Helen at Summerhouse on March 9th, 2014

I’ve been having a lot of fun with Pinterest, saving all sorts of lovely images that inspire me.  In fact, I may be having too much fun.  Please do feel free to have a look at my Pins if you’re into Pinterst.  Anyway, I keep bumping into works done by artists I’ve never heard of before and being introduced to new ideas to explore. Now I’ve heard of scanner photography before but, I just recently found out that one of the first to play with it was Harold Feinstein. Worth looking up and enjoying.

Anyway, we should have been outside pruning the Kiwi, but I got distracted showing Will the scanner photos I’d pinned. Which of course led me to trying it out and I soon had the dried Hydrangea blooms on the scanner. Will found a handy black box to cover them in and off we went.



Then we scanned the dried Amaryllis blooms …..



Which led to layering them all in Photoshop….


Which led to wanting to add even more… a lovely silk patchwork scarf perhaps?




And now, a first try at layering all three images…




Then a second try where some of my interest in patchwork and quilting started to come into play…




And last, with some subtle changes, creating a whole new patchwork with all the images. We could have gone on but we kind of like it as it is now.




Tags: ,

Helen at Summerhouse on February 26th, 2014


There’s something about trays. They’re easy to find in thrift shops, the ones I like the best are the light weight wooden ones with handles. They’re just the thing for a quick study in mosaic, offering a chance to try out colors or patterns or a new idea. And when finished, they’re so useful. A great way to take hot casserole dishes to parties or haul out your teapot and cups to the patio.

Of course while in thrift shops I’m always trolling for interesting dishes, too.  Once I started making Pique Assiette mosaics I never looked at dishes the same way again. I tend to wonder how they will look broken up. I look for a variety of colors, texture and pattern. Sometimes I get really lucky and find a stack of dishes that has it all. And if I’ve got the money, I snap them all up, because when you’re shopping thrifts and garage sales you can’t always come back for more later.

These plates with their lovely colors and textures were one of those lucky finds. I knew I’d always like the patterns and colors and would be able to use them for more than one project. And I knew they’d have wonderful “broken” possibilities.

disheswmI could have done the whole tray in just the dishes but I chose to add more blocks of solid color using ordinary tiles in a lovely dark blue and a black. I like abstraction in mosaic, just fitting in pieces where they fit, creating a bit of a balance of colors. It’s a fun, intuitive way to work, with a surprise composition at the end.



Tags: , ,

Helen at Summerhouse on January 21st, 2014

Every Christmas I’ve always indulged in growing an amaryllis bulb. Sometimes I’ve been lucky with old bulbs sending up new flowers but this year,  all I saw coming up was leaves and more leaves. So, when I spied a lovely plant already in bud in the grocery store, on sale, I swept it up with the groceries and carefully hauled it home.


And it was so lovely! And quite prolific! All in all, eight blooms in a most luscious, gorgeous scarlet.


But the show was not over, for a couple of artists, when the blooms began to fade.


The lines and furls of it’s spent blossoms were quite gorgeous too.

And when they fell off I carefully transferred those beautiful spent blooms to the window sill to keep company with a very old Hydrangea bloom, a collection of Buddha ornaments and some blue and white pottery. Very nice company indeed.







Tags: , ,

Helen at Summerhouse on December 21st, 2013

Anyone who knows me also knows that I’m not a big fan of snow.  But there it was, snow on our Windmill Palm this week.  Thankfully, it’s one of the tougher palm trees and can usually make it through our winters if they don’t get too severe.  I blame it all on those folks who want and wish for a White Christmas.  As you can see the birdbath we finished in the summer is well frozen over.  We love a green rainy Christmas ourselves.  A walk on the beach is what we look forward to on Christmas Day.

Right now I’m busy getting ready for the big day and baking a lot.  If you are interested in some ideas for avoiding the Mall this year and finding greener, less expensive presents, I have posted a few of my ideas on that subject here .

Will and I would like to share our little wish for the holidays to anyone reading my little blog.  I’m looking forward to the New year and lots of new posts.  And I’d also like to add many, many thanks to all those who have left comments and pinned from this blog last year.




Tags: ,

Helen at Summerhouse on November 21st, 2013

Today’s post is just a bit different. Usually I post about a project that I’ve done or something Will and I have done together. Today I’m posting about Will’s first book. Yes, book.


I tend to dither and wander when I start something. But Will, very often, gets an idea and just goes with it. I’m rather in awe of that sometimes. This book is an example of that direct approach.

But first a little background. We have both always been aware of what we like to call, natural abstracts. These are natural abstract compositions found where ever, maybe on a rock found on the beach, or in an arrangement of leaves on a wet pavement, and very often marks made on road ways.

And this last idea was one that Will found irresistible. And so digital camera in hand, he started to collect all those compositions that he would see while driving or while walking.

Then he would come home, download the images, and very often he’d captured exactly what he wanted without even having to crop much. He has an eye for minimal abstract composition. We’ve been working in a software lately called inDesign, learning it for a book I’m working on about mosaic and other books for a friend. When Will had all these wonderful photos ready it just seemed natural to put them in a book. And one day there will also be a gallery show of the photos.

These are found art, not made to be drawings at all, just often a gestural line created by a road worker sealing a crack with tar. Or it could be the placement of marks on the road for those working on sewers or who knows what. But, with a creative eye looking for them, new compositions and arrangements appear.

The back cover gives an idea of the contents….

“Where others saw only lines of tar made by road way repair, or yellow street lines or numbers scrawled on the pavement to mark some sewer line and their eyes slid past them, forgotten, Will Bushell saw them for years with an artist’s eye. This book is his version of the the art found on streets and parking lots. Tar lines become gestures, yellow lines and sewer covers part of the composition. Even the grain of the pavement becomes a textural component of the art he finds there. Dodging oncoming traffic and often having to wait for the moment when traffic allows, he captures his shots and shares them in this book.”



I’ve picked out a few to show here. Just a little taster of what’s in the book. Feel free to check out the whole book on the Blurb website, it’s listed under Fine Art Photography. We hope you enjoy it and maybe it will be an introduction to you finding Found Art Abstracts. Enjoy!

Yellow A

Yellow A


The Red Quadrant Wins

The Red Quadrant Wins


Lateral Adjustment

Lateral Adjustment


Equals 1

Equals 1


Blue Left

Blue Left






Tags: , , , , , ,

Helen at Summerhouse on October 25th, 2013


Way back in March, we happened to notice that the tides were very low and the idea struck me that we should go out to Sidney and collect some beach pottery. So off we went to the best beach pottery beach and went wild scooping up beach pottery in our little rice bags. Everyone else was looking for glass and overlooked all the lovely pottery. But we had plan for it.


We’d made a bird bath before with pottery and beach glass. Way back when we moved into this house, we’d found, under the laurel hedge, at the back amongst a lot of debris, a birdbath pedestal. The basin or bowl was long gone and we’d put it up in the garden with a plastic bowl on top with a couple of rocks in it. Didn’t look great and the birds loved it. The pedestal had a nice classic shape but the plastic bowl made it ugly.


With this wonderful haul of pottery we both decided to renovate the old ugly birdbath. We started by applying a mosaic of the pottery onto the pedestal. Now I must mention that the real beauty of beach pottery is its smoothness. And to preserve that smoothness, it’s really best not to cut the pieces at all. So each piece has to be searched for, each piece must fit without cutting it to fit. It takes more time but is worth it, just for the fun of being able to slide your hands over the finished mosaic and take in the feel of pottery that’s been tumbled in the ocean for years and years.

And we took our time, working on the sunny summer afternoons, playing rock and jazz on the CD player and taking lots of tea breaks with tea brought out on a favourite mosaic tray.


Once the pedestal was finished we had to think about how to make a basin. Luckily we’d found a perfect glass light fixture at a garage sale and proceeded to use that as a mold for the basin.


If you look at the pedestal you will notice that we were going to have to devise a way for the basin to fit over the round projection on its top. And of course we came up with a simple, and I thought, clever solution. Bill cut a round of wood that was the same size as the projection and we built the cement around it as in the little diagram.


It worked really well. We did have to chisel the glass fixture out the cement but it all worked out.

So next we started to cover the bowl with mosaic. First under the bowl and then the inside of the bowl. Around this time, Callie, our neighbour’s kitten decided to take an interest. She loved to jump on our work table and investigate. She especially liked to push pieces off the table onto the ground. And when she got tired she curled up in an old colander that we’d used to clean pottery. She’s a little character and had us laughing with her antics.


Then finally, we were ready to grout. We did the basin first. We were really pleased with the inside of the bowl and how the undulating lines created with the ridges of the pottery created a great pattern.


One of the things you have to get used to with mosaic is how different it will look with grout. Sometimes I find it a bit disappointing, and have to get used to the look. Here you can see the how the grouted bowl looks against the still ungrouted pedestal. In the end though, I liked the grouted look and actually love how the use of the dark grey-blue grout set off the pieces.


And then, the final photo, the finished bird bath. We love it and this time it only took the birds one day to use it once we put it in place after it had cured.


And just for fun, every day, as we finished up for the day, we’d take a little movie of the progress. Bill spent some fun time learning how to stitch it altogether into a little video. And then thanks to Kevin McLeod’s music, we posted it on youtube. Ok, it’s a little bumpy and handmade looking but that’s ok. It’s just like the Bird Bath. Hope you enjoy…..


Tags: , , , ,

Helen at Summerhouse on July 23rd, 2013


Today, a little story of a colorful “make over”, so to speak, of a tired little bench swing, transformed by taking on the colors of the garden.




A couple of years ago, Bill and I, on one of our garage sailing Saturdays, found this old bench swing. It was kind of old and worn, kind of rusty, but I could see it, in my mind, totally transformed. And for only $7 to buy and another $7 to have delivered, well, we didn’t have to think twice.


But as life goes on, not everything gets done right away. And so the swing was used as it was for a couple of summers, and spent it’s winters under a tarp under the greenhouse. But I didn’t forget my vision.


And finally this summer the time was right for a colorful makeover. We were planning a party and I decided, ok, this was its year to shine. So preparations were made, the tarp laid out to catch paint drips and the paint, which just happened to have been bought for other purposes, turned out to be perfect for my plan.


The metal framework was the first to be painted. A lovely pistachio green, painted on by brush. I’m not a big fan of spray paint, since I’ve always found a lot is wasted and it’s hard to control. Besides I kind of like the streaky texture we got and left it there deliberately.


Then we started on the periwinkle blue for the bench.


and then the red for the side tables.


As we went along I couldn’t help doing a bit of color transformation on my old Crocks too.


Finally, the bench was painted and looking pretty good. But, as we sat on it, I decided it needed a bit of a cushion too.


Which led to going through my stash of fabrics and a couple of days with the ironing board and the sewing machine out in the kitchen. We’d just replaced our foam bed topper and it occurred to me that the old one would make a good stuffing for the cushion. A little more recycling accomplished.


I had a rather fun time putting together another Intuitive patchwork.


And finally, the finishing touch was complete. We’ve been pretty happy with the final result and have been enjoying a little swing on a summer day.



Tags: , , , ,

Helen at Summerhouse on June 1st, 2013

Out garage sailing today and as we were on our way from one sale to the next I happened to glance to my right as we were passing Goodacre Lake in Beacon Hill Park.  And I saw a row of turtles sunning themselves.  I have no idea if they are native turtles or former pets.  They were quite large as you can see by comparison to the nearby duck.  They were so obviously happy with their faces turned to the sun.



And then, close by our feet, at the edge of the “lake” a little family of ducks.  The young ones speckled and downey still.

ducklings swimming

Bill likes to take an almost daily walk oceanside and the other day came upon rather a lot of kites flying about in a gorgeous blue blue sky.






Tags: , ,

Helen at Summerhouse on April 22nd, 2013

Leading up to Earth day I’ve been signing petitions almost everyday. There’s one or two in my email everyday. I care about all the things I sign petitions for:  like no oil tankers on my coast, no nasty pipeline through the forests, saving whales from navy maneuvers, the list goes on and on. So many nasty negative things.  But today is Earth Day and I want to talk about being a Positive force and Abundance!


I want to talk about up-cycling and recycling from an artist’s point of view. I want to talk about looking for art supplies. And all I see is ABUNDANCE! For those of you who are artists and are already using ephemera and found objects to make artworks, you know what I’m saying. There is just so much out there and it’s cheap, almost free, just waiting to be reused, with imagination. It’s more than a trend now, it’s more than a movement, it’s become a way of creating for many artists. And that makes me feel so much more optimistic, it’s the balance to all the negatives that I’m signing petitions against everyday.


My way of life, of finding and reusing everything is so rewarding I couldn’t do anything else now. It’s a way of seeing things. For instance a broken favourite egg cup or milk pitcher causes only a moment of regret and then,


well, it will join all the other shards collected in recycled salad containers ( made from recycled plastic) in my studio.  Another way to create studio storage.


And one day become a Pique Assiette Mosaic tray like this one with handles made from old silverware.


Although I do not subscribe to magazines, since I get them from the library, I do buy old ones sometimes at garage sales



and they become part of my stock of color supplies for collage birthday and anniversary cards.


Or for playing with, creating colorful collages.




And beads, there are so many beads out there, in thrift stores, and me, the eternal magpie always attracted to color and texture can’t help but collect them in my little recycled boxes.


And the boxes stay under the coffee table and sometimes, when I’m watching a movie I’ll bring them out and string them together into a bracelet or two.


Even old frames are collected, most free or almost free. I also collect old board that we cut up to fit those frames and with a coat of gesso they are ready to paint on, whenever the urge strikes, and I never have to worry about the cost of framing.


So this is my little treatise to Earth Day. My little contribution to saving Her from all the baddies out there. It’s small, but there are a whole lot of artists out there just like us and every bit of positive energy counts in the grand scheme of things, I’m quite sure.



Tags: , , , , ,

Helen at Summerhouse on April 9th, 2013



In the run up to Earth Day, recycling is on my mind. I do recycle dishes in my mosaics. Lately, I’ve been having a bit of fun quilting with recycled shirts, some thrift shop fabric plus a few squares of quilt fabric found at a garage sale last summer. Sort of doing a mosaic with fabric. I’ve been inspired by quilts found on the internet and also from books about intuitive quilting by Jean Wells and Rayna Gillman. I’m not one of those quilters who likes pattern and measuring and rulers. So the slice and dice, intuitive style that these two quilters teach really resonated with me. And Gees Bend quilts have always been a big inspiration too.


recycled shirt

Quilting is one of those old and beautiful forms of recycling that has come down through the ages. Oh, I know these days, a lot of new quilting is done with new fabric, but the beginnings of quilting came from recycling fabric that was at hand like old shirts and even flour bags. And I love using old shirts too. Besides, being one of those slap dash sewers who doesn’t like the button hole attachment much, I find using the button front on shirts as a closure works great and recycles just a bit more of the shirt.

Plus I’ve gotten some new toys at the Fabric store. I’ve discovered the Rotary Cutter! Wow! This is so much fun to use on the self healing cutting mat. Ok, I admit I didn’t really get the hang of sewing curves as shown by Jean and Rayna, but I did have fun slicing up fabric. This is me having fun and a long way from the skill shown by the quilters who inspired me.  Sewing curves will come later I’m sure.  Now the ladies above cut the material in strips first and then sew.


Rotary cutter and cutting mat


Being me, I found my own odd way of creating strips. I’d cut up a few bits of fabric in almost the same width and start laying it down, good sides together and sort of guess-timate the width of the next strip I wanted and sew it. Then I’d cut off the excess, and set down a new fabric and so on. That way I got varying widths and didn’t waste much.







When I’d gotten a few strips made sewing bits together randomly and intuitively, I started to arrange them. I’d been collecting pillow fillers at garage sales already and they were waiting to be used, all washed then dried on the clothesline last summer. So it was just a matter of laying out strips over the pillow form until I had enough to cover. I did come up short but then just made a couple of narrow strips to fill in, which added to the overall design anyway.




I made one side with the buttoned section of the shirt inserted between the strips. I’d added a lot of the shirt fabric into the strips as I went along to integrate the color of the shirt into the rest of the quilting.


And voila! A pillow cover that’s a lovely surprise, almost a mosaic of fabric. I’m sure I won’t be able to resist trying to make some more but for now it’ll have to wait. My little studio can only handle painting and mosaic so the sewing gets done in the kitchen. There’s only so long I can live with an ironing board and a sewing machine on a kitchen table full of scraps. Until the next time the urge to quilt hits me….



Related Posts with Thumbnails

Tags: , ,