- What a month! Knitting like a demon, finding the Knitting Goddess and Handpaint Country encouraging me to use even more color in my work. Writing a book about chainsaw carving that needs to be ready by the end of the month. Coming back to life after two month’s artistic hibernation and gestation. Fixing up my house to support even more creativity. Ice storm and isolation. First possibly serious chainsaw injury, stopped by my chaps. $75 initial cost, 3 years, $howmanythousand for the avoided ER visit and follow up.
- Duck show sold my space so I have my booth rental back. Whew. Very glad I’m not out of town this weekend and I can focus on other art.
- All of that is a bit of a run-on. Maybe I should take it one at a time.
- The knitting continues at a furious pace. Finishing the red sweater I started between Christmas and New Year’s and setting up a mostly-blue one next. Hanging out in the yarn stores again. Expensive habit. Buying knitting books as eye-candy; loading the database for the next project after this one. Maybe try a new form of knitting for me? Patchwork catches my eye, with other people’s fancy hand-dyed colors instead of my own intarsia blends. Not sure yet; haven’t cast on the blue so there’s plenty of time and I am able to stick to my resolution about not buying ahead of myself.
- Found The Knitting Goddess courtesy of an amazon.com search on knitting books. Deborah Bergman majored in comparative religion; it shows. Links the ancient goddesses who had fiber anywhere in their story to our lives today; completely engrossed me. Off to my Bullfinch to find out more about these stories.
- I frequently haul glossy magazines home to use as raw material for my color notebook and sculpture idea book. I’ve learned which ones are the richest source material (Architectural Digest, Veranda) and which to leave alone (Organic Style, most travel magazines, Gourmet). Found a new-to-me magazine: Dwell in the glossy recycle yesterday. Brought it home. Nothing of interest for my own art. Noticed a paragraph of editorial content about My Architect, a film about the life of Louis Kahn. Left three families when he died; the movie is his son’s search for understanding about Louis’ life. This is the story featured in the Law and Order episode over which I blew up a TV. Website for the movie links to an interview with Nathaniel Kahn who talks about creativity in architecture and film; rich material. Hope the movie comes to Raleigh or they release the story on DVD. This may be one I have to own and watch a few times. Hungry for more information, any information, about how other artists have experienced their own drive to create.
- It is also not lost on my that my formal training in creativity is in the field of landscape design and as such I have an affinity for architects that not all artists share. Worked in architects’ and landscape architects’ offices for two years when I first came to NC.
- February “drop one add two”:
- Dropped several magazine subscriptions, not so much that I didn’t enjoy them (National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, Sunshine Artist, Saturday News and Observer) as much as I have too much to read anyway and I don’t need a regular dose of something from the outside distracting me from what might be coming up from my own resources.
- Added a workable office space–new desk chair, better lighting, typing table that’s at the right height and lets me hand-write and work at a keyboard without having to move my PC out of the way.
- Added colored pencil to my journal entries. (This appears trivial even to me but I suspect it’s going to turn out to have a profound impact on my ability to create 2D art. Inability to make 2D art is a major source of frustration to me today.) (Also, the colored pencil appeared on its own, rather than being something I “thought up.” Practicing the art of listening to what shows up on its own.)
- Took a break from the saw over most of Dec and Jan and got back to it yesterday because I have orders for two bears that don’t need to wait for additional Ridgway inspiration. My 16″ bar is still out of commission and now I really need to get it into the shop. My Stihl 260 is great for blocking out but not for carving, as I discovered after two hours’ work. Leaned around the bear to check the back of his ear and felt a “pop” on my left leg. Shouldn’t be anything hitting me. Looked. Wow. That’s why we wear chaps. 1″ nick in Kevlar would have been an ambulance ride and a lot of stitches in denim and flesh, not to mention not carving for a MUCH longer time than it will take me to get new chaps. Glad I had my camera in my hip pocket and not in my chaps pocket! Three years, first moving chain-on-a-saw injury.
- I am finding the idea of being an author of a real book infinitely more seductive than the actual work involved in getting from point A: the idea to point B: the finished product. Pricing printing–Ouch!! This is real up-front money! Endless spell and grammar checking. Even more reorganization; the more I write the more I can see how it can all fit together more effectively. Except that I’d really rather be: installing a new light assembling my new chair shopping for shelving for the bathroom walking the dog keeping up with email anything else on the planet and I have a month-end deadline and people will be more likely to buy if they have a finished product to look at. Wouldn’t be surprised if some of the reason for the chainsaw cut was to send me back to my PC. Page count is dropping to something reasonable (perhaps 250 or so) as I print and read and realize there is a lot of duplication. Stay tuned. Another ice storm or two would be useful.
June 18th found me, John the Balloon Man, at Maker Faire NC, in the Gov. Kerr Scott building at the NC Fairgrounds. I sat between the B.O.L.T.S. (Brotherhood of Learning & Teaching Smiths) folks from Goldsboro, blacksmiths of a sort (their term), and the wacky and wonderful CHAOS machine, a rather large, well wrought assemblage of 3 dimensional grids, chutes and electric escalator ladders that moved plastic marbles around, reminiscent of the old “Mousetrap” game. My mission, to amuse and delight the children in attendance through the twisting of inflated latex cylinders, otherwise known as “animal balloons.”
My partner Karen Tiede participated in Maker Faire NC as a “Maker,” showing her hand knit rag rugs made from upcycled old clothes. I contacted Jon Danforth, the capable organizer, and let him know that I would love to attend, at no charge, with permission to have a tip jar. The Maker Faire NC team thought balloon art would be a fine addition to the mix.
The Maker Faire event planning team suggested walk around entertainment, but I replied that I might best be stationary. History has taught me that when I start twisting, a line forms instantly. More often than not, the line stays 20-minutes long for the duration of the event. The CHAOS fellow remarked that together, we were a “kid magnet.”
Once we finished setting up Rags to Richness, my partner’s booth, I took a minute to set up my area, and had time remaining to walk around the indoor arena. Maker Faire attracts marvels and wonderful things, systems, art and science. I purchased a necklace from the Scrap Exchange booth that commemorated my getting lost at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, as a six-year-old (that is another story, best told some other time), which I gave to Karen.
The first few balloons were gifts to children of fellow makers and sponsors. Once the doors opened at 10:00, the flood gates opened and the serious twisting began. The children in line were of the age that is delighted by the whimsical items I create from a balloon.
Two breaks, spaced a couple of hours apart, dozens of children delighted, as many parents amused. A fine break area for Makers, provided by the organizers, kept me in fine fettle. The A/C struggled to keep up toward the end, but honestly, I did not notice it until two moms commented about how warm it was.
Happy children, happy parents, happy organizers and happy balloonist. Everyone was a winner at the Maker Faire NC! One of the event sponsors approached near the end and expressed her gratitude for the work I had done. (As a mother of once-small children, she had noticed how the younger children, and their parents, appreciated age-appropriate entertainment.) That, along with all the smiles I helped happen, really made my day.
Previous posts have indicated that I have a collection of antique Singer sewing machines; three Red Eyes and a Memphis Sphinx. Three of them work; two of them are people-powered and one is electric. (The non-working machine is people-powered, but sticks somewhere in the stitch cycle.)
I am experimenting with a new product for the studio, a line of personal luggage. Progress has been a bit slow, given the distractions of finishing up a significant assignment, Thanksgiving, and the Studio Tour. However, that’s all behind me now and it’s time to see what it takes to get these cases out the door. I understand I will have to make several up-front and hone the design and production steps.
John put the new motor on the electric Red Eye Sunday night while I worked on the treadle machine, and Monday, I was set to sew with electricity. Except the machine wouldn’t go. The connection between the motor and the flywheel is not tight enough to drive even a denim needle (size 16) through several layers of silk and interfacing. The treadle machine has no trouble with this. Frustration.
A fair amount of people-powered progress is made, but I can also see that it’s going to be hard to turn a profit if my production line is powered by a treadle. It doesn’t take long to get back to Craig’s List, and lo and behold, there’s a newly listed used Industrial Singer machine for sale, in nearby Sanford! $425, with several bolts of awning fabric thrown in for good measure.
So here’s the question: How much do I spend to test the idea? What is “investment in a new product line that could, possibly, have a decent profit margin,” and what is “extravagant collection of equipment I won’t use to its fullest and will only drain my cash reserves, and take up precious, non-existent floor space in a house already giving shelter to five sewing machines, three with tables?”
The question is actually bigger than any particular machine, per se. The problem is, I don’t have a reliable decision tree. This has always been a bit of a problem for me, but with a steady job and regular paychecks, any mis-spending tending to get corrected in time. Now that I’m in bootstrap start-up mode and cash flow is king, the consequences are much more serious.
I made an appointment to look at the machine, and John and I talked about the problem, and the machine inventory. We can sell some of the Red Eyes and probably recoup what we have invested in them. (We’re talking pretty small numbers here, like $35. All less than $100 each, for sure.) John understands the problem.
I went to look at the machine, and the Muses* of Decision-making and Machinery smiled on me. The thing didn’t work. It ran well enough, but the thread kept breaking. For $425, I’m not going to decide that this is a minor problem I can fix myself. The owner had used it once, 18 months ago, and couldn’t figure out how to get the thread moving smoothly in the amount of time I was willing to wait. I did have time to notice that one oil port was packed full of sawdust, probably from leaving the machine uncovered in a wood shop, if not from actually running it in the wood shop. Lint in a sewing machine is to be expected. Sawdust is not.
*I know these aren’t muses.
While I was testing the machine, I was able to gather some additional data about my problem. A commercial Singer of this age (unknown, but I expect they’re all pretty similar) is in essense, no different from a Red Eye made in 1920. The commercial machine is larger, and heavier, but is otherwise built with exactly the same mechanical structure. The power and speed are a function of the electric motor, NOT of the machine itself.
And to tell the truth, I’m not so sure speed is what I need. That puppy is FAST. (Probably 3000 stitches per minute, and at even 10 stitches per inch, that’s 300 inches / 25 feet / 8 yards (rounding) a minute. Speed of stitching isn’t my problem. Running a needle through my finger would be. People who have heard my adventures with cast iron frying pans will understand why I might be hyper-conscious about working with a very fast and powerful sewing machine.
I need power, not speed. And I have power in my treadles–they’re handling the thick layers just fine. The problem is, it can be tricky to get a treadle machine started in the right direction. Perhaps more time-on-machine will fix this as my feet learn the rhythm; given that pretty much everyone who owned a treadle Red Eye switched to electricity as soon as it was available, perhaps not.
On eBay today, I could find at least three Red Eye or Sphinx-model machines fitted up with new motors, being sold as “industrial.” (Responsible sellers, and sewing machine resellers tend to responsible, do admit these machines won’t do saddlery, or anything thicker than 3/8″. 3/8″ is a lot of thick when it comes to sewing.)
Given more time to think, John came up with some possible solutions for the upgrading the machines I already own, including using a belt connection between the motor and the flywheel rather than a friction-driven link. (OK, belts are friction-driven too; what I have now is wheel-to-wheel, non-geared. Too much slip.) I also know a little bit more about commercial machines than I did. Do they really all use bobbins, or was I seeing older technology that has since been upgraded? I can’t believe the ladies on the Levi’s line are swapping out bobbins every few hundred yards of leg seam. Not sure where to go to find the answer to this question, but I expect it will come to me soonish.
I don’t know that I have any formal Lessons Learned to take away from this experience that are clearly applicable to the next shopping problem. I know a bit more about my ability to test sewing machines. I’m 2 yes, 2 no, and I could as well have said No to one of the treadle machines but at least I got a working table out of it. John can probably get the machine unlocked with a bit more attention. (I thought it was a trivial adjustment when I tested the machine in the owner’s garage, and it turned out to be a more systemic problem.)
One partial answer came to me overnight: If I change the assembly process, I won’t have some of the sticky spots that cause trouble with starting and stopping the Red Eye. Hmmm… Did Judith Leiber think this way? What about the Birkin bag design team? I’m sure they do…