Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Favorites

Waiter's Friend Corkscrew

Waiter's Friend Corkscrew by Cliff Hutson
Corkscrew by Cliff Hutson

I must, in the interest of full disclosure, say that this is not the Waiter's Friend Corkscrew listed in The Remodelist 100. It is a knockoff I got from Trader Joe's at a considerable savings. However, this patented two-step design still maximizes leverage for smooth cork removal and also includes a built-in foil cutting blade and bottle opener. 

I had eschewed getting one these for many years due to my poor experiences with the common t-handled devices and my Swiss Army knives. My go to corkscrew was the wing type opener. But, they always seemed to fail at the most inopportune times, and did not have the foil cutter. So, when I saw this at at less than two dollars, I picked it up and never looked back. 

However, in a pinch, my Leatherman Juice CS4 works pretty well.

Leatherman Juice CS4 by Cliff Hutson
Leatherman Juice CS4 by Cliff Hutson


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On Hanging Artwork

One Simple Rule

This afternoon I was about to drive the nails for hanging a newly framed reproduction of the renowned design Falling Water, Mill Run, PA by Frank Lloyd Wright when it occurred to me that there might be some rules about this sort of thing. So I stopped my work and spent some time perusing the internet. Sure enough, there is a rule.

The consensus is that the right height for hanging art is 57″ high on center. The center being the middle of the piece, of course. So, it turned out that I was going to be about an inch too low for the Wright. Then I measured this poster of Picasso and Duchamps which I hung a couple of weeks ago and was very happy with the result - it was right on the mark. A photo I hung last week deliberately to be at my eye level was too high. But, I am above average height.

Running through the house with my tape measure I was surprised at how often, through chance or whatever, this mark had been adhered to, give or take an inch. Conversely, things that have been unsettling are much too high. The 57 inch standard is based on average height, in an average room. Many of us might have to vary it based on our own heights or our plans were the artwork is to be placed. But, it seems to work in most cases.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Validation is Not Just for Parking

Austin Kleon's excellent book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative makes a point that when you put something out into the world, you have no control over how people will react to it. Therefore, you should not care. Yet, he goes on to acknowledge that when people say nice things about your work it is a good feeling.

This past weekend I got to experience that feeling after I posted this photograph, of some pencils I recently purchased, to Flickr.

These are twelve double-sided pencils in six tutti frutti shades designed by Louise Fili.
"Colorful" by Cliff Hutson

The number of "favorites", and comments it received was truly heartening. It seemed that every hour my iPod pinged showing that there had been activity on the photo. I had never experienced that before, and I have been on Flickr since October 2005. 

The thing of it is, that while I like this photo or otherwise not have put it on Flickr, I do not consider it one of my best. But, then Flickr's users have long amazed me. My most viewed photographs, of late, have been of apples; the fruit, not the computer; instead of my wildflower or food photography. However, the most viewed to date has this shot of basil, which I really love.

"Basil" by Cliff Hutson

By the way, here is the link to my photostream, just in case you want to take a look at my oeuvre

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Favorites

Favorite Things 

Alliteration is one of my favorite things, perhaps to excess at times. I have come up with a category I am calling “Friday Favorites” and am going to try to run with it for awhile.

This came about because I am reading Remodelista: a Manual for the Considered Home by Julie Carlson. While I believe that I am not the intended audience for this tome, it turned out to have a certain resonance. There is a section titled “The Remodelista 100” which presents the contributors’ favorite everyday objects. I was surprised to discover that I own (or have owned) quite a few of them myself.

So, I have decided to present, no particular order, some of these along with my comments and see where that leads me.

Opinel Knife

An Opinel knife is a simple wooden handled pocket-knife. They have been manufactured since the 1890s in the town of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in the Savoie region of France.

My “No. 8” dates back to the 1970s. I purchased it after first reading about these knives in the Whole Earth Catalogue. It is a very simple folder with a locking carbon steel blade in a pear wood handle.  This one mostly saw use on picnics, as I preferred something more heavy-duty when hiking or backpacking. Still, it might have sufficed for that. Tradition says that “Every farmer in Savoie keeps an Opinel in his pocket. In rural life, the Opinel has become an essential tool, used in agricultural work or simply to cut slices of the flavorful local saucisson or tomme at lunch time….”. Picasso is said to have used one for sculpting. 

Mine is now in semi-retirement. The blade shows some wear and pitting because I failed to maintain it as rigorously as I should have. But, it is still nice to have around.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Portrait of an Old Man as an Artist, Part 1

Rat #1 by Cliff Hutson

Showing My Work

“Art is good for the soul.”  -  Edythe Broad

Art has long been a fascination of mine. One of my childhood memories is writing and illustrating a book about tadpoles which had a series of adventures based on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.  But, I never drew very well and whenever I had to take an “art” class going through school I always finagled my way in to ceramics, art history, or (of course) photography rather than try my hand at drawing or painting where I would be judged on my efforts.

The desire to draw never was never completely submerged, though, and when I recently read a couple of books that were richly illustrated with drawings that could be described as primitive, if not crude, I dared to think  that I might be able to do as good as that. Now, I am sure that the people who did this work are highly talented and could probably work in any style they choose. Many comic strip creators have shown that they can hold their own in other genres. But, I figured it was worth a shot and, at my advanced age, picked up a couple of children’s books on drawing, some pens and pencils and am going to give it a go.

Rare Cat by Cliff Hutson

These three sketches are my first attempt at this endeavor. As noted, I have no designs on becoming an artist, but hope to get to a point where the viewer can tell the difference between a cat and a dog; or a rat and a Chihuahua. It is probably much too soon to show my work, but this sets the baseline and I am actually pleased with them in my way.  Also, by doing this I gain incentive to keep at it and see if can avoid totally embarrassing myself in the future.

It is said that creating art is a wonderful way to stimulate one’s brain, thereby improving well-being and health. I guess it pretty well accepted that taking on new challenges is one way of staving off the decline in cognitive abilities and memory that many of us experience in old age. And, as I am so untalented in this area, drawing will be particularly challenging to me.

Sleepy Cat by Cliff Hutson

Monday, February 16, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

Shrimp & Avocado Salad

Shrimp, avocado, and tomato on hearts of Romaine lettuce with Italian dressing
Shrimp & Avocado Salad by Cliff Hutson
Shrimp, Hass avocado, and Roma tomatoes on hearts of Romaine lettuce with Italian dressing

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Butterfly Stamps

A photo of stamps taken by Cliff Hutson
Butterfly Stamps by Cliff Hutson

The other day, I was cleaning out a drawer in my home office desk and found these stamps that my late wife and I used to mail our wedding invitations in 1977. We saved a few as a keepsake because we felt they were so pretty.

Both of us had a keen love of nature and butterflies were a special favorite of her's as well. So these these stamps seemed a perfect grace note to the announcement of our union.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Notice the Ordinary

“Notice the Ordinary” is the second thing listed in a small book called Fifteen Things Charles and Ray Teach Us by Keith Yamashita. It is an essay about Charles and Ray Eames.  The author makes the observation that by photographing and cataloguing the ordinary - such as seashells, the side of a building, or a manhole cover - they show us that the ordinary can make “a wonderful cast of characters”. 

This fits in well with a quote that I often refer to:

"To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” ~Elliott Erwitt

So, in pursuing this line of thought, I have embarked upon a personal project I call "Photo 365 - 2015". The idea is to take and post a photograph everyday of the year. I have done similar projects before, but this time I intend to mess around and do stuff that I most likely would not have shared in the past. The idea is to break out of the shell in which I have normally cast myself.

The year started with some food photography, a carry over from last year's project, "Dining In". That went really in my opinion. Not only did my food photography improve, my cooking did as well. The idea behind an activity like this is that I am not sure where it is going to lead me. That is probably a good thing in this phase of my life.