Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wear your helmet

All stitched up and ready to go? No...
It was a typical Saturday and I was riding across town after a great morning of yoga and climbing at Mission Cliffs. It was about noon and I was riding the correct direction on a wide one way street when a van sped out of an alley and hit me from the side. The driver got out, pulled me to the curb, got back in and took off leaving me unconscious and bleeding from a head wound and my left knee. I suffered a major concussion, a large cut over my left eye and a had a large puncture wound on my knee that went all the way to the bone. I don't remember most of what happened before the hospital and things for a while after are pretty spotty as well.

After my initial visit, I was "ok" for about a week if supported by a lot of pain killers. Unfortunately the following weekend found me back in the hospital with a staff infection in my knee that left me in a hospital bed for about a week. It wasn't fun. I am now a poster child for helmets and other bicycle safety gear.

Almost normal again.
The infection was the most scary, more so than being hit in the first place. It went from nothing to swollen like a grapefruit in about four hours, really just came out of nowhere. I was lucky to not only keep my leg but to live through it all in the first place.

Since the accident I've been a bit more timid and certainly more "defensive" in my riding but I'm back on my bike as well as a couple other project bikes. With the whole thing months behind me now, other than gaining eight or ten pounds, I'm feeling pretty much back to normal. I'm even regaining a degree of tolerance for cars. Though vans still spook me a little. This was a very different accident from the one early in 2012 where I broke some ribs riding fixie after someone stole my brakes. 2012 was a challenging year.

I missed a season of sailing but I've made a few climbs and will hopefully keep my sponsor. I thought long and hard and hesitated about posting this but in the end I think we need to see in very personal ways what can happen in a fraction of a second when cars don't see pedestrians and bicyclists. Ride safe and WEAR YOUR HELMET.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A reluctant fixie rider

I'm a big supporter of bicycle transit. Since selling my last car half a decade ago, I've done mainly bicycle commuting or simply walked. I'm more healthy, fit and generally less stressed for it.
I'm a fan of English roadsters, mountain bikes, cross and standard road bikes. My current machine is a great green and white single speed from Globe. Clean, simple and efficient, its a very well done bicycle.

With a flip-flop hub in the rear, riders can choose to go fixie if they like. Or as in my case at the moment, someone can steal your brakes while you're at work and choose for you. At least I had the option.

Only having played around with the interesting but ultimately impractical fixie fad, I'm finding for the most part, I'm not a fan for just getting around. I tackle a lot of hills in a given day, carry heavy packs and need to stop just as fast as I go.The translation of energy from human to road is great but I think I'll be replacing those brakes as soon as I lay hands on new ones. In the mean time I'll do my best to not be a danger to everyone else on the road and enjoy my all day spinning class.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wabi Sabi

Working with little ones can be tricky. As artist in residence at a preschool and pre-k child development center means I'm not only responsible for doing kid friendly projects but making sure the little ones come away feeling good about it.

Very loosely translated, wabi sabi is a Japanese concept that embodies the appreciation of the flawed, imperfect and "real" over predictable and more obvious beauty.

Little hands can make useful and beautiful objects but the smooth beauty of a perfect piece of stoneware is likely years away if it will ever be part of their lives. Wabi sabi as a teaching tool helps them not only accept but revel in creations that might not match their imaginations.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ceramic Venus

I know, I'm gettng a little obsessive with these but it was a worth while exploration and the recipient seemed pleased.

Shibori Scarves

 So, the scarves turned out well. A little less precise than I've accomplished in the past but I've typically had the proverbial "all the time in the world" and only done a couple of pieces at once. Most of shibori is in the prep work, something that can be done over time if you plan ahead but after a summer of it in Japan and a bit of it now and again I'm not sure I want to devote a ton of time to it, and that's pretty much what it takes.

I do love indigo and I'll likely find further reasons to do dye batches of one kind or another. Between the "developing" effect of the dye when it hits oxygen and the stunningly deep, organic blues, it's really hard to beat real indigo. Somewhat endangered, imagine that another heirloom technology, it's still fairly easy to obtain. Something, I think ought to be taught in schools, it'd make a fantastic chemistry project, art or home economics; not to mention History (note the capital H).

The next thing I'd really like to approach is woad, another ancient plant dye. I've found the materials but it looks to be a bit more complex than indigo and certainly more so than something like Rit dye that can simply be mixed in a bucket or washing machine without a lot of fuss.

This batch of scarves will be up in the Susan Howell gallery at 1987 Hyde St in Russian hill for another month or so and then I'll either find them homes in a little more personal way or put them up on Etsy, who knows?

If anyone is of a mind, let me know and I'll run an indigo workshop where we can explore the dye itself as well as basic shibori.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Venus redux

Got a nice little piece of alabaster today. I'll be carving another venus idol starting in the next couple days. This time i'll be doing more documentation and shooting miniatures images to accompany the statue.
My loose goal is to build a kickstarter project around it to fund this summer's Norway show.
Regardless i'm excited for another stone carving project.


Just prepped the cloth for a small batch of heavy cotton scarves. I'll be doing an Indigo dye treatment with Japanese shibori methods I learned while living in Japan.
They will be shown and for sale at the Susan Howell gallery in San Frsncisco.
Look for a post with production shots and the finished scarves!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Literally Literary

I've started a couple of novels, not reading them but writing. I don't think I've actually scrapped one yet but I can say for the first time, I'm in range of completing one. Nearing 100 pages in, that's a respectable third of the way plus a bit more for a first novel according to a number of internet sources.

I decided to post a little about it, no spoilers, for a couple reasons. First is that even if I stop at "novella" length, not likely as the story isn't finished, 100 pages is still a lot. Second and more important reason is that I feel that putting it out in the open that I'm writing a novel and I'm a third of the way there will at least somewhat bind me to finish it.

So there, I've said it, as openly as it gets and I'll post on Facebook as well when I'm two thirds finished. Here's to going big or going home.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Carving bone with stone

I've been putting off learning the Oslo nalbinding stitch for months now, lacking a needle and not wanting to buy one or make one out of modern materials.

I recently got another block of obsidian that I don't mind knocking blades from and thought i'd try making another needle as well as carving it with an obsidian blade.

Rather than a lamb bone I used a wild deer bone this time. It's a lot harder, more brittle and prone to shatter. The take aways are that i'm now fairly certain paleo people smashed bones to make needles as carving is extremely difficult and time consuming. Cleaning up a bone shard into a needle, blade or harpoon isn't all that tough, it's the initial shape that's difficult.

Success loomed when I decided paleo humans had bones a plenty and that simply smacking mine with a rock to obtain one or two workable pieces was a realistic strategy given historical context.
Further, in the course of processing bones to obtain marrow, you'd be doing that same smashing anyway. Seems realistic that hanging onto choice, tool worthy, bone fragments is a natural extension.

I've now got a couple of predictably crude bone needles, but both are shorter than an i've seen in the record. I may go ahead and order the oh so sexy mammoth ivory needle i've been lusting after or i'll switch to making one from modern materials, I know how, just been avoiding it even though it would work at least as well if not better and take all of 20 minutes to turn out.

Incidentally, I looked at other technologies contemporary with nalbinding  and may have discovered a flaw in the theories of how it was done. I'm putting in my due diligence now and planning on writing a "white paper" about it with hopes of presenting at a conference if i'm correct.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Modern stone age II

A while back I posted about making "stone" tools out of modern materials. While those skilled at doing this are a small crowd, I'm far from unique in having this skill and I'm certainly not among the elite with regard to making clever objects.

In our modern context it's useful mainly as art, an interesting hobby or possibly a survival skill.
With regard to art, I do have two in depth projects going on and some great ideas I'd like to explore. I also feel a small responsibility to preserve the skill for future generations. Making stone tools is something most if not all human cultures share in common at some point in their history and it shouldn't simply be something hanging in a museum or gracing the curio cabinets of collectors.

As you can see from the photo I had a little helper, who had instigated the project by asking if the glass was sharp enough to cut things and if not could we make it sharp. Yes and yes! It was fantastic to see a four year old interested in this subject, both attempting to make her own tools and then using the one I made to cut paper, cloth and leaves before using it to peal bark from a stick. She eventually decided we should give it to a street performer "so he can make some shoes". I guess that's what you get when you hang out barefoot playing bongos in San Francisco. Anyway, I was pleased she thought the glass knife was better than money and that she decided to give it to someone she thought needed it.

A clay menagerie

As part of my artist in residence duties I try to keep a few projects running at any given time so students that drop in outside of scheduled workshops and classes have something to look at. I'm currently resurrecting the school kiln and decided it'd be fun to make a small menagerie of suggestive animals.

Having seen a lot of clay and stone figurines over the years, especially dating between 20,000 and 30,000 BC, I wanted to capture that mode and feel while adding a contemporary element or two. Again, my animals are more suggestive that directly representational, meaning they may or may not look like a specific animal but give the viewer a little room to run with regard to what they might be.

They'll go through an initial cone 6 firing as I dust off the kiln and then get a treatment with some nice gloss glazes in a variety of not so stone age colors. While it wold be a stretch, as a former archaeologist I'm fairly sensitive and conscious of creating objects that can be passed off as historic artifacts. This is something that follows directly with my glass knives project as well where I use mainly colored glass and be sure to clean up debitage from the areas where I make the pieces. Though, I have been known to create "art sites" using purple, red or other bright colored glass, something obviously not found in the archaeological record.

I'll be sure to post the results and hopefully finish the little critters soon.