Monday, May 25, 2015

The Distracted Gardener

When I first planted the roses, I'd cut some of the longer stems and put them in a vase.  To do so, I'd had to trim a few of the leaves.

Light bulb moment #1: why not try a cold eco-bundle with those leaves?  

Going partly by instinct and partly by reference to India Flint's well-known book on the subject, Eco-Color, I tore a strip off a piece of white silk charmeuse, dampened it by spritzing it with a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water, laid out the rose leaves -- and some onion skins just for fun, spritzed some more, bundled it up and tucked it away in a glass jar.  I promised myself I wouldn't unroll it for at least a month and marked the date on my calendar (June 22).

Vinegar spray, onion skins, roses and bundle

Fast forward a few days. 

The better part of today has been spent nourishing the last of my flower beds, and planting cosmos, poppy and marigold seeds.

In between spurts of digging, weeding and spreading manure/soil mix, I'd sit on the bench in my Outdoor Studio and knit a bit or sip coffee or whatever.

That was before the breeze came up...and began to dislodge petals from the flowers on the overhead branches of the ornamental fruit tree.

Light bulb moment #2: why not make a bundle out of those falling petals?

This time I took a shorter, wider piece of silk (not charmeuse, but I can't for the life of me tell you what it is.  Maybe habotai.), laid it on a piece of plastic, put the layers on the cushions of the bench with a weight on each end, and let the petals fall where they may.

One of the roses -- a Campfire -- was shedding its petals so I added them to the mix (the yellow bits in the photo).  

When I had enough (and the breeze threatened to ignore the weights), I spritzed it all thoroughly, bundled it up and added it to the jar, again noting the date on my calendar.

"Eco-bundles" 1 & 2

I'm neither a skilled nor frequent practitioner of 'eco-dyeing', so what turns up will be purely due to time and serendipity.  What I'll do with the resulting fabric remains to be seen.  ;-)

Note to self: find something in which to collect rose petals...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dew Worms and Dandelions

This week's been spent re-decorating my Outdoor Studio.  In other words, I've been working in my yards (front and back) and gardens.  Now in my 7th spring/summer here, I've finally found the energy and determination to take time to enrich the soil in the beds, dig out unwanted plants and do a general garden improvement with steer manure and peat-moss-heavy "potting" soil (recommended for beds rather than pots.

First up, the dew worms (aka night crawlers).  Big, ugly things apparently -- I haven't ventured outside in the dead of night to view them, nor do I plan to!  There's no cure that won't sicken or kill plant life, pets or worm-eating birds.  According to a venerable nursery in Lacombe, they move about in a seven year cycle, and just about everyone in this part of Alberta has or has had them dwelling under their lawns.

They are particularly partial to shaded, aged lawns with a build up of thatch, which undoubtedly describes my front yard, on the north side of my house.  The recommendation? Magnesium apparently helps the grass re-grow where the worms have been, so...sprinkle Epsom salts (dry) on these spots from time to time, keep the lawn mowed, and with 'em and let Mother Nature take her course.

Pretty much the same thing can be said for dandelions...except they are a bit prettier than dew worms.  I live next to a vacant lot and across from a swath of County-managed green space that lies between the public sidewalk and the street.  Dandelions come with the territory.  Every spring I wage a short battle against them with a dandelion fork; after that, I just mow over 'em.

After mowing front and back, I moved on to the garden beds...where I tackled two grass-infested patches of yarrow, and an unwanted bush.

The "bush" was actually an off-shoot of one of my ancient ornamental fruit trees.  Clearly the prior owners thought it would make a nice shrub.  Alas, in recent years it failed to flourish, produced few flowers and no fruit to speak of, and lots of "sucker" branches.

I'd had enough; this year, it had to go.

I dug and dug and dug around it, till I got down to the root system.  There were 5 main roots that needed to be cut in order to remove the thing -- and amazingly, I managed to cut 'em using only my large pruners!  Then I huffed and I puffed...

And I pulled the thing out!

I rewarded my efforts by replacing the yarrow and bush with four roses (yes, hardy to Zone 3).

Here's a close up of one... from the "Never Alone" Rose collection (red opening to creamy centre):

Isn't she lovely?
I also bought a yellow "Bill Reid" rose (named for a Canadian Haida artist and jeweller), a two-colour (yellow to deep pink) "Campfire" rose that honours Canadian painter, Tom Thomson, and a red "Hope for Humanity" rose, honouring the Centennial of the Canadian Red Cross but used as a fundraiser for various Canadian charities, including shelters for the homeless etc.

The rest of the week was spent clearing my veggie plot of invading "jolly jump-ups" and wild poppies (I left a few) to make room for my raspberries to spread, and for the planting of tomatoes, lettuce, lemon balm and mint, as well as planting hollyhock, forget-me-not, cowslip and marigolds in my south facing bed under the back window.

We really need rain, so I'm hoping for the forecast thunder showers to actually happen mid-week...

Then maybe I can get back into the Indoor Studio and finish my EBMC piece for May.

Oh, yes, there was feedback on my initial effort:

The sketch is really nice, it's interesting and the line quality quite beautiful...but when you put it into fabric you're being way too literal - as you noted!   I think maybe you should limit yourself to just one color, or at most two - and use many different values of that your ideas are working, your sketches are working...but the color and fabric choices are not yet there.
When you come to translating the sketch into fabric, if the sketch is good...don't change it.  BUT first make a copy of it and shade in the values.  In the sketch above I see wonderful flowing lines...but they're all straight in the quilt...the barn is at a slight angle to us in the sketch, but not in the quilt, the furrows really make the sketch, but are not evident in the quilt...everything is stiffer and straighter in the you've lowered the horizon to the exact mid point which is much less interesting that the high horizon you have in the sketch.
So a really great sketch - and I like the two (or three?) of them put together as you have....just square it off of course - a really great sketch which totally shows your love of your country....
So square it off, make a copy, do a value study - or more than one - choose ONE or TWO colors, colors that you have a lot of different values in...and follow the sketch as literally as you can. and you'll have something really wonderful!

I've not done the shading in of the values as suggested.  Instead, I scrapped the entire piece and have returned to piecing skies and flowing hills -- several values of blue for the one, and greens for the other.  Wondering if a pop of another colour is needed...but it's not over till it's over...

Stay tuned!

Linking to Nina-Marie's Off the Wall Friday...and going back out to the garden with a cuppa coffee and a good book.  See you later!  :-)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Giving Birth (or EBMC May: Landscape)

I slept through the arrival of my children who, for medical reasons, were both delivered surgically.

I'm making up for that now by birthing my art work with all the push, pull and pain that goes with labour and delivery.  Very little of the process is easy for me -- notwithstanding that I am 'given' the images for some pieces in their entirety, having only to assemble them according to the Creator's instructions.  :-)

You'd think with all the landscapes I've made that this months EBMC theme, "Landscape", would be easier, but no.  For one thing, having gotten away with creating two 'minis' last month, I determined I would try to produce something larger this time.

My motivation is two-fold:

  • First, I want to enter SAQA's Canadian call for entry -- "My Corner of the World" (All SAQA members)* and "My Corner of the World: Canada" (Only Canadian artists)** and there are size requirements that are in the realm of "large" based on my usual work; and
  • Second, I have a commission to do a landscape, and my hope is to make it larger than a 'mini'.
So I'm looking on this piece as -- if nothing else -- practice for the Larger Leagues!

Poplars - Charles Beck
If you read my last post, you'll remember that EB had me consider woodcuts as a style.  Woodcuts?!  So...yesterday I spent most of the morning looking at woodcut landscapes and the artists who make them.  Woodcutting is a venerable form of print making, but there are contemporary artists who still do this work.  I was particularly captivated by Charles Beck who, as far as I can tell, is still alive and working in his nineties.

Mr. Beck lives and works in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, a small city not much bigger than Lacombe, Alberta, and -- like my beloved Mirror -- situated in a topography of rolling prairie, woodlands and small lakes.  

Taking some inspiration from his work, and noting EB's feedback, I set to trying to sketch variations on my original sketch.  

More sketches...

A couple of them ended up in crumpled heaps on the sewdio floor.  The rest are stacked on the edge of my cutting table,  By the end of the day yesterday I was exhausted, and rather frustrated at my inability to 'birth' what I "saw" inside of me.

Prairie Spring (C) 2015
I decided to sleep on it.  As I drifted off (I later explained to EB when I sent in the assignment), I had a notion to return to the pieced simplicity of "Prairie Spring", which I did for the  "Line" assignment in March.

But...when I returned to the sewdio this morning, the image of that shed and the field, slough, trees and fencing wouldn't leave me, wouldn't let me distill them into a more linear or abstract form.

I decided to try for a very primitive approach -- as few 'frills and furbelows' as possible...

And I came up with this (working title: "Prairie Primitive":

"Prairie Primitive" (WIP) 2015
Materials: hand-dyed cotton (sky, slough from the same piece); hand-dyed silk (tree tops on left - no trunks yet - and trees on horizon), commercial cottons and batiks.  And those lumps in the left foreground aren't rocks; they're cattle...or will be...

While I await EB's feedback, I'm going to enjoy a quiet evening finishing a murder mystery (may I recommend Steve Burrows' A Siege of Bitterns'?) and catch up with the others over at Nina Marie's "Off-the-Wall Friday".

Tomorrow, if the rain lets up, I'll be helping my Sweet Sis plant her veggie patch over at her Sylvan Lake Sanctuary...

WD's veggie patch - photo from July 2014

Happy Victoria Day!

And if it's raining where you are, pour a cuppa, and enjoy this vignette of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Beck:

*See SAQA Calls for Entry HERE.  You must be a SAQA member to enter.
**See SAQA Regional Calls for Entry HERE.  You must be a Canadian SAQA member to enter.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What's My Name and Where Do I Live?

Can it be two weeks since I left for the SAQA International Conference in Portland, OR?

It can -- and it is.

I think I'm finally catching up -- on sleep, on house-and-yard, on reporting to the SAQA Western Canada Region, on EB's Master Class...

While there's more to do in all of those quadrants, work and practice is becoming more manageable at last.

In Portland I delivered my contribution to the 2015 SAQA Benefit Auction, along with 9 other pieces from our Region, to the delight of the curator of the event.

Monday this week I delivered my two latest 'minis' to Gracie D's Antiques, Collectibles and Gifts...with the hope they'll sell over the May Long Weekend (aka Victoria Day Weekend)...

And I managed to get Part I of the May assignment sent off to EB...just under the wire on Sunday night!  This month's theme is 'Landscape'...and it's challenge to me is to take something with which I'm familiar and improve my ability to interpret it.

Once again I began with photos and sketches:

Option A:  A boat on the water at Alix Lake:

and the sketch:

Option B: my favourite red shed:

and the sketch:

Option C: "I'd really like to do this but can't for the life of me draw the focal object -- a hand pump!"

(Sorry; no sketch!)

Quick like a bunny, EB gave me her feedback:

Option A:  the boat in the water:
Hmmm - I think this is a very difficult photo to work from, I'm afraid...even using my crop tools and zeroing in on the dock, I don't come up with anything very workable.  We're look for interesting shapes that interconnect...I can see exactly how you found it so difficult.
I think another trip to the lake and a LOT more photos are required.  My painter friends says that she takes upto 100 photos of a scene before choosing a few from which to work.
I think your memories of the lake trip are probably wonderful..but.....
the only bit that might work is to crop off the entire 2/3 left hand side....leave those talk plants stretch across the water to the reflected trees....that is really rather nice....and the grasses in front.  I love the way the leaves turn white as they reflect the sky!
As that photo was taken last summer, there'll be no "trip to the lake and a LOT more photos" till sometime in July!  Set that one aside for now!

Option B: favourite red shed:
I think your gut feeling is correct to leave out the trees and the slough - looking at the sketch you can see how the picture plane is almost divided into two ignore the left!
I like the way you've tipped up the corral so as to emphasize the pattern the fencing makes...
i'd bring the shed more into the image and perhaps add a bit of fencing to the right of it...
also continue the trees all the way across  on the sky line so as to keep it balanced...or omit them all together.  The sketch has a very nice wood cut quality to it so if you do do with with stitching then use a dark fact it would be fun to try this one just with black stitching on an ivory ground...just like an old woodcut.  also in your photo imaging software, try reversing the values once you have the new sketch - in PSE - that's Control-I - white stitching on a black ground might also be really interesting.
For clouds I'd try some dye (or seta color) painting...remember the tops are always paler than the sky behind, the bottoms are usually darker than the sky behind.
I agree with her about shifting the picture plane to include more of the shed...but I'm not sure about doing it as a take on a wood cut.  Woodcuts I've seen seem so very stiff and formal.

Option C: the challenge of the water pump:
Yes ...again I think  you need more photos...the pump is too lined up with the background...take photos from every angle, including below....and go to photograph when the light is low...not coming from directly above.....
i'd be inclined to have pump and grass and omit the building...but wait till you have more photos ...
It was more than kind of EB to comment on a photo without a corresponding sketch.  Blessedly I have more photos of the pump and its location (all taken about 5 years ago now) will set that aside for another day too.

And so...there are WIPs once again!

  • The May Socks from Stash...I'm turning the heel on Sock #1;
  • Mark on the Body...daily as usual;
  • EBMC: research into the 'look' if woodcuts, another sketch...and then auditioning fabric with which to block out the quilt (due May 20)...
And around the house?  
  • Clean out all evidence of winter in my car and garage!
  • Edge the sidewalks, where grass is encroaching!
  • Clear out the grass-infested yarrow in preparation for planting peonies!
  • Dig up the veggie patch in preparation for sowing and planting veggies!
  • Mow the **!!@@ lawn!
On that note...I'll link up to WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network, and leave you, dreaming of roses...which are already in full bloom in Portland...Sigh...

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Thirty years ago this day, my husband gave me a ring.  It was in the style of the then-very-popular 'eternity ring'...but the diamonds -- 10 of them -- went only 1/2-way round the band -- a practical concession to the busy hands of a mother.

He'd meant to give it to me on our 10th anniversary, which was in August that year, but the jeweller had called to say it was ready to pick up, and I was very pregnant with our second child, who turned out to be a son.

And so...he presented it to me on Mother's Day, 1985.

I still wear the ring...though I now wear it on either hand, and usually with another ring as a pair.

I now have what I remember as my mother's hands, though with the short, fine bone structure I inherited from my father.

When I am gone, this ring is to be given to my son, meant to be passed down in the family...

Eternity, as far as possible, this side of Heaven.

Happy Mother's Day!

Music: Palladio by Karl Jenkins

Monday, April 27, 2015

Friday Finishes...

On a Monday.

In preparation for my trip to Portland (Oregon) for the SAQA conference, I had to Get Stuff Done! the past few days I not only finished the EB assignment, but also the wedding shawl, my 12" square donation to the 2015 SAQA Benefit Auction April Socks from Stash Challenge socks!

With EB's and the Auction piece finished, I could return my back-up-to-my-back-up sewing machine to its rightful owner.  My Lily 555 is fixed -- it was "just" the timing -- and I'll run in to Red Deer and pick it up after I get time for EB's May assignment!

April Socks from Stash Challenge
Pattern: "Show-off Stranded Socks" by Anne Campbell
Yarn: Spirit Trail Fiberworks Colour #414 (discontinued)
Socks in the tree on the edge of the Outdoor Studio this afternoon.  Look, Ma! No more snow!

Yellow Tree (C) 2015
Inspired by "Daddy Played the Banjo",
a Bluegrass song written by
Steve Martin and Gary Scruggs
2015 SAQA Benefit Auction starts online Sept. 18.

Oh...and the dishes, laundry, garbage disposal, dead tree branch trimming and vacuuming are done too.   Can't have C, my Pookie-cat sitter, think I'm a total slob, eh?  ;-)

See you next week.  Have a great one!


What?  You want to know what EB said about the minis?

I blush to quote:
Student 2 made two little miniatures out of her 'new' set of colors.  Lovely delicate color scheme -- all the colors go together beautifully and make the scene fee very peaceful and coherent.  Also very real life sometimes you have to squint and imagine very hard to see such nice colors!!  But the artist's eye...and mind...can always create them.  Very nice!!
I'm sure you can see the flush of delight in my cheeks from where you sit.  If I didn't respect EB's ability to evaluate objectively...I'd be asking, "Are you sure?!"  Even more pleasing to me is an appreciation of the "pretty" and the value of creating peaceful landscapes in an age when so very often those qualities in a given work are no longer considered "art".

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sure is Pretty, Though, Eh?

When a tree [limb] falls in the forest into the empty lot next-door...

Limb broken - Mountain Ash (Rowan)

When I went out to see to my cedar and junipers, I found that my west-side neighbour wasn't the only one with a limb down on a tree.  The Mountain Ash (Rowan) at the East corner of my house had lost a limb too.  It's not a break at the trunk; it broke several inches out.  It'll need to be sawn at the trunk, though, once the snow clears.

So I rescued the evergreens...

Cedar and juniper at front of the house
Some of the mugo pine near the Outdoor Studio

(L) rear: Mountain Ash; (R) front: Cotoneaster
Centre Starring Role: Miss Forsythia

She made it!  Didn't even lose a blossom!

As my neighbour John opined as he went for his saw, "Sure is pretty, though, eh?"

Sew Day

I couldn't face calling today what it is: a snow day...but that's what it is.  I was due to go out to the library in the next village (Alix) to pick up a book I'd requested, and to go on from there into Lacombe for a bridal shower at the church.

Yes...that bride.  Blessedly, I took photos of the finished piece outdoors yesterday:

I also got a shot of my forsythia in full bloom for the first time since I pruned it back a few years ago:

This is what my back garden -- and Outdoor Studio -- look like this morning.  You can see the slumping cotoneaster in the background...and the forsythia is behind that...

It could be worse.  My next-door neighbour's large front yard tree has lost a big branch -- currently hanging by a thread at the trunk of the tree, and spread out over the public sidewalk.

It could be even worse...thinking of those poor people in Nepal in the aftermath of this morning's earthquake...So much pain, loss and challenging days ahead, sorting and sifting, and trying to adjust to life again...

On a cheerier note, I "finished" my two miniatures in the 'colour' theme for this month's EBMC -- at least for the moment.  I'm out of Framer's Tape -- it's now on order from the gallery that cuts my mats and shows some of my work -- so the photos below were taken with the pieces lying flat, and the mats simply placed on top.  It's interesting how the colour of the mat influences each piece:

Sunset by the Slough I (C) 2015

Sunset by the Slough II (C) 2015

As I explained to EB, I'm not entirely satisfied with these.  I played with the fence in the first one -- moving it from left to right and back again, trying 5 posts and settling on three as in the original.   As for the second, it seems as if perhaps there should be some texture added to the foreground by way of seed stitch.  I may go back into both of these before I call them truly finished.  EB's feedback will undoubtedly help!

Given that I'm not going anywhere today, I'll finish stitching down the facing on "Yellow Tree"  -- my piece for the 2015 SAQA Benefit Auction -- and attach the sleeve, and then see how far I can get on the gusset and heel of the second sock for this month's Socks from Stash challenge which -- ideally -- will also be finished before I leave for Portland on Wednesday!

As I stitch, I'll be reading through the link-up at Nina Marie's Off the Wall Friday.

But first...time to dig the shovel out of the back shed, and get the heavy snow off my cedar and junipers!