Category Archives: Life

Animals Always at the St. Louis Zoo

Two weeks ago I spent a few days with some friends in St. Louis.  I liked the city a lot.  One of the highlights of the trip was the spectacular “gates” to the  zoo by sculptor Albert Paley.  Last year I had seen the scale models while they were on display at the Corcoran in Washington, DC.

Here are my photos:

Back to marbling and books next week!

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Something Completely Different

I was in Washington, DC for a few days last week and enjoyed returning to a place I had lived for several years.  So much has changed and so much has stayed the same.  One of the new places I visited was the FDR memorial. Although I was very tired at the time, I was impressed and took a few photos. This particular quote struck me as being important for this country to remember now, as then.

I was also fortunate enough to see  Albert Paley exhibit at the Corcoran on almost the last day. Sam Castner’s model of the gates of the St. Louis Zoo was stunning.  Now I have to see the original.


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Beads in Flame

Last week my granddaughter and I attended the John C. Campbell Folk School’s Intergenerational week for the third time.  The first time, we took a course in wood carving, the second year was enameling and this year was creating lamp-work beads. Unfortunately, all my pictures of the class and the process are on my granddaughter’s phone and she is in a WiFi  and cell free zone for another week. You’ll have to be satisfied with a few pictures of the finished products for this blog.

The process of making beads requires concentration and coordination. A few seconds distraction can produce a lump of molten glass on the bench rather than a bead on the stainless steel stick  (mandrel).  Unlike the torch fire enameling I did last year with a hand-held torch, the smaller torch used in lampwork is fastened to the bench and both hands are used to make the bead.  That’s where the coordination comes in.  One hand holds the glass rod that is being melted to form the bead. This hand is moving constantly to make a blob or “gather” of  melting glass at the end of the rod as well as moving the glass in and out of the flame to keep it at the desired temperature.

The other hand holds the mandrel, where the bead will be formed. Once a gather is the correct size, it is carefully attached to the mandrel.  From then on the mandrel is constantly rotated to keep the bead even .  This is just for a plain bead!  Adding colors, dots, lines and other embellishments requires careful judgement and movement.  If a bead is heated or cooled too quickly it will crack or even explode.  Good depth perception is also useful to keep everything just where you want it in relation to the flame as bead and the rod need to be cooled slightly at times and heated at others.

My granddaughter and the rest of the class were able to coordinate all the movements well by the second day.  I had trouble keeping the right hand rocking back and forth while the left hand was rolling clockwise. My beads tended to become oval as the left hand rocked instead of rolled. 

Glass rods come in a myriad of colors, both opaque and transparent.  It was great fun playing with the colors and especially the combination of clear and solid.  Some of my favorite designs were on beads that broke in the annealing process.  I’d love to have the luxury of just spending hours by myself honing the techniques and really developing a fluency in the art. In reality, I have paper to marble, boxes to design and books to make.  Maybe some time …

In the meantime, here at home things were growing and growing.  Here are some new pictures of my garden and herb patch.

Herbs are a bit overgrown and need edging, but they are lush due to all our rain.  Tomatoes are slowly ripening – haven’t had enough sun, but the cherry tomatoes are beginning to come on. Delicious!  I’m not doing pickles this year so there aren’t many cucumbers, just enough to eat.

I’ve ordered a batch of paper and paints for some special orders and am planning to get back on track with marbling next week!  If it happens, I’ll be blogging my progress.


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Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

About ten years ago, shortly after I moved into this house, I started an herb garden in the middle of my side lawn.  I’m not quite sure why I put it there. As it has grown over the years it has become difficult to mow around.  Not planned well at all!  It is, however, convenient to the kitchen and, since planning doesn’t seem to be my strong point, close enough to run out and grab some parsley or chives on those rare occasions when I actually cook.  I love growing herbs, but I really don’t use them much, especially ones like borage and horehound and fennel.  They are pretty and smell good too!

My care of this garden has been very hit-and-miss.  I usually put in a few annuals like parsley and basil in the spring and see what comes up from the previous year.  I hate weeding, so by July, the patch is overgrown with the more invasive herbs as well as weeds and grass.  The last few years, I’ve been particularly lax and I had half sage bushes and half chives.  Several years ago, I did tear out all the tarragon which threatened to take over everything.  The past winter was so cold and so long that it spelled doom for most of the plants.  Only a few meager sage stems survived along with a tiny bit of thyme and, of course the chives.

In the face of such devastation, I decided I had to go back to the beginning, dig almost everything up and start fresh.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans.  Winter stayed and stayed and stayed.  The ground didn’t really thaw until April, followed by cold, raw weather and topped off by a huge storm and a flood that wiped out roads, basements and a house or two.  I’m on the side of a hill, so only lost part of my driveway, but the county highway crews estimate it will take months to repair all the damage.

Last week was the first opportunity for me to dig, plant, and redo the border.  I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. Since retiring more than ten years ago, I’ve found I can work at hard physical tasks for shorter and shorter lengths of time.  If I pace myself, I can do one session in the morning and one in the afternoon. Working around weather that was either too hot or too cold, also provided a challenge.  Here are some photos of my recreation of my herb garden.  These were taken before I really finished, but just this morning, I placed the last of the border stones, planted the last few herbs and finished mulching. Yes, I know the chives need to be cut back, but they are so pretty!  I’ll do it next week.

There’s a border of thyme all around the garden and I’ve used a couple of different varieties.  At a college where I once worked they had a “thyme clock”. It was a circular planting, like a sundial, with twelve divisions and a different kind of thyme in each.  I’ve forgotten what was used as the gnomon, but I always liked the idea and would love to be able to recreate it.

In the meantime, in the back yard, I was able to quickly put in my standard garden of tomatoes and cucumbers. Earlier, I had gotten from NYS Forestry Service some bare root crab-apple trees and had planted them near an apple tree that I had grown from seed.  I think it’s a Pink Lady, but not sure.

It still needs a lot of work, but at least everything is in the ground.

Meanwhile, in the basement, I was finishing up three more boxes. Two with detached lids and one clamshell.

The two lidded boxes have leather tops.  Leather had always been difficult for me to work, but I’m finally beginning to get it and enjoy working with it.

It’s really nice to have a week of finishing, instead of treading water.  Of course, without the previous prep work and first steps, there wouldn’t be any finishing!  This week, I hope to relax, mulch the garden and think about what’s next.


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Filed under Boxes and Towers, Life

How Does One Recharge?

Ever since I came back from the Folk School and my exciting classes there described in my previous blogs, I’ve been trying to get started again.  Not very successfully!  I put the finishing touches on a few books right away, but my snakeskin book languishes on my work table, untouched.  I go into my studio every day, look at the leather, look at the enameled pieces and end up sorting some marbled paper or rearranging stuff.  I spend some time there and then go upstairs to play Civilization or Solitaire on the computer.  Not much accomplished.

One thing I have done is to buy some large bins so I can sort my papers.  I had them in drawers and boxes and had to go through everything to find what I needed.  Having them in smaller groups by type and size should make life a bit easier. Now I just have to decide where to put everything!

Today was the first time that I have been inspired. While sorting the printed papers I found a long, narrow strip of purple Lokta printed with gold tigers.  It really called to be made into a book.  Maybe there’s hope for me!

In the meantime, this is what I seem to be doing most of the time.

Lucy with fire

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Sam’s Sculptures on Park Avenue

Well, I guess they are really Albert Paley‘s, but to me they’ll always be Sam’s.

Earlier this week, I made a very quick trip to see the sculptures.  There are thirteen of them placed in the islands on Park Avenue in New York City from E.67th St. to E 52nd. Here are some quick snaps of all of them.

They all had plaques with more information that could be scanned, but I don’t have a smart phone and Carol didn’t have the correct app, so all we could read was the title! One time I really regretted not being in the 21st century. If it isn’t obvious from the pictures, these are all huge. I think the tallest is three stories high.

My two favorites were these two:

In a small picture, it is impossible to show how the sculptures related to the buildings around them. There were often subtle echoes of lines or colors or harmonies of the nearby buildings.  In one gorgeous coincidence, a yellow cab and a blue van were stopped at the light in front of the “Yellow Tree” shown above. This was definitely the type of installation I would like to be able revisit in a more leisurely manner. I’m jealous of New Yorkers.

It was a fun trip and I even managed to squeeze in a very hasty trip to The Strand (One of NYC’s largest used book stores) and one of my favorite paper shops – NY Central Art Supply.

Back to the real world next time – a case bound dos à dos, more marbling and another enameled book!

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Filed under Art, Life

What To Do When the Paper Doesn’t Fit

I recently marbled some maps that I really wanted to use as covers for my portfolios.  Unfortunately, they were just the wrong size.  Too short for the large size that fits an 8½” x 11″ writing pad and making them for a 4″ x 6″ pad would lose too much of the map.  I thought about either patching two together or framing them for the large portfolio, but just didn’t like that solution.  They would be perfect for a 7″ x 10″ pad.  Problem is, no one seems to make that size pad.  I could have them specially made but that would be expensive and replacements would be a nuisance for the customer. So I did the next best thing, used a 6″ x 9″ pad and made the holder a little bigger than it needed to be.

Now I have notepad covers that range from the small memo size to the full 8½” x 11″. Here are samples of the full range.

Four Sizes of Writing Pad Covers

Four Sizes of Writing Pad Covers

Here are the two new covers I just made.

The blue cover has old street maps of Washington, DC and the red cover are pages from a vintage children’s book about the seasons.  Both were hand-marbled by me.

More photos of the four sizes.

Last week I spent a lot of time marbling and I hope to get a blog up about my adventures with metallic marbling up soon.  I also canned the last of my pickles and the first of my tomatoes for this year!  The cherry tomato crop is still going strong with the return of hot weather and I hate to see them going to waste. I don’t hate it enough to try to skin them for canning though!

Cherry Tomatoes, red and gold

Cherry Tomatoes, red and gold

Tomatoes & Pickles

Tomatoes & Pickles

But most important of all, last week brought a new member of the family.


She’s an eight-year old Beagle/Basset mix I adopted from a local shelter and she’s loving that I have lots of rabbits on my property.



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Filed under Life, Notebooks