Monthly Archives: July 2009

Inside my Kiln

Well, I did it! Despite the advice to the contrary, I fixed my kiln. I did have to buy one tool to get the cover off, and this is what it looked like once I got it open. It was quite a tight fit in there. It took me probably longer than it should have, but I took my time – I wanted to get this right. And, Mike at Jen-Ken was very nice and reassuring about the whole thing. I hope I don’t have to do this again for quite a while, but I think that having done it once, I should be able to fix it again.

So, I replaced the relay on Monday and torched for a couple of hours. I also torched Friday. I haven’t really been torching that much recently what with all the traveling and company and what not. It was good to put in a few hours and remember why I have all this equipment and glass and stuff – I LOVE making glass beads. It is just such an amazingly wonderful thing to do.

So, tomorrow I go to The Gathering in Miami. I am looking forward to this a lot. I had such a good time last year, and I will even know people there this year. There are quite a few people from Southern Flames who will be there. And, my friend Beth, who I met last year, will be there to hang out with. I’m looking forward to seeing her again – we had such fun together in Oakland. Miami, here I come!

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Starting Something New

Adult Piano Adventures

A couple of months ago I was sitting in church listening to some Bach something or other being played, and it occurred to me that I wished I could play the piano like that. Then it occurred to me that I could probably learn how to play the piano. Then it occurred to me that Karolyn, the woman who was playing the piano, could probably teach me how to play the piano like that. I don’t know why it took so long for these things to occur to me, but once they had I was eager to get started.

Today I had my third piano lesson, and it was just a bunch of fun. One thing I’m working on is making a nice sound. I’m by nature afraid to make too much noise. “But it’s not noise, it’s music!” Karolyn said when we were discussing this. OK, so I’ve practiced making more sound. And today I did a relatively good job of it, once I got started. It would be so much easier not to do this because whether it’s your third piano lesson or an operatic solo, making music is putting yourself out there in a way that is not comfortable for me. So I’m kinda proud of myself for taking this step.

Some of the other technical aspects of playing the piano are coming fairly easily to me too. I think all the violin and viola lessons and playing I did has helped. And although I’m not ambidextrous, I’m close. So whether I’m playing with the hands in parallel motion or contrary motion, it feels fairly natural. All that tummy rubbing and head patting has paid off! By golly, I think I’ll be able to learn how to do this.

And today she taught me a scale! Now, I knew the notes of the C major scale – I just didn’t know what to do with my fingers to play the scale. This is how little of the piano I knew prior to this. But now I get to practice a scale. And, the funny thing is that practicing and exercises like the scale and so forth are not as horrible as they were when I was a child. Practice sessions actually go by pretty quickly, and the exercises are kinda fun.

All and all I’m having a ball with this new endeavor. Now we just need to get a piano in the house. Yes that’s right, I decided to take piano lessons – and we don’t have a piano. I go down to the church and practice there. It’s not the weirdest thing on earth – just a little inconvenient. Perhaps in a couple of months we might get a piano or an electric piano – it does make sense to see how I do with this for a couple of months before jumping in to anything. But I think I’m going to stick to this. I know it will get harder, and harder, but I can do it!

Oh, and one more thing. The picture here is of my first piano book. I just love the fact that it has the word ‘Adventure’ in the title. I really feel like this is an adventure I’m on. It may not be a traveling to a foreign land adventure, but it is an exciting undertaking, and that is part of what an adventure is.

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Jen-Ken Kilns

This is my Chili Pepper Bead Annealer. I’ve had it since sometime in 2005 I believe, but it wasn’t until early last year that I really started using it five times a week. This has been a really good kiln, and I love it despite the fact that it’s red.

Yesterday, the relay decided to stop working. I turned the kiln on and started dipping mandrels and so forth, and when I looked back at the kiln the temp. was at 550ºF and dropping. I messed with it until the cycle started again, and the kiln started heating up again, but when I looked back at it, the temp was dropping again. The third time I tried, I watched the thing like a hawk and it worked fine. I don’t trust it though.

So, I knew this was going to happen – it is a part that is expected to wear out. It is lucky that it didn’t get supper heated (relay not turning off) instead of loosing temp. (relay not turning on.) And, I suppose it’s good it didn’t happen when Emily (hi Emily!) was here. But gosh darn it, I wanted a couple of good weeks of torching before the gathering!

Anyway, Mike at Jen-Ken was very nice and ordered me a couple of relays (an extra one for when this happens again.) He said the relay comes with instructions and that he would personally walk me through the process if necessary – even if the relay comes on Friday and it’s after hours or on Saturday. So, that reassured me a little.

It has occurred to me that I had an electronics unit in my college physics class, so I should be able to muddle my way through this. If worse comes to worse, I can always pack up the kiln and relay and bring it in to Flame Tree Glass and let Lance fix it. I will be in town next week for the Southern Flames meeting. But hopefully I’ll be able to manage. Messing with the kiln just scares me for some reason.

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Alaskan Vacation

Hubbard Glacier

Well, I’ve been back from the vacation for a few weeks now, and I have yet to blog… until now. It was a fabulous, wonderful, awesome, vacation. I wanted to get all my pictures up and edited and so forth before I blogged about it, but it looks like it will be a loooong time before that happens. I also wanted to make a web page with all my pictures and descriptions and so forth, but I don’t think that’s going to happen at all.

So, we (my mother and I) went on a cruise to Alaska. It was actually a cruise-tour. We had a seven day cruise in Alaska’s inside passage starting in Vancouver, with stops in Ketchikan, Haines, Juneau, and Sitka, a day cruising to Hubbard Glacier, ending in Seward, then a three day trip to Denali National Park and back to Anchorage to catch a flight home.

The picture here is Hubbard Glacier and it was just pure magic to get up and out early and sit in a lounge at the top of the ship and watch the glacier come into view. It is hard to get a sense of scale in Alaska – the outdoors is so huge compared to anything I’ve ever seen before. This glacier is about six miles wide and 300-400 ft high above and below the water. In some of my shots I have a giant cruise ship in front of the glacier that helps create some sense of scale. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get closer or stay longer, But the glacier was magnificent, and evidently it is a rare thing to be able to see the tops of the mountains around the glacier. I took some shots of the bay/glacier and my good friend Clay stitched them together for me. I think this was my favorite part of the trip.

One frustration when it came to taking pictures of all the beautiful Alaskan scenery was that it was almost always behind a pane of glass. Whether it was a ship’s window, or a boat’s window, or a train’s window, or a bus’s window, there always seemed to be a window, with reflections. Yuck. So, getting good pictures of this trip was a challenge. I got a few good shots though and I’ll be sure to upload my pictures to flickr – with captions!

If you ever get a chance to go on a cruise to Alaska, I’d certainly recommend it. I wanted to go back as soon as I got home. There’s something about the remoteness and wildness and extravagant beauty of Alaska that really appeals to me. I kept thinking about living in such a place, but I don’t think I’m suited to it. I have too many conditions. And some of the ports we visited didn’t even have a nurse in town. Although apparently there are some psychiatrists in Alaska: In Juneau the bus driver who drove us to the helicopters and back was commenting on the problem of depression during the dark months. He said psychiatrists have to guess at how much light there will be and prescribe antidepressants accordingly to prevent seasonal affective disorder. Apparently he knew a woman who was prone to this problem. Well, last year (or a couple of years ago) there wasn’t as much dark as usual, so guess what happened? This woman went manic. (My mother and I were the only ones to chime in with the answer.)

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