My son-in-law is the most amazing artist ever. I’ve been fascinated for years how he can take ordinary household items and create … well … art. He transforms everyday supplies into imaginative and whimsical designs. And it’s second nature for him — he just sits down and thinks for a minute and then makes art. Such as the Christmas presents he made for this year for all the women in his life: This absolutely delightful jewelry tree. He twisted plain ol’ wire into delightfully meandering tree branches and then set them into bases sturdy enough for us to load up all our dangling and clanging jewelry. Older Daughter kept telling me, “You are so going to love what he’s made you for Christmas,” and she was right. And I loved the add-ons, too: Older Daughter had picked out a lovely necklace and earrings from Etsy to go with the jewelry tree. I love my family!!!
Need something to do today? Go to the Jerry Brown Arts Festival in Hamilton, Alabama, to see some great folk art and handcrafted work. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the former Wal-Mart building that’s on Hwy. 43 on the south side of town — ironic, really, since Wal-mart is sort of the antithesis of slowly made and homegrown quality art pieces. But there you go. Named for ninth-generation potter Jerry Brown, who’s known for his traditional techniques and his signature facejugs, the festival is an eclectic mix. You’ll find pottery, photographs, paintings, jewelry from simple to statement-making, handbags made out of recycled textiles, fabulous knitted garments and whimsicals such as wind chimes and “sculptures” made from cast-off household items. One of the most stunning booths was that of metalsmith Robert Taylor, of Birmingham, Alabama. Working in the Roycroft style, Taylor creates true works of art that look to me as if they should be in museums instead of somebody’s living room. Another artist who resonated with us was Clay Paradiso, of Columbus, Mississippi. Her architectural photographs of Mississippi churches and byways are so lovely, and we were especially taken with the miniature gift boxes she makes out of art paper, maps, sandpaper, corrugated cardboard or whatever other supplies she can find and then packages with themed embellishments that make the whole box a present in itself. But don’t take it from me. Go see for yourself. Admission is free and the drive is peaceful. Visit http://www.jbaf.org/ for details about the festival and http://www.jerrybrownpottery.com/ to learn more about Jerry Brown himself.
Saturday, the town of Madison, Alabama, officially welcomed fall with the annual Madison Street Festival. A gorgeous early-fall day brought out thousands of folks to shop arts-and-crafts booths, eat that tempting fried festival food (funnel cakes, anyone?), catch up with their neighbors and be entertained by folks like Older Daughter, who performed with her Huntsville belly-dance troupe. She is an awesome dancer (and that’s not just maternal pride speaking), and the group’s repertoire included a piece she had choreographed herself. Even 18-month-old Capt. Adorable seemed to recognize his mom onstage. At least, he sat still and watched in his stroller for about 15 minutes. Or maybe he was just fascinated with the balloons we tied to the handles. Balloon-decorated strollers were everywhere, as you can tell by the line parked outside the festival’s raptor show — balloons and pets were prohibited, although I guess young children were considered safe! Capt. Adorable almost came home with a pet, since he made friends with the oh-so-adorable puppies at the animal-shelter’s booth. I’ve got a feeling there may be a new addition at the Captain’s house soon. Read more about the festival at http://blog.al.com/breaking/2009/10/madison_street_festival_draws.html and http://www.madisonstreetfestival.org/
Younger Daughter is one of those people who has an eye for color and texture and she puts together the most gorgeous earring creations. Every time I wear her designs, people ask me where I’ve been shopping. She just made
some new ones and I told her I’d be honored to put them up in the blogosphere for worldwide admiration. So here you go. Each pair is $15 including postage — I’ll just wrap them up and mail them to you in a first-class envelope if that’s OK. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you payment info. All earrings are sterling-silver findings and most of the beads are glass. She can do special orders, too. And because I can’t figure out how to do all these pics in one post, be sure to check out Jewelry Part 1. Click on any pic to enlarge it.
I don’t mean to brag here or anything, but I pretty much have the most creative and talented daughters ever. Ever.
Older Daughter is a wonderful dancer and can construct the most incredible costume you ever saw out of the most mundane fabric and a random pile of assorted beads. Younger Daughter is equally skilled at making earrings. She is one of those people who has an eye for color and texture and she puts together the most gorgeous creations. Every time I wear her designs, people ask me where I’ve been shopping. She just made some new ones and I told her I’d be honored to put them up in the blogosphere for worldwide admiration. So here you go. Each pair is $15 including postage — I’ll just wrap them up and mail them to you in a first-class envelope if that’s OK. E-mail me at email@example.com and I’ll send you payment info. All earrings are sterling-silver findings and most of the beads are glass. She can do special orders, too. And because I can’t figure out how to do all these pics in one post, be sure to check out Jewelry Part 2. Click on any pic to enlarge it.
Happy first birthday, Capt. Adorable! My grandson, Nolan, is 1 today. Everybody told me how much I would love being a grandmother and what a precious gift grandchildren are and I said, “Oh, yes. I know!” but it takes being a grandma to really know and now I can say with all the conviction in the world: Being a grandparent is the best thing ever! We’re partying all weekend, but Nolan already got his best present: A rocking dragon his daddy made him from a rocking-horse pattern. As always, I am overwhelmed by my son-in-law’s talent. He put a “B” on the seatback, handtooled the leather trim and made a lightweight sword to complete the ensemble. Nolan loves it. It was Jason’s first woodworking attempt, and now I’m making up my own want list: coffee table, bench, barstools …
My friend Jana is one of the most talented people I know. She can do anything and frequently dazzles us with her creativity and imagination. Luckily for us, she got an embroidery machine for Christmas. (I think the fact that her first grandbaby is on the way had something to do with it!) For her beginning practice projects she made tea towels for several of us and ourdaughters. “They’re easy,” she said as we were oohing and ahhing. “Really. There’s nothing to it.” I am unconvinced. Because that’s the same thing my younger daughter — another one of those awesomely talented people — says about the appliqued and quilted tea towels she makes, inspired by projects in “Alabama Stitch Book” by Alabama native and fashion designer Natalie Chanin. I love all things with black-and-white patterns, and my daughter made me this black-and-white tea towel for Christmas. I am in awe of these talented people who do such incredible work — and am grateful I know them. Otherwise, my house would be pretty bare.
This is a flower arrangement to decorate the table at a typical meeting, right? Nope. Look closer. It’s not made of flowers. It’s made of … vegetables! Yes, these are vegetables and not flowers. The “mums” and greenery are leeks, the “paintbrushes” are green onions, the “roses” are rutabagas and turnips and the splash of organge is from carrots. Emily Kelley, a chef and caterer and educator in Florence, Alabama, has been creating vegetable bouquets like this for years and recently showed fellow American Association of University Women members how to do it. She made it look easy, and really it is simple — with patience and the right equipment. For instance, the roses are slices of rutabagas and turnips shaped and toothpicked together — the slices’ natural curves create the flower, but you need a commercial slicer to get the pieces thin and consistent enough. (Emily recommended making friends with someone who has one.) The mums and paintbrushes are the bottoms of leeks and green onions cut along their natural lines. The carrots were the hardest part — she sliced them horizontally and then cut the slices in a way that each one was still intact but had individual slices in it that curved out when she toothpicked the ends together. (I know that doesn’t make sense — sorry!) Emily does all the blossoms first, then puts them into ice water to stiffen. Then, when she puts the arrangement together, she threads a bamboo skewer through the blossoms (hiding the skewers in green-onion greenery) and arranges them with florist tools such as vases, tape and foam to perpetuate the flower illusion. We were all amazed and astounded, and one young woman declared she now wanted these instead of floral decorations for her wedding!