Monthly Archives: February 2011

Less of this, please…

No matter how much fun we have had, I am now getting sick of snow, ice, freezing rain, and wind.

Bring on the sun and the melting snow!




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Workshop day 2


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Too pooped to post

That’s what I was last night. Suffice it to say it was a great day with a great group of fellow students. We learned some funky new techniques for making hollow beads without firing an inner core material. Fred’s mind is always thinking of the next, most interesting way to manipulate PMC. I barely want to take the time to post photos.

I could look around this studio all day and never get tired of seeing the collection of lines and textures.

Ruh roh……..


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Can you see Great Cranberry?

Neither could I. But that didn’t stop me from taking the 11:30 mailboat to Northeast Harbor so I could drive to Deer Isle to stay with Fred Woell and Pat Wheeler. This was the third time this winter that a snowstorm threatened a weekend trip I did not want to pass up. So, in my little Subaru, I carefully passed cars that couldn’t make it up some of the hills. Fortunately I ended up behind plow trucks several times and I made it safely over roads that were not great, driving 30 mph. The afternoon brought rain on top of snow, with increasing winds and dropping temperatures.  It sounds like an icy mess for tomorrow. Good thing I’m already right where I want to be. The PMC bead workshop starts at 10 a.m. tomorrow but this is what it looks like the night before:

And, there’s a bird in my room.




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Many little parts…

…made for a whole good day.

It was Thursday, matinee day. Before I left the house to catch the 11:30 boat, I packed as much as I could into the morning. I made a double batch of almond macaroons and a batch of chocolate sorbet to cool in the fridge (so I could put it in the ice cream freezer after I returned home on the 5 p.m. boat). I mixed up dough for 2 loaves of sourdough bread, ran and emptied the dishwasher and emptied the compost bucket. I might have done more but for the fact that there was a lot of activity at the bird feeder. I kept stopping to grab my binoculars. Chickadees and nuthatches were there as the usual loyal suspects, but they had friends; winter visitors who don’t show up every year. Redpolls!

There seemed to be a few hoary redpolls mixed in, (though they were pretty well behaved.)

On the ground, there was also a female white-winged crossbill. A bird with a serious overbite. It was a good morning for birdwatching from the kitchen sink.

And then off I went to see “The King’s Speech” with my Mom, who loved it as much as I did, which made for a perfect afternoon.



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A tip for templates

There are plenty of options out there for readymade templates to trace designs on metal clay, polymer clay, or sheet metal. But if you draw your own design on paper, it doesn’t last through many tracings before getting flimsy.

One option is to cut apart an aluminum soda can, and flatten it out.  Then trace the design on the unpainted side and cut it out with scissors. Voila! You now have a long lasting template of your own design.

I made most of my templates for use with sheet metal, before I started using precious metal clay. While aluminum can react badly with PMC, I have never had any trouble with the soda can templates. I think it’s because the paint on the outside and the thin plastic coating on the inside  keep the aluminum from coming in contact with the metal clay.

Top 2 figures: An aluminum template and a brass pin with silver eye.

Bottom 3 figures:  A drawing of a tuna on paper, the aluminum tuna template, and the tuna cut from a piece of 20 gauge sterling sheet.

The little brass pin is one of my oldest templates, while some of the templates in the foreground of the 2nd and 3rd photo are the most recent, used with PMC.


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Nice day for a boat ride?

Not really.
It could have been worse, but it was a rough ride this morning between Islesford and Great Cranberry, with northwest winds blowing 25 to 30 knots. Still, I had planned to visit my mom in Bar Harbor, so off I went at 8:15.
My young friend Whitaker does not like boat rides like this. They make him seasick. So, he just sits by the open door, getting fresh air and keeping an eye on the horizon. Typical island kid, taking the boat ride in stride. We grow them tough out here.
Looking east through one of the boat windows:
Looking east through the same window a few seconds later:
Freezing spray. Good times.
I went into a little more detail about the winter boat rides in an article I wrote two years ago for the Working Waterfront.
In a nutshell, here are the 10 tips to consider when taking a winter ferry ride to the mainland:
1. Know the local weather forecast for the day. If a storm is predicted for the afternoon, you could be stranded on the mainland by a canceled afternoon boat.

2. Dress warmly and in layers. You may not feel the wind at your house, but it is almost always blowing at one of the docks.

3. Leave enough extra time before the boat leaves to scrape the windshield of the vehicle you are using to get to the dock. Also enough time to shovel, if there has been snow. Then take that shovel and scraper with you to the mainland because you will probably need them there.

4. Have a plan B in case you can’t get your island car started. As in: find someone else to give you a ride, or leave time to walk to the dock.

5.  Make sure you have the phone number of the mailboat and of Ted, the faithful crew member, in case you are running late. In the winter they are usually very good about waiting the extra few minutes, if they know you are coming.

6. Before boarding the boat, hang on to the railing and watch your step as you make your way down the stairs on the side of the dock. They can be extremely icy. Especially if the tide is going out.

7. When the wind and choppy water cause the boat to smash against the dock, or go up and down precariously, say “yes” to the person who offers to take your bags and reaches to give you a steadying hand as you board the boat. No matter how spry you may be, the moving target of a slushy boat deck is an unstable step.

8. The inner benches of the Sea Queen‘s cabin are the most comfortable seats. The boat windows above the outer bench seats have been known to leak in a few places, dripping slightly, and causing a wet bottom to the passenger who is unaware. This is not such a worry when the outside temperature is cold enough to freeze the spray before it leaks through the window.

9. Don’t sit at the stern end of the middle benches if you are a woman who is pregnant or of the age to experience hot flashes. The heater on the boat is just below those seats. On a cold winter day it runs at full blast. Conversely, do sit in those seats if you tend to feel cold, or you have poor circulation, or your thyroid is not quite working up to par. The new heater works very well.

10. Before you board, check the demeanor of those who are getting off the boat. If these people are shaky, ashen-faced, rolling their eyes, or looking stoically frightened; they may have had a pretty rough ride. This is your chance to reconsider your own plans, and go off the island on a calmer day.


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How much is too much?

According to Rio Grande,  the price of silver today was $33.70 an ounce.  This is the highest price silver has been since 1980 when it dectupled from $5 an ounce to $48.70 an ounce. It could be good news for your portfolio if you’ve invested in silver, but as a metalsmith who prefers using silver clay to all other types of silver, this is very bad news.  (The only good news here is that I got to use the word “dectupled” for the first time in my life, and I’m a word person. How nice it would be if  the next time I use it would refer to my annual income!)

Whatever the going price of an ounce of silver, the price of an ounce of silver clay is about 56% higher. If I were to buy a 28 gram package of metal clay today, (that’s just about an ounce) it would cost  $51.94. And that’s with the discount I get from having taken a certification course from Rio Grande. Those who do not qualify for the discount would pay $59.94.

Here is what a 45 gram package of silver clay looks like. It’s the size I usually buy:

I bought some on January 27, for a workshop I’m taking next weekend and paid $75.57 for this walnut-sized piece of clay. If I ordered it today, I would have paid $85.42.  One year ago, the same package cost me $58.36. The prices of my jewelry on Etsy reflect what I paid a year ago for my silver. I am not going to raise the price on pieces I already have listed, but anything new will have to reflect the skyrocketing cost of silver. Especially if it’s made from Precious Metal Clay.

(Strike through made on an April 18 edit)

So, how much am I willing to pay for the silver clay I so love to work with?  $75 a package may just be my limit. Luckily I still have some sterling silver sheet from 6 or 7 years ago, when silver cost under $8 an ounce. At least copper is still pretty inexpensive. It’s time to rethink some of the designs I was planning to make with metal clay and come up with something different.

I’m fortunate that the first jewelry technique I ever learned was how to cut sheet with a jeweler’s saw. I still have the same saw frame I used over 30 years ago and it has served me well.

Hello old friends…..


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Sunday a.m. Portland, Sunday p.m. Islesford

We left our hotel this morning, headed in the opposite direction of home so we could go to Scratch Bakery in South Portland. If you are in Portland, it’s a quick 10 minute trip across the bridge to stop in at this famous local hangout. Do it! You won’t be sorry. Get there early if you want bagels. They are so popular that purchases are limited to 1 dozen, so more people get a chance to take them home. The breads are gorgeous, the cinnamon buns are light and crunchy like a croissant, and they stock some French butter that is delightful with its crunchy sea salt. And I haven’t even mentioned the sweet stuff. We didn’t expect to find our friend Al this morning, but there she was! Filling in for someone who was unable to come into work.

Tales were told of the “monster” bread.

Then back we went to Portland, bagels and cinnamon buns in hand,  for breakfast with Meg and Fritz, and Rick and Stevie. Stevie had made some of her delicious chicken terrine to have with breakfast. That’s artichoke in the middle, yum.

I shared with Meg what I had learned, so far, about sourdough bread. She made some dough yesterday, to rise overnight so we could bake it this morning. Al had said it would work fine to go straight from the fridge into the Dutch oven. The first loaf tasted delicious, but Meg and I both thought it could have risen a little more. The dough for the second loaf seemed pretty inactive when we first took it out of the bowl. So, we tried reshaping the dough and letting it rest a little longer in the basket. It was still pretty cold when Meg put it in the oven, but it looked like it had perked up from a little extra handling. Here’s how it looked when Meg took the lid off, before letting it cook more and brown up for another 20 minutes.

At this point Bruce and I had to leave in order pick up a few groceries and catch the 3:30 boat back to the island. I called to find out how the bread turned out, but was only able to leave a message. By the time I got home, Meg had sent this photo in an e-mail, happy to report the second loaf had come out well. I’ll say!

We were back on the island by 4. With friends coming for dinner, we headed over to the Co-op to pick up our version of fast food. Well, maybe not fast, but it’s one of the easiest dinners to cook and serve with fresh bread and a salad.



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Saturday in Portland

Bruce and I took the 8:30 boat off the island this morning to drive to Portland for an afternoon and evening with our son, Fritz, his girlfriend Meg, and her parents Stevie and Rick, who drove up from Wenham, Mass.  The guys took off for lunch and an afternoon of whatever they could find. They spent some time at Kelly’s store, Nomads, and had lunch in a Japanese restaurant.  Meanwhile, the gals had a sweet little lunch at Blue Spoon and then headed over to the Portland Museum of Art. I wasn’t especially fond of the “Rackstraw Downs: Onsite Paintings” exhibit, though the detail in all of the large oil paintings was exceptional. I think it was his subject matter, urban landscapes, that left me a little cold. (You  have to wonder what this guy’s parents were thinking when they named their son Rackstraw. Yikes!) The paintings were a nice background in my brain as I moved on to the photographs of Edward Weston, taken to illustrate Walt Whitman’s poem, “Leaves of Grass.” Many his photographs featured “man-altered” landscapes, but of an earlier time, the 1940’s. I liked the black and white photographs a lot.

The rest of the museum has a nice and varied permanent collection. The size is just right to see it all in a short afternoon.

This photo reminds me to look again at some of my favorite paintings by Susan Landor Keegin. Actually just about any painting of hers is my favorite, but I especially like her museum series.

We ended the day with dinner at Fore Street, where Fritz works. Tonight was his night off, and it was great to hear about his job in the midst of where he works. The chef sent out some special dishes for our table. One, a plate of cold seafood including poached lobster, raw scallops, sherry shocked shrimp, and some kind of fish tartar. The cold seafood was delicious. The raw scallops were a first for me, and most likely a repeat. Another special plate had fried sweetbreads and rabbit liver.

Yum? Well, I tried it. Not the liver, because I don’t really like liver. But I decided to see if I liked thymus gland any better. And….not so much. My arctic char was delicious, as was everyone else’s meal.  And the desserts were incredible too. A great night of fine food and fine company.

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