Archive for March, 2012

While most of my masks usually can be described as “pretty” or “cute”  I know that more than a few few fall on the side of “quirky” and even cross the line into “creepy”. (although, I have run into at a couple of people who feel that all masks qualify as “disturbing”, but that seems to be a personal issue) Truthfully, the only ones that have given me a creepy vibe are the spiders, but I can understand how that might be the minority view for some of them, especially the skull masks. Now I have further proof that they are objectively creepy. One has just been bought for use in a sci-fi thriller movie! It’s a Canadian project and the director is planning on using it as the disturbingly-creepy-object-that-could-be-something-more in a high tension scene. I just have to finish signing the release forms to allow for it’s film use and then it will be on it’s way to it’s moment of fame!

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prepping for frost

It looks like the warm weather is going to end tonight.  Well, it may not fully end, but there will be heavy frosts over the next few nights. The plan right now is to cut all the daffs and bring them in. We’re also going to wrap the roses, rhubarb and the shoots in the new peony bed. Both of my roses are hardy shrubs and had no winter die-back, but they’ve also almost got their first round of leaves fully out so they’ll need some cover. We’re also going to do the heaviest protection we can around the little tree peony we put into the front yard last year. While some leaves are coming up in the main peony bed, I’m not as worried about them since they are well established enough that should survive a possible frost kill of what’s exposed. The transplants and the tiny tree are much more fragile. The buds on the fruit trees haven’t actually opened yet, so we’re also counting on them being able to handle it, but they might get a bit of burlap wrapped around them, if any is left over from the urgent need plants. Most things are going to be left on their own. While I’ve loved seeing the lawn coloured purple from all the tiny, wild violets, I don’t expect them to make it through the next few days so I went out to enjoy them today!

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The weather has been so unseasonably good that I’ve had the door open all week  and I’m spending as much time outside as I can. The daffs just opened today while the tulips and hyacinths, in the same bed, are running a bit behind them. Almost everything has sprouted or has cracked their buds. The exceptions are all the hostas and a few other of the more tender plants. Considering how fast everything is growing, we couldn’t wait any longer on some of the early garden work, so a chunk of this week was spent moving and transplanting various things. A new bed has been cleared out under the stores sign and filled with Lambs ear. (it was running over a couple of beds in front of the house) Dad had been wanting that one done for a while, since it will make the mowing much easier. The fruit trees and Saskatoon bushes have all had some very minor pruning. They only went in last year, and they say that letting them bear fruit will help the most with guiding them to the best shapes, but a little bit of clean-up was needed. Other than that, the mild winter is clearly showing in how well everything made it through. There is supposed to be one freezing night early next week, so we’re looking at what we’ll have to try and cover.

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One of the most popular colour combinations I make, in the masks, is the brown feathers/silver gilding.  The softness of the variegated feathers seems to be a perfect match to the tones and texture of the antiqued silver finish. Photographing the masks is always difficult when there is snow on the ground, since I have yet to find anyway to take them that gives the same level of colour accuracy as taking them outside. The result is that I tend to not finish as many masks in the deep winter, even if I have been cleaned out of a particular style. Due to the popularity of the silver/brown combo, I like to have at least a couple on hand but over the winter had run down to single one, until it too found a home a few weeks ago. With the weather being good enough that photos aren’t a problem, I had no reason to wait and got to work on a new batch of the traditional masks. This group turned out to have a total of three silvers in it, and I choose to go with the brown feathers on all of them, but slightly different styles on each. I’ve had a number of the silver and brown masks, in the past, end up with a bit more of a masculine feel to them and all of this group turned out to be either masculine or at least gender neutral. (or at least as masculine as you can get with something that involves gilded lace and ribbon) This one is a style that I’ve only made a very small group of.  I lucked into a small batch of rougher, but very long coque feathers in their natural colour, a few years ago. Typically, coque of this length is very expensive since the prices tend to increase (often geometrically) by length. I got lucky with this batch in that they were the same price as my usual feathers but averaging around 10″ long! To balance the length of the feathers, I’ve had to go with larger than average masks as well and the resulting pieces have an almost tribal vibe to them. I thought the two I had done last year were all there were going to be, but it turned out I still had enough of the long feathers for one more. I’m calling this one “Todd” and just got it listed!

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Spring sprouts

The door is propped open today, and I’m enjoying the super early spring.

daffodils, March 2012

A number of things in the garden have jumped up, with all the warm damp weather and we’re hoping they won’t get hit by a frost later, but it may be too much to expect that this kind of unseasonably mild weather will hold. The faster growers are the daffodils and tulips. I went out on Wednesday morning and took the first photo of one of the patches in the current bed. Today, I went out and took the second. It’s getting so we’ve been making jokes about measuring them each day since we’ve seen the better part of an inch or two in a couple of days. At least the forecast for the next week or so is still mild enough

daffodils, March 2012, 2 days later

for them not to get frozen, but we still have the rest of March and all of April to get through. We’ll have to just enjoy them for as long as they last!

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in the paper

Late last week I got a phone call from the organiser of the ReStore Gala.  They had been working with a writer from our local paper, The Beacon Herald, about them doing a piece on the event. Apparently she had shown him some images of the pieces that had already come in and they were hoping I would come in to talk with him. Of course, I said yes. So Saturday morning I went into their office and meet with both the reporter and the couple who will be getting the house this event is helping to fund. We all had a nice chat and then I got back just after Mother opened the store. When I checked today, to find out when it would be running, I was surprised to find it went live yesterday! (and that they went with the photo of me and the masks instead of the soon-to-be home-owners) Anyway, we managed to get our hands on a copy thanks to the kind people at the Shakespeare Inn!

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Sometimes I get dragged off on these odd little crafty tangents.  While Valentines Day isn’t something I tend to celebrate, this year I did take part in a fun gift exchange. It was like a secret Santa, in that we all got given names, with some info about your recipient and then didn’t find out who was providing your gift, until the opening date. It was a blast! The person I was sending to had mentioned a number of things she was into and I got grabbed by the idea of plush animals mash-ups. I’d seen some examples and considered making some, in the past, but I try not to to make too many things that are not either for myself, friends or for sale, so the stuffies got put on the “eventually” list. When my recipient said she would really like some mutant creations, I couldn’t resist the chance to finally indulge myself. Once I got started, it was hard to stop. I ended up with a total of five finished pieces, all on a fairly small scale. Considering how large the group turned out to be, it was quickly decided that she would get four of them, so there would one for each member of her house-hold. Deciding which one to keep was also easy since mother had made her fondness for this hamster-headed, yellow-bellied warbler very clear. While this specific project is done, making them was so much fun that I don’t think I’ll be able to stop myself from making more, the future.

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Most of the time, my mask making is a very organic process,  in that I tend to not have much in the way of a finished concept in mind when I start. In the case of the pair of the ReStore, it was necessary to have a bit more of a plan. I wanted them to be a matching pair, so they could be worn by a couple but also didn’t want them limited to a heterosexual pair. Going with a Steampunk esthetic not only let me use materials from the ReStore but it’s also much more gender neutral. To keep the pair related, but not the same, I first selected a pair of pipe fittings that would each make up one of the eyes. They are close in colour and size and I used them on a different eye for both masks. I also decided to use two different form bases. One of the standard ones and a “helm”. Part of the reasoning was that the helms will typically fit over many styles of eyeglasses as well as having  a significantly different shape. I then actually sketched out plans for both of them, which I almost never do, but it helped greatly in balancing the pair. Since they would not have to be shipped, or stored in the shop, I could also use some of the more dramatic feathers I had in the stash. Staying with a shabby-chic/Steampunk style, the designs use salvaged leather and the copper-brown beaded material for their surfaces. One has a very bird-like feel to it, with beaded “feathers” up the centre of the face and a small beak. Nestled in the feathers is a brass clock part that gives crown-like accent. Assorted watch and clock gears are scattered up the left cheek. A pair of very long feathers finish it off and complete the owl impression. (the photo cuts them off but they are almost 3′ long!) The helm mask also used the leather and beaded material, but in reversed placement. The leather is in the centre of the face with the beaded copper on the sides. The edges of the leather are roughly shaped to tie into the feather ruff that flows out from under it. It also has a group of 5 larger feathers that fan out over the top edge. Due to the cheek gears and smaller scale, I liked the “Owl” mask best with the unframed back piece. The circle of the ornament piece ties in really well to it. The larger scale of the helms ruff also works well on the framed back so it was easy to pair them up to their backs. I wanted people to be able to try them on, at the night of the gala, since I hope they will want to eventually wear the masks, so I also made a mirror. It’s simply a cut and joined square made from more salvaged painted molding. That molding was also too thin to route, so the mirror is glued with silicon. (so long as you use a flat mirror under 3mm it looks fine from the front) I’m including it in the group, but didn’t get around to photographing it. Overall, this was a fun pair to make and I think it’s likely I’ll end up incorporating parts of the designs into some simpler pieces in the future.

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While the idea of using ReStore items to create something for their gala was fun, it also presented a bit of a challenge.

"framed" mask wall-mount using reclaimed trim

Considering the wide range of items that can be found in their shop, I thought it was best to start with some sort of plan. The hope was that our items would come in at around a $200 value. Keeping that in mind, I knew that a pair of masks would be a good place to start. I also knew that, since I would be using as much reclaimed materials as possible, the best style to go with would be Steampunk. It was easy enough to find some pipe fitting bits and pieces that would work on the masks but I also wanted to provide mounts for hanging them on the wall. All of the ReStores I’ve been in have racks of salvaged moldings or various ages. Over a few visits I found a few sticks of vintage, painted moldings and explored a few different options for the backing boards. It turned out to be more difficult than expected

mask wall mount made with reclaimed trim

since I also wanted to keep the weight down as much as possible. (too heavy and they could be difficult to hang) I finally lucked into a batch of beautiful, antique painted trim. It was 3” wide, flat on both sides and had a terrific crackled finish. I had thought it was at least in the 100 year age range and the antique nails Dad pulled out it confirmed that it was most likely installed in the early Victorian period! Not only were there several lengths of it, but there was also a single, square ornament piece. Dad and I discussed how to handle it and then he took it all to the wood-shop and went to work. For the one that was getting an edging frame, he cut 13” lengths, shaved the sides and then joined them together, using hidden wooden biscuits and glue. He then routed an even 1/4” lip into the top edge. Then, I cut and joined one of the salvaged moldings to fit. Considering how narrow the “frame” molding was, at the inner lip, we opted not to route it so that was why the back piece was done instead. With the outer frame being purely decorative, I was able to get away with just gluing it, using two types of heavy duty adhesives. All of the hanging attachments were put directly on the backing so there will be no strain on the “frame” at all. The masks are coordinated, but not the same, and I wanted that to carry over with the wall-mounts. For the second piece, we used the ornament piece as a focal point. Dad once again, cut the trim into lengths, but constructed the third length from two short pieces and the ornament square. It went on the bottom and he didn’t take the paint off of the outer sides. He did, however, sand down the exposed, cut sides. When he brought it back, I used a wood-fill to finish smoothing the cut sides and then painted them in tones that matched the existing paint. Each of the wall-mounts was then fitted with a small brass hook that allows each mask to hang in a decorative fashion as well as be easily removed for wearing, and their wall attachment hardwear.

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