Thursday, April 29, 2010

Some New Creations

     I thought I'd have another try at the beret as I was so disappointed in my first attempt. I cut another resist, 3/4 " smaller, reversed the hat and applied more wool to the inside of the top, then proceeded to wet felt as before. Before long, I had a skin strong enough to start rubbing and rolling for real. Taking it to the sink, I realized I'l skipped a step previously as well. I'd barely worked the felt against itself with the really hot water. Hmmm ... I was diligent with this step and success was achieved. This is the finished product. I will likely sew in a nice binding around the head hole, and it needs a good steaming and a bit of a tug here and there, but I'm rather pleased. If you hold it up to the light, you can still see a few thin areas, so it's far from overworked. I think even a bit more material next time. Not bad for a beginner tho. 

    Now I'm addicted to wet felting and although it can be a great upper body workout, I've never had cleaner hands. I actually burned my hand last night with water that was a shade too hot. It's wasn't a serious burn and is fine today. I'm very pleased with this attempt at making a simple bangle. I now have an idea of just how much wool to use, and sizing them is fool proof with the thin piece of hemp in the center. You tie the hemp to the size you need and roll the wool around it. Finishing touches were added with seed beads from and I really think the finished product is quite elegant. I'll take a bow for that photo as well. It's one of my better shots. 

     Getting back to the very first bangle I wet felted; the blue one that all caved in because I used way too much wool in the first place, and rushed the process of course. A bit of creative beading and Presto! A very cool if somewhat abstract, chunky bangle. I actually love it now. So the whole experience of wet felting over the last few days has actually been rewarding. It will try my patience, which I have very little of most of the time anyway, but I think I'm going to enjoy the results. A nuno scarf and a handbag are on my list of projects to try. I will be trying to dream up a handbag design very soon  ... the sketchbook is on standby in case of a brainstorm. 

     I'm also planning a small gathering of ladies next Wednesday for supper. It's going to be hot and cold buffet style finger food, so I need to decide on a couple of things for that, and make a grocery list.  A couple of the guests will bring along something to add to the choices, but we have to collaborate so we don't all make the same thing ... don't laugh ... it's happened before. Well, that's all I have for today. I'll try to keep you updated on my wool adventures. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Checking Out that Wet Felting Thing

     Yesterday was one of those wet dreary days that I really didn't feel like doing mundane housework or anything remotely related to domestic work. I thought it was time to learn something new. Between the three loads of laundry, I managed to absorb quite a few YouTube videos on wet felting and decided to start with the little blue bracelet shown here. Using a piece of hemp tied to the correct size to fit over my hand, I carefully wrapped layers of wool around it and proceeded to wet felt. The bracelet didn't turn out half bad. Yes, there was a large fold on the inside ... so large in fact,that it looks like I used two cords and fused them together. I used too much wool in the whole piece and I carved some away to show the inside purple color, carving too deep so that my sliced area kind of caved in. Acceptable though and once the beads are added, it will be a truly unique piece. It's a bit chunky but like I said, too much material. 

    Then I moved on to the rope. This turned out really well and was much easier than needle felting them so I'm fairly pleased. I could have continued felting this for a much thinner and stiffer rope, but at this point I wasn't sure what to use it for, so stopped at a point where it was flexible, strong but still soft. I think should I need a stiffer rope, I could just repeat the process on the same piece. I really like the rope. 

    By this time I was rather pleased with myself and thought I'd move on to something harder, like a beret. This requires a resist and I had everything set up and ready to roll in no time, with my corrugated cardboard resist, netting, bubble wrap, hot soapy water, etc. Things started to go wrong ... the soap bottle slipped from my hand and broke open on my ceramic kitchen floor, creating a treacherous terrain that had to be cleaned up right away lest I slip and break my neck in the mess. I worked at this piece a long, long time ... and I was really tired when I deemed it completed. However, I could see it was  still too big. Why wouldn't the darn thing shrink? I worked at it some more. Until it came time to cut the hole for my head, I still hadn't really decided which side was up but stuck to my plan anyway.   Once I cut the hole, I had to work on the edges a lot to keep them from coming apart ... and consequently the bottom of the work got a lot more fulling on it than the top, which was thin. It' could have used more wool to begin with. There were a couple of holes in it!!! I managed to push them together but it is way too thin on the top and seems just right on the bottom. Where I'd folded the overhang wool over to the bottom made all the difference. The thing is way too big ... the hole is the correct size but the beret looks like an extra large pizza on my head so it's now a nice piece of wool for  cutting up to become part of another project. I really messed it up but enjoyed the learning experience of it all. I think I can mostly see where and what I did wrong ... but it would have been nice to have an instructor to yell at me at the time I was doing it so the mistakes could have been corrected then. The top of the beret is a lovely weight for a laminated scarf though ... so maybe sometime soon, I'll attempt one of those. Even though it's too thin, I'm surprised by it's strength.

     Did I mention I feel like I've been hit by a truck? Wet felting is a great upper body workout and I likely should have paced myself a little better and not tried to do all three projects in one day. I can barely move my arms this morning. I'm disappointed in the beret and it did use quite a bit of wool. I'm rather intrigued by the whole experience and it's neat to watch the fibers do what they do when hot water and soap is added. It's not likely we're ever going to have an artist of the caliber of Andrea Graham here to hold a workshop in this neck of the woods, so I'll have to rely on instructional videos. I want to try making a bag with a resist. I've been checking out some of the ones Andrea Graham teaches and I just love the look of them. I'm a bit scared now that I've mucked up the beret project, but I have learned a lot about the wool, and it seems to me that the only way I can get this skill is by practice, so I'm going to work on some kind of design for a bag very soon. All in all, the learning experience was very well worth the effort, sore muscles and I did get a neat bracelet and rope out of it. 

     Here I am again .. a couple hours later. I've had another brainstorm and I think it will either work, or be a total disaster with no grey area in between. I'm cutting another resist, just a bit smaller and turning the hat inside out. I'll add more wool and work on that side a lot more and try to ease the material toward the center. I'll have to work on the other side as well, so nothing gets out of center, but not quite so much. Besides, there's only one way to fix sore muscles and that's to work them out. Wish me luck. I haven't given up yet!  I need to learn to see with my fingers (which feel like I haven't any fingerprints left) by touch and I will not let a bunch of wool defeat me! 

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Daisy Photo

     It's been a few days since I've been in here. Not that I've been totally idle, but haven't been working too hard. The weekend was fairly quiet. I managed to get out a few hours in the afternoon on Sunday and watched the NASCAR race at the Legion. I've been wrapping up the ring project and toying with the idea of offering them to the prom girls at the schools. I'm not sure I want to get tied up with appointments right now for such an inexpensive item, because I'm nearly all set to start selling locally. 

     I've also been working hard on getting a new online shop up and running. The Etsy shop is ok, but I've come to find out how demanding it is if you want your shop noticed at all. The site has really become too large. There is also the cost factor. My new shop is and I hope it will be successful. There are more tools there to work with as well as Google Analytics so I can see more easily what is working and what is not. There still isn't much in there, but as things expire on Etsy, I'll be listing them on Artfire. 

     Here is a new pic of Daisy. We spent alot of time playing this weekend and we got some new photos. She spent this morning outside in her kennel as I had an appointment with our tax man. All is well and the government owes us a little, which is a bit of a relief as I was worried we might be owing them. Ha! It's nice to get some back. Since that is all finished, I've spent the remainder of the day trying to figure out what money will be going where over the next few months and my plan looks very promising. Now if I could just sell a few things, my hobby would at least pay for itself. I'm actually surprised that at times, it does. However, it's not easy ... designing and creating is hard work and selling is brutal. As much time is spent photographing, cataloging, posting, pricing and advertising as actually working with the arts and crafts, so half the time my job is fun. The other half is pretty boring. 

     Sale Silliness: Our Co Op this week has large blocks of cheese on sale for $3.99. I use a lot of cheese and this is a great deal! I bought 6 lbs! I'm home by myself until the end of August so most folks  would find this ridiculous. I beg to differ. This morning, I grated and froze 4 lbs of it for cooking. Great for toppings, melts, sauces, au gratins, baking, etc. If you toss some cornstarch in, it won't stick together.  I actually think it's quite brilliant. The rest will keep in the fridge for months as I use it for company and snacks. Brilliant I tell you! 

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Great Ring Project

I have made a lot of rings ... big rings, little rings, light rings, dark rings, rings of every color and bling bling rings. They are totally addicting to make and I can whip one up fairly quickly now, due to all the practice. The fact is, I love making them. The first one or two were confusing but now I can play with the pattern in my head to mentally visualize color changes, and that speeds things up considerably. They seem to be a popular item. All the ladies who've seen them thus far, have been impressed. I've had a nice batch of orders and I've run out of some of the colors so put in another order last night. I've also noted that all the orders are coming from people who have seen them in person, so obviously the photography is lacking and this item is just poorly represented in pictures. It just means I have to get them out to more places where folks can see them. I haven't sold too many of the ones I have already completed but have made lots of similar ones in custom sizes. Rings are so size specific and there is a wide range of possibilities, but I suppose that is to be expected, however frustrating it might be. In any case, it's a quite extensive sample display. 

It's another dreary, cold day. I have a few errands to run later on, and I'm hoping to make a run to the bead supplier, either today or tomorrow morning. Then I have to make an appointment to get our taxes done. The deadline is sneaking up and I have all the documents ready so just need to commit to a time to do it. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cheryl Reid and the After Hours Band

     I enjoyed a very special evening on  Saturday. My good friend, Cheryl Reid was booked at the Oasis, on Spring Garden Rd, in Halfax for a special performance and very little was going to prevent me from attending. 

     Oh my goodness, how that part of the city has changed! The grand entrance to the Lord Nelson Hotel is on South Park St, and I naturally assumed that since Oasis is really the old LBR (Lord's Beverage Room) the entrance would be on the same street. With this in mind, I found an empty parking space on South Park, close to Citadel Hill. Great .. free parking .. except the entrance to the bar was on Spring Garden, so a bit more of a walk. I really didn't mind as it was a nice crisp night and the fresh air was rather invigorating. 

     Having located the entrance, I had to wait for a mass exodus of medical students ... I'm sure there were over a hundred. Most appeared to have enjoyed their visit to the Oasis and I waited patiently until the boisterous mob moved on down the street. Good timing too, as just then a bunch of friends arrived by taxi and we all went down the numerous stairs to the tavern that lurks under the grand hotel. It hadn't changed a whole lot in the twenty eight or so years since I'd last darkened it's cavernous spaces. The floor and ceiling looked exactly the same as they had 'back in the day'. 

     The stage section had obviously just been recently vacated by the students, as evidenced by unbussed glassware and plastic, paper lined food baskets all over the tables. The harried staff was scrambling like mad trying to clean up before the entertainment started for the evening. We, of course, chose seating very close to the stage, most of us feeling entitlement as we were friends of the lead singer. I felt a bit sorry for our waiter. He did great the first couple rounds but as the place quickly filled up, he fell far behind. MInd you, this was in no way his fault. He was the only waiter assigned to this very large and very busy section. His job was impossible. My sympathy began to turn to disappointment in the management for assigning only one waiter. On my long trek to the washroom at the other side of expansive tavern, I noticed several portly male employees keeping the stools warm and very little else. It became easier and almost a necessity to go to the bar to get your own refreshment. 

     So, lets get back to the band, Really, really good! They are a new band so you can't expect them to be polished at this point, but I thought they did very well. Cheryl was amazing .. her voice strong and clear, she moved with energy and grace in a very small space, and is so beautiful to watch. It didn't hurt that she was sporting one of my crystal bracelets and a very glittery cocktail ring. Her voice is somewhere between Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks, in my mind.  and the selection of songs they chose was  crowd pleasing. This band certainly knows their audience. The sound was fairly acoustically balanced, if the instrumental a bit loud. I found the drums at times a bit over the top of the singer's vocals so some adjustment is necessary there, but the vocals were clear and strong. The backup harmonies worked and added a lot to Cheryl's lead. I highly recommend these professional entertainers as excellent entertainment and worth every cent of the measly cover charge. Really guys ...  you're worth a bit more than $3. It was a job well done and I'm so happy to have been there at their professional debut. 

     The other really exciting thing was the amount of old buddies who showed up for this show. The fact that so many of us knew each other made for a great party. I would have loved to have had a couple drinks, but with the distance I had to travel, that would not have been a wise move. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay until the end, but I did take some folks back to Dartmouth on my way out of the cities, and I was home at a reasonable time, feeling very happy to have taken in this show. 

    Today I've worked on some ring orders. I've picked up a few custom requests through the ring give away post and Cheryl's modelling. I need some beads right away so hopefully will be able to pick them up tomorrow. It's time for another wool piece but I'm not sure what just yet. I have two projects in mind: a dragon surrounding a large cluster of amethyst crystals  or another mask; the third in the series of an unknown number. Yes, my hands are usually busy, and when they're not, my mind is generally going full tilt. I wish I'd been this creative at a younger age ... I'd have so much more polish to my work by now. The learning curve can be steep at times.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Congratulations Theresa

The winner of the cocktail ring giveaway is Theresa. Congratulations and I'll be in touch with you very soon. There were 6 entries in all .... I managed to pick up a couple new followers and I have an order for some rings, so the whole idea was a success. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Amiryha: Spirit Mask Wall Art

     This is the second Spirit Mask work. I've called this one Amiryha and she is a sister to Zharyha. The story is the same. After much consideration, I decided to leave the tails off this one ... I don't find they add much to the work and only serve to lengthen the piece for display purposes. I think she is busy enough without more embellishment. This one has blue sand dollars, dyed in my kitchen sink with vegetable dye. They are very interesting to make once the main mask is shaped. That is where all the work comes into play as it's done over a form I fashioned out of large styrofoam balls. I have some new felting pads coming soon, so I'll make a new form from my two old pads and I think that will make my life easier for the third mask. How many of these I make will depend on sand dollar supply, which is getting dangerously low. Time to hit the beach again. I'll also be searching for small crab shells .. the smaller the better. I'd like to use them on one of these masks as well. 

I'm keeping pretty busy with my art these days, but I must admit, I'm getting a bit shack whacky, so I think it's time for a mini vacation. I'm looking at sometime in May for a trip to the South Shore, where I'll spend one night with a dear old friend who lives in an inspiring place beside the ocean, and one night with my cousin Deb, artist and owner of The Wardroom Gallery. Really looking forward to that. 
Last weekend one of my higher ranking relatives spent the weekend with me here. We got out for a nice dinner and had some leisure time to catch up. This coming weekend I have a social event to attend on Saturday night in Halifax at the Lord Nelson Hotel. I'm not sure what time I'll be returning here, or if I'm spending the night in the city, so have made arrangements for a dog sitter. 

Having done all that spring cleaning awhile back, I managed to find a place for everything in my studio, and promptly forgot where some of those places were. Some of my tools are now a bit hard to find and I was disgusted to realize I'd put my felting needles away and couldn't find them anywhere. Frustration set in! I ordered more and they should be here soon, and of course, found the old ones in the meantime in a little drawer labelled "needles". Duh! Anyway ... it's a good thing as I ordered smaller needles this time. I've stopped breaking them so I should be good to go with the smaller gauge.  That's a lot of felting needles, but I've fashioned tools to hold multiple needles (my favorite tool takes four) so I'll use many of them that way. Needle felting has become slightly more popular down this way, so perhaps I can also sell some of them in smaller quantities, but in any case, you can't really have too many needles. I'll likely have to go through a learning curve with the smaller ones too, so some will get broken at first. I have a ring to finish this afternoon for a customer but that's all the creating I plan to do today. It's dreary, chilly and looks like rain so I'm going to treat myself to a "no" day. Just relax and watch the tube, read or nap. I deserve it. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Beaded Cocktail Ring Giveaway

I thought it might be fun to feature a giveaway on my blog, to help promote my work. This contest is open to all my blog followers as well as my Facebook community. Every person who leaves a comment to this post will go into a hat for a draw this weekend (April 17th). You must leave your email address so I can contact the winner, then I will send you this adorable cocktail ring in the mail, free of charge, just for participating and being the drawn name. I will contact the winner for your mailing address and get this off to you at the beginning of next week. This ring is size 5 and the picture does it no justice at all. It's so much prettier up close. Good luck to all. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Zharyha and Easter Sunday

     A couple more small details have been given to the Spirit Mask. She has tails on either side of her head now, with some crystal and small glass beads added, the idea being that the wall where it will eventually live is lit in the evenings often only by the warm glow of the fireplace. I was hoping to catch some of that light in the crystals and have it reflect and glitter occasionally. I've been making more sketches, so she will have family. I've started working on a second one already. She now has a name and a story to go along with her. 

     Zharyha       She and her sisters are spirits who live and play in that mystical place where surf and sand or rock collide. They dance in the sea foam, playing on the crests of the crashing waves. They watch over this home of theirs and make sure the ocean and shoreline are always in harmony when they meet, as the friction erodes the rock away to form substrate for the beginnings of new life. These spirits are more visible now, in our lifetime. This is due to the increased density of the sea foam, from pollutants and chemical changes in the water. This makes the spirits' job much more difficult, and they often weep with the howling gales over the slow, but inevitable loss of their environment. Please help them survive and respect the symbiotic relationships of nature. 

     So, besides that, yesterday was a fun day. Being Easter Sunday, most folks have family commitments, but there's still a bunch of us old single birds out there, so we got together at the home of a couple of old friends and had a big feed. We started with appetizers of crackers with black pepper goat cheese, burn yer lips off guacamole, and smoked Genoa sausage. Then we moved on to the main meal which was a big ham dinner with several choices of vegetables, hot cross buns, home made pickles and beets, three kinds of mustard, oh my! Everything was so good and it looked like everyone had a pretty good appetite. Dessert was fresh made lemon cake and pumpkin pie. This is where I gave up ... I had no room left for dessert. None ... nada ... not the barest crack or crevice.

      I had brought Daisy along with me to play with their husky. Both the dogs were tied outside all afternoon and played each other out. They both enjoyed a portion of leftovers from our dinner. I took her home in early evening. She was played out and getting cranky and I had overeaten so just wanted to have a nap. That is exactly what we did as soon as I got home. I had lots of sleep and felt rather chipper today. Managed to get several hours worth of mundane chores accomplished and actually enjoyed doing it. I'm going to cook a nice pork tenderloin supper with fresh broccoli ... healthy and lean, watch a little tv, do a little felting and go to bed early in hopes I feel this good again tomorrow. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Wool and Sand Dollars

This is the completed mask which will be a gift for a dear friend, to add to her collection. As I worked with this, and the face evolved, a female persona developed. I believe she is a guardian of marine shorelines; places where salty surf collides with rock and sand, eroding and providing new substrate for new life. I also think she is the first of a series of these masks. 

I learned a lot about the wool with this project, as it was full of challenges. No wet felting techniques were used so it had to be needle felted to a very stiff stage, in order for it to hold it's form. I fashioned a mold to work on, using styrofoam and masking tape, which I wrapped in plastic food wrap in order to keep the bits of styrofoam from getting into the wool. When it was stiff enough, I sewed a wire frame to the inside, which I made by using the same mold. The end result is worth the frustration. I'm very pleased with it and I'm anxious to begin another very soon. The amount of felting required has created a sore shoulder, so I'm going to catch up on some other things for a day or two. I'm also fighting a stubborn cold. Being Easter weekend, I have no other plans so will rest as much as I can and try to get well.