Margaret Mellis(1914-2009) is a kindred spirit of scraps and color. Her work begins with painting, and moves into sculpture and driftwood collage, the latter which she began in her 60’s. She describes her concern:
‘I wanted the colours to find the kind of strength which would simultaneously let them work at full strength and integrate with themselves and the shapes of the structure.’ (National Galleries Scotland)
Mellis eventually was acknowledged as at the beginnings of British Modernism and she had a Circle of artist friends at Cornwall. I remember taking a class as an undergraduate at Hampshire College called, “Mary Shelley and Her Circle” and being taken with the idea of the constellation of friends all being part of the story.
The driftwood constructions reminded me of the Laura Petrovich-Cheney exhibit I saw at the Michener in November 2015, of sculptures in wood from Superstorm Sandy. Ian Collins describes Mellis’ materials as “combining beachcombed finds of vividly coloured bits of boats and beach-huts, kippering boards and medieval timbers gouged by deathwatch beetles into honeycomb.”
Margaret Morse Nice(1883-1974) caught my eye because of her bird passion. My only experience as a girl in birdwatching was one week at summer camp where a counselor took us walking to look for Red-Winged Blackbirds. That someone would be looking for birds in regular life was a surprise to me. Margaret Morse Nice received a copy of Mabel Osgood Wright’s Birdcraft field guide as a present for her 13th birthday, and she started writing down her observations of birds around her.
I discovered that Nice grew up in Amherst, MA, where I lived when I went to Hampshire College. Nice was born just 3 years before Emily Dickinson died. She went to Mt. Holyoke College, which gave her a reprieve from her parent’s emphasis on getting married and housekeeping. She graduated and returned to the stultifying role of “daughter-at-home,” rather than the world of learning and discovery. The thread of her desire to learn persists through enrolling at Clark University graduate school in 1907, and researching Bobwhites, marrying a fellow graduate student, moving with him for his academic appointments in Norman OK, Columbus, OH and Chicago, IL, raising 5 daughters, and studying her girls’ language and behavior at the same time she observed the most common of birds in her own backyard like the Song Sparrow.
The librarian in me is fascinated by the title of her autobiography: Research Is a Passion With Me: The Autobiography of a Bird Lover. She studied birds in their environment rather than collecting them, and took their life histories. In my own researching this post, I came across an article, with double Margarets! The authors describe the absence of women’s experience in comparative psychology, and write about these two Margarets who were both accomplished, one unmarried and teaching at Vassar, and Nice, who married, had children, and published papers, books and reviews, without formal academic appointment. The article describes Nice’s frustration with the implication that her children and husband had brains, and she had none ~ “He taught, they studied. I did housework.” To be passionate, observant, engaged in the natural world and meet her subjects on their own terms was ultimately influential in the world of ornithology, is a life history that moves me.
If you have traveled in Britain, you have been surrounded by the work of designer and typographer Margaret Calvert(1936-). While studying illustration at Chelsea School of Art, she had to the opportunity to be the assistant to Jock Kinneir in designing signs for the new motorway, and this turned into designing for all of Britain’s roadways and they became Kinneir, Calvert and Associates, and took on the railways and many other projects. Take a few minutes to watch the video President’s Lecture: Margaret Calvert, where she describes her feeling for the letters, the white space as important as the text itself, and her sense of play in drawing and drafting.
Her self portrait is just perfect. She found a Men at Work sign from her design in the street, and took it home and turned it into herself: Woman at Work. She describes how the signs are about the people who use them: how will this look to someone driving 70 mph? Can it be read at that speed? Calvert and Kinneir met with controversy at first because they used capitals with lowercase letters instead of the traditional all capitals.
Typography is near to my heart because of the house numbers I create along with my husband at Nutmeg Designs. Flowing around number forms gives me an intimate sense of each digit. I didn’t expect to find this so rewarding. We want our house numbers to be beautiful and visible. I remember when my husband saw a hapless pizza delivery guy on the sidewalk looking for a house. He pointed to our neighbor’s house, with the number we had created, and said “I can read that number,” and wished that all were that easy to make out.
I have a fondness in my heart for creativity that bursts out in more than one way. Margaret Fabrizio came to my attention by her quilts, but she is also a well known harpsichord player who played with the Grateful Dead, and had one of her collages on one of their album covers. I also dig curiosity, and she followed her curiosity when she first saw a kawandi quilt exhibition, Soulful Stitching, at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. Kawandi are created by the African Siddi women of Karnataka, India, and Margaret Fabrizio traveled to India in 2012 in order to learn more, and has a series of Kawandi videos on YouTube from her visit and the process of learning.
The Siddi’s are descendants of enslaved Africans brought by the Portuguese to Goa on the West Coast of India between the 16th-19th Century, and who eventually escaped to their own diaspora communities in the mountains of Northern Karnataka. Siddi women collect worn out clothing and when they have enough for a quilt, buy a cotton sari and use it as the backing for the patchwork that they sew with a continuous running stitch. The corners are finished with Phulas, meaning flowers, a multi-layered triangle. It reminds me of those old fashioned photo corners for affixing snapshots to albums, and also half of a Log Cabin quilt block.
Stratoz and I were excited to have our Rainbow Starflower mandala on the poster for the 2016 Spring North Penn Select Craft Show. Come by booth 98 on March 12, 2016 at North Penn High School. We have been gathering up our mosaic and stained glass, and have color and sparkle to delight you.
The January Cure has come around again, and Stratoz and I are giving our house some attention. Besides cleaning tasks, there is the task of buying flowers weekly, and the color is a lift in the winter. Another task is to sit in a place you don’t usually sit, and observe the new view for 10 minutes. Taking this photo I noticed that the turtle is swimming in blue water. How did I not notice that before? How much of our homes do we actually see? How much of our lives?
What is your word for 2016? Nutmeg Designs has words. If your word is not there, just order the one with the same number of letters. Leave us a note in the comments field of your order. And if you want Times New Roman font like the ones above, let us know that too. We always check in about colors and details before we begin. In 6-8 weeks, we will send you a word to resonate for the rest of the year.
After creating a Create for a client the first week of the year, I chose Create as my word for 2016. A reminder to go into the studio for rejuvenation.
One of the most rewarding aspects of creating art is having it become part of a family’s traditions. In November, Nutmeg Designs received a message requesting a thoughtful commission.
. . .I am writing to you because the gifting of your beautiful your Mosaic Trivets have become a sweet and meaningful tradition in our family! My sister Lauren found your site, and commissioned a Log Cabin Mosaic Trivet for my wedding in our wedding colors, and just a few months ago did the same for my brother when he got married! So now she and her husband are the only ones without a trivet of their own, and I would love to gift them with one of your trivets for Christmas if that is possible. . .
A very grateful recipient of a Nutmeg gift
The brother requested his sister’s wedding colors and sent photos of the shades of moss green, coral orange and sand. It was a delight to bring it full circle to Lauren, who ordered the first two trivets. The first is below, in oranges and reds.
This was to be a yellow sunflower, but the orange slipped in. Yellow is pliable and molds into orange easily. The days are going to get longer now that the Winter Solstice is here. The sun will slip into the darkness and intertwine night into day.
Stratoz created a festive 21 Days of Free Shipping on 21 of our creations. Fortunately, some of them are orange, including one of my quilt inspired trivets, a jazz inspired suncatcher and a blue spiral through the orange desert in mandala form. Click on any of these photos to go to the listing and order. December 15th is the last day to participate in the free shipping.