Tuesday, June 11, 2019

June Update From Our Farm

Hi there blogging friends. How are you all doing? Things are busy here at the farm. Most of the sheep have moved from the barns out to pastures. There are still some lambs being born and because the ewes are lambing on pasture, the little lambs are wild as heck. So far so good on that front.

Spring has sprung. The apple orchard bloomed. We are at least a week behind the normal growth cycle because this spring it has been so rainy and wet and cold. Everything is late to get going. 

My garden was just tilled and over the past couple days I got half of it in with plant starts from Walker Farm in Dummerston, VT. 

I have ordered my sunflower seeds and they should be here in a week or so. I will stagger the planting over a few weeks. I find that here I can plant as late as the middle of July and still have sunflowers. It all depends on the weather but I like my sunflowers to start blooming in September and end in October. I get my seeds from Johnny's and Sunflower Selections. I always order new seeds because I haven't had luck with germination with planting year old seeds. 

Here are some other photos of what it looks like here at our farm. I haven't been using my big camera nearly as much as I have done in the past. It's too bad because it really does take good photos. Guess not enough time to lug it around and then download photos to the computer, tweak them and upload them here. 

This little garden is just outside my studio. I am really excited that tiny little hollyhock seedlings made it through the winter and it looks like I am going to have gorgeous hollyhocks just outside my window. I have no idea what color they will be. Can't wait to see. 

This is one of my favorite combinations - lambs ears and lady's mantle. I have grown it together in every garden I have ever tended. It is looking lovely today. 

Tomorrow The Farmer goes in for his second hip replacement surgery. Fingers crossed the recovery goes better than last year's trials and tribulations. Please keep us in your thoughts. 
So that is what is going on here. What is new with you? Do you have summer plans that you are looking forward to? I am going to miss having students come to the house for the retreats that I have hosted for the past ten years but I will be busy making lots of things, helping with the sheep, and hoping The Farmer's healing process moves along better than last year. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Book Review - Henry Wilson's Floral Patterns Of India

This past January when we were starved for color here in western Massachusetts, I discovered the book Floral Patterns Of India via the Quintessence blog. I am not sure how I missed this one as it was published in 2016. It was written and photographed by the very talented Henry Wilson. The book is beautifully presented and was published by Thames and Hudson. It has a silky fabric bright blue colored spine. The paper is very thick and has a somewhat matte but not too matte finish. It is 272 pages long - full of incredible photographs, patterns and color. There is so much inspiration in here that it was hard to pick just a few pages to photograph. 

Floral Patterns of India is jam packed with colorful photos from India. There are photos of places, people, buildings, interiors, and fabrics. Besides the beautiful photos, there are many words to read - a plus for someone who likes to read - besides look at photos. Read books? Do people do that anymore? Sure people read on their screens but do they crack open a book or do they just scroll, scroll, scroll. I do - although not as much as I should. Floral Patterns of India is split into 6 Chapters: Introduction, Repeat Patterns, Borders and Bands, Floral Panels, Ornamental Scenes, and The Drawing Process. 

Look at these crazy goats! 

Throughout the book, there are photos of interiors and exteriors. Here are a few of my favorites. 

Henry Wilson was definitely inspired by the colors, shapes, and patterns of India. So much so that he took the motifs from many of the interiors and then made one color illustrations which are shown opposite the interior it was featured in. For artists, needleworkers, knitters, surface designers, these illustrations are great jumping off points for their own work. At the very back of the book, Henry explains his process and reason for the drawings that accompany many of the photos. They were all done completely by hand without the use of a computer. He cites a tracing paper, ruler, pens, protractor, compass and erasers as his tools. This really blows my mind because they all look to be so accurate as to have been done with the use of a computer. Amazing. Henry cites a book called Jeypore Portfolio of Architectural Details from 1890 as his inspiration - besides all the handmade beauty that he photographed in India. 

Here is the author Henry Wilson. I found this photo on the Thames and Hudson website. Behind him is his wallpaper line called Sariskar that he designed for Osborne and Little. I love these wallpapers.  

Henry Wilson was an incredibly talented photographer who fell in love with India. He wrote seven books on India including Floral Patterns of India which I am sharing here. Unfortunately Henry died in May of 2017 when hit by a car while he was riding his bicycle  in London where he lived. You can see photos of Henry's incredible house here. Check out all there is to learn on his website here. Such an incredible legacy he left but it is so sad he was taken from the world so early. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Garden Excursion to Garden Vision Epimediums

Epimediums - what a mouthful, isn't it? I want to share with you all a new garden plant - at least to me. Epimediums are shade loving plants that are native to China and Japan. I was introduced to them by my friend Kay. The other day we went on an adventure to Garden Vision Epimediums in Phillipston, Massachusetts - about an hour from where we live. 

My friend Kay is an amazing gardener. She has gardened all her life and is a plant nerd who knows all the latin names of plants. She is way beyond me - but I always learn something when she talks plants - which is good for me. She invited me to go to Garden Vision Epimediums after she heard the owner - Karen Perkins - on Margaret Roach's podcast A Way to Garden. You can listen here. BTW, Margaret Roach's book A Way to Garden is celebrating its 21st anniversary and has been updated and re-published on April 30th. 

The nursery is run solely by Karen. She has Open Days for 3 weeks in the spring. If you are local - you can still catch this year's Open Days until May 19th. Hours are 10-4. Please be warned - the nursery is located in very rural Massachusetts and there are no bathroom facilities

Karen propagates over 170 different epimediums and also sells them through mail-order. She travels a lot up and down the East Coast so if you can't get to Phillipston, you might be able to see her at a plant sale or lecture near you. Here is the schedule.

I was a total neophyte to this genus of plants but the more I looked, the more I was taken with the varieties. There are small ones, big ones, ones with multi-colored leaves. They come in many different leaf colors and blossom colors. They blossom in the spring and have the most delicate complex blossom. All of Karen's varieties were collected overseas and brought back to the US to be propogated.

Karen is doing important work and takes it very seriously. She works by herself, publishes a catalog, ships the plants all over the USA, cares for the nursery, does lectures and on and on. It was so nice to meet her and see her place.

I purchased a couple different varieties of epimediums and will put them in my shade garden next to hostas as Karen suggested. I hope I don't lose them to some critter of mine. It isn't easy gardening with 2 giant dogs, 1 medium dog and lots of cats and sheep but I am going to give them a try. Thanks to Kay for taking me on a plant adventure. 

Have a great day everyone. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

New In Process Ceramics - April/May 2019

The past few weeks I have been working through lots of unfired ceramics that I never finished before my last painting and firing cycle in November. You know - just like those bags full of UFO knitted projects. These pieces have been gathering dust -- some for a couple years -- and I have made it my goal to finish every single one of them and get them fired so that I actually have some stock to fill my website with. My kiln is larger than I probably need so it takes a lot of work to fill it up. It is an old Skutt 1027 with manual firing. 

Decorating is a long process because each piece is different. With each piece, I look at the shape and then respond to it intuitively with flowers, leaves and other shapes. If I really want to make some money doing this, I would be better off having a few key motifs and just repeating them. But I am not good at the repetition thing because I get bored so easily. 

Here are a couple of relief tiles I started making for The Farmer's 60th birthday a couple years ago. They too have sat gathering dust. I put some color on them and will fire them. After they come out of the kiln again, I am going to stain them to make them look old. These are experiments which are fun to try once in a while. The next birthday is coming up very soon so maybe I will make it a few years late. If I like them, I may make a mold of them and then make more. We shall see. 

Now that the weather is getting a little warmer, I will be able to be in my unheated pottery studio and start making more ware to decorate. Looking forward to it. 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Spring, New Fabric for Mom and Make And Decorate Podcast

Spring has been nice and long here in western Mass. The grass is just starting to grow - it isn't long enough to put the sheep on it yet but it will be within a couple weeks. We will need to get the temporary fences set up which is a job. The Farmer isn't very steady on his legs yet -- that will take having the second hip replaced. We are hoping we can find some help with that project -- someone who doesn't mind the ticks that are ravenous this time of year. Yuk. 

I have been working on a project for Mom. She wants to recover her porch furniture and wanted to use one of my fabric designs. Because I can, I designed 4 new colorways for her of my Bird and Flower Pattern - all the while thinking about Mom's lovely screened in porch and the many hours we have spent there together as a family. I designed 4 colorways - light green, brown, leaf green and gold - and then resized the pattern 4 times so that she can pick the colorway and scale she needs for her particular cushions on her couch. 

I have sent the fabric off and I look forward to hearing her choice. I like them all and I think she will be happy with one of them. Once she decides, I will re-do the computer files and order the fabric for her at Spoonflower. I will also put the pattern up for sale in my Spoonflower shop

As you can see, Henry had to get into the photo action as cats are bound to do. We have a litter of kittens due soon and we are hoping that Henry is the dad to some of them. He has such a great personality and is a beautiful boy so fingers crossed he did his job. Unlike some male cats I have had, he hasn't been marking territory. I will get him neutered but want to see the type of babies he fathers. He came from an island in Maine so it is good to have some new blood. Like with our sheep, the male is half the progeny. 

Lastly, I want to let you all know that I am on a podcast hosted by Stephanie Socha called Make and Decorate. I taped the interview several weeks ago and it is now available to listen to. Stephanie started her podcast not that long ago and she is such a fun chat. She is a very enthusiastic conversationalist with lots of different interests that we had in common. Stephanie has been an interior decorator for several years, quilts, crochets, sews and hails from the midwest. We talked about all kinds of fun things including quilting, color, fabric, pattern and more. Have a listen here

I listen to podcasts a lot while I work on my ceramics and sew. I use the app on my phone or ipad called Stitcher although there are many options for listening including on a browser. There is so much to learn out there. Click here to listen to my interview on Make and Decorate

Have a great week everyone!

Monday, April 08, 2019

Book Review - The Maverick Soul

It's been a long time since I have written about any books I have discovered and fallen in love with. There are not a lot of books that come out these days that really speak to me. But this one -- The Maverick Soul -- by Miv Watts with photos by Hugh Stewart - is one I can't stop looking at. Published in Australia by Hardie Grant Books (a publisher that really does gorgeous books), is one I have turned to again and again. I have had it for a while now (it was published in 2017) and thought I would share it with you all.

The Maverick Soul - Inside the Lives and Homes of Eccentric Eclectic and Free-spirited Bohemians is a look into the homes of artists, designers, and generally very interesting people. Miv Watts - the author - is a stylist and decorator who has also been involved in the film business. She lives between Australia and the south of France. She is also the mom of actress Naomi Watts. As you can imagine with a career as such, Miv would know interesting folks who might live in interesting homes and locales. This book is a look into 25 homes of these people. I didn't know who any of them were - except for Marianne Faithfull and Raffaella Barker (author). 

The photos were taken by Hugh Stewart and they are lush, full of texture and layers. Nothing looks very styled or perfect - more as if the photos were taken by a friend when just walking in the door. There are lots of beautiful still lives of corners of homes. 

Each person's home is a chapter and there is a page and half of words about each featured home owner and how they came to live in their home. Miv is an engaging writer and as I turned the pages to discover a new house or person, my world was opened up to new places and thoughts. From the Introduction, she writes "In the course of a life, if one is lucky, one meets a few people who leave a mark, touch the heart, turn a switch, leave a print on the soul. Such mentors can have an impact on one's future and they can be the inevitable catalysts of change."  There are many more moving thoughts and passages as each person and home is revealed. 

Here are some photos of pages from the book with links to some of the featured homeowners - there are 25 homes and people featured so this is a smattering. (I've given you quite a rabbit hole to fall down with those links!) 

If you are a home junkie or like to read about interesting people and places, check out The Maverick Soul

Simon Finch - Antiquarian Book Dealer and his home Voewood

Griffin Dune - Writer, Producer, Director, Actor - this is one of two Americans featured

Bruce Goold - Artist, Textile Designer and Aussie Icon

Victoria Alexander - Decorator, Photographer

Patrick Deedes-Vincke and Isabelle Townsend (daughter of Peter Townsend)

Nancy Howard - Artist, Philanthropist

Desmond MacCarthy - Farmer, Restauranteur at Wiveton Hall

Rebecca Purcell - Stylish, Philosopher and former Display Director at ABC Carpet in NYC

Melissa North - Interior Designer

Miv Watts' own home in the south of France

The back cover of The Maverick Soul 

June Update From Our Farm

Hi there blogging friends. How are you all doing? Things are busy here at the farm. Most of the sheep have moved from the barns out to pa...