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

August 30th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

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 website, Soleil 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


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 !


Article â“’ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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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 comments § permalink


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…


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)…


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)…


Marina ‘hiving’


The “accidental beekeeper” holding a bee frame…


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


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


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….


Artisan honey gift set from Red Bee


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.


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…


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


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 !


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


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…


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


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


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!


A poetic, pastoral scene at Red Bee Apiary and Gardens

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



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


Bee Culture Magzine Online – A great resource for apiaries


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


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


The Honeybee Conservancy Website and Blog


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 affiliate, and any purchases you make at 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 !


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

December 9th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

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 Apple of Our Eye…

November 11th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

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!


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 comment § permalink

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


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…


David Holzapfel at work in his studio, Marlboro, Vermont


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.


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.


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 comments § permalink

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…


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″


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…


Art Inspired by Nature: The Multitalented Amy McCoy…

October 21st, 2009 § Comments Off on Art Inspired by Nature: The Multitalented Amy McCoy… § permalink


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…


Photograph copyright Amy McCoy


Photograph copyright Amy McCoy


Photograph copyright Amy McCoy


Photograph copyright Amy McCoy


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…


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

October 16th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

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


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.


~ 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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