Posts Tagged ‘outdoors’

GIVEAWAY: PBS Parents Summer Craftivities ebook

happy summer vacay, everyone! i know i don’t post new content on this blog too often , but with summer break upon us, i know it leaves many of us parents seeking fun summertime activities to do with our children. so i’m hosting a little giveaway


last summer i was honored to be among some amazing bloggers as part of a PBS Parents ebook chock full of creative summer projects called Summer Craftivities.

i’m giving away *two* free copies of the ebook via an apple/itunes promo code.

to enter:

1) leave a comment below to share with us what your child’s favorite summer-oriented art activity is and the age of your child.

2) if you’d like a second entry, share this giveaway on your own Facebook page (by sharing the link to this blog post or clicking “share” from this link on my Facebook page.) then leave a second comment below on this blog post (not Facebook) to let me know that you did that.

* don’t forget to include your correct email address in your comment so i can contact you if you win! even if you don’t win, you can still buy this awesome ebook for just $2.99 using the amazon affiliate link below.

contest is now complete.

i’ll draw 2 winners at random this friday, june 6th, at 8PM pacific.

wishing you an open playful sunny expansive warm free joyful creative healthy beautiful summer ahead!


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fairy herb garden

over spring break in april, it was time for me to plant some potted herbs for the season. with all of the fairy house excitement as of late, N wanted to make them into “fairy herb gardens,” naturally.

even without her own pinterest account, this trend seemed to seep into the consciousness of my 5-year-old. go figure. first we potted the herbs into two large pots. N said that she would decorate the basil and rosemary pot, and the other (sage, cilantro, and parsley) was for me to adorn. i felt honored to get to do one, as i assumed she’d do both. yay!

she decided we needed our shrinky dink herb tags here, but the ones we made a couple years ago weren’t the same types of herbs, so we spent an afternoon making new shrinky dink tags. (easy steps: scribble with colored pencil on rough side, cut shape, write herb name with sharpie on smooth side, heat shrink, stick in soil.)

then it was time for the houses. i gave her a choice of using natural materials (like she does in the yard) or painting some wooden birdhouses we have ($1 bin at michael’s.) she chose the painted route, and we got to work on our fairy houses.

they turned out really inviting, if you ask me!

next we gathered up some items for landscaping… like colorful marbles, stones, shells, sea glass, and even a few of the lovely painted sticks we made a couple years ago. N excitedly designed her fairy herb pot.

she spent a lot of time getting everything just right for the fairies. what a hostess!

the herb pots are so darn sweet… and we’ve spent some time over the past month (has it been that long!!!??!) clipping sprigs of herbs for our dinners and sprucing up the fairy neighborhoods.


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fairy houses with natural materials

my little fairy-lover has been making fairy houses out of natural materials for months. she loves to create them, and then check back in on them the following day to see if she sees signs of fairy activity. (sometimes the “fairies” leave colorful marbles or sparkly treasures for her overnight. *wink*) i just love these spontaneous nature creations that can happen without purchasing any materials or having any agenda. open-ended, outdoor art supreme!

on a recent family picnic in the park sort of sunday, she worked hard to create a fairy house at the base of a redwood tree.

she also loves making them in our backyard…

and adding to this one in her school yard during outside playtime…

do your little ones like to create little homes in nature? i’d love to hear about what you’re making. for some really sweet inspiration, we love this book on fairy houses. it’s one of our go-to bedtime reads at the moment. stay tuned for our fairy herb garden, coming up on the blog in a coupla days…


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witnessing a butterfly birthday

earth day is coming up this weekend, and what better way to celebrate than to experience some of mother nature’s magic?! we’ve just witness a slice of this in our house — following a butterfly from the larva stage through to the butterfly stage before our widened eyes…

N has always been interested in the stages of a butterfly, from her favorite book as a 1 year old (the very hungry caterpillar, of course) to the awesome butterfly storybox she created last spring! (have you seen this thing?) N received this groovy butterfly kit from insect lore for her birthday, and while i’m not getting paid at all for this review, i’d recommend it to anyone. (great birthday gift!)

we waited until temperatures were seasonably warm, and sent away for butterfly larvae in the mail. when the container arrived, there were six larvae inside, which looked like super-small caterpillars. see:

about five days later, the caterpillars had grown much larger…

four days after that, the caterpillars had munched their way to their maximum size. (that tan stuff in the jar with them is their food.)

the had entered chrysalis stage only two days after that. it’s hard to see here, but five of them attached to the lid of the jar (as expected) but the sixth formed its cocoon on the bottom of the jar. we weren’t sure if that dude would make it, and ultimately and sadly, he did not.

now it was time to transfer the chrysalids to their new netted habitat provided in the kit. the instructions said to pin the paper to which they’d attached to the net a few inches above the bottom. my husband (the less skeeved-out one) did the deed with the little one lending support.

in their new home!

we watched and watched. and waited and waited.

and on the eighth day, our first painted lady butterfly pushed her way out, unfurled her wet wings, and was a beautiful butterfly!

over the next four days, all five butterflies were born! each day, we read one of N’s favorite books, butterfly birthday, and sang happy birthday to the butterflies as they came into the world in their new form. we put carnations drizzled with sugar water and tangerine slices in their habitat, which N prepared.

we hung out with them until the youngest butterfly was one day old.

on easter sunday, we brought the habitat into our backyard and unzipped it… one by one, we watched each butterfly take flight! it was so exciting for N …and for me and my husband, too!


what an a beautifully educational and magical spring activity to do with children! i think we might have to get the ladybug kit next…

how are you celebrating earth day on sunday?



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our night in a treehouse

this weekend i surprised my amazing husband with a super-fun gift for his birthday — spending the night in a local treehouse! and, of course, my daughter enjoyed the experience most of all! (i kept it a secret from her, as well. she’s not the best surprise-keeper, so i figured it was safer this way.) i just have to share this magical, inspirational experience with you all…

a few weeks ago, i was in bed, flipping through properties on my airbnb iphone app (so addictive!) and daydreaming about travel. i came across the special feature on the app showing houses in trees, and found a treehouse “b&b” of sorts that’s about 15 minutes from where we live! click here to check out the video about it!

i knew i’d stumbled upon a gem, so i booked it for just one night, unbeknownst to my family. on friday we arrived at the 3pm check-in time. we got a tour of this creative hideaway from its owner and builder, doug. such a cozy, unique spot! (incase you’re wondering: electricity and heat = yes. plumbing = no… but access to a private bath & kitchenette down in the main house.)

this is N's bed - we slept in a queen-sized loft bed just above

one part i loved is that there are hens on the property! this took me back to my own childhood where we had hens in our yard, and i collected their eggs each day to sell by the dozen and use the money go buy their feed – my first entrepreneurial experience at age 7! N got to have the experience of collecting their organic eggs for our breakfast the next morning. one of the hens (which i understand to be an andalusian chicken) lays beautiful pale blue-green eggs!

which were delicious, by the way!

two blue, one white, one brown

N spent a lot of time outdoors building “fairy tree houses” with natural objects she found on the ground…

…and swinging on their fabulous tree swing – a big hit!

swinging happily below

if you’re ever in the bay area, i highly recommend spending the night in a tree! it was a really interesting way to commune with nature, to listen to (and being part of) the creeeeaking of the tree moving in the wind all night long. (nope, we didn’t sleep much, but it was worth it.) it was a lovely place to watch the sun set and then rise again over the SF bay. and a sweet way to get up close and personal with other tree-dwellers.

N enjoyed making her artistic mark on their guest book, too!

happy birthday to my loving, brilliant, grounded, supportive husband!



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mod podge leaf garland

creating garland out of the natural beauty of autumn leaves is always a favorite activity of ours. this time, we made it even more vibrant!

we have gone on many leaf collecting walks around our neighborhood these past few week, and brought home some beauties. we pressed them for about 24 hours or so to flatten them out.

the opportunity to mod podge our autumn leaves passed us by last year somehow, but this year we were able to do so. after the leaves were pressed, i applied a coat of mod podge to each side of each leaf (in the evening – thus the dark photo – sorry.) this preserves the color and returns some suppleness to the leaves — like magic!

notice it doesn't say "modge podge" on the bottle, folks. 😉

once they were dry, N and i got out our wooden beads and some wire to string the garland.

we wrapped each bead through twice, to hold it in place.

we had fun interspersing beads with the leaves, and it looked pretty when finished.

now we have it hanging over our balcony for thanksgiving time… (but secretly, i’m sooo ready for christmas decorations instead!)


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acorn cap jewels

we are definitely feeling the fall spirit over here! where we live, the leaves are slow to change, but now that it’s november, we are seeing more reds, oranges, and yellows brightening up the landscape. N and i went for a little leaf-hunting walk around the neighborhood the other day, and found a bounty of beauty!

what would you make with these fiery treasures?

also, we recently had a great time creating acorn cap jewels and blogged about them over on kiwi crate. go check out our process… it’s super easy. you can turn this:

into this:

happy fall!!!

now, what to make with those gorgeous leaves…???


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interview & giveaway with lisa of 5 orange potatoes

i am so honored to have the opportunity to interview the amazing lisa whitesell, of the awesome 5 orange potatoes blog! her nature-loving, creative blog has been one of my favorite sources of earthy, artsy ideas. lisa was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her life, work, and inspiration AND to give away one of her adorable owl pillows to one of my lucky readers!!! enjoy her story below and enter for your chance to win at the bottom of this post.

lisa & her creations at her 5 orange potatoes "craftin' outlaws" booth

jen:  your 5 orange potatoes blog has long been a source of inspiration for me. i am so very drawn to the way you incorporate the spirit of the earth in each of your creations — from herbal remedies to nature art activities to upcycling sweaters into the most amazing plush creatures. can you tell us a bit about what most inspires you and the work you so beautifully offer to the world?

lisa: I’m just your basic natural earthy girl that loves the Earth and prefers natural to artificial- from the food we eat, the medicines we use, the art supplies we use, and the clothing we wear.  I have Appalachia roots and my granny is always comparing me to my great grandmother and the way she lived her life. I’m sure I was a peasant witchy woman in another life, a bit of a recluse, with a large herb garden making concoctions for the village people and what ails them -OR- maybe it’s because I was born on the very first Earth Day (April 22, 1970)! I can’t pinpoint what exactly drives me, it’s just something in me, seems to run in my veins!

lisa's acorn jewelry

jen:  you and i are kindred spirits in experimenting with medicinal herbs. i especially adore all of your posts on lavender, dandelions, and those honey herbal coughdrops! (the soothing gremlin softie is one of my favorite ideas of yours, as it blends your offerings of herbal remedies with your talent for creating such fun characters.) how did you first begin your love of herbology? can you share with us some of your favorite resources for learning about herbs and teaching your children about their healing properties?

lisa: Being raised in the country, with parents that always sent my sisters and me outside, and working in nature, with youth camps, really sparked my love of nature and herbology. My first taste of chicory coffee made from fresh chicory roots and a fresh salad made from wild edibles, sent me over the roof, really connected me to the wonderful bounty that Nature provides. Forget the man-made and artificial junk! Hildegard of Bingen, Juliette De Bairacli Levy, Rosemary Gladstar, Michael Tierra, Maud Grieve, and Jeanne Rose are some of my favorite go to herbalists. These amazing herbalists have fantastic books that make up a large part of my herbal library.

lisa's jewelweed poison ivy remedy

jen:  my daughter is blessed to have a couple of your creations. her winking fox, who is now called nuki, has brought so much joy into our home. i admire how you use thrifted sweaters and vintage fabrics to create them, in true earth-loving fashion. each of your plush creatures has such personality – the ones created from the upcycled sweaters are my absolute favorite! how does the idea for the animals’ patterns and images come to you?

lisa: My girls’ drawings are what inspired me when I first started making plush, but now I simply look at an animal’s eyes and the inspiration will be there or not. The actual critter has to inspire me before I can create it, this makes it hard when a customer asks me to create an animal I haven’t made before. For example, I’ve been struggling with a turtle design for the past year, I would LOVE to make one, but the design just isn’t there yet!

an inspirational drawing from lisa's daughter

prim and proper

jen:  it seems that your way of creating has gracefully piqued your daughters’ curiosity about nature and art. it is so wonderful to see them concocting potions and sewing on your blog. can you offer any words of wisdom to us about your philosophy on how to inspire children to connect with the earth and to create with their hands?

lisa: That’s simple, if they see you doing it and making it part of everyday, they will follow. Get outside everyday with your child and explore together, not only will you influence them but they will see and point out things you’ve never seen before! I really believe that experiencing nature with a child is the best way to learn and discover.

exploring nature with children

jen:  what are you most passionate about creating about RIGHT NOW?

lisa: Our basement flooded last Spring and all of our holiday ornaments got ruined, so we will be working hard on creating new decorations for this holiday season.

lovely applesauce ornaments

jen:  i’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve been asked, but i’ve been curious: where did the name 5 orange potatoes come from?

lisa: I get this question all the time! I asked my girls to throw out some names, Araina (5yo at the time) said “5 orange potatoes,” I loved the corky sound to it and kept it. It really works for us too, being vegetarians we eat a lot of sweet potatoes and I have red hair that looks a little orange in the sun. I shared this story with a man at a recent show and he laughed because his 6yo nephew named his goldfish “Roastbeef,” you really can’t beat the creative power of a young mind!

sewing with children

and now for the giveaway… [CLOSED]

lisa is generous enough to offer one of her amazingly adorable owl pillows, hand sewn with love from vintage fabrics or upcycled sweaters, to one of my readers! that could be YOU!

to enter for your chance to win:

  • first click here, which will open a new browser window where you will visit the 5 orange potatoes etsy shop to peruse the beautiful wares. choose which owl pillow is your favorite (that you’d like to win!) and come back here and let me know in the comments which owl you’d choose. *make sure your valid email address is attached to your entry so i can contact you if you win.*

you need to do the above entry to be entered, and for THREE MORE chances to win, you can do the following and leave an additional comment (read: entry into drawing) for each of these actions:

  • like 5 orange potatoes on facebook
  • follow 5 orange potatoes on twitter
  • share a link to this blog post giveaway on your facebook page, your twitter account, and/or on your blog.

i will choose a winner using a random number generator this thursday night (november 10) at 9pm pacific/midnight eastern.


and now for my unsolicited PSA: while you are on lisa’s 5 orange potatoes etsy shop, keep in mind that the holidays are fast approaching, and these make for amazing gifts for special people in your life. if you’d like to support artists and the idea of a handmade holiday (as opposed to store-bought, mass-produced goods,) please consider shopping on sites like etsy, at your local holiday faires, and, of course, making your own holiday gifts this year (and every year!) occupy the holidays! 🙂

*all images courtesy of 5 orange potatoes.


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boo (hoo hoo) pumpkins

admittedly, i got all jazzed about pinterest painted pumpkins this year. i mean, have you seen the options?! it’s intense out there. martha is quaking in her fryes with the sheer amount of pumpkin talent run amok on the interwebs. and lemme tell ya, i am NO  threat to ms. stewart in any way, shape, or form. let’s talk total craft fail right now (and a quasi-recovery?) here are some of the pinterest gems that piqued my pumpkin passion.

you know i don’t use the words “craft” or “fail” much at all, (for totally different reasons) but this is a complete craft fail (do i have to put a hashtag in front of that term? eww, lingo.) and instead of ___fail, i’d rather just call it an art-gone-wrong moment. (but yes, #craftfail!) i was inspired to make some painter’s tape resist pumpkins (like bottom left pic above) and three pumpkins with B O O stenciled onto them. i figured they’d be all beautiful and i’d title the blog “smashing pumpkins” and everything. i bought these super inexpensive beauties at a produce stand.

taped and stickered them where i wanted them to remain orange.

i grabbed some matte spray paint, and went to town.

(the only thing that was cool here was the caravaggesque lighting of these photos, and that was an accident)

after the paint dried, i peeled off the tape and stickers… um, and MOST OF THE SPRAY PAINT! (grrr)

for the B O O pumpkins, i thought i’d use these cool vinyl letter stickers i bought at michael’s, but large stickers do not stick in any sort of flat way to a rounded pumpkin surface, so i knew they would not produce a clean line when painted around. so i thought (sure, just for like two seconds) and grabbed some rubber cement and painted the letters B O O onto the pumpkins instead.

i figured the rubber cement would roll right off after they were painted and show the letters i had carefully designed by hand. perhaps this would have worked (???) if i had NOT USED SPRAY PAINT!

so i dropped this agenda altogether. i purchased three white pumpkins. i stuck the vinyl letters onto them as best i could. i traced around the letters with a pencil. i painted inside my pencil lines with sepia acrylic ink.

and it worked out well enough for this year.

pumpkins drying against sliding glass door - fun effect

and now onto designing the rest of the mantel…



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interview & giveaway: earnest efforts woodworking

you may remember my gushing about an artist couple N and i met at a local art festival – they’re rick and heather from earnest efforts natural woodworking, and they make the most amaaaazing art out of trees: beautiful boxes and magical spirit shakers that will make you swooooon!

N checking out the earnest efforts booth at the kings mountain arts fair last month

i’ve scored an interview with the artists and they’re giving away a spirit shaker and a rattle to my readers (one winner for each) so read on to learn more about the art of wood and enter for a chance to win a lovely handmade piece!

my interview with heather of earnest efforts

jen: can you tell us a bit about how and when you came to find the gift of your woodworking craft?

Heather: Earnie Efforts (aka Rick) has been selling his woodworking wares at the Eugene, Oregon Saturday Market (the longest-running outdoor, handcrafted marketplace in the US) since the 1980’s. I, Ellie Efforts (aka Heather), joined the Market in 1994 with my fiber arts. In 1998 we got to know one another, fell in love, and married in 1999. Earnie was an apprentice cabinet maker to his grandfather and continued working in wood to supplement his family’s income. I tell people that I not only married him out of love, but the fact that he had a woodshop – I had wanted to work in wood since I was little.

"Earnie & I in our booth at the Saturday Market"

jen: i notice that each of your pieces clearly has resonance with the spirit of the wood from which it was created. how do your natural materials inform your work?

Heather: If you could crawl inside Earnie’s head and see the world through his eyes, you would know that he doesn’t see driftwood on the beach… he sees boxes. Each piece of wood has it’s own personality, story and destiny. We don’t just see wood or trees; we see life on many levels. I think we forget that wood is still living long after it has fallen to the earth and will continue to live on long after that box we made is discarded and goes back to the earth. This is also why it is so important to us that we maintain the integrity of the wood with a natural beeswax finish. We want you to be able to feel the warmth of the wood, not a plastic coating so often used in “preserving” wood and we want the wood to return to the earth clean.

"Earnie cutting up driftwood on the Coquille River - note the top left piece of wood has been chewed by a beaver"

"River Alder Box - chewed by a beaver"

jen: my daugher and i just love making music with the spirit shakers and rattles we’ve purchased from you! can you tell us a bit about how they are created (like, what’s inside?) and why you call them spirit shakers?

Heather: The spirit shakers are very special to us on many levels. Earnie & I scavengers and hoarders (in a good way) – we don’t waste anything. When he cuts the boxes, the heart of a box becomes another box, a rattle, or a spirit shaker – until all that remains is kindling for our house wood stove. I’m going to leave the spirit making a little bit of a mystery for you, but inside are copper BBs. We call them spirit shakers because we have witnessed that the essence of the living tree continues to live in on in the wood and within us as we touch, make music, and meditate with the wood.

(these are our earnest efforts rattles & spirit shaker - isn't that purple one AMAZING?! no dyes or paints - that's the natural color of the wood!)

jen: how can parents and teachers help inspire children to begin working with wood as an art material?

Heather: Taking children to meet artists at art festivals is a wonderful way to introduce children to art in all of it’s forms. When children can touch, smell, feel and see artwork with an artist they can ask questions and process in a way unavailable in books or online. We meet children at every festival who are interested in woodworking and we encourage their parents to seek out woodworking classes at community colleges or art centers since so many schools are closing their woodshops.

"Earnie cutting a box on our 1953 Boice Crane bandsaw"

jen: is there anything else you’d like to add?

Heather: Take care, be good & kind, and don’t forget to laugh. 🙂


Oregon-Myrtlewood Spirit Shaker & Maple Baby Rattle/Teether

earnest efforts is so kind to offer one spirit shaker (left in photo above) and one rattle (right in photo above to two readers who enter the drawing. the rattles are beeswax coated and completely safe for babies to chew on. heather says, “these are representational photos – they are not the actual rattle & spirit shakers we are giving away, as we will chose beauties with lovely sound for the winners.” oooooh, and they’re all so lovely!

i will use a random number generator to choose TWO winners (one for each) this thursday evening, october 20, at 9PM pacific/12midnight eastern.

how to enter: comment on this blog entry and let us know your favorite type of tree AND the age(s) of your child(ren) — incase you are a winner, the child’s age is how i will know whether you should receive the baby-safe rattle or the spirit shaker. please be sure your correct email address is associated with your entry so that i can contact you if you’re a winner. (comment link is up there on the left, under the date of this post. i’ve gotta move this at some point…)

two winners were chosen! thanks to all who entered!

please do yourself a favor and check out earnest efforts’ awesome etsy shop to view and purchase more of their wares. (think: holiday shopping!) and be sure to “like” earnest efforts on facebook.

good luck, woodchucks!


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urban ore

just writing to share with you about an inspiring trip my family took over to berkeley about a week ago to check out a place called urban ore. it’s one of those amazing salvage yards where any and everything can be upcycled and repurposed. love their motto: “to end the age of waste.” cheers to that!

i could have spent alllllll day there (and then some) drooling over amazing finds and dreaming up new ways to use these treasures, but with the little one in tow, we lasted about an hour. it started to sprinkle when we were there (first raindrops we’ve experienced since may!)

sweet aqua sink (i mean, if it were clean.)

my intention was to purchase a farm house window, and that’s this place’s “bread and butter” as they put it. they have a HUGE stash of windows and doors. the windows that are in condition to be reinstalled start at $20 each for an 18″ window, and they increase in 6″ and $5 increments.

THEN they have the section where some of the windows are broken or not suitable for installing in a home and ALL OF THOSE ARE $5 REGARDLESS OF SIZE. perfect for the artist or decorator. score!

there is a huge indoor warehouse part with odds and ends, furniture, pieces of furniture, books, electronics, housewares, etc.

random stuff stored in distressed drawers. love that.

inside i found a great wooden bowl where i can keep natural art materials, some ball jars, and these lovely photography contrast filters (for the darkroom) that are made from hard plastic. i can’t wait to see what N wants to do with them artistically! (light table trinkets? suncatcher? what would you make?)

now i just need to make a trip over to SCRAP in SF at some point — but i have to say that it’s hard to stick to my purging and simplifying goals when there are so many great raw materials to hoard! stock up on for art’s sake!

what are your favorite treasures to find for upcycled creative pursuits? where do you get them?


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art fair in the redwoods

for us, one of the highlights of this time of year in the bay area is the kings mountain arts fair. it is held in woodside, ca, for three days, every labor day weekend, and it is utter and complete MAGIC!

magic in the way that one feels like a tiny wood nymph walking among these giant redwood trees, checking out amazing artisan wares.

the sounds of one artist playing his handmade native american flutes and another playing his drums rings through the woods.

at 2010 fair, playing with flute maker guillermo martinez just before i bought a flute from him

i’m a girl who loves herself some etsy, but this is like a 3D etsy set in the middle of a fairy tale forest… complete with coffee, cookies, and beekeepers with their honey.

a magical land where there is inspirational art at every turn.

i love this mandala mixed media piece (2010)

a fairy tale where woodland creatures surprise you (when trying on expensive leather masks.)

she is, of course, a fox

a fairy tale where kids can literally climb inside of huge tree stumps and create their own crowns from aluminum foil, ribbons, and flowers…

or hide in the shadows of tee pees…

N and i wandered around this festival on saturday and struck up conversations with amazing woodworkers from earnest efforts who carve these gorgeous boxes and spirit shakers.

N was such a sweet shopper that the artist even gifted her with a spirit shaker made from purpleheart wood — a naturally purple wood. “how did he know this was my favorite color??” see? magic!

i would show you a photo of all of the lovely purchases we made, but we made a dent in our holiday shopping at the festival, so i don’t want to spoil the surprises. let’s just say that they are hand-crafted and heARTful gifts!

if you’re ever in the bay area around labor day, i highly recommend checking this out!


where and when are your favorite art fairs?


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