Friday, April 21, 2023

Finish It Friday ~ Mosaic Shelf

It is very strange that I have never blogged about my obsession with Fiesta ware dishes before, although they have made some appearances in the blog (notably in these posts: Kitchen Refresh, Getting the Plastic Out, and La Cocina en mi Casa). In any case, suffice it to say I have a pretty big obsession with Fiesta and a pretty big collection thereof. And, since I live with a clumsy man and three kids, I also have a pretty big collection of broken dishes, every one of which I've saved over the last 20 years for "someday" making a mosaic.

So when my friend Barbara set up a mosaic-making workshop with an artist friend of hers, I got out all my sad, broken dishes, sorted them by color, and gave them a bath.

Then I turned to Kaffe Fasset's book Mosaics for inspiration. The book includes a wall shelf project, and I just happened to have this sweet little wall shelf that used to hang in the kids' room, where it used to hold the antique toys C inherited from his grandfather. It was long ago evicted from the room and had been languishing in the basement.

To prepare it for mosaic, I first vandalized it by scoring the surfaces I was going to stick the tesserae (that's the fancy word for little tiles for mosaic; another fancy phrase I learned is pique asiette, which means mosaics made from items like broken dishes) to and then I painted it a nice, bright tangerine color with several coats of chalk paint. Then the fun began.

At my friend's mosaic gathering, I stuck shards (most of which I'd previously broken up) into mortar on the back panel of the shelf, with a butter dish finial and teacup handles for hooks. This mortaring part is what had held me back from trying mosaic on my own all these years, but it turned out to be incredibly easy. A lesson there.

At home later that week, I mortared pieces onto the outside panels of the shelf and then, later, grouted it all and touched up and waxed the painted surfaces. 

And now I just need to figure out where to hang it up--and what to mosaic next!

Friday, April 14, 2023

Book Stack ~ March 2023

 A monthly post about what I've been reading.

I started the month by reading more Barbara Michaels--Sons of the Wolf, because I was reminded I enjoy Victorian gothic by February's reading and Patriot's Dream, because  I remembered that it had a dream-based supernatural element, as does the book I wrote in January, and I wanted to see how Michaels handled it.

In other fiction news, I read The Atomic Weight of Love, which covers the adult lifespan of the main character who sets out to become an ornithologist but ends up married to a physicist who is hired to work on the secret nuclear installation at Los Alamos, NM. It's about the main character trying to hold onto her dreams and identity while being absorbed into someone else's world. It's sad but happy-sad, in that there's a certain amount of triumph and redemption despite it all. And I thought it was beautifully written. I also read Bewilderment by Richard Powers, which is also beautifully written but just plain sad-sad, about a single dad trying to raise an exceptional child in an ecologically damaged world. 

In the nonfiction department, I read The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan, which is fun and funny (despite being about the author and her father both going through cancer treatments at the same time), although I gotta say, the idea of being part of such a loud, boisterous, in-everyone's-business family gives me hives. I also read MORE by Majka Burhardt, a memoir covering the time period from the author's early pregnancy through toddlerhood mothering twins while she was also trying to run an international conservation organization and rock- and ice-climb professionally (and also deal with the pandemic). It's ultimately about the struggle to find a way that mothers can live lives in which they do meaningful work, care for their children, and have healthy and equitable relationships with their partners. Stay tuned for my interview with Burhardt to appear in Literary Mama later this year.

And finally, for creative inspiration, I've been doing a 100 Days of Poetry project, and a friend loaned me Every Day is a Poem, by Jaqueline Suskin, which has a lovely range of exercises for all kinds of poetic expression. I also re-read Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit, which is in part what inspired me to focus on poetry now; one of Tharp's recommendations is to, after you finish a big project, put your efforts toward something totally different (thus poetry following a novel).

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Signs of Spring

Every year at this time, I engage in a single-minded quest for signs of spring. In my memories of childhood on Colorado's Eastern Slope, March was a month of tulips and daffodils and wet, heavy snows, perfect for building snowmen and quick to melt. And while I've learned not to expect flowers during this month in Maine, that doesn't stop my from grasping at any indication that no, winter will not last forever.

While the progression from winter to summer has not been as linear as implied in the above photos, taken from the same spot on my near-daily walks along our trail in the woods, there have been a few bright beacons of spring's arrival at our homestead:
  • On March 11th bluebirds started checking out the real estate in our nest boxes.
  • Barred owls started hooting March 12th.
  • Turkey vultures and woodcocks arrived March 18th.
  • We passed the equinox March 20th.
  • On March 23rd Canada geese flew by for the first time and robins arrived in droves.
  • A flock of red-winged blackbirds flew over on March 24th.
  • I heard a spring peeper calling in our swamp March 26th (a day after Cu said he also heard one).
  • I saw a tiny orange butterfly on March 27th (it fluttered away over our neighbors' huge field and I couldn't track it down to see what it was).
It has also snowed at least seven times this month, the annual April Fools' Day snowstorm is coming tonight, right on schedule, so we're not completely out of the woods yet, and the month got confused and decided to go out like a lion, with gale-force winds yesterday and temps not much above freezing. But the amount of snow and ice I tramp through or slip and slide over on my daily woods walk decreases every day, and each new snow lasts only a few hours (putting us in "poor man's fertilizer" territory, I suppose, another sign of spring).

And tomorrow April begins, a month associated in my mind with the color yellow--daffodils again, plus the warm light of an ever-stronger sun--with lots of spring energy for new projects, that turning-inward feeling of winter beginning to reverse into an outward expression of life, like the sap is rising from my roots and preparing to feed an unfurling of bright, new leaves.

A version of this post went out recently to subscribers of my newsletter, along with some bonus material. Subscribe here and receive a free PDF of my illustrated short essay "Eleven Ways to Raise a Wild Child."
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