Saturday, January 30, 2010

Featured seller~wildsunart on Etsy

I recently came across a very talented artist on Etsy. These are the works of wildsunart. She specializes in Australian wildlife art, but I was immediately drawn to her fun and spunky kitties. Above is Crafty, having fun with a ball of yarn. Wildsunart says that her kitty, Zoe, was her inspiration in these pieces.

This is What, another original ink drawing. Being a big time cat lover with my own household of feline friends, I can totally relate to the mischief that this little furbaby is up to.

This piece is called Seek. Quite appropriate! She has another called Hide. There's no way possible that I can pick a favorite--I just love them all!

Here's a wonderful example of her wildlife art, a Red-eyed Tree Frog done in watercolour and ink.

And just in time for Valentine's Day or any day, really~ these lovely Lovebirds, an original watercolour.

Stop by her shop and take a look around. I'm sure you'll find some wonderful art that you will fall in love with.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Spring is just around the corner...

Spring, my favorite season is on its way. At least the calender says it is. I'm not so sure since we're in the middle of a major snow event here in West Tennessee. Check out the photos at the bottom of this post.
Here are a couple of new pieces I recently added to my Etsy shop.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love walking through the woods in the spring looking for wildflowers and any and all signs of life reawakening.
I've seen the Large-Flowered Trillium a few times in this area, they really are a beautiful wildflower. I decided that I wanted to make one out of glass.

This Large-Flowered Trillium Suncatcher measures 7 3/4 inches diameter, just over 19.5cm. I've never used the amber green glass that I selected for the background. It turned out to be a nice choice, reminding me of the colors of the woodland floor.

The Happy Dolphin suncatcher doesn't have anything to do with spring, but it was a cute fun project. This design started off as a tiny little sketch, suggested by a friend who wanted me to design a small dolphin piece that she could hang in her office. The dolphin measures 8 1/2 inches tall by 6 1/4 inches wide, 21.5cm by 16cm.

As promised, here are some pics of our snowfall. The snow started coming down at about 10 a.m. Friday and has not let up yet. This is a major event for us down here, I don't remember getting this much snow in such a short amount of time. This former Northerner doesn't have a clue of how to drive in this stuff anymore.
Here's the same clump of daffodils at various times throughout today. My next photo shoot of the outdoors is at 5 p.m., I'm sure this clump will be covered up completely.

8 a.m. January 29

11 a.m. January 29

2 p.m. January 29
At first it was predicted that we would have ice. Later it was changed to snow only. I'm very thankful for the change in the forecast.
Wherever you are, stay safe and warm. I'm gonna go make me a snowman.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A little bit of riverside exploration

Today was just the perfect day to get out of the house for a little while and do some riverside exploration. I haven't been out and about since the beginning of November, so when the husband suggested it~I was all for it. There's a county park about a mile from my house that's right on the banks of the Tennessee River. All of the following photos were taken in an area about 40 feet square. My goal was to find many interesting things in a relatively small area.
As soon as we got to the park, I headed to my favorite place to explore-right along the shores of the river and the adjacent woodland. The level of the river today was low, some days this area is flooded. This shell caught my eye, its delicate blue color nestled among roots, grasses and fallen leaves.

Just a few feet from the shell, these little prints dotted the beach~river otter or beaver, I'm not quite sure.

Bits and pieces of natures handiwork, delicate designs that are easily overlooked

Natures carvers have been busy in the area. I found lots of beaver gnawings throughout the woodland area just a few feet from the river.

The river workers were out today, too. This is called a barge. The compartments (in red) are loaded with all sorts of commodities: coal, grain, gravel, sand and other stuff for transport up and down the river. This barge is heading upriver, probably to ports down in Alabama or beyond. He could get all the way to Knoxville on the Tennessee River on the other side of the state if he wanted to.

The boat that pushes the load is called a tow. I've never been on one of these, but I've heard that the accommodations are quite nice.

Enough of the man made stuff, we're here to check out mother nature.

Little pockets of ice remain near the backwaters, remnants of last week's cold, cold temperatures. In other years, the water back here would not freeze.

Twists and turns from vines that have intermingled. We find a lot of this kind of stuff around this area.

Fungus covers a fallen tree, delicate little wings full of detail and interesting color.

While I was looking down and taking pics, I almost missed this rainbow cloud up in the sky. I'd never seen anything like it! Bummer about the power lines being in this shot, but as soon as this cloud moved enough so the lines weren't visible, the rainbow wasn't either.

Hanging like an ornament, this is the seed pod from a Sweet Gum tree.
Even though things have not started to bloom yet, there's always plenty of interesting things to see in the natural world.
I hope you enjoyed this little bit of river exploration.

Have a safe and happy week.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I've got me a new kitty cat

Nah, not the real life kinds~I've got plenty of love kittens roaming around. In addition to the 7 permanent insiders, there's a family of 4 stray kitties that I've been caring for and trying to find homes for--without much luck.
I recently designed this new Orange Tabby stained cat suncatcher and added it to my Etsy shop. This piece came about really by accident. Call it the miracle of slow dial up~~while I patiently wait for pictures to upload I have nothing really to do put sit here and doodle. That's where the idea for this one started, just a little 2 inch sketch.

I don't remember what came first-the butterfly or the cat, but now it really doesn't matter. After I played with the sketch a little bit and enlarged it I could see that the piece really needed something more. That's where the little daisy flower came in. The piece then made perfect sense to me: Curious kitty finds a butterfly feeding on a flower, gently picks it up so he can get a better look at it.
Now, the possibilities are endless--will it be a grey tabby and an orange butterfly next time, or should I do a big black kitty and a blue butterfly? So many ideas.

Black patina~what is this stuff? I use a bit of it and in my descriptions I always add that the metals in this piece, the solder and the lead, have been darkened with black patina. The label says that it contains nitric acid and selenium compounds-and look, its also a poison. I wonder sometimes what kind of strange ailments I'll come down with in the future by working with all these chemicals and heavy metals...

Applied with a q-tip to the solder and lead, the lines become dark and the shinny solder turns a deep dark grey, accentuating the solder lines and directing your eye to the beauty of the glass instead.

The piece is then cleaned again to remove any patina residue.

With the addition of the new suncatcher, I had to build another Orange and White Tabby Cat. Out of curiosity, the husband asked-"How many of this cats have you done, crazy cat lady?" I dunno, I really don't keep track, but then I got real curious. So, I sat down and counted all the ones I've sold online, offline, special orders, through my studio, one that I traded and one that I gave away on my blog last year. This kitty is number 77! Ha~I really couldn't believe it. When number 100 comes around it will have to be extra special. I guess I have a little bit of time to think of what it will be.
The weather here has gotten much better in West Tennessee. We are now out of the deep freeze of last week, the temps are in the 50's and spring is just around the corner. Little daffodil sprouts are starting to poke up through the earth, a welcome sign of the renewal of spring.
Wherever you are, I hope you have a safe and happy week.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I love pancakes!!

But I really hate the mess of making them. Yeah, I know that sounds pretty lame, but I have a strange phobia of lots of dirty dishes hanging around the kitchen. And I get stuck with clean up duties along with the cooking. With just two people in the house, pancake making times are few and far between.

I came up with a solution. If the mess is gonna happen~make lots of pancakes all at once, have some right then and there and freeze the rest for rainy days. If the big corporations can do it, I can do it too.

Now, if I could only get my hands on a waffle maker...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Its a new balloon

Wow, I can't believe how time flies! Its already a new year and a new decade and its feels like forever since I've posted anything.
I recently added a new rainbow balloon suncatcher to my Etsy shop. Below are the steps that it takes to create one of these balloons.

First, I start with the original pattern, on the right. I make a carbon copy of the pattern on brown craft paper. All of the pattern pieces are numbered to correspond with the original. I cut the paper pattern apart and start selecting my glass.

For all of the balloons that I've ever made, I've always used Waterglass which is manufactured by the Spectrum glass company. There are a number of things that I like about this glass. Spectrum is pretty consistant in their glass making, especially their colors. That's to say, different glass lots can vary slightly and Spectrum is really good about keeping their colors true. The colors are bright and vibrant. Also, this glass cuts very easily. Finally, Waterglass has a slight texture resembling water gently rippling on the surface of a lake which gives it a gentle flow, very pleasing to the eye and good for a number of applications.
Above, I've taken the paper pattern that I've cut up and glued these pieces to the corresponding pieces of glass. Using this method, the pattern pieces stay in place throughout the glass cutting and grinding process.

Next, all of the glass pieces are 'cut'--kind of. Glass isn't cut, its scored. The glass cutter has a wheel that rides over the surface of the glass creating a break in the surface which allows the glass to then be broken off at the score line.

Once all of the glass pieces are cut, they still don't fit together as tight as they need to.
I'll use a glass grinder to smooth out any uneven edges on the sides of the glass pieces. The grinder head is coated with diamond bits that quickly removes any unwanted glass so the pieces can fit tightly together.

The glass pieces are placed back onto the original pattern and checked to make sure they fit tight.

Once all of the pieces have been fit together, the application of copper foil can begin. The little basket hangs separately from the balloon and will be assembled in a different manner.

In the copper foil, or Tiffany, method of stained glass the glass edges are wrapped with a self adhesive copper foil. For this balloon I'm using three different types of foil. One type is copper backed, as shown above. I use the copper backed foil for darker pieces of glass. For the lighter pieces like the yellow and orange, I use a black backed foil which creates a black shadow on the edges of the glass which can be seen once the suncatcher is completed. I'm also using a slightly narrower type foil for the glass pieces that are a little bit skinnier. With Waterglass, some of the glass pieces are a little bit thicker and some are a little bit skinnier. By using both wider and narrower foils, I can keep the solder lines looking consistant thoughout the piece. In other words, if I used a wider foil on a skinny piece of glass I'll end up with a wider solder line that will look fat and globby.

The glass pieces that are on inside of the suncatcher are wrapped entirely around with foil, the pieces that are on the outside edge are only wrapped on three sides. Here, a burnishing tool is used to smooth down the foil to the top surface of the glass. All three sides-top, edge and back are smoothed down to remove any air bubbles and to get the foil to stick to all of these surfaces.

Once all of the pieces have been foiled, I'll tack the suncatcher down to keep it in place using push pins.
Next, the soldering process can begin. Picured left to right, I've got my flux, 60/40 lead solder, a damp sponge to clean the tip of the solder iron off with and the solder iron. Soldering is an interesting process. A combination of copper foil along with chemical flux and hot melted solder creates a chemical reaction which bonds the pieces of glass together.

Here, one side of the suncatcher has been soldered. The piece is then flipped over and the backside is soldered also. The gunky junk leftover from the solder process will be cleaned off the glass.

Here's what the balloon looks like after both sides are soldered and the piece is cleaned for the first time. We're not done yet!

Let's assemble the basket. I save scrap pieces of lead came and use these pieces for the basket. Lead came, or lead framing-there are several different styles and thicknesses depending on the application needed. For suncatchers, I use 'U' channel came--it resembles the letter U and has an inside groove that fits around the edge of the glass.

I'll cut the bottom piece of came to fit and tack the bottom and two sides down to a board using horseshoe nails. These joints are then soldered together. A piece is cut to fit the top of the basket and this piece is then soldered in place.

Both sides of the basket-front and back- are soldered at the joints.

Excess came is then removed from the basket.

I've tried using real people to hold the basket for me when I solder a jump ring to the sides. The problem with using people is that they breath and when they breath they move and don't hold the basket perfectly steady. Then they get impatient which makes me impatient...its much easier for me to place the basket into a vise. The vise doesn't move and doesn't expect a great big thank you, either. Here, a jump ring is soldered to the side of the basket. The basket gets a jump ring on both sides. The basket is done for now and I'll set it aside.

Back to the balloon. Using scrap pieces just to get my measurement, I'll cut a piece of lead came to fit for the bottom of the balloon.

I'll measure the outside edge to find out how much lead came I will need for this project. Lead came is available in either 6 foot lengths in case quantities or it comes in a spool. I've bought both, the spooled lead is a bit more economical and shipping is a lot less expensive. For this project, I will need about 23 1/2 inches of lead came. I measure what I need, cut it off the spool and stretch the lead. The lead is very flexible and by stretching it, it straightens is and makes it not so flimsy.
I'll wrap the entire outside edge with the lead came, fit my bottom piece in and tack the entire suncatcher down to hold it in place. All of the joints are then soldered together using flux and solder. As in the basket, the excess came is removed using a lead cutter.

I make my own jump rings out of pretinned copper wire. Since no one is here to take any action camera shots for me, you've got to take my word that the next thing I'm doing is soldering the jump ring to the back of the suncatcher.

Again with the vise---I'll place the balloon into the vise to hold it while I solder a jump ring to each side of the balloon. After all of this, both the balloon and the basket are cleaned and polished and jack chain is used to attach the basket to the balloon. Then the real fun starts--trying to get good pictures so I can list this-most of the time its easier said then done!
I hope you enjoyed all of this fun stuff. I know I did. Speaking of fun stuff, the next project is a brand spankin new idea that I recently drew up. I'm very excited to get going on it. If you are a cat lover you'll get a kick out of this new suncatcher~think kitty cat, butterfly and a flower.
Until next time, stay warm. Its been an awefully cold winter here in West Tennessee. I can't wait for spring! Or at least a break in the deep freeze.