Saturday, November 22, 2008

Antiquing in Central Pennsylvania

On our way back from NJ a month or so ago, we stopped off at Millerstown, PA to visit what used to be a huge, indoor antique market. Sad to say, most of the antique dealers have left and those spaces have been filled with various small craft businesses. But we did see some wonderful old stuff, and the town itself is beautiful in a very historical sense. Here are some photos for you to enjoy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Winter Closes In on Central PA

It's 21 degrees (9 degrees wind chill) tonight at 10:20pm. We've been having lake effect snow falls periodically throughout the past few days. Lake effect as in all the way from Lake Erie, which is NOT that close to central Pennsylvania! Most of the snow melts quickly, but we've got a pretty dusting of white on the ground. This was the view at sunset tonight.

Tomorrow is the Penn State/Michigan game - and the last Penn State game of the season. The university is not allowing campers to be on campus overnight due to the cold, or so they say. Around here, people party everywhere for the games - and I do mean everywhere. Not just on campus or in campus housing - people literally plan parties for game weekends - in and outdoor parties. Lots of tail gating - including anywhere on the back roads while folks listen to the game via radio... It's definitely something to behold! Since the little riot downtown a few weeks ago, they're pretty good about maintaining order what ever way works. And I'm very glad we won't be sitting in the stands tomorrow since the wind chill factor will be about what it is now - COLD!

Local Artist Featured at "The Gallery" in Lemont, PA

Mail Box Bunny - above
One of the two "artists' of the month" at the Lemont, PA Gallery Shop is Elli Groninger, who uses junk metal to form eclectic, colorful and intricate pieces of sculpture. Working with old appliances, cars, and twisted scrap metal, she uses a blow torch to twist and weld the metal into imaginative animals, people, and monsters. She then paints them in vibrant colors. I was captivated by her mad-cap, caricaturistic artistry and want to share her talent with you.

Here is our local art gallery from the outside:

And from the inside:

This moose head is especially funny for this area of hunters, many of whom have stuffed buck and doe heads on their walls...

Some of my fiber art can be seen in the two photos below.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Studio Changes

Isn't this a lovely spare room? It's actually located in the basement of our ranch house - one of 4 separate rooms down there. They all have linoleum or Pergo(R) flooring, making the space ideal for wet and messy art projects, don't you agree? So this week, I sorted out most of my painting, dyeing, inking, etc. supplies and brought them downstairs to the spare room which has now become a sort of "wet studio," the water supply being down the hall. The window faces northeast, so the lighting in the daytime is fantastic. At night, well, let's just say I need to add a few more light fixtures!
Our 20 year old granddaughter lives in the rest of the rooms downstairs - she's great fun to have around and she keeps us from getting too old fashioned and "out of touch" with the current generations!

My "big" art studio is on the main floor - it's 12x16', I think, and has wall to wall carpeting, which is why the paint/dye studio has graduated to the lower level. I've kept all my sewing supplies up here, plus all the drawing papers. I'm concerned that in the summer, the papers would pick up the dampness and become moldy. For the same reason, the fabrics are all upstairs, except the PFD's, which I have wrapped in plastic and stored downstairs for when the time and inspiration hit!

Meanwhile, I've happened upon some research we did in Scotland a year ago last June. I had failed to enter the data in our genealogy program, so when I located this treasure trove of info, I decided to enter it immediately. Prior to our visit to Aberdeen's Family History Center, all I knew for sure was that my great-great-grandfather, Arthur Stephen, had been born in Banchory-Ternan Parish, Kincardine, Aberdeenshire, Scotland on March 30, 1850 to Robert and Betty Grant Stephen. I had explored the Scotland's People gov. website, and learned about some of Betty Grant's ancestors, but couldn't fine anything (at that time) on line about Robert Stephen and his family. With the help of the wonderful research staff in Aberdeen, we were able to track back an additional 4 generations of Stephens - all of whom lived in "the mains of Glenfarqhar, Fordoun Parish, Kincardine, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. All of them were "Alexander," and one of them had his occupation listed as "weaver for Glenfarqha," which I found positively delightful, since I'm so involved in fiber art.
Here's a photo of Arthur Stephen and Maria Jane Paden (a Mayflower descendant) taken on their wedding day in 1852.Together, they had 5 children, one who died at the age of two, the others who lived to be between 70-80 years of age. Arthur was postmaster for Oakdale, MN - the first in a long line of postal employees in our family. The post office was in their home on Hudson Road from 1857-1867. From 1901-1908, he was again postmaster, this time for Lake Elmo, MN. He also served as councilman, Justice of the Peace, Chairman of the Board of Town Supervisors, first clerk of the Distric 37 School Board (Oakdale - which he is said to have named). Arthur Stephen also served a term as a Republican Representative in the MN State Legilature. He was trained in his youth as a plasterer and brick-layer by his father-in-law, Isaac Paden. He did the plaster work on the historic Courthouse in Stillwater, Washington Co., MN, Stillwater's first high school, and many other brick buildings which still stand today in Stillwater - a beautiful town on the St. Croix River.

So there's your Minnesota history lesson for the day!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pencil Drawings

For a visual artist, drawing is like practicing piano is for a concert pianist. Here are some of my recent drawings.

The next one is done with a focus on negative space, rather than focusing on the positive image. It's a great exercise for sharpening one's awareness.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Life Drawings

I'm now attending open life model art sessions on Wednesday evenings. Here are some of the sketches from the past two weeks.
Week 1:
ten to twenty-five minute poses:

Week 2:
two minute poses:

twenty minute poses:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wild & Wonderful!

Roadkill Quilt: Baby Blanket
Mink - 54x54" (c)2008
Pam Valfer

I've just seen the most amazing thing - an all-fur quilt! Actually, I've only seen this photo of it, above. But isn't it amazing?!!! The artist is Pam Valfer, of St. Paul, MN. The opening of her one-woman exhibit is Saturday, Nov. 15 from 8-11pm at the Umber Studio at 3109 E 43nd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55406. The blurb reads:
Umber°Studios is pleased to invite you to

Local Fauna
work by pamela valfer

8 - 11 pm | Saturday, November 15th
(through December 7th)

the roadkill and refuse of our contemporary mechanized society...

In her upcoming exhibition, St. Paul artist
Pamela Valfer challenges the viewer to
re-interpret sublime landscapes and ideals of
beauty and death. Valfer combines lush, vivid
drawings of animals struck by cars with quilts
entirely made out of reclaimed fur. the result
of this visual marriage is a painstaking and
detailed exploration of man's influence on
our modern landscape.

Come see. Be amazed.

My connection is remote... It seems Pam is dating one of my cousin, Connie's son. Both are art teachers and highly creative - it seems to run in our entire family! Another cousin sews and was asked to help make some sewn-by-Pam fur pieces into a hanging "quilt." Last August, Margie wrote me for advice on the first "roadkill quilt" (below), since she's never worried about hanging quilts before. It took her three days to trim the seams, make/add the pillowcase backing, and add the rod-pockets (top and bottom) for hanging. I believe this quilt hangs in the school entryway where Allen and Pam teach - although maybe not permanently. I can't even imagine how heavy that one is. The quilt above weighs about about 25 pounds and was harder to do as it required all HAND sewing to attach the backing (cotton duck) and rod pockets. Here is Marge's description of the task:
Stitching the backing on, pillowcase style went well. Since the piece was so wide, I'd had to make a vertical seam down the middle of the backing so I decided to stitch the "pillowcase" on all four sides, then slit open a section of the seam in the backing and turn it right side out. It was much easier to stitch that shut, by hand, than to have to stitch a side section...sewing through the leather. I then proceeded to hand stitch around all four sides (about an inch from the edge), and an extra row of stitching right below the rod pocket. Next, I tied it in twenty spots, spaced 12" apart. The final lint brushing of the backing included as many of my grey hairs as those of misc. demised wildlife species! I have now entered this in my book of "Things I Don't Want To Do For A Living".
The things we do for love!

Margie calls the top quilt "Our Mother's Tails" since it reminds us of our mother's mink stoles of the 50-60's. Most of the mink stoles were obtained via E-bay, although several, no doubt, came from family & friends. Somewhere in the house I still have one mink of my mother's stole - I think the other one is at my daughter's...she was in her mid-teens at the time of my folks deaths and she planned to be a vet. She ended up deciding not to spend her days neutering animals but rather researching chemistry! I don't know if the mink had any impact on that decision or not - most likely it was her working at the local vet's office that did it...

Roadkill Quilt
recycled fur coats, jackets, hats 5x6'
(c)2008 Pam Valfer

Oh, how I'd love to see this show in person!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What's Been Happening Here...

We've now been in our new home for six months - most of which we have spent fixing it up, adding necessary items, and painting all the pearl gray walls and woodwork that was everywhere - even in the garage. While it was light enough, it was GRAY, after all. A cold gray...and Pennsylvania has enough gray days all by itself to avoid gray on one's walls and woodwork! I'm nearly done with all the painting I plan for this year - there are a few rooms left to do, but they can wait until next spring.

Autumn in PA is beautiful! I took these pictures about a week ago - it's now much more barren now that most of the leaves have been blown down.

Here are a few of my outdoor "pets." I enjoy them all so much!

Now that we've pretty much completed most of the house-fixing, I've returned to art and will be posting more of my work and more often than I have been doing. I'm attending an open model session - life drawing - on Wednesdays and am loving it. I'll be posting a few sketches soon. And I'm taking Laura Cater-Woods on-line Idea-To-Image class and am really enjoying it. I'll post a few things from there as well. More in a day or two or three!