And this is why we love succulents…

…they come in all sizes, shapes, and forms.  Oh, the forms!  How can one doubt that whether by creation or evolution, the cosmic forces were having a good laugh when they came up with these:

penis crop large

…and you say, “But Chris, get your mind out of the gutter.  Clearly they resemble pickles.”  To which I say, “There’s only one kind of pickle these resemble, and Vlasic does not make them.”  I’m just saying.  Hiariously, along with the vertical part there were also two rather bulbous parts growing in almost all of these pots (you can find them now at Redenta’s on Skillman).  With spikes.  Long, scary spikes emerging from them.  As much as I wanted to include them in one of my pots for mother’s day, the spikes did deter my enthusiasm.  I know mom would have laughed, so that’s enough for me.  Would you like to see a closeup of these?  Of course you would. 

penis crop2

Wow, I bet you’re thinking, ‘that’s huge, get that out of my face!’  But just try to look away, I dare you.  It’s like a trainwreck.

And for those of you who might be actually wondering what they are called, I must say I am going to have to make a return trip to find out… I was too busy laughing the first time around.  Enjoy the spring,  Chris

 

The Head and the Hand… or

…..a succulent in the hand is worth two in the bush?  Either way, there’s been more movement in the blogosphere about concrete anatomy parts that it bears my saying something, or at least sharing some pretty pictures.  For instance, these amazing hand molds are actually quite simple to make, or so they say, using surgical gloves as molds in which to stuff your hypertufa mush solution.  Am wondering if they are hard to peel off between the fingers?  At any rate, you just KNOW I am going to be trying this at my first opportunity:  (the first picture was reproduced from a great site called drought-smart-plants.com.  Lots of neat advice and commentary there.

hand planters

hand with succulents

I have received a few requests now to try and make lifesize adult human head molds, but lack the ability to mix this much concrete in one go, nor also to make a big enough mold in one pour.  So it remains on my bucket list of  crafts.  Till that magic day when Steve and I rent a concrete truck, I’d say that folks who really want these will do well to do a general search for ‘concrete head planters.’  Here is what I found using that phrase:

Does-anyone-know-to-make-concrete-or-like-material

Those are some craaaaazy updo’s, ladies!  Love the red one especially! 

Still and all, my world of hypertufa is kind of focused on the affordable small, gift-able plant in a container that will easily fit on a kitchen windowsill.  I was tickled last week in fact to hear one smart-ass young man come up to our booth at White Rock Local Market, carefully peruse our wares (while still wearing his giant 1970’s rock star sunglasses) and proclaim, “gee, these are nice, but I just don’t think they are SMALL enough!”  I laughed and laughed.  That was a kid to my own heart.  Snarky but sincere.

And to sign off, let’s take a quick visit beyond the head and go to the other parts of the human anatomy, like hands, feet, etc.  As immortalized by some fast-food chicken ad campaign once a few years back, “Parts is parts!”    Right?  Nuf said.

baby parts

Why are babies so creepy?

They are supposedly so cute and cuddly, so why do faux babies (otherwise known as dolls) creep us out so much?  I blame the movie industry for jading us.  Then again, I wasn’t ever a fan of the dolls even as a young girl.  They seemed very limited in the amount of creative play one could get out of them.  Now give me some wooden blocks, some Leggos, and a chunck of PlayDoh and it’s game on!

pudge baby succulent 3.4 view

Nevertheless, to quell the growing interest in them as planters and objects of interest around the house, I have created a second baby doll concrete head for you to consider.  We’ll have a few at our next show (Lakewood White Rock Local, April 6) but you can order them here https://www.etsy.com/listing/128116354/concrete-hypertufa-baby-head-planter-tea and prepay and I can either deliver or mail them to you. (there is a charge to mail)  The ones you buy online won’t have any plants, but you can request a metal floral frog or a tealight candle at no extra charge.  Tillandsia will soon be on offer (air plants) but these can also be potted up with small succulents or cactus, like this guy.  Love the side view; looks like he’s rocking a faux-hawk.  What a cool kid.  pudge baby and silver bowl

pudge baby faux hawk side view

It’s the Glamorous Life for Us at Concrete Notions!

….and to celebrate what all the omens point to a great year for us Fish peeps, we’ve decided to rename our venture Concrete Notions!  It’s official too, and Chris cannot change her mind.  Why?  Because Steve already crafted this very cool metal table signage with the intials “CN” during one of his recent metal working classes.  Neat!

CN logo with bromeliad

We’re busy as beavers (cold beavers) crafting new pots back in the super-chic, uber-neat workshop.  This is the workshop:  our neighbors who get to enjoy this view could not be more pleased, we’re sure… Yeah, that’s a picnic table and a box full of what looks from this distance like garbage…. but look closer and you’ll see solid gold!  Golden resin, that is.  These are some new molds created using two-part rubber mix poured around custom-crafted models.  We’ve got some cool new pots coming out of these molds  Did we mention that?!  Oh yeah, well that’s the whole point of this exercise.

outdoor viewoutdoor table

There is even a new baby head, a bit fatter in the jowls and more cartoon-y that the previous baby, who was delicate and sweet in her features.  She’ll still be on the menu however.  Had to make another mold for her however, since her old mold gave out the ghost.  We’ve had to change the type of resin we were using for the molds – apparently concrete is very tough on silicone rubber and dries it out. 

outdoor potting tableAnd this is where all the magic happens… the potting table.  Isn’t it super glamorous, just like you imagined it?  Just exactly like Martha Stewart, if she didn’t employ a cast of hundreds to do all her work for her.  Anyway, you can see some of the new pots waiting to be matched with their perfect ‘forever partner plant.’  Awww.  That’s really the most fun part of the process. There is an artistic aspect to considering color, form, dimension, and scale that seems to be what will make our creations different from anything else.  Not always better, just different. 

Here’s a happy little family of freaks waiting to be picked up by someone just like you!  See how they are all very different, and yet sort of maintain a sense of like-a-tude?  That’s like a real family.  There’s always the good one, the trouble maker, the silly one, the troubadour… the one that ran away in a VW van and surfed all summer… I think it’s easy to see which one that one was (to the left, with the crazy surf hair). 
CN Family plants

Come see us this weekend at White Rock Local Market at the Green Spot!  It might be cool so bring your fleece and mittens.  See ya then! – Steve and Chris

_________________________________________________

Ethics in Design: when is it okay to ‘go there’?

pyramid time capsule

For some reason lately, I’ve become more concerned about stuff I’ve been seeing in the places and spaces I like to go for inspiration, joy, revival, and solace.  Many of these show up in the form of shops on Etsy, or in other blogs, in stores and indeed all media. 

Lately I’ve noticed an uptick in the use of natural items in some of my favorite designers’ work.  This intrigues me, because I really do find myself attracted to the look of nature within art;  whether encapsulated in a glass paperweight, stored forever in resin, or stuck ‘part time’ into a rock or shell. Here is a nice example: tillandsia urchins three

So, you say, “what’s your problem?” Welllll, this example is great, because air plants (tillandsia) don’t have a problem living in a cramped environment. None at all. And the designer left these free to be removed so they can be properly bathed in water once a week, which is what they need. The sea urchin might have died and fed a hungry Japanese family; or so I have to hope. This could have all ended well. But there are some much less clear cut examples, where my ethics antlers start to quiver.
Like this one; the butterfly wings used for this project are from an unknown source.

butterfly wing in tube

When we buy butterfly or other insect parts from suppliers online, we are often told they were ‘collected naturally’ from the forest floor. Friends and neighbors, I spent a year volunteering at a butterfly house in Dallas.  Butterflies died everyday there (that’s about their lifespan actually; one day…let’s give them some respect) and yes, I’ll admit to sneaking around behind the bushes and picking up a number of gorgeous wings.  But by the time they died, they had lost much of the luster and brightness we associate with them.  They were literally faded, just like humans.  The truth is, when we buy living creatures on the net, we run the risk of being duped (best case scenario) or even downright defrauded (worst case), in which the animals were removed from native habitats, poached, slaughtered, and are now adorning our jewelry or clothes, leaving a gap in the forest that another species will be hardpressed to fill.  Yes, sometimes they are ‘farmed’ for these purposes, and as such put some much needed cash in the pockets of the small time farmers in south America, Africa, Polynesia, India, etc.  But I wonder if the carnage is worth it?  And when we complicate the equasion with bird feathers taken from Parrots?!  Yes, that makes me downright pissed off.  Almost all parrots are known to be endangered in most countries.  Plus, on top of being nature’s best advertisement for beauty and a rival to any Pantone color swatch combo, are some of the most intelligent, fast, noble, loyal, and longest lived species of birds on the planet.  Can’t we offer them more respect and be content to enjoy them in the wild, or even in zoos? 

If you go back to the top picture for a second, I’ll tell you a short story.  This gizmo I made by soldering triangular glass bezels together holds what I called a time capsule of our lives (Steve and I) when we were living on Daytonia in Little Forest Hills. When we first moved in, we dug around alot in the soil, planting roses, lilies (what, you say.. in Dallas?!  Fools!), hyacinth bean vine, trumpet vine, and any number of things that mostly died soon thereafter.  But we dislodged some fun stuff too, like a chunk of old bottle glass from Dr. Pepper, circa 60’s, when the logo looked like this.  And a wasp nest.  And a tiny brown speckled egg casing (assuming the baby bird got out alive!), among other stuff… but my favorite piece in here is the feather from a roseate spoonbill.  It represents one of my favorite jobs over the years;  those beautiful orangey pinky red and white birds were housed just over the creek from my office.  One day at lunch over in Bird Valley (as it was called) I spotted a flash of pink outside the cage caught in a bush and picked it up.  That little dude is now forever captured in my time capsule.  I would like to think all feathers were collected that way; passively, purposefully, and lovingly. But as this next photo attests:  such is obviously not the case.  What do we say?  How should we react?  Crafters must stick together and support each other.  But should Etsy and other merchant/suppliers have a policy in place to help protect species, even if they are not considered strictly illegal to buy and sell?   Just maybe un-ethical….

butterfly and beetle wings

 

Let’s brooch the subject

…because it’s winter again, and those wise sages who design sweaters have yet again chosen to deny you and I the opportunity to button or zip our cardigans.  Why why why?  Is there some desperate shortage of buttons somewhere?  Are they being shipped off to help with a war effort that we’re not being told about?  I for one would like to see the airship that’s being forged from mother of pearl, plastic, and balsa wood laminates.  Either that, or the sweater factories are in cahoots with drug manufacturers.  The correlation; if one catches more colds and flus wearing their garments open to the wild winter winds, one is more likely to purchase drugs to cure their ills.  So nefarious, it’s almost believable.

ANYWAY, I digress.  As a person who enjoys meeting these crucial fashion emergencies with grace and aplomb, I go for a large brooch to hold my garments together, thereby gaining the opportunity to express my joy of jewelry while thumbing my nose at Phizer and their ilk.  I made these back in the late 90’s – yes, they are huge and in your face, like the decade itself; bold and overflowing with un-secured optimism.

ThTall broachlapis web broach

This one is aptly called “spider web in the morning” but it’s a bit too brightly plated for any self-respecting arachnid to want.  That was not a good decision.  I should always go with burnished metal…the bright stuff never did suit my style.

And then, there’s this wonderful designer called Alexis Bittar, who was hanging around the streets of Soho selling his wares the whole time I was living in NY and going to jewelry school at FIT.  So how did I ever miss seeing his awesome stuff and how did I not get in on the groundfloor of what has become a handmade, high fashion jewelry empire to rival those of mid-century French fame?  Beats me.  Now I can look at his website and drool over pieces like this one.  It’s not really indicative of his style in that it doesn’t utilize any resin, but the bold, straightforward look is very “Bittar.”

starburst pin

So the next time you see a sweater that you like, even if it’s missing buttons, don’t fear.  Just get one of these babies and you’ll be warm this winter, and hopefully free of cold and flu.  Ew.

smoky qrtz flower pinmop flower pin

Smoky quartz and coral flower on stickpin:  Mother of pearl and carnelian on stick pin.

Designed by Chris Unruh, 2005.

Tiny Worlds

I don’t know anyone who at some point in their lives were not fascinated by miniature worlds; be they in the form of dollhouses, puppetering, or leggos and erector sets (the ultimate in miniturized building!).  It’s also no wonder that so many of us adults still make it a point to go see the Christmas windows at Neimans / Macy’s / Barneys (pick your price bracket) which almost always are elaborately composed scenes created using smaller-scale dolls, mannequins, and papier-mache creatures of dream and nightmare.

I figure this is the same reason that normal, sane adults are so taken by the wee, the tiny, and the twee (that’s wee and tiny put together).  Things like this make us screw up our eyes and force us to move in closer, while putting us in touch with those delicious feelings of youth. In this example, there are tiny concrete boxes with little itty bitty plants growing inside:  I love both the use of concrete and plants, but also the fact they managed to make it wearable.  Genius! (p.s., these are available on etsy.com)

nature necklace

And then, there are these tiny aquatic environments.  If some of you who saw us at one fo the outdoor shows might recall, we *tried* to create small hanging fish bowls using lightbulbs and wine glasses that have been strung and tied to hang from a hook.  Nature had her way with these hanging environments, tossing them around in high breezes and nearly boiling their little fishy inhabitants in high heat before I just had way too many protests about the cruelty factor.  We eventually agreed that as cool as it ‘could’ be, this idea just never panned out as hoped. (they did however work well as cut flower holders!)

Jeweled goblet showing detail

This creation was much smaller in reality than in this photo, lol!  This little fish did okay for a while but I eventually returned her to the larger 20 gallon tank.  She seemed dazed and confused before I did so – probably a lack of oxygen coupled with the tiny space freaked her out.

Now, an example of doing it right: *This* is a great way of creating a true underwater environment in which no fish/shrimp/snails have been harmed – the wonderful marimo ball!  Japanese myth hold that these little algae balls (which supposedly do continue to grow) bring good luck; as such, I need to get a hold of a LOT of these adorable green suckers.  Don’t they look fantastic in these lightbulb vases?  Again, genius! 

marimo ball bulb aquarium

And then there’s this incredibly artistic tree perched on a ring; the ultimate in tiny worlds.

tree ring

One Fish Two Fish is changing!

As fish often do, we’re wiggling off the hook and diving back down into cool waters… only to emerge topside with a more appropriate name for this operation/adventure/avocation:  Concrete Notions.  Steve and I (two fishy folks if there ever were some) decided it better portrays what we are doing and makes for a more ‘solid’ brand (pardon the pun there). 

Stay tuned for more about this.  Same great concrete pots and plants… 

dancing fish

 

 

 

Shazbot! and Fun with Words

It’s a new year, so they all say. That must be why I found myself digging around in my bright-green Ikea desk like a french pig with a line on a truffle, kicking up dust along with business cards, sticky notes, and errant stamps. Someplace in the melange I uncovered a brief list of funny words Steve and came up with last year. Some of them do harken to earlier years, but most of them are solid 2012 vintage.

Let me preface this list by telling that most of these have been inspired by cats. If you have kids, you will no doubt have similar aha moments when they do something that just defies standard vocabulariar boundaries and demands a new construct. Let me illustrate:

Butzinface – What someone working at their computer in our household is going to wind up with within moments of sitting down to work. Applies most often to Lenny, but can be applied to George.

Farking – Pretty much what it sounds like, right? So it’s a mesh of ‘f*ing’ and ‘larking’ and a bit of ‘malarky’ thrown in, just to mollify our Veep. And because Irish phrases are funny.

Gargolying, Vulching, Hoovering – well these are not new really, so I can’t take credit. Maybe Gargoyling. Our Russian Blue cat, George, looks particularly regal and Gargoyle-y when poised on his haunches on top of the refrig or cabinets, with neck extended.

“Honey, the Varmpires are Calling!” – okay, this one has nothing to do with cats. It refers to the blood bank that has our cell phone numbers and like to abuse them on a regular basis. I like to repeat their messages with a Transylvanian accent, just for fun. “We vant to have yer bluuud!” I know, I know. I will give and I do. But seriously, shop calling on the 61st day after my last donation, will ya?

Snorkeling – what Lenny does with his water dish; he’ll sit and wrap both arms around it, like he’s hugging it.

Marinating – what Lenny will do with his Super Fuzzy Worm (you know, the kind that does ‘amazing tricks!’ on a clear cord that no one can really get to work, but which cats adore). He likes to put it in his water dish, for safe-keeping.

Snizzle, frizzle, and schpool – all the ways that Gracie will drool freely over arms, chairs, and pillows. ew.

Foosy-putting – Take Pussy-Footing and rearrange the first letters. This happens on our countertops when we have all the plants inside and the cats are trying to work their way through them to get to the sink or to the latest chicken dish resting thereon.

Okay, that’s all for now…so I can finally throw away this bookmark I had them all written on. Yeah!

Change isn’t just a few coins in your pocket: Emma’s Revolution

Video

http://youtu.be/I7q36lWLqZ4

The best theme is peace.  This is another ‘new to me’ band called Emma’s Revolution, featuring social justice themes woven into beautiful melodies and harmonies.  Enjoy.