Thursday, May 29, 2014

Southern Exposure

What could be a more delightful experience than attending a wreath-making workshop at Southern Exposure gardens in Battle Creek, MI.


You have to start with a walk through the gardens, just to whet your appetite for what's to come.

When you enter the Southern Exposure gates, this big vintage car is the first thing you see. It sets the mood for your visit.

As you wrap around several old buildings from the original far -- each named (The Corn Crib, for example), we parked -- yet another vintage car!

Everything about this place looks great. So many touches, like the flowers in the bird baths.

Even the outhouse is picturesque!

There is a fair amount of garden statuary.

...and plenty of whimsy, too.

Just walking around the gardens is an incredible experience -- and it was still so early (late April, here in Michigan) that few of the flowers had really popped. Later in the season it will be drop-dead gorgeous.

Of course, Southern Exposure is an experience -- and the time we were there was indeed all that and more.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Wild and Crazy Wedding Times!

 Eighteen years ago, I was fortunate enough to start a relationship with a nice guy named Rick who had two boys named Greg and Kevin.

Kevin was the youngest, about seven when we met.


From the time he was little, Kevin was tough and determined. He mowed the lawn with a grim determination -- partly because he wanted it done and right. And partly because he wanted the payment for services rendered! He tackled the exceedingly heavy metal rowboat at the lake (made heavier by three other bodies and hampered by oars about two feet too short) with a vengeance -- because that's just what he did. 


But he had a softer side, too. "Puppy" was the one present he wanted more than anything.


These will always be my favorite photos. Well, for at least a little while longer.


Like all kids, Kevin grew up. Became a teenager with a three-phrase vocabulary for adults.
 "Whatever." "Nothing." and my favorite, "I have a life, you know."
 Played football. Went to college. Worked in high school and through school.
 And one day at work, when he was taking out the trash, he met a tall, beautiful blonde who worked at the toy store next door -- and she, too, was taking out the trash.

Not everyone heads to the dumpster with garbage and comes back with the prettiest, shiniest treasure. But Kevin did. Molly became the biggest part of his life -- and she became a huge part of ours as well.

We figured we were the lucky ones. After all, that meant we could spend time with Molly, too! Christmas, especially. It was fun to have a girl to get presents for!


And she bought into our Christmas Eve cookie decorating tradition with great gusto and style!


So, after many moons together, they became engaged. And then Kevin got a job out of state and they were separated. Just a boy and his dog down in Mississippi. 


But they survived that in great form! Molly welcomed Charlie and Kevin welcomed her dog, Rogan. And the kids get along!

And after even many more moons of engagement, the wedding is approaching! Friday, June 13! And to sweeten the pot, in May, Kevin started a job in Detroit, Molly found one there, too and so they're back within striking distance! Sweet!

Of course, that brings with it all the wedding preparations! That means finding something to wear. I settled on this. (Imagine it with better hair, jewelry and shoes. But I still haven't found shoes!)


And the showers!

Molly has been dined, feted and opened dozens of gifts. (No ribbons were harmed.)

Lore would have it that because no ribbons were broken, no kids. I'm pretty sure that isn't their plan -- though it's nice to have a little breathing room first!

It's fun to see this young couple starting out -- and finally having everything go their way and actually be together -- and close enough to families, too. All of the families -- us, Kevin's mom's family and Molly's -- are close families who want their kids within a reasonable jaunt!

And for me, it's just wonderful to have a girl in the family! And a pretty darned sweet and amazing one at that.

So, stay tuned. The wedding will be here before we know it! And of course, I'll have to post!

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Remarkable Collection of Stitches

I'm a bit of a sucker for quilts and have a rather nice collection of vintage quilts. But I also appreciate the art quilts and those that tell a story, so when we happened into the MSU Museum and saw their current quilt exhibit, I had to share it with you.

The exhibit was titled "Earth Stories" and all of the quilts -- which were from all over the world -- had a focus on sustainability in one way or another. In the opening statement, it explained that the quilters each created a textile embodying the positive, non-political goals of the quilter's chosen project.

Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, founder of the Women of Color Quilters Network and an artist, author, historian and curator herself, explained in this way.

"I looked for work that would emotionally draw me in -- pieces with the distinctive voice of the artist coming through which would be memorable and move my spirit...Each piece was an engrossing visual testimony of powerful imagery about the condition of the world we live in."
Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi

I loved "Hope is a Thing with Feathers." It recognizes the work of Dr. George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation and his dedication to saving 15 species of cranes worldwide.

Created by Mary Pal of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, she asks "Can one person make a difference? Look at what this man has done."

The colors were brilliant -- sunset skies and beautiful birds

And as you can see, the stitching and detail is intricate as well.

Another quilt with birds that captured my heart was "Woodland" by Noriko Endo, Setagaya-Ku, Japan.

Her statement indicated tht she was inspired by her love of woodlands and curious about the environment and how migratory birds collect materials for their nests. The creatures of the woodlands cannot live without trees.

"I wanted to show the real life of owls' ecology," she writes. My work expresses their natural life in a portrait of light and shadow.

I'm a big fan of color, so it's probably no surprise that "Muddy Fork Farm" was high on my list.


Created by Susan Shie or Wooster, Ohio, she was inspired by Monica Bongue and her Muddy Fork Farm.The farm practices organic, sustainable processes, hoping to bring the world back to simple, healthful food growing and eating.

The piece is filled with stories about the farm along with current events and personal diary entries, all of which were written in draft and final form on the cloth.

I loved the whimsy and pure joy of it.

The quilts used stitching, texture and mixed media, including this one, "Cooking with the Sun" by Jennifer Day of Santa Fe.

Her passion is solar cooking, the simplest, safest and most convenient way to cook without consuming fuels.This is essential to helping the hundreds of millions of people who cook over fires fueled by wood or dung. Solar cookers can be used to cook food or pasturize water when other fuel sources might not be available.


 I loved how she integrated photo transfers to her fabric for a vital and very real effect.

"African Farmers" by Jean Herrman of Denver, focuses on sustainable food her in America. 

As African farmers move from chronic hunger and poverty to a future where they can grow enough food to feed their families, they could reap a surplus that allows them to pay school tuition for their children.

I am a huge fan of windmills -- traditional and contemporary. So its no wonder this start black-and-white quilt caught my eye.  

Titled "Alternative vs. Fossil Fuels," by Cynthia St. Charles of Billings, Montana, her inspiration was a non-partisan organization called, devoted to promoting critical thinking and education by presenting controversial issues in an easy-to-understand, pro-con way.

St. Charles says she adapted the wind turbine images from her own photographs of a wind farm nestled in her region.

Here comes the color again. "A Source of Life in the Dead Sea" is by Maya Chaimovich of Ramat Gan, Israel. It is a mass of stunning color.

Chaimovich says her inspriation was the Dead Sea Harvest, explaining that people come from around the world to the sea, seeking cures for a variety of diseases. 


A new initiative will dig at the bottom of the sea to extract salt and chemicals that have sunk to the bottom of the sea and allo people to continue to come to the Dead Sea to seek a cure.
 I was very partial to this quilt, with a nature focus and a beautiful painterly effect. "Ground Fire Brings Light and Life" is by Nancy Cook, Charlotte, NC. She was inspired by the Nature Conservancy and its mission to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.

In the quilt, a variety of specimens suggesting the richness of life that controlled fire supports. Look closely and you'll find Venus Flytrap, Longleaf Pine, Red Cockheaded Woodpecker and other dependent on the fires.

I guess I have this "bird thing" going on lately, because "Earth Stories, Tender Bellys" (sic) by Annie Helmericks-Louder, Warrensburg, MO, inspired by Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring." "Although I was very young, her message that all life is linked together and no species is extraneous would direct me througout my whole life," she writes.

The works title refers to the soft undersides or tender places that all living things have. It is where they are most vulnerable and where they can be fatally damaged. 

Once again, the detail and stitching dazzles.

There are many others in this remarkable exhibit. For those close enough to East Lansing to see it before the fall when it closes, I highly recommend it. Admission to the museum is free (donations gratefully accepted!).

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