Pretty Tea Time

happy tea time april 2 bottle branch blog

I’ve written before about my love of intsagram, and year in and year out, this little free app remains a great source of creative inspiration for me. I love seeing the beautiful photos posted by so many talented instagrammers (Just a few of my favorite flower-loving instagram accounts: Janne, Julia, and Jessica.)

But also, the impetus of posting photos regularly keeps me challenged creatively. In particular, making ephemeral arrangements and vignettes has become an favorite creative exercise and I really love to take “pretty tea time” photos in the morning.

happy tea time in March from bottle branch blog

An ideal morning goes something this: walk children to school, go for a long morning walk, accompanied by either my audiobook or a friend. Fill my pockets with interesting tidbits of nature along the way.

When I get home, I make myself a cup of tea, tidy up any remaining breakfast dishes, and  empty out my pockets. As I look through my collected nature treasures, I like to arrange them in pretty patterns, and usually the pattern involves my tea cup, because, as it turns out, its a lot easier to make a pleasing arrangement when it involve a circle in the center, especially a circle filled with that magic and photogenic elixhir, green tea. (Just my unbiased opinion, of course.)

happy tea time january bottle branch blog

Pretty tea photos are a popular theme (or meme) on instagram, and there’s a whole community of tea-drinking nature lovers all over the world. (Look hereOr hereOr here.)

While I think it might be foolish to confuse instagram popularity with artistic merit or relevance, I do puzzle over what makes these sets of images so appealing. Is it that they are variations on a theme? The balance of sameness and variety?

happy tea time in february bottle branch blog

On a whim, I made some cards with a few of these “happy tea time” images, starting with a set of four photos from the winter months. They turned out so much better than I had expected. I was thinking about listing them in my etsy shop, but honestly, I’m just not sure. I might be suffering from lack of confidence or lack of conviction, but I think they are a little bit weird?! Am I crazy? Would simple prints for framing be better? A whimisical addition to kitchen decor? Or a calendar called “Happy Tea for all Seasons?” I have so many ideas!

happy tea card set from bottle branch blog

In the mean time, I’ve decided to give these away. Yes, another giveaway, but here’s the catch, its going to be an instagram giveaway. I feel like that’s only fair since that’s where they were inspired! If you’re interested, please click over to my new bottle branch instagram page (not my regular instagram account) Look for the photo above to enter. Winner will be posted there on April 10.

four happy cups of tea from bottle branch blog

Thanks so much for reading! I would love your thoughts!

Spring flowers and white line prints

spring bulbs cards celebrate bottle branch

I don’t want to jinx it , but its been a mild winter here in Boston and I’m feeling like spring is in the air. So I’m celebrating with new photo cards of spring flowers in my etsy shop. I’m offering a set of five cards depicting tulips, jonquils and hyacinths in whimsical arrangements, with plans to add individual cards sometime soon.

spring bulbs bottle branch blog

I wish I could say the flowers were from my garden, but as of right now, my bulbs are just slowly poking their way up through the ground. Still, its much earlier than last year.

white line prints in process bottle branch blog

Also, as I hinted in my last post, I’ve finally added some of those white line woodcuts I keep chattering about. So far, only two designs are listed, both originals and fancy reproductions. I’m all ears if there are any requests to see others listed. I have many designs, but somehow, my motivation to list them is low.

In truth, I’m much more excited about the upcoming gardening season, so this is where I’ll be: sitting in my kitchen, drinking tea, planning and dreaming about my garden.

seeds and garden dreaming bottle branch blog

 

Goal setting, making assignments and Big Magic

notebook for big dreams bottle branch blog

I’m not exactly a goal setting type person, but I do like to assign myself tasks. I dream big, make plans, write lists in my trusty decomposition notebook. I never get around to doing it all – there are so, so many projects I’ve planned, needlework patterns I’ve imagined, and essays I’ve started that have fallen by the wayside.

Still, each week, I assign myself a few tasks related to my creative life and especially my blog and/or creative business. I may tell myself to write up a recently completed project, list something new for sale in my store, pick up some supplies, finish up a project, spend a half a day trying out a new and exciting idea, research alternative blogging platforms, or figure out twitter/periscope/snapchat. This act of assigning does not necessarily mean I get them all done but usually I chip away and keep things moving.

Other times, my progress grinds to a halt. I run into technical problems, or the task is tedious and I find myself avoiding it, or life just gets busy. I ran into all of these roadblocks in my latest task. My assignment was simple: list a few of my white line wood cut prints for sale in my etsy shop, and then write post about them from my blog. Easy.

white line wood cuts on bottle branch blog

But then I had to think about pricing and it turns out, pricing hand-painted work is not easy. Etsy sternly admonishes sellers not to undervalue their work. Not only is it not good for business, it undercuts other sellers and the market as a whole. I get it. If I am selling my work at a loss just to unload it, then I am hurting artists who want to earn a living.

It takes a couple of hours to paint and print one white line wood cut print, and then there’s the cost of designing and carving the block, plus materials. That makes this work expensive.

So, being a practical dreamer, I looked around on etsy to see what other artists were doing and decided to offer digital reproductions of my white line prints, in addition to a the more expensive originals. Thus a new assignment was born: discover the best way to create digital reproductions.

bunch of white line prints for bottle branch

With a new printer and moderate experience manipulating digital images, I felt ready to tackle this assignment, though the learning curve was steep. I poured over my printer manual, researched paper types, learned a few new photoshop tricks, and printed many, many prints of my prints. (It turns out scanning and then printing does NOT give an exact copy. Not even close.)

There were many times when I complained, gritted my teeth, groaned, or just plain avoided my desk. And all the while, I listened to Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, a reflection on living a creative life. (I am a big fan of audible.com)

listening to big magic bottle branch blog

Not surprisingly, I loved Big Magic – I’ve written before about flashes of creative inspiration and the joy of unfettered creativity, what Gilbert calls big magic, and I have lived through many cycles of frustration and faltering confidence (another topic she addresses.) But most importantly, Gilbert describes following your curiosity as a way to find your way to a creative life, which I read as taking on life as a series of self-assigned tasks and creative challenges. Suddenly my crazy tangents, pssion for gardening, and self-assigned tasks seem like they’re not so kooky after all. In fact, these humble adventures just might be the makings of a satisfying life.

So Big Magic was an uplifting accompaniment to my latest creative endeavour and thankfully, in the end, I came up with some pretty prints also. More about those in my next post.

Everyone’s a winner!

valentine's giveaway

Wow! What an adventure! Thank you to everyone who shared and tagged and thus entered my Valentine’s giveaway over the weekend. I really appreciate your efforts and enthusiasm and it was quite interesting keeping track of entires, and even enticed me to use both twitter and facebook a little more than usual.

The official, randomly selected winner is Monica, of Prince Snow Farm. Congratulations! Message me your address and I’ll ship them out ASAP.

But, I always feel a little sad, having to pick one winner. I have a quiet little blog and I feel like I know you all, so I’ve decided that today, everyone’s a winner! Here’s how:

First of all, if you entered and didn’t win, I’ll happily send you a card from the Valentine’s set. Your choice of which one. Just message me at bottlebranch@gmail.com by February 1st.

Secondly, I’m offering 20% all items in my etsy shop until February 14th. You’ll need to enter this coupon code, BBvalentine, at check out.

Thank you all for all your support and interest. I sincerely appreciate it!

Just in time for Valentine’s day: a card giveaway!

valentine's-ish cards bottle branch blog

I’ll admit that I’m not really big on Valentine’s day. I’ve never liked the sense of forced romance, though I feel lucky to have a husband who remembers to get me flowers. Plus, I do love the colors and visuals of Valentine’s day.  Just when winter hits its bleakest, we are inundated with lots of pink and red – hearts, roses, candy. (Try not to think about the artificial coloring that lends the candy its color.)

photography project on bottle branch blog

So, I couldn’t resist taking photos to make a few valentine’s-ish cards for my etsy store. I’ve used dried and found plant materials – eucalyptus, pink pepperberries, and red crab apples and you can see my not-so-glamourous set up at my dining room table.

The resulting cards might not be likely to ignite a steamy romance, but since when did anyone expect a card to do that? I hope they’re cheerful and perky enough to brighten up your day, and perfect for platonic Valentine’s wishes.

valentine's card set by bottle branch

To keep things interesting around here, I’m going to give a set away. The winner will receive one set of six cards – three have hearts, and three do not, so they don’t all have to be used for Valentine’s day.

You don’t even have to leave a comment to enter. (Though, comments are always appreciated!) All you have to do is share this post and tag me on Facebook (tag:bottlebranch) or twitter (tag: zibpyle). Don’t forget to tag me: If you don’t, I might not know you’ve entered! And, please don’t go to my twitter account and laugh at how bad it is. (Twitter really isn’t my thing, but I’m working on that.)

I’ll pick a winner by random number drawing on Monday, January 25th, so I can get the cards mailed out well before Valentine’s day. International entries welcome! I hope you’ll enter and good luck!

December news

pink flower cards from bottle branch blog

I’ve haven’t been blogging much, but I have been as busy as an elf over the past few weeks. I’ve made holiday wreaths, been working on new card designs, and added a few new cards in my etsy shop.

wreath december 2015 bottle branch blog

I’ve also done one fun holiday craft project with my younger children. So far. Hoping to do a few more and post on those a little later in the month. In the mean time, I’ll remind you that cards make a lovely holiday present and I’ve recently added an option to buy sets of cards in my shop. December is always a wild ride. Hang in there, my friends, and have fun!

cards as presents  bottle branch blog

More botanical photo cards: Autumn leaves

autumn leaf photo cards bottle branch blog

Well, now. This is turning into quite a boring blog. Here I am posting about new photo cards in my etsy shop. AGAIN.  These latest are botanically inspired patterns, ombre arrangements of autumn leaves. And they’re printed on the same soft, touchable card stock.

Its been so much fun to make these, that I’m working on more. The resizing, editing, and general fiddling does take longer than one might hope and so it has been keeping me quite busy. Not to mention, taking photos of the photo cards. Fun facts about this photo: (1) I’m left handed, so my right hand holding a pen looks awkward and hilarious to me. (2) I’ve had that silver pen since I got married – 19 years.(!) Its not the most practical pen, but it is pretty – perfect for a photo.

autumn leaf cards in use bottle branch blog

So, that’s all the news in my world of making things. I’m hoping to be back with something new and different soon. In the mean time, if you haven’t been to visit my etsy shop, I hope you’ll go take a look! And if you have already visited, and liked or even bought some items: thank you so much! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!

Botanical photo cards

cards ready to write bottle branch blog

Its been quiet here, in my little corner of the internet. I’ve just been soooo busy. Yes, the usual tasks of motherhood – carpool, dinner, nagging – have kept me busy, but I’ve also been prepping more items for my etsy shop.

So, I’m delighted to post these new additions to my store – photo cards! Printed on soft, 130# card stock, that’s both acid free and Forest Stewardship Council certified, these cards turned out to be more lovely than I had hoped.

Each design is available in a separate etsy listing: autumn leaf ombré, hydrangea ombré, an array of summer flowers, and an array of green leaves.  I’ll shamelessly remind you that these cards would make a wonderful present for the avid gardener, plant lover, or anyone who just loves pretty things. I hope you’ll go take a look!

first four cards bottle branch blog

Hello, etsy store!

two tea towels bottle branch blog

Maybe I left you hanging in my last post. I showed you a silkscreen tea towel I made this summer, but I didn’t tell you what I’m going to do with it. Well, guess what?!  I finally got around to opening an Etsy store. I’ve stocked it with these seaweed towels and some new tea towels printed with an old silkscreen of wild grasses. I’ve also added a couple handprinted children’s T-shirts I made a few years ago – extras from a project I did for my children. (I even had to bribe my children to get them to model the shirts for me — photos on etsy, but not of the bribing, just the shirts.)

viking and cowboy t shirts

I hope you will go take a visit. Maybe even ‘like’ some items, ‘like’ my store, and share anything that seems exciting or interesting. I can’t promise it’s going to be a thriving hub of commerce, since my output is quite erratic. But I’m excited to have taken the step, and hope to add new and different printed items, now and again.