Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit

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Winter Solstice & a Snow Storm

Happy Winter Solstice to all!

Here is a favorite post I wrote a while back on the Solstice: Happy Solstice

And here is a curious article from the Sunday Globe explaining the history of Christmas in Massachusetts. Those good ol’ Puritans. To them Christmas celebration was rooted in pagan tradition and, therefore, a bad thing. Businesses stayed open and kids went to school on December 25. Talk about Scrooge and ba-humbug!

Yes, we had a little snow here yesterday. Not nearly as much as some areas, like Cape Cod, Washington D.C., New York City, New Jersey or Philly. But, 6″-7″ of snow isn’t small stuff either. Here is a view of how it looked yesterday morning in our front yard:

And later in the morning, these guys showed up in the backyard to dine on fallen bird seed. They stayed for a couple hours!

Yes, those are wild turkeys. They started showing up last month, 7-9 of them in a group. One afternoon I watched them fly up into the trees which was pretty funny. This pair poked and scratched in the snow for quite some time.


The Belle of Bell Tavern

Earlier this spring I accepted an invitation to participate in an art exhibit, Historic Interpretations: Contemporary Artists Interpret the Historic Collection, at the Peabody Historical Museum. Historic Interpretations challenged artists to choose an historical item from the museum and to reinterpret it in any art medium.  Per the historical society:

“The Society is seeking to remove traditional forms of interpretive practice, leaving the object’s interpretation to the participating artist.”

The historical artifact I chose was a 19th century wallpaper fragment from the Bell Tavern in Danvers, MA.


After some research, I learned that in 1797 Hannah Webster Foster wrote a novel, The Coquette or, The History of Eliza Wharton, which detailed a much publicized account of a socially elite Connecticut woman’s death in a tavern after giving birth to a stillborn, illegitimate child. Foster’s novel became a statement for women on the issues of individualism, social conformity, social class, and female friendship in the early American republic.

With this information, I was inspired to create The Belle of Bell Tavern.

Using this photo, I sculpted Eliza Wharton from polymer clay.

Eliza Wharton

Eliza Wharton

Here she is, head attached to the body, before going into the oven. (Doesn’t that sound a little sadistic?)


And then I realized I forgot to give her eyebrows!


Here is The Belle of Bell Tavern completely assembled. I really must order a larger photo cube. Belle is 16″ tall when assembled and these larger pieces don’t fit in a 20″ cube. Below are two shots of her; one in the photo cube and one against a black background.




Belle is attached to an antique wall shelf that I inverted for her skirt. Accompanying her is a handmade journal that opens, a pair of slippers, a suitcase, a gold key, and scrolls of love letters to an unknown beau.



The quote attached to her skirt reads: I’ll toll you in if you have need, feed you well, wish you speed. These words hung over the door in front of the Bell Tavern.  From what I’ve learned about Eliza, she was a woman who found herself in a difficult situation, surrounded by friends who criticized her actions and warned her against further wrongdoing. Eliza desired independence and freedom. She wanted to avoid a loveless marriage, to choose a relationship on her own terms, and did not accept the idea of a woman being another person’s personal property.

This piece was great fun to create. Who would’ve thought a simple wallpaper sample could provide so much history.

The exhibit runs August 15-October 18. Opening weekend is August 15, 12:00-7:00 pm and August 16, 12:00-3:00 pm. The exhibit is displayed in two houses, the Osborne-Salata House and the Gideon Foster House. For more information, visit the Peabody Historical Society and Musuem.

To read more about the development of this piece go to this post and this post.


Historic Interpretations

On Sunday, March 2, during a lightly falling, fluffy snow, Brenda, Laura, and I drove to Peabody. A few weeks earlier I had received an email from the Artists Foundation announcing a call for artists from the Peabody Historical Society regarding a future exhibit. The exhibit, “Historic Interpretations: Artists Interpret the Historic Collection” asks interested artists to create a new work inspired by a chosen historical artifact from the Society’s collection.

This sounded like a wonderful, unique challenge; one that the three of us were all likely to accept.

Arriving at the historical society, we were presented with two binders full of pictures of the historical artifacts contained in Osborne-Salata and Gideon Foster Houses. Artists were invited to look through the binders to choose at least one historical artifact. We were also encouraged to walk through both houses to see the artifacts up-close.

Choosing one artifact would not be as easy as first thought!

Artifacts in the Osborne-Salata and Gideon Foster homes included period clothing, signs, furniture, sculptures, lamps, wallpaper fragments, and pictures. Our minds were a bit overwhelmed with choices and possibilities.

I narrowed down my choices to two items: a bas-relief wooden sign featuring three faces and an eagle overhead and a wallpaper fragment.

As we walked through both houses checking out the items we were considering, I found myself drawn to the wallpaper fragment. It was the first item that caught my attention in the first binder I opened. And I know well enough that I should go with my first choice.

So that is what I did.

Here are pictures of the wallpaper fragment:

phswallpapersample3 phswallpapersample2


What drew me to this artifact was the shape of the wallpaper fragment. I believe the open ended aspect of this artifact presents a wonderful challenge. So many ideas for what I could create started to come to mind the longer I looked at this piece. I thought about recreating the design in polymer (challenge #1 as I rarely make cane designs in polymer clay.) I considered the shape of the fragment; curvaceous and feminine.

And then I learned more about the history of this wallpaper fragment.

The wallpaper fragment is from the early 19th century and taken from the Bell Tavern located at the corner of Washington and Main Streets in Danvers.  The Bell Tavern is where the Minutemen gathered before traveling to Lexington. Hanna Webster Foster wrote a novel, The Coquette or The History of Eliza Wharton, which is a fictionalized account of the death of a socially elite Connecticut woman who dies in a room at a roadside tavern after giving birth to a stillborn, illegitimate child.

The tavern where this happened? The Bell Tavern. The character Eliza Wharton is based on the real-life Elizabeth Whitman who died at age 37 after giving birth to a stillborn child.

Who knew all this history could be contained in a wallpaper fragment?

What else would this fragment tell me if it could talk?

And how will this information influence and inspire the piece I create?

The mind boggles. I can’t wait to get started.


Nature’s Beauty and Destruction: A Follow-Up

The ice storm that hit New England almost two weeks ago left people in the dark and, at least initially, in awe of the power of Mother Nature.  In the days after the storm it was common to see people walking up and down the street wearing helmets for safety.  For two days the wind blew, the sun shined, and the ice melted, cracked and fell from tree limbs.  And precariously hanging tree limbs also continued to fall.  Walking about was a bit of a dangerous activity.

The second day after the storm (12/13), the ice that cocooned limbs and branches revealed curious formations.


Encased Hydrangea

Encased Hydrangea

It also became evident how extensive the damage was to the surrounding power lines.


As the initial clean-up took place, often by those in the immediate neighborhoods, the first wave of clean-up crews arrived.

At home on Day 2, we discovered three working electrical outlets in two different hallways that functioned on the same circuits powered by the generator.  With extension cords in hand we were able to use a hair dryer in the guest bathroom, charge our cell phones, and plug in my laptop.  I couldn’t receive any email or view the internet but I could pass the time by catching up on old blog posts collected by Feedblitz.

The laundry room became my makeshift studio.  Using an extension cord, I could plug in my pasta machine motor, an old toaster oven and get back to the business of filling last minute orders.  Sanding was done in the kitchen sink.  I ran the buffing machine off another outlet in the second floor hallway.  It wasn’t the most efficient set up, however, it helped me get the job done.

We headed south that night for dinner and errands.  It was like entering another world.  People had electricity, Christmas lights were burning, and there was very little, if any, ice to be seen.  That night at home we played Scrabble while listening to the Boston Pops holiday program on the radio.

On Sunday, Day 3 (12/14) we found ourselves surrounded by cleaning crews.  They were a welcome sight.  Many crews were from out of state.  I delivered a purchase to a customer in the south end of town on Sunday where electricity started coming back late Saturday.  That was encouraging.  There was a light at the end of the tunnel.

When returning from errands on Sunday, I found myself unable to get back to my own home because the crews were out in force making many roads impassable.  I tried to go down one road only to find it blocked by a debris clearing crew about a quarter way down the road.

This cyclist apparently rode UP that same road through the slop and around the trucks.



I turned around and drove another route home, passed a crew working on that very large debris pile (earlier photo above), and found myself stuck between two more cleaning crews.  I took this picture as the guys were waving at me to turn around and head back in the opposite direction from which I had come.


Eventually I made it home.  The 20 minute ride home turned into a 45 minute adventure.

On Day 3 we were able to do a couple small loads of laundry.  One machine at a time we ran the washer, then the dryer, and then repeated the process.  I became more comfortable starting the burners on the stove with a lighter to boil water for tea.  Eric plugged in a keyboard and played (while wearing headphones.)  On Sunday we watched a DVD on the laptop.  Though our access to electrical power was limited, we felt like we were living like kings.

By Day 4 (12/15) the novelty had started to wear off.

Via his iPhone, Eric was able to access the National Grid web site during the power outage.  He could see how many people in our town and the surrounding communities were without power.  It was curious to watch the numbers fluctuate up and down.

By Day 5 (12/16) it was rumored that our power would be back on by 11:00pm.  That was later updated to 6:00pm. Once again we were surrounded by power crews.  Per National Grid’s site, 50+ homes on our grid were on target to have power returned.  Sometime between 4:30 and 5:00pm the lights came back on.

And there was much rejoicing!

Our art guild’s holiday potluck was scheduled for this night.  Our host, Verjik, had power returned to her house on Monday night (how timely was that?)  The potluck went on as planned.  It was a great event as we toasted the holidays and the power crews.

While we are fortunate to have a generator that afforded us some sense of normalcy during the five days our power was out, 12 days after the ice storm hit 2,500 residents in Central Massachusetts are still without power.  Some have generators, some are living in shelters, and others continue to live in their homes without heat or hot water.  This past weekend we received almost two feet of snow over three days.

As we head into this holiday, be sure to count your blessings and give thanks for those things we too often take for granted. I know I am.