Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wholesome Transformations: A hand designed commission

My friend Bi-sek has been interested in homegrown, healthy food for longer than I've known her. She's a talented organic gardener, cook, community organizer, nutritionist, health enthusiast, environmentalist and mother. I admire her and her work as she pushes herself as a woman and a professional. She is also the founder of the community garden that I am involved with called Raspberry Hill Community Garden.

Last year she commissioned me to design the above logo for a business she is developing. She wanted something hand drawn and painted in my colorful folk style. Since her business is about transforming oneself through nutrition, my inspiration for the drawing started with a seed blooming into a vibrant flower.  I choose the sunflower because not only is the plant beautiful, the seeds are nourishing. We decided to put some images of healthy vegetables and fruit in the corners of the composition.

Bi-sek and her daughter shared a gift this past winter with me and Kaz. They would come over to my house to play with Kaz and give me a little break from taking care of the baby so I could head over to my studio for an hour, two or three to work on this project. At this time it was important for me to start reclaiming my artistic self. This project helped me do that. Thank you, Bi-sek!

You can find out more about Bi-sek's work with nutrition at Wholesome Transformations.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"My work is loving the world..." a poem by Mary Oliver

By Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

All photos were taken today, a glorious September day, at the Raspberry Hill Community garden.

While on a drive this week I came across a radio show where poetry is read. The host read a Mary Oliver poem that took my breath away. I think her work is deeply beautiful and true.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Another week around the homestead: mental meanderings and links to interesting articles and tasty recipes.

Another week has gone by...

And it is time to post on my blog.

I am posting on a weekly basis these days and have no plans to break from this habit (even if I'm not sure what to write about). This is one of those weeks, I'm not sure what to write about.

Yet, there is always "something" to write about. This week has been about traveling in busy circles, one thing to another and then back to that first thing and on to the third. So please indulge me.  I do not have a unified theme to this post. Following will be some thoughts, recipes, stories of work around the homestead, and some inspiring and interesting articles I read.

The approach of fall always seems to up the anti in New England. One becomes soberly aware that winter is approaching and it's time to prepare. Time to get the wood in and stacked, time to harvest and preserve from the garden, time to prepare for opportunities like craft fairs and art sales that happen in the fall around the holidays, time to go back to school and get back to normal work, child care routines.

The icing on the cake was a yucky cold that Kaz and I came down with, made all the worse with the high, hot temperatures we've experienced the last couple of days. Can I just say... blah, blah, blah?

Before we came down with the cold, Grandma and Grandpa came to visit us from PA for a couple days last week. We went out to lunch in Northampton and  as you can see, Kaz was really excited about sharing the quesedilla we ordered.


Last weekend we put the finishing touches on a wood shed we built out back in which to stack our wood. There will be no more loose metal roofing blowing about in windy winter storms, yay! The next day Josh decided to slaughter 4 of our old hens who are no longer laying as many eggs. A friend came over to help. I took care of the baby. Really, I was not in the mood to take part in the killing of our hens. I was game to cook them though.

So I made a delicious chicken stock by cooking the bird for 14 hours in a huge stock pot with our home grown potatoes, carrots, garlic, dill and parsley. That night we had a chicken noodle soup for dinner to help us get over our colds. Quart after quart of golden stock made the way to the freezer to be used this fall and winter. Then, tonight I made a homemade chicken pot pie. Oh my, it was good! I've never done this before. It took some work but it was worth it! Here's the Chicken Pot Pie recipe that I roughly followed (substituting fresh vegis and herbs from the garden) with a homemade pie crust recipe. If you find yourself with some chicken meat after making stock all day I highly recommend  using the meat this way. Homemade chicken pot pie is the perfect thing for a cool fall/winter evening. Well, yes, it IS still summer and really it IS pretty warm and humid but I had to make use of the food left over from stock making.

I've been rotating back and forth between new paper cut deigns and some embroidery projects this week. I have three new holiday tree of life designs cut and ready to be glued on some paper. I hope to have these images uploaded to the computer in two weeks so I can design the cards and get them off to the printer for my first official holiday sale of the season on October 26th. I am loving doing the paper cuts and embroidery. Both are really relaxing and put me in a quiet, zen like head space. I'll share some of the new images with you soon.

I day dream about traveling and plan trips in my head. Of course, I'd like to go back to Poland and Hungary. It is never to early to start preparing. Even if it takes me a year or two or three to get back to these countries. I've been studying the Polish language through Pimsleurs Polish language recordings. I am making head way! I've finished with the recordings that I have and need to look into finding the next round. I'll see if the library system can come up with something like they did for this first round of recordings. I have a feeling I may need to invest some money into taking my studies up a notch.

On that note, I just read a really inspiring article called , "Why Speak Polish?"  by Isabelle Sokolnicka. She writes....

"All jokes aside: Parents, send your kids to Polish school. Don’t let them watch cartoons or sleep in on Saturday mornings. Seriously. Or find some other effective way to teach them your language. Be creative, be tough, but don’t let them forge their identity without discovering this important part of being Polish.

You’re still unconvinced? What about…:

The fact that there is something strangely beautiful in the unpronouncability of Polish names or the interminable chains of consonants; something unique about a Slavic tongue born in the heart of Europe, and influenced by languages as different as French, Hungarian, German, Italian or Turkish.

And that there is something indescribable and unqualifiable about the subtlety of Polish poetry. The delicacy and depth of the vocabulary, its capacity to represent movement and perspective like no other language, and the very wide range of prefixes and suffixes that can completely alter the meaning of any word are all elements that permit nuanced expressions of specific emotions or particular settings, and on top of that all – with very few words: the perfect ingredients for poetry-making. Read Baczyński, Słowacki, Miłosz and of course Mickiewicz: maybe it’s the authors’ talent but maybe it is also the language that makes it so incredibly natural to step into a true kingdom of literary creativity. Make your kids learn Polish. Make your kids learn Poland. Make them spell solidarność, ojczyzna, or better even – milość. Who knows, this might just be the beginning of a long-lasting love affair with the Polish language… or at least of a friendship with unquestionable benefits."

In the coming years I think I may find myself in Saturday morning Polish school with Kaz. I don't care if I'm the oldest person there!

And now for the icing on the cake... I'll stop my meanderings after this last shout out.

If you are like me and like to lose yourself (or perhaps find yourself) in other countries, 
An American Man’s Quest to Become an Old Castilian
is a MUST READ.  It's a NY Times article adapted from “The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese,” by  Michael Paterniti.

A man finds his "soul place" while on a quest for a particular cheese. Yes, I said cheese! If you are not interest in this piece yet, then I don't know what's wrong with you :-).  Something happened to him during his first visit to a small Castilian village. And of course none of it was practical.

"But something happened to me. Even now, I’m not exactly sure what. I have a friend who once told me about the first time he ever took a ferry to an island off the coast of North Carolina, and how he knew, right there on the ferry — with the salt spray and the light off the ocean — that he’d come back to this same spot every year. He’d come to relive that feeling of leaving his old self behind. That annual renewal, the reacquaintance with the person he felt himself to be on that island, was something he wanted to organize his life around. Similarly, Guzmán instantly and improbably became my place. It made no sense, practically speaking."

I can really relate. A simple idea or lead can push you through a rabbit hole towards a soul shaking, life altering, new reality. Connections happen and projects emerge and are created all for the love of a place.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

My new love... Embroidery!

I discovered something new about myself this week. I love to do embroidery. I had a hunch that I would really like to do this and I was right. I've enjoyed admiring and looking closely at embroidery for a long time. Now it feels so good to be doing it!

Last Saturday I took a two hour workshop on embroidery at a new, truly awesome, re-use center/store called KNACK in Easthampton at the Eastworks building. Knack is a DIY palace. The store takes used things, sometimes on the way to being discarded, and brings new life to these things as potential and transformed arts and crafts items. I love the idea behind creating a store like this. Upcycling and reusing materials is a great way to transform items and the workshop space encourages community to learn to do things for themselves.  Here is Knack's mission statement...

Knack: The Art of Clever Reuse is a creative reuse center where you can:
  • Find all sorts of reusable materials for your creative projects
  • Take a workshop or drop in during our open studio time
  • Have a party (birthday, craft night, creative gathering, etc.)
  • Shop for upcycled gifts/art handmade by local artists
A woman named Bonnie Sennott taught the workshop. I was really impressed with her embroidered art pieces. She creates abstract images with embroidery stitches which I found beautiful and inspiring. She has a blog, Blue Peninsula Knits, which is full of her projects and examples of her many creative talents. She is a talented knitter as well as a knit pattern creator.

The photo above is of my completed project from the workshop. Bonnie gave us a template to work with and all of the materials to create a sachet. We got to try out 6 different embroidery stitches while creating this pretty, fragrant sachet, stuffed with lavender, camomile and flax seeds.

I find that doing needle work is really very relaxing to weeding a garden or knitting a scarf. Repetitive, task oriented work makes me happy and puts me in a mentally and physically relaxed state. This activity is becoming a nice way to end a busy day full of child care and play, work, household chores, gardening and cooking. Plus I feel like I'm making progress with my creative practice since the sewing links up with the creative work I am now doing. It's a win/win situation!

At home, before taking this workshop, I've been playing around with simple watercolor patterns and incorporating hand stitched elements into them. I've been really attracted to the sun symbol motifs carved into wood of decorative Zakopane architectural elements and furniture in Poland. I'm making little images with gouache, paper, and thread using simple folk art motifs. Here's a work in progress at my work table.
I'll be happily embroidering as well as making new paper cuts and little paintings to prepare for the full season of craft fairs and holiday events in the coming months. I'll post more news on these events in a future blog post.