November 20th, 2009 § § permalink
Winterberry branches, in a modern glass vase, beside my painting studio door
One of my favorite ways to prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday is to decorate my home and studio with natural remnants from my garden. At the end of my day yesterday afternoon, I stopped along the bank of the Connecticut river and gathered some native bittersweet vine, (Celastrus scandens), for wreaths and table arrangements. Over the past couple of weeks, I have also been collecting pine cones, berry covered twigs and fruit tree branches from around my property. These autumn remnants will fill vases, urns and baskets around my home. Later I will add some berries and pine cones to my wreaths and door swags, setting aside a few extra decorations to give as gifts. When the holidays have passed, I will recycle my decorations by bringing the berry branches back outdoors to provide food for birds. The pine cones will remain indoors, where I will use them to start fires in my wood stove…
Gathered winterberry branches, (Ilex verticillata), from the garden
I started decorating this morning by filling vases with berry branches and baskets with pine cones. Just adding a little bit of color and texture from the garden really brightened the house and lifted my spirits. I thought I would share some photos of my dried table and floor arrangements as I get ready for the holidays. This weekend I plan to continue making simple, decorative baskets and wreaths – so there will be more ideas coming next week. The best part? All of these decorations came from my garden or nature; the only costs are time and energy – both well spent…
Pine cones, dried and arranged in a basket on my kitchen table
Bittersweet, in an Aletha Soule gunmetal-glaze pitcher, on a table in my studio
Crabapple branches in a Richard Foye raku vase in my bedroom
Winterberry branch, (Ilex verticillata)
Winterberry, placed in an urn on the second floor landing of my studio
Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden
Please do not use or reproduce my photographs, for any reason, without permission
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 reason 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…
October 30th, 2009 § § permalink
Dried flower heads from a field of Queen Anne’s lace sparkle against frosted glass…
The last days of October have arrived and the natural world outside my door is slowly bleaching, bronzing and browning to a warm patina. Gorgeous distractions demand my attention at every corner. Still, there is much work to be done in the garden before winter arrives – so I wander about the flower beds daily, preparing for next season’s long slumber. As I gather up pots, toss spent annuals, and attend to various autumn gardening tasks, warm rays of sunlight illuminate ornamental grass and dried flowers, highlighting their texture and form. The stark and skeletal remains of Queen Anne’s Lace and the honey colored needles of Amsonia hubrichtii seem to call out for individual attention. As I work I often collect some of nature’s gifts for indoor display. Placed in delicate vases without water, these bits of frilly, feathery foliage will last for weeks on table and desk tops, where they sparkle in the late afternoon sun as I write. Larger souvenirs from my garden, (such as Hydrangea paniculata and Miscanthus sinensis), fill Aletha Soule’s vases, Richard Foye’s vessels and various old, terracotta urns placed near brightly lit windows and doors where they catch the long, golden light.
Now is the perfect time to collect ornamental grass and dried flowers by the armful. Gathered garden remnants can be hung upside down from attic beams and garage rafters to be used later for wreaths and table displays throughout the winter months…
Golden Amsonia hubrichtii sings in blue blown-glass…
Deschampsia flexuosa, (Common hair grass), from the meadow catches light in my kitchen on a late afternoon. Raku vessel by Richard Foye.
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ in an Aletha Soule gunmetal glaze pitcher…
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’, (Porcupine grass), in a urn by the studio door…
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’, (Flame grass), in a Richard Foye urn beside the patio door…
Article and photographs 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…
September 30th, 2009 § § permalink
~ Large raku vessel with bronze metallic glaze ~
~ A raku urn with lid during glaze firing ~
~ Artist Richard Foye at his South Newfane, Vermont studio ~
I caught up with my friend, artist Richard Foye, on a beautiful September afternoon while he was busy at work in his South Newfane, Vermont studio. Last month, I featured one of Richard’s beautiful raku vessels in my post, “Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors”, and I received a number of emailed questions about his work. Richard’s vases and vessels make stunning centerpieces for the table, where they function as either a solo act or center stage for floral arrangements… and his dramatic urns make intriguing ornaments and focal points for the home or seasonal garden. Many of us are as eager to bring the beauty of nature indoors as we are to enhance it within our gardens, especially at this time of year. In light of the interest, I gave Richard a call and asked him if he might be willing to give us a tour of his studio and share some of his inspiration and creations on The Gardener’s Eden. Richard very generously allowed me to observe and photograph him working in his studio while he turned pieces on his wheel, and later fired several urns, vases and vessels. As he worked, the artist took the time to explain how his beautiful, naturally inspired pieces are created. I have collected Richard’s work for a number of years, and while I thought I understood his technique, after spending the afternoon at his studio I realized there is so much more to this artist’s work than meets the eye. I couldn’t wait to share his amazing process with you in this third installment of “Art Inspired by Nature” on The Gardener’s Eden…
(click to enlarge any photo in this essay for a closer view)
Richard Foye began making pottery in 1969, during his senior year at The University of Vermont. A philosophy major, Richard accompanied his friend Ken Pick to pottery class one day, where he discovered his life’s passion. Watching this artist at his wheel in the late afternoon light, it was easy to see why his vessels are so spectacular. Richard is in love with his work. His hands move in a steady yet fluid motion, instinctively molding curvaceous lines and sensual forms from the clay. Throughout the 70’s, Richard worked primarily with stoneware and porcelain when, after nearly a decade, he began to experiment with raku. From that point on, Richard found himself focusing on this Far Eastern technique he has come to favor for both its immediacy and serendipitous results. The word raku loosely translates to ‘unexpected, joyful surprise‘. My conversation with Richard naturally turned to philosophy at this point, discussing the difference between what Westerners might call ‘accidents‘ and what Easterners refer to as ‘incidents‘. The raku method was originally developed in Korea, and later adopted by Japanese artisans. In raku, a pot is drawn out from the fire while still hot and then allowed to cool quickly, producing unexpected, often dramatic results. The ‘incidental’ finishes found on raku pieces are inherent to this quick cooling process. Over time Richard developed his own fascinating techniques and signature glazes, (inspired by ancient Near Eastern and Japanese methods), to create the exquisite works of art shown here.
Although he describes himself as impatient, Richard is in fact very methodic in his process. The white stoneware clay he uses is a proprietary mix he creates with rainwater in his studio. After working his pieces into sensual forms, influenced by travels to Southern Spain and Andalusia among other places, he sets them aside to dry-cure before he begins the bisque firing and finishing process. The time to complete a series of pots, from start to finish, is generally six weeks…
~ Richard’s white stoneware clay is hand mixed with rainwater ~
~ Richard working at his wheel ~
~ Unfinished clay pieces will dry cure for before bisque firing ~
After curing, Richard’s vessels and urns are bisque fired to 1,800 degrees fahrenheit and then coated with a hand mixed glaze. His signature metallic finishes are a combination of naturally occurring minerals, (including feldspar and calcium borate), inspired by those used in ancient Near Eastern civilizations. Once they are dry, Richard’s pieces are glaze fired to 1,600 degrees fahrenheit, and quickly removed with tongs while still hot. The process makes for a dramatic show…
~ Glazed pieces are fired at 1,600 degrees fahrenheit ~
~ Richard monitors the urn, gauging temperature by time and color ~
~ According to the Far Eastern raku technique, the piece is removed while hot ~
From here, Richard’s process becomes positively fascinating to anyone inspired by nature and her beautiful botanical world. While still red hot, Richard places his vessels within a nest of hand harvested straw and wild grasses from his field – he also tosses pine cones into this smoking, combustible mix. When a lid is placed atop his make-shift ‘double boiler’, the resulting heat, smoke and flame put on quite a show. Meanwhile, inside the vibrating pot, the straw fuses with the glaze to form exquisite, unpredictable patterns on Richard’s shapely vessels.
~ Richard adds natural materials, including pine cones, grass and straw ~
~ Natural materials help create the one-of-a-kind finishes in Richard’s work ~
~ The white-hot piece is placed within a pot of natural materials ~
~ Resulting combustion makes for dramatic smoke, vibrations and sound ~
Once the pot cools down from the secondary glazing process, Richard removes the lid, and brushes away the burned botanical remnants to reveal what are always delightfully inexact results. Raku – the art of joyful surprise…
~ At last, the lid is removed to reveal raku’s surprise… ~
~ A finished piece, still hot, surrounded by the natural, burned remnants ~
The cooling vessel, (note the grass still attached where it has burned in lines)
Richard uses the raku method to create a wide range of extraordinary pieces – from large metallic-glazed urns, (works of art suitable for the indoor display of flowers, branches and grass), to statuesque crackle-glazed vessels, ( I envision them beckoning at the end of a garden path or shady corner), to smaller pieces, including beautiful table-sized vases and ewers. Richard also continues to work with stoneware, creating garden-art such as the all-season lantern pictured below…
~ A large, metallic glazed raku urn ~
~ A large, crackle glazed raku urn ~
~ A metallic glazed raku ewer with handle ~
~ One of Richard’s very popular stoneware lanterns, here in his garden ~
Richard Foye shows his work in galleries and craft exhibitions throughout New England, and at home in Vermont. The Rock River Artists group holds an open studio tour every summer, and to many a gardener’s pleasure, Richard’s studio is conveniently located one door down from Olallie Daylily Gardens. The combination is more than tempting to this nature lover on an autumn day. If you would like to make a visit to Richard’s studio, be sure to call ahead, as he participates in a wide variety of craft shows and artisan exhibits throughout the year. But if you tell him you read about his raku process on The Gardener’s Eden, I am sure he will be more than delighted to give you a tour when he is back at his studio home.
Thank you Richard, for generously sharing your time and your work with us, and always for your deep understanding of natural beauty…
*Richard Foye does not have internet access at his studio, but he may be reached by calling 802-348-7927, (Richard’s South Newfane, Vermont studio is open by appointment, please call for directions). He is represented in New England by the Rice/Polak Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
* Richard Foye’s pieces are currently priced at $35 -$410 *
The artist’s work may also be seen at the following craft festivals in New England this October:
October 2, 3 and 4, 2009, Hildene Foliage Art and Craft Festival, Manchester, Vermont
October 9, 10 and 11, 2009, Stowe Foliage, Art and Craft Festival, Stowe, Vermont
October 17 – 18, 2009, Roseland Cottage Annual Arts and Crafts Festival, Woodstock, CT
~ Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden ~
August 11th, 2009 § § permalink
~ A bouquet of dahlia and calendula brightens my windowsill ~
One of the great pleasures of successful flower gardening is, of course, the access to seasonal, fresh cut flowers for the dinner table, desk and elsewhere in the home. I also really enjoy bringing an exotic bouquet to my host or hostess when I am invited to a dinner party, or to a friend as a surprise. Earlier this summer, in my posts about designing a potager and companion planting in the vegetable garden, I mentioned the horticultural benefits of growing flowers in a kitchen garden. But as an artist, I have many reasons, way beyond the practical, for a cutting garden. Flowers are a great inspiration; the extraordinary colors and amazing geometric forms can shift a mood, spark a creative impulse, or simply add a touch of beauty to the day. Know someone with a bland office cubicle, or sterile waiting room? Imagine what a few colorful zinnias would do to change the atmosphere. It’s amazing really. That old 1960’s slogan “Flower Power” couldn’t be more accurate.
Zinnia and Dahlia ~ copyright 2009 ~ Tim Geiss
Growing annuals for cutting can be as simple as sowing seed or planting six packs in the vegetable garden in spring. I grow my cutting garden in well drained soil enriched with compost, and I fertilize with Neptune’s Harvest or whatever fish emulsion I have on hand. My own cutting garden varies in size each year depending upon my available time, space and budget. This year, I purchased common annuals in six packs from Walker Farm and a few of the specialty annuals they are known for. I chose dahlia, zinnia, cleome, cosmos, verbena bonariensis, specialty calendula, (French marigold), and moluccella laevis, (Bells of Ireland), among others. I also grow some perennials in and around my vegetable garden, including early bloomers like bulbs and peonies and late-season favorites such as coreopsis tripteris, physostegia virginiana, liatris ‘Kobold’, veronica ‘Goodness grows’, rudbeckia, echinacea and solidago, (golden rod), to name but a few. Native goldenrod is a great addition to flower arrangements. Sadly, although solidago is a prized perennial in much of Europe, this native flower is shunned by many North American gardeners who mistakenly believe it to be a cause of hay fever, (ambrosia artmisiifolia, or common ragweed, is usually the culprit). I always buy my annuals locally in spring. But you can also find bulbs and plants through online retailers, including my two of my favorite sources for summer bulbs, Swan Island Dahlias and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.
Combining perennials and annuals in casual arrangements is one of my favorite ways to bring the garden indoors, (see photo below). I like to play with contrasting colors like orangey-yellow and purple, or bright blue and reddish-orange to enliven my kitchen table. When creating bouquets for the bedroom or bath, I often soften the mood a bit, and combine flowers in more complimentary hues; using tones of blue and green, or shades of lavender and rose. Whatever I create with flowers from my garden, the arrangements have a way of making the whole house look brighter.
In order to get the most life from cut flower arrangements, I try to harvest the blooms in early morning, before the heat of the day, or in the cool of the evening after the sun has set. I choose flowers with swollen buds or petals just opening. With sharp scissors, I cut the stems long and at a slight angle. Immediately, I place them in a bucket of lukewarm water kept in the shade while I make my other selections. Certain flowers, such as poppies, will need to have their stalks seared with a match in order to seal the stem. And most early bulbs, such as daffodils, prefer cool vase water. Cut flowers will stay fresh longer when you add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, about a tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of bleach to each quart of vase-water. Changing the vase-water every couple of days will extend the life of your bouquet and keep the flowers looking fresh longer. Bacteria is responsible for that nasty flower-water slime and smell when you forget to change the water for a week. I try to avoid that olfactory experience at all costs!
Annual Cosmos ‘Candy Stripe’, Calendula ‘Pacific Beauty Mix’, Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ here with perennial Veronica ‘Goodness Grows, Liatris ‘Kobold’, Echinacea purpurea and Solidago Canadensis Gunmetal Glazed Pitcher by artist Aletha Soule
Rudbeckia hirta ‘Goldilocks’ produces 18″-24″ stems with 4″ double orange blossoms… perfect for late summer bouquets
To add a little something extra to my bouquets, I often add ornamental grasses, (such as miscanthus), foliage plants, (including ferns and perennial plant leaves), vines, (such as bittersweet), and branches from trees and shrubs. Shrubs with darker foliage, including physocarpus ‘Diablo’ or ‘Summer Wine’, and weigela ‘Java Red’, among the many choices, add a nice contrast to floral arrangements in complimentary hues. When adding woody plants like these, as well as flowering hydrangea and lilac to an arrangement, it ‘s important to “smash” the woody stems with a mallet in order for the cut branch to absorb water, (see center photo below). In addition to beautiful color and texture, woody plants add structure to a vase, and can help support both delicate flowers and heavy blooms, especially those with a tendency to flop.
White cleome, zebra grass and weigela florida ‘Java Red’ foliage in a vase by Aletha Soule
Flowers harvested from shrubs with woody stems must be ‘smashed’ as shown, to help them absorb water
~ A beautiful raku vase by Vermont artist Richard Foye ~
And from the garden: Ninebark, (Physocarpus), ‘Diablo’, False indigo foliage, (Baptisia), Foxglove, (Digitalis davisiana), Queen Anne’s Lace, (Anthriscus sylvestris), and Bells of Ireland, (Moluccella laevis)
~ Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ in a small vase by artist Aletha Soule ~
When it comes to choosing vases, I am a big believer in experimentation. Although I have a nice collection of vases from Vermont artisan Richard Foye and California’s Aletha Soule, I do not limit myself to traditional vessels for holding fresh flowers. I am just as likely to stick a bouquet into a rusty tin can when the orange-brown contrast strikes my fancy. Old mason jars, drinking glasses, perfume and liquor bottles, beach buckets, cookie tins, soda bottles and milk cartons have all served as vases in my household. In fact, pretty much anything that holds water is fair game. Floating flowers in a shallow bowl with candles makes for a memorable center piece at a dinner party, and the low display draws attention to the structure of larger flowers such as dahlia and sunflower. I also like the look of one spectacular blossom filling the top of a thick glass, as photographed by artist Tim Geiss below.
As the seasons change, I like to bring autumn leaves and bare branches into the house for my larger urns. And early autumn vegetables, such as kale and cabbage, make dramatic additions to flower arrangements as well. When November and December come ’round, I will bring in winterberry, (Ilex verticillata), and dried grasses from the garden by the armful. Do you have any favorite additions to your floral arrangements? I will be featuring more articles like this one in the future, but for now, please feel free to share your ideas and add comments for others here on the forum. In a world filled with chaos, stress, uncertainty and pressure, we could all use a little beauty to brighten our day. Sometimes, even a milk carton of roadside daisies will do!
~ Freshly cut Zinnia, copyright 2009, Tim Geiss ~
~ Special thanks to Tim Geiss for his beautiful flower photographs as noted ~
~ Article and other photos copyright 2009 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden ~