Fire Starters Then and Now

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

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

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

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

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???

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.