Monday, March 31, 2008

slow spring

Spring brings grand notions of change, new life, possibilities, and the nagging feeling that I Need To Get Busy. So, I close myself in my studio and work like a crazy woman, and that is exactly what I become.

I spent (what seemed like) a whole afternoon searching for a round file, a handy, indispensable tool used for smoothing the interior edges of circles. As my studio is small, messes from multiple projects crowd each other for space, and I searched through reclaimed wool sweaters, old paintings, potting soil, and rocks (yes, I do posses a box of rocks, and yes, I have ranked my mental capacity a shelf above them). Frustrated, (I won’t finish an order!) I abandoned the studio for the couch, a cup of tea, and online shoe shopping.

Lately I’ve been reading (along with everyone else in the US) Michael Pollan’s books on food, and would love to adopt his confidence in the equation Slow equals Positive Change. As the Slow Food movement develops, so does the slow arts and crafts, where real individuals support themselves by hand making all the items our culture loves to buy from the big box stores. I wish to live mindfully, to attempt to practice the slow movement, not just in food, but in the everyday, and especially in my small business. I just need to be a bit more literal in my definition of Slow.

The goal in the studio for today is to not only take or make time, but to forget time.
And find that file.

Monday, March 24, 2008

hand-sewn wings

[Heart Offering (8"h x 12"w x 9"d) Hand-dyed silk, steel wire]
Hammering metal bits into jewelry is an incredible stress-reliever, but combining metal and fabric with hand stitching, the meditative action of pushing a needle through fabric, is soothing to me, especially if I am not forced to follow a set pattern or shape. I work from a wire armature, adding a machine sewn form stuffed with scrap fabric. Fabric shapes are hand-sewn onto these forms, sanded, cut again, and sometimes hacked apart entirely.

I am inspired by objects that seem to have dropped from a storybook or myth, well-worn from so many adventures. Birds are my current subject of fascination. I think I like their awkwardness best, as they have one motion that transcends them into gracefulness, flying, the coveted and dream-inspiring action that produces envy in all land-locked creatures. However, when faced with alternative elements, such as the ground, they reveal inelegant movements. I relate to those struts and hops of my everyday, and appreciate the visual reminder that we are all able to fly.

Here’s a sneak peek at my current work in progress. I'm using hand-dyed silk, found cotton muslin, and found copper wire.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

silver silk crepe

I’m off to LA for a couple of days, so I’m posting early!
I’ve had a good week in the studio with new work up on etsy (like these crinkled crepe-like recycled sterling silver circles). Want to see more? Check out brendesign at flickr, where all available styles are carefully arranged in complete randomness.

Monday, March 10, 2008

cheese princess

This weekend I joined the ranks of an unusual group of DIYers. I made cheese.

I didn’t have to pour through ancient bovine manuals searching for instructions, either. My cheese kit arrived at my door, courtesy of Ricki the Cheese Queen (yes, that is now she refers to herself) in a bright pink and yellow box, with perky graphics, and enough supplies to make 30 pounds of cheese. Now, really, I ask you, what more could a girl need?!

The 30-minute instructions were simple; mix milk with citric acid, heat, add rennet (which is either cow stomach or vegetable-based. I chose the veg option), and leave it alone. At this point the curd (solid white mush, or, ricotta cheese) separates from the whey (clear water-like stuff), the curd is then drained, re-heated, and kneaded until it stretches its way into cheese.

With fantasies of fresh mozzarella goodness, I was off to the store for one gallon of pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) organic milk. Milk is treated in several different manners which are incredibly boring to read about, but apparently quite necessary to understand when making certain kinds of cheese. Milk that has been treated at very high temperatures (hence the ultra) will not make mozzarella. Period. That should make milk-intended-for-cheese purchases difficult enough, but dairy companies are not required to accurately detail how the milk has been processed, so even though the first gallon of organic milk I carried home was labeled with the p not u-p word, it was interested in only going half of the way to mozzarella heaven. Ricotta was all it wanted to be, poor thing.
So, I journey back to the store and bring home another dairy company's promise of p not u-p milk, repeat the recipe, and end up with mushy curds again.

Containers of ricotta are crowding the refrigerator, and I slouch on the couch, defeated by cheese, and question our ability to consume 2 pounds of ricotta in the next week. Then I despair at the logic of attempting to consume 2 pounds of ricotta in one week.

My ever-internet resourceful husband is online in an instant, and in a few minutes finds one, just one, local organic dairy that distinguishes between the regular and ultra. Off we go to the one, just one, store 20 minutes away that carries gallon jugs of Organic Valley’s pasteurized whole milk, and back we come, milk in one hand and lasagna noodles (for the ricotta) in the other.

Five hours and three gallons of milk later, I have curd that has separated from the whey, and when reheated, It. Begins. To. Stretch! We ate, very late, my husband’s homemade pizza dough with my very first mozzarella. I know I am worlds away from Ricki’s Cheese Queen status, but perhaps with a few more tries I’ll vie for the Cheese Princess title.

Monday, March 3, 2008

seed, soil, and string

Absolutely nothing was accomplished in the studio this weekend. Instead, I spent my time during the little peeks of sunshine playing in the soil. It was lovely.

I feel I must apologize to my Midwest friends and family who will read this and hate me as today they are expecting a couple of inches of snow, but, here in southern Oregon it is time for planting lettuce, spinach, onions, and carrots.

Even with a short west coast winter I was sill climbing the walls this year. My 80 year-old gardening neighbor agreed with the claw-mark inducing weather we've had, as he handed advice and a few extra garlic cloves over the fence, and checked on the 'Egyptian walking onions' he gave me last fall. I am always excited about any plant that walks or flings itself into unexpected an unplanned places. I'd much rather weed volunteer dill seedlings than grass, and I believe that our dear Mother N. has quite an excellent sense of vegetative composition. I'm looking forward to watching these onions walk like an Egyptian.

With rows marked and watered, I then brought my dirty fingernails inside, and started my brandywine and roma tomatoes, tomatillos, oregano (I could not find a single organic oregano plant to put in my garden last year. Oregonians don't like oregano!?), and leeks.

Yes, these are toilet paper rolls. Gayla Trail details how to make these perfect seed starter homes in her You Grow Girl blog. I cut my rolls in half, as all of my tomatoes will be replanted into larger containers before they venture beyond my living room window and into the Great Outdoor Garden, the dream every tomato seed.