Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lotus Have Been Planted

Sunday was installation day for the Lotus Window. But first...

I was working away through Saturday to finish up the grouting and patina work. People always think that working with lead came is the serious chemical exposure part of stained glass, but unless you are eating the lead came for lunch, a simple and thorough hand washing keeps those brain cells safe.

The real toxic fare is involved in the finishing steps of construction. It's ventilation fan, mask wearing, and rubber gloves time. After all the intersections of the lead pieces are soldered on both sides of the window, a grout/cement mixture (a nasty smelling concoction that makes one think "sludge") has to be pushed in all the tiny spaces between the glass and the lead came. This is a tricky operation, since you basically have to solder one side and then flip the window to solder the other side-- without it bending, pieces falling out, etc. Then, the grouting/cementing has to be done quickly, while the sludge is pliable. After that is finished, the whole window is dusted with this stuff called whiting (pulverized portland cement), which dries up the leftover grout/cement, so you can brush it off. At that point, you have used so many toxic chemicals that you really don't care that you are going to next dab nitric acid patina on the solder joints to make lovley, smooth dark lead lines.

After several de-dustings, cleanings, scraping, more de-dustings, etc., etc, you finally get to see the final product. Voila!

My wonderful husband helped me with cleaning up the window and loading that baby into the SUV, and off I drove to New Jersey. Since the window was still gassing off, it was a little like driving with an open can of turpentine for company, but that probably helped lightnen my head enough to stop worrying so much about installation.

Of course, what REALLY calmed me down was that my friend Robert, master carpenter, steady influence, and all-around reliable person, was there to do the real work. While I nervously cleaned and cleaned the window on the ground, he removed the old window, installed some lovely wood framing, and got everything ready for the installation -- all of which happened between 10 to 14 feet off the ground.

New window owner, Akiko, and myself watched from the ground as he hoisted the window up there, and with some combination of Zen concentration, Tai Chi precicion movements, and just plain old chutzpah and skill, turned the window and set it exactly centered and flush into its permanent home. I will pause here to reiterate the term exactly flush, since there is no such thing as exactly square on any building...and making square objects look square in what is always a crooked opening takes much more skill than most of us ever have.

And, finally, Lotus Window was in place. It looked as though it had been there forever.

Akiko told me that she thought it must be hard to give my baby up, and until that moment, I had not realized how much I would miss having this window in my studio.

But this is certainly the best spot for it. Lotus Window couldn't live with nicer people! It looks lovely in their home, both inside and out, with the sun streaming in and the lights shining out through it into the night.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lord, Thank You For Public Radio...

...As it has been a constant companion in the new studio, as I've worked on the new window. I've also been listening to Dave Sedaris in his book-on-tape guise, though I have to stop doing this from time to time, because I start laughing so hard. It's not really safe to be doubled over guffawing while operating a diamond-bit grinder. BBC News is slightly better -- at least more sobering -- though I do have to turn that off whenever Condaleeza has a press conference. It's not good to be yelling when you are operating the diamond-bit grinder either.

But, I digress...

The window is now in its finishing touches phase. I'm very pleased.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Inch By Inch, Step By Step

And now we get the lead out...er...in. The lead came is a channeld piping made mostly of lead that is worked around each glass piece. The lead came first has to be stretched, then it is snipped, curved, cajoled (but never threatened) into place.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

This piece should be that lighter blue, no brown,okay how about the clear bubble glass, arghh!

At last! All the pieces are in place and there is lift off on the final color plan. There were about 10 pieces for which I had to try every color combination before I felt they were right. It's always amazing to me how long I can stand there staring a window in progress -- or thinking about it at the stoplight -- before that little voice in me says, "Just cut the damn glass and try it!" With the exception of preserving some special and expensive glass or trying to make the last sheet of a color stretch, it's nearly always better to experiment than, well, worry.

Then, of course, Himself/Loving Husband asked me to send over a picture of the window progress thus far for his lunchtime edification. Naturally, he had his own sage advice to offer. Darned if the guy doesn't have a wonderful sense of composition, so I can't do the uh-huh-only half-listening response known to wives everywhere. I ended up using just about all his suggestions, especially on that "football shape" that he felt was overwhelming the overall effect. Football, it seems, just about always has a way of taking over.

Fortunately, I have some good, strong morning light in the new workshop -- and bright spotlights for later in the afternoon. Most of this glass looks quite a bit different against the light than it does pressed against white paper. In some projects, the more opaque glasses are fine, but the folks who will get this window wanted to be able to see the trees outside through the window, so all the glasses I used are clears or tinted transparents. Still, to make sure that the glass patterns are flowing in the right direction per the design, there's a lot of squinting through the glass into the sun, before I make my pattern cuts. Of course, for some glass, like the one featured to the left, there's just so much going on that I save it for a later, uncut cameo appearance.

Today's Bloom

More progress on the window. I ran out of the darker brown, so I'll have to go to my favorite glass dealer tomorrow. (Dang!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Lotus Are Blooming

This week is the final push to finish the lotus window for two of the most patient patrons in the world. I just about have all the glass pieced, groound down, and ready to lead. Now the fun part begins! Actually, I love the whole lead came thing, though I get a bit hot and bothered by all that soldering that comes later on.

I don't know if this is true of other stained glass window makers, but the hardest part for me is mapping out the colors. I don't feel good until I have to total number of colored glass at or below seven (7). Anything more than that is a horror movie. (Sorry, bad pun.) Once I get the colors pared down and in place, I start feeling calm again. So, by the time I am leading, I'm as happy as can be, the itinerant soldier on leave from the color wars. (Yes, that was me up at 3:30AM looking at the design again and rearranging glass samples...)

As an added bonus, my son is now installed in the workshop by way of a brand new drafting table. He joined me today out in the workshop for a couple hours of sketching, though he abandoned our atelier due to some major glass grinding by mom. (Hey Mom, do you have to make so much noise?) I think it's a good thing when one can annoy one's tween with the heavy equipment. Maybe I WILL get that Harley...Okay, maybe a Vespa.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again, Perhaps Western?

It only took 12 hours in DC for me to receive the official welcome -- the angry honk salute from one of our typical drivers, annoyed that I was actually yielding to a pedestrian in the crosswalk. The nerve! I feel even more inspired to continue such radical behavior. I might just adhere to the speed limit, NOT use my cellphone while driving, and eliminate the word "stress" from my vocabulary. Talk about risky. I may be drummed out of the corps.

So it came as a lovely surprise, when my kind and prompt Fedex man showed up last night with the enormous box of stuff that I had shipped home from New Mexico at the beginning of the week. Included there was the latest hat that I had knit for my friend, Jennifer, while at the Knitaway. This latest Shedir hat was knit in a soft, luxurious Synchronicity silk/wool blend. It's extremely warm, but soft as, well, silk.

Stay tuned for photos of the wool that I snagged from the Taos Wool Festival. I'll be snapping away this weekend....but not until after I fit my way through more of my latest window project!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Below the Mesa...At Least Partially

Just got back from Taos late last night, after a mad dash from New Mexico's airy lofts of the high mesa to the flatland desert, where they keep the planes. The good news is that I'm no longer sneezing my head off due to the Taos pollen/allergy season; the bad news is that I had to leave in the first place. No, really, it's good to be home. Really.

But, before home, work, and deadlines take up my full attention, I thought I'd post some pictures from the trip...

The day before we left, me and Laurie (brilliant, patient travelling companion, cool gal, and master knitter) spent a day meandering around northern New Mexico, driving on the high road from Taos to Chimayo.

We stopped, we oooed and ahhed, we drove on, we had to stop again. High mountains surrounded us much of the way, where the dark green pines were interlaced with the bright gold of the aspen trees turning their fall colors.

And just when we thought we'd seen the most gorgeous countryside, the road took another twist and a dip, and there in the village of Las Trampas, a sight made us screech to a breathless halt again. It was the village's church that stopped us in our tracks. This amazing structure dates back to the 1750s and is a fine example of the 18th century churches of New Mexico. The people of Las Trampas still worship there today.

It is usually locked, to keep it safe from the souvenir-hungry tourists, but a very nice gentleman who looks after the church unlocked it's massive, carved front doors and let us look around the interior.

No pictures allowed, but just being able to see the painted murals, carved wooden beams, and alter panels defied words. The church is still lit only with candles. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be to attend mass there at the end of a long day or on a chilly winter's morning.

Further down the road, the landscaped changed again from towering pines to chiseled cliffs. It wasn't hard to imagine that this country had once lain at the bottom of a huge prehistoric ocean. Except for a passing car every once in a while, the only sound was the wind.

I felt right at home there. Maybe it's that fish thing again...just a few millenia off.

PS. All these pictures were taken with my iPhone. Who needs a camera?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

On the Lam(b)

This week I am in New Mexico to take part in a bit of western wool madness -- The Taos Wool Festival. Honestly, it's beautiful here in Taos and, as the license plate attests, enchanted.

My knitterly friend, Laurie, signed on along with me to not just spend the week here, but to also join in Cheryl Oberle's annual Taos Knitaway. The Knitaway was held in the San Geronimo Lodge, a place that combines warmth, beauty, and a certain grace that makes you not only want to come back, but just move in for a while. Lodge owner, Pat Hoffman, is the source of this good feeling, and someone you are just happy you got to meet even once in your life.

This year's Knitaway topic: Japanese knitting. The ingenious Japanese have developed knit patterns that fit on a single page - a task that takes most western patterns pages of text, charts, and addenda. Once Cheryl had taught us a basic lexicon of Japanese symbols, I can now read a pattern, stitch charts, and maybe Nintendo instructions in Japanese. Cool.

And then we were off to the Taos Wool Festival, where there were llamas, alpacas, angora rabbits, and other wool-bearing critters. Sadly, the folks who sell buffalo fiber did NOT bring a live version, which was a huge dissappointment for me. I soothed this woeful condition by purchasing some truly gorgous wool of my own. Then I sat down under a tree and watched the wool world go buy, uh, by. For those of you who lament the bald commercialism and crushing hordes of the Maryland Sheep and Wool Show, just fix your sights further west. The Taos show is a refreshing antidote that features local and western small producers and has a sleepy, small town feel.

And then there is Taos, where there is a lovely courtyard garden to plop down in or adobe wall to marvel at or some other magical little detail to take in. Somehow, it all seems designed to make you slow down and just take a good, big breathe of air.