Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Gem Show goodies

What does the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show mean to me?  To start with, it means Netsukes:  those charming little handcarved boxwood beads that Orientals use on their sashes and closures.  To end with??  Every year is different and this one, no exception, ended with something amazing that wasn't even at the Gem Show.  You'll just have to see it all!  Like BreyerFest, the Gem Show is sensory overload.  Imagine 45+ hotels instead of one, celebrating jewelry, gemstones, lapidary, minerals, fossils, rocks and every associated craft...

My pleasant habit of attending the Gem Show each February started somewhere in the mid-2000s, when I and my husband fell so in love with Florida canoeing that we didn't want to spend Christmas vacation anywhere else.  Not even with family!  A bit of a puzzler because I still loved my parents dearly and still wanted to be with them over the holidays.  He solved everything by offering to fly me to AZ any other time.  I had known, since the 1980s, that the Gem Show happened in February.  I think my first visit was in the mid-1990s, when my tackshop was heating up and looking for supplies.  Over the years I acquired the Hill Tribes Silver beads used in Fancy's Hackamore, precious and semi-precious stones, great tools like the Precista wire brush (used in prepping Brasenose: Prepping 2018) and was exposed to technologies such as silver engraving and Argentium.  There is no doubt about it:  Jewelry-making is one strong strand of the art of making model horse tack.  Or should I say facet...
Refinement of my habit started somewhere around 2009 when I offered to get my sister jewelry in February for her Christmas present (which I could never manage on time).  She agreed.  I had always liked dabbling in the art (Something Different) and it was easy to transition over to being a hunter-gatherer-dealer for her.  Each year she would ask for one or two things, and each year I'd thus have the excuse to focus down on just them -- a godsend with so much distraction!!  Only those who have attended BreyerFest (or other gem shows) can imagine the chaos and glory of it all...  truly an overwhelming experience.
Where was I?  Oh yes, Netsukes...  So this post will show only this year's catch.  It has been a particularly good one.  Keep in mind that my sister only asked for jewelry; the Netsukes and other carvings are for me.  I added earwires (hooks) to the above, to make earrings.
2019 is the Year of the Pig.  These larger carvings are twice the size of the little ones above (and below).
I completely fell for the little ox with his braided rope halter.  When I got home I found I already had one of that pattern.  Since they're hand carved, there are subtle differences.  Look at the feet and ears:
Here is a view of their undersides.  The Chinese characters are the signature of the artist. 
If you ever think I'm immune to a cute little face, think again!!  Who could resist this?  And WHAT is he??  My guess is no one knows what a Nautilus looked like, so the carver was free to depict whatever they wanted:
Something new this year for me was bone carvings (cow).  I thought these two made a great pair.  The green frog is hiding his eyes.  "See (and Hear) No Evil."
Also new were the buttons.  You can't see them but there are wood button shanks beneath all 3 of these.
Such irresistable little animals...!  Netsukes do, of course, portray horses.  For reasons entirely personal, I have never collected them; fear of burnout, perhaps.  But that doesn't mean I haven't gone over for a white rhino!  "Where the whole silly myth got started," says Schmendrick, meaning unicorns.  My travertine rhino, above, still shows dirt in his cracks from years of rolling in his tray, just waiting....

You can guess my sister asked for blue earrings.  These originally had lengths of chain hanging from them; I took them off.
For these, I left half the chain still on.
It is hard to photograph jewelry.  The teal color below is more true.  I put the tiny glass beads on the ends of the chains.
To go with the earrings, I found a bracelet of Mexican make, silver with blue Fire Agate insets.  For this piece it was very helpful to have known the ancient art of bargaining.  Once again, the photo does not really do it justice.

The last thing my sister asked for was a suncatcher, "like from the 1970s."  Abysmally, I could not find one at the two venues I visited (Kino and Pueblo Gem & Mineral).  I looked everywhere.  I even asked.  No luck.  Instead, being in a mineral area, I found a lot of crystals.  To give you an idea of prices, the lower left was $12 and everything else altogether was $10.  The dealer gave me the broken pieces free (upper row), and I glued one back together (upper right).
Remember I said the amazing part this year was not from the Gem Show?  My budget did not cover leaded-crystal cut Swarovskis or diamonds(!).  I felt, in the end, that I was in the wrong place, and should look elsewhere for old-fashioned glass suncatchers.  On the third day, shopping for something entirely different (food), I slipped into the craft aisle of an enormous department store, and found a decorative dangle.  It was probably intended for a shade pull.
We tested it and it threw the best rainbows of all.

The greatest and only rule in collecting, for both BreyerFest and the Gem Show, is to get what you like.  Don't be afraid to like common glass or cheap crystals.  No one else need dictate what you love.  Buy what you really want and can afford (and enjoy the rest).  Let your heart be your guide.  If you are true to it, your choices will last a long time and give you great pleasure.

Sunday, January 27, 2019


It's time again for short posts.  A filly is smaller than a stallion, and halfway through a prep job is worth only a few shots; yet I have too much to say to compress it to a FaceBook post -- as usual!

First a word on the ink wars.  After 18 days, and with no significant progress beyond those 2 plates, we called a halt in the hostilities, mostly to treat battle fatigue.  I am waiting for the arrival of 5 new pens, and new ink, before resuming.  (This is thanks to my in-house general and wargamer, who suggested a sweep flanking manuever and change of attack.  Even when I resume, the bulk of the book remains to be written and drawn, so these are mere skirmishes.)  In this interval, two things are happening:  my time in Tucson (1st wk of Feb) and NaMoPaiMo. 
You could say the pens won.  Or you could say that a certain Akhal Teke filly suddenly became very interesting!

She has divots that Brasenose did not, an assortment of air bubbles too big to treat with Gesso.  However, I do recall a great deal of prepping on him too.  Little has changed.  I've spent all day happily pursuing something I could succeed in.  With her leftover Apoxie, I started on the saddle tree for a future saddle, TSII #458 (another Goehring).  You can see it above, in front of her.

Her ears were filed into more shapeliness, just like her sire's.  She received a forelock like him too.

I decided to post this next picture un-Shopped, even though it is distorted from camera angle and out of focus.  Ambolena had a divot missing from the middle inside of her off hind canon tendon.  This shot makes it seem like my 'fill' is incomplete, with a sharp edge.  I'm planning to file it smooth after it's cured.  As ever thanks to A. Bilon who gave me my Apoxie.
Ambolena also needed various small fixes on her hooves.  I recall I hadn't been happy about some of the heel bulbs on Brasenose; lo, his daughter has the same problem.  But this was relatively easy to mend.
I am waiting for her to cure before the first primer coat.  Also just like last time, it snowed.  :)

Happy prepping to everybody!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Ambolena Arrives

Only in the kingdom of model horses can you have a stallion who produces a filly without any input from a mare.   The mare exists -- in my mind's eye at least -- but like the filly, she may have to wait a year or more for her debut.  It's NaMoPaiMo time, and visions that have simmered for a very long time on the back burner are finally heating up.  I warn you that this post grew with the telling!  and has a rant at the end.  I love stretching out...  :)

Readers may recall my first view of Brasenose:  He was seen on MH$P in October of 2017, and he had company.
photo by M. Malova
Who could forget the most adorable stretching filly?   My husband calls her ScreetchHalt.  (!)  I said at the end of NaMoPaiMo 2018 that I'd think about a wife and daughter for my completed Brasenose.  In the year that followed, four things happened.  The first was a glimpse of Gazyr's manufacturer's-suggested wife, whose name is Bahkrom.  It was clear to me she was another Gazyr, not unlike the Hartland POA's being another mold version of Breyer's Yearling.
Gazyr, Bahkrom, Magnolia.  photo by M. Malova
I played with the idea of Brasenose's family.  A palomino or perlino, a buckskin or a bay, were all good colors for Akhal Tekes.  I thought buckskins and perlinos were a little harder for me than his liver chestnut, but I wanted a wee challenge.  I liked the unusual poses of these horses.

The second happening was suddenly seeing Orion, Margarita's new grazing Arabian, late in 2018.  This sculpture was based on a photograph of a real horse.  I was astonished, sat up and took notice, and started falling in love!
photo by M. Malova
Here was an appropriate mold for my family!  Still a grazer, but so much more interesting and realistic.
photo by M. Malova
photo by Margarita Malova
Yes, Orion was a stallion, and yes, he was an Arabian (not an Akhal Teke), but this is cloud-cuckoo-land, where dreams come true, --- and the two breeds are close cousins if not siblings.  Filly without a mare?!  Mare instead of a stallion!  If I wanted him to be a mare nothing would be easier.  In my herd the rule emerged in the 70s:  Gender is determined by personality, not body.  (This policy was born in an era of way too many Original Finish stallions for the available mares and a total reluctance to actually change the OF-ness.)  If you can adapt the horse to your ideas so much the better.  It is a huge relief that Orion was a resincast, and not an untouchable OF.  (Untouchable?!  why don't you act your age and stop bothering assigning families to them?!... doesn't realism rule?!?... well... I did mention cloud-cuckoos...)

Stepping down from that soapbox, let's get back to regular programming with some reminders of Brasenose:

The third thing that happened was a slow-growing realization that my inner muse was very clear about seeing the mare as a perlino and the filly as a buckskin... and not at all clear about seeing the mare as a buckskin and the filly as a perlino!  A great deal of fuss is spent, in the course of NMPM, trying to get hold of what the Muse is saying.  And here was mine being plain and simple.  It was a relief really.

The fourth happening was my purchasing Magnolia and Orion both at the same time, in late November, and paying postage for one box.  With memories of Brasenose I was an easy mark.  I left on my annual Christmas vacation after assuring her I could wait.

Upon return, problems started mounting up.  Orion was not a star customer; something to do with the molding didn't work right, was broken and could not be fixed easily.  I found out Russians celebrate Christmas January 7 (!) and holidays impact workers, hoh hah.  NMPM was approaching and I knew my first week of February would be spent in Tucson (just like last year), where prepping is impracticable.  Sad to say, I was getting antsy.  I had been told Magnolia was already cast.  With this knowledge I finally figured out how to solve for all the pieces:  Get my filly in time to prep her yet give Margarita time to fix the mold.  All I had to do was pay to ship two boxes instead of one.
So that's what I did.
Readers know how much fun it is to track a package.
Ambolena entered the US on the 15th, was delivered to my horse business mailbox the very next day, and was picked up on the 17th (Thursday).
Oh, Margarita, you make me ashamed of my shipping habits.  I am not so generous.  Look at what all came with my filly.  Thank you for such sweetness.

 The 17th was the date of my posting my entry for National Model Painting Month.  As usual I felt I had barely squeaked in, when in fact there was plenty of time.
Once again (this is who I am!) my husband took my official NMPM 'nudie selfie.'  In fact he took 13, not counting the rejects.  At the risk of appearing vain, here are the two best runners-up.
You may consider me pleased.
Ambolena was named after ragtime, and I can play her strain; but this post has gone on long enough.
 NaMoPaiMo's main sticking-point with me, as ever, is time management.  I shall have all I can do to finish her.

The fire and passion that was Brasenose's is, this time, going into a book and its plates (drafting drawings).  I will say right here & now that I've never been so challenged as I have been by the inking of the plates!!  Those Rapidographs (technical pens)!!  They would drive a saint crazy --- and I ain't no saint.  Two weeks now and all I've managed to ink is a couple of plates, and even those need more fiddling with.  I've bought two new pens ($36 ea.), 2 new bottles of ink (one turned out useless), carried out ink tests and cleaned and dried (thoroughly -- a 20-minute process) every pen multiple times (I'm not counting!!!).  I've tried over and over again to sense just what is going on, honing in with the sensitivity of a model tackmaker --  and still they don't work right.  They skip.  They scratch.  They work perfectly and then I change something and they dry up.  I've passed from sorrow through hilarity to stubbornness. When they are right they are so right... yet there are so many miles to go.

It's really turning into a contest between my ancient powers of tenacity ... and the incredible difficulty of working with those pens.  How much longer will I hold out?  Will I learn to use them?  (I did in the past!)  Will Ambolena get ink blots?!  Saints forbid!!  Stay tuned!  and thanks for reading.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Resolutions, FL and NMPM

This post is not just about my New Year's Resolutions but contains various catchings-ups and news bits.  Lastly it treats my NaMoPaiMo dreams - as of today, closer to reality!  It is illustrated with Florida pictures from our recent trip (mostly).  Thus it is a three-strand post, similar to but even more ambitious than my first venture into Stable Blankets: Three Strands at Once.  The plain truth is I've been so busy, since returning home, that I could not give inquiring model friends anything like what they deserved.  One demand piled onto another until I felt choked with frustration.  Only now, a week after return, do I feel reasonably able to blog... at the cost of some sleep, alas.
Great Blue Heron seen at Webb Lake
There are probably many blog posts in what we shot in FL this time.  Of 9 days canoeing and 8 days hiking/birding, a few days escaped without any pictures but 11 days were pretty well captured.  In trying to find a theme to start with, birds, reptiles and butterflies suggest themselves.  Mind you we didn't set out to document the fauna, only the flora!  Flower shots are George's specialty but I'm seldom interested in them; it's the animals I'm more likely to try for.  Today's frontispiece was photo'd while hiking:  Dry The Sea poses on a log along the Florida Trail in Green Swamp WMA.  If I can find the time (blogging is a reward of sorts), more FL posts will come.
Red bellied turtle (?) in Big Cypress WMA.
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS.  When I look at last year's, I see only one that got fulfilled ("Finish TSII #456.")  I did indeed reach a certain weight... but could not stay there.  Does that count?  (By the way my "Emerson" experiment, detailed in my Christmas letter, achieved 13 of 14 days and then was cut off by vacation.  Trying again, as of today I'm 3 of 7 days.)  Some of my resolutions I'll just roll over:  to clear out the old TIME magazines; to explore Print-on-Demand; to hang up the pile of collected fishing bobbers, making "Bobber Ristras," a specialty of our family canoeing.  Some resolutions go without saying:  to clean out the file drawers;  to enter more 5K races, as I enjoy these so much.  (By the way in my 5K race, Run Rudolph Run, mentioned in my Christmas letter, I finished second-fastest of all my races so far.  It was my second sub-forty-minute finish.)
Seen at Myakka Lake while napping in the canoe in a flooded oak forest.
Some of my resolutions are no-brainers.  A new belt.  A new watchband.  A mesh holder for the bird list in the canoe.  Moving on to the TSII, a pile of plates and a bunch of text for the next book, and a couple saddles if we can manage them.  It's still a tie between the one-hour-a-day approach and the Thursdays-and-Fridays for tack-only approach, for tackmaking.
Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area
Some resolutions are more personal experiments.  Every vacation brings home a list of desires.  This one asks if I cannot manage my FaceBook time a little better.  Could we go one day a week totally free of FB?  It is such a timesink!  There were whole years of my career without computer at all.  I get so much done in a web-free day!  Moving on, could we try not to boast about or promise something until it's a lot more done??  This really has been a problem with me throughout my career.  Unfortunately it runs smack up against advertising tack pieces, which is legit.  Perhaps there is a happy medium in there, a balance between keeping interest up and protecting the creative process.

George spotted this Red Shouldered Hawk in Big Cypress WMA.
In a general way, I need to be less hard on myself.  It seems to me I always expect too much, and try to do too much.  It's one thing to have accomplished miracles, but unrealistic to expect them to happen every time.  Allow for flub-ups.
That little lump in the center is a Great Horned Owl.  Babcock-Webb WMA.
Dry The Sea was the only horse to get himself shot this trip.  I brought 2 others, a buckskin Show Jumping Warmblood (factory name Jewel, personal name Corsair) and an ancient old Halla in fleabit grey from 1989, named Kalwari.  I realized later I had chosen 3 horses that spanned 30 years of Breyer.  I also discovered that 3 is too many for these trips.  Normally I use 2 Stone Tack Boxes to stow them in the car, back seat center between the food box and the trip box.  A few years ago we chose to try using only one box in an effort to save space.  (You have no idea of the premium on space on a road trip!)  This year I found stashing a second one next to the Stone Box, with only a pony pocket, was acceptable.  But a third under the seat did not work, being too difficult of easy access.  It's like a gypsy caravan in the car:  a space for everything and a routine to access it.
White Peacock Butterfly, Babcock-Webb WMA
NEWS.  Now that I'm home, I'm inking again!!  Last used who knows how many years ago, I cleaned up my Rapidograph technical pens (a 2-day job), bought some ink (my bottle was dated 1997 and is nearly empty!), and am happily inking plates for my next book.  Work must vary between writing, drawing and inking, but oh how I enjoy making those pens behave.  There were years around college [1978-1983] when I was doing this, and the year-plus spent on the Guide (1997).  Unlike model tackmaking in which I'm largely self-taught, drafting was my degree.  This activity is a direct link to my grandparents, who paid for my education, and to high school classes in drafting.  It all feels so homey, so true:  a pleasure once thoroughly known and gratefully returned to.
Big Cypress WMA.  There was a lot of rain, hence puddles.

And my other news is NaMoPaiMo.  I haven't entered yet because my horse isn't here, but as of today she's on her way!  all the way from Russia.  Thank you more than I can say Margarita!  The intended victim is a resin called Magnolia, not to be confused with Breyer's Magnolia the little Stablemate by Moody.  This stretching Ahkal Teke filly was sculpted by Margarita Malova.  Yes, she will be Brasenose's daughter.  I have visions of a sooty metallic buckskin.  On the same day as I bought ink, I purchased many more pastels and some Pearl-Ex.  All cheers for Uncle Eli's art store, which, unlike the University Book Store, carries waterproof drawing ink.
George wants to call this horse ScreetchHalt  :(  but I have named her out of the depths of my Ragtime life, a crossing of the beams of my life which strangely has never happened before.  In Zimmerman's Gems of Chicago Ragtime collection (2012) there is a Ragtime Medley No. 1., arranged by Adolph Schroeder (1899).  The second strain is called "Ambolena Snow."  It has become a favorite of mine.  This little filly went without a name for more than a year in my imagination before I realized this one was for her.

Kudos for those who hold NaMoPaiMo and who uphold its spirit.   And honor to those who manage wilderness areas.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sleigh Pix

It's the time of year when I like to trot out a model sleigh picture and let it stand over the holidays.  I thought I needed some new ones, but I never dreamed of the riches I would get when we went to a nearby lake today!  This post will really be two posts (all the better for the weeks to come):  a review of my old sleigh pictures, and a glorious show of what I got this afternoon.   The alternate title for the second half is How to Sleigh Without Snow.

 One of my oldest and certainly one of my favorite sleigh pictures is this one of Ghirardelli.
The horse was a Galbreath resincast, somewhat customized.  He was my first horse that I took to a NAN Championship -- one of three ever, and one of two in harness.  (The third was collectibility.)  I was insanely proud of catching the falling snow in these two shots.  See those white streaks, on the sleigh and (below) pony?  These were taken in our front yard and, needless to say, that is really snow.
I sold him;  today Ghirardelli resides in Scotland.
Then there is this one, which must have prompted the "Driven a FJORD Lately?" bumper sticker on the back of the sleigh...!  The pony is an Amarna (Liz Bouras) resincast.  I was a little ashamed I hadn't thought to make tracks in the snow, for passage of horse and vehicle.  At least it was still snowing!

The earliest sleigh shot I can find is this one, from 2000.  There was an even earlier one, from 1998, showing a bay pinto Moody Infinity pulling this sleigh (which I remember very well, and have the index thumbnail of), but my filing system has failed me and I can't locate the photograph.  I found this one instead, surprising me because I'd forgotten about him.  This horse happens to be Chris Nandell's Jorrit Friesian.  (I named him Foucault.  He's such a swingin' guy!)  I digitized and signed the photo.  All these images up to the Ghirardelli pictures were originally photographs.
In the same batch was this one.  I know he's not pulling a sleigh, but I used this photograph as my Christmas card that year (2000).  I thought he looked Christmas-y with those red, green & gold mane bobs, and the red stripes on the cart (by Dave Blenkey).

The Friesian shows what I've used in show rings and other places where I didn't have real snow:  a piece of fleece.  It shows best in his shot.  Now we come to a more humorous set-up:  I had purchased a Santa and some accoutrements, thinking to make a real Christmas scene.  This was shot in the same front yard.  Alas, too much work needed to be done on Mr Claus; in the way of over-ambitious projects, he has remained his primitive, mantel-intended self:
Supporting the 2006, the Joker horse was that year's BFest horse.  I was very proud of the idea of having Santa delivering such a dream to a lucky child.  (And that tack!  it's the Red Zebra hackamore, which wound up with K. Cabot.)  Clearly we didn't have real snow... the fleece is trying to serve, but the effect is less.  Also clearly, though you could not know, is that this shot represents the entry of digital cameras into my life.  2006 was when we bought our first one;  I still use it for NAN.  I used the 35mm film camera up through 2010; that year of such great changes in my life saw camera use change too.
Four shoeboxes of photographs document 33 years of my model life, from 1978 to 2010.
The stag has had his antlers slightly remade by me, bent upwards.

The sleigh was originally a Dick Eighmey Bobsleigh in green and yellow.  Somewhere in the mid-1990s I customized it heavily, adding shafts and a prow, painting it red, pinstriping it, upholstering, adding little gold griffin-heads, bumper stickers, extra bracing, railings and a whip socket etc.  I boasted its own mother wouldn't recognize it.  After 20+ years, the shafts have broken.  They were designed to be detachable, but unfastening them is a fiddly process and puts stress on the very joints that broke.  I would love the time to sit down and fix my vehicles...

For more than 10 years I did not take any new sleigh pictures.  And then came this:
Nominally I was showing off the base of the horse, which I'd just completed.  But in my heart it was obviously a continuation of the old pattern of Christmas sleigh shots.  :)
Here's one from the other side.  Incongruous with tropical greenery, perhaps it is a winter garden?
The harness here is the same one as was on old Ghirardelli back in 2006.  This, the Red Team Harness, is the oldest element in all these pictures.  It was built in the early 90s and it was originally made on a research ship in the Pacific... but that's another story...

So now we come to today, December 9, 2018.  I wanted to do another sleigh shot. There wasn't much snow - in fact there wasn't any.  I scrambled around throwing fleece, Santa, toys, assorted dolls and a couple of deer models into a box.  It was below freezing outside and had been for days.  Our goal for a hike was Colyer Lake, a little agricultural lake just southeast of State College.
We have never canoed Colyer, despite its being the closest paddle-able body of water to our house.  For about 10 years it's been closed;  the dam was undergoing repair (yes, that's how long it took.  bureaucracy + recession = forever).  Now that it's fixed, Geo complains of no facilities; and it's true; this is a very primitive little spot. 
 When we got there my ideas underwent an enormous and instant change.

Santa, other dolls, fleece, toys and trinkets never left the box.  Instead I stepped out onto the ice.  Near the shore it held my weight.  The temperature was 27.  I lay down on the cold gravel bank and tried to get my head as low as possible.
I have named this horse Bitumina.  If I'm rested I can put a tilda ~ onto that n:  Bituminya.  It was George who suggested coal for my pair of Namids; the other one, a glossy, rejoices as "Anthracite."  :)
During the shoot, some onlookers came by; one said, "I'm Not Gonna Even Ask!"  in a tone which tells you really he's dying to ask.  My retort was "They're easy to train," not too bad for the spur of the moment.  They turned out to be friends, a rare enough happening.

I was having so much fun.  I turned right along the bank.  There is a haunting quality to this shot which I think has to do with looking down from above and its having no horizon.
This is one of my favorites.  Residents of central Pennsylvania will know the collection of post stumps is a fish nursery.  Everyone else gets to imagine it as the remains of some fancy long-gone dock.
I had chosen this horse for her head angle (originally thought about her looking at Santa Claus).  Here, I tried a moose.  The reeds could be large rushes.  However, the idea didn't quite work; proportion is, indeed, everything.

A word on Steve's famous ermine cloak.  This lovely artifact was made when I still lived in Colorado, pre-1988.  (Woops, just realized the cloak is the oldest element, not the harness.)  Tandy's in Greeley had a sale on ermines and I picked some up.  The cloak makes for some lovely winter model scenes, but I tremble at how Steve still doesn't have any gloves.

Cold temperatures do not seem to stop him.  Bitumina is looking with great interest at the other side of the lake.
Yes, it is frozen all the way across.  Yes, it could probably hold their weight.

Yes, have a wonderful holiday, guys.

See you later...