Gourdeous Works of Art

I have long admired the work of Toni Best, a retired teacher. A couple of years ago my husband and I toured her house and studio where she does all her work. She teaches classes at home and around the country.

South Valley Artists' Studio Tour
Toni Best weaves a backdrop for one of her wood sculptures.

Active nationally Toni belongs to several national basketweaving organizations two of which include the National Basketry Organization (NBO) and the Handweavers Guild of America. She will be traveling to attend the NBO conference in July to display two pieces.

Free Form by Toni Best.

Toni Best, a Visalian, was one of the three featured gourd artists at the Exeter Art show that runs from April 14th to May 26th.

Diana Pearcy a Woodlake Artist

It’s so much fun to go to an art or an arts and crafts show and discover that people you knew in other settings are actually artists in disguise. That’s what happened this month at the Exeter Art Gallery and Museum.

gourd bowl woven with pine needles on the top.
Diana Pearcy from the Woodlake Foundation Gourd Artist next to her favorite piece.

What Do You Do with an Old Gourd?

You can poke and prod them, paint on them, oil them, coil rows of pine needles around the edges, and use your imagination to create almost anything.

Animal Totem made from gourds
Animal Totem by Diana Pearcy shows personality

Diana Pearcy grows her own gourds, her garden yielding over 3,000 gourds per season. She says they have different personalities, and we saw some of them on April 14th.

Gourd with maple leaf carved out
Maple Leaf

It’s hard to believe the same artist created these two very different pieces from gourds. This one might have been my personal favorite, although several others were close.

Female  gourd statue
Gourdeous! Spirit Shawl

Sam McKinney from Lindsay

Sam McKinney with her favorite piece
Sam McKinney with her favorite piece

Sam surprised me when we shook hands and she was not a man but a woman with amazing talent. Her time-consuming projects were vases rather than statues like Diana’s. This vase took front and center at the show. Sam’s work is almost like exotic clothing. I love the neckline and jewelry on this vase.

Free flow’s woven accessories and perfect eyelashes caught my eye.

Since I can’t even hold a pencil still for even a second, the thought of making all those little triangular marks in a perfect pattern made me swoon with envy.

This multi-sided vase is drilled and stippled, painted and carved. It would be beautiful with a digital flame inside. Sam, like Diana, also grows her own gourds.

gourd vase with beads
Cupid’s Arrow Beaded Gourd vase

At an art show at the Woodlake Airport on April 20th, my friend Jaime Beck drooled over the picture of Sam McKinney’s beadwork on this gourd. The perfect v or w pattern must have taken an enormous amount of patience to create.

When you come to the South Valley on your way to the Sequoia National Park, spend a few minutes of your weekend touring the Exeter Art Gallery and Museum. It’s open Saturday 10-4 and Sunday 12-4. They change art regularly so there is always something new to see. To enjoy more from this show check out their Facebook Group.

  • Animal Totem made from gourds
  • gourd vase with beads
  • carved gourd vase
  • gourd bowl woven with pine needles on the top.
  • Sam McKinney with her favorite piece
  • Female gourd statue
  • Gourd with maple leaf carved out

If you loved these, please press like, share the post, leave a comment or do all three. I love hearing from you. 🙂 Marsha 🙂

What to Do in April – Best of the Valley Quilt Show

Beyond the Average Tourist Stop

Furrnando approves this post.

To enjoy the Best of the Valley, set aside one weekend in April to come to the Central Valley. There’s a lot to do and experience beyond the average tourist stops. Mark your calendars for early April of each year. The 2019 show took place at McDermott Field House, or McDermott X, an amusement center in Lindsay, CA.

The regional show of quilts and cloth dolls featured 163 competition quilts, 83 dolls, 8 challenge quilts, 8 quilters by quilters 80 years old or older, and 9 quilts by quilters under the age of 18 for a grand total of 271 pieces of stitchery.

Introducing Carmen Friesen, Featured Artist for 2019

Sylvia, Connie, Carmen, and me, Marsha pose at the Best of the Valley Quilt Show.

This year my good friend Carmen Friesen from Strathmore, CA was the featured artist with over 30 quilts on display. She started seriously quilting about the time I met her in 2002.

One of my favorite quilts, The Story Teller, she made during that time. The simple style appeals to the old kindergarten teacher in me. Carmen told many stories to students during her teaching and consulting career.

table display of quilts

What makes Carmen an interesting artist is that she stretches herself and moves from style to style. She studies her art and takes classes from master quilters all over the country. In the picture alone, you see dolls, pieced quilts and applique. She also raises iris, which you can see peeping up at the back of the table.

quilted boot latitce square quilt
Lattice quilt with boot applique

After she retired, Carmen also took up horseback riding, bought a horse and even took a dude ranch vacation or two. For this quilt she couldn’t find the pattern that she wanted, so she used her own boot as a pattern.

Most of her quilts, Carmen quilts on a long arm machine. These garden kitties got special attention while Carmen hand quilted this piece. Several people at the show asked her if she could quilt something for them. She snickered to herself.

“They have no idea,” she told us. She told them, “You can’t afford me.”

There are few people who hand quilt anymore since it is so time-consuming. Even at pennies-an-hour a bed-sized quilt, quilted as intricately as most quilts are today, would cost hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars. Quilters today enjoy the modern conveniences of precise cutting, marking and sewing equipment. They turn out amazing works of art that their ancestors would have marveled to see.

My phone ran out of power before I could take all the pictures of Carmen’s quilts, but you can see more of her work in related articles.

Speaking of Ancestors

One of the quilts that caught my friends’ eyes was a Civil War-type quilt. I had to slow down and see what made them gawk. Trust me, those stitches were tiny, as were the triangles. Each tiny blue triangle that formed the larger triangle in the block had a different navy blue print.

Award Winning Quilts

This quilt, Heart of America, captured our attention for several minutes. The artist’s attention to detail made us go back for second and third looks. My friend Sylvia marveled at the flying birds. Connie loved the expression on the dog shivering in the snow not warm and cozy in the barn. Each square had too much to take in for a drive-by look. Artist, Sharon Engle won the Viewer’s Choice

Dolls

Girls love dolls, and there were some fabulous dolls at this show you would have loved to take home. My personal favorite did not win, but I kept going back to try to cheer him up. He had the same look as Furrnando, and my Puppy Girl. He looked little rough around the edges and needed a lot of love.

There were some wild women (dolls) at this showing and a few freaks! The third one over, Looking for the Isle of Guinea Pig, captured the Viewers Choice award for dolls.

Conclusion

The quilt show draws hundreds of viewers who love quilted art. If you are one of them, plan to come to the Central Valley in our most beautiful month of the year – April. Bring an empty suitcase because the vendors have some amazing gifts so you can stock up for Christmas and birthdays.

Find the Best of the Valley Regional Show of Quilts and Cloth Dolls on Facebook. You can learn more about the show on their website,
http://botvquilts.com/.

To make my day, leave me a like and share this post with other quilt lovers. 🙂

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How To Take The Step From Blogger To Author Without Losing Your Voice

Credit: Pexels

If you’ve been a blogger for a while now and you love writing, you might be thinking about becoming an author.

After all, that’s the dream, isn’t it? Anyone can blog — there are literally billions of blogs out there — but stepping your work up a level and penning a novel seems like pretty serious business.

Along the way, it can sometimes feel like you are losing your own voice. It’s easy enough to develop your own style, voice, interests, and values on your blog — it’s your baby, and you can write whatever you want, whenever you want.

But when you’re writing a book as an author, it can often feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions. You want one thing, your editor wants something else, your friends and family all have an opinion on what you’re writing, and heck knows what your readers are after. And it’s all too easy to lose your voice along the way.

If you’re planning on taking the step from blogger to author, and you’re worried about this, fear not! I’ve come up with some top tips to keep you focused on your writing voice throughout your journey. Read on for inspiration.

(Check out this article on 7 writer lessons you won’t want to learn the hard way for mistakes to avoid once you’ve started writing, too!)

Keep your readers at the heart of what you do

You’ve already got an audience of fans that love reading the work on your blog and visit it specifically to hear what you’ve got to say.

It’s the same with writing a book or becoming an author. You’re writing partially for yourself, but remember that you’re also writing for your fans — the people that have stuck by you for all these years. You want them to read it, enjoy it, and be transported to the world you’re describing in your novel.

What do they want to hear? What do they enjoy reading? Chances are, this will mesh up with your writing voice nicely. Of course, you may have to put some effort in when it comes to learning and speaking the language your demographic wants to hear, but that’s okay.

You can actually practice writing for your audience on your blog by writing a short story series over the course of a few blog posts. You could push them on social or share them with bloggers networks, like Bloglovin’. Not only will this get more traffic to your site as readers come back to delve into the next part of the story, but you will also get feedback on what works well and what doesn’t.

Write about what you know, in a style you know

While mimicking the style of great writers that you love is a way to learn how to write well and figure out what you really love stylistically as an author, you need to establish your own style.

This is greatly improved by finding your own area of expertise.

Write about the things you know. What you know a lot about may seem completely alien to someone else. It could be a totally obvious area that seems simple to you but not to others; remember, everyone is different.

You can build on this. After all, you’re a blogger. You’ve already got a style of writing that you can develop as an author. You’ve got a platform, an area of expertise which you’re passionate and confident writing on (whether it’s literature, fashion, travel or food). You’ve got a devoted audience.

You might feel like you don’t actually know that much (I know I do sometimes!), but you’d be surprised once you take a closer look. What comes naturally to you? Perhaps you have technical or scientific-based knowledge. Or perhaps you have emotional intelligence and you’re great at reading people and connecting with them emotionally? This in itself is a strength and can make for some powerful, emotive writing.

Seek expert advice from a book editing service

At some point on the journey from blogger to author, you’re going to seek advice and knowledge from someone more experienced — especially if you want to get published!

When penning your first book as a blogger, it can sometimes feel like you’re getting lost in the details, struggling to overcome writer’s block, or losing your unique voice as the novel progresses. Everything seems more complicated the more you try to simplify it, and often you can’t see the wood from the trees.

To find your unique voice again, and stay yourself, bring someone else on board; hiring an editor can help you to fix any issues and finetune your writing.

The experts can help with editing every aspect of your novel, or, in the words of the pros Jericho Writers: “The aim is to help you produce that final perfect draft.” Whether your entire manuscript needs an extensive assessment or just your opening section requires a review, editorial services can offer you specific direction and advice, to make your draft the best version possible.

Book editing services will improve your final draft and take you from blogger to author in a way that will help you to find your writing voice, rather than lose it.

Don’t be disheartened by criticism or negative feedback

It’s hard not to take criticism like a punch to the stomach. If you’ve been slaving away on a manuscript for weeks or months, and someone starts pointing out things that are wrong — whether it’s grammatical errors or character flaws or plot holes — it can feel like a personal attack.

It’s different when you’re blogging; if someone criticizes a point you’ve made in a blog post, you can chalk it down to a difference in opinion and hash it out in the comments section. It’s 1,000 words on one topic that a reader didn’t agree with; you can just move onto the next piece — easy peasy.

But when you’ve been pouring your heart and soul into writing the first draft of your novel, and a critic points out flaws in what you think is an integral stitch in your story, it can feel like the whole thing will begin to unravel. You start to question everything, including your voice.

Please don’t be disheartened when this happens — constructive criticism will keep you grounded, and improve both your writing and your book. As Virtual Speech puts it: it “enhances performance and assists with professional growth.” Ultimately, it’s a good thing! And you’ll become a better writer and a stronger person as a result.

Address the feedback, make the required changes to your manuscript, and treat your book as an ever-evolving beast. If you’re worried about losing sight of the book you were planning to write, then draw a mental moral line about what you’re willing to change. This will help you to keep your voice while allowing your book to progress in a positive manner.

Writing your first book is an exciting opportunity. If you’re thinking about going from blogger to author but you’re worried about losing your voice, then you can follow these steps to keep you walking in a straight line toward your goal.

About Kaleigh Alexandra


Kayleigh Alexandra is a primarily UK-based Nordic writer who originally specialized in Shakespeare, but who now spends more time solving small business problems than penning sonnets! Her favorite Shakespeare play is the witty Much Ado About Nothing and the feisty Beatrice. She’s an advocate of micro-entrepreneurship (She has personal experience of as a frequent blogger and e-commerce entrepreneur).

Her passion for helping people find their dream business idea led to the founding of MicroStartups.org— a site dedicated to giving through growth hacking. She’s passionate about building brands for startups and charities and more often than not, you can find her penning advice on these topics, getting exciting about grammar or working on a side hustle.

Find Kayleigh on social media.

https://www.kayleighalexandra.co.uk/ https://www.kayleighalexandra.co.uk/about-kayleigh@BristolKayleighhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/kayleighsteadman/

Have you recently gone from blogger to author? Let us know how you found the process and any advice you’d share in the comments below!

2019: Where Are the Unknown Super Blooms in California?

The desert super blooms in California attracted thousands of tourists this year to the desert for the second time in three years. Some blooms get lots of publicity, “like the explosive color along the Fresno County Blossom Trail—and there’s more to come. From late winter through May, the blossoms will span across the coast and foothills, and by June and July, flowers will festoon the state’s highest mountains.

Here’s how to plan your prime flower-viewing this spring, listed in order of appearance. To track the latest on blooms, check updates from the Theodore Payne Foundation Wildflower website or the California State Parks wildflowers page.” from Visit California

Boyd’s Grade Super Bloom

On the back way to the Sequoia National Park, through a small community named Elderwood, up the hill to Badger, just past the Rodeo Grounds is a little known road called Boyd’s Grade. It winds down the foothills to the small Valley town of Cutler-Orosi. My husband and I chose this as our destination last week to check out the local super blooms.

One large patch of poppies waved from the side of the hill.

The afternoon skies sparkled with wispy clouds and the cool breezes keep the flowers from wilting in the warm spring sun. In the foothills around Woodlake and towards Three Rivers, you will happen on many delights as you round the corners of the lonely country roads.

Boyd’s Grade view

Bellavista Super Blooms


In spite of the pleasant drive, Boyd’s Grade disappointed me. We only found one strong display of wildflowers. Maybe we were too late to enjoy the poppies.

When we moved to Elderwood twenty years ago, Vince named our home Bellavista, Italian for a beautiful view. I’m obviously prejudiced but our display of larger blossoms at home spoiled me. Many private homes in the Central Valley foothill communities have stunning poppy displays in their yards. March blooms were still thin but in the cool spring temperatures they continued to reseed and grow.

Our kitty Porsche loves to hunt for bugs in the flower garden.

April found the poppies at home out in full bloom. The snapdragons wintered over from last spring and must have reseeded. That has never happened to us. Our cat Scardy enjoyed a cool place to sleep. He’s been guarding the garden for seventeen years, and it’s worn him out.

Dry Creek Road Super Blooms

Several friends recommended a drive up Dry Creek Road on the east side of Woodlake. I’ve been excited to drive up there before the hot weather sets in and wilts all the wildflowers. For those of you who don’t live near Woodlake, it is a town of about 7,000 people situated in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains about thirty minutes from Sequoia National Park.

Wicky-Up view from the parking lot.

My friend Monica grew up here, then did what most people do – she left and then returned to her ancestral home, Wicky-Up Ranch. She and her husband turned it into Woodlake’s only Bed and Breakfast. It is between Woodlake and Highway 198, the main road to Sequoia National Park.

Wicky-Up Ranch Bed and Breakfast – her 100+-year-old ancestral home. Enjoy this picture as a free puzzle.

Monica and I started at Wicky-Up and ventured on a photography shoot of Dry Creek Road. The last road before you turn left on Highway 198 to go to Sequoia National Park is Dry Creek Road. Turn left off Naranjo and prepare to be transported to a fairyland of beauty.

“The Valley of Dry Creek in Tulare County is better known and protected due to rare biotope – sycamore alluvial woodland community. In total there are only 17 such woodlands known in California and the one in Dry Creek is third largest and considered to be healthy. The area contains many species of rare plants.” Dry Creek Wildflower Meadows. Some of these flowers we could identify and some we couldn’t. I got help from two Facebook Groups, Plant Ident 101, and California Wildflower Tipline. They caused a flurry of debate. If you know what they are, please let me know.

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Travel Opportunities

If you are interested in travel, here in our Central Valley, or have someplace else on your bucket list, for a limited time I may be able to help you. We have a timeshare with more points than we can use. Contact me if you are interested in using our points to travel at a discount with no high-pressure sales pitch.

Spider Sol – a Cure for Writer’s Block or a Terrible Addiction?

I couldn’t sleep tonight. Instead of lying in bed, sweating profusely, straining my eyes to stay shut, at a little after one, I moved to another bed, and finally got up at 2:22.

What do you think I did?

At 3:41 in the morning. and I finally tired of playing Spider Sol. I was still tired, but not sleepy. Or at least not sleepy enough to go back to bed.

Does this sound like you? If so you are like millions of other humans around the world. Someone crazy person who had nothing better to do somehow calculated that in 2003 humans spent nine billion hours playing Solitaire. (And back then I thought no one could see me).

Making Bad Choices

It’s kind of like eating when you are hungry and there is nothing prepared, or even when there is, it doesn’t sound good. So you eat junk. I’ll grab a handful of chocolate chips and throw them into my mouth rather than make a tuna sandwich or scramble an egg. Bad choices. But back to Spider Sol before it gets too late.

Not My Problem

In the 1970s I vividly remember watching an old lady sitting on a hard stool in front of a Reno slot machine putting in dollar coins, rhythmically one after another at a fairly rapid clip. Coin in, pull the lever, coin in, pull the lever. If she saw me staring at her for about three minutes, she didn’t register it. My husband had to pull me away. What appalled me was the blank expression on her face and the rapid dispensing of dollars, which I needed so badly at the time.

Do you ever wonder why OTHER people engage in such meaningless behavior?

Or Is It?

Thank goodness for computers. Since Free Cell began and I bought my first big girl computer, I have spent sleepless nights playing and quite a few minutes scattered through the day playing mind-numbing Solitaire in hopes of beating the computer. The hope of winning adds value, doesn’t it?

Can you picture the old lady at the slot machine?

Strategies don’t work very often – even with hints from the computer. The cards are often stacked from the beginning. NO PROBLEM! I race the timer to see how soon I can find the fatal flaw in the game. That doesn’t stop me from trying again and hoping to win. Sadly, when I win, I immediately press the play a new game button. Is my face blank?

Spider Sol Improves Cognition

Right?

Have you watched brilliant people sitting at their desks at work playing solitaire on break, or worse during working time? Admit it. Even the smartest, most productive people – even Congress members have been caught with their computers tuned to Solitaire during a lively debate.

As I rationalize it, the difference in playing Spider Sol or other computerized solitaire game is my brain is somewhat engaged trying to figure out a pattern, and there is no dispensing of dollars. On closer inspection even I have to admit that I’m dispensing minutes, hours at a time of my life rather than dollar coins (and life’s precious minutes). It’s time I could be spending productively.

People Have Played Cards for Years

So, what could be wrong with it? It’s harmless!

Cards run in my family. Mom and I played Rummy for hours when I was a kid. In my thirties, when I visited her, we sat at the dining room table, each with a deck of cards, sometimes talking, sometimes not, playing solitaire. Were we resting our brains, challenging them, or waiting for something more important to happen? Were we trapped at home without a car to at least go somewhere, do something?

NO!

My grandmother did the same thing. That takes us back to the Dark Ages. She taught me War and Canasta when I was about seven. At least we weren’t fighting a real war, you might say. We each have our card games of choice, but all three of us did it. Maybe it’s genetic.

Why Do I Keep Playing Solitaire?

To answer that question, I asked the internet. I found lots of non-experts had opinions. “It’s good. It’s bad. Here’s how to do it.

Experts also weighed in on the topic of why we waste our time with Solitaire. One article that I particularly enjoyed was Lynn Phillips writing for Psychology Today.

She wrote, “If mine had been a real addiction, like heroin or gin, or even Second Life, I could see calling in the marines. But compared to destroying my brain cells or my ability to distinguish reality and fantasy, wasting my entire life seemed comparatively trivial. So the biggest obstacle I faced wasn’t denial, but shame: mine was/is the dumbest addiction I can/could imagine. Unlike sex, speed or sin, solitaire can’t make you appear glamorously wicked. You’re not teasing death; you’re waiting by the phone for death to text you. I can’t imagine a habit more pathetic. So instead of getting help, I got a new computer.”

A plethora of articles has been written about the psychology of playing Solitaire. It is a huge issue in the workplace because of the ease of switching between what you’re working on and the game. It is next to pornography in human hour usage.

What that means is that I’m not weird, just wired, to waste time. People wrote about missing deadlines because they kept trying to get a better score. Some railed against playing, others, presumably younger, advised it and gave links to where to find different games.

Pro Solitaire gamers said:

  • It’s fun.
  • It calms the mind. That could include the spirit, feelings of anger, hurt, depression, etc.
  • Like calming the mind, it soothes depression.
  • It’s a break from learning hard things- like how to use a computer.
  • It is easy.
  • It is puzzling, so improves cognition.
  • It’s helpful for introverts because there is no argument over rules.
  • It’s available on your phone if your computer’s not handy.

Those against it said:

  • They miss deadlines.
  • It lulls them to sleep.
  • There was an advertisement for sore joints, so even though no one said that it makes your joints sore by being so sedentary, it does.
  • It’s embarrassing to be caught.
  • It’s a cause for getting firing.
  • Facebook and social media has a similar effect. (And that’s better?)

In Conclusion

None of this will probably make me stop playing Spider Sol or its next replacement unless I get tired of it. I like it because it keeps me occupied when I might do something more destructive to my mind, heart, soul, and life. When I do get tired of it, I am ready to do something more productive, like tackle my to-do list, write in my journal or my blog, or go back to bed and get much-needed sleep.

At 5:44 am I finished this post after writing it first in my journal, then for you. TaDa! So now you won’t feel so bad the next time you flip from the blank screen to the green one and play a few mindless games of Spider Sol. You might think of your next great novel.