Thursday, July 30, 2009

one-track mind

I get extremely focused on things. I do this with the artwork too, it makes it so I have a hard time working on multiple projects at once, because I get TOTALLY focused on one. I guess that's not a bad thing. Starting new projects is always a bit of a struggle, and then it sorta clicks and I'm in, and when it gets near the end it's seriously all I do and all I think about.

Right now that focus is the fence. It's absurd. I work on it, I think about it, I talk about it, I even dream about it. Really, I dreamed about hot wire last night, and in the dream I figured out where to set up the electric unit without having to try to put the grounding rods into the gravel driveway. Brilliant!

Fence update:
Top Rail: 1452 feet done, 812 feet to go
Hot Wire: Went shopping yesterday, and compared prices at Tractor Supply and the feed store. Can you say Oh My Gosh? Just a little comparison, the very same charger unit... TSC $68, feed store $124. Same brand, same EXACT THING. Insulators 25-pack, TSC $7something, feed store $11something. I know where I'll be buying everything! Doing that on Saturday, trying to finish the top rails tomorrow.

JJ's post made me think maybe I should talk about the things I don't update about much.

Chickens! My last hatch was two weekends ago. I have no idea how many chicks I have. Less than 75 I'd say, but honestly I haven't counted. The colors that hatched are: Black, "Black Red" (Black X BBRed), Brassy Back, Blue Brassy Back, Blue Brassy Splash. Hope there's a few good ones. I'm not even thinking about shows. My how things have changed eh? "We'll see" is about all I can come up with.

Horses! They're super. Shylah isn't thrilled about life in the corral though, but somehow the crappy dead grass in the pasture manages to make her super-fat, so she stays in and gets grass hay and beet pulp. I remind her that some horses live in stalls, and she has a HUGE corral, but she's pretty good with the guilt trip. I even bought her a toy, one of those apple-shaped plastic doohickeys with the edible center part, the kind you hang somewhere. She's pretty much snubbing it. My horse snubbing something edible?! Wow. Maybe in time she'll at least want to destroy the plastic part. (Rolls eyes). I'm looking forward to this cooler weather, can finally do more riding!

Jessie dog. Ups and downs. Week by week, day by day. Two weekends ago I was going to schedule the heartbreaking appointment for the following week, and then she bounced back. Literally, bounced. She's goofy, happy, tries to run around. There are bad days sometimes, but as long as she is happy, it's not time. She's off her medication now. Her attitude seems better, her appetite is so much better, and as for her limping I don't see any change. My goal is just for her to be as happy as comfortable as possible, and when her health issues prevent that, it will be time. For now, she's a happy girl who just doesn't walk very well (not to mention the oldest dog we've ever had, 14.5).

Okay, off to bed, I'm going to try to do 812 feet of fence tomorrow. Yes, to answer one question, it is a sense of accomplishment for sure to be doing this all myself. But I still want a Farm Boy. ;-) (If you haven't seen The Princess Bride, do it! I love that movie!!!)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

let's see if this works

First attempt at posting a video:

video

The fence project is admittedly using up most of my time right now. I'm sore and whiney, and when I finish fencing for the day if my hands and arms don't feel 100% good I'm just not comfortable doing scrimshaw. When one is working on an image that's an inch and a half tall, one can't have anything less than normal dexterity! So I'm not getting a whole lot done on the grips this week. I am sanding down some mammoth ivory pendants though, that requires less precision. Stinky work, I don't enjoy that smell. :-/ Had errands to run and other crapola today too.

Fence update:

Top rails: 1072 feet done, 1192 feet to go (oh what I would do for a massage right now)
Hot wire: going shopping tomorrow, at least for investigational purposes! I've decided on solar, because I think the best place to put the grounding rods is out near the creek, and that's too far from the electrical outlet in the shed. There are still a few areas I'm not sure how to handle, so cross your fingers that some hunky single dude will be at TSC to answer my questions. ;-)

EDIT: okay, now that it's uploaded I can see that the video quality is CRAP. Blogger must compress the heck out of an already compressed video. I'll have to ponder this and see if I can come up with a better solution. I was going to upload it to youtube but they said it would take 45 minutes to upload the original file off the camera. Cripes!

Monday, July 27, 2009

fun with animals!

I cut up this watermelon for dinner the other night, only to find it totally blah tasting. Hmmm, what to do with it....

I think I found some volunteers!




By morning, it was but a mere shell of its former self (yeah, they have skills!). I washed off the ducky dirt... Now what to do with this lovely bowl, hmmmm...

I think I found a volunteer!


Looks like she has some competition though. ;-)


These ducks just crack me up this year, they have so much more personality than any other batch I've raised. :-)

I'm trying to decide whether to attend the State Fair art show reception Thursday August 20th. Anyone want to be my "date"? I use that term very loosely.

Fence project update:
Top rail fixing: 568 feet done, 1696 feet to go (SIGH)
Hot wire: budget approved, need to go shopping! Still working on the logistics.
I can't wait to get it all wired now. I knew the fence was bad, but didn't realize how extremely bad until I started working on it. What a pain. Sigh, where is my Farm Boy? (Bonus points if you just said "As you wish.")

Sunday, July 26, 2009

hot wire, part two

Okay, I've had a few questions/suggestions, thank you. Let me try to clarify things a little more as to which areas most need help.

Here's what I posted yesterday, an out-of-scale drawing of where the horses live:

The red pipe fence is fine, I don't think they could damage that if they tried.

Here's a new drawing.

The areas bordered in pink are high priority, that's where they usually live. They always have access to the corrals, and if any of the two far pastures are open, then they also have access to the front pasture. The area bordered in green is middle priority, they don't live there as often as the pink area. The yellow pasture is low priority, they don't live there more than a few months during the year, and that is my riding arena so I think I'd just as soon not have that one be "hot," at least not unless needed.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

fence woes

Today I am going to talk about fencing. Not the kind that involves swords. The kind that (at least theoretically) contains livestock. It gives me something to rant about, plus I'm soliciting input from those in the know.

Whoever built the pasture fence here didn't do a very good job. It was in "fair" condition when we moved here, although the original owners had used this awful plastic mesh on the fence. Not only was it a complete eyesore, but it wasn't really all that strong, and when a big horse like Gwen decides to lean on it, she might just pop through on the other side (this happened!). So my brother J, bless his heart, got the horrible job of taking down the plastic stuff and putting up non-climb wire instead. Major improvement, but the fence still has some serious structural problems.

Here's the fence (and a lovely view of the blackberries out by the creek). It's about 5 feet high, it has posts and a top rail, and the rest is the non-climb wire. Sometimes I think it would have made more sense just to do the whole property with hot tape, but the wire does have the advantage of keeping dogs on the proper side of the fence.


Just for comparison, this is the corral fence. It's welded pipe. I love it. I could keep an elephant in this here (not that I have any plans to). I wish they would have fenced the whole place with this welded pipe, but I'm sure it wasn't cheap.

There are several issues that are all coming together to create a situation called "the fence is falling down." One is that the dorks who built the fence did a really stupid job of it. Instead of angling the top of the posts (so that rain would run off) and nailing the top rail to the outside of the post, they actually cut sections out of the top of each post (OMG wouldn't that be a serious pain in the asterisk? Worse than angling the top of each post?) and set the top rail in there, like it's on a little shelf. See that? Bad no no.

Great, so now there's this area on the top of each post where rain water can flow down and puddle and.... you guessed it, rot the posts. They're all rotten, at least the tops. Most are still firmly in the ground, but a few wiggle. So what happens when the post rots? The top rail falls off! And you get a fence line that looks like this:

I'm NOT proud of this, I hate this, this is embarrassing, and I've been working on fixing it (that's obviously a section I have not gotten to) and it's probably going to at least many weeks to do. Sometimes it's basically just the wire that's holding up the fence. Aaack! I can't nail the boards back up, they won't stay put in rotten wood, so I have to drill holes, loop wire around each post, and wire the stupid top rails back up. It's rednecky to say the least, and feels like putting a band-aid on a gushing wound. But, it'll at least buy a few more years. The entire thing seems to be all falling down now. For a while it was just one board here and there, but omg in the last month I swear it's just all gone to heck.

Of course, a major contributing factor is that the darling mares are VERY fond of scratching themselves on the fence. ARG!!! They are both fond of scratching their butts on it (yes, they are wormed consistently, and yes I do take care to clean the gunk out of the udder-area to prevent itchiness, but they do it anyway). Gwen will also lean into the fence at about a 45 degree angle and scratch her entire body along the fence. I about have a heart attack when I see her do that, I can hear the wire stretching and the posts groaning and popping.

So, this brings up the thought of hot wire. It may be all that can save the fence, the horses really need to be kept from leaning on it. Without going out and measuring, I don't know many feet of fence there are. Thousands I'm sure. At different times of year they have access to different pastures. They always have access to the corrals, and sometimes are off pasture entirely. This is a VERY not-to-scale drawing, but this is pretty much the lay of the land. I'm having a hard time figuring out exactly how this could be hot wired, or if it's even doable ($$$). Thoughts about hot wire/hot tape? I want to hear them. Only the wire fence would need it, the red pipe fence is fine.


Sigh.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

onward

I feel guilty if I don't write something at least every few days! I think this blogging thing is kind of an addiction. I often find myself thinking in terms of what is "bloggable" (stuff I do, pictures I should take, etc).

Anyway, I started work on the newest scrim project on Monday, which is two sets of Colt .45 pistol grips. They are another gift commission, so no work in progress pics, but you'll see them eventually (it might be quite some time, I'm not sure of the engraver's timeline on the metalwork).

I really am planning to make pendants for sale. I bought more mammoth ivory for that. Now if I just had a few clones to work on things too...

I had two weird dreams last night. In the first, I was in Oregon (I was there recently) visiting my brother J (who does not actually live in Oregon). He had found a turtle on the road, and brought it back to the house, and had some nifty guide to turtles book that identified it as a "green eared box turtle" or something like that (which probably is not a real name). It was small, maybe 8 inches diameter across the shell. Suddenly it became obvious that the shell was cracked down the middle, it must have been hit by a car (is this related to the hawk I saw the other day?). And suddenly the turtle was huge, like a sea turtle (maybe because I watched the ocean episode of Planet Earth on Sunday?) I was frantic, I had to fix the shell so it wouldn't die. In my dream, I'd heard somewhere that it could be epoxied back together (I have no idea if this is true, I've never tried to fix a broken turtle). So I got directions to the nearest hardware store ("past the fire station, on the left, before the road turns") and set off for epoxy and duct tape.

Huh??? I wonder what fixing broken turtles symbolizes. Actually, I really don't think there's any deep symbolism here, I think it's just all tied to recent events.

In the other dream, I was drawing (this is such a weird thing, I have these often where I'm drawing or working on scrim, and it's no different than doing the actual thing, except sometimes faster!). The subject was a chicken, but really kind of a fantasy bird, almost more dragon-like than chicken. Not any particular breed, but with very long feathers. OMG maybe it was some kind of feathered dragon!!!! I never did see the head!!! That would almost make sense, I do have someone inquiring about dragon scrimshaw... It was in a very specific pose, not something I've ever drawn before, and the color was VERY specific (not a "real" color). It was AWESOME. Maybe I need to do this?! It might almost work better as a painting though, hmmm. I have no idea what the purpose would be of this.

Monday, July 20, 2009

excellent!

I got word today that Sunday Morning (Percheron horse scrimshaw) won an Award of Excellence at the California State Fair Fine Art Show! YESSS!!! Some fairs don't boast very good art shows, but CA State Fair is extremely competitive and well-respected. Opens next month...

It did not go over a hundred degrees today, yay! I even managed to squeeze in some horse-riding this evening.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

a typical weekend

Saturday morning I drove out to UCDavis with Mom. She's decided to do this major back yard landscaping thing, the goal of which is to eliminate much of the yard itself to conserve water. It's now at the "okay, grass is dead and this looks ugly, now what" stage. I suggested the arboretum for inspiration for things to plant around the trees. There is a lot of new stuff in the arb since I was a student there, and I kept remembering all the particular benches and tables where I used to eat lunch with various people, or where I used to study between particular classes. I'd forgotten how much I liked that place, it's really quite pretty.

Here's a view of the corner of the building that was my home away from home (the art building):

I had not been back to the art building for about three years. I stayed on and worked as a lab assistant in the printmaking lab for several years after I graduated. It was fun, it allowed me to keep doing printmaking work as well as be of some help to the instructor and students. But after my "boss" retired it just wasn't the same anymore and the new boss never really kept in touch at all, so after a while I fizzled out. But I'd left my litho stone there, and Saturday I brought it home (and was also shocked to find my old apron and supplies in the locker where I'd left them three years ago). I'd forgotten that I left "Levade" on the stone and didn't grain it off. I'm glad. I have absolutely no idea where to put the stone, and have some doubts that I will ever do litho again, but we'll see. I love that I understand the process, and it's an awesome art technique, it's just not what I'm doing these days.

Anyway, then Mom and I went to see Star Trek in the theater (can't believe it's still playing!) because she had not seen it and I was totally in favor of seeing it again! Not only is it awesome, but young Spock makes my heart go giddyup. Really. ;-)

In the late afternoon I spent some time at the scope and worked on scrim, and then watched "The Wrestler" in the evening. Egads I don't know how people can watch wrestling, it makes me cringe!

Today I picked more blackberries, cleaned brooders and moved chicks around, and spent most of the day finishing the pendant I've been working on. I'm done, I'll show you in a few weeks. :-)

I HATE THIS WEATHER. It was 110 today. Whine whine whine.

I have been listening to Pride and Prejudice again on audiobook. I needed a break from music, so I'm going through my audiobooks again. I still get totally engrossed even though I know the story and have heard it before and seen the movies, etc. But it really makes me want to write very eloquently. Obviously I'm not, but I was thinking about what I was going to write tonight and in my head it was coming out all hoity toity sounding. Thus, at present I think I shall retire to the drawing room. ;-)

Friday, July 17, 2009

just another day

I knew this day would not yield a huge number of work hours, and indeed it did not (still quite respectable though!). That's okay, other days compensate for that.

I woke up shortly before 8am with the sun shining in my face. That was one thing I had forgotten about when my bed was turned the other way. My feet never really noticed this. My eyeballs do. I either have to hug the wall or hang off the side of the bed to avoid the blinding sunlight (either of which I'm entirely willing to do for the sake of sleep, I love sleep, sleep loves me). Or I can just get up. So after hitting the snooze button once, I did.

I fully intended to go bike riding today. I often intend to do that, but rarely do. I used to do it every day back when my neighbor was going with me. Those were good times, and we kept each other on track with it. Now I pretty much find any excuse in the book except on rare days when it's just so nice that it seems like fun. (Lately, weather = not nice). Anyway, I got up and put on bike shorts and a tank top, ate breakfast, fed and watered all the chicks, fed the horses, and was out in the corral in the already-hot morning sun cleaning up horse poops when I found myself paying particular attention to the blackberry bushes out along the creek. They're ripe, and not going to last long in the heat. Hmm. So then it was a huge quandary. Bike and then pick? Pick instead of bike? I decided the latter option made more sense. After all, biking doesn't really accomplish anything on my ever-expanding list of things I need to get done (other than "shrink butt." However, I think what actually happens is my body says "ooh, if you're going to be riding around on this silly little seat we're going to add some more natural padding!" I hate you, genetics!) And blackberries, well... they're yummy, they're seasonal, and I hate to see them go to waste. And they're mostly in shade. Besides, all I really need to accomplish is to do something other than sit on my butt for at least a small part of the day (hey, I have to sit, I work at a microscope!) and teetering precariously out over blackberry bushes in warm clothes on a hot day is a workout in itself.

So after finishing with the horses and giving the ducks a clean kiddy-pool of water, I changed into jeans and ancient cowboy boots with no traction on them whatsoever, grabbed a bucket, and headed out to the creek. As everyone knows, the best berries are the ones that are just out of reach. I'm not one of those people who just picks the ones on the edge, my style is to wade into the middle of the plant (yes, this often hurts). The vines are growing out of the creek bed, the embankment of which is pretty steep and pretty slick. I'm not too worried about falling in the water, it's just the tangle of thorny vines between me and the water that worries me. And the boots with no traction are a challenge. But I didn't fall, never have. And I'm sure Shylah would be like Lassie if something happened to me (yeah right). I teetered precariously all over the place and in an hour ended up with 5 cups (enough for a pie!) and was roastingly hot.

I was also entirely surprised to see that the neighbors across the creek had put a fence on our property. Eh? Yeah, obviously I don't walk along the creek very often. Between our pasture fence and their back fence there's maybe a 30 or so foot wide strip of land, the creek runs down the middle of it. It's my understanding that each parcel goes to the middle of the creek. Anyway, I've noticed recently that their pretty buckskin horse has the run of their back property (which is NOT fenced on their side). I thought that was weird, since if the horse opted to cross the creek onto our place, it could then feasibly step through a small opening onto someone else's property, and end up on the main road. Bad idea. But apparently they decided to contain the horse by putting a really crappy barbed wire fence through the creek and up our side to the pasture fence. It's just mildly strange that they didn't bother to ASK if this was okay. And seriously, how long has that been there and why did I not notice?!?! Cripes. It's not like I don't go out in the pasture. Oh well.

I have to tell you about this neighbor though. I don't think I said this already (did I?) I think he learned to ride from watching westerns, all I've ever seen him do is canter that horse around while he yells "hyaw!" Or h'yah! Or heeyaw, or however you spell that. Not yee-haw, but more like hee-yaw. You know, like they do when they are rounding up cows in the movies...

Anyway, I could hear their diabolical dog barking in the distance and didn't feel like getting any limbs chewed off today so I went back to the house. It was about a billion degrees by then. I had to go into town and was feeling gross, so, um, I hosed myself off in the back yard. Don't laugh! Nobody was around, it uses less water than a shower, and I wasn't up for dealing with the daily collection of dead bugs in the pool.

I changed into shorts and a decent shirt, sat down long enough to gulp a glass of iced tea, got in the car and headed for town. I was about a quarter mile down the road when some roadkill caught my eye... because it didn't seem to be dead. Uh oh. I pulled over right away onto a side street, turned around, and headed back. I slowed down.... and there on the shoulder was a juvenile red tailed hawk, sitting there sort of rumpled-looking, quite calmly looking at me. Crap. It was definitely old enough to be flying well, we're not talking fledgling here. Their nest was in the tree above the road. I glanced in the back seat, yup I had a beach towel back there but would be much more comfortable with some gloves. So I drove back home, changed back into jeans (for safety sake, those birds are pointy!), grabbed welding gloves and a net out of the barn, and headed back down the road, grumbling about the fact that now I was going to have to take this bird out to the raptor center at Davis, which would take almost two hours of my day, maybe it could wait til tomorrow since I was going out there anyway, blah blah blah. But this was not a situation I could ignore. Once a Wildlife Care girl, always a Wildlife Care girl.

I was pleased to see that the bird was now on a fence post, that's a good sign. I turned the car around and was going to park in a driveway on the other side of the road when the bird flew across the road ahead of where I was. Flew pretty well. Yay, good!

So I went back home (my neighbor must have thought I was nuts with all this back and forth stuff, I'm forgetful but not usually that bad!) changed back into shorts, and headed off for town, again. The hawk was perched up on a telephone pole, looking a little fluffed up, but obviously much better than it did on the ground next to the road. My guess is it got hit by a car just enough to kinda stun it, but thankfully nothing was broken.

Among other things, I had to stop at the fabric store to get a spring-loaded scissors for something I'm working on, and I also like to wander around the air-conditioned wonderfulness and look at craft projects that look entertaining but that I will never do. And of course, I have to check out the fabric. I was extremely entertained to find this one:

CS, remember when we saw this one at the store in Monterey? Okay seriously, what on earth would someone make out of hunky-half-naked-cowboy fabric?!?!?!?! Throw pillows? Curtains? Seriously?! I like hunky-half-naked-cowboys as much as the next girl but this just makes me feel awkward! Actually, I know a few people who might enjoy this as a quilt...hmmm? >;-)

The things people do.

Came home, mixed up ingredients for a blackberry pie (and froze it, did not make one today), and then figured with all the fruit around here maybe I should try to make a smoothie for lunch. Two problems. One is that freshly-picked fruit on a 106 degree day is pretty warm. Second is that the blender doesn't really chop the ice, it just whittles it down into nifty little ice balls, and liquifies the rest of it. So I ended up with lukewarm blackberry/nectarine/plum slush with nifty ice balls. Flavor was okay but ick, warm. I was ravenous so I downed half and stuck the rest in the freezer for later (mmm, much better when cold!).

Emptied the dishwasher, reloaded it, washed a few things by hand, cooked eggs for not-feeling-good dog, made hummingbird juice, and finally time to get to work! Whew!

Then I got in a bunch of hours of scrimshaw before dinner time, fed critters, ate dinner, did a little more work, watched a documentary about human evolution, showered, did a little more work (which I accidentally typed as "mork" I must be tired). And here I sit. I am almost done with the pendant I'm working on, I plan to finish this weekend so I can start the next set of pistol grips on Monday.

Just another day, aren't you glad I don't give you this much detail every day?

Time for bed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

awww, cute!

In a pleasant alternative to my usual daily routine, my friend Alora and I spent much of the afternoon visiting with my sis in law and niece (who we all know is the cutest baby on the planet). Seriously. As the adoring aunt, I am duty-bound to occasionally show you some pics. All together now, awwwww! :-)

I'm still allergic to kids, but this one's pretty cute:

Chloe and Alora seem to be plotting something:

Thanks Lindsey! :-)

oops, I did it again

Yup, changed templates again. I dig this one. I may play around with the banner some, but this seems to work pretty well. To me anyway. ;-)

Monday, July 13, 2009

new look

I'm trying out a new blog template. If you like it, let me know. If you hate it, let me know. I think it looks a little cleaner. I liked the blue background, but the other one just had too many lines and little arrows and whatnots.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

a nothing day

I did nothing today. Nothing useful anyway. It was great, it was just what I needed. I've been wound up pretty tight lately and needed to chill out a little. I probably should have gone somewhere pretty or done something fun, but lounging around most of the day worked well enough (no worries, even a day I do nothing still means fed/watered the critters, blogged, did some website work, dug some weeds out of the pasture, watched some wild turkeys, etc).

I'll be starting my next project tomorrow, it will go a whole lot faster than the belt buckle, since it'll be single-color and much smaller. I can't tell you what it is, it's a commissioned gift. I will be able to show you in about a month. Sorry about all the stuff I can't show in progress. :-(

rooster scrimshaw belt buckle

This project has been a long time in the making, but from the start there was no doubt as to what the subject matter should be. This piece is done as a gift (from a group of people) to honor a professor of Avian Science who has done so much work for exhibition poultry, 4-H, and youth exhibitors over the years.... and who happens to have a particular fondness for belt buckles. :-) I knew that the Phoenix fowl has a special place in her heart, and thought that breed of chicken would make a great subject for the buckle. But how to do that.... How to fit a very "long" bird into that space. For a little history, this this is a breed I have depicted often in my art, in different poses and different formats. The American version of this bird can have a tail up to about 6 feet in length, but the ones you'd see at shows are usually much shorter than that.

Often they are depicted with the tail streaming out behind in a long horizontal piece, or perched with the tail hanging down in a long vertical art piece:

This one (deliberately not meant to match "Standard" descriptions, but positioned to fit a very specific shape of rectangle) obviously has a significantly shorter tail, that sweeps around beside him in this drawing:

I was thinking the bird for the belt buckle would be similar to this guy, but more horizontal in stance, with a longer more sweeping tail, and looking back over his shoulder to balance out the composition a little bit. Please don't laugh at this very rough sketch, everything starts out like this, and it's just a little thumbnail sketch:

So I started drawing that on a full sheet of paper, but just wasn't having any luck with it, I couldn't get it to look right with him turning his head that way. I got really frustrated, and then realized all I needed to do was turn the bird around so that he's looking over the other shoulder, like so:

Much better! That is the final mockup sketch. There were many in between which I'm not going to show you, but it was quite a long progression. As this is a belt buckle, which people tend to think of as being engraved metal, I wanted to incorporate some scrollwork, but I had to break some of the rules of scrolls, because it was more important that the bird have tail feathers that could be somewhat realistic, instead of just swirling off into totally fanciful scrollwork. So there was a pretty fine line of what I could do, and I went back and forth on how many feathers should be curled, how to intersect and overlap them, and eventually this is just what felt right, so I went with it. I was thrilled to find that font, because I could loop one of the letters around the border the same way that I did with the tail feathers.

So once I got that all finalized, it was time to start on the scrimshaw itself. I'm not going to talk about technique. I've done some tutorials, I've talked about it a lot, and certain things get to be my little secrets. As a review though, remember that scrimshaw is the art of engraving on ivory/bone/synthetic. The engraved markings are then filled with ink, to create the image. Multicolor images are built up one layer at a time (JUST LIKE DRAWING!). Sometimes I work dark to light, sometimes light to dark, sometimes I skip around. It has more to do with where various colors are located in a piece I guess, so that I don't end up smearing things into places they shouldn't go. Here's how this one progressed:

Transfered the outline:

Strengthened the outline so I can better see what I'm doing, and scrimmed the text in black:

Scrimmed all the black areas:

Added the green to the black areas so get that sheen that black feathers have:

Scrimmed the gold areas with several colors of golden brown ink:

Scrimmed the bird's red face:

Now, to my absolute mortification, I found that the Higgin's red drawing ink does not stick. Crisis! Most colors will stick down in the engraved dots but buff off the surface. Well, this didn't stick at all. So I had to do a crazy concoction of red, yellow, and brown just to give it some staying power. It worked. Crisis averted. Whew. I will be shopping for another brand of red ink (that's so weird!) And as a side note, the inks are topped with a few layers of microcrystalline wax polish (which buffs down to a microscopically thin layer) to protect them.

All that was left at this point was the border, signature, and to place the ivory into the buckle itself!

I kinda lost track of how many colors went into this. At least 11, maybe 12. This might sound weird, but I'm just flat out amazed at how much this ends up being like a colored pencil drawing as far as the layering and everything, and I did not think I would be able to get this sort of look from scrimshaw. Love it!

Here is the completed buckle, and some closeups (btw it's all dots):

Dr. B's belt buckle
multicolor scrimshaw on pre-ban elephant ivory
entire buckle is just over 2x3 at edges of brass, ivory inlay is 45x65mm


I have heard the phrase "over the moon" tossed around as a measure of how a recipient reacts to a piece, and I think that was definitely the case here. :-) This buckle is going to be a treasured piece. Thank you so much to everyone who helped make this piece possible.

Friday, July 10, 2009

one less monster

So the "thing under the house" that Mom told me about.... I found it. I heard it this morning, outside the kitchen window where she said she thought it was coming from the ventilation grate under the house, under the window where Olin was sitting staring intently downward. I went outside to confront whatever beast was clawing away down there, but saw only an empty feed bag that Mom had propped against the side of the house under the window, yesterday evening, shortly before she heard the monster under the house.

Scritch scritch scritch! Ah, the monster is clearly IN the feed bag. I laughed. The monster had two beady black eyes, a little twitching nose, lots of whiskers, and was about 5 inches long from nose to tail. ;-)

The monster has, uh, "gone to a better place" shall we say. I'm sure the world will sleep better tonight.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

checking in....

Yup, I'm still alive.

I finished the big project I've been working on, right on schedule and exactly on the mark with the time investment that I estimated. I need to photograph it tomorrow, and will post pics by the end of the weekend. It is going to be a difficult piece to photograph.

I still have not gotten the computer looked it, and it still occasionally makes strange noises. Almost only at night (right now, for example). I need to open it up, I know I know. I absolute hate doing that. Maybe it's haunted. Mom says there's something under the house, she heard it scratching around under there and Olin cat was pretty perked up about one of the ventilation holes. Great, that's not going to creep me out or anything...

Tomorrow I take my artwork in to State Fair. I still need to write my artist statement. And clean brooders. And make cookies. And a zillion other things.

I got a phone call this morning that I've been waiting a long time for, and it completely lifted my spirits (which are pretty good already! Other than some griping..) brightened my day, and plastered a smile on my face, and put to rest some worries that have been taking up way too much brain space lately. It's so good to be back in touch with someone I have missed like crazy. :-)

And with that, goodnight.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

things that annoy me

Maybe they will annoy me less if I write them down.

When planning a party:
People who don't bother to RSVP. I assume these people aren't coming, but it would be nice to know. Like, even an email would be fine.
People who say they'll be there and then don't show up. Common courtesy I think would at least be a phone call afterwards saying "so sorry, we were deathly ill and couldn't make it." Or whatever the excuse of the day may be.
People who don't RSVP and then show up anyway, sending me scrambling to find more chairs.

Okay I kind of hate party planning, and twice in two weekends is threatening to make my brain explode.

Other things that annoy me:
People who write "U" and "R" instead of "you" and "are." And other things like that too. I'm down with the LOL and the BTW, but when someone writes and says "I want 2 get chickens from U, R U selling any" I don't want to reply, and dudes, you need to know that when you send me a note that says "How R U?" you lose major IQ points in my book and that's pretty much an instant dealbreaker. Call me picky, I just HATE THAT. Really, is it THAT DIFFICULT to write a few more letters and not look like a flaming idiot? And I only thought about being an English minor in college, thank goodness it didn't go any farther.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

weekend warrior

Wow, Sunday night already. I think I'll sleep well tonight. Saturday was busy with the usual 4th of July festivities. Food, friends, family, and a few fireworks. :-) It felt like kind of a whirlwind evening.

Today was the dance performance down at the Galt Festival. We had an hour long spot, but nobody danced that entire time (whew!). It was good, the weather was very nice although it was pretty windy which made for some veil challenges. I think it was a really good show though, I hope everyone who saw it enjoyed it. :-)

The group that performed tonight:


Me getting my veil all tangled up:

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Stars and Stripes

Beaker, the Swedish Chef, and the chickens! Be still my beating heart! :-)

Happy 4th of July!!!

Friday, July 03, 2009

just a tease

I'm just going to tease you with a little closeup of what I'm working on. :-) In real life this is about a half inch wide. Not done yet...


I hope you all have a safe and happy 4th of July! Gonna be a long day, I'd better hit the hay!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Cream Cheese Brownies

If you're looking for something healthy and low calorie to make... go find someone else's blog! If you're looking for something that's decadent and rich and full of calories, you've come to the right place. ;-)

I modified this recipe slightly from that which I found in a book, so I'll give it to you as I made it.


Cream Cheese Brownies

2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar, divided
3 Tbsp milk
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup instant hot cocoa mix (I used Nestle)
4 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa (or to taste, use your judgement on this one)
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup chopped nuts (optional, I did not include this, you could also use chocolate chips)

1. In a small mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, and milk until fluffy; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, hot cocoa mix, cocoa, and remaining 1-1/2 cup sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour and nuts.

2. Pour half the batter into a greased 13x9x2 baking pan. Spread with cream cheese mixture. Top with remaining batter. Cut through batter with a knife to swirl the cream cheese.

3. Bake at 350° for 48-52 minutes (times may vary! The recipe called for 35-40 but that nowhere near enough) until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, and the edges are starting to pull away from the pan. Cool and cut. In my opinion, these are best when COLD so I keep them in the fridge!

4. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

sort of a foodie day

Okay, there really aren't enough hours in the day lately.

I am so excited to show you all the belt buckle when it's done. It's not done. I should refrain from ever thinking something might go quicker than my initial estimate, because it never does. ;-) The day just flies past. I must really get into "the zone" especially when I'm using the AirGraver. I've noticed my breathing gets really really slow. Weird huh!

I got enough orders to make another batch of apricot jam today. Yay! I really love making jam. Perhaps the best part is getting to scrape the bowl and eat the tiny bit of leftovers that don't make it into the jars. ;-) I'm pretty fast at it now, I can crank out a batch of jam in no time. Lots of water, lots of boiling, lots of sugar. It's an interesting process.



And this afternoon I made cream cheese brownies, which are dangerously good. Really, like, consume with caution because you might croak of sheer bliss. I will post the recipe another day. New recipe for me (which I of course modified).

And I fed more watermelon to the ducks, because it's hilarious. This end piece was kinda mushy and gross. It didn't take them any time at all to eat all the good stuff, leaving only a green and white "bowl" behind (which Shylah the horse was entirely happy to eat). Animals, the great recyclers. :-)