Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hello, it's me!

It's been quite some time since I've posted anything! What can I say? Life got crazy busy all of a sudden ~ but I'm back now and will be posting on a regular basis. Lately, I've been receiving some email questions about my work and process and I plan on addressing them here. Drop me a line if there's anything you'd like to know. Sharing arty ideas is fun.

Thanks to those who stopped by to visit my booth in April! It was lovely to see some old friends and make a bunch of new ones. Below is a shot of the Smithsonian Craft Show floor before it opened to the public. It's an amazing place to set up shop, that's for sure. The folks who make this show happen every year are amazing. They work tirelessly to keep the show fresh and interesting for visitors and artists alike. It's an honor to be selected and I feel lucky to have gotten in three times.

Opening festivities for the craft show include a preview party. Again, the organizers treat the artists well and put on one nice spread. We were well fed that evening and that trend continued throughout the week. I never had to bring a lunch! Anyway, the preview party features an awards ceremony and welcoming remarks from the Secretary of the Smithsonian and other dignitaries.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Those wacky Dutch went through their tulip mania phase in the 17th century with tales of fortunes being traded for a single bulb. Apparently, the Brits experienced their own version of flower frenzy ~ as Victorian England went bonkers collecting new varieties of orchids. Given that orchids grow in every habitat (except for desert and glacier) those collectors must have traveled to the ends of the earth.
Orchid madness is alive and well today ~ although the enthusiasts that I’ve run into seem like reasonable folk and not at all the sort that would kidnap your flower. But they sure know what they like!

Of all the botanical designs I’ve ever created, the orchids are always the ones that disappear first at a show. I always regret not having more to offer but the roots and details are so darned intricate it puts a limit on the number I can do without succumbing to my own form of orchid madness. This is one of my favorite pieces from my most series of orchid designs.

Click on the picture to enlarge. You can see a few more examples of this design by visiting my Orchid Set on Flickr.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Nature Studies

As I mentioned on some previous post, I enjoy being a docent at the Smithsonian's Naturalist Center in Leesburg, Virginia. They let me arrive once a week (usually Fridays) and hang out with their wonderful specimens. I try to be helpful but, honestly, I'm no science teacher and leading a 7th grade group through the concept of classification is way out of my league. That's a task better left to the professionals. My main goal is to make life easier for the staff by helping with extraneous little projects like installing artwork or helping design a lepidoptera index drawer. When I'm done looking helpful, I enjoy my own little scavenger hunt ~ opening drawer after drawer each brimming with natural history! "Kid in a candy shop" does not begin to describe my experience.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Spring Is On The Way!

As I write this post I can hear the sloshing shovels of my neighbors digging themselves out from under two days of snowfall. It's that wet and heavy half-frozen slushy-kind that is better left on the ground lest you find yourself face down in it. I've got 911 on speed dial just in case my neighbor's heart decides for him that it's time to stop shoveling. It certainly has been cold and gray for several days now and that has us all yearning for sunshine.

Spring really isn't all that far off ~ come to think of it ~ so what better time to share some new pieces fresh from the studio! I've recently completed two collections of spring designs that I'll be bringing with me to DC in April. The two below are my favorites from the bunch. Click on the images to see larger version of each.

Amaryllidaceae musicalus (id 813; image size: 7 w x 10.5 h inches). This piece includes maps and stamps as well as sheet music and Italian currency featuring Maria Montessori.

Crocus molluscianii (id 809; 7 w x 10.5 h inches). This design includes the decorative edging from vintage maps as well as snippets from an antique comic book about the life of Buddha.

There are six crocus and six amaryllis designs altogether. You can view the entire collection by visiting my photostream on Flickr. In the coming days I'll be uploading several other design collections including Orchids and Ferns.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Where You Work

The place I work in fills with light early in the day. Sun streaks across the room and warms the air. Neighbors wander off to where ever it is they go. The building is quiet and still. When in need of a dose of commotion, I walk down the block to bustling Market Street. It's always good to return and step back into the calm. Sit down and work.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Nature of Inspiration

The study of natural history reveals one over-arching theme that I find fascinating. Not one creature or element in nature is strictly one thing or another. A tree is not just a tree: a tree is both solid and liquid; hard and soft; rough and smooth. The more you study nature, the more complex it becomes. Every thing is an elaborate combination of opposites.

Consider the lowly mollusk. Icky snails. Slimy wormish creatures that live in a shell creeping slowly along the ocean floor. A basic life form that is everything at once: both rock hard and gelatinous; shiny smooth yet rough and sticky; vulnerable and also deadly; beautiful and ugly. A simple-brained creature that, in cross-section, reveals a structure that would require mathematical calculation to replicate. Complex but ultimately not. There is so much inspiration to be found in nature ~ in the world right outside the window. So much or none at all.

"In wildness is the preservation of the world" ~ Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Year

I woke up this morning with a HUGE list of resolutions in my head! Working harder in the studio is one of them. Writing regular blog posts is another. No reason I can't do both.
I've been having a grand time learning how to take better pictures. This is a photo of me (or rather, my shadow) in Harpers Ferry, WV on Christmas Day. Shadow will be a recurring theme in my work this year. Some of my favorite photos will be translated into large drawings and some will be mounted into handbound books. I'm looking forward to taking my work in a new direction!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fresh Cut

The weather man says we have some cool days ahead ~ giving me the perfect excuse to quit the driving around and get back to the business of making art. The sun pours through the window in the morning so that's when I do my best coloring.

I'm working on several series at once in order to have enough on hand for the holidays. Orchids are by far my most popular botanical and I sold out of those a while back. There are several more in the works that will be up and running on Etsy soon.

The three bulbs pictured below are from a series of fall crocuses that are brand new. They feature pieces of pages from some old comic books from India that I ran across a while back. They illustrate the life of Buddha in comic book form and are reincarnated here as botanical papercuttings!

Please stop by my new shop on Etsy if you haven't done so already. There is a little photo album in the column to the right that provides you a direct link to that site. If you enjoy browsing handmade treasures and learning about the people who make them then you'll enjoy shopping there. It's fun and easy to use ~ you're bound to make some new friends!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Regular Old Inspiration

And then, there's a lot to be said about just getting outside and wandering around. I just bought myself a pretty, blue camera ~ a Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS ~ and it comes with me everywhere I go. And I tend to go all over the place. Lately, I've been stopping by all the gardens, arboretums, and parks I can find. One of my favorite destinations is Oatlands House & Gardens in Leesburg, VA.

Both a National Trust Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark, Oatlands has a big mansion you can tour (yawn), a walled garden with acres of "secret" walkways (yippee) and a tomb! Very spooky.

The century-old Japanese maple trees are not to be missed. From a distance, they look like just a fuzzy canopy of green ~ but you have to get right underneath for this view. I highly recommend doing this if you're heart aches for something gorgeous to look at.

If you're an artist, you can sign up at the Carriage House and they'll let you walk the grounds for free. Otherwise, inspiration is $6 a pop.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Inquiry-based Inspiration

A while back, I got the urge to seek out some resources to help broaden my understanding of plant life and nature. As a former botany student (way back when) I enjoyed learning about plant structure, form, and systematics. My knowledge has waned a bit in the intervening years and, honestly, I wanted to get my hands on a microscope again.

Living not far from Washington DC, the obvious choice is visiting the Museum of Natural History. Before jumping in the car, I visited their website to see if they offered a resource room of any sort and what kind of credentials you needed for access. Voila! They offer a free, hands-on research facility, the Naturalist Center, located in Leesburg, VA ~ a tad closer than DC and I don't even have to drive downtown! It's open to everyone, free of charge, lots of parking. Microscope included!

What you encounter when you walk through the door, aside from the gracious staff, is a kid- and family-friendly activity room chock full of natural objects to touch and learn about. And then, there's the research library: endless cabinets of wonder:

It's hands-on ~ but there are proper ways of touching this stuff without ruining it for the next guy. The staff and volunteers will lead you through easy guidelines for opening drawers and not petting polar bears with the palm of your hand, etc.

They offer a sizable botany library and plenty of herbarium specimens to examine and photograph. For me, it's like a dream come true. It was all so amazing that the next thing I knew, I was filling out a volunteer application form ~ and have been going back every Thursday to help out. My current task is to frame the scientific illustrations donated by Johns Hopkins students using found or free materials ~ and to try and remember to get some reading in!