Monday, May 18, 2015

KAST: Kirkland Artist Studio Tour 2015

Long before I got to town, I started surfing the internet, looking for interesting events and activities that I could attend while I was in Seattle. 

This art event jumped out at me: the Kirkland Artist Studio Tour (KAST).  I love to see artists in their element and I was looking forward to seeing another area of greater Seattle. 

This free event is a self-guided tour that invites art lovers to follow a map and explore private home studios, as well as artists' displays within the shopping district of Kirkland.  When touring an artist's home studio isn't practical, participants are given space within a retail shop to showcase their work.  

We drove to Kirkland in the afternoon, after giving the West Seattle Community Garage Sale a whirl that morning. We found a Kirkland Artist Studio Tour map and ducked into Zoka Coffee Shop to see what we could see. 

Jacob Grahn was the artist assigned to the Zoka space and he had a large canvas set up that he was actively painting. When I walked in, he was talking with customers and explaining his creative process. I didn't want to interrupt a potential sale, so I just snapped this photo (above) to give you an idea of his work and what an artist's space looked like within a retail store. Thanks for participating, Zoka Coffee, this artist seemed very happy with the space provided - plenty of natural light and right by the door where he could be easily found.

We wandered in and out of some of bustling stores, when Dan reminded me that it was really the home studios that I was interested in and that we only had a limited time to explore. He was so right! I was lulled by the map and what I really wanted to see was where artists create.
We plugged an address from the map into Google and off we went. Our first stop was to Joy Hagen's house, home of OJOY Studio. Beautifully situated in the woods, we drove up the steep incline of her driveway and parked our car. She was hosting two other artists, Katherine Wright and Daya Astor, who had tent spaces set up on the property. It was a beautiful day and everyone seemed happy to be exploring Kirkland and having the luxury to talk to one another about art and what moves them.

Joy Hagen is an encaustic painter, which means she works with hot melted beeswax and pigment to create her dramatic nature-inspired images. This display of her work, below, showcases just how at home her paintings are in the wild. 
Joy was kind enough to take a moment and demonstrate her technique, using a torch to blast colored beeswax into patterns across her wooden base image. It was very interesting to see the texture appear and recede as she directed the heat. This picture of her studio is a favorite.
The best part of this entire day was our last stop on the tour. We arrived at Mini Griffin's home, just down the road from the previous studio and I liked her immediately. She is happy by nature, talented for sure and was absolutely tickled to be a part of the Kirkland Artist Studio Tour. 
Her personality is infectious and we spent so much time chatting about the concept of delight, hope, color and art, that I neglected to take a photo to represent her home studio. Luckily you can see her art and contact her on her website. (*Update: Mini saw my post and supplied a few images for me. Now my post is complete. Thanks, Mini!)
When I described her to my mom, I said that she had sunlight streaming out of the ends of her blonde hair. How's that for a description? That is what is fun about this world, you never know who you will meet. 
My advice for today: Get out there and talk to people!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Zeitgeist Coffee: Caffeine and Conversation

Our first guest came to see us in Seattle, so a stop at an independent coffee house was a must.

When we knew Dan would be living on assignment in Seattle last year, I bought him the book: The Pacific Northwest's Best Trips (33 Amazing Road Trips) by Lonely Planet and it is terrific! The first weekend Dan was here, he followed their walk through downtown Seattle, to get acclimated, and it directed him to Zeitgeist.  

Since Dan's first Seattle coffee house visit was at Zeitgeist, we made a beeline to the South Jackson Avenue location for an hour of caffeine and conversation. 

That is their gorgeous cold brew coffee with milk (above).

Friday, May 15, 2015

Visual Vitamins: Peonies with the color of Grace

A graceful bouquet. I was at Pike Place Market on Mother's Day and I made up a bouquet for myself with 3 peachy pink peonies with yellow stamen and 5 yellow tulips with pink at the base of each bloom. They looked better than I could have imagined and as they aged, their color faded and I liked the arrangement even more.

Flowers are visual vitamins and you will benefit from a dose every day.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Art Eases Long Distance Friendships

I wanted to show you a little something I made to make myself feel better, a collage of photographs of my friends near and far. 

Moving to the other side of the country, even part time, is a big deal. My friends at home want to know "when I'll be back" and as I forge new friendships in Seattle, I hear "You're leaving so soon?" 

I wanted to make an art piece that would let me take my friends from around the country out West with me.

I had seen options online offered by photo companies. They will build a similar collage from submitted photos, but I thought I would give it a try myself. I supplemented my heart with images of things I love (my roses, antique dishes, sentimental vistas) and I am so happy with how it turned out.

My process, in a nutshell, was to:
  • print images in "contact sheet" size
  • arrange images in a heart
  • glue each photo to a piece of mat board, cut to the size of my frame
  • slip it into the frame
  • pack it carefully for the move across the country
  • hang it in our new apartment where I can see it often
I hope that each and every person in my collage makes the trip out to see me in Seattle. Boy do I have some things to show you!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Seattle: Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room, a new Coffee Destination

Starbucks is elevating the coffee lovers experience yet again. This time it is honoring the process that makes what we love so much. The brand new Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room on Pike Street in Seattle is a sight to behold. Giant copper vats. Pneumatic tube transport. A library of reading material dedicated to coffee. Oh, and you can have a cup of coffee too. (wink)
I was astounded by the whole concept. Coffee tourism, indeed. There is no doubt that everyone wants a latte from original Starbucks location across from Pike Place Market - the line is always endless! Remember when I had my sentimental coffee

I'm sure it was that enthusiasm that prompted Starbucks to create a real coffee destination.
The coffee bar is beautiful and offers far more exotic offerings than your local haunt. Iced Sparkling Espresso with Mint, perhaps? A Citrus Lavender Sage Herbal Infusion? Do you have time to enjoy a Brew Comparison Flight of coffee? 
I swear I'm coming back for 2 hours so that I can taste everything I want to. I just realized that Dan would probably really enjoy the 200 title coffee library, so he could camp out there while I'm upstairs in coffee heaven.  

This location offers special items for purchase that are logoed with the Starbucks Roastery brand - I bought had fun buying gifts for Starbucks loving friends. 

Some may think coffee as a destination is ridiculous, but I think it is wonderful. Do come visit!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mother's Day at Pike Place Market

Doesn't this look like home run for Mother's Day? I saw many a family giving their mother a little extra attention while strolling Seattle's Pike Place Market on Sunday. This weekend was the market's Flower Fest and there were far more vendors selling fresh-as-a-daisy bouquets. The market has become a regular stop for me (can you blame me?) and this was the first I have seen of the beloved peony. 
I watched a cute exchange between a twenty-something girl and her mother. The mother had chosen a bouquet and the daughter was insisting that she be allowed to pay for the it. The $20 bill got passed back and forth between the two of them before the daughter got wily and tucked the money into her mom's purse when she looked away. Well done, daughter, well done.
I think I helped to seal the deal for a father and son who were waffling between two arrangements. I pointed to one of their choices, an exquisite arrangement in all pinks and white and said, "That's the one." They looked relieved.
The sun was out and people were buying flowers - what could be better? 
Cheesecake! I think whoever decided to personalize the mini cheesecakes at The Confectional is a genius. Shoppers could choose between Mom, Mummy, Mum, Mommy and it looked as cute as can be. I bought a caramel one to the left and it was just as good as the last time I visited. Yum and yum.

Monday, May 11, 2015

West Seattle Saturday: What A View

Our jumping off point for our big Saturday in West Seattle was lunch at Bakery Nouveau for some of their famed croissants. It was our first trip to their bakery and the line out the door told us we were at the right place. The staff worked quickly to accommodate their customers and it wasn't long before Dan was eating a turkey Havarti croissant sandwich and I was sinking into a traditional baguette with ham and Swiss. Yes, please. I also snagged a plain croissant for breakfast the next day. This beacon of French deliciousness will call us back again and again.
I had in my mind that I wanted to stop at the West Seattle Community Garage Sale. I love finding treasures at garage or rummage sales (remember my quest for vintage Pyrex?) and I felt that this would be a great way to get to know the area. I am new to Seattle and I want to get a sense of the different neighborhoods. Why not tour it when they are all on their driveways welcoming the crowds? It was a gorgeous day and after a few stops with no luck, I changed my game plan and concentrated on the scenery. When we rounded one corner, this was the view! Imagine mowing your lawn with a view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains in the background. Location location location.
We left the neighborhoods and parked near Alki Beach to enjoy the view. I stopped in Starbucks (2742 Alki Ave SW) for a latte and turned around after ordering to see this (above) - a bank of windows overlooking Puget Sound. I wouldn't have believed that you could have coffee in such prime real estate.
We walked across the street, walked until we found an empty bench. We sat and drank our coffees while we marveled at the view - the Olympic Mountains to our left, the city of Seattle and her Space Needle to the right, with kayaks and ferry traffic in between.  
Once we were back in our car and leaving, taking the slow drive along Alki Ave., I saw this building and insisted I be let out of the car. Dan found a place to pull over and I was able to photograph this beautiful example of two vines working in harmony: wisteria and clematis. Have you ever seen a more beautiful example of what can be done with vines and color? It is growing on an apartment building right on Alki Ave. This masterpiece only lasts about a month, I'd estimate, but what a month it is. Bravo.
A closer look at the striped clematis blooms and the coordinating wisteria clusters nearby.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Seattle: Washington Arboretum: Azalea Way

Azalea Way, a path within the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, is in full bloom and you don't want to miss it. Before you wander, start in the Visitors Center and look over the day's cutting display, it showcases cuttings from the trees and bushes that are in bloom. 

An up-to-date summary is also available online, if you want to see if your favorite species is blooming before you head over. Right now, the star of the park are the azaleas planted on Azalea Way.

I visited last week to see if the wisteria-covered pergola was in bloom. It had just started, as you can see from my photos below. Wisteria is a sturdy vine with lilac-scented white or purple clusters that hang off the vine like grapes. The blooms are hanging through the slats of the pergola at the Washington Park Arboretum Visitors Center.
This wisteria is so old and established, that the vine curling up the wood of the pergola (below) is as thick as a tree trunk.
Onto the azaleas! You may have first noticed these beauties while watching The Masters golf tournament on television in Augusta, Georgia. The Augusta National Golf Course  is known for its beautiful landscaping. The pine trees and sweeping fairways are an ideal backdrop for the colorful azaleas.
I have visited the Washington Park Arboretum many times, but not when the azaleas were at their peak. Can you see the pinks (above) blend into bright yellow, then orange and coral?
In this photograph, I was able to capture even more unusual shades, including periwinkle!

I think this is a "Geisha" azalea, which features a few individual pink blooms scattered among the predominately white blossoms. At first, I thought that 2 varieties had grown together, but no, this plant has humor in its genes. The pop of pink scattered across the plant looks like jewels sewn on a fluffy white gown and it has become a new favorite of mine. 
Speaking of gowns, I think this variety of azalea, with smaller tighter blooms, looks like an Oscar-worthy creation by Mother Nature - Spring 2015.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mother's Day Worthy Cookies and Marie Antoinette

Too pretty to eat!

That was the consensus when I made this beautiful set of Marie Antoinette cookies with edible wafer paper from my favorite online source, Fancy Flours.
The funny thing about making something that is "too pretty to eat" is that the audience is just as happy with the cookies as if they had eaten them! The oohs and ahhs last just as long and everyone circles back to admire them all over again. Edible Art, indeed. It's just in this case, no one wanted to take me up on the edible part. I did, of course, and they were delicious! 

You can buy these edible wafer paper ladies at Fancy

You'll remember my post about designing custom cookie cutters for this project. It was well worth the effort, wouldn't you say? Plus, now I have a "woman in a ball gown" cookie cutter in stock for future high profile depictions. 

Of all the stories that surround Marie Antoinette, my favorite was that she insisted that flocks of sheep were dyed to match her dresses. When word arrived in the field that she was wearing a blue gown that day, the shepherd would release the blue sheep into the field to graze. Can this possibly be true? What a sight that would be. 
My edible wafer paper selection included images of French pastries (you can see a few above) and I also made some cookies with wafer paper from the Mother's Day Vintage Stamps collection. All in all, I just love them. 

I baked and decorated these in Florida and my parents spent just as much time strategizing how I could transport these cookies home with me safely, as they did packing up their actual belongings. The cookies made it home in bubble wrap and a cardboard box and I am still trying to think of a way to display them for future enjoyment. 

The cookies are made from my grandmother's sugar cookie recipe and iced with her simple powdered sugar and hot water frosting. I wanted to see if the edible wafer paper images would transfer as beautifully on her frosting as it does on royal white icing.  It worked really well (you adhere the image with corn syrup and allow it to set) and I am happy that I can use this form of artwork on an easy frosting.

If you love baking, you should really experiment with edible wafer paper. I always say that I am driven by color and sugar - these cookies are a perfect 10.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Seattle: Snoqualmie Falls and Plans for a Cozy Dessert

If you are on the east side of Seattle and are looking for a lovely spot to visit after dinner, may I suggest Snoqualmie Falls

This natural wonder has free parking and admittance from dawn till dusk. We drove over to see the falls and take a peek at the casual restaurant, The Attic at the famed Salish Lodge. We are planning on bringing guests to see the falls and thought that coffee and dessert in the famous Salish Lodge & Spa would be a nice ending to a busy day. It looks perfect; we will be back.
You can visit the official Snoqualmie Falls website to get directions and see a terrific video of the water spilling down 270 feet. It is breathtaking. We arrived around 7 o'clock on a Friday night and barely a handful of visitors were on the observation deck. This is the time of day I would like to show off the falls to visitors. The sun is setting and a warm glow lights up the mist off the falls (see below).

Monday, May 4, 2015

Detroit: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Exhibit at Detroit Institute of Arts

A few years ago, my friends and I read Barbara Kingsolver's, The Lacuna, a book in which the main character becomes an apprentice to Diego Rivera and ends up living and working alongside the artist and his wife, Frieda Kahlo. We found the book to be fascinating, so when the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) announced this exciting joint exhibition between Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, we vowed to see it together.

We found our chance on Saturday, April 18 and spent a wonderful afternoon perusing the exhibit. I had seen Diego Rivera's famous Detroit Industry murals many times, but I hadn't realized until I saw the preparatory drawings and read more about itthat the murals chronicled the entire process of building a car. Here are just two of the images I took in the giant, sunlight space.
You can see the car chassis moving down the production line as the steering wheel is installed (above).
This image (above) shows what I think is the engine block getting screws tightened before it is loaded onto a cart to go on to the next phase. The murals were commissioned by Edsel Ford. The narrative in the exhibit remind us of the complexity of auto production and states that Edsel Ford was impressed that Diego Rivera was able to comprehend and translate the entire process so seamlessly.

Photography is not permitted in the exhibition itself, but this link to the Frida Kahlo website features many of the Frida Kahlo images that I saw in person at this exhibit. In all, Frida Kahlo's style has more biological references and violent interpretations than I am comfortable with. Let's just say that I didn't buy any magnets of her work to hang on my fridge. 

What I was most interested in was the idea of two artists living a life together. The image that left the biggest impression on me was a photograph of Frida painting on an easel inside the Detroit Institute of Arts. The audience knows that since this was painted inside the DIA, her husband must have been up on a scaffolding working on his mural nearby. The piece she was painting was titled Self Portrait on the Borderline between Mexico and the United States and it hangs in this limited engagement exhibit. There are 38 works by Diego Rivera and 26 works by Frida Kahlo.

Another photograph that caught my attention and in fact may be the one "take away" that most museum visitors will remember after seeing this exhibit, is of the pair kissing. Someone captured a kiss between Diego Rivera and his wife, artist Frida Kahlo up on the scaffolding, adjacent to his Detroit Industry mural. In this moment, they are husband and wife, who just happen to be making art history in Detroit.

You can find local events and programs about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Detroit here. The exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts will be on display until July 12, 2015.

Arches at the Detroit Institute of Arts

I was charmed by the arches at the Detroit Institute of Arts. This first archway is in the hall leading to the Detroit Industry murals by Diego Rivera. I was convinced that you would be able to see and identify snippets of the famous mural through the intricate scroll work and that you would love it. 

In truth, the scroll work dominates, but the image is still beautiful. And now that you know the murals are there, it is more meaningful, yes? I wrote about my visit to see the Diego Rivera/Frida Kahlo exhibit here.
This second photo is for the romantics. A bride and groom on their wedding day, stop at the Detroit Institute of Arts for some formal photographs. And a few informal too, every patron at the museum had their cameras out.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Seattle: Issaquah First Farmers Market of the Season

I used to say that the next season was my favorite season. I'm always looking forward and planning and thinking about what I will make and do next. 

Yet this year, with a bouquet in my arms, Spring is proving that it wins. When I can suddenly buy flowers at the farmers market every week, I am in my element and clearly this is my favorite time of year.

Saturday, May 2 was opening day at the Issaquah Farmers Market. I roamed the market, which is predominately flowers, herbs and asparagus this time of year and settled at the tent of Sweet Blissful Blooms. A darling girl named Maria let me choose the flowers in my bouquet: blue and white lupine, rosy-apricot peony tulips and white phlox. It is commanding, yet feminine. 
I have a blue and white print tablecloth on the kitchen table and the lupine repeating the color looks gorgeous in this small space.  The vase? As I settle into our pied-a-terre, I realize I am missing some key items. One of my new $5 IKEA sugar canisters became a temporary vase. It's perfect, really, because a bouquet of this size needs a vase with some heft to keep it upright. Necessity is the mother of invention. The vase is sitting on one of my museum collection tin plates. It looks perfect and I wouldn't change a thing.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Happy May Day: Lily of the Valley

Happy May Day

In France, May 1st is a national holiday called La FĂȘte du Travail (National Labor Day) as well as La FĂȘte du Muguet (Lily of the Valley Day).

I was lucky to be in Paris on May Day one year and I loved seeing Parisians of all ages hustling through the city with bouquets of lily of the valley. It was quite funny to see how each of them managed with an extra item to juggle.  Some businessmen tucked them horizontally in the same hand that was holding their briefcase. Young girls held them out in front of them as if they were walking down the aisle. And every so often, I'd see a young woman looking at the bouquet a little too often, as if she couldn't believe that someone gave them to her. Love is grand. Each individual made me question, Who is the bouquet for? Did they just receive it as a gift themselves?

This morning I was in a garden center here in America admiring all of the new plants for sale when I heard a Frenchwoman asking for lily of the valley. It was early in the morning and I hadn't realized that it was May 1st yet. 

When I came back home to my computer the May Day proclamations were all over Facebook. So that's why she wanted Lily of the Valley today of all days! I so regret not realizing what she was doing. She was getting a lot of far flung information from the clerk about shipments and the planting season and what she really needed (in addition to some flowers to give) was someone to say Happy May Day to her!