Archive for August, 2011

variations on tomato

Growing the tomatoes is a constantly evolving process. The main reason we do it is so we

mystery tomato, August 2011

can have tomatoes of types that are no longer commercially viable. That usually means the heirloom Brandywines and other, exotic varieties. Having worked through a pretty wide range of types by now, I understand why most commercial farmers don’t want to be bothered. The plants are more delicate, often take much more work in terms of training during the season and are not disease resistant. The fruits are also more fragile and are not as smoothly shaped. For us, the improved textures and flavors more than make up for the problems, but it may not be worth it for some people. Some of them are also just a bit weird looking. Some of the fruits just don’t look much like tomatoes. This one is shaped more like a squash and the first one off of it was the exact shape of a pepper. They have so, far at least, been very tasty with firm and almost dry flesh. They are a type we’d be willing to try again next year but it would probably help if I could remember what this variety actually is. (I’m going to have to start keeping a written map of what was planted where)

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Generally, I don’t make the masks for myself. The thing that got me

steampunk mask, Expo

started with working in the Venetian style was a desire for one to wear, but after getting that one finished, most of the other pieces I’ve made in the last eight or so years have been art objects rather than personal decorations. I’m always considering how they will look on, just not on me. This is an exception. I’d been considering attending a local science fiction, mainly to see if it might be worth my time to sell my pieces there next year. (I decided not to go since another artist I know is going and I can just pick their brain instead) While I was waffling about it, I also wanted to make sure I was fully prepared to go. I don’t have any fan outfits, but knew that I could put together a pretty rocking Steampunk look. Of course, I needed a mask to wear and didn’t have one in the right colour palette. The result was that I made this one for myself. One eye is from an antique watch case and the other was some sort of pressure gauge and had to be cut down quite a bit. The upper corner has a little detail made up of some gears and watch hands. Since I don’t need it myself right now, I’m going to go ahead and list it on-line.

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I have some severe geeky tendencies but mostly manage to control them

Vintage Rumph Star Wars mug

in terms of the stuff for the store. (except for some of the masks I’ll make) Sometimes however, a piece will show up that makes me make all sorts of squeeing noises and seriously consider keeping it for myself. This mug is one of those things. It is a ceramic mug that came out for the first movie in 1977. It would have been painted by someone at a ceramic studio, probably as a gift for a fan. It looks like they went with the suggested style for the decoration and it works well. The figure is “Ben” Kenobi, with his hood up and the back has “May the Force be with you” on it and the interior is a rich deep blue. What I find especially cool is that, due to the way the face is modelled and painted, it also sort of looks like how Liam Neeson appeared as Qui-Gon in Phantom Menace over twenty years later. It’s a cool bit of vintage Star Wars memorabilia that I expect I’ll regret letting go, once it finds a home.

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One of the great things about having a public shop/studio is that I get lots of direct

gold Venetian mask that fits over eyeglasses

feedback about how people are responding to my work. With the masks, there can be a big difference between what people like in person and the ones I get the strongest reactions to on-line. There can also be some consistency and one of the most regular things has been requests for masks that will fit over glasses. It took me a while to be able to create a new form that would allow me to make pieces to accommodate glasses but I finally got it back from being fired last week.  I couldn’t wait to get to it so I jumped into making a pair of traditional masks. One is in silver and the other gold. I went for the most popular feather colours for both as well since I didn’t want glasses wearers to have to settle. The shape is clearly a bit different than the standard masks, but I think it reads as stylized rather than distorted. It’s going to be easy to make Steampunk pieces with this base shape, but I wanted to be sure that the full Venetian style would still work. I’ve got lots of work to do so that I can get a good sample of these done and in the shop, but at least I’m feeling good about the first few pieces!

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Getting started with Kiva

A while ago I signed up to design a card for a Regretsy themed tarot deck. It sounded like a fun project and that was reason enough to take part but I was pleasantly surprised to see it actually succeed in getting funding for publication and sell out! The result was that I got paid for my work. Considering the charitable drive of the Regretsy site, and that the money was unexpected, I decided to use it to finally get involved with Kiva which I’d been meaning to do for some time. Kiva is an organization that provides small scale loans to poor people all over the world. They tend to be for small amounts, typically under $2000 from what I’ve seen, but they allow the borrowers to make purchases that can help them improve their lives. In my case, I helped a woman in Kenya buy a dairy cow, a woman in Peru buy seeds and manure for her farm and one in Ecuador buy supplies for her construction company. They will pay back the money, over various lengths of time, and then it can be re-lent back out to help more people. It’s a small thing but can make a big difference in people lives and you can start by lending as little as $25.

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Beautiful beefsteak

While the weather this spring and summer has been a bit odd, it has been good for the

beefsteak tomato, August 2011

tomato plants. The cold and wet spring, followed by all that dry heat has meant that most of ours are already producing. We have a lot of plants in the ground and a little over twenty different varieties. Some were from friends, some from a couple of different nurseries and I got a trio through the Stratford Horticultural society. They had a sale in the spring and there were some beautiful, big seedlings of what was described as an old-fashioned beefsteak. I took three home and they were the first ones in the ground this year. The plants grew well and developed these massive, thick stalks, but took a long time to set fruit. They didn’t set much, and most haven’t been that large. I was starting to think they would be a disappointment, but a pair of fruits on one just kept getting bigger. This week, the first started to change colour and we just picked it. It’s the biggest tomato I’ve ever grown! The shape is smooth and it looks like a more modern tomato except for the giant size. We’ll carve it up tonight for dinner and I hope it will taste like those old-fashioned beefsteaks I can just barely remember from childhood.

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new forms!

This may not look like much, but it’s pretty exciting to me.

new clay mask form

This spring Chris, of Wild Violet pottery, was kind enough to let me into her studio to make myself some new mask forms, (she fired them for me as well) and I got them back yesterday! It had been a few years since I’d sculpted the last batch and there were a number of styles that I desperately wanted to get done. This is probably my most requested one and it will let me make versions of my masks that will fit over glasses! I still have to finish preparing the form and then start casting some bases before I’ll be able to see the full design options, but I’m very pleased to be moving forward with it. It makes me really happy to finally be able to have some options on offer for people who must wear glasses.

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We don’t see that much in the way of exciting wildlife here that often.

butterfly in the parking lot

(the bun maybe be cute, but it’s hard to try and call it “exotic”) The most variety we get seems to be in birds and insects. I took a bunch of entomology courses, when I was in school, and love the interesting bugs, but we haven’t even had many of them show up. I’ve found a cicada molting shell, and also saw the full grown adult. (or at least a full grown adult) It was trying to snack on the railing of the stairs. We have a few locusts in the parking lot and an abundance of crickets. I’m not actually sure if the crickets are naturally occurring or if their ancestors were escapees from the pet store that was here for the year before we bought the shop. This is one of the few butterflies I’ve seen on the grounds. It was posing in the parking lot this morning so I grabbed the camera and took some shots. Other than this species, we do get the occasional monarch floating by, and lots of the white cabbage ones, but that’s about it for the butterflies.

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Staying on the owl theme, even if this wasn’t part of the collection, I figured I’d talk about

hand-tinted owl print in vintage frame

this picture. This is one of the rare occasions where I’ve actually re-cut a vintage frame. It doesn’t work all that often and I almost never try it but this was a case where it was the perfect frame for this print but the shape was totally off. Luckily the frame was also much larger than the print and the worst of it’s damage was in the corners. This made it a good candidate for a re-cut. I first had to break it apart and then pull out all of the old nails I could find. You always want to get them all since they can damage your cutter blades or, if you’re using a saw, potentially cause injuries. Once the bars were separated I just measured the print and cut the down to the right size. I’ll cut one end off enough to get past the corner damage and then use the gauge to cut the other at the correct size. The print is modern but is a prototype from one of the print houses. They reproduced an image from the 1900’s and then had it hand-coloured in a period style. We picked it up at the framing conference when the printers decided to clean out their warehouse. The frame is wide enough and it’s colours are so soft that I didn’t think a mat was needed. The finished piece looks so perfectly period that I”ll have to make sure to let people know that it isn’t a real antique.

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This is another piece from our owl flock.

stone owl from Greece

It’s actually the most recent one that I can be certain about it’s age. (their collector also must have kept a complete inventory since most of them had stickers with numbers on them and it had the second highest number in the group) The figure has been carved from volcanic rock from Greece and has bright blue glass eyes. I was able to figure out his age since he is conveniently marked with a patent number. I was surprised at how weighty he is. I guess I had assumed that the volcanic rock would be much lighter than regular rock, but it seems to be much the same. The carving isn’t all that detailed but you still get a strong sense of owlness from it. He’s a bit too recent to go into the on-line shop, so he’ll have to roost here until someone takes him home.

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