Remember to “Be Thankful”

As I look at the design blogs that inspire me, I have been noticing some simple natural Fall decorations. So I am making a “Be Thankful” garland to hang in the dining room as a reminder to all of us as we gather with family to pause to think of how lucky we are to have the things that we have. These days, it seems that it is hard to find enough to be thankful for with the economy as it is, but I think our focus should be on our relationships with our family, if we are healthy, and the peace that comes from sharing a delicious meal together and enjoy each other’s company, if only for a few hours. And not so much on things but good food and good company. (Well, and maybe a small fire in the new stove in the living room and an old dog to keep you company too.)

So, I have created the garland with some simple items and my printer. I printed out the letters that will form the words, “be Thankful” and put them into circles that I am going to cut out and string together to create the garland. To add interest, my letters are all in different fonts but all about the same size to fit within the circles. I also chose a fall color of brown and a beige. I know that I have yarn or a string to thread them on and will probably have to drill holes in the wood pieces and the acorns.

When Herb and I went for a hike in the Shenandoah National Park on Sunday, I gathered some acorns and sticks and brought those home. And at my workplace there are sweet gum trees that litter our parking lot with these natural spiney balls that will work great to string together with the acorns and I will gather some of the colorful leaves that are still available from the yard and string all this together to form my garland to hang on the rafter above the bar in the kitchen.

Things you will need if you want to make one:

  • A drill to put the holes in the acorns, acorn tops, pieces of wood and sweet gum balls.
  • some glue for the letters
  • string
  • a vice or vice grips to hold the acorns, etc while you drill them
  • some floral wire
  • a nail to push the string through

I had made two copies of my letters so that my garland can read from either side. I cut out all the letters and laid them out so that I had the letters in the correct order The “L” was on the back of the “B” etc. and cut the string to length and found the center of it. Then I used a glue stick to put the letters on the string. I glued the top and bottom , leaving the middle of the letter glue free so that it would slide on the string. That way I could position it if I needed to later.

Use the drill to drill the holes in your items.  I put a piece of wood under the nuts so that I didn’t make a hole in my table. Then you just string them onto the string and hang it from nails on the wall or in my case from the rafter between the kitchen and dining area of my house. I also went out and got some fall leaves that still had some color in them and put those on either end of my garland to hide the nails and to add some color. Then I strung the natural items on either end making it balanced with knots to spread out the items.

After all the items were strung, I then hung it up leaves that I wired with floral wire to cover the nails on the rafter and to add some color to the ends. ( sorry this one is out of focus some.)

And from the back of the garland on the kitchen side.

So, if you have time to take a walk this afternoon, pick up some “treasures” and turn them into a natural decoration for your house tomorrow before the rain comes and use it as a gentle reminder of the simple things that make us thankful to be here.

Season’s Greetings?

1990 card

When Herb and I got married in 1980 we didn’t have a computer and it would be several years before we did. Home printers were not really something everyone had and if you did it was the old dot matrix kind that were not what you would think of to do a Christmas card with.

My first computer job in printing was in the day of film and laminated proofs and I was able to do our Christmas card that year as a stand up tree. It was mailed out flat and the recipient would be expected to fold it into a triangle and tape it so that it would stand as a sort of pyramid tree. I was able to get the scanner operator at my workplace to scan the photos of my family and then I assemble the card on a Scitex computer system and then output film and sent it to a proofing department.

back side right

If  I remember correctly,  they had some old materials they were not going to use for production and they made me about 10-15 cards. This would have taken them forever to do because each color would have to be exposed and then the next color laid/laminated on top of that one until you build up the 4 colors to create the four color image. These proofs don’t exist anymore and technology has advanced to where proofs are now viewed remotely, meaning that you send the customer a virtual proof that they now add virtual sticky notes onto to request their color corrections.

back side left

Then came the digital world and my boss now refers to us as the Jetsons because we are really into the ability to produce projects on a home computer and printer.

2002 letter

Over the years, we have sent out cards that have chronicled our previous year in photo form. Some years they take on the collage look like this one from 2002. That year, Thomas had gone to China for 3 weeks with George Mason University and John had graduated high school and he and his buddies did a trip up the east coast and into Canada so the background was a map and photos of their trips placed onto the map.

Over the years we have gotten cards from people saying they are in anticipation of our cards. So every year the pressure is on. I think the trick to doing a successful Christmas letter/card is to not send out something that is single spaced, several pages of babble that the recipient has to stand and read and read and read, but to give them a visual of the year with maybe a few sentences telling the highlights. I don’t think they care that we took brownies to a picnic in the spring. (We have actually received similar letters)

2005 card

In 2005, the card was a structured collage and each thumbnail was numbered 1-14. Then the inside of the card listed the numbers in red and green with a caption of that photo. That way they could look for the number and figure out what that part of our year was about.

2006 Andy Warhol inspired

And in 2006, the family photo with John at graduation from VA Tech was the inspiration. I cropped each of our mug shots out and posterized them in the style of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe painting.

And in 2009 we had taken on the task of painting our 100+ year old house and so that year had to be the story of the house colors and the process of painting. We also had to say good-bye to our sweet dog Bill of 15 years and so a panel of the card was also in memory of him.

2009 outside

2009 inside

Handy An's Business Card

So, as Thanksgiving is fast approaching, it is time once again to think about what this year’s card will be. My friend HandyAn sends out a card to her clients that she has done work for during the year and she always comes up with clever cards too. This one she sent last year and the year before that she put herself up on a steel girder with construction workers on a skyscraper, probably in NYC. She was sitting there with her lunch bucket just like one of the guys.

I went to the Netherlands in the Spring so maybe I need to find some Dutch master paintings and put us in one of those. What do you think?

Creating Fall Leaves for Thanksgiving

Several weeks ago when Thomas was here and we played in the clay together, I made some leaves out of stoneware to put on the table at Thanksgiving. I have been wanting to make some of these for a long time. So today, I glazed them and have them firing in the kiln. I am also experimenting with using some stained glass and adding it on top of the clay item and letting it turn to liquid in the kiln. I have never done this before and a friend at work who does stained glass gave me some of his scraps so that I have several colors to place on the leaves and on a plate and see how they do. I am hoping that on the leaves that the glass will liquify and run into the veins that I drew in the leaves. I used fall colors and am hoping that the reds will really work.

The leaf is curved enough to hold the liquid glass and hopefully won’t run off onto my kiln shelves. On a few of them I put a shelf liner down to catch the glass in case it does run off.

The glaze colors that I used are a fire engine red, a celadon, lustre gold, lacy mauve, and a metalic gold and agate. The glaze colors are on test tiles that I make when I get a new glaze so that I know how it is going to fire in my kiln and to use as a reference to know what the color looks like. I have lined out the colored tiles as you can see here, as my fall palette.

I had made a platter with my fossil frog on it and am experimenting with the glass on this platter. This is how it looks before it goes into the kiln with pieces of glass just laying on the plate. I am wondering if the colors will all run together or will they move together and mix.


The kiln is then loaded with glazed items.  The leaves, the garden markers and a few of the frog tiles that I made at the same time I was working on the bench.  In a glaze firing the pieces aren’t allowed to touch each other or the kiln shelf if they have glaze on their bottom sides. The leaves are sitting on little stilts and the markers and tiles are just sitting on the kiln shelf. The firing will go for about 7 hours.

Late tomorrow (or maybe sometime Monday) we get to see how they look!  Giving them plenty of time to cool so that the glass won’t crack when exposed to the air.