sun; the kingfishers; the red and blue dragon flies; the frogs; the fly catchers; the fish and tadpoles; and occasionally, when I sit quietly, Quentin and his new family of tiny quails wanders by.  
  • My voice lesson. I had such a great voice lesson this week.  Just exciting! Thanks Karen.
  • My dear friend Clare whose birthday it is today
  • My dear friend Fabienne whose birthday it is today
  • Walking in a quiet area and listening to the silence.
  • The joy of learning

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

32/52 Bird a week - Happiness

For this week's bird, I made two bluebirds of happiness. 

They are made from color anodized aluminum.

They are very friendly and when they get together, they tend to chat quite a lot.  Luckily when you wear them as earrings, there is a little separation so they are quieter! 

We've had two batches of bluebirds nesting in our boxes this summer and both have yielded a few babies.

They don't look very blue yet, but then, I guess they need feathers to look blue!

They are useful birds to have in the vineyard - not just because they bring happiness (!), but also because they eat insects and thus keep the insect population down on the vines.

Take a look at the other birds that people have created as part of the bird a week challenge. The links are below:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The wine experience - Part II

By guest bloggers Mary (my sister) and Matt (my nephew)

The second part of our wine experience was to learn all about blending.  First we blended white wines, then red, then fruit juices.

Matt figuring the pipetting

It was a very scientific process.  Firstly we smelled and tasted different grape varieties of wine. Then using a pipette, we blended different quantities until we like the end result.  Then we did a blind taste test of all 6 wines and voted on our favorite.

Peter found the red wine blending particularly challenging as he didn't like the taste of any of the reds before blending!

Peter and Johnnie

Matt was the white wine blending expert, John the red wine expert (obviously!) and Ruth and Peter found the best juice from a mixture of pomegranate, blood orange, strawberry and watermelon.  The 2 best juices were named Strawberry Bliss and Harold's delight.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weekly bird in the hand

This week's bird in the hand - the things I am grateful for  - is easy!

Photo by mikebaird

Yes, it's family.  My sister Mary, her hubby Fin, and my two nephews Matt and Peter have been staying with us for the past week.  We've had a great time and the time has gone really quickly.  It's been so lovely to share days together - some with different activities, some more leisurely.

They head off to Yosemite tomorrow and then SF on Wednesday.  We'll have dinner with them Wednesday in the city and then they fly home on Friday.

Thanks for coming sweeties. We'll miss you a lot. xxxx ...but not before an action packed day today!!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The wine experience

By guest bloggers Mary and Fin (Ruth's sister and brother-in-law)

For the last 8 years, we have been more than happy to enjoy the different vintages of Birdland wines, not to mention the Birdland hospitality on several occasions.

L to R - Ruth, Matt, John, Mary, Peter
On Tuesday, we were able to get more involved in the process!  We started in the morning with labelling the 2009 bottles. We had a great production line going and each settled into our preferred role.  Matt operated heavy machinery (the labeling machine!); Peter was in charge of packaging and distribution (putting bottles in boxes and using the sticky rollertape); Fin was in charge of supply (ensuring the bottles got to the labeller in time); Mary was Quality Control (being bossy if anyone made mistakes!); Ruth was troubleshooter (fixing the labeling machine); and John the foreman!

Peter in the cellar

At times we swapped roles, and everyone got to try the labeling machine but Fin couldn't be trusted and was over-zealous with the foot pedal, treating it like a car accelerator:  Too many labels - not enough bottles!

Fin and John

Mary trying labeling
Despite the temperamental machine, we finished all 50 cases before lunch, when Fin and John took over Quality Control, but this time tasting the wine!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

31/52 Bird a week - Create

This week's birdie is similar in style to my aluminum bangle "enjoy the journey" from a couple of weeks ago. 

Soaring birdie with inspiration words: Create, Inspire, Dream, Imagine, and Hope

I, particularly, find the bird to be a perfect symbol for these sentiments - and I guess my work shows that!

There are still a few of us keeping up with creating a new bird each week so click on the links below to see the others that have come up this week. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fun Day!

We had a fun day today with my family at Birdland. This morning we labeled our very own 2009 Birdland Merlot wine, in poppy red labels.

There were  a few challenges half way through when the labels started creasing, but we solved and got them all done and back in the cellar!

Then this afternoon we all tried blending wine.  We started with white wines, then some reds and finally different juices!

The whites we blended together were: Fume Blanc, Moscato Blanc, Chardonnay, and Albarino
The reds we blended together were: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Zinfandel
The juices we blended together were: Blood orange, Strawberry, Pomegranate, and Watermelon

We found out that those who were good at blending white wine, weren't so good at blending reds and vice versa! 

It was fun and I'll post photos soon when I get them from Finny (my brother in law) who took the most!