ENGLAND 1915 — War War I is unfolding, and Winston Churchill, 40 years old, a member of the Cabinet, and the War Council, finds himself with “great anxiety and no means of relieving it.”
No relief until one Sunday when he experiments with a children’s paint-box. The next day buying his own "colours, an easel, and a canvas."
It was then, he says, "painting came to my rescue in a most trying time.” It would be the beginning of a pastime that would last more than 40 years.
I discovered Churchill’s invitation to the joy of painting this afternoon at Yes Books on Congress Street, in Portland, Maine . . . worth a stop if you’re in the area. Going into Yes Books was a Julia Cameron-inspired artist date, always an invitation to explore.
Painting as a Pastime
An instructive and inspiring invitation to the joy of painting
Winston S. Churchill
(The Right Honourable Sir Winston Churchill, K.G., O.M., C.H., M.P.)
Cornerstone Library, New York
This post could lead to more interesting topics:
- who was Winston Churchill?
- painting as a pastime
- an artist date defined
Innovation Day - Always a Project in Progress
For the true hobbyist, dedicated artist, innovator, and explorer, there is always a project in progress.
Today is Innovation Day and I have an idea.
A new feature for this blog: Always a Project in Progress. I found three great books at the library today and am inspired to start something new. The books include one on sewing, one about magic, and another with some sophisticated decorating, storage, and ultility projects.
I’ll select one project from each book, and talk about the next move. I want to pick just two projects, and work on them with parallel reporting. I'm optimistic that the book about taking great photos will help me document my progress.
Follow along as the projects are selected, as we gather information and materials, and talk about the challenges and discoveries we find along the way. What does it really take to get it done?
In the next post I'll list the the books pictured above.
Do come back for updates (and be sure to sign-up and join us for other announcements, too).
This is a Calendar of Days post: Library Lovers' Month
Elaine O'Donal is an award-winning lace artist. Under the name Tatted Webs, Elaine makes tatted lace ornaments, wearables, and lovely household pieces. I first caught up with Elaine at the Art on the Hill show last fall where she was busy tatting—and talking with customers!
To get started, could you tell me a bit about yourself.
I am originally from New Hampshire, and moved to Maine when I got married. I am a wife, mother of two daughters, and grandmother of two. I have always said that my business grew as my daughters did. When I’m not tatting, I have a number of other pursuits. I love music, reading, fencing, bike riding, and x-country skiing.
How did you learn to make lace? Is it a family tradition?
I didn't know anybody who tatted when I started. I like many other people, I thought I could teach myself. When that didn’t work, I was lucky enough to find Mrs. Libby, a retired school teacher, right in Gorham, Maine.
Was there a time it was just a hobby, how or why did you make it into a business?
When I started, I never had the idea that I would turn it into a business. I just kept making pieces and giving them away. Then people started making comments like, “Oh look, another piece of tatting.” In other words: what am I supposed to do with this?
That’s when I started to sell my work, and things just developed from there.
Could you explain what tatted lace is and how it’s different from other kinds of lace?
There are actually many different types of lace, they can be thinned out to two vast groups. One is a woven type of lace, such as bobbin lace, and then there is knotted lace, which what tatting is.
Almost every region in the world has it’s own type of lace.
Tatting is one that is universal, so much so that it’s history is very gray. Perhaps one reason for this is because it's portable, requiring only a shuttle (or needle) and thread. The needle tatting came first, it is actually easier to learn, but the results are not as intricate as tatting done with a shuttle.
What tools do you need to make lace? Do you follow patterns? Are there special threads?
Tatting is mainly done with thread, today there are many types to choose from. The fiber needs to smooth and strong. Also your choice of thread depends on what you wish to make. I like to use soft to the touch fibers such as bamboo or silk , when making an item that will be worn close to the skin. If I’m making something like an ornament - I’ll stick with the more traditional cotton or cotton blend.
When starting out, I started following patterns. There are books, both old and new available, and now thanks to the Internet there are patterns on-line. It didn’t take me long to go through those patterns and want to create pieces that where not in the pattern books, so I started to come up with my own designs. Once you start creating your own designs, it’s hard to go back and follow another.
When I saw you at the Art on the Hill show, you were working without looking at your hands, how do you do that? Do you count the stitches?
I always laugh when someone watches me tat and think that I’m not paying attention to what I’m doing. Of course I am. Like everything, the more you do, the better you get, and I do a lot. That is why my stitches are so even as well as the tension of the thread.
I do keep count of my stitches and usually when I tat in “public” I work on a pattern that is easy for me and I can tell how many stitches I have just by looking, if I happen to lose count.
On your website I saw you have classes, are they for beginners, advanced?
I do teach, not often, maybe a class or two a year. Classes are very time consuming for me and can be difficult to work in my schedule. I often hear of people wanting to learn, but have a hard time to finding the “time.”
It does take time to learn and master the art of tatting, and unfortunately most people give up before they even really start.
Have you heard of the Steampunk movement? They would love your work, especially the gloves.
I learned of Steampunk through a customer a few years ago. I find it very interesting and have a few customers that are really into it.
What’s coming up in 2016?
Right now, I am preparing new pieces for this year and working on show applications, once I have that ready I’ll be updating the website.
I am very excited about a new ornament for this year, it came about because I was asked to contribute to a lace display in Europe, representing the United States. I was so pleased with the design, I’m offering it to my customers.
You can purchase and see more Elaine's work at Tatted Webs.
This is a Calendar of Days post: Today is Lace Day
Ever since listening to The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, I’ve been drawn to quilts and quilt patterns. I’m not interested in sewing quilts, just the patterns. Not floral patterns, but geometric patterns. To satisfy my interest, I’ve borrowed lots of books from the library, and my favorite to date is the first one I selected: The Quilts of Gee’s Bend
The book chronicles the work of a community of African-American women in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and their more than two-hundred year tradition of quilt making. It was the first quilting book I looked at after finishing The Invention of Wings and it inspired the drawing below.
When I pulled the image above from the archives for today’s post (Puzzle Day), I considered using it to represent the concept in two ways:
1) The arrangement. It was a bit of a puzzle to position the utensils as they are, and
2) Putting together a collection can be puzzling, what belongs, what doesn’t?
This is a Calendar of Days post: National Puzzle Day
Oh, I love mail, and I've had my eye on this gem for a while. It's the Letter Writers Alliance Pigeon Post, and it comes with everything needed to mail it. Yep, you can mail the pigeon (no box necessary)—fits into the blue mail box on the corner. I'm so excited I may send it to myself and then to someone else when it comes back. I'll keep you posted!
January is Soup Month, and as I researched this post, I came across this proverb. It caught my attention because it made me think of how often we hold off pursuing something until we have everything we think we need to start (or finish).
Good manners dictate that we eat soup with a spoon, but you can also slurp it from the bowl. It may be less dignified and even messy, but it won't affect the flavor of the soup.
It’s Letter Writing Week. This is my favorite to date. I love to write letters; it’s my hobby, my passion, my pastime. I write a lot of letters and what I hear most often from people is:
“I’d write but I don’t know what to write about.”
Write about your day, something you did, something you saw. You’re not being graded and you’re not writing a novel, so try to relax. Really. It’s simply another way to say hello.
And close behind that is:
“But my handwriting, it’s awful.”
Well, it’s probably not as bad as you think it is, and really, your handwriting is what makes your letters most special. And what makes it even more compelling is that we can often recognize who a letter is from without looking at the return address. Your handwriting is as unique as you are and that’s what makes all the difference.
One morning I was getting ready to write when this happened:
It was early in the day and I was collecting stationery, stamps, and a decent pen to write a letter to my in-laws when I heard the neighbor’s chickens. At least two of them were squawking, and it was loud. So loud that I stopped what I was doing to peek out the kitchen window to be sure they were safe inside the coop. They were.
When I settled in to write, I wrote about the chickens:
The neighbor’s chickens are squawking. The coop sits at the low end of the backyard just over the property line.
We can see them from the back porch, and in the evening when we’re out there, we like to watch them—we call it chicken TV.
One chicken goes in the coop, they all go in. One comes out, they all come out. And peck, peck, peck. There’s Ziggy (the hen with orange feathers), and Jimmy (the speckled one), and three others, and they spend a good part of the day circling in and out of the coop. Peck, peck, pecking. In and out, in and out, peck, peck, peck. Maybe that’s where hen-pecked comes from!
When they lay eggs, they squawk. One echoing the other. One egg, squaawk; two eggs, squaaawk; then all together--SQUAaaAWK, SQUAAaaaaaAWK, SQUAAaaaaaaaaaaaAWK!
The chicken letter was a big hit and it gave us plenty to talk about when we visited a few weeks later. And that’s something to squawk about!
Houseplants the easy way: succulents!
Julie Hews is as lovely as the plants in her flower shop, Ampersand Elements. The shop was an oasis on the gray winter morning when I visited to ask a few questions about succulents and why they might just be the best houseplant ever.
Terrariums and Dish Gardens
It was during an earlier visit to Ampersand Elements that Julie’s terrariums caught my eye. Tucked into clear glass containers along with ceramic figurines, moss, stone, and other naturals materials, the terrariums create an intriguing diorama; a miniature world of greenery flooded with light. Though I was drawn to the terrariums, Julie said the succulents do just as well in dish gardens.
With over-sized snowflakes falling outside the shop’s large front window, it was fitting that it seemed as though we, too, were tucked inside an imaginary world of a snow globe. And it made me wonder if we can grow succulents in Maine.
At least two varieties, “hens and chicks survive the winter and grow in gardens all over Maine,” Julie said. They can winter outside or be brought indoors for the season. Others of course are designated houseplants.
“I think the fact that here we are in Maine enjoying plants that are so different and unique, with varieties from Arizona, Mexico, California, and South America, is incredible,” she said.
Because they come from such far away places, succulents can be a bit pricey. But, they can last for a very long time, decades in fact. “My grandmother had a plant in a dish that was at least 40 years old,” Julie said.
Succulents may take less care than other houseplants, but they “probably take more care than people think,” Julie said. And it all starts with how they are planted. Starting from the bottom up, a foundation of four layers of materials gives your plants the drainage and support they need. Illustrated on a large panel set on a side table inside the shop, the four layers include: perlite, charcoal, sand, and dirt.
Terrariums have been trending for some time, appealing to young and old alike. Just recently, a grandmother and her granddaughter visited Ampersand Elements to select plants, containers, and embellishments from bins of seashells, stones, and moss to create a miniature world of their very own making.
Whether you go with a terrarium, a dish garden, or any other houseplant variety, you’re likely to improve your environment. Houseplants not only look good, they purify the air and lift the mood. Two good reasons to bring a bit life indoors.
Today is Old Rock Day. If you've walked a trail or along the beach recently, you may have seen a stack of rocks*, a man-made pile of rocks, a cairn. Historically cairns have been used as trial markers and in ceremonial practices.
More recently, however, cairns made for personal and spiritual reasons have been popping up in natural settings all over the world leading some to say "stop the rock-stacking." And for good reason.
1) random cairns can potentially mislead people who might mistake one for a waymarker
2) they disrupt the natural beauty, imposing a man-made structure in a wilderness setting
3) moving rocks may lead to erosion
4) leave-no-trace policies could leave you between a rock and . . .
*The cairn above is one I built on a table at home from rocks I collected on the beach, it stands a mere 2-1/2" high.
Are you a rockhound? Share you enthusiasm with others, or get started by talking to someone who is. Here's a list of rock clubs by state, find one near you!
If you are a collector or rock artist, we'd love to know more, get in touch and tell us about it!
If you're interesting in more trivia, test your skills at Mental Floss where you'll find lists, quizzes, and facts in more categories than you might imagine!