Tag Archives: Garden

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.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Life, Other crafts

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.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Boxes and Towers, Life

Catching Up

It’s been a while since I’ve posted so this blog is about catching up with friends, books, marbling and gardens.  After my return from the Folk School class, I had a huge crop of slightly over-ripe cucumbers.  I still have about two dozens pints of pickles from last year, but I just couldn’t let all of those beauties go to waste.  I made another dozen or so pints and vowed to have pickles on the table for every meal next year.  I decided that that was enough and I would NOT do anymore.  So far, I’ve held to it and have only picked cucumbers for eating.  Don’t know if I’ll hold out though!

We’ve had a stretch of cooler weather and while I love it, the tomatoes don’t.  The red cherry tomatoes just aren’t getting ripe. The orange ones (Sungold) are almost ripe, but not in the profusion they should be.  The full size are slowly ripening, but if we don’t have some hot sun, I might not have enough to can this year. Harvest from two days, minus the cucumbers!

Last week I had a delightful visit from a friend I’ve known for over 20 years.  We had rather lost contact for a while besides the annual birthday greetings and it was great to see him again.  It’s amazing how one can flow back into relationships with a friend one hasn’t seen in years and yet with other people it is hard to sync up even seeing them once a week.  People are strange and fascinating beings.  My friend had read about my marbling class and wanted to learn how to do it, so we spent a day playing with it!

Lots of fun, but I didn’t get much real work done.  After he left, I went back to the trays, but the carrageenan just wasn’t doing its job.  Not sure if it was the temperature, high humidity, my water or just random contamination.  Very frustrating!

Amid all this, my dehumidifier conked out.  My studio is in the basement so its very important that it stays dry, especially the area where I store my paper. I ordered a super heavy-duty model, but it took over a week for it to arrive.  More frustration.  To cap it all off, my hot water heater died. That replacement was fast and efficient, but not before I had to deal with a lot of water on the floor.  Not the time to be without my dehumidifier!

All is well at the moment and I hope to have pictures of some new creations soon.  I have listed my diskette books on Etsy, so I have a start!  More paper will be coming soon.

In another catch up, I talked a while ago about buying recycled odds and ends at a place in Durham, NC.  One of the pieces I bought was a broken slab of marble (not sure if it’s real or fake).  I’ve been using it as a base on which to pare leather and it is just the right size.  I’m thrilled with it! It’s hard to see in the picture, but the marble makes a smooth, hard surface to cut against while paring.  The edges of the leather need to be pared down to the thickness of a sheet of paper.  I’m not very skilled at it and it takes a lot of knife work to get them smooth even and the right thickness.

I hope to do some more marbling next week and hoping it’ll be more productive than last! In the meantime, lots of books to finish and hoping no more appliances die!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Life

Nibbled to Death by Ducks

Last week was one of those weeks where I was busy all the time but accomplishments seemed to be few.  Dental appointment, watch it rain, doctor check up, mow the high hay, watch it rain, finish up the “real” books from last week’s blog, watch it rain, pick and freeze strawberries, switch closet from winter to summer, finally finish cleaning up the marbling stuff, spend an afternoon as a sub playing cards, and did I mention – watch it rain.

The good parts are that the garden has started to produce. I just hope the cukes aren’t quite as prolific as last year because I still have a dozen or more pints of bread and butter pickles from my canning frenzy of last year.

The wild blackberries that grow all over my property are coming on.  I love being able to gather a handful every morning on my walk about.  The best are from a bush that came up next to the garage.  I don’t take care of it except to try to keep people who are helping me from tearing it out!

Here are the books I finished from the previous week.  Cased in and ready to go.  I’m particularly happy with the one with the leather spine.  After struggling with paring the leather, it went together very nicely.

After saying last week that I was tired of novelties, I returned to my cross laced long-stitch books and finished up most of the leftovers.  Because of the way the tabs are cut to interlock for the front and back, if you don’t use the same paper for both covers, you end up with either a lot of waste or an extra piece already cut.  Of course, I don’t like to waste good paper, so I had a bunch of leftovers, which became more long-stitch books last week.



Not sure what I’m aiming for this week – work in the garden for sure, no marbling but maybe some playing with the dos à dos format.  It’s close to a real book and I’d like to try it with a case-type binding.  We’ll see if it works!

I also have set up a Losing Her Marbles store on Facebook.  It doesn’t have many bells and whistles yet, but social media is slowly creeping up on me.


Leave a Comment

Filed under bookbinding, Life

A Scrap Exchange for Upcyling and Fabulous Papers

On my recent vacation, I made trips to two great places near Raleigh, N.C.  The first was to a store I have used online for years, PaperMojo.  They have an astounding array of decorative papers of all types and weights and have just opened a small brick & mortar shop in Wake Forest.  There’s nothing like being able to see and feel a paper before buying.  Textures and weight is so important in bookbinding.  I have a number of sheets I have purchased online in the past that I will probably never use simply because they are too light or too heavy or just don’t feel right.

I didn’t buy much, just one sheet with leaf inclusions to use in the books I was working on and two sheets that will work very well for the soft cover style.  I don’t think I would have bought the latter online.  Here they are:

The other stop was at the Scrap Exchange, a reuse center in Durham, NC. It’s a non-profit that collects unwanted materials from businesses and individuals and sells or re-purposes them.  They have an incredibly eclectic range of items from electronics to wallpaper sample books to office supplies. I bought some odds and ends and it made me start thinking about making books from all sorts of goodies.  Here is my collection:

I have no clear idea of what I’ll do with any of these.  The plastic samples made me think of my Jacob’s Ladders. Both the vinyl floor & wall samples might become book covers as well as the wood.  The marble I’ll be using for paring leather.  If any of these work out, I’ll be looking into finding a local source.  Stayed tuned to see what happens!

In other news, I started planting the gardens – just potatoes for now, but the good stuff will come soon.

I’m giving a three-day marbling workshop next week so that will hold back the planting.  As soon as it’s over I plan to dive into it!.

Leave a Comment

Filed under bookbinding, Craft design

Home Again to the Garden

I’ve been on vacation the last two weeks and have come home in one of the loveliest times of the year. The fruit trees and lilacs are all in bloom, the grass was knee high and the nurseries packed with people buying plants.  It’s a bit early to start the garden, but after a long winter the urge to go outdoors and play in the dirt is very strong. Here’s some of what was waiting for me when I arrived home.

I’ve gotten a lot of the grass mowed, but not around the edges!

I had started preparing the garden before my trip and gave it another digging after I returned.  Now’s it’s all ready to fence and do a final grooming before planting.

While I was on vacation, I was playing with my books – of course.  I really like the format of the new soft cover book.  I had cut a bunch of paper for text and covers before I left on vacation as I knew I would have a lot of free time to play.  Here’s the result of my play.  They aren’t quite finished as there is some final gluing and trimming to do.

I had a lot of fun with these books.  First in matching up my marbled paper with a complementary piece of heavy stock, then choosing the thread and playing with the long-stitch pattern and finally deciding on the shape of the slots for the front and back tabs.  Only one of these books has the front and back of the same paper.  I’m looking forward to finishing these up … soon.

Next on my agenda is a marbling class that I’ll be teaching for the local arts center.  It should be a lot of fun. I’m planning on just covering the basics and having the participants have fun experimenting with colors, papers and anything else I can think of.


Filed under bookbinding, Life

A Rush Job

I had great plans of doing a real job of cleaning up my studio this past week.  Didn’t happen.When I took a few of the new hanging books down to the Arts Center, they mentioned that they were out of my smaller notepad and memo pad covers.  Of course, I had to drop everything and make some up.  It’s more fun than cleaning anyway! So here are the results.

You may notice that I tend to work in fours.  I find that making four books or towers or notepads at a time gives a nice rhythm of repetition without becoming boring.  You can see how I make these notepad covers here.  I have a few of these on Etsy also.

On another note, the weather has finally warmed up and I was able to start digging up the garden yesterday!  I no longer try to do it by hand and it’s much easier.  I have a little electric cultivator that works very well for me.  I’ve tried renting a roto-tiller, but they are just too heavy for me and every year it gets harder for me to pull start gas motors.  I now just drag my long extension cord out behind the pines and till away.  Get fun for a short time!

I’m still plying with some soft covers and mostly making messes.  More on that later.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Marbled Paper, Notebooks