Monday, August 27, 2012

Drones Club: Closed for Winter

Today, while walking around the garden, I noticed unusual activity at the entrance to one of our hives.  There appeared to be some kind of battle between larger bees and smaller bees, so I put on my bee suit to take a closer look without becoming an unwilling participant.
The ultimate battle of the sexes.

Luckily, I just finished reading "Honeybee; Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper" and I soon realized what was going on.  The larger bees are drones and the smaller are worker bees, and this hive is expelling the poor drones to prepare for winter.  Tragically, the male bees, being nearly useless to the rest of the hive, are kicked out each year to die of cold and starvation.  The females slowly group together in a tight cluster, which they keep at 95 degrees Fahrenheit through the cold weather.

Looking at the ground in front of the hive entrance, I could see that this hive has been driving out their drones for a little while, as it was littered with little male bee corpses.
RIP little drones...
I opened the hive to see if there were any other clues to be found inside.  This hive is doing very well, with far more honey-laden frames than they need to make it through winter.
This hive is in the perennial garden, with a big raspberry patch on one side, lemon balm in front, a large bed full of sea holly, and a huge cottage garden beyond those, including borage, lavender, and calendula.  Ironically, this hive is named "Drones' Club."

While I was suited up, I thought I'd check the hives in the veggie garden, though I had just been out there and everything looked normal.  The entrances of those three hives appeared normal, but on closer inspection, I could see that they were also beginning to push out some drones.
You can see a worker bee beating on a drone right at the top of the entrance.
I guess this means it's time to think about harvesting honey, feeding some bee supplements, and keeping an eye on things while they hunker down for the winter months.  And it also means the end of summer for me.  School starts in two days, and I should probably focus on getting my own house in order.  Time to have the chimney cleaned and make sure the generator is working.
Now, if only my tomatoes would ripen.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mosaic Conference Coming to Tacoma in 2013

I joined the Society of American Mosaic Artists sometime around 2007, I think, mainly to affirm for myself that I was a serious mosaic artist, intent on becoming proficient in the medium.  I received a newsletter with tips and articles, and watched with envy as a conference was planned each year and SAMA members in our yahoo group connected to share hotel rooms and got excited about the workshops and presentations.  There was always a lot of excitement around the conference, but with a small child at home and being financially strapped, I couldn't even consider attending.

An example of "crafty" mosaic - the sort of thing I made in 2009.
But, when the conference took place in San Diego in 2009, I was completing a large commission for an elementary school, and my husband's family was in SoCal, so we decided to make it into a family vacation.  The three of us flew to San Diego, stayed at the fancy conference hotel, and I had a mind-blowing experience while our family had a blast in and around the city.

That first year, the only person I knew at the conference was Kelley Knickerbocker, Seattle-based mosaic artist extraordinaire.  I am very shy, so I spent a lot of time alone, writing in my sketchbook, recording all of my new revelations.  There was the Mosaic Arts International exhibit, featuring mosaic made of materials and using techniques I didn't know existed.  I participated in the mosaic marathon, where SAMA members piece together a mosaic mural within only 3 days, and it gets donated to a local non-profit.  By joining the project, I had the opportunity to use smalti for the first time, getting tips from other mosaic artists, along with the thrill of working side-by-side with artists I had admired online.

There were meals shared with other artists, seminars and presentations, and a rocking dance party at the end.  My favorite experience from that conference was a tour to visit the home of James Hubbell, which was amazing and inspiring.  By the time I left San Diego, I was full of new ideas and a renewed commitment to building my mosaic skills.  I swore I wouldn't miss another conference.

I have not managed to go to every conference since then.  It is very expensive to fly to another city, and for the hotel stay.  I learned that it is a lot more fun and convenient to stay at the conference hotel.  By the end of the first conference, I had at least 10 new SAMA friends.  This last year, I felt like I knew everyone, and there were constant choices for after-hours activities.  It has been a great experience to sit down for dinner or drinks with people whose work I greatly admire, and to spend 5 days straight discussing mosaic, mosaic, mosaic.

Because of financial considerations, I have never taken SAMA workshops.  While everyone else is rushing from learning how to use hammer & hardie to how to make concrete forms to how to make polymer clay mosaic, I take shifts on the mosaic marathon and explore the city.  This year, because the conference is close to home, I won't have to pay for a flight, so I'm planning to take at least one workshop.

The only down-side to getting involved with SAMA is that it compelled me to work harder, learn more, and raise the level of my work to a standard that I can feel proud of.  By down-side, I mean that I sometimes miss making crafty mosaic that I can sell cheaply.  More thought goes into each item that I make - but my work has improved by leaps and bounds.  I certainly wouldn't trade my SAMA experiences for making plant pots and Ikea mirror frames.

Granted, I believe there are a lot of hobby mosaic artists who do make simple, functional work, and who go to the conference just to find new material options and to play.  It is a very supportive environment. I just happen to want to take my work to new levels.  If not for SAMA, I would not be doing portraiture or community mosaic.  And I would not know about many of the techniques and materials available.
An example of recent work.

If you are interested in mosaic, consider joining the Society of American Mosaic Artists and attending the conference.  This year's exhibit will be held at the Museum of Glass and the conference will take place at the Murano Hotel in Tacoma.  There will be great tours, and downtown Tacoma is full of art galleries.  If you live in the Pacific NW, it is far more affordable to attend.  Here is the link:

I hope to see you in Tacoma in April 2013!