Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nibs and brushes

I've been playing with my nibs and favorite pots of ink, and oh, what fun! I have been so long telling myself it's silly to "waste" my time puttering like this, but finally decided to give myself permission to simply explore.

And what a good time it's been playing like this... sticking my silhouettes into collagey mixes.

Here are a sample or two and I'll share more peeks very soon.

At this point I'm still wondering if they're salable or just for my own pleasure. Either way I think I'm going to keep on. It's just too much fun not to!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The essential Christmas

I never expected to spend the week before Christmas in the hospital.

The cookies never got baked. The gifts are as yet unwrapped. But I am home, safe, celebrating the essential Christmas: firelight and family and the joy of the Baby's birth.

It's enough.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Making another Christmas surprise...

So now that I've shared Mr. Wonderful's first gift book, I can't resist sharing peeks at the second.

This one's about the favorite hideaway for both of our grandparents, who didn't know one another but brought us each to the Sierra Nevada each summer. Imagine our surprise when we took our first married camping trip and ended up finding out we'd pitched our tents in the same campground all those years!

I think this one fairly reeks of summer. And I love that.

I was aiming at a "you're back in the Sierras again every time you open the book" feel. I have a hunch my husband is going to love his gift. Fingers crossed!

Homemade gifts are always the best.

So that's a peek at a few of the pages...

I ended with one of my trusty mottoes to live by.
This is a timely concept in a society that wants us to do the opposite.

Thinking of the Sierras has brought me that reminder, and a precious one it is at this season.
Are you making gifts of your own?
It's that time of year when I think everyone should spend a few hours sequestered in a back bedroom giggling over the gifts we make.
Which is why I intend to spend the afternoon in the studio happily making gifts.

What are you making this year? Bath salts? Necklaces? Mugs?
Do share!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Making a Christmas surprise...

Do you have a hard time shopping for that Special Someone?
 I do!
Mr. Wonderful is nearly impossible... he has everything he wants, and if not, he simply buys it.

But this year I've finally got a great plan. I made him two books that are being printed on Shutterfly even now. Can't wait for him to open my gift this year.
This is the book I made about our recent jaunt to Spain, Italy & France.

But since I've never been good at keeping a surprise gift completely mum, I thought I'd share a few little peeks with you!
Mr. Wonderful is too busy working in a store at Christmastime to read my blog, and don't you tell him if you see him before Christmas Eve!

The details of Europe amazed me... I think I spent most of the time there half swooning. No wonder I got a crick in my neck. I was always looking up. *


 Next I'll share a peek at the other book, that one about summer hikes in the Sierras.
Hope you are enjoying playing Santa at your house! Don't you just love all the flurry behind closed doors? Homemade gifts are the very best.**

Monday, December 14, 2009


Dusting smacks of housework but in this case I'm loving it.

That light coating of snow is beautiful.

"But it's going to melt in no time," said the grumpy man in the store.
I had an almost irresistible urge to stick my tongue out at him. Caught myself just in time,
and reminded myself that I'd look like an overgrown third grader.

Even if it does melt today, don't you agree that a little dusting of snow is a terrific winter thrill?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Away in a manger

I don't know about you, but for me it just wouldn't be Christmas without hearing at least one group of children sing "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night."

There is something inexpressibly wonderful about the sweet voices of children, isn't there?

The shimmer of lights on the tree this weekend, and the children singing, the gifted musicians in the orchestra and choir performing Handel's Messiah nearly bowled me over, even while I was arranging tray after tray of cookies for the crowd to eat after the performance.

The perfume of those homemade cookies! The swelling of the music!

I can hardly carry a note myself but even I was singing along under my breath when they got to the Hallelujah Chorus. What wonderful music that is!

And then being such a visual person, the lights, the glitter, the beauty of everything...
Well, it just carries you away sometimes, doesn't it?

Then to top off the weekend of holiday wonder, it began to snow this morning! Alison looking out the windows, dressed in her Christmas finery and captivated by the drifting snowflakes made me realize again that this is truly a season of miracles.

And like Alison I want to savor each moment.

Tomorrow we are supposed to wake up to fresh snow. Hurrah!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Looking for the beautiful

Does it ever seem to you that everything is gray and cold? That you break everything you touch, that the harder you work the less is done?

Well, that was me today.

So I decided I might as well abandon the struggle and go in search of something beautiful instead. 

In Steve's orchard the last stray apples hang like festive ornaments on an odd but lovely Christmas tree.


Just down the road I found some tiny purple winter berries.

Frost melted on a fence. I snapped a photo as the droplets began to freeze again.

Then I spied a long line of doves perching on a fence rail, enjoying the winter sun.

Even a bad day has its share of beauty if we simply stop and look.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Walking at dusk

The days are so short here in December that I often find myself walking at dusk.

Past farmhouses.
Barking dogs.
Signs. "Baskets. Fresh Organic Produce."

I love this little valley, with its friendly people and wide open spaces. But today I think I love the bare trees best of all.

This cottonwood makes me sneeze in summer but today its bones are so tall, so strong, so majestic, I pause in admiration.

Simple farmscapes comfort me with their backdrop of evergreens, the foothills of the Cascades and gilded pink clouds.

I head down the road for home in my torn running shoes. What joy to be back where I belong, under the trees and sky of our own valley.

Simply beautiful.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thinking back: faces

The faces of France and Italy linger in my mind...

The musicians playing with all their hearts, some earnestly puffing until their faces are purple with effort...

And the fisherman on the coast near Rome, who rode his bicycle and then plied the water, just as Italians have done since time began.

Sellers of eggs and mushrooms, jellies and cheeses and thin-as-parchment tuiles...

I wonder who are they really? What are their hopes and joys and disappointments?


I've met them in the street and on the train, exchanged a few words and a smile. But I long to go back and know the dreams of their hearts, to share recipes for the fig bread with the baker in Provence and the glories of mixing pigment with gum arabic in the Luberon.

I muse endlessly (am I the only one who does?) about the faces of France and Italy when they were Gaul and the Roman Empire. Who modeled for the cherub on the map at the edge of the door to the Sistine Chapel? Or the nymph across the way?

Who were those faces? Were they the painters children, who grew and became parents themselves?

Do you wonder about these things, too?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gifted hands

The fruit of other artists' hands never fails to delight and astonish.

Across France and Italy, from the hands of craftsmen and artists of many centuries, you can see wonders to dazzle the eyes.

This older Italian gentleman made me long to run for my long-neglected gravers and have a go at a shell or two. Such is my admiration for his artistic touch with the simplest of materials.

I wonder at the skill of this man's hands and his imagination.

He only speaks Italian and I do not, but we did communicate, and he had never met an American before who appreciated the feel of a fine hardwood graver in her hand.

But most of the artisans of Europe are long gone and their work must speak for them, leaving mysteries speaking loudly.

Tarquinia's sarcophagi, made by Etruscan craftsmen centuries before Christ. Who were these stone carvers? What were their tools?

Who designed the motifs that seem to almost fold and layer on Pompeii's column capitals? I muse over their design method... did they sketch first on a paper-like substance? Use something to model it first?

Street signs, paintings in the brothels... You can see the results of these imaginative ancient hands but not the tools or methods.

I am left staring, pondering, curious about how these brilliant minds made their art. I'm shocked at the sophistication and beauty they built into raised cobbled stone sidewalks, public drinking fountains and graceful clay amphoras.

Will we, I wonder, leave behind anything half so lasting? And what can I learn from the gifted hands of artists both ancient and modern?