A Study in Sandstone

An entire painting done with a watercolor paint made from our local sandstone.
No photo to go on this time, just imagination.

The whole painting is in my handmade watercolor paint made from one of our local shades of sandstone.

Every Sunday I’ll be at the Kingston Square Arts shop with the colors I’ve made so far. If it’s not too busy I’ll usually be working on a painting and you’re welcome to pick up a brush and try them out, too.

Workshops on cleaning and using native clay and making paints or earth pigments are in the near future. Sign up for my mailing list if you want to get notifications. Or follow me and Kingston Square Arts on FB, because I’ll post it there too.

Promises in a broken rock, and clearing the clutter from my studio and website.

Clearing the Clutter: Promises, Broken Rocks, and Things to Come

Such promise in a broken rock… I see paints everywhere now. Makes it hard to walk down the driveway. As if that wasn’t already hard enough before I learned about making earth pigments! The path in my office/studio AND the website has gotten hard to navigate too, so it’s time to do some work clearing the clutter.

Broken Rock Aside

There are changes a’coming to the Wild Ozark website and Etsy shop. Right now the Etsy shop is completely down while I refocus and renovate.

Any of you who have followed me in my blogs over the … decades? I don’t know how long I’ve been doing this. More than a decade, at least. But if you’ve been with me even a few years you’ve seen the changes that happen.

With each name change, the focus changed too. In the earliest days of ‘Ancient Earth Wisdom’, the focus was on herbalism. Then we bought the property in Arkansas and I changed it to ‘Ozark Musings’, and later again to ‘Madison Woods’ and the focus was more on my writing. Even since I started Wild Ozark in 2014, it has evolved. I think part of that is because I’ve been trying to find my niche in the world. Part of it is because my interests are just so varied that my focus is scattered all over the place.

New passions grab me and I run with them for a while, you know? But want to settle in to one of my arts long-term so I can truly master it.

The Nature Art is Here to Stay

I’ve never felt so in love with a creative expression as I am with making my own colors and art materials. So this endeavor is *probably* going to be with me for the rest of my life. That includes the native clay and the colors and the things I make from them.

My writing is going to stay. But it has its own website and so isn’t part of the clearing of clutter on the website, nor in the office/studio. Except once I get the office/studio finished, it’ll be a lot easier to sit down and write!

The Fairy Swing Mushrooms will stay.

Once Rob returns from this contract, his woodworking is going to launch to a new level, so the woodcrafts will stay.

Clearing the clutter, but keeping the Fairy Swing Mushrooms!

What’s Changing?

Not much. I’m just doing some housecleaning – in reality and figuratively. And I’m taking out some of the too many irons in the fire. I’m going to retire the Forest Folk and Fairy Gardens and all the little accessories I’d been making. I’m not going to return the the farmers markets. Doing the market was just too time consuming and I could never get the art I really wanted to do done because I was too busy doing the things that sold best.

I will try to get into some of the juried art shows with the Fairy Swing Mushrooms and my watercolors once I get enough of them done. Ideally I’d like to have a circuit of shows or festivals to attend quarterly. At least some of those that are festivals would also let us have a booth for the syrup, too.

And speaking of the syrup. Burnt Kettle is a separate thing altogether and nothing at the moment is going to change with that. For the purpose of my focus narrowing, though, it’s just a separate thing and not part of my mental housecleaning.

Clearing the Clutter

At this very moment I’m in the process of clearing the clutter from my workspace in the house. I started that before I left for my trip to Doha, but hadn’t made a very big dent in the huge job that it is.

Once I came home I renewed the effort. All of my office is now stacked in boxes all over the kitchen and I’m trying to decide where to put it all and how to make it all fit back into the office.

It won’t all fit.

I am simply going to have to let go of some things. For example, I have tons and tons of empty boxes and containers for shipping my arts to mail-order customers.

Some of those can go and I can keep on hand just what I need. I don’t need three contractor garbage bags full.

This website is like a virtual representation of my studio/office. It also needs to be cleaned and decluttered every once in a while. Because it is important to my business, it also needs to perform well in that aspect.

Narrowing My Focus

So, the things I am going to continue doing will be the writing, the earth pigments and paints, the paintings/drawings, and the Fairy Swing Mushrooms. I had been using polymer clay for the mushroom caps, but I want to use the native clay for that going forward.

Letting go of the web design (not taking new clients), the farmer’s market, the Forest Folk, Fairy Gardens. Of course, I’m not throwing the supplies away for these things, I’m just clearing the clutter and putting them in labeled boxes. I might need to make a Forest Folk for some reason; who knows?

For the changes coming to the website, I’m going to weed out some of the categories of posts that don’t reflect the above listed things.

What About the Ginseng?

So the ginseng is a complete outlier to the rest of the things I’m doing and want to continue doing. I’m not sure yet what to do about it. I haven’t written any posts specifically about it in a long time, but it’s the main driver of traffic to this website. That’s because over the years, I did write a tremendous amount about it.

I may leave all the content related to ginseng alone, but that defeats the purpose of trying to focus and isn’t really helping with clearing the clutter. Every year I do still post a page for diggers and dealers to discuss prices and find each other. I may move all of that content to a separate website. Since I don’t update it often anymore, once I get it set up and moved, it wouldn’t be too much work.

The problem of what to do about the ginseng is the biggest potential change coming to Wild Ozark. I need to decide if I still want to bother with the growing and selling of seedlings. I think I do. But it’s an entirely different venture than the art and it needs its own place on the web.

What I’ve noticed is that most of the readers who are here for the ginseng information are not here for the blog. They come from the search engines directly to the content related to the ginseng and they rarely go elsewhere to the other topics. Most of the ones who are here to read the blog posts are not here for the ginseng related topics.

So for the most part, it’s two different audiences.

The Blog Itself Won’t Change Much

I write about nature, post pictures of things that interested me, and write about the artistic things I’m doing. Going forward, the focus will probably lean more toward the artistic things I’m doing, and I’ll post pictures of things I find interesting, like nature. So not much change. Just clearing the clutter.

Anyway… thank you to all of you who follow me around in this virtual space no matter what I’m writing about. And thank you to the ones who only like to read when it’s a topic of interest to you. And thank you to those of you who think you’re not going to like this new Wild Ozark much and decide to just hop off now, lol. It’s all good!

 

 

The Color of a Plant Does Not Equal the Color of a Paint

I’ve been experimenting with local plants to get a nice, stable, green color for my handmade watercolor paints. Most of the things I’ve tried in my quest for green has resulted in gray or brown. Lamb’s Quarters, a common edible weed turned out to hold green promises. Blue is the other elusive color on my list, and with Thai Butterfly Pea Tea I might have a source for that if I can grow it here.

Nature offers me lots and lots of stones and clay right here at Wild Ozark. Those yield very nice shades of browns and I love them. Plants offer lots of shades of yellow. But I need blue and green to complete my custom Wild Ozark palette, and those are proving hard to find.

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Color From Plants

People have used plants to make dyes for fabrics since the beginning of our time on earth. So I wondered if I could use them to make paint, too. Plants offer an abundance of various shades of yellow. But green and blue colors are especially hard to make into paint (or dye) without using materials I have to purchase.

I’ve been on a nearly obsessive quest to find local sources for green and blue color, but even if I find them, the likelihood that the resulting paint will fade in time is high. Ideally I will find a plant or something that occurs naturally here to use as pigment for a color-fast blue and green paint.

What You See is Not Necessarily What You Get

You’d think with all the green plants growing around, green would be an easy color to make. Not so. Just because a thing is a certain color, that doesn’t mean the paint (or dye) made from that thing will also yield that color.

There aren’t many blue things to experiment with, but the things that are blue are such beautiful shades. I long for color palettes loaded with such saturated colors, especially if those colors were naturally produced from my local surroundings.

Chicory flowers are a pretty blue-purple, but the paint I made from them didn't even come close to capturing that color.
Chicory flowers are a pretty blue-purple color.

Take chicory flowers, for example. What a nice pretty color those flowers are! That would make a nice blue paint, right?

Ummm. No.

It makes a nice sort of umber color, though.

The color of paint that chicory flowers made.

The same goes for greens. Most of the things that have chlorophyll in them are green. And most of the time that green turns brown as soon as it is parted from the plant.

You can see some of the work I’ve done with the sandstone, yellow, black and gray I made earlier at this page. Eventually, I’ll organize the colors into palettes and make demo art cards to go with each set.

Promises of Green Color

So I’ve been experimenting. When I pass a plant, I’ll rub the leaf between my fingers and see what happens. How long does the smear stay green on my skin? Does it even make a color transfer to my skin? Does it make a completely different color stain, like the dark brown of green walnut hulls or perilla leaves?

Today I pulled an errant weed from one of the potted peppers on the porch. Turns out the weed was an amaranth, not the pigweed with thorns, or the goose foot lamb’s quarters, but some other amaranth I didn’t know. Before I tossed it over the side, the thought occurred to check the color. I rubbed a leaf, and wow, what a nice green smear. A few more of those plants would be enough to make a decent test batch so I went out to look for more.

Of course there wouldn’t be any. But I did find the lamb’s quarters and tried one of those leaves. The green color in that smear was even brighter than the first plant, so I gathered some of those and headed back to the house. Now, I know these plants are nutritious and tasty wild foods, so if making paint or dye isn’t your thing and you have these ‘weeds’ growing around you might give them a try as food.

Here’s the experimental green paint I made from the leaves.

Green handmade watercolor paint from lamb's quarters leaves.

Right now it’s drying on a blotter card and hanging on the line in the sun so I can see if it’s going to turn brown or fade from sight. After one day, it’s still bright green so there’s hope.

Blue Color from Spiderwort and Butterfly Pea Flowers

I smashed a spiderwort (day flower) yesterday and it left a very blue stain on my finger. Unfortunately, there were only three or four flowers blooming that I could find, so I didn’t get very far with that experiment.

But I have some blue butterfly pea (Thai) for making a medicinal tea, and those flowers stain the water a very bright blue. As it turns out, the butterfly pea flower has the same compound in it and research is taking place on it as a dye plant. So I used the tea to make a test batch of paint. I used alum with part of it to see if it makes the color more stable, but the alum turned it away from blue. Still a useful color, but not what I wanted.

The butterfly pea swatches after drying overnight.
The butterfly pea swatches after drying overnight.

The compounds in the butterfly pea and the amaranth are due to compounds in the plants called anthocyanin (blue) and betalains (green). What gives me hope is that those compounds are pigments and might be more stable. If the spiderwort flowers also contain the anthocyanin, then these two plants just might work for as local sources my green and blue handmade watercolor paints!

So far the results are very promising that I’ll actually have a green and a blue paint to add to my palette. The question is how light-fast will that color be over the years?

Testing the Stability

I’m doing a test to help me see how badly the colors I have so far will fade. I painted a swatch of each color all the way across the page and labeled it twice. Once on either end of the swipe. Then I cut the page down the middle. One half is hanging on the window outside so that it is exposed to sunlight. The other side is in the dark closet. In four weeks I’ll put the two halves back together and compare the colors. I’ll update this post to let you know the results.

All the colors I have so far, hanging in the light for four weeks to test stability.
All the colors I have so far, hanging in the light for four weeks to test stability.

Today I was supposed to be a cleaning and organizing day. This experiment totally derailed yesterday’s plans but now I’m going to try and get back on track.

Update on the Light Stability

082518 – Such sad news! All of the plant based colors failed – except the sassafras. That single one performed brilliantly, and even intensified a bit, so I’ve added it to my arsenal of earth pigments. I’ll just stick with the rock-based colors until I have more time to experiment.

 

The Dusty Sand of Doha

My plan all along was to gather a bit of the sand of Doha before I left for the sand-stony ground of home. As it turned out, it was harder to find than I expected. Everywhere I went was nothing but pavement and cobblestone pavers. Any ground I saw usually was either landscaped medians between highways, or busted up rubble from construction. Eventually I realized that busted up rubble, wasn’t rubble at all, but the way the ground just looks here. So the sand of Doha is all around, even in the air. There just wasn’t any handy enough to scoop up in the places where I went.

Other places have bigger rocks and chunks and it really does just look like busted up concrete.
Other places have bigger rocks and chunks and it really does just look like busted up concrete.

Hourglass Sands Trickling Away

We didn’t do any touring of the countryside away from the city where I might have been able to just get out and scrape up a little into a bag. Today is Wednesday of the last week I’ll be here. My clothes are packed up now except for an outfit to wear out to eat and an outfit to travel home in. I began to worry I might not get to bring any dirt, sand, or rocks home with me after all.

I realize this may not be a ‘typical’ worry of people.

However, I want the sand of Doha so I can try making a watercolor paint from it. I’ll name it “Sand of Doha”. Or maybe I’ll come up with something more imaginative. I’m really jealous of all the names of the paint collections I’ve been looking at online, and every time I try to think of a name for my own first set of colors… it’s just so plain in comparison.

No Easy Way to Find the Sand of Doha

Today it's 108*F and feels like 118*F. I'm standing in the shade of a date palm here.
Today it’s 108*F and feels like 118*F. I’m standing in the shade of a date palm here, right across the street from the apartment. I probably could have swept the street and gathered up a lot of the sand of Doha that way.

It’s been so hot that I haven’t gone any further from the apartment than from the door to the car. Plus, I didn’t know how well the residents of this place would take to a stranger, an obviously western woman at that, walking down the street alone. So I just didn’t want to take any chances and stayed close to the apartment. When I went to town, I took an Uber ride (which by the way, operates fantastically here!). That didn’t offer any chances.

When I went outside to bring the garbage to the bin it didn’t feel as hot as it has lately. I wandered a little bit. On the side of our apartment there was a stretch of un-paved ground.


Found some of the sand of Doha here in this little patch of unpaved dirt.

See those poor shriveled up plants? I’ve seen a few gardens here. They look a lot like that. Most of the gardens are very small and covered with shade cloth, but they’re still brown and shriveled. Maybe they’re done for the season. Or maybe it’s where the chickens are kept. I hear roosters crowing in the mornings and evenings here. Someone nearby, a few someones, keeps chickens somewhere.

Success!

I ran back inside to get my handy little plastic cup I had on standby for such an occasion. The ground looks hard here. It literally resembles concrete dust with bits of construction rubble spread throughout. So when I went to scoop the soil, I thought surely it would be hard and I’d have to scrape.

Not so.

The cup sank down into the earth as if it were butter. I gathered up a nice bit to take home and experiment with.

A little of the sand of Doha and a feather too.
A cup full of sand and a feather.

Soil Texture

The light and looseness of the soil surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. On windy days here, the sand kicks up into the air and lingers even once the wind has died down. It’s more like dust than sand. It’s not like the sand in Florida or any of the coastal places I’ve been in the U.S. This stuff consists of some very lightweight materials, like talcum.

A brutal and hot, hazy day with sand and humidity in the air in Doha, Qatar.
A brutal and hot, hazy day with sand and humidity in the air in Doha, Qatar.

Anyway, if no one takes it out of my bag during a searches at the customs counters, I guess I’ll get to try out the idea of making a watercolor paint from the sand of Doha after all. If it works, it’ll be a very limited quantity color unless I can get Rob to go around scooping up sand for me once I’m gone, ha.

More Sand of Doha

There is still the possibility that I’ll get the chance to go to the Corniche, which is a walkway and park along the coast. I haven’t seen the museum yet, which is in the same area. It’s just been so hot it’s hard to enjoy doing anything that requires walking around outside. But if I go, there will be the opportunity to get a little more of maybe a different sort of sand here.

Closing Notes

An interesting thing I’ve noticed here.

The water is HOT. I tried to take a shower around mid-day the other day and nearly scalded myself. Not even kidding. Even the cold tap water gets too hot for a mid-day shower here.

I’ve enjoyed my stay here. Walking through the souq, knowing the people here still shop in that environment and that it isn’t just a tourist attraction, is interesting. The air is full of sounds – of traffic, yes, because the highways surround the blocked off market area. But also sounds that haven’t changed in centuries. Shopkeepers haggling with shoppers, doves cooing, and the clink and clatter of merchandise being traded for in a setting as old as the history of civilized man.

A view from the Souq Waqif.
A view from the Souq Waqif.

There were old men in traditional garb with turbans and gowns pushing wheelbarrows fitted with cushion. They sat in the shade cast by the buildings on the cushions. When one of the local women came out of a shop laden with bags, the old man would jump out of his wheelbarrow and rush over to her to see if she wanted to hire him to cart her bags for her. I asked one of them if I could take his picture, but he said no. I figured he would, but that’s why I asked first. It is against their religion to have their photograph made (I think) and I didn’t want to offend him by taking that from him without his permission. So no pic of that to share, but I’ve seen them online before.

The Food!

The air is full of smells, too. My favorite dining experience was at the crowded little Yemeni restaurant, surrounded by nothing but the sounds of people speaking in a language I couldn’t understand and the flavors of foods whose names I couldn’t pronounce. Tasting the foods of a place is one of my favorite things to do when traveling.

Qatar is a small country on a small peninsula jutting out into the Arabian Sea. Almost everything is imported here from surrounding countries, including the labor force. So there are restaurants with authentic food to represent pretty much every group. There were a lot of western fast food restaurants here, too. We tried one to see how the menu looked, but the food was awful. If you’re in a foreign country, just try eating as the natives there do, rather than trying to find something familiar from home, haha.

What Did I Not Enjoy?

The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the heat. It is oppressive and I am amazed that anyone can ever get acclimated enough to work outside in it. Rob has to work outside sometimes with his job, and it’s very hard to do without becoming heat stressed and sick by the end of a day. There is no way to capture that experience in a photograph. Even telling you the temperature won’t do it. If you’ve never been to the Middle East and want a close approximation of how the heat feels, go turn on your oven and let it preheat. When the alarm dings to let you know it’s ready, lean over and open the door. Don’t lean in so close you get burned, right? But when you feel the whoosh of hot air coming out and blowing across your face, that’s pretty close to how it feels here. Seriously.

I didn’t do a very good job of journaling to write all of these things down, even though I brought a journal and intended to do so. I didn’t get very many photographs on this trip either. While Rob was at work during the weekdays, I spent my time painting and writing on my novel. I wanted to do some sort of painting that would capture the spirit of being in the Middle East, but I also wanted it to be relevant to home.

So I painted a falcon. Except I chose a falcon native to the Ozarks to be that representative, the kestrel. Now when I look at those in the future I hope they stir up the memories of how it felt to be here searching for the sand of Doha.

American kestrels I painted while in Doha, Qatar, 2018.
American kestrels I painted while in Doha, Qatar, 2018.

Art Satchel-A Souvenir from Doha

Camel leather satchel is my new art bag. A souvenir from Doha, Qatar.
This camel leather satchel is my new art bag. A souvenir from Doha, Qatar.

This old, beat-up looking camel leather bag is my new art satchel. I love it. It’s a souvenir from Doha, Qatar, where I’ve spent the last two weeks. It has enough room to hold my paints, journal, a few favorite pencil colors, brushes and rags. It even holds my easel, if I don’t mind the top poking out of the corner. The easel is just a little too long for it, but I think it works well enough. What a great item for a traveling artist to have.

It's easy to be a traveling artist with this awesome camel skin art satchel from my stay in Doha, Qatar.
What a great item for the traveling artist!

Pictures from Doha

If you haven’t been following along on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve missed the photos. It’s easier to post them there than it is to post here, so I usually just skip the website/blog. Here are some, in case you’re curious. Doha is the capital city of Qatar. I’ll be here for another week before heading home. My husband is working here and I’ve been visiting. Next week, I’ll have to pack up my art satchel, computer, and clothes and head back home. Then I’ll just be a traveling artist toting my supplies down the driveway, ha.

Today was the first day I ventured out by myself. I went to get some groceries and used Uber to get a ride. My phone battery was almost dead so I didn’t want to use up battery life taking photos. Next week I might take another trip out to the museum if we don’t get to go to it this weekend while Rob is off of work, and I’ll definitely take more pics then.

I’ve never used Uber before and was a bit nervous but everything went great! The driver was quick to get here at the apartment to pick me up and again (different driver) to pick me up from the Geant’s grocery store when I was ready to leave. You might be wondering what kind of groceries did I get out here…

I got hummus, tomatoes, orange juice, and flat bread. Almost everything sold here is imported from neighboring countries. For instance, the tomatoes are from Holland and the Orange Juice is from Lebanon. They make the hummus and breads daily here.

Art Satchel for Me, Souvenirs for Others

I’ve only just now gotten a couple of souvenirs. A couple of friends sent money with me to buy them something interesting while I’m here, plus I wanted to get some things for family members. There’s no telling when I might get to travel again, so I want to get unique, ‘full of place’ items.

It’s unlikely that the items will be from Qatar, though at the Souq Waqif I did see several stalls that had signs stating the crafts were handmade by Qatari artists. As I said earlier about the groceries, most things are imported here. But there are some things that say ‘Qatar’, and there are things from the Middle East, so I should be able to mark some off the list soon. It’s okay if it’s not something made in Qatar, but it needs to at least be something made in the Middle East.

Traveling Artist, Signing Off

It might be after I get home before I get a chance to post again. This traveling artist and writer will be heading home soon. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of catching up to do with things at home, too. I’ll be back at the Kingston Square Arts shop on the 29th of July, and back at the market sooner or later.

Before I go back to the market I have to come up with some things to sell. I’m pretty sure all the fairy gardens will be dead or in need of repotting before I can sell them. I have paintings to make and paints to make, too.

Nature Art Anywhere, Even in the Desert

I brought my sandstone powder and watercolors with me on vacation to Doha because I wanted to be able to experiment with them during the days while Rob was at work and I was at the apartment. They’re fortunately very portable, so it makes it possible to do nature art anywhere. Even on the other side of the world, in the desert and the city.

Going through customs with me made me a little nervous because I wasn’t sure how they’d be taken if my bags got searched, but no one seemed to care about them. I packed my brushes and art pads in the same space so it would be easy to see what they were for, just in case.

They weren’t quite dry yet when I left but the arid desert air has certainly taken care of that. I had just finished making the last tin of paint the day before my plane left, so I hadn’t had time to do any doodling at all since they’d dried to see how they would work.

Handmade Paints

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The first attempt was okay. Not my best work, but since it was the first time trying to use the paints, and the first time in I can’t remember how long working with paint and brushes, my expectations weren’t high.  I wanted to find out how the color went down on the watercolor paper and at the same time capture the way it looks here at the apartments where Rob lives.

Ha, for the sake of anyone else trying to do art and finding that it’s not working for them, I am going to post this side-by-side of the painting and the photograph. It really makes me wonder what was going on with my eyes as I was painting. The two look nothing alike, except that there is a palm tree in both. Maybe it’s an eye-hand coordination issue. Whatever the problem, I’m glad I decided to go on and try something else afterward.

You can do nature art anywhere, but there's no guarantee it's going to be 'good' art. This is my rendering of the way it looks outside the apartment here in Doha. I like the palm tree but the rest leaves a lot to be desired.
You can do nature art anywhere, but there’s no guarantee it’s going to be ‘good’ art. This is my rendering of the way it looks outside the apartment here in Doha. I like the palm tree but the rest leaves a lot to be desired.

 

I like the palm tree, but the buildings are wonky and look nothing at all like the real buildings, and I didn’t even attempt to put the cat in there.

Nature Art Anywhere

Falconry is big in the Middle East. There is a falcon souq (market) here and it’s on my list of things I want to see. Since I had falcons on my mind, I decided to try painting one. I decided to paint an American kestrel because it’s our native little falcon and one of Rob’s favorite birds.

This painting came out MUCH better than the first one. I should stay away from trying to paint urban nature scenes, I think. I used a photograph for this one too and it ended up looking much more like the original than the apartment scene did.

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Portability

Colored pencils are probably more portable than anything else for doing nature art anywhere. A single regular pencil would do to capture quick scenes. I started out packing a regular pencil. And a few colored pencils. Then I added a sharpener and eraser to the little pouch. Then I thought maybe a few more colors wouldn’t hurt. Before I knew it, the whole box of 132 colors was in my suitcase. And then a few days before my departure date I started playing with the sandstone and making watercolors.

So then I wanted to also bring those.

As you can imagine, I didn’t bring as many clothes or makeup or shoes as a woman might bring on a faraway destination trip. But I did bring art supplies. And I’ve found that I can do nature art anywhere. Even on the other side of the world when it’s too hot to go outside.

 

My first set of all handmade watercolor paints.

Making My Own Watercolor Paints from Ozark Pigments

Since we moved up here about thirteen years ago, I’ve collected the broken shards of colorful sandstone rocks. I marveled at all the various shades they came in and always wondered if I could somehow find a way to use them for something. In the back of mind, the possibility of making paint from them lurked and mulled, waiting for the right time to bubble up to front and center. That day finally arrived a week or two ago. I’ve been grinding stones, smashing herbs, and making handmade watercolor paint every day since.

Watercolor Trials

Not all of my watercolor-making experiments ended up pretty. Some were downright ugly colors, no lie. But there’s an art to this, and like any other art, it takes practice to get good at it. I’m not there yet. Not only will I need practice to get a good recipe for making the paint, I’ll need practice to learn what ingredient needs to be varied when using different pigments or herbs to make the paint.

And then I’ll need practice to get good at using watercolor paint as an art medium.

So far this process has been extremely satisfying. It’s something really productive and fun I can do with the grand-girls, too. Most of all, the materials for the most part are free, and the smaller parts needed are inexpensive. All of the expense in the final sale prices of handmade watercolors is due to the amount of labor involved. It’s very labor intensive, especially if you’re starting from scratch with rocks or clay or plants.

First Successful Set

These are the colors in the first set I successfully made. Except for the turmeric, all of these are watercolor paints made from stone and herbs right outside the back door at home.

Except for the turmeric, all of these are watercolor paints made from stone and herbs right outside the back door at home.

As I said, I still need to tweak the recipe because some of the colors have too much sheen, and some are too sticky and take too long to dry. I’m not sure some of them, like the Perilla Green, will ever dry enough to not be sticky on the paper.

But for the purpose of making paint, watercolors I can actually use to produce art, I feel successful with this set because I can at least use them to paint a picture. When I get that done, I’ll add the finished work to this page so you can see what I came up with.

Update 9/15/18: none of the first set of paints I made using the plants are light fast, so I’ve abandoned using herbs for making paints. Except for the sassafras. That one actually intensified with exposure and is very light-fast. All of the stone or soil/clay pigments are light fast.

Collection No. 6, packaged and ready to ship! Uploading to Etsy on 1/11/2019.
Collection No. 6

Update 2/8/19: I’ve gotten MUCH better at both painting and making the paints. When I make my own paints for any paintings I’m working on, I make extra and sell those at Etsy. I’ve kept my focus on using only the Ozark pigments and am now working on a compilation project of Ozark Birds of Prey. If you’d like to follow along with my progress, look me up on Instagram. I post there much more frequently than here.

The Colors of Place

The first set of watercolors represent a slice of Wild Ozark. All of them, except the Turmeric, were made from stone and herb right outside my back door. Since I have other yellows from the elderberry leaf and sassafras, the set is complete even without the turmeric. I am still searching for something to use to produce a shade of blue. A friend mentioned the flowers of day flower, so i’ll try that the next time they bloom or I’ll try the leaf and stem from it when I get back home to gather some.

Right now I’m in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. I hope to gather some stones, pieces of brick, and herbs or spices to make a collection to represent this place. It’s something I’ll likely do for every place I visit in the future, too.

First Attempt at using watercolors

My first attempt wasn’t too good. The buildings are wonky and it looks nothing at all like the actual scene. But I managed to prove that I could make color on a page, and even though I don’t like the finished work I can see the potential for the paints.

Update 7/10/18

Here’s a painting I made while here in Doha of a kestrel. I call it “American Kestrel in Doha”. The russet feathers are done with my sandstone watercolor, while the faint blush in the background is made with the dry pigment I used to make the watercolor. The yellow is elderberry leaf and the gray is from black-eyed Susan flower, leaf, and stem. The only color I didn’t have on hand was black, and because of that I resorted to using my black Prismacolor pencil, which did not work well over the gray wing feather tips. I’ll have to make black very soon and try this bird again.

kestrel done in handmade watercolors
Kestrel no. 1, painted while in Doha, Qatar, using handmade watercolors that made the trip with me. Approximately 5″ x 7″. Not for sale.

The next attempt to paint a picture with my first set of watercolors came out much better. My skill showed improvement, and my knowledge of how to work with the paints had grown. There is so much potential for this medium and I’m excited to continue my development when I get home from my trip!

My second attempt at a kestrel, and the third attempt at making a watercolor painting.
My second attempt at a kestrel, and the third attempt at making a watercolor painting, also painted with handmade watercolors while in Doha. Approximately 9″ x 7″. Sold ($150)
Kestrel No. 3, featuring all handmade watercolor paints made from local stone and clay sources. Panic stage navigated.
Kestrel No. 3, featuring all handmade watercolor paints made from local stone and clay sources. Approximately 8″ x 10″, sold ($250).

Going forward with Watercolor

I’ll soon be making more paints and more paintings. As soon as I have a product good enough to offer for sale to others, I’ll list the paints here and at Etsy, and at Kingston Square Arts. Workshops are already being requested. The first one is planned for November, to be held at the Kingston Square Arts shop.

If you want to see the paintings, as I get them done, I upload the final pics to my painting page. I also post my progress pics on Instagram, so follow me there if you like to see the sometimes agonizing process. When they’re finished, they’ll be placed on consignment at Kingston Square Arts if they aren’t sold before I get them to the shop. The first two were sold nearly the day I posted the finished photo to Instagram. I’ll be there on Sundays to demonstrate and answer questions. If you want to know when the workshop is scheduled, check my schedule page often. You can also join my mailing list and get announcements by email, along with the information on how to make the paints and paintings.

Every time I make a painting, I record the steps. This helps me to improve on the next one. It can also help others who are wanting to make some of their own.

My very first paint made from sandstone earth pigments.

Nature Art Recap for the Month of June

The past weeks were very creative ones for me with nature art. I tried something new and have found a new passion that’s bound to grow with a little time – milling pigments! Next step in that exploration is making handmade watercolor paints. I also spent some time making a couple new Forest Folk. Here’s June’s nature art recap of endeavors at Wild Ozark.

Nature Art Recap

Pigments Right Outside the Back Door

This has turned out to be an all-consuming passion! It started in my mind years ago when I noticed the beautiful the color inside the cracked sandstone rocks on the driveway. Then when the grand-kids were over the other day I picked up one of the cracked rocks and decided to give grinding it in the mortar and pestle a go.

And it definitely went! Making pigments takes a person very close to the earth and is an immersive sort of nature art. The kids (and the kitchen) were very dirty when we were done.

This little experiment really set my wheels to turning. A longer post about making pigments and watercolor paints will come in August. For now, here's a nature art recap for June.
This little experiment really set my wheels to turning.

There will almost certainly be a line of Wild Ozark Earth Pigments arising from this. So far I’ve made a beautiful brown, nice yellow, and am working on a green right now. After my vacation I’ll get right to work on developing a palette of earthy watercolors from local sources of minerals and plants.

Forest Folk

It’s been a while since I’d made any Forest Folk, but wanted to have a few new things to use for show and tell at a workshop I did at the Ozark Folkways for children the other day.

Nature art recap: The two latest Forest Folk are also on display and for sale at the Kingston Square Arts shop.
The two latest Forest Folk are also on display and for sale at the Kingston Square Arts shop.

Chapter 27 in 2nd Hit (Book 2 of my Renegade Agents of A.R.S.A. rural fantasy series)

While it’s not nature art in the same sense of the word as a physical work of art, writing is also art and my writing involves a lot of nature-influenced scenes and scenarios.

Plans for July

So next month I’ll be in Doha, Qatar. Look for a change of scenery in my photos posted to Instagram and here on the blog! When I return home I’ll be working on a line of earth and plant pigment watercolor paints. Multi-layered nature art! Also on the list are more of my art mushrooms, just in case I do get accepted to any of the shows I’ve applied to in fall. I’ll definitely need more of them if that happens and I don’t want to wait until the last minute to get started.

 

Organizing, Day 2. One of the More Odd Boxes in My Nature Art Studio

I’ve been organizing my studio and categorizing my nature art supplies so they’re easier to find when I need them.

I've been organizing my studio and categorizing my nature art supplies so they're easier to find when I need them.
Some of the categories are boxed and on the shelf. Lots more to go, though.

It’s a normal habit of mine to collect things during my morning walks. Lichens, mosses, interesting rocks, chunks of sandstone or clay, bark and leaves are all on the ‘watch for’ list.

There’s another category of things I like to collect, too.

A box for everything. Organizing my nature art studio.

Bones and Dead Things need Organizing too.

Bet you’d like a peek inside this box.

Here you go.

Organizing my nature art studio.

Yes that is a dead hummingbird.

No. I did not kill it.

The hummingbird just appeared, all dead and spread out like that, on the porch one winter. So being the collector of things of nature that I am, I gathered it up with glee.

Quite possibly the tiniest feather I've ever collected.
This is quite possibly the tiniest feather I’ve ever collected. It’s from the throat of a male Ruby-Throated hummingbird.

 

The scapula bones are most likely from a deer.

The other bones are a skull and jaw of some little critter, probably a squirrel or rabbit, that died under the pines near the pond.

And of course there’s the turtle (tortoise) shell. I think most people would collect that if they’d found it. That’s one my husband found and brought in because he knew it would be a perfect gift for someone like me.

What to Do with Them?

One day I might make something crafty with these items. Or I might just leave them as they are in this box. Now that it has a label and the grandkids are learning to read, I’ll bet it draws a curious eye soon.

Where Can You Find My Nature Art?

Right now, the only place to see any of it in person is at the Kingston Square Arts shop in Kingston, AR. That’s in northwest Arkansas, but I find a lot of folks who live in the Fayetteville metro area have never heard of it. It’s a great destination for a drive out to the country. Just put it into your GPS and go take a look at our tiny little town of population 500.

Otherwise you can see them at the War Eagle Festival in October. If I get into any other shows, I’ll definitely update my online schedule calendar.

Now that I’m on a roll with the organizing, I hope to be finished before I leave for vacation next month. When I get back at the end of July, I’ll be adding more works to my catalog here in the online shop and to Etsy, and I’ll post photos to FB. Follow my Forest Folk & Fairy Stuff page if you want to see them as I get them done.

How to Make Your Own Fairy Garden Pool

Make a Fairy Pool Fairy Garden Accessory

I make fairy gardens and fairy garden accessories for my market booth at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. Want to make a fairy pool? Here’s how I do it. I sell kits to make these (bringing them to market for the first time this weekend), but you can make it yourself by following these instructions below without the kit.

Feel free to improvise at any point and make something unique! Here’s a short video tutorial… I need to practice making better videos! Lucky for you, the more detailed instructions are below.

Supplies You’ll Need to Make a Fairy Pool

The little glass pebbles sold wherever garden and or craft supplies are sold make perfect foundations for tiny fairy pools. They come in various colors but I like the green and blue ones.

If you plan to make yourself plenty of these you’ll want to buy the materials individually. But if you want to make just one or two fairy pool accessories, I have kits available for $10. They contain everything except the tools you’ll need. All of the other materials (pebbles, stones, twigs, herb for moss, and a little piece of parchment) are included.

Make Your Fairy Pool

Start with a small piece of parchment paper. This makes everything you do later much easier because it doesn’t stick to the hot glue.

Place your glass pebble flat side down on the parchment.

Step 1 for How to Make a Fairy Pool

Begin gluing small stones around it. Try to finish with a flat stone slightly higher than the others so there’s a good surface to attach the diving board or pool deck.

Once you have all the stones where you want them, use the paintbrush to add the liquid glue over all the places where the hot glue shows up on the outside of your pool assembly.

Pile the herbs so they're ready to use after you brush on the glue.
Pile the herbs so they’re ready to use after you brush on the glue.
If you plan to put your pool in a moist environment like a terrarium, use an exterior glue.
If you plan to put your pool in a moist environment like a terrarium, use an exterior glue.

Dab the pool so that the glue picks up the loos green powdered herb. Rubbed sage works, but I use powdered sassafras leaf (gumbo file’) because it retains a fairly green color a lot longer than some of the other green herbs and it’s a finer powder. The ones in the photos above are using rubbed sage. The one below is one I made with the powdered sassafras leaf.

Closer view of Fairy Pool #1
Fairy Pool using powdered sassafras leaf for the ‘moss’ on the rocks.

The herb resembles moss on your rocks and looks a lot better than the hot glue.

Step 8 Dabbing the Herb

Step 9 Let it Dry
Let it Dry

Once the wet glue and herbs are dry you can use canned air to blow out the loose bits. Or just use your breath and give it a good puff or three.

Now it’s time to add the ‘water’ to the pool. Use the hot glue gun to fill the pool to the surface. Too add color you can shave some crayons to dye the glue. In this one I did not use the crayons so you can see the color without it. The blue glass at the bottom gives a blue cast but it’s a stronger blue if you add the crayon shavings.

Fill the fairy pool with hot glue to make it appear full of water.
Fill the fairy pool with hot glue to make it appear full of water.

 

Add Accents

After the hot glue is dried, add your finishing details! Want a diving board? You can make one from tiny twigs. Same for a deck. The only limitation is your imagination. I like to use jewelry wire to make curls for accents and handrails.

You can use sand to make a little ‘beach’ area.

Diving Board

Here’s the steps using the kit to make a diving board. You can use twigs to make this at home without the kit. Even with the kit you might have access to better twigs to suit your purpose more to your liking.

Flatten a short piece of twig using heavy pliers or wire cutters.
Flatten a short piece of twig using heavy pliers or wire cutters.

You may have to glue another small rock to make a good spot for the diving board to rest. Glue the diving board onto the pool.

Now make the ladder using more small twigs. Lay out two longer pieces, then add twigs for the rungs. It’s easier to glue the rungs if you leave the twigs long and then cut them after it has dried/cooled.

Making a Ladder for the Fairy Pool diving board
Leave the twigs long for the rungs until after the glue dries.
Then cut them all to the same length with wire cutters or snips.
Then cut them all to the same length with wire cutters or snips.

Attach the ladder to the diving board.

Ladder for Diving Board

Finishing Touches

Pretty much all done now unless you want to add a guard rail. There is one included in the kit. It may need to be bent or shaped to fit your specific diving board but you can use it however you like.

Finished Fairy Garden Pool
Finished Fairy Garden Pool

You can use a little more of the herbs to cover the glue on the ladder if you want.

Finished pool using my Make a Fairy Pool Kit

Let me know if you try to make one!

Closer view of Fairy Pool #1

Fairy Garden Accessories from Wild Ozark

Introducing my new line of Fairy Garden Accessories – all handmade and one-of-a-kind artwork to complement your fairy garden terrariums!

Market Mainstays

Fairy Gardens have been a mainstay for the Wild Ozark market booth this season. Now I’m starting to make accessories to go with fairy gardens for the people who like to create their own terrariums and fairy garden scenes.

Fairy Garden Accessories

All of my fairy garden accessories are one-of-a-kind. This means I’m making each one by hand and I’m not simply painting a resin mold-cast item.

I gather the rocks from the creek here at Wild Ozark. If there’s a water feature, that’s made with a combination of hot glue gun and crayon shavings. Where a mossy look is added, it is actually powdered dried sassafras leaf or other green-colored herbs.

Here’s the ones I’ll be bringing to market this week. These are ship-able, so I’ll add them to the online shop and Etsy if they don’t sell at market.

Fairy Pool

I’m also working on some kits for those who want to build their own pools. Let me know if this is something that interests you. If I’m quick about it, I might have some of the kits with me at the market tomorrow, but I still have a lot of other things I need to do. Might be next weekend before I can put them together.

Fairy Steps

Fairy Waterfalls

Here’s one of the waterfalls. I have another one made to bring to market too, but I’m out of time for editing photos and will just post this one for today:

OOAK Fairy Garden Accessories from Wild Ozark: Waterfall

Want to See Them Early?

Watch for more fairy garden accessories as I get them created. Usually I share progress pics on my Instagram and Facebook, if you’d like to follow me there.

See them in Person

If you’re in the northwest Arkansas area, you can see these at the market downtown on Saturdays and any I have left go with me for the day on Sunday at the Kingston Square Arts shop in Kingston, AR.

Share!

If you’ve bought one of my unique handmade items, send me a pic of your garden with it in there and I’ll share it to Instagram and FB!

Fairy Swing Mushrooms- New Nature Art from Wild Ozark.

Fairy Swing Mushrooms – A New Nature Art from Wild Ozark

Update as of 112118- I’m not making these very often anymore but there are still some in stock at Kingston Square Arts in Kingston, AR.

These adorable little fairy swing mushrooms are the latest creations from the Wild Ozark studio!

Each of the Fairy Swing Mushrooms are handmade and one of a kind (OOAK).

Rather than painting the caps, this time I decided to use something natural to add the color.

The mushroom caps are polymer clay infused and dusted with powdered sassafras leaf (filet’ gumbo herb) and cinnamon. Follow me on Instagram (@wildozark) to see the new ones as I make them.

Powdered sassafras leaf on the cap of this mushroom.
Powdered sassafras leaf on the cap of this mushroom.

The stem is made from an elephant garlic stem.

The cap on this one is colored with powdered cinnamon.
The cap on this one is colored with powdered cinnamon.

The fairy swing mushrooms are mounted on a small slab of shagbark hickory. It’s decorated with moss, lichens, dried rabbit tobacco flowers. Two of them have a vine tendril. The swings themselves are made from beebalm flower stems and a bit of leaf or grass for the seat.

The caps are made from polymer clay mixed with and coated with cinnamon and gumbo file' (sassafras leaf).
The caps are made from polymer clay mixed with and coated with cinnamon and gumbo file’ (sassafras leaf).

Here’s more, colored with cumin and trimmed with sassafras leaf powder.

The ones I haven’t sold yet will be with me on Saturdays at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. If I still have them when I get home, I’ll list them at Etsy and put them in our online shop here on Sunday (or one day soon). They can be shipped. Bring a little Wild Ozark nature home with you!

Prices start at $30.

From @cmwhitson: I got mine today, and the photo doesn’t do it justice. This is the cutest little mushroom swing EVER and I truly love it! It’s so delicate and wonderful, and thanks for using biodegradable peanuts to pack it. What an incredible artist you are!! ?

Follow me on Instagram (@wildozark) or FB to see the new ones as I make them. New ones are added almost every week.

Day 14: Nature Journal Series – Sunlight on Distant Hills

Sunlight on distant hills always makes for a pretty picture. It’s just hard to capture, whether by camera or pencil. This time I tried with my Prismacolor pencils.
Nature Journal Day 14- Sunlight on the Hillsides

About this journal entry

Some autumn seasons bring vivid colors, while others are quick and or less spectacular. Always, though, the sunlight favors certain hillsides while leaving others in the shadows of the cloudy skies. When this happens, the favored spot fairly shines with brilliance. It’s always so hard to capture that with my camera and proved equally hard to capture with the pencils.

Most of the drawings from that first year with the pencils uses only spot color, while the rest is black and gray. This time, though I used the same technique, it was almost an accurate rendering of how the landscape really looked. Time of day was dusk, color everywhere had faded – except for the sunlight on distant hills.

About the Wild Ozark Nature Journal

Get the index to the other journal entries and read about my project at Wild Ozark Nature Journal.

If you keep a nature journal online, share the link to yours in the comments.

Day 13: Nature Journal Series

Signs of Life

Day 13-Signs of Life

About this journal entry

The signs of life during the coldest parts of winter always intrigue me. I love seeing the green grass shoots found under a layer of snow or peeking out from the shelter of tumbled rocks. I’m not sure why I left the chickweed uncolored in my drawing. I think I just wanted to focus on the grass. When I started drawing almost everything I did had a single focal point. Some techniques use blurring to achieve this, but I preferred to use color instead, leaving everything else in black and white.

Recent drawings are all color, but nature journal entries might always keep this method because it’s a lot quicker than trying to get the color right for all of the elements in a scene.

 

About the Wild Ozark Nature Journal

Get the index to the other journal entries and read about my project at Wild Ozark Nature Journal.

If you keep a nature journal online, share the link to yours in the comments.

Day 12 – Outline of an Ambitious Drawing

 

Day 12, The Outline of an Ambitious Drawing
I didn’t know how to capture the whole scene, so I just made an outline of the features. This is an old craggy maple tree on a bluff overhang by the creek.

About this journal entry

I started drawing (again) when my husband bought me a set of Prismacolor pencils for my birthday in 2015. Before that it had been decades since I last picked up an art utensil of any sort. I’ve yet to pick up a paintbrush again and probably won’t. There just isn’t enough time in a life to do all of the things I’d like to do.

Anyway, when I first started drawing again, and until this entry in the nature journal, I’d focused on single subjects- a tree, a leaf and rock, a patch of grass, etc. Something small in scope.

Well I wanted to capture a specific location, one I love. There’s an old maple tree growing on a short bluff with an overhang beneath it alongside the creek down our driveway. The tree isn’t large, but it’s craggy and has beautiful leaves in fall. Every year in May there is a patch of tiny orange mushrooms that spring up in the moss around her feet.

I didn’t have a clue how to draw the whole scene, so I just drew the outline. Coming back to this entry two and a half years later, I’m so glad I did at least get the outline. Now I think I can finish it. When I do, I’ll post the results as another day’s entry.

About the Wild Ozark Nature Journal

Get the index to the other journal entries and read about my project at Wild Ozark Nature Journal.

If you keep a nature journal online, share the link to yours in the comments.

Namesake of the Dragon – Another Green Dragon Drawing

Here’s the second of the Green Dragon drawings I’ve been working on. I posted the first part of it last week. This part is called the spathe (the hood) and the spadix (the long ‘tongue’) and it is the namesake of the dragon. This part of the plant is what becomes the cluster of red berries after fertilization occurs. You’ll see it in spring, before the plant has finished unfurling the horseshoe-shaped umbrella of its leaves.

Namesake of the Dragon - the spathe and spadix
Namesake of the Dragon – the spathe and spadix. Prints available.

If you’d like to know more about this plant, I have a few posts here on the blog about it. This is one of my favorite woodland plants.

The second set of test pieces - they survived!

What Does OOAK Mean?

What does OOAK mean in arts and crafts descriptions and titles? It means one of a kind (ooak), but this might not always be so clear cut as you might think. Pay close attention to item descriptions and ask questions of the seller if you want to be sure you’re getting truly unique items.

One Of A Kind (OOAK)

When I first started looking at crafts on Etsy, I thought my favorite seller was named OOAK because that acronym was everywhere in his listings. So I went to Google to search for more of his work and I couldn’t find that artist anywhere.

I did find other OOAK mentions though, and I thought, that’s odd. Maybe that isn’t his name or his shop’s name after all. And so that led me to searching for the definition of the “word”.

It means that the item is one of a kind. Usually this refers to a hand crafted item that isn’t mass produced, but is made one at a time. It doesn’t mean an assembly line process isn’t used, though. And it doesn’t mean that the artist is the only person who worked on it.

My crafts are OOAK.

I may have all of my twigs cut to the desired length, a bin of acorns handy and my botanicals all sorted into piles by texture and color. But each and every Forest Folk, Fairy House, or sculpture is created individually and by me.

Some items that are OOAK are designed by the artist but assembled by employees. I hope that I need to hire someone to help me eventually, because that would mean I am selling a lot of them. The sort of thing a helper could do for me would be to assemble the botanicals into ordered bins, or even gather and preserve botanicals.

But I don’t think I’d ever want anyone else to do the actual building of the piece. It doesn’t mean the piece is any less OOAK if someone else assembles it, but it just wouldn’t feel like my own signature should go on a piece that I didn’t build personally.

OOAK Forest Folk WoodworkerThere are OOAK Dolls, OOAK carvings and sculptures, and pretty much anything that is made from inspiration in the artist’s mind is OOAK.

What is Not OOAK

Most things made in large quantities are not one of a kind unless each individual thing has been customized by an artist.  For example, I may make a hundred clay beads by hand. I may make them using the same technique over and over and the beads will look pretty much the same. But they are not. Each bead is different from the next because each bead was made by hand. Not only that, once they’ve been fired, each bead will have a different reaction to that firing.

This was once the same color as the test pieces I just blew to smithereens in the test firing.
This was once the same color as the test pieces I just blew to smithereens in the test firing.

However, if I have a mold and poured a hundred beads into 100 identical molds, then that bead is not necessarily OOAK. It could be, if on firing it keeps its individual look and feel. Or if I hand-painted each bead. But if they all look alike, then they’re not one of a kind.

Most of the time, a thing that is OOAK is handmade, and made one at a time. Things made in a manufacturing facility are not ordinarily considered OOAK.

A Green Dragon Drawing

I’ve been working on a Green Dragon drawing for the cover of NANPS’s summer issue of Blazing Star. There will be another of the spathe and spadix to do next. That one will be used in the article.

Here’s the photograph I worked from. I used more than one photo because I didn’t have a single capture that showed the plant and all of its leaves AND the ripe fruit cluster.  I used this one because it at least showed all of the leaves.

Green Dragon in July
Green Dragon in July

Here’s the progression of the drawing in stages:

Green Dragon Drawing
Green Dragon Drawing. Prints available from the Wild Ozark shop.

 

Click here to see my drawing of the Namesake of the Dragon. If you’d like to know more about this plant, I have a few posts here on the blog about it. This is one of my favorite woodland plants.

A bucket full of nature farming produce.

What Does a Nature Farm Produce?

Today I took a little hike after feeding the horses. I was on a mission to collect moss and lichen-covered branches. These are just some of the things the Wild Ozark Nature Farm produces.

And that’s how a nature farm works. I didn’t plant seeds, or till, or do anything at all to grow these products, I just have to collect them.

Resource Management

Maybe nature does all the work of growing the produce, but, I do have to be aware of how much stress my harvest places on the the resources being gathered. I do sometimes propagate some things, like the ferns, to make sure more of them grow to replace the ones I took.

I also propagate the woodland medicinals, like the ginseng, goldenseal, bloodroot, and cohosh. With ginseng I use seeds, but for the others I use root division or seeds.

A bucket full of nature farm produce.
A bucket full of nature farm produce.

I make sure I don’t gather too many of the ferns from an area, even where they are plentiful. When there is a large fern, I’ll only take part of it and leave behind half of the root mass to continue growing.

If it is an unusual fern, or one that won’t do well transplanted, I leave it alone. Likewise, I am careful with the gathering of moss and lichens. Moss, in particular, takes a good bit of time to regrow in some areas. For this reason, I’ll gather from a different area each year. This gives the moss time to repopulate before I go to that area again in a year or two.

We follow the same practice of rotation with the bark from the shagbark hickory trees. The bark is what we use for Burnt Kettle’s Shagbark Hickory Syrup.

With some things, like gumballs and acorns, there is very little chance at all of over harvesting. The same goes for the groundfall items I collect, like the lichen or moss-covered bark pieces that have dropped to the ground.

Nature Farm Produce

Today’s harvest included:

  • moss
  • lichens
  • rocks
  • ferns

Value Added Products

So after I collect the botanicals, I can either sell them like they are, or make something else with them. Just like a traditional farmer does with, for example, strawberries. Some people want to buy the strawberries fresh and some might like some jam.

With the moss, some like to buy it fresh and ready to use in their own DIY projects, and some might like a Wild Ozark Fairy Garden.

A bag of moss.
A bag of moss.

How to Store Fresh Botanicals Like Moss

For the moss in that bag in the photo above, I’ll put it in the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator. When packaged like this in a cellophane bag, the moss stays green and alive for weeks. If it will be longer than that before I use or sell it, I’ll take it out to get some light every once in a while.

I use the botanicals for various things.

  • The moss, to store ginseng rootlets and seeds

Packing the rootlets or the seeds on a bed of fresh, living green moss keeps them fresh far longer than without.

  • Moss and ferns, in Bowl Terrarium/Fairy Gardens

Bowl Terrarium

  • Moss and ferns, in glass globe fairy gardens
Our Fairy Gardens are available in round or teardrop globes.
Our Fairy Gardens are available in round or teardrop globes.
  • Everything, dried or preserved for use on the Forest Folk

Sorceress, a product from the Wild Ozark Nature Farm

  • Dried for use on the Fairy Houses
A wee little fairy house made from Wild Ozark nature farm botanicals.
A wee little fairy house made from Wild Ozark nature farm botanicals.
  • To sell as is to other crafters

Natural Habitats

The Wild Ozark Nature Farm provides lots of perfect habitat for growing plants like American ginseng. This endangered medicinal herb has a very narrow set of requirements to grow and I take full advantage of all the spots here that support it.

I sell the seedlings and sometimes the older plants at the farmer’s markets and also ship them out by mail.

4-Prong Ginseng with Red Berries

Other Nature Farm Products

Aside from the physical items directly related to growing or harvesting, the Wild Ozark Nature Farm also provides inspiration. I’m an author and artist and my work depends on this close contact with nature. Even my fiction draws on my relationship with nature.

Here’s my latest work of nature art, drawn from a photo I took of a green dragon plant here at Wild Ozark.

Green Dragon Drawing
Green Dragon Drawing. Prints available.

Thanks for Visiting

I hope you enjoyed this little tour through the nature farm. Every square inch of this 160 acres opens up worlds of possibilities and I can’t think of any other life I’d rather have!

Freezing Fingers for Nature Art – Photos, Bringing Hay to Horses on an Icy Morning

It was 12* F as the sun came up over the mountain yesterday morning. I headed outside to feed the animals, and freezing fingers were in the forecast. When I fed the horses, I walked across the creek to check to see if they needed more hay yet. They did.

Anytime is a good time to get good nature photography around here. Rob warmed up the tractor and I grabbed my “real” camera and we headed out to bring hay to the horses on an icy morning.

Angles of Light

While crossing the creek to check the hay, I noticed how beautiful the sunlight was on the skin of ice by my meditation rock. All I had with me was my cell phone, so I took a quick photo and decided to bring the real camera back out when we brought the hay.

Early morning rays on the creek.
Early morning rays on the creek.

By the time I got back down to the creek, when we brought the hay, the moment was gone. Such is the ephemeral life of sun sparkles and light angles. But it was still pretty nonetheless.

However, there were at least still some sun sparkles. Sun sparkles are so beautiful in photos and is a form of nature art where all I have to do is capture the image. They looked so magical spilling through the rocks!

The photo below is available on stretched canvas at Redbubble in various sizes. The largest is 30″ tall and it is $109. The photo enlarges if you click on it. The title at Redbubble is “Sun Sparkles (vertical)“. You can get the image on various other items, like cell phone cases, iPad covers, thermos mugs, etc. It also comes as a metallic print for $29.00.

Sun Sparkles, nature art photography for the wall.
Sun Sparkles, nature art photography for the wall.

I have a horizontal one, too.

Sun Sparkles (horizontal), nature art photography
Sun Sparkles (horizontal)

Horse Eyes

I love horses’ eyes, so I take a lot of photos of them. Most of them don’t come out because they don’t stay still long enough. Or they close their eyes just as the shutter clicks. For the longest time, they’d bolt when the shutter clicked, but at least we don’t have that issue anymore. Here’s a good one of Comanche’s eyes. It’s available at Redbubble on lots of different products.

Comanche's Lovely Eyes
Comanche’s Lovely Eyes

I particularly love the way the tote bag and the tank top came out:

Tote bag featuring Comanche's eye.Tank top with Comanche's eye.

Patterns of Ice

On the way to where we bring the hay to the horses, there are big perpetual mud puddles. The springs feed them, and they only dry out during the driest time of year in late summer. Most of the time, they’re not actually muddy at all until we drive through them with the tractor.

In winter, the ice crystallizes in such interesting patterns. These look like puddle fingerprints.

Ice Fingerprints in the puddle.

Any little inclusion gives the crystal unique shapes.

The ice crystals around a small piece of debris.
The ice crystals around a small piece of debris.

Moving water gives interesting form to ice, too. I love the globules of ice and the satin texture of the water still liquid. The following photo will be available on items from RedBubble too, but I haven’t finished uploading it.

Ice gathering on leaves at water's edge.
Ice gathering on leaves at water’s edge.

Fingers Frozen

By the time I’d fed the animals, checked the hay, then rode the 4-wheeler to open the gate when Rob brought the hay, and then lingered around taking photos, my fingers were frozen. When I couldn’t feel my index finger well enough to push the shutter button anymore, I went back in.

Oh the sacrifices made to make or capture Nature Art.  My freezing fingers thawed out quickly enough by the woodstove.

After we were done warming up inside, we went back out into it to cut a couple of dead trees and pull them out for firewood. Thankfully the sun had come out and it warmed up to nearly above freezing by then. Everytime we cut wood, I find lots of pieces I’d rather use for nature art than burn, so I have a little pile of “holds” by the back door. One day I’ll have to make a post on those and give some hints on what I plan to do with them.

Enjoy the rest of your winter!

New beginnings - Beautiful sunrise here this morning.

Endings and Hopeful for New Beginnings

Sometimes it takes a thing ending to spark renewed efforts to find new beginnings.

Endings

One of our little shops in town closed its doors abruptly this weekend. The owner has tried to make a successful business of it, but that’s a hard thing to do in a town with a population of only 500 or so. She did quite well, but the income stream was seasonal and not dependable. When she received an offer for a good job in the next nearest town, she couldn’t say no to that opportunity.

Tina’s Place on the Square (and the Artroom Gallery in the back) was a wonderful retail outlet for lots of the local crafters and artists, myself included. My books sold fairly well in there, and our syrup did too. I’d come to rely on that little paycheck, mostly because it offered “proof” my work hasn’t been completely in vain. A paycheck is a symbol of success, ha, no matter how small it is.

Kingston, Arkansas. If you find yourself there, stop in at Tina's Place on the Square.
Kingston, Arkansas

This closure marks a new beginning for Tina at a full-time job with benefits. In this day and economical climate, the importance of a regular paycheck and health insurance can’t be ignored. I’m still holding out on that (since we do have insurance and some income), hoping Wild Ozark makes a run for the money soon.

Her run with The Place on the Square spanned at least four years, selling vintage and antiques, and local arts and crafts.

Hopeful for New Beginnings

So now I have been motivated to find more outlets for my work and Rob’s syrup. Today I applied to be a vendor at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. I’ve heard it’s quite tough to get in there, but my fingers are crossed and my prayers have been whispered into the ears of the trees. Hopefully, the Universe will hear and respond in a way that makes me smile.

I’ve also recently applied to be a vendor at the Arkansas Made-Arkansas Proud Festival in Little Rock in April, and to the Sharps Show at the War Eagle Festival, too.

If I’m able to get into those three venues, it should be enough to keep me busy year-round making and selling products. It should bring enough income to keep plugging away at these things I love to do.

What are the products? What do I do?

I’m glad you asked 🙂

  • Art
    • Forest Folk
    • Fairy Gardens
    • Nature Drawings
    • Note Cards
  • Writing
    • Content for my blogs
    • Articles for publications
    • Fiction books
    • Nonfiction books
  • Speaking/Presenting/Teaching
    • on Ginseng Habitat
    • on Nature Journaling
    • on making Nature Art
    • herb walks
  • American Ginseng
    • seedlings
    • companion plants
    • demonstration garden
  • Bark
    • the bark is used in Burnt Kettle’s Shagbark Hickory Syrup
    • after making the syrup, I re-use it
      • smoking chips
      • added to Forest Folk crafts
      • garden mulch

The list above pretty much sums up Wild Ozark. Here’s to new beginnings! January is a good month to start making a renewed effort toward my business sustainability, wouldn’t you say?

Other Endings

One of the first people to help me with my writing technique died the other day. His name was Dusty Richards. He and his wife both died from injuries received in a car accident. I haven’t been to meet with the Ridgewriter’s in a few years now, but I’ll always be grateful to Dusty, along with Velda Brotherton. She and Dusty started the group I used to attend, and I think it is she who runs the event mentioned below.

Other Beginnings

I’m going to make a point to become active again in my writer’s groups. Socializing with other writers always did help me stay motivated to keep writing. Although I’m still writing – on this blog, articles for NANPS, and slowly, slowly on my Bounty Hunter trilogy (which I’ve renamed, by the way), mingling will spur me to write more words more often.

Annual Free Writer’s Conference

On March 10 I’ll be at the Annual Free Writer’s Conference in Fayetteville. I’ll have a table there with my books. If you’re in the area and are interested in writing, or want to meet some of the local writers, come by. Registration is required, but it’s a free event.

Saturday, March 10 – 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Ozarks Electric 3641 North Wedington Dr., Fayetteville, Arkansas

To register please email Velda at [email protected] They would like to get a head count and will have to cut off registrations at 70 because of the size of the room so register early. Watch Facebook for any forthcoming announcements.

Ozark Writers League Conference

The Ozark Writers League holds a conference for local writers four times a year in Branson, MO. I used to go often to these, but haven’t in quite a while. I’m not sure I’ll be able to make the February meeting, but if you’re a writer in search of a flock, this is a good one to join, too.

The conference is Feb 16-17 and you can find out more by clicking this sentence. It’s linked to the website.

 

Book a Forest Folk Workshop Near You!

Wild Ozark Forest Folk musicians and dancer.
The Musical Forest Folk (click to enlarge)

Want a Workshop Close to You?

If you’d like to host, or know somewhere good to have a workshop, get in touch. I’m willing to travel within 50 miles of Kingston, AR for groups of at least 10. Cost is $25/participant and I bring all the supplies with me, including the glue guns. For farther distances, travel compensation will also be required.

 

The Forest Folk Workshop

The workshop consists of people creating twig art with or without my assistance. My Forest Folk come with me for show and tell, and to inspire new works but participants can make whatever they want – and it doesn’t have to look just like mine. I’m there and ready to help or offer advice so participants can go home with a fabulous work of Forest Folk Nature Art.

I bring everything needed, including my collection of botanicals, like acorns, twigs, moss, preserved leaves, lichens, rocks. Participants browse through it all, choosing the pieces that “speak” to them, and then get to work.

Even the glue guns are provided!

Some of the participants brought items of their own for others to use, like seeds and acorns. As with any great art project, there was lots of glorious mess!

Forest Folk Workshop with Madison Woods at Ozark Folkways in Winslow, AR.
At a Forest Folk Workshop, if the table isn’t messy, we’re not having enough fun.

In a couple of hours there is a whole new civilization of Forest Folk on the table. Everyone goes home with a gorgeous hand-made work of nature art and I get to have a fun time making an artsy mess with some partners in crime!

The First Forest Folk Workshop

The first forest folk workshop took place in 2017 just before Christmas. A very big THANK YOU to John Ford from Ozark Folkways in Winslow, Arkansas for inviting me to do this. And by the way, if you have the opportunity, you should stop in to see all the magnificent art they have in that place.

The Ozark Folkways is an artisan center, a space for creatives to work and gather, but also a place for visitors to stop and see local art. Many of the works made by local artists are on display and for sale. Tremendous talents are living in our Ozarks!

Here’s some pics from the workshop.

 

 

Making Twig Art: Gumball Folk Bride and Groom

My granddaughter stayed the night with us last night and today I thought we could make some twig art together. She wanted us to make a bride and groom Forest Folk pair, so we went outside to gather some botanicals.

We picked up some gumballs from the sweet gum tree out front, along with a few acorn caps, and some sticks. Then we found a nice soft and fluffy feather that would work great for hair or hat. I had some dried wildflowers on hand and sumac berries, too.

The only other things necessary to make twig art with these botanicals were a glue gun, a pair of wire-cutter pliers, and tweezers. Tweezers are wonderful inventions that keep fingertips from getting burned in hot glue. I’m ashamed to admit it took several burns before I figured this out.

Gumballs, acorn caps, dried flowers, and a soft feather. Twig art supplies all spread out.
Gumballs, acorn caps, dried flowers, and a soft feather. Twig art supplies all spread out.

Making Twig Art

We made the very first Gumball Folk! All Gumball Folk are also Forest Folk.

Chloe’s not old enough yet to use the glue gun without burning her fingers, so I did all the putting to gether. She helped gather the gumballs and held some of the things while I added the glue.

The first thing I usually do is work on the head. If I’m going to add hair, I do that first.  We added some tiny glass eyes to these, too. Then I’ll cut a medium diameter twig for the body.

How the head is positioned on the twig depends on what the Folk is doing. Reading Folk usually have their faces tilted downward toward a book in hand. The Groom needed to be slightly looking down toward the Bride, who needed to look slightly upward toward the Groom.

Adding Details

Once the head is attached to the body, I’ll add the legs. I usually use a slab of hickory bark to mount the Folk on if they’re standing. This is a lot more stable than a twig figure standing alone.

Before I add arms, especially on the female figures, I’ll add the clothing around the hips and upper legs. That’s so much easier than trying to do it around fragile arms in the way.

This Gumball Folk Bride is wearing a grass and dried wildflower skirt accented with the red sumac (NOT poison sumac) berries.

The Gumball Folk Groom’s shoes are made from a wildflower seed cone cut in half. The seeds are gone from the plant and it left behind an interesting form, so I gathered them thinking I’d find a way to use them sooner or later. Worked great!

Which Botanicals to Use?

Sometimes I do use botanicals that could be harmful if eaten. But for a project with children, it’s best to use things that can’t cause trouble. None of my artwork is intended to be consumed, so I’m not really picky about what I use except I generally don’t use things I know to be dangerous.

But if it’s beautiful, natural, and not going to cause the plant population to decline if I use it, it’s fair game no matter what it is. Sometimes I’ll not harvest berries from plants that are in short supply here, so the seeds inside will have more opportunity to repopulate new plants.

The sumac berries I used on the Bride’s shoes and skirt are a good example. This is not poison sumac, but an edible berry from a shrub called sumac.

Bride and Groom Gumball Folk.
Bride and Groom Gumball Folk. Check out their groovy little shoes.

Chloe took these prototypes home with her, so I’ll have to make some more soon so I can take some better photos.

These would make interesting nature art cake toppers for someone having an interesting wedding 😉 When the next ones are made and I get the photos, I’ll load it to Etsy so you can get a better look at them.

Twig Art Workshop

If you’d like to create some Forest Folk of your own and want some guidance, make plans to attend my workshop on Dec. 16 at the Ozark Folkways center in Winslow, AR. It’s just in time to make some for Christmas gifts!

The Wild Ozark shop at Etsy

Just a short post to let you know what I just listed over at the Wild Ozark shop at Etsy. The photos are linked to the listings.

Fairy Cup and Stand, $10 now at the Wild Ozark Shop at Etsy.
Fairy Cup and Stand, $10 at Etsy.

 

Forest Folk Reading Girl
Forest Folk Reading Girl, with chair for $35 at Etsy.

Here’s the page about the Forest Folk if you’d like to read more about them. I’m constantly working on new ones but I can only take the photos on days when it’s not too windy outside.

If you like to make crafty things and are local, you might like to join me in a workshop on making Acorn Folk in Winslow on Dec. 16 at Ozark Folkways.

I’ll try to update this post and republish it every once in a while with the current listings.

Please click through and visit and add them to your favorites, even if you can’t buy any right now. I’m not sure how Etsy’s search algorithms work, but that might help my things show up better on their site. Thanks in advance!

Test Firing the Native Clay – Failure and Success

Yesterday I posted about cleaning the native clay and the test firing I planned to do once they dried out enough.

I’m too impatient. I should have waited another day, maybe even longer because the clay was pretty wet when I first worked the little ball and circle.

They exploded to smithereens almost as soon as I put them in the coals.

Plan B

So, I pulled out the first test ball I’d made a while back. It was in storage in my studio/office and I KNEW it would be dry. I had already fired it for a short amount of time last winter. I hoped this would compare to a “bisque” firing, because what I planned to do with it would test the limits.

It wasn’t as smooth and I hadn’t burnished it, but it was made the same clay. This was just one of the small clean clay lumps in the chunk, so it hadn’t gone through the sieves and process the others had.

Test Firing and Pushing the Limits

I opened the wood stove, made a nice little bed of glowing embers, where the previous test pieces had been but now were nowhere to be found, put the test ball in the embers and covered it with more hot coals.

Test firing underway, and quiet so far. Unlike the previous episode that sounded like fireworks going off inside the wood stove. Whew.

When the little ball became red hot I pulled it out with the tongs and dropped it into cold water as if I were making a Raku pot and ducked for cover.

It survived!

This was once the same color as the test pieces I just blew to smithereens in the test firing.
This was once the same color as the test pieces I just blew to smithereens in the test firing. It was not as smooth or “finished” as the original test piece.

Now it has some blackened areas and some rust colored area and I like it. More tests to come once the new pieces dry much longer. Very encouraged in spite of this little setback. I learned some things!

More Stress Testing

Next I wanted to know if I could drill into it with my Dremel tool. Sometimes I just need to put a hole into pieces I’m working with. If I’d think of it before firing, I could just put the hole in before the clay hardens.

Anyway, it did take the drilling okay. I lost my grip on it for a second and it twisted, resulting in a flake chipping off of it, but not too bad.

After the test-firing, I wanted to put a hole in the top of this so I could insert the stem and glue it. Now, this little "Folk" will have an interesting hair piece made from the clematis seedpod.
After the test-firing, I wanted to put a hole in the top of this so I could insert the stem and glue it. Now, this little “Folk” will have an interesting hair piece made from the clematis seed pod.

So that’s it for the reporting on my experiments for now. Tomorrow we’ll be at AFIC cooking more of our Burnt Kettle Shagbark Hickory Syrup. Then I’ll be getting ready for the market.

Market Plans

I’m not planning to bring my Forest Folk out again because they’re too fragile to keep boxing them up and setting them out, then reboxing and bringing them home over and over. If you want one and want me to bring it to market for you, just email me. Most of the market-goers are there for vegetables and bread, and crafts just aren’t doing very well, anyway.

If you’d like some hands-on fun at a Forest Folk Workshop, plan to attend in Winslow on December 16.

Next round of tests

Here’s the two I fired yesterday on 11/3/17. The one in the back hasn’t been fired yet. The one on the left was burnished before firing and the black one on the right was not. Both were dropped into water as soon as I pulled them from the fire. Both performed exceptionally! I can’t wait to make more things.

The second set of test pieces - they survived!
The second set of test pieces – they survived!