Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting! When last we met, I was on my way out of La Grange, heading out on State Highway 77, which under normal circumstances is a straight shot pretty much all the way to Corpus Christi. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will also know that nothing in my life ever seems to end up being a straight shot. It's usually more along the lines of off the wall and into a corner pocket. This trip was no exception. As I headed south on 77, I came across a lot of traffic. I found this unusual for two reasons: one, it's La Grange, and I seriously doubt those folks have a rush hour to speak of, and two, there was no traffic coming in the opposite direction. I looked further up the road, and would you believe it, there was a rock slide and a jack-knifed 18-wheeler blocking traffic in both directions. I decided that this was a sign for me to find another way.
Somehow I made it to Interstate 10 and drove along, pondering what to do, since my GPS was staging a mutiny and had about a fifteen minute lag time. (Yeah, thanks, Google.) I decided to just head south and see what happened. I mean, I was destined to hit the gulf eventually, right?! Or Mexico? Anyway, south I headed out into the great wilderness of south central Texas. I have to say, it was a lot prettier out there than I anticipated. I drove through some teeny tiny towns, then further and further out into the boonies until.... dun dun DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN! I spotted a sign that said "SHINER 39 MILES". For all you beer fans out there, this is a GOOD THING. I decided to make my way to Shiner, Texas and get my bearings, and possibly check out the brewery of my all-time favorite adult beverage.
I have to say, 39 miles is a lot further out in the country than it is in Dallas. My inner monologue started wondering if I'd ever get there, and even the Billy Joel channel on satellite radio was starting to wear on my nerves. Just as I was starting to give up hope, there it was like a beacon in the night: the little old town of Shiner, Texas. Be it known, gentle readers, that my mutinous GPS was of little to no help in finding my way around town. You would think it would be easy to find a brewery in a small area, but you would be wrong, especially if you are directionally challenged like I tend to be. I eventually made my way to the Spoetzl Brewery and gratefully parked my dusty vehicle to behold the entrance in all its glory:
Ah, yes! The Spoetzl Brewery! Home to Shiner Bock and other tasty brews. I meandered on inside, not really knowing what else to do. As luck would have it, there was a brewery tour starting in a few minutes, so I just hung out and waited for it start. In the mean time, I tried some Shiner Strawberry Blonde, which was super tasty. Below are some pictures from the tour of all the modern equipment from the brewery and bottling operation. Enjoy!
Fun facts about the Spoetzl Brewery and Shiner beer:
1) The brewery has been family owned and operated since 1909, although it changed hands from the Spoetzl family to the Alvarado family. Mr. Alvarado still adheres to the family traditions that have been around since the turn of the twentieth century.
2) The employees at the brewery get very good health benefits. The tour guide said she only had to pay $60 a month for her's and her family's, and that Mr. Alvarado paid for the rest.
3) The employees work twelve hour shifts, some in the morning and some at night. The brewery is closed Saturday and Sunday so they can spend time with their families. AS IT SHOULD BE!!!
4) Once a month, the employees get two cases of beer for free.
5) The facility was expanded in 2016, which is what those steel wort kettles you see in the last two pictures are from.
6) They're going to start putting Shiner Bock in 24 oz cans soon. Wild!
7) I was the first person to get the first run of Shiner Strawberry Blonde. They had just tapped the first keg that morning. I call that WINNING!
8) Pretty much everything is automated at the brewery, but they retrained the employees to program the big robots so they'd still have jobs.
9) Shiner beer is available in the lower 48 states, Alaska, and some parts of Mexico. They don't have Shiner in Hawaii yet, but they're working on it.
10) Until Mr. Alvarado took over the brewery in the late 1990s, Shiner beer was only available within a seventy mile radius of Shiner, Texas. Three cheers for expansion!
After the brewery tour, I did a little souvenir shopping, had another small glass of Strawberry Blonde, then gave my two remaining beer tokens back to the lady behind the counter, because I had to drive. For those of you who are concerned, yes, I went and took a short nap, then had some carbs and some water. Gotta drink responsibly, people.
In the next installment, I finally make it to Corpus Christi, then on to Port Aransas to fulfill my mission to find out how those good folks are progressing since Hurricane Harvey. Stay tuned!
Greetings, everyone! I have finally made it back to the House of Karlsson after eleven days (one of them unintentional) on the road. Since it was such an adventuresome journey, I will be doing this blog in two parts. This first part deals with the primary reason for my trip: Round Top Winterfest.
First of all, I'd like to say that I regret not taking more pictures. The quality of art at this show was absolutely phenomenal, and if you decided not to visit because the weather was bad, then you really missed out. I feel privileged to be included in such a group of talented artists. Words alone cannot do justice to two of the artists especially. One was Julie Howard, the artist behind J. Howard Organic Pastels. Y'ALL. THIS WOMAN IS A ROCK STAR. She does things with the old-school vegetable-based pigment pastels that I didn't even realize were possible. Her work is the most outstanding depiction of water and how it behaves in light that I have ever seen. I'll put a link at the bottom of this so you can do yourself a favor and go check it out. Another extremely talented artist who I was sharing gallery space with was Sally Maxwell. She is a pioneer in scratchboard illustration, and her work is so realistic that the large portrait of a grizzly bear that was facing my booth kept triggering my fight-or-flight response. She was kind enough to explain to her patrons what scratchboard illustration is and how it works, and how she was the first to add color to the medium. I will also put a link at the bottom of this blog for your perusal and enlightenment. I honestly can't believe I had the great good fortune to share space with these two fantastically talented and hardworking artists.
I rolled in to Round Top to do setup. There were three barn-type buildings out in the rolling hills of east central Texas. Round Top is a cute little town. You'd never know it was there unless you were going there on purpose. There is a coffee shop there with excellent coffee and breakfast, and there are a surprising amount of art galleries and antique stores. I was told that there is a ginormous antique show every year that attracts people from all over the country. Last year, this art show coincided with it, but this year they scheduled it a week after the fact. The weather was promising to be mucky and cold, so I personally did not hold out much hope for attendance. Below are some pictures of the facility and my booth setup.
The show itself was moderately attended. I found it interesting how a lot of the visitors knew a lot of the artists. I hope someday have a following of my own like that, but that's going to take a while, since I've only been doing art shows for less than a year. The overall vibe of the show was good, and I made three sales. The first to go was the bamboo mountain beauty, and that sold before the show even started!!! The other was a big, beautiful piece of Hubei turquoise that someone on Etsy had her eye on, but an artist's husband snatched it up as a Valentine's Day gift before she could get back to it. The third one was a unique little piece that sadly I only have one picture of, and it isn't a very good picture. I also got to meet a lot of great people and get ideas for shows where my work might do well. I'd say it was a productive weekend, all in all.
I stayed in La Grange, which wasn't too bad. I will tell you that traveling those old country roads at night in the fog is a bit of a white-knuckle experience. I used to have to do that all the time back in Tennessee (and I could tell you some hair-raising tales, but that's for another day), but it's been twenty years since I've had to do that, and the mind forgets. I did manage to find the highly touted Hruska's on Highway 71, but wouldn't you know it! They were completely out of kolaches! I did find some of my absolute favorite candy, though, so that was some consolation. I guess the mystery of "who does it better: Czech Stop or Hruska's" will have to remain unsolved.
The hotel I stayed at wasn't very fancy, but what it lacked in fanciness, it more than made up for in ... well.... I don't know if there is really an English word for it. That feeling you get when you go to a place and everyone is comfortable and safe and welcome. I don't know if cozy is the appropriate word, but I'll let you figure it out for yourself. The hotel was home to quite a few families being housed there by FEMA. They had lost both houses and jobs, and had been moved from the coast up to La Grange. The hotel manager was kind enough to let them cook in the little kitchen where the breakfast was made. Let me tell you, I do not know WHO was in charge of cooking for all those FEMA families, but I would have paid that person good money for a plate of the carne asada he was fixing. It smelled amazing and put my Whataburger takeout to shame. I also had some fun chats with the night desk clerk, Miss Brenda. She told me about the 150 year old cabin she lived in out in the far reaches of Round Top, and how the neighborhood raccoon would try to break in to the house to steal food on a daily basis. She had to rig the door so she wouldn't find it in her kitchen when she got home. She also didn't have heat, so she was staying with her daughter until things got warmed up and her car got the brakes fixed.
I also caught other glimpses of daily life in rural Texas. For instance, at the gas pump, there was this:
"Howdy, neighbors!" I don't think it gets much more Texan than that, and I don't think you'll find those on gas pumps in DFW. I also went to the HEB in La Grange (COME ON DALLAS, WE NEED THESE IN OUR LIVES!!!) and saw this in the checkout line:
When a lot of your neighbors are of the feathery, scaly, or fuzzy variety, it behooves you to get to know them on your own terms before you discover them under your front porch. I personally think the people in my neighborhood could use these guides, considering how much they freak out about the neighborhood critters, and how few of them can properly identify common species.
On the way out of La Grange I found Big State Coffee Roasters. I guess I should say I found them by smell, because there is no way on earth a person could find them by themselves unless they knew the hidden-in-plain-sight location. It was a quirky little coffee shop with the BEST maple walnut scones I have ever tasted in my whole life. It was a mystery to me why this place was not packed at 8:45am on a Monday morning, but there we are.
After I left Big State Coffee Roasters, I headed out on Highway 77, which was a straight shot to Corpus Christi, my next destination. Unfortunately, Highway 77 was blocked by both a rockslide and a jackknifed 18-wheeler, and I had to find another route. You'll just have to tune in next time to see where I ended up before I eventually got to where I was going!
For further exploration:
Julie Howard: https://www.organicpastels.com/
Sally Maxwell: www.sallymaxwell.com/
Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting my blog! In today's installment, I'm making my final preparations for two separate shows. First and foremost, I would like to invite you to join me at Winterfest 2018 in Round Top, Texas. This event takes place February 9-11. The big gala preview is February 9 from 5pm-8pm. Tickets are $25 per person, and there will be appetizers and a bar with local wine and beer and all that good stuff. Attendees will get first crack at the available artwork, including my jewelry! There will also be live music, so if you want a unique pre-Valentine's Day date, or just want to treat yourself and be fancy, come on out to The Compound!
After Winterfest, I will be heading to San Antonio for TMEA, otherwise known as the Texas Music Educators' Association convention at the Henry B. Gonzalez convention center from February 15-17. This yearly event is the culmination of a lot of work from the state's high school music students in the form of All-State Band, plus it's a great opportunity for music educators to take continuing education seminars,, network with fellow professionals, and drink margaritas. I will be assisting Dr. Angela Schindler at the Infiniti Reeds booth (#952), and she has graciously agreed to let me show some of my jewelry. Should be a hoot!
In other news, I have resumed classes at the Craft Guild of Dallas to further hone my metalsmithing skills. In addition to working in fabrication with Marilyn O'Hara, I have also begun taking a metal clay class with Charlotte Edwards. As you may recall, I took a metal clay workshop with Vickie Hallmark back in September, and I really enjoyed it, and wanted to explore this unique new material further. I'm only two classes in, but I've learned a lot so far, and a few things will even cross over into fabrication.
One of the fun things I'm learning about is mold making. Like regular polymer clay, metal clay can be molded into pretty much whatever shape you want. Because I was (and I guess still am) a woodwind repair technician for many years, I decided it would be hilarious to try and mold tiny woodwind screws and see if I can make screws out of silver to add to pieces. Here are the results of my mold-making. I'll have to wait and see how they do after all my show activities.
Speaking of show activities, since the Round Top show is indoors, I have access to electricity, so I decided to get some lights and upgrade my display a little bit. It was quite a lengthy process to decide how to go about this, but IKEA is a wonderful source, even if it is hellacious to shop there. Even Kaycee Katt approved!
Another thing I got into, via the Pinterest vortex of no return, is Viking knit. Viking knit is a tedious yet soothing process of looping wire. It looks like a complete mess while you're doing it, but once you finish, it's really quite impressive. You have to use a draw plate to finish your project. I made my own draw plate out of a worn-out nylon cutting board, using my titanium coated end mills I normally use for replacing tone holes in bass clarinets to make the holes. My first attempt at Viking knit yielded a compact and springy bracelet out of color coated Artistic Wire (the bass layer is copper). My second attempt was far more ambitious, and I regret not doing it in silver, but there we are. At some point I will make some end caps for that bad boy out of metal clay, but that is a project for a later time. The process hurts my hands, so I don't think I'll be doing this sort of thing very often. Enjoy the pictures!
So there you have it! All the news that's fit to print, at least for now. I'll let you know how the next two shows play out. Hope to see you in Round Top and/or San Antonio!