Thursday, December 31, 2009

Time To Party!

It's New Year's Eve so you know what that's time to party! The Anchorage Accordion Club is playing for the Pioneer Home's New Years Eve Party this afternoon. We love to play at the Pioneer Home because the residents & staff really enjoy the music.
They're "our people" because many of them grew up with the accordion, appreciate it as an instrument & know the words to the vintage music we usually play. It's a mutual love!
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Casting Tip Sheet

Was going through old emails early this morning & found an email from Bullseye Glass Co. about a new "tip sheet" on casting. How interesting I found it just as I'm working on my small casting samples.

Here's a link if you're interested & want to see how it really should be done!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Casting Experiment ~ The Eye's Have It

Will & I are working with clay. 50 pounds of clay that I've been moving around for a couple of years. I've had plans to make my own molds & to experiment with casting glass. So, instead of working on my year end accounting & 2010 catalog we're playing with the clay!

A few years ago I had wanted to do a whole First Friday show at the gallery around the idea of "Eyes." I love eyes. The symbolism of eyes. The mythology of eyes. The power of eyes. The mystery, the color, shape. Need I go on? Another artist I know poo-pooed my idea until she saw another artist's work sort of related about body parts in an article in Smithsonian....ah-ha...then my idea had validity. Don't you love it when you're right? Not that someone's opinion would stop me from doing what I want too anyway! :)

Here's the start of a small casting project. First make a positive model in clay.

Second, cast it with mold mix. I use "Master Mold Mix." The clay model is secured to the bottom of a small container with soft clay. These are 2" x 2" cubes so I'm just casting them in a small, reinforced, box but for larger castings a frame needs to be built around the model. The mix needs to be thick & creamy so it pours out smoothly & fills in all the small nooks & crannies. After the mix is dry (about 45 minutes on a piece this size) flip it over & remove the soft clay. The mold mix is still soft so there's time to so some addition carving & clean-up. Then it gets fired in a slow firing to dry & harden the mold.

Brush with Bullseye kiln wash ~ three coats in opposite directions. Bullseye shelf primer/wash is made specifically for use with glass ~ not ceramics. When the wash is dry start packing with glass.

Fire slowly to about 1450 degrees, anneal, & slow cool. Don't you love my specific kiln schedule here? Sorry, but firing schedules are boring so I program mine into the computers on my kilns & then adjust them depending on the actual piece going into the kiln. The schedule varies a lot depending on the size & depth of the glass. I keep a kiln journal to document my successes &," learning opportunities."

Here's the finished piece which turned out OK. It needed more glass to fill the corners but I purposely didn't overfill the mold as I the edges were slightly undercut & I was worried about breaking the mold ~ I was hoping the glass would pop out & I could use the mold again. Unfortunately, the mold cracked & then broke apart. I've since tried to repair it & may try to use it again with blocks around it to contain the glass during the firing. Typically, castings are done in plaster of paris molds that are used one time. The casting needs some coldworking to clean it up & remove any sharp edges.

I have four more little eyes & spirals so I can experiment with more color. This is fun. Maybe it's the beginning of a series?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Accordion in the Chapel

Yep! That's right ~ the chapel at Providence was a rockin'!! The Anchorage Accordion Club played tonight & we were gooooood!!! Of course I forgot to take my camera so there's no pictures ~ dang! We looked good too in our matching red shirts & black pants. Jill even had a santa hat on her head.

Here's a picture of part of the group from holiday practice last year (December 2008). I'm not in the picture because I was working at the gallery 24/7 before the holidays. Our group has really grown & evolved. I think we're playing better together & enjoying it more ~ I know I am!

Our next gig is at the Pioneer Home on New Year's Eve for the center party on the 2nd floor. Jill & I play there every month but the whole group will be there for the party so it'll be a great time. Hopefully Will & Big Daddy will be there too so they can be in charge of taking photos. Will's been practicing with me ~ he plays a mean jingle bell!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice~

It's the Solstice so we're....
Dancing &
Spinning &
Clicking our Heels!
Happy Solstice!

(we gained 8 seconds of sunlight today ~ Alaskans are Happy!)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bullseye Glass ~ Year in Review

Hot off the press is Bullseye Glass Company's "Year in Review of New Products." Check out the link to see what's new & review all the oldies but goodies.
Bullseye produces the best ~ Made in America ~ glass for fusing, glass blowing & torch work. It's the glass I've used exclusively for the past 15 years. I especially enjoy the striker & shift glass. It's like a gift to open the kiln & see how the color has changed with the intensity of the heat.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Give Thanks ~

Thanksgiving ~

For each new morning with its light,

For rest & shelter of the night,

For health and food,

For love & friends,

For everything Thy Goddess sends.

Ralph Waldo Emerson ~ (1803-1882

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Inspiring words & new work

Before a show I usually take an inventory of what I have in stock, what I need to make, & what new work I think I should have to round out my booth for the best sales. The Arts Emporium was a great show sales-wise. I had a list of new pieces that I wanted to made but time & life are also factors so as the show got closer the list got shorter.

I decided to experiment with "liquid stringer." Basically, very fine frit mixed with a suspension medium so the glass is a liquid. I mix equal parts of glass & medium in a small squeeze bottle & then write on a scrap piece of glass until the consistency will hold up. Not too runny & not too stiff.

These were kitchy but colorful & fun! I strung the hangers with colorful coordinating beads for a finished look. I sold all I had so I think people liked them & the price was right! Good feedback!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Show Talk ~

Today was the first day of the Arts Emporium at the convention center. My booth is next to a person who has just started "doing" fused glass. I say "doing" because after 15 years of working with glass I feel like I've seen & tried about every technique invented & reinvented. This person is re-doing glass designs & not really creating anything unique or inspired (only IMHO!!)

Anyway, every once in awhile I'd hear something really interesting & totally bogus about glass work but the best quote today was "oh, that's my really should buy it because it was a full moon when I fired the kiln."

OK, I might fall for that line if I was young (I'm old), naive' (sorry, but I've been around the block), or gullible ( OK ~ I'm old, cynical & well traveled).

However, since I'm basically a production artist & I make my living with my work, I'd be seriously out of business if I only fired the kiln during a full moon cycle! :) But wait...maybe the kiln fires itself during a full moon? Gotta love the sales talk when the work can't do it on it's own!

I had a great day of sales & it wasn't even a full moon!! Thanks to all my friends & great customers who stopped bye to shop & visit. I really appreciate your feedback, support & business.

Here's to a happy holiday season!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Arts & Crafts Emporium

The "Arts & Crafts Emporium" is this weekend at the Dena'ina Convention Center. It's a fabulous show with work from Alaskan Artists. I'll be there with lots of new work & larger pieces!
Hope to see you there for all your holiday shopping! Saturday 10 to 6pm & Sunday 11 to 5pm.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Alaska Metal Arts Guild ~ Metal Etching Workshop

I'm a member of the Alaska Metal Arts Guild. It's a fairly active group of metal smiths from all over the state of Alaska. We've had some fabulous workshops & this past weekend was no exception. Gary Kaulitz at the University of Alaska taught a two day class on techniques to etch metal. Gary is a print maker extraordinaire so he was able to tie in some cool lithography techniques. I was excited to take this class as I've been researching chemical metal etching for some time but have never had the time to pull it all together.

The class focused on copper etching using ferric chloride. A film positive was made using "Imagon," a photosensitive film, after exposing it to ultraviolet light. A soda ash wash rinses out the film which is attached to the copper & then the copper is ready for the etching. All in all, a fairly simple process but one that has many steps.

The picture above shows my design on my acetate film prior to the etching & the finished copper plate after it was etched in the ferric chloride. I love the mermaid image & I planned to use the spirals at the bottom for jewelry items ~ or not, because after the etching it looks like cool border art. The detail is fabulous!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Do you know "List of the Day?"

"List of the Day" is one of my new favorite sites. It's edgy & sort of naughty in a nice way. I like it!

Check it out ~

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! It was a day to party! I played the accordion at the Pioneer Home's Halloween Party early in the day with Jill (Big Bird) & Joyce (Scarecrow). Let me tell you those old folks know how to throw a swinging party. It was fun! They are so appreciative of the music & the accordion as an instrument its heartwarming.

Later, family & friends met up at my home downtown & we had a big Halloween Monster Mash! Lots of food, play for the kids & then trick or treating in the neighborhood. The streets were full of ghouls & it was a warm evening. Temperatures in the 50's, no snow, lots of leaves & Halloween lights & decorations. It felt just like an old fashioned Halloween from my childhood :)

Pictures to follow of the little ghouls on their sugar high ~

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Elegant Felted Mittens

Winter's on its way so it's time to pull out the knitting needles. Here's a pair of felted mittens that I made last week. This is an easy & free pattern that I found on-line. It's called "Elegant Felted Mittens." Felting is easy, very forgiving if you're not a great knitter like me, & best of all ~ extremely warm!

I modified the pattern to make the overall mitten shorter by reducing the cuff to only 4 row instead of the original 16. I also just used the two strands of yarn instead of the "fizz" yarn for the cuff. I also crocheted a mitten string ~ is there a term that's used for the long strand that keeps mittens together & is worn inside your coat? I'm sure there is but I don't know what it is.

Lately, I'm all William's mittens & mine on the "strings." It's so much easier to keep track of the mates. I felted the cord for these mittens & it turned out nice & thick. After it was dry from the felting I sewed it to each mitt.

The design on the top of the hand is needle felting. I used strands of wool & some spun wool with a special needle that's used to poke the yarn threads into the existing felted wool. As you poke, the yarns intermingle & the design becomes felted into the main piece. I think I need to add some beads next!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


This weekend, October 17th & 18th, is the Alaska Bead Society Bead Show. This year it's at the Conoco-Phillips Atrium in downtown Anchorage. Stopbye, visit, get inspired & buy some beads! It's always a great show & fun to see what all the artists are up to.

I'm going to be selling off a lot of the bead inventory from the gallery. Lots & lots of loose beads, beaded jewelry & findings...I think. There's lots of "rules" at this show & we each only have one table so I usually bring lots of inventory & keep replenishing the table as things sell.

Mention this post to me at the show & I'll give you 20% off everything you buy at my table! Woo-hoo! Don't you love a good deal?? See you this weekend.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Making Of A Mask ~ Process Not Product!

I'm working on a series of masks. It's been a frustrating process & I haven't been happy with the results. I usually try to use glass left over from other projects or scraps when I'm experimenting due to the expense of fusible glass ~ thus the colors & hodge-podge used below.

I have a few mask molds that I've made & the goal was to learn how to use the glass in the molds with the correct placement for features as well as kiln temperatures to achieve the glass movement into the mold without over firing. I want nice crisp features in the face without devitrification.

The beginning of another mask with estimates for the features. The ring around the outside will create a lattice so I can add beads, metal hair & any other ornaments. Here she is after the firing. The lattice is curled under so you can't see if from this angle but it turned out nicely.

Here's another mask that I found in the cast-off bin. I probably started this over 10 years ago. This is the problem when one is a production artist ~ I get started on new concepts but if contracts & commissions come in that becomes the focus. Money talks my dears!

Overall, I think these are all pretty ugly but I've learned a lot in the process. It takes a lot of work, trial & error, to create pieces that look effortless. These are getting there but I think it's time to get out the glass saw & drill & see what else evolves.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Closet Tap Dancer

I've been tapping for about a year & a half. I originally started because my son, William wanted to tap dance, & I thought it would be good for me to learn so we could practice together. It's been so much fun & we're both still tapping at the Children's Dance Theatre of Alaska. I'm hooked & I really look forward to my class with the group of women I dance with weekly. The Children's Dance Theatre is preparing a "Nutcracker Sweet" performance / recital in December & my group has been coerced into doing a number. Like I need anymore stress in my life!

The picture above is when Will was 3 1/2 years old & obsessed with tap! I found the "girls" tap shoes second hand (don't tell him now that they're girls shoes) & Sherrill (bff) gave him the bow tie, cumber bun, hat & cane. He worn it everyday, every where....EVERYWHERE we went...thanks Sherrilll. Now, I look back & think, "oh...he's so precious!!!) Just like every Mom.

Anyway, here's little list about what's so cool about tap dancing ~

  1. Tap dancing is a lot of fun – Have you ever watched any of the great tap dancers perform? They always look as though they are having the time of their life. That’s because they are. Tap classes shouldn't be too serious. When I allow myself to relax and have a good time I do better in the class.

  1. It will help you lose weight! – Everything about tap dancing is aerobic, whether you are learning it or performing. It takes energy and concentration to execute all of the sounds and movements in time with the music. Let’s face it…legs are not the lightest parts of the body…in fact, they are often the heaviest.

  1. It develops your balance! – Since becoming a tap dancer I have noticed that I am more able to maintain (and regain) my balance. When you first start taking classes, one of the most important things you do is start balancing yourself on the balls of your feet. Doing this while executing the other movements is a little tricky at first, but in time you will see a noticeable difference in your balance.

  1. You’ll learn to keep rhythm with your entire body! – This is a skill that is useful, not only for dancers, but for musicians (yes, accordion players!), and athletes as well. Many famous boxers have taken up tap dancing to further develop their timing and coordination. The same can be said for many musicians…particularly drummers. In fact, many tap dancers are also skilled drummers.

5. You get to dance and make music simultaneously! – This is one of the things I love most about tap. With most other dance forms, you are dependent upon some external source for the music. This is not true for tap as the visual and auditory elements are combined. In tap you can take the musical ideas in your head and communicate them through your feet.

  1. It’s an American Art Form! – Tap dancing could not have been born anywhere but here in the good old U.S. of A. It was the interaction of Irish, African, English, and Native American influences that led to the creation, over time, of this beautiful art form. It also grew up alongside another American art from…jazz ~ my favorite music to listen to in the studio!

  2. It can aid you in learning many other dance forms! – Who has more complex footwork than a tap dancer? Tap dancers use our footwork to create sound which has to be executed with precise timing to be correct. Training as a tap dancer develops the communication between the brain, legs, and feet. This ability is a key to learning about every other form of dance…especially those with swift footwork! I'm still working on this aspect of the dance & learning to make each precise sound.

  3. It’s mysterious! – I can imagine that you are wondering what that even means. Let me explain… I can still remember what it was like to see people tap dancing and have no idea of how they were making those sounds. To me, it was like magic! Maybe this one doesn’t impact you, but it certainly impacted me. I think this is what attacted my 3 year old child when he first told me he wanted to dance...or maybe it was watching re-runs of Lawrence Welk. I was watching the accordion players & William was watching the tap dancers.

  4. You can express yourself! – True of tap and any other form of dance. Dance is a way of expressing yourself. You can sometimes say things with a step or a combination that you are unable to express with words.

  5. It relieves stress! – Remember that old advice about punching a pillow when something upsets you? Tap allows you to strike the floor instead! Ok, not quite the same thing. As stated earlier, tap is a form of expression. As you study it, you will find that tap steps and combinations can have moods and ideas associated with them. This can be an excellent way to relieve stress through expressing those emotions!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cool Cats & Accordions

Hey all you cool cats & hip daddy's! Monday night (October 5th) , the Anchorage Accordion Club meets from 6 to 8 pm at BP. Join us for a foot tapping time...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Glass Houses

Last week, I had a little lull in the studio production schedule so I decided to go through some unfinished projects & scrap glass to see what I could create. I like to play a little game where I can only use discarded pieces & scraps. Discarded pieces include glass projects gone awry, over or under-fired, polluted glass (has "stuff" stuck in it), broken pieces, etc. I used to keep all these misfits & periodically I'd remodel one of them as a donation or use something in another project but then reality & the need for a clean studio intervenes & I file these lovelies in the big bin. One of the key components of the "game" is that I don't let myself cut into a full sheet of glass.

Here's two candle votive stands with the ends cut off & stacked on top of each other. The original design of this involved a couple of house shapes fused flat with ends / stands that were slumped at a 90 degree angle (in a second firing) so that the houses could stand up. A candle votive lit behind illuminates the glass.

So, I thought I'd use all these little glass houses to create a large glass community. Here's the beginning of the transformation as I added glass shapes.

A close-up detail of a window...pre-firing. The dichroic accent is a face of a child. When fused, the clear glass will melt into the black glass underneath & all you'll see is the sweet child's face.
I used 2 mm stringers to create the outline of a window.

Detail (below) of a steeple shaped roof. I thought about putting a skeleton in the attic but then found some old sample florals in dichroic glass. This floral is perfect because it was a mistake too. The background dichroic should have been removed instead of the image dichroic. A very costly mistake which is why it's still in the dichroic glass drawer.

Here's the final project after a full fuse (1500 degrees). It might be fun to add more elements & fire again at a lower temperature to add some dimension. This piece is BIG! It measures about 2 feet in height & 2.5 feet wide. I have it in my garden window in my kitchen with a few plants around...landscaping of sorts!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Gone Fishing!

It's August in Alaska & that means we've got to get the last of the fishing in for the season & get the freezer stocked with salmon. I love to fish & I love to eat fish. There's nothing better than fresh salmon off the grill ~ yum!

Last week my family went fishing although we did it in different ways. Big Daddy went to fish camp for a work retreat & I went into the studio & whipped up some fish. These little glass fry are so darn cute & look fun hung in a window as a school.

Here's how Big Daddy started his trip....landing on the beach across the inlet from Anchorage. It's about an hour flight SW of Anchorage.

First catch of the day! Good going!

There's lots of competition for the fish so be alert! Fortunately, there's a care taker at the camp who patrols with a rifle just in case the bears decide that it's easier to take fish from you than fish for it themselves!

A pretty dolly varden. Did you know that dolly varden & rainbow trout are in the salmon family of fish? I think trout is only good when eaten fresh out of the ocean or stream.

Another bear watching...

The end of a successful day of fishing!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Monday Accordion Night!

Monday, August 17th is the Anchorage Accordion Club Practice. Grab your box & join us at ACS from 6 to 8 pm! It's a great group & we're gearing up to practice holiday music & schedule performances in the community.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sarah Palin ~ She Just Won't Go AWAY!

Enough already. Please move out of Alaska. We're tired of the embarrassment!

Monday, August 10, 2009

G Street Artist Fair

Saturday, August 15th, I'll be selling my work at the G Street Artist Festival. This is a cooperative venture with the Anchorage Downtown Partnership & the merchants on G Street. It's "juried" (sort-of) in that the Downtown Partnership asks artists to apply & provide images of their work. These are reviewed & artists invited to show & sell if their work meets the expectations of the merchants & the Partnership.
In the real world "juried" means that there's actually a panel of individuals who review the artist's work & choose quality work based on innovation & technical skill. The reviewers are known & respected. That rarely happens in Alaska ~ here, it's usually a who you know type game or a privately run event & the promoters invite friends & keep out enemies. That's called an invitational & there's nothing wrong with it....just don't call it a juried event. More on this later because it's a fascinating topic with widely held opinions.
I've already participated in a couple of Saturday Fairs & it was a nice experience. A little local traffic, a little tourist action, & unpredictable weather. The weather is always dodgy when doing outside events in Alaska & this summer is no different. Outdoor events are not my forte'. I really don't have the constitution to chase my tent down in the wind & sit in pouring rain or blazing sun for over 10 hours in a day. I'd rather be in my studio or puttering around the garden~ even in the rain.
Maybe it's something that my shop boy can help with in the future?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday Accordion Night!

The Anchorage Accordion Club meets tonight! August 3rd at BP from 6 to 8 pm!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shop Boy

When I'm in production mode I'll take help from where ever & who ever I can get it. Here's my shop boy who will work for chocolate milkshakes. That is until I made the mistake of offering him a dollar. That was a mistake because the next day his rate had gone up to $3 & he was writing his time on the hot shop calendar! We've negotiated that Friday's will be his payday.

Yep, I think the economy is in recovery. :)

A Summer Swarm

Every summer I worry about my bees swarming. This occurs when the hive becomes congested with too many bees, no room for the queen to lay eggs, over heating, or a multitude of other reasons. This year I ordered a "nuc" which is sort of a mini hive that is used to catch swarms or to do a split with a hive that is growing too big so the beekeeper "splits" it into two hives.

So a couple of weeks ago I set up the nuc in my garden area. It's located about 75 feet away from the main hives. It's usually recommended that a nuc or swarm trap be set-up close to existing hives if you want to catch a swarm from bees outside the area & away from existing hives if you want to catch bees that may be from your own hives. It seems that if bees are going to swarm they will not set-up a new home close to the original hive but will travel a short distance (usually 75 to 100 feet) away to find a new home.

Then I forgot about it.

Until today when I was checking the progress of my raspberries. Wowie-zowie! There were bees all over the nuc! The picture above doesn't really do justice to the buzz of activity around the entrance to the nuc. There was a cloud of bees!

Very exciting & satisfying. I'm hoping one of my existing hives didn't swarm but if they did I'm glad they found a new home in the neighborhood. Welcome home!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

First Honey Harvest of the Summer!

Yesterday, William & I harvested our first honey of the summer. We pulled 3 full frames of honey from the hive. We're harvesting using the "crush & strain" method. It's self-explanitory; the honey is cut from the frame, crushed & then strained through filters into a large 5 gallon bucket. The bucket has a latch on the bottom so you can easily fill bottles.

It's very easy but sticky! Here's across section of a section of filled honey comb. You can see how full the cells are & the variant color. After filtering it's a beautiful golden color.

Of course it tastes delicious too!