Sunday, September 29, 2013

Who Knows What the Future WIll Bring

As the astute out there might have noticed, I have changed the name of this blog from Glass Incarnate to Life Incarnate. Life has shifted in focus for me over the past year and it's time for the blog to reflect the changes.

Almost exactly six years ago today my husband and I purchased a 1920's Craftsman bungalow around the corner from our house with a backyard adjoining ours in which to house Siyeh Studio and allow me to move my business out of the basement and into the light. A year later I expanded the vision for my business and opened Siyeh Glass--a Bullseye Kiln Glass Resource Center with a kiln-forming classroom, a 7-torch beadmaking classroom, and a hotshop out back for glass blowing. I added more people to the studio family to teach and staff the facilities. And the wild rumpus began. It was a wild ride and rumpus indeed, and it's time to get off.

So today I closed Siyeh Glass and the hotshop. I no longer have retail hours, regular kiln-forming classes, open studio every day, glassblowing date nights or classes, beadmaking classes, studio elves, or other regular teachers. There are many reasons why I felt compelled to take this step--first among them is a shift in my priorities to my family as my mother has had serious health issues all year and my husband and I are homeschooling our daughter for the first time. But the straws that finally broke me and forced the change now were the hotshop being struck by lightning while I was in Montana this summer (causing the furnace to go out AGAIN), and the website being hacked. I could have spent the money and time to deal with the one and the time and more time to deal with the other, but I just couldn't fix both on top of everything else.

Will I still have open studio? Yes, if someone emails me and asks to come in and work, I'll schedule time for them. Will I still sell Bullseye glass and other glass supplies? Yes, by appointment (again, through email), and probably through a newsletter for people who would like to get in on a large order from Bullseye. Will I still teach/offer classes? Yes, occasionally, and maybe even for a wider variety of media than just glass--I have been approached about leasing space to teachers in other disciplines so they could offer classes in a studio configured for teaching messy hand-crafts.

Mainly I will be focusing on my own production work and getting the website for it--Siyeh Studio--back up. I need to spend time developing new work and nurturing old relationships with my galleries.

Life right now, though, is about a lot more than glass. Deep breath in, out, and moving on...

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Good-bye Montana

Good-bye turkeys
Goodbye lake so crystal clear
Good-bye deer
And the Moose Drool Beer
Good-bye stars
Good-bye cars
Good-bye Smokehouse
And good-bye bunnies
Good-bye grizzlies
And good-bye cherries
Good-bye Going-to-the-sun
And good-bye Wild Goose Island
Good-bye big horns
And good-bye alpaca
Good-bye Hippo
Good-bye snow
Good-bye Fair
But hello hair
Good-bye Montana, wish we could stay there

Moose Drool beer
Wild Goose Island
bighorn sheep
Happy Hippo
new hair
Western Montana Fair

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer Winds Down

Sitting in a sky chair on the back deck in Polson, birdsong, a distant motorcycle and a barking dog for my morning music. Today the new contractor comes to fix the mess the last contractor made of the roof over the deck, and so the summer ends as it began with construction. This is the first morning I have been up and out on the deck this early, and it is truly wonderful. We got rain last night for only the second time in a hot month, and it cleared a lot of the dust and smoke from the air.  The fire danger has been listed as Extreme for over a month now and fires have been popping up all around us. Fires have been started by people mowing their fields, hitting a rock with the mower blades, and causing a spark--that's how dry it is. And there's the doorbell...

Three hours later, I pick up this post, and now my music is the sound of a compressor, hammering, whistling, and the grunting of contractors (no kidding, real grunting interspersed with the occasional imprecation). Add the bass note of the mower in the front yard run by the lawn service guy, and my symphony is complete. Apparently I have lucked into the magic circle in Polson in terms of neighbors (now friends) and professional service people. Our next-door neighbor Ed knows (and thinks highly of) both the current and the previous lawn care guys, and the lawn care guys and Ed all know and think highly of the new contractor. The city building inspector also knows and thinks highly of the new contractor. It's been one, big happy reunion up here today.

As I look down the last two weeks of summer it's time to plan and prepare for fall. Seems like a perfectly good waste of summer to me, but that's the way life works. It wouldn't do to land back in Atlanta with no idea what to do homeschooling the Sprout, no websites for either Siyeh Glass or Siyeh Studio, and nothing planned for the studio going forward. Though at this point I would be perfectly happy to stay in Polson for the fall, put a small studio in here (I am already having the wiring done for a big kiln and I could just put in an order with Bullseye for frit and clear irid), and just keep going on as I have been.

The summer is ending way too fast, as it seems to every year. I brought so many projects out to Montana to work on, and easily 80% of them I never even got started. There was no work done on the quilt I started in a class last spring. I made no jewelry from findings and shells (though I bought the materials), nor did I finish any of the silver pieces I had left over from my Spruill jewelry classes (in spite of the lovely jewelry bench gifted me by my spouse for my birthday and shipped here). I did not get the garden weeded. We (J and I) did no pottery, nor did we dye either fabric or yarn. The sewing projects I had lined up with Jessie never happened. I still don't know how to do kumihimo or use a rigid-heddle loom (the Cricket).

However I learned to spin, bought 13 alpaca fleeces and have made good progress in processing them for spinning (well, except for the one that I accidentally felted). I built my own table for blowing off the dirt and learned to use a picker box (think sandwich of slanted nails that the fleece goes between to get fluffed and picked over) and a drum carder in addition to the spinning wheel.

My head is awhirl with thoughts of woolen and worsted, yarn for knitting and yarn for weaving, dyeing (not the alpaca), blending (silk, merino, angora and bamboo), and all the possibilities opened with creating one's own yarn. In my boundless enthusiasm, I would like to take it a step further and raise my own alpaca and angora rabbits, but my spouse has employed both the stick ("No! No more animals!") and the carrot (talk of living in different exotic foreign locations as we homeschool--not a realistic goal with a lot of animal dependents) as a means of putting down that revolution before it even had a chance to get started. So I plan to assist Rosemarie in shearing back in Atlanta as much as she will have me in exchange for fleeces. Fleeces don't eat, drink, breathe, or poop and can be left in a bag (if well washed) for years until you can get to them (lucky for me).

I learned to play "Fate" (thanks a lot Kyla!) and have gotten to level 16, dyed my child's hair (twice) in rainbow shades of teal, aqua, magenta, and fuchsia, made (thus far--more to come) 25 qts of Everclear infusions from fresh, local. organic or wild produce (huckleberry, basil, rhubarb, and peach with rosehip, chokecherry, goathead peppers, anaheim peppers, backyard plum, and mint still to come). I have also begun (with my uncle) planning on a twin house (fancy duplex) on the lake property and almost put together family and business budgets. There has been passing thought given to redoing both my websites (damn robotic hackers injecting their silly malicious code into my sites--I fart in their general direction) and will actually follow through with action sometime later this week.

For three weeks of the summer I had three little girls instead of my customary one, and I took them on adventures as diverse as the Happy Hippo amphibious vehicle tour, boat tours, hiking, and the Park After Dark Astronomy gathering in Glacier National Park (with the accompanying junior ranger badges), bungee jumping and exploring the 4-H animal exhibits at the Western Montana Fair, and go-cart racing and laser tagging. There were also many days at the lake swimming and afternoons snacking on yummy frozen yoghurt.

In the spirit of home ever-improvement, I wrangled contractors and got two decks--one with a roof--built. The building included me preparing many of the boards, pickets, rails and beams with two coats of oil-based stain. I modestly conquered operation and maintenance of a riding lawnmower (for the lake property), researched, purchased and installed a portable air conditioner, and uninstalled a hard-wired dishwasher and prepared for the installation of a new one (picked and purchased by Mom). I have planned a new garden bed for the spot in front that used to be covered by the  old deck, but I don't think I'll get the retaining wall put up for it or the topsoil delivered to fill it--much less the plants chosen for it (that'll be a plan for winter when I'm cosied up on the couch in Atlanta dreaming of summer). I need to put in the 6-8 herbs, the 2 perennials and the 9 lilies I bought at the farmer's market (and I really should get the main big bed weeded!), but that shouldn't be too difficult. I did weed and tame the existing herb bed and I did plant six tomato plants that are beginning to bear fruit.

Before I sat down to post today, I would have said my summer glass was half empty--that I had not done anything I had planned on or very much worthwhile at all. But now I'm thinking my cup runneth over with beer (Sip 'N' Go Naked Apricot Ale from the Tamarack Brewery in Lakeside) and it foams over the rim of the glass with an abundance of fullness. Good thing I occasionally post so I can review and take stock honestly to keep my life in perspective!

Monday, July 08, 2013

I Run Amok

I take a deep breath and relax into the beginning of this post. It has been quite a time so far at Casa de Verano Griffith. In the spirit of Glass Incarnate, I'll start with the glass news first. But, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to say that glass business takes a back seat to loads of other things in the Montana summer.

A couple of weeks ago the J and I drove up past Kalispell to Whitefish and hand-delivered a big order to a new gallery (new for me) called the Purple Pomegranate. It is a lovely little shop on the main street in Whitefish--a quintessential summer and winter (lake and big ski area) resort town. I am looking forward to continuing my relationship with them--they're my first Montana gallery!

On the way up J spotted a monster truck (one of her obsessions) at the local Toyota dealer and we just HAD to stop and get a picture. She really wanted to go to the monster truck show over the weekend, but, lucky for me, she forgot about it.

Spent the first weekend after arriving in Missoula where I took a class in hand spinning from Janet Sullivan who owns Joseph's Coat Yarns and Fiber. It was a GREAT class as it was really a private lesson for the day, and I was able (finally) to get the feel for drafting (preparing the fiber to slip through your fingers and be twisted into yarn by the turning of the wheel).

I ended the class by renting a wheel for the summer for her and hope to purchase one before going home. Gave Janet a ride home after class and we dropped a spinning wheel off at a friend of hers who is a rug weaver. She showed me her rug loom which she might be selling in the near future. Even I with my lust for new tools can't wrap my head around where to put this loom and how to use it. It's 16 feet long and you weave by walking back and forth across the front. You need a 32 foot side to side clearance for it just so you can get the hardware all in!

In addition to the spinning class, we loaded up on supplies not easily found in Polson including two new shower-heads for both bathrooms; semi-permanent hair dye in cobalt, fuchsia, magenta, orange, lemon, and teal (the pic at the right shows the first pass with magenta, fuchsia, teal and cobalt); fabric and thread for summer sewing projects for the J along with a sewing table and cutting mat; summer books for the J; a hand-sander for a couple of wood-working projects I have; a rented cello from Morgenroth Music for J--and while we were there we picked up a used Yamaha keyboard in pristine condition for a song.

The projects for the sander include a bit of grading-stamp removal prior to sanding my share of the new deck boards for the house and removing the varnish off the flat surfaces of a vanity I bought at a garage sale around the corner here in Polson right after we got here. It's a gorgeous little waterfall style laminated wood vanity with the original Art Nouveau brass handles from the 20's and it was only $10. I messed up a little on the sanding and went too deep into the laminate, but I got some retouching pencils and I will draw the grain back in before I finish it. Though we are having a contractor tear out the old deck and put in the new one, I am doing part of the staining to save a little cash and get the project done faster.

To make sure I had enough going for the summer I picked up some origami paper in Missoula and have been busily making paper cranes when my hands aren't doing anything else. I am going to turn them into a hanging sculpture--or maybe a light fixture. I also brought up the cotton crochet afghan I have been working on for Jessie's room for a couple of months. It's a great project for in the evenings while we all sit around and listen to an audio book (currently Mom J and I are working through Jim Butcher's Furies of Calderon series and are in "Captain's Fury".

Dave--who is here with us for the next couple of weeks before heading back to Austin--got me a jeweler's bench for Montana and I spent a day putting it together. It's SWEET and I am going to be able to get to it to use it as soon as I have finished staining deck boards and refinishing the vanity (which will be a desk for the J). Between the staining set-up, the furniture that normally goes on the deck but which is stored in the garage while the deck is being rebuilt, the vanity, the 13 alpaca fleeces I picked up from RuthAnn at her Racka Paca Alpaca ranch in Kila, and the glass/jewelry studio set-up, the garage is pretty full.

Though alpaca is my new favorite fiber as it is so silky, soft, warm, naturally beautifully colored, and clean (alpaca don't have the lanolin in their fleece that sheep do so the fleece doesn't hold the dirt in the same way), I have been preparing George Edmund's and Irma Amelia's fleeces for spinning too. I washed them, and now I'm picking and teasing them so I can card them. I haven't decided whether to try to blend silk, merino or alpaca with them to create a nicer yarn, or just to make up sock yarn with them. It will definitely be fun to experiment with dyeing and blending their fleece (during carding) before spinning it. And speaking of carding; looking at all of it that I need to do, how long it takes to hand card, and how hard it is on my wrists, I am thinking I may need to invest in a drum carder.

But back to alpaca for a minute: they are adorable, gentle, not too big, and make great pet/fiber animals. Best of all, they are not denied by City of Atlanta code. So what is stopping me from getting a couple? (You can't just get one--they need company.) While it would be fun to say something like "marriage is a compromise" or "my spouse", the reality is that I don't need to do anything to tie us down more geographically than I already have: it is difficult enough to summer in Montana with the chickens and bunnies back in Atlanta. I can't even imagine what 2-3 alpaca would add!

I end this very long post with a thank-you to the universe for a truly lovely July 4th. I got to see good friends from grade-school on with their families, Dave performed his annual marriage proposal ritual (I said yes again), and we got to set off a whole boatload of fireworks--and we still had the baby display here in Little Baghdad on the Flathead.

Happy Summer, everyone. Peace, Love and Joy.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Life Incarnate

Irma Amelia and George Edmund sharing space with Jasmine
 and the rest of the bunnies. Puddy the goat is off eating the picnic table
I enjoyed my 20's more than my teens--but who doesn't? I became an adult in my 30's--finishing school, getting a job, and taking a husband. My 40's started well with a child, but turned rough within a couple of years when I looked back on life to date--thinking it was half over--and was dismayed at what I hadn't done, hadn't accomplished. Now I am settling into my 50's, and life seems to have split wide open and gushes with new things to learn and do.

I am, for the first time, building conscious mental models of processes and knowledge in subjects ranging from mathematics to sheep shearing. I want to study and do everything--glass; ceramics; silver-smithing; black-smithing; spinning; weaving; crochet; wood carving and turning; knitting; soap-making; quilting; candle-making; bee-keeping; food science; goat, llama and sheep husbandry (before I do too much husband-scaring I need to note that a more precise way of phrasing that last desire is to say I want to participate in their care at the East Lake Community Learning Garden and Urban Farm--ELCLGUF--culminating in harvesting their fleece and hair for processing and spinning into yarn); and the list just goes on. I want to take up archery, develop a yoga practice, lose weight, and explore physics and mathematics--I'm sure there is more (Kumihimo, bead-weaving, Tai-Chi, meditation, Japanese, Italian, Thai--language and cooking, mosaics, and dyeing jump to mind), but you get the point. What I am finding in 50 is that things I was blocked on before--things I couldn't seem to learn or do no matter how I tried--I can suddenly do and understand.

Blocks of batik shirt scraps from recent quilting workshop
In high school when math starting including Greek letters, it became, well, Greek to me. In fact I would have had an easier time learning Greek. Physics, with its formulae, was just as obscure. But as I totter into my 50's some veil has lifted, and I am finally beginning to see the models and concepts necessary for understanding and processing these disciplines--and they fascinate me.

One of my first thrown pieces on the wheel
In my 30's I tried to learn wheel-throwing pottery and spinning fleece into yarn, but they were handcrafts that I just couldn't get a handle on so I let them go. But I picked up wheel-throwing again at the beginning of this year in a class at Spruill Center for the Arts, and it came naturally and easily. I could do it.

With high hopes, I brought the fleeces from shearing George Edmund and Irma Amelia last Saturday at ELCLGUF to Montana, and this week I'll finish washing and start carding them. then next Sunday I am taking a spinning at Joseph's Coat in Missoula. When I succeed this time, I'll rent a spinning wheel from them for the rest of the summer.

It used to feel like there weren't enough hours in the day to get done everything I had to do. Now it feels much more like there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do--and I haven't even mentioned playing Minecraft, reading, creating websites, playing Euro board games (better than Monopoly), and sharing everything with Jessie.

Assisting in the shearing of Irma Amelia on my 52nd birthday
Time passes so quickly now! When I was Jessie's age I seemed to notice every minute in a day, a week was interminable, and a month lasted forever. Anything further out than that was beyond y ability to measure. Maybe it's that very perception of time that kept me from going through this intense-desire-to-learn stage earlier. It's not that I didn't have the opportunity--I remember leaning to sew, knit, and crochet when I was little older than Jessie. But I was always an instant-gratification kind of girl, and what I remember from those times is how long it took to get something from what you were doing--the boring parts seemed to last forever.

Shard samples for metal oxides from broken thrown piece
But now, with days and weeks passing in blur, the amount of time it takes to get to the end of an endeavor--to see something from my effort--is so much shorter. I think the difference in perception of time between age 12 and age 52 is going to provide the biggest challenge in homeschooling Jessie this fall. I will have to remember not to get frustrated or disappointed when she doesn't share my wonder and joy in learning about everything and doing anything that takes our fancy. I have to remember that the boring parts--the long, trudging work parts--are going to seem really long to her making the projects not nearly as fun.

So I sit--bundled in fuzzy socks, cosy pants, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt--in Montana and I ponder the summer and life spread before me, and I wonder again:

 Is it time to change the title of this blog to the title of this post?