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.