Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sponge Fly: Fiber Artist

Lately i haven't blogged enough about crafters, so here's a report on a really tiny one:

My husband teaches an invertebrate zoology course and regularly collects live specimens for his students to study, believing that live material is much more likely to capture the rapt facination of students, than dead and preserved specimens. You might think it would be impossible to find an example of live sponge in the high plains desert, but not if you are willing to go that extra mile. He found freshwater sponge in the bosque out Fort Sumner way and upon microscopic examination he found the larvae of a little neuropteran called a spongefly chewing about on the growth (view it on Youtube).

The adult is a tiny (5-6mm) lacewing (Climacia sp.). The larvae are only about 2mm long when they are mature and ready to pupate. They build this outer "cage" and then spin their little coccoon within it. (Again, hubby is the photographer.) You can see clearly the way the fibers of this outer wall are woven together just like a chain link fence! How do these tiny little larvae do that?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Birthbones premiere

I've been working on my line of BirthBones pet charms lately. I hope to have them available in my etsy shop by the end of the week. If you were one of those people who has a really close bond with your pet, it would be cute to have both of your birthbones on your pet's collar, don't you think?

They will be quite affordable, and i hope they sell like hotcakes because they're fun to make and really cute!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sean Not Yet of the Dead

I know i said i would show beads this time, but i don't have any new photos this afternoon, but i have been meaning to write a chicken story:

A broody hen's pile of eggs were overdue to hatch, and two chicks had already died half out of the shells, so my SIL decided it would be best to collect the eggs and dispose of them properly before they got too rotten and the dogs discovered them. She put them in a box and brought them up to the porch so that she wouldn't forget to deal with them when she could. Later that day, my 15 year old niece (let's call her Angie) passed the box and thought she heard a peeping coming from inside. She carefully examined each egg until she found the one that was being opened by the chick within.

Angie brought the egg into the house and set it on the kitchen table and was midwife to the slowly emerging chick. It was cold and weak and needed a little help. Once it was free of shell Angie dried it and warmed it in her hand. By evening she was encouraging the little newborn to eat by tapping her fingernail on the table where she'd strewn a bit of chicken feed. Before bed she set the chick up in a box with a heating pad under a layer of newspaper.

In the morning she was dismayed to find the chick had somehow wedged itself underneath the heating pad. Angie feared she had cooked her chick; it wasn't looking very good. But again she gave it serious TLC, giving it a little water now and then, and it recovered. That afternoon Angie put the little chick in the chicken house with Fuzzy, an odd fluffy white chicken that had never had any chicks of her own, hoping Fuzzy would adopt it.

When Angie checked on the chick in the morning, she found it laying dejectedly in a corner. Again it was cold and helpless. Angie held it beneath the heat lamp and massaged it gently until it regained strength enough to peck at some feed. Fuzzy payed more attention to it now, as did a runty rooster with unusually short legs who was never able to compete with the big rooster in the flock, and therefore never had his own hens and chicks to herd around the yard. The little makeshift family of oddballs seemed to be gelling!

The next morning, after a long search, Angie found her poor cold and limp chick half under the water tray. Again she carefully warmed and dried it and massaged it back to life. And again, by evening, Warm and Fuzzy and Sean (named for the zombie movie) were a funny little family unit. And that's the way they remained. And my niece seriously needs to consider a career in resurrection, or at least "healing".

Friday, August 21, 2009

Still on Vacation (after all these years)!

We've been in New Mexico for eight years or so now. My husband and i both grew up on the prairies in Canada. It is taking some time for us to lose the sense of being somewhere exotic, like we were only here on extended holidays. These hot dry afternoons of summer get old, but oh the mornings and evenings bring back that sense of being somewhere precious and fleeting. I still get that feeling that it isn't going to last so i'd better just soak it in and enjoy ever moment. It's a fine way to feel. The kids have a few favorite places they like to go in that gentle part of the day, one is the hidden dunes at Oasis State Park. While they throw themselves over "cliffs" with great abandon and fill their hair and shoes with sand and forget about the restrictions of school, i like to wander in search of photos that reflect my own mood of just being grateful to be here, and grateful to be at all.

Pictures of beads next time!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Our Infestation and Small Desert Flower

Well the sky over these high plains is brown today. It happens when it is real windy. It might be fine particulate windswept desert matter. But considering the prevailing wind direction (over Hereford, Texas, "Beef Capital of the World"), it might be fine particular feedlot matter, the thought of which makes breathing slightly more difficult. :-)

Our house has been infested by ferrets. It's probably a larger problem around here than we know about. At least i hope we aren't the only house harboring millions of creepy little ferrets. I don't know how extensive the damage is but some of the tunnels of this ferret colony look pretty old, so my guess is that they've been residents for some years. Our siding is made out of some sort of wood fibres, too, which doesn't bode well. I hear that in some areas, the exterminators enclose your entire house in a tent and fumigate the entire thing. Where are we going to go with 6 cats while that's happening!? lol Sometimes they'll just drill holes in the foundation around the house and put in some sort of ferret-icide down them. But this sounds more like something you would do to keep new ferrets out, rather than kill the ones already eating your house. I look forward to learning all about in the days ahead. NOT!

*Note: When you blog about mundane day to day things, you worry about boring the few people who actually read the entry. A friend of mine, who has wiked skillz but is mostly a closet writer, suggested that i could cancel some of that ho-hum by replacing a word thoughout. So in the above story, i replaced every "termite" with "ferret." It does make my life sound a bit more exciting, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The boys went back to school this morning and i'll spend the day wondering how they are doing. As we built up to this morning, they didn't sound too hopeful that they would ever, ever be happy again. I wouldn't actually promote pessimism, but one thing you can say about going into something with low expectations: the little events that aren't actually horrible, look better than they are... Even though i'm not there to witness it, i'm counting on my boys bumping in to old freinds, finding the odd teacher that makes learning interesting, and maybe the thought: "i guess school isn't so bad after all" might just enter their minds. Well, i'm hoping.

I may not be with them at school, but my lunches are. According to my boys, they are the only kids in the school system that take sack lunches. Last year my youngest even had to sit at the Sack Lunch Table. Sounds a bit ostracizing to me. Anyway, they all went off this morning with homemade wheat rolls, homemade chicken fingers, veggie sticks, fresh cantaloupe, and homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Something about putting my love into lunch makes me feel better. But i don't know how i feel about a buttered roll representing my love, support and protection. I thought it would taste more like peach cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. :-)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Flowers of Tin

Have i mentioned that i enjoy flower photography? I like the play of light on the diaphanous petals of poppies in particular. Compare your mind's image of a translucent, ephemeral poppy swaying in a gentle summer breeze with etsy seller merritthyde's wonderful metal flowers. Their size (often 4-5 inches) and weight are like the antithesis of my poppies yet i love them for that very reason. (Please click on the photos to go directly to her etsy shop.)

It's always interesting to hear how an artisan comes to choose their medium of expression. I asked merritthyde how she came to be a tinworker:

"I began painting on tin in 1998 and it soon progressed into experimenting with materials, technique and 3d objects. I wanted to transform it in to something totally new and beautiful… for the tin to be “reborn” without losing the integrity of its journey. In retrospect I can see that this was a personal journey as well as an artistic one and it continues to this day to challenge me."
"I love looking for materials that would otherwise be thrown away, buried or discarded and giving them new “life”. Things like rusted roofing tin, old wood and barbwire become works of art and beauty while still retaining a sense of history and character."

There is the real substance of the material in merritthyde's flowers: made of tin, the petals are quite rigid, and it would have some heft in your palm. There is also a sense of the weight of Time in the knowledge that the flower was created from old, used roofing tin. And that aspect has been accentuated by the artists fine paint and stressing techniques. These are truly handsome flowers and will bring joy for a lifetime.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Flashy Bright Silver Wraps

In tomorrow's blog i will be introducing an etsy seller who makes handsome tin flowers.

Some really bright and flashy new beads, still on the mandrel. I'll photograph these tomorrow and get them into the shop.

My parents are avid readers and put me on to J.A. Jance mysteries. So i'm racing through my first one this weekend. The majority of my reading material over the past year have been book series. So it's always a bit unsettling for me when i finish the last book an author has written. I feel a little lost until i get turned on to a whole 'nother writer. And Jance has quite a list of novels so i should be good for months! Long live the serial writer!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Animal Stories Part 2

This bold chipmunk was our lake cottage guest. We barged in on him making the cutest little peanut butter sandwiches!

H. is the most beautiful black lab i've ever seen and her owners have decided to breed her for pups one time. They selected one of the country's most eligible bachelors and arranged a date. In case there are young readers here, i won't be explicit, but things didn't go very smoothly, and although H. eventually was begging for his attention, her date wasn't going to comply.

Well this was the time to put in a long distance call to The Dog Whisperer if ever there was one. The phone was held to the ear of the reticent male. Dog and Dog Whisperer had a "talk." And then finally the Whisperer explained the problem to the humans of H. and her date and cleared everything up: the noble male dog loved H. and felt very protective of H. and didn't want to hurt her. Awww.

So the humans let things be for a while and then arranged another date. This time the humans involved came prepared, with "harvested sample" and KY jelly. I imagine most guys prepare for a date by checking their hair in the mirror and splashing on a bit of smelly stuff. I don't even want to think about this guy's pre-date preparations or what sort of machinery might have been involved. Nor how the date itself must have been about as romantic as a visit to the OB/GYN... But gosh, those pups are going to be devastatingly adorable if they ever get made!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Focus? What's that?

I've got itchy fingers to do something different creatively, yet not homing in on one thing, and i'm getting frustrated with myself.

I'm experimenting with how to make paper look antique, so I've got tea-stained paper in various stages, drying all over the kitchen. Some are crinkled pre-stain and i'm now wondering if i can even run crinkled paper through my printer or if the ink will do wierd things when it hits a little crease.

I've been researching public domain laws to see if i'm going to be free to use the comix images i've got my heart set on.

I'm regretting not getting more seed beads (ask any bead geek: we always need more) and some micro fibre cloth when i was in the city the other day.

I've got a ton of flower photos from the last month or so that i wish i could think of something to do with.

And i want something real to show for all my thinking by the end of the day! lol

I made a half dozen soft toys while driving between Canada and New Mexico a few weeks ago. (We have a good system: hubby drives and i craft and read. I love a road trip!) Some of them are ready to find new homes but i'm torn between keeping them, or giving them to my two young nieces (who naturally have tons of dollies and toys already) and selling them on etsy.

Related to that thought, i have scolded myself in the past for giving away or selling all the good things i make. (i've made and sold some nice gourdshell tatting shuttles, nice beaded bracelets, tatted doilies n such.) That's a toughie, cuz i want to help support the family financially, but as i get older i start to think about the legacy i leave for my children (and grandchildren eventually?). Chances are, something i've made with my own hands will have more meaning for my family than to the person who paid $14 for it.

I dunno. Some days i just feel like i have hair in my brain and i don't know what i should be doing. This is Geddie. He was concieved and birthed on 28 July 2009 between Valentine, Nebraska and Garden City, Kansas. He has 8 hairs coming out of his brain. He may or may not show up in my etsy shop.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Through Glass Lenses

Coming across the work of etsy seller bayly (click on photos to go directly to her shop) has inspired me to explore a new craft and i'm really having fun with it. I doubt whether anything i make will get into my etsy shop, but I'm thinking Christmas gifts for my loved ones! (Ooops. shhhhhhh...)

If you've never crafted with these glass lenses, it's really incredible how they magnify what's underneath it--almost seem to add a sense of 3D--and they seem to draw whatever ambient light there is and focus it on your image. They're just remarkable.

bayly makes these lovely pieces of jewelry using glass lenses, bits of patterned paper and illustrations, and upcycled hardware. Bezels she makes using strung seed beads and such, backings are cut from soft fabric, and most of her links and clasps are also of her own handcrafted devising. That's what appeals to me so much about her work: it seems very low on expense and very high on artistic sensibility and crafting talent!

Spotlight on Timone

I met a cat on a farm in Manitoba this summer. He stole my heart and, because this is my blog, i get to post his picture and introduce him to my friends (readers).

Timone, a.k.a. Tim, met my SIL and the kids while they were walking a country road with their big Golden Retriever, Poe. Tim greeted the people and happily tolerated Poe's snuffling. And then he followed them all home, the way a young cat sometimes will. His host family proceeded to advertise the "found cat" around their area, and meanwhile Tim made himself very at home with his new pal, Poe. Within a few days a woman showed up and claimed the cat, explaining that it was pretty much dumped on her since she was known to have a number of barn cats, and everyone knows that if you have a lot of cats already, you naturally will take one more... (My own family has acquired 6 stray cats so far, so i know how that goes, heheh.) And so the lady took Tim away.

A little time passed, but the next time the family was walking down that country road, Poe made a sudden side trip and ran up a drive, only to return with Tim running along with him. When they got home my SIL contacted the lady and apologized for Poe's kidnapping her cat again. The woman said that if Poe really liked him so much he could keep him.

So now Tim lives with Poe (and Poe's humans) and when Poe is lounging around the porch or farmyard, Tim is almost always at his side. I have a soft spot for orange cats, but this one has such a strong, winning character, he's impossible to resist.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bug Pins on Etsy

I don't have to search long and hard to find an inspiring etsy artisan. And when i find one, i want to share them!

Seller jfarrisfromtheheart caught my imagination with her little polymer clay bug pins. (Click on images to go directly to her etsy shop.) She makes richly patterned clay components and combines them cleverly with wire to make her pleasingly proportioned bugs. There is enough fine detail to them to keep them from looking too cartoony. And the incorporation of the clockworks in one is just brilliant. You are encouraged to check them out.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

New Beads to Start Off August

I've got 4 new sets of beads to put in the etsy shop, as well as six new fish beads. But here is a preview of a couple of things. I'm loving the new bones, "Sunset Bones". The color looks awesome on sun tanned skin and there's more than enough length here to make a bracelet. They will be available tomorrow.