Thursday, December 06, 2007


While early mornings are not my usual
Some beings will not be denied
I was prepared with camera up near bed.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I woke early this morning & was struck by this rainy view from the bedroom of the new deck we've had built over the retaining wall, which was constructed last spring following some difficulties on our cliff during last winter's storms... we are feeling safer for that in the current rains. It was finished just before Thanksgiving so we still have to landscape it with a proper approach. For now there is a collection of potted plants as a temporary barrier for the Open Studio weekends.

A client who has been waiting for the SEAHORSE bell to arrive on my website wrote today & prompted me to make some informal photographs.

Click on any photograph to enlarge...

My light box is currently requisitioned to serve as a display of earrings for the Open Studio...

I set up a temporary background on my wax desk & used just my usual work lights with little of the usual capability to control reflection with diffusion, which makes for exposures which are a bit harsh. But it was past time to share the result of those postings last April showing the waxes for this design...

I have made a variation by adding a pendant loop to one version, changing its orientation to the cord:

The clapper for this bell is made of 3 cast pieces in order to make it flexible enough to develop a useful strike inside the narrow confines of the bell's form. The loop makes five parts to assemble this complicated design.

This bell waits with many others to be properly photographed & posted on the GRB BELLS website. "After the first of the year" is a mythic time to accomplish all sorts of my procrastinations...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Tidy Studio...

Last mid-week I had to make myself stop working at the metals bench & begin the process of cleaning the studio in preparation for this weekend's Vashon Island Artist's Holiday Open Studio Tour. This is actually one of my favorite parts of the preparation... after the messy chores are completed!

I love having my workspace tidy & clean & organized spare following the months of ignoring the dust residual from just casual sweeping-up during projects like building the new displays & the grimy grit of even the smaller amount of polishing the studio has seen, since most of the polishing was done this season by the foundry.

The place cleans up really well & I did a more intense job of it this time, so the glow it took on came from that deeper attention. While I have never been one of those who has a precise place for every little thing & have everything in that place, I certainly have had to develop some patterns of careful organization to keep all my parts usefully at hand while still out of sight. Each of these reorganizations adds to my studio's fabric & system. Even so, I often see the joke that I seem never to be able to easily find things afterwards for all that effort!

Waxing my old wood furniture is a joy. Many of these pieces have been part of my working spaces for decades. I'm pleased to have collected them early on & they have served me so well, traveling with me in my various peregrinations. I have other, less interesting surfaces as well, of course, painted wood & Formica... in addition to the abundance of concrete as floor & walls. All benefit from the attentions of brush, broom & rag... becoming good therapy even as the process abrades & dries ones hands. I chuckle remembering the old dish soap ads about cracked skin & broken nails I saw in my youth.

I'm ready now, Mr De Mille, for the close-up of my thumb's painful pad still deep cracking open three days later...

Over many years of experience inviting folk into my workspace for Open Studio I have learned to practice not just cleaning surface but also paring down to the most spare story I can. It becomes a fine game to remove all but the essential parts most necessary to show how I work . Of course I usually work with my tools in clumps & piles only I can sort out, but that clutter would only hinder the 2 minute version I must be able to concisely tell about how the lost wax casting process works while I have a dozen folk playing in this narrow space.

So I get to embellish the newly opened surfaces more freely then, fresh with new opportunity to evolve my story much more clearly. I groom trails, with examples as I can, to draw various kinds of attentions along... samples of work in various stages, exemplary collections of tools, illustrations or objects I'm researching & those I'm simply enjoying for texture or color or form. This becomes showtime...

I've been claiming new space from the area closest the entrance to the studio which no longer is needed to store the garden tools, which have their own sheds now. I finally got rid of the unused water softener, so now there is clear space for a new workstation I've been planning & will explain another time. I loaned my polishing box to the foundry for this production season, so I cleared that workbench of the drill press, other motors & the vice to expose a surface useful to serve the drinks & nibbles, away from the crowded center of the studio, as has traditionally been the layout.

I had to scrub the wall & I covered the outlets with a backdrop of craft paper, bringing the wooden puzzles brought from Venice some years ago down from their home in the dining room window sill. They brought a very subtle holiday mood befitting the occasion. I don't go in for much traditional color or tinsel these days, although I might add some gold stars for next weekend...

Unfortunately, because both days we had wet, cold weather, there was no crowd sufficient to test that theory of arrangement so well as I might wish. I am pleased with way the table evolved, hoping for many reasons that next weekend will see a fair party develop at that end of the studio.

This, then, is my visual celebration of the studio at its most presentable...

Still it rains...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

SANCTUARY... solitude

Some years ago I was gifted a piece of calligraphy by it's creator, Sally Jackson. It has mostly lived in my flat drawers along with a fair accumulation of stored drawings, watercolors, prints, the archive of my own calligraphic history... too much art to live with actively displayed... plus a quantity of various kinds of unworked paper I've collection over years.

This bit of illuminated poesy has, however, cajoled itself into freedom numerous times as I've heard its invitation to bring out this gilded "M" twining a tree not yet timber
with which to build, much less to burn, more than my curiosity, perhaps.

For some reason now is one of those times I ponder such clues with an enjoyment which has only matured over a decade & a half.

My... My land...

My land is bare of chattering folk;
The clouds are low along the ridges,

And sweet's the air with curly smoke

From all my burning bridges.

Dorothy Parker
Learn about her here:

Reconnection with Sally has just today surfaced, after any number of years, finding her by email through her aunt... a bell collector. She has written to tell me news of her retirement & gives me permission to share her work here.

I'm looking now toward cautiously deciding to have it framed. It may yet go back into the drawer during the deep cleaning which is immanent to this Open Studio season. However, I might instead choose to hang it in some temporary manner, thus to help me hold its current massage...

Ive found myself making resonant confusion of Sanctuary with Solitude. No real surprise to those who know I have loved long periods of that... & still do.

Obviously I'm still celebrating enigmatic smoke from the several bridges I burned bringing me to live with my madly social partner.

Addendum -- 14 January 2008:

Sally wrote to explain about the materials in the Sanctuary piece: "The support, i.e., the paper, is a German laid paper called Niddegan. It is known for the wavy laid lines, unlike most laid papers which have straight lines. You can probably see them most clearly in a raking light, since the piece is in a mat. The lettering is in italic and was done with a sumi ink using Mitchell nibs. The trees are painted with gouache. The gilding is 23 carat gold laid on gesso in a process that has not changed since the Middle Ages."

Monday, November 05, 2007


The Island's Open Studio Tour is run by artist volunteers. I accepted this year to help accomplish the new signs. Numerals, representing each studio's position on the brochure's map, must be attached to panels displaying our logo. By the time they will have gotten to most studios anyone of our preferred clientele will have enough confidence to not need such number, but...

The wasteful backings label my studio floor with an equal efficacy...

Some time later to be swept up...


Monday, October 29, 2007

Studio Bell Display...

I am completing a project which was years in incubation & several recent weeks in execution. The bells have always been displayed for Open Studio on the same tent cards I take to the American Bell Association's conventions. It was a temporary solution which worked for more than six years.

Now I have built two new panels which will double the linear space to display the sample line along the concrete walls of the Hold, my studio in the foundations of Soundcliff. While they are simple to the eye, I had numerous complications to build them with my amateur carpentry & my aged tools...

I used common materials from the local small box lumber/hardware place. I danced a Montessori... jigging minimal material into what promises more optimal form for the function of displaying the ever growing collection of bells.

Now many of the cords must be shortened to suit the new format... a process I will continue while enjoying the deep dive I'm making into reorganization &
cleaning the entire studio. I enjoy the spontaneous prescriptions I get from some unknown source which I seem all-the-more to respect, advising me to take another purge of the material effects I have such propensity to collect. I love practicing the yoga of clearity in space. I've practiced frequently, over many ages. I'm trusting once more that I can live better without all of those dusty contingencies.

I did save some few of those... again... trusting as well certain wisdom which has grown
thus through many such cullings.

This was my sculpture in the pure present which now supports other function...

Sunday, October 14, 2007


This over sized plasticine study for a bear bell contains hundreds of three dimensional sketches made tonight which must now reside in the muscles of my fingers as well as my imagination's memory... I still have not captured the cubic geometries of the graceful loping pose I want to keep trying to find. This would have been work much less possible in the hard wax in which I will eventually carve the final version, simply for the advantage of the relative fluidity in this very old material... I can smooch it quickly into innumerable forms to study the planes of various gestures & proportions. Of course, I must constantly look for a composition which will create a sound bow. I am designing a bell...

The fetish behind it was a gift from my friend FEK who found it in Santa Fe...

I do not use this clay often, so when I retrieved the box in which it was stored I discovered a similar study for the STATELY CAT bell, having been taped up for over a decade!

This cross-media work obviously holds more capability in study & change than resolution. It softens too easily to do any detail of the quality I can carve in the harder wax. Here is the wax with which I broke my fast into this session of design work. I'd begun this several months ago as a replacement for the original GINGKO bell, which has a history of production difficulties. I hope to resolve it differently...

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Tahoma, known otherwise as Mount Ranier by most, has her head in the light cloudiness which is filtering sunlight into a familiar sheen off the water of the Sound below our cliff. Not just another gray, yet certainly not gilded with much solar warmth either... we deal in such subtle nuance describing our weather in the Northwest.

My laptop is working this morning so I am tucked back under the comforter with my coffee instead of needing to go down just yet to the computer in the studio. I'm going into the city again today to collect my friend Jane Toleno at the train station & drive her to the airport. She has been on Portland for the birth of a grandson & now will return home to Minnesota. This will give us a chance to visit while relieving her the effort of making such transfer on her own.

I went into town yesterday to work at the foundry... teach/learning with Candace & demonstrating polishing techniques & my preferences for the bell production. She is young but already quite capable from previous work experience so my use of the hyphenated verb usually perceived as a dichotomy & polarity is even more apropos. Teaching at its best comes attached to learning from one's student, who teaches back in the process as a matter of course... the two are intrinsically trading that truth. This is not an idea original to me, of course, & I love the learning of teaching it again.

I am more & more coming to the notion that this is part of my future work. when I first began learning jewelry technique, while working at a small jewelry store where I had a part time job during college, I ran into other tradesmen who refused to share their knowledge. I learned something to avoid from that teaching. They feared they would lose something if they shared.

Fortunately I also had better experiences with others who were more generous, yet I still consider myself mostly self-taught... all those teachers made me a better student... I know best what I never was well taught.

I've been dreaming again of building a new work station in my studio. I've been designing it in my imagination for more than a year. Something about the upcoming season... after summer's Leo lazies have been mostly scratched... makes the studio seem under-equipped to the mission of becoming prepared for the work ahead.

I call it a teaching desk, by which I understand naming my intention to learn what that might mean. The notion has resonance with the antique known as a "partner's desk" but taking a lateral configuration... two jeweler's benches side-by-side. I perceive its value to become a pod in which two seeds can share processes of efficiency to accomplish productive work. Each having similar tools at hand to replicate, encouraging the requisite individuation to in fact embody that verb: teach/learn.

I've found frustration working in the foundry, which has not considered the potential of its
necessity to provide proper tools & preparation to the task with efficacious joy. Because I can learn I must teach...

A curiously simple example of the sharing with Candace about tools was trying to find a point on the bench pin of her workbench against which to center & brace the object I was working on with flex shaft or the graver. I realized the very personal nature of tools, the collections of which I've made & now have refined for my self. More, the nature of what has become habitual about those choices. Any several crafts persons will show their own versions of the same process or collection of tools to accomplish similar work.

I tried to explain the curious dowel I long ago devised to attach to the more standard wooden bench pin sold in any jewelry supply shop. I drilled a hole in that archetypal wedge of wood & set a divotted vertical post which I use to cup & brace one end of small pieces of metal which I hold in place in my left hand while working with various cutting, grinding & polishing wheels in my right. I wished for a picture of this simple adaptation & came home to make one, coming into this series of thought process's about how we come to choices in our working environments.

Here then is that simple wedge of wood, with its working peg, showing years of abuse:

The bench to which it is attached is one given to me by my father when he bought my mother's dentist's office in Colby years ago to remodel for a rental property. He slyly offered it as something I "might" find useful, intuiting my ecstasy in having such a functional antique... he who disliked all old things after growing up with hand-me-downs during the depression & loved Danish modern for himself. But he did love craftsmanship & this has served me as a constant reminder of him as even he could not have quite known, becoming one of my most cherished of several "work altars" in the numerous variations of studio.

I learn teaching my peculiarities. Inside such of the mundane I realize might be something more magic. Simple tricks... What is learned by any other might be something quite else.

I often consider bringing more of the finishing process to my own "in house" studio. This is a situation I have had to live often enough & long enough with someone else's results, to know I can & must resolve it with more finesse. The bells have long been my baby & then my my adolescent child. They become now more my sister/brother in some sense. They need so much more than I can give in order for them to find their own life. Eventually I must pass them along.

If I'd been offered my life as a job I would probably have quit by now. Thus the bells have become their own entity. Tangible eruptions of archetype. I work with them for reasons not able to be bought with a wage. I must inspire anyone helping me with them by offering something equally intangible, realizing they will move on with their own passion...

I was finally bed-tired last evening before midnight... after a week of staying deep into the wee hours of my lifelong nocturnal proclivities. I return to such schedule especially when Stephen is traveling... he is in Italy. We are enjoying our separate holidays. My desire was to travel instead into neglected studio space & time. I've described some of the results in the previous post, with photographs.

As usual, it has taken me some days to find my own rhythm with such rare time. The solitude I love in which to work is always elusive, especially as I choose to live with a social tsunami. I am no social slouch on my own, & this period has included having our friend Taylor here for the first week while his house remodeling project came to be finished. We had a good time making meals together. He is quite conscious of my proclivities inside the rarity of this solitude & thus was careful not to disturb my rhythms. I appreciate that immensely, even as I equally celebrate his joy in being busy for this week nesting into his new home.

There have been several silvery mornings followed by days barely more brightened by our thin sun through the mists & clouds. I have begun to work on a wax I began earlier this summer. My cycles are already beginning to adjust back to the life I know is coming home next week. The first few days' schedule has already been set, designed to drag me back into the whirl. I will cherish the few days left of my own. It feels bittersweet.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


The rains have begun early... sigh. My basil is browning out. I keep hoping for enough sun for one last push, for which the weather widget gives us only Wednesday... but so I thus need to harvest it for making a late rough pesto.

Except for the deer, oh... & the slugs... the potagere is fair set to make winter greens in nice variety. The chard which has been feeding us for several months will only improve through winter. The kale will thrive even better.

There are rows of new laciniata starts to begin maturing into those dark dinosaur textures. I will transplant some out into the borders hoping to coax their mature perennial forms, which can become quite sculptural when they perennialise over several years.

This view of the raised beds shows an Arcosanti bell which my parents gave me when they left the big retirement house in Monument, Colorado.

The sculptural forms I have been playing with the evening several ago when I began writing this were clappers for the DRAGON bell. I have been playing with variously colored stone beads, as well as the more habitual pearls, to set into the claw of that clapper...

For the days since I have been concentrating on assembling the earring castings I got several weeks ago. James has recently brought the finishing back "in house" after several years working with a skillful metalsmith who's studio is in Olympia now needing to care for his arthritis... I've been working with new employee teaching techniques & preferences for finishing the bells.

I prefer to assemble the earrings myself, since they are rather tetchy & I am always playing with adding some color using beads for some clappers & experimenting with other details. This is mostly a taste thing as I must also try to dance with my market. Earrings must be expensive, for the obvious, or often not so obvious, fact that they require two bells. They want be more delicately tended & then must match each other in details such as how the clappers hang visually... as the pendant bells do not. Thus they have not made a large part of my sales... but.... I have ordered more than usual to see if I can do better with more choices. We will see...

I've had my digital eyes busy in the light box, making shots of the earrings for the Open Studio brochure & eventually to post on the web site. That involves using sticky wax to mount them onto frosted Plexiglas in perfect static positions so that they "float" in well lit white vacant space. I discovered, after making numerous shots of one pair, bringing everything into that perfect lighting & exposure, that I'd missed the fact... glaring at me when I saw them on my computer screen... one of the clappers had gotten caught-up at an awkward position. So many little things can go so terribly wrong! It makes one wonder if it all is worth it! But, of course, it ultimately is.

I now have many more of those photographs to make

One of these will be my image on the December Open Studio brochure.

The HOLLY & IVY bell is rather perfect a an earring. Its small sweet voice can come from garnets &/or pearls... holly berry red & ivy white.

I have been rediscovering the joy I take when I get into the mood to do this labor of polishing & assembly. It is dirty work. Frustrating to get all the parts fitting nicely into a song of liquid movement small enough to hang from ear lobes. I've had time to reflect on a lifetime doing such work... working as well to avoid it! I come again to realize I must do some of it myself no matter what.

There is simply no substitute for my own perfect methods & care!

While the grit & grime does not fit with my latter day prissiness, nor does the length of time required to approach this kind of work before actually getting into it's groove fit easily with my partner's schedule of social presentability measured only in hours. When I do finally get into that zone I want to stick with it for several days, at least, no matter who we invited to dinner how many months ago.

While he is away traveling in Italy for these weeks I have been wallowing in rare lack of schedule & luxurious solitude. I've got fingernails blackened with all sorts of productive fun.

Between rainstorms I have been enjoying trying to capture something of the many incredible spider webs which decorate everything in the garden & most windows of the house. To grab focus on an an ephemeral object which is actually a sail to any breeze presents a challenge requiring lots of luck in the moment.

This one used the outdoor light as part of its hunting ploy.

I have almost completed the steps between Stephen's writing cottage & the house...

I close with this bit of autumnal fire beginning to smoulder in the smoke bush.