Sunday, October 30, 2011

Glowing Petroglyphs gourd bowl

The Native Forum team on Etsy is participating in an 'Artists Exposed' treasury this coming November. That is a gathering of listings where the lead picture is a shot of the artist themselves, rather than the item. It lets folks get to know one another a little bit better. I didn't participate last year (my native blood dates back to the 1800's, so I always feel like a visitor to the team), but got my guts up to play along this time. But I wanted to have a new piece of art work for the listing.

So, I took the time this week to transform this gourd:

The gourd was originally grown in Casa Grande, Arizona. I scrubbed it down, sawed it open, scooped out the innards, and cleaned and sanded it up. Then I dyed the bowl inside and out with a half dozen blended colors of leather dye, and sealed it with several light layers of clear spray. The darker streaks down the outside of the gourd were inspired by a phenomenon called 'desert varnish', which is a dark patina that forms on cliff faces in arid climates.

I sewed a decorative chevron rim treatment in waxed linen.

Then came the fun part. I regularly go hiking in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park, located just west of Phoenix, Arizona. If you look carefully when you are on the trails, you can spot ancient petroglyphs that were carved into the desert varnish by the Hohokam Indians, probably somewhere between A.D. 500 - 1100. Rangers say that some of the images may actually be up to 10,000 years old. I have collected many pictures of the petroglyphs, and for this bowl I went back through my albums for inspiration.

I sketched the symbols on the gourd, and then carefully drilled holes along my lines. It adds a nice texture to the gourd during the day...

but the bowl really comes alive at night. The next pictures are of the bowl in low light conditions, with a tap light inside of it. With light streaming from inside, the ancient images take on a glowing new life.

You can find the bowl at

For my own 'Glowing Petroglyphs' piece I use a votive candle on a stand inside, which makes a lovely warm and flickering light. But the gourds are flammable. I don't leave mine unattended, but for safety's sake I sell the gourds with a tap light included instead of a candle.

Oh...the picture I used for the 'Artists Exposed' part of this? I grabbed this one that my daughter snapped of me last July. I was in my studio, trying out one of her pop-tab necklaces. They are actually quite comfortable, and really fun. She's planning on listing them in her own shop over the next week or so. That is a D&D d20 dice hanging from the choker. Yes, we're gamer geeks over here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wet felted juggling balls

I'm making juggling balls tonight. This is a great way to recycle used golf balls! I wrap the golf ball in three light layers of wool roving, and then add wisps of various colors of roving on the surface as decoration.

I love the transformation that wool goes through on its way to becoming felt! Magic indeed. On the left in the above picture, you see the golf ball wrapped in the roving, just before the felting process.

I've wet down the middle ball with hot, soapy water. I've started gently tossing it back from hand to hand, to create a kind of skin on the ball. Felt happens when wool fibers are exposed to water and agitation, and microscopic scales on the fibers kind of velcro themselves to each other. Heat and soap help the process along.

The ball on the right has been rolled around between my hands for awhile. The fibers have locked together, and shrunk down tight around the golf ball. From here, I toss the juggling balls into my clothes dryer. They thump around and make a gawd-awful racket, but the heat and agitation finishes the process of hardening the felt.

The finished balls end up looking like this:

The golf ball core gives these juggling balls a nice weight and solidity for throwing. The felt coat gives the balls a nice bit of grip, so they don't slide out of your hands quite as easily. My juggler friends give these a thumbs up.

Who knew silk could walk off on its own?

Well, I think I took another step forward in being a maker of desirable pretties. In a backhanded sort of way. It goes like this...

A few weeks ago, I took my hand painted silk scarves and ties into work for the students to look at. And soon after that, I had the scarves and ties on display at the concert my singing group gave. They were on a table in the back of the room, while I sang with the group in the front. (You see where this is going?) There was a big sign with them, giving the prices, mentioning that a portion of each sale went to benefit Celtica!, and giving my contact information.

Fast forward to last night. One of my scarves sold through my Etsy shop. ( ) This morning I went to package the scarf up...and it wasn't in the bag with the rest of my inventory. I tore my studio apart, thinking I had misplaced it (and collapsed my craft table on top of me in the process--but that is another story). It was nowhere to be found. I was late to work at this point, so off I went.

There is a lot of time to think and mull things over when you are a life drawing model. I worked two classes, which means 6 hours (more or less) of pondering. When I came back home, I followed a hunch and checked the inventory in my bag of goodies against the inventory in my Etsy store. Sure enough, in addition to the one scarf, there was a second scarf missing (different size, but same color scheme) as well as one of the ties. Yup. Somewhere along the line, I had gotten shoplifted.

This is the first theft of my hand made items. In a very back handed way, I feel more legitimate now. Frustrated, absolutely. But like I passed a rite of passage. I tell you what though, next time I'm not leaving my goods at the other side of the room, even for an instant!

I made things right with last night's customer, thank goodness. I refunded her money, and will be sending her second choice scarf to her free of charge. I hated having to tell her that the scarf she bought had already found feet and walked off on its own. She was very understanding, so all is good there.

I hope whomever has my scarves and tie enjoys them. No, really. I'd like my work to be treasured.

But I'm a little disappointed in human kind at the moment.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Celtica!, silk scarves and ties, and a hand made lucet

I sing with a group called Celtica!, that is based out of the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix, Arizona. We held a concert last night in memory of one of our charter members who passed away recently. It actually went quite well, despite my butterflies. I do so love singing in a group. I just don't like performing in front of actual people. Somehow that performance thing comes with the territory, though.

I gave my camera to a friend (Rebecca Baum) for the evening. She got several good shots of us, despite the low light and the lack of flash photography. I went in and cropped them up a little bit. What I'm really pleased with is how well the scarves and ties pop out. These are some of my hand painted silk pretties that the group uses as accents to the outfits during formal performances. They really give the group a unified look.

That is me on the far left in the first row.

In other news, my birthday was last Wednesday. My husband has been busily at work in the wood shop, making me fiber tools. He's almost got the charkha finished, for spinning fine cotton yarn. He did get a lucet done for me, made of walnut. A lucet is a tool for making strong, fine cording for things like drawstrings and laces. I think I've convinced him to make up some more of these, so I may end up expanding my Etsy shop to carry these too. In the mean time, I love mine!

Now, it is a lovely afternoon here in Phoenix, so I'm going to go enjoy the daylight and work in my front courtyard. It is so nice to be able to get outside again, after the heat of a desert summer!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

SCA: Atenveldt Arts & Sciences Championship...sort of

I'm part of the Society for Creative Anachronism, which is a historical recreation group that studies the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Today was my kingdom's Arts and Sciences Championship event. I brought along my camera, because I had planned to make a blog entry with all of the lovely items that folks had come up with. But, well...I never did get to see the entries. When they are being judged, the general public isn't allowed in the display room. And just before they opened it up for public viewing, I was called away to a meeting that lasted for more than an hour. By the time I got out, the display had been cleaned up. So, I really have no idea what was entered this time around.

However, I still had a marvelous day, and I'm going to show you pictures of all of the unofficial artsy stuff that went on. This is what the rest of us did to amuse ourselves while the judges were busy with the official business of the day.

To start off, we got there while the King and Queen were holding their court, where announcements are made and awards are given. I was pleased to see my apprentice get recognized for his artistic ability. (He is an awesome bard, and also does map making and teaches how to make drinking horns.) In this picture, the King is about to present him with a hand illuminated and calligraphied scroll suitable for framing. The scribes in our group work hours and hours to create individual works of art for all the award recipients.

After court, the judges went off to do their thing, and the rest of us looked for ways to pass the time. The rapier fighters and the heavy armored fighters both held tournaments that were fun to watch. Here is my champion in the heavy tournament, just an instant before he delivered a blow to his opponent's leg. Good clean shot! The armor, costumes, and weapons are hand made. (They're wearing more armor under the tunics.) You can't just go to WalMart to get a helm these days, you know?

Speaking of costumes, everyone who attended the event was in some sort of costume. Most had made the outfit themselves. Some of these get very elaborate and accurate to the time period. This is my daughter's friend, in a dress she designed and sewed based on a portrait of one of Henry VIII's wives. Isn't she spectacular?

Back inside, we had various musicians playing the afternoon away.

Lots of people brought some sort of handwork to do, and to teach others.

And, there were some items on display that weren't in the actual competition.

All in all, it was a marvelous day. I'm still a bit put out that I didn't get to see the actual competition portion of the day...but I spent my time surrounded by good friends, beautiful things, and people who were more than willing to share the neat arts that they were passionate about. How can you go wrong?