Category Archives: Art with Others

Sticks and Stones (and maybe bones)

“We could never have loved the earth so well if we had no childhood in it.” George Eliot

Sticks and Stones (and maybe bones) was an all ages PLAYshop offered twice this summer. Both days, we began at Kerry Farm, and then drove to nearby Pheasant Creek Coulee where we spent a few hours exploring the meadows, hillsides, creek bed, and wooded areas around this part of the coulee. We then returned to Kerry Farm for lunch and an afternoon of rest and creativity (and one of the days, tree-climbing).

During the July PLAYshop, the wildflowers were blooming profusely, Saskatoon berries were plump and plentiful, the creek was running due to recent rains. A bone was found! On our August day, a few of the July wildflowers were still in bloom as well as the August beauties, there were still Saskatoon berries, and the creek bed was mostly dry and kind of green where there was moisture. The grasses were spectacular – every colour of green, as well as pink, yellow, rust, purple, and reddish. No bones were found, but a number of sticks and stones came back to Kerry Farm. My highlight during the second PLAYshop was this: a boy, running past me up the hill, declaring at top volume,”OH! I LOVE NATURE SO MUCH!” Makes me smile just to remember.

Below are some photos which will give you a feel for the beauty of Pheasant Creek Coulee, as well as the open hearted spirit each person brought to the day.

Photo Credit: Jody Hyndman

Photo Credit: Jody Hyndman

Photo Credit: Jody Hyndman

Photo Credit: Jody Hyndman

 

How To Make Friends with a Wildflower

Photo Credit: Jo Anne Lauder

Jo Anne Lauder, one of the artists who took part in “Befriending Wildflowers – An Art Retreat” at the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer this July, took the stunning photo above, capturing the delicacy of a prairie wildflower bouquet. “Befriending Wildflowers” gave us a chance to slow down, to explore the hills and meadows around us, and to spend quiet happy time in each other’s company observing, sketching, and painting wildflowers. We painted under the green shade of trees on some very hot days, and were grateful for the cooling breeze. Grateful too, for the generous hospitality of Glenn, Chantelle, Kathy, Tim, and Simba, the cat. Their hospitality included delicious meals and surprise snacks, thoughtful reflections about wildflowers, and mowing the  steep and curving trails that lead up the hills (a Herculean act, in my opinion). If Simba detected any sense of a rush, he had a lovely way of asking for some affection, and slowing us down. We were also deeply grateful for the many gifts of the wildflowers, and the beautiful natural world surrounding us. Below are some photos of our time together, and if you continue all the way to the bottom, some preliminary thoughts on how to make friends with a wildflower.

She said she doesn’t climb hills and then SHE DID! (Wait to go, Deb!)

this beautiful view (still celebrating the climb!)

new friends

we also came “to just be”, to quietly sit

Moments of quiet absorption

 

a little watercolour play

Breathe while you paint (this flopped but fun experiment because how will you breathe if you are worried about getting paint on the garage door??)

Loosening our brush stroke by pasting a stivk to the end of our brush (still worried about paint on the doors!!)

early Saturday morning, beautiful mist…that is the chapel in the distance

Spreading Dogbane Foliage by Deb

Getting to know the flowers by sketching them first (Deb)

Bouquet by Deb

Purple Prairie Clover and Gaillardia by Jo Anne

Unfinished Woodland Foliage by Jo Anne

Wild Rose by Jo Anne

Wildflower Sampler (Purple Prairie Clover, Western Wild Bergamot, Harebell, Prairie Coneflower, Gaillardia, Alfalfa) by Jo Anne

Wild Rose by Teri (First ever attempt with watercolours)

Wildflowers in Tree by Marg

Alcohol Ink by Marg

Bible Journal by Marg

Wildflowers and Earth by Marg

“Nature yourself with kindness” by Marg

A partial art gallery on the logs

Spreading Dogbane and other foliage by Sue

More foliage by Sue

Back: Teri, Jo Anne, Marg Front: Deb, Sue


Some Preliminary Thoughts on Making Friends with Wildflowers

  • The old adage “Stop (or slow down) and smell the flowers” is a good one. Stopping is necessary. Smelling is great – some of us have the most beautiful scent, some no discernible scent, and some a memorable scent. You can smell us best when on your knees.
  • Once you have stopped, spend a little time with me. Really look at me. Touch me – gently, see how I feel. Notice if there are others like me around. What made you look at me? Sing me a song. Tell me what you appreciate about me. It takes a long time to get to know me well.
  • From someone who knows us well: be humble around us. We have been on Planet earth for much longer than you. We are your Elders, your teachers. (paraphrased from Robin Wall Kimmerer)
  • Don’t pick me with out asking. I will answer. Wrap my stem in a little water so I will stay alive a little longer. When you take me home, admire me, place me in a central spot, sketch or paint or photograph me. If that is not your thing, you could write me a love song.
  • Never pick me if I am the only one, or if there are very few of my kind.
  • Walk lightly. That way if you step on me I am more likely to bounce back.
  • Come and visit me often. At first you will notice me only when I am in full bloom, but in time you will learn to notice my emerging leaves, my bud, how I flower and how my middle turns to seeds. You will find me beautiful even as I am dying. Each stage of my life is wondrous.
  • Listen to me.
  • Look around and notice who my neighbours are, which butterflies, bees and flies like to pollinate me, if I am tasty to any wild creatures.
  • Sometimes leave me alone. Just like any friend, I need quiet at times.
  • I enjoy your small gifts of thanks, but the best gift of all is an appreciative heart. Or lovely water (especially in a dry year).
  • Other thoughts?

    Harebell Photo Credit: Chantelle Bonk, Qu’Appelle House of Prayer

Spring is in the Air!!

Happy International Women’s day from the Kerry Farm Ice Rink, where spring is in the air.

How can I tell?

Ravens and magpies are more in evidence, swooping low. Dogs, young and old are chasing the ravens and magpies, even though we all know that dogs can’t fly.

The light is different. The March skies are starting to come.

I can skate and skate and skate until I am tired. Which is different from skating until I freeze!

The trails on our rink are sinuous and meandering, I love to follow their curves. I imagine I am a world famous speed skater (although Iin reality I skate quite slowly!) As I skate I think of the female leaders (from young to old) whose very integrity means they say what they have to say, quietly and succinctly. I am hungry for this kind of integrity in our public life. I think of all of the women in my life – my mother  and mother-in-law and grandmothers and aunts and sisters in law, my cousins, my daughters and their friends, my own friends – the women who have taught me about integrity and so much else. My skating weaves this way and that, giving thanks for all of these women, giving thanks for this day, this place, the very miracle of moving on a thin steel blade across ice.

Mia is digging….a snow sculptor

made in a cake pan, celebrating the last full moon

the layers on the inside of a snow drift

Last week, the North wind blew forming beautiful snowdrifts on the rink. Hello, Snowdrifts…this week I have been coming to know snow drifts, up close and personal. In clearing trails, I notice all of the layers of snow, some with grit in them, others pure white, some soft, some quite hard. Snowdrifts are best removed a layer at a time, and as I make a crack in the snow, the drift separates how it wants to…usually with lovely soft curves, just like the ice rink. Each piece of snowdrift is so beautiful. I place each one carefully along the sides of the paths. They look to me like a line of ancient women…standing in many different postures with the blue bowl of prairie sky as a backdrop. In the book I am reading, Braiding Sweetgrass,  Robin Wall Kimmerer describes learning how to basket weave. As she weaves, she feels as if she participates in “the beginning of a reweaving of the bond between the women and the land.” This is how I feel on the ice rink in a small way – working and playing with what nature gives us, what is already there to co-create something wonderful, and as I am doing it I am befriending  and getting to know the natural world better. In this, too, the women and the children will lead.

I give thanks.

Befriending Wildflowers (the noisier version)

It was a very hot and humid day when we set out to explore the wildflowers of Pheasant Creek Coulee, with small sketchbooks in hand.  Each sketchbook had several line drawings of flowers we hoped to find, with a space to name it ourselves, and a space for the common name. I had anticipated moving quickly across the pasture to the hills below but this gaggle of 5 girls and 2 moms stopped to look at  and appreciate every wildflower – they did not miss one – and gave each some very fun names. We collected a few to paint later and proceeded to a very steep hill full of western wild bergamots and a scary climb down  (for some!) that ended with a slide several feet down to the road!!

We returned to Kerry Farm a little overheated, but cooled down with a delicious potluck lunch. We found some shade to really look closely at our wildflowers and experiment with watercolour painting. Along the way, we visited Grandmother Willow (for a little tree climbing and some feather collecting) and said hi to the horses. We ended the day with some flower yoga and gymnastics as you can see.

This is a companion piece to Befriending Wildflowers (the Quiet Version)

Befriending Wildflowers (the quiet version)

“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” Georgia O’Keefe

“Befriending Wildflowers” was a two day art retreat which gave us time to “really see a flower” and to befriend some of the  wildflowers who live on the slopes of the Qu’Appelle Valley. By spending time with the wildflowers on the hills, by painting and drawing the flowers that called to us, we came to know a few flowers more intimately.

We were so fortunate to be able to hold this retreat at the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer  which is

Photo by Tania Wolk

nestled in the hills above Echo Lake. We painted under the shade of trees during the hot days, and hiked through woodland trails up to the top of the hills where grasses and flowers bloomed profusely in the early mornings and evenings. We were so warmly welcomed and cared for by Glenn, Margaret, Kathy and Tim.  Silence and quiet are encouraged and allow us to connect with nature more deeply than usual. For those who wished, Eucharist and “silent sitting” enriched our experience. The Qu’Appelle House of Prayer is a sacred place.

some of our “cat flowers”…instructor Kami Jo second from right

While the land (and the flowers) were our greatest teacher(s), we also learned so much from each other. Our youngest participant, Kami Jo, led a session on creating cat flowers which was fantastic. Tania helped us draw flowers in their simplest shapes, getting to the essence of the flower, and helping us see flowers in fresh ways. We painted with dominant hand, non-dominant hand, standing, sitting, upside down,  and we sometimes timed ourselves to get the feel of a flower rather than the details. We did flower yoga, and played flower charades, and  did breathing exercises. We laughed frequently. We moved  very slowly (to Kami Jo’s frustration). We called our unhurried pace “wildflower time”. We learned how painting on the ground in a meadow was a completely different experience from painting a vase of flowers.

Wildflower Joy! Photo by Tania Wolk

Photo by Elizabeth Gavin

Photo: Tania Wolk

Speaking for myself, It was pure joy to be with others who take notice and delight in wildflowers. Being with others  who are totally absorbed  in trying to get the feel of a particular flower on paper is very settling, calming and joyful. I saw wildflowers in new ways, and sometimes through the eyes of others, I saw familiar wildflowers in completely unfamiliar ways. I treasure my friendships with wildflowers – through the presence and teachings of my companions, my friendships continue to grow and thrive.

Once upon another PLAYshop, this one focusing on trees, hypnotizing chickens became the most fun thing to do. During our Befriending Flowers time, the most fun thing for Kami Jo was having the chance to drive Margaret in the golf cart! You have to scroll to the bottom for photos of that one.

I feel gratitude for the sacred place that is the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer, for the people that care for it, and for us; for the beautiful hills, grasses and wildflowers; and for each of those who took part so wholeheartedly!! Thank you.

Diane getting to know gaillardia

Gaillardia seed head, Diane

Gaillardia sun and shadows, Liz

Gaillardia, photo by Tania Wolk

Gaillardia Seed Heads by Tania

Purple Prairie clover, first impressions, Liz

Purple Prairie Clover, Photo by Tania Wolk

Cat flowers, Kami Jo

Purple Prairie Clover, Tania

Trying with marker, Kami Jo

Wild Rose, early morning meditation, Diane

Wild Rose, early morning meditation, Tania

Wild Rose, after the petals fall and before the rose hip forms. Beauty in every stage. Tania.

Liz’s flowers…gaillardia, bergamot, wild rose

Cat Flower, Liz

Wild Bergamot (using Tania’s shape method), Sue

Wild Bergamot makes us go wild and free, Diane

And the wind blew, and the bergamot got wilder!  Whoohee!!

Dancing in the Meadow, Sue

Kami Jo’s flowers, photo by Tania Wolk

Who painted the fastest of us all? (Kami Jo)

Early morning painting in the meadow

Totally absorbed as we “befriend a wildflower”

Mai Jo befriending Margaret, Margaret befriending Kami Jo. Margaret is one of the co-directors of the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer, along with Glenn Zimmer. Photo by Tania Wolk.

Saving the best for last!! Finally we are speeding up, says Kami Jo. Photo by Tania Wolk.

through the looking glass, Northern Bedstraw, photo by Tania Wolk

 

Art Buddies

 

When I was about 10, an uncle who was a  “Sunday artist” spent an afternoon  showing me how to draw cups and bowls. He taught me about volume and perspective, taught me how to shade with my pencil, and encouraged me to draw  with a “light touch.” He was patient and seemed to enjoy himself. I soaked up the attention. My aunts and uncles loved us all, but it was very rare for one of them to pay particular attention to one of us cousins. They were in their world and we were in ours. I now suspect that this uncle wasn’t so comfortable in the adult world, so for an afternoon, he crossed over.

When I was imagining “Explorations in Art” I wanted the young people who came to experience that kind of attention.  I have often worked with large groups of children and youth. Let the wild ruckus begin! Sometimes big group art experiences are more about handling materials and general chaos and completing a project  than learning about art.

My first ever Explorations in Art student was Lanelle. For the past two years Lanelle has come once a month, sometimes more and occasionally, less. Among her consuming passions are dragons, so we have learned a lot about art by exploring dragons. But we have also explored tractors, wildflowers, pencils, faces, cubes, cylinders, dogs, ski hills. Together with others we have explored art in the city, both in galleries but also in back alleys, restaurants and tattoo parlours. We have visited the horses, skated on the ice rink, climbed the hills and visited Grandmother Willow in all seasons. We play weird games in the car.  Lanelle has brought along her sister, her mom, her cousins and once, eight of her friends! We have favourite snacks – hot chocolate, ginger cookies, pizza. I have been promising her mango smoothies. She has promised me a fiddle concert under the willow tree.

One of the guiding principles of “Explorations in Art” is “Teaching is a two way path”. Nothing could be truer. I have a wonderful group of students and I do not doubt for a moment that they are among the very best  teachers I have ever had. They inspire me to see the world in new ways. Their interests take me in new directions. They shake me up.

While the one-on-one approach of “Explorations in Art” allows me to offer a student my full attention and tailor our time together according to their various interests, abilities and working rhythms, it also offers an unintended benefit – the very best art companions. It is about relationship as much as it is about art.

As such, the way Lanelle and I  create art together has changed. This summer we spent many happy hours creating in the same room…just enjoying the calm, creative, entirely enjoyable, and beautiful world we were inhabiting together. Lanelle is in charge of music – sometime roots music, sometimes calming music and sometimes dance music – for that, we have Marvin Gaye. Sometimes we have to shake it up and dance or do calisthenics. Sometimes we listen to a book. We have the same quirky (and sometimes dark) sense of humour. Sometimes Lanelle is absolutely quiet. She can be incredibly focussed. Sometimes she talks my ear off.

During the spring, we were having a wonderful talk and I had an epiphany. Lanelle is a kindred spirit. Friends for life, I am sure.  Renegades. Art buddies. So, this blog is for you Lanelle – with a thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s also for my long ago (late) uncle who took the time. Another thank you.

(Question for Lanelle: How would you paint the bottom of a heart? Have you ever seen a person’s ear fall off because the other person was talking a lot?)

Lanelle’s most recent project, summer of 2017

Close up

We both love working on the floor. Keeps us down to earth (sort of).

Lanelle’s piece inspired this “Sprites Dancing in Full Moon” .We both love this lovely blue paper and I was inspired by the simple clean lines in Lanelle’s piece.

Lanelle’s first dragon with piles of gold coins plus some wonderful food, fall 2015

Sketching around the farmyard, spring 2016

Spring 2016

Collecting ticks and painting wildflowers, Spring 2016

Painting Pots PLAYshop, Spring 2016

Dominique and Lanelle, Art in the City, Summer 2016

Art in the City, Lanelle’s 7 minute sketch, summer 2016

Lanelle’s surprise Christmas gift for her family. A watercolour (framed by Lanelle) of her family skiing at Mission Ridge, fall 2016

Paper Playshop, Fall 2016

Lanelle’s friends, winter 2017

Self- Portrait #1

Watercolour, Winter 2017

Neve’s mermaid (Lanelle’s little sister) and Lanelle at work

 

 

How Creating Art Benefits Children

 

 We focus when creating art.

Creating art is relaxing. I often notice a kind of “let down”, a “settling in” to the art activity when children and youth come to my studio (or elsewhere) to create art. Most children find it easy to really focus on what they are doing and while they are creating art, they are not thinking about other things. They may be excited about what they are creating but they are excited in a grounded and calm way. Creating art can very meditative. Studies have shown that when tested after creating art, people’s cortisol levels went down significantly, irregardless of their skill level or prior experience. This was most true with younger participants in the study. Cortisone is the “stress hormone” and increased levels of stress interfere with learning, memory, and general health as well depression and mental health.

We can draw what we see in our everyday world.

We can draw what we see in our everyday world.

Creating art helps you look at the world in new and different ways. We have fixed ideas about art. We often think we need to paint something particular like a beautiful scene or a still life. Everything around us can be the subject of our art practice; sketching common items like salt and pepper shakers, your shoes or your pet can teach us a great deal and provide inspiration for more artistic pursuits.

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Creating art helps us express ourselves. There are many things all of us would love to express but have no words for- joy, sadness, delight, confusion, peace, anger. Like music and dance, art is a wonderful way to express some of these emotions. People often feel “lighter” after working on a piece of art. Art is a fantastic way to express yourself without having to talk.

What colour do I choose?

What colour do I choose?

Creating art helps us learn to make choices and problem solve. Every step involves making a decision: what color to use, how to make a line, what size to make something. With every choice the object becomes more and more their own.

Having fun with imagination!

Having fun with imagination!

Creating art stimulates the imagination. It is such a great thing to have an active imagination. For one thing, you will never get bored. The ability to imagine other ways of being helps to create empathy in children. Imagination is thought to be “exercise for our brain” and benefits both the memory and the intellect. Through art, children create something that, until that point, was only imagined. Creating art is a terrific outlet for an active imagination.

What mistake?

What mistake?

Creating art lets us respond to our mistakes in a positive way. Some of my own favourite pieces have come about because I made what first seemed to be a huge mistake. I had to be resourceful and figure out a way for the piece to work. Responding in this way to art can help up use our mistakes positively  and solve  problems in life as well.

 

image-37Creating art brings together the generations. As a parent, I remember dropping my kids off for their activities. I loved swimming lessons or going to the library or hiking because we could do these things as a family. Creating art is something all generations can enjoy doing together.

 

Proud!

Proud!

 

Creating art offers satisfaction and a way to make where we live more beautiful. Children feel satisfied and proud when they have finished a piece. They can put it their room, give it as a gift, put on the fridge or even better, frame it and hang it in a place of pride in their home or school.

 

20160712_132534Creating art is pure fun! Creating art has a wonderful element of play, so that even when we seem to just be “fooling around” or doodling, we are learning new skills and expanding the possibilities in our life.

Commission

 

Definition:

An order for something, especially a work of art, to be produced specially:
Mozart at last received a commission to write an opera

My Definition:

A mission which is shared by 2 or more people, with one being the co-creator or maker and the others having creative imput. Sue at last received a commission to create a rice paper panel in consultation with those who commissioned it.

The mission:

To create a beautiful rice paper plexiglass panel for a bathroom window that would serve as a kind of “curtain” or blind so that people outdoors could not see in to the bathroom.

How we worked together:

We knew two things at the beginning – the size of the window (which suggested the size of the plexiglass panel) and that we wanted colourful rice paper birds to be a part of it. Because the window looks out to trees (bare branches in winter), we decided to create branches for the birds. The branches would be bare in winter while in spring they would be enlivened with the green foliage that could be seen through the clear parts of the plexiglass.

My Part:

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Creating a template for the branches

Tracing the template on to Brown Silk Ashiro Paper

Tracing the template on to Brown Silk Ashiro Paper

Trying the branches in the window

Trying the branches in the window

Trying simpler branches

Trying  a simpler branch

Rejecting the simpler branch

Rejecting the simpler branch

 

I taped the branch with a simple arrangement of birds to the cottage

I taped the branch with a simple arrangement of birds on the plexiglass. Here it is in its “destination window”.

Time to Consult:

I taped the branch and some birds to the plexiglass and brought a whole handful of extra rice paper birds. The couple I was working wanted more birds, especially at the bottom, and especially more birds with red on them to pick up the colour of the bathroom walls. We also hit a problem: you could see through the panel into the bathroom. We hoped that more birds clustered at the bottom would help solve this problem.

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I created more red birds and sent them mock ups of different arrangements of birds on the tree

I created more red birds and sent them mock ups of different arrangements of birds on the tree. This is #3.

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This is # 6, the version the couple chose.

The next part is the finnicky part. The branches and the birds need to be affixed to the plexiglass. I do this using “zots” – tiny glue spots. The design of the branches that overlaps with the bird is cut out so that the overall design is not too intricate and each birds colour shows well. A few birds, such as the red one, on the bottom left, are left with the branches criss crossing their colour. It takes a couple of hours  and a lot of patience for this stage.

Attaching the birds and branches to the plexi glass

Attaching the birds and branches to the plexi glass

Then the 2 panels of plexiglass are screwed together, fishing line is attached to the top screws so that the piece can be hung and it is ready for delivery. Because plexiglass panels shift in different lights and through different seasons, they need be lived with for a while to be truly appreciated.

Some of the challenges in creating rice paper collages in plexi glass are:

  • Can the two pieces of plexi glass be sealed so that there is no condensation in a bathroom? Someone has suggested using acetone and I am going to try this.
  • A plexi panel is like a see through shirt- not everything is hidden. I have used rice paper backgrounds but then you lose the beauty of seeing what is really beyond the window.We did cluster birds at the bottom, but this did not work as well as we had hoped.
  • Plexiglass is great stuff but it picks up dust and tiny bits of whatever – how to reduce its static qualities?

Each new art piece is an adventure for me. I welcome any knowledge or insights. To see more panels, check out http://poachedeggwoman.ca/galleries/rice-paper-glass-collages/

 

 

 

Water, Colour, Paper

Water

Colour

Paper

And  a brush. (But not necessarily!)

“Follow the brush,” writes Lynda Barry. “The paint travels down the brush and the brush travels across the paper. Once I noticed this I found I enjoyed watching the paint meet the paper. I liked watching it so much, I forgot I had a part in it!”

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Here are some photos from a recent Fearless watercolour PLAYshop sponsored by the Lumsden and District Arts Council. With thanks to all who made it possible and for the fearless participants, teachers each and everyone of them.

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A maple bug loved this play sheet

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paying with the "rigger" (brush

paying with the “rigger” (brush

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Fall Scraps of Sunlight

Having just spent two days playing with paper with others, one day being a collage PLAYshop at the Qu’Appelle Valley Centre for the Arts, and the second day taking place here at the farm (Scrap basket free for all), I can honestly say, I would love to spend a whole week like this. Except I might not still be married! My patient husband had to borrow a chair to sit down to eat lunch, his current reading material was hidden under a scrap basket and his usual paths had detours but he managed with good humour. It is all cleaned up now and I am still married.

Following are photos from the PLAYshop and scrap basket adventure. A few highlights first:

  • I liked that we had people from age 9 to over 70, grandmothers and granddaughters, mothers and daughters, aunties and nieces, good friends, people who had come before and people who gave it their first try.
  • Joanne brought a beautiful paper wasps nest, and this paper was used for many creations. See if you can spot them.
  • We visited but sometimes were so absorbed and other than music in the background all you could hear were so many pairs of scissors as they cut through paper.
  • It was November 7th and 8th and “the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all our senses .” (thanks Joni Mitchell). Who could believe this weather in November? The sun was so bright I was uanble to get a picture of Sunday morning’s scrap basket crew.
  • On Saturday, we got to pop in at the pop up market!!

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I have  three big scrap baskets, full of treasure. Today’s challenge was to just use what was in the scrap basket to create something beautiful.
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Joan's beautiful creation from saturday's PLAYshop. She came up to the farm Sunday and found just what she needed to complete her collage. see the next photo.

Joan’s beautiful creation from saturday’s PLAYshop. She came up to the farm Sunday and found just what she needed to complete her collage. see the next photo.

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