Sunday, December 28, 2014

End of the year...

Okay, it's the end of December, time to reflect on how the year flew by.

It was a good year, all in all... I think...

There is an old fable of the peasant farmer... here's a link to a Taoist version= Taoist_Farmer  but the way I learned it each time the farmer responded with 'Could be good, could be Bad. It's too soon to tell..."

So just like the old fable, some things were good, some were bad, and most are too soon to tell.

Some of the good-
              I'm into a set of jobs I love.
              My etsy shop is going well.
              My throw together woodshop is working.

Some of the bad-
             Well, obviously my blog consistency.
             We've had two vehicles die... one ours and one that was borrowed.
              I haven't re-opened my Art Studio.
              I pretty well abandoned the fitness/self improvement over the year.

Too soon to tell?
               I've acquired things to start my Stop-Action Projects.
              Well... just about everything else, or maybe even the ones above.

So looking forward, and hoping to improve is the tradition  at this time of year...
                                  so here's to the New Year!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Better late then never.... end of the season.

Bear Gallery, Sep, 2014


So, at the end of a long summer of two day jobs, I'm ready for a break.

I've been working at the local Parks and Rec, and driving for a local restaurant that caters to tourist. Both fun jobs, and I love them both... but together...     Well, I'm glad the season is almost over.

I have been spinning...  I actually acquired some Qiveut (Musk Ox Undercoat, very soft, warm, local- to me anyway-, and somewhat pricy,) and spinning a local fiber while talking to tourists (of course, wearing the Bowler) just adds to the pioneer spirit they expect to find up here. Especially since I've been making more spindles. I'm even being represented in the Bear Gallery's Gift Shop (a very nice Fairbanks venue) for the month of September... thus the above photo.

 I have acquired a band saw, but haven't figured out where to put it yet... so my woodworking should grow. Hopefully I'll figure out placement and workability of shop-space before snow sets in. Hmm....  if I clean out some of the greenhouse space, put the router table and one of  the two table saws in the basement, then it should fit.... and I still need a drill press...   --Sorry, got sidetracked there for a moment. 

Other things this summer, well saw several movies, some of which deserve their own rants, or raves, but I gotta do this one. I know, I'm weird, but I loved the post credit scene in 'Guardians of the Galaxy.' Despite the worried thoughts it could invoke, I thought Howard was perfect for that movie. And this one, in 'Winter Soldier,' why keep the red star on Bucky's arm when you cut out the entire communist background?

Okay, well, it's late, and I probably should leave this for now.
Till next time-

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An easy way to make rollags- and My favorite way so far...

                 Right off the bat- (pun fully intended) I feel that I need to state, that I am not an expert. I have only been spinning for about a year. There may well be better methods out there, but this is the method I have found and fits me. Here's a photo of my kit on the go, at a local coffee shop. My Teasing Board if from Fancy Kitty, the dowels from my woodpile (Arctic Visions Studio), and the paintbrush was a Wall-Mart generic. (The coffee is from McCaffertys Coffee House.)

                 I use a small Teasing Board, and two dowels,. and a stiff plastic bristle 1 inch paintbrush. This entire kit easily fits in the box within which the Teasing Board was mailed to me. The dowels are 1/2 inch and 3/8 inches, with the half-inch one having a grove sanded into the length of it so the 3/8 fits in snugly. (Basically a c shape much like a celery stalk.)
                The Teasing Board allows you several options when laying out your rollags, the first I learned (and the reason I tried this in the first place) is to use thin color wisps stuck through the blending cloth, using color theory to match and blend, and the paintbrush to help smooth the blends.

                 Holding the board down, I gently pull fiber over the teeth to let small amounts catch, then work my was as far across the board as I like (what effect I want- more on that later.) For this to work properly, the teeth need to be facing up- or away from you. Then move to the next color in the blend and do another thin layer. Now get out the paintbrush- by tamping into the fiber pushing it further into the teeth of the Teasing Board, the fibers become more burnished together... not truly blended, but visually closer. The effect is similar to pointillism painting- a little looser than true stippling, but using the same ideas.
              Once the layers are thick enough (a personal taste issue- I like mine fairly thick, so when the board's teeth start disappearing under the fiber- YMMV,) I begin the rolling process. First, the larger dowel goes under the bottom side of fiber, as close to the wood as possible. Fit the smaller dowel into the first (the grove makes this easier, but it can be dome without it- I only recently added the grove to mine.) Then begin working your way up rolling the dowels toward the outfacing teeth.
           Roll snugly, pulling just a bit back as you roll to get a slight loosening of the tension (and just a touch of pre-drafting.) once you've rolled the fiber all the way off the board, the last bit of the rollag will want to 'fluff out.' Instead of letting it expand, use your hands to 'burnish' the rollag (with dowels still inside) for a few seconds until the rollag holds it's own shaping

          The next step then is to remove the dowels. Smaller first, slide it out gently, then the larger should easily follow. And that's it- the rollag is now ready to spin.

     But wait- I said I would talk about color changes, and rolling the 'wrong way.' Hmm okay- First off what if you want to play with the color combos in a braid- and don't want to blend? Easy- First you seperate the colors as close as you can to the braking points. Now you have some options- you could rollag each separate color,  and spin single color singles. Or you could try to layer in each of the color changes ( this is what I'll show using Black and white fibers.
      And then Just because I thought it would complement- I added a thin layer of a silvery grey over the entire back before rolling off the rollag.

        Which then spins up in relatively short repeats, with barber-polling as each change transitions- and the grey layer is almost unnoticeable, but visually helps blend the transitions.
   As to the problem of rolling the rollag the 'wrong way' or down the teeth instead of up... the first layers (deepest in the teeth) tend to separate. If you notice it, and carefully unroll it will be okay- but leave some fiber in the teeth. If you don't notice, the rollag will try to self-destruct falling apart in chucks as you (un-) roll it. Either way there will be some fiber left on the board. If the remaining Fiber is quite a lot- you might want to burnishe it dowm with the paintbrush and just use it as the base for a new rollag (aka try it again,) but if there is just a small bit of fiber left, you can use the paintbrush sidewats to the teeth to bust loose that lowest fiber.

  This is also the method I use to clean the board, to prep for it's next use.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dying- the First Attempt.

     So, I've been spinning less than a year. Starting because I had fun fixing, then making a few spindles, and have been enjoying spinning as well. I've tried several types of fibers, coming back to base wools (BFL, for example) as tried and true baselines.
    Over the holiday season I bought some unprepared fleeces, as my wife was wanting to try some of the raw wool to wash, dye and spin... and as a few varieties of wool became available to me, I splurged a bit. This led to us having now several boxes of raw wools of different types, and led to her suggesting I try as well.
   Well, now, I have a Fine Arts background, have a working knowledge of color theory, and mixing rules, so I thought, 'Yeah, I could try this...'  -SIGH-  and I watched her dye some, and asked a few questions... finding out that mixed dyes can 'break' oddly, and that even heavy-handed dyes tend to fade/bleed in unexpected ways. Oh yes, and you have to cook the dyes long enough to make them set properly.... so keep careful watch to add water to the steaming pan.
  Unfortunately I should have asked for baselines- both in times and dyes.
  So Since I'm a bit rough when I play I chose to try the Shropshire as it tends to be hard to felt, cleaned it, and then began dying. I wanted to try two different things, so I divided it roughly in half. The first was using a dark blue,and two different yellows (golden and lemon) to try to get a broken set of greens. The second was a light blue, with bits of green and dark brown to make a layered turquoise effect. 
  Remembering how watercolors fade as they dry, and thinking that the breaks and layers would make it substantially lighter in the centers, I mixed my dyes into deep color sets, blended them into the wool, and let them set for an hour or so, turning the zip-lock bags ever 15-20 minutes. Then I prepped the steamer.
   Bamboo steam pot, one bag per layer, with a large water pot underneath- once it was hot and ready, I put the bamboo steamers over the pot, and started a timer and a movie. Every 20 minutes I checked the pot, adding more warm water as necessary. Then the movie ended- I switched layers top/bottom so the other side would be in the more direct heat, and did it again for a second film.
   I then let them cool off, strained them, washed them with cool water to get any loose dye off, and ended up with downed rat curls of two different shades of black... a warm and a cool flat black. Worse, it was a scratchy, dehydrated, crunchy mess.  Thinking, 'maybe it's just too compacted?' I tried carding it to loosen the fibers... that's what is pictured above.
   At this point, I was thinking it was completely dead. But I was wrong. A good friend of ours, and owner of my favorite Local Fiber Shop (plug for A Weaver's Yarn) Suggested that all might not be lost... and so I carded it again, this time spritzing it with baby oil with each clump, and then bagged it. I'd leave it sit overnight, and then do it again as the wool absorbed some of the baby oil bringing it back from the crunchy-dehydrated mass back to a softer wool. After a couple of times it had softened back to a 'normal' scratchy wool level.

   One of my spin-a-long groups is going through the Harry Potter (Books and Movies) which is on Goblet of Fire this month, and the more I worked with this wool, the more I was reminded of the Thestrals. The two blacks mixed to an odd grey/green/blue tinted almost black, that reminded me of the night flight of these hidden beasts- and then was inspired to add blue and green sparkles to account for magical ways to view them- like Luna's Spectrespecs.

    So after adding way more sparkle than advised, I finally felt it was ready, and had been making rollags, which I am beginning to spin.... (yeah, again just starting this month's spin and it's already the 16th?) Well, I haven't finished any of the others in the month, so why should this one be any different? -SIGH- Still have to finish and ply by book three spin (single is almost done though...) and I need to update my Etsy... I think I just need more days in the week.--- maybe I'll spin all day on that new day.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Arctic Visions

Beautiful- Isn't it?

       That's just a local side road, in the afternoon sun, a couple years ago. The birch trees almost look candy coated with the frosted snow. This is a good visual answer to the (classic tourist) often asked 'how can you live up here in the winter?' Yes, we usually get cold, and ice, and snow... but we don't let that stop us, and in fact, we thrive in it.

      The National News this week has been talking about 'the horrible winter' and how the nation is 'frozen' by bad roads and icy weather.... and I have a hard time keeping a straight face watching it. Basically, the view from up here is the biggest problem with your (down there) deadlocked roads, is nobody seems to know how to drive... at least not on snow and ice. I spent 13 years as a School Bus driver up here- and looking at what you're trying to drive in, seems like just another winter school-day. (But then we also have outdoor recess to -20F.)  Now I'm not saying the ice storms causing power outages wouldn't create a problem... or couldn't get deadly when combined with extreme low temps. (Of course I think out ideas of extreme lows are a bit different from yours too.) But basic transportation, and distribution of emergency supplies shouldn't even be an issue.
   Then there's the other issue... the last couple of years, here in Fairbanks, AK, we've had relatively mild winters. So while colder than normal temps have hit the lower 48, we've been enjoying warm fronts keeping us near or in the positive side of the Fahrenheit Temps. Yes, we had a week of -40F last month, and a few days here and there, but nowhere near like my first winter here (3 moths of -40F or colder, with the low for that time being -67F.) Or even the 'normal' of temps bouncing between 0F and -50F with the 'standard' being -20F. I other words-  if it's above -20F we consider it 'warm', and below we consider it 'cold' during a 'normal' winter.

    But I've gotten sidetracked... I was going to talk about my studio's name--- Arctic Visions Studio. I have my wonderful wife to thank for it's name. I was originally going to base my studio name (and Business License) on my Art Style, say 'Nostalgia on Paper' or 'Acrylics by Shane', or (well there were hundreds of ideas- I know I filled at least one sketchbook with just names and logo ideas.). Looking through them, my wife had the brilliant observations, 'If it's a license for the artwork, why name it for only one of the styles you are making?' and 'What if you find a totally different art you like, will you need a new license?'
   At the time, I was producing Paintings and Linocut Prints, so a more generic name seemed appropriate- but I was undecided. Then out of the blue came a show opportunity, for something I hadn't thought of- I was making chainmail jewelry (bracelets and necklaces mainly) out of recycled wire as an 'on the go' craft rather than my studio work. Thus My wife and I kicked around non-limiting, but very local feeling names, and I stuck with Arctic Visions- mainly because it could be interpreted as 'anything I envision', or 'my vision based on what is up here'- or 'being up here has altered my vision.' All of which I like, especially the fact that it could be interpreted multiple ways. There's a local bumper sticker I like along the same vein- "Fairbanks- we're all here because we're not all there!"  Both meanings (we got away from 'there' or we're not all 'there' mentally) work well.
    So my License was bought, and the name has continued to fit no matter which way I stretch over the years- even now dabbling in fiber arts and woodworking now, as witnessed by my Etsy (also Arctic Visions)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Phat Turnings to ap-Ply

       So, last week (barely skating in here... ) I said I would talk about my attempt at marketing my Turnings. SOOO... I joined the Phat Fiber sample box for January.  The pic above was my sample box of spindles I sent in. They are all tied and tagged, ready to be distributed to 50 souls in the hopes they would enjoyed (and get talked about.) This was a large undertaking for me, as my spindle making is relatively new.
       Let me explain-Let me set the Wayback Machine to about 2-3 years ago (2010 or so), when my Wife's first drop spindle broke… (not sure if I did it, one of the kids, the dogs, etc, but it was found with the shaft shattered beside the couch.)
       Being the quick thinker I’m not, I thought, how hard could it be to fix… SIGH just a little background here. While my father is an excellent handyman, can (and probably has) built everything under the sun (from building and racing Jags in his youth, to remodeling houses, to being the helpful hardware guy, managing and maintaining and then owning apartment complexes, etc.) I on the other hand am not. I was raised helping, but the tools and craftsmanship side took so well that my wife feared buying a wheelbarrow for the idea I might try to put it together.
       Well, after breaking two dowels, sanding another way to small, and bending the heck out of the hook, my (7th, 8th, ?) attempt finally looked and felt right, so I finally admitted to finding it and returned it to her. And it passed inspection… However something unexpected happened while I was fixing that spindle.
       I had fun.
       I had the same type of fun I have working on a painting (Shameless plug for my website of my paintings… )
       This astounded me, and I decided to see if it was a fluke… so I made two more spindles, which I put up on Etsy as an experiment... (another Shameless plug--- )

              Again It was fun, and one (top one) even sold, but my lack of skill combined with an explosive set of options to show my paintings sent me off in a different direction for a while.
            Fast Forward to spring- 2013, I bought my Wife a Spinning Wheel, (Kiwi 2) and she dug out her spindle (which hadn’t seen much use for a while) as a fun comparison bit… And I started watching them both… rummaged through my stuff to try and find the spindle that hadn’t sold to try it too… sigh I still haven’t found it. But I did find various other materials, I could just make another, right?
So I did… and asked her to show me how to use it… and before I had more than 30 min spinning time, I had built another… and now I’m hooked building different styles and trying them.
          Fast forward again- to 2013 fall- my Wonderful Wife gets me a Lathe for my Birthday (a little early, I couldn't wait to play with it)- and I am off and running- building all these wonderful supported spindles based on images I've seen and books I can find, and trying all these fun styles--- and then I realize 'Hey I still have that Etsy Account- I should put a few up there...' And thus my shop has changed it's majority listings from my art/prints with a splash of jewelry, to primarily Spinning tools.

    So, when I found out about the Phat Fiber Sample Box....  I thought it would be a great opportunity to see both if I could sustain a decent volume in short order, and to get some word of mouth advertising to hopefully increase traffic to my storefront, and went to work.
        So in just a couple of weeks, I had a selection of 50 spindles, tagged them an shipped them off in the middle of December, for the January Box. This way I hope to begin the New Year right.
         And now I've just found another opportunity- Ply Magazine is looking for hand crafted fiber tools, preferably from smaller online vendors that would be willing to exchange a few items for photography backgrounds. (and Bio Credits when used... )  I'd love to see some of my items see print, so I signed up for that too- Looks like it's all falling in together- for once....
          Now if I could just remember to update more often... and add a few more hours to each day, and finish my Spin-A-Longs, and... oh yeah, there are the other obligations too... hmmm, where was that Wayback Machine?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A New Year, some new goals...

C-Downtown Association of Fairbanks  

okay, so Christmas season got hectic for me... (doesn't it for everyone?) and then off to the New Year, new projects, and playing with the new toys. I made a resolution to Blog at least once a week, and update my Etsy Site (Arctic Visions) just as often, but I'm already behind on both.

So what fun new toys you ask? Well- My wonderful wife bought me a loom... it's an Asford 30cm Knitter's Loom, which I have Warped, and will be starting to weave soon... I also got more spinning fiber (can't go wrong there... ) and more tools for my Lathe- Lots of fun to learn there. And a whole lot of distractions (movies, games, etc) that I have been and will continue to enjoy.

Ah, yes, and my spinning- another Resolution I need to catch up on. That Resolution was to finish the monthly Spin-A-Longs in the month they are going- so in January, I only have 2 (well 3 but I gave one up already.) I'm in a Roving of the Month Club with my wife, and she loved this months fiber, so I gave it to her for her 'single as a finished wool project.' So from my Ravelry Groups I have the "Marvel VS DC" comic spin-along in which I am spinning a red-black short repeat colorway to ply for maximum barber poling as 'Deadpool;' and then the 3rd Harry Potter R-A-L & S-A-L in which I Have picked out my project.... silk merino in 'storm' colorway- black with red streaks wool, with light grey streaks of silver through-out as 'Sirius Black' which I haven't even started yet.

And as to the Etsy site- I haven't put as much in as I'd like, and January should be a pig push month (more on that next week, after the Box Release...) hopefully bringing a large influx of visitors. But the Lathe is working fine, so I'll keep making and posting as I get time.... and maybe I can catch up posts here too... I'm only 2 posts late- I can make that up in midweeks... oh, yeah, today is a mid week... hmmm...

Here's hoping your holiday season went well, and the new year feels nice to you too!