Thursday, December 22, 2011

Space as an art form

All my life, I've been subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, influenced by humanity's exploration of space.  My dad was a rocket scientist (yes, I know) on the Nike Zeus team.  We lived in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a little island which had fish and the rocket program, and little else.  It was an interesting way to grow up.

NASA's been an inspiration for me since I was a child.  I remember gathering around the little wall-mounted TV in our classroom to watch the news coverage of the first moon landing.  When Voyager was launched, I wondered what aliens would think of the Bach recordings she carried.  It's now 34 years later, and, amazingly, Voyagers I and II are both still flying, still recording and sending back useful telemetry, and still steerable!  Think about it.  These delicate little spacecraft, operating on less power than a flashlight, are still working and will soon be the first man-made artifacts to leave our solar system.  I only hope my car lasts half that long.

In July, I had the privilege of taking a two-week vacation into orbit aboard the International Space Station, compliments of NasaTV. From the pre-dawn launch of Shuttle Atlantis, until her final wheelstop, NasaTV provided a mind-numbing amount of coverage of STS-135's mission to the ISS. Atlantis, her crew, and the Station itself were mic'd and had live video feeds. If all you saw was the "edited-for-sound-bites" version on network television, you missed out. Viewers were invited to watch the docking, the mission and experimental work, the morning wakeup call, live helmet feeds from the mission's EVA (spacewalk); even to participate in a meal with the crew. It was so close to actually being there that I was surprised when I couldn't float out of my bed in the morning. Darn, no zero-g for me!

Oh, and have you been keeping up with Opportunity lately?  That's one of the twin rovers NASA sent to Mars in 2003.  The twins, Spirit and Opportunity, were initially given 90-day missions.  While Spirit was officially retired in May of this year, Opportunity is moving into the eighth year of its 90-day mission.  The little rover that could!

Okay, so I do go on about space stuff.  What does all this have to do with art?  So far, I haven't talked about art, only about inspiration.  And space IS inspirational.  It fires the imagination.  It is the siren, calling to the sailor - dangerous, untouchable, and very, very beautiful.

Galactic Core
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, SSC, CXC, and STScI
Spiral Galaxy M51
Image Credit:  NASA, ESA, W. Li and A. Filippenko (University of California, Berkeley), S. Beckwith (STScI), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) 
Crab Nebula
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University)

The image used in the profile picture on this blog is of the Cat's Eye Nebula, taken from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credits to J.P. Harrington and K.J. Borkowski (University of Maryland), and NASA /ESA. These images are available to me because NASA is cool about putting stuff in the public domain, not because I’m affiliated with them in any way.  

And you thought space was just for science majors?  Hah!  My goal is to recreate these wonders using yarn and dye.  Yarn.  Nebulae.  It's all the same.  Well, except for the scale, that is. So don't be surprised when the yarn starts showing up in my store with names like:

Galaxy Centaurus A

Image Credit: E.J. Schreier (STScI), and NASA


Interacting Spiral Galaxies

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI)

Carina Nebula

Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

Want to see more exquisite photos of our amazing universe? Check out the links under "Cosmos" on my sidebar. 

Out of my cocoon

I’ve been in a cocoon since I retired over a year ago.  I asked some friends if they thought it was strange that I get up, knit all day, and go to bed a happy camper. One friend said no, the other said I was crazy. He is a guy, though, and knitting isn't his thing.

Yesterday, I began the journey back to the work world. I re-opened my etsy account, filed for an employer ID number, and officially opened my first home business.

It started like this. I’ve been knitting so much yarn that I have gotten a bit snobby about it. Sorry, but it’s true. I can no longer imagine a reason to buy a solid color yarn. Or an acrylic blend. Or a pilly yarn or any of a host of other minor irritations about yarn. I want long-staple, soft and cushy, hard-wearing yarn in luscious, edible colors. Only I am on a fixed income now.  Hmmm. To buy groceries or buy yarn? It’s a hard choice. And no, I don’t want those stripy-looking sock yarns; can’t you stock a nice two-toned yarn that doesn’t pool?   More hmmmm. Maybe I can dye my own.

Off to the grocery store to buy koolaid. Off to the local mass-market craft store to buy undyed yarn. What do I know about undyed yarn? Nothing. One’s as good as another. So I put the koolaid on the yarn, and voila! I’m making cute yellow slippers for my cousin!

Cousin slippers

Wow, that was easy! But it took 6 packages of koolaid. I could buy commercial dye for about that and make nicer colors. Lots of colors.

So off I went to the online dye store. And the dye class at my LYS. And reading the books and websites on dyeing. Then, I took the plunge and bought a KILO of undyed yarn.

I’ve dyed…

And dyed…

And dyed!…

I’ve dyed and gone to heaven. (You saw that one coming, right?)

I can’t knit all this yarn. But I’m dyeing to get back into the kitchen to dye some more. (ditto?)

Ok, so either I have to sell this yarn or buy a bigger house. And I can’t afford a bigger house.

Hence the flurry of business-related activities. I’ve been saving the business name “Alcidina” for a long time. (Like, almost 15 years…every since the dawn of the internet!) I knew I wanted to start a business, and every time I check, that name is not taken. Do you know how hard it is to find a nice business name that isn’t already taken? Well, welcome to the world, Alcidina!