Austin delivers Succulent-astic!

 

tool timeWe feel pretty lucky to live only about three hours from one of our favorite places, and therefore strive to get to Austin as often as possible.  This time we hit the jackpot when Steve was called upon to do a few hours of work down Austin way right about the time Labor Day rolled around.  Since the gas and partial hotel stay was covered, we took advantage and booked a three-night stay.  During those four days, a very small portion of which actually had anything to do with ‘work,’ we challenged ourselves to get out of our Austin-rut (south Congress, yawn yawn) and see some new stuff.  One thing that I had really been wanting to visit was the East Austin Succuents/ Tillery Gardens store.  Turned out it was only about 8 minutes from our hotel.  We tried to arrive early enough that the temps (which quickly rose to over 100 every single day) weren’t *too* much of a problem.

Here we are wandering the awesome acreage, doing alot of chin rubbing and head scratching over all the funky/freaky native plant goodness!

Having devoured the last six month’s postings by Austinite (and award winning!) blogger Pam Penick’s wonderful “Diggin”, as well as the advice of others who’d been there, I was super stoked to check out this wonderland of plants.  Not only did they have the *garden variety* (groan) succulents I’ve been buying for years,but also a number of unusual and new-to-me species of succulents, PLUS a load of native Texas shrubs, trees, and my favorite… awesmome handcrafted pottery!  (okay, this was more than a mere journey to see neat plants.  I really wanted to check out what other hypertufa artists were up to!) My images didn’t do these pots justice at all.

I picked up a few tons (well, pounds) of glass shard rocks in beautiful blues and greens for a future display on the front-garden pond, and a goodly number of small funky succulents.  But my most amazing discovery was a potter whose work I will devote an entire blog entry to.  We were lucky enough to meet him in person at the succulent show that was going on that same weekend right across town at the Zilker Park Botanical Gardens!  How lucky could we be!?  Here’s me holding one of his pieces on display at East Austin/Tillery Gardens.  So glad I held out and waited till we were in the presence of the Man himself.  Not only did he offer up a ton of great pots with the most intense glazes, but many of them were potted up with incredible succulents and cactuses.  We displayed a good deal of self control in acquiring only three.  But we’ll be back.

chris likes pots

 

“Help, there’s a hog in my kitchen!”

Sometimes you just know you got the name *right* on a wonderful pet you adopted, yes?

Just sitting here with Lenny at my elbow, I am sure of a few things: 

We got the name right…We got the attitude right….Not too sure about the look, though…

250px-Lenny_and_the_Squigtones_LP Lenny on the edge Lenny gets the bug Lenny and squiggy vegas suits lenny squiggy no.1 sidekicks lenny-and-squiggy dumb face

I mean really, just LOOK at that face!  (the one on the left… so far we’ve never met a cat stupid enough to name Squiggy.  Mainly because we’ve never met a stupid cat.)  But check out these facts about Lenny.  Since I was never a huge fan of Laverne and Shirley, I think it’s doubly astonishing how accurate we got with this name!  What a character.  Love the part about his name…

  • Leonard “Lenny” Kosnowski (Michael McKean)—A lovable goof who pesters Laverne and Shirley along with his best friend and roommate Squiggy (who both live upstairs, on the third floor, from Laverne and Shirley’s basement apartment). Lenny works as a truck driver at the Shotz brewery, and prizes a stuffed iguana named Jeffrey. Raised by his father after his mother abandoned them, during the series it was learned that Lenny was the 89th in line to the Polish Throne. Lenny says that, while he is not completely sure, he thinks his last name (Kosnowski) is Polish for “Help, there’s a hog in my kitchen”.

Ethics in Design: when is it okay to ‘go there’?

pyramid time capsule

For some reason lately, I’ve become more concerned about stuff I’ve been seeing in the places and spaces I like to go for inspiration, joy, revival, and solace.  Many of these show up in the form of shops on Etsy, or in other blogs, in stores and indeed all media. 

Lately I’ve noticed an uptick in the use of natural items in some of my favorite designers’ work.  This intrigues me, because I really do find myself attracted to the look of nature within art;  whether encapsulated in a glass paperweight, stored forever in resin, or stuck ‘part time’ into a rock or shell. Here is a nice example: tillandsia urchins three

So, you say, “what’s your problem?” Welllll, this example is great, because air plants (tillandsia) don’t have a problem living in a cramped environment. None at all. And the designer left these free to be removed so they can be properly bathed in water once a week, which is what they need. The sea urchin might have died and fed a hungry Japanese family; or so I have to hope. This could have all ended well. But there are some much less clear cut examples, where my ethics antlers start to quiver.
Like this one; the butterfly wings used for this project are from an unknown source.

butterfly wing in tube

When we buy butterfly or other insect parts from suppliers online, we are often told they were ‘collected naturally’ from the forest floor. Friends and neighbors, I spent a year volunteering at a butterfly house in Dallas.  Butterflies died everyday there (that’s about their lifespan actually; one day…let’s give them some respect) and yes, I’ll admit to sneaking around behind the bushes and picking up a number of gorgeous wings.  But by the time they died, they had lost much of the luster and brightness we associate with them.  They were literally faded, just like humans.  The truth is, when we buy living creatures on the net, we run the risk of being duped (best case scenario) or even downright defrauded (worst case), in which the animals were removed from native habitats, poached, slaughtered, and are now adorning our jewelry or clothes, leaving a gap in the forest that another species will be hardpressed to fill.  Yes, sometimes they are ‘farmed’ for these purposes, and as such put some much needed cash in the pockets of the small time farmers in south America, Africa, Polynesia, India, etc.  But I wonder if the carnage is worth it?  And when we complicate the equasion with bird feathers taken from Parrots?!  Yes, that makes me downright pissed off.  Almost all parrots are known to be endangered in most countries.  Plus, on top of being nature’s best advertisement for beauty and a rival to any Pantone color swatch combo, are some of the most intelligent, fast, noble, loyal, and longest lived species of birds on the planet.  Can’t we offer them more respect and be content to enjoy them in the wild, or even in zoos? 

If you go back to the top picture for a second, I’ll tell you a short story.  This gizmo I made by soldering triangular glass bezels together holds what I called a time capsule of our lives (Steve and I) when we were living on Daytonia in Little Forest Hills. When we first moved in, we dug around alot in the soil, planting roses, lilies (what, you say.. in Dallas?!  Fools!), hyacinth bean vine, trumpet vine, and any number of things that mostly died soon thereafter.  But we dislodged some fun stuff too, like a chunk of old bottle glass from Dr. Pepper, circa 60’s, when the logo looked like this.  And a wasp nest.  And a tiny brown speckled egg casing (assuming the baby bird got out alive!), among other stuff… but my favorite piece in here is the feather from a roseate spoonbill.  It represents one of my favorite jobs over the years;  those beautiful orangey pinky red and white birds were housed just over the creek from my office.  One day at lunch over in Bird Valley (as it was called) I spotted a flash of pink outside the cage caught in a bush and picked it up.  That little dude is now forever captured in my time capsule.  I would like to think all feathers were collected that way; passively, purposefully, and lovingly. But as this next photo attests:  such is obviously not the case.  What do we say?  How should we react?  Crafters must stick together and support each other.  But should Etsy and other merchant/suppliers have a policy in place to help protect species, even if they are not considered strictly illegal to buy and sell?   Just maybe un-ethical….

butterfly and beetle wings

 

Tiny Worlds

I don’t know anyone who at some point in their lives were not fascinated by miniature worlds; be they in the form of dollhouses, puppetering, or leggos and erector sets (the ultimate in miniturized building!).  It’s also no wonder that so many of us adults still make it a point to go see the Christmas windows at Neimans / Macy’s / Barneys (pick your price bracket) which almost always are elaborately composed scenes created using smaller-scale dolls, mannequins, and papier-mache creatures of dream and nightmare.

I figure this is the same reason that normal, sane adults are so taken by the wee, the tiny, and the twee (that’s wee and tiny put together).  Things like this make us screw up our eyes and force us to move in closer, while putting us in touch with those delicious feelings of youth. In this example, there are tiny concrete boxes with little itty bitty plants growing inside:  I love both the use of concrete and plants, but also the fact they managed to make it wearable.  Genius! (p.s., these are available on etsy.com)

nature necklace

And then, there are these tiny aquatic environments.  If some of you who saw us at one fo the outdoor shows might recall, we *tried* to create small hanging fish bowls using lightbulbs and wine glasses that have been strung and tied to hang from a hook.  Nature had her way with these hanging environments, tossing them around in high breezes and nearly boiling their little fishy inhabitants in high heat before I just had way too many protests about the cruelty factor.  We eventually agreed that as cool as it ‘could’ be, this idea just never panned out as hoped. (they did however work well as cut flower holders!)

Jeweled goblet showing detail

This creation was much smaller in reality than in this photo, lol!  This little fish did okay for a while but I eventually returned her to the larger 20 gallon tank.  She seemed dazed and confused before I did so – probably a lack of oxygen coupled with the tiny space freaked her out.

Now, an example of doing it right: *This* is a great way of creating a true underwater environment in which no fish/shrimp/snails have been harmed – the wonderful marimo ball!  Japanese myth hold that these little algae balls (which supposedly do continue to grow) bring good luck; as such, I need to get a hold of a LOT of these adorable green suckers.  Don’t they look fantastic in these lightbulb vases?  Again, genius! 

marimo ball bulb aquarium

And then there’s this incredibly artistic tree perched on a ring; the ultimate in tiny worlds.

tree ring

One Fish Two Fish is changing!

As fish often do, we’re wiggling off the hook and diving back down into cool waters… only to emerge topside with a more appropriate name for this operation/adventure/avocation:  Concrete Notions.  Steve and I (two fishy folks if there ever were some) decided it better portrays what we are doing and makes for a more ‘solid’ brand (pardon the pun there). 

Stay tuned for more about this.  Same great concrete pots and plants… 

dancing fish

 

 

 

Shazbot! and Fun with Words

It’s a new year, so they all say. That must be why I found myself digging around in my bright-green Ikea desk like a french pig with a line on a truffle, kicking up dust along with business cards, sticky notes, and errant stamps. Someplace in the melange I uncovered a brief list of funny words Steve and came up with last year. Some of them do harken to earlier years, but most of them are solid 2012 vintage.

Let me preface this list by telling that most of these have been inspired by cats. If you have kids, you will no doubt have similar aha moments when they do something that just defies standard vocabulariar boundaries and demands a new construct. Let me illustrate:

Butzinface – What someone working at their computer in our household is going to wind up with within moments of sitting down to work. Applies most often to Lenny, but can be applied to George.

Farking – Pretty much what it sounds like, right? So it’s a mesh of ‘f*ing’ and ‘larking’ and a bit of ‘malarky’ thrown in, just to mollify our Veep. And because Irish phrases are funny.

Gargolying, Vulching, Hoovering – well these are not new really, so I can’t take credit. Maybe Gargoyling. Our Russian Blue cat, George, looks particularly regal and Gargoyle-y when poised on his haunches on top of the refrig or cabinets, with neck extended.

“Honey, the Varmpires are Calling!” – okay, this one has nothing to do with cats. It refers to the blood bank that has our cell phone numbers and like to abuse them on a regular basis. I like to repeat their messages with a Transylvanian accent, just for fun. “We vant to have yer bluuud!” I know, I know. I will give and I do. But seriously, shop calling on the 61st day after my last donation, will ya?

Snorkeling – what Lenny does with his water dish; he’ll sit and wrap both arms around it, like he’s hugging it.

Marinating – what Lenny will do with his Super Fuzzy Worm (you know, the kind that does ‘amazing tricks!’ on a clear cord that no one can really get to work, but which cats adore). He likes to put it in his water dish, for safe-keeping.

Snizzle, frizzle, and schpool – all the ways that Gracie will drool freely over arms, chairs, and pillows. ew.

Foosy-putting – Take Pussy-Footing and rearrange the first letters. This happens on our countertops when we have all the plants inside and the cats are trying to work their way through them to get to the sink or to the latest chicken dish resting thereon.

Okay, that’s all for now…so I can finally throw away this bookmark I had them all written on. Yeah!

Change isn’t just a few coins in your pocket: Emma’s Revolution

Video

http://youtu.be/I7q36lWLqZ4

The best theme is peace.  This is another ‘new to me’ band called Emma’s Revolution, featuring social justice themes woven into beautiful melodies and harmonies.  Enjoy.