I’ll Love You ‘Til…

“I’ll love you ’til the last one dies.”

That’s what Hubby had written on the tag hanging from the
pretty red roses I discovered last night on the dining room table.

I have to admit that I read it twice.

Considering my track record with keeping roses alive,
I had to really work at not laughing out loud.

After all… he was trying to be romantic.

(And I was thinking…
“You’d better keep ‘em coming.”)

:-D

This morning, I told him again how pretty they were,
and noted that a few of them were tipped with
a beautiful dark red, and he agreed.

And then I touched one of the dark red ones.

It was made of wood.

And he repeated…

“I’ll love you ’til the last one dies.”

:-)

Sure am glad I didn’t make a big deal out of the fact that our romance would be over in less than a week! It took me a few years to realize that true love is not “a fancy, or a feeling,” but that it is “an ever fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken.” The “never shaken” part took a bit longer… It showed up somewhere in the midst of colicky babies, electric bills, long hours at work, and clogged plumbing, and wasn’t based on “romance.” But… roses and chocolate sure do add a bit of a boost, and I will NEVER turn them down!

Love is patient, Love is kind.
Love is not jealous.
Love does not boast and is not prideful.
Love is not rude or self-seeking.
Love is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs.
Love doesn’t delight in evil, but rejoices with truth.
Love always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres.
Love never fails.
~from I Corinthians 13~

(A very early Valentine I got this year
from my little cousin Briar Rose!)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Inspiration.

Kate and I left a little early for one of her programs yesterday… it’s not every day that we go to the big metropolis, so we thought we’d hit the craft store and the fabric store. We realized that it was a Day Off for much of the world when we tried to go the the bank and post office on our way out, but didn’t think that would affect anything else in our plans. Turns out, however, that craft stores and fabric stores are favorite destinations for folks that have a Day Off. We homeschoolers are used to empty stores on weekdays, where one  can amble around aimlessly. There were so many people in the stores that we couldn’t even think, and one must think in a craft store or a fabric store in order to consider buying things, so we came home with little to nothing. Except we did buy some black fabric to line some curtains, and a copy of Artful Blogging magazine, and took turns soaking in the tub and reading it! There are some really neat blogs featured in there… Hubby even looked through it early this morning and thought it was a neat magazine! (And Hubby’s choice of magazines usually involves construction equipment or firearms, so that was a very good compliment!) 

Kate’s programs went well, although she nearly had no voice left by the time she finished! It was at an assisted living facility, and she decided she wanted to live there. We had mostly ladies attending, although there were a few gentlemen. One of them fell asleep, another kept saying “I thought this was about War!” and a third said “I’ve had enough of this.” And left.

Poor guys… I guess corsets and petticoats aren’t their thing! The ladies had a grand time, though, and we loved talking to them. The lady that sat beside me had been a seamstress, and another lady was 97, and didn’t look or act a day over 70! I hope I have that much energy at 97!

Well, I’m off to do something constructive! Before I go, let me share with you a tiny treasure I received on Saturday…a little tiny Valentine from across the country! I put it next to the happy little Mint Snowman to show how small it is! I think next year I’m going to have to start a miniature Valentine Tree!

 Thank you Mrs. Staggs!

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I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.
Philippians 1:3 

Behind the scenes… Adventures in Papercutting, Part 4

To continue from the last post…

My all-time-favorite-most exciting-inspiring part of our days in Lancaster was getting to see the Pennsylvania German papercuts and fraktur in the collections of both Landis Valley Museum and the Lancaster Cultural History Museum. In two areas, we were allowed to bring our cameras, and in another our sketchbooks were okay, but the camera wasn’t allowed. Either way was fine for me… I was just thrilled to see the stuff up close! Landis also mounted a special exhibit in their Visitor Center because the Guild was coming, but I think it’s going to be up for a while, so if anyone has a chance to visit, make sure you go in and see the papercuts. You won’t believe how intricate they are! We also had special presentations by Sukey Harris, focussing on the heart in papercutting, and by Dr. Robert Kline on fraktur, giving special attention to the tulip. (He also pointed out quite a few “Tree of Life” depictions, Penn-German style!) My only wish was that I could have stayed longer, just me and my sketchbook, and maybe some watercolor pencils and a brush. (However, I think the curators would have gotten rather nervous, had any of us whipped out watercolors!)

The information about the fraktur and papercuts was very interesting. It was neat to see the copying the artists did… the printed copies mirrored the early hand-drawn fraktur, and then later on, folk artists imitated the printed fraktur while making home-made versions again. The artists also drew what they saw… from thistle finches (the “distelfink”) and the now extinct Carolina Parrot, to etchings they saw in the family Bible and designs on various other items… textiles, quilts, butter prints, pottery, etc. Inspiration was all around them, in every day life. One artist even used the English coat-of-arms as a design, but replaced the official English shield with a parrot. After all, the fraktur was made just after the Revolutionary War, so a parrot just seemed more appropriate. (Okay, wow.)

I did have to respectfully disagree with something said concerning the symbolism of Pennsylvania German folk art. The copying of a great variety of artworks and designs was pointed out, as mentioned above. The fact that nobody ever wrote down that they were using a specific symbol to signify a specific meaning was pointed out. It was pointed out that the current meanings of the symbols may have been construed by 20th century scholars. Okay, I understand all that about the symbolism… or the lack thereof. However, the main comment I disagreed with was this…

…it’s highly unlikely that a housewife with children tugging at her knee would have taken the time to think about the meaning of the things she was drawing or the decorations she was creating for her home in her spare time…

Not an exact quote, but more of a paraphrase, and I honestly don’t think it was meant with evil intentions or a demeaning attitude toward housewives. However, when I started papercutting, I was a housewife with children tugging at my knee. And when I got a few minutes to draw, paint, or papercut, I DID put a lot of thought into what I wanted my artwork to portray… what I wanted it to say. Yes, sometimes I did just doodle or copy a pretty design, but I was also thrilled to think my art might have multiple layers of meaning. Not that I was a terribly deep thinker or that I was into superstitious beliefs, but I did know what I was thinking when I designed my papercuttings. I thought about how much joy I hoped they would bring to the home they ended up in, and I really enjoyed adding Christian symbolism to them. Having a place to express my thoughts meant a lot to me as a young mom with children tugging at my knee. And I’ll bet those housewives (and schoolmasters, and schoolchildren, and itinerant artists) thought about their artwork too.

One thing I do know about folk art, is that a lot of skills and meaning weren’t written down, but were passed down by word of mouth, or by working alongside an older artisan. Artists themselves tend to express themselves visually rather than verbally, and it’s very unlikely that they would pick up a pen to write down why they drew a heart or a tulip on something, especially if it was generally understood by everyone around them. As a homeschool family, we once studied the meanings of the symbols and colors in coats-of-arms, and the girls designed their own personal coats-of-arms, using symbols that were important to them. Last summer, I met a older gentleman who was a Schwenkfelder, and he told me about all their fraktur, and that it was filled with their beliefs. When Ester Shilo gave me a Jewish papercut at Collection, she pointed out to me several symbolic elements in it, and told me what they meant. When our Chinese visitors gave their presentation, it was full of symbolism. And when we came back from the last museum visit, I went to Trudy Kauffman’s workshop on making a Haus Segan (a Pennsylvania-German House Blessing… thanks Trudy for helping me learn how to pronouce that word!!!), and right there in the packet was a list of symbolic meanings! See, somebody DID write it down!

And besides… symbolism in art is just plain fun.

Okay… I’ll step off my folk art soapbox now, and show you a few pictures!

Here’s how close we were to the real thing…

My favorite…

And we had a wonderful Pennsylvania German picnic dinner in the Yellow Barn…

And couple of things that resulted from sketchbook sketches… not quite finished, but they seemed to fit with this post!

Let’s see… for future scholarly reference, the heart symbolizes God’s love and protection on those inscribed therein, the doves symbolize peace, but also love and union between two, the berries symbolize fruitfulness, and the vine symbolizes that we’re grafted into God’s family!

Just because Valentine’s Day is over…

… doesn’t mean we should stop drawing hearts!

The “doodle” for February is a heart… fat ones, skinny ones, wind-blown ones, perfect or lop-sided ones. Teen-age girls will have no problem with doodling hearts. Grown up girls like doodling them too. Ask my girls… they will tell you without a doubt that Mom doodles hearts everywhere!

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Hearts are great things to doodle, because they can help us practice important art sorts of things like shading and symmetry. Symmetry is when both sides match, like a mirror image. To make a heart that is symmetrical, you can try to draw it freehand, which is a VERY good skill to practice… or you can use some technical drawing skills that I’m about to show you!

…AND with these technical drawing skills, you might just be able to talk a BOY into drawing a heart!

I found out not too long ago that Pennsylvania German folk artists often used tools like compasses and rulers to draw the hearts they used on their artwork. A few weeks back I had a chance to see a large amount of fraktur, and being able to get “up close and personal” with them (couldn’t touch… but my nose was just inches away from the glass!), and I could see definite proof of them using technical drawing tools… holes in the middle of circles and very lightly drawn straight-edge lines bespoke compasses and rulers!

So, without furthur ado, here’s how to make a really fat, folky, symmetrical Pennsylvania German heart…

First, use a compass to make a circle, using care not to move it from its original position. You can use a professional compass, or an inexpensive one you find in the school aisle. With the cheaper ones, make sure the pencil is in nice and snug. The most frustrating thing for young or new artists is having tools that don’t work! You know what I mean… those stubby brushes that come in watercolor sets, “safety” scissors that are dull and won’t even cut butter, big fat crayons with no point (Hey kids, peel the paper off those and rub them on the paper sideways for background color!), and compasses that the pencil slides out of while you’re trying to draw a circle.

Anyway, make a circle…

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Then, matching up the pencil part of the compass with the outside edge of your first circle, draw another one right beside it. The two circles should touch…

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Next, take some sort of straight-edge… a ruler or a triangle… and draw a line down from between the center of the two circles. I like using a clear ruled triangle, because I can see through it to make sure I’m lined up where I want to be, and having the ruled marking elimantes the need for a separate ruler, unless I’m working on something very large. If I need a slightly longer straight-edge, I can use the “C” side of the ruler (think Pythagorean Theorem).

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Then make the bottom of the heart by drawing curved lines from the middle of the circle bottom to the line… this is pretty much freehand, and it takes a little practice to make them match on both sides! And check out the pink flamingo/retro trailer aqua blue flannels PJ’s. Aren’t they cool?

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Now you should have a sort of odd looking creature… if you have boys and don’t want to tell them they’re making a heart, then you could tell them this is an ostrich or some sort of strange alien bird!

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Finally, darken your outer lines and erase your technical lines. I used a Micron pen (you can find those now in the scrapbooking section of craft stores… they used to be in the drafting section!) for my outer edges, but you could even just use a darker pencil line.

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*Special note on teaching children to draw lightly… for demonstration purposes, I drew my circles and technical lines very dark, but try to impress on young artists to use light pressure when making those first few strokes of a picture. If they’re light enough, you may not even need to erase them. Young people, and boys in particular, tend to have a heavy hand when learning to draw, and those helping them learn will need to constantly stress “drawing lightly.” One trick I’ve used is to have children use a yellow colored pencil to make those first guidelines. Erasing can be another issue with the very young, as they also have a tendency to scrub away at the paper until there is nothing left… so avoid needing to erase as much as possible!*

Here’s a picture of some hearts made exactly this way a very long time ago! See how they added color, decorations, and words to their hearts? If you look closely, they also used their compass to make some of the other designs in between the hearts. The star looking things are very much like a compass rose, which the artist perhaps saw on a map and tried to duplicate… now THERE’S a compass activity the boys will go for! (Future lesson is whirling around in my brain!)

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Before I sign out, I wanted to show you one more picture of the tools I typically use for technical drawing…

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I like to use mechanical pencils… usually the cheapy ones because I leave them all over the place and am always looking for my pencil. If I only had one, I’d be crazy by now. I’d recommend getting the ones that take .5mm leads, because they have a hard lead and draw a nice fine, sharp line. You can get refills for them right in the grocery store.

Another treasure is my “eraser pen”… it has a nice long clean white eraser that seems to never run out. This is very helpful, because I DO erase a lot, and those technical pen erasers are microscopic. I also buy these in bulk, and leave them in strategic locations around the house (and in my purse, and at the store, and in my car…).

The other doohickies are the compass, triangle, and Micron pen.

Now… an assignment, if you should choose to accept it. Decorate your heart (or ostrich), and e-mail it to kim@thistledewmercantile . I’d love to see them and share them with blog visitors! You could inspire others!