Saturday, December 9, 2017

"Someone Should Save This"

I hear this phrase all the time:  "Someone" should do something.  It frustrates me as that abdicates our collective responsibility to our cultural heritage, whether it be publishing of information, saving a craftsman business, or a crumbling work of art/culture.  Things that enrich us, preserve knowledge, or propagate humanism aren't always big money makers so innovation needs to be applied to make these wonderful things happen.  And we are always more than happy to participate in them once "someone" has done the heavy lifting of making it happen.  Often we travel around the world, spending vast sums on our vacations, to see things that 'someone' made happen.

So this effort I read about this morning was really interesting to me and opened up an amazing portal into something going on in France to make everyone that "Someone".

Chateau de la Mother-Chandeniers in France, a 13th century castle.  I now own a piece of it.



























There is an amazing 13th century castle in France that was slated for demolition and requires some pretty hefty restoration.  Beyond the ability of the last owner to independently finance, he has turned to an online organization to use crowd funding to save French treasures.  Think how Kickstarter has revolutionized the funding of tech products or art/film projects.  Or call it "Kickstarter for History".

This is something I have proposed in a different form before at various museums only to be told that we can't go whole hog for small projects because departments are forbidden by their development offices to do small scale fundraising and the development people are focused on fat cats so wouldn't work with me (I tried at the V&A a few years ago).  I was amazed at how we were able to tap into the collective with the Plimoth Jacket Project and what good things that spawned to keep high-end embroidery alive and push it into a renaissance.  Why can't we do that in many places???

Read this article about how the "Kickstarter for History"called Dartagnans is offering shares in the 13th century castle that you can buy.  So for about $50-75, you can own a share of a castle.  That alone sounds pretty darn cool.  And someday you can go visit it.  They have actually raised the money already to save it - meaning buy it - now they are working on the stretch goals to get the first stabilizing work done as it hasn't had a roof for almost 80 years.

After you consider buying a share in a French Castle (don't we always dream of that!!), check out the rest of the site to see the type of historic projects that are up for funding.  It is a really cool idea!

Be that "someone" today and help save our collective history.  My piece of a fairytale castle is on its way already for Christmas.  I will be really proud someday to visit it, even if it still stands needing a roof, knowing that we all helped keep it there for the future.

Tricia


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Elusive Unicorn


When I posted about the latest finished panel of the Harmony Casket last week, I promised some discussion on it and the good, bad and the ugly.  Well, here is the ugly.

I actually finished this panel back in early October and it has been sitting here looking at me for over a month - with my unicorn scowling at me.  I couldn't put on the mane and tail as I was debating during a very hectic 6 weeks starting in mid-October of business trip after business trip that blended into the Thanksgiving rush and now a robot completion every week until Christmas Eve.  The question - would I have the few days it would take to redo the unicorn??

So why didn't I like it?  Unicorns are cool.  Well, I had made the wrong choice on the thread progression when working it.  This is unicorn #1 below.  I had decided to use the grey silk gimps that I had made and were in the Season 1 Frosting Box.  There was a dark grey, a med grey and a white.  Knowing that unicorns are supposed to be white, I thought I would minimize the grey to an outline of one strand around the entire beast.  One spot, the haunch of the back leg got two lines of the med grey because it was big and I needed to make a turn of the gimp.

The first unicorn, everything is looking great on the satin and no reason to think that putting it together would become
a disaster that was already in the making.
It looked good on the fabric until I had to cut the pieces out and construct the head.  The first problem was the silk satin I was using.  It frays horribly and of course you need to clip corners and make the allowance thin to tuck over and whip stitch the head piece to the back of the body.  Because I was having trouble with the fraying, I wasn't aggressive with the turn over to get the two lines of gimp to touch at the seam.  This was complicated by the addition of the horn in the seam.  So when I was done, I had a head that had a 1/8" gap between the two pieces near the horn going around the snout.  

To fix that, I needed to whip on some gimp to fill the space.  But the gimp at the edge was the dark gimp.  That gave the snout a weird dark shadow around it that you can see in the picture below.  Then then the piece was attached to the ground fabric over the stuffing, I discovered in my haste to finish the entire side of the casket that I had forgotten to enlarge the pattern by 10% to allow it to bow over and still fit the outline on the fabric.  ARG!!  How stupid.  So now I was pulling at the piece while tucking under the fraying silk fabric and it missed covering the outline in two places.  The fix would have to be laying another line of dark gimp around the outside and in places, it might have to be two to three lines to cover the gap and fraying silk bits.  

Unicorn #1 - his snout with the dark grey stripe down its nose just annoyed me so much.


New body with medium grey on the outside and done
in a double line to make it thicker and more dominant
It was at this point that I got really discouraged.  I hadn't intended for the unicorn to be bounded by a real thick line of dark grey, it dominated and you didn't even notice the med grey color as a transition between the dark and white.  The snout really irritated me every time I looked at it.  I showed it to some trusted embroiderers and they weren't as down on it as I was.  But I knew I would hate that side of the casket the rest of my life.  So I left it aside.  My time crunch was upon me and I had to get the tent stitch slope done on schedule, run around the country and endure some serious demands on my time not knowing if I would ever be able to get back to making another one before the instructions would have to go up.  

So I set aside a few days to work until midnight on a new unicorn after Thanksgiving after shipping and other demands and managed to get one done.  There was a lot of thought and funny short lines worked in dark grey in ways that wasn't efficient for embroidery but put the dark and medium where they needed to be to give the best look.  Having the bad one to refer to helped tremendously in making the new one.  

One fix that really contributed was running a line of fray check around the silk satin where I wanted to cut it (the seam allowance line).  It wasn't next to the embroidery but kept the silk satin together when I was doing the turning.  What a difference that made!!  I was able to be aggressive with the turn and the snout ended up so crisp that I didn't need to add the planned dark grey line there at all and I don't really feel it is missing (note the rest of the body has one).  

Below you can see the two unicorns.  I am quite a bit happier with the second and will enjoy it on the side of my casket.  I am not much of a ripper - usually working on ways to fix vs remove work as I am pressed for time.  But in this case it was the right thing to do - and I wanted to share it with you to make you feel better about that piece that is sitting in the corner right now waiting for you to figure out what to do about something that bugs you.  

It happens to all of us.

The final unicorn and the one that got away.

Monday, December 4, 2017

A New Panel for the Double Casket Stitch-Along

This stitch along is working out well for me.  I now have 9 panels of 18 done for my double casket!!  That means in 12 months I have stitched half a casket and wasn't chained to the couch.  It just means setting a goal of getting a certain panel done during a month or a two-month period.  Something pretty achieveable when you think about everything else that I have going on around here (queue memories of 14 straight days with visitors/robot kids in my house - today is the first day where I could sit down and breathe in the morning).

I am starting to get antsy because of the number of panels laying around and am wanting to get the next panel done so I might start gluing them to the box.  It will start looking like something!

Tricia

Thursday, November 30, 2017

New Harmony Casket Side Done!

It is really amazing how much progress you get done when you concentrate on doing one panel of a casket or part of a panel each month!  I now have two caskets almost half done in one year.

So here is the latest side of my Harmony Casket - the one with the elusive unicorn!  I am pleased on how this has turned out.  But I wasn't always and so I will blog again soon about that story.  This is the second unicorn I stitched.


It goes really well with the finished frieze above it and I have already finished the next month's work early so it can be seen in its entirety!  Now off to work on the front of the casket.



Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Flood has Started - Golden Threads Announcement and Others

I know by orders over the last two years that half my audience has been listening to my warnings that many materials will come to an end and half haven't, thinking things will be there tomorrow or that 'somebody' will rescue us.

I have said over and over that I chose to do the casket project as I had visited so many workshops where these high-end threads/fabrics/cabinets/etc are being made and could see the writing on the wall.  That we had about ten years at best while everything was still available.

Then the last month happened and it seems daily that I am dealing with the surprise 'end' of something or planning for the known end.  I posted last week on NING about the end of many of the lovely linens we like to use and the desperate work I and Access did over the last few weeks to convince the linen maker to make me 400 yards of the Old White Linen as a last run.   Things I haven't posted - the frame company I liked to use folded.  Looks like months later they may have a buyer but I haven't seen any pieces to evaluate yet.  The metal thread scissors we had gotten made - company doesn't want to make them anymore.  Gone.  Another major closing was just announced to stores today - but isn't public yet.

Richard and I have negotiated the last of the casket numbers.  I have been working on the website and my spreadsheets to make sure that I have it all right before I tell you exact figures.  But there will be less than 150 of the complicated caskets left (Double Caskets, Flat with Doors, and Flat Caskets).   The distribution is what I am working on right now and double checking and double checking.  Then I will announce order-by dates to get any locks you might want for your own work in the wood shop as I will be placing my last order.

So that made an email I just got take me by surprise and I knew I needed to post right away before people freaked out.

Bill Barnes of Golden Threads posted a few hours ago that he was going to retire (not a surprise - he is 75) on the Heritage Crafts Association website.   I certainly wanted to preface the announcement with why and what we are doing.

Bill really wants to increase production and pass on the thread making knowledge to someone else.  Our threads have gotten slower as he had and has recovered from knee replacement this year (the reason so many of you have been waiting forever for silk purls and some have realized that he stopped taking retail orders (I do not know if that was temporary or not) ).  We have been helping him by increasing the business volume for years - as the only way to get someone to train to take over the business is to see that the past and projected volume was healthy enough to support a person and their family with income.  That means a business needs minimum $500,000 or more in sales to have a workable income after costs, etc. Unfortunately his attempts to find a person have sputtered on and off over the years that we have been working on this project.  We recently gave him some projected numbers and he made some more attempts through local channels but now has to set a wide net to try to publicize through the Heritage Crafts Association network.  We can only pray that it works, it will take a bit to train a new person so it is not overnight.  Meanwhile, we have been prioritizing threads and keeping a list of what is essential to get produced before he shuts shop so several of the classes get their threads as advertised and other planned courses.

This concerns not only gold threads like #4 Silver and Gold on silk but silk purls of the original size and Gilt Sylke Twist.  Sadly in my book, I will not get a few lines of thread I really wanted to do.

I can say that we have had a great run of it all!  What a wonderful time we have had to play with our threads as these manufacturers start to move off into the sunset.  Know that within my limits of capital, I have been working as creatively as possible to buy, fund, re-engineer, transfer knowledge, and dig up sources to help keep anything alive that can be.  No stone is being left unturned.

But I think you know that, hopefully.

Tricia


Monday, October 9, 2017

Ask This Old House

That's the Ask This Old House trailer pulled into my
driveway in August
So I was just griping about how hard it is to set up a studio and get good film footage of me covering a casket.  Last time I did it, I flew my brother who has a degree in this out and we did it together in a week.  He isn't available for that at the moment, so I have to go it alone. 

Over the years, I have had experience with being on the camera or around productions for TV.  My son has been a regular for PBS kids programs starting with Curious George (I have a cameo there too).  It takes FOREVER to film a scene.  One day, he did two 5-minute episodes for PBS Design Squad Nation on location, it was 8-hours of filming.  We shot another two at my house, even longer as the location crew showed up earlier. 

We have filmed Shay Pendray's show, a film for the MET, and a documentary for LEGO.  It has been
A crew of eight needed for the sement - you can see me in the
background during a shot
fun, but not something I would want to do all the time.  But every time I do it, I learn a lot.  B-shots, how to cut sound together, etc.  Very useful when you are thinking of shooting how-to segments. 

So this summer I knew I would be working again on the videos for the caskets and so when an opportunity came up to do an episode of This Old House, I took it to recall how it goes.  I have loved that show since I was a kid and years ago I fell into the lucky opportunity to use the contractors on my homes.  Great and wonderful people and I can't say enough about the quality of the work.  So this summer, we were painting our house (Au Ver a Soie 4611 - I custom mixed the paint to the spool) and was
Well Rodger, I just don't know what to do about this rain problem!
having landscaping done.  Roger was doing the work and it was fun to work with him and the crew.  At one point we realized that an entrance to my house didn't have gutters and was spitting up dirt on the newly and now light painted section.  A solution was needed and I decided I wanted rain chains.

Trying to get the go-pro to work in the rain pot with the 'rain' ready on the
other side of the roof.
As I started talking to the Silva Brothers about putting up the structure for that, I mentioned that I had never seen it on their show - wouldn't that be a good episode.  And quick as a lick, the producers were in touch (they had wanted to film the inside of the house during the renovation for the regular show but we decided the crazy TOH fans who show up for 20 years asking for a tour isn't worth it).   A date was set in late August and the wheels were set in motion.

For me it was fascinating to see the behind the scenes of that production and to get to know the people.  I quickly got many tips (we will see if I can successfully use them!) about how-to filming as well as contacts for some ideas I have in the works for the future. 

So the episode of Ask This Old House will air in February with me and the rain chains.  It will be hilarious to watch as it is a bit modified for the format.  I didn't put up gutters and then go 'oh no, what will I do?  Call Rodger for help?'  But there is a format to do.  I think we must have done 15 takes of me walking out the door saying "Hi Rodger, thanks for coming".  "Hello Tricia, what a beautiful house you have..."  All the production crew hiding behind the trailer with the film footage
The producer protecting the cameras from the fake rain while
the splashing of the rain chain was being filmed close up.  They have so
much extra equipment on them at all times.  One young woman has two
messenger bags on her at all times with commonly needed stuff.
real-time wirelessly showing up on their screens.  We used Go-Pros in my gutters and the pot.  And a drone took footage overhead - Any tool to get cool shots.  Then some fake rain from a hose over the roof helped by a ladder.  All in all, it took five hours to film the segment.  And when you film outside, noise comes all the time to ruin a shot.  "Cut...lawn mower".  "Cut...truck".  "Airplane".  Hilariously, just as we were close to wrapping up the last shot - the bells in town started going off.  We all looked around... NEVER heard that before.  Seems Lexington had started a new thing, noon everyday they will have the church bells go off.  Really??? It was in a song too.  And an encore.  10 minutes of waiting until it was quiet again to yell 'Action!'

At one point Rodger was so tired of his lines that he gave some to me.  Apparently I sounded too knowledgeable about Vinca so after two more takes, the producer nixed that idea and gave them back to a grumpy Rodger who has more trouble remembering lines than I would have thought.  But then again - he has quite a lot of them!  I got to stand there and look very interested in a pile of rocks.  And they made me shovel! 

All in all it was a very fun day and worth it as now I know where to contract with film crews. 

But my son is still trying to convince me that I need an expensive film drone for my casket work....  I don't think so...

Tricia

Friday, October 6, 2017

Casket Videos...Take 42...Action!

The Grip - or griping grip - helping set everything up.  He has
to crawl on the floor to get out of the space without hitting
head as tables are pulled out into the walking space.
Oh my gosh is this hard.  I have been 'working' on doing the casket videos I want to put up for months.  Well, what I should really say is that I have been working TOWARDS making the casket videos for months.  There is scant finished product.

For most of the summer there were too many people and boxes in my space with threads all over the place, shipments and teens helping me out.  That was good, but I couldn't find my workspace to film a video.  Plus to add embroidery to the casket, there needs to be embroidery!  So working hard on that most of the summer and thinking about how I would film.

Then I get back from vacation and I plan it out.  I start trying to set up a 'studio' now that the house is quiet and I find that my ceiling is sloped and I will have to move my work surface out from the wall four feet to get it centered so I can put up a backdrop (bought a nice grey screen with stand).  Well, there are too many boxes of finished cut threads for several kits to move the work surfaces and set up the tripod far enough back while having the huge stand up with the screen.  So in the last two weeks, I pack kits like mad as some missing threads come in.  FINALLY - I can move the tables as there is room!

And so I get the grey screen up and I go looking for the video camera and microphone system I let
We decided this classic cooking show view was just too
difficult to turn on and a bit risky when I bent forward in a
V-neck shirt.  Note the special
clamp for an iPad to film with in front of me, we had
everything out at our disposal and kept taking shots to see
what would work the best.  Don't want a hand in the way of
what you want to see.
the kids buy for their robot videos.  Found them.  No battery charge.  Where is the darn charger??  Ok - that took DAYS.   Then I realized that I needed a second camera for close ups and that charger was missing too (doesn't anyone around here mark the darn things and put them back??? A search of every darn outlet on four floors recovers said charger).  Finally, two full batteries and a day full of school meetings (are you kidding me?).

I get home and I fire up the video camera to find out that the grey screen is SD sized and the cameras all shoot in HD aspect so you can see me on a grey screen with a super messy office on both edges of the shot.  Hmmmm, didn't think that through!  How about hooks in the ceiling to hang it horizontally so it becomes HD aspect to hide the room?  Don't want hooks in my ceiling.  So when I discover husband is off to hardware store, I tell him to get those removable hooks for the ceiling.  He took it too literally and didn't get any.  "They are for the wall", he says.  UGH.  Several days of other stuff and I finally get a chance to run to the hardware store.  Success, but need 6 foot tall teen to install with me.

Just a few of the crowded cameras
So yesterday was a good day, the teen was in a good mood and got interested in helping me set up the 'studio', realizing that he was going to record robot videos this weekend and they might as well use my office for that.  Phew, some expert help.

So for those who have never done stuff like this, there is tons of sitting there as 'the talent' with objects you intend to use.  The 'Griping Grip' moves the cameras and toys with the settings trying to find a way to have three cameras and a microphone to record the session (that can't be done over for some of the gluing) recording without seeing each other or cutting your head off in the shot.  Lots of gaffer tape goes on the tables and floor to mark the places where the tripods
Notice the microphone NOT plugged in.
need to stand.  Writing down of parameters so we know what zoom to use (I kid you, we forgot this step to my chagrin today when filming alone).

When everything is almost ready, off to find the talent's shirt.  You have to wear one shirt for all the videos so if you need to re-film to cut in or do it over days, the clothes don't change.  It was still damp in the dryer.  Oh well, the show must go on!  Damp shirt and all.

So we started with the mixing of the wheat paste as a test video as I could just make more if it went bad and I had no head in the shot.  Went pretty well.  The kid started all the camera equipment and then ran out of the room.  Was going well until the hamster in my office woke up and decided to get active.  We had actually talked about taking her out - but nooooo.... she sleeps all day.  So I had to cut out two minutes of her drinking and making a weird metallic noise in the background.

Don't you SLEEP in the daytime you loud
rodent?
I cut the video last night and was pretty happy with the result.  Emboldened to start again on my own, I got to work today.  I now am the proud owner of 40 minutes of 3-camera garbage.  First set of takes... forgot the casket.  Now you got to understand that to turn on one of the cameras, I have to climb onto a table and not knock off the other two cameras at lower vantage points.  So to turn it on and off is a big deal with real bodily danger involved.  Decided to leave it on while I ran downstairs to get one of the 'models'.  Ran out of space on the memory card midway.  Crud.

Start again.  Got 10 minutes into it, done.  Phew.  Review the footage.  Crap...the grey screen is caught on the back of my chair revealing everything behind it.  Ok.  Start again.  Another 'beautiful take' as I turned the viewfinder upside down so I could make sure the grey screen was in place.... but then when I felt totally victorious and was removing the memory cards to download and review it... that was when I discovered that I forgot to re-plug in the microphone system.  So that take of three cameras has no audio, just some dork pointing to things.

Ok.  Only an hour before the robot kids show up for the holiday weekend and the batteries need to be recharged.  So I blog and realize that I have spent the day filming and have no film.

This is going to take awhile!  And right now, that hamster has decided to wear her teeth down on something and it sounds like a beaver going at it in my office.  Mental note...she goes elsewhere while I film and put the darn phone on silent!!

Hopefully someone in the family will take pity on me tomorrow morning and set the cameras rolling and be sure it all looks good while I speak.

Tricia