October 2nd, 2015

Agave Leaves

Current State of Many Agave Leaves

Top of the Agave

Top of the Agave Has a Tilt

Agave Seed Pod

Inside of an Agave Seed Pod

There are loads of critters living on and around the agave. The spider in the following photo has a huge web between sections of the agave. When the spider saw me, it tucked in its legs. When I moved in for a closer look, it skittered to its hiding space among some seed pods.

Agave and Spider

Spider Living in Agave

Bird of Paradise Seeds: Planting Day

September 19th, 2015

Seeds Poured Into Screen

Seeds Poured Into Screen

Removed Orange Spongy Cover

Removed Orange Spongy Cover

Seeds and Removed Orange Spongy Cover

Seeds and Removed Orange Spongy Cover

Removed Orange Cover Left to Dry

Removed Orange Spongy Cover Left to Dry

Seeds Prior to Rinsing

Seeds Prior to Rinsing

Rinsing the Seeds

Rinsing the Seeds

Scarred Seeds with a File

Scarred Seeds with a File

Planted 36 Seeds in Cactus Mix

Planted 36 Seeds in Cactus Mix

Used a clothes pin to label the plantings because the blue jays living in my garden like to remove any type of easily pulled out stick label.

Planted the remaining 25 seeds directly into the garden.

Now I wait.

Slat Book in Progress

September 17th, 2015

I snagged some Pandorea jasminoides seed pods from a friend’s garden. They are woody and beautiful.


Open Pod

Open Pod Exposing Seeds

Pod Interior

Pod, Seeds Removed, With Interior Part

The pods have been used in my Change series.

Change Series

I kept the interior bits and seeds for possible future use.

Interior Bits


Curious if the seeds were viable, so I planted a few–


I kept thinking about the interior bits. How could I use them? Recently ran across reference to slat books in one of my sketch books.

So, I selected the bits with the most interesting light lines.


The plan is to stitch a letter on each bit, then stitch them together. I had thought about using Ogham or A-tom-tom code, but for various reasons they didn’t feel right. Instead I made a stitch pattern based on Morse code. I actually made three versions. This is the phrase: Long forgotten memory.

Code for Long Forgotten Memory

For the slat book, I am deciding between the phrases, link with the past and accustomed to being invisible. Probably will use bamboo cord or Egyptian cotton thread for the stitch work.

When I quickly searched for the two types of code that I decided not use, I realized that both times I hit Omniglot, the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages. It is a great site with loads of information.

Strip or Slat books were made of a variety of material–bamboo, bark, and palm leaves. The material was cut into slats. The slats were either bound together or holes were made and cord was threaded through binding the slats together.

Information about the history of books and slat books can be found on the
Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin website.

Slat Book

Information on Horizontal and Vertical Writing in East Asian Scripts can be found on Wikipedia.

Writing in vertical columns from right to left facilitated writing with a brush in the right hand while continually unrolling the sheet of paper or scroll with the left.

A brief description about slat books and a nice image can be found on Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord’s website

Slat Book

Information on early Chinese inscriptions can be found on Jeremy Norman’s website

Not Candy Corn–Bird of Paradise Seeds

September 16th, 2015

Today I changed the seed water for the second time. The orange spongy fiber has increased in size. There is an odor that is quite similar to the ocean.

Bird of Paradise Seeds

Bird of Paradise Seeds Day 1

Bird of Paradise Seeds

Bird of Paradise Seeds Second Water Change

Another water change, remove the orange fiber, scar the seeds, plant, and wait.

A Nice Surprise–Bird of Paradise Seeds

September 14th, 2015

I have two studio spaces: one in the house for fairly clean work, and one in the garage for messy work. I keep most of my plant cuttings in the garage.

Recently, I took some cuttings from a giant bird of paradise. I thought it would be fun to remove all of the interior bits and do some stitch work on the remaining vessel.

Bird of Paradise Cuttings

They have been drying for nearly a month. Today I found the seed pods dried, open, and gorgeous seeds were visible.

Bird of Paradise Seeds

Nature has many colorful surprises. The orange covering on the seeds feels a bit spongy.

I was curious if I could have success planting the seeds. I read several articles and it seems easy peasy. Pop the seeds in water for two to three days. Change water daily. Then drain, remove all of the orange fiber, dry, and scar the seeds. Pop them in some soil and keep moist. Maybe in a month of so there might be seedlings.

So, I removed all of the seeds and placed them in a jar.

Bird of Paradise Seeds

Empty Seed Pods

The empty seeds pods are lovely.

Seeds in Water

Seeds in water day one.

Eroded Contours

September 2nd, 2015

Some 20 plus years back I made a series titled, Eroded Contours. It was a process oriented series. The pieces were meant to be hung on the wall, but one of the pieces found a home in my garden.

Eroded Contours

The Process–

1. Made a plaster mold of a large philodendron leaf. Used it dry as a press mold for a mid-range stoneware body. Pulled several pieces. Fired them in a high bisque, cone 5. Broke them into pieces.

2. Used the same plaster mold wet to pull waxes.

3. Inserted some of the broken ceramic pieces into the waxes keeping in mind that the ceramic pieces could shift when the wax burns out.

4. Gated, then invested the lot.

5. Sent the investments through the burnout.

Potential problems–
1. Would there be a shift in the position of the ceramic pieces as the wax burned out?
2. What would happen to the ceramic pieces when hit with molten bronze?
3. What would happen when the bronze and ceramic pieces cool?
4. What would happen to the ceramic pieces embedded in bronze during the breakout?

Everything went quite well. Better than anticipated. Some of the fired ceramic pieces did fracture. A few bits were lost in the process.

When the fracture was more than I wanted, I mixed up a batch of Egyptian Paste to use as a filer. The plan was to glaze and fire the lot, so the addition of a cone 016 paste was compatible with the glaze temperature.

This is how the piece looked when removed from the garden. The pieces are long and quite narrow so a bit difficult to get a decent image.

Eroded Contours

The majority of the piece is bronze. The whitish areas stained with rust from the oxidized wire. I had forgotten that some of the pieces also had wire. The wire was bound on prior to the glaze fire. Firing the wire made it a bit fragile and after years in the garden, some of the wire was broken and missing.

I was curious if the rust stain was permanent, so I washed the piece with a solution of water and epsom salt.

Washed Piece

Washed Detail 1

Washed Detail 2

Some of the wire has vanished, but left its mark.

Washed Detail 3

This is how the piece looks after it dried overnight.


This is the detail of another piece in the series–

Blue Piece Detail

This bronze vessel has been moved around in my garden several times. Can’t quite figure out where to put it. It was constructed of palm cuttings and jute twine. Waxed the twine, then gated and invested the piece.

Bronze Vessel

There is always the possibility when doing a direct burn-out that some of the material will not burn-out completely or some ash will remain and prevent a good pour.

After the pour and break-out, a low-fire glaze was applied. Then the piece was fired to cone 015.

These are a few of the photos that I took the day of the Eroded Contours pour and break-out. A chain was used to pull the investments from the pit. And a fork lift was used to remove them from the foundry.

The length of the largest piece was 4.5′.







Powdery Mildew

August 28th, 2015

A month ago I bought a begonia boliviensis. Very beautiful plant. I had’t even popped it in the ground yet, when I noticed the flowers were dropping. According to what I read that is not uncommon.


Then I noticed powdery mildew. A small bit of powdery mildew can be seen in the upper most leaf. I couldn’t remember how to treat it, so I googled it. Everything I read stated that the plant should be destroyed.

I contacted a friend and he suggested:

“…a mixture of 8oz isopropyl alcohol (70%), 8oz water, 1 Tbsp Dr. Bronners Peppermint castille soap. It works really well on arthropod pests but also has a slight fungicidal effect. Fairly non-toxic to boot.”

I do love peppermint soap, so I gave it a try. Shortly after the application all of the leaves dropped.

This week I started to feel a bit positive about saving the plant. There are a few new leaves.

Begonia after treatment

The leaves appear to be healthy and clear of powdery mildew. Now I wait.

The Agave Today–August 28, 2015

August 28th, 2015


This is How the Agave Looks Today.

Agave Pod Litter

Agave Pod Litter

Agave Seeds

The seed pod was not mature, but I took a look inside.

Plant Mystery–What Is It?

August 20th, 2015

A few nights ago my nephew sent images of a plant that he saw on a walk in Hawaii.

Foliage and Flowers

Foliage and Flowers



Seeds and Silk

Seeds and Silk

I thought that it might be in the milkweed family, but most of the Asclepias pods that I have seen have a nubby texture.

I sent my nephew an email with my thoughts. Later I received an email from his mother and she thought it was similar to the silk cotton tree, Kapok. I checked out her guess, and noticed there were several differences.

So, I sent an email to my friend who works at the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley. And this is what he wrote–

Calotropis procera (formerly Asclepias…good call). The Kapok tree (either Ceiba pentandra or Ceiba speciosa or [Chorisa speciosa]) is quite a robust tree which has prominent black spines on the trunk, even when young.

I googled Calotropis and found this great picture to confirm the mystery plant’s identity.


Mystery solved!

Thanks, Bryan.

Sticks and Stones Finally Done

August 10th, 2015

I spent several months deciding how to complete this piece. Attempted several borders, finally decided to make a coco fiber border. Coco fiber is pretty, but it is sharp and prickly.


The piece has bundles of bound twigs used in place of Morse Code. The dots are bound to the hardware cloth vertically, and the dashes are bound horizontally. Each 4×4 square block represents one letter. And each block has a stone.

The message in the piece is: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?

Yep, it does have a question mark in the code.


The piece has two layers of hardware cloth and a layer of coco fiber between.

I have included an image of the back of the piece. Even though the back can’t be seen, it still exists. Also the back piece of hardware cloth has ready made hangers.


Detail of sketch showing the code and a detail of the front of the piece.

Sketch Detail

Front Detail

The finished piece is 32.5″ x 16.75″ x 2″.
Materials List: hardware cloth, stones, coco fiber, cotton fabric, wool, hemp, stones, and starch.

I am seriously considering including the materials and code layout in a small cotton pouch attached to the back for easy access.

As for signing the piece, I will use some type of stitch work. Here are some examples of previous signatures.


I have also used stitched perforated discs. The code starts from the left and spirals in. The code is in brown and tan. The rest is spacers and fillers.


They are rather nice because they are about the size of a quarter. There are a few patterns that can be used. This attempt was to be a bit willy nilly.

Back to Sticks and Stones–I need to sign it and hang it.

Miscellaneous information–the twigs are from a birch tree. Some believe that birch represents health, wisdom, and safety.

I select materials for what they bring to the work visually, but also culturally. Sometimes a material is selected because it has a connection to my personal history.

Does anyone need to know that when viewing the work? Probably not. Will knowing all of my reasons for making a work and selecting materials change how a work is viewed? Maybe…