Monday, August 26, 2013

Autumn Inspiration: Silk Road

So it's been about 2 years since I've written! I kept meaning to write, but was kind of in a stagnant place in my life and I wasn't really inspired to write so it was probably for the best that I didn't. However with the change of seasons, I'm feeling the urge again! 

 Autumn is my favorite season.  Summers in Florida are extremely oppressive for for a pale person of northern European ancestry. I blister in the sun and the heat practically makes me melt. I feel like I start to come alive again every September when the heat of summer begins to succumb to the nip of an autumn breeze. 

This year, it seems, the trend is "The Silk Road".  I learned from my Elitesixteen teammate and fellow Etsy shop owner, Jenn of  Palimpsestic that the theme encompasses the ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean Sea, including India, Morocco, Egypt, Mongolia, Perisa and Turkey.  I've always been especially fascinated with India and Morocco so I'm very excited about this trend! 

'The Stone Trader' by palimpsestic

Seafaring Earrings Gemstone ...

Wooden Elephants

crystal and mineral stone co...

All Natural Bath Salts in Re...

SALE old swords / vintage sp...

90's Ethnic Woven Rush C...

Said and Done Necklace

Black and White Circles Desi...

vintage nesting basket bowls


Sunstone Necklace - Orange I...

Camel totem- saffron

Mens Bracelet, Burnt Sienna ...

Earthenware rattle

Porcelain Bronzy Droplets Bl...

elephant figurine- tranquil ...

Above is a collection curated by Jenn that really showcases what this theme is all about!

I began to think about how I could incorporate this theme into my own artwork and began brainstorming.  I had already been experimenting with making large porcelain silk moths so this seemed like a fun way to combine the themes.  Although I love butterflies and plan my gardening around their life cycle needs, I get especially excited about moths. Probably because they aren't as easy to spot considering my favorites wait until dark to become active.  Once I made my husband stop the car so could rescue one that I saw laying in the road, an enormous polyphemus moth. The other night I had to drive through the National Forest at night and I could see dozens flying over the road, illuminated by my headlights.  That very evening I went home and began to brainstorm about how to create my own version of the giant moth. 

You might imagine that a moth might be tricky to create in clay and you would be right! Before the first firing the piece is extremely fragile and I've had quite a few that did not survive.  I decided that I would enjoy creating my own version of a moth rather than trying to duplicate nature so I've had a great time experimenting with glazes and textures in my moths. 

This is my favorite moth so far (though I love them all). I created a special template for the wings and cut each piece by hand. I sculpt the body from solid porcelain and the antennae are created with feathers. I love this combination of glazes! The red is a blend of several glazes that react together so I never know exactly what I'll get. I've used a table cloth for the texture on the lower wings, it makes me think of Moroccan tile.  This piece has a copper wire hanger on the underside. 

I am greatly looking forward to exploring this trend some more! 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mushroom Peeping

 Sunday my husband and I went to a trail I've been very interested in exploring called Land Bridge Trail. One interesting thing about it is that it goes over I-75 giving hikers and wildlife a safe way to keep on trekking along the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway.   It was kind of a trick finding this trail head but extremely worth it! The drive is very beautiful itself, going through horse country and passing many ranches.  My preferred types of trails are those that are designated for "foot traffic" and more than a little rough at times. I want it to look like it has been almost untouched by human presence.  When we hike, we equate it to the reverence one would feel in a church, we speak quietly and treat the forest in a respectful way.

Now my favorite time to go hiking is after we've had a good soaking rain.  One reason is all the animal tracks will be fresher and another reason is because of all the mushrooms that pop up the next day.  The colors are so vibrant after a rain, it looks as though someone has come through with a brush and watercolor painted everything.  I was thrilled to find this beautiful example of color on our hike:
This is Cortinarius Violaceus , one of the few types of completely purple mushrooms.  I've read that it's quite rare but they were very prevalent in the area we were visiting.
Another beautiful mushroom that we spotted was this lovely reddish mushroom that I believe MAY be Russula Pulchra .

An especially interesting variety (at the time I was not 100% sure it was a mushroom) is this one:
I believe this to be a lentaria micheneri , also known as a coral type of mushroom. It looked almost like a little bouquet of flowers.

I really love any type of shelf mushroom, especially the way they cling to fallen tree branches:

I'm not sure which variety this is, but I really love how they look like little oysters.

Another really special thing that we saw, though not a mushroom was this clump of Indian Pipe Orchid  growing:

They were some of the largest I've seen and had the most beautiful tinge of pink.

We also saw some beautiful varieties of lichen. This variety is known as Christmas Lichen:

Sticking to the "Christmas" theme we also saw Reindeer Lichen:
The gorgeous flora really made up for the quiet day wildlife-wise. We did see a Barred Owl and an indigo snake and some coyote tracks, but it was rather quiet, I believe because it was a sort of breezy day which I am sure helped with the mosquitos.  I can't wait until my next sculpting day because I can definitely see some violet mushrooms in the forecast!

I highly recommend this trail for anyone who enjoys a more rustic hike. The paths do require some care.  We aren't afraid of snakes, and honestly most of the snakes we've seen while hiking HAVE been poisonous, including coral snakes, pygmy rattlers, diamondback rattlers, and water moccasins. In every single case when on the path, they move once they realize we are coming, but we spot them and are able to take care.  Anyone hiking along these trails would benefit from a sharp set of eyes and a walking stick, just to be safe, for nudging a snake out of the path (I don't recommend this with a LARGE venomous snake), though usually once they become aware of your presence they have no desire to stick around.  I love this trail BECAUSE it is unpaved and natural.  Another part of the Greenway, the trail head at Baseline Road is very much paved and very good for people who would like a more level walking surface.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ode to a Lacebark Elm

When we first moved to this house, I became very fascinated with a tree that was near our living room /studio window.  The tree branches create this high ceiling, festooned with silky drapes of Spanish moss.  The bark is so beautiful, it's got a magnificent mottling that is almost like a patchwork of grey and rust.  Early on, I was pretty certain it was a type of elm because of the leaves, which are a deep forest green and very detailed, but I had the hardest time finding which one.  After a lot of searching I discovered that it is the Lacebark Elm  also known as the Chinese Elm.

I have loved to use leaves with clay since almost forever.  In the early days it was with Play-doh, but I was always looking for ways to use leaves in my artwork.  Of course, the elm makes a fantastic impression.  When working with clay it's very important to use leaves with a very pronounced veining to get the best impressions. I've also been experimenting with making impression "molds" with these leaves as well. This way I can created a raised design like this one here, shown on a piece I am still working on :

 After firing this *should* become a darker brown although I really do love this rusty shade of the unfired stain. I may have to work on figuring a way to get a similar effect...maybe with underglazes. 

This elm impression tile is available at I plan to add some of the pendants, possibly as necklaces in the next week or so!

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Bear! Finally!

'I Saw A Bear!' by ALDDesigns

Finally! This weekend my husband and I took a wildlife spotting trip through the National Forest.

Fingerless Gloves - Re...

Black bear animal photo...

Autumn Leaves - Thank Y...

Cabin BEAR Sign WELCOME...

Aesthetic Voyager -Myst...

The Cowl Scarf, Neck wa...

Bear Sculpture, Black B...

Vintage real deer antle...

Vintage Mens Shirt Larg...

Forest Woodland Art Blo...

Classic 1970's sued...

Brown teddy bear

Black Bear Skinny Dip G...

Lumberjack Red Plaid Fl...

Forest Floor with Dusti...

Tiny rustic ceramic for...

Ever since we moved to this area I've been aching to see a black bear.  It's one Florida animal I hadn't seen in the wild.  My husband and I would go hiking and look carefully for any sign that a bear had been near, but we weren't really seeing any.  We decided to go to Juniper Springs  which is a bit deeper into the National Forest.  It is a GORGEOUS park, but on the day we visited no signs of bears, however we did see an alligator.

On the way home we noticed a sign for The Centennial Trail, which is an off-highway vehicle trail that goes very deep into the forest.  Right at the opening of the trail we noticed these:

So now we knew where we would need to be looking! Lucky enough I recently got a new (to me) jeep with 4 wheel drive so this would be definitely something we could do.  Saturday morning we got up at 6 a.m. and headed out along the trail. 4 wheel drive is definitely a must because there is a lot of loose sugar sand and it's a bit treacherous at times.  All along the way we started seeing signs of the presence of bears, lots and lots of footprints and quite a lot of bear poo.

It's kind of gross, but it's nice to see we were on the right track.  We went deeper and deeper along the trail. FINALLY we saw a youngish black bear ahead of us on the road. It was large but very lanky and when it saw us it quickly ran  across the road and into the woods.  I was unable to get a decent picture but did get a photo of it's tracks.

Of course it's not something we can do all the time, it takes A LOT of gas to get back in there.  We've found another place to spot bear signs, and  it's fairly close to my neighborhood so we visit frequently. Who knows, maybe another siting is in the near future!