Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Back From The Chilly South

We just got back from a nice visit to Florida, to take in a few sight-seeing spots and spend time with my family back in my hometown.  James and I headed on down the road as soon as he got home from work on that Friday.  We wanted to get up early enough on Saturday, and be able to get to the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, with time enough to see it all.  We were there two hours and frankly, we could have stayed another two just to read all the info and see every little thing.  The man collects!  He was actually there at the museum when we arrived, but we didn't realize it.  When an attendee told us, James ran out to find "Big Daddy" but he was already gone.  Bummer.

We made it to Tampa Saturday night, just in time for a nice hard rain shower.  Nonetheless we hugged the buildings along the sidewalks and traipsed over to have dinner at The Taco Bus.  Worth it!  Sunday afternoon we went to the Tampa Bay-Atlanta football game.  I love going to Raymond James Stadium.  They actually built the new stadium after I had moved away, so all my memories of going to Bucs games were of the old stadium.  I've only been to the new one maybe 2-3 times now, but it's super cool with the pirate ship at one end.  It was military appreciation day, so they had a lot of very nice presentations and introductions all throughout the day.  My Bucs tried, but they just couldn't beat James' Falcons.  After the game, we made our way down to Bradenton, where we stopped in for a late outdoor burger at the Shake Pit, one of those great spots that has been in my hometown since before I was born!

It was chilly for the Gulf Coast, in the 60's and some 70's.  Locals were bundled up in jeans and jackets, but I guess my blood has thickened in the 19 years that I've been gone.  I was still wearing crop pants and T-shirts!  James and I walked the beach a few mornings, although that last morning it was cold and damp and blustery.  We spent one day on a long drive over to Lake Okeechobee, where my parents go fishing.  For my dad, it's a once a month trip over there to hang with his buddies and fish.  It was a beautiful day there, sunny but cool, and the water was as blue as any lake I've ever been to.

As we always do when we go see my family, we spent an afternoon on their boat, fishing and zipping around the Manatee River and Tampa Bay.  This trip I asked my dad to take us over to Egmont Key, a small island that has a wonderful lighthouse, so I could get close-up photos of it.  We caught a total of 40 fish of all varieties, but everyone made it safely back into the ocean.  We only fish for fun when we go down there, although my dad said a lot of the grouper and bass we caught were good "eating" size!  James and I snuck in one day of antiquing over in Arcadia- we were there for a few hours and didn't even make a dent in all the little shops on their main street.  We'll have to go back again next time to check out the rest of the stores.  It was a nice little find.

Of course no trip to the beach in Florida is complete without fresh seafood!  And we had plenty of it.  We had a lot of great meals- particularly the dinner at Star Fish while we sat on the dock and watched the birds- and I know James really always loves eating the bounty from the Gulf.  I love seafood too, but nothing anywhere else can compare to eating fried fish that just came out of the water that day!  It still tastes like the ocean.  We came back home to below freezing temps, but no matter, I was happy to be home to the cats.  I always miss them when we travel, even if we are having fun and enjoying ourselves- my kitties are never far from my thoughts.  I'm always relieved to get back to them!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Upcycling Pendants

 Discovering our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore has ended up being the find of the century for me.  Not only have I picked up small goodies for our vintage shop, great books for a dollar, and old hardware for projects- I've also stumbled onto a wonderful cache of recycled tiles.  I started off with the normal square floor tiles, which I'll post about later.  Then I found these sheets of small mosaic tiles made for back splashes.  I bought the first ones there at the ReStore, just so I could recycle.  But I went through those so quickly I had to go to Lowe's to buy more of them, where they are sold by the sheet or the case.

One of the reasons I always wanted my own kiln, was so I could experiment.  I would never put something in a kiln belonging to someone else, if I couldn't be positive it wasn't going to explode!  Or at the very least, ruin the kiln.  I am willing to take that chance with my own, although I would be quite devastated if I broke my kiln!  Not cheap to replace!!  But I thought, well these are technically glazed ceramic tiles, so that means they went through the firing process at least twice already.  They should be safe to run through a kiln again, even a small one like my little Exit Strategy (my nickname for her).


 After removing the tiles from the mesh backing, and cleaning off the glue holding the tiles to the mesh, I was able to take my glazes and design away.  I like the long rectangular tiles the best, but I think the small hexagonal ones are a nice size as well.  The cleaning process is time consuming because the glue is strong, made to withstand commercial applications of the tiles.  I confess I've sliced open my fingers a time or two while scrubbing them down.


 Once the tiles were glazed, I added silver bails to the backs of them.  I've listed several in my Etsy shop, just as pendants.  I think the smaller ones would look best on a silver chain, and the larger ones definitely need something sturdier like a leather cord.  So far I haven't seen anyone else on Etsy doing anything like this.  I see a lot of people take these same tiles and put pictures on them, with resin.  But I haven't seen anyone glazing them.  I'm going to continue to play with other colors, especially my glazes that have crystals in them- I love opening the kiln and seeing how the crystals dispersed the color.  It's always a fun surprise, and one of my favorite moments.  Sometimes the color combinations I chose just don't work out, but most of the time, I like the results.


 The backs of course still look like the original tile, which I like, because it's a reminder that this is a recycled item.  The long tiles even have "Mexico" stamped in the clay.  I sanded them down as best as I could, and they are fairly smooth.  I haven't had any issues whatsoever with the one I kept for myself and wear almost every day.  It doesn't scratch my skin, or my clothes, and I barely notice it at all- just like wearing any other piece of jewelry.  I signed and dated the backs, as I do with all my jewelry pieces.


 Although in my Etsy shop, I've only listed the pendants by themselves, I did make one necklace for myself (the top one below).  It gets noticed and I've gotten a great deal of compliments on it everywhere I go.  I'm going to start taking the pendants and making more necklaces, to set aside as inventory so I can start doing local craft shows, street fairs, and art festivals in 2015.  I think it's something easy to make but still cool and handmade, and everyone loves "recycled" art.  I will keep the prices down on them, I'm thinking in the $5.00-$7.00 range, depending on the size of the tile.  I also think the smaller tiles, especially the little round ones, will make fantastic magnets and I've got plans to make up a few batches of those as well.


 You can check out more of the pendants at my Etsy shop at Black Hairy Spider Arts.  And once I know for sure the dates of the 2015 shows, I'll be posting those here as well.  I believe the first one is in April, and I'm aiming for that as a starter, because it's a small show here in downtown Newnan.  I plan to make plenty of other items as well, but I really want to make a lot of these tile pendants.  I hope that people will appreciate these, not only because I feel it's a bit of an original idea, but also because it's upcycling and helping out a local community charity.  I also strongly encourage you to find your own local ReStore, especially if you do crafts, because there are treasures on every shelf!