Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review and some good fiction for artists

It's been a rough year at my house. I had knee replacement surgery in March and spent several months playing Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies, and reading *lots* and *lots* of books. One new author I discovered, because of being recommended to me, was Louise Penny.

In once sense, her Armand Gamache books are slow paced police procedurals. But in another way, because of the characters in her small town, and their work, these books are about the internal struggles of artists. And, in particular, two artists who are married to each other while being in different phases of their careers. I find these books require much more focus from me as a reader than the usual murder mystery. And I have enjoyed watching the characters grow and change. I don't read that many mysteries anymore, so I'm not sure if the focus on the characters is unusual or not. I *do* highly recommend these. They have the best characteristics of good novels within the setting of a police procedural and I found the many artist characters and their struggles illuminating for my own process as an artist. The most recent book in the series is A Trick of the Light but I would recommend reading them all in order because of the evolution of the characters.

As for 2011, I did, despite the knee recovery, create a few new pieces but I am still reworking my artistic process to allow for my physical limitations. And I'm cleaning up all the debris that accumulated from several months of inactivity in my studio. I look forward to sharing my new work with all of you in the near future.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Alternatives to mall shopping for Black Friday has a nice list of things people do on Black Friday instead of shopping. Since I stopped shopping at the malls for Winter Holiday presents, my need to watch "Die Hard" as my Christmas movie has decreased considerably. I like the movie marathon idea as well as the nature hike. This year, we're once again doing mostly handmade or edible presents since most of our relatives and friends have too much stuff already. Perhaps you might find an idea worth doing on this list.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Solar & Wind power going mainstream

I'm back from vacation, all rested and relaxed, with over 500 pictures of birds and landscapes. It will probably be a week or so before I finish processing them, a fairly tedious but necessary task, so I was very pleased by today's Grist email containing two articles about non-fossil fuel power generation. Apparently, big power companies are investing in solar power. Finally! Read the details here.

Secondly, there's a pretty map showing how much of each state's total electrical power could be supplied by wind power generation within their state. Talk about going local! There's also a link to the full report about energy self sufficiency. Read it here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stamp carving or another way to make my own fabric

In my ongoing search for ways to create my art without stressing my bionic knee or my herniated disc, I am playing with carving my own stamps to use in dyeing and batiking fabric, or adding images to already dyed fabric. I already have a lot of different dyes, fabric paints and silkscreening paint, so my new supplies list is pretty simple: carving tools and stamp material. Stampeaz has a nice sampler pack of stamp material so I started with that. And I got the 2.5 inch carveable brayer because the idea of the rolling image seemed fun. It's definitely something I can't do with a silkscreen. My local art supply store had a sale on the carving tools so after about $30, I was set to go.

I got my first image from Art Stamping Workshop by Gloria Page. I also watched her video which gave me really great tips on using the tools and how to make carving easier. Here's the stamp. I've used commercial batik fabric with spirals on it so I was very interested in doing something similar but with my own feel to it. This one started with a 4x6 block of stamp material.

Here's two images from this stamp. The one in purple ink was the first one. That's when I discovered that my eye was used to the lines I use in my silkscreen work and for stamping the lines needed to be thicker and stronger. I also didn't like the straight edges with all those curves so I shaped the edges as much as I could with the material left on the edge of the stamp. The black print is after the modifications. It came out much closer to what I was looking for.

I found this material pretty easy to carve. It's the Speedball beige stuff. Stampeaz mentions in the description they have for it that it can be crumblier over time. I'll try the other 2 materials I have from the sampler pack and see what I think. More about that later, as I get more carving time in.

Then I moved on to the brayer. I got the smallest one, which made it harder to hold onto it while carving. I didn't slice myself up, but I did slip and prick my finger a couple of times. Obviously some work to do here with the technique - probably both the holding and being more aware of my finger being in front of the carving tool's leading edge. Here's the brayer and how it did on paper in one picture. I missed inking all of it, so I filled the blanks in with blue ink so I could see where the gaps were easier. It was harder to ink the brayer evenly. The print pictured here was done with silkscreen ink spread lightly onto a paper plate.

I liked how this one worked to give me the continuous line of image, but the surface doesn't hold much ink so it fades fairly quickly. I will have to experiment to see how to improve this.

Next up, doing stamping with these stamps on fabric. Fun times ahead!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fashionable & on a bicycle - tips to help

Today's email from brought an article about bicycling and still presenting an office ready demeanor. Or being fashionable. Whichever way you choose to describe it. For the full article, go here. It's a quick interview with a woman who lives car free in Portland so it has several important tips for those of us who live in the Pacific North Wet. I encourage you to read the whole article but here's the important points from it (and mucho thanks to and Elly Blue for giving them to us):

First and foremost, Meghan says, "suck it up and get some fenders." She's right. Far worse than any downpour is the rain and road muck that your tires heave up onto your legs, face, and back as you ride -- not to mention into the face of anyone unlucky enough to find themselves riding behind you.

Planning your wardrobe is just as important. Judicious investments are key. Wearing technical rain gear can mean getting just as damp from sweat as you would from a light rain, but it can save you from getting drenched in a downpour. Here are Meghan's suggestions as you find that wardrobe balance:

  • Wear black. Or brown. Or dark colors and patterns. Black bottoms don't show rain and mud and a black top doesn't show sweat when you get overheated wearing a rain jacket.

  • Wear wool if you can. I love my wool tights. They're not cheap, but you can get them in the off-season on sale, and they're totally worth it. Guys, go for wool pants. They're sexier than khakis anyway. Seriously.

  • Don't ever wear cotton in the rain. You'll regret it for hours. (The stuff takes forever to dry!) Even synthetics are better than cotton if you can't or don't wear wool.

  • If it's truly pouring, I accept that I'm going to get wet and go bare legged. I wear shoes that dry quickly (like Crocs or Melissa brand shoes). I dry off MUCH quicker than everyone else! (If you decide to fight it, try some rainboots. I like the Tretorn ones because they're lined, but you can get any ol' boots and put some sealant on them and they'll do the job.)

  • A tight cap under your helmet will sop up rain and keep water from trickling through your hair and down your face.

  • Invest in a good-lookin' raincoat! Like the kind you'd wear to walk down the street. You don't have to look like you're mountaineering every day.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

This year's shows

I picked up my piece, The Big Bang: A Bird's Eye View, from the Connecting Threads Exhibit in Seattle this last Friday and realized that I had neglected to mention that show and my current solo show on my blog. (Bad Artist! No cookie!) The Connecting Threads show was for the graduates of the Fiber Arts Certificate program at UW and we had 55 artists participating. I think I didn't mention it because I was physically unable to do all the stitching that I wanted to on the piece and I was therefore unhappy with it. Having it come home after almost 3 months has given me a different perspective. So here it is.

I feel it still needs some work to highlight the splitting/openings in the background but I'm not sure exactly how I'll be doing that. We shall see...

My current show is at the Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church in Kirkland, WA. The gallery is in the sanctuary so my work can be seen when the sanctuary is open for functions and during church office hours (Mon-Fri, 9:30 - 1:30pm). I learned a lot about picking work for a show and hanging my pieces so this has already been a fabulous experience. I hope to have an artist reception sometime before the show comes down in early November.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

World Bicycle domination! or at least lots of blogs

Okay, it's summer, so that's why lots of bicycle posts lately. That and my studio is undergoing a major renovation to allow me to work/sew standing up. But, I find this report from exciting - lots of bike enthusiasts sharing and networking and getting attention from their local governments. Read about the coming world bicycle domination here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Local energy production means local jobs

Great news on the going green front today from there's a rural community movement to produce their energy locally from sustainable sources and a village in Germany has hit 100% local energy production. It took them 8 years, given the government support for renewable energy in Germany, and there are rural communities in the US doing the same. Read more here. I think this is great - reduces carbon production, reduces dependence on foreign oil, and produces more jobs for local people. What's not to like?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

An example of permaculture gardening

Today's email brought an interesting page about how to grow an apple tree in a permaculture way, providing nutrients & water without external fertilizer and watering. Here's where to read it in detail. It's part of a new wiki aimed at helping build resiliency so there are lots of interesting pages available and more all the time. I love low effort gardening myself, especially as my joints are wearing out. And this sort of effort is possible to do now, in experimentation.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

More fabulous biking news! More space on the street, oh yea!

This just in via, bike corrals are the big new thing in Nevada City, CA. Apparently, they're gaining in popularity nationwide and what's not to like about having actual decent parking space for bikes? Read all about it here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Electric folding bike to be made in Portland

As you all may remember, we bought an electric folding bike a couple of years ago. We're still using it, and it works well for short errands and coordinating with bus transit, but it was manufactured in China. And the manufacturer had problems so the bike shop we bought it from no longer carries it. This could cause problems if there's ever a major maintenance/repair issue so I am pleased to report a project to produce an electric folding bike in Portland, Oregon. They're doing it via Kickstart so you can be an investor if you like. Read all about it here.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Edible landscaping that won't offend your neighbors

In July, Oak Park, Michigan, got on the map by prosecuting Julie Bass for putting food gardens in her front yard. After a bit of internet uproar, and people pointing out that the town rules had many exceptions written in to them, they backed down. Since lots of people are facing economic difficulties, along with those who just don't always trust the agribusiness created food, there are more and more people interested in putting in some kind of garden. Front yards often get the best light so here is an article about how to do it and minimize the problems with neighbors. Some interesting design issues pointed out along with the mention of permaculture which is a step beyond just putting in a food garden.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bike Sharing takes off

It's been a long hiatus for me due to knee surgery, and some problems with rehab, but I'm back and planning to post again regularly.

This article about bike sharing caught my eye this morning. There's a 4 minute video which is not only pretty to watch but informative. See it here. I'm sure this system works best in areas where there are compact business districts, but I can also see it working where there are large companies with say 35,000 employees (says the woman living 2 miles from Microsoft). Have a few of these racks, and reasonable transit connections, and voila, your employees don't have to commute by car and still be able to run errands or go out for lunch. Fewer parking garages, less traffic congestion, sounds like an overall win to me. The video is about the system in Minneapolis. There are currently systems in Washington, D.C., Madison, Wisc., and Denver. Boston is planning one. Notice how they all have winter?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Marymoor birding expedition

My knee continues its slow healing journey and is now capable of short walks unaided. Since both my doctor and my PT said I needed to be sure and continue my exercises this month, I decided to reward myself with a bird walk. I went to Marymoor Park with the hopes of seeing some swallows, one of my favorite seasonal birds. Alas, that was not to be but I did get some great shots of other birds.

I stopped first at the rowing club pond where I was greeted by a Steller's Jay intent on posing for as many pictures as I wanted to take. Another favorite bird and one I needed a picture of for an art piece I'm doing about my son's joining the Air Force and leaving the nest. So I was pleased to get such great shots. Here's one of them.

Then I got to the pond where I was dismayed at the number of trees that have been cut down for the construction they are doing. I had hoped for wood ducks here but had to settle for this lovely couple. And I am once again reminded that I have to relearn my ducks every year. *sigh*

After taking some pictures of the turtles, I proceeded to the main area of the park, and the marshy part of the slough which is often an excellent spot to see swallows. Alas, no swallows, but I did get over a hundred shots of two different herons hunting in the marshy area. One caught something while I was watching but I only got shots before and after the strike, so nothing dramatic there.

It was about 3:30pm so the light was angled and I think the heron shots came out well.

I plan to reward myself for doing my 3x a day exercises by taking short local bird walks and carrying my camera along. So expect to see more pictures in the future on a regular basis.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Electric cars and their benefits

This should be interesting as my iPad won't bring up the composer that I normally use for blogging, so I'm typing in the HTML editor without any reference material for formatting commands. I apologize in advance for whatever visual Mess results.

here's a link from today's email that discusses exactly how much benefit an electric car will be and in which ways that can be increased. I must admit, I'm impressed by the numbers: 80% of gasoline burned in a car engine is waste heat, while 80% of electrical power goes to moving the vehicle. I still prefer the idea of a hybrid at least until the electrical cars can go further before charging but we're a one car family. (and I promise to go look up asap the commands for hotlinks. That or figure out how to get the composer working...)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Surgery prep and snowy chickadees

I go in for knee joint replacement surgery tomorrow so today is the final day to pick up all the rugs in the house, and pack my suitcase and whatever other prep I haven't gotten done yet. It's not a bad day to be stuck in the house considering the several inches of snow we got last night. And considering how cute the birds are in the backyard as they land on the branches en route to the feeder scattering snow as they land and launch. I got several nice pictures, and I wanted to share this one of a chickadee. Usually, I see the chestnut-backed chickadees predominate but today it's the black-capped ones. Their coloring is less dramatic, more subtle and I always enjoy watching them play in the trees.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Hummer's Comfort" at Phinney Center Gallery show in March

The Northwest Collage Society Members' Spring Exhibit is at the Phinney Center Gallery, located at 6532 Phinney Ave N, Seattle WA 98103. The show runs March 2 - April 1, with the Artist Reception on March 11, from 7 - 9pm. The Gallery hours: Monday – Friday, 9am to 9pm; Saturday 9am to 2pm, closed Sunday. More details about the gallery can be found at

I've recently joined the NWCS, and I'm looking forward to my first show with them. One of my favorite pieces, Hummer's Comfort (shown above), was juried into the show and I'm curious to see how it shows next to the mostly paper collage most of the members do. I'm not sure I'll be able to attend the reception on March 11 because I'll still be in the recovery/rehab phase of my knee joint replacement but I will try to be there. I'd love to get feedback from anyone who is able to see the show so please, if you go, post a comment or email me directly. Thanks!

Monday, January 31, 2011

New yard, new yard birds

Well, we're finally moved in and mostly settled in our new place. This has meant a new yard, and surprisingly, new birds in that yard. The first bird I saw in the yard was a Sharp-shinned Hawk who sat in the tree over the empty seed feeder for a few minutes, giving me an evil eye, and wondering why there were no birds. I started filling the feeder later that week, but he has not returned. And I didn't yet have my camera sitting by the back window, so no picture of him.

The second most surprising bird, or actually birds, are the pair of varied thrush who have been in my yard every day since I put seed in the feeder. I saw these birds at our previous house infrequently, at best. Here, I'm seeing them daily, and have only seen a robin once in the six weeks I've been feeding the birds here.

Most surprising is the pileated woodpecker who has been here 3 days in the last week. Pileateds are big, and flashy, and usually like the deep woods so seeing one in my yard a half mile south of the local shopping center is surprising.

I'm also getting some good shots of favorites, like the Northern Flicker who argued with the Pileated about who had priority at the feeder. (The Pileated won, unsurprisingly. )

I'm getting some great pictures, and once I have the knee replacement surgery the end of February, and my back heals, I'm hoping to make some fabulous art based on the photos.