Sunday, June 21, 2009

Handcrafted Holidays: Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father’s Day!

To all the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day! Now don’t say we never gave you anything : ) . We already called both our fathers and should see them within the next month or so, traffic permitting (one’s a trucker). The other one we should see near our next show, and his birthday is coming up. Our family is one that lumps celebration occasions together: We’re efficient! So, that will be coming soon, as we also don’t feel the pressures of society to celebrate all at once like the masses…Conformists… Hallmark didn’t win this round :P Oh, and now that we’re into Etsy we have access to all kinds of handmade wonderful cards. I’ll be stocking up soon in time for the birthday/Christmas rush.

Well, today is more or less for resting, as we got lots of yardwork done yesterday and some great glass pieces that included some wicked flowers and a cute flower brooch. It’s summer, so yard-inspired glass is where it’s at. The apricots are juicy and delicious, and the plums are not far behind. Peaches, well I think those don’t usually ripen till July anyway, but we’re waiting with baited jam jars… Paul made some great medium salsa the other day, but we went through 40 ounces of that in a heartbeat (a week), so now if I want to make enchiladas I’d better whip up a batch of my own. Again, have a great Father’s day and visit Etsy for handmade cards to express how thoughtful you can be that won’t be mass-produced as 50,000 other dads are reading the same card… lol. Here are some of my favorite shops for cards so you have options for the next holiday:

All Handcrafted Goodies, Too:
Ideadesigns Lovely Cards, Invites and Scrapbooking Bits
Freedom To Express Beautiful Photo Cards
Farouche Personalized Cards, Tags, and Notes

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Peaches! Oh the glorious peach tree… Every year since 2004, our peach tree has been a strong producer that brightens up the whole garden. The jasmine and lilies can be languishing under unruly tangles of weeds and that peach tree will still be going strong, with a load of delicious freestone fruit. They’re fantastic for eating right off the tree, but not the best peach variety for pies (though we’ve made them anyway), because they are very soft and juicy. They do lend themselves very well to jam, however, as our friends and neighbors can attest. Sweet, sweet peach tree.

Plums… Yes the plum tree has also been there all along, through rainy seasons and dry spells, through my bleeding heart sympathy days that didn’t allow Paul to cut it back much that first year or two before I finally agreed it was best for the tre… It’s stood by us, and the peach tree. This year there isn’t much fruit (we may have thinned it out a little too well) but the ones that are on it are looking BIG and the first one to be eaten so far was delicious. Its little sister the Pluot tree is still doing very well too, with a bigger load than any tree in the yard in only its second year. This 60+ year old soil is just the bees knees ;)

Apricots – see the buggers are already trying to get to them! We love the birds, but come on, fruit season only comes once a year for us. Paul suggested a seed-filled decoy at the far end of the yard, and we might just do that. Foil strips are looking good, mylar perhaps? I’m told something that is reflective and flaps in the breeze will scare off birds. These are our garden's very first avocadoes ever! The photo that follows is representative of what happened to ALL of the nectarines…*Sigh.* There’s always next year. Nectarines :(

A jalapeno just tempting me…to make it a jalapeno on-a-stick! Destined for yummy salsa soon…

There were a few critters about in the garden, but that's for another blog post, maybe next time?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Why Hard Glass?

Well, the weather outside is delightful... And I figure, why not take a moment to discuss the glorious benefits of hard glass?

This is prompted by the concerns of customers that our glass pendants are fragile. Well... Ours are actually quite strong, and can withstand a good amount of abuse, just short of dropping them onto a hard surface at some distance :) Paul and I perform strength tests on our glass designs before we sell them, because we have nieces and want to be sure our designs are safe. Most of my new designs are worn overnight to ensure they are not carelessly broken easily. Aside from a dragonfly wing jabbing into my neck(and not breaking, mind you), I’ve been very successful with this :)

I think people are just so used to the cheap imports that aren’t properly formed and annealed. This is a crucial step, and something to consider when you buy handcrafted local art glass vs. manufactured mass-produced imported glass. Yes, it’s cheap, but you really do get what you pay for. Our glass art is made to last, not the art equivalent of a single-use camera :)

Additionally, we use borosilicate glass in our Shepherd Creations (had to add that at some point, right?), which is more durable than “soft” glass. Glass itself is a fantastic medium capable of transforming into sculpture, beads, pendants, vases, just so many options in glassworking! Soft glass is created in so many more colors, but it’s much more sensitive to rapid heating and cooling, and you pay for it in the way of flying bits of hot glass when you treat it the wrong way. Boro is sooo much more easygoing, forgiving, and really quite durable. It’s what your traditional baking dishes are made of, and you know those don’t always break when you drop them either.

Which is melted with a furnace? The primary difference that gets folks confused is that boro glass is most commonly melted using a torch, at high temperatures around and upwards of 2,000 Fahrenheit. Soft glass, on the other hand, can be melted very easily at much lower temperatures, closer to 1,100 F. Soft glass is the kind used to make large vases and many of the chandelier sculptures you will see in Las Vegas, and it’s often done using a large propane or natural gas furnace. Its low temperature allows you to use just one gas, instead of needing oxygen to help it burn hotter like torchwork.

Soft glass can be used both with a torch and in a furnace, though the torch requires a much smaller flame to melt soft glass than to melt borosilicate glass. Flame work done at a torch also goes into the kiln for annealing, and soft glass is very susceptible to stress fractures due to rapid disproportionate cooling. Glasswork done on a torch needs to be kept warm throughout to avoid creating cooler gradients, and this applies to all kinds of glass, both soft and hard. Soft glass is often melted in pots and then kept hot and remelted while spinning in a furnace, then shaped and cooled, then annealed like borosilicate, just at lower temperatures. There are many types of glass; from super-soft leaded glass you can almost melt with a candle, to the hard glass we use that requires propane and oxygen both to achieve a clean super hot flame. We prefer to use a torch because we are in love with borosilicate. Can you tell?

This is meant to be a brief blog post on how I feel about boro on a late Monday night. I may be even more excited about it when I’m more awake, but we’ll save that for another time. Thanks for reading my blog, and post some comments sometime, won’t you?

Friday, June 5, 2009

June is here!

Summer is on the way, yay! I know, it will soon be too hot for glass or hiking, but it's still nice to have seasons in California. Plus, when it's sweltering outside to the point that even sweat evaporates before it can drip down, we will appreciate how wonderful the winter will be again. Thankfulness, ah yes it is a good thing :)

Since it's such nice weather right now, we went for a mountain bike ride. It was wonderful exercise, but I am not as skilled a rider and still use my front break primarily... Which is apparently a bad thing going downhill? It is, and I have the bruise to prove it! After dusting off and continuing the journey, all was well and we arrived back home safely, much more tired but glad to be getting into shape. We are now looking forward to enjoying the good weather while it lasts, then participating in the Christmas in July fundraiser in Oceanside. I'll post more once we know, and other summer ramblings, so thanks for reading and see you next time!