Friday, January 27, 2006

Argentium Mist...

This morning light seems full of new clarity & brilliance, inside the remnants of last night's fog. I worked at the wax desk last night until after 1 o'clock this morning... which sentense contains the paradox of my prefered schedule. The extraordinary time deep between ordinary days has always been creative elixer to my artist...

The water of the Sound seems to be driven toward some errand in the south, moving with a deep determination & wasting little energy making waves of any stronger texture than a rather angry corduroy. I've been attemting to catch this photographically, missing, of course, the long low loop of eagle flight that happened while my fingers wrote on my laptop, sitting here with coffee in bed, watching this show.

My attention is torn & leaking between these ways... digitally recording a life rather lived more organically. Understanding the impossibility to resist attempting to capture the expanses of sensory light. The wax work is calling, even as I am hungry... Stephen says there are bagels in the toaster oven. offering the additional promise of at least a bit of the time together which was postponed last night when he was getting home from a day in the city just as I was getting into my wax groove.

So I can eat, retaining other apetites, & return to the wax... I've begun
recarving the Alphabet Bell... I want to make it a bit more compact, tidy, & thus easier to produce, while retaining its original composition & essense.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Waxing While The Moon Wanes...

The time capsule begins to break open, having protected through the dark annual passage what is to be birthed anew on this side. In my case this is represented by a block of hard wax... I have begun to carve. This seems mundane... Applying tools to inert matter. Is it really a birth? It is actually still much about gestation. I am working again with the early visual & sculptural parts of my process after so much dreaming in dormancy. The evolution begins slowly... Haltingly.

Already I have several mornings invested in this first paragraph.

There has been a log boom passing, pulled by a tugboat, yesterday about this time... full of sea-lions barking. Another tugged two days worth of barges, both piled full with squashed automobiles. Several large ships, this morning or last, have come up or gone down the channel... Still I am not inspired to write, even as an eagle of inspiration, just sighted, already has flown back into what was also true yesterday.

Chill dull greys & still icy dun descriptions... Nothing blooms in my words for this turning. Mornings are not now the time for it... These are pages of the calendar which would be lit from below & inside, by hidden coals if at all. This should be a month or two only of deep nights.

There holds the promise, like kindling unsure of the match, to come a springtime bursting with production, but first is this sweet time which so pesters those who do not know how tenuous is early creation. They fidget with its lacking even the impulse toward such promise... As being so un-formed... Yes. Or lazy...Yes. Please... Allow it to be! Or even quite too unpredictable... of course! It is necessarily thus... Let us be!

I am remembering fondly one era during which I came to enjoy the long play of a quiet dialogue with an unseen appreciator. He who might arrange some logical pretext to visit down in the shared studio of the Bothy during the hours of my late sleep above, on such mornings as these. He had reason enough to find some garden tool, yet would be more surely there to apprise & assay the night's progress in miniature, a showing of my creative process.

The season's growing collection of wax fantasies would be slowly stepping by turns into the music of ever more translucent light. There would be those who had long been discussed in conceptual thrills before being drawn out more onto pages of paper, working through known inherent problems... Perhaps even existing in several versions as schizophrenic wax studies... contemplating or mocking, even, each other's faults or possibilities. There usually would be a front runner or two, having the combination of both vitality & maturity which propel some ideas forward allowing almost too little time to appreciate their heady process of coming fully to be.

Some early introductions might be awkward impulses prized only hours ago from a block of green wax, like clunky interlopers of first meetings with Michangelo's slaves struggling out of their stone. Others might be rather more like old friends, looking in again this season for renewal & possible inclusion... knowing that in this culture not all eventual stars arrive full blown.

Like an elf for the cobbler, I would set up such show as I could, anticipating such subtle critique as might not be commented for the several more days till we might speak in the real over drinks or dinner. Such was life then, on Avalon, "the ranch" in northern California where I worked the decade before I moved North for the turning of the millennium. All is rather different now, but for the anticipation I still maintain each year in similar timing to being able to watch for myself the building of such a collection.

Not much yet to see, but, I am setting the stage, as you read... prepping & rehearsing these dances toward the private ball masque on my carving desk.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Awake Before Dawn...

Sodden silk studded with fading sequins of city lights.
Buoy's blink holding steadier beat of those
veiled inside a squall... already passed.
Droplet lenses on window glass momentarily multiply such signals
before another density obscures all behind,
into bands of dark & darker.

I'm up much earlier than usual, listening to new versions of the old chants which are habitual to my 30 year long journal process. I have long celebrated susposed incarnations I've had as monks in various ancient scriptoria... reed pens dipped in hand ground ink staining pypyrus or parchment having given way now to digital blips in an iBook!

The rain has become incessant... for at least half the number of days which would qualify us for "Biblical Proprotions". I wonder in such times how the First Nation peoples could possibly have survived here living under split cedar boards & woven cedar bark... yet, as the light brightens, inside what will not today become one of our famously celebrated "sunbreaks", I am enthralled by an etherial beauty of almost amethyst light reflecting off peckish waves green with contrastingly spectral oxides of chrome. They surely lived inside this water's poetry, as I am now learning how... having almost forgotten that other version I lived even longer, during this current lifetime, in sunny southwestern rocks.

Time to take a bowl of the brown rice I've been cooking while rebuilding the fire before coming back up to bed to finish with these words
with a last cup of coffee down to the studio. There is further finishing work to do on the inventory before I can dive into yet more of these waters... I am ready & anxious to give birth my design year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Monday, January 09, 2006

Second Monday of the New Year...

Back to the proclivity of writing on Monday, it would seem. However this mostly is to be a shorter post to front & to ameliorate my recent excess in verbosity. For any reader coming to that recap as introduction to my blog I ought to offer an apology! I am glad all that is out there, if for no other reason than that I am thus less burdened in here. Sometimes it seems I just gotta write it out or else live with some sort of cramp...

The day outside the window shows slices of titanium & well faded velvet... It has continued more or less to rain, as it was doing late last afternoon while I picked a salad of spinach, red mustard & arugula... greens made sturdy by being planted too late yet surviving the struggles with cold & Solstice dark. They made a fine winter salad with that tenacity.

The happier harvest was a batch of the Mashua tubers Stephen has been after me to dig. Those vaguely rude shapes of waxy golden white, blushing purple & pink, are the favorite wintertime treat from our garden. The vines, which covered their trellis this summer with handsome dense foliage & which were blooming during December are still green & mostly vital. Our frosts have been light.

When Doug-OH! & I dug some at Thanksgiving the crunchy starchy guys, with a zippy nasturtium bite, were still small. I found that they had sized up nicely during the intervening month. Most plant's roots had clumps with 3 or 4 in the six-inch range & then twice that number more in various finger-like sizes. We enjoy them best sliced thinly as raw nibbles, but they are delicious when roasted as well... mellowing while they soften. The trick is saving back enough to replant!

I am trying to encourage other gardeners to grow this rewarding plant. It is a Peruvian nasturtium which was grown by the Incas as a starch. It has small beautifully lobed leaves, vining densely. Leading tips are tasty as in summer salads. Small orange flowers come along to grace late fall's dwindling stock of decorative edibles. Then the winter taste bomb bonanza of tubers brings this plant to the top of my gardener's list. Let me know if you want seed...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

A Late Long Slow Recap of 2005...

Begun January 2, 2006

This Great Sloshing Of Gravity...

I have worked to write something of a recap of my year before this mellow holiday mood gets dissipated into the maw of a voracious new calendar.

Our weather has calmed today after days of impressive winds & extraordinary tidal action, all of which has prompted consideration & a bit of research to remind how all sorts of forces, lunar & solar, mix in this dance of gravitational fields affecting our liquidly gaseous world... the bits of its crust on which we can stand seem rather more fragile than might be absolutely stable.

That was the sermon.

During this season Stephen & I often remembered the events of this time last year when we were in India, particularly the Boxing Day anniversary of the Tsunami. That example of geologic event overtakes any weather we’ve had... even that closer to my old home in Sonoma County where the Russian River is flooding now in California’s aspect of this system.

One ritual we said we wanted to bring home from New Years Eve in Kerala was the “Burning Of Santa” [see my India Journal on the “writings” page of my web site: GRBBELLS.COM], but we never quite found a meaningful way to recreate it. We spent that nocturne in a duet of quiet solitude... there was no bevy of spirited Indian boys with whom to dance around such a bon fire as we would need to build in the rain & wind! Burning a printed paper effigy, like the reproductions of Victorian Saint Nick which I have somewhere in the studio, was another possible mode, but, frankly we were nicely past needing that.

I had happily arrived in my own mind’s way at being finished with the string of variations on Solstice our culture has accumulated. To have a period now of new beginnings is deliciously rewarding for all those activities, both indulged & avoided.

The year held much of new experience to digest at its “second” beginning, when we got home from India in mid January & I gave myself most of another month to sit with those travel memories & the pages of my journal while rewriting toward better digestion of the most different version of world I had ever experienced.

Design Time In The Studio...

All that, plus our usual escape into Faeriedom at the annual Winter Breitenbush Gathering, delayed my design train. One might have safely assumed such rich stimulation would have shown up in my creative process, yet I did nothing directly from the Indian resource.

New designs grew more easily from earlier & familiar beginnings, like the Chrysler Building, long strongly requested, or the Peter bell, which I had first drawn several years ago. There also came several reductions in size of established designs, in a process of revisiting ideas to discover versions suitable for earrings or to offer as more delicate choices.

I intend to do several more of those this year, particularly the Dragonfly bell, which is quite large & does not have the delicacy I hope now to achieve, since I was experimenting with that open form to test how such a shape would ring as a bell.

That question satisfied, I am ready to attempt more naturalistic detail...

While I never expect to come to an end of ideas for bells I do not feel driven to add designs for the reason simplistically to enlarge the line... it is huge already. I have reached the stage where I am more interested in “grooming” the line, making it finer for all the wide exploration during the last twenty five years. I want to refine it for easier, more effective production. Many of the designs have quirks or flaws from the evolving nature of learning how to make such little castings sing.

This is the only production I have ever done, coming at this impulse-turned-mania from a career of making one of a kind jewelry commissions beginning early in my twenties. This becomes my life work, still in production, from first design to last. Of course there is remedial work to be done...

These still long dark nights have long been my preferred time to sit at the wax desk & carve new designs. It is my deepest ritual. Curiously I must find peace at being artist for this too short period, while then moving too soon into shepherding the molding & production toward being ready for the sales & promotion which eventually supports the cycle of this business.

Each year there is the dream to evolve more fulsome dialogue with the foundry’s capability to accomplish more of this without my close attention. Last year I began a concerted effort to facilitate that. The story of the year became quite complexly other...

Foundry Woes...

There were horrible casting problems during June & July with a new, highly touted, alloy which among other difficulties did not make resonant bells. Innumerable waxes I had spent many weeks prepping were simply lost. We even lost track of the losses, while trying to figure it all out.

Then came a health crisis for Larry, one in two partners who began Outcast & Company more than a decade ago. After learning that some of his health difficulties might be resulting from accumulations of metallic residues in his body, he retired. His childhood in the great atomic desert & his working years in a foundry were taking an obvious toll. I do remember often seeing his wacky humor enhanced by a respirator, although what is sufficient protection in such environments?

Another lesson for us who work in such trades.

James had to deal with Larry’s sudden departure by taking over the casting as well as his more usual management of the business. The small crew of Outcast & Company were required to redouble efforts to get back up to speed during such a perplexing & disappointing time. James kept putting the best face on it, believing, as he had to, that the bad luck would come to an end. Plus he wants to be superman...

He recruited & accumulated skills of associates toward what seems now a fine shop. But none of them had much experience with the complexity of the bell line.

Counting On Complexity...

Even I have difficulty sometimes, looking at a particular part, knowing to which bell it might belong. In the beginning years I used the same clapper or loop for several different bells... or different parts constructing variations on a design. I often carve optional clappers, with which to experiment from the start.

We learned again the difficulties of keeping track of a line with more than 200 designs; each made up of at least two, often three, parts, perhaps as many as five or six; in all the states from molds & waxes, through the casting; finishing; & assembly processes; in three different metals; at multiple work stations in several shops; on both sides of the Sound...

Thousands of bits of data one must only hope tracks what will ultimately become bells.

All this is further daunting, if not made nearly impossible, because they may indeed actually “evaporate”when castings are incomplete or if these tiny objects flip out of hand during polishing into one of miriad hidey places extant in such working environments. Of course we expect & anticipate some such attrition, so we can usually bring through enough of each & all to eventually construct a useful stock of finished bells for me to market.

One could easily spend too much time counting & keystroking, attempting to keep track of them in computers, notoriously hungry for such input, it becomes counterproductive. Nonetheless, we obviously needed better communication systems to keep us on track.

Thus, I watched the year devolve into a delicate confusion from all my early goals, anticipation & planning. Slowly discovering these problems & the curious complexities of failures was difficult for us all.

I began trying to work more closely with them. Teach/learn is a useful verb for me... one process. Later they worked with me to try to keep what I was needing to fill clients' holiday orders coming through the chute, to simply dance inside what seemed our curious fate...

Fate would give us one more big jag, right in the middle of the autumnal push toward the holidays. News of Larry’s checking himself into the hospital, then of his heart attack... his death... finally brought the most intense blow.

I could now only allow whatever it took in support of James while he grieved limping & limped grieving through to the end of the season.

Annual Report... the Business of Little Silver Bells...

I had begun my design year late because of the India travel. I'd had a surprisingly successful private showing in March, while visiting Stephen's mother Helen in Florida. In May, I again had great sales during the Spring Open Studio Tour here on the island... thus my stock was beginning to look sketchy.

The new designs would not be available in time, so I decided to forgo what used to be my largest annual show... the American Bell Association [ABA] Convention... which was this year also in Florida... late in June's heat... & too many miles from any beach.

The ABA is certainly the first of the bells’ several larger appreciative audiences. However, because I must fly & buy five days & nights in a hotel, garnering only 9 hours of sales time, Convention becomes an expensive show. It is an involving gathering of friendly collectors who love having their leisure to schmooze with each other inside their multitudinous passions for bell collecting.

I’ve made many friends over the twenty-plus years I’ve attended these festas. They are a lively clientèle who have mostly learned not to assume that I share their passion, which I do, to the extent of my sample line... plus... a much deeper appreciation for the way they feed & teach/learn that passion in me. I may not collect more bells than my own line, but ultimately GRB Bells seems acceptable & satisfactorily anachronistic to them... so we can happily trade energies.

Strawberry Festival...

I concentrated on the local instead. A second year learning how much fun it was to do this outdoor show under the canopy I’d acquired for the experiment. Stephen likes to help me since the situation offers him lively potential for networking the Island. We come home to our own bed the one night between two concentrated days... while writing an equivalent value in sales.

The Bells continue to surprise me with the delight they create in various venues, but it seems improbable how many bells have been reliably consumed by our local population during ongoing cycles of these three annual events.

Sixty Turnings Of Leo... A Decade Of Love...

There was then the confluence of two big events at mid-year: Our tenth anniversary, sometime in May, plus my 60th birthday, late in July.

Stephen had arrived most visibly in my life at the costume ball I invited into my studio, the Bothy on Avalon, Sonoma County. He is my plum for that significant moment of balance on the fulcrum of my century.

What I gave myself then, I don't need now... still we had two celebrations here, beginning with a dinner party of chosen brothers.

It was a rare treat to be feted so richly & truly. I did not lift a finger, except those filled with morsels of delish & glasses of delight! All was presented with even more care & love than I ordinarily attempt when I'm playing host to them.

That I received a retro mink coat, skilfully wrapped & wrapping, suggests something projecting my tastes in couture. meet Rita.

The next morning brought us to coffee, fruit, savories & sweets from the bakery as we roused to re-gather, preparing for an open house which lasted the entire day & evening, while bringing 4 or 5 dozen more friends... I have good excuse for my blurring of details inside such heights of social abundance!

We took a road trip into Canada... [link later]

We did Camp Parkview in August... [link later]

We did another Barnett Family gathering in September... [link later]

Diving Into Pixels...

I went digital with images this year too... buying a nice camera as a part of my birthday... although a bit later, in Denver... on our way to the family gathering.

Dwight had shown me his wonderful camera the year before & I'd decided I wanted the same model, so this year he facilitated my purchase of a barely used one, a fine bargain! Thank you, Cigale!

Its Zeiss lenses make it less than "easily portable", so it is mostly intended for use in the studio. Stephen has great capability to travel shooting with his small camera.

I have had too little time, of course, to really yet learn all of this camera's complex capability, but I am anxious to continue exploring it during the upcoming period of design time to practice capturing more of the studio process, & eventually to share some of that on my web site. I have long wished to be able to offer a time-lapse visual sequence showing a block of wax dissolving into a finished bell, with an audible 'ding! at the end.

I'd stopped making film photographs for most of the last decade, so I am discovering in these forms new life for myself, at an age & stage when I might otherwise more easily have let myself slip into that evermore comfortable "old-fogy-dom".

While I do not yet feel called to the i-pod craze, I am using i-tunes to expand my musical world in this "digital life". I have always loved radio for my working time because it simply can take me places, especially inside my headphones, without much direction... except for finding a good guide. NPR is sadly becoming more mainstream & commercial, but "inside my box" I am finding a new universe of that lovely old form to explore... one of my current favorites features Persian Classical music.

Nesting Soundcliff...

We talk about color on our walls... while retaining, since the remodel... a quite basic Navajo White. Color seems daunting to this old painter. That dragon, “drawn” several years ago above our tub hangs increasingly as loose shreds of blue tape from the ceiling... awaiting evolution of the dream into proper paint... oh! look at those dophin!

Needing a new kitchen range, we hope to switch to gas... which would mean a propane tank... which in turn would want to be incorporated into our long postponed remodel of the shed... which needs at the very least a new roof, but which really wants to bloom into a new writing space for Stephen... with a sleeping loft to adding guest space. We are working with several contractors now to ascertain what all might be involved. Some drawings name it a “cottage”...

Oh dear, am I ready for this?!?


So, when I ended the year having written the best business ever, I could only feel grateful & very blessed. Where might the bells take me next?

Twelfth Night plus one, the calender is clucking... I'm finished!