strange stove resin
Saturday, December 5 2015
This morning, as I always do before stoking up a new day's fire, I went to open the air supply for the woodstove but found that it wouldn't budge. I looked at the mechanism and saw a strange black plasticlike resin had oozed down from the firebox and congealed into solid similar to plastic. I assumed at first that it must be pine sap, perhaps mixed with other wood resins. When I burnt it, it had a pleasant smell, though it didn't smell particularly like pine. Gretchen came down at this point and noted how nice the living room smelled. Then I happened to think: Gretchen has been going through the spice cabinet throwing out old spices and yesterday had me install a brand new metal spice rack on the inside of the cabinet doors. I asked her if she'd thrown any old spices in the fire. At that point she reminded me of a whole block of ancient sugar she'd given me and that I'd thrown in the fire without even bothering to weight it (since sugar produces no ash when it burns). The black resin was sugar! I tasted it, and, though it had picked up some serious bitter notes flowing through the ashes, it was still sweet.
After drinking our customary Saturday morning coffee, I disassembled the air intake system, which consists of two plates with perforations on a shaft with springs pressing the plates up against the bottom of the firebox. The molten sugar had formed an adhesive layer between the plates and the stove, making them difficult (though not completely impossible) to move. I washed the plates clean of sugar and scraped what I could from the bottom of the stove, but I couldn't get rid of all that sugar. To compensate for any lingering adhesion, I oiled the plates before sliding them back in.
Early this afternoon, Gretchen and I picked up Nancy in Old Hurley and drove out to the Shirt Factory, that large brick building in Midtown Kingston that has been remade into a bunch of artist studios. Today, we were told, there would be an afternoon of open studios. However, there didn't seem to be much activity as we waited just inside the door for Sarah the Vegan. When she arrived cradling a travel mug of coffee, we went to look at the art, starting on the first floor and working our way up. There was a lot of abstract and semi-abstract two-dimensional (or quasi-two-dimensional) are that didn't do much for me, though there were two studios that stood out. One featured a husband & wife team who design glowing interactive art, sometimes combined with live dance performances and sometimes at places like Burning Man. Like a sizable minority of artists at the Shirt Factory, they actually live in their studio, but they had a mechanism for raising their bed out of the way using a system of pulleys, making room for days like today. They'd set up a screen and were projecting computer-generated video against it. If one touched the screen, a Kinect camera picked it up, communicated with a computer, and then altered the video at the point of contact on the screen while also controlling a MIDI audio track. It was the perfect thing to have for an open studio, though the only thing they had for sale were refrigerator magnets. This was how I know their website is purringt.com, which is short for Purring Tiger. The other studio I found compelling was one on the top floor run by a potter (Robert Hessler) who makes gorgeous geometrically-perfect vases, bowls, thin-necked bottles, and podlike forms that are almost entirely sealed save for a single tiny hole. But more impressive than the shapes shapes are the crazy fractal designs, evidently accomplished with exotic reduction firing processes. Some look like parts of the Mandelbrot set, while others resemble colonies of bacteria or Chinese characters. Particularly striking was how his most complicated patterns feature distinct goldish outlines around every blob, no matter how tiny. The prices were high, of course, but Gretchen wanted to buy something, so we left with a $150 bowl. The only things I got today were three blower fans from a cart full of old junked Macintosh equipment in the hallway.
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