Friday, May 28, 2010

Bridge of Glass: Part 1

We are walking up the stairs to the bridge of glass. It's rather plain looking. Where's all the glass?

Up ahead are two magnificent glass spruce (?) trees that you saw in the last post. They are great, but is that all? I'm thinking that I would never call something a "bridge of glass' if that was all.

Ahead on the bridge are two covered areas to walk through. That's where the magic, and forty-five minutes of shooting photos, began.

The first covered area had a wall of glass and steel cubicles with glass artwork in each. On the opposite side from this was a built-in bench that was the perfect spot to drink in the beautiful colors, do a little meditating, or sit and take photographs.

Here are some of my favorites from this first covered area:

This last photo of the little putti (Italian word for cherub) is my favorite. Next post I'll show you what was in the second covered section. It's gonna be great!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tacoma Museum of Glass

On a recent Sunday, Mr. ChaCha and I took a drive to Tacoma, Washington, to visit the Museum of Glass. It was a stellar experience. If you are a glass lover, you owe it to yourself to see this museum if you are visiting the Pacific Northwest.

The museum has several exhibits, a theatre for viewing videos about glass art, a cafe, a working hot shop, and a great gift shop.

A main exhibit when we visited was a collection of work by Preston Singletary, who has taken the symbols, elements, and narratives of his Tlingit ancestry and re-imaged them in glass. It is native American tradition newly manifest in modern glass art form. The collection is totally enthralling and leaves a lasting impression on you.

In the theatre we watched several videos including a documentary in which Preston Singletary and others who have worked with him were interviewed. Seeing the video really informed our viewing experience of the exhibit of his work.

After viewing the videos and the exhibits, you'll definitely want to spend some time in the hot shop.

If you are going to eat, do it first because once you're in the hot shop you won't want to leave. You could easily spend a few hours in there watching the action as a team of glass blowers work together to create items from the design mind of the current visiting glass artist.

Visitors sit in a balcony area that is not far removed from the action. A narrator explains what the team is doing, and the visiting artist may speak about his or her work.

It is very warm in the hot shop, as you can well imagine.

The piece being created gets removed from and reinserted into the furnace many many times. While it is out of the furnace, a glass blower applies a hand-held torch to areas that do not get as hot as the rest of the item--like this end of the piece that is always the first part out of the furnace and the last part back in. On some trips out of the furnace, the item is shaped with various tools.

When the piece is the perfect shape and is ready to be cooled, you'll see one of the team members put on the protective asbestos gloves and helmet. The item is cut from the glass blowing rod and is put into an annealing oven for its cool down period.

Check it out--when it's in operation you can watch live streaming web video of the hot shop activites.

For our cool-down after a spell in the hot shop, we went to see the Bridge of Glass. This is the bridge approach:

Having heard that the bridge is so amazing, I was a little disappointed at how stark it looked. Sure, there were these cool glass trees, but was that it?

Stop by the blog again to see the next post because there will be great pictures from the bridge.

Friday, May 21, 2010

WIP: Red Milonga Wrap

One of the works in process in the studio today is this machine-knit wrap. It is being made of a thin woolen single-ply yarn by Pendleton Woolen Mills. The design is a simple alternation of sections of stockinette stitch and sections of lace faggoting.

As a relative neophyte in the knitting machine world, I have experienced my share of problems with this device. At one point last summer when the previous wrap project was hanging on it, I was swearing at the machine, slamming the weights down on the table, and throwing things in frustration. A couple of hours later, sweet Mr. ChaCha remarked that it sounded like things weren't going very well in the studio that day. You feel a little sheepish after a good tantrum, but sometimes it's the only thing that can diffuse pent-up bad energy.

There are days when I should just stay away from the machine. You know those days--the ones when you run into everything you go near. You stub your toe and while leaning over to hold it you knock over a cola onto your keyboard. I call those days my "sticky energy" days. Everything sticks to me as I go blithely around knocking things over and then tripping.

Using a knitting machine requires a huge amount of patience and extreme alertness. Things that are simple to do with knitting needles are much trickier here. You also might want good lighting and no distractions.

While you are learning, so many mistakes are made that you wonder why on earth anyone would do this instead of using two sticks the old fashioned way. I tried to use these machines and then put them away multiple times over a 15-year period. (Yes, I own more than one. They come in different four different gauges of which I own three.)

Until two years ago, I had only knit things in basic stockinette and felt like that was a huge accomplishment. Now things are going better and I'm on a learning mission.

Here's my biggest tip if you want to learn how to use a knitting machine: get yourself on over to the YouTube, and search for Diana Sullivan. She is my hero. If it weren't for her great videos, I never would have figured out how to use a garter bar.

Here's a closer view. You can't tell from the photo, but when you knit on a machine, the reverse stockinette side is what faces you. If you want purl stitches and knit stitches on the same row you will need to hand-manipulate what will be the purl stitches on the opposite side from the one you see and remake them so the knit stitch side faces you. This is done using little transfer tools.

If you want a whole row of purl stitches on the side opposite you, and you don't want to change each stitch one by one, you can use what is called a "garter bar" to lift all the stitches up off the machine and then turn the work around and reload the stitches onto all those hooks you see in the photo. It can be a tears-provoking task.

The wrap above is 75 stitches in width. Each little stitch sits on its own latch hook. By moving a carriage over the stitches you can knit a row in the time it takes a hand-knitter to knit one stitch.

Whoa! Now you may be thinking, like many hand-knitters do, that this whole deal is fast and therefore "cheating". Let me dispel that myth right away.

Having recently learned to spin on a spinning wheel, I can say that it is much faster than spinning on a drop spindle. I would never say that using a spinning wheel is "cheating". Similarly I would never say that using a sewing machine is somehow cheating because you should do it by hand.

Not everything about a knitting machine is fast. The setup isn't fast. The hand manipulation of stitches isn't fast. Taking care that you do the twelve steps in your pattern routine precisely, so that the whole work does not fall off the machine, is not fast.

The wrap above will probably take me 5-6 hours not including the border that I will crochet around the edges. It might take me 25-30 hours or more by hand. Using a machine allows me to make things in a more affordable way for my customers. So it's a skill worthy of learning, and from the point of view of my customers' pocketbooks, it's so not cheating.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Need vs Want

The perennial question: do I really need this? Or just want it--BAD!

A collection of items was curated around this theme by jvdarcy who honored me by including two of my pieces:

You can go to this lovely gallery on Etsy Treasury East to explore more information about these items. Just click here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Crochet on the Brain

The brain of a baby girl?

A very sweet friend gave me a most thoughtful gift for my birthday that consisted of several treasures.

First of all, this box of incredible thread made in France and a pamphlet of delicate crochet edging patterns:

This is very exciting because some of the patterns are for hairpin lace edging, and I just recently acquired a small hairpin lace tool.

The cotton is of the most amazing quality. It's so crisp that it almost seems like linen. If there are any crocheters out there who can date the thread by its box, for sure let me know in the comments below.

This is the treasure that you glimpsed in the first photo. It's a hot pad crocheted by someone named Marie. It is a series of raised ruffles crocheted onto a grid of filet crochet.

Here is a close-up of the front:

And one of the back:

This is a fascinating piece of work using a technique I had not seen before. A 15-minute online search finally brought me to a similar, but a simpler pattern. The difference, if you want to try to make one, it that the pattern at the Craft Yarn Council site has a grid of 11 by 11 and is worked in rug yarn. This beauty in the photo has a grid of 19 by 19, and it's worked in either size 5 or size 10 cotton.

Isn't it lovely?

Friday, May 7, 2010

In the Imagination of Old Crows

If you are a sweet young angel, and not an aging carrion creature like each of us old birds, life can be glamorous in sexy frocks by the superior talent known as Ruby Pearl:

You can prowl the night, lipstick in hand and purse swinging, singing a sassy little song and preening your feathers.

You can sashay gracefully in artful shoes:

while trinkets like these adorn you:

Or if you want you can just dress up like Chickita Miranda Chickenpants and have a party with some Wild Turkey.

We old crows are jealous. We wish to be your age again.

Ah, if wishes were wings we all would fly. A magpie can recognize itself in a mirror, but we old crows wonder who are those older women in there looking out at us and keeping us grounded in reality.

Except. . . we can look away quickly and imagine such wondrous things.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More Wet Crows

I am suddenly attracted to crow imagery. Probably because of the whole aging thing. These two feel rather spiritual to me.

Crows are scrappers and survivors. Attracted to shiny things. I relate.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Plodding Along

I just finished a long weekend from my day job working like crazy on my business. Isn't that the way it goes? Like this crow. Even though it rains he keeps about his routine.