Already this winter has given us more snow than we’ve really been accustomed to. Last year we had a lot of heavy snows and we usually have some snow every winter but not like this. Today we’re getting snow from what I think is the fourth significant storm already this season and it’s just January 10!
So obviously I can’t get out of here for a few days. If you have not seen my driveway, allow me to simply say that it is responsible for many a tale of woe, mostly when in it’s icy glacial snow or post-snow state. I will not be posting pictures of the devilish driveway because the last time I walked down there to check on the condition of the driving surface I slipped on the scary part so you will just have to take my word for it for the time being.
I decided to get to work on an art project. I have been waiting for the chance to get to work on that snakeskin, so here are some pictures of how far I got with it today.
The dry snakeskin was shedding it’s scales. I found that the easiest way to get them off was to just pass it over my thumb while rubbing them off with my finger.
I had some concerns about the leather, mostly that the grain on the non-smooth side would give me problems, but I definitely wanted the smooth side of the leather out so I decided to go for it and hope for the best.
So I put a thin layer of contact cement on both halves, the back of the snakeskin and the inner suede grain of the leather. The leather was just a scrap I got out of the bin at Earth Guild.
The problem is that I don’t think I have any grommets or snaps to finish the piece. It may have to wait until after the snow melts!
One good thing about snow days is that you pretty much get forced to do some work. Here at the alchemy lab I’ve been retooling our labels and making some Seven Deadly Sins samplers. Can’t wait to show everyone the new packaging idea!
Also we poured up the yellow root tincture and I am testing the bundle of yellowroot to see if any dye remains in the sticks. I’m trying it on my police line scarf, the yellow has faded from that one a lot. We’ll see. If it doesn’t do much I may throw in some turmeric.
AND, I’ve almost finished another police line scarf…if noone buys it before Saturday I’ll have it at my booth at the Madison County Arts Council Holiday sale, at the Arts Council building on Main Street in Marshall.
Looks like I will be making a snakeskin project for my Design Project. I am looking for the right kind of glue to use on snakeskin. I have not decided what I am going to make but it will probably be something simple since I have never worked with snakeskin before.
So, by now you’ve probably figured out that shenanigans factor prominently in my lifestyle. What can I say? I demand a high level of stimulation from the world. The latest bit was our Halloween party last Friday. I acquired this styrofoam head from a vegan friend of ours with the intention of using it as a meat delivery device. I like the irony of that, although the donor may not. Sorry! I think it looks awesome for a first attempt though. The eyes are made of a radish which I cut in half, shaved a bit of the skin off for this lovely bloodshot effect, cut holes in which I inserted olives to be the iris/pupil. The Meat Head idea is shamelessly taken from Makezine’s Halloween issue from a few years ago (what? it’s there for me to copy!) and the eye-dea I got from the great one’s (that would be Martha Stewart to you) Halloween book, although hers were frozen in ice cubes for libations.
I was also trying to get all fancy with the cheese there. I clearly need a better understanding of cheese sculpting to make my next chili powder covered organ look more realistic. Still, not a bad shape in all. There is that aortically shaped protuberance there, although it is probably in the wrong place. What? I never had to take anatomy, and I sort of molded it on a whim anyway.
Unfortunately I don’t feel I can post more pictures of the actual shenanigans since I did not get everyone’s consent. I wish I got a picture of the punchbowl with the lovely dry ice fog, but alas, it was not to be. Next year perhaps.
I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about native (and not-so-native) plants here for a while. It is a ridiculously complex endeavor, and though I’ve gone on many wild plant walks and such at various gatherings I still feel like a novice. I am feeling ready for more intensive study of woodslore in my life, and I was recently spurred on by how I was able to go camping, find a plant I had been looking for, spontaneously recognize it with no hesitation, determine that there was plenty growing in the area so it was safe to harvest some for myself, dig it up, and bring it home to make tincture.
Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera camping. I was so excited to be getting away from home that I didn’t feel like turning back to get it.
Here are pictures of the tincture making process though.
Yellowroot is used for dye, yellow, obviously. It also contains a high concentration of berberine, one of the active components in goldenseal. Since I like using goldenseal for what ails me, I get good results with it, I want to see how yellowroot works. I love every aspect of the herb gathering and preparation.
I cut the roots off the plant when I harvested them, and brought the bundle home.
We cut the roots up with a variety of tools. I cut some of them up with the kitchen shears, we used the pruners to cut some of it, and the really tough bits went into the (cleaned out, of course) coffee grinder.
I bought a mid-priced vodka, because I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the cheapest kind, even though it would be fine. I have heard you can make tinctures with glycerin too, but have never tried any that were prepared that way. I used an ear ache medicine for one of my kids years ago that was glycerin based, I imagine it’s about like that.
I have been keeping this jar in a cabinet where it stays dark most of the time. I will keep it like this for about 6 weeks and then strain the tincture and transfer it to small brown glass bottles, and they’ll be ready to use.
Today was a fun day. I went down to the Organic Armor studio in the River Arts District in Asheville. I forgot my camera, which I really meant to bring. Mostly because I wanted to play dress up and take pictures. So, what I did instead was I picked out this awesome set of horns. I was torn. Should I choose the ones that stick in your hair and really look like you have horns growing out of the top of your head? or the ones like this that sit across the head more like a tiara? I think it might have been designed with a different placement on the head in mind, I’ll get someone to take a picture that way some other time. Perhaps Sunday, even.
We went to the Laurel last week and met with a woman who had just killed this snake. I have no idea why, it was really small and non-threatening, but you know some people just can’t let things that freak them out slither away. So, I asked her if she was going to use it, and she gave it to me.
I’ve never done anything with a dead snake before, but when my pocketknife failed to produce the desired effect, I decided to use scissors. Worked like a charm.
Once I got the skin split down the length of the snake, I gutted it. It was pretty much just like gutting a fish, much easier than a chicken for sure.
After I cut off the head, I worked the skin off at that point and it was really easy to peel it off the rest of the snake. If it had been a bigger snake I might’ve decided to eat the meat, but it looked like it would really be more trouble than it was worth.
So, I already knew that I could preserve snakeskin with glycerin and alcohol, both of which are common household items for me…I have glycerin for soapmaking purposes, but I understand that it is quite pricey if you don’t buy it in quantity from the soap supply. Anyway, after a quick online search I found that you can use isopropyl alcohol, it doesn’t need to be denatured, so we were good to go. It’s a half and half solution. I just eyeballed it, I didn’t measure. I poured the isopropyl in first and then the glycerin. This is my attempt at a picture showing the two before they became one.
Hey! you can see where the line was. Well, sort of. I think the white line is the top of the counter as refracted (is that what I mean? someone will tell me) in the liquid, but you can clearly see there is some swirly action there in there. I think if I had waited, the two substances would’ve made a uniform substance on their own, but I stirred them up.
So, at first the skin bobbed out a little, so I wrangled it down with a skewer. After it soaked up some of the solution it was okay, so I put the lid on the jar and waited three days.
We went for a nice long hike at Mill Ridge one of those days.
We saw these butterflies mating, too, and I had to snap a picture. I’m surprised it turned out so well.
After three days we get to stretch the skin. I was surprised at how it really has to be stretched. It was wiggly and puckered.
All that I had to do now was pin it down and work more pure glycerin into it.
So now I have to wait until tomorrow, and then it’s supposed to be finished, according to everything I’ve read about it. I am thinking of making a choker necklace from it, since it is not a really big skin, but I would like some other ideas if you have any. I’d like to have it completed before I go to the Firefly gathering so I can show it off to my fellow primitive skills enthusiasts. I am really excited about this! so if you see a dead snake in the road or something, I’d love to have it. I know only a true friend who really really loves me, or someone who’s just as much of a weirdo, I guess, will pick up roadkill for me, but if it’s a big enough snake to use it’s vertebrae as beads, I’ll make you something pretty with them. Promise! I haven’t proceeded to other forms of road kill yet so, hold off on the possums and raccoons for now. If you see a fox, though, I might just accelerate my learning for one of those. Yes, I know they spell possum with an o at the beginning but that’s just wrong.
Today I decided that saving glass jars instead of using store bought glasses does have a down side. Mainly that there are so many of them in my cabinet. We use the ones with good lids for food storage, since I really try not to use a lot of plastic in my kitchen, they are a good alternative to plastic containers. So, I thought I would etch some designs into some jars so as to differentiate the ‘drinking glass’ jars from the ‘food storage’ jars, and so that people can remember which glass is theirs. My fantasy is that everyone will start remembering which jar they were drinking from so I don’t have 20 to wash every day, but I’m not holding my breath for that just yet.
I chose a large peanut butter jar, because it’s the size I like to drink from.
The jar had a bit of glue left from the label, and I knew that would resist the etching creme so before I started putting my design on, I deglueified the glass with alcohol. Rubbing alcohol will take most glues off glass, but if you try to remove glue from plastic with alcohol it will usually make the plastic cloudy. But that’s not important here, since we don’t etch plastic with this etching creme. You could get an etched effect if you used the alcohol on plastic, actually.
When you decide what you want to etch into your glass, you mask off the negative parts of the design. I chose to make a sunburst because it is an easy thing to make with just tape, plus it looks nice.
I didn’t have anyone handy to take a picture of the creme being applied, but I use a cheapo plastic paintbrush to apply it. I also wear rubber gloves, as the etching creme is caustic. I figure if it can eat off a layer of glass, I don’t want it on any of my sensitive living tissue. I have done this project with my kids before, but I let them make designs with tape and I applied the creme myself. The creme is supposed to sit for 5 minutes, but I left it a bit longer. Nothing terrible happened.
As I washed the etching creme off I used the rubber gloves to get in between the bits of tape, and most of the tape peeled off in the process. No matter. I threw the tape away right away because I’m sure there is still some etching creme stuck in it.
It’s not so easy to get a good picture of this, but I think you can see that the design turned out pretty well. If anyone has any pointers on taking pictures of reflective clear things, bring ’em on! I think I will do a skull and crossbones next. Maybe I can interest some moonshiners in that one. Or the XXX design from the cartoons that is supposed to denote moonshine or other liquor in the jug. What do you think?
I have been collecting these for a couple of years. Most of them are made of wood, but a few are styrofoam. I have been looking for interesting ways to use them without damaging them.
I saw the idea for a peg rack made of thread spools somewhere, but the designer used wood screws and screwed directly into the spools! Horrors! I spent some time finding the right arrangement for the spools, as they come in lots of different sizes. It worked out well that some of the shorter ones got stacked atop two peices of wood, the taller ones I situated below on the single layer of wood.
Once I had my layout configured I prepared the wood to attach the spools to it.
This paddle bit did a great job of removing wood from the screw hole so that the finished piece will lay flush against the wall.
Here you can see how the back looks with the hardware installed.
Now all that is left for me to do is attach this to the wall. I had to use tiny washers on some of the spools but most I did not as I wanted to preserve as much of the visual continuity of the spools as possible. I may disassemble this and patina the screw heads at some point.