Pens for Spring

When I think of spring, I inevitably think of Merrie Bachman. In addition to being an outstanding polymer clay artist, she is totally immersed in the beauty of spring flowers. Around her home in Connecticut she maintains a bountiful garden filled with an amazing array of flowers that are the inspiration for her Spring Collection of pens.

 

1010391_588778124478301_1592617350_n-300x199

 

She collects the flowers and twigs from her garden, carefully dries them, and then combines them with a transparent polymer resin. The resin is rolled into thin sheets and made, one at a time, into pens. The flowers are so real that you can feel the crushed petals in the barrel of the pen.

The first flowers of spring are the daffodils, which grow in abundance in her garden. That’s where her collection begins. The flowers are gathered and dried, then the petals are ground and combined with the polymer to preserve their beauty long after their brief blooming season has ended.

 

daffodil_pen__06968.1356972338.350.400

 

Hydrangeas bloom later in the season and Merrie gathers both flowers and stems for her hydrangea pen. She dries and grinds both, but the distinctive color and texture of the pen comes directly from the blossoms.

 

hydrangea_penjpg__89398.1356972444.250.250

As a delicious addition to the floral collection, Merrie makes a pen from watermelons. For this she uses a dehydrator to dry the beautiful red fruit. Once dried it is mashed and mixed with the polymer. The finished pen not only shows the color and texture of the watermelon, but sometimes there is evidence of a watermelon seed as well. The finished pen is decidedly evocative of the fruit from which it is made.

 

watermelon_pen__78301.1358656154.250.250

Merrie’s pens are a delightful way to capture some of the fleeting beauty of spring and carry it in our pocket even after the season itself has passed.

GP default

Breathing in Good Design

In my travels, I sometimes have the pleasure of seeing jewelry that knocks my socks off. The geometry and architecture of Petra Meiren pieces remind me that good design is all around me if I just breathe it in.

meiren display
The earrings and necklaces are crafted with clean lines encompassing a contemporary sensibility. Petra uses textured gold and silver in simple shapes with subtle curves, and the result is wearable art that makes a strong statement.

.. a simple but striking home reminds me that folks all over the world take pride in craftsmanship and satisfying design.

sweden
I admired this home on a trip to Sweden’s North Sea coast. One of the things that struck me in this small town was the care and consideration to detail in gardens and homes alike. Many of these houses have been in their families for years, and great attention is paid to creating something handcrafted and beautiful that lasts for generations.

On a quick trip to Portland, Oregon last May, I admired these magnificent peonies at the Portland Farmer’s Market. Ahhh, good design in glorious color.

peonies

Japanese Inspired American Crafts just in time for the National Cherry Blossom Festival

D2 CB

photo credit: ©DavidMDworkin

March heralds the arrival of spring in Washington DC along with the celebration of the cherry blossoms that bloom along the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. In 1912 the mayor of Tokyo bestowed upon the United States 3000 Japanese cherry trees as a gesture of lasting friendship between the two countries. The initial gift was commemorated by a simple ceremony that featured First Lady Helen Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planting the first trees along the banks of the Potomac River.

In 1915, the United States government sent a reciprocal gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan. In 1981, when thousands of Japanese cherry trees were destroyed in a flood, cuttings from the original gift of trees were sent to Japanese horticulturists to replace the lost and damaged flora.

Over the years the festival has emerged and grown. It is a time in which Washingtonians celebrate the arrival of spring, the beauty and variety of Japanese art in America, Japanese cultural experiences from drumming and dance to tea ceremonies and historic dress. In addition to events that are scheduled to honor Japanese culture, there are traditions that draw over 1.5 million visitors to the nation’s Capital each spring including among others: the annual Cherry Blossom parade, paddle boats on the tidal basin, throngs of photographers-professional and amateur alike, and the daily bloom forecast telling us that spring has truly arrived! Over the years we have seen Japanese influence in hand made objects ranging from glass to wood, pots to silk and jewelry to kaleidoscopes.

AP Wood 25 (1)

I love that American made objects owe so much to the craft, practice and techniques of untold people who came before us throughout history and across the globe.  As these trades and crafts passed through cultures, countries and time, they reflect the particular flavors of the people and period. And yet the origins of each can still be seen and felt in the very fiber of glass, wood, silk and metal today.

AP Wood 22

I see the Japanese influences in a surprising number of our American or Japanese-American artists. Nichibei, which translates as Japan and America, is a studio that blends the elegant tradition of Japanese folk art with the flair of contemporary American pottery. The “chop” used to sign Matsumoto’s pieces is the Japanese character for Pine Tree, the English translation of his familial name.

Good Elephant Studio produces rice bowls, plates and platters evocative of her Korean roots and contemporary graphic design training.

CB GRAY (1)

Marc Matsui uses the simple elegant lines of his finely thrown bowls as a canvas for his spectacular glazes that integrate color and geometric designs. Marc is truly a master of the glaze, transforming clay into a glass-like finish with brilliant colors.

b12w  a

The Japanese art of flower arranging is known as Ikebana. Over the years various American artists have begun to create forms or vases that can be used to make Ikebana flower arrangements in which heaven, earth and humans are united in a pleasing design. The use of a kenzan in the interior gives a firm base for these elegant arrangements.

AP Wood 21 (2)

 Ikebana artists study for years to acquire the knowledge and skills that eventually can lead them to mastery. It is not surprising that we see Ikebana vessels made from wood, glass and clay. All of these materials were available in early Japanese culture and utilized to create organic presentations that were one with the environment.

Several of our woodworkers have been inspired by the Japanese aesthetics of elegant refinement, delicate detail, and subtle metaphors using archetypal shapes and forms. Cherry blossoms represent classic beauty and fragility. It reminds us that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful and yet tragically short.

IMG_9126.1   Copy of jb2251-29 (1)

The architectural flavor of Japanese influence can be seen in the boxes made by Bill Bolstad. Using spalted woods infused with colored resins, he has created a limited edition set of boxes in various sizes. The ebony detailing and the shapes are evocative of miniature pagoda like buildings.

C-A1 BLACK (1)  

Silk originated in China in 1700 BC, but there have been silkworms in the oldest of Japanese mythology. Shibori is credited as being a Japanese dying method that clearly gave rise to all of the many forms of tie dye that we have seen over thousands of years. Vivid colors and repeated geometric patterns can be seen in the Antrim Street designs.

WC SQUARE ORANGE VIOLET  GROUP

Theresa, one of our textile artists, spent 7 years in Japan as a university administrator, where she fell in love with the local textiles. She was immersed in Japanese culture and came to appreciate the embroidered silks and hand painted fabrics used in making kimono. Vintage kimonos are given new life in these handmade silk scarves by her studio.

I’ll take the Wedding Gift with the salad on the side!

My niece and her partner got married last week and we decided to build a wedding gift from our clan (an aunt and uncle, 3 cousins and a girlfriend).

M&M 8

Maggie and Mel are vegan and love to cook. They are twenty-somethings who appreciate: all things green, handmade, supporting local artists and natural products. But, they had a very short wedding registry list!

M&M4   M & M 1

The one clue we could glean was that they like blue! Happily– we were right on the mark. With clan members scattered or busy with their lives and jobs around the city and in Europe, we conferred by text and photos until we could agree on the collection we assembled.

M&M7  M&M5

Summer Salad Supreme


 

  • Chop tomatoes into coarse chunks.

Tip: Use one side of the cutting board for chopping and one for serving.  Many boards are stamped with the artists mark to designate easily which you will cut on which you will serve on.

  • Slice cucumbers, skin on.
  • Shave onion in thin rings.
  • Trim and half fennel, slice thin half moon pieces of fennel.
  • Toss veggies together in wooden salad bowl.
  • Fill salt and pepper shakers.

Tip: a few grains of rice in the salt cellar will keep salt from clumping in humid climates.

  •  Fill cruet with the finest grade of extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed.

Tip: the spout on the cruet is made of chrome and designed to pour at a medium rate. EVOO cold pressed oils are produced naturally without any chemical and are therefore lower in acidity.

  • Dress salad with olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and a dash of salt and pepper. Serve with ease at the table with tongs and additional S&P to taste.

 

Cheers to Maggie and Mel and to a lifetime of health, happiness and love, with a salad on the side!

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading>