Thursday, February 27, 2014

new tricks for an old dog

in which our plucky heroine is pleased to learn some new things to do with string...

Whilst en route to Adiantum Midwinters, after I somehow misplaced my necessary sewing thimble somewhere in the car, Jess very kindly lent me both spare yarn and needles and a looksee through her book of Turkish knitting patterns... by the end of the weekend I made this knitted patterned drawstring pouch, which then somehow jumped into an almost exhausted blue dyebath here at Acorn Cottage this week, turning the bright lime green yarn a softer shade. I might not have managed to take classes at the event, but learned three new knitting techniques on the road trip...
This pattern is making me very happy, (three rows actual colorwork alternating with two rows plain knit) the effect is all out of proportion with the effort involved, and will be a good choice for my future use-up-all-the-random-skiens cardigan!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

(T is for tactile)

In which our plucky heroine is struggling to maintain equanimity as the tide of the year turns from winter to spring...

Despite ongoing pain, took some extra walking time today, and spent two hours this afternoon picking up twigs-n-sticks from my front yard, and have stuffed the yard waste bin full. Barely made a dent in the pile, but it feels good to be able to do that much after two years of being too feeble.

Been invited to two different parties this coming weekend, and don't want to go to either one, the only thing worse than spending hours lonely by myself is spending hours lonely surrounded by people I barely know. Repeated reminding self that unless behavior changes that life circumstances won't change has effect of furthering discouragement rather than encouraging action. Have no idea what tiny kaizen shift might start me on the path of new people in my life; I know what I want, and even my counselor says that my desires are not anything like unreasonable (someone(s) to do stuff with, like walkabout and photo adventures; someone(s) to exchange skillsets with, to get the tasks done that take more than one; someone(s) local to cuddle with or more; doesn't even have to be all just one someone) And is not that girl does not entirely appreciate the people that are currently in my life, just really wishing for a different balance of alone time with connected time, and a bit of supplementary Vitamin T...

'Tis always a bad sign when basic household chores pile up undone, not because of focused worktime, but because self is trying really hard NOT to FEEL anything to the extent that nothing much gets done. And somewhere in FB-Land someone posted an article on how many hours we have in our lives, and when I think of how much of my life is wasted in feeling bad, and how few years are likely left to me, I feel even worse. Even if I cannot have much of the loves, and skin goes hungry most all the time, I still need to make all the things and teach as much of what I know as I can in the time I have left... Not trudgery-drudgery, but still a long and lonesome haul. Telling self it is part of the steps forward/steps backward dance, and that finding my equanimity will happen again. Stepping away from the computer to go tackle Mt Dishmore and Mt Washmore once again, and a bit of prep time for tomorrow's tasks...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

well begun is half done

in which our plucky heroine prepares for continued progress in the studio, and while the ancient aphorism is not perzactly proportionally accurate, a good beginning is, in fact, vital...

This last weekend, whilst Bill was here, some of the engravings that he was working on was these detailed base plates for various enameling commission pieces currently underway; he and I have collaborated on various projects for years.

(both these discs are under 2" in diameter)
This one has a diaper pattern with the grid lines engraved. The patterning will appear as darker lines and motifs once covered with transparent enamel, similar to the background in this early enamel...

And this one, slightly different, has a very similar diaper pattern, but the grid lines are wiggle cut and interlaced. I am always fascinated by the big differences small changes make in how something so small scale appears.

Monday, February 17, 2014

scenes from an Enameling Playdate weekend

in which in which much fun was had with glass on metal, combined with extreme heat and a great mixture of friends from near and far, and our plucky heroine learns it is possible to fit almost twice the number of usual students into one workroom...

At one point on Saturday there were SEVEN adults in the studio, as well as Toshi the WonderPup tucked in the corner near the laundry, and two patient and well behaved children entertaining themselves in the living room. It was the first weekend long Enameling Playdate, and there have been some amazing first and second pieces created. It does my teachery heart good when folks have so much fun on their initial effort that they immediately want to make another one...

Larry and Jen had both come with specific ideas to try out, while Cathy looked for new inspiration in some books on Anglo-Saxon artifacts

Jess works to bend the tiny cloisonné wires for her design...

Larry starts to apply the enamel powders

Jen is working on her second piece of cloisonné

Bill is engraving sample plaques for trying out the new Japanese and French transparent red enamels...

there were, at times seven folks in the studio... not quite all are visible in this picture...

in the background, our plucky heroine is conversing with Cathy about some odd enamel behavior
(photo courtesy of Jen Ariadne)

our intrepid supervisor: Toshi the Wonder Pup; happy to have so much of the pack in one place at the same time

the various colors of washed enamel powder in the center of the larger worktable... I usually keep the enamels, when in use, in small china dishes on lazy susans, but Cathy thought to add labels to the colors, which helps when there are enamels that look similar as powder, but different colors when fused and fired

After the damp enamel is placed in the cloisons, it must dry completely before being fired...these enamels, resting in their firing trivets, are on top of the kiln, drying...

Cathy sketched out several possible designs before choosing which one to make; her first enamel is inspired by the enameled center medallion in an Anglo-Saxon disc brooch

Jen's first enamel is this graceful trillium

Jess used her heraldry for her first enamel

Jen has a real knack for bending the cloisonné wires - look at this tiny sphinx!

and Cathy's second enamel is inspired by Anglo-Saxon floor tile motifs. This design would be an excellent one for any beginning enamelist, as the graphic quality is strong, the wires easy to bend and apply.

Larry's piece is not quite finished yet (he had to leave early) It will need another layer of the background enamel, and then grinding and flash firing. Still, he did amazingly well, given that he had major dental surgery on Friday and came to enamel on Saturday...

Cindy's piece is also not quite finished (she also had to leave early) but all it still needs is to have the surface ground smooth and be flash fired in the kiln. She will be adding some lighter blue embellishment to the surface of her blue cat.

I always need a sample project when teaching so as to have something available to demonstrate various enameling techniques. My sample enamel for this weekend - one of my favorite animated characters, Puppycat!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

bird in the hand

Last year our plucky heroine was commissioned to make a pendant based on an ancient Greek coin... and, as happens on occasion, there is another person who, on seeing pictures of the first owl pendant, asked if another one could be made as a special gift for their spouse this Friday. It isn't my holiday, but I delight in turning folks ideas into reality... Since an exact copy would be inappropriate, leaving off the lettering and reversing the colors of the image gave an equally graphic result, and as always, the wonderful French Soyer enamels made by Cristallerie de Saint Paul are a delight to work with.

Somehow the words "a bird in the hand" came to mind, and this image shows rather the scale of the pendant; the actual enamel is approximately 1 1/4" in diameter, and set in a very simple silver setting.
The setting is marked on the reverse with my makers mark (here much enlarged) a horse courant regardant, surmounted with a crown. The design is the primary charge from my heraldry, to signify moving forward without losing sight of the past. The actual horse stamp is only 4mm x 5mm (about half the size of my pinkie fingernail), and the detailing is pretty amazing given the size. The horse stamp was cut for me by my dear and dearly missed late friend Ian Cnulle.

Monday, February 10, 2014

a thin thin shell

in which our plucky heroine succumbs to cabin fever and goes for a walk...

Despite not only our rubbish weather but also feeling most under it, and sleeping on and off for several days, which is most suspiciously my body fending off some nasty germ or another, the temptation to just get out of the house for just a little bit was irresistible. Bundled up in layers, and with my winter boots chained up, girl tucked camera in pocket and set out around a few blocks, carefully; thinking to self "shiny side up rubber side down"...
Round here we have not had quite the intense ice and snow as media would suggest, but it is definitely a presence:

A few bits of dead grass in the side yard,
thin as threads but covered with a delicate candy coat of ice

the remains of last autumn's rose hips,
in silouhette against the grey clouded sky

The tattered skeleton umbels of Queen Anne's Lace
seem all decorated with icy gems

Friday, February 7, 2014

moar snow

in which our plucky heroine counts her blessings...baking gingerbread, simmering soup, sitting and sketching.... not bad for a snow day!

This very special stone carving was a gift to Acorn Cottage
from my dear friend and awesome artist Bill Dawson,
who has more skills than pretty much anyone I know...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

snow day

in which our plucky heroine, watching the drifting flakes, is reduced to writing haiku...

white dusts gritty wind
snow powders all directions...
glad to be indoors!

Between yesterday and today girl managed to get various perishable preparations dealt with before the snow really arrived... things like an extra half gallon of milk, some fresh greens and fruit, putting the candles and matches out ready to hand, picking up the prescriptions, and swapping the old library books for a new one.

The extra long bus ride to the other end of the city seemed less than intelligent, with the necessity of standing around in the unsheltered wind at 19F for a half hour waiting for the connecting bus. Even with enough layers of wool and fleece that our plucky heroine looked more like a matroyshka doll than ordinarily, the wind is so strong that it ran right through the multiple layers. (shall remember that, and a future coat will include a windblocking layer not just for the torso, but for the arms as well. My SCA kit does a fairly good job at keeping the core warm, multiple layers of wool worked for our ancestors and still work for us. My AnTirian hat (part mongol/part viking) has two layers of dense melton cloth wool, and is bordered with fur, so it really keeps my head warm, particularly if I wear a kerchief tied peasant style underneath. My mittens, naalbound by my dear friend Ariadne, are a good quarter inch or more thick, and dense enough to block the wind, while stiff enough to require removal if anything more dextrous than carrying a bag is needed. Withal, I rescheduled my Sellwood housecleaning job to next week, and headed home...

While often Facebook is more a time sink, today girl found an article posted there that was chockablock full of wise and clever thought. One of the sayings that has been the most painful for me since starting my cancer journey is the phrase "new normal". I liked the old normal just fine... and having all my hardearned progress at building a good life swept away in the fire of illness has been a challenge. When I read "A New Normal: Ten Things I've Learned About Trauma", was almost reduced to tears by words that got right to the heart of what is also true for me...

Look out the front window and see that the snow has changed from powdered sugar to larger feathers of white, and 'tis time to get back to the workroom, and make forward progress on the other assorted self-employment tasks of Roman rivets, and setting the new enamel, and re-sketching the coronet bids...If I get all that done, my reward shall be to also make small progress on the sewing projects, starting with some new pairs of warm wintertime leggings! Girl is a lot more cheerful today, like a Daruma, can push me down but cannot keep me down!!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

neverending bootstrapping which our plucky heroine reminds herself that three steps forward two steps back is still net progress...

The backwash from my cancer journey is like escaping from a riptide, taking a much longer route than simply returning to the beach of my former life... haven't much felt like posting, since either girl is really busy working, or is too squashed flat to feel like sharing, fortunately more of the former than the latter.

late night maneki-nekos - may they beckon prosperity for all who see this

The good being that bit by bit there seems to be fragments of work coming my way, as girl assiduously follows up on the various signs and queries, in the interest of maintaining and increasing forward momentum. The hard part is dealing with the bureaucratic paperwork for the assistance I still need, for while I am returning to my workaday life, am still not back to full-speed/full-time, and in truth will likely never be able to return to fulltime housekeeping work, which is why girl is following up on all queries about metalwork/enameling and other parts of my skillset.

Today I had my third go-round with the mysterious people in the locked DHS facility, that has taken the place of the former face to face encounters with caseworkers. Anyone that says public assistance is a walk in the park easy peasy has never actually dealt with the situation. I long for and work every day towards not needed EBT (food stamps) though they have been a life saver during my return to health. But until I am back to earning enough for all the limited necessities* of life, every sixmonth I fill out a thick booklet of information and documentation of my status, and send that in along with copies of my taxes and accounting. Every six months, which means that there are copies of my records on file there, already.

But this time, despite my handing all that in of my current information in a timely fashion, and despite the copies already on file, the mystery person phoned to say that they were this time not satisfied and wanted a second copy of every page of my tax forms, which I took the half day off to get copied and bring into the local office to be faxed to the closed facility. Then a few days later, I get another phone call that that information was not enough, and they wanted fresh copies of all my account book pages from the last twelve months, (despite already having those on file from the last time) So I again took a halfday off to copy out all of these and hand carry them to the local office to be faxed to the closed facility. At this point I was reduced to tears once I got safely home from the bus ride.

Today, when my EBT benefit should be accessible, my card reads empty; I call the phone number of the locked facilty to be told that the mystery person assigned to deal with my forms is not in the office, and that there is no way to know when they will finish with the new paperwork and release my pittance. Fortunately, I am frugal, know cooking skills, and careful in how I shop. But this makes me sooo angry. Girl has been working since she was fifteen years old and paying taxes since she was fifteen years old, and is almost sixty and will be working and paying taxes till they take me out feet first. I am not trying to do anything shady. I have repeatedly provided copies of the same gorram documentation...

* shelter and utilities, food, transportation & clothing

~ ~ ~≈:::≈~ ~ ~

but lest my beloved readers be left with the same bitter taste, girl offers instead two very different and cheering musical delights, that lift my spirits and strengthen my resolve:

found on Terry Windling's Myth and Moor, this Monday

unexpectedly found on FB

Saturday, February 1, 2014

try try again

in which our plucky heroine is making progress bit by bit on the pair of Roman brooches...
The actual size is about 1 1/2" across, bone disc beads are 6mm, and I have some 8mm discs on order for the centers

When my initial attempt at the radial ferns? feathers? proved less than ideal (wigglecut not giving an appropriate look) I decided to try simple engraved lines... The technique is not one I have experimented with before, and is right on the border of what my tiny hands and wrists can handle; I shall never be anywhere close to the exquisite work that my colleague Bill Dawson can do, but the effect here is similar to the look of the original artifact.