"What one can see out in the sunlight is always less interesting than what is behind a windowpane."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

White Wednesday

Being new to the blogging world, I'm coming across all kinds of links, pictures, and fun things to share. Apparently, there are some creative artful bloggers out there who participate in what's called, "White Wednesday." I'm still not sure what it's all about, but since I just acquired a bag of linen-scented white potpourri (found in a huge box of vintage laces I bought for just $4.00!) I thought I'd join in the fun!

Now, I never claimed to be a photographer and my modest little camera sure isn't helping either. So once again, I close my eyes, try to give up the perfectionist in me, and think back to my old post entitled,"Wabi-Sabi"!

To see more White Wednesday blogs, go to www.fadedcharmcottage.blogspot.com

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Miniature Country Store

All my life I've had a deep affection for miniatures. I remember Mom taking me to a Dollhouse Show at a local fire station and being completely entranced by the tiny world. I wanted to crawl inside these homes decorated with real working chandeliers and canopy-topped beds.

Of course, my favorite houses were the ones decorated for Christmas! In my child's mind, I could place myself inside the Victorian or country-style rooms filled with presents, food, and a large green tree bedecked with delicate little ornaments. And a fireplace...there was always a fireplace!

Inspired by these scenes, I'd go home and try to create my own little world. With help from my brothers, we'd build houses out of glue and popsicle sticks. We'd use leftover toys from other broken playsets to fill the rooms. Whatever we couldn't find, we'd make. We weren't limited to houses either. I distinctly remember creating a Western scene. My brothers wound up getting mad at me later because they wanted to play with it, but I saw it as a piece of art that was just meant for show!

I never outgrew this love of miniatures and feel fortunate that I still get to "play" with them. Below is a Country Store I created years ago. Some of the pieces are store bought, many are hand-made. It was my first attempt at creating a piece within the confines of a shadow box. My favorite part about this is not the scene itself, but the fun I had creating it!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Honoring the Creative Call

All my life I believed that Sundays were boring. There was the "obligation" of going to church, doing chores, and basically preparing for the long week ahead. With age came working full-time, leaving only the weekends for all the "catch-up" work. As Sunday night approached, my melancholy grew knowing that the following day was Monday and the entire cycle would repeat itself.

This past year, I've come to view Sundays as more as a gift from God, rather than an obligation to Him. What I've learned is that God gave us Sunday as a day not only to worship, but to renew and refresh ourselves. He gave us permission to relax and enjoy His creation. It's a shame that so many of us go through life always feeling the need to get things done and feeling guilty for taking time out to just "be".

This rainy Sunday morning, my entire family woke up at 9 am, which is incredibly late for us. I got up, snuck the last piece of chocolate cake, ate a banana and washed it down with more chocolate! I then watched some TV (something I rarely do) and played hide-and-seek with the kids. After, while Mary and Nicolai enjoyed a self-made picnic in the living room of strawberries, marshmallows, and mini chocolate chip cookies, I took a nice hot shower, did my hair, and promptly got back into my warm cozy pajamas. It's only 2 1/2 hours since I woke up and I'm already feeling completely relaxed and renewed in Spirit!

There are so many obligations ahead of me, but for now, I'm just going to enjoy some time off. Creating has become my form of worship and a way to thank God for the talents He has given me. Right now, there's a Santa Claus riding a horse waiting for me to finish in the Dining Room. Maybe I'll carve an antique spool into a Christmas ornament or needle felt an elf or angel. There are some really good books I'd love to curl up with and Mary wants me to come watch a play she and Nic are apparently putting on for Ted and me.

I wish I had understood the gift of the Sabbath years ago; I would have allowed myself much more time to relax and re-energize my mind, body, and spirit. God felt so strongly about this that He inscribed it into the 10 Commandments. Who are we to argue?!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

One of the only Revolutionary War Burial Sites in Existence

As much as I wanted to create with my hands today, it was just too darn gorgeous outside to not take advantage of it! Hopping in the car, camera in one hand and Nicolai in the other, I set out to take some pictures to share with you. If you like history, especially concerning the Revolutionary time period, have I got a good story for you!

In order to get my facts straight before blogging about this, I contacted my friend Joy, who knows everything about anything in this community. Thank you, Joy, for all the information!

So starts our story. In the little town of Langhorne, sits one of the only Revolutionary burial sites in existence for such a large amount of soldiers. During those times, when soldiers were fatally wounded, where they fell was where they were buried, if they were lucky enough to be buried at all.

Here is the Richardson House. Long ago, a little girl lived with her family in this house. During the war, her family was forced to live in the attic so the generals would have a place to stay. Men like George Washington, himself, spent time in this house.

A glimpse inside. How I would love a fireplace that big!

Across from the Richard House sat "Hicks' Tannery" (pictured below, which is now a coffee shop). Isaac Hicks was a Loyalist and ran against the Revolutionaries. When Washington and his men came into town, they ran him off his property and turned this building into a military hospital.

As the little girl sat in her attic, she would watch Revolutionary soldiers being brought in and out of the hospital. "They would stack up the bodies like cord wood on the sled," she later told her great-nephew, "until they got three-four high and then bury them at the edge of town." Realizing the historical significance of these events, the great-nephew wrote her stories in his diary.

Years later, in 1992, some land developers wanted to build a parking lot on the burial site. At this point, it was only town legend that a grave yard existed and the townsfolk fought to keep it in tact. As these things go, legend was not good enough, and unless it could be proven, a parking lot would be made. As luck would have it, they found the diary of the great-nephew, detailing what his great-aunt had witnessed. This was fought by the developers as "here-say" and again, it had to be proven.

The townsfolk were given just four days to prove that a military burial site existed somewhere in that area. On the fourth and final day of excavating, they were rewarded for their efforts. While digging, they found rows of rose-head nails (used during that time period) in patterns, indicating where the coffins were buried. Core samples were also taken, which proved to be decomposed wood, nails, and bits of bone. Unfortunately, no clothing was discovered because Revolutionary soldiers were usually buried naked in order to save clothes for the soldiers still fighting. Because the soldiers were buried in a swampy area, it became common for the townsfolk to have to rebury them each year after the coffins became unearthed. It's no wonder only nails and core samples were found during excavation!

Today, thanks to the residents of Langhorne, the integrity of this grave yard was saved and a monumental piece of our country's past is forever preserved.

Langhorne was established in 1680 and was originally known as "Four Lanes End." This was the major through-way for those wanting to travel from Philadelphia to New York City. People would take a stagecoach early in the morning from Philadelphia and arrive at The Langhorne Inn (circa 1704), which is pictured below, by nightfall. They would be given fresh horses and stayed the night. In the morning, they would eat breakfast here and finish their journey.

Bucks County is so rich in history, you can see how it inspires me to create time-worn folk art. I'll have to visit "Washington's Crossing" sometime soon to show you where George Washington crossed the Delaware!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What to Do, What to do.....

Sometimes it's just relaxing to go through my supplies to see exactly what I have to create my folk art. After sorting through everything, I was surprised to see how many molds I've already created from turn-of-the-century bisque heads and figures. I absolutely adore the "Charles Dickens" look of these old doll parts and strive to incorporate that same feeling into all my work.

I also have a few vintage molds from Maureen Carlson, the person who taught me everything I know about working with polymer clay. Although I've had these molds for close to 15 years, I've never actually used them for any of my work. I suppose I take Santa and Mrs. Claus too personally! When it comes to sculpting them, I need to create my own facial expressions.

After the clay hardens, it's time for painting and putting the bodies together. Then comes my favorite part - making clothes and embellishing the pieces with lots of vintage details!

Today I'm concentrating on the daily responsibilities of running a home. My goal is to get ahead of it all so I can devote tomorrow to making some of these cuties. If I listen closely, I can almost hear them calling my name!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Favorite Kitchy Thrift Shop

I've often mentioned my favorite thrift store haunt here so figured I'd show you why it's my favorite! Unfortunately, the pictures came out pretty dark and photography is not where my skills lie! If you click on the picture, it'll give you a better close-up view.

So, here's the front of what we call, "The Barn." Its nickname is actually "BATS" for Bryn Athn Thrift Store, but calling it the Barn just stuck with us.

What I love about the Barn is it's constantly changing and it's very neat and clean. The upstairs is decorated with the most wonderful old planes and cars! That's the World War I Flying Ace in the cockpit!

I wouldn't have wanted to be the one to hang this!

Isn't this better than a typical run down shop?

Love this old hot rod!

I can't wait for the next holiday - they really do it up!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy Birthday, Ted!

May you live to be a hundred years, with one extra year to repent!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

Some people have wondered why I haven't posted any pictures of myself. Well, I'm kind of shy about my looks and wouldn't want anyone to point and laugh. But, I understand the desire to put a face with a blog, so here goes.....

If you think THIS is bad, you should see me in the morning.

Just Realized I Could Use This!

Ted and I bought this antique printer's cabinet over 10 years ago at a charming little shop in Allentown, NJ. For years, it has just held some of Ted's collectibles in the first top shelves, which explains the masking tape to keep the kids out!

As I was recently organizing my tiny supplies into various bins, it dawned on me that this would make the perfect place to house my miniatures. I couldn't believe how blind I'd been! For years, it has been staring me in the face, but I didn't even notice.

Oh! The fun I had filling this with all my tiny treasures! The best part? I still have over half the cabinet left to use!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Before Pictures

Here is the "Wormy Chestnut" wood that Uncle Dane asked me to carve. As you can see, it's filled with worm holes and is extremely dry and brittle.

I chose to use the two bigger pieces. Both were a real challenge!

The finished pieces are in the post below.

Wormy Chestnut Carvings!

If you've been reading my posts, you know the anxiety I've had trying to carve something out of "Wormy Chestnut". I'm happy to say, both carvings are done!

Because of the brittleness of this wood, and the fact it was covered in worm holes, I knew I had to carve something simple. I thought evoking a primitive look would capture the integrity of the wood. What better way to do this then by carving Halloween figures?

The ghost and Jack O'Lantern stand approximately seven inches tall and one inch thick.

Because the carvings had to be kept simple, I wanted more details in the painting. Instead of a boring white ghost, I painted him in a crazy quilt using different shades of white and gray. The Jack O'Lantern embedded within him was a "happy mistake". While carving a fold in the ghost's body, the wood underneath just crumbled, forming an oblong shape. At first, I thought it was completely ruined, but then I noticed that it resembled a pumpkin. Bingo! Carving out more detail gave me the look I wanted.

I was happy with the overall result, but felt my new little friend still needed something. Rummaging through my stash of goodies, I was able to create his Victorian Cone. It's made from black scrap paper and Halloween ribbon. The picture of the little witch holding the black cat and pumpkin is from an antique Halloween postcard. The cone is filled with the most scrumptious black and orange "Fun Fur." I just love the affect it gives the cone. Nestled inside the cone is a hand-made paper clay pumpkin.

Here's a close-up of the top of the Jack O'Lantern. Using the same "Fun Fur" as an accent, I was able to give this carving more texture and dimension. I used a branch from our backyard as the stem and twisted rusted wire to emulate vines.

This piece was actually much more difficult to carve than the ghost. It had many more worm holes in it, making it extremely dry and brittle. Very gingerly, I carved out a mouth, nose, and one eye. Then when carving the final eye, the wood under my knife gave way and crumbled into dust. Unfortunately, when this happened the wood separating the eye and mouth also fell apart, connecting the eye with the mouth. There was NO saving it. Luckily, I still had room at the top to carve tiny eyes and a nose. From there, I carved a very long mouth. I don't know if I like it better this way, but it definitely gives him more personality!

Although I didn't like working with such vulnerable wood, It definitely was a great learning experience. As a self-taught carver, I really had to think outside of the box. It stretched my imagination and forced me to find a solution. For those reasons, ironically, this was one of my favorite carving experiences.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Possibilities are Endless!

This is my latest thrift store find. My sister will be so jealous!

As soon as I brought this Easter Tree home, my mind started buzzing with decorating ideas. I envisioned sparkly eggs, vintage millinery, miniature bunnies, glittered chicks, and a rainbow of ribbons. Then it hit me: Why leave it white? How about Baby Blue or Spring Green? Or WAIT! What if I painted it a Cotton Candy Pink for that Shabby-Chic feel? Of course, if I do this, why make it an Easter Tree at all? How about a Valentine Tree decorated with sparkly old rhinestones and hearts? Or....dare I try something totally different? Maybe a pink Christmas tree! A few months ago, I would have cringed at the thought, but searching other art blogs has opened up a whole new creative world for me. I've seen some very "romantic" pink Christmas trees very tastefully done.

Ordinarily, my taste for Christmas decorating falls in the "Adirondack Style" with earthy ornaments and rustic natural findings. But something about the Shabby-Chic style has caught my interest so I may need to experiment with it.

The beauty of this tree is it's a blank canvas. Wait! What if I spray paint it black for Halloween!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Woodchips in my Bra

Yes, you read right. One of the many perils of woodcarving. And you thought it was just the blades we had to worry about.

So, I've been feeling a bit down the past few days and couldn't figure out why. Then it dawned on me that after six weeks of putting together an Enchanted Fairy Garden, I'm sad that it's over. It's the same feeling I get when taking down the Christmas tree and putting away all the festive decorations. Everything looks so bare.

I've also spent weeks enjoying the deliciousness of other art blogs and my heart yearned to create something. It was time to answer that call. Arming myself with carving supplies, a warm cozy flannel, and some Bazooka Bubblegum, I decided to get busy.

While Nicolai played with "Blue", our dog, in the yard, I sat in the sun carving the most primitive pieces of folk art I'd ever dreamed of doing. It wasn't my idea; that's just how it goes sometimes.

Uncle Dane and Aunt Candy asked if I could carve some Chestnut wood to be auctioned off for a local club Dane belongs to. Turns out, the wood I need to carve is "Wormy Chestnut", meaning it's filled with worm holes and is extremely brittle. I knew right away that the carvings would need as little detail as possible. With every cut in the wood, dried pieces just crumbled and disintegrated into the air.

Rather than get frustrated, I decided to let the wood tell me what to do. A few times I thought the entire piece was ruined, but then another idea popped into my head on how to fix it. This also completely changed my original plans.

I'm not done yet, but needed to stop so I could go pick up Mary from the bus. I really hope these turn out OK, because for now, all I have to show for my work are two unrecognziable carvings and chips in my bra.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

82nd Airborne

Just thought I'd show off some pictures of my good-looking father!

Dad served as a paratrooper in the US Army, 82nd Airborne Division. If I could go back in time, how I would love to see Dad jumping out of an airplane!

As the story goes, on Dad's second-to-last jump before graduating, he had a really bad landing and practically broke both legs. Rather than facing Boot Camp and training all over again, he told no one and went right back up for his final jump. I can't imagine how painful his final landing must have been, but that stubborn Irishman did it! He earned his wings with the rest of his class. He just couldn't stand for Graduation!

Dad went on to marry his High School Sweetheart and raise seven children. He worked many jobs until finally retiring from the US Post Office. Since then, he's been an avid reader, especially books about US History. Opening one of his books, I noticed he was using scraps of paper as bookmarks, so I decided to make him some. The first bookmark is Dad in full uniform. I copied some pictures of jumping paratroopers and used them as the background. I added a ball-chain and faux dog tags. The second bookmark shows a picture of him and mom when they were young and in love! I'm digging mom's shabby-chic sweater!

Monday, April 12, 2010

FINALLY Figured it Out!

Ok, I FINALLY figured out how to add a Visitor Counter at the bottom. Now, this is no ordinary counter. It only tracks the sexy people!

Happy 7th Birthday, Mary!

You've brought us more joy than we could ever imagine!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Enchanted Fairy Garden Party - LAST Pics!

WHOOO! These are the last pictures of the Enchanted Fairy Garden Party. Feel free to borrow any ideas!

The girls were given little pails filled with Fairy Dust, gems, a tiny white dove, rose pedals, and a scroll containing their fairy information.

Here is where the girls got magically transformed into fairies!

After the transformation, the fairies went on a treasure hunt! They filled these grapevine cornucopias with lots of little goodies.