Looking Forward from 2011

Happy New Years and welcome to 2012! I have had a warm and productive holiday season and hope you have, too. I’d like to take a moment to look back on the past few months in which I kept busy but posted little. Lessons in the craft world learned in 2011 include the following.

-I recently completed my first hat and despite some pattern misreads discovered in the final product, I think it turned out pretty well for a first try. An inherent problem in crafting any wearable item is producing a properly fitting garment. This Harry Potter beanie was designated as a child’s pattern but the large version I made seems more like an oversized adult hat. This has reminded me the hard way that it’s worth the effort to take some measurements and to never knit (for someone else) on autopilot.

-A major project of late has been working on homemade stocking stuffers including lip balm, sugar scrubs, fizzy bath salts, bath bombs, melt and pour soaps, and lotion bars with my friend Sarah Rentz. While the sugar scrubs have been the easiest product to create the bath bombs have proved the most interesting. We have had inconsistent results with the bath bombs stemming from water consistency issues and surface area to volume ratios but this will be an excellent product once we perfect it. One memorably failed experiment involved changing our source of salt from a coarse Mediterranean sea salt from Kroger to a bulk package of dead sea salt from an online company. The result was a sticky mess of a continuous reaction between the citric acid and the baking soda in the matrix of the (apparently) higher water content of the Dead Sea salt.  The lovely fizz when the bath bomb is dropped in a nice warm bath is the result of carbon dioxide bubbles and additional water as biproducts of the chemical reaction between an acid and a carbonate. However, when the reaction begins inadvertently in a small plastic jar creating more water further fueling the reaction, the result is a sticky bubbly mess that hopefully isn’t sitting on your carpet at home. Luckily we identified the culprit as the new salt source and this will not be  an issue in the future. I love that simple chemistry can help or hurt in these situations making it important to understand the ingredients used in each project.

-While Sarah and I played with melt and pour soap bases, we really weren’t thrilled with the simplicity of the process. Luckily, we met Joann, a legitimate homemade lye soap maker from Stanton, KY and she offered to show us her techniques. She makes beautiful and potent smelling lye soap that is very impressive in both formulation and presentation. She welcomed us into her own home and we could not thank her enough for her insights and support. I can not wait to put these skills into use and create such a beautiful and useful product.

-In December, Brad, Staci, and I visited the Open Studio event at the University of Kentucky Reynolds Art Building. Not only did we get to see a diverse assortment of student projects in print making, 3D sculpture, graphic design, fiber arts, paintings, drawings, and pretty much anything else you can think of, but we also got to see a live aluminum pour into sand molds created by patrons of the show at the open air metal arts studio. This was amazing. Sparks were flying, sawdust was burning, metals were molten and  students were wearing protective leather smithing type outfits and welding masks. This was art and science on steroids. As a result, one of my New Years resolutions for 2012 is to participate in the 20th annual campus Iron Pour when it rolls around this fall.  Last year’s event even included a patina workshop that I would gladly attend if repeated this year. I can hardly wait for October but at least there will be plenty of time to plan my project.

With so many great craft experiences in 2011 and lots to be excited about in 2012, I have a few craft-related and a few personal resolutions for the newborn 2012:

-Aforementioned participation in the 2012 UK Iron Pour

-Put into practice lye soap making lessons from above

-Update Errant Easel with new material at least every other week

-Successfully defend capstone this semester

-Choose a nonfiction book for every third leisure reading book

I have more resolutions, but these seem sufficient to keep me busy for the immediate future. I hope you are lucky enough to look back at 2011 with positive feelings and if you can not that you maintain hope for the future and the will to make the best of new opportunities. Happy New Year and I look forward to writing again soon.