Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Routine of the Head

All living things are one way or another creatures of habit.

Plants expect sunlight followed by darkness, appropriate water and temperatures, lack of pests, and then they thrive.

My cats earnestly desire to be fed upon waking and a snack sometime around bedtime, and protest loudly if this is not forthcoming.

Not being a trust fund baby, I probably don't lead a life directed purely by whim, but I travel when I can, try new foods at the drop of a hat and try to keep an open mind when my routine is altered without my permission.

It sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud and even though it's more of an over-simplification than an exaggeration, I live to make stuff. Obviously not just any stuff - for that all I'd need is a glue gun and left-over crap from a daycare centre, but my internal well-being is fuelled by the satisfaction of the urge to work through the design process, all the way from "I need to be doing something with my hands" to the germ of an idea, the sketching out of the plan, the working and reworking and refining, to the first version (which may well also be the final version but often isn't). This is what thrills me, wakes me up, engages me to the exclusion of the awareness of the passage of time or the needs of the vessel wherein I reside.

When my little world changes its axis of rotation or faces a different sun or detours to a different elliptical path, it perturbs my bliss and interrupts the gears in my head that take me to the place where inspiration can strike and ideas can germinate and quicken and I'm not entirely comfortable. The kumihimo necklaces and the clothes I sew are a placebo, a panacea because they don't really scratch that itch but they soothe it slightly, briefly - but absent something wonderful to distract me completely, I feel out-of-kilter until I get back to my spot.

I've been back from my trip for a little over a week and a half. Last weekend was a wash in terms of getting my flow back leaving me vaguely unsettled this past week. I'm a little unhappy when a weekend isn't productive.

I'm back now though.

My ideal weekend is one in which I don't have too many plans, leaving me enough unstructured time to   relax into being receptive to inspiration (as best I can explain it). Too much going on (people, plans, obligations) and unless I already have a plan, nothing much is going to happen, creativity-wise.
First I made a rhombic dodecahedron. It seemed like a good idea and it's an interesting shape with a nice flat back and front, though right now I'm not sure where I want to go with it, so I'll let it percolate. This is the second version, by the way - I omitted the seed beads in the first version and it didn't work at all (the beads jostled each other too much).

Then I decided that I needed to make a beaded shape that was fat at each end and thinner in the middle. I thought it might be fun to suspend it via a beaded ring around the waist, allowing it to rotate freely.
The first version is the part towards the back of the picture using all size 11 seed beads which made it too clumsy and shapeless, so in the second version (the front of the picture) I tried it with smaller beads with some success (though clearly the colour was not considered at all; I grabbed semi-randomly). The magatamas also don't work and the waist isn't defined enough.
The third version is pretty close, but I still couldn't get the waist right though the bulbous ends with the crystals seem fine (the far end had to be tweaked to get the near end, just slightly).

I wanted something of an hourglass shape with the additional requirement that it be rather stiff, holding its shape well, either as an innate property of the stitch used, or via embellishment. The solution in this version is inadequate, and what the photo doesn't show is that the slenderest part of the waist is horrible: it's not smooth and even and it sort of crumples in on itself and Just Won't Do.

I spent quite a bit of time just on the waist - I cut up one or two attempts that just weren't working until I had a satisfactory solution.
I really should have photographed it as I was stitching it - as usual I photographed each step of an earlier version and by the time I got to this version I was in too much of a hurry because about five hours had passed and I hadn't left my work area to attend to things such as eating or stretching. So I'll need to make another one.
I really don't mind though.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

More Mathiness

OK so the focus on the picture is off, not sure why my camera thought the back of the curve was more important so there you have it: machines are not stupid but sometimes the people who write the software slip up.

Oh, the humanity.

Anyway, it's a pendant which is a möebius strip formed into a figure eight, and then folded one half over the other, and connected with elongated bicone beads, although that's not how I made it. Because of its half-twisty nature, all the bicone beads are attached to the same edge of the strip of seed beading; it's the nature of the möebius.
I have ideas for More Fun With a Möebius Strip which I may or may not get to because time.

Below is what was to be the second part of a three-part design.
It turned out a bit small (somewhat smaller than the penny; don't you just love perspective?), so it might just be the first part of a two-parter.
In case you can't tell (yeah, less than ideal pictures, I know) it's a sphere with an equator and lines of longitude at the Prime Meridian, the International Date Line, and midway between on both sides. My plan was for it to contain a beaded bead, but it's outside dimensions are barely larger than the beaded bead in question (let alone its capacity), and so let's just say it's a proof of concept, the concept being a rigid self-supporting hollow object such as you see. I'm satisfied that it will scale up too.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fun with Math

I've been spending ages looking at pictures of super-cool-geeky-mathy things made on 3D printers, and I'm all inspired.  I want to make ALL THOSE THINGS (almost) out of beads, but the majority are either way too complex or else I've already made a gajillion icosahedra or dodecahedra or cubes or octacubes but it turns out I'd never made a hypercube.
Until now.

It's actually a bit wonkus, though you can't really tell. It was fine until I stabilized and stiffened it with the groups of three large beads in each corner and the shiny beads between the orange beads along the edges, so now the middle cube is squished and crooked.

Still: a hypercube, or more precisely, a three-dimensional rendering of a four-dimensional object.

I have a couple ideas concerning moebius strips and tetrahedra (better than the simple ones I've made before) and cinquefoils and a couple more shapes whose names I don't remember but which I've sketched out.  They may end up awful, but I almost don't care as I totally love being jazzed like this!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I Sewed, That's What

There's something about traveling halfway across the world on an extremely long Tuesday (fifteen hours on top of the usual twenty-four) and then being at work for the remaining three days of the week.

It's doable, but I wouldn't recommend it.

I was functional and I didn't fall asleep at work (though during one extremely boring and entry-level piece of training for Those Who Have No Logic I really wanted to) and even though I was productive enough at work, at home I wasn't.

I'm not sure what I did last week actually.

Over the weekend I made a shirt. Jacket. Shirt. Top.
Moderately successful. The original pattern had humungous shoulder pads so I had to redraft the armholes and I altered the collar but wish I'd removed it or else entirely changed the neckline and I'm guessing that when I made this pattern the time before I was afraid it might be too tight so the seams must have been smaller because this one is snugger (but not snug. It's comfortable enough) than the one in my closet.

A bit too short though.

That would have been an easy fix, she said, eyeing the leftover fabric.

So on the plus side, sewing doesn't hurt my hands unless I have to cut something hard with scissors. I might be swinging back into Moderately Enthused About Sewing, especially because the bag was so successful, successful enough that after the vacation I didn't throw it on the pile of Things That Need Attention.

Also on the plus side, my sewing fabric stash would allow me to complete en entire (if slightly limited and heavy on the outerwear) winter wardrobe if the need arose.

I also made a few pairs of earrings which (oh, the horror) I forgot to photograph before taking them over to Amy for her sale - I sold one or two of the new pairs I think; the others are still on the board, safely folded away from cats.

Friday, October 10, 2014


I was away and now Im back and I started blogging using Blogsy on the iPad and it kept crashing so here I am with a week of whatever.
It was my brother's fiftieth birthday this past weekend - or to be more precise, his birthday party; his birthday was a few weeks ago. He had a crazy over-the-top themed costume party which seemed like a good excuse for a visit.
He lives in the Atherton Tablelands, not quite in the middle of nowhere, but close. The property is about four acres and is bounded on three sides by a curving river with platypus (so I'm told; I've not been able to verify this personally) and turtles (I saw one this morning).
Across the river one neighbour has cows:
And the other has sheep:

It also hosts a plethora of avian life, fowl both domesticated (chickens and ducks) as well as not (guinea fowl, wild turkeys and swamp hens), and the usual complement of cockatoos, finches, magpies and other flying things unknown to me.
Also metal birds.
The thing that astonishes me though is the abundance of fruiting trees, some familiar, like bananas and mulberries:

And guavas (sadly not even close to ripe):
Some completely unfamiliar like jabuticabas which grow on the trunk of the tree instead of at the ends of the branches:
As we were running an errand yesterday, my brother stopped the car at the end of the driveway, grabbed his hat and attacked the tree.
They have a white, creamy, mildly sweet inside, and the skin is delightfully tart and chewy.
There are also chocolate fruit; yes, really. Supposedly you add cocoa powder and vanilla or cinnamon and mix it up and I'm really hoping that at least one is ripe enough to eat before I leave (sadly none was) because, I mean: CHOCOLATE FRUIT for crying out loud. 
Also papaya and litchees and oranges and pink grapefruit (I accidentally ate one this morning: I squeezed it to see if it was ripe and it fell off in my hand so what was I supposed to do?) and lemons and limes and a knobby thing the name of which I can't remember and something that almost looked like plums.
Oh yes, the beading: I started a kumihimo rope at the airport waiting for the first leg of my flight and finished off the clasp before dinner yesterday.
Party preparations are underway. It's pretty intense so far.
I wrote the above before I found out I couldn't publish anything to the blog. The rest was cobbled together this evening. 
The party was the most insane over-the-top extravaganza ever; it would be amazing anywhere but in the Tablelands, not exactly the heart of wild and crazy, it's something they will be talking about for a long, long time.
My brother really went all-out and hired a party planner, so we just watched the tent go up, the lighted dance-floor go down, the caterer's station arranged, and the clean-up crew the next morning.
The theme of the costumes was Gangsters and Molls through the Ages, and we saw everything from your traditional speakeasy gangster with double-breasted pinstripe suit and spats 
to Atilla the Hun, Alex from a Clockwork Orange, 
Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction, a failed gangster in striped prison garb (whose wife in real life is a prison officer), Catwoman, Malificent, Scarface (I thought he was Elvis until I saw the very realistic scar), Cruella deVille, JFK and Jackie (I guess the Australians think they were gangsters; I wasn't there to judge) and others I'm sure I can't remember.
I was a gangster rapper. You can't really tell, but the jeans are colossal and belted, hung as low as possible without actually falling off.
 I really should have taken off my rings.
I had a blast with the tattoos. My favourite was a tribal-style medallion at the back of my neck that looks a little like a shuriken (Japanese round throwing blade).
The decor, entertainment (more below) and food theme was Moroccan. 
They had a huge tent draped with vaguely Oriental fabrics, hookahs, opulent cushioned seating, coloured glass-and-metal lanterns to set the scene. The food included lamb koftas and hummus and spiced lamb with chickpeas and almonds and beef kebabs and dates and things I didn't get to taste. There was a lot of alcohol. 
There was a pole dancer, 
a fortune teller (who told my sister-in-law, the wife of the birthday boy that her relationship would be over in two months, that she would lose the kids, and would have "no recourse". My sister-in-law was not happy), 
fire dancers, burlesque dancers, a blow-up bouncy castle thing, a rather good cover band, a mechanical bull and a DJ. There was still music playing when I woke up the next morning. 
I also reconnected with a friend from Junior School (in the old country this encompassed the first seven years of school) but drifted apart in High School. We hadn't seen each other in (urgh) almost thirty-seven years. Her husband took over my brother's job when he got tired of superintending and went back to doctoring - small world.
One of the guests started making frozen daiquiris some time after midnight. He cleaned out every last piece of fruit, fresh as well as frozen, two pounds of brown sugar and a few bottles of whatever the alcoholic base for daiquiris is, to make four batches in all. I had only strawberry, but  the prison officer sampled them all. She was very unhappy for the next two days.
Most people camped down by the river and straggled in for breakfast, cooked by a chef who wasn't at the party. Few who were, were in a fit state to cook.
Crazy eyes in the suspenders was the Daiquiri Chef. 
You wouldn't imagine that the perfectly respectable-seeming guy in the black pants sitting next to him had been on the stripper pole the night before, showing us more flesh than the actual professional did (to be fair she didn't strip). I'd be hard-pressed to do any sort of acrobatics while climbing and suspending myself from a stripper pole while sober; he managed a credible performance including the partial removal of some garments while very, very intoxicated. In truth it was perhaps more entertaining than the actual pole dancing.
At some point during my stay I finished another kumihimo necklace.
The following evening I staked out the river and managed to catch a few glimpses of a platypus. Or perhaps a few of them, I couldn't tell. They're pretty shy and way too quick for me to get pictures.
I made another kumihimo necklace on the flights home and finished off the clasp a couple of hours ago.
The bag I made before I left worked out as planned. No breakages, no floppiness, no pockets too small for comfort (though perhaps I needed more pockets and the gusset could have been wider but those are minor quibbles). Third time as they say is indeed a charm.

Don't ask me how I'm going to manage at work tomorrow though.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Learning From Mistakes

Or not, as the case may be. I'll let you know in a couple of weeks or so.

Those who have been paying attention will remember that I made a backpack for my trip to Eastern Europe in 2012.

I planned it carefully but apparently not carefully enough because even though I made a pocket for the iPad, it was EXACTLY the right size which made it a tight fit for quick removal or insertion. Also the strapping I bought and carefully heat-sealed to prevent fraying turned out to be more than the backpack fabric (ultrasude) could handle and wore a hole by the end of the trip.

It's fixable, and it's in the pile of things it would be a good idea to fix but which in reality there's a very strong chance I never will.

Then when I went to Australia (as it turns out, to avoid the Polar Vortex) I made another bag which was more generous in its proportions and replete with all manner of pockets. I carefully chose a slipper lining fabric and it was going to be perfect, I tell you.

It was too big and floppy and the lining was black so I couldn't see anything inside it and besides it was so slippery and flimsy that you couldn't even tell what was pocket and what was not in the darkness of the interior so it turned out that it too was less than ideal. And then the handle broke on the way home when it was overstuffed due to stupid airline regulations in Australia limiting carry-on to seven and a half kilograms per bag (that's not much at all) which forced me to check my wheeled carry-on because I was carrying a painting which counted for one of my two items.

Loved the fabric though.

Decided to save it.

This one has an iPad pocket which is the right side with a little room to spare. The lining is medium purple, not black. The end of the strap is zig-zagged up the wazoo (no hard melted nylon!) and there's plastic canvas for stiffening. It doesn't have quite as many pockets as the last one, but I have seventy-leven little zippered bags that will serve perfectly well.

I also had to make a new pendant. Sharp eyes will notice a similarity to the simple little earrings from a week or two ago - I joined six of them, changing some of the beads to what my local bead store has in stock and adding a rivoli.

I'm not dissatisfied.
 Here's the first noodle (a series of experiments to see what's decent) with the earring (sans ear wire) for comparison. I really wanted to use mini-daggers but they were ugly no matter what I tried.
 The next one had a different arrangement of beads around the rivoli which I didn't like at all. I also tried to start it from the centre but that turned out to not be a very good idea (which you can't tell from the picture) so by the time I made the blue one, I pretty much had figured out.
 I didn't show you this one, did I? I finished it last week but apparently forgot to post a picture.
I don't have official or formal notification, but Bead & Button is going to be super-busy for me; I'm pretty psyched! My time in Milwaukee will be more efficient too with no wasted days between classes like the past one. I don't know exactly which classes I'm teaching though...