Tuesday, March 31, 2009

And There Was Great Rejoicing...

'Cause the boats started running today!!!

Only three trips per day to start, no Sunday service and it's the slooooow boat, but still our horizons have just suddenly expanded.

If you look closely, you can see how thick some of the flow ice is; what you can't see is just how much flow ice there is out in the Straits and how fast it's moving - it changes hour to hour.

Just the first sign that "the season" is on it's way!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Herbarium Update

I've been working on Mary Todd's herbarium this weekend. I collected all the plants I'm using when she visited last October, it was quite a challenge to find nice examples of various plants that were small enough in scale for the doll. I'm having to "compose" my pages from bits and pieces, as opposed to mounting an entire plant.

Tickets are still available for the Mary Todd doll raffle:

Contact Kay Dodge at Patriot64@aol.com regarding tickets, please put Mary Todd in the subject box. Tickets are 5 for $6.00 or $1.50 each. The drawing will be held in mid-April at Camp Nelson.

I owe a huge "Thank You" to zibboon , an artist at Etsy, for custom creating the wonderful little book - the scale is perfect!

So back to the tweezers and tiny brush to apply the glue...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Want To Ride My Bicycle!

Well, we finally pulled the bikes out of the basement, pumped up the tires, checked the brakes and lubed up the chains. There's still lots of ice and sludge between us and the main road, but we can push through that and once we make it through, there's a strip of road all the way down the hill.

Now, you must realize, it's only in the 30's, maybe the 40's on a good day, so I'm still wearing, boots, heavy parka, two pairs of gloves, headband and neck gaiter, but the bike just gives such a sense of freedom, it just felt so good to jump on and peddle away. And where else but Mackinac, would you be passed by a snowmobile as you ride your bike to work! Each one of us pushing the season, one working to avoid the snow and the other clinging to each patch they can find.

So in honor of my first bike ride "up the hill" (a notable achievement for those of you not familiar with Mackinac), here are a few bicycle themed items from some creative artists at Etsy:

I love this photo from FeralGoat, with the fenders and the cloth tucked under the seat (so as to avoid a wet behind) it could almost be an Island bike - it's just missing the basket and bungee cords.

Here's a great example of upcycling, from pixelthis .

And finally, just for fun, this cute necklace from kissmejewelry

"Playing With Fire"

Just wanted to share my latest finished piece, "Playing With Fire"
This was made as a submission for the weekly Thursday Sweet Treat Challenge, this week's theme was "A Flicker of Imagination".
I'm working outside my usual boundaries again this week, very graphic, almost cartoonish and like last week, not as polished or refined.

This is a bead embroidered ACEO, the design was just free handed, not planned out in advance. It's a small piece but I still managed to use nearly twenty colors !

Fire and imagination/creativity have much in common:

Both start with a tiny spark.
Both require nurturing and feeding.
Both combine utility with beauty.
Both can be all consuming.
Both can be dangerous - Allowing imagination free rein can be very liberating, but for many people, a dark shadow is lurking, care must be taken in pushing boundaries - sometimes they push back and you can get burned.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fashion Recycling!

A couple years back I came across a beaded bracelet in an 1857 edition Of Peterson's Magazine, for once the period instructions were actually useful - not the typical, "any lady can make this design by studying the image". Still it took a bit of looking to find rings and of the proper size, but eventually, I worked it out and ended up with a perfectly fitting bracelet.

I taught a workshop at the Ladies & Gentlemen of the 1860's conference; it was based on this design:

I wear it for everyday, as well as living history events and most people are amazed when I tell them the design is 150 years old - they all are convinced it is modern.

Recently I found an interesting site, Craft Stylish, and while browsing around found instructions for this bracelet:

Exact same concept, just without the beads! (Of course, I think beads make everything better)

I do have a booklet with instructions for the period bracelet and several other ring crochet projects available in my Etsy shop.

The cliche is true - everything old is new again!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

All In a Row

I finally finished this bracelet - it was just one of those things I kept procrastinating about, but as it's meant to be a companion piece to "Follow the Sun", I'm really relieved to have it done at last.

I didn't want to recreate the sunflower on a bracelet, as I thought it would be too overwhelming. So I went much simpler, the row of accent beads is meant to represent the uniform rows in a field full of cultivated sunflowers.

On to the next project!

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Small Tradition

There are many small traditions here on the Island, traditions that the casual visitor will never be aware of and one of these happens on the first day of Spring.

On that day, one of our local florists (whose shop here on the Island is, of course, closed until the season starts) walks the streets and the few open establishments with baskets full of carefully wrapped little packages of daffodils, still tightly in bud, which he presents to anyone he encounters.

We're weeks away from having daffs blooming in our yards; there are small signs of rebirth for those who look closely, but Spring is not here yet, regardless of what the calendar may state. It's a simple pleasure to have these buds slowly unfurl as they soak up warmth and water and a reminder that warmer days will soon be here, allowing us to also unfurl and shed our winter layers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Melt

It's been creeping up on us for the past few days, but today it started with a vengeance, 61 degrees out and everything is melting!

Water always finds it's way, cutting channels as it flows down.

There's still ice out on the lake, but topped with plenty of standing water.
Our roads are not plowed to the pavement, the snow is just packed down to a firm base; the melt results in huge ruts and puddles several inches deep, acres of slush and debris floating to the surface. All of it freezes up again at night, the melt resumes each morning.

This freeze/thaw cycle creates it's own kind of beauty, delicate ice designs:

The diehards will be forced to give up their snowmobiles soon and bike days are quickly approaching!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

An Adornment

This is an image from the August 1860 edition of Peterson's Magazine. This is one of the rare projects with directions that are actually useful, not the usual "any lady can make the above by looking at the picture". The directions call for a tortoise shell or horn comb with holes bored along the upper edge. The upper pearl beads are attached with wire, the lower swags strung on silk.

Here's my interpretation:

I substituted a plastic comb for the tortoise shell or horn and used metal filigree beads rather than pearls. I've not found any modern imitation pearls with a proper mid-19th century look. This is just a prototype, there's a few errors and things I would change on the next attempt, but overall I'm pleased - it sits well on the head and entices a second look with sparkle and movement.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My Poor Hands!

I recently returned from attending the 15th annual Ladies and Gentlemen of the 1860's Conference sponsored by the Genteel Arts Academy. The conference was, as always, fabulous. The quality of speakers, presentations and workshops are topnotch, as well as the displays of original clothing and other artifacts.

Each year a needle work competition is a feature of the conference, here's information on this year's:

Many of you are interested in reproducing mid-19th century clothing and accessories. It's time to get out your work basket and create an entry for this year's competition for the best reproduction of a pair of slippers c.1855-1865.
Your slippers may be for a man, woman or child. You may use any period technique or material, including but not limited to embroidery, Berlin work, knitted, crocheted, beadwork, cloth or leather.
Your entry must be an item commonly found and used between 1855 and 1865 and should be made using period construction techniques.
Two prizes will be awarded: one for the best reproduction as judged by the speakers; and one for the entry selected by popular ballot of the conference participants. Judging will be based on total points awarded for:
Overall Appearance, Fabrics and Materials, Trimmings and Embellishments, Construction, Workmanship/quality of detail, Documentation and Judges' Points. Each judge has the option of adding additional points for outstanding effort in any of the categories.

And here's my entry:

The pattern is from the August 1860 edition of Godey's Lady's Magazine.

They are cut in one piece from buttery red leather, with decorative chain stitching. They have a quilted silk lining and are bound with wool braid tape. They close with antique shoe buttons. They were assembled entirely by hand.

This was my first experience working with leather and it's tough! My poor thimble is beat up, literally pierced through and my hands looked like hamburger by the time I finished.

But it was all worth while....I won the judge's award!!!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Botanical Inspirations

Botany was an overwhelming influence in the Victorian era; botanical images can be found in textiles for clothing and the home, furniture, silver services, literature, and especially artwork .

Botany continues to inspire artists today, here are some of my favorite Etsy artists who choose to interpret botanical images in their artwork:

petalpusher creates wonderful collages inspired by vintage botanical prints.

theseaweedknot has an incredibly graphic, mixed media piece featuring pressed seaweed.

Another mixed media piece from laffcoriandre, featuring "words and plants".

Here's a piece from AlgaNet that replicates it's Victorian origins in every way; it's absolutely lovely!

Another mixed media piece from thevysherbarium .

Visit these Etsy artist's shops to see more of their delightful artwork.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Spring is in the Air?

It sure doesn't feel like spring, it's a brisk 10 degrees out today, and we recently received a good eight inches of snow. But the birds seem to have other ideas; they're everwhere in the woods, flittering about and very vocal. And they're absoluely swarming the feeders and have become quite fearless - I had to shoo them away to fill the feeders! So I went in and grapped the camera, I'm only about two feet away from them in these shots:

Maybe it will be an early spring!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bound for the Future

Today, magazines are considered pretty disposable - we skim them, maybe pull out a recipe or two and discard them (hopefully in a recycling bin). But in the mid-19th century, magazines or periodicals were taken more seriously. They were read cover to cover, shared with friends and neighbors and sometimes bound in an "annual" containing an entire year.

These carefully saved magazines are a goldmine for the living historian, containing a large variety of details of everyday life, or at least details from a middle class perspective. I recently added to my collection, a bound edition of Graham's Magazine for 1855.
It's enormous, almost four inches thick! This is an especially nicely bound edition, look at the beautiful endpapers:
19th century magazines usually contained works of fiction, short stories or serialized longer works. These are usually cloyingly sentimental by modern tastes (and the poetry is even worse), but are useful for the little details they describe: what kind of dog does an elderly lady keep as a pet, attitudes toward servants, what to wear to church, etc. Sometimes these are illustrated:

These illustrations can also yield some wonderful details, for instance, the birdcage in the background, the upholstered sofa, and why is she wearing her bonnet indoors?

Fashion plates are almost always included, to tempt the ladies of the household:

As well as patterns for fancywork:

While Graham's is intended for the whole family, other magazines such as Godey's Ladies Book, were more slanted for the ladies and contained more recipes, fashion, advice on child rearing, etc. - just like today.

Some things just don't change - what would the magazines of today indicate about us to the historians of the future?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Piper and Two Nutcrackers

I just purchased these medallions from My Shangrila on Etsy. It was the squirrels that originally caught my eye, they were cute and looked so familiar. And then I realized, I own a couple other objects with the same image - A Piper and Two Nutcrackers by Landseer.

Here's my vintage print.

And here's a candy tin from the Squirrel Candy Company.
No wonder they seemed familiar!

I don't have specific plans for the medallions but they have an Arts and Crafts era feel to them, so perhaps I'll go in that direction with them.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Location, location, location

It just all depends on your perspective, while many parts of the country are struggling with large amounts of snow, here on the Island we were delighted to receive a good eight inches a couple days ago. We have a great base on the roads again, the ski trails are great and the woods are just lovely!

When we lived downstate, we dreaded hearing that snow was on the way - the shoveling, trying to drive in it, dealing with school closures, but now we're elated to hear a good snow storm is on the way - as the saying goes, it's all about location!