Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Art School

Today was my second "China Painting" class. It was lovely. Shelly had baked both my mug and trivet, and they were ready to start painting.

I only added a little color, and the pieces will be kilned again. This process can be repeated over and over and over again until I achieve the effect that I'm looking for. Or until the unit is done. Probably at the end of November.

Sadly for me, Shelly takes the month of December off. I'm already missing the class and I still have four meetings to go.

The Kiln.
Paragon is the maker. Apparently, used small kilns such as this one can be obtained used for around $100. Something to consider when I'm feeling a little flush.

The Colors.
They come as powders, and need to be blended with oil on a ground glass pallet before starting to paint.

The Cup.

The tracing painted over with black outline, kilned and ready to have color added.

First layer of paint added to the cup, and the mermaid starts to take on some life.

And the Mermaid goes into the kiln (along with a piece of Shelly's)...

...while I start to color in the trivet.

Here is a kitty that Shelly started to paint while I was working:

And here is an almost-finished piece that she brought to show us.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Doctor Pumpkin

Ian & I have a tradition going back to his first Halloween, that I will come to his home and help him carve his pumpkin. Tonight was Pumpkin Carving Night, 2007.
Ian is fascinated by mathematics and Pi. In fact, he can recite Pi to the 30th decimal. This year, Ian is going as "The Pi Chef" for Halloween. Note that there is both Pi and Pie on his apron.

Meet Fishy the Goldfish. He started out as a 10 cent fish. He grew.

Carrying the pumpkin to the carving station.

No way is Ian allowing that pumpkin goop to touch his hands. He's had an aversion to that since his first carving. But these days, he'll help remove the guts if he can wear latex gloves.

"Dr. Pumpkin"

Drawing the face on the Pumpkin.

Is it an Image or a Likeness?

Doing the Pumpkin Scoop!

Gobs and Gobs of greasy, grimy pumpkin guts!

There's something in my eye.


Who's smiling at who?

Hamie the hamster likes both fresh pumpkin and pumpkin seeds.

Ian demonstrates how to tie shoes.

Ta daaaaa!!!!!!!

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

From China to Little Tokyo

Yesterday, I talked about my "Painting China" class. Today in keeping with the Asian theme, Eric & I went downtown to visit Little Tokyo.

As with all trips downtown, first we needed to circle around to find a parking spot. Funeral homes attract florists. You know that you are approaching one because of the density of flower shops. The same principles apply to jails. Downtown Los Angeles means the Central Jail. Central Jail means Bail Bondsmen. I was particularly amused by the name of this Bail Bond shop.

Aid and Abeit Bail Bonds. Open 24 Horas. Not hours. Horas. Welcome to Los Angeles. We parked in the shadow of the New Otani Hotel.

Then went shopping at a Japanese Market

where we saw all sorts of unusual foods.
Dried Octoups, anyone?

Or perahps you would enjoy some Octupus in an undefined liquoid. It's "Party Time" according to the packaging.

Octopus not your speed? How about some dried Chili-Power-encrusted squid. The only thing I could understand on the packaging was the word "HOT."

This is a monument of the Challenger Space Shuttle, who carried amongst it's other victims, Ellison Onizuka, the first Japanese-American Astronaut.

The Japanese Garden at the New Otani Hotel.

No visit to Little Tokyo is complete without seeing a Japanese Restaurant (in this case, Ramen) complete with plastic reperesentations of the food served within.

Shopping in the Japanese Village.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Painting China

Last Wednesday, I went to my Artisan Workshop at Stitch Cafe. It's taught by Shelly Neimerowtz, an extrordinarily talented artist who has taught me - so far - how to work with leather and how to create beaded bezel free-form peyote stitch jewelry. This week, we started a new unit. China Painting.
You start by finding an illustration that you like or if you're really talented, I suppose you can generate your own artwork. Make a tracing and transfer it to the piece that you are going to paint. (There is an abundance of books for tracing available. I've seen and admired them before, but never knew what to do with them.) I was lucky enough to have time to work on two pieces. A mug on which I am doing a mermaid, and a tile which I believe will end up being used as a trivet.

The transfer onto the china is made via graphite paper. It's tougher than it seems on face value. It's easy to miss portions of your tracing, and it's very important that you keep the lines aligned and conjoined.

Once the transfer is made, you mix your first paint - black - and paint the outlines over the lead ones. This has a couple of purposes. The graphite brushes off of your piece quickly and easily; the paint, once kilned, is a permanent representation of the work you want on your piece. Second, the paint obstensively acts as a barrier to keep the colors that you will apply later from running all over your china.

The paint does not dry well unless it's kilned. I was so engrossed in transfering the art to my second piece that I didn't notice when Shelly popped my mug into the kiln. I guess I will need to take pictures of it next week. It's very small and apparently, although the inside heats up to I-don't- remember-what-the-temperature-is, the outside of the box remains cool. The one that Shelly uses for this class does not have adjustable heat, but is very portable and eminently suited to china.

I left my supplies at the class because they are very sensitive to dust and hair, both of which are available in abundance in my condo. By next week, the tile will have been fired too, and I'll start to learn how to apply color. Shelly promises me that I will be very excited by the possible different applications and appearances of color brought on by the different brushes available. Since I've never painted before, I'm really looking forward.
The advantage of painting china, rather than ceramic or other materials, is that it can be fired multiple times, allowing the possibility for applying color(s) again and again and again to your piece. That means that they can be laid down with precision, exactly where and with the intensity that you want them. I'll be looking forward to posting more pictures of my progress as I move along with this adventure.
* * * * * * * * * * * Very little tangible evidence remains in my condo of the Fab 4's visit. But there is one thing that we are all enjoying. Claudia - and the boy's Cousin Rigby - brought my boys rawhide bones.
Cosmos does not really enjoy rawhide all that much. I think it may hurt his teeth or jaws to chew on them. But that doesn't mean that he isn't envious of Sunny when he eats them.

And Sunny truly enjoys the experience of eating a bone as big as his head.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Earth, Wind, & Fire

The tragedy out here is overwhelming with over a million people having been evacuated from their homes at this point. I know what it is to lose your home and everything in it as it happened to me in 1994 during the Northridge Earthquake. With the fires, though, I am well out of harms way. There have been a lot of question about Richard too. His home is well out of the current danger area. As is Slimmons. LAX is also fine.
The good news / bad news is that the winds have died down. That's fabulous news in that the fire fighters - incredibly brave men and women from all over the country - have a chance, now, of slowing the fires down. Malibu is almost contained. Stevenson Ranch is almost out. Valencia is coming under control. These are the three fires near me. You should know that "contained" is very different than "out." It may be weeks before the fires are gone. The vegetation in the hills around my home depend on fire as part of their life cycle to spread seed... as a result, their bark is very oily and virtually impossible to put out once it ignites. Fire Services just lets them burn, and trys to keep the fire from spreading from there.
The really terrible zones are in San Diego and Arrowhead Lake. I have no idea whether their winds are gone yet or not. But the situation in those areas is completely out of control.
The reason that lack of wind, for me, is problematic (minimal bad news) is that while it was blowing, although everything was smokey and the air quality was poor, the majority of the smoke was being blown in one direction and away from my home. Now, the smoke is everywhere. Outside of my front door, it is as dark as if it is about to rain, but it is just smoke.

People who have lived through this before recognize the "ash snow" that is dropping from the sky and covering everything. I don't bother to sweep or dust or vacuum during these times; it's pointless. The air quality is has gone from poor to abhorrent and this will be the condition for probably 10 days or more. I have very large hepa filters running inside of my condo and that, of course, helps me out. Eric lives literally on the edge of a large wildlife preserve on the outskirts of Los Angeles (right on the cliff; the first house before dried-to-a-crisp grassland); I have been very worried about him and his family, but fortunately, the fires have not gone anywhere near him. I insisted a couple of days ago, though, that he lock his cat up in the bathroom and pack emergency supplies (clothing, etc) for his four children for which he is the primary and sole custodian. He knows that if anything happens near his home, he is to proceed directly here.
So that is it for now. My life is continuing as "normal" and my heart is with those who are in danger and who have lost everything.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Catching My Breath

My home is awfully lonely without the Fab 4 here. It does leave me with opportunity to catch up on things left undone, though. Let's start with e-mails.
I get some 200 mails a day. Some of the backlogged, like all the offers from Freecycle could be immediately deleted. As could many of the advertisements. But then again, there are some stores where they needed to just be filed for reference in a few days. Like the ones from Borders Books or JoAnne's Crafts, or Coldwater Creek that contain discount coupons. Even if I never redeem them, it's the inner cheapskate in me that insists that I save them until they expire or even after that.
Of course, I have to read and respond to the personal e-mails I received. I'm getting a lot more since Richard's Retreat. Many of the webbies are now feeling comfortable enough with me to write and that's just fine by me. And there are mails from long-standing friends.
I think that one of the favorites that I found was from Trish. I LOVE Trish! The first time I met her, we were in Eugene, Oregon at Black Sheep Gathering. She was standing in the middle of a Sheep Pen, all dressed up in a silk dress, a big blingy spider gemstone pin, and a Tiara. She was EmC-ing the Spinners Lead; a kind of fashion show for people who spin their own yarn and make garments out of them and show them off leading the animals from which their garment originated. (i.e. Wool garment wearers led sheep, Mohair led goats, etc.) She was completely at ease with herself, blythly stating "I just love the bling." while standing in about a foot-deep mixture of shavings and sheep poo.
Anyway, Trish wrote - having read my "Leaping Lizards" post - about my lizard.

Having had two younger brothers interested in all things crawling (not far from my interests either) I can tell your lizard is a native "Blue Belly" if you noticed by turning him/her over either side of it would have been indigo blue. Hence "Blue Belly" I've not the faintest what the proper name of him is. Way to go, so glad it wasn't of the rodent variety! Here in rural Oregon we have all sorts of "visitors" I found a banana slug on the fireplace last week, that's gross.
Monks have long linen gowns that they wear, some wear hair shirts too! Gross and itch.
Trish, I can honestly state that it never occured to me to turn the gosh-darned lizard over to look at it's stomach. But you don't know how much better I feel knowing that it's indigenous to the area and I probably did the right thing in releasing it.

And now I know what Monks wear to bed. How, on earth, did you know that? Or do I really want to know your source?
By the way, I've had both rats and mice at various points in my life. The rats I did not enjoy. But my mouse in my apartment on Reseda Blvd? I left food out for him once I realized he was visiting. He lived a long mousey life and - to my knowledge, did not reproduce.
* * * * * * I hate housework. I don't mind laundry so much, but I do despise the folding and putting away of the same.

So there is still a pile of laundry to be done from the Fab 4's visit because the laundry cart has been holding the same bundle of clean items for about two days now.

I have to assess the food situation too, because Sunday is Farmer's Market day. The Fab 4 left so much food behind that it was impossible to get through it. It's spoiling now, and I need to clean the refrigerator out so that I know what to buy. Of course, I just don't feel like dealing with the mold either, so instead of addressing the issue at hand, I straightened out my pantry.

I did get quite a bit of work done on a necklace that I started last Sunday during Richard's Radio Show. I'm not sure what the other attendants at the event thought of my crafting, but honestly, I can't sit through all of that misery without having my hands and mind partially occupied. I'd fall to pieces if I wasn't working on something. So here is where I am currently at with that:

I need to buy more dog food... I've been out of the canned for two days now. I can tell you with great authority that 100% of the dogs surveyed enjoy canned Tuna over their dried dog food. But even with Costco quantites of canned Tuna, this can't go on for very much longer.
I've balanced my check book; I need to pay my bills now.
And then there is the question that seems to be on so many people's mind. What am I having for dinner? I'm flabbergasted at how interesting my food is to others! But in case you're not just trying to pretend that I'm interesting to keep me happy, I'll tell you that tonight's meal consisted of Grilled (on my George Foreman Grill) Orange Roughy with "Moondance Marinade", Beet Salad, and Eggplant that was brushed with Olive Oil, sprinkled with Parmesan Cheese, then broiled.


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