Convergent Series

learning, using & teaching metal clay, and other aspects of life

Posts Tagged ‘pollinators’

One More Garden Interlude: Field Day at the Edible Teaching Garden. Plus Fall Open House Dates.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/09/12

Yes, I do have art + jewelry topics in the queue to write about, but my spare-moments-brain is still focused on garden events. Our “Field Day” Celebration at the Edible Teaching Garden is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, September 13, from 12 Noon to 2 pm. It’s free, open to the public, and we’re hoping we’ll have a great turn-out. If you’re in the area and able, please do stop by.

The Edible Teaching Garden, maintained by the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County, is located in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh, at the corner of Thomas and Lexington. Folks around here seem to go by landmarks a lot, so the other way to describe it is this: just one long-block down and around the corner from the East End Food Co-op, sort of across the street from Construction Junction and the Pittsburgh Center for Creative ReUse. (It’s directly across from the Allegheny County Police Headquarters: on our volunteer “work nights” we often see the local TV news folks shooting their “live” reports on “our” sidewalk, with that building behind them. But Construction Junction and PCCR are “more art-related” ways to describe where it is: see, I really am trying here!) The first photo, above / right, just taken on Wednesday, shows our branching sunflowers (they were a donation, and we don’t know the exact variety), our amaranth (that one is called Love Lies Bleeding), and hints of more, along with a few of our volunteers who were finishing up a discussion about some plans for Saturday.

We’ll be working in the garden for a month or two more (the timing will depend, in part, on the weather), but I’ll be shifting back to spending a lot more time on my Art Jewelry and Other Small Adornments, in preparation for the upcoming holiday-sales season. In fact, I just finished the first steps in making a few more dohgu oki (tool rests), my variation on hashi oki (chopstick rests) that I use as holders for small tools (though they would also work for chopsticks if you wanted). I tried a new approach for shaping them that worked really well, so I’m happy about that! I hope to get those finished and fired this weekend too! This particular batch, mostly Friendly Bronze, has a butterfly theme, in honor of the “parsley worm” (the caterpillar form of a Swallowtail Butterfly) that Eric found in our parsley bed. I’m really glad he rushed over to get me so I could capture a quick photograph:

Last fall, I sold a number of dohgu oki in the Open House I held in my studio the day that Indie Knit and Spin was happening in the same building. I’ll be holding another open house to coincide with that again this year (the date is November 15). Even before that, I’ll be having an open house to coincide with Eco Fest (that date is October 11), so I figured I should get a head start in stocking up on those. Lots of good dates in this post: I hope many of you will be able to join me for any or all of those!

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Edible Flowers Food Fest: The Lucky-13th

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/07/30

I’ve been trying to find time to write this since the third Thursday of July, when it was once again time for me to take a break from metal clays and mention the Edible Flowers Food Fest. The event was begun by Denise Schreiber (Mrs. Know It All on radio and Facebook) and is sponsored by the the Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) Parks Department and the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County. Oh, and it’s on a Thursday so that the various helpers have most of the week to prepare everything!

This year, the 13th time this event was held, the menu included:

  • Appetizer Crackers with:
    • Edible Flower Cream Cheese Spread, as well as
    • Rose Geranium Jelly, Lemon Verbena Jelly, Peach Lavender Jelly
  • Soup:
    • Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Nasturtiums
  • Entrees:
    • Beef with Cherry-Plum-Rose Chutney
    • Chicken with Lavender Honey
    • Shrimp with Orange Ginger Sauce plus Parsley Leaves and Monarda Petals
  • Salads:
    • Spring Greens Salad with Mixed Edible Flowers and Lavender Blueberry Vinegar Dressing
    • Oriental Broccoli Salad
    • Orange Rosemary Pasta Salad
    • Seasonal Fruit Salad with Lemon Verbena and Lime Dressing
  • Beverages:
    • Basil Lemonade
    • Strawberry Lavender Lemonade
  • Desserts:
    • Almond Shortbread Cookies with Rose-Cinnamon Dusting
    • Dark Chocolate Bark with Lavender, Pretzels, Caramel, and Sea Salt
    • Russian Tea Cakes with Lavender and, of course, the
    • Rose Petal Ice Cream (shown) that started it all….

While I helped with several of the dishes, the assignments I enjoyed the most this year involved the shrimp and its sauce. That was such a treat because it was my favorite item on this year’s menu! (Though a very close second was the cherry and plum chutney, with fresh rose petals mixed in just before it was served with the roast beef….) Back to the shrimp. I was put in charge of the sauce: saute shallots in butter, deglaze that with white wine, then simmer it with ginger and orange juice until it becomes syrup-y. Once that was ready, Denise’s brother and I flash-fried the shrimp (enough for about 200 people this year!), keeping the cooked ones warm soaking in the syrup and, just before serving, tossing it all with fresh parsley leaves and dried monarda (bee balm) petals. (In that last step, you could use any edible flowers, herbs, or even sprouts you might like: we used parsley and monarda because that’s what we had on hand to use. The menu each year is determined by starting with recipes we’d like to make, and modifying both the final list and the details of each item by what Mother Nature happens to have made available for us to use once the actual date rolls around!)

I helped fellow Master-Gardeners with several other items too. Susan, Joan, and I assembled 50 pitchers of lemonade (two different flavors). For no obvious reason, I wasn’t involved with the fruit salad: others had that under control. But I mention it because real treat with that was the big “serving basket” that George had carved out of one of the watermelons whose flesh went into that dish. Anyone with a spare moment would go over to the table where Lyn and Gerri were cleaning and preparing donated flowers for all the different dishes and put in some time there. I took care of the violas that Martha has brought, and several varieties of roses (I’m not sure who-all had brought those). And by preparing I mean handling each flower individually, removing all the stamens and pistils plus trimming off, as needed, any of the white (bitter) part at the base of each individual flower petal.

Although I love all the food itself, one of my favorite things about helping out with the EFFF involves the number of gardening conversations is initiates. Not just at the event, but throughout the year: whenever I mention it, I can pretty much count on an interesting discussion to follow. Vegetable gardeners may talk about companion-planting flowers with their usual crops; landscape gardeners who may not be interested in expanding into vegetables will still ask about which of their current color-accents may or may not be edible; people who enjoy cooking regardless of their experience with actual gardening can still talk about the color, texture, and flavor contributions of various edible flowers.

So I’m going to have a rough time, knowing that the EFFF will not be happening in July 2014. Denise will be too busy hosting the 66th annual Garden Writer Association Symposium. But we are told that the EFFF will return again in 2015. Here’s hoping!

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Friendly Exchanges

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/04/06

Now that the shop known as Zelda’s Bead Kit company has closed, I don’t have going down that way to teach (or even just to shop) as an excuse to visit with Trish Morris. But I headed down her way t’other day for several reasons, and stopped by her new digs for a few hours.

We both worked on some of our own projects for part of the time; then we helped each other out with a few tasks; and we ended up exchanging a few pieces too.

The photo with Trish herself in it shows her wearing one of my butterfly pendants, a three-metal version, that she hung on some copper rolo chain she had left. Most of my pollinator pendants involve two metals. Sometimes, however, I’ll use just one and, occasionally, three or more. This is one of the three-metal ones: on one side, the wings are made from yellow bronze; on the other, from rose bronze; and the butterfly “body” segments are copper. Trish is also wearing a three-strand copper bracelet with pearls that she was inspired to make that afternoon. Two strands had copper beads (two different styles), and the third used up the remainder of her rolo chain.

She made me one of those bracelets too, and I just love it. Mine also has three strands (two with those copper beads and, since she’d run out of chain, the third has black beads), plus the coiled wire and pearl dangles. The second photo with this post shows it next to another copper bracelet I have. That one was a hand-made gift to me from another art-jewelry friend, Barbara Kaczor, several years ago. They just happen fit very well together. How lucky is that!?

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Contrasting Textures in a Design

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/07/10

In my last post I said, about the design of a ring with a butterfly sort of camouflaged against some roses, “I know that the butterfly would stand out more from the flowers if I’d used textures with more contrast.” When I teach, I try to take a few sample pieces to illustrate such a statement, so I thought I’d post a couple of those here too.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I tend to make pieces I consider to be “reversible” ones. One side may well be more “striking” than the other but, even with those, I figure that there are days when a person may want a look that is more or less flashy. Both of the pieces illustrating this post are examples of the “other” side of a piece (so you may see them again at some point if / when I choose to talk about other aspects of their construction.). But both of them illustrate how a simple variation in the texture can help an embellishment to stand out.

The first piece, in bronze, shows a dragonfly with a simple “sandpaper” texture floating over a span of leaves and tendrils. In this case, the colors are simply from “the luck of the kiln” although, if I wanted, I could further differentiate the dragonfly foreground from the leafy background by polishing one and leaving the other untouched. (I’m actually still thinking about whether I may do that.)

The second piece, in fine silver, shows a butterfly with a “smooth” finish impressed into a span of cattails. The liver-of-sulphur (“LOS”) patina that gave me some nice blue edges also helps with the differentiation.

In both cases, the relative plainness of the insect shapes help them to stand out a bit from the deeper textures of the vegetation. Of course, one could also do this the other way ’round, say, with a highly-textured insect on a leaf-shape with just a bit of simple veining.

Hmmm, maybe I’ll make a few of those the next time I go on a pollinator-design binge.

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How much to polish?

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/12/23

Here’s another butterfly from my recent little extravaganza making bronze pieces alluding to pollinators. I had this one out at the recent open house at Zelda’s, and got into a discussion with another artist (Jan) and a couple other customers from the store.

Jan had taken one of my butterfly workshops where she made several gorgeous silver pieces. I’d tumble-polished them to an even, high shine for her, per her request. And she had them on display, for sale, at Zelda’s. At least one of the customers indicated her opinion that I should have polished my bronze ones as much.

While I did polish the butterfly in this photo a bit, I chose to not take it to that same high level of shine. Why? Mostly because I liked the hints of color hiding down in its hollows. (Same thing with the butterfly shown in my last post.) To me, those subtle hints of color are part of the appeal of the bronze.

To you of course, it may just look like it still needs to be polished some more. If that’s what you want on a piece you’re thinking of buying from me, please just ask! Once I’ve polished it, however, all of it will have that dark-golden yellow tone that bronze takes on. All of the other tints will be gone.

I have done that for all sorts of pieces, but it’s just not high on my list of surface treatments for butterflies. I guess I imagine my Lepidoptera, to appear colorful.

That discussion did prompt an idea for me, for a project for next year: to make a series of pieces that are, not identical, but similar, and finish them in a series of ways. One like these butterflies, another with a solid-color satin finish, and another that is as shiny as I can get it. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the results to appear here, but know it’s on the to-do list at least. If you have done anything similar, please let me know, and we can compare notes!

In the meantime, I’ll close with images (regular readers of this blog may have already seen them) of two silver pieces I’ve made that are much shinier (though I’m not sure how fully that appears in the photos). The pendant has had a bit of patina added down in the lines of its pattern; the ring has some color in the ruby stone that’s set on the top.

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Another Holiday Butterfly

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/12/21

Unlike last year, when I wrote about my appreciation for working with silver metal clay in the sense that one could design, build, fire, and polish up a little butterfly pendant fairly quickly, this year I found myself playing with bronze and copper for my own little one-of-a-kind pollinator-extravaganza.

Because of added time involved in each of several steps with the bronze and copper clays — mixing, firing, and polishing — those pieces require planning ahead if one is to complete them prior to a specific deadline.

This little critter has a copper “body” on the other side, but I’m displaying this one to show the shading that remained after some polishing. I thought that the little green and orange unakite bead complemented that nicely, so that’s what I attached to its little bronze hanging wire.

This piece was my contribution to the “Gift Exchange” at the “Holiday Gala” of the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County. What I got from the exchange was a pair of gardening gloves and a great little tool sharpener. There were a number of beautiful amaryllis plants involved in the exchange as well. While I enjoy having one or two around at the holidays — because it sure is great to have something in full bloom in the middle of a cold northern winter — looking at amaryllises also makes me nostalgic for the years I spent living along the Central California coast … where I had multiple huge clusters of lovely amaryllis plants just growing away all year in my yard! (To rescue myself from such nostalgia, of course, I can do something like remember how much time I also spent digging out all the fennel that grew like very invasive weeds and kept trying to take over some of those beds. Every location has its strengths but also its weaknesses!)

I added a new tag to my list–“polish”–with this post. I’m hoping to explain that in a few days, in a post with a few comments specifically on polishing. (I say I’m hoping because I’m out of town and, again, having trouble finding a good ‘net connection, at least without taking up time away from the folks that are the reason for this visit….)

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Fine Silver Butterflies!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/08/21

Since I’ve been writing about workshop inspirations, here’s another one: My annual “Fine Silver Butterflies!” workshop is coming up! So many folks signed up for it (this year, I’m offering it down at Zelda’s Bead Kit Company in Bridgeville, PA) that we had to add a second session! With two of them now (both afternoon and evening on Wednesday) I think there may still be a seat or two open, so check it out if you’re interested.

But where did that idea come from? Regular readers of this blog may have picked up the fact that, in addition to my passion for metal clay and related topics, another interest of mine is gardening. And not just my own garden either: I also volunteer with the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County, which means both helping out in their various Demonstration Gardens, and also helping to prepare materials, give talks, and teach workshops on a range of gardening topics throughout our area.

Before my latest move to PA and joining the PSMG program (as well as visits to Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory with its lovely Butterfly Forest), I lived near a couple of different Monarch Butterfly sanctuaries. The first of those is in Pacific Grove, CA. Later, after a stint in MN, I lived near another such grove in Pismo Beach, CA. (Did you know that those monarchs and their descendants, since they wintered along the Pacific coast, then all summered west of the Rockies? Monarchs that summer all over east of the divide then winter in one specific place in Mexico!) And, although south Florida’s Butterfly World came into being only after I’d headed off in search of cooler climates, when I’d head back south to visit the folks down where I’d grown up, I felt a little bit of relief when I found that sort of development amidst all the seemingly relentless “expansion” there.

All of which made it sort of obvious, to me at least, that when I took up metal clay, I’d then try making some butterflies out of it and even add a Butterflies class to my offerings.

For the workshops, it took me a little while to collect a reasonable number of butterfly stamps and cutters and such so participants would have a nice set of choices, but I’ve been offering this workshop each summer for several years now. (I schedule them then, but am happy to offer this at other times of the year if people request it.) In addition to my usual metal clay handouts, I get some brochures from the Penn State extension office on butterflies and other pollinators, and I provide a few links to information that’s online. (I mention our pollinator-friendly program with respect to bees too, since they seem to be having such a hard time with their colony collapse disorder these past few years, and it seems increasingly important to mention those as well.) Workshop participants are welcome to take brochures home with them if they want, and to look at some of the butterfly (and insect) books I bring along. During the moments in the hands-on time when everyone is working but some chatter still goes on, I provide an introduction to the value, care, and feeding of pollinators.

I usually take with me a good number of lovely but fairly simple examples (such as the ones that accompany this post) plus a couple more advanced samples. I find it interesting to watch the choices participants make: do they stick with simpler designs and go for quantity; do they focus on one piece but add more intrigue and complexity to it (e.g., using shaped drying forms, adding movement mechanisms, constructing detailed little 3-part butterfly-bodies and antennae, etc.); do they make only butterflies or add one or more flowers to hold or accompany that piece?

Even if these fine silver butterflies do not themselves contribute to the important task of plant pollination, it’s my ongoing hope that the wearing of them—along with the relevant gardening information provided in the class—will help to both draw attention to, and spread the word about, the value of these wonderful little creatures in real life.

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A Holiday Butterfly

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/12/04

One of the things I love about metal clay is that (once you become comfortable with it) you can quickly create something simple but special, as well as far more elaborate designs.

The Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County had their annual Holiday Gala last night (Friday). Part of that is a “gift grab bag and exchange” (with an extended set of rules I need not explain here … but it’s fun).

The gift is to cost no more than $10. Every year, some gift-givers clearly adhere to that limit; others either exceed it or show some savvy bargain-shopping. I’ve taken to making a small silver piece that would retail for more than $10 but has no more than that amount of silver in it. (So the pieces are getting smaller as the price of silver rises, but let me not digress…) I’m donating my time to it, but everything I do for the PSMGs involves donating time, so…

… there I was, Thursday night, thinking, “Yikes! I meant to make something for the PSMG Gala this year. Luckily, I still have just enough time to do so!” What to make: for that audience, something that included both blooming and pollination would be perfect.

I had an opened packet of PMC3 with just a little more than the appropriate amount of silver left in it. I rolled it out between two versions of a “cherry blossom” texture, cut out a butterfly shape (saving the excess for yet another project), and draped it over a large plastic “jelly bean” shape to dry (thinking that would give it, if you allow a bit of artistic license, sort of an “in flight” shape).

Of course, there were more steps: smoothing the edges, making the hole for hanging it, etc. Plus the firing and polishing. I do admit I didn’t take the time, or silver, to add a little butterfly “body” nor to add antennae or other embellishments — I often do that for pieces I plan to sell but, with that “$10” limit, I was sticking to the basics.

This little butterfly did seem to be a hit. The rules for this gift exchange include a mechanism that permits participants to “steal” opened gifts from each other (with some limits). And this piece was one of the ones grabbed the maximum number of times. It ended up with Lyn, and I know she’ll give it a good home.

Now, all I need is to find a few spare moments to start on some more basic curved shapes, to have as samples for my next round of workshops involving “domed” pieces. I’m never sure how much to schedule for the depths of winter: will the weather be cooperative on some random date six or eight weeks ahead? But I’m happy to set up extra ones on short notice: just get a few friends together and let’s make some pretty and shiny adornments, domed or otherwise!

(Sorry to readers on RSS feed: I seem to have hit publish when I meant to be still saving drafts.)

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Edible Flowers

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/07/29

OK, since I went off-topic a bit with the pollinator info and the Penn State Extension programs, I can’t resist adding a note about another great event last week. The reason I couldn’t stay any longer at Alice’s is that I wanted to get back in time to help out with the 10th Annual Edible Flowers Food Fest. Yummm!

It’s organized by Denise Schreiber, horticulturist with Allegheny County Parks in (well, surrounding and including) Pittsburgh, PA, and staffed by Denise’s family, friends, and members of the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County.

The photo is of me holding a tray of Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Nasturtium Leaves and Blossoms. I’m wearing an apron of mostly-edible flowers and a silver butterfly-pollinator pendant (made from metal clay, of course!).

Note: not all flowers are edible. Make sure you know they are safe before trying any particular ones. Also, please use only flowers that have been grown organically: even edible species grown for flower shops are often treated with chemicals that render them inedible. The link above, to the Food Fest, has some more information on this issue.

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Pollinator Gardens

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/07/26

When I stopped at Alice’s on Wednesday (see my last post), I followed her directions for parking in a different (and less expensive) parking lot than I’d used on previous visits.

She has commented that, although it’s a bit farther from her studio, the walk between car and studio involves a nice path next to the river. So, I was happily strolling along, noting the Gingko Tree that she’d also mentioned on her blog, past a couple buildings, and then, suddenly, I found myself looking at the next batch of landscaping and thinking, “This looks like it could be a Pollinator Garden.”

And when I reached the end of the walk, there were signs that this was a Pollinator Garden maintained by the Penn State Master Gardeners of Venango County!

If you are at all curious about Pollinator Gardens, here are a couple links:

The photo used above, of a key pollinator of Pepper, Strawberry, Tomato, Watermelon, is from Identification of Native Bees from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

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Fine Silver Butterflies.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/06/28

Periodically I teach a beginning metal clay workshop on Fine Silver Butterflies. I had a wonderful time at one of those this past Saturday, at the delightful Your Beading Heart in Irwin, PA. (Follow owner-Linda’s directions, but not your GPS, if you want to find the place!)

This is a very wide-open, do-what-you-want, workshop, but the butterfly-theme gives us a definite starting-point for our designs. In all my beginner classes, I take an assortment of tools for participants to use, and samples for them to consider if they want. I have neither the space nor time to haul everything around to each workshop but, for the Butterflies class, I make a point of taking all the butterfly-related doo-dads that I have: texture sheets, stamps, pastry cutters, paper punches, etc. Folks can make one or more of: pendants, charms, earrings, key fobs, etc.

(I’ll try to remember to revise this post by adding a photo once they’ve been fired…) I meant to add a photo once they’ve been fired but then I was so eager to get them back to their makers that, sigh, I forgot that step.

I also take other textures, cutters, and such, in case someone comes because they were really interested in the beginner-class, not so much inspired by the butterflies themselves. (The one person in Saturday’s class who fell into that category wanted to make a piece in a shape for which I have an ideal drying-form which, of course, I’d left out of my kit when I added the extra butterfly-theme items! Not to worry, though, we improvised quite well. Have I ever mentioned how much I love this medium for its flexibility?)

Out in my garden at this time of year, however, I start trying to figure out how to make pieces that resemble lightning bugs. I can sculpt the creatures themselves, but how might I best represent their intermittent light, their lovely glow, their gentle motion? I haven’t yet come up with a solution I like for that.

I lived in England for several years and, much as I loved other aspects of gardening in that green land, during my time there I did miss the blinking yellow courtship signals of these critters. (Even though I know about variations in native species, I was stunned to realize they didn’t have lightning bugs! And I’ve encouraged friends I made there to come over at this time of year, to experience for themselves what I was talking about.)

I also spent one spring and early-summer in China. (The photo shows our lodgings near Baoguosi. It was taken one afternoon, walking back from Southwestern Jiaotong University, a day or two before we headed up Emei Shan.) Here, we slept under mosquito-netting while watching the lightning bugs flitter around the room, glowing in a wonderful pale green color. What a delightful surprise that was!

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