Last Saturday I drove out to Amherst, MA to deliver my son and many of his belongings to the University of Massachusetts. On my way home with an empty car my daughter and I stopped off at a little flea market. We did not find anything useful or interesting, and were on our way to the car when I noticed the rack of "camp-fire wood" for sale. I had to look Off to the side away from the real firewood I found these two most unusual specimens. Naturally I handed over a couple dollars and brought them home with me. Now they sit on my workbench waiting to inspire. I think they are very cool and you may be seeing them in an altered state at an exhibit this fall. Possibly at the Littleton, MA Library in October!
Do you have an unusual piece of firewood or bark sitting in your woodshed?
By Nancy A French
Finding art all around me in the natural world is a reminder of how small and insignificant my artwork is all by itself. A spider web or an interesting branch, a sunrise or the sun dappled woods, every moment there is something to see. When I look out into my backyard I see years of work by both people and nature that culminate in an ever changing landscape. That is a little bit of the feeling I get when I go into Gallery 529. Each little thing by itself, while amazing or interesting to look at, is nothing too remarkable. But taken as a whole, there is so much to look at whenever I walk into the gallery, that it is indeed spectacular.
I can not imagine all of the work that it takes to create each piece of art multiplied by all of the art in the gallery. So many hours, days, weeks and years of creativity and experience all under one roof. Just in my space alone, hundreds of hours of work went into creating all of the pieces on display. The experience that is represented there is enormous. Starting when I was a child with projects and crafts, continuing on into my teenage years when I was a florist and gardener, then to North Bennet Street School to learn furniture making. This was followed by teaching woodworking at a high school and at summer camps, resident woodworker internship at a craft school, workshops in blacksmithing, dulcimer making oval box making, basket weaving, and chair making; and building furniture in a group shop. Raising 4 children and seeing their imaginations at work has also added to my experience. Along the way, seeing all of the clothing being recycled just in my own home led me to think about creative uses for all of those worn out garments. Burning wood in the winter to heat my house gave me the ideas and material I needed for the tree houses. It just goes on and on.
When you purchase one of my Tiny Tree Houses, a Branch Sculpture, a Pair of Mittens or a Puppet, you are not just buying something that was made by my hands, it was also created by my experience. I would not be making the things that I make if I had not had all of those experiences throughout my life. I would be creating something. I don't know what that would be, but one thing is for sure, it would be something interesting to look at or nice to touch.
If you have not yet visited Gallery 529 in Littleton, MA, you should check it out! The gallery contains three rooms of art, four if you count the consignment area. There are two rooms dedicated to the work of the member artists, with about 30 different artists represented. When you visit you will find two dimensional art that includes oils, watercolor, pastel, encaustic wax and photography. Three dimensional art and fine crafts include wood, fiber, jewelry, glass, pottery, wool, needlework and soap.
A third room in the gallery is reserved for monthly art exhibits, featuring solo artists and group shows. For information about upcoming events such as opening receptions and calls for art, check the gallery's website, http://gallery529.com/ or Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/gallery529com?fref=ts
The local artists who sell their work in the consignment section of the gallery round things out with a variety of art, including lathe turned wooden bowls, quilting, beaded bracelets and little sea glass pictures. New items are always being added so come back often and visit.
Once you have seen all of the art and met a few of the artists, you may be inspired to sign up for a workshop. You might learn something new, or "brush up" on some art form that you already have experience with. Look for examples of the workshop projects hanging in the gallery. All of the workshops are led by local artists and artisans.
Here is a link to the workshop page on the website: http://gallery529.com/workshops/
Gallery 529 is staffed by the member artists who love to talk to visitors about their art and their work process. They are always willing to help find the perfect gift for any occasion, or to assist you in selecting a piece of art for your newly decorated living room.
529 King Street is also home to the Act III Restaurant. http://www.act3restaurant.com/ The atmosphere and food make it the perfect setting for a casual lunch or a special occasion dinner. You can follow the restaurant on Facebook for updates on the live music performance schedule. https://www.facebook.com/gwenncharlotte?fref=ts
Arrive early for a birthday or anniversary dinner and you can purchase a special gift at the gallery to celebrate the occasion!
If you happen to be in the Littleton, MA area look for Gallery529, Just off Route 495, near the intersection of Routes 119, 2A and 110.
I see art everywhere I go, but especially in nature. It creeps into my subconscious when I am least expecting it. I see something and I know that it should be art. I don't always know how to accomplish that goal, but if I wait, look at it over a period of time, the art comes into my head. The two pieces of firewood in this photo are an example of that. One day last spring my neighbor was cleaning up his yard and tossing branches into a fire pit. I walked over to say hello, and yes, to see what he was getting rid of. I spotted these two pieces of oak firewood on the pile. They still had bark on them at that time. I knew they would be art. I dropped them on the floor of my shop where they sat for a year. My neighbors moved to Florida and the wood was forgotten. Last week I uncovered them in a rare clean-up attempt, and I knew what to do. I removed the bark and carved the surface smooth before sanding and finishing them. Then I took some maple flooring scraps and cut and carved until I had a backdrop for the salvaged firewood. The result was nicer that I had expected. I did not have a plan or a pattern when I began, it just evolved. I do not come up with the ideas for my art, the ideas find me.
These days I seem to be looking at the world through Icicle lines. A prisoner kept in my cell by icy bars over windows and doors. The snowbanks rise taller than me, everywhere white and gray. The silence surrounds the snow, creeping into every crevice. I try to escape, I shovel paths but they fill up again with fluffy white coldness and I retreat to my warm prison behind the bars of ice. Someday soon I hope to be freed by the warmth of spring sunshine. The gray and white will be replaced by green and growing things. I will forget that I was once imprisoned by icicle lines.
It is that time of year when firewood piles are appearing in driveways and the cold weather is filtering in. I see bark everywhere and in this bark I see art. Bark is so interesting to look at, with all of the crevices and contours, as well as the color variations and textures, moss and lichen. It can be left rough or made smooth, carved, cut, chiseled, planed or sanded. I used to start the fires in my wood stove with bark. It is a great fire starter. Now I consider other uses for the bark before I burn it. Many of the larger pieces are saved for artistic purposes, and only the little bits that are left over from the art make their way into the wood stove.
When I am out driving I often see firewood piled in driveways. I sometimes stop and ask for bark scraps. If you are piling up your winter store of firewood and have some large pieces of bark that have fallen off, please consider donating them to a worthy cause before throwing them into the fire. Curved and straight pieces of bark from most hardwoods, especially maples, are very welcome. It does need to be thick, a quarter to a half inch or more. I do not use red oak bark because it is very tough and stringy to work with. I use bark from the area towns that are close to Townsend, MA, local bark you might say, so no insects or tree diseases are transported from other areas. However, if the bark is very dry and aged it could be from somewhere else.
In the meantime you could visit Gallery 529 in Littleton, MA, at 529 King Street, and see a few things that I have made from bark. There is a lot of great art at the gallery, about 30 artists at the moment. It is a great place to do some holiday shopping. www.gallery529.com
It doesn't look like much right now.....just white walls between 2 windows, but this is going to be my little corner of Gallery 529! Over the next month, as the gallery prepares for it's September grand opening, my corner will come to life. The Tiny Tree Houses I am building will be hanging on these walls along with some branch creations and maybe a little felted wool. All of the artists joining this cooperative gallery are excited about the opening and we are all busy creating our displays. There will be two rooms full of artwork for sale, a space for classes, and an Artist of the Month space. We are also hoping that the town of Littleton clears the way for the Act III Cafe to open along with the cooperative. It will be wonderful to have a Jazz Cafe in this creative space. Below is a map showing the location of Gallery 529 so you can easily find it. Hope to see you there!
I have no clue how Google Analytics operates but apparently my website has a small following in Brazil! I don't know anyone from Brazil, have never visited there, but every week about ten percent of my website hits originate in Brazil. That is only about three percent less than Fitchburg, which is the next town over!
I wish I knew how they found my website and if they like my work. Maybe there is a similar name or website address which is popular in Brazil, and coming across my site is entirely accidental. The thing is, it has been pretty consistent every week.
Maybe someone from Brazil will see this and fill me in on how and why I have Brazilian followers. I would love to hear from them!
As you can see, I don't have to look any farther than my own backyard for inspiration. This sugar maple says it all. Decked out in snow and waiting for spring to arrive. Last weekends storm covered the branches with snow, giving it a fullness that is generally absent during the winter months. This snowy white apparition is much more delicate than the leafy colors of summer and fall.
The snow was gone from the tree after a few days but the bare branches remain, stark against the winter landscape. A few weeks from now when the temperatures rise, the sweet sap will begin to flow and spring will not be far behind.
I continue to look for branches and bark for new creations. I have enough material now to keep me busy all spring preparing for summer and autumn craft fairs, but I always welcome more. A second generation of tiny tree houses is in the making, and more branch boxes as well. It has been too cold to work in the shop this week but I look forward to the warmer days ahead.
Think of me when you are pruning your trees and find that interesting branch growing around in a circle.
Think of me when you find a maple log with the bark coming off in one piece
just the right size for a little house.
Think of me when your favorite wool or cashmere sweater somehow ends up in the washing machine on the hot water setting, or in the drier.
Think of me when you find a jar of buttons or old spools of thread that you no longer have a use for.
Think of me if you have some big old coil springs from a piece of machinery, or some old hose nozzles or hooks.
I will take these things and give them a new life. Turn them into something useful, interesting or decorative. Maybe even all three!
Think of me.
Nancy A French
Recycled Art, Wood, Felted Wool, Tree Bark, Branches, Woodcarving,' Re-purposing, Wool Sweaters, Nature, Fairy Houses, Tiny Tree Houses, Firewood, Twigs, Creativity.