Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Weather is Better!

This is such a huge country.  Somewhere there is still snow. It is pouring down rain and flooding in Florida and Colorado is burning.  Literally. The worst forest fires in history.  Oregon has been damp, a bit of lingering rain but pretty mellow by comparison.  A light coat in the mornings and shirt sleeves after noon.  Today it is not raining and the sun is pushing through a light layer of clouds.  The next ten day weather forecast is nice and for my up and coming art show, perfect!  No chance of rain and close to 80 degrees!

   I ran around my garden this morning and thought I would show you a few pictures. Despite the rain it is looking pretty healthy and with ten days of sunshine, maybe a real opening to summer, it should take off!  My corn is about a foot tall but with some sun it could still be "a foot high by the forth of July"!  My tomatoes should be taller but they have tomatoes on them.  They will shoot up with some warmer days ahead.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

It Is Raining...

It Is Pouring, actually with thunder and coming down in torrents.  It is not good for my garden.  I watered just yesterday, a day full of sun and promise, then, fickle like a school girl, the weather changes and now all is wet.  I think the rain went all the way to New Mexico and put the fires out.  That is what I hear, soggy ashes, flash floods and no longer a fire.  Nature at its best, putting fires out and at its worst, drowning my tomatoes.
Some people pray for rain and other's for no more rain and at some point all prayers are answered.  Too late for a single tree and plenty of time to save a forest.  Sometimes.  I wonder how it all works?
   Do you listen to speeches?  I do and wonder about them too.  It is coming down to two philosophies, each side admits that there is a problem.  Reagan economics was a top down trickle theory and for awhile it worked pretty well.  It is the credo of the capitalists saying wealth generates wealth and as the rich spend it, it trickles down and other's reap the benefits of those spending money.  That sort of worked until they quit spending money in our town!  When they began outsourcing, sending the jobs overseas and then putting their money in off shore accounts, the trickle down went elsewhere and the well here at home dried up completely.
   I am not sure that trickle down ever really worked.  The "other philosophy" is expanding the economy from the middle out.  As a percentage of the population the United States used to have the largest middle class in the world.  Our middle class has lost 40% of its wealth in the last 20 years.  What are we doing to get it back?  It seems to me that we are zeroing in on those "just above us" on the pay scale.  Instead of increasing our position we want to strip those just  above us of theirs.  We go after the Union Workers, we go after those with pensions and health benefits, we go after Government workers.  We are like pirhanna in a fish tank and are eating each other!
   Is no one analyzing how we became "Middle Class" in the first place?  How a raise in Union wages could increase everyone's wages?  The role of Government in building our roads, bridges and infrastructure?
We will not get back on track by stealing money from someone else.  That never works.  Eventually they will run out of money to steal.  But there are things we could do.  It is embarrassing and stupid that China has a better railway system than we do, that we have allowed our bridges to fall down and the roads to deteriorate , that we rely on a sewer system that in some cases is over 100 years old.  Our infrastructure is falling apart and there has never been as good a time as now to repair it.  Money has never been cheaper to borrow.  We have the workers.  We need the jobs.  That is something that would trickle down!  God forbid if our Congress did anything to make our President look good!  We are willing to destroy America, anything it seems, to make his job as difficult as possible.  Why can't we all just get along?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dust to Dust

I am often asked, "Will it rust?"  or sometimes even, will I guarantee it "not to rust?"  I always laugh and quote from the "Sermon on the Mount".  "I will guarantee that it WILL RUST" I say, it is the only quote from the Bible I know (and "don't build your house on shifting sands!").  Rust is not a good thing for the steel girders supporting our bridges but it garden art and entry gates it is part of the charm.  The patina of rust is often the color I am after.  I can hasten this process with muriatic acid (used to adjust the PH  in a swimming pool), or any salad vinegar, balsamic is nice!
   Wrought iron is traditionally black because in the "olden days", or yesterday if I get my forge out, a blacksmith ("black because we get very dirty, it is not a racial thing) would apply beeswax to the hot iron which would turn it black and provide some protection from the elements.  Black is a great hider of rust and it is easy to "touch up" when rust does appear.  A part of the charm of really old metal work is that is has several layers of paint.  I have seen it a half an inch thick in my European traveling days.
    I have learned over the years that for a show, a presentation of my work, I cannot have plain unprotected rust on display.  Although I have never actually seen someone in white kid gloves examine my pieces, some people appear as though that is what they are doing.  So before the main event I apply a thin layer of whatever I may have of something clear to cover the rust.  This could be a "Rustoleum" product, a clear protective enamel, some kind of exterior lacquer or a linseed oil wipe down. There are lots of products available and all will give a temporary clean cover to the steel.  The rust turns every shade of golden and I get that depth, color and contrast that I am after.  Will it last?  of course not.  It is a clean shininess offered to aid in impulse buying.  You could reapply the finish every Spring or before major events or you could just let it be and accept that it is pretty and maintains itself just fine.

   I still have a couple of weeks before this Art show opens but I think I am done with the big projects for now.  I have two small truck loads!  An arbor, of course, a gate, some trellis's, some tables, some pedestals, and just some weird stuff.  Now I am polishing and purposefully rusting what I have made and then I will seal it.  I am making "small stuff" now, the dragons and butterfly kind of things that one expects to see in a garden show.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Truck Load

When I am on a roll I can churn this art stuff out.  I am making one piece a day for this upcoming event:
Art in the Vineyard Show.  I will be in a particular section called "Art in the Garden", about an acre roped off and tended by volunteers.  I don't have to be there during the whole show.
   It is funny, being a welder-painter!  When I thought of "Art in the Garden" my mind just immediately thought of easels and painting!  I am also an avid gardener so it was no great leap for me to create an easel that the plants would like, that could also be a trellis.  I have a lot of iron work in my garden, big stuff and arches for the Trumpet Vine Entry, three gates to enter the garden at differing points, trellis's for the peas and beans and my tomato cages are all steel and creatures of their own.  I also have a lot of pedestals and little tables in my garden.  I grow my cucumbers up and around them, have a place to put my morning coffee and a place to chop off the heads of the carrots!  I don't have a flat garden that is all there is to it.
   So that is what I am making:  Easel/Trellis's, little pedestals and tables and a couple small benches for just one person.  There is a simple reason I won't make bigger benches even though I know they would sell.  I have lost my helper.  He is a wildland fire fighter and is off to New Mexico fighting the "Bear Mountain Fire",
already bigger than last year's fire which was the largest ever!  It is going to be a long hot summer!
   Except in Western Oregon!  We are about as mild as we have ever been with June being one of the wettest after a dry and promising May.  Crazy, almost coastal weather, low 60's and a bit of rain every day.

My garden is hating it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


It is so very difficult to predict what will sell at an art show.  I have until July 6th to make stuff for the upcoming
Art in the Vineyard art show in Eugene, Oregon and then it will be time to move in, too late for more stuff and too late to change my mind.  After thirty-five years in construction and the last fifteen in metal arts I can really make just about anything, but what to bring?  That is always the dilemma.  Last Sunday I found a little Farmer's Market, a six hour affair in a not too far away town and set up a booth across the street at a Mason's Lodge along side five or six other artists attempting to cypher off from the crowd buying fresh locally grown organic produce and artisan foods from the vendors at the market.  We didn't get the traffic of the market but a few crossed the street to see our space and look at our stuff.   I didn't take a lot with me but enough to gauge the reaction to what I make which is what I was there for.  I can imagine myself madly creating garden trellis easels in my shop and ending up owning all of them!  I am always creating new stuff but suffer the fear of people wanting standard cookie cutter items.
Bench on a Street corner!
   During a break and smelling the great smells of food being cooked on site across the street I went for a walk about along the isles of the farmer's market.  It was an established market, about two city blocks worth of produce, food vendors and some artisan crafts.  I found a metal worker there, a guy about my age and skilled at what he does.  But what he does is copy.  He had the almost identical metal items you would find in a big box store imported from China!  The standard Shepard hooks, the flimsy trellis's and plasma cut salmon and fairies.  He has turned a potential craft and an art into a job.  He is a fabricator and I wonder if this is really what people want and maybe my crazy stuff is just that, too crazy!
    You can see my bench on the street corner, across from the Farmer's Market and get an idea that people would really want to see my stuff to cross the street and look at it.  Some did and I sold this bench.  The buyer's, the new owners of this bench wanted to leave it there for a couple hours and that was o'k with me.  It is where I sat!  As it turned out I could have sold it about six times!  It would drive me nuts to make another one like it.  That would make me a fabricator!  Besides, they are too damned heavy!
   It was an interesting day and I learned a lot.  I can't predict what will sell.  The key, for me, is to make what I like, what I enjoy making.  I am always flattered and honored when I make a sale, when someone wants my art in and around their home.  And I think there must be kindred spirits out there, people wanting something... a little bit different, not seen before, something unusual and calling.  So I will make something today, I just don't know what but it will come to me and something different will give birth!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I am IN!

I got accepted to this year's "Art In The Garden" a very big to do here in Eugene put on annually by Maude Kerns Art Center.  There will be metal workers galore there but none will be doing what I will be doing.  There will be fairies and dragon flies and maybe some gates but no one will be making outdoor easels that can be used as trellis's and that will be my main effort.  I applied three weeks late, so someone likes them already and that is a hopeful sign.  The exhibit is for 3 days right after the 4th of July so I have time to make some more!  wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Art for your garden

Image One: curved concrete and steel and slate garden bench. $375.

Image Two:  five foot tall concrete lamp/gate post covered in slate.

Image Three (2 pics) Bench Easel, vertical or horizontal

Image 4, (3 pics) the "perfect easel"  $425, powder coated and perfect!

Sunday, June 3, 2012


2 posts today!  I found some great old growth fir in my shop and made the bench covering with that.  It is looking bad that all of my easels are photographed with the same canvas, but it is a nice size, five feet tall and thirty inches wide.  I took this bench easel outside to take some photos and see how it works.  I love it.  It doesn't have all of the bells and whistles, the cup and brush holders nor a place for paper towels, but it is strong, steady and comfortable!  One more for my show room/studio.  It is getting crowded!

   Now what will I do?

There Are Over 700...

Easels on eBay.  From little table models to the big 'H' frame Studio Easels and lots and lots of aluminum framed, light weight tripodal ones that fold up and  come in a case.  I found two really nice Victorian models among the bunch and none that excited me.  It struck me as odd to discover these tools of artists and realize how plain they were.  I can imagine simple could be good if they were strong and well built but these were all Chinese Knock offs, all pretty much the same and nothing to be proud of.  Where did we get the notion of who could build the lightest, cheapest, flimsiest easel?  I realize that there may be times an artist might want a traveling easel but as a major piece of furniture in the studio?  There really should be more to choose from.
   When I began welding years ago I made hundreds of trellis's, different sizes and styles, shapes and purposes. I began by going to the local garden supply places and garden art nurseries to see what they had.  They all had the same stuff, as if their buyers all stopped for lunch at the same time at the same show and bought together to get the best deal.  These were import trellis's, the kind that fit into a plain cardboard box and they couldn't support themselves let alone a vigorous vine attempting to grow up their sides.  I am thinking the easel makers are the same manufacturers.  It is the same stuff built to the same standards.
   There are always flaws with prototypes but I am on a roll now.  My little studio is jam packed and my easels spread out into my garden.  My beans will learn to paint soon.  I seem to be dreaming easels, big, small, tall and, thanks to Sherry, FLAT!  Crimson Leaves tells me she paints flat and sometimes I do too.  Why couldn't I make an easel that had the proper vertical angle but could easily tip and lock into a horizontal position?

Wouldn't that be cool?  This would be easy to do for a 12 inch by 12 inch canvas but I am thinking "Artist" here, something Big, something Grand!  My latest invention in the easel world will easily hold a five feet tall painting and gently lay it flat and lock into position!
   I'll finish it soon and get it into the garden to get some better pictures but you can get the idea from these taken in my shop.  The circular steel rim will be a frame for the seat.  I will find some exotic hardwood for this.  I am getting older and the idea of sitting down while painting is becoming more attractive to me.  In its normal position the canvas is in front of the little bench which is attached to the easel, but for display the canvas can be turned 90 degrees, placing the bench to the left of the painting.
   This is not a knock down foldable comes in a package type of easel.  It would be more like shipping a motorcycle but people do that, don't they?  I don't know what the limit is, what boundary that can't be crossed.  I once on a lark took a three thousand dollar trellis to a Home Show and sold it Three Times!
   I am having fun and that is the main thing!  I can always make my studio/showroom Bigger!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hang Art: The Easel

Hang Art: The Easel

The Easel

I am always trying to reinvent the wheel. I wanted an easel with everything close by so I have been reinventing. There is no market for these, I looked them up on Ebay and easels are pretty much a dime a dozen, but really they are not that good.  Unless you get a big H frame studio easel they are flimsy and well, have that made in China quality to them.  Not too inspiring for an artist who hates imports.
   This easel has a lot of attachments, one for paper towels, another for a pallet, little rings for cup holders and brushes, both vertical and horizontal while drying and even a little scabbard that will hold three pallet knives! What am I missing?
   It is my first foldable easel and the mast slips into place so it is in two pieces but it has the strength of steel, not its light weight aluminum counter part.  It is adjustable and will hold a canvas as small as 20" and as big as five feet! I have put a six foot wide canvas on it and it has no wobble at all.

   It is not always a good thing when an artist likes his work.  I kept fiddling with it and adding details and then I liked it so much I spent $75 to have it professionally powder coated.  It is a clear coat, letting you see the steel but giving it a feeling as soft as silk to the touch.

The little rosette with the brass acorn nut moves up and down and is designed to capture the top of the canvas.  It is threaded and will tighten down  to a quarter of an inch or open up to a full 2".
   I added a half dome of copper at the top of the mast for the artists signature!  Clear coat over copper has become almost a trade mark of my work.

My Studio has become like a car lot showroom of easels, from Volkswagons to BMW's. Maybe one day I will learn to paint!