Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Homeless Finch Leaves For Paris

We leave today for 12 glorious days in Paris, France.  It will be my kids first time over the pond and I am so excited to show them everything.  We will be staying in one place the entire time, taking a few day trips out of the city.  My doggies are sad, but we have someone staying at the house full time while we are gone.  Yep.  I know.  They are spoiled.  Whatcha gonna do??

Many of you know that I have pondered what to do with The Homeless Finch while I am gone.  I have noticed that people who blog often have friends guest blog during absences.  I haven't been blogging long enough to make something like that happen.  So, I have made the decision to suspend The Homeless Finch until my return.  Hope you guys are okay with that.  Will you be here when I return?  I hope so...... 

Until then, Au revoir!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

My Collection of Wood Fired Pottery

Since packing and preparing for my summer vacation is taking up most of my days, my Homeless Finch projects have been put on the back burner.  As I explained earlier in the week, I wanted to share with you a few of my collections. On Wednesday, I highlighted my collection of finch.  Today, I want to share with you my collection of wood fired pottery. 
Photo Source: Bradford Pottery.

In my blog post yesterday, I spoke about the years I spent with my hands in clay.  During those years, I had several opportunities to wood fire my work.  There are countless ways to fire clay.  I have experienced many of them.  But nothing compares to the magic that happens inside a kiln during a wood firing.  Other than a thermocouple, there is very little modern technology involved.  The firing is done similar to the way ancient man fired pottery.  Consequently, the man hours involved is extensive.  It takes a group effort, working together loading, lighting, monitoring, adding more fuel (wood), stoking the fire and keeping watch overnight as the fire roars. As hard as this sounds, a group firing can be delightful because it brings together other artists in a camp like atmosphere....and yes a few coolers filled with libations. (wink)

There is also a magic that occurs during a wood fire....something that cannot be controlled.  As the ash from the wood blows through the hot kiln, it will attach itself to part of the pottery and creating designs on the surface that cannot be duplicated.  It is because of this experience that I have a serious love for wood fired pieces. I started collecting them several years back one piece at a time.  Here are some of the most special.....

A sample collection sitting on my living room coffee table

A piece that I made a few years back.
It was thrown in pieces, altered and constructed.

A little vase by
Brian Somerville.

Another small piece by
Brian Somerville

Large vase by
Brian Somerville
Of the proceeding pieces from Brian Somerville, two were a birthday gifts from my sister.  She knew that I loved his work and surprised me.  If you remember Brian is the instructor who introduced me to clay.  The first small vase was something he threw in class and stood and carved intuitively as he talked with us.  Nice memory.

The large vase is a great example of how ash from the wood enters the kiln and attaches itself to the ware forming a glaze like coating.  Notice how the left side is blank and didn't get any ash.  Call me crazy, but this vase reminds me how the sun only shines on one side of the earth at a time.  I bought this at a sale at school that is set up each year so students can sell their work.  I don't think Brian liked this vase. But I did.  Brian's current sculptural work is amazing.  If you want to take a peek at his website it's

Little creamer was thrown and altered
by Me.
 I love this little creamer. (above) Not because it was anything close to the best of my work, but because it was made during a time of great exploration for me.  After throwing the piece on the wheel, I took it off and altered it's appearance and added the handle.  I did this without thinking about any critique of the piece.  It was for me and no one else. It was also my first wood fired piece.   During the final critique that semester, it was pulled out and highlighted as noteworthy.  It reminds me how important it is to keep my work mine. 

A Jack Troy Nautilus Cup
The above Nautilus Cup is from an artist who lives in Pennsylvania named Jack Troy.  I picked up this cup when I was at NCECA (annual clay conference) in Pittsburgh a few years back. I paid a pretty penny for this little cup.  A woman made a comment to me in the purchase line that indicated to me that he was some sort of legend or something.   I have never met Jack, but I sure do love his pottery.
"Curly" a tiny pitcher by
Karla Walter

"Curly" Cup by
Karla Walter
The two "Curly" pieces above are by my good friend, Karla Walter.  Karla and I went through the same program in college, only she graduated a year ahead of me.  I always loved her student work and I am glad that a little thing called Facebook has kept us in contact with each other.  She played an integral part in helping me sell my clay studio equipment.  To view her Etsy Shop click here.   

I hope you enjoyed seeing a sneak peek at some of the wood fired pottery in my collection.  I just love the earthy feeling and look. I also love the idea that they were fired by a community of artists working together to create something special. 

-The End-

Friday, July 29, 2011

Thoughts On A Path Traveled Where Nothing Is Lost

Student Work in Ceramics Handbuilding
Many of you know that I returned to college when I turned 40 and earned second undergraduate degree, a BFA In Studio Arts.  I wrote about it in my first blog post that I re-posted this week.  What only a few of you know is that as a part of that degree I had a concentration in the area of Ceramics.  I didn't enter school thinking, "Wow, I think I will concentrate on a Ceramics degree."  I entered thinking, "I am going to get the art degree that I wanted to get 20 years ago.  I'm a painter."
Student work in Ceramics.

After a full year in the BFA program, I met a young ceramic artist who was working toward an MFA and was student teaching a sculpture class, Brian Somerville.  I enjoyed the class so much, that I decided to take Brian's Ceramics Handbuilding class the next semester.  Handbuilding is sculpture using clay as the medium.  Well....the clay got the best of me and I never left the department.  Don't get me wrong, I took all the other courses too....painting, printmaking, sculpture and others. But, my concentration was in Ceramics.  (I think that name of that degree needs to be changed because it conjures up the idea of a little 'paint your own pottery shop,' not the intense, time consuming and almost always frustrating art of making with clay.)

First home studio space.

I set up a studio in my home, complete with all the expensive equipment that a clay studio needs, then some.  I had three kilns, a wheel, a slab roller, several hundred pound of clay including porcelain, stoneware and terracotta.  I had the skills that I needed to make a go of it.  I worked in this studio for over a year, crafting piece after piece, firing them in my kilns and living under some of the most frustrating times of my life!
Glad I got an image.  This one blew up in the kiln.

You see, ceramics isn't easy.  It's time consuming and inherently has a ton of risk involved.  You can take weeks building a sculpture only to lose it in a kiln to some sort of unforeseen glitch in the firing cycle. A professor (not Brian) whom had been my primary instructor had done a number on my psyche and I couldn't seem to shake her from my studio work either.  (Just typing this still gives me anxiety!)   
I held onto the equipment for several years, starting and stopping.....starting and stopping. I thought that maybe my life was getting in the way of my art, until I realized that the clay was getting in front of my art!  Did that make sense?  

I realized that somewhere along the way, my fascination with clay that was sparked several years prior was a path that, although was wonderful while it lasted, was not the path that I needed to be continuing to walk down.  I decided to make a mass exodus, selling all my equipment and re-organizing my studio space.  I spent the next several months redeveloping my work, painting more and freeing up my mind for another endeavor. 
a painting in progress
I am still on that new path, wondering where it will take me.  My studio today has a painting in progress on the wall, a work table in the middle, Josh Groban singing Illuminations on the boom box, my doggies sitting by my side with my birdies chirping in the background.  I am writing my blog post, something that I have come to enjoy.  For the first time since graduating, everything about my progress as an artist feels right.  No longer does my former instructors criticisms haunt me.  No longer do I carry the guilt of spending years working in clay, only to come out the other end with little to show.  You see....every experience informs the next.  Nothing is lost.  It's the journey that matters...... 

(Brian Somerville has an amazing collection of work.  You can visit his web site at
-The End-

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Finch Collection

With the countdown to my trip to Paris, I have stopped projects around the house.  I thought I would take the next few days showing you collections from around my home.  First up is my collection of finches in my aviary in my studio. 
 I have four pair of different breeds of finch in my aviary.  Here are a few snap shots...........

Above is Seedo. She is the female in the pair I call, Tux and Seedo.  I thought their markings looked like they were wearing a tuxedo.

In the image above are Tux and Lupe.  Lupe is the female in a pair I called Fruit and Lupe.  They are colorful Gouldian finch from Australia, so I name them after the cereal Fruit Loops.

This is Blue.  He is the male part of the pair of Blue and Belle.  Obviously....their color is what dictated my name.  They are the sweetest, most gentle of all the birds in the aviary.

In the foreground of the above image is a stressed out Flame.  He is the male part of the team of Flame and Fannie.  Fannie is in the images to the right. They both have super bright orange markings on their backsides, thus Flame Fannie.  Flame currently doesn't have any feathers on his head from breeding stress.  Sometimes birds in captivity become confused about the timing of breeding. When they cannot find the correct materials to build a nest, they will pick each other for bedding.  I am at the point of removing him to a hospital cage to get him away from Fannie.  She is relentless. (Amazing what women will do to fix up their house nests.)

 Above is Fruit and Lupe along with Belle.  Notice that Belle doesn't have the red spot like Blue in the previous images.  That is how I tell them apart.  Fruit is starting his molting process.  You can see some of the evidence on his face.

Whenever I take images of my birds, they fly all around the aviary and make it difficult. But not Tux and Seedo.  They stare me down as if to say, "You don't frighten me with that big camera!"  Tux is definitely the boss in the aviary. He is the first to take baths, first to eat.  He even hogs all the nesting boxes when I first put them in for breeding season.  Nobody messes with Tux.  Tough guy.

Hope you enjoyed this little sneak peek into my collection of finch.  I love them.  The constant chirping, tweeting, fluttering wings and cracking on seeds keeps me company while I work in my studio.  They sure do make a mess, but I'm keeping them around.

-The End-

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why Can't We All Be Like That Wise Old Bird?

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

I have a special place in my heart for owls.  I wrote back in April about my childhood memories of a pro-environment ad campaign called, Give A Hoot Don't Pollute and their mascot, Woodsy the Owl.   Other than that advertisement, I cannot remember really giving owls much thought before I returned for my second college degree 7 years ago.  You see, the college that I attended was built on a burrowing owl preserve.  I would take short breaks in the morning to watch the cute little creatures hop around their burrowed holes.  (I think these are the same species that are a part of that book, Hoot by Carl Hiaasen.) 

They gave me such joy, in a kindred way.  Funny little guys....little creatures who we have come to know as wise and old.  I think the little poem above is told to just about every small child in order to teach the idea of staying quiet and listening.
My mother was a wise old owl, even at a very young age.  She was full of great advice.  She was also a great listener.  I think these two things go hand in hand.  As a grow older, I really understand the importance of listening instead of speaking.  Perhaps this is why I have grown to be so fond of this little feathery, fluffy friend whose eyes stare out projecting the appearance of intense listening and watching.  

Since finding Woodsy back a few months ago, I have been on a hunt for opportunities to up cycle discarded owls.  My sister found two of these wise fellows while shopping in thrift shops this summer.  I found the last one (no before pic, sorry) while shopping with her in a thrift shop a few days ago. 

So this morning, I got out a can of Valspar Spray Paint in White Satin, and gave my new friends a new look.  I haven't set them up in any great table scape yet.  I will probably get around to that after my vacation.  Even without a special perch, I think they turned out nifty. 

Aren't they adorable?!! .....and so very wise, I am sure!!  Shhh.......listen, you might just hear them thinking.

-The End-

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Pause For Reflection, Six Months Goes By Fast!

In 6 short days, The Homeless Finch will celebrate a 6 month anniversary.  I can hardly believe that I have been at this for almost 6 months and haven't missed a day since March 1st.  Phew!  I decided to go back and read my original post today.  I know that the majority of those who follow this blog were not around for that March 1st posting, so I have decided to re-publish it today with the addition of images of some of my favorite projects that I have completed along the way. 

(re-print from March 1, 2011)

"You're starting a blog? Why?!! Who would ever read it?"  Sharing ideas with my teenagers always results in raw, honest reactions.  I have raised them to be strong people with the ability to speak the truth, or at least their truth. 

Here I find myself, with 46 years behind me.  Six years ago, I returned to college to pursue a second degree. A degree that was denied me the first go around by my well-meaning parents who thought a business, teaching, or advertising degree made me more employable.  I picked the latter. 

Now, I had a lot to prove to myself.  A huge lists of "I'm forty now, I have to finally do something for me. No regrets."  Funny thing is.....after toiling over my BFA in Studio Art and coming out with an impressive 4.0, I still didn't really know what that was....."Doing something for myself."  The only part of that I understood was that when my rapidly growing children went off to college and I became an "Empty Nester,"  I needed to "have a life!"  I had observed my own mother fumbling around after we left and never really finding her footing.  She passed young, 59, and never really ever overcame our leaving.  That wasn't going to be me!  (Nail biting here.)   

So, I graduated into the worst economy of my lifetime, wounded by the over-arching critical comments of a professor and facing an election of a President in a tough time for our country.  Art career could wait. Right??  Was it that I needed to simmer a little?  Was it that old adage, the fearful artist?  Was it that I got too much of a head start on MY "life" with my kids still living under my roof?  Issues raising teenagers have been huge dis-tractors.  Or was it the tool in which I allowed myself to be distracted?  Until now, I have not truly pursued my career.  

Okay.....back on subject.  I have always had this addiction (For those who get this, there is a difference.)  for vintage finds, shabby chic, french country, mid-century goodies and the like.  I see the opportunity in what others might see as discard-able.  Yes, I do you make all that work?  When I was much younger, I had a designer tell me that if I love something, buy it and somehow it will "work."  I repeat that often to the hazy gazes of those who stand in my house seemingly wondering why I have put such a crazy collections of stuff together.  I am still sorting through whether it always works.

I have been trash picking off of bulk piles in my neighborhood, haunting tag sales and strolling collectible stores and fixing up what I find for years.  I was doing this before Rachel ever came out with her books and coined the phrase "Shabby Chic.".....  "Shabby Chic!!!!  Shabby Chic!!??  You mean someone out there has validated my obsessions??"  I was excited.  I thought, "I'm not the only crazy out there!.....Maybe, I'm not crazy?"   I use to dream of the day that I could have a business connected in someway to that concept.  But, something was missing.....or was it? 

Did I need a certifiable college degree in art to achieve this?  Probably not, but I thought so.  "What the heck," I said, "I'm going back to college." Made the split second decision in less than an hour and drove to the university.  By lunch I was registered for classes that started the following week.  It was, for me, the best four years of my adult life.  I grew.  My kids grew in size, but more importantly, they grew in independence.  They learned how to fend for themselves and it made them stronger.  For example, they had to learn to make their own breakfasts because Mom was over in her chair studying for that Baroque Art exam.  Now, they are both pretty good in the kitchen.

Six years later, I am writing the first entry to my first blog.  I am not quite sure where this is going to take me, but I am hoping that it will be the catalyst that I have been looking for to push me on down the road toward that "life" that I know I need to develop.  My initial plans for this blog are to merge my art with my love of design, decorating and collections.  I am about to embark on a total re-do of my master bedroom and bath and I will use this blog to document the steps along the way. 

I named the blog "The Homeless Finch" because I own 4 pairs of a variety of finches and they occupy a small aviary in my studio.  They keep me company and entertain and sing to me every day.  Why homeless?  It denotes my need to rescue all that is homeless, whether it is the funny little treasures I find, purchase and fix or the creatures and people along the way whom I try and bring into my home and my life in a quest to help fix them.  Nothing is lost. Nothing should be homeless.  Everything is renewable.  At 46, I am going to renew myself too.


I have learned a ton in the last 6 months.  My photography has improved, but still needs a lot of work.  The technology learning curve and navigating Blogger issues has been a challenge that I haven't always welcomed, but has certainly taught me a lot.  I learned to always use a drop cloth, always.  I have made some really neat new friends and have charted a course to 'somewhere.'  I am not sure that I have found exactly what I was looking for yet.  But, as they say, Rome wasn't built in a day.  I have completed some fabulous projects and for that...I am grateful.   

I am constantly working on what I want The Homeless Finch to be and have tried to stay true to myself.  I have seen a lot of bandwagon design and blogging ideas and have made an effort to avoid jumping into them.  It is important to me that The Homeless Finch is kept fresh, new and a reflection of my ideas, not others.  I hope you have enjoyed the ride and that you stay for the rest of the journey....wherever it will take us.....

-The End-

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mandolin Rescue

Repairing and refinishing musical instruments is not my expertise.  In fact, playing them aren't my expertise either.  But, if you have been following my blog for very long, you know that my teenage son is the musician in the family. He is the proud owner of an electric guitar, a beautiful acoustic guitar and a Koa Ukulele as well as an electric keyboard.  There is never a day in our house when there isn't music flowing from his room.  He has gotten pretty accomplished for his age and we no longer wince at the sound of him practicing.  Ahh......

A little over a week ago, we were passing a neighbors yard sale and he screamed out, "WAIT!  I see a banjo at that yard sale!"  Trying not to run into a tree, I composed myself and turned the car around to take a look.  After all, anyone screaming out in such a frantic tone would turn anyone around!   There was a banjo, three inexpensive brand acoustic guitars and a little unloved mandolin.  What an eye. Wonder where he has learned this skill. (wink)

The seller allowed us to take the mandolin and the banjo to a local music store before purchasing them because they were both damaged.  As it turned out, the banjo was going to cost more to fix than what it was worth.  The store wouldn't fix the mandolin, but every single employee in the place wanted to play it.  Sweet, warm sound.  Ahh.....  I realized that we had something with this mandolin.  I also thought to myself that I could fix this mandolin.  After all, I can restore furniture..... Why not a mandolin?!  Crazy? Me? Yes.
Most severe damage.
When we returned, he offered the seller 20 bucks for the mandolin.  The neighbor didn't want to sell it that cheap, but knows of my son's passions and made the deal right there.  Sucker. (sly smile)  Don't get my wrong, the mandolin was damaged.  The neck had come slightly apart from the body of the instrument and this was going to take some work to get the finish back to pristine.  I wasn't able to get a good image of the areas of the instrument that had issues with the finish, but suffice it to say, it needed work in those areas as well.

As soon as he removed the old strings, I got to work with a general cleaning.  I then got my Gorilla Glue and a few straps out to repair the joint.  Wetting the gap was challenging.  I just did my best, then strapped it tightly closed and let it sit overnight. 

I did check back several times in the first hour to wipe the ooze from the glue off the guitar.  I didn't want that challenge once the glue had fully set.

The next day after removing the strap and realizing that the repair had worked, I gleefully set out with some Min Wax Walnut Stain and wiped a coating over the surface of the instrument.  It nicely filled in areas that had seen wear. 

After a few minutes, I buffed the surface of the mandolin removing the excess.  I then coated the frets with a light wiping of Min Wax Wipe On Poly. Wow! Did that do the trick.  Really freshened up the surface. 

After the surface was fully dry, I followed up with a bathing of Feed and Wax and buffed the surface thoroughly. 

Today, he sat down and added a fresh set of strings.  What a sweet little instrument.  I wanted you to hear it, so my daughter taped a little moment for me to share on my blog. You might need to turn up your volume to hear it.  Hope you enjoy.....

Makes me feel so good that we were able to rescue this little mandolin.  He was able to add yet another instrument to his collection.  But this comes with a story and it involves his mom.....and I think that's pretty special. (smile)

-The End-
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