The Mystery of the Brass Armadillos

Or, Why Armadillos, part 3?

After I made The Truth About Armadillos and entered it in the Tompkins County Quilters Guild show, I apparently had a reputation in the community as an armadillo lover.

I came home from work one day to find a brass armadillo sitting on my door step. He was about eight inches long and five inches high and had a nice brassy weight to him. There was no note, no indication of where he had come from. I took him in, figuring he needed a good home, and set him high on a window sill on the front side of the house so that whoever had left him there could see he had been taken in out of the cold. I mentioned him casually to my friends, but no one admitted to knowing anything about him.

A few days later I came home and had a shock. The brass armadillo was outside, pausing during a climb up a pile of gravel that was waiting to be spread over my driveway. Not believing that he would leave the house on his own, I was certain someone had broken in and brought him outside. Then I looked up and saw the first brass armadillo sitting where I had left him on the window sill.

The mountain climbing armadillo was the first orphan’s twin. Now I had two brass armadillos and still no idea where they had come from. As time went on, I wracked my brain, trying to guess who had left me armadillos anonymously. I confronted everyone I could think of, but no one ever confessed. To this day, I do not know who the culprit was. I only know the armadillos found their way to my house, and they live with me still. Fortunately, I like a little mystery in my life.

Altoid Tin Makeover, or, I Learn A Crafting Secret

I’ve been interested in mixed-media art for the last few years but only a handful of pieces turn out the way I hoped they would. I keep thinking that there are secrets to learn to get the results I want, but I know in my heart it’s just a question of practice and experimentation. All I need is the willingness to make a bunch of ugly stuff in the process.

However, this past Monday night at my To The Bones art workshop (we’re working our way through Women Who Run With The Wolves), Robin Muse told me a Secret about working with metal tins that I hadn’t discovered yet – you can glue paper right onto them! I painted a tin with acrylics and the paint flaked off after it dried. I assumed glue wouldn’t stick either, but the box in the photo is an Altoid tin covered with brown paper. I used Modge-Podge to attach it, but gel medium also works. To give it a more interesting look, I painted it. I love the texture and depth I achieved. The only question is, do I love it too much? I was going to make a little shrine, but I am now afraid to mess up my super cool tin.

Technicalities for those who care: I coated the paper with a layer of Modge-Podge to seal it and let it dry. Paint layer 1 contained partially mixed ochre, burnt sienna, and gold acrylic paints applied unevenly with a brush. When it was dry, I brushed on paint layer 2 (a black I mixed myself), then took most of the paint back off with a paper towel.

Sights Seen

Yesterday, we finally made the trip south to a home near Evergreen, CO to buy a used canoe that is in beautiful condition. It was a solid hour and a half drive down, but it was another gorgeous day in Colorado, so we decided to take even longer on the return home. We took the scenic route (i.e., back roads through the mountains) and it lived up to its name. Around every corner was another stunning view of mountains or meadows or canyons.

The Big Event: we were treated to the sight of three bighorn sheep grazing on a hillside right by the road. It was hard to miss them – there were people standing by the road and staring at them through binoculars and cameras. It was the first time I had ever seen bighorn sheep in the wild. They were a lot bigger than I expected.

The other fun thing about yesterday was seeing the canoe strapped to my car. It’s longer than my Honda by over two feet, but we figured out a secure way to tie it down and it turns out it’s not that hard to drive the car with the canoe in place. We took Cora along for the drive, and here’s a picture of the complete package: car, canoe, and Cora (she’s looking out the hatch window).

The Truth About Armadillos

or Why Armadillos? (part 2)

or Inspire Me Thursday – Whimsy

Back in 2001 and 2002, I spent the spring in Killeen, Texas as part of a research team studying black-capped vireos and golden-cheeked warblers on Fort Hood. I was working as a programmer for Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program, and having gotten severely seasick on the whale cruises, I was excited to be part of a project that was on solid ground.

The armadillo part of this is, of course, being in Texas. I was on the watch for wildlife in general but my greatest wish was to see an armadillo running around in the wild. To my dismay, the only armadillos I saw there were lying by roads, crushed pink and gray messes. When I left Texas after the 2002 field season, my dream unfulfilled, I decided that armadillos had to be more than pink and gray shells. I decided armadillos only looked that way dead. When alive, I imagine armadillos as being all colors of the rainbow. (This is the whimsy part.)

A few years later, I was part of a scrap bag challenge with an art doll group in Ithaca, NY. I was given a bag of fabric scraps and told to make something with them. Seeing the rainbow of colors available, I immediately thought of a living armadillo. So I made one (see above).

I combined quilting techniques (quilting and piecing) with my art doll skills. The design (if you can call it that) is all my own. The entire thing was an improv – I made a bunch of body parts more than once trying to get them right. I chewed through the challenge fabric, but wound up adding only one fabric (the light blue belly) to the provided scraps. I was ecstatic with the results and was surprised to find that other people liked The Truth About Armadillos enough to award it the viewer’s first prize for soft sculpture at the Tompkins County Quilters Guild’s show in 2005.

Doesn’t Follow Directions

Improvising improvements while I sew is standard with me. Even when I have a pattern to follow, I usually change it. For some reason, I rebel against the instructions, not always with the best of results. In this case however, things worked out nicely (with only one minor oops). Here are pictures of the sketchbook cover/carrier and the “matching” pencil roll I made for my sister for her birthday.

The cover is a variation on a pattern by Cindi Edgerton for making paperback book covers. She also gives directions on how to measure any book and make a cover for it, and they work great. My modifications include a flap to hold the book closed and a shoulder strap for carrying the book around. (You need the flap if you’re going to hang the book from your shoulder, or it will open and close as you walk.)

The pencil roll pattern is from Cloth Paper Scissors’ 2008 Studios issue that came out this past April. My modifications for this pattern were minor – I just added the little D-rings so the roll can be carried on the sketchbook carrier’s strap. Of course, the first time I sewed them on, I wasn’t paying close enough attention and wound up sewing the pencil pocket shut.

I really enjoyed using the D-rings as connectors. They made the final product look sturdy and professional. And playing with fabric, which I haven’t done for months (due to a disaster of a studio), was really satisfying.

Coyotes

We had a gorgeous day in Colorado yesterday, sunny and warm, but with a steady breeze that kept us from overheating. In the evening, we sat sat out back on our patio and watched the rabbit colony in the natural area behind our house. They live on a west-facing slope above a creek, and while we can’t see the water, we get a great view of rabbits racing back and forth. At that time of day, the slope is brightly lit with the golden-red rays of the setting sun.

Kurt wondered why we haven’t seen more predators in the area, considering the high density of the rabbit population. His words worked like magic. A little while later, we spotted two coyotes slinking through natural area. We watched them with binoculars and took some pictures, but they were too far away to get a really good photo. Still, here’s a shot of the one that got closest to us – maybe 100 yds away. You can see he’s watching us, but he didn’t show any real alarm until we spoke. Then he took off.

I can’t get over how beautiful they were. Their coat were the color of the dried grass they were trotting through, but they had rust-colored markings on their muzzles. Both looked really healthy. Not only were their coats thick, but they were alert and moved well. They didn’t go after any of the rabbits, which was fortunate for one rabbit that was actually between the two of them at one point. We still can’t believe that rabbit got away without at least being chased.

I love living in the West.

The Death of Studio Friday

I’m heartbroken! One of the reasons I wanted to get going with a blog was so I could join in the art fun by submitting thematic pictures of my studio to Studio Friday. When I checked in yesterday, I found that it has been permanently closed. The site shut down back in February, which shows how out of touch I am. In the past, Studio Friday supplied a topic every week, and participants were expected to produce something related to both their studio and the theme with the only real rule being “no pictures of your whole studio allowed”. The picture was posted on the participant’s blog, and the link was put up at the Studio Friday site.

So, in memory of Studio Friday, here are two pictures of the newest thing in my studio: a curtain over the open closet to protect my fabric collection from light. Here’s to better luck getting in with one of the other weekly challenge groups. (I think I’ll look into Inspire Me Thursday next.)