Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When Is It OK To Use Products From China? (A Review of a Parts-Carousel from Harbor Freight Tools)

So as you probably know, I am an avid recycler.   I am NOT perfect, but I do the best I can to recycle whatever I can - from shipping materials (almost always), to jewelry and fabrics, to furniture (especially for my studio!).  But there are times when I simply can not find what I want or worse... when what I want APPEARS to be vintage, but in reality is still from China (reproductions) that still cost an arm and a leg to own.  

Antique? (photo per
Case in point - "old" revolving, tool-caddies/parts-carousels. 
You would think they would be easy to find at antique stores etc...and they are.  But I caution you to look them over carefully!  For I have discovered a great many of them are being reproduced from china with a vintage look and have found MANY being sold as true vintage in flea markets and antique stores. 

I have a business license and even at wholesale prices, the china reproductions being sold are quite spendy.  

The various un-assembled parts
I have been looking for a carousel for over 2 years and have had little luck finding one that I could dear readers, I beg you to forgive me for purchasing a brand new carousel from Harbor Freight Tools.  Yes it is from China, and yes it is um... not super sturdy.  But, it was less than $20 bucks for a decent parts-carousel. 

Having now put it together, painted it, and am using it, I have some tips and pointers for those of you wanting to buy your own:
* Be aware that there are a LOT of nuts, washers, and bolts to put together (75 of each I think).  

* The instructions were typical - a couple of picture/diagrams and some directions.  If you've ever put anything together yourself, you should be able to figure it out without the instructions.
* The metal is somewhat flimsy - especially the dividers - and some edges are sharp!
This is the bag of parts

* You won't need many tools - although a Phillips-head screwdriver and maybe a small wrench to tighten the bolts. 
* If you have big hands, the trays with 6 dividers will be a bit of a challenge to put together! I have big hands and arthritis in my thumb, so this was a bit of a challenge for me - and led to the next item...

* It took me about an hour to put together.  Those darned partitions are a pain! They aren't hard to do... they just take time. 

*They did NOT include lock-washers.. you may want to get your own, or you may want to add lock-tite to the threads of the screws (unless you want to be able to take it apart later..then don't do that!).

* Some of the screws were NOT machined well... meaning their phillip's heads were not correctly made so my screwdriver did not fit into the slots correctly. 
The base of one of the trays

* Harbor Freight did include a couple of extra washers and bolts, which was nice (but no extra nuts, which was not so nice).


* None of the parts were separated, which was a bit of a pain because there is a set of 3 slightly-larger nuts, washers, and bolts which is needed to make the base. 

Spray painted the sections seperately
* It took 1 can of spray paint to fully paint the carousel (including the undersides).

* I'd advise coating the carousel with a varnish of some kind. I simply spray-painted the whole thing and then put it together.  The paint was easy-to-scratch and I've already got a few nicks on it (which is fine for me since I like the vintage look, but it does take away from the nicely-painted look!).

*  Once the individual trays were assembled, the actual putting-together of the carousel was simple and fast.  

My new, lovely pink parts-carousel holding many of my supplies
*It is not a huge carousel and doesn't easily hold larger items, but I find it incredibly helpful for storing the items that I use for making art! I need all my stuff, but I don't need it often.  This way they are all out and easy to get to, but the items I need the most, are turned towards me.  

FYI - Pink wasn't my preferred color, but it's what I had on hand.. I think it looks pretty good in pink.  Next time, I think I'd do a deep purple gloss though.

All in all I'd say that the Harbor Freight Tools Parts-Carousel is a winner.  Easily put-together, easily painted, holds a lot of stuff, and inexpensive. And at least I KNEW I was getting a cheap knock-off from China rather than buying something that cost a LOT more and was pretending to be vintage!

Is buying from China OK?  Well, I still prefer not to... but there are times when it's unavoidable. 


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Invited to Demonstrate Silk Painting at SDA Eastside Meeting

I feel so honored!  

I was invited to do a silk painting demo at this Sunday's SDA Eastside meeting (held at VALA in Redmond Town Center, Redmond WA  from 2pm - 4pm). 

I even received a nice little write-up on the SDA Eastside Facebook page which was reposted on VALA's Facebook page.  

I am planning on Demo'ing silk painting and then letting everyone try it out for themselves.  You'll be able to see the difference between the traditional Serti-method and the new, Sistek-method (using Magic Sizing as a stop-flow). 
Hope to see you there!!


Sunday, February 8, 2015

To those writing beginning art books and to those seeking beginning watercolor or drawing books

Hi Friends,

I have a confession.... I am creating art (in the form of Silk Painting), but haven't had much in the way of any formal training.  I've been informed that I am considered to be a "primitive artist" (although that term apparently isn't used much anymore because it implies poorer quality art)!  My last official class in art was well-over 30+ years ago (and I'm not sure what I took for middle-school art qualifies as a true art class!).

I was brought up to believe that art wasn't overly important and DEFINITELY NOT a proper goal for education and employment, and instead was STRONGLY encouraged to pursue science-based education.  I spent the majority of my adult life dabbling in art (& crafts) and at times I have been pretty successful, but most of the time... the process of creating art has been incredibly frustrating because I could see that SOMETHING was wrong but I couldn't figure out why.

This looks a lot like what I was experimenting with

  I feel like an extreme generalist with a few basic skills (and some very basic supplies - which I am slowly trading in for professional-grade supplies) but am seriously lacking in "real" art training. 

I thought perhaps I just need more practice - and since Silk Painting is permanent and rather unforgiving, I thought I would attempt some of my design ideas in Watercolor Painting.  

Unfortunately, having no training in art,  makes for BIG mistakes in Watercolor Painting. 

SO, I decided that I need to go back to the basics (or perhaps - LEARN the basics would be a better way to put it!).  But, where to start?  ... well, I always start with books (although I have been watching a few videos as well).  I do prefer books because:
  • I can take books with me (even when I go camping!)
  • I can write notes on the books if I want to (although usually I use sticky notes - I was raised to revere books)
  • I can put bookmarks in the book to refer back easily to the sections I want (again these are usually sticky notes)
  • I don't have to share my books like I do my computer (if I'm on my computer, my daughter will immediately want to use it)
  • Frankly, I just love the feel of books.  An e-reader can be a great thing... but a book just feels infinitely more satisfying to hold and read. 

I have to say, that I have been SERIOUSLY DISAPPOINTED in "learn to do art" (especially "learn to watercolor") types of books!!!  Most of them assume you've had basic skills and will say things like "just paint a tree" - but when I did, it was bad enough to make a cat laugh!   At this point, I have pulled more than 50 Watercolor Painting books (aimed at beginners) from the local library... of those, very few are decent!  But even those are sort of hit-and-miss.  You get an answer about one issue in one book, but have to go to a different book instructions on another issue and yet another for another issue.  It is SOOO frustrating!!  Seriously - If you are an artist who is considering writing a book aimed at beginners for ANY medium...... DO IT!  ACTUALLY CREATE A TRUE "BEGINNER" BOOK!!  Speaking as someone who was raised to be non-artistic, but scientific-based... I NEED step-by-steps to get the ideas down and then once the "logic" clicks, I can expand into all sorts of new directions.

Don't just show the color palettes, explain a little color mixing theory,  and then jump into full-blown landscapes or cityscapes!!   Show how each little section of an art piece is built!  For instance, we want to know how to paint deciduous trees in a step-by-step process -... not just a picture of a trunk and then the words "add color to your page" and then show a picture of a painted tree with lots of color.   Please explain how you created the leaves and when you drew the branches and WHY you do each step when you do it.  Yes, there are plenty of artists who have had quite a bit of training who don't need the absolute basics and step-by-step instructions --- but I am guessing there are a LOT of people who need each step to be precisely explained and shown in a picture.

For those of you who want decent, basic books for drawing and for watercolor - here are a few that I have found to be helpful.  I'm not saying they are perfect, but each one has sections that are great for either step-by-step directions, or they are good for overall reference books.  Also, I am NOT putting these in preferred order - this is just a list of books that I find interesting and helpful (and most are available at my local library!).

  1. Drawing with the Right Side of the Brain (Betty Edwards) a great book!
  2. Expressive Drawing (Steven Aimone) A FABULOUS book for learning to draw abstract art - I'm working my way through it now!
  3. Creating Textures in Colored Pencil (Gary Greene)
  4. The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds (John Muir Laws) - a personal favorite..his Youtube videos rock too!!
  5. The Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature (Cathy Johnson)
  6. Drawing and Painting With Colored Pencil (Kristy Ann Kutch)
  7. Drawing and Painting Flowers With Coloured Pencils (Trudy Friend)
  8. Drawing and Painting Flowers - Problems and Solutions (Trudy Friend)
  9. Watercolor Basics (Philip Metzger)
  10. Watercolor Secrets (Robin Berry)
  11. Steps to Success in Watercolor (Brenda Swenson)
  12. Putting People in Your Paintings (Laurel Hart)
  13. Powerful Watercolor Landscapes (Catherine Gill)
  14. Jean Haines - Atmospheric Watercolours (Jean Haines) - this is somewhat advanced, but gorgeous!
  15. James Fletcher-Watson's Watercolour Secrets (James Fletcher-Watson)
  16. A Celebration of Light (Jane Freeman)
  17. The Watercolorist's A-Z of Trees & Foilage (Adelene Fletcher) (like the variety of trees!)
  18. Painting Vibrant Watercolors (Soon Warren)
  19. Creating Luminous Watercolor Landscapes (Sterling Edwards)
  20. Basic Flower Painting Techniques in Watercolor
  21. Watercolor Painting Outside the Lines (Linda Kemp) I like this alternative way of painting!
  22. Painting Wildlife in Watercolor (Peggy Macnamara) this might be a bit advanced, but I absolutely LOVE the way she paints! If you can find one to purchase that is under $50 bucks, let me know!
  23. Creating Textures in Watercolor (Cathy Johnson)
I'm sure there are tons more, but I've found each of these books to have at least a few, really great tips!

Good luck and let me know which books you use - I'm always on the look out for more great books!