Monday, March 26, 2007

the long weekend

One of my favorite simple pleasures is that of sleeping in my own bed; after the long Seattle teaching weekend it is wonderful to be home again…
I headed north on Friday, and after stopping in Olympia for Bill, we motored the rest of the way up to Seattle. Danaca Designs, the gallery/school in the U-district where we were teaching, is a great small metalworking facility, and Dana (the owner) met us there to make sure we knew where everything was. After offloading our supplies and the small kiln, and pre-setting up each workstation for the students, we headed over to stay with friends nearby, who kindly put us up for the weekend.
We awoke to the aroma of breakfasty goodness, and with Robyn's yummy popovers starting our morning off properly, it was time to go teach. We had seven students for our Enameled Engraving with Cloisonné workshop, and Bill, after an inspiring demonstration of various engraving techniques, was busy helping everyone prepare, fit, and sharpen their own graver. (Gravers must be fit to the individual to be useable) I've found wiggle-cut engraving to be relatively straightforward; soon the classroom was full of folks practicing on copper.
I talked a bit about design, to encourage ideas about combining the engraving with the enameling we would be doing the next day. Everyone got a silver quarter-sized disc as a base for their enamel, and worked to develop an image that they wanted to work on. This was the first really obvious difference in teaching non-SCA students. Many of these women took a long time drawing designs that they liked or deciding on which one; in the SCA almost all of my students want to do their heraldry. After my demo on cloisonné wire bending, the rest of the afternoon was devoted to engraving, design work, and wire bending. We actually sent folks home with "homework", to finish preparing their discs and wires.
On Sunday, Bill and I arrived early to start the kilns heating, and once our students arrived, the rest of the day was devoted to enameling: preparing the enamel, and all the techniques of applying and firing it. Everyone worked their way through the process and spent the day creating their enamel designs. I always enjoy the variety of images that other artists create. The pictures I took during the workshop are all still in the camera, I'll try to find the time to download them soon.
All in all, the class went very well. I feel confident about teaching again; I don't need to know "everything", I just need to remember that I know enough. (Hearty thank-yous to all my friends for your encouragement, it really helped) I feel fortunate to have had a great group of students for the class, which made teaching in a new venue go well. The only real difficulty I had was that the time allotted on Sunday wasn't long enough, five hours just isn't physically enough time for seven people to do all the enameling and finish work to complete their enamels. Having the two kilns helped, but as I had feared, having just the one sink really caused a backup, as the final steps in enameling involve grinding down the surface under running water, and the process is fairly slow. If I teach again at this school, and I hope to, I'll have to come up with a way to ease this problem…
Anyway, it is back to the usual for now, with a bit of extra eagerness for studio work. I have a Scythian horse enamel commission coming up, and also somehow after the teaching weekend I am more eager for further progress on getting my own studio space set up to hopefully someday teach workshops without the long drive at each end of the weekend.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

samples, and notes on working process

The samples for class this weekend are finished. Here are their pictures, the actual enamels are 1 1/2"x 7/8" If there is time, I will make settings for them. I'm happy with how they came out, different reasons for each:
This design was a challenge for me to engrave. It demonstrates the use of engraving as an overall background design, with imagery added in opaque "overlay" cloisonné. Even though wiggle-cut is simple, to get nicely curved lines while hand turning the background on a sandbag was difficult. On the other hand, the enameling was very straightforward, and the wire-bending was dirt simple. I think I will use this piece as part of my teaching "talisman"; not only do I find the image suitably resonant, but when I was talking to my sister-in-law this weekend, she mentioned that my dear brother also uses the metaphor of ripples on the water to describe teaching (did I mention that my brother and his wife are both middle school teachers)
This design was intended to demonstrate the use of engraving to add an additional layer of detail. The engraving was much easier to accomplish than the circular ripples. The enameling and finish work on this one were another story however… while aligning the wires with the design wasn't too hard, the enamels that I chose for this design were not so cooperative. I decided to experiment with the new opaque bright turquoise Schauer enamel that I got from Rio for the background. The pale taupe enamel that I chose for the oak branch fired out not completely transparent, but with a ticked texture, kind of like an Abyssinian cats fur. To "push" the taupe towards more transparency I raised the kiln heat. This worked fairly well, but surprisingly the turquoise enamel also became transparent. In adding the layers to complete the piece, it was a balancing act to get the oak branch to come out well while not having the background look too weird. I actually like the way it turned out, and it will be useful to show students the importance of doing trial pieces if specific results are needed.
Today will entail regular workaday tasks, and hopefully getting some of the tools made up for the class kits, and making colcannon for tonight's potluck

Thursday, March 15, 2007

twiggy goodness

Just wanted to share some more pictures from the ongoing saga of my backyard garden... Here is a picture inside the henhouse nestbox; good hennykins turn bugs and weeds, (and organic chicken chow) into eggses.

And here is another twig-fence, on one side of the garlic patch. It takes quite some time to weave even a small bit of twig-fence, this is about 2 ft high and 4 ft long, and took about three hours to create. The other three sides of the garlic have "fencing" made from salvaged panels from modular shelving, to protect my young garlic from hennish depredation, while I slowly find the spare time to weave more twig-fence. It is a nicely mindful activity weaving the sticks, similar to the meditative way I feel when deeply absorbed in other artisanly work. There is none of the stress of "is this coming out the way I envisioned", or "is this coming out the way I promised my current patron"; twig-fence needs only to hold together and to stand up, so building it is the closest I've currently come to purely childlike play in a long time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

warm wind + need crash space

Thank you all who answered my plaint of the previous post, the encouragement means a lot to me. The suggestion that Raven made really felt right; I'm thinking about making a "talisman for teaching" jewel, and putting all your kind words( printed out really small) on the inside, similar to how we put special good wishes inside the amulet box Laurel medallion for Goran.

Warm wind on Sunday, and it really felt like spring, I went out and about without a coat…all the sweet scent of the neighbors' daphne, and the ornamental cherry street trees… the trees in my front yard have pink blossoms and tiny purple leaves. I want to be out in the yard planting things, and did manage to get a row of sugar snap peas planted today. Now to find the time to make a trellis for them, and a twig fence to keep the hens away from the tender pea sprouts to come.

As I'd mentioned, Bill and I will be teaching in Seattle next weekend, and are looking for a place to stay on Friday and Saturday night. The school where we're teaching is in the U District, so if any Seattle folk would like two traveling artists as temporary guests for an evening or two, now is your chance.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

teaching in Seattle

Got a phone call from Bill earlier this week, to let me know that the class we are co-teaching in Seattle has filled. This is a great opportunity for me to share my enameling knowledge, and I am nervous as heck!

I love to teach, and have several successful enameling Ithra classes under my belt... Well, this is not an SCA workshop, this is a class in a modern metal arts center (Danaca Design). In the SCA, I have credentials, the King of An Tir made me a Laurel, I assume with the recommendation of my peers, but in the modern world I only have a BA, not even a BFA. I've never yet taken that step beyond to where I am presenting myself as a professional artist, (which is somehow different from presenting my work, which I am quite confident about.) I'm reminding myself that I'm only responsible for the same kind of workshop experience that I have already done twice over, and that it is not very likely that there will be too many questions that I won't be able to answer. Once I have actually done this, I'm sure it will become another thing that I am comfortable with, but for now it is looming as a great big deal.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Spring Fever and March Tea-party invite

Just two words…spring fever! I've been noticing that for the last few days there is a significantly increased morning chorus of bird voices.

Yesterday (a work-at-home day) was sunny, and warm, and what I wanted to do was to work on the garden space. Among other chores, I need to move one of the garden beds to where the former maple tree stood. Unless I take apart the wood sides of the raised bed, it is too big and awkward to carry. I pried the frame up from the soil using the shovel as a fulcrum, after removing the trellis that was nailed to the sides, but quickly realised that it needed more hands to actually re-locate it.

I happily spent a number of hours creating a fence panel and gate to close the side yard off. The thin branches from pruning the front yard trees are perfect for this simple rustic craft, and using cord lashing and simple weaving there is now a barrier to keep my hens in the grassy backyard rather than hanging around the back door. I hope to use more of the sticks and branches to make low barrier fences around the garden beds, for once there are seeds planted and sprouting, the girls will have to go elsewhere in the yard for their dust baths. The few long branches will make a good tall tepee-trellis for growing sugar snap peas, which I hope to plant in the next few days…

The baby artichoke plant got moved to the side yard, and the little plum tree switches from Wanda have been planted, tho' I'm sure they are not in their eventual homes, they will be happier in the ground than in a bucket. I'd like to have Morwen come and look at my yard, to give me advice about fruit tree placement. When it comes to this garden stuff, I am such a beginner…

It’s another Tea Party of Crafty Goodness. Come anytime after Noon on Saturday March 31, 2007. As always, tea and tasty snacks will be provided, and additional tasty snacks are always welcome.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Dog...what dog...

(insert smacking of self on forehead here)

In my pleasure at finally deciding to attend A&S, a relatively local event, as in I can attend without having to stay in a hotel, I somehow forgot that an all day event still requires me to come up with a dog-emptying arrangement. As her own darling self cannot stay home alone for a whole long day without dire consequences for the interior of my house, not to mention that she would feel terrible about said consequences and rub her face raw trying to cover it up with her nose rubbing across the carpet.

One reason that I didn't go to events last year, aside from the "I just bought a house and now I don't have any money", was that I have not yet been able to find anyone who loves Smokey and doesn't have cats, or other dogs, or is willing to just come over and hang out at my house. (She loves all people except burglars, but she doesn't really like most dogs, and wants to play with cats, which is not fun for the cats) In Olympia, I did have a few possible places for her to go when I couldn't take her with me. And a 19 year old friend who was perfectly happy to have a day or two away from the parental home.

Sigh... I will be calling around this afternoon after work, to see if any of my friends might be not going to the event, and would be willing to come by my house and take her for a spin around the yard to pee. My backup plan is to bring her and keep her in the car all day, with water and open windows, and a couple of visits from me to walk her around the parking lot. I really do feel like some kind of moron, I've been planning on coming to this event for weeks, and only last night, had this realisation...