Saturday, June 30, 2012

bees are different than you think...

Meet a bee which is native to this part of the world (the new world, or western hemisphere). This is the Agapostemon Sericeus or sweat bee. Agapostemon755

It is metallic, iridescent, blue-green (though males have black and white or yellow stripes on their abdomens), and doesn't live in a hive. These are solitary bees. It generally lives in the ground, like most bees, or makes a nest in rotted wood. Though these are not like the familiar (but entirely non-native, introduced) honeybee, in appearance or behaviour, Agapostemon are also important pollinators.

This is a linocut with two sorts of chine collé papers (green saiko-shi with laminated threads, like the bee hairs, and non-woven metallic silver-blue paper) on Japanese kozo (or mulberry), 9.25" by 8.25" or 23.5 cm by 21 cm. There are 12 prints in the edition. I used the two coloured papers to try to replicate the insect's lovely iridescent blue-green sheen.

I have a longer term project in mind, with a collection of different sort of bees we find locally in Ontario, inspired by a conversation with artist-composer-musician Sarah Peebles, who explained to me the difference between solitary and communal bees and the importance of solitary bees in our own environment.

They are called sweat bees, apparently, because they are attracted to perspiration, so this seems an apt fellow for such a hot summer day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New home & on-going laundry room saga


So one skeptical friend (with tongue planted firmly in cheek, no doubt) questioned the existence of our new home, because I had yet to post any photos. So, not wanting to post an identifiable "I live here," photo on the internet*, you get the next best thing: the linocut I made RJH for his birthday, now up in our kitchen.

Not enough evidence? Well, here are some photos and updates on the on-going saga of our tiny laundry room. On the back of the house there is a small addition, 8 feet by 10 feet (2.4 by 3.0 m) which contains the cold room (in the basement) and the laundry room (off the kitchen, on the ground floor). We knew it was tiny yet hideous, with its (quite possibly original) wood paneling and dirty, vintage curtains. We did not quite realize how unloved this poor room was. (I dream of a tiny, but glamorous laundry room and have been gathering ideas).

The roof clearly needed new shingles, and RJH decided he could do it, having done a little roofing as a younger man. Also, we noticed a leak during our final home visit before moving in. So, before he took the shingles off, he took a hammer to the ceiling, only to be showered with ants. I'll leave out the gruesome details, but suffice it to say there was water damage and a colony of moisture ants, all of which we removed. When RJH removed the shingles, he found the roof itself was rotten, so that got removed too!


This is our tiny laundry room, complete with missing roof, wood panelling, ugly old curtains, and the flooring which must go. Here's the fantastic new roof RJH built (I just did the unskilled labour jobs, like removing nails from all the debris, and splitting it up so we could haul it away). Looking up and looking down:
 laundryroof backyard
RJH did all this work up on a two-storey high ladder. My favorite new neighbour, a couple of doors down, James (age 4½) shouted over at him. "You shouldn't be up there," he said. "It's not safe. You should be wearing a hardhat." "You tell him!" I said, and RJH asked if James had a hardhat. James has 5, and a firefighting helmet. I told him I had a hardhat too, but it was at work. James decided I was lying, and am secretly hiding a hardhat in the house.

We still need to re-install the eaves trough.

We might have thought that after the ant and roof fiasco, that re-finishing the laundry room would be easy. Yesterday, RJH had the day off, and I suggested that it would be nice if our laundry room looked less like the world's smallest horror film set, what with its half-torn-off wood panelling. Also, what with the complete lack of insulation and the partial lack of walls, it has been a very crowded and ugly sauna. RJH suggested one day wasn't enough time, but then he tackled the job anyway. It was quite astounding how much debris could come from a room that small.

 laundry (before) laundry (before)laundry (before)laundry (before)

We got the walls striped, debris cleared, and started filling cracks with the crack-filling foam and installing new installation. We made a trip to the hardware store to get casters for moving appliances, to roll the washer-dryer away from the wall. This is when disaster struck. RJH wanted to loosen the hose to the washer (after closing the valve of course), but he barely touched the pipe when the fitting came off altogether, spewing water everywhere, so he hollered for help.

Now, I am not one to panic; if you have a medical, electrical, mechanical disaster or need some serious problem-solving help, I am a good person to have around. I worked as a life guard as a teenager, and have all sorts of practical skills, and can fix many things. However, I know nothing whatsoever about plumbing. RJH told me to get towels and turn off the water to the house. I protested that I did not know how, or where to find any valves. He said it had to be somewhere and I must go look. I ran down to the basement in what, I must confess, was a panic. I could see the water was dripping into the cold room. I followed the pipe, but they went behind a wall. I had no idea what to do or where to find the valve. There was some yelling and a lot of running around like a chicken with her head chopped off, up and down stairs and all around the basement. Minouette decided this was the best game E-VER and followed me everywhere I went. I opened the furnace room door. Oh boy, thought Minouette, a new room! "Get out! Stop following me! I can't find any valves!" I turned off the valve on the hot water heater, on the basis that, well, it was a valve. I opened the other door to the furnace room, with Minouette in pursuit. I ran back upstairs. "I can't do it. I can't find it. I looked everywhere!" "Did you follow the pipe?" "Yes, they go behind the wall. I give up. You look." After some persuasion, we switched rolls, and I took the Little Dutch Boy roll, attempting to hold the fixture back onto the copper pipe for the washing machine. RJH went downstairs and found the valve for the entire house; in my defence, it was on the ceiling, behind a bulkhead, in a corner positioned so I needed to lean over a trunk and crane my neck to even see it. So, he turned off the water to the house and went to the hardware store, armed with photographic evidence of our latest laundry room fiasco.

I stayed home, mopping up the water in the laundry room (and wet saw dust, and other debris) and cold room. I made the mistake of trying to remove the spray foam from the door. It had not dried and stuck to my hands. It's the sort of material which will stay on my fingers until I grow new skin, and it picked up all dirty and cemented it firmly onto me. He returned with a new fitting. Apparently whomever had plumbed the laundry machine previously had the compressor ring on upside down. They explained how RJH could fix this, without having to solder a new fitting in place. So, the next few hours were spent attempting to affix this fitting and test that it was water tight. It was a lot of running up and downstairs again, opening and closing the valve, debating whether the water was really on or off (as water remains in the pipes, even if the valve is closed, so it's not immediately obvious), spewing water everywhere, repeatedly, and wetting all the towels in the house. People became cross; cat remained excited. By 7:30 pm, I was starving and exhausted. I was reduced to eating corn chips with my chopsticks, since my hands were filthy and I could not use the water.** After a final trip to the hardware store, RJH was finally able to install a fixture which was in fact water tight! He promptly did a load of laundry, and we made dinner at 9:30 pm, before snuggling up on the couch in exhaustion.

Next step: dry-wall and a new floor! I hope one day to replace the stacked washer-dryer with front-loaded side-by-side models, so I can place a counter on top and actually include such things as an ironing board and storage for laundry detergent and so forth, in the laundry room. I've got it all worked out in my head, much to RJH's trepidation. All joking aside though, I think we have already improved the value of this home, and that it was only a matter of time before that pipe had burst or the roof collapsed or the ants exploded, had we not tackled this tiny but surprisingly challenging room.

*note to the privacy-tone-death: perfect strangers identifying my neighbourhood based on my photostream are perceived as creepy
**I told you I could problem-solve.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Caption these giraffes

Fun feed-back on my 'Tower of Giraffes':
Ulixis writes, "To me, they are saying (from left to right, with attitude): 'Really??!?' (sarcastically, not enthusiastically) 'Right! Right?' 'WHATever!' "

 Kokoba writes, "Humph!" "Aw, aren't you a cutie?" (endearingly, not sarcastically) "Ugh, disGUSting!"

What do you think? I do think the first looks sarcastic, the second goofy and the third is a snob.

Blythechild writes: 
Left giraffe: Tower? How pedantic. All they can do is loom or lean. I can sway. Check it... 
Right giraffe: Oh god, that's heavenly! What is that? Chanel No.5? Come over here... spritz me, darling... 
Center giraffe: Bitches, focus! It's time to spit at some tourists. Look at that one with the camera... c'mon, form up! Maneuver Kirk Epsilon Delta - ENGAGE!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Tower of Giraffes


Well, I still have no functioning laptop of my own, but RJH has been kind enough to create a profile for me on his laptop and I'm getting better at using it.*

This linocut shows a tower of giraffes. The collective noun for a group of giraffes is a "tower" of course. The first thing you might notice about a giraffe is its towering neck, and a collection of giraffes tower over most things. The typography I designed for the words represents their meaning; "tower" mimics the shape of a tower complete with a turret-shaped 't' and the delicate, tall, thin letters of 'Giraffes' mimic the animals, right down to the horns-like ossicones on the dot of the 'i'. In fact, the crenellations (the battlement, or cut-out bits of the parapet) of the turret-t also echo the shape of the ossicones.**

These linoleum block printed giraffes are printed in brown ink with black and orange words on Japanese kozo, or mulberry paper. Each print is 9.25" by 12.5" or 23.5 cm by 31.7 cm in dimension. There are 8 prints in the edition.

giraffes detail

I love how each giraffe has such personality! The one in the middle looks a bit goofy; the one on the right is a snob; the one on the left wonders what it did to get saddled with the other two. Am I right?

I also love the weird and wonderful terms of venery - the collective nouns for groups of animals (and other things). Some are evocative, some strange and obscure. This is the sixth in a series of such prints.

Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to carve "Giraffes", backwards, when it is so hot I think my brain might be slightly melted, without getting confused about which consonants to double? Let's face it, I might like words, but my spelling is atrocious. In fact, I wanted to put two t's in atrocious, but my spell-checker won't let me. RJH says double consonants are my kryptonite. Reynardin gleefully remembers my high school "writting" folder. I may know where you can get yourself a "Girraffes" print to go with your "Butterfflies". *head desk* I have a new motto (which has two t's - I checked): spell twice, carve once.

*I've used all sorts of machines (PC, UNIX, LiNUX, various Apple, and a few more or less handmade approximations of these), and like most physicists I know, I'm a PC person, not a Mac person. There is no reason for a Mac to give me trouble if I can program a data logger in machine code, and yet, I find them anti-intuitive, to the great amusement of several friends. First of all, I had to learn all the shortcuts (without using CTRL) and then I had to ask about right-clicking when there is no right-hand mouse button at all and generally I find it hard to tell what it's up to. I want to know what a machine is doing, and I'm not very patient... but I'm getting better. Plus, I like my bilingual keyboard. It was a pain to try and list this print in French without any é on the keyboard.

**I managed to use crenellations and ossicones in a single sentence. In fact, I just did it again. Think the sesquipedalian police will get me?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies


A collection of butterflies, like those in this linocut, is called 'a kaleidoscope'. Isn't that perfect? I think it suggests a flutter of colourful, symmetric, beauties. This is the fifth in a series of the weird and wonderful terms of venery (collective nouns for animals) prints.

This lino block print is printed in black ink on Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper 12.5 inches by 12 inches, or 31.7 cm by 30.5 cm in dimension, in an edition of twelve. Each butterfly involves 'chine collé' (collaged, delicate, Japanese paper) for their glorious colour. They are arrayed with a three-fold symmetry, like images in a toy kaleidoscope. There are three each of the orange Isabella's Longwings (Nymphalidae Eueides isabella), three yellow Eastern tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus), and three blue Red-Spotted Purples (Limenitis arthemis astyanax).

For this series, I'm designing the typography to match the subjects. The word 'kaleidoscope' has clean, simple, and where possible circular or linear lines, like images in the toy itself. The word 'Butterflies' starts with a butterfly 'B', and encorporates one butterfly in its midst and wing shapes in the 'f' and 'l' and even a tiny butterfly in the dot on the 'i'.

As you might imagine, I do love butterflies, and, like moths, they have figured previously in my prints. Butterflies are quite amazing creatures and its not surprising that they are an important symbol to many cultures. I think they are growing in popularity, and like to say, "Butterflies are the new pirates," but I'm not sure anyone believes me. This print was rather complex to design, carve and print, but I think it's worth it.

You might recall my feelings about moths.


There is a butterfly in the middle of the word 'Butterflies' because butterflies tend to land in the middle of things. That's my story... it's definetly not a clever fix. It's not like I started thinking to myself I could make butterfly shapes for the 'B' and the calligraphic 'f', but then thought butterflies have two sets of wings, requiring 4 loops, so subconciously decided that there needed to be a second 'f'... because that would be illogical, and my spelling can't possibly be that bad... no, that never happened.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

transit of Venus

Are you excited? It's your last chance to view it unless you're planning to live until 2117. It's a great opportunity to learn about Exoplanets, their atmospheres and life-bearing potential. Also, think about all those astronomers, of centuries past, who braved travelling to remote corners of the world just to observe the transit and determine the distance to our Sun, which set the scale of our solar system (by which we measure most astronomical distances). Remember: don't look directly at the sun! Build yourself a pin-hole camera with the nearest box.