Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cooper Mountain Nature Park

I took a break from bird-making this morning and Ray and I went to see the new Cooper Mountain Nature Park that just opened near our house. We live at the base of Cooper Mountain, which is an old volcanic cinder cone. The Nature Park is at the top, with views of the Tualatin River Valley and miles of walking trails. It just opened to the public this past weekend, but it has been in the works for more than 10 years with restoration of native plants, the planting of more than 100,000 trees and removal of non-native, invasive plants.

A lot of the amenities near the entrance are still under construction, including this future playground and a picnic area. The red building in the background is the "Nature House" a visitors center for the park.

It was a perfect day today. Not a cloud in the clear blue sky. Do you know how rare that is in this neck of the woods? We walked the short loop trail, which winds down through a grassy meadow and into woods. Lots of wildflowers in bloom.

Finishing the loop, you see this view of the Nature House with the solar panels on the roof.

I loved this thing! You put your ear up to the small opening and it amplifies the sounds of the birds.
I am lucky to live so close to the park. It will be great to watch it grow and develop over the years.
After that pleasant break, it was back to work. I made a bird from African fabrics that I will show you tomorrow. I think he's pretty special!

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Bird Factory

This Etsy business has been pretty exciting. I am nearly sold out of birds. Of the eight I posted in the shop last week only one remains. So I got busy with more birds yesterday. I decided to work on three at a time, rather than just one at a time, so it has become a bit more streamlined. For example I can figure out thread colors and sew all the parts requiring that color, then change to the next. All the beaks were done one after the other. But then at a certain point each is finished up separately. As you can see above, there is one finished bird, one "skin" and assorted parts in the green basket. My stuffing tools are the blue thing, made for that purpose and a bamboo skewer. The skewer is great for little places, like beaks.

My favorite part of this process is picking the fabrics to put together and I think my sense of how I do that is one of the things that make my birds distinctive. Combining patterns and colors is an almost magical process—mostly not intellectual at all. I may have an idea of what might work and look for those specific fabrics, but mostly I just start pulling things out of baskets until it all clicks. I am not buying much new for birds, but shopping from my own stash. I did see a wonderful batik at the Mill End Store the other day that I could immediately visualize as bird wings—very delicate and branch-y. If you click the photo above for the closeup, you may be able to see it on the finished bird wings. The other fabrics used with it were pulled from my collection. While rummaging around today I came across my small cache of colorful African fabrics. I think there may be an African bird in the works soon.

I am so grateful to everyone who bought something from me this week! What a nice validation.
I have a lot of experience in retail and this Etsy business is really fascinating to me. They have a good system set up for every step of the process. My first online business was many years ago. I think 1994. I had closed my quilt shop in Ashland and moved to Portland and got involved in the first online quilt discussion group, so I started a fabric business online, called The Scrap Peddler. In those days everyone was on dialup, computers were slow and I didn't know anyone who owned a digital camera. My site had very few photos on it, certainly not photos of all the fabrics I had for sale. My scheme was to sell, at a nominal cost, a packet of samples of the fabrics I was selling, by mail order, then take orders. My customer base was small, but I sold quite a lot a fabric anyway. Eventually I got a real job and closed up the internet shop. Now, all these years later you can buy almost anything online.

Tonight all three birds are finished and I started pulling fabrics for three more. I hope to list them by the end of the week. The factory has been humming for two days now. Tonight Ray asked if my boss (me) would give me a little time off tomorrow to go check out the new Cooper Mountain Nature area just up the hill from us. I think so. That's the nice thing about working for yourself.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Beaverton Farmers Market

It was a perfect day for a visit to the Beaverton Farmers' Market. It is one of the largest and best (in my opinion) of the Farmers' Markets in the Portland area. Produce, flowers, plants, artisan cheeses, bread, entertainment and fragrantly alluring lunch choices sizzling and steaming under canopies. We bought plants and artichokes and bread, then found a shady spot on the grass to eat our lunch of freshly made tamales and freshly squeezed limeade. Wandering back toward the car we paused to watch the kids playing in the fountain.

Beautiful day.

pickled beets looked jewel-like in the sunshine

Lots of cute kids and babies

when I lose Ray I usually find him looking at plants

The market is at one side of the city park. Lots of families enjoying the market, the sunshine and the fountain today.

Friday, June 26, 2009


was such a strange good/bad/wierd/happy/sad day that I feel like I have to comment.

Of course it started, probably as did most of yours, with the news that Farrah Fawcett had died. Sad, but really not unexpected news. I watched most of the "Farrah's Story" show on TV a couple months ago. I am a not unwilling sucker for celebrity stuff—not proud of that, but there it is. I was really quite moved by her dignity and how down to earth she seemed. I've not been quite so impressed by Ryan O'Neal's public blubbering and melodrama, but OK, I am sorry for his loss.

Off to the Red Cross to give blood. This is routine by now. My young phlebotomist, however, could not seem to find a suitable vein in my left arm, so we turned the chair around and she went to work on my right arm. She poked, she rubbed, she squeezed, all the while yammering on and on about how much she loves ice cream and it should be a food group in itself. Finally she marked a spot, double-checked it, slathered it up good with iodine and slipped the needle in. It went right in, with no discernible problem and just a tiny sting. But she exhaled loudly and exclaimed, "Whew! I was worried about that one!" This does not inspire confidence. Just as I was finishing up, a woman was ushered in to the chair next to mine and as she settled in she pulled a huge wad of tissues out of her purse and said to her phlebotomist, "I'm a crier. I always cry when they stick the needle in. Don't take it personally." Fortunately I was finished and didn't have to stick around for the waterworks.

I made a quick stop at SCRAP, which is near the Red Cross and found the pickings rather slim, but picked up some foamcore scraps, which will be handy for use as packing materials for some things I plan to mail.

When I arrived home I checked my email and Facebook and first read some very good, very exciting news, that I can't yet share here, but will in time. Then the news that Michael Jackson had died. It seemed like it had to be a hoax—but no. Gosh. When my kids were young I felt like MJ lived at my house. We were all new to MTV and were simply in awe of his videos. The kids played his records for hours on end. Emily and her friend, Kristen, invented dance routines to his music. And I was still remembering how adorable he was as a little singing, dancing cherub with his brothers in the Jackson Five. With all the great music he made, all the stunning visual images and performances, this is the one that keeps going through my head. Poor Michael. He became such a wierd guy, but oh what a talent.

Then on Facebook, several people reported the news that Jeff Goldblum had been killed in a fall. What!? That one was a hoax. How cruel. Imagine his friends and family reading such stuff on the internet.

I listed several more items on my Etsy shop yesterday. The birds have been selling well! The photo at the top shows several small fabric art pieces I photo'ed and listed. They are mounted on matt board. After I photo'ed them I wrapped them in clear cellophane to protect them.

Went to a PEO meeting last night, where there was much laughter and warmth. The business part was short, so we lingered over a decadent dessert and a visit. Nice to share the end of a busy day with friends. Driving home I noticed the beautiful crescent moon hanging above the trees in a deep, velvety blue sky and felt like this had been a day!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Open for business

I have been feverishly working away today setting up an Etsy Shop. You all know about Etsy, right? It's an online marketplace for handmade items. Here's what my shop looks like.

Click on the image and it will take you to the real shop.

The first items I have listed for sale are some of those many birds I have been making for the past year. I have given each bird a name, so that I can keep track of what has sold. (Sold?!) There is a method to my naming system. I'll bet you can figure it out if you look at them.

So, wish me luck. It would be nice to make a little money to support my fabric habit! I will be posting new things soon.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The color of summer


My nasturtiums are blooming on the porch and that firey orange color makes me so happy.

I always seem to be happiest on the warm side of the color wheel and the color orange sits squarely in the middle of that territory. No way to cool down orange. It is warm, earthy, glowy and extravagant.

Yesterday I came home to find these on the dining room table. Ray is taking care of my daughter's yard while they are gone and he cut them over there. He said he figured someone ought to be enjoying them. And I am. That grand vase with its orange-y red berries is another thing that makes me happy. We got it in Ecuador at the Eduardo Vega gallery. I love everything about it—the shape, the colors, the design. And it reminds me of a wonderful time.

Orange is a color I love to wear, to surround myself with and to use in my artwork. This is my Pantone deck fanned out to show the variety of oranges, shading from sunny, golden to flame to earthy terra cottas.

There is something there for everyone. I simply can't understand anyone who doesn't love orange. I always say my favorite color is red, but really it's that range of territory that bridges the transition between orange and red.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Doodle dee doo

Awhile back I ran across a link to this website on someone else's blog. I found it intriguing and also somewhat frustrating, that it was all about a kind of doodling that looked similar to things I have done. But so little information was forthcoming from the site itself, only the tease that there was some secret method, the instructions for which are for sale, along with a "kit" of special cards and pens with which to "zentangle". Hmmmm.

My observation was that one began by using a pencil to lightly draw a shape that you divide into sections, then, using a permanent pen (I like a 03 pigma pen) you proceed to fill each section with a different pattern. The one above, pretty clearly inspired by what I saw on the zentangle site, was my first try. I have a very small sketchbook that I am using for this—I can stick it in my purse easily, so it is there when I have a few minutes of waiting somewhere, or like this week, find myself in a seat, listening to other people talk. (see yesterday's post).

I have set some guidelines for myself in order to add a little challenge to the process, without making it rigidly rulebound.
  1. No pre-planning. Each section is a new blank slate and I make the decision about what pattern to fill it with only after completing the last section.
  2. No starting over. Once I start, I am in it to the finish. Mistakes can become opportunities, or something to simply ignore. The round one, above, is one of my favorites, despite the fact that one section just didn't work. I got confused by the pattern and messed it all up. Oh well—finish it and on to the next.
  3. Each section gets a different pattern.
  4. Strive for contrast between the patterns. On one page I want to see contrasts in scale, contrasts in form (some curvy and sinuous, some crisp and geometric ), contrasts in value.
  5. Don't think of it having to "be for something". Maybe I can use it later, maybe (probably) not. It's all about the process and not about a product.

I think these are great mind stretchers that get me to think about the elements of design without being distracted by subject matter or a finished product. They are also a form of relaxation and focus. Plus, hand skills are always good to practice.

This last one came out wonky, but I really liked some of the patterns.

Try one! It is a little bit addictive. Send me a scan and I'll post it, or post it on your blog and send me a link.


Thanks for indulging my little hurt feelings whine yesterday. I needed some sympathy. Today I am brushing it off. Still confused by this and other unfriendly vibes from someone I viewed as a potential friend, but moving on.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lazy me

I have been sitting here at my computer, catching up on email and blogs for a couple hours now. I have been out of town at a conference for the past three days and drove home today. I am beat. It was a good conference, but I feel exhausted by all the people, sleeping in a hotel bed, lugging around a totebag full of stuff, wrestling a suitcase, etc. etc. Good to be home and enjoying the quiet.

I have been doodling lately. The one above was done during the longest business meeting I attended at the conference. I have more to say about doodling, but I'll do that another day.

Email sure piles up when I don't check it everyday. There is someone in a group I belong to that doesn't seem to like me very much. Her email bummed me out a little. Ideas were solicited. I offered mine. She didn't like it, which is fine with me, but she felt compelled to explain, in an email to the entire group, just why it was such an unworthy idea, in her opinion. Not the first time she has made me feel small. Oh well. If I weren't so tired, it probably wouldn't have gotten to me.

My last post was written before I left and set to publish while I was gone. It published with that looooooooong space at the end of it. Don't know why it did that, but it is fixed now. That's the most ambitious task I have tackled this afternoon! Lazy, I tell you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The flowers

More photos from our day at the Oregon Garden.

Did you know that artichokes are a type of thistle and if left to flower they develop a flower very much like a thistle flower? At that point they are no longer edible. But why would you ever let that happen, when they are so delicious at the pre-flower stage?

We discussed flowers and gardening in the car and at the garden. Reva is taking the Master Gardener training program and Gale is an avid gardener as is Gerrie. I am not so hands-on, as I have Ray to do the dirty work (and he loves it), but I do love the results. It is hard not to feel serene, surrounded by all that beauty. You can feel any tense muscles relax and your pulse slow. Awwww.


Three kinds of irises, among the grasses

Unknown—anyone know what it is?


Everyone wanted to know what this plant is that looks a little like a firework exploding. The guide on the tram didn't know.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Oregon Garden

Yesterday Gerrie, Reva, Gale and I (2/3rds of the STASH group) went down to Silverton, Oregon to the Oregon Garden. We needed an outing and inspiration and some time together. It was lovely.

I had not been there for a couple of years and things have changed and grown and more has been added. The garden has been in existence for about 10 years now and has struggled financially. A few years ago it was taken over by a resort company who built a resort hotel and restaurant adjacent to the garden. We planned to have lunch there. We were seated and brought water, then waited. And waited. And waited. After nearly 30 minutes we left in disgust and got a sandwich at the garden gift shop. We had to wonder how well the garden will fare under that kind of management.

But, we had a wonderful, relaxing time in the garden itself. We spent a lot of time taking pictures. Here's the only shot I got of Reva.

She was taking a photo of this little structure with an "eco-roof", which the guide on the tram tour told us was what we should all have. It provides a filter for rainwater, helps with runoff and provides insulation to the home. And—it is beautiful!

Here are Gale and Gerrie.

And to prove that I was there also, here's a photo I snagged from Gerrie's blog of us on the tram.

Besides seeing the beautiful flowers, we all were like little kids when we spotted this cool snake.

And then we saw a frog . . .

and a beautiful koi . . .

And plenty of birds.

Tomorrow I'll show you flowers.