four walls, no walls, you and me.

kombucha update
November 30, 2009, 8:21 pm
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I am so bummed. My last kombucha batch did not fare well. Too cold at the moment and the stupid heat pad I was using had an automatic shut off so it never got warm enough to grow. Had to admit defeat and buy some at the store. Researching heat pads at the moment, going to give it another try once I figure it out.


Kombucha, Round 2
November 5, 2009, 2:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Since my last post on the topic, I’ve successfully brewed one batch of kombucha. After the SCOBY got a little more solid, I put it in a new batch of tea and left it out for a little over a week. After a while, the pH levels seemed good and the smell was right so I decided it was time to bottle it. I got a little fancy and chopped up some ginger into a puree which I then strained into the brew, along with a bit of apple juice. Let me tell you, it was delish!

However, I did a lot of traveling toward the end of September and early October so I was unable to keep up with the process. I didn’t want to risk contamination since there was no one else to look after it so I ended up tossing out the mother and baby before I left. It was a sad day since I had been through so much with that first SCOBY and it takes soooo loong to cultivate a new one. BTW, SCOBY’s feel really weird, and are surprisingly tough. I can’t imagine how people eat them.

Now, I’m on round 2 of Operation SCOBY. I bought a new bottle of GT’s but this time, instead of dumping the bottle into a jar by itself, I mixed it with some sweet tea which is the recommended method, I think. I also used a different type of tea, which is not working out so well for me. This particular tea has an oil that once brewed rests on top of the tea like a film. I think this oil is bad for making Kombucha so I tried to get rid of as much as I could with paper towels. I think the best results have been when I used an organic white tea (which is a type of green tea) even though many people have said they did not get good results with white/green teas as opposed to black.

So far not much is happening but the weather has also been weird lately so I’ll have to be patient. I’m using a heat pad set on low to warm things up. I’ve read that during the colder months, a heat pad really helps so we’ll see how that goes. Not much to look at for the moment but once things get interesting I’ll post photos. Fingers crossed that this batch goes well!

Green Art
November 3, 2009, 5:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Inspired by my friend Sheena’s new blog, Granola Tendencies, I decided I would do a post on eco alternatives in Art.

One of the big caveats with art is that it’s so damn expensive! In school, people would always comment on how lucky I was that I almost never had to spend the couple hundred dollars on textbooks for class. What they didn’t realize was that in the course of a semester, I would end up spending several times that amount on art supplies! One great way of being eco-friendly is to simply consume less. By this I mean ways you can use what you have around you to make art, as opposed to running out and buying new art materials every time you have a new project. This is very eco-friendly in that it reduces waste and doesn’t contribute to the enormous amounts of energy and materials used in producing new products, etc…

Chopsticks: Not only for eating noodles, they make great drawing utensils. You can also use forks or spatulas or credit cards to lay blocks of texture. In Learning by Heart, Sister Corita suggests an exercise where one makes drawings using only chopsticks and india ink. The combination of using something as simple as ink and a chopstick really invites a sense of play (which is crucial to any creative endeavor) since the way we feel toward a chopstick is not the same way one might feel toward say, a #12 Kolinsky Sable brush, for example. 

Spoons: A good spoon or ladle can go a long way. Use these instead of a brayer for small prints. If you have larger prints, you can use an empty can covered with cloth for the same purpose. In fact, many useful things can be found in a kitchen utensil drawer. A butter knife makes an excellent bone folder.

Glue: Why buy glue when you can easily make it? Wheat paste has been around for centuries and is a favorite among street artists worldwide. It uses just 3 common household items: water, flour and sugar. There are lots of different recipes for making wheat paste but here’s one if you don’t want to sift through google. They are all pretty much the same, and will be good for use for up to a week. Also consider this as an alternative to store bought Modge Podge or epoxy resins for sealing.

Buy used: Nowadays, a lot of the art you see is digital. This means digital cameras, software, tools, etc. Consider buying these things used instead of new. Technology moves fast and it’s important to keep up, but unless you are a pro and making money off your art, then it doesn’t really seem reasonable to buy that new $3K digital camera or $2k for that pen tablet. Remember, it’s what you do with the tools you have. Although I may want the new 5D Mark II or D700, if I don’t know how to compose a nice picture to begin with, no amount of vibration reduction, vertical horizon, autofocus, etc…is going to make it any better than if i shot it using a disposable camera. And think of all the plastic you saved from the dump by buying used! Also, many programs come with multiple downloads or users. Consider splitting one among friends or searching for a single user from places like craigslist or eBay. 

Notebooks: I LOVE notebooks. This is one area that’s really hard for me. Every artist needs a good notebook. I have a reserve of several nicer notebooks/journals for the stuff I want to keep or remember but for quick notes and to-do lists – the stuff that eventually gets tossed and recycled – I use scrap paper. At work we go through a lot of paper, and almost all of it is one-sided. I keep a pile of this on my desk for quick notes or things that I know I won’t need to keep around for a while. You can also gather up all this paper and bind it into a nice little notebook as well. 

Pens: Ok, so this is me on my soapbox for a minute. As much as I love notebooks, I also LOVE fountain pens. They are very eco-friendly in that you only need ONE good fountain pen and it will last you for potentially your entire lifetime. At the very least it will outlast your cheapy disposable several times over. Just think of all the plastic that goes into making disposable pens – and then think of your pen collection. How many of those pens are disposable? I would guess that for most Americans, almost all the pens they use are disposable.  All that ends up somewhere. Although I have several fountain pens, my favorite is a super cheapy one made by a Chinese company (Hero) that I picked up in Thailand for around $2 USD. Similar models (Hero 330) are available here for only $5. Noodler’s inks are also relatively inexpensive at around $10-15/bottle for 3oz which is more than enough ink to last. That’s a $15-20 investment, which I’m sure is around or less than what most of us spend in the course of a year on pens. Not to mention all the other benefits of fountain pens such as improved penmanship, less strain on your hand, etc… Fountain pens now come in many different nib sizes so illustrators have a variety of line widths to choose from.

Canvas: Yes, sometimes, you will need to go buy that huge canvas for that huge project, but sometimes, you don’t. Consider other materials that are readily available and free/cheap. Adam Neate made a career out of painting on cardboard. Consider this, along with wood, glass, vinyl, fabric, basically any surface. Many of these items can be found in thrift stores for cheap. Now, with the huge popularity of Street Art, the entire city is your canvas! Painting on an alternative surface also pushes you to think more about the nature of that surface. It engages your creative juices in a different way than painting on canvas or canvas board.

These are but a few ideas. Feel free to tweak these to suit your needs and resources. Also don’t be afraid to build your own tools. If you have any more ideas, let me know and I’ll post them here. More to come on eco-friendly art in future posts as well as different topics to consider.