Saturday, December 18, 2021

My Xanthian, with movies


Now that the Xanthian Coloring Contest entries are out in public view (they're on Studio Minkiewicz LLC's FaceBook page under Photos), I consider it high time to show mine in a much better format:  MOVIES!!!!

The Contest's rules for commenting on your entry were "two to three brief sentences."   This wasn't much obeyed.  I forced myself to boil my comments down to the essence -- obedient! -- but compression generates heat, and so, here in this blog, everything will come foaming out.  

The contest was announced November 1 and registration closed on the 5th.   I entered and was given access to the drawing on November 2nd.  I chose hand-drawn (instead of digital) and was obscurely pleased to see the hand-drawn entries outnumbered the digitals by two to one (78:35).  I started quite faithful to my packet of colored pencils.  By the 7th I had done a first pass.  However, within 24 hours, the prism tape had moved in and taken over, as neat a conquest as ever I've seen.

I am the fortunate owner of a Hillingar, and when this contest was announced, I originally saw it as a chance to practice for him.  My Muse had come up with the most astoundingly audacious idea for that unicorn -- a Dragon in Green and Gold -- which I can only attribute to looking at Evelyn Munday's FB feed, combined with having Carousel dreams for years.  But however I looked, I couldn't find a dragon I really liked in those colors.

This shot (below), taken on the 15th, and the above (16th) are the only ones documenting the work in progress.  Here, as nowhere else, you can see the glint of the gold gel pen in the edges of the forefeet, tail and ears.  Later on this detail would be swallowed up.

Xanthian has two sets of wings, and I wanted to make them notably different.  I started out pairing the lesser wing with the cheek (gill?) wing.  It must have been here that the prism tape made its appearance, with the dark green spines.  The gold stuff I had lying around for Parade set insets.  It had been rather unsatisfactory.  But by gar it was perfect now!  I had a small quantity of a very strongly pearlescent/opalescent tape, and that just seemed perfect for the horn, the best and most powerful part. 

With these successes the prism tape ran away with me.  Xanthian has a somewhat confusing rear end, a natural result of depicting a 3D spiral in 2D.  I wanted to try and clarify this area by making the spine dark and the underneath light: to show the curl.  Such coloring is what deep sea creatures have, anyway!  The place on the withers, where the wings transition to the neck, was my least happy.  Prism tape does not "shade-into" very well.

 All the rest of these pictures were taken the 25th, the day of finish for me.  The early ones show I hadn't gotten around to coloring in the webs of the belly fringe, nor to doing the background.  It was only well along that I decided to use pearl prism tape for the belly, the closest I had to white.  Its rainbow effect just made me faint:  "my heart is stoln."

I am the sort of person who saves the least little bit of prism tape, this sparkly plastic thin film used, in the wider world, to make fishing lures.  The process of tracing and cutting created, you may imagine, dozens of tiny snippets.  I stuck a few onto his scales and then got the idea that some could be thrown off by the horn.

The process used to create this entry was entirely by hand.  Prism tape comes with its own backing paper:  "peel-and-stick."  I first traced each part-of-a-shape with tracing paper and pencil.  (I had to break Xanthian's parts down to fit within the 4" x 1" tape pieces, saving as much tape as possible in the process.)  Next I inverted the paper over the back of the tape and went over the lines with a blunt point, usually the letter opener (high tech here).  This transferred a dim print, whereupon I cut out the tape and its paper with my tiny scissors.  Miraculously right-side-to, each shape was peeled and stuck down, and trimmed if necessary. 

I had to take some small liberties with the outlines due to the thicknesses involved.  The degree of transfer error was just barely acceptable.  I do not know if my sheets of prism tape are replaceable.  But I could hardly find a better home for them than this.

The work generated a huge pile of paper scraps as well as tiny bits of prism tape.  I reused some of the tracing paper -- a sign of obsessive recycling.

(See the letter opener... it has a bullet casing for a handle.)

My finished entry photo was chosen for the look in his eye and the coloring of the belly fringe.  Here's my text:  "Colored pencil, gold gel pen, prism tape (holographic laserflash film) of various colors (belly different from horn), textured gold tape.  My Muse for Hillingar said: Dragon in Green & Gold;  I saw this contest as a chance to practice.  Everything was traced and cut by hand; I'm frustrated that a camera cannot truly capture it.  I saw him as a deep sea creature, dark above, light below.  The bits around his horn are sparkles thrown off by his power."

As it turned out, no one else used the word "dragon."

Now, a camera has captured it!!  Finally, movies!!!  This first one is only 9 seconds long.  Think of him swimming in the deep dark ocean, appearing out of the blackness.

The second of the three movies is 12 seconds long.  I'm tilting it a bit here and you have some more close-ups.

The third and last movie is 17 seconds long.  This is the best one, showing all the rainbow richnesses as the moving light reflects. 

I stand in awe of Sarah's gift.  I believe this drawing of hers sprang from assuaging the grief of the death of a pet rat.  Seeing 40 Xanthians all together was amazing, an experience to lift the heart.  They are so beautiful, and the variations absolutely fantastic -- things I never would've thought of, like bioluminescence!  Maybe I'll learn about digital coloring, eh.  I look forward to the next Christmas coloring contest, although I've no idea how to top this year's effort.  I've also no idea how I'm ever to paint my Hillingar!  Maybe design, not execution, is my strong suit... 

but man, that was fun.  Thank you, Sarah, and everybody.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Christmas Letter Overflow


Stack Overflow is what happens when you put too many items into a defined space.  In this case it's what I'm calling all the pictures in my Christmas Letter folder that didn't make the final cut.  I've decided to share them here, in roughly alphabetical order.  If you receive my Christmas Letter, then you'll have the full panoply of my 2021;  if not, you'll get a pretty good taste.  There is one here anyway from my Letter, because it is so very striking.

We begin with AT4, my fourth Akhal Teke Presentation Set, shown above on Orlik, my fourth NaMoPaiMo horse.  (I just realized that symmetry:  two fourths!)  I was surprised at how much tack was produced over 2021.  Two complete Akhal Teke sets and a neckpiece were only part of the tally.  Below is Orlik in AT4 again -- clearly I'm very proud of him!  This was experimental wallpaper for my new smartphone, showing that I actually got one, Hah!

To emphasize the Akhal Teke aspect of 2021, here's the single neckpiece made for my BreyerFest Giveaway.  It wasn't really a giveaway but a sale,... when 18 people entered for it and I merely sold it to one of them, drawn by chance,... you should be glad I didn't auction it.

We have reached photos starting with B, and now swing into a bunch of people pictures.  This is me running my BreyerFest 5K.  The race was virtual, run in my neighborhood, the same as last year.  Amazingly, my time was about 5 minutes faster (than last year).  Disgustingly, my time was not accepted into the official records (I'd submitted it too late).

Continuing with B, this is from our Colorado trip, blogged about back in August.  Bowsaw at Goodwin.  This is yer faithful correspondent crouching below the horizon at Goodwin Battle Memorial, today known as Legion Park, east of Boulder, Colorado, on Arapaho Avenue.  Yes, the sky really was that smokey.

Here is something nobody's seen yet.  This is a shot from our hiking on the Coalton Trails.  This is a place well south of Boulder (near Superior) which we found and fell in love with.  We went there, I believe, four times in the course of about 11 days, surely a record.  Each time the great wilderness expanse of the prairie meant more to us.  This was taken with my smartphone!

While I was in Boulder I had the fabulous opportunity to get to know certain people better.  This shows three extremely important fellows in my life, left to right:  Nephew, Brother, Husband.  Of course George is closer than close, but the other two I get to see only rarely, and the nephew almost never:  not since 2008.

The next shot is referred to in my letter but not shown.  This was taken the night of June 27, 2021, in the first hotel we'd stayed at since the pandemic had begun.  Consider this a psychological thing;  normally I don't bother to shoot hotel rooms.  In the "old days" we'd stay at dozens every year.  Something the same from back then is that I've put model horses in front of the flatscreen.

A more recent shot is this haul of Imperial Unicorn stickers from Studio Minkiewicz.  I've said this elsewhere:  you won't believe how much you get with one of her sticker orders!  Talk about getting your money's worth.  I'm going to try and collect all the Imperials, holographic or not.

This next is from a hike to NCAR hill while we were in Boulder.  Behind me you can see some of the red-sandstone buildings of CU campus. The photo appears to be using a zoom background, but this one is real:  I am up on one of the foothills above west Boulder, and you are looking east.  Can't see the horizon too well, can you?  smoke...

Back home in Pennsylvania, we get to yet another landscape that's part of a people thing.  This was taken from Penns View Overlook, Centre County, start and finish of my self-set 10K race in early November.  (11K 122 minutes!)

Back to horses!  What would you expect from a model tack shop famous for silver parade sets?!  This parade set is very old, part of my own collection:  TSII #12, originally built in 1983, rebuilt in 1997.  The bit is by Sue Rowe.  Sorpresa hasn't worn anything else yet!  I just think this is a good horse for both parade and harness.  I'm really hoping to play with more harness next year...

Here is a piece of tack made this year, so you'd think I could fit it in somehow, but there wasn't room.  It's the new romal reins for the restoration of TSII #413.  Not much about this challenging tack project got into the Christmas letter; part of the reason is because I started it so late, and had so much else going on.

Down to the Ws, here's yet another view of my entry for Morgen Kilbourne's Wycked Wynd Coloring Contest, in May.  I had way too much fun with this!  Like all my coloring contest entries (all 2 of them so far), a single photo does not do the job!

Last shot.  This is the one that is in my Christmas letter.  This is a very appropriate picture for 2021, as it depicts something that I spent many, many hours watching, from March to September.  Can you guess?  It's Fagradasfjall from the air, a drone shot of the Icelandic volcano at night.  This particular view is pretty early in the progression, April, when there were the two original vents.  By September I had bookmarked more than 270 videos of this volcano.  I was mesmerized.
photo credit:  The Reykjavik Grapevine

Now you have seen a wide sample of my 2021.  It was a strange year and not what we expected.  Much was learned.  I am hoping that 2022 will be a more positive year for everyone; we deserve it.  I look forward to more time with my dear husband and more time for my beloved hobby.  Hope springs eternal that I will be able to meet with more friends and family more often.  Stay safe, seek understanding.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

I Don't Collect Pins

 I don't collect pins, I don't collect pins...  I don't know what possessed Lynn Isenbarger to issue her challenge to guest-blog about things we didn't collect, but this one clearly rang a bell.  I really did scrounge up every enamel pin in the house, even the ones that barely qualified (or flat didn't, like the brass unicorn), and sat staring at a 45-year story.  I promised I'd post on these some day.  Little did I know additions were right around the corner!

"Don't collect" is here used to refer to those collections that we usually don't desire -- can  tell ourselves that we don't want -- but somehow, behind our backs and despite our best intentions, they sneak in...

My collection begins with my old felt hat.  Above are my oldest pins, dating back to college, which is when I solidified the habit of wearing a broad brim hat.  (It originally was a sunshade for us health-nut sun-sensitive Bensemas.)  This group of equines and one fish probably consolidated around 1978 to 1982.  I'd had a horse from 1975 to 1979.  I may have gotten the pins at the Denver Stock Show.  It's equally possible I got them in local jewelry shops or flea markets or even garage sales, somewhere in Boulder or Fort Collins.  Nogales, Mexico (south of Tucson), even, is a possibility.  After all this time, I'm just not sure. 

They are surprisingly small.  This one clearly was intended to portray my white Running Mare.

The pinto (above right) was the last to arrive during this time, I remember.  I was trying out my likings and this collection grew slowly.

This one is kind of a linch-pin.  It's solid brass and certainly not enameled, yet it belongs here more than most, being my favorite and thus the core of the collection.  For most of its life it was very dull with reddish edges, and only for this photo-shoot did I polish it up, making him look like gold and showing detail lost for decades.  There is no name on the back, no way to know who was the astoundingly gifted artist.  The unicorn is about 1 1/4 inches high.

To go with my unicorn, I finally found a flying horse.   I was very pleased with this lovely little bit of Americana, the Mobil Pegasus.
 Somewhere in my college years, the wolf pin joined the pack. The wolf was, and is, a very important animal to me.  This pin has cracked its enamel;  see the lines across the neck.  The white spot on the flank has always been there.  Pins like these were individually colored and so variations occurred, much like Breyers today.

The Coelacanth [SEE-la-kanth] came in around 1981.  This is the only pin in my collection with the least little bit of politics about him, and I wore him with great glee to church.  He is a named artist original --unfortunately I can't recall who, Bill somebody! --and was rather expensive.  I just love the rippling blue over the golden scales.

Eleanor Clymer's book for teens, Search for a Living Fossil, the story of finding the first coelacanth, deeply influenced me - I read it when I was 12 or so.  Looking back, marine adventure as well as love of science were thus rooted in me for life.  Y'wonder, sometimes, whether I have this fish to blame for marrying a meteorologist and going canoeing all the time!!

The two Carousel pins in my collection date from the early 1990s.  I had carousel fever from about 1988 to 1993 (well I still have it!) but these pins entered then.  Below is a Philadelphia Toboggan Company outside row stander.  You can see the letters PTC in front of the pole.

This Stein and Goldstein (S&G) outside row jumper is a very famous horse.

This is the place for one of my very few jewelry pins, the Australian flag and its opal.  Without doubt this one came from our honeymoon in Australia, 3 weeks after the wedding, in 1988.

Now we come to the middle layers of my collection.  This strata contains everything from a Penn State shield (left) to a radio station trinket (WPSU).  The Rails-to-Trails pin is a charity contribution oddbit while the Navy League one came home with my husband after a tour on a carrier (I think).  Likewise the SDD (Synthetic Dual-Doppler) is the souvenir of a meteorological field experiment.  The two American Birding Association ones are also courtesy of my husband, an avid birdwatcher.  Dates of acquisition here range from c. 1990 to c. 2005.

Before I move on to the lowest, and most recent, layer, I see I've skipped the two US Postal Service stamps and the Hartland.  The stamp horses are two of the issue of 4 breeds that came out in 1985.  The other breeds were Appaloosa and Quarter Horse.  Why didn't I get all four?  Because they didn't grab me, that's why.  If they'd been in the form of the horse, instead of squares, I might've felt differently.

Likewise this undoubtedly rare Hartland pin must be desirable by somebody, but I never even took it out of its bag.  The words say 'Wave The Banner  2002  Collector Club."

The lowest layer contains some surprises and brings us up to date. However, I honestly do not know when this AHSA pin joined the collection.  Belleville Flea Market?  which would put it 1988 to 1995...?  I only know I loved the logo of a winged horse.

We have made it to 2019.  This fabulous dragon really is an enamel pin, although he is about 2 inches in diameter and flat on the back.  He's a broach or cloak-pin, very appropriate.  This is a souvenir of a book-signing by Christopher Paolini, author of the Eragon dragon series.   I have my dear friend Gretchen to thank for this one -- she just happened to be working at that bookstore!

Here, of course, is what inspired this whole post in the beginning, my two Sarah Minkiewicz unicorns, 2021.  Either I'm slightly richer or the quality of pins has gotten so high as to be irresistible.  As with much Mink merchandise, one has to be in the right place at the right time.  There is an element of luck to obtaining it.

You would think this story would be over.  I have far more pins than I knew.  They represent my whole adult life and I can't be affording these lovely things when there are so many horses and pieces of tack and movies and books and charities etc out there.  I don't wear jewelry.  I don't collect jewelry, I make my own.  I haven't used pins for thirty years and I have no intention of poking holes in my hat.

So what happens?  A friend gave me this:

I don't collect pins....

Saturday, November 13, 2021

TSII #413: Bridle Restoration


It feels like a very tricky thing:  capturing in a photograph the difference between the old and the new braided buttons on this restoration job.  The Nickel-plated bits, to be sure, are obvious.  I took this tack order on so lightly, sure I could simply slip off the old buttons and slip them back onto new lace.  Not so fast!!  The old sealant to those buttons -- and we're talking old here:  TSII #413 was built in 1999, twenty-two years ago -- had turned yellow and dull.  I've discovered I can't exactly get the sealant off, which is discouraging.  The differences are noticeable in person.  But my beloved camera has a tendency to turn everything yellow,... incandescent light or not.  It's taken some work and PhotoShopping to get the above picture of the cheekstraps of the bridle of 413.

Look at these top buttons (above).  Can you tell the old one is on the right, and the new on the left?  These are 7P5B braided buttons, done with (right) heavy white cotton thread, and (left) white linen thread.  The right, old one is slightly darker and yellower, with less distinct braiding.  The old sealant did that:  almost fused the threads together.  How was I to know that RC56 glue would do this across twenty years...  Sometimes it is discouraging to meet up with old pieces of one's work.

And sometimes it is rewarding and fun.  I am choosing a mix of true conservation of this tack --  recycling the dark small buttons, Spanish Ring Knots of 3P, as well as the crimps -- and of rebraiding.  Everything that was white is, so far, being rebraided.  Because it is a pleasure to be braiding again, I am indulging myself (in between bouts of mule harnessmaking).   I don't think I've braided much during the entire pandemic, something I'm blaming on Akhal Tekes.  :)

Below is a close-up of the new ear piece (left) and the old cheekstrap (right).   Merely taking off the crimp beads results in destroying the old leather.  Age and dryness has reduced it to a friable state, and it was time to replace it with fresh new kangaroo lace.

I don't have much of an idea right now how I'm going to handle the saddle, TSII #413.  My options range from doing nothing at all to complete disassembly and rebraiding.   That's kind of a tall order.  I'm rather glad the mules are waiting in the wings; when I get stuck, it's back to them. ... 

until I get stuck again.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

20M: Bridles


For two months, from July to August, I was working on these bridles.  To be sure, the time spent on them was mostly one day a week - Friday! -- with, usually, one hour on one other day in the week.  So progress was seriously slow.  Still, bit by bit, I managed to solve most of their problems.  I hadn't worked in this scale for a decade (2010's Pebbles Fine Harness).

Creation began with the nose, blinkers and crown, which was buckled on the near side with a fold-back strap.

I cupped the blinkers by pressing them over the end of a dapping stick.  At this scale, fingers would've worked well, provided the nails didn't mark the grain side of the leather.

The blinker stays were glued.  The stitchmarking was drawn on with a sharp awl, and I do mean drawn:  not dotted, but actual lines, using a small drafting triangle for a straight-edge.  Here is where real optical illusion took place.  At these scales, the grain of the leather was so large that the lines appeared to be stitchmarking and the eye interpreted the individual leather pores as dots.

The forehead drop ornament caused me some trouble.  How to make it small enough!  I stamped an ikandi with my littlest flower leather stamp, then cut out the flower as best I could with the X-Acto.  I set it down into the leather by tooling, before hot gluing, so it wouldn't stick up.

Curiously, the near mule was wearing a different bit than the off.   I chose to stick to my reference and give him his Liverpool.  Thank heavens I had Rio Rondo's teeny tiny stainless steel Liverpools on hand, previously filed clean of their edges.  It is amazing what is hanging around in the drawers of a long-term tack collector.

Making the buckle for the eensy bit of leather that holds the bit to the bridle was one of those mystical experiences that no logic can explain.  Its loops were smaller than my plier tips.  One has to use outside pressure on such a thing.  I dropped it several times, I can tell you that.

The photo below shows the long end of the strap for that tiny buckle still extant, (behind the bit).   Long ends were absolutely necessary, for manipulation;  I only cut them when everything was done, and even then tried to leave a long pointed end.

Getting the bridles on over the halters was far more difficult than I had anticipated.  It came down to "Once it's on I ain't taking it off," a rarity with me.  Adjusting everything took some dainty work and lots of patience.  You can see here that at first things were crooked:  look at that noseband.

Although the mule with the Liverpool did not have a bit brace bar, I put one on anyway, as a model necessity.  Otherwise the shanks would never stay lined up.

These harnesses have been very slow work for me.  Yet there is something satisfying about their gradual accumulation, their small-but-steady triumph over seemingly impossible problems.  I am deeply grateful for the patience of their owner.