“We have eyes, and we’re looking at stuff all the time, all day long.  And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.”
— Eric Carle

Painting by Eric Carle, acryllic on Tyvek, Tacoma Art Museum

Painting by Eric Carle, acrylic on Tyvek, Tacoma Art Museum

In keeping with my resolution to drive less, my niece, a friend, and I made a day trip to Tacoma by bus to see the Eric Carle exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum.  Carle is a well-known, award-winning children’s book illustrator, so I have been familiar with his work for a long time.  I enjoyed reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See to my daughter when she was very young.

Print of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Tacoma Art Museum

Print of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Tacoma Art Museum

I was so enamoured of Carle’s illustrations that I adapted some of them into applique for a handmade quilt.  Carle’s stylized, simple shapes were perfect for copying as appliqued patterns.

Handmade appliqued quilt of Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Handmade appliqued quilt of Brown Bear, Brown Bear (2003?)




The Tacoma exhibit, “Beyond Books:  The Independent Art of Eric Carle,” presented another side of Carle as artist.  It included some of his wood block prints, framed paintings, amazing works on painted Tyvek, and even handmade greeting cards for (lucky) friends.  Now I am even more impressed by Carle’s talents.

The exhibit runs through July 7, 2013.





New Use of Old Wood

December 31, 2012

“When trees mature, it is fair and moral that they are cut for man’s use, as they would soon decay and return to the earth.  Trees have a yearning to live again, perhaps to provide the beauty, strength and utility to serve man, even to become an object of great artistic worth.”
— George Nakashima, The Soul of a Tree:  A Wood-worker’s Reflections

Handmade wooden bowl

Handmade wooden bowl

Bowl made from a red maple tree fallen on my family's farm

Bowl made from a red maple tree fallen on my family’s farm

“Ours is a search for pure truth in the most realistic ways — the making of things.”
— George Nakashima, The Soul of a Tree:  A Wood-worker’s Reflections

“There is a line from a Sexton poem: ‘The writer is essentially a crook./  Out of used furniture he makes a tree.’  . . . After all, that is what art should do; create something natural out of all the used-up sticks and bureaus of our lives, the detritus of our lives.”
— Maxine Kumin, To Make a Prairie

One of my most cherished Christmas gifts this year was this wooden bowl made from a fallen red maple tree on my Dad’s farm.  My sister and brother-in-law commissioned the bowl from a wood worker they knew.  It’s a wonderful keepsake from my childhood home, a one-of-a-kind work of art, new use for old wood.

Coincidentally, David Perry, one of the bloggers I follow, just wrote about handmade wooden plates made by a Vermont woodworker and friend.  Perry’s post is a love song to things analog, like the handmade wooden plates and bowl.  I can relate.


Missing My 15 Minutes of Fame

December 28, 2012

Andy Warhol's iconic paintings of Campbell's soup cans

Andy Warhol’s iconic paintings of Campbell’s soup cans

Seattle’s City Arts online magazine recently sponsored a contest for Andy Warhol-inspired art in conjunction with the Tacoma Art Museum‘s current exhibition, “Flowers for Tacoma.”  I entered two pieces, each playing off the pop art image of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans.  Instead of the Campbell’s soup can found in our mothers’ pantries, I featured a more contemporary everyday icon, the ubiquitous Starbucks coffee cup.

My entries did not win a prize, but I had fun executing my pop art vision.  Here are my Andy Warhol-inspired creations:

Collage of Starbucks coffee cups with pop art effect

Collage of Starbucks coffee cups with pop art effect

Watercolor sketch of iconic Starbucks coffee cup

Watercolor sketch of iconic Starbucks coffee cup

Humble Keepsakes and Customs

December 17, 2012

“It comes every year and will go on forever.  And along with Christmas belong the keepsakes and the customs.  Those humble, everyday things a mother clings to, and ponders, like Mary in the secret spaces of her heart.”
— Marjorie Holmes

Handmade paper ornament

Handmade paper ornament

“To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year.”
— E. B. White

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more.”
— Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The largest part of my Christmas doesn’t come from a store.  My keepsakes are handmade, for the most part.  And yes, they are humble, like this paper cut Scandinavian horse ornament I made this year from instructions I found in Mollie Makes Christmas:  Living and Loving a Handmade Holiday.

Or my traditional holiday wreath, made from rosemary sprigs from my garden.  For me, simple is best.

Homemade rosemary wreath

Homemade rosemary wreath

“Snowflakes spill from heaven’s hand
Lovely and chaste like smooth white sand.
A veil of wonder laced in light
Falling gently on a winter’s night.”
–Linda A. Copp

Paper Star Snowflake

Paper Star Snowflake

Several years ago one of the gift wrappers at the University Bookstore in Seattle was making these holiday snowflakes (or they could be stars, I guess).  She gave me a photocopied set of instructions, original source unknown.  I’ve been meaning to make some of these snowflakes for holiday decorations, but until now, I never got around to it.

My finished snowflake hangs in my kitchen window, a lacy wonder that lets in the light.

Here are step-by-step instructions for making your own paper snowflake/star:

Fold each square in half to make a triangle.  Then fold in half again.  And again.

Fold each square in half to make a triangle. Then fold in half again. And again.

You need six square of paper.  I used 5 x 5-inch squares.  Fold each square in half along the diagonal, making a triangle.  Then fold in half again.  And again.


Cut slits into each triangle.

Now, keeping the little triangles folded, cut four parallel slits on the solid side.  Cut almost all the way across.

Open the paper squares and press flat.

Open the paper squares and press flat.

Open each piece of paper back into a square and flatten with your fingers.

Cutting some of the inner square just to free two corners.

Cutting some of the inner square just to free two corners.

Next you will bring two opposite points of the inner squares together in a sequence.  In order to do this, you will first have to cut the corners free along one long diagonal fold line.  (Leave the other points/corners so that they are not cut all the way through.)

Starting with the smalled inner square, fold two points together and tape.

Starting with the smallest inner square, fold two points together and tape.

Starting with the smallest inner square, fold two opposite points together and tape into a cylindrical shape.

Turn the square over, and bring the points of the next larger square together.

Turn the square over, and bring the points of the next larger square together.

1. Turn the square over.  2.  Bring the opposite points of the next larger square together and tape.  Repeat steps 1 and 2 until all of the opposing points have been taped in the center.

You've finished square one!

You’ve finished square one!

Your square should now look like this.  You need five more.  Start folding and taping!

Staple three sections together at a point.

Staple three sections together at a point.

Once you have completed all six sections of the snowflake, take three and match up at a point.  Staple at this point.  Repeat with the other three sections.

Finished paper snowflake

Finished paper snowflake

That’s it!  Your paper snowflake/star is complete.

Hanging snowflake

Hanging snowflake

Fallen Japanese maple leaf on hydrangea flowers

“Now the last leaves are down, except for the thick, dark leaves of the oak and ghostly beech leaves that click in the breeze, and we’re reduced to a subtler show of color — brown, gray, and buff, perhaps a little purple in the distance, and the black-green of moss, hemlock, and fir.  To my eyes these hues are more beautiful than the garish early autumn with its orange leaves — orange, the color of madness — and leaves the color of blood.  Let hot life retire, grow still:  November’s colors are those of the soul.”
— Jane Kenyon, “Season of Change and Loss”

“As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint, just before they fall, so the year near its setting.  October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight.”
— Henry David Thoreau, “October, or Autumnal Tints”

These photos show the late November color palette in the Pacific Northwest:

Tree-lined driveway at Maplehurst Farm, Skagit Valley

Rose hips

Stewartia pseudocamellia fruit

Stewartia pseudocamillia

Another fallen Japanese maple leaf on hydrangea plant

Fallen Japanese maple leaves on Atlas cedar trunk

Watercolor sketch of oak and maple leaves


Wreath made from the pages from a discarded book

I no longer do a lot of decorating for the holidays.  I try to keep things simple and choose just a few ways to make the holiday season special and memorable.  This year I’m making some decorations from deconstructed books.

Wreath made from paper cones

My first project was this wreath made from the pages of a discarded book.  First I rolled several pages into cones, and then I stapled them onto a wire wreath form.  I started with three cones in a row, and then overlapped the next three cones, and so on, around the form.

Standing trees made from discarded paperback books.

Detail of folded trees

Each of these standing trees was formerly a paperback book.  I didn’t use a pattern, just began cutting with a scissors — starting with the horizontal cuts — and then trimmed and folded each page to get the desired shapes.  I hope to end up with a small forest on our fireplace mantle.

I’ve written about other holiday papercraft projects over the years.  If you’d like to see more, check out these links to past posts:


One of my favorite photos from my first year blogging (Nov 2009)

This is Thanksgiving week, and my thoughts naturally turn toward prayers of gratitude.  I’d like to devote my blog posts this week to the theme of gratitude.

I did a similar series of gratitude posts in my first year of blogging, culminating with our Thanksgiving feast.  If you are interested, you can re-visit them here:

The older I get, the more aware I am that each day is a gift.  My gift of days is finite.  It is up to me to use this gift well.

by G. K. Chesterton

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?


Of Onions and Scallions

October 28, 2012

Still life with onions

The Traveling Onion
by Naomi Shihab Nye

When I think  how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel
and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way the knife enters onion
and onion falls apart on the chopping block,
a history revealed.

And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on the texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career.
For the sake of others,

by Billy Collins, from Horoscope for the Dead: Poems

Only a few weeks ago,
the drawings you would bring in
were drawings of a tower with a fairy princess

leaning out from a high turret,
a swirl of stars in the background,
and bright moons, distant planets with rings.

Then yesterday you brought in
a drawing of a scallion,
a single scallion on a sheet of white paper —

another crucial step
along the path of human development,
I thought to myself

as I admired the slender green stalk,
the white bulb, the little beard
of roots that you had pencilled in so carefully.

It’s more difficult than you’d think to paint an onion.  Here’s my third attempt, and I’m still not satisfied:

Watercolor sketch of three onions



Pumpkin paintings displayed on the side of an old barn — Gordon Skagit Farms

The highlight of my day trip to Gordon Skagit Farms was the art.  Eddie Gordon, one of the Gordon farmers, is also a talented artist, and he displays his large paintings en plein air.  (He is also offering three prints for sale this year.)  I thought the presentation of art on the farm was delightful.  I’ll show you some photos, but I highly recommend that you make a visit this month to see the paintings in person.

Close-up photo of pumpkin on the barn

Old truck with another of Eddie Gordon’s paintings, a rural landscape

A painting outdoors amidst the pumpkins and gourds

Painting of a rural road is hung over an old concrete watering trough

Another painting set back from the produce tables

Enjoy a painting while you grab a wheelbarrow for your pumpkin purchases.

Detail of another pumpkin painting by Eddie Gordon