Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Rain Chain that Splashed

A while back a lady from Port Townsend asked me to makes a set of four matching hooks. She wanted to put two hanging baskets on either side of the entrance to her bungalow. She couldn't find anything in the local "big box" store that had any character. She was also very particular as to the length of each long hook.
It was a project that I knew I was going to have fun with and I was all over it. It was fairly wide open and really a hook is a very straight forward devise that easily succeeds. Conceptually I gravitated towards the idea of a vine. We used to have this native clematis vine that got into a holly tree and went crazy. It was ascetically beautiful but it was chocking the life out of the poor holly. We were forced to cut it back severely. But I still missed the way it looked. My new hook for the potted plants was to borrow that twisted vine look.
Trying to satisfy my customer...I made many of these vine hooks in various lengths and hung them one under the other suspended from the gutter on our house so I wouldn't forget to take them to the street fair the next Saturday. As soon as I hung the up and stepped back I realized that I had made a "rain chain".  The lady with the bungalow was delighted and took all the hooks I had made. 
Since this is the year that I decided that I was going to start keeping and using my own art in my own yard, I have made a bunch more of what we now call the "rain chain" link.  I have been using these "rain chain" links all over the yard. Really, they don't do anything that a bent coat hanger wouldn't do...but they sure do look better. I particularly like them chained together and hung under the Maple tree out back like a vine. It's like a vine that never dies and never grows. And a vine that never dies is cool but (since our adventure with the native clematis and the holly tree) a vine that never grows is way better.

I have since discovered that if you open up the hooks at the ends...the links will fit over the outside of the rain gutter. This makes them absolutely fantastic for positioning bird feeders and the like so they are squared up in front of a window and close up enough so you can watch
those little scamps playing around. You also get the added advantage of being able to easily move them around without putting a bunch of drill holes under your eaves.
So just about now you are asking yourself...this has been a nice little story ...but what about the "splash" that was promised in the title? Well Dungeness Studios is in Dungeness, Washington and we only get about 9 inches of rain a year. So this "rain chain" works great for us. But I wanted to test it out in heavier rain conditions before offering it to other people as a "rain chain". So I climbed out on the roof and using the water hose I ran a bunch of water into the gutter to see how it worked with a real "toad choker" of a rain. It unfortunately, was a splashy failure in heavy rain. But it still works great here in the "blue hole" rain shadow and I love them as decorative hooks. We are always finding another way to use them and would love to hear how you are using yours.  By the way, The finches love to sit on the different loops in the vine as they work their way down to their turn at the feeder.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The "Snail Army"

One of my very first projects at Dungeness Studios was getting our garden shaped up for it's first season. For those of us that garden we know that the first year can be really busy and entirely too short. I wanted to get the lay of the land before starting this protracted endeavor so one of our first local trips was to the Hoh Rain Forest. There we were introduced to one of the Olympic Peninsula's more infamous inhabitants...The snail and his giant cousin the slug. My goodness you could throw a saddle in one of these bad boys and ride them home in a pinch. Well I had met the enemy and they were mighty. So I started my research of them.

It turns out that there is a widely held belief that if a snail or slug tries to cross over a strip of raw copper will cause some sort of galvanic response and the critter will turn around and find another course to it's meal. Being a jeweler I certainly had a readily available supply of copper and being a member of the junior league of scientists...I still have the secret decoder ring to prove it...I set up an experiment. I put both slugs and snails on top of a stump I use for forming copper and surround them with a triangle of copper strips. I then got myself a stool and a pair of magnifying visors and sat down to make my empirical observations. I am here to tell you that they didn't stop and turn around...they did try to arch over the copper...they didn't even flinch in the slightest. They just slimed their way on over to the other side. So much for that "Old Wives Tale" as Kari would say on the Television show "Myth Busters" it was "totally busted".

Now as it turns out, my plan B was to be very interesting indeed. I decided that instead of engaging this multitude in battle...I would celebrate their tenacity. I started making a little pieces of "garden art" that would pay a small homage to these stalwart denizens of the damp and decaying. I turned to red hot steel, the anvil and the hammer. I began forging one steel snail after another making about a dozen before I started to slow down. They were flying off the anvil due by a large measure to the simplicity of the form. I was happily applying a drawing skill that we often used in undergraduate art school. The drill was called economy of line. Basically it means to try to convey visually a concept using as few lines as possible. And so the basic image of my garden snail was reduced to just two lines. One of those lines was to also be the stand that set it into the garden. As these individual units began to pile up in the garden I came to realize that I was building a "Snail Army". And just like in boot camp...these new recruits looked very confused. Some looking one way while others were looking behind them. Some were even cross eyed. Some looked like they were toiling their way uphill while others looked to be headed helter skelter like a run-a-way train down hill. Then it came to me, I had to be out of my mind. There was no way that I was going to build snails and voluntarily install them in my garden. There had to be some kind of return on the effort. As my buddy Eddie would say, "It ain't gonna happen". I needed something...some task that this little army could help me with...some positive contribution to the whole.

As you probably know from previous posts...we live in a Rain Shadow called the "blue hole". It can be a heart warming to come home from a long trip through two hours of rain in the south to find sunshine as we round the bend and return to cabin 82. But only 9 inches of rain per year also means you have to be prepared for watering. "Taadaa" I'll teach these little devils to hold the water hose for me. Okay...I realize that holding a water hose is not exactly highly skilled labor but let's face it...they are snails. There's not a lot up there to work with. A few of the solders in the "Snail Army" picked up on this (now mandatory) skill and soon the entire corps was in step so to speak. Now we gardeners know there is a great multitude of sundry devises for watering a lawn or garden, but where the "Snail Army" has the strategist advantage is small jobs. Maybe you have a newly transplanted tree that needs watering in or just a tiny bit of weeding in your strawberry patch could use some softening, the "Snail Army" stands ever at the ready. Just hand them a hose and sit back with your glass of iced tea and wait.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

the beach rocks...three stone necklace

Ever since we started making the distinctive rings in this series, I have wanted to do a five stone necklace in the same style. I started building the necklace on Tuesday and quickly realized that it was going to be too heavy for what I was wanting. So the three stone necklace came to be.

It has all the smooth clean and tailor lines that were in the rings. I added a toggle catch to give it the versatility of being worn in two different lengths. I really like the feels like a substantial piece of jewelry without being a burden to wear. The colors...which may not show up all that well in this presentation, are a medium black beach rock in the center with very dark green rocks on either side.
I still want to make a five element necklace using beach occurred to me while building the three unit piece that I could make some hollow "rocks" out of silver to use as spacers and help keep the weight down. I have some ideas about a more outrageous looking chain as well. I can hardly wait to see the next generation in this series.

the beach rocks

the beach rocks
Although I have been lucky enough to receive many accolades and awards during my professional career as a jewelry designer, I was nearly always fulfilling a commission and therefore the aesthetical concerns of my client. Now that I have relocated to the great NorthWest I am pursuing my own images for the first time since graduate school…and loving my craft with a renewed spirit.

deep currents

deep currents
This was inspired by the way the river's currents swirl around the rocks that sit on the bed of the river.

in the kelp bed

in the kelp bed
At times I let my mind wander to what is happening the depths of the kelp beds. I image how the cold waters waft and drift along. I like to think about the serenity of life in the kelp beds.

two six rings

two six rings
We called these rings "six ring" because when you see then from the profile...they reminded us of the number six.