Friday, December 28, 2007

Finally Moved

Phew! Just a little bit busy this month.
Moved, started demolition process, started a new job, and had to squeeze Christmas in there too.

Our Dec 2nd moving day was postponed because of snow. We get so little of that white stuff that when we do get a few centimetres the whole city shuts down. Moving our furniture in an open trailer didn't look like such a good idea with snow falling so we decided to move just the boxes that were going into storage but only got one trailer-load of boxes to the new house before the roads became too treacherous for an inexperienced trailer-puller. We rented a truck for the big move the following weekend, just in case we got our entire winter quota of snow within two weeks.
What an ordeal moving is. You don't realize how much junk you own until you have to pack it, move it, unpack it and then find a place to put it away. Two weeks later & we're still tripping over boxes full of things that I haven't found a home for yet. And that's after a very brutal culling process.
I just got so tired of all the stuff, stuff, stuff. By the time I got to the top shelf in my bedroom closet I realized there were things stored there that I haven't even looked at in 10 years. I said I don't care what it is, if I haven't needed it in all that time I can live without it.... it's going. Then I opened a box and it was my wedding photos. Foiled again - more stuff that had to be moved.

I spent the week off between jobs going back & forth between houses: packing, taking things down, making a mess & throwing things out at one house; unpacking, hanging things up, cleaning and throwing more things out at the other. Moving into a much smaller kitchen with 1/2 the cupboard space makes you re-evaluate whether you really need 5 frying pans to survive. Oh, and when I say "throwing out" I don't mean it ended up in the landfill - most of it is still in bags & boxes in our storage room waiting for me to make yet another trip to Value Village - someone's got to benefit from this move, may as well be Big Brothers & Canadian Diabetes. My friend's daughter was thrilled to get an adorable Christmas decoration of ours but couldn't understand how I could part with it. I told her that at that point I was so fed up that if my Mother had been in the house I would have gladly given her away.

Friday, November 30, 2007


1. Moving this weekend. AAAAACK! Anyone want some cranky old appliances?

2. Got a new job today. Yay!

3. My jewelry will be at a lovely little Artisan Sale in Steveston at 4th & Broadway next week. Friday Dec 7th from 12 - 8 & Saturday Dec 8th 10 - 4.

Now off to fax employment agreement & continue packing....

Saturday, November 24, 2007


A list of things I have said we could have "once the new house is finished":

1. A new toaster. With 4 slots for after-school cinnamon toast pig-outs; one that can maintain that elusive waffle-toasting point somewhere between still soggy & charcoal.
2. New dishes.
3. A holiday. Somewhere warm, NOT within driving distance.
4. A snake, possibly a ball python. Shea wants a cuddly pet. (No, I'm not crazy)
5. Paintings. When we go to shows & galleries I should just bring a recording of myself saying over & over: "WALLS first, then art"
6. A sports car. Hmmmm - reconsidering that previous statement about my sanity.
7. A fancy hand-crafted pepper mill from the Circle Craft Christmas fair.
8. A new (additional) computer.
9. A hydraulic storage bed that lifts up. Room for keeping Shea's bow & arrows safe.
10. A kitten. When I told Kim we should wait until the house is done, he agreed that it wouldn't be fair to the kitten to move twice. Uh-huh, as if a kitten's inconvenience was my only concern. (Adding pet stores to my list of places to avoid when shopping with my husband)

I know I've said those words "when the house is finished" many more than ten times so this is a partial list, still in progress.

At least I'm safe about the sailboat. I am positive I didn't utter that phrase "when the house...." when sailboats were brought up. In fact, as I remember it, my side of that conversation was "no, no, no, No, No.....NO.........NO!

They're at it again.

Now, in the final stretch one week before we move, as if we don't have anything better to do (like pack, maybe) we have to wash dishes. Our portable Maytag dishwasher has dealt us another blow and stopped washing our dishes. It goes through all the motions but instead of spinning around spraying water, the spin-around-spraying-water things are acting more like stay-in-one-spot-and-drizzle things.
If we didn't have to bring it with us I wouldn't bother but our rental doesn't have one so that makes the 6th or 7th visit - I've lost track- from the repairman since February. It's a conspiracy I tell you.

Our rental house does have a nice washer & dryer so I'm ignoring the fact that my washer is also acting up. The laundry-room carpet is very squishy, even though it hasn't rained in days, with a spreading puddle in front of the washer. (Mom, if you want to do your laundry while you're waiting for the repairman for me, wear boots)
I also suspect that the spinny part isn't spinning as fast as it should as the clothes are coming out a little wetter than usual but that's OK because the timer on the dryer isn't shutting off consistently just keeps on tumbling until I finally remember that I'm doing laundry. At this point I really don't care, as long as my clothes get clean.

Forget shoe-shopping, my new favourite stores sell appliances: nice new, shiny, well-behaved ones. Today I saw a Kitchen-aid dish-drawer I'm lusting after- take that you drizzly old Maytag.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fell in love, now heart-broken

Today we went looking at bathroom & kitchen fixtures and afterwards were walking down Main St. past all the antique shops as I was describing my vision for our powder room. I picture it sumptuous and rich in colour & texture; a little surprise when you open the door, completely different in feel from the rest of the house (OK, so now it won't be a surprise any more) and said I could even see an ornate little chandelier, something vintage, not new. "So let's just pop into this shop right here & see if they have what I'm thinking of." Big mistake.

We popped in & fell in love with the first chandelier we saw. (Even Kim did, and he isn't usually very enthusiastic about antique or used things unless they have 4 wheels and a powerful engine) Very elaborate, Art Nouveau, with hand-blown glass shades, each signed by the artist - in 1905. Absolutely exquisite.... & right within our budget - our budget for an entire bathroom that is!

The owner was so nice; he already has an offer on it from a dealer but would rather see it go into a home - if we could beat the offer. Fat chance.
He also showed us some more pieces he'd bought from the same private collector in France: a table lamp that matches the chandelier, that he's hesitant to sell because he makes so much renting it to film production companies;
and a set of glass shades by the same artist. Just the glass parts.
They are crying to be made into pendant lamps and hung over the island in the centre of our kitchen. They would be the focal point, I would design the entire kitchen around them.
So organic they remind you that glass comes from the earth: so not-shiny; so not matchy-matchy; so not manufactured-looking; so so beautiful. So so so much money. More than the cost of a really fancy-pants kitchen faucet - each.

The chandelier I can live without (maybe) because it deserves a better home than a tiny bathroom & we don't have another suitable spot for it, but the shades would be so perfect for our kitchen. To be able to look at something in your home every day that an artist put his soul into over a hundred years ago....

I had a brain-wave on the way home: Christmas is coming, there are 4 shades, 4 of us. Do you think the boys would appreciate each getting one 102-year-old, signed, art nouveau glass light shade from France for Christmas? I mean it would be worth 2 or 3-times more than we would otherwise spend on them. Can't Shea use his old, too-small bow a little longer? Cole doesn't really want anything else, does he?
Sorry, not going to happen. And now we're spoiled: no pendant lights, no matter how fabulous, are going to look as perfect as those ones would have.

I'm going to have to stick to shops that cater to my price range. I couldn't take this every time I go shopping.

Things are moving

At least we will be in less than a month.

I knew it had been a while but didn't realize it had been more than a month since my last post. I guess that's what working FIVE days a week for a change does to time. Sure miss that one extra day off each week.
Whenever I've had time on the computer (yes, we're living in the dark ages - family of 4 sharing ONE computer, they're going to grow up emotionally stunted & socially shunned for being so deprived) I've been looking for a place to live & a new job but now we've rented a house for Dec. 1st and my temp job has been extended until Dec 10th so the pressure's off on both those counts. Still looking for job but it's not as urgent as when I thought I was going to be unemployed by last Friday.

The rental is the big news as it ties us down to a concrete date. I've been packing up things for the past 3 weeks (slowly) that are to go into storage until the new house is finished but the house we rented has an extra storage room beside the carport so we may not have to rent extra storage space after all. Working at the hospital has been a great source for boxes and I haven't had to resort yet to taking the big "Depends" boxes. I'd rather have our new neighbours wonder why we need cartons and cartons of rubber gloves than think I need those.

The rental house isn't as close to the boys' school as we'd like but couldn't find anything in the neighbourhood within our budget - this area is getting just too trendy. The house is exactly 1-3/4 miles from school (our streets are on a 1/2-mile grid, that's how I know) and on a bus line. In fact, they couldn't be any closer to a bus-stop unless they slept in a bus shelter. (which is a tempting thought sometimes) They'll have to learn to get up the first (or even the 2nd, 3rd or 4th) time I call them when they have a bus to catch.

So we'll be in a small rancher, not perfect but it'll work, and the boys won't have to share a room so Shea won't be tempted to sleep outside in a tent. Besides we don't want to rent a big fancy house & have the boys feel like they're slumming when we move into our new house.
No studio space for me in the rental, unfortunately, but I think I might be just a little busy with this little design project of ours. Kim's done the walls, now it's my turn!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Somehow, they know

I swear they know their time is running out. Must be all the brochures & magazines I've been bringing home. We are going to try and find good homes for them, not just dump them, but they've staged a protest anyway.
At first it was nothing drastic; nothing serious enough to warrant replacement, just little things: bushings, belts, fans - just enough to force us to call in a repairman, take a day off work. OK,I'll admit that part's not so bad, an extra studio day, but I could do without the writing-a-cheque part.
It was well-organized: started with the dryer; exactly 2 weeks later the freezer; another 2 weeks and the washing machine took it's turn. Then just when we thought they'd made their point, the dryer took another turn. They even got our toilet on their side, acting up for weeks before flooding the bathroom and needing it's internals replaced.
Now, like so many protests, it's gotten out of hand and there's been a fatality. Even though the little guy was coming with us to our new home, my studio convection oven, trying to show solidarity with the big guys, has kicked the bucket. Now all I hear is the little tick-tick of his timer, no more fan, no more heat. What a pain, right in the middle of curing a batch of beads so I couldn't tell if they'd reached the proper temperature for long enough before the oven died.
I'll have to run upstairs to use my kitchen oven now, although when I mentioned this to Kim he said no, get a new one. He can't stand the smell of polymer clay curing and thinks that because something smells bad, it's toxic. (Ha, if that were true we'd all be running for cover every time someone farted.) He's stuffed up with a bad cold so I'm safe for now, re-baked those beads today & he didn't even notice.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Permission to demo

That's demolition, not demonstration. This is a house post, not a clay one.
Friday we bought a demolition permit for our house. Just don't tell the kids, they've been itching to test their strength out on our the walls & we still need the house standing for a couple more months. We heard that the city has new requirements in the works for demolition permits, which will likely translate into higher costs, so we got our permit before we actually need it.
The way it's deteriorating though, the house may fall down on it's own. There were a few spongy spots on our back deck that we haven't bothered fixing and I think someone's foot went through one. I've been putting a bucket under the drip in one corner of the laundry room when it rains but with last night's (and today's) downpour one bucket wasn't enough.
I'll be wearing boots to do the laundry now.

Friday, September 28, 2007


While I usually stick to very simple canes, occasionally I'll get the urge to make something insanely intricate, with details so small they can't be seen with the naked eye once the cane's reduced.
The snowflake shown here isn't as intricate as that, but was the start of the craziness a number of years ago, my first complex cane.
I became fascinated with some micro-photographs of snowcrystals and that was the reference for this cane.
We think of snowflakes as being perfectly symmetrical but when you study photos of real ones you notice a lot of variation. All snow crystals have six sides, but not all six sides are exactly the same. Often there will be three of one design & three of another, alternating. I guess all the distortion in my cane just makes them more authentic - a little wonky, the way nature makes them too.
Being such a cane-building novice it took me a couple of weeks to build all the components and put them together. Then another week or two before I got up the nerve to start reducing it. It was about 6" in diameter and about 2" high and produced a snowstorm, which then covered everything I could get my hands on: from ornaments to barrettes; serving spoons to eggs. The only things I have left from that flurry are a few pins like those shown, cane slices on a pinback. (I wasn't making beads back then, aside from a few small ones to dangle from the ornaments.) My plan was to make a different snowcrystal cane each year but that only lasted 3 years.
This year I rediscovered my trio of snowcrystals and have been reducing and using (reduce, reuse, recycle) the last remaining chunks of snowcanes #2 & #3 to make beads for the upcoming bead show. This bright blue one is "snowcrystal cane #3". You can see how my cane-building skills had improved between #1 & #3 but this one has always struck me as almost too pretty, almost cold. I think I prefer the looser, more organic feel of the navy one.
#2 has a complete set of problems (including being very difficult to photograph) and I've always referred to it as navy one's evil snowflake twin. as soon as I locate my camera I'll show some of my new snowcrystal beads.

By the way, one of those navy pins spent about 2 years pinned to my son's jacket and went through the washer & dryer once a week. If it wasn't for wear on the metal pin itself, I wouldn't be able to tell which one. If anyone asks....YUP, polymer's washable.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

House update

We've taken another step towards building our new house. A big one this time: Sales Contract is signed & delivered.
This means we have just sold 1/2 the land that our house is sitting on. It's not as precarious a situation as it sounds - the closing date isn't until the new year so technically it's still all ours. We're not homeless quite yet. I'm not mentioning any dates because every time I do something happens to delay things yet again.
This has been such a long process so far, with so many hoops to jump through. Our poor old house is looking ready to be 'put down.' We now have duct tape bandaids all over the place, covering spots where the environmental tester cut away sample bits to make sure we're not letting loose anything toxic when we start knocking down the walls. Little biopsies.
Kim's been looking into demolition costs but with 2 teenage boys with lots of friends I think we may be able to take care of a lot of the interior smashing-up-type stuff ourselves.

Poached or patina-ed

After reading Lindly's blog post about finishes and how uncoated polymer jewelry develops a patina over time from contact with skin's sweat & oils I realized that maybe it wasn't the hot-tub that gave my leaf bracelet that slightly deeper, richer finish. Although in my case I'd have to add hand lotion to the list of culprits. ... and maybe perfume.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What's a blog without pictures....

Or lousy scans?
Proof that I've found the time to do something. These are some almost-finished bracelets I put together last night from last fall's left-over beads. I'm going to put lobster clasps on them because I don't really trust the little hooks I've been making for my necklaces to be safe enough for a bracelet.
One of the bracelets I wear almost constantly is very similar to the top one so I copied it and made one to sell. The one I've been wearing is very slightly discoloured, I think from spending too much time in a hot-tub. Product testing, that's what I was doing at Whistler. Now I can warn my customers: light colours may darken slightly in extremely hot and chlorinated conditions. It is barely noticeable - wouldn't have known if I didn't have some "unpampered" beads to compare it to, and I do like the discoloured ones better.

This newest scanner is terrible, they just keep getting worse. First one we had, I could scan a covered egg & it would be in focus right to the furthest edge. Second one lost focus about 1/4" away from the glass. I found out there were 2 different types of lenses so the last time we needed a new 3-in-one we made a point of finding one that had the right lens, or so we thought. Shouldn't have trusted the salesman because this one is the worst yet. How can something be out of focus when it's lying right on the glass? Can't use a white background or everything is completely washed out. I usually use scans just to document my work, not to show anyone but still...
I am going to have to get a proper set-up for taking decent photos. I've started - bought a very cute table-top tripod a few weeks ago so I can stop using my flash. Will have to locate it, last time I saw it the boys had it. I just hope it's still in one piece - I better not recognize any of the parts on their latest potato cannon. I know they wouldn't do that but I also know they were thinking how much more useful it would be dismantled and parted out.

Friday, September 14, 2007

This would be the introduction

I finally decided that if I wait until I know what I'm doing, & get my profile written, & get this set up the way I want, & take some decent pictures to post, then I'll never have any entries on this blog. So I'm just going to start.

I'm Jem.
Yes, my real name. No, it isn't short for anything. And yes, there was a time when I knew all the words to the theme song for that cartoon, not because I'd ever seen it, but from all the times people sang it to me. If you're in your 20's or have daughters or granddaughters that age you know what I'm talking about. The rest of you, you really don't want to know, trust me.

I am an artist, bead-maker and a mother of three young teen boys (oops, make that two, that third one hasn't been a teen for many years, just acts like one sometimes. My husband would be the one racing the shopping cart down the aisle, which our sons now find more embarrassing than amusing - may be why they don't want to go shopping with us anymore.)
I work full-time and am involved in our local polymer clay artist guild, moderating our online group and organizing (or delegating- thanks guys!) our meetings.
We're also in the design/red-tape stage of building a new house so I'm also looking for a place for us to live while it's being built.

If anyone asks me how I find the time to make art, I just tell them the truth: I don't clean my house. Everyone laughs but it really isn't a joke, not a very funny one anyway. You certainly wouldn't laugh if you saw the state of my house. At least now I have an excuse - what's the point of cleaning it when we're going to tear it down soon.

One thing I do keep on top of is laundry. We always have clean clothes. It's sheer coincidence that the laundry room is just off my studio (it will be in the new house too - why change what works?) On weekends I sort the mountain into 6 or 7 hills and head downstairs. I tell everyone I have LOTS of laundry to do, don't expect to see me all day, maybe not until Monday. Have to stay within earshot of that washer & dryer of course, never know what terrible things would happen to the family's clothes if I left the studio, I mean laundry room, to go dust or something. (that's an inside joke- I don't dust if I can help it - so almost never. The kids & I used to make handmade paper out of dryer lint, surely giant dust bunnies can be made into something equally useful. )

I'd like this blog to have a number of functions: a way to keep friends & family up-to-date on the progress of our house project; show off some of my polymer beads, jewellery and ornaments, maybe some of my older ceramic work & furniture too; share some of the things I've learned and figured out about working with polymer clay (Barb, those tumbler tips are coming, promise); and share some of the joys of living with two teenage boys and a very demanding, very talkative cat (aka "the rug").

And, now that I've taken my first blog babystep, my next will be to decide if I'm going to tell anyone about it or not.