September 30, 2011

another ArtPrize favorite

Last week Wednesday, the first day of ArtPrize, the whole family ventured downtown. This was my favorite piece from that excursion. These long tubes were suspended in a narrow gallery space that kind of reminds you of a hallway. Each of them had a living plant within them. I love it when a piece of art seems unlike anything you have ever seen or experienced before. Very cool.

It's called Nature Preserve by artist Michele Brody and you can see it at the UICA.

September 28, 2011

ArtPrize at the Meijer Gardens

Grand Rapids is right in the middle of ArtPrize, a crazy, enormous, city-swallowing, circus of an art contest that takes over this town. There's so much to see that you have to admit defeat before you even start. It is pretty close to impossible to see it all – especially if you are employed and parenting children who happen need to sleep on a regular basis!

Last Tuesday (the day before the official beginning of ArtPrize) we popped over to the Meijer Gardens to check out their ArtPrize sculpture. I have to say I liked, or at least appreciated, all but a few pieces. Kudos to curators. I always figure if they've made a career out of studying and understanding and discovering art then the pieces they pick are worth considering.

Photos weren't allowed inside (boo!) but I will link to a few favorite pieces of mine. The Gardens put images on their site, which is quit helpful considering the ArtPrize site is down while I am trying to write this post!

Sleepwalking Around the Peach Garden by Jae Won Lee
This is the one they featured on the cover of the program. The paper shapes were constructed a lot like these ornamental balls I made last fall. It was the masses of them, the presence of so many, gathered together and suspended from the ceiling by colored thread that made it especially magical.

Space In Between – Saguaro by Margarita Cabrera
This cactus was made of border patrol officer's uniforms. The artist does pieces that react to the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. I liked it partly because I am interested in creating my own dimensional, stuffed objects. But I especially liked that the medium, the material used to make it, made sense. It was part of the meaning of the piece. I have been ranting and raving about this lately in light of ArtPrize because sometimes people get impressed by things made of other things (like last year's giant penny made out of pennies) because it clearly took so long to make. But sometimes, it makes the piece more of a gimmick than anything else.

Untitled (Persian Rug) by Mary Brogger
This "rug" is made out of pieces of cut metal. So intricate! I am really curious about the process behind making it. Also, there were special light bulbs lighting it from different angles to create different colored shadows beneath. I love the attention to detail.

Buttress by DeWitt Godfrey
This piece was outside. It's giant and industrial and yet ever so playful as it tumbles down the hill. I really liked it.

Castled Void by Stephen Knapp
This piece would take some careful choreographing. Different colored lights bounce off mirrors and mix with each other to "paint" the wall. Really cool to see.

Little Black Dress by Suzanne Cohan-Lange, Sherry Antonini, Nikki Nolin
I wish I had been able to spend more time studying this piece. I think there is more to it than I had time to absorb since the kiddos were heading toward bedtime. When my 3-year-old saw the miniature black dressforms in the middle of the room she said "Oh look! Silhouettes." Now, considering they were three dimensional, she wasn't exactly right but she still had the right idea. Where would she have learned the word "silhouette?!"

September 26, 2011

all pinned up

The stars have miraculously aligned in my household on more than one occassion recently. By this, I mean that both daughters have been asleep at the same time in the middle of the day. The result is that I have gotten back to working on the quilt for my daughter. Now that the nights are cooling off, I am especially feeling like I need to get it done.

I had originally envisioned, and attempted to plan for, creating a quilt back that was larger than the top and could then be folded up on top and used as binding. Study this photo closely. Do you see a nice fat border of extra backing? No, you do not. I am not even going to bother rechecking my measurements and math at this point.

So the result is that I am going to need to sew and attach real binding. Just one more thing to learn on this adventure! Fortunately, I have helpful books from the library and the expertise of fellow crafters and quilters so thoughtfully shared on YouTube (husband looks up plumbing repairs and I look up quilting!). As always, this is taking longer and turning out to be more complicated than I anticipated. I am quite amused at all the things I am learning by doing on this project!

September 19, 2011

candleholders as pedestals

At my house I don't really use or display the long taper style candles. I have a pair of candlestick holders in my milk glass collection. And I recently found a clear one in my basement that I mistook for a slender rectangular vase.  Both have recently found new life as display pedestals.

On my mantel I have used the tall holder as is but perched a little bird's nest on top.

On my white shelves, I flipped the milk glass versions upside down and used them to display bird nests as well. I have to give my 3-year-old credit for the idea since she was the one who originally turned them upside down.

I am imagining other objects could be elevated in a similar fashion. It is an interesting decorating thought.

September 16, 2011

amazing acorns!

Remember last fall when I was so thrilled to discover the acorns in my front yard sporting pinstripes? Well, this autumn I am enthused at how many different types of acorns there are! I think somewhere buried in my brain I could remember learning that there were different kinds of oak trees. So it should not be so surprising to me to discover different style acorns.

On a recent afternoon when I needed a better mood and the baby needed a nap, I went on a long walk to a nearby park. I had in mind that I had found some exceptionally large acorns there before so I thought I would look for a few to add to my collection. As I walked through my neighborhood and onto my park I kept noticing all kinds of acorns. "Ooh – fuzzy tops!" And I would carefully lower down, gather a bunch, and stuff my pockets. People driving by must have wondered what on earth I was doing. The enthusiasm I have for acorns is probably only shared by our squirrel friends! 

September 14, 2011

I can see clearly now

My last decorating scheme on the mantel was my milk glass collection. I appreciate the solid graphic nature of the white shapes but I was ready for something fresh.

Displaying multiples of anything tends to be visually interesting. I realized I had an accidental collection of clear glass vases in a variety of sizes, shapes, and heights and decided to go with that. My original thought was to simply layer them alone but I quickly changed my mind choosing instead to add autumn-appropriate elements from nature.

Brown has never been my first choice when it comes to colors but I think there is something pleasant about the connection to outdoors it has. I've used seed pods, acorns, driftwood, feathers, and dried flowers from the garden including the dramatic alliums. I think the dried blooms look a bit like fireworks. I will confess to nabbing a couple of extra pieces from my mom's basement to round out the collection. I have been rearranging and adding bits for a few days now but I think, with perhaps the exception of our growing acorn collection, I am done for now.

September 12, 2011

surprising succulents!

Is it just me? Or has anyone else noticed that succulents are popping up everywhere? I posted about this great birdbath planted with them earlier this summer. My sister-in-law sent me a link to some instructions on making a so-called "living frame" and then my mom pointed out that very same idea in a recent Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. They've even posted the how-to instructions on their website. I think this may just fulfill my need for "new" while I maintain all my existing gardens. And of course, I couldn't help but notice and admire some impressive containers at a recent visit to the Meijer Gardens. The shapes and textures are amazing plus I hear they're a hardy bunch of plants. Bonus! Beautiful and hard to kill. They're in!

From the Better Homes And Gardens August 2011 issue

From the Better Homes and Gardens September 2011 issue
Buy these pre-made planters from

Succulent planters at the Meijer Gardens

Now I have to keep my eyes peeled for just the right frame next time I am out treasure hunting (thrifting!). I am going to have to think about what color I migth want to paint the frames as well. Something bright that pops?  A shade of green or purple to complement the plants within? Natural and weathered? Metallic? Oh the options!

September 9, 2011

windowsill wonders

I took some time cleaning and rearranging my windowsill treasures this past weekend. A lovely treat for my eyes.

 Lately, we've been finding these spiky seedballs on our walks. They are lime green when fresh and are falling off of trees. I need to do some research to figure out what kind of trees they are from.

 Seashells from past ocean adventures.

Fossils displayed in water to show off their interesting colors and textures.

September 7, 2011

star bright

Remember my great excitement when I bought this quilt at an antique store? Well, here we are over year later and I finally got it up on the wall. My mother-in-law did the sewing and my husband did the hanging. And now I get to start my day smiling at the cheerful bright colors.

September 5, 2011

A movie about type?

Yes, a movie about type!

I admit, you really have to be a design nerd to take this one off the shelf. I think it might have appeal to the curious types though!

I first read about Typeface on the Design Envy blog and then checked it out from the library. It's an hour-long documentary that originally aired on PBS. The film chronicles the history and the current state of the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

The Hamilton Wood Type company was producing individual letters carved out of wood up until 1985 (which was when, not coincidentally, the Mac computer came on the scene).  Posters and other print pieces used to be made of individual letters carefully "set" into place and then printed. The museum is this grand collection of old machinery and heaps and heaps of old wooden type. A designer's playground!

The film shows everyone from the hip Chicago designers who have a passion for old type and printing using the letterpress, the town's historical society who are struggling to make ends meet, and the older residents who are some of the few people who know how to carve type in the way it used to be done.

I would love to visit someday when they have workshops. When the design profession has gone so far into the world of computers, there is a real appeal to doing things by hand once again.

Please take a peek at their website to see the beauty of these letterforms.

September 2, 2011

before & after & beautiful

 Before: an unplanned hodgepodge and a lot of weeds. Also known as "the desolation."

 After: a mulch desert with plant islands! I have to remember everything will double or triple in size!

 Coral bells "Marmalade." Aren't the colors awesome?

 Hakone grass: A beautiful lime green ornamental grass that prefers shade!

 Coral bells again: "Palace purple."

 Autumn fern: The new growth comes in orange. I thought that was so interesting.

And what shade garden is complete without hostas? Giant hostas are actually the centerpieces in the two side pockets and a variety of them create repetition throughout the garden.