Thursday, September 16, 2021

Prototypes and Progress

      I almost didn't write this post. Not because it is a touchy subject or anything, but because I thought I had already written it! I'm glad I went to check last night, or there would be no post today. And who knows when I would have time to write it. Anyway, as the title implies there is more about prototypes. The next new thing is the tiny "catnip" mouse toy. It is more like rat sized, but teeny things are even harder to make than just regular small things. So we have some BIG catnip toys. 
      And I made a whole bunch of them! They were kind of fun to make and I think they turned out super cute. I still need to make some feather toys for the cats, but I am making progress. 
     Here's another view of the little mouse. All of the ears were hand cut circles (it's so hard to cut things that small) and are not really identical. But handmade items can have character. And kitties can chew things and make them less than perfect. Cats do that sometimes, don't they? I have never actually had a cat so I don't know what they do with their toys. Other than hide them under the couch. 
     I also finished up a bunch more cat beds. My plan is to have 8 cat sets at the next sale. I have the 8 mice finished, the 8 beds, and I have 8 cat dishes and litter boxes ordered. I need to make feather toys, cat food bags (with food) and I think that is it for them. At least for now. There are, again, a lot of pieces to the sets. I am vaguely considering selling the cat and dog beds singly, a few of them, but I am not even sure how to price anything individually. I know I am likely not charging enough for the sets to compensate for my time as it is. So who knows. I'll keep thinking on it. 
    School was not bad yesterday. I decided I am going to have a positive attitude. The only thing I have control over is myself. Not what students I work with, my schedule, or any attitudes outside of my own. So lets see how this goes. Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021


      Everyone knows I have been working on mentally designing new things recently. I try to have one or two new items for every live sale. People have been asking for cat sets and it is a good idea to make what people want. So I have been working on the design for the cat bed. But only in my head. At least until Tuesday. 
      I have worked on the mental design for the cat bed over and over for maybe a week. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do, as well as a pretty good idea of how it would all need to go together. It took me a bit to work up the pattern pieces but I already had such a thorough plan it wasn't overly long. I did tweak the pieces a bit after I started work on the first cat bed, but it came together really well. 
     And in not too much time I had a finish cat bed! I know kitties love cuddle beds, and I wanted one that fits my cool laying down cat, and this is the result. I do really like the design. This bed would also work for small dogs, though this is officially my cat bed design. 
      No experiment is complete until you can repeat your results, so I made a second cat bed, and I timed it. So now I have a pretty good idea of how long they take me, I have a workable pattern, and I am quite pleased with the results. Onto the next NEW item!

      I can't remember exactly when, it was sometime after the August live sale, I was thinking about miniatures and what I could make and it finally popped into my head that I could make some doll sized lunch bags. I had the idea that it would be super fun to make not only a cute lunch bag that opens (of course!) but to have cool little lunch items inside. I struggled over this design. There are TONS of different designs for lunch bags but I needed something that would work in miniature, that didn't take a ridiculously long time to make. And I wanted it to be easy to use and not have little fiddly bits that would make people crazy. I finally came up with this idea, which is similar in some ways to Barbie purses I used to make, though has stiffened sides on all the sides. I think the design works pretty well, is cute, and there is plenty of room inside for tiny lunch. 
       All closed up the lunch bag is very realistic looking, though again, there are SO many designs for lunch bags, and I think this will be fun for the dolls to have. I have not yet made a second one to figure out how long they take, and to make sure that I can repeat the design, but I have one. I love how it came out and I am very excited to make some more. I also have food plans in my head. It might be time to get out the polymer clay again soon. 

        I didn't work a super long day on my new designs, but I got two new items worked up, with easy to use patterns, and one extra cat bed. It feels like good progress. Now I need to work out the rest of the things in the cat sets and get to work on more beds and more things for cats. And more lunch bags and tiny lunch... and then all the other things. 
      I have 11 weeks until my next live sale and have only just barely started making things for it. I do have the dog vests sets finished that I made last week (was it last week?) and I will soon have at least parts of cat sets and lunch sets. After that I might move into the matchy-matchy sets. So I can do the full sets of saddle bags (with the pommel bags) and a matching saddle pad, backpack and... I have blanked on anything else that should have gone into a matching set. So here is a question, would people want the cute printed fabric on saddlebags? Or should I just stick to pretty much solid colors for those. I have a feeling I know the answer, but I want to ask anyway. Oh, and hoodies are supposed to go with those matchy-matchy sets. So yeah, maybe after cat sets and lunch sets I will make matchy-matchy sets. And then... who knows. Eventually I will likely make some dolls too. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

It’s A Go!

     The other day I went into Travis's room to gather up his laundry and I walked right into a bear! He was just standing in the middle of the floor. So I asked Travis if the bear was safe or unsafe. He called out, unsafe! I asked him if the bear would leave me alone, and he said no (he was not in his room by the way). So then I asked him if I could get past the bear and he again told me unsafe. So I risked my life to gather up the laundry. And the unsafe bear left me alone. And the whole thing made me laugh because it was a very silly interaction. In case anyone is interested to know, I think that bear is about 6 inches long.
     Other than narrowly escaping tiny bear attacks I also picked up a bunch of supplies at Joann's. Cat sets are a go! I heard back on the 3D printed items I want to get, and while they are not ready yet I have already seen prototypes (amazing!) so I need to get to work on the other items. As I am going to sleep each night I have been working on designs for the cat beds. I want to make them differently than the dog beds after all. I also think I want to make my dog beds a bit thinner. I like the big pillow style, but I think maybe thinner would be good. 
      Design work while I am going to sleep is something I have done for years. I think I have a good plan down for how to do the cat beds, I gathered materials, and now I just need to have time to sit down and try things out. Making a prototype is not usually a simple task. But I need to get into it. I have cat items to design and then I have another miniature I want to make. But more on that soon. 


Monday, September 13, 2021

Fancy Hats

     I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love making fancy hats. That is, in general, why I enjoy making driving dolls. There are, technically, a wide variety of ways to make driving dolls but my basic driving doll has a long dress, a short jacket and some sort of fancy hat. I’ve made a good amount of driving dolls at this point, but every single hat is unique.
     I really love how this particular hat came out. It was not overly complex to make but it looks really fancy. First I painted a basic straw hat black, then I wrapped it with narrow silver ribbon, and to complete it I tucked the top of a very fluffy feather into the ribbon and wrapped it around the hat. 
      Yesterday was an interesting day at school. I have 2 new classes and get to work with a friend of mine (for both classes) who I have never worked with before. She is an excellent teacher. She is very inclusive, introduced me to everyone, had no issues with me jumping right in to help (weirdly, some teachers do) and the classes were small group and fairly laid back. It was nice. I ended up covering an art class 6th period, which gave me some time to read. It was definitely not a terrible Monday. And the new schedule, while lacking in lifeskills classes, is not bad. I only have one inclusion class, my biggest, and there are only 15 kids in it. I think the next largest class is 13. But Ludlow usually doesn't have super big classes. Anyway, I knew all but one of the kids in the 1st and 5th period classes, which makes jumping into the deep end less scary. It is easier to work with people if I know their names. Tonight is Open House and paras are allowed to go, but not required. I am pretty sure I am staying home. The "classes" are roughly 9 minutes, which means I would spend the entire time just running around the school. So sort of like my work day, just in a shorter time frame!


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Tack Room Details

       I love miniatures and miniature details. They makes me really happy. Saturday I decided I needed to clean my tack room, again, and decided it was time to hang up my mini rosettes. I love mini rosettes. I love shows that offer them and think they are a really excellent prize. One of the ways I have previously displayed my full sized rosettes was hanging fishing line across the room. I decided to do the same thing, in miniature, for my tiny rosettes. To make things easier I used my cross tie rings that I got from Enterprise Props. I don't have a barn so they have just been hanging out on the floor of my tack room. I stuck them to the wall with glue dots. 
     I think I currently have one more tiny rosette that is coming at some point, and the other ones I have are neck sashes that the horses that won them wear. I really love the detail of the rosettes hanging in the tack room. 
    I actually started adding little details to my tiny tack room years ago. I added the little clock before I hung up the saddle racks. I am glad I still had room to hang them. I have a lot of tack (not nearly as much as some people) and going up was the only way I could make things fit. 
     I have this cool horse painting on the wall, which I really love. I sometimes want to look for more horse art to put on the walls, not that I have much space for it, but it would be nice. 
     And to wrap up the tour here is a view of the entire tack room. I swear, I cleaned it. I really need to put some of these things in another place. Or make a larger tack room. Not that I have space for that. I do want to point out that I have an empty saddle rack. Which obviously means I need another saddle. 


Saturday, September 11, 2021

The Resin Storage Experiment

      A year or 3 ago I started an experiment. Clearly it was not super well planned out as I can't actually remember when I started it. But it has definitely been a while. I would say most likely closer to 3 years than 1. But I can't say for sure. But since Ethan and I have plans (well, currently desires) to move eventually, I need to figure out how to store artists resins in a way that won't damage them. Not necessarily for years, but potentially for several months in all sorts of weather conditions. That is a scary prospect with models that are not as tough as an OF. 
  I had a model that already had paint damage from improper storage. The concept was good, but the reality was not. The satin lined pouches were very safe for storage to and from shows, maybe even wrapped for a couple of days, but not in extreme temperature shifts. We don't have air conditioning, and live in New England, so it gets hot and humid here. But also very cold. Not that it gets super cold inside, but the closet, where the resin was stored, was definitely not as warm as the rest of the house. 
     It is just the side of the horse that has the damage in the finish, and I am pretty sure there is a way to fix this, but I wanted to use him for an experiment before I got into that project. He still had plenty of undamaged paint/finish on him. So I wrapped him up in parchment paper, packed him in a couple of padded pouches, and put him away. And then forgot all about him. 
      Yesterday I was looking for something in the closet and rediscovered him. I remembered the experiment and pulled him out. Hazard Pay still has unblemished paintwork on his face, and everywhere else he didn't have previous damage. I would call that a successful experiment. But no experiment is complete if you can't repeat your findings. 
     Clearly, further testing was needed. But I would try a horse that didn't have a mess of finish on a large portion of her. Enchanted Eve has flawless finish, though she does have a bit of paint damage from rubbing on the shelf. She currently could be easily touched up, but IS damaged, so seemed a good piece to experiment on next. Plus all my horses are performance horses. They do not need to be flawless. Not that it wouldn't be nice. 
     While wrapping Enchanted Eve (and a couple of other resin friends) in the parchment paper I quickly discovered that nothing sticks to parchment paper. I knew it was non-stick, which is why I used it for wrapping in the first place, but not even duct tape would not stick to it. 
     The solution to that was to just use more paper to wrap the horses (so they were fully covered) and then carefully put them into the padded pouches. The pouch will hold the paper on the horse, which keeps the lining away from the paint, and the padding adds extra protection.  
       The resins are tucked (hopefully) safely in their pouches and are in the tote that I usually use to transport horses to live shows. I am hoping they will be safe. I think this will work, it did before. 

       Maybe there are tried and true ways for long term storage of artist resins, but I have not heard of them. I did personally have success with wrapping them in parchment paper and then padding them and packing them away. Through all sorts of temperatures Hazard Pay hasn't changed from how he was when I first packed him up. Maybe I will check on my horses in January and see how they are doing. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

What a Day

     Work has been very frustrating at times lately. Getting adjusted to getting up early again is hard. The students sometimes have bad attitudes because they are trying to adjust to a new school, new setting, new schedule, etc. I have had classes added, switched and got 2 schedule changes just this week. One was supposed to be temporary. Then it went away with a permanent switch that I am really upset about. 
      I was so happy to be in lifeskills. The students are amazing and even though it was only one period of the day it was definitely always a bright spot. For a week. Until they took me out of there. Now I have to have 2 new classes, 3 weeks into the school year. We have already moved past all of the getting-to-know you things of the first days. Now I get to be tense and weird because I don't know the kids' names, and may never. I have to jump into another new situation which is not what I want. It stresses me out and really doesn't put me in a good place to be able to help. And I loved lifeskills. It was what I have been asking for. So it feels like being punished for doing a good job. 
       I became a para because it is something I thought I could do. After many years of raising my kids and learning about special needs I figured I was likely at least qualified in experience, even if I don't have degrees in anything. To me a para is someone that helps a kid learn. They are the people that have helped Travis in school the entire time. They explain when there is confusion, sometimes over and over, and break down big tasks to make it easier. Last year that was almost impossible because of remote learning. For 2 years before that I was a scribe. This year I thought I could finally get back to helping kids learn. And now I don't know if that will happen. 
     I was told this was happening because I can handle it. Because the kids need cheerleaders and consistency (then please stop switching my schedule!) but it still feels like a punishment. I am really upset over the whole thing. I have no idea what Monday will bring. I wish it was a full-time permanent switch to lifeskills. But I know I won't get that. 
     Writing this whole post made me sad. Really, all of yesterday I was sad. But the great photos of Travis make me happy. He is why I became a para. He is why I work hard every day to be a GOOD para. I don't want to be just a warm body or a random adult in the room. I want to actually help kids. Specifically I want to help high needs kids (I am good at it!) but likely I just get to help everyone except high needs kids. So now I am back to being "just" a sip/focus/LLD/inclusion para. And I am really mad about it. 
     Alex gets all the photo credit for the amazing Travis pictures. She took these the first week of school when she came over for pizza. That was a really excellent day. Yesterday was not.