Monday, December 3, 2012

six hundred (and one) blessings

At the beginning of last month I was celebrating 500 sales in my handmade shop on Etsy. Just one month later, I am celebrating number 600 (and one)! Each sale has been a blessing.

I was a child when my mother decided to teach me and my siblings how to create the spiky paper Polish folk art ornament she happened to learn to make as a teenager. She had raised us with a deep understanding of our Finnish heritage, and wanted us to feel connected to our Polish roots, too. We still have some of the ornaments we made back then, but it wasn't until much later that I looked at the craft more seriously as a folk art form, and explored the various uses for the ornaments within a modern context. What followed has been an amazing journey. I am both humbled and awed by the support of the Etsy and extended artisan communities, as well as my fabulous family.

Last week one of my handcrafted tree toppers was featured on Apartment Therapy (, alongside tree toppers from West Elm, Anthropologie, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn and others! And thinking back to the little girl who twirled her first points to create this magical spiky paper tree decoration, I never could have imagined what would result from the humble little handmade blessing that was bestowed upon me. Thank you to all.

Friday, September 14, 2012

the tomato cycle

I'm not what you would consider a tomato lover. I don't have a healthy appetite for them. But each year I plant a few, and experiment with new varieties, in addition to growing two of my favorites. And every summer, when I'm picking them in mass quantities, I ask myself why I do this, plant so many. For the most part, I give my tomatoes away, keeping aside one or two a week for myself. But fortunately, I have family who eat them like candy; so I'm doing it for them (I tell myself). Maybe one year I will plant a variety that will revolutionize my dietary menu. Experimentation and the thrill of discovery... isn't that what gardening should be about?

(from top, clockwise): Big Daddy, Yellow Pear, Italian Ice, Orange Wellington

My crop this year included Big Daddy, a wonderfully sweet and meaty tomato that holds up well when sliced for sandwiches such as vegetarian BLTs (with soy bacon) or atop a toasted bagel with cream cheese; Yellow Pear (an heirloom variety), which is so prolific in my garden that I have a hard time keeping up with the harvest (but this is the family favorite); Italian Ice, my current favorite due to its very mild taste and firm texture; and Orange Wellington, which in my opinion is the most beautiful slicing tomato I've ever grown. 

I prefer to plant indeterminate varieties, or those that grow continuously until first frost, because part of the fun for me is to see how large these plants can grow in their single season (the Yellow Pear is always the winner, growing beyond two stacked tomato cages in height). 

Of course, I already have my eye on a couple of new varieties for next year. And I'm sure I will find room in my small garden for just a few more...  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

garden-inspired jeżyk

When I can find the extra time, I enjoy creating garden-inspired versions of my Star Urchin ornaments, handcrafted by upcycling old garden design magazines, otherwise slated for the recycle bin. As you'll see, I am particular about the images that I use to create each ornament, which can add to the already time-consuming nature of this art form.

For this first ornament, that I titled Greens (size 4-inch), I was inspired by the mid-century design aesthetic of highly sheered garden hedges. I carefully selected pages featuring evergreen and deciduous shrubbery, being mindful of using complementary images as much as possible, so as not to detract from the final finished form. Creating a harmonious composition through the use of color and texture follows a basic garden design tenet:  

This bright and cheery ornament was made using various pictures of Narcissus, or daffodil flowers, and features fresh garden hues of yellow, orange and green; the result is a lovely homage to spring and its riot of colors after the long, gray winter here (size 3-inch):

This ornament was made using pictures of Canna 'Pretoria', with its dramatic yellow-and-green variegated leaves; the delightful mix of color and pattern adds a tropical twist to this repurposed-paper modern folk art ball (size 4-inch):

While these ornaments can be used the traditional way, hung on a Christmas tree, they also make great garden-themed gifts for gardeners, horticulturalists or landscape architects, and can be displayed as decorative art pieces on a coffee table, desk or book shelf throughout the year. Visit my shop to see my current listings; additional ornaments are available for commission only.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

lavender harvest

Lavandula x intermedia 'Grosso' in my garden

It's that time of year again! I've begun the lavender harvest, gathering stems while the flower buds are at their peak and contain maximum fragrance, spreading them out on old window screens to dry. My entire house smells of lavender, and I guess I do, too, because I am often asked what is this wonderful fragrance I am wearing, during the harvest season, lol... 

fresh lavender stems in vintage lavender glass 

Shown here is my favorite variety, Lavandula x intermedia 'Grosso'. I've had great success growing it in informal raised beds (mounded planting beds) in my zone 6 garden. I have placed a few other lavenders throughout my garden for ornamental purposes (and for the bees of course!), but Grosso is my first choice for crafting projects and fresh bouquets, due to its amazing fragrance and prolific production of long-stemmed, high-yielding flower spikes. It wouldn't feel like summer to me without this fabulous plant in bloom in my garden. Additional lovely lavenders for zones 5/6 include Lavandula augustifolia 'Munstead' and 'Hidcote Blue'.

Lavender is best dried hanging in small bundles or spread out on drying racks
(I use window screens) in a hot, dry and dark space, such as an attic or loft.
After the lavender has dried, strip the buds from the stems to use in sachets.

When growing lavender, whether for personal use or for a small business, it is important to plant successively, adding new plants every couple years or so. This helps to ensure that your supply will remain steady, as older plants' production diminishes or ends after about 7 to 10 years. I currently have a dozen Grosso lavender plants of various ages in my garden, and my small harvest each year provides me with more than enough lavender buds to last through to the next harvest season, when once again, this versatile plant will fill the midsummer air with its lovely fragrance.

My collection of hand-sewn lavender sachet dogs, cats, bears, moons and stars. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

sentimental structure

my new metal pea/cucumber fence and re-stained deck

my old handmade trellis, RIP

I've had some time to work on projects on the home front, including re-staining my old deck (it looks brand-new!). But I knew that the old stick trellis I'd made many seasons ago to support my annual pea and cucumber vines wouldn't make it through another growing season; it was time for an upgrade.

Although I missed my spring pea planting window (I may plant a fall crop this year instead), I went overboard in the cucumber department, planting two varieties and several seedlings in relatively close quarters. But I know this new trellis will handle it. Will it be a good cucumber season? I hope so, but my friends and neighbors may not; some seasons have been so prolific that I felt as though they were avoiding me during the harvest season... (but what's a few dozen cucumbers among friends?)

And yes, I know I had a silly sentimental attachment to the rickety handmade wooden structure I'd been using for so many years and nursing along well beyond its useful life. But structures become part of the personal landscape of a garden over time; one grows accustomed to their tireless (and literal) support year after year. So the old trellis is awaiting it's final sendoff, a final repurposing of sorts, into kindling for a Midsummer bonfire. RIP, you served me well.

Are you sentimental about a garden structure?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

woodland journey

Trillium grandiflorum (white trillium) and wild geranium

When I first saw this thriving forest of white trillium during a woodland walk (near Ann Arbor, Mich.), it nearly took my breath away. It can feel awe-inspiring to view any wildflower growing en masse, but I had grown up with a special admiration for this native spring bloomer, which up until this point, I had only seen growing in clusters a small fraction of this size. For my return trip this year (I hope to make it an annual adventure), I took my camera along, but my photos do little justice to this expansive natural trillium garden nor adequately represents the sheer volume of flowers that encompass a good portion of the trail. I find that taking the time to enjoy experiences like this can help reignite my creative energy, and the photos I take become mementos of my creative journey.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Perhaps it was the power of the "supermoon" last Saturday that propelled me to finally begin this blog (ha ha). How long have I been talking about doing this? I managed to snap this photo when the clouds briefly parted that night. It was an inspiring sight, shining so brightly through the thick darkness... I always wonder what people thousands of years ago would have thought of such a sight. (And then my mind wanders to episodes of Star Trek.)