Sunday, 29 January 2012

Dreamharp Final Day

The day started nice and cool.  A far cry from the previous two days.  My first job on the dreamharp this morning was sanding.  I hand to hand sand out all the machine marks and scratches from when the edges were rounded.  This took quite a lot of sanding but I managed to get through it. 

It was interesting.  As I was sanding I remembered a TV show I used to watch; NCIS (the original) .  In this show the boss of the team hides away in his basement sanding away at the ribs of a boat he is making.  People always comment on his lack of progress and how he is always sanding.  I understand why now.  It is very therapeutic.  I started closing my eyes, and started to feel the wood for the first time.  It was beautiful and smooth, almost soft to the touch.  My fingertips would then find a small imperfection that needed sanding out.  It may not have been visible then, but it would be when I waxed it. 

In this photo you can see the marks I had to remove.  One minute they were there ...

... a few minutes later they were gone!

Before oiling we needed to burn in the notes that each string would be.  You could also be a little more creative and something that the last 3 days had meant to you.  I felt that I had found a little more of myself.  It is amazing how much you can learn when you are playing with wood.

Nis said I had to have a photo of myself doing something to prove that I actually did make the thing.  By the way ladies, my apologies, Nis is only 61, not 63.

Here I am adding the oil, then using wet and dry sandpaper on certain areas to open up the pores, and then rubbing of the excess with a cloth.  We do two layers.  This needs a couple of hours to dry fully, so ...

... we hopped in the car and went for a well deserved swim at this beach.  OMG it was so beautiful and barely anyone around.  Not telling where it is though.  When I want to go, I want to keep it nice and quiet.

Back at the studio, this is the oiled product, now we had to wax it.  Wax on, wax off.

The pins are in place for me to add the string (they did get more level).  Stringing is actually quite hard.  Probably the hardest part really.

The final piece:  my dreamharp.  The sound is beautiful, the vibrations coming from it are soothing to the touch, words can not describe what it feels like to play one of these.  I mean really play.   We sat out in Nis' garden and played.  I closed my eyes, listened to the birds in the trees and the wind in the leaves, and just played what came naturally.  It was so peaceful.  That is what I wanted from my harp.

Dreamharp Day 2

Yesterday afternoon, I was seriously wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into.  My arms aren't strong, I have RSI in both wrists, how did I seriously think I could get away with carving wood!!!!

Trying to sleep was hell.  Even two panadiene Forte could not keep the pain in my right arm at bay.  I kept dreaming of hammers and chisels, of knots in wood, which was was the grain going, until eventually my harp broke in half because I had chiseled too deep and too fast. Finally around 2am I managed to fall into a dreamless sleep, which was rudely interrupted by the alarm at 6:30am.

None the less I was determined to see this through.  It was not only a battle with wood but a battle of my mind.  My mind was telling me that I could not do this, the wood was going to beat me.  I was determined to work through any pain and beat this hunk of wood.

Luckily for me  the pain down my entire arm was gone, my fingers were still tender but workable.  Before I started, I had a really good look at what I did yesterday and realised that I had done a good job.  I also stopped looking at it as an enemy out to get me and thought of it as more of a friend that needed a little nurturing.  Believe it or not, this actually worked.

I continued on where I left off which was using the chisel to shape and smooth.  About half an hour into the morning (sweat already pouring off me from the humidity) I finally found the grain.  All day yesterday I never quite found the proper direction of the grain.  When I found it today, I was really excited, it really was as easy as carving butter.  I could even do some areas one handed (IE only using the chisel and no hammer).  The knot still proved a battle and even now it is not that neat but there really isn't much I can do about it.

This photo was taken when I found the grain.  The main area has ripple marks like sand, which are staying.  You will notice rough areas in the bottom left that still need work

When I no longer required the use of the hammer, Nis helped me drill the holes for the metal bits the strings go on (yeah I know they have a name but I have no idea what).  After that, he did some work with different sanders to shape the area for the string bits as well as curve the edges.

This is Nis doing the shaping.  He himself is not in bad shape either.  Doing well for a 63 year old.

This is what it looked like when he finished.

I went back to my work bench and continued to shape the leaves and smooth out the lower level more.  Once I finished with the chisels, I then hand sanded the leaves (but not my water ripples, they are staying).  In order to shape I would push a chisel along the square edge the design.  Sounds simple, but you aren't using a hammer so you use your weight, and on top of that, the grain may change direction and you needed to come at it from a different angle.  I was thoroughly enjoying it.

Towards the end of the day, I got to use one of the electric sanders, with fine sand paper, to run over the edges and get rid of any marks from the original grinder.  I did a pretty good job, but there is still a lot of hand sanding that needs to be done in order to get rid of the fine lines.  I managed to get a lot of it done before I left and will do the rest tomorrow morning.  As you can see in the below photo, the edges are a lot smoother.

Now here is something interesting that I noticed when I downloaded my photos tonight.  Nis has a wonderful garden full of interesting shapes.  I loved the sun flowers so I just had to get a photo.  Take a look at the left of the flower where the petals start fanning out from the centre.  Can you see the XII there?  I thought, "gee that is weird, the flower has the roman numeral for 12 on it."  The I realised what it was.  If you follow it from the X across to the right, you will see that there is a bright streak that also goes across the seed area.  My camera is a Lumix.  On the top of the camera, Lumix is stuck on with a reflective sticker.  If you look at it with mirror image in mind, you will see that you have the XI and part of the M of LUMIX reflecting onto the flower.  I love the photo, but the branding kinda ruins it.  :)

Friday, 27 January 2012

Dreamharp Day 1

Have you ever held onto something for such a long period of time, that when you finally release it, your fingers are aching?  That is me right now.  I have been holding a chisel in one hand and a mallet in the other for quite a few hours today.  My feet are also aching from standing all day, and I can feel my body starting to stiffen.  I still have two more days to go, and if you haven't read my previous post, then you will have no idea what I am talking about.

I like relaxing music, I like feeling the vibration of music going through your body, and I like to play music.  I found out about a course where you can make dreamharps.  The harp is made to sit flush on your body so that you can feel the vibrations, and it is pentatonic, so you can play anything on it.

Here is my photo diary of today.  It started at 8:30am and it was already 27 degrees.  Not sure what it got to though.  The prediction was around 40 degrees, but it definitely wasn't that.  It was warm enough though.  There are only two of us taking the class, so we get a lot of help from Nis.

First we chose the wood.  Mine is red gum.  You will see that there is a knot in the wood.  I was hoping to make it a feature, it's causing me more grief than anything.

We then drew our image on with chalk.  This was just a test run as this image will be removed with (I think) a circular drill.  It was a large circular drill bit anyway. 

Nis used mine as an example piece so we drilled out only a small section so that he could show us how to chip away the sides with the mallet and the chisel.  He only did a small section of mine.  When I told him not to stop, he just laughed and handed me the tools.  This photo below was taken because my arm was already aching so much with the hammering.  I realised though, that it was because I was holding my arm close to my body.  Once I held it out, I had no issues.

This is just a closer view of the above stage.  Nis said it was like cutting butter.  Personally I thought it was more like trying to hammer a wooden stake into a concrete slab.  You soon learn that you have to go with the grain and not against it.  Due to the fact that this is curved, it is not that simple.  Like Nis explained, you end up dancing around a bit in order to find the right direction.

We work on three levels.  This next photo is the top level all gone.  The next level will be the raised design and the final level will be removing the excess around the design.  This photo shows the top level removed.  I didn't like my initial design.  It didn't feel right and it looked too much like a Picasso chicken.  I chose to go with leaves.

This is where we start to work on removing as much as the final layer as possible.  The drill ended up with a smaller router circle on it, and we went as close as possible to the design without touching it.  After that it was up to me to remove the excess via hammer and chisel.  The sides have to be curved to allow for maximum sound and vibration.  That was actually quite hard, because you need complete control over the chisel (which I don't have), follow the grain, chisel almost straight down and then curve out at the bottom and keep going to get rid of the drill marks. 

What I can't understand is when Nis was demonstrating on my harp, he always chose the easier areas.  Or at least, he made it look that way.  Below is the small area he work on to show how to get around the design.

By 4pm I was buggered.  Don't get me wrong, I am totally enjoying the experience.  I am just unfit and sit all day at a desk so standing up all day hammering at wood, can take it's toll.

This is what it looked like when I left.  I am sure you can pick out the nice smooth area that Nis did, to demonstrate how to start to finish it off.  The knot is between the top two leave and driving me nuts.  I think it was because I left it till last, by which time I was tired.  Bright and early start tomorrow.  Apparently it is going to be 40 degrees and minus the lovely cloud cover we had today.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Heating up

It is 10:30pm and still 30 degrees outside.  Tomorrow is Australia day and promising to be a sticky hot 41.  The days that follow, are about the same.  At least I have the day off and I will spend it as wet and cool as I possibly can.

Speaking of days off, I also managed to wrangle Friday.  It is my birthday so that helps.  Three months ago, mum thought that she would be doing something on my birthday, which essentially meant I was going to be left to my own devices and spending yet another birthday doing nothing. 

At the same time, I had been searching the web for some relaxation music cds.  I really love the tibettan bowl music.  It is so calming.  I came across a web page that said you could make your own dream harp.  There was a three day course starting on my birthday.  Within a week I had booked and paid for the course and was really looking forward to it.  You start with some wood, carve out a design and on the third day, you put the strings on.  I can't remember the word used to describe the notes used in the harp, but it doesn't have all of them.  It means that anyone can play it and the tune will sound good.  Therefore I don't need to have lessons in how to play it.  Also, it is called a dream harp but it is more like a lyre.  It is shaped to fit the contours of your body, so that when you play, you will feel the vibration of the music through you.

Last night I got a call from Neis (he is the instructor).  Some people had pulled out, probably due to the heat and the fact that we were going to be working in a non airconditioned shed.  That left two of us and he was hoping to reschedule us into the February class.  This was difficult for me for numerous reasons, the main one being that I already have something on, on that weekend.  After that he was going away and was not sure when the next class would be.  He was going to try and get more people to come to the class but it didn't sound promising.

Tonight I got another call, as expected, and the way he was talking, it sounded like it was going to be cancelled.  I was pleasantly surprised when he said it was going to go ahead with only two of us.  He knew that I was doing it as my birthday gift and I don't think he wanted to disappoint.  I do believe though he really wishes that it isn't going to be so hot.  On the upside, I may sweat off a few kilos. :)


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Meowsy Wosy

As a child, I didn't really have many dolls.  I was more the soft toy sort of kid.  Can someone please explain to me why I suddenly have a fascination with dolls?  Especially Blythe dolls. 

I started my collection last year thanks to my friend Janelle and her daughter.  The more I look on the internet for Blythe, the more I realise I am not alone in my adult love of these dolls.

Below is my latest addition.  She arrived today and her doll name is Meowsy Wowsy.  I fell in love with her the first time I saw her on the internet.  I am not a cat person but I love red hair, and her eye colour is slightly different to my other dolls.  (For those not in the know, Blythes have four eye colours).

I am having difficulty coming up with appropriate names for my other Blythes but I know straight away that this one shall be call Kitty.  You see my cousin has red hair and her name is Kitty, and considering the doll is dressed like a cat, then this name fits perfectly for more than one reason.

The photos aren't the best.  I took them with my phone and I think there might be a fingerprint on the lense. 

Well we are at the start of a heat wave right now and I for one am getting hot just looking at her in this outfit.  I also got some beautiful fabrics today so I will have to see what I can make for her.

I am enjoying making the doll clothes.  At uni I learnt to make patterns so I may even start making up my own designs.  One day.  :)

Thursday, 19 January 2012


It has been a long time since I went swimming, and by that I mean laps.  This week I finally convinced my Aunt that it was way too hot to stay inside and exercise on a treadmill and a bike, so yesterday we ventured to the pool. 

The pool is not far from where I live, but it has been years since I was there.  Not much had changed, other than the increase in the cost and the fact that the lockers came with codes rather than keys.  You know, the sort that eats your money and gives nothing in return.

The walkers lane had a hydrolic lift that assisted you in and out of the pool.  We tried that when we got out.  It was cool fun but I felt like I should have been an old granny.  :)

After years of neglect, the swimming muscles complained bitterly so I did have to do some walking.  Ok mainlly walking.  I did manage to get in about 6 laps of swimming, for which I am proud. 

Right now though, as I type this, the backs of my arms and my shoulder muscles are aching.  I am aching in areas that I forgot existed and, unfortunately, can not reach on my own to put on a sport heat cream.  I feel like I have been given a muscle relaxant that makes your arms heavy and then ache when you try to use them. 

The swim seemed to knock me for 6 as well.  I got home and went to bed early, slept all night through (unusual for me) and woke just as exhausted.

Not going to give up though.  Need to keep up the swimming.  It is good for my non used back muscles.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Betty Boop is well cooked

Just a quick check in regarding the possible incineration of Betty Boop.  I made sure that the layers of Femo were reasonably thin so she would not have to spend too much time in the oven.  I worked out that 20 - 30 minutes is how long she would need to be in there.

At 15 mins I checked her and she was doing fine.  No scorch marks. 

At 20 minutes, she was still fine though I believe her tan was getting better.

At 25 minutes I decided to take her out because when I opened the oven, blue smoke wafted out.  Nothing is burnt though and the femo is not over done, so not sure what was causing the smoke.

In summary my experiment was a success.  If you try it yourself though, make sure that you don't make the femo so thick that it requires 30 minutes or more. 

My next job is to paint her face and then she is ready for posting.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Artistic Doll Swap 3

The theme for this doll swap is famous.  It can me famous anything as long as it is a doll.  I was tossing up on two options:
  • make a femo Betty Boop or 
  • a cloth doll with a a plastic head and make it into Arwen from Lord of the Rings.
I attempted Betty Boop, but trying to mould that weird shaped head is no easy task, so I through it in.  I then started thinking about what I could do with a blank plastic dolls head that I have.thing is that I need to have special paints to do the face.  It was going to take a long time to make.

Slightly off, but still on the topic, at Christmas I was given a gift from a wonderfully creative Sulea.  We had gone shopping together for Christmas decorations.  She wanted wooden ones, but they were few and far between.  She was saying it would be cool to give people at work a christmas decoration, so she made me a little peg doll to hang on my tree. 

It is me with my dog.  I am kinda hoping it is a toy representation of my dog becuase Tess would hate me if I held her like that. LOL

I loved it so much that I ordered some blank ones for myself to have a play with.  I got the same shape as the one she gave me as well as some curvacious ones.  I was looking at them yesterday, when it suddenly hit me that I can still make Betty Boop.

I have taken one wooden, curvacious peg doll, and wrapped it in femo.  She is in the oven right now so I don't know how that will affect the wood.  It's an experiment that I hope will work.  If it does work I will be painting over the wood and the white femo and adding the final touches.  Please don't look too closely.  She is small and this is a closeup.  It looks like I have shoddy workmanship.  :)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

A PS to the previous post

Two very quite items to update my previous post.

Araminta slept on an air bed in my computer room.  The bed is directly behind my chair and the dogs were disgusted that they weren't allowed on it while she was here.  Look at them now.

 Tess isn't on it but she is keeping watch at the door like she always does.

Looks like I didn't delete the photos after all.  Here are two styles of Blythe outfits that I am currently making to sell on my etsy store.  Yes I am finally getting myself organised to sell things.  Will let you all know as soon as I get something on there.  Oh and yes this is the debut of my three lovely Blythes.  Still thinking of names for them so any suggestions would be great.

Did pretty good for reading a Chinese Pattern don't you think!?  :)

Blog post mourning

Two days ago I sat down here, and wrote an extraordinary blog post.  It was full of humour, wit and drama.  It was probably the best I have ever written, but alas, I accidentally clicked the back arrow and consequently lost the lot.  My dispair has seen me in mourning for the loss of a truly brilliant piece of literary creativity.  As such I chose a suitable amount of time to mourn before I came back online.  Two days is sufficient I think.

So, what was the deceased post about?

Wednesday last week the household gained an extra 3 people.  My friend Ruth, her husband Jeff and their daughter (my niece) Araminta, were staying with me a few days.  They are currently making a big move from one country to another, while stopping over in Australia to catch up with friends and family. 

Bearing in mind that I have two dogs, one of which is not used to kids and the other has not been around them for 3 years, plus I am babysitting my Aunts dog, means the house was full.  Araminta loved the dogs, but the dogs (all of them 12 yrs plus) were not too keen on a 4 year old girl running after them.  This meant I was the safe haven and had 3 dogs around me constantly, unless of course, Araminta had food.

Eventually Araminta realised that Bo was the most patient one:

 Of course I could not have my niece here and not get her doing something creative.  Over two afternoons we made a mixed media hard canvas that she could take with her.  We used everything from spray mists, to Gesso, micr powder, lace, stencils and so on.  She did most of the work herself.  I just showed her what to do.  Her colour scheme was a little 'out there' so I softened it a little.  I think it turned out great.

 In my rather long break from blogging, I participated in another doll swap.  The theme for this one was "the Animal Within."  I went hopped on the internet and did some of those quirky "what is your spirit guide" quizes.   Pretty much it was 50/50 between a wolf and a deer.  Just goes to prove yet again that I have a split personality.  :)  

I figured the wolf would be the easiest to work with.  I had already decided that I was going to alter a barbie.  To do her hair, I melted her actual hair with the heat gun.  It went into a top knot sort of thing which provided the height for the wool that I threaded through.  Yes I beheaded her and shoved a needle through many times.

I did take some photos of the Blythe dolls clothes that I have been making, but seem to have been in the deleting frame of mind and have accidentally deleted them. I will take them again after I have made some more.

Well the house is quiet now and I am back to work.  I have nicknamed my Aunt's dog 'Puddle,' because he is one big dog puddle always at your feet.  If he were human, he would be a stalker!

The weekend can't get here quick enough.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


The weather report last night said that today would be 36 degrees celcius with strong winds.  The fire danger is extreme.

So at 3am this morning I was awoken by thunder.  Initially my thoughts were yay, I love thunder and lightning, yay I'm on holidays so I can get up and watch.  Once outside I thought of the weather report and then thought, oh bugger, the lightning is a mix of sheet and fork lightning.  Better not start any fires 'cause there is very little rain coming with all of this. 

At 3am I decided to try and take photos.  Really wish I knew the proper technique for this but considering I don't know it, I figure I did pretty damn good.  :)

This is my first shot, and out of about 600 photos (I can take 40 shots a second) the majority of them turned out like this:

I personally thought I did a brilliant job.  The camera I am using is my mothers Lumix FZ100.  I find it is quicker and easier to use for some things than my more professional one. Not one for fussing around too much, I tried the camera on it's Intelligent Auto setting.  This worked great for the lunar eclipse a few weeks back.  Hmmm better put those photos on here as well.  That will be a post in itself.

These next two shots are taking using the IA setting

I came inside to check on the quality as I find the bigger computer screen shows more blur than the small camera screen.  I decided the IA was showing the full detail so I changed the setting to night scene but kept it on auto.  If you look hard enough in some of the photos, you can see the reflection of the lightning on the lense.

Not sure what is with the darker line on this photo.  It appeared on a few, so I can only guess that it has something to do with the 40 shots per second.  I do think I framed this nicely though.  :)

After getting a stiff neck I finally decided to just take photos willy nilly, (is that still said now days) and I got this shot.  Nearlly missed it altogether but happy with what I got.

In this one you can see the end flicker of sheet lightning.

Earlier I said there was barely any rain, well it is coming down hard now.  It is 5am, and the thunder and lightning have been constant.  Love this weather.

Going back to bed now, though I am not sure if I will go back to sleep.