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

Holiday Open House at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

Holiday Open House at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

The warehouse at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market was awash with holly, greens, and festive floral arrangements for its Holiday Open House this week.  Here are a few photos of some truly inspiring holiday decorations.  Please do try this at home with gleanings from your winter gardens, woods, and trails.

Wreath of densely packed succulents

Wreath of densely packed succulents

The moss softens the texture of this twiggy wreath from Oregon's Best Specialty Growers

The moss softens the texture of this twiggy wreath from Oregon’s Best Specialty Growers

Vintage Santa and holly from J Foss Garden Flowers

Vintage Santa and holly from J Foss Garden Flowers

More woodsy wreaths from Oregon's Best Specialty Growers

More woodsy wreaths from Oregon’s Best Specialty Growers

Garland from scabiosa pods, J Foss Garden Flowers

Garland from scabiosa pods, J Foss Garden Flowers

These potted succulents reminded me of a box of living ornaments

These potted succulents reminded me of a box of living ornaments

More vintage trimmings at J Foss Garden Flowers

More vintage trimmings at J Foss Garden Flowers

Orchids in a white bucket

Orchids in a white bucket

Books for sale -- The 50-Mile Bouquet

Books for sale — The 50-Mile Bouquet

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market and twinkling lights

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market and colored lights

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
— Charles Dickens

Wreath made of colorful ball ornaments

“I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays – let them overtake me unexpectedly – waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: ‘Why, this is Christmas Day!'”
— David Grayson

I like the idea of parceling out the special treats of the Christmas season over the entire year, but especially during these final days leading up to Christmas Day itself.  I will take each Christmas-y moment as it comes, and try to attend to its unique colors, sounds, and scents.

Here are a few moments I captured with my camera at Swansons Nursery in Seattle, still early in this year’s holiday season.

Young shopper at Swansons Nursery

Amaryllis in bloom

Pine cone and squirrel ornaments for sale

Luminous pear ornaments for sale

One of the reindeer at Swansons Nursery

A garland of bells

Decisions, decisions

Red bows

Radio Flyer shopping “cart”

 

 

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:

 

Spanish lavender

“My aim is to take familiar things and make
Poetry of them, and do it in such a way
That it looks as if it was easy as could be
For anybody to do it (although he’d sweat
And strain and work his head off, all in vain).
Such is the power of judgment, of knowing what
It means to put elements together
In just the right way; such is the power of making
A perfectly wonderful thing out of nothing much.”
— Horace, translated by David Ferry

I love this quote, and I take its message as a personal challenge . . . to find the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of my day, to find the poetry in the commonplace, and to make wonderful things out of nothing much.

This week, for example, my eyes are drawn to the rabbit-ears topping Spanish lavender.  I am seeing this lavender in bloom now in borders, parking strips, and gardens.  Our lavender festivals in Washington and Oregon are not held until mid-July, and those fields feature other, later-blooming kinds of lavender, like Grosso lavender.

My watercolor sketches are my attempt to make something wonderful out of this common plant.

Watercolor sketch of lavender

Watercolor sketch of lavender arranged in a wreath

Calla lilies in a bucket, Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market will soon be celebrating its one-year anniversary, and I stopped by the warehouse to photograph some of its current offerings of fresh, seasonal blooms.  The market is a producer’s cooperative that supports Washington, Oregon and Alaska flower farmers and provides a place for them to sell directly to Seattle area florists, event planners, stylists, and other buyers of flowers.

Several of the Seattle Wholesale growers, including Diane Szukovathy of Jello Mold Farm, have recently been featured in a new book, The 50 Mile Bouquet by Debra Prinzing.  This book captures an exciting time in the floral industry, when more and more buyers are demanding locally and sustainably grown flowers.

Every visit to the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market is a feast for my eyes, and this one was as rewarding as ever.  Here are a few photos:

The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market is housed in an old warehouse.

A big selection of twigs and branches for floral arrangements

Budding branches of purple leaf plum for spring bouquets

Cylindrical bark containers

I love these twiggy wreaths!

Moss, buds, and twigs give rustic texture to this wreath.

The first-of-the-season sweet peas

Passionale daffodil and yellow specialty daffodils

Bucket of Passionale daffodils

Bucket of Frittelaria Assyriaca

Blooming branches

Stool, Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

Pussy willows and polka dots

Pussy willow and polka dots

Handmade Money Plant Wreath

February 11, 2011

Simple wreath of seed pods from money plants

The book Fairie-ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature by David Ellwand is one of the most gorgeous over-sized books that passed through my hands recently.  I loved the colorful photography and whimsical creations made of found materials in nature.  And I was inspired to make my own simple wreath of money plant seed pods after seeing one in the book.

Fairie-ality Style book by David Ellwand

Sample page from Ellwand's book

Page showing wreath made of the pods of a money plant

 

Seed pods from Lunaria annua, money plant

I love the translucent pearly pods.

Detail of wreath hanging in my kitchen window

Slender Rosemary Heart

February 1, 2011

Slender heart wreath of fresh rosemary

It’s not too early to be thinking about Valentine’s Day, is it?

I got the idea for this simple heart-shaped wreath from the book, Swedish Christmas Traditions: A Smorgasbord of Scandinavian Recipes, Crafts and Other Holiday Delights by Ernst Kirchsteiger. I adapted the instructions he provided for a “Slender Lingon Heart” and used rosemary, the herb of remembrance, instead of lingon sprigs.  I love the simplicity of this project.  Smells heavenly, too.

Finding inspiration in this book of holiday crafts