Archive for May, 2011

The weather has been so cold and rainy that we’re still working

the large urns, May 2011

on getting all the spring garden chores done. I was only able to get to the urns and barrels planted this past week. We chose to keep things simple on the urns. Trying to put anything in them other than the spikes and a trailing edger hasn’t worked out so well in the past. They survive, but never seem to grow so they just look spindly and sad. This year, I just decided to accept it and not even try. The result is that we have gone with an extra large large spike in their centres and then just a ring of the golden-toned Creeping Jenny plants around the edges. I like the golden-green colour against the black of the urns and they tend to develop nice long trailing tendrils. I’m hopeful that they are not too tender to stand up to the heat and full sun all the urns get. We’ve had so much rain that I haven’t had to worry about watering so far, but we’ll keep an eye on them if/when the cool rainy weather ever stops.

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We had a hectic morning yesterday. We were the first stop on a day tour

tour group in front of the shop

of the Stratford area organised by the Ontario Crafts Council. Just after 10am, a group of forty arrived on our doorstep! Half got to go out and take a look around town while the other half filled the shop. (and yes, we can fit twenty people in at one time, but it was a bit of squeeze) I talked about the masks and my process and then answered questions. Then that group headed off to the next stop and I did it again for the second half. Many of the attendees are also crafters and artists, working in assorted mediums. It’s always fun to talk with people who have an awareness of what is involved in creating hand-crafts and appreciated the work that goes into it. It’s not the sort of thing I’d like to be doing every day, since public speaking is always somewhat stressful but it was fun overall. I’m also glad that that, while it wasn’t sunny, we didn’t have the called-for wild thundering downpours either so they had a chance to take a look around and get an idea of all the things Shakespeare has to offer.

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Last year Mother came home with, what I eventually discovered

Naturecraft chalkware figurine, "Celebration"

to be a English chalkware piece. I’d never seen one before it so I was especially surprised when she found us another one this year! It’s title is “Celebration”. This piece is a bit bigger than our first one, which has since found a new home, and has two figures. It looks like the hobo subjects are typical of their pieces. This one is also sweet and funny with him pouring his drink into her less-than-glamorous shoe. The quality of the sculpture is excellent and I love how much personalty and charm the figures have. (it’s also fully decorated all the way around so it can be displayed in a free-standing space) Just like the first one, I don’t expect it to be around for long, but it has been fun to have them pass through on their way.

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I’ve been working my way through a set of custom masks for Colleen

Elemental mask series: Water

at the Weird Sisters Garden. Last week at her opening she posted some pictures in one of the group. They will be the four Elements and this is Water. (Earth is my Summer Queen, Fire is done and I’m still working on Air) The design of the piece was inspired by the large over-sized brooch that is in the centre of the forehead. I loved how it had the right palette of colours and a shape that is reminiscent of coral. (and that I could also match more rhinestones to it on the rest of the face) The lace that flanks it had a perfectly fin-like frill shape as well. The larger side fins had to be hand-built, but I’m very happy with how they came out. It’s supposed to be a show piece so it is a bit more dramatic than I typically make but it turned out so well it was hard to hand over. At least I can go and visit it now and then!

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While we haven’t put in any bird feeders or boxes there are quite a number

Mourning dove chick

who nest around here. Robins, grackles, starlings and mourning doves are the most noticeable ones. I was working on getting some framing done yesterday and was a surprised to find this young visitor hanging out on the balcony. I’m guessing somebody’s flying practice didn’t go that well. I could see one of the concerned parents was watching from a power-line above so, aside from a quick nip up to grab the photo, I left them alone to get everyone back where they should be. They were both back out of sight a couple of hours later so I’m hopeful that the return to the nest was a success. I’m not sure how many of the mourning doves we have around but now we know there is at least one breeding pair. I think there may be more, but that may just be because the ones we have are so very loud that is seems like there must be several pairs. (or maybe just that their calls are one of the easiest to identify)

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When we had the sewer connection made for the house,

sour cherry flowers, May 2011

the poor, much battered (it had apparently been run over at least once) spruce tree, to the west of the front peony bed came out. It being gone, as well as the mess from the dig, meant we’ve got quite a bit to do in terms of landscaping. We finally got going in this past week of good weather. (the first one so far this season!!) We’ve put in a replacement tree, not in exactly the same place but a bit better centred. It’s a sour cherry and a self-pollinator, so it should be just fine on it’s own. It’s leaves are unfurling and the heat, along with even more rain had the flowers starting to open. We choose it for it’s fruit, but I love the look of it’s pretty white flowers! (and they have a lovely scent, unlike the plum tree flowers, that while good-looking, are kinda stinky) I think it’s unlikely that we’ll get much in the way of harvest this season, but maybe just enough for a cherry tart.

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We’re reaching the start of the main “tourist” season

Winter King mask

here in Shakespeare and with that comes a new shop in town! The lovely people of Brew Garden Cafe are opening a store in the cottagey building (former home to the Scary Guy pet store) behind the cafe. It’s called The Weird Sister’s Garden and it’s focus is on metaphysical gifts and supplies. They will open the doors for the first time tomorrow, Saturday the 14th. (the official “Grand Opening” will likely be later in the summer) I was able to get a sneak peek around and it’s just lovely! She’s got some of the delicious teas from the Cafe available for purchase as well as great scented candles, including a custom blended one and incense. There is a broad mix of other items celebrating a wide range of spiritual paths, from home decor, functional pieces like glass wares, artwork as well as ritual supplies and books. (and some appropriately themed masks) She has a great selection and makes a terrific addition to the Shakespeare shopping experience!

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I recently framed a print for a client that unfortunately had taken damage

acid burn on print

that could have been avoided. The print is a limited edition that was a gift. It is very long and narrow so there was no possibility of fitting it into a standard frame and, while they loved it, they just didn’t have the means to get it framed right away. Wanting to still enjoy it, they hung it up for several years without a frame. They were so close to doing things right! They didn’t use tacks, tape or that adhesive putty, all of which will leave holes or stains, but hung it from a pair of bulldog clips. Going with the pair meant that the piece was supported and kept straight. They even put small tabs of mat-board between the clip edges and the artwork to prevent them from marking it. It’s all good, except that the mat-board used wasn’t acid-free! The result is a piece which was still flat, mostly unstained but now has a pair of small burn lines from the acid exposure. A paper conservator should be able to remove them, but that isn’t in the budget for the near future. I put it safely in a frame, with fully archival backing, so it will be protected going forward and I hope they will eventually get the marks taken care of. At least they are fairly light and not as noticeable once it was behind glass. Unframed artwork is safest when stored flat and tucked away between acid-free papers or mat-boards, but if you must hang it, then do it right. Your local custom framers should be able to sell you small pieces or swing by and I’ll give  you some tiny off-cut bits of archival mat-board I have around that will keep this sort of thing from happening to you.

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Sometimes the pieces we find need a bit of research to determine

vintage Masonic Knights Templar gold watch fob

what they are, and they don’t always turn out to be what I might of thought. This was one of those cases. Mother and I came across it on one of the hunts and we were both intrigued. The size and form, bigger than an average pendant and quite masculine, were consistent with a watch fob but the design was hard to place. The style of the chased decoration was typical for the 1920’s and the cross in the crown combined with the knight at the top had me thinking it might have been something from the Knights of Columbus. (growing up in Newfoundland, they were an active organization so it was my first connection for “knights” and a Christian order) After we brought it home I did some looking around and eventually found out that it is, in fact, a Masonic piece even though it doesn’t feature any of the typical Masonic symbols. It’s for a sub-group, known as the Knights Templar. They are getting pretty rare these days, but luckily, there is a lodge in London and they were very helpful. (and one in Stratford, but they don’t have a phone, so I wasn’t able to talk to anyone there) While it certainly is a watch fob, talking with their secretary, it turns out that it is also possibly a “Master’s Jewel” or a gift given to a departing Lodge Master! While it has no hallmarks, which is common for this type of piece, a jeweller confirmed for us that is 10K gold. I wasn’t really surprised about that since the heft of it and the quality of the workmanship just didn’t fit with it being a base metal. I’ve gone ahead and listed it on Etsy and I’d love to see it go to an actual member of the order!

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We had a violent hail storm in town about a month ago.

the new(ish) van!

There was only minor damage to the trees but it was severe enough that our van was damaged with dents all over it. We’d had it for quite a while so it ended up being written off by the insurance company. While we still have the Smartcar, (it’s damage was minor enough that it’s just going to be repaired) we need to have a van for transporting all the great finds that keep the shop supplied. (and so we can do deliveries when needed) After looking around a bit the parents found a newer one that they liked and it came home this week. It’s also a Honda and looks a bit dressier, in it’s flashier gold paint, than the old one, at least in my opinion. Considering how bad the storm was, I’m sure we’ll be seeing quite a number of other newer vehicles around the town and it looks like the special hail repair team will be kept busy here for at least a couple of months!

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