Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Delicious Agony


It's hard to complain about the eternal cold and rain we're having when it creates such breathless beauty. I hope you enjoy a bit of the magic it made for me today. Looks like the magic will continue for another week. Click the photos to see the full sized versions from my Flickr account, along with a few notes about the plants.

Cotinus Coggygria

Lacecap Hydrangea

Just Joey Rose






Peace Rose

Monday, May 30, 2011


Well, unless you count some minor remaining details like figuring out where to hang my flaming clock, I'm calling this one DONE! It's been so long in the making, and such an extended project that I thought I would never finish. An out of town dual-birthday party for my two elderly in-laws this weekend didn't stop me from finishing the plumbing, securing the metal workbench sides, and getting the rest of the extras finished. It's not my dream studio by any means*, but it's good enough to get me where I'm headed in the meantime, and was fairly easy on the budget. I've already started unloading some of the things I won't be using in my new studio on Freecycle.

In the beginning...

Let's start with the "before". It was hastily thrown together what, 8 years ago, using a hand me down adjustable height table, a piece of concrete backer board I spray painted black, and some fabric quickly stapled to the bare studs to make my corner of my garage studio a little less..."garagey". It's not like I wasn't able to transport myself away from those drab surroundings and dream my glassy little dreams out there, but I really wasn't excited about having people visit. I hated how sometimes things went pop and I didn't know where they went. I was also increasingly frustrated with my pile-o-tools on the table to my right. There was never enough room for them, and I was always struggling to disentangle them mid-bead.


You saw what I did to my glass storage in a prior post, and that was only the beginning. I have this habit of dragging out the power tools when my husband goes on business trips, and our recent chicken coop building project only whet my appetite for building. I built a near 8' long workbench using 2 x 4s for framing and attached it to the wall, leveling it in two directions all by myself using a bit of spit, a level, and my torching chair. That was hard. I attached a bit of a ledger board on the wall first, and leveled it. My brother gave me a great tip about clamping the 2x4's for the legs (instead of cutting them first and hoping for level) while I figured out exactly how long each leg should be. This bench is secured to the wall on two sides and has three free standing legs. This is my first time building anything with 2x4s, and due to ignorance and haste I think I used the cheapest type meant for using as studs inside a wall, but I made sure they were straight when I bought them, and I have to admit it was kind of fun using something so strong for the first time. Just kidding about the spit.

Making the frame

Frame complete

Attaching and leveling the frame

I topped the framework with MDF and then fire resistant gypsum, adding a backsplash of sorts on the back and two sides. A local roofing metal company did a great job making my inexpensive galvanized top despite a couple of measurement errors on my part. I debated surface materials, and finally settled on this relatively lightweight and clean looking metal, even though I'm not much for the industrial look. At least it will keep any dust down. This bench is solid! I can even stand on it with no perceptible movement at all. The 2x4s for the two legs on the left side extend up quite a ways to provide an attachment point for my lights, and give me a frame on which I can mount the pegboard for the tools on the left torching station.

IMGP7357words copy

The exposed studs had me scratching my head for a good while, trying to figure out how to disguise them without just putting up drywall. In a moment of inspiration at OSH I found these reed roll-up blinds and they were just the thing to make the dingy walls disappear. I have a little inspirational mixed-media art piece in mind for the walls to replace my bead images.

A place for everything
Finally...a place for everything.

My ventilation has always been a range hood I found on eBay for a song, although the shipping costs were more like a box set. It did an OK job, but not great - it was way too high above my table, and needed a lower hood enclosure to be effective. Inspired by Andrea Guarino's ventilation tutorial I was determined to enhance the suckability of my setup by using ductwork, but was only able to find the flexible corrugated stuff at Lowe's. It has tremendously improved the performance of my 400 cfm hood, but I need to find the smooth flexible ducting, and ideally a ready-made "Y" joint to replace my sketchy one. It's all a bit of overkill for a garage studio where one wall can be raised at will, but in the colder months I don't usually open it all the way, so the ventilation upgrade is a good idea.

I also plumbed the gas from outside using this great tutorial from LE, and moved my flashback arrestor so it's inline in my hose instead of at the tank outside. Found a few leaks today when I finally tested it, but was able to tighten everything up.

I had some wine boxes from the local wine distributor and converted one into a little shelving unit next to my torch to hold my presses and other flotsam. I've been able to repurpose almost all of the concrete backer board I used to have on my torch table.

Mandrel dipping, glass storage
Still need a skirt for my old voter's registration table (free from the county years ago) where I dip mandrels, to hide the storage underneath. The (free) metal cabinet under my new glass storage holds extra supplies and equipment.

The guest torching station will have a pegboard for tools like I do, but on a smaller scale. I plan to start teaching private and 2-person classes soon, and when I do I'll move the kiln to a cart to make a little more elbow room at the bench.

Just for fun I'm going to try finding some old vertical blinds on Freecycle, to use as a kinetic skirt on my mandrel dipping table. I'll probably jazz them up somehow first, though.

I've already started using my tumbler on my new bench, as well as some electroforming. Finishing projects started months, even years ago is high on my list right now, as few other accomplishments rejuvenate me quite as much. I've been creating some new jewelry as well, and will photograph and list several new pieces this week, so keep your eyes on my Etsy shop.

*My dream studio will be in it's own building, and will include torching stations for eight, a kitchen, great room with fireplace, and individual lodging rooms as well. If you're thinking it sounds like a Bead & Breakfast, you're right! That's my dream.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Rapturous Day

Batik Iris
The spring garden is unfolding in splendiforous ways.

I don't know about you, but I had a perfect day yesterday, despite a small delay in the completion of my studio makeover. My Rapture playlist started with a delicious big breakfast, followed by a phone call from a friend inviting me to visit a couple of Open Studio sites. The weather was finally perfect, and it was delightful to get out and see some incredible painting, ceramics, jewelry and fiber art in some great local gardens. Our friend Lois's booth looked amazing. I had to restrain myself from purchasing more of her incredible knitwear - she has a way with color and fiber that rocks.

Lois's Open Studios Booth

Lois and her fabulous fiber art

Not only that, but when I got home from Open Studios I learned that we just got tickets to see The Civil Wars at our favorite local venue - suhweet!

Irises that haven't bloomed in a long time are suddenly calling attention to themselves.

So dull to regard most of the year, the rhodies are reminding me why I brought them home to live with us.

New Work
I spent some happy hours making some new bronze components, and finished a new necklace. In my Etsy shop now. The moss green and turquoise blend is exquisite.

New components

More in this vein is on the way...

Today started in the same wonderful way with my husband returning with two nice salmon after only a few hours on the water early this morning, and we enjoyed a fresh swiss chard, red potato and tarragon frittata for brunch. The weekend is barely half over and already I need to pinch myself.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A metamorphosis is happening

Live Love Laugh
Sweet inspiration inside a hollow bead.

I've been busy lately creating a studio metamorphosis, and I'm bursting at the seams with excitement. I've had the same torching setup in our detached garage since I started about 6 years ago, and was ready for some changes to make it more functional, more efficient, and a more attractive place to be for me and my guests to create. I'll reveal the complete makeover in an upcoming post, but for now I thought I'd share a couple of takes on D'Arsie's "Container" theme for this month's Love My Art Jewelry Art Spark challenge. The first is the pendant above that I created with a message inside. It's a hollow glass bead with PMC bead caps.

The second take on the "container" theme is my glass rod storage. My raw materials are glass rods, cut to around 12 inches long. For the last 6 years I'd been storing them in short cuts of PVC pipe, stacked into a box that I had affixed to the wall. It became apparent to me over a year ago that there were not enough cubbies in this arrangement for all of my glass, and the unit began to show signs of structural failure from all of the weight. Glass is heavy! Not only that, but the mice treated it as a condominium, storing rice that they had found elsewhere in the garage (we don't keep rice out there any more, and the rodents are now gone) in the sections of pipe. Not good.

Old Glass Storage
Original glass rod storage system, in the beginning.

As you may recall, I found some ranch fencing and cut it up to create new, square cubbies for my glass, and found an appropriately sized and priced stereo cabinet (no back, no front) for sale on Craig's List to contain it all. It sits on top of a metal cabinet with wheels, so I can move it any where I want. I cut some MDF for the back and painted it black to match. Then I built a frame for the door on the front and covered it with some clear corrugated polycarbonate roofing material, threw on some hinges, a magnetic catch and a knob, and it's done!

New glass storage
New glass storage cabinet.

No more rice showers when I take a rod of glass out, and my glass stays clean and safe too. Plus it's nice to see all the colors beaming out at me from behind the clear plastic.

New Glass Storage Cabinet

I look forward to sharing the rest of my studio makeover with you soon! It's almost complete, and I'm very excited.


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