Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Most Terrifying Video

Click on the pic to watch. Beware of extreme drama and death-defying courage!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Baking G.A.L.S.

 photo OBGSQLarge.jpg
Now that I'm finally back to some sort of a regular routine (still have to finish taxes, though :/), I'm back to being a team leader for Operation Baking G.A.L.S.

I'm lucky that some of my neighbors have joined in on this venture, so the crew to whom we ship get lots of goodies, all at once! If you can, pop over to the site and sign up to support our troops deployed in a war zone. They really do appreciate getting nice things in the mail!

Monday, February 25, 2013

New in the Shop!

If you haven't been over to the ShellHawk's Creations Etsy shop for a while, now might be a good time! I've added some new things and reduced prices on some items, so it's a good time to look for gifts for weddings, house warming, birthdays, St. Patrick's Day, etc.
Why reduced prices? I'm clearing space for some new projects that look to be pretty spiffy!
Happy shopping!

The Shocktail Hour, Episode 12

Click on the pic to go download a free episode of The Shocktail Hour! This is what's in the mini-bar for you this month:
Here’s mud in yer eyes, boils and ghouls! JT and Baker return to the Last Bar on the Left and chug some pints while busting balls and babbling about horror. This month they cover upcoming events and cons, new genre TV pilots, preview new film releases and review Mama, The Sorcerer and The White Snake, Come Out and Play, and The ABCs of Death, plus an interview and music from The Gutter Ghouls.
This is the last episode that will be offered for free. For Season Two of The Shocktail Hour, you'll have to pony up a subscription to Hauntcast! (Remember that you get some amazing vendor discounts by subscribing to Hauntcast, including 15% in the ShellHawk's Creations Etsy store!)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Today marks the end of the Chris Ape celebrity photo contest. While I did hold out hope for a bigger response, the entries I got were clever and fun--and Ape approved. 

Here are the entries, both from lurker Lyndsay:
Pictured here is the mysterious Chris Ape who was the original King Kong until his scandalous affair with a well known actress at the time forced him into seclusion. He is seen here in a rare publicity photo with Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. It was said Fay was inconsolable for days after he went into hiding.

While wandering the halls of the posh Plaza hotel Chris came upon Robert Englund and Jason admiring a rather dull seascape painting. Emboldened by the banana daiquiri he had consumed at the hotel bar Chris joined the duo and asked if they would like to join him for a drink. Chris awoke the next morning with a fierce hangover and this picture on his phone from Robert Englund. It was simply titled "Sweet Dreams and we'll see you soon".

Since Lyndsay is the only entrant, she wins all three prizes:

First Prize is one of my jack-o'-lanterns. My choice.Second prize is a trick or treat bag with a softcover edition of Halloween: The Best of Martha Stewart Living and a copy of Make: Halloween Special Edition.
Third prize is one of my mini-boos.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Halloween Home Haunts

A new documentary on home haunters is coming out this Fall! Click on the pic to watch the teaser trailer. 

Oh, and around 0:14 is someone you might know from this blog... (And all the other haunters are great, too!)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

It's the Process That's Important!

One of the things that I have a hard time expressing in words is the overall feeling that "making" gives me. We are a results-oriented culture, not a process-oriented culture, so all that touchy-feely nonsense that artists talk about regarding the excitement of learning new techniques or making new things seems to mostly be lost on the general population.

Even Mr. ShellHawk, who is a genius at business, falls prey to the end-result trap. Granted, he is funding my experiment to a large degree by allowing me to stay home and work in my studio instead of having me work a full-time job (although this could change if our circumstances change), so "results" are part and parcel of my focus as a business owner. No sales=no positive result, right? So it's hard to crow at him about a triumph in the studio when there are no tangible sign of results in terms of cash flow. That's business, and it's not personal, and I get it.

Process, however, is what allows us to move forward as makers. For Hallowe'en artists or prop-builders, it's sitting down to make a three-axis skull work. For a potter or a sculptor, it's a good glaze firing. What people see is the end result, not all the struggling you did to have that finished product. And people do not seem to understand the value we place on making it ourselves, rather than buying something pre-made from a store.

I mean, wouldn't you rather own one of Pumpkinrot's works than buy some knockoff over at Spirit Halloween? To point out that it has more soul and craftsmanship is like pointing out that the Mona Lisa is lacking eyebrows; that is to say, it's obvious, once you take some time to look at it.

I was reading a blog post by potter Carter Gillies about process, called Your Pot is an Uncooked Noodle, in which he encapsulated everything regarding process that's been bouncing around in my head for a long time. 

It also brings to mind one of my favorite books, The Unknown Craftsman, which I've mentioned here before. That book was written when the industrialization of common household items was really getting a foothold, and the first signs of hand made craftsmanship falling out of favor was becoming evident.

But I digress.

Process. It's being a beginner, failing epic-ly not once but many times along the road to doing something well. The people who do well are the ones who don't quit when they realize it takes a lot of hard work to be merely competent (like I quit when faced with my stupid stirring witch project!). Judging your beginner's work while it's still in process is setting yourself up for failure. Here's what Carter Gillies has to say about it:
Judging your unfinished pot while it is still on the wheel is like deciding you don’t like a book because the cover is all wrong. It's like deciding that the film you are about to watch will be great simply because Bill Murray is in it. In other words, it is a preemptive judgment. While the pot is still on the wheel it not only suffers from the disadvantages of where and how you are looking at it then, but also from the fact that it is incomplete. A pot still on the wheel is something like a noodle before its been cooked. Sure, it will be the foundation for your shrimp scampi, your Miso soup, your Pad Thai, but to judge the eventual meal on what essentially is still an uncooked noodle just seems a bit preposterous. For beginners, at least….
Here's to uncooked noodles, my friends, and learning how to cook them, just right.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Warm Valentines

Click on the pic for the trailer
Last night, my husband proves that not only does he know me well, but that he loves me, anyway! 

He planned out a nice Valentine's evening; McDonald's and a bottle of red wine (with two paper cups!) that we sneaked into the movie theater. Afterwards, we headed over to Chops for appetizers, dessert and some nice port.

The movie? Warm Bodies! A zombie romantic comedy? Well-played, my darling husband!

If you're looking for some fun, I'd recommend you take some time out to see it. Yes, willing suspension of disbelief is a must (like, how do they start cars eight years after the zombie apocalypse???), but if you're willing to be entertained and not pick at technical details, you'll have a great time. There were some great laugh out loud moments, and I got to see a couple I believe to be the only Goths in Folsom as an added benefit!

Have a great weekend, kids!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

All Because of a Beheading!

Image via Catholic Online
Happy St. Valentine's Day to you all, brought to you by the heathens who beheaded the guy you see in the picture.

Click here for the story of St. Valentine.

I especially would like to wish Mr. ShellHawk a very Happy Valentine's Day. He knows about true love! How do I know? Last night, I went to bed wearing cotton gloves and socks because my hands and feet were so dry, I had to cover them in Bag Balm

He didn't even grumble. That my friends, is true love!

Whether you're single or paired up, have a Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hauntcast: Live at Transworld!

The big show is coming up for all of the hard-core haunters: Transworld! Several of the crew from Hauntcast will be there to greet you in the Hauntcast booth. That's booth 537!

We even have our own commercial, now! (Click below to see it!)

Be sure to subscribe. If you still haven't listened, click here and go to the old-time radio of the home page to listen to some past show highlights. The show offers the very best in haunted "edutainment!" 

Oh, and--? There's a special "Shocktail Party" planned, just for Hauntcast listeners. You should go; it's the only time you'll ever get Chris Baker to pay for your drinks!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Exercise, Schmecsersize.

In my mind, this is me, but my body didn't get the memo.
Pic via YogaNonymous
O.k., I don't really mean that. I'm just frustrated, and reading Pensive Pumpkin's post about her challenges with weight and injury and all of that brought it to mind again.

Last Monday was my first day back to my fitness boot camp since I sprained my ankle over Labor Day weekend. Usually, it's three rounds around the stations, but this time it was four. It was hard, but I did it. (My quads ached for four days straight and sitting down and standing up caused whimpering that amused the crap out of Mr. ShellHawk and brought to harsh light the fact that I'm not twenty, anymore!)

By Tuesday night, I had a full-blown cold. I still have it, though I seem to be getting on top of it. (And no, I don't work out when I'm sick. I don't want to give it to anyone else!)

You could argue, perhaps rightly, that I didn't flush my system enough with water after the workout. You could marvel that my body reacted so quickly with shock at the indignity of such a hard workout after months of comparative inactivity. Maybe you'd be right. Maybe it was just a coincidence.

What it really is, is frustrating.

I'm tired of schlepping around these extra pounds--around twenty-five, if I want to be honest. (Let's not get into fat vs. muscle weight at this moment in time.) A good part of it is that I don't always eat right when I'm out of the house. At home, it's a lot easier, because I buy the groceries, and mostly, sweet things and junk food don't cross the threshold.

I find it hard to break old habits, just like the rest of you.
I am soooo going to look like this over-40 model!
Image via Dunia Magazine
The other big challenge is the injury factor. "Well, ShellHawk, it's all about form and not pushing too hard too fast, and--" Stop right there. It. Is. Not. 

Not when you sprain your ankle by walking, fer chrissakes! I'm a klutz, pure and simple, and as I've gotten older, it's gotten worse. That has got to stop, but I don't have a clue as to how to make it stop. Maybe it comes back to making an effort to get back into some kind of balance.

When I get into work mode, I don't pay attention to anything else, which isn't healthy, and sure is hell isn't a balanced approach to life. Like you, I'm juggling a bunch of things, and my health isn't at the top of the list as it should be. That has to change.

Tomorrow, I'm going to try to get back to my boot camp and get back into the swing of things. There's a weight loss challenge coming up on Friday, and I'm joining it. I'm tired of the way my clothes fit and the way I look in the mirror. By God, I looked and felt great when I was younger, even into my thirties! I want that back. I will get that back.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Reminder! Chris Ape Celebrity Photos Needed!

So far, just one entry, so she gets first, second, and third prize, unless some folks step up and join in the silliness!
Head over to the original post for details.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Most Interesting Jackalope in the World

Latest from the kiln! I entered it into America's Clay Fest, so with any luck, he'll be chosen to be part of the 85 finalists!
 Wish me luck!

Friday, February 8, 2013

All Teeth

Image via The Costa Rica News.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Zisha Teapot as Philosophy

Image via The Dragon's Well blog.
If you've followed my blog for any amount of time, you know that I'm studying ceramics. Typical of me, when I start studying anything new (although it's been four years, now, so that's not exactly new anymore, is it?), I start reading and buying books like they were going out of style (which, with e-readers, I suppose they are...) and generally distract myself from deep study by discovering the next shiny thing on whichever topic has caught my interest.

It's a schizoid way of gaining knowledge. You don't have to tell me that; I know it. But I've been this way since day one, so now, I just go with the flow and laugh at myself and what passes for my "methods."

Of course, making ceramics and the study of ceramics has become a huge part of my life, and I've been at it long enough to know this is no passing thing. (I really would love to be the next Beatrice Wood, but sadly, I lack the debutante's cash flow. I do, however, have the potential to be as interesting as she...) Everything under the ceramics umbrella is fascinating to me, so much so that I can acutely feel the passage of time and with that comes the knowledge that I cannot possibly accomplish or master everything I would like in this field.

Which brings me to the point of this post at last! In the process of reading one of my Pottery Making Illustrated magazines, I ran across an article on the Yixing (pronounced Ee-shing) Zisha teapot. 
Image via China Flair Tea

The Zisha teapot is an interesting critter. It gets its name from Zisha clay, which is found only in and around the area of Yixing, China. The clay itself is a purple to a purple-brown color, which gives any ceramics made with it a very distinctive look. But it's the functional aspects of Zisha clay that make it so desirable for tea connoisseurs world wide.

Because of the particular porosity of the clay, it stays hot for extended periods of time, as well as absorbing the oils of the tea itself. This is why, for Zisha teapot collectors, one pot is used exclusively for each variety of tea (i.e. one pot for Oolong, one for green tea, etc.), and it is an absolute no-no to scrub out the un-glazed teapot with soap and water because you will lose the oils that enhance future pots of tea. (You just give it a rinse and let it dry.) Also because of the porosity of the clay, it can withstand thermal shock better than just about any other. 

Tea experts consider the Zisha teapot to be the best for brewing tea. It first came into use during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and became popular in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1645-1910). In fact, this type of teapot and Zisha clay are so valued in China, that they wrote a song about it. Here's an English translation:

With the sun and the moon in our hands/The jade-like Zisha are made out of the heaven and the earth/ Just like by God/Making all craftsmanship in the shade

The flame of the Long-kiln never/Never fades away for thousands of years/And the story of five-colors earth/Passes on from generation to generation
Jingxi gravel/the Fortune Zisha are/Turned out to be teapots/ the symbol of talent
Accompanying my adorable beauty/And embracing my bosom friends/I will cherish the lot, connected by the teapot/ reading the romance and the taste of the Han and Tang dynasty
Accompanying with my adorable beauty/And embracing my bosom friends/I will cherish the lot, connected by the teapot/reading the most beautiful lyrics from long ago
Image via Chinese Tea Culture
 The boccaro craftsmanship (boccaro refers to the color of the clay) from the Yixing area of China was listed as a Non-material Cultural Heritage award-winner. This is because the overall feeling of the teapot seems to capture the heart of the best of Chinese culture: the blend of ancient Chinese poetry and consummate technique-or the mixing of philosophy and craftsmanship into a beautiful, yet everyday object. Unfortunately, I don't think the Western world or the United States in particular has an equivalent award for something of this nature. Nor, I believe, does it have the equivalent of a Living National Treasure as are celebrated in China and Japan, but I digress...

Anyway, from a potter's standpoint, the Zisha teapot could arguably be labeled the penultimate ceramic work of art, and in China, you can't just hang up your shingle and say, "Hey! I make the real Zisha teapot here!" without any kind of apprenticeship. Meng Xu, the lady about whom the article in Pottery Making Illustrated was written, is a second-year student and has another year of apprenticeship to go before she will produce anything worthy to sell.

Let's consider that for a moment. I can image most Americans thinking, "A three-year apprenticeship to make a teapot? Are you kidding me?" Nope. I'm not kidding. Three years. That should give you an indication that its production is more complicated than it seems to the person uneducated in exactly what goes into a pot of this caliber.
Click on the pic to see an hour-long demonstration of
a Zisha teapot being made by Chinese National
Treasure Zhou Gui Zhen and master teapot
artist Zhu Jiang Long

The first thing to know is that each teapot is hand-built, rather than thrown on the wheel. Each pot is thoroughly thought out form the very beginning. The tools used to make the teapot are usually made by the artist. In the article, which includes pictures of Ms. Xu making a Zisha teapot, they recommend having a fully formed design, complete with measurements, before attempting to assemble one. 

After pounding out the pieces with a special mallet and using a compass knife to precisely cut out the bottom and the lid, there are a number of meticulously-executed steps to assembling the teapot. Among them is a buffing phase, in which Ms. Xu uses a piece of vinyl wrapped around a tool and her own facial oils to buff the clay. She does this because traditionally, Zisha teapots aren't glazed and the buffing process gives the clay a sheen that is seen in the final product. Throughout the process, the clay needs to be kept to a certain degree of dampness, and tools are used in contact with the clay more so than the hands.

It is an exacting process. That's why a Qing Dynasty Zisha teapot made by a master can cost collectors around $40,000. I think that speaks volumes of the value placed upon the mastery of a craft.

I think one of the most thought-provoking things about the Zisha teapot mystique, if you want to call it that, is the whole concept of mastery. I think in this instance, the word, "mastery" is used in the old-school apprentice/journeyman/master process. The creators of these teapots truly master their craft.
Typical restaurant teapot: $4.00,
wholesale from a restaurant supplier.

I know that sounds repetitive, but understand that I come from the place of being a maker of ceramics (ceramics being the redheaded stepchild of the art world, although that perception is changing), and I am a Westerner. What I mean by that is that, in the U.S., at least, the arts have been undervalued, if not under active attack, for decades. The word, "craft," brings to mind bored housewives making eminently re-gift-able items on their kitchen tables, and as such, the word, "craftsperson," doesn't inspire respect.

The whole idea of a person undergoing an apprenticeship in the old definition of the word is almost utterly foreign to us in the first place, let alone the idea of mastering an art form that also happens to produce a functional object. We suffer from a bad case of "it's good enough to make money. Sell it,"  and we have very little regard for the process of striving for the highest quality work we can achieve.

To us, it seems, functional equals utilitarian/not pretty. It is certainly not spiritual.

Zisha teapot masters describe their work as striving for the perfect balance between mind and hand, poetry and technical expertise. The forms they create echo the mountains they see every day or perhaps represent the towering power of the Han Dynasty. One artist likens a piece to his life, which is about sweetness and bitterness in his life and work, and points out that each teapot has emotion and warmth like human beings. Their work matures as human beings mature, making the teapot more of a sensory experience the longer it is in use.

I suppose what I'm driving at is that I truly wish that our culture was more appreciative of both art and craft, that a sort of personal honor would drive us to uphold higher standards in what we make and choose to do for a living. 

Mind you, I'm not saying that Chinese culture is the most perfect thing ever and is completely without drawbacks. What I am saying is that we can look to the best parts of that culture and draw from them to make our culture better and stronger.

What would our culture look like if we did apprentice people in the old way, rather than view mentorship as bringing up our competition? What would happen if we realized that in some cases, at least, our elder population has a lot of knowledge and experience to pass on to us? What would our cultural experience be if we weren't always hungry for more stuff and the latest model (which we got last year but now have to upgrade because it's "old")?

What would it be like to live in a world of craftspeople, whether that craft were medicine or making car parts? No more "C's get degrees" mentality. 

Wow. What a world that would be.



Monday, February 4, 2013

A Glorious Welcome to a New Week

Something to lift your soul on a beautiful Monday. Fill up your cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy it from start to finish! Click on the pic to watch.

Best flashmob, ever!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

First Contest Offerings

The first two entries for the Chris Ape Celebrity Photo Contest:
 I love these! (I'm not including the stories right now, but I will in the future!) Thanks, Lyndsay, for getting the ball rolling!

Hauntcast 46-Nut Up or Shut Up is... Um... Up!

 It's the beginning of the month, and that means more shenanigans from Hauntcast's Scream Team! The new show features:
Click on the pic for a free episode!
HAUNTING GURU INTERVIEW:Jason Besemann of The Devil’s Attic visits the dungeon.
Musician, entrepeneur and Nox Arcana collaborator Jeff Hartz of Buzz-Works.

A preview of Hauntcast vendors appearing at the 2013 Transworld Halloween Attractions Show.
Revenant with an overview of the upcoming haunt convention season.
The Voice From Hell compels you to obey the Unholy Trinity of haunt advertising.
Revenant dons his miner’s helmet and celebrates Valentine’s Day by serenading the dark side of Matters of the Heart.
For the 35th anniversary of Halloween, The Mistress of Mayhem pays tribute to the work of John Carpenter.
Denhaunt introduces us to his new mistress, Upholstery Foam.
Vyster pops some ocular capillaries at Bloodview Haunted House in Broadview Heights, OH.
Wick-Ed Gannon puts the candle back on Rotating Bookcases and Secret Passages.
We flip our hairpins over Pat Malloy’s Flying Witch prop.
PLUS!…This month we give away a coffin full of Bloody Mary Makeup and a Hauntcast or Shocktail Hour T-shirt.

Congratulations to our winners this month:
Play Dead FX – Coffin full of Bloody Mary Makeup
Brandon Whitaker – Hauntcast or Shocktail Hour T-Shirt

Enjoy the show!