Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Beads! I learned to make glass beads!

It's been a month since I took the weekend course in making glass beads. I had another course the next weekend, so I brought home my beads, put them in a container and stuck them in a drawer. And of course, I couldn't blog about the beadmaking without a picture of the beads, so, they stayed stuck in the drawer until I got my camera out this weekend to take some pictures of things to sell on craigslist. While I was shooting, I realized I could just do a quick shot of the beads and finally talk about the course.

The 2 beads in the foreground were made by the instructor as demos during the class. My earliest beads are the little misshapen blue ones at the top with the rest mostly in order by when I made them in the class. As you can see, my bead making progressed quite quickly. I was applying the principal that we learn by doing so I made as many beads as possible. And by the end of the class, I was balancing and shaping the bead without having to think about it. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to afford to buy the bigger torch setup like the teacher had us working on... She had us working on a 2 tank setup which burns much hotter than my little one tanker at home. And of course, it uses a different torch head. The total cost for the new tanks and torch would be about $500.

My motivation for taking the course was to duplicate some earrings I bought at a craft fair in the early 80's and have been unable to find anything like since. These earring have a large flat disk on them so I was wanting to make the disks from glass and do some interesting things with frit or stringers to give the disks some surface design. Unfortunately, what I learned is that the disks I want are too thin to do in glass. So, now I'm left with the desire to do even bigger things in glass. Either as sculpture, or as a major design element in one of my fiber art pieces. Only time will tell what happens... One of the other members of the quiltart list recommended taking a beginner class in a different medium to spark creativity. I have to second the suggestion. I got a lot out of the class besides learning to make beads. Talking to the instructor about design, marketing and the local craft markets were among the highlights.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Car free? Or Car-lite? How to choose...

As part of my family’s ongoing effort to reduce our carbon footprint, I’ve been investigating alternatives to having a second car. It has always seemed silly to me to pay for a car for my husband to drive to work where it sits all day in the garage on campus and then drive home where the car sits in the driveway. A whole 4 miles each way. But there isn’t convenient bus service where we live. (Perhaps someone at the Metro Bus management can explain to me the point of doing park & ride bus terminals without feeder routes that basically require you to have a car so you can get to the bus… But I digress.) So, we’ve had 2 cars that between them go 13000 miles a year.

A friend building his own 3wheeled motorcycle started me thinking about alternatives. And a search through the library yielded a very useful and interesting book: How to Live Well Without Owning a Car by Chris Balish. While giving good reasons to not own a car (from finances to health to environmental), mostly this book covers how to make the mental transitions necessary to not need a car. Or at least to not need a second car. If you’ve ever felt trapped by your car, or hated spending the $8000 a year that the AAA says is the average, well, you will find this book full of solutions. With real-life examples on almost every page, Chris gives tips for every aspect of life and how to do it car free. But this isn't a one size fits all book. The author gives a good way to evaluate the true cost of owning a car, along with a way to go car-lite, using only as much car as you really need. This is probably the route we'll be going, at least as long as we live over a mile (up and down some very steep hills) from the nearest bus stop for a bus going the way we need to go. This weekend, we'll be taking a second look at some alternatives to the second car, and possibly making a decision on which way to go. I'll keep you posted on what we decide.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Volunteering and new links to interesting organizations

I'm doing some volunteer work for sustainablecascadia.org as part of my being involved and working with what skills I have. I used to be a computer programmer, and I've done all kinds of volunteer stuff from being Troop Cookie Mom to being an Executive Director of a non-profit, so this was an easy way to begin finding local groups and maximizing the effect of my efforts. I spent this morning adding links to the page you can see here.

There are some national organizations that looked really interesting: www.1sky.org for one. They're focused on getting national legislation moving by 2010 with the intent of fighting climate change, and improving our energy independence. And I was very heartened to see what great strides local groups in the Bellingham area are making. www.sconnect.org was the most notable of these.

I've organized the links into several categories which seemed like a good way to split things up to me. If you like going through lists of links, give this one a look and I'd appreciate feedback. Or some suggestions too. We do have a regional focus, but particularly noteworthy national or international links would be welcome too. And if your organization wants to link to us, feel free. The more the merrier...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Grist.org ten tips for individual action on going green

I'm feeling pretty bad today so I'll have to wait on my post about going car free or car lite. Instead, I'll point you all at a quick and easy read from grist. org, http://www.grist.org/feature/2008/05/16/tips/?source=daily
on what individuals can do right now to help move their cities into a more sustainable and climate friendly zone. Two of the ten quotes say to use your car less, or not at all so I guess that post is a good idea.

Other ideas basically boil down to get informed and get involved. I'm working on helping others with the first one (hey, I got a haircut this week and even my hairdresser was asking what she could do) and doing the second. This is definitely something where we all need to work together.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Alternative Transportation, or yet another way to go green

I went down to the Columbia River this last weekend, to help a friend re-assemble his custom 3-wheel motorcycle. I guess it’s officially a motorcycle, even though it’s made using a diesel engine from a Mercedes car. We had a lot of fun bolting all the pieces together, and when it’s finally finished, he’ll have an efficient, fun vehicle that gets 75+ miles to the gallon and can run on biofuel.

This is a picture of the work in progress. There are still some pieces that need painting and then should be added on to what’s here. Aspen, the friend in question, is planning on using this as his primary form of transportation. The back platform is 9 square feet and will haul a substantial amount of stuff. He’s also put a trailer hitch on the back so he can pull even more. And with the MB220D engine, he’s got the power to do it, too.

His father, John Price, built the first one pictured above. I got a ride on his and it was as much fun as a motorcycle without being nearly as scary in the turns. He's got close to 10,000 miles on it so he considers the design well proven. If you’re interested in learning more, check out John’s webpage, http://www.warhorsetractorco.com/.

To add the obligatory art interest to this post, I'll just mention that I made 2 patches for them featuring the art John has used on his webpage. This was an interesting challenge, using heavier materials than I usually work with (canvas rather than quilting cotton, or silks) and I learned some things about stitching on leather. My brain is now scheming for ways to use the rest of the leather needles I bought...

Here's the patch on the back of aspen's vest. It's 9 inches square, roughly. Canvas fused to canvas, edge stitched with polyester thread in a satin stitch, and then fused to the leather with heavy duty wonder under and then stitched down around the edges with polyester top stitching thread using the leather needles with my big Bernina. The only trouble spot was the seam in the leather vest down the middle behind the patch which caused my machine to hesitate on a couple of stitches. Otherwise, it was a fun and fairly quick project.

Friday, May 9, 2008

National Geographic Greendex: what's your score?

Grist.org had a story about the National Geographic Greendex in yesterday's email letter so I went and checked it out. Solid information is always good to have, and being now 2 months along in the going green process, I was curious how we'd do comparatively. I used the calculator they provide and got a score of 68. This beats out all the countries they ranked so that makes me feel good in a way. In another way, knowing that we're only doing the easy, frugal things right now, it's a bit depressing to think that, on average, everybody else is doing less. On the third hand, the more room there is for improvement, the easier it is to make a significant change. So, what's your score?


Friday, May 2, 2008

The Gospel of Consumption (Orion magazine)

I've been doing a lot of research lately on going green, and still am to a certain extent. Besides Yes! magazine which I've reviewed earlier, I'm reading Orion magazine. (www.orionmagazine.org) I like the way their articles cover various perspectives on Nature, Culture and where we belong in both.

This article covers the history of the deliberate creation of the Consumer Culture which is, in my absolutely not at all humble opinion, destroying us here in the States. I particularly like that the author gives the example of the Kellogg company which gave employees a shorter workweek in the 30s mostly in response to the Depression. It didn't last company wide after WWII and the great push to turn us all into busy little consumers, but it did persist in some departments at Kellogg until the mid 80's. My own experience (30 years worth) as an employee is that 30 hours a week is a very livable pace leaving room for connecting with family and friends, pursuing other interests and having a full and better quality of life.

While I look to Yes! for things that people are doing and ways to create the changes I'd like to see, Orion gives me the broader perspective which helps with seeing how all the pieces fit. Check it out, see if it would be helpful for you. They have back issues and some of the current issue online so it's easy to do.