Artistry of Nature – Plant Material as Media

Spotted this entry at floral exhibit, and soon encountered more of these lovely plant material prints for sale at a local co-op.

This example is particularly intricate.

Wish I’d pressed and saved some leaves and blossoms to attempt this whimsical, original, art form over the winter.

I’m thinking original Christmas cards . . . ???

The Inspiration and Creative Potential of Colorful, Collectible Paint Strips

 

It’s never taken much to make me smile. While I’m often introspective, pondering potential problems of my own and of nearly everyone I know, spotting something bright and beautiful can easily cheer me. It’s always great to explore new ways to use mundane things by tapping into one’s creativity.

Since I was a child, whenever I wander into a hardware store, or am sent there on a mission for something practical, needed promptly to repair something important, I am always distracted by the paint strip display.

Inevitably I must stop and stare at the rainbow array of dark to light, pastel to deep colors of the current selection. Like they were magnets, my favorite colors draw my eyes toward them, and my fingers follow. I must hold them in my hand, decide whether they really are my favorites, or if perhaps I’d rather have the next shade down.

Whether or not I have something currently in need of a coat of paint, I try to think of what I could cover with the colors I choose that day, or look for something more suitable for what really needs painting.

Sometimes I walk over to the mixer with my selection then turn around, knowing I won’t have time to paint soon. Or maybe I think I should take the strips home before making my selection (definitely the best choice if one is painting a room).

I always seem to leave with a strip or a few, regardless of whether I have current paint plans. They make great bookmarks and I’ve recently seen some interesting craft plans to create with paint strips.

Perhaps I’m not the only one who squirrels them away in books or tucks them into nooks in drawers or on shelves, hoping to find a practical purpose for the fascinating strips of paper that feed my imagination. It’s so much fun simply to find one I remember selecting a decade or two ago when I open a copy of a story I haven’t explored for that long.

Pictured is my latest selection, they remind me of the colors of my nineteen seventies childhood.

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A Patchwork of Veggie Packets

Only those of us with wildly artistic imaginations may identify with this post-but I was delighted to discover someone else who appreciates the bright beauty of seed packet displays.

She is indeed from Britain, a country whose citizens have a sensitivity to the type of subtleties I, but not all Americans do.

But I believe we all love to see spring arrive, and with it the colors of nature, of flowers and vegetables and all growing things . . .

I had been prompted to snap shots of displays in our local drugstore, as I was so drawn by their color and form. I doubt I’ll be an ambitious planter this year but still feel the thrill of seeing seeds for sale from my days of prolific propagation.

As I reviewed my photos later, at home, I began to visualize them as patches of a quilt, and wondered if a fabric had ever been printed with seed packet patterns to use as quilt patches.

Synchronistically, later that day, I opened a book I recently acquired, Jane Brocket’s,

The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home, to a page describing the talented British lady’s imaginings along the same lines as mine regarding the use of seed packet designs for a vegetable patch quilt.

“The show-off theatricality of seed packets is an art worth enjoying,” Jane says. She took photos of packets individually and uploaded them to her computer screen, finding they made a vibrant patchwork of vegetables , looking like a quilt. . .

She mentions the Robert Frost poem, “Putting in the Seed” (1916) in which he refers to himself as “a slave to the springtime passion for the earth”.

I count myself a slave to that passion also, and to the poetry of Robert Frost, and the artistry to be found in what are to many mundane things.

Jane Brocket shares those sentiments in her timeless book, too. Domesticity is indeed a gentle art, when one takes an appreciative view of the seasonal tasks of home-keeping.

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Martha Stewart Style – Down East Culture

Martha Stewart isn’t perfect, but I have to say I like her style. We also share a deep appreciation for the state of Maine. Today I’m reading the April 2017 issue of Down East “the magazine of Maine”, guest edited by Martha. Our shared appreciations are showcased by the featured articles.

The issue carries the spirit of Ms. Stewart, a love for nature, coastal concepts, casual elegance, whimsical details, and the simple but special things in life. Though she owns a large estate she’s often pictured in casual clothing and she’s maintained the same simple, natural hairstyle for some time.

The magazine features Martha’s Maine Must-Haves, products produced in the state that carry her stamp of approval. There’s a great feature on Maine made cheeses, one on shellfish farming, and, my favorite, the one on the keeping of backyard chickens (Our small farm had a flock when I was growing up). Martha says she keeps them too.

The story tells of Lisa Steele, author of the blog, Fresh Eggs Daily and Amazon’s best-selling book on chicken keeping, by the same title, (click the picture to see more).

plus two more books on the topic: Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for You and Your Hens, and Duck Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Ducks…Naturally

Martha was hooked on Maine many years ago. In the 1960’s she and her husband took a trip to “Vacationland”. She was smitten with the beauty of Mount Desert and they scheduled an annual journey to Maine thereafter. As a single woman in 1999, Martha discovered Skylands, the former estate of Edsel Ford and quickly purchased the 68 acre property.

Being a bit younger, I didn’t discover Maine until the 1980’s, though I’d longed to live in New England all my life. I’ve been back many times too. Though I don’t reside there, the spirit of the state remains with me. I find thoughts of the sea soothing, and love the styles and clear yet subtle seaside colors of coastal designs. And I can’t forget the inland scents of balsam and pine, sightings of moose, and mountain peaks.

A Bit about Down East Magazine:

Down East publishes a wide range of articles and updates on Maine life. If you can’t make it to Maine, it’s great to read for an armchair trip. If you are planning a journey, the content can help you create a great tour of the state.

Down East features photos, historical facts, current laws and issues, and narratives about talented people and great places to visit.

If you’d like to learn more about “the magazine of maine”, click the link below:

 http://www.downeast.com

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Keep Calm and Read On

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A Country Church Craft Show

The rabbit warren-like labyrinth of rooms leading off the main hallway and dining area of the church basement were filled with ten foot tables laden with cottage crafted wares. From cat toys to candles and Christmas décor to carefully framed photos, and carved wooden roses, the facility served as a microcosm of the mainstream business world. Citizens from varied backgrounds had set up shop, their mini stores stocked with custom-designed creations or offerings from Avon, Watkins or other major corporations they represented.

Held at churches, clubs, and schools across the country most often from October through Christmas but sometimes also in spring and summer, craft shows can be a fun way to spend a day, shopping for special items for ones-self or great gifts for friends.

The view from behind the table, just as in any retail store, is a bit different from the shopper’s experience—a study of human nature and the rules, or, rather, sometimes, random effect of merchandising.

Some general guidelines are important, like providing a neat display with prices clearly marked. Other than that, customer preferences can be difficult to predict. For example: scarves flew off my table at earlier shows this season, so I spent the past week making more. Today, they lay glued to their position, the only interest in them shown by a young girl, who waved a loop design, leopard patterned scarf, proclaiming how pretty it was and emphasizing it’s five dollar price tag. The girl’s mother was long gone, and was waving her to “come on”. The scarf was returned to it’s place on the table.

Comments from lookers can be entertaining over the long hours spent hoping for crowds of customers. The top one today was the lady who said she couldn’t purchase a catnip toy as a Christmas present for her cat, because, “Shakespeare would be jealous.” Upon inquiry it was determined that Shakespeare was a turtle—and after all, as the lady stated, “What can one get a turtle for Christmas?”

And there’s always one irresistible item that everyone who walks past picks up and examines in great detail, offering words of praise. Yet no one wants to own it, even if the price is miniscule. On this day, mine was a two dollar  light bulb shaped bottle filled with baubles and embellished with the  words, “You light up my life,”. I thought it was a unique gift idea, and indeed I did sell one at the last show, but apparently not too many people are enlightening the lives of others these days.

Many times a customer will mull over an item for some time, ask to know it’s entire life history, return repeatedly to admire it, then never purchase it.

But then there are customers at the opposite end of the spectrum. Free spirited impulse buyers, or those who see something they’ve been seeking, or simply must have. Two stood out today, renewing my spirits as I sat in the doldrums of a long sale-less spell.

First, from out of the blue, a customer shouted “I’ll take this picture!” She stood around the corner at the other end of my table, where I hadn’t even noticed her. She was requesting my largest framed photo and the one I was most proud of. I had given up hope of finding it a home. The lady told me of her plans to renovate her family room using a barn theme. She was delighted with the barn’s beautiful reflection in the water, and the lovely pond scene overall.

A few minutes later I heard, “There it is,” as a lady looked down lovingly at my table. “My daughter told me to look for one of these,” she said, as she touched a berry patterned pouch for holding plastic bags, and happily handed me a ten dollar bill.

There’s likely a buyer for nearly every offering, but the difficulty lies in luring a large enough crowd  of serious shoppers to each venue.

Such is the life of a craft show exhibitor. Significant profits seem rare, in these days of cheap imported items, seeming lack of appreciation by the general public for unique, handmade goods, and the underemployment of many in today’s economy, leaving little disposable income. Then too, some shoppers focus on the internet.

Peddling crafts at community events today is quite unlike thirty years ago, according to veteran crafters who tell tales of having nothing left to pack up at the end of the day. Some shows do bring reasonable gains, unfortunately others fail to support the ever-increasing fees charged for table space.

But there’s always the camaraderie with other crafters and customers, the traditional lunches of shredded chicken, sloppy joes, or hot dogs, and most of all, the opportunity to showcase the results of one’s creative self-expression, and the ability to be a business owner without the cost of overhead on an ongoing basis.

That’s why we who are compelled to create stay up late painting , sewing, knitting, potting, or pasting, practicing our chosen craft, then rise at five on Saturdays to set up our space and await the day’s fate.

 

Easy Elegant Garden Art

An array of arrow shafts impaled the ground at an artistic angle, glass tails sparkling in the sun above a bountiful flowerbed. The picture popped out at me from the pages of a favorite magazine several summers ago. I was hooked on the idea of using wine bottles as garden art.

Never able to part with the thoughtfully crafted vessels after imbibing, my basement had begun to resemble the refuse bin of a busy bar. Oops, perhaps I shouldn’t go that far. I only partake of one glass per week, but still, over time they tend to accumulate.

I’d seen wine bottle trees before, wire poles with branches upon which to display bright bottles. They just weren’t to my taste. I liked better the idea of using simple garden stakes (the green plastic ones work well) to make sparkling yet subtle glass sculptures to shine above bright beds and accent green herb gardens.

The bottles can be placed singly, or used in groups of three or more. Colors can be chosen that work with the principle hues displayed by the plantings in each plot. I must admit I’m partial to cobalt blue. It’s beautiful in nearly any setting. Green works well for most sites too.

When scanning the wine shelves, I now find myself drawn as much by the bottle designs and colors as the wines themselves, ignoring even the enchanting tales I love of the wine flavors and interesting history of the wine makers.

So don’t stress out about your garden this spring. Relax, enjoy a glass of a favorite wine, and you’ll soon have a great vintage ornament to grace your garden and inspire your creativity throughout the summer. Salu’!

Fun Fabulous Felting

We sat in a circle, baking pans in our laps, pummeling the pieces of wool with our fingertips. Soaked by a spray of soapy water, the fibers began to fuse together into what we hoped would become change purses, Kleenex caddies, eyeglass cases.

I had always been interested in felting, so when a class was offered at our local library, I quickly signed up. Here I found myself on a frigid winter evening, huddled in a cozy room with about a half-dozen other new students of the fiber art.

Our friendly instructor-storyteller Marie passed around some finished projects, then explained the craft further as we worked. It seems that felt is very simply, matted fiber (traditionally carded wool). Moisture, heat and pressure combine to compress and entwine the fibers. Hot soapy water makes the wool slippery and causes scales to open up. The scales keep the fiber from backing up, so they get hopelessly tangled together. When they are cooled and dried the scales close and lock the wool into a tough, durable material.

We used a pattern of bubble wrap for the items we were making that day. The fibers completely encased the wrap, then the wrap was removed once the items were finished, by cutting in the appropriate spot and pulling the wrap out.

As usual when learning a new hands-on skill, I was way behind the rest of the class. They were turning their creations over, lifting, squeezing, rolling their material fearlessly, while I tediously waited, uncertain when to proceed to the next step. I was certain my project would be a complete failure.

Surprisingly, as the class came to a close, Marie helped me cut a slit in my new forest green change purse (never one to think like the crowd, I had unwittingly been the only student who hadn’t chosen purple wool for the project). All I needed was a cute button to sew on for a closure. My purse had turned out quite successfully for a first try (actually better than some of the others if I do say so myself).

I look forward to checking out more ideas for projects for this fun fiber craft as soon as my schedule permits.