Helen at Summerhouse on April 21st, 2014

Today is Earth Day or for many Earth Week.  I like to think that every day is really Earth Day.  In honor of the day, I’ve decided to do a bit of recycling.  The following is a post I wrote way back in 2010, but I think it still works.

Actually, Recycling, could be the main theme of our lives.  Now it’s called thrifting too.  We’re a couple of old Hippie artists, who were there for the start of the recycling movement. For us it’s just a way of life. We buy everything used and we also get a lot of “good stuff” as I like to call it, absolutely free. Best price there is. And as I mentioned in other posts, it’s a pretty abundant lifestyle too.

Of course we compost. Every scrap of banana peel, tea bag, coffee ground and egg shell is collected in these recycled coffee bins that I brought home from a job. The tiles on the backsplash behind them are all recycled. In fact every tile was actually free and found at garage sales or from sample boards thrown out by tile stores.

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The composter the food scraps go into, was also free.  Someone in the neighborhood was tossing it. Our rainbarrel is a recycled drum formerly used for soap.

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In the green house, I recycle too. Every pot from years past is saved to be reused, trays are sometimes taped up to plug leaks but are still put to work. These Black eyed Susan vines are sprouting in cookie packaging.

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The seeds for the Purple Cone flower, which I am rather impatiently waiting to see sprout, are planted and living under the protection of packaging, which in its previous life housed a cake bought for my birthday a short while ago.

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In it’s next use it may become storage for broken dish shards in my studio, like the many, many salad green containers already put to a second use.

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Out in the garden we have, now wait a second, I have to mentally count, at least 4 wheelbarrows. Only 3 are shown here.  All free or almost free. All recycled. I have an abundance of wheelbarrows you could say. I think they are kind of beautiful, in a sort of colorful, shabby, knocked about and used, way.

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Now that I’ve reached the garden with my recycling theme, I’d like to show you a few pieces of our garden art. Now maybe art for the garden is an odd sort of theme for Earth Day but a lot of our art is made from recyled materials. The mosaic in the herb garden is a recycled chimney covered in old dishes and tiles.
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The stepping stones are all made using recycled dishes and tiles, a type of mosaic art called Pique Assiette. In fact, all of my mosaic artwork is made from recycled dishes, tiles and ornaments.  If you would like to see how to make them check my post Creating a Mosaic Stepping Stone Helen’s Way.

 

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And old sink found in, I must admit, unashamedly, a dumpster dive, is home to our succulents.

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The chime that Bill fashioned out of an old anniversary cup found at a garage sale and hung with flattened silver cutlery is another recycled artwork. There’s much more art to see on one of my previous posts about garden art called Bill’s Driftwood Chair and Other Garden Art Whimsies.

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There are so many things that we can recycle and reuse for our gardens from artwork to garden furniture to garden tools and implements. There really is no need to go out and buy new most of the time. I always like to say the world is an abundant place as long as you don’t mind second hand. Not buying new saves resources and cuts pollution. Buying used saves more stuff from ending up in landfills too.  And the best thing is getting out and about on the weekends looking for deals at garage sales ( we always plot the most efficient course to save gas), enjoying the  sun at a beach on the way from one sale and the next.   Life is good.  So that’s my little, I hope, upbeat, message in honor of Earth Day.  Even the post is recycled.

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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.

 

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Then we scanned the dried Amaryllis blooms …..

 

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Which led to layering them all in Photoshop….

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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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.

 

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Helen at Summerhouse on February 26th, 2014

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.”

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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

 

 

 

 

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Helen at Summerhouse on October 25th, 2013

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…..

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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Then we started on the periwinkle blue for the bench.

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and then the red for the side tables.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

 

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

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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.

 

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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,

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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.

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

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

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

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Or for playing with, creating colorful collages.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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