Saturday Morning Tea

The air is completely still this morning with hardly a whisper of a breeze. Temperatures are supposed to soar well into the 90s this weekend with the humidity level just as high. It’s a good day to be inside with the AC or next to a fan, relaxing with a good book and a cup of tea.

This morning’s tea is a unique white Assam from the Mothola estate. Usually when one thinks of an Assam tea, it is of a hearty, rich black tea. That is what most Assam teas are. This tea, however, is a unique production, entirely handcrafted which shows in the gorgeous full leaf covered in tiny white hairs.

The tea plant is called camellia sinensis, named by the father of modern taxonomy, Carl Linneaus, a Swedish botanist from the 1700s. There are several different variations of the tea plant. Assam teas, grown in the lowland district of Assam in northeastern India, are harvested from the Camellia Sinensis assamica variation. I have read that this particular variation has a higher caffeine level than the Camellia Sinensis sinensis or Chinese varietal. Perhaps this is why many folks enjoy Assams for breakfast . The name Sinensis actually means Chinese in Latin.

I know that it is such an artist cliche to say “I love color” but I truly, truly do, ever since I was very young. In fact, my favorite childhood book called “The Color Kittens” by Margaret Wise Brown, was all about colors and mixing them to create other colors. The words and images of this book filled my little person world well before I learned to read. From that time on, color spoke directly to my soul on a very deep level. I talk about that here. Anyway, I was captivated by the color of the liquor of this tea. A gorgeous dark honey, its aroma is sweet and malty. The flavor is also sweet and light but full of flavor that fills your mouth with a hint of nuttiness.

This is definitely one of my favorite teas!

Studio Wednesday

Every Wednesday I work at home in my studio. As I only have one day a week in my studio, one of my goals is to be more disciplined with my time so I can get the most amount of work done in the time I have. The first step towards this goal is to create a task list for myself on what I’d like to accomplish in the studio that day. I’ll make my task list up every Tuesday night. Another step in my goal process is to establish a weekly blog post entitled “Studio Wednesday” where I will share what I’ve been creating in my studio lately. A big thank you to my friend Amy who has been a big inspiration to me in setting this goal for myself.

The photos are of some of the jewelry I created with the faux jade polymer clay I found in my studio when I was cleaning. The pendant above contains the Kanji character for “Beauty”. This was the word I chose for 2008.

Today I worked on my fringy bracelet and completed the first pass. On the second pass, I might add a couple more beads here and there but it will mainly be about reinforcing all of the heavier beads in the bracelet.

I also discovered that the sterling silver wires that I had super glued in the mokume gane polymer clay earring components weren’t staying put. When I opened the loop to add the earwires on some of them, the wire started to move. So, after some internet research to find out what type of glue would work better, I went up to Lowe’s and found an epoxy that works well on plastic which is basically what polymer clay is, namely polyvinyl chloride or PVC. Fine particles of PVC are suspended in a liquid plasticizer to create polymer clay. The epoxy has 2 separate tubes that are set side by side with a plunger that dispenses equal amounts of material for mixing. It is the mixing of these 2 materials that creates the strong bond. You can read more about how it works here. It will be fully cured in 24 hours so, hopefully, this will work to keep the wire in place in the polymer clay.

My Weekend Project

A couple of weeks ago, I was organizing my polymer clay stuff in my studio when I found a bag of faux jade I had mixed up years ago at one of my guild meetings. So, I got out my rubber stamps and paint and had some fun making beads and charms for jewelry. I was playing around with different combinations when I decided to create a fringy bracelet with some of the bead charms I had made. I love fringy bracelets and have been making them for years. As I find myself moving into a more improv, freeform style with my jewelry, this type of bracelet fits perfectly with my interests and taste.

Going with the ancient look of the faux jade charms, I chose some matte/opaque disc shaped beads: African opal, coral, palmwood along with jade and turquoise heishe and rectangle fossilized coral beads. The fossilized beads are great. Some have starburst patterns and others look like they’re covered in ancient script in various color combinations of oranges, ambers and tan.

The design possibilities of these bracelets are endless. I have so much fun creating them that I’ve often thought of offering to make custom fringy bracelets with a person’s favorite charms, beads and ephemera.

My workstation won’t be this neat by the end of my project. As I beaded, I thought about a clasp. A Chinese coin toggle clasp would be perfect to finish this bracelet. If I can’t find one, I’ll make one then. Hmmm, I’ve been meaning to use that package of PMC…

More Musings on Jersey Shore 2008

I wish I lived near the beach. It’s interesting because years ago I had my natal chart read. I found an astrologer and sent her the date and time of my birth and she in turn sent me a map of the alignments of the planets and stars at the exact moment of my birth. Fascinating. One of the things my chart told me was that I am deficient in Water, of the four elements, Earth, Fire, Water and Air. It advised that I should either live near water or drink a lot of water everyday. Even before this information was shared with me, I have always felt very drawn to the sea. So, someday, I would like to live by the beach so I could walk at the water’s edge every morning as I did when I was on vacation. It is at the top of my list of “well fillers”.

As long as I’ve been visiting the beach, I’ve listened to my Dad’s stories about his passion for fishing. Fishing is one of his well fillers, I think, and it really doesn’t have all that much to do with the fish or actually catching them, if that makes any sense. It is the whole experience of being at the water’s edge or out on the sea in a boat and interacting with it. My Dad’s passion, even though it is much different from my own, has inspired my passions for nature and art and photography.

As we look to our parents and those venerable elders who have influenced our lives, it is there that we can learn more about ourselves. I am grateful for so much my Dad has taught me about life.

I was sad to leave this wonderful place and week of Being but have come home with its wisdom of connecting, with myself, with my family and with Nature.

I am looking forward to my return next year…

Saturday Morning Tea

The weekend is showing promise of perfect mid-summer weather – nice and warm with lower humidity and sunny skies. Now that things are caught up from vacation both at work and at home, I’m looking forward to a couple of days with no responsibilities, filled with working on my art projects. I started my May journal page but set it aside for vacation. Now it’s time to turn my focus back to it and complete what I started. There are so many things that I would like to do and sometimes I get so overwhelmed with trying to balance it all, especially with a full-time day job. How do you find balance in your life?

Ok, time for my cup of tea. This morning I’m sipping a Japanese Sencha called Supersencha Kamakura. The dry leaf looks like grass clippings, flat, smooth and very green. Green tea has a long history in Japan, having been introduced in the 9th century by a Buddhist monk returning from his travels in China. You can read more about it here. The most well known type of Japanese green tea is Matcha, the powdered green tea used for the Tea Ceremony, Chanoyu (translation: hot water for tea). I had the honor of attending a tea ceremony last fall in Boston and I wrote about it here.

After the leaves are plucked, they are steamed to stop the oxidation and then rubbed and dried. The rubbing breaks down the cell walls and releases the volatile oils which gives the tea its wonderful flavor.

The liquor has an interesting yellow green color and sweet, vegetal aroma. Japanese green tea can be very vegetal tasting, moreso than Chinese green tea. This tea is quite vegetal but also sweet which smooths out the pungency. There is also a slight nutty note which lingers on my tongue. Years ago I received this tea bowl as a gift from a friend and it is perfect for my Japanese green tea. I imagine majestic mountains watching over the tea fields below.

Time for another cup. Have a glorious weekend!