Saturday, August 19, 2017

Design This - Volunteer of the Year Swag

Many years ago, the Tarrant County United Way had an annual volunteer dinner at which it recognized a range of volunteerism, including a recipient from each city in Tarrant County who nominated a Volunteer of the Year. Dalworthington Gardens participated in that program from the time I was aware of it in the 90's until it was discontinued. Last year the Dalworthington Gardens Historical Committee decided to bring back awarding an annual Volunteer of the Year recipient locally.

Nominations were called for and the Historical Committee voted to award the 2016 Volunteer of the Year to James Harris for his years of facilitating a movie in Gardens Park during the summer. Former Alderwoman, Velma Bogart introduced James at a City Council meeting and Mayor Kimberly Fitzpatrick read the proclamation.

Initially the committee was considering giving the Volunteer of the Year recipients a plaque in addition to the signed proclamation, however several members wanted to give a more useful item commemorating their volunteerism to the recipients. Several ideas were bounced around and finally the idea of a keychain or necklace was chosen. I came up with a simple design (a one inch bezel does not give a lot of room for something complex) and mocked up a sample for the committee to see. They liked it, I made one up for James and the chair of the committee took it to him recently. Even though the remainder of his award was delayed, it was well received and I have secured supplies for several years going forward so that future recipients can be recognized and receive all their swag at the same time.

Nominations for the 2017 Dalworthington Gardens Volunteer of the Year will be available at the Neighborhood Night Out on October 3 in Gardens Park.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Heavy Lifting - Raising a Large Landscape Rock

I wish I had thought of taking before and during pictures, you will just have to use your imagination as I describe the project my husband and I tackled this morning. The pictures in this post were taken later in the evening after it rained.

We have a large landscape rock in a garden bed at the intersection of our driveway and sidewalk. We had built a bit of a mound before we had the rock yard deliver and place the rock in the garden because of the slope down from the concrete. Sometime after the rock was placed, we used a similar technique as we did today to add a little more fill under it. Possibly in part from the fill settling or just because the garden wall we had built would cause the base of the bed to be higher, I figured out last week that the rock would need to be raised another 3 - 4 inches, in place preferably because I liked its location and orientation. Did I mention it was a big rock?

This was much more than a "Honey would you move the couch over a couple of inches?" request but my husband was game to help me. I had a plan and set out to get everything in place. My car would need to be the anchor for the come along and a nylon strap ratchet wrapped around the rock. I strategically placed the car in the yard and attached the come along to my trailer hitch bumper. I then wrapped the nylon strap around the rock twice and adjusted it so that both hooks would bear the same tension when attached to the other end of the come along. Now it was time to see if I had lined everything up correctly so that the base of the rock nearest the sidewalk would lift instead of the rock being dragged forward. Hopefully when lifted the rock would be stable enough for my husband to add some encouragement if the rock tried to rotate or tip to the side. I cranked on the come along, the attachments tightened and a very small indication of movement appeared. We paused. The rock was still stable. We got out the large pry bars to help ensure that the far side of the base would lift instead of having the whole rock slide forward. With my husband on the pry bar and myself on the come along we achieved the movement we wanted. After lifting the end of the rock up a bit higher than I would eventually need it, I placed and packed a mixture of paver sand and decomposed granite under the raised base of the rock. Thankfully I had managed to nail the direction of forces through the center of mass so that the rock was very stable and no encouragement was needed to keep it from tilting side to side under tension. After packing the material for the raised pad we released the tension on the come along and still had a stable rock. So far so good.

Now we had to move the car onto the driveway and repeat the process from the other side. Luckily the pack job was sufficient that when we winched up the opposite end of the base of the rock, the closest end of the base did not dig in and crush the newly created mound. I did not nail the center of mass and force application quite as perfectly as the first time but it was good enough that my husband was able to apply enough encouragement to keep it from rotating around a vertical axis like it started to. Once I packed more material under the raised end, the rock became stable under tension and still was when we released it.

Physics is fabulous. By using a few simple machines to help us multiply our force several times we were able to safely accomplish our goal of lifting our very large rock in place by 3 - 4 inches so we could install more fill to maintain it at that height. After completing this part of the task I spread chips to level out the surface of the garden bed around the rock.

What led me to wanting to raise my rock? Earlier this week I realized that my silver ironweed I had planted near the newly reset Pavestone wall would need to be raised because I needed to add a full paver height of mulch on that side of the garden and that would be too much for this drought tolerant plant. (It is the gray plant to the left in the second picture and the right in the third one in this post. Click on the images to enlarge.) After lifting my plant I realized I should raise the current edge of my planting bed next to the walkway on the black plastic (second picture) so that the chips were level from the Pavestone wall to the driveway. It became apparent that I would have to bury part of the rock in chips if I leveled out the rest of the bed in that location so the rock had to be raised.

I am so glad that we tackled this portion of the project this morning. With the rain we received today I would not have been able to drive my car through the yard and the bed would probably have been too wet as well. I still have four or five plants seen in the last photo that I will need to lift up before adding more chips. However, that will wait until late fall or winter because those plants have been in place longer than the silver ironweed had been. Transplanting will be easier on the plants in cooler weather.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Blue Jays Mob and Imitate Hawks

I'm guessing an experienced birder can probably tell the difference between a blue jay's imitation of a hawk call and an actual hawk call. I'm not sure I'm there yet but I have observed a blue jay imitating a hawk and have gotten pretty accurate, based on where a call is originating from, deciding if the hawk call I am hearing is real or imitation. I used to go in search of the hawk I was hearing and wonder why I could not find such a big bird in the direction of the call. One day I finally saw a blue jay making the call when I zeroed in on the sound. I knew blue jays were one of the birds that would pester, or mob hawks, but until then I did not realize they also impersonated them.

I have read a few thoughts as to why they do this, such as alerting other birds to an actual hawk danger or scaring off other birds. I have not been able to tell exactly what my blue jay impersonators are trying to accomplish. I have heard several of them go into extreme blue jay alarm call, but not a hawk imitation, when there has been a small hawk around. I found this example of a clever blue jay doing a hawk call to scare off other birds, thus reducing competition at the bird feeder.

While I have seen a half a dozen or more blue jays sounding the alarm and mobbing a hawk perched in a tree in my pasture, I have also noted a single blue jay making an alarm call and mobbing a hawk as seen in my photographic art images of this post (click to enlarge). The hawk seems mighty calm or even unimpressed at the antics of the blue jay. These images were taken in early May so it is possible that the red-shouldered hawk perched on the light pole was too close to the blue jay's nest for comfort. Or perhaps some blue jays just enjoy picking on the raptors and getting away with it.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Pasture Perches Round 2

I previously wrote about leaving some perches in my pasture for bluebirds to hunt from. Today I learned that dragonflies also use perches, albeit shorter ones, to hunt from as well.

This morning I was out doing some work in my pasture when I spied, what I affectionately call, a pink lemonade dragonfly far from a water source. It was perching on about a foot high piece of stubble left after we recently mowed the pasture. I watched the dragonfly for a bit and it looked like it was contentedly hanging out so I took off for the house to grab my camera. Happily it was still there when I got back. Occasionally it would fly off but returned fairly quickly to the same perch. One time when the dragonfly flew off, it was replaced immediately by a grasshopper like there was a game of king of the hill in progress. The grasshopper decided not to hang out so quickly though that I only got one shot of it.

While I took my first series of images of the dragonfly, from essentially a rear, side view, I noticed it was chewing and grooming every now and then. I have observed the grooming behavior before but don't remember noticing chewing. After taking several images I went back to work. Once I finished what I was working on, I approached the perch from the other direction and decided to take more pictures from the side and a somewhat front view.

I was surprised by what happened next. After one trip flying off the perch and landing again I was able to capture the dragonfly chowing down on a small flying insect. That explained the chewing motions I noticed previously. I got lucky enough to capture it eating a different small flying insect too. The second insect was a tad larger and I suspect a bit tougher as it took the dragonfly longer to finish its second catch.

I take a lot of pictures of dragonflies and sometimes I wonder if I really need any more dragonfly images. However I really enjoy the challenge of trying to capture a great image and today I was reminded that you never know what surprises you will see when observing nature, so dragonflies are still on my list of subjects to be photographed.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

New Visitor - Can You ID This Frog?

A couple of times this year I have scared up a frog that I did not recognize while mowing. It always disappeared too quickly for me to get a good look and be able to tell for sure. Finally about a week ago I got lucky and one stopped in an open area when I paused the riding mower to try to get a good look at it. It was quit a bit bigger than the cricket frogs and definitely a frog and not one of the Gulf Coast toads that hang around. I have never seen a bullfrog with stripes down the sides so I ruled out it possibly being a very small bullfrog.

Luckily my other half was home and I was able to phone inside and ask him to bring out my camera. I got lucky and the frog hung around during this process. It got skittish when my camera was handed to me, but I did manage to get one shot of it after it hopped through the chainlink fence.

This brings me to another curious thing about this new visitor. I had only seen this frog while mowing various areas of my property but never very close to water. I don't know if I have seen one well travelled frog or if I have several of them hanging around.

A couple of days ago I finally spotted one in my pond. I would love to know what species this frog is. I've not had a chance to look it up since I got pictures. Please leave a comment if you think you know who my new visitor is.

Edited 7/30/17: Thanks to those of you who contacted me off blog and let me know you thought this was a leopard frog. I looked it up and agree that it looks like the Southern leopard frog or possibly the Plains leopard frog. Mystery pretty much solved but if you have a thought as to which type of leopard frog it is, please let me know.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Decorated Agate Night Lights

While I have talked about my agate slice and nature charm night lights online in other places, I was surprised to see I have never devoted a blog post to them. They have been seen on my blog but only as part of my retired "Thanks for the Treasuries" feature, when they were included in an Etsy treasury. I first tested this product by providing nature charm night lights wholesale to the Arlington Museum of Art's gift shop in the summer of 2014 when they featured an Ansel Adams photography exhibit. The agate night lights were well received and because they sold well, I decided to add some to my EDCCollective Etsy shop after the Ansel Adams exhibit closed.

It is fun to pick an agate slice and figure out what type of scene can be created on it with the various nature charms I have acquired. Some slices have what looks like a horizon line and are fun to add trees and shrubs or critters running across the landscape. Others are less specific and work well with a variety of critters flying across their face. Once I've made the charms suitable for mounting, I fix them on their slice. The agate is then attached to a bracket that then is fixed to a switchable night light base.

These night lights add a decorative touch to any room by day and a welcome low light to navigate by at night when switched on. Keep one in a guest bath or bedroom to make it easy for guests to navigate when they come to visit. I use one in my house whose light can be seen from my front door so that I can leave a small, low energy using light on when I know I will be home after dark. It is nice to have that bit of light to welcome me home without making the electric meter spin as much as a larger light left on would.

Since I started making my nature charm night lights, I have found some more wonderful silhouettes to attach and have added these to both of my Etsy shops. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you have already seen them. If not, you can check out my night light listings at EDCCollective and EclecticSkeptic. I will tell their stories in a later blog post.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

New Science Geek Gifts

Being a science geek myself, I am always on the lookout for ideas or supplies to inspire new goodies for my science geekery section of my EclecticSkeptic Etsy shop. I was excited to receive a new shipment last week that included items I could use to create math, mythology and science themed items for EclecticSkeptic.

The science themed items will thrill dinosaur buffs. I have already added two new listings. The first item I made and listed was a pair of gold plated ceratopsian dinosaur post earrings with a lapis lazuli dangle. I also have silver plated available and lots of different gemstones that I can make dangles with. Contact me if you have a specific gemstone or pearl request.

The second item I listed was a sauropod necklace. I love the colorful dino teardrop pendants. The teardrop bezels are antiqued brass plated and I thought a thin, black satin cord necklace finished off with the same color findings would be a perfect pairing. If you prefer a different length necklace, contact me to create a custom length piece for you.

Stay tuned for T. rex earrings or contact me about them.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Artist Spotlight - Ecuadorian Artisan Coop

Recently several entities in Arlington teamed up with the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market to bring the concept to Arlington. The Arlington show was held on the Green at College Park on the UTA campus earlier this month. Almost three dozen artisans from around the world had a chance to showcase their creations to North Texans and anyone else who showed up for the event. I had a chance to check it out a couple of hours before the market was due to close. I went out of curiosity, not with the intention of buying anything.

That changed when I saw the lovely seed bead work at the booth of La Mega Cooperativa Artesanal de los Saraguros. One necklace in particular caught my eye. It was a collar necklace beaded to look like it was made up of many peacock feather eyes. I decided to look around the rest of the market before determining whether to purchase the necklace or not. It was still there when I got back to the booth so I tried it on. I really liked it but I needed to think if I already had at least one thing in my wardrobe I could pair it with. I decided the necklace should look stunning over a black mock turtle neck of mine. I was happy to make the purchase and help support this artisan coop.

When I got home I tried it on with the shirt I was thinking of and had my husband take a picture of it so I could share it with my readers. When I took it off and was deciding where to store it, I was thinking it was a shame not to have it on display somehow to be able to enjoy it even when I was not wearing it. We have a large red blown glass vase that I thought of as a possible support. I draped the necklace over the vase and they complimented each other wonderfully. We both enjoy getting to see this wearable art more often by displaying it this way.

The original Santa Fe International Folk Art Market is coming up the middle of July in, where else, Santa Fe, New Mexico. They will have many more international artisans there. If you happen to be in the area, it should be a fun event to attend.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Daylily Design Garden Element

Several years ago I healed in some daylilies that caught my eye in a garden center. I knew I wanted to have a section of daylilies in another area of my garden once I finally got rid of the bindweed. Since I had no clue how long that would take I decided to purchase the daylilies and find a temporary place for them to live. That has taken more years than I care to admit, however this spring when I finally got a
chance to finish chipping that area of my garden and start moving some other plants around, I decided where I would dedicate the space to a variety of daylilies. I have a few in other areas that will stay there but the two that I knew I put in temporary locations have a place to go to now.

I was not actually planning to develop a design in this newly designated daylily area because late fall would be the best time to move the plants. So what happened? I knew this was the time of year that I might still find some daylilies in bloom in garden centers so I kept my eye out for some that would go well with the ones I want to move later. I found one and was just going to keep it potted until fall when I spied another that I brought home too. That did it. I was motivated to figure out a design. I could just mass the daylilies and
let their variety of blooms play off each other. That would be very showy while they were in bloom but a bit boring the rest of the year. I needed another design element. This could have been garden art but my go to is often rock, so I took a trip to the local rock yard to see if anything jumped out at me. I found a nice piece of obsidian and some granite boulders with subtle color variations. I looked for stones that had a flat base for stability and settled on three small granite boulders of different shades and shapes.

When I got the rocks back to my garden I arranged them to create separation between the daylilies. The mounding form of the daylilies will contrast nicely with the angularity of the stones. I placed the two
potted daylilies I had recently purchased and used a newly purchased rain lily and a sign stake as stand ins for the daylilies I will transplant later this year to ensure that I liked my rock placement. At this point I added a couple of small pieces of basalt that I had lying around. Soon I will tuck in the potted plants. There is also room for me to pick up a few more daylilies in the future that speak to me and sneak them into this area of the garden.

Daylilies are a wonderful choice for many areas of the country. I have found most varieties to be very drought tolerant and reliable perennials in my garden. They even have varieties now that will rebloom so that you aren't limited to enjoying their beautiful flowers once a year.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Design This - Variation on a Sold Item

Sometimes a custom request comes in that is for a variation on something seen in my sold items in my EclecticSkeptic shop on Etsy. If I have what is needed to recreate a sold item or a variation on it, I am happy to help.

Someone contacted me because they had been searching for a bead much like I had used in my previously sold flying pig moon and stars pin but with a silver cast instead of a gold one. Luckily I had a few moon and star beads that I had not used yet, specifically because they lacked much of the golden hue of the ones I had paired with my golden flying pig charm. This person wanted to attach their own charm to such a bead, as I had attached my flying pig charm, and use the combination as a lapel pin. They wanted the loop under the bead to be sterling silver and the tie tack back to be silver tone instead golden.

I had the materials on hand to be able to achieve what this person wanted so I was happy to be able to create a custom listing for her. If you see something in a current or sold listing that you want to know if I can recreate but make it a different size, color, style or other variation, please contact me. I enjoy tailoring my creations to exactly what someone is looking for when I am able.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fellow Etsian Sighting - ClayBabies

If you are a potter and you need a new backsplash in your kitchen that you are remodeling, what do you do? You make tiles of course! I got a chance to see the finished product earlier this year after having seen the tile pile grow from one visit to Cynthia's studio to the next. She had a lot of fun making a variety of tiles with different stamps and textures. The photos in this post show only a small portion of the varied tiles she made. The look is at once both uniform and individual. The colors of the tiles blend to give a unified palate and it is so much fun to look at all of the individual imagery on each tile. I don't think any two repeat exactly.

Tiles are a departure from the thrown pieces that comprise the bulk of the work Cynthia offers for sale. You can find her work on Etsy in her ClayBabies shop or at arts and crafts shows in the area and in some brick and mortar stores as CiCi House of Clay. You can see the bowl of hers that had to come home with me in an Artist Spotlight post from earlier this year. Most of Cynthia's pottery can be classified as functional art. She makes bowls, vases, teapots and much more.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ready to Hang EDC Photographic Art at CenterSpace in Downtown Arlington

While the art has been in place for a few months at Downtown Arlington's newest co-working space, I finally got all of the pieces together to make purchasing it easier. If you see a piece of art you want to take home with you when you browse the art on the walls of the relaxed new co-working space, CenterSpace, you will be able to use an internet connected device to buy it. If you are looking for a special piece of ready to hang art for your home or office check out my photographic art, photographs by Amy J Schultz and a limited edition DREAM poster commissioned by Downtown Arlington Management Corporation.

The owners of CenterSpace have graciously offered to let people view some local artists' work in person and hand the work over to customers after receiving notification of payment in exchange for having some awesome art on their walls. When CenterSpace's members need to take a break from looking at their computer screens or other task they might be engaged in they can contemplate the artwork on the walls.

Payment for a piece of art can be made online through 817ArtsAlliance. Pick the title of the artwork (shown on the art card by each piece of art on the wall) from the drop down menu below an artist's listings on the Art for Sale - CenterSpace 817ArtsAlliance page. Then click the Buy Now button and follow the rest of the instructions from PayPal. You will be able to pay using your PayPal account or credit card.

Note: The images in this post were taken just after the art was hung. The images in the CenterSpace link above was taken after the art cards were added.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Find EclecticDesignChoices at the Fort Worth Herb Festival this Saturday, May 20 2017


I will have much of my photographic art and a limited selection of my jewelry with me this Saturday. The forecast has some rain in it but I hope that won't stop you from coming out and enjoying the festival. Please stop by and say hi if you get a chance to come out.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Design This - Gathering Pin Black and Silver Request

A potential customer found an item in my EDCCollective Etsy shop whose function fit what she wanted but the color was not what she was looking for. She sent me a convo from a listing of my 3 inch pink, silver and floral gathering pins. She asked if I had any options in black and silver. I did have a two inch pair of black and silver gathering pins that was not currently listed, however she needed the three inch pins.

I checked my bead stock to see what I had in black and silver that would fit the three inch pins and sent her a picture of the bead choices. My customer let me know which beads she would be happy with and I came up with a couple of designs based on that input. She picked one of them for her custom order which I made up for her and shipped them out after she purchased her listing. I liked the other design too so I added it to my shop.

Contact me about any of my designs if they are not quite what you are looking for. I'd be happy to let you know if I can create what you have in your mind's eye. This offer obviously goes for my jewelry creations but it extends to my photo art items too. I have many stock photos and might have that flower or critter that you want on a print, note card or bookmark. I enjoy creating custom items, so please get in touch with your custom request.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Surprise - Dewberries for Dessert

Instead of collecting Easter eggs, I was presented with the opportunity to collect dewberries this Easter. While mowing my yard this lovely Easter afternoon I noticed that the native dewberries had begun to ripen. I picked one from my riding mower as I went by. The berry was tasty so I planned to see how many I could collect after I finished cutting the grass. After mowing I grabbed my Easter basket (colander) and headed out for the hunt. It turns out this is the best year for the native Southern Dewberries that hug my fence in a couple of areas of my yard in quite some time. Based on recent years, I was expecting that I might gather a couple of handfuls to put over some vanilla ice cream.

Instead I found enough to make my simple berry pie. This pie is pretty foolproof. There are only 4 ingredients, 1 store bought graham cracker pie crust, 1 - 8 oz. block of cream cheese, 1 cup of honey and enough berries (blackberries, strawberries or blueberries) to fill the pie crust (slightly domed). Instructions: Let the cream cheese warm up and soften. Rinse the berries. Mix the softened cream cheese and honey. Pour the berries in the pie crust and gently pack them down. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the berries. Now bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes, until the topping is golden brown.

Southern dewberry is a small native, trailing, prickly vine that is closely related to blackberry.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Perches in Bluebird Habitat

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about creating bluebird habitat is man-made nest boxes. Bluebirds are cavity nesters and destruction of this part of their habitat along with competition from invasive bird species, compounded by some natural climate cycles, caused a major drop in bluebird populations beginning in the 1950's as I previously posted about in detail. Perches are another critical part of bluebird habitat that you can help provide for their success.

Don't think caged bird perches or protected roosting tree perches in this case. Bluebirds are hunters. I have seen estimates that insects make up from 60-80% of a bluebird's diet. To catch insects, bluebirds like to scan the area around a perch and pounce on their prey on the ground or sometimes catch it midair. Because bluebirds hunt in open areas, their perches are often found on the edges of these areas, limiting their ability to hunt a large open area in its entirety. The chain link fence around my backyard is a favorite perch. I have also seen them on swing set beams, branches of shrubs and trees (especially before they leaf out so the birds have a good view of the area) and garden art that is somewhat tall and pole like.

When I was mowing the back pasture this past winter there were a couple of tall, sturdy weeds whose main stalk remained after the first mowing pass. Since they were interior to the open area that bluebirds and a couple of other feathered friends like to hunt in from perches, I decided to leave a few of the sturdier stalks to expand the bird's hunting area. I was rewarded with bluebirds utilizing these perches and was lucky enough to get a few decent pictures of them in use. You can see a male bluebird scanning for prey and then swooping down to catch its prey in the pictures in this post.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring is in the Air

The spring equinox is one of my favorite days of the year. According to the calendar, we can officially say we are through with winter and can welcome in springtime. Unfortunately Mother Nature does not always follow the calendar. In North Texas it feels a bit like we jumped straight from winter to summer with a forecast high today of almost 90 degrees. Signs of spring have been around here for a few weeks already, from spring blooming bulbs to flowering trees and the pretty green of new leaves on trees that don't put out a flush of flowers. I have been watching birds gather nesting material. I saw a crow this past weekend flying with a big twig in its beak and the blue jays have been gathering up fallen bald cypress leaves.

Along with the signs of spring outside, it is almost time for a favorite indoor spring event, Spring Gallery Night. Join the Texas Pottery and Sculpture Guild (TPSG) for their 2017 Spring Gallery Night Sale at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. The sale begins Saturday morning, March 25 at 10 am and runs until 9 pm that evening. The guild has invited a few non-pottery artists to join them and I will be one of them. Many of my photographic art pieces are spring themed. Watching this YouTube video showing examples of artists work will give you an idea of what works you can expect to find.

Typical Gallery Night crowds are fairly large, so if you want to avoid the crush come early to do your shopping. The Fort Worth Community Art Center is located at 1300 Gendy, Fort Worth TX, 76107 across Lancaster from the Amon Carter Museum.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy Pi Day 2017

Since 1989 math and science geeks have celebrated the all important mathematical constant pi and used the day, along with other folks, as a good excuse to indulge in their sweet tooth while eating some pie. The society of physics students has also turned Pi Day into a celebration of support for undergraduate involvement in the physical sciences. Pi appears in more than just mathematical equations, it is also found in many science formulas. You can help support STEM by helping undergraduate physics students get a piece of the pi(e) through your donation. (If you don't know, I have a Bachelor of Science in Physics so I think this is a great cause.)

The pi in this piece was made from some leftover pie dough from last year's Pi Day project.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Design This - Short Flying Pig Earrings

Last spring I received two convos from a nurse, each with a request for an alteration to one of my flying pig listings to make a short pair of earrings. The earrings needed to be short for wearing at work. One request was to have just the flying pig charms dangling from French ear wires without the heart in between the two and the other was to ask if I could use the image on my flying pig cufflinks to make a short pair of earrings. And she had sensitive ears so she initially asked for sterling silver ear wires.

The first request was easy to fill by making a new pair of earrings with just the flying pig charms. I did want to ask her about ear wire choices for sensitive ears though. Niobium ear wires are a great alternative to expensive pure metals and they come in a variety of colors. Luckily the second request was also fairly easy to fill since I was already doing something similar with my music note bezel earrings. This customer was a joy to discuss her options with. She was very upbeat and excited about having a variety of choices for new earrings with a flying pig theme based on her needs.

After nailing down the details I was able to get started on this custom order after finishing up another project I had in the works. The bezel earrings take a couple of days to complete. Once they were finished I took a picture for review by my customer. She was very pleased so I got them boxed up and shipped out so they could wing their way to their new home.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Butterfly Weed Named Perennial Plant of the Year

Asclepias tuberosa or Butterfly Weed is capable of being at home in gardens across much of the country. It grows in zones 4-9, likes full sun, is deer resistant and attracts plenty of pollinators, including a large variety of butterflies. In my North Texas garden it is very drought resistant. Once established, I don't supplement its water. In fact it is rated to need as little as 10 inches of rain annually and will tolerate as much as 40 inches of rain if it has good drainage. No wonder it has been named 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association.

Butterflies pictured in this post perched on butterfly weed blooms are a monarch butterfly (top) and a variegated fritillary butterfly (bottom). Because butterfly weed is a host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars, if you are lucky enough to have monarch eggs laid on your plant(s) and witness the growth and transformation of the caterpillars, your plants may temporarily look a little worse for wear, but they will bounce back and you will have helped a generation of monarchs get off to a good start. Your local honey bees will also thank you for planting butterfly weed.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Now for Something a Bit Different

I love living in my small city of Dalworthington Gardens. I have served it in various capacities over the years. The past several years I took on smaller roles as I focused more on my creative passions. In addition, the couple of years prior to last May's elections saw a lot of turmoil that spilled over into council meetings that made them draining to go to and caused me to pull back my attendance in the audience even more. The atmosphere has been more pleasant this past year and I have been attending meetings that I am an audience member at much more frequently. (I have a great attendance record to the meetings I need to attend based on appointments.) I have also had several people urge me to run for city council.

All of this led me to decide to file for Alderman, Place 3 in Dalworthington Gardens when I found out that the incumbent was planning not to seek re-election. Another resident filed too, so we have a contested election for Place 3. It is a small city and I do not know how many of you out there that are reading this actually live in DWG and can vote for me. To any of you that can or can encourage a friend or relative to vote for me, please do. You can join in the discussion on my campaign facebook page or learn more about me on my campaign website and blog which includes important dates for the May 6, 2017 election.

I took a series of photos of some ducks in our park that seemed to be having a conversation. I added a caption to the one below.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Design This - Rework Three Sentimental Necklaces

My customer had an aha moment one day regarding three necklaces that her sons had made for her. While wearing the necklaces could be emotionally uplifting, the closures the boys came up with were not very elegant and could be downright scratchy. She realized that I should be able to help her solve the negative aspects of the necklaces while preserving the heart and soul her sons had poured into the making of them. Two of the necklaces simply needed to be restrung and have appropriate findings added to finish them off. A third necklace also needed more beads added so that the length would fit with my customer's current necklace length preference.

It is a privilege to be entrusted with reworking jewelry that is imbued with sentimental value. I wanted to make sure I got these three necklaces right for my customer. They still needed to remind her of her sons while providing a more comfortable wearing experience. I made sure when I disassembled the two necklaces that only needed restringing and new findings, to keep all of the beads in their original order in order to preserve the designs the boys had created. For the short, magenta necklace my customer had suggested that perhaps some gold beads spaced every so often in order to lengthen it would be a good idea. I told her I would look at my supplies and make some suggestions of beads for her to choose from.

When I started to go through my supplies to find beads that I thought would complement the magenta stone chips, I came across some lightweight, possibly coated paper, magenta and gold beads that I had acquired only a couple of weeks earlier. The magenta in these beads, shaped like 24 sided dice (tetrakis hexahedron) was a perfect match for the chips and they had gold in them like my customer had suggested. I thought these would be so perfect that I stopped looking for additional options and showed them to my customer. She agreed with me. Now I needed to figure out a design to include just the right amount of the new beads to achieve the desired new length. One other challenge that I noticed when disassembling the magenta chip strand was that there were actually two shades of magenta chips. They were very similar but also very distinct. I needed to make sure that I paired similar colored and shaped chips across from each other in the design. Once I finished this process I strung the beads on a wire and placed bead stoppers on each end so I could take a photo for concept approval before adding findings. I received an ok, finished off the ends and took a photo of that necklace with one of the other ones I had restrung.

If you have any jewelry that needs repair or reimagining please contact me and I'd be happy to see if I can be of service. (Click on the images to enlarge.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

20th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count

It's almost here! Dust off your binoculars and print out your local bird checklist because the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count happens February 17-20, 2017.

If you aren't familiar with the GBBC it "is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are." Why is this important? Analyzing the data can help scientists answer a variety of questions about migratory patterns, health of bird populations, climate changes, etc. They need our help as citizen scientists to gather this data as there are not enough scientists in all parts of the world to do so. Do your part and have some fun while you are at it. Grab your checklist and head out with your binoculars for some fun outdoors while you count birds. Data submission is easy. GBBC has online resources to help you identify the birds that you find. If you enjoy photographing birds, there is even a photo contest. See last year's photo gallery for inspiration. Happy Counting!

For my newsletter subscribers that were wondering about the solution to why I no longer think the red-bellied woodpecker is grossly misnamed, check out the second woodpecker photo (bottom photo - male). My husband and I have often wondered aloud why red-bellied instead of red-headed when we would see this woodpecker (left photo - female). It turns out, we never had an angle on the bird that allowed us to see the red bit on the belly that you can see in this photo.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Photographic Art Gallery Wrapped Canvases Added to EDCCollective Etsy Shop

I have listed many of my photographic art note cards, bookmarks, matted prints and more in both of my Etsy shops, EDCCollective and EclecticSkeptic, for quite some time. However, until last week I had never listed any of my ready to hang pieces of photographic art in either Etsy shop. I have only sold my gallery wrapped canvases, prints on metal and acrylic, or matted and framed photographic art in person at shows or on consignment in brick and mortar locations. The larger size and higher price points made me hesitate. I decided to go ahead and give it a try last week and utilize the variations option in a listing to give customers a choice from five different images. (There are five listing photos, so this seemed like the appropriate number of options to offer.)

I chose gallery wrapped canvases for my first listing of ready to hang photographic art pieces on Etsy. They are lightweight and I believe they will be easier and less expensive to pack and ship than the other types of ready to hang pieces that I carry.

I do not have the printer needed to print on canvas at home so I have these images printed for me. This means that I had to get manufacturing assistance approval from Etsy just like I did on my boxed card sets that I started offering last year. I inspect each canvas and add a wire for hanging before listing an image in my EDCCollective shop. I do have more than five images that have been printed to canvas over the past few years. A couple of those are in stock too and the others may be able to be reprinted if you are interested in them. All of my potentially available ready to hang photographic art pieces can be seen in my facebook photo album. I would be happy to make a custom listing on Etsy for you if you see one that you want (canvas, metal, etc.) that is not listed, if it is available or is capable of being reprinted.