Saturday, June 11, 2016

Some Things I've Smelled

I have always paid particular attention to smell. It's a sense that can so distinctly compel us to new curiosities, as well as entrench us in nostalgia (for better or worse).

I'm partial to all kinds of smells; baking bread... the ocean... gasoline... saddle leather... flowers... cow pastures... high school gyms. Every smell has a meaning. Here are a few of my memorable smells;

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

..... My grandpa took me to Dunkin Donuts when I was a kid. I thought it was cool because it was one of the only times I remember doing something together, just he and I. It was raining the whole drive there; cold damp air puddled up in the gutters and craters of the Detroit pavement. We pulled into a spot, and he asked me what I wanted as he slid the shifter up. The cinnamon balls. Those were almost the only doughnuts I would eat as a kid who didn't have a sweet tooth. 'Ok, why don't you stay here honey, it's wet outside.' He set his pipe down on the dash, which was still pillowing out little tufts of smoke, and cracked the windows. I passed the time drawing pictures in the fog with my finger and taking in luxurious gulps of fresh pipe tobacco and the cold Detroit rain. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

..... When I was in high school my family took a trip to Jamaica. I think it would be a stretch to say that my parents would jump at the opportunity to go back; we were staying in a port town that got trafficked by cruise ships during the day, but more or less turned into a local club scene at night. My brother and I had a great time. One night we were having some Red Stripes with a few locals, and my brother popped off to the shop across the street for a few minutes. I felt uneasy to be by myself with a bunch of Caribbean dudes I had met just that week, but the feeling dissipated quickly. We got to joking around, and then a very silly rap battle ensued. A guy named Alex stepped up to present me his battle, and I remember his necklace swinging around on top of a white tank top. His rhythmic movements pushed over a sweet swirling current of vanilla, sweat, ganja, and hibiscus flowers... it was a stupefying effusion, the likes of which I have rarely encountered since.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

..... I didn't know what mothballs smelled like until my family had some guests from Japan come and stay with us. Kazuko unpacked some of her belongings into my brother's dressers and the scent of mothballs played curiously well to a very distinct floral. Some years later, my family along with my boyfriend's family hosted a few Japanese students, and the smell returned. The four of us sat in the grass, speckled by afternoon sunlight, doing some "American tie-dying". Mothballs, Asian floral, and summer grass...  the smell danced quietly around us. Many years later, as an adult, I moved to Japan and took notice of other smells; the farmers burning their dried cuttings, food carts of the festival season, spring cherry blossoms, tatami mats, and cool bamboo forests. I made some of the dearest friends I'll ever know, and I fell in love once more among those smells. Parting to come back to the States was such sweet sorrow, to borrow a phrase. I wept quietly on the plane as I watched a couple cherry blossom petals float by my window. Upon my return, my dad brought my suitcases up to my childhood room and let me alone. I unzipped a big roller and there it was, splashed all over all of my belongings. Mothballs and floral.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

There are so many smells, all evoking the associations we have made with them.
Some smells bring me back to very dark places and tie knots in my stomach.
There are others that are as light as air and make me ache with joy.
Sometimes I think I can even recall memories I've never had through smell. Maybe that's true. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

[ Fuwa Fuwa ] Peppermint Silk Bars

I've made batches by request here and there, but this was by far the largest soap order I've ever agreed to. Over the course of about two months, I made 400 butterfly mini bars for a charitable organization my mom is part of. I learned a lot about different methods along the way and am proud to have used re-purposed materials to create the packaging, despite the additional work it created. 

This project took a lot of time and energy, but I'm proud to put my name on the final product.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Bronze & Paint

Recently I finished up a few projects. 


The jackrabbits were an idea inspired by working at Great Basin; they were everywhere and had a lumbering sort of grace. The sculptures were created with that characteristic goofiness in mind. My roommate, Miki commented that the actual skeleton of my creation must be "horrifying", which made me smile. Miki was also the artist in residence and an inspiring lady who connected me with the foundry to pour my castings.  

Once I received the castings back from the foundry, the next step was to grind off all the extra crap that had glommed onto them while the metal was being poured. This was a laborious, but also hilarious process. I purchased an angle grinder for the job, but soon realized that shooting off metal sparks in a tiny apartment with wood floors was probably not going to end well. Also, the soundtrack for my neighbors wouldn't be unlike somebody chopping up bodies next-door. So my solution became running an extension cord from my boyfriend's work place into the nearby alley where a construction crew was already working. 'Mornin', boys', I nodded behind goggles and a respirator. Yep, this is totally normal. Nothing to see here... just your average crazy lady in an alley with power tools and a bagel. 

Once the hunks of excess metal were removed, I was able to do the finer grinding and finishing at home. Patinas are chemical solutions that create different rust finishes for metal when heat is applied. My patina didn't turn out exactly as planned because I didn't have easy access to a blowtorch, oddly enough. For what I was working with (a hairdryer and boiling water), I am decently satisfied. 

As you can see, the plans for this project were airtight, from start to finish.
And more to the point, the jackrabbits were finished in time for Christmas and found homes with my family.


Below are a few other things that I have been working on periodically. The bottle came from a dream.