Thursday, April 30, 2009



Trying to stop the deluge, last June.

The newly built Art Building West, under last year's flood waters.

By July 4th, recovery had already begun.

On Friday, My friend Cindi and I are going to an open house at the temporary (I hope) home of the University of Iowa's Studio Arts Program.  Last June, the Arts Campus of the U of Iowa was devastated by the floods that hit our part of the state.  Not one of the many buildings and facilities on the arts campus was spared.  Damage to the two Art Buildings, the Art Museum, Hancher Auditorium, the Music Building, and The University Theatres was devastating and in some cases unrecoverable.  One of the buildings, the Art Building West, was less than 2 years old and maybe a complete loss.  Nearly a year later, we still don't know what what the Arts Campus will look like in the future.  The money for recovery will be very hard to find.  
The University's Studio Arts programs have been relocated to abandoned big-box home improvement store on the south edge of Iowa City.  It's not as bad as it sounds, as the U has put a lot of resources into making the space workable (click here, to see photos).  Hopefully our University will have the courage to take a stand for the arts and come up with a plan that will restore the campus to if not it's former self, something even better.  I believe that this is important.  After all, a liberal arts university simply must make the arts a high priority.  It's who we are.  
I hope, if you are able, that you'll go to the open house and show your support for the arts program.  The event is on Friday, May 1st from 4-8pm.  Admission is free and there will be demonstrations, performances and more than 300 artists displaying their work.  

Learn more here:
See flood photos from campus here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Me, texturing a piece of copper with a riveting hammer.

Margaret's having too much fun!

The design portion of the class.

Excellent pieces from last night's class.

This is an etched brass cuff that I made for Cindi.

I had a metal etching class last night at Bead Haven.  As always, it was so much fun.  Such a fun, good-natured group of women!  While the copper, brass and nickel pieces take their acid bath, we have an hour to kill, and I always get out all the hammers and we have a mini-metal forming class.  That was fun too, but oh so loud!  My ears are still ringing.  I really do enjoy watching what happens when you give a bunch of women tools.  Thanks to all of the nice ladies in my class last night.  

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Bleeding Hearts and Brunnera.

A fountain in our front yard that was a Valentine's gift from Paul a few years ago.

One of my favorite plants in the garden, variegated Solomon's Seal, leaping out of the ground.  In a week or two, it will be gorgeous.

Diminutive little Hepatica with it's perfect little bouquet.

A Red Bud tree in my front yard.

Paul and I worked out in the yard all weekend, in between rainstorms that is!  I am so sore.  How do you avoid the 'first full weekend of gardening' sore muscles?  There must be some set of stretches that a person could do for a few days before you head out into the yard, but I've never found what they are.  I go through it every year.  I over do it and then I spend the next 3 or 4 days feeling elderly.  I thought Paul was going to have to help me off of the sofa tonight!  We got lots done and the yard is looking good, so it was worth it.  We have 2 fountains, one that we keep going all winter and another that we shut off when it freezes.  Paul got them both cleaned up and running and they look lovely.  The birds love them.  I cut down all of our many ornamental grasses and raked up what seemed to be a million bushels of oak leaves.  All of this ends up in our compost bins, which are already filling up.  I think we could have an Olympic pool-sized compost bin, and it still wouldn't be big enough!  It's been raining hard all evening, which is great for all of the plants, which seem to just fling out of the ground this time of year.  But not so great for my tree planting plans for this week.  We were having 3 more large trees planted this week, but it looks like the weather will be causing us to delay.  The trees are large blue spruces that have to be transplanted with the same big tree spade that brought our new Maple tree.  We've had so much rain this weekend that I'm afraid that the spade would just sink in the soil and tear up the garden.  Darn.  Keep your fingers crossed for clear weather this week!
No more yard work for me for the next few days, I'm afraid.  I'm teaching a metal-etching class tomorrow night and I have a trunk show in Waterloo next weekend to get ready for.  I'll be in the studio all week, no matter how nice it is outside.  Maybe that will give my muscles time to heal!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Paul and I went to a live satellite broadcast of the radio show 'This American Life', this evening.  It was so good.  If you've never heard this show you really should give it a listen.  It's on public radio stations across the country every week and produced by Chicago Public Radio.  It's a hard show to describe without making it sound boring. Every week there is a theme and 3 or four unrelated stories that in the end are never as unrelated as one might think.  For instance, a recent show that I heard, which was called, 'Last Words' had stories as varied as a couple who were married for 50 years and died a day apart, a story of a bank robber and the man that he's shot and what he thinks about before he dies and an interview with a man who wrote a book about the last words of people from the black boxes on doomed airplanes.  A little morbid sounding, I know, but somehow it is not.  The themes are as varied as are real American lives.  Many of the shows are very upbeat and hilarious, like the show from last Halloween called, 'The Call Was Coming From The Basement'.  This show focused on things that are really scary, not movie scary, but real life scary.  In it there are some touching and sad stories, but also funny and real.  The show is hosted by Ira Glass, a truly excellent interviewer. 
This show we saw tonight was different in that it was visual experience instead of just audio one.  It was broadcast live from a theatre in New York to 400 movie theatre across the country.   It was really good.  It was called 'Return To The Scene Of The Crime'.  It will be rebroadcast in many theatres across the country on May 7th.  It's a wonderful show that really gets you thinking about things.  I think you'd like it too.
Check out the 'This American Life' website here.  The show is available as a free weekly podcast with all of their shows since they started in 1995 archived here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


The tree service came back yesterday, just a day after they took down the Maple tree, to plant my new tree.  I think the nice guy who owns the service was feeling bad that I felt so bad about losing the tree.  Anyway, they came with a giant tree spade to dig the hole, then they left and came back a half hour later with the new tree.  It was very exciting! Digging the hole with the tree spade took literally five minutes.  If a person had to dig a hole that size, I'm sure that it would have taken the better part of the day.  I think someone should invent a homeowner-sized version of this thing for planting shrubs and really small trees.  I'd definitely buy one.  
The new tree is a 15 year old Sugar Maple and is 25-30 feet tall.  Of course, no where near as large as the old one, but at least it's got a good head start.  Plus, this tree will be much prettier in the fall than the old one, which was a Silver Maple whose leaves just turned yellow in the fall before they fell off.  So, I feel better, at least a little.  Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


A big pile 'o charms.

I have a trunk show on May 2nd at Bead Happy in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  I will be there, along with Melissa Rediger and Rebecca Elias just to name a couple.  I have never been to this particular store, so it should be fun. Please come out and see us if you're in the area.  
One of the things that I sell a lot of are charms.  They're small and cute and don't cost a lot, and that's a good thing.  I carve all of my own molds, because I want them to be unique and easily repeatable.  I try to make a few here and there, so that I always have plenty when I'm ready to do a show.  I don't know how it happened, but I when I was looking through my stock, I found that I had almost none!  So the last couple of days I've made about 200 bronze charms.  Tomorrow, I'm going to make about 50 fine silver ones.  I'm a little sick of charms at the moment, but at least I shouldn't have to make anymore for a while.  I've thought about having my charms cast.  I met a caster while I was in Santa Fe that I know would do a great job.  I'm giving serious thought to picking a couple of my favorite clasps to be cast by this fellow.  They would be a bit less expensive that the originals and I could have them cast in different metals.  I don't know though, I'm still pretty attached to the idea of all of my pieces being handmade by me.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I thought riding in the bucket would be fun.  I asked, they said no.

The day started out sunny, but quickly turned rainy and windy.


This reminds me of those rip-off claw thingies at the county fair.  Thankfully, these worked better than those.

The scariest machine I've ever seen.  That would be one way to dispose of a body!  This is a massive stump grinder.  It took 10 minutes and the stump was gone.

Today, the tree people came to take our maple tree down.  I realize that I tend to form unnatural attachments to things, but that was really hard to watch.  It's gone now and in a day or two, there will be a new tree to take it's place.  While the tree service was taking down some of the highest branches, the winds started gusting to around 40 miles an hour.   Any second thoughts I had been harboring, left me when the branch hanging over the house started whipping in the wind.  
Watching the tree service do their work was really fascinating, though I was of course unable to watch with detached disinterest.  There really is an art to what those guys do and I have a new respect for them.  It's dangerous, scary work and I appreciate how careful they were.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I read a report today from MSNBC about a mystery donor who has given 45 million dollars to 8 different universities.  Only two stipulations were made on the gifts.  One, that the institutions must not try to find out who the donor or donors are.  Two, the majority of the money must be spent on student scholarships.  Wow.  Assuming that the funds are not from illegal sources, what an amazingly generous thing for someone to do. Especially wonderful given the strain that some students must be feeling due to the economy.  One of the larger individual gifts, 7 million dollars, was given to the University of Iowa.  Such great timing for our institution which is struggling to find ways to pay for the massive damage on campus due to last years floods.  7 million dollars will help a lot of students pay for school.  I find the idea of someone giving a gift like that, without wanting anything in return, not even recognition, really wonderful.  Thanks!  Apparently, only you know who you are.
Read the MSNBC article, here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


A giant spider web on my Maple tree, last summer.

Today a tree service that I hired came to my house today to look at a very large, very old Maple tree in front of my house.  The tree has been needing trimmed, but lately, it hasn't been looking too great.  The man from the service tells me that it would be best if we took it down, as it is near the end of it's life and being so close to the house, it could fall and cause lots of damage and even injury.  I admit I wasn't really surprised, but I'm so sad anyway.  I cried a little thinking about the tree being gone.  Sometimes, I don't deal will loss very well.  This particular tree service will be able to plant a new, fairly large Sugar Maple in it's spot, which will grow fairy quickly.  That's good and makes me feel a little better, but I will miss this old man standing in front of my house.
 My house is a lovely old Craftsman-style house in an old and wooded neighborhood. It's amazing to think about all of the things that have happened in the world during the time that the tree has been standing in front of our house.  If that old tree could talk, I wonder what it would say about all of the people who have lived in our house?  I wonder what it would say about us?  

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I always eat the ears first, how about you?  I think it's just wrong to bite their butts off first.  Well, however you roll, I hope that you got a chocolate bunny for Easter.  Have a nice day!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


My homage to Pollock.

I love Jackson Pollock.  I think if you've read this blog for a while you might know this about me (see my post from January 2008, Denying The Accident).  He clearly had emotional problems and a serious drinking problem, but as an artist, I feel that his work was unparallelled.  I know there are lots of people who would disagree with me.  Maybe abstract art just isn't their thing.  Others would say really thoughtful and original things like "I could do that" or "My 2 year old could do a better painting than that".  Sure.  Give it a try.  This kind of abstraction is really difficult to achieve without ending up with a painting that is simply a soul-less mess.  I painted the canvas pictured above for my studio wall a couple of years ago.  I unashamedly admit to trying to copy Pollock's style.  I failed in my mission, but I like it anyway.  As simple as this painting looks, I can tell you that it was hard.  I painted over it 5 times before I was semi-happy with it.  I love how deceptively simple his process was.  I can almost feel the freedom of it when I look at his paintings.  The work seems to me to float off of the canvas.  
I was wandering around on the Internet tonight and found this fun site ( where you can create a Pollock-style painting on your computer.  I admit to playing with this for far too long.  Give it a try and maybe you'll find your inner-abstractionist.  It's certainly a lot less messy than the real thing!

Thursday, April 9, 2009


At the open house last weekend, Suzi took a couple of nice photos of some bracelets that I thought I'd post.  The links of the first bracelet were made with a mold that I took from a fossil.  The pieces are linked with fine silver jump rings that I fused closed.  The second bracelet is composed of tubular links and forged, hammered jump rings.  Both bracelets are made from fine silver.  I have taught the second bracelet as an all day workshop at Bead Haven  It was a really fun class and I have been thinking about offering it again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Sophie, napping in the studio with the Uglies.

Sophie, helping Paul write a grant.

I just wanted to post this little dose of cuteness as a cure for the mid-week blues.  It sure cheers me up!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


My faithful assistant Vanna, I mean Suzi!

Cindi and Jeanne, working hard.

Melissa, wishing I wouldn't take her picture.

Rebecca and Julie.

Just me.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the show at Bead Haven this past weekend.  We had lots of fun and had lots of people come through on both Friday and Saturday, and it went very well.  Thanks also to Cindi who always makes sure that the open house's at her store are really special and fun.  Suzi was there on Saturday helping me out like usual.  She's probably my oldest friend and so it's nice to have her help and to spend the day with her.  I got a chance to talk to a lot of friends and my little sister even stopped by.  It was a good weekend.
Thanks for the pictures, Suz.

Friday, April 3, 2009


I'd like to remind anyone who is in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area this weekend to come out to Bead Haven and see me this weekend.  I will be having a trunk show there along with Melissa Rediger and Rebecca Elias.  Along with the trunk show, Bead Haven is having an open house with treats, sales and door prizes.  Come on over if you have a chance.  The open house hours are 5-8 tonight and 10-5 tomorrow.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Dad, at a woodcarving show.

Dad, with my Grandpa.

Today is my Dad's 75th birthday.  I wish you could all know my Dad.  He's the funniest person that I know.  He knows everything and what he doesn't know he can make up and you'll believe him.  Trust me, you will.  He's a great Dad, who had to put up with being outnumbered by Mom and three daughters.  Anyway, I want to wish my Dad a Happy Birthday.  I hope he knows how much he's loved.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Mixed-Metal Heart.  

This is an example of the kind of things that I've been working on lately.  It is a mixed-metal piece, made from bronze, fine silver, and 22 karat gold.  The bottom part is bronze, which is riveted to the top piece, which is .999 silver and 22 karat gold.  The nail-head rivets are made from 20 gauge, fine silver wire.  I used small brass nuts in between the two plates to create the space between them.  The gold is applied using the keum-boo method, with heat and pressure.  I'm working on doing a whole series of mixed-metal pieces that are connected in this way.