Friday, August 19, 2016

The Unwinding of Days and Small Magic

So the last two weeks. . . ummm so much for blogging more often.

Just busy. . . some good busy some bad

Family visits
Lost almost two weeks worth of writing (learn to use AUTO SAVE!)
Pinched neck muscle = no sleep
Extra busy Etsy shops
Summer's final deadlines arrive out of nowhere! lol

We are constantly amazed at how the days fly by and for those of you who also have families at home, social scenes, outside commitments . . . how do you do it? : )

But what I want to share is my experience last week of something coined as "small magic" by one of my favorite bloggers. You can read more about the idea here: How to find Small Magic

And you can see her first monthly Small Magic post here: Small Magic at Falling Ladies

Unfortunately, due to another glitch in my last two weeks, I have only words and just a few borrowed photos (thanks drained camera battery!) of my own experience to share but will share more about this in the future.

In the midst of the craziness of the past few weeks I knew, though it is rare for me, that I needed a day off to unfrazzle and decompress.

So to "earn it", I chose to do some errands early Friday morning and then, to reward myself with a trip to our county's main library followed by an indulgence in one of my favorite activities . . . one that I do not do often enough.

About five miles from our home is a lovely out of the way place called Kilchis Nature Reserve it's a roughly 2 1/2 mile trail loop through some of the most beautiful, dense woodlands and, if you take the full trail, it leads out to the shore of the back end of Tillamook Bay where you can bird watch (herons, Egrets, Eagles, Ravens, And a multitude of water animals all year long.

Now, I'll post about the trails another time because it is quite the place. When I first moved to this part of the coast 4 years ago, the trails were simply wetland paths thru the forest for the most part. Impassible in areas except in the peak of summer. But the love and inspiration of one couple, the  Albrights, Gary and Carla, turned Kilchis into a magical destination for everyone and not just the intrepid explorers. A small brick loop allows every one to access the woods to a point.

Now,  finely groomed but natural looking trails wind through the forest and across wooden bridges built over the seasonal streams and wetland areas. Massive volunteer hours to move the tons of materials into the forest to make these trails alone is mind-boggling.

Not far from the entrance, this is a favorite bridge to cross. It feels like a "boundary". You step off the brick path on the far end and cross into the dense forest and natural trails. It can feel cooler just as you reach this end. Early Spring here finds huge, prehistoric looking Skunk Cabbage in abundance under the bridge!


But, for me, the small magic of this place is that every so often there are natural, mossy tree stump "benches" that await. I rarely see anyone sit on them as there are also more modern, wooden benches along the paths too and it is easy to miss the log benches as they blend seamlessly into the surrounding landscape.

But the small magic of Kilchis reserve for me is this.

On any given weekday, and even weekends in the off season, it is possible to take a favorite book, (preferably one about faeries, magic or other worlds) walk a half mile into the trail and find a mossy log bench. Then, I'll sit on the mossy bench and read my book and I can hear almost nothing but the sounds of the forest. The wind whispering through the trees. The trickle of leaves tumbling to the ground. The scurry of wrens and robins in the underbrush. There are banana slugs, Rough Skinned Newts and an occasional squawking Stellar Jay. You may even see a Barred Owl and Bald Eagles close up when you sit still enough to become part of the scene.

Not far from my mossy log bench, this little bridge turns you out towards the bay trail. 


But that hour or two, reading a magical book in this enchanted setting. . .

That is a dose of small magic for my soul. :)

And this is the back end of Tillamook Bay at the very end of the trail.


So please visit Falling Ladies at those links above and, as Andrea gets the monthly Small Magic theme going, join in, won't you?

And lastly I could not resist sharing one new creation. My "Little People" figurines are taking off quite nicely and I am working on a variety of looks for them to encompass all the tiny folk of the "otherworld". I am just about to list this little guy.  The first Little People "Troll", named Volker!

I've been making larger figurines for a few years but, let's face it, mini is my thing! lol

He's just 2.5" inches (6+ cm) tall!

Thank you for dropping by and I will get caught up on all my favorite bloggers soon I promise!

Have an enchanted weekend!

xo
nicolas

Monday, August 1, 2016

New Work - August 1st

Another month came and went soooooooo quickly!

I wanted to give you all a quick update on the writing of "The Ledgerkeers",  the book of short stories I am creating built around the world of the Bewildering Pine. It is going so well right now and I am currently fleshing out a bout 20 different short tales with another 10 or so to go. The challenge is in trying to create lots of little vignettes about the folk, commerce and daily life while hinting at a darker undertone to the Pine's distant (and future) history that I hope will lead to a full fledged novel later on down the road.

Right now I am still hitting the 750 words a day writing goal, 6 days a week!

I also stumbled upon a delightful writing podcast called "Writing Excuses" which has also been a huge help just to keep the brain thinking and working on all sorts of aspects of the process. I highly recommend it. It's 15 minutes per podcast so it takes just a bit of time each day. and the backlog of shows is well over a hundred episodes so there are topics from worldbuilding to pacing to dialogue to descriptive details . . . and you know I am LOVING the details! Always the fun is in the details.

I just ordered a few books, one called "Dirty Old London" that I used an online excerpt from for a story to help flesh out my bake-house / tart cart scene. It was so detailed and brought the early victorian era to life. I am amused by the thought of an entire book on Victorian London's filth and the ways they tried to keep it in check as well as the underside of what we think of as the romantic aspects of that life. I may only use a half dozen details from a book like that but each of them is a true little gem for bringing a world alive!

And finally. . . setting a larger goal, I just booked my trip home to Pennsylvania in February on the Amtrak train. It's a 2 1/2 day trip and I am looking forward to it because, this year, I got a sleeper car for the longest leg of it from Portland to Chicago and back as well. I intend to spend most of that time finishing the final drafts for the stories for the book. I'll have a tiny room to myself and all my dining car meals paid for and I can just focus on editing, reading and watching scenery. This trip gives me a definite goal to have the first drafts and first revisions done by the time I leave.

I've also decided that, once done, I am going to print and hand-bind the first 25 or so copies here, maybe more, we'll see.  I have the flame-throwing Epson 3880 printer to do heavy duty canvas  paper cover work and page layout so I may end up just doing them by hand all around while I shop it for publication.

Of course, I realize I still have to think about illustration, map printing, cover art etc etc etc  So maybe February is a bit ambitious but we'll see. . .




Now, as for August, here are some new pieces I finished the last few days. I had one of my tiny houses featured in the Home/Living/Terrarium section of the Etsy email a week or so ago and it's been CRAZY!

I decided to begin making even tinier houses as I know a lot of terrariums are too small for some of my regular fairy houses. So these cuties may be just the thing for the very tiny indoor garden fae who need the smallest of dwellings!
The houses on the left and right are just 1 1/2" tall!

And these are meant to evoke some of the Venice, Italy color and style in tiny, tiny scale too!


Little Fairy Garden figures for the wee gardener. :)

That's a Hob above, a Brownie here and a Nisse below

I've been working on transferring some illustration skills to these little figures, just simple lines and forms and not too much unnecessary detail. It's working well I think!

I showed you my first dragon a few months ago and here is the next, her name is Roxo (purple in Portuguese )

And I am getting more elaborate with some of the bases on a few statues in Shadow of the Sphinx.
Anubis looks rather pleased to be perched there. :)
Well, that's the news for now. A busy month ahead again with the start of stocking for the holidays. On the calendar is the making of 20 Fairy Houses on Stars and a range of stand alone towers and houses too.

I can't believe i only posted twice last month. . . I hope to have more consistency this month and I look so forward to seeing your lovely comments and thoughts here, as always!

Thank you!!
XO
nicolas

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Landscape of Imagination

I mentioned that I had begun reading "The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh: A Walk thru the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood" by Kathryn Aalto

It's a wonderful peek into the world of Winnie the Pooh's creator, A.A. Milne and the landscape, childhood memories and characters (his own son, Christopher Robin, and his stuffed animals that became the characters) that bring to life the Pooh books we all know.

I want to share a passage with you and then, a realization it opened for me.

In recent years, there has been concern that the very nature of childhood has changed. People have begun questioning if there has already been a "last generation" to play outside.  In "Last Child in the Woods", author Richard Louv writes about the modern disconnection between children and nature and the importance of providing children some autonomy in the natural world. "Whatever shape nature takes, it offers each child an older, larger world separate from parents. Nature can frighten a child too and this fright serves a purpose, too. In Nature a child finds freedom, fantasy and privacy, a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace."

When we are young, tramping through forests also leaves footprints on paths well into our adulthoods.

Throughout the writing of this book, for example, I heard laments from grandparents and parents about the diminishing range our children are now allowed to wander. Milne's childhood and his stories are touchstones of a paradise lost, of a bygone time that many - writers, psychologists, parents - believe is important in the development of a child. with these rising concerns over the nature of childhood itself, Milne's books offer a reminder about the importance of freedom in nature.


And that took me into thinking, as I so often do, about my own childhood.

I often say I grew up in a city, which I did.  A large industrial eastern US steel town. One decaying under the weight of the loss of those mills and industry. And many of my childhood experiences and the process of "becoming" are tied to very city-like adventures. Riding streetcars by myself, exploring downtown and all the people and activity of a city. But I immediately recognized something that I now feel so eternally grateful for. That in the midst of the urban life, I was fortunate to have woods, dense tree covered hillsides, (under which old mines lay) on either side of the house that I spent much of my childhood in. Entire days were spent exploring, making tree-houses (even if many of them were just a board slung through the branches to sit upon), following birds and squirrels, digging, climbing and creating worlds apart from the ones of my family and their adulthood. Time to be whatever and whoever I dreamed of being.

Much of what I write about in the short stories I am working on came from those childhood experiences and the imagination that the time. A mix of city experiences like "pitching nickels" with school friends against buildings and walls downtown. And also the woodland adventures scouting from treetops and crossing imaginary bogs and quicksand pits. Hiding from trolls under large spruce trees. . .

But to choose, one or the other? It's not even a question. The woods were far far more important to my future self.

The freedom of nature.

A separate peace.

And there was much in the world around me to necessitate that peace, that break from the slip-slide into adulthood.

Even today, my conversations with my own mother, who never had such a childhood and who I used to think of as being so overprotective but who, in comparison to many parents today would have been seen as very permissive, tend to be fraught with her lamenting the daily decline of the world around her. The news blaring from her tv all day long. And me, with no tv at all, no social media feeds, no newspapers. . . still the dreamer and believer, and every day seeking a deeper connection to that childhood me instead of that adult "other".

Maybe part of the problem is that it's the adults who forget and who become so lost in the very ideal of their own adulthood and it's many pitfalls and traps, that childhood seems eons away. Like a distant dream nearly unattainable now.

Or maybe more and more adults are coming from a childhood that lacks that time in nature, that freedom, that ability to develop those skills of nature's teaching?

I am saddened by the way kids become more screen bound and less independently imaginative with each passing year. I see it in the small town I live in, one surrounded with woods, blackberry patches, out of the places all bordering an expansive estuary/coastline/bay. The computers at the library are always in use. . . while many, many great and inspiring books, graphic novels and natural resources are not.

People defend this modern age as just the changing of the times and I do not disagree. Change is a given. . . but that simplified view asks us to accept that all change is, or can be, good, and that all change has an equal exchange within it of what is lost and gained.

It does not.

Losing the natural world, the freedom to explore, the ability to develop self-taught skills and stir imagination from within. . . there is no substitution for those.

All this is to say I never gave those woods, that space I had growing up, it's due. I took it for granted as just being part of the landscape but see now, thru the eyes of Pooh's creator, how very important it truly was. My own little "Hundred Acre Wood".

I see how it just being there for me each and every day amid the grind, noise and weight of the city, and of impending adulthood, was more important than I could have ever known.

Thank you for reading,

nicolas

I imagined building little cottages like this in my own childhood woods/forest many times.





Friday, July 1, 2016

New Work - July 1st

Well June certainly went by in a whirl. . .

Ok, quick update. I spent much of the month cramming in custom orders left and right, and was very happy to do so knowing that most of (I say "most" because I never hit all the deadlines just so) July, August and September are mine to do as I wish! Which is to say, stocking both Etsy shops as much as possible for the season to come and exploring many, many new ideas!

Even with the load of custom work, I had a great month with so many fun requests and the satisfaction of all the completed projects that did get out.

And the writing of the short stories is taking shape nicely too. Still too early to share anything but soon, I promise!

I joined a site called 750 Words which is for writers who want to get into the habit of writing every day. I promised myself I would write at least 5 times a week and the goal being 750 words each time.( about 5 pages in book form) So far I have exceeded the required 750 every day I have written, sometimes doubling it.

It feels so good because the most intimidating thing for me when I began is that the idea of writing with a project/goal in mind seemed just overwhelming at times. When would I find the time? How could I ever write complete stories?

All the world-building has paid off though as so many of the ideas and little details are already fleshed out. . . and new ones arrive every day to continue the creation process. Now I think my biggest worry is "How will I know when I have enough?" and "Will I be able to stop?" :)

Also this week, as a treat to myself, I took an afternoon and went to our county's main library. We have a branch in our little town and via the internet can have any book in the system sent to us here in a day or two but it is literally a one room operation. . .  though it's one room filled with books! :)

Still, I love to hit the main branch once in awhile to spend time just browsing and reading. I found two books on the "New" shelf that are completely inspiring to me as I go about writing. One is called "The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh" and is about the landscape and locations within the actual forest that inspired the Hundred Acre Wood of those Winnie the Pooh stories. The other, is called "Ivory Vikings" and is about the set of Ivory chess pieces discovered in the 1830's, that date to Viking times and the identity, skill and artistry of the woman who, in all likelihood, carved them. It's a grand peek into the 400 year history of the viking sea trade as well.

More on all that another time. . .  the month left me with quite a few pieces to show for my monthly new work post so I hope you'll enjoy!


Cottage from another town of the Pine, named Sylvan, with their crooked chimney stacks.

And I love little gabled, nooks (for reading or spell practicing) of houses so I add them often to mine. :)

Finally getting these back in the shop this summer. I needed a better support design for such skinny, wonky, top-heavy houses. The metal door charms help and a thicker but flexible wire inside. Trial and error. . . and more trial and error. lol

These are not "new" actually but the addition of the long "meadow grass" growing on top of each level is. 
An original Anubis Amulet. I've been working on making functional, smaller amulets while still trying to get decent detail. Not easy in polymer but my confidence with it keeps growing.

Chatsworth Village (Alpine) Houses I mentioned last month. The available selection is starting to grow!

This may be one of my favorite anthropomorphic pieces that I have ever completed. Thoth, the Ibis headed deity of creativity, time and writing.

Another Mushroom House!
A fine garden Gargoyle, named Callalla, for watching over ones magic gardens!

and finally, a custom pair of statues. . .  this is Nephthys and Sutekh (or the Set animal), both based on traditional statues and styles from antiquity.
Sooooo, that's it for now! Wishing you all a lovely weekend and an enchanted summer season as July opens before us!

Thank you, as always, for dropping by!

XO
nicolas

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Snail's Tale

 A few weeks back, while enjoying the first salad of the season prepared entirely from our little container garden, we found a tiny, tiny (less than pea size!) snail in the bottom of the salad bowl, swimming (swimming may be a strong word for it) in remains of the lemon-honey vinaigrette dressing. . .

Certain we had caused the demise of the little one but still, holding out hope, we set her out to dry on a leaf of one of our orchids and went about our day. At dinner, she was still there, not having budged at all. Neither of us could bring ourselves to dispose of her so we went to bed and, the next day, had pretty much forgotten about her in the rush of emails, shipping and making.

That night, as we sat down for dinner, Sofie noticed that she was gone! She thought, perhaps, that I had discreetly removed her but when I said that I had forgotten about her altogether, we started a frantic search. Had the cat found a tiny new plaything? Had she dried up and fallen to the floor? Did we imagine her or was she just a dream?

Turns out, none of the above. . . she had come back to life from her "death-by-dressing" and found her way onto the plastic plant tag in the orchid pot. She had crawled about a foot from leaf to tag! We got out a quart mason jar, put in a layer of organic soil, a rock, a piece of garden lettuce, carrot tops and parsley and half an eggshell and gave it all a good soaking. . . she took to it right away and explored to her heart's content without a sign of fear. . . which is why, after deciding she should stay,  we named her Alexandra the Great!

And now, two weeks later, she is thriving and has become our new permanent house guest! She's grown so fast and we delight in giving her fresh greens and eggshells each night as well as soaking her world a few times a day. We've been reading up on snails and it seems they can live 12-15 years. . .  OK, I wasn't expecting that long of a stay from our houseguest!!

She's a marvel, having grown about 4x her orignal size in these two weeks. Most of the sunny days she hides under the half-eaten lettuce leaf or curls up beside her favorite rock but yesterday she was out and exploring during the day and I took the opportunity to get a few macro shots of her (she is still really VERY small!) to share.

Another of nature's unending small miracles. . . Alexandra the Great. . . we can't wait to see how big she gets and have already been shopping for a larger home/empire for her future, larger-snail, self. : )



Alexandra the Great conquers yet another obstacle!

LOVE the shell spiral and colors. And her amazing antennae!



Thanks for dropping by!

xo
nicolas

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Little Potted Houses and Pinterest

I recently had a custom request for two of my little potted fairy houses which I had not made for quite some time. It was a joy to see them in the reference pictures the client had sent and I was thrilled to make new versions of her.

Now, I bring this up for a few reasons. . .

One, the amazing power of Pinterest. Bewilder and Pine receives a very healthy amount of traffic from Pinterest day in and day out and, over the last year, the second MOST viewed item of all is one I made well over 18 months ago that sold within a few weeks of being listed.

Yet, it being pinned many times on Pinterest boards drives enough traffic to make it the second highest viewed item in the entire shop!

The Alpine Hornblower Fairy Scene circa 2013

Two, I can't believe the number of things I have made, and completely LOVED making, but in the rush of fulfilling new orders, custom requests and trying to get things stocked in the shop as well as work on brand new items and ideas etc, I can actually forget all about little creations like these potted houses. . .

The Fairy Houses of Padda (red) and Denka (green)

New additions include the crystal "lamppost". 

Fencing and most details are N scale (1:148). The pot is just 1.5" high.

And this brings me to a point that I will likely discuss a lot over the next few months. . . the balance of custom orders versus making what I want.

I spoke last time about how I took most of the month of May off from fulfilling almost all custom requests and how well that worked out. Now, I find myself inundated in June with all of the requests I pushed back to free up May and, in doing so, I find myself right back in the same situation. lol

So, I have set a firm deadline that July, August AND September will be "custom order free" and that I will focus instead on shop-stocking and making just what pleases me the most (and getting A LOT done on the world-building/stories/maps for my writing project too!)

Of course, I would still take on orders like the two houses above because I really wanted to make them right then and there anyway, so it's a bit tricky. . . but that's one of the things I want to free up time for. The requests that truly inspire whenever they may come along!

Of course, there is also Shadow of the Sphinx where many of the requests I receive are already in my repertoire anyway since I can't possible keep all the statues, deities and amulets in stock! ( I have a good half dozen "in progress" as I type just for that shop alone). Still, I have to be careful not to overload myself even with those sort of enjoyable requests.

I've always known that what I like the least are deadlines. . . due dates. . . so, even those I take on must now come with a "I'll let you know when it is ready." sort of looseness. This works for me because I never take money up front or as a down payment since most items I agree to make, should the customer end up not liking it for some reason when complete, will go into the shop and eventually find a loving home.

In the end, I tend to finish those loose deadlines quicker anyway when I don't feel the pressure of a firm due date.  .  . isn't the psychology of being a maker-of-things a little strange?  Or perhaps it's just me?  : )

So, that's the latest for now. . . back to the list of custom pieces for the next few weeks but then. . . well, I'll be sure to share all the new things with you all as they come to fruition!

Book Update: World-building. . . talk about falling into a rabbit hole. . . or several. This weeks "work" involved researching all sorts of bogs and the edible things that may grow in them as well as hand-cars, tidal bores, the history of the salt trade, Chinese magic mirrors and water clocks. . . . too much fun!

Hoping this finds you all well and enjoying magical days in your worlds. . .

xo
nicolas

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

New Work - June 1st

Hello dear ones!

I am excited to show you some of May's production! I'll be sharing more about this later in June but I took the month of may off from almost all custom work to focus on a little experiment.  What happens if I forego the custom order route for just making what I want to make? How will it effect sales? Would I feel more rejuvenated and happy simply making whatever I feel like making every day again?

Well, the answers to those questions I will share soon but a little hint is that I'm spending June making sure I complete all my current custom orders (which has backed up from not taking any in May) and keeping July, August and September as completely free of commitments as possible to do the same for an extended three month period!

This is not to say I am doing away with requests or custom work, just changing the way I approach it, frame it and work on it so that I can continue to explore what I love most, the unending course of un-contained imagination. :)

Ok, more on that, as I said, in the near future. . . for now, here are some of the new items created last month for my shops! I hope you enjoy. . .

This was a request for a birthday gift for a 10 year old that I could not refuse. . . 6 x 6 inch "Fairy Village" frame/shadowbox with tiny N scale houses, winged fairy and enchanted landscape! 

Living on a tidal bay inspired the idea that a fairy tower, perched on the shore of such a place, would need a door high enough to withstand exposure to the high tide while offering access at lower tides too! 

Formerly my "Alpine Fairy" houses, I have reintroduced this series as the Fairy Houses of Chatsworth Village so as to be able to write/sketch them into my world of the Bewildering Pine. I'll be adding two more to the shoppe today. 
New Mini Garden Gargoyles with their own little flowering pots!

The completed trio of Ancient Egyptian deity "busts" I spoke of a few posts ago. . . Sekhmet, Bastet and Khnum

Two Aten symbolic pieces that were a request too. I am fascinated by the reign of Akhenaten and Nefertiri. They moved the entire capitol city of Ancient Egypt to the desert (Armana) and reorganized the pantheon putting worship of the Aten, their solar Deity, at the top. These were Tutankhamen's parents. During Tut's short reign, the entire process was reversed, the new city dismantled, and much of this period was stricken from all text, tablets and monuments.  
Yes, I know, everyone is making tiny elves these days. . . but I wanted to add my own little twist. Hard to see in this image but he is in a flat mini basket with teeny pine cones, moss and green fluff. Clothing is made from handmade papers and twine. Hair is a shock of mohair

This little one is ready to go on an adventure with the handle basket!
Same idea as the one above for the clothing and hair here. 
And that's that. . . a selection of where my imagination went this past month. Much excitement to share in the coming weeks: Book progress(perhaps even a peek into one of the first stories?), Illustrations/sketches, new work, childhood memories, less custom work, more new ideas, a peek at my little town, the joy of our container garden and more. . .

Hoping June, be it the onset of your summer or winter season, is filled with magic and enchantment in your world too!

xoxoxo
nicolas