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Margaret Morse Nice

Margaret Morse Nice: Telling the Life Histories of Birds

Song Sparrow by Margaret Morse Nice
Studies in the Life History of the Song Sparrow by Margaret Morse Nice

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.

Placing women in the history of comparative psychology: Margaret Floy Washburn and Margaret Morse Nice. by Furumoto, L., & Scarborough, E. (1987). In E. Tobach (Ed.), Historical perspectives and the international status of comparative psychology (pp. 103-117). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

In Memoriam: Margaret Morse Nice by Milton B. Trautman

Margaret Morse Nice Made History at her Columbus Patch, Interpont.

Stratoz was a birdwatcher when I met him, and now has a veritable bird sanctuary in his studio, as he creates Ravens, Nuthatchs, and Great Blue Herons in glass.

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Margaret Monday

Leap and the Net Will Appear by Wayne Stratz

Leap Stained Glass: Commission for a Minister and Spiritual Creative Woman

Leap and the Net Will Appear by Wayne Stratz
Leap and the Net Will Appear by Wayne Stratz. Stained glass and scrabble tiles(not pictured), 11×14 inches.

She arrived with print-outs from our website, and a bag of Scrabble tiles.  She wanted the word “leap” in flowing bright colors: red, orange, yellow, and the tiles spelling out “and the net will appear.”  She wanted the light to shine through all that color, so the project went to Stratoz.  We’ve known this client for a long time, along her path to becoming a minister, with all manner of hurdles, and yet discerning her call, attending Community College, Seminary classes,  finding a church and her ordination.  It was an honor to know she looked at our work when she needed an infusion of inspiration and joy and that she chose to commission original art as her birthday gift ~ rather than, as she put it, getting another piece of jewelry that she never wears.

What word speaks to you?  Talk to us about commissions.

Sophia Spiral in a Blaze of Orange by Wayne Stratz.

Sophia in Her Wisdom: An Orange Spiral of Light

Sophia Spiral in a Blaze of Orange by Wayne Stratz.
Sophia Spiral in a Blaze of Orange by Wayne Stratz. Stained glass, 7 inches. ©2015

Sheets of stained glass migrate back and forth between my studio and Stratoz’s studio.  He had a commission for a larger version of his Sophia Spiral, and needed something special for the center.  I had some Oceana glass that I used in an Orange Sunflower mandala, with beautiful mottles of yellow and orange.  Holding the glass up to the light revealed the yellow like portholes of light.

Orange Sunflower Mandala by Margaret Almon.
Orange Sunflower Mandala by Margaret Almon. Glass and gold smalti mosaic on slate, 7 inches, ©2015.

Margaret Almon Mosaics on Etsy

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Cardinalis cardinalis. Northern Cardinal (Male) II by Kate Breakey.

Cardinal Love: Small Deaths Exhibit by Kate Breakey at the Michener Art Museum

Cardinalis cardinalis. Northern Cardinal (Male) II by Kate Breakey.
Cardinalis cardinalis. Northern Cardinal (Male) II by Kate Breakey, hand-painted silver gelatin print (1998). Michener Museum of Art, Doylestown, PA. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

Stratoz and I got ourselves to the Michener Art Museum Museum to see the exhibit of hand-painted photographs by Kate Breakey. The Small Deaths exhibit is there until July 12th, 2015.   The colors of the birds were intense and glowing.  I loved the orange beak of this cardinal.

Male Cardinal Suncatcher by Wayne Stratz.
Male Cardinal Suncatcher by Wayne Stratz.

Stratoz had just finished a stained glass cardinal commission.  It’s his Year of Birds, and the Breakey exhibit fit right in.

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Aldora: Orange Butterfly by Wayne Stratz.

Aldora: Orange Butterfly Winged Gift of Hope

Aldora: Orange Butterfly by Wayne Stratz.
Aldora: Orange Butterfly by Wayne Stratz.

Stratoz sums up his butterfly impulse:

My school only closed once for snow the winter of 2014-15 and it wasn’t till March. What was a biology and horticulture teacher to do. Design a new butterfly suncatcher to bring some hope for spring blooms and their pollinators. Aldora means “winged Gift.”

He had an “If then, then that” statement formulated the night before, “If the school cancels, then I will make butterflies.”  What a lovely sequence!

This photo captures a sign of hope in addition to the butterfly: the dormers of three of the houses across the street which were rebuilt after a fire.  It has been 5 years since that night of flames, and I still am grateful to see my neighbors back in their homes.

 

 

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