Lichen Amble

My husband and I enjoy hiking. Today he decided that we don’t actually hike we amble because I tend to make frequent stops to look at and document lichens, rocks, plants, and critters.


Today I was particularly interested to see how the lichens were doing since there has been a few inches of rain. Lichens add such lovely color and texture to the rock surfaces. In a few months there will be more growth and variety of texture and color.



When I travel I visit old cemeteries to view sculptural grave markers. I am fond of carved markers that visually reflect the life of the individual being remembered. And if those markers also have beautiful lichen colonies, even better.

Lichens Baby

Lichens on Flowers 1 Lichens on Flowers 2

Ceramicists have imitated lichen surfaces in their work. For several years I used low fire lead glazes resulting in great textural surfaces. Now that I am older and after working in medical practices for a number of years, I try not to use things that I know are potentially dangerous. Substituting leaded frits worked for a time until I read lead is lead whether fritted or not. Still potentially dangerous.

This is a detail of a lead glaze that I used several years back. It is on a piece that is situated on a balcony in full sun nearly all day. What I hadn’t anticipated was the fading of the glaze.

Glaze Detail

There are numerous ways that to make textural glazes without using lead. Glazes can be underfired or overfired, formulas altered, aggregates added… A great book to read is Lana Wilson’s Ceramics: Shape and Surface Handouts for Potters. She is generous with glaze formulas and handbuilding tips. The book can be purchased directly from her website.

The California Lichen Society (CALS)

SLO Species List

Lichens of North America

British Lichen Society

Lichens of Ireland Project

New Find-Solder Wick

I was visiting my neighbor who refurbishes musical instruments and he showed me a roll of Solder Wick.

Solder Wick Roll

I asked what it was used for, I hadn’t yet looked at the name which would have been a clue. I was taken with the woven aspect of the material, and it is copper.

Solder Wick 1

Solder Wick is used for wicking away solder, or desoldering. I tend to look at most things as possible materials for use in a piece. The image above is deceptive because the material is not much wider than dental tape.

I think Solder Wick would be great to use as a binding material. The woven braid detail would be a wonderful element for loads of pieces. I will need to check the specifics about whether the rosin flux coating might affect the melt point and interact with my glazes.

Typically I make a bunch of test pieces and fire them up. It is always exciting opening a kiln. What gifts will I be given? I never feel that an unexpected effect is a mistake. It might be the best gift or information to file away for possible use on a different piece.

This is a detail of a piece with some metal sent through a low fire glaze. The piece was then fired with a bottle of Acetaminophen. The dose should be enough for coma.

The Dose Makes the Poison Detail

The vessel is made of hardware cloth held together with nails, coated with Egyptian Paste, and fired to cone 016.

Paste Detail

I am still thinking about the combination of materials used in this piece. I like the straight pins, and the bit of drippy glaze on them. I added a bottle of Ibuprofen to the interior of the cup and fired it again. I had hoped that the Ibuprofen would either become dry and powdery or molten and run between the pins. The pills changed color, but stayed pretty much intact. Couldn’t fire higher because of the glaze and metal used. The foot of the cup is washers bound on with bronze wire.
Pin Cup

Solder Wick can be purchased online or at some local hardware stores. I can’t believe that this was the first time I’ve seen it.

The product images are from Wikipedia .


I had a vague notion that nyctograph was a form of writing but I had to google the word to find out its proper definition. I found several hits that stated it was a form of night writing, without the aid of illumination, devised by Lewis Carroll. I could not however, find the actual symbols Carroll used.

I don’t know how many times I have attempted to write notes in the dark of night and find the next morning what I had written was difficult to read.

I like the idea of a symbol system using a template rather than graph paper. I could use any available scrap of paper or even my arm. I took to writing on myself when I was giving art sessions at a maximum security forensic facility.

This is a sample of the grid template that I found at Wikipedia.


I pretty much use Morse and Tap Code, or reference to them in my work. Coding for me started when I made a series of bronze daggers and titled them after folks who were particularly difficult. I couldn’t leave it at that so I devised a code based on my nephew’s name and date of birth disguising the actual names. This piece is titled Filfeh, which does not exactly follow the rules of spelling. A few other titles were, Anoa, Nivner, Reima, Anxen, and Frea.


I have attempted to use other codes–Celtic Tree Ogham and the Pigpen Cipher but they haven’t worked with the materials I was using.


Perhaps they will find their way into a series in the future.

How an Idea Occurs–Banned Books

Today when I was reading blog posts I saw this image and was off on a creative journey. The image was posted on Sri Threads, a gallery specializing in Japanese folk textiles.


I have been thinking about weaving or embroidering a family tree of important dates using Morse Code. I have woven some pieces for family gifts, but I want to show the connections between the family members. I originally thought that a large wallpiece using coconut fiber, white cotton rope, sisal, and 1″ fence would be the solution. I hadn’t thought about the possibility of the presentation in the form of a book. I love the intimacy that the book format offers. While the form is quite different, it probably would be better received by my siblings.

Then very quickly I started thinking about words and banned books and my series, Cleanse Your Palate. Cleanse started with my attempt to remove a particular word from my vocabulary. A versatile word that has multiple functions.


In No Regrets, the word is embroidered and affixed to the shot glass with a ring that is also in code. The shot glass is filled with clove soap. Yep, wash your mouth out with soap. Clove because of its history in dentistry and I just happen to love its fragrance.

A couple of things of interest–what happens when a code is used to represent a word with negative connotations; can the word appear beautiful when knotted or woven?

From there I hit on using what some folks believe are objectionable words, phrases, ideas weave them up in code and bind them in a book presentation. The series of course would be titled Banned Books.

House Rabbit Roommates

I have lived with house rabbit roommates nearly all of my adult life. Currently our roommates are Nora an 11 year old and Big Baby who is probably 3 or 4.

We found Nora when we were visiting the Farm Supply. She was all alone in a large feed container. I took a look at her and then noticed there was something wrong with her ear. Gave the Farm Supply money and brought her home.


The problem with her ear was a tattoo. Apparently, for whatever reason after she was tattooed she wasn’t wanted.

Big Baby came to live with us in December of 2009. He was probably two years old then. His name was Bailey, but since that is the family name of my husband’s mother, I felt a name change was in order. It took me a month before I came up with Nathanael, Nate for short.


Unfortunately he answers to Baby, so it stuck. My husband calls him Bruiser. He doesn’t answer to that name even when raisins are offered. Baby is the largest rabbit we have lived with. He isn’t overweight, he is really big.

This is a typical breakfast. They are looking a bit scruffy, not because it is early morning, they are in a major shed.

When you live with house bunnies you might notice that they often aren’t where you think they should be. You might find them sitting on the dining room table, or on your desk or bed, or on a chair…

Important Rabbit Information
House Rabbit Society

Images of Bunnies and Other Bunny Stuff
Disapproving Rabbits

My House Rabbit

Daily Bunny

Shopping for Bunny and Bunny Content Items
Oxbow Hay

Busy Bunny

Rabbit Shop Society

When is a Piece Done?

I thought that I completed “Preservation and Collection” at the end of 2010. After the work was returned from a show at Western Nevada College, I hung it in my office, above and slightly to the left of my monitor. I specifically hung the piece so that it would loom in the periphery. That it could seep into view when my mind was on another task.

Preservation and Collection

A few days back I realized that the piece made me terribly uncomfortable. It was hung a tad higher than when it was exhibited and didn’t have great lighting, but I couldn’t see what was inside the cups.

Preservation and Collection

I spent loads of time making the cups and the bags filled with poison plant bits. But there was too much distance from the cups to experience the work the way it was intended.

I liked the idea of the 3×3 format–its reference to a nine patch quilt, but the result wasn’t right. I removed the cups and shelf from the wall. I will make new homes for the cups, but I haven’t yet worked out the details. Pretty sure that the cups will be happier hung together, in several separate and open shelves rather than in their original presentation.

Hanging pieces in close proximity was a great lesson I learned from Sharon Tetly. Sharon teaches at Western Nevada College and offered me the exhibition in the College Gallery. My work is rather small and intimate and the space is long and narrow. I was concerned that the work would be lost. Sharon grouped pieces–which I felt emphasized the intimate nature of them wihtout the loss of their autonomy.

Preservation and Collection

Sharon’s presentation of my work offered me a new viewing experience.

The photos were taken by Sharon Tetly.

Might Come In Handy Some Day

I have been accused of being a pack rat. Sure there is a tad of truth to that description. But I should think that most mixed media artists know–collected materials for use “some day” could mean exactly that.

Many of the pieces that I had in a show last year had materials I saved for several years. For example, the pit fired cup was a demo piece from a teaching gig over 10 years ago. The metal bits I snagged when my brother-in-law was clearing out his warehouse of construction materials.

At Risk

I wanted this cup to appear more goblet-like so I drilled a hole through the bottom to attach a carriage bolt for a stem. The stem has two types of washers that are filling in for the dots and dashes of Morse Code.

The stem has the word “mourning” in code. It is a play on the homophone “morning” as in morning cup of tea. The small bag inside the cup has poison plant bits–not material appropriate for a tea ceremony.

Mourning Cup

The wood for the sides of the next piece came from an old swing that I rescued from my parents’ burn pile. That was more years ago than I care to remember. The bronze bit on the rosary is a piece of a dried fig that was spin cast in the late 80s. I couldn’t find a home for it until this piece was made. The rosary has “Cleanse Your Palate” and “Forgive Yourself” in code.

The thing that was most fun about constructing this piece was how the cast soap cup came into existence. I made a slew of woven and fiber cups that I meant to cast in bronze. I never managed to get them gated and cast so they were stored away. When I ran across them I realized that I really didn’t want to cast them any longer. So, I made silicone molds for casting soap and sugar pieces.

Forgive Yourself

Rarely do I first glimpse a material or object and know precisely how I will use it. Often materials make it known where they would like to live and with whom.

When I was sorting out the stuff in Dad’s barn, I collected materials to ship home. This is some of what I collected.

Metal Bits

The metal drawers have been nicely oxidized from mice living in them.

Metal Drawers

So many possibilities…

Quipu or Khipu…

I freelance for a software company that produces products for speech therapy and learning disabilities. I am currently making my way through a database of words to be included in some apps.

I collect words and phrases to use in my work. I integrate them by using Morse and Tap Code. The code isn’t straight forward I refer to the code by substituting color, a variety of knots or stitches, and metal or plant bits.

When I ran across the word quipu I liked the visual structure of the word. According to Wikipedia, “Quipus (or khipus), sometimes called talking knots, were recording devices historically used in the region of Andean South America.”

The image is from the wikipedia site. Can you see the code?


I find the piece visually beautiful. But it is so much more. I recently listened to a Richard Feynman recording in which he discussed the difference in the way people appreciate nature. When I view the example of Quipu I think that it is lovely as an artifact, then I wonder how does the fiber feel and smell, what kind of fiber was used, how were the knots made, how has the work survived… And after thinking about those qualities I think about the context. Then I view the piece differently, but I still find it quite beautiful.

For more information-


Frank Salomon Pages, Dept. of Anthropology University of Wisconsin

Gary Urton & Carrie Brezine, Khipu Database Project

Just a Trim…

I don’t enjoy the whole hair salon experience so I typically don’t have my hair cut very often. My hair had been cut in layers and as often happens, a section in the back was noticeably a few inches longer than the rest. I tied my hair in a very loose ponytail and asked my husband if he would trim the long section to make it even with the rest. I followed that with cut a little at a time. You can always trim it again.

He said sure. Then I heard the crunch of my ponytail being cut off followed by the shock of this on the bathroom counter.


The shock wasn’t about the current length of my hair. Hair grows. It was, where in the definition of the word “trim” could something like this happen? How many times do you believe that you are communicating with another person only to find that while the language is the same, the words used are understood differently? Or when describing something, the image you have in your mind is nothing like that of the person you are talking with?

What is the solution to these misunderstandings? Perhaps it is to ask more questions and really listen to the answers. And don’t blame the other person for the misunderstanding. Two people were involved in the dialogue.