Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Snow People Ornaments

>I am in full Holiday Creation Blitz mode as I write!! I wanted to let you all know that I have just added a few of my very special little Bottle Snow People Ornaments to my Etsy Shop!

And till December 5, 12pm EST, I have SUSPENDED ALL SHIPPING CHARGES on any purchase from my shop!!!
I have a very limited supply of these darling little bottles that make up the bodies of these Snow People, so I will not be posting many of these. They stand 3.25 inches tall and make darling tree ornaments!! You can see all of the details HERE!

This little snow person is snuggled up in a bit of vintage crocheted lace that is fastened
with a wonderful vintage rhinestone button.

A bit of felted wool sweater warms the neck of this Snow person and her bottle body shimmers with frry fibers and old pearls.

So don't forget, Free Shipping on all orders palced by SundayDec 5 at midnight !!! All Esty Shop owners are small business people so don't forget to buy at Etsy and Buy Handmade!!!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

May I Introduce you to One of My Heros..............

On this Thanksgiving Day I have so very many things to be Grateful for, right up at the top is my wonderful family. My family is spread all over the globe today and I include many of my wonderful blogging friends amoung my Family. I have Family family spread from Seattle to Jahalabad, from Dar Es Salaam to New York city, from Virginia to Massachusetts and we are all so connected!!
The Family member that I want to introduce to you as my HERO is my baby brother, Peter Jensen. Peter is currently living in Dar Es Saalam Tanzania, his wife Elise, is in Jahalabad Afganistan, his eldest daughter is at Colgate University and his youngest , the amazing Kate, is taking care of her dad, in Dar. Peter sent out this Thanksgiving Letter to our immediate family today and I want to share it all with you. No one can talk of his work in Africa as Peter can. If you are so inclined to follow his travels, see his fabulous photos and learn about the world and the very simple changes that we can all make to help save our planet ,you can find him on Face Book - Peter Jensen , Dar Es Saalam. Tell him his sister sent you, if you want to friend him!
(Elizabeth inserts photo here)

So here is our letter from my fabulous brother. Hang in there through the family locator bit , till he gets to the meat of the letter- or I should say compost of the letter.!! You will quickly see why I hold him up as a Hero!
Here goes:

"Happy Thanksgiving from the far side,

I hope this finds you all well, happy and warm on this lovely Thanksgiving Day. Here in Dar it is a whopping 98 under a brilliant sky. Elise is enjoying turkey with the troops in Jalalabad, Mali is with her old school mates in New York City, Kate is soon to be home from school and looking forward to seeing the latest Harry Potter with me on the weekend, and me? well.....

I started the day (after a nice breakfast with Kate before putting her on the bus to school) with my customary sunrise (ish) walk with Nala along the majestic sea cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean and the city of Dar es Salaam. The name, Dar es Salaam, means Haven of Peace, and from my vantage point this morning with the large puffy clouds and crystal blue water in the harbor, it certainly looked to be living up to its name. About an hour and several lost pounds of sweat later we came home to enjoy a long glass of water before popping a huge turkey in the oven to be enjoyed with friends later this evening.

And then - what else do you think I'd do with my day off? - Nala and I, well mostly me, she just lounged in the shade, made yet another compost pile. This one from a large pile of grass i rescued from the side of the road and the leaves of a large neem tree that had been felled to make room for a new gate at a property down the road. All that lovely green was blended with the stockpile of brown leaves I have waiting for just such an occassion. The pile I made 2 days ago has already hit 150 degrees (thanks to all those bacteria) so I suspect to see the same in this one. With a bit of time still on my hands I loaded 5 large buckets of 3 month old compost into the back of the car and headed to the Peace Corps office. The guards looked at me with surprise (I was kinda sweaty and gross) but nodded knowingly when I said I had some compost to add to the growing maize and cowpea plants in our demo garden. The garden had been planted with the early rains about 10 days ago and the seedlings were standing tall and happy at 6" so it was time for a bit of "side dressing". now - I could have done this on a "work day" I know, but, well, gardening the way I do it is kinda sweaty work so its a bit rough on the keyboard afterwards...

My sidedressing chore completed i snapped a few photos to record the moment (look for them on FB later) and returned home for that much needed shower and to check on birdzilla in the oven. Its about to come out but I will wait for Kate to come home from school so I can teach her my "special" gravy technique...its all in the rue ya know...She and I are joining several friends at a nearby home for a big feed. Kate made her fabulous lemon squares and peanut butter swirl fudge brownies (what else would a diabetic bring to the table??) last night and we will be proud of our offerings to the table.

(Elizabeth inserts photo here)
Peter talking compost, one of his very favorite subjects.
You may think my composting story a bit odd for a Thanksgiving letter but it has a point..in my roundabout kinda way. We are always thankful for the food on our tables (we are, right?) but we must also be thankful for the farmers who grew it and the truckers who delivered it to the stores. So..in these days of climate change (I mean really - look at Seattle!) lets think of the carbon footprint of the food on your table. What is the impact of all this food on the planet we all so deeply care for? Did you know that for every acre of farmland under production in this world, tons of topsoil is lost...every day. Without replenishment, this thin layer of topsoil upon which we all depend may soon be relegated to a museum display much like the last native tree in Niger is but a photograph on the wall of the museum in Niamey. And when I talk of replenishment..i mean compost and other ecological farming practices taking hold across the planet as we speak. The Green Movement for Africa is underway. And I do NOT mean Green Revolution...For every compost pile we build, that much less smoke comes in our windows and goes up into the atmosphere..and that much more of the Greenland icecap will remain to keep our weather patterns within the realm of "normal". If you think I exaggerate (well of course I do...) well, so what. This is all about thinking global and acting local.

There are many people in this world who struggle to survive on less than a dollar a day...think about that. less than $365. What many people earn in a day...is what subsistence farming families try to live on in a year! They do it - but just barely. and when some major shock happens in their lives, such as a drought, fire, flood, illness, loss of a job...the ability to bounce back, to be resilient, just isnt there and they become one more family with weak knees and heavy hearts in the long line outside the World Food Programme relief tent.

My work through the Peace Corps and other groups aims at rebuilding a sense of hope and resilience with these very people. It is thrilling work. It is empowering work. It is tiring work. But it is deeply moving and rewarding on so many levels to see HIV+ widows, who had been struggling with so much, find some joy and hope in the gardens they have learned to grow with the Peace Corps Volunteer they have as a neighbor. Through the simple act of converting "waste" grass and leaves into loamy soil a glimmer of hope and eagerness for life begins to return. It seems maudlin and simplistic perhaps. But the answer to global poverty and hopelessness lies less with the high tech solutions of the Green Revolution and more with the low tech actions of ecological farming practiced on the less than 1/4 acre gardens across the mountain slopes. To hear a woman say to a PCV about to go back home, "I will miss you. My life may not be long, but it will be deep", is all the payment one ever needs to receive...well - maybe not when I look at those college bills, but you get my meaning.

SO... tonight, please raise a toast to the glorious food on your table - and to the farmers around the world who got it there...and to all those out there without a feast to enjoy, let us say a prayer and spend a moment to think of ways to rebuild and maintain our amazing planet....one compost pile at a time!

Peace to all and to all a good night.

Warmly (indeed),


With the simple composting syystem that Peter has developed and is now teaching all over Africa, barren spaces immediately next to homes go from this:

To this!

Peter has developed a three day training session where each garden is built and the process explained. This is all done using home made tools and local indigenous seed and plants.
In June , when Elise's tour in Afganistan is done , the family will pack up and move to Bangladesh for a 4 year posting for Elise, as the head of Womens Health and Education, and where Peter will continue to train and teach the glories of compost and the bounty of food security that it can bring to the hungry peoples of the world.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Trees Of Hope Artist's Tree

Several posts back I presented a felted ornament that I created for a fundraiser for the Tree's Of Hope auction in Fredericksburg. All of the funds raised form this Gala and Silent Auction of beautifully decorated tree's including our special Artist's Tree will go to HOPE HOUSE Domestic Violence Shelter here in Fredericksburg. Local Artist Susan Ishi outdid herself creating a magically creative tree with 40 Oranaments created by local artists, based on the color Red. One of my favorites is this Red Cardinal framed against a turquoise sky! Simply Stunning!!

Just behind the artists manequins outsteretched hand you can see my fleted and beaded silk wool and velvet ornament. To mix in with the little manequins , Susan added paint brushes that had been dipped in thick metallic paints and the tree skirt was an artists canvas dropcloth of course!!! The drop cloth which had been sprinkled and splattered with red and green paints was beautifully swathed around the base of the tree.

In the photo above, to the right of the red tipped brush you can see one of several fuzed glass ornaments that were made for the tree. As many of us know from decorating our own trees, it is very easy for some ornaments to be missed or not seen till the tree is at the curb during take down, but Susan had prepared for this eventuallity as well. She really did think of everything!!!

Just beside the tree, Susan had placed a large Ornament Legend with pictures of each ornament and the artists name. There are so very beautifull creations on this tree, and who ever leaves the highest bid will have a fabulous collection of little art gems from some of the best known artist in Fredericksburg, and then from me!! I hope that this becomes a regular part of the Tree's of Hope event and perhaps next year we can fill several trees!!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fixated on Felting- for the Moment

I have been fooling around with fiber ever since I taught the workshops with the grade school students last month. I can't seem to get enough and I have so many ideas and techniques to explore!! This post is going to be a quick rundown for what I have been creating lately. This is a small felted collage stitched Journal that I have just listed in my Etsy shop. These journals are approximately 4 x6 to 5x7 inches in size and are left with their organic felted edge so they are not perfectly squared off. I have added a panel of sun printed ferns to the front of this woodsey blue/green journal and it is lined with stiff interfacing and a wonderful piece of hand dyed cotton from a women's fiber arts cooperative in Africa.

I have stitched in three signatures and each holds roughly 40 pages each. You can find all of the details here.

Here is another journal, this time displaying a blossom sun printing enhanced with tiny seed stitches.

This one also has three signatures and is lined with interfacing and a lovely purple and blue batik fabric.

You will find details about this journal spelled out here.

This piece was much more of an experiment. I used red and purple wool roving and wool curls and added some vintage doilies and lace bits to the collage and felted and fulled till all of the components were part of the piece. I thena went in with needle and thread and added little red glass seed beads and crystaline silver clear beads to add more interst and sparkle. The beads do not photograph well in this picture, I need tog et some better phtots that capture the details before I list it in my shop. Sometimes the hardest part of this whole process is getting photos that adequately represent the work and details included in your work!

My friend Leslie gave me the wonderful brass stamping to add to the front to continue the circular lace look theme. I am pleased with how this piece works, if I can only get some good shots of the bead work!!!

I am also quite pleased with the circular motif in this fabulous ruby red batik. I already had this fabric in my stash! Imagine that!!!!

I have also created several wool cuff bracelets made from fulled wool sweater parts. As I was taking apart a fulled sweater I cut off the front button placket. You know, the band that has the button holes on the front of a cardigan sweater. I started to think about using the button holes as a means of connecting and I came up with these fried egg flower embellished cuffs.
So the cuff base is the placket and the button hole closes the cuf by looping over the green button. These are such fun to wear , they are very soft and they keep my wrist nice and warm. i will be listing several in my shop very soon!!

Next came some fun little flower felted pincushions. They are super simple to whip up and consist of a felted ball of wool yarn sitting atop a petal shaped piece of fulled sweater . that all sits atop a vintage wooden thread pool that has been covered with a strip of fulled cashmere! I added a few bead embellishments to further the flower effect. These are also listed in my Etsy Shop.

I carried on with the rolled wool yarn balls and created some fun little beaded felt yarn ball earrings.

As you can see I was into rolling and felting balls! This time I went to a larger size, added some ribbons and metalic mesh bits, lace and silk fibers and will complete these with beadwork.

They will all become beaded felted tree ornaments. The cool thing about these sparkly beauties is one does not have to worry about shattered glass ornaments should your favorite feline take to climbing your tree, or your toddling two year old grab on to have a closer look!!! Soft and unbreakable fiber art to the rescue!!!

I have already delivered the earrings and the Ornaments to Liberty Town and they seem to be catching the attention of a few customers. Always a good thing!!!!
I hope that you are all finding a few moments to explore your creative ideas these days and can get some art time in for yourselves as the busiest time of year is right around the corner. I'll be back soon!! Happy November!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hope House - Acting Locally

I have just finished this 4 inch by 4 inch felted and beaded ornament for a Red Artists Tree that will be a part of our local Festival of the Tree's this year. We have a wonderful organization in Fredericksburg called Hope House. Hope House offers shelter, hope and support for women and children who are suffering with domestic violence. Each year, an Auction is held during a gala event and all of the proceeds from the various donated tree's help to support the work of Hope House.
A call for artists was put out this year by local Artist Susan Ishi. Susan was asking artists to create 4x4 pieces of art around the theme of RED! I jumped at the opportunity and decided to work with fiber. Other artists are creating mini paintings ,earrings and collage. my piece may be the only fiber piece but this is one of the reasons that I chose fiber as my medium. Fiber art is ART and needs to gain more respect amoung the art community- so exposure to more fiber art is only a good thing!!

These pictures are not the best, I do apologize!!All of the needle felting was done using my Embellisher needle felting machine. I used curly red hand dyed wool, red silk fabics of various textures and some wonderful red silk velvet that had green thread in it. I worked on soluble fabric as my base so I was able to keep the felted piece very light weight and delicate. The edge is ruffled with the silk fabric that ruches up when the wool fibers are felted . As the wool shrinks it carries the silk fabric along with it resulting in that lovely texture. I stitched clear red seed beads all around the edge after the piece was dry. The silk velvet also crumples when the wool shrinks and you can achive a totally different textural effect when you use the velvet. After the felting was all complete I went to town with the beads!! (No surprise there!).

To finish the piece, I stitched on a backing piece of synthetic red felt and added a red wire hanger. I trailed the wire along the top back edge as I did not want the piece to sag in between the points where the wire attatched.
I hope that the Patrons of the Festival of the Tree's will be pleased with the Red Artists' Tree. I know that I can't wait to see it , all set up. There will be some very well know artist's work on this tree and then this little offering by little ol me. Hopefully the tree will bring lots of bids , as the Goal after all , is to support the wonderful work of Hope House!! I am very grateful that Susan Ishi was inspired to put out the call for artists work, for this wonderful project!!!


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