Sunday, May 20, 2012

Steel Wire Soldering with Brenda Schweder, Joann Haas and Kat

So today I went to the home of Brenda Schweder ( to learn how to solder. Brenda is a wonderful jewelry artist and the author of three books, the latest being Steel Wire Jewelry.   Brenda and I met at Valley Ridge Art Studio and have been friends since.

This is the second time I have been taught simple soldering but I believe at this point the soldering is fine and I am the one who is simple.  However, I must admit that the more art venues I attend and the more workshops I take, the more I realize how slow a learner I am.  But, you know what?  I don't particularly care.  The last thing I want to do is put any pressure on myself in this world of my hobbies.  The priority here is to learn and to have fun.  Today was not a disappointment.

It was as beautiful and warm day in the Milwaukee area and a glorious day to take a drive out to the wilds of Waukesha to find Castle Schweder.

This was my first visit to Brenda's house but I had a vision of what it would look like.  I was not disappointed.  The house sits on a beautifully landscaped wooded lot.  Amongst the flowers, Brenda has placed some intriguing yard art that draws the eye without ruining the overall atmosphere of the landscape.  Inside the house it is a designer's delight.

But the real jaw-dropping experience is when you walk into Brenda's lower level studio space.

If it was not for the roomy workbenches, the bright lights and all the tools, it would be the plethora of goodies scattered all over the room.

For a bright and shiny object guy like me, it took my sense awhile to settle down.  The purpose for being here today was to be a guinea pig for Brenda and Joann's upcoming class at the Milwaukee Bead and Button show called Steel Soldering for the Flame-o-Phobe.  They were ably assisted by Brenda's workshop assistant Kat.

Joann demoed the basics and away we went.  Because I am blind as a bat and unused to working with such small stuff (aka:  little flakes of solder the size of a bee's knees), it took me the whole three hours to get one bangle of steel wire to stick together.

In the interim, I was entertained by the generous behaviors of everyone else in the room, each a talented artist and long time friend of each other.

This is what I really like about art workshops--the networking.  I went home today feeling like I can learn to solder.  I also went home hoping Brenda will invite me back sometime to enjoy the camaraderie that can only take place in as unique a place as an artist's workshop in a field of flowers.  Here is what some of the other participants managed to do in three hours:

Thanks to Joann, Brenda and Kat for an unrivaled great day.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Violinosaurus Rex

I have had this idea for awhile to create dinosaurs from musical instruments.  This idea came to me because there are many times when, as a pun, I will say blah-blah-osaurus.  Like Divaosaurus, or Fountain Penosaurus.

So, today, it is Violinosaurus Rex.

I started with a small cabinet door, two baby legs and of course--a violin.  The hard part was not getting the legs onto the violin.  The hard part was figuring how to get the legs to stand.  The answer was to run a bolt up through each leg that would fasten to the door with a nut.

A bolt through the violin, and then through each leg, allows them to be attached to the instrument. Next I had to drill two holes in the top (now the front) of the violin to attach the two little arms for the Rex.  This proved to be more challenging then I thought.  While the wood easily took the drill on the sides for the legs, the large bit for the arms tore up the wood big time.  I used the Dremel sander to smooth out the edges and then used Apoxie Clay to attach the arms and complete the holes.

The head was a whole lot easier as I picked one that had a neck hole large enough to pop on the fiddle head.

Now I had to use the Apoxie throughout the project to make sure everything was really going to stay attached.   Then I needed to caulk up the whole body to prepare to paint.

A string of beads was added to the violin neck to give some texture to the flatness of the violin.

The painting techniques come straight from my lesson with Michael de Meng, master assemblage artist.

So here is the final product, the first in what I hope is a long line of musical dinosaurs.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bryce, Zion and Vegas, Baby! Day 8 & 9 &10

Today was Day 8 of our trip and we began the day by driving one more time up Hwy 9 in Zion.  It was cold this morning and to our surprise we saw vehicles coming down from Bryce with significant snow on their roofs.  

Then it was on to Vegas, Baby!  We stopped in St. George, Utah, to mail a box of goodies home and then finished our trip to the Las Vegas airport to turn in the rental.  

We cabbed it to the Mirage, our home for the next two nights.

Once we got settled into our room, we decided to go out and find a half price ticket booth and see what we could see that night.  


Irony--but wait for it.

Ultimately, we decide to eat Japanese at Masa in the Aria Hotel.

Then it was time to take in the Cirque de Soleil show, Viva Elvis!  

Denice and I found ourselves watching the videos of Elvis (which were great) as much as the show (which was more dance and less gymnastics and tricks than most Cirque shows).  However, we had a good time and we were glad we made the decision to go.  

We spent all of Day 9 wandering the strip in Vegas, going in and out of various resorts.

Irony, part 2--next day, same spot on sidewalk, same truck in traffic in front of same building.  Whoooooooooooooooo!

That night we capped off our spring vacation with a second Cirque du Soleil show, Love featuring the music of the Beatles.  Done in the round like most Cirque shows, this one was the same as the Elvis show:  more dance and less circus gymnastics than their touring shows.  But, this is still excellent entertainment and we enjoyed the whole experience very much.

The last day of our trip, Day 10 or April 14th, was spent on an airplane heading home with all the memories from Bryce, Zion and Vegas, Baby!

For all the photos from this, visit my Flickr site at