Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hiking Through the Florida Scrub

Sunlight through oak trees

Although it was sunny, and not my favorite weather for a hike, it was early enough in the morning to still be fairly tolerable.  I really hoped that we would see white-tailed deer , because the area is just covered in tracks. The deer are usually most active around dawn and we were arrived around 8:30 am, but I still had some hope.  Most of the trails are a kind of habitat known as Florida scrub . The soil has a sandy feel, hard for walking at times,  but great for gopher tortoises  to burrow in.  We didn't see any tortoises today, but did see some other interesting wildlife and wildflowers.
Deer Tracks

Unfortunately today the deer flies were especially bad, but I had hopes that  it meant there were deer close by.  Braving the nasty biting flies and humid Florida heat, we pushed ahead along the trail that was perfumed with the fragrance of sweet bay magnolias which were covered in swallowtail butterflies.
Sweet Bay Magnolia
Meadow Beauty Wildflowers
The path brought us next to a small lake where we saw an alligator's head sticking up. He didn't seem very large, only about 5 or 6 feet, but as I stepped closer to snap his picture he went under.  We had seen a lot of interesting insects and birds. The air was full of the sound of cicadas buzzing as we started heading back to the beginning of the trail. Shawn, my husband, had picked up a long stick to use as a "walking stick to protect him from snakes", which I thought was a little silly. As we stepped along the trail I noticed a small, dark shape curled up right in Shawn's path. If you have ever tried to react quickly to warn someone about something happening so quickly, you'll know how I felt. I couldn't get the words out fast enough as his foot came down right next to a coiled up dusky pygmy rattlesnake, so yes, when words fail : SCREAM. In the same instant Shawn jumped and the snake jumped, thankfully in two different directions.  The snake was obviously peeved, although it moved off the path, it turned around to look at us and began to shake it's tail.  Although they are small, they can deliver a nasty bite and are usually more aggressive than their more visually intimidating cousins. Although shaken, I did manage to snap this picture of the snake:
Not the greatest picture, he had decided he was done with us and was slipping away. Most snakes really want little to do with human contact, and most will go with the "flight" option over the "fight".  Had he actually been stepped on, he probably would have had a very different attitude.

Still shaking a bit from our snake encounter, we walked until we came to this lovely spot where the oaks made a beautiful canopy.

The ground was covered with leaves and these enormous patches of  reindeer moss one of my favorite types of lichen. It's a threatened variety and people love to gather it because it doesn't wither up if you pick it.  This area of the woods was really covered with many varieties of lichens and mosses, which I love and find very fascinating.  As I looked through the trees I noticed something white moving back and forth.  We got very quiet and kept watching as we realized the white things moving were the tails of two deer.  I was really thrilled to see them, but the moment was fleeting because they realized we were watching and moved deeper into the forest.

Being that we are both fairly adventurous people, the snake incident, after the fact, was really an interesting part of the hike.  I probably won't tease Shawn about having his "walking stick" as much now, because it did help him spring out of the way quickly, and I think he'll watch where he's stepping a bit more carefully.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Paper Mache Hot Air Balloon Diary

As my cats try under coats of polyurethane, I find myself wanting to return to a project I've been wanting to make for a long time, a vintage style hot air balloon mobile.  The photo above is along the lines of what I want to do-similar styles and color palettes.

I've started with some large helium quality balloons. They blow up to a nice traditional shape and are a bit sturdier.  I covered one with the traditional strips of newspaper, and I'm covering the other with a paper mache clay recipe. Both will get additional coatings of the paper mache clay. 

For the gondola, I'm going to try using a recycled toilet paper tube as the base:

I need to wait for the paper mache coats to dry a bit more before I continue with it, so I have them in the garage with a fan drying them.

  I'd like to try making one very traditional, so I've been searching the net looking for vintage images for ideas.  For the second, I want to go in a more whimsical idea and I'm really considering making a cabbage, but that might be a bit ambitious.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Endeavors

So I was invited to include some of my "wares" in one of our local shops in town. It's sort of a crafty, vintage, antiques kind of shop with a decidedly down home kind of flavor. Although my tastes tend more towards the whimsical and weird,  I'm hoping I can bridge the gap through my love of folk art. Folk art is really the essence of whimsical marrying the practicality of "down home".  Thankfully I'm starting with a rather small space at the shop, only a bookshelf, but in my mind's eye that bookshelf grew to the size of an entertainment center.  I'm very happy at Etsy, so I really didn't want to take many items off of the site. That meant I would be very busy creating.

For awhile I've been wanting to incorporate items into my sculptures, but that's not the greatest idea when working with clay that needs to be fired in a kiln.  I decided to look into paper mache, which I have dabbled in, but not really explored it very thoroughly. I had made paper mache pinatas and bowls, but never sculptures.  I found this very cool recipe :  Paper Mache Clay and then sort of went from there.  I've ended up modifying the recipe a bit. The flour in the recipe is entirely too attractive to my dog, who showed me he would stop at nothing to eat the folk art sheep I was making.  As with all forms of art, cats tend to be my special animal that I just naturally gravitate towards making.

I'm really excited about exploring this recycled  medium that will enable me to make larger and more creative sculptures.  My ceramic kiln is all of 8 inches squared so it's been very limiting to my creative process.  I still plan to create more ceramic pieces, but now I have an additional outlet.

I also created some muslin soft sculpture folk art for the shop. I'm especially pleased with the cabbage.  I looked at a lot of folk art carrots, but didn't see any cabbages so I came up with my own way of doing it, and I'm thrilled with the results.  All the muslin creations were made with patterns I made or some were made without a pattern, I just sewed the shaped I wanted and then cut it out.  After the sewing, I stuffed the pieces (using a bamboo fiber fill) and then painted them with acrylic paints.

The two bottom shelves of my "area" are filled with little vintage treasures I've found or had. When I shop for vintage stuff it's really hard for me to part with it, because I usually buy because I love it.  It will be hard to part with the little wooden purse, but I'm totally Ok about the boxer.
The duck bookends are kind of cool, they feel like solid brass and have a nice feel to them.

Here is my new little area in "The Whatnot Shop" :

As worried as I was about filling the shelves, I actually brought home items that would not fit.  Now, I get a bit of breathing room and I can return to working on my new cats for Etsy: