Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Movie Worth Seeing in the Theater

It's really nice having a just a fabulous non-profit art house theater in Tacoma. It's even more fun to volunteer at The Grand Cinema because I get to see so many of the movies.

Last night I went to see the latest Werner Herzog film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams. This documentary is about the Chauvet Caves in the south of France. They were closed up thousands of years ago by avalanche and were re-discovered by a cave hunting team in 1994. The cave paintings inside, along with the bones of many paleolithic critters (cave bears, cave lions, etc), have been perfectly preserved. They think the oldest paintings may be 32,000 years old.
The caves are kept under lock and key and it is very hard for anyone who is not a scientist to get inside them. Werner Herzog and his tiny team were allowed in for just an hour or two at a time over several weeks.

The images are simply stunning. I was a little disappointed that the narrative ran more to the philosophical and spiritual rather than physical. Meaning that they spent a lot of time speculating about the religion of these people that painted these beautiful images but not so much on the pragmatic side of life. They never even discussed how the images might have been made. Most are black--obvious charcoal-- but others are red. How did they make the stain? How did they get gradations? They spent 5 minutes showing a guy throw a re-creation of a spear in a modern day vineyard but they didn't have an artist trying to recreate technique. But I think that relates back to trying to stay with the spiritual theme.

Look at these rhinos! I didn't even know rhinos were found in Paleolithic France! The one with the white line on his face is one of my favorites.

None of these stalagtites and stalagmites and glittery deposits were there when the cave was occupied. They only formed after the avalanche closed off the cave thousands of years ago. Note the walkway. No one is allowed off the walkway in order to preserve the cave. It reminded me of the Ray Bradbury story, A Sound of Thunder. I kept wondering what would happen if someone stepped off the path. What is also fascinating is that the archeologists were able to date the drawings and map the ones on top each other and figure out that one person made a drawing and then a few thousand years later a cave bear scratched its claws on the same spot and then some thousands of years later after that another person painted on top of everything. A lot of it looks very modern and could easily be Picasso or Chagall. There is even an image of the lower half of a woman with a bull's head! (Mind you, Picasso died 21 years before these were found.)

This movie is very slow and meditative and the music is great. While they talked to a lot of scientists, I still became a little bored by the speculative spiritual part of the movie. However, I would heartily recommend seeing this on the big screen because the images are so lovely and there is absolutely zero chance you could ever see this in person. The famous Caves of Lascaux were closed because the breath of the visitors was causing mold to grow on the images.

Just make sure you drink a coffee before going; the gentleman in front of us fell asleep!

(Side note: I guess this movie is in 3D but not at our little art house theater. I think 3D for this would be worth it.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Universe is My Oyster

I love that there will always be something new out there for me to try and that I will die still trying new things.

I was dying some silk a plain old shade of Rit Scarlet today when I popped on Facebook and a friend of mine had posted a video on dying silk. I immediately ran to Fred Meyers to get some black Rit so that I could play with design. Imagine these with felt on them! Imagine them just as dyed silk scarves! The zebra design (top) is my favorite.
I think I know what everyone is going to get for their birthdays this year!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What I Ate: Grilled Pork Chops with Arugula Salad

We can not grill enough once the weather turns. We will grill 4 or 5 times a week until October. My favorite thing is some type of grilled meat on top of some greens with maybe some grilled veggies mixed in or on the side. And grilled salad is delicious too. Just cut a head of romaine in half, lightly oil it and toss it, cut side down, over a medium grill for 5-10 minutes. Serve with fresh Parmesan and a thick Russian or Caesar dressing.

The meal pictured above is thin cut boneless pork chops so they cook in just a couple of minutes. We coated them with a Tom Douglas BBQ rub first.

The salad is just arugula and grape tomatoes tossed with a dressing made of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, red wine vinegar, pinch of sugar, salt, and pepper. Then I sprinkled Gorgonzola cheese on top. I don't like overly strong blue cheeses; this one had some stink, but did not overpower the other flavors.

Tonight I am grilling flat iron steaks and making an arugula salad (Again! I never tire of them either!) with beets and probably more Gorgonzola.

Felting with Rocks, Beads, and Rubber Bands

My friend Rebecca recently took a 3-day felting class and came home with all sorts of new techniques for felting. Unfortunately, with a new roof being installed at our house, I felt a 3 day workshop a tad out of my financial range this month.

But seeing her samples inspired me to go home and try some of my own experimentation. I pre-felted the samples above--that means you felt them until the fibers start to cling together but not far enough to shrink. Then I had fun tying rocks and beads inside the felt with rubber bands. I added some binder clips too. This process is very time consuming because you have to go back and felt each bump and wrinkle and it takes forever.
Then you have to wait for them to completely dry before taking it all apart and then felting some more. Mine were still soaking wet by the end of the day even though I set them out in the sun so I might not be able to mess with them until tomorrow.

Experimenting is fun!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Organic Gardening is a Never Ending Process

Note to self: Please don't wait until the grass is knee level until you want to cut it. That was how high it was in our little patch of eco-lawn in the back yard. Weed whacking all the way. The front yard was better: only 8" or so tall. I was able to get out the push mower to do a lot of it but I had to go over each spot two or three times.

Now, most of my neighbors think we are crazy to use a push mower instead of the old gas powered one I had and gave away. Sustainable living requires commitment. We are not so good in all levels of our life, but in taking care of the lawn I would rather have a bunch of weeds than weed killer.

I love this little volunteer fir that is coming up. I have to keep trimming it like a Bonsai or it will tear apart the wall!

Many parts of our yard are looking pretty good now that we are finally past the cold spells and into the heart of Spring. Alliums are my favorite flowers.
Other parts are not looking too hot. This whole bit needs to be dug up because invasive grasses and asters have taken over. It looks awful right now and it is the part that is most visible in our front lawn!
Fingers crossed the weather will be mild enough all week that I can keep going out and dedicating an hour or three every day to weeding. Then I will let myself plant some new items, but only after things are starting to look decent!

Felting Demos at Tacoma Art Place

Last Saturday I set up shop at Tacoma Art Place to teach needle felting. I had an enthusiastic
group show up that spent 2 hours making needle felted spheres. Tacoma Art Place is a great non-profit that provides are materials and studio space for a very nominal fee. They have workshops and drop in classes for knitting, photography, jewelry making, and sewing.

I brought a lot of supplies and examples of my work.

Here is one of my student, Rebecca, and her little doll head: very creative!
I also had scarves and starter kits for sale. I started a mailing list with people interested in taking a more detailed felting class at TAP sometime this summer. Watch this space for upcoming classes!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What a Big Table You Have!

Our dining room table just wasn't cutting it anymore for creating big felt pieces. I am trying to clean up the garage studio to move my felting out there and so I needed a nice long table to felt upon.

Who knew nobody in town keeps an 8' work table in stock? I had to order it from Office Depot online and spend $25 for shipping but it did come in just 3 days and the men that delivered it were awfully sweet. I made the height taller by adding pieces PVC tubing to each leg. It's amazing how much more enjoyable something is if your back isn't hurting!

Now I can lay out extra long silk for nuno felting.
I may need to figure out how to make the scarves even longer by rolling them up as I make them, but this will do for now.

I have been searching for a new studio space for my felting. My garage doesn't have any water and I thought it would be more beneficial to have a space with a big sink. But I've looked at 2 artist spaces in the last week and while they were both pretty big and reasonably priced, water was an issue. So I am going to try and make my garage work for the summer. If I get into the fiber arts program I applied for then I will definitely need a studio. Until then, I can make slugs and scarves galore in my garage!

I think this may be my first scarf I put for sale on ETSY. I am taking it to a felting demo on Saturday but next week I plan to have a couple of scarves and a few slugs for sale.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What I Ate: Asian Chicken Salad

Today was a big day for me. I was mailing off a thick packet of a letter of intent, an application form, a resume, and 8 x 10 portfolio photos for consideration in a Certificate of Fiber Arts through the UW Professional and Continuing Education program. It is a 9 month course that starts in the fall. Fiber Arts used to be a Masters program at UW. I am not sure if they switched it to a certificate in order to get more students or because too few were applying for the Masters program or both.

I am not a shining star when it comes to writing things like letters of intent or artist statements. I was reading a few letters of intent samples online this morning and thinking to myself, sheesh, people don't really believe the fake stuff that others write, do they? Do they?

I'm not sure. So I just focused on Hemmingway's writing advice: keep sentences short, use short first paragraphs, keep it positive, use vigorous English. With a few friends giving me advice, I am happy with my results. Happier still to have it done with! They are reviewing the applications in the order that they receive them which worries me more than a little. If 20 people applied before me, I won't stand a chance. Now I have to sit back and wait a month to find out if I got in or not.

I wanted lunch to be simple and healthy in the midst of my flurry to get everything together and I decided to make an Asian Chicken Salad. I poached some chicken and shredded it. I tossed some chopped Napa cabbage with grated carrots, radishes, green onions, cilantro, and cashews. I made a dressing of sauteed ginger and garlic that was cooled and then combined with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chile sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, canola oil, and toasted sesame seeds. I tossed the whole thing together and enjoyed a hearty and healthy lunch. We have plenty left over for tomorrow.

Now if only getting into this program was as simple as tossing a salad!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Making of a Felt Bonsai Tree: Completed

Here is my finished needle felted Bonsai tree. It measures 15.25" tall by 19" wide and 6.25"deep. It was all create with needle felting over a wire armature.

I wanted to overload it with rocks and mushrooms but in the end realized that less is more.
I am very happy how it turned out. It will be showing up in a gallery show this summer and I will give more details as we get closer to the date.
I had a lot of fun working on this and plan to create a series of Bonsai trees and other potted plants.

Planned Obsolescence

(Planned Obsolescence: A manufacturing decision by a company to make consumer products in such a way that they become out-of-date or useless within a known time period.)

I need to have music when I work out. My husband has mastered going on long runs without any music whatsoever. I need the distraction or I start fixating on my feet, ankles, legs, etc. Any time something feels a little off, I worry that I might be injuring myself. But if I am distracted by music, I can just run normally and the run or workout goes by much faster. I used to run with a big old bulky IPod but it kept skipping all the time (it is a hard drive after all) and found the Shuffle to be a better and lighter way to listen to music on the go.

Top photo is my old IPod Shuffle. Sniffle, I call it. It has taken to abruptly lowering the volume in the middle of a song and then locking and not letting me adjust the volume again until I reset the whole thing on my computer. It is less than 2 years old. I really didn't want to buy another Apple product but I needed another MP3 player STAT so I went to Fred Meyer and picked up this green Shuffle, the next-generation Shuffle. Hopefully I won't resort to calling it the sniffle anytime soon. I had been thinking of buying the Nano which is $150 versus the $44 Shuffle but didn't want to pay that much for something which I have doubts on its durability.
Sometimes I do wonder if manufacturers are really planning these things to fail. I know Apple fanatics will usually go out and upgrade without wait for something to break. I am not one of those fanatics.
I miss the fact that on my old Shuffle the controls were on the earbugs themselves. Maybe that was part of the design problem. At least I can go running now and not worry about losing my music. (At least for another year or so, I mean.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Noise is Driving Me Crazy

Wow, our roofers finally made it to work on our house today after a week long delay and I never imagined how loud it would be.

I know what you're thinking--What? How could putting on a new roof not be loud?

It's more than loud. It's shaking the house and windows and brain sort of loud. The cats are running around the house, low to the ground, looking terrified. Today is just the tear out and the redoing of the plywood sheeting and laying down felt paper. Tomorrow will be the actual laying down the shingles part. I am amazed at how quick they are.
Earlier, I had to escape to the gym and then the coffee shop to get away from the noise. Trevor put on his noise cancelling headphones and kept working away. I just put on my noise cancelling headphones and have Gustav Holst's The Planets: Mars, Bringer of War blasting in my ears and it is helping a bit. But every so often everything in the office shakes and I think a window is going to break. I wish I had the CD of Wagner's Die Walkure that I just ordered. That would definitely distract me from the hammering and banging and sawing.

The roofers cut into the back roof addition (which was rotting from the inside out and brought on this whole project) and realized all the rafters needed replacing too. I am not looking forward to getting the add-on bill. Right now is denial, denial, denial.

But, hey, on a good note, there will be no chance of our roof leaking in the next 30 years! I think we are done with large house projects for the year. A roof and a heat pump within 2 months of each other is a lot: emotionally and money wise.

Although, on a total side note, I do love our new heat pump. We just received our first utility bill and the last two months had quite a bit of unseasonally cool weather and the new bill was only $68 more than normal for 2 months. I know the middle of winter will be more expensive, but, if this is indicative of the rest of the year's bill, I will take it. We will easily save $1200 a year in heating costs!

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Night at the Opera With a Big Orange Scarf

Side note to this posting: This is our dining room table. We have barely been able to use it for the last 6 weeks because I am constantly working on some felt project. This is getting out of hand, I need a studio!

We are heading up to the Seattle Opera tonight to see the Magic Flute and I wanted to make something special to wear for the event. All black is my usual uniform to these sort of events so I thought a colorful felted nuno scarf would help punch up my look a bit.

Orange is my favorite color. (OK, orange and lime green. And fuchsia....and turquoise.) I haven't liked the look of felting over white silk so I bought some Rit dyes in order to make some bolder scarves.

I am also still very much in love with my new dressform.

It makes the scarves look so much more interesting!
I was digging around in boxes last night trying to find the pair of opera glasses that I thought I had. Turns out that "smallish binoculars" might better describe them; I guess I will be renting some at the opera tonight after all.

The Magic Flute was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1791 and he died just a couple of months after its premiere. Supposedly it is referencing the ideology of Free Masons but I am looking forward to the extravagant sets and costumes.

What I Ate: Chocolate Bundt Cake with Bittersweet Glaze

My aunt and uncle are in town and so I made a chocolate cake yesterday. It's ridiculous, really, how expensive fancy ingredients like gourmet chocolate and Amarena cherries can be. But I splurged anyways and the results were delicious. Amarena cherries are special dark and sour cherries from Italy that come packed in a yummy syrup. They are fantastic when used in cocktails like Manhattans.

I love bundt cakes. Somehow that cake shape makes any dessert look extra elegant even though it would have been the same exact work to butter and flour a round cake pan.
The cake itself was just a basic chocolate batter made with cocoa and sour cream. I saved the fancy chocolate for the glaze which you can tell I made a little too thick; it tasted like fudge.

I just ate a piece for breakfast and it just as good the morning after! But now I have to go to the gym to make up for it.

Making of a Felt Bonsai Tree: Part 2

Adding the color to the Bonsai has been going a lot slower than building the original armature and undercoat of fiber fill. I keep changing my mind on the colors.

For now, I am pretty happy with the trunk.

The sculpted leaves have been more challenging and I have taken apart a few attempts. But I think I have figured it out now. Hoping to be done with the whole thing thing weekend!
To see my first steps in this project, read my Making of a Felt Bonsai Tree: Part 1.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Getting the Ball Rolling

I have been waiting eagerly for this lovely package to arrive.

A new dress form!

I have wanted one for a while to display jewelry on for photos and once I started making felt scarves, I doubly knew I wanted one. I looked for a couple months before finally finding one on Ebay for under $100. Many of the cuter, vintage French-style dress forms are in the $300-$400 range. If my scarf enterprise becomes wildly successful then maybe I will invest in one at a future date. For now, this will do the job nicely.
I think the scarves look 100 times better on the form than just laying them around on a table. I still need to mess with backdrops. I may need to paint a wall specifically for this in my office or perhaps buy a fabric drop. I see trial and error in my future.
Now I need to go buy a proper 8' table for felting and I will be quite happy. (I am easily pleased!)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Making of a Felt Bonsai Tree: Part 1

I have a show coming up in July and I really wanted to focus on my felt work. I have decided to create a series of felt Bonsai trees. I like the idea that these trees are static and will never change, unlike the art of Bonsai which is all about growth and trimming and training the tree over years and decades. Instead, I am hoping to "grow" my Bonsai tree in about a week.

I had to start the project by finding a perfect Bonsai pot and a perfect rock to fit in the pot to help weight the piece.
This one from my garden fits just right.

Next, I started to wire up the tree armature with steel wire.

I followed my drawing pretty closely. It makes it easier to focus on the process if I am already firmly settled in a design. I keep trying to integrate some of those green rocks into it, but I am not sure it is going to work.

I am using poly fiber fill as the base to my wool felting. I had to poke thousands of pokes to compress the fiber fill around the rock to create the base. Some artists like to use foam and cut away the form; I like the additive process.

It probably took me about 4 hours to get to this point in the project.
I have had the most fun forming the root system for my tree.

I am dulling the needles fairly quickly because I keep poking the wire as I felt.

I really liked how the tree looked when it was white but playing with color really brings the object to life.

I put black underneath the green to give it a little more depth. I am going to add rocks and other items to the base after I finish the tree itself and see what it needs to bring it all together. Maybe a little Amanita Muscaria---one of those red mushrooms with white polka dots. I am still playing with color on the trunk. I couldn't find a good brown in wool and so I am mingling in some Llama hair but it is tricky to felt with because it is so slick.
I am going to try and spend most of today and tomorrow finishing it. Part 2 coming soon!