Saturday, September 20, 2014

What happened to all the sea glass?

When we go to Maine in the summer, one of my favorite things to do has always been to explore tidepools for treasures.  Years ago I took an 'oceanology for teachers' class on the Atlantic coast, and we spent some time exploring some rocky tidepools.  We sat in the same place for quite some time recording everything we saw, and as time passed, we began to discover all sorts of tiny critters that we didn't notice on first glance.  I've been fascinated with tide pools ever since.
A quickie disclaimer: I usually post to the blog from a laptop or PC, but tonight I'm using the iPad app, which I do not particularly care for.  Hence, the quality of these photos is, I believe, greatly diminished.  And I can't seem to move them around, or control their size.  Sorry!  Hopefully it is 'good enough' for this post.
On our trips to Maine, there are several particularly rocky tide pool locations where I used to find lots of sea glass.  I'd bring it home and put it in pretty glass containers.  But in the last few years, I have been lucky to even find one piece of sea glass.  But, oh, there are jewelry stores on the coast that sell beautiful delicate jewelry made from sea glass.  Where do they find it all? Have they cleaned all the sea glass out the ocean somehow?  
On a visit to a rocky beach at low tide this year, I was poking through tide pools when I began to notice bits of bright color.  So I started to collect, and I came home with a crazy assortment of treasures, definitely not sea glass! 
Yes, there's a Lego in there, and part of a whistle, and a broken bobber.  And the all those colorful rubber bands- we believe they are the kind that are put on lobster claws.  Perhaps a lobsterman dropped them overboard by mistake? 

And a kazoo, and the little yellow horse.

And this peculiar Pac-Man shaped slice of wood.  
So, I brought all this stuff home, gave it a good cleaning, and now am going to incorporate it all in some sort of mixed media work of art, though I have no idea quite what, yet.  Feel free to make suggestions!
Meanwhile, has anyone else read the book Moby Duck? (No, not Moby Dick, which is probably my least favorite book that I read, ever!). It's Full title: 'Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, who Went in Search of Them'.  
Or how about '10 Little Rubber Ducks' by Eric Carle?  The book is based on this same true story of a shipment of rubber bathtub toys that fell overboard from a container ship.  The fact is, there's some real crazy stuff out there in the ocean.  Though I haven't found a rubber duck, I do think my little horse is kind of adorable.

And for something really goofy, there's a whole Facebook page related to the shipload of Legos that were washed into the sea by a wave (about 5 million pieces of Lego!) in 1997!  Perhaps my Lego is one of those pieces?  
If you are intrigued, you can find it here:

What's the craziest thing you've ever found on the beach?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Getting the Write-Start!

  Have you ever heard of these?  Several years back, I was filling out my annual order for supplies for my elementary art room and saw these in the catalog.  I ordered 1/2 dozen boxes to try them out, thinking they'd be great for my younger students.  What I didn't expect was that they would instantly become everyone's favorite colored pencil!
They are made by Crayola, and are called Crayola Write-Start Colored Pencils.  They are officially 'intended' for younger kids, but my older kids fought to use them, and frankly I like using them too.   I'm missing a few in my set - the set has 8 pencils.  I have black, green, yellow, red, and purple, but the set also includes orange, blue, and brown.
The leads are soft, the colors are rich, and the points never seem to break.  The kids could really bear down on the point to get rich color, and they were easy to hang on to.  The are thick and easy to grip (which helps with my old lady hands), and hexagonal so they don't roll off the table.  And the graphics on the pencils are cute, too!  My only regret is that they only come in these basic 8 colors.  You can still buy them, but it's rare to find them in catalogs so you really have to hunt them down.  If you follow the link above, you'll find them at a great price at if you are already spending $35 and qualify for free shipping.  (It doesn't mention Amazon Prime). 

Once, at a conference, I got samples of these Ticonderoga 'Core-Lock' colored pencils ([photo below) from a vendor.  Their quality is amazing - I personally think they rival Prismacolor in quality and richness of color.  Unfortunately, I have just three colors and I don't think they are made any more.  Why does the good stuff so often disappear? 
I mean, do you remember the Sanford Colorific (or Foohy) Gel Markers?  (Same thing, with a name change.)  They were spectacular!  Or the gel colored pencils? Why is it that when you get really attached to something, it disappears from the market?  What would we all do if black Sharpies were no longer available??

Do you have a favorite 'unsung' art material that you think others should know about?   Or a favorite material that is simply no longer available?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My apron contribution to the Apron Sew-a-Long

my latest apron creation!
I've had many art room aprons, smocks, and lab jackets over the years, several of which were made by yours truly.  I was inspired by the amazing Cassie Stevens to make this one.  Cassie has a knack for getting us all sewing cute aprons and reading artsy books (and doing the associated homework) when we really should be cooking dinner, doing the laundry, feeding the cat, going to the gym, and cleaning the bathroom (well, those last two are really easy to ignore).  Anyhow, if you don't already know, Cassie started an Apron Sew-a-Long and even though I'm actually retired, I still can use this apron, which, by the way, is reversible.   Here's side #2. 
 Like I said, there have been many other aprons in past years. I seriously USE them!  My aprons wear their paint and glue like a badge of glory, until they get so nasty that they look like the refuse in a butcher shop.   I've posted about making a couple of them here and also here.  Then, there was the one with the adorable little aliens all over it - I mean, aliens with shopping carts and aliens with baby aliens in strollers, and so much more.  I don't have a pic of it, and it is long since gone, caked irreparably with layers of paint and what-not.  But I have a strong memory of a certain student - a large difficult autistic girl, who barely even acknowledged my existence otherwise, getting totally excited about my apron.  I mean, out-of-control excited.  She would come and poke at me in the boobage (that word is for you, Cassie) and other body parts, pointing out the alien puppy, and the alien kitty, and alien babies, screaming and shrieking  It was, um, a wee bit distracting.  I stopped wearing it when her class came to art. 

Below, Violetta, my duct tape dress dummy, is modeling side #2.  Don't you just love the 'yoga frog' appliques I have put on both sides of the apron?  I was excited by the fabric when I saw it, but it was rather insubatantial and I was afraid paint would go right through it if I used it for the apron, so it worked out great for appliques.   I had planned to use WonderUnder, like I did for this tunic, but the store now had a different brand.  I didn't like it.  It didn't hold as well, but at least it held enough for me to zigzag their edges onto the apron.  I found some crazy metallic thread for the appliques, but the thread was so problematic that I only used it on three appliques before I gave up and went back to regular black thread.
By the way, I did not use an official pattern.  I took a Sax apron that I got as a freebie at a vendor booth last year, traced it (I liked the shape of the top), made it longer, and extended the sides to go further around my not-insubstantial hips.  I cut out the apron shape in each of the two fabrics I had chosen.  I cut out pockets, based on the size of the Sax apron, and sewed them on.  The pockets are lined.  Below is my favorite yoga frog.  Now all I need is a mantra...
 I took a third fabric, and used it to make seam binding by cutting it on the bias and running it through this handy-dandy folding thing I've had for, like 20 years.  You iron the fabric as you pull it through, and voila! 
 Instant bias fold seam binding!  How cool is that?! 
I used the seam binding around the apron edges and for the ties.  It was really easy to put together.  Because the apron was being put together with the seam binding, I didn't even need to sew it together and turn it inside out.  I just put the pieces wrong sides together, basted them, and put on the binding.  Easy!  I think if I make an apron this way again (it's bound to happen sooner or later) the only change I'd make would be to make/use a wider binding for the trim and ties.  Though I suppose that means I need to search for another bias tape maker. 
Once I was done sewing the whole thing together, I decided to quickly finish up another project, since my machine was already threaded with black thread. 
 When I was in Santa Fe this summer for the Crizmac International Folk Art Extravaganza, one of our hands-on projects was making a quilt square.  I don't usually hand-sew at all, but I really dove into this thing and am super proud of it.  So I decided to stitch it to a piece of black fabric, which I am going to stretch over a board (showing a black fabric border of about 2" on each side) and then frame.

And that's when my Janey (my sewing machine) acted up.  Janey is a Janome brand machine, and I've had her 3 or 4 years.  I bought her when my 30 year old singer finally bit the dust.  She's small and lightweight, but very efficient.  Except she is electronic, and the electronics seem to have a mind of their own.  Usually, when she acts up, the problems are solved with turning off the machine and then on again (basically, rebooting).  Not his time.  What was she doing?  She, um, just kept on sewing, long after I had taken my foot off the gas.  If my car did that, I'd be running red lights and driving into the backs of other cars.  She just sewed right off the edge of the quilt square onto the black fabric and kept right on going.  I can't even blame it on the cat (who frequently likes to tug at the thread and stick her head dangerously in the machine while I'm sewing).  She was napping nearby.  I rebooted.  I fiddled with the 'start/stop' button that can be used in place of the foot pedal.  Nothing worked.  I swear, one time she even kept right on going after the machine was turned off!!  Every time I sewed, it happened again.   Sometimes, it was just a couple of stitches, but other times, it was a dozen or more.  In the end, I pulled out the extra stitches and called it done, and I guess perhaps it's time for Janey to have a service call.  Luckily the place to take her is only a couple of blocks away.  Anyhow, it's not framed yet, but here it is all sewed messily onto the black fabric.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The house plant problem

 I got my very first house plant, a purple passion, as a 'secret Santa' gift when I was in college.  And I've never been without a house plant in any dorm, apartment, or home I've lived in since.

 Our home has two of these pretty bay windows with stained glass rectangles on the upper half.  (It's hard to see the stained glass in these photos, since I've exposed for the plants.)  When I first met my husband, 30 years ago, I had just moved into the apartment across the street to start a new job (which is where I spent the rest of my teaching career).  He had bought this house, which was a real fixer-upper at the time, just three months earlier.  I met him the day I moved in, and married him three years later.  Often, I've joked that I married him because of these windows.  The rest of the house didn't look so good at the time.
I keep a lot of my smaller house plants on the rotating rack in the upper photos.  If you look carefully, you'll notice a lot of empty shelves, because, well... the plants keep growing, and then don't fit on the shelves.  I got that rack when I was in junior high school.  My parents bought it at an auction, and I painted it and put contact paper on the shelves, and used it for my collection of brass horses and other doodads.  When I got married, my husband noted that it was really a nice piece, and we stripped and stained it.
But back to the house plants.  The problem is that they grow.  Then I re-pot them into bigger pots, and they grow some more.  And more.  I don't think you can really tell from these photos how BIG some of these plants are.  The spider plant in the back corner above is so big and heavy I haven't attempted to re-pot or move it in years.  The purple passion and philodendron in front of it both grow like crazy.  On the top of the rack are two very large ivy plants.  And then there's that enormous plant in front of the rack, which is actually more of a tree.  It takes up a LOT of floor space.  There's a hanging plant above those in the window that didn't make it into the photos.  And this is only one of the two bay windows.  Plus there's the plants that I moved to the porch for the summer (photos below).
I used to bring a lot of the large plants to my classroom in the fall, and bring them home at end of the school year, where they would go directly to the sunshiny porch.  They never came in the house.  My sweet custodian watered them for me over vacation.  I had large sunny windows in my classroom. 
At the end of the school year, I often gave away a number of the classroom plants to other staff members, so I didn't have so many to bring home.  Since I retired two years ago, I can't do that any more.  Last year ago I posted on Facebook that I was looking for a home for some plants, and an old friend took several from me.
 This one below, on the porch, is another biggie.
 And this large plant is sitting on my dining room table. 
 And by another window in our dining room, there's this big Christmas cactus.
 In the other bay window, are these, plus a hefty hanging asparagus fern, not pictured.  The one one the left is enormous.  Those leaves are about a 1/2 foot long each! 
If there's any question about the size of this snake plant below, check out my cat snoozing next to it in her 'tree house'. You can see a tiny bit of the fern above her. 
 Meanwhile, also not in the photos, are a bunch of cuttings (just like your hair, house plants grow better if you trim them) that are rooting in water.  There's Swedish ivy, purple passion, and a few others.  I'll be planting them all in the next few days, and they'll fill all the empty spaces on the rotating rack, plus more.
Oops - sideways.  This cute red clover is hanging on the porch, and will be re-potted to bring inside.   
So what do I do with all these plants?? Where do I put them all? I'm running out of room as the plants grow, and soon all the outdoor plants will need to come in.   I don't have a classroom to bring them to any more.  All I have is my house.  I adore my large plants.  I don't want to give them away.

Suggestions, anyone?