Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 2013 Trip: A visit with Lucy Coles and a day in Paris

When Missy and I arrived in Portland last Saturday morning she dropped me off at the train station, after saying our goodbyes (which is so difficult after more than a week together) I took the train to Exeter in New Hampshire where fellow blogger Lucy Coles and her family picked me up for a 2 day visit at their lovely home in the woods.

Winter here in Gauteng ( the province I live in) is dusty and dry and there are certainly no natural woods here, so I was very much enchanted by the beauty of the trees both in Maine and New Hampshire, a wonderful shade of green that you never see here.

Isn't it just gorgeous!!!

I also saw my first chipmunk ever, not easy to get a photo though, they are pretty quick. Lucy and I quickly chatted like we had been friends forever, and she showed me all her wonderful work, her knitting is just wonderful and so fine. But her porcelain work really just blew my mind, the detail is incredible in real life.

Lucy gifted me with these two items and told me how she made it, my photos doesn't do them justice at all, the black vase was poured in black porcelain slip and then soft fired in the kiln, the white and gold details on the vase was then painted on with slip. The tiny little flute player was sculpted out of a lump of porcelain, he is just amazing and stands only 17mm (21/32") high including the base.

The vase turned 180 degrees and the flute player from the back, thank you Lucy for two wonderful days of visiting and these precious gifts, it was great meeting you and spending time with you.

On Monday I took the bus to Logan airport in Boston and left for France in a thunder storm.

My first glimpse of France through the clouds. Originally I was going to meet up with Jonquil but unforseen real life circumstances put a stop to those plans. Knowing that quite a few of the big museums was closed on Tuesdays, I asked Bill Robertson if he knew about anything that might interest me and he suggested the Musee des Arts et Metiers, after a bit of research on the internet, I realized that it was fairly close to Notre Dame and since the train from the airport stopped at Notre Dame without any transfers I decided to go there first.

Notre Dame certainly lived up to its reputation and I enjoyed taking a quiet stroll through the church and admiring the beautiful iron work on the doors.

I then took a slow walk to the museum enjoying all the beautiful buildings on the way.

Don't you just love those iron balustrades.

The outside of the museum with a miniature Statue of Liberty, the French did design her after all.

An Astro Globe, I would love to make one in miniature.

This 1660 glass alcohol thermometer just fascinated me, it looks quite delicate and I certainly wouldn't want the job of cleaning it, imagine breaking such a treasure.

I loved this desk with all it's drawers, something else that would be nice to make in miniature.

A knitting loom from 1785, my mom had a knitting machine when we were small, I never realized they went as far back as this.

I loved this little read-in stand for the sheer beauty of the wood and turnings.

The museum also had a nice collection of porcelain and glass items and I really liked this beautifully painted stand.

The stand from the side.

And then a model of the Statue of Liberty being constructed.

Well, this is the best photo I managed to snap of the statue from the ferry back in New York, hopefully next time I am there she will be open to visitors.

Some early light bulbs.

Louis XVI's rose engine, I never knew he liked to do this kind of thing.

Hmmm, I am not so sure this sentiment helped him much, he did lose his head in the French Revolution through the lower classes as he put it!

Isn't this hall just beautiful!

And lastly, a model T Ford from 1908. Thank you Bill for the suggestion of this museum, I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would, there were so many interesting things in it.

From the museum I wandered back to the Seine and admired some more of the wonderful French architecture.

The closest I got to the Eiffel tower which was designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel who also had a hand in the design of the Statue of Liberty.

Although it doesn't show in my photos, it was a hot sunny day with a clear blue sky in Paris and I was really thankful for a small park with some shady trees, where I sat down and rested for a bit.

I just liked the blue paint on these windows.

And my last photo of Paris, after I took this one my camera announced that my SD card was full, since I was really tired by then and there just happened to be a train station right on the corner where I was standing straight back to the airport without any transfers, I decided to call it the day and go back to the airport for supper and my flight to South Africa. I loved Paris and will definitely go back there again, hopefully next year I can fit in a few days there.

Well, I really enjoyed sharing my trip with you all over the last few days while getting over the jet lag, tomorrow it is back to making miniatures and the house is begging for a good clean, in winter it gets dusty very quickly.

Till next time

Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 2013 Trip: Castine

Missy and I flew to Portland, Maine from New York on the Friday before Guild School started, in Portland we rented a car and traveled up Route 1 to Castine making a stop in Wiscasset to visit a needlework shop and Missy wanted a lobster roll from the famous Red's Eats, at least we didn't have to wait too long in line as it was rather cold and I was starting to feel rather frozen. We arrived in Castine at about 6pm, it was great meeting old friends on both Friday night and Saturday morning. And during the week I made a few more new friends with either first timers or people I haven't met in the previous two years.

Guild School kicked off with an opening dinner on Saturday night and early on Sunday morning classes started, I took both of Bill Robertson's classes, he is about the only teacher that teaches the techniques that I really want to learn. For me, Castine is too far and expensive to go and do a class just because it is nice, so I do put a lot of thought into choosing classes and then hold my breath until I know which classes I got as the classes are allotted lottery style and not on a first come first served basis. So far I have been lucky enough to get my first choice every year. This year I chose the bone chest class for two reasons, I wanted to learn how to get from a piece of irregular shaped bone or ivory down to a flat slab or square, there are lots of antique furniture that has ivory inlays or/and ivory knobs and then all kinds of lovely little turned items too, especially needlework items like lace bobbins, etc and then also dressing room items like shoe button hooks, etc. The second reason was the working lock on the chest. I chose the Rococo carved mirror simply because I don't have a lot of experience in carving or the tools needed and a lot of the furniture that I would love to make has  detailed and intricate carving and I didn't really knew where to start although I have a few books on the subject, but then I was pretty sure doing it in miniature wouldn't be quite the same as in full scale. I can safely say that I enjoyed both classes very much and did learn both the things I expected and one or two unexpected surprises.

 Bill was so kind as to send me some of the photos he took in class, although I had my camera with me, when I get busy I totally forget about taking photos. Well, this is what faced us on day one, farrier files and hacksaws, not exactly the kind of tools you normally associate with miniatures.

 Here we all are hacking away at out bones, we first filed a flat on side of the bone and then sawed off a slice with the hacksaw, pretty rough on the hands, bone is rather hard after all.

 Next we taped our piece of bone to some MDF and milled it down on the drill press to the desired thickness and then it was easy to cut on the table saw into the pieces we needed for the box.

Bill's prototype boxes, one of the unexpected techniques that I learned was using hand cut through dovetails to join the box with. Ever since Aubrey Cronje, one of my South African friends showed me his blanket chest that he made a few years ago in one of Bill's classes with hand cut dovetails, I wanted to learn how to do that too.

I am not sure on which day this photo was taken but by this time I think most of us was working on the metal work for the box, which involved sawing out really tiny pieces with the jewelers saw and adding details with files.

Since most of the metal pieces needed bending we had to heat them red hot with a torch to anneal them so that they wouldn't break while bending them.

And here is my almost finished box together with my mirror frame that is far from finished, the box only needs the strap in the front, mine broke soon before the end of class on the last day and I was just too tired to start a new one and I thought the chances of messing up again were good, I plan on finishing it next week, I think I am almost back in my own time zone :-)

A photo that Missy took of me in class, I must say that except for the first day cutting the bone which was hard work, I found the class relaxing and fun, I think the fact that I got used to working long hours most days now at home during the last year making miniatures full time really helped.

Here is Bill's prototype of the mirror frame, Bill also showed us how to make our own carving chisels, another surprise that wasn't in the class description.

And here is Debora carving away at hers, she made it look so easy, but then of course, she has done a quite a bit of carving before. By the way she had her savonarola chair with her, just breathtaking and much more beautiful than photos can ever tell, I also saw the real chair that she based hers on in the MET museum, I like the mini one more :-)

I didn't nearly finish my frame, for this kind of intense and concentrated work I really need to be alone in my workroom with just the dog and some good music. Do any of you work with music and what do you like to listen to? I work so much better when I have music to listen to, my favorites are the classics, yes, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven etc, didn't like it much when I was younger, but now I love them, another favorite is movie sound tracks, especially John Williams who did a lot of music for movies like Star Wars, ET, Harry Potter, Memoirs of a Geisha, can you tell I have lived with two teenagers for a long time, I watched a lot of movies with them and sometimes still do. Well, back to the frame, I plan to work a lot on it next week before I jump back into all my commissions and hopefully I will have it finished by next Friday.

It rained for most of the week in Castine and it was rather cool all the time, so the summer clothes never made it out of the suitcase. Of course on Saturday morning when we had to leave at 8am to get to Portland in time for Missy's flight and my train, the sun was shining brightly and we had this wonderful clear blue sky.

Wednesday night is the only night during Guild school that there isn't anything official happening, but some teachers and groups like to do things on that night that has become a tradition. One is chocolate martini's with Bill straight after class, here am I and Missy enjoying ours, well I guess I was finished with mine by then. Afterwards I joined the Petitpointers group for dinner and show and tell in Annelle Ferguson's class, it is always a treat to see one another's work up close and personal, photos never do petit point any justice. My favorite though had to be Frances Peterson's newest rug, I just love her design and the colors she chose.

I didn't buy a lot on sales night, here are most of my purchases, two wine bottles with real wine and a tin of yummy cookies from Christina Minischetti and a meat cleaver from Bill Robertson.

And all too soon it was Friday night, time for graduation and teary farewells, here is a part of the bone chest class display on Graduation night, we just had to include the file and saw in the display.

Me with Bill, do check out his lobster tie, the second most talked about thing at Castine after miniatures, lobster, most everyone seems to love it, except me and a few others, I don't like seafood, oops ;-)

And with my dear friend Stacey Sereno, there were lots of other friends too but no photos with them, we forget most of the time because it is such a busy week. Hope I didn't bore you with this long post, but then some of you did ask for a detailed report.

Next: a visit on the way home with a special blogger friend.

Friday, June 21, 2013

June 2013 Trip: New York City

On to the next three days of my trip, the first day was really just spend in traveling to New York from Amsterdam. Elly dropped me off at Rai Station where I got the train to Schiphol Airport, I arrived in New York at about 3:30pm, by the time I was picked up by the shuttle to the hotel rush hour (I think it should be called slow hours instead) has started and it took a good one and a half hour to get to the hotel. I had a few hours to just relax and catch up with the six hour time difference before Missy Boling, my travel partner and roommate in Castine joined me for two days of fun in New York.

On day one we did some shopping in the morning, our first stop was a jewelry tool shop where I bought a few much needed tools.

I bought some gravers, now I can finally start to do some of the brass turning that I have been itching to do after taking Bill Robertson's brass bed class in Castine last year, by the way the poor bed is still just a pile of brass pieces, but I plan on working a bit different this year by taking one week a month off from all my commissions and just work a bit on my doll house and finishing some of my half done projects. Trying to do it on weekends just haven't worked for me last year, the weekend is just too short to get your teeth properly into a project, and I do have a family too that demands some of my time ;-) I also bought a set of drill bits for my drill press, a tap and die set, I have been wanting to make a fire screen with a brass vertical pole inserted into a wooden base that will have a horizontal pole sliding up and down on the vertical pole, in order to make it adjustable it needs a screw in the back, similar to this one. And then Missy and I saw the set in the yellow plastic for making round holes square and we thought that would be a cool tool to have, I also bought a small square cut six escapement file, I wanted a few more, but they didn't have the shapes I was looking for in stock. I had somebody sell them from her home about 15 min drive away from my home, but she closed down her shop a few months ago :-(

Update on the tools in the yellow plastic: Catherine just informed me that they are reamers for making holes bigger in metal work, we did use reamers last year in the brass bed class, but those were a lot bigger. Still a cool set of tools to have, but I have a lot to learn about tools yet ;-)

Next stop was Tinsel Traders, a shop that I visited last year too and just love, they sell all kinds of vintage embroidery threads, trims, etc. On the table are 3 spools of narrow metal trim, hanging on the chair is a glitzy gold and blue metal trim, the big spool has a fine ivory cotton thread wrapped in tiny intervals with a silver thread, I am curious to see how this will work for some miniature knitting and crochet. And then the last spool has a flat brass blending filament that could be useful for all kinds of miniatures where you want to add a bit of bling.

I am thinking of using one of the flat metal trims to finish of the edges of the panels on the casket.

After lunch we took the free ferry from Manhattan island to Staten island, so far the Statue of Liberty has been closed each time I am in New York, at least the ferry went past her and I could get a glimpse of her in the distance, but no good photos although I took a few.

Manhattan from Staten island.

Going back to Manhattan I really enjoyed seeing the island from the ferry, when you walk in the streets the buildings just tower above you.

Renee Fields, one of my fellow Petitpointers that lives in New York joined me and Missy for supper. I am on the left and Renee on the right. It was fun to meet Renee in the flesh.

She was kind enough to drag two books all over New York for me, I have been wanting this furniture book for quite a while, but it weighs over 7 pounds and nobody wants to ship it to South Africa. Normally the book is quite expensive too, so when I saw that Amazon had a good secondhand copy in stock for a mere $18, I e-mailed Renee and begged her if I could have the book sent to her and pick it up during my trip and thankfully she said yes, isn't it just great to have friends all over the globe :-)

One of the things that I like about the book is that it has photos of the inside detail of a lot of the furniture featured in the book and also descriptions on the construction methods used.

One of Missy's requests for something to see in New York was The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.

We went there first thing on our second day and I must say that I enjoyed the beauty of the architecture of the church both outside and inside very much.

From there we walked through Central Park to the MET museum, even after my second visit I haven't seen everything in this wonderful museum.

This set of two chairs and window seat caught my eye, the chairs are made of a beautiful figured Rosewood and I love the shape of the window seat.

Front view of the window seat.

Late in the afternoon we went to a doll house shop that is a few blocks away from the museum.

I bought these two tiny figures here, if anyone can help me with the name of the maker that would be great, they are marked B.N. on the bottom and a date of 1996.

I also bought these two lovely metal candlesticks, they are going to look perfect in my Arts and Crafts parlor, once again I need help with the maker, they are marked with the initials P.J.

From here we went on to have a well deserved supper after lots of walking and to end our two days in New York on a high note, we enjoyed watching a ballet at the New York City Ballet, an experience that Missy and I both really enjoyed.

Till next time when I will tell you all about Castine and my classes there.