Friday, December 30, 2011

December 2011 Happenings In The Studio

henna HITS header

On the first of every month, I post the Happening in the Studio (H.I.T.S.).
I share my trials, triumphs, and behind the scenes of working as a visual artist.

1. I officially filed for copyright protection to all of my art to date. The project for January is to approach stores like IKEA and offer them the chance to buy some of my designs.

Octopus Hook 001Octopus Hook 002Octopus Hook 003

2. I made an octopus towel hook for my dojo. It was one of those rare projects where everything went smoothly and I really enjoyed making it. How can you not have fun drilling a screw into the back of a rubber octopus? Or calling around to toy stores asking if they carry octopus toys?

elizabeth photos of haircut and office redo 008elizabeth photos of haircut and office redo 010
3. For Christmas I gave my mom 10 hours of my time towards projects of her choosing. During that time we chose paint colors for her apartment, redecorated her office (shown above), reorganized her kitchen, and set up and taught her how to use her new technology (like her mp3 player, how to back up her laptop…)


6. I gave several gift certificates out as presents and wrapped them up like messages in a bottle. I thought that was rather clever way to wrap them (and super quick).

7. My friend Andrew started teaching Celeste and me structural physics and how that applies to making large scale art. In the first lesson we watched videos by the European Space Agency and we talked about Newton’s first 3 laws. Andrew really knows his stuff, but I realized that I am not interested in the near future in making another large scale sculpture. My passion is martial arts, so that is where I am going to spend my time. For Christmas my mom gave me sparring gloves for protecting my fingers from the punching bag. I absolutely LOVE them! For Christmas I also got several books on how to be an everyday creative person, which I am down for learning.

I’m starting the year off with a new haircut, nice and short.

Thanks for reading. I’ll see you February 1st for the next Happenings In The Studio (HITS).

Happy new year!

HITS Table of Contents

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Glass Cactus Lights Commission

Elizabeth Symington
Glass Cactus Lights, 2011
3.5’ and 7’ tall
glass containers, black, elastic cord and LEDs
Installed at The Open Matt martial arts school and music venue, Oakland, CA

What are Cactus Lights? 

Monday, December 12, 2011

talent vs. time

Here are the magic #'s.

Put in 10,000 hours to become an expert. That can be broken down to 1 hr a day over a span of 10 years. What do you want to become an expert in?

This came up in conversation with my mom.

Talk about good timing with the New Year coming up.

I'll get back to you with my thoughts.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How to drill glass

matts pic of my light

I needed to drill glass to wire these hanging lights that I call Cactus Lights. I couldn’t find a step-by-step guide on how to drill glass; not at the hardware store, the stained glass store or on the Internet. I kept stumbling across vague information that always included diamond bits and water, but no specifics.

I was very nervous about proceeding without directions, because I kept envisioning the glass shattering and scaring my face for life. Needless to say, I am as pretty as ever. My face is fine. I didn't get cut even once.

After many hours of drilling, this is what I learned. I hope this how-to will save you time.

You’ll need:

  • Glass that needs drilling (duh)
  • Sharpie
  • Glass gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Ear plugs
  • Dust mask (Don’t skimp on this. Inhaling glass dust causes very serious health problems.)
  • Eye dropper with water (Label for drilling only. Glass dust will be sucked back into the dropper.)
  • Rag
  • Dremel or drill
  • Diamond drill bits


Using a sharpie, mark where you want to drill the hole. Depending on how much money you spend on your diamond drill bits, determines how quickly they will cut through the glass. I picked up a set of 50 for about $20 on harbor freight, and they take about 15 minutes to drill ¼” of glass. I would like to invest in higher quality bits, so that it will take only a minute or two to drill 1/4”.

The shaft on the diamond drill bits can only handle so many rpm, so set your drill or dremel accordingly. You don’t want to snap off the bit while drilling, hence the importance of safety glasses. At first I also wore a face shield, but then it was too difficult looking through that and safety glasses to keep tabs on where I was drilling.

Put on your gloves, safety glasses, ear plugs and dust mask. I worked at a table in my studio, with a chair that was at a comfortable height, since how I knew I was going to be there 15 plus minutes without moving.

Using the eye dropper, drip some water onto the sharpie mark on the glass. Keeping the bit perpendicular to the glass, start drilling. As the water flies away, add more with the eye dropper. Be sure to label the eye dropper so that it doesn’t get used for anything other than assisting in drilling, because powdered glass will be sucked back into the dropper. When the glass powder starts to build up around the hole use the rag to clean it out of there.

Once you’ve drilled your hole, it’s time for the victory dance! It really is empowering to have the tools and know how to drill a solid and yet fragile material. You’ll start noticing glass everywhere and thinking about how long it would take to drill. Have fun!

glass on floor

This is one of the two Cactus Lights that needed to be drilled so I could wire them and turn them into hanging lights. This wine bottle is a little over 2 feet tall.


One of the many shapes of diamond drill bits. I liked the flat bottomed bits the best versus the conical shaped bits. With the extra surface area, they drilled faster. For just this wine bottle I had about 1 inch of glass to drill, which took an hour with my cheap bits. Have I sold you on the nicer bits yet?


This enormous wine bottle had a conveniently concave shaped bottle to keep the water from flinging away while I was drilling.

For more photos of the glass Cactus Lights, check out these installation photos. The wine bottle strand is the shorty! It’s sister is 7 feet tall.

Post Game Show:

Start off by drilling some tests to take the pressure off from having to make a perfect hole the first time around.

Another set up idea is to use a fish tank to catch the excess water. It was suggested to me to use the fish tank motor to circular the water. I think this would be particularly helpful when there is lots of drilling to do.

I tried a glass/masonry bit that didn’t have any abrasive diamonds attached to it and it shattered several glasses. It seems like diamond bits are the way to go.

If you’re drilling a super thin glass bottle, you can put a wooden support in the inside, right on the other side of where you are drilling. This should help prevent the weight of the drill and bit from breaking the glass.

If you have to drill for a while, be mindful to take breaks when your mind starts to wander. You need to stay completely focused while using the drill. Also, be aware if the motor starts to heat up and give it a rest if that happens.

Even though I used water and drilled glass into a power, it wasn’t very messy drilling glass. I obviously didn’t do this around food, but clean up was simple.

Friday, December 2, 2011

November 2011 Happenings In The Studio (H.I.T.S.)


henna HITS header[2]

Each month I recap what I did as a visual artist over the last 30 days, in this monthly post called Happenings in the studio, aka the Hits.


The big news is that the glass Cactus Lights are installed! After five months of researching where to get materials and tons of different tests, the lights are lit. You should come check them out. They are hung at The Open Matt in Oakland, CA. The lights set the mood for the music room, where there’s going to be regular shows. For now, we hang out in there pre and post workout from kung fu training.

I helped Philip Krohn animate a stop motion that’s about 22 seconds long. The short is in post production and it will be on youtube very soon!

earth art widget copy

In the Earth sticker world, records are being broken. We had the largest sale to date of almost 3,000 stickers and it was also our first over seas sale. I also figured out how to make a widget advertising the sticker on this blog and on a couple of blogs that I manage.

After many years of thinking about it, I visited the di Rosa preserve in Sonoma, CA. It houses 3,000 pieces of art by Californian artists. I went there on a field trip with some dear friends. We made a day of wine tasting and looking at art.  

The Eco Art class that I’ve been taking at Laney College is winding down. For my final project I made a blog for the class for prospective and current students. The current students can use it to look up homework assignments, get inspiration from past student work, and to save on printing handouts. There is also additional local information on there, like announcements to annual Green festivals and where to recycle odd ball items.

I applied for the Eco Art Award in the fine art category. I am particularly excited because one of the jurors, Lloyd Herman, is the director of one of the galleries at the Smithsonian. I sent over images of my art installations post-college, like the bouncy ball curtain and the glass cactus lights. There is a people’s choice award, so please consider voting when the link is up. The winner will be announced in April 2012. First prize is $1,000! 

after andrews kit

I wish I had a before picture, but I trust you can use your imagination. Next to exercising, demolishing and the reorganizing is my passion. While a friend was out of town I took my aggression out on his kitchen.

The fridge use to be in the back right corner to the right of the pot rack. The blonde counter that is under the pot rack was to the left, making it a narrow fit to open and close the fridge. I procured a pot rack and installed it to free up Andrew’s limited cupboard space. And then swapped the dishes in the shallow cupboards with the food in the deep pantry. This makes it way easier to get to canned food and the dishes are already pretty big, so they don’t get lost in the deep pantry.


I had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Since how I was hosting, I decided to push Jon’s idea of having turkey tacos to a full blown Mexican themed Thanksgiving. We even had a pinata that my uncle reinforced with packing tape and bailing wire. That was the first pinata that I’ve ever seen go two full rounds on everyone, and the last being with your eyes open. That was an amazingly durable unicorn pinata.

The day after Thanksgiving my family and I decorated ornaments for my Christmas tree. My tree looks so ridiculously good! There are creative people in my family!

For my Thanksgiving food creations check out my food blog, Surprisingly Thankful.

On a side note, December 1st, 2011 marked the one year anniversary for having (and using) the odometer on my bike. Over the past year I’ve clocked 1,747 miles on my legs. I started off having to bike to commute and now I actually love biking and get restless when I drive.

kung fu class

Another one year anniversary happened the week of Thanksgiving. It was my one year birthday practicing kung fu. A friend asked me how lethal I am. My answer, “I dunno.” Let’s keep it that way. What I do know is that when I am around friends and exercising, nothing makes me happier. I need to figure out how to craft my life so I can make a living doing that and not spending it on the computer (which I loath).

I’ll see you January 1st, 2012, for a recap of December’s creations.

In the mean time, for back reading check out The Happenings In The Studio Table of Contents.


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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

first triplet of the lights are born

The first of three new Cactus Lights is finished and installed!
This is the shortie at 3.5 feet tall.
The lime green container at the top is a wine bottle that goes up to my hip.

Photo courtesy of my Sensei, Matt Lucas.
Check out The Open Matt- my Cactus Light is hanging in Matt's music room.
I love trading art for kung fu!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 2011 Happenings in the Studio

Welcome to H.I.T.S., (Happenings In The Studio), where I share what I did artistically over the last 31 days. I'm mid-project working on a commission to make hanging lights, which I called Cactus Lights (click to discover what is a Cactus Light).

Since how I just want to finish the lights, I'm going to have a super short H.I.T.S. for this month. I'll make it up to you next month with a video of the installed lights.

To give you scale the strand on the right is as tall as me. There are going to be three hanging lights: 7', 5.5' and 3.5' tall strands.

This is a color test and an experiment with different types of bulbs.

To give you an idea of what they are going to look like check out this post on the progress I made on the lights during October.

If you want to read more check out the Table of Contents for the H.I.T.S.

See you December 1st, 2011 for the next posting of Happenings in the Studio.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Jae Rhim Lee: My mushroom burial suit

Mushrooms will save the world

In 2011 I heard Paul Stamets speak at the environmental conference, Bioneers, about how mushrooms will save the world. They are the most ancient, keystone species and yet the least studied.

In the above photo Paul is holding an Agarikon, which is the oldest mushroom. It can live for up to a 100 years and when it's diluted to 1% it's the effective way to treat the Bird flu.

The photo was borrowed from the wiki article on Paul Stamets.

Paul Stamets considers himself the voice for fungi. From his research he's discovered mushrooms that can eat oil spills and nuclear waste, along with a mushroom who's fiber is good for making clothes, and a mushroom that is super dense in vitamin D.

Paul has several patents pending on uses for mushrooms. I was curious to see what exactly he discovered, so I looked up his application on by searching by his last name.