Gift #867: July Art Bead Scene Challenge

I’ve been making it a priority to participate in the Art Bead Scene’s monthly challenges this year.  I’ve appreciated the opportunities for growth this has afforded as I learn to express the ideas and colors of a painting into three-dimensional jewelry.  The only stipulation to participating in the challenge is to use at least one art bead.  These are beads, pendants, etc. which are created by hand in small batches by independent artists.  I don’t have very many – when I do I prefer to use professional artist beads, but oftentimes I’ve found myself experimenting and making my own.  It’s been exciting to learn new techniques and explore new mediums of art.  With that introduction, July’s inspiration was lovely.

StillLifeWithShells

This beautiful still life was created by Balthasar van der Ast (isn’t that name incredible!) in 1640.  The painting looks like it was a creative inventory of someone’s curiosity cabinet.  This Dutch Golden Age artist specialized in still life paintings of fruit, flowers, shells, and lizards.  I love the muted tones he sets the scene with – the yellows and browns of the shells pop off the grey/blue silky background.  I also love still life paintings for their composition and mixing of various natural subjects together.  Note in this painting how the artist skillfully weaves shells, berries, and moths together.

I originally planned to make a necklace featuring some tiny shells I bought in Denver with some purple clay beads I bought a while back from Humblebeads.  I worked with that design for days before eventually scrapping it and deciding to try a new approach.  I made some clay pendants using seashell charms to make molds.  After pressing clay seashells out of the molds, I adhered them to larger clay pendants and baked according to the directions.  Then I painted with layers of acrylics in brown, grey, and cream and after they dried, I lightly sanded them to give a weathered look.  Here’s a sampling of some that I made.

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With the sand-dollar, I experimented with writing in the clay and inscribed the word “Listen” on the top.  I had an extra sand-dollar which I formed into the unusual shaped pendant on the left.  I was thinking it kind of looked like a shell in a bottle.

Here’s the necklace I made with the sea star pendant.

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I attached it to a piece of weathered wood I picked up on a hike in Denver and strung some little creamy brown beads on hemp to the pendant as well to bring in some of the warm tones of the painting.  I hand-dyed a silk ribbon with blue-grey, aqua, and brown inks to hang the pendant.

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For the earrings, I made textured clay charms and aged them with brown acrylic paints and lightly sanded them.  Pearl disks, wire tendrils, and an aqua bead hang suspended from the charm, and they are finished off with the brown beads on hemp to tie them thematically to the necklace.  Although there are no seashells, I like the way the textured clay suggests organic bits of sea life that you might find along the beach.

I was pleased with both pieces, but still a little disappointed that my original idea didn’t pan out.   I was hoping to create something that looked like a drawer from a curiosity cabinet, rich with seashells and natural objects.  When I was discussing my frustration with my muse (aka, Mom) she suggested I try a brooch.  I gave that some thought and decided to do it.  I finished it up this afternoon and it’s all I hoped it would be.

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I formed the base from clay, making it look like a piece of driftwood – it’s marbled with different shades of brown and textured to look like wood grain.  After it baked, I washed it with light grey-brown acrylic paints to soften.   I dyed some cheesecloth with brown, grey, and rust colors to look like netting and I added in some strands of weathered burlap I found on a walk.  I glued a variety of seashells and beads on top of the cheesecloth.  I don’t often name my pieces, but I’m going to call this one “Flotsam” because it looks just like something you’d find washed up in a tide pool.  I love it!  Hope you enjoyed your tour of the beach with me as much as I enjoyed creating it!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #866: Once and Future King 1

It’s been an incredibly busy week!  Things have been hectic at work and I’ve been out a lot in the evenings.  Consequently, I haven’t had much time for crafting and that’s rather stressed me out because I have some deadlines looming.  I’ve spent the little time I have had staring at the half-worked projects, moving things around, and staring some more.  But I made up for it tonight and finished up 2 pieces, worked up 2 from scratch, and made the components for another 2!  After being so productive with my jewelry, I’ve now turned my attention to knitting.  Last Friday was the official start of my next knit-a-long with Unique Sheep.  Our project for the next few months is inspired by Once and Future King by T.H. White.

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To befit an Arthurian theme, I selected yarn with a rich gradient that moves from purple to blue to green.   The construction of the shawl is revealed bit by bit in seven weekly clues.  I don’t know too much yet, but the project will be a rectangular shawl, knit in two pieces from edge inwards and then grafted together at the end.  So my shawl will run from purple to blue to green and then back out to purple.  It’s worked on lace-weight yarn with dark purple seed beads and daggers along the edge.  Since we’ll be dealing with kings and wizards, it never hurts to keep an owl nearby.

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I’ve not read many Arthurian legends before so I’m looking forward to reading the book as I go along.  Once and Future King is actually a compilation of books, the first of which is Sword in the Stone.  (Note the sheep mascot is cleverly pulling his sword out of a ball of yarn).   Until this knit-a-long, I had no idea that Sword in the Stone was a book.  I thought the Disney Studio just made the movie of the same name based on their own imagination.  It’s one of my favorite animated classics and I’ve been delighted to find it also is a book.  Naturally there are quite a few changes.  Namely, the book moves slower in the beginning and there are more characters, but Merlin and Archimedes (his owl) have entered the scene.  Archimedes is my favorite from the movie because he’s so feisty.  My brother and I loved watching the movie together growing up and we would laugh hysterically at the antics Wart (Arthur), Merlin, and Archimedes would get into as they changed form and Merlin taught Wart life lessons by becoming different animals.

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Although I’m off to a slow start, I’m enjoying the pattern so far.  I’ve completed 1 repeat of 10 for the edging, then I’ll pick up stitches and start knitting the body.  Archimedes the Owl is keeping a weather eye for dropped stitches or other foul knitting necromancy.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #865: Mossy mountain trails

I have a handful of favorite trails scattered throughout the Denver Rocky Mountain foothills.  These are the really, really good ones where you get all excited and happy just thinking about them.  They’re the places where you’re suddenly surrounded by more beauty than you could possibly take in. And how much I love them is directly proportional to the amount of moss.

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My most loved trail in Denver is the Bear Creek Trail in Lair o’ the Bear Park.  I’ve loved this trail madly since I first set foot on it and affection has not waned in all these years.  The trail meanders next to the creek and then crosses a bridge and sidles up next to a mountain and that’s when it gets really good.  And that’s because this mountain is covered in all manner of beautiful things and I’d be really happy to spend the rest of my life staring at it.

Ferns cascade down the front of it in rivers of undulating green.

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Puddles of moss are pooled along every surface

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Quartz and granite jut out among the moss, creating the most exquisite contrast of textures and color.

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Succulents, lichen, and tiny wildflowers nestle in the crevices of the mountain like glistening treasures.

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Its beauty overwhelms me every time I’m there.  It’s always more alive and vibrant than what I remember.  I want to find some way to capture the essence of it – moss, fern, rock, lichen, bark, dew… the way the light dances with sharp edges and filters through vegetation, the way the earth smells full of life and decay and green, and the way my heart loves it so dearly.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #864: Views from Mt. Falcon

Beauty is no dead thing.  It is the manifestation of God in nature.  There is not one object in nature untouched by man that is not beautiful, fog God’s manifestation is beauty.  It shines through all His works, and not only in those that may give pleasure to man.              – Annie Besant

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We had seen God in His splendors, heard the text that Nature renders.            

– Ernest Shackleton

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There is no better place to be awed by the splendor of God and marvel at His creation than Mt. Falcon.  Mountain meadows, grasses, wildflowers, birds, and butterflies fill your senses.  The view of distant mountain ranges beckon you onwards and upwards.  The wind tousles your hair  and grass tickles your toes.  And everywhere beauty surrounds you.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #863: Conservatories

Well at this rate, we’re going to be in December before I finish posting all the wonderful experiences from Denver that I had planned to share with you!  There’s so much as I go through my photos and remembrances of the trip.  I had wanted to spend a couple of days just posting on the Denver Botanic Gardens because they are so beautiful and there’s lots to see there.  I don’t think I’ve ever posted on the conservatory there before, which is a shame since it’s quite remarkable.  A large two-story glass building houses an incredible array of tropical plants and is landscaped beautifully.  Then there’s a separate room off the main display that features a large waterfall and a collection of orchids.

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Tropical plants aren’t my favorites – their hot colors and strange foliage seem a bit alien to me and I tend to favor the more subdued temperate forest plants.  However, in spite of that I do enjoy walking through conservatories and the one in Denver is a great one for many reasons.  One of the most compelling is their free-range African dart frog program that lets visitors observe these tiny frogs up close and personal and if you’re lucky you can persuade them to eat from your hand.  (Just kidding  – I’m seeing if you’re paying attention!)  They do have poison dart frogs, but they’re kept safely behind glass where they can allure all they want to without being a deadly attraction to visitors.  Aren’t they cool though?

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So dart frogs aside, there’s plenty to capture your attention!

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Lots of unusual flowers and plants.  The colors offer striking combinations.

 

And then there’s the signage.  I have a thing for signage.  (you can check out previous posts from Denver to verify that statement).  I really like the sketched chalkboard style of the signs in the conservatory, and I’ll point out they’ve been there for much longer than chalkboard art has been a fad.  They have a cool 1700s science illustration feel to them that kind of makes you feel like you’re an explorer encountering these strange plants for the first time.

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I think they’re fascinating.  And they give lots of info about their ecological role and  conservation status of the plants, since many are threatened or endangered.  And then on to the plants!  This one offered amazing foliage

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Ginger is always a favorite – I think this variety is called “beehive”.  Appropriate, don’t you think?

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I don’t remember what this is, but it looks dramatic in the sunlight.

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Ah, now this was a fascinating specimen!  This is the chenille plant, because it’s fuzzy red flowers look just like it.  They feel just like fuzzy soft pipe cleaners.  This plant would be right at home in a 70s style pad.

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These draping flowers were incredibly beautiful.  Hanging down from the aerial foliage, they looked just like paper lanterns!  They brushed your head and shoulders as you walked by and for a few moments I really believed I was deep in the Amazon.

I hope you enjoyed the tour of the Conservatory.  It’s done a lot to cultivate my appreciation for the unusual and rare plants of the tropics.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #862: New Horizons

I was going to blog more on Denver today, but this is just way too cool not to mention!!  History is being made!!

If we can dream it, then we can do it
Yes we can, yes we can
If we can dream it, then we can do it
yes we can, yes we can

Have you ever looked beyond today into the future?
Picturing a world we’ve yet to see…
The wonder.. of finding new ways that lead to the promise brighter days…

Gorgeous Pluto! The dwarf planet has sent a love note back to Earth via our New Horizons spacecraft, which has traveled more than 9 years and 3+ billion miles. This is the last and most detailed image of Pluto sent to Earth before the moment of closest approach, which was at 7:49 a.m. EDT Tuesday - about 7,750 miles above the surface -- roughly the same distance from New York to Mumbai, India - making it the first-ever space mission to explore a world so far from Earth. This stunning image of the dwarf planet was captured from New Horizons at about 4 p.m. EDT on July 13, about 16 hours before the moment of closest approach. The spacecraft was 476,000 miles (766,000 kilometers) from the surface. Images from closest approach are expected to be released on Wednesday, July 15.</p>  <p>Image Credit: NASA</p>  <p>#nasa #pluto #plutoflyby #newhorizons#solarsystem #nasabeyond #science

 https://instagram.com/nasa/


Have you ever dreamed the dream of the children?
Just imagine the magic their minds can see
(If we can dream it)
Horizons, all shining and new
Horizons were dreams do come true
They do come true!

And it will be…
A future filled with care
For you and me…
A world we all can share

For today holds the challenge to make this world a better place to be
New horizons for you and for me

We’re seeing things no one who ever lived on the planet has seen before.  That just gives me goosebumps!  Something that was made on earth has traveled across our galaxy and is our eyes to the amazing sites on the furthest edges of the planetary system.  It’s just incredible!

I hope you will forgive the somewhat campy lyrics of the song I’ve chosen.  The title is New Horizons (which seemed quite appropriate) and it was the theme song at the Horizons exhibit at Epcot.  I loved listening to it as a kid, and I’m a sucker for anything Disney.   I don’t believe that humanity can pull itself into a utopian society – changed society must come from changed hearts, transformed by the love of God.  But I do like the way the lyrics capture the optimism and excitement of discovery and of harnessing that new knowledge to make life better.   Our society seems to have lost that sparkle and energy for exploration and innovation, especially in the realm of space science.  Here’s hoping that the New Horizons satellite can fuel the passion again!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #861: Bonnie Brae ice cream

A hot and steamy day like today has me daydreaming about neighborhood ice cream parlors.  My favorite place in Denver for ice cream is Bonnie Brae.  It’s a quintessential neighborhood stop, with families walking there from their homes with their dogs (pets can get their own treats at Bonnie Brae too!).  There’s a library across the street and the red and white awning sparkles with lights at night.  It looks like something from Disneyland. Be prepared for a long line during the summer, but it moves quickly and on the weekends there’s live music.

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This time we were able to hear a cello/trumpet jazz duo.  They made the ice cream right there in the shop and each night you have more than 20 flavors to pick from.image

Some of our favorites include cappuccino chip, butter brickle, cherry mash, lemon custard, butterscotch.. you get the idea, we have lots of favorites.   A new flavor I tried this year was mocha oreo, a fresh, tasty twist on cookies and cream.  Although I hate coffee, I love coffee-flavored ice cream and this was really good.

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We won’t discuss exactly how many visits to Bonnie Brae were made on this trip to Denver.  When you’re only there once a year, you have to pack lots of memories into the days.  I can assure you, most all those calories were walked off during days of mountain hiking.

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Hope you’re enjoying the lazy, hazy days of summer and ice cream.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #860: Forest gems

Confession:  I suffer from horrible post-vacation depression.  Even if it’s just a quick weekend getaway, I still feel sad come Monday when it’s all over.  So after spending many days in Denver, it’s really, really hard coming back to reality.  It will actually take a month or so to get comfortable living in Indy again and for the homesickness to fade to heartwarming, instead of heart-crushing.  This disposition frustrates me because I feel like I’m ungrateful; and in reality I’m incredibly thankful for the precious time I could spend in Denver.  And I’m quite content living in Indy – I love my home now too.  But when I move back and forth, my heart becomes confused and unsure of where “home” is.  One of the ways I try to mitigate this is by visiting special places in Indy soon after coming back from vacation to remind myself of what I love here.  I also try to focus on things that are similar between my two homes rather than drawing comparisons.  Hence, today I found myself at Eagle Creek, as this is one of my favorite places in the city.

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Just like for our mountain hikes in Denver, my mom and I packed peanut butter and honey sandwiches and fruit and headed out for a day of hiking.  Just like in Denver, we were surrounded by forests of green.  Although some of the vegetation is significantly different, there are similarities and we found great joy in noting those flowers and plants which grow in both places.

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But the great delight of the day was….mushrooms!!!  Yes, again!  Just like in our Denver mountains, the heavy rains in Indy made for ideal mushroom conditions and we found tons!  It was a great treasure hunt – winding through vines and crawling under trees to get a closer look.  We saw more mushrooms today than I think we’ve ever seen in one place before.

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I will need to spend time with a field guide to learn the names of all the beautiful specimens we saw today.  They ranged from drab brown to fluorescent orange, from tiny to the size of dinner plates, from perfect to irregular shapes.

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It was an ecstatic hike to be sure!  We flew about from spot to spot, exclaiming excitedly, and wondering with each new mushroom we found how blessed we were to have been able to see and appreciate these miracles of the forest floor.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #859: Surprises along the trail

We were able to do lots of mountain hiking on this trip.  It was glorious!  I think we were able to do more hiking on this trip than ever before.  It’s always like going on a treasure hunt when hiking.  There are so many wonderful things to look at!  Let’s just say I’m not a good walking buddy if you’re looking to make quick time.  Trees, leaves, flowers, birds, feathers, horizons… all these things beg to be appreciated at a leisurely pace.  Hikes will further slow to a crawl when moss, lichens, rocks, or ferns are present.  Oh, how I love them all!  However, nothing but nothing will bring a hike to a screeching halt faster than a mushroom.

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I’m like a dog on point for mushrooms.  Whenever I hike with my mom, if one of us spies one (and we’re always on lookout) the alarm cry “mushroom!!” sounds out, and we both make a beeline towards the fungus.  I’m not above crawling off the trail and even risking poison ivy to get a look at it.

One of my dearest wishes for many, many years has been to find amanita mushrooms in the wild.  I’ve found many beauties during my hikes, but never an amanita…. until this past week.

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Secluded just off the trail at one of the mountain parks was a stand of mushrooms, and upon further inspection, they turned out to be my elusive favorite mushroom!!  It took a while to convince myself it was real, but they are known to grow in this area and after all the rain that’s come through, it didn’t seem improbable.  Isn’t it absolutely lovely?

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And that’s not the only one we found!  On subsequent hikes we found others dotting the landscape!  It was better than finding rubies out in a field.

I was delighted that another one of my dreams came true in the mountains of Colorado.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #858: Changed in Denver

As has become tradition, I’ll say goodbye to Denver with a song.  This one is especially meaningful to this trip because it comes from the musical Wicked.  As I mentioned earlier, my ties between Denver and Wicked are close because it was here that I was introduced to the book and musical and I had the privilege of seeing it again this year.   The song is sung between Glinda and Elphaba as they say goodbye and reaffirm the influence their relationship has had on their lives.  It’s a beautiful tribute to the way I feel about Denver because it molded and formed me into the person I’ve become.

I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.

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Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you.
I have been changed for good.

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It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part:
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend.

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Like a ship blown from it’s mooring
By a wind off the sea.
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you…

Because I knew you…

I have been changed for good.

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Denver, your mountains and meadows, forests and rivers, flora and fauna, culture and attitudes have left your fingerprints all over my heart.  And I’m forever grateful that you have changed me for good.  Farewell for another year, and until I see your beautiful face again, I love you.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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