Hands-on and happy

July 22, 2012

I’ve had some time this summer to play with materials and do a small wall painting I’d been planning.

After painting all those flowers on harpsichords, I thought our home deserved a little bit of that decorative cheer. More on that further down.

First, though, here is a sheepy button I found at a textile fair: the little feet dangle free on tiny ropes.

Happy sheep button

Actually, I couldn’t resist making him wearable, so I made a brooch:

Needle-felted hill with embroidered heather, and a needle felted cloud on a wool felt blue sky

I like to think of someone smiling as they put this on and discover the flower on the back

Next I decided to tackle two ugly oil stains on a favorite pair of workpants. Ok they are work pants, but still.
I’d bought a scarf for 50 cents at a rummage sale and cut out some designs from it. I sewed them on, wrong side up, which made the colours more muted and matched the faded trousers better.

Cutting up the scarf


Happy black drawstrings

And finally, there was a small, neglected bit of wall just inside our back door, outside the bathroom (WC for our UK readers).  I’d been wanting to jazz it up for a long while.


Voila, a piece of summer garden to welcome

Sweet pea detail

This was done with tempera on wall paint, which worked like watercolours.  I was ok with it when I stopped trying to get the deep rich colours of tempera on beautifully prepared sound board wood.

The work, by the way, was back-breaking, it took about 8 sittings, painting over parts several times where I didn’t like the curves.

I’ll choose a wall where I can stand and sit normally next time.

For photos of a mural I did years ago, on a slightly different scale, see below and click here .

Starting the waterfall for Jeroen’s Jungle

Fox terrier tales

June 28, 2012

Warning, high cuteness factor.

Some mysterious animal has been raiding our strawberries.

Bigger than a slug for sure, (and smart enough to find the ones under the netting and chomp them right through it). Check her out caught in the act.

Notice her going straight for the ripe red one

She also helps with the gardening, so I guess she thinks it is a fair trade off.

She had an early affinity with gardening as you can see from this photo from 5 years ago, of both of us looking younger.

Lucie helping

Recently she has been finding me very thick. Through clear signals she lets me know what we need to do next, and for some reason according to her, I just don’t seem to get it!

I’ll just put it in here where she can see it

So, come on it is gardening time! Lucie style.

Boy is she ever dumb, maybe she’ll get it now.

And finally, because she is so beautiful and such a wonderful companion, and we love her so much, here is a portrait Rende made of her during one of their favorite walks in an old apple orchard.

Lucida Bright

For a much cuter post than this one about dog love, go over and see Dottie Angel as she tries to quit photographing her beautiful little dog – cold turkey!

Magnolia bud by SigridBluebells by Sigrid

When I was in Kew Gardens during my recent UK trip, I stumbled into an exhibition of contemporary botanical illustration. It was unexpectedly fresh, and I was so pleased to see that many of the artists were young. It did me good to know that this art getting new life breathed into it by young artists.

So yesterday at a plant fair I attended, I was especially pleased to discover Sigrid Frensen, a young botanical artist. We had a really nice chat about our work (including my harpsichord decoration which I guess is a form of botanical illustration) and her recent participation in a show of botanical illustration in London. Her mother joined the discussion about how there is more appreciation for this art form in England than in Holland. Here, as with other craft skills, this is looked down upon by some in the art world. But if you see the contemporary work being done in this field, you’ll notice renewal and innovation.

What I value about botanical art are the patience and skills needed to render a plant accurately, but more than these, the ability to get inside the spirit of the plant and make it come alive.

I spoke to an artist at the fair who, in keeping with the general opinion here, also rather dismissed botanical illustration as a lesser art form. But I feel that slowly people here will come to appreciate it as a branch of art/craft worthy of respect and attention. I find it an exciting field, and am looking forward to seeing Sigrid’s art develop. She is active in promoting the skill and is one of the founders of the Dutch Society of Botanical Artists.

You can see her site here (Dutch). And her blog (English) has a lot of good examples of her work, worth a look, for sure.

Bluebells by Sigrid

Memory bundles

August 18, 2009

memory bundles

Last weekend I cycled to a favorite spot of mine on the northern sea coast of Holland. It is not far from where we live, and I don’t know why it holds such a fascination for me. I think part of it might be that it reminds me of the inner Hebrides in Scotland. There are always sheep walking on the sea dike, there are no trees and there’s loads of sky and space;  it’s a lot like Erraid and Iona.

I wanted to somehow bring back part of the feeling of peace I find there, so collected some grasses, a feather, and some( filthy) sheepswool.

I made the little memory bundle when I came back, a soothing activity in itself. It is about 4 inches long. The tiny calligraphed label notes the place, date and a few words about the experience.

The bundle on the left top was inspired by several things coming together.  When I am pruning in the garden, I always am attracted to colours and textures of the dried out flower stalks. Occasionally I keep them around as they are, but I never quite know what to do with them. 

Harry K, a friend from my online artist’s group mentioned an artist, Willem Boshoff whose work includes bundled twigs from various places. 

So I decided to make small bundles of various dried plant stalks from my garden, label and  and save them for awhile.

The one above is from a clematis with a tiny but fragrant flower. For weeks we’d get blasted by a cloud of vanilla perfume whenever we’d pass by it.  It’s official name is ‘Clematis x triternata ‘Rubromarginata’.

Mind gardening

August 31, 2008

I have neglected my garden this year, and not only do I now have sections overrun with weeds; but because I wasn’t vigilant, certain ones crept in unnoticed. These rogue plants and tree seedlings would have been easy to take out if caught early on. Now they are stubbornly entrenched and require a lot of energy to remove.  And because so many of my weed plants have reached maturity, removing them actually causes their seeds to release, so that I’ll have a whole new crop vastly multiplied to contend with next spring.

The idea of comparing the gardening of one’s flowers to gardening one’s soul is not new. Still, this morning whilst dealing with all the weeds, some new connections occurred to me.

Of course one needs to catch weed seedlings early and pull them out before they gain the upper hand. This applies as well to catching unwanted habits early and nipping them in the bud before they get firmly rooted.

This last point also is true for bad thoughts, which when allowed to root, then go on to ripen and throw off their negative seed children.  It is much better to train oneself to not follow negative thought chains, and to turn to tending the healthy, beautiful plants in one’s mind garden.

But you can’t ignore the negative thoughts, you just have to train yourself not to dwell on them. And when you’ve decided whether they add to the beauty and variety in your garden or not, you can either remove them or leave them to grow. But check on them from time to time to make sure they don’t take over!!

A beautiful gift

April 24, 2008

A beautiful gift from my sister-in-law

Around this time last year, my sister-in-law made me this wonderful object. I’ve been wanting to share it here, and finally got around to taking the photos.

It is one of the most wonderful gifts I’ve received. Not just because of the obvioius love and care that went into making it,  but also because it appeals so much to my own aesthetic sensibilities.  And it goes deeper, not only do I find it beautiful, but all the components mean something. The teeth are the baby teeth of a wonderful little Jack Russel they had who got run over when he was only a year old.  The seeds and bones, shells and feathers are from her garden.  The layers of paper holding the stones are typical of her way of handling materials. And it is called ‘Sarah’s Blog’ in honor of inspiration.

It hangs in a prominent place in my studio, above a piece of my own which you can see at the bottom of the frame. It also uses wood and rice paper. I recognise a lot of my own sensitivity to certain materials and their arrangement in her work and am sure she has influenced me over the years.

I remember once when giving a calligraphy workshop, I had an extraordinarily strong connection with another artist there. At the end of the week she said to me, ‘Looking at your work, I feel as if it came from my own soul’. 

This is how I feel about Wilhelmien’s gift.

She is in the hospital now, fortunately she is going to be fine, but it was a shock for us all.

Feel better zus, liefs, S



Our front garden last summer

In January a car crashed into the guard rail you see at the right side of the picture. Luckily no one was hurt, but the concrete poles and the iron rails were destroyed, not to mention the front part of the garden.

The rail was replaced, but of course big boots stamping on the wet clay damaged the garden further.

Today was the first opportunity I had to actually work in that part of the garden. 
I am thankful that it is small enough that I can run every handful of earth and every weed through my fingers. That is how I reclaim the garden again after the long winter sleep. We get reacquainted, and once again my heart reconnects with the earth and its healing. The whole spring, summer and early autumn, the garden is my paradise and refuge.

But starting to clear it this morning, I found it wounded. There were blocks of rubble left over from the accident, pieces of car, shards of glass, and garbage from the workers who put in the new rail. And the clay was packed hard over and around the plants. Parts look barren and neglected.

So it felt wonderful to return to my garden some of the love and healing it has always so unstintingly given to me.