Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tribute to the Graveyard Dog

Once upon a time, 10 years ago, a sealed up cardboard box was left in a local graveyard behind a church.  The box was opened to reveal a litter of puppies and the preacher of the church stood in his pulpit and asked his congregation who would step up and adopt these puppies. Slowly, one by one, the puppies were adopted, down to one final puppy, a tiny black and white boy.  My youngest daughter, who was 7 at the time, got wind of this situation through friends at school telling the story and thus began her campaign for this puppy.  That night she told us the story and said, "Will you go get that puppy?  I want that puppy with the small head"  (I have to say at this point that she had begged for a "dog with a small head" for a couple of years by that time and we had, through her descriptions, determined that she meant a small dog....not just his head being small!) We said no.  We already had a dog and really didn't need or desire a second one.  But the reign of terror that a small girl can heap on you can be staggering!  For several days she would ask first thing in the morning, call me from school, state her case all afternoon and again at bedtime.  Finally, on that Friday, I happened to be close to the church so I stopped in "just to look" at the puppy with the small head.  He was so tiny and although he looked like a beagle mix, I thought he would be a very small dog.  Little did I know!  He was sweet and cute and I, of course, couldn't resist.  So I took him home and when my daughter, burst through the door that afternoon, she somehow knew without my having told her.  "Where is he? Where is he?", she shouted!


Of course, he grew.  He finally ended his growing at almost 50 lbs.  So he was no longer a dog with a small head, but we loved him anyway.


Over time we started to notice that he smelled bad....really bad!  We tried everything we could get our hands on:  Prednisone, Coconut Oil, Tea Tree Oil, changes in food, some sort of drops from the pet supply store.  After a few years, we just gave up and let him stink.  Not that we wanted to give up, we just didn't know what else to do since nothing worked.  I often wondered if he could smell himself!


His personality was often a science experiment.  You just never knew what to expect!  He was very loving, but at the same time, very solitary.  He had a kennel on the front porch and one inside the house and he spent a lot of time in them, peering out and watching the world go by.  He never barked at the UPS man or anyone coming to visit.  We would bring him in often in the evenings but we found that he simply could not relax.  He would sit very upright and stare at you....and stare at you....and stare at you....and slowly blink one eye.  The girls would often say "He smells like the pits of hell and stares into your soul"!!!

But he did love to be loved.  He was exceptionally well behaved, would come instantly when you called and if you said "no" to anything at all, he would screech to a halt to wait for you to tell him what he should be doing.

He had three favorite things in the whole world:  Bailey, a fire in the fireplace and going for walks.  He knew the precise time that walking happened and he was filled with a joy that would just fill your heart.  We never put him on a leash to walk, he would bound ahead of us running crazily and chasing rabbits and squirrels and the occasional cat...although he actually liked (and feared!) cats.  But he would come instantly if we called him back.  His only weakness on walks was his love of chasing cars.  He seemed to feel that it was sport and we worried greatly when he did it.  But we live in a small dead end neighborhood in the country so it wasn't a big issue.

So a couple of weeks ago when he had a bloody spot in his eye and was just acting "off", I took him to the vet who thought that he had had "some sort of trauma", we suspected maybe a collision with a car since we knew his love of chase.  He got better quickly.  But then on Monday morning, he didn't respond when I called him to go outside so I went to him.  He was in his inside kennel but did not seem to hear me when I called, so I touched him and he jumped up.  At first I laughed because I just thought I has disrupted his dreaming but when he came out, he staggered and fell and could not get back up.  I lifted all 50 lbs of him (with my bad back) and rushed him to the vet.  As it turned out, he had never been hit by a car, our vet now thinks he had been having a series of mini-strokes....and this one had been too much for him to recover from.  I held him and cried into his stinky fur while he made the journey over the rainbow bridge.

I tell this entire story, not as a sad story but as a reminder that all of God's creatures are here for a reason.  We learned so much patience and tolerance from our Graveyard Dog.  I strongly feel that had we not been the family to adopt him in the very beginning, he would have had a very short life.  Mainly because I'm sure a lot of people would have taken him to the pound because of his stink and oddness.  That is not to say that I didn't consider finding him a new home in the early years.  But ultimately, I just couldn't do that to him.  We were all he had ever known outside a cardboard box.  We enriched his life and he returned the favor, many times over.

So when you decide to get a dog, first try the shelters.  You might just find a companion who needs you as much as you need him.  And remember, don't give up.  An animal is a commitment, through thick and thin and even the challenging ones have value.  We will miss you, dear, sweet Sam.  I know you will be waiting for us on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

2003-2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

Kiln Review - Tabletop Furnace Company


Recently I bought a new little kiln and wanted to do a review of it for you guys.  I was in the market for a lighter, travel-friendly kiln that I could take on the road with me.  I had been carting around my 50 lb. Evenheat kiln and it was not being back-friendly!  In searching the internet for alternatives, I came across a company called Tabletop Furnace Company.  I am always a bit wary of companies that I have never heard of but in reading the description of the kiln, I was intrigued.  The website boasts a kiln weight of 11 lbs and a firing speed of 8 minutes to 2200 degrees!  Wow!  Could this be true?!  So I made a couple of phone calls to Ken of TFC and talked it over.  I just had to try this baby out!  So I ordered it in Stoplight Red (it is available in 10 different colors).  You have to keep in mind when ordering something like this that it is actually being made just for you.  Before I ordered I had checked his feedback on EBay and although he did have negatives, they were all in regard to shipping time.   He doesn't have boxes and boxes of them sitting around ready to go.  That is not uncommon in the kiln world, so you need to exercise patience!  It took about a month for it to be built and to arrive.  It came in a small, lightweight box and I was in love immediately!  The inside chamber (you can see all the measurements on the website link), is rather small.  If you do large works, this will not be the kiln for you.  But if you tend to work small (as I do), I can fit about 3 pendants onto the shelf. (I have placed one pendant inside for scale).  As you can see, I need to order another shelf and I could easily fit about 6 pendants inside (depending on the size, of course).
I spent several weeks testing the kiln at various speeds, ramping up and down and seeing how it worked.  I will say this:  the instruction page regarding the electronic controller is terrible.  It is factory-written, in a very scientific way, making it difficult to understand how to set the times to what I needed it to do.  I had to call Ken multiple times to try to understand it.  Ken does tell me he is in the process of writing a manual that will be easier to understand.   Finally, I had to look at the firing schedule that the instructions had had me set up for the burn-out fire (a first firing to break the kiln in).  Using those parameters, I was finally able to set it to a firing schedule that could work for me.  I then did several test fires at differing ramp speeds (this means how quickly the kiln is going to the temps that you need, in case you aren't familiar) and finally found the perfect firing schedule for me.  It cools down extremely fast, too.  I love that the controller shows the inside temp so I can tell when it is ok to crack it and speed up the cooling.  I can do a complete underglaze fire in about 30 minutes, cool down for about 15 minutes and have it open within an hour!   Below:  notes, test tiles, more notes, more notes and the dreaded controller instructions!  LOL
So now that I have it firing correctly here is my overall analysis:  this is a wonderful little addition to my kiln family.  I will be carrying it with me when I work at the cabin and when I travel.  If you are considering this kiln as a "first kiln" though, I don't think it would be the best choice because of the size.  I am using it in conjunction with 2 larger kilns because even though I work small, I do large kiln loads, sometimes as many as 30 pieces at a time.  Here in my studio, I am using it to do my underglazing.  I can fire 2-3 pieces while I am working on others, thus keeping the process going.  That being said, if you are a metal clay artist, enamel artist or working extremely small, it would be a great kiln for you.  I also love that it plugs right into any wall socket, no special wiring needed.  Do keep in mind that the top firing temp is 2200, so if you are working in high fire, it is not capable of the temps.  So, thank you, Ken for building me a spectacular baby kiln.  Good job and I wish you much success!

One final thing:  everyone has asked about my shoes and socks!  LOL  The shoes are Baretraps from last winter, the socks are several years old and I don't remember where I got them!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

That Guy in the Art Supply Store

Wow.  I have been so neglectful of my poor blog!  The fact is, FaceBook is so much easier for me and I tend to post everything over there.  But sometimes you need a bit more than a "status update" to say what's on your mind.  Recently I was in the local art supply store and became engaged in a conversation with another artist and the guy who worked at the store (this was an actual art supply store...not Michaels or Hobby Lobby!).  The guy, who I shall call Ferdinand (Ferd for short, since I have no idea what his name was!), was talking about different products and their longevity.  I don't even know how I was drawn into the conversation, but at some point Ferd asked, "how do I know this paint will last for hundreds of years?".  I was astonished at that question.  I suddenly wondered, "oh, boy...I need to worry about my art being around for hundreds of years!!!!!".  I came home and mulled over everything.  The products I am using, my ideas, my own confidence in my art, the people who buy my art and their expectations, and then I had an epiphany: my art may not be around in 2113.  People may not know who I was or think my art was anything special. My work could go to the dump as bits of trash that the next generation just gets rid of.  2nd epiphany:  I don't care.  The reality is that I know I am never going to be a Van Gogh or a Picaso, and I am fine with that.  I make the work that I want to make and I live a wonderful, happy life making the odd creatures that I make.  I am beyond grateful that anyone else is interested, and that makes everything flow.  I feel that I am doing what I am meant to do and I am SO thrilled when others want the things that I make.  THANK YOU ALL.  That is precious to me.  I think we all may spend too much time trying to make art that we will see as pleasing or acceptable to others and not enough time pleasing ourselves.  The more you work at something, the better you get.  So begin by pleasing yourself.  If you are interested in owls, paint owls. Paint/sculpt/MAKE the things that you love.  The harder you work to that end, the more your work will please others.  If you made it to this sentence...you are in the lead!!!  LOL  Most people don't read this far! Hahaaa!  I appreciate you all so much.
A few things I have worked on this summer:




That's all I got to say about that...!  Hahahaaa (A little Forrest Gump reference!).  Thank you all for the constant encouragement, love, comments and support.  I appreciate you all so much.  xoxo  (P.S.  I will TRY to do better in the blog posting!).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fabric Bags and A Needle Case

A little while back I was playing around with some freehand stitch drawing.


At first, I thought about making them into cuffs but I just wasn't feeling inspired to get them completed.  Yesterday, I had the urge to dye some felt fabric and as soon as I steamed it to set the color, I suddenly knew that I wanted to combine the lovely felt with the freehand stitching.  I badly needed a needle book.  I've been using a tiny piece of felt to hold my needles forever!  I also used a couple of my handmade ceramic charms.  The old wedding ring quilt piece was was of my best finds ever, found on Ebay.  It was in perfect condition, with gorgeous hand quilting and lovely colors and construction....except for a large chunk someone had cut out, presumably to make pillows or something.  I couldn't believe someone had CUT this gorgeous link to the past.  If I had to guess, it's circa 30's or 40's.  But, on the other hand, I could NEVER have cut it myself so, since it was already cut, I purchased it for $45.  I thought that was a steal!!!  I have the whole quilt except for the cut-out chunk and the few pieces I have used!  Here's the needle book:
The pages inside the needle book are the felt that I dyed yesterday, the sky blue and peach pages.  Next up, I made several little bags, also using the felt and handstiched little characters.  My felt is in the center background of each bag.


Here are the backs:


I still have so much to do getting ready for Nashville!!  Dolls to finish, wood to cut, but things are coming together as they always do right at the end!  I am almost ready on pendants.  I will post them individually after I get all the pictures done but here is the group going to Nashville:
I put 3 on Ebay.  Click HERE to go to see them.  They are the only ones that will be available until I get back in April.
Thank you guys for reading my posts and always being the fantastic, supportive group that you are!  I love you all!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Getting Ready for Art Is You in Nashville!!!

I am so excited about  Art Is...You, Nashville !!  For the very first time, I get to teach in my own part of the country!  As you may know, I generally teach on the West coast.  Last September, I had the privilege of teaching at Art Is...You in Petaluma and Benecia, CA.  I found the whole retreat to be well organized, well attended, and just all around FUN!!!  I am so pleased to be teaching again with these fine people and I hope you will be able to join me there!  The teacher list is wonderful, check out all the details with the link above.
I have started keeping things aside exclusively for that event.  The Trunk Show and Sale is open to the public, whether you attend the retreat or not, so stop on by...but I do encourage you to take some classes, hang out with us, laugh and just generally TREAT YOURSELF!  You deserve it!

These pendants will be going!

Something I'm working on this morning (also to go to Nashville!).  I'll post them finished at a later time!

I will only be releasing a very few things before Nashville (April) so here's a little heads up on a few pendants currently available (and 1 small painting).  The listing closes tomorrow night (Sunday, Feb. 17th).  Here are a couple of pictures of the available items:



One final thing!  A painting I just finished last night!  The text reads:  "But there are little girls with whom she is on a friendly basis for as much as a week at a time"!
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog!!!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Rod's Pennies of Wisdom, II

As you may know if you have read my blog over time...my family LOVES to laugh!  My brother, Rod has a form of autism.  He does not see himself as disabled in any way.  He goes to work every day and leads a fantastic life!  He once told me about his "Pennies of Wisdom" in an earlier post and every time he says something truly funny, I think to myself, "these things are priceless"!!  I have two Pennies to share (and I am SO thankful!!).

Rod, tonight in talking about his church:  "I love my church.  It's just like my family, only they know me there!"  He's in his 40's....I think we know him!!  LOL

The second one:  We had snow here yesterday.  Since Rod doesn't do so well driving in unusual conditions, my dad took him to work.  On the way there Rod realized that he had forgotten his glasses.  Dad asked, "Do you have to have them to work?"...Rod's answer...."No, I'll get by.  I see fine on the weekends!"

Hahaaaaaa!  Laughing is THE best thing.  I know bad things happen, we have had plenty of those things over time with 4 children, but if you can find the humor in life, you are a blessed person.  I hope you can find something humorous in your own life and pass that humor on to others who may need it!

I am working on so many things currently.  Some secret, some ready to show you!  I found some small Italian metal frames, circa 1930.  I wanted to "recycle" them using my own art.  Even though Marcella looks sad, she will cheer right up when she finally gets to play with her dollies!

I so appreciate you all coming over to read the odd things that are in my head!  LOL


Monday, December 31, 2012

Hello 2013!!

As we say goodbye to 2012, I wanted to take a moment to tell each and every one of you how much I appreciate your support and the constant love you all freely give.  I never cease to be amazed at the thoughtfulness of my wonderful friends, both cyber and real-life!

Over on FaceBook, I did a quick post about two small books that I put together featuring my 2012 paintings and a few dolls and pendants.  The purpose of the book (in the small square version) is to take to NY later this month to give to prospective clients but I offered to have extras printed if anyone was interested.  I must say, you guys overwhelmed me with your support!!!  I have the lists of everyone who wanted to preorder and I have decided before I place this big order, I really need to preview the book and make sure I got it all just right.  Today, I will order a copy of both books, preview them and then place the big order.  So, instead of one week as I originally said, it will probably be closer to two.  I hope that's ok with everyone but I'd rather give you a GREAT product than a fair product so I need that ordering/shipping time.  For anyone who didn't see the post and wants on the list, the small book is 7" x 7" and $26.  The larger version (which contains a few extra pictures) is 8" x 10" and $36.  I wish I could do better on the pricing but this time around, that's the best deal I could find.  All copies will be signed.

We spent Christmas up in New England with my husband's family.  It was a lovely, relaxed time with family and friends.  I found time to draw and do a little painting, as well!  Here are a few things I did while lazing around and eating too much!





I'm so excited to see what 2013 will bring.  Thank you all for your kindness and support this past year.  I love you all!  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ho Ho Ho!!!

Wow, not only has Christmas gotten here with lightening speed, the entire year has truly flown by!  I have stayed super busy lately.  I started making my ceramic pendants at the beginning of 2012.  I would love to know how many I have made since then!  I'm sure I would be astounded at the number.  I recently sat down to sculpt and started making pendants based on drawings in my journal (you all know how I love my idea journal!!).  Here is how one turned out.
The dollies continue to evolve into their own little individual personalities.  I love making them and feel like I'm sending my babies out into the world every time I make that Post Office trip!

Here are a couple of recent paintings, as well.  This first one has 2 layers.  The front layer is raised off the second layer, making it about 1 1/2" thick.  The face and body are sculpted from epoxy clay.


The antique white areas on the painting below were made with MaryBeth Shaw's Wood Icing.  I LOVE this product!  I also used one of her stencils to make the design.  The Wood Icing adds amazing texture.  You can paint over it or leave it plain.  I did a little of both, leaving the middle plain and slightly tinting the outer edges.


I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas season.  I have many more things underway to show you so I'll be seeing you soon!!  Merry Christmas!

Monday, October 15, 2012

What???!!! I haven't posted since August?!

I have been neglecting my blog!  I didn't realize it had been that long since I last posted.  I work everyday and sometimes forget to stop long enough to take care of the "other" things!

I taught at Art Is...You in Benecia and Petaluma, CA last month.  What a great, well organized, fun event it was!  The student work was fantastic and it was so amazing to meet in person a lot of people whom I talk to online daily!  Here are a few pictures of the student work from the various classes I taught:






Here's a much better picture of some of the dolls made during the class.  This is from the lovely and talented Diana Frey's Blog.


After I returned, I was notified that I was accepted to teach at the spring 2013 event Art Is...You in Nashville.  YAY!!!  I will finally be teaching in my own part of the country!  One of the classes will be a collaborative class with the phenominal  MaryBeth Shaw!  She is an amazing abstract artist with a style that is completely different than my own so it should be really fun to see how those two different sides of art come together.  I will post a link when the website is updated with the information.  I do know that the dates are April 2-7, 2013.  I will also be teaching at Random Arts in Saluda, North Carolina in early October, 2013.  More on that event soon, as well!

Here are a few new paintings completed in the past couple of weeks:






Plus new pendants and dolls:



Thank you all for checking in and I'll try to update more often.  No more neglecting!