An Exaltation of Yuccas

I’m excited to share photos of some incredible yuccas, made by two different miniature artists, both starting from the same kit.*

*Uhh, to clarify: each had her own kit. Two artists, two kits, two locations. Nancy finished first. Not that it was a contest.

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This is Nancy Bristow’s work. (Nancy has been making miniatures since the 1970s, and it was she who finally identified the Braxton Payne pots I had bought at auction, and pointed me to his obscure website.) She hand-colored the leaves using markers, and I love that she styled them curling out and upward. So pert and jaunty! They’re planted in BP pots she “aged”, and used bird grit as gravel.

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Here’s a shot of Nancy’s work-in-progress, adding knot holes to the stems. I noticed she chose to curl the leaves first, before attaching to the stem. Brilliant! It is so gratifying — and informative — to see how other makers work with my kits. One can learn so much.

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This is Keli Minick’s interpretation of the yucca tree kit. Look at those colors! I love the graceful trunk, and the stubby branch. Two completely different plants! She suggested using round nose pliers to separate and shape the leaves after attaching — which makes the process much less tedious. And she kindly pointed out a typo in the armature instruction sheet. Argh!

YU01_contents

Here’s what the Broad Leaf Yucca Tree kit looks like to start. This is the green leaf variation; cream and white are also available. (I believe Nancy B started with white leaves; Keli with cream?)

What would you make of it?

Sincere thank-yous and expressions of humbled awe to Nancy and Keli for allowing me to share their work. 

Fiesta Yucca

FY01-02_both2Two first-ever specimens of yuccas — finished potted plants, not kits —  will soon be available over at MMS+S. I’ve boldly named them Fiesta Yuccas, a taxonomy unique to nancyland, which means they’re not strictly exact replicas of yuccas one might encounter in this mortal coil. The leaf pattern graduates from a rich medium green to lime to sunflower, tipped in gold and striped with moss. The flat leaf pattern looks like a very appealing mandala. Sure to add light and life to your arrangements.

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The taller of the two is slender and graceful, with three branching trunks. Both specimens are potted in Braxton Payne terra cotta cylinder pots. Of course.

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FY02-2

The shorter one, potted in a slightly smaller cylinder, has the same three-leaf cluster structure as its taller sibling, and projects a powerful presence. The trunk armatures remain pliable and can be curved or straightened into most any form.

That I have arrived at not one, but two! specimens that tilt my acceptance meter to ‘yes, this is worthwhile’ is a tremendous achievement (she who regularly invites to tea the three-headed monster of perfectionism/paralysis/procrastination).

So that means I get to post a cat picture.

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Here is our yearling+ Scarlett, sleeping out the very foggy summer on a side deck bench. Every time I walk by she rouses enough to meow some variation of “Mao, wow!”

I smile every time.

 

Treasure Map, Yucca Kit

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Maddie drew a treasure map. The iconography is bold and challenging on many levels, not the least of which is her rendering of the letter “R”. Type designers, bow down, maybe even despair a little bit, that you might ever envision an “R” this way. I’ve not yet heard her telling of the map story, only that the thing that looks like a Crusader shield is an “X marks the spot”.

YU01_outside

I’ve listed the first yucca tree kit over at MMS+S. It includes both an armature kit and a leafy clusters kit, with a choice of three base colors: white, manila or green. I plan on making kits of just the leafy clusters available, for those who want to make their own armatures, and eventually just supply packs of leafy clusters sans instructions, for those who get it and want to build more yucca plants. Every build needs at least one good yucca :)

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So many possibilities! There’s one more versatile yucca houseplant kit in the queue, and after that, it’s on to making specimens. I’ve drawn a different leaf cluster, longer and finer, and am working with a smaller gauge armature, just for the finished trees and plants.

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Here is Maddie, studying the most recent Eric Carle book, and Ruby, being what contented two-month old humans are. Kind of my world right now :)

Rousseau 1:12 Mural First Cuts

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I sketched out and constructed a palm plant motif in Illustrator, then reversed a copy of it to make the most of the painted papers.

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Here are my first cuts of the pattern from two of the painted papers, flung onto the wall. I was working against the losing of the light (because hey, Game of Thrones). They will work splendidly as a middle background layer, when arranged.

Still undecided how I will stick them down.

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It took me a couple of cuts to get it right, but here is what a (partial) painted paper looks like after four passes of cutting. Still plenty of material for hand cutting parts available.

 

Armatures, S-Town, Cricut

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I’m working on a yucca-and-others armature kit. It involves hand-tearing a lot of brown paper into narrow strips. One of my best-practice recommendations will be to watch a movie (that does not require eyes glued to the screen) or better yet, listen to podcasts. As of this writing, I’m listening to S-Town, again.

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My husband’s employer was hosting a TSA Pre certification opportunity, so after we enrolled, he cut work early. After a pleasant luncheon in the Presidio, we took a stroll through the Legion of Honor Museum, where this very antique clock caught my eye — hence the S-Town reference. If you’ve not listened to this brilliant piece of true life storytelling yet, I encourage you to do so. I promise it will simultaneously break and uplift whatever is left of your tender, jaded heart.

Here’s one of my latest exchanges with the wonderful customer support worker bees at Cricut:

Nancy Enge: Any progress with the SVG import capability?
Nancy Enge: My experience says no.
*** Deepak joined the chat ***
Deepak: Hello Nancy

Deepak: We are still working on it.
Nancy Enge: Hello Deepak
Deepak: Let me try from my laptop.
Nancy Enge: Try what?
Deepak: Uploading that image
Nancy Enge: Deepak, don’t waste your time
Deepak: Yay!!!
Deepak: It is uploading on my laptop
Nancy Enge: Yay what?
Nancy Enge: That is just normal technology

Nancy Enge: As you can see: a mess
Nancy Enge: All of the score line lines are thrown hither and thither
Deepak: We are continuously working to provide better user experience.
Nancy Enge: Of course you are
Nancy Enge: I did not mean to imply that any of you are slacking
Nancy Enge: Especially you customer support staff
Deepak: :)
Nancy Enge: I was just checking in on this most troublesome problem we have encountered
Nancy Enge: for the last few weeks
Deepak: You know today I got an user who is not able to upload an SVG image, I tried it on my laptop.
(04:12:36 AM) Deepak: It didn’t work.
Deepak: However I tried your image, it worked.
Nancy Enge: Welcome to my world
Deepak: So I was so happy.
Nancy Enge: Hehehehe
Deepak: :)
Nancy Enge: Simple SVGs work
Nancy Enge: It’s those with lines meant to be score lines that are problematic
Deepak: Yeah, you are right.
Nancy Enge: Why this is the case, I have no idea
Nancy Enge: I am a designer, not a software engineer
Nancy Enge: Dammit :)
Deepak: I am not sure with whom you you talked. I have your image and photo, I will show it to our product specialist
Deepak: Next 2 days is my week off.
Deepak: I will update you by Monday.
Nancy Enge: Thank you, Deepak. I have talked with three of your brethren to date
Deepak: I have already saved details.
Deepak: I will drop an email on Monday after checking with him,.
Nancy Enge: I know those of us who upload our own designs are Cricut’s minority users, outliers…
Deepak: For us everyone is important.
Nancy Enge: We would all like to believe that :)

Deepak: There are some technical bugs; we are actively working on it. We are not in the business of selling machines. However, we are in the business of winning hearts.

Deepak: I will surely get back to you on Monday.

Nancy Enge: *cough*
Nancy Enge: Sorry, I’m laughing so hard I almost spilled my drink
Deepak: :)
Nancy Enge: I appreciate your efforts on our behalf, Deepak.
Deepak: Thank you so much! :)
Nancy Enge: So, I’ll keep trying
Deepak: For your inconvenience I am adding $10 Store credit to your account.
Deepak: Using that you can purchase digital cartridges.
Nancy Enge: Ugh
Deepak: It will reflect on your account within 48 hours..
Nancy Enge: Thank you, though
Deepak: You are welcome
Deepak: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?
Nancy Enge: No.
Deepak: Have a great night
Nancy Enge: You, as well.
*** Deepak left the chat ***

 

Albie, Yucca, Frustration

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This is Albie, absorbing the morning sun through the studio sliding doors. Our large middle cat, he is a handsome warm inky black, and very difficult to photograph. This one has zero interest in destroying miniatures.

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Re-working the Modern Miniature Succulents + Sundries set a bit. I built a corner planter for specimens, and glued in one yucca tree with the new, narrower leaves. For the rest, I want to keep the plantings fluid and easy to change out, so I devised a kind of armature on the stalks of rolled brown paper for elevation. They are planted to the floor with tacky wax.

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Here’s how it looks planted out, and with other plants massed around, like a typical nursery.

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Still experimenting with colorways on the different stocks. This is the original shape leaf cluster in medium green, with leaf and pine markers. After the glue is set, the leaves are separated and arrayed.

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Here is a similar leaf cluster, scored down the middle with the back of an Xacto knife. it makes it into a whole other plant.

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Here they are side-by-side. So much potential!

And now for the frustration rant: Cricut has released a new version of their Design Space app that has inexplicably broken my SVG files — the format for my drawings used to cut all these shapes. I have been in close contact with their support staff for the last two weeks, but no answers, fixes or workarounds yet. I even abandoned Firefox for Google Chrome. It is all very tedious, time wasting and — frustrating.

Body Chan

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My long-awaited Body Chan figure from Bandai finally arrived. She’s meant to be an artist’s model, or as the packaging proclaims “Pursuing Character Expression through Humanoid Action.” I had hoped to use her as a modern miniatures set figure, alongside Stormy and Zilly, or maybe to even replace them. She’s incredibly posable with like 30  points of articulation (some incomprehensible), several sets of hands, and essential modern accessories: smartphone, tablet, flip phone?, laptop, gun, katana. I so wanted to love her.

But. For my purposes, she’s too distracting: very naked (although she is sculpted with underpants on), and too slight (and anorexic) — in some areas — with thighs narrower than her lower legs, and five inches tall. Too anime. (Although this is Bandai’s express intention: “By design that commitment pulled, and reproduce the optimal head and body balance in anime characters.”)

Still. Very expressive and well-made. There is a male figure available, as well — I hope assume he has his underpants on, too. Both come in two colors: pale orange (pictured) and gray, which I thought looked like the sad shadow of death.

I know I tried to use this model outside its intended purpose, and really, it’s beautifully made, and I got it on sale at half-price, and she’ll be fun to pose in unexpected locations, so I’m not totally disappointed. Maybe tomorrow, there could be a Bandai meetup with the aforementioned characters… unless it’s just too dissonant to post.

Armature, Proto, Beloveds

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I have arrived at a satisfactory method for building yucca armatures, from wire to planting.

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As usual, it was a process of experimentation. I walked around the neighborhood (hilly!), and I looked at a lot of pictures on Google, trying to synthesize what it is that makes a yucca trunk a *quintessential* yucca trunk.

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This is the current result. Braxton Payne pot, torn paper over wire armature, medium green starting leaf clusters.

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Outlined in Khaki, tipped in Sunflower, center stripe in Leaf Green (left). Medium green stock start, right. Very subtle.

I’m feeling good about my progress. Kits and specimens imminent!

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Meanwhile, I’m going back down to Santa Cruz tomorrow, to spend time with all my baby girls. Ruby is now one month old. Maddie is four, and wakes up first thing every morning to cuddle with her sister. This is the life.

Pots, Yucca, Color

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My order of kiln-fired terracotta pots arrived from Braxton Payne. Look at this goodness!

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He even included a wee “vintage” hand-finished pot. It is perfect. 

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I’ve potted the first armature yucca proto, and am waiting for the glue to dry thoroughly before arranging the leaves. It stands 5.5 inches (14 cm) in a one-inch cylinder pot.

comparison

Oh, and here’s a color comparison on the four stocks I’m considering (with the tiny pot again, because it’s so dear). Nothing terribly surprising, but a handy reference. I think the yellow stock would be good for Sansevieria, or for yuccas with yellow edges — it’s difficult to outline this shape with markers. I’m excited to carry on experimenting!

Yucca

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New project: yuccas. The trunk is cut from an organic Medjool date pit :)

yucca_proto_partsI’ve been thinking about yuccas for a while. They’re such an iconic houseplant, and here in California, many varieties grow in the landscape. Above is the design process: free form shapes cut in paper, then drawn in Illustrator and cut from cardstock with a Cricut Explore Air 2. I’ve got pretty good working models, which will be refined as I build and rebuild. Still a long way to go with colors and details.

yucca_protos

This is an armature from a succulent I had at the ready, and I learned a lot from messing with it as a yucca plant. There are characteristics of the tree-form varieties that will translate well in torn paper-wrapped wire. And Braxton Payne’s exquisite pottery makes for perfect containers.

braxtonpayne_fireplace

(Speaking of Braxton Payne, I just saw he’s making a Southwestern-style beehive fireplace… which I think must replace the Scandinavian-style one currently in use on the MMS+S set.)

yucca_proto_02

Yucca Proto_01 on a Peter Tucker bench. Much as I love terracotta, I think I’ll glaze this pot matte black to match the black sand. And then switch to lighter color sand for future specimens. Imagine this plant much taller and more gracefully limbed. Getting back to work now.