Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Almost Solstice

Its almost Solstice. It will be so good to have the days begin to get more daylight, though it takes a bit for it to get some momentum going. The wind keeps blowing. That big wind storm (see last post) was clocked in as 100 mph here! We drove some back roads (what else have we got here?) today and got to see all the huge downed trees. We still have not gotten any more patches on the roof. And have not gone to the mainland to buy gifts. We will just have a few small gifts for each other, and consider ourselves blessed. We have had Christmases in past years that would've made Dickens weep, so this is a year of plenitude. Tomorrow we will set up the tree! It will be glorious, as ever.

And tomorrow I am back to the smithy. I have silver cable needles to make, plus some double pointed knitting needles as well. Someone asked me to make a very heavy big silver Celtic Brooch with stones, and then they had other things come up. But my mind is percolating ideas on brooches, and I am tempted to just go ahead and make a few really exciting ones, sort of like the Selkie Brooch, but totally their own selves. Because each one does have its own self! The metal has 'spirit' in it.....and it leans toward one way and another, guiding me in the design, moving the hot ductile metal. Its lots of fun!
Speaking of what fun metalsmithing is, I welcome people coming to the smithy to make a bronze bracelet for themselves. When you hammer the bronze so that in cross-section it is a square or a six-sided figure, or any of the other many forms, then you twist that makes all the twists and turns and spirals that you see in our work. It is sort of Celtic Revival! (Which was happening a century ago.) John has been the 'brains' behind all the explorations we have done in our metalsmithing techniques. Besides being inspired by the wonderful gold and bronze smithing of the Celts and the Norse, he is inspired by the dictum "it can't be done". And so he has gone ahead and worked the metal in seemingly impossible ways. They are difficult ways to get the knack of. But that is true of any real hand craft work. We can walk you through it!
Heavens, I am nattering on! But I love metal work. After doing it for 25 years I still find it to be magic.
I ordered some rose cut garnets today. They are like a cabochon stone, but have a faceted surface. Really nice. I search in vain for rose cut stones other than garnets.

Friday, December 15, 2006

High Winds Blow Away Small Island

Here I am reading my poems the other night. I figure 25% of Lopez Islanders were there, which would explain how people say "Hi Molly" to me all the time, and I don't know their names. Given that I am nearsighted, maybe I do know them, but can't see them.

The riotous winds came through last night. I stayed in the smithy until nearly 11 pm buffing everything. The wind kept shaking the smithy. The electric & the phone went off in the night. Winds were about 80 mph, and we lost some more shingles off the roof. It was scary. But we were lucky. Lots of people had huge trees down. When the electric came back on in the morning we drove up-island to the post office and there were wires hanging down and trees fallen all over the place. Crews of workers were clearing it away. We had to drive slowly to get through it all. Lots of people are without electric on the mainland & in Canada too. Traffic lights are not working over there, and gas stations are closed alot. We have no traffic lights here! The early ferry that brings the mail couldn't land, but a later one did. And I got a whole bunch of knitting needles shipped out! Hooray!!! I even have some leftover ones, size #1's. I always make extra because with smithing one never knows when one will accidently fry something to a puddle. Ha.

Another weather front is coming in. More high winds, maybe snow. We shall see. We are tarping the computers every night in case the leaks upstairs make it downstairs! They look interesting with a big camo tarp over all.

My fingers are freezing in here. The temperature is dropping outside & the woodstove is in the parlor, so it is not heated in here as one might want. I hope the electric is on in the morning. I need to haul water from across the valley, and I think it won't run if his water pump is off. Heigh-ho.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Knitting Needles with Sapphires

Here is the pair of knitting needles set with sapphires. I am so glad they are done and sent out! John and I made them together. We went ahead and bought a pair of rubys to make another pair. Which we will offer on the web site. John cast the Sterling Silver lozenges that I soldered the settings on to. I think they came out well.

There is another fierce weather front coming in. We are worrying about our boats. And about our roof, which already took a beating in the last big blow. Its supposed to be 70 mph winds until some time Saturday. We stocked up on food & supplies, have the candles handy, and the heat we have is from the woodstove so that is OK. Right now we are rising the dough to make calzone. John made a big pot of 'ricotta' cheese, so we are good to go. He is making tomato sauce from scratch, too, which is a specialty of his.

Back out to the smithy with me to work on more needles, double pointed ones.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Light at the End of the Tunnel is Twinkley

I have been too much in the thick of "elf work", making things for people to give as gifts, that my own life is a mess. But I got all except one pair of knitting needles-set-with-stones sent out today. The last pair is to be set with sapphires, and the soldering on the second bezel is just being a pain in the butt.
The silver double pointed needles are nearly done. Half still need points ground on them. And the bronze double pointed needles are started. I am going back out to the smithy to work on them all some more once dinner settles.

Once its all done and sent out, we can clean house (what a concept!) and then do laundry, and then we get to go to the mainland and shop. And get glasses! The ones I'm wearing now to drive are a joke. They might as well have a fake nose and mustache attached.

The ferry is landing at our island again, after several months of very iffy ferry service. If the wind was up to 30 knots they just passed us by. And that is how the mail gets to & fro. But everyone seems to have managed. We have not been to the mainland since June, when we flew back east to visit my mother.
Meanwhile, the wind is supposed to go up to 50 knots by morning. Our dinghy in McArdle Bay is OK, and our dinghy in Mud Bay is still afloat. I have decided to sell my very-beat-up houseboat, or trade it for a long-shaft outboard. The hull is very sound. I always meant to rebuild the house on it so it had a cambered roof, low windage, and not as much decking. Hi ho.

We finished printing the inside pages of the book! Now to print the covers, & comb bind them. I only have printed 20 this time, enough to cover orders on hand plus a few more. Its awful how much ink costs, and how fast we go through it! I want to have a regular book printer print me up 1000 copies! Ack.
John has gotten the wild wooly sheep to eat out of his hand. Given that Lillibette runs full tilt in the opposite direction if anyone walks toward her, this is an admirable accomplishment!

My reading of my poetry at the Lopez Center on Sunday went very well. I got lots of compliments. The other writers who read were very good. There was a sizable turn-out for the event. Over 100 people, I betcha. What percentage is that on an island of 2500 people? My math skills are laughable.

I bought a glass ornament for my sister. I think its supposed to be an almond, but might be a peach pit. Last year I sent her a glass brocoli for her tree. This could be a tradition! The sort of tradition-lunacy that would happen in my family. All my favorite people are silly.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Freight Train

It is November, and the traditional storms are coming through one after another. We got 70 mph winds a week ago that tore a bunch of our roofing off. Off and on all month they have not been able to land the ferry on Lopez Island. I guess we are fortunate we never leave the island!
I am in the heart of sterling silver knitting needles for Loopy Ewe. I have many exciting orders to fill. I will be making more Knitting needles set with incised bone triskeles (Celtic triple spirals) and a pair of needles set with sapphires. for people, plus ones that will be available.

I am also working on two heavy weight Celtic brooches in bronze, which I am going to set a stone on each at the top of the straight pin. What stones??? Have not decided yet. They will go on the web site. I am going to be making some lucious needles set with facetted blue topaz soon. I already got the stones for that. I also sent for some ruby cabachons for a pair of needles.

Meanwhile I have back-burnered my circular needles, sterling silver joined with mesh chain. They will be beautiful and tactile. John & I disagree about how they should be made. Hi ho.

John cleaned the kitchen wood stove, using the long-handled stove scraper, a trowel, and a shop vac. I helped. It was a very dirty job, but is done, and now the stove is getting hot. We got a fresh turkey, and I went up to the attic and found the turkey roasting pan. We have tarps strung all over the attic to catch the leaks from the storm. It looks sort of surreal up there!

Yams are not really yams. They are sweet potatos, but look like the African root vegetable called "yam", so got called that. I love the deep orange of them, so stocked up.

The sheep are right close behind the house, so they can look in the kitchen window. Lillibette looks like she has been bred because of the pinkish paint on he side & butt. Her reputation is ruined!

The native tribes called November "Winter Dance Month" because at this time of year all the helper-spirits would come back here from their counter clockwise journey around the world. Their closeness would make the people, who they usually helped, get crazy. You may have noticed this yourself if you live in the north west! Anyway, the cure is to have freinds and family come and dance and sing around the crazy person to encourage the helper-spirit to hit the road again. December is "Winter Song Month", probably for the same reason, only everyone is tired of dancing and wants to sit close to the fire. I learned this from Erna Gunther's book, written in the 30's when there were still elders alive to be interviewed who would remember. I think now that there are fewer natives for them to help and harry they latch on to non-natives. Who knows?

Chocolate chip pumpkin pie. I better get a-baking. No metal work today. I was smithing until 9 pm yesterday. I guess I can coast today, huh?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Free as a Sheep

More fun & hijinks. What are hijinks, anyway?
The dinghy in Mud Bay sank and we had to wait until the tide was out late last night to rescue it. And the houseboat looks about to founder.
But meanwhile the sheep have escaped. These are not sweet docile pet sheep. These are wild Welsh mountain sheep, skittish as hell. We have had them on tethers and moved them daily to fresh grass. But Lillibette got away. Then John caught her, & Petunia got away. Then we tried to lure Petunia into the pen by putting Lilli in there. They are very fond of each other! But Petunia was wise (we could hear Lilli grunting instructions to her!) and soon they were both free and running for the road. Where there is heavy equipment doing some road upgrading. They went over to another field beyond the barn. John herded them back this way. I am hiding in the computer room for now so as not to scare them into running off again. When two people are there they know something is up! The sun is sliding around the sky too fast, and we still need to row on out to the houseboat to rescue it from sinking. That would be just awful! At least it is sunny and mild and not even windy today.
I baked another cheese cake for the continuing celebration of Birthday Month for John. We went to Doe Bay Resort over on Orcas Island for his actual birthday, and soaked in the hot tub there all day. T'was glorious. We plan to go back soon. It was the first time we have been off Lopez Island since June, when we went to Connecticut to see my mother.
The sheep are caught!! Hooray hoorah!! Captive wild sheep from Mars!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pennanular Celtic Brooches

I finished making this sterling silver Celtic pennanualar brooch today.
It is just over 3" wide, and I set it with two amethysts, two lapis lazuli, and one malachite.
I also finished a light weight silver Celtic brooch set with two lapis.
Hooray. And I am still plugging away at the knitting needle 'forest'. Which is mostly silver, with some bronze too.
I'm also printing books. The cost of the ink cartridges has me in a state of continual denial. "Just keep printing them! There are people waiting." I tell myself. Hi ho. The brooches are lots of fun. I solder the settings on after the initital smithing, and then I twirlique the split parts around to create that part of the design. So I don't know where the settings will be until that point. Very exciting, organic-looking, and dynamic. Its like I get to see what the metal wants to do, and I say "looks good to me!". Though sometimes do say "uh uh, no you don't! git back there!" When the metal is hot it has the maleability of clay. Only you can't touch it because it will burn your little fingers off.
I smithed out some sets of cable needles today too. The hammering & twisting went well.
I've been using a small vice and a big magnet to mount the torch on the anvil. Then I sit at the anvil and hammer on the metal right in front of my nose wearing magnifying glasses so I can see all the tiny hammered facets I'm making on those tiny needles, and can see what is happening when I spot-heat and then twist the metal to make those undulating designs. Plus its easier on my rotten old back.
I got some nice azurite-malachite cabs in, and also some good turquoise. I should make some knitting needles set with stones & put them on the web site.
Some day I'll get back to that silver spoon I'm slowly working on. Will it have a handle like one of my shawl pins? Or will it have stones? Enamel? I would love to do some enameling.
The rain stopped! We have gotten so much RAIN. On the mainland they were having all sorts of flooding, worst in 10 years. They had to close some schools!
Now its starry and the wind even quit raging through. Tonight its a minus 2.7 tide at about 10:30. And are we going out to the sea cave? or going to dig clams? No, we are going to bed early. Some years back I climbed down the cliff to the sea cave in the dark in a dress, carrying a cake, and holding a flashlight in my mouth. How did I do that? How did I not fall to my death? One never knows, do one? It was for my birthday party.
Lots of rain water caught. Maybe I'll wash some fleece!

Monday, November 06, 2006

I Refuse to Say "I'm so busy."

I forgot my user name so could not post here for awhile. Yes, I have been happily metalsmithing like mad. But I hate that people think "I'm busy" is a good mantra to have, so refuse to say that.
John has dinner ready. I will come back & post more soon.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Forest of Knitting Needles

Today I got a whole bunch of knitting needles marked and straightened. Got a whole lots of point grinding to do tomorrow. I will also be forming some cable needles around into an R shape.
I went to the Free Store today. It is like a free rummage sale in which people continually bring stuff in while people continually take stuff out. I got a radio-tape-player-cd-player. It seemed to work OK. I got a swell thing for the top of a chimney. One of those whirley things that keeps out downdrafts & helps the stove draw. And I got a small weber grill. Some nice candles for a friend. Oh, I got a lamp that the base is a miniature cast iron woodstove. I will take the lamp stuff off it & save the stove in my miniature furniture stash. I got a dollhouse size park bench. I got books. Some beads. I'm sure I got lots more stuff, but I left it all in the car because it was raining. The freestore is also called The Take It Or Leave It. Also Neil's Mall. After Neil Hansen who founded it at the transfer station. We should have a bronze statue of Neil in the village! I wrote a comic book about the free store and Lopez and Oz (as in Wizard of, not as in Australia) but have yet to print copies to sell.
I got some really good letters today from people with whom I did trades. I traded my knitting needles for their hand knit socks in natural fibers. Boy, do I have the best collection of gorgeous socks!!! I am the Imelda Marcos of socks! I had to stop doing the trade because I got overwhelmed. So the Great Sock Trade of '06 is over, but who knows about next year? Meanwhile people are really happy with the trade. We put photos of the socks on our web site.
I'm going to put a paperdoll I designed up on the web site soon, too. Its of Susanna Swan, my sister, with 29 imaginative outfits. Soooooon.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Day in the Smithy

This is my first personal blog. It is to babble on about what is happening at the smithy here at Celtic Swan Forge.
Today I managed to incise triskeles in some bone cabochons. I only stabbed myself once with the graver. I made a jig to hold the cab. It works well, so I am going to order more bone cabs. I will be setting them in the tops of knitting needles I have forged out of bronze rod. If you have any interest in what I'm doing you can see various photos at I will post stuff on here as I get that together. My husband is also a metalsmith, and is out in the smithy now doing some yarn needles and crochet hooks.
Today I got a special order for a silver two-pronged hair pin. And a silver Celtic brooch set with lapis. That should be fun. I do lots of Celtic broochs, penannular ones, but not many with stones set on them. Am thinking of setting the straight pins of some with the carved triskeles. Hi ho.

We tried out a draw plate for the first time today. Brought bronze rod down to the size to make #0 needles. But do I want to? Much more trouble, and they are already plenty of work.

Meanwhile.....I am 57, happily married, and live on a 40 acre farm on a little island in the Pacific Northwest, Washington State. It is very beautiful here. Most of the farm is in hay that someone else cuts. We have lots of cherry trees, some apple trees, and 2 sheep who are Sennybridge Welsh. They are Lillibette and Petunia, and I am smitten with them.