Just say the word?

faffy leaves bottle branch blog

Like many Americans, I admire much about British culture. I admit to devouring British literature, binge watching Downton Abbey, and a somewhat alarming habit of excesive ordering from Boden. Yet, I live in fear of becoming one of those kind of people who peppers her dialogue with pithy British expressions, in a flat American accent. Or worse, in a fake accent that vaguely echoes of the British Isles.

Still, I find myself closer and closer to uttering aloud a word so unfamiliar to your average American, it might as well be a foreign language. If I were to use this word in my daily life, I would likely receive a polite but blank look in response. Or worse.

crabapples and oak leaves bottle branch blog

But it is not the BBC, or all those Ian McEwan novels that have catapulted this word into my lexicon. Oh, no. I blame instagram for introducing me to the term faffing.

I have spent many (too many) hours arranging and fussing and organizing little bits of nature, flowers, and leaves,  photographing them and then posting them. And in the process, I have found my people — others who like to do the same. They are a global bunch with one thing in common: the use of the term faffing. Check out this hashtag #fridayfaffingcompetition to see what I’m talking about.

I realize the term can be used more generally to mean ineffective activity, or wasting time, but I think of it mostly in the context of ephemeral arranging, because that is where I run across it in my daily life. Only, I can’t quite bring myself to use the word without feeling pretentious.

autumn fruits and bowls bottle branch blog

My iphone voice-to-text does not recognize the term faffing, and alternately substitutes laughing, chaffing, faxing, fat thing,or fat fame – this last one is my personal favorite. Obviously, there are better substitutions I could make, though I struggle to come up with one that doesn’t make my inner teenager giggle at a double-entendre: Piddling? Messing around?

So, my dear readers, perhaps you can offer a better substitute? Or, should I bravely move forward and start dropping “faff” or “faffing” into general conversation in hopes that it will take root on this side of the Atlantic? After all, it really is a great word for one mof my favorite activities!

autumn arrangement with mums bottle branch blog

 

Friday flowers and hashtags projects

bowl of cosmos

Before I even begin this post, I need to apologize to any of you who get posts automatically by email. You may have gotten something about homecoming at Boston College. Sorry! It was supposed to go on my neighborhood website which is really just another wordpress blog. My fault for not paying enough attention and it won’t happen again!

Now, down to business. This a short post, and, once again, it involves instagram.

I often tag my instagram images for different hastag projects, where one user posts a prompt for a theme/style/subject of photograph and hashtag to go with it. Anyone can post a photo relating to the theme/style/subject and tag it with the appropriate tag. Its quite fun to have a sort 0f assignment, and can be a great way to connect with other like-minded creative types.

Some of these projects are organized by bloggers who then pick a favorite image from the group to feature on their blog. I’ve had a few images featured on other blogs, and I want to give those blogs a shout out, because they are all quite lovely and worth a peek if you enjoy looking at pretty spaces on the internet like I do.

So, I’m listing three blogs below, and linking to the relevant post. I hope you’ll take a look; you won’t be disappointed!

Laidback Living by Doris Lee : Doris posts about creating a comfortable and modern home space, enjoying life’s pleasures, and hosts a weekly #laidbacklivingis photo project via instagram.

The Cabinetmaker’s Love Tale : Jessica hosts a weekly #mymondaymoodboard project, and shares home, craft, and cooking adventures.

Circle of Pine Trees : Laura posts about outdoor adventures, cooking, seasonal beauty, hosts a monthly reading project, and hosted a #makingjuly instagram photo project. She is currently hosting #littlestoriesofmylife for narrative photography and it is equally lovely.

Enjoy! Have a great weekend everyone!

autumn asters on the reservior

 

Dahlia daydreams and a little bit of printmaking

dahlias by ephpyle

If you’re addicted to looking at flower photography on instagram like I am, you’ll know it’s still dahlia season. (See #dahliaseason.)  My own garden dahlias disappointed me this year. I picked up the plants at a local garden center without paying much attention to the variety and I ended up with these short, mottled white and magenta flowers.(above) They still look pretty enough, but I found the high contrast of bright pink and white together a bit jarring and I didn’t like the way they looked with other flowers.

dahlias of 2014 by ephpyle

In past years, I’ve grown softer pink and yellow dahlias, like these flowers from 2014 (above and below).

bright dahlia by ephpyle

So, I’m already dreaming about what I’m going to plant next year. So far, I’m thinking about ‘café au lait’, ‘apple blossom’, or some type of pompon dahlias like ‘Eveline’, all pictued below. (Photos are not mine – they’re from wikimedia commons, details and links at the end of this post.) If you have any particular favorite dahlia varieties to recommend for growing next year, I’m all ears.

My daydreams also led me to make some dahlia-inspired white line wood cuts.

dahlia white line print by ephpyle

Clearly, pink dahlias have been on my mind. I wanted these prints to be softly colored but now, when I look at them in comparison to photos of real dahlias, they look positively washed out and I’m not sure what I want… Other than to grow more and different dahlias next summer.

dahlia white line print 2 by ephpyle

Photo credits for dahlias I’ve never grown:

Cafe au lait dahlia:  Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Dahlia ‘apple blossom’ : Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Dahlia “eveline’ : Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Making the most of summer abundance and instagram

plum island phototaker ephpyle

Every summer, I  develop an obsession with Instagram. Last August, I found myself rising early to catch the morning light, planning family outings to picturesque locales and filling my instagram feed with landscapes.

This summer, the photography passion has returned, but instead of landscapes, I’ve been focused on flowers and gardening. I’ve been snapping photos, editing photos, posting photos and dreaming of photos of flowers, plants, gardens.

gathered bouquet ephpyle

I cannot stop thinking about how to best capture my garden flowers in bouquets…

hydrangea and ferns ephpyle

… in styled scenes…

dramatic flowers ehpyle

…in dramatic lighting…

garden puttering ephpyle

or on site, in the garden.

I am astonished at how many hours I can fritter away snapping photos of flowers and plants, dreaming up creative projects, and quite honestly it makes my head spin. I’m happy to know I’m not alone, as, photographer Kim Klassen recently posted. Kim suggested it might be the longer days. I wonder if the lush, vibrant plant growth and bright summer light stir something within us, a primal need to make the most of the abundance of summer(For me, it might also be related to my children being off at camp for a few weeks, but that’s so… practical.)

My current instagram obsession has pushed some of my other projects to the back burner, but like all true summer romances, I know it can’t last. For one thing, I’m taking a printmaking class next week. That should help shift my focus if nothing else. Until then, see you on Instagram!

stewartia blossoms ephpyle

Summertime white line prints

white line printing

I’m so excited to share these new white line prints, and I’ll be the first to admit that they are a little outside my usual range. Usually, I’m mucking around in natural greens and brown for plant-inspired printing, so I must have been craving the simple bright colors, just as all of us have been craving sunshine after a long cold winter. IMG_0771

Working from old instagram photos, I chose two beach-related shots. Can you tell I’m ready for summer?

beach umbrella

First, I carved and printed this simple beach umbrella photo. Carving so many converging lines has some challenges, but I’m happy to say I persevered. I particularly like the mottled effect the printing process left in the sky section of the print.

white line print beach umbrella

This same effect also enhances the look of the next print I worked on, of these vintage-y, semi-rusted beach buckets. I was really happy with the way this print was coming along, and even posted my progress on instagram.

white line printing buckets

When it came the background, though, I lost my way. In the photo that inspired this print, the buckets sit on a painted step, but I wasn’t sure that would read very well in the print, so I split the background with an arbitrary horizon. Bad idea.

whitelineprint.buckets

Thankfully, I didn’t actually carve the area around the buckets, so I can change it on my next print. Still, I have to figure out how to treat that background. I have some ideas, but I’m all ears if you have any suggestions.

Novelty and Narrative on Instagram

gingerbreadman.pchyburrs
image from instagram feed of pchyburrs

I’ve posted before about how I love instagram as a creative outlet – a forum to learn, practice photography, and glimpse faraway places. But I also love instagram as a place to be surprised and amazed by the creativity of others. The instagram posts of Pchyburrs and Chibichibin never disappoint. They go beyond photography and into the territory of illustration and story telling. Through careful staging, editing or both, they create images that are novel, thrilling, and clever. Narrative images that make me pause and think. Images that soar and delight.

flyaway.chibichibin
image from instagram feed of chibchibin

Instagram as creative outlet

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In the year since Facebook paid $1billion for it, Instagram has been much maligned. People roll their eyes, believing its nothing more than a haven for narcissists, cat lovers, and the mean girls of middle school.

But I love Instagram. Really love it. Admittedly, it can be just another vehicle for over-sharing –  there are plenty of photos of breakfast bagels, lunchtime frittatas, and the like. Yet, its also home to boundless creativity, much cleverness and breathtaking beauty.

You just have to find the right people to follow. Some share simply beautiful photos, others add clever captions to lovely images, still others cobble together arresting images from photos and the myriad photo editing apps available.

Thoughtful editing makes the difference. This means taking the time to construct an image through cropping, rotating, adding filters, blur, and many other techniques I haven’t yet learned. This means prepping an image for instagram is a creative process. Yes, you can do all these things in photoshop, but the immediacy of taking a photo, editing and sharing, all from my phone, has me entranced.

For a while, instagram was my only creative outlet. I craved the times when I could sit silently and edit a photo, my fingers flicking across the screen, my mind abuzz with possibility, as I tried moving the horizon, blurring the horizon, cropping, adding filters, taking filters away and so on. Sometimes I would throw an image out, after trying for 10 minutes to make it into something worthwhile, an image that could capture a mood, tell a story, or simply be beautiful. Process, not product.

I’ve begun to take better photos; I see the world differently; and I’ve added the word bokeh to my vocabulary, even if I cannot yet use it effectively. But honestly, I’m not here to prattle on sanctimoniously about a community of creativity, only to say really, people, Instagram isn’t only for selfies, it can be a quick, portable and exhillarating creative outlet.

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