Friday, August 29, 2014

French Wildflowers

I really did take hundreds of photos of  flowers and textures in France.... It's going to take some sorting out, but I'm feeling super inspired to get creating because of all of them.

I've been putting together some idea boards or themed collages to keep track of all the ideas. Thought you might find them a bit inspiring also...
So here is some of the wildflowers we encountered. 
I'm thinking flattish textured Fimo brooches and pendants....
We'll see.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Samian Ware Pottery

La Graufesenque Site Archeologique Millau  was a dream come true. We knew there were Samian ware archaeological sites near La Cadenede in Millau where we were staying. We also knew that the odds of actually slipping away to explore one of these sights with just a week in the area, were slim. We not only got to the museum in Millau village center, but we also got an amazing tour of the actual dig site!

I'm still overwhelmed with glee!
There are a TON of pictures so brace yourself.

Here's a gorgeous piece of Samian ware from 100 - 200 AD. Not a reproduction! An actual intact piece from that time. Second to third century AD!!!! It's mind boggling! Our Canadian history is so very short in comparison. 

The wonderful Lady who worked at the site tossed this in our hands and said, "Ce n'est pas un cadeau." Or, This is not a gift. I think she knew I was just on the verge of happy tears the whole visit. I still can't believe she let us hold this beautifully restored piece of history. 

James and I are very big fans of Sir Tony Robinson's 
We've been dreaming about seeing an actual dig for years.

This is the dig site. It was excavated in the 1970's and has been maintained as a teaching site.
This is what we saw as we came out of the back of the old monastery where the site is located.

This section was an alter.

This long narrow channel brought water to the potters.

This was the kiln.

Here is a reproduction (with actual Samian ware) kiln. It was in the Museum at village center Millau.

This is why I LOVE Samian ware soooo much! These are stamps that were used to create consistent designs in the molds (next picture) they made to create the pots.

This is the inside of one of the molds made using stamps like the ones pictured above. I am seriously going to try to reproduce this technique in the very near future. 

This method of stamping and mold making, made it possible for them to reproduce unthinkable amounts of pots all with exquisite detail! These things can be found all over Europe.

Here is a batch they found in a midden or refuse ditch. They fused together in the kiln. It gives you an idea of just how many pots they were producing. 

This is a shot of the refuse pile. Billions of shards.

Even walking the paths entering the site had shards of pot mixed into the gravel. 

So much to take in!
This little guy helped explain things, along with Leslie and Patrick who we will be forever grateful to for taking us and translating for us. This was a bucket list event. I will never forget it.
Thanks for letting me share it with you.


September/October PolymerCafe Cover!

We've been honored with another PolymerCafe cover!
This tutorial was a heap of fun. I included three separate techniques to create a traditional scrimshaw look pendant. You choose the technique that fits with the tools you have in your craft stash.
There are also some other shapes included. I just couldn't stop!

Grab your copy while it's hot by clicking 

I used STAEDTLER Fimo Effect and Soft clays to create the base for these pieces. The exact colours and layering techniques are listed in great detail in this September/October issue of PolymerCafe.

I had a bunch of fun photographing these guys.Thought it might be interesting to some of you to see how many different stagings I used. These are not all of the examples, just my favorite ones.

With a mariners poem.

In a mirror on a beach.
(The "beach" was really a tray of sand and some drift wood in front of a P.E.I. vacation photo on my front porch)

With a poetry book and mirror.

On an old leather trunk.

More driftwood.

I'm so grateful for digital photography and editing programs.I grew up in a world of very expensive film developing. We took very few pictures because each one had to count. I always feel very extravagant when I use my digital camera. I tend to take hundreds of photographs for every project I post. It's amazing to me just how fast technology has advanced. We're amazingly lucky to be around to witness all this amazing change.

Speaking of a heap of photographs......
I'll be back with more France soon!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Castle Rocks

When we get to go traveling I like to take home a pebble or two as a keepsake. I brought home less than a handful this time and each one is precious to me. I wanted to make something wonderful from them. This is what I came up with.

I used silver (no lead) solder to work these stones up into pendants. It was pretty simple and I really love the results. Here's how I did it.

First I cleaned the stones with dish soap and warm water to remove any sand or dust. Then I let them dry well. I wrapped each pebble tightly with a length of adhesive backed copper tape. I used a bone folder to burnish the tape to the surface of the stone. I coated the tape well with some flux. Flux is an acid that helps the solder adhere to solder-able surfaces. It cleans off any oils that may stop the solder from sticking.

I plugged in my soldering iron and  unwound a length of silver (non lead) solder. I began to melt the solder onto the copper tape until it was completely coated. I use a set of old pliers to hold the stones while I'm working.

I dipped a jump ring into the flux and melted some solder to the jump ring. Then I used the iron to attach the ring to the soldered copper tape.

All that's left is to clean them up with more soapy warm water. I'll gently file off any rough spots later on.

I really like the organic look I got using the silver solder. These will make great keepsake pieces. 
Do you collect pebbles from your travels? Or do you prefer to take only pictures? It seems to be a controversial subject. I'd love to hear your views.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Roquefort Cheese Caves Tour

I loved our visit to the Roquefort Cheese Cellars. I have to admit they had me at the opening diorama. I've always been a sucker for a good diorama. 

This is it! It started out with almost level ground. Some foothills and a few dips and bumps, but otherwise flatish landscape. Then the lights flickered and quivered.... There was thunder and grinding noise... and BAM! The ground shifted and revealed the collapsed range of caves. 

The legend says that there was a young worker eating his supper of bread and goats cheese in the caves. He fell asleep and when he awoke he saw a beautiful maiden. He fell in love with her and followed her out of the caves. When he returned after many days, he discovered his meal had changed colour. Having nothing else and being an adventurous youth, he decided to eat it anyway. After one taste he knew he had discovered a miracle. Legend states that he and his lovely maiden made many a Roquefort cheese and lived happily ever after.

Then we started down hallways and stairways leading down into the very ancient caves and caverns. It was pretty exciting! I expected the smell to be overwhelmingly..... um..... cheesy? But because we toured in August when there was no milk production from the sheep, the Society had set out very realistic, pretend wheels of cheese so we could get a feel for just how vast the caves are. But there was absolutely no cheesy or milky smell at all. There was a slight musty scent but that was very pleasant.

Some flora on the walls of the cave. So thick and lush. Funny seeing it grow so far  underground.

This is the Penicillium Roqueforti. It's the mold grown in charred bread that seeds the goats milk cheese. I thought it was pretty cool. After the cheese is made into wheels and is still fresh, they pop holes into it and set the cheese wheels on their sides on salted tables in the caves. Then they let loose the Penicillium Roqueforti spores and let them have their way with the cheese for a number of days. When the cheese has been well seeded, they move the wheels to another room or cavern to finish the maturing process. Each step of the process is done in a different cave with different temperatures and moisture levels. 

This is the room or cave where the first seeding process takes place. It was vast! We couldn't see to the other side.

This is one of the hallways in the caves. It shows the dampness. I was very surprised that the caves smelled so fresh. They have a natural air circulating system. 

I fell inlove with the textures and colours on the walls. I could have taken hundreds of photos just of the cave walls. I think this will change my polymer clay work in the future.

We finally emerged into a beautiful shop. And just in time! We were Famished! There were three kinds of Roquefort to taste. A regular, a smooth and a strong. We loved all three so much that we brought them home with us!

Here we are just coming out of the shop into the streets of Roquefort to have a wee but of lunch.
More on that in a few days. I think I'll have to do a post just on the French food we enjoyed.

Hope you get the chance to try some Roquefort Cheese too.
It's available all over the world.
I had some in my scrambled eggs today.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

La Cadenede, We Miss You Sooooo Much!

We've been away to Europe. Spent an unbelievable week at the castle La Cadenede.
It's really a fortified farmhouse, but believe me the word castle fits. 

Here's the name plate on the front gate.

This is the first view you get from the front gate driving up to the place.

Looking center/left into the valley from the pool.
The village of Millau. There will be some more pics later of the village and some other wonderful sites near La Cadenede.

This is a shot from the far left poolside.

The Millau Viaduct. Simply breathtaking! 

Here's the gorgeous pool!

Garden roses.

We had almost every kind of weather the week we were there, even a booming thunderstorm!

We had two spectacular double rainbows!

More of the Viaduct.

The back of the place was fantastic also. So many trails and walks to explore!

This was the common room and it wasn't what I would call common at all. We played many games here together and I loved every second of it!

The pool was very hard to get out of. With Castle, Viaduct and Village to see while floating it was an incredible experience!
The bathing suit I made for the trip held up nicely by the way!

This is our last sunset. I felt like I was in that scene from Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy when the folks are rebuilding the world just for Arthur. I kept imagining that there were work crews just out of sight working away to make us the perfect views every day! 

I'll be writing more about the village of Millau, The Roquefort Cheese Caves, Toulouse and Samian ware Roman pottery from the first century AD. Just need to get rid of a bit of jet lag first!