Saturday Morning Tea

Good morning, dear tea friends! In continuing Assam month here at Art and Tea, I have an unusual Assam filling my cup today, a first flush selection from the Amgoorie estate.

Most Assams are harvested during the summer months, or the second flush season. They are well known and loved for their characteristic full-bodied, hearty, malty flavor profile. This first flush was harvested in the springtime, the first growth of the tea leaves. While the characteristic Assam flavor notes are still there, it usually has a much lighter body.

Even though it’s a whole leaf tea, I steeped the leaves in boiling point (212F) water for only 3 minutes because it’s a first flush and since I wasn’t planning on adding milk. It can be steeped for a longer time if adding milk and/or sweetener, or if you like a brighter quality to your plain tea.

I found this photo of the Amgoorie estate factory. Being a confessed clean freak myself, I’m greatly comforted to know how clean their operation is there. Yes, tea leaves are usually sorted and piled on floors.

The wet leaf has a hint of cocoa aroma that is revealed in its flavor as well. The tea liquor is quite smooth with a fuller body than what I was expecting.

The color in my glass teapot reflects the myriad of oranges and reds flaming across our New England fields and forests.

The flavor is lightly malty with a kick of brightness in the finish.

The last 2 weeks have taken me on a journey I’ve never experienced before. Someone very close to me had major surgery and was in a Boston hospital for 10 days, 5 of those in the ICU. I was brought to a place of seeing and then knowing how your life can change forever in an instant revelation of news we all dread to hear. I felt my heart crack wide open as I traveled each step of the recommended path with my beloved friend and observed the compassionate caring of everyone there to help him through the long process. He is finally home and the healing has begun. Nothing is certain in this life, things change constantly and the best we can do is to live and treasure the moments each one at a time. Until next week, dear tea friends…

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” ~Joseph Campbell

Rita made me do it

Last July, I wrote about my welcome return to the Rhode Island polymer clay guild here. At that meeting, my friend, Judy, showed us how to create ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) using polymer clay, stamps and paint. I had a lot of fun in the following weeks going off in my own direction with what I had learned that day. I created some painted polymer clay bracelets, very different from anything I had ever created before.

Something else happened at that meeting which also changed the course of my jewelry making.

My guildmate and friend, Rita, brought in a stunning, handmade wire necklace from her amazing collection of jewelry. Rita makes her home in the Washington, DC, area and summers every year on the coast of Rhode Island. She returns every summer to welcoming hugs and smiles all around, to be a part of our group once again.

It’s amazing how something can happen one day that changes everything. Even though I’ve had that experience quite a few times in my life, it constantly surprises me.

As I drooled over her necklace all day, I felt a spark being re-ignited inside of my creative soul, my passion for wireworking, born many years ago during my early days of making jewelry. At that time, I wanted to include crystals in my necklaces but couldn’t figure out how to do that because they didn’t have a hole in them for stringing. As I mused upon that predicament, I happened to come upon a book about wire wrapping at the local bookstore. Being so long ago, I’m sorry to say that I completely forget the author’s name and I donated that book to the library in one of my moves. Anyway, distractions come up in our lives that can pull us completely off a given path so after a couple of years of wire wrapping, I veered off that path to try something else. I’m ecstatic to have found that path once again. It’s like finding a secret garden hidden behind an ivy covered gate, a garden discovered once long ago and secretly yearned for without consciously knowing it.

This necklace was born of my resurrected passion. It’s constructed entirely of copper wire and chain with raku and crystal beads, pearls and a polymer clay focal bead. I dipped it in liver of sulfur to antique it and then polished the wire with fine steel wool.

It’s great to be playing with wire once again…

“If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.”

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Saturday Morning Tea

This past week has been sooooo cold here in New England and it’s not even officially winter yet. Yesterday morning brought single digits temps to our area. Brrr… 10 more days til Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year. I’ve often thought about how our early ancestors must have felt, experiencing the growing darkness and not knowing that it would eventually recede and the lighter days would come back again. No wonder there was much celebration at this time of year, honoring the Return of the Sun.

Ok, on to tea. My morning tea is an Oolong from China, appropriately called Eastern Beauty with its gorgeous full leaf and amazing honeyed aroma.

Back in August, I dedicated the whole month to Oolong, or Wulong, teas. You can start reading about this wonderful type of tea here.

I steeped the tea leaves for 4 minutes in 180 degree F water.

The intense honey aroma greeted me as I poured my first cup. Mmmm….

I love how the color of the liquor reflects the distinct aroma of this tea.

So warm and inviting.

The flavor is silky smooth with notes of honey and flowers and a hint of chestnut in the finish. At this gift buying time of year, a sample of this tea would make an exquisite gift for the Oolong lover on your list. I know that it’s going in a few of my stockings.

You’ve probably noticed the amazing art paper I’ve used as a background today. My dear friend, Amy, found it during her recent trip to Italy. Over dinner the other night, she told us how when they discovered the shop that her husband knew she would be in there for awhile. I’m honored with her beautiful gift. Thanks Amy!

I know that I’ve been sorely neglecting the “art” part of my blog these past months. During this busy time of year, it’s been so challenging to get any kind of time in my studio. What I have been up to though is gift making with my pointy sticks to bring warmth to heads, necks and hearts. My goal in the new year is to get back to my art and sharing it with all of you.

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne

A Feast

Recently I was honored to be treated to a feast of grilled pizzas whipped up by my dear friend, Judy. You can read about the adventures of “2 Girls and 11 Pizzas” here.

Not only is Judy the mixed media queen extraordinaire, she is a marvelous cook. Ideally, the pizza should be cooked on an outside grill, however, if you don’t have access to that type of grill, you can always make your pizza in a grill pan on the stove. You don’t even have to make your own dough. You can get the frozen kind from the grocery store along with pizza sauce, cheese and your choice of toppings. I can’t wait to try it.

Yum.

Saturday Morning Tea on Sunday

On this hazy summer morning in my pleasantly cooled kitchen, I’m lazily sipping a Chinese green tea called Chun Mee. Traditionally, the Chinese have always been quite fond of rolling the tea leaf into various shapes and then naming the tea accordingly. Chun Mee translates to “Precious Eyebrows”. Can you see it?

After the leaf is withered and steamed, it is rolled into a thin needle-like shape with a curve like a porcelain doll’s eyebrow.

It is a very popular everyday tea in China, especially to accompany strong flavored foods because of its astringent aftertaste which clears the palate.

Upon steeping for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water, the tightly rolled leaves open slightly to reveal their curled edges.

The golden liquor has a hint of chestnuts in the aroma and a rich, full-bodied flavor. Its astringency clears my mouth and makes it feel fresh and clean. A whisper of sweet plum rounds out the taste.

Shopping at the local mall a couple of nights ago, I stopped into a tea store there and found these interesting pottery teamugs on the clearance shelf. The coppery/sage green mottled exterior is rough and textured with a smooth, pale blue interior. I love the juxtaposition of textures and the way the mug feels slightly rough against my palm. I also love finding treasures, especially those at 75% off!

I had a lovely art day yesterday with my guild. We all do our own creative thing companionably, inspiring and encouraging each other, chatting, laughing and eating goodies. A perfect day. I made a couple pairs of earrings using stone, pearls and copper wire. After I antique one pair with liver of sulphur, I’ll share photos very soon.

Enjoy your Sunday!

The purpose of craft is not so much to make beautiful things as it is to become beautiful inside while you are making those things.

Return to the Guild and ATCs

A couple of Saturdays ago I was delighted to attend a meeting of the Rhode Island Polymer Clay Guild, or RIPCG, for short. I had become a member back in the fall of 2002 and happily went to the monthly meetings until around 2008-2009 when I had to turn all of my focus onto my unsettled personal life. Now that I’m all settled in my new place (6 months now!) and am feeling more grounded and balanced in my life again, I can bring art group fun back into my life. Yay!

My dear friend, Judy, mixed media queen extraordinaire, showed us how to create and embellish ATCs (Artist Trading Cards), using polymer clay, rubber stamps, paints, markers and a fabulous little invention called Stickles, better known as glitter glue. Oh, be still my heart! You can see Judy’s tutorial here. She’s an amazing teacher, so patient and inspiring. If you’re in the E. Bridgewater, MA area, she gives classes at the Scrapbook Cupboard. Her next class is in Sept. on how to make polymer clay buttons. Check it out!

Lookie, lookie, what we made.

Aren’t they fabulous?!!

The ladies put together a delicious pot luck lunch and we ate and chatted and then ate some more.

Words can’t describe my joy at being back with this gifted, creative group of artists who all inspire me so much. Their talents are many, including Chinese brush painting, Zentangles, acrylic painting, beading, pottery, quilting and knitting. And, of course, polymer clay!

As I painted my little pieces, I felt my heart sing. There’s something about painting that really gets my creative juices flowing.

I started envisioning how I could bring this fun into some jewelry pieces. Starting with my clown pendant pictured at the beginning of this post, I am expanding that vision into components for bracelets, necklaces and earrings. What do you think?

Stay tuned for how this idea shapes and evolves…

“As we give fully, unafraid to let others know the truth about ourselves, we receive unexpected rewards from unexpected sources.”

~Helene Lerner-Robbins, writer