Thursday, March 26, 2009


Most of the day since morning was spent preparing for our sale this weekend. I'll admit we got a little distracted, looking at Poppets and other work we haven't seen for awhile, rediscovering little details we'd nearly forgotten. It will be very good to find new homes for them, and to get them out of 'the cave' so we can reclaim the space and start working in it again. It's a good exercise, motivational and cathartic.

The evening toward dusk got very windy indeed. Aubrey and I went walking. The rabbits (we usually see a dozen or more) were all hiding. Everything was moving---the fruit on the trees swinging like lanterns and the clouds crossing fast against the blue/grey of evening. We didn't take a camera. Only ourselves. So I thought I'd post this latest Poppet, called "Wind." Our walk felt a lot like this.

Funny,-- I'm not even sure how it happened---it certainly wasn't planned---but all the steampunk Poppets in this series have ended up with single word names from the natural world: River, Helium, Rain, Storm. Odd, isn't it? How when we don't pay attention things tend to become what they want to?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Will O' the Wisp

Spring will never be my favorite season. It's way too far the opposite of my favorite, which is autumn. Nevertheless, spring holds some powerful associations for me-- the buzzing of insects, the smell of fresh cut grass, showers of orange blossoms in the wind, sleeping outside under the stars and
the wonder and mystery of Will O' the Wisp.
The Wisp captured my imagination as a child, and still does, because it's a creature both in and out of this world, so elusive that no one ever gets a good look. Forget fairies in dresses or naked little people with wings. Feh.

Give me instead the Wisp. Ever only seen in glimpses, peripheral to the ordinary light of day, on the edge of what is real and what is not.

Ever so welcomed to open a tiny tear in the plain sphere of shoelaces and homework and brushing of teeth.
Ever so quick and nebulous in detail that no one can agree on its appearance. Wisps are like ships made of clouds, but darker, trailing legends behind them-- stories that scare and thrill children by the campfire. Tales of humans lured away into strange places, never to be seen again.

I'd love to paint a wall of Wisps, but that would be insane even for me. So for now I'll content myself with painting them on Poppets, which might be equally insane, given the scale. Madness is relative, after all. Working tiny is interesting. It lends perception. It exercises its own creative muscle. It's bigger inside than out, and it's been a great introduction of Will O' the Wisp to the kids who move about in this weird house in the desert.

I think this weekend we might sleep outside. And have marshmallows and stories of Will O' the Wisp.
Because that's how legends stay alive---not from movies or books or games, but but by the telling, in a circle of fire lit faces--telling with earnest respect for the lore, to eyes young and wide enough to feel the magic.

Note to self: marshmallows

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Birthdays, Sun and Wind in This Tiny Pellicle

Yesterday was extraordinarily warm, even for Palm Springs. Great timing, because we celebrated Orion's 7th with lots of water. Cold, sure, but with plenty of sunshine and warm air, not so bad.
It was a day mostly spent outside. Among his gifts were a digital camera, an aquarium (with a trip to the pet store for fish when the water is ready) and his favorite, a Key Blade (from Kingdom Hearts) crafted by Bent and myself.
This is the sort of photo one must take at birthdays---of friends with names written on. For later, when they're all grown up. For time travel.
Aubrey made the cake. Helped out with the balloons and gifts, looked adorable but (of course) refused to be photographed, mostly.

Here we are. Again. Each year he grows and I get, well, better. Sheesh!
That was yesterday.
Today the weather is a wholly different animal. Way too cold for swimming and the winds have arrived, dragging clouds behind and herding dust devils before. decorating our streets with all sorts of debris. We saw an overturned tree, rather large, on the golf course, with a circle (rather large) of golf course still attached.
I caught Spencer as he passed on his land sail. He got up to nearly 30mph at one point. You can see in the photo some of the debris that was moving around.
On that note, it seemed fitting that the newest Steam Punk Poppet be about air, and weather and flying, especially on the inside.

No breaking news on the Rattus Norvegicus situation, except that I've left no more treats and we cleaned the pantry. I'll very likely make arrangements for traps early in the weeks. We have to scope out a good place to free the critter, provided we catch it. Reading lends me to believe that capturing a rats is not as easy as it may seem. It will be a project in itself. Finished Robert Sullivan's book "Rats" and highly recommend it---layered and captivating and obviously written by someone who loves the city of New York and her history.

Still catching up pieces owed people and clearing up "The Cave" to resume video work. Heads up---we'll be putting lots of 'old' stuff up on a (wow, literally a clearance--suddenly I get it) sale next weekend.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rats! -ish. Well, actually, Poppets, -ish

As you know, I've been reading about rats. Lots about rats. More than I ever thought I might. This is what happens when one starts to research a subject. It becomes a rabbit hole that goes ever so much deeper than originally imagined. I've discovered, in fact, that one cannot read lots about rats without

reading quite a bit about plague, which is actually not about rats so much as about humans...

And about fleas that look a bit like tiny elephants.

But then, that's another story.

This Poppet (above, in red) is inspired by the idea of the Pied Piper, who may or may not have lead rats out of an infested city. The rats I sculpted (with a very tiny tool and mostly, a toothpick) are not of the black Rattus rattus sort associated with plague, but more of the Rattus norvegicus sort associated with nearly every city block in New York and currently,
with a small out-of-the-way and (thankfully) mostly unused pantry in this artist's kitchen.

The Plague Doctor Poppet is inspired by research into plague central, circa 1345. (shudder) Just don't you wonder what the long stick is for?

I truly doubt our pantry rat would follow a flute (possibly I should give it a try, as I happen to have several on hand) but it might follow what author Robert Sullivan names as a favorite food:
Vienna sausages, sardines and Kit Kat bars, all stuck together with peanut butter. Yum.

Anyway, yes, I'm in a quandary, still.
I explained to David K. earlier today, that extermination is no longer an option, as I've come face to face and eye to eye with this creature more than once, and I know that it likes oranges but not Oreos.
I have an offer of a trap from the local animal control center, but taking the rat away might mean leaving behind babies that will die in our walls and leave our kitchen unsuitable for humans and my sleep much disturbed for months. I keep reading and learning loads about rats, but not so much about this one, or what to do.

And I'll admit that I'm heavily influenced by affections for another rodent residing in this house, namely Zorcon the Destroyer (of carrots.)

This is a problem that will only get bigger, left unresolved. But who, with even the merest shred of childhood left, can resist the scenario of leaving a treat at night that is mysteriously vanished in the morning?

It's the kind of thing people get involved in when they spend entirely too much time alone in their houses and in their heads.
And, it carries the seed of a story. Don't you think?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rats! again and a look at Puppet, for you

I caught Nosferatu on A & E, just lucky timing, as it began. There are some truly beautiful scenes, like vintage postcards, in that film. Still influenced by readings on rats, I watched as I worked on this sculpture of a Poppet plague doctor, complete with compliment of, well, rats in the hem of his robe. When I sat it down I caught the eye of my puppet, beloved puppet, who at times truly creeps me out, even after all these years. I think I managed to catch that here for you. Maybe. Look closely. Give it a moment. Time now for sleep. Early day tomorrow, but as I shut things down and turn out the lights, I suspect puppet's afterimage will stick with me through my dreams.
I hope not, actually.


Saturday, March 14, 2009


So now it's Saturday night and I begin to believe I'm becoming the hermit I always thought I would be. It's late and I'm dirty from cleaning in the studio. After three different incidents of having to look endlessly for something that should have been easy to locate, I knew it was time. Besides, I'm restless. It's that kind of restlessness I get when things in my head are converging into an idea. It might be a good idea, because I'm that kind of restless where I eat my soup standing up. Where I don't want to sit very still. Where I pace and mutter things to myself and jot down things like dates and names and make little sketches. So, it might be a good idea. A long time ago, in the long time ago when I actually used to leave my house, someone asked me in an interview how I recognized good ideas. I told them that good ideas make me antsy, and that great ideas make me sweat.

I wasn't kidding.

This particular idea has to do with the rat(s) in the cupboard, an unresolved issue that I hope will end well but I worry will end unhappily. It has to do with the fact that things that happened in 1900 keep popping up in my readings. (1900 is the year of the rat. I was also born in the year of the rat.) I don't know that it has anything to do with Zorcon, who is a rodent, but not a rat, but he and I have been spending a lot of time together. Tonight he hung out in the studio with me and watched a program about rhinos.

I am neither sad or happy, but resolved. I'm going to have a drink, a strong one to sit me down, and read some more about rats, and hope to run into the final piece that will click this thing. That will either pull the good idea together, or it will reveal a great idea which will be disruptive and sweaty and exhausting and will suck for awhile but will be very satisfying in the longer run.
Or it will do neither of those things and I'll get some sleep and try again tomorrow.

I did manage to finish a couple of Poppets. "Lady" who has a lot to do with fashion in 1900, and "Signal" who has little to do with inventions, because no one actually invented radio. Like light, it was always there, though lots of people helped other humans learn to use it.

Still, if you want to see some cool early transmitting equipment, go to the Sparks Museum.

Hope you're having a good night. I'm not sure what kind of a night I'm having. If I had one of those pages that asked my mood, I suppose I'd answer Honest.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Catching up and rattus norvegicus, apparently

I'm taking this week to catch up on things I owe people. We missed some orders, yikes, for various reasons that can all be reduced to one---being human beings, trying to live with other human beings.
So there's that.
And to finish up some other pieces---a bell jar for David, a mirror box for Robert...

Exciting progress on the commission for Neil. Would I ever love to spend a day on this piece. I'll make one, sooner than later. In the meantime, it's the juggling act---working on this piece while a layer dries on another.

There are a few Drunken Poppets with Pints left---2 more days, I think---and I listed some more Dreaming Spring, for those who emailed after the last ones disappeared. And I'll be putting up more Alice in Wonderland pieces soon.

I want to take a minute to praise Alison and Sam. They work tirelessly to keep things running at Poppet Planet. They're both wonderfully creative and have been mostly very patient with me these last few months. I appreciate them both.

We do have some fun stuff coming up---a solar powered steampunk poppet craft, a Mary Poppins inspired paper doll, a set of (oh yes) Watchmen Poppets ( we have indeed read it) More steam punk and toys.

Today I got an amazing late birthday present from Mimi Ko. It made me cry. And laugh.

And finally, today, Aubrey and I were in the kitchen, discussing our current rodent 'situation.' Jokingly, she said "I'll take care of this right now," and opened the cupboard door.

And, there he was, looking right at us.

It was no great surprise. We've known for over a week that he exists.

So we both screamed like little girls and bolted.

Once we stopped laughing like idiots, we decided that now we know TWO things about him. He loves apples and cheese and he is very, very, very fast.

ok. Three. He's light gray and well, we think he's cute.


Have a good night. I'll be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

mostly about furry things, real and imagined, and birthdays

I emailed Officer Tedd Nickerson via Pet Harbor, who replied that our little friend is doing better today.

I haven't decided exactly what to do about the rodent in the cupboard. Last night I left a row of sweet peas, which were gone this morning. I know this must be resolved, i.e. rodent trapped and taken away, but I'd hoped to get some photos. In my head I'm imagining these surprised flash photos of a rat caught via motion sensor. Very likely I'll get nothing, or a ruined camera. Very likely I should not act on everything I imagine. And very likely the strange little exchange with this thing only works because I've never seen it in person. I guess it's an exchange---I leave bits of food which disappears...
I'm fairly certain the rodent (I'm beginning to believe it's a rat, not a mouse) in question is nothing at all like Zorcon, for whom I feel a great deal of affection.

I childishly enjoy imagining it's not a rodent at all, but something far more disturbing.

All of this is moot, because quite a number of Poppets need to get out to their new humans. My hands have paint on them. I must take off my apron, wash up, get some coffee and help with packing. I have things to do that don't involve imaginings about unseen creatures.

Spencer's birthday is today. We're not officially celebrating today, but I did get him a truly audacious raspberry cheesecake for later. Possibly I'll figure out how to tell him how much better our strange bit of reality is because he's in it. Or I could just kick him in the shin. I'd wished him a land sailing day, but the wind was extra fickle. Orion's birthday is next week. We'll have a celebration weekend then.

Everyone here misses the ocean. Sheesh. Even the pool would be better than nothing. Need water!

Back to work I go.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Mixed Day

Heard about Neil's Dad on Saturday. Phoned him yesterday to say, well, you know. Having lost my parents, the thing that seems most helpful is knowing that the sadness mellows with time. There's no quick help for grief, it's a process without shortcuts, another course in our human curriculum. I wish his family all things good through their turn at it.

Spent part of today with a small dog that wandered into the yard of the empty house next door. I couldn't see any injury, but she was backed into the corner of the fence, trembling and obviously very shaken. Several other neighbors stood by to help, but since I lived nearest it made sense that I wait with her for animal control. (She wasn't wearing any identification.)
I don't think they quite knew what to make of me. I was wearing shorts and my red Buffalinos with no socks, was carrying a book on rats. (Sullivan- see previous blog) We live in a very (very) conservative neighborhood and though the residents aren't overtly unfriendly, they generally give us plenty of space. Objectively, I can see why most people might think us a bit strange, and I've never bothered with explanations.
Anyway, she snapped and barked at anyone who came too near, so I sat a couple of feet away and read to her quietly. Now and then I offered my hand for her to smell, and after about a half hour she let me stroke her head and took a bit of water and shaved ham (I didn't have any dogfood.) The officer who came for her was extremely gentle and kind. I'll phone him tomorrow to see how she is.

Here's a quick (I seem to be experiencing a shortage of memory cards today--please forgive the abrupt ending) video of the Poppet toy we just finished. It's based on some old wire toys we found photos of. I look forward to making more.

It's late and I must do Mom stuff. Will tell you more about the rat in the cupboard tomorrow.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Stowaway Poppets and oh...rats, benign interlopers all

We have a rat. Well, we think it's a rat. It might be rats. Not sure yet. So far, we have only clues and evidence. Droppings and rat bites in the nacho bag. We found the entry hole, about the size of a silver dollar---which is actually not too much of a challenge even for a good sized rat. We cleaned everything out of the little pantry over the oven (this house is old by California standards---built in the 1950's.) On Thursday night Aubrey and I left a doughnut hole in the pantry. I'd heard munching aplenty on Wednesday, so we thought we might find our doughnut hole in the morning with bites that would tell us how big our visitor is. It was fun actually. She and I stayed up late watching Poltergeist, and occasionally tiptoeing into the kitchen to listen for rat sign.

But nothing. We went to bed at midnight. And this morning, not even a crumb of the glazed doughnut hole, rather large, remained. hmm.

I'm awaiting the arrival of a humane trap. We don't want to share our food with non-inoculated rodents, but don't want to harm them either. There's a bathroom just on the other side of the oven wall, so we figure the pipes there (did I mention this is an old-ish house?) are where they're getting water.

I'm in no big hurry. It's a small, secondary pantry away from everything else. And I've never had a big aversion to rats, just a healthy respect for the formidable load of disease they carry. I'd kiss a rat---an innoculated, clean rat. I certainly kiss Zorcon (Aubrey's guinea.) But then, Zorcon has had his shots, and I know what he eats and where he's been.

This little adventure reminds me to recommend to you a book I discovered last year. I pulled it from the bookshelf last night, from a stack of nine or so other books about rats. Rats, by Robert Sullivan.
Do yourself a favor and read this book. Robert Sullivan is a wonderful narrator. You'll go in thinking you're reading a book about rats and discover more about human beings than you meant to.
It's bigger inside than out. I promise. Here's an interview with Robert Sullivan.

I have no idea how it happened, but four, yes 4, steampunk poppets became stowaways in a recent shipment. They traveled by land and by air and yesterday arrived back home wearing stickers and slightly groggy but contented expressions. They are now resting comfortably on cotton beds until their next adventure.
Their story, amusingly told and with fun photos, is here.

So. It's Friday night. I'm full of creative energy but the day started early and your artist is tired. There are five kids here, and two teenagers. We went to the park and played kickball until it was too
dark to see the ball and too cold and windy to stay out. Tomorrow Aubrey heads out to Santa Monica to an open house at the Arts Institute. Soon she will be gone from this house. sheesh.
Here we go again.

I'm going to have a drink---whiskey, I think, and Irish cream. And catch up on some Daily Show. I put a bit of rice crispy treat for our elusive little friend(s). But no milk, because once you go there, you've crossed the line into Pet and Crazy. Already Spencer suggested I leave a notepad and pencil, so the rat can tell me his preferences for snacks.

We'll see what happens. I'll keep you posted. Have a good Saturday.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Are we entirely visible? Have to vs Want to.

Poppets first---then words.

Hmm. I'm told, and it sounds entirely plausible, that some people who follow this blog via RSS feeds and LiveJournal may not have access to the sidebar. If that's the case, I need to occasionally put some of the sidebar stuff into the blog proper, because the sidebar is generally where I put new work and news. If you're wondering what I'm up to outside of the blog, you might want to check in directly once in a while.

That said, here are a couple of items:

here, actually

Here for Kindergarten Poppet

Today I did manage to get some studio hours in. I've got several pieces going at once, as always. I'm happy to say I made great progress on the Mary Poppins paper doll. ---Can you imagine, in this studio, how hard it is for us to not say "Mary Poppet?" Can you imagine that around here it's very easy to say "Poppet" instead of "pocket?"

sigh. Poppets have truly taken over. (that's okay, actually, I think they're smarter than us.)

Also, finally at long last (with Spencer's help-thank you), I'm closing in on a Poppet gaming table that's been partly finished for ages. I mostly work on these works between Poppet Planet duties and commissions and other projects with actual deadlines. It's that "chipping wisdom " I've mentioned before. If I don't insist on at least a little bit of time for new work each week, it will never get done. I've accepted that, at least for the time being, I'll rarely have long days in the studio working on whatever I choose. Honestly, that kind of luxury seems to be for amateurs. Not that there's anything at all wrong with being an amateur artist. Being a professional artist is a matter of choice. I made it, and that is that.

Which brings me to the point I actually wanted to make. I've talked about this before, but it's worth mentioning again. The sometimes subtle difference between "have to" and "want to." It's a perception thing and I won't go into a long essay about it (been there, done that) but just a reminder that when we wake up mornings and feel burdened by the day ahead, sometimes it's a good idea to remember that we made these choices. That we are doing these things because we want to, we choose to and that very likely, these 'have to's' benefit us or those we care about-- people or projects or causes.
Anyway, just a quick note---let's remember to replace "I have to" with "I want to" or "I choose to."

It's a thing bigger inside than out. yes?

Poppet knows this.
Thanks Poppet!

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Bit of Forward Momentum

Here is Persistence Engine (scroll to yesterday's post) in motion. You can see the key turning and hear the great noise on the hardwood.

We have some new work to go up this week. Also I'll be putting some art and Poppets up on a separate page as an alternative to the eBay store. Ebay will no longer allow me to accept checks or money orders from customers and though I enjoy using PayPal, I don't want to force everyone else to. And we want you to be able to take advantage of layaway. When it's up I'll post a link to it here.

Also, check out the sidebar---we're asking readers of the blog (collectors, friends, all of you) to put a link up about Poppets on your own blog or website. As thanks, you can get the Have a Poppet Day Poppet as a thank you. This Poppet seems to have a very high cute/creepy factor. We love it!

You've probably noticed that I've resumed work on the Wonderland Poppets. Thought you might enjoy this Lewis Carroll Society blog. I'll be making new versions of the ones that find homes today, and will likely be taking commissions for people who want to complete their collections later in the season.

Check out the forums---Drinne continues working on Poppetropolis and Ed O'Mamute is interested in starting story threads with WV from comments. Both are fun.

Stay warm and safe out there in the real world.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Persistence Engine

We met the Most Inventive Doctor Black

Who claimed it was electricity he lacked.

What power the Company did supply

He discovered was an evil trap and lie.

Afterward, every experiment he did

Sought a method to escape the Grid.

Sun or wind or thundercloud

He calls for Makers plainly, loud

To seek resources, create a plan

To free all Poppets from the Man.

ok. so I'm not a poet. But our Doctor Black is so much bigger inside than out, I had to try.

It's Sunday. I look out at the sun sparkling off the water, the mountains, the palm trees. I think of Bugs Bunny, digging, digging, trying so hard, by hook or by crook, to get to Palm Springs. And all I want to be is somewhere else.

The Poppet Who Lives On My Desk is looking at me. I am one very silly human.