Monday, September 27, 2021

Puzzles: The Third Ten

Certainly I didn't mean to take this long to get back to the Puzzles of 2020!  So much has happened since March that perhaps I may be forgiven.  Instead of 10, there are 11 puzzles featured this time.  Since 2020 saw a total of 42 puzzles worked, there has to be some fudging to get everybody in with only four posts.  This time, there will only be one pic per puzzle --- mostly.

I'm going to take these strictly chronologically.  This next one was photo'd in June; shot on June 8, 2020 to be precise.  (The photo date only means that the puzzle was completed on or before that date, usually the night before; occasionally 2 or 3 days before.)  I've mentioned before that some of my earliest beloved Springboks did not feature horses.  This puzzle is the poster child for that statement.  The Veteran Motor Car!  I dimly remember choosing this as a child in Tucson in the 1960s; it must have been the bright colors.  Historically there's a close relationship between horse-drawn vehicles and these cars.  Possibly that influenced me, but the exact reasoning has been lost in time.  I love the old Springboks with all my heart, and here be proof. 

Springbok circular  550  The Veteran Motor Car

This next interesting puzzle entered our lives somewhere in the 2000s, probably from a catalog.  I've always thought puzzles are a great way to become familiar with famous works of art.  This is the Sistine Chapel ceiling, or Cappella Sistina to give it its Italian name.  The border frames make for a rather challenging puzzle.  The figures, drapery and colors are amazing although the box does not tell the stories behind them.  Eh, 21st C, you can look them up online.  Photo'd June 16th.
Educa 1K  Cappella Sistina

This next one is familiar to all us horse lovers.  I obtained this puzzle fairly early in the marriage, which would put it in the early 90s, again most likely from a catalog, although I am not sure.  This puzzle again is pretty challenging, even harder than Cappella.  Concurrently we got a book on Bev Doolittle's art.  We were never able to get another, and I consider this a limited edition and a much-sought-after prize.  Photo'd June 19th.

Ceaco  550  Bev Doolittle's Pintos

As I've mentioned in previous posts, Springbok is my native country in puzzles.  There are two puzzles featuring St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow in our collection.  This is the best of the two.  I truly do not remember how or when this one came to be with us; after marriage but several decades ago, which would put it somewhere between 1990 and 2009.  Photo'd June 27th.
Springbok 1K  St Basil's Cathedral

Certainly this one came out of a catalog.  The Great American Puzzle Company, despite its impressive name, is represented shallowly in my collection.  This puzzle is thinner and more cheaply made than the old Springboks, but something about the watercolor painting must have struck us.  Photo'd June 28.  You can see the pieces from the next puzzle in the line-up.  We were really churning them out by now; the average time of completion was 6 days.
Great American Puzzle Co.  550  Grand Canyon

This lovely cantering horse (I call it an Arabian) represents the twenty-sixth puzzle worked by me during 2020.  We must have seen this one in a bookstore or gift shop somewhere.  The title on the box is "Spring Gallop,"  somewhat uninspired given the other Ravenburger Arabian horse puzzle I own.  (It's called Arabian Thoroughbred, a bad translation of "Arabiches Vollblut," meaning pureblood Arab.  You'll just have to wait for that one!)   By this time I was working all the puzzles myself and George was reading on the couch.  This one was hard, as they all should be, but not too hard.  Photo'd July 7.
Ravensburger 1K  Arab

It is a natural progression for me to transition from horses to wolves.  This lovely White Wolf, with haunting backlighting and aspen woods, is one of a set of three puzzles painted by Ian Martin MacGuire, which we got out of a catalog -- almost certainly Bits and Pieces --  in the early 2000s.  It was surprisingly challenging.  Looking at it now brings me vibrations of fear and wonderment at the unfolding disease drama that was the summer of 2020.  Photo'd July 17th.
Ceaco 1K  Ian MacGuire White Wolf

It was an obvious choice to move next to another wolf puzzle, Nate Silver's PhotoMosaics.  This is one of only 2 PhotoMosaic puzzles I own (the other is a Disney).  What I did not count on was how hard this puzzle would be.  Hands down, it was the toughest of the entire year!  It took what felt like forever!!  Even though by actual count this puzzle took only 16 days, one should include mental feelings and stress.  I'd done it before, so I must have had some clue; but somehow that experience evaded me.  PhotoMosaics are pictures made up of hundreds of tiny photographs, and for some reason that makes them extremely difficult puzzles.  I'm good, but somehow the market can always find ways to stump even the good ones.  Very very hard hard.

Buffalo Games Inc  1K  Nate Silver's PhotoMosaics Wolf

This one deserves two pictures (the above is distorted).  Even worse than the White Wolf, this one held worry and fear as July moved into August.  I finished and photo'd it August 2.

Switching between photographs to drawings and paintings, as I have tried to do, this next puzzle was amazingly pleasant, happy and restorative to work.  The news must have been better!  This is a variation on the old favorite subject of mares and foals.  This puzzle came from the Amish store, Peight's in Kish Valley, and is a Canadian product.  The title on the box is Horse Meadow and the painting is by Kim Penner.  Photo'd August 11.
Cobble Hill 1K  Horse Meadow

The thirtieth puzzle of 2020 was this famous old Ravensburger beach view, done at least once before.  There are nine 2-granders in our collection.  I am not clear whether we ever sent a 2-grander home from Denmark -- most of them would've been 1Ks and 15-ers.  What is clear is that Ravensburgers entered our puzzle lives in 1994-5 when we were on sabbatical in Roskilde.  Oh those Danish bookstores!  I bought and bought and shipped the lovely things home, two at a time and at great cost, because at that time Ravensburger puzzles could not be purchased in the United States.  Happily, this situation has changed. 

I've spent so much time staring at these palm trees that when a similar photograph turns up somewhere else, like on a calendar, I recognize it.  The box title says Fantasy Beach but I'm pretty sure it's the Dominican Republic.  Photo'd August 27.  Note that this, a 2,000 piece puzzle, took me 16 days also; but somehow it was much more relaxed and accomplish-able.

Ravensburger 2K  Palm Beach

Time now to draw back and look at the larger view.  You can see (above) that yet another  puzzle has been started, and in the crunch to divide 42 by 4, I'm including it.  

There's my knee cushion pillow.  To the upper right is a wrinkled-up pale yellow cover sheet, which would become extremely important in 2021.

This is another proof that sometimes two puzzles are going on at once.  This usually happens when the preceding puzzle has been so long and hard that I'm reluctant about taking it down, but so eager to keep going that I start the next one anyway.

The Coyote was photo'd Sept 2, so he took a week.  The title on the box is Coyote in Winter Sage.  The painter is the famous animal artist Robert Bateman.  We also have a coffee table book on him, An Artist in Nature.

Cobble Hill 1K  Coyote by Robert Bateman

I have many subjects to blog on,... but high on the list is another puzzle.  It is very recent, 2021 -- in fact it is still up.  There are three 3-granders and two 5-granders in our jigsaw collection.  I finally did, almost completely solo, a 5-grander...!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Fara Shimbo Horses & Tack


This will be a short exploration of the fabulous skills of Fara Shimbo, model horse artist extraordinaire, active in the 1980s and 90s.  Although she was at home with sculpting, painting, remaking, prop-building and tackmaking, I only have 4 English saddles and 2 remakes of hers.  These horses were repainted, haired and the Clydesdale repositioned.  But I did find a pic, deep in my files, of Western tack by this lady.  Talk about talented.

Fa's business card proclaims her as a Certified Public Nuisance.  No title could be more appropriate.

Back in the late 80s this salmon-chestnut Clydesdale came to stay with me.  He doesn't have a registry card, nor any documentation.  But my memory strongly states he is by Shimbo.  The hair is mohair and the body painted in acrylics and pastels.  My husband seized upon this one and he now belongs to him.

The Clyde has horseshoes made of wire and solder, another Shimbo idea.  Having to be glued on, unfortunately they fell off, but they're still around.

Fa's main presence in my tack collection is English saddles.  I am exceptionally fortunate to have 4 of her amazing works.  Each one speaks of the ongoing improvement process, creating on the spot, expressing a spirit very familiar with real horse equipment yet experimenting with personal flair.  This is model tackmaking from the early years of the hobby, when everything had to be made from scratch.

This amazing woven-thread English girth originally came with a dark brown racing saddle.  At the time, 1986, I couldn't quite believe it was real.  The buckles are soldered.  Eventually (1997) I retired the piece, unable to summon the intricacies necessary to fasten it, and convinced it was too delicate to withstand use --- this was at a time when I was constantly playing with tack, fitting many different horses.

The other side of the tag says "Made by Fara Shimbo c. 1985"

The dark brown, Classic-scale race saddle is on the right below.  Here its girth is by Emma Harrison.  The maize-colored felt blanket is a Fa original; it has a white-binding center stripe.  Fa made her own saddle trees from Friendly Plastic (heat-malleable plastic pellets) and other materials.  This is a delicate saddle overall and always needs cleaning (oh those brass pins!) but it shows that her sense of proportion was spot-on.

The purple saddle dates from 1998.  I purchased it through an email auction.  (If you want to know, the winning price was $45.)  It did not have a girth so I made one, matching as closely as I could the 'intent' and style of the maker.  I also added the breastcollar and martingale.  This has been a favorite piece for many years, inspiring my "matchy-matchy" collection, as seen below.  The Russians were not the first to try color on an English saddle!

Fa has a story, too, about this purple saddle.  She made it for herself and used its photo in her catalog.  According to her:  "Someone, I forget who fortunately, wanted to buy one of those saddles and sent in a check.  I was so busy at the time, I saw I wasn't going to get around to making another..., and send her that one.  A few days later I got two interesting things in the mail:  one was a letter from her saying that she was "extremely dissatisfied" that the saddle I sent looked nothing like the one in the photo; the other was a notice from my bank that her check had been written on an account that no longer existed!  I told her about the check and that I expected the saddle back.  She finally paid in cash and sent a letter yelling at me for expecting her to be a "professional accountant."
That incident, and subsequent cataracts, was why I stopped making tack."

She never made another like it.  I can only say I'm glad it appears to've been me who picked it up next.

Dang!  Rooting through the file box, I find I have at least 2 other saddles by Shimbo that didn't get thought of... one of them an oddball, "no redeeming features" says the card...  ahem...  Here is a shot of it.  The turquoise seat is a flared wrap-around, designed to support the hips (?).  The stamping on the flap was probably my first exposure to the idea of carving on an English-type saddle, heretofore un-thought-of.

The bottom of this saddle is heavily padded with sheepskin, unfortunately out of scale but very soft and bouncy to ride.

The white-stripe saddle on the right, below, is a prized possession, made c. 1989.  There's quite a story on its registration card. 

"According to Fa she sent me this saddle two different times, & each was lost in the mail.  I had moved to PA in 1987.  The third time, I was visiting CO and her and she brought out a bunch of saddles, told me to pick one.  I picked an experimental, & I thought beautiful piece -- nothing else like it.  She said it was her least favorite -- "That's how it goes!"   Chris Foote says she'd KILL for this saddle-- !!!!"

Over time I've fixed, cleaned, repaired and updated parts of all of these.  Sometimes notes are kept; other times, not.  On this saddle, for instance, the girth billets kept breaking, and I'd sew on new parts; and the stirrup straps were hot-oiled.

The saddle on the left I call the Pumpkin Saddle.  It was purchased sight-unseen through an email auction in October of 1998.  On this one I wound up doing a lot of work, securing loose piping, replacing the stirrup leathers, and making a new girth out of kangaroo leather my parents had brought from Australia.  This gave me the opportunity to make a girth that felt the way I thought they should when fastening:  having smooth-sliding buckles that were easy to work with, not fiddly sharp tongue buckles that gouged leather.  The essential proportions and colors of the piece remain Fa's.  

Here is another of her unusual English saddles.  I'm afraid I don't know the photographer -- this is from deep in my private files.  It shows her sense of exploration and fearlessness.  Why shouldn't there be carving and stamping on an English saddle!?  At the time I knew very little of English saddles, being of an exclusively Western bent. 

Hopefully these few examples will help identify Fara Shimbo's style as a tackmaker.  One particular part of her English saddles is an almost fail-safe clue:  the stirrups.  Fa made her own stirrups, she told me, out of a "low-melting-point metal sold to weight down model train cars, cast into a silicone mold and then polished."  "I melted it with a soldering iron.  Probably something called Bare Metal."   The stirrups appear dull silver in color, filed flat and blocky, not symmetrical or perfect.  All but my earliest saddles by her have these unique, handmade stirrups.

 Time to trot out my motto, pinned over the workbench:

                                                          OUR MOTTO

The Artisanry of Model Tack lies not only in the researching and duplicating, in miniature, of that which exists in the world ...  but in reaching out to explore and create new forms, new horizons, never seen before...  It is an Artistic Medium, just like paint or clay ...  ... At the same time, Model Tack must remain solidly connected to the form and function of a working toy, which is what I consider the model horse to be.

A piece by Fa could capture her spirit of sassy experimentation and still remain a realistic piece of tack.  Here is the one Western saddle by her I have a picture of.  Fa thinks she took it:

Fa was so into iridescence that she wrote books about it.  I know the term Crystallier because of her.

And finally, my other horse by her.  This beloved old Appaloosa Mare is my best example of what an artist can do with colored pencils.  She rattles, she's coarse and rough, --- and I love her to pieces.  Fa gave her to me for Christmas 1987.  Named Timmaine, she is wearing my Evelyn Munday Brindle-seat saddle (2012), hackamore by TSII.

Thank you, Fa, for sharing your wide-ranging model talents with the world.   I still remember the ferrets and the model dogs, and your horse, Chewie.  You helped inspire and steady my own model tack journey,... and do so even now.

Links That Changed Me


A more accurate title would be "Links to articles that have influenced me enough to change my behaviour."  But short snappy headlines are de rigueur in the early 21st C. 😀  Constantly compressing one's thoughts into their core meaning is hard.  Compression generates heat.  There you have it:  Sue's inadequate effort to explain global warming... : )

The order started out chronological, but strayed into 'what's most important to me at the time.'  Right now the most recent one is second from the bottom.

Saving Your Health, One Mask at a Time.  April 7, 2020.   Dr Tippett, MD, PhD, on defining a safe space and the math of multiplying risk factors to achieve, as near as possible, 100% safety.  This was written at the start of the pandemic.  It is the only article I'm remembering a year later as being of any real use.

 Slate article on Delta   July 21, 2021.  More than year later (and after a too-brief summer of freedom), this is the article that had us taking Delta seriously.  After reading this one we almost didn't go to CO; we did change our route to avoid MO, after cases spiked there.

 Atlantic article on Delta   August 12, 2021.  A brilliant discussion of endemicity [when the virus becomes endemic, or normally present] and immunological naivete.  Although long, this one nails it on what we can do to prevent the sickening waves of 'here we go again.'  "Vaccines remain the best way for individuals to protect themselves, but societies cannot treat vaccines as their only defense." -- author Ed Young.

Note that Atlantic magazine allows readers a certain amount of articles free, but after 2 per month you have to pay.

 The 60-year-old mystery:  Aerosols versus droplets  May 13, 2021.  This is the crown jewel of this post's collection.  Why was 6 feet chosen?  Under what conditions does it actually work?  A team of researchers dug into the past and unearthed surprising answers.  This became personal not just because I married a meteorologist  :^)  but because my own grandfather had suffered Tuberculosis as a medical student in the 1920s.

Apologies for not being able to find a simple plume dispersion video!  Really, I had no idea there were so many videos on the subject of airborne transmission...  I watched some pollution and smoke diffusion videos back in fall 2020 (think smokestack) and that did indeed change me.  Here's one of many:  Japanese article on droplets

Image source:  Google   origin. from

University of AL on vaccine side effects  July 6, 2021.  A friend claims that the side effects of the vaccine are unknown;  This one's for you.  Note that it comes from the Deep South (Alabama), as does the next link (Louisiana).

Dr Catherine O'Neal on Vimeo  August 3, 2021.  This is the one George shows his students.  Darkest days:  She warns that even though hers is a big hospital with many beds, she cannot guarantee there will be a bed if you have an accident.  Compassionate, logical, yet clearly desperate, I found myself trusting her.  He and I are pretty much placing our lives in the hands of his students.

Katelyn Jetelina on Israel  What's going on with Israel?   At Sept 1, 2021, this one is so new that it hasn't yet actually impacted our behaviour.  At least it's trying to get a handle on new information about booster shots.

 How to talk the shots   April 8, 2021.  Here's a good finisher:  Washington Post on how to talk about controversial things.  I read this and thought, We've been practicing these all along.  Any marriage that lasts will recognize these precepts as only logical.  To wit:  Anger doesn't help;   see things from the other's point of view; and above all, Share Everything, and be prepared to look like an idiot --  because the other side is an idiot too.

Truth will out.  I've learned that over 60 years, ... and this:

Your fears are always worse than the reality.



Sunday, September 5, 2021

A Visit with Fara Shimbo


On August 8, while I was in Boulder, CO, I was able to visit with Fara Shimbo, and (as she had promised) to pet her horses --- Akhal Tekes both.  Fa and I go way back, to the early 1980s (probably to the late 70s).  This post will cover that visit; a later post will be about the model horses and tack by her that I possess.  I apologize for the weird bluegreen cast to these photos; it was another smoky-hazy day on the Front Range, my camera was set funny and I don't quite have the PhotoShopping skill to remove it.

I had not seen Fa for at least 24 years, since about 1998.  She had turned up on FaceBook approximately a year or so ago.  In that long interim I had known only that she did crystallography, raised roses and was involved with Akhal Tekes, owning them and drawing stationery for their club.  The above photo was the first of the visit, after a slow navigation to Hygiene, about 35 minutes for 11 miles.  (Alone for the first time since leaving PA, I only got lost a little.)

Fa's expression and smiling eyes have not changed, even through a Mets mask.  Of course the first place we went was the horse corral.  "Twink," also known as Twink the Fink, is the buckskin.  This lady was definitely boss. 
It is actually rare that I meet real horses.  I have model horse friends like Fa, and BreyerFest, to thank for the times I do.  I can't really remember the last time I was in a real corral,... certainly not a Front Range one.  The other horse is a bay mare named Katrina.  Fa has owned her since she was a baby.  She is now around 18.  [Bad camera angle.]

Twink was aggressive about getting petted.  She would present her back end and expect to be rump-scratched.  Twink had the most interesting and attractive patterning on her rear dorsal stripe.  I took lots of shots trying to capture this, sometimes standing on my tiptoes and holding the camera over my head.
In the end I think I was successful.

It was sheer heaven to be outside with horses, with a friend, at home, with nobody else around.  Neither horse was broken to ride so there was no question about riding, which actually was a great relief and made the occasion even more laid back.

I had chosen visiting Fa as a substitute for another model horse party when fears of Delta threatened to overwhelm me and my family.  Despite assurances of vaccination (I've been vaccinated since February), too many unknowns -- number of visitors, their possible exposures, location, whether inside or out -- caused me to make yet another difficult heartbreaker of a choice.  (I've had too many of those.)  In the event, this time the choice was right. 
Fa wouldn't let me in her house.  "Too many cats," she said, adding that the mess inside would certainly not stand visitors.  Since I was happy outside this was not a problem.  We sat on the front step and I got to show off everything I'd brought.  And she got to show off too.

Fa was that rarest of possessions in the 80s for me, a model horse friend within easy driving distance.  (Only about 4 miles then.)  Our visits then shimmered with inspiration, creativity and all kinds of animals -- she had ferrets amoung other things, and had written a book about them!  Our visits slowed down after college and all but ended when I moved to PA in 1987.   On this day, we didn't have quite enough time to cover all the 24 years, but we did catch up nicely on the stuff that's important.  

This is just one example of Fa's artistry:  a model horse she'd sculpted, cast and painted herself.  In case you don't recognize it, it's a portrait of Katrina the bay.

It's what I call a solidcast.  Techonology in casting model horses has come a long way since the old days.

Fa made the base as well and covered it with (I believe) coffee grounds.  The mane and tail are 'string.'  The golden coat has a strong metallic sheen.

Fa had been what I call a "Michaelangelo," a model horse artist capable of just about everything.  In addition to her sculpting, casting and tackmaking through the years, she had dabbled in 3D printing.  She casually explained that the front legs of the little red horse were missing "because a cat chewed them off."

I could only admire the correctness of the little red horse's conformation and general proportions.  Fa had known more about 3D printing, earlier, than I did at the present time (even with Maggie's presentation during BreyerFest under my belt!).

These two pieces were so like Fa:  moments of artisanry from a lifetime of enjoying all aspects of models.  In return I tried to bring her up to speed with my current model life and with Breyer's, showing off Fireheart, Icabad and Kaalee.  She liked Kaalee right away.  Of course TSII tack was present.  Fa went in the house and came back out with an astonishing gift for me:  TSII #207!!!!!!!

But more on this later.