Hopalong Hollow....

Hopalong Hollow, where the Blueberries grow sweet, and the moss feels soft beneath your feet.

Saturday, February 28, 2015


      I've wanted to blog about our kitchen renovation for weeks now... but that job  is not finished due to unforeseen circumstances. So, what can I post on today? I hadn't a clue, until I spritzed a mist of  "Innisfree" on my wrist, and with the sweet fragrance of spicy and floral deliciousness, the snow melted, the leaves miraculously appeared on the trees and the daffodils poked their sharp green blades through the frozen earth! 

Well,  maybe I'm exaggerating, but you must agree that  perfume is a most uplifting and magical substance.

     I may be a  farm gal, but I never go a day without lipstick or perfume . Is  there anything that makes one feel more feminine than perfume? 

As if the scent weren't enough to draw you in,  the packaging of perfume has always been in the most attractive of containers.
All of the above are antique cologne bottles with sweet names like Superior Pomade, Violet Toilet Water and Clover of India.

My first bottle of perfume, perhaps I was around 13yrs old, was a simple eau de toilet called "Muguet de Bois" by Coty. Imagine my surprise when I recently tracked down a bottle of this cologne I thought long ago discontinued. It still smells light and wonderful as lily of the valley.
Most ladies discover a perfume they love and continue with it for a lifetime. How about you?
 My long time favorites are "Romance" by Ralph Lauren and "Pleasures" by Estee Lauder.
However, I love trying new scents and recently discovered a   sweet smelling, fragile fragrance made in Ireland called:
I did not have a clue that perfume was made in Ireland, what an unexpected pleasure.
 And who could resist these wonderful tiny bottles of aroma from Penhaligon's?
If you want to test a new scent without paying a fortune for a full size bottle, they also offer skinny vials in a sample box.  A 3.4 oz bottle of Penhaligon's runs close to $100, so you will want to experiment before committing.
 I highly recommend the Bluebell, Victorian Rose and Lily of the Valley.. that is, if you like a light flowery scent as I do.
Now, I am on a search for 3 other perfumes I wore long ago. ELUSIVE by Avon; my fragrance in High School ,CHAMADE by Guerlain, discovered on a trip to a duty-free shop  in the Carribean when I was 21 and  Rive Gauche by YVES ST Lauren.purchased for me by a good friend on my 25th birthday.
Fragrance brings on such memories. I can still remember the first time I used Yardley's English Lavender Soap... it is still a favorite of mine.
 Please share, what cologne, perfumes, scents or soaps do you love?  What was the first perfume you ever wore? And one more.. Are you old enough to remember a cologne my mother used to wear called "Evening in Paris"? I think it was pretty awful, but very nostalgic. Mom used to sell Avon door to door in the 60's and she got many free samples of perfume, thank goodness she gave up the "Evening in Paris"
 Still, I would love to find an old bottle to add to my collection.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Baa Baa black sheep, have you any wool?

.   Yes maam yes maam , three bags full....WOOL !
 I got MORE than a basketful  from my ladies in the barn, Margaret, Beatrix and Sophia. I've had these girls for about 12 years.

And I received these huge bags of soft, luxurious Alpaca wool from my good good friend, Deborah. 

. Thanks so much,  ALL of you ladies!

I used to hire a 4-H boy  to shear my sheep, but he was careless and my ladies would be left with cuts and slices. I would cringe as his hot/electric shears whirred across the wool gouging  their skin every few minutes; poor girls! I figured I could do a better job of it myself and now i do all the shearing with a heavy duty pair of Kitchen Shears. I shear in May, and although we've only 3 sheep, it takes hours and hours. Believe it or not, I like this job.

After shearing, even the best bits of sheep's wool seems rather unappealing with debris and vegetable matter permeating the fibers. It takes some time to remove the most offensive parts by hand. This is last  years batch before being picked over.
 After a few rounds of washing and rinsing,
this silvery grey wool from  Sophia, and the buff colored wool from Beatrix and Margaret smells of Ivory soap and only needs carding.

 Carding is something I have learned to enjoy.

 My wool needn't be perfect, because it is not for spinning, but for needle felting.  Before I learned needle felting, I used to gift all my piles of wool to fiber artists. I have many wonderful creations from artist Penny White, and I never gave a thought to trying the craft  myself; until I did a fiber show. The lady in the booth next to mine just happened to be a Needle felter who made hats and clothing. She also sold ALL the necessary tools of the trade. She gave me a brief felting lesson and I was hooked. Now, I can put my own sheep's wool to use in my own way.

Working with Wool just feels good.

  Mohair fabric in shades of fur and feathers
is also very pleasant to work with,I have found.
To make the creatures of the Hollow,
. I spend many hours designing and redesigning patterns.
 Studying the shapes and sizes of heads and bodies helps with  the proper perspective.
Working in chapters, I will cut out all my patterns at once.

Place them in  tidy piles,
  and then I'll bag the body parts that belong to the heads I have already created until I am ready to stitch them.
Time to stitch.

This week I've worked on sheep. I felt I owed it to the girls to have representatives of their breeds .
   This is Beatrix, she hates the idea of being shorn. Once, when we were trying to catch her for shearing, she jumped over a 5 foot fence, just like that!
 However, once she's tethered, she'll stand still as a stone for me.

 Margaret is a Suffolk, I love her Roman nose and long eyelashes. She is quite good about shearing, because she loves attention and thinks I am petting her with the scissors as I try to be gentle. All the girls stay calm with a bag of corn within reach.

          Sophia is a Lincoln Finn. She was pitch black when I bought her as a lamb, and stayed that way for many years. She IS a baa-baa black sheep. Now, at 12 years old, her wool has turned a lovely silvery gray.
She is feisty and difficult to shear, because the length of her wool is astounding; but it is truly beautiful, curly and soft. The lanolin in the wool makes my hands quite oily as I cut away, but it has such a nice scent.

 More little sheeps are in in the works, maybe some tiny lambs too....I am just learning.

It's fun!


Friday, January 30, 2015

Art and Decisions....Decisions

      Recently, a comment by reader,Vic, inspired this idea for a post when she asked me " How do you decide what to work on today and how do you stay focused with so many possibilities to choose from?"  Great question!
I will answer it from an artists view point. Most artists that I know, are multifaceted and work in more than one medium. In my case, I write and illustrate storybooks,
 and paint posters and greeting cards


and create Scherenschnitte
and paper-cutting (over 30 years)

 I also "scratch" eggs, and do various forms of needlework. Last year, I began re-creating my book characters in 3-d with mohair,needle-felting and stitchery.
 So how does one decide what to work on with so many enticing possibilities?
This is what I do:
I choose whichever art project I am most ENTHUSIASTIC about at the time.  Because I make my living with art, I must also decide how much time I can spend on any particular project. If,in the long run,  the project will not result in some kind income, I must limit the time I spend on it.

 When I work on a book for example, I KNOW the process will take at least 20 months, so enthusiasm AND DEDICATION is a must. I know that the books are profitable for us, so I don't mind the time it takes for completion.
 I have a book in the works at this time with 7 drawings  finished, that is a good start, but it is not my goal at this time to dive headfirst into another book. SO, I set these drawings aside  until I am ready to fully commit.

The common thread in everything I create is Hopalong Hollow. My books take place in Hopalong Hollow,
 My paper-gardens represent our gardens in Hopalong Hollow,

 My little stuffed critters are inspired by  the characters from my books,

and the eggs I etch were ALL hatched in Hopalong Hollow.


(Thank you girls!)
My  painted Scherenschnitte  represent all that I love here, in the Hollow, as well.


 So, no matter what art I choose to pursue, it all leads to the same destination:
HOPALONG HOLLOW. That is my little world.
Since December, my concentration has been on increasing
 the population of the Hollow with my little Fuzzy folk. My goal is to have at least 30 of them, ranging in size from 6" to 20 ".

 Because I have no idea whether or not my stuffed critters will sell, I am limiting myself to 3 months of production time. and I'm participating in a Fiber show in April,  to test the waters. I am loving every minute of it, but always, in the back of my mind, is the question, " Should I be working on something else?" Many professional artists feel this way, there is always the nagging little voice that says.." Yes, this is great fun, but will it pay the bills?" So that is something I must consider as well.
"Will WE pay the bills???"
I  also know, that before Easter arrives, I will want a large supply of these eggs:

 So, in MARCH, I will set aside my wool and fabrics, get out my etching supplies and begin to "scratch" eggs. I like to work in quantity without sacrificing quality, so it's important to stay in the mindset of your project  because each endeavor requires a different set of skills . I will have around 50 eggs when I am done and that is all I will make for the  year.

When I do settle on a project, I have a goal  and a plan. Working in chapters,staying focused and excited about the art.  Next week I'll take you step by step on the creation of my Fuzzyfolk.

I hope this answered your question Vic. Perhaps  you readers will share your own methods of staying focused and sincere  about whatever is going on in your studio? I think it would be most interesting.