28 February 2006

There's a motorcycle in my livingroom!!!

I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the Mica Motorcycle Fund. The motorcycle came home last night and Miss Mica has already been playing on it. As cruel as it may seem to the regular readers of this blog, I will **NOT** be posting pictures of my girl on her motorcycle until after I know that the contributors to the fund have received their thank you cards and pictures. It seems only fair to the investors.

In other news, I did a glaze firing last week and will be adding a few pendants and other items to my Etsy shop as time permits. I have also made a batch of beads specifically with the goal of using them to make scarf/shawl pins. I intend to experiment with some raku firing in a modified bench furnace that i have in my garage once the weather gets a bit better.

I've also been working on a couple of commissions. One is an Etsy Alchemy commission. If you haven't checked out Etsy Alchemy, you really should take a look. I know that Fine Art isn't supposed to match your couch, but sometimes it's nice to be in a position to say, "I want something like _____ only in blue instead of purple and a little smaller/bigger/whatever."

The other commission is a goddess rattle similar to one that I made for myself when I was trying to get pregnant. This type of commission is my favorite. It really takes me into myself, to my creative center, and reminds me why I do what I do. I like making things that have deep personal siginificance.

Well, I have a baby who is in need of some quality motorcycle time. I'm sure I'll post more later. Posted by Picasa
Filed In:

21 February 2006

WPA 2.0

Etsy.com is having a flyer design contest to promote the site. The idea is that the fliers will be posted by members of the new Etsy street teams. My aesthetic tastes are somewhat different from a lot of those crafty young hipsters over there. My background is different too.

In keeping with my art history background, I delved into the history of craft in an effort to find inspiration. After poking around the Library of Congress website, I found a really cool WPA poster for craft classes. The artist, Jerome Henry Rothstein, started working for the Federal Art Project as a teenager during the Depression. I loved the way that this poster incorporated so many forms of craft into a single image. Since the WPA posters were produced by a government agency, they are not subject to copyright protection. As a result, I decided to simply modify the Rothstein poster to produce an Etsy flyer that spoke to my aesthetic sense.

Conveniently enough, this also worked well with my current philosophical bent. I've been thinking a lot recently about the role of craft in modern life. Some of those thoughts were sparked by listening to podcasts while I work in the studio. I've downloaded quite a few of them to play on my little Trio. While I enjoyed the Crafty Chica podcast that I listened to, and the CraftSanity podcasts were really enjoyable, it's the CraftyPod interview with Betsy Greer from Craftivism.com that has occupied my thoughts for the last few days.

I've been subscribed to Betsy's blog via Bloglines for quite some time now. Through her blog I found Cinnamon Cooper's notes from the Craftivism/Craft Culture panel at Columbia College in Chicago in October 2005. Although long, the notes made fascinating reading and really had a lot of resonance for me.

So many of the women that I've met through online business forums and the discussion forum at Etsy.com have been mothers trying to contribute to their family budgets by working from home. They do things that they love and balance the needs of their families with the demands of trying to run a business. Their efforts are often dismissed. Their work is deemed trivial. "It's a hobby," some say. "How nice," say others, "that you get to stay at home and do your thing. If I wasn't working I'd have time to do something like that."

Many of the women that I've talked to have said that they made more money and were more valued as members of society when they worked outside the home. So, why don't they just get real jobs? It's not as simple as that. Once you add childcare costs to the mix, it can easily end up costing a family money for both parents to work outside the home, especially if you have multiple children. A home-based business allows a mom to supplement their household income without contracting out childcare.

While the economists seem to doubt the probability of another "Great Depression." My personal experience (which has no real sociological value but does inform my opinions, which you must be interested in to have read this far) is that I know more people who are unemployed or under-employed now than at any other point in my adult life. Very few families of my acquaintance can make it on a single income. More and more families rely on high interest credit cards to make up shortfalls in their income while they struggle to make ends meet and hope that the solution to their problems is just around the corner.

When I glanced back through history via the WPA posters on the Library of Congress website, I couldn't help but think about similarities between the artists employed by the WPA during the Depression and craft artists today. And, as I thought about it, I also thought about what Betsy Greer says about craft as activism. "Because we create to connect beyond ourselves. Whether it's next door or across the globe. Craft and activism both take and inspire passion. When used as a joint force, they can quite possibly begin to slowly challenge and change things." I agree, even if the things that we challenge and change are only the circumstances of our own lives.

20 February 2006

Project Downloads

Once upon a time, I had this brilliant idea to write a book with one of my best friends. The plan was that we would have this project that we could work on together and an excuse to get together to work and talk. We came up with an outline for the book and started working on it. Since the type of book you write depends a lot on who is publishing it, we decided after coming up with an outline and some project plans that we should concentrate on working up a proposal and submitting it to potential publishers in hopes of getting a contract for the book.

I won't go into details about division of labor, or any of the other problems encountered. Instead I will say that the proposal was **NOT** snapped up by a publisher. To make matters worse, the friend and I found ourselves going in different directions in our lives. The book project fell by the wayside.

I still believe that there is an audience out there for instructional materials on making ceramic beads and jewelry. That said, the process of trying to write and sell the book, combined with the other things that happened in that friendship, has left me heartsick and greatly disillusioned.

I would like, at some point, to write and submit some articles for publication. In the interim, I think that I will write up a couple of projects to be posted on my website as downloads. This should give me some clearer ideas about what people are interested in seeing. If you have anything you'd like to see me write up, please either leave a message in the comments or send an email to tutorials at mysticspiral dot com. I'll look forward to hearing from you.

15 February 2006

Introducing Sprout's Motorcycle Fund

Not long ago, while enjoying an afternoon in the company of a very dear friend, Sprout and I stumbled across a handcarved wooden motorcycle rocking toy.... (Think rocking horse but in this case it's a rocking "hog") I've been obsessing about this toy ever since. It's a toy, it's a sculpture, it's a work of art and it's the only motorcycle that Sprout will ever ride if I have any say in the matter. I love the idea of motorcycles, but there's a reason that emergency room staff refers to them as "Donor Cycles". It doesn't matter how competent the rider is, they will always loose to the driver of the SUV who is paying more attention to her cell phone conversation than the comparitively unprotected motorist on two wheels...

But this wasn't supposed to be an essay on my feelings about motorcycles. It was, instead, intended to give a little background and request your help... The rocking motorcycle toy has claimed a spot in my imagination and won't let go. At the same time, one of our beloved cats has been having some health problems. She has developed urinary tract problems and in trying to find the cause of those problems we've discovered that she also has a degenerative heart problem. We're confronting hundreds of dollars in vet bills. I cannot justify spending money in our already tight budget on a toy for Sprout when Mintaka needs treatment. After some discussion, we have arrived at an ideal solution, if I can raise the money in my PayPal account to pay for the motorcycle, Sprout can have her toy.

If you like my work, please consider making a purchase from my Etsy Shop now to help me make the money needed for the motorcycle. If you're not interested in making a purchase but would like to contribute a dollar or two to the effort, I've added a paypal button to the sidebar. Every little bit counts and I will send you a personal thank you note with a wallet sized picture of Miss Sprout on her motorcycle as soon as it comes home.

Thanks in advance for your support.

08 February 2006

What kind of wires...

A question which comes up often on the Beads-of-Clay email list is "What kind of wire do you use to glaze fire beads?" I've addressed firing wires here on the blog in the past, but was corresponding with a new list member and dug up an old picture showing several of my drop pendants still on the wires that they'd been fired on. I thought that I'd post the picture here so that I could tag it.
Filed In:

03 February 2006

Nothing new here

I don't really have anything new to report. I went out to the studio Saturday to grab the propane torch to take it with me to a party. I was inspired by Alton Brown to make Brulee Bananas for banana splits. Other than that, I haven't set foot in the studio in longer than I care to admit here. (Or anywhere, really...) I'm hoping to get some studio time in tomorrow or Sunday.

Other than that, my husband is encouraging me to start a headache diary. I did some poking around online, trying to find an existing template. You'd think that there would be some form of exceptionally useful headache journal format out there just waiting. Afterall, so many people have kept journals for tracking and diagnostic purposes over the years. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything that really seemed like it would do what I needed, so I'm trying to cobble something together from available resources. Ir feels a little like re-inventing the wheel.