Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gold Gilding made simple!

At the end of Shooting Gallery, second in the Annie Kincaid Art Lover's Mystery Series, I feature a small guide to gilding in the back of the book. Recently I was gilding some curtain rods, finials (the decorative rod ends), brackets, and 64 rings for a San Francisco-based designer I work with often. I thought I'd take some snapshots so readers could have a visual of the gold gilding process.

First thing to know: It's messy! Gold gilt gets everywhere!

Below: the crucial supplies

Pictured above are water-based sizing (glue), a roll of gold gilt, a "book" of gilt, soft-bristled brushes, rags.

No, I am not working with genuine 24-carat gold in this instance. Instead, in most cases we use something called "composition gold" -- which means, essentially, that it's fake. Though it has a different feel --real gold is actually easier to work with-- the composition gold metal looks great. I'm usually "distressing" items to make them look older than they are, anyway, and there are very few who can tell the difference between real and fake under such circumstances. Of course, Annie Kincaid would probably spot it from 10 feet away...!

By the way, in this case I did not paint the rods because they already had a mahogany finish that I was happy to let come through the gold, here and there. The traditional underpaint is clay red, which is usually mimicked with red oxide paint.

In process: the glue has been applied to the rings, which are laid out until they reach the correct level of "tack." Determining when they are just right is the hardest part of gilding for many craftspeople. If you rush it, the gilt will "sink" into the glue, creating a muddy, dull finish. The gilt should sit "on top" of the glue, lending it brilliance.

To be sure the sizing is ready for the gold, try this gilder's trick: using your knuckle, press into the glue slightly. When you pull away, you should hear a distincitve "snick" sound. If you do, you're ready to gild.

Above: the rods in process. Gilding is a messy job -- flakes fly everywhere. Don't be afraid to make a mess and you'll do fine.

After applying the gold to all sized surfaces, you start to rub away the excess gilt. This is the fun part -- be ready for gold confetti everywhere! Very gently, using a soft brush, cloth, cheesecloth, or even steel wool for a more distressed finish, leave a smooth finish behind.

Leave the items for 24 hours to be sure the size is dry, then distress with steel wool, sandpaper, or even nails (depending on how "old" and "banged up" you want your item to appear), and then use an oil-based glaze to tint the metal. Burnt Umber gives a mellow, antique look, while a little flake white can catch in crevices to make an item look "dusty," as the finials below.

Above: finials after applying gold gilt but before burnishing.
Below: the burnished, rubbed and glazed finials.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Hooper Bay, Part III: Yes, I tried eating seal (and moose, too...!)

From Brush with Death:

My sophomore year in college I had briefly flirted with abandoning art for anthropology when the professor of a required course explained the importance of eating local cuisine. One of my special talents was the ability to eat just about anything, and in truly astonishing quantities, so I figured I was a natural for fieldwork. Fried grasshoppers and whale blubber? No problem. The secret was in the seasoning. The flirtation came to an abrupt halt with the unit on genealogical charts: patrilineal, matrilineal, affinal, fictive…. I don’t do charts (p.88).

It's true what they say about much of writing being autobiographical. I actually do have a Masters degree in anthropology (never quite finished that darned PhD...) and I always loved doing my fieldwork among different ethnic groups. I have eaten some wonderful things...and managed to nibble on some dubious items, as well. Here's a picture of me putting those skills to work again, trying seal in Hooper Bay:
Esther and I, eating seal

The Yup'ik people of Hooper Bay continue to practice a subsistence way of life, which includes hunting and gathering the great majority of their food. Seal, Beluga whale, all kinds of fish, berries, and greens are gathered during their appropriate seasons, and then are dried or frozen and eaten all year long.

Above: sunset over the dunes on the beach

Above: The bumpy road to the airport

Before I knew it, it was time to go home. Scott, the vice-principal at Hooper Bay School, gave me a ride to the airport, which is a fancy name for a single landing strip. For a town of 1200 people, Hooper Bay has a lot of flights: at least two in the morning, and two in the evening. There are no roads across the tundra, so all goods and people have to come by plane or boat...and the boats are limited to the summertime.
Below: my ride back to Bethel

As we flew low over the vast tundra of the Yukon Delta Wildlife Sanctuary, I reflected upon my visit. I had spoken with three or four classes a day, learned a few words of Yup'ik, strolled through the village, chatted with townsfolk in the native store, gone out berry-picking on the tundra, raced along the beach on the Honda 4-wheeler, feasted on native delicacies, made a lot of new friends, heard ghost stories, fishing stories, and hunting stories...and now it was time to return to my other life.

Among so many other things, I have to get back to writing Book 4 in the Art Lovers' Mystery Series, tentatively entitled Arsenic and Old Paint. I wonder whether Annie will wind up in a native Alaskan village somehow...?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Hooper Bay, Part II: A Walk Through Naparyarmiut Village

Little girl playing in a puddle, not feeling the cold. It was 40 degrees outside and yours truly (a Californian through-and-through) was wearing a wool coat with hood, three layers of shirts and sweaters, a fleece cap and gloves.

Walking through Hooper Bay, it's hard not to be impressed with the friendliness of the residents. The only way into the village is by boat in the summer, or airplane. Since there are no connecting roads, no one comes here by accident.

People smiled broadly at me as I wandered, taking pictures. In the native store, several people stopped me and asked who I was, what I was doing in Hooper Bay, and whether I was a new teacher. They gave me a warm welcome to their town.

Above: Cousins "fishing" in a puddle

Above: The "Native Store" offers everything from Coca Cola to wireless keyboards -- all at a steep price. Outside food and products have to be shipped or flown into town.

The town suffered a terrible fire in the summer of 2006, which destroyed the old school along with many houses. FEMA and a number of other programs have helped to build new homes for those who lost everything. Above are some new houses with a great new advantage: they're actually winterized, complete with insulation and weather-stripping.

A sister and brother pretending to be pirates

Path through town.

There are no trees on the tundra, but villagers collect driftwood -- and there's a lot of it-- from the beach and stockpile it to use in building and for fires. They need firewood to heat the "steambaths" --small shacks that contain a 55-gallon drum for a fire, upon which they sprinkle water to create steam. Especially considering the lack of running water, the steambaths provide a relaxing cleanse.

The green National Guard building, above, has been empty since the soldiers were sent to Iraq
Path through town. There are no "yards," since nothing grows in the ground due to permafrost. Homes and pipes are lifted off the ground for the same reason: the ground is frozen past the first few inches throughout the summer, and immediately freezes over in the winter

View of houses "uptown", with a water pipe in the foreground. As yet, only the teacher housing and school building have running water (and thus toilets and showers); everyone else makes due with "honey buckets" and by hauling water and waste to and from collection stations. The town is working on bringing running water to all of the residences. Children mugging for the camera on their way home from school. The children all have English names like Florence, Emmanuel, and Sharon; their Yup'ik names are hard for English-speakers to pronouce: Qassayuli, Quakaaq, and Tan'giigak, for example. They found my attempts at Yup'ik pronunciation to be hilarious.

Boardwalks provide a dry path in a muddy land. The town is built over what might be considered a marsh or a swamp -- the tundra is full of water.
Above: the Catholic church

There are very few public buildings in town, but Christian missionaries established themselves throughout the native villages years ago.

Above: Fish drying on rack above front door

Yup'ik families spend much of their time hunting, fishing, and gathering seasonal berries and greens. These subsistence activities allow the families to survive harsh conditions of chronic unemployment and poverty, but the hunting, fishing, and picking "parties" are also great fun, bringing families closer together and helping to maintain yuuyaraq, the Yup'ik way of life. The children told me many long and entertaining stories of searching for food with their families out on the tundra during the warm season, and hunting all year long. Any overabundance of fish, meat and berries are then dried or frozen and eaten throughout the winter.

Entrance to a typical home, complete with stash of driftwood.

More in Part III!

Friday, October 5, 2007

A visit to Hooper Bay School, in the Alaskan tundra

A third grade class at Hooper Bay School, aka Naparyarmiut Elicarviat

When I signed up to go to Bouchercon 2007 in Anchorage, I expected much of what I have experienced at other great mystery conferences: to meet up with fellow readers and writers (mystery-lovers, all); to participate in and listen to fascinating, lively panels; and to reunite with old friends. In this case it also involved a few evenings of karaoke with an unlikely cast of characters who shall remain nameless – but their initials are Brian, Cornelia, David, Alexandra, Ingrid, Ken, Michelle, Jason, Lukas… I’m sure I’m missing a few, but there was a fair amount of liquor involved. I'm only sorry that I didn't have my camera with me...!

But when I agreed to take part in the Authors in the Bush program, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My first inkling that this would be a real adventure came from the questionnaire sent to all the authors who agreed to participate:

How do you feel about traveling by very small boats or bush planes?
Would you eat wild game such as caribou or seal?
Do you mind sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag?
Are you willing to use a “honey bucket”?

(Use your imagination on that last one.)

I might mention that in a past life I was an anthropologist. I’ve tromped through jungles in Central America, visited rural Mexican villages, and spent six weeks in a Vietnamese refugee camp in the Philippines. Becoming the visiting author to a native Alaskan village sounded like an adventure far too intriguing to miss.

Right after Bouchercon ended I boarded an Alaska airplane for Bethel, where I dragged my suitcase down a dark road until I found the small “bush plane” bound for Hooper Bay, in the Yukon Delta, right on the coast of the Bering Sea.

A lone landing strip constitutes the Hooper Bay "airport." I was picked up by George, a maintenance man from Hooper Bay School, and one of the few people in the village with access to a vehicle with an enclosed cab (more on that later.) A lovely sixth-grade teacher, Cate Koskey, welcomed me into her home. Originally from Indiana, Cate has lived and taught in the village for several years. Her apartment, like all the teacher housing and none of the rest of the village, has running water (eating wild game is one thing, but I wasn’t really up for the “honey buckets”.)

Cate, little Esther, and Tuluk: my hosts

After a devastating fire in August, 2006, a huge new school building was constructed to serve over 400 children – more than a third of the town’s total population.

Above: The new school building, which was luckily already under construction when the old building burned. By village standards, this is a massive structure. Though there are only about 1,200 people in town, more than 400 of these are school-age children, so the school plays a large part in the lives of all the villagers. The building is used for a multitude of community events, and is truly a center of village life.

Below: The school at dawn, which was when school was starting, about 8:45 am.

Over the next few days I spoke with several classes, from first grade to twelfth, about all sorts of things: spooky native legends, what Oakland is like, how to find an agent and get published, what “mouse food” is (it’s the contents of the mouse’s secret cache of food for the winter. Apparently it’s quite tasty.)

Hooper Bay School also has a Yup'ik language immersion program for the youngest children, and the native tongue is witnessing a resurgence after several generations of being cast aside in favor of English. The children told me all about yuuyaraq, the Yup'ik way of life, which includes love, responsibility, respect, bravery, and self-discipline.

We also discussed the elements of a classic mystery: a crime, a victim, a bad guy, a detective, red herrings, alibis, evidence, clues, modes of death. The children especially enjoyed coming up with weird ways to kill someone. The younger ones related to "Scooby-Doo", the older ones to "CSI". Even in the remote reaches of the Bering Sea coast, there are satellite dishes and whatever shows Hollywood serves up.

Above: Rambunctious third-graders in class

Above: First graders in their "reading corner"
Below: A teacher aide with Helen; and more fun classes, making me feel welcome

Basketball is a favorite sport. This outdoor court is rarely dry enough to use, but the kids love being outside. Plus, there's an ocean view!

The roads are so pitted --and the weather so extreme--that cars are unknown and only a few have trucks. Nearly everyone uses 4-wheeled ATVs, or "Hondas".

Above: The school parking lot--everyone headed home after school

A group of teenagers--it's common to see four or five, or more, people on each ATV

As one might expect, these Hondas provide vital transportation -- as well as entertainment. My new friend Tuluk took me on a wild ride along the beach to see "Old Hooper Bay" -- the remnants of the ancient village.

Below: Tuluk stands in Cate's "fish camp" -- a structure ready for tenting whenever the fish are running. Cate has learned a great deal about the subsistence ways of the native Alaskans, and enjoys taking part. Check out her blog at http://hooperbaytundra.blogspot.com/. The hills in the background are all that's left of "Old Hooper Bay."

On another day, Tuluk, Cate, and Esther took me out to experience the tundra. It's a landscape unlike anything I've ever seen: completely treeless; full of water, puddles, and ponds; and entirely covered with a spongy layer at least six inches deep -- I never could find the ground-- of lichen, tiny berry plants, herbs, and even mushrooms! Above: Gassing up for the trip

Below: The landscape, looking back toward town


Two-year-old Esther was a champion berry-finder; we ate little round "cranberries" and "blackberries" -- unlike the one we know by that name in California. The compelling landscape made me wonder what everything must look like in its more typical guise: covered in snow.
To be continued in Part II!

Monday, September 24, 2007

North to Alaska!

I'm off to Bouchercon, a big mystery conference held in a different city every year. This year, it's in Anchorage, Alaska. Sure, I thought, how bad could it be...until they told me there might be snow! We Californians (at least those of use from the Bay Area) aren't used to weather with a big "W" -- we tend to whine when it rains, much less snows...

Still, there's a chance I'll get to see Aurora Borealis or even a moose, so what could be better than that?

Fellow Sister in Crime (or is it Mister in Crime?) Simon Woods is nominated for an Anthony Award, so I'll be rooting for him. After the conference, I'm taking part in the Authors in the Bush Program, which sends unsuspecting souls like me and Simon (and several others) off to different remote villages to teach writing in the schools for a few days. We have a whole curriculum having to do with a mystery surrounding the murder of a rabbit...there's a fingerprinting exercise, and we'll conduct interviews of the suspects including a wolf and a bear. Should be great fun!

My assignment is Hooper Bay, a village that suffered a terrible fire last summer. I'm anxious to see their new school building, and visit the surrounding area.

You can find more information about Hooper Bay here: http://www.commerce.state.ak.us/dca/commdb/CF_CIS.htmhttp://www.city-data.com/city/Hooper-Bay-Alaska.html

Check back for photos upon my return October 4!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Portrait Contest Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kristin Lindstrom
September 19, 2007 Art Lover's Mystery Series

Hailey Lind Releases Portrait of Contest Winner!

Second Portrait Deadline Extended to October 15

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Hailey Lind, who writes the Art Lover's Mystery Series, has released the first portrait won under the 2006 Portrait Contest to winner Barbara Hussey of New Orleans, selected from the hundreds of readers entered. Ms. Hussey, a Katrina survivor who lost everything in the storm including all family photographs, wanted a

Julie Goodson-Lawes holds the finished portrait of Lillie Richoux and the
church directory photo from which she worked.

portrait painted of her late mother, Lillie Richoux, along with the pink roses that she loved. The only surviving photograph was located in an old church directory. Coincidentally, the portrait is due to be delivered to Ms. Hussey on her birthday.

Hailey Lind is the pen name for two sisters, Carolyn Lawes, an historian, and Julie Goodson-Lawes, an artist. Ms. Goodson-Lawes painted the custom portrait for Ms. Hussey.

A portrait contest is held for the release of each mystery in the series, and the current contest coincided with the launch of Hailey Lind’s third book from Signet, Brush with Death, in July. The winner of the contest will receive a portrait of themselves or a loved one painted in the style of an Old Master -- such as Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, or Raphael -– from a photograph. Readers, booksellers, reviewers, and other interested parties can register for the contest at the author’s website, www.haileylind.com or by mailing a postcard with their name, email address and phone number to Art Lovers Mystery Series Portrait Contest, 871 N. Greenbrier Street, Arlington, VA 22205. The deadline for the current Portrait Contest, originally September 30, has been extended to October 15. The winner will be selected October 25.

In order to enter, readers must answer a question taken from Brush with Death: What religion did little Louis Spencer's family practice? No purchase is necessary. The contest is open to legal U.S. and Canadian residents ages 18 and up. There is a limit of one entry per individual and e-mail address. The winner will be selected at random from all entrants and notified by email or phone. (Employees of Penguin Putnam and its subsidiaries are not eligible to enter.) More information on how to enter and on contest rules is available at www.haileylind.com.
This is my dog, Sam. This isn't part of the Press Release, I just think she's adorable

Monday, September 10, 2007

The First of Seven Deadly Sins: Sloth and Adventures in Sculpting

Personally, I'm rather fond of sloth -- I like to imagine I look a little like the woman above while I'm being slothful...though the reality is probably not quite so lovely. She's likely to wake up with a crick in her neck, anyway. But I digress.

While pondering themes for a series of garden sculptures for a client, I happened upon the idea of rendering romantic sculptures depicting the 7 deadly sins. Sins are such fun, especially those spelled out in other times -- they seem so relatively innocent now, in comparison to modern evils like genocide and fomenting environmental disasters.

The Seven Deadly Sins are Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Sloth, Wrath, and Pride. I'm not sure of the order, but I don't know if it matters. They're all nasty, just the same, and according to medieval scholars, deserved particular punishments in hell.

Above: The Seven Deadly Sins
Below: The punishment for Sloth was eternity in a snake pit.

I am first and foremost a painter -- I love the sensual feel of paints and brushes, the building up of the pigments, the layering of tones and shadows. But along with San Francisco mosaic artist Karen Thompson of Archetile , I've been venturing into the exciting world of sculpture.
3-D art can be accomplished in two basic ways: by taking away (as in chipping away at a marble slab) or by adding (as in clay). Karen and I wanted something that would endure in an outdoor setting, and since I don't really trust myself with sharp objects --and have had zero training in this area-- we decided to steer away from expensive stone carving. Instead, we began with a rebar structure, added wire and styrofoam, and sculpted out of cement and sand. Afterward, Karen and her assistant Mary added the mosaic blanket.

From concept to reality

The fun part of making seven sculptures of beautiful women representing the seven sins is that it would take the viewer a while to realize what the figures represented, if they ascertained it at all. From early concept drawings, we considered certain engineering difficulties and the steep learning curve. Finally, we decided to begin our adventures in sculpture with Sloth...in particular, Sloth as depcited by a beautiful sleeping woman.

This was the original small clay concept, or "maquette", and the wire frame we thought we would need contstructed in rebar to support our slothful type -- in concrete, our girl's a bit hefty.

Above: On the rebar frame, we wrapped styrofoam and steel wool in chicken wire to hold the cement.

Below: Building up the cement/sand mixture. The working time is limited, as the cement goes through a chemical trasformation as it dries. We scratched the surface so that the next layer would adhere.

After her first body dried, we wrapped her in a silk sari to study the folds for the mosaic, to be applied later:

Above: Nearing completion in Karen's mosaic studio! (And she's still asleep, I might add.)

Below: The in-progress and nearly complete Sloth, from the rear. With each layer of cement, our Sloth fills out and becomes more vuluptuous.

A couple more shots:

I'll post pictures of lovely Sloth when she's installed in her new home in a pecan grove in Phoenix, Arizona. We hope to have the beautiful Gluttony join her soon.