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Monday, February 22, 2010

Hi all.

This past week was fun. The kids didn't have any tests so we were able to go out a little bit here and there. There were a few birthdays of people in our orientation group, so we celebrated those at a place called Ciao's, an Italian restaurant. The food was great, they make their own pasta there.
I went swimming a few times, but no major snorkeling. Tuesday Chris, myself and some other VIPs went to a place on the strip called Elvis's Love Shack, owned by Elvis himself- a great guy. Elvis is a Kittitian and one who is very focused on customer service (which is rare here) and really enjoys the company of VIPs and students. He has lots of specials for us, and really tries to take good care of us. There, we placed beach volleyball, and took him up on some specials. While swimming here I stepped on my first urchin- ouch! It hurt for a little while but I was able to walk without pain very quickly. I had several little black holes in my heel, but they have either dissolved or worked themselves out by now, because I can't feel them or see them anymore.
Earlier in the week I went to the library and borrowed 'The Shining' by Steven King. I've seen the movie several times but never read the book. I'm enjoying it very much.
Friday evening was Ciao's like I mentioned, and Saturday we all went into Port. The students really haven't had a chance at all to explore so we spent a few hours walking around town, and checking out some shops. I offered directional assistance when necessary but let everyone find there way themselves... It was nice out, but hot. We had plans to go to Chris's in the afternoon for a little cookout.
At Chris's, in Bird Rock, we grilled some burgers and dogs, had some punch and relaxed, it was a nice afternoon. We briefly played a home-made variation of horse shoes, using coconuts and buckets... still a work in progress but it was fun. Afterwards we walked down to the grocery store to find it closed... so we called our taxi driver 'Showtime' for a ride to another one.
On Sunday morning, Kater and I went downtown for a glass bead making class. The small group got together and we learned how to melt and manipulate glass into colorful beads. It was so much fun. The people teaching the class, are a part of the sea turtle conservation effort here on the island. They teach fishermen how to make glass art and sell it as an alternative to catching turtles and taking their eggs.
There are certainly people making their livings at this, including our teacher, and that makes it seem hopeful that the fishermen can too. It will be a long process, but in educating the locals and helping the community develop in other ways, they wont need to fish turtles any longer and will understand why.
Here are some pictures from our class:
This is Kater working a rod of Italian glass around a 'mandrel'. We would cover a metal rod in a clay-like substance, which would hold the glass in place. Then, by slowly melting the glass and twisting the rod we would create beads.
This next one here is a close up shot of the hot glass being manipulated into a bead. You can see Kater's left hand holding the mandrel, and above it on the other side of the flame is the glass rod.
Here's another one, Kater shows off her cool shades! We had to wear these special glasses to reduce the glare from the flame. It is very bright as you could imagine and bad for your eyes. Isn't she just adorable!!?!

Here Kater is adding accent glass, to the bead. This is how you incorporate stripes, or dots into the piece. This is how advanced artist create texture and or actual little critters crawling on the beads etc...
So this here is me taking my first turn at it. This shot shows pretty well the glass dripping on to the rod, as I twist.
Here I am, after adding enough glass where I was happy with what size the bead would be. Once it has enough glass, you then heat it evenly and allow gravity to help you flatten it out and even out any uneven areas. You can also use a flat surface, like the slate below my hand, to flatten or smooth the glass.
Here you can see Kater setting her bead into a white fluffy material. It's some type of heavy material (like the rope that goes around the wood stove door) that is flame retardant and heavily heat tolerant. We place the beads in this 'bed' to slowly cool. If they cool to fast they will crack and you will lose your piece.
Now we start with bottle glass! Any old bottle will do. Kater here is using glass from an Arbor Mist wine bottle I think the teacher said. We melt it onto the mandrel in the same way as we did the glass rods.
Pretty cool!!! This type of glass was much more stubborn, taking more head and more time to be molded into the desired shapes. It also doesn't come in even shapes so it takes more manipulation to get it to cooperate. I really preferred this type of glass.
Here I am starting a piece of green glass from an old Heineken bottle. You can see that I am using tweezers to help move the glass into the right position to melt over the mandrel.
Close up of the glass beginning to melt! It was really cool to see this right before your eyes.
This is my once green Heineken glass being shaped into a pentagonal shape. Our teacher explained to us that in the years of the early slave trade here in the caribbean, glass beads of this shape were used as currency. They made green and blue, and if found today are worth nearly $100 each at the least. She makes reproductions, and I decided to make a few also.
You can see it beginning to take shape.
The final inspection before it goes to cool off.

Now, even thought these glasses are very cool, they were incredibly uncomfortable to wear... they were heavy and kept sliding down our noses... Making need for constant adjustments.

Here's a short clip of Kater working some accent glass into one of her beads.

That will do it for now. Another week begins, the last before Kater's next round of tests!

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