Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Big Pour

What does the well-dressed artist and assistant wear to pour 1300 degree molten aluminum? As much as they can! Matt is always drawing, carving, shaping or welding something. Lately, he's carving shapes out of white foam to use as molds for cast aluminum sculptures. When he had about five done, he asked if I would assist in the big pour. Of course! I wanted to document my first experience as a foundry girl, but it's impossible to handle a crucible of hot liquid aluminum and take pix. Luckily, our good friend and photographer, Jay Blackburn, was visiting and he documented the process.

The welding supply store is not usually a fashion destination, but some of these items have a certain industrial chic quality. Especially Matt's Tillman leather welding cape sleeve, which is a very short leather jacket and as my friend Andrea mentioned once, it could be very sexy on a woman. (I just found it available on a site called "Weldfabulous", three snaps for that!) And Matt's welding cap, made of a Chanel-like quilted black cotton. Style potential!

Back to work: face shield down as Matt and I pour the aluminum into molds which have Matt's foam sculptures buried in a special foundry sand.  The molten aluminum vaporizes the foam on contact.

We poured about thirty-five pounds of aluminum, creating five sculptures, all from remnants of Matt's larger aluminum sculptures. This is all done right below our living room window.

Matt's happy with the pour, which only took about fifteen exciting minutes. Next step is to dig them out of the sand and do hours of finish work.

Old Friends, 8" high x 10" long

And here are the results. Matt worked his magic and took the very rough aluminum forms and smoothed the surfaces until it had the finish he wanted. Here are more of Matt's sculptures.

M-80, 16"high x 23"wide x 6"deep

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nail Report: This Stuff Works!

 After I wrote my previous story on nails and manicures, my friend Carole revealed her nail care secret. Every day or so she brushes on a coat of Nailtiques Formula 2. Her nails always look nice so I thought I'd give it a try. I did and I'm impressed. Sometimes, by some fluke, my nails will grow consistently longish, but very soon they start to split and break and my brief rendezvous with pretty nails is over. But I've been using this stuff for two weeks and I have long (for me) nails. And they feel strong! And they're not splitting!


It comes in three formulas and #2 seems to be the one for most people. The best part is, I can swipe on a coat before I head out the door, it dries quickly and it gives a nice shine to my nails. And it's fine to apply nail polish on top.

To celebrate my new nails, I just bought a bottle of OPI "French Quarter for Your Thoughts."
Love the name.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Ghosts in the Crescent City

Staying at the Hotel Monteleone was a little fancier than our usual French Quarter digs. 

My Auntie and I just returned from a family visit to New Orleans. A trip to NOLA is a weighty thing for me. There's a veil of loneliness, as perceptible as the summer humidity. But I'm drawn to New Orleans in spite of that. My cells respond with deep recognition to the heat, the vestiges of Mardi Gras beads hanging in the oaks and the briny smells of the French Quarter.  New Orleans is filled with ghosts for me. It was this way before Katrina and now even more so. I grew up there with my grandmother, Bootsie, pointing out old houses, "See that house on St. Anthony? That's where we lived in 1930, I put your mother and Aunt Caryl to lay on the sunporch when they were babies." Or we would drive past the small three bedroom, one bathroom shotgun house on Eden Street where my grandparents, mother, aunt, and three great aunts (Dot, Sis and Kitty) lived in the 40's and Bootsie always said the same thing, "It was one of the happiest times of my life." Or we'd go by the small white Greek Revivial house on Melpomene where my father was born.

Then there was Bootsie's house on Marshal Foch and Aunt Dot's and Aunt Myrt's on Milne Boulevard, all washed away by Katrina. Those were the houses I grew up in. Gone. And most of the people are gone too. I loved them, so I love their ghosts, but ghosts are bittersweet. I'm happy to have the memory, but I'd rather have the person. Please excuse my mournfulness! But it's not surprising in a place where the dead are buried above ground creating little cities of marble tombs and the city bus says "Cemeteries" as a destination.

But before I get too gloomy, I have to tell you, we did have fun. We always do. How could one not? The food is delish and rich, the cocktails are plentiful and there's music on every corner. And the highlight was visiting my forever stylish and elegant Aunt Mary Ellen and Uncle Ron everyday. For the last few years, Mary Ellen has been sharing the treasures from her closet with me and this trip I came home with a full-length fur coat, sable collar and a six-foot long white "fox fling".  Mary Ellen bought the coat on a very cold trip to Chicago in the early 80's. It's muskrat with a fox collar and the label says Alper-Richman furs. It'll be a bit of a challenge to wear, but no doubt some winter party or event will present itself.

I had to buy a new suitcase to get this creature home. 

In between family visits my Auntie and I strolled the Quarter shopping, eating and drinking. It was 94 degrees, but there was a breeze coming off the Mississippi. And stopping for a little refreshment helped.

We sampled absinthe at a small corner bar in Pirate's Alley. The bartender was passionate about absinthe and explained the rich history as she performed the mesmerizing ritual of putting a sugar cube on an absinthe spoon placed over a glass, slowly pouring absinthe over the cube, lighting it and letting the cube melt, then dripping ice cold water into the glass from this fabulous absinthe fountain creating a cloudy, refreshing herby licorice cocktail with quite a kick. Ah! l'heure verte, as they say (they being the artists of the Belle Epoque.) We each bought two absinthe spoons to use at home.

Taking a break from the midday heat, we popped into this shop, Wise Buys on Chartres and made friends with Charlene and Liz. Auntie found a smart mustard-colored linen jacket and I bought a super soft and perfect for traveling dress and slim pants made of Modal, a textile created from beech trees.

Look at all this gorgeous color and she wears it so well.

Another fast friend I made was LeAndra Shipps at Red Lantern on Royal Street. Chatting with strangers who quickly become friends is one of the best things about New Orleans. You can start a conversation with a store owner, the person waiting in line with you, the person standing on the corner or just about anyone and they'll happily chat back.  Unlike San Francisco where they look at you like you're crazy or they're scared you want something. And usually some connection is discovered. A famous NO quote is "My mama knows your mama." Come to find out, we were practically neighbors when she lived in San Francisco a few years ago.

And walking through Jackson Square we saw this just-married couple celebrating with friends. They looked so stylish, simple and darling I had to take a pic.

One of my favorite restaurants is Mr. B's and it's conveniently located across the street from the Hotel Monteleone. The rich dark interior is a welcome break on a hot day. We enjoyed two lunches there and
the strong an spicy Bloody Mary was only $1.50!

For one lunch we sat at the bar and had this rich Gumbo Ya-Ya (chicken and sausage) and a delicious French 75 cocktail (sparkling wine, cognac, lemon and a little sugar).

As they say about New Orleans Creole culture, "A love of ease, exaggerated self-esteem, prodigious self-indulgence, lavish hospitality and a refined and lively interest in the arts." I can relate to that.