Progress on our Fallmanac

We’re hard at work on multiple almanacs. There’s about four Almanac sized works in our Month of Sundays project, compiling the collaborative art we’ve made while sitting next to each other and overlooking a single view every Sunday.

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There’s an entire Almanac we are making of flower tiles. We call it the Floramanac.

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We are also looking to make an entire piece out of birch bark. Stay tuned for that as well.

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In the meantime, we are working on a piece that reflects on our experience of this autumn. We aimed for it to imitate the verbal capacities of Almanac #3.

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As with this one, we wanted our Fallmanac to be seen as a poster from across the room, with mainly lettering being visible, but also to be viewable from a closer vantage as an intricate interweaving of words, images, and collage—neither a poem nor a painting.

an early arrangement of gridded letters in our Fallmanac

an early arrangement of gridded letters in our Fallmanac

Here’s our latest version of the Fallmanac with views of letters like leaves, falling into and out of color.

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Making Rustic Picture Frames Out of Birch Sticks

The bark of some birch trees looks like pages of a sunken book, the wreckage of some ship’s log crusted over with mushrooming coral and coppery algae.

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No matter how tempting, birch bark should never be pulled from living trees as doing so damages them.

This simple rule is not difficult for us to follow since the not-so-living birch varieties are more than just plentiful—they’re thriving in our area. And the living are no slouches either. The topmost branches of most birch trees are generous to a fault. They are eager to make many weighty donations to the vigilant crafter.

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All cautions and humor aside, Vermont trees are stunning sun bathers under blue skies who parch their pages amidst the relentless authorings of driving snow.

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Once collected, the dried and flattened bark of fallen trees can be used as a material for endless making—pages, of course, but also matting, basketry, coils or fraps. The building block of a storehouse full of useful things waits in every fiber.

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We have a favorite use for these sticks.

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It involves a miter box and a saw.

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We incorporate rustic sticks and old jeans together with some wood glue and a few nails to create framed canvases for our art works.

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This type of frame works best for subjects that suit it. It’s lovely and rugged, durable but also delicate. At the edges, paper and wood change places and dance together around a knot or along the ramp of a stiff curl before parting ways forever.

Small Original Oil Painting of Big Fun Coventry (Cleveland Heights, OH) Toy Store in Rustic Wood Frame Using Birch Bark

Small Original Oil Painting of Big Fun Coventry (Cleveland Heights, OH) Toy Store in Rustic Wood Frame Using Birch Bark

final version

final version

To purchase the above painting, click here.

Month of Sundays -- An Art and Life Project for Two

We have been working on a project lately combining art and ordinary living. These are the best kinds of art projects, after all—we especially enjoy the act of recording the world as we live in it through art.

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This project is based on a cliche you’ve heard before.

How long will it take?

If quite a long while, as the saying goes, it might take a “month of Sundays.”

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But what does the phrase mean? Sunday, considered holy and also a bit slowly (at least in comparison with busier days of the week) is a day that gathers its own time rhythms to it. Sunday has a different time to it than other days, a different temporality. That’s just one Sunday. Just think of the stretched out time for reflection, sacred contemplation, and just laying around that a whole month of them would hold.

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The premise: Interrupt our usual ways of spending uncollected time together by creating a ritual around a picture window in our living room. Every Sunday we would sit at the window together. One would sketch the view in poetry as the other did so in pencils, and together we would produce a fuller picture of the shared time spent between us.

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Our Month of Sundays project is as much an effort to “keep” our time together as it is an effort to make time. In every view and in every poem, we make together in order to draw attention to the life and time we make together.

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Sessions usually take a little over an hour. At first, we would have to squeeze in the time to sit together on the same bench inside our home (the same bench that once served as our daughter’s toy box) to watch a concrete bench outside of our home as it resolutely weathered the seasons. After a while, though, our Month of Sundays ritual became an anticipated event. You don’t need to “schedule” or “plan for” something you’re looking forward to all week.

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Whereas Michael aimed to produce a single image for every session, filling a quarter page of the sketchbook each Sunday, Sara’s drafts of poetry spill across many pages.

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A simple lesson learned—when you make a single day special through shared practices of being together while observing the extraordinary in the ordinary, you acquire a deepened sense of the significance of each passing moment.

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This specific portion of the project is nearing a point of closure, but only in the conventional sense of there being only thirty or so days in a month. Our practice has changed our thinking about time. We no longer define a day or a month in terms of their limits or endings.

We plan on continuing our works of days and months, looking and seeing together through apertures we choose.

Blue of the Sky

The snow this morning made the deep blue of the sky stand out.

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The backyard exploded with the memories of deep winter, strangely cast against sunshine typical for spring.

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A variety of cloud shapes and layers helps to deepen the quality of the blue. The world's most amazing dog companion doesn't hurt either. The dog is off in the distance, by the way, in the shot above, scouting for soft light and booming contrasts.

The snow bends this pine bough, but only temporarily. This shot was taken at around 8 AM. By noon, this snow will melt under the weight of the sun.

The snow bends this pine bough, but only temporarily. This shot was taken at around 8 AM. By noon, this snow will melt under the weight of the sun.

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Our favorite poets prodded us to remember their best lines in the presence of these skies.

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The distant proximity of the hills of New Hampshire, as glimpsed from the top of Gillette Hill, (Wilder, in Hartford, Vermont.) The magnetic background nearly overpowers the chalky blue hills perched along the horizon.

There were two paths: one went up, the other left, but it was this one that drew her nose.

There were two paths: one went up, the other left, but it was this one that drew her nose.

A Window is a View with Character

Whenever searching for ideas, we tend to get lost in the details. Answers hide like the truth, in plain sight. Consult your own windows and you'll see.

A window is only a way or means for seeing, after all.

This is the view from one of our favorite windows in the living room. It admires explosions of morning light captured over the Connecticut River.

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Windows are expert reality carvers, and we wanted to learn all we could from this one. We tried to capture its point of view in our Almanac #4.

Can you spot it?

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Each window is a mailbox

The red flag is up. More messages await your seeing.

Mud Reviews (with thanks to the season of melt)

This is a season for melting. No longer frozen, the world is now wet—and with the wet, comes the mud.

Spin for an accurate prediction of today’s weather.

Spin for an accurate prediction of today’s weather.

We think mud is an underrated citizen of spring. If you take a closer look at this harbinger of your summer garden, you’ll spy infinite beauties.

Mud is the general name we give to a variety of forms. Like shades on a pallette, mud runs the gamut. 

Today, then, we offer a brief review of our favorite classes of mud.

1)    Packed & Granular:   Three Stars

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We discovered this specimen near the foot of Gillette Hill. Dense and thoroughly saturated with ice run-off, it has a sandy consistency, holding together firmly with the help of countless roots and new spring grass blades. For the satisfying pleasure of digging our walking sticks into this peaty mixture, we give it three stars.

2) Pebbly with Ice:   Five Stars

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Spotted on our local walking trail, about a quarter of a mile above the tree line, this mud is a beautiful golden brown with a moss-green cast. Its gorgeous highlights are authored by fallen twigs and leaves, and ghostwritten by stones. A light coating of moisture adds an iridescent effect. For sheer beauty, this mud earns five stars.

3)   Liquefied with Standing Water:   Three and a half Stars

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This was encountered in an ATV track on our descent from Gillette Hill. Fringed by a large block of melting ice, the mud was about thirty percent water to seventy percent soil. The standing water makes this mixture a clingy companion, likely to follow you home on the bottom of your boots. This mud ranks high in color, texture, and tone.

4) The Beauty of Origins in the Cosmic Raw: All Stars

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Lest ye think we jest...there is a raw beauty about mud that brooks no levity. All jokes aside, the rich tones of it fills our world with possibility. Imagine the origins of it all! Mud bids us to do so every day at this time of year.

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           Soon, there will be mud.

           Just think of what comes next.

 
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this post inspired by a corner of

Almanac #5 (the mud spinner)

Let Birch Inspire

Creativity is hard work. It's all worth it when the well of ideas flows. But it's no walk in the park when the ideas won't come. Well, there might be more wisdom in that phrase than we know. Whenever we feel the lulls (that are really essential to creative work!), we look to the trees in our backyard for inspiration.

We search for inspiration in the birch trees. They linger by our cottage, a cape nestled in a clutch of woods at the base of Gillette and Jericho Hills in Windsor County, Vermont. Pine, maples, and birch are everywhere. They may be common, but you will remember meeting one in a thicket, if you happen to notice it on your walk.

We search for inspiration in the birch trees. They linger by our cottage, a cape nestled in a clutch of woods at the base of Gillette and Jericho Hills in Windsor County, Vermont. Pine, maples, and birch are everywhere. They may be common, but you will remember meeting one in a thicket, if you happen to notice it on your walk.

Contrast is not just a principle in art making. Contrast is essential to human vision. We really can't see what doesn't stand out well to our eyes. The birch tree is a highlight that calls attention to its own bark and makes us suddenly aware of the intricate splendor of the typically more muted natural surfaces all around us.

Contrast is not just a principle in art making. Contrast is essential to human vision. We really can't see what doesn't stand out well to our eyes. The birch tree is a highlight that calls attention to its own bark and makes us suddenly aware of the intricate splendor of the typically more muted natural surfaces all around us.

In our Almanac mixed media paintings, we use birch bark to signify all the things it reminds us of--history, writing, parchment, paper. Although it is best never to remove birch bark from a living tree, when peeled from fallen branches or dead trees, the bark can be used as paper. For us, it is more importantly used as a source of inspiration.

In our Almanac mixed media paintings, we use birch bark to signify all the things it reminds us of--history, writing, parchment, paper. Although it is best never to remove birch bark from a living tree, when peeled from fallen branches or dead trees, the bark can be used as paper. For us, it is more importantly used as a source of inspiration.

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A big, beautiful curl of birch bark hangs proudly atop our February Almanac, shown above while still in progress. We salvaged this piece during one of our walks on Gillette Hill.

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A close-up on the tiny forest of birch shavings inside our natural embellishment. We later decided to convert this one into a tiny mailbox. It even has an actual letter inside (written on birch bark, of course). The natural asymmetries of a birch curl often challenges us to think in unexpected and whimsical directions.

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The birch tree is known for its beauty and resilience. Resistant to water and disease, the bark has been used for centuries to make everything from canoes to writing paper. Here, it graces our canvas in homage to nature's flawless engineering.