Friday, September 30, 2011

A two snake day

Today is a two snake day. Not sure if that has some meaning or what, but on my usual walk, I saw a beautiful black and white snake - California Kingsnake - dead!

And then a juvenile gopher snake:

Were the two connected?  There were no other clues - just one dead snake and one alive snake! Hmm.. a mystery for the day. If you have any insight into snake sightings, please pass them along!

My neighbour told me recently that she's seen loads of snakes in her garden this summer - and she has a real phobia for snakes - so hopefully these two are now out of her sight. 

I wonder what it's all about.....

Merry go round - Write a simple tutorial - "Quick bird sculpture"

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 "Write a simple tutorial".  So here is mine: "Using plaster wrap to create a bird sculpture".

I first came across plaster wrap cloth at the beginning of this year when I was in Mexico in a class for encaustics....then more recently in another class. It's a very simple, and cheap media for whimsical sculptures. And quick to work with too.  The example here took me about 30 minutes to make.

Plaster wrap, is also called "rigid wrap" and a few other similar names. You can find it in the sculpture and clay area of craft stores.  It is like the product they used to make casts from in emergency rooms, if you broke your arm or leg. 

Here is what you'll need to make your own plaster wrap cloth sculpture:
  • 1 packet of plaster wrap cloth
  • Water
  • Aluminum foil
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors -  not your best
  • Paper towel
  • Acrylic paints
  • Dowels or wire - optional

    1. The first step is to create the basic shape of the sculpture using aluminum foil.  Squidge it into the general shape and if you need to add two parts together, for example, a head to a body, secure these with masking tape. The aluminum foil can be made into little flat pieces too for ears or wings etc and secured to the main part of the sculpture with masking tape.

    You can also use cardboard at this stage for some parts of the structure, again adding them to the foil with the masking tape.
      2. Now wrap the whole structure in masking tape, to keep the structure all together and provide a base for the plaster wrap

      3. Add any additions at this stage for hanging or supporting, such as dowels on the base for it to stand up, or wires to hang, or wires for feet

      4. Cut up the plaster wrap into small strips. The one I used is approx 4 inches wide and I cut it into approx. 1 cm strips.

      5. Quickly dip a strip of plaster wrap into the water in the cup and as you draw it out, drain it along the edge so some of the water comes off.

      6. Now apply the strip onto the sculpture base, pressing it into place.  Repeat with more strips, each overlapping on the sculpture.  You want to get between 1 and 2 strips thick all over the sculpture.

      You can cut the strips up into smaller sizes too, to attach to awkward shapes and get in small gaps. If you want plaster wrap on any of the dowels or other attachments, wrap those too.

      7. You have a choice now. If you leave this as it is, you will end up with a sculpture with texture to it that may by just the style you want.  If you want something smoother, go over the sculpture with a damp finger, rubbing each area so the holes in the cloth fill in with plaster.  This will give a smoother end product. The first photo below shows the area under the wing un-rubbed and the second photo shows it rubbed in, for a smoother finish.

      8.  Pat off the excess moisture on the wrap using a paper towel.

      9.  Leave to dry in the sun.  It'll take a  couple of hours. You can also put it on a warming plate if the sun isn't shining.  It'll dry hard and tough.

      10. Paint as you wish in acrylic paints, bend the wires, drill it, etc and enjoy your quick and easy sculpture!  I'll paint mine sometime during the coming week and show you the final sculpture then.

      *** LATEST NEWS 10/12/11 - I ended up finishing him off in tissue paper instead of paint. You can my blog post about it here and here is his photo:


      Here are a couple of photos of another bird I did and painted.  What this birdie is sat on, isn't finished yet, but it gives you an idea.

        Hope you'll give it a go - and if you do, please let me know!

        To find out what tutorial the other members of the merry go round have done this week,  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.

        Thursday, September 29, 2011

        The pool is still open

        It's been another warm week here in Northern California. As you can see from the photos below, it's a perfect temperature for a dip and the sun is keeping the water warm!

        Hope it's still dipping weather for you too.

        This little birdie is a commission for a great customer. 

        Wednesday, September 28, 2011

        39/52 Bird a week - Life is good in the dog house!

        This week's bird is not the focus of the piece, but just a little part of it. He is actually the bird of a weather vane on a dog's house. He enjoys sitting up there and spinning around in the wind!

        It seems an appropriate piece this week as we have both a bird and a dog with us at home. And the dog has definitely been in the dog house this week!!!   Most of the time the dog, ( we are pet sitters for her) and our parrot Harold, ignore each other, but when the dog barks, Harold loves to shout louder!!  It's pretty scary here if the door bell rings!!!

        The piece was made at last weekend's "Art is you" class.  I took this class as, you may recall, at the beginning of the year, I decided to try new things this year and be more experimental.  Compared to silver jewelry, I guess this is definitely something different!

        The dog house and wheels are wooden; the window is mica; the roof is pewter; the window and door frames, dog, and bird weather vane, are all made from paperclay and painted with acrylics; and the flowers are felt.

        If you are banished to the dog house this week, don't worry.  Life is good out there with all those pretty flowers!

        To see the other birds that have been made this week as part of the challenge, click on the links below:

        Monday, September 26, 2011

        Lessons learned from a dog

        We are taking care of our friends' dog at the moment while they are away. Here are the lessons I learned from her today:
        • Every day is a new day and a reason to jump up and down!
        • Get excited about exercise and being outside
        • Take care of your body
        • Find time for a nap
        • Stretch
        • Find time for play everyday
        • Eat when you are hungry
        • Seek out new experiences
        • Live in the moment
        • Be direct in your communication
        • Curly hair has some disadvantages
        • Admit when you are wrong
        • Work really hard at making up with someone if you've been bad or annoyed them
        Some of these lessons came about as Bella found our pond today.  She's stayed with us before, for over a month, and never went near it...until today! Instead of a white fluffy dog, she was black, covered in mud! I guess she was seeking new experiences, did seem to recognise that she was wrong when she wouldn't come out, is trying to make it up with me, and is working hard taking care of her body to try and clean it up after even a hose down didn't get her white again!!! 

        I wonder how many other lessons I'll learn from her in the upcoming weeks. What did your pet teach you today?

        Sunday, September 25, 2011

        Silly Sunday - Grapes of Wrath

        Here's a silly Sunday photo to bring a smile to your day - or maybe it'll scare you!  Here are the "Grapes of Wrath":

        I wonder what Steinbeck would think?

        Saturday, September 24, 2011

        Weekly bird in the hand

        This week's good things:

        • Bella, Bella, Bella.  Yes, we are looking after our friend's little dog again for a few weeks while they are away.  She is a sweetie - and is behaving sooooo well..... I wonder if it'll last! Last time we had her for a month and she was on her best behavior for the first 5 days, then the true Bella came out!!!  So far, she's been here 5 we'll see what tomorrow brings :-D
        • Having a relaxing afternoon with new friends.
        • Hot weather - in the 90's all week - which is just what the grapes need to ripen and sweeten.
        • Selling our apartment! We sold our apartment in England this week - and it was on the market less than 2 weeks!  All pretty easy when we weren't even there! Fingers crossed it proceeds just as easily now.
        • Having a day crafting. I went to Art is ..... You in Petaluma on Friday for a day class.  In line with my "try something new" goal of the year, it wasn't jewelry but something different for me!  A day to indulge in experimenting, trying and exploring. I haven't finished my project yet - a box of sorts - but when I have, I'll show you some photos.  Tomorrow I have another day doing new things at the same retreat.
        • Back singing at the cathedral after our summer break. On Sunday we sang with the men and boys choir.  It was great - 40 voices singing beautiful music together.
        • My sister and her husband.  It was their wedding anniversary on Sunday.  Many congrats to them xxxxxxx

        Hope your week has been full of good things too.

        Thursday, September 22, 2011

        Article about our "Bird a week" challenge

        A friend, and one of the members of our "Bird a Week" challenge - Joy Funnell, wrote a lovely article about the challenge in the online magazine "Metal Clay Today". 

        It's definitely worth a read. Joy describes our goal to create a different bird each week for a whole year, and then goes on to say how she decided to make it harder on herself by making all of her birds in silver clay.  It's great to see the photos of Joy's weekly birds, including one of my favorites, the wonderful birdie faces brooch shown here as the heading to her article:

        To read the whole article, just click on and there is a link on the right hand side to the magazine.  It's a great magazine.

        So glad to see you thrive with this challenge Joy.  What will next year bring????

        Wednesday, September 21, 2011

        38/52 Bird a week - Harold singing his favorite song

        This week's bird creation is based on my pet parrot "Harold".  He is such a cutie.  Every morning he gets an hour of children's television and he loves it! All those high pitched voices and lots of excitement gets him singing along. 

        Currently, he watches "Curious George" at 8am and then "The Cat in the Hat" at 8.30am.  If you want to make a phone call while Harold is watching his TV programs, you have to go outside, as he makes far too much noise!

        Hearing a parrot sing with you or with the TV or a CD is such a happy thing! His favorite song is "you are my sunshine".  People who come to visit him always sing it too fast however, so if you come by one day and meet Harold, remember to sing his favorite song - but sing it slooooowwwwwlllllyyyy. Then he'll join in.

        This week's bird in the photo is a brooch, made of steel with a magnet to secure it to your clothes.

        Take a look at the links below to see what other birds have been made this week by others also on our year long challenge to make a different bird each week:

        Monday, September 19, 2011

        Tracking animals

        I've just finished another commission of an animal tracks bracelet!  This time heading to identify tracks in Texas.  That's two in two weeks. 

        For each track, I make a separate photopolymer plate of the track and then use that to make the impression in the silver clay.

        I have 21 different tracks now, plus a few other birds, but lots of birds look quite similar so I don't tend to use many of those.

        Here are the tracks that I have - and, without cheating and reading what is on the back of each square, see if you can figure which ones are used in this bracelet:
        • badger, 
        • beaver, 
        • river otter, 
        • opossum, 
        • porcupine, 
        • skunk, 
        • fox, 
        • mountain lion, 
        • raccoon,
        • deer, 
        • bear, 
        • elephant, 
        • rhino, 
        • dragon (!), 
        • buffalo, 
        • dog, 
        • cat, 
        • owl, 
        • eagle, 
        • duck, and 
        • crow/raven.

        Sunday, September 18, 2011

        Silly Sunday - Bird photo caption

        A little light relief - for us - not the birds!

        Please add your caption in the comments!

        Here's my caption:

        " Looks like you need a couple of fillings back here. You really should work harder on your flossing."

        Saturday, September 17, 2011

        Weekly Bird in the Hand

        This week's good things!:

        Photo by Navicore
        • Trying new healthy recipes, and/or taking not so healthy recipes and adjusting them to make them healthy - and enjoying the results including Goji berry power bars, oat and banana bars, and poached pear sorbet.  Yum!
        • Book club - the people in my group and the joy of reading/listening to good books.
        • Singing with a great conductor.
        • Eating your own home grown produce.
        • Easy, fun times with close friends.
        • The sweetness of dogs.
        • The beauty of roses.
        • Drinking real coffee.  I've been drinking decaf for ages, but this week switched back to real coffee to see how it goes!
        • My daily walk in nature.
        Seems like lots of this week's list revolves around food and drink!  Guess that's not a bad thing.  What about you? Eaten anything good this week???

        Friday, September 16, 2011

        The Postmistress

        We had bookclub at my house this morning, to discuss the book The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.  It wasn't my turn to choose the book and host, but sadly Olga, who had chosen it, is not well.  I'd have been happy if it was my choice of book, as I loved it!

        It is the second novel written by Sarah Blake. 

        The story follows radio reporter Frankie Baird as she reports on WWII in London and Europe, sending her reports back to the US via the radio.  In the US, it focuses on the lives of two women living in a small town in MA. 

        We had a great discussion on the book - lasting more than two hours.

        I had listened to the audiobook version on my iphone, as I was doing my daily morning walks. It made the radio reports all the more real, so is a perfect book for audiobook. At times, I could cry as I was walking along, hoping I didn't meet any neighbors who would see my tears......

        One of my favorite things about the book was the title.  As I listened to the book, I kept thinking about the title "The Postmistress" and tried to make sense of it.  It doesn't make sense for a long while....there is a postmaster in the book - who is female - but that is not what the title refers to.  And suddenly, it all became clear and made so much sense.  It is very clever, but I won't reveal it all here.

        If you haven't read it - I highly recommend it.

        On my walk today, I started a new book recommended by a friend: "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand".  Another audiobook, and within 20 minutes, I'm already very taken with it.  It is very British with sweet humour, and very proper British narrator!  I know I'm going to enjoy it.  I'll tell you more when I've finished it.

        Have you read anything good recently that you can recommend? 

        Wednesday, September 14, 2011

        37/52 Bird a week - Last baby bird of summer

        While most birds lay their eggs in spring or at the beginning of summer, many will also lay more than one brood. This leads to new babies throughout the summer and this week, I saw what I think is the last baby bird of summer:

        Last (bronze) baby bird of summer

        His nest is in one of the olive trees - and you can see he is a typical hungry baby - beak wide open!  No doubt his parents will be happy when he fledges and can find his own food.......or maybe that will be a sad time?  There are lots of "empty nesters" out there right now - kids gone off to university or start of their adult life.....Maybe the parents will look longing back on those busy times.... Do you have an empty nest?...or is your last baby bird still with you?

        PS The baby bird and nest are made from fastfire Bronzclay, in case you were interested.

        Here are links to other birds discovered this week:

        Tuesday, September 13, 2011

        Feeling insecure?

        Do you have your own blankey?  I do.  I snuggle under it when watching movies....or if I get a chance for a nap.  It's a wonderful blankey.....but I hadn't realized the hazards!:

        Monday, September 12, 2011

        Second harvest of September - Red Anjou Pears

        We harvested all the red pears today - Red Anjou's.  They are enormous!  Each one weighs about 325g! - which is about 13 ounces!!  The total weight we picked was more than 42 lbs from one small tree! 

        They are now in the wine cellar - keeping cool - apart from some here in the kitchen that will go in smoothies, as part of them was pecked by the birds!!! "Bad birds".  Unfortunately that is phrase you often hear around Birdland during harvest time - both tree fruit and grapes - especially regarding the Jays who eat the tree fruit and the wild turkeys who eat masses of grapes!

        Some of them are so dark in color - it's more a maroon than red. 

        One year, we grew one in a bottle.  Have you ever seen that?  When the fruit is small, you tie a small necked bottle onto the tree with the pear inside it.  If you are lucky - and it doesn't always work, the pear continues to grow in the bottle. You then harvest it and it looks so cool - as of course, it's much bigger than the neck of the bottle. You then fill the bottle with eau de vie - "water of life" which is a brandy made from pears!  

        Traditionally it's done using a "William" pear ( the Bartlett in the US) and then is called "Poire William". We first saw when we stopped for lunch in a small village in Peru!  We thought "what a wonderful idea" and so occasionally, we give it a try.

        Last time we did it, the pear grew so big in the bottle, that when we came to add the brandy - it wouldn't go into the bottle.  The pear had sealed it completely. We had to let the pear shrivel for a couple of days before the liquid would go in!

        Wish I had a photo of ours with the red pear in. It looks even better!  The only sad part is that after drinking the eau de vie, it would be nice to eat the yummy pear - but it's way too difficult to get it out!!!

        If you have a fruit tree - you should give it a go next year?  It'll work with apples too and  then add calvados Just remember to secure the bottle on the tree so that water will drain out of it as it grows.  Let me know if you try it!

        Sunday, September 11, 2011

        Birdland Vineyards in September

        It's early September and thankfully the Merlot grapes have changed color and are now a beautiful purple. The change in color of the grape berries is called "Veraison" and this is the transition time between berry growth to berry ripening.

        The pundits are predicting a fairly late harvest this year but it seems that the grapes catch up and it will probably be at a similar time to 2010 when we picked on October 19th. The completed color change in 2008 was around Aug. 17th and in 2009 it was Aug. 31st but in both these years the harvest was towards the end of October.

        We did, however, go round this week and remove any small bunches of grapes that were still green, as this green drop means that the sugar levels will be consistent rather than have some that are behind the others.

        You can see a photo of our Godello grapes here.  They don't change to purple, being a white varietal, but go from green to a slightly golden color. As I've mentioned before we don't have much of a crop of them so just hope we have enough to make a little wine.

        As harvest will be next month, I'll see you then, with lots of action packed photos!

        Saturday, September 10, 2011

        Weekly bird in the hand

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

        Kingfisher photo by Rathika Ramasamy

        • The wonderful news that the second baby in our family due in January will be a little boy. That means  the new year will start with a little girl and a little boy.
        • I was rear-ended at traffic lights this week.  The guy behind, just drove straight into me.  He then drove straight off without stopping.  While I'm not grateful for this, I am grateful that I wasn't seriously hurt and the car wasn't terribly damaged.
        • Karen for helping me calm down after my car accident.
        • The opportunity to learn. I'm at a conference this weekend - lectures from 8am until 9pm.  So nice to just focus on that and nothing else.
        • Camerata - the choir I sing with at Grace cathedral. We started the season again this Wednesday after a summer's break. It was lovely to be back singing great music.
        • The past year.  A year ago Monday, my husband had a heart attack. He has recovered really well. I am soooooooooo grateful.xx
        Hope your week has been full of positive things.