Latest Almanac Debut: Vital Things aka The Podmanac

We are proud to debut our latest almanac. This one has been a summer in the making. In paint, poetry, and clay, we tell the story of our adventures with the 'vital things' around us.

michael and sara chaney art vital things rose.jpg

As this almanac developed, it became a world, or at least, a way of looking at the world.

michael and sara chaney art vital things.jpg


The more we worked at our tiles, and as Sara worked out the poetry that graces the margins, we noticed how the whole piece works as a kind of 3-D tarot deck and even a playable game. Each panel in the middle three rows offers a fortune. Here's a sample of some of those fortunes:

Can you tell this person's fortune? Using this piece you can. First, let the person ask our Podmanac a question. Then, let them roll three dice, each corresponding to a different row of our Almanac.


Then, interpret the trio of tiles thus rolled. If the above were the hand rolled, it would be a good fortune indeed.

From Row I, Animal: The Doe --A tile that means circumstances may arise to tax the asker's patience. Success will come, but only as a result of not acting and not right away.
From Row II, Plant: Coneflower --This card indicates that you will celebrate a wealth of medicinal influences in your life. These could be physically, spiritually, or emotionally medicinal. In this context, this could mean that your current efforts at patience will prove to be healing and prevent your future pain.
From Row III, Mineral: The Engineer (the best card you can get in the mineral row) --Means you're a master of the materials around you. Since this is the third card, one could say ultimate success (becoming the Engineer) comes for this asker once achieving the state of virtuous healing and stillness symbolized in the Coneflower.

The blooms of our garden claim pride of place in "Vital Things." Their vibrant colors command the middle row and the viewer's gaze.

michael and sara chaney art vital things flower duo.jpg

A favorite component of this Almanac is the frame. Made up of decoupage strips delicately torn from antique newspapers, some of them over two hundred years old, the frame bears witness to the ordered miscellany of the world.


Vital Things

The world is full of them....

When Crows Came To Stay

In February the crows came to stay.

If you were to look more closely at our almanacs from February and March, you might notice the winged and feathered influence of a certain bird from the family corvidae.

detail from Almanac #5a March

detail from Almanac #5a March


Yes, we are talking about the American Crow, or Corvus Brachyrhynchos—perhaps the canniest and certainly the creepiest of birds.

In our February and March almanacs, crows proliferate. They take flight and respite. Their wings bear brushstrokes, words, and occasionally, omens. Their history and behavior serve as inspiration for poems, puzzles, and more.

detail from Almanac #5b Almanac with Crows

detail from Almanac #5b Almanac with Crows


So where, when and how did the crows become central to our canvases? Okay, we’ll tell you.

In the late afternoon on February 5th, a great commotion brought all of the Chaneys (plus dog) hurrying to our windows. What looked to be hundreds of crows swirled like a living, feathered cyclone above a neighboring pine tree. We had never seen so many crows in one place at one time.

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After a little research, we concluded we were witnessing a mega roost. Common in winter, these crow parties boast big numbers, often in the thousands. Although it may look and sound like these roosting birds are auditioning for roles in a Hitchcock remake, they are just settling down for the night. Crows who roost together tend to be safer from predators. And hey, that would have to be one brave owl to attack 144,000 crows!


Here are three examples of how we honored the crows in our almanacs:

1)   Asemic Writing

Ink on canvas and paint splatter (the latter created by very controlled flicking of the brush). The legible writing gets smaller and smaller, till it is indistinguishable from a flock of distant birds.

detail from Almanac #5a

detail from Almanac #5a


2)   Shaped Poetry

We used cardstock paper and exacto knifes to make our own bird-shaped stencils for writing.

This exercise is great for writers who want to explore the visual appeal of their written words.

detail from Almanac #4 February

detail from Almanac #4 February


3)   Shaped Poetry, Plus

Another take on a similar idea. Here we take the crow shape and make it the ground for words. These word-birds are set against a background of oil paint and newspaper collage.

detail from Almanac #4 February

detail from Almanac #4 February

almanac with crows.jpg

We love nothing better than to draw inspiration from the daily.

This day was no exception. The crows left their mark on our canvases.