Valentine’s Day Heart Art

Out of all the holidays, I think Valentine’s Day has the prettiest decorations. Even when I was single, I still enjoyed seeing the warm reds and pinks, and cute heart shapes. A few years ago I started reposting Valentine’s Day themed photos on my blog. In 2012 I decided to post my own work, and have been doing so since.

This is my Valentine’s Day Kusudama.

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No, I didn’t make three. These are three photos from different angles.

I made these ceramic heart shaped boxes, not necessarily for Valentine’s Day, but because I wanted to make a heart-shaped box. When I first signed up for the ceramics class in 2009, I envisioned a porcelain box, but that never happened, since I had to work with regular old stoneware clay. Anyway, I’m still making stoneware nowadays. I made these using B-mix with grog (because that’s what I have, but I probably don’t need the grog since I’m making fine, small objects.)

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The pink one was traced off of a small plastic heart shaped box, whereas the red one was drawn freehand.

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Tops and bottoms.

Unfortunately, the pink parts blistered during the glaze firing, and the tiny bumps look gross. (You can see some popped bubbles in this image.) My guess is that the bubbling had something to do with the pink underglaze, because only the pink parts blistered. (All of it was covered with a clear glaze, and the clear parts were fine.) From what I’ve read online, it’s possible that I had applied the underglaze too thickly, or it could have had something to do with this piece being fired at the bottommost shelf of the kiln, or maybe it was because the label of the underglaze said to fire to cone 4 and the studio fires to cone 6. I might try to sand off the bubbles and reglaze it, but using a different glaze. I was sad that that happened, because I had spend a lot of time shaping the lid. It was hard to get it to curve and fit properly at the points of the heart.

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Heart shaped feet on the bottoms. My idea!

I wish I could say this was my idea, but it isn’t. Two years ago I saw a friend post a photo on Facebook of tealight candles arranged into a heart. Her boyfriend did that for Valentine’s Day, and I’ve been wanting to give it a try.

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These were cheap IKEA candles, which explains the variation in the candle color (they’re all red) and size of the flames.

Bifurcated candle wick

Yesterday evening I noticed that one of the candle wicks had split, so the flame from the candle on the left had two bases, if that makes any sense. I thought it was amusing.

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I still have yet to figure out the proper settings to get a photo of a crisp, clear candle flame in total darkness or near darkness. It’s easier to get a clear flame when there is more ambient light, but that’s not what I want to do. I think spot metering makes a difference. (Before, when using P mode, my candle pics all ended up looking something like this.) I tried a few apertures and shutter speeds, but I didn’t have as much time to experiment before the flames were extinguished. The one that I posted here is f/5 and 1/250, but I think it’s underexposed.

Anyone know what settings it takes to get a good shot of a candle flame in complete darkness?

How I see the world

Here are some photos that I took from 2009 to 2011, when I was first starting to be interested in photography. The photos and the text have all been posted before on my old blog (uru_n_imi), which is now defunct.

Autumn (2009, 2010)

None of my photos ever turn out the way I envisioned them to be. I have long ago concluded that my eyes (actually brain) sees things differently from the way my camera does, so I can never quite capture exactly what I saw and how I saw it. That, or my photography skills and lenses aren’t good enough.

“You can’t see the forest for the trees” describes me pretty well. Perhaps that’s why I can’t see the the tree for the leaves, literally.


Fraction of the view from a window at my Dad’s workplace, last December.


This one was taken about a year ago, shortly after sunset.
My eyes were drawn to the vine, but I guess I was missing the bigger picture.

Shadows cast by an autumn sunset (2010)

As a child, I was drawn to bright beams of light juxtaposed with shadows. Morning light has always been my favorite, though sunsets also produce beautiful, fleeting effects. None of these photos have been edited.

There were actually two candles, but it didn’t look right, so I cropped the image. However, the wick is not very visible on this one, and I liked how the sunlight shone on the wick of the other one, making it stand out against the dark background. The red was also brighter and stood out. Maybe I’ll post that one someday.

Spring 2011

This was actually taken back in early February, when it was unusually warm for a few days. I thought that Californians were lucky to have such nice weather, while the people on the east coast still had snow. (This was right after I came back from my trip.) Ironically, it’s been unusually cold in this part of California this May–feels more like March–so we weren’t that lucky after all.


Buds of peach blossoms. They really were hot pink!


It’s not spring without tulips! But they don’t last very long.

Apple blossoms (2011)

The interesting thing about these apple blossoms is that the buds are a bright pink, but when the flower actually opens, it’s a pale pink.

This was how it looked April 10th.

The same branch, six days later.

I would like to believe that my photography skills have since improved.

Giving Candle Meditation a Try

I first heard of candle meditation several years ago from my father. A colleague of his was taking a class lead by a guru and described being in a dark room, staring at a lit candle, for the purpose of improving concentration. My dad was quite doubtful of its efficacy, though he does believe in benefits from other types of meditation. I hadn’t given much thought to it again until recently, when I noticed that my inability to focus was seriously impeding my progress on my thesis.

I Googled “candle meditation” and came upon many sites describing how to do it. They all tout it as a way to improve concentration. I think candles are beautiful and would love to use them regularly. My dad, on the other hand, will not permit anyone to light candles in the house unless it is dark and the power is out. (That is why I secretly get excited when we have a blackout that lasts after dark.) His reasons are that candles are a fire hazard and they make the air bad (increased CO2). If I can somehow convince him that candle meditation is effective, then perhaps he will approve of me keeping a lit candle in my room. The problem is, he doesn’t think a candle is necessary, citing other types of meditation, and told me to just stare at a picture of a candle flame.

I managed to find a few YouTube videos of a lit candle for meditation, created “for when you don’t have a candle” (or when you do have candles but aren’t allowed to light them).

After watching one (without the sound) for a few minutes, I felt quite relaxed, so I think there is some validity to candle meditation. However, that still won’t convince my dad. He tells me I can just watch the video instead of using an actual candle, and that it’s better for me to not become dependent on the candle, but rather that I should learn to meditate without needing any objects.

Have you heard of candle meditation before? Have you tried it, and if so, did you notice improvements in your ability to concentrate as a result of it?