Saturday, August 30, 2008

Art Propelled

When I started my blog I thought the best part would be seeing my own work online. I was wrong. The best part is the friends I've made, the artists whose work I've been able to see, the visual places I've been to, and by reading other blogs, being able to have a sense of how people go through their creative process.

One special person who encompasses all of that is Robyn at Art Propelled. She always has something interesting to say (today it was about owls) and includes great links to other sites. She and I have a connection about "junking" in general, but now, the more we get to know each other, the connection seems to be getting stronger. This picture is of the interior of a totem she made and after studying all the photos she had of it I realized about 3/4 of the items she put in it were nearly identical to items I have.

We're nearly half a world away from each other, riding on the same wave length.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Starbucks coffee is expensive and over-hyped. When we are on road trips I get Senior Coffee at McDonald's in the morning but on a long, hot day we'll look for a Starbucks in the afternoon for a cold Mocha Frappaccino to split. With extra whipped cream, of course. (Driving is hard work!)

Every now and then we buy a 24-pack of the small bottles at Costco. We'll keep a few in the refrigerator and share one in the afternoon. To compensate for getting less than the promised calories since we share it, we'll add a spoonful of vanilla ice cream to it.

Yes, Starbucks coffee is expensive and over-hyped and we do consider it an extravagant over-indulgence. Except for one fact. Starbucks puts those labels on the bottles with removable glue. You know how some labels will never come off unless you soak them in Goo-gone? These labels will peel easily off and the inked-on date comes off with a little scrubbing.

So it isn't an extravagance if you recycle all those classic looking bottles. Candied ginger pieces? Salad dressing? Screws? Buttons? Stones? Marbles? About 20 other bottles are scattered around our house, holding all sorts of stuff or just waiting to be used.

Susan wasn't crazy about this picture because if you enlarge it you can see all the dust on the shelf. Her basic theory is that you don't dust until you need a snow-blower to do the job. Fine with me because I'm definitely not doing it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bee-ing There

I still am surprised that I was able to get this good of a close-up without blur. For the record, Being There, the old Peter Sellers movie, is one of my favorites.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I'm trying to get the hang of macro photography with my simple point-and-shoot digital camera. I have the most trouble with blur so someday I need to upgrade to a camera that has a better anti-shake feature. Ah, the pleasures of growing old.

Sure, a tripod would help. Susan even gave me a gorilla-grip type little tripod to take along on my bike rides but I just find it's too much trouble and gets in my way. Other than the thoroughly enjoyable pleasure of making friends all over the world, this blog has really made me focus on developing my meager photography skills.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Face It

Work from a class I took from Andy Nasisse; it's not actually raku but a crackle technique he teaches. After taking a four-month break I'm getting ready to head back to ceramics this week.

Monday, August 25, 2008


I ordered new shoes from Zappos for Susan on Wednesday, my printed receipt shows the order placed at 8:48 a.m. On Thursday by 11:30 a.m. they were at the UPS mail store where our box is. Less than 27 hours from the time I placed the order online to the time I picked them up!!! Shipping charge: $0.

We have ordered just three pairs of shoes in the last two years and like them because of the free shipping and free return policy. This time this is what the confirmation email said: Your order will ship out today and be given a special priority shipping status so that you can receive your order even faster than we originally promised! Please note that this is being done at no additional cost to you. It is simply our way of saying thank you for being our customer.

Want shoes? Want free shipping? Want free returns? Want special treatment every now and then? Zappos.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I am Woman, Hear Me Roar


This is by a woman named Starr Hagenbring and as far as I can tell, she doesn't make these figures any more. She is about 10 inches high and hangs on the wall. Sometimes when I walk by she power-growls at me. Yes! She totally ignores Don.

You got the image going here? Two old odd people wandering around their house talking to their stuff.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Train Wreck Treasure

On Wednesday we had a train derailment in the middle of Austin. I'm no fool - Susan and I were up there early Thursday morning, ever so politely asking the Union Pacific cleanup crew if we could pick up the scrap metal that was in the grass by the tracks.

These springs are very heavy, too heavy to bother with in welding shop, but they'll make great bases for my ceramic heads. In the meantime, we have a Spring Garden.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Shabti One

About a year ago I was rooting around my local junk yard area looking for unique pieces of metal. The metal had to have been beaten up, stomped on and tossed aside, but wanted to be re-born into something different (kind of like me). As usual, the workers would watch me with amusement, wondering what, if anything, was going on in my head. Then, one of them motioned me over and gave me this piece.  All I had to do was give it the gift of sight and a base. 
To me, a piece of metal like this is sculpture all by itself. How long had it waited to be brought back to life and re-introduced to the world? Say hello to "Shabti One".

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Das Dremel

I don't have a pickup and I don't have a chain saw but I do have a drill press, a circular saw, a jigsaw, 3 different cordless drills, and so on and so on, right down to my Dremel. Actually, I bought it for Susan but somehow it just migrated to my work area. At first I thought it was a sort of "girly" tool but I changed my mind after finding how convenient and easy it was to use on small pieces.

But after taking Art Unraveled classes I realized my creativity may be a little limited. I sat down at my class table and began unpacking my tools. The woman next to me was unpacking her tools and she had a Dremel also and she said: "I didn't think I'd ever use a Dremel but now I use it all the time to trim my dog's toenails."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Art Unraveled Shrinking Violets

Several years ago Susan was in Lesley Riley's Fabric Books class at the Quilt Festival in Houston. At the break she was talking to someone else in the class and found out not only did the woman live in Austin, she lived just 6 blocks away from us. That was Janis. Janis told Susan she had been to some classes at something called Art Unraveled and that was how it all started for Susan and then for me. Carol is a good friend of Janis. And Carol's husband, Morrie, does welding at the same shop I do. Small world. Or is it Six Degrees of Separation?

Both Janis and Carol are camera-shy. However, under protest, here is a picture of Janis's beautiful bracelet from Susan Lenart Kazmer's Weaving Wire Metal Structures class. Carol thought she could get away with revealing nothing of her talents but Susan conned her out of 2 of her Moo cards. Not a great enlargement but you can see just how creative she is.

Ladies, you can run but you can't hide from my blog!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sumptuous Sumi

Susan finishes up:

Jill Berry kept us going at a fast pace in Sumptuous Sumi and Other Stories and I'm only showing you these few pieces. I loved everything I made and had a hard time deciding which ones I liked the best. The plan is to incorporate them into books, as the paper we used (Arches Text Wove) is so durable it isn't weakened by the multiple applications of ink and paint. A very fun class. I was lucky enough to be sitting next to Rella, a very talented artist, and we shared paint and tools, confusion and success.

The 2 pieces above started out as one piece of paper, torn in half. Sumi ink was painted on one side (right) and before it dried I pressed the other piece (left) onto it to make a monoprint (mirror image). The two pieces were then painted with totally different techniques.

The second pair (above) is a piece that I tore in half after painting so I could do a little printing on one (right), but obviously I didn't get much extra accomplished. Again, the black is sumi ink.

This final piece was a color blending exercise. There were only three colors of paint we could use: Red, Yellow, and Blue (and white). After my darker sumi ink pieces it was hard to lighten up but I think I succeeded.

That's the end of my classes at Art Unraveled. See you next year!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gocco Go

Susan once more:

In Traci Bunkers' Gocco à Gogo: Basics and Beyond we printed up a blizzard of papers. Traci gave great instructions and we all were flashing (actually, the bulbs were) and making our screens by lunch time. I brought more bulbs and screens (2 bulbs per screen) so I was able to make extra screens. The problem with the extra screens was that I had to use part of my lunch hour to prep them with tape.

The Gocco machine makes very easy work of printing multiple copies of your image (ideal for a zine or for cards) but I had a hard time cleaning up the screens. In fact, I whined to Traci about that. I'm a good whiner, especially when it comes to cleaning up because a good description of how I work is "messy, sloppy, chaotic, disorganized". And those are just the nice words.
When I got home I decided to print more images using the screens like a traditional silkscreen since I don't have the Gocco machine. But it would have to be on my terms: Easy to clean up. The first problem was the paper-based Gocco screens. I had some old plastic screens from Welsh (about 75¢ each) and their double-stick tape, so I just ripped my Gocco screens off their cardboard frames and re-taped them to the Welsh frames.

The second problem was the ink. Gocco ink is oil-based and that made clean up very slow. I tried Golden tube paint but it wasn't exactly right and smudged too much. I was just grabbing any papers I had stacked up and trying to pick colors that would contrast for this experiment. Then I tried a very cheap student-grade Liquitex tube paint, it was very soft and worked just fine.

The good news: Screens clean up in about 30 seconds under running water. Yippee! I used about 5 different screens, just dumped them in a tub of water to stay moist so I could wait to wash them all at once at the end.

The bad news: The screens are slightly smaller than the Gocco screens so my images were cropped more than I had planned. And the acrylic paint does not give as crisp an image as the Gocco ink. I plan to look for both water-based printing ink and screenprinting medium to mix with the acrylics to see how those work.

All in all, I'm very happy to have taken this class as I now have permanent screens of some interesting images and can do a lot of experimenting and printing with them. Every class I've taken from Traci has been very worthwhile - she's a good instructor and full of good ideas. Note: The pictures are of just quick test samples.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

5 More Books

Susan talks again:

Jill Berry's 5 Books in One Day was a blur of paper folding, creasing, and trying to make sure I knew which side was "up" at all times! Yes, I did make all 5 books and the proof is in the picture. The little one with the blue bow is sized so that ATCs will fit in the pocket pages. Jill worked hard to make sure we all kept up with her instructions and constantly moved around the room to work with us. It was fun to be in her classes and there was the added bonus of her generous supply kit.

Still pending but worth the wait: Pictures from her Sumptuous Sumi class.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Textured Journal

Susan again (with some help from Don):

Wednesday night was Jacqueline Sullivan's Stenciled, Textured Journal. Jacqueline always has a good class kit and excellent instruction sheets and booklets prepared for her classes. Her supplies included a generous amount and choice of Golden paints. I've had several classes with her and she always has some new twist or way of doing things. If you can't make a class with her you might check her website for her instructional DVD.

In this class we had her husband, Victor, working as her assistant so there was plenty of help available if you needed it. I was punching holes in the papers prior to stitching and found that my awl had a burr at the end. This was making the job much harder to do than it needed to be. I asked for a file or rasp to get the burr off and Victor said, "Just run outside and rub it across the sidewalk to sharpen it." Worked like a charm!

Some artists don't like making books that just have plain paper pages in them, they prefer to have painted papers or content in their books. I pretty much agree but I've found that showing a handmade book with blank pages to an amateur (i.e., non-artist) is less confusing to them. They find it easier to "get" and when you transition to showing them somewhat abstract content in the other books you've made they don't have that deer-in-the-headlights look. You know, the look just before they say, "Oh, how.................. nice."

So both plain paper and content-loaded books have a place on my bookshelf.

The close-up pictures below show more of the dimension and depth of the texure of the cover. Most people picked brown or natural tones to go with their stencils so of course I had to be contrary and aimed for a techno-grunge look.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Flag Book

Susan again:
On Monday night it was Mabel Dean's Fabulous Flags - Books with Movement and Dimension. I had a class last year with Mabel so I knew she would be very generous with her supplies and have a lot of ideas, good handouts, and really useful tips and tricks.

The photo is one she shot on a trip to Africa and we all hacked it up to make our flag books. I was supposed to cut off the excess green cover paper on the right side but I just folded it around to make a protective cover.

The best part was the grid she printed for us so that we can easily (well, sort of) make a flag book with our own pictures. Below is a picture of Mabel's flag book she made using a photo her husband took.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Copper Book

Susan finally gets her turn:
On Tuesday night (yes, I know I'm goofing up the chronological order) I took Jill Berry's Copper Piano Hinge Book. It was a lot of fun to make and easier than it looks and liver of sulphur is really stinky. When I showed the book to Don he was pretty flummoxed (Ha!) that I had been able to do a piano hinge that really worked. If he begs hard enough I'll teach him how.

Jill is a very easy-going teacher and I enjoyed immensely all the classes I had with her (more later). Unfortunately, these pictures are not decent quality but we were all hurrying to get the books laid out and take a picture as fast as possible. I don't think anyone else took pictures. The nicely done little pictures at the bottom are Jill's pictures from the ArtUnraveled workshop site. Amazingly, we all seemed to have made something that looked like it was supposed to. At my table, just to thoroughly intimidate me, Lynda Abare, a phenomenally talented artist, was cool enough to write a poem during the class for her book.

My camera is a 5-year old 3-megapixel point-and-shoot so there weren't many options available. Several people were trying to help with the camera as the glare off the copper books was making things wonky. Somehow I changed a setting between the 2 pictures but I have no idea what. Flash on? Off? Macro setting? Party Mode? (Yes!) Who knows? I also find it almost impossible to tell if a picture is focused by looking at that tiny screen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fourth Class - Man in the Moon

My fourth class was The Man in the Moon - Metal Clay and Faux Bone™ Pendant, taught by Louise Duhamel and Richard Salley.

The pendant includes both metal smith, metal clay techniques and Faux Bone™ techniques. The pendant, which is made of metal clay, turns on its pin to show a different side (which will remain a mystery to you, my viewer). I learned a lot of patina techniques from Louise and really liked the different colors she helped me achieve.

This is the end of my four days of class at Art Unraveled. I enjoyed meeting everyone in my classes, in the halls, and in the dining room. If I didn't get a chance to meet you, please look for me next year. The best time to find me is at breakfast - I never miss it!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Third Class - Faux Bone™

My third class was Richard Salley's Solar Powered Timepiece and Compass Pendant.

I still have more to do on it, as the class went too fast for me to do careful work on the wire wrapping. The cover is an etched copper pendant - recognize my face? The dial is made of Faux Bone™ and the tooth at the bottom is one I bought in New York City at Maxilla and Mandible. The tooth is actually taking the place of a gnomon ("shadow caster") for the sundial.

Tomorrow I'll post my final piece: The Man in the Moon.

Second Class - Using PMC

My second class was Silver PMC Byzantine Chain Bracelet taught by Sherri Haab and Scott David Plumlee.

One side of the bracelet has been treated with Liver of Sulphur, the other hasn't (yet). I still can't believe I actually learned how to do this Byzantine chain. When I first came into the class and saw the sample I couldn't figure out how it would possibly happen. But after a few tries and some excellent instruction and help from Scott, I finally got the "zen" of the connections. The center piece is PMC silver that I stamped to create texture and then molded into the shape I wanted.

I learned a very valuable lesson in this class. Tools matter. I have all sorts of pliers and tools from craft stores and from hardware stores and I've always thought my struggles with them were just my lack of practice and awkwardness. Then I used Scott's tools. Incredible! How can two pairs of pliers that look so similar be so absolutely different in my hand? I'll be ordering new tools today. Of course this doesn't mean my pieces will look any better, just that I won't have to work so hard.

First Class - Using Resin

My first class at Art Unraveled was Richard Salley's Resin-Filled Watch Case Locket.

It still needs work on balancing the outer wire wrap, which is a double wire, and adjusting the catch. Inside was a picture of an eye looking back at you but I've taken it out pending a final decision. I was very interested in this class because I'd learn how to use resin, which is what the little watch gears are "floating" in. The main body is a patina-ed (?) fender washer.

This class involved resin work, wire winding and bending and cold-connection techniques.

Monday, August 11, 2008

On Target

We picked Janis and Carol up at the hotel for a quick trip to Whole Foods. As soon as Carol had settled in the car she said, "Oh, Don, I've seen your blog and you and Susan seem like such a loving couple!"

Susan and I both burst out laughing. We explained to Carol that she needed to rewind the tape to 15 minutes earlier as we drove to Target to get one stupid item:

D: "If you think you can do a better job, then you can drive!"
S: "Watch out! You're going the wrong way down the parking lane!"
D: "I'm looking for a spot in the shade!"
S: "Just park the damned car in the right direction!"
D: "You want to drive?!? I'm looking for a shady spot."
S: "This is it? You park the %$#*-ing car in the shade to keep it cool but I have to walk back past 4 empty rows in the 175 degree heat to get in the store?!?!"

Why does Target put all the totally useless junk at the front of the store but puts very useful things, like light bulbs, toilet paper and boxer shorts, way in the back? Fortunately, we managed to get out of Target without ripping each other to shreds. So goes a normal day in the life of a loving couple.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

McDonald's Dinosaur

I'm tired. It was a long, long, long hot drive home from Phoenix to Austin. I took only about 3 pictures with my camera, Susan took about 50 with hers and then accidentally erased about half of them. But she's not particularly upset because she said they were shot in a hurry and usually in poor light. Let's face it, our purpose in going to Art Unraveled was to take classes, not to document the classes. But she does have some class pictures I'll get her to post later.

In the meantime, if you have children of a certain age, these pictures are for them to enjoy. A healthy, presumably male?, dinosaur. What kind? I have no idea. Ask a 10-year old. As the last picture shows, it is at a McDonald's, in Benson, Arizona.

And what, you ask, was Susan doing at a McDonald's? Susan, who tries not to eat anything that has lips? Using the restroom, of course. And I was buying Senior coffee. That is just about the limit of our use of a McDonald's, although when really pressured by travel constraints, we have bought salads there.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Heading West, Blog on Hold

Heading off to Arizona for a week. Yes, everyone who is anyone goes to Phoenix in August. When I come back I expect to be really pumped up with great new ideas and techniques from ArtUnraveled. Then reality will set in and I'll waste about two more weeks just putting all my stuff away as I wonder why I can't remember exactly what it was I thought would be such a great idea. Sketchbook? Journal? Which of the four different ones I've started can't I find? I know they're here somewhere. And I wonder why people think being an artist is easy.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Susan's Bookmaking, The Finale

Susan calls this book Pompeii. They remind me of the colors of the Egyptian tiles and artifacts on the wall by the Temple of Dendur at The Metropolitan Museum. Albie was surprised at the light color choices and told Susan, "I wasn't sure you could do it." Susan privately told me it was easy, this time she had just shoved her way to the front of the supply table crowd and grabbed the "best" colors first.