Monday, July 18, 2011

The merry month (tapestry) of May...

In a few minutes I will be cutting this tapestry from the loom. It is the "May" tapestry in the calendar series. I had really planned to have a formal cutting off for this tapestry, but things are a bit unsettled around here, family-wise, so I'll just have a solitary event.

The tapestry was inspired by this little oil painting I did. I have always liked it, so decided to base one of the calendar tapestries on it. I cropped it to square, as the format for all of these pieces is 18"x18". Then, based on an obsession I was having at the time with cows, I added the cows from this photo I had taken from the train last spring.

This tapestry isn't as 'fussy' as the other calendar pieces are. If - or hopefully, when - they all hang together, this piece will provide a tranquil place for the viewers to rest their eyes. And I do think of May as a tranquil month, between Nature's busy changes in March and April and the heat of the summer.

As a side note, the "March" tapestry can be seen in the Fiber Celebration exhibit in Fort Collins, CO through the summer, and the "August" tapestry will be on exhibit in the Fiber Celebrated exhibit in Durango, CO opening this coming weekend. If you get to see either of them, please leave a comment to let me know!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

An artist's eyes.....

Yesterday I was talking to a woman about the profusion of wildflowers this year, and she admitted to me that, when it comes to flowers, she only can recognize roses and sunflowers. She said she 'wished' she knew more flowers, but just didn't know what the different ones are.

I have to confess that I was amazed. I recently read How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day by Michael Gelb. I was not overwhelmingly impressed by the book, though I enjoyed it, but I have read many other books that say the same things, and I seem to operate on the basic principle it eschews by nature. That is the principle of observation. Of looking to actually see, and then learning as much about what you see as you can. Da Vinci believed everything is related, so learning about one thing makes us interested in other things. Scientists, naturalists, and inventors all 'claim' da Vinci to be one of their own. But we know what da Vinci was: he was an artist. And artists must look at the world to see it.

When I was at the cabin last weekend, I heard a bird song that did not belong to the song of the 'regular crowd.' So I kept my eyes open, and soon spotted a Bullock's Oriole and his mate (she is the yellow one). (If you go to the link, listen to the lovely whistling call.) We have seen Orioles at the cabin and even in town before, but they are not our 'regulars.' I would bank on the fact that the woman I was talking to yesterday also does not know the names, calls, or look of many birds.

Also up at the lake, as we drove by on the way to our cabin, I spotted this tall flowering mass above the shrubs and wondered if maybe it was a wild hollyhock. We had to hike through the tall grasses and flowers to find out. Sadly, it was just the last flowering branch of a wild rose bush, and not the more rare hollyhock, but still, I had to find that out.

Sometimes I think I post too much about flowers and animals and birds and such on this blog (remember the many posts I forced upon you this spring about owls?). But I have noticed that other artists I admire also post about the natural world around them. How can we not? To be an artist is to be an observer, and, whether or not we include all we see in our art, it is all a part of our work. In fact our observations create our need to create.

So, no apologies for posting my birds and flowers and lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!) They are a big part of the tapestry which is my life. And I hope that is true for you, as well....

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The bear went over the mountain...

We went back up to our cabin yesterday for a quick overnight. We had gone up to mow around it to keep fire hazard etc. down, last weekend, but the cabin mower gave out, so we had to take another up this weekend so my husband could finish the annual chore.
As we pulled in, we saw a bear in our drive, finishing off the sunflower seeds from the birdfeeder. He had taken it down, and had also taken down the hummingbird feeder and had emptied it, as well. So I guess we'll have to quit leaving them out when we aren't there. Oddly, he had managed to get the hummingbird feeder off the cabin deck area where it hangs, and somehow unscrew the bottom off it, without breaking it. He had made it a filthy mess, though, so we had to do some serious cleaning before we filled it for the hummers.

He (the bear) had obviously been around awhile, because these bear scratches were in the aspen trees last weekend. He (or she?) may also be the same bear that emptied our seed feeder last summer, and left a few messes around the cabin.

He came back several more times over the time we were there. At one point, he and Booker seemed to sight each other at either end of the drive, because both turned around and headed the opposite direction, with my husband finding himself facing the bear, and with me wondering why Booker was hurrying so fast in my direction!

The lake is still full, which is really rare for this late in the season. The runoff from the snow feeds this lake, and the lake feeds irrigation systems and other water needs in our valley. Usually by this time, it is down quite a bit.

This little fawn had a staring contest with Booker, too. Fortunately, Booker was inside the cabin looking out through the window. We never saw the mother, but I'm hoping she was somewhere nearby.

And, of course, we hosted our summer hummer visitors, though I felt bad when I emptied their feeder before we left. It should be a good year for the bear in spite of my lack of generosity. The choke cherry bushes are loaded, and other berries are beginning to fill the trees and shrubs. I don't want him to hurt himself trying to get sugar water from our feeder, or to decide to hang out on our deck!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tapestry progress...

I have reached the half-way point in the "May" tapestry. As I reached this point, I looked ahead and saw that I will soon be needing a great deal of this color (below), plus some tonal variations of it for the sky area.

So far, this tapestry has been created from the yarn palette (weaver's may read 'stash') on my shelves. So I went to the yarn bins to find this color. I searched the 'blues' bin, to no avail. I searched the 'purples' bin; also, no luck. Panicking, I grabbed the 'greys/neutrals' bin; again, no luck.

ARRRRGH! I need it now! Well, at least, I need it tomorrow. I looked in my yarn suppliers cards and found a few things I could get and blend, but not by NOW. So I went to my local yarn store (which is, of course, a knitting shop) and came home with a lace weight pale variegated blue. Then I started mixing with some other light-weight lavenders and blues, and came up with the perfect mix, using yarns I would never have guessed would work well for that blended color I need. These lavenders, greens, and blues together make the perfect blue/purple/grey for the sky I will be weaving today or tomorrow!.... At least, I am counting on it being the perfect blend. I will ply them together, rather than just winding them together into individual butterflies. The plying will make the blend more impressionistic and pure than the linear blend winding individual butterflies gives.

So, I am keeping my yarns crossed, and taking that great leap of faith into the sky - well, you know what I mean. Don't you?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Taking a Walk on the Wild Side...

We went up to our cabin on the lake for a couple of days, before the Fourth of July crowds hit the campgrounds there. June is the most beautiful month there and, tho' it was technically July, the summer is so late in coming this year, we hit it in it's 'mid-June' mode. The wildflowers were all around, the lake is full, and the fish were biting so eagerly I think we could have caught what we wanted without bait! Booker got to go swimming several times, and he is less cautious about it this year, and seems to enjoy it more. He also loved running through the tall grass and wildflowers, scaring up grasshoppers or whatever he could scare up.

Just around the bend from our drive was this Deer Tongue. I had tried to transplant one to my home garden last year, with no success. I had never seen one in bloom. They are amazing! This one was 6 1/2 feet tall (taller than my 6'4" husband). The flowers are a subtle white and green. They remind me somewhat of small orchids.

I remember taking a walk almost 30 years ago at the cabin with my mother-in-law. She was so amazed at the number and variety of wildflowers. She carefully picked one of each variety that we saw (except the columbines, as it is illegal to pick them in the wild in Colorado), and she pressed them to take home to Kansas with her. I thought of that walk with her and other walks with my young sons a number of times as I 'collected' the wildflowers with my camera the other day. I frequently felt her presence and the presence of the young boys my sons once were as I walked in the woods, with flowers spreading like a carpet at my feet wherever I looked.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Heavenly scented days!

I have been doing my first harvest of lavender this week. I have 4 plants (lost one to the winter this past year), and they have been loaded with blooms for this first harvest! I have gathered so much to dry, I already have more than any past year. And there will be 1-2 more harvests yet to go!

I did have a brilliant idea this year (sometimes it takes me awhile). I had been drying the lavender hung upside down in bunches in my husband's office, as there are drying hooks above the windows there. But this year, it dawned on me that, as lavender is a natural moth repellent, I would be smarter to dry the herb in my studio, near my yarn shelves. DUH! We don't have a big problem with moths, but, hey, it doesn't cost me anything to be smart, does it?

So what is ahead? Lavender eye pillows for me and fellow migraine sufferers (it really does help!); lavender shortbread; lavender pound cake; lavender tea; and lavender blueberry cheesecake (I recently had some of this, and my mouth waters to even think of it!) Lavender is one of my favorite flavors, along with clove. Both are special treats: lavender for the summer and clove for the winter. And both must be savored as special treats in small amounts. It will be hard for me this summer, with such a huge harvest, to remember that 'small amount' bit! Lavender grows so well here, the area will be having it's first Lavender Festival this month. A new cookbook is promised. I can hardly wait!