We are back from one family get-together, and will be turning around to head off for another next weekend. In between, we squeezed in a class on hot glass at the local hackerspace. I’ve always wanted to play with glasswork, and have never gotten around to it. When Branden saw the class come up in their summer list, we decided it would be fun to try. So, we spent all day yesterday and today playing with torches and soda lime glass, making everything from beads to pendants and free form sculpture.

(You can see Branden making a marble in the front there.)

Glasswork takes a good bit of practice and quite a bit of concentration, but it was a lot of fun to try. The instructor was very good about giving us the tools and then letting us wander off and try things on our own, so we were able to cover a lot of ground for just two days. Today’s work is still cooling slowly in the kiln, but here’s a mug-shot version of the things we made yesterday:

We started out with glass swans, which show a distinct progression as we got a feel for the glass. Then we played with beads for a while, and then went off-roading into pendants and free-form work. My collection is on the left, and Branden’s is on the right. My favorite item from the first day is my little fish, hanging out just left of center (I have no idea why he’s upside down….)

I’m hoping that we’ll get to take some proper pictures when the other pieces come back, but that’s about all that time and brainspace will allow for tonight.

Of course, the last thing I need is another hobby, but it’s always fun to try new things, and especially ones that we might be interested in doing together. I’m somewhat relieved that there’s a relatively high cost barrier to entry on this one, though. I really don’t know what I’d do with a million little glass things while I learned how to make the really nice ones, or even with the nice ones when we got there. Unlike knitting, this is a hobby where it’s fast and easy to make something, but it isn’t a finished product. If we were really into jewelry making, then it would be cool to be able to make our own beads, but that’s another hobby that’s in the “maybe someday” list. It was definitely a fun weekend, though, and glass work is something that I’ll probably do again, when they offer another class. There is also talk of setting up a dedicated studio at the hackerspace, which could open even more doors…

We also dipped our toes into another hobby just before we left Chicago. I’ve been fascinated by bonsai for years, but have never had a chance to try it. The Chicago Botanic Gardens (which is a fabulous place that you must visit if you ever get the chance) has a huge class list of things that interested me, but we lived pretty far away and expected to be in Chicago for a while, and so somehow I never actually signed up for anything. I was talking about this with Branden a couple of weeks before we left, saying how I wished I’d taken the time when I had the chance to get into their classes, since there’s nothing like that in Boston.

We had scheduled a visit with some friends for the weekend before we left, but one of them was sick at the last minute and we found ourselves with an unexpected weekend on our hands. Packing was well underway, so we decided to go to the Botanic Gardens one last time before the move. It just happened that the Midwest Bonsai Association had their semi-annual show that weekend, and that they were offering classes. We snuck in on a last-minute opening, and made our first bonsai:

We really liked the process, and were pretty excited about exploring it further. Unfortunately, the plants haven’t been doing well. Their leaves started getting dark spots and dropping off just a few days after we got them, and within a week they’d lost all but a few leaves. That’s not unusual for repotted bonsai from what I understand, but then their branches started dying as well. I’ve been trying to nurse them along, but I don’t think that they’re going to make it. I think that they probably have some kind of disease based on the symptoms and how they spread, but I’ve emailed back and forth several times with the instructor, and she’s absolutely certain that I’m just not caring for them properly. I gave up trying to talk to her when she said that they were dying because they needed partial shade outdoors rather than in a bright but not directly-lit window indoors for their convalescence period. It seems a little odd to say that trees can’t handle being indoors for even a week without losing all their leaves and half their branches.

So no luck with bonsai. It’s something that I might come back to far, far in the future, when I have a permanent house and tons of room for finicky plants, but it’s more than I’m ready to get into now. Since you only really need to groom the trees once every year or so, it’s not a terribly active sport, and so most people end up with 80 or 90 plants from the sounds of it. I tell myself that I’d manage to keep just a few, but then we know about slippery slopes. You’d need quite a greenhouse to support that kind of collection, and I think we’re probably just not that interested. Still, it was a fun thing to try and say we did, and I’m following along with several new blogs to learn more about it.

There has also been knitting in between these upstart hobbies, but not much and it’s not terribly exciting yet. There should be more soon…I have lots of commuting to do!