Thursday, November 20, 2014

woodland birthday: moss

For years, I've wanted to throw a party with a woodland theme or woodland aesthetic. This year, I decided, I'd finally do it - for my birthday. There aren't any woodland-themed party activities; really, this is just about setting a pretty table of pretty bites for an afternoon of games and maybe a holiday movie, after a midday ice skating session.

Click here to see the wedding idea from Amy Wallen photography that is my table inspiration for this party. I went to the florist today to order three "pink mink" protea for the floral arrangement. I think the other bits and pieces - the eucalyptus, the limonium, the roses, even the ranunculus - shouldn't be too hard to find at my local grocery stores.

But you'll see there's a lot of moss there in that picture. And I thought that moss would be nice to tuck around platters and serving dishes on a table full of appetizers, to give a woodsy feel. And  since I live in the Pacific Northwest, with the shade of a grove of doug firs guaranteeing a regular crop of moss in the backyard, it was a simple matter of going out and harvesting clumps of moss and cleaning it (this did, however, take me an entire afternoon and evening), and then preserving it, to have a good amount of moss for my table (not quite as much as I'd like, but that's okay - I'm just being forced to practice moderation here... or heck, maybe I'll just go dig some more!)

I found the instructions for preserving moss at The Art of Doing Stuff. Basically, the moss is cleaned, allowed to dry, and then soaked in a mixture of vegetable glycerine and denatured alcohol (two parts glycerine are mixed with 1 part alcohol) for 10 minutes, then drained for 10 minutes, then left on paper towels to dry for a few days.

Above, the moss is clean and dry. Below is the preserved moss. What's nice about this (as contrasted with just drying moss) is that it stays nice and green, and it's pliable. Also, any little clumps of dirt that were stuck in the moss through the preserving process are just falling out as the moss dries, which is pretty cool. The downside, however, is that it kind of stinks like green, wet seaweed in our kitchen! I might transfer all of it outside tomorrow to air and see if that helps!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

a personal touch

Okay, these have been opened, so I can post them now. My dad has started using handkerchiefs regularly lately, or so my mom told me when we chatted about "what to do for Dad's birthday?" last month. But you know, handkerchiefs you can buy at a store these days are pretty flimsy, made of cotton so thin as to be transparent. The nice thing about making handkerchiefs is the opportunity to indulge in quality materials and traditional (and time-consuming) construction - and starting in advance meant that I could still give a nice gift even though money's tight. These are made of hanky-weight linen. They look a little thin and crisp right now, but once the fabric has been through the washer and dryer, they'll fluff up and the texture will be a bit rougher and thicker. I made a 1/4" hem all around (really, a 1/8" hem, rolled twice), and hand-stitched the blind hems. Then I monogrammed them, in two different styles: one a little fancier, and one a bit more casual.

And that's it! I hope he likes them; I hope whenever he's got a cut or a runny nose, he enjoys pulling out and using these workhorses that his daughter made and embroidered for him. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

At last!

Summer's Queen (Portrait of Shannon O). Oilbar and graphite on canvas. 18X24. 2014.

Finally finished this commissioned portrait that I've been working on all summer. As it was a gift (and a surprise) for the subject's husband, I couldn't post any updates about this anywhere until after I'd sold it and left a few days for the gift to be given. So, here it is! As there won't be any prints made of this commissioned portrait, I don't have professional photos, just this one above - snapped rather late in the day, as you can tell by the shadows - and the one below, which is slightly better, but a bit gray (owing to being taken on a dark October morning before I sold the painting to my patron). Still, I think this queen of summer shines: 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

months and years: Rabbit in the Moon quilt

a couple of months ago, I was approached about designing a table runner. Above is a sketch that was rejected. Even though it wasn't my client's taste, I liked it.

I liked it a lot. I wasn't going to let it go.

So instead, I added a gibbous moon to the mix and shuffled the moon phases around and made a quilt out of it. Or rather, I'm making it into a quilt, for the Months and Years shop. It's 36 inches wide and maybe 42 inches long - more on the measurements when it's all done. It's made of cotton canvas and two silk fabrics: the lighter colored one is a crosshatched medium-weight 100% silk suiting fabric in ivory and gold. The dark navy is silk dupioni (which I also used for the backing). The cotton canvas is the "sky" behind the moon phases. I treated the canvas with cyanoprint (sun print) dye and then scattered small branches and leaves from my garden over it and let the light develop. I overdyed this with a weak solution of purple and seafoam and spritzes of a saturated solution of warm black and navy. So, between the speckles and washes of purpley-blue-green, you can find outlines of cedar fronds and rose leaves on the sky.

I haven't quite figured out how I want to do the outline of the rabbit in the moon; for now, it's sketched in with running stitches. I think I'll couch a heavier thread so it shows up a bit better - for now, I'm just not quilting around it, so that I can still pull the layers apart and work on the rabbit without quilting it to the quilt back before I'm ready. There's a little flower quilted into the rabbits hip there, that you can just make out. I might do more of this on the rabbit...haven't decided yet. So many decisions!

What do you think I ought to do with that rabbit? Heavy thread, couched on? Embroidered leaf stitches? Or do you like it that the rabbit is so light and barely-visible like this? I'd love to hear your two cents!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

a day off

Last week, in the face of some very obvious physical manifestations of stress, I took a "day off." I didn't work on professional development stuff. I didn't apply for jobs. I didn't fuss with emails or spend the day online.

Instead, I took a walk in the park in the morning sunshine. I picked up pretty leaves, and dipped them in wax, using this tutorial from Martha Stewart. I  tied them up with thread to a piece of driftwood and hung them where they would flutter and be pretty and generally get in everyone's way as they walked into the kitchen. 

I  also made some salt scrub for the shower. I had all the ingredients - salt, glycerin, essential oils - on hand, so I quickly mixed this up and now I'm happily scrubbing away. I love salt scrubs. They're great exfoliators; this oil-free recipe from ModernSauce is the one I use. There's a great little shop for glycerin, oils, wax, salts, and other ingredients for making homemade bath products in Seattle, called Zenith (it's on Roosevelt, a couple blocks south of NE 65th St). I have salt from the dead sea in these; the crystals are slightly larger and more rounded/less sharp when you scrub with it. It's like washing with tiny pebbles! I scent mine with some essential oil from the bay tree (laurel nobilis) because I love the herbal, slightly masculine notes of that scent.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

project 52: finale

Well. Time flies. I haven't posted. What's been happening? I proofread a couple of books for an employer (one rush job that put me in a frenzy). I'm working on some "homework" (professional development) assignments from different mentors in two completely different fields (since I don't know where things are going these days, I'm just trying to keep the balls in the air for every potential lead ... it's a lot of work. I got sick last week and I still feel tired - though maybe some of that is the weather changing). I'm finishing an article that still makes me balk - I need to keep pushing through on this, though, so I don't lose the habits of being a writer. I designed and made a quilt top for a baby quilt for the shop and I'm doing some hand-quilting on it - more on that soon; there, at least, I feel like I'm making steady progress.

But where does all the time go, really? I feel like it's slipping through my fingers lately. Time to get back on top of it and do a better job of keeping this place up.

Today, I want to share the end of project 52; finished over two weeks ago! Here are the last three cards, with prints available for two (I think I need one of the Raven, Lightbringer cards).

watercolor and acrylic on paper

September has always been one of my favorite months. Indian Summer is truly gorgeous, exquisite, nostalgia-inducing here in the Northwest - the blackberries get sweeter and sweeter, things are a little dusty, night starts to fall earlier, and if the storms don't come to early, we enjoy a beautiful show of color as the leaves change. I was thinking about looking up through those leaves to a pale summery sky as I painted this one. Cass said it reminded him of Dr. Seuss, and proclaimed it a very happy card.

watercolor and  calligraphy ink on paper

And here is one of my most favorite cards. The Haida people of Alaska have a story about Raven as a a bringer of light, so, as we turn to the dark side of the year, I thought Raven, Lightbringer would be a good companion with which to close this project. The circle around the little ball of light (and the white rays) echo the circle round the sun (and the pattern of its rays) from the midsommar postcard, postcard 39. And I'm always so obsessed with stargazing and hunting comets through the winter. Last year I got up one morning at 3am when temps were in the teens (incredibly cold for this part of the country), bundled up in extra socks and my husband's massive down jacket, and walked to the park to hunt for a comet - I didn't get to see it, but I did get to see some GREAT constellations. 

ink and nailpolish on paper

And finally, with little fanfare, we close with  a simple flourish of  marbleized paper and "fin."

And ... that's it. A whole year, in postcards. This was a great project. It got me to explore some new media, and I've learned some things about this format, too. It certainly was no small birthday gift, but I enjoyed this year. Last Sunday, I was suddenly a little sad - I was out on a walk with Cass and admiring some pretty rosehips and thought about asking him if I could borrow his phone and take a picture of them to use as a model, but I stopped myself: no more postcards to make, after all. Hm. Maybe there will be more cards in my future again soon. Maybe. =) Thanks so much for following along with this project for the past year; I hope you've enjoyed seeing this unfold here!

And now ... let's talk fruitcake. This week.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

project 52:49

cyanoprint dye and plants on paper

I finally got my hands on some cyanoprint (sunprint) dye - Jacquard has been making their Solarfast product for I-don't-know-how-long, but I knew when I saw it a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to try playing with it. It's a little rough on the paper, because you have to wash it out for 10 minutes - see all the tears? I had to glue this postcard to another one to reinforce it before I mailed it. Hm.

I got the idea for this project when I stumbled across artist Jill DeHaan's experiments with plant matter and cyanoprint paper, and knew I wanted to try something similar, so postcard 49 is a monogram, the first letter of my brother's (and my) last name. I wanted to capture some of the last of the summer sunshine!

(While it's still sunny in Seattle, the sun has dropped just below the tops of the trees in the doug fir grove that stands just south of our backyard - so now in the middle of the day, we are in shade instead of sun, and things feel a *lot* cooler around here.)