Sand and Sea

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
~”Sea Fever” by John Masefield
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My first real memories of summer are of my family’s week spent at “the beach.”  Every summer while I was growing up, we visited the coast of southern Maine with my grandparents.  Every day it didn’t rain would find us basking (or baking) in the sun, reading in a beach chair, building sandcastles, sifting the tide pools for crabs and starfish, and swimming until we were numb.  Grammy and I are incurable beach combers, and we would happily stroll across the sand, looking for new treasures.  Prize finds included whole sand dollars, sea urchins, and seaglass.
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“Sand and Sea” is a tribute my love for the ocean.  It is a mosaic created with a whimsical mix: glass, shell, wood, pearl–all materials you might find in the flotsam and jetsam of the ocean.  I hope it gives the impression of looking down at the sand and water as the broken waves race up the shore–don’t let your toes get wet.
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This was gifted to a friend, who gave me some of the beads used in this piece.  The beads had belonged to a dear friend of hers, who passed away several years ago.  It was a pleasure to use them, and in a way, it felt to me like a collaboration between the three of us.  I hope this piece reflects some of Bonnie’s spirit.
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Etsy Shop: Crowns

In a beautiful service, one of the most beautiful and intriguing parts of an the Orthodox wedding is the crowning.  After making a set of crowns for my own wedding, I became fascinated with this unique item, and continued making sets for Ash & Acorn on Etsy.

There are three sets of crowns currently available through my Etsy shop:

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Something Blue–available in my Etsy shop

Something Blue was inspired by the English poem “Something borrowed, something blue…”.  The brocade fabric has a soft shine, and the silver leaf pattern shows beautifully against the royal blue background.   The crowns are lined with coordinating ribbon, and tied together with a silver-gray satin ribbon.  This set is even more beautiful in person than in the photos!

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Old-Fashioned Romance features cream vintage lace, which inspired the title.  The lace is accented by glass seed beads and small glass pearl beads.  The set is tied together with a white satin ribbon.  This is a sweet and simple, but pretty set of crowns.

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A close-up of the lace and beads on the Victory crowns.

Victory is a one-of-a-kind crown set.  It was made with vintage lace, of which there was only enough to make one pair of crowns.  Clear glass seed beads were sewn to the lace for subtle sparkle.  They are joined by a white satin ribbon.

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All of these crown sets are ready-to-ship, which means that they can usually be in the customer’s hands within a week of ordering.  They can also be shipped overnight by special arrangement.

A number of my crown orders have actually been prompted by wedding emergencies, often when a couple discovers that their original crown order elsewhere has fallen through at the last minute.  Having the crowns ready to go means that they can be shipped quickly to meet a tight deadline–one case, from inquiry to postal delivery, had a turn-around time of about 36-hours.  While I can’t promise to always be able to replicate such results, I’m happy to help in such situations–just send me a conversation on Etsy.

Lilacs

I’ve been waiting to have an outdoor photo-shoot with my embroidery “Summer Lilac” for about three weeks now, watching for the unfurling leaves, and then the tightly-closed flower buds, and finally the fragrant cone on our lilac bushes.

Out in the May sunshine after a day of rain, engulfed in the heavy fragrance, and politely keeping out of the way of eager bees, it was no hardship to take these photos.

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Interestingly, my camera and I disagree on the color of the real lilacs…they are purple, not bright pink!  The photo above is the most accurate representation of their color, and the beads in the embroidery coordinated beautifully with the real flowers.

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If you would like lilacs in your life year-round, “Summer Lilac” is available in my Etsy shop.

Tree in Bloom

A huge cherry tree grew outside, so close that its boughs tapped against the house, and it was so thickset with blossoms that hardly a leaf was to be seen.

…”I named that cherry tree outside my bedroom window this morning.  I called it Snow Queen because it was so white.  Of course, it won’t always be in blossom, but one can imagine that it is, can’t one?”

~Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I have my own “Snow Queen”–not a cherry tree like Anne’s, but an apple tree.  It inspired this piece of bead embroidery, “Tree in Bloom.”

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This was mostly created while I sat out on my sunny front porch, watching spring burst to life–and nursing a very nasty spring cold.  I spent the beginning of May embroidering, binge-watching All Creatures Great and Small, and single-handedly keeping Kleenex and Sudafed in business.  It was hard to feel too sorry for myself, though, when the birds and flowers were so cheerful.

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“Tree in Bloom” is worked on cream cotton and is framed in a 10-inch embroidery hoop.  Both wood and glass beads create the tree branches, fluffy flowers and budding leaves.  It was something of an experiment, and although there are a few things I would change next time, overall I am happy with it.

I photographed it on my own “Snow Queen,” which, due to a long-lasting winter, isn’t actually in bloom yet.  “But one can imagine that it is, can’t one?”

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This piece is being raffled off at the library where I work, as part of a fundraiser.  Hopefully it invites a lot of tickets!

Pieces of a Life

This is a companion to my post What Will Be Left Behind.

In my yard, next to the carriage house, under the shade of two apple trees, is an interesting area which I ungraciously call “The Junk Heap.”  It is exactly what I call it–the place where past residents of my house used to toss their refuse.  It was uncovered first by my dog, and then further exposed by natural erosion–Mother Nature conducting an archeological dig in my own backyard.

In my college ceramics class, I recall my professor relating that most of the reconstructed ceramic pieces we have come from middens (the official archeological name for “junk heap”).  Considering the tradition of deliberately breaking one’s pieces that don’t quite “come up to snuff,” my professor mused on how many ancient ceramicists would be horrified to discover that their rejected pieces have been painstakingly reconstructed, and are now lauded as paragons.  Be careful what you throw out, because it might wind up in a future art museum.

Every now and then, on a sunny day, I go out and sift through The Junk Heap.  My house was built around 1880, but being neither an archeologist, nor a glass or ceramics expert, I have no way to accurately date the items I find.  My lack of expertise, however, in no way hinders imaginative speculation.

Scattered throughout The Junk Heap are small lumps of coal.  Admittedly, when I first found them I was bemused as to what they could be–these lumps of hard, shiny black rock, which looked like pieces of wood.  They were numerous, and I wondered with alarm if at one point the carriage house had burned down (the carriage house had, in fact, had a fire in its lower story, but that was much more recent in origin).  It finally came to me that what I was looking at were the remains of fuel for a stove, not evidence of a great conflagration.  How the people who tossed out those bits of coal would have laughed at me–imagine, not knowing what coal looks like!  Yet these small black lumps represent such controversy in my day: they cause anxiety over pollution and a suffocating planet; over lost jobs and shrinking mining towns.  Once, though, they warmed a home and kept frigid northern winters at bay.

The Junk Heap has given up only one metal item: part of a hinge, crumbling with orange-brown rust.  Although it is slowly falling apart, it is thick and heavy and fits in my palm.  I wonder what structure it was once attached to, and why it was tossed away.  I know the house has undergone many changes since it was built; it is now a 2,400 square-foot duplex, but once I believe it was a much smaller, single-family home.  If you climb the stairs into the attic and look behind you, you can see the original roof, complete with wooden shingles.  An insurance map from 1920 shows that by that year, most of the current house was in existence as a duplex, except for one kitchen and both back porches.  The basement and foundation are clearly divided into “old, older, and oldest.”  I wonder what prompted such rapid changes over a forty-year span, and who built and lived in the house first.  Who looked at the land that is now my yard, and said, “yes, here!” and went to work on plans?  Who was first to plant his shovel in the earth, and scoop out a small hole which would become the foundation?  What did it look like, when the house was new and smelled of wood shavings and paint?

By far the most common item in The Junk Heap are pieces of glass.  They come in a wide variety of hues: clear, white, green, purple, and blue, the latter being the most prolific.  Some pieces are still shiny, but others have been rubbed rough by the soil and have the appearance of sea glass.  Most shards are rather small, but sometimes I come across a large piece: the bottom of a bottle, or a broken-off neck.  One favorite piece is a small, smooth fragment of opaque, milk-white glass.  Was it part of a bowl, a vase, a lamp?  For some reason, I have decided that it was part of a lamp, perhaps because my grandma had a milk-glass lamp in her kitchen–before I broke it.  I was sliding happily along her smooth kitchen floors in my sock feet when I slipped, and my flailing arm knocked the lamp clear off the counter as I fell onto my backside.  The lamp smashed quite loudly and dramatically on the shining floor.  My grandparents, aunts and uncles were all gathered talking at the kitchen table, and there was a deafening silence before they all jumped up to see what had happened.  I was sure that I would be in trouble for my heedlessness, but everyone only wanted assurance that I was unhurt.  Perhaps come unlucky accident landed this piece of milk-glass, now flecked with dirt and pebbles, into the Junk Heap.

I have found only a few ceramic pieces in the Junk Heap, but one shard has especially caught my imagination.  It is a piece of stoneware, glazed yellow with a thin white band and a thick rim, very much like a piece of a mixing bowl.  It reminds me of set of yellow Pyrex bowls my mother has had since I was very young–probably since she was married.  Those bowls have mixed up many, many batches of banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, and mashed potatoes.  When I look at the shard of yellow pottery, I am reminded of all the delicious, home-made foods my mother has made in her own set of yellow bowls.  When I am cooking in my kitchen, covered with flour and mixing up cookie dough, I think about the many women before me who have lived and cooked in my house, who had aprons dusted with flour and secretly licked the bowl clean.  A former resident of my neighborhood told me that when he was a boy, the lady who lived in my house always had cookies to give out to the neighborhood children.  Many cookies surely passed into small, eager hands through my front door.

Now our house is up for sale, and the Junk Heap and all its fascination and mystery will pass into new hands.  Before we leave, I will add to the pile, in the tradition of ceramicists and this house’s former inhabitants–I will smash a few of my pieces from college ceramics class which aren’t quite “up to snuff,” and a few favorite, but hopelessly cracked, dinner plates and bowls.  There they will sit, among the rubble of coal and glass bottles and iron hardware: pieces of a life, for someone else to pick up and ponder.

Etsy Shop: Summer Lilac

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med

And springþ þe wde nu,
Sing cuccu!

Summer has come in,
Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
The seed grows and the meadow blooms
And the wood springs anew,
Sing, Cuckoo!

–“Sumer Is Icumen In,” 13th-century English round

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Every May I look forward to throwing open the windows of my dining room and letting the sweet fragrance of our lilac bush drift indoors.  If I want to cut a few stems to decorate my table, I usually have to compete for the flowers with a host of bees, which find them irresistible.  My love of lilacs is the inspiration behind a small new piece of embroidery–complete with a tiny, seed bead bumble bee.

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The lilac stem was worked on cream cotton and white lace. Purple seed beads evoke the four-pointed flowers, which attract a yellow-and-black beaded bumble bee. The work is framed in a four-inch wood (bamboo) embroidery hoop, and is backed with purple felt.

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I’m really enjoying these small pieces–they are a crafting version of instant gratification, and provide a nice break from the larger pieces I’m working on.

If you would like a bit of summer in your life all year ’round, this is available at Ash & Acorn on Etsy.

Early Lab Mice

I’ve been wanting to post more comics lately, but just haven’t made the time to sit down and edit them.  They are drawn, inked, scanned…just not run through Photoshop (I’ve said it before: for me, digital editing is my least favorite part of cartooning).

Then, I realized that I have a whole trove of old comics which have never been posted here.  It’s been really interesting to look through these comics, many of which were created during my college years and published in the weekly school comics publication.  My style has evolved dramatically in ten years.  Being “forced” to turn out a new comic every week resulted in a lot of freedom to both experiment and hone Lab Mice into something consistent.

Many of the comics from 2008-2009 were collected and printed into a small paper book titled Does Anyone Have a Water Balloon?!?  The comics are comprised mostly of campus inside-jokes, as they were really created for the benefit of my college friends–although I believe other people will enjoy the them, as well.

I hope you enjoy looking at some of my early cartooning attempts, and that Houghton College friends who happen across them find that these little drawings evoke some good memories.

Etsy Shop: Lavender’s Blue

Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green,
When I am king, dilly dilly, you shall be queen:
Who told you so, dilly dilly, who told you so?
‘Twas mine own heart, dilly dilly, that told me so.

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I’ve finally tried my hand at thread embroidery with this little project, and found myself humming “Lavender’s Blue” all the while.  It brought back memories of piano lessons, where I first learned the song.  It’s a nice way to spend a some time, humming and stitching.

I’ve approached embroidery with a great deal of hesitation–a hesitation which has been met with incredulity by friends who have seen my bead embroidery.  But I have never claimed to be a good seamstress, and sometimes my stitches can be a mess–a fact I feel is easier to hide with bead embroidery.

This little project required only straight-stitch and blanket stitch (for the backing), and the floss was surprisingly cooperative.  The speed with which I completed the embroidery portion also surprised me; without beads to string, count, or chase across the table, it was done very quickly.

You were right, friends.

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This lavender motif was embroidered free-hand, which was enjoyable–like sketching, but with a needle and floss.  It is stitched onto cream cotton overlaid with white floral lace, and is framed in in a three-inch embroidery hoop.  Purple glass seed beads evoke lavender buds, and the bunch is tied with a thread bow.  The embroidery is backed with light purple felt.

If you would like a little lavender and lace in your life, this bit of embroidery may be found at Ash & Acorn on Etsy.