Learning to create polymer clay bookmarks

Look at these gorgeous bookmarks. So colorful and rich looking.

If you live in the Westford, MA area, you can take a workshop at Ink About It this Friday, October 1st, with my dear friend, Amy, who will teach you how to create them.

Read more about this mixed media workshop here. What fun!

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Saturday Morning Tea

Jun, “moon”. Chiya, “tea”. Bari, “garden”.

Jun Chiyabari. Moon tea garden.

It conjures up images of an exotic place, filled with lush tea bushes bathed in the dreamy light of a full moon.

Back in 2000, 2 brothers, Bachan and Lochan Gyawali, along with a former schoolmate, manifested their “moon tea garden” dream when they established the Jun Chiyabari tea garden in the hills surrounding the small town of Hile in the eastern Himalayan region of Nepal.

Working with small, local farmers to encourage and support them in keeping ownership of their land for tea cultivation, the team’s primary focus is on quality of leaf not quantity. They pay the farmers top prices for that high quality leaf, with a markup of 50-100%, a direct benefit to this small rural community.

This morning’s tea was grown in this community.

“There is an old saying that ‘tea is made in the garden’ (as opposed to at the factory).  In other words, what is produced in the garden in terms of quality, plucking, etc., will determine the nature of the end product.  We take this very seriously, and from the outset we have put the small farmer at the heart of our project.” ~Bachan Gyawali

In keeping with this philosophy, the Jun Chiyabari team expanded their vision last year with the construction of the Singalila Tea factory nearby in the town of Fikkal, at an altitude of 5,662 feet above sea level. They are constantly educating themselves and their farmers in tea cultivation skills, bio-organic farming including diversity of crops and preservation of forest areas to benefit the environment.

The beautiful amber liquor glows like a jewel in my glass teapot inviting me to pour my first cup.

The cup is quite smooth with sweet, lightly floral notes. I also detect some chestnut notes reminiscent of an Oolong tea. Mmmm…

I look forward to more delicious tea from this visionary team!

Today I’m heading down to E. Bridgewater, MA where my dear friend, Judy, is teaching her Buttons & Bellishments class. I’m looking forward to a fun ART Day!

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

~Helen Keller

Creating more bead soups

As we near the end of September here in southern New England, most of the leaves are still green, however, a faint blush has bloomed, spreading more and more with each passing day. One of my newest bead soup mixes, aptly called Fall Foliage, is inspired by October’s glorious colors, just beginning to manifest.

The flaming colors of Sunset.

I recently received a lovely note from one of my readers, interested in creating her own free-form bracelets. Daunted by the prospect of purchasing all of the beads needed to create a bead soup such as the ones in my photos, she asked for my advice. One of my favorite parts of creating a free-form piece is going through my extensive bead stash and choosing a pleasing palette of various size beads. I offered to create some bead soup mixes for her and I’m happy to report that she was delighted with my offer.

The many colors of the Sea.

I started to give this more thought. Based on how many different kinds of beads, along with crystals, pearls and stone beads that I use for my free-form pieces, one would need to spend between $100-$150 on beads to create the depth and variety of beads in these mixes. Wow. I never really thought about that before.

A walk in Winter Woods under a full moon.

So, here’s my idea. As I love, love, love color and beads, how about if I combine those 2 loves to create unique bead mixes for sale? What do you think?

Saturday Morning Tea

Even though we are on the cusp of autumn and the temps are dropping rapidly here in New England, especially at night, I’m still in the mood for a light tea.

I introduce you to Huangshan Mao Feng Supreme, a beautiful, spring harvest Chinese green tea. Perhaps springtime in a cup can banish away the gloominess I feel on this dark, cloudy day.

The leaf is from a very fine plucking and careful processing resulting in an amazingly intact leaf set. I loved watching the leaves dance in my glass teapot as they infused.

Just the tips, the very new growth, are plucked to create this special tea.

I have read that Huangshan is another name for Mount Huang, located in the Anhui province of China. It’s a place of  granite peaks, hot springs and beautiful sunsets and sunrises. An optical phenomenon known as Buddha’s Light occurs a couple times a month there with the sunrise. Sounds like an amazing place.

This tea is quite pale in color with a vegetal whisper in the aroma.

I chose this particular teabowl because the pale liquor allows me to see the beautiful texture inside the bowl. The flavor is light yet fills my mouth with its soft, fruity sweetness. Mmmm….

As I sip my tea, I watch the gray blanket of sky and contemplate the seasonal changes to come. My cup of springtime seems to hold back the thickening clouds as it releases the scent of new growth with every sip.

“Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday Morning Tea

I was up quite early today for a Saturday. The day dawned bright and clear and as I sipped my tea, I thought of that fateful day 9 years ago. Another beautiful, clear September morning that turned dark and sad as the events of the day unfolded.

I raise my teacup and dedicate my thoughts today in memory of all those lives lost that day…

I’m sipping a China green tea called Jade Cloud Mist. Harvested in the spring in An Hui province, the leaf is exquisite.

The leaf is a very fine plucking of the new growth found at the tips of the tea plant stems.

Simply gorgeous.

I steeped the leaves for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water. A pronounced vegetal aroma wafted up from my glass teapot as I poured my first cup.

Even though the tea liquor is a very pale sage green, the mouth feel is very full and buttery smooth with light notes of asparagus.

A sweetness lingers with every sip.

So pale, so light, yet so very flavorful. A real treat for those who cherish their green tea.

Today I am journeying down to the coast of Rhode Island for a gathering of artist friends. Fabulous food, wonderful conversation, creative energy…the perfect day…

“…to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows…….perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist….” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Playing with Towers and Turrets

A few weeks ago, I started an exciting online class that combines mixed media collage with metalwork and resin. Called Of Towers and Turrets, it’s taught by the artistic dynamic duo of Sharon Tomlinson and Deryn Mentock.

In this first step, I’ve created a painted collage with stamps, words, images, gel pens and, of course, paint. I was a bit nervous to paint a face as I’ve never done that before but once I got started, I absolutely loved it!!! I used the Golden brand of paints, both the heavy body and the liquid acrylic. Love, love, loooove these yummy paints! And my 30% off A.C. Moore coupon helped fuel this new addiction.

Stay tuned for some unique jewelry creations like nothing I’ve ever created before…

Saturday Morning Tea

On this breezy, late summer morning, I can feel a change in the air as a new season steadily approaches. Hello fall. I’m looking forward to your clear, rich colors and letting the haziness of summer go.

As I watch the tree limbs bow and sway outside my window, I quietly sip an herbal infusion from the Yerba Mate plant.

Ilex paraguariensis is native to subtropical South America and is a member of the holly family. Like the tea plant, yerba mate is a shrub or small tree. Its name translates to “cup herb”, referring to its popularity for infusing and drinking.

Drinking yerba mate from a shared hollow gourd is a common social practice in many South American countries. A metal straw, called a bombilla, is inserted into the gourd for sipping.

I steeped my yerba mate for 8 minutes in just below boiling point water.

Interestingly, while all other herbs do not contain caffeine, this herb does. However, studies have shown that the components found in the yerba mate leaf produce a different effect on the body, working directly on muscle tissue instead of the central nervous system as caffeine usually does. Further studies have also shown that it lowers cholesterol and has an anti-obesity effect.

The golden yellow liquor is mild with a pronounced sweet, grassy flavor that is quite delicious. I also found it to be incredibly smooth with the sweetness lingering on in my mouth, leaving a refreshing taste.

I think that this is a great herbal drink to explore if you are caffeine sensitive and looking for a beverage to refresh but not overstimulate.

What are you drinking this weekend?

“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.”

~Mary Byrant