Tuesday, June 22, 2021

My First Troika

 Ever since NaMoPaiMo I've been meaning to do a post on my now-a-troika of Russian horses.  I can't believe how behind I am -- there is snow on the ground in these pictures! -- but I'm in the mood for catching up.  This trio will be a good introduction for our BreyerFest tack raffle!

Of course the story starts in 2018 with Brasenose, my first NMPM horse.    Brasenose Layer 11: Finished  His fabulous emerald costume was completed more than two years later, in May of 2019:  AT2 -- Brasenose's breastcollar finished   Marimba the Perlino mare was done in 2020  Marimba 13 Finished, and Orlik the Red Roan Trotter was done this year, in February of 2021.

Honestly (I know it is hard to believe) it wasn't until I put the three horses together that I realized what I had done.  I had only wanted to try a pearlescent red roan.  In my choice to purchase and paint Orlik the color I did, I had created a shaded and poised Troika. 
All three horses were sculpted by Margarita Malova of Bologoye, Russia.  Their poses naturally lent themselves to a perfectly aligned conga.
The way Marimba's head is turned outwards; the height of Brasenose; their ear positions (!); and of course their colors, all contributed to the flow.  Even their socks are balanced across the corners of the trio!
I have felt that Brasenose's socks make his front legs look somewhat bent.  If the horses are tippy in the above shot, it's because they really are:  all three of them are relatively narrowbase.  You just have to live with it.  Orlik, in the center, with his calm demeanor and solid square stance, is a support for both.
I had no idea of a vehicle or harness until I took these pictures.  Even now I am conscious of the tremendous distance such a dream would have to travel in order to emerge into reality.  More than most of my tack dreams, this one would be hard to do.  However, it has the right feel to it, and certainly, since it involves harness, it would fit in with my current area of concentration, harness.

The deck railing is not really wide enough for me to shoot them head-on or tail-on. 

Here we do have room, on the dining table, for a driving position view.  The tiny glint of gold on the right is Ambolena, daughter of Marimba; and the Rocket/Alzucar was also part of the shoot that day.

The dream of a troika for these most deserving horses is delayed, on one side, by the realization of how busy my life is.  I've got a commitment to an order for a customer and only a few hours a week, it seems, to meet it.  Most of all I've the need to pursue the next braid book and get back to braidwork, my true first love.  The dream is spurred, on the other side, by the knowledge that Margarita is working on an action sculpture of 3 Trad horses for a troika; and by my love of exotic harness, Tekes and Orlov Trotters, for whom I now have great respect.  I've even got mouse fur for a coat for the driver.  All model projects go through this balancing process.  Only time will determine who wins.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Tuning the Piano


Last Wednesday a ritual was carried out in my house for the first time in 4 years,... one that usually happens every 2 or 3 years.  In theory it's supposed to happen every year, but my history shows every two years to be a good, livable average.  The piano was due for tuning in 2019 and somehow I let it slip until the next year.  UH OH, we all know what happened then --- !!

A friend of mine asked to see more pictures of my piano.  Also, there's some model horse history further down.  Here y'go:  We'll start at the most stripped-down stage.  The surroundings are unnaturally bare here because part of tuning is getting all the stuff off.  Amazingly it took me only half an hour to clear the decks.

Almost everything here has a story.  The gold macrame trombone on the wall was made by my mother.  The bumper sticker on the side says "Don't Shoot!  I'm Just A Piano Player."  The blue polyester cape on the bench was swag from a Free-To-Breathe 5K race I entered (benefit lung cancer).  The padding under the cape is a sheepskin, my first sheepskin given to me by a friend who had moved to New Zealand.  (That was in 1976.  It is my only case of a long-lasting sheepskin.)   You would not believe how comfy to sit on is that slick polyester over the sheepskin...

The red cloth is a fleece-type fabric I've used for [model] harness backpads, viz, Olensky's 8-Horse-Hitch and others.  The black bench originally was openable, but my Dad glued its top shut sometime in the 70s and it has stayed that way ever since.

One of the more beautiful aspects of this 1909 piano is the wood carving on the front panel.  I am pretty sure it was done by hand.  Oak on one side, laurel on the other:  I am not quite sure what these stand for, other than a fuzzy idea of oak for strength and laurel for the arts.  The whole piano was painted fleck black in the 1940s.  We do not know what is underneath the black, if anything;  a few worn places reveal a most luscious wood-color.  I have chosen to keep the black as a protective layer.

This is a Harmon-Wellington upright, built in Denver.  1909 was the high-water mark for piano production in this country.  My mom purchased this piano in Denver in 1966, replacing a miserable red-colored spinet I can just barely remember (I was 6 at the time).  No one knows where it was or what happened to it from 1909 to 1966, other than it was in Denver and got painted.  That amount of time, 57 years, is only now approaching half its age: 112 this year.

Here's the serial number:  128467

The piano went with me when I moved east after my marriage.  I told my husband he had no choice:  It was my foundation, my rock and my soul.  He has put up with it very well, all things considered.  Thank all the saints he doesn't mind ragtime --!

 My tuner is Tom DeFerrari of State College and Clearfield.  He let me talk him into taking this picture right after he finished the job.

An interesting side note to the day was that the previous day I'd been in WalMart for the first time in 15 months,... and wore a mask.  Though I've been vaccinated since February I honestly was frightened:  "Vaxed but Afeared" could've been written on my forehead.  It has been a strange, vacillating experience coming out of pandemic.  Tom is the first stranger in our house without a mask in all this time.  Of course, he was vaccinated; it was the first thing he said when I called him up.  My story contains the weird behaviour of me sneakily slipping off the mask, hiding in the aisles of WalMart, for a few moments, then donning it again.  I started this pandemic with a soft cloth mask, and it looks like I'm ending with one...  In between, over the winter of terror, only a KN95 would do for shopping.  The choice to unmask or not is currently depending on the location (indoors or out), the signage (every business different), the presence of strangers and the knowledge of present company's vax state.  However, I'm sure I'll settle out eventually:  I can tell that the fear will go away in time.

Putting things back starts with my antique serape, given to me by my Grandma Bensema.  She undoubtedly got it in Mexico -- she lived in Tucson.  It is different from all my other serapes in both color and end-tying.  (I'll have to do a blog post on my 30+ serapes some time...)

First, all the stuff on the left hand side.  The trombone, the snow shovel, canes, and the unstrung bobber collection, cherry-picked during years of canoeing.  Oh and the cat litter bag, which is used for sidewalk grit during snow and ice.
Next, starting the stacks of music.  The basket of dried flowers is a memento of my hospitalization and cancer treatments in 2010.  The story here is that we still don't know who gave it to me.   We have our suspicions but he denies it -- !! 

Music, unlike books, has no place to go when I don't use it anymore.  I'm always astounded at how much music I have.
At a rough guess, there's probably three hundred pounds of paper on the piano.

Note that the flag stands are trombone mutes.

 Now for the most personal of all ornaments, the animals.  Chico the Spanish Fighting Bull is a natural counterpoint to the Charcoal Fighting Stallion.  Chico appeared sometime around the middle to late 80s.  But Thomas came into my life in the middle 60s, one of the four oldest models still in my possession.

His position in my collection is unique.  He is not a member of King's Herd.  He is not married and has no personality.  His tail is broken, his leg is broken, he's missing an ear, he's a fatneck and scratched to hell.  And yet he represents a continuous time trace all the way back to my earliest model horse memories.  He is King's brother and of royal blood.

I remember Mom getting him for me because I begged in the toy store (Crossroad's Three Wishes), and then (in the department store J.C. Penney's upstairs, in downtown Boulder in the 60s) I saw an ad for Thomas Organs on the store TV.  His name became Thomas Barton Jefferson.  I have no idea where the Barton came from, unless it was a shortening of my own last name, and it just flowed better with the uneven syllables.

Thomas became part of the piano about when I became its owner, circa 1980, and he's been there ever since.

Are we done yet?  Heavens no.  Where do you suppose I store all my packing materials, garnered from 30 years of collecting model horses?

What a great chance to clean the pile out a little, to consolidate and organize.  There is so much stuff that it's stored in two layers.

The doorway on the right opens to the tack room,...  more on that later.  :)

All things are temporary.  Now that I'm tuned, vaxed and freed,... I've got a case of tendonitis!, so the piano playing is kept at a low level.

But I'm healing.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Akhal Teke No. 4 Finished


Finishing my fourth Akhal Teke set taught me something I've known all along.  But that seems to be the way of the world these days.  No matter how much experience I gained as an artist -- I've been making tack since the middle 70s -- fate still stepped in and saw fit to reinforce the lesson.  Take all the time necessary, it said:  Without that you will have no piece.  It might just as well have said no peace.  My customer (and others) is owed a huge slug of thankfulness for her tremendous patience while I learned that lesson all over again.  Eventually is the name of the game!

Another lesson, much more joyous, was also reinforced.  There's always a surprise in a big photo shoot and this time it happened towards the end.  I swear it was the most idle of spontaneous thoughts to try the bridle and new breastcollar on my NaMoPaiMo horse.  Why pick him? -- he's not a Teke!  He couldn't even wear the neckpieces...  But when I got the bc on him everything changed.  It is downright eerie how incredibly good he looked then.  Words like "Enchanted" and "Moorish" floated in my mind.  There was something there...

I also experimented with photographing tack on black velvet, a FB comment suggestion for me.  But let's begin at the beginning.

This commission was accepted because the customer had entered my Anniversary Tack Giveaway contest, held in July of 2020 during BreyerFest.  A Tack Giveaway   She entered in such a fashion as to move me to extend the giveaway to include her.  Yes, that's what happened:  Apparently I can be persuaded, talked around!!  So now I had to create 2 Akhal Teke sets instead of one.  Both would cost their owners a pretty penny; they were accepted orders and not mere wish orders.  With the TSII, that's a real difference.

The only trouble was that, as you can see, it took nearly a year to fill the second order.

Is this ever on purpose?  Has there ever been a time like 2020??  In 15 months of quarantine I have finished TSII #457 (a year-long saddle at 200 hours), painted a Trad scale horse in a month,  thoroughly restored (and documented the restoration of) another old TSII saddle and created now two Akhal Teke sets for the winners of the contest... and that's just the model stuff.  Somehow there were a thousand other things to do, and my feelings and behaviour have gone from slightly off kilter to strange to just plain weird.  By the end of May I reached a stage where it took til Friday to photograph a piece of tack finished the previous Sunday,... this after making the customer wait a solid 8 months.  AT4 was technically started in October (Oct 28, 2020).  

There was the small comfort that my 1st and 3rd Teke sets took me nearly 70 hours each, while this one had taken a more experienced 49.  [No records kept on the 2nd, my own {Brasenose's}.]  It's hard to make generalizations though.  AT4 had its first parts made back in October, had more work during February (NaMoPaiMo month) and then really took off in April.   Such clocked hours are very condensed and contain only tackmaking time at the bench.  It's fair to say I can only make tack for 2 hours a day these days; and even at that rate more than 3 consecutive days would be a delightful exception.

This is a good place to look at the black velvet shots.

I was actually well pleased with how this technique came out.  The ever-elusive colors were truthfully depicted.

I also tried a green background, which worked reasonably well.

When I finally girded myself to shoot, Friday the 4th, Shazada the perlino was first.  By coincidence this is our anniversary (33rd).  The stroll we took along Spring Creek miraculously gave me back large measures of my serenity and creative mojo.  I photographed Shazada, took him inside to switch AT4 to another horse --- and the cape jewel plate fell off.

Which made me feel probably like Morgen did when Wycked's head came off:*  So exasperated-exhausted that the mood was hilarity rather than rage or sorrow.  Thank god it happened now and not in Danielle's hands -- that's all I thought.  I had needed to make its sleeve larger;  this was my chance.  I forgot that that would make the cape ride higher by adding bulk, but I did it anyway.  I glued the plate back on with a minimum of fuss and on Saturday I tried shooting again.  Talisman/Altynai was indicated since that's the mold the customer asked for.  But I didn't want to use more than one horse beyond him.

I had great fun setting out Talisman in the front yard.  There is something goofy about the dry-desert Akhal Teke running around in deep lush grass...!

I was using the front steps because the sunset at the time made the back deck light very direct and unsuitable.  Here was where I'd shot Orlik when he was 1st finished.  Perhaps that was part of what urged me to choose him.  I idly picked him up -- he still is resonating with me, still on fire from the great triumph of NMPM.  His mane made wearing neckpieces problematic, but why not try the breastcollar?  That's what's new anyway...

To my amazement, the colors came through.

It always has been very hard to catch the colors of this set with the camera.  The aquamarines of AT4 are so milky light that any strong sun defeats me.  But it was the white bricks that set off the statuesque horse and his noble demeanor.  My god, what a storyline here,... exotic Arab markets, courtyards, dusky evenings in hot countries...

The iris blades could easily be something tropical.

His pose is so indicative of the spade bit horse:  highly trained, the property of a gentleman, of a noble.
This one is my favorite.

I am so grateful for so much understanding by friends of what has been a long, tough time; we are still healing.  This is one artist who will blunder through the pandemic on the patience of so many.  It's true there is always enough time to do the job right.  I feel I can start afresh.

 I am thinking of holding a raffle for the single neckpiece I have to offer during BreyerFest.  The stones can be any color the winner wants.  More details later, of course!

*During the Wycked Wynd coloring contest prize drawing, broadcast on FB, she picked up the first resincast of the stallion by his head and it snapped off in her hand.

Note from the future [June 7]:  The customer has requested a small change in the breastcollar, and since we always try to please the customer!!  the change has been made.  This is what the breastcollar looks like now:  all silver drops.