A spring full of creativity

April 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Posted in art, country life, family, gifts, inspiration, knitting, needle felting, shopping, travel, women, yarn | 12 Comments
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We have been very busy, very productive. Last week I was not able to blog because I was working all out, day in and day out to prepare two full-color two-sided brochures for the now annual Artists of The Oak Art Trail the last Saturday of August. This is the third year that our artist group has organized and held our own Art Trail event.

The first two years we worked with a local arts organization but this year we have struck out on our own. My husband and I are the Art Trail organizers, and I felt strongly that our ability to organize has exceeded the ability of the arts organization to serve the needs of our community. Their attention is more focused on our neighboring county because a) the arts organization is located there, and b) the other county has a larger population than ours.

In past years when the art trail was orchestrated only by the arts organization there were only a small (microscopically small) handful of visitors to the trail. When my husband and I got involved and added the Artists of The Oak “loop” to their trail and pressed them to move the date from mid-autumn to late-summer the number of attendees dramatically increased (up from half a dozen literally to 80 the first year; up from 80 to 175 the second year).

Anyway, this year we broke off from the arts organization and are creating our own Art Trail. We raised money from local businesses to sponsor the map for the trail and then raised money from the artists in our group to pay for the Artists brochure.

I had an opportunity to get 5,000 of the map brochures and 5,000 of the Artists brochures with free shipping if I got everything done way ahead of schedule and submitted my artwork by this past Friday.

It was hard, focused work but I made the target and now we will have 10,000 promo pieces to distribute far and wide — which is four times as many as we had to work with last year.

If you are interested in our event this year, you can download the map here. Of course, the event is not until late summer, so you will have plenty of time to plan your trip!

Meanwhile, both my son and I have been busy creating. I love these new “Minimalist” prints he has created for various cities.

I admire his ability to keep things very clean and simple in his designs; these new posters are a great example of his taste in that regard. He has also added several new cities to his collection of Subway Signs and Bus Scroll Prints. So far these cities are represented:

  • Dallas
  • Washington D.C.
  • Portland
  • Atlanic City
  • Seattle
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • New York
  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles
  • Paris
  • London

As for me, I have been combining two of my favorite fiber arts: knitting and needle felting. I have had so much fun creating this doll … and she has been enjoying two of my favorite activities: knitting and drinking coffee. I gave her a tote bag much like one of my favorite totes, and filled it with little balls of yarn rolled up from left overs of some of my favorite yarns.

Last fall I started knitting a pair of knuckle gloves for myself that I was really looking forward to wearing this past winter. However, I was not enjoying the knitting project and never got past mid-way on the first glove. I had intended to complete my gloves and then release a pattern for my readers, but I am not willing to publish a knitting pattern for a project that is no fun to knit, so I never completed the knucks and of course never released a pattern.

When I was working on the doll I had an idea to knit a hat for her, but then I came across the incomplete knuckle glove and realized it would make a great hat for her.

So I unraveled it back to a good length for the hat and voila, an adorable little hat to keep my doll’s head warm. I used some of the curly, unraveled yarn to make tassels for the corner points on the hat which just added to the cuteness quite a bit. I also used a little bit more of the same yarn to knit her a tiny ribbed scarf to make sure she stays plenty warm and cozy.

What I am doing with the needle felting is developing some more of my own techniques and characters so that I will have all kinds of cool stuff to teach in the needle felting classes I will be writing up and selling via my Etsy shop. I love the idea of combining knitting with needle felting because knitters will have an additional way to use their talents. But, for non-knitters I will be sure to include instructions for making accessories without knitting.

Please continue to be patient with me because it is a long process to develop the techniques and characters, then to remake items photographing each step, write up all of the instructions, and get it all published. For me, it is especially painstaking because I put quite a lot of care into breaking down my instructions into very easy to understand and follow directions. The thing is, this is a very fun and wonderful artistic medium and when I pass along some instructions on it I want to make sure others will experience great joy in what they are doing.

That will be it for today, but next time I blog I have a wonderful recipe to share that my son passed along to me for Asian Lettuce Wraps … I haven’t had a chance to make them yet, but he has and he loves them so he shared the recipe with me so I could share it with you fine folks.

I’ll write more in a few days.

Hope you have a beautiful week!

~firefly

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One River comes into focus

November 15, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Posted in art, country life, faith, family, fingerless gloves, inspiration, knitting, Life, love, photography, shopping, travel, women, yarn | 3 Comments
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The past month has involved quite a bit of hard work preparing for our photography show; the show is opening on December 2nd at Marti’s on Main in Albion, New York.  When we first decided to do a photography show this December, the idea seemed rather simple and easy to pull off.  Of course it could have stayed that way, but the more we worked on it, the bigger our plans became and the more work there was to be done.  No regrets about that at all, we are having a good time doing something productive and creative that the entire family enjoys so it is worth any amount of time or financial investment that has gone into it.

This past week my son designed an awesome postcard and poster to promote the event.  We have the posters going up in shop windows in the villages around us, and postcards are going out in many directions.  I also wrote a press release and submitted it to plenty of media contacts in Western New York; we will be interviewed this Friday for some coverage.  If you are a blogger and would be willing to give us some coverage, it would be greatly appreciated.

I listed the poster for sale in my fine art Etsy shop (FleckensteinFineArt.Etsy.com).  Proceeds from the sale of this poster will help cover costs associated with the production of the show.  Now through Sunday, I have three special offers for my readers:

1) Buy a One River poster for $19, get any two knitting pattern downloads FREE (excludes the Three Scrumptious Christmas Stockings pattern, although you could substitute that one for any other two).  To take advantage of this offer, place your order for the poster, and then email me to tell me which two patterns you would like for free.  I will send a download link via email, or will gift it to you at Ravelry (Ravelry username required).

2) Buy any Subway Roll Sign, Bus Scroll Print, or reproduction vintage map from my son’s online store and get any three knitting pattern downloads for FREE — same details as above. (Offer also applies to any custom order placed with him.)

3) Buy any 11 x 17 inch Knitter’s Eye Chart (or Crocheter’s), and get any two knitting pattern downloads FREE — same details as above.

This is all being done to raise money to cover expenses for the photography show.  We have printed all of the photographs at a professional lab using Kodak’s Endura Metallic paper, they are all matted with black mat board and framed in simple black wooden frames.  A limited selection of some of my photographs that are featured in the show are listed in my fine art Etsy store … if you are interested.

We have titled the show, “One River”.  It is a show of six decades, five artists, four photographers, three generations, two coasts, and … One River.   The photography began in the late 1940’s when my husband’s father began shooting beautiful color slides at the family’s cottage on the river where we live — our farm is situated on that same river.  There are five artists in the show because it features photography by my now-deceased father-in-law, my husband, my son, and I plus poetry by my father.  Three generations — that should be obvious from who the photographers are.  Two coasts — my son still maintains a home and studio in the Los Angeles area, and then we have the place here in New York.   One River.  We have all been photographing this one river for the past sixty years, using the range of photographic technology available during that span of time.  I think it will be very interesting to people to get a chance to see one river–and the surrounding countryside–captured by three generations of photographers, each bringing their own take on the river into focus.

Even with all of this show related work in progress, I have managed to make a humble start to what I think is going to be a very cool (yet warm) pair of knuckle gloves for myself.  I have a hank of Berroco’s Ultra Alpaca fingering weight yarn in a gorgeous colorway called “Potting Soil” to make them with on size U.S. 1 knitting needles.  I am using a delicate little broken rib pattern for the cuffs and am enjoying the knitting very much.  The yarn is dreamy soft and easy to work with.  I’m planning on making these knuckle gloves with extra long cuffs so they go way up in my sweaters and jackets to keep my arms warm.

What will be even cooler, I think, is that I will make a pair of coordinating fingerless gloves using the same Berroco Ultra Alpaca worsted weight yarn in Lavender Mix colorway used in my Lavender Hat and Scarf pattern way back when I first started my blog in 2006.  On particularly cold days I will wear the Lavender colored fingerless gloves over the thinner, more delicate knuckle gloves for extra warmth.  They are going to look ultra cool, and now that we are pretty much finished putting the photography show together I should be able to get some serious knitting done so the gloves will be ready to wear soon.

Okay people, I am going to head off to get some more work done.  I appreciate your continued interest and support.

Warmest wishes,

~firefly

Gathering up the wild things, 2011

October 27, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Posted in art, Christmas, country life, family, Holidays, inspiration, knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, shopping, travel, Vintage | 3 Comments
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This is what I see today, as I look out the window of my studio writing. Though I didn’t shoot that photograph today or this year, it is pretty close to what I see out there right now. Just imagine the same scene with darker clouds and a steady rain, and you will see what I am seeing right now.

What is the weather like where you are? How has the season evolved in your corner of the world so far?

A couple of days ago my husband and I did the coolest thing: I noticed over the past few months a number of older wild grapevines around our farm about 1″ to 1 1/2″ in diameter, and those grapevines got me to thinking. I love to cut wild grape vines and make wreaths with them, so I wondered if we could cut the thick old vines and fashion them into a very large wreath to hang on our barn. We have wanted to make a large outdoor Christmas wreath to hang on our barn and it was exciting to finally have a natural ingredient we could use to make one.

As you look for unique, inspired gift ideas for people on your list this year remember to check out our Knitter’s Eye Charts (as seen in Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits this fall) and other gifts for knitters in the I Live on a Farm Etsy store.  Or, give an inspiring eBook or Kindle book to someone you love. My son carries a great variety of vintage-look Subway Roll Signs and Bus Scroll Prints representing New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris, London and more — he also creates custom signs with the same vintage look. You can find my original paintings, fine art prints, photographs, and note cards in my Fine Art Etsy Store.

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There was a little window of opportunity two days ago when he got home from work, before it started raining, to get out and about and cut the vines we wanted to use. Cutting the vines off of our trees will help the trees survive longer, plus and it provided us with plenty of thick vines to coil around for a four foot diameter wreath. It is beautiful, rustic and hearty looking. We will still need to find things to add to it in order to make it more decorative and I hope to be able to light it up somehow at night so people will enjoy it as they drive by.

Our closest neighbors have a beautiful huge red barn, and they hang a large wreath on it every Christmas season. It is lit up at night with an outdoor light and is a very lovely sight to see if we happen to be out on a snowy winter night. I hope our wreath with bring the kind of joy to others that our neighbors’ wreath has brought to us.

We will hang it right over our quilt square, and it should harmonize with the square because of the double wedding ring pattern on the square. (If you are not familiar with the quilt square we have hanging on our barn, here is a link to my blog on that subject from back in 2008 when we first hung the quilt square.)

08dec08_2carolersoutsideWe have also been out gathering up wild things from our environment this week for use in a new generation of my Thistleonian characters. It was important for us to get out and gather the wild things I need for the little guys before the elements start making them look too weathered.

One of my favorite ingredients is not wild; I use soybeans to make their little arms. The farmers around us who are growing soy beans this year were out everywhere bringing them in a couple of weeks back, so that was our cue to get out to someone’s field and snag a few remnant bean stalks from the edge of a field. Though they are not “wild”, they are natural and perfect for Thistleonians. The soy beans inside are small and cream colored and are beautiful to use as accents as well.

I have also started drying milkweed pods– my all-time favorite of beautiful wild things to gather from the outside world. Beginning in early October I watch the pods (they grow in front of our barn, beneath our Quilt Square Block along with various wild flowers) for signs they are ready to harvest. What I am watching for is the first pods that burst open on their own to release their seeds and silky threads. When that happens, I can gather as many as I need and start getting them ready for drying.

I enjoyed spending time with my husband, driving around and raiding fallow fields and soy bean crop remnants to gather the items I need. We did this kind of “wild thing” foraging the first couple of years after I moved here but it has been a while since we did so and it was just great to get back out there and spend that kind of time together. I treasure him for many things, and this is an example of why. He not only supports me in theory on my various creative activities, he gets involved and plays the game with me on those things he can. (Thank you, dear husband.)

I am looking forward to spending some cozy time during dark and stormy autumn days (much like today) working on Thistleonians. I also have on my list of creative things to do the knitting of a new pair of knuckle gloves or fingerless gloves for myself, as the pair of Fetching fingerless gloves I made my first year in New York are frayed and will have to be replaced. I would also like to knit some socks for my mother and x-mother-in-law (what should I call her now?), lacey fingerless gloves and a scarflett for my daughter, a sweater for my grand-daughter, something I have not figured out for my son, and a new hat for myself. Oh, to be able to knit the many things I have on and in my mind to knit.

The past couple of weeks my husband, my son, and I have all been working to prepare for a group photography show in December at a nearby art gallery. The show will feature pieces by me, my husband, his deceased father, and my son along with poetry written by my father; I will do a poetry reading of some of my father’s poetry opening night of the show. This show will be at the local art gallery in one of the nearby villages and the opening will be Friday December 2nd in the evening. If you are in the Western New York area and would like an invitation to the show, contact me via email or with a comment on this blog and I will send one as soon as they are ready.

I have shot upwards of 75,000 photographs since I moved to New York — most likely many more than that. I went through about half of them in an effort to select the best ten for our show. I wanted the photographs I am showing to be of a fine art nature, to reflect my artistic ability with the camera as well as my eye for composition and color. The photographs needed to also reflect my particular artistic style and communicate something important about my vision as an artist.

After many hours reviewing photographs, I narrowed my choices down to a couple of dozen, then my husband helped me select the best fifteen of those. We tried to go with ten, but could not cut it down further than fifteen–which is still quite an accomplishment I think.

The photograph at the top of this blog is one I chose, and sprinkled in the blog you will find others. If you would like to see more, I have posted prints of some of them for sale in my fine art Etsy store as 8x10s.

We also went through my husband’s photographs as well as his father’s and chose fifteen of each of theirs as well.  My husband’s father brought cameras home with him from Europe after World War II ended, and he trained himself in the use of those cameras.  He shot some wonderful photographs at our cottage featuring family, friends, and the family dog.  You can see from the shots he captured that he had a good eye for composition as well as a understanding of the wonderful natural light in this part of the world.

My husband’s photography reflects his deep love of the landscapes from his childhood and lifetime spent on and around the Oak Orchard River.  He is also a self-taught photographer with a great passion for cameras and photographic technology.  He had devoted many years to studying cameras and photographic techniques and has gone out in the field with a variety of cameras and different types of film plus digital media to apply the knowledge he gains from his studies.

I haven’t seen my son’s choices yet for his photographs for the show, but I know they will be awesome. He has done some very interesting, and quite beautiful photography around the farm and our cottage but he also has some breathtaking portraits of The Duke (his English Bulldog), wild life photography, and street scenes in Los Angeles and New York City. I have no idea, out of his large body of work, which ten pieces he will choose to show … I am looking forward so much to getting a chance to see! The gallery owner also wants to devote a section of the gallery to display  his digital artistry, reflected in his reproduction New York Subway Signs and Vintage Maps.

Our photography show will primarily feature photographs shot over a period of sixty to seventy years in and around the same locations — but through the eyes of four different photographers, using various films and cameras and photographic technology as it has evolved. The photography will be gently tied together via the poetry of our fifth artist, my father.

Once we have everything printed, matted, and framed and hanging in the gallery I believe it will be very interesting to see our various takes on this beautiful environment we have all explored and enjoyed over the years.

Well, I have a two and a half year old crawling back and forth across my back while I try to write and my poor back just can’t take it any more this morning so I am going to end off here.

Here’s wishing you and yours a beautiful week-ending, and weekend coming up!

~firefly

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