Archive for July, 2010

I try to keep a good selection of “stock” frame moldings on hand. This are moldings that we’ll have limited amounts of but can offer at a great price. In selecting the ones to offer,

Maxfield Parrish poster print in frame

I try to find ones that will fit a range of decor and art styles. Most are fairly traditional and typically pretty “safe” in terms of their designs. By that I mean, they tend to not make too strong or dramatic a style statement. (unless it’s traditional, then it can be as loudly traditional as it likes) There are exceptions. This is one case where I couldn’t resist this gorgeous Italian molding. It has a base colour of a strong teal-blue with bits of white, orange and terracotta red accenting the swirling details. The finish is a high-gloss lacquer so it looks like the whole thing is fired ceramic. Not a frame for the faint of heart! I actually bought it specifically for the Maxfield Parrish print it’s around. His work features these amazing evening/dawn

laquer frame detail

sky blues and I was so excited to have a frame with the same colours that I had to have it. The mat is small, so it can just give a bit of an accent around the art, but doesn’t completely separate it from the frame. The art is basically a poster grade, even though it is high quality and vintage, and the frame also cost much less than it should have, so I’m able to offer it at a “decor” art price! Overall, I’m really happy with how it turned out, even if it isn’t the most neutral of pieces, I’m sure someone will have the perfect spot for it.

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I’ve been continuing to work on making new masks and enjoying trying some new things. Considering how well my more traditional Venetian masks have been received

wedding veil lace mask, Suzette

as wedding apparel I thought it might be fun to design something wedding specific. Most of the lace I use is reclaimed, so I tend to have small batches of a really wide range of styles. My pieces will end up having lace from several different sources used to make up each unique design. The constant variety and limited amounts are part of how the design process always stays fresh for me. I can only ever make so many of any given style, because I eventually run out that lace! Sometimes I end up with lace bits that are harder to incorporate into a mask, no matter how pretty. This mask solved a dilemma I’d been having for a while. It’s a lovely heavy lace, in pristine condition and a gorgeous slightly off-white colour. (because the lace is typically both sealed and gilded, original colour isn’t retained)   I also loved the softly gathered fall of tulle that connected the top band to the lower detailed edge. The problem, for me, was that most of that would be hidden, after gilding and the soft ruffling would have to be lost. I just couldn’t bring myself to cut it up, so it’s been waiting for me to design a solution. This is it! I went very clean and plain and let the beauty of the lace shine. The mask underneath is simple, just white with a fine corded edge. the plain tulle falls over the eyes, so there is very little obstruction to the wearers ability to see, yet it still has a wonderfully mysterious and romantic quality. It’s a limited edition design, (I don’t have that much of the lace) but I’m very happy with it and I think it would be a really different alternative to a traditional wedding veil! (or you can just wear it for fun 😉 )

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the tomato report

Back in early June we were given quite a few tomato seedlings. They were really leggy and more than a few of them didn’t look all that healthy.

east tomato bed, late July 2010

(not that the friend who sprouted them hadn’t taken good care of them, but they were more-than-a-little overdue for planting) Considering their condition, and the problems we’ve been having this year with slug damage, I planted pretty intensively, assuming we would lose a few. They were planted deep, so all that was showing was the top leaf floret and then netted the whole area to keep the bronze grackles at bay. They got a couple of rounds of feeding, but not much else in the way of care for most of June. Every single one survived and thrived. The net came off and they have been shooting up since then. This is what the east bed looks like at the moment! (you can also see the pair of cherry tomatoes, in pots that have taken over the balcony) Most have cleared the top of their support spirals and all have set fruit. It’s actually too intensive a planting for me to really tend to them the way I’d like. I’m just hoping we’ll be able to both find ripe ones when they happen and get at them for picking!

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lemon squares

Sometimes you find a recipe that becomes an “old-reliable”. You know what I mean, the kind of recipe that everyone expects you to bring to events

lemon squares

(and they are really disappointed if you show up with something different!) because it’s always enjoyed. This lemon square recipe was my dessert one for a number of years. I even remember showing up to a couple of family gatherings with lemons and butter in hand so I could make them on the premises. It’s out of The Canadian Living Cookbook that was put out sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s. The bottom is a not-very-sweet shortbread that you cook a bit first and then the topping is poured on and it’s returned to the oven. The secret to making these irresistible is to use fresh lemon rind and I typically add about twice the amount the recipe calls for. Typically I’ll go with the rind of two and the juice of one lemon per batch. I’ve also found that the best way to zest is using the stainless steel wood rasper from Lee Valley. It’s like magic, you get wonderfully fine zest with almost no effort. (and all that zest helps to make the squares a deep lemony yellow as well) A small amount of baking powder is in the topping mixture and it, along with the rind, gives them a nice little crust on the top. I hadn’t actually made these for a number of years, since a couple of other recipes had replaced them but, after this reminder of how good they are, I’m sure they will go back on the “to make” list!

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Last night we all went out and saw “Kiss Me Kate” at the Festival theater. It’s the first production I’ve seen of the season and we loved it! While I had heard a couple of the songs before, I wasn’t familiar with it so I got to enjoy watching the story unfold. (I’d had my doubts about liking it since I am not fond of The Taming of the Shrew, which it’s based on and around) It’s a true musical, in that most of the story is told in the songs, but there are small patches of dialogue. Everything was top notch, as has been typical for all the Stratford productions I’ve seen. There is also lots of dancing and a surprising amount of physical humor. Considering how difficult humor can be to perform, I was a bit surprised at how very funny it was! I had a smile on my face, at the very least, almost the whole time. (and the pair of gangsters were guaranteed to generate laughs anytime they were on stage)  The funny was helped a great deal by the wonderfully crazy costumes. The “real world” outfits that it opens with are elegant and perfectly period, but once they get into the costumes in the “play” most will incite fits of laughter all on their own. The designs owed a lot to Dr. Seuss, but they do have to been seen to be fully appreciated! The male lead was played last night by the understudy (who plays another role so it led to a domino effect of changes in the players) but we didn’t feel at all deprived, since he put in a wonderful performance. Having said that, I’d like to go see it again because I’d like to see how having a different actor (who has a significantly different look) in the role changes the feel of the piece. (and also because it was a wonderful show and it’s more than worth a second trip)  All in all, a great night out and now I have to go and see if I can find a copy of  the “Brush up Your Shakespeare” song to download!

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In the east yard, there are a few wild grape plants mixed in with all the day-lilies and trumpet vines. Last fall I pulled them out and made up a couple

freshly woven vine wreath

of small wreaths. The thing is, they used all I had and were still really small and thin. I ended up using them as exterior decor because they were too small to work anything else on to. Last weekend, some friends were doing some garden work and cut down a couple of large grapes that were starting to cause problems. They offered me the vines and when I saw how much material there was I was thrilled. Between two plants I had a bundle that mostly filled the back of the van! I figured that I’d be able to get two or three good sized wreaths made and they would have time to get well dried before I needed them for fall decorating. Ha! What I actually got was one, admittedly big, woven grape vine wreath. (it’s around 3 feet wide) I stripped off the leaves and started with the thickest, woody parts to make the base.

woven vine wreath detail

(usually clipping so the pieces were no more than 8-14 feet long) I roughed it out with the thick pieces and them wove layers of the thinner ones over and around, tucking beginnings and ends into any available gaps. I wove it pretty tightly, knowing it will appear a bit looser when it dries out. It still has to dry quite a bit before I’ll clean it up to take off some of the sticking-out twiggy bits and I have to work it’s shape a bit more, (I’m going to keep it in the slightly oval shape, rather than a true circle simply because I like the look) but I’m pretty happy with it over all. Sometime this fall I’ll figure out how I’m going to decorate it. The lesson learned however is that it takes a ton of vines to make a wreath of any size so always take more than you think you’ll need!

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I’ve talked quite a bit here about framing and some of the issues you might want to consider when looking at putting something in a frame. I’m also very strongly for using archival

TruVue glass sample display

materials. What that means is materials that will protect and preserve the art instead of doing an damage to it. Typically that means acid-free mat boards and backing and hinging (or attaching) the artwork also using acid-free options. The other vital issue is what you use for glazing. (glazing is the technical term that covers any of the glass/acrylic options you can you use on the front of a framed piece. Works on canvas are not typically glazed) The issue with glazing is about controlling UV exposure. Almost every type of work on paper will benefit from being protected from UV light because it will either fade or yellow most of them. Regular glass does almost nothing to stop the damage, but it is the least expensive way to go. UV filmed glass is available in regular (or “conservation clear”) and non-glare and costs a bit more but is more than worth it if the piece is going into a high light area. The thing is, the filter doesn’t change the look of the glass itself so you still have either the reflection issues or the fogging distortion, in the case of non-glare. The finest glazing option fixes that problem and is called museum glass. Museum glass disappears. All you can see of it is a slight, almost purple sheen, very much like that on a soap bubble that has faded to translucence, just before it pops. Not only do you get the look of no glass but it has full UV protection. There was a product called den glass that used to only do the no-distortion non-reflection but, due to how expensive it already was, they decided to only offer it with the UV filters as well. I think it was a good call. If a piece is worth spending the money for the look then it should be protected from light fading. It’s one of those things that you really have to see to appreciate, and while I have put it on a couple of pieces they are not in the store at the moment so I was thrilled to finally get my display piece from TruVue glass. (they manufacture both UV and Museum glass) It really easily shows the difference that going with Museum glass makes. You can even see it in the photo!

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I have to admit that I’m not all that personally into the collector sculptures. I can appreciate the artistry of some of them but that ends up making me a bit of a snob

Naturecraft chalkware figurine, "Grand Finale"

about the whole issue because I only understand wanting the good ones, Royal Doulton and the like being the typical level I’ll go for. The problem is that the vast, vast majority of the ones you see are mass produced resin castings. I have seen a few of this type that were decently made, that original piece was well done and the detail of the cast and the painting are good enough to raise them above the resin norm. The thing is, I always know that it’s resin. They just don’t have the same sense of life to them as pieces done in the higher end materials. What I will give resin is that is very, very cheap. This little figure confused me a bit when mother brought it home. I knew it wasn’t fired ceramic or glass, but the detail work was too fine for it to be resin and it was just more vibrant than any of the cheap ones I’ve seen. Luckily it was fully marked on the bottom so I was able to find out that it’s a chalkware sculpture, made by the Naturecraft company in England. It was a surprise, because I had always thought of chalkware as an antique material only, unaware that they were being made until quite recently. It’s title is “Grand Finale” and I think it’s really quite charming. The players facial expression is great and I love the little ginger cat that’s in his lap. The other nice thing is that, being chalkware, it is a far more reasonable price than a ceramic piece with a similar level of quality!

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Well, it looks like most of the big construction out front is done. After the big dig, the workers came through and got right to work on putting in new sidewalks.

new sidewalks in Shakespeare

due to weather and timing however, our driveway was inaccessible for all of last week-end. They did finally get around to pouring in front of us and you can now drive in and out from the store once again. We’re still waiting for them to come back and do all the cosmetic clean-up and repair the landscaping, but I have no idea when that will happen. At least the sidewalks are all done and our driveway entrance is actually smoother than it was before all this started! The next big thing on our agenda is to finish the east lawn pathway, since we didn’t want to do the end until the new sidewalks were in. We have a little less than six feet to go, so it should hopefully be done in the next week or two, but the soil is such heavy clay here that you only want to be digging in the day or so after a rain, and it’s been in short supply lately.

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mask wreath

It’s not too often I get to see what happens to my masks after they leave my hands. I while ago I made a pair of custom mini-masks for Amy of Wreathsndolls, a fellow Etsian.

Amy's masked wreath!

She knew exactly what she needed so it was pretty easy for me to make her a pair of little masks. The first was an even smaller version of one of my decor masks and the other was a typical Venetian long-nosed white “doctor” mask. (they are called that because, during the plague, doctors would wear masks with long beaks, filled with herbs, in the hope of being protected from catching it.) She has completed the wreath they were made for (it already has a home or I’d post a link to it) and was kind enough to send me a picture. I love how lush and gothic it turned out!

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