A Tale of Two Artists

Perhaps you’ve already met.

Just in case, allow me to introduce two of my favorite artists, Anne Lawson and Pauline King.

Sometimes you fall in love with an artist’s work, knowing little about the artist themselves. In this case I fell in love with the artists through blogging, then discovered their work.

Earlier this year, Anne shared one of her recent creations on Instagram: the gorgeous pumpkin you see below. It’s painted with watercolors, then over-stitched with a variety of threads. It’s stunning and it’s mine!  I framed the piece using a floating glass frame without a mat, so that I can enjoy the piece front and back.

I connected with Anne’s blog many years ago. She’s a botanical artist living in Australia, a retired teacher and a wonderful soul. I’ve enjoyed watching Anne’s work evolve. She’s always trying new things. As a life-long lover of botanical art, I’ve really enjoyed learning about Anne’s process.

Anne describes herself as “a Melbourne based artist, who is inspired by the natural world. [Her] small art works are available in [her] Etsy shop.”

Anne blogs at Anne Lawson Art. She also publishes a fortnightly newsletter which you can subscribe to here.

Here’s a photo of it framed and hanging on my home office/craft room wall.

Anne Lawson Art: Mixed Media Pumpkin

Pauline King dabbles in a number of mediums. She’s a painter, a crafter and a mixed-media artist. Those who follow Pauline are familiar with her gorgeous light catchers, personalized to the receiver with colored beads, glass and charms. They’re bouncing light in homes across the globe. You can see more of Pauline’s work in The Contented Crafter’s shop.

The beautiful and ethereal piece you see below came from Pauline’s heart.

She created it for my sister whom she’s never met, but of course has been hearing about for years. When Sharon received the piece, she exclaimed “it’s as if she knows me!”  Sharon loves Halloween, witches, cats and purple so you can imagine her delight when she opened it.

Since she was redoing her floors, Sharon asked me to hold this for safe keeping, and of course I happily obliged.  Today I picked it up from the frame shop and will return it to my sister this week.

Pauline King’s gift to my sister Sharon: The Wise Woman

Sharon originally wanted to frame it in black, but when she read Pauline’s blog and saw the piece on a white tray, she decided to frame it in white instead.

Sharon also decided to base this year’s Halloween costume on The Wise Woman. Stay tuned for pics.

Meanwhile, here is a lovely quote from George Sand:

The artist vocation is to send light into the human heart.

Agreed!

Loving New Zealand

Looking down over Queenstown, New Zealand

Every cliché you’ve heard about New Zealand is true.  There really are more sheep than people, the hills really are that green, and the water really is that clear.  New Zealanders are warm and friendly, epitomized by our hosts Pauline, Danella and Jo.

All the stresses of delayed flights and airport checks fell away with Pauline’s first embrace. I’ve been ensconced in a warm cocoon ever since.

Here’s what we’ve been up to since my last post Three Days in Dunedin.

Pauline organized a thrilling ride on a four-seater motor bike known as the trike. There are only seven of them in the world. Our charming guide Andrew met us at the city center known as the Octagon and graciously put up with all our picture-taking.  We maneuvered through town, then along the harbour and into the hills for a breathtaking view.  I should mention that we were also part of the view, as tourists waved and stared at this fascinating trike. I now have an inkling of what it must be like to be famous. Complete strangers smiled and waved and took pictures of us along the way.  What fun!

We were on the road for nearly an hour, wind in our hair, smiles on our faces, laughing much of the way. Experience Dunedin just celebrated their first anniversary. You can see some closeup shots of the trike on their Facebook page.

Back on terra firma, we stopped for lunch. While the others stayed on for drinks, Pauline organized a visit to her chiropractor to help with my gathering pain, the result of too many hours sitting on the long-haul flight. Did I mention the warm cocoon?

We rounded out the day with a walking tour of the University of Otago (Māori: Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo). Danella has worked at this beautiful university for a decade.

Danella at University of Otago

Danella the trooper, still recovering from a broken leg

I inadvertently set my camera to manual, so many of my photos turned out dark and grainy. Here are a few to give you a flavor of the place.

University of Otago

Clock Tower University of Otago

If you want to see how a real photographer does it, please check out Laurie’s post University of Otago.

The following morning we were off to Wanaka (rhymes with Monica). We caravanned in two cars for the five-hour journey with several stops for lunch and photographs along the way. Steven is a CB radio enthusiast so he rigged the two cars with radios. We were in regular communication between cars, alerting each other for stops and other practical matters. There may also have been some singing in the round, just to keep things interesting.

As if!  It’s all interesting and wonderful. I’m like a mum with a new baby, constantly gushing at the wonder of it all.

I’ll share details of Wanaka and Queenstown in a future post.

Above Queenstown

You can catch up on the start of our journey by reading Three Days in Dunedin, followed by The Drive to Wanaka.

Blogging Babes in New Zealand

Pauline: The Contented Crafter

Laurie: Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things

KPB: Boomdeeadda

Three Days in Dunedin

I’m having the time of my life!

In some ways this journey began two years ago.  During a Skype session, the Blogging Babes, as we’ve come to call ourselves, dreamed out loud of a trip to see Pauline in New Zealand. In 2015 Pauline joined us on our side of the world for an incredible trip to Virginia and Washington, D.C. Our time together deepened the friendships and expanded our hearts.

Now here we are three years later, meeting up with Pauline and her two lovely daughters in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Mike drove me to the San Francisco airport where I connected with Laurie. Though I dreaded the 13 hour flight across the Pacific, I was in for some lovely surprises.

SFO at Joe & the Juice

Putting our heads together at Joe & the Juice, SFO (This one’s for you, Joe)

We got our sillies on five minutes into our journey, before boarding the most amazing airplane I have ever seen.

lavender lights aboard air new zealand

Air New Zealand flight

Air New Zealand lives up to its reputation in every way.  The crew kept us  well fed, smiling, drinks flowing and relaxed.  We flew economy, or as Mike would say, steerage,  but I can’t complain.  It was amazing.

Air New Zealand flight with Laurie

With Laurie and a charming photo bomber

Pacific Ocean satellite map

This on-board satellite map kept us abreast of our travel

Pauline welcomed us at the airport, then we were off to meet her daughter, Danella and to reconnect with Kelly.

Siddy in Dunedin, New Zealand

Pauline’s Siddy served as co-pilot

Danella opened her home to us, three women she’s never met and while still recovering from a broken leg.  It’s an act of kindness and grace.

Danella and Siddy

Danella and Siddy

She lives in a charming flat, decorated in soft pinks and greens, with a lovely garden out back. She loves garden kitsch, and has since her childhood. I had fun discovering tiny gnomes and frogs among the greenery. They made my fairy-garden-loving heart sing.

After a leisurely morning in our PJ’s and a breakfast of tomatoes on toast (thank you, Kelly) we were off to Pauline’s. Pauline’s fans know she’s an artist and a crafter, and her space reflects her kind and creative soul. Laurie’s written a beautiful post with photos sharing that day. Please visit her post here.

Pauline's courtyard garden

Photo Credit: Laurie Buchwald In Pauline’s courtyard garden

Pauline’s daughter Jo and her partner Steve joined us for lunch gathered around Pauline’s home-cooked meal. The pampering continued with charming welcome bags filled with local gifts of chocolates and soaps, along with handmade cards, and art, deserving of another full post.  (I have so much to say!)

This photo is back at Danella’s. I didn’t take any during our meal.

and evening at Danella's

Steven, Joe, Kelly and Laurie in Danella’s gorgeous flat. Garden by Danella, artwork by Pauline

After dinner we took a walk on St Claire Beach, just moments away from Pauline’s home. We stopped for hot beverages before calling it a day.

St. Claire's Beach, Dunedin, New Zealand

Blogging Babes selfie, St. Claire Beach, Dunedin

St. Claire Beach at sunset, Dunedin, New Zealand

St. Claire Beach at sunset, Dunedin, New Zealand

St. Claire Beach, Dunedin, New Zealand

Laurie getting her feet wet while the rest of us looked on

Day three in Dunedin will be another post, but I’ll leave you with a bit of a photo teaser.

on the trike near Otago Harbour

The Trike: Experience New Zealand

We’re having so much fun.

Blogging Babes in New Zealand

Pauline: The Contented Crafter

Laurie: Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things

KPB: Boomdeeadda

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Unless The Camera is in Another Room

hummingbird on top of fountain

From the archives: Anna’s Hummingbird perched on the fountain, September, 2016

You’ve probably heard the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I looked up the origin of the cliché this morning as I watched a hummingbird splashing about in the bubbler atop our fountain. The concept isn’t new, but the expression is only about one hundred years old.

BB (Before Blogging) I would have enjoyed the hummingbird experience for what it was: a gem of a moment that I might have missed if I hadn’t looked out the window at just the right time. Ten minutes earlier, as I watered the indoor plants, I mused that I really should get out there with the hose and top up the fountain.

Instead, the receding water slowed the fountain pump allowing the tiny bird a chance to sit in the bubbler and spin in a circle while splashing its wings. Pure joy!

AB (After Blogging) I’ve realized that I want to share these special moments with you. Our global blogging community fits neatly into another cliché; “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

On the subject of gifts, I’m traveling to Oregon next week to spend time with blogger Marlene from In Search Of It All. We’ve connected for years through our blogs, then graduated to emailing, Facebook, phone calls, texts and finally our first face-to-face.  I can hardly wait to give and receive the in-person hug we’ve been trading virtually for years.

In March I’ll be traveling again, a trip two years in the making: I’m off to New Zealand, where my friend Pauline of The Contented Crafter and her two daughters will host three blogger-turned-friends from Canada and the US. It’s a trip of a lifetime.  I still can’t quite believe we’ve pulled it off.

While I hope to capture photos worth a thousand words, I know I’ll be gathering incredible memories with special women. I’m looking forward to sharing more of them with you.

 

Experimenting with Chlorophyll Prints

Transferring the image of a leaf to paper has been around for years. It’s only recently though, that I learned of a technique using a Big Shot, one of those crafting tools I’ve put off buying for years.

Sizzix Big Shot

Sizzix Big Shot

Dawn, who blogs at Petals. Paper. Simple Thymes created these beautiful cards using the technique. Dawn’s post and her stunning cards were the impetus I needed. I bought a Big Shot so I could give the technique a try. I’m sharing the Big Shot tool with my sister, Sharon, who makes all of her own cards. We bought some fun dies for her to use for her holiday cards this year.

As Dawn says, this is a wonderful opportunity to combine two loves: gardening and paper crafts.

According to Wiki:

Chlorophyll (also chlorophyl) is any of several closely related green pigments found in cyanobacteria and the chloroplasts of algae and plants.[1] Its name is derived from the Greek words chloros (“green”) and  phyllon, (“leaf”).[2] Chlorophyll is essential in photosynthesis, allowing plants to absorb energy from light. – Wikipedia

The technique is simple. You sandwich a leaf or petal between a folded piece of paper, run it through the Big Shot, and the green pigment created by the chlorophyll transfers to the paper.  As Pauline King would say, I’m at the messy stage of this process. I’ve yet to make a single card, but not from lack of trying.

I gathered several scraps of paper from my stash to get started, including an old file folder, card stock, old-fashioned typewriter paper and vellum.

File folder leaf print

Paper: File Folder * Verdict: so-so

chlorophyll prints watercolor paper

Paper: Watercolor * Verdict: Nice most of the time but not for all plant material

velum paper chorophyll print

Paper: Velum * Verdict: It looks like a Rorschach Test

I quickly learned that all paper is not created equal. In the end it was a scrap of watercolor paper that worked the best. It absorbed some of the natural moisture and showed off the texture of the plant material to good effect.

My collection of leaves were a mixed bag as well. Some were so wet and juicy, that they produced images that were half leaf imprint, half splat. My prints are definitely not ready for prime time, but I am having fun.

I’m still trying to get a good imprint from my coleus leaves. They’re a beautiful mix of red and green and sometimes purple. They’re also heart-shaped. If I can manage to get the impressions just right without the extra moisture they’ll look terrific on a card.

My favorite imprints so far are the fern and the Nepeta.

This imprint is from my lacy fern, a plant I’ve carted around with me for nearly thirty years. It went from a small, seventy-nine cent plant on my nightstand, to owning a corner of our garden. I love it.

Chlorophyll transfer fern and sweet pea

Chlorophyll transfer of fern and sweet pea petal to watercolor paper

The Nepeta or cat nip also transferred well, and comically, retained some of its potency. Mouse the Cat hopped up on the desk and enjoyed the scent.

Nepeta catmint transfer print

Mouse Approved

Nepeta (cat mint) transfer

Nepeta (cat mint) transfer

I’ll keep experimenting and hope to eventually have some bona fide cards to share. I tossed the small samples, but gathered the rest of them into a sample booklet, held together with baker’s twine and a few strips of Washi tape.

Chlorophyll Samples

Chlorophyll Sample Booklet

Have you been working away at a technique for a while with mixed results? Let us know in the comments below.

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Visiting Santa Rosa: Friendship and Memories

In what feels like a lifetime ago, I spent three consecutive summers in Santa Rosa, about 100 miles north of San Jose. I graduated from San Jose State in 1982 with a degree in Theatre Arts. Summer Repertory Theatre known as SRT hired professional designers and directors, but the actors and technical positions went to current or recently graduated students like me.
SRT bio alys 1983-002

We received a stipend of $900 for the entire summer, with $300 of that going to shared-housing. In the first four weeks, before all six shows opened, we worked ten and half hour days, six days a week with an hour off for lunch, and a two-hour break for dinner. The hours were long and grueling and emotions ran high as they usually do when artists surround you.

In short: I loved it!

I worked with talented costume designers all three summers, learning techniques in pattern making, costume building and diplomacy. I look back on those summers with a profound fondness. I met incredible people along the way. Those years were among the most memorable of my youth.

Several of us came from around the state each summer, but the rest lived in Santa Rosa. In my second year doing summer stock, I met Marcia Ford. She’s a talented pattern maker and kindred spirit. We kindled our friendship in 1983, and have stayed in touch through marriages and children. Her son is 31, an accomplished artist and linguist, living in Spain. He married a poet and scholar when they met in Egypt, and they’re now raising Marcia’s grandson in Madrid. I have a beloved snapshot of her son holding my son we he was three-months old. My boys are now 16 and 19.

I spent a couple of days with Marcia in Santa Rosa this week, helping her organize her sewing room and catching up on life. Marcia is recovering from a year spent abroad helping with her grandson, her father’s recent death and breast cancer.

Alys and Marcia

With Marcia this week

costume shope SRT 1984

In the SRT Costume, 1984 Marcia, back left, Alys, back right

She recently celebrated a milestone birthday, so I wanted to mark the occasion with a unique and special gift.

I made a set of greeting cards and a small folio using vintage seam binding and scrap-booking paper with a vintage sewing theme. Isn’t the paper fun?

I also purchased the most gorgeous sewing box from Lynn at Tialys. She sells ready-made sewing boxes in her Etsy shop or you can buy her pattern and make one yourself. I opted for the former and I’m so glad I did. Isn’t it stunning?

Tialys sewing box

Marcia poses with her new sewing box

The third part of the gift had us both in stitches (seamstress pun). About a year ago I shared a picture of a yarn bowl on Facebook and she commented that she would love one. I ordered it online via Darn Good Yarn. As it turns out, she ordered the same bowl herself.

I had such a good time. I miss Santa Rosa and all it represents. It’s a beautiful place. They average three times the rain that we do so things are lush and green. It’s less crowded with a slighter slower pace, and open spaces still prevail. I fell in love with it all over again.

Marcia’s sister Alice invited us to dinner at her home along with several of her life-long friends. We enjoyed a delicious vegetarian meal, laughter and an evening’s walk to a field of irises. Alice has a lush garden and, be still my heart, she keeps bees! What a treat it was to spend time in her garden. What a shame, too, that I was too busy enjoying myself to take a single photo while we were there.

Picture instead curving paths, verdant green plants, a majestic tree and a quiet corner with happy, humming bees.

Gardens and friendships remain my “drug” of choice.

On the subject of friendships, I’m just days away from reconnecting with Kelly from Kelly’s Korner and Boombeeadda, Laurie from Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things and Julia of Defeat Despair. We’ll also reconnect with Lisa of ArlingWords and Stacy, a street photographer and sometime blogger, who can be found on Instagram.  We’ll be missing Pauline of The Contented Crafter, but plans are under way to connect with her in New Zealand in 2018. We’re gathering in Virginia and Washington, DC for a few days, than Kelly and I head to New York. There we’ll meet two more bloggers for the first time, Joe at The Visual Chronicle and Patti at Nylon Daze.

I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl. Meanwhile my flight to Atlanta has been delayed three times due to weather. It’s not all fun and games. 😉

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When Spider Webs Catch The Light and Friends Make a Fuss

A wonderful package arrived shortly before my birthday, all the way from New Zealand. Pauline of the Contented Crafter says it’s been in the making for a while.

paulines-gift-box

Beautiful package

She decorated the box with her own customized decorative tape which you can read more about here. Isn’t it cool? She created the art for the postcard as well using postage stamps from my dad’s collection. The original hangs on my wall. It’s quite special.

Now look at what she tucked inside:

pauline-king-spider-web

An enchanting spider web light catcher

This isn’t any old spider web. It’s a hand-crafted, bead-encrusted, gem of a birthday/Halloween gift from Pauline. I love it!

glass-spider

Faceted glass spider

My special spider web arrived with an impressively sized, faceted spider with its own hook (but no fangs). You can move her around the web, then watch it catch the light.

center-of-web

In the center of the web

Guess what else was in the box? A Halloween-themed light catcher. The charms include spiders, witches hats, cats and brooms.  Did I mention the pumpkins? There are several of those too.

The reflective nature of the faceted glass makes it difficult to photograph, so I took some video as well. It will give you an idea of the light and movement.

Mike installed hooks in the nook above the sink so I could hang the web near the light. Interestingly, the web is just as beautiful at night. The lower light mutes some of the colors, while the facets shine.

spider-light-catcher-kitchen-window

Halloween-themed light catcher hanging in the kitchen window (Mouse the Cat looks on) Thank you, Pauline

 

Gathering friends with the years

birthday-and-sympathy-cards

The stunning sunflowers are a gift from Laurie, surrounded by birthday cards and condolences on losing Slinky. The sunflower painting was a gift from Kelly last year.

My mother never liked a fuss on her birthday, so I grew up following suit. A few close friends sent greetings through the mail or by phone which I loved, but I otherwise kept my birthday a secret.

I’ve come to realize that I like a bit of a fuss. Not a loud, brash, in your face fuss, but the warm greetings that arrive by post. I love receiving cards in the mail. Happy birthday wishes via Facebook and blogging are a delight as well. I  smile at the beautifully animated e-cards and the thoughtful friends who send them. My friend Carrielin calls me on my birthday every year and has since we were in college. Each greeting is a reminder of the richness of friends and family, relationships that have grown and deepened with the passing years. I feel loved beyond measure.

Thank you all for making a fuss.

pumpkin-with-paulines-spider

Did I mention the second spider?

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