Picture your favorite destination - your happy place - that place where you feel more whole and more like yourself.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you lived in that place? I am fortuante to live in my place, Spring Bird.
I first stayed in Spring Bird's Cottage (Then, Siloam's Cottage) in July of 2009 for an overnight with my Mom and sisters. I immediately took to this place feeling deeply connected and transformed by it. I visited every year after until we moved in 2015! In the in between times, my soul would ache for this patch of land, and after every visit, I would be completely renewed. It felt like being transported to not only a different place in time and space but a different mindset. The woods were healing and magical. The cottage was welcoming and nurturing, and it allowed me to just be. On that first visit in 2009, I was struck by the humerous but poignant sign, made by David, that reminded each visitor: You Are Here. I love how the sign is a statement and a question. You are here, and now what? What are you going to do here? What do you think and say? What do you see?
Now that we live here, we have been so lucky to be able to continue to share the Cottage as a place for guests to leave their mundane worlds behind - to be transported to the woods - to nature - to themselves. We understand our role as hosts to curate a space for our guests to be comfortable and safe.
So, recently we initiated some updates that will hopefully make the space feel more comfortable for individuals and groups to gather in the Cottage in the woods.
See some photos of the Cottag renovations below, and the full slideshow here.
In addition to some new interior changes, we've added new on-line booking feature to our website. While you can still book the cottage via email, text, or phone, you can also book direct from our website or just check to see the cottage availability.
Check out the new on-line booking feature here.
We hope that the cottage can continue be an alternative place to the busy, noisy chaos that seems to inundate our every day. The Cottage is a place to be in quiet retreat, to reconnect with nature, and to work creatively. What's more, Spring Bird Cottage is great for visiting alone for personal developpment and retreat or in groups for community building and supportive circles.
We are so excited aobut these chages and hope they make your stay at the Cottage even better!
Know you are always welcome at Spring Bird! Can't wait to have you here!
Photos by Carol De Anda
On repeated treks to the barn to feed animals or weed the garden, the loft called to me. It almost glowed like a neon sign “you need to be working here. Something important is going to happen here. Make me your studio!!”
I both heard the call and felt it. I knew it to be true. I needed to make the barn loft into a barn studio. Unfortunately it was full of furniture, old doors and screen windows, and various forms of mouse nests. Furthermore, I was starting a very busy new job which was Keeping me even farther away from the future, dream studio. There wasn’t time for transformation let alone making art.
Eventually though, while I was away, Pat worked to clean out the loft, update the roof, and insulation sprayed in its rafters. And 2 years ago, at last, I was able to move in just in time to work on a painting commission. I had found my creative home! I made a place to make creative leaps, to dream, to be organized, to be messy, and to be “in process”.
And it’s been wonderful - I have since tweaked the space to meet my needs as my process and work goals evolve. This past summer, I created two distinct zones in my studio. I know, who knew I needed zones? But, in one area, I added more storage for quilt fabrics, liberated countertops, and organized all my sewing notions onto a rolling cart that could always be kept at hand. The space feels vast and free in a way that makes it easier to sew and make quilts. It feels like a place that I want to stretch out my wings and get to work.
In contrast, in a dark corner, I created a safe drawing nook that feels secret and tucked away. I even bedecked the slanted ceiling with twinkling lights. It’s here that I like to paint my illustrations and let my imagination open doors of curiosity. It feels like your grandma’s magic attic, like you want to curl into a pink chair with an afghan and read a good story. I never thought that being hidden - feeling safe - would allow me to take more creative leaps. I never would have known it except for listening to my intuition and allowing the place and space to tell me how it wants to be used.
I know that sounds crazy, but I let spaces tell me how they want to be used all the time. I think it helps me to feel safe and comfortable so that I can be productive. When I used to clean houses with my Mom, I would often pass the time daydreaming about the people’s houses that I was dusting. I would think about how the house was designed, how their rooms were arranged, and sort of dream about what I would do with the space if I lived there. There were houses and spaces that I still think about today -- that still inspire me. A space can become a place for something, and if you listen, it will definitely tell you how it wants to be used.
When I write, I need to feel safe and comfortable so that I can be vulnerable. I often found find myself in my bed with my notebook, laying on my stomach. What place embodies vulnerability and safety more than the bed? When I am feeling really stuck and depressed, I will go to the woods, and find a spot to sit and write. Sometimes, getting out of our creative spaces leads to out most productive work.
Now that the cold has set in, I have abandoned my lovely, unheated barn loft studio for the warmth of the house. I shuttle armloads of materials over from the studio and have to find nooks and crannies in the house to tuck them into. It’s ad hoc and messy, but my fingers are warm. I find myself drifting from from room to room, hauling my bits and bobbins with me. There is always a trail of thread or cloud of eraser dust in my wake. I’m an art nomad who will often find the sunny spots to work in, like a sleepy cat.
Working from home can be messy. The lines between work and life are even more smooshed together, which is hard because I have a hard time with this boundary as it is! When my creative life spills into the my mundane life, I’m reminded of a story I heard of a busy mother ceramicist who was often working a lump of clay on a kitchen counter next to her dinner prep. It wasn’t ideal, but it was Okay. Kids got fed, and art got made. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
I think the most important thing for nurturing your creativity, no matter how limited you are by your real estate, is to to create SOME place for your creativity. In doing so, you are legitimizing its value in your life. You are giving it a place to grow and thrive. You are allowing it to take up space! This is so significant for your creative practice, and these places could range from a tiny corner to a big barn loft.
You could convert a closet into a studio or a secretary desk. Your space might be a spare bedroom or a corner in a basement. It could even be as small as a journal, a sketchbook, a file folder on your desktop, or a list of ideas on your phone.
It could be a tackle box of supplies or a tote bag of yarn, but giving your creativity a physical presence in your physical life will make practicing it more significant and meaningful in your life. You will be immensely rewarded as will we, your fellow humans. And your creativity will only grow from there, it’s place!!!
Where do you like to be creative? Is there anything that you absolutely need in your space to be creative? Are there any places that really inspire you - that you’d like to incorporate their feel into your own creative places?
Anyone who has harvested their own walnuts knows the power of their husks to dye. It's impossible to come away with unstained hands no matter the pairs of gloves you wear.
Last year, we dyed some cotton yarn. This year, we dyed some old cotton napkins.
We began by collecting 6 lbs. of walnuts and covered them with water.
We left the walnuts to soak for over 3 weeks!
After the 3 week soak, the walnuts look like the above picture--murky and black.
We brought the whole pot to a boil for one hour.
Then, we strained the walnuts from the dye bath.
We weighed our cotton napkins.
And then submerged them into the bath.
We let the fabric soak for 1 and 1/2 hours on low to medium heat.
Then we just let the fabric come to room temperature before washing out the excess dye and hanging it to dry overnight.
The husks can be reused again for further dye baths. Also, you can let your fiber sit longer in the dye bath to achieve a deeper shade of brown.
I love how easy it is to dye with walnuts, and the color is scrumptious!
Yesterday, the term “Mindful Consumption” seemed to be ringing in my ears as I sat with my paintings and prints all spread out in their glory and carefully marked “for sale” at a local art market. I have struggled as an artist (well in many ways), but I often wonder whether producing more “stuff” in a world that is flooded with things is a good practice. Then, as a marketer, I have to convince customers that they should spend more of their hard earned money on the things I have made. It’s a puzzle that I am still working on, for sure, and one that causes me many mixed feelings.
And now, we enter that time of year when consumption is the object of the season. We often consume more than is good for us - whether it’s food or gifts we are fed the idea that more is better and never enough is ideal.
But, coming back to “Mindful Consumption”, I wonder if there is an argument to be made that there is another way to approach the holidays and the whole year of practicing mindful consumption, being hyper aware of all that we purchase and consume so that we can make wholehearted decisions and reclaim our purchasing power in support of goods, services, and consumables that are in alignment with our larger values.
So, instead of consuming from a sense of fear and panic (i.e. must get hottest gifts, spend large amounts of money, and have tons of gifts for everyone), try to consume from a grounded and mindful place - from a place of love and personal values. If we all do that, we not only get to support amazing businesses and people, but we reclaim our power as a consumer.
If you are looking for gifts from alternatives to Amazon or big box stores, you might look here:
If you want to take Mindful Consumption even further, Consider:
Now, back to the market.
As an artist, I know how amazing it is to be supported by people like you. You have the power in supporting small timers, like me, and in doing so, really make their end of the year special. It’s like giving two gifts! (Now I am giving NPR pitches.)
So, maybe you can’t purchase 100% of your gifts from artists. (We all need electric toothbrushes), but try for at least 10% of gifts or maybe even just one gift. It all helps. You will feel better, and the artist will feel amazing.
Your support means the world and you will be appreciated!
What do you think about “Mindful Consumption”? Do you practice this already? Any more advice on how to become more mindful?
ALSO: More to come on Mindful Consumption with respect to media and culture.
AND: This Thursday, I will be posting about another adventure in natural dyeing: Walnuts!!
In renovating the cottage, we decided to paint the kitchen's linoleum floor instead of replacing it. I had some crazy vision to paint the floor like a quilt-- in tiny triangles. I chose six colors: light gray, dark gray, dark green, gold, and pink in porch paint. After securing a plan, we cleaned the floor to prepare for paint.
Have you ever wondered about your own creativity? Where it comes from? What purpose does it serve in your everyday life?
For me my creativity and freedom to express it, has been essential to my life. It's not something I'd be willing to live without. Lately I've been wanting to better understand its origins and its value. Perhaps, I'd even like to argue that I think creativity is essential for humans to practice with regulalrity.
As an art educator, I’ve taught 18 month old toddlers through adults, and the toddlers, the under 6, hold zero doubts about their creative selves. They are ready to jump into any endeavor with enthusiasm and without fear. It’s as we grow up that we learn to doubt our own creative urges. We believe that if we can’t do something in a perfect way that it is not worth doing. I am here to argue that like physical exercise, like intellectual learning, we have to practice being creative throughout our whole lives. I’m certain that if we do, we will be living more fully for ourselves and our communities.
Creativity is about nourishment, joy, and sharing. It's also about observation, wondering, and solving prolbems. I am going to continue my quest for creativity, because I want to understand more specifically how it enriches us, why it’s essential to our being human, and what it has to offer the world.
So Far, this is what I believe with regard to creativity:
A Working Creativity Humanifesto
What are your thoughts about creativity? How do you practice creativity in your everyday? Do you want to develop your creative practice further? What would you need to help you develop your creative practice?
Spring Bird is workshopping T-shirt Ideas! Let us know what you think by taking the short survey!
I had one previous experience dyeing with indigo, and it was truly magic because a textile dipped in an indigo bath will actually turn blue when exposed to oxygen. So, after pulling them from the dye bath, you sort of wash them in the air before they transforming blue. It's not the easiest way to achieve blue, but it is a very unique and special process.
Our adventure in indigo was a bit less magical in that we had not grown very much indigo. So, we were only able to dye an ounce of fabric, and the results were a little meh. BUT, Pat's face lit up when the color began to change, and that was worth it. Moreover he is psyched to plant more indigo next year in hopes that we can have better results.
Begin by plucking the leaves from the indigo plant and stuff them into a jar. (pictured above)
Weigh your fabric. This one is an antique cotton napkin.
Seal the jar and place in a pot of water to simmer. Cover with just enough water to prevent it from floating.
Simmer the jar at 170 degrees, not any higher, for a couple hours until the water in the jar turns a maroon or brown.
Empty the contents of the jar into a bowl. Squeeze the excess water out of the leaves.
Then, slowly pour the indigo bath from bowl to bow for about 10 to 15 minutes until the bath turns a yellow green.
Once the dye bath has turned colore, stir in the dye remover.
Meanwhile prepare the fabric by submerging it in the simmering water.
Then, squeeze the excess water from the fabric and gently submerge it into the dye bath. Let it sit for 10 minutes, pull it out, and expose it to air. Watch the magic happen before your eyes. (Note, I squeezed the excess dye bath from the fabric, too. This seemed to help the process along, but the instructions did not explicity say to do so.)
I repeated this process 3 times to try to deepen the color. I didn't seem to work very well, though.
Hang your finished fabric to dry.
In the end, it seems like we achieve a pistachio green more than indigo! Ha! BUT, Pat thinks it is because we didn't have enough leaves. It could also be that we didn't continually stir the dye remover after we added, or it could be the cotton itself being a used fabric instead of a virginal product. Who knows? We will have to wait an entire year to give it a second chance, but we will start growing indigo this Spring--just months away!
There is an artist in Oak Park, IL that makes art from literal garbage. Bryan Northup collects the styrofoam and plastic that often packages our food, reconstitutes it as sculpture of food --such as sushi. Northup literally takes what seems to be garbage and turns it into art that provokes us to think about the mundane objects that fill our lives and our landfills.
Creativity is more than just making a thing with your hands. It’s noticing a toy smushed into asphalt, hearing music in the chaos of traffic, and seeing connections where there doesn’t seem to be any. It’s cutting up scraps of fabric to rearrange in ways that are pleasing to the eye of beholder and soul of the maker. This is creativity at its best, when it manifests a thing from seemingly thin air.
Being creative is being able to see potential, to see into the future and make that happen--to birth it. It’s bringing to life a poem, a recipe, or a garden design.
All of these things moments of creation have power.
And it’s important to not lose sight of this power to practice it. It can pull one out of depression, and it can foster joy. Practicing creativity can be inspiring for another person to follow suit with their own creative project.
Make something from nothing.
The world is hungry for what you have to offer. It’s hungry for you!
Every time that I gave a tour at the Roger Brown Study Collection, the visitors would spin on their heals mesmerized by the myriad of art pieces that Roger Brown had collected. My eyes would always be drawn up to one particular piece, a paper mache jaguar mask, the size of a jumbo pumpkin. It was painted yellow with stylized black spots and accents of red. I loved it, and wanted to be swallowed by it.
So, in redecorating the Spring Bird Cottage, I decided to create some sculptural pieces that reflected that same sort of animal spirit. I chose three animals, a screech owl, a fox, and a buck. These are three significant animals to Spring Bird. The Spring that I spotted the a pair of screech owls launched the beginning of the process of moving to Spring Bird, and the fox is a symbol creative ferocity for me. The buck, of course, acknowledges the presence of the lovely, sweet deer at Spring Bird. BUT, I ran out of materials to finish the buck. So, I abandoned it. (Another time, buckeroo)
If you are interested in starting your own menagerie, it's super simple and easy, and it doesn't require too many supplies. Below is how I made these!
1. recyclables such as plastic bags, yogurt containers, milk jugs, and cardboard tubes. (whatever will help you to achieve the shape of your animal.)
2. masking or painter's tape
3. plaster cloth
5. bowl of water
7. acrylic paint
8. acrylic gloss medium
9. assortment of paint brushes
10. card stock
Build an Animal Armature
Use the recyclable and tape to build the shape of your animal. You can omit any details like ears that might be small and delicate. You can add these later!
Cover your entire armature with plastic bags-- or as much as possible. This will make it easier to remove the armature from the plaster cloth later.
Applying the Plaster Cloth
Cut the plaster cloth into managable strips 3" - 4" wide or into small squares.
Dip the cloth into the water, wipe off the excess, and drape over the armature.
Lay strip by strip --overlapping a quarter inch or so until the entire armature is covered.
You can apply multiple layers to strengthen the sculpture.
Before the sculpture starts to set, you can manipulate the material to create eye sockets or whatever shape and detail you like! I dug my thumbs in to shape the eyes.
Let the sculptures dry.
If you are in a hurry, you can speed up drying in the oven at a low temperature. (Check the plaster cloth package to verify temperature).
Finishing Your Animal Sculpture
Once your sculpture is dry, you can add those details (like ears) using cardstock or whatever materials you want (like bottle caps) to refine your sculpture's design.
Afix details with masking tape.
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.