Monthly Archives: August 2013

Artist at Work

Self Portrait

I’ll be going to an alpaca fiber festival as a vendor in a few weeks. Yes, I turn alpaca fiber into yarn, but trying to get everything accomplished in such a short amount of time could make my HEAD spin! I’ve been photographing the alpaca, creating framed pieces, listing handmade items for sale on my Etsy shop and creating promotional materials.

Coming soon!

I have the opportunity to interview author Jennifer Echols, who will be presenting at the annual SCBWI Southern Breeze Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK) Conference in Birmingham, AL on October 12th.

WIK is a great place to get inspired, get tips on your craft, and learn about the business of children’s publishing. It’s also an opportunity to meet editors, agents, and a wonderful network of working writers and artists.

To find out more or to register, visit https://southern-breeze.net

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The Popcorn Wagon

After restoration

After restoration

Would you like to have some popcorn?

Fresh!

Hot!

Melt-in-your-mouth-with-butter-good.

Living on a creative path can take me in so many directions. Like when my significant other comes in and says, “Look what I found! We didn’t have one,” I know by now I’m going to be in for something special. That’s one of the things I enjoy about him—-his finding of the most unusual and creative distractions.

Before restoration

Before restoration

The Wagon was a sad looking little thing when it first came to us. Rust here. Rust there. Actually, rust was everywhere. You could see the ground through the floor when you looked inside. You could see light from the sky when you looked up, too. Dirt and dust and more rust.

I sighed. “Tell me about it,” I said.

And his story began, about the guy who had previously owned the wagon, who said it had come from an amusement park back in the early nineteen-seventies. About how it had been in storage and how most of the parts came along with it. He thought. And wouldn’t it be great to “fix it up” and put a real popcorn machine inside? Wouldn’t that be fun for Movie Night? Well, yes, I thought so too. The restorations began.

One of the things I’ve appreciated a lot about this project has been the joy in research for my writings/drawings. I actually LIKE looking for clues and trying to see where they might lead. I don’t know who the people were who carved their initials on the inside of the drawers in the wagon, but I appreciate the fact they left a few coins in there which were dated in the late sixties. I appreciate the help we’ve received from people who thought it might be a this-or-that and who gave us a website or contact name for information. I am grateful for people who actually answered the questions we didn’t know how to formulate because we didn’t know what we were looking for in the first place. And I will TREASURE the information, when I get through it, from the person who pointed me in the direction of an entire 220 plus paged catalog of photographs of a particular popcorn company. When I get a confirmation from a certified source, I can tell you what they’ve said.

I know, I know. You might be thinking, the girl has gone too far down the path. She does too much STUFF. Are you asking yourself, “Does a Popcorn Wagon have anything to do with Creative Living? Writing? Drawing? Alpacas? Spinning or Weaving?”
I’d like to share a quotation, if that’s all right with you:

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” ― Vincent van Gogh

When we show a movie on the side of the Big Barn on a starry night, we will have the MOST amazing popcorn to go along with it. What a wonderful finish to a creatively busy day.

Are you doing what you love?

Well done!

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Serenade

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Homer can really sing. He throws back his head and aMAzing sounds come forth.

His “warning cry” sounds like a cross between a gargle and a yodel. Think: Tarzan yell, if you remember what that sounded like on early Saturday morning television. Or if you’ve ever watched any of the Carol Burnett Variety Shows (1967-78) or caught them as “re-runs,” remember? She always had a request from someone in the audience to do the Tarzan yell and she always obliged.

Go ahead—try it yourself. Tilt your head back and let it fly.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

My barn/studio is in the pasture beside the alpaca shelter. I can sometimes tell what’s happening right outside my doorway just by listening, like I used to be able to do when my kids were younger. The sounds of tussle, tussle, thump, thump in an adjoining room would be followed by some kind of outburst from one of the kids. Then there would be the sounds of hurried footsteps as one child chased the other down the hall.

Alpacas do that, too. One animal gets too close to the hay that another animal was thinking about eating and it begins. Tussle, tussle, thump, thump, WARbling sounds and one is chasing the other through the pasture. I stop what I’m doing to watch–to pay attention–and listen. I give them a few minutes to sort it all out. They love cool water, so turning on the water hose is a good method of distraction. They crowd around me for a drink of fresh water. I hose down their legs and in a few minutes, all is forgotten. They roll around in the dirt together and soon they are eating grass in the pasture.

I smile. I remember. I laugh out loud. Something about all this seems familiar.

I smile because I have the privilege of watching my own three sons grow into fine young men. I remember days of trying to figure out positive encouragement as they learn skills to be able to navigate their own waters.

And I laugh out loud because, well, it feels good. Will you join me?

AAHHHHHeeeaheee………Ah!!!

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Goldenrod

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I am visited by an old friend when August comes around. Goldenrod! First, I’ll notice a few tall stems growing straight up towards the sun. Some stragglers will find their way to the fence beside the dirt road or along the path to the creek. They’ll make their appearance in the thicket where the blackberries used to grow. Soon I’ll see yellow clusters of flowers and I know Fall is not far behind.

I look for goldenrod every year, not only for the burst of color it will provide, but for the pleasure of its company. Goldenrod is SO much more than a “weed,” and is not responsible for the bad reputation it has gotten as a cause of misery for sufferers of hay fever. (That’s probably ragweed!) The pollen from goldenrod is too heavy to be spread by air and relies on insects and butterflies to get around.

Solidago, commonly called goldenrod, has at least a hundred different varieties and many different uses. It can be dried and used in decorations. It has been used for teas and herbal medicines. It attracts wildlife: among my favorites are Monarch butterflies, honey bees, chickadees, eastern cottontails and white-tailed deer. Goldenrod is the state flower of Nebraska and Kentucky, and is the state wildflower of South Carolina. Even inventor Thomas Edison was said to have experimented with goldenrod to try to produce rubber. His work utilized the leaves of the plant, not the stems or blooms.

Goldenrod can also be used as a natural dye and works well for alpaca, cotton, wool, silk or linen fibers. Depending on how the plant is processed, it will yield colors which range from light yellow to a dark olive-green.

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I cut the flowering clusters from the stems and separate them, while a pot of water begins to boil. I add a touch of alum and vinegar to the pot of hot water. I put a handful of alpaca fiber into a net bag to keep most of the plant matter out of it. In a few minutes, most of the plants will have boiled, so I turn the heat down to simmer and put the bag of fiber into the pot, too. The fiber bag will simmer on low heat until most of the color has been absorbed. Then I remove the pot from the heat and let everything cool. I’ll wash the fiber in clear water and let it dry.

When the fiber dries, I can comb or “card” the fiber, spin it into yarn, and have another wonderful memory of goldenrod!

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(New) Beginnings

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When I say, “I want to be a writer and/or illustrator,”

the advice I often hear is to:

A. “Write/draw what you know about.” B. “Write/draw what you’re passionate about.” C. “Write/draw what you want to learn about.” D. “Write/draw to please yourself first.” E. “Follow the Markets”/”Don’t follow the markets.”

What to do?

Attending writer’s conferences and taking classes in the craft of writing and illustrating have played a large part in my creative development. Having a strong group of creatives around me who critique my work and can give constructive suggestions for improvement has been priceless. I will remain forever grateful for lessons I have learned, even the ones which were difficult to accept. Thank you especially for those.

Here are a few thoughts I’ll pass along if you might be on your road to creative discovery:

Be Still. Listen. Ask questions. Try. Stop. Try again. Don’t Stop. Believe in and be honest with yourself. Take chances. Repeat as often as necessary. Make choices. Surround yourself with like-minded creative individuals. Somewhere during all that time you might discover what you really want to do as well as what you’re good at doing. You could also discover things that you don’t do as well as you thought, and that’s important to learn, too.

The illustration pictured above is called “Flower For A Friend,” and over the spread of many years has been published in two different magazine/newsletters. This drawing was originally done in colored pencil, then in b/w line art, then as a pencil sketch. It’s a simple little drawing, really, and what I see in it tells me something different about my work than it did when I first made the illustration.

It’s good to take a look at where you are in your journey every once in a while.  You can see where you’ve been and where you might want to go.

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Choices

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I am afforded the privilege of eating home-grown vegetables because we garden. I love to put seeds or plants into the ground: water, nurture and watch them grow. We plant corn, peppers, okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, potatoes and squash in either the “big” garden, or the “little” garden. My husband prefers the “tilling” method and breaks ground several times before planting. He weeds more often than I do. I put in some herbs, butternut squash and added an experimental section to the garden as well.

I say experimental, because I wasn’t sure if what I was trying to do would actually work. My plan was to lay out an additional small space without tilling it first. I put out newspapers and cereal boxes, topped it off with layers of hay, organic mulch and fertilizer, alpaca fiber and grass clippings. I chopped up small sticks and used them as a path between what would eventually become two raised growing areas. I covered the area with dark plastic and left it alone for several weeks. During that time I checked on the garden-space-to-be and yes, the earthworms seemed to be thriving. I hoped that would be a good sign for planting.

Now we are in “harvest mode.” My kitchen counter tops have garden produce covering them and only because of our staggered planting schedule am I able to keep up with preserving. I’d like to mention that our harvest has come as a result of both of our efforts: he likes his way of working, and I’ll most likely keep my additional garden space because I discovered it works for me.

This reminds me of a favorite poem I’d like to share:
Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.

The Road Not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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I think this poem has come to represent a good many things for me–not only with my choice(s) of gardening methods or vegetables to be grown, but in the choice of a creative path for writing and illustrating.

What will you choose to do today, and how will you do it?

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