Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Cookies On a Stick, Almost Too Pretty To Eat



Here's a little project I am pulling out of the archives.  I made these fancy cookies some time ago, but was reminded of them recently by way of a request to make more, since Valentine's Day is right around the corner.  When I originally dreamed these up, someone had asked me to make.... oh.... any old cookie with some kind of Valentine theme, for an event at my local art gallery.  I had several heart shaped cookie cutters, and debated using them adorned with some girly touches in pink and white.  But that seemed too expected.  Something with roses on them, perhaps? .... same ol' same ol'.  Well, finally I imagined this chocolate-dipped strawberry cookie, and it seemed to have the right of degree of difficulty.  (What do I always say?  "Expect complications!")

First things first.... the dough.  When doing cutouts, it's necessary to use a dough recipe that will keep its shape during baking.  Some cookies end up swelling so much that you barely recognize the intended shape.  The dough recipe I've used for a few years now is not my own concoction.  I admit I found it online, and it works so well that I need to search no further.  It keeps its shape very well during baking, and it also tastes great!  Since I scribbled down the recipe years ago, I can't recall the source.  I don't make any claims of creating this recipe, and wish I could give credit where it's due.  Sorry about that.


Once you've conquered the dough recipe (which is listed at the end of this post), the cutting and baking is very standard.  Just keep the dough chilled, returning it to the fridge when necessary, and after rolling and cutting out, put the tray of unbaked cookies back in the fridge for an additional 20-30 minutes to rechill them before popping the cookies into the oven.  This also helps them keep their shape while baking.

*Helpful tip*   To get even dough thickness when rolling it out, use something raised on each side of the dough for your rolling pin to rest on.  I use square wooden dowel pieces.  These are available in a variety of sizes from home improvement stores, as well as most hobby shops.  I lay out parchment paper first, then the wooden sticks, with the dough in between, and top it off with more parchment.  For smaller cookies, I roll out the dough to about a quarter of an inch thickness.  Larger cookies, or ones baked on sticks, should be about 5/16" to 3/8".  That's about what I've opted for here.




Now comes the cutouts.  I'm using a scallop-edged heart-shaped cutter, which closely resembles the outline of a strawberry.


So far, so good, right?  Now, cut out the shapes of dough, and let's stick these cookies!  Press the cookie stick into the dough (as pictured below) so that it does not get submerged lower than the surface of the dough.  The side facing up, at this point, is the bottom (back) of the cookie, so right now, there is only dough in front of  the stick.  We'll add more in back of the stick to secure it.  Did ya follow that?  The stick should only take up about half of the cookie's thickness, but if it's pressed down so that it's centered in that thickness, there would be too shallow of an amount of cookie in front of, and behind, the stick, and it would likely break when handled.


Don't worry about having a naked stick... We're about to patch some more dough over that exposed part.


Place a piece of cookie dough to cover the stick, press down slightly, and smooth it out with your fingers.


The dough will be mounded slightly, but that's expected.   The alternative would be to have less dough on both sides of the stick, making the cookie fragile.  You don't want the cookie to break apart while someone is eating it. Another alternative would be to have a thicker cookie all over, but it would start to be heavier than you'd want.  The edges and bottom might brown too much while you're getting the centers baked enough.  I wouldn't attempt a cookie thicker than 3/8" unless it was a cookie cake (with no stick).

Okay, so we're almost ready to bake.  But remember, don't skimp on the final trip to the fridge.  Chilling the tray of cookies will greatly improve your odds of keeping the shape intact.  Once the cookies have re-hardened in the fridge, I like to flip them over at this stage, so they're right side up.  I could've done that earlier, but they're much easier to handle when they're colder, and you don't risk so much 'mis-shapen-ness' in the process.


This is the back of the cookie after baking, and it really doesn't look all that bad where it was patched.

Now comes the tedious part!  I decided to put 'seeds' all over my strawberries, so that required tiny dots of a dull gold color of royal icing.  This is the part that never seemed to end, even though I was only making two dozen cookies.



Now we get colorful!  The red icing will flow around all the seeds and start to swallow them up.  The thinned down flow icing will be somewhat self-leveling, but using a toothpick helps to guide it into nooks and crannies better.  First, I outline each cookie with a red line of a thicker consistency (the same consistency as the seeds).  You don't want the perimeter to flow!


Generally I complete one step, stage, or color on ALL cookies before moving on, but in this next step, it was necessary to start the flowing red icing, quickly insert some white to give the appearance of glossy highlights, and then go back to the red, finishing the outer part of the cookies.  If I waited until the red was all in place, it would've started to develop a crust on the surface, and I would've made a real mess trying to insert the white highlight.



The white icing looks very random and sloppy, but that was intentional.  I'm considering making a cookie that is decorated to look like water highlights.  Something like this:

Image result for reflections on water

Hmmmm.  So where were we?  Filling in the rest of the flowing red parts of the strawberry cookies.


Now, for some reason, I failed to photograph the steps where I added the green leaves and the chocolate dipped effect.  You can make your own chocolate or use the melty pieces.  Anything that results in a hardened shell of chocolate will work.  Then a zig-zag drizzle of white icing makes them look like the fancy strawberries they sell in the stores around Valentine's Day.  And finally, arrange the sticks in a bouquet, and you have an impressive looking presentation.  The cookies were a big hit at my gallery event.  I replaced the cookies in the bouquet, as they were taken.


*Another helpful tip*-   Provide cellophane treat bags when offering any ornately decorated cookie.  I found that many people claimed the cookies were too pretty to eat, and they wanted to save them for later.  People carried their cookies all over the art stroll (great advertisement for our gallery, by the way), and treat bags (or at the very least, zip-loc bags) kept them better protected.

Okay, here's that dough recipe:

Keep-Their-Shape  Cut-Out Sugar Cookie

1 C. Unsalted butter, softened
2 oz. Cream cheese, room temperature
1 C. Sugar
1 Large egg
1 t. Pure vanilla extract (I prefer vanilla paste)
1/2 t. Almond extract
1 t. Lemon zest
3 C. All-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. Baking powder
1/2 t. Salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, cream cheese and sugar.  Beat a couple minutes until light and fluffy.  Then beat in the egg, vanilla, almond extract and lemon zest.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Gradually add these dry ingredients to the mixer bowl with the butter mixture.  When well incorporated, divide dough in half and form two balls.  Roll each ball of dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of 1/2".  Refrigerate dough for at least an hour.  On parchment paper (or silicone baking sheet), re-roll your dough to the desired thickness for cutting out your shapes, insert cookie sticks (if using) and pop the tray of unbaked cookies back in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees while the dough is chilling.  Bake cookies 8-12 minutes (depending on their thickness.  Cookies on sticks should be baked slightly longer than ones without.  This recipe makes a tender cookie, but still hard enough to stay intact on the stick.  They are not chewy.  Let cookies cool completely before icing.  Enjoy! 












Monday, January 8, 2018

Resolution

Everyone uses the word 'resolution' this time of year.  Most of us make New Year's Resolutions each and every year, and, if you're honest with yourself, you'll admit that they're usually the same ones over and over again, aren't they?  Wait a minute.... Maybe that's why the word starts with 'RE' ?  Hmmm, I never quite thought of it that way.  So, we address problems in our lives, and figure there might be solutions for them, based on something we could do as a correction or adjustment.  Then year after year, new attempts to generate these same solutions are just repeated.  I'm not in charge of the dictionary, but I'm pretty sure I've come up with a better way to define the term resolution, (and it should be hyphenated).


At any rate, here I go again, attempting to improve on some of the same areas as last year.

Exhale..... lose weight, get organized, be nicer to everyone, be generous and unselfish, blah, blah, blah...  These things hardly count.  Aren't these things I should always care about?  Let's pretend I didn't just list them as resolutions.  I'm just going to single out another goal to work on, one that you'll believe when I say "I MEAN IT!"

In my house, projects are notorious for being started and often not being finished.  Maybe one in four are seen to completion.  See?  Right there!  Did you notice how I phrased that?  I didn't even take the blame for this problem, but credited my projects for having a mind of their own.  What I should've said is, "I start projects all the time, and I often don't finish them!"  Now, that's a step in the right direction. 


In order to continue making progress, I am vowing to work on an old project in between each new project.  Sometimes, new work comes with a deadline all its own, and those may be out of my control, but for the most part, I'd like to insert old projects in my schedule, and check some of these old gems off my list.

First up, a not-so-old project, but one I stalled out on nonetheless.  I'm dusting off the 11x14 panel of a graphite drawing I started last fall.  Meet 'Enduring the Countdown':


I'm sure you can't blame me for working on this dude's more interesting areas and leaving his tedious knitted hat alone!  Why does it have to be knitted?  (I ask myself that a LOT!)  Well, it's more challenging, and when done correctly, it'll elevate this piece to new heights, so I haven't talked myself out of it yet.  Given that I am going to render the outer areas in a sloppy scribbled style, I want everything inside the middle square to seem as realistic as I can manage.  Neither hand is done yet, but the one on the left is closer.  I don't believe the skull needs any more work.

To add a degree of difficulty to my resolutions, not only will I hope to start cleaning up my Old Project list, I will be attempting to spend time every single day MAKING something, whether it be new or old.  Maybe it'll just be dinner, but if I can be creative while I'm at it, I'll tell ya about it.  I should think this would give me plenty to blog about, if properly documented.  So to put additional pressure on myself, let's just assume that I'll blog much more often, as if this exercise is an important part in keeping me motivated (instead of intimidated... yeah, right!).  And, in keeping with the nature of the symptoms of multiple creativity disorder, these blog posts may not be in chronological order, and they may hop all over the place media-wise, but they surely will show some finished work now and then.  I am resolute in this goal.  Be back soon!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cleaning Up

When I do something not-quite-right the first time, it always gnaws at me until I change it, or improve it, or go the extra mile to make the needed adjustments to my satisfaction.  In some ways, I can be a perfectionist (NOT with housekeeping though, but laundry folding DOES have to be exact!), so when I make something that my silly brain deems imperfect, I can't ever see it with the same eyes as other people.  Remember the artwork I made a few months ago titled "She Shows Sea Shells"?  This one?:


Gah!  I don't even like looking at it in this state!  Well, I considered it finished, I framed it, and even displayed at a gallery, but I never liked the thing really.  For one thing, the hand on the left is all wrong.  I can see where the left hand and shells makes sense to be blurry, and I drew it that way on purpose, but as the arm comes toward you, the viewer, it should be entering that area of tighter focus that shares the same depth-of-field as the right hand and shell.  That would be the photographic term for it.  Anyway, that doesn't happen in this drawing.  And yet, that's not how I cared to correct it.  I was ready to saw off a couple inches on the left side, and the top, and re-center the rest of it after painting the background solidly with a smooth, matte paint.  And YES, that's exactly what it needed, in my humble opinion.  And frankly, the primary opinion I'm concerned about, when it comes to my artwork, is my own! But if feedback from others is important at ALL, my decision to alter this artwork was confirmed as the correct course of action by the mere fact that the piece sold immediately after this change occurred.  Actually, it sold before I was completely finished with it.  So, do you agree that this change was the way to go?


It's a much cleaner presentation, and I'm happy to have gone back to clean up that mess!

I'm also in full swing selling my beaded bracelets for the holidays.  After finally completing two display racks, my bracelets look more professional.  I  purposely made the displays with a rustic look, and that style also blends well in the two galleries I've chosen to sell my work:  Art Connections Gallery in LaGrange, TX, and Mosaic in Smithville, TX.


If you're interested in a nice hand-made gift for someone, stop by either of these awesome establishments and see my work, and lots of other fine things!  Also, if you're the kind of person who doesn't like shopping at an actual store, you can check out my website (RenateKasperHandmade.com)  and custom order anything you see there.  I am happy to make bracelets in your exact size, with just a few subtle changes to the design so that they can always be called 'one-of-a-kind'.

While I was at it, building these display racks, I decided to redesign my logo to fit the rustic handmade feel I was going for.  After all, the word 'handmade' is in the name, so I felt it works better to look loosely rendered, even though it is an actual font, not really hand-written.


...and the related logo for my price tags:


In keeping with the heart icon in the logo, I started using a heart-shaped punch to make my own price tags.  The first batch only showed 'RK h' without the smaller 'renatekasperhandmade.com' printed below it. You can see them dangling in the picture above, but here's a close-up:


I realized I needed to reinforce the whole name, besides just the initials, so the second batch of tags were printed with the small print added.  So.... a step in the right direction.  I'm using antique brass eyelets, natural hemp thread to tie the tags, and I'm complimenting everything with the packaging, using 'old gold' tissue paper and rustic brown kraft paper bags with handles.  My first order of business cards came back with the square logo off center, so they reprinted them, but I was allowed to keep the original ones.



With a quick trim, the design was centered, and I cropped the bottom information, just keeping the logo, which I attach on the bags.... and viola!  No need to print bags or stickers for now.  The only change I made to my logo was adding the heart, so these will have to suffice without the heart until I make stickers with that new version of the logo.

Here's a little tip, if you want your own custom tags, but you don't want to print thousands of them.  Use an inexpensive printing service, like Vistaprint or Overnight Prints, and have a small quantity of post cards printed of multiple images of your logo.  It's a little tricky to get the layout precise, because you'll want to be able to punch out your logo with the right amount of border around it.  In my case, the heart shaped punch would require a lot of white space at the top of each logo.  But with careful planning, I was able to get them spaced correctly.  It helps to print a paper copy first (even a poor copy will do), and punch out the tags, if there's a specific shape you're going for.  Also, don't forget the likelihood that the printer may not register your design exactly.  You'll want a little wiggle room in your layout, meaning a little extra space around all sides.


If you're going for a square or rectangular shape, and you don't mind a little variation, you can slice your logo's apart willy nilly, and it really won't matter how they're spaced.  I've seen really cute tags made by using scissors with the deckled looking zig-zag edge, and they looks just fine.

I realize the average person feels their eyes glaze over about now!  I get it.  I'm not one of those people, but it's okay.  But we can all appreciate cleaning up our to-do list, and wiping out those pesky tasks we've procrastinated on for so long.  So, I'm cleaning up my act!  How 'bout you?












Saturday, July 1, 2017

Springtime served up Setbacks

Not that I've ever been eloquent or poignant, but I have had much more trouble than usual expressing myself.  Can't focus too well, can't be descriptive, not making tracks in ANY direction.  I'm stuck.  Not to make excuses (frankly, it's one of the things I AM best at), but I've been in a bit of a funk, and my art-making goals weren't realized this year.  2017 got off to a productive start, and then life/work/family/pets-and-giraffe-watching/too-much-drama/laziness (insert excuse here)... got in the way.  I eeked out only one more complete piece of art this year, which I shared news of before I started (shamefully long ago, as usual), titled 'She Shows Sea Shells'.



It was my intention to keep the left hand blurry, as if it's farther in the distance, and too far out of the shallow focal plane (if it had been a photograph).  But I don't happen to love this effect, now that it's done.  I was unsure all the while working on it, but that's often the case for me, only becoming confident when a certain area is all-the-way realistic.  With this piece, I am very tempted to paint over everything but the right hand and its shell, leaving a smooth matte area of negative space around it.  I don't mind taking a Skillsaw to the left side and top of the panel, removing the excess area to better center the composition.  Live and learn, I guess. If I do make these changes, it wouldn't be the first time I covered over something, or added something to a piece, years after the first time it was considered 'completed'. For the time being, the composition as it is shown here is on display at Art Connections Gallery in Bastrop. 

I had another piece underway, but it got temporarily sidelined. This is as far as I got with 'Exaggeration'.



I was having a lot more fun rendering the wasps' nest than the fingers.  Usually it's the other way around.  Hey- do ya like the hangnail?

So now I'm at a ... well... 'crossroad' isn't the right word, but I'm coming to a point where I have some decisions to make.  I used to hate hearing people say they needed to 'find themselves'.  That sounded so self-absorbed, and pretty ridiculous to me.  But I kinda get it now.  After working a silly retail job for awhile, and getting myself side-tracked with costume making for a live theater group, and the occasional cooking (catering) burst, I seemed to have lost track of my precious pencils and beads.  But at the same time, I'm asking if there are other media I'd like to take a stab at, or something else I can MAKE.  

Anyway, I'm about to buy a small kiln for metal clay, and hopefully enamel work.  That will allow me to enhance my jewelry pieces and elevate them from their current 'costume jewelry' status.  Images are all inside my head at the moment.  Nothing to see here!

I also have an impulse gnawing at me, in the form of hand-sewn, hand-painted garments.  I've been wanting to dive into that kind of art form for a couple of years now.  Again, 'dive' isn't quite the right word, as I may not get too submerged.  I may only 'dabble' with it.  How else will I fit everything else into my waking hours?  OY!

Anyway, Summer please be good to me!  Your heat and humidity should be a good deterrent for leaving the house!  This unemployed chick needs to find her direction, and hopefully the focus to string a few beads together, and the clarity to better string a few sentences together!  Summer, serve me salience!     




Monday, February 6, 2017

A Show of Hands

I just completed a successful 2016, making tedious beaded bracelets on a daily basis since the middle of summer. After years of making only a few beaded pieces a year, in this past half-year I've turned out about a hundred, I'd say.  You can find most of my beaded work on my website, http://renatekasperhandmade.com/.


 So at the beginning of January, it was time to set that endeavor aside and continue creating 2-dimensional artwork again.  I will still make the occasional beaded item throughout the year, and I have been taking the odd custom order now and then, but for the most part, I'm back at the drawing board.  Sometime in the late summer or early fall, I'll start beading again full time (in time to produce another quantity for Christmas sales).  But in the meantime, I have several juried shows to enter in the spring/summer, so I hope to generate an average of one quality art piece per month.  I'm resuming my drawings of hands and hand gestures, since that's my favorite subject these days.

My first effort of 2017 is this mixed-media piece titled 'Proxy', made with acrylic, graphite, watercolor, and Prisma stick.  It measures 12 by 20 inches, and has been entered into my first juried show of the year.

I posted this on Facebook, and an artist friend commented that possibly the casual viewer might regard this as two real hands, passing a piece of artwork.  That would be incorrect, however flattering, but in a sense, this is artwork within artwork.  All three hands are my creation.  The two outer hands are supposed to look realistic, and the middle one is obviously more abstracted.

I always start my pieces with a wash of watercolor.  Now, mind you, the application of watercolor is very sloppy, and looking at that stage of the work, one would question my ability to make anything decent out of that mess!  Here, you can see before any graphite has been applied. (My apologies for the poor photo quality!

And here's the other side, with just a little bit of shading started:

I initially rendered the center 'card' with graphite over the watercolor wash, but I didn't like the sour greenish-yellow color coming through after I started shading.

I  mulled over my options and decided I could make the 'card' into any kind of abstraction, or whatever medium I wanted.  In a way, it could be thought of as 'someone else's' artwork, so to speak.  That took a lot of pressure off , not having to worry about the 'card' being different than the rest of the pencil rendering. So I painted over the ugly sour color using different values of grey paint.  I had just started testing those paints on the outstretched finger (above), and decided I liked that direction.  Like I said, the pressure was off, and now my main concern was that the hands flanking it be much more realistic.

The meaning of 'Proxy' is that we have so much less face-to-face, one-on-one interaction with people these days.  Instead of giving you the human touch you're reaching out for, I'm offering you a gesture or substitute for that action.  I'm checking in, touching base, getting the latest scoop through emails, texts, phone calls, and the like.  But I'm not having to actually see you in person.  And hopefully it's obvious that I was inspired by the iconic imagery of a section of Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel.  I first intended to use a handshake in the composition.  That's another action that has to be done in person.  But as I deliberated, I thought of the (almost) touching fingertips between Adam and God.  That seemed very appropriate, and more ethereal of an image, something I'd rather look at for any length of time.  I didn't copy the exact hand gestures, nor did I put cracks in the wall or use any further ties to the Chapel ceiling, other than choosing a bluish color for the background.

Now I'm on to my next piece, which will be titled something like 'Exaggeration', or 'Imagination'.  The state of it in this photo doesn't allow you much information, only being the watercolor under-painting.  Remember, I said 'sloppy'!  It's a hand grasping a wasps' nest (which I found in our chicken pen).  I'll have to super-impose wasps on the nest, since there were none actually attached.  The shadow that's being cast from the nest will show the outlines of the wasps as fire-breathing dragons, though it will be quite subtle, and could get missed at first glance.  This piece should come to fruition more quickly, being only 12x12.  I used to hate showing anyone my work until it was finished, but lately, it is fun to divulge the lowly beginnings of what eventually turns into something much better.  Again, sorry for the sad photo here, but you get the gist of it.

...and after that piece, I'll draw a pair of hands (mine) holding several shells.  The oh-so-brilliant tongue-twisting title will be 'She Shows Sea Shells'  (smiley face!).  And after that, a large piece (MORE hands, of course) called 'Champagne and Sweet Tea', will show a woman and man toasting those respective drinks.  They will be holding a flute and a mason jar, so the contrast is obvious, even though we won't see their faces, or much more than their sleeves.  A city gals and her cowboy, perhaps?  NOW.... I've said it....I've made my plans known, so I HAVE to do them!  Keep me accountable.  I'll check back in when progress has been made.

Friday, September 9, 2016

That's What He Said

"You should blog", he said.  "It'll keep you organized.  It'll cause you to be more prolific", he said.

I get that it's possible to feel a commitment like that, looming around you, nudging you to accomplish and create, and thus, feel the need to share such accomplishments on your blog, but it sure hasn't worked that way for me.  Again, over a year has lapsed!  Well, here's how we should all feel about this.  Forget the endless mundane episodes of day to day life.....  THIS post will be like marathoning a new television series all in one day!  Pop some popcorn.... read on!...

So last summer, I'd just participated in a lovely juried art show in Richardson, TX.  After that, I let a few months lapse in the art creating department, but you got a glimpse of my garlic bulb rendering last year, in it's barely-started stage. When I finished it, I entered the work (titled 'Salud') in the Texas & Neighbors Juried Exhibit this past spring..


While I will always consider my graphite work 'drawings', I often enter this kind of piece in the Mixed Media category, since technically, it qualifies, needing just two media to fulfill the requirement.  This particular work includes graphite, watercolor, ink, conte and acrylic.  But it's always a dilemma to decide, because it is also allowed to be included in the Drawing category, which then competes with anything in colored pencil, sometimes pastel, charcoal, and the like.

Everyone at the Irving Art Center is professional and great to work with.  If I lived closer, I'd probably volunteer there and be more active in other events besides just the TXN show.  I had another happy reception this year when I received second place!


To see the winners in all categories, go HERE.

And now to backtrack (think of it as a flashback in that series we're marathoning!), I had a very nice showing of my work in Rockport, TX in February.  Up to this point, I had mostly only exhibited a single piece at a time, but this show included everything I could possibly muster, which at the time, was 12 pieces.  Since I work extremely slowly, and am the opposite of prolific, I never consider my artwork to be a 'current body of work'.  It is more accurately described as everything I may have produced between now and the beginning of time, that hasn't already sold.  So that retrospective, if you will, was exhibited at the Rockport Center for the Arts.  I was paired with a very impressive potter, Vorakit Chinookoswong (or V. Chin to most of us), whose work was displayed throughout the main part of the gallery.  My job as 'supporting actor' was to fill the adjacent Garden Gallery, resulting in a perfect fit for my 12 pieces!  (I'm happy to report that three pieces sold!)


Of course there is a disproportionate balance in this ad, but it was designed for Art Connections Gallery, with the goal of promoting their own artist, ME!

Flashing back even farther, I had taken on the roll of Art Connections Gallery Assistant which included doing all the social media and website work.  It became more than I could handle, as most of the internet work needed to be done from home, where I have mere dribbles of internet bandwidth.  Mostly all I'd do is stare at a spinning circle on my screen, waiting for something to load.  I had already worked at the gallery a couple of years in a smaller capacity, as well as doing the reception catering for a year and a half.  It finally got to be too much!  I decided it was time to get back to focusing on my own projects.  So I cut the ties, and freed myself at the end of June.

Now, let me introduce a complete tangent, while I tell you about the most crazy trip ever!  After quitting my gallery job, I agreed to accompany my good friend Jan to her new home in North Caroline, in two vehicles, transporting 22 animals! Jan drove a rental van hauling 9 dogs (only three of them were in crates!), and one sick kitty, while I drove her car with 12 cats, all in crates.  Many of the cats were packed in pairs in medium sized crates.  So it was a constant chorus of meowing during the three day drive!

Before we even left, we had a couple ridiculous mishaps.  The very last cat crate to load was being problematic.  It wouldn't fit in the space planned for it, not clearing the back door frame.  Jan said she'd already tested the layout with empty crates and she was sure it would fit if I'd just push it.  That caused the two halves to buckle, and the crate completely fell apart.  Two cats raced off and out of sight.  These cats are indoor cats.  One of them had never been outside in its life.  So after a brief unsuccessful search, we decided to unload all the rest of the animals, as it was in the heat of the summer, and we didn't feel like running the vehicles any longer with the AC blaring.  So, after all cats are transitioned back into the house (and released from their crates), we resumed the search.  We found Winston fairly soon, but Pharell eluded us.  There was talk of calling the hotels and trying to scoot our reservations back a day.  There was NO WAY Jan would leave any of her furry family members behind.  Finally, after a lot of sweating, roaming the neighborhood, praying...etc.... we heard a faint meow underneath her house.  There was no easy way to get to the cat though, so we basically broke some stuff, and finally retrieved Pharell.  Now we were almost four hours behind schedule, but we decided to repack and get going.

THEN (still before even leaving, mind you!), we're sitting under the carport with both vehicles running, AC on high, once again filled with felines and canines, and we're preparing to finally take off.  I noticed Jan's van started slowly rolling backwards.  She said it was in 'Drive' and it wouldn't go forward.  After a hissy fit, changing gears frantically back and forth from Park to Drive, engaging and disengaging the emergency brake, and several short rolls of the van toward the house, she admitted she might have to call the rental place and tell them they gave her a faulty van.  Our small town rental office wouldn't have a replacement until they could get one transported from the bigger city, which would probably put our trip off a day longer.  At this point, the van had rolled within a mere four inches from her bay window, and was lightly wedged right next to a 4x4 post at the end of a ramp.  I cringed at what kind of mark that was going to leave.  Still, it wasn't wedged tightly enough to prevent the van from rolling further!  Well, long story short (oops, too late for that!), Jan realized that the engine had died, and neither of us could hear it over the blaring of the AC.  The key was engaged, so the blower was working fine.  Jan admitted later that she wondered why it wasn't cooling as well as it should.  Anyway, finally we're on our way.

Every half hour or so, it was necessary to pull over and clean up an animal mess.  We couldn't leave any of them sitting in diahrrea or throw-up, or sometimes a feud would break out among two 'roommates'.  And THEN when we finally made it to the first night's lodging, Jan admitted that the maximum allowance was two dogs per room, and she had told them that we each had two dogs.  We were 18 aminals over the limit!  And of course, our adjoining rooms were located right next to the office, with a big bay window for the clerk to look out at us.  Fortunately, she frequently got up from her desk and walked off.  Both nights we stressfully loaded and unloaded too many animals, and possilbly narrowly missed any hassle or monetary fine.  The second night, one of Jan's dogs ripped up a down comforter, so there were feathers EVERYWHERE!  (It was her comforter, relax!)  Even the parking lot around our hotel rooms looked like it had snowed!

And let's not forget the time the chihuahuas locked us out of the van!  We were cleaning out a puppy cage from the back of the van.  When we closed the back door and went around to the driver's side door, it wouldn't open.  The van was running, and the AC was cooling it fine, but we couldn't proceed!  Sheesh!  After a call to the rental company's roadside assistance service, transferring us to a wrecker mobile, giving him directions to wherever the heck we were (WE didn't even exactly know), and after another hour or so, Jan decided to wait in the IHOP across the street, since she couldn't sit down in her van, and I didn't have a square inch in my vehicle to offer her.  While I sat in the car waiting, I encountered several concerned people approaching who could see animals in a locked vehicle.  I assured them the situation was being handled, and that the van was running and cool!  At one point, I could see the tip of the lock button on the van.  I didn't think I had been able to see that before.  I immediately ran over to the van and...you guess it!  The chihuahua had unlocked it!  So I was trying to hold the van door very slightly ajar so as not to risk it locking again, but everything on that passenger side seat was trying to explode out, since it was packed chaotically and way too full, and the chihuahuas weren't tied to anything, so it was too risky to open the door any farther.  Yet, I didn't want it to get locked again, so I didn't feel I should close the door either.  It seemed an eternity before Jan came out of the IHOP, since at a glance, when she didn't see the wrecker in the parking lot, she didn't feel there was any urgency for her to come out.  So..... finally the wrecker showed up, he laughed at the situation, and we got on our way again.  

But during the time I'd spent standing in the hot sun, holding the van door slightly open, I'd apparently experienced a slight case of heat exhaustion, and when we continued driving, I couldn't figure out which way to turn.  I made about three wrong turns.  I had to stop and put ice on my face!  

That's just a small taste of the excitement along the way.  Even after arriving at our destination, the 'fun' continued.  Jan horse was delivered at 3 a.m. the second night after we arrived.  It was necessary to move the bale of hay, delivered along with the horse, to a covered place since it rains a lot in NC.  I was about to help Jan by taking one of the bale straps, but she insisted that it would be easier to flip the bale end-over-end.  One her way to the back cellar, the bale picked up speed going down the hill, and ended up in the creek, as seen in this photo I shot the following day.


All in all, it was a trip I'll not soon forget!  Now let's get back to this side of the Mississippi.  

My current focus is on my beaded jewelry.  For years now, I've dabbled with beading, and I consistently sell my work when I make it.  But, like the artwork, it was generated in spurts, a couple at a time, and I'd never accumulate very many pieces for any sales venue.  Still, I had a small display at my local gallery, and it was a respectable effort.  Well, NOW I'm happy to report that I am finally prolific with something!  I've been devoting most of my time to this medium lately.  Introducing, Renate Kasper Handmade!


Check out my website: http://renatekasperhandmade.com/.

It has taken some time to come up with potential boutiques and galleries to approach.  My goal is to sign on with about eight to ten outlets, and at the moment, I just have two.  The trick is to find a shop that deals in something better than cheap imported jewelry, but not entirely the full-blown silversmithing type of jewelry. Granted, my work is still technically considered costume jewelry, but it's all one-of-a-kind, original stuff.  It has a very nice feel to it, with a firm pliability.  Photos help, but it really needs to be handled to fully appreciate it.  So far I've done well in a gallery atmosphere, rather than a clothing boutique.  I'm also considering trying out the festival/booth idea, as well as possibly an etsy shop.  For the moment, I plan to continue searching out sales venues in the little artsy towns around central Texas.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces:

'Dora', beaded choker with an attached sterling silver chain.  Includes 8 labradorite stones.

'Candy' hat band (hat and feathers not included).  Hat bands are usually customized for each hat, but they are adjustable so they might work on a variety of hats.

'Quatro'  Boot Halter (boot not for sale).  As with hat bands, these are best if custom-ordered for your specific boot, since the girth of boots can vary greatly.









'Taffy'  3-D double bracelet.  This intricate piece is one of my latest.  It is essentially two bracelets made simultaneously which weave in and out of each other.  It is reversible and has a different design on the other side.
And finally, 'Tina', a 4-in-1 bracelet.  This piece is full of a number of semi-precious stones, and shows the popular Mag-Loc clasp.  It's so easy to put on, not having to fiddle with a spring or lobster clasp.  You just let the clasp pieces hang downward, and then give the bracelet a squeeze with your other hand, molding the bracelet around your wrist.  The magnet halves will find each other and snap into place.


Let me interject one final tangent from last November.  True to 'multiple creativity disorder' style, here's a fun project in a completely different medium, that came fairly close to hitting the mark I envisioned at the start.  Here's my husband's birthday cake from last year, inspired by the robot in the movie Interstellar. Instead of TARS, this one is BARS.  I printed the small black and white section of text onto plastic sheeting, and it's even LIT from underneath!  The cake may look unappetizing, but underneath that drab grey royal icing tile exterior is a moist chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and salted caramel filling.  Now, what will I do to top this for his next birthday in a couple of months?  Suggestions for a geeky, sciency kind of guy?



SO... until next time, it's back to the drawing board (or cutting board, or lumber board, or beadboard, as it were), as I look forward to seeing the B-52's in concert in Dallas next month with my good friend Gwen.  (I'll report back, hopefully with pics of the silly outfit I want to make for the concert, including beehive, or some such hair modification).  When Gwen first told me she'd like to attend the concert, I exclaimed "I want to go!"  Then when I went to break the news to my husband, coincidentally, that's what HE said!



Monday, June 22, 2015

Dear Diary

I never started this blog with the intention of being on display, or even considering there was a listener.  I use the second person reference the same way you would with a diary, calling the journal pages 'you'.  So when I tell YOU a story, I don't see YOU as real people.  That's partly why I don't blog very often.  I don't imagine any kind of audience out there.  I suppose I could attempt to develop a bigger following, but in all honesty, that really just seems like too much work, and not why I document my creations.  So, if you're a real person, and you've accidentally landed on this blog and like any of my projects, artwork, recipes, or whatever, I hope I haven't offended you or belittled your presence here.  I appreciate you.  I hope you can find inspiration in my sparse pages, and thank you for visiting.  There... if I were an actor, I feel I'd have just broken the fourth wall!  Now, back to the solitude of me and my journal.  It's been a few months.  So.... Dear Diary...  How have ya been?  What have I been up to, you ask?  Well....

Remember the artwork I entered in a competition last spring?  It was the one I titled 'Diane and Playboy' that I introduced in my last blog post.  It was accepted in the 49th Annual Regional Juried Art Exhibit in Richardson, Texas.  The show was judged by artist Gladys Roldan de Moras, and the event's reception was held in the beautiful Charles M. Eisemann Center in May.  I attended the reception and was in awe of the space.  I think this is the most impressive venue I've ever had the pleasure of exhibiting in! 


It turns out that I won third place in the Pastel and Graphics category, which covers all drawing media, as well as printmaking techniques.  That's a rather inclusive category, and the competition was all very top tier!  In this photo, my artwork is the one in the middle, on top... hand on horse's face... kinda small... sorry.


Additionally, I had entered work in the 30th Annual Texas and Neighbors Regional Art Exhibit, sponsored by the Irving Art Association (Irving, TX).  Artists were eligible to enter this show if they lived in Texas or any of the four states that border Texas.  Out of the three pieces I entered, juror Leeann Stone chose this mixed media piece titled 'Rapunzel Had a Better Idea', which was composed of predominantly graphite pencil, but also included watercolor, ink, marker, highlighter, conte and acrylic.


I attended that reception as well, and was so surprised when my work received first place in its category!  They even displayed a flower arrangement nearby which took inspiration from my art.  How cool is that?


So, back to the drawing board I went, and a couple weeks ago, I finished this piece, titled 'Blazer's Pedicure'.  It's also a mixed media piece, combining graphite with watercolor, ink and marker, and with a small amount of conte and colored pencil.


And now I'm on to the next work, which is actually something I started months ago and set it aside.  I wasn't sure what direction to take it, and now I've decided it needs a basket in the background, rendered slightly out of focus, so as to give more credibility to the realistic nature of the parts IN focus.  But so far, this is all the farther I've gotten, and while this is a close-up detail, the overall panel still has a lot of blank space on it!


So that's all for now.  Bye, diary!