Monday, September 5, 2016

media Monday - Labor Day


in which our plucky heroine, while still lame, thinks long thoughts...

I am grateful that I first encountered U Utah Phillips (decades ago when I was an impressionable 17 year old student) telling his stories in the back room at Smokey Joes Cafe, and had the great delight of hearing him perform several times over the years. Story and song are a place where history is kept alive, and education doesn't only happen in a classroom...

Labor Day here, not just a shopping opportunity, but a holiday off from everyday work, created by the labor movement, (and gradually officially adopted) towards the end of the nineteenth century, as a day to honor the contributions of the working folk, all who labor to get the work of the world accomplished, and to remember that together we are strong.


For all who worked and sang and died... we don't forget.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Friday fragment - brought to you by the letter A



A is for aphorism, and A is also for apple... The fruit on my backyard apple tree is ripe now. Every day or evening, more of them get knocked off the branches, I assume by the squirrels, so when it is time to go feed the chooks, there is a fresh dappling of red on the ground. I never thought about the literal sense of "the apple does not fall far from the tree", until I saw it with my own eyes, in fact, gravity pulls them directly downward, and were they to all fall, they would show the extent of the fruiting branches, in the same way that the saying suggests as a rule of thumb...

The one side of the tree is quite productive, with an abundance of vivid red apples almost the size of my fist. This is the first year of really successful backyard apples, they are sweet and tasty and not all full of bugs (which is saying a lot, since I neither spray or water the tree, and didn't manage to cover the baby fruit with the nylon footies in time either).


The other side of the tree is a different story, obviously a different variety, and only set a few apples this season, most of which were badly sunburned or something? before they ripened. That side of the tree is also the side that began blossoming in August, and has now attempted to set fruit twice in one year! I will consult with Mr Dawson about possible ways to either help this half of the tree regain it's senses, or how best to prune away the confused and unproductive portion without damaging the rest of the tree. Always more to learn...

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Thursday thoughts


It has been a rough week, as our plucky heroine attempts to deal with a sudden bout of bursitis in my left Achilles tendon, which has been making all movement intensely painful. I always forget how much energy being in pain takes, and am quite grateful on a daily basis that I am not Always In Intense Pain.

Fortunately I now have insurance coverage, and have been able to get some medical diagnosis and a referral to physical therapy. All this would have been impossible only a few years ago. Unfortunately the recovery will be fairly slow, but hopefully successful, as I am compliant with doing what I can to increase flexibility and strength and decrease inflammation...
:::


Took a few extra hours over the last week to carve another interstitial 2" sq lino block. I was inspired by this article which showed a 13th C Armenian carved marble tombstone.

I think this block will be useful both to fill in between larger motifs, to use as an occasional decorative detail, and to also create an overall pattern. After trying it out on paper, as shown below, decided to remove the corner dots, which were an experiment on my part. I had hoped that the intersecting corners would make a nice pattern, but they were more irregular than I realised, and also too visually heavy. If it seems like an even tinier interstitial pattern would be useful, can always use the tiny blocks I carved earlier this year.
:::

I rarely go see films, but couldn't miss the chance to see this on a big screen... Kubo and the Two Strings was even better than I hoped... it is going on my short list of films I would watch again. Worth going to see in the theater, on a big screen. Worth supporting Laika, which is our own local stop motion film studio headquartered in Hillsboro. Go see this film, you won't be sorry. Tears, laughter, and some amazing animation!!!

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So August, with the big push to declutter the workroom, really brought the THINGS GONE column to a much more pleasing total for the year. In addition, I forgot to include giving away the old wooden windows, which had originally been intended for a creative wall treatment involving replacing all the window glass with mirror glass, which I decided didn't actually seem like a project I wanted to take on. And forgot to include that I switched out the embroidery on the Viking purse from the twin palomino ponies to the Birka style metal lace horse, set with mica, that is intended to refer to my heraldry (in a subtle way) while actually using period techniques. So two things for September that are carryovers from last month...

September SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 interstitial block replaced purse embroidery old wood windows
2 - - -
3 - - -
4 - - -
5 -- -
6 - - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -
11 - - -
12 - - -
13 - - -
14 - - -
:::

Sunday, August 28, 2016

weekend in the workroom


This was an exciting and successful experiment! Our plucky heroine spent most of the weekend hosting open studio time, as my pal Z wanted to work on some new enamels inspired by some of her lovely photographs, and I had needful time to spend on family projects, so would be in the studio anyway. (I am wanting to get back to regularly offering both open studio time and structured workshops again)

Z was hoping for a better purple painting enamel than mixing Thompson's red and blue together, so I decided to try grinding down "regular" enamel with the tiny mortar and pestle... While the DIY painting enamel I created is not as finely ground as purchased enamel, it is quite useable, and didn't take an excessive amount of time or effort. Regular enamel was ground in the mortar, in water, without rinsing, because I wanted to retain the smaller bits.  What this means is that I am not limited to the narrow range of colors that Thompson sells for painting!

Painting enamel is usually ground to about 300 mesh. I tell my students that regular 80 mesh enamel is like beach sand and painting enamel is like talcum powder. Using painting enamel it is possible to get incredibly fine details impossible in other methods. Here is an example of a piece I did, the size is about 1 1/2" x 3/4", so the kanji are about 3 or 4 mm tall.

Next time I am going to try some of the cooler toned blue enamels... (the Thompsons blue painting enamel is a very warm almost turquoise blue... not great for mixing cooler colors) The other thing about painting enamel is that unlike regular 80 mesh enamel is that you can mix colors together to get other colors... this is because the granule size is so small. (if you mix black and white 80 mesh together you get black and white speckled, mix painting enamels and you get grey)


This closer view of the 3/8" diameter sample disc shows two different variations on the purple painting enamel, the darker is just the basic "grape purple" ground finely, and the lilac color is that enamel mixed with a small amount of red, and a slightly larger amount of "mixing white", for a warmer lighter purple...

Being able to mix painting enamels means that it is possible to get subtle variations of color. There are only a few colors of painting enamel that Thompson sells, though I think it is possible to order regular colors specially ground to 300 mesh. Finding out that I can simply use a small dedicated mortar and pestle to do the same thing quickly and easily opens up a world of possibility for me, to use the enamels I already have in new ways!
:::

August SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 charter #14 rayon dress facing Tundra flooring
2 charter #15 popover neckline filled floor padding
3 Tullia painted banner brush rest refurbished bag to Goodwill
4 embroidered yoke stamps refurbished bag to Goodwill
5 granulated star enamel- bag to Goodwill
6 DIY painting enamel - bag to Goodwill
7 - - bag to Goodwill
8 - - bag to Goodwill
9 - - paper recycling
10 - - wood scraps
11 - - shelf unit
12 - - yard waste bin
13 - - -
14 - - -
:::

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday fragments


Terror, confusion, and sadness... all before breakfast! Well, maybe our plucky heroine exaggerates a little bit, but still I prefer to not have adrenaline as an appetizer...

Working backwards, the sadness is that whatever has gone south in my left achilles tendon earlier this week is not improving, so getting some medical attention has become was necessary. This may preclude will prevent my going to September Crown, alas, as even a small amount of walking in the house is causing pain. I have been applying ice, and topical NSAID, and doing good self care... Visit to local clinic yesterday yielded a tentative diagnosis of retrocalcaneal bursitis on the back heel. Was referred to PT and able to be seen this morning. PT had useful suggestions as to probable cause (relating to body compensating for prior injury last year) and an exercise protocol to add, but also let me know that limiting walking for the next month or more is necessary (though careful bike rides are okay, so at least I can still acquire groceries!) and that it will not be a quick recovery.

The confusion is not in me, but in my backyard apple tree. The tree has two different sorts of apples, and one side is much more productive than the other. The side with only about five apples this year has also decided that late August is the time to start blossoming again. Silly tree!

The terror arrived when I brought the empty chicken water dispenser into the house to refill it. When I unscrewed the top in the kitchen sink, and rinsed it with water, a live drenched yellowjacket ended up in the sink as well! Our plucky heroine managed to not panic, and cleverly trapped it underneath the overturned water jar, slid a flexible cutting board between the sink and the edge of the jar, and was able to remove said deadly insect from the house. Kudos for my quick thinking! (I have been refilling chicken waterers for years, and this was a first. If you don't let them get entirely empty, there is no way for insects to get inside the waterer if there is any water in it at all)
:::

In the process of decluttering, our plucky heroine found a few small metal stamps that had been forgotten and over time had developed a rusty surface... since simple wire brushing, or use of a green scrubby was insufficient to clean up the tiny bas relief surfaces, I turned to this online hint (using vinegar and salt). The soaking in that solution, which didn't require hours since the rust levels were not that extreme, really took care of the problem. I then tried it on another random crusty hardware oddment, which also cleaned up nicely, and will be turned into a "brush rest" to use when I am using the tiny paintbrushes for charters, illumination, and limoges enameling.
:::

Baronial paint night was last night - my intention is to host a once a month scribal arts evening here every month on the last Thursday evening. This was the second one, two more folks showed up, and this time we moved into the workroom, instead of the living room, for the sake of the better lighting. The LED shoplight is really proving to have been a worthwhile addition to Acorn Cottage!

I started painting charter #16, which appears to be inspired by some of my favorite 14thC Mamluk images. I love how it is possible, here on the website that shows the original 14thC illuminations, to zoom in to see the actual brushstrokes some artisan made centuries ago!

I decided to modify the blank border around the central medallion to resemble the period illumination. Have not yet finished applying the first layers of color, but will really enjoy elaborating on this design. Rather than finish the painting all in one go, I shall use it as a reward for completing other less fun tasks over the next week, which will still have it ready to be couriered to September Crown next weekend...
charter painting begun by me, original charter design by Tomyris,
Award scroll for the Order of the Sable Gauntlet

:::

August SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 charter #14 rayon dress facing Tundra flooring
2 charter #15 popover neckline filled floor padding
3 Tullia painted banner brush rest refurbished bag to Goodwill
4 embroidered yoke stamps refurbished bag to Goodwill
5 -- bag to Goodwill
6 - - bag to Goodwill
7 - - bag to Goodwill
8 - - bag to Goodwill
9 - - paper recycling
10 - - wood scraps
11 - - shelf unit
12 - - yard waste bin
13 - - -
14 - - -
:::

Thursday, August 25, 2016

a modest proposal, successfully accomplished


As our plucky heroine begins to refurbish her scant wardrobe contents, sometimes an almost useful garment needs just a little attention to become wearable...

I made the black/cream rayon batik popover dress last July, but miscalculated a bit on the neckline, which ended up being just a tad too low cut in the front - whenever I put anything in the pockets, the least little extra weight pulled the front down enough that it caused more décolletée than is really appropriate! Thought that rather than continue being annoyed, better would be an clever option to fill in the lower edge of the neckline.

Found some similar black/white ikat scraps, that seemed like they would do; I'd rather have had some more of the black/cream rayon batik, but done is better than perfect. If more of the rayon batik turns up at some point, I can always switch it out... but this gives me a wearable dress right now, and preserves my modesty while out and about in the world.

and, in further good news, making use of the now accessible workroom table, I have cut out an additional four popover dresses, which are all neatly in project bags hanging from the back of the sewing room door, waiting their turn to be stitched up. By the time I complete this stichery intensive, I should have reached my goal of eight wearable summer dresses, and will be able to return to only needing to replace them as they eventually wear out.

This is my longterm goal for my entire wardrobe, to have enough clothing for warm and cool seasons so I can go a week between laundry, and to not have everyday clothing that never leaves the closet. I am getting closer to my goal every year, and gradually revising what works and what does not work. Later, in early autumn, I will be replenishing my stock of "everyday dresses" which I wear when the temperatures are not beastly hot, i.e., most of the year, either alone or layered with knit tops under and/or pinafores over. They are the other garment that wears out quickly; popovers and everyday dresses rarely last three years before becoming too worn to wear or repair; such is the downside of a limited number of garments. Still, that gives me a chance to add variety over time, as opposed to in my closet!
:::

August SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 charter #14 rayon dress facing Tundra flooring
2 charter #15 popover neckline filled floor padding
3 Tullia painted banner - bag to Goodwill
4 embroidered yoke - bag to Goodwill
5 -- bag to Goodwill
6 - - bag to Goodwill
7 - - bag to Goodwill
8 - - bag to Goodwill
9 - - paper recycling
10 - - wood scraps
11 - - shelf unit
12 - - -
13 - - -
14 - - -
:::

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

wishful Wednesday - Finetec metallic paints


Our plucky heroine has really been enjoying painting SCA charters this year, have begun to design some charter illuminations, learn some historic calligraphy, and am considering possibly creating some original scrolls and medieval inspired artwork.

The process is so different than my enameling work that in truth "a change is as good as a rest"*, and I find that it is, for me, a form of meditation in action. Probably the fact that I am doing it for my own pleasure has a lot to do with that, as opposed to my metalwork and enameling, which, while pleasurable, also is my vocation, and hence needs to be pleasing to my patrons. (I find building regalia to be satisfying but highly stressful, since I always worry that it is "not good enough", one would think that after all these years, and with the almost always delighted recipients, that my worries would have faded)

Left is a glimpse of the border design from charter #15. I added quite a bit of internal detailing to the basic outline, and spent some time looking at medieval Persian miniatures for inspiration. Each reign chooses styles and options for the charter designs to be awarded during their time on the thrones... The unusual turquoise background color was my first decision, and all the additional colors and patterns were a result of balancing that out. It was a real challenge, and very different from my usual choices, very much a pleasant feeling to stretch in that way.

I really felt that the scrollwork needed the internal detailing to look well, and eventually found this contemporary site showing some really close images of traditional Persian painting techniques. I don't know much about Esra, but in this blog post she shares a great deal of information and photos of preparing the paper, grinding the pigments, and creating the artwork... It is a fascinating process!
:::

There is not much use in wishing that the several overloaded plum tree branches did not break. Apparently the old shed, recently removed from the backyard, did more than gradually deteriorate, but was also supporting the plum branches when they were close to harvest. This is a sad thing, that will require some additional tree pruning in the next few days...

What I am adding to my wishlist is some Finetec metallic paint. It would be quite nice to be able to add some gold details to future painted artwork, as was sometimes done in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (without the expense of using actual gold) These paints are quite highly recommended, and at the very least, adding a pan of "Arabic Gold" to my kit would be easy... I will need to visit Dick Blick and see if the Finetec pans are the same size as compatible with the pans in my Pelikan gouache paintbox.


* When looking up this homily, I was amused to find a venerable and almost unknown bit of doggerel from 1857 (author unknown) intended to popularize the phrase...