Thursday, January 12, 2017

Thought Process + Some Links

I have been typing away all week on the keyboard of my computer working on the re-writes for my editor. It is a slog. Many years ago, I read a quote from Patricia Wells, one of my fave cookbook authors. She said something about you have to just sit there and do it because if you don't, it will not get done. As my Farmer says, half the battle of success is just showing up. (BTW, it looks like PW has her 15th cookbook coming out in March.)

So this week I am planted on my butt and showing up. I'm hoping I can finish by end of next week. Fingers crossed. 

I have a little ritual I do when I write. After I finish a section, I get up and walk around. Maybe put a load of wash in. Then I check my email (I have noone to talk to) and see if anything looks interesting. I get a lot of newsletters and don't read most of them but once in a while something will look intriguing. The other day I read HonestlyWTF and saw this in the side bar. 

Kind of stopped me in my tracks and I couldn't decide if I liked it or not. I went to a website for an Italian furniture company called Cappellinin and then found this. 

A different version of the same chair but painted and covered in a kind of dappled, daubed, stippled fabric and paint treatment on the wood. Then I found this short video. Very mesmerizing. This would be easy to do but the choice of colors would be key.

Later on in the day, a post about Bradley Walker Tomlin came in and I couldn't help but think his work looked like the fabric. 

I thought about other special chairs I had seen in my life. Do you know about Orkney Chairs? Amazing to think they are woven out of straw harvested on the Island of Orkney. 

I found a video of the weaving process. A little tedious to watch but skip through it. 

I will continue keeping myself planted - working on this book on pattern. I hope you all are having a good January. It was 55 degrees here today and on Saturday it is going to be 7. Lots of very nasty slippery ice. Sounds like lots of crazy weather all over the country. Stay safe. 

Friday, January 06, 2017

Back At It + Some Links

Welcome back! Happy 2017 everyone! I want to thank everyone who comes to this little space of mine on the WWW for all your encouragement and support over the years. I've been writing this blog since March of 2006. I can't believe I have kept it up for so long. Some of you have been here since the beginning which is quite incredible to think about. Things have come and gone on the web but I can't say this blog has changed too much. That might be bad for some but for me "I'm okay with that." So many people who were blogging many years ago have given it up. I understand that because it takes a lot of time but for me, I'm still interested in doing it and keeping a conversation going. Thank you all for popping in and reading and commenting. 

I hope you all enjoyed the holiday season and are ready for whatever 2017 has to throw at all of us. We had a lovely time this holiday season - visiting family and friends, seeing some things in NYC and Boston and also doing a lot of nesting at home. The weather has been cold, then warm, now cold again. We've had snow many times. It's winter in western Massachusetts.

Julia is back at school. The Farmer is getting the barn ready for lambs (February this year). I'm settling back into a routine. I must admit it took me a few days to get back into it this week. It always does. I hadn't been in my studio in a couple weeks. When I got back into it a couple days ago, I realized how much I missed it. It's my own special space (except when I share it with students) and I really just feel more creative there. It's not that I don't love the rest of our house - it's just that that space is mine only and no matter how messy it is - it feels so welcoming to me.

Every year, I hear about people making "New Year Resolutions." I remember trying to do that when I was a teenager - making a list of things that I certainly would never accomplish. As I have gotten older, I have realized that that practice doesn't work for me one bit. So I don't even attempt it. 

What I did do is write a list of some of the things I would like to accomplish this year. Besides finishing up my next book, I want to paint more. I would love to do a daily painting challenge (do you know Jennifer Orkin Lewis's work?) but I know I don't have the time for it right now. Book deadlines first. I will try to do some more quick paintings though. 

I also want to work more on surface pattern designing on my computer. I've never had much time to spend on it but I have the basics down. Last spring I took Jessica Swift's Pattern Camp on-line class and it was helpful and a refresher for what I already knew. I just signed up to take a class on SkillShare called Watercolor for Surface Pattern Design. We'll see how that goes. 

Other things I am hoping to continue doing are blogging, making pottery, making things to sell in my on-line shop and who knows what else. And I have to think about what kinds of classes I want to run here at the farm this year.

Do you have anything plans and dreams, hopes and desires for your upcoming year? 

Here are some interesting links I think you might like - it is a bit esoteric but so am I in my interests. 

•My Farmer has watched all the Lambing Live Shows from the BBC on YouTube. It is a great show and as we say - only the Brits would make such a show. He is sad that he is done with them but as he says "We'll have our own Lambing Live soon." I haven't had a chance to watch them all but I have listened as I have been cooking and washing dishes. 

Jennifer Edwards - Knitter and Artist - is doing a new newsletter called An Artful Lifeline. I have signed up and look forward to what she has to say. 

Salley Mavor (of Wee Folk Studio) is adding a political slant to her work. I'm interested in where it will take her. She is a brave woman to put her political views out there - I think she will gain a lot of followers (and lose many too). Nothing ventured, nothing gained as the saying goes. Go Salley!

•Spoonflower has a new series on their blog called 12 Days of Design. It is good. Videos and brief instruction with links to help you learn.

Macy's is closing 68 stores and laying off 10,000 people. (Sign of the times?)

Thanks so much for reading everyone. I wish you the best for 2017.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas - Happy Holidays 2016

Merry Christmas from our farm to yours. May you and yours have the happiest of holidays. We wish you all the best as we go into 2017. I look forward to sharing more with you as we continue on our journey of life, farming, making, creativity and color. 

This photo was taken a few years ago as the yearling ewes came up the hill during a particularly beautiful snowstorm. If you look close you will see our Border Collie Ness amongst the sheep. She was always there - working her charges. So nice to see her beautiful face as she has been gone for a year now. We were lucky to have her in our lives, as we are lucky to have you be part of our adventure too. We are thankful for all of you who read and comment over the years. Here's to a peaceful holiday season and 2017 for all of us. XO 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pop's Chair

Here I sit in the wing chair in our kitchen - the chair that we call "Pop's Chair." Pop's Chair --- because it was the chair my Dad used to always sit in when he came to visit. It is December 20th, 2016.  I have yet to even barely think about Christmas - except for packing my handmade pottery for gifts for others to give. Christmas is easier now that Julia is older and she doesn't expect as much as when she was a little thing. 

On this day in 2004, before the internet and cellphones and all the modern things invaded everyone's life, I got a call at 7:30  a.m. from my sister Jenn. She was sobbing. Daddy had died early that morning. He had had a heart attack when my Mom was on an early morning run to the airport to pick up my two nephews who were coming to visit for the holidays. 

Daddy was gone and life would never be the same.

I remember that day as if it were yesterday. I hung up the phone, told Mark what had happened, and got Julia ready for school. Gutted - that is how I felt - like the wind and everything else had been ripped from me. I didn't know what to do, where to turn, how to stop crying and when to start crying. I was numb. 

Julia was six years old and I had yet to purchase a Christmas gift for her or for anyone else. I didn't know how I was going to get through the day, nor the holiday. 

I got in the car and drove to Brattleboro. I'm not sure how I got there driving through the tears. I picked up some things at Walgreen's and Sam's and then headed to the most beautiful fabric store in the world - Delectable Mountain. I've written about this store before - about all the beauty that there is within its doors. It is my safe place when I need inspiration and a pick me up. I bought myself, my sisters and my Mom each a pair of matching sparkly earrings (yes - a fabric store that sells earrings too). I told Jan the owner of the store what had happened. She gave me a CD of her latest music recordings. I went on my way home. 

The next morning we drove to NJ and spent several days in NJ with Mom, my sisters, brothers-in-laws, nieces, nephews extended family, and friends. Over 750 people came to Daddy's calling hours. My sisters and I heard story after story about the kindness Archie had showed people in town over the years. My sisters and I put together a Memorial Service with a lot of heart, personality, story telling - nothing like ever had been done in the First United Methodist Church in Dover, NJ. Daddy would have loved it. We ended it with Frank Sinatra. Ever since that year, Christmas has been bittersweet.

Now in honor of my Daddy/aka Pop, listen to this. It is beautiful. We should all do it "My Way"

I guess I haven't learned to shop any earlier than December 20th. I'm going to head out now and see if I can find something that is deserving of giving to my family - probably socks and gloves because they are most needed for lambing season coming up. I'll visit Jan at Delectable Mountain and thank her for her kindness. This morning it was 8 below zero. 

Mostly what I am going to do is think back on the love, the kindness, and goodness that Dad gave to us and everyone else. And his example of living a life of passion. And I'll cry a tear or two. Love you and miss you Daddy.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

First Snow, Some Thoughts on Local + Good Links

Yesterday my family and I were housebound due to the first big storm of the winter. The Amherst Winter Farmers Market that I sell our farm-raised lamb at every Saturday had been cancelled because of the impending bad weather. I was glad they cancelled it because it is a 40 minute ride for me. Although I had orders for legs of lambs (which I will not be able to get to their owners because I don't have their telephone #s - yuck), I really wasn't looking forward to driving through a snowstorm. We stayed inside until it was over - which was midway through the afternoon. No market next week so there goes those sales. 

As I was sitting here with Julia knitting and making pom poms, I thought about all the local retailers who were counting on the dollars coming in this weekend to stay alive and viable for another year. It is so difficult to be an independent retailer these days with the internet and all the big box competition. I'm sure the internet sales were racking up huge yesterday because no one living on much of the east coast could go anywhere to do holiday shopping. 

I constantly live in limbo with my thoughts on buying things. We aren't huge consumers - in fact we are really quite frugal - Mark and I are still wearing clothes we purchased before Julia was born. Granted our wardrobe doesn't have to be much considering where we live and what we do. Julia's wardrobe consists of lots of hand me downs from her cousins and gifts from family. For the little bit of Christmas shopping I do, I try to buy local from the local retailers that are still hanging in there. It's not much and they certainly aren't going to survive on what I spend. And we run a local sheep farm - selling local lamb

On the other hand, I sell my handmade pottery ON-LINE in my Etsy Shop and my Embroidery Supplies, books and patterns on my own website here. I count on those sales to help us get through the winter months. To get sales, I have to constantly promote my on-line business. For me, it gets so repetitious and monotonous and I feel like I am such a constant nudge. Hypocritical for sure - buy local but by on-line from me. I suppose the community I have built - that would be you who are reading - is a local community of its own kind. It's not physically local but we are all of a general common mindset - the love of craft and creativity and color, sharing, and kindness. 

(Last day for ordering before Christmas is tomorrow December 19th. I won't be shipping until after the New Year.)

It's interesting to think about. What is local these days? 

I listened to a good podcast the other day on Vickie Howell's newish series called Craft-ish where she interviewed Amy Singer of Knitty Magazine. It's a good interview. Amy shares how her on-line magazine business has changed so much because of the loss of advertising dollars that used to support her business. She has begun a Patreon business model and it is helping her to continue to publish her magazine. 

While we were waiting for the snow to end, we indulged in some favorite Christmas movies. Julia and I recommend the following -
The Bishop's Wife - with Cary Grant and David Niven from 1947. Watched it for the first time - lovely.
Mixed Nuts - by Nora and Delia Ephron with Steve Martin and Rita Wilson. A bit kooky but fun.
White Christmas - the classic with Bing and Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney
Elf - Will Ferrell and Bob Newhart. A must for this time of year. 

Photo from Andrew Baseman's blog
I love this box seen on Andrew Basemen's blog. It is hard to imagine that people used to sew together boxes to keep using them - considering what we throw away today. Food for thought. Read the article here

David Hockney is making beautiful art on his iPad. Read about it here. What do you think - is art drawn on an ipad ART?

Susan B. Anderson - that Susan B. Anderson of cute knitted things fame and one of the nicest people in the world - has started a yarn company with her son. It is called Barrett Wool Company and you can learn about it here. Go Susan and Evan.

Good luck everyone with the pre-Christmas run-up. Stay safe and sane. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Making Pottery Vases This Year

Over the weekend, I worked on taking photos of the pottery I have made this year. I have been taking a pottery class at my friend Lucy Fagella's studio this year to keep me in the throwing and making pots game. It has been fun because I have met some new people in the community. It has also gotten me out once a week for part of the year - out of my routine and out of the house. I've been so focused on working on my book this year that I feel like I have done nothing but book all year long. That and the farmer's markets and our lamb business and taking care of my family and home. Oh, and some teaching at workshops here at the farm. 

This year, I focused on making vases. Lucy has helped me to throw thinner vases and given me lots of tricks and tips each evening. Once I got my pottery throwing studio set up in the new She Shed, I quickly threw some pots so I would have inventory for my Etsy shop for Christmas sales. 

I have a lot of vases for sale now. On Sunday and Monday, I spent the day uploading photos of each vase (5 photos per vase - ugh) and then describing and listing each different vase. It is a massive amount of work - all on the computer. I'm not used to sitting still in one place for a long period of time. By the end of the day Monday, I had a total backache. But I got it done. I had to because this is the last week to get sales before the holidays. And then it will dry up until next pre-Christmas season. 

Check out my On-Line Pottery Shop which is on Etsy here. Although it is a massive amount of work to get it all listed, Etsy is a perfect place to sell one-offs. (I don't like to repeat designs - no surprise, right?) Once a product is sold, it disappears and no one else can order it. My personal website isn't set up like that. There is no inventory function and it isn't mobile friendly like is available on the Etsy app.

I love making vases and I'm hoping people who are interested in gardening and art will be interested in buying them. Why did I choose to do vases? Because I love growing flowers and putting them in pretty vases in the house. I've watched the career of potter Frances Palmer grow over the years. My vases are nothing like hers nor are mine nearly as expensive. So maybe it is something to aspire to - colorful vases for gardeners who love pattern, floral designs and pottery. Below is a pretty little paisley decorated vase with some dried flowers. I love this shape and you all know how I feel about the paisley motif.

Next year, I'm hoping to be able to make more pottery to sell on-line and maybe here at the farm. I'm thinking of having two Open Houses - one in the spring - just for pottery and one in the house before Christmas like I have done the past couple years with our Holiday Open House. I mentioned this to my family and their comment was - "as long as we don't have to help with both of them." I can do it myself - I will keep you all posted. We shall see if it materializes. 

I'll be keeping my Etsy shop open until the 20th. Hopefully that will give the Post Office time to deliver for Christmas gifts. I ship by US Postal Service Priority Mail which is quite quick (although they may get a bit bogged down this time of year). 

If you are interested in making pottery, check out Lucy's You Tube channel where she has lots of videos demonstrating different parts of pottery making. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Thinking about Book Making and My Tile Project

Rikki and I made it through the last two days of the photo shoot for my next book. It was a full two days on Thursday and Friday. The days are short now so we started at 8 a.m. By 4 it was dark. That is the tough thing about shooting in December. 

It was bittersweet because I don't know when I will see Rikki again. I'm sure I will but not in a working relationship for a while. I think we have worked together on one major project every year for 4 years between books and magazine articles. It has been so much fun for me to watch her career develop. When I first met her, she was just beginning her photography business. Now she is so busy with lots of clients. She even shoots for the NYTimes Food Section every couple weeks. To me, if you are shooting for the Times, you have a arrived! (BTW, do you know about the NYT Cooking App? Here is the link. You can sign up and they send newsletters twice a week with recipe ideas and you can make your own recipe box. It is genius. Thanks Kay for turning me onto it.) 

Rikki and I have developed such a rapport and have such fun working together creating beautiful photos. Rikki takes the photos that I see in my head - just as I have dreamed them up. (These aren't Rikki's photos - just my iphone photos of the Sunflower Bedroom.)

When I am designing a project, a space or a room, I always think primarily about how the photo will look. It might be an odd way to think but I have been doing it for so long - I think I was born thinking that way. I'm not sure what kind of "brain" it is - maybe someone who is reading knows the thinking style I am describing. I definitely honed that talent (whatever it is called?) when I worked for the yarn company. I can conjure up a mental image of a space, a thing that I am dreaming of making, a party or a scene. Then I work physically to get it done. 

Working from mental images is a lot of what writing a non-fiction creative based book is all about. I dream up the ideas, mull them over in my mind, propose them to an editor and then, if it is something a publisher thinks will fly (or sell - it is all about the possible sales you know), I think about how it will be photographed. I also think about how the projects will fit together in the book. I choose colors and techniques that will be varied, not repetitive (hopefully) and interesting to someone who might buy the book. It is like a giant puzzle.

The Sunflower Bedroom with a brightly colored kilim carpet I added at the last minute
A couple weeks ago, I shared some colorful tiles that I was painting and glazing with you all. This project was a last minute project for the book that I have been actually dreaming about for several years. As I am apt to do, because I thrive on last minute projects, I decided to see if I could get the dream out of my head and into the world. I had to work quick. I called my contractor Kevin and ran it by him. The message I left on his machine went something like this..... "Kevin - do you think you can make my dream come true?" Good thing I know his wife and we are longtime friends- right? 

Kevin came over one weekend, listened to what I wanted and he knew just what to do. He had an easy answer - thank goodness. It wasn't going to be hard for me to do myself if he did the cutting. It is a project someone else could do too. He suggested something called cement board.

In the meantime, I had been painting tiles with underglazes, bisque firing and then re-firing with gloss glazes 30 different ceramic tiles in many colors and patterns.

Kevin arrived the day before the Open House with the piece of cement board. It fit perfectly. 

Last Tuesday, I set to work. I made a quick illustration of how I thought the tiles should look in Illustrator. Here it is.

I laid out the tiles on top of the cement board and then fooled with them until I was happy with the color placement. 

Using acrylic mastic and a trowel, I started gluing down the tiles, spacing them about 1/4" apart. This is only the second time I have tiled something but I have done mosaics out of broken dishes so it was very easy and quick. 

The bottom two tiles were too big. I cut them with this tool that cost about $7 and was effortless to use. 

I turned the heat on in the studio so they would dry and adhere overnight. 

The next day, I portioned out some pre-mixed grout onto a piece of plexiglass. I wanted the grout to be dark - to match the painted patterning and I couldn't get dark grout locally. My solution was to add black acrylic paint to the grout to darken it. It worked. 

I grouted all the tiles. With a damp sponge, I rubbed the grout into the cracks - by using the wet sponge and re-wetting it after rubbing each tile joint, the grout settled in beautifully. 

The next day, I scrubbed the leftover grout off with a green scrubbie. We were set for the photograph. Here is the fireplace surround laying on a carpet. Rikki and I installed it Friday morning using molding Kevin had cut and I had painted black.

I'm not going to share the finished photo here because it will be in the book when it comes out in 2018. If you want a preview - go over to Rikki's Instagram and you can see it there. And then follow her - she takes gorgeous photos. It turned out just as I had pictured in my mind. 

I hope you all have enjoyed this book making journey I have included you in this year. I'm still not done yet - there will be re-writes, copy editing, and illustrations but it is getting there. It is good to have the photography behind me and know what there is going to be left to do. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Kristin's On-Line Pottery Shop Goes Live at 8 p.m. Monday!

Here is the link for anyone interested in my handmade pottery. The shop will be open at 8 p.m. this evening - Monday.

Here are a few of my new pieces. 

Thanks for your support. 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Open House 2016 Photos - for those who couldn't attend

We had a great weekend here at Leyden Glen Farm hosting our 2nd Holiday Open House. Saturday was a bit slow which was the complete opposite of last year. (And it made me very worried!) We had a great turn-out on Sunday - folks drove from far and wide and lots of lovely local people came too. We had a few folks that met up with sisters, family and friends and they made a day of the Farmhouse and lunch out at local restaurants. 

My self-guided tour of the farmhouse was a big hit. I had handwritten numbers hanging all over the place and it was fun to watch everyone explore all the things I have painted and made. It saved me a lot of talking too. Last year I couldn't remember who I said what to. 

Julia had a great time learning about commerce. She steadfastly stayed close to her booth (the couch) and tried to sell her wares to everyone. Pretty cute and I hope not too obnoxious. She was happy with her profits. It was a very good learning experience for her.

Charlie was the star of the weekend. He sat perched on the couch and let everyone pet him. He is head cat now and really seemed in charge. 

I took a lot of photos so you could see what you all missed. Next year, I will try to pick dates earlier and give everyone a heads-up instead of only 3 weeks before the event. I can't believe we pulled this off considering Deborah, Gail, Alicia and I didn't decide to do it until a month before. It is amazing what you can do when you join together with talented women to plan, promote, and host an event. Although Julia thought it was "creepy" (seems to be a favorite teenage word these days), I think both she and Mark enjoyed meeting everyone. I know I did.

Thanks so much to all of you who came out. We really appreciate your traveling and your support of our family, our farm and our neighborhood. And to the locals too - thanks for supporting your eccentric neighbors. 

This morning, we had a dusting of snow. We were so lucky it held off until today. 

Here are some photos from the Open House weekend. A wreath with pom pom decorations greeted everyone.  

Welcome. Please sign in and tell us where you came from. 

Julia's shop

More in the living room....

A lot of people wanted to buy my stockings. I had them displayed so that knitters could buy the pattern. I spent a lot of time explaining what a PDF download is. It is amazing how many people do not know anything about digital patterns. 

Our neighbor Debbie gave us this sheep last year. I dressed it up with a scarf and a pom pom.

It is really hard to hide all the things of life for an event like this. If you look on the bottom left of this photo, you'll see a stack of newspapers. They are actually the NYTimes Wednesday Food Section. I save them for my ex-BIL Fernando who lives in Brazil. Every year, I send him with a year's worth of reading when his sons go down to visit him. 

My giant swatch blanket made a nice throw for the couch. 

In the library, Gail Callahan was set up. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of the Open House with people around. She had a nice crowd and she sold a lot of her Color Grids. I heard so many people talking about how clever it was. Good job Gail. (Makes a nice Christmas gift - You can order it here.)

My leaning tower of magazines....

This week's project - more to come about it. 

I had my pottery set up in the dining room. I was afraid I didn't have enough but I had plenty. I have been making it in a pottery class that I have been taking from my friend Lucy this year. (BTW - Lucy is having an Open Studio Pottery Sale this weekend for all you locals.) I have quite a bit of pottery left that I will stock my Etsy store with next week. 

The kitchen was the check-out stand. Our friend Alyssa helped me out with that. Thank you Alyssa. I couldn't be a hostess and ring up sales. 

Some Christmas cards with sheep - of course. 

My Grandma Frieda looking over us all. She was a star baker (stollen and cookies) and this is her Sellers Pantry that I love so much. That is one of my vases. We have a bumper crop of holly this year. 

I didn't start the paperwhites early enough but they look pretty sprouting none the less.

Deborah was just off the kitchen on the porch with her gorgeous textiles. People were snapping them up. Can't wait to see what she has next year. 

Gail and I baked goodies and we served brie with crackers, coffee and cider. For the kids we had candy canes and chocolate kisses. 

I made this gingerbread and it was a real hit. The recipe came from the blog The English Kitchen and its claim to fame is that it is the world's best gingerbread recipe. I am definitely going to use this recipe again. I love gingerbread around the holidays. I didn't grow up with it but I wish I did. I think it is a more British tradition. Even Julia the chocoholic loved it. 

Kate is pooped. She did a few demos of her herding skills which are improving every day. She refuses to look at the camera! 

Thank you one and all who came out to support us. I hope you all have a chance to visit an Open House like this near where you live.