Studio Musings

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Crunch Time

We are officially in crunch time, and this picture sums it up incredibly well. Every single kiln here at Penland is currently being fired or being loaded - I think there are something like 6 kilns going at once!

I've finished up in the flame working studio and am trying to get out of Metals. I'm mostly there in the early mornings (though not this morning as I've been packing a box for shipping) and late evenings. I'm leaving the studio about 11:30 in the evenings.

I've got a lot to post, but need to find some time.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

No New Pictures

Yesterday was not a bad day. Spent most of it in Robert's class working on various projects there. I did a little beading in the morning, finishing up another small project, but I was simply too antsy to sit still and work with tiny objects.

The weather was gorgeous. Took a long walk after dinner and that helped settle me enough to go back into the studio for a few more hours. Then I joined the crowd hanging out on the porch next door. Keith handed me a Hobgoblin ale, which I nursed through the evening. I rather liked it. Alyssa and I finally wandered back to the room a little after midnight. She got up to go running at 6:30. I'm still sitting in bed typing this, though I have brushed my teeth.

Today will be another day in the Metals studio - our last day with Mary. She'll be helping us finish up our silver bezels, and I want to talk to her about soldering pin backs. I'll also be working on tube rivets. I think we've punted enameling at this point.

I don't have any new pictures, so I included an older one, taken a few weeks ago. The trees have greened up considerably since then.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Getting stuff done

This is basically what the car part/oil filter adapter (thanks to everyone who helped me identify it!) looked like on Monday morning. Sadly, I'd put in at least two days worth of effort at this point. I'd experimented with and discarded several attempts at covering several of the sections. Figuring out how to skim some of the complex angles was really tricky, as was figuring out how to get my needle into some of the interior spaces. Even though I stitched many of the pieces off of the part, I still had to stitch them together on the piece. This often caused me considerable difficulty as pieces sometimes seemed to shrink, and other times to stretch as I tried to put them in place.

I managed to get this far before calling it a night last night. I worked until 10:30, and my eyes started blurring.

Today, I spent the morning in the flame working studio making more beads and trying to improve my techniques, and returned to the bead work this afternoon. And I'm pleased to say that I actually finished it up a little after 10pm this evening (with breaks for dinner and slides). But I don't have pictures of the finished project because I'd left my camera in the room. So you'll have to wait for that. But in the meantime, you can admire some of my process. :)

For Aunt Pat

I took these two pictures on Sunday, specifically thinking that I wanted to show them to Aunt Pat. They were made by the "upper clay" studio (there are two clay studios here - literally upstairs and downstairs from each other) - "Wild Clay, Precise Fire".

The class is simply neat all around. They are working with a wide variety of local clays, including visiting sites to dig clay. Then doing a wide variety of firing tests to create clay mixes that will work for what they want to do. And one of the things they're doing is making large pots using a variety of different techniques, including the Onggi techniques that Michael Hunt learned in Korea. The pot below stands almost 4 feet tall. It's HUGE! And the pots above aren't slackers either; to give a sense of scale the smaller fired pots on the left edge of the table were about a foot tall.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Walk in the Woods

Went for a really nice walk in the woods this morning. John, the wood instructor, took a few of us out on a good ramble, showing us one of his favorite paths. The weather was cool, but not cold, overcast but not actively raining - perfect weather for a hike.

The woods are filled with these wonderful, gnarled trees with burls, vines (mostly poison ivy) and other damage. I'm sure it's not great for the trees, but it does create some amazing natural shapes. The forests remind me of Missouri - probably because they're primarily deciduous in both places.

While the trees are slowly budding out, the wild flowers are rampant. The trout lilies are already past their prime - we found a couple of late bloomers, but for the most part they're going to seed. They're one of the few flowers we could positively identify. John is quite knowledgeable about the forests, but his home is in New Hampshire.

What I think I love best about wildflowers is the fact that they're tiny, and you have to actively look to see them - they're a wonderful surprise for the observant. Their shapes are incredibly varied, but they're all small.

I've also uploaded additional images to my flickr feed.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ideas for the Weekend

In my journal this morning I wrote a list of things I thought I might want to do tomorrow. Somehow I don't think I'll fit it all in in one day:
  • Sketch some design ideas or do some landscape drawing
  • Attend the barbed wire cutting
  • Make some beads in the flame working studio
  • Make some small books as gifts for friends
  • Convince someone in the pottery studio to let me try throwing a small bowl
  • Go for a walk
  • Photograph some of Robert's samples of different materials
And that's without the obvious option of continuing to work in the bead studio itself. Oh, and I have a 1:30 phone meeting with some new tenants to sign their paperwork. Joe's been sick with the flu, so I sent all of the paperwork to the applicants as a pdf, and scheduled a phone meeting to go over the documents and answer any questions. Then they'll mail them to our home address, along with their good faith deposit, and we'll have 2 new tenants at the beginning of May.

We'll see what I actually end up doing, besides the meeting. I'll need to set my phone alarm tomorrow to remind myself so I don't forget!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Printing a Book

The Letter Press studio had an open house last night. They'd put together a plate to print a 12 page accordion fold book, and a separate plate for front and back covers.

The plates themselves looked like works of art - take a closer look at the image to see what I mean. This is a self-inking press. The rollers keep spinning constantly while the press is on. To print a page we had to line up the paper, then crank the handle while helping guide the paper a little. Somehow, I expected to get ink everywhere. Guess that's because it's what I imagine happening if I tried such a thing at home.

I asked Bonnie if the inks were oil or water based; turns out they're actually rubber-based. I didn't even know they made rubber based inks! And you have to clean them up with nasty stuff like xylene (I'm pretty sure that's the solvent she mentioned). Maybe letterpress printing isn't for me.

But I love the results! One of the really cool things about letter press printing is the way that the the letters physically press into the page, sort of a reverse embossing. This is especially apparent on the covers of my little commerative book.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Trading Classes

Our class spent the day with Robert Dancik, getting a brain dump on the use of an incredible range of alternative materials. He did demos with concrete, resins, faux bone, and membrane (in this case pantyhose) stretched over wire armatures. Along the way we also talked about metal forming, a simple faux bezel, mark making, rivets and more. He's doing his best to compress a couple of two week classes into 3 days - which is the amount of time we'll be with him while his class is learning some basic beading techniques from David.

Robert has a wonderfully original and irreverent view on art and material choices - anything is fair game for exploration. And it's great to be working on a scale that's not micro-miniature!

Between these techniques, some of David's bead work ideas and the flameworking, a whole new world of options is opening up in terms of focal beads for my work. Rather than having to use a beautiful, interesting or intriguing bead made by another artist, I'm developing a whole new set of skills for customizing my work from start to finish. (With a little experimentation and practise, that is). :)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Raw Tenacity

That has to be one of the nicest ways of describing the madness that is bead art - raw tenacity. And boy did I feel it yesterday!

Sunday night I started working on one of the few assignments that David has actually asked us to complete - to cover a found object. I believe my object originally belonged under the hood of a car. My working title is "Car Part #1". (Not saying that there will ever be a Car Part #2). It fits in the palm of my hand, to give a sense of scale. Anyone who can identify the part should chime in - I'd love to know what the darned thing actually is.

So, Sunday night I cleaned it up, and started beading. By the time I left the studio at 10:30 that night, I'd beaded the central threaded pipe. Monday I continued, working on the base. That is one complex shape, I've come to realize! I spent the day, and much of the evening working on it. A number of experiments got discarded along the way and as of 10:30 last night, this is all I'd accomplished.

Though I did take a little over an hour yesterday evening to play over at the wood studio. They were wrapping more "sticks" for a barbed wire cutting this weekend and invited people to come and help out.

Polyester Prom

I think the best part of the Polyester Prom might have been the preparations. Don't get me wrong - it was a great party and a lot of fun. But listening to everyone's stories about their "finds" in the week leading up to prom, and final group preparations at "The Orphanage" (third floor of the Craft House) were an absolute blast.

The idea behind Polyester Prom was to find, beg, borrow or steal the worst or best (depending upon your definition) polyester outfit you possibly could. The thrift stores in Spruce Pine were surprisingly good sources for both sexes. Unfortunately, I don't have many pictures of the great get-ups the guys came up with.

If found a black tunic covered with round plastic spangles. If felt like a walking disco ball (the tunic also made me looks slightly rounded like said ball). You can't tell from this picture, but Andrea's sailor suit had pant legs with thigh high front slits, too funny. And Alyssa took the bridesmaid award. I tried for big hair, but it didn't fully work, despite generous amounts of gel and hairspray.

I posted additional images to my Flickr account.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Quick Trip to Nashville

Friday we drove down to Nashville to see an exhibit David had at the University School, where he's an Artist in Residence, and to meet his other class. The exhibit opened with a full-size photograph of David's Seattle studio, along with his purple chair & beading lamp. So of course we had to all try it out for size. So much for the serious artist demeanor! :) Here are Kae and Kristin sharing a seat.

Before leaving, David had suggested that we do a ring workshop for his other students. I think we were all envisioning something like the workshop we'd done for Penland staff several weeks ago. As soon as we met his students, I wondered why we were teaching them. The work they've done is fabulous. Turns out they've been meeting with David for 3 day sessions once a month since either late January or early February (no one could quite remember when they started). This was either their last or second to last session with David (again a little confusion), but the work they'd developed made me feel a bit like a pretender. One of the women was doing right-angle-weave sculptures with hand-blown eggs. Lots were working with random right angle weave.

But, rather surprisingly, a number of them really enjoyed the ring workshop. Apparently all they'd done were the big projects, and it was thrilling to be able to complete something in the space of a couple hours for a change. Paula, one of the Nashville students, made this ring: the fringes were made using swarovski crystals. David had suggested that they sew the band before class - her boyfriend asked her if she was working on her engagement ring.

We saw almost nothing of Nashville other than a slice of the Vanderbilt campus, a really awful Days Inn, and the highway because Saturday was Polyester Prom back at Penland. But you'll have to wait until tomorrow to learn about Poly Prom, 'cause its now almost midnight and breakfast is at 8:00am. Can't miss breakfast!

Good night!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Crazy Busy

That pretty much sums up this week! Crazy busy with art, with computer stuff, with stuff for the rentals. But my two Moms are demanding an update, so here goes.

David's slide presentation was Tuesday and it was great, despite all of the computer angst beforehand. Guthrie was helping David put together a powerpoint presentation, and I was helping Guthrie, and David's computer wasn't helping anyone. In the end, we ended up moving the presentation onto my machine. I got a great picture of David & Guthrie slogging through the final bits with the matching macs.

Yesterday we spent much of the day in the metals studio, learning how to make a silver bezel, using flat, fine silver wire for the walls and sterling silver for the back plate. I'm making a bezel for a polymer clay sample I made right before heading to Penland. At first I thought I wasn't really interested in bezels, but the soldering is going easier than I expected, and I think the final product will be surprisingly beautiful (surprising to me) if I don't tear off a corner on the grinding wheel.

Last Friday we learned that one of our apartments in Seattle will be coming open at the end of the month, so I've been trying to help Joe get a Craig's List ad posted, arrange showing times with the current tenants, field calls & emails, etc. The good news is we have 7 showings currently scheduled for Saturday. Wonder if that means we could have asked for more rent? We'll just hope that means we have a new tenant lined up by the end of next week. Keep your fingers crossed!

Yesterday after lunch I took a short walk up the llama knoll to see the wood classes installation up close. It reminds me of Tibetan prayer flags and Native American dream catchers and children's toys and made me happy. So I sat nearby and did some sketch work for my metals work while enjoying the sun. I snapped a few pics while I was there, too.

And we're headed to Nashville right after breakfast on an overnight field trip to see David's show.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Contra Dance

Went to a Contra dance with three other Penland students in Celo Friday night. It was held at the community center there and included all ages, from kids to grandparents. The caller and musicians were great and I had a fine time dancing. Getting there was a bit tricky - the roads are really twisty and the last road we took to get there was gravel. Luckily our driver had been there before. I tried to get driving directions from Google Maps and it simply hung up, probably just a network error, but I thought it funny. The directions we got for the return trip were something like "go to the end of the gravel road and turn left over the bridge. Go to the end of the road and turn right. Go to the end of the next road and turn right. Do that one more time and you'll find highway 19."

Celo is an interesting town - it's a land trust with a huge number of artisans and craftsmen. A funny quirk of being in so small a community, you'll ask people what they do and they'll say "I work with" or "I apprentice with" and throw in a name, obviously expecting that will explain all. I'm constantly having to ask "And what does he/she do?".

It was also there that I heard of WWOOF for the second time in one day. It stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, although the guy I talked to at the dance called it Willing Workers, so it may go by both. The idea is that it matches people who want to work on farms with farms who need help. Mary, the woman I talked to at lunch, also noted that there were a number of web sites where you could find farm internships where you actually got paid a stipend as well as room and board. Mary was excited that at the place she'd be able to learn cheesemaking and sheep shearing as well as basic farming. She'd left the university to start doing farm internships and craft school work study about a year ago. I'd never even considered the possibilities of farm internships and found it really interesting (not for me, but interesting).

Room for Improvement

My first day's bead making left plenty of room for improvement. The good news is I have improved, though I'm still having some control issues. I can now make considerably larger beads that are generally round and don't have ugly "outies". This bead was my favorite from Day 2 - it was the last one I made that day. It's considerably larger than the others I'd made that day and the decoration turned out really well (for me at least).

I've uploaded a few pictures to my new Flickr account as it seemed like that might be easier than sticking them all here.

I've really had fun with the bead making, and like my results, even if they aren't perfectly symetrical. It's been really interesting to see what the different glass colors actually look like in a bead. So far, the dark transparents seem to work best for me as bead cores. When I try to use them in surface decoration, the dark amber and emerald green canes look almost black. Maybe they'd work better if I pulled stringers. You're supposed to use stringers to add the dots, but I currently have more control with the glass rods than with the finer stringers.

Innies and Outies

It's been a while since I last posted, so I'm going back in time a little bit. Here are the surviving beads from my first day's bead making experience. I lost two beads trying to take them off their mandrels - one I could see had a crack in it when I took it out of the kiln, the other surprised me a little. The small, dark bead at the left front the first one I made. Just behind it you'll see a rather egg-shaped bead. That's not considered to be a good thing and several of my beads had this problem! The glass around the edges of the bead hole are sharp, and it just didn't look good. But some judicious use of sand paper helped considerably.

Here's the set-up we're using: a Minor torch with an attached graphite marver that you can use to shape the beads. the tool kit we're borrowing also has a 6" square marver that sits on the desktop and a tungsten pick that you can use to poke into the hot glass. Oh, and we have to wear didyuium glasses - the flame looks entirely different with the glasses on. Every once in a while I'd forget to put the glasses on when I started working and I'd keep adjusting the flame trying to get rid of the yellow, until I realised I simply needed the glasses. I like them far better than regular safety glasses.

I wondered what was the difference between flameworking and lampworking - according to Wikipedia, they're different names for the same thing. I can rent studio time from Pratt Fine Arts if I want to do more work at home, but I'd need some basic tools of my own: the glasses, a tungsten pick (my current favorite tool!) and mandrels. And I might need a graphite marver if there wasn't one attached to the torch like we have here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Making Beads

We're spending three days this week doing flame working up at the Glass studio learning how to make beads. I'm the only one with NO prior experience, and am setting myself up soundly for "most improved" (That's assuming I do improve).

Edwina Bringle, our instructor, makes basic beadmaking look so simple. The molten glass seems to flow onto her bead mandrel. She made it seem so easy in fact, that I was surprised and a bit alarmed to feel the glass drag and catch at mine. And then it really caught, because I hadn't heated it enough and it had cooled, sticking the glass rod fast to the mandrel. Panicking, I gave it a sharp tug, and discovered that the bead release we'd coated our mandrels with really does work. Only now, I had a piece of hot glass covered in bead release at the tip. Flummoxed, I reheated it and finished the bead, with release powder in and on the poor thing. I'll be amazed if it doesn't crack in two when I take it off the mandrel this morning (we annealed them overnight in a kiln).

I've discovered molten glass can flow like melted wax, honey, or superglue depending upon how throughly you've heated it. I'm trying to aim for honey, as both the others cause problems. Really runny glass is pretty scary as well! That bead got smooshed flat on my graphite pad as an alternative to letting it fall off the mandrel entirely. It's another that I half expect to crack when I take it off the mandrel.

If the bead wasn't heated thoroughly and evenly during the forming process, or if it cooled too quickly, then internal stresses csn cause it to break, either when I remove it from the mandrel, or later when its tapped, or scratched, or gets slightly wet. Glass is incredibly strong (the can holding my glass rods tipped over yesterday and I caught most of them, but three fell to the concrete floor - I expected to be sweeping up glass shards, but they weren't even chipped!), and incredibly fragile all at the same time.

This morning we'll be removing the beads we made yesterday from the kiln and their mandrels, and doing more work. Before I head up there, I'm going to stop by the store and buy a couple more colors - they're $1.45 per rod (each rod is a little over 3 feet). We're working with Moretti glass.