Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mission Dolores in San Francisco

Last week I went to San Francisco to show my work to the Artist Xchange gallery, located in the Mission district. I found a parking spot right by the Mission Dolores, so I went in and had a look around after my appointment. It's one of those local places of interest that I've always wanted to go to, yet somehow never have. The original mission was founded in 1776, the construction of this building began in 1782, which here in California is positively ancient! It's the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco. You can read more about it's history here.

This is the new basilica, built right next to the old mission in 1918.

Inside the mission.

Old and new. Relatively speaking that is.

The most interesting part was the cemetery, which is small but a very peaceful spot in the middle of a busy city.

I almost forgot to mention that I'm now showing my work at Artist Xchange! So if you're in the Mission district check it out at 3169 16th Street, between Valencia and Guerro.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Stormy weather

I snapped this on my way home from the post office this afternoon - a bit of sunshine! We've had a week of very heavy rain in here Sonoma county, so much that the reservoirs have gone from drought levels to over 90% full. Everyone is hoping that we won't have another year of drought., which was looking like a real possibility. Last year we were all told to conserve water or there would be mandatory rationing (so no more front lawn) . It was such a huge success that the water department lost money and has raised the rates. What's that old saying - no good deed goes unpunished!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sherry Fotopoulos workshop

I spent the day yesterday in Oakland taking a workshop from Sherry Fotopoulos on making and using tiny screws in metal clay jewelry. Sherry came all the way from Texas to teach a number of workshops here. I enjoyed her teaching style so much that I signed up for a hinged box class tomorrow, which I wasn't originally planning on taking. My favorite part about these workshops is not so much the particular technique that is being taught, but all the little tips and tricks the very talented instructors so generously share.

I should have taken a photo before this was assembled with red locktite! This ring is made up of 4 separate components, there is a threaded sterling screw which goes through all 4 pieces (also my first metal clay ring!) Getting the threads in the screw started was a challenge (to say the least) but when I had Kelly take a look at it he felt the die was too small for the wire being threaded, so I tried the next size up and it was much easier. The advantage to this type of connection is that you can make a piece with changeable components or pieces with hard to finish areas could be made, finished and then get assembled. All in all an interesting new way of joining pieces.

How cute is my new tiny set of taps and dies?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Baby kiln

My Christmas present to me this year was a second kiln. I rely heavily on my Paragon SC-2 and haven't had any problems with it, but decided I should have a back up kiln, just in case. My boyfriend Kelly is a transmission mechanic and has seen pretty much everything break during his career, so he has instilled in me the importance of having spares of tools and equipment that are really important. When I was racing motorcycles I had my race bike, an identical spare bike and a spare motor. One weekend I blew up the motors in both bikes and had to race one of Kelly's bikes, so I'm a believer in spares too.

Anyhoo... I got the Paragon SC-1, which is very tiny and heats up to 1650 in ten minutes or so! It takes my SC-2 almost 30 minutes to get up to temperature. During the holidays I was firing small batches once or twice a day, so this kiln is perfect for that. It's so light and small that when I want to use the bigger kiln, I just pick up the little one and put it on the floor.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Visit to the California Academy of Sciences

A few days after Christmas I finally went to see the new California Academy of Sciences museum in San Francisco with my boyfriend Kelly. The museum was recently entirely redone, and as a huge fan of the old museum I was looking forward to seeing what they'd done with it. Here's their website:

Thankfully you can buy tickets online, but even with that the line to get in snaked around the block at opening time. They've kept a bit of the old facade, and if you remember the old museum you can identify other things that have remained. There is a giant, multi story living rainforest, the aquarium, plantetarium, the old African hall with it's dusty taxidermy and other exhibits. It was great to see a museum so jam packed (20 minute line to get into the rainforest, just like Disneyland!) but when we were done, both Kelly and I agreed that we liked the old museum better. I couldn't quite figure out why I felt that way, since the new museum is certainly very flashy. My friend Adam (who works for the Exploratorium, a very cool SF museum) sent me this article which pretty much sums up my feelings too. Very bright and shiny, but missing the sense of wonder that the old version provided. But I'm glad I went, and hope it continues to draw the crowds so the research they do can continue. The one area that did improve was the aquarium, I wish I could have the jellyfish tank in my living room!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

That's a lot of PMC

I started getting really busy right before Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd keep track of how much PMC I used through Christmas. I prefer the 25 gram packs, I find that even though I go through them quickly, I like having totally fresh clay more often than with the 50 gram packs. The easiest way to keep track of it was to toss the empty packs into my bench drawer. I counted them up and I used up 45 packs, or 1125 grams which is about 2.5 pounds of silver! For those that have never worked with metal clay, here's the 25 gram lump still wrapped up:

It's not much, is it? Well, this little lump of pure silver in an organic binder retails for $41.25 at the moment. Fortunately wholesale pricing is available to those of us in business, but it is still quite expensive. Everyone who works with precious metals is hoping for the prices to come down this year. I remember way back in the 90's when we all freaked out when silver hit $4 an ounce - it's currently at $17!

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 revisited

2009 was a very difficult year for many, but I have to say that it brought many unexpected and wonderful changes for me. If you'd asked me a year ago to predict what I'd be doing right now, I never would have guessed that I would be self-employed full time by choice. I am very lucky to have been able to grow a business "in this economy" (a phrase that will hopefully go away now!) I was so profoundly miserable at my job that I finally got to the point where staying was much worse than the uncertainty of trying to go out on my own. I'm so glad I did! It's been a very interesting and rewarding process so far and I'm enjoying the ride. Here's to a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2010!