A Life of Varied Endeavors

Kathy D’s Message in a Bottle

Message in a BottleFor November’s Little Altars installment, Kathy D. created a Message in a Bottle to send to me. She attached a little bottle to an accordion-folded card that holds several stories about “messages in a bottle” in history.

Kathy s Message in a Bottle

Click on the images to enlarge (and see the full poem)

In the bottle, she sent a poem she adapted and named “How to Be an Artist”. Since several people in the Project wanted to see the poem, and because it’s quite a bugger to get in and out of the bottle (how did you do that, Kathy?), I scanned the poem and am posting it so all can see.

What a great idea. As I mentioned on Peg’s blog, I need all the help and guidance I can get.  Fortunately I already collect rocks, but it looks like I’ll have to try a few other things.

P.S. It took me many tries and some new engineering to make this message “removable and replaceable.” I ended up wrapping the poem on a length of tiny copper tubing, and gluing a bead with a cord to the end of the tubing. It’s now skinnier, but still a challenge!

Hardy Fern Foundation 2013 Fall Social


Part of Saturday's fern frond displ

Part of Saturday’s fern frond display

This past Saturday, the Hardy Fern Foundation held its Fall Social at the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH) at the University of Washington.  This is always a warm and comfortable event, with good people, good presentations, and good food.  Everyone enjoys getting together and sharing fern “stuff” as the days get darker and colder.

This year HFF members collected fern fronds from their gardens and shared them with identification information.  This was a chance to see some unusual ferns.  Some of them, like Woodwardia unigemmata, are rarely seen in all their splendor.  This weekend, a 5 or 6 foot frond from HFF’s Stumpery (in the Rhododendron Species Foundation garden) was brought in for us all to see.  Many of the ferns were ones I’d never seen before, and many are rarely, if ever, seen at plant sales.

Coniogramme intermedia Yoroi Musha - cut leaf bamboo fern

Coniogramme intermedia Yoroi Musha – cut leaf bamboo fern


We also had a great slide presentation and talk given by Pat Riehl.  She shared tales and pictures from a trip to South Africa in early 2012. This was a group tour to see ferns in South Africa, and several people in the audience had been on the tour.  Thanks to Pat, a few thousand pictures were narrowed down to a couple hundred (?), with identification captions!


Here are some pictures of the fern fronds we got to enjoy.  In our neck of the woods, we have an amazing group of fern growers and collectors, with an amazing array of ferns.

Asplenium scolopendrium 'crispum' - wavy Hart's tongue fern

Asplenium scolopendrium ‘crispum’ – wavy Hart’s tongue fern

A fancy Cyrtomium (I think)

A fancy Cyrtomium (I think)









Woodwardia unigemmata towers above everything else - the meeting room was difficult to photograph

Woodwardia unigemmata towers above everything else – the meeting room was difficult to photograph

Coniogramme intermedia "Yoroi Musha' - cut leaf bamboo fern

Coniogramme intermedia “Yoroi Musha’ – cut leaf bamboo fern










Pyrrosia hastata 'Cheju Silver' - silver arrow felt fern

Pyrrosia hastata ‘Cheju Silver’ – silver arrow felt fern

Painting the Spirit


Prepping copper – blank slate


I’m reading a book by Ellen Eagle: Pastel Painting Atelier.  It’s lovely to read and beautiful to look at (even if I am looking at it on an iPad.) I plan on saying more about it later, as it is full of beautiful insights.  Her paintings touch me deeply. Her writing is  beautiful.

Recently, Tina Koyama posted two sketches she did, and mused that one of them seemed to capture her subject’s essence, while the other didn’t.  I thought of that when I read Ellen Eagle’s book.  In discussing genres, she says (my excerpt),

“No matter what genre an artist works in, the task at hand is to weave a seamless fabric of form and content.  The content is the feeling that stirs within the artist, inspired by the subject. The form is the shape the artist finds to convey the vibration of feeling.  …. The way the artist orders the shapes and color conveys the spirit of the event and the relationship of the parts to the whole.  A great painter is always painting the spirit.”

A small copper piece to hold

Copper leaf pattern

Copper leaf pattern

Earlier this year I took a  workshop ( my second) given by Candace Beardslee at Pratt Fine Arts Center.  She teaches chasing and repousse using small Japanese chasing tools called dashitagane.  My experience this time was that I was finally getting the hang of using these tools, and I love them.

Dashitagane are small steel tools that give me the ability to do things with chasing and repousse that I could never accomplish with the usual chasing punches and tools.  For me, that means making small lines, shapes, and textures:  more refined and delicate and “intended” than with other chasing tools.

This time, inspired by the amazing work of Julie Blyfield, I started with an idea about making something I thought I’d really like (for a change – I’m usually not too fond of a lot of flat chasing and repousse pieces, especially beginners’ work like my own).

I really didn’t know where this piece would end up. In fact, where it ended up wasn’t revealed until the last “fold”.  The picture above shows the pattern I started with, in a flat sheet of copper (probably 22 gauge).  Below is the result.  A small, rounded object, folded and shaped, lots of texture inside and out.  It’s about an inch and a half in all directions (4cm).  Feels good to hold, feeding ideas for other things…..

Thank you authors, and the King County Library

Click on images to enlarge

A goal of mine in 2013 has been to begin an art education that I think has been sorely lacking all my life.  I went to a “college preparatory” high school (I don’t know if they still call things that), my father was a banker, and I became a CPA.  “Art” in all it’s forms has not been a large part of my life, except as wishful thinking.  Yes, I’ve dabbled in things and been creative.  I’m not discounting all the wonderful things I’ve made.

But I want to understand concepts, rules, contexts, techniques, materials.  It’s like going back to the start. This year I’ve begun to understand what “visual language” means; I now can tell ultramarine blue from cobalt blue, and sap green from perylene green; I know what “value” means to an artist, rather than a politician; and I have a new use for the concept of “tone” other than “tone of voice”.  I’m sure I’ve learned a thousand new things, and I have a long ways to go.  My art education involves study and practice, with a self-designed meandering, immersive approach. And it’s a little choosy: so far I haven’t caused myself a lot of pain and heartache!

A tremendous amount of help has come from books.  I’ve borrowed dozens from the library.  The pictures above include books I currently have on loan.  I’ve been able to download some electronically (borrow from the library, read in Kindle and other apps).  A few of the above I’ve owned for quite a while; a couple of them are now permanently here, since they were so meaningful I ended up buying them.  Honestly, I try not to buy any of them, for the money and the space, but almost all of the ones I borrow would be worth owning.

I think that writing and publishing books is often a thankless and unprofitable task in the end (or so I’ve sometimes heard from authors), but I want to THANK all the people who do write these books and share their knowledge and expertise.  What you do is invaluable!

And thanks to the King County Library, one of the best in the country.  I paid our property taxes recently, and using the pie chart included with the bill, I estimated that we pay about $99 a year for the library.  That seems to be a tremendous “value” ( :) ) compared to, say, the size of a monthly cell phone bill!