On pink tulips, seasonality, and upcoming events

pink-tulips-bottle-branchThis week, I’m getting ready for a few upcoming art shows and craft fairs, and it has me thinking about how I organize and present my work. I organize my botanical photography cards and photos into groups and sets according to their season of flowering.
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It always seemed like the obvious way to organize since that’s how I think of them. Ombre of Sassafras leaves card? That one is an autumn. Pink tulips? Spring, obviously! And hydrangea can only be filed under ‘summer’.
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But one of the things that I have learned from selling my items at local art fairs, is that not everyone thinks that way. Not everyone sees a pink tulip and thinks, “Spring!” They may think, “I like pink.” Or, “my grandmother used to grow pink tulips.” Or, just “pretty!” (Or, maybe they’re thinking “ewww… too girly! I hate it!” but they’re too polite to say so outloud.) larkspur-ombre-card-by-bottle-branchSo, I’ve been thinking about alternative organizing scenarios. I could see organizing by color. Or maybe design type – a set of different ombre color gradient cards? But I keep getting stuck on seasonality.
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So, I am curious, dear reader, does seasonal organization make sense to you?  How would organize a catalogue of botanical images? I’d be delighted to hear what you think!

P.S. The other, more practical, thing I’ve been doing as I organize for the upcoming season, has been setting up an online list of my upcoming events. You can click here, or look up at the top right corner of my site, look under “Menu”and click on the “events” tab.

P.P.S. First event is Newton Open Studios on April 1st and 2nd! I’ll be exhibiting at First Baptist Church in Newton Centre, alongside a talented group that includes painters, textile artists, jewelry makers and more. If you’re local, I hope you’ll stop by!  (More info here.)

Valentines for friends

Valentine’s day is coming up, and, while I have never really been big on the forced and/or cliche romantic acts the day can conjure up, I am a fan of red and pink, and pretty things in the otherswise dreary and cold month of February.heart-paper-product-bottle-branchLast year, when my shop was very new, I put together a collection of winter-ish, Valentines-ish cards and I was touched by the little stories I heard from customers who bought them. I heard things like, “I’m sending them to my daughter and her friends at college” or “These will be perfect for some of my single friends.”set-of-heart-tags-bottle-branch-blogI loved the idea of people sending a very little something to friends and family just to say “I’m thinking of you” or “you are loved.” So, I’ve put together a few new cards and some gift tags with a Valentine’s theme for my shop. ombre-straw-flower-heart-with-straw-flowers-bottle-branchMade from dried plants – strawflowers, pink pepperberries, gomphrena and eucalyptus, these designs are more earthy and cute than romantic and passionate. In other words, perfect for a friendly gesture for all those we love.  strawflower-valentine-bottle-branch-blog

How to wrap presents like you know what you’re doing.

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Theoretically, I like the idea of wrapping presents perfectly, with crisp corners, perky bows, and well appointed tags and ribbons. I have an entire pinterest board devoted to pretty packages. But in practice, I haven’t always taken the time to wrap things beautifully, and I’ve been more likely to slap it all together in the final hour, with odd angles and prolific tape. But not any more.

Now that I am in the business of making pretty accoutrements of present wrapping, I have a fresh interest in the subject. And I am lucky enough to have something of a gift wrapping  expert in my family. My mother-in-law organized a charity gift wrap station through out the 1970’s and 1980’s, spending hours there cheerfully wrapping presents for others and all for a good cause. And she didn’t just wrap presents, she taught countless volunteers to wrap “the proper way.” Oh, and I can’t neglect to mention, she wraps presents for friends and family without using tape.

Here’s what it looks like to open a package wrapped without tape. So easy! So effortless! No tearing or ripping; the paper falls away like petals from a late summer rose.

Lucky for me,my mother-in-law is a generous person, who not only has graciously tolerated my slap dash wrapping efforts over the years but also recently agreed to come over and share a few of her tips for making your own pretty packages. And now I am happy to share them with you. (With her permission, of course!)

I realize all of you can probably basically wrap a present, so I’ll share with you here the two most important tips I took away from my personalized instruction:

First of all, take the time to measure both the box and the paper, and then the present practically wraps itself.

Second, never, ever twist ribbon on the bottom side of the box – its just sloppy, and makes the box wobbly. 

I’ve put each step in the form of a picture below, so you can quickly scroll and look for specific details.  If you don’t know how to twist your ribbon at the top, take a look and you’ll be glad you did! Its so easy and does make a difference.

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w4measure-bottom-edge-to-bottom-edge-textw5measurepaper-textw6cut text.jpegw8-wrap-to-center-bottom-textw9-fold-textw11-tuck-corners-textw12-smooth-folds-textw13-fold-in-textw14-extr-fold-text

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So there you are! The “proper” way to wrap a present, via my mother in law. She also taught me some advanced bow making techniques, but those will have to wait until another post.

Happy wrapping!

Strawflower Magic

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Today, frost came and killed off the annuals in my cutting garden once and for all. It was late this year, allowing me extra time to enjoy my cosmos, zinnias, calendula, nigella, and most of all, strawflowers. 

This is the first summer I’ve grown strawflowers and they’ve been such a delight. Always a familiar flower (I remember them from my parents’ garden), I learned so much about these flowers over the course of the summer; watching a plant emerge from seed and grow into its full glory has a special kind of magic. 

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Strawflowers were no exception as I watched their strappy leaves sprout and elongate; the first flower buds cluster at the tips of the plant. I cut and hung flowers to dry, thrilled by the way they hold their color and shape, sometimes opening slightly, sometimes flexing their petals back as they dry. (Or, are they really bracts? or sepals? Must look that up!)

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I saw that strawflowers close tight on cool, damp nights and open in the morning sun, a particularly endearing habit. It was already October by the time I had the idea to capture strawflowers opening with a time-lapse video. 

A couple of notes about this video. (1) The way the plants appear to shudder at the end is my fault – I could’t resist poking the flowers in between frames to see what would happen. (2) The flickering results from the camera settings – I forgot to turn the auto white balance off, so the camera changes sometimes between frames. No, that’s not natural light variation! What can I say? It was my first time-lapse, and I am learning by doing.

Its a testament to the magic of strawflowers opening that the the effect is still mesmerizing as they open in a series of rolling petals. (Or, bracts?) When I made this time-lapse, I felt like I’d really captured the secret life of a flower and I knew I had to try again. 

And I did try. There were plenty of failures. There were camera batteries that ran out, flowers that didn’t open,and others that opened hours later than I expected. But luckily with the mild weather, I had plenty of chances to keep trying. Finally, last weekend, I had another success and managed to fix a few of the problems in my first attempt. Just in time for the frost to come this week!

So now, I’ll be cleaning up my garden and dreaming of next summer’s flowers. I know I’ll be planting more strawflowers, but I also wonder what next summer’s discoveries will be? Someone recently suggested Cardinal vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) and I am intrigued. If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like …. a sale!

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It used to be that no one wanted to see, hear, or think about December holidays until, well, December, or in the U.S.A., Thanksgiving. Atleast I think it did. I can’t really remember and honestly, I never paid much attention until now.

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Now that I have my own virtual shop, I’ve been trying to stick to a retail calendar which means, early, early, early for all things Christmas and “holiday season” and so, here I am, posting about all the holiday items I’ve just listed in my shop.

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I’ve added new cards.

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I’ve listed stickers that are excellent for present wrapping, embellishing envelopes, and place cards.

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And I’ve added a whole new style of gift tag. (New for me, that is!)

To celebrate these additions, I’m having an early bird sale. Until Monday, everything in my shop will be 10% off. NOw is your chance to buy those cards for your mother-in-law, gift tags, or stickers for wrapping.

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If you’re one of those organized ladies who love to do everything two months ahead of time, you’re probably poised to act now, and shop. Even if you’re not organized, or if you’re not a lady, I hope you will head over and take a look and maybe even shop early. Sale lasts until Monday, November 14 at 6:ooPM (Eastern standard time) and domestic shipping is always free!

Dahlia portraits

two-orange-dahlias-bottle-branch-blogLast December, I felt like one lucky lady, when my husband gave me a 6 week dahlia CSA share from a local flower farm, Five Fork Farms. Of course, my share didn’t start until dahlia season, so, in September, I felt lucky all over again, when I picked up my first bouquet of dahlias and brought them home.yellow-dahlia-portrait-by-elizabeth-pyle-via-bottle-branchEach week, I’ve received a bunch of beautiful flowers, and each week, I’ve indulged in a session of taking dahlia portraits. A few of these photos have already appeared on my instagram, so if we’re friends over there, they might look familiar.pale-pink-dahliaIts been such a fun project to select, pose, shoot; a mediation in which I examine, learn, know each flower. Their idiosynchratic uniformity is captivating – they follow seemingly mathematical rules of form and shape, yet each one in different. purple-dahlia-portrait-by-elizabeth-pyle-via-bottle-branchI picked up my last share a few days ago, and I’ve been pampering and savoring these last dahlias of the season: changing the water, keeping them cold at night, trying to make sure they last. They’ll be gone soon, but what joy they have brought me! dahlia-portrait-1-by-elizabeth-pyle-via-bottle-branch

Shop update: Summer flowers!

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Its been a while since I posted about my etsy shop, yet over the past month, I’ve been tweaking, editing, and adding new items. In particular, I’ve listed many new cards featuring summer flowers, because, as you could guess, summertime is the boom time for botanical photography.

In total, I’ve added three new sets of cards featuring poppies, calendula, goldenrod, anemone, cosmos, and of course, lots of hydrangeas, including the set of various hot pink hydrangea cards pictured above.

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I’ve also added this ombré arrangment of larkspur flowers, which is available as an individual card, and as part of this set, which includes a couple of long time best sellers, cosmos, and a rainbow of garden flowers.

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In August, when late summer wild flowers came out in full force, I added a couple of wild flower cards.

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And added them to a set with arrangments of green leaves.

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In truth, I’ve added too many to report on them all, so I hope you’ll go take a look. Maybe posting about summer flowers in October seems nonsensical but something tells me I’m not the only one who would like to hold on to the warmth, the flowers and the leaves; I’m not the only one who dreams of endless summer.

 

Crafting with Nature 2: Dyeing with onion skins

onion-dyed-napkin-in-bowl-bottle-branch-blogFor my second foray into Amy Renea‘s book, Crafting with Nature, I decided to stick with the natural dyes theme, and try dyeing with onion skins. Finally! A use for all the discarded onion skins floating around in my kitchen ‘onion’ drawer.ready to dye with onion skinsSo, following the directions in the book, I gathered and boiled all the onion skins I could muster. I added a couple of plain white cotton napkins and a little cotton drawstring bag (after soaking them in warm water first) and let them boil in there for about an hour, stirring occasionally. onion skin dyed cloth 2 bottlebranch blogWhat a thrill it was to pull the fabric from the water and see how it turned out. Even better, I adore the final product. Though I was never a big fan of the color orange, I love the resulting soft, dusty semi-orange color. finished onion skin dyed cloths bottle branchThe transformation almost feels magical and I find myself dreaming of embarking on new adventures in dyeing with all kinds of found and foraged materials, like Mathilde Master. That dream lasts until I consider the array of carpooling, baseball/soccer games, and orthodontist appointments on my calendar, and the long lists of updates I have planned for my etsy shop. The less said about the former, the better, and I’ll tell you more about the latter in my next post. onion-dyed-napkins-bottle-branch-blog

Crafting with Nature and Beets

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It probably won’t surprise you to know that, in my kitchen, I have a pineapple plant grown from the top of a supermarket pineapple, a motley collection of house plants, and a red oak seedling pulled from my garden with roots in tact, and now growing in a bottle of water. In short, I’m often tempted to experiment with the bits of nature that come my way, either by way of the supermarket, the garden or the greater world outside.

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So, when I first opened up Amy Renea’s book, Crafting with Nature, I was immediately smitten. Want to make a lavender wreath? Here’s how you do it. Want to find something to do with your bumper crop of lamb’s ears and sage? Try this! I was thrilled by the variety and volume of ideas and more than a little tempted to drop everything, and whip up a few all natural lotion bars and luscious healing whips.

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When I flipped to the section on beets, I knew that would be the right place to start. Beets have long been one of my garden stand-bys, and I was happily surprised with some ideas I had never thought of. How had I never thought to slice off beet tops and keep them growing for baby beet greens?! Or, to boil the skins to make dye?

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I still haven’t decided what to do with the beet dye (too many choices). Maybe I’ll stick it in the freezer and use it for a frozen cranberry wreath this winter. (Another enticing idea!), but in the mean time, I’ll be happily sprinking those beet greens in smoothies and salads.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive a free copy of this book to review, but I was beyond thrilled to take a look inside and give it a try. I will undoubtedly be trying out lots of the other ideas/ recipe/ crafts in it, and in fact, I’ve aready got another one in the works. But I’ll tell you about that one in another upcoming post.