Thursday, June 30, 2016

Me 'n Daddy do a Art Project - or - My Father's ABCs

My Father can draw. 
And I'm not talking - oh, he's good at Pictionary - I mean my Dad can really draw. No training, he does not have to work at it - it comes naturally. You know the black and white drawing of my house on the right on my blog? He drew that. It is an enviable skill, one I have to work very hard at. He's a lefty. Maybe that explains it.

We've been talking about doing a collaboration for a long time. The ideas we tossed back and forth never seemed to resonate for both of us. During my visit last Christmas we talked more about it and proposed an alphabet. We still tossed ideas back and forth. Then, when they visited last month, we went to Chanticleer and he was inspired:  an alphabet of flowers. 

He has been unstoppable. Apparently letters E-N are in the mail to me, currently I have A-D. But what do we want to do with it? Make a coloring book? Write verse to accompany it? We are leaning on coloring book considering the current craze -  and to that end I decided to sit down and see what I could do with "C". 

If we were going to do a coloring book - the letter could not be black. That goes without saying because people are part-tick-you-LER about their letters and colors. When I mention this to him - he said (in a tone of - details!), "oh, you can just get rid of that in the computer." Well, no, not quite so easy. What worked better was putting his original composition on a light table and tracing it out. 

Here is his beautiful original drawing for C - California Poppy.
In writing this blog post I see I need to scan the original again for my records since I saved over it after trying to erase the black. 

After tracing it, I scanned it again and printed the drawing out on Rives BFK, a favorite drawing paper. 
Then I dug out my dusty but trusty Prismacolor Pencil sets.   
 It has been years since I have used these. They were my primary tool as an artist in high school and undergrad. I had forgotten how much I love to apply color with them.
They blend beautifully and seamlessly. I loved to draw with them because I had so much more control than with paint. 

What a joy to be working with them once again. They can be layered to achieve so many tones. 

In spite of how excited I am about this, I have not had time to color what with too much work and all.
This evening I have arranged to finish coloring outside. It is a beautiful evening, cool and dry, there is a breeze, and someone in the neighborhood is cooking garlic. Mmmmmm. :)
In about an hour the fireflies will emerge.
What a perfect evening. 

Monday, June 27, 2016


Whatever happened this winter was certainly good for the hollyhocks. These white ones have bloomed for the first time next to the shed. And they are gorgeous. I also have pink, lavender, magenta, and very dark purple/black. Lovely.   
The dahlias went from being planted to blooming in the blink of an eye. 
Those in the pots are happiest.  Wonder why? 

I managed to propagate the Chinese lanterns to other corners of the garden.
And they are also "blooming." I don't know if they are blooming or fruiting? I guess they are probably fruiting because there is a little berry inside there.  
And speaking of berries:
My raspberries are not letting me down. They are better than ever.  
Last weekend it was also time to add another box to the hive. I hope I didn't wait too long. We have a wonderful new retailer in my neighborhood,  Philly Homebrew Outlet which also sells bee-keeping supplies!!! So I went and picked up my very own box and frames. It was quite an experience. When I arrived they were just finishing a class on mead making. The guys working there were very nice, very helpful, even if they they were little toasted. How could you not be? Three hours, tasting different meads, on a broiling hot day in Philadelphia? Shoot, I'd be toasted too. 
The box needed to be painted. Left over paint from my bedroom came in quite handy.  
I also had to put the wax in the frames. I am suspicious about my success here. 
Someone at the Homebrew place said, Oh yeah, just slide them in - done! Weeeelllll... I don't think so. I think I need to use some wire to string them into place. They are sagging in the frames. 

 Once everything was dry I put the new box on the hive.

And what did I get for my troubles? A whopper of a bee sting. Oh man, she got me good. 
And I don't know what she was so mad about? I was bringing food and more living space! Hmph.  Actually there were two of them, one of them stung me and the other one chased me and then got all tangled in my dress. (It was so hot - no way was I putting any more on that the bee hat.) I did manage to extract her without getting a second sting. Thank goodness.

I know that doesn't look like much, but by morning my entire arm was so swollen I was a little worried. All of the joints hurt and I could not bend my arm. I went to the doctor and she prescribed an anti-biotic and a steroid. I knew it would go away because I had been stung two weeks before (totally my fault, I whacked the poor bee with the hive tool and hard - she got me back) and while it got very swollen as well, it wasn't this bad and it was on my thigh. My right arm is a different story. I ended up taking a little bit of the steroid which I hate. I've had to take it before and it makes me. absolutely. stupid. I can't remember if I just asked someone a question. 

When I had added the new box the jar of sugar water had been completely empty. It is totally possible that the bees were cranky because they were overcrowded and hungry. Since I was worried about them, I decided to check on the food situation on Tuesday evening. How much had they eaten? All I did was pop the lid, look inside, and assess the situation. A bee went flying into the box, and rather than trap her in there I let her fly back out and before you could say how-dee-do - she zoomed over to my hand and stung me on my finger. I couldn't believe it. But I was a little more prepared this time - I got the stinger out as fast as possible (faster than my arm), iced it immediately, dug around in there with pin to be sure that there was not stinger left, and promptly took two benedril. In the morning, even though my had was swollen, it was no where near as bad as my arm had been. I was also taking that steroid too - that probably helped. What actually helped the most, believe it or not, was shifting an entire collection of huge bank ledgers at work. 671 volumes of ledgers that weight 30-40lbs each. Maybe all the movement just forced the fluids out? Who knows. 

Conclusion: when I checked on the bees this weekend, I wore full regalia in spite of the heat. Socks, shoes, jeans, long sleeved T-shirt, fleece, headgear, gloves, and I made sure the smoker was working top notch. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Fiber Fun Day

All of the last few weekends have been spent in preparation for Fiber Fun Day. 
We have been talking about doing this for months:  a day where we* all get together and dye fabric with indigo, RIT dye, and Jaquard SolarFast. The fabric could be dish towels, canvas bags, pre fab napkins, or ??? Yesterday was the appointed day and we had a BLAST! if Ah do saysomyself.  
*"We" are friends, co-workers, and everyone of us - graduates of the UArts MFA Book Arts Program in Philadelphia. 

The Prep:
Well, first I wanted new clothes. But since I am not exactly flush at the moment - the new clothes would have to be a DIY situation. And I wanted to do something of my own invention.   
But, well, hmmm... this is not exactly what I had in mind. Parts of it are okay, pocket and stuff, but it just doesn't look, well, flattering.  
I tried again, sleuthing out styles on the interwebs and cobbling my own design between what I saw and patterns (Vogue, McCalls, NewStyle, etc.) I already had. Finally after a lot of ku-fuffle, I actually came up with something I really like. 

 I decided to prepare it for some Fiber Arts Fun. 
I put a running stitch on the front - to be pulled tight for dying so that it will look like this:  
And on the back I did some circular stitching and tied some ginkgo nuts into the fabric:
so that it would look like this:

I also wanted to experiment with the Jacquard Solar Fast to see what would work well with a resist. 
Origami out of wax paper works particularly well! 

As do printed films of sunflowers:
 What to do with one's test pieces? Well, one makes bento bags.
 Jacques, of course, was an excellent Supervisor. He made sure all materials were used appropriately.

The Day of:
We started of slowly, but towards the afternoon momentum picked up. I hope I speak appropriately for all when I say, we weren't sure what to expect? We had all been doing research on techniques, but as the day before the Fiber Fun Day was horrifically hot and sweltering, all good intentions of preparing were pretty much abandoned. It is amazing how much a humid broiling environment can retard one's production. I'm just glad I was mostly prepared for our work day. 

I had already pre-washed all of the dish towels we ordered from Dharma Trading Co.

But should have spent a little more time preparing. I think I made three finished (out of 12) towels. Melanie spent her time Sunday morning doing stitching prep: 
as did Charissa with folding wax paper origami flowers:
We certainly lucked out with the weather! The day before had been that overwhelming heat/humidity that we can only have in Philadelphia. But Sunday was perfect for our Fiber Fun Day, warm and bright sun with a very strong wind all day. The sun made the Jacquard Solar Fast prints very nicely:

The shade was comfortable, and everything dried fast!
I'm not sure which was the bigger hit - indigo dying or the RIT fabric dyes. Everyone had such wonderful results:

My shibori creation looked like this at first:  
And when untied, like the blue piece in the middle. All of the other pieces are friends' creations.  
  A different variation on the same theme: 
We had an honorary guest in our ranks on Sunday as well:
Gryson seemed to have as much fun as we did. He dyed some cloth and some napkins (with Mom's help of course). 
 It was really fun to have him in there. He and Mommy made a fabulous T-shirt, which he apparently wore to school today, much to the envy of others. And wouldn't you be too!?  
What a fabulous shark shirt! 

As if all of this Fiber Fun wasn't enough, Melanie planned a surprise "birthday party" for me! 

I am a December baby with my birthday landing squarely in between the holidays. Celebrating my birthday with friends is a challenge. Not only is everyone worn out from all of the other celebrating, but they are usually with family in the four corners of the world. Melanie said she saw the opportunity to throw me a birthday party and took it! :) Charissa made this delicious pecan-something-yummy-with-strawberries-and-mascarpone-whipped-cream cake. Wow. I was also given some very special gifts including totally awesome erasers, hot sauce, lavender syrup, and a new seam ripper. You have no idea - all of these gifts are things I really love and I was so touched by everyone's thoughtfulness. 

My read on the day is that we all came away satisfied. 
Some of us more so than others, but still, I think we all learned a lot.  Plans for the next Fiber Fun Day are afoot.  

The Supervisor will be consulted:
And plans for beautiful colors will be made: