art, ceramics, personal, self care, self-publishing, writing

Pen tinkering. Ceramics. Plus the hard stuff.

Last night I was having issues with my new TWSBI ECO stub-nib fountain pen hard-starting and skipping (that is, not writing well). Today I looked up possible reasons…and I think what happened is that the pen had likely rolled in my hand, causing me to write more with one corner of the nib than the other. This, plus the pressure I used to try and get it to write correctly, pushed the nib out of alignment with the feed. I could see it today with my 10x loupe. (I originally got the loupe for Geology classes. This is another occasion on which, I’m glad I never tossed it.)

I nudged everything back into position (this nib and feed are looser than on my initial ECO [a Medium nib], but that’s likely because when I tried to adjust the Medium’s nib and feed, it was dry, thus unlubricated and fragile). We’ll see how it works.

Last night I realized that if I flooded the feed with ink by manually advancing the plunger in the ink reservoir to expel all the air, I could get it to write again. But I really shouldn’t have to do that.

It’s like a puzzle in a pen. Anyhow, that’s just part of what I came here to write about.

As I may have mentioned…we’re getting rid of things over here. Last night as well, M had separated out a bunch of glassware and ceramics from storage, and told me to pick out anything I wanted to keep.

There is a small stoneware vessel, black and gunmetal glazed, which I made in high school…it’s about 4″ wide, maybe 2″ high. I don’t know what I’d use it for, but it’s beautiful. I washed the dust off of it and dried it…and holding it later, still warm from the water, I found another beauty to it: because I made it with my own hands, it nestles down right in my own hands. Still.

Apparently, my hands were fully grown when I made this pot. :)

I wasn’t expecting to find beauty in a tactile form…but once I did, I rescued two of my other pots…a pinch-pot and another which I had thrown, both from high school. This was to remind me of the beauty I could create with my hands.

I’m not in love with the decoration on those two — both of the latter are painted with underglaze and fired with a clear crackle glaze on top. The crackle glaze doesn’t make for a great surface feel. They’re…from early on in my development. But I kept them because they’re good as examples of form. I also kept the black and gunmetal piece because it’s just beautiful.

In the near future, I should be cleared to practice ceramics, again. There’s a place I can go which has a lot of time devoted to ceramic making, and will fire my pieces for me. As the major expenses (and barrier to making) ceramics are in the kiln, wheel, and stable wedging tables…it’s a big help. (Well, I don’t know if the wedging table is really a big expense. I know it’s hard to find something suitable; clay is a fairly sturdy material to be pushing around on top of it.)

So I am hoping to get back into this. Even though it will probably mean having to go back to routinely moisturizing my hands. :) If M and I do both get back into it (she also has taken years of ceramics classes), there’s the possibility of getting a wheel and kiln, ourselves. I know she has thought about it. So have I.

I think, at least, a kiln would make me feel safer than a torch. Though, the same place that does the ceramics, also gives Jewelry classes (both basic beadwork, and Silversmithing). I have a couple of semesters of Silversmithing practice under my belt; it would be interesting to get back into it without worrying about explosions or accidentally burning the building down.

Or maybe I should say, there will be other, more experienced people, around to help prevent those outcomes. And it won’t necessarily be my fault, if it happens. As a third benefit, I’m pretty sure the Fire Department has been called out there, before.

I also, last night, began writing again about gender and sexuality in a hard copy. As a note to myself, it’s in the pink journal…

I made the connection between avoiding making myself vulnerable and the reactions I’ve gotten in the past because I have made myself vulnerable, particularly from M, and also the Internet.

It makes sense not to go into some of this stuff with her. I think she may appreciate it, if I didn’t. She just isn’t the greatest person to talk to about emotions…she’s more action-oriented, and doesn’t know what to do if I’m talking to her about something she can do nothing to fix. She also is quick to snap to judgment…even if she doesn’t understand the situation. I don’t want to be exposing new tender baby shoots of ideas to that.

I had thought that when I had finally figured out my identity, that was it; I was done; I could stop working on it and obsessing over it, and move on with the rest of my life. But, in reality: the story doesn’t end when you figure out who you are. It is an answer, but life goes on, and along with it, the story continues.

And sometimes…what you think you’ve figured out, isn’t the whole story. (Such as: “I’ve figured out who I am; now how do I interact with the world?”) Or the answer isn’t sufficient to last you your entire life. You find out that the categories you used to figure yourself out as a youth were flawed, or you realize that the way a person looks has little to do with the person they are beneath (but much to do with their experience), which revolutionizes the way you think about people. Or you realize maybe you can be attracted to a range of people, despite being celibate. Or maybe gender isn’t always (or perhaps, ever) the prime qualifying category you love in others.

It’s just that way.

At this point, I kind of wonder about the efficacy of working in a fictional format…as versus a blog one, or a semi-autobiographical one. It’s one of those things you’ll want to know before you post anything online. :) Basically, posting it verbatim online counts as publication, and will take First Publication Rights away from others, which are generally what traditional Publishers seek to acquire from an author before publishing a work. They tend to want to be the first to bring it to the world — though there are exceptions.

Of course…there’s also the question of whether one wants to publish their work in book format, or in ebook or PDF format, or as part of a website or blog. That’s a really big question, though; not one which I feel confident about tackling in public, at this point in time. What I will say is that…I’m leaning towards the blog format, right now. Tentatively.

I know that it’s easier for me to write articles, than it is to think about tackling a long, integral whole that I keep secret until some future time at which I sell my intellectual rights to the work. It’s fairly certain that I won’t make a fantastic amount of money off of it, but I didn’t get into writing to do so.

It’s more important to me to reach people who need to hear from my experience and perspective, to help them figure out where they stand in this whole diverse world. Because it really is diverse; moreso than I ever could have really imagined, as a youth.

ceramics, personal, work

Good tea amidst stressors…

Today, we actually got to visit Teance’s new headquarters in Berkeley. That was the good thing. The…not so good thing, is that I did check in with HR, and apparently they feel I could benefit from more training in working with children. They didn’t tell me this until I initiated contact today (after a week of near-silence). Should I be looking to work within an Academic Library setting? (That is, a College or University library setting: I might be more comfortable with the patrons, there, whereas Public Library settings, I’m seeing now to revolve around babies, children, and teens.)

Another not so good thing: our visitor has to leave pretty soon, and I don’t know if anyone is really happy with that. The third not-so-good thing: our power company has instituted rolling blackouts and threatened to cut off the power last night (which never happened). This is likely because they’ve been implicated in causing two large-scale fires with death tolls relatively recently…it’s not like I can remember the names of either of them, though.

Also, I’m supposed to go and take my test to regain my Learner’s Permit, tomorrow (EDIT: later today). So I can, you know, drive. Again.

I have also recalled why I stopped making gemstone and sterling jewelry (expensive — not from the stones, so much as the metals). And there’s talk of my relative now moving out of the country. The latter makes me question why it was that we were planning to move out-of-state to join them if they’re only going to move again…

Good part first (turned into “good part, only”): Teance is now open, and their Yin Hao Jasmine Green tea is pretty good. The location is also very close to the place we normally get tea from, so it’s easy to stop off there and get some higher-quality tea.

I’ve been doing some research on East Asian tea ware: I do like some teas like Tieguanyin and Chrysanthemum, both of which are more characteristically Chinese than Japanese…so I was thinking that they may work better (have evolved along) with Chinese ware, more than Japanese ware.

I did find a Taiwanese oolong that I’m curious about…it was mid-range expensive, which means that it wasn’t extravagant, but that it should be high-quality. I haven’t yet opened it. Even though I only got one ounce, it takes up a lot of space in its package. I also inadvertently crushed some of the leaves doing something, today, that I can’t even remember anymore. I only regret this because when I opened the Yin Hao, it was full-leaf. So, I mean, I was really crushing stuff.

So…the Yin Hao is very nice, less astringent than most green teas I’ve tried, although on first brewing it did initially smell like baking soda. It’s a good thing that I only brewed a very small amount in a little bit of hot water initially, as I could then rebrew (and rebrew…and rebrew…) the same leaves without losing a lot of flavor (though some mellowing does happen, as I’ve found with many teas). Anyway, I don’t feel I lost anything by brewing just a small amount of leaves. At this rate, one ounce will last a while.

Anyhow, I noticed that the Taiwanese oolong recommended a Yixing or porcelain teapot, whereas the other two I got (Yin Hao Jasmine [Jasmine-scented Green] and a Genmaicha [Green, with roasted rice]) were okay to brew in glass. I also did get a Longjing (Dragon Well) from a separate grocery, as I’ve forgotten what it even tastes like.

I started looking up Yixing ware and that led me to gaiwan brewers. Gaiwan…I’ve seen before, though I don’t own one, and haven’t used one yet, myself. Upon reading around, I found that instead of going for a Yixing teapot, a porcelain or glass gaiwan set would be better for my tea-drinking habits.

(The reason I’m looking at a different way to brew this stuff is that it’s kind of clumsy to try and clean out either of my tall, narrow Pyrex teapots.)

Well, and for the Japanese teas, I probably won’t have to worry about finding a genuine zisha (purple sand) clay pot, as I drink lighter and herbal teas. I did, however, realize that one of the more notable teapots I found in Japantown this last time, was likely related more closely to a gaiwan than to a normal Japanese teapot. This would explain why it was unglazed, lacked a handle, and was meant to be lifted by its edges. It was beautiful, but it was also $85…

I’ll think about it, okay? (Maybe.)

The major reason why I wouldn’t get a teapot like that, is concern about what minerals or metals would seep or leach into my tea. This teapot in particular was also black…which sounds like some kind of basaltic clay (or soot from the firing), unless a coloring agent was added.

The thing about teapots that get seasoned with use is also apparently that, being porous, they impart flavors from past brewings into future brewings, so it isn’t great to switch around with different types of tea. It’s like there is one pot for Taiwanese oolong, a different pot for Tieguanyin, etc.

I also don’t drink intensely flavored teas (black teas or dark oolongs) much at all (they’re just too strong for me), which means I probably don’t need an unglazed teapot to season. Yes, apparently they do need to be seasoned! And I’m not really a formal-tea-ritual type of person.

I’m also still tasting a lot, which implies that a gaiwan would be best for me, until I settle into a favorite type (over Jasmine, I guess, which would also be great in a gaiwan).

I also learned a new term: tisane, which refers to an infused drink like a tea, which is not made of camellia sinensis.

Anyhow — I should get some rest, but I wanted to post this. I am not sure how much going over things in my life which I don’t like but can’t change, will help. And, tomorrow I will be able to work at my driving stuff. Things go on, I have foundations to build. And I haven’t been fired yet. :) Even if I am, I have the active backing of a vocational program. And, my family. It should be OK.

career, ceramics, craft, libraries, LIS, self care

I wonder if this is what all that fatigue was about…

…which I spoke about three weeks ago. I suppose it is possible that I could have been fighting something off for two weeks without getting sick, until my immune defenses lowered. I guess that means that when I’m feeling fatigued, it actually is an okay thing to get some rest. If I had done that, maybe I could have killed off the invasion (I’m pretty sure it’s viral) before it made me sick.

A bunch of things have happened since I made my last substantive post (the one before the post from earlier today). The one I’m thinking of is having been notified that I may be called in to interview for a Librarian I position. That, in turn, got me to restart my career reading. (I actually finished The Librarian’s Guide to Homelessness the other night, which has a companion site, homelesslibrary.com. I like the author, Ryan Dowd, though I can tell we’re of different worldviews. I kind of envy his.

I also wrote in to the Career Center at my school, and was encouraged to push on in the direction of an Adult Services Librarian in a Public Library setting, with which the aforementioned book helps a lot. So that means…three places I’ve applied to have told me that I may be called, but haven’t yet called me (though I took a test with one, and scored decently); one was an overt no; one I have to reapply to; and one (the one I’m currently employed by) hasn’t opened their candidate list to the outside in a very long time.

I also didn’t get into the running for a Clerk position at my current place of employment, and think it may be because I have a Master’s in Library Science, although the form email told me it was because I wasn’t qualified.

I almost forgot to mention that another nearby Library System did send out a call for applications, but as I don’t yet have a Driver’s License, I was excluded. Kind of ironic that I would be considered for Hawai’i, but not considered for a place 30 minutes away.

I did just go and send in another Job Interest Card for Hawai’i. I know I have applied for one position; unfortunately, I’m not sure that keeps me in the running for lower-ranking similar positions. But I’m getting the hang of this job application thing, now; particularly where it comes to Civil Service. (Not that I’ve particularly thought through the ramifications of being a government employee!)

As for more reading; if I can tolerate it, I will want to get back to Conducting the Reference Interview, which I’ve planned to read only until I reach the tech portions (my edition was published too long ago to be current, there); and the book I have on dealing with hostile customers, by Robert Bacal. That one also has a companion website, not to mention two different levels of seriousness. It takes a different angle than the service-to-the-homeless one, due to the fact that it targets a different set of customer cohorts.

The big issue with both of these books is that reading them is actually basically either work or Professional Development, depending on one’s angle. I’ve been particularly triggered by Bacal’s work (in combination with what I’ve experienced and witnessed), though I did purchase the more “serious” version of the book, which is actually a workbook for those employed in the public sector.

They should both be helpful if I get a Librarian I position anywhere, though. Actually, they should be helpful if I interview for a Librarian I position anywhere, too. And I should remember that replaying rough scenarios in my head is likely worse than dealing with them, would be.

On top of that, my next Cataloging class is set to kick in, though it’s only for four weeks. I do, however, have access to the coveted tool that I didn’t realize I’d lose access to when Beginning Cataloging ended in 2017. I should make use of it, while I can. It would be a very good use of my time.

I also have the deadline for re-submission of that last application, and for submitting all graduation information, coming up. And I need to be working on my driving, again. I could have been in the running for a nearby Librarian I position, but didn’t have a driver’s license (which is probably necessary because the crime rates of the area make it dangerous to walk, at least at night). I’ve gotten to the point where driving is less scary and I have more control, but I still need assistance. (I have a tendency to hang a little far to the right.) Sunday mornings are perfect for this…when I’m not sick!

The other night, when I was pretty much too sick to do anything more than just read, I was looking through a number of books on beaded micro-macramé by Joan Babcock (the link leads to her website). In the end of her first book, Micro-macramé Jewelry : Tips & Techniques for Knotting With Beads, she writes of a number of ways to bind the ends of knotting, one of which is sewing (p.77). I didn’t even think of that!

So, right now, I want to go and try and make a bunch of little samples and practice binding the ends of them–!! I could use them as key fobs or zipper pulls or something, yeah?

I also looked her up on WorldCat — I’m pretty sure her books are self-published (the press is “Joan Babcock Designs”), so it’s kind of awesome to see that someone (or someones) has cataloged them. By the way, if you try looking her up, the authorized spelling of her name is “Babcock, Joan R.” You should be able to search that name and come up with at least the four or five things I know she has produced (she has four books and one DVD, last I saw). That spelling, currently, differentiates her from others named Joan Babcock, as one finds in a search on the wider Web. (Sometimes, that’s followed by a birth and death date, or a birthdate only, or more information about their identity — which would help you sort through all the other Joan Babcocks, if there were more than one who authored a cataloged work: in this case, there aren’t [as of May 5, 2019].)

There’s more I could go into on that, but I’ve learned not to expect people to be interested. ;)

I’ve also realized that there is no shame in going back to the craft books, when the writers of the books are still more advanced than you. I do have a little library that I’ve collected, over time; and while it is the case that I’m a relatively intermediate beader, I still don’t know everything. This is because there are some stitches, like odd-count peyote (I know how to do this, I just don’t like to) and brick stitches, that I haven’t put too much root into, as I haven’t needed to. Particularly, where it comes to making increases on the edge of brick or peyote stitch…I just am not practiced. I got a book specifically for this, though, called the Bead Stitching Handbook (by Bead & Button Magazine).

Sooner or later, I’m going to have to look through that thing, again…

The fact that I don’t know this stuff basically shows my own bias against making 2-D art (brick and peyote stitch primarily make sheets, which can then be stitched together into 3-D forms; the exception being tubular peyote). I know I can make 2-D art; for whatever reason, though, I’m not drawn to it as strongly as beadwork or ceramics. It’s actually a reason I can recognize, now, for having gotten out of silversmithing…in most modern work, we’re working with sheet and wire, or casting. Casting requires a lot of specialized tools, and I’ve never been able to really get behind flinging molten metal around in a centrifuge…or using oxy-acetylene to melt it in the first place (it can give you eye damage).

There is always PMC (Precious Metal Clay), which I’m now thinking I should examine more closely. Reason I haven’t is that it basically requires a kiln. (It’s possible to fire PMC with a torch, but I wouldn’t trust myself.) “PMC”, also found as “Art Clay”, (they’re different brands) is basically a clay made of tiny metal bits and a binder; on firing, the metal bonds to itself and the binder burns off. I do have a design book from a while ago, when I was more heavily considering using it. At the time, I wanted to learn “real” metalwork, and felt metal clay was this newfangled high-tech thing…but maybe “real” metalwork is just not what I want to do.

Kilns are expensive, and basically, there’s a very obvious fire hazard. But, if I were going to use it both for PMC and for ceramics, that actually does tip the scale a bit in favor of considering one. The biggest reason I’ve held off is the fact that I tend to pick up and drop off hobbies, relatively quickly. I think the “theory” of the practice sounds awesome, while the “practice” of the practice, isn’t always appealing to me. But I can’t tell until I’ve done it.

There’s that, and the cheapest kilns are still really expensive…so I haven’t felt great about sinking money into one. Also: have you seen the prices of pottery? I’ve been able to get some really cheaply at craft fairs–they’re not even ugly! I’m like, how do you make money selling a little tiny cup — and then I remember that clay is earth! Virtually all its value comes from the skill of the ceramicists (and luck with the firings)!

I should practice with some other clays first, though, like the air-dry stuff, cellulose, and polymer clays, knowing that I don’t have to make things like I’ve seen before. It’s been a really long time since I worked with my hands in the manner clay demands, too…it would just be interesting to get back into it.

ceramics, planning

One more dream…

…and that is the thought of making my own ceramic beads.  I caught wind of a group of artists running some site with multiple kilns, nearby; I can’t remember the name of it, though.  I might be able to find them on a search…or by looking back through my bookmarks.  Originally I noted them for M’s benefit, but M wasn’t interested.  I might be able to gain this group’s help if I wanted to experiment with ceramic beads and glazes.

Before I get into the latter part of this, I want to be clear:  at this point, this is all stuff I’m just going through in my head.  I am in no way here intending to ask for money!  I’m just trying to think things through in writing.

If the start-up costs of making ceramic beads weren’t so high (this is majorly for the kiln — kilns start out being expensive and only get more expensive), I’d really be more gung-ho about working this out myself.  I’m thinking that the costs of overhead may ramp up, though.  So we are slowly collecting tools useful for jewelry and wirework, depending on classes and projects.  What I can see which would be useful, which we don’t yet have, are:

  • Flat-nose pliers (easy buy — $7-$40)
  • Tumbler ($100-$200)
  • Large-flame torch — probably Butane, at this point ($50-$60) — but this can upgrade and easily get much more expensive, if I get more serious
  • Bracelet, ring, and ear cuff mandrels ($30-$50, $25, $40)
  • Liver of Sulfur (inexpensive)

These would allow me to move into territory like filigree; polish and work-harden metal, and patinate metals.

If I obtained a small kiln useful for PMC and enameling (I think there are some which are like this), I would have the equipment to create enameled jewelry and Metal Clay pieces.  If I combined filigree with enamel, there we have Cloisonne.

Of course, there are likely other hidden costs and other hidden routes that I’m presently unaware of because I haven’t been involved in the actual work, yet.  (Or, as in the case of — for example — a flex-shaft machine [good for rotary cutting, polishing, drilling, etc.], I have a workable substitute [Dremel] which will do until my commitment is proven.  Same thing with the torch setup.)  One of the reasons I’m even going over this is because in one of my classes, we’re supposed to make a business plan, and that involves predicting costs.  Predicting costs involves thinking about the future.  (Of course, though, I have a tendency to live in the future…)  So in a way, I’m kind of doing part of my homework now!  :D

But!  If I am successful at my jewelry, and I’m still then inclined in the direction of knotting, I may one day be able to purchase a ceramics kiln, with which I’d be able to make ceramic components.  I don’t have to use all these myself — I could sell a lot of ceramic beads, I’m thinking.  This is because there is a general lack of large-holed beads on the market which are suitable for knotted designs.

But why do that if you can do everything else?  Wouldn’t enameled or Cloisonne beads really draw more attention?  Or fine-silver small-scale sculptures?  And if I had an enameling kiln, I could very well eventually make and sinter (heat-treat so they don’t explode) my own lampwork glass beads, thus evading the issue of needing to make beads out of ceramic (though of course, I’d really need to take care of my lungs, at that point [meaning, respirator]…my friend A has pointed out that a lot of stained-glass workers contract illnesses from chemical exposure; hot glass [and especially hot colored glass] isn’t anything to take casually).  But even though I could do lampwork…is that really what I want to do?  Will working with PMC/Art Clay and polymer clay satisfy the need to make things with my hands, in that way?

Hey, so it’s almost 1 AM where I’m at, and I should really get going!