Thursday, July 17, 2014

random Thursday thoughts


in which our plucky heroine does her best at bearing up under the heat and relentless sunshine...

I am a child of winter, and always have been. In consequence, finding ways to ameliorate the effects of the current heat wave have been taking most of my energy, what little remains after the heat has curled all tendrils into the corners of my home to take up residence. Would that there was some way to save it (in the pantry like summertime jam) for when it would be useful next winter. Instead, my sleep/wake times have been all deranged, as keeping the window fans running as late into the night as I can manage has been making a good deal of difference in the internal temperatures of home. One of my three window fans jumped off the sill last night, destroying it's plastic housing and fan blades with an astonishing loud clatter while I worked in the next room; it was the most flimsy and least effective of the crew, and will be replaced, hopefully, with a more sturdy rectangular box fan.

Siesta in the hottest part of the afternoon is, while unpleasant, needful... allowing time for working when it is cooler, though girl feels a little remorse at turning on the kiln at the same time as running the fans to cool the house. It would be much worse though, to run the kiln when the summer sun is doing what it loves best. Somehow, the commissions for enamel regalia do not come as often in the winter, when the kiln warmth is welcome, as they do during the summer tourney season...

completed Pel-Laurel medallion in a simple silver setting

Still, every bit of work is welcome, and this most recent enamel piece has come round right in the end, despite an unfortunate encounter with the cement shop floor earlier in the year. I got rattled by that, and put it aside for a time, needing though to finish it in time before Pennsic, where it will be gifted to a new owner. I am pretty happy with the resulting resurrected piece. The entire surface of the enamel had to be removed back to the engraved base and re-done, with all new wires and glass. This time I also added a bit of Limoges style painted enamel to shade the Laurel leaves, a subtle two tone green, just for extra beauty, as the person who commissioned it earlier this year has been Very Patient with me...

Have also started working on the enamels for the Orb upgrade commmission, though am still waiting for the confirmation letter and check to arrive. Have been assured by two different folks I trust that it has been awarded to our artistic team, and so feel that getting the enamels ready ahead of time is little risk. Besides, 'tis very useful to have more than one enameling piece to work on while the kiln is hot, so as to not waste the heat; there is a lot of downtime, waiting for pieces to be dry enough to fire, as there can be no moisture in the enamel when it goes in the kiln, lest the water vaporise and cause the powdered glass to jump where it is not wanted. By working on more than one piece at a time, one can be drying while the other(s) are having the next of many layers of enamel added to the surface.


enamels for Orb upgrade, in the colors of An Tir, in process
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Unfortunately, sleeping through most of the the heat has meant being awake too late to ride my bike to the grocery store, which closes at eleven... while intending to go to store early early AM before sunshine makes that impossible, instead was necessary to ride bus to Post Office to mail out the pendant, and by the time I returned home, it was already hot and sunny. I want to get vinegar to make sekanjabin; Jen brought some to ATWW earlier this month and it made a huge difference in how comfortable we were, just that little bit of sweet/sour/herbal syrup added to the drinking water. I am thinking of diving down into the depths of the freezer for some of last years fruit, and making some berry sekanjabin. The original place I saw the recipe is in Cariadoc's Miscellany; recipe is about halfway down the page, but he mentions that it is actually from Claudia Roden's Middle Eastern cookbook, which I also own, so I will check there as well... I remember that that cookbook has a number of different flavored syrups to add to water.
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I discovered that there are paper wasps building a nest in a large plastic box that I left in the backyard... now I cannot go out in that part of the yard or access my garden shed until I find someone to spray the nest so the box can be removed, or until I come up with an alternate plan... I am mucho allergic... feel really dumb to have left them such a nice sheltered potential home! The beekeepers association is not interested in dealing with or gathering wasps, I was quoted a fee of $80 to have them removed by the one person I spoke with, which while not unreasonable, is not in my current budget. So I am practicing avoidance, and dreaming wishfully of insectivore raccoons.
:::


Once the threads were all spread out properly (after about twelve picks) the pattern quickly began to take shape...
The success of my first attempt at wool tablet weaving with irregular turns had me so chuffed that I decided to treat myself to some additional Naturespun yarn in half a dozen colors, and have now started a new woven band. Using the diagram style from Applesies and Foxnoses to write it up before setting it all up made threading the cards and starting weaving go a lot more smoothly. (I know some folks love GTT program, but I find it impenetrable; the pattern for this design is from his site, but I needed to draw out the turns in a diagram) Once the threads were all spread out properly (after about twelve picks) the pattern quickly began to take shape... Leafy Laurel trim for a wool apron-dress for winter. This time I made the warp about three yards long, which should yield enough to trim the top edge, and hopefully some leftover for sharing...
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July SMART goal challenge
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 1st wool cardweaving hem on red silk gown bag to paper recycling
2 blue Pel Laurel green undergown mended bag to paper recycling
3 * * bag to paper recycling
4 * * bag to Goodwill
5 * * bag to Goodwill
6 * * bag to Goodwill
7 * * cardboard recycled
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Sunday, July 13, 2014

icumen in


in which our plucky heroine has determined that even without invitation, sumer is not just icumen in, but is already here and making itself at home...

Doing my best not to become more ill from the heat, am avoiding any non-vital outdoor activity. To go grocery shopping, have been riding bicycle after dark to local shop, balancing waiting for outdoors to cool down with need to get to store whilst they are actually still open. Earlier this week it was, while not my ideal temperature, almost pleasant to ride, with the breeze of motion providing an illusion of coolth. By the day before yesterday, as the uncommon humidity increased, that shifted and the movement of body and bicycle through the still warm slightly damp air seemed more like swimming than flying. Compared to some places on this bright world, it is still much less hot or humid, but compared to our normal, it is feverish.

Enameling in this weather is an exercise in taking good care, taking breaks for water and electrolytes, and pacing. The forecast is around 90F, so cooler than the day before, but not the best weather for kiln work... still work at all is a good thing, and promised commissions need to happen regardless of the weather.
My first wool cardweaving has been completed, and thanks to a tip from my pal Marya, there was a remarkably small amount of loom waste. Using an elastic hair tie or two to loop off the end knot of the warp, allows for weaving almost up to the bitter end. I am not certain how much take-up there was, as I didn't accurately measure the initial warp, but I have almost enough length to put around the entire top edge of a new wool wintertime apron-dress. Finished width of band is about 12mm.

Had another partial day with my friend K, who is helping me declutter my life, and we spent more time in the studio/workroom. The bulk of the space is now free of major extraneous objects and ready to be reconfigured. A number of bags went into either paper recycling or the Goodwill pile, though it was too hot to walk up to the corner, those will go away in the next few days... There are still some shelves of small things that need sorted and reorganised, and there are many ideas percolating for how best to make the space even more useful for both my own work and for teaching...

July SMART goal challenge
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 wool cardweaving * bag to paper recycling
2 * * bag to paper recycling
3 * * bag to paper recycling
4 * * bag to Goodwill
5 * * bag to Goodwill
6 * * *
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:::

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

other small old details


so our plucky heroine went on holiday to ATWW for the better part of a week, managed not to get horridly sunburnt, escaped the intense city heat for a little while, saw old friends and made some new ones, learned a bit more about cardweaving from in a class taught by the Queen of Caid, and tried her best not to permanently lose equanimity.

When all else fails, playing with string is both soothing and pleasurable, and can be done in public without shame...

I recently acquired "Applesies and Foxnoses - Finnish Tabletwoven Bands"; this is pattern number 14. Perhaps foolishly did not begin in the easy section, but in the middle "difficult" section (did avoid the third "challenging" section) It has taken me quite a bit of time to get to the point where I can make it all the way through one pattern repeat without either having to unweave rows, or without simply giving up and letting the design lines go all psychedelic/wonky until I get to a stopping place where I can pick up the pattern again. There was rather a lot of bad words spoken this past week, and dear Maeva actually told me at one point to just "step away from the string"... Of course, the actual design itself is one that has a very long repeat(83? rows), with the cards moving in both directions in each row, and with almost no rows the same. None of the boring "four forward four back" for this gal! The photo shows approximately one repeat of the design, the second one I was able to successfully weave all the way through with no errors. 'Tis not yet a technique that I can both weave and hold a conversation at the same time.

In addition, this was my first attempt at doing cardweaving with wool yarn instead of crochet or pearl cotton. Was quite happy to find that the Naturespun fingering wool worked for this technique, since it is available locally, comparatively inexpensive, and comes in a wide range of colors. This project also included a bit of the yarn that I dyed earlier this summer at Egils as part of the border design; the pale blue-green threads (that alternate with the orange) were dyed with weld/indigo.
:::

Someone over in the Historic Tablet Weaving group commented on my shuttle, which is just barely visible alongside the loom...

This is one end of my "fancy" cardweaving shuttle: oak, carved with two horse heads, eyes inlaid with amber. I carved it about twenty years ago, during a time when I was fairly new in the SCA, and learning about card weaving. The decoration is pure fantasy, the shuttle itself works really well
The actual shuttle shape is a fairly standard "belt shuttle"...
I carved runes into the top edge of the shuttle: SKIT:GOTHAN:KIARI:ALISOLIN, which means "Alison made a good shuttle"... I had a friend who knows Old Norse translate it for me, and the inspiration came from a Viking comb case found in Lincoln and currently in the British Museum.

Monday, June 30, 2014

progress report


in which our plucky heroine surveys progress in ways large and small...

Decided to go ahead and set one of the Anglo Saxon enamels, as a brooch inspired by the historic settings. The entire brooch is 27mm across the widest dimension, so very very small indeed... The small glass spheres, which are less than 2mm diameter, I made by melting individual seed beads into spheres... the torch I have was not the correct setup for that, but it did work, though it blackened more than half of each sphere.

As I don't have any high-copper bronze, and am not going to fire-gild* the setting, I chose to use brass sheet metal for the setting, and I did have a small piece of serrated bezel in brass which I used for the enamel bezel (as I feel that the serrated edge puts less pressure on the enamel than straight bezel wire) I used RTV glue to hold the tiny glass spheres in the circular collars on each of the seven lugs. So this brooch is an interpretation, rather than a strict re-creation, but I am still quite pleased with the effect.

I plan on making more settings, refining the design to more accurately reflect the originals (trying out using straight brass bezel wire, and consulting with my glass guru Jen Ariadne about possible alternate ways to make tiny glass spheres)

*Fire-gilding, also known as mercury gilding, is an ancient method of gilding non-precious metal, involving making an amalgam of gold and mercury, then driving off the mercury with heat, leaving behind the gold on the surface of the material. It is both lovely and durable, but a very toxic process, unsuitable for home use, and modernly superseded by other, differently toxic, methods of gold deposition.
:::
June was a productive month, though it sure didn't feel like one! Made good progress on catching up on the SMART goals. The things made category is only two behind, things fixed is only five behind, and even the furthest behind, things gone, was more than halfway improved, with eleven out of eighteen... I am starting to feel like this year long challenge will be a success, my efforts are improving things.

June SMART goal challenge
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 thread-winders SR silver chain  backyard yardwaste
2 red rose
heart pendant
backyard meadow
mowed
bag to paper recycling
3 red rose earrings half craftwall
organised
bag to paper recycling
4 2nd sports bra sleeve bands
on green gown
bag to paper recycling
5 duvet cover SPQR pendant
setting
metal scrap to recycling
6 embroidered
red horses
craftwall
organised
bag to Goodwill
7 nine tiny enamels workbench
cleared
bag to Goodwill
8 green silk
underdress
SR brooch setting paper recycling
9 * setting for one
Anglo Saxon enamel
bag to Goodwill
10 * * bag to Goodwill
11 ---------- * bag to paper recycling
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... leading up to...
July SMART goal challenge
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 * *  *
2 * * *
3 * * *
4 * * *
5 * * *
6 * * *
7 * * *
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Saturday, June 28, 2014

one two three many...


in which our plucky heroine continues in her self indulgence....

Remember the Anglo Saxon enamel brooches I have been so obsessed with? Well this week I made a few sketches of some of the various designs... these are all 17mm diameter, (slightly smaller than a dime), which is the average size of the enamel discs in the finds... and chose nine to begin with...

Here they are are about halfway through the enameling process. I have been doing my best to match the enamel colors to the colors shown or described in the archaeological data...

Later in the week... some very tiny Anglo Saxon inspired enamels; well over twenty hours somewhere between 20 and 30 hours in to the project. The next step is to make appropriate settings for the finished enamels, so they can be worn as brooches.
I have been putting together a notebook of documentation, and still need to transcribe the useful data from the Portable Antiquities web pages into a format that will refer to the archaeological images and allow me to have data ready to hand... this is the first time I have started collecting documentation in such a structured way, and I can see how useful it will be in the future.
:::

Hmmm I made nine tiny enamels this week, that puts me either really ahead on my "things made" column, or if I count them as one thing then I still have only three more items needed to complete that column for June.  The other columns are somewhat more challenging to complete in the remaining five days. Still, it looks very promising this close to halfway through the year.
June SMART goal challenge
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 thread-winders SR silver chain  backyard yardwaste
2 red rose
heart pendant
backyard meadow
mowed
bag to paper recycling
3 red rose earrings half craftwall
organised
bag to paper recycling
4 2nd sports bra sleeve bands
on green gown
bag to paper recycling
5 duvet cover SPQR pendant
setting
metal scrap to recycling
6 embroidered
red horses
craftwall
organised
bag to Goodwill
7 nine tiny enamels workbench
cleared
bag to Goodwill
8 * SR brooch setting paper recycling
9 * * bag to Goodwill
10 * * bag to Goodwill
11 ---------- * bag to paper recycling
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Sunday, June 22, 2014

declutteration


in which our plucky heroine is both exhausted and chuffed by progress...

Today there was time for another four hour session with K,(like the time we spent a few weeks ago) and not only is the entire back wall of the studio now organised, but I have some idea for how to continue progress in making this space functional. There are spaces left vacant, so that as the supplies and equipment that need to live here either are found or acquired, there will be room for them to get folded in to the plan.

...and... this is my workbench! I haven't seen it this clean since I moved here!!

The current plan is to set whatever tools/supplies I find myself needing to use in the next two weeks on the shelf directly behind the workbench, so that we can get a better idea of what is used in this particular space and therefor how best to store it... much better than stockpiling random tools and supplies in prime access areas. As I have a fair amount of work that needs to happen in that time, it should be really enlightening...

My hope is that with another few several half-days (as we can find time to schedule them) the entire workroom will be at this level of functionality. There are some areas that need infrastructure that isn't yet in place, some rather a lot of small shallow drawers would be very helpful, and yes, more task lighting (actually all round the house could use more lighting). I looked at the cute little kitchen cart from Ikea, but sadly it is just about two inches too tall to fit in the space where it would be ideal to have such a thing.

I am looking forward to continuing to find beloved missing things by decluttering/sorting, and really excited about how much this will help my plans to teach more workshops!
:::

June SMART goal challenge
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 thread-winders SR silver chain  backyard yardwaste
2 red rose
heart pendant
backyard meadow
mowed
bag to paper recycling
3 red rose earrings half craftwall
organised
bag to paper recycling
4 2nd sports bra sleeve bands
on green gown
bag to paper recycling
5 duvet cover SPQR pendant
setting
metal scrap to recycling
6 embroidered
red horses
craftwall
organised
bag to Goodwill
7 * workbench
cleared
bag to Goodwill
8 * * paper recycling
9 * * bag to Goodwill
10 ---------- * bag to Goodwill
11 ---------- * bag to paper recycling
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Friday, June 20, 2014

so very small


Our plucky heroine is currently obsessed with tiny Anglo Saxon cloisonne brooches. I have been researching all I can find, managed to locate two different archaeological reports (by David Buckton, in "Medieval Archaeology") but have not been able to answer a question that puzzles me: what did they use to attach/hold the enamels and the even tinier little glass spheres to the brooch metal? The bezels are not crimped over as is done in modern jewelery (my background is in modern enamel and metalwork).

I suspect that they were held in place with pitch or some other glue-like substance... but would love to know more... so obsessed geeky girl decided last night to send an email to the British Museum regarding my question: what did they use to attach/hold the enamels and the even tinier little glass spheres to the brooch metal... I am quite excited, today I had a reply to my email that I sent to the Portable Antiquities section of the British Museum - they are " forwarding your email to our National Finds Adviser Kevin Leahy, who is a guru on Anglo-Saxon metalwork! He will be able to tell you more about A-S artefacts." ...

I shall certainly share whatever information they are able to tell me, and am astonished and delighted that my query was taken seriously (geeky girl suffering from a serious case of "who, li'l ol' me...?)

These are not all the extant brooches, just the ones I have managed to find photos of...
they are tiny, the enamels range between 15mm to 18mm (5/8 to 3/4") across.

:::

June SMART goal challenge
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 thread-winders SR silver chain  backyard yardwaste
2 red rose
heart pendant
backyard meadow
mowed
bag to paper recycling
3 red rose earrings half craftwall
organised
bag to paper recycling
4 2nd sports bra sleeve bands
on green gown
bag to paper recycling
5 duvet cover SPQR pendant
setting
metal scrap to recycling
6 embroidered
red horses
* bag to Goodwill
7 * * bag to Goodwill
8 * * paper recycling
9 * * *
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