Thursday, March 30, 2006

Free Garden Design Class

Barnes and Noble University is offering a free Garden Design class. Well known garden book author Becke Davis will be the instructor, and the class will focus on basic design concepts for those who already have a working knowledge of garden plants.

I’m excited about taking this class. My gardens are very utilitarian. They tend to be brimming with flowers that can be pressed, with my favorite herbs and heirloom vegetables slotted in wherever there’s room. I’m looking forward to learning how to structure my gardens in a more aesthetically pleasing way – a way that highlights the beauty of the plants. And perhaps I’ll even learn some concepts that will prove useful to my artwork.

The class starts on Monday, so look into it right away of you’re leaning towards taking it. There is one required book, and a number of recommended books, but other than that, it’s free!


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Eagle Cam!

Oh, this is bad news for me. Especially now…when I have crocuses to press, and seedlings to tend to, a handmade paper class to prepare for, and preparations for spring art shows…not to mention the normal “Mom” duties I have.

I have a thing for big birds…sand hill cranes, blue herons, hawks and eagles. I’m not exactly sure why, but they fascinate me.

We live in a fairly rural area, and I am constantly scanning the sky as I drive (much to the horror of friends and family) looking for one of my birds… and 7 times out of 10, especially in the spring and summer, I end up seeing one of them. Often, I send up a prayer of thanks when I see one, especially a beautiful sand hill crane.

Anyways, I came upon a link for a live “eagle cam” this morning while checking out as I do every morning. Years ago the Milwaukee PBS station had an eagle cam feed from northern Wisconsin, and in between episodes of Sesame Street, Calliou, Mister Rogers, and Barney, they would show a minute or two of the eagles. No, I wasn’t glued to the TV, but my children graciously and excitedly called me in whenever the eagle was on. Together we waited patiently for the mother eagle to hatch her eggs, we rejoiced when the little eaglets finally broke through their shells, we cried when the weaker and smaller of the two eaglets died. We were grossed out at feeding time, and watched with amazement at the rapid transformation the cute and fuzzy chick, into a young powerful eagle.

Here’s the eagle cam link for you. The nest is on Hornby Island, in British Columbia.
A few minutes ago I saw that she has two eggs, but things are fairly quiet now. It’s the time of waiting.


Monday, March 27, 2006

And they're off...

I started my seeds this weekend, and thankfully they’re already off and running.

For the first time this year, I’ll be using “grow lights,” instead of having to rotate my flats on the kitchen table, trying to keep them in the shifting beam of sunshine streaming in from the south facing window. Trying to constantly reposition them to keep them in the light got old fast, not to mention that my kitchen table was out of commission for months during daylight, which was challenging with my kids who love to do “kitchen table projects.”

As usual, I’m starting a number of flowers for pressing, such as cosmos, verbena, pansies, lobelia, and some flax, but I’ve also started a dozen Italian and purple basil plants (I can’t wait for fresh basil!) a number of heirloom tomatoes, and a few unusual sweet pepper plants. In a few weeks I also plan to start a few Corsican gourd seedlings, because I’m finding that they need a head start up here in Wisconsin, in order to really achieve a decent size.

A few things I learned while looking into purchasing grow lights:

-Jung’s catalog from up here in Wisconsin has a nice “beginner” set up on sale.

-Ebay has a huge selection, although most of the lights they carry are for “big time” hydro farmers. Many of the grow light sellers advertise that their light systems are shipped in plain packaging. Unfortunately I guess there must be quite a market for those who grow illegal plants!

- While you’re looking for grow lights, check out “heating mats.” I’ve been using one for years, and the gentle heat they radiate really speeds up germination time. However, after germination, put the seedlings under the grow lights in a fairly cool place. A cool environment will help your plants become sturdy and strong.

That’s all for now. I have been blessed with at least one hundred crocus flowers this spring, and each morning there are more to press. The Microfleur Microwave Flower Press I use does an awesome job with them. Crocus flowers require several short bursts in the microwave, with cooling time in between. If you need more information on how to use the Microfleur, just email me.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Swift Rejection

Last week I finally called the Chicago Botanic Garden. It took me awhile to get up the nerve, well, actually a long while, but after the encouragement of a number of artist friends and mentors, I called the curator of the Chicago Botanic Garden Gift Shop, and asked for an appointment to show my pressed flower cards.

Before I made the call, I went over a number of scenarios in my mind, planned out what I would say, and anticipated various questions that might come up. Finally I mustered up all my confidence, took a deep breath and made the call.

I was not prepared for the response I got. Laughter. Laughter? I was definitely caught off guard.

“Pressed flower cards? (while cackling) We have lost so much money on pressed flower cards. Nobody ever buys them. They are a waste of money – I’m definitely not interested in seeing your cards.”

The conversation pretty much died from there. I hadn’t anticipated that kind of response, and was basically speechless. Of course later I thought of lots of responses, brilliant responses, such as the fact that my cards are already in over 15 stores and galleries nationwide…

Thankfully that day was one of those breathtakingly beautiful warm early spring days, and I spent the remainder of the day with my son exploring the gardens and looking for new signs of life, and clearing away last year’s spent plants. Sure, rejection happens, but I’m thankful that it’s just a minuscule part of our life experience. God’s grace and new life are always all around us, and I am thankful.

By the way, I was accepted as a U.S. distributor for the Microfleur Flower Press, the exact press I use. This is pretty exciting for me, because I love this flower press, and it’s really a vital tool of my business.

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Making Handmade Paper...

Handmade paper has certainly become a passion of mine. I first tried it about 7 years ago, after seeing Lynette Jennings make it on TV. When I look back at the first few pieces of hmp I made, I have to laugh…they are practically like cardboard. But, since then, and hundreds of pieces later, I am grateful to have come a long way. I have read a number of books, but I have learned the most about making handmade paper by surfing the net, and by just doing it…making it again and again. Trying new techniques, adding new fibers, experimenting with different equipment, using different pulp mixtures… all of these yield new and subtle surprises.

For my pressed flower cards I tend to use a basic pulp mixture of half recycled paper and half cotton linters, with various fibers or flower petals for added interest, but I also love using grocery bag pulp, with flecks of binder twine for more rustic, rugged paper. When I need a splash of color, I tear up white recycled paper with and throw a few sheets of colored tissue paper into my blender to make a brightly colored confetti paper. Last week I made an interesting paper using the paper from an old piano lesson book – tiny cute musical notes are sprinkled through out the paper.

Below I’ve included a few good handmade paper links. The first two are good instructional sites, the third is J.J.Goodwin, which is where I’ve purchase most of my mold and deckles. All of her kits contain an excellent instructional booklet, and lots of free pulp inclusions. If you happen to order one of Jane’s kits, please tell her that you heard about her from me. Maybe she’ll give me a discount next time I order from her!:)
11/01/07 I now sell my own paper making kits and paper making supplies.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006


One of the artists I know from the Antioch Fine Arts Foundation recently found out that one of her photographs had been accepted into the sLowlife exhibition.

Currently on display in Washington D.C., sLowlife is an exhibit offering “a journey into altered perceptions—a window into the world of plants.” Using state of the art time-lapse photography, we are given a glimpse into the secret, very active life of plants. The frantic, “busyness” of the plants reminds me of our own fast paced lifestyles.

You can check out the companion website for sLowlife here. Who knew that sunflower seedlings dance a happy dance in response the light from above? Pause a moment and watch as a vase of tulips, seemingly frozen in place and time, reveal just how “unstill” they really are…like my squirming kids at church. Or, take a few moments to watch thick white roots doing their own busy dance…under the very ground we walk on. Amazing!

“For now we see in a mirror dimly…” 1 Corinthians 13:12

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