Monday, November 24, 2014

Cicada Skirt

About a month ago my friend Amy and I collaborated on a little project.  I stamped her skirt with my cicada stamp and she embroidered 3-D red eyes on top of the stamp (Amy is an amazing embroiderer - check this out).  And to top if off she completed the whole look with her amazing red wellies.  I think it is quite possibly the world's cutest cicada skirt.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Creative Juice Weekend Retreat

It's been a week now since our Creative Juice Weekend Retreat and I thought I had said it all in my last post.  But as I sat here looking at the milkweed pod above it got me thinking that it is good to change up our routines every so often.  And it's good to take time to retreat from our daily lives.  There was minimal cell phone coverage (on my phone anyway) and I loved getting away from the computer and doing something with my hands.  If I hadn't gone on this trip I would have missed understanding that milkweed pods are jam-packed-full of beautifully organized seeds with gorgeous fine white hairs that will carry them away with the slightest breeze.

And I would have missed the chance to come across this old farm machinery slowly being taken over by a country field.  Few things excite me as much as rusty, old metal machines with repetitious parts and a fading patina.  I couldn't get over the lovely blue color on this one!

As I mentioned last week we also did small craft projects like drawing on rocks.  If you missed it, Margot wrote a post with more photos, including our aluminum metal-crafting work plus Christina's amazing watercolor sketches of our trip.  It's so nice to have a small project that you can complete in under an hour while chatting with friends. 

I wanted to end this post by encouraging everyone to take a break from their routines, retreat and get outside.  And then I remembered the following quote by Edward Abbey that I think says it way better than I ever could.

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
-Edward Abbey

(click images to enlarge)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Creative Juice Retreat - Fabulous Finds

I attend a weekly artist/freelancer group called Creative Juice and last weekend I, along with three other intrepid "juicers," retreated to an adorable house in Adams County.  The plan was to have a women's weekend chock full of crafting, collecting, creating, and conversation.  And the weekend did not disappoint! 

The group was composed of myself and three incredibly talented artists: Lisa Ballard, Margot Madison and Christina Wald.  It is an amazing thing to be around a group of creative women.  Each person brought something to the table and as we crafted and conversed it felt like I was a young girl again having the time of my life at a slumber party. 

And I loved the walks we took each day.  Normally when I go for a walk with friends I am the one always stopping and slowing down to look at something.  But in this group every few minutes we would hear a squeal of joy from someone who had found a treasure that had to be admired, collected and photographed.  To be around others who have such attention and an eye for beauty is exhilarating and indescribably fun!  Lisa (above) was particularly excited when her snail "Fred" made an appearance and came out of his shell. 

Margot found the above turtle shell and Lisa immediately fell in love with it.  When we got back to the house she found the perfect spot to photograph it in an old tray sitting outside the front door.  She played around with different items and positioning and in the end decided it was also  incredibly beautiful all by itself.

In addition to our walks we also spent our time crafting.  Below is a sneak preview of one of our projects.  Margot did a more complete post of our weekend's handiwork on the Creative Juice blog here.

The photo above shows Margot with a hard-won bouquet of sumac.  Lisa and Margot had to brave many a thorn to collect them.  Even the stray dog we hiked with us thought they were crazy for venturing into that thorny patch. 

We had so many fab finds that I had to divide my photos into two posts so check back soon for more juicy gems.  Although I loved the creating, crafting and collecting, in the end my favorite part of the weekend was spending time and connecting with three extraordinary women.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!    

(click photos to enlarge)

Thursday, November 6, 2014


I have been loving the plants I find on my walks this fall.  When I saw the seed head above I literally had to stop in my tracks and just take it in for a while.  If anyone knows what it is please leave a comment to let me know.  I would love to plant this in my yard!

This fall has been interesting for me in that I have had a cell phone with a camera for the first time.  Originally I thought I would only use the photos from the phone for reference for art projects and continue using my Canon slr for blog photos.  My main concern with the cell phone photos was that they have a harshness of clarity to them.  It's like they have been sharpened and had the saturation turned up (see the third image down of teasel).  But the ease of carrying such a small camera won me over and I have been surprised by how much I enjoy taking photos with the phone. So I have been trying to balance using both cameras and this blog entry has a mix of the two.

When I got the phone, however, I was super annoyed when the phone started "doing" things to my photos that I didn't ask it to "auto-awesoming" all my photos! WTH? I am not normally a fan of applying pre-made filters to my photos. Not that I am against filters... more that I am a control freak and I like to meticulously edit them myself. But I have to admit, every so often I liked a random one here and there. Above is an example of one I liked of George birding in Caldwell Nature Preserve.

See how the above photo is a bit over-the-top and the photo below is more natural?  I know it isn't really a fair comparison because the lighting and subjects were different, but I tend to like a softer image as opposed to a hyper-realistic image where the colors are pushed to their limits.  Perhaps in the future I will do a direct comparison of the same subjects with both cameras.

As I try and navigate new technology one thing always stays the love of getting close to my subjects.  Of really stopping and taking the time to look and see them...  to know them.  Take a look at the seed head below!  I love the way the layers have dried and folded up to let go of their precious cargo.  I wanted to end this post with a quote and I liked the first one I found.

"Love’s secret is always lifting its head out from under the covers, “Here I am!” - Rumi

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I am passionately in love with acorns so imagine my joy when George and I went biking last weekend at Miami Whitewater.  We were pulling over at the picnic table about halfway around the loop and I could hardly ride my bike through the grass there were so many acorns.  And not just any old acorns, but beautiful, big acorns with bulging, ruddy bellies and crazy, hairy caps!

Of course I immediately started collecting them and placing them on the table.  George knows me so well he, without saying a word, started helping me and before we knew it we had quite a nice selection. 

When you get down to it and really start looking at acorns you realize that each one is like a unique work of art.  I love the way the smooth skin of the nut contrasts with the rough texture on the caps.  And when I saw the acorn below I thought that it had really let its hair down and was being its wonderful, wild self.  Such joy and freedom in those wiry locks!  A beautiful exemplar laying right in front of me. Who knew I had so much to learn from an acorn? 

(click images to enlarge)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vent Haven Museum

A couple weeks ago my friend Frank invited me to go with him to the Vent Haven Museum in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky.  I had never heard of it but Frank told me it was a “puppet” museum” and someone had told him it was really interesting.  And it did not disappoint!

When you walk in the front door you are greeted by the staring eyes of hundreds of ventriloquist figures of every shape, size and color.  The museum has three main buildings and houses more than 800 figures.

The collection was started by Mr. William Shakespeare Berger who purchased his first figure in 1910 (for more museum history click here).  Some of the figures were quite old and the curator, Lisa Sweasy, had an interesting story for every figure.  Some figures had mouths that barely opened while others had moving eyes, ears, mouths, and hair.  And some even smoked and spit!

I was also struck by the diversity of construction and materials.  There were figures made of wood, plastic, fabric, paper mâché, and leather.  On some puppets the mouth hinge was made of leather which made a perfect substitute for skin and hid the mouth hinge completely.  And I loved to see the craft and ingenuity that went into the dolls.  The monkey in the middle below had pin pong balls for eyes.

During the tour we were allowed to try our hand at working two of the figures.  Below you can see Frank made friends with the chimp.

The above head and the figure below were two of my favorites in the museum.  There was something so kind about both of them.  It is amazing how emotive some of the faces were and easy to imagine the personalities that might come from each one.

I never realized how much ventriloquism has been a part of our culture.  As part of the tour we got to see a few video clips and it brought back memories of watching Jay Johnson on Soap make his food talk.  I also remembered watching “Lamb Chop” the sock puppet on the Carol Burnett show.

If you live in Cincinnati or are visiting the area I highly suggest taking the hour and a half tour.  The museum is open from May through September.  You have to make an appointment ahead of time but it is well worth it.  The collection is fascinating and the tour interesting and informative.  Although I am not a ventriloquist or puppeteer, I loved seeing the craftsmanship and detail in this amazing collection.

(Please note:  Permission to take and publish these photos was asked for and received from the Vent Haven Museum.  These images are copyrighted.  Do not use without permission from me or Vent Haven.  Thank you.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Springfield Antique Extravaganza

A few weekends ago my mom and I attended the Springfield Antique Extravaganza and had a wonderful time.  It was a perfect day for the show and we woke up early to avoid the traffic.  I love the feeling of anticipation when we first arrive and start our journey through all the booths.  You never know what you are going to find! 

My mom has a passion for pigs (metal flying ones) and a weakness for dishes and serving-ware. And I have a fondness for all things rusty and metal, or old wood with chipping paint.  Plus I love to see collections of things where the forms repeat.  For me the extravaganza is a visual feast and this was the first time I had a cell phone with a camera! 

The photo above was taken in one of my favorite booths.  I loved  the green flower frogs and the way they held up these amazing vintage post cards.  My mom bought me one and now I regret I didn't buy the one in the photo.  But that is the way of the market...if you don't buy it right then chances are that you will never see it again. 

I also have a collection of vintage industrial wood bobbins so when I saw this booth I was overwhelmed.  The colors and texture of some of these bobbins were amazing.  It was hard to leave this booth empty-handed but having the camera allowed me to collect images instead of bobbins and that was lighter on my checkbook and my arm.

The photo above was taken in another favorite booth that sells mostly Asian artifacts...some new and some old.  I love the aged wood and chipping paint.  And my next door neighbor collects religious icons so I had to photograph the saints in the photo below for him.

As you can see below I had my fill of yummy repetition.  The bottom left image looks like rotting gourds but was actually a bin full of very old antique drawer pulls.  I'm not sure who would buy them in that state but I thought their corroded, dimpled bodies were awesome!

And how can you not fall in love with these vintage toys?  The expressive eye and giant plastic mouth on that pelican were too much.  Plus I love the face on Kriss Kricket and I can only imagine how cute he would be when his little arms move up and down as he rolls.

On my drive home that weekend I also accomplished something I had been wanting to do for years.  I finally stopped to photograph this giant steer wearing a bolo hat that is halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati.  Every time I see this bull I think, "you should stop and photograph him because he is awesome."  So I finally pulled over and took his photo.  I always wonder why he is tethered by the side of the highway.  I don't know what his story is but it makes me happy to see him every time I pass.  So if you are ever on Route 42 keep an eye out for this big can't miss him.

At the end of the day I came home with one vintage postcard, a flower frog, some vintage trim, two dozen blue-green blown-out chicken eggs, a stack of pumpkins, one ruddy-red mum, lots of photos and a beautiful day with my mom.  All in all a very good extravaganza!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Passenger Pigeon Origami Party

Last weekend we hosted an Origami Folding Party in honor of the Passenger Pigeon.  The passenger pigeon used to be the most abundant bird in North America.  The flocks would literally darken the sky for 3-4 days as they passed.  So it is almost unbelievable that in a matter of about 100 years, habitat loss and over-hunting caused their numbers to fall from around 3-5 billion to zero.  (For a brief history of the passenger pigeon, click here.)

George is helping to organize a celebration and talk at Xavier in conjunction with the Cincinnati Zoo on Wednesday, October 29 (for more info click here).  The title of the talk is "The Legacy of Martha: The Last Passenger Pigeon and the Rise of Conservation."  Martha was the last passenger pigeon in the world and she lived (and died) at the Cincinnati Zoo.  2014 marks the centennial anniversary of her passing and the extinction of the passenger pigeon.   

"How does this involve origami?" you are thinking.  The plan is to fold 2000 origami passenger pigeons and place the whole flock outside on the lawn of the Xavier mall to raise awareness and to publicize the talk.  When George told me this I was super excited because I love idea of combining birds, origami, and conservation.  And what could be more fun than hosting an origami folding party?!  How often does one get that opportunity?  Plus I knew it would be great fun to make the invite (below).

We had a great turnout for the party.  Fifteen intrepid origami folders showed up and we folded from noon to dinnertime. 

As the hours passed the pile of birds began to grow.

George and I even folded a giant origami bird out of a 6 ft.square to greet people at the front door.

In the end we folded around 400 birds.  Now only 1600 more to go!

If you are interested in folding your own origami passenger pigeon visit  They created the beautiful origami design and have an amazing website where you can download a pdf for free.  Plus they have some nice videos about the passenger pigeon.  Definitely worth a visit!

As I was writing this blog entry and looked up the original population numbers it is mind-boggling to think how this could happen to a bird that was once so abundant.  It breaks my heart to think about it and makes me wonder about our future on this planet.  Although we can not change the past I do hope that we can learn from it.  And I hope that by remembering the story of the passenger pigeon we are all inspired to live a little lighter on this planet.