The Painted Landscape

June 25th, 2014 § 1

June_Tapestry_2014_Copyright_Michaela_Harlow_All_Rights_Reserved_michaelaharlow.com_No_Use_Without_Permission June Tapestry, 2014 – Pastel

It’s late June, and having finished my professional planting work, I’m currently solidifying plans for my summer sabbatical. With a sea of summer days stretched before me, I can’t tell you how excited I am to be back in my painting studio —full time— for the first summer in five years. I thought now might be the right time to introduce you to my artwork which —not surprisingly— is inspired by the natural world. I’ve been exhibiting my artwork professionally since 1994.

Of course, I will continue to write about horticulture and garden design on this blog, and share my garden and landscape photographs here. But from time to time, you will also see a few of my paintings, drawings and other artwork. You will also occasionally see the work of other artists here (remember the ‘Artists Inspired by Nature’ series?).  If you would like to see more of my oils, pastels and other artwork, please visit my studio website, and/or follow my art blog via RSS feed here or on Instagram @michaelaharlow and/or Facebook.

I hope you will enjoy these painted landscapes, a group of my recently completed pastels . . .

Rain_in_June_2014_Copyright_Michaela_Harlow_All_Rights_Resered_michaelaharlow.com_No_Use_Without_Permission Rain in June, 2014 – Pastel

Rain_on_Mustard_Fields, 2014_Copyright_Michaela_Harlow_ All_Rights_Reserved_michaelaharlow.com_No_Use_Without_Permission Rain on Mustard Fields, 2014 – Pastel

Within_the_Storm_2014_Copyright_Michaela_Harlow_All_Rights_Reserved_michaelaharlow.com Within the Storm, 2014 – Pastel

Summer_Porch_2014_Pastel_Copyright_Michaela_Harlow_All_Rights_Reserved_michaelaharlow.com_No_Use_Without_Permission Summer Porch, 2014 – Pastel

All artwork is copyright Michaela Harlow and may not be used or reposted without permission. For information please visit michaelaharlow.com

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, artwork, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of Michaela Medina Harlow and/or The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you!

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Art in the Garden: Monumental Vessels The Work of Artist Stephen Procter at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, VT

July 14th, 2011 § 3

Stephen Procter’s Gorgeous Vessels on Display at BMAC Sculpture Garden (Plantings here: Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’, Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’ and Sedum)

Imagining a beautiful outdoor space, and then realizing that vision —physically working to bring the dream to life— is one of the best parts of my work as a garden designer. I have created many private gardens, but having the opportunity to design and install a public garden —one dedicated to art and nature within my own community— has been a new experience for me. For the past two years, I have been volunteering my services as garden designer (and recently, with Turner & Renaud Landscaping Services, as garden installer as well) at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in Vermont. If you have been following this blog for awhile, you will recall various mentions of this long-term project.

This Friday, July 15th, the inaugural exhibit of the BMAC Sculpture Garden  —Monumental Vessels by Vermont artist Stephen Procter— marks a special moment. Stephen Procter’s beautiful work will be on display at the garden from now until October 23, 2011. The Brattleboro Museum and Art Center is located at the tristate corner of Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. If you live nearby —or will be traveling in New England this autumn— please stop by the museum to check out Stephen Procter’s work, as well as the work of sculptors Dan Snow (‘Rock Rest’) and Jim Cole (soon-to-be-installed). For more information about Stephen Procter’s sculptural ceramic vessels, visit the artist’s website by clicking here. Procter’s high-fired stoneware is frost proof, and his lidded pieces may be left outdoors year-round. There’s much more to share, but for now I’ll leave you with a few teaser shots of Stephen Procter’s work, which I snapped yesterday afternoon in the new garden …

Rounding the Corner of the Sculpture Garden’s Stepping Stone Path, Stephen Procter’s Lidded Urn Catches the Late Afternoon Sunlight (Plantings include Echinacea ‘Big Sky Sundown’, Sedum and Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’). Stepping Stone Path is by Turner & Renaud Landscaping. See credits below.

Stephen Procter’s Vessels on the New Great Lawn at the BMAC Sculpture Garden

The View into the Sculpture Garden from the BMAC Parking Lot (Plantings here include Amsonia hubrichtii, Penstemon digitalis, Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’ and in the background, Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’ and Betula nigra. Gator bags keep the Betula nigra well hydrated)

Stephen Procter’s Large Urn Stands Out Against the New, Green Lawn in a Beautifully Rich Hue (Plantings here include Miscanthus purpurascens, Cornus alba, Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’ and Erigeron strigosis)

View from the Sidewalk, Looking Toward the Marlboro College Building (Plantings here include Vernonica spicata, Calamagrostis x acutiflora, Perovskia atriplicifolia, Clethra alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’, Echinacea ‘Big Sky Sundown’ and Miscanthus purpurascens)

View from the Sidewalk (Plantings Here Include Rudbeckia, Veronica spicata and Cornus alba)

Garden Design and Installation at BMAC is by Michaela Medina. For inquires see my professional services page at left.

Professional Landscaping Services and Installation on this project (including hardscaping, stepping stone path, tree installation, shrub sourcing and endless details) were provided by Turner & Renaud. Special thanks to Christie Turner and her crew for their many hours of service and generous donations toward this special gift to the Brattleboro community.

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Art Inspired by Nature: The Work of Vermont Artist Dan Snow…

January 3rd, 2011 § 3

Archer’s Pavilion

As an enthusiastic fan of stone sculpture, environmental art and three-dimensional landscape features, I have been long planning an article about Vermont artist Dan Snow and his work. But finding the time to actually visit and photograph the artist’s creations, and coordinate two seasonal workers during the busy summer months, seemed all but impossible. Dan Snow keeps a busy schedule. In addition to creating master works of art for both private clients and public collections, Dan has authored two of his own books —In the Company of Stone and Listening to Stone with photographs by Peter Mauss— and has contributed to several others. He also regularly writes beautiful essays for his blog, In the Company of Stone. In addition to these artistic pursuits, as a DSWA*of Great Britain- certified Mastercraftsman and DSWA*-certified instructor, Dan Snow leads workshops, talks and presentations —both here in North America and abroad— passing along his drystone walling and artistic knowledge to eager students the world over.

Fortunately, Dan is as generous with his time and talents as he is a gifted and sought-after artist and teacher. I caught up with the artist recently —on a blisteringly-cold December afternoon a couple of weeks back— and asked about visiting a few of his works for a blog-feature. Much to my surprise, Dan offered me the very enviable opportunity to take a local, personally guided tour of his work. Visiting these amazing works of art —and having the opportunity to skip, hop, crawl, walk in, on and around them with their creator— was more fun than I can possibly describe. In addition to his many talents, Dan Snow is also just-plain-good company, and his playful, unassuming nature —so evident in all of his work— made the afternoon both a delightful and educational experience.

The Beautifully Framed View from Within ‘Archer’s Pavilion’

My tour began and ended with stone work created by Dan Snow over a twenty-five-year time span, for three different collectors. Although Dan has built numerous freestanding stone walls, retaining walls, and other practical landscape features (many documented here on this blog) our tour focused on his stone sculpture and land art. Many of the artist’s stone constructions invite physical participation, and ‘Archer’s Pavilion’ (pictured at the top of the page and just above) is a perfect example of this. Although located on private property, this piece sits near the edge of the road, and is well-known and much-loved by locals; particularly children. In his book Listening to Stone, Dan notes that some of his young fans refer to this sculpture as “The Tooth Fairy’s House” when they pass it on their way to and from school. I’m certain that these daily views of ‘Archer’s Pavilion’ inspire a great deal of day dreaming throughout the school day. This fantastical creation is one of my favorites as well. While seated inside the tiny stone tent, reflecting upon the beautifully framed landscape beyond, it occurred to me how —much like other master works of art— the piece seems both impossibly complex and maddeningly effortless. Despite the weight of the stone and the hours of intense physical labor involved in their construction, Dan’s creations always appear as if magically dreamed into existence. It’s a wonderful, and completely mind-boggling paradox.

Stone Sphere. A hollow-centered orb sitting at the far edge of a wind-swept field.

Star Shrine. Inspired by Japanese ‘Hoshi Jinja’, created to house and worship fallen meteors, this is also one of my favorite pieces.

Pyramid. The bright red-orange color of bittersweet berries adds a bit of natural poetry to this study in contrasts. Here, Dan has used round field stone to create a remarkable work of geometry; all straight planes and angles.

Because he works in stone, and his pieces are anchored to the land, the connection to nature is inseparable from Dan Snow’s work. But many other elements and influences are also at play, as evidenced by the diverse works pictured here. Stories about the inspiration and creation of the individual pieces, collected in Dan’s books, are as fascinating as the stonework itself.  “Star Shrine” (above) and “The Keep” (below) were both created in response to works of land art in other cultures. As Dan and I walked to the far end of a stark and barren field —the perfect gallery for his work— a large grouping of boulders called out. I remembered hearing about this piece long ago, and I had the vague recollection that there was some connection to historic tombs.

As it turns out, Dan’s collectors had been traveling in Ireland when they encountered what he describes as a ‘megalithic tomb’. Upon their return, they asked Dan if he would construct a similar structure for them on their property. Portal tombs, or stone burial chambers, exist throughout the world and are known by a variety of common names; including dolmens, stazzone, hunebed, cromlech, dysse and others. These structures share some common characteristics, such as upright stone ‘orthostats’ and large, cap-stone roofs. There are no human remains located in ‘The Keep’, though it is a fantastic and haunting work of art, as well as a fabulous playground for the living.

Entrance – The Keep

The Keep

Inside ‘The Keep’, Looking Out at Woodland’s Edge

Although Dan is often commissioned to create functional objects —benches, fire pits and bridges among them— the utilitarian purpose of these projects is merely a launch point for this artist’s imaginative interpretation of the structure. A bench is simply a place to sit, but a work of art designed for seating is an entirely different thing. The gravity-defying beauty of Dan’s arched, stone foot-bridge, and the fascinating, flame-mimicking points of his fire sculpture, make it clear that in the hands of a master, art need never play second fiddle to craft.

Stone Seating Area

Fire Sculpture

Arched Footbridge

Not only do Dan’s stone creations blur the culturally designated line between art and craft, but many of his environmental art pieces also challenge conventional, Western ideas about what it means to have a garden. Located on the same Brookside property as the ‘Arched Footbridge’ and ‘Star Shrine’, a beautiful and meticulously maintained dry garden sits at woodland’s edge. Most European and American gardeners and landscape designers have fixed ideas about what defines a garden. For many such traditionalists, horticulture must be the primary focus in an outdoor space in order to meet the definition of ‘garden’. And although xeriscaping and rock gardens have become more commonplace over the past twenty years —mostly in response to ecological factors like water conservation and the rise of minimalist aesthetics— dry gardens are still relatively scarce in North America.

Of course in the larger world, ideas about gardening are as varied as the cultures in which this activity takes place. Japanese gardeners mastered the art the dry garden long ago, and in the traditional Zen garden —where the stone itself becomes a distilled, symbolic landscape— these three-dimensional, highly disciplined works of art become the focus, not the backdrop, of the garden. In Listening to Stone, Dan describes how he came to accept a commission for an Asian-inspired dry garden in Vermont, and an inspirational encounter with his Japanese friend and former student, Taheshi Hammana. This is one of my favorite essays in the collection; perfectly describing the yin-yang relationship between student and teacher, and how in the best of circumstances, the learning flows both ways. Like many of Snow’s stories, this one reveals an essential part of the multilayered process art making, and how individual experiences develop and shape that process, and the artist himself.

Dry Garden Detail – In a traditional Zen garden, each object within the composition represents a corresponding object in nature.

Dan Snow’s Modern American Dry Garden, Inspired by Japanese Tradition

Dry Garden Detail. Vertically set stones represent the edge of the raked stone ‘water’.

As daylight began to fade, Dan and I made our way to the last stop on our short tour. Located on this private property are two large, physically engaging works. Dan’s ‘Walking Wall’, which spans the length of the field and is comprised of both restoration and new stone work, and ‘Rock Shelter’ were created to draw the landowner out for a stroll. The story of how these two related pieces came to be, and their connection to the history of the place, adds to the poetic beauty of both works. Does the collector stroll upon the ‘Walking Wall’, and pause for a rest beneath the roof of ‘Rock Shelter’? Based upon my experience there, scrambling atop the stone lean-to roof with Dan and skipping along the trio of bridges at the start of the long wall, I imagine the owner must regularly visit and delight in his private playground…

Walking Wall

Walking Wall

Rock Shelter at Twilight

Rock Shelter – Front Side View

Rock Shelter – Backside View

Dan Snow atop his ‘Rock Shelter’ piece in Vermont – December, 2010

This amazing collection of stone work offers only the tiniest of peeks into the world and work of Dan Snow. But if this short, virtual tour has sparked your interest and imagination, you may be interested in viewing ‘Stone Rising’, a beautifully filmed documentary of Dan’s work and process, available for purchase through Fuzzy Slippers Productions (online here). Dan’s schedule of workshops and lectures can be found on his blog (here), and his books, “In the Company of Stone” and “Listening to Stone” are both available online from Amazon.com as well as at Barnes & Noble, Borders and most independent book stores.

Although much of Dan’s work is held in private collections —with some properties occasionally opened for tours of the artist’s work— several pieces exist in public locations; including collaborative works at Kansas State University, and the English Harbor Arts Centre, Newfoundland, Canada. Recently, Dan created a stone seating sculpture, “Rock Rest” (pictured below) for the new Brattleboro Museum and Art Center Sculpture Garden. This new public garden —which I designed as part of a volunteer project honoring Linda Rubinstein and Dan Freed for their life-long contributions to the arts in this community— will break ground in spring of this year. Dan is currently seeking a sponsor for this work of art, in hopes that it will be installed for the enjoyment of the public (the Brattleboro Museum is located at the far, southeast corner of the state; where the Vermont line meets the southwestern tip of New Hampshire and the northwest boundary of Massachusetts). If you are interested in sponsoring this work of art (pictured below) —or know of a potential sponsor— please contact Dan Snow via his website, In the Company of Stone.

Rock Rest – Photograph ⓒ Dan Snow

Notes and Links of Interest:

* DSWA is an acronym for the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain, linked here.

The Drystone Conservancy – Lexington, Kentucky

The Drystone Guild of Canada

“Stone Rising” Clip on YouTube

Dan Snow’s Blog – In the Company of Stone

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A Very Special, Heart-Felt Thank You to Dan Snow and Elin Waagen, for Your Time, Generosity and Friendship.

Article and Photographs (exception noted) are copyright 2010, Michaela Medina at The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used for any purpose without my consent.

All content on this site, with noted exceptions, is the property of The Gardener’s Eden Online Journal, and my not be used or reproduced without express written permission.

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Art Inspired by Nature: Soleil MetalArts Exploring the Beautiful Work of Florida Artist Shawn McCurdy……

August 30th, 2010 § 3

Ribbons Birdbath (Aluminum, 30″ tall) Shawn McCurdy

As the gardening season begins to wind down, ‘Art Inspired by Nature’ —an ongoing, seasonal series here on the blog— will be returning. And like many of you —some who have written asking about what happened to the regular artist-features— I’ve missed them! One of the things I truly love about writing this online journal is the fascinating, creative people I meet and places I visit. I discovered Shawn McCurdy’s work on The Gardener’s Eden’s Facebook page, when the artist’s profile picture (see below) caught my attention in one of the comments. I’ve always been fascinated by three dimensional metalwork, and although I’ve yet to try it myself, welding seems particularly intriguing. Drawn in by her flying sparks, I clicked over to her profile page and found a link to her studio websiteSoleil MetalArts. When I saw her work —particularly the garden sculpture and birdbaths made from recycled materials— I knew I just had to share her her art with all of you…

Sparks Fly! The Artist at Work

Artist Shawn McCurdy lives, and works from a converted barn-studio, in Geneva, Florida (near Orlando). Shawn began welding nine years ago —when she and her husband purchased their current property— out of utilitarian necessity. But before long, she found herself exploring the artistic possibilities of her new-found metalworking skills. Influenced by a love of nature and gardening, many of McCurdy’s pieces incorporate beautiful botanical and animal motifs. Some of the artist’s larger pieces —particularly the sculptural and functional birdbaths— also utilize unusual, recycled materials; such as traffic-light lenses…

Tendrils Birdbath (Recycled Glass and Steel – 32″) Soleil MetalArts

Shawn uses a MIG (metal inert gas) welding process, primarily for her steel and aluminum work. Other mechanical tools in her shop include instruments for cutting; such as a plasma cutter, metal bandsaw, oxy-acetylene torch, throatless shears, air tools and angle grinders. As project size and creative impulse dictate, Shawn may use a manual fly press (see below) for bending, shaping and texturing metal or a metal brake for making straight bends. Hand tools are, of course, essential to much of her work – particularly the more detailed repoussé and chasing work (this process involving shaping copper over a base of pitch with chisels and hammers). I particularly like her description of the old stand-by in metalwork process: “heat, beat and repeat”. That sounds like fun to me! The artist is largely self-taught. Early on in her career, she received a bit of help from a more experienced welder-friend, and from there on, her skills continued to develop through online research, experimentation, and lots of practice….

Shawn McCurdy – creating metal flower sculptures – templates

Shawn’s metal process reminds me a bit of Matisse and his paper collage cutouts – only she uses metal and ends up with three dimensional results!

Shawn’s fly press (used for bending, shaping and texturizing metal) in action

Hand formed pieces of Shawn’s sculpture

Assembly of work in progress…

Inside Shawn’s shop: amazing, giant metal flowers —stored outside to achieve a fine rust patina— ready to receive a finish coat to halt, or at least slow down, the process of oxidation.Detail of one of Shawn’s finished metal pieces

Poppy – sculpted metal with hand painting by Shawn McCurdy

Garghoul – A steel garden sculpture by Shawn McCurdy

Much of Shawn’s sculpture work, particularly her large garden pieces, is commissioned by private collectors. And although it was her large-scale sculpture that initially captured my curiosity as well, I quickly found myself captivated by her small-scale pieces and other work. On a more in-depth visit to Soleil MetalArts website, I discovered stunningly beautiful jewelry. I am just dying for one of her seaweed-like cuffs (Santa Claus, are you listening?)…

Shawn McCurdy – Soleil Studio – Black Ruffle Cuff

Shawn McCurdy – Soleil Studio – Bracelet Cuffs

Shawn McCurdy – Soleil Studio – Ruffle Cuff

Interested in seeing more of Shawn’s work, or learning a bit about her process? I highly recommend visiting the Soleil MetalArts page on Facebook. The artist operates her page like a blog, and regularly updates by posting her work in progress, news and other studio information. Here you will find beautiful examples of her metal sculpture and functional art objects, such as the metal planter boxes pictured below. Her work ranges in price; dictated mainly by size, material, and creative process. Prices for her jewelry begin around $100 for small copper cuffs (she also works in sterling silver, which has a slightly higher starting price-point); traffic light birdbaths start at $125; and larger pieces such the ribbons birdbath at top begin at around $1,200 – $1,500. Soleil MetalArts accepts all kinds of creative commissions, but does not do production work. Shawn McCurdy is an artist, and everything the she creates is one-of-a-kind…

Shawn McCurdy – Soleil MetalArts – planter boxes in the studio

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For more information about Shawn McCurdy and/or to contact her about her artwork, please visit:

Soleil MetalArts Website or Soleil MetalArts Facebook Page

All photographs in this article appear courtesy of Shawn McCurdy and Soleil MetalArts, all rights reserved.

Thank you so much for making the time for this interview Shawn, and for sharing your beautiful metalwork with The Gardener’s Eden !

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Article ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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The Accidental Gardener: A Short Story About a Dog Named Oli and His Wondrous Wildflower Walk…

July 9th, 2010 § 7

The Wildflower Walk in July at Ferncliff ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

As a professional garden designer, I take a certain amount of pride in my work. My clients always seem quite pleased with the gardens I create, and I think I’m a pretty good designer. Yet every July I am served a very large dish of my favorite dessert – humble pie. In midsummer, visitors to my studio are invariably knocked-out by the entry garden, which I now call ‘The Wildflower Walk’. They ooh and they ah and they coo over the wide swaths of bright color and the natural feel of this welcoming, open space. “What a beautiful garden”, they exclaim. And yes, I have to admit, it certainly is quite stunning. But, thanks to the brilliant artist I live with, my ego remains fully in check. Why? Well, you see, I didn’t design this gorgeous wildflower garden – my dog Oli did.

I know. You’re probably wondering how this is possible. How can a Labrador Retriever design a wildflower garden? Perhaps you think I am exaggerating or maybe even making it up from thin air. Or worse, you might be wondering if I’ve gone quite mad, since clearly I am suffering from delusions. But I swear –on my Vegetable Gardener’s Bible – it is true. In fact, not only did my crazy canine design this garden, but he also planted it all by himself. Yes, I promise I will explain – but first, let me back up a little bit and tell you the story of my dog, Oli…

Midway Point on the Wildflower Walk at Ferncliff in July ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

It was late in the summer of 2002, and I’d just finished building the studio-barn I now call home. There were no gardens here back then. In fact, the land was quite raw and, like most construction sites, it was a mess. I knew it would be a year before I could begin work on my landscaping projects and –frustrated with the ugliness– I spent most of my free time elsewhere. I’m an avid kayaker, and throughout that first summer, I floated my evenings away on local lakes and rivers. Late one August afternoon –hot, sticky and harried– I loaded my kayak on the car and headed out to the Connecticut River. Distracted as usual, in my haste I forgot my backpack at home. I didn’t want to miss sunset on the water, so I stopped by a local farm stand to grab a snack and a drink to take along on my paddle. Fate however, had other plans for me  –and indeed she moves in mysterious ways– because that’s when I met “Old Yeller”, as he was then called; a dirty, flea-infested, one-year-old, retriever pup with sad eyes and a ‘toy’ beer can. “Yeller” was chained to a foundation post and his legs were all tangled up in rusty links. Immediately a large crack –likely audible throughout the valley– split straight through my ribcage and broke my heart. Of course I thought about the dog the entire time I was out on the river, and the next day I stopped by the stand once again. He was still there; same beer can, same sad eyes. By visit three, my weakness must have been plainly visible, for the farm hand –three sheets to the wind– announced that the “flea bag” was headed to the pound by the end of the week. “If  you want him, take him” he said, “for free“.  It seemed that the wild pup had already worked his way through three homes, and his current owner –recently disabled from a stroke– could no longer handle him…

My dog Oli, in the studio…

Well, you know how this part of the story goes. Of course, by Friday, the wiggling, slobbering “flea bag” –renamed Oli– was bouncing around the back of my car on the way to his new home. He was, to put it mildly, a terror. Have you seen the film “Marley and Me ? Well, good for you, because I can’t watch more than 20 minutes of it. It’s just too close for comfort. And besides, my dog Oli, makes that dog Marley look like a saint. I kid you not. During his first year in my formerly-peaceful life, Oli did more damage than an F1 tornado. Goodbye car interior (including all back seatbelts and cushions), so-long sexy shoes, see-ya-later kayak seat and farewell furniture. Left alone for more than five minutes, Oli would rip through and devour anything in sight. His ingested-item list even includes a Mikimoto pearl necklace (yes, in its box, pulled from the top of my dresser), and we made more visits to the veterinarian than I care to remember. I was told by dog-loving friends that this behavior would ease up within a year. I was promised this was merely a prolonged puppy phase. I was advised that he had separation anxiety and that training would help. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Oli continued his reign of terror straight through the following summer, when I began working on my new gardens. Unimpressed with my horticultural pursuits, Oli uprooted perennials as fast as I planted them and devoured several young shrubs. He even stripped the branches from a rare Japanese maple, defoliating and destroying it within minutes, while I unloaded groceries in the kitchen. Yes, I still love him, but I would be lying if I told you that I never had a dark thought about my dog.

A bag of collected Lupine seed…

Around this time, I started thinking about planting a wildflower meadow on the west side of my clearing. My parents had created an impressive, self-sustaining field of wildflowers on their property, which bloomed from spring to fall, and I wanted to replicate that here. My father collected seed from the garden, and gave me two bags to take home. One contained pouches of Lupine and Adenophora, and the other was filled with Rudbeckia hirta. When I got back to my place, I brought one bag of seed up to the house, let Oli out of his crate, and started to unload the rest of my car. Then, the phone rang. You would think that I would have learned my lesson after the Japanese maple fiasco – but no. Of course not. Finally, at some point during my telephone conversation, I looked out the window to see Oli running full boar down the walkway – brown paper bag held high, head shaking to-and-fro, black seed spewing out in all directions. My scream could have stopped a train dead in its tracks, but it didn’t even register with Oli. He only seemed to run faster. I tore down the pathway after my wild dog, chasing him in circles ’round the ledge at the top of the drive – but it was too late. The bag of Rudbeckia was scattered everywhere – all over the walkway and throughout my carefully designed entry garden…

Rudbeckia hirta, in a design by Oli, the accidental gardener…

Eight years have come and gone since Oli hopped into my car on that fateful, hot summer evening, and I have given in to his chaos on many levels. Hey, if you can’t beat them, join them I say. So, I added more wildflower seed to his design; sprinkling Lupine and Adenophora throughout the walkway and into the surrounding mixed borders. What can I say – it works. And yes, he’s a genius. But athough he may be talented, Oli –now growing fat and grizzled about the muzzle — can still never be left alone in the house…

Oli and Me

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Clustered Vases Beside the Laptop…

June 4th, 2010 § 2

Clustered vases filled with Lupine, Phlox, Valerian, and Rosa de Rescht. Photo © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Whew. It has been busy around here. Most days I am out and about in the field working with clients, gathering plants, making deliveries, planting gardens, and lately, helping out my friends at Walker Farm on the weekends by answering customer questions about trees, shrubs and perennials. But at least one day a week, I remain here at my home studio where I research new plant cultivars, draw up garden design plans and plant lists, and yes, write this blog as well as a weekly Wednesday post for Barnes and Noble’s Garden Variety. Some days I even find time to work in my own garden, or at least to pick a few flowers…

The home “office”

Right now my garden is a voluptuous tumble of color and fragrance. The long beds and borders are overflowing with indigo-hued baptisia, lupine, heaven-scented peonies, old-fashioned roses, wild phlox, delicate valerian, bluebells, romantic, wine-red weigela, and the list goes on. Sweet springtime! Oh how I wish I could bottle up all of the beauty and fragrance and save it for a blustery January day… But we all know that’s not possible, so I try to squeeze in every precious moment while I can. Sometimes that means snipping a rose here, and a handful of storm-damaged lupine there, to create a little table-top vignette. Over the years I have received many beautiful vases as birthday, thank you and hostess gifts from family, friends and clients. I love selecting vessels in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors, to cluster on a table top, nightstand, or beside my laptop while I work. If I can’t be out in the garden, I might as well bring it, and all of its rosy splendor, indoors with me while I work.

Do you enjoy fresh cut flowers as much as I do? Try clustering a group of vases together to create a tiny garden atmosphere indoors. I like groups of 3, 5 or 7 vases, ranging from bud to bouquet in size. Vary the opacity and patterns to compliment the flowers you select. This time I chose light, greenish-turquoise tones to emphasize the cerise hues of Rosa de Rescht and two-toned pink lupine. Vases needn’t be expensive! Old glass soda bottles, spice or jam jars, tin cans and a variety of recycled containers make charming, impromptu vessels…

Rosa de Rescht, up close in a bud vase where I can enjoy her gorgeous fragrance and work at the same time…

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Art Inspired by Nature: Presenting the Celebratory Work and World of Artist Roger Sandes…

March 24th, 2010 § 2

Water Garden: Sky © Roger Sandes – Acrylic on panel, (36″ x 72″)

Springtime at last! With the snow finally receding and bright sunlight warming earth, to me it feels as if the entire world is awakening at once. In celebration of the first week of spring, and as part of our ongoing “Art Inspired by Nature” series, The Gardener’s Eden presents the vibrant and beautiful work of artist Roger Sandes. Working from his home-studio, surrounded by glorious gardens in Williamsville, Vermont, Sandes creates luminous paintings on wood panel and collage works on paper. Roger and his wife, artist Mary Welsh, both belong to a professional organization know as The Rock River Artists. Regular followers of this online journal will recall the popular article featuring the raku work of Richard Foye, another member of this extraordinarily talented group…

Stream of Consciousness © Roger Sandes – Acrylic on panel, (72″ x 36″)

Last month prior to a meeting with the Rock River Artists, I was treated to an exquisite dinner at the home of artists Roger Sandes and Mary Welsh. Artist’s residences are invariably fascinating places, and the Sandes-Welsh home is no exception. Spectacular works of art hanging from brightly colored walls, beautiful moth orchids and potted primrose greeted me as I stepped inside the kitchen door, where the warm scent of Mary’s homemade curry filled the air. What a lovely evening we shared. I have been a fan of both artists’ work for years. Roger’s large-scale paintings featuring abstracted, natural imagery and brilliant color work are both beautiful and complex. Although his paintings may be enjoyed simply and immediately, his work is best savored over a long period of time; allowing for the rich detail of his multilayered stories to unfold and fully blossom. It’s easy for a nature lover to fall in love with a piece like, “Counting Crows”, (second painting, below). With it’s striking vertical composition, layers, movement -and of course it’s fascinating subject, one of my most beloved creatures, the crow- this piece is my undeniable favorite.

An artist for more than thirty years, Sandes continues to exhibit his work throughout the US and abroad. His pieces are included in fine private, as well as major corporate collections world-wide. I wish I could include all of Roger’s beautiful works here on this site, however, you may see many more original works of art, as well as a wide selection of beautiful, limited-edition prints, online at the artist’s website. Roger’s paintings and prints may be acquired directly from the artist’s studio, or in galleries linked on his webpage. And if you are lucky enough to find yourself in New England this summer during the annual Rock River Artists Studio Tour, (July 17th and 18th, 2010), be sure to stop in and visit Roger and Mary for the open-studio event. Their beautiful home and garden along the river, filled with brilliant artwork, is a feast for the heart, mind and soul…

Counting Crows © Roger Sandes – Latex, gesso and cut paper, (24″ x 20″)

Counting Crows © Roger Sandes – Acrylic on panel, (78″ x 36″)

Counting Crows IV © Roger Sandes – Latex, gesso and cut paper, (24″ x 20″)

Water Garden: Sky © Roger Sandes – Acrylic on panel, (36″ x 36″)

Natural History © Roger Sandes – Acrylic and cut paper on paper, (16″ x 20″)

Waterborne II © Roger Sandes – Acrylic on panel (36″ x 78″)

Rising Water © Roger Sandes – Acrylic on panel (30″ x 88″)

Waterborne I © Roger Sandes – Acrylic on panel (36″ x 78″)

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For further information about the artwork, please visit the artist’s website: RogerSandes.com

Florilegium II © Roger Sandes

– A sample of the artist’s beautiful botanical prints, available here online -

And how could this feature possibly be complete with out a quick tour of the Welsh-Sandes home and gardens, (click to enlarge images below)? The artists are both flower lovers and avid gardeners, and their home is clearly a paradise for the inspirational, living creatures inhabiting Roger’s work. Thank you Roger and Mary, for opening your home and studio to readers of The Gardener’s Eden online journal. What a lovely celebration of life, and prelude to spring…

The Sandes-Welsh kitchen, filled with Roger’s botanical paintings and prints…

Roger’s paintings fill the home with the stories of the natural world, and life’s beautiful celebration…

All photos are courtesy of, and copyright, Roger Sandes and Mary Welsh

***

Article copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through links here. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

Shop at SpringHillNursery.com to save $25 on a $50 order!

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***

Art Inspired by Nature: The Luminous Allure of Bill Dwight’s Flowers…

February 9th, 2010 § 1

The delicate silk of a white tulip, luminous petals unfolding in morning light; freesia caught in a glowing rouge blush; the timeless, feminine allure of flowers, all beautifully captured here by artist Bill Dwight. Intoxicatingly fragrant and sensual to the touch, flowers can change a mood, stir a memory, calm the senses. The undeniable, transformative power of the blossom is revealed on a cold midwinter’s day. Thank you Bill Dwight, for a glorious prelude to spring…

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Photographs © 2010 Bill Dwight – All Rights Reserved

For further information about Bill’s photography, please visit the artist’s Facebook page: Bill Dwight

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All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent. Thank you.

Inspired? Give the gift of flowers for Valentine’s Day and beyond. Specials for readers of The Gardener’s Eden from our sponsors and affiliates…

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Taking Better Photos of Your Garden: Guest Post by Ted Dillard…

February 1st, 2010 § 4

Photo ⓒ Ted Dillard

Of all the questions and comments I receive via this blog, email and through this site’s Facebook Page, the most common by far are related to photography. I am a new, amateur photographer, (that is a nice way of saying that I have no idea of what I am doing), and when I have questions about how to take better photographs or what equipment to buy, or how to use it, I usually consult with my professional photographer friends. And, I am very lucky, because one of my dearest friends just so happens to be the brilliant photographer Ted Dillard. Accomplished artist, teacher, and author, Ted is also remarkably generous with his time and talents.

Taking a good photograph is not only a pure pleasure, but it is also a valuable skill – and it needn’t be difficult. So, here to provide us with a few expert tips is the multi-talented Ted Dillard. For further reading, I highly recommend Ted’s series of books for the digital photographer.

Thank you Ted Dillard !

Ted’s Top Ten Twelve Tips for better (Garden!) Photographs

It’s funny, for all the times I’ve been asked what the best camera is to buy, I think I can count on one hand the times someone as asked, “How can I take better pictures?”  For one thing, it’s not a simple answer, it depends so much on so many intangible things.  The funny thing is, though, the impact of the photographs ultimately has very little to do with the choice of camera.

That said, there are some pretty universal tips that almost any photographer should keep in mind, and even the most experienced of us occasionally overlook.  Whether you’re taking photographs of your kids, your vacation, or your cherished gardens, or a commercial assignment, these are some basic suggestions you should always keep in mind.  After we cover the basics, I’ve added a few especially for the gardeners.

 

1. It takes light to make a photograph.

Back in the days of film, we were always trying to “push” the ISO- overdeveloping the film to compensate for underexposing it.  It dawned on me one day that you do, in fact, have to have some light hit the film, or the sensor, to make a photograph.  Photograph means, from the Latin, “picture from light” after all…

Add light, wait for light, turn the lights on, whatever you need to do to avoid shooting in the dark.  Even with cameras rated at ISO 3200+, you still need some light to make the photograph.  Without going into the technical details of it, even new cameras with astronomical ISO settings are essentially starting with very little information, or image data, and stretching it out, making “holes” as they go. Think “pizza dough” here.

2. Hold the camera steady.

You can have the best optics ever made, but if the camera is moving then the image is moving on the sensor, even just a little bit.  Get a good tripod, and by that I mean a good BIG tripod.  Tripods need mass to fight vibration and movement, if your tripod is too light and too small it’s just going to blow in the wind.  Literally.  The closer you shoot to your subject, the more important this is, and if you’re shooting blossoms that’s pretty darned close.

3. Put your money into the lens.

For the most part, whatever is catching the image, whether it’s film or a sensor, it is designed to capture what the absolute best lens made for it can produce.  You want to see what your camera can do?  Give it the best lens you can afford, and it will thank you.  A great lens on a cheaper sensor is like running a car at it’s optimum tuning- you won’t be able to see what it can do until you set it up right. A great sensor with a cheap lens is like driving your car dragging a piano.  For shooting close-up, or macro, there’s nothing in the world so sweet as a true “macro” lens- a lens designed to focus at inches away from the subject.

4. Clean your lens.

The biggest enemy of clarity, sharpness and contrast in a photograph is lens flare.  Fingerprints, dirt, dust on a lens is the single best way to make lens flare happen.  Seen the iPhone “Vaseline effect”?  That’s what happens when you try to take a picture through a lens with a big smudgy peanut butter fingerprint, and that’s what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting with your phone or the most expensive digital camera.  The lens has to be clean.

5. Shade your lens.

One more time- the biggest enemy of clarity, sharpness and contrast in a photograph is lens flare.  Light hitting the lens glass directly, whether it’s the sun, or just reflections of bright objects nearby, are the second best way to create lens flare.  Almost every technological development in lens design in the past 50 years had been to combat and minimize lens flare, and the single most effective way to eliminate it is to use the most basic tool.  A lens shade.

I can’t overstate this simple point.  I see it constantly, people even shooting with a built-in lens shade and not using it.  For some reason it seems like it doesn’t matter, and people just don’t bother with it.  It does matter.  If the sun is hitting your glass, or even any bright light source- the sky, snow, reflections from other objects- it will degrade the quality of your photograph.  Shade that lens.

6. Look at the light.  Wait for the light.  Control the light.

A good photographer sees and controls the light, many novice photographers seem to think they’re at the mercy of “available” light.  Even if it means waiting an hour for the sun to go down, moving a reflector in to open up some shadows, or bringing in an entire studio of artificial lighting equipment, you’re always either in control if the light, or at the mercy of it.  “Photographers are painters who paint with light.” (Richard Brautigan)

Learning to work with available light, and control artificial light is probably one of the most challenging yet rewarding things you can work with to improve your photographs…  and it’s a lifelong challenge, but one of the most rewarding in all of photography.

7. Background.  It’s all about the background.

When you’re taking pictures you often see your subject with tunnel vision.  You focus on, and just see what you’re looking at and not what’s behind it.  Slow down and look for a few of the typical big distractions- strong shapes, bright colors, things that don’t separate from the subject.  (Hint: using a large aperture -lens wide open, f2.0 for example- makes things in the background go out of focus, blurring backgrounds and diminishing distractions, but more on that later.)  Once you have your subject framed, and you’re ready to snap the picture, stop yourself and look at the background.

8. Compose the photograph.

Again, with the tunnel vision.  When most people look through a viewfinder they’re seeing what they want to take pictures of.  You need to see the picture, instead of what you’re taking the picture of.  The whole picture.  You know how you always see shots of the baby, the dog, Grammy, and they’re smack in the middle of the picture, I mean dead center?  That’s what I’m talking about.

Look at the whole frame, look at what you can include and what you can eliminate to make an interesting composition.  Control the viewer’s eye.

9. If in doubt, take more pictures.

My Dad used to say, out of all the money you’ve spent on everything, film is cheap. There’s no excuse for not shooting enough film.  Now that we’re shooting pixels, there’s even more truth to that.  Try different angles, different distances, even just try shots that you don’t think work.  If you think you have the shot, that’s the time to force out a few more frames.  I can’t tell you how many times the best shots were in those last few, after you think you’ve got the shot, but just want to try some options to “see what happens”.

10. Take more pictures anyway.

See above.

My Grandfather was speaking once, showing his photographs to a Boston Camera Club group.  He got the question, “How did you know that would make a great photograph, and how did you know how to shoot it so you’d capture it so beautifully?”  His answer- from taking shot after shot after shot, for years and years… experience.  Nothing can make up for taking the pictures.  And he was shooting with a big old view camera with film that came in sheets.  One shot at a time.

Take more pictures.  If nothing more than to give yourself more experience, more of a foundation to work with.

That’s the basic list, but here are a few more tips just for you gardeners…

One of the secrets to making great photographs of blossoms and blooms is in controlling your “depth of field”.  This is a photography term simply referring to how much of your image is in focus.  Typically, flower and plant close-up shots have a shallow depth of field, or, simply, not much other than the subject itself is in crisp focus.  This is something that you control with your lens opening, (also called f-stop or aperture).  The smaller the lens opening, f22, for example, the more depth of field, and most of the frame will be in focus.  The larger the opening, f3.5, for example, (and yes, bigger openings are smaller f numbers), the shallower the focus. Take a look at this post, linking to a great Wikipedia explanation and demonstration of the effects of different lens openings.

It’s a great start to beginning to visualize what happens when you control the aperture.  Keep in mind, you have to balance the lens opening and the shutter speed to get a perfect exposure.  Open up the lens, you have to shorten the shutter speed, and vice-versa.  Using the Auto Exposure setting “A”, for aperture priority, you can select a large aperture and let the camera adjust the shutter speed accordingly.   Probably the simplest way to start to understand this is simply to put the camera on a tripod, focus on your favorite blossom, and switch the camera to “A” mode.  Set the aperture from one extreme (wide open, probably f2 or 3.5) to the other (full stop, f16 or 22) and look at the results on your computer.  It’ll be pretty obvious what’s happening.

The other bit of advice- use a camera that has these controls.  I know I said that the camera doesn’t matter so much, and that’s true, but if you are running a camera that allows you this kind of control- selection of exposure modes, and even manual focus and exposure, then it makes things a lot easier.  I’d recommend almost any Digital SLR, or “DSLR”.  The good news is, you can get into a system like that for little over $500, and we have several reviews of cameras like this at our Head-2-Head Reviews site. One of my favorite matchups is the Nikon D5000 and the Canon T1i- (I ended up with the Nikon for myself…  LOVE that camera, and it uses all my old Nikon lenses.)

A little side note, and a step down the notorious (digital) primrose path…  If you do go with a camera like any of these DSLRs, chances are you’ll have the option to shoot “RAW” files instead of JPEG format.  If you’re interested in getting the absolute most out of your camera, RAW files take you to the next level of image quality.  You need to use a program like Adobe’s Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or Lightroom to take full advantage of the RAW file, but it will make a world of difference it the end result.  My book RAW Pipeline is a great overview of getting started with shooting and processing RAW.

Ted Dillard – RAW Pipeline

There you have it. It’s a start, and hopefully these little tips will help you make better photographs.  Don’t for a second think that almost every pro photographer who’s reading this isn’t, at one point or another saying to themselves, jeesh, I know, I should try harder to do that all the time…

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Article and Photographs in this feature are © Ted Dillard, all rights reserved.

For further information about photographer and teacher Ted Dillard, please visit his website:

Ted Dillard – Support for the Digital Photographer

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Thank you Ted, for all of your generous help, support and advice !

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is © The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved.

All Site Photography Is Taken With Canon Powershot G Series Cameras from Amazon.com

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Art Inspired by Nature: A Moment with Talented Author, Artisan and Beekeeper Marina Marchese of Red Bee Apiary…

December 16th, 2009 § 5

GateSign

The lovely and welcoming Red Bee Apiary in Weston, Connecticut

Marina Marchese Portrait

Marina Marchese: beekeeping farmer, author and founder of Red Bee Apiary Photograph by Jeff Becker

The subject of this weeks ‘Art Inspired by Nature’ on The Gardener’s Eden, is a lovely and talented woman living the life of many a discontented, city-dweller’s dreams. Not only is this beekeeper a successful boutique farmer and maker of artisan honey, she is also an accomplished author, illustrator and designer. And to top it all off, the founder and owner of Red Bee Apiary and Rossape, all-natural health and skin care products, began her amazing agricultural life when she stumbled upon her dream in a neighbor’s backyard. Meet Marina Marchese, the accidental beekeeper. So how exactly does one find the courage to up and quit the “rat-race”, becoming a beekeeper, boutique farmer and creator of artisan honey in the process? Well, the story of Red Bee and Marina’s delightful gourmet honey all begins with her visit to a small apiary and subsequent love affair with one of earth’s most precious creatures – the honeybee…

HoneybeeCrocus

A honeybee on crocus at Red Bee Apiary

Nearly a decade ago, Marina was leading a hectic, urban professional’s life; working in the city and traveling between New York City and China. Then, one day in the spring of 2000, this busy and successful illustrator and designer visited a neighbor’s apiary and made an life-altering discovery. There amongst the hives, surrounded by gardens and bees, Marina found herself filled with a calm, comforting sense of peace. Allowing the honeybees to crawl freely upon her hands proved to be a transformative experience for Marina. Soon she was setting up her own hive, learning about beekeeping, artisanal honey and farm life. The story of Marina’s life-altering relationship with the honeybee is compelling, and a great inspiration to anyone longing to make the leap and follow a dream. I find this woman fascinating, and I am not alone in my admiration. In fact, just this year Marina published her first book, Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper, chronicling her fascinating life’s journey, (you may read reviews and excerpts, or buy Marina’s book by clicking on the links here and below)…

HoneybeeCover

Marina Marchese’s book:

Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper

Over the past ten years, with hard work and devotion to the bees and her artisanal process, Marina has grown a great deal both personally and professionally. A second generation Italian-American, it seems only natural that Marina studied wine making as part of her educational process. Studying how wines are tasted and evaluated helped Marina to develop the exquisite, artisan honey she creates at Red Bee Apiary. Running a farm based business of any kind is a challenge, so it is particularly impressive to encounter Marina’s creative style, enthusiasm, drive and success. This beekeeper is a hands-on entrepreneur; involved in every detail of her business from garden to beehive to harvest. In addition, all of the Red Bee products are beautifully packaged with labels designed by Marina, (it looks like her education at The School of Visual Arts in NYC, and years of work as an illustrator and designer came in handy when creating her company’s signature style)…

Hiving

Marina ‘hiving’

BeeFrame

The “accidental beekeeper” holding a bee frame…

Uncapping

Here, Marina demonstrates the uncapping of a frame from a bee hive…

Spinner

Harvesting honey from uncapped frames in the spinner – and below the end result of this collaborative effort between Marina and her bees…

MarketTable9.JPG

A market table filled with Marina’s artisan honey and Red Bee products…

Red Bee Apiary and Gardens is based out of Marina’s private residence in Weston, Connecticut. All of the beautiful, sustainable products featured here are handmade and sold under Marina’s Red Bee and Rossape trademark labels. Her delightful honey, health and skin care products and candles may all be purchased directly from her farm through the Red Bee Website linked here.

Pictured below are just a few of the delicious and lovely, handmade offerings from Red Bee. If you are looking for special, inexpensive homemade gifts this year, I encourage you to support Red Bee, and other small artisans and farmers. Thank you Marina, for sharing your story, and giving us both inspiration and a peek into your beautiful world.

Red Bee has developed an extensive selection of artisan honey to tantalize your taste-buds. Honey may be purchased in sampler gift-packs, in beautifully labeled bottles, or in its all-natural state – the honeycomb….

Gift3

Artisan honey gift set from Red Bee

HWildGp2

Red Bee offers a wide selection of artisan honey including raspberry, blueberry, tupelo, clover and many other exquisite varieties. Pictured above is Marina’s signature wildflower honey.

Comb

Red Bee honeycombs, or as Marina calls them, the “Jewel of the Beehive”, are very popular. This delicious treat is harvested and sold in its all-natural state. Try some with soft cheese and warm bread for a special holiday appetizer, or use it as natural sweetener on your morning toast.

Marina’s all-natural health and skin care products, sold under her Rossape label, are a natural way to pamper yourself or someone you love. Bee pollen and honey is well known for its health benefits. Pictured here are but a few of Marina’s beautiful and popular products. The Gardener’s Care Gift set really caught my eye. I am eager to sample this alluring collection…

Gardeners

Gardener’s Care Gift Set from Red Bee’s Rosape skin care collection

HoneyFace2

Red Bee’s Creamy Honey Facial Scrub is an all natural way to clean up after a day spent in the garden, or even more to the point, after a day spent in a grimy city !

ButterB

And for moisturizing.. Marina has created many potions, including a delightful Honeybee Butter Balm…

Body_Face

One of the many beautifully packaged skin care sets for face and body from Rosape by Red Bee. See the Red Bee website for a wide selection…

Honey Vial Necklace

This little vial of honey necklace really caught my eye. And what a great stocking stuffer at only $6-

Marina also creates beautiful beeswax candles. These candles are currently available in very limited in supply due to their seasonal popularity. If you like long, clean-burning candles, without cloying, artificial fragrance or smoke, then old-fashioned, beeswax candles are an excellent choice. Beeswax candles are naturally aromatic, long-lasting and drip-less. Marina’s Red Bee website has a lovely selection of styles to choose from, including classic tapers as well as more decorative honeycomb and molded creations. Here are a couple of my favorites…

Asparagus

Molded asparagus candles, (an unusual gift for a cook or gardener)

Pine

Beautiful beeswax candles, shaped into pine cones, (my favorite !)

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All photography in this editorial feature, (with the noted exception of Marina’s portrait), is courtesy of and copyright Red Bee ®  These images were used with the consent of Marina Marchese. Please contact her before using or reproducing any of these images. Thank you for your cooperation!

Rooster

A poetic, pastoral scene at Red Bee Apiary and Gardens

For further informations about Marina Marchese and Red Bee ®, visit:

Redbee.com

RedBee_Logo


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Would you, or someone you know, like to learn more about bees and beekeeping? Here are some excellent, critically acclaimed books and online resources:

keepingbeesAlison Benjamin’s popular book: Keeping Bees And Making Honey

October2009Cover

Bee Culture Magzine Online – A great resource for apiaries

BBHH_Jacket.indd

Bee Culture editor Kim Flottum’s most recent book on beekeeping:

The Backyard Beekeeper’s Honey Handbook: A Guide to Creating, Harvesting, and Cooking with Natural Honeys

Hive Management

Apiary Richard Bonney’s well respected beekeeping book:

Hive Management: A Seasonal Guide for Beekeepers

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For More Online Resources and Bee Related Organizations, Please Visit :

shapeimage_3

The Honeybee Conservancy Website and Blog

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Article copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced for any purpose without express, written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

All articles and reviews on The Gardener’s Eden are purely editorial in nature. As a matter of personal integrity, no payment of any kind, (monetary or product gift), is ever received as compensation for mention here. However The Gardener’s Eden is an Amazon.com affiliate, and any purchases you make at Amazon.com at their online store when visiting through the links here will help to support The Gardener’s Eden, (at no additional cost to you), by netting this site a small percentage of the sale. Thank you for your support !

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Art Inspired by Nature: H.D. Thoreau “A Winter Walk” …

December 9th, 2009 § 3

Early Winter 2006 oil:panel 24" x 48" M.S. Harlow Early Winter, 2006 © M.S. Harlow 

“We sleep, and at length awake to the still reality of a winter morning. The snow lies warm as cotton or down upon the window-sill; the broadened sash and frosted panes admit a dim and private light, which enhances the snug cheer within. The stillness of the morning is impressive. The floor creaks under our feet as we move toward the window to look abroad through some clear space over the fields. We see the roofs stand under their snow burden. From the eaves and fences hang stalactites of snow, and in the yard stand stalagmites covering some concealed core. The trees and shrubs rear white arms to the sky on every side; and where were walls and fences, we see fantastic forms stretching in frolic gambols across the dusky landscape, as if nature had strewn her fresh designs over the fields by night as models for man’s art…”……………………………….. Henry David Thoreau, (excerpt) “A Winter Walk”

Ice Storm l  2007 Ice Storm I, 2007 © M.S. Harlow 

Ice Storm IV  2007Ice Storm IV, 2007 © M.S. Harlow 

Ice Storm lll  2007Ice Storm III, 2007 © M.S. Harlow 

***For further information about the artwork of M.S. Harlow, please visit the  artist’s website here.

All images on this post are copyright M.S. Harlow, all rights reserved.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Art Inspired by Nature: The Luminous Glasswork of Artist Randi Solin

December 2nd, 2009 § 2

solinglass-shard-series-autumn-bowl 6.5 x 10 x 10 (shards and cane)

Autumn Bowl, Shard Series, 6.5 x 10 x 10 inches

I am always excited when visiting studios as part of the ongoing series, ‘Art Inspired by Nature’, for The Gardener’s Eden. I love seeing other artists’ work environments and, even better, watching as they work. It’s a rare treat for an outsider to actually see a piece of art created from start to finish and to become, if only for a minute, part of that experience. Glass blowing is an art with a dramatic visual process, and the creation of a glass vase is a spectacular event to behold…

When I visited Solinglass two weeks ago, Randi Solin and her team of glassblowers welcomed me and made me feel completely at home while I peppered them with questions and photographed them working. A glass artist since 1986, Randi was a photography student at Alfred University in upstate New York, when she discovered her passion for glass. After completing her arts education, Randi moved west and continued to study glass blowing while working as a studio assistant, artist and teacher. In 1995, Randi began her own glass studio, Solinglass, while living in California. Today Randi’s studio is located in Brattleboro, Vermont, where she and her studio team of three, (George, Marie and Michael), work forming exquisite, award-winning glass vessels. Solinglass is available in galleries throughout the United States, (see list of location at the Solinglass website ), and is shown in many national exhibitions each year. Randi’s work is widely collected both by individuals and corporations, including Air France, Lufthansa and UPS, among others. In addition, Solinglass may be found in major national and international public collections including those of the White House, the Petersburg Museum, and United States Embassies in Guinea and Algeria. And I must also mention that the entire studio was excited to tell me that Randi’s Solinglass  work was recently chosen for inclusion in the prestigious Smithsonian Museum Show this coming April 2010. Congratulations Solinglass …

solinglass-shard-series-summer-bowlSummer Bowl, 6.5 x 10 x 10 inches

 

 

Because Randi’s blown glass artwork is so painterly and organic in style, I immediately felt drawn to her vessels, even before I had the opportunity to actually meet and talk with her. Each series begins with natural inspiration; the seasons, landscape, herbs and spices, botanical elements, abstracted shapes and forms. The artist then moves to a conceptual stage; translating her visions into glass designs through experimentation, planning and continuously evolving, signature techniques. The layers of sheer and massed color in Randi’s work give her pieces an extraordinary, three dimensional quality and a glowing, luminous presence. Watching her work is not unlike watching a painter, only this artist draws with ‘paint’ that is hot as molten lava, and blends with blue-tipped, blow-torch ‘brushes’. Her old-world tools include wooden paddles, long metal pipes and blow-cones, medieval-looking glass scissors and chisels, among other fascinating implements, all unfamiliar to my curious eyes…

While visiting the studio I watched Randi and her hot-glass assistants create a ‘Shard Bowl’ from the series – start to finish. Below are some photographs I took during various stages of the glass blowing process. Randi’s technique combines elements from both the American glass movement and Venetian, (from the island of Murano), methods. To understand more about Randi’s work, and to watch her blowing glass, I suggest visiting her website where you may view a short film on her process

 

Solin Glass R Solin

Randi Solin adding glass, glowing like lava, to the blow pipe. Glass is heated to 2,300, with a working temperature of 2,120 degrees fahrenheit. All of this heat and physical activity make for steamy work environment…

Solin Glass cooling pipe

Cooling the blow pipe for handling…

Solin Glass Team Working on Vessel

George and Marie begin to form the vessel, blowing and turning…

Solin Glass adding pigment

Randi adds color to the clear vessel with fine glass particles, hand sifted onto the hot surface. This first layer is similar to a painter’s first ‘wash’. The vessel is then reheated to liquify this powdery glass…

Solin Glass, Adding glass

Randi adds organic shapes, forms and patterns with glass cane and shards. The cane are long strings of colored glass, pulled into spaghetti-like strands while hot. When these strings liquify in the glory-hole, they move like drips of paint across a canvas…

Solin Glass Process

In the shard series, chunky, broken pieces of glass  form the large colored masses in Randi’s work. These multicolored pieces are a challenge to work with, as they all heat and cool at differing rates. Randi and her team begin to speed up their process; heating, cooling, molding and shaping the vessel as they work it. Air is continually blown into the vessel to maintain the interior bubble…

Solin Glass torch

In Randi’s glass studio, blowtorches and metal tools become paint-brushes…

Solin Glass Torch

Randi, her two assistants and the glass are all in continuous motion…

Solin Glass Team

Randi designs and works every piece individually, with the continuous support of her hot-glass team…

Solin Glass R. Solin

Solin Glass final visit to glory hole

The vessel, nearly finished, emerging from the glory hole…

Solin Glass, Randi pulling neck

Randi pulls the neck with tools…

Solin Glass, Ranid cutting neck

Cutting the loose edge…

Solin Glass working final neck shape

And blowing a graceful mouth…

Solin Glass turning

The turning process involves many tools and methods, from the complex to the simple, as demonstrated by this photo of Randi working with bare hands and wet paper on hot glass…

Solin Glass cutting vessel

Once removed from the pipe, the beautiful vase will cool in the annealer, a kiln-like, heat controlled oven. This will allow the glass to cool slowly and evenly, to avoid internal stress and cracking. Once removed, the vessel will move to Michael in the cold room for grinding, polishing and signing…

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solinglass-shard-series-bowl 8 x 10 x 10 inches shards

A finished piece from the series, Shard Bowl, 8 x 10 x 10 inches

Solinglass studio will be open to the public for the annual Cotton Mill Open Studio Weekend and Holiday Sale event, December 4th – 6th. This is a rare opportunity for collectors in New England to acquire discontinued pieces and unsigned studio-seconds, (all gorgeous). Prices at this event start at just $25. Directions and details on this event, including information about other fine artisans, are available at the Cotton Mill Studios website. Randi’s assistants, George and Marie, are also glass artists. Marie Formichelli Gaffers also shows her own glass creations, for information please visit Vermont Artisan Designs.

Thank you so much Randi, Marie, George and Michael, for inviting me in and generously sharing your time, expertise, process and beautiful glass vases with The Gardener’s Eden

solinglass-flat-vessel-saharaSahara, Flat Vessel Series, 13 x 10 x 4 inches. This series emphasizes the artist’s painterly approach to glass; the vessel serving as a three dimensional canvas for multiple layers ‘drawn’ and ‘brushed’ onto the luminous surface…

solinglass-flat-vessel-window-flat

Window, 13 x 10 x 4 inches, (part of the Window Series)…

solinglass-emperor-bowl-catalonia-bowl

Catalonia, Emperor Bowl Series, 7 x 6.5 x 6.5 inches. This series is inspired by a form of ancient pottery designed to hold a single flower…

solinglass-emperor-bowl-gold-ruby-with-sterling-silver-leaf

Gold Ruby, Emperor Bowl Series, 7 x 6.5 x 6.5 inches, Hand blown, free form glass, colored with gold ruby frit and a multi-layering of sterling silver leaf  – cut and polished

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To watch a video of Randi and her team, blowing glass in the studio, click below:

Solinglass Video

For further information about Randi Solin and for gallery links, please visit :  Solinglass

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Article and studio process photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all photographs of completed vessels are courtesy of Solinglass.

Artists featured on The Gardener’s Eden appear in an editorial context. No payment of any kind is received by The Gardener’s Eden for editorial article features.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Art Inspired by Nature: The Colorful, Botanical World of Artist and Gardener Virginia Wyoming…

November 18th, 2009 § 1

Virginia Wyoming holding flower pot with grass markings in studio

Virginia Wyoming holds one of her beautiful stoneware flowerpots, etched with grass-like markings and finished with a multilayered earth-green glaze…

Virginia Wyoming’s studio lies at the far end of a long and winding, interrupted road in Westminster, Vermont. When I say interrupted, I mean that the road literally stops midway, broken by forest. Naturally I headed up the wrong direction. As is often the case with an unplanned detour, I met some colorful characters and animals along the way, including a turkey. Of course one of the things I like best about getting lost, is finding my way again. There’s usually more than one way to get to where you are going. And often the round-about way is far more interesting…

Meet Virginia Wyoming, the subject of this week’s ‘Art Inspired by Nature’ at The Gardener’s Eden. A retired elementary school art teacher, Virginia is now a full time studio artist. She was educated at Douglass College, Rutgers University, initially studying painting and drawing. Later, Virginia became interested in sculptural work and pottery while living in New York. The artist began making pots of her own in 1969, and developed a desire to create ‘useful things’.

After moving to Vermont, Virginia continued to create pottery while teaching art full time in a New Hampshire elementary school. She shows her stoneware pieces in Springfield, Vermont at The Vault Gallery, and in Brattleboro, Vermont at Cai Xi Gallery. Her work may also be seen in her Etsy shop online. Through our afternoon conversation, I discovered that Virginia is particularly interested in modern Chinese ceramics. She has taught herself some Chinese through independent study, and hopes to travel to Beijing.

Over the course of years, Virginia has found a niche for her work by creating flower pots and planters, as well as vases and kitchenware. Her work is quite beautiful, rich in both color and texture. These pieces are also an exceptional value. The artist now sells her work on Etsy in a shop she calls Virginia Wyoming Eclectic Studio Pottery. Her work ranges in price from under $20 for small pieces to a high of around $500 for large sculpture. The very popular flower pots in her Etsy shop are priced between $24 and $54, (for a three piece set)…

Virgina Wyoming holding flower pot with leaf motif in studio

Virginia holds another pot with leaf detail…

Virginia Wyoming, studio windowsill pots

Virginia’s botanical motifs and natural palette make her work enormously appealing both as functional objects and as works of art…

Virginia Wyoming holding flower pot with floral motif in studio

A detailed flower pot with attached water cache…

Virginia Wyoming studio:pottery

Some of the beautiful flowerpots, plates, mugs and dishes in Virginia Wyoming’s studio…

The artist’s work studio is quite small, and although it is a multipurpose space located in the basement of her home, I found it rather cozy. As I entered the building, I spotted a wood stove in the corner, and I could hear classical music playing softly in the background. Shelves and tables overflowing with her finished work lined the left side of the space. To the right sat her wheel and her tools, and beyond, more work shelves lined up with bisque-fired pieces ready for glazing…

Virginia Wyoming, studio tools and wheel

The artist’s wheel and tools in her tiny studio space…

Several tables near the studio windows were scattered with works in progress, (including the to-die-for experimental, floral lace plates pictured below). Throughout her workspace and home, Virginia has decorated the windowsills with her own flower-pots; filling them with various succulents, cacti and exotic conservatory plants, many from The Old School House Plantery, (see link below).

Virginia Wyoming, leaf ornaments

Virginia’s delicate leaf ornaments in subtle green and grey hues, and below, some of her newer experiments with botanical imagery…

Virginia Wyoming, floral lace experiment

Virginia’s floral lace experiments on her plates – I love these, (click for closer view)…

Virginia Wyoming, Lace plate 1

One of the finished floral lace plates on the artist’s Etsy shop…

Virginia Wyoming flower pot with cactus

Cacti and other succulents fill myriad flower pots in Virginia’s Westminster, Vermont studio…

Virginia Wyoming flower pot with succulents on studio windowsill

After touring the studio, and discussing her process, Virginia and I walked to her glass greenhouse atop the hill. Not surprisingly, (with just a little bit of help), Virginia assembled the structure herself from a kit. In this beautiful space the artist is currently growing edibles, (including leafy greens and herbs), amongst a collection of ornamental plants. Here in the conservatory, I was able to get a peek at some of her larger containers, including gorgeous vessels, alpine strawberry planters, urns and other stoneware items in practical use…

Virigina Wyoming greenhouse 2

Virginia’s glass greenhouse, (photo courtesy of the artist), is a tiny, botanical jewel-box; filled with lush foliage and gorgeous pottery…

Virginia Wyoming, greenhouse strawberry planters

Virginia’s alpine strawberry planters and a gorgeous sea green urn, shown below as the artist rubs the smooth surface with her hand…

Virginia Wyoming, greenhouse:pot

virginia wyoming, pot in greenhouse

Beautiful planters in every imaginable shape and size, all in the most gorgeous, richly saturated colors, fill the conservatory tables, benches and floor…

Virginia Wyoming, greenhouse pots

Virginia Wyoming, Greenhouse 1

Virginia’s greenhouse in summertime, (photo courtesy of the artist).

An avid gardener, Virgina comes from a long line of horticulturalists. She considers her planters and garden art a personal contribution to the family’s horticultural history, which traces back five generations. Below, garden sculpture from the ‘Awareness’ series and one of Virginia’s large flower pots are displayed in her lovely perennial gardens, (photos courtesy of  the artist)…

Virginia Wyoming, Awareness Series

Virginia Wyoming blue green flowerpot

Virginia Wyoming, Awareness Series 2

Although Virginia’s work is all quite beautiful to my eye, there is one sculpture series that truly stands apart. While discussing her ‘Crow’ series, Virginia told me about a dream she had some time ago. While she was sleeping, two crows appeared. The birds were tormented and distressed; caught up in plastic, croaking, ‘Evermore‘, (as opposed to ‘Nevermore’, a line made famous by Edgar Allan Poe). In response to the dream, Virginia began creating the ‘Crow’ series pictured below. This work is quite different from her other series’. The crows are hand built from weather proof stoneware. They are wonderfully animated, with expressive features and etched detail. Because I am quite fond of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Raven”, I was immediately taken with both the story and the work. Then, when I saw the amazing birds grouped in Virginia’s autumn garden, I was completely bewitched. The artist has captured the spirit of a cackling flock of crows, exactly…

Virginia Wyoming, crow

One of Virginia’s crows in the studio, (photo courtesy of the artist)…

Virginia Wyoming Crows Gathering in Garden

And here, a group of crows from the series congregates in amongst the leaves in Virginia’s garden…

Virginia Wyoming Crow Close Up One

After touring Virginia’s studio and greenhouse, we sat down in her kitchen for a spell. The artist’s home is warm and welcoming – dozens and dozens of her colorful, beautiful stoneware mugs, plates, bowls and cookware line the shelves of her sunny kitchen. Plants from The Old School House Plantery and nearby Walker Farm fill the room with life and fragrance; her lovingly tended collection all nestled within beautiful handmade flowerpots…

tea in the artist's kitchen

Virginia Wyoming, kitchen, pottery

Virginia Wyoming pot in kitchen

Virginia Wyoming pots in studio home kitchen

Virginia Wyoming, kitchen:flower pot

Virginia Wyoming, kitchen flower-pot with scented geranium…

Although this visit ended far too soon, I am planning to return to Virginia’s studio before the holidays select some of her work for holiday gift giving. Spending time with Virginia is a real pleasure. Her love of horticulture and her devotion to her craft have inspired a beautiful life in the countryside of southern Vermont. If this brief introduction to Virginia Wyoming has sparked your curiosity, I hope you will visit her Etsy shop, Virginia Wyoming, Eclectic Studio Pottery. What you see here is just the beginning – there is so much more on her site! Thank you for spending an afternoon with me Virginia, it was a joy…

Virginia Wyoming in her garden

Virginia Wyoming at work in her favorite garden hat. (Photo: VW)

Virginia Wyoming three flowerpots

A trio of lovely pots in a tray, (photo by VW), available at Virginia’s Etsy shop…

For Further information about Virginia Wyoming and her work, or to purchase any of her available pieces online, please visit her very lovely Etsy shop here :  Virginia Wyoming Eclectic Studio Pottery

For information on the beautiful conservatory plants featured, please visit The Old School House Plantery online at Estsy shop, Eclecticasia

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All articles on The Gardener’s Eden are purely editorial. No compensation, (of any kind) is received for features on this site.

Article and photographs, (exceptions noted), are copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

***

Art Inspired by Nature: The Apple of Our Eye…

November 11th, 2009 § 2

The Garden of the Hesperides, Lord Frederick Leighton, 1892

Lord Fredrick Leighton, The Garden of the Hesperides, 1892

This week’s topic on The Gardener’s Eden is heirloom apples. So in keeping with this theme, today’s edition of ‘Art Inspired by Nature’ focuses on the apple in Western art. A fruit of temperate regions throughout the world, the apple has been cultivated by humans since prehistoric times. Malus sieversii, the wild apple of Kazakhstan, is believed to be the great-great grandmother of our modern, domestic apple, (Malus domestica). These ancient Asian forest apples slowly spread about the globe, hyridizing with wild, or European crab apples, (Malus sylvestris). Eventually, after grafting was discovered by the Chinese, apples became a reliable, staple food throughout the world. Continuous propagation of the apple has resulted in the more than 2,000 modern cultivars grown today.

Human beings are quite preoccupied with apples, and is it any wonder? Not only is this sweet fruit delicious, but it is also beautiful to behold, inspiring artists from the dawn of artistic creation. The apple also became a symbol in many cultures and religions – most famously, of course, in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. Although modern scientists now believe that the pomegranate may have actually been the fruit of Eden, the apple has become inseparably linked with the story of original sin and temptation. Somehow this association has not hurt the apple’s reputation at all – it has only added poetic allure to this glorious gift of nature.

After an entertaining evening spent researching the apple in Western art, I discovered enough work to fill not one but several large museums. Although it was difficult to decide, I finally chose a few apple-inspired images to share with you here today. I was particularly drawn to the gilded, ancient Greek works of art, such as The Hesperides, (detail shown below). Of course, I had to include some of the work of Cezanne, one of my all time favorite masters of the still life. Interestingly, the image that stays with me when I close my eyes is the modern Red Apple on a Blue Plate, by Georgia O’Keeffe – perhaps it’s time for a snack…

The Hesperides, Meidias, (Greek), circa 420-410BC

Meidias, The Hesperides, (detail), Greece, circa 420 – 410 BC

Hesperiden, Hans von Marees 1884

Hans von Marees, Hesperiden, 1884

cezanne, apples,1878-79

Cezanne, Apples, 1878-9

cezanne, still life with apples and a pot of primroses, circa 1890

Cezanne, Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses, circa 1890

Renoir - The Apple Seller, 1890

Renoir, The Apple Seller, 1890

cezanne, apples and oranges, 1899, musee d'Orsay, Paris

Cezanne, Apples and Oranges, 1899

cezanne, still life with apples and pears, 1891-2

Cezanne, Still Life with Apples and Pears, 1891-2

Monet Apple Trees in Bloom

Monet,  Apple Trees in Bloom, 1887

Pissaro, Apple Picking 1888

Pissaro,  Apple Picking at Eragny sur Epte, 1886

Gauguin, Apples and Bowl, 1888

Gauguin, Apples and Bowl, 1888

Klee Still Life with Four Apples 1909

Klee, Still Life with Four Apples, 1909

Klimt Apple Tree I

Klimt, Apple Tree I, 1912

O'Keeffe - Red Apple on a Blue Plate

O’Keeffe, Red Apple on a Blue Plate, 1922

Ren? Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964, Restored by Shimon D. Yanow

Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964

While researching apples as a motif in art, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art website, and I found a wonderful interactive page for kids of all ages featuring a book by Caroline Arnold called An Apple a Day. The book explores the work of Cezanne, with an emphasis on the creation of his apple still life masterpieces. I highly recommend a visit to this wonderful page. Arnold’s delightful children’s book covers two of my favorite topics, apples and art!

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Article copyright 2009 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All images in this article are shared under the Fair Use doctrine, for purpose of education and review, and may not be used for any commercial endeavors

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of  The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent. Inspired by something you see here? It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

***

Art Inspired by Nature: The Sensual Work of Sculptor and Furniture Maker David Holzapfel…

November 4th, 2009 § 1

D Holzapfel Tutuila 23" x 15" walnut, spalted yellow birch base abstracted leaf form, samoan leaves

Tutuila, 23″ x 15″, walnut/spalted yellow birch

This week’s edition of ‘Art Inspired by Nature‘ features the work of talented Vermont artist David Holzapfel. But before I begin to write about David and his process, I have to get something off my chest – a confession, so to speak. You see, when I first spotted ‘Tutuila’, the sculptural table pictured above, sitting in David Holzapfel’s studio/gallery – I wanted very badly to snap it up and run away. Before I knew what was happening, ‘Tutuila’ reached right out to my greedy little heart and grabbed it. From that moment on, I could barely focus on what David was saying, (it’s a good thing I took notes). I covet this piece. Of course I didn’t tell David about my wicked impulse, and I continued to calmly and cooly converse about his process. But my eyes wandered back to ‘Tutuila’ whenever they could get away with it. And now – well it feels good to let that cat out of the bag. I felt bad sinning, all alone in my thoughts.

I know you don’t blame me, do you? I mean, just look at Tutuila – she is a modern, botanical fantasy. Any plant-lover would fall in love with this table. In case you are unfamiliar with it, Tutuila is the largest island in American Samoa. David’s ‘Tutuila’ plays with the abstracted form of a Samoan taro leaf. But the ‘leaves’ forming the base of the table are actually made from spalted yellow birch, which he has cut into a graceful pattern. Once completed, David applied a thin, satin finish to the decorative wood, (the marbled veins are actually caused by fungi), bringing out the spalted markings and giving the surface a silken hand. It is truly gorgeous. And ‘Tutuila’ is just the beginning…

David Holzapfel and his wife Michelle, featured in last week’s post, are both remarkable artists. David, like Michelle, has worked with wood for over thirty years. However their individual styles, processes and creations are quite different. David began working as an apprentice to a Vermont furniture maker in 1973, though much of his skill and artistry was acquired through self-guided exploration. Many of David’s pieces have modern, minimalist influences; working with natural geometric shapes and forms. David is a sculptor and a designer – his primary focus is on commissioned furniture work. Individuals and businesses custom order furnishings from David which he designs and builds in his Marlboro studio for clients all over the country. But honestly, I feel that simply referring to David’s work as ‘furnishings’ is inaccurate – for they truly are functional works of art…

D Holzapfel Newlyweds Table 18 36 37, spalted yellow birch and scorched oak

Newlyweds Table, 18″ x 36″ x 37″, spalted  yellow birch / scorched oak

David’s process begins years before his pieces are actually made – with the wood itself. Large logs, many from old and hazardous trees, (unusable to most manufacturing mills due to bits of metal from old taps and spikes), are cut with an Alaskan chainsaw mill and stacked in sheds to dry. These hardwood slices eventually make their way into David’s work as table tops or other components in his designs. ‘Hollows’, (such as the one pictured below), are the cylindrical remnants of trees rotted from within. These logs with empty interiors are carved out and shaped into bases for furniture, such as the ‘Miller’ and ‘Katzman’ tables pictured below…

Holzapfel Hollowed Log

hollowstrip2

D Holzapfel, Miller Dining Table 2000, 29" x 54" spalted yellow birch and glass

Miller Dining Table, 29″ x 54″, spalted yellow birch and glass

D Holzapfel Katzman Dining Table 1999, 20" x 62", Scorched blister maple

Katzman Dining Table, 20″ x 62″, scorched blister-maple

D Holzapfel Prohibited Where Void, 18" x 52" x 24", spalted blister maple, red maple, yellow birch

Prohibited Where Void , 18″ x 52″ x 24″, spalted blister maple/red maple and yellow birch

Like Michelle, David also works with wood burls, (pictured in last week’s post). This dense, heavy material is cut and carved according to the artists design – forming furniture bases like the one pictured below on this very geometric, glass-topped piece called ‘Triangles’…

D Holzapfel Triangles,   18" x 54" x 20", spalted cherry burl, spalted yellow birch, glass

Triangles, 18″ x 54″ x 20″, spalted cherry burl, spalted yellow birch and glass

Fallen branches and tree roots frequently appear in David’s designs. The contrast this artist achieves by pairing smooth, flat heart-wood surfaces and the more sinuous, organic root and branch forms is quite dramatic. The benches, desks and tables made with these very different trees components are absolutely stunning…

homeprocess

David Holzapfel at work in his studio, Marlboro, Vermont

availbirch

Birch Song, 33.5″ x 37″ x 30″, spalted yellow birch burl top, yellow birch root base

Most of David’s work is created on commission, (although he does have some pieces, such as the tempting ‘Tutuila’, ‘Void Where Prohibited’ and ‘Birch Song’, above, on hand). A prospective collector usually meets with David at his studio and together they discuss design possibilities and look over the natural materials on hand. David has been commissioned to create large dining tables, site-specific furniture installations, chairs, benches, sculpture, and many more items than I can possibly list. His work has appeared in House Beautiful and Vermont Magazine, among other publications, and his pieces have been exhibited nationally in museum shows and galleries.

At the moment, David is working on an extraordinary chaise in his studio. I hope to slip back over and snap a shot when it is completed. There is so much more to see at Applewoods Studio than I can cover here in two short, introductory posts. In order to more fully appreciate David’s process, and to see more of his beautiful work, please visit his website, linked here and below. Of course, nothing can take the place of an an actual studio-visit with the Holzapfels. The Applewoods Studio in Marlboro, Vermont is open to the public every week, on select days, (see hours listed on the website), and by appointment…

D Holzapfel Heaven and Earth Bonsai Table, 16" 31" 25', maple root w:embedded rock and scorched oak

Heaven and Earth Bonsai Table, 16″ x 31″ x 25″, maple root with embedded rock and scorched oak.

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For further information about David’s work, please visit the artist’s website: David Hozapfel: Applewoods Studios

The artist’s work may be seen and/or commissioned directly from his studio

Thank you again, David and Michelle, for being so generous with your time and work.

All photographs in this post, (except the third from top), are © David Holzapfel, and may not be used or reproduced without consent.

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Article copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without consent. Inspired by something you see here? It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

***

Art Inspired by Nature: The Astonishing Work of Sculptor Michelle Holzapfel…

October 28th, 2009 § 3

Michelle Holzapfel, Linfold Vase, Walnut Log, 2007

Michelle Holzapfel, Linfold Vase, 2007, carved from a single walnut log

Michelle Holzapfel, Black and White Bowl, 2003,Contemporary Museum HI

Michelle Holzapfel, Black and White Bowl, 2003, Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI

A couple of weekends ago, my new friends Michelle and David Holzapfel kindly accepted my request for an interview for The Gardener’s Eden, ‘Art Inspired by Nature’ series, and tour of their studio in southern Vermont. Although we have friends in common, and I have long admired their work, until a few short weeks ago I never had the opportunity to meet the Holzapfels in person. Sadly, this is often the case with artists. Constantly occupied with the creation of our own art and busy with the work of life and making a living, we can often be more separated by time than physical space. One of the great pleasures of this new weekly series, ‘Art Inspired by Nature‘, is the opportunity to meet other artists and make new friends. I hope that all of you are enjoying the scenic, natural art tour along the way. Although I originally intended to include the work of both Holzapfels in this week’s feature, it quickly became clear that this would not be fair to either artist. There is simply too much that I must share with you – and so, this installment will be revealed over the course of two weeks.

So, let me first introduce sculptor Michelle Holzapfel – this week’s featured artist inspired by nature. Michelle’s amazing artwork may be found in public collections including the Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; the Museum of Art and Design, New York, NY; and many more public and private collections throughout the world. In addition, this month and throughout the coming weeks of November, Michelle Holzapfel’s work is on display in Los Angeles, California in a solo show at the del Mano Gallery. ‘Lost and Found‘ will be on view at the gallery from October 24 – November 21, 2009. If you are in the LA area, please stop by the del Mano Gallery to see Michelle’s incredible artwork. However, should you find yourself wandering the scenic roads of New England, a visit to the Applewoods Studio, (the Holzapfel’s personal gallery), for a look at both their work and process, is highly recommended…

Holzapfel studio forest birch trees

The paper birch grove in the forest beyond the Applewoods Studio

Michelle Holzapfel, Natural Pilgrim, 1991, Birch Burl

Michelle Holzapfel, Natural Pilgrim, 1991, Birch Burl

Many artists are inspired by nature, but for Michelle Holzapfel, nature is truly an inseparable part of her creative process. During my dialogue with the artist, I discovered that there are two distinct ways in which she works with her natural material of choice – wood. Sometimes Michelle will use softwood, (usually the woodcarver’s traditional basswood), to impose her own will upon the material. On these occasions, Michelle has a great deal of freedom to manipulate the wood according to her own plan, (and the end results often bear little resemblance to the original material itself). Other times, Michelle works with hardwood burls. This process is quite different, as hardwood burls are very dense and carry a will all their own. Finally in some of her more fascinating pieces, Michelle combines both types of material and processes to create modern masterpieces inspired not only by nature, but human struggles and triumphs as well.

For Michelle Holzapfel, the act of physically creating art always begins with natural materials. A great many of Michelle’s pieces, particularly her vessels, are made from hardwood burls. The burls Michelle uses come from trees native to the Northeastern United States; in fact most are harvested locally in Vermont. Perhaps you have noticed bulging areas on forest tree-trunks, when walking through the woods in autumn and winter, (see second photo below). These bulges, or burls as they are commonly called, are caused by a virus. As a tree develops, these wart-like growths, and the resulting fiber adaptations in the trunk or branch, form unusual patterns – beautiful, swirling lines in the wood. Michelle’s burls are collected, (often discovered by local woodsmen working in the forest), and air dried for years in a storage shed, until inspiration strikes and she brings them into her studio shop to begin  work…

Holzapfel studio burls

Michelle uses a chain saw to separate the burl from the log and to rough cut the form she envisions from the wood. If she is creating a bowl or vessel, Michelle works a hollow in the wood using a lathe. However, Michelle does not use a traditional wood-turners lathe – instead the tool she uses was actually intended for metalwork, and was built by her artisan father, Jean Baptiste Ovila Chasse…

chainsawlathe

Michelle’s chain saw and lathe, photo, © David Holzapfel, courtesy Applewoods Studio

From this point on, Michelle’s work may proceed in many directions, as vision and inspiration guide her. Her themes vary from the modern domestic to the roots of western civilization and Greek myth. Some of her pieces require the use of power tools including saws, grinders and/or traditional hand-carving tools, (see photos of her studio table below). Some works marry hardwood vessels with soft, intricately carved basswood components to form complex, richly textured sculpture. Other pieces incorporate sewing, pyrography, (‘tattooing’ or burning of the wood), bleaching, polishing, staining and/or painting, oiling, and even the inclusion of objects, such as the padlock worked into ‘Lockhart’, featured in the third photo below…

Michelle Holzapfel work studio

Holzapfel studio, Michelle's work room

Michelle Holzapfel, Lockhart, 2002, maple burl

Michelle Holzapfel, Lockhart, 2002, Maple Burl

As I walked through Michelle’s workspace, and the Applewoods Studio gallery room, I needed to constantly remind myself – “this is not paper, not fabric, not wicker, not yarn –  this is wood “. My inexperienced eyes were easily betrayed by the exquisitely manipulated objects set before me. Michelle is a rare artist. She is an accomplished, visionary sculptor with a unique, personal language, and a highly skilled master craftsperson. In today’s art world, this combination is near extinct. The time, discipline and dedication required to reach Michelle Holzapfel’s level of technical mastery is uncommon – and breathtaking to encounter. More than thirty years of self guided study and studio experience has given Michelle the skill and versatility to express her artistic vision in pieces that are both technically remarkable and freely, often playfully, executed…

Michelle Holzapfel, Aegina Bowl, 1993, Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina

Michelle Holzapfel, Aegina Bowl, 1993, Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina

Michelle Holzapfel, Four Panel Tatoo Vessel, 2007, Basswood, Pyrography, Gilding, Stiched with Waxed Linen Thread

Michelle Holzapfel, Four-Panel Tattoo Vessel, 2007, Basswood, Pyrography, Gilding, and Waxed Linen Thread

Holzapfel, Michelle detail of work

Detail of sewing on Michelle’s four-panel tattoo vessel

Michelle Holzapfel, Fibonacci Vase, 1991, Maple

Michelle Holzapfel, Fibonacci Vase, 1991, Maple

Michelle Holzapfel, Autumn, 2003, Walnut and Basswood

Michelle Holzapfel, Autumn, 2003, Walnut and Basswood

Michelle Holzapfel, Knitting Basket, 1993, Native Hardwoods and Ebony

Michelle Holzapfel, Knitting Basket, 1993, Native Hardwoods and Ebony

A visit to the Applewoods Studio is a delightful experience. Located on scenic Route 9 in Marlboro, Vermont, the artistic haven of Michelle and David Holzapfel is surrounded by natural beauty. The gardens and forest beyond their workspace also reflect this couple’s deep respect for the natural world and all of its beauty. A handmade gate swings open a wooden screen dividing public and private space – leading down a quiet corridor to a garden filled with perennials, sculpture and walls built by fellow-artist Dan Snow. A surprised and delighted expression on one of the backyard trees mirrored my own response when I spotted the glorious stand of paper birch lighting the Holzapfel’s meadow with amber colored foliage…

Holzapfel studio garden

Holzapfel garden

Holzapfel tree face

Holzapfel long birches

The Holzapfels introduced me to their work in an unhurried half-day filled with tea, homemade muffins and a garden walk. Sadly, I can not possibly do justice to Michelle’s talents, let alone cover the work of both artists, in this brief post, (I did quite a bit of whittling myself to edit this story down!). Michelle’s husband, David Holzapfel is also a remarkable artist and craftsperson – I will be sharing a bit about his creative process, along with photographs of his work in an upcoming post. Occasionally, these two artists create remarkable collaborative works. These pieces include stunning vessels, such as the two pictured below, (photographed by David in their beautiful birch stand). These one-of-a-kind pieces may hold autumn leaves, hydrangea, pussy willows, berry clad branches and other dried ornaments. The Holzapfels work may be seen and/or purchased at Applewoods Studio, open to visitors during studio hours listed on their website, and by appointment…

Vessel, Red Maple Burl, 10"h x 11 x 3"

Michelle and David Holzapfel vessel, red maple burl, 10″ x 11″ x 3″

David:Michelle Holzapfel vessel, spalted yellow birch, 14" x 8 x 4

Michelle and David Holzapfel vessel, spalted yellow birch, 14″ x 8″ x 4″

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For further information about Michelle Hozapfel’s work and her process, or to inquire about purchasing or commissioning a work of art, please visit:

Michelle Holzapfel: Applewoods Studio

All photographs of Michelle Holzapfel’s work, and the collaborative piece, featured here were provided by Applewoods Studio, © David Holzapfel, and may not be used or reproduced without permission of Applewoods Studio, (see contact above).

Thank you Michelle and David for your kind and generous hospitality and new friendship.

All other photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the sole property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Art Inspired by Nature: The Multitalented Amy McCoy…

October 21st, 2009 Comments Off

LaForestaPiccola1ALM

Photograph copyright Amy McCoy

Most people consider themselves lucky if they discover one hidden, creative talent in a lifetime. But for some fortunate individuals, creativity and artistic expression seem to flow effortlessly from a bottomless well. Rhode Island based photographer, author and cook, Amy McCoy is just such a creative force. Although we have yet to meet in person, (a rendezvous is in the works for later this year), I am wowed by Amy’s many artistic talents and inspired by her ability to lead a rich, creative life on a shoe-string budget. If you have been following this blog for awhile, you might remember my post, “Stop! Put Down That Hoe, Let’s Eat”, written shortly after I discovered Amy’s food blog, ‘Poor Girl Gourmet. The delightful combination of beautiful photography, entertaining prose and delicious-yet-inexpensive recipes makes Amy’s blog an irresistibly sweet mix. And just to add a bit of icing to that cake, Amy recently completed her first, soon-to-be released cookbook -and I for one can’t wait to savor my copy, hot-off-the-press.

For this week’s installment of ‘Art Inspired Nature’ on The Gardener’s Eden, Amy McCoy generously offered to share her gorgeous polaroid transfers- this selection inspired by the Italian landscape, (La Foresta Piccola, and Orvieto). Amy shoots her photographs in 35mm slide format and then has her images developed to polaroid film. This film is peeled-apart to create her beautiful polaroid transfer prints. For further information about Amy, her work, and her artistic process, please visit her Etsy Shop linked here and below, or her blog linked above.

Enjoy the artwork! Thank you for sharing your many talents Amy…

SunflowerOrvieto1ALM

Photograph copyright Amy McCoy

LaForestaPiccola2ALM

Photograph copyright Amy McCoy

OrvietoViaCivitaALM

Photograph copyright Amy McCoy

ViaDiValdorciaALM

Photograph copyright Amy McCoy

SunflowerOrvieto2ALM

Photograph copyright Amy McCoy

Amy McCoy’s framed polaroid transfers are available at her Etsy shop, where a much wider selection of her beautiful artwork may be found:          Phototransfers by Amy McCoy on Etsy, click here!

All photographs in this post are the sole property of Amy McCoy and may not be used or reproduced without written consent

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Are you an artist inspired by nature, or do you know one? If you would like your work considered for inclusion in this series, please email your information, attention ‘Michaela’, (see ‘Contact’, page right).  Weekly features include painters, photographers, sculptors, fiber artists and more…

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Art Inspired by Nature – Bill Dwight Introducing the Poet with an iPhone… and ‘The Gardener’s Eden’ radio debut!

October 16th, 2009 § 2

Bill Dwight Autumn Rhapsody in Blue

Photograph © 2009 Bill Dwight

Whew, it’s been busy around here lately! ‘Art Inspired by Nature was a bit delayed this week by a rush to get things planted, mulched and finished up in my various garden projects before today’s snow began to fly. Plus, I have some exciting things going on, and some news to share with you. Recently, I was invited to read from The Gardener’s Eden on WHMP Radio, (Serving the Pioneer Valley and Northampton/Amherst five college area in Massachusetts), as part of their new program called ‘Valley Blogs‘. Over the past few weeks WHMP/WRSI, radio host, show producer and engineer extraordinaire, Jaz Tupelo welcomed me into her studio and graciously guided me through my first recording sessions. In spite of my knocking knees and chattering teeth, Jaz miraculously collected enough coherent words to string together a series of audio vignettes from this blog. These blog-clips have been running on the air at WHMP for a couple of weeks now. Soon there will be a link here on the site where you, dear readers, may download selected podcasts of my horticulturally- obsessed ramblings – ‘Art Inspired by Nature‘, so to speak, on the airwaves.

My friendship with Jaz Tupelo, and the debut of The Gardener’s Eden audio-posts on ‘Valley Blogs‘ at WHMP Radio, has connected me to many wonderful new things – one of the most delightful of them being my new friend Bill Dwight. You know how, sometimes when you meet someone, you immediately feel as if you have known them forever? For me, Bill Dwight is one of those people. I am sure many others feel this way about Bill – he’s just that kind of guy. My fondness for Bill actually began before I met him, when I saw some of the stunning photographic images he regularly posts on his Facebook profile. I was immediately smitten with his work. Looking at these spontaneous, gloriously beautiful images was one of those ‘Ah-Ha‘ moments for me. Although I am a painter, I think my work has much in common with Bill’s. I mentioned this perceived simpatico-vision, and my admiration of Bill’s photographs to my friend Jaz Tupelo, producer and “official side kick” of ‘The Bill Dwight Show’ on WHMP radio. After being introduced to Bill,(and his lovely wife Lida), he and I formed something of an artistic-mutual-admiration- society. Not long ago, Bill began using an iPhone photo-ap to capture the world as he sees it on the fly. His Facebook posts have become a virtual electronic art exhibit/visual online journal – and I am a complete groupie. In fact, I could go on and on here; paragraph upon paragraph, talking about Bill and his photos. But I think it is best to sum it up in one sentence: Bill is, quite simply, a poet with an iPhone. I love the way sees our world…

Bill Dwight Autumn Leaf Abstraction

Photograph © 2009 Bill Dwight

Bill Dwight leaves in blue

Photograph © 2009 Bill Dwight

Bill Dwight, blurred vertical

Photograph © 2009 Bill Dwight

Bill Dwight Blurred Autumn

Photograph © 2009 Bill Dwight

Bill Dwight Raindrops on Horizontal grass

Photograph © 2009 Bill Dwight

Bill Dwight Autumn Leaves and Metal

Photograph © 2009 Bill Dwight

Bill Dwight - leaf and raindrops

Photograph © 2009 Bill Dwight

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The Bill Dwight Show on WHMP radio FM 96.9  AM 1400/1240 Northampton/Amherst Massachusetts

Become a Fan of The Bill Dwight Show Page on Facebook

All photographs featured in this post are the copyrighted property of Bill Dwight, and they may not be used or reproduced without his express permission.

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~ Article copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden ~

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reproduced or used in any way without express written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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