Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey, I hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving tomorrow and get to spend the day with people who are near and dear, and get to eat lots of good food, and hopefully don't have too much family drama. ;-)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

bison scrim done

I finished the bison scrim last night. I don't yet have a title for it. It will be framed like some of my other ones, but that'll probably wait a while.

American Bison
scrimshaw on mammoth ivory (yes, wooly mammoth, really!)
inked with dark brown etching ink
~1 x 1.5 inches
for sale

In other news, well let's see, it's a month til Christmas. Ack! Three projects need to be done asap, so it's time to duct tape my butt to the chair and crack that whip.

I'm sick, I've got that stupid cold that seems to be making the rounds. If I don't feel fantastic on Thursday I'm going to be most cranky. I have missed far too many Thanksgiving dinners because of colds!

The horses are well. Still trying to find a few spare days to head up north for some Bears and Boulders but between the weather and busy schedules, it's proving somewhat challenging. I hope it works out!

I have had very little time to work on practicing engraving metal, but I intend to get a little more focused on that. I ordered some practice plates, and I just need to work on lines and circles and curves and really get a feel for how to handle the tools.

Okay, back to work!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Holiday cards!

[Edit: only ONE box left!!!]

Extremely limited quantities now fabulously on sale, woo hoo! Act now!

Professionally printed cards, envelopes included, packaged in nice clear boxes!

Inside message says: "May the winter holidays bring you peace and happiness"

10 cards per box, only FIVE boxes left. Now priced at $15 per box. Shipping $5. CA residents add 7.75% sales tax. I take PayPal, money orders, and credit cards. Email or comment to stake your claim.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

horse training

Okay totally unrelated but 7 (at least) helicopters just flew low overhead heading southeast. Several police, others were...? News? Life flight?? What the heck is going on?!

Anyway, I was going to talk about horses. Standing tied is good for them, they need to get used to doing that, so periodically I have them spend several hours tied. Mind you, this is not a herd that gets along well or ever has physical contact (other than teeth and hooves) so this is good for them, they're very polite when tied. And one of them (not to name names, but the one who is a different color than the other two, ahem) has the attention span of a gnat on crack and isn't good at holding still....

Says Shylah and Dusty, "Can you put Gwen farther away from us? Like, maybe Nevada?"

Monday, November 17, 2008

November 17 work in progress

Back in the saddle, so to speak. And that has nothing to do with horses, I've been in that saddle almost every day lately.

I haven't been very on top of things with scrimshaw lately so I need to get crackin. It took some time to get things arranged into a scrim-friendly configuration again. I decided I could not stand doing scrim on the vise, I even rigged up this neato little wooden gizmo and glued my old mouse-pad on there. Turned out nifty but the whole stand has a bit of a wiggle to it (because hey, bar stools aren't really meant for this job, it's rather top-heavy now) and that drives me insane when I'm doing scrim, though I don't think I'll notice it while engraving (time will tell). I'd sit there and try to work and just go bonkers and get frustrated and accomplish nothing. Anyway, I'm back to working on the tabletop for scrim, so that just means moving 40+ pounds of vise/turntable out of the way and pushing the scope back a little. It's do-able, though kind of a pain in the asterisk.

Anyway, I need to get this little bison finished up.

Friday, November 14, 2008

complicated stuff

Okay, this has required major re-arranging of part of the studio, but things are pretty much set up now. It's a little chaotic looking at the moment, but that's typical. I had to move the scope to the other side of the desk in order to accommodate the GraverMate. I also had to level the desk (I did have it angled like a typical drafting table, since scrimshaw, like drawing, was simply done on the desk itself). Well, turns out the scope had to be level to work with the vise, so I had to push the front of the table up. Now the scope is higher so the chair is higher and that probably means I'll have to raise my drawing table too. Bleh! The other option is to shorten the legs on the bar stool that's holding the turntable and ball vise. I tell ya, this is complicated. There's a fixed distance between the bottom of the scope and the item that's being worked on, about 6 inches. So raising or lowering one part of this arrangement means you raise or lower the entire thing accordingly. As you can see, my work surface is now in front of the table on the vise, not on the table itself. This is all going to take some getting used to.

I had originally thought I would still be able to do scrim on the table itself, but now that I've had to move the table, I can see I'm going to just have to put the scrim on the vise too. That okay, I just don't want to actually put it in the jaws, so I need to rig up some sort of flat plate I can clamp onto the vise that will give me a mini table-top on which to work. I'll scout around and see what I can come up with. I predict there may be glue and duct tape involved. I'm not the most mechanically inclined person, so these little attempts of mine are often disastrous, though generally good for entertainment value.

The GraverMate will eventually be upgraded to a different system. The other items won't change. The compressor is fantastic, though with such a tiny tank it's on as often as it's off, and this system bleeds a lot of air (partly that's how it's designed, partly there's a leaky valve on the graver that I don't know how to fix, if any of my brilliant friends would like to look at this I'll happily let you). So when I'm not actively using it, I turn it off. The cats hate it. It's very quiet though. I still need a good sharpening system, I'll have to buy that. I have a couple whet stones around here but the tool geometry is really important and I don't trust myself not to screw that up if I sharpen by hand.

Okay, I'm going to look at something I can cobble together so I can scrim on the vise. I need to get that bison done! The clocks a-tickin' on those Christmas orders.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

the Mendocino adventure

Alrighty, let's see if I can get through this without forgetting anything! I know I don't write as much as I used to. It comes and goes. Sometimes I don't have all that much to say but mostly lately I've just been really busy and it's all I can do to get the work in progress stuff posted at night. It's Christmas Crunch time, just over a month to get quite a few things done and I'm mildly freaking out about it. I'm sure it'll work it, it always does.

Okay, so I have to give you a little history about this. Ever since I started doing scrimshaw almost a year and a half ago, one of the first questions that engravers ask me is when am I going to learn to engrave metal. And I was always like "eh, I dunno, maybe some day." Well for the past couple months, specifically since I won that tutorial competition and actually have a little financial progress toward owning an airgraver, the desire to engrave metal has totally caught fire in me. I think about it. I dream about it. I want it. Well it may take some time before I actually get my hands on a top of the line pneumatic graver, but...

Sometimes life brings you what you need when you least expect it. :-)

My friend Rod, a flutemaker and engraver, recently acquired an old pneumatic graver, vise, and compressor at an unbeatable price, and I jumped on the opportunity to buy these items. I'm still working toward the Airgraver, but I now have something on which I can learn, practice, and no doubt make a LOT of mistakes!

Me and Rod:

I left here Saturday morning and drove up to Mendocino, a cute little town a little over 200 miles northwest, on the coast. I took my chances and took the Taurus (which thankfully survived the trip, that car's a trooper). It's rare that I'm not travelling with a car load of chickens and not in a hurry to get somewhere, so I took a lot of "alternate routes" on this trip (more on the way home). Instead of taking I-5 all way to Williams before getting on 20, I took 16 out of Woodland. I must say the Capay Valley is really quite pretty, what a nice area. What a shame that Cache Creek Casino is such an eyesore in the middle of an otherwise sleepy looking farming valley. And I saw a bald eagle flying along Cache Creek. There was absolutely no place to pull over and try to take pics.

I arrived in Mendocino around 2pm Saturday afternoon and got a tour of the workshop and R's home. His shop is fascinating. There is pretty much every tool you can think of, and it's this jumble of stuff, but everything's in its place. Fascinating! I tried out a few different types of pneumatic tools at R's engraving bench that evening. It was a bit like being tossed in the deep end without knowing how to swim, but that's not a complaint, I was just totally overwhelmed. I was trying to cut scrolls, meanwhile wondering "shouldn't I be learning straight lines first?" Well, skilled engravers have my utmost respect now, because at the moment I can't cut a scroll to save my life. Straight lines I can sort of manage. It's a whole different beast than scrimshaw, different tools, different hand position, just all around different. There is one engraving technique (called bulino) that uses dots (and lines) and that will have some similarities, and I think I'm really going to enjoy that, but the scrollwork I still can't quite get my head around. It's going to take a LOT of practice!!!

I brought my microscope, and on Sunday we set up all my "new" (old) equipment and I got to try out the new goodies, so I played around with various techniques until I was so tired my focus was just totally shot and I kept slipping with the graver and making scratches. It's a lot to take in! It's so exciting though, and I can see this could definitely turn into an obsession, especially once I get a handle on what I'm doing. Right now I just don't have a feel for the tools or how to handle them, so that'll come with practice. There are certainly engraving classes out there that would help but I don't have the moolah for that so I'll learn as much as I can through studying on my own and see where that gets me.

Mendocino is a pretty cute little town. Being able to walk around town is a very strange concept to me, as is going to a bakery every morning for breakfast, but that was fun! Like, you could actually get around there perfectly well without a car. Huh. The weather was unpredictable, in typical coastal fashion. I'd wake up to sunshine coming in the window of the workshop (I stayed at the shop) and by noon it would be overcast again, only to clear up later, etc.

This is a pic from Sunday, it was brutally windy when I took this:

I had some spare time Monday morning before I had to leave so I took a walk around town and headed out to the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Standing on a cliff overlooking rocks and waves below certainly gets the adrenaline going. That kinda scares the bejeebers out of me, but I walked right up and peered over the edge anyway. Here are some pics from Monday morning's walk, including a turkey that seems to have adopted the town:

I left late that morning, and at Rod's suggestion I took the "Comptche Ukiah Road" back over to 101. Wow, when he said that road is "intimate" he wasn't kidding. It added an hour to my drive, and at times was little more than a paved single lane path through the forest.

It was absolutely fun though, winding through redwood forests, dipping into picturesque farm valleys that time seemed to have forgotten, soaring up mountains that overlooked some of the prettiest vistas I've seen. My poor car though, there was a hairpin switchback road going up this mountain and I think my car was panting by the time we reached the top. It smelled hot. I stopped and popped the hood and checked all the fluids. All was well so I let it breathe for a while and I walked around and took some photos:

On hwy 20, somewhere east of Clear Lake, I was thrilled to bits to see a herd of elk alongside the road. I always see those "elk crossing next 4 miles" signs and think "yeah right" and then they promptly prove me wrong, but usually they're way the heck far off in the distance. Ah, there they were just a stone's throw from the road, conveniently by a wide pullout area! Sweet! So I stopped and took 133 photos. :-) I love digital cameras. Between these and the pics that BK sent me a while back, I ought to be well stocked for life with elk photos. This is just a small sample:

I decided to take 16 again, being not in any particular hurry, and I pulled over at a place I'd spotted on the way up there. I was driving along thinking "this place is BEAUTIFUL, I would love to ride a horse here." And whaddya know, it just so happens to be called Cowboy Camp, and it's a trailhead with parking for horse trailers! OMG!!!!! I want to go ride here!!!! Please somebody let's go ride here!!!! It's two hours away. Question for those of you who have horse-camped. If there are no corrals where do you put the horses overnight? I suppose there are trees out on the trail where you could high-line, but assuming you wanted to return to the trailer at night, and use the um, facilities there... I'm imagining horses pawing incessantly if they were tied up. Anyway, I want to ride there. Some day...

Sadly, there were no cowboys inhabiting Cowboy Camp that day. Foiled again. ;-)

So I got home Monday evening, exhausted, and slept very well and for a very long time that night. ;-)

I don't have the engraving equipment set up yet. I need a stool of some sort on which to set up the vise, so I'm shopping around for that and will get it set up hopefully within the week and will take a pic when it's ready to go! And then I'll set out to engrave every metal object I can get my hands on. Bwahaha, nothing is safe! ;-)

Monday, November 10, 2008

weary traveler returns

Did you miss me? I've been gone since Saturday morning. I took a trip up to Mendocino, and I have returned with engraving equipment (you can't see me but I have this big grin on my face). :-D I'm exhausted. I took a zillion photos. I will talk about it all in great detail some time later!


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

a Tuesday

Something pretty today:

I hope you all vote today. You pretty much won't catch me talking about politics, but whatever you believe, go vote for it.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

November 2 work in process

(November?! Eek!)

Copied from the tutorial:

I scanned this a few times today to show you how I build up the dark tones. You can always make things darker, but you can't go the other way! So I think it's best to take it slow and build up to where you want it to be. You saw the "base coat" on the neck area in the previous post.

So then I did another layer of dotting and inking over that (concentrating more dots in darker areas, of course), and it still wasn't dark enough:

I went over it again. I think that'll do. There is often some adjusting to do when the whole figure is done, but I'll decide that at the end!

And here is how far I got today. Base coat on the shoulder now. Interesting note: the freshly inked areas look more reddish brown because this ink darkens when it dries.

In other news, let's see...

The pumpkin cheesecake is awesome.

I did not go horse camping because of the weather and my lack of desire to spend the weekend being rained on while dressed in less-than-wonderful rain gear. My friend WM did go anyway though and she said she had a good time and the weather wasn't too bad up there (it rained all day Saturday here). I'm holding out for a dry weekend though. :-)

Yesterday I went to see the movie Appaloosa with my friend BV. It was really good! Other than we showed up a little late and missed part of the opening scene. Oopsie. I'm glad I finally got to go see it. And then we went to see a play that evening downtown. Yes, a play! I haven't seen one of those since I went to the Shakespeare Festival in seventh grade. It was a lot of fun, we saw Treasure Island and it was very well done. Oh, this is funny. You know how they ask you to turn off your cell phones and stuff? Well the pirate-voiced guy giving that spiel said that along with no cell phones, no photos, and no texting, there is to be "no scrimshaw carving" during the play. Gah! I darn near jumped out of my chair. He said scrimshaw! I may have been the only one in the room who had any idea what that is. :-) Tee hee!

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

Okay, these have been rated "Holy Cow!, "So good," "wow yummy," and "the best thing I've ever eaten." Therefore I think I need to share the wealth. I got this recipe out of the newspaper the other day, but of course being how I am I made some changes. So I'll give you the recipe as printed (well, paraphrased anyway) and then my comments/changes in parentheses (yup, just like this ones here).

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

Crust and Topping:
1 cup quick-cooking oats (I used 1/2 cup quick, 1/2 cup old fashioned, you can also use entirely old fashioned)
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp instant espresso or instant coffee (okay, eww, I hate coffee. So I used 2 tsp hot chocolate powder. I think you could safely just omit this anyway)
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 egg

Oven 325 degrees, middle rack.

Line 8" square baking pan with foil. Grease the sides and bottom.

Whisk oats, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in melted butter until combined. Reserve 3/4 cup of this mixture for the topping.

Sprinkle remaining oat mixture into prepared pan and press into an even layer covering the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until a light golden brown, about 8 minutes (I gave it 20 minutes). Let the crust cool completely on a wire rack, about 1 hour (oh heck no, I gave it 10 minutes, psh!)

For the filling, whisk the flour, sugar, instant espresso/coffee (or hot chocolate powder), and salt together in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, melt the chocolate chips and butter together, stirring often, about 1-3 minutes (I think it took me 1 minute and 15 seconds, check it about every 30 seconds, you do NOT want to overheat chocolate). Let cool slightly (eh, a minute or so). Stir egg into melted chocolate. Stir in flour mixture until just combined.

Spread chocolate filling evenly over the crust and smooth the top. Sprinkle with reserved oat mixture (kinda press it into the chocolate so it really sticks). Bake bars until the topping starts to brown and the filling starts to pul away from the edges, about 25-30 minutes. (I think I gave it at least 40 minutes, but I kinda forgot to write it down at the time).

Let bars cool in the pan, on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Remove bars from the pan using the foil, cut into squares of desired size, and serve (super yummy warm!)