Friday, November 26, 2010

Etsy Store is stocked again!

To help with holiday shopping, I have more bookmarks in the Etsy store.

I have also added a few of the "Inspire" Artist Trading Cards (also known as ACEOs, for "Art Cards, Editions and Originals") in both glazed and bisque versions. My original plan for the trading card tiles was to offer them in bisque so that those interested in learning to glaze might have a sturdy, less-expensive canvas for practicing. I also hoped to use them for their traditional purpose, which is for trading between artists. I love the idea of being able to swap techniques in this way, because I have always found so much value in being able to really look at someone else's work up close.

That hasn't come to pass yet. I fear that I fell behind with all my projects after my surgery earlier this year, and I haven't yet managed to catch back up. Eventually there will be some realistically colored samples, though! In the meantime, pick up some of the bisques if you would like to try some glazing.

And here is a more traditional Trading Card, done on paper with ink, Copic markers and colored pencils. I was experimenting with the card in anticipation of a project for the upcoming Bring Out Your Chinas Convention. I'll post a little more about that soon.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another sneak peek

This is the first bisque Elsie with one of the Olivers. I love how these two pieces work as a set.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sneak Peek

Since a batch of these guys just went into the kiln with the first Elsie bisque, I thought I would share a sneak peek. Each year I try to make something for Christmas. Usually it is a medallion or an ornament, but this year I wanted to do a pendant. He is really small - just over an inch tall. He is a shrunken and reworked version of the 2008 Christmas ornament. Unlike previous bas relief shrinks, which were done using the shrinkage of the clay, this (and the ornament before it) were done using a material called HydroShrink. I had hoped that it would make shrinking quicker (which it did) and easier (that part is a little questionable). I will try to get some pictures of the process and talk about its pros and cons in a later post.

He is designed so that holes for stringing can be worked in his mane, either one at the top or one to either side.

A not-so-small breakthrough

One of my mare's barn buddies, Abby, showing the varnish roan coloring associated with the Leopard Complex gene.

The Appaloosa Project, a research group devoted to unlocking the mysteries behind appaloosa patterning in horses, announced today that they had isolated several of changes in the genetic code that correlate with the "leopard complex" gene. Leopard complex is the name given to the gene responsible for the color horseman call varnish roan. It's important because it is thought to be the master switch that sets the stage for the other appaloosa patterns (blankets and leopards). This discovery is important because it means that tests can be offered to determine if a horse has the gene. Since varnish roan is not always visible at birth (especially when none of the patterning genes are present), being able to test for it will be a great boon to breeders of appaloosas.

The article with the information appears in this month's Animal Genetics, in a special issue on horse genomics. An article that explains the leopard complex gene is available in PDF form on my website. (I need to format and upload the other articles from that series!)

This is exciting news for those of us that follow equine coat color research. This is the first step towards a better understanding of the whole picture when it comes to appaloosa patterns. It is likely that research in this area will shed light on how the other complex, multi-gene patterns (like sabino) work. Kudos to the team of scientists at The Appaloosa Project!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Small breakthroughs

One day when my youngest son was a toddler, he decided he was too old for baths and requested a shower. I set him inside the shower stall in our master bedroom, and went to get extra towels just in case things got especially wet. I was only gone for a minute - just long enough to walk down the hall to the linen closet. When I came back I found him sitting on the floor of the shower, oblivious to the water falling on his head, with all the pieces of the drain scattered around him. In just that brief time he had taken it apart. I didn't even know it came apart.

He is one of those people who are just seem born with an instinctive understanding of how things work. He gets this from his father, because I am most assuredly not one of those people. I often struggle with relatively simple machinery.

Which brings me to the item in the picture. That is the fastener on a mold strap. Mold straps hold the pieces of a mold tight while the slip is poured. I haven't needed mold straps in the past because I have always dealt with molds smaller molds that could be held together with wide rubber bands. This has been a good thing, because I never could figure out how the fasteners worked. What is sad is that I have seen them used at Pour Horse. I'd even unfastened and refastened them, so I know how they are supposed to feel when they lock. I just couldn't seem to make mine work.

I thought I could avoid dealing with them at all by simply using the same kind of large black rubber bands that I had used on the rubber master. They actually came off a set of "moon shoes" that my kids got for Christmas one year. When he first saw them, my friend Joe insisted that the shoes were the best job security he had seen in a while. Joe is a emergency room doctor. Shortly after that the shoes went missing (funny, that!), all except those useful-looking black bands.

I became skeptical though, when I had the completed mold. The rubber master tends to stick together a bit all on its own, so it doesn't need to be cranked closed quite like the plaster one. I wasn't sure the rubber bands were up to holding the large side pieces tightly enough.

As this picture of the first pour shows, they were not. The extra clay around the leg is where the liquid slip leaked between the pieces. (The white areas are from the mold soap that is present on the sides of the mold pieces.) This wouldn't work. Not only does that slight gap distort the casting, but the clay between the pieces effectively glues the whole thing shut. It is almost impossible to remove a horse in this kind of situation without tearing it.

So I had to figure out the mold straps. I felt a little better when even my husband was at a loss. They looked simple enough, and he works in an engineering field. We must not have been the only ones, because in my search for a picture online of how they looked like closed, I found this online tutorial. Suddenly it all made sense, and now I have a tightly strapped mold. I thought it might be worthwhile to share the link, in case others were having similar trouble.