Sunday, March 30, 2014

Great Big Squid

because all work and no play makes our plucky heroine a dull girl...

Practicing two-handed Fair Isle with fingering weight yarn… had two contrasting colors in my stash of mostly worsted weight yarn, a heathery orange and a dark cobalt blue…
Started out with some size 2 needles, as that looked like the best option to coordinate with the thinner than usual yarn, but they snapped in half before I got very far, I think that they were poorly made, possibly from barbecue skewers! Started over with better quality small bamboo circulars that were size 3…

I have no idea if I am anywhere near an appropriate gauge, as all I printed out was the pictorial diagram of the big octopus. I am going to use using a different design for the back side of the bag, instead of the seahorses I will use my new favorite motif, the double rams-horn/ocean-waves curves…

Saturday, March 29, 2014

the blessings of memory and the memory of blessings...

in which our plucky heroine is put in mind to remember kindness with gratitude...

Yesterday's sorting and decluttering session unburied the iPod that accompanied girl to the hospital two years ago, the tunes and gizmo a most welcome gift from my friends Bob and Sam, and girl had somehow forgotten all the gems of memory embedded in the various songs...

It has been long years since I left my parents house to go away to college the first time, long years since all the simple and complex discoveries of those years, where the autumn winds were filled with leaves the colors of bonfires, where the deep snowy streets were cleared by what our dazzled vision saw as all sorts of clanking saurian machinery... the light of memory fades away my troubles and tears that surely accompanied those tiny illuminations of my young adult life...

I do remember the first time I listened to recorded music through headphones though... even more magical than being able to listen to favorite songs and musicians at all and concert tapes of shows we never attended, headphones put the sound somehow inside your head, with the various players somehow located in different places, and sometimes the music moved location... That brighteyed hopeful young girl lives buried in the mists also somehow inside my head, she comes out to play with poetry and artworks, but most folks never see her, only what she has touched...

Bless the daytime
Bless the night
Bless the sun which gives us light
Bless the thunder
Bless the rain
Bless all those who cause us pain...

(a prayer not only for our plucky heroine who continues journeying on 'til my life bids me halt, for all of us who journey onwards, for all the heros and heroines known and unknown, but especially for G, who has now married the woman who told him to leave me)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

whatever else is happening, knitting always satisfies

Our plucky heroine just finished another knitted colorwork pouch, this one sized for glasses/sunglasses... projects like this are ideal for trying out colorwork patterns and color combinations, and it has also been a useful way to practice the technique of two-handed Fair Isle knitting, which catches in all the floats and leaves a smooth interior...

compare and contrast the wrong sides... the colorful pouch on the left, done in two-handed Fair Isle, has no floats at all; the green pouch on the right, done in my "normal" knitting style, has yarn floats... not to say that either one is better but the more techniques in my personal toolbox, the easier it is to choose the most useful one for a particular project. I know that were I knitting sweater sleeves (or mittens), yarn floats are annoying in how they catch fingers. On the other hand, floats do provide additional insulation, so for a tea cozy (or a hat) they would be a plus...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Eating the frog and other soggy delights

Decided yesterday evening that today would be time to eat the frog and do all the pages of arithmetic that my various federal and state and city tax forms require. (no idea why I put this off every year, it really isn't that horrible)  My 2013 taxes are all done; all that remains is another trip to the copy shop. I think I have a little froggish indigestion now, after hours with the calculator. But Yay! for completing a major procrastinatory item on my to do list, and double Yay!! for having managed enough money saved up to pay all the different taxes owed. I watched the rest of Bravest Warriors cartoons as a reward.

Had what might be a very productive session with my counselor this morning. Managed to stay focused on the area I have the most difficulty with; not sure where we can go from here, but I am determined not to let myself sidetrack myself with other, albeit also needful issues.

Managed to figure out that the reason my front porch and walkway were full of water was that the gutter was not draining. Clambered up on the stepladder (safely, on the porch) and reached around and up where I could and removed a lot of mucky debris. Also used a handy stick to dislodge more. Got the downspout cleared and voila, water going where it should instead of where it shouldn't. Then took apart the lower downspout to rescue stick, which fell from my cold mucky fingers down the tube, and couldn't be left there to create a new interior clog.

Now I am cold and wet and filthy. Time for a wash-up, dinner, and then making a fair copy of tax forms for tomorrow... Never a dull moment here at the Acorn Cottage house of fun

Monday, March 24, 2014

Media Monday and another enamel workshop

This past weekend, despite the lovely soft spring sunshine, our plucky heroine spent mostly indoors teaching a second Introduction to Cloisonné workshop. My old friend Zenobia turned out to be the singular student, so it was more of a private lesson, but that allowed her to complete two small pieces over the course of the weekend.

Saturday morning she showed up with tasty pastry treats... mmm brioche stuffed with goat cheese and roasted winter squash for lunch, and we decided to go out to dinner at a new-to-me restaurant, The Fishwife, on Lombard between here and St Johns. What a treat! I have to call it a local gem... the food was much better than I expected from the exterior and "1950s beach café" decor. I had fried calamari, and they were crisp, hot and completely not greasy at all! Z had the osso buco with polenta and rapini, and while she almost regretted not choosing seafood, it was well worth the exception. This restaurant goes on my short list.

I always love to see the design choices my students make, and do my best to help them be successful. Zenobia's second design was inspired by our local Steller's Jay.. showing the progression from initial sketch, color choices and finished enamel, as well as some thought about how best to bend the wires to get the desired linear shapes. Her choice of adding just two curved wires to the background was a great way to add a lively dynamic to the image in a way that suits the size of the piece. Yet again proving that I learn something new from each person that attends one of my classes!

...and here is a closer look at her two finished enamel pieces (each the size of a nickel) I love the way that Zenobia's love of color is expressed in her enameling...

Someone asked on FB whether enamels of this size could be set as earrings. My reply was that while enamels of this size *could* be set as earrings, in several different ways, they would be what I consider to be quite heavy (I only wear lightweight earrings, and were I to make enamel earrings I would use a base that was probably a fourth the size of these...

which would need a simpler design, like the ones I made a number of years ago, which are about 1cm across their widest dimension:

and because no springtime is complete without a little tongue in cheek...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

repairing the damage

our plucky heroine has been working on a "repair the broken enamel" project; one of my pieces from a far kingdom met with something bad...

Now mind, I only ever repair enamels that I myself initially created (as that way I know the materials used and the construction... which allows my safety in the deconstruction and repair) and in the years I have been making regalia and jewelry, I have only ever had three come back for repairs after being damaged.

On arrival here, this lovely piece showed a small piece of missing enamel over the Pelican's wing, and cracks all over the golden transparent background...

Looking more closely at the setting, there was one side of the heavy backing plate bent away from the bezel cup that holds the enamel - extremely odd... that this amount of bending could occur without damage, or any effect at all, to the pearl drops

Back lighting shows how bent the backing plate is. Whatever caused this is probably whatever caused the damage to the enamel as well

After removing the enamel from the setting, it was obvious that the bezel had been all that was holding the shattered enamel glass in place. This is pretty much what I expected to happen, as the other time I repaired an enamel with this amount of cracking on the surface it also had many shards that came loose when the setting was removed

All the detached enamel bits have left a great deal of the design and background missing, and the remaining enamel is deeply cracked, which will likely remain as shadows in the repaired enamel

These tiny pieces in particular are part of the Laurel wreath and I shall endeavor to reattach them when the repairs are made. The enamel design will go back into the kiln at 1500F for a number of times to reattach and fuse the broken pieces and to fill in the places that are missing... This is not a trivial repair!

learned something new... in the process of gradually adding new enamel to the parts where it was entirely missing, the many repeated hot firings also gradually brought the air bubbles (that were initially fused into the cracks with the first repair firing) to the surface, where they could be filled and re-fused.
While no repaired piece looks "like new" this is by far the best re-enameling I have done, and will remember to use this technique should other repairs show up.
This enamel is really difficult to photograph well, but I am really happy with how the deep cracks all across the background have been not just fused back but are mostly invisible now, and how the missing enamel has been replaced and color-matched... next steps will be to remove the old bezel cup, create a new bezel cup, repair the damaged backing plate, and then reassemble the entire piece... like I said, it isn't a trivial process..

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday satisfaction: part the second which our plucky heroine concludes the Roman brooches project

Back at the beginning of February, the project of creating a pair of ancient Roman style womens dress fastener brooches, inspired and informed by this 1st century Roman disc brooch, began. It was a challenging project, as there were several new techniques I ended up using, and a new workshop tool was created as well, which will prove not only ideal for these, but useful for the forseeable future (neatly set rivets are always nicer)
They are now completed, and are both known to be useful and believed to be beautiful; a successful project that will hopefully see much use by their new owner in years to come... they are actually not very large, and I am quite pleased with the details of the tiny riveted bone discs and engraved patterning...

Sunday satisfaction: part the first which our plucky heroine teaches a smaller class in Cloisonné Enameling...

The previous Enameling Playdate was a really full house, this workshop was rather towards the other extreme, but fewer students mean lots of extra time per student. My friend acupuncturist Sharon Rose was my primary student this time, as the other person scheduled for this session had a time conflict. In addition Larry and Cindy both returned to finish their projects, as they had had to leave the former workshop/playdate much earlier than the scheduled close of day...

Three students in the workroom on a Saturday afternoon...

Sharon arrived having done research and with several possible ideas for a first project; after choosing one, here she is bending wires for the design lines

Her first enamel is underway, and she's enjoying the process so much that she has started on a second one, that will be a two-sided design

the first cloisonné piece that Sharon Rose completed, motif based on Roman archaeological finds - (this will eventually become a brooch)

a two sided piece for her second effort; SPQR is the obverse side...and the reverse side has a very simple and effective design, also inspired by archaeological finds. There are specific challenges to making two sided cloisonné, and she did very well

Cindy finished her first cloisonné piece, and used a lighter blue for accent shading on her blue cat.

Larry's first cloisonné piece, a beautifully precise heraldic ermine spot

Thursday, March 13, 2014

not quite like old times...

It was a bit like back in the days when Bill and I shared studio space, to have him in the workroom at Acorn Cottage earlier this week. We were able to consult about some new collaborative projects we are submitting bids for, and 'tis always a treat to have company whilst working...

After A&S, staying in Portland made more sense than his zooming back to OlyWa and then back here again for his lecture presentation at CMAG on Tuesday night, on Iron Age Ribbon Torcs. I knew he had been to Ireland, to the National Museum in Dublin; his presentation on the details of the research he did there, on ancient technology and metalwork, was both clear and fascinating


This doesn't look much like a long day's work, but there are at least four firings needed for each of these enamel samples... these are the various Japanese and French transparent "red" enamels, which would undoubtedly look far more red were they fired on high karat gold instead of fine silver.
My next sampling project will be a somewhat larger grid than these tiny pieces, to try out layering various combinations... each individual single color sample here has one side with clear flux, one side without, a layer of the chosen enamel, and then a second layer of the same enamel across the top of the tiny piece...hence the four different shades on each one, a larger grid with all the colors will allow for potential variants and maybe just maybe something that looks a bit more like a garnet red...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

an assortment of updatitude

... in which our plucky heroine attempts to play catch-up, (and remembers that baking is not an improvisational art...)

Last week my kitchen looked rather as if an assortment of small creatures with dark purple blood had come to a bad end. I offered to make my friend Ursul a birthday treat, and since her preference is for berry pie rather than cake, I decided that tartlets would be less messy than slices of pie as finger food. What could possibly go wrong?

I have several well tested recipes for piecrust of various styles, and chose the "renaissance piecrust" which adds an egg yolk to the dough, giving a bit of extra strength without making it tough. That part worked just fine.

I then started on preparing the filling... cooked down a quantity of frozen blackberries, then strained out the seeds, added some green apple pectin and attempted to then transfer the berry goo into the prepared tartlet shells prior to baking, with a teaspoon... this did not go well, but the real problem was that I had no way to judge how full to fill them, and my efforts to not have them look skimpy resulted in vast quantities of dark goo overflowing across the tops and into the oven, as well as sticking the little tidbits to the pans.
Though the pastry bits looked rather like they were baked by a demented fiveyearold, they tasted quite nice and were well recieved... particularly as the "birthday celebration" for Ursul turned into a party to celebrate her being offered elevation to the Order of the Laurel... sometimes our plucky heroine is very sneaky, as are the rest of Ursul's Laurel pals!
. .
good tartlet - bad tartlet - not tartlet at all...

Kingdom Arts and Sciences this last weekend was quite excellent and quite overwhelming, with three rooms full of so very many wonderful artifacts in myriad of styles and techniques; as it was, I had been asked to be on the judging panels for two items, and that used all the coherence I had for that day (had stayed up way too late the night before socialising with my out of town guests, and then even later finishing up a project in the workroom. There was quite a bit of time to visit with friends from near and far, and I also managed to take a picture of one of my earlier Renaissance style pieces, made before the digital camera became so available, and hence formerly undocumented... am always happy to see older work and still be happy with how it looks

In the last few days, great progress has been made not only on the "sampling of the new and various transparent reddish color enamels project"* but also on the Roman Brooch project... earlier, the basic design was laid out on sheet stock, and the foliated engraving done and patterned circular stamping around where the central disc will be attached. Now, holes are drilled in the engraved and stamped plate, so that the bone discs can be attached

a general look at what the brooch layout will be

This one has had four of the seven discs riveted in place; the other three will also hold a custom fabricated pin back to the reverse side of the brooch

Here are some of the tools used in this phase of the brooch project. I am setting the bone discs in place with escutcheon pin rivets. Two different hammers, nail set, cutters, and the modified rivet-setting anvil...

The central discs for this project, a little larger than the small discs, have correspondingly larger central holes. In order for the escutcheon pin to stay centered, it was necessary to create a miniature bushing, by winding cloisonné wire into a tiny spiral of metal, visible in the center of the disc I am holding


* just as a delectable surprise, while most of the assorted transparent red enamels, from France and from Japan, fire out to various shades of transparent orange-ish colors, which are not at all the lovely shade of garnet we are looking for, I did find that there were a Japansese enamel that instead gave this astonishingly vivid and lovely intense pink! Once I finish the first go round of layered individual samples, the next task will be to do a grid sample of how the assorted colors interact, in the hope that some combination will yield the garnet red we desire.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

small wheel turning

A small scrap of steel, not sure what it started out as, found on the street, has been a tiny anvil for a while. Since it has a wider portion that makes a steady-ish base, it seemed like the right thing to add a small hemispherical divot in one corner, so as to hold the rounded head of escutcheon pins when using them as rivets. Sometimes Tool Girl makes tools as well as uses them...
I first smoothed out the top surface as best I could, using a range of abrasive wet/dry sandpaper, and then used some of these inexpensive industrial diamond points to grind the place that would serve to hold the rivet head. I have had a set of the diamond bits for a number of years now, and while they are not super-high quality*, they work well for the various odd things needed. Often they come in handy on the rare occasion that some enamel needs modified while in process, or should there be a small bit in the wrong place. The important thing is to remember that these sorts of points must ALWAYS be used underwater, just like when grinding enamel. The water serves to cool and to flush away any of the grinding debris from the abrasive.

* I find Harbor Freight to be a useful source of some small tools, depending on what you need them for. Not the most precise, and highly variable in quality, but the price is notably less, and for many things the tools are perfectly adequate. I have a set of drive hole punches for leather and soft materials that work just fine, as do these little points...

wishful wednesday - or the loss of baby bear's dishes...

I am a flake. I have been looking everywhere for weeks for my feast gear, missing since 12th Night... I found it yesterday. Along with an assortment of former citrus fruit, now green furry compost. My very favorite deep wooden bowl and small trencher were in the bag along with the mold farm. I am certain they cannot be restored to food safety. I am a sad flake, having both foolish attachments to inanimate objects that fulfill specific design niches in ways that made me very happy, and foolish resistance to change. While I may be able to find some other dishes suitable for eventing here at Acorn Cottage, there are none so "just right"...

Monday, March 3, 2014

media Monday and the memory of handswork

...long long ago, when the numbers next to my name were single digits, our plucky heroine was already someone with fingers that liked to learn things...

and one of the things they learned was how to braid four strands into a round cord. Maybe even before learning the more common three strand plait used for hair, since back then my hair was too short for pigtails. But the four strand plait has been a lifelong bit of useful knowledge, being so simple as to be unforgettable, and having a curiously satisfying appearance with the two colors spiraling around each other. A recent realisation, inspired by Norse whipcord braiding with bobbins, was that winding up the unbraided ends into neat weaving butterflies makes the braiding process a lot faster, as there is then no need to spend time untangling the loose ends.


and just because it has been a while since I posted anything just for pretty...