Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Ring

In a conversation with my mother, the topic of marriage came up as two of my childhood friends who are now divorced are living together but not planning on marriage. Being a stern Catholic, Vesta disapproves of "living in sin." She expressed her displeasure. I replied "Mom, we live in different times. Murder is a sin, living together is a plan." She laughed. I told mom I had a proposal of my own.

Of the many creative things I do, I'm not very good at planning great romantic surprises. Singing telegrams, a man in a bear costume (huh?), a mime with a message, hiding the ring in pudding, poetry (eeew) — none of these suggestions for presenting a ring seemed appealing — or for that matter sane. Can you imagine someone choking on an engagement ring over the course of dinner as you read poetry?

On a muggy Sunday morning I handed Stephanie something from my bag "I made you something pretty." She wondered why I handed her a massive old-lady flower. She said it was nice.

I hid her ring in a large ivory silk flower that I made. I asked her to turn it over, then I pulled a ring out from the nest of petals.

On this summer morning, August 23 2009, I asked Stephanie Wissinger to marry me. She smiled and said yes and we kissed. I cried a little.

What's next? A date perhaps? Kinda spooky. Only the future can really tell, but getting married is a good start — I think. In order to walk, one must first put a foot in motion.

This exquisite piece of jewelry was hand-made for Stephanie by Caroline Glemann — a beveled oval aquamarine sits high above diamond stars, set in white gold. It shines sweetly, like the best piece of candy you've ever had.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Knit PH at Freddy's Backroom, August 16, '09

For dinner I had a slice of an almond pear tart that my neighbor Justine made — perfect on a night such as this. It satisfied all my food cravings. Sunday evening, it's 90° and humid. In the distance I hear the low drone of a ship horn from the Navy Yard over the deafening buzz of cicadas. Stepping outside felt as if I were wearing a wet heavy towel on my head. Overall, this summer has been unusually cool until recently. It's also been unusually quiet this August, but I love New York when it's less crowded.

"Hello knitters!" Kirsten, the bar owner's daughter waved us hello on her way to the basement office. We had a small group on Sunday, which meant more AC for us. There's nothing better than a frosty beer and good company on a hot humid night. How did mankind live before AC and beer? Valerie was there before I arrived, she was finishing a crochet purse. I'm planning out my fall work, I brought some new yarns to swatch.

The best way i can describe the AC at Freddy's is "delicious." I hate sweating. I also hate drinking lots of water to cool down just to sweat all over again. Valerie is a cook, she said the best way to deal with the heat in the kitchen is regular applications of baby powder. My version is to go the the freezer section at Keyfoods and pretend I'm reading the ingredients on the packages. I try to look concerned when I do this.

Linda apologized for not RSVPing, I told her there was plenty of room. She brought a vest and a knit top in progress. Then Zack and Luise stepped in — Hoegaarden with lemon wedges in hand. Zack is our resident sock maker, he started a new pair. I admire his skill land tenacity. Linda and I agree that after finishing one, it's hard finding the incentive to make the other. Linda works as a park volunteer coordinator. She gets her share of well-wishers, crazy people and mosquitoes. New York does get buggy this time of the year. Valerie said that wearing a dryer sheet wards of bugs. They must fear that Fresh Meadow™ scent.

The dog days of summer have arrived like a rude house guest on a sweltering night. The heat brings out strange behavior in some, much more than a full moon. After Knit Night, I hung out with Troy, Jenna and few other regulars. We were outside smoking when a black convertible pulled over. A topless woman leaned out from window and asked "Excuse me! Am I in Staten Island?" — blond mullet and boobs akimbo, a-swayin' and bobbin'. Jenna blandly replied "No dear, you're in Brooklyn." We just turned around and returned to our conversation about sky diving. The woman idled for a moment and finally drove towards Vanderbilt. Shortly after that Kirsten walked out with a concrete brick in her hand. I asked "What are you doing with that?" She smiled and said "Gonna smash something." and walked home. I didn't inquire any further.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Wax Carving and Silver Design

Crowded platform at Union Square — I dodged past Peruvian pan flute players and German tourists meandering past the kid on the Casio keyboard playing "Für Elise." I caught the L train to meet up with Dan at their place in Bushwick. They have an incredible live-and-work space where Caroline runs her jewelry gallery and studio, LILOVEVE.

Caroline Glemann designs beautiful bespoke jewelry — wedding & engagement bands, neck wear, pendants, rings. I always stop to admire her show pieces in the gallery cases when I'm over. While I was there I figured that I should repair the silver ring that I made in her Wax Carving class. I went down into her workshop to use her ring mandrel and leather mallet. As a metal, silver is not as hard as gold or platinum alloys, but its forgiving quality is what makes silver so easy to work.

Silver artist and jewelry designer Sakurako Shimizu, taught the class at LILOVEVE — she specializes in wax carving and the "lost wax" method. In this class we learned how to accurately draft our designs, carve a model, and bring our silver cast to completion.

After sketching our designs we drafted a plan on grid paper using precision instruments to determine ring size and metal thickness. With this type of planning you can compensate for the mold shrinkage.

It's recommended that you use pre-made wax forms to save time. We used heated carving tools, different grades of files and filing paper to create these models.

The resin carving wax comes in grades of hardness — blue wax is medium, but green is harder allowing you to carve sharper detail. The carving wax is also available blocks, wire, and square dowels. I bought most of my tools and supplies at Melalifforous. They were inexpensive but if you're not careful it can get spendy.

We had silicon molds made of our models. From this mold another type of wax cast is made that is again casted into a plaster mold. Molten silver is then poured into this second mold, extruding the second wax.

The mold is then broken open and discarded after the silver has cooled. With this type of method, multiple casts can be made. This sounds like a lot of work but we used a service in the jewelry district to do all of this. When you first get your poured silver the surface appears matte white. The goal in this class it to take it to a highly polished finish.

A small stem (the sprue) on the ring marks where silver was poured. It has to be removed and filed down along with any small imperfections. Sakurako helped me with mine, the sprue was on the inside and I couldn't completely file the shape down to match concave interior. Sakurako is a hands-on instructor, she demonstrated every part of the process in detail.

Careful work lies ahead. If you over-work you'll lose the detail and shape that you created in the wax carving stage. But if you don't file enough imperfections stand out.

After the initial polishing you can add a matte finish with a Scotch Bright pad, but even then you must be careful with the direction of the grain.

I used the wheel, a Dremel tool and diamond polish to get it to really shine.

After that I used a blackening agent to bring out the detail in my ring, but you can also add green, red, or blue patina to your work.

After a final buff and polish the pockmarks and holes are more prominent.

Caroline's studio is well furnished with all the equipment and tools you need. My friends Eva and James took the wax carving class to make their wedding bands, it was gift from Eva's mother. Carrie's sister Gabrielle and her husband Paul made their platinum bands as well.

My ring fits perfectly. I'm not at all a be-jeweled guy, but after many hours of filing, sanding, and polishing I do feel as if my ring is a part of me when I wear it.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Impressions of Maine

On our way back from dinner Stephanie and I nearly got nailed by fixed gear bikers running a light to avoid a cab. "Don't worry I see you!" he yelled as he nearly ran into the other biker. "No you don't." I said as he flicked me the bird while turning the corner riding against the traffic. Why does anyone need a fixed-gear bike in New York? A fine welcome back to Brooklyn it was.

We returned from a week-long get away in Biddeford Maine with Steph's friends Sonya and Jim — and of course their twins Otto and Marta, and the cats. Words alone can't fully describe the raw beauty of the New England coast and the warm hospitality of our hosts.

Beach combing with Marta at 7:30 in the morning...

she drew my portrait in the sand — Marta loves to draw and write.

I made her pet moose a rucksack to carry his little friend. I also made a scarf for Otto's lobster.

Green collars of lichen and moss elegantly dress the sea wall blocks that line the roads.

Intrepid explorers scamper over rocks to search for pink starfish in a tidal pool.

They briefly sat for a family portrait — in just a few hours these rocks will be reclaimed by the ocean.

Cat wrangling with Otto, June and Jolly (the cats) — we found a bleached skull in the sand.

Otto said it was from a small dinosaur, I said it was once a seagull.

But upon closer inspection I told him he was correct. Why not, what's the harm?

Otto likes my camera, he took my photo by the marine science research road sign.

I think Marta took this picture of me and Steph using our lobster phones.

Years ago Sonya's father, Costa transformed a humble fishing shack into a handsome summer cottage.

The beach house reappears each morning as fog lifts from Hills Beach — Basket Island and bird watchers try to find each other in the mist.

One can walk to Basket Island at low tide.

Carpets of mossy beach roses are everywhere offering rose-hip jewels to passersby.

After Jim's sumptuous grilled lamb dinner we searched for the rainbow's end on Fort Hill but it soon faded into Biddeford Pool.

On a clear evening we saw Jupiter through Sonya's telescope, but one can find these stars on the beach.

Have you ever seen anything so blue? Deep azure and royal purple skies call us home for Stephanie's chocolate bourbon cake and ice cream.

I took a little bit of Biddeford home with me — a few mementos from the beach. Most of all I left with an incredible impression that we'd move out there one day. It was difficult settling back into the New York scheme of things. At night I hear the traffic from Flatbush and pretend it's the ocean.