nest building :: a tutorial


Here we are, heading into the season of  nesting, of new beginnings and rejuvenation.  And, while I feel so hopeful and invested in the ground that will soon be bursting with newness and life, I continue to grieve the loss of my grandmother.  In the past ten years or so, when spring came around and her Azalea bushes would burst pink and new, she would feel so truly lucky and free to live fully.   All of the fragile round eggs, tender greens, and bright colors of new life brought her so much joy and lightness of spirit.

When I was nineteen or so, and witnessing my first cold, slow New England spring, my mother shipped a snow globe to my dorm room.   It is a glass globe with white flakes floating in water, and from beneath the sparkly snow grows three hearty crocuses.  In the package was a note reminding me that spring will soon come.

It is just the very beginning.  We have cold, wet, frozen weather passing by today and tomorrow.  I know the colors will soon arrive, though. And, I know I'm left here to witness this beauty.  Thankfully.  I'll bear witness in the grandest of company and with my usual innocent disbelief. Can trees really be that beautiful?   But, still, there is heaviness in my heart.  I miss her.

And, so I decided that maybe I'd prepare a bit, like the mama birds do.  I made a nest and filled it with bright blue clay eggs. It is my reminder that I must continue to build and to believe in the beauty that surrounds me.


Materials:  air dry clay or Fimo, craft paint, brush, wax paper, dried grass and stalks


Begin by shaping ten or more small (1 1/2" or so) clay eggs. Chick and her friend helped roll and shape the little eggs. Don't worry about making them perfectly smooth since the paint ends up hiding a lot of the little dents and dings.


Either air dry over night or bake on low heat depending on whether you are using Fimo or air dry clay.



This is Mouse clickety clicking the dry clay eggs in her hands.  Paint the eggs blue (or any color, really).  Cover all of the eggs with paint, and set them to dry on wax paper.  Once dry, touch up the bottoms with more paint and let dry again.


The kids and I gathered dry grass and old stalks from last year's plants.  And, then the nest building began. 

I have so much respect for mama birds.  Nest building is slow, careful work.  I twisted, wound, shaped, fluffed, pressed, and wove the dried plants into a plump nest. I used the long, tough stalks for the main shape of the nest, and then the soft fluffy dried grass for the inside.  It was just the kind of quiet, methodical spring work my heart needed.

Here it sits on a bookcase.  A quiet reminder - a love message - to myself that I was not left behind.

xo emily

treasured

Each Wednesday I post about some sort of treasure I found during the past week. It might be thrifted or found on a walk or whispered in my ear or discovered on a dark shelf in the basement. Something. Anything that makes me feel lucky and thankful. It doesn't necessarily have to make its way home with me - it just has to be noticed. The idea is for it to cost very little and feel very big. After all, this isn't about acquiring new things; it is about paying better attention to the world around me.


If you discovered a treasure this week (a new friend, a snow fairy, a fancy dish at the thrift store, a bird's nest) please do share it, as well as any links, in the comments section below.

*****

Vintage tea towel with roosters. 



A thrifted find


Drying in the March sun

 xo e

Beginnings


The beginning of a little egg project I will feature later in the week.

I have some super exciting Red Bird Crafts news to share.  In the late summer and early fall,  I'll be offering creative writing and crafting workshops for adults and kids in my home studio. I am so incredibly excited about this project; I get all smiley when I think about it.  There will be workshops for creative journaling, simple print making, story stone making, gifting your creativity, and more.   My home studio is moving to a new room in the house - a brighter, sunnier room - and it makes me feel so happy (and lucky).  I'll post lots of more about the Red Bird Craft Workshops in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned.

xo e

left hand leaves

So, anyway, about left handed drawing (or drawing with your non-dominant hand).   I find the process magical and super satisfying because it allows me to draw with intention, and it frees my mind enough so that I am drawing what I see rather than what I think I should be seeing.  It ends up feeling like a form of meditation: a time to just see, to just be, and to let my hands and mind create from a peaceful, uncluttered place. It always feels like a bonus because I end feeling calm and clear, and I get to keep little souvenirs from my meditative journey.  Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing by Frederick Franck is my most favorite resource for this artistic process.  He offers examples of his own inspiring work, and suggests ways to allow your mind to empty a bit.

 The practice always ends with imperfection and wobbly lines, which I really love. 


This seemed like a nice way to capture the natural world right now because isn't the beginning of spring perfectly imperfect? 
 
I typically draw with a thin Sharpie marker and then paint with watercolors because I like my imperfect lines to remain visible.  I tested out acrylics with some of the paintings above (like with the daffodil shoots), and I definitely liked using watercolors more.  And, p.s., I paint with my dominant hand.

If you do some non-dominant handed drawing, will you share?

xo e

treasured

Each Wednesday I post about some sort of treasure I found during the past week. It might be thrifted or found on a walk or whispered in my ear or discovered on a dark shelf in the basement. Something. Anything that makes me feel lucky and thankful. It doesn't necessarily have to make its way home with me - it just has to be noticed. The idea is for it to cost very little and feel very big. After all, this isn't about acquiring new things; it is about paying better attention to the world around me.


If you discovered a treasure this week (a new friend, a snow fairy, a fancy dish at the thrift store, a bird's nest) please do share it, as well as any links, in the comments section below.

*****



Tom was away on business during the past five days, which meant I had little time for writing and personal crafting.  There was lots of time for playing games, reading books, drawing, wiggling loose teeth (Chick) and outside rambling.  After a long cold Sunday at the park, the kids snuggled on the couch to watch The Muppets Take Manhattan with buttery popcorn and blankets.  At one point Chick, who had earlier been mildly offended when friends and family called it a "girl weekend"  because it felt like that implied that we were excluding papa, turned to me with a worried look because she thought she was having too much fun without him.  My wee worrier was even worried about not worrying enough.   She eventually settled, and we all fell into a comfortable/awkward, necessary rhythm until last night when Tom arrived home.

And, so my Treasured feature is a day late.   

Baby Elephant's Trunk, written  by Sesyle Joslin and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard in 1961, is just about the sweetest, most adorable little book around.  While nibbling on his before dinner snack of a loaf of bread,  Baby Elephant discovers he is going to France and his Mama asks him to pack his trunk with all of his special, necessary personal items and teaches him the French words for most.  Baby Elephant is a bit silly, though, and there is some snorty elephant laughter.  Oh, you have to read this book!  There is even a tiny glossary in the back. And, the illustrations couldn't be more perfect and lovely.

 xo e





not indoors


The left handed painting is going to have to wait until next week.

We spent almost the entire day outside - at the park, in our yard, in the outdoor produce section at our local market (where they are selling local pussy willow branches and mangoes from Peru).


The kids collected birch bark and rediscovered all of the nooks and crannies on our back porch.

And, when we were inside, Chick wrapped herself in a blanket and stood in front of the window letting the gusts of wind blow over her.


Happy weekend to all.

xo e

lefty.

I sat on the front steps of our house for 30 minutes, and with a Sharpie and kraft cardstock on a clipboard in hand, I drew left handed pictures of three spring things. I plan on adding color tonight, and then, hopefully, posting results tomorrow.



These are the three real life spring things. I'll also post some tips about left handed drawing (or drawing with your non-dominant hand) and how, for me, it often feels like the most paired down, authentic way to create.

Eeeeep! Bright green shoots!

xo e

* treasured *


Each Wednesday I post about some sort of treasure I found during the past week. It might be thrifted or found on a walk or whispered in my ear or discovered on a dark shelf in the basement. Something. Anything that makes me feel lucky and thankful. It doesn't necessarily have to make its way home with me - it just has to be noticed. The idea is for it to cost very little and feel very big. After all, this isn't about acquiring new things; it is about paying better attention to the world around me.


If you discovered a treasure this week (a new friend, a snow fairy, a fancy dish at the thrift store, a bird's nest) please do share it, as well as any links, in the comments section below.


*****


Chick reading my 1979 Sesame Street book to her little sister in the corner. A cozy treasure on a rainy day.

A March Day


Mouse paints.

Chick shows us the maple tree that her classroom has tapped for sap.

A damp, chilly, after school playground romp.


And, while the day felt ordinary and regular, it really wasn't. The tragic loss and devastation in Japan weighs heavy on my mind and in my heart.

xo e
* treasured *

Each Wednesday I post about some sort of treasure I found during the past week. It might be thrifted or found on a walk or whispered in my ear or discovered on a dark shelf in the basement. Something. Anything that makes me feel lucky and thankful. It doesn't necessarily have to make its way home with me - it just has to be noticed. The idea is for it to cost very little and feel very big. After all, this isn't about acquiring new things; it is about paying better attention to the world around me.


If you discovered a treasure this week (a new friend, a snow fairy, a fancy dish at the thrift store, a bird's nest) please do share it, as well as any links, in the comments section below.

*****


Yesterday, just when I began to think about my treasure for the week, a friend surprised me with belated birthday treats. She came to the house for some play with her daughters, and brought along a bag of bakery treats (muffins, scones, croissants), and a big jar of homemade granola bars. Look how pretty!

While these crunchy, buttery nuggets of joy are oh! so good, I find myself deeply treasuring the kindness and love that was behind the gift. Each time I look at the jar, I smile.

Find any treasures this week? I'd love to know! (really, truly)

xo e

gettin' crafty

Kel is wonderful. She is one of my oldest, dearest friends, and the above box of garden yarn is hers. She loves bread and perogies and sheep, and she remembers all of the random stuff - like how ten years ago, when we went to a Greg Brown concert, the guys at the table next to us laughed and laughed non-stop (even through the solemn parts). I would have forgotten that.

She is a beautiful, talented knitter and textile designer, and she manages and teaches classes at The Elegant Ewe in Concord, NH. Up until this weekend, I've been an spotty knitter - knitting a few things, forgetting, knitting again, and then forgetting again. This weekend was all about finding the right project and sticking with it (and having Kel's expert eyes and hands to help). Kel, my mom, and I spent the day shopping for yarn, eating Goberry, knitting, and eating homemade pizza, corn chowder, and oatmeal bread from Bread & Chocolate Bakery. We swapped knitting lessons for sewing lessons, which made it feel like an honest to goodness craft swap weekend.

At my mama's house.

Kel, Tom, and I drank wine and fancy drinks and talked into the night. For old times sake, we bought a bottle of slightly fizzy, candy wine (Moscatel).

Some buds, which are not blooming. (they will soon, though!)

My mama's sweater yarn.


Here I am balling yarn for my red hat. I have this thing with balls of yarn. I think they are so cute, like the way lambs are cute.

I spent the rest of the weekend writing and working on a project, which has an approaching deadline. Knitting and sipping and nibbling was a much needed bit of balanced time.

Off to pick up my kindergarten lovely. More soon.

xo e
Grass.

And, green Pachysandra.

And, the blue sky.

It amazes me that during the first snow melt, there are plants that emerge vibrant and bouncy.

It makes me forget about the flood in my basement (almost).

xo e

notebook


I have a thing for notebooks. I've covered plain notebooks with fancy paper and repurposed paper and I've collaged on them with felt and bits of fabric. And, just recently, we made a boatload of hand tied storybooks.

Notebooks mean that bits of information, bits of the present, are being hand recorded with lines and twists and tiny drawings. When I read a page in an old notebook, I see our Chinese food order next to a phone number of a friend next to a craft idea next to our weekend chore list next to a poem next to a score tally next to a packing list. These are tiny stories that make a boat load of sense to me.


After making the stack of rainbow storybooks the other week, I was itching to make more. This time around, I was hanging out with my Moleskine notebook and I was loving up the curved shape, the delicate stitching, the flexible feel, so I decided to make my own out of cereal box and recycled paper. I was going for the general Moleskine shape while fully embracing the handmade, made-from-a-box quality.

The spring The Paper Source catalog arrived the other morning in the mail, and I was inspired by the sunshine-y flowers and spring colors.

I used a mini shredded wheat box because I like mini shredded wheat, but you can use any kind of box. Cut a 10" x 7" piece of the cereal box (or any size you like), fold it in half and crease it with a bone folder, and snip the edges with a corner rounding punch (or leave them nice and pointy). Spray the outside with an adhesive (or use a thin layer of craft glue), and press one piece of catalog paper onto the front and one on the back. If you want front and back to be the same paper, then just cut one long piece. Smooth the paper with your hands and then also with the bone folder to be sure that there aren't any wrinkles or air bubbles. Lay it in a sunny patch on a table to dry for a few hours (mmmmm. sun beams). Cut a stack of recycled paper (mine was 9 1/4" x 6 1/4") so that it is a bit smaller than the cereal box cover. Fold the paper in half, making a sharp crease with the bone folder, and set it aside. Once the adhesive is dry, trim the edges off of the paper on the cover, being especially careful as you go around the rounded corners. Insert the creased recycled paper into the creased cereal box cover.


Now it is time to bind it. Lay the cover and paper flat. You can either hand sew it using an awl and waxed linen thread or quickly run it through your sewing machine. I've done it both ways, but I used my sewing machine with this one because it was late in the evening, and I wanted results. If you do use a machine, you might want to use a sturdy needle, like a denim needle, to slowly stitch the paper onto the cereal box cover. In either case, be careful to follow the center fold.


I covered the outside edge with book binding tape. You don't have to do this, though. I tend to leave the binding exposed when the book is one piece of material, but since I used two different pieces of paper to cover the front and back, I decided it would be nice to cover the binding (where the two pieces of paper meet).


xo e