Centerpiece Magic

Linda  050This candle mold (or is it a sugar mold?) is one of my favorite things, and I look for any opportunity to use it.  Thanks to my friend Lynne, there is new inspiration.

centerpieceThis was her centerpiece at a recent dinner.  For me, it was instant love, and I couldn’t resist deconstructing to see how it was done.

Linda  046In addition to the mold, here’s what is needed: a candle holder and candle, florist’s foam, burlap, scissors and flowers.

Linda  047Step 1:  Cut a small piece of the foam and stuff it into a candle holder.   Wet it thoroughly and place the candle in the middle.

Linda  048Step 2: Cut flowers of your choice to a short length and insert them into the saturated foam, covering the entire surface.

Linda  049Step 3: Cut burlap strips and work them among the candle/holders.

Linda  043Step 4:  Stand back and admire your handiwork.

From start to finish, this centerpiece is a simple one, but the effect is dramatic,  magical and can be adapted to suit many occasions.  Isn’t this just the kind of project we all like?

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Let’s Make It!

Maine house/diyThis clever and cute creation has been hanging on my door for several weeks, and every time I look at it I think what a wonderfully simple idea this is that anyone could do.

Let’s take a closer look to see how it’s done.  

diyBegin with a pair of toddler overalls. Dab with paint and for fun add a few patches.  I’d iron them on with stitch witchery.  Tie the legs with twine, stuff the overalls with polyester filling and finish the overalls off with seasonal items.  That’s all there is to it.

Now, let your imagination run wild.  What changes can you see for Christmas, Valentine’s, Easter, July 4…..heck, any other holiday?  As for me, I’m already imagining candy canes, a stuffed bear with a big red ribbon, pinecones and nuts falling out of the top of the overalls.  

How is yours going to look?

I would love to give credit to the person who came up with this idea, but I don’t know who it is.

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A Simple Fix

Maine houseA new sofa wasn’t the only thing the hubby felt was in order these last months.   He also thought it time for a new TV thanks to Time Warner having replaced our cable box with a new one that accommodated HD.  The result was a very blurry screen on the old TV.

Maine houseAt one time the old unit was a top of the line Sony with a big screen, and it fit perfectly into its custom space.  The same could not be said for the new shorter model which made me a little crazy.

Maine houseI guess the hubby got tired of my whining about the fit and came to the rescue with a very simple solution.  He cut a piece of 1/2″ birch plywood to fit the space above the new flat screen model, trimmed it to match the other shelves

Maine houseand mounted it inside the space on side rails.  The bottom of the shelf doesn’t show, so it wasn’t really necessary to paint the underside.

Maine houseSanded and painted it’s impossible to tell that the newly installed shelf hasn’t always been there.

Maine houseBest of all, I can now look at the TV without being distracted by the lack of perfection that existed.  Oh, and having that extra shelf provides one more surface on which to place special treasures.  A girl can never have too many flat surfaces, don’t you agree?

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Sunday Afternoon Delight

The Bayou City Art Festival is one of my favorite spring events in Houston.  It is one of the country’s largest outdoor art shows and features art in all mediums by more than 400 artists from all over the country.

Daniel Ng
Daniel Ng

This year’s featured artist is Daniel Ng who is said to paint with imagination but not from imagination.  As this painting interpreting the approach to Houston’s downtown shows, he is definitely a colorist.

As much as I like paintings, prints and photographs, my heart sings when I see beautifully crafted art of wood, fiber, metal, glass and clay.  It’s hard to pick favorites from so many wonderful pieces, but these represent some of the artists who caught my eye.

Amber Marshall
Amber Marshall

Amber Marshall hails from Spruce Pine, North Carolina, and her glass creations are wonderful for their color and delicate shape.

Gregg Rasmusson
Gregg Rasmusson

Interestingly, many of the clay creations were done by men, and it was exciting to see their use of color and design.  I particularly liked the energy of Gregg Rasmusson’s work.

Sally J Bright
Sally J Bright

Every time I see Sally Bright’s work my heart beats a little faster.  Her sculptural fiber pieces are graceful and show a wonderful sensitivity to color.

Eric Ober
Eric Ober

Two Houston artists got my attention.  Eric Ober’s sculpture is perfect for outdoor installation, and I could easily imagine one in my yard.

Thomas Irven
Thomas Irven

Thomas Irven is a wood worker whose craftsmanship shows a real sensitivity to his material.

Carlos Montanaro
Carlos Montanaro

Of course, I can’t resist looking at jewelry and am particularly drawn to unusual upcycled pieces such at that of Carlos Montanaro.

I wish you had been here with me today.  It would have been fun to share the excitement and see what caught your eye. 

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

PS  All the photos shown here are from the artists’ websites.  I hope you will take a look to see other examples from their talented hands.

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On the Porch

screen porchMost of my days start on the porch where I can hear the faint trickle of water from the fountain, hear bird sounds, think quietly, read and enjoy that first cup of coffee.

chamelionSometimes I’m joined by a little critter who found its way in and lounges above my head.  So long as he doesn’t jump down, I’m OK with that!

screen porchI had to beg and plead for this space when we built our house.  The architect and I envisioned it as something wonderful, my husband couldn’t imagine ever spending a minute there making the cost of the porch unnecessary.  I don’t remember now whether the architect just made it a part of the total design or if the hubby got so tired of my whining he gave in!  In any case, the porch has been much used and enjoyed.

screen porchUntil a few days ago, past their prime cushions were on most of the furniture and no where could I find replacement pieces.  After spending hours on the internet, I finally found Cushion.com in Sherman Oaks, CA.  Pick your sunbrella fabric, send your measurements and a couple of weeks later custom cushions are delivered.

embroidered pillowAdd to them embroidered pillows on sale at Pier One and there’s a whole new look.

holiday decor on the porchWith it being the holiday season I could see no reason for the porch not to have some festive touches.  Santa speeds by a candle lit tree, probably off to hear children’s special Christmas wishes.

holiday decor on the porchA reindeer finds its way onto the porch, no doubt waiting for Santa’s request to pull his sleigh.

holiday decor on the porchAs long as the weather stays nice, there’s no question many evening meals will be enjoyed here, and there’s no better time to use the Christmas dishes than now.

Santa platesWith their happy Santa design, these are my favorites.  They are Bella Ceramica and were ordered from an unremembered catalog some years ago.

porch tablescapeMother gave me the Spode Christmas tree glasses and taking them out of the cabinet for the season is like welcoming an old friend as well as a reminder of her.

porch tablescapeBecause they are so easy to make, I have many sets of seasonal napkins.  All you have to do is serge the edges, no hem required!

porch tablescapeIt’s time for that second cup of coffee.  If you are any where close, stop in.  It only takes a second to brew another cup, and it’s a beautiful day on the porch.

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What’s Old is New

The Della Robbia dishes and the dryer hose pumpkins are a Thanksgiving thing. Both are in a cabinet the rest of the year, but noThanksgiving table at our house would be complete without them.  The trick is finding something new to do with the same pieces year after year.

Looking through my stash of cloths and table runners, I came upon this wonderful handwoven fabric from Morocco.  Add an antique candle mold dotted with gourds, and there it is a new look for the pumpkins which stand out beautifully on the cloth.

There is a sparkling gold thread running through the fabric so in keeping with that the very quiet dishes are placed on a gold charger.  So far so good?

What to do with napkins to add a touch of fun?  I got the idea of using a toilet paper roll for a napkin ring here.  Luckily, I had a fabric sample book that had some just right colors that could be used to cover the cardboard and for that something extra, all I had to do was go outside and pick up acorns from the millions that are covering the ground.  With a little hot glue…..done!

Now, to put it all together and add candles that will give a soft glow at twilight.

The table is ready without too much fuss, and what will make it special are the people who will soon gather round.  Each one is so special to me, and their love and laughter will fill my heart.

Wherever you are, whatever your tradition, I hope you have a most wonderful day.

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The Morning After

Feet up in front of the fire. Sipping cappuccino.  Catching up reading blogs.  Remembering the people who wandered in over the last three days.  Thinking of how carefully each person searched for and found just the just right piece.  This is the aftermath of participating in the Artisans Tour in the Camden/Rockport, Maine area, a tiring but rewarding three days.

For weeks my work spaces have been chaotic as new pieces were created and  finishing touches were put on handwoven pieces.  There was a side benefit to sitting, working with my hands for hours on end. I watched all 46 episodes of Breaking Bad on Netflix.  That program is topic for a whole other discussion!

Most of the artists participating in the tour actually host in their studio.  Mine is upstairs in my home and with stairs being a little worrisome, the  entry and dining room  are converted into a mini shop.  Actually, using these areas provides a warm and inviting background for the displays.

Every surface is covered with my work and that of my friend Sasha, a most talented potter.  Our work is complementary, and a special bonus is spending time with her over the three days.  I couldn’t do this without her.

Everything in the house is potentially a prop.  My very high heeled purple, fuschia and orange shoes came in handy

as did the antique spice tins.  They were perfect display units for scarves and necklaces.  Amazing what a little ingenuity can do!

While the primary focus of our show is handwovens and handmade pottery, there are a few little whimsies like these cuddly little blankies and onesies, also handmade.

On the woven front, these hand towels were new this year and sold first thing.  As many years as I’ve been weaving, I’ve never done anything like these, and it was such fun sitting at my loom creating the different borders.  Since this was an experiment, there was only a short warp on the loom, but next time there will be more as there are more borders and colors floating in my head!

For both Sasha and me, this show represents hours and hours of work and a bit of fear over putting it out there.  It is not uncommon for artists to experience some shyness and vulnerability, and it is an incredible reward to receive positive feedback.    It provides the incentive to keep you going.  Any of you who create understand that I’m betting.

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More Studio Frenzy II

Thinking back to my childhood brought memories of my grandmother and great aunt sitting in front of the fire quilting, and I couldn’t help but think she might be smiling at my crazy quilt stocking.    With that in mind, I decided to explore another technique, a simple one that would combine handwoven and purchased fabric.

Remembering Grandma  sewing strips of random fabrics together for what she called a string quilt was my influence.

The stitched strips were layered with a piece of batting and the shape cut from a template made to fit the styrofoam cone around which the strips would be wrapped.

To embellish the seam lines, once again I relied on the embroidery stitches found on the sewing machine.  It is such fun to try all the patterns, and it doesn’t take long to find that some work better than other.

Finally, the pattern piece is wrapped around the cone and hand stitched where the sides join.  A little sparkle is added at the top, a twig became a trunk which is mounted on a scrap piece of board cut into a small square.  Scraps really do come in handy!

Hmmm, now that I look at the trees I see the makings of a centerpiece for my nontraditional holiday table.  Come back tomorrow to see how it turns out.

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More Studio Frenzy

Having an organized place to work is a treat, but I must confess that it’s hard to keep it that way.  Putting things back as they are used is a challenge, and the vacuum cleaner is running almost as much as the sewing machine!

What has been great fun is pulling out the scraps, finding pieces that work together and using them in creative ways.  Here’s what’s happening today.

Christmas stockings made from a collection of handwoven fabrics, cut and stitched on to a piece of muslin in a crazy quilt pattern.   When completed, it was laid atop quilt batting and a lining fabric and cut into a stocking, which can be any shape you desire.

Rather than hand embroidery, I tried a variety of sewing machine stitches and for embellishment added zippers and hem tape.

The back of the stocking is nothing more than a piece of complementary fabric.

The same is also used to bind the top edge.

Now, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care hoping that St. Nicholas will soon be there.

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Sewing Small

It’s been a long time since I sewed anything small, like really small.  In fact, the last time was when I made Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls for each of my girls.  (Hmm, wonder why they are still here.)  After a long absence, the pain of sewing small is but a dim memory , so  the time is right for another try.

The impetus for this craziness is the granddaughters’  collection of American Girl dolls that are referred to as the girls and with whom they share many activities.  FYI, this photo from their 8 year old friend is for the girls’ Christmas card!

Clothes for the girls are always important, so surely a new outfit is a good idea for a Christmas gift, so it’s off to the pattern store to see what is fashionable in the world of dolls.  Patterns for these gals are readily available, some quite fancy and surprisingly pricey.  I chose this one not only because of its variations but because it lends itself to being made from material that is in my studio.  Using what I have, you may recall, is one of my goals.

Cutting the pattern…..no difficulty, but once again I found the sewing to be challenging.  Now, these aren’t complicated pieces, but I found myself ripping out almost every seam which made me wonder if I’ve lost my touch at the machine!  

I think I could have made a full sized garment in the time it took to complete two outfits.  Please let them fit!  I’m not sure I have it in me to make an outfit for each girl, so I hope they don’t mind sharing.

And for the big girls?  Outfits are out of the question, but they will have headbands to match the girls’ new clothes.  Oh what fun!

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