Archives for the month of: January, 2011

My college ceramics class is doing a box from hard-leatherhard slabs with mitered edges. My demo has a drawer.

I’m crabby and sick and I don’t want to be here today.

Do you think it shows?


Today I lined the pressboard drawers from my steamer trunk project with the pages of a 1940s herbalist magazine. It has all kinds of testimonials and recipes for herbal remedies. I used modpodge, which is my favorite stuff.  Since the drawers are going to hold lotions and toiletries and potentially leaky stuff, I didn’t want fabric linings.  In the pic you can see that some of the sections are dry and some are still damp. They will all dry to the same yellowy color.

Then I took the fabric samples from a discarded upholstery book (Scrap box, Ann Arbor) and used them to cover the front. In retrospect, I kind of wish I had put something puffy under them, like batting, but it’s OK as it is.  I have fabric ribbon between the squares and plan to put a row of brass headed tacks down the center of each one. Technically, the “ta-dah” moment here would be after the knob is attached, but I plan to do something really cool with the handles and I’m not sure yet what it will be.

The drawer is shown here slid into the trunk. The one beneath it has been lined but I haven’t yet started the fabric front. Jeff is helping me pry off the ugly little flat handles from the rest of the drawers, and that one is next.


Having teenagers is kind of a trip down memory lane. I think my teens are much more level headed than I was about the whole social environment at school. Maybe homeschooling gave them a better sense of who they are, so they are less vulnerable to peer weirdness.  Or maybe teen angst doesn’t show on the surface, and my kids are secretly just as neurotic as I was.

But I was thinking recently about the tradition of Carnation Day at my high school.  It was like Valentines day, only different.  In grade school, we were REQUIRED to give a valentine to every  student, even the kid who wet his pants and the girl who blew her nose on the hem of her dress.  But Carnation day was not like that.  I remember that it was a fundraiser of some sort, and happened during  the bleak, short days around Valentines. Carnations were purchased in advance, to be delivered during class on the appointed day.

Remember that song — “I learned the truth at 17, that love was meant for beauty queens…”  Well, carnation day was that truth writ large. All day we’d sit in class awaiting the knock at the door, and student helpers would sweep in with an armload of flowers, and start calling out the names of the popular, the anointed, the beauties and cheerleaders, the girls whose boyfriends paid for expensive armloads of blood red carnations.  It was like that moment when they crown Miss America, and the also-rans smile hollowly and pretend to be glad… popular girls went from class to class hauling bouquets on their arms, tangible evidence of popularity, boyfriends, admirers.

My friends and I determinedly bought each other a sympathy flower or two in self defense, but most classroom deliveries left us empty handed.  Besides, there was a color coding system that make it clear Who Was Most Loved. Red was for love, pink was friendship, white was a secret admirer.  I think there was some “respect” related category for yellow — bestowed upon teachers and such.

So there we were, the ordinary citizens, walking the halls with our three bent stems like Gertrude McFuzz and her pathetic tail… some kids had none at all. 

I look back and feel sad that I even cared.  If I had a time machine I would send my teen self some exotic bloom, an orchid or bird of paradise or fragrant gardenia, to be delivered in class.  From me, with love, and the wisdom of my 40s.  The tag would say, “Worth is not measured in public acclaim… Friends are not counted in numbers… The common currency of beauty and popularity are a poor measure of souls.”

Sorting stuff in my attic, I found a box of 30 year old dead flowers; a carnation from Kay, my homecoming mum, corsages from semi-disastrous proms. I rubbed them between my hands until they powdered to dust, and poured the dust into a little jar in the box of memorabilia. I’m not sure why. The folklorist in me wants to make some kind of charm to ward off insecurity, defense against excessive levels of giveaashit about the overrated rites of high school passage… sprinkle it on my sleeping teens so they never forget who they are, and what they are worth, and how much they are loved.

I have a 30 foot wide garden in the back of my yard and another behind my studio. When it’s time to think about planting, I have to consider lots of details:

Where were the squash, tomatoes & other nightshades, cole crops last year? Rotating crops keeps pests under control, and finds plants soil that isn’t depleted of the stuff they need.

What quickie crops will come and go by the time the weather is hot, and what do I plant there for a second crop? And a third?

What’s already established (like my grape vine) and won’t be moved ever?

What’s tall and likely to shade the thing behind it?

Where are the sandy patches in my soil and the loamy ones? (I once found a program — Google earth? Areis? Zillow? — that gave me not only the aerial view of my property but the soil type boundaries! There are two types on my one little back yard.)

So I made a graph paper garden, one square per foot — hoop house in the back corner, gate in the front. I made copies. One has last year’s plant positions, lest I forget. One will be a spring plan, another hot weather, a third for fall. I am using sticky notes to try out plans (less erasing.)

And now, I’m getting off the computer.  The boys are at scout camp, Molly’s at a sleepover, and Jeff and I have a nice fire and a house all to ourselves.

This is the ” before”  picture. We went to a junk-and-poultry farm auction in Dundee one Saturday, looking for gears and dials for the steampunk-our-bathroom project, and I ended up hauling home an enormous, dilapidated steamer trunk because it was only five bucks.  It was mildewed and musty and full of broken wooden drawers which apparently had once fit inside of it.  My ever patient hubby just gave me that look, and then found a way to drag it through the mud and chicken poop, and load it into the van.  “Only five bucks!” I kept announcing to my family on the way home. The kids, who were wedged into their seats on either side of my find, seemed unimpressed by the bargain.

I hauled it into the house, where it took up about as much room as a small recreational vehicle.  I rubbed orange oil furniture polish all over the outside, and it looked (and smelled) a lot better, but the inside was pretty ragged. It had clearly once been lined with fabric of some sort, and ratty bits and glue marks were all that remained. I pulled out the drawer-thingies and hanger-thingies and set to relining the trunk.

Never mind that the spray adhesive I bought cost three times more than the trunk (and the fumes likely killed off both the brain cells I had left from college.)  When I dropped the boys at Scout camp and Jeff and Molly headed for the girl scout dance, I went to the fabric store to look at my options.  I found an authentic vintage civil war era fabric, but choked a bit on the price. I poked around in the quilting bolts, though, and found a very similar fabric for less than half.

I got the thing done in maybe two hours. My secret?  Low standards! I am well schooled in the use of phrases like, “It won’t show from the road!” and “It couldn’t look any worse than it did when I started!” 

The spray adhesive was really annoying… before long I had glued the fabric to my hands, bits of thread and trimming shreds to my nails, and at one point the spray-nozzle of the adhesive popped off the can and stuck firmly to my finger.  Jeff found me the lighter fluid to clean up with (which smells like my childhood… grandma was forever getting pine sap off my hands and out of my hair.)

I am kind of fascinated with the innovation involved here: this was a trunk that coould be loaded on some steam-conveyed transportation, and then stood on end, opened like a book, and used as a dresser. On the left side are hanger-type racks that lock in place for shipping, and on the right, a series of drawers with tie-downs for the contents.

My plan is to make this into a cupboard for my steam-punky bathroom… finish the drawers in some arty way for bathroom stuff, and hang towels on the hangers maybe. I’m still working that out. Anyway, for now, here’s what I have done. I have to trim the fabric around the drawer slides, maybe paint the slides, and add ribbon trim at the edges… but not tonight!

Tonight’s slab project demo. Textured slab laid over a rolling pin for the cover… ends cut to fit. Textured slab base.  I just got home from mopping up after the evening class — but it isn’t midnight yet, so it’s still today! I was starting to worry. I painted half the bathroom today and started cleaning up an old steamer trunk to refurbish, but neither of those are at the “ta-daaah!” stage…

Today’s Owens College demos: a tall cylinder form using a textured slab (pillow lid with rattly-balls inside) – on my clearly labeled shelf.  Also, I made some demo examples of signature chops, bisqued and ready to test.  I’m grateful that my work day involves making stuff, so I don’t have to miss a day of making things for work!

Another outlet cover for the bathroom steampunk project. I used an antique dictionary whose pages are coming unbound.


  This was a demo for pinch pots and burnishing for my Owens class.

The photo is crooked and it makes me a little woozy.

Today’s “make” is a fobot. I have lucked into an art group and we met again today in a big sunny artspace to make stuff together. I finished this little guy and started a second, but ran out of time and parts. What a great bunch of womens! Maybe I need to host the next gathering here…