Thanks for visiting my blog! MudBay Musings chronicles creative journeys, with inspiration and humor I find along the way... including my mother's and my artwork, stories, local bird life and garden favorites...
all of which I hope will bring a smile to your heart.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tears & Treasure

Jadite gems, opalescent glass, and a piece of turquoise-glazed pottery 
top off this wonderful gathering of time-worn treasures.

Last week was one of great sadness, intense anticipation and overwhelming thankfulness.  Each year, the date of the lowest low tide has slipped past us with out celebration... until this year.  This time, my friends and I planned a trip to Glass Beach - an irresistible draw to artist-hunter-gatherer-scroungers like ourselves.  I could barely contain my excitement amidst thoughts of hunting for beach glass in an area that used to be a town dump a century ago.  The scenery there is heart-wrenchingly beautiful... a quiet, soul-reaching kind of beautiful.  A memorable day surely lay ahead - magnificent vistas combined with the allure of collecting trash, sea-tumbled through the last century into tiny jewels rivaling the loveliest of gems.

The beach area at Point Wilson Lighthouse in Port Townsend, looking West toward North Beach at Fort Flagler, which is the "by foot" starting point to Glass Beach

What is it about beach glass that is so captivating?  Perhaps it's the soulful metaphor of embracing something that was tossed aside, appreciating the subtle beauty that emerges through decades of daily turmoil... a beauty that can only be realized through time and wear and cannot be replicated any other way... revealing a weathered patina, luminous from within.  Perhaps it is the meandering hunt itself that is so enticing, providing a reason to be outdoors, allowing oneself the luxury of being wrapped in a panorama of cliffs, waves, sand, pebbles, driftwood and revitalizing sea air.  Or, perhaps it is one's own "collector gene" kicking in... the thrill of unseating each rock or pebble with the hope of unearthing a treasure that has remained hidden for decades.  Whatever the reason or source of the passion, holding a fragment of beach-worn glass is an enchanting encounter.  A reserved radiance emanates from these charming relics; what were once broken and cast aside utilitarian objects have been transformed into cherished, time-worn jewels.

An amazing pottery shard with seawater-colored glaze.  
It's so interesting how the pottery wears at the edges, but glaze on flat surfaces is left intact.

The downside of going to Glass Beach is the two to three mile hike in each direction, and I began to have serious doubts as to whether I could navigate the path during the allotted time between tides.  Knowing how much I was looking forward to the trip, G offered to shuttle me to the cove by boat.  I hardly slept the night before, envisioning sifting and digging through the sand and pebbles for pottery shards, discarded toys and colorful glass.  Like hunting for sharks' teeth at Venice Beach, shelling on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, digging up a trilobite or vacationing in a hummingbird nesting area, this foray was for me pure "bucket-list item" bliss.  My anticipation of filled scavenging bags and fulfilled dreams, combined with the sorrow of losing a friend to an accident the week before, elevated this little outing into an emotionally significant trip.

Some of these glass pieces are actually shaped like tears, appropriately also called Mermaid Tears.  
Beautiful examples of opaque and opalescent as well as transparent beach glass.

G and I got an early start on the day, although dubious about the weather predictions; our supposed first seventy five degree day of the year looked a bit doubtful that morning.  As we loaded up and made our way into Port Townsend, the cloud cover seemed a bit too thick for the predicted noontime sunshine.  During breakfast at the local waterfront diner, we blithely watched a seal as it scrutinized nearby kayakers and rowers, savoring what would unknowingly be our last bit of warmth for the remainder of the day.  We departed the restaurant with our waitress' perky comments about the supposedly imminent cloud burn-off still agreeably ringing in our ears.

The Marine Science Center lagoon on a calm day; the boat launch is off view to the left.

From the Marine Science Center pier looking South, on a calmer, sunnier day

Launching at the Marine Science Center on the East side of Port Townsend was no easy accomplishment.  The tidal action was extreme, slamming the boat repeatedly as we readied the bumpers and unloaded from the trailer.  Due to the extremely low tide, it was apparent why no larger boats were launching on the East side, but with our boat's extremely low draft and G's piloting skills we were soon on our way.  The open water away from the dock was calm, and we set our sights toward the point and Glass Beach with only a half hour of water to be navigated along our way.  Only thirty short minutes standing between me and Beach Glass Nirvana. 

From the launch site, looking North toward Point Wilson Lighthouse.  
We need to continue around the point, then West for several miles.

Although windy and chilly, it was a pleasant ride... until we rounded  the point.  As soon as we skirted Point Wilson Lighthouse, the once-pleasant waters took a decidedly unpleasant turn, becoming swirling and choppy, topped with brisk, breath-snatching wind.

In spite of the wind, I think we would have remained undaunted toward our destination had it not been for the immense labyrinth of kelp.  Kelp... everywhere... masses of it.  In order to navigate the kelp rafts, we had to throttle the motor back, which then made us more vulnerable to the wind and swirling currents.  The energy of the Strait along with our kelp-monitoring motor speed resulted in a very laborious, rambling course toward Glass Beach cove.  Waves continually pummeled us, soaking us from head to toe.  Actually, we were only soaked waist to toe since we were wearing marine jackets.  But trust me - we were wet.  And cold.

Currents on another day, in the Straight near shore.

Somewhere in a very cynical corner of my mind, as I was contemplating the taste differences between Atlantic and Pacific seawater, I kept hearing the foreboding theme song from the old Gilligan's Island television show playing over and over again.  Also going through my mind were the blogs I had perused in prior weeks, which had painted a tranquil picture of reaching Glass Beach by kayak.  I wondered if their kayaks had been airlifted into place.

Seagull feather, beach at Point Wilson Lighthouse.

Jadite glass along with what I believe to be a worn marble.  Judging from its size, it must have been a shooter in its former life.  In its new life, it will be incorporated into a piece of jewelry.

At this point, while gazing upon a seemingly endless kelp maze and imagining our motor becoming entangled in meters of golden-green seaweed, we began to discuss turning back.  As we saw our destination still far off in the haze, I began to prepare myself for the shattering of my dream of "puttering around the little cove with the sea glass floor."  I couldn't help but appreciate the irony of sea glass' lesser-known name, Mermaid Tears.

Nereocystis luetkeana, or Bull Kelp, prolific in the Strait.  Ironically, Nereocystis is Greek for "mermaid's bladder."  I'm sensing a theme here...
Photo by Scott Gabara, courtesy of PISCO image gallery

As we were mulling over the reality that things weren't going so well, the next few seconds provided the deciding factor in the course of our day's journey.  Seemingly out of nowhere, an enormous sea lion surfaced right beside us.  Although I'm not inherently fearful of these inquisitive creatures, there is something quite unnerving about being the object of amusement for an animal that exceeds the dimensions and/or weight of your vessel.  Albeit a bit startling, this pinniped's surprise visit was not ominous in itself -  it was its lengthy, bellowing, maniacal laugh that shook us to the core.  A laugh that seemed to have been unleashed from the depths of the waters, from a creature whose spine-chilling gaze and sinister grin intimated that in regard to species' intelligence, we were the least astute of the two.

(Just in case you're curious, this is what a maniacal, laughing sea lion looks like.)
(Photo credit: SeaWorld, Japan)

After exchanging a few astonished words (which included G muttering something about Davy Jones' Locker), and taking one last look at the still-distant Glass Beach, we turned back toward our starting point.  Upon reaching the dock, we were soaked, exhausted, chilled and extremely thankful.  And I, also severely disappointed.  After calling our friends to let them know we wouldn't be joining them at the cove, I spilled a few mermaid-worthy tears.

A Mermaid's Obi, washed up on Point Wilson beach.

Our friends Lyneen, Kris and Beth, and best canine pal Pixie, made it all the way to Glass Beach by foot and were rewarded for their efforts by bags filled with glass, pottery shards and rocks.  Their journey is a story in itself; their trip took over three hours of walking time - all the while enduring bone-chilling winds, slippery rocks, unstable driftwood and shifting sands.  What an adventure!

Typical scene at Port Townsend's beaches. On the North side, looking West.

Isn't this the loveliest thing?  I wonder who once owned this gorgeous piece of turquoise-glazed pottery and what it was used for a century ago ... did great-grandmother mix cookie or bread dough in this turquoise bowl, or display violets in this planter or roses in this vase... did she pour milk from this pitcher or lovingly serve sandwiches on this plate?  
I love the way the glaze has a matrix of dark lines now - just like real turquoise...
except much more precious.

I was able to meet up with Lyneen a couple of days later to relive the day and see her beach treasures first-hand.  After dinner, she deeply touched me by giving me a huge portion of her finds from that day... glass and pottery she had unearthed from Glass Beach and carried for three miles in her backpack.  With still-sore muscles and raw fingers days later, she cheerfully and generously scooped up handfuls of these gems and handed them to me, along with a fabulous egg-shaped rock.  (How many people do you know who would carry a rock for three miles... just because they know you will absolutely love it?)

The beautiful array of treasures that were a gift from Lyneen.

My dream of going to Glass Beach turned out to be so much more than I could have envisioned.  As I look at these beautiful pieces of weathered glass and pottery, they mean so much more to me than anything I could have found on the beach myself.  They represent the gift of friendship and self-sacrifice.  It is a blessed life to possess such true treasure.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Antique Birdcage

For three more versions of this sweet antique birdcage, click here to visit my vintage images blog.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Globes de Mariee

During my recent "gal-livantin'" trip with Dolores, we "just happened" to stop by Silverdale Antiques.  They always have a wonderful selection of items to fill the eyes.   At one point, while gawking at something ahead and not paying much attention to what was beside me,  I walked by an antique chair with what I thought was a mohair throw resting on top... and suddenly... the mohair moved!

Look who raised his sweet little head - Kirby, the shop dog!  Can you tell he'd been sleeping soundly until my startled laugh?  Cute little Kirby's definitely a mellow fellow!

Silverdale Antiques specializes in items imported from Europe, and this is where I first saw the Globes de Mariee.  Please excuse the poor pictures - low light by phone - but I know you'll like these two Globes. Aren't they lovely?


For more information and pictures of three more globes on an earlier post, click here.

For those of us who adore these reliquary antiques but cannot afford their price-tag, there is hope...

Ulla Milbrath has offered a free tutorial of a Gilded Fairy Chair, which would be the perfect beginning to your own Globe de Mariee!  Ulla teaches some amazing classes at Castle in the Air, and you can buy some of those special Globe de Mariee supplies at their online shoppe here

For pictures of Ulla's incredible Globe de Mariee chair (French Wedding Chair) class sample, click here.  It's absolutely stunning, and it's hard to believe it's been recently crafted!  It will inspire you!
Have you noticed the pretty little reliquary boxes at the bottom of these Globes?  Ulla sells complete instructions in her Etsy shop on how to make these, and a picture of her class samples can be found here.

Ulla's archived blog:
Ulla's current Tumblr blog:
Ulla was featured in the book  Where Women Create - Book of Inspiration by Jo Packham and Jenny Doh - click here for a look at the picture spread as well as her link to the photo shoot.  While you're at it, spend a few hours perusing both of her blogs - you'll be so glad you did!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Give-Away at Tattered Gold!

My friend Paula over at Tattered Gold is having a wonderful giveaway! 

Paula is one of those rare souls who opens her heart, puts pen to paper, and the most incredible prose and poetry just pour out.  Her blog is a delight to read and will fill your heart.

She's having a fabulous giveaway for her readers.... there are 7 pictures filled with yummy items to feed your "inner magpie."  Post a comment for a chance to win, and double your chances of winning by becoming a follower.  Thanks, Paula for offering such lovely prizes!  Good Luck, Everyone!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Oh Boy - Koi !

A few days ago, my good friend Dolores and I did a bit of "gal-liv-antin"(my husband's pun) around town.  We seemed to close down everywhere we went, getting to places late and rushing through.  Sometimes fun things can happen at the last minute though, can't they?  We had fifteen minutes to peruse one of our favorite plant nurseries  before they closed, and I had a camera with me.  Dolores had her eyes set on some beautiful geraniums, and I headed straight for the Koi pond.  These fish make me smile.  They're like little water-doggies with scales, coming up to greet you, begging for treats.  Sweet and full of character.  Photo opportunities don't get much easier. 

It was evening and the light was getting a bit low.  As a result, the original photographs weren't that great.  You can guess what comes next... creative play with Photoshop Elements software!

Below is the original photograph of the above piece, before digital altering:

You can see what I mean - the photos were milky and uninteresting, except for the subject matter of course.  The first thing I did with all of the photos was to use the Auto Smart Fix tool - this cleared up the milkiness rather like using a polarizing filter.  Then started playing with the Enhance-Adjust Lighting features,adjusting highlights/shadows and brightness/contrast.  Also did some creative cropping and / or horizontal rotation.  After that, Filter-Artistic-Dry Brush, playing with the numbers for Brush Size, Brush Detail and Texture. 

Turns out there is a lot you can accomplish with Photoshop Elements without having to do any layering, masking, erasing, coloring, etc.  I did use the clone tool to remove weird-looking objects at the end of the digital alterations; sometimes bubbles or floating pine needles left a bright white spot that took away from the final piece.

Here's another alteration of the above photo:

And just for fun, here's a vintage version - very easy with the Filter-Adjustments-Photo Filter- using various strengths of different warming filters.  (Another way of saying I don't remember which warming filter I finally used or how strong it was.)  I was going for a faded, vintage postcard feel:

Following are three more examples of original photos and altered versions.  (Don't overlook your "busy-looking" photos... the last two photos here seemed to have a bit too much going on, but by isolating a few fish at a time the images were usable.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

MudBay Bird House

I've started a new blog called MudBay Bird House as a way to share my home bird photographs with other artists.  I have hundreds of bird photos to share and will be posting many of them during the next few months. 

The photos are not meant to be artistic in themselves, but it's my hope you will find them a handy reference for your quilts, collages and mixed-media projects.

This is a blog for those of us who need or prefer a bit of help in the drawing department...  I've tried to capture various poses of my feathered friends since I always seem to wish I had a slightly different angle of them for this-or-that, but just can't seem to wrap my brain around how to draw the changes.  I hope you find these images fun and useful - thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 10, 2010

From the Garden


Thought some mixed-media garden pieces might be in order in the midst of all of these bird picture posts!  The photograph above was taken at a lavender farm in Sequim, Washington.  Next is my loose interpretation of that photograph.  The poppy heads were made with Golden's light modeling paste and have chenille stems.

I made this second piece for my mom for Mother's Day, to go along with some "real" delphiniums.  Golden's light modeling paste was used for the texture of the fence and the plants, and added dimension was added with bits of vintage lace.  After painting, I added a few garden stakes cut from old pages of text.  I rarely use words in my artwork, so this was a fun brain exercise.  I can see now why everyone loves to add text to their work - it was amazing how many sentences from just two pages of an old story fit the mood

The digital frame I've used in this post can be found here on my images blog.

Thanks for visiting me today!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Little Birdie Told Me So!

The original, totally uninteresting and poor-quality photo (many photos were taken, some slightly different poses, all with the same results.

Poor birdie!  Ever had bird photos that didn't turn out quite as you envisioned?  Hmmmmm.... what to do.... 

My multiple attempts to capture the image of a back-lit song sparrow as I was being serenaded were all utter failures. His songs had been so heart-felt, I just couldn't bear the thought of trashing the pictures of him, even though he wasn't much more than a poor-quality silhouette.

Let's see what a lightened image looks like, with a turquoise sky. 

That looked a bit bland, so let's try a lighting effect added behind the bird.

Time to roll up the proverbial sleeves and experiment!  Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you have nothing to lose, fun things can happen?  With extremely limited Photoshop Elements expertise, it's possible to salvage some very poor photographs.

All of these images were altered using PE color and lighting adjustment tools.  By changing saturation, shadows, highlights and contrast, replacing colors, and doing a bit of creative cropping, I was amazed at the different effects that could be achieved - without any complicated layers or digital painting.

Perhaps a blue sky... and take out some of the bird details with the shadow adjustments, so it looks more like a hand-stamped image using paint on fabric.

Hand-stamping sounds interesting... wonder what it would look like as black ink on paper?

Or as a batik fabric look in warm tones...

Or perhaps batik fabric in lavender and green...

Or as a salt crystal batik fabric with a paint-stamped image?  At sunset?

Or at sunrise?

 Or as a retro silk screen print?

So, the next time you end up with what you think is a useless photo, start playing around with your photo editing software instead of filling up your trash file...

"But how did I find out
What it was all about?
A little birdie told me so!"

(lyrics 1926 by Lorenz Hart, music by Richard Rodgers)

Daily Double

 SO excited today - the Osprey finally came within 100 feet of the dock!  I heard them calling this afternoon and went down to the water in hopes of getting a few pictures.  One flew on by to our neighboring point, while the other sat across the bay, calling every few minutes to keep tabs on its partner.

 The opposite shore is too far away for the 200mm camera lens to capture much detail, although that embankment does make for some spectacular binocular viewing.  To my delight, the osprey decided to check out our side of the bay for a change, perhaps out of curiosity and the noise of the camera shutter, or perhaps from being harassed by the kingfishers.  After a short, uneventful fishing expedition, it alighted in our neighbor's tree.

 I realized after about 20 minutes of contorting my body to keep the camera steady on the rail (keeping the camera body braced squarely while looking sharply upward took some doing, let me tell you)  that some canoers were watching with some amusement from the opposite shore.  All I can say is, when an osprey lands near you, sacrifices in poise must be made!  And there is no dignified way to inform people a few hundred feet away, "I have a camera." (Like that would explain everything.)

 This was a busy day for the Kingfishers across the bay as well.  Both parents have been constantly scouting food, chattering so loudly that they can be heard several hundred feet away.  Each time they enter their nest hole in the embankment, it sparks quite a racket!  I hope to get across the bay soon with the camera in hopes of catching them close up. This is the clearest picture I have of them to date, not for lack of trying.  They flew by several times today, and I just held my breath, kept the auto-focus on, and panned with them.  They are seriously fast flyers!  It's quite a treat to watch them with binoculars this time of year - one parent always guards the nest from a nearby tree entanglement and harshly reprimands anyone that gets within a close proximity.  Both adults dive-bombed the perched osprey, which worked to my advantage today, unsettling it from it's far-off tree.  Life is Good!

Thanks for visiting today!