Sunday, December 28, 2008

And I haven't fallen off the edge of the planet

I've been working on planning for next year, and helping another artist work on her plan. I've also been reading Web Design in a Nutshell 3rd Edition. I taught myself html by getting the 2nd edition a few years back and just sitting down in front of the computer and typing in html and rudimentary css using bbedit. So I really desperately need to upgrade my skills. I think I do ok web sites for having taught it to myself using a reference book, but I can definitely do better. Anyhow, while I'm waiting for my copy of Transcending CSS to show up at Powells downtown (I managed to get a used copy of $25), I figure I'd read the 3rd edition to catch up on all the new stuff that she talks about in there.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

And we have utensils!

So this is Sculpey Utensils 2.0.

After I realized that the problem with S.U. 1.0 was that I was trying to make them as whole pieces—a whole spoon, a whole fork, etc—while keeping them looking like real utensils in miniature, I decided to make the utensils in 2 sections.

I made and baked the working ends of the utensils in silver preemo (a kind of sculpey but supposedly works better if you're not working with round objects). I made them about 1/8" thick and I did not try to curve them like real utensils (which I tried to do with S.U. 1.0). They came out ok, but with a few problems:

1. The silver colors were uneven, there were streaks of different shades of silver running through it. I had kneaded the clay for a while and the streaks never disappeared. I hoped the color would be even after baking, but nope.

2. The side that was lying on the baking surface (some foil) had some texture from being in contact with with it.

To fix these problems, I sanded the pieces and painted them with a silver acrylic paint. That worked out fine.

Then I made the handles/stands. After I formed the basic conical shape, I stuck the utensil end into the top, and just for fun, poked holes all around. The handles are made in plain sculpey, since they're simple cylinders. Here's a shot. The silver parts have been baked, sanded, and painted; the blue parts have not been baked:

Then I took the utensil parts out and baked the handles for an hour.

Right after they came out of the oven and while they were still warm and pliable, I stuck the utensil parts back in there again to be sure they'd fit. After the handles cooled, I glued the 2 parts together.

The sculpey comes out of the oven darker than the unbaked form, and I was ok with that. I was just going to paint the dots silver. However, as I painted, the tiniest glittery part of silver that got on my hand would immediately be picked up by the dark blue handle which was, of course, very visible.

No matter, I thought, I'd just sand that down when I'm finished.

So I sanded. And oops, sanding leaves these light gray streaks on the surface! Of course I didn't notice this before when I sanded the SILVER parts!

So now I had to paint the handles all over to hide the gray streaks. And even though I only streaked it in one spot on one handle, I had to paint them all. But actually, I liked the result better, so that was fine. Here are the finished utensils (in sculpey and preemo) and some blueberries made from sculpey:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sculpey utensils

No photo yet.

But it occurred to me yesterday that my failure at creating sculpey utensils was that I tried to make them all in one piece. An entire spoon, an entire fork, and entire knife. They just flopped around and were extremely difficult to handle, not to mention shape, especially since I was trying to make them fairly thin, like real metal utensils.

When I was considering using the toy or doll house utensils, I was thinking that I'd build bases for the pieces and then attach the purchased utensils to the bases. Then the lightbulb went off—I could make each in 2 separate pieces. I could make the business end of the utensils, bake those; make the bases for them, bake those; attach. Voila! I also realized they don't need to be functional, they just have to represent utensils. This freed me up to make pieces that are thicker and much easier to handle and shape.

So those are made, but not yet baked. More tomorrow. Yes, for Christmas, I'll be baking sculpey utensils.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And even more, more snow!

We're finally back on the net.

I've been listening to The Omnivore's Dilemma as part of my collaboration with my critique group (we're all reading it, except I'm listening) while working on a hat that I started last year. So much of the afternoon was passed this way. Although I really should continue to work on my utensils (the game pieces to go with the blueberries). I actually spent a fair amount of time working on that yesterday, but sculpey blueberries easy, sculpey silverware hard. I considered buying either a dollhouse silverware set or maybe a toy silverware set—and found several choices on ebay—but today, I thought of another way of doing them in sculpey that might work. So that will be tomorrow's experiment.

But here are some more snow photos.

We keep brushing the snow off the cars every night, and everyday, we end up with this:

The house:

And of course, more birds on the persimmon tree:

As they've been gobbling up the fruit left on the trees, I've been putting my own Private Reserve Persimmons out for them:

And now, perhaps in a narrative straight out of The Twilight Zone, I went out this morning to find the front walkway covered in bird tracks, coming up to the front door. Here's by the driveway, the tracks show some confusion on the part of the bird...which way to go?

But here, it's confidently marching towards the front door:

And finally, coming up by the doormat:

I don't remember hearing a knock on the door, but I do wonder.

And remember that Katy McFadden sculpture from a couple of days ago? Here it is again today:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

And even more snow!

Not much studio work today. Got started drafting out my game board and had a long chat about 'making money' with Helen. Otherwise, it's a typical Sunday—mostly chores, with the addition of some snow shoveling.

This is the most snow we've had since we've lived in Portland. It's hard to tell how much it really snowed, it's been blowing so much. But I'm guessing maybe a foot or more. Here's the deck after I shoveled out the walkway:

I thought these look like the 'Elbonians' from Dilbert:

The bamboo is very flexible!

A couple of heart garden ornaments stick together:

And summer weeds turned into winter gems:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On the 6th straight day of snow...

These first two were from yesterday. Here's a small Katy McFadden sculpture and more birds, this time on the crabapple tree:

From today. This is a Varied Thrush, which I only see occasionally. The birds really do love those persimmons! I imagine those persimmons are pretty well frozen, but the birds just sit there for what seems like the whole afternoon and peck away at them.

It's hard to tell how much snow we've had. It's been the really fine powery stuff and it's been blowing around like crazy. Here's a spot that's pretty protected from the east wind, and it looks like about 10" all together. We're supposed to get 7" over the weekend.

I've had to cancel my interview for the 2nd time today. Now we're aiming for Monday. The JWSC isn't even open to the public on Mondays, but Jim (the dear that he is) is going to open it for me and the reporter!

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm dreaming in blueberries!

It felt like I was half awake all night last night thinking/dreaming about blueberries and my game, but I woke up feeling pretty refreshed so it couldn't have been too bad.

I dreamed of 3 dresses made of feathers of 3 different colors, and they bore blueberries, each berry dangling down from the tips of the feathers. Isn't that just a fabulous image?! I should paint that.

I was visiting a gallery and there was Jeremy, working at the gallery. He showed me the feather dresses and then picked the blueberries and served them to everyone at the gallery. Then he brought over a nice bowl of sauce to go with the berries, but we had already eaten all the berries.

But anyhow—the best part about this dream (or maybe a series of dreams) was that I came up with solutions to a couple of problems I'd been having with the design of the 'blueberry game' (for lack of a real name yet). And when I woke up, the solutions actually still made sense!

Considering that I wasn't working on the game at all yesterday (or maybe that's why?), I made excellent progress on the piece!

Anyhow, the idea behind this game—this is part of a 4-person collaboration with each person doing a 'place setting' as part of a dinner for four. Each person/place setting addresses some issue(s) about food. My piece is about trendy foods, how people embrace the must-have foods of the moment, hoping that they'll cure our ills. From the simple blueberries and broccoli that people can grow in their backyards here; to bananas/coffee/chocolate/soy, the cultivation of which is partially responsible for deforestation in the Amazons; to the trafficking of exotic animals parts, many are endangered and the harvesting methods cruel. Each is a step or two away from the next, maybe we all just get sucked in slowly and unknowingly, just thinking that "it's so good for us."

Anyhow, I have the game pieces, the board, and the rules mostly down. The blueberries (the chips) are made. Next—make the utensils (a knife, a fork, a spoon, a pair of chopsticks) that represent each player.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The end of project cleaning frenzy

But first, a few pictures from the garden. There are always some persimmons that I can't get at the top of the tree. The ladder doesn't do any good because the ground is so soggy by harvest time that they just sink into the ground. So today, I was happy to see that the birds were feasting on them.

The whole gang:

Here you can see several of them going to it:

And a close-up:

The frenzy, and other things

After finishing a project, I always have to clean. Part of it is just because the studio would be so dirty and disorganized by then that I really just can't function any more without cleaning it first. It's the usual storing away paper that didn't get used, deciding what to keep and what to toss/recycle, vacuum, etc, etc. But the cleaning was really happening in between other actual projects—when things needed time to dry, I cleaned.

The paper mounting experiment

Since the dry bfk mounted to the board did not want to stick at the corners, I dampened the paper and removed it. I glued a new sheet of dampened bfk to the board using matte medium. This seems to have worked out ok, but somehow, the surface of the paper was marred. Now I have 2 boards with firmly attached sheets of bfk, one using matte medium the other pva. I have a 3rd sheet that is unmounted. Next, I'll paint identical color swatches on them and experiment with airbrushing GAC 500, etc, etc. To be continued.

And other assorted goofing off projects

I have this old eyeglasses hard case that had fallen apart, so I've just been playing with it. I've lined the inside with some leftover Nepal Heavy weight, and today painted the outside. The hinge is still working fine. I thought it might make a fun book project of one sort or another. To be continued.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

All kinds of excitement

Of both the realized and unrealized kind.

Earlier in the day, I was watching the birds enjoying the holly berries and the sunflower seeds sprinkled over the snow, when all of a sudden they all flew off. And what do I see but this, a falcon?, sitting in the tree:

Then it was a quick run to the grocery store to stock up, in case we do get iced in for the next few days. And I got SO close to accomplishing my goal! The car just couldn't make it back up the hill about a block and half away. It really wanted to turn around and head back down, so OK, if that was what it wanted to do, that was what I'd do. I managed to park it by the curb and then walked home with my two bags of groceries.

Having had that experience, I decided that going into town for my interview with the Oregonian feature writer this afternoon was probably not the best idea, despite that the publicity would be so very lovely! I was planning on busing in anyhow, but I could just see that the bus wouldn't be able to make it, and if it was really slick, I may not be able to walk back up the hill either. Then someone would discover my frozen corpse tomorrow morning, slowly sliding down Capital Highway...

Hopefully, we'll be able to reschedule when the weather cooperates.

Spent the rest of the afternoon floundering a bit, unmoored from my original plans. Finally got my act together around 4pm or so and started gesso'ing my birch boards for my experiments.

I've been wanting to try mounting gouache on paper on board, and even bought the airbrush so that I could try putting on a protective coat over the gouache. I gesso'ed the boards as a buffer, and also to get a smooth surface to attach the paper. I had 2 boards to play with. I wanted to try attaching both dry and dampened paper.

Anyhow, after 4 coats of gesso, I sanded both boards to a smooth finish. If I remember correctly, the Birgit O'Connor dvd showed her using PVA to attach her paper to the clayboards, so that was what I did too. But in retrospect, I wonder if mat medium may not have been a better adhesive? But maybe she used mat medium and I just got confused. (And now that I'm thinking about it, she did use mat medium; I got confused.) [It's now the next day...and of course I meant MATTE medium...I really was confused.]

But back to the PVA—I brush the PVA on the gesso'ed board, and it films up almost instantly! I've never seen PVA do that before! I thought, huh, that's weird. So like the insane person that I am, I wipe it off and I do the exact same thing again. And it films up instantly again!

Okay! So the PVA goes on the back of the paper instead, and I attach the paper to the board. I do both the dampened and the dry sheets and weigh both down with some bricks.

Then I watch my 2 dvds that came with the airbrush kit. That takes a while. Then I check on my paper+board. And the dampened paper definitely adheres a LOT better. The dry paper is peeling easily off the corners.

Next—I paint some color swatches, airbrush it with GAC 500+ airbrush transparent extender, and see what happens!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Goodness Gracious Multi-tasking Me!

I'm the last one to multi-task. I like to focus on what I'm doing; but sometimes things just don't work out that way. Since the 7pm talk at the LO Library was cancelled, I could participate in the 7pm Portland Open Studios conference call, but not before other things also got moved around too. So at one point, I was on the conference call, on the phone, corresponding in email, while I ran in and out of the kitchen to tend to dinner (and then later eating dinner while sitting in front of the computer on my conference call).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pack Rat Tuesday, Dec 16, 2008

Objet d'rat #5—this always makes me want to say 'ow ow ow!' Picked up both, although not in one fell swoop, during the 2007 Steens trip. Found the bird's nest in the yard of the Hotel Diamond, right after we got there, dropped off the bags, and went out to check out our new environs. Then 2 days later, found the horse chestnuts at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. I just like how the two of them go (or don't go) together. I'm not planning to make anything with this, it is done.

But how about those Sculpey blueberries?

Hey, I finally powdered them all today. Despite my prior claims, I just have 65 blueberries, which is ok for now. I might make more later if I find that I need more. But the exciting thing to report for today is that I actually have most of the game figured out!

I have the game pieces (blueberries, utensils, cards, and one die), the board, and the rules mostly figured out. I still need to research the details (the information to go on the cards), 'prices' and 'points', then I can start painting/printing the game.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The newly roomy studio-annex

With the bed here, and without the bed below. That wall on the right will not be with us much longer:

And here I've 'stacked' one of my work tables above the home-made shelf, thus creating even more surfaces for tools & toys. I've also moved the green gocco table next to the window:

The print drying racks had to be moved 18" west to accommodate the gocco table, but I had just enough room for the 3 columns of drying racks before I hit the door:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Step 2 towards the studio remodelling

Back in this post I was talking about the storage problem, and here I've put in some cheapo shelves in the closet, which helped a great deal.

A couple of weeks ago, I took the old futon in to get recycled, and today, I sold the bed! Spent the day rearranging what was the guest bedroom/gocco room. It's mostly done. I still need to move the 'drying racks' (really cheap, temporary wall mounted shelf brackets) and the room will be fully functional again, and ready to have the wall knocked out!

Duty calls

I've been doing mostly Portland Open Studios website stuff for a couple of days, adding the Amazon Associates stuff...still not sure what we (the board) feel about it. It does add clutter. But it might bring in a little extra income for the organization.

On other fronts, went to OCAC to hear the residents' presentations of their work over the last 4 months. In particular, went to visit Toby Millman and hear her talk.

Hoping to get back to my blueberries tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A little bit of downtime

End of project stuff

This is always a good time to go visit other artists, it's something that I don't do often when I'm busy working on my own stuff. So I visited with Carole Zoom yesterday. I hope to catch up with a couple of other artists soon, before I get busy again.

I'm still working on updating pr and marketing my resume.

Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention—the December 9 The Asian Reporter (scroll to the last page) has a story on the Relay/Replay show at the library. It's a very nice write-up. The electronic version has color photos (the paper copy has b&w photos).

In the It Never Hurts to Ask Department

I noticed on my (very cluttered) table this morning that there was this coupon from Art Media sitting there. And it said "10% off any item, including already discounted items." Or something similar.

That's a good deal. Only it expired on Dec 7, this last Sunday. Wah!

After much consideration (during which I briefly considered lying..."you know, this didn't arrive in the mail until today"), I finally called the customer service department and told them the truth—that I discovered the coupon on my table today and could I POSSIBLY still use it? And they said yes. (They did give me the evil laugh first, though.) Turns out, they didn't send out the coupon until the end of the week last week.

So I went in and bought the Iwata Complete Airbrush Kit, normally $577, on sale for $359. and another 10% off that made it even better. So anyhow, now really I'm committed.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Artist Formerly Known As...

Hey, I have a new name. Got this yesterday from a librarian friend (hi!):

"Here’s something I’ve never experienced before. In Expression Engine, an Asian artist’s name, Shu-Ju Wang, gets converted to Shu-Ju #!@? On the public’s side. I can only assume it’s interpreting her last name as male anatomy slang and censoring it..."

I rather like it, actually.

Pack Rat Tuesday, Dec 9, 2008

These are the twist off tops from the lancets that I use to poke my fingers. I have jars of these. I must be able to do SOMETHING with them,'d think:

On what every artist must do

Anyhow, I've spent a couple of days doing 'marketing' stuff now. Emailing people, responding to emails, updating website. And today, I packed up 8 books to ship out to Vamp & Tramp Booksellers. This is no guarantee that they'll take me on, this is just to look. But anyhow. Took me all day to make little wrap around covers and reclosable fitted bubble wrap envelopes. But that's all done and ready to go to the post office. I should pat myself on the back...MARKETING, now that's somethin'!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Some kind of a milestone

Saturday was my artist's talk about my project with the seniors at John Wilson Special Collections, and here are 6000 bikers coming to the event:

So OK, they were really delivering toys to the kids at the hospital, but there really were 6000 of them (according to the paper today). My bus was stuck in traffic waiting for them to pass; I decided to get off the bus and walk, which worked fine as long as I was going in the same direction as them. But then I needed to cross, and that didn't work so well. Finally, the cops changed the direction of the traffic flow and I was able to cross. Took the video after I had crossed over and they started going again. I don't know how long it took for all of them to get through, but I watched about 15 minutes of it, and they just kept on coming!

Anyhow, about the talk. Well, I managed to get up quite late in the morning and wasn't quite able to manage a breakfast and a lunch with a 3 hour interval in between. But I didn't want to go longer than 3 hours without lunch, and especially with a talk in between. So I ate lunch a whole hour and half early, which meant my blood sugar was really quite screwed up during my talk.

I guess I did ok at the talk, but my head was not really quite on straight. Also—and I knew this problem going into it—I've talked so much about the project already that it's hard to keep it fresh. But I'm glad it's all behind me now. I just need to file my final report and send in my documents, and I'm done!

And today, I rested, mostly.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Good enough to eat?

OK, two more batches of blueberries, lighter and lighter still compared with yesterday's first batch. In addition, I've put some white pastel on the blueberries by rubbing the pastel stick on the ends of my fingers and then rolling the blueberries between my fingers.

So here we have the combined 3 batches of blueberries in 3 different shades: on the left, as they come out of the oven and on the right, after I've rolled them in some white pastel:

Also, with the last batch of blueberries (the lightest shade), I've added bits of purple to the berries to more resemble how they really are—somewhat mottled.

I'm liking the white powery look a lot, although I think my sculpting of the tops of the berries are getting sloppy (now that I've made about 70 berries). So I need to get back to more careful sculpting, but otherwise, I think they're looking pretty good.

Met with the critique group today and we made decent progress on the Cedar Crest show—have the title nailed down and Anne came up with a great idea...a food confessional! I better come up with my 'game plan' (haha!) for my board game soon.

Maternal Legends

Tonight was the opening reception for Maternal Legends at 23 Sandy. There was a great turn out; in fact, it was too crowded to be able to look at the books!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Blueberry game pieces

I spent yesterday doing NO ART whatsoever. Not even emails about art. OK, maybe there was one email about art. That was a nice break.

Today, it was back in the studio, working on my piece for the Cedar Crest show next March. I'm making my blueberry game pieces. From left, the lump of mixed gray-blue sculpey, some sculpey blueberries sitting in the tin foil tray (not yet baked), a bit of sculpey formed into a ball, a real frozen blueberry, a sculpey blueberry that's already been baked, an awl & a pencil (what I was using to form the tops and bottoms of the blueberries):

A close-up, with a real frozen blueberry at the top, the rest are sculpey blueberries:

And after baking:

They're definitely darker after baking, and these are almost black. The packages do show the "after" colors being darker, but I might've also burnt these. When I tested the little toaster oven I got at the Goodwill this afternoon, the temperature held pretty constant. But when I used it tonight to bake the blueberries, it ran a little high (25 deg F higher), and I wasn't able to monitor the temperature throughout the 1/2 hour. I had planned to make batches with color variations anyhow, so these might be ok as part of the "blend." We'll see.

And more about our electricity usage

Back in June, I mentioned that by doing a few things, we reduced our electricity usage by 20%, down to 19.7kWh/day without much effort. Sometime in the last couple of months, the Good Prince also moved the mail server to the computer that was doing the backups and so was able to turn off the original mail server completely. We just checked our November usage, and it's down to 14.5kWh/day, down from 25.9 a year ago November. We're not sure if it's real or not, I guess we'll find out when we get our December usage information and see if it holds.

I also figured out how we can air-dry (at least partially) our laundry indoors in the winter. I already picked up some of the materials but I still need hooks. Then we'll see what that number goes down to!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Whirlwind Wednesday

Well, it's really Tuesday (still), and the whirlwind occurred Sunday-Tuesday, but I thought Whirlwind Wednesday sounded good. Besides, I seemed to have missed Packrat Tuesday this week, so I guess this is the replacement.

So, Sunday...

I installed the books and the folding screens at RSM, among the regular Sunday chores and prepping for Monday. Here's one of the screens:

Then, Monday...

In the morning, installed the little neighborhood coffee house show. It's me and 2 other artists right on my block:

And in the afternoon, installed Intersect/Parallel (the show of 5 engineers-artists) at the G&V Walters Cultural Arts Center:

And, Tuesday...

Finished up loose ends at RSM (labels), coffee shop (inventory list, and returning the nails which I took off their walls, stuck in my pocket, and walked off with them). And the opening reception for Intersect/Parallel in the evening:

At this show, I encountered something I had never encountered before. And in case Bob H. is reading this—don't worry, your "Please Do Not Touch" signs did the trick; I was watching like a hawk and nobody touched your books.

However, my "Please Handle With Care" signs did not seem to do anything at all.

Usually, people are so reverent about looking at art that I really have to encourage them to touch the work if I want them to handle and interact with them. So anyhow, I had these "Handle With Care" signs on the pillow books, but most people were paying them no never mind. The 2 ladies in the photo were very careful, I should say. But many would walk up, and without reading the signs or anything, the first thing they do is to put their hands flat down in the middle of the pillow books and give them a few pushes! Then they come around to the sides and give the books a squeeze or two!

One guy picked up one of the small pillow books and started squeezing it like it was a tennis ball!

Oh. My. God.

I guess you could say that those books are very tactile and inviting.

I asked the gallery director for new "Please Do Not Touch" signs.