Who is Sue and what is Suelandia?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tina's Home

Hey people.  Today we installed one of the biggest, most complicated, & coolest sculptures of my career so far.  It's also one I have a lot of feelings for, and it went to a place that's very important to me, so I thought I'd recap the story of Tina here, just to sort of close it out and tie it up with a bow.

It began before I even really knew what mountain biking was.  I'd just moved to the town we now live in, and found this sort of hidden away park that was a big cool woods with trails winding through it.  Frankly, I didn't believe people actually rode bikes on parts of this trail that were tricky to even hike, but it was gorgeous over there and I began spending a lot of time walking and running the trail.

Part of the trail goes though this kind of junky area and is even made of old bus pistons.

As a metal artist, rusty old junk is kind of irresistible to me.  Sure enough, a little ways off the trail I found the remains of an old stock car.  ~Score!~  

There is a bit of a time compression here.  I hung out at the park so often that I soon began running into mountain bikers.  I was fascinated by their-- to me at the time-- ~crazy antics~, and dodging them on my runs added a thrill factor I rather enjoyed.  Eventually, I got to know a few of them, the guy in charge of the place in particular-- Cool-Trail-Boss-Rich, and wound-up getting my own bike (*Penny*), and joining the ranks of the trailwork crew.  (I now am one of the crazy riders I used to live vicariously through and spy on.)

This all led to me being asked if I felt like adding a piece of my art to the trail, by another dedicated rider/volunteer who was donating a bridge before moving out of state, just to show his appreciation of the place.  I was super happy to oblige and knew immediately I wanted that old race car to be part of the project.  Rich okay'd the removal of the parts, and even helped me haul it all out.  So here's what Tina started out looking like.

This was the original installation site.  I was checking out possible positions etc, still figuring out how my idea would work.

 As usual, there was also a little goofing around.  Heh heh.
 My original idea was to create a sort of trail faerie, like a magical wood nymph, who would preside over the park.  Another volunteer gave me some concrete antlers from an old deer statue over there, and my idea began to evolve into a little more formidable presence.  I liked the idea of a mystical trail guardian, but wanted her to be more bad-ass than a faerie.  I could see her in my mind.
 
When I make people I start with the face first because if that's off, it doesn't matter how awesome the body is, it's still a fail.

It starts with a chalk sketch on my bench, then I frame it in.  Here I'm checking for symmetry etc.  If I'd been paying attention, I'd have seen the jawline & proportions of the lower part of the face were way off, but I didn't notice at the time.

Framing is like seeing what you're making before it really exists.  You're caging the invisible form only you can see.

A new twist with this project was completely covering the frame with steel-- cutting and forming it all cold.  I'd never tried this before, but wanted to raise the bar.

It all seemed to be going really well.  It was tons of work, but it was definitely coming out as a human face.  One problem.  When I stepped back to look at the very end of this process, somehow, Tina came out looking like a dude.

It took a bit of figuring out to determine what went wrong-- what I needed to fix.  I wound-up having to cut apart and rebuild the whole lower half of her face and her nose.  In the end I was happy with her.  She looked smart, and confident, but decidedly female.

It took me a while to decide on her pose, but once I settled on a ready-for-action observant squat, I started framing in her body, checking bio mechanics (hip & shoulder angles etc) as I went.  I like my sculptures to balance, just like they would in real life.  It's a good double-check you've got things lined-up correctly. 

Some projects you do for $, some for love.  Tina was definitely a labor of love, and had to be done in between paying jobs, so she took me about 2 years to complete.  When she was done I was really happy with how she turned-out.

She hung out at my place for a while because I was super busy with work, and Rich was super busy directing races and we had no time to work-out an installation.  That was cool because lots of people got to see her at an art show at my place over the summer.  Many said she looked like me, which was flattering, but I was never too sure about this myself.

A good friend recently said she thought Tina did look like me, but it was more her vibe.  "She looks calm, but you can tell there's this wildness radiating out from just beneath the surface."  I kind of liked that, because I do feel like that a lot-- like the wild part is trying to claw its way out, and I feel I put a lot of *me* in this sculpture.

The bridge location wound-up not being right.  We decided on another spot, using a dead tree as a perch right next to the trail.  (Near the end of section 3 for you riders.)  ;)

We had to cut it shorter and flatten out the stump.

And when I say we, I mean Rich.  I *supervised* this portion of the install.  

Then *we* had to drill a bunch of holes.

Then there was a whole BUNCH of ratcheting that had to be done to tighten down the numerous giant lag bolts (which we glued the heads of after so they can basically never be removed).  Some of this was accomplished with psychotic hair and a goofy expression.

And some was done using the world's tiniest wrench just to show off torquing power.  (I did a lot of the bolting down stuff too btw.  I know I look purely ornamental, or perhaps just mental, but am actually kind of handy at times.)

Tah-dahhhhh!  Tina in her brand new home!  

Lawd help anyone who tries to mess with her, because she was made for everyone who enjoys this park and trail, and I'm pretty sure anyone caught trying to fool with her will have the hurt put on them by the entire mountain biking community of the state, or at least the Twin Cities.

In reality, I'd be pretty surprised if anyone if anyone did.  I think people will just think she's cool and appreciate that she's adding something to the park.  She's for everyone, and everyone will help look out for her I bet.

After all, me and Tina are all about spreading good vibes.  :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

All the Sue's down in Sueville...

Hey people.  If you are someone already brimming with holiday good cheer, have never lost your shit and completely spazzed-out over something dumb, or have a huge problem with a little profanity, you should probably just tune-out right now.  For those of you sticking around-- there is an adorable cat picture a little ways down.  :)

Here's the latest pic of my now completely sterile kitchen.  Yes, I now make anyone entering wear these suits so that I never in my life have to clean it this thoroughly again.  (My mom read that post and nearly burst with pride btw.  She even printed it out to show my grandma.  See???  In our family this is not a sign of an impending mental breakdown, but cause for celebration that at long last I've *come around*.)  ~Runs screaming as my mom and grandma chase me flexing their rubber gloved fingers chanting "one of us, one of us..."~

Now that I'm in domestic goddess mode, there is no job too large around the old hacienda.  Why would I just rest on my laurels and be satisfied with merely ~clean~ like any other sane person?  No.  Not me-- remember the office relocation/master bathroom reorganization project?  It bloomed into a full-blown remodel involving a trip to Ikea-- home improvement/redecorating mecca.

The hoards and shuffling masses of people there with us Sat probably have no idea how close they came to making my head actually explode.  Seriously people?  Stop and go traffic?  On foot???  How about standing around in slack-jawed bewilderment OFF TO THE SIDE???  ~sheesh!~

A few hours later we were home with our *new bathroom*, and just had to unbox and assemble it.  It was 2:30, and I saw no reason we couldn't be completely done by 6:00.  Well...

Now our bathroom looks like this, because this *simple project*, turns-out, requires rewiring the light fixtures, moving an outlet, and re-doing some of the plumbing to fit right with the new sink etc.  Oh, and now fixing the wall we messed-up too, which we might as well tile while we're at it. 

 I'm giving us until this time next week to finish the project now.  --What?

If it seems like I was a little irritable in Ikea, it's probably because I was still recovering from my first melt-down of the holiday season.    I hate this time of year people.  I've always had an irrational aversion to family gatherings, and our family also has a couple birthdays thrown into the mix this time of year, plus Dan's mom has *alternate* holidays, meaning there is no missing one or possibly squeezing 2 into one day for a 2-fer.  It means DUPLICATE holidays.  For every single holiday.  ~boo~

Seeing my calendar choked with dumb holiday stuff causes me to feel a lot of anxiety, like those spies on t.v. in the 70's who'd find themselves in a little room with the walls beginning to close in.  The gross consumerism "black friday" etc aspect of it all makes me just want to barf, and the other religious part of it just reads as piety to me.  I don't get into it.  This makes people look at me like this--
 
World to Sue-- "You are doing it wrong!"  "But don't you think this??? And don't you think that???"  No.  I do not.  What I do is stress out and throw a big raging fit about it.

So I was folding towels the other night, (because I am officially becoming my mother)  (Sure mom, you're pleased about this now maybe (if the warning at the beginning didn't deter you that is), but just keep reading.  heh heh heh)-- anyway, I was folding towels and ranting about all the *stupid fucking holiday stuff* I'd have to do, and getting more and more worked up about it all, all the dumb ads on t.v., all the pressure to create some fake, sappy, holidayishness.

Dan was sitting on the sofa dutifully nodding, his eyes flicking from the t.v. to me every once in a while, as I strangled towels in what had become a death grip.  I can't even remember what I was really talking about because my anger wasn't focused on any one thing really, just ~*THE HOLIDAYS*~ approaching like a giant asteroid.

I wound-up taking off my pants because I'd gotten too hot, and stomped around the house yelling stuff like, "That's right Elk River-- they're purple-- DEAL WITH IT!" and a bunch of eff-bombs were dropped in every possible iteration-- --ing,  --ingly,  --ity, --wad,  --bag,  --tarded, etc etc. 

Eventually I blew myself-out, and Dan calmed me down by smashing me a little.  We go together like traffic and weather.  Guess who's weather. 

(Another sign of my probable craziness is that I've always found it really calming for him to press his hand right into the center of my chest.  Something about the compression is very soothing.)  And we talked, and he wisely told me to-- hello??? eliminate a couple things form my schedule.  And I did-- and hey-- the world didn't explode.

Okay-- Ray doesn't really have much to do with this story, but kitties really calm me down too.  See how cute???

 I did feel like a giant weight had been lifted from me, but I was only half-way there because the next day I'd have to go fill my mom in on all this and get my annual lecture/inquisition about my un-holidayishness and how wrong and bad and anti-social and atheist it is of me.  (Incidentally-- no. I'm not an atheist.) 

To her credit, this was the first year ever mom didn't do any of this.  I told her about the losing my shit and pantsless ranting and rampant swearing and she actually thought it was pretty funny and said, "Wow-- you ARE officially becoming me."

Then she just made me my favorite meal in the whole world-- cheese souffle, and did not lecture me at all except to advise me that I really shouldn't share all my misanthropic views on this here blog because I'd offend everyone in the whole world essentially.  (Isn't she cute?)

I told her I really wasn't that worried about offending the sensibilities of people with mainstream views about all this holiday stuff-- they have their socially accepted positions and the validation of the masses to fall back on.  I felt like, if anyone out there feels more like me-- and i know I'm in the minority-- that it might help them to know they aren't totally alone-- and more importantly-- aren't ~horrible, bad, or crazy~.  (Is this thing fricking awesome or what?  ~drool~)

My goal, this holiday season, is going to be to be *real* first and foremost.  If I feel like baking-- great.  If I am moved to give a gift-- super.  If I decide decorating a little seems fun-- okay.  (~Mmmmmm~)

But I am not going to do anything purely out of obligation, and am not going to drive myself crazy trying to *be how I'm supposed to*.  (Not that I ever have really-- but this year I'm not going to stress about it anymore.)  Deal with it America!  ~Defiantly shakes fist, in her underwear.~

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Things going on besides cleaning my stupid house--

Hey people.  Winter-- BAM!  Welcome to Minnesota.  It was 70 degrees early last week, and Saturday our area supposedly got about 12" of snow.  But the woods are beautiful any time of year-- see???

Friday I got in what may be my last ride on dirt for a while.  I took Penny over to the trail solo (Pam is in recovery mode).  I put on my big-girl panties and rode the spiral stairs all by myself. 

I've been too scared to ride this feature until late this season, and have ridden it every single time since the *maiden voyage* following Sam's back wheel about a month and a half ago.  (I actually said out-loud that first time, "Don't be scared Penny!" just before going down.  Me = dork.)  It's been a white-knuckler for me every time for sure. 

This last time, all by myself, I was worried I'd balk and it would become a mental block, but I didn't.  (Yes, sometimes being me is like having a skittish horse living inside you & you aren't totally sure what it's going to do next.)  While my actual line wasn't any different this last time-- someone watching wouldn't be able to tell the difference between this trip down the stairs and others, it FELT a lot more in control, less terrifying.  ~Progress!~

I was SO glad I snuck in that last ride.  This time of year I can go kind of bonkers.  The trail isn't set-up, (packed/groomed etc) for winter riding yet.  They want you to stay off for now so it doesn't get all rutted/stomped-up and wrecked.  There's not enough snow to x-ski yet.  I like running on the trail, but even footprints mess-it-up.  I decided I needed to find my own trail over there that isn't dependent on trail conditions-- off the bike trail.  Between the access road, a couple ATV work trails, deer trails, and power line easements I've worked out a nice little loop I've been working on packing down with my snow boots.  (The pic above is on part of it.  Climbing over trees is good exercise anyway.  :)  )

Here's a pic from the cool chick file--- Kathleen on her second try at mountain biking.  She didn't want to wear a helmet, but I made her, and I think this pic proves they DO NOT make you look dorky.  She looks pretty cool if you ask me.  On this ride, her second try, and about her third or fourth lap of the beginner loop, she rode down a little rocky hill she'd been getting off and walking down. 

I rode down and stopped, expecting to have to wait for her, and when I looked back there she was, riding it out with her eyes bugging half out of her head.  But she did it!  Another pal Maery was really bummed she didn't get over there before the snow, but she's hot to give it a try now too.  Next year I'm going to try a couple things to get these and other chicks more tribed-up.  It's pretty clear I'll have to CREATE a pier group since I haven't found anyone besides Pam and one or two other gals to play with.  ~scheming~

Speaking of piers, gave another gal a little welding lesson today.  People ask me all the time if I'll teach them how to weld and I always say no, because I'm not an instructor, and usually, they just think it would be a novel thing to try out, and it's a waste of my time.  It's not like they're going to run out and build a shop and buy welding equipment etc.   

When this gal asked at my open house last summer I gave my usual answer, but she said-- "Oh, I already have a welder-- I just don't know how to use it yet."  Okay-- game on.  Today she brought her stuff over and we tried to get her dialed in.  It was all experimental for me though, because her welder is way different than mine (flux-core).  Lots more spatter etc by it's nature.  We messed around with the settings and worked on her form, getting in close enough, speed, technique etc and made some progress.  Enough so she could take it home and practice at least. 

I remember when I was first learning all the noise and sparks and heat were very distracting and seemed to = ~immanent danger~!  I gave her some safety tips, but really it just takes a lot of practice until you are used to it and no longer phased by all the *fireworks.*  She's got some really cute ideas for making things out of old silverware.  Now that she tried my welder she wants an actual MiG of course.  ~Sorry Nancy's husband.~  :D

Lastly-- Good bye tiny trees-- See ya next year!

I finished my last dozen today and THANK GOD because I'm so sick of making them I could barf-- and my hand is really shot now.  This type of work comes with a few hazards.  The ones I struggle most with seem to be air quality and joint issues in my hands.  I'm doing PT on my trigger hand, which is helping, but it really needs some time off now-- reduced hours.  I kind of fried it.

Now I'll be going into a phase of working on commissions, and projects I just feel like making without a firm deadline.  Hopefully it will allow me to recover a bit before having to hit it hard again for my next show in April.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The take-away

Hey people.  I did it-- spent 3 entire days cleaning my house.  3.  Days.  And my kitchen is about 95% clean now!  Seriously-- I didn't even get to expand into other rooms yet, but to be fair-- I relocated our *home office* in the process, and that also involved a major reorganization of the master bathroom-- long story.  And no-- our new office isn't in the bathroom.  :)

I'm still considering this to be an open project.  Can't stop now.  *Git 'er dun.*  But have to make a bunch of little groupings of trees this week, and do have 4 commissions waiting for me, so the cleaning frenzy will have to take place in "chunks" now.

Much as I dislike cleaning, here are some things I concluded:

1)  While I still do feel that there are things in my life that take much greater priority than housework (friends, time outside, sometimes youtube etc, heh heh) a lot of my aversion to it is probably related to not liking to think of myself as a *housewife*.  This is kind of immature, and I should try to get over it.

BTW-- That phone etc cord octopus?  I did find a good solution-- I cut a little hole in the back of this baskety thing.  Now they're all hidden away inside.  The jack is right behind it so they HAVE to be in this location, but not a bad work-around right?

2) As much as I grew to absolutely hate housework and resented all the over-emphasis on cleaning while I still lived with my folks, I did learn how to really clean the living crap out of stuff.  When I clean something, it KNOWS it's been cleaned by God.  If anyone wants to, you can come over and eat off my stove now, and other things I cleaned over the last 3 days.

Here is one area I decided I like and is *me*.  Everything here is something I like, that has meaning for me.  There is nothing superfluous or anything put here just because to the world it resembles *decor*.  This is how I want my whole place to feel eventually. 

3) Someone with this many vases, should maybe think about bringing flowers to other people sometimes.  (?)

Okay, this last one I'm not so sure about.  If I took a before pic of this area and then showed you this *after* there'd be very little difference.  (Note I still refuse to remove the produce stickers on the front of the shelves.  I can't abandon all signs of rebellion it seems.)  Someone I know tells co-workers, "It's easier to keep it clean than it is to get it clean," and on the whole I'm sure that's good advice.  But it really doesn't apply to dusting etc, because it's exactly the same amount of work while engaged in it.  The difference is, if you let it go for a while, you're actually getting out of some of the work you'd have to do to *keep it clean*.  Plus, when you get around to finally performing the task, the results are more dramatic.

It took hours to take all this stuff down, basically sterilize it, because that's how I roll thanks to Joanne's training, sanitize the shelves, walls, etc with infrared germ killing radiation (okay not really, but, you know, lots of scrubbing etc) and put it all back.  Dan came in later and checked it out.  "What a difference huh?"  He dutifully replied, "Wow-- sparkly!"  Then our eyes met and I was like, "Yeah.  I know.  Big friggin' deal right?"

I guess my take-away is that this kind of thing isn't real fun or even rewarding, but welcome to adulthood and home ownership I guess.  As I work my way through it I'll think more about how I want my home to look and feel, and with everything freshly spiffy and non-embarrassing, it would be a great time to plan some gatherings I haven't had time to put together for a long time.

I don't expect my dislike of housework to really change, but I am going to try for more perspective.  Getting and keeping the place a little more presentable means breaking my vow to *never* waste my time doing crap like this *when I grow up*, and that seems to trigger something in me.

A better, more mature promise I guess would be, "I promise housework will never eclipse the things in life I really value, or prevent me from spending my time in all the truly important ways.  It will remain appropriately minimal, like any other chore, and not define me."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Snow Day!

Hey people.  Despite appearances, I'm neither sucking on a lemon or bummed-out (much) at the snowfall today.  It was really nice out, pretty really, and since it was the weekend we really didn't HAVE to go anywhere.  Look-- I'm wearing the cute boots, and my new awesome scarf & jacket.  ~FashON~

The cats always have a hard time adjusting to this time of year.  All summer they run in and out at will-- I leave the patio door open.  Now they have to *ask*.

They don't take my word for it they won't like it.  So if I was willing, I could do nothing else all day except open and close the door for them every 5 minutes.

"No, seriously.  We DO want to go out.  It's nicer now than 5 minutes ago right?  Right???"

I've been putting off cleaning for months since I've been so busy working, and ~cough~ it sucks the very soul from my body.  My good friends know this about me.  Anyone who's been to my house actually knows this, whether they like me or not.

Today it took me all morning to just get this much of my kitchen clean.  And that's after spending ALL DAY yesterday just excavating-- clearing away the layers and piles of junk mail and tools and, eh-- it tires me out just listing it all so never mind.  ~Wow~  Totally worth it wouldn't you say?  (Not) 

I friggin' HATE cleaning you guys.  I grew up in a spotlessly white house (not kidding-- carpet, everything) and cleaning chores were an integral part of life my entire childhood.  I always vowed I'd find better ways to spend my time *when I grew up*.  Perhaps it's a sign I never really did, but to this day I resist cleaning whenever possible, until I just can't stand it anymore.

Look-- I'm so unaccustomed to cleaning products all the scrubbing wore the skin off my thumb & fingers.  I literally *worked my fingers to the bone* people!  (Yes, that's a welder in the background.  What?--  Doesn't every kitchen have one?)

One of the reasons I don't like cleaning is that it makes me confront things like this-- I am not, and will probably never be-- the type of person whose home is full of lovely fresh floral arrangements.  I must have wanted to be at some point, because I have a shit-load of vases.  WTH?  I haven't moved (or dusted) these since I moved in, like, 4 years ago.

My first impulse is to get rid of them all, but then I'd have a bunch of empty shelves.  That would look dumb.  No matter what I put there, it'll just get dusty.  This irritates me.  So I have a bunch of dusty vases I don't use, and meanwhile I stash this kind of thing around-- little stones, sticks, feathers & shells -- because that is what I'm into & like.  (Note my attempt to tame the phone cords-- pointless.)

I am not the kind of person who keeps their Parmesan in an attractive shaker like this, nor do I keep whatever is supposed to be in that other bottle in that thing.  Yet here they sit, now glisteningly clean, for no apparent reason.  (Nice oven mitts huh?  I refuse to get new ones until I find ones I *really like*, which is impossible because hello???-- they're just stupid oven mitts!)  (Oh-- the ancient plastic timer is a relic from Dan's past I'm not allowed to dispose of, and I'm pretty sure it's haunted because it occasionally-- about once a year-- gives an impromptu *creepy chimey music* concert all on its own.)

 Behold what took me nearly all damn day to accomplish people-- my stove now gleams with the intensity of a thousand suns.  Seriously, you need protective eyeware just to look at this sucker.  It's a regular retina fryer now.  You could *eat off it* now.  (Why is that a thing?  I mean really-- not interested.)

Do I feel a sense of accomplishment?  Like there is order to the universe now?  Like at last the pieces of my life are falling into place? Calmer somehow?  No.  No I do not.  I'm okay with it being clean (*glad* is overselling it a bit), but if I lived back in the day where doing this kind of thing was my *job*-- I'd for sure have been a pill-popping alcoholic, instead of, you know, just the regular kind.

Oh-- and check this out--- that little panel on the bottom?  It's a secret DOOR people.  And what was behind it?  ~Untold horrors.~  I have no idea what this shit is, or what it's doing there, or why there's even a door there.  Probably just to give me another area to keep track of and clean.  Guess again makers of my stove!  I'm NO WAY IN HELL reaching in this grody spider hole.  As far as I'm concerned this is the dead zone.  ~Does not exist~

This is about how far I got cleaning.  Half-way around the space of my kitchen, but since it's the half that contains the dishwasher, sink, and oven, and this weird nook, I'm calling it over half.  This corner bugs me.  I cleaned it, but it's no more handy or attractive than before really.

This is just the tip of the cleaning iceberg.  I'll work on it more tomorrow, but then have to get back to welding art stuff.  Thank God, because I doubt I could bear much more of this drudgery.  I still wish I could just dynamite the dumb calcium deposits off the bathroom stuff.