Insanity, and now a lull

The studio has been turned upside-down for the past week working on a prototyping project. Although the finished product hasn't come to fruition yet, I thought I'd share some pictures from the past week or so. It's been exciting, frustrating, with hardly a moment to breathe.

Smooth-on's Rebound 40 brush-on rubber product

Smooth-on's Rebound 40 brush-on rubber product

A quick sweep with a heat gun works wonders in smoothing out Castilene surface while leaving the cold core structurally stable.

A quick sweep with a heat gun works wonders in smoothing out Castilene surface while leaving the cold core structurally stable.

An old pal & wonderful artist visited, and performed the Ceremonial Setting-up of the Table in a corner of the shop. He may or may not drop in from time to time to do a little work and share some of this space.

Asymmetrical table love!

Asymmetrical table love!

Always an adventurer, that one.

Exploring the Choi residence's dirtier corners.

Exploring the Choi residence's dirtier corners.

Castilene, a difficult + magical modeling medium

Castilene is a new (to me) take on classic wax-based modeling clays like Roma Plastilina or Klean Klay; I find it to be infinitely cleaner and more pleasant to work with, and you're not left with the smell of the product on you and a greasy feel on your hands for days. It's sulfur-free meaning that it will not inhibit curing of most common moldmaking products, and its label description states that no known compound can degrade the material. Amazing!

I needed some slabs for a current project so I turned my home kitchen into a clay station. My studio isn't currently outfitted with that kind of open space, nor do I have a microwave or hot plate like I do at home.

For a good 24 hours I was just petrified by how incredibly hard and brittle the "medium"-softness Castilene was. It didn't warm up easily or break up into soft chunks like Klean Klay likes to do. I was afraid of heating it up, thinking it might be messy.

I finally dumped out a 2.5 lb box ($25 at Compleat Sculptor) into a large ceramic serving dish and started warming it up. I used the inverter/soften setting for a few minutes, then put it on full blast for about a minute. This let the clay get malleable and soft, but I noticed that microwaving doesn't heat the clay evenly. You're left with some crusty, dry-feeling edges and then some crazy hot spots. I recommend mixing up the batch and letting it marinate in its own heat for about 5 minutes. The overheated clay will warm up the dry bits.

I wiped the counter down with mineral oil, the way you would flour for baking, and started rolling, smashing, cutting, doing anything I could to get a nice even slab. I'd take the trimmings, throw it in the bowl, re-heat, and continue to make slabs. The clay takes on a gorgeous smooth hard sheen when it is cold, and maintains rigidity at room temperature. I LOVE IT.

It is difficult to work with and isn't quite grab-and-go like Klean Klay, which I would recommend for small less-precise or press-molded projects, but Castilene definitely blew my mind a little when I started working with it this week.

At-home silk dyeing with Sennelier Tinfix

It's the weekend. I'm going to do a little at-home project before I head out to the studio.

A few weeks ago, I picked out a few shades of French silk dye from Dharma Trading Co., plus some Synthrapol (a surfactant/excellent fiber cleanser), urea, and a couple of kinds of fluorescent acid dyes. Today I'm running a batch of silk threading that will be used for our everyday-wear pearl, bead and geometric crystal necklaces.

Sitting in the living room with the cats, measuring out a few skeins at different lengths. This is a size of thread that'll fit 11/0 seed beads perfectly and make for very fine, delicate colorways underneath clear glass.

Sitting in the living room with the cats, measuring out a few skeins at different lengths. This is a size of thread that'll fit 11/0 seed beads perfectly and make for very fine, delicate colorways underneath clear glass.

For these skeins, the ends can be trimmed off because we're not using it for stitching/weaving/anything requiring continuous thread. This makes it easier for me to handle, too.

For these skeins, the ends can be trimmed off because we're not using it for stitching/weaving/anything requiring continuous thread. This makes it easier for me to handle, too.

From left to right, Sennelier Tinfix dyes in Parme Rose 34, Indigo Gray 99, Cloud Grey 94, Indian Purple 43 (one of the most insanely saturated colors I have ever seen!). These cheapo foam brushes are great for dabbing on color.

From left to right, Sennelier Tinfix dyes in Parme Rose 34, Indigo Gray 99, Cloud Grey 94, Indian Purple 43 (one of the most insanely saturated colors I have ever seen!). These cheapo foam brushes are great for dabbing on color.

My kitchen rig. Upturned colander as steamer, our least-favorite ceramic plates as weights to hold the paper-rolled skeins in place. I have an electric water boiler continuously ready with the next batch of boiling water so the steaming isn't interrupted.

My kitchen rig. Upturned colander as steamer, our least-favorite ceramic plates as weights to hold the paper-rolled skeins in place. I have an electric water boiler continuously ready with the next batch of boiling water so the steaming isn't interrupted.

Check back to see what becomes of these silk threads. I'm thinking layered seed bead necklaces using beautiful transparent Miyuki Delicas, but we'll see....

Purge or keep? Dementia toybox

My only living grandparent, my father's mother Sun, is in assisted living due to advanced Alzheimer's. While purging the apartment this afternoon, I came across an ugly Tupperware box filled with foam letters and beads she liked to repetitiously play with. This was used during the interim period before she entered the facility and was living at home with my father. I'd been eyeing the box up on the wall unit all month but had put aside a house-wide deep clean until today.

Dementia toybox

Dementia toybox

What to do with ugly sentimentals? What to do with the belongings of people who are no longer aware of what ownership or objecthood mean?

Traveling & purifying

This week has been all about self-refreshing via small trips around New York. Saturday was unseasonably warm and led to some spur-of-the-moment mini-paintings in the studio.

Red Hook sunset, March 15

Red Hook sunset, March 15

The view from the Red Hook Fairway parking lot.

The view from the Red Hook Fairway parking lot.

Between Sunset Park, Red Hook, Harlem, Williamsburg, the Flower District and Koreatown in Manhattan and a nighttime trip to Syracuse, home/work/studio all feel triply vivified.

Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem, while waiting to meet with Sally of Improvised Life.

Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem, while waiting to meet with Sally of Improvised Life.

Midnight snow in suburban Ballston, NY.

Midnight snow in suburban Ballston, NY.

Mourning a Shamrock Shake in an I-87 rest stop parking lot.

Mourning a Shamrock Shake in an I-87 rest stop parking lot.

Drinks with friends at Mary's Bar in Brooklyn. Look at the beautiful tin ceiling.

Drinks with friends at Mary's Bar in Brooklyn. Look at the beautiful tin ceiling.

Choi residence, after Sunday gardening. Various succulents including an echeveria, some sedum and a crassula (left trio), rosemary (center), jade plant (right), marimo moss ball in slow death (far right), blue cat.

Choi residence, after Sunday gardening. Various succulents including an echeveria, some sedum and a crassula (left trio), rosemary (center), jade plant (right), marimo moss ball in slow death (far right), blue cat.