Friday, July 31, 2009

A Vacation Without Leaving the City

Our house is only moderately old, 1946, but has yet to have many fancy updates like insulation except the kitchen and dining room when we remodeled last year. So when temperatures start to climb in the summer, our house gets really hot. Even when it is only 75 degrees outside, our bedroom just roasts. I try all manner of evasive action; I keep the curtains shut, I close the window during the day, I turn a fan on us in the evening. Usually, it works out okay.

This week, not so much. With temperature threatening to reach into the hundreds, I did the smartest thing I could think of.

We checked into a hotel room.

Yet not just any hotel, I decided I want a little luxury, a little artistry and design in my 2 day staycation, my home away from home, my 15 minutes of being pampered, so I checked us into the Hotel Murano.

I love, love, love, the people that took over the Sheraton and turned it into the boutique art hotel The Murano. We have stayed at their two hotels in Portland (The Lucia and The Hotel Deluxe) and they all have lovely touches, including, not insignificantly, fabulous air conditioning.

Throw out all those green living ideals, immerse yourself in a huge carbon footprint. It was more than delightful. I would like to think the electricity in the hotel comes from large, majestic wind mill farms out on the blustery gorge on the border between Oregon and Washington, but I know better. It is so easy to drop your ideals when it comes to discomfort. I will be a good, green citizen, until I get hot. Now we have one more notch to add to our green belt; we have no A/C in our house. I was already bragging that since we don't have children we are leading the way towards a carbon neutral lifestyle, now I can throw in the fact that we don't give in to bourgeois comforts.

Except for the little part about going to the hotel for two days. That will be my little secret.

The Murano is a hotel really meant for artists, I think. Each floor is dedicated to a different glass artist and you are encouraged to flit from floor to floor and explore all of the art. The lobby is filled with fabulous pieces, including a Chuck Close portrait, a Karen LaMonte cast dress, and hands down my favorite lamp I have ever seen in my life, the Moooi Horse Lamp (retail $7,000). I have been lusting over this lamp in design magazines for several years. I already liked to frequent the bar in the lobby to get my lamp fix. Our friends Matt and Amy, were not so impressed by the lamp, but I got the impression Matt was interested in the anatomical correctness of the beast. I will say no more.

I also like the decor in the rooms. Nothing makes me gag more than checking into a middle of the road hotel with beige floral patterned polyester bed covers. Last night we pay-per-viewed State of Play (great movie, by the way) at the hotel and at one point the Jason Bateman character freaked out about the cheap hotel bedspreads and I squealed with snobbish delight because I had briefly thought about checking us into the Best Western because it was half the price and I saw a photo online of the rooms with the beige bedspreads and changed my mind.

I wanted to steal the turquoise chaise lounge in our room and the upholstered headboard, but instead, I will have to use them for design inspiration. The bedside lamps were neat too. You could light up just the bases for ambiance/night light. The room also came with an IPod radio and I forgot to bring mine and called the desk and they came upstairs with a complimentary Ipod (I chose the one loaded with classical and opera for kicks) to use during our stay. This is my kind if hotel.

The super bonus of the whole thing (except for the debit on my checking account) was that I had to get a slightly more expensive room since they were fairly booked up and we were on the top floor of the hotel with great views and breakfast was served in a lounge just down the hallway. Nice. Tell your friends to stay at the Murano!

To complete our perfect, second evening at the Murano, we opened a bottle of 2004 Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape that our friends Dave and Katy gave for us on our wedding 2 and a half years ago. We were originally saving it until we bought a second house, but that is on hold for a bit with the market and all and then we decided we were saving it until we were done with our yard remodel and as that is almost, but not quite done, and then we decided opening the bottle was a celebration in itself, so we went ahead and opened it!

I got a lot of smoky pepper and smooth tannins, a long finish and a little cherry, but not as much a fruit bomb and overwhelming as some other red wines we know, really complex in the way that everytime you took a sniff or drink, it was a little bit different. I did NOT get the tapenade or wild game on the nose that one reviewer got. I guess my palate still needs a lot of work.

We had room service bring us some, hot- out of the oven- cookies to go with the wine and the movie, and it was a perfect finish to a lovely staycation. Now I am back to reality at my messy, messy desk, a fan blowing stale air on me, and contractors pounding away on our new fence. The fence is nearly completed and I will be posting pics soon of our yard.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Stencil Class: Portraits!

Sadly, this is the last week of my stencil class. (But I am taking another one next month!)

We have moved to making portrait stencils. I am trying very hard to make all of my own stencils and not use any pre-made ones but sometimes I look at other students' work in the class and think their work is better because their stencils are so much cooler. Oh well, guess I just have to keep working away at it!

My first portrait was of Chihuly since I was just at the the Musueum of Glass the other day, looking at some of his work and then we saw him receive the Golden Scarf at the Sounders game yesterday. His eye patch and hair seemed like a great vehicle for spray paint! I like this one probably the best of all the stencils I have made.

For my second portrait, I decided to do a self-portrait. For both of the portraits, I used a stencil burner versus a good old Exact-o knife. Exact-o blades dull quickly and are not as good at complicated edges, but the stencil burner stinks when it is cutting into the plastic stencil and I haven't quite gotten the hang of it yet and have gotten my edges a little raggedy.

The one below I screwed up and reversed the stencil. I think I look weird backwards.

This next one I have been painting over and over again on the paper all week because I haven't been very happy with it. A lot of texture is starting to build up on it. I might just let it go at this point.

Below are some stencils I started a few days ago. The only thing I didn't cut out myself is the double spiral image.

The point of this class was about making a visual journal, and I am not really a journal or scrap-booking type, but I think I can keep working with these to make them more interesting.

I want to come up with a really cool image to spray paint on our front sidewalk. Trevor looked a little alarmed when I mentioned this and casually said, "but make sure it is something good first".

Play Date: Seattle Sounders Vs. Chelsea FC

Since the Seattle Sonics basketball team was moved to Oklahoma and became the god-awful Thunder, Trevor and I have been fairly luke-warm about sports and sporting events in general. I like to watch golf, believe it or not, but we don't watch any TV except DVDs so my chances to watch are slim. We don't like baseball. Ditto American football.

About the only other sport we do like is soccer.

So it was pretty awesome that a MLS team came to Seattle this season. The Sounders. The fans are very into being fans. A big concert band plays to rile up the crowd and there are many chants and songs everyone sings during the game. And honestly, I've never seen so many jerseys at a game. The crowd was a sea of green. I like the color of the jerseys, but I was disappointed to find out that the words "XBOX 360 LIVE" are written across the chest. I don't like advertising like that, so no jersey for me I guess. I might go as far to crochet myself a green and blue scarf. I really liked that so many people had scarves that they would wave around.

Our friends who scored us the tickets to the game sit in the general admission area that is at the south end of the pitch and is the most raucous area to be in. I don't think they sat down or stopped yelling and chanting the entire time. Our seats were much higher up in the stadium and as a result, in the bloody shade the whole time with cold, cold wind on us, but it was a great view.

The Sounders also have a slighty odd ritual of giving out a "Golden Scarf" before each game. Something or other about honoring the passion of the fans, but I can't quite figure out how they decide to pick someone to give it to. This game, funnily enough, they gave the scarf to Tacoma artist Dale Chihuly. Since I was just at the glass museum, looking at his work only two days before, I thought it was a pretty funny. I don't know what his passion for soccer is, though.

If you squint, you can see that it is Chihuly up on the screen. Quest field was packed; the announcer said over 65,000 people attended the game. Since it was an exhibition game against powerhouse Chelsea FC, they opened up the 3rd level. Normally only the bottom two are open for the matches.

Right before the game started, large amounts of confetti exploded onto the pitch and blew all over the place. And the pitch sparkled the whole game.

Sound Transit ran a special Sounder train for the game from Tacoma to Seattle, which was nice. No sitting in traffic or paying for parking. We are going to another Sounders game next month, I hope the train runs again.

Oh yeah, the Sounders lost 2-0. But that wasn't really important.

Hot Glass

I love the Museum of Glass here in Tacoma. It is truly a unique museum-going experience since a major part of it is live glassblowing in the hot shop. We finally bought a membership this year and now I like to pop in every other week or so to watch the artists work. Frequently, visiting artists from all over the world come to work in the shop too.

I am planning on taking a two day glassblowing workshop from the Tacoma Glassblowing Studio soon; hopefully it will work out with my schedule next month.

My sister and her family are here visiting in the Pacific Northwest from Dubai for the month and they had never been to the glass museum before, so a big group of us went last Thursday. My nephew Zayd and I stayed in the hot shop as long as we could before the heat finally got to us.

Ok, Zayd is totally out of focus here, but I wanted to show him.

This is looking up at one of the many Chihuly sculptures on the Bridge of Glass that you can walk across to get to the museum. It reminds me of cotton candy.

Inside the hot shop. You can watch a live feed of the hot shop from the museum's website. Sometimes I geek out on glass from home in my pajamas.

Here the artists are about to transfer the big piece they are working on onto a new rod so they can clean up the other side. A very dramatic moment, everyone in the audience clapped when the transferred it without breaking it. Who knew glass could be so interesting?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hitting the Links

OK, I have been going on and on about this stencil class I am taking. Here are just a few links of some of the other students in my class. Very inspiring work!

Scrapbook Trends-lovely journals and stories

I Need Orange-she loves Corgis! she loves orange!

Rodrigvitz Style
-color and light and good things.

Art with Moxie-nice collages and jewelry.

Paint.Paper.Play-paper dolls and nice colors.

There are something like 60 plus people taking this stencil class. I will keep posting their links.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My first real stencil

OK, those other simple shapes I did were just warming up. This little guy plus the rays behind him are my first real stencils. Real, meaning there are little islands and bridges cut out that make the whole image work. Woohoo!

The dots are made by printing with bubble wrap.

The only problem I am having is that it is hard to wait for everything to dry.

Plus, you put a spray adhesive on the back of the stencil to hold it down so you can get nice crisp lines, but the adhesive I bought completely sucks, so I need to get some more and try it again.

Entrance Denied: The Art of the Chastity Belt

I was invited by Lisa Kinoshita (of Mineral) to participate in a group show of Chastity Belts--I was very pleased to be invited, it looks like a good group of people. Next door to the chastity belt show at Mineral will be a show interpreting the Seven Deadly Sins. A fun, moral evening for the whole family!

I don't really want to get into it here about the history of chastity belts. Be content to know it is disturbing and in my opinion, violence against women. It was hard to get started on this project.

My piece, titled "Preemptive Strike", is made from galvanized steel, stained glass, nails, found wire and skeleton keys. My title refers to a violent act made in fear of a perceived threat of invasion.

Entrance Denied at Mineral
Opening Saturday July 18th, 2009
301 Puyallup Ave, Tacoma.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sideboard Refinishing

I have been looking for a sideboard/buffet for our dining room ever since we remodeled about, oh, 13 months ago. I really wanted a mid-century, straight-lined, minimalist piece, but have yet to find one that I like under $1800.

Just the other day, however, I was talking to my dad and it turns out he had a formally built-in sideboard that he removed from a 1900 Victorian he was re-doing into condos. I will always take a nice piece of old furniture that is free, but it needs some love, including a new top, knobs, and probably a paint job. Also the top drawer is a little awkward, it is just one incredibly long drawer.

It is nowhere near to looking mid-century modern, but I am willing to work with it. It is the perfect length and can hold all of those items I have no space for since the kitchen remodel took away half the cupboards (napkins, table cloths, cocktail glasses, cake plate, serving dishes, etc.).

I was originally thinking a black, Paperstone top (they have a seconds shop in Hoquiam), but I don't want to make it so heavy I can't move it without 4 people. As soon as our backyard is finished in 2 weeks, I want to move onto this project.

Any ideas how to jazz it up?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pure Experimentation Stencilry: My first cut outs

Week two of my online stencil class and we are starting out making our first cuts, making "masks" versus stencils. A mask is the positive part of an image and you spray (or paint) around it to get a sort of ghost or outline of the image. It is much simpler cutting than a stencil, so it is a good place to start.

I drew the Tyrannosaurus Skull first and then taped the drawing behind glass so I could see it as I cut through the clear stencil material. I am looking forward to making a stencil out of the T-Rex next so that I can get the positive of the skull.

Below shows my drawing under glass, with the stencil material on top and already cut. This was just before taking it all apart.

Then I cut out a crow and an abstract plant thingy. With both of these I messed around with both the masks and the stencils. I did not use spray paint on any of these masks. I didn't want to change into paint clothes, so I just used acrylic paint. It gives it a little more texture, but I think the spray paint will give cleaner lines.

So many ideas, so little time!

This stage I am excited about because I am far more interested in making my own stencils than buying any pre-made ones.