Mar 15 2014

Te Puia, in Rotorua, New Zealand


An hour and a half bus ride from Hamilton lies Rotorua, a geothermal city.  Throughout the town, small geothermal vents shoot sulfur steam into the air.  Most are relatively small, and are surrounded by fences to keep the curious from getting too close (they may be small, but they are scorchingly hot).  An exception is the geyser Pohutu, located in Te Puia, and Te Whakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahiao (The gathering place for the war parties of Wahiao).  Wahiao was a great ancestor to the people of the valley, and the chief of Ngati Wahiao, a subtribe of Te Arawa.  The Te Arawa Waka was one of the eight original canoe that brought Maori from Hawaiiki to New Zealand.  Te Puia Pa (fortified village) was one of the last strongholds of Wahiao. It is now the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institiute, a prestigious school dedicated to continuing the traditional arts of carving and weaving of the Maori people.



The fist thing you see upon entering Te Puia is a circle of totem, each intricately carved and reaching towards the sky.  The art feels both familiar and timeless, as though you are both of this time and the past.  There is a reverence, stillness, and yet strength that overtakes you, and stayed with me the entire time I was within.


Unlike in the traditional marae, the buildings at Te Puia allow photos, allowing me to share them with you.  All of the carvings on the buildings are done by hand, taking countless hours and knowledge of the different forms.  Designs are done within a set framework of symbols and meaning, telling a unique story.

Within the main building, a performance of traditional songs and dance, many joyful, as well as the well known haka performed to intimidate enemies before battle, was an experience that left my spirit lighter, and wishing it did not have to end.



After the performance I joined a small group touring the carving and weaving schools, and then wandered towards the geyser, waiting for it to erupt.  It usually does so twice or three times an hour.




It was difficult to leave Te Puia.  Walking back out to the street and waiting for the bus felt surreal.  Or maybe Te Puia was surreal, and the bus was merely a return to normalcy.  With only a little over an hour left before I needed to be on the return bus to Hamilton, I walked over to the Rotorua Museum of Art and History.  In the late 1800s Rotorua hoped to become a spa destination, and connections to Auckland were created for this purpose.  The museum was its main attraction, at that point a spa offering mud bath and other treatments for numerous ailments.  While the dream of a thriving spa tourist town never reached the heights they had wished, the attempt assured Rotorua’s continued modern development.










Mar 6 2014

Auckland and Hamilton, New Zealand



Our first day in New Zealand could not have been any more gorgeous.   We flew from Brisbane to Auckland, and took the bus from the airport to downtown Auckland in time for a late lunch.  Just a short ferry ride, and then a short, yet quite steep, walk up to the top of Mt. Victoria gave us some of the most amazing views imaginable, the photo above for one.  Below is a view of the city of Auckland on our return ferry trip.


After a half day in Auckland, a driver came to pick us up and take us to Hamilton, location of LIANZA 2013, located along the amazing Waikato River.  Our second day in New Zealand was definitely one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  The conference goers were welcomed with a pōwhiri by mana whenua at Tūrangawaewae Marae.  The hospitality and beauty of the ceremony is unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  According to custom, we are now members of the tribe, welcome with open arms and hearts.  Photos are not allowed within the marae, but I do not think they would do it justice anyhow.  The feeling at the marae, at times almost overwhelming me with wonder and joy, transcends any mere picture.

The conference began the next day, and while ulotrichous was busy attending and speaking, I spent the days wandering Hamilton.  The first day was spent walking from our hotel down the Waikato River to the Hamilton Gardens.  I wandered the gardens, enjoying the glorious spring weather, returning in time to have a late dinner with ulotrichous.









Mar 3 2014

Painting in Progress



This painting has been an experiment in color layering.  Instead of mixing the colors before painting with them, I have been using one color at a time across the entire canvas, applying them in washes layered atop one another.  Starting with gray, then yellow, then red, and onward.  As the painting progresses it’s been very interesting to see the way in which the under layers shine through even if they’ve been covered numerous times.  While I do not think this is the most time effective way to create a portrait, it has certainly been helpful in achieving more depth in the skin tones in particular.  Changing your normal way of doing things is a great way to learn something new, and gain fresh perspective when repetition weighs you down.


Mar 3 2014

Small change, big impact

Here’s an example of how a fresh coat of paint can really change the feel of a piece.  It was a super fast project, even faster since it’s miniature




I find it easier to remove the hardware before painting and then reinstall rather than trying to avoid painting on them.  A light sanding followed by several coats of black paint created the base, and using sandpaper or an exacto blade, you can lightly distress all of the edges until you get the look you want.  Finish it off with a coat or two of polyurethane, and done!

Mar 3 2014

Miniature Wall Sconce



The dollhouse has been rewired using copper tape, and miniature scale outlets.  For most of the lighting I have done so far, this has been sufficient, however, in the hallway I did not want a cord hanging down the wall, and so decided to hardwire the fixture in.  I learned how to solder in order to install the overhead kitchen light,  but did not want to use that method, as it seemed that it would be much more difficult to do on a vertical surface.

Begin by determining the location of your sconce.  Drill a small hole, and run a vertical run of copper tape on the opposite side of the wall, just next to this hole.

Once the copper tape is in place, the next step was to create the sconce itself.  To recreate this you will need:

-a”candle” style bulb with wire attached (found in dollhouse stores)

-two short lengths of aluminum pipe (found in craft or hardware stores, they come in lengths of 2-3′, and varying diameters)

-watch gear or similar object to cap the pipe

-bead cap

To make the sconce, cut the two pieces of aluminum pipe to length.  Near the base of one of the pipes gently drill a hole using a dremel tool.  The trick is to drill the hole without squashing the pipe, as the aluminum is soft.  Line up the horizontal pipe with the hole in the vertical pipe and glue in place.  Next, insert the bulb through the vertical pipe and guide the wire through the horizontal, with plenty extra for wiring.  Glue the watch gear on the base of the vertical pipe to create a finished edge, and insert the horizontal pipe into the beadcap.

Once you know how much wire you need to reach your copper tape, cut to length.  Separate the two wires, and gently strip the insulation.  When stripping the insulation, expose a short length of wire before removing completely, and twist gently to keep the copper strands from separating.  Once the wire is exposed, use two of the brass tacks used installing the copper tape, and wrap each wire around a tack 3 times or so.  Guide the wires/tacks througth the hole in the wall and glue or putty the fixture in place.  The tacks can then be hammered into each run of the copper tape.  This should be sufficient to maintain the circuit.  Make sure not to cross the wires, or allow exposed wire to touch more than one strip.  To keep the wiring in place, adjust as needed and then use electrical tape to secure.

Voila!  You have a functioning wall sconce!