Gift #966: Spring Mill in Winter

This past weekend I spent several glorious days at Spring Mill State Park, my most favorite place in Indiana.  It’s about 2 hours away, which is a convenient enough drive for a Friday afternoon.  And with very little effort one finds oneself whisked away into an idyllic getaway.  Comfortable rooms in the historic inn, fabulous food (including the delicious oatmeal pie!) and miles of trails make for a wonderful weekend.

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One of the reasons I love Spring Mill so much is because the whole park is heavily forested and the trails meander through some of the most breath-taking scenery.  Up and down hills, along river beds, around lakes, through fallen trees… the trails bring you up close to all the wonders of the woodlands.

We were blessed with a brief reprieve in the harsh coldness of recent days, and Sat and Sun had highs near 50 and it was sunny!  It was perfect hiking weather (with a coat, a scarf, bootwarmers, and a hat).  This is the park’s slow season, so we had the trails primarily to ourselves and it was very soothing to experience the forest in all its quiet grandeur.

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Spring Mill has the oldest trees in the state, with a large tract of land preserved virgin forest which has never been cut.  It’s a thrilling experience to be in the company of these magnificent ancient trees.  In the winter, the bare branches make striking displays against the sky and withered leaves cling to some of the trees like tattered garments.  As always, moss was abundant and quite a few hardy ferns were still lush and green.  It was a great weekend to rest, be quiet, and enjoy the company of trees.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #955: Winter Tree Line

I’ve been wanting to share with you the first of Art Bead Scene’s jewelry challenges of 2016.  January’s inspiration was lovely: Landscape with Stars by Henri-Edmond Cross (1905-1908) and is a perfect example of the Neo-Impressionistic style he championed.

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Henri-Edmond Cross

It is truly a stunning display.  I’m especially taken with the detail in the night sky – how all those colors were mottled together with tiny little brushstrokes of each color.  They all blend and merge to create a twinkling sky.  Now our blog leaders made a big deal of the fact that the painting featured the Pantone colors of the year, which are pale pink and baby blue.  Maybe that’s where I fell apart with this challenge – I hate that color combo and despite all the positive spin on the colors, they still make me gag.  This made it difficult because I approach these challenges primarily on terms of color schemes.  I like to find some way of pulling the colors into my jewelry while having a focal point that echoes that of the painting.   I knew that I wanted the focal image of my necklace to be trees.  I tried several times to work with the predominant colors but I hated everything I tried.

Finally I settled on a novel approach – instead of trying to recreate the painting, I focused on how the painting made me feel.   It spoke to my heart of long winter nights, when the stars pierce the sky with cold light and illuminate the forest with silver hues.  It spoke of shapes and forms… of a juxtaposition between warm earthy elements and stark cold sky.  And then I knew what to do….  I had copper, I had nickel, I had a saw, and I loved trees.  I could try to make my own metal pendant.

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I cut a tree line from copper and soldered it to a nickel base plate, from which I had sawed out a willowy bare tree shape.  Because I dislike shiny finish on my metal, I sanded everything down with several grades of sandpaper to give it a matte finish with a bit of swirly texture.  I also added a bit of liver of sulfur to the copper trees to tone down the brightness.   I still tried to introduce a bit of color to the necklace by adding navy czech glass beads to the chain.  However it still wasn’t working and after several iterations, I finally settled on these petite clear glass beads with copper coating.  They had a hint of sparkle reminiscent of starlight and the copper/silver combination in the beads pair nicely with the pendant.  I enjoy mixing my metals and am pleased with how the cool nickel and warm copper tones lay together so well and they do hearken to the use of cool and warm tones in the painting.

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Earrings are stylistically similar.  I made long dangles with leftover chain from the necklace and added small drops of the crystal beads and silver spacers.  Simple and elegant.  This was a unique way for me to approach the challenge, but I appreciate these exercises for precisely this reason.  Once I dropped the concerns with color, I could look at the shape and feel of the paining and create something that reminded me of what I loved about the scene.  And it was a great chance for me to practice my new-found metalsmithing skills.

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The timing of the share worked out perfectly as I’ve just returned from spending a long weekend at Spring Mill State Park, in the company of a winter forest.  Lonely trees bare of leaves and scattered pines filled the trails and my senses these past few days and provided a sense of tranquility and inspiration for the days to come.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #954: Of the Ground

The views of winter from the ground have a subdued but ethereal composition.  Devoid of vivid colors, a hundred myriad shade of gray, taupe, and brown blend and merge together like hues of a black and white rainbow.

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Bits of discarded bark lay on the forest floor like bits of sculptural debris.

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Dried fallen leaves carpet the soil in a withered blanket.

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Pinecones and acorns, windfall from the bounty of fall, lie scattered about.

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Though somber and gray, the colors of winter still whisper of beauty

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #953: Heading outside

This weekend we had a great thaw and temperatures climbed up into the 50s!   It seemed all the city poured outside to remember what the outdoors looked and felt like.  For weeks and weeks it’s been way to cold to enjoy anything of nature and it starts to drive me stir-crazy.  I must be outside and near trees on a regular basis.  So on Saturday, my mom and I packed a picnic and set out for Eagle Creek Park.

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Now the one downside of having a brief reprieve from freezing temperatures in January is that you expect it to be spring tomorrow.  Newsflash…. it won’t be.  It won’t be for several more months and the weather is going to get cold again.  I went to the park hoping to see a few signs of spring.  There wasn’t much.  Truthfully, I knew there wouldn’t be so it wasn’t a great disappointment, and I did find much beauty in the still, sleeping forest… even if it wasn’t green.

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This is the point in the year where I start to go green-crazy.  I love green, I miss green, and I must have green very soon!!  I think God understands this and so even in the depths of winter He gives flashes of green.  Evergreens and moss are a great gift in January while we wait for the trees to think about waking up.

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I’m in love with this feathery moss.  It’s thick and lush and looks like tiny ferns.  I’ve not seen it anywhere else but here and every time I run across it, I’m sorely tempted to dig it up and take it home.  I don’t, but it’s so pretty I would love to have it growing in the flower beds.

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There was one brave little plant peeking its tiny leaves out and seeing what life might be like above the soil.  I hope he tells his friends it’s ok to come out too.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #952: Breath of Spring

Some gifts seem to be born directly from heaven.  I would count the flowering bulbs among such delights.  Their very nature is to give beauty in the most unexpected of places and times. In the middle of a snowy winter little leafy bulbs push through the frozen soil and prepare to dazzle with an early springtime display that entices the senses.

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It’s still too early for such activity from the bulbs in the front garden, but thanks to forced blooms available at the store, we can enjoy a little sample of spring in January.  Our local Krogers had these lovely arrangements of tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths.

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It’s been a joy to watch the blooms progress and they are in the height of their glory now.  When I took these pictures, the hyacinth was still largely comprised of buds.  It’s completely open now and you can smell it’s heady fragrance in the whole room.  It’s stalk is so heavy with sweet blooms that it can’t even hold itself up!

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The lovely bouquet is a breath of spring and a promise of what’s to come.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #951: More Woodcuts

I’ve been amusing myself this winter by multiple visits to the Art Museum.  I bought a membership last April right before they started charging admission – and it’s been a great investment, especially when it’s too cold to do anything outside.  And when it does warm up, the museum also has a nature park of over 35 acres to romp through.  This is all introduction to tell you I have more woodcuts by Gustave Baumann to show you today.  I hope you’re not tired of seeing his work.  I’ve become somewhat obsessed with his life and art and have made a couple of trips to see his exhibit.  We’ve covered his time in Nashville, IN, his travels out west, and today I’ll show some of his work inspired by his home.  After a brief stay in Taos, Baumann decided it was too tourist-oriented to live there and settled in the smaller historic town of Santa Fe.

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From 1918 until his death in the early 70s, he lived and painted in the southwest.  He was forever inspired by the dramatic landscape and vivid colors, as well as the rich cultural history of the area.  He was an avid lover and supporter of Native American culture.   Hidden away at the base of the Frijoles Canyon in the woodcut above, are the remains of a pueblo village and a traditional Native American processional.  One of the guides told us that Baumann loved to frame his paintings with a tiny horizontal stream of action in front of a huge landscaped background.  That’s certainly evident in this piece.

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Although these scenes are inspired by Santa Fe and surrounding regions of the southwest, I was struck by how similar they are to my beloved Colorado Rockies.  Ponderosa pines like these are a common sight.  I’ve often tried to frame scenes like these in my own pictures of the mountains.  The sunrise breaking over the mountain crests and flooding the valley with light is breath-taking.

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Another scene common in the Rockies (and apparently in Santa Fe too) is a great thunderstorm rolling in during early summer.  These storms never fail to impress me with a sense of awe (and sometimes fear, if hail is involved).  As the rains taper down the sky remains a deep slate gray, but the sun starts to filter through and turns all the land golden, even while glistening raindrops still fall.  It’s one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever witnessed and I love how Baumann obviously felt wonder at the same weather patterns too.

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This is the last woodcut I will show you from the exhibit (there maybe another post on his other pursuits).  It is my very favorite and I’ve stared at it for long moments, willing the picture to come alive and suck me into it (sort of like a Narnian experience).  “Mountain Pool” was recreated from a sheltered valley in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, but again, it is strongly reminiscent of the Rockies.  I love this woodcut so much – it really feels like a doorway to another world.  When I look at it, I feel the sun and breeze on my skin, smell the sweet grass and pine, and hear birds overhead singing with the gushing water.  Just looking at it pierces my soul with fierce joy and homesickness.  I think to some extent all of Baumann’s work has that effect – making me homesick for a world I’ve never known – but this piece is his capstone, him magnum opus that perfectly captures his heart and love for wild places.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

 

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Gift #950: A Taste of Summer

The stamping magazine that I submit my cards to operates 6 months ahead of reality.  That’s pretty normal for the publishing world, or any kind of designing really – you need to start prepping for a season well in advance.  But it’s a little strange for me to think that way as I tend to enjoy creating based upon the season I’m experiencing.  Because of this schedule, upon the turning of the year, I found myself busily creating summer-inspired cards.  This is not a problem when I need to create fall cards in spring – I can create fall cards anytime, anywhere because part of my heart always resides in fall.  However, summoning up images of hot sunny days and bright flowers is a bit of a challenge when faced with dreary skies, withered brown leaves, and the occasional blanket of snow.

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The card template we had to design with featured a tag shape – I was excited about this as I had just unearthed some die-cuts in tag shapes with seasonal quotes on them.  I used two on cards for this series because they were just perfect.

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I’m  especially fond of the quote on this card – “One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”   Pink, yellow, and green are such happy colors together.  This card makes me smile.

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I tried to use bright colors for this set of cards.  You’ll note that although I hate working with red, I do love coral tones and find that I tend to use this color quite frequently, especially paired with aqua and kraft.  It’s a trendy combination and in this card, I used patterned papers with that color scheme and stamped several feathers as the focal point.  These feathers are great and I’ve even used these stamps to cut some feathers out of copper for use in a jewelry project.

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This is the last card I’ll share today.  I think it is my favorite of all that I made for submission this time round.  I bought this stamp set and several other coordinating ones from Darcie’s Stamps in Cincinnati last August at the stamp convention.  I loved the floral, sketchy look of these stamps – they are perfect for coloring in with inks and a watercolor brush.  I’m still deciding if I’m on board with the arrow trend but I like the way that motif plays in the stamp and background paper.  It makes for an encouraging, happy card.

I’ve decided that making summer cards in winter is a wonderful occupation.  It’s an anticipation of joy to come and for that I’m grateful.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #949: Back in September

While temperatures sit solidly in the teens (as the high) I find myself increasingly tempted to look with longing upon the spent summer months when it was 70 degrees warmer.  Truth be told, I do like a cold winter because it’s good for curling up on the couch, knitting, drinking hot beverages, reading, and general “staying at home” behavior.  I do have bouts of “stir-crazies” though because I love being outside and hiking and one can’t do that when it’s 15 with 3 inches of snow on the ground.  So  I remind myself that each season is unique and special and… when is it going to be spring again???

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In the midst of recalling the heated, sunny days of past summer, I recalled that I had grown lax in blogging about my monthly jewelry efforts and I still had September’s to show.  Ahh September… a glorious month when days are long and warm and the barest tinges of autumn color seep into the leaves.  It’s the time when you can soak up sun and enjoy the tang of an early apple.  My calendar art for September was supremely southwestern-inspired with peachy flowers and a lizard!  He’s is no decidedly rejoicing in the heat of a flat rock in the brilliant sunshine of a garden.  As I look back at this picture now, it reminds me of a scene that Gustave Baumann might have found in his Santa Fe garden.  He would no doubt have had lizards year-round and I’m sure he would have appreciated their finer qualities.  I did see a wood-cut print that he made of his garden and it was full of bright cheerful flowers and adobe walls and looked just like a desert oasis.

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The jewelry needed to feature reptiles – no doubt about it – but I was at a loss to find a suitable lizard.  The ones I did find were huge, gaudy with imitation gems, and completely without charm.  So I decided to go with some little turtle charms that I had – they are still reptiles and I can claim artistic license.    I had a lovely vine-shaped brass piece , and the leaves mimicked the shape of the foliage in the painting, so I attached the turtle to the vine and made a slightly asymmetrical focal.  The rest of the necklace was filled in with czech glass beads from my collection.  They are full of the sage green, peaches, and bronze colors of the painting.  I love how all the colors blend and mingle with each other and give a warmth and richness to the necklace.

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The earrings are long, dangly creations with a turtle captured within a large jump-ring as the focal and wire wrapped czech beads on brass earwires.  I’m especially fond of the glass leaves because they are a soft green color with peach/beige veins which perfectly bring out the peach tones in the palette.  The czech glass rondelles are some I bought many years ago that are a mix of transparent and opaque green glass with a hint of blush.  They are mesmerizing and I was happy to find such a perfect use for them.

So go forth to meet the cold blasts of winter armed with the knowledge that warm summer days filled with flowers and soft breezes will be coming our way again and lizards will visit us once more.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #948: Light and Shadows

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness” – Desmond Tutu

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“Find beauty not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and the dark which that thing provides” – Junichiro Tanizaki

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“To love beauty is to see light” – Victor Hugo

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In the weeks leading up to our Christmas trip, it had been very gray and cloudy in Indy.  Apparently Texas had been hogging all the sun, for it was bright and sunny most of the days we were there.  I soaked up every ray that tickled the earth with brightness.  On a walk up to Mt. Bonnell in Austin, the bright sunlight made the landscape radiant and the dance of light and shadows on the vegetation was breathtaking.  I hope you are enjoying some sun in your corner of the world.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #947: A Man Well-loved

The world has lost another bright soul today and is certainly the lesser for it.  Like so many others, I awoke this morning to the shocking news that Alan Rickman had passed away and I cried.  I’ve dearly loved him ever since I first saw Sense and Sensibility.  That film awoke a life-long interest in Jane Austen and made me an Anglophile, especially of the Reagency period.  Although I’ve seen Mr. Rickman in a variety of roles, he will always be first and foremost my Colonel Brandon.  He was a rare actor, who took obvious delight in crafting his roles.  Acting was not a job, it was a calling for him and he excelled at it.  In his hands, the most simple of roles could be raised to breathtaking complexity and brilliance.  His movies have been so much a part of our lives that it’s hard to believe he is gone and we will not see his face or hear his voice again.

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One of my most loved roles of his was as the voice of Absolem the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.  I enjoyed that character immensely; especially in finding traces of Mr. Rickman’s face in weathered blue caterpillar’s.  A scene from that movie kept playing itself in my mind today.  It’s when Absolem travels to visit Alice and encourages her to embrace her destiny and slay the Jabberwocky, even though it’s great danger to herself.  During their conversation Absolem is weaving his cocoon and slowly disappears into it.  Alice asks him if he’s going to die.  Absolem chuckles gently and says “transform”.  At the end of the movie we see a great blue butterfly fly to Alice’s shoulder and she says “Hello Absolem”.  That scene of death and new life has been a comfort today.  This evening as I left knit group, I noticed that the moon was in its crescent moon stage and appearing much like the Cheshire Cat’s smile.  Given that the sequel to Alice in Wonderland will be Alan Rickman’s last film, it seemed a special goodbye for such a remarkable man.

Goodbye Mr. Rickman and thank you for making the world a more beautiful place by your time with us.  I will love and miss you…. always.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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