Cynthia St. Charles Store

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Two More Goddess Paintings

Kuan Yin
Protectress of women and children.
She awakens musical abilities and interests and psychic clairvoyance.
Acrylic on paper by Elizabeth Shumaker (my daughter)
21" x 27"

Female Buddha and Hindu Mother Creator
The eyes on her hands, feet, and forehead allow her to be aware of all prayers.
painted by Elizabeth Shumaker
Acrylic on paper
21" x 27"

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Finalizing Leaves and Twigs

This morning I broke up my window washing chores with time at the sewing machine. By late afternoon, I had finished stitching the Tyvek leaves in place on this piece called, "Leaves and Twigs". I stitched the veins on each leaf, as this is the part that remains after heating. I carried it out to the well ventilated workshop to melt the Tyvek. It took about 30 minutes to hit every leaf with my mini hand held iron.

Note the delicate leaf images on the background fabric. The background is a group of gelatin prints all pieced together. The printed images are nearly all of leaves - mostly weeds that I harvested in the fall. I started this piece last fall when the Cottonwood leaves were turning gold and falling off. Now the trees are all leafed out again and it is time to put closure on this quilt! All that's left to do is the binding!

All the windows in the house got washed today, too - no small task!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fossil Hunting

As an extension of our Mothers Day family outing, we went to an area I'd heard about that is reportedly a good place to find certain kinds of fossils. It is located on BLM land in Montana, but close to the Wyoming border and is near a couple of limestone mines. This area was once the bottom of a huge sea. I had a map someone had drawn for me, and we drove around and stopped and looked for quite some time without successfully finding anything like a fossil. There were no other people in the area. It was hot and it appeared to be rattlesnake territory.

Just as I was about ready to give it up, we came upon a couple of guys who were walking around looking at the ground and we were able to talk to them. They turned out to be a couple of scientists (biologists, actually, who are studying a horned lizard in the area). They were taking a break from their lizard study and were looking for gizzard stones. They had a couple in their packs and they showed us. I had heard of these gizzard stones, but had never seen them. Apparently, sauropod dinosaurs of the Cretaceous period swallowed stones to help them digest tough plant material. The stones got smooth over time and were spat out. They could be easily identified, because they were so different from the other rocks scattered about on the ground. We found some good specimens, pictured above. You can learn more about gizzard stones or gastroliths here.

I was also hoping to find some Belemnite fossils (Mesozoic squid), and the scientists told us where to go to find those as well as Gryphaea (oyster fossils) and fossilized corral. We followed their instructions, and did locate a huge deposit of the oyster shell fossils. The ground was literally littered with them. We looked for some time. We never did find any squid fossils and only one very small corral fossil.

I found one coiled shell fossil (the bottom center - kind of golden colored piece), which I love. I don't really know what it is.

We never saw a rattlesnake, but I would not go there without my ankle high boots!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Celebrating Mothers Day Early

Yesterday, I spent the day with my girls, Joe and Airus for an early Mothers Day outing. Michelle had been introduced to an interesting landform near Greybull, Wyoming by some of her college friends. She wanted me to see this place called Devils Kitchen.

It is in a very remote location, not marked at all on BLM land. It was really spectacular.

It was quite warm, so we did not spend a lot of time hiking in the area.

We did walk around a bit, though.

All of these pictures were taken in a very confined area - maybe a mile or so in diameter.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


The hillside directly behind our house is covered with these yellow flowers, which are "Yellow Peas". They have a sweet smell - much like a Sweet Pea, but they are suspected to be poisonous (according to my Audubon Society Field Guide).
Mountain Chickweed is blooming right along the walkway behind our house.

This apple tree was most likely "planted" many years ago when someone tossed an apple core. There is a natural spring near our house and we've been told that this was a picnic destination before this area was developed. The trunk of this tree is knarled and twisted, indicating it is very old. We have lived here for four years and this is the nicest I have ever seen the apple blossoms. Maybe we will have apples!

I am not getting a thing done in the studio. The weather is beautiful - temperatures in the 70's all week. I am babysitting Airus much of the day today and we will be playing outside a lot!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Leaves and Twigs Progress

I finished the quilting yesterday. Yeah! Next, I need to get the Tyvek leaves sewn on. I am going to make cottonwood leaves. That is the only deciduous tree that grows near my house (mostly Ponderosa Pine forest here). I began this quilt when the cottonwood leaves were turning gold last fall. Now they are just coming on. Time to put closure on this piece!

The background fabric is a grouping of various gelatin prints I made using leaves - mostly native plants and weeds growing around our place. I tried to take a close up, but my images were out of focus - not sure why - will try again later.

I have a lot going on today, so won't get anything done in the studio till Monday or Tuesday.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Flicker Emergency

Yesterday, we went to do some errands at a commercial office building we own in town. There were bits of fiberglass insulation scattered all over the landscaping and stairs at the entryway of the building. When we looked up, this is what we saw. A pair of Northern Flickers had drilled through the siding and were making a nest in the insulation.

I quickly called pest control and the wild bird center. I learned that the Northern Flicker is a federally protected species and we could try to haze them away, but none of the pest control people had ever had success with scare tactics. They were not optimistic. These birds are very territorial and once they determine their nesting location, they will not relinquish it.

The wild bird center suggested we try to place a flicker nesting box over the hole in the hopes that the birds will decide to use it. We were told that time was imperative. Once they laid the eggs, it would be a federal offense to disturb them.

The hole in the siding was about 40 feet in the air. We would need a boom lift to get us up there safely. I called all over town trying to find one that would go that high and that would be available right away.
Finally, I tracked one down, and they met us at the building at 1:00. It was pouring rain! Here they are getting into their harnesses. That's Joe on the right.
Joe got in the basket with his tools and the flicker nesting box, and took a ride.
Here he is putting up the nesting box. The flickers flew out and perched on the peak of the roof the entire time they were up there.
I had a few raindrops on my camera lens by this time!

We are crossing our fingers and hoping that the flickers will like the nesting box and will not drill through the siding somewhere else (this is a real possibility) to try to build a nest elsewhere.

You can learn more about the Northern Flicker here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Leaves and Twigs - Tyvek Study

I painted Tyvek in autumn shades. I purchase archival quality Tyvek in 50 foot rolls, since we use this stuff in my retreats.

I made this little quilt as a study for a much larger piece. The base fabric is a gelatin monoprint.
I am calling this piece "Leaves and Twigs". The print on the background fabric is printed with leaves, then I fused strips of handpainted fabric for twigs, and also quilted it with a twig pattern that I developed.

The leaves are made of the Tyvek I painted. The main problem I wanted to work out was whether to fuse a background fabric behind the Tyvek leaves or just to use the Tyvek directly on the quilt. I wasn't sure the leaves would "pop" well enough if only Tyvek was used. Sometimes with Tyvek, I find that the image fades away too much after ironing and I like to use another fabric behind it. I made leaves both ways for this study.

In the picture above, I have layered some of the leaves with another fabric behind, but some of the leaves are made of only painted Tyvek. After layering, I stitched the veins of the leaves.
Then, I use my little Rowenta iron. This is really nice for working with Tyvek because it gives me much more control than my big iron. Parchment paper between the quilt and the iron keeps everything in place during the melting process.

A closeup after ironing. I think I really prefer the look of the leaf made with only Tyvek. The leaf looks really skeleton like and delicate - which I think complements the delicate gelatin print in the background. What do you think?

I am preparing for my Spring Retreat, which takes place June 8 - 10 in Billings, Montana. We will be working with Tyvek and making gelatin prints. There are still a couple of openings. Interested? Learn more about it here.