A Nice Surprise–A New Addition to My Brugmansia Collection

October 15th, 2014

I have been so busy working on the data base for our software company that I have not had much studio time or time for gardening.

Today we found a surprise in the yard. Our neighbor who is a garden designer, left some large Brugmansia cuttings. My neighbor knows that I collect Brugs. And I am sure knew how excited I would be to have a new addition to my collection.

This is an image of the flowers that were on the cuttings.

New Brug Flowers

Many of my Brugs were grown from seed. When I started my collection it was sometimes difficult to find Brugs. Now it is not uncommon to find potted Brugs at neighborhood garden centers.

I love Brugs because they have large beautiful flowers that smell delicious in the morning and in the evening.

Brugmansia Image

White Brugmansia Image

I also grow Datura. The flowers are lovely and smell equally delicious.

Datura White and Purple Image

Datura Purple Image

Both Brugs and Datura are poisonous and I use bits in my work. This is one of my poison goblets. All parts are made of poisonous plants. The bowl of the goblet was made by laying dampened flower petals in a wax mold.

Datura Goblet

Rooting Tips


Brugmansia Growers International

My favorite places to purchase Brugmansia and Datura seeds–


Select Seeds

Material to Identify

September 15th, 2014

While looking through my clay materials I ran across this jar.

Jar of Material

The jar is not labeled.

Open Jar of Material

So what is it?

In 1996 I was teaching at a community college in California. I arrived one evening to find a hall filled with bags and jars of materials. Apparently someone donated them not knowing that it was necessary to have an MSDS for each. There was all sorts of toxic stuff, lead and the like, and this jar. I brought it home and put it in a box until this weekend.

The material looked vaguely familiar, but couldn’t place it.


The unidentified material next to granular rutile. The unidentified is on the left, granular rutile is on the right.

And a closer look at each–

Unknown Material

Granular Rutile

I sent images to an artist friend who worked for a clay company for several years. He suggested it might be Ilmenite. Rather than looking through Conrad, I googled Ilmenite and found this on Wikipedia

Ilmenite is the titanium-iron oxide mineral with the idealized formula FeTiO3. It is a weakly magnetic black or steel-gray solid. From the commercial perspective, ilmenite is the most important ore of titanium.

Magnetic??? I gave the material a quick test. I grabbed my telescoping magnet. When I placed the magnet near the material this happened–


Curious where ilmenite could have been mined and found this information of the

Encyclopedia Britannia site–

Ilmenite… forms large masses, as in Iron Mountain, Wyo., and in the Ilmen Mountains, Russia, from which it derives its name.

The reason I was looking through my clay materials was to find possible materials for use in concrete.

Time to test.

Concrete as an Art Medium

September 6th, 2014

I attempted to use concrete several times over the past 20 years. While some results were promising, I wasn’t ready to commit time to figure out why problems occurred.

I am currently working on a series of pod pieces. The pieces are constructed of actual woody pods. The contents removed and replaced with coins or metal bits woven into fulled wool, with hinges and bindings added.

Pods in Progress

Yep, they are in a plastic box. Ever since casemaking moths came to live in my studio, everything they might like to eat is stored in plastic or glass.

The plan was to make cedar boxes for the pods. And then a fun thing happened. I was rearranging some things in my studio and found some concrete cups and tiles from my last concrete casting attempt.

Concrete Cup and Prototype

The concrete cup on the right was cast in a silicone mold.
The mold was made of a waxed woven cup similar to the on the left.

Immediately I started thinking about making concrete boxes for my pods. But how? Concrete box with wood lids? Concrete with bamboo support? Concrete with inlaid copper? Concrete with metal mesh and code?

I googled concrete and found loads of stuff on using ready mixed concrete to make functional objects and tons of stuff on hypertufa.

Then I found Andrew Goss. He has a website with lots of great information for using concrete to make art pieces.

After reading the information on his site, I realized that I had attempted to cast thin walls without compensating for the removal of aggregate. Adding latex wasn’t enough especially when I was not caring properly for the pieces. I did not know the importance of wrapping the pieces in plastic. Why, I don’t know. My background is in clay and I definitely know how to care for clay during forming and drying.

I selected four concrete and hypertufa mixes for my first test–

 Materials Mix 1  Mix 2  Mix 3  Mix 4 
 Vermiculite 1.5    
 Peat Moss    1.5    

I added very little water so that I could press the concrete into silicone cup molds. I wrapped the concrete-filled molds in plastic. After two days I removed the pieces from the molds, leveled the bottoms of the cups, then wrapped them in plastic. Every day I have given the concrete cups a dip in water, then rewrapped them in plastic, and popped them in yogurt cups. I do think that a thinner plastic would be better.

Wrapped Concrete Cups

The main objective is to find a concrete mix that when cured will live nicely with my pod pieces. I like the texture that results from using peat in a hypertufa mix, but I do not like the bits flitting about in the air when it is sifted. Wearing a respirator does not keep the peat dust from collecting all over the studio. Also, I really dislike the way it smells in the wet mix and every time I unwrap the test pieces.

Since I want to make a success of concrete this time, I thought it would be a good idea to use good and tested information. I purchased Andrew’s book, Concrete Handbook for Artists, Technical Notes for Small-Scale Objects. I wish that I had found the book the first time I attempted concrete.

Andrew Goss’ blog, Art Concrete.

Elder Jones’ blog, Sandpudding Studio. Wet Carved Concrete

John Annesley’s blog, Sustainable Buildings as Art. Burlap-crete

The Hypertufa Gardener

The Cement Tile Blog

Spiders and Spiders

September 6th, 2014

Not Dust on the Wall

The spiders have burst from their egg sac.

Spiders and Egg Sac

Spiders and Spiders

Previous Post on the Green Lynx Spider

Fun Illustration Books

August 19th, 2014

I just found the Illustration School books by Sachiko Umoto. They are very fun. My niece and nephew are enjoying the one I gave to my nephew–

Let’s Draw Cute Animals.

These are some quick snaps of the dust jacket and the page on how to draw a bunny.

Yep, that is a rock form one of trips to the beach.

Illustration School Book

Bunny Pages

There are several books in the series. They would be great for anyone, even adults who would like to learn some simple drawing techniques.

My New Bag

August 19th, 2014

I have been looking for a small everyday bag (that is not leather) for a few years. I found this one yesterday at an Avila Beach shop.

The bag is the perfect size for my wallet, phone, lip balm, notepad, and pencil. I am using my small wallet that I actually bought for my husband at
The Vegan Collection.

The bag can be found on the Roxy site or a bunch of other places like eBags.

My New Bag

I like that it brings to mind the Bargello Needlework.

I have been dinking around with some Bargello patterns.

Bargello Detail

I laid in the code layer under the cream Bargello pattern. One color represents the dots, one the dashes, and the third the spaces between letters and words.

Green Lynx Spider

August 19th, 2014

Spiders creep me out. But I cannot stop watching this one. She is on the side of the house very near the front door.

I am surprised that the Jays haven’t snagged her for a snack.

When she thinks her egg stack is threatened, she wraps her legs around it and covers it with her body.

Green Lynx Spider

Green Lynx Spider Information at Wikipedia

Crystals and Lack of Control

August 5th, 2014

I recently read a post on Christine Mauerberger blog regarding growing crystals on leaves. Got me to thinking about several pieces that I made a few years back. One of the pieces was really beautiful, but became annoyingly ugly.

This is the original piece before salting. The piece is composed of fired stoneware, metal, and fiber.

Original Piece

Detail of the piece after being submerged in a solution of hot water and borax.


And two details of the crystals on the piece today.

Crystal Changes Detail 1

Crystal Changes Detail 2

Curious why the change so I googled it. Found Andrew Dominic Fortes’ Crystal Growing page. It has some great information.

Change–Bound Pods

August 5th, 2014

Been thinking about binding pods together to make a vessel. Gave it a go yesterday, but didn’t feel connected to the piece.

Bound Pods

When I took the piece apart I started thinking about what pods mean. They are containers. The contents can become new plants. What about the pods? New containers for something else?

Change Front

Change Front with 18 Pennies.

Change Front

Change Back, Dots to be Drilled. Then to be Bound.

Some Ideas–

Pods, Containers, Protection, Secrete, Hide
Seeds, Source, Potential
Grow, Growth
Cycle, Pattern, Rhythm
Origin, Propagate

Alter, Replace, Transform, Evolve, Mimic, Echo
Coins, Pennies, Nickels, Dimes

Change Code
Morse and Tap
c -.-. 1,3
h …. 2,3
a .- 1,1
n -. 3,3
g –. 2,2
e . 1,5

And then there are these beautiful bits. The seeds were on either side.

Interior Bits

Sticks and Stones In Progress–Hit a Snag

August 5th, 2014

Stitched together the front, fiber blanket, and the back.



Originally planned to use the edge of the blanket as the border, but thought that the piece needed more. Took a look at my rope supply and now thinking about it. Thought of the possibility of using birch branches as a frame.

Also what is the best method for hanging the piece?

Sisal Rope

Detail of piece with sisal rope.

Jute Rope

Detail of piece with jute rope.

Coconut Rope

Detail of piece with coconut fiber rope.