31 December 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I wish everybody a happy 2011!

For me, 2010 ends with a very bad surprise from Italian Post, that has increased prices for mail sent abroad by 50 - 80 % (yes,  eighty percent!!), starting from the New Year... Our rates were already among the highest in Europe (and our service among the poorest), now Italy has probably the most expensive postal system in the world... Now sending a packet of less than a Kilo to the USA will cost 14 Euros (and 25 if the weight is between 1 and 2 Kilos).

That will be my worse problem in 2011, I can foresee!
(Obviously no media gave this information and the Post site reports the new rates without any comment, hoping nobody will notice the difference...)

Practice

Today's world is centered on immediate results..Everything one does should be done quickly and well.
Things should be learned quickly and easily, such as "speak Japanese without effort"or "learn to paint in 2 days"...
It doesn't work that way, and people who have actually learned things know that even if you can learn some basis of a craft (or a language!) rather quickly, it takes a lot of practice to master it.
"Masterpiece"... This was the name of the object that an apprentice had to produce -after many years of apprenticeship- in order to show that he was able to to become a "master", to stop being an apprentice and start working on his own. _Years_ , not weeks or months...

It's difficult not to lose sight of the importance of practice, in this this world that values only the "quick and easy".
And my wish for the new year, for myself and all the crafters, is never to forget that the time used for doing things again is not wasted time, but time we spend to learn our crafts better, to learn how materials work in a craft, what they can do and what they can't...

I especially like this quote by William Morris:
"(...)never forget the material you are working with, and try always to use it for doing what it can do best: if you feel yourself hampered by the material in which you are working, instead of being helped by it, you have so far not learned your business, any more than a would-be poet has, who complains of the hardship of writing in measure and rhyme. The special limitations of the material should be a pleasure to you, not a hindrance: a designer, therefore, should always thoroughly understand the processes of the special manufacture he is dealing with, or the result will be a mere tour de force. On the other hand, it is the pleasure in understanding the capabilities of a special material, and using them for suggesting (not imitating) natural beauty and incident, that gives the raison d'être of decorative art."
(William Morris,  Textiles, 1893)

29 December 2010

New scarf

This is the scarf I'm weaving at the moment
The wool yarn  is very thin and the photo is very enlarged, that's why the weaving looks so "open"... The risk when weaving is of beating too much and get a scarf that will be stiff and feel like cardboard! Leaving the weaving a bit loose when the wool is under tension will ensure that the scarf is soft and nice when finished and washed.
I've already used that pattern, it's a traditional and very ancient one (called "Batavia") that was already used in Middle Age, and probably even before then...It's very simple, but the loom preparation is long as it's rather easy to make mistakes! Unlike the previous time, now I used a different yarn for warp and weft, so that the pattern is more visible, and not just a matter of texture (although I love the all-white version I made of it).
Anyway this time things went rather well and I only havd to correct a couple of small mistakes... Sometimes it goes a lot worse!
I took this photo when the scarf was just begun, now it's at a good point and hopefully I'll finish it soon...

27 December 2010

The journey of the Three Kings


Like in most Italian homes, in addition to the Christmas tree there is a Nativity scene... Mine is in my living room (it's nothing special, but I'll add a photo here one of these days).
And no Nativity is complete without Three Kings coming to visit baby Jesus!  Mine start their journey quite far, at the beginning of the several-metres-long  bookcase in my corridor... They advance slowly (no doubt because one of them is always represented as kneeling down, which must make the march quite slow indeed) and today they were right in front of  some of my Tolkien books, so  had to take a photo :-)
The Sputnik model (a nice little object I bought for one Euro a few years ago on a flea market stall) is an addition that was decided by my daughter a couple of years ago... As the comet star passed close to it on the bookcase she started to move it along with the other components of the caravan (after all, it was  a "sky thing" too!), and soon it became  part of the convoy... And never lost its role ever since :-)

26 December 2010

Arts and crafts...


Well, sometimes different crafts and skills are necessary... My son's good headphones needed a new jack, so today I proceeded to change it.
Jacks are usually a part that breaks down quickly in headphones, but luckily they can be substituted  and they are cheap.. The only "difficult" thing is that they usually need soldering, and I'm not very good at it (basically as I rarely have to do it).
Anyway, first of all I had to cut the old jack and peel the threads for some length.... In this headphones set there are three wires sometimes they are 4. Colours may vary, here they were rather standard, that is red, green  and copper...Copper  is the ground, while red and green are the left and right channel  (not necessarily in this order..Actually I discovered that on my son's headphones they were the opposite than they should have been! There are many sites explaining how to connect the cables, but basically the right/left correspondnce is indicative. And of course you'll discover you soldered wrongly only _at the end_ of your work, as the tiny wires really make contact only after you've soldered them).



These wires have practically no insulation, that is the insulation is given by the thin coat of colour... One must be careful not to damage it  as it's very easy to burn it with the soldering iron.



 Here I burned the cable tips with the soldering iron and covered them with tin.. this way it will be easier to attach them to the jack



Here it is! not a perfect work, but it's done... Now I only have to pinch the cable with the metallic part  so that it won't be torn away if the cable is pulled. Then the plastic cover is put back in place, and the headphone is fixed!

22 December 2010

Perspective

It's almost Christmas, once again... And I'm so happy to be here!
It's strange how things change when seen from a different perspective...

I felt it was a big misfortune to have to change my car when (one month after I had spent 1200 euros to have it repaired in France) it broke down again, exactly the same way ..And obviously I decided not to waste another 1200 Euros in a repair that probably wouldn't last. I decided (very reluctantly) to change it, as with what I had spent in repairs in 5 years I could have bought a nice new car anyway. I guess I was a most unhappy new-car buyer; usually people are happy when they buy a new car, but I wished so much I could have avoided it!

But I didn't know what would follow... A few weeks ago, I barely avoided a very serious accident, and that was only thanks to my new car. Without it (and its better lights, its better brakes, all its electronic things that did the right things at the right time) I wouldn't have been able to avoid the big load that was dropped (at night, on the highway, while driving at 120 km/h) by a truck right before me. I'm sure I'm alive just because I've changed my car right in time (it had arrived just two weeks before!), and what looked like a big misfortune was actually probably the best thing that could happen to me! Nobody was hurt (my daughter was with me, and that was surely the worst scare in her life, like it was in mine....) and the car wasn't even scratched... I couldn't believe it.

This year, while I was putting ornaments on our Christmas tree with my daughter, I was very aware that if it hadn't been for an unlikely (and unwelcomed) chain of events, I wouldn't have been there... (Which applies to all of us, I'm sure, but we usually tend not to think about it  unless Death passes very close...)
One looks at life from a different perspective after such kind of things..Even queuing at the post office becomes pleasant when you remember you could have been dead instead!

Well, my tree is finished! It's small, because it was bought for a smaller apartment, and it's not one of those fancy tres they sell in trendy shops, all in one colour, very beautiful and perfect... Most of the ornaments (and they are _a lot!!_) have a story, they were made by my children, or are gifts, or maybe are things that were not meant to be a Christmas tree ornament but we decided they would fit...I'm sure lots of the ornaments would look like rubbish to many people, but we get a lot of fun to take them out every year and comment on them! (Which is probably the point of making a Christmas tree, after all...).