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Before I talk about my trip to Boise, I wanted to mention one of the tools I took with me. In a post a few years ago, I mentioned the trouble I was encountering with my near vision. At the time, I wondered how much longer I would be able to work on small-scale models. The sad truth was that in the year that followed, painting only got more difficult. Even with corrective lenses, I found that by the end of the day my ability to do close work was non-existent. My unintended hiatus from the studio may have been  due to the realization that the book would never be completed without a period of single-minded focus, but my growing frustration with my vision – and the resulting headaches – certainly played their part.

What I did not expect was just how bad that vision had deteriorated while I was away. Working on the computer, where I can enlarge images to fill my 27″ Macintosh monitor, hid the problem. When I returned to the studio, it was clear that even with reading glasses, the situation was not remotely workable. Not only were they not strong enough, the magnification was wrong for the distance I tended to hold things in order to paint them (which is quite a bit closer than people typically hold a book). I also needed them all the time, not just for the smallest details. That meant that I didn’t take them off, so when I looked at my desk for the next color or a specific tool, this is what I saw.

Where is that bottle of Smoke Gray again?

I already wear progressive bifocals with a far and a mid-range correction. But for work, what I needed was the correct magnification for really close work, plus a mid-range so I could glance over at the tools on my desk, and a distance so that I could see the pressure reading on the compressor or the temperature reading on the kiln (or know which of my children was at the door to interrupt me). Most progressives change from far to near starting at the top and going to the bottom. I needed the order changed so that the closest was in the central part of the lens, since that was their primary function.

Thankfully, my optometrist was willing to work with me to develop a specialized lens for studio work. I would encourage anyone with age-related vision issues to do this. In my case, I took my work and some tools and had her watch how I work. She then measured distances, and came up with a design that would work. She cautioned that we might have to make a few attempts to get the correction placement and the transitions just right, but so far it seems the lab got them right with the first try.

Like any progressive lens, they have taken a bit of time to adjust. I realize now that I really should have started the process much earlier. The glasses (which are pictured at the top with Taboo) arrived the day before I attended Christi’s workshop. Struggling with a completely different lens configuration at a workshop was not the smartest thing I ever did! And I was only marginally better when I left the next day for Boise. But little by little, I find my productivity returning now that I am losing my fear that what I think I see as I paint may be quite different from reality!
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Small breakthroughs

One day when my youngest son was a toddler, he decided he was too old for baths and requested a shower. I set him inside the shower stall in our master bedroom, and went to get extra towels just in case things got especially wet. I was only gone for a minute – just long enough to walk down the hall to the linen closet. When I came back I found him sitting on the floor of the shower, oblivious to the water falling on his head, with all the pieces of the drain scattered around him. In just that brief time he had taken it apart. I didn’t even know it came apart.

He is one of those people who are just seem born with an instinctive understanding of how things work. He gets this from his father, because I am most assuredly not one of those people. I often struggle with relatively simple machinery.

Which brings me to the item in the picture. That is the fastener on a mold strap. Mold straps hold the pieces of a mold tight while the slip is poured. I haven’t needed mold straps in the past because I have always dealt with molds smaller molds that could be held together with wide rubber bands. This has been a good thing, because I never could figure out how the fasteners worked. What is sad is that I have seen them used at Pour Horse. I’d even unfastened and refastened them, so I know how they are supposed to feel when they lock. I just couldn’t seem to make mine work.

I thought I could avoid dealing with them at all by simply using the same kind of large black rubber bands that I had used on the rubber master. They actually came off a set of “moon shoes” that my kids got for Christmas one year. When he first saw them, my friend Joe insisted that the shoes were the best job security he had seen in a while. Joe is a emergency room doctor. Shortly after that the shoes went missing (funny, that!), all except those useful-looking black bands.

I became skeptical though, when I had the completed mold. The rubber master tends to stick together a bit all on its own, so it doesn’t need to be cranked closed quite like the plaster one. I wasn’t sure the rubber bands were up to holding the large side pieces tightly enough.

As this picture of the first pour shows, they were not. The extra clay around the leg is where the liquid slip leaked between the pieces. (The white areas are from the mold soap that is present on the sides of the mold pieces.) This wouldn’t work. Not only does that slight gap distort the casting, but the clay between the pieces effectively glues the whole thing shut. It is almost impossible to remove a horse in this kind of situation without tearing it.

So I had to figure out the mold straps. I felt a little better when even my husband was at a loss. They looked simple enough, and he works in an engineering field. We must not have been the only ones, because in my search for a picture online of how they looked like closed, I found this online tutorial. Suddenly it all made sense, and now I have a tightly strapped mold. I thought it might be worthwhile to share the link, in case others were having similar trouble.

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