Friday, January 29, 2010

Our last Pinewood Derby

Glimpses into our Pinewood Derby-obsessed household:

Ross painting his derby car

Chris helping Ross with derby prep

Even the cats were watching the goings-on -- notice Bubba is in the background!

Bubba the cat watches derby work

Inspired by a fellow scout who made his car into a large pink eraser last year, Ross decided to make a pencil car this year. Chris helped him figure out how to get it cut at the right angles, and another adult in the pack cut it out, but Ross did more of the work by himself this year than he has in the past.

Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil derby car

Someone suggested that he name it Ticonderoga, and he went with it. I think it's by far the best-looking car he's built as a Cub Scout!

Chris went back to his beloved lake freighters. This year, it was the Paul R Tregurtha.

Paul R Tregurtha derby car (front)

Paul R Tregurtha derby car (side view)

If you've never had the pleasure of seeing the Tregurtha up close and personal, you might enjoy searching You Tube for videos of her on the lakes. At 1000 feet long, she is an amazing sight. Chris's wheeled version came in 2nd place in the adult open division.

Ross had been feeling nostalgic and a little sad about this being his last Pinewood Derby. He is thinking about moving up to Boy Scouts, but they don't have the derby. Yet on race day, he was all smiles. His car was fast, but there were a lot of fast cars this year, and he didn't place. He took it all in stride, though, showing good sportsmanship, and carrying himself like the capable 2nd year Webelos that we know and love.

Ross with his pencil derby car

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Goofy haiku

A goofy haiku for today:

Shaken from gray clouds
Raindrops dance like salt scattered
over french fries

Friday, January 22, 2010

Embracing it all

Lots of things are percolating in me right now. The year is still new, and I'm contemplating goals, and ideas, and my life, right now.

My word this year is embrace. Followed by the phrase (arms open wide). It reminds me to embrace every part of my life -- even the parts I'd rather ignore or dislike or send away. It's about wholeness. All of me, all of my experiences, and everyone and everything around me. It's all here for a reason, and I remember that as I embrace it.

Although I have been very hesitant about setting goals in past years -- mostly due to fear of disappointment -- this year, I am contemplating a few. One unshakable commitment is that I am determined to make more art this year. And, I have a goal to display my work in 3 shows/venues (at least) this year. I have no idea how that's going to happen, but it seems like a reasonable stretch for me. It's very important for me to DO the work, and to SHOW the work. Selling the work would be great, but it isn't my top priority.

I have my first show lined up already. Every year the city of Spokane hosts Raw Space, a show open to any artist who's willing to pony up the $10 entry fee and do some work. It's a mammoth group show, which takes place in a different empty building downtown each year. It's not ideal art-display conditions, but the energy and enthusiasm of the participants and the viewers make up for that. I was in the show a couple years ago, and it was great fun.

I am working to finish this piece:

Heart with patchwork

Oh, at one point I thought it was done. Since this photo was taken, I've added some beading and embroidery, and I added a back and binding.

Stitching French knots

But when I decided this was going into Raw Space, I decided to mount it onto a stretched 14" x 14" x 1-1/2" canvas. And now . . . I can't just leave the canvas blank, now can I???

You know the saying about how work expands to fill the time you have for it? The piece has to be delivered on January 30th. All month, I've been struggling to figure out what to do with the canvas. It's been a good creative exercise, but I have to do something, because the deadline is here.

So. It's time to embrace the deadline, and just do it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Stained glass light

Sometimes, it's simply the light that gets me.

stained glass light (#1)

Our church (the one I belong to, and I work in) isn't built in a traditional Christian church layout. We don't have stained glass windows lining the sanctuary. But we do have 4 small stained glass windows in the corners of the atrium. This winter I've noticed that the sun, which has fallen far south in the sky, shines weak rays through one of those windows.

stained glass light (#2)

Marvelous mottled colors fall onto a white pedestal in the late morning. I shot these photos facing one of the pedestal's corners, so that you can see two sides at once. (The dark vertical line in each shot is the corner.)

stained glass light (#3)

Isn't it a wonder? These photos are unaltered (I reduced the file size, but no cropping or brightening or tweaking) -- straight out of the camera, as flickr-ites would tell you.

stained glass light (#4)

We have so many gray winter days here, that moments of sunlight are gladly embraced by all who notice them. Imagine, then, how grateful we are when we get a gift like this!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tie dyeing a quilt

I've been wanting to change the color scheme of our master bedroom to blue. Finding the time to paint, however, has been another matter. I started thinking that I could at least get a blue quilt for the bed, and I looked around for something eye-catching but not too expensive. I found nothing. Then I started to think, well, I could make my first "real" bed quilt. I realized that was an outlandish idea. We have a king-size bed, so how would I quilt it without a long-arm machine? By HAND?!? Nope.

I noticed that Target had plain white cotton quilts. The thought flickered across my brain cells: you could dye it. The thread is polyester, so it won't take the dye, but white cotton should dye up great. Immediately, I knew I would do something funky -- why dye it a solid color when it could be more interesting? I remembered some instructions I'd seen on the Dharma Trading Company website for a "crystal wash" technique. It's a cross between tie dyeing and "low immersion" dyeing. You cram the fabric into a small container, then apply the dye without a lot of extra water. The folds in the the fabric stay white, so you get a tie dye effect.

I've done enough dyeing to know that a king-size quilt was going to be a big job, because it would be very heavy while wet. But knowing that I have a strong, helpful husband, I didn't hesitate to buy the white quilt.

I did some research on the web, then ordered 4 blue dyes and Glauber's salt, which Dharma Trading recommends you use instead of soda ash for procion dyes containing turquoise. I also ordered their dye fixative, knowing that the turquoise colors can run a lot, and figured it might help. The package arrived one fine day. I opened it, said "cool," and had no time to think about actually doing it until after Christmas.

(I laughed when I got the company's follow-up email. It read something like: "By NOW you must have used the products that you ordered; what did you think of them?" I don't think I used them for another 6 weeks.)

On a Sunday afternoon, I put on old clothes, got out the dyes and chemicals, gloves and dust mask, and dove in. First I washed the quilt in Synthrapol detergent (also available at Dharma Trading) to remove any grease or dirt. As soon as the washing machine finished the cycle, I began to tie the quilt with old polyester macrame cord that I'd found at the thrift store. (If I'd had any clean cotton rope, I would have used it, and gotten some blue rope out of the deal.) Tying the quilt was my way of making sure some of the fabric would stay white. Then I placed the quilt into a plastic storage tub, where the actual dyeing would take place.

Tied quilt

Tied quilt in tub

The crystal wash instructions suggest that instead of mixing the dye with water, you can apply it directly as powder, and pour the Glauber's salt or soda ash solution onto the powder. This makes for interesting blotches and spots on the fabric. Therefore, I needed some sort of shaker for the dye powders. Not finding anything suitable at the dollar store, I punched holes in some plastic storage container lids. It wasn't the most elegant solution, but it worked. (Later, I covered the original dye containers with doubled aluminum foil and secured it with elastic bands. Carefully punching holes in the foil with a toothpick, I created a better shaker.)

Dye in makeshift shakers

I moved into our basement bathroom for the actual dyeing. It has a shower stall, and the plastic tub easily fit. I could do the messy work in there and then wash away any stray dye. Perhaps more importantly, I could shut the door to keep out my two curious cats, Gus and Bubba. I didn't want any blue kitties, or blue cat tracks throughout the house!

I had mixed a gallon of the Glauber's salt solution, and I poured some into a large squirt bottle (the type used for ketchup in a diner, or for liquid dyes when you're tie dyeing). I squirted a little salt solution onto the quilt, then shook on the dye powders, then applied more solution. I had tied the quilt so that the "right" side was facing up, because I didn't want to dye both sides. I worked my way around the quilt, making a haphazard blue mess. It was fun! (Even if the cats were scratching at the door a lot.)

Dyed quilt, before the first rinse

I put the quilt in a large garbage bag, tied it, then put it back in the storage tub, and placed the lid on the tub. After cleaning up, I let the cats investigate the bathroom, but they couldn't get to the quilt at all. (Ha! Victory!)

After 24 hours, it was time to rinse. I wrangled the quilt into our laundry tub, and started rinsing with a garden hose. I quickly realized that this was where the helpful, strong husband comes in. Chris helped me rinse as I untied the ropes and moved things around. He also helped me squeezed out as much water as we could before we hauled the quilt to our washing machine.

Rinsing dyed quilt in sink

I was disappointed that there was still a lot of white fabric on the quilt. I probably hadn't needed to tie it at all. But it was an easy problem to fix: dye it again, without the ties!

Too much white!

After washing the quilt in Synthrapol again, it was back to the shower stall for more dye on the white places. This time, I only used turquoise and electric blue. To get more splotches, I decided to apply the salt solution only after I'd applied the dye powder. It was a more concentrated effect, but I also found out that one of the dyes (the turquoise, I think) tended to leave red marks if you didn't apply the salt solution first. Oops. The red isn't horribly noticeable, but it's there. If I were to use this technique again, I'd make sure there was at least a little solution on the fabric first, no matter what colors I was using.

So: Another 24-hour wait. Another rinse in the laundry tub. Then a hot water wash with Synthrapol, with two extra rinses. The water was still coming out blue, but I decided enough was enough. It's not as if I'm going to wash this huge quilt with any clothes, so it's not going to hurt anything if it keeps bleeding. The last step was to soak the quilt with the dye fixative, rinse, then dry. (And dry, and dry. This whole process is not very energy- or water-efficient. Not to mention the chemicals you're using. You will not earn green brownie points here. End of liberal tree-hugger disclaimer.)

I gotta say: I think it's an eye-catching quilt.

Finished tie-dyed quilt

Bubba was very annoyed with being locked out of the bathroom twice, but I think he likes the results.

Bubba on dyed quilt

Finished tie-dyed quilt on bed

Now I have to paint the bedroom blue!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Focus: Love

It was over a year ago that I posted the news that one of my photographs would appear in a book. On this Christmas eve, unannounced, a small package was tucked inside our screen door. I opened the box to find my copy of Focus: Love. What a wonderful gift!

My photo
is on page 38. And I've got to say, the book is as beautiful as I had hoped it would be. There are some stunning shots in there, better than mine, honestly. I do not write that out of modesty (false or otherwise), but out of deep admiration for the work of fellow photographers. I am honored to be in their company.

I think Lark Books may be marketing this book as a Valentine's Day gift. I'm a bit biased, but I think it would be a beautiful way to give a little love and awe on that sweet day.

P.S. Happy New Year to all!