Monthly Archives: October 2011

Halloween Vacation

Argh, I feel like I just got off an airplane and now I have to get back on one first thing in the morning… and I haven’t even begun to pack yet, ack, ack, aaaack. Hopefully my plane is on time because I’m making it into town just in time to do Nefarious’s Halloween makeup for some school event (this picture was from my last visit there at the amusement park). I feel like I have done almost nothing this week which is unfortunate because I had a lot to do. I haven’t even posted all my new creations but I think I have at least gotten one from each new design posted. I think I’m getting knocked over by one of my medications, making me feel like I’m getting run over by truck in my sleep. Sleep has got to be one of the most important factors in staying healthy. On one hand I’m very lucky and almost always sleep well, but I feel like sometimes one can sleep “too well” and wake up sore for not having moved. Like bed sores junior.

Anyway, I really must pack.

Handicapped Parking Permits

Caitlin pointed out to me a relevant article in the Toronto Star — “Unlimited Free Parking, Anywhere, Anytime” — about abuse of handicapped parking permits. I actually had no idea that parking was free in Toronto! While I appreciate it, I don’t get why my parking should be free… I just want a space close to where I’m going. Not looking for a handout. Just the ability to use the same services and businesses as everyone else.

But I’m generally happy that the Star is doing these “stings” and catching people who are perfectly capable movers. To get a permanent handicapped parking permit (like what I have), you are supposed to have significant difficulty walking and walk with an aid. You don’t get it for being fat or being old, yet it seems like almost everyone I see with these permits is abusing it. There are a lot of parking lots where there is never handicapped parking available, yet when I watch the spots, it’s a rarity to see the person having any difficulty walking let alone a cane or other walking aid. By every visible standard they are completely mobile. Yes, I get that there are people who fall through the cracks, but there are half a million of these permits in Ontario alone. The reality is that most family doctors are pushovers and sign off on these permits for everyone who asks, and unfortunately there are way too many old people who think that they deserve special rights just because they’re old. Really bothers me and I wish there was some accountability for this fraud. If I had to make a ballpark guess, I would go so far as to say that well over 80% of all permanent handicapped parking permits were obtained fraudulently.

Anyway… Here are a couple of the learning exercises I did today with using soldering to mount the gemstones in eye sockets. That is, building up the socket around the gem to hold it in place. Because pewter is a brittle metal it’s not as simple as just using a burnisher to bend a lip over the gem. I also did some enameling. The clown looks awesome — the photo doesn’t do it justice.

I’ve really got to get around to putting together a lightbox or something. My photos are really terrible.

Oh and I have been very negligent in not mentioning that I will be at the Zombie Walk on the 22nd — that’s this Saturday — and each of the big prizes for best zombie includes one of my zombie rings. I’ll bring a bunch along for winners to choose from but if anyone else wants to see them in person and buy one, just ask me. Click click for more:

Seven new rings plus a pendant

I want to really quickly post a dirty montage of the jewelry that I finished making molds for today. This is only a portion of what I carved/sculpted while in the Cayman Islands. They are in a range of sizes but are on the smaller end this time. The biggest of this set are about a 9 or 10, and there are some quite small ones — size 3 perhaps even. So now there’s finally going to be some stuff for kids and people with tiny hands. This mask ring is one of the small ones:

So is this old man ring (Caitlin thinks it looks like an old elf):

And this snowman ring (surprisingly innocuous for a change, right?) is rounding out the tiny ones:

Don’t punch anyone wearing that one!

This evil clown ring is a little bigger but still very much on the small end:

The gross venous eyeball ring is bigger though:

As is this oldschool toy robot ring:

The last ring is this silly exercise in ego stroking. No, it’s not a crazy hobo serial killer.

And finally, I also made a zombie pendant (or keychain). It’s solid and quite heavy, at least in comparison to the rings above which are all thin-walled and very light in comparison to some of my earliest designs. You can click to zoom in on this last picture but not the others:

Tomorrow I’ll be catching up on all my shipping and order fulfillment, so depending on how my day goes I will endeavor to get these new designs officially measured and added to the shop. Maybe I will do some plating or enameling first, like the clown’s nose or hair perhaps…

Cayman Islands Visit

So as you know Caitlin and I just got back from a hair over a week in the Cayman Islands. We found a deeply discounted flight+hotel package and, after reading about Grand Cayman on a “top ten snorkel vacations” list, booked it on one of those last-minute vacation sites. Direct flight too, so it was a really easy and low-stress visit. The hotel was on Seven Mile Beach, a nice clean sand beach. The best thing about it was that they’ve installed lots of hollow cement balls to create an artificial reef, so you can go snorkeling with lots of little tropical fish just feet from shore. In our journeys it seems like you could probably find a great place to snorkel anywhere you are there, and there are something like two hundred dive sites. This is the one in front of where we stayed:

We booked a couple of snorkel tours by boat, but unfortunately only got to do the first one due to weather. Especially unfortunate because the canceled one was a couple of “proper” coral reefs and what sounds like a really fun visit to a sandbar covered with wild but very tame (and large) stingrays. Not that I’m complaining about what we did get to do — it started with a visit to the USS Kittiwake, a 250 foot long wreck that was just recently sunk so coral hasn’t had much time to grow, but there are lots of fish (including a few big barracudas). The bottom of the boat is in around sixty feet of water — and it’s clear enough to see all the way down from the surface — but the very top of the boat is close enough to the surface that Caitlin could stand on it and be out of the water.

And yes, the middle picture is me losing my hotel card. I was hoping one of the divers would bring it up but no one noticed. I had so much fun swimming the length of the boat over and over that by the time I got out of the water I was in incredible pain and when we got to the next site, Cemetery Beach, instead of joining Caitlin in the water I did my best sea-sick impression and spent a few minutes heaving over the side of the boat, feeding the fish the salt water taffy that I’d gotten the day before.

Our other tour was taking a night ride on the Atlantis Submarine, which is a big 48 passenger tourist submarine. The shelf around the island is about a hundred feet down, and then after that the cliff drops a few thousand feet straight down. We did an hour or so of slowly browsing the reef. Because it was night time they were running with the lights on (other than turning them off briefly to show us the glowing plankton) so we could see color, which you can’t normally see at that depth because the light frequencies don’t all penetrate. However, night also meant that there weren’t as many fish out, and most of what we saw were tarpin — lots of big tarpin. We saw even more of them a couple days later at supper when the over-water restaurant tossed a bunch of what I assume were scraps into the water and the school of churning tarpin went nuts for the treat. Anyway, in the top picture you can see a nurse shark. Some others saw an octopus but I didn’t see it so the shark was my fish highlight.

It wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped, mostly because you don’t really see that much out the window and you feel surprisingly disconnected from your environment. Intellectually you understand what you’re seeing and where you are, but there’s no “gut feeling” of floating along a hundred feet under water. It could be a grainy movie. That said, it looked a million times better than my crap camera (I got a Fujifilm XP20 waterproof camera and overall it sucks — and is very difficult to control and I couldn’t make take a decent low-light photo) could capture. When we are in Cozumel in November with Ari I think I’d like to try a daytime tour. As far as I know there is a sub trip there as well.

You can zoom that. Walking along the beach Caitlin noticed that there were tons and tons of cute little hermit crabs. They’re not too thrilled if you pick them up but quite brave. First they snugly hide in their found shell (and it’s quite funny to watch them in them) but it’s just a few seconds later before they pop out and start nipping at you and trying to scuttle away.

Other favorites of Caitlin included the lizards. When we were in Cuba there were cats all over. In Mexico, dogs. In Costa Rica, well… everything… and in the Cayman Islands the local critter of abundance was definitely lizards. Lizards and pirates carrying butt plugs that is (perhaps not surprising when your country code is “KY”), unless of course that’s just a broken sword. We’ll never know.

Other than that here are a couple happy pictures of Caitlin and I. The last dressed up one — and I really annoyed Caitlin by fiddling with the camera trying to take an evening portrait under a street light — is because we went and ate at Aqua, which was my favorite meal of the week. I started with a pile of different ceviches (big ceviche fan!) and got an extra one because they brought the wrong kind and then followed it with a bunch of different kinds of grilled fish.

Comparing the Cayman Islands to the other islands that I’ve spent time on (Cuba, Antigua, British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, etc.), it’s definitely the most “modern”. A lot of the time you could easily convince yourself that you’re on the American mainland.

We did not however go on any booze cruises.

I was weaker and sicker than I had expected, and I wish I had sucked it up and pushed myself a bit harder and done more, but it was still a really nice vacation break. I can’t wait for November, when Ari is coming with us to Cozumel. I’m going down to see her for Halloween which should be nice too. When we got back here it was so much colder! In some ways that was actually a relief, but it turns out that I’m eager for them to turn on our building’s heat because it’s taking my silicone twice as long (at least) to set due to the cold!!! I’ve got eight pieces of jewelry sitting in a hardening mold that I’m dying to test cast — I brought clay along and these are all things that I sculpted in the hotel room.

PS. Jeez time goes by too fast. It takes so long to make these posts… I don’t know how I ever handled posting at the volume I once did!

Natural Coral Setting Rings

First: These one-offs are not for sale and I’m not looking for a debate about the ethics of coral.

I made a couple of rings that use a small piece of coral as their centrepiece. To do so I ground down the back of the coral so that it sat comfortably over the curve of the finger. Then I oiled up the coral to keep the clay from sticking, and made the ring bodies which I then carved into a pattern echoing the natural shape of the coral. I made a quick one-piece silicone mold (using left-over mix from the a pile of new store ring designs that are on the way) and cast the rings in pewter. The coral fit perfectly. Rather than trying to glue it, I soldered some more material around and over the edges and blended it into the texture. So now it all seems to be mechanically held in place very well.

I’ve actually learned a lot about settings since I started making jewelry, and I am considering doing a “recall” on any rings that I’ve sold with gemstones so that I can redo the way the stones are held in place to make them more robust. Those that this applies to I will be in touch with by email. I just want people to have the best possible thing I can make for them.

The little one is a size 7 and the big one a size 11. I was so terrified that I was going to get them stuck. I had to oil up my fingers to get them on and off and they were nervously red by the end of the photos.

I will post shortly about the trip. We’re just back of course.

PS. While on vacation Caitlin and I read conflicting things on the collection and export/trafficking dead coral. So we erred on the side of prudence and left all of it there except for a couple little bits that eluded through in the pocket of my bathing suit. So I figure now new-prudence is to not have it go to waste. Certainly it was everywhere on the island and was being used as “gravel” in the construction of walls and so on, so at least locally it appears to be treated as more disposable than I expected (that said, we watched them importing aggregate on big cargo ships, so I should not underestimate the value of gravel on a low-lying island for which a quarry is better known as an artificial lake). That said, I do It’s not something that I would do in volume or commercially, and I’m not looking for a debate.