Saturday, February 28, 2009

Like I Need Another Hobby

I did something on Thursday that I've never done before.

Hmm, should I tell you or show you?

Like the bad blogger I am, I forgot my camera.  Fortunately, my friend Kate (or rather, her daughter Clare) has a camera identical to mine, and they were gracious enough to snap a few pictures to document the occasion.

Kate's mom Ruby has been making pottery for years, and she has her own studio on their property (they all live together, along with Kate's hubby Edward, which is impressive in this day and age).  This shot is of me beginning to work the clay for a small bowl.

This is the lovely Ruby.  I'm sure we're laughing because she's telling me I can come back anytime because -- unlike her daughter and granddaughter -- I take direction from her.  These ladies are all delightful, and I will definitely go back!

In this picture I'm shaping the edges of the bowl around the mold.  You can't tell, but there is a pattern on the inside of the bowl (pressed in using a cake decorating mold -- very clever!).

I'm texturing the outside of the bowl using a rock.  Ruby's had this rock for 15 or 20 years, she said, because it's perfect for a rough texture.  You find the right tool, you keep it!

And of course, the artist always signs her work.  Funny thing, you can't sign a bead or a piece of jewelry, so I don't have a lot of experience with this part of the process.

This picture is of Clare, Kate's daughter, who is painting a past piece of her own.  Clare is usually the one behind the camera -- and is a far better photographer than I -- so it was fun to turn the tables on her a bit and showcase her beautiful work.

I'll post again and show the finished results once the bowls are done (I did two of them).  They're drying now.  Next time I go, I will glaze them, and they will go in the kiln to be baked to pottery perfection.  I can't wait to see how they come out!

Side note (and Kate might kill me for this, but whatever): Edward deserves mad props for doing this for Kate last year.  She's survived two bouts with cancer, three pacemaker operations, and a TIA (small stroke).  It's not an overstatement to say it's a miracle we still have her with us.  I wonder what God has in store for her?  I know she's curious.  And I know I'm thrilled to still have my friend.  Love you, Kate!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Kiss My Glass

I've spent far too much time away from my torch, and I can tell.

I *heart* my torch.  The fire, the molten glass, the mesmerizing joy of creating something that didn't exist before I made that bead.

It's also been a really long time since I posted any pictures here.  So now you're going to be inundated.  If you hate pics of beads and jewelry, close this window now.  You have been warned.

First is a picture of a necklace I made for a friend's mom for Christmas.  I've known this friend since college (the first time, 20+ years ago) and his wife since junior high.  For him, I made this pendant three times; I simply didn't like the first two.  This was pretty much my all-time favorite bead when I made it.  I had a hard time sending it away.  I hope she loves it as much as I loved making it.

Next up is two pairs of earrings that I made for a blogger I love and admire. She made a New Year's resolution to wear earrings more often.  I hope she's sticking to it!

This is a necklace I made for the lovely Jessica, my Taiwanese co-worker who is invaluable in helping make sure that all the administrative wheels keep turning for me.  She requested a pink and green necklace.  Again, this is a pendant I made more than once.  The first one is ugly enough that I won't post a pic of it. I liked this one a lot though.

The next four pics are beads that I've made in the last few months that I don't think I've taken pictures of.  I actually took the pics to show to an online friend who beads, but since I have them, you can see them too.

The bead on the left in this pic is another favorite.  It's made with a silvered glass (yes, the glass has actual silver in it) that does cool things under certain conditions.  This particular glass is called Psyche and is one of my favorites because of all of its cool effects.  The one on the right is OK, I suppose; I just haven't gotten around to making anything with it yet.

You may notice a similarity between the bead on the left in this pic and the one on the right in the pic above.  I was trying for a particular effect with the bead below -- the base glass before being heated is a sort of translucent white. Unfortunately, it's what's called a striking glass -- it changes colors after it's heated.  It turned burnt orange, which is about my least favorite color, and I thought looked horrible with the pink and purple twist running through it. Strangely enough, it struck again in the kiln firing process and turned pink.

The middle bead is made with a base of white glass and two different silvered glasses.  The one on the right is made with a dark clear glass for the base, with dichroic added for the big pop of sparkle, and dots of two kinds of silvered glass for accent.

The bead on the left below was the second attempt for a pendant in my friend's mom's necklace.  See -- it's OK but not as great as what I ended up with.  Next to it is a bead in which I was trying to replicate one of my favorite beads -- seen in the bottom pic in this post -- epic fail.  The other three beads are just me noodling around with the fun silvered glasses.

There are some fun beads in this pic.  On the left and the bottom right are black beads with raku (multicolored glass chips, rolled onto the molten bead, then melted in), then twisted with a pink stringer (stringer is just a skinny glass rod).  Between those two is a white bead with Psyche accents.  You can see all the color variation and the way the Psyche fumed the white glass -- love it!  The two small beads on the opper right are three different kinds of silvered glass. Even if you don't see the silver explicitly, they're just a little shinier than other beads.

Now on to the beads I've made in the last few days... These are more twisted raku like the ones above, only these are in a lentil shape.  They will either be strung with the pendant above or be shipped off to my online beading friend.

Below are two more lentils made with silvered glass -- an experiment.  It's hard to tell in the pic, but they look completely different, even though they were made in exactly the same way.  It's both the charm and the curse of that particular glass (Michelangelo) that it rarely comes out the same way twice. The pink ones are earring replacements for my sister, who lost one.  And the large bead may be my new favorite.  I like it a lot.  It's the same base glass as my previous favorite, but the surface decorations are done with my two favorite silvered glasses, Psyche and Black Pearl.  Yummy.

And, last but not least, I revisited the guitar bead.  I figured out how to make actual strings on this bad boy.  Unfortunately, I didn't consider that I should have made a "pickup" or terminus for the strings to the south of the "hole" in the middle of the guitar.  And of course, during this bead is when my propane decided to run out.  I've had that tank for a year.  So this will be remade with a pickup, the strings will run where they should, the white decorative part will look better since that's where the gas ran out, and there will be tuning pegs.  I do think the strings look cool on top of the fretboard, though.

And that's all I have for you today.  I have some more raku beads and another guitar to make, but my hubby has run off with my camera, so we'll see when I get more pics posted.

If you could have a bead or bead set that represented you, what would it look like?  I always like a new challenge.  Comment me up!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Planning to Plan

I used to be really organized. Then last year I started working from home, and I lost my organizational mojo. It's amazing how a change in venue can mess with you.

Now, I'm working hard -- sometimes feels like treading water -- to find tools that work for me to re-organize myself, personally and professionally.

In my personal life, I'm giving Google Calendar a try. I'm in front of a computer most of the day, so hopefully GCal will keep me from double scheduling my often hectic social life.

For grocery lists, for our family, simpler has always been better: if someone notices something is out (or about to be out), it goes on a list, which is on an index card. It's a nice size to carry with you, and stiff enough to mark things off while you're wandering the store.

Now I just need to get back to the tried and true method I used to use of flagging and filing mail in MS Outlook. I've gotten lazy about keeping up with it, and I hate looking for things in my inbox!

How do you stay organized? Go over to Natalie's Whatev' Weekend post and see what other people have to say... but leave me a comment and let me know about yours!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury

It's been a long time since I had jury duty, and I almost forgot I had it today.


Fortunately for me, I was summoned to my local municipal court, which is about three minutes from my house. I got there a few minutes late to find a crowd standing around. I handed in my jury summons form and waited. And waited some more.

The woman who collected the forms explained that the defendant hadn't arrived yet. Bad form. Both for the defendant, who should be on time for trial, and for the clerk, who shouldn't tell the jury that the defendant is late (or so I would think). Isn't that prejudicial?

We were finally seated in the courtroom. I was Juror 27. That's a nice comfortable number, especially once I noticed the six juror seats at the front of the room.

Then they made us go to the back of the room and reshuffled us. I then became Juror 7. Uh-oh. That's not good, especially when two or three of the seats in front of me were empty.

The prosecutor told us the trial was for someone who had been pulled over for running a stop sign. He asked if any of us had gotten a ticket we felt was unfair. Several hands went up. He asked each of them for details. They were all for speeding, and none was issued in our small town outside Austin. I didn't raise my hand, but I probably should have; I was recently issued a speeding ticket in Austin for which the officer said I was going faster than I think I was. But no matter.

When they called the names of the jurors, I was among them. There were four women and two men on the jury. The prosecutor and the officer had prepared their case carefully: they had pictures of the intersection, video of the officer pulling over the defendant (useless because of wind noise), notes the officer had made on the back of the ticket.

The defendant had made a diagram on a small white board, and she told us how she knew she had stopped: she was turning left at the intersection, and there was a Suburban turning right. There had been a jogger crossing the road that the Suburban had to wait for before it could turn, and she couldn't see around the Suburban to turn left. So she had to stop in order to see. She described every detail and admitted to us that she had thought she was being pulled over for failing to signal the turn. And why else would you insist on a jury trial for failure to stop at a stop sign unless you felt you were not guilty?

The officer didn't remember the details of the Suburban and the jogger, and her notes on the back of the ticket were wrong; she'd said the defendant was turning right at the intersection, not left.

When we got in the deliberation room, it really just came down to this: we all believed the defendant. We took a quick pre-vote a few minutes after entering the room, and it was already a unanimous Not Guilty. I was elected foreman due to my proximity to the door, so I got to write up our verdict -- although the judge read it, which I thought was anticlimactic. We were dismissed before 11am.

The best detail of the day came after all that, though. I pulled into my driveway and saw my neighbor from across the street, which wouldn't be relevant except that I had heard his name called that morning -- he was supposed to be in that room with me as Juror #2! So I waved him over and informed him that he was in violation of state law. He chuckled, but when I told him he had jury duty, his jaw dropped. He had just forgotten, like I almost had. I told him that, since he's retired Secret Service, I thought he had just gotten out of it somehow -- hey, he's done his public service time, believe me. Then we joked about how his son, the local police officer, could come and arrest him. Good times.

This is my first time to get picked for a jury. I'm glad it wasn't a serious criminal charge. What's your jury duty experience? Been called? Been seated on a jury? Tell me about it!