Open Studio; a labor of love

We labor all year on our arts and crafts preparing for an Open Studio in the hope that someone will come and recognize our inspired process.  We hope that our souls will be seen through our work, that the spark that drives us will be showcased and that the viewer will be touched.  It’s a lot of work.  It’s a lot of deadlines.  But it’s a labor of love.

In this past month in preparation for my 11/4 & 5 Open Studio I have updated my website, designed & mailed a postcard, designed & published an email newsletter, uploaded pictures to Facebook & Instagram, personally invited past patrons and reorganized my studio.  It’s a lot of work but it’s a labor of love.

Today I am photographing and writing a blog post.  It’s a lot of work but it’s a labor love.

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In this next week I will be completing several new works, adding a new artistic touch to my road sign and posting more to Facebook and Instagram.  It’s a lot of work but it’s a labor of love.

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In the last week before Open Studio I will be completing more new work, hanging the show, making refreshments, cleaning up my yard & entrance way and keeping my fingers crossed that people will come.  It’s a lot of work but it’s a labor of love.

Why do we make art?  Why do we put ourselves through this intensive process?  It’s a big topic and there are many inspirations, but, basically it’s love.

In this troubled world we need art and artists to comfort ourselves and remind us what love feels like and to rekindle the fire in our own soul.  So rule of thumb; if you ever see an Open Studio sign any time, any place  or any where; stop.  It means the world to those who have gone through this process and you just might feel good yourself.

Come to my Open Studio and visit all my fellow Canterbury Artisans that will be open on the same days, November 4th and 5th.  We are part of the state-wide NH Open Doors Tour in association with the League of NH Craftsmen, supporting and encouraging artisans since 1932.

Fooling mother nature: Autumn color study

The Autumn chill is really late in coming this year here in my tree surrounded property and much of my summer garden is still perky. So I have had a creative impulse to see if I could keep it that way until my Open Studio on November 4th and 5th utilizing some frost gardening tricks gleaned from my years in California.

When I woke early the other morning I saw that temps were dropping at sunrise to 32°; our first frost—and a surprise. So I scooted out with head lamp donned to bring in the last of the vegetable garden across the road. Fried green tomatoes, chili tomato chutney and the rest to dry and grind into powder.

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But in the gardens on our side of the road at my home and studio doors, I was not yet ready to let them go. The turkish eggplants are just now turning orange and I had envisioned that splash of color into autumn. The dahlias on the other side of the walkway are still going and, because I love the combination of the two tones flanking the walkway as we enter the home and studio, I decided to try to keep them going.

I put plastic garbage bags over the eggplant and a heavy sheet over the dahlia. It worked! I put some mulch around their bases for further protection and will continue to cover them when the temps get low at night. With days still going into the 70’s my little green-house effect may keep them going until Open Studio. Fingers crossed!

Trukish eggplant and dalias- janebalshaw.com

Color theory 10:15:17- janebalshaw.com

Gradations of warm to cool, orange to pink, yellow to green.

Color theory class Recognizing Color; Learning to see Hue.  Saturday January 13, 2018.

 

 

In the mind of a creative

IMG_5385I finally sat down, exhausted, and looked around me. Piles on the floor creeping towards me, carefully engineered desktop “filing” teetering, bags exploding over boxes, one inspiration after another layered on work surfaces…. I have done it again. I creatived myself into a mountain of mess.

My mind never really stops. The creative ideas come faster than I can actually execute them; but still I try. There are nasty things that get in the way of execution; like eating and sleeping never mind keeping a somewhat clean house and tidy yard. So to discipline myself to do these somewhat mundane things I turn them into a creative project. You know where I am going with this. New recipes to develop, a seasonal decorative change in the bedroom, a new system for cleaning in a newly appointed room, a redesigned more efficient garden bed… IT NEVER ENDS.

I just can’t seem to help myself.  But I know I am not alone.   Every other artist I know has the occasional (or more than occasional) break down when in the flurry of finishing a project or getting ready for a show the mountain caves in on them.  Where are the 911 head-lamped art-rescue crews when you need them?

I do it to myself in business too.  I remember advising a younger artist that just because she could do something doesn’t mean she had to do it.  But I guess I don’t listen to myself very often because if you look at all I offer here on this website [as I reflectively have just done] I do seem perhaps a little all over the map.

Where do we draw the lines?  It may have something to do with ratio or proportioned time allotment but this does not account for the inspired rush of the moment.  Stop in the middle and you lose the inspirational flow.  In a flash the idea is gone.  Perhaps all creatives need little gnomes to follow them around dabbing the sweat from their brows, feeding them chocolate and sweeping up their messes at the end of each flurry. An aproned housewife might do; or perhaps a toga-clad roman slave type might do nicely too.  Pick your pleasure.

This a rich topic.  I would love it if you commented and we started a discussion.  When I reply it is on this post so check back. Thanks for listening.

The beauty of neutral

As the season and sunlight slips away, nature plays its visual tricks of on us. The chemistry of color takes hold and the natural world around us becomes neutralized. But we don’t really notice the loss of color though, because when neutral is played against itself, subtle becomes vibrant and all the negative descriptions of neutral dullness no longer make sense. Why is that?

When all colors grouped together are in the same relative clarity, the individual tonations in each show up.

Neutral on neutral; janebalshaw.com

Display a neutralized color against a fully saturated color and it will fade.  Interestingly, the brown above is the same brown as shown below.

Color on neutral; janebalshaw.com

 

Nature knows this trickery; in this season of brownish colors, berries are faded orange and those who turn truly crimson red only do so when they present in the pallete of intense winter contrast. Green leaves fade in autumn only because they fade transparent showing off the layers of singular colors always present, eventually loosing them to death and browning.

 

Autumn leaf color formula; janebalshaw.com

Another cause for thought; everything in its time, everything in its season…  Beauty is relative.

But what makes a color neutral? The dictionary defines it as “a color that does not alter its surroundings including our emotions.” From a painters point of view, neutral is a color that contains many pigments, technically called a complex color unlike color-wheel colors that only contain 2 pigments.

rusty truck color formula; janebalshaw.com

dried leaves color formula; janebalshaw.com

As an artist I have found this study of neutral to be endlessly fascinating.   Which pigment goes into a color in turn decides what other colors look great next to it.  What is the perfect beige to paint the wall behind your new burgundy sofa, which off-white is best to set into your quilt block and which shade of nude lipstick is best on your complexion.  Once you understand neutral then the world of color opens up.

I am teaching a class on this subject at the end of October this year 2017.  Follow this link to my workshop page to read more about it.

Neutrals; janebalshaw.com

End of summer gardens; lessons in life

I haven’t written much about my gardens this year. It has been a rough, slow start for most of them. My breast cancer slowed me down in the spring when I should have been tending to their new growth, the continual sprummer rain and darkness on beds that were planted for dryness and sun mooshed, damaging hail storms shredded, and, to be honest, my husband and I have been having too much darn fun every Sunday off the property when I normally would be putzing out there.

None the less, nature has its way. Mid August heat and the organic fertilizer I liberally applied—that I normally do in the spring—has given both of us hope. Something a true gardener is never without. But frankly, I don’t mind a bit-messy garden. It is a symbol of other things pressing on one’s time—fun or duty—and I can appreciate that; no judgement here. The mess can also the humbling effects of nature. One weed pulled today is another weed tomorrow. As Michael Pollan so humorously points out in his book Second Nature, man against nature is a philosophical never-ending battle, one I choose to relinquish now and again. Going with the natural flow of things, living in the moment…I learned this a lot in the garden this year.

 

Blue doesn’t always stay blue and fading can be nice…we all fade.

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We planted late.  Sometimes we get a late start in life and big isn’t always better.

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Toby, our natural grass barber.  Never let your hair cut define you.

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Sometimes all one needs is a good sit and the color red.

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…or pink and orange.

 

Herbs are hardy.  Don’t forget that by adding spice in your life you will become more hardy too.

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Next year I will make the brick edging that will keep the dirt in the beds in place; next year, next year.  You do what you can do, “You get what you get and don’t get upset”; Pinkalicious.

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FOR THE LOVE OF PRODUCE: pickled cherries

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I got to Canterbury Farmers Market late last week, but in time enough to grab the last small basket of local sweet cherries: half to eat, and half to pickle.  The season is fleeting—and our own Sour Cherry tree was loaded—so I got busy with all things cherry.  Here is one unusual way I came up with to eat them without baking.  And if you can them, you can keep the cherry season forever on your palette.  Enjoy!

Pickled Cherries  Makes one 16 oz jar.

  • Rinse and dry a heaping 2 cups of cherries.  I used 1/2 sweet cherries and 1/2 Sour cherries.  Immediately pit them and cut them into quarters.  NOTE: once they are rinsed they will begin to deteriorate so work quickly.
  • Measure 2 cups worth and place in refrigerator bowl or 16 oz. jar.  (If you want to preserve them by canning, see alterations below.)

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In a stainless steel sauce pan combine the following:

  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup white cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (Note: iodized salt will darken your pickles.)
  • 1 T finely chopped red or orange bell pepper
  • 1 T finely sliced or chopped red onion

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Bring all ingredients to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes.  Pour over cherries and refrigerate.  They are good in 12 hours, great in 24 hours and awesome the longer they sit.  They will keep refrigerated four weeks or longer.

Add them to potato salad, dress a hot dog, or serve as a side to grilled meats and vegetables.  Use them any way you would use pickle relish.

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*If you wish to can these to preserve for later, sterilize your jar and canning lids with hot soapy water then pour boiling water over them.  Fill with cherries and liquid into a hot, dry jar.  Wipe jar rim clean then screw on lids tightly.  Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Remove to a rack to cool.

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I LOVE produce. And it always amazes me how little people eat of it. But given the tasteless, cardboard varieties many of us grew up with—and is still in the stores—it’s no wonder. Sawing a slice of tomato only to have it stiffly lay on the plate looking back at you with its dead-pink, odorless flesh is unappealing, only worsened by the tree-branch chew of it. Who wants to fill 2/3 of your plate with that?

I have been inspired to create new ways to eat fruits and vegetables all summer long when their favor is at its peak. And because combining with additional flavors enhances the taste even more than its singular ingredients, recipes often help with produce that is less that perfect, a reality we are faced with most of the year here in New England.

It tastes better fresh. It tastes better local. But if you have to buy in the supermarkets, recipes help.

FOR THE LOVE OF PRODUCE: grilled beets with asparagus salad.

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The last of the spring asparagus, the largest wintered-over beets: I just had to grab my final taste before they disappeared at my Canterbury Farmers Market.  As part of my self-imposed summer challenge* of preparing fruits and vegetables in a way I have never done before, I came up with this recipe.  Grilled beets—sugars caramelized, smoky, meaty,, and enough as a main dish—mixed with barely blanched asparagus rounds that pop sweetly like a preview of summer’s first peas.  Something new, something yum.

  • Scrub 2 large beets clean with a plastic scrubber or sponge then peel them.  Using a sharp knife, cut them into 3/8″ rounds.
  • Just for fun, cut a few flower shapes out of the slices using a fine paring knife.  Save the scrapes to add to a smoothie or juice.

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  • In a small dish mix 2 T.  balsamic vinegar with 2 T. olive oil.

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  • Using a pastry or grill brush coat the beets on one side.  Place the coated side down on a pre-heated grill pan or outside grill.  Cook on low heat very slowly.
  • When they are slightly tender when poked with a knife, coat the back side with oil/vinegar and flip them to continue cooking until they are tender.  NOTE: as the sugars in the balsamic and beets caramelize, they will begin to smoke.  This adds an unexpected flavor to the beets making a new way to taste them!

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  • Wash a handful of asparagus.  Bend asparagus stocks near the bottom white part and where they naturally break; it separates the tough end from the tender stock.  Slice the tender stalks into 3/8″ rounds reserving the tips for decoration.
  • Bring a small/medium saucepan full of water to boil.  To it, add the asparagus rounds and tips.  Cook 1 minute, then drain and immediately put in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Drain.
  • To make the salad, arrange beet rounds, pile up with asparagus and decorate with “flowers.”
  • Dress with dab of mayonnaise mixed with a bit of balsamic vinegar.  Salt and pepper to taste.

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*I LOVE produce. And it always amazes me how little people eat of it. But given the tasteless, cardboard varieties many of us grew up with—and is still in the stores—it’s no wonder. Sawing a slice of tomato only to have it stiffly lay on the plate looking back at you with its dead-pink, odorless flesh is unappealing, only worsened by the tree-branch chew of it. Who wants to fill 2/3 of your plate with that?

I have been inspired to create new ways to eat fruits and vegetables all summer long when their favor is at its peak. And because combining with additional flavors enhances the taste even more than its singular ingredients, recipes often help with produce that is less that perfect, a reality we are faced with most of the year here in New England.

It tastes better fresh. It tastes better local. But if you have to buy in the supermarkets, recipes help.