Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Lampwork Bead Tutorial Finally Finished

It's been a marathon day here at Darwin Gardens (obviously with no attention to the gardens), but my second tutorial on my Playa Tortuga bead series is finally finished. I owe huge thanks to Deb Batten of Firebird Flameworks for her thorough and entertaining review and editorial comments, and to my DH's employer for getting him out of my hair for the day (just kidding).

The 18 page, 34 photo PDF format tutorial contains everything you need (plus some irreverant comments and unsolicited humor) to make my Playa Tortuga style beads. It's been quite a challenge to get the pictures for these tutorials without an assistant, but I've finally wrangled a way to get my tripod in between me and my torch to provide two handed action shots. It's harder than you think to time when your stringer is going to be ready to lay "just so" on the bead, so some of the shots are more like "what it looks like just after the action has happened" shots. But I think you'll get it when you read the tutorial, and as Serendipity would have it, it allowed me to cover a number of remedies for failed attempts at this bead.

Some helpful motocross friends of mine have suggested a helmet cam, but I think that would put my already borderline torching style just over the edge into the ridiculous, not to mention the foreseeable problems of making sure my hands and the bead are in the shot.

I would also like to thank a multitude of Facebook friends who provided canine dietary advice for flatulence. Without their helpful suggestions (don't feed him any more cheese sandwiches) I may not have gotten through this final hurdle to publication.

Thanks everyone!

You can buy my tutorial right here, right now, for $18.





Season of Love

Can you see the adult wild turkey, just behind the low eucalyptus branch?
Click on the image to see the full sized version.

I went outside this am to bring in some laundry, and heard an odd animal noise I had not heard recently. Kind of like a rusty honking noise. Our neighbor has a large pond and it's not uncommon for ducks, geese, and other water fowl to hang out there, but this noise was different. My eye caught some movement about 30' away and saw a new family of wild turkeys walking along the fenceline. Made my day!

Can you see the babies? They're running pretty fast to catch up
with mom and dad. Click on the pictures to see them full size.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Foggy Beach Walk

It was a nice day for a long walk on the beach with Bodie. He blew out his knee early this year so it's been quite a while since he's been there. It's clear that he saved up some energy for this - it's a joy to see him run and frolic in the surf. But all that running makes him mighty thirsty. Much to the amusement (and possibly horror) of the parents and tykes at the adjacent playground he likes to drink from the drinking fountain.

The sand crabs are molting, I'm told, and there were carcasses and body parts everywhere.

This "highway ice plant" (carpobrotus edulis) is not native, and is in fact considered an invasive species around here. But it's very attractive in bloom.


What a beautiful planet this is. I feel very lucky to live here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

God Help Us

Dreamy culinary bay.

I've just discovered Picasa's Soft Focus effect. My garden looks so much dreamier now, doesn't it? You can't see the dead stuff or the weeds. I'm liking this.

Dreamy Just Joey rose.

Dreamy Herb Garden.

I guess I could use this on all kinds of pictures.

Even a girl in sweats with no makeup can look dreamy.

Now, where did I put that image of the rooftop penis?

Okay, I'll try to exercise some restraint. But I hope you don't mind if I use this feature a little bit. I'll get back to that tutorial I'm trying to finish now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Raku Kachoo

A new "Big Fancy Bead" in my Etsy shop (SOLD). This is the subject of my first tutorial.
Can you believe the color from this raku?

Been a raku fool lately, and have made both lampwork bead sets and focals. While some are custom orders, lots are in my Etsy shop waiting to fulfill your every Raku fantasy. OK, well, maybe not that one.

"Ghost Busters" focal lentil bead (SOLD).

"Navajo Sunset" focal straight sided lentil bead.

"Navajo Sunset" lampwork and gemstone pendant (SOLD),
ready to hang with your favorite chain.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tortuga Tutorial

"Playa Tortuga" bead, the subject of my next tutorial.

"Tortuga Hydrata".

"Tortuga Gorda".

It's been a long time in coming, but I'm hard at work on my next tutorial on my Tortuga beads. It will cover making a Tortuga style bead, plus several variations. This is happening in between providing CPR to my poor garden, mind you, cooking fabulous feasts consumed far too late at night, getting ready for summer shows, and custom bead orders, but nonetheless, it's progress. I'll take it however it comes.

The biggest hurdle standing between me and this tutorial (besides finding time) was an incredibly messy torching area. It's hard to believe that the last cleanup was as recently as last October. I'm on some kind of roll! Here's a photo from today's shoot.


Let's twist!

I hope to have it out before the week ends.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Welcome to Darwin Gardens

Sambuca, Scotch Moss, and Ajuga, the latest offering
to Darwin's Great Experiment in my garden.

I have finally found the perfect name for our estate. I mean, um, the patch of ground which I garden. I mean, the site where I occasionally pay attention to what's more than 5' from my torch. Darwin Gardens. What more perfect name for the experiment naturally unfolding in my garden since my love affair with molten glass began.

It's very simple. I invite the plants into the garden. Granted, the odds of invitations being issued were far greater during the PGP (Pre-Glass Period), but a few are slipping out in recent days. Once the plants are here, they are free to perform (and live), or not, and it's entirely up to them and their genetic makeup. Certainly, it's not up to me. It's nature doing her thing, all by herself.

The hybrid teas we inherited from the prior owners. While some of them are still there, they struggle in comparison to the old roses I have planted by their sides, or the thriving tagetes I have woven amongst them to deter the deer with their exhuberant fragrance. Or the lavender planted for similar reasons. Neither of these get any modicum of attention or water during the growing season, and yet, they live on, more or less, to provide their show of bloom and delight me. The exception to the lackluster hybrid tea roses is the one I believe is a Peace rose, which towers high above the rest, despite having far poorer soil and light conditions.

Is this a Peace rose?

These experiments are happening all throughout my garden, ever confirming Darwin's truth. There seems to be a trend going on with the salvias. It doesn't matter much what species, or where I plant them - they seem to know what to do and how to do it with little interference from me. Some are doing it too well. There is a towering red salvia literally consuming what are suposed to be native manzanita bushes, and I don't recall ever having watered, fed, or pruned it.

Two salvias consuming a native manzanita, without
sustenance or encouragement from me.

It's not always the perennials that win, either. In the first year or two of living in this place, I planted some Dusty Miller (the annual type, sold en masse at the Home Depot as accents) along the path to the kitchen door. It's an Annual, for cripe's sake, but it is still there, growing bigger each year, without water or care for the last near decade.

A perennial relative called 'Powis Castle' is accomplishing similar feats back in a shady backstage area of the vegetable garden, which I used to use as a nursery when I was passionately tending the soil. I loved to propagate plants, and had started some wormwood (artemesia) cuttings in 1 gallon pots. Well, over the years these little starts got a little dribble here and there as the veggies got their dose, and soon became shrubs on their own. They grew so well that their roots extended out of the gallon pots and down into the soil, so that it eventually became impossible to lift the pot off the ground. Their leggy branches will be pruned back one day to promote new, bushier growth, and the plants will ultimately find a wonderful spot in my Darwin garden. They have certainly earned it!

Certain succulents seem to have a leg up around here as well. There is an odd stonecrop that seems happy to be plunked down anywhere, doesn't mind being ignored, and will dutifully fill in any empty spaces. It asks nothing from me.

There is a bronze sedge that wants nothing more than to be propagated the hell out of, and distributed all throughout my garden. The coolest thing about this one is that even if it dies, the color is almost the same and I can't tell either way.

My favorite, bronze sedge.

Planting under trees (at least the redwoods and douglas firs we have) has not worked well for me. I am abandoning certain areas because of this, digging up any potential survivors and finding other more optimistic homes for them, and conceding victory to the trees. There are exceptions - the Spring Bouquet viburnum has thrived under the douglas fir out front, as has the bergenia, and a spirea. But the lovely small flowered rhodies, some azaleas, and certainly the hydrangeas have all been bullied by the moisture-hungry roots of these trees, and have succumbed. I think these places in particular exemplify Darwin's ideas, where even an attentive gardener cannot do much to alter the course of what will ultimately be.

Failure is a part of every scientific venture, and my garden is no exception. Many who are chosen to participate because of their flashy blooms, heady fragrance, or exotic habit are shocked to learn that a server does not come by every day with a drink and an appetizer. Sure, eventually they do get a little attention, but you can bet it's nothing like what they were used to at the greenhouse. Once they pass I do try to remove them with respect, and give them a chance to serve again by composting their remains. Sometimes I try heroic rescue tactics but they usually don't work and take up far too much time. Time I could be spending at the torch.

I invite you to take a stroll through my Darwin garden at my Flickr photo album.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Garden Renaissance


Things have been happening in my garden. Good things. Things that haven't happened in quite a while. A Restoration of sorts. A rebirth. A reconnection.

I was a gardening fiend before I became seduced by molten glass. It was my passion, for sure, and nothing much came close. And then came glass.

In the beginning of the Neglectful Period I laughed about it, saying that it was an experiment designed to discover the lowest maintenance plants. Granted, I have achieved that goal, but the ones that did not survive have left some ugly, bare scars on my once beautiful retreat. Darwin was right, and I have living (and dead) proof right here.

I learned to love sedge, salvia, and heirloom roses, not to mention hardy viburnum, grasses, azaleas and camelia, nepeta, osteospermum, and iris. Santa Barbara Daisy makes me smile each time I pass by its happy, healthy tufts along the path. I am driven crazy by an overexhuberant old climbing rose whose name I don't know, whom I swear I bought at 4" high for 99 cents at a garage sale and now threatens to take over the house.

"Just Joey", one of my all time favorite roses.

Lamium, heuchera, and salvia make a grand spring entrance.

Last weekend I began the process of tending to those scars, respectfully removing the dead (and quietly honoring the service they once performed), celebrating the hearty, and optimistically looking ahead to days when I might have more time to tend the land.

A new addition, a "Joseph's Coat" climber for the arch.

An overgrown arch with two Cecile Bruner roses was taken down and the excessively eager performers given to a new home with more elbow room, and two less eager old climbers were assigned to the job.

A winter dormant fountain was cleaned and the pump was breathed back to life (whacked, more like it). It's joyous sound now permeates the front entry.

The hopes of early autumn color were solidified with plantings of two different Rudbeckias, and the joys of summer cuttings were invested in Shasta daisies and zinnias.

Dilapidated half whiskey barrels were dismantled and replaced with more durable containers, in places. Weeds were removed from the beds, and unruly viburnum were tamed with the hedge clippers. Roses were pampered with worm castings (my own) and steer manure, soon to be followed with Epsom salts and (hopefully) regular waterings with a new drip irrigation system. Dahlias were dug and divided, and dispersed among the garden. Potted plants were heavily mulched in anticipation of the soon to come heat waves. Hummingbird and nyger feeders were cleaned and refilled. Cheerful pots of perennials and annuals were planted.


Life goes on, and life is good in the garden. Perhaps there is a reason why many of my new jewelry pieces have a garden theme.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Inquisitive Mind

Was I the only one who missed that story a month ago about the kid in the UK who painted a large phallus on the roof of his family home, unbeknownst to his parents? Apparently he heard about Google Earth and wanted to find out whether his house would show up on the maps. An empiricist for sure - someone should give that kid a scholarship immediately!

What's amazing to me is that his parents didn't learn about it for a whole year. The tip off came when a helicopter from The Sun newspaper spotted it, and contacted the kid's dad. The dad had this to say: "It's an April Fool's joke, right? There's no way there's a 60ft phallus on top of my house."

Ah, guess again. Never underestimate the power of the inquisitive mind. And parents, do you know where your children are? And when was the last time you checked your paint supply?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Rainy First Show

New booth layout at the 2009 Saratoga Rotary Art & Wine Show

Well, the clouds and rain rolled in, but so did the people so my first show of the year was tons of fun. It's just not the same without people to talk to!

Most of my booth was unscathed by the moisture, and my heart went out to the painters and others bringing more fragile artwork to the show. My canopy and fabrics will dry out, and my jewelry appreciates a bath now and then.

I'd like to give a happy shout out to my friends and wonderful customers who turned out for the show - Sheila, Catherine & John, Laura from Santa Cruz, Mike, John, Joyce, Pat, Dottie, and others I'm sure I'm forgetting. It was great to see everyone and wonderful to get such positive feedback on my latest work.

Gravity Tubes necklace (SOLD).

Gravity Tubes necklace (SOLD).

I was sad to see my Gravity Tubes piece go so fast. It's been percolating in my mind for the last year, and only in the last week or two became fully realized. I'll do another post on the design and techniques very soon, but for now I'll just note that the fine silver parts bear some lasting impressions from our recent trip to Baja, Mexico. The beads themselves are my Gravity Tubes, which are made using only heat and gravity for shaping, and no tools (should I call them Virgin Tubes?). They are very liberating to make if you usually use lots of tools to produce your beads. Hey, what about Freedom Beads? Nah. Too Bush-esque.

Mean Green Mother Earth companion pieces.

My new 3-tiered buffet servers (thank you B. Smith and Bed Bath & Beyond) worked well to get the pieces up off the table and in an interesting arrangement for the eye. They fold up flat for easy transport too.

I'm getting back in the swing of things again, after a very hectic schedule, and look forward to updating you more frequently on what's been going on. Next I think I'll cover the Baja adventure, and the making of my Gravity Tubes piece.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

'Lil Meanies

My collaborations with Cyndie Smith continue, and we're having a blast.
Here are some more pieces in our "Mean Green Mother Earth" series.
More shots of rings and brooches coming soon! I'll have these pieces on Sunday, May 3 at the Saratoga Rotary Art Show, as well as The Gathering of glassy peeps in Miami.


Probably not for washing the dog or computer work.

A brooch with teeth!

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