Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Work In Progress Wednesday: Plaster

The plaster mold from the last version of the tile- nice and dry now. 

My kid is standing on the table while I work- Chaos reigns.

A close up of the squirrel sprigs- these guys are so wee and cute.

Squirrel range of motion sprig molds- and plans for some squirrel-y casserole dishes. And the ever present baby feet.

This week has been taken up with my finally carving some sprig molds of squirrels that I've had crawling (or jumping, rather) around my brain since Christmas. A sprig mold is like an applique but on clay- you make a shallow model- and then mold it in plaster. I was going to do another tile mold- just so that I had at least two plaster molds to work from while making tiles- because there's quite a bit of drying time in the mold- so it would speed the process slightly, and I'm using an old 9x13 pan for the tile- because it leaves nice big edges and therefore a solid mold, but there's room in those edges for sprigs- or smaller tiles too- then it's not such a waste of plaster.

That's all for clay this week I'm afraid- Baby A has started taking 20 minute naps- then waking up briefly and sleeping on me for another hour or so- it sort of ties me up, during that time n is supposed to be having quiet time- watching a movie or something- so that I have a few minutes without someone speaking at me during the day- but she's started getting bored with all that- not enough time outside on these frigid days, I think, plus just you- know- being four, and very talkative (we were talking about her being a superhero, and she was wondering who her sidekick should be, and I suggested Brownie her stuffed horse- but she said it should be me- because I'm always helping her do stuff- which is funny because I always called her my sidekick- but the times they are a changing, I suppose).

If you have any projects on the go in your neck of the woods- leave a link in the comments-I'd love to see.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Inspiration: Sybil Andrews

Sybil Andrews, Swans, 1939, (source)

Sybil Andrews, Racing, 1934 (source)
Sybil Andrews, Concert Hall, 1929, (source)

I was a bit lost this week- not really knowing who this Monday's artist would be (truth be told- I have really been looking at Kandinsky this week- but I'd set myself a task of Canadian artists this year on Mondays- so Kandinsky is out...for now) but after a bit of perusing Sybil Andrews name stuck out- and I am now well and truly inspired by her. The works speak for themselves, the movement and colour are so clear and dynamic, I'm in awe- honestly.

I've seen some of her works- but hadn't been suitably impressed until now- not sure why- they are infinitely impressive, from an artistic viewpoint, plus there are tons of images of her as an elderly lady, which is a bit of a weakness of mine (is that odd? I just love seeing a woman who's made art her whole life long, there's something reassuring in that, I think). Anyhow, she was also a really kick-ass woman; born in 1898- she wanted to study art after her secondary schooling- but the family couldn't afford it- so what does Sybil do? she apprentices to be a WELDER- that's right- she welded airplanes during the first world war. Sybil Andrews is my new hero.

you can (and should) check out her biography here at the Sybil Andrews Heritage Society.

(Monday Inspiration is all about Canadian Artists for 2014- do you have one you think I should check out? please leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you!)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

They're Back

It's a sign that things are getting warmer- in my windows at least- the ladybugs that hibernate in my house all winter are coming out, expecting spring- but instead just getting my house, and winter still outside. But it's  sign of spring for sure- and also a sign that I need to get my vacuum ready to start sucking them up.

Linking up with My little Home ad Garden for Sunlit Sunday

Friday, February 21, 2014

This Moment

{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.- Amanda Blake Soule

Thursday, February 20, 2014

In the Studio: Time for T (Squares)*

Here is the tile for the back splash in our Kitchen, in it's last mold phase e.g.: trying to make it into a functional tile that will work, and not make my Husband crazy when it comes time to put them up. The first mold I made back in November did not turn out great- I used mold soap instead of petroleum jelly to grease the mold- and the tile slid around while I was pouring the plaster in which made it less square and crisp than I needed- luckily I could still press out a couple of tiles- and so I pressed one and then set about fixing it up to re-mold it.

 Mostly I had to smooth out a few spots  and make the Wheat motif a bit thicker- so that it didn't disappear on the edge, and add a ton of clay to make the edges square (ish). You can see in that photo that the bottom of the tile is about a 1/4 inch out at the bottom- which would make it a nightmare to grout- and also not look very good, though I do like the 'not quite perfectness' of the edges and the slight rounding of the corners- It has to be a proper square- otherwise it will bug the shit out of me while I'm cooking, looking up at my mistakes tiled behind the stove. Otherwise the project is moving along- I'm on to trying to figure out the best combo of clay and grog to reduce warping and shrinkage, and perfecting drying methods next... It's starting to get a bit technical- which I love- but which makes things a bit boring for everyone watching clay dry...literally.

* I know it's not actually a T-square in the picture- but for the sake a cute post title- let it go. Oh god now I'm looking at the picture thinking how much better it would be if it were a much more balanced...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday Inspiration: Alice M. Egan Hagan

Alice M Egan Hagan, Scaup Duck, 1897, (source)

Alice M.Egan Hagan, Redheaded Duck, 1897, (source)
I'd never heard of this artist before stumbling upon her works online, I really love them though, She was a china painter, though she worked in other mediums too- and in the 1930's became a studio potter- making the whole pot-(which is a different animal altogether than china painting). She worked as an artist her whole life into her 90's, and was quite influential.

In 1897, when she was 24, she painted these 12 game plates- as part of a set of china that was painted by Canadian women artists- (how I would love to see that set- next time I go to Scotland I guess...). Her plates were celebrated as some of the best, even though she'd only had a few lessons in china painting. I always wonder at the 'china painting' years of women's art- it seems so twee, or precious nowadays. I can't imagine a woman of this era painting on china - unless it was ironic, or some sort of activity that unskilled people do for fun- but in those days that was the medium for women to work in- seriously, seriously talented women- it seems ridiculous to me, but then, look at the plates- they are so beautiful, and they do really show what she was capable of, maybe it's not a disservice at all.

More info on Alice Hagan- here at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Friday, February 14, 2014

This Moment

{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.- Amanda Blake Soule

(Okay- one comment- this is her 'fake scared' look- pretty convincing I thought)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Kids in the Garden: re-grow your lettuce

This is the first in a series (maybe weekly, we'll see how fast I run out of ideas), of ways to get kids involved in gardening- other than ordering them to weed.  There are a lot of benefits to getting them into gardening, but it can be hard to find stuff that they can do and understand, and that are still compelling enough to keep their interest.
Some of the reasons to garden with your kids:

It helps them to get started on building curiosity about how the world works, and it's an easy way to get them to engage with the world, and to see that there is more going on out there than it seems at first.

You probably know way more than you think you do, and once you get going- you'll learn more, so it's a bonus for them to see you explain something other than how to clean their rooms.

It's a nice way for kids to get their hands dirty, and for you to approve, which they love.

It introduces them to new foods, and will definitely make them eat more veggies.

It teaches them about environmental stewardship- which is so important!

It provides a nice friendly way to introduce science to them- and the idea that science is all around us, and actually applies to real life (what you didn't know that gardening has loads of science in it? it's true, stay tuned...)

Okay so first lesson and it's February, and it's Manitoba, and everyone is dying for something fresh and green, so re-grow your lettuce!

Step one:

make salad- and save the tiny core of baby leaves from the middle- the ones that are all yellow and pale looking  it should look like this:

Explain that the leaves are light yellow because they were sheltered from the sun when they were growing by the outer leaves- you can show the difference to you child by showing the leaves you put in the salad. Explain that a plant produces Chlorophyll in response to the sun, an action which is called Photosynthesis, and that Chlorophyll is what makes a plant green (you can go further with this explanation if your kids are older- but N is 4, so the idea that plants turn green because of the sun was enough of a wow factor for her).

Step Two:

Plunk the plant in some water, about an inch- up to the bottom of the leaves in fine,  and put it in the sun, change the water daily to prevent nastiness.

Check the lettuce daily for changes- on day two it should look like this:

See how the leaves are much glossier and greener- that's the Chlorophyll!  Also see how they're opening up a bit? That's to make room for the new leaves growing in the center.

We didn't separate those leaves at all, they did it on their own! Amazing! (especially to a 4 yr old!)

Step Three:

After about a week or so in water- put the plant in soil, it should keep growing- after about a week in soil it'll look like this:

Notice how many more leaves there are, and also how green they are from the sun. There's another difference too- the leaves feel much crisper, and stiff (you could talk about a plant's vascular structure here- and how water brings the plant more support- but again the difference was enough for a 4 yr old). From there I'm not sure how long until you eat the lettuce, a couple of months at least, longer than in summer probably because the days are shorter. That's an experiment that could be added on to this- measuring the growth and seeing if there is any difference between summer outside and winter inside!

Here's a link to more info about Chlorophyll and Photosynthesis: Biology 4 kids

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Inspiration: Laura Muntz Lyall

Laura Lyall Muntz, A Young Girl Holding Daffodils, (source)

Laura Muntz Lyall, Untitled, 1887, (source)

Laura Muntz Lyall, Interesting Story, 1898, (source)

I had honestly never heard about this woman before- though Interesting Story does seem familiar- it is just the sort of image that gets thrown around for advertising though- tugging at our heartstrings. It makes me think, of course, of my girls, and how I should be painting them, or doing something art related to capture these early glory years, (the photographs seem to sort of have that covered though right?- any kid whose mom has a blog is probably in the running for most documented childhood ever...). Anyhow, before blogging- the artistic childminders painted the little rugrats- and Laura Muntz Lyall was apparently not immune to the cuteness either.  She studied art in Paris at The Academie Colarossi (other Canadian graduates include Emily Carr and Prudence Heward), and painted extensively up until her sister's death- after which she spent most of her time looking after her sister's children, after which she fit in what painting she could, doing the stay at home/artist gig (if it was 2014 she would have had a blog).

Her paintings have a really lovely quality to them- loose, and natural, and almost Pre-Raphealite to me, with their loose patterns, and recurring flowers, models with flowing hair. The light in Interesting Story is really lovely, and it seems so ahead of it's time- much looser than other similar era paintings. I think though- the most interesting thing to me is that she was essentially a mother, who was educated and painted, and that didn't happen too often back then. Women generally gave up family life to paint- they had to choose one or the other- and Muntz Lyall did that- until her sister's death when she took over the responsibility of motherhood and simultaneously tried to 'have it all' much earlier than most women. She took nine years off from painting then began to work again, presumably the exception to the 'if you leave you'll never go back 'rule. Inspiring stuff.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The "Brothers"

Very randomly today- some photos of N with the cat brothers (which is what Nana calls them- and N finds it hilarious- we were never the type to call our cats our babies- but we did have them before kids, and they will sometimes sit up at the table as though expecting lunch served to them- I think they're just hoping one day I'll get so distracted I actually will serve them up there). I'm finding it hard to post  (or take) photos and I think the weather is really getting me down (though the vile green stuff coming out of Baby A's nose is not really photogenic either... so there's that happening too). Anyhow I plan on a few more garden related posts in the coming weeks- kids garden activities and maybe a herb of the week style post too- plus some pottery work in progress posts- just as soon as I have more work in progress- or less nasal congestion- whichever comes first.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday Inspiration: Lilias Torrance Newton

Lilias Torrance Newton, Two Little Sisters, 1920 (source)

Lilias Torrance Newton, Elise Kingman, 1930 (source)

Okay- sorry for the week off- we had a heck of a week here- and now are starting this one off with a big round of winter cold virus, I think the worst of it is over now- but there it is- a couple of nights sleeping sitting upright because the baby can't breath properly lying down, and can't nurse and so that means a lot of rocking- plus the already barnacle like behavior of the 1.5 yr old is amplified by feeling crappy, add in the crazy cold temperature outside, and it's enough to drive you bonkers, or into moving to Hawaii. Anyhow On with today's Artist- Lilias Torrance Newton was one of Canada's Premier Portrait painters- her work is phenomenal- rough but so accurate, painterly but still capturing the essence of the sitter- just plain lovely to boot- who wouldn't love one of these hanging on their wall? 

She was very prolific, another member of the Beaver Hall group, and highly esteemed within her lifetime, she painted the Queen, and she painted soldiers during the second world war (it says in her bio at the national gallery that she was an 'Honourary war artist'- which makes me wonder why the honourary?- also I could not find any images of her war work on line). She was basically a dynamo of Canadian Painting- She painted over 300 portraits during her lifetime and she lived a good long while (she died in 1980). 

I was starting to get a little annoyed that one could go through four years of university education in Canada and not actually have heard of her- but then I realized that during my education-unless it was Aboriginal art- we didn't hear of any Canadian Artists, period, maybe someone briefly mentioned the group of seven, but I do mean in passing, and very briefly. I wonder why- but also it gives the chance to remedy it now- so I think I will consciously try to use Canadian artists for my Monday inspirations this year- try to educate myself a little on what went on in this 'Wilderness'. 

(a little hint- if you click on (source) in any of the image captions it will take you to the original place of the image on line- and usually to a lot more info about the artist)