Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Yin and Yang

I have trouble reconciling my desire to whack the hell out of stuff while welding with my desire to make little people that talk to me. This little guy is only about 4" high.

As for yin and yang, it is more familiar in our house as the blue and grey symbol of the Army's 29th Infantry Division. Susan's step-father was with the 29th Division when they went onto Normandy Beach on D-Day. The reason for the yin and yang symbol for the Division was that it was composed of units from both Maryland and Virginia that had fought on opposite sides (blue or grey uniforms) during the American Civil War.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Total Disintegration

Before . . . . . and . . . . . After

The possum was part of Seth's Disintegration Collaboration project. "Was" is the operative word. He has now disintegrated into thin air. The cage was still neatly in place with the rocks around it, which would mean 4-legged animals didn't carry him off, but he is gone. Vanished. It had to be a 2-legged animal. But the only access to our back yard is through a privacy fence gate between our neighbor's house and ours, or by climbing over an 8-foot high chainlink fence, or by scaling a 40-foot high rocky ledge.

The creepy part for Susan is that someone was in our fenced back yard. When? The creepy part for me is that someone else wanted a dead possum enough to steal him.

As for the original Disintegration artifact, neither rain or sun or hail have done much of anything to it. Its resilience amazes me but then so does the fact that I survived 32 years of corporate groveling.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Singing Tonsils

My sister-in-law, Linda, took this picture of a Trumpet Vine. She likes to call it "The Singing Tonsils Vine". Spring has sprung all over Texas and, thanks to Lady Bird Johnson, we have beautiful wildflowers along all our highways.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Falling Leaves

I know you people up North will find this hard to believe but here in Texas we get to rake leaves TWICE every year. This picture was taken yesterday, not last fall when the other trees dropped their leaves. Our live oak trees like to drop their leaves in the spring which means Susan grits her teeth for at least a week straight while everyone and their brother uses those damned piercing-whine power blowers to move their leaves around. She hates the noise they make and is quite, quite, very quite ... cranky while it is going on all over the neighborhood. We use an old fashioned springy rake: Screech, screech, screech as we rake leaves.

The picture above was taken with Susan's new camera. We are sort of at a dead-lock on that new blogging book she gave me. I've offered to learn all about how to use her new camera in exchange for her doing all the photo work (Photoshop Elements 2.0) and blogging for me. I'm just pretending The Book hasn't been sitting there on the table, untouched. She's just pretending I'm going to start getting on the computer once in a while. And she's starting to talk about a new version of Elements. In the meantime, she fiddled with the color on the picture.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Susan speaks (for a change):
I learned about suminagashi at a bookmaking meeting. I already had black sumi ink and I bought Photo-flo but buying more paper in our house is like carrying coals to Newcastle. So I made do with what I had instead of using rice paper and therefore my results were poor. Except for when I grabbed a sheet of graph paper. I love graph paper.

And of course I had to fiddle with it in Photoshop. Or, as I've been told, it's called "Pimp My Photo."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fishing and Forget It

These were welded out of old scraps of steel that students threw out. I rescued them and used a laser cut and a Mig welder to make them into fish. They used to be welded to stakes and stuck in our yard but we decided to have them swim along the side of our garage. The big guy is about 2 feet long.

These chairs were priced at $100 for the four of them at a garage sale Susan went to. She was very tempted but even though it was the 2nd day of the sale the owner wouldn't even discuss a lower price. To be honest, her top offer would have been $40 despite the fact she was already envisioning them in our backyard woods. The owner said "We can get $100 for them, all they need is to have the rust removed and they'll look fine."

What!?!? Remove rust?!?!? We PAY for rust!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

SXSW Wraps Up

SXSW is winding down. Basketball has its March Madness, we have our own version here in Austin. Who showed up? Kayne West, Jane's Addiction, Metallica, Tori Amos, Devo, The Proclaimers, and the Oak Ridge Boys, all playing their sets for the same $250 fee that all the other 1,893 name and start-up bands paid.

Who are some of the up-and-coming names that got good buzz (not that I would know, just quoting here, but watch for them, SXSW is a pretty good incubator): Brooklyn's Grizzly Bears, Scotland's Glasvegas, Jonelle Monae, and Ladyhawke.

Who else showed up? Rachel Ray threw a mojito party for the New York Dolls, Perez Hilton (who?) was here and so were the Miller Lite Girls. Parties were also hosted by Mashable, Facebook, and Google.

What was a lot of the buzz about? Moo cards, Poken and Foursquare. The latest word on The-Latest-Interactive-Thing is that if politicians and celebrities (Oprah has a Facebook page, Ellen and Diddy Twitter) do it on daytime TV, how uncool has it become?

The biggest glitch? AT&T didn't have enough bandwidth and iPhone coverage was erratic.

What, if anything associated with SXSW -- Film, Interactive or Music -- was actually in my miniscule Semi-Aware-Of brain section? The Miller Lite Girls! Actually, I like some of The Proclaimers (500 Miles, I'm On My Way). But (and I know you know this), Susan is the one to tell me all about this stuff and keep me vaguely current. I haven't twittered yet but one of these days I AM going to learn how to text.

These pictures are from Austin Art Garage's Art Rock City, an unofficial day show they had for the SXSW art fans this afternoon. AAG is the gallery that shows my work (here). A typical Austin crowd, Joel Ganuchenau (gallery co-founder) playing, and yours truly helping contribute to the recycle bin.

Now a final closing note for all you aging hippies: Austin, being its typical self and SXSW encompassing everything it can, had a Million Musicians March for Peace on Saturday. The Grand Marshal was Wavy Gravy, of Woodstock and of the Hog Farm. Does SXSW have any claim to being the first to have an eclectic mix of musicians for its line-ups? Nope. Woodstock's closing two acts were Sha-Na-Na followed by Jimi Hendrix.

Dream on, SXSW children, you'll never come close to my generation's Woodstock.

Friday, March 20, 2009


SXSW is here. If I didn't live here I'd have no idea that it was actually pronounced "South by Southwest". Don't call it anything else or you'll reveal your ignorance. It's really 3 different events over 10 days: live music (the original SXSW), interactive and film. If you're under the age of 30 you are here now, causing huge traffic jams, crowding every restaurant, wandering across streets in a daze (chemically induced or fatigue stupor or just youthful stupidity) and completely messing up the check-out counters at Whole Foods. And, just to make sure all bets are covered, the Rodeo is here with its lineup of country music.

It may be Southwest but the scope is international. SXSW started in 1987 with about 700 people attending. This year they have over 1900 bands performing live and 594 of them are from outside the US. Where? For example, Australia (28 acts), Ethiopia, Slovenia, Faroe Islands, Palestine, South Africa, Turkey, and so on. Click here to see the map.

The great thing about SXSW is that some really good music floats to the top here and then goes on to make it big on to the national scene. Norah Jones was at SXSW before she got that Grammy and Bon Iver was here last year. Big names, like Quincy Jones and Erykah Badu, come to visit. Late edit: Last night, Friday, they had a surpise appearance of Metallica, a band that gives me a headache just to think about.

The weather this week is incredibly perfect: high 70s in the day, cool low 50s at night, cloudless blue skies and no mosquitos (yet). This is bad. It makes everyone who is just visiting here for SXSW want to move here.
Please stay home.
We have enough people here.
Especially enough slackers.
Remember that movie from 1991? " ...Presents a day in the life in Austin, Texas, among its social outcasts and misfits, predominantly the twenty-something set ... "

Susan and I try to just stay home for the crazy SXSW week but this year she had a brief brain-fart and thought she wanted to go to the SXSW Interactive. Thankfully she regained her senses and I didn't have to navigate all the closed-off streets downtown to drop her off (Yes, Austin closes off streets for the events. Think lots of $$$ coming to Austin, thanks to all those trust-fund-baby slackers.)

There is a meme out there floating around in cyberspace where you put things together to make a record album. Susan found it on other people's blogs (here and here, for example) and was ready to get pulled into that big time-sucker but successfully fought it off. There's no reason to try to randomly generate a band name when these names are already taken by REAL bands:
Wild Beasts
These Are Powers
The Shaky Hands
Attack! Attack!
Abolone Dots
Eat Skull
Naked on the Vague
Meat Puppets
Tub Ring
Dirty Projectors
A Hawk and a Hacksaw
Stars Like Fleas
Turbo Fruits

So how does this all tie in with the picture above? That's the little stone from inside Peevey's head, rephotographed with Susan's NEW camera that she hasn't used yet but I obviously have. The words written on it are my misquoting from "The Littlest Birds" by The Be Good Tanyas. A way cool song.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Now I've Got Trouble

The taxes are finally done. This is what I look like now.

Susan bought me this book. Help!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

At Work

We're doing our taxes today. And probably tomorrow. And maybe the next day, unless Susan smashes the computer monitor in. As you can see, our money is on the move, getting ready to go to our government. Then, our government will give it to AIG who will give it to their executives who earned a bonus because they are "highly valued employees whose retention is necessary to the company's continued success." We aren't sure who is being fooled here but we don't have much choice in this matter -- it all falls under the management of the Department of BOHICA.*

*BOHICA: (boo-HEE-ka) Bend Over, Here It Comes Again.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Soldiers

I was visiting with my friend Jim at the Amtrak station and Susan wandered off down the railroad tracks where she spotted these pieces. They just looked so human-like with their big eyes that she had to have them. When we took this picture Peppy was with them but he's been moved to a different area now because The Soldiers thought he was not Reg (probably the earrings and not having pants on).

That's a firebush plant blooming in the background. This picture is from last weekend, and, believe it or not, the drought has ended and we now have RAIN!!! The farmers and ranchers are crossing their fingers it keeps up a little longer as we need a lot to make up for being in the category "Extreme Drought Conditions".

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


No, Bridget, animals won't carry my possum off. And no, you can't have him. I've put a nice little cage around him and since we're still in a drought status he's just drying up nicely. Every morning Susan looks out the kitchen window and says "Is that damned thing STILL there?"

This is the trunk of a cedar tree. Normally it just looks a little ragged but in the spring time the wrens rip it apart for their nests. We have rock wrens nesting near our kitchen window and we're crossing our fingers that their babies make it this year. Last year both babies made it out, barely flapping to the nearby tree. The year before they were night time snacks for a screech owl. The year before that they wound up being a surprise treat for the old near-blind cat from next door who slept on the deck under their nest. She probably thought she'd died and gone to heaven when they fell right down in front of her. I think she hesitated for about one nano second before her long-forgotten pounce move came back to her.

Seth's Disintegration Collaboration for artists is a great idea and I'm just irked that my stuff won't DO anything. Because of the drought I'm thinking that it will be this summer in our smothering heat before the thing spontaneously combusts. To give my Disintegration piece a hint about how to behave I've moved the dead possum close to it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Welding + Ceramics

I miss welding but my elbows don't. When I was taking my welding classes I made a series of small sculptural pieces, mostly chairs, all about 2' feet high. This guy's body is a sewing machine treadle and his ceramic face is made with a pseudo-raku technique. His face was hanging on the wall and one day he finally claimed his body. Susan named him Elias.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bye, Bye Baltimore

One last look at a piece by Jenny Mendes. I love her colors and style and this picture is going up on my bulletin board.

Southwest got us there non-stop and because we'd planned early, cheaply. Surprises never cease -- a big storm was heading in to the East Coast but not only did we take off on time (with every seat filled), we arrived home 45 minutes early. How did that happen?

If you lived in Alabama this is what you looked like on the afternoon of March 1, 2009.
Our room had a fantastic view of the Baltimore Orioles Ballpark at Camden Yards, which they call "Birdland". Unfortunately, it wasn't baseball season. I'm sure if it had been we couldn't have afforded the room rate.

We did take time to visit the Visionary Art Museum. I don't know about you but I never got to ride in a school bus like this. Did Ken Kesey?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Baltimore-American Craft Council, Finale

Lori Katz had very graphic black and white pieces. The black comes from the black clay being carefully inset, not from black glaze. She also makes pieces that show a great range of colors.

Another potter, Justin Rothshank, had some very interesting pieces that combined good design sense with decal application, as explained on his website. He had some pieces similiar to these Lincoln pieces but with Obama's image on them: "Sold out, taking orders." Of course. He was another person who was very patient in answering our "How did you do that?" questions. Being a student means you constantly feel intimidated by all the skilled artists you see, but being a student means you can get away with asking a lot of questions. They probably look at me and think "This guy can't possibly be competition" and give me lots of help. Which I need.

I don't exactly understand what Richard Saja does because he says it is "Historically Inaccurate", but Susan says it is very clever, very humorous and meticulously done. When she went to look at his blog there was a link for another blog where she found his very cool ProtoBolsters and fell in love with Emmanuel.

Carol Owen makes Spirit Houses (or Shrines) that draw you in and make you look more than twice. Susan is planning to take a class with her soon and we've already been talking about what will go in her Spirit House. Carol also makes beautiful altered books in addition to being the author of a book about her techniques.

Carolyn Morris Bach's work is incredibly tiny and detailed but she admitted she uses magnifying glasses. I still can't image how she does it anyway. Each small piece tells a magical, enchanting story.

These are just a few of the contemporary artists whose work we fortunate enough to see. Going to this show definitely keeps me humble! There are some incredibly talented people out there trying to make a living with their art. Think about giving them your support by joining the American Craft Council or your local craft organization.

Note: All artists shown here gave us their permission to post from their websites and/or cards.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Baltimore-American Craft Council, Part 2

Jenny Mendes uses colors I really like and relate to, so seeing her ceramic sculpture work was a strong inspiration for me. Sometimes I think I should make more functional pieces but then the Little Dudes start talking to me and I'm off making another one.

Lisa Crowder makes beautiful pieces that are mostly simple organic shapes but they have tiny little rivets in them. I know from hard experience that little rivets are very, very difficult to make. We first saw her work at a show in Austin so it was a pleasant surpise to find her in Baltimore. She also makes enameled pieces like these.

Graceann Warn makes mysterious encaustic paintings with a chalkboard effect that Susan was particularily interested in. Graceann was another artist who was quite willing to answer Susan's numerous questions (as I've said before, Susan would probably start a conversation with a corpse). I was attracted to her assemblage works and am trying to figure out ways to incorporate encaustic into my clay pieces. Stay tuned.

Sam Taylor answered my numerous questions while Susan was intrigued by the images he used. His card was a keeper -- watercolor paper a friend had loosely painted on, torn into squares with his data stamped on the back. Much more creative than the usual handouts.

Judy Stone is an enamelist which I don't really totally understand yet but the pieces were stunning. Some of her bowls were pieces she cut up and then re-wove back together with wire. She's got a great video of her work that she's planning to put on YouTube soon so be watching for it.

Susan was fascinated by Brenda Winstead's work. She had beautiful combinations of fabrics, colors and textures and even to my guy eyes they looked good. Check out her website because this scan of her card doesn't do justice to the variety in her work.

Jim Rosenau makes furniture, including book shelves made from vintage books. He doesn't just randomly put books together but instead carefully selects them to be sure they all relate to each other. He has a a great subtle sense of humor and his work shows this. As he says on his This Into That website, "You'll never look at books the same way again."

Note: All artists shown here gave us their permission to post from their websites and/or cards. The surprising thing is not that they gave their permission (everyone we asked did) but that they were so surprised we asked!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Baltimore-American Craft Council, Part 1

Please take the time to look at all the artists' websites. These images represent just a small portion of the great work we saw and we'll be putting up more pictures soon.

The work above and the two following are from Talya Baharal who was ever so patient and gracious in answering all my questions. The first piece is sterling silver, iron, steel and copper, a small piece about 4" in diameter. She calls this series "Urban Landscape Jewelry" -- a perfect description. The second piece is steel wire with flax and abaca paper, it's from her "Skin Forms" series. I've admired her work for years and the link to her website has always been shown on my blog.
The red quilt shown below is from Erin Wilson. She makes meticulous, tiny detailed squares and each one is different. The quilt below is only 42" wide, that means each square is only 3". The second picture shows a little more of the type of detail work she does, as the piece is only about 16" high. She has been selected to show a quilt at Quilt National 2009, which is sort of like making the Super Bowl for art quilters.

Thomas Meyers went way beyond patient in answering all of Susan's questions as she was very intrigued by the ethereal nature of his paper works. (He also makes luminous glass pieces). This image isn't great but it will have to do as a reminder of his work. What doesn't show is that there are layers underneath that make bare impressions on the top so that you feel that there is so much more to "read". The pieces made me think of communications from outer space.
George Peterson is a very skillful sculptor and not only does he make beautiful wood sculptures, his work is shaped with hand-held tools. The second image below could be either skateboards or ancient African masks -- your choice.

Look for more artists' work in the next few days.

Note: All artists shown here gave us their permission to post from their websites and/or cards.