Thursday, December 22, 2016

Last-Minute Tax Deductions

So in yesterday's post, I had actually meant to list some organizations you might think about donating to before the end of the year. But then I got sad all over again about David Bowie and Alan Rickman, so I didn't.

My personal goal for the next four years is to pay as little tax as I legally can. Part of that goal is to choose organizations which are important to me and to Mr. ShellHawk, and to help them survive what is going to be a rougher time than they do, already. We're not part of the 1%, or even the 20%, but we've been fortunate in many ways, and helping out worthy causes is important to us. So I started getting a list together of organizations both in the United States and abroad. There are many more worthy charities than I can list

I want to make it clear that I haven't vetted all of these to see how much goes to admin costs vs. getting to where they need to go, so if one of them takes your fancy, look into it very carefully to see if it's where you can make your donation do the most good. Also verify if you will get a tax deduction here in the U.S., if that's a huge drive for you.
A Kenyan Wildlife Ranger, fighting against the illegal ivory trade.
I was reading this article by The Guardian about the lives of wildlife rangers in Africa and around the world. These are guys who are doing everything they can to prevent poachers from exterminating entire species for ivory and other "prizes" sought by morally bankrupt people with more money than conscience. It's an extremely dangerous job. So dangerous, that over the last ten years, 1000 have been killed by poachers. These rangers get very little recognition or compensation for risking life and limb, yet they keep on going. To support them and their families, head over to The Thin Green Line and make a donation.

If you love elephants and are concerned about their dwindling numbers, take a look at this list of charities promoting conservation of elephants and discouraging the ivory trade. Personally, I like the idea of getting in there and kicking some serious poacher ass in order to save these majestic creatures.

If the oceans are your thing, my personal favorite protectors are the dedicated people at Sea Shepherd. These people put themselves between the wildlife they're protecting and those who use it for financial gain. I like them because they're out there, doing, instead of talking about it.

Closer to home, if you're into space exploration and want to support the science behind it, you might want to donate to The Planetary Society, whose CEO is none other than Bill Nye, the science guy! Since it seems we're in a society which actively discourages the sciences, I like the thought of nurturing new science and technology.

Along those lines, you can also donate to the Union of Concerned Scientists, who promote renewable energy, sustainably grown food sources, study climate change and other things.

Other organizations:

I believe with all my heart that all of us have something to give, even if it's only $5. And I believe that spreading kindness is what we need now, more than ever.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Longest Night

The longest night and shortest day. The Earth's axis tilts the furthest away from the sun, shortening the light to less than twelve hours.

The Winter Solstice.

It's one of those reflective times for me, and I think it's a reflective time for a large chunk of the world's population.

This is going to get a little random, but please, humor me as I work this out.

2016, many will agree, was a giant ball of suck, on many levels. 
Death and Binky have been quite busy this year. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Gene Wilder, Nancy Reagan, Abe Vigoda, Glenn Frey, Dan Haggerty, Alan Thicke, Muhammad Ali and quite literally, many, many more, have left us this year.

I don't usually get into politics on this blog, because I don't want to offend my readers, but since I'm mentioning deaths, I feel that it's not too big of a stretch to say that Democracy is comatose and definitely on life support. The plug will, I fear, be pulled in January.

It's been a crushingly disappointing year on so many levels.

But getting back to the Winter Solstice...

Back in the old days, it was the night bonfires were lit to invite the sun back. Sacrifices were made, feasting and revelry marked the night. Holly, believed to have magical powers because of its ability to survive the winter, was made into wreaths and brought into the house as a symbol of rebirth.

I've been depressed about this year. On a personal level, there have been some serious challenges which have taken their toll on me. I'm sure you, gentle reader, have had a thing or two happen to you, as well. On a universal level, it's been really tough, too. I feel like the world has gone batshit crazy. 

But as I write this, the first fingers of dawn begin to stretch across the sky, and I realize that cycles like this come, and more importantly, they go. The light returns, and while it never returns as quickly as we may like, it still returns. And in times like these, I think it's important to remember that we can make a choice to bring back the light by lighting those candles, that bonfire, and by turning on that light switch.

Pema Chodron once said that peace is as infectious as aggression, and though I struggle every day with my own aggression (like many artists, I tend to be intense about everything), I try to keep this thought in mind.

Happy Winter Solstice, gang. Let's welcome back the light.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I Planted That Garden!

About a month ago, I planted a cool weather garden, hoping to get some results before the nights started to get too cold. I tore out the dying tomato plants, the dead lemon cucumbers, the eggplants which wouldn't be able to ripen any more than they had, and I bought a bunch of organic soil amendment to add to the dwindling supply of compost from my compost bin. I also threw in a bunch of chicken manure and bat guano and turned everything in with my turning fork really well before I started planting.

I spent a couple of hours wandering our nursery, sort of basking in the potential. It's this thing I have with nurseries and art supply stores. All the potential! I'm greedy for it, truth be told. And I sort of was on a planting tear (having bought a bunch of plants and pots for the inside of the house, already, focusing on my new Hoya obsession), so I had to reign myself in and remind myself how much space I had to work with for the time being.
So here's the list: several different kinds of lettuce, celery (we make lots of soup), kale, sugar snap peas, cauliflower and broccoli, golden beets, sweet onions, globe artichoke and leeks. We had some marigolds left, and since they attract beneficial nematodes, I decided to leave them in the beds for a bit longer. If they go to seed, I'll have some for next year!
 I also renewed our fresh herbs. Oregano, Italian parsley, chives, tarragon, sage. I added a yarrow plant for the hummingbirds and the bees.
So here we are, a month later, and things have been growing pretty well. I don't think I'll get great results from the peas, though they may surprise me... 
 The lettuce, on the other hand seems quite happy!
Since it got down to freezing this past weekend, I bought some row covers to put over everything at night so I didn't lose my hard work. I picked up some pet-friendly slug and snail killer, too, since we've had some rain and they can decimate a vegetable garden overnight. The row covers are the fabric-looking stuff in front of the beds.
I'm thinking of trying my hand at espalier this spring, and adding a few more boxes to my garden beds. It'll certainly pretty up my fence!

In case you missed it, here's my kitchen garden Pinterest board! Lots of fun ideas for gardening.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Kitchen Garden

Find this pic here.
One of the other goals I have for the upcoming year is to  get back to gardening more. Honestly, part of me has made this decision because I really don't want to contribute to the upcoming economy more than I absolutely have to. (Don't go there.) 

I've also missed gardening. I haven't grown pumpkins in a few years, and Mr. ShellHawk has taken over growing the tomatoes and other summer veggies. 

This autumn, I cleaned out our raised beds and planted them with cool weather crops. We have several kinds of lettuce, kale, broccoli, leeks, sweet onions, snap peas, beets and cauliflower. The lettuce is almost ready to eat! Yay!

In typical fashion, I dove down the rabbit hole of research for expanding our garden for the spring and summer, and created The Kitchen Garden Pinterest board. If you're interested in gardening next season, it's got bunches of cool books on growing in small spaces, seed collection and storage and food preservation, tools, design ideas, etc. for your perusal. If you click on the books and the tools, it's going to take you to where you can purchase them if you wish to.

My brain has been working overtime on ideas for the garden, I have to say! I do wish I could raise some bees, too, but I know my dogs, and man, is that asking for trouble! I might just grab a bee house, though... And a bat house... And...

Friday, December 9, 2016

2017 is Coming!

And with it an expansion of my artistic vision, if that doesn't sound too pretentious. I've been setting goals for the upcoming year, and barring a repeat of 2016's year of challenge after challenge, I can do it! 
 I've outgrown my space, you see. To alleviate that issue, I've been purging things inside the house and am moving on to doing the same in the studio in the coming weeks.

One of my goals is to purchase some good-quality, sturdy cabinets for storage for both the garage and the studio. They're not cheap, but the will last nearly forever! And that will tidy up the studio quite a bit, free up some space and organize things more efficiently.

I plan to sell my smaller kiln for a second, larger electric kiln, which will require another visit from my favorite electrician, Kevin. 

Sometime in the future, ideally within the next couple of years, I plan to purchase a gas kiln. Of course, I need to check with the city first, and see what the building codes are going to be, and see if I can even have one here at home.

And I would dearly love to build a permanent Raku kiln, although having something built permanently in the back yard may be an understandable aesthetic issue for Mr. ShellHawk. Staring at a bunch of fire bricks covered with a tarp all year may not be what he (or I) consider to be the vision of a tidy and relaxing back yard!

Ultimately, my true vision is to make the everyday things we use -- cups, teapots, bowls, etc. -- things of beauty. Things which people look forward to using and show proudly to their friends and family. I plan to create sculpture which people will love to see in their homes every day.

I've mentioned before about my Patreon site, which is essentially a twist on the usual crowd-funding sites and is built specifically to support artists through ongoing patronage by their fans. I launched it a while back, but then life attacked me and I was unable to keep it up. 

Well, I've re-launched, and I would love it if you, my readers and fans would head over there and look over how to become a Patron of my art. I've even included a permanent link in my upper right side bar.

I've got it set up so that nearly each level of monthly Patronage receives special benefits from me! Even $1 a month will help, and you can cancel your patronage at any time. 

Whatever you decide you can do, know that it will contribute to my goals and visions of being able to continue to create great art every year, and beat back the boring, uninspired things we use every day. 

Each day should be filled with beauty, don't you think?

ShellHawk's Creations Patreon site is here.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Behind the Scenes

Taking photos of my work. One of those things that takes time,  but is worth it.
I love how the glazes turned out on this bowl.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I Just Might Need This...

Seriously. It's a Sentinel Sphere ornament. From Phantasm.

How can you not want this cheery little orb for your Christmas tree---boy!

Get it here.

Monday, December 5, 2016

This Week's Goals

This week is all about clearing space and reorganizing. I've been in the process of doing a "purge" around the house, getting rid of old clothes and old things I don't use any more, just because things are getting cluttered and I have this irrational dream of actually using my garage to park my car! 

Crazy talk, I know!

Plus my studio still looks like a bomb went off in it and all of that needs to get cleaned up and organized again. I have a massive chunk of ceramics magazines I'm going to be going through and donating to the local college or high school, too, I think!
In the process of purging, I've decided to cut prices on my t-shirts for the holiday season, so if you liked them before but couldn't come up with the cash, now's a good time to pick up a couple for yourself or as a nice stocking stuffer for a friend.
I mentioned last week that I'll be putting up the Halloween stock I never got around to posting this season. I took a bunch of pics yesterday of the goblets and coffee mugs I made for West Coast Haunters, but which never got sold because the hotel lost the box until a few weeks ago.
I'll be getting a few more pics of this guy, who is my first Raku jack-o'-lantern in lavender!

I had the goal of doing this last week, but our darling Coda blew out her other knee (the first one went in March), and since she has to be in her crate to allow it to heal for a bit before we get her in for surgery, I have to stick close to her when I'm home or she gets restless and starts looking for me. Mr. ShellHawk was out of town for most of last week, so I was kind of stuck sitting in the same room with her until he got back from his trip.
If you wish to take advantage of my current cleaning rampage (and help me raise some money for poor Coda's surgery, which ain't going to be cheap) in my ShellHawk's Creations Etsy store, you can type in "BLOG2016" at checkout for a 15% discount on a minimum purchase of $25.00. The coupon code will be valid until December 31st. Ornaments and things like that make for great hostess gifts and Secret Santa gifts, and they're well-made and priced to sell.

Please feel free to share this blog post around to folks who are Halloween enthusiasts, ceramics enthusiasts, etc. so they can take advantage of the coupon code, too.

Speaking of dogs, both of our pups made it into the Potters Council's "Pets in the Studio" 2017 wall calendar! Hooray! They're both so adorable, and funny enough, they are Mr. and Mrs. October! The person who was in charge of putting the calendar together said that she thought they were perfect to be side by side in the same month.

Well, on to another week!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

It's Been Awhile!

Sorry I've been absent for so long! It's just been weird, and busy, and Mr. ShellHawk and I went out of town for Thanksgiving, and...

Well, you know. Life happened!

And when we came back from vacation (literally at 1:00 AM), we discovered our sweet dog, Coda, had blown out her knee. And then, a couple of days later, her hip started making alarming clicking noises. She has her vet appointment tomorrow, but it looks like we're in for another very expensive surgery for her.

So, I'm hoping that perhaps you'll consider heading over to my shop to pick something up for yourself or someone you love for Christmas or whichever gift-exchanging holiday you celebrate!
I have things available for nice, but inexpensive hostess gifts or Secret Santa gifts, plus a few things just for you. So head on over to browse ShellHawk's Creations Etsy store and get yourself something nice for the Holidays! 

Please feel free to spread the word and link to my store or this blog post. I'm putting more things in the store every day, and you'll be helping to build the world's best bionic dog! ;)

Thanks, and happy shopping!