Friday, October 14, 2016

2017 Faerie Houses calendar (Lulu) is ready!

Greetings Everyone!

Happy (almost) full moon!  

Exclusive news: I am thrilled to announce that my self-published calendar, printed thru is now available at a 15% discount just for my blog readers for a limited time.

Here is the cover image:

I will upload all the other pages to my blog soon, but in the meantime, if you want to see the entire calendar or place an order, you can just click HERE. (to see all the calendar pages now, just click on the link above and then click on the word  "preview" once you get to my Lulu storefront page.)

Soon I will be advertising this calendar on my website and thru my newsletter and the discount will be reduced so this is a good chance to get your order in early at a savings. I've just gotten the proof copy today and it looks really great. I've decided to offer just this one version this year. Last year I had a second version with more border art on each image and the feedback that I got from many kind fans was that they preferred the version without the overlaid border art. I listened to your comments and I hope this sleek new layout will be pleasing. Each monthly selection is framed with a color-matched edge that compliments the image. I hope you like it, and as always, thank you for taking a look!

  This time of year is soooo incredibly hectic... the fall leaves are in full glory now and it is a race to get as many new houses photographed with the special colors of autumn as I can. A few days ago we had one of those incredibly magical days and I was fortunate to be up high nearly at treeline to capture some great shots. Here is a special preview for my readers....may you have a wonderful, magical week-end!


Saturday, October 1, 2016

The turning of the great wheel

Greetings Everyone!

Happy early autumn to you! The end of summer is always a challenging transition for me. This year we had an unusual drought all summer long so the chance to get out in the woods to make sculptures or photograph them was especially challenging as the lush green mosses that are a normal part of the forest ecosystem here were noticeably parched and dried and were not good for photo settings. They are recovering now that we are finally getting some rain but all my usual places just were not very photogenic this summer, sadly. So I'm holding off some of the houses that I made and am hoping to get some good autumn shots next week, fingers crossed.

I was out on a scouting hike this past week, looking for new locations and gathering materials for more projects this winter. While I was "looking" backwards missing the warm days of summer, I was also looking forward anticipating that the forest would soon be cold and building materials will be hard to gather. So this time of year I'm like the squirrels in the forest, scurrying and collecting. It had been a bright grey day but all of a sudden there was a hole in the clouds that just got bigger and bigger and soon the forest was bathed in golden light.

As I gazed out upon the quietude before me, I felt humbled and privileged to be able to do this try and bring some of this magic into my artwork and share it with all of you no matter how challenging that may seem.

 I collected lots of great birch bark as there were loads of trees that had died and come down many years ago. Birch bark is such tough stuff that even when the inner wood has rotted away completely, the tubes of the bark that protected the living tree from winter's cold and summer's insects will still be lying on the forest floor, still strong and pliable. When an animal body is taken up by the forest microbes, the white bones are the last to go...white bones that were previously hidden within the flesh of the creature...but with Birch trees, they wear their bones proudly on the outside and when they are long gone, what remains is very useful to me! So I'm always grateful to the trees who give up their bones so I can make more faerie houses and I give a silent prayer of gratitude when I am out collecting and find some suitable pieces to bring back home to the snug studio for wintertime creating.

The days are getting noticeably shorter now and will continue to do so until the end of December. I am keenly aware of the loss of daylight...every week we lose an average of 20 minutes of the precious light. No wonder we get grumpy in Autumn sometimes!

Now that the book is done and in production I finally have time to get back into writing here on this blog and also attending to all the projects that got backed up. I've just completed the new Lulu calendar for 2017 and I am awaiting the proof copies to come in before I make the project available. I've gone back to just a basic frame around each image, no fancy artwork, just the images. I got a lot of feedback that this is what most folks preferred so that will be the design style for this version. I'll share the cover with you now and when the printed copies have been approved, I'll put the link here so anyone who wants one can get them. Here is the cover:

Yes, that is the Hemp house which I hauled up into a secret glen and waited till dusk to capture the moment. I hope the presses can reproduce this cover... sometimes they have trouble with the darker content/image. But if it works it will have been worth all the mosquito bites I endured as I sat still waiting for the twilight to enter the deep cleft in the mountain where this stream flows.

  Stay tuned....soon I will share some more stories about how I make my photos and some actual samples of pages from the book!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Happy Equinox!

Happy Equinox Everyone!

  Here's to the exciting season of change!  Here in my little part of the world we are enjoying some delicious last warm days before it all starts slowing down and turning inwards. A ton of exciting things are brewing on the horizon and my biggest challenge seems to be carving out time to write to all of you to share in the fun. I hope to be better about that now that the book project is buttoned up and my heart is healing from the sudden departure of Oliver.

  I am now able to get back out into the forest and do my work and nothing is more healing than to be in nature! The magic is so palpable whenever I step foot into the deep woods. A few weeks ago I had an especially enchanting experience: I had been in a bit of a rush to get back out to a special place I have frequented in the past. My head was spinning with all I had hoped to accomplish in the short day and I will admit that I was not in a receptive head-space. After I got on the trail and had only walked for a minute or two I was stopped in my tracks. A chickadee had landed on the branch not 3 ft from my head and was chattering away AT me! Soon, it was joined by a small flock of about 6 other chickadees...they were all within a few feet of me and were very animated. I was enthralled. Then I noticed there were several other species coming from out of the woods to join the was astonishing. I stood completely still for more than 10 minutes just mesmerized by the show of a dozen wild birds all dancing and chattering within a 10 ft radius. It was as if they knew exactly what I needed to re-orient myself to enter the space properly.

   I was now open, receptive, calm and deliberative...just as I prefer to be when doing the work. I was soooo grateful! The birds, their mission accomplished, melted back into the forest and took their festive party elsewhere. What a gift!

  Later that day, I was able to locate the special glade I was seeking and I set up a faerie house to shoot in the twilight...I was fairly happy with the shot but may try again when the leaves begin to change their colour- just a week or two from now. Meanwhile, here is the shot....enjoy!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Important capital campaign ends today- please support if you can

Greetings Everyone!

Apologies this is so poorly timed...I just found out today that my local shelter is finishing up an important capital campaign today. If you've been moved by my story about Oliver and can make a small donation to help our shelter out today, your gift will be doubled! But it has to be done by midnight tonight.

Here is the link to the shelter:

and here below is the newsletter announcement I just received....if you can make a donation, thank you so very much. They are a great shelter and this fund will make a significant difference for the people who can't afford to get their animals spayed or neutered. Thank you for taking the time to read this and if you can help out, a double thank you from me and Oliver-in-spirit!!

Here is the direct link to their donation page which will go to this capital campaign, thank you! Click HERE

We're almost there!
Give TODAY and your donation will be DOUBLED!

SNIP banner 2
georgia 2

Why Give to SNIP?

Every year, 6-8 million dogs and cats enter shelters, but only 3-4 million are adopted. Spaying and neutering is the number one thing that we can do to prevent pet homelessness and reduce the number of unwanted, abandoned, and abused animals in our communities. SNIP reduces the cost of spaying and neutering for those who need it most.

kim and puppies
$10 becomes $20 ... $25 becomes $50 ... 
$50 becomes $100! 

Dear Friends, 

We are more than half-way to our $2,500 goal! Give by midnight to help us make the most of this matching gift opportunity.

If you've already donated to our SNIP matching gift challenge - THANK YOU! If you're still considering a gift, please know that just $5 will make a big difference - double the difference. 

By donating today, you'll help ensure that up to 100 more dogs and cats in Essex County will be spayed and neutered.

Thank you for your support. It means the world to us.

Jessica Hartley
Executive Director

Tel: (518) 873-5000

Friday, September 2, 2016

The post I never wanted to write

Dear Readers,

  With heavy heart I write of the sudden illness and departure of my Beloved feline companion, Oliver. He was one of those remarkable beings who come into our lives and give us the gift of their love and companionship that takes our own heart to a whole new level of awareness and consciousness. 

  He arrived mysteriously, walking out of the woods one day and approached me tentatively. He had been abandoned by his previous person because she had to move and could not take him with her. The landlord found him, locked in a room with an open bag of cat food and brought him to his farm which was about a mile and a half from here, as the crow flies, or in this case, as the cat walks.

  As soon as he arrived, he began asserting himself as the Alpha cat which was kind of amusing because he was not the oldest, nor the largest male here....he was just the one with the most attitude. He kept himself apart from the others in the tribe here and spent much of his time with me, which I enjoyed very much.

  When I made the move to working outdoors more, on my Faerie houses and Environmental sculptures in 2006, he was thrilled and right from the very first sculpture expeditions, he was my happy companion.
Of course we were just starting out together in the process so we were getting our bearings. He had this trick of waiting till I had my face in my camera so I couldn't see him and THEN he'd jump or wander into the frame just as I was about to shoot it. While this was endearing it was not helpful, especially when dealing with fragile items such as dandelion puffs, so we had to have a little talk and got our roles dialed in a bit better.
He listened very patiently while I let him know what was not allowed while I was shooting.

 He never quite fully believed me however and was always offing to help. There were times when he was happy to clean a site for me...
which I appreciated and thanked him for his efforts...but his idea of an ideal location (flat, sandy, warm and rollable) was not always what I thought would make for great backgrounds so we progressed in his job duties.

  During the winter months he often laid by my feet while I worked on building my faerie houses down in the studio. He loved it there and when I realized that the floor was a bit chilly, he got his own chair which he loved to curl up in, even when I was elsewhere. It was HIS chair and no one else dared used it.

  When spring came it would be time to take the houses out into the garden and set them up for glamour shots. First the houses needed to be inspected...
And then when a shoot was taking place he stepped in to help with a little art directing pointing out which way the doors should go or what flowers to use in the decorations...which was very helpful.

Spring would turn to summer and he'd go with me on foraging trips and was always happy to just doze in the sunshine while I worked on a piece or while I was gathering materials.
But if a twig snapped or a bird ventured near, he was all alert in an instant ready to engage with whatever was showing up in our space.
It's hard to tell which season he loved the most. Spring he adored, of course. He was never shy about water and sometimes I'd find him wading in puddles or at the edge of a pond well up to his elbows and hocks. Summer was for lazy naps and chasing mice and frogs whenever possible. Autumn was another favourite time because he loved the crisp air, the freedom from pesky mosquitoes and the beautiful sunsets which we'd watch together often from the bench overlooking the valley.

   But winter was also a time he relished.

 I've never known a cat to enjoy snow as much as he did. He'd plow into the new snowfalls, head down, front feet forward and let it spill over him as he pushed forward like a plow tilling a field. He just loved the winter and would be happy when I tossed him an icicle to play with.
He'd get all wound up the way cats do and he'd go a little crazy with his snowplay...just like a little kid.
But eventually we'd have to get back to work and he'd be ever so helpful with his critiques of my latest efforts....he was a very chatty cat and what I will miss most (besides his exceptionally affectionate purring cuddles) are all the verbal conversations we used to have. He literally would chat back and forth with me...but I never quite got the nuances of his comments, sadly.

This past spring and summer was a difficult time for us both. I was working on my book and not outdoors as much as we were used to being together. I knew he was unhappy with not having his play buddie to entertain and impress. I was unhappy about not sharing high quality time with him, but writing the book just went far slower than it was supposed to and took longer than it should have. On the times when I did venture into the garden and he'd be waiting for me, I could see his disappointment with the situation.
But like so many busy people, I thought we still had lots of time ahead of us. I thought we'd get thru this and then there would be years more of adventures to share and journeys to take together...but sadly, he had a secret brewing in his liver and he didn't let me know about it until it was too late. I brought him in to the vet on the 24th and she let me know that it was probably not treatable. I was in total shock and despair...which is not a good place to be in if you need to act quickly and try other options. He still looked so good and despite a few changes which were completely reasonable to expect in an older cat, still seemed "himself"...and he enjoyed keeping track of what I was doing in the garden.
This image was taken last week-end, just 4 days after his diagnosis. We were on track for some intensive alternative therapy work and fabulous supplements and products were ordered to help fight his cancer. I was very hopeful. Animal communicators were very all seemed like we had every chance of at least extending his life a little bit, but alas, on Wednesday his condition changed, and by Thursday morning it was clear that his body was no longer able to support his big Spirit. He passed peacefully in my arms in the garden on a gorgeous late summer afternoon.

I cannot imagine life without him...and I know he will visit me in Spirit when he can...but the suddenness of this loss is very sharp right now and my grief is very deep. He brought such joy and delight with him when he walked out of the woods 14 years ago and I never took our time together for granted. I just wish I had not been so distracted this early summer with the book project. I might have seen the subtle clues that he was not well....but I can't linger too much on the "what ifs" is done. He has made his transition, and on a day of a powerful solar eclipse too so there is perfection in all of this, even if I can't see or accept it fully right now. For me, my heart is just hurting and I need to give the process full measure and the respect it deserves because grieving a loss well is how we get over/through it best.

   I love you Oliver, Blessed Be.




Thursday, July 21, 2016

So what is all the fuss about?

 Why write a book about making Faerie Houses?

 There are in fact several answers that are true for me. Let me first say that there are a lot of good fairy house building books out there already. However, I noticed that most of those books fell into two categories: either they were compilations of fairy house artists such as myself and were thus good sources of inspiration, or they were written with children in mind. It seemed that the books written for adults were reluctant to show how to actually build a house while the books that were written more for kids, or for adults who were guiding kids, focused primarily on building temporary structures outdoors...which is a GREAT way to get kids outdoors, to be sure! There were also books dedicated to fairy furniture and fairy costumes- which were also lovely and very inspiring, and while a few tutorials could be found, it seemed that in general, house builders were keeping their secrets to themselves. All of this is to say, there seemed to be a niche that was waiting to be filled.

 In my 10 years of making these creations, I have been asked numerous times if I gave workshops so I knew there was a segment of the population who wanted to learn how to make their own little houses. Trouble is, organizing a class and leading people successfully thru a workshop takes a lot of time and is a specialty in itself. Also, these little structures, while simple-looking take more than a few hours to make, many more than can actually be fit into a day class even for the craftiest of students. So making a book to show people exactly how these things are built felt like a calling of sorts. 

 But there is another reason to write this book: young people, especially those who like to build on a more advanced level and who may have a penchant for architecture might find a way into learning about designing with nature in mind if they had a practical guide to how this is done. So I wrote this for the present generation of talented crafts people who want to learn the specific ways to build these structures in deep detail, but also the budding architects out there who are keen to take their cues from the natural world and let their fresh imaginations soar.

The book starts like any good craft book, speaking briefly about tools and materials.

 Then a few words about collecting materials in the wild is in order because we do need to learn how to collect in respectful and sustainable ways so we don't hurt the natural world we all love and need. 

And then we just dive into how these houses are put together, and I show just about  everything…from bases, to roofs…windows and doors…wallpaper and lighting…all of it.It's a builders bible, really...just on a very tiny scale!

 I tried to give readers a good foundation in basic skills and techniques so once they are mastered, you can go on and apply your own brand of style and whimsy and build with confidence.

I’ll share more tidbits from the book here on the blog as time allows. But for now, let me just say that in the book I will show you how to build the house that is shown at the top of the page if you’d like to learn how!

 If anyone would like to take advantage of a good sale, Amazon is selling the book now and you can find it HERE (along with a very nice pre-release sale price).

But wait, there's MORE!!!!!

 Yesterday I got word that the 2017 Amber Lotus wall calendars are out! And they are my best collection yet! 

Here is the image that was used for the cover:
And for those of you who have been asking for a smaller version... heads up! They heard you!! You will soon find the calendars in all the usual places where you like to shop on the ground, but for those who want to make certain they get theirs before the calendars sell out (it happens every year, sadly) you can order NOW from various websites including Amazon. Shop HERE for the wall calendars, and HERE for the mini calendars (which are absolutely adorable BTW). Both are on good sales right now too.

And for my fans in Canada, here are Amazon Canada links:
Wall calendar HERE
Mini calendar HERE

And finally, if you'd like to order directly from the publisher, (and give us a bigger %) you can order directly from them HERE for the wall calendar and HERE for the mini calendars. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Emerging from the cave

If you ever wonder how you really feel about something, then a good test is to write a book about it, and if after you’re finished you still love what you wrote about, then, it must be love! I’ve just emerged from that process myself and I can honestly say that nothing has been more challenging for me to do and complete. And what amazes me is that I can’t wait to get out in the forest and make some more Faerie houses…so, it must be that I really love what I do!

The book project began a year ago with an inquiry from a publisher. I didn’t really want to do a book. I already had one that was on my work-table (my Enviromaginations book that was funded thru Kickstarter) and I knew if I took up another book before that one was finished, it would delay the first one even more….which I did not even want to contemplate. But… who knew if this opportunity would come again…so I reluctantly said “Yes”.

The book’s style and content needed a few revisions and try as I might to rein it in and make it go one way, it ended up going another. I hitched my project to a greater guidance system and devoted myself 110%. It has been almost 8 straight months of heavy, focused pressure to get it done. Now that it is finished I can finally say what form the book has taken. I know this will be a shock to some of you, but it is all about how to build Faerie Houses!  :-)

More specifically, it is an advanced course in the secret art of Faerie house building that is directed towards adults (or very crafty younger people).  I have many step-by-step guides showing how to actually build the bits and pieces, plus there are complete, step-by-step instructions for how to complete two full houses. Along the way there are loads of inspirational images of completed projects and lot of little helpful tips and tricks. There is nothing quite like this on the market. In the pages you will learn in detail, how to DO this work, which is what I really wanted to share. It is my hope that for the folks who have often wondered if they could make their own little creations, either for their own gardens or children, this will give them all the information they need to do it with confidence.

There are loads of good making faerie houses books out there that are for kids or for people working with kids. There are fabulous inspirational books that show marvelous work done by other builders. There are even specialized books focusing on just Faerie furniture or clothing…. But as far as I know, this book will be the first one geared towards showing adults how to craft with found/natural materials and make their own creations, without resorting to measuring, using kits or power tools. All hand-built… using your hands!

So that is what I’ve been up to for the past half-year+ and why there have been so very few posts here in this blog…ALL my typing/communicating energy was being channeled in one direction: towards getting this book created and now that it is done, and I’ve re-charged my batteries a bit, I hope to come back to posting more frequently and sharing with you inspirational stories, new creative work and observations from this lovely part of the world.

Thank you everyone who has been writing kind words of support and waiting patiently. You’re the BEST!
Welcome to the enchanted world of Environmental art and Faerie Houses sculptures created by Sally J Smith. Here you will find photos of the artist's unique art-forms and hear some of the stories from behind the scenes as she shares with you her creative process.