Archive for the ‘Materials’ Category

New Potentail Art Materials

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

My neighbor trimmed his palms. The cuttings were on the way to the dump. Instead, some will become art material.

Large palm nuts:

Large palm nuts

Stored in my greenhouse:

Large palm nuts bunches in greenhouse

Small palm nuts:

Small palm nuts

The palm nuts will be a great new material that I can use for coding.

Lichens found on an olive branch:

Lichens on Olive

Interesting information found here:

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Corporate Document Repository: Date Palm Products

2015 January 1

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

One of my few traditions is to visit the beach on the first day of the year. Today was a great day–sunny, warm, and no snow to be seen.

Looking for holey rocks–

New Year 2015

Holey Rock

It was low tide so critters could be seen–

Critter 1

Critter 2

The sea grass would make a great art material–

Fire Starters Then and Now

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Two years ago I made fire starters for folks who have woodburning fireplaces. I used pinecones from my garden, cedar shavings (result of running cedar planks through a planer), wax, twine, and cinnamon sticks.

Firestarters 2012

This year I thought I would try something a bit different. I have boxes of dried plant materials from my garden. I collected and dried them to use in my work. I haven’t found a need for them. I had thought about tossing them in the recycle bin, but decided to use them for fire starters.

Firestarters In Progress

I lined some old muffin tins with cupcake papers and filled them with dried materials and cedar shavings. Then used cotton twine for wicks. The wicks are bound around cypress pods. Then the lot was topped with paraffin.

Firestarters Detail

I also made a few pinecone fire starters.

Firestarters In Basket

Placed the fire starters in baskets lined with tissue and filled with cedar shavings. Everything can be used for starting fires, including the baskets.

I was curious how the fire starters would work, so, I set some alight.

First a cupcake fire starters–

Firestarters Cupcake 1

Firestarters Cupcake 2

Then a pinecone–

Firestarters Pinecone 1

Firestarters Pinecone 2

Firestarters Pinecone 3

I had more fun watching them burn than making them!

Some Great Pods

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

While visiting family on Christmas, I scored some great pods.


Apparently the large pods are from a type of Cassia tree. It is also known as the Golden Medallion tree. It was nearly dark when I took the photo so difficult to tell what it really looks like.


This is an image from the Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute site at Cal Poly.

Cassia Tree

Detail image of the pods–

Pods Detail

The pods are beautiful! They have little woody shelves for the seeds. And according to the Urban Forest Ecoosystems the Cassia seeds are poisonous. That is so great. Another material to use in my work!

I snagged these Cassia pods during Thanksgiving. When I hung them in my studio they were green then, now they are not.

Pods Studio

I also collected some pods from a vine that grows on the wall around the pool.

Pods Vine

The flat interior piece brings to mind an African shield.

In the process of completing a series using these pods. “Change” is the working title of the series, but that could change.


Leaning toward constructing concrete structures for the pods to live in.

I have been making concrete tests to determine if that is the correct direction.

These are a few of the test results. I used concrete and hypertufa mixtures. Then cast them in silicone molds.

Concrete Cups

My hope is to find a nice concrete mix that works for me. Then to use some of my ceramic aggregates and oxides to add texture and color.

Also constructing mixed media panels that will be coated with concrete, then aged. If I find materials that work well with a concrete mix I will construct a structure for each of the pods.

Panels for Concrete

This is just a fun thing that I noticed in my studio. I had been using wax to made fire starters and candles to give for gifts. A seed from the pool pods landed next to a drop of wax.

Wax and Seed

Black Bamboo and Other Finds

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

This morning I went to visit a friend who offered to let me take some cuttings of his black bamboo.

Black Bamboo Detail

The cuttings are nearly 9′ long.

Black Bamboo

I found loads of cypress pods.

Cypress Pods

I found a piece of mesh that has pant parts growing through it.


And a piece of twisted wood.

Twisted Wood

I also found some cuttings from a cypress that sustained storm damage. I am thinking that it would be fun to shred the wood and bind it to the exterior of a box.

New Materials

Then I noticed a cypress was weeping. It was sad, but lovely. And a bit sticky…

Weeping Cypress

On the way home, stopped by to see the goats. They are working goats. They have been tasked with clearing a field near the airport. Apparently it was break time.


One of the goats wears a bell.

Goat Wearing Bell

Today there was even a watch dog. He gave a long deep howl.

Watch Dog

Now it is studio time.

A Forgotten Work–Little Bronze Bowl with Magnolia Pods

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Today while looking through boxes in storage, I found a box labeled “early work”. Each piece I unwrapped brought memories of the time when I made it. Then I came to the little bronze bowl with magnolia pods.

Bronze Bowl with Magnonlia Pods

This wasn’t actually an early piece. I made it before attending grad school. While looking at it, I had mixed feelings. What would have happened to my work had I not gone to grad school? I could have stayed in the Bay Area and continued to make work. Instead I went to grad school and wasn’t permitted to use the foundry until near the end of my second year. It was a complicated situation that I have tried to forget.

The is a detail of the interior of little bronze bowl with magnolia pods.

Detail Bronze Bowl with Magnonlia Pods

After the piece was cleaned up a bit, I bound it with wire. I then applied some of my low-fire glazes. Then fired the lot. I knew that the wire would oxidize and the blue glaze would be matte, the other glaze would be oozy white.

Detail Bronze Bowl with Magnonlia Pods

The bowl is now sitting next to a couple of pieces–a dagger and a poison cup. The dagger was made in the late 90s and the poison cup was made a few years back.

Bronze Bowl with Others

Stone Church and Earrings

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

I recently returned from three weeks in Maryland. I was visiting my sister and her family. While I was there I attended a holiday bazaar at the church near their house. The exterior of the church is stone, has a slate roof, and was founded in 1784. It also has a great cemetery.

Exterior of Church

I was hoping that the interior of the church would be as interesting as the exterior. I was a tad disappointed that the interior wasn’t stone, but there were some great details.

Just inside the front door there is a narrow door that spans the wall to the ceiling. The curious person that I am; I opened the door. I found a rope. Yep it is the rope for the bell.

Church Bell Rope

I bought several things from Jim St. Germain at the holiday bazaar. He makes jewelry from found metal bits–typewriters, hang gliders, sewing machines, radios, computers, VHS tapes…

These are a few of the earrings that I purchased–


Sewing Machine Parts


Hang Glider Parts


Radio Parts

I like that Jim used found objects and gave them a new life.

I am always on the lookout for potential art materials and tools. Also at the holiday bazaar I found copper cookie cutters and a large bag of vintage yarn. The lot was a steal for $5.00.

What Is It? A Soy Candle???

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

I bought soy wax flakes when I was attempting to use wax on wool. I didn’t use the wax molten. I added a solvent to it. Then I applied the cold wax to the wool pieces. I wasn’t happy with the results so I thought that it would be fun to use the soy wax to make candles.

After reading several tutorials on making soy candles I thought that I could make easy peasy gifts for the holidays. I was looking forward to binding cinnamon sticks and pine greens to the jars.

I found a great tutorial on Hello Natural.

I followed the instructions. Poured the candles. Everything went well or so I thought. Then an interesting thing happened. The soy wax started to change and grow as it was cooling. Looks a bit like mold growth which I actually like, but not good for a gift.

Soy Candle

I googled the results, but couldn’t find an explanation as to why the soy wax changed. Probably it was a temperature issue. Perhaps the wax was too warm when it was poured. I was working in my studio space in the garage. While it was not cold, the jars were definitely much cooler than the wax. But maybe it had something to do with the addition of the spices. Could the oil in the spices that I added have altered the wax?

I broke off a chuck of the wax. The interior was very dry and powdery.

Powdery Soy Candle

I have used a variety of waxes over the years and have never experienced anything peculiar. I used wax for prototypes, as molds for dried plant parts, casting, and molten wax to integrate and age materials.

I don’t look at the result as a failure. It is a problem to be solved. More research is needed. Maybe in the future I will have a need for wax that looks a bit like mold.

A Nice Surprise–A New Addition to My Brugmansia Collection

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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.