you are here [x]: Scarlet Star Studios > the Scarlet Letters > miscellany

October 31, 2014

happy halloween from scarlet star studios!

by sven at 12:20 am

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

October 31, 2013

happy halloween from scarlet star studios!

by sven at 10:30 am

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

December 25, 2012

warmest winter wishes from scarlet star studios!

by sven at 6:00 am

We have an unexpected addition to our tree this year...

It began with a terrible storm that downed the giant butterfly bush in our backyard.

From inside its branches, we salvaged the robins' nest that birds built this past summer.

With a big gap in the middle of our branches, we knew just where to put it.

But what's this?

An errant writing mouse from Halfland has moved into the nest!

As the world gently tips, beginning our journey back toward light, we send you our best and brightest wishes…

(Thanks Shelley!)

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

October 31, 2011

happy halloween from scarlet star studios!

by gl. at 10:45 am

grr. argh.

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

October 31, 2010

happy halloween from scarlet star studios!

by sven at 11:25 am

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

October 25, 2010

fertile ground interview

by sven at 2:13 pm

In January, there'll be a staged reading of a new play I've written: Death of the Party. It's going to be in the Fertile Ground festival — and I just got interviewed for the festival's blog!

Read the interview on the Fertile Ground blog... Or, for archival purposes, I'm including the text below.

NAME: Sven Bonnichsen

PROJECT: Death of the Party

I wanted to be Darth Vader when I was six. I grew up in a university town in Maine, and spent summers in the company of archaeologists. I moved to Portland in 1990 to go to Reed College… Partly because people here know how to wear the color purple. I work in animation, machining tiny metal skeletons for puppets. Theater’s a nice change of pace, because I don’t have to build my actors from scratch, or move their limbs one frame at a time.


  1. A Writer I Admire Is ... Joss Whedon

  2. My Writing Style Can Be Described As ... Thelonius Monk Meets The Muppet Show

  3. The Portland Theatre Company I’d Most Love To See This Show Produced By Is ... Atomic Arts (Trek in the Park)

  4. The Celebrity I Would Most Like To See Star In This Play On Broadway Is ... Seth Green as Claude

  5. A Portland Theatre Artist I Admire Is ... Matthew Zrebski

  6. I Am Terrified Of ... The Tickle Monster

  7. I Am Obsessed With ... Measuring time

  8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is ... The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (May/June issue)

  9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Play Are ... Vivacious, Bawdy, Cruel

  10. In the Indie Art-House Biographical Film Of My Life, I Should Be Played By ... Alan Cumming


  1. Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival play.

    A frolicky pansexual disco boy goes to despicable lengths trying to unlock his best friend's untouchable heart. Claude, who thinks other people's suffering is the height of comedy, has the power to bed anyone he wants... Anyone, that is, except Dean: Man of Mystery, and rising musical sensation. When Claude pursues clues to Dean's past through a series of one-night-stands, unscrupulous infatuation will be punished with the romance that both monsters deserve.

    Death of the Party is presented by PDX Playwrights and will play Saturday, January 22nd at 12:30pm on the mezzanine of the Portland Armory (128 NW 11th Ave). Tickets are $5.

  2. How did this story come about? What inspired it?

    I wanted to write a sensual romance between two men that transcends labels like “straight” and “gay.” I also wanted to write about a truly despicable, id-driven character... Villains are usually the most interesting part of a show!

  3. Talk about your writing process. (How do you write? When do you write? What gets you writing?)

    I don’t want to get caged by the limits of my own imagination. So, for “Death of the Party” I collected hundreds of photos of faces off of Google... I picked one randomly — and that became Claude.

    My foundation for writing is journaling. At least one page a day, 365 days a year. For creative writing, I need to understand the whole fictional world first; dialogue comes last of all. I love pumping out twenty pages of stream-of-consciousness, my pen hand hurting. The first idea that really sings with poetry is usually on page 19.

  4. What is the most exciting/inspiring piece of theatre you’ve seen in Portland?

    I love what Atomic Arts is doing with their Trek in the Park shows. Hundreds and hundreds of people are showing up to see verbatim reenactments of Star Trek episodes. It’s what open air Shakespeare is supposed to be: melodramatic, philosophical, crowd-pleasing.

    I also really dug seeing Apollo at Portland Center Stage. It’s probably as close as Portland will ever get to staging Einstein on the Beach.

    In my own work, I’d like to blend these two styles: Abstract Arthouse + Pulp Fantasy.

  5. What are you up to these days when you’re not writing?

    I’m helping run PDX Playwrights, an open group for writers who want to hear their plays read aloud and share feedback.

    And I’m working on a mixed-media animation titled Let Sleeping Gods Lie. It’s about arctic explorers who discover a cave of giant space aliens — which were responsible for creating life on Earth — and whose former slaves still seek vengeance.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

March 27, 2010

morocco 2009 pix

by gl. at 8:01 pm

last year my long-time friend and poet-photographer leeann took me on a 3-week photography trip to morocco. it was a great experience, filled with ups and downs, like any epic trip. i am really grateful and amazed i got the opportunity to go. i love trips that are magic and awkward and illuminating and difficult, trips that fill you to the brim with things your eyes have never seen before and trips that make you glad to be home with plenty of hot water.

(p.s.: my recommendation, if you ever go to morocco yourself, is to skip Casablanca and go straight to Chefchouen or Fes. and make time to go to Essaouira, which is a strangely Portland-like city.)

after my mind and body returned to the pacific time zone i arranged for a photo review & presentation at 23 Sandy Gallery. there were photos & poetry as well as candy and ephemera from morocco for attendees to take home. that went really well -- but then the holidays came and i forgot to post anything about it to the blog!

so here are a handful of the >1300 pix i took. i rented a camera and learned a bit about balancing iso, aperture and shutter speed -- which is vastly more than i knew going in. of course there were lots of things i couldn't take pictures of (like my wedding dance in Midelt, or the cutest baby in Imlil) but i hope you enjoy them!

[one of our travel mates in my favorite city, Chefchouen]

[the beautiful blue walls of Chefchouen]

[the Sahara desert]

[the camel i camped with in the Sahara]

[nomads taking pictures of our caravan on their cell phones]

[our guide at Dar Chefchouen]

[a bridal mannequin in the Fes souk]

[dyes in the streets of Chefchouen]

[hand of fatima door knocker in the salty city of Essaouira]

[boats in Essaouira]

[leather dying pits in Fes]

[the Roman ruins of Volubilis]

[a patient donkey in Chefchouen]

[Barbary Apes in the Middle Atlas Mountains]

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: exhibits & events, miscellany

February 14, 2010

be my valentine

by gl. at 12:01 am

this valentine's day marks the fifth year of the scarlet star studios blog! happy blogiversary!


sven & i attend a free first friday writing group hosted by ibex studios. this month one of the quick 10-minute prompts was to write a letter to something we loved, so here's a letter i wrote to my beloved ebike, rose:

dearest rose:

you were not my first love and you will not be my last. you are not even my best loved love, but i want you to know that knowing you has changed my life forever. you are beautiful and curvy, strong and swift. many people comment on your grace and beauty, but few suspect what you are capable of and i love sharing this secret between us. even more, i love flying with you beneath blue skies, when the day is free and the world is wide and my heart is open. i love riding with you in the sunlight, the moonlight and even when the snow twinkles in the streetlights. i feel like a better person when i am with you: strong, brave, lighthearted and ready for adventure.


then we wrote a 10-minute story about a date using several words drawn from a bowl:

i escaped to the bathroom of a new orleans strip club, and if there had been a window i probably would have climbed out of it to escape my date, a judge with a very large gavel -- if you know what i mean. though he was sociable and very, very generous, i finally had to flee from the pounding music and flashing lights and ask myself what the heck i was doing here, anyway. the question answered itself in the form of Mary, who was just leaving the bathroom as i pushed the door open. “watch it, hon!” she said, not unkindly. i did. i couldn’t take my eyes off her. i don’t suppose this is the story we’ll tell our grandchildren about how we met.

[words drawn: new orleans strip club, sociable, generous, present, gavel]

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany, writing

January 27, 2010

happy birthday chloe wicklund!

by sven at 7:00 am

paper house

Dear Chloe,

Here is something true that artists know… It’s difficult to be creative when your art supplies are too precious.

If you only have one piece of paper, then you want to make the most perfect painting ever. Perfect is scary… So you never even start.

But if you have 1000 pieces of paper — then getting started, playing around, and making mistakes isn’t so scary.

Make a mess. That’s how artists who are really good got that way: by having fun making hundreds of mistakes.

I remember you said you were interested in being an architect. So I’m giving you an abundance of graph paper, scissors, and tape to play with.

It’s totally OK if you never actually become an architect. I just want you to get to explore and have fun. Happy birthday!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

January 24, 2010

resolved 2010: always towards better things

by gl. at 1:34 pm

[semper ad meliora: always towards better things]

i have a hard time with new year's resolutions: they seem to be both Too Much and Not Enough. they linger like to-do items with the same potential for failed obligation. (though one year i did learn to make origami boxes. :)

sven wrote a lovely set of "guiding principles" in 2008 i quite liked. and writing a poem is very appealing, like the birthday poems i write every year.

but this year i wanted something a little more visual and concise, so i came up with a different format: create a seal to represent the year! with a latin motto and everything!

i perused the Latin phrases wikipedia article to find some likely candidates for this year. since my focus at the studio is shifting away from hosted events & teaching, i wanted a phrase that would reflect my aspirations for the year.

then i popped over to the official seal generator to create this seal. i think i'm going to enjoy seeing the collection of them over time.

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

January 1, 2010

new year's dawn at powell butte - 2010

by sven at 9:42 am

time-lapse film of first 2010 sunrise
click on image to play clip (10sec - 1 MB)

Happy 2010!

Gretchin first introduced me to the tradition of watching dawn rise on new year's day. This year she went on her first dawn bike ride. A little miracle: it stopped raining just 15 minutes before she left!

I had the last-second inspiration to do a time-lapse film of the sunrise. I took one photo per minute from 6:50 - 7:50am… By hand.

What you don't see: A little cloud puff zooming across the sky in the wind, low to the ground… Dawn's first colors reflected in the rain puddles… A lone moth racing home just as the sky begins to light.

And most miraculous of all… A new year's rainbow!

[Notes to myself: Time-lapse was shot at 5", f2.8. Next time shoot darker to get the clouds. Shoot automated, and from behind glass for rain protection. Maybe bedroom window? Note that from our vantage, sunrise is south of the butte. Best colors at 8:00.]

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

December 21, 2009

merry solstice from scarlet star studios!

by sven at 7:00 am

scarlet star

Tonight is the longest night of the year. As the world gently tips, beginning our journey back toward light, we send you our best and brightest wishes…

From Sven & Gretchin: merry solstice!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, painting

October 31, 2009

happy halloween from scarlet star studios!

by sven at 5:38 pm

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

June 26, 2009

wiping the slate clean

by gl. at 6:15 pm

it's been a very long time since i've posted, and it looks to me like if i wait for the perfect time to give each item the post it deserves, i will never post again.

during the holidays, at the masarie curry party, marta said i changed her life: she attended a collage night once and makes one every day now. it's not often you get to hear something so dramatic or sincere!

but it's been hard because a bunch of awkward things happened at once. my focus has shifted to include arts organizations. i've been spending a surprising amount of time & energy supporting medical causes. my own art has re-embraced theatre. a lot of people have died (including lane, my mom & sven's grandfather). my primary art support group collapsed. my photo routine is broken. the economy shook us. in short, things are in flux.

since sven & i are about to go on a long summer trip, i'd like to tie up some loose ends so when i return, i can start with a clean slate: i'm still searching for the next surge of momentum but i can't move forward if i'm still looking back. so here are some things that have happened over the last year i'm not going to write much about but that are worth mentioning & recording:

  • events: shu-ju in the rare books room, gems of small press show, red bat & loaded hips show at iprc, white bird dance series, open studios (cirocco moody's raven), shawn demarest's shows, trillium holiday show, handmade nw, little things show, coraline premiere, a puppetlove show, apollo, how to disappear completely, hidden portland book launch, crazy enough, inviting desire w/ bridget, an afternoon on dayna's boat "rapture." plus, dayna went to italy & brought back treats: a fish placemat from volterra in in the cinque terre, yellow italian paper (used to wrap purchaes, in art, as placemats, etc.), a menu with cool image, favorite yogurt jar, a sugar packet, a piece of broken window from abandoned house in tuscany(!) wrapped in italian newspaper, red & white rocks from cinque terre, beach glass from the amalfi coast, a bookmark from assisi, and a metal botanical tag from flea market. then ann gave me a subscription to “where women create” magazine, which is like a “lifestyles of the rich & creative."

  • teaching: i had a great time teaching gocco at the iprc until the iprc could no longer offer them due to the shortage of supplies. (however, i still provide private gocco lessons, like the one i did with dot.) so i've been teaching creative business classes at the iprc, the library & trillium/scrap. that may come to an end soon, too. i've been re-offering workshops at the studio without being responsible for promotion & registration.

  • classes: when i first decided i wanted to dip my toe back into the theatre waters, i took a theatre/coaching class: it was a really rocky way to start because she did not believe in encouraging students. so i was both relieved & sad to leave. i had better luck at the 100th monkey's "ninja sewing" series (where i learned about threading, knotting, warp/weft, running stitch, gathering stitch, back stitch, buttons, hem stitch, blanket stitch, cross stitch, whipstitch, chain stitch, split stitch, french knots) and have been happy to be able to make and repair very simple things.

  • art: "where the sidewalk ends" photo series, "5 reasons" book, comparing down to earth "smoke rings" a year later, "writing our bellies full" reading, fidelio, last big gocco supply order, cast as an extra in TNT's "leverage" (so was trixie!), opsfest, dayna's art buddy invitational (my buddy, sven's buddy).

at the little things show, i picked up a prayer flag by jennifer mercedes because of its title: "a prayer for an inspiring future." yes, please. see you soon.

[gl. as The Lyon in A Midsommer Nights Dreame]

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: administrivia, classes & workshops, exhibits & events, miscellany, other art, printing, trixie, writing

May 4, 2009

contest prize from john sumner

by sven at 6:36 pm

resin castings by John Sumner

Fellow stopmoe John Sumner issued a challenge in March: identify two obscure books, win a prize. Long-post-short… I won!

Here's the original challenge:

"Cogs, this one's gonna be short and sweet. First off, Don Carlson replied to the Crazy Daisy Ed post and mentioned an older book that might have some cool stop-mo references in it. However, the title and author are unknown. So load up in the Mystery Machine and take a look at his comment on the post about clues to this "gem" of a book. Second on the Unsolved list is a fabulous xeroxed section of a book on the history of puppet animation. The title is Puppet Animation in the Cinema. Being extremely lazy or, too busy, I haven't searched out the author and actual book. That's where you come in. The first cog to correctly find both books and show proof will win a prize... to be determined at a later time. I'm thinking along the lines of an illustration with subject matter of your choosing. But then you'd have to be brave enough to give my your address so I could send it to you. The challenge has been put forth."

The book for John is Puppet animation in the cinema: history and technique by L. Bruce Holman (1975). I wasn't sure about Don's book, but suggested Who's Who in Animated Cartoons by Jeff Lenburg (2006) -- which Don says is correct.

So, John emailed to ask what kind of original artwork I might like… I knew just what I wanted. Machine In Use Studios (which John founded) often uses standardized resin heads, which then get Dremeled into final shape for particular puppets. I was hoping that there might be a spare blank lying around somewhere.

Happily, John had one to share! He also sent along a half-head leftover from a previous project…

"A little backstory -- I sculpted the head using chavant sculpture clay (oil base) and then made a two part mold out of RTV silicone. There's a company down here called Silpak where I got my materials, including the 'A'+'B' parts for the eurathane that I poured into the mold. There's still 'some' imperfections, but most of the major stuff I sanded off with a dremel inside a sanding box. The sanding box was great because it contained 99% of the dust + debris. The overall concept for these heads was to be a series for an illustration show (that never happened). I was going to continue modifying each head + paint them. I got a few made, but since the show was cancelled, I lost interest. Funny enough, I found the '7' head, same as your Cog ID#. Destiny?"

Needless to say, I'm thrilled. I absolutely love getting to handle another artist's work, getting a sense of the materiality and craftsmanship.

Thanks John!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, stopmo

March 27, 2009

get well soon, chloe!

by sven at 7:00 am

Nurse Gregory tends to his patient

Chloe has broken her wrist! When Toby heard that she has to wear a cast, he wanted one too… As a show of sympathy. (Or so he says.)

Toby's cast

So Nurse Gregory dutifully made Toby a plaster bandage cast… And we all signed it.

get well card

From everyone up here in Portland: get well soon, Chloe!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

March 14, 2009

mustache week: the grandpa

by sven at 7:00 am

"The Grandpa"


(Um, Toby? It's not Christmas.)


(Um, love you too Tobles.)

…Thus concludes mustache week 2009. Happy mustache everyone!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, toby

March 13, 2009

mustache week: the sheriff

by sven at 7:00 am

"The Sheriff"


posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, toby

March 12, 2009

mustache week: the weasel

by sven at 7:00 am

"The Weasel"

Ya wanna buy a used car? Sure, I can help ya!

…But with that credit? And you want tires? I'm gonna have to talk to my manager.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

March 11, 2009

mustache week: the bruiser

by sven at 7:00 am

"The Bruiser"

Still life with mustache. (An homage to Edward Gorey.)

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

March 10, 2009

mustache week: the square

by sven at 7:00 am

"The Square"

Gretchin has her eye on you, Mister! You think you're smart -- but you're not going anywhere in life if you don't learn your algebra.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

March 9, 2009

mustache week: the hero

by sven at 7:00 am

"The Hero"

Gregory and Cleo recount their past years of elephant hunting in Africa. "Oh, good show old chap!"

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, toby

March 8, 2009

mustache week: the hollywood

by sven at 7:00 am

"The Hollywood"

Susie, our crocheted octopus friend, occasions the streets of Venice with her accordion.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

March 6, 2009

mustache week

by sven at 7:00 am

seven days of mustaches

For Christmas, my brother sent us a pack of fake mustaches. Now, I know International Mustache Month is properly in February… But heck -- any day's a good day for a fake mustache!

We'll be abiding by the labels on the package, and thus begin our EPIC JOURNEY on Sunday. Stay tuned!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

December 21, 2008

scary solstice from scarlet star studios!

by gl. at 9:23 pm


posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany, toby

November 3, 2008

pumpkin protection agency

by sven at 7:00 am

pumpkin shelf

Every year since we've lived here, meanies have smashed our pumpkins. Ah, but NOT THIS YEAR, thank you very much!

As a preventative measure, I devised this shelf which clamps onto the house above the front porch area.

front porch

The horizontal board has a 1/2" overhang at the back. The trim of the house creates a lip that it can sit on. This point of contact then acts as a fulcrum. The force of the pumpkins' weight wants to make the horizontal board swing downward -- but the vertical brace prevents this motion from occurring. The two struts keep the horizontal board from breaking off of the vertical.

Consequently, the extra large clamps don't actually do much of the work of holding the shelf up. (I've learned over time that it's vital with projects like this to think in terms of vectors of force.)

10 foot ladder

I'm thrilled with this solution... It does take a 10 foot ladder to get up to the pumpkins for lighting, though. ;)


Unfortunately, we have some neighbors who weren't so lucky: their pumpkins got smashed. On one of our regular walks we saw two cute little jack-o'-lanterns. The next day, they were gone and an angry note was posted on the garage.

replacement pumpkins

Now, we've never actually met these neighbors... But it was so sad -- we're pretty sure that it was a young kid whose work got demolished. So we decided to right the wrong. If nasty strangers had smashed the pumpkins, we'd be the kindly strangers who replaced them.

note from the Pumpkin Fairies

I went out and got two pumpkins and put them in a plain brown box (so meanies wouldn't suspect). I wrote a note, and left the package on the neighbors' porch:

"We liked your pumpkins! It was sad to see that someone smashed them. That's no good! Here are replacements.
--The Pumpkin Fairies"

thank you sign

Later that evening we went for another walk... And we saw that a note drawn in magic markers had gone up on the neighbors' porch:

"Thank You Pumpkin Fairies"

...You're welcome! :D

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

October 31, 2008

happy halloween from scarlet star studios!

by gl. at 12:20 am

skull and fraidy cat

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

October 28, 2008

death of a friend: elena raymond

by sven at 11:05 pm

Dec 9, 1970 - Oct 14, 2008

My friend Elena Raymond. She died on October 14 at St. Vincent's Hospital. I held her hand as she breathed her last breath.

She had a genetic disorder that was progressively stealing her ability to control her muscles. At 37, she had a maximum of 5-10 years left to live, and even the basic activities of living were becoming hardships.

Many years ago she decided to commit suicide rather than wait out a slow, suffering death. We tried everything to improve her life... She saw therapists, doctors, and social workers. But the 24-hour care she required was going to bankrupt her, and soon she was going to lose her home and job. She decided the time had arrived.

The overdose she took didn't kill her immediately. She was in the hospital for six days, kept alive by a breathing tube. I participated in the decision to remove the tube. We were lucky: At the end, family and friends had a chance to say goodbye -- and she was conscious enough to respond.


I knew Lane for 15 years, having met during the aftermath of another friend's suicide. During the last few months I was very involved in the struggle to keep Lane going.

Before she made the earnest suicide attempt, she went to the hospital three times, afraid that she'd hurt herself. Each time, I helped plot what steps to take next when she got back home. I helped her to employ caregivers, make applications for funding, and was researching adult foster homes.

I always knew a time would arrive when she would need increased care -- and that this transition would trigger her plans for suicide. So, I was reasonably prepared to jump in and help when the tipping point finally arrived this year. The fact that I was so engaged with the final struggle has helped somewhat to inoculate me against shock, depression, and self-recrimination...

But this is hard, even so.

Tea cups! Tea cups! Tea cups!

I'm holding together. It's just about done now. We've emptied Lane's house. Friday we had the memorial service. I was the keynote speaker.

My favorite memories are from when Lane, myself, and Jackie did a road trip to Disneyland together. It was our big birthday present to Lane, a reward for her getting through a tough year after being dumped by her girlfriend. She loved the Alice in Wonderland tea cups ride. And we had a lot of fun when we caused one of the older Disney rides to stall -- twice!

Goodbye, Lane. You'll be missed.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

May 24, 2008

new collage on woodstock

by gl. at 5:32 pm

by the way, a new collage & diy lounge opened on woodstock this week! it's at 4429 se woodstock in the safeway shopping center. i'm so excited to have an art store & workshop space to bike to!

last week i helped collage their counter (all the scarlet stars are my influence ;). there were several of us there, including ms. bridget. if you want to come see for yourself, their grand opening is next saturday, may 31. see you there!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: classes & workshops, exhibits & events, miscellany

February 14, 2008

essentials & influences - sven

by sven at 7:00 am

Our friend Dayna Collins started a meme a while back, asking what your influences are and what tools/materials are essential in your studio. Gretchin's already responded... The meme seems like a lot of fun, so I've wanted to answer too -- but it's also been challenging.

For influences, I came up with an initial list of 60+ musicians, artists, thinkers, etc. who've shaped who I am and what I do. Too many! So, finally I decided the only thing I can reasonably do is say who's influencing me right now. Maybe that makes this more a list of preoccupations... But here goes.


  1. Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way: the practice of morning pages

  2. Chris Baty's No Plot? No Problem!: emphasis on generating page count while writing

  3. H.P.Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness: which I'm trying to adapt to film

  4. Ron Cole: exploring film distribution strategies

  5. Jamie Caliri: how he uses digital still cameras for animation

  6. The Animation Show of Shows: a compilation of award-winning animation

  7. Barry Purves: combining theater sensibilities with stopmo

  8. Julie Taymor: her knack for pairing cultural iconography and story

  9. Nick Hilligoss: foam latex puppet how-to

  10. Ten Tiny Dances: a model for brief motion experiments

As for "studio essentials," there was a temptation to list very specialized sets of tools/materials. For instance: what materials are essential for making puppets -- or what tools/materials I use for painting. I decided that the spirit of the question should be more along the lines of "what stuff do you keep around just in case?"... Like if you suddenly asked me to build something, what would I most likely pull out of my bag of tricks?

For this one, I'm cheating and upping my list to 20 items. ...So there!

Studio Essentials:
  1. safety: 3M brand carbon-cartridge respirator and wrap-around safety goggles

  2. hardboard, AKA masonite: 1/4"-thick stuff is good for constructing nearly anything

  3. foam insulation board: excellent for carving, can be layered to make thicker sheets

  4. 1"x2"x8' lengths of pine: good to keep some on hand

  5. abundant supply of fasteners: wood screws, 18 ga. wire nails

  6. cool-melt hot glue gun: finger burns are much less severe

  7. cordless electric drill: it's not a Sven project til there's been drilling!

  8. miter saw: for cutting perfect 90 degree angles (and other angles)

  9. electric jig saw: combined with 8' straight edge, avoids need for scary circular saw

  10. micro cut-off saw: phenomenal for chop cuts on anything 1/2" dia. or smaller

  11. small vise which can clamp onto the edge of a table

  12. clamps, clamps, clamps: c-clamps, corner clamps, gator clamps, extra-long clamps

  13. small needle-nosed pliers with built-in wire cutter

  14. hex key set (swiss-army-knife-style): every key you need, all in one place

  15. rulers: 5" plastic see-through ruler, 12" steel straight-edge, 8' aluminum straight-edge

  16. small self-healing cutting pad and X-acto knife

  17. 1" wide white post-it tape: good for labels, many other purposes

  18. sand paper: medium grit, good for wood and metal

  19. delta ceramcoat acrylic paints: cheap and plentiful

  20. storage box for paints: being able to see all the colors in one glance makes them much more usable

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

January 30, 2008

leap and the net will appear

by gl. at 1:55 am

linda's got a great post up: she's quitting her dayjob to become a full-time artist!

linda's a firecracker: she's got a ton of energy and i can only imagine what she'll do now that she doesn't have to fit in everything after work and on weekends. but she's an immensely talented encaustic artist: whatever she does, i'm sure it will be fabulous!

i also adore the leap year symbolism. i think that would be a great tradition: every leap year, decide what you want to leap into, or how you want make the leap into something you haven't felt ready to try before.

go, linda, go!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: links, miscellany

January 22, 2008

craft night w/ michael5000

by gl. at 11:59 pm

last week michael5000 invited some people over for craft night. sven did more mending and i brought along a shirt with a little stain i wanted to cover up and one of the patches from the zine symposium in august.

[maybe i should wear this heart on my sleeve]

[revolution begins here]

i've never attached a patch before, but for some reason i wanted to stuff this. i was doing really well until the very end, when i decided it had too much stuffing and i had to resew it. i've fray-checked the edges; i hope it makes it through the washer okay!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: exhibits & events, miscellany

January 11, 2008

sock mending party 2008

by gl. at 5:24 pm

to get 2008 off on the right foot (ha!), last week shu-ju decided to host a sock-mending party. she set up a serger & a sewing machine and invited a bunch of people over to mend things.

it just so happened we had a huge pile of socks & pants that had been waiting patiently for such an opportunity for years, as well as a coat pocket that needed mending. we've had a pair of smittens we've been unable to use for years because the first time we tried them the seam split. plus, toby had developed a couple of indiscreet spots where his stuffing was beginning to come out.

so after an afternoon of learning new machines, eating homemade cookies & smashed fish (okay, sven didn't partake of the fish), we now have a lot less "holy" socks and a lot more frankenstein ones, several more pairs of useable pants, a reason to go for walks in the cold, and a sock creature who can do the splits on a whim. toby was delighted to get a chance to meet some blog readers in person. i've never been to a sock-mending party before, but i'm looking forward to the next one!


posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany, toby

January 8, 2008

essentials & influences

by gl. at 5:59 pm

dayna posted her studio essentials & influences based on the book "alphabetica," which sven serendipitously gave me for xmas this year. it's a good meme, i think (plus, when am i -ever- going to be listed as an influence on the same list as the beatles again? :D). so to carry it forward...

studio essentials:
1. stars
2. letters
3. the flat files sven built
4. scissors, exacto knives & glue sticks
5. a TON of paper
6. bits & scraps, some of which i've been hoarding since the 9th grade
7. music
9. the electric tea kettle
8. printer & photocopier
10. teh internet

1. sven & toby
2. astronomy & science
6. the artist's way & pamela underwood
3. edward gorey
4. calligraphers, especially denis brown
5. andy goldsworthy
7. portland
8. shu-ju wang
9. burning man
10. teh internet

i'd love to read your essentials & influences, too! i'm not "tagging" you per se, but feel free to answer these on your own blogs or in the comments. :)

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

December 22, 2007

scary solstice from scarlet star studios!

by gl. at 2:06 pm


a scary solstice to all, and to all a good night!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

December 3, 2007


by gl. at 3:44 pm

it took me a while to get to this, but if you're looking for a remarkable bibliophile present, might i recommend peacay's first book: BibliOdyssey: Amazing Archival Images from the Internet? bibliodyssey features objects of curiosity & wonder that have been hiding in library collections for dozens or hundreds of years. ever since i stumbled across the bibliodyssey website i've been captivated at its discoveries and delighted by its range & depth. it's the same joy i experience when i'm able to access old book & manuscript collections, but without having to move too close to the getty or the british library. ;)

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: links, miscellany

October 31, 2007

happy halloween from scarlet star studios!

by gl. at 11:29 am

toby carves a pumpkin

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

September 14, 2007


by gl. at 10:51 am

when shelley told me she was working on a pincushion for my birthday, i didn't know what to expect. even the picture she posted on the blog seemed unbelievable. but last week i received a box in the mail and there was "squee!"

[squee! waves hello]

i was stunned! i've never seen anything like it! she comes packed with everything: scissors, seam rippers, pins, needles, a decorated needle threader, thimble, buttons, rickrack & ribbon... and thread spools for curls! she stands firmly upright thanks to a weighted base.

of course, toby took to squee! right away:

[toby says, "I HAVE A NEW FRIEND!"]

thanks, shelley! what an unexpectedly thoughtful gift! SQUEEEEEEEE!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany, toby

August 26, 2007

modest mouse

by gl. at 12:57 am

shu-ju tagged me with the "10 things i like about myself" meme. ack! if one of them is "modesty" i can't very well participate, can i? ;)

  1. i am curious & i love learning. my strengths are observation & inquiry. i am happiest when i can exhaust myself with questions. i'll also answer any question you ask.

  2. i'm sincere. i try to say what i mean and mean what i say. i don't take commitments lightly. i'm a terrible liar and i don't even spin well. most sarcasm makes me wince.

  3. i like to play! i am an explorer. i like adventures. and i'm goofy.

  4. little things delight me or fill me with wonder. my first nature is optimistic; repeated negative experiences can make me pessimistic, but i approach new situations with hope & good cheer.

  5. i like and trust complexity in people and opinions. i rarely see things in black & white; i like things with layers. i hope it makes me a more empathetic, compassionate and tolerant person.

  6. i am a quiet nonconformist: i look pretty normal, but i'm never what anyone expects and i'm often underestimated.

  7. i am really noncompetitive. i prefer to believe there's enough for everyone, and that "the more you tighten your grip... the more star systems will slip through your fingers." it forms the basis for a lot of other good qualities i hope i have: supportive, loyal, generous, kind.

  8. i'm internally motivated & driven to be hardworking, reasonable & responsible. and though i really appreciate when people cheer me on and generally feel we'd all be better off if we had more cheerleaders & supporters, i don't need applause or praise to keep doing stuff. fiona apple says, "be kind to me, or treat me mean: i'll make the most of it, i'm an extraordinary machine."

  9. i am organized, practical and detail-oriented. if there's something to be done i like to do it rather than endlessly complain about it.

  10. and strangely, i am attuned to time: i rarely underestimate how much time a project will take, whether it's a short-term or long-term thing. i see the hidden spaces where time evaporates through travel or transition. and i can see the effects/consequences of things over long arcs of time, which makes me persistent, patient and able to endure tedium reasonably well.

okay, because i love to know about other people, i now tag...

and anyone else who wants to answer!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

July 19, 2007

travellers & scholars

by gl. at 11:59 pm

i got a chance to meet kelly roberge today, an art therapy student from arizona who included scarlet star studios in a national survey of expressive arts studios earlier this year! alas, she was visiting portland during my self-imposed creative hiatus, so though i didn't have a general event she could attend, she came over to be introduced to the studio & collage. i finally got to see her thesis, which includes a very kind acknowledgement of me (and which i hope she puts online soon). :)

kelly hopes to create her own expressive arts studio in arizona and then create an international expressive arts confederate where we work together instead of competing in order to help contribute to a cultural understanding of what we do and a desire for our support. go, kelly, go!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

June 20, 2007

seven random things

by sven at 8:22 pm

Gretchin tagged me with the "seven random things about yourself" meme. So, here goes...

  1. I was named after my father's anthropology professor, Sven Liljeblad (1900-2000). My standard quip: "Thank goodness I only got the first name!" Sven was Swedish; my last name, however, is Danish. Translated, it means "the farmer's son." The Danes in the family are from back around my great-grandparents' time or before... I don't honestly know how far back, though. I never saw any evidence of Danish heritage other than what's in my name.

  2. During my grade school years, I wanted to be a primatologist. I had dozens of books about monkeys and apes, and knew all the genus/species names. My favorite monkey: Humboldt's woolly monkey... (Which, incidentally, is featured prominently in the movie, Robinson Crusoe on Mars.) Loved the Chinese story of Monkey King raising "havoc in heaven." Loved King Kong -- both the 1933 and 1976 versions.

  3. Other early ambitions: I had fantasies about inventing an army of self-replicating robot monkeys, which would build me a spaceship out of cardboard, and an underground mansion with ten water slides -- and hot tubs filled with caramel and hot fudge. I drew very detailed blueprints for the robot monkeys. (Hm... Now where did I put those, anyway?)

  4. In high school I was on the Math Team. Yes, we'd all get on the bus and travel to Math League competitions... I've actually got a collection of medals that I won. During my sophomore year, I took second place in the state for my grade-level. That was in Maine, where I lived until coming out to the West Coast for college, btw.

  5. In college I was part of a two-man folk-grunge-novelty band with my chum Paul Anderson. Some of our best songs: "Music, Sex and Cookies" and "Movin' Right Along" (from the Muppet Movie). Paul plays acoustic guitar. I play piano -- loudly enthusiastically. [I've been known to get blisters on my fingers.] We both write goofy songs.

  6. I have the same thing for breakfast every single day: Quaker "100% Natural Low Fat Granola with Raisins" (which tastes far better than it sounds) and a glass of orange juice. I eat the cereal with water instead of milk -- and cold, not hot. I tend to buy 10-15 boxes at a time, because my usual grocery store doesn't carry the stuff. I find it convenient to not have to think about what I'm going to eat first thing in the morning.

  7. I've got webbed toes. On both feet, the second and third toes are webbed all the way out to where the toenails begin. The bones aren't fused -- it's just the flesh. I've never had any desire to have them split... And, no (since you ask), they don't really help me swim any faster.

It looks like pretty much everyone I could think of to tag for this thang already has been tagged... So I guess I'll be the terminator for this end of the daisy chain. Cheers!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

June 16, 2007

like a good neighbor

by gl. at 9:40 pm

i helped linda paint her new studio this week. i enjoy being asked to participate in projects like this -- not because i am building up recriprocation points, but because i honestly enjoy helping people create things and making things happen. truly.

(and i didn't think i could really be bribed with pizza, especially since i don't drink beer and i am trying to be better about cholesterol. but i had an extra slice of rovente because it was so good!)

[last stroke!]

linda is converting her garage into a studio: the project is a lot of fun to watch & read about. she's certainly more patient & braver than i am! she's going to start hosting classes next month: go, linda, go!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany, painting

June 9, 2007

seven random things, no more and no less

by gl. at 1:58 am

diane tagged me with the "seven random things about yourself" meme:

  • i have a theatre degree. people used to be more impressed with that when i was an "instructional technology consultant."

  • after i graduated i ran a summer theatre company in pennsylvania and hated it so much i decided i would never move east of kansas again and i would stay with computers rather than theatre. but now i really miss theatre.

  • when i was younger i owned the world's sweetest doberman who never did anything to anyone but whose mere presence would scare kids who liked to pick on me.

  • i went to school in a 1-room schoolhouse in the mountains for a year. i loved that place, even if i was just one of two fifth graders. that's where i started getting interested in computers, playing oregon trail & lemonade stand on the apple ][.

  • one summer i was taking violin lessons and learning how to ride a motorcycle. the motorcycle totally won.

  • i was going to transfer to a different college based on a dream i had until one of my journalism instructors sat me down and showed me i could graduate in just one more semester. "unless you go to harvard, nobody cares where you get your bachelor's degree," he said.

  • for whatever reason, almost every xbf i've ever had has ended up in portland at some point.

okay, now i tag... sven, shelley, jeffrey, mph, markalope, alesia & melanie sage!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

May 31, 2007

blue moon blessings

by gl. at 11:25 pm

today i delivered 22 moon pies all across portland as sweet reminders of how much i appreciate supporters of the studio, whether that's as a former artist's way client, a colleague, or a co-conspirator.

hand-delivering that many treats took over 8 hours of non-stop driving, but i was rewarded by getting a tour of emma's "new" apartment, eating a homemade orange-cranberry muffin, peeking into linda's new studio, seeing the art alisa is making in her studio, meeting elizabeth's daughter maya, holding dayna's grandson emmett, learning ohsu is its own city, surviving beaverton traffic, and seeing people i haven't seen in a while (and, um, some i saw just yesterday).

as i was finally driving home, the blue moon rose huge and heavy (and orange!) in the sky and i diverted myself onto mt. tabor to watch her glow, the lights of portland twinkling beneath her. to her left was jupiter, strong and bright; to her right was antares, the red heart of the scorpion. may the june moon find you healthy, happy, and inspired.

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

March 25, 2007

toby's travels: trip to the beach

by sven at 1:17 pm


This past week we went for a little overnight vacation at the coast. It was Toby's first time seeing the ocean!

"(...MAYBE A LITTLE too BIG.)"

It rained pretty much the whole time we were there. Toby wasn't big on getting wet (being pretty much a sponge) -- but he did finally venture out of Gretchin's pocket when we got down to the waves.


We had a leisurely time... Making vegetarian corned beef sandwiches (originally intended for St. Patrick's day), crepes filled with asparagus and with strawberries... Lounging on the couch, reading books aloud...

Toby shared a nice cup of tea with me.

(I think he may have been under the impression that it was his own personal hot tub.)

sven, toby, and gretchin

We played a good game of Scrabble.


Toby's not very good at Scrabble yet.

Toby's first trip to Pizza Hut

I have a fondness for Pizza Hut when we travel... So on the way home, Gretchin treated us.

straw sniper

Coming back from the salad bar, Toby was hiding behind the water glasses and blew straw wrappers at us.

Silly boy!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, toby

March 3, 2007

toby's travels: tucson, los angeles

by sven at 11:59 pm

Toby's first road trip

Fair warning:

For those of you averse to hyperbolic cuteness -- lookawaylookawaylookawaylookawaylookaway...

Sven & Toby on the road

Toby had never even left Portland before -- so he leapt (literally) at the opportunity to accompany me on my road trip to Tucson.


On the way down, we slept in the back of the Svan at rest stops.

my sleeping companion

The first night out, Toby was so excited, he kept bouncing all around the car... Taking photos of him was the only thing I could think of to try to wear him out.


It's curious to me, the number of gas stations that have dinosaurs in front of them -- but aren't actually Sinclair. ...Do Sinclair gas stations actually even exist anymore?


Toby's a little unclear on the distinction between animate and inanimate objects.


My mom was charmed to meet Tobias. He seemed to have a lot of fun in her arts/crafts space.


Encountering mom's yarn collection, I finally had to explain to Toby where babies come from. "Well, you see Tobes, when an artist loves her old socks very much..."


Toby's favorite game is "hide and peep."


Mom spoiled the boy... She let him into her beading materials and helped dress him up.

back on the road

After a couple days of visiting family, we got back on the road.

...And, yes, Toby does always wear his seat belt when we travel.

Toby's first stay at a hotel

On the way back, the Svan was loaded down with boxes, so we stopped for the night at a hotel. (Note that by this time I'd gotten wise to wearing earplugs at night.)

we arrive in Halfland

Ah, but before going straight home -- a stop to visit Shelley in Los Angeles!


When Shelley and I were animating, Toby got really interested.


He really wanted to be a part of the show. (Much to Dad's exasperation.) But there's just a certain something that he lacks. Talent? ...No.

A skeleton.


We mollified the boy by giving him a "director's chair" from which to shout.

many hands make light work

Toby did make himself useful, though. With all those arms, he was a demon with the broom.

We believe in "leave no trace" camping.

glad to be home

965 miles and a blizzard later, we found ourselves sitting in the driveway back home -- and paused for one last photo. A little travel weary and more than a little crazed... But glad for the adventure, and happy to come back to Gretchin.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, toby

March 2, 2007


by gl. at 12:04 am

today has been a day of unexpected abundance. almost everywhere i went i was either giving or getting surprises!

for instance, when i rendezvoused at linda's house for a meeting today, she had gifts for each of us, including a large folded roll of copper & a couple of old train books down in the basement.

when i took pictures of carol's piece so she could submit it to the the 100th monkey's recycled show, she sent me away with several curls of leafy paper, two colors of wire, several felt "wish" gift card holders, a bag of magazines, several colors of large rolled paper and a narcissus.

when i got home, i was delighted to discover a package from jeffrey, who sent me beautiful cigar boxes from new orleans!

and after dinner, sven sent me for a walk around the neighborhood to find hidden treasure.

i balanced my karma by dropping off delicious ginger gems to mph, lending serena a flat-panel screen for her event tomorrow, & dropping off a copy of paul simon's surprise for kristen & todd.

the studio loves to give and to get gifts. thank you, one and all!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

January 17, 2007

snow angel

by gl. at 6:20 pm

i had forgotten i've written about toby before, so i can write about what toby did during our snow day yesterday:

[toby flaps his arms & legs]

[toby gets up carefully]

[toby runs inside to get warm]

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany, toby

December 27, 2006

a jolly little elf

by gl. at 12:23 pm

shelley sent the most elaborate handmade christmas card i've ever seen: a movable elf puppet on a stick! and as if that wasn't enough, it came with a beautiful hand-lettered tag:

[click the image to see the puppet creation process]

thanks, shelley! "webster" is amazing!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

December 9, 2006

gifts from the stopmoes

by sven at 12:00 pm

Birthday presents from my stopmo buddies Mike and Shelley arrived on the same day!

thanks mike!

I've been perusing through Film Directing Shot By Shot and it's every bit as good as Mike's been saying. A very thorough -- yet approachable -- course in creating shot flow.

shellsy's gift for packaging

Packages from Shelley are always a delight to the eye...

thanks shelley!

An assortment of fabrics, threads, and embellishments for puppet-making... And a hand-made scarlet star pin cushion! What a delicious assortment...

Thank you both!!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany

November 25, 2006

pencil holder

by sven at 3:31 pm

pencil holder

Just got back from Thanksgiving in Phoenix yesterday. Tackled a nice little project in the evening: making a new holder for my colored pencils.

(Or rather, my "pencils of color," as I affectionately refer to them.)

The top piece is 1/4" thick hardboard, the bottom is a scrap of MDF. The side supports are just attached with hot glue. There are 160 holes, all 5/16" in diameter, spaced 1/2" apart.

To get the holes evenly spaced, I taped a piece of graph paper on top of the hardboard, and then pressed a sculptor's needle tool in at all the appropriate points. The pin-point marks were all I needed to guide the battery-powered handheld drill.

The whole thing took about 3 hours to make.

The design was inspired by a drill bit index that I've been looking at... But it leaves a lot to be desired:

  • Being held in place at only one point, the pencils have a tendency to lean.
  • I'd really like it if there were tiers, so it'd be easier to see the back rows.
  • You don't really need a separate hole for every pencil. Having a slots for groups of five pencils would allow you to throw pencils back into the holder with less hassle -- while still keeping things nicely organized.

My holder's a step up from the tin that the pencils came in. The way they came, the pencils lay in four plastic trays, stored in a tin box. You couldn't see them all at the same time unless you put all four trays out on the floor.

I have an idea for a revised design that I may attempt. If/when I get around to making it, I'll be sure to post about the pencil holder's second incarnation.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, sketchbook

October 31, 2006

happy halloween from scarlet star studios!

by gl. at 9:38 am

melancholy and methuselah

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

October 29, 2006

keep the hand moving

by gl. at 11:59 pm

three more things and i'll almost be caught up:

  • sven & i went to the stumptown comics fest on friday, where i bought a tiny abecedarium & a book of poetry. we made fools of ourselves talking to the amazing & talented erica moen: in fact, we almost made her cry. (we're sorry, erica!)

  • i'm considering joining an artist support group known as "radix: a circle of women in the arts." it's a splinter from the "no limits for women in the arts" group that encourages self-leadership and a specific kind of paired listening process which asks these four questions:

    • what is your greatest vision for your art life?
    • what is the next step towards that goal?
    • where does it get hard?
    • how do you keep it going?

it's not too dissimilar to what i do for artist's way independent support.

  • wow, this was almost a month ago: we sponsored an expedition360 vlog. i help them maintain their blog, but we also just like supporting crazy, dedicated dreamers. :)

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

July 20, 2006

I've got a contract!

by sven at 10:00 pm

I'm so excited! Today I got a contract with Bent Image Lab, a local animation studio that seems to focus on producing TV ads on the national and international levels. I got the call asking me if I wanted a job at 10:35am... I went in to sign paperwork at 1:00pm... And by 2:00pm I was actually working!

A million thanks to Grace Weston, who recommended me to studio and gave them my contact info. Go look at Grace's website; she's an amazing photographer. Gretchin met Grace at Job Club for Creatives and showed off my work to her -- so thank you Gretchin as well!

I signed a (sigh) confidentiality form, so I'm not going to be able to say much about the job... But here are a few innocuous details I think are safe to share:

I'm going to be making cobblestones for a street scene. The first task they set me to was vacuforming. You use a special machine to melt a piece of plastic, and then very quickly pivot it over and onto a table that has a vacuum under it. You place a 3D form on top of the vaccuum table called a "buck" (in this case cobblestones); the vacuum forces the melty plastic to take the shape of the buck. ...Cool!

My job will last maybe one week or ten days, so it will be done before Gretchin and I head off to a family reunion in Canada. It's the first paid animation-related work that I'll be able to put on my resume. It may not be the most glamorous part of the production -- but I'm in, which is the important thing. And really, given my voracious interest in animation, I'd kinda sorta like to take a stint doing every job in the building.

Ah, the adrenalin still hasn't worn off...


posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, stopmo

July 12, 2006


by gl. at 2:58 pm

the studio loves gifts! so i'd like to acknowledge & thank three recent ones:

first, ubatuber sent a copy of his "jenny greenteeth" woodprint, which is even more impressive in person than it is here:


then one of my artist's way independent support students brought perfectly sweet chilcotin raspberries fresh from the farmer's market. yum!

and finally today, laura gave us both evil-eye bracelets she picked up in instanbul!

of course, the collage fairies always bless us by refreshing our pool of interesting and unusual collage materials: thanks colleen, vicki, jen, chip & kathy, grace & alesia!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: artist's way, miscellany, stopmo

July 4, 2006


by gl. at 11:52 pm

i spoke with three neighbors before noon today. that's a record!

two of the conversations were about gardening & tree pruning. but i was picking raspberries from the bush by the studio when a woman and her giant airedale stopped at the driveway to ask about scarlet star studios. she's an artist in a cul-de-sac down the way, and her studio's nom de plume is "shooting star!" she does botanical watercolors and teaches in an after school art program at an elementary school down the road. so i showed her around the studio and gave her a flyer. i've seen her around; i remember she was one of the few people who didn't think we were crazy when we were making the labyrinth in our driveway (oh, how i wish sven would write about that! it was an amazing project). so hooray! another artist nearby!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

June 13, 2006

the ambassature returns

by sven at 3:28 pm

back from Los Angeles

Shelley Noble has sent me back the "ambassature", as he's now come to be known... And he came with a present and a poem!

u know
u know how grateful I am for what u've done
u know how your kindness sheds light in the world
u know so much more than u may know
u know

Eee! Thank you, Shelley! ...The package arrived Friday (6/09), just after lunch. We were having hot port-soaked pears over ice cream -- which seemed like a very fitting feast for His Eminence to walk in on. ;-D

Here's the recipe (via WineSkinny.com):

Port-poached Pears

4 firm Bosc pears, washed, peeled (reserve peels), stems intact
½ cup sugar
3 cups good quality port
2 cinnamon sticks
Large strips of orange zest

In a covered saucepan large enough to hold the pears in a single layer, place the pear peels, sugar, port, cinnamon, and orange zest. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Remove pear peels and discard.

With a slotted spoon, gently add the pears to the poaching liquid. If necessary, add up to 1 cup of water to completely cover the pears. A small plate, set over the pears, will help keep them submerged. Leave the cover ajar and simmer gently 15 to 20 minutes or until a skewer poked into a pear center meets little resistance.

Using the slotted spoon, remove the pears from their liquid and stand upright in a serving dish deep enough for the reduced liquid to be poured over. Remove zest and cinnamon stick (or strain liquid) and continue simmering to reduce the liquid to a syrupy consistency.

Pour syrup over the pears.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, stopmo

May 27, 2006

our fantastical future history

by sven at 8:00 am

At our "house adoption" party we handed out comment cards printed with this mesage:

Please write about an outrageous fictional event that will happen at our new house sometime during the next ten years. A little after 8pm we'll be walking over to the studio side of the house, and then we'll read aloud the fantastical future history.

The foretold events have now been meticulously assembled into their proper chronological order... At last the story can be told!


Fueled by the success of Sven's film at the HPL film festival, the house becomes a gathering point for Lovecraft fans. Each fall, dozens of people from across the country camp out on the lawn. Eventually, when an argument over how to pronounce "ftagn" erupts into fisticuffs, the police put an end to the shantytown.


The spirit of Mothra possesses the giant butterfly on the wall and proceeds to fly around the neighborhood, dive-bombing at random.

the aforementioned butterfly


You will be visited by an unruly llama from northern Peru. You will need to devise inventive ways to pacify him. (Fortunately, he happened to arrive on the day of your annual goat cheese festival.) Alas, the fabulous feta has soothed the savage beast, and he'll remain with you for the following years in which you'll knit colorful socks and scarves from his wool.


All of the shirts in your closets will wake in the night and sneak out to go dancing on the butte with the food they steal from the fridge!


In the year 2010, Gretchin will walk downstairs to boil her morning tea. She will find massive cracks running through the vinyl and carpeting, and the ground pushing through. Out of these gaping holes will pour seething masses of ants. Ants as thick as ocean waves. Raging and roiling heaps of them, opening the fridge and investigating every corner of the house. In horror, Gretchin will move about the house by standing on one chair and then positioning a second chair and stepping onto it. Sven decides to buy a blowtorch to rid them of the pestilence. When he torches the ants, only more pour out from the depths of ant Hell. Eventually Sven and Gretchin capitalize on their misfortune and start selling ant pies. Ant soap. Ant soup. Ant shampoo... Lots of organic ant products.


4:45am, 2012
Gretchin is awoken by an odd beeping noise. She walks the house seeking the source.

Unable to find the source, Gretchin wakes Sven. She explains that the beeping has changed tone and frequency a few times and seems to originate from the vicinity of the garage. As they descend the stairs, the beeping takes on a musical quality.

Sven and Gretchin open the door to the crawl space under the house and find it flooded with a rich, color-shifting light that is synched with the now nearly erratic beeping. Their eyes adjust and they make out the small metallic object hovering a foot off the ground.

Gretchin is shocked to realize the visitor is an alien robot...

...Sven is shocked to realize he can understand the robot, and begins to formulate his response...


In 2012, Sven and Gretchin run for president, vowing to co-facilitate the nation with fairness and Collage Nights for all. Once again at the forefront of the digital revolution, the campaign is orchestrated entirely from Powell Butte via the art blog "Scarlet Letters." The "Svetchin" party's overwhelming victory inaugurates a new golden age of American creativity... Which lasts until the artists dissolve all countries and planet Earth joins an intergalactic federation of planets.


At 3am the Russian mafiyah bursts into the house and dances a mazurka.


There will be a fab musical theater production put on by a visiting theater/dance troupe, sort of like a vaudeville troupe, from another galaxy. Sven and Gretchin will like them so much that they will go on tour with them for a year.


After the alien abduction Sven and Gretchin aren't quite the same. To restore normality, they purchase 3472 rolls of aluminum foil and 97 tubes of crazy glue to redecorate both the inside and outside of the house. Their plan works beautifully and they make the cover of Modern Art magazine.


Willie Nelson on his 80th birthday tour gets lost while trying to find I-205 to go South to his next concert in Silverton. Somehow his bus ends up going East on Holgate and then up Raymond. He finally, even though he is still a man, gets out at [our street address] to ask directions.

[Editor's note: Willie Nelson was born April 30, 1933. Presumably, then, this event takes place in 2013.]


"Gretchin?" Sven called out distractedly --


"Did ya remember to curb the winsnippets?"

It was the tenth anniversary of the Centaurian occupation, and the whole street was abuzz with preparations for Enunciator Day.

"Damn!" cried Gretchin, "I did not!"

"But the hognobbets are coming to visit! An uncurbed winsnippet... And zoola in the midst of his cyclic!"

"Not to worry," called Gretchin, "I'll just swap them with the Eeklamorphs!"


A gnome will return and live in the attic, creating havoc and many eerie bumps in the night.

Mari, hunter of gnomes


Just as you are about to pay off the house [in 2036], a host of angels in 3-piece suits come to the door. You let them stay in the studio, where they defeat the Nigerian spam syndicate. The world rejoices and there is peace on Earth, good will to men.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, studio space

May 24, 2006

if i buy a milling machine...

by sven at 8:00 am

I very much want to build metal-jointed armatures for my puppets. I've come up with a relatively simple brass design that can be made with handheld power tools. However, I'm interested in graduating up to making steel and/or aluminum armatures. Ones with joints that make sense for the anatomy: e.g. knees that only bend on one axis of rotation.

That probably means: buying a milling machine.

Micro-Mark's MicroLux mini milling machine

I've been doing a lot of research. At this point in time, I think that I would choose to buy a MicroLux Mini Milling Machine from Micro-Mark for $590 (that's including shipping). However, I haven't fully committed to buying any machine -- not just yet.

For my own sake, I need to summarize what I've learned so far...


A while back, I bought a drill press at Home Depot -- which I returned a few days later. ...Immediately after leaving that Home Depot, I stopped at a hardware store that I'd never been in before: The Tool Peddler (9907 SE 82nd Ave). Inside, I discovered this tool I'd never seen before: a cross sliding vise. The cross sliding vise looked very much like the X/Y table on a milling machine. It made me wonder: can you use a cross sliding vise to turn a drill press into a milling machine?

cross sliding vise

I posted my question on SMA. The answer I got back was that a drill press isn't really built to deal with the sideways stress. Mike said that the machine will vibrate and give you sloppy cuts. Nick said that he's tried using a drill press to mill aluminum (which is soft) and failed. Jon Frier warned me that he had tried milling with a drill press -- and has scars from the attempt!

I went back into the store to have a second look at the vise, and was told similar things by an employee: the cross sliding vise is really just for precision-positioning. You might be able to use it for milling wood -- but trying it on metal would be a Bad Idea.


For making armatures, you don't need a full-sized milling machine. There are "micro" mills and "mini" mills -- and either of these sizes will suffice. In general, it seems that micros cost more than minis -- you're paying for miniaturization.

From what I've read, it looks like a good mini is going to cost at least $500, and a good micro is going to cost at least $650. The price range for minis I've looked at runs from $399 to $525. The micros fall into two groups: $240 to $260, and $650 to $995. All of these prices are without shipping. Also, these are prices for the machines only -- milling bits, clamps, or other accessories all have to be purchased separately.

Micro mills I've looked at:

Mini mills I've looked at:

Harbor Freight's micro milling machine

The Harbor Freight micro milling machine seems to be the cheapest milling option available. Unlike the Procon (whose price is unclear), I can buy it locally and avoid shipping costs. However, it's remarkably heavy for a micro; its X/Y table is quite small; and it only has two speeds. The cheapest option is worth mentioning -- but I think I would have more confidence purchasing one of the fancier machines. We're going for precision metalworking here. (And "you get what you pay for.")


For me, weight and size have probably been the most significant consideration after cost. My studio space is a spare bedroom. I don't have a proper metalworking shop -- and I don't have a lot of free space. This would seem to indicate that I should get a micro mill.

Comparing height, width, and depth is cumbersome (even for me!); a comparison of weight should give an adequate sense of how big these things are...

Micro mills I've looked at:

Mini mills I've looked at:

If weight and size are the primary considerations, then Sherline is the clear winner. Reading through the setup instructions, I see that you do need to attach the Sherline mill to a board, to create stability -- but you don't need to (and shouldn't) secure it to a workbench. It appears that all other mills (including the Taig) need to be bolted to a heavy table.


The strength (or "beefiness") of a mill seems to be a matter of two factors: (1) what kind of metals it's able to cut, and (2) how rigid the milling column is.

On two threads over at SMA, professional armature fabricator Lionel Ivan Orozco ("LIO") advises that the extra mass and power of a mini mill (vs. a micro) can be advantageous.

LIO uses a Grizzly mini mill (as well as a 400+ Lb. Enco!) -- however, he's quick to point out that with intelligent design, there's still a lot that one can do with a micro.

Tom Brierton, another professional armature fabricator, gets good results with a Sherline. In his book Stop-Motion Armature Machining: A Construction Manual, Tom says

"Sherline miniature mills and lathes can cut the following metals quite easily: all grades of aircraft aluminum, brass, and mild to semi-hardened steel, such as the 303 and 404 series steels. Anything beyond the hardness of 440 will require very specialized cutting tools and jobber drill bits, which are very expensive. It has been the experience of the author that rarely is there a need to go beyond the 440 hardness when building stop-motion puppet armatures, as these metals are quite sufficient for armature purposes." (p.21)

...So, it appears that the Sherline is limited in terms of what materials it can deal with -- although it's unlikely that you'll need metals that it can't cut -- not within the realm of stopmo. Still, it's worthwhile to realize that size does limit the versatility of the Sherline.

[As I'm reviewing this portion of Tom's book, I now see that he says "Sherline machines must be securely mounted on a table, preferably with screws and bolts." This seems to contradict what Sherline says on its website.]

With regards to rigidity, the difference between a Sherline and a Taig is visible in their photographs.

Sherline Model 5400 micro mill

Look at the milling column of the Sherline...

Taig micro mill

Now look at the milling column of the Taig. You can see that it's much more solid. ...The Taig website boasts about their micro mill's strength:

"This is the machine you don't have to baby. The Micro Mill is a rugged precision instrument that has plenty of rigidity. Its machined, ground and stabilized steel bed has a life-time ball bearing spindle, coupled with a six speed positive vee belt drive. Spindle speeds in geometric progression from 525-5200 RPM (CR version 1000 - 10000 rpm) provide the power to "HOG" 1/8 inch cuts in mild steel or the speed and precision to "dust" a few tenths (compare that to other mills of similar size on the market, you can't!)."

It appears that if strength is the primary concern in choosing a mill, then the Taig wins out over the Sherline. However, a Taig pretty definitely has to be screwed down onto a workbench -- so at that point, you might as well go for a mini like the MicroLux.


There a few differences between the minis and the micros worth mentioning...

(1) The milling heads on the micros can turn 90 degrees in either direction; the milling heads on the minis can't turn -- but their milling columns can turn 45 degrees in either direction. It sounds like this is a point in favor of micros -- however, after asking folks on SMA and looking in Tom's book at how specific armature joints are made, I find that you probably want to avoid tilting the milling column entirely. It's unnecessary -- and "tramming" the column to make sure it's perfectly vertical sounds like a very tedious process.

(2) The minis can double as drill presses -- the micros can't. The minis all have a wheel on the side that allow you to easily plunge a drill bit into a work piece; the micros can only lower their drill bit slowly, using very small increments of movement. Getting two machines for the price of one -- both a milling machine and a drill press -- seems like a significant benefit to me. [Correction: It appears that the Procon and Harbor Freight micro mills can double as small drill presses.]


An interesting fact about the minis is that at least five brands are all made at the same Chinese factory: Grizzly, Harbor Freight, Micro-Mark, Homier, and Cummins. LittleMachineShop.com has a very useful comparison chart for these five brands. [I have been unable to find any info for Homier Mobile Merchants' "Speedway" model, and have thus excluded it from consideration.] Procon appears similar to these brands, but seems to be produced in a different factory.

Now, on to comparing the various brands of mini mills with one another...

The Procon website is confusing -- and as I am looking at it today, the link to its page about mills seems to be broken. The Procon also appears to be a metric machine. I'm disqualifying it from my considerations.

The Cummins ($399) and Harbor Freight ($459.99) both seem to be somewhat less expensive because they have only two speeds. From what I read, being able to control the speed at which you mill each particular kind of metal is very important. Having only two speeds is a significant deficit. However: There are at least two Harbor Freight stores here in Multnomah county; all of the other brands seem to only be able via mail order. Thus, Harbor Freight gets some extra points... With their brand, I wouldn't have to pay shipping costs.

The Grizzly ($525) and the Micro-Mark MicroLux ($524.95) are essentially identical in price -- and even when shipping is considered, they only differ by $5. The Grizzly is heavier: 153 lbs. versus 110 lbs. The MicroLux's lighter weight should probably be considered as a point in its favor.

The tipping point in favor of the MicroLux may be that it has "true-inch" feed screws and dials. As the LittleMachineShop.com comparison chart explains,

"The MicroLux mini mill has one unique feature; the table feed dials both advance 0.050 inch per revolution. On all the other mini mills the dials advance 1/16 inch per revolution. The 0.050-inch per turn is easier to use than the 0.0625-inch per turn of the other mini mills. Micro-Mark will have you believe that the other mini mills have metric dials, but they do not."

I've looked at the Harbor Freights dials in person and can attest: .0625-inch per turn is really strange-looking and counter-intuitive. It's difficult to explain; suffice it to say that I walked away from the store not understanding how one would actually work that dial.

So, when it comes down to it, it looks like both the Grizzly and the Microlux are very good machines. LIO has a Grizzly. And, I feel it's worth mentioning, Kevin Kelly's "Cool Tools" website advocated for the Grizzly (though not in comparison to anything else). On the other hand, both Yuji and Eric Scott over on SMA have opted for the MicroLux, and seem very happy with the machine. ...For someone who's not a pro like LIO, it sounds like the "true-inch" dials make the MicroLux slightly easier to work with -- giving it a slight edge.


It seems that my first choice for a milling machine would be the MicroLux ($524.95). It's strong: having both rigidity, and the power to cut different metals with ease. It's versatile: being able to serve both as a milling machine and a drill press. It's somewhat easier to use than other mini mills: having both a variable speed control, and "true-inch" dials. It's less expensive than the micro-mills. And at 110 pounds, it's not light -- but it's also not completely unmanageable.

The "big" problem with the MicroLux is that it commits me to also buying/making a sturdy workbench that it can be screwed onto. So, my second choice for a milling machine would have to be the Sherline Model 5400 Deluxe Mill ($775).

...The basic Sherline mill (Model 5000, $650) is a bit smaller than the Deluxe -- but also lacks the "laser engraved scales on the table and base" -- which seems a little unreasonable. Having an incremented ruler built into the X/Y table feels essential; the Model 5000 seems inadequate. The high-end Model 2000 ($995), on the other hand, seems like over-kill. The "Deluxe" seems to be Goldilock's "just right" compromise.

[Note: As I double-check info now, it appears that the Model 2000 may be the only Sherline with a milling head that can turn 90 degrees -- the others seem to be fixed in place.]

A Sherline is the most lightweight option. There is conflicting info, but it appears that one can merely attach it to a wooden tray -- which then allows one to put it away when it's not being used. It has variable speed -- whereas the Taig has only six speed settings, and the Procon and Harbor Freight micro mills only have two. Sherlines are the best documented of all mills (micros and minis) that I've seen, and there's a vibrant online community of users.

Really, I think the only sticking point that's really preventing me from buying a MicroLux right now is: "Where am I going to put it?" ...I'm having trouble imagining where I want to put a heavy workbench.

That makes me begin to wonder if the Sherline might be the better option after all. BUT... It's more expensive -- by $250 -- and I have to remember that there's bits, clamps, and accessories to buy, as well as the machine itself. And it's also helpful at this point to recall what Yuji said while discussing his purchase:

"I chose the mini mill and lathe because I wanted something beefier than the Sherline. I got to use Sherline equipment with Tom Brierton last year when he gave a workshop here in Los Angeles. I thought they were good little machines but there were too many little things I didn't like about them too. Now that I have been working on my Micro Mark machines for a few months, I am very happy. And the fact they are cheaper, well that's just icing on the cake."

Yuji's kind of vague -- but his comment does help me feel more confident about going for the MicroLux.

SO! I guess the question I'm left with is: what am I going to do for a workbench?


This post is long and rambling, so let me summarize in another way. In the "small affordable milling machines" competition, I'd like to announce awards in three categories:

  • cheapest machine: the Harbor Freight micro mill ($259.99, if bought locally)
  • strong and versatile: the Micro-Mark MicroLux mini mill ($589.95, shipping included)
  • small and portable: Sherline Model 5400 Deluxe micro mill ($775, shipping not included)

...And the winner for best overall value: the Micro-Mark MicroLux mini mill ($589.95, shipping included)

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, sculpture, stopmo

May 21, 2006

thinking about set design

by sven at 8:00 am

I've been thinking about set design for stopmo films.

"Theatre de la Mode" dolls

Back on Sunday May 7, Gretchin and myself and our friends Todd & Kristen made an excursion to the Maryhill Museum of Art, about 90 minutes east of us. I was really excited to go see their collection of Theatre de la Mode dolls, which I had discovered previously in a book titled Théâtre de la Mode: Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture that was being sold at Fabric Depot (700 SE 122nd Ave).

"Doll" is perhaps a misnomer. These are 1:3 scale (27" tall) mannequins with wire mesh bodies and white clay heads reminiscent of Greek sculpture. They were created in post-WWII France, in a (successful) attempt to revive the fashion industry. More than 70 unique dolls were created by leaders of the art/fashion world; they were displayed in sets created by noted theatrical designers (e.g. Jean Cocteau). The dolls are amazing art -- but I think it's probably the sets that are really sparking my imagination.

...Unfortunately, the dolls weren't actually at the Maryhill Art Museum when we visited! They were temporarily on loan to the Washington Museum of History and Industry ("MOHAI") up in Seattle. However, by a strange serendipity, Gretchin and I wound up traveling to Seattle the following weekend (May 12). How could we not go see the dolls? It seemed fated.

So, yes, I finally got to see the dolls. :-)

Seattle Public Library

While we were in Seattle, we also made a visit to the Seattle Public Library. Gretchin had been there before, and raved to me about the architecture. Wow! She wasn't exaggerating -- it's a truly fascinating design... And one of the few examples of postmodern architecture that I've really grooved on.

heart of the library

The part of the library that I'm most taken with is in the core of the building: it's built to look like the interior of an enormous heart! The walls are red -- like the color of Mickey Mouse's shorts -- and the hallways curve away from you like ventricles... I would love to make a set for a stopmo film that looks like that!

set #1

Now, backtracking to the Monday after we didn't see the Theatre de la Mode dolls...

On May 8th I spent a happy two hours using cardstock to brainstorm 3D spaces for my puppets to inhabit. (I may not have seen the dolls and their sets in person at that point in time -- but I had come home with a fist full of Theatre de la Mode post cards!)

set #2

I bought a whole ream of this white cardstock at Arvey Paper & Office Products (1005 SE Grand Ave) a while back. It's proved really useful on a number of occasions. It doesn't take paint like I'd want, however; acrylics make it warp. ...True, I could use foamcore -- but paper's quicker, more inexpensive, and more recycleable when I'm just brainstorming.

set #3

After a while, I wound up with several bits that I just kept rearranging: a staircase, an arch, a platform, a pillar, some flat walls. I could see making a bunch more of these pieces to experiment with. ...Sort of like playing with wooden blocks!

It's funny: as I fooled around with my little paper props, I found myself thinking increasingly spatially. When I went to bed that night, all sorts of interesting spaces were occuring to me -- as if I'd unlocked a part of my imagination that's always been dormant.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, stopmo

May 13, 2006

the ambassador

by sven at 9:52 pm

the ambassador arrives in Halfland

Remember that brass armature I completed back at the end of March? I've sent it (on loan) to Shelley Noble down in California. Shelley's been experimenting with different kinds of armatures for her stopmo production, "Halfland" -- and I wanted her to get to try out a ball-and-socket model.

She's very excited. And I'm just thrilled to add a little bit of my energy to this wonderful project. ...Best wishes, Shelley!

posted by sven | permalink | categories: miscellany, stopmo

April 29, 2006

ars gratia artis

by gl. at 10:51 pm

i was driving to water aerobics while opb's "philosophy talk" was on -- and the topic was "what is art?"! the guest was a princeton professor. i only caught 15-20 minutes of it and it was hard to scribble notes and drive at the same time, so this is likely to be disjointed. some of this is what they said, and some of this is me extrapolating from what they said; it's not meant to have permanent conclusions, but i like thinking about it.

their definition of art is from the mac's built-in dictionary (ha!): "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power." this lead to a predictable tangent about the role beauty plays in art, but i find it interesting they left emotional power alone as a given. overall it seems like a reasonably useful definition to me, something i could say without cringing, though "producing works to be appreciated" is often a giant block for people. better to define it as an act of creative self-expression so that appreciative response is not a requirement to produce.

they also mentioned plato's definition of art, but i must have missed them talking about it. apparently he had a poor opinion of art & artists, and wikipedia agrees: "For Plato, art is a pursuit whose adherents are not to be trusted; given that their productions imitate the sensory world (itself an imitation of the divine world of forms) art necessarily is an imitation of an imitation, and thus is hopelessly far from the source of the truth. Plato, it may be noted, barred artists from access to his ideal city, in his Republic." he criticizes artists for having no actual, truthful knowledge of the things they create, which in many ways is the point for me: you don't have to know astronomy to be so moved by the stars that you create art because of them, and your interpretation of your experience contributes uniquely to the world. (related: knowing the science of something doesn't make it less poetic.)

this is actually where i came in: for many people, art is surface. "people think, 'oh, i could do that,' and no, you couldn't. if you could, why wouldn't you?" you can't see the way that artists sees. when people say that, they mean they don't see the craft in it, the work in it, the story about it. and we don't encourage it, either: modernism is all about creating art in a self-referential vaccuum. i'm leaning towards declaring that any art worth experiencing is art with a story, a history. these are the things that inspire further exploration and engagement: everything else is simply aesthetics. but entertainment & enjoyment are legitimate uses for art (even the princeton guy said so); and i sometimes get a little misty when just looking at a calligraphic line or the beautifully turned ankle of a serif A. i don't need the stories to be moved by the shapes.

later they talked about art audiences: making art for the "beginning viewer." their premise is that the consumption of art, like any medium, requires work. for instance, the more you read murder mysteries, the more sophisticated you become (but beginning readers need appropriately challenging & rewarding stories to progress to higher levels of sophistication). this concept may explain why i get misty about simple letterforms, because i am no longer a beginner viewer and i have done years of typesetting. so if you have to learn what you're looking at to appreciate it, where do you begin? "museums don't help." (i would have liked to have heard more about this; i would have liked to have heard ideas about how museums could help). Artists-with-a-capital-A have moved from making art for the beginning viewer and make art for other Artists-with-a-capital-A (or possibly Critics-with-a-capital-C) instead; when artists stop making art for the beginning viewer, it's no wonder art is unsupported and devalued. it's part of the reason why i want people to make art for themselves, to give themselves a richer visual vocabulary, a generous heart and kinder eyes towards art of all types. art appreciation via art production.

earlier this month i ran across something dave eggers (from mcsweeny's) wrote that's pertinent here: "What matters is that you do good work. What matters is that you produce things that are true and will stand... What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say. Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes... And if anyone wants to hurt me for that, or dismiss me for that, for saying yes, I say Oh do it, do it you motherfuckers, finally, finally, finally."

okay. discuss. :)

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

April 16, 2006

happy easter from scarlet star studios!

by gl. at 11:38 pm


we hardly ever refuse a reason to celebrate a holiday; we colored organic eggs and hid gifts inside little plastic ones. it gave me a chance to play w/ the little letter stamps sven got at harbor freight, thanks to a great tip from a woman on the se portland artwalk. this won't make sense to most people (it's based on a story of eggs who dream of being something else), but i find it charming, anyway, especially when it's emerging from a very small plastic egg:


i used the 1/16" metal stamps on an aluminum dog tag, then rubbed the letters w/ black acrylic and wiped the excess away. does anyone know what jewellers use on letter-stamped bracelets?

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany, printing

March 3, 2006

no rest for the wicked

by gl. at 12:38 am

lots of art activities today:

  • we drove to salem to see the shrine exhibit at mary lou zeek gallery, but she took a big chunk of it down early, so we only saw about half the pieces -- but one of them was immediately recognizable from claudine hellmuth, whose collage discovery workshop we have beneath the coffee table, waiting for its turn to be read and then packed off to the studio library for others to borrow.

  • we ate lunch w/ dayna, a previous artist's way creative cluster member who just got back from a workshop with julia cameron herself, and she gifted me w/ a julia-autographed copy of the writer's life ("to gretchin, for your heart" -- heart is underlined three times) and a copy of the art magazine artella, which has poetry & hidden things in addition to collaged art pieces. thanks, thanks, thanks, dayna!

  • we dropped by mary anne radmacher's word garden and she gave us some "tuckers" for free, little packages of word art squares presumably to be tucked into lunches and pillows and notebooks...

  • we drove home and then took arwen to the vet & had pizza w/ michaelmas, and though that's not really an art activity, it led to...

  • doug's reading from his recently published book, last week's apocalypse, though we really had to push to get him to read more. i've already got a copy & sent one to my dad, so doug signed copies for michaelmas & sven.

  • since this is first thursday, sven & i then went to an exhibit i wanted to go to simply because of its title: "moon babies"! it turned out to be a decent exhibit: 12-15 black & white paintings on cabinet doors w/ a narrative that we accidentally began at the end and worked our way to the beginning. it was like a comic book but w/o any words & there were about 2-3 panels per piece.

  • when we got out of the unfortunately smokey bar that held the exhibit, i smelled donuts & realized we were near to voodoo doughnut, so we stopped by and i got a bleeding voodoo doll donut and sven got some sort of monstrous peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-sugar-crust fritter.

  • and then finally (!) home. still to look forward to this week & next: the se portland artwalk & the creative arts therapy week!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: artist's way, exhibits & events, miscellany

February 28, 2006

old tech, meet new tech

by gl. at 11:10 pm

hooray! the portland society for calligraphy now has a webpage! it still needs a little more work, but mostly just tweaking the menu & adding beautiful works of art. the current chairperson of the society has been really great to work for, but even given the opportunity to work w/ good people & an ideal topic, i just don't enjoy web development the way i used to. i am glad to have the chance to give them a website, though, something they've been needing for years. now when people search for the portland society for calligraphy, people will hopefully find themselves there instead of here! :)

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: calligraphy, links, miscellany

February 27, 2006

the head of the class

by gl. at 6:26 pm

rob invited me to be a guest lecturer at his english composition class at clark college today. i spoke about "the benefits of a daily writing practice," aka morning pages. it went pretty well! it was a small class but there were actual questions at the end (including an insightful one about whether morning pages are intended to be meditational: yes!). we actually did one page in a morning-pages like style (stream of consciousness, no stoppping) and they blazed through it -- i thought i'd need to prompt more about needing to keep moving. someone even knew newton's first law of motion, adding to my "creativity is newtonian" concept.

i added a twist to the standard morning pages routine: i've often said if you could combine julia cameron with david allen, you'd have an even more productive flavour of artist's way (julia allen? ;). julia talks a lot about how you can expect god/the universe to help you, but adding a getting things done component would place the artist's way in a more "god helps those who help themselves" camp.

at any rate, morning pages are not something you typically return to; in fact, if you let them sit a while, you often can't return to them because if you're doing them "right" (i.e., quickly) your handwriting is probably illegible. :) so i asked them, after they were done writing, to review their page and pick out "actionable items" or ideas they'd like to keep track of. their morning pages revealed job interviews to call back on, reminders to talk to their children, and buying new journals. i think this practical step really enables you to act on what you say you want, reinforcing the hopes & dreams that inevitably surface during morning pages.

i also passed out copies of "notes on making art" because they work just as well for writing, too. at the end, one of the students told rob, "you should have her speak earlier in the semester. i wish i had known about this sooner!"

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: artist's way, miscellany

February 4, 2006

mare nubium estates

by gl. at 11:30 pm

i was going to write about this elsewhere, but sven considers this a "creative endeavor" worth blogging about over here:

tonight we went to an "alternative history" party (happy birthday, edward!). since the 20-year challenger explosion commemoration was this week, i ran across an old life photoessay where christa mcauliffe says of her children, "within their lifetime there will be paying passengers on the shuttle." i'm not sure there will be now, but you know if there's a chance, there's someone who will want to capitalize on it. and i've probably been influenced by the number of houses for sale in our neighborhood, so i decided that my alternative history would begin, "what if the challenger mission had completed successfully?" certainly cheesy lunar subdivisions wouldn't be that far off.

so... welcome to mare nubium estates!

[click the photo to see the "for sale" flyer (138k pdf)]

sven photoshopped the picture & i designed the flyer, nametags and sign for the cheese plate ("compliments of luna realty") while sven made them physical. we attended the party w/ more-or-less matching outfits, nametags on our suit jackets, translucent folders w/ flyers to pass out, and a a bowl of adorable bite-sized cheese cut into star shapes. i think people were impressed and a little overwhelmed we had gone through so much trouble. we're no good at socializing at parties so at least it gave us something to talk about. :)

influences: thanks to the lunar republic society, the lunar settlement initiative & the challenger center for inspiration and reference.

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: exhibits & events, miscellany

January 1, 2006

things that have never been

by gl. at 11:19 am

"now let's welcome the new year, full of things that have never been." (rilke)

the scarlet star studios site hasn't even been around for a full year yet, but it feels like we've done at least some of what we've wanted to do w/ the blog: write as part of the creative process, talking about creative experiments as well as creative successes.

mph writes in "who knew":

The thing that’s pretty cool about what’s going on over at ScarletStarStudios’ blog is the way stuff is getting documented. You get to see what’s being done as it’s done, you get to read about the decisions that are being made to make stuff happen, and you get a stronger sense of the “ferment” part of “creative ferment” instead of being reduced to spectator status where it’s the “consumer’s” job to wait passively until Art is Presented for Appreciation.

I think it must be fairly hard to be that honest, because other artblogs I’ve come across sometimes stumble into an attempt at creative transparency that becomes a sort of droning lecture on how perfectly the process was executed instead of a conversation or narrative about the inevitable pitfalls along the way. The “lecture” format inevitably ends back where lectures do … a black box that spits out Art for Consumption.

That isn’t to say that I think every artist or creative type should be a documentarian. It isn’t going to be for everybody. It’s kind of the same with corporate blogging and the Cult of the “Authentic Voice.” Some people have it, and their company blogs are a credit to their company and themselves; other people don’t and they’re just part of the branding strategy.

which makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief. he gets it! i write what i want to read, and mph's description of creative transparency is exactly what i want to read. :) i'm fascinated by the creative process, which is just one of the reasons why i facilitate the artist's way.

another reason we like to write is because one of our "problems" is that we're inspired to create in lots of different mediums, and sven & i create in entirely different modes. our breadth is unusual, and this is a "problem" for most art marketing, which wants you to be rarified in your niche. but writing about what we do lets us cross-pollinate to create strange and fascinating flowers. jane levy campbell called us "a real Renaissance pair!" when she discovered our site and i thought that was one of the best compliments we could have received.

i also write to maintain my momentum. this might seem contradictory because writing about the art we make takes a lot of time. but i'm beginning to formulate a newtonian art theorem: a body in motion tends to stay in motion; a body at rest tends to stay at rest. if i stop making art, then it's harder to start again. writing gives me enough of a break to breathe without allowing me to come to a full stop where inertia might claim me. writing is another form of creation, and it often helps to clarify & reinspire the next project or step.

and of course, we write because we've been inspired by the writing of others. we've gotten a lot of traffic lately from animateclay & the stopmo boards (hi, there!), a couple of the many sites that have fed sven's recent insatiable research in stop-motion animation. so it's great to think we have something to give back. but stick around! we may not always write about stop motion, but we'll always write about something interesting and fun!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

December 21, 2005

scary solstice from scarlet star studios!

by gl. at 12:30 am

blurry tree cookie sheets square wreath

3 things to know about these photos:

  1. that cool scarlet star at the top of our artfully blurry tree is new this year: it showed up the day after we thought it would be cool to find one (thank you, serendipity!). what you don't see is that it's also decorated with the amazing tin stars sven made for my 31st birthday, when he built a scale replica of the burning man in our driveway and set it on fire. the stars fell out as the man burned.

  2. i've never made christmas cookies before. what better place to start than with scarlet(ish) gingerbread stars? this is the second batch, where i got fancy with icing and jiggering w/ the timing & thickness so they'd remain soft.

  3. this is our first square wreath, decorated with another tin star and a "noel noel" banner i've had since i was just beginning calligraphy as a member of the summit scribes in colorado springs. man, that was probably about 7 years ago.

a scary solstice to all! and to all a good night.

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: calligraphy, miscellany

December 12, 2005

psc monthly meeting

by gl. at 10:03 pm

we introduced each other again because there were some new people and we had to mention what our favorite christmas song was. what if you don't celebrate christmas? i thought. calligraphers love songs like "silent night" and the "holly & the ivy" with the occasional rebel enjoying "jingle bell rock." but of course, when my turn came, i had to admit that when december rolls around, i break out the very scary solstice cd.

met a lovely new person who has a lot of energy and is eager to meet people and learn more. i think she'd have a lot to offer to and gain from a creative cluster, so i gave her a couple of cards for the portland artist's way creative clusters.

and i can't believe it, but i've volunteered to help create the website! it'll probably happen in january. the president, who feels responsible for creating the site on top of resurrecting a formerly dead calligraphy society, has already done a lot of the hard work like picking a host & getting a domain name & working out much of the layout/copy; i don't mind putting it online and maintaining it. and i so want them to have a website, as i was frustrated to be unable to find any info about them before i became a member.

and apropos of nothing: today i got red shoes! let's go dancing. :)

the red shoe

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: calligraphy, miscellany

November 4, 2005

Our Halloween: "the making of Let Sleeping Gods Lie"

by sven at 11:24 pm

What did we dress up as for Halloween? We dressed up as "the making of Let Sleeping Gods Lie"!

After I got it into my head to dress up as one of the Elder Things, Gretchin was inspired to dress up as Andrew Stout -- one of our actors...

The actors were real heroes, wearing heavy black coats and stockings over their heads on the hottest days of summer. This was my DIY strategy for a kind of bluescreen technique: If there's enough contrast between the white walls and the black clothing, I can use that to digitally "punch out" the people from the shot. Over and over I said "one more time!" -- and the sweaty boys again pretended to see horrible creatures that weren't there.

Here's a picture of the stalwart actors. Andrew's the one in the knitted hat on the right.

And here's a picture of Gretchin, doing her homage to Andrew. --See? She's also wearing a knitted hat! ...And suffering for my art!

...So now it's 5:30 on Oct 31st, and I finally have to admit defeat. I can't get the Elder Hat done in time. What I wanted to make was this:

But all I could get done was this:

I set the Elder Hat on the dining room table, paint still drying, as... um... decor. But when I look at what a fantastic job Gretchin has done with her costume -- and how sweaty she's getting -- I realize that I must come up with an alternate costume. She shall not suffer alone!

I ruffle through my closet, furrow my brow, and -- ah-ha! -- it dawns on me: if Gretchin is going as a bluescreen actor, then I must go as the bluescreen actor's special effect! Thus, I attempt to become one of the "lavamen". Here's a shot where the actors have been replaced with the "lavaman effect":

And here I am, in my attempt to look like one of them:

See? I'm all red. And I've applied blue electrical tape around my outline. ...Not nearly as cool as Gretchin -- but not bad for a half-hour's frantic brainstorming.

And it also (rationalize, rationalize) explains why the Elder Hat's not done: just as Gretchin and I are steps in the movie-making process, the Elder Thing is presented as a work-in-progress!

It all makes sense!

P.S. Thank you Michael for taking the photos of us! Hope your cold is getting better...

posted by sven | permalink | categories: let sleeping gods lie, miscellany

October 31, 2005

happy halloween from scarlet star studios!

by gl. at 2:02 pm

sad mutant and horrified pumpkins

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

September 26, 2005


by gl. at 3:31 pm

ee! kathy, who hosted the "create the world" event and has been to an artist's way open studio, sent the studio a gift: a pack of blank watercolor cards. also, one of the fall artist's way participants brought a potted ivy to live here, as a representation of how much she's grown, even after just a couple of weeks. how very sweet! the studio likes gifts, yes indeed. :)

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

April 20, 2005

rob says...

by gl. at 1:53 pm

collage is the only medium that doesn't make him feel guilty about wasting materials.

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany