Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Meg's Mushroom Is Complete

Well, to be honest, let's call this Meg's Mushroom, version 1.  This was just a little experiment to see if I wanted to do a larger one, and I have decided that I do.  I am planning to do one just a bit larger with a few improvements.  I have been playing around with backgrounds and what I can do to add a little more interest to the pieces.  So, those will be coming up in the future.  But, for now, here is the finished mini-project.  I added an oak leaf that I made out of brown felt and hemp twine for the stem, and I also added a little clump of grass, some french knots for a little bit of mossy green and some stitching to the stem of the mushroom.  Those last two additions were due to the helpful suggestions of my friend, Emily.  It definitely needed a little sprucing up, and she gave me lots of good ideas that I will use in my next piece.  What do you think?

Overall, I am pleased with it.  As I said, I have plans for improvement, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lovely Little Things

A beautiful little toadie frog that was croaking in my hand! : :  dewdrops on a strawberry leaf : :  dianthus : : fuzzy, spikey caterpillar : : happy, muddy little feet

Have a nice day!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Meg's Mushroom

My very dear friend Meg is a wise and wonderful, bright and happy, gloriously funny person.  She's one of those people who just lifts your spirits whenever they're around.  And her favorite colors just happen to also be happy and bright - citrus colors like orange, yellow, and "Kermit" green, as she calls it.  So, when I saw this happy little orange guy waving to me from the side of the road on a rainy day, it made me think of her.  It's happy.  It's bright and colorful.  It's radiating joy and light even on a rainy day.  That's Meg.  So, here he is in all his happy little orange cheerfulness peeking out from a bed of pine needles and oak leaves.  And if you look very carefully, you will see a little baby one right beside it.  So CUTE!
Photo by Starr White
 I love this photo so much (cute mushrooms make me ridiculously happy) that I was inspired to re-create it in textiles.  I have a beautiful piece of orange batik I bought a while back that I thought would be perfect for the orange cap.

First, I made a template by drawing the shape on a piece of paper. Next, I cut it out and used it to cut a shape from the fabric, making it a little larger than the template so that I could applique' it to a piece of canvas.

Here, I have applique'd the cap and a little felt stem and begun to add the little white spots on the cap.  I used a combination of turkey knots and french knots to re-create the shaggy little spots.  I think I might go back and add more later, but this was enough to let me see that I was on to something!  I also cut out a couple of oak leaf shapes from brown felt.

I wasn't quite sure how to depict pine needles, so I did a little experiment on a separate piece of canvas to see how it would look before I added to the mushroom.  I tried to think of some super artistic way to portray the pine needles, but in the end, I went with really long straight stitches.  I think it turned out OK!

So, here is where we are now.  We have mushroom with pine needles!  I added one strand of a burnt orange thread to try to represent the color of pine needles.  Just a few here and there.  I like the effect, and I'm also happy with the fact that I accidentally but happily reflected the orange of the mushroom cap in the bed of pine straw.  I plan to work on attaching the oak leaves today and perhaps trying to represent that little teeny tiny baby pine tree in the foreground.  Overall, I am happy with how it's coming along, and I am already planning a larger, more detailed piece.  I think I might try painting the background next time so there isn't so much empty white space.  It's so much fun to work on these little projects.  I learn so much from each and every one.  I hope you like it!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Don't Be Crewel

Today I scored big time at the thrift store!  I found these wonderful crewel work seashells for $3.00.  They're a bit dusty and banged up, but the crewel-work is still in perfect condition.  There are 4 separate little frames and they were all bound up with masking tape.  I didn't really know what I had until I got them home and unwrapped them, and voila!
Aren't they pretty?  I could sort of tell from the colors that they were pretty old.  I guessed late '70's or early '80's, and I was right.  After unwrapping them, I turned them over to inspect the back and found this.....

The date on the back leads me to believe that these were a lovingly handmade Christmas gift to some lucky someone.  Which also makes me wonder about the artist and the recipient of this lovely gift.  It would have taken a long time to make these and have them framed up.  A lot of thought and care went into them.  Were they made from a pattern?  Or are they original works of art?  I wonder, also, if the recipient truly appreciated the thought, time, and effort that went into creating these lovely little works of art.  I always worry about that when I give a hand-made gift to someone.  I find that people who make things themselves are more appreciative of handmade gifts, whereas other people prefer something purchased.  It makes me a little sad that they were discarded on the dusty shelves at the thrift store.  To me, there is love and life in those stitches.  Because they are so lovingly hand-made, they seem to have a spirit about them.  I think that is why they called to me from the back of a shelf, crowded around by many other discarded things.  They knew that I would hear them and rescue them and take them home to be loved and appreciated once more.  They knew that I could feel their spirit.  They still have love to give, and I am happy to receive it.  So, thank you, S.D.A., whomever you are and wherever you are now.  I have found your beautiful seashells, and I love them.  Thank you for the love and care and time you put into them.  They will be enjoyed for many more years to come.


As you know, I have recently fallen in love with the art of raised embroidery, also known as stumpwork.  My lovely friend Emily, from the The Floss Box, was kind enough to share one of her beautiful embroidery patterns with me that is perfect for a beginner.  It is a lovely pattern of a strawberry plant.  So, being the nature nerd that I am, I embarked upon a study of strawberries.  As luck would have it, we just happen to have some wild strawberry plants growing in our meadow, so I snapped a few photos for reference.

And yes, I did eat this little beauty!  It was still warm from the sun.  It was very sour! Isn't it cute?

Strawberry pattern courtesy of Emily Wilmarth of The Floss Box
And, voila!  My very first ever raised embroidery.  Now, as you can see, it turned out to be a sort of sampler. And it should be noted that I changed Emily's design a little bit.  My goal was to combine her pattern with the little strawberry plant I had photographed.  So,  I made the strawberries different sizes and changed the leaves from smooth-sided to serrated and divided the leaf on the left into 3.  This project was an experiment.  I didn't have the nerve to attempt detached leaves, so I played around with them a bit.  I like the padded ones the best, although my stitching isn't so great.  I need lots of practice.  I had fun with the turkey knot stamens on the flowers.  This was my very first time trying those.  Also, my first time using the raised stem stitch band technique on the strawberries.  It was so much fun! It was so exciting to see them come to life as I worked.  I used black thread and made french knots for the seeds on the first one I did, and I thought it looked like a slice of watermelon, so I used brown straight stitches for the other two, and I like them much better.
 Overall, I am satisfied with how my first stumpwork project turned out, and I want to thank Emily for sharing her beautiful pattern with me, and beg her forgiveness for not doing it justice.  If you want to see how gorgeous this is suppose to be, there is a photograph of it in Emily's Book
I am very much a beginner, and I have so much to learn, but I am enjoying the journey.  I am grateful to be able to share it with you!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fascinating Stuff!

As an artist, I am drawn to texture.  I think we, as artists, go through phases.  Sometimes we are really drawn to color, other times we are fascinated by textures.  I am definitely experiencing a fascination with textures right now.  And a study of tree bark is really a study in texture.  Let me show you what I mean......
White Oak, photo by Starr White
The majestic White Oak.  I love its irregular, shaggy, silver scales.

Tulip Poplar, photo by Starr White
The fabulous rope-like texture of the tulip poplar.

Holly, photo by Starr White

The smooth, mottled skin of the holly tree.

Dogwood,  photo by Starr White
 The somewhat symmetrical scales of the dogwood.  I love the deep fissures around each scale.

Sweet Gum, photo by Starr White

A favorite of the winter landscape - the undulating, silvery waves of the Sweet Gum.  In winter, it stands out in ghostly relief against the dark blue-gray sky and surrounding evergreens. 

photo by Starr White
I love the colorful horizontal striations on this one.  I'm not absolutely certain what this tree is, but I believe it is a choke cherry.  Nevertheless, it's bark is wonderful! It has a wonderful sheen like silk and so many colors, ranging from gray to green to rosy pink.  Just lovely.

Eastern Red Cedar, photo by Starr White
And finally, the shaggy weathered bark of the cedar.

I find that the older, more mature trees are more beautiful to me; their gnarled and rugged bark showing the effects of age and years upon this earth.  Is it because that is where I am headed and I am trying to get used to the idea?  Would I have felt this way 20 years ago?  As I age, I appreciate more and more the rich beauty that only comes with age - the lines, the wrinkles, the scars, the fissures.  I am no longer bewitched by the smooth and perfect - the shiny and the new. 
And I am also amazed at the variety of surface and texture that is just in my small patch of Earth.  Why was this incredible variety necessary?  How and why did each tree develop its own unique skin?  How does the texture of each one serve its owner?
My hope, as an artist,  is to be able to re-create these beautiful textures in textiles.  I want to study and explore each one and experiment with how to express the feeling I get when I look at them.  I want the viewer to see their beauty as I do; to feel that their beauty has been earned by years and years of living and growing and becoming what they were destined to be.  Perhaps I want to see myself reflected in these beautiful beings, or them in me.