Sunday, September 27, 2009

So Proud of Paula!

My sister-in-law, Paula Mandel, is getting ready for her big show opening next Friday:

Snyderman/Works Gallery: Found Objects 2 Invitational
Olde City, Phila
Oct 2 (“First Friday” opening5-9pm) - Nov 15, 2009
Paula started as a painter, creating stunning portraits of family members, as well as herself.

oil on linen

She then moved onto a fascination with pears and other fruit - but mostly pears.

"Crossing To Safety"
Kiln-cast glass, granite, gold leaf, prismacolor

A few years ago she started taking classes in glass and found herself. Now she makes fanciful and thought-provoking sculptures combining her glass work and found objects:

"Wishing Well"
flameworked, fused and coldworked glass, mirror, soup pot, meat grinder handle, door knob, grass, weeds, zippers, eggshells, feathers, bones, tatting, flowers, leaves, copper, leather, rubber grommets

"Baby Steps"
kiln-cast glass, flameworked glass, mirror, clock, artist-wrought chain, clock, grass, roller skate, safety pins, cobbler lasts, rubber grommets

"Mom To The Rescue"
Flameworked and fused glass, vintage toaster, roller skate, hand drill, brass pins, copper, lead

To see more of her remarkable pieces, visit her website.

If any of you are in the Philadelphia area during this showing, you should stop by and check it out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dusting Off My Sewing Skills

Ever since my hand injury four years ago, I put my sewing machine away. It physically hurt to go through the various stages of garment construction, between the scissors hitting my damaged thumb joint, and the tennis elbow that still plagues me today. Then there was the mental hurt that I was no longer able to do something I've enjoyed since I was 12 years old.

Luckily, I found something else I'm good at - and enjoy immensely. I've been narrowly focused on beadwork, and after my last project, my brain is tired! My last sewing project was a handbag I made from a Sweetbriar Studio pattern. After so many years of service, the bag is pretty sad looking now. Time to make another!

I already had this pattern on my shelf, and my studio closet is full of cotton fabrics in a variety of colors and shibori patterns. Sounds like a project-in-the-making, right? Yes indeedy. I took my time making the bag, which was a novelty for me. I used to sew under deadlines: rush, rush rush...

I love the way the bag turned out. The pattern called for a single patch pocket inside, which was to be divided into two tall and skinny pockets. But I have obsessive tendencies - I need MORE POCKETS! I added three more, and now everything is in it's own place. Perfect!

Nice to know I still have some skills, though they are a bit rusty.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What's Cooking Sunday / Butternut Squash Soup

Fall is almost upon us, and that means the first pot of my favorite soup is simmering on the stove. God, the color, the smell, the texture... what's not to love about this fabulous recipe?

Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 4

1.5 T freshly grated ginger root
1/2 C chopped onion
3 T butter
4 C peeled, seeded butternut squash (about 1.5 pounds)
2 C chicken broth
1.5 C water
3 cloves garlic
2 T fresh lime juice to taste
lime slices for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place squash in a pan and roast for 30 minutes. Take it out of the oven, prick it several times with a knife, turn it, and roast for another 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Peel, and cut into large pieces.

In large saucepan, cook onion and ginger in butter over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened.

Add squash, broth, water, and garlic. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 20 minutes until squash is soft. Puree and add lime juice. Serve hot or at room temperature. Mmmmm, Mmmmm, Gooood!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Don't Screw It Up!"

This has been my mantra since beginning this necklace: "Don't screw it up, don't screw it up...".

I sold the last bead embroidered necklace I made last month and I've been itching to do another. While searching for a central focal point, I tore my studio apart. Lurking in a drawer were some beautiful buttons I'd bought long ago when I was making wearable art jackets.

This one is a porcelain raku-fired little beauty from Rama Buttons of Olympia, Washington. I picked it up, held it in my hand, and knew: This Was It.

I started this necklace after dinner one night. I stitched down the three main central pieces: button, sponge coral, and carnelian. And that finished bit got me so excited I had to keep going.

Every time I work a new piece, I feel angst at the end of each stage. This time was no different, and it was powerful. After eight hours of work, I finished the netted "wings" around the button and I was stumped. What to do next? Do I leave it like this and turn it into a pendant? Marble Man piped up and told me, "No, you need to keep it going".

I decided I should treat the necklace like a drawing and started "doodling" with the beads.

The clasp treatment in the last piece was such a hit, that I did something similar for this one - you can see it in the lower corner of the picture.

Each stage of this necklace had me nervous. I'd work in 8 hour stretches, complete a section, then walk away for a day or two to think on it. All together, it took about 36 hours, start to finish.

The materials for this project were all things I had in the studio. I've got a lot of beads and I'm conscientiously trying to use what I have and not buy more... yet.

Long ago I accepted that stress and angst are part of "my process". It adds a level of excitement to the work, and keeps me on my toes. I have to push myself out of my comfort zone to move forward, and I think the finished pieces are stronger for it.

All I need now is to find a willing model to wear it so I can get a picture, then I'll be able to list it for sale in my Etsy shop. Any takers?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What's Cooking Sunday / Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Muffins

muffin glamour shot

Who hasn't let a bunch of bananas get so so ripe that they practically mash themselves when you pick them up? Before leaving for vacation, I put a pretty ripe bunch in the fridge so I wouldn't have to come home to a puddle on the kitchen counter. When we got home they were intact, though mighty soft. For breakfast I made a batch of these muffins and we ripped through them so fast that I made another batch this week!

Just a note: these banana muffins taste best when the bananas used are good and black, but not to the alcohol stage.

Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Muffins
serves 12
preheat oven to 400 degrees

1-3/4 C all purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

1 egg, beaten
1/3 C vegetable oil
1/2 C skim milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 C mashed banana (about 3 bananas)

1/2 C chopped walnuts
2 oz miniature chocolate chips

Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray or line with papers.

In large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk together. Make a well in the center and set aside.

In small bowl, combine the wet ingredients well and pour all at once into the center of the dry ingredients. Mix quickly with as little stirring as possible. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips.

Divide the batter evenly in the muffin tin and bake 20-25 minutes until golden. Check with a toothpick for doneness. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes.

Mmmmm... yummy!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

New Work, Surprises, And An Introduction

For a while now, I've been meaning to write a post to introduce the OTHER Shiborigirl, and this seems like a great time to do it. A few times in the past people have emailed me about comments left under the name shibori girl on my blog posts, thinking it was me who wrote them. But not so...

Glennis Dolce is the owner of Shibori Girl Studios in Long Beach, CA. Apparently we have parallel blogs: I'm on Blogspot and she's at Wordpress. I introduced myself to Glennis during the One World One Heart event last winter, and I was a little nervous, afraid that she'd think I was stomping on her patch. Luckily, she thought it was funny that we had the same internet name and we seem to get along great. We've had some time to get to know each other a little on Facebook, and I'm a true fan of her work. Take a stroll through her shop when you've got some time, or check out her blog.

As well, she's got some videos on youtube where she demonstrates her dye process at a show, and her flickr account shows her beautiful shibori ribbon flowers.

Last month, I posted pictures on Facebook of my new woven beaded beads, and Glennis wrote that she thought I should string them onto some of her silk shibori ribbons. She sent me two yards of ribbons, one yard each of two different colorways, and I am in love!

Gorgeous, shimmery, saturated colors and crisp, tight pleats.

Oh boy, I'm gonna enjoy incorporating this into future pieces. And when I put my newest beaded bead onto the pink and purple piece:

Hazzah... perfection! I still have to work out how to finish off the ends and put a clasp on and then we'll be golden.

Thank you so much, Glennis.
Now, I think I heard you ask, "How did Kate make that beautiful bead?" OK, I'll show you...

First, I made a tubular base structure using the right-angle weave method. The barrel shape of the bead is achieved by using three different bead sizes ranging smallest-to-largest-to-smallest.

Then, I embellished this tubular base with several rows of decorative beads, interlocking the rows for strength and beauty.

As a last touch on this particular bead, I added some chartreuse green seed beads for a surprise hint of color. Start to finish, one of these beauties takes at least two hours to complete - some as long as three hours!

Sorry folks, this bead has already sold, but stay tuned to my Etsy shop for new additions coming soon...

There's something so cool about making things I love (beads) from the things I love (BEADS!).
Update 9/6/09

I read Glennis' comment on this post this morning and got to work finishing that shibori ribbon necklace shown above.

I stitched the ribbon into a tube, turned it inside out, and finished the ends with silver caps.

I added a chain for adjustable length, and "voila!"...

... a beautiful, lightweight necklace. Thanks again, Glennis!
I hope you all have a fabulous weekend. What's Cooking Sunday posts will resume next weekend... still dealing with "vacation brain" here!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Philosophy of a Stamp Tramp

I was visiting around Bloglandia last weekend, and came across a post written by a new (to me) blogger. Stephanie is an artist, and in this post, she discussed little collages she was making from torn up postage stamps.... Torn. Up. Stamps. Whhaaaaaat?!!

As a lapsed stamp collector, this idea shocked me to my core. I think I actually felt pain. I'm a bit of a control freak and I need my small treasures to remain intact. But, Stephanie's post made me think and I pulled out my stamp books to look at them again.

I put my stamp collection away in 1988; I was newly married and I liked to spend my time with my Marble Man, not pretty little bits of paper. As I pulled my books and boxes out, I found loads of unsorted stamps - some soaked off their envelopes and ready for installation, others still attached.... little Windows To The World.

The frontis page of my father's album

Memories of quiet childhood afternoons came flooding back: sitting at a table, holding a stamp and searching through my book to find its proper place, the little catch of excitement when I realized I had "something special" this time.... Each stamp has a story to tell, some reason for being. My child's brain would wonder (and wander) about the country that printed such a tiny piece of art. Some of the beauty belied a tragic or violent history,


others celebrated their nation's accomplishments,

and still others rejoiced in the natural bounty available in their corner of the universe.

Nature stamps, Guyana

My first exposure to this gentle hobby was during a Thanksgiving trip to my uncle's house in Rochester, NY.

Uncle T and me last summer

I was about 10 years old and, late one night, I padded downstairs in my jammies to find my uncle poring over piles of postage stamps and a book with regimented rows of colored squares.

He generously answered all my questions and showed me how to mount the stamps and care for them. (Patience with small children is one of his many virtues.) For Christmas that year he sent me a starter book of my own as well as a large pile of duplicate stamps from his collection. And I was off...

Very early US stamp, around 1908?

I would study each stamp,

Austria, Early 1900's

learn its country of origin, and then look it up in the encyclopedia set my parents had. As I learned, I dreamed of visiting some of the places with the most beautiful postage stamps.

Czechoslovakia, mid-1970's

I learned about my own country's history - from the 1930's through the 1950's we produced some amazing commemorative stamps marking important steps for our fledgling land.

US commemoratives

I had a ritual when I visited our local post office. I would ask the teller what stamps were new, and she'd pull out sheets and sheets and sheets. So many to choose from. Then I'd pick just one and buy a block of four, or even a plate block (a group of four with the registration number in the selvage). I'd take my new purchase home and put it in a glassine envelope to protect it. Mint Condition. Such a luscious phrase. I have all those still - I look at them and remember each trip I made to buy them.

just a few blocks! There are more...

Imagine, because of our digital age, someday people won't remember the beauty of stamps. Emails have taken the place of thoughtfully written letters - it's so much faster to click on a new message on the computer. I remember the little lurch of my heart when the postman delivered a loved one's letter. Now either the mailbox is stuffed with unwanted junk mail, or I open it and moths fly out.

In this time of cheap long distance minutes we enjoy the immediacy of a phone call. I can remember my parents telling me the phone is only used for emergencies or birthdays - want to tell Grandmother in Florida something? Write her a letter - stamps are cheap.

After looking at my own stamp collection, I realize that there are thousands of other collections out there; the history and culture of postage stamps is well-preserved. So, if a talented person wants to take some, rip 'em up, and make something remarkable from them, well, more power to her.

I culled a healthy selection of my own duplicate collection and sent them off to Stephanie for her to use as she wishes.

Lucky little stamps!
So, anyone else out there share my passion for stamp collecting? What are your stories? What got you started?