Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My 65th Birthday and a new doll

I've owed this doll in a swap for a few weeks. The theme was announced as "art doll" with instructions to "embellish, embellish, embellish" on any chosen base--not exactly my definition, but I can run with it.

My partner asked for "winter" colors, and I had an idea & even assembled materials, but the doll refused to cooperate--don't you hate it when that happens?

Then Seth was in the hospital with pneumonia, which of course made everything else secondary--he's home now, and recovering, but we're staying pretty quiet.

Which brings me to my birthday. 65 years ago, at about 3am, I entered this lifetime. It's been an interesting and often enjoyable one, which I hope will continue for quite some time. As is often my practice, I set a few goals: by summer I want to have the garage, a big part of the reason we bought the house, turned back from storage to usable workspace--I've had an industrial serger out there for over 5 years and never been able to use it because it's inaccessible! Likewise a folding sewing table, which is now coming in for the winter. And my big kiln is just buried! So you can see why this makes sense.

After that, we need to decide whether to keep living here or rent or sell and move somewhere with public transit and/or warmer and possibly even cheaper--if we decide to do that, I'd like to be out by my next birthday.

But what I'm giving myself as a birthday present is permission to take time off from my stores and everything else & do something creative. It may not be dramatic--I have a couple of very minor projects waiting--but I started with this swap doll and know that the more I create the more ideas I'll have--not to mention the happier & less restless I'll be.

The doll is made of a piece of a recycled sweater with great beading--I'd also thought about a star doll, so it's kind of that too, but more a snowflake. The legs are a bit of some fabulous beaded trim I bought from somewhere in Eastern Europe or possibly Turkiye. The head is one of my own polyclay mixes made in a mold, then rubbed across a pearly ink pad, and the hands are from a lot of Tierra Cast pieces I recently bought for my store. My original plan was to wire or sew up the bottom of the sweater piece, but then I decided I liked its puppet-like quality, as well as its ability to de-institutionalize a cough-syrup bottle , or top off a glue bottle (or slide onto a branch, or......) so I left it open. Mary, the recipient, is free to change that, of course. Anyway, here are a few pics--I think it's both wintry and cheerful.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Post-Christmas bliss

Seth was in the hospital with pneumonia for a week right after my last post: he's been home but still pretty wiped out since the 23rd.
We were invited to visit daughters in Tacoma on Christmas day, but he was still too exhausted to be up for that long, I was still stiff from all the driving back & forth to hospital in Xmas shopper traffic. Things seemed a little bleak.

But yesterday the whole Tacoma crew came to visit us, bringing parts of Xmas dinner, gifts---but mostly their company! I was too busy playing with my darling grandbaby & talking to everyone else to even take a photo! Sure made my holiday brighter!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Chanukah

This should have been posted on the 14th, but I was fighting a very bad cold and am just starting to recover, so it's a bit late--but I think just as wonderful.

Tonight we celebrated night 4 of Chanukah at the home 2 of our daughters share, along with baby granddaughter and her father, youngest daughter's fiance, and our younger son, who still lives at home.Our youngest daughter has been coming over to help make latkes for the last few years, and even has her own Kitchen Magician (a non-electric gadget with various cutting and grating wheels without which I would probably never make anything requiring grating--I don't like the texdture produced by a food processor, and between arthritis, carpal tunnel, & fibromyalgia I can't do it by hand.So tonight her sister made sort of soupy chicken and she made perfect crispy latkes, and we used the menorah (very similar to my grandfather's) that she'd asked for a few Chanukahs ago. When I light my menorah I feel connected to my mother and her mother and so on back beyond counting, and tonight I had the naches of seeing that connection moving onward to a new generation. I am truly blessed. Leslie

Monday, December 14, 2009

Marlaine's doll class (continued)

Just because I haven't mastered getting the photos where I want them, here are the pics of my finished doll.

If you're familiar with James Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks you may (or may not) recognize him as as Prince Zorn of Zorna in disguise--"a wandering minstrel I, a thing of rags and tatters..." So here he is: note that those rather unfortunate teeth are gone.

More on that doll class

Marlaine Verhelst's doll class was a major factor in when we chose to go to Paris. I wanted to take it because Marlaine, in addition to being a fabulous doll maker, is a talented and skilled sculptor, and I wanted to improve my ability to sculpt realistic figures.

Anyone who knows me or has seen my work knows that this is not what I usually do, and, in fact, it's not something I want to do often, but I was feeling that I needed to have a better grounding, a more solid jumping-off place, if you will, to do what interests me. Look at Picasso--one of the things seeing a lot of his work in Paris made me remember that he was a consummate draftsman. So I thought doing something a bit more structured would ultimately give me more freedom. I don't know if that's true, but I enjoyed the class (and the week at the chateau, and the other participants and thier families) immensely, and I'm happy with my doll, too.

I told Marlaine before I signed up for the class that, much as I love her dolls, I'm not interested in making them, but wanted to learn some technique and refresh my basic knowledge of anatomy, which was fine with her.

Knowing that, can you guess which of the heads in this basket is mine?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Nikki de Saint Phalle (continued)

Last October we were in and around Paris.One week I was taking a doll sculpting class with Marlaine Verhelst at a chateau outside the city, and we had only Wednesday afternoon free for exploring. Seth and I went into Paris, spent a little time at the Pompidou Museum (which looks as though it was constructed by a giant with a Lego set), including a tour of Brancusi's studio in the basement, and went looking for a place to sit and have coffee before meeting a friend for a night of Parisian Arabic jazz (for lack of a better term--very exciting music). We came around a corner and there was the fountain pictured in my last post.
Designed by Jean Tinguely, master of the rusted mechanized kinetic sculpture, and Nikki de Saint Phalle, creator of the colorful happy figures, some of which are also kinetic (the mermaid revolves and water gushes from her breast) it absolutely stopped us in our tracks.
We sat down at a table near it and ordered coffee, which, in the Parisian fashion, came with delicious little chocolate wafers, and just looked--and took pictures, although, as you can probably see, it was getting dark.

We returned a few days later, when we were actually staying in Paris, and I bought a couple of books about Nikki and her work--one about her Tarot garden for an older friend who is a painter and also a Tarot reader, and one about her life and work in general for me.

I learned that she had been diagnosed with depression and given several courses of shock therapy, after which she did a series of paintings that apparently gained her quite a bit of notoriety--mostly white, very large, with bags of red paint hung behind them, and designed to be shot with real bullets so that the red would spurt out and add "blood" to the painting.

After that her work (and I assume her life) seems to have taken a much more positive turn, evident in this fountain among other things, and maybe especially in the Dancing Nanas series, of which there are small reproductions (no, I didn't buy one) in virtually every souvenir shop in Paris.

As you may have gathered, Nikki is my current favorite, and I just had to share.

Nikki de Saint Phalle

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My necklace is featured!

Have a look here! One of my favorite recycled pieces is featured on Maura's blog.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Peace Doll

As I think I said, this doll was done for a swap on the Decidedly Different Dolls list at yahoo. It's supposedly commemorating the 50th anniversary of the peace sign, though I have my doubts, being old enough to remember when we wore "Aldermaston buttons", so named for a British peace demonstration, and were told they were an ancient symbol which with legs down meant "man lives" and with legs up, "man dies".

Be that as it may, we're having this swap, and the rules are simple: make a doll no larger than 4" (5") using a peace sign as an integral part of the design.

My original concept was to sew over a wired peace sign, but the doll fought me, so, preferring unbroken sewing machine needles I just zigzagged a peace sign, went over it 3 or 4 times, added stiffener,k & dried it in the microwave.

Then I added the other pieces, and here it is. Since the head is mounted on a pinback, it can also be worn.

On a more positive note

I'd put ribbons and chains on some assorted pendants & lockets while sitting around at the craft fair we did last weekend, and stuff suddenly started to sell & continued to do well until closing! (Mind you, this was mostly stuff in the $5-15 range, but people were buying multiples.

So I've just started posting some of these at The Creative Block, www.siragwatkins.etsy.com and will continue. If you're looking for inexpensive Hanuka gifts, stocking stuffers, gift exchange items, etc. support from friends is always welcome.

I've also finally figured out (or maybe I shoulod say come to an accomodation with--she's been fighting me!) the Peace Doll I owe for a swap--I've got the pieces made, will post pics once she's assembled. Then I've promised to do an Art Doll--that certainly leaves some latitude!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Computer frustration

Not only can't I open the backup drive, I can't even find it! Not the physical box--that's here--but there's nothing on the computer that I can even try to access!
The add new hardware wizard doesn't "see" it. There's no icon on my computer page.
It doesn't show up when I go to the systems listing either. I am stumped--time to get technical support again, I guess. I wonder if Vince is up?

Computer dependence

My PC has crashed--apparently from a combination of a nasty virus and too much dust.
Our friend Vince came by to see if he could start it again after it went into a loop that couldn't quite open Windows, and showed me the dust problem. Apparently the magnetism involved in computer operation attracts dust particles in even the most spotless houses (which mine isn't), and when it builds up to a certain point the fans overheat and fry something--in this case I think the hard drive, and the motherboard succumbed to the virus, but maybe that's backwards. However, the point is that we should all have a nice big can of air next to our computers and open them up and use it to blow the dust out of the fans fairly often.

At any rate, I'm using my beloved Thinkpad, bought for our Europe trip last year, and realizing how much of my life and work is on these machines.
Among other things, all the photos for my stores and of my family are stored on the PC, meaning that I can't post new items without re-taking pics UNLESS I can pull them off my external hard drive, on which I back everything up frequently. I'm about ready to have a run at that--I think most of the photos (except maybe the most recent ones of our newest granddaughter) should be there, but I've never tried to access them. I used to back up on CDs, which took a long time, so when Seth got a newer bigger drive & gave me this one, I was delighted: it can back up not only quickly, but while I'm doing something else. The only question is, can I read it?

I am reasonably computer savvy--at least I know when I've reached the limit of what I can do and need to call for help--but I'm still intimidated about trying new stuff without guidance. I'm pretty sure that attaching the drive to this machine's USB port is safe, and that probably I can access it--but then what? Is it formatted like my computer? Can I just go to the pics? Or will I have to wade through oceans of code trying to find something I recognize?

Well, the PC is over at Vince's undergoing whatever lifesaving procedures are available, so I'll just have to take a deep breath and give it a try.

For anyone else whose relationship to this stuff is similar, I'll report back.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An experiment: etsy team ESST slideshow

Word is, if I paste this code in the right spot, we can all see a slideshow created by Karen, of Runs With Scissors, featuring members of the etsy Supplies Street Team. I'm on the team, but haven't seen the slideshow & don't know if my shop's featured, but I'm going to give it a whirl.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: ESST Autumn Leaves
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow

Art and sales

I have 2 etsy shops.
The first one, The Creative Block, at www.siragwatkins.etsy.com sells my own stuff, a few vintage items, and the occasional exceptional carving or casting from my international (usually Asian) suppliers.
The second one, Findings, www.leslietsy.etsy.com sells findings, beads, components of various sorts for people who make their own jewelry or whatever.
Of course Findings has many more sales--but just when I'm feeling really discouraged and wondering whether it's even worth keeping The Creative Block online, I'll get a sale.
Tonight was one of those times--the sale was a small one, which is OK--I try to keep a range of prices in the store so just about anyone can afford something--but this was interesting. I have some handmade fused glass pendants and a few other things for about the same price.as well as some pieces I'm really pleased with for more, but what sold was a pair of earrings with tiny Pet Milk cans dangling from a piece of filigree attached to an earwire. I tried to put a link here, but it doesn't work--you can see them by clicking The Creative Block link and going to the sold items list in the lower part of the right-hand column.
Of course I'm happy--it's a sale, and it is something I made--but I also have mixed emotions about these, of all the cool things in my store, being what sold. They're humorous, of course, and nostalgic, and kind of cute, but........
I'm not sure exactly what the word for this is--I think irony may be as close as I can get.
I'm not complaining, mind, just a bit bemused--comments are welcome!