"The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable."  Robert Henri

Sunday, November 30, 2008

doing the things I love

Ahhhhh, finally the day that I've been hoping to have for a couple of weeks has arrived. A day without obligations. No one calling me or needing me, no work to be done - just a free day. First on my agenda was to work on a sculpture I was hoping to have done and delivered to the gallery by Thanksgiving (since it is a Christmas-themed one). It is the second of twelve in a series, and here is the one I did last year...
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
So, yes, this year it is Two Turtle Doves. I should probably do more than one a year or I'll be at this for the next ten years! This one ought to be finished by next weekend because the hard part, which was making myself go out and work in the unheated woodshop is done (I really hate being cold). After that comes the fun part, which is painting, assembling, and finishing all of the various components. In the top photo I'm just waiting for the epoxy on the wire legs to dry before starting the painting process.

The next item on my agenda was starting a batch of hard cider. Never having done this before, it's kind of exciting. Hopefully it will turn out right and not become vinegar. I almost waited too long to do this. Cider season is nearly over and the little farm stand where I really wanted to get the cider from was out for the year. They press their own apples and don't pasteurize or add any preservatives. Plus it's really fresh. 

Last on my agenda for the day is to sit and read while having a nice hot cup of coffee. Tough day, huh? Yeah, well, I needed it. Tomorrow I have to jump back into earning a living, which means phone calls and deadlines.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

another roomate? I think not

It appears the word has gotten out that I like animals. I went out to the garage last night to get more wood for the stove and there on Steve the cat's bed an opossum was curled up. Whoa! I've only encountered one up close once before and while it was little compared to this guy, it snarled ferociously (ever see an opossum snarl? They have very long jaws with many very sharp and pointy teeth - all the better for eating a fresh chicken dinner). So while Steve was winding himself around my ankles, perfectly calm and purring, the opossum and I just stood there and stared at each other. I believe he was quite large by opossum standards, and, well, kind of cute/handsome. The longer we looked each other in the eye, the more I realized I was not going to be able to dispatch him from this world. Sigh. Instead I went back in the house to get the camera, hoping he'd stay long enough for me to get a picture of him. When I came back out, here's what I saw...
Steve was in the process of bedding down with the new guest. Huh. Perhaps Mr. Opossum was invited? I can almost picture it - Steve meets Mr. O in the woods. Mr. O is worried about what he'll do for shelter for the winter. Steve, being the friendly and sociable sort, invites him to his home. After all, he once needed a place to stay and was made welcome, why couldn't Mr. O stay too? Plenty of room, plenty of food and water, nice soft beds. 

Hospitality be damned. I decided to see if I could chase him out. I clapped my hands and made a lot of noise. It seemed to be working as he headed towards the propped-open garage door. At the last minute, he doubled back and came back up the other side of the wood pile. Clearly he wanted to stay. Or, perhaps he was confused or disoriented by the bright lights and all my noise. Deciding to go back in the house, I figured that Mr. O would take his leave now that he realized that this was a human dwelling and perhaps not the best place for wild animals, no matter what Steve said. I gave it an hour and went back out. 

Sigh. Now Mr. O was bedded down and actually sleeping on the woodpile. Back in the house to think. What if he had rabies? I couldn't put myself at risk by allowing this to continue. Armed with a broom, I went back out and opened up the garage door the whole way. Pushing as gently as I could, I urged him towards the door. Finally deciding to show me his teeth, he went out only because he really had no other choice, because he sure didn't want to go. Closing the door completely for the first time since Steve came, I decided he could be locked in at night until a cat door could be installed. 

Hopefully he won't show all his woodland friends how to use it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

"welcome, have a seat, stay awhile"

This piece is a bit different than what I typically do, but I wanted to try something more graphic, bold, and clean-lined. A wall sculpture, it is crafted of wood. The chairs were painted with black gesso and finished with a hand-rubbed wax while the houses were textured with modeling paste and then painted and glazed with acrylics using multiple layers in coordinating colors. And while I love power tools as much as the next person (a lot more probably), these houses put up quite a fight. I hate, hate, hate cutting angled cuts on large blocks of wood. No matter whether I use the chop saw or the table saw, I think it's dangerous and it makes me nervous. So even though I have made other houses, this is definitely a one-of-a-kind piece. If I feel the need to make more of this type of house for a future piece, it will probably be in ceramic. Much less stressful for me. 

However - as is often the case, when working on this piece, an idea for another one oozed its way into my brain. It's nearly complete but all I'll say for now is that it will also feature a chair of the same style. I'll show it to you once it's done.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I remember now

It has been slow in coming. Very slow. 

When I left the world of commuting, offices, and florescent lights to work from home over seven years ago, my chest unclenched for the first time in years. And I realized I had never accurately read the signs. To make up for the office environment I would usually eat my weekday lunch by streams, in parks, under trees, and would dread going back. Not because I hated the work - on the contrary, I loved it - but because I felt trapped indoors. I needed windows, sunlight, air. And suddenly, working from home, I could have all of that. It felt good in my soul. Not too long before I left the land of artificial lighting and recirculated air, I took some sort of a career/personality test and was a bit amused but also taken aback by the results. Apparently I would be well suited to be either an advertising executive (which I was), or a farmer. Huh. It gave me a bit of a chuckle, but also struck home

The next event that increased the momentum of change, was the death of my most beloved dog, Isaac. Frustrated by not being able to create a piece of art that would do him justice, I began to make art again for the first time in years. A little here, a little there, nothing very much, but it was a start. It felt good and it felt right. I began re-using a part of me that I had forgotten about.

Then not quite four years ago, I moved here. Back to the country. Where the mornings are still and peaceful, there is an expectant hush at twilight, and it is quiet and dark at night. Where thoughts are not overwhelmed by noise and bustle. Nature is right outside the door with wildflowers and wildlife in the woods, and birds everywhere. As I began to once again appreciate and seek out tranquility and simplicity, art became increasingly important while other things continued to fall away.

And so I remember now those things that I loved before getting caught up with all the stuff that we frantically fill our lives with. Things like growing cut flowers just so I can bring them into the house. Taking the time to explore my surroundings. Noticing small beauties such as the curl of a leaf, a patch of moss, a tiny mushroom. Really looking and seeing how things are and how they could be. Imagining possibilities. Finding peace in the quiet of the day. 

I feel like I lost my way for awhile, but things are back on track. I am making art, garden plans are underway which will include a large area for cut flowers, and dogs are at my side - just happy being dogs - with no other agenda.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

meet the sheep: "Rosebud"

Rose is my other babydoll ewe. Although she looks brown due to sun bleaching, her wool is actually black underneath. It would be kind to say that Rose is an easy keeper, extremely easy. Actually, even though you can't see it in this photo, she has a weight problem. On grass alone she really packs on the pounds. Ideally she'll drop a bit of weight during the winter like she did last year because I'm hoping she and Mayapple will have lambs in the spring and lambing will be easier for her if she is not quite so chunky (hefty, robust, fat).

And just like Mayapple, she is 1.5 years old and was sheared for the first time in March. You can see their roving here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

honey dippers

With thoughts of possibly keeping bees and hopefully harvesting my own honey next fall, I made a series of botanically-inspired stoneware honey dippers. My first efforts were done on the wheel and seemed rather clunky and awkward, so I decided to go with my instincts and hand-build them. I'm enjoying the delicate, organic quality of these much more. Seeing them glazed and finished has me wanting to make more of them. They're fun to make and pretty to look at. Of course they have inspired new ideas for additional sculptures. I'm thinking a series of botanical wall sculptures. I can't wait to replace my boring wooden dipper with one of these.

Monday, November 17, 2008

this little piggy...

...went to slaughter. The pigs have gone. Whew, finally, at last. And while the future looks rosy to think of filling the freezer with shoulder roast, ham, pork chops, and bacon, pigs are not something I want to do again. Maybe it's just me, but they are really high maintenance compared to my other animals. And since I couldn't bring myself to ring their noses, they trashed their paddock. It looks like a war zone. Seriously. Ruts and holes and furrows everywhere. I am going to have to borrow a tractor and completely renovate the pasture by first leveling it back out and then re-seeding the whole thing. 

Rings in their noses would have kept them from rooting, but at a pretty basic level, rooting is what pigs do. It's part of their very nature. And I believe that as much as possible, the animals here at Tulip Tree Hill should be allowed to express their nature. If I don't like it, then I shouldn't keep them. And I don't like it so no more pigs for me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

meet the sheep: "Mayapple"

Mayapple is a 1.5 year old Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep. She's a creamy white color and does indeed have eyes behind all that wool. Typical of babydolls, she is very sweet and even tempered. Calm and docile, she contributes greatly to the peacefulness here at Tulip Tree Hill. She likes hanging out with me if I'm in the pasture, hoping I'll give her a scratch and if I'm working out there, she and the others will often graze companionably near me. 

She was shorn for the first time this spring and I got her wool back from the processors as roving. You can see a photo of it here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

a little bird

This tiny little bird is winging his way to wherever it is birds go when we can't follow them. All of about 4 inches tall if you include the base and wire support, he is made of ceramic stoneware and given a light glaze of a pale glossy blue, most of which was wiped off. The very thin wire barely supports him, allowing him to dip and sway as if flying. 

Sunday, November 9, 2008

meet the sheep: "Jack-in-the-Pulpit"

Jack is a 1.5 year old shetland wether. I recently said his color was emsket, but I believe he's actually a musket. (Shetlands come in many colors and patterns - each has a gaelic name just to make it even more confusing, uh, I mean interesting.) While his head and legs are a dark brown, his fleece tips bleach to a light golden brown but underneath it is a very pale gray. When spun it produced a very pretty warm gray-brown. 

This little guy has quite an endearing personality. Very bold and outgoing with an affectionate streak, he also has a strong sense of self. He can get quite playful, "sproinking" around the pasture when he's feeling wild and crazy.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

trees galore

This little guy, kicking back, lounging in the basket of his hot air balloon and enjoying the ride, will go on the tree of ornaments to be auctioned off during "Trees Galore", the Annual holiday exhibition at the Lancaster Museum of Art which runs from November 8 to December 14. In addition to the tree of ornaments, the exhibit features an eclectic collection of two and three dimensional tree-themed artwork by local and regional artists. The opening reception is this Friday evening from 5-8 p.m. during the First Friday festivities in downtown Lancaster.

I plan to be there - it should be fun.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

hot stuff!

Last year, I made hot sauce with hungarian hot wax peppers using the recipe below. Loved the stuff because it had great pepper flavor, but was only mildly hot. I like it in tuna salad, on hard boiled eggs, in baked beans, almost anything that could use a little kick (which is most stuff). This year I decided to expand my repertoire and use three more types of peppers, so I went to the ag auction and bought habanero, cayenne, and jalapeno peppers in addition to the hungarians and made a sauce of each type. For a point of reference as to how hot each is, I looked up their scoville heat ratings. The hungarians are rated 300-700, jalapenos are 3,500-6,000, cayennes are 30,000-50,000, and habaneros are 100,000-350,000. Safe to say that the habanero sauce is not for the faint of heart, but for the true heat seekers. 

I've included the recipe below and as you'll see, is incredibly easy! I encourage you to try your hand at it - especially if you can find the hungarian hot wax peppers.

Recipe for Hot Sauce
1 pound peppers, roughly chopped, stems removed
2 cups white vinegar
2 teaspoons salt

• Combine everything and heat in a saucepan, simmering for 5 minutes.
• Cool, and puree in a blender until smooth.
• Pour into a jar and allow to steep in refrigerator for 2 weeks.
• Strain, using cheesecloth or a fine sieve and store in clean jar.
• Keep refrigerated.

Monday, November 3, 2008

open studio tour

a view of my studio

Well, the studio tour of 2008 finally happened, and once again, everyone seemed to have a very good time. The weather could not have been any nicer - warm, sunny and balmy on Saturday and a bit crisp and cool on Sunday - reminding us all that fall is definitely here. There was hot spiced cider and home-made molasses crinkle cookies for folks to eat and drink here which was another reminder of the time of year. 

At each studio, the artists raffled off one item, with all proceeds going to the Solanco Fuel Fund. This fund is set up to help those who may have difficulty in heating their homes. A timely charity given the cost of heating fuel. The sculpture I raffled off was "Balance" which was won by Glenda. I hope she enjoys having it as much as I did making it. A kinetic sculpture, it has a slightly humorous absurdity,while addressing our need for balance in our lives - the many small things with the larger, weightier ones.

Keep your schedules open for the first weekend of November in 2009 for our third annual Open Studio Tour!

Oh, and by the way, I did not get the noodles or bread made, but did indeed get all the sculptures completed in time for the tour. I even got some sleep!