Saturday, August 11, 2007

Craft mag

This is the summer issue of Craft, a rather grand new-this-year magazine. I thought so (and subscribed!) even before this.
Since it's small, and rather a poor (low-light; remembered late to photograph), here's the original:I'm in print!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

I missed my house

Always a nice thing about going away is coming home, and feeling at home. This was our first long trip away from our home in Pennsylvania, and I have spent much of this week back feeling grand about being back. When we crossed the state line, I thought the green hills and thick, verdant old-growth forests and fields of corn were prettier than anywhere else we'd been. My house admittedly still needs decorating help, but little details like the rainbow above my kitchen sink have made me happyhappyhappy to be here.

And this new beauty in our yard:The hugest, and shockingly bright, fuchsia hibiscus flowers.

I have loved watching the yard unfold throughout the year, and thinking of the 80+ years of gardeners who have each added their bits. There is always something new blooming, and it often totally surprises me. My daughter always marvels at how "you know the name of every single plant we ever see!", but I know the truth: I have much to learn.

back to business!

We decided to spend July on the road, and logged 6K+ miles on our "new" car. A major priority of mine in car shopping last summer (besides AIR CONDITIONING!) was the lovely new car warrantee. The selected model had a 3 year/36K mile one, which wasn't too bad, and we happily used it on this very trip when our CD player prematurely died. I was vaunting the new car and its so lovely warrantee that we were only one year into....and then my husband reminded me that, at 31K miles, our "new" car was almost done with its free repair period. Weeping.

I think a car lease will never be for us :)

ANYWAY, the road trip was horrible and marvelous, as all good road trips should be. We spent long and happy hours with family and friends we adore, many of which fall into the cherished categories of "family who are friends" and "friends who are family". You know who you are! Perhaps the greatest serendipity of the trip was combining our trip out west with dear friends who were heading back west. Worth catching a glimpse of their journey, especially their very hilarious 3 boys here. Matt's as charmingly funny in person. The trip out also involved stops with my brothers in Omaha & Des Moines, which happily included good times with their wives, whom neither quite deserve, and soaking up sweet love from the wee niece and nephews.

I hauled a bunch of new pots along, hoping to post them all in the shop, but that was hopeless...I was rather otherwise occupied, and also happily vacation-lazy when not vacation-crazy (Also, better things to do, like the July Harry Potter luxury of movie and book). More new mugs posted tonight, though. Promise!

The focus of projects this week is the blessed sixth birthday of my sweet Marian Grace. We were not at all certain that she would make it to her second birthday, and although her quality of life has dramatically improved since, she's still fragile enough that each year merits a grand celebration. This year, she's planning it blue, her favorite color (like the beautiful sky).

We started the pinata (no time to find Spanish letters; excuse the sort-of-correct spelling!) today, and Mare was a good sport helping until she had to wash her hands to go inside to use the bathroom and just couldn't face the messy flour paste again. I made her stay and keep me company, and she lasted with that longer than I thought she would. We used mostly old medical paperwork: EOBs, bills, duplicate Rx instructions. I loved rippin' those banes-of-my-existence up and putting them to a cheerier use.

Papier mache hints for those of you who, like myself, haven't worked with it for awhile:

(1) Work outside. Messy outside=fun. Messy inside=uptight mom.

(2) Big strips are your friends. Torn paper strips are the substance of your sculpture (though that's a high-falutin' word for this project!). My favorites to use were 1 1/2 to 2" wide and 8" long. Marian and I tore a lot of them smaller, because I thought it would be easier to match the curves of the balloons we used for molds, but the nice soggy quality of paper + water was plenty flexible. The only place I needed thinner (1") strips was in connecting the head & body balloons. I think small strips work fine, but they take longer.

(3) The molds. I used two balloons for the shape I wanted, and pulled out my stack of large plastic bowls. I chose one that held the large balloon securely, but below its equator so I could work on most of the bottom as well. At one point, I tried hanging the balloons to work on them, but my head & body (held loosely by one loop of masking tape) pulled apart. Hanging the balloon would likely work well for a single round pinata, but then it also moves. I liked the bowl. I chose another large bowl to hold the paper strips, and a medium to whisk the flour and water together. Another little bowl was nice to have on hand to prop the head when we worked on the base.

(4) I used 3 layers of paper strips, applied perpendicular to each other, soaked in a flour-water paste about the consistency of crepe batter(roughly a 1:1, with a bit more water than flour. Pretty runny!); I'll report on if that's the proper strength! One of the cutest pinatas, a Cat-in-the-Hat I've ever seen was also the toughest: those 4 year olds beat it and beat it until finally the birthday boy's dad had to go at it. It was a highly enjoyable experience to watch. I had to sit on the ground with belly laughs.

(3) Don't let it get too sloppy. After dipping your strips in the paste, run it between 2 fingers or your finger and thumb to wipe off most of the paste. If the paste is getting thick enough to run down your pinata, place a dry strip of paper over it to soak up the extra. Strips should lie smooth along the contours of your mold.

(4) If you're using a multi-part mold, don't try to turn it over until it dries. What will soon be fingernail-tapping stiff is mighty soggy and fragile when wet (many of my neck strips tore & had to be redone).

Here's ours, in it's final drying (3 or 4 hours in the sun was plenty, though it is 95', dry, and breezy today).
It will be a bird, just wait & see!
And one more birthday project:
Origami in progress for a porch garland.