Thursday, April 29, 2010

An Oh My God Bouquet for Talar

A friend of mine, Talar, is coming up on an early anniversary of an event that has caused her considerable pain.  The details are her story to tell so I won’t go further on that aspect. However, it was important to me to recognize the event and perhaps to offer her a moment of brightness. We tend to celebrate happy anniversaries but sometimes the sad anniversaries are either forgotten or not commemorated by others.

Talar is a generous friend who gives freely of herself and asks for very little in return (though you'd better be prepared to be pestered to participate in the activities she’s always organizing which is sometimes a wee little difficult for a non-joiner like me).  She is wonderful and in the year that I’ve known her it’s hard not to think of her without a smile.  

Talar loves flowers, girly things, and shows of affection.  Unfortunately, she’s not been the recipient of as many flowers as she would like (what is it with some men?) so flowers tend to be extra special to her. 

As Talar approaches this anniversary I thought it would be nice if some of us at work joined in and gave her some flowers.  I went ahead and called a local florist that someone here highly recommended and asked for an “I want her to feel like Miss America” bouquet.  Then I asked around the office if people would be willing to chip in on the bouquet.  I was unprepared for the overwhelming response and the willingness of these beautiful women that I am so very fortunate to work with. We were able to pool together more than enough money very quickly.

Another phone call to the florist and I upgraded it to an “oh my god” bouquet.  I should note that the florist doesn't actually offer an "oh my god" bouquet, but those were the words I used to describe what I wanted. Twenty minutes later I received even more money and called the florist (at this point I was starting to feel like a stalker) to upgrade even more but was told it was too late, that the bouquet was already on its way.  

The florist thought I would be “pleased” with what he had given me.  Talk about understatement.

The flowers arrived shortly after the phone call, and the first words out of everyone’s mouths, including Talar’s was “oh my god”.  The flowers, Talar’s reaction, and the giddiness of everyone who participated really led to a perfect day though Talar probably wasn’t as focused at work as she could have been.  

If you’re in the Toronto area and are looking for a good florist I can’t speak highly enough of my experience with Joseph Flowers.  The bouquet was very reasonably priced and cost much less than you think it did.  The prompt delivery and the beauty of the bouquet helped make the gift just so perfect.  Many of us smiled all day long and Talar’s face hurt by the end of the day.

Everyone should receive a special bouquet at least once in their life.  I’m pretty sure it’s going to take a lot to top the one Talar received this week. 



Sunday, April 25, 2010

You know you're a clayer when...

1.  You buy your wine because of the bottle!

We're off to Morrisburg in a few days and wine can sometimes flow freely.  I will be partaking because wine is a simple way of easing my essential tremor and I find it's less distracting to others watching me teach if they're not wondering if I am going to slice myself up or not.

A while back we had people over for dinner and I was thrilled when they brought this bottle of wine with them.  My first thought was that it was perfect for clay!  As an added bonus it's quite a nice white wine.  So this year, as part of my share of the spirits of Morrisburg, I've bought two bottles of Voga Italia wine.  One is the Pinot Grigio, which I know I like, and the other is a blush.  I'm certain that these bottles will be snapped up by one of the clayers.

2.  You guiltily try to figure out how to improve earrings that have been gifted to you.

My friend, Talar, recently went to Guyana for work for a few days.  I asked her to bring me back some earrings and she agreed.  I was thrilled when I opened the box, they're silver outlines of a marquise shape (I had to look up what you call a pointy-on-both-ends oval) and in each earring there are two of these shapes, one nesting inside the other.  They're very neutral, I can wear them with anything, they jingle a bit when I shake my head and I love them, really, truly, I do!


That inner shape that's got nothing inside it is just calling out for a bit of clay.  Part of me is devastated that I want to improve on something that was purchased for me with the spirit of buying me something special.  Another part of me says that Talar knew I was a clayer and that I view the world from claying eyes and that this is a risk when you deal with clayers.   Talar is used to me saying "wow, that would be perfect for...".  If it were anyone other than Talar I wouldn't even be thinking about this option.

So I'm wrestling with myself on this.  I have spent several happy minutes or hours trying to figure out what would be best inside that little shape.  I do want it to be neutral and I don't really have any earrings with white in them that I absolutely love, so I'm leaning towards that.  Or maybe silver.  I'd like to use the dichroic papers that I still haven't used up as well but that would veto the white since the dichro isn't very interesting on the white.

I've already asked Talar if it would be OK if I modified them.  Of course, she has said yes because what else do you say when someone says that the most perfect thing you've given can be made better (not the words that I used but that's how I feel it came across).  She's also indicated that if she likes what I've done she'll get her similar style ones done by me.

I'll let you know what I end up doing.  It would be intersting to hear if others have similar experiences.



Sunday, April 18, 2010

My 2010 goal - week 16 of canes

Hi Everyone,

I've been doing a lot of caning, which I happen to love. Ultimately in the next few months I want to cover a bottle. Here's one I did a few years ago which sits in our hutch. The bottle was a water bottle that we unknowingly ordered on a wedding anniversary when we asked for water at a fancy schmancy resaurant. At $11 for the bottle I decided that I was going to get more for the value than just very expensive water. The waiter did look at me like I had three heads when I asked to keep the bottle, but gave in graciously and allowed me to keep it.

I would say that this was my first large caning attempt. It's actually quite pretty and I do like it.

One thing that has happened over the years is that the caning has developped a number of fine cracks as you can see in the photo above. I don't know whether it's because I didn't bake it at a hot enough temperature or whether it's just a feature of ageing clay. It probably took three years for the cracks to show up and I don't look at it often enough to figure out whether they're increasing.

The cracks are fine enough that you wouldn't notice them until they were pointed out. At some point I might be tempted to antique them with a white if the pattern continues to expand. It might give some more interest.

But that's a task for much later.

In the mean time I've been compiling my canes for my next bottle. I have a number of them that I've reduced to about quarter inch high. I've been creating two inch samples of them and baking them. My hope is that when it comes time to organizing the canes I can use these to figure out what is most pleasing to my eye for layout on the bottle. Here's a sample of some of what I've got so far. It'll be interesting to see how the colours go together and I have some ideas for interest.

We'll see.



Oh, and by the way, I've added a list of the blog entries relating to the Year of Canes on the left of my blog. It's a quick way of seeing what I've done so far if you're interested.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Monster Canes - week 15 of canes

Hi Everyone,

We had a clay day today Barb's house.  Three Barbs, a Patti, me, and Elaine.  They worked on beads and I worked on this monster cane.  I've been wanting to do him for a while and yesterday with the good company was a perfect time.

This cane was inspired by the beautiful fish canes from Kim Korringa.  I simply flipped the fish 90 degrees, added some feet and arms, and presto! Monster canes.

I started using an oval cutter and cutting into a purple and a turquoise skinner blend.  These were remnants from when I was trying to choose colours for the spiral cane that I did earlier.  Cut about 3/8 down and reversed the heads.  Inserted a bullseye cane into the heads and then added other details. 

If you haven't noticed yet, take a look at the photo and see that there really are two different coloured monsters. 

I put one oval on top of the other and pushed them together firmly so on one end of the cane I had a purple headed monster and on the other end of the cane I had a turquoise headed monster.  Wrapped these in translucent, cut away the translucent to make the feet and arms and then started reducing.

One thing became quickly apparent.  Even though I thought my black clay in the bullseye for the eye was soft enough, it wasn't.  It didn't want to move.  And, because I had put the bullseye cane into each monster separately, when I was reducing from the middle it simply travelled to the outside of the cane and left a gaping hole in the middle.  As a consequence the middle of the cane monsters don't have eyes.  You can see that in the smaller cane bits in the photos.  I suspect if I had created the eyes after joining the two ovals together then this wouldn't have happend.

But the cane came out OK and now I have bits to make Bottles with.  Best of all the bottle toppers are perfect just with a googly eye glued to them.  Easiest way to make bottle lids and that's always a good thing.

He/they are cute and I'll try something like this again.  Perhaps I'll even make fish canes since I suspect that they might make beautiful wonderful BOHs.  The process took about two hours and I've got about 6 inches of cane.  A lot of that was colour selection.

Thanks to Kim Korringa for the inspiration.



Friday, April 16, 2010

My new earrings!

Hi Everyone,

I received a new pair of earrings in the mail today from 2 Good Claymates.  It was part of a swap that we had arranged.  I sent her bits and pieces of my landscape canes plus a couple of other things and from that I received these earrings!

I love them and am going to wear them to work today.  They're light and fun and feel so nice when I swish my head around.

If you look closely you can see bits of her extruded spiral cane in the cane work.

Carolyn has recently introduced me to Clay Lessons an on-line site that lists all sorts of tutorials on clay, many of them free.

Thanks so much Carolyn!  These are going to be a wonderful part of my collection of earring collection and they already look very pretty on my earring holder.

Now off to figure out what to wear.



Thursday, April 15, 2010

Awesome! My new favourite website...

Hi Everyone,

I found out about today in the newspaper and decided to check it out. Neil Pasricha's goal is to blog about 1000 awesome things. He writes about the simple to the complex. Some of his entries are longer and some are fairly short. Many of them made me smile and a few made me laugh out loud. I was even surprised to find out that someone else has recognized one of my favourite simple pleasures, the gas arrow

Here's a song that was written about his blog and is posted on his blog entry.

I'm going to make it my home page and hope to start most days with a smile.




Saturday, April 10, 2010

Chef Scoopy Thingy... aka the Graham Kerr Bash n Chop/Cutter

Hi Everyone,

In yesterday's blog I posted my list of things that I needed to bring to Morrisburg. As I was typing out the list I had a brain lapse on the tool that I wanted to bring and ended up calling it the Chef Scoopy Thingy.  Deborah commented about it and wanted to know what it was.  Turns out that the Graham Kerr version is also called the Bash n Chop/Cutter, which is a way more fun description but I would imagine wouldn't have provided any more clarity if I had posted that wording.  It's also known as a bench knife, pastry cutter, dough scraper, and various other names.  I think I like the Bash n Chop best.

One of our fellow guild clayers, Barbara, had recommended the dough scraper as an all purpose clay tool and I have to say it lives up to that. I use it primarily for scooping clay off my tile and for making sure that my clay cane slices are in a straight line (more on that in a later posting).  I would imagine that you can use the curved surface as a baking form for petals, bracelets, pendants, and other things.  I also use mine as a rough cutter for when my blades have temporarily turned themselves invisible on my work surface.  It's also been handy for taking things out of the oven and for pressing down the air bubbles that sometimes show up on the flat clay surfaces.  I like the little ruler it has on my version and that's come in handy.  Perhaps the best thing about it is that it's a good size and rarely gets lost in my work area.

I found mine at a Salvation Army at Christmas and scooped it up when I saw it.  Apparently you can buy similar versions in dollar stores, but I particularly like that mine is a Graham Kerr one as it makes me smile.

If you're not familiar with Graham Kerr, he was known as the Galloping Gourmet in the 60s and 70s with a focus on fats and alcohol.  I was a kid then and thought he was hilarious.  I still smile just listening to him talk.  He's still around and has become a much healthier chef.  There is a wonderful series of several hundred recipes and associated videos that he's created at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.  It's actually quite an amazing site, you can click on the recipe search tab, check the ingredients that you want to use, and it generates a whole listing of healthy recipes.  Or you can simply click on the recipe index to see all the scrumptious sounding recipes.  I spent a happy hour this morning clicking and choosing and I've decided that this week's menu will be recipes from this site keeping in mind that I've got a couple of large butternut squash and sweet potatoes to use up.  Here's what I've got so far.

I'm also looking forward to trying

But I can't quite get my head around the Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce.

Anyhow, short story long, thanks, Deborah, for asking the question on what my chef scoopy thingy was. I've gotten two things accomplished out of that relatively simple question, a blog entry and a grocery list with a menu plan.

Not a bad way to start a Saturday at all.



Friday, April 9, 2010

She's making a list and checking it twice....

Morrisburg is happening soon!

Hi Everyone,

In just a few short weeks Morrisburg will be upon us.  It's an annual gathering of 30+ women from Ontario and Quebec.  We meet for a long weekend and clay all weekend long.  I was dragged kicking and screaming to it five years ago by some women I had barely gotten to know at Guild.  I then became one of the biggest converts as the session had met and exceeded my every expectation.  It's now something I look forward to every year.

There's lots of claying, eating, laughter, friendship, and happy exhaustion.  Everyone is incredibly warm and giving in their time, talent, and companionship.  I'm smiling as I type this because it's just so much fun.

The photos above are a collage of the lessons that we'll be learning this year.  It's a good mix of items and I'm looking forward to each and every one of them.  I'll be giving a tutorial in one of the evenings, on some caning techniques that I've been playing with.  You'll get to see the canes after Morrisburg.

I've started putting some things aside for packing.  Here's the list of everything I've got to put together and figure out how to pack.  There will be a lot of "oh, and I guess I should also add..." as I browse my hobby room.  Fortunately I know that if I forget something someone else will have one.

Paints, Inks, Liquids and other tints
  • Acrylic paints in favourite colours
  • Glazing medium or pre-mixed acrylic glazes
  • Dollar store paint brushes
  • Paint Pallette
  • Pallette knife
  • Acrylic gel medium that dries clear (Golden brand or modge podge)
  • Pearlized acrylic paint
  • Stamping ink
  • Water container
  • Alcohol inks
  • Pearlex powders
  • Future floor finish
  • Armorall
  • Water spray bottle
  • Alcohol
  • fabric acrylic paints or inks(Dye Na Flow) - 1-3 colours
  • sponges and makeup brushes
  • Liquid Clay
  • Wooden boxes
  • Small tins
  • Empty match boxes
  • Bottles
  • Glued books

  • Glue – White craft glue and acid free glue stick – PVA or archival
  • Loctite
  • TLS
  • Adhesive Tape
  • Weldbond

Blades and Cutters
  • Cane cutting blades
  • Heavy duty utility knife with supply of extra blades
  • Scissors
  • Cutting mat
  • Cookie cutters
  • Chef scoopy thingy
  • Kemper cutters

  • Cork-backed metal ruler
  • Cutting Mat or cardboard
  • Small measuring containers from Lee Valley
  • Bone folder
  • Wax paper
  • Paper towels
  • Hole punches
  • Gloves for hot clay
  • Styrofoam
  • Bull dog clips
  • Straight pins
  • Key rings
  • Plastic sheet protectors
  • Sponges
  • Toothbrush
  • Credit card
  • -20 g. wire and flat-nose plier
  • -cotton balls
  • knitting needle
  • mica sheets
  • Small white vinyl canvas
  • Mr. Clean magic eraser

Clay Tools
  • Extruder
  • Roller
  • Tile/s
  • Pasta Machine
  • Polymer clay extruder with discs

  • Bake n Bend clay
  • -polymer clay - white,black, translucent,ecru,pearl and brown
  • black clay
  • Scrap clay
  • light coloured polymer clay
  • Play dough
  • Flesh
  • Other colours
  • Samples for tutorial

Textures and stamps
  • Images for collages and transfers
  • -small rubber stamps (ex. star,leaf)
  • Textures
  • Word stamps

  • beads,
  • headpins, earrings
  • glitter,
  • marker pens,
  • brads, eyelets & eyelet setter,
  • found objects,
  • ribbons, yarns, wire, bits of fabric, sewing needles, thread, coins, buttons

Junque Table stuff
Show and Tell

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Flower canes - week 14 of canes and Bottles 33 - 41

Hi Everyone,

I've been lamenting my lack of creativity these last couple of weeks.  I have no focus and about a 2 minute attention span.  Some of it is I've got so much that I want to do that I can't seem to keep my mind on any one project. But I suspect that some of it might be that the winter blahs suppress me somehow.

So this weekend has been absolutely gorgeous outside, birds are singing, flowers are blooming, sun is shining, and I even wore a skirt and t-shirt yesterday outside.

And, of course, in addition to wanting to be outside, my hobby room finally starts calling my name.  At first it's a whisper and I drift in an out of the room in 30 second visits.  But then, just as the sun is fully overhead and it's absolutely perfect outside my room starts its siren song and I can no longer resist.  My hobby room is in the basement with no windows.  This happens every year.  First beautiful weekend and I can't seem to wait to get into the hobby room.

I succumbed today and made the following flower cane which seemed to me a compromise since my room wasn't letting me outside where the real flowers are.  As I was making it I was thinking to myself that I really hate making petaled flower canes.  I can never get them perfect.  One or two petals are generally misshapen, they're not centered correctly, and they usually frustrate me.  I tried two different methods today of making a flower cane.  One I haven't taken a photo of, and may not, since I'm unhappy with it.  This one I was going to try to reduce using the play-doh method but by the time I got to assembling the petals point I wasn't looking forward to the packing of clay and reduction.  I had sliced off a slice to see what it would look like and decided that no reduction required, that this would make a perfect topper to a bottle I was experimenting with (more on that in May).

And voila!  I love these.

These make Bottles 33 - 41.  The bloggers that these are dedicated on behalf of are:

33 - Sarcastic Quilter
34 - Paper Queen
35 - Krystal
36 - Sue
37 - Janice
38 - SewCalGal
39 - Stitchety Grub
40 - Tanya904
41 - Danit

I'm sure the Bottles of Hope will bring smiles to the cancer patients that receive them.  Thanks to the bloggers for entering my OWOH giveaway.

Happy spring and flowers to all.



Saturday, April 3, 2010

These have to be useful, right?

Hi Everyone,

We have a grown-up toy store in Canada called Lee Valley Tools.  It's where I buy my watchcases and we've got several other tools around the house from them. Others buy their pen blanks.  I can easily pass an hour in their store and we get frequent catalogs that are fun to peruse. To quote their website:

"Lee Valley Tools has been meeting the needs of serious woodworkers and gardeners for over 30 years as one of the leading mail-order and retail suppliers of woodworking tools, gardening tools and cabinet hardware. "

I don't go in very often because it's sometimes hard for me to come out with only what I was looking for.  Such was the case this last week when I went in to purchase five small rare earth magnets for a project that I want to do.

Instead, I came out with a sampler set of magnets, several nifty storage containers, and these sanding shapes.  I've already come up with uses for the storage containers - they're wonderful and the perfect size for holding the small Pearlex containers.  I also think I might start storing my canes in the square ones.  They're a really great value and work out to just under $2 per container.

The magnets will be useful for other things, and the set of fifty seemed a reasonable price of $15 vs the $4 I was going to pay for just five of them.  But in truth, I suspect they will sit on my shelf for a while until I do figure out what to do with them.

It's the sanders that were a complete impulse buy and I don't yet have a use for them.  But they look interesting.  I was intrigued by the shapes and thought for sure that I could use them either for moulding things, or heaven forbid, actually as sanding tools.  They're pretty flexible so I'm not sure how useful they'll be for shaping my clay and the clay does eat the rubber a bit so I'm going to have to be careful.

Anyhow, unless I'm at the dollar store I generally try to avoid buying on speculation, but I couldn't resist these.  I'm curious as to what I'm going to do with them.  I'd be willing to listen to suggestions other than how to sand with them.

If you're in Canada (or even the US since they do ship to the US) and haven't heard of Lee Valley Tools, then please do go spend a few minutes browsing their website and flip through their on-line catalogues.