The Potting Shed

The Potting Shed is under construction. The walled garden beds that I spend most of my time gardening are in front of what used to be the old barn and stable. The barn was demolished and replaced by the cottage like building that now stands there. It houses a large garage and storage area on the ground floor and above it a space that I've been using as a studio for the last few years. The storage space downstairs has always been designated as the potting shed. Jim has stored the wood slats that originally lined the walls of the stables and the living quarters upstairs to one day furnish this space- and that day has come. The slats which were different colors depending which floor they came from have started going up on the wall and the carpenter has arranged them in this intriguing variegated stripe pattern that is now under debate whether it should be left as is or have a light wash applied. A sink and work space will be installed so as you can imagine, I am excited at the prospect of the entire project. In fact earlier this year I took a couple of shots of the potting shed at Wave Hill to file for future reference. Lets see how our novice attempts at growing from seed will turn out for next summer in our new fancy quarters.

Along with the wood slats, Jim also kept the original door to the upstairs living quarters, which will be the door to a small under stair storage space. The door is scrawled with a glimpse into the past- a tenant of that space clearly had a turn of events that he felt worth recording for posterity. It's hard to decipher all of it but it basically recants how he was discharged in 1911 after a drunken binge. I'll update if I find out more about this.

Organic, Sustainable and Local Produce

My day job is graphic artist, creating original t shirt and textile prints to the apparel industry. I work from home and sell my artwork through an agent to the design studios of large apparel corporations- many of them would be familiar names and surprisingly to a wide variety-from higher end designer sportswear lines to high street chains. Prior to this I worked as a designer and more latterly as creative director and consultant at some of these large corporations. Ultimately I kept reworking and rehoning my skills to be able to work as I do now - independently from home basically because the apparel design business- well its just nutty. Its also manic, stressful and surprisingly given that its an aesthetic and trend related business not as creative or able to really follow real trends as one would imagine. Not surprisingly I can vouch that profit and corporate structure really are a hindrance to inventive design.

A few days ago, I opened an online store on Zazzle- a print on demand operation, that does the printing,stocking,shipping and money collecting part- if you do the design part. Great concept but very limited offerings in terms of merchandise - iron on transfers on to white t shirts. Thats how it started but I've been watching and waiting to see how market forces and technology would impact this and its been improving steadily over the last couple of years. Last week I discovered that Zazzle have made a significant breakthrough.

I never thought in all my years of design that I could do what I'm now able to do- put together a small line of products that has a point of view that can be aimed at a customer that ranges from infants, kids through teens adults and grandparents. Their use of 'real' models allows any one to envision the product on urban hipsters to alternative generation X-ers to young at heart Boomers not to mention different ethnicities and body types.

I've been testing these products and have discovered that the method of printing used (digital ink jet)- which is fundamentally different from how most things are printed (silk screen)- can be used to great effect in recreating some of the more desired print effects- vintage, uneven colors, aged effects. So in terms of execution-with the right design material- there is little to differentiate a digitally printed product from a screen printed one.

I've thought about putting a line together using the aesthetic influences and materials that underscore the design of this blog- old gardening almanacs and seed catalogues, old botanical prints, natural and rustic colors and textures but it really didn't make sense unless I could print it on an organic or sustainable or locally sourced product- in keeping with what underscores my reasons for gardening and my interest in the subject. Zazzle now offers all three- they have organic and US made apparel from American Apparel and they have now added a line from Edun Live that is sustainable and ethically manufactured.

Its a little more expensive than what you might find in a chain store but this will change as demand grows and think about whats really happening here- the designer- me- the creative spark in the process is finding inspiration from a place that he really has a connection to, I'm designing something that I really want to design, not something the sales or merchandising team thinks I should be designing. Then these designs are printed (if you choose) onto local, organic, sustainable, ethically manufactured products. Even if you didn't pick one of those options the item will only be printed if you choose it- no waste, no trucking over to an outlet mall to be sold. Garments aren't washed, stoned, bleached- at a cost to the environment. There's also no need for this manic need to keep the shelves full and rotating with new 'fashionable' merchandise. If designs are succesfull,they'll just stay in the store and I'm only designing something new when I am inspired to or found something that triggered that process. The line will grow - organically.

So go take a look at my store- its a small offering but I'm proud to say its designed with real inspiration, manufactured with real conscience and retailed with real vision.

Still life with Crabapples

I brought back a couple of sprigs of crabapples back to the city - they look wonderful in the apartment-such intense dots of red. Here they are this morning creating an interesting still life composition with the shadows on the wall.

Tis the Seasoning

Just returned from an overnight in Mamaroneck where I enjoyed a great Thanksgiving meal. Heidi did pretty much all the legwork for the meal, the last time I was up she had shown me all the recipes she was thinking about. My contribution at that stage was to recommend a more savory stuffing (pork sausage, sage and onion) instead of the sweeter one (with apples) and then help with the finishing touches, like chopping herbs as pictured and I prepared the green bean dish (pan fried shallots and chopped mint stirred into green beans cooked with a little garlic and white wine) All the herbs were from the garden except the mint- which in our zealousness to remove from the beds this year where they had jumped ship from the pots they were in- we actually had a mint shortage. The fried sage on the right was sprinkled onto a pumpkin soup starter. The chopped chive and parsley was sprinkled onto the mashed potatoes, the mint in the beans and rosemary which was surprisingly quite abundant ended up unused not really fitting in anything in particular. The stuffing was spectacular- enhanced by Heid finding some Focacia breadcrumbs.

The Gingko Tree

The rear of my apartment overlooks a garden courtyard - apparently one of the largest and earliest built in Manhattan. The building itself is a historic landmark built by Rockefeller. There is in fact a gardening volunteer group that works in the garden during the summer months which I've considered joining but never did mainly because the prime activity is planting bright colored annuals that are not terribly well suited to that situation - in the shade of all the trees there. Who knows, I might one day find the energy to suggest and execute the planting of some shade loving woodland plants there but, not yet. I do however enjoy very much the Gingko Tree that is closest to my apartment- the fire escape in the right corner of the photograph being mine.

There are a few Gingko Trees in the courtyard and they make their presence felt earlier in the fall when the female trees bear fruit and the stench of the fallen fruit is really quite something. I looked into the process of doing something with the fruit knowing that its a prized Chinese delicacy but discovered its the nut thats edible and its too laborious a process to retrieve. Thankfully the tree that's closest to me is male, which doesn't bear fruit, and around this time of year changes to this glorious yellow color. I also can't help looking at the leaves on the ground, they are such a beautiful shape with beautiful lines, its easy to see why they are so often used as a design motif- like this silver jewellry or this tile.

Autumn Pink

Its always such a pleasant surprise, shock even to see the visual power of the fall foliage, especially as was the case this weekend when I left the city for Mamaroneck. I've yet to take a good look at what's going on in Central park- must do that sometime this week, but elsewhere in the city the changes don't pack the punch of what I saw over the weekend in the suburbs. Walking around the neighbourhood, I was of course wowed by the huge brushstrokes of reds and yellows, I particularly liked this spotted leaf color but the colors that I found really inspiring were the ones pictured above. On the left those pinks against the dark smoky browns and olives, on the right those limes and purples with those pinks again. They immediately bring to mind ancient tartans- those muted ones that are less well known like Young, Connaught Provincial, Isle of Skye and County Carlow

Rustic Beanpole

I'm going up to Mamaroneck tomorrow after a long absence and I want to show Jim this photo of a rustic bean pole made of twig/branches that I saw in the Wave Hill vegetable garden this summer. He often trims the trees in the yard at this time of year and I want to make sure he remembers not to dispose of the branches so that maybe we can make these interesting structure for the vegetable garden. The bamboo teepees are starting to deteriorate after 3 summers so here's hoping we get to replace them with these.

Outside My Window

This is the second apartment that I've lived in, in NYC, thats on the 5th floor and has a tree pressed up against it. This one, an Oak tree, is right in front of my bedroom window. Its presence, is a living energy that I watch change with the seasons, rustling in the breeze, swaying in the wind, casting soft shadows that flutter on the sheer curtains. I'm also aware of the sounds it makes as it filters the wind, mutes the traffic, or taps the glass like ghostly fingers in a storm. I love it in spring when the bare branches are bristling with the energy of new growth or as it is now when it changes color but slowly, unwilling to let go of its precious green leaves, reluctant to succumb to the inevitable chill of Autumn.

Music: Erik Satie, 3 Gymnopedies

Moveable Feast

I think I heard a TV weather man mention something about frost so I moved all the herbs outside the kitchen window to the window sill in my home office/studio. An instant herb garden where once there was a lot of empty pots- no I never got round to doing anything about this. Which leads us to the second word in the title- feast. Well thats because things don't bode well for the refugees. If frost don't kill you, well the radiator will. So until the weather turns inclement, they enjoy a reprieve but a short one as I race to find ways to use them up. There has already been generous amounts of chopped herbs folded into omelettes and sprinkled on noodle soups. That oregano in the picture is destined for a big batch of tomato sauce. That wooden thingy in the bottom right hand corner is a rustic kitchen thing from India that's used to hang kitchen utensils from- but I never found a way to incorporate it in my kitchen. It's now found its purpose - as a decorous rustic prop to keep the window, which doesn't work properly, from sliding down.

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