Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Gozer update

It's been a while again, hasn't it? Pretty much all of my time and energy has gone towards Gozer and her training. She was having a much easier time at night once we stopped making her sleep in her crate. She's been sleeping on a comforter on the floor that used to be on our bed so it smells like us (even to the untrained human nose).

I forgot to give her the Clomicalm late last week and we've had some problems with her being restless and demanding to sleep on the bed beside me since then. We've also set up an exercise pen (xpen) in the bedroom so that she can become desensitized to it. We're both going to be traveling in a few weeks and Gozer can't just sleep any old place on the floor while we're away, so we're hoping she'll sleep in the xpen. Before we can get her to sleep in there, she needs to see it as just another piece of furniture.

We've also been working on training Gozer and getting her used to me moving away from her while she's in an xpen in the great room. Training is a lot of a work! Fortunately, Gozer's doing well. One game she really loves is Find It, where we put kibbles under a 500mL yoghurt or cottage cheese container (or two) and she has to sniff them out and get to them. She is very good at turning these containers over. Of course this means that these containers aren't safe on the floor because she'll try and find kibble under them.

I hope that Gozer continues to improve. At least we have an awesome (and very patient) trainer helping us with Gozer. She's made this training easier than I thought it would be and she's got good tips and ideas.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bark bark bark bark

Have I mentioned that Gozer is barking at night? Sometimes she only barks a little at around 1am and then around 5am, and sometimes she barks a lot - the night before last she barked continuously from 11pm until 7am - but she barks at night. It's exhausting for all three of us.

I don't know exactly when the barking started - I'm too tired to remember much - but I do remember it was around the grooming before last, which was a couple of weeks after we got the new bed. The new bed is higher than the old one so it's possible that part of the problem is that she could no longer see us at night. It's also possible that something freaked her out at the groomer's (they put her in a crate for part of her visit there). It's possible that her cataract is bigger, which means she's not seeing as well at night. There are a lot of possible reasons for the barking. I think something - any one of those possibilities, or something I haven't thought of - triggered the night barking and now we're in this terrible cycle that we just need to break somehow.

It's not like we haven't tried to stop the barking. We've tried:
- moving her crate into a different spot in the bedroom
- moving her crate into the living room (where it was when we first got her)
- playing doggie sleepy music
- putting a thundershirt on her
- keeping a light on
- keeping the lights off (including closing the door on the pepper seedling lamp)
- tiring her out with a brisk walk before bedtime

Nothing really helps. She just keeps barking: barkbarkbark pantpantpant barkbarkbark pantpantpant barkbark in this frantic barking and panting cycle all night long. Ian's parents succeeded in shutting her up by playing late-night talk shows but that required them to also be awake and that's not a long-term solution.

I took her in to see the vet today because we're at our wit's end. All three of us are exhausted. The vet thinks thinks that there's a separation anxiety component to this and that we need to stop it as soon as possible. Therefore, we're going with a multi-pronged strategy involving pheromones, drugs, food, and training.

The pheromone is Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP), which is a synthetic version of the one mommy dogs send out to calm their pups and that has apparently been shown to calm some dogs. At this point, I figure it's worth trying because maybe it'll work with Gozer. I bought an Adaptil plug-in diffuser that we're putting near her crate, a spray that can be used on both her bedding and thundershirt, and a collar for when she gets to stay somewhere else.

The drug is Clomicalm (clomipramine), a tri-cyclic antidepressant, which will help to reduce anxiety in general. I don't love giving Gozer drugs but it's clear that she's distressed and unhappy and I want life to be good for her, too. We'll wean her off this drug as soon as possible after the situation is under control.

The food is Royal Canin Calm, a food that boosts serotonin production and that should help to reduce anxiety. It's the same manufacturer as her current food and is a urinary-reduction food like her current food.

The training is separation-anxiety reducing training, which means that I need to work on getting her less attached to me, getting her more independent and more confident by practicing more basic training (stay and come, for example), and to break the associations with bedtime. Normally with dogs that have separation anxiety if their owner leaves, the owner breaks the associations with leaving by doing parts of the leaving routine out of order or without leaving, and then leaving the dog for longer and longer. So we'll (or I'll) need to practice the bedtime routine all out of order and at weird times of the day. This is not going to be easy, because she barks when we leave, too. But let's get the night barking problem under control first.

The vet also suggested moving the crate back into the bedroom and to raise the crate so that she can see us at night to eliminate that part of the equation. We're trying that tonight.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Metal forming classes

I spent the last week in Albuquerque at Rio Grande, my favourite jewellery supplier, taking classes forming metal using miniature stakes. The classes used the super-awesome Fretz hammers and stakes and were taught by Bill Fretz himself! That probably doesn't mean anything to you but he's one of the "rock stars" of the business, and the hammers and stakes he's designed are the best. The opportunity to spend a week learning from him how to use the hammers and stakes he designed to form metal was just too good to pass up.

Albuquerque is located in a high-altitude desert and it was very hot and windy. The plants were quite different from what we have in Southern Ontario - I had no idea that yuccas grew so tall! - but they were beautiful in their own way. I spent my last morning there at the local botanical garden in the Southwest US section but those are pictures for another post.

Today I want to show off what I made during the week. We practiced on circular tubes of varying widths and diameters; most often, we sawed the finished forms open to make cuffs. We used brass for almost everything. Almost all of my pieces still need polishing - but these were metal forming classes, not metal polishing classes, and I wanted to make the best possible use of my time. I can polish things at the studio if I want to.

In the first class, Forming metal with miniature stakes, we learned how to control the hammers - not only to hit what you're aiming for, but how to hit with the right amount of force - then how to make concave forms, how to make convex forms, and how to add fluting (ridges).

Chantelle's projects made in Forming metal with miniature stakes class
Back row, L-R:
- learning hammer control by planinshing (hammering lightly using overlapping blows to smooth out the metal and harden it) on a cuff made from a 7/8" wide by 2" diameter blank
- a concave (also known as anticlastic) cuff made from the same blank
- a wider oncave cuff made from a 1 1/2" wide by 2 1/4" blank
Front row, L-R:
- a large convex (domed, also known as synclastic) unopened cuff made from a 7/8" wide by 2 1/4" diameter blank
- a small convex ring made from a 1/2" wide by 1" diameter blank
- a convex fluted (ridged) unopened cuff made from the 7/8" wide by 2" diameter blank
- a small concave ring thing whose sides have been completely folded over made from a 1/2" wide by 1 1/4" diameter blank
Not shown:
- a wiggly convex fluted form (I forgot to bring it home)
For reference, the background plaid has a repeat of about 5 1/8" in each direction.

Whew! We did a lot in those two days!

In the second class, Continuing metal forming, we focused mainly on fluting: adding it in different directions, to different shapes, and we used fine silver for a couple of pieces.

Chantelle's projects made in Continuing metal forming class
Back row, L-R:
- a concave fluted unopened cuff made from a 7/8" wide by 2 1/4" diameter blank
- a 2 1/2" diameter bracelet made by closing this wiggly 1 1/4" wide by 8 1/2" long blank into a ring, making it concave, and then folding the sides over to meet
- a wide flat unopened cuff with fluting running around the cuff whose sides were flared upwards, made from 1 1/2" wide by 2 1/4" diameter blank
Front row, L-R:
- a 2" diameter disk that is domed and then fluted
- a slightly convex fine silver cuff made from a 7/8" wide by 6 1/2" long blank that is closed, formed, and then cut open
- a wide convex fine silver form with fluting running around the piece and the sides flared upwards made from a 1 1/4" wide by 6 1/2" long blank that is closed, formed, and then cut open
For reference, the background plaid has a repeat of about 5 1/8" in each direction

We didn't do as many pieces over these three days because the fluting takes quite a bit more time to do than it does to make a convex (synclastic) or concave (anticlastic) cuff.

I loved these classes, although I found the week exhausting. Hammering and learning are both very tiring! I really, really, really love the process of forming these pieces and I will be purchasing the equipment to continue learning. I may end up practicing in copper instead of brass, just as I've been doing with the foldforming. I don't know exactly where these techniques will take me but I am bursting with ideas and I'm excited to get to work on realizing them.

(updated to include starting blank measurements and background repeat, as well as formatting).

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Met Gala 2016 Red Carpet

The Met Gala is the annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume. Each year the Institute hosts an exhibition based on a theme, and the Gala is the opening night for the exhibit.

This year's theme is Manus x Machina: Fashion in the age of technology. Now that's an exciting theme, isn't it? Technology plays an integral role in clothing production but at the couture level, technology is less present. This exhibit "will explore how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear." according to the exhibit home page.

Anna Wintour chairs the Gala and determines everything from the guest list to guest arrival times; see this article for an excellent description of what she does. People from Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada are also involved in the event and therefore, many attendees wore Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Prada.

Many of the Gala attendees dress to the theme, although some choose just to wear a formal outfit. Many appeared to interpret the technology theme as either "futuristic" or "armour" and so there are a lot of silver sequinned outfits. Others clearly stuck to the "fashion" part of the theme, and many of those outfits sport a lot of feathers. Apparently nothing says "fashion" like feathers.

Regardless of the adherence to the theme, the outfits worn at this event were so interesting and unusual that I wanted to comment on them. I didn't include every outfit that appeared on the red carpet; a celebrity wearing a pretty dress is just not so interesting to me, especially when there are so many other interesting and unusual outfits to look at.

See the ones I included in this picture-heavy post after the jump.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Another successful visit to Ren's

Gozer wanted to walk to Ren's this afternoon. At the point where we can either take the path that eventually leads to Ren's or the path the skirts the Blue Springs Pond basin (which is a former quarry), she wanted to take the path to Ren's. I, on the other hand, wanted to take the other path because it leads to home more quickly. A walk to and from Ren's is at least 90mins, plus the time in the store.

Gozer tends to pull on her leash when she wants to go somewhere. I used to try to drag her in the direction I want to go, which resulted in her digging in her heels and pulling even harder. These days, I stop, face the direction I want to go, plant my feet, and hold the leash around my bellybutton with my arms close to my body while saying "no". I give the leash some very gentle tugs to indicate that we can move on but we don't start walking anywhere until she lets the leash go slack and gives up. Yes, it can take some time but eventually she will give up.

What often ends up happening is that she'll walk a couple of feet and then veer off in the direction she wants to go. I then stop again, repeating the same maneuvers as above, and wait until she's ready to go. If it ends up that she takes a while to go where I want her to, and that we have to make multiple stops to wait for her to give in, so be it. I'm finding that the longer we do this, the shorter the time until Gozer gives up.

Anyways, so we didn't walk to Ren's this afternoon but I did tell her that we could go after we got home and we ended up driving there after dinner. She had a lovely time sniffing around and getting treats from the cashiers. She really liked those treats because she ended up getting four of them.

There were two other dogs in the store: both were boxers, and one was pulling at its leash to see her. The first time we saw them, she turned away and so we ignored them. Later on she wanted more treats from the cashier, who was talking to the boxers' owner, and she went closer to the boxers although didn't get close enough for sniffs to be exchanged. The one boxer was lunging and making noise and Gozer was cringing away from it so I took her away. She relaxed quite quickly and continued sniffing around.

We left because I got bored, not because she was upset, although we were only there for 20mins or so. I ended up buying her a new squeaky that had a good loud sound but was different than her other loud squeakies. She carried it to the cashier and out the door so I think she liked it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spring!

Spring is here! The plants are coming up, leaves are starting to come out, we're starting to see flowers, the chipmunks are back, and there are birds everywhere. I love putting seed out (both in the feeders and thrown on the ground) for the birds and chipmunks and watching them eat and hop/run around.

We have at least two juvenile chipmunks in our yard. Sometimes they'll stuff their cheekies side by side but often one will chase the other away (only for the other to watch and re-appear when the first one leaves to bury the seeds. I expect to see quite a lot of sunflowers later in the spring.

Even the grackles are funny. I think it's mating season because I've seen them gather giant silver grass leaves as nesting material. I also saw one sit on a hanging coir pot and do this thing where it would puff up its feathers, make a squawking noise while deflating the feathers, and the pluck at the coir. It was as though it was showing other grackles that it was a good mating choice because it had such great nesting material.

There are a ton of robins around which Gozer loves to chase. Sadly, they can outsmart her fairly easily without even having to fly away.

The daffodils are flowering, as are some hyacinths, and there are some other little blue flowers that we have that I don't recognize.

It's definitely a time of growth and renewal; every day there's something new to look at.

Of course with spring comes yard work. At least this year the ground has been fairly dry so I've been able to get out and do yard work; in past years, it's been so wet that I've had to wait and do everything all at once. Right now I can do a little each day and that's good. Even so, the work is hard. I've been trying to take it easy but I managed to hurt my back, which in turn has made my hip and leg hurt like crazy. I'm having to walk with my cane, which I definitely don't like. It'll get better as I get used to the work and as my back heals.

Monday, April 11, 2016

More foldforming fun

I was in the studio the other day playing around with a different type of foldforming: line folds. Line folds are ways to make raised lines on sheet; on the one side, it looks like square wire has been soldered to the sheet, and there's a groove or channel (depending on the depth of the fold) on the other side. They can also be made narrower at one end and wider at the other. They're a lot like pintucks, really.

Line folds can be made the full length or width of the sheet or can take up only part of the sheet, and they can overlap.

So here are some practice line fold pictures:

Simple line folds that overlap, from the top.

The same simple line folds, from the other side. You can see the grooves that these lines make. You might notice different colours showing up on this side; some artists make these colours happen deliberately. It's a pretty effect.

Two short full-length line folds and one that's centred on the sheet. It isn't terribly good; when I made the fold I hammered too much and ended up pinching some of it out, making it uneven and a little wonky.

My centred line fold, which looks a little wonky from this side. But look how lovely that fold on the left is!

The center fold is a basic line fold and the two on the right and left are variable width folds. The one on the right worked out really well; see how the line looks so sharp at the top and more like a bump at the bottom? The one on the left is ok but it's too sharp at the bottom.

So... I don't know why this picture is rotated but I'm leaving it as-is. The variable fold that was on the right above is now on the bottom. I could probably flatten these out even more.

Because line folds have a fold (pintuck) on one side and a groove on the other and can be made variable width, they remind me of the veins on leaves. So I started playing around to see whether or not I could make some things that sort of look like leaves. Here are my attempts.

So it's possible to make folds that stop at other folds, and that's what I've done here. I know it's a bit hard to see, but what I did here was make the line folds, texture the piece, and cut it out. The effect is ok but not great because the texturing with the hammer made the folds wonky.

The back side of the folds (which, if this was a real leaf, would be the front side, and the folds would all stop short of the edge and would be slightly wider towards the bottom or intersection point).

Here I tried making the line fold first and then texturing it. The texture looks fine but while texturing, the piece distorted and made the line fold wonky at the bottom. If it hadn't folded over and I could have centred it when I hammered it open, it might have made a nice-looking fold.

As you can see, the groove part looks just fine - it's the other side that doesn't look so good. I actually love the colours that I got on this side when I annealed this piece.

So then I tried texturing first and then making my fold. Here's the textured piece; the texturing affected the shape of this piece (it was originally much squarer)

Here's the finial product, from the top, with a variable line fold. I think it worked out pretty well, although the line should stop short of the end. I like the texture.

Here's the leaf from the bottom, after pickling. It worked out pretty well, I think.