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 bull...you 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 foldtheflock.org.  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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

LISC Bus Tour Project

I don't often post work projects on the blog but I really enjoyed designing these maps so I thought I would share it here.  Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky LISC was hosting a bus tour for their national group and they needed maps of their route and a booklet describing each stop and their work.  Creating maps is always a fun challenge.  I think the hardest part is getting the scale correct and choosing how much to simplify. You want to keep enough landmarks that people know where they are while also zooming in close enough to show the necessary details. These were printed on letter size paper that would fold in half and get stapled in the middle. So I also had to think about where the folds would go and how the two halves of the map would meet up if printed on separate pages.

Below is the cover of the bus tour booklet.  If you would like to see the entire booklet you can see a pdf here.

I also created eleven posters for the evening event at the CAC displaying highlights of the work LISC does in their target neighborhoods.  Below are three of the posters.

It is so satisfying to see the work in its final venue and to see people interact and learn about the amazing community development work that LISC does in Cincinnati. It feels good to do work for people who do good work.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Vintage Metal Hooks

If you follow this blog you know that I have a thing for rusty metal objects.  Last spring my mom and I went to the Springfield Antique Extravaganza and guess what I found right off the bat?  Vintage Metal Hooks!  Sometimes when I find heavy metal objects I am forced to carry them around with me until my shoulder hurts.  But luckily we found these when we were still close to the car.

When I saw them I tried to resist but I just couldn't turn away from the gorgeous orange of the large hook.  And then I saw the cute red hook...and then the silver hook had old red paint on it that matched the red hook...and the shape of the dark metal one reminded me of a swan!  This is how my mind works.  But if I am truthful I knew I was hooked the minute I saw the weathered orange metal.    

And I love to imagine the person who designed these hooks.  Who was that person who took the time to choose their shape and think about their purpose and how much weight they could carry?  They probably didn't know a girl would one day find them and marvel at their incredible beauty and bring them home to photograph from every angle.  It's so much fun to find these treasures at the antique show and this coming weekend is another extravaganza.  I will try and restrain myself from purchasing more heavy metal but I cannot make any promises...will keep you posted.     

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

On My Walk

Some times I get so crazy excited by the things I see on my walks.  I've never grown cannas so this may be old news to you. But the other day I did a double take when I saw these awesome pods growing on my neighbors cannas!  Not only do I love the bulbous-fingered orb shape, but check out the way the color goes from neon yellow-green to red at the tips. 

And I thought it couldn't get any better than that when I saw what happens to them when they dry up (below).  The pods look like squashed, veined turbans...or maybe peanuts... but very cool nonetheless.

Plus I haven't even mentioned that the above photos were taken with my new google phone.  Often when I am out walking I wish that I had my camera with me and now I will!  George always wanted me to carry my phone on my walks but I always forgot it.  But now I will be definitely be carrying it more.  It is a lot lighter than the Canon, although I will always love that camera.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fall Flowers

A couple weeks ago my mom bought me these flowers for my birthday from the farmer's market.  Every week we go to pick up our vegetables I am in awe of the beautiful flower arrangements from Hazelfield Farm Flowers.  And I am even more amazed at how quickly Sayward, the owner, is able to quickly compose a beautiful arrangement in a matter of minutes.  If you ever need flowers for an event I highly recommend Hazelfield (you can see their work here and here).  Plus they are chemical and pesticide free!

When I saw this bouquet I fell in love with the colors.  Of course the dusty pinks of the dahlia and zinnias were incredible, but what made this arrangement was the purple basil.  And it smelled great!  Thanks again Mom for this lovely gift that brought me joy all week!