Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Naturally Useful

Growing up plants were a huge part of my life. I would often collect nuts, fungus flowers and other plants to use for many purposes. One of my earliest memories was at my great grandparents house. They had a small farm in Jamesville New York. I remember it distinctly. This is how I remember things. Mind you I might have been 5 our younger when we visited. My great grandparents had a huge black walnut tree in their front yard. We could take old onion and potato sacks and fill them up with the walnuts. We would bring them into the small blue farm kitchen that had a painted brick wall over one of those free standing metal sinks. The bricks were painted with a vase and flowing long stems of flowers coming out of it. Around the table was a classic Formica table with my Great Grandmother who was in a wheel chair, my tiny old Great Grandfather and Uncle Ike. We were all kept warm with a huge wrought iron wood burning kitchen stove. I remember my great grandmother loving Brown Eyed Susan’s and picking her a hand full for her 85th birthday. My mother made cakes back then and had made her a red cake with white lace pattern on it.

I was always the one picking flowers. My grandmother on my mom’s side also had a very old farmhouse in New Woodstock, NY. The front patio was the foundation of a part of the house that no longer existed. It was made of old stones and concrete. There were foot prints from when my mom aunts and uncles were very little and left them in there. There was a small dent that always filled with water and made a little puddle that I was told the baby ducks used to swim in. Part of it had been turned into a flower bed and had interesting rocks my grandmother had collected over the years. Holly hawks, tall yellow flowers and bamboo surrounded the old porch. It created a sanctuary. Some of my earliest lessons about seed collection came from this porch. My grandmother showed me the circular seed pods of the holly hawks and taught me how to save them, dry them and spread them in a new garden. The rest of the gardens in the yard were surrounded with the same round stones that made up the porch. In one was a huge metal basin. I think it was used in a mill but I can not remember. This was surrounded by tulips, daffodils and grape hyacinths. As soon as the first tulip would bloom I would notoriously pick it and that always ticked my grandmother off. By the shed were money plants. The seed pods from these were often dried and found with dried bull thistles in vases around the house. Chinese Lantern seed pods were also a favorite to dry.

In all of our houses were drawings done on shelf fungus. This is a bracket Fungus found in any woods in Upstate New York that has a bark like side and a soft fleshy white side. The white side can be scratched into with a stick and when dried the untouched area stays cream colored and the drawing becomes dark brown. When ever we went for a hike if one was found it became our own organic drawing pad. Other things collected and placed in the house were huge paper hornets nests, birds nests, home made terrariums rocks, fossils, shells and dried cat tails. My grandmother worked as a lunch lady and would acquire huge glass mayo jars that she would fill with native mosses and small plants. They would create their own eco systems in the mayo glass terrariums. They were mysterious as I gazed at the plants through the splotchy drops of condensation.

I was a huge collector of dried flowers. One of my all time favorites was Blue Vervain. It is a herb and smell fantastic when dried. I would often mix it in with a white and pink knotweed that also dried well. Queen Ann’s lace was a great flower to dry as well. I was told it was called that because Queen Ann was working on a lace piece when she was told bad news. She pricked her self with the needle leaving a small drop of blood in the center of the lace. That is why the flower has two small red blossoms in the center of it. The back yard of my grandmother’s house had antique pink roses and lilies. A friend taught me that the base of the lily blossoms had sweet nectar that was good to taste. We also sampled nectar from the base of clover flowers.

I had a small plastic farm animal set that I really enjoyed playing with. I did not have a barn to go with it but this was not an issue. I made stick and moss barns. I would take small sticks that branched off into a Y and set them in the dirt. I would place sticks in each of the Y’s and then find a big flat piece of moss to rest on top as the roof. Small pebbles would make the miniature field stone fences and paths. These small moss farms would have fire pits with a spit and small stacks of fire wood. They would have barns, houses stables and fences. It would take most of an afternoon to make and worth every second.

My grandmother and I would often find eatables in the woods as well. We would eat wild raspberries, black berries, wild mushrooms, wild leeks and chives. There were old foundations around the property where someone had planted rhubarb and currents. They came back every year and we would use them to make jelly and pies. There was even a white grape vine that grew on an old swing set that grape juice was made out of. I was always told the grapes were ready after the third frost. In a lower part of the yard that was often wet my grandfather grew his own asparagus. That also came up year after year.

All of these plants I gathered were fundamental to life. The land brought me hours of joy. The natural works is far superior to the one we engineer. I feel people are moving back to these times. They are realizing that the creator got it right the first time and we are trying to salvage what is natural from what we have tampered with. Enjoy your walks and be sure to give thanks for everything you take in or harvest for your self.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We all love a deal

Use the coupon code WANDER to get 10% off any purchase at my shop!

Little Feet

This is a stone from Indiana Dunes that has small feet carved into it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

One Perspective From A Woman Artist

Upon reading an article about the lack of women in the arts I really started thinking about it. I was thinking about my own experiences as a creative person. It is a rough road for women and our fight to be viewed as equals to men may have contributed.

Here is my line of thinking. I have seen so many women given up their dreams of having a career in the arts because they became part of a relationship where the husband / boyfriend convinced them their job was going to create more money and was more stable and there for they needed to live where the partner could get a job. Maybe the location was not ideal for the artist or they wanted to contribute a steady income to the family so they went into some other job where there is little to no creativity.

What does it take to be a income generating artist? From my experiences it takes a lot of traveling, a lot of shows and networking. You need to be mobile and flexible. Income can very and you need to save up on the good days to use on the slow. I can’t imagine how the average female artist would swing it with a tight income, close family ties and children to support. If able to get through these challenges and prevail there is the next set of challenges… People’s perceptions. If you are in a relationship as a female artist if the spouse is working a job for a company that pays and offers benefits being the artist with a more erratic income is not viewed as a real job. It is hard to deal with the idea I am doing art that doesn’t make a consistent income while my husband has to work the steady job. Am I a contributing member of society or am I just the eccentric housewife farting away my husband’s money on art supplies. Honestly in my case I am a eccentric house wife farting away money but have plans to go bigger and better once I reach a location I can get natural materials once again to work with. For my type of art I need the trees the rivers and the beaches.

My art business has slowed because of big moves but our next move is for me. The location will be ideal and it will start bustling again. When I started my business we lived in Upstate New York. My creations mainly were rock lamps. I would take a kayak out or hike with a back pack hand picking rocks that I would drill and piece nicely together to create amazing lamp bases. They had the regional flavor of the local rocks. Looking at a river bed and picking out what rocks would slide nicely together and seeing the lamp come together as it was strewn along the river bed covered in mud is an art form. I even found old tree roots and imagined the rocks nestled in the root system holding the whole lamp together. Some of the rocks I carved small images into and had to know what types of rocks would drill or carve well. The whole project started out with a hand held drill and hours of figuring out what types of bits would work. It then upgraded to a drill press, clamps, oils and saw horses. I even had a mini drill press with a dermal for the smaller rocks. It all made a fantastic mess.

I started an ETSY shop and bought a tent. I looked into local shows at first. This brought me to my second perspective on how women trying to make it as artists were treated. The local shows were a bust! People treated me like a crafter. They did not want to pay for something they viewed as an item they could whip up in their garages. They did not realize how much time I spent finding quality lamp components, coming up with how the whole thing would piece together or even how to make it happen at all. To this day I have gotten requests on ETSY asking me what type of bit I use so they can make rock lamps of their own…

I have set up a show and had people move past my work to a mirror I bought at Target so that people could view my jewelry in it and ask how much. I have been told I was charging an outrageous price for a lamp that they could easily walk down to the local Wal Mart and buy for twenty dollars. I would be sitting amongst fellow male jewelers, potters, sculptors, painters and photographers who would not get single comment of this nature. I believe gender played a roll but it was also a combination of location and not having a classic medium for the work. When you say you are an artist everyone asks if you paint. When you step outside of this area people have a harder time dealing with it.

We no longer live in Upstate New York. I had to find a new medium to work with. I wanted to learn how to make jewelry and learned the Lost Wax Casting Process. This is where you take a special type of wax, form it into a shape and then cast it into a final piece with silver, gold or bronze. I think if a artist wants to make it they have to adapt to their environment. When in nature I used nature now in an urban environment I use the man made materials around me. I feel more honest when stating this jewelry is art then before. It fits into the more conventional idea of what art is. I plan on taking more classes when we make our move to Oregon in two months. I also plan on doing a steady stream of shows to sell my work. The internet is overwhelmed with art now and I have honestly been having a much harder time selling things. This requires a call to dig deep get out there and physically make the effort.

I think the reason there are not many women in the arts is because it takes a willingness to really stick your neck out, take a chance and break some rules. When taking care of a family it makes it harder to take that risk. I think in our society it is still easier to perceive a man leading the direction of a family be it as an artist or a business executive then it is of a family packing up and following a woman’s artistic dreams. No matter the gender, picking a career in art takes guts. it’s a risky venture that has no boundaries or structure. It doesn’t offer health benefits and vacation days. Its not just doing the work but also selling an idea to people so they find value in it. Many people do not care about material or craftsmanship. They want to walk into a store, pick out the decor for their living room in one sweep and walk out. The idea of taking the time to search, walk around and hand pick each piece to add to your life is time consuming in a rushed over worked society.

For the women out there who are at odds with their creative side and their practical side I truly believe you should fight to do what you love and you will find a way. We only have one life to live and so many beautiful things to create in a short time. Our society needs art much more then it needs money. This is our burden and this our gift.