I'm lucky to have a sister for many reasons, but I'm doubly fortunate that she is an artist. Since she was my first art teacher, she set me on this creative path that I travail today. Not only did Lisa teach me art skills like crocheting and drawing but perhaps more importantly she taught me how to notice things, to observe, to collect and to compare. Lisa combs beaches for fossils, sea glass, shells, and stones. She wades through forests looking for moss and lichen. She crowds her kitchen with baby spider plants and her studio with succulents. Her love of nature has found its way into her own work--finding inspiration in fossils, moon cycles, indigo, and animals.
I'm happy to be collaborating with my talented sister in leading a nature-art creative retreat at Spring Bird on May 21st. This retreat, titled Stick, Paper, and Mud, will focus on the playful processes of paper making, sun and leaf printing, drawing with ink and mud, printing in clay, and bookmaking. We intend for the day-long retreat to be a relaxing, playful, and renewing experience fueled by encountering nature through the processes of artmaking.
This retreat is open to women who want to get a little messy. No previous experience is required. You can find out more here, and sign-up will be available here.
For more information about my sister, Lisa Manning, visit her website www. nidoartstudio.com
If you were to go for a walk at Spring Bird today, you'd find one or two or a clump of daffodils blooming at various points along the trails. There wouldn't appear to be any logic to their geography, and their mere existence (deer do not eat them) is a joyful contrast to the brown decay from which they emerged. Daffodils or Jonquils (as my Grandma referred to them) are a favorite signifier of spring. After a long winter of being buried under snow and suffering cold and damp conditions, they have remembered and chosen to come back--to bloom--to exist again in this above ground world. Not only is this reincarnation delightful but also, their seemingly sporadic placement is a result of past visitors to Siloam, Spring Bird's former identity. Siloam's owner, Martha, would give visitors bulbs to be planted wherever they felt inspired to plant them. As a result, not only to the daffodils show themselves, but they also reveal the visitors' visions and intentions in their annual blooms. If not the guests' vision than a squirrel's accidental planting. Either way, I am charmed.
Not only are daffodils in bloom, but bluebells are on the cusp. Dutchmen's Britches and another mystery white flower have remembered spring as well. Perhaps most exciting to witness are the ferns unfurling like a newborn's nascent stretch. They will grow four feet tall by the height of summer.
It's such an exciting time to be watching the woods transform its selves in such remarkable ways--careful not to spare a single flourish. I can't help but be reawakened along with them!
It was a lovely Monday morning to procrastinate with plants--especially after an overnight thunderstorm that seemed to encourage even more leafing and greening of the woods. I happily agreed to be Pat's assistant in his plant laboratory. He was grafting apple and pear trees onto sturdy root stock. The purpose of grafting is to marry tasty fruit trees onto healthy, disease resistant root stock in order to propagate hearty fruit trees more likely to survive in our particular climate. Grafting is also the only way to reproduce a specific variety of fruit. It costs less to do the grafting yourself than to buy an already established tree, but grafting is an art as much as a science. So, Pat bought a dozen scions with which to practice. If they survive the year, we'll plant them in the nuttery.
Pat began by slicing at an angle into the apple or pear tree part and then notching it. He did the same to the apple or pear root stock. He fit the two freshly cut ends together as if he was assembling a tongue and groove joint. In fact, this practice is called the whip and tongue.
Next, I bandaged the fragile joint together with a waxy tape --binding it carefully and avoiding touching the exposed wound. Once snug, I sealed the surgery with a sticky, amber wax that caused me to salivate about dipping future apples into sticky caramel. Sigh, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Finally, we planted the fabricated peculiarities into a small nursery next to the hoop house where Pat is now enclosing them with a protective fence. While we can't be sure if our experiments were successful, I wonder, as the skies thicken with storms clouds and thunder rolls through the damp rainfall, what could our new creations be thinking?
It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another.”
― Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein
Last week, we traveled to Prague for a family vacation. I debated about bringing my good camera feeling torn about wanting to just soak up the sites and experiences in real time versus wanting to capture the bits and pieces of inspiration. Carrying a camera around your neck automatically changes your relationship to your place. There is a running dialog in your head debating about which images are worth capturing. (Fortunately digital cameras lower the bar considerably). As you can guess from the slideshow above, I chose to bring my camera to capture the inspirations of Prague and Cesky Krumlov (a medieval city to which we day-tripped). I tried to instinctively snap photos of sites that struck me. From these photos, I will draw, sketch, and paint studies of some of them, and perhaps some of these bits of inspiration will find their way into my work. The slideshow above contains some highlights! Enjoy!
PS There is still time to sign-up for Woolgathering! Spring is here and Summer will arrive in time!
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.