Holiday Open House and Sale

Some of you are on my contact list and likely received this via an e-mail blast this morning, but in case you aren’t, or missed it, I am sharing this invitation here with my Richmond area friends, or any of you who happen to be in the area on December 5. Also, I am accepting custom orders. Should you have a sentimental stash of trash, I can fashion your broken treasures into unique costume jewelry,mosaic memory jars, tables or trays.

Kindly RSVP by December 2, to mary@garnermitchell.com or in the comments below.

Holiday Open House and Sale 2015

Holiday Open House and Sale 2015

 

Time Traveler

“I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip. And the highest enjoyment of timelessness — in a landscape selected at random — is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain … It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with the sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern — to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.” — Vladimir Nabokov, “Speak Memory”

 

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Pastel on paper. "Flower Camp" garden in Buckingham County, Virginia

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Pastel on paper. “Flower Camp” garden in Buckingham County, Virginia

December, 2013 / As someone who can “smell snow” on its way, I feel in my bones the coming winter is going to be a cold one. But as the chill sets in, I have a good store of sunshine on my back and joy in my heart set aside to keep me plenty warm.

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Sundown

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Sundown

Such fullness has me almost welcoming this change of season, as I reflect on the tapestry of experiences that were woven into my summer and fall. In early spring I sowed seeds of resolve to make the most of my time. It took some tending to, but I harvested a crop of experiences that only time allows. Time to hike a forgotten railroad tunnel and explore a forlorn and unforgettable grand estate with best friends. Time to putter in my garden for the better part of most mornings. Time – a whole wonderful week with my sister – reliving old and making new, precious memories. I played with pastels in a plein air class, and …

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Charleston, SC

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Charleston, SC

… spent a few days in Charleston (a city that has always haunted me — in a good way), right on the heels of digging in dirt where Dolley Madison and her kin once trod. Any one of these experiences, in prior years of twisted priorities, I might have made excuses to forgo. But I didn’t. I made a not-so-secret pact with myself to not believe in time as limited, but limitless.

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. "Twisted Twig"

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. “Twisted Twig”



November, 2014 /
Obviously, I indulged myself in “taking time” to the extent that I didn’t even post the above musings, nor did I write a single entry into this blog over the ensuing seasons. Now I find myself an entire year later with an even heftier weft to add to the warp in this time tapestry. Yes the winter was as long and cold as spring was long and lingering. And the oncoming winter by all indications is to be the same. These months have been so full of activities, weekend retreats and extended travel. A wedding and ancestral search in northern Italy consumed much of the mid-year creative brain trust, but my, what a swath of color that trip weaves into the “magic carpet” ride that was this past year.

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© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Gordon/Trible Wedding bouquet. Merate, Italy, 2014. Mary Garner-Mitchell floral design: hydrangea, David Austin and spray roses, dusty miller, seeded eucalyptus and vintage brooches.

Gardening took a back seat to many creative pursuits that I found as engaging, such as figure drawing and jewelry design and woodland hikes with kindred souls who like to study birds, tree bark, rocks and sky. Instructing a flower arranging workshop in September forced my hand at doing what I probably do best, followed by a long, solo visit with my mother, brother and sister in Georgia that reminded me of what is truly the most important thing in my world — family — my immediate family, of course, but not exclusive of all the loved ones that are the threads and binding of the thick carpet that daily warms my soul. Yes, I am “one lucky mortal.”

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Flower Camp friends

Taking it with a grain of …

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”  — Stephen King

© Mary Garner-Mitchell for Media General, "Balancing Act"

© Mary Garner-Mitchell for Media General, “Balancing Act”

How many of us start the new year vowing to eat healthy? Yet, two weeks later those good intentions have likely become stirred into the indecipherable, lumpy, day-to-day mush of work and life. Before you know it, meals are dining out, grab-and-go, or the standard fare at home that may or may not be exactly “good-for-you.”

For someone who really enjoys food and enjoys cooking for someone who loves food even more, being told to eliminate salt is like taking away a surgeon’s scalpel. Oh, sure there are herbs and seasonings that can ramp up flavor, but those options are like handing the skilled doctor a pair of dull scissors!  It just doesn’t cut it.  Nevertheless, the Mitchell diet will be sans sel for the foreseeable future.  I’m not exactly happy about it, but one’s health, of course is paramount.

Balance, be it in life or whatever, it seems, boils down simply to one’s ability and willingness to practice good habits.

It’s a lot of hard work staying healthy.  (And it ain’t cheap either!)

 

Table “escape”

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Spring is trying its best to show itself at Stagfield, but the forsythia and quince are sadly going to freeze their buds off this weekend. Aside from vinca minor’s pops of purple, little is blooming and thus I had to scrounge around for a centerpiece for tonight’s table.

We more often than not entertain in the library. That room is in the 1781 part of the house and has this undeniable energy that we enjoy. Setting the large “Garner” pine table there for four gives a wide berth for “stuff” and what I lack in flowers today, I made up with things collected from here and there around the house.

The tablecloth is a “Goodwill via Target clearance” shower curtain whose winter to spring palette was my inspiration. Next, true to the room’s period I selected the brown and white Meakin “Americana ” plates with scenes of Mount Vernon, brown napkins, and pewter flatware as the soft patina married with that of the cloth colors. Then a few vintage books (about Virginia, France and of course, Mount Vernon), wood and pewter candlesticks, a few architectural pieces, lichens, river birch bark, turkey feathers, antlers and my roving deer figurine coached this gathering into some sensical theme… I think. I just enjoyed mixing the colors and shapes and justifying my junk-o-holicism! Among the junk are a sampling of old glass shards that have bubbled up from the garden over the years. They, along with a seed box full of artifacts we’ve collected here live in the library.

A couple of things about busy tablescapes, if conversation lags, they offer a jumping off point at least. That won’t be an issue with tonight’s guests, our good friends Allen and Melissa. And if I don’t stop “playing” and get to the market, we may all be reading rather than eating!

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“It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Pen and ink; Graphix board

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Pen and ink; Graphix board

“Nothing terribly important, but your big, little sister could use an empathetic shoulder … or something …”  was the message in my email.

Within minutes, his voice on the phone asking, “Are you ok?” gave me permission to cry.

As the author of “The Little Prince” wrote, my tears came from “a secret place” that few may understand. They had been collecting in a reservoir deep, deep within for the past several months, and I knew the gene pool that my brother and I share made him the logical lifeguard. He tossed me the ring by way of his own experiences at low tide when one chooses any art as a vocation. God bless him.

Don’t misunderstand, and I don’t want your pity. I am full of gratitude for all I’ve been given by way of talent, family, friends, clients and more love and good fortune than I deserve. And, while slowed, business remains steady. Yet recently my creative spirit seems to be drowning in the sea of change within my profession.

I’m sad to say that cheap stock art now consumes my original work more often than I care to admit. I cannot compete with $30 spot illustrations, pay for health insurance, office rent, all the while swimming against a current of ever changing software and equipment and still bring jobs in on time and on budget. Fast, cheap, good – the designer’s holy triangle — as the saying goes, “choose two.”

The sharks are circling ready to gobble up guppies who have nothing to lose (but their livelihood!) by swimming in schools politely called “crowd sourcing” and “contests” — Candy Land names otherwise known as “spec work.” I have not and will never take that bait.

Worse still are clients who see graphic design as a commodity, demanding native files as deliverables, ignoring the fact that to transfer licensed fonts and stock art is copyright infringement for which I would be liable, not to mention risking the integrity of the finished piece at the hands of another of unknown skill. Their message is play by our rules or you’re not in the game. Well, I won’t play that game and risk sinking my reputation and what’s left of my industry.

I’m taking my sketchbook and going home so to speak — per my wise brother’s advice. I’ve dried my tears.

Until tomorrow.

C’est le temps que tu as perdu pour ta rose qui fait ta rose si importante.

(“It is the time you have devoted to your rose that makes your rose so important.”)
From “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Silver lining

© Mary Garner-Mitchell.Tea table at Stagfield

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Tea table at Stagfield

“Usually, when the distractions of daily life deplete our energy, the first thing we eliminate is the thing we need the most: quiet, reflective time. Time to dream, time to contemplate what’s working and what’s not, so that we can make changes for the better.”
Sarah Breathnach, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy – January 17

My distain for December is equal only to my joy for January.  January is that big sigh of relief after finishing a dreaded chore — for me, the holiday season. It simply exhausts me.

January is polished silver. A time of reflection. A time to put away or buff up the old and start over, making way for a new day, a new year. A time to organize. A time to clear the clutter from the house and my head. A time for a new plan.

(It’s gonna be good.)

Going home

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“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” — Joseph Campbell

The miracle of flight never escapes me when I feel the force of take-off and that instant of realization that I am airborne. I think , “how brave and confident the pioneers of this science, that their trust in the magic of math would one day make it possible for me to be in Richmond, Virginia at noon and in my brother-in-law’s pickup truck 550 miles away in less than two hours.”

As the jet lifts off, I think of scraps of lumber in a little boy’s hands becoming convincing, if not outright flying machines; of a young man lying about his age to get a pilot’s license at the fearless age of fourteen! Considering the force that was his father, how brave indeed to work and pay for secret flying lessons until his sister “outed” him at the dinner table, resulting in my father’s family’s launch into a lifelong love of take-offs and landings. How fortunate that this love of riding the wind was passed along to me and much of my kin. But more than this heady inheritance, is the pure awe in the very fact that flight is possible and that I had the good fortune to be born to this, and in this time.

So as I make my way back home with my head literally in the clouds, I fly carrying the promise of new memories with those awaiting my arrival … and feel the loving breath of those spirits who accompany me here on the journey.

Written aboard Airtran flight #138, Richmond to Atlanta, November 14, 2012
Photo of my daddy, R. Denny Garner, at about age 5 with what would be one of many of his homemade airplanes. Small enamel pin is a painting of Daddy’s Stearman, by one of his flying buddies, Sam Lyons.

Simple gifts …

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Bookshelves at Fantastic Thrift, Richmond, Virginia

Finding a penny, a blue heron, or a hawk crossing my path, such “signs” from above or beyond never fail me when I need a boost or comfort or just some divine assurance that I am never alone, that there is something “more” and beyond my mere mortal comprehension.  My most knee-buckling “sign” however is one of song. It is uncanny how this tune seems to follow me no matter where I go or whether my mood is sheer happiness or one of heartbreak.  I know it’s popular and it always pleases me to hear it whether at weddings or funerals. Yet it is impossible to recount the numerous times I will be driving along in silent melancholy, flip on the radio and it is this song floating into my ears. It is the old Shaker Hymn “Simple Gifts.”  Just last week, I happened to mention this musical phenomenon to someone in an email and a day later, only hours after learning of the death of a very close friend, it happened again. Only this time a bit out of the ordinary. In my grief, I found myself stumbling around a thrift shop (truly, I hardly remember driving there) and as I walked past the books, I was struck dumb as the booklet you see here was lying face up on the bottom shelf.  It is an illustrated version of the song’s lyrics, very whimsical and brightly colored, and fully of silly cats! I caught my breath, snatched it up and I carried it around in my shopping basket for an hour. I eventually decided that it wasn’t for me to actually buy or have. I know the words by heart and perhaps another would benefit from its simple gift — the message to once more take heart, to not be sad but instead to be thankful for the wonders of this life and the blessings and people in it, both past and present — to be encouraged and to “Come round right.”

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“Simple Gifts” was written in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett (1797–1882) while he was at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine. These are the lyrics to his one-verse song.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.[2]

“I meant to do my work today …”

I meant to do my work today,
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand–
So what could I do but laugh and go?

                  — Richard Le Gallienne

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. “Buckingham Grasses”

The remains of the day …

“Everything has to come to an end, sometime.”L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz

© 2012 Mary Garner-Mitchell. “Parsley at Flower Camp”

It’s the season for seeds, and the skeletal remains of flora are just reminders of past verdant hues. The air has become thin with chilling whispers of what awaits come winter. I look at these forms and remember all so well their splendor, the way they garnished and the flavor they lent to what otherwise was ordinary. I mourn their passing, but celebrate the memory of their being — their deep roots, their flowers and how they stretched to reach their potential and the promise that life will go on in all things left behind.

Sue. You are loved.