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The Cycle Begins

Over the last few weeks more than ten of the anise swallowtail butterfly chrysalises that we've been sheltering in our butterfly nursery have emerged. These three beauties emerged in one day. We waited for the weather to improve, and took them out to the deck to release them. You can also see two batches of chrysalises still waiting to emerge. For some reason, possibly protection, they sometimes make their chrysalises right next to or on top of one another.

Anise swallowtail butterflies

Anise swallowtails can remain in the chrysalis stage for years, and some of the ones that emerged have been gestating for more than two years. Every time we release a female I ask her to come back to our garden to lay eggs.

Anise swallowtail butterfly on George's hand

The native plant that anise swallowtails lay their eggs on is called yampah. George has some yampah in a pot, but it grows very slowly. A couple of years ago we were thrilled to find some eggs in our yampah. Here's a picture I took. The egg is the tiny yellow dot near the center of the picture.  It's about the size of the head of a pin.

Since yampah is very hard to find in the wild around us (not much wild left hereabouts  ...), the anise swallowtails in our area have turned to the fennel plant to lay their eggs and as their larval food source. Fennel grows prolifically in vacant lots and along the highways. Many people cut it down as it gets rangy later in the summer, which is too bad, because they're killing hundreds of swallowtail eggs and caterpillars. Anyway, to the point of this post .. drum roll please ... I found three eggs on our fennel this morning! Here's one.

Anise swallowtail butterfly egg on fennel

We released this female last Tuesday, maybe they are her eggs?

Anise swallowtail butterfly

Have you seen many butterflies in your garden yet? Do you plant milkweed for monarchs or other plants to attract and feed butterflies?

Learn to sell your art online

Are you an artist or crafter who has been thinking about finally taking the plunge to sell your artwork online? How long has starting an Etsy shop been on your "To Do" list? Are you stymied by not knowing where to start, confused by all of the options, uncertain where you fit in?

Smugmug home page

Bay Area artists, this workshop is for you! Introduction to Selling Your Artwork Online is my overview class designed to teach you the many different options to market and sell your artwork and/or crafts on the internet. Learn the pros and cons of having your own website, selling through print-on-demand websites, selling your handmade work on Etsy or similar sites, using blogs and other social marketing tools, and much more. This information will save you countless hours you'd have to spend to do the research and experimentation on your own, and save you from wasting time and money on the wrong kind of venue for your situation.

Product shot example

The workshop will be held on Sunday April 14th from noon to 3:30 at The Village Shops and Galleries, 10330 San Pablo Ave (between Stockton and Eureka), in El Cerrito. The cost is $65, which includes an extensive handout.

Facebook business page

If you have a smartphone or laptop, you can bring it, but it's not required.  We'll cover what has been preventing you from beginning to sell online, what kinds of skills you need, how to keep yourself motivated, social media marketing, and much more.

Twitter page

Space is limited and pre-registration for the workshop is required.  If you have any questions or want to pre-register, just email me at heidirand[at]gmail.com If you're not in the Bay Area, check out my book. You'll find links to see a preview of it at Amazon, and to order it in pdf format, kindle format, print, and more!

Early Birds and Night Owls

I'm an early bird.  At this time of year, the sky has just barely started to brighten as I emerge from BART to walk to work. Then, like a cruel trick, daylight savings steals even that bit of welcome light from me, and I have to wait again for the spring sun to rise earlier. George is a night owl. He's ecstatic that he'll have another hour of light in the evening. This is my blended photographic collage, for you night owls:

Barn owl pocket watch

And this is my latest collage, with the same pocket watch photograph, for early birds like me.

 Hummingbird watch collag

Whichever you are, don't forget to spring ahead tonight!

Grand Opening Village Shops and Galleries!

Start with a dream, add inspiration and a lot of luck, stir in hard work and sweat: lifting, carrying, arranging and rearranging, then combine with laughter and friends coming through big-time ... and what do you get? We've got a brand new Village Shops and Galleries to show off at our grand opening, Saturday March 16th, from noon to 8 p.m.!

Village Shops and Galleries

Mixing the best of old and new, we've got vintage collectibles and antique furniture alongside brand new unique handmade art by amazingly talented (mostly local) artists and crafters. And we're so excited to introduce our new gift shop featuring work crafted by independent artisans, including fine silver jewelry by designer Lis Mahnken of ME Designs

ME Designs fine silver jewelry

artful clothing and accessories by Michele Battise; wooden bowls, boxes and pens by David Earls;

David Earls' wooden bowls and pens

exquisitely designed and stitched quilts by Carolyn Earls;

Carolyn Earls' quilts; Heidi Rand's tote bags

mixed media and textile crafts and jewelry by Grace Taormina and Rachel Taormina; handcrafted soap by sassafras and Bubble Queen Soaps & Scents;

Bubble Queen soaps

and my own photo arts and craftsWe're also proud to be the only place you can get the full line of collage artist Tamara Holland's wonderful new line of inspirational greeting cards - and believe me, you will want one of each!

Tamara Holland's cards

The walls are bursting with color, from resident artist Mark Canepa's metal artwork and paintings to hand-pulled linocut and woodblock prints by Rich Fowler, vivid mixed-media paintings by Rachel Taormina, large-format photographs by John Hanses, and much more!

Rich Fowler's prints

Looking for a classy, convenient meeting space for a private or public event? Searching for studio space? We have many options for rental -by the hour, day or longer. And it's a dream come true for my co-manager Grace and myself to offer a wide variety of art workshops and classes in our brand new classroom, fully stocked with art supplies and equipment. We're offering high-quality art and craft instruction at affordable prices in a range of subjects, for adults and children, and for all different skill levels.

Classroom

The Village Shops is at 10330 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, between Eureka and Stockton streets. There’s plenty of free parking. Starting March 16th, we’ll be open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Are you an artist or crafter interested in learning about opportunities to show and sell your work, or to teach? If so, come on by to meet us and fill out an application.  Questions? Call (510) 525-5661 or email me at heidirand@gmail.com

Sweets From My Sweetie

My new doctor scheduled me to have my blood sugar tested last week. Bad timing, right after Valentine's Day, when my sweetheart outdid himself by making me two batches of truffles AND macaroons! As a gift last year I gave him some flower-shaped candy molds (now is that a self-serving present, or what?), and he used them to make me these amazing chocolate truffles. George's truffles The macaroons are equally luscious. If we can manage to keep from eating them all, he's going to cover them with chocolate. Overkill, you say? I think not. George's macaroons I'll try to get him to reveal his recipes, though I think each batch of truffles is "one of a kind," with him adding ingredients that strike his fancy at the moment, and I'm not sure whether he keeps track!

Inkjet Printing on Fabric

Workshop taught by Heidi Rand

Sunday February 24, 2013 - noon to 3:30 p.m.

The Village Shops and Galleries, 10330 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito

$40 + materials

Inkjet printing: scarf

Welcome to the exciting world of fabric printing! Learn to print your artwork, images and designs on fabric using your home inkjet printer. This exciting technique opens the door to endless possibilities for creating original fabric to use in quilts, art pieces, gifts, home decor, and much more.

Butterfly purse

I take you step-by-step through the entire process, from preparing your files to print, to choosing the right fabric and getting it ready to go through the printer, to post-printing treatment, and much more.  I will discuss the importance of knowing what kinds of inks your printer uses, and give you tips to get fabric through even the most finicky printer.

Fabric cuff bracelet

With many examples of printed fabric and fabric artwork and crafts, you'll get new ideas about what to do with your own images and designs, and the knowledge to go home and start printing your own! Each class member will print at least one sheet of fabric.  Pre-registration is required because I keep the workshop small so everyone gets plenty of attention.  Please email me.

Upcoming workshop:

Inkjet Heat Transfer Techniques

Saturday March 9, noon to 3:00 p.m., $40 plus materials

Have questions? Interested in registering?  Email me If you can't make the workshop, I also have an ebook to teach you to print on fabric and an online class at CraftArtEdu. Click here to go to my blog

Brian's Bees

Is there anything more special than friends who share a passionate interest? George's friend Brian is a twofer - they first met and bonded over their common love of orchids, spiced with a shared cynical smart sense of humor. More lately, Brian discovered that he wanted to keep bees. He had a beautiful hive all ready and waiting for some honeybees to move in, so when George and our friend Alan rescued a swarm, there was no question that they were meant to be Brian's bees. The swarm settled on a tree limb just above a garden shed.

Honeybee swarm in a tree

George and Alan clambered onto the shed. I held the ladder and worried that they'd fall through the roof (they didn't). When bees are swarming they're very calm, so George easily brushed most of them into a box. The critical thing is to try to get the queen. If you do, the rest will follow her, because their main imperative is to protect her.

Catching the swarm

As you'd expect from an orchid and nature lover, Brian has an amazing garden. Here's George delivering the bees to their new home.

Bee hive

The bees quickly realized they had arrived at nectar heaven. The workers happily began to forage, build comb and make honey, and the queen zealously performed her queenly duties and began laying brood. We went back to do a hive inspection, and this is what we found:

Worker and queen honeybees

That's her majesty, surrounded and protected by workers. She's much larger than the other bees, and is a gorgeous deep golden color. Here's more of a closeup photograph.

Queen bee

Much of the white you can see filling the comb is larvae or brood. As George finished the inspection, I walked around the garden to see what the workers were up to. They favored a magnificent Spanish Lavender plant.

Honeybee on Spanish Lavender

The intoxicatingly fragrant orange tree was another favorite.

Honeybee on orange flower

We even got a bit of honey from some extra comb the bees had built on the lid of the hive, so Brian could taste his bees' honey. Your own bees' honey is always the sweetest. And here's to honey and friendship, ever sweetly intertwined. Click here to go to my blog

New book: Sell Your Artwork & Crafts Online

One New Year's resolution down! Actually, it was a resolution I made New Year 2011, but who's counting? I finally finished the book that I've been working on for, oh well - way too long. Enough buildup, here it is ...

Book cover Sell Your Artwork & Crafts Online I was teaching a workshop to help artists and crafters figure out how to sell their work online. When I decided to expand the written materials into a book, I had no idea that the 6-page handout would grow to 72 pages, with 28 photographs and screen shots to show readers what their options are and how to decide what venues are best for their work, like this shot of the front page of my Etsy shop: The homepage of my Etsy shop Or this illustration about how to resize the images you post online so they're not as easy to steal: Resized photo I also included profiles of six of my favorite artists: a photographer, painter, mixed media collage artist, printmaker, natural perfumer, and writer -- who are all at very different places on the continuum of using the internet to sell and market their arts and crafts. I'll be posting some of the profiles here, so you can meet them and draw inspiration from their art and the work they're putting into showing and selling it online.

In conjunction with the book, I started a Facebook group where artists can network and support one another in selling their work online. You're welcome to join it, whether you buy the book or not.

Facebook page

And now for the tip of the day, which isn't in the book (already working on the second edition!) Yes, you may sell the same items in your Etsy and Artfire shops. If it's a one-of-a-kind piece it can be nerve-wracking to list in both, because if it sells from one store you need to immediately remove it from the other. But I list my ebooks in both shops. If you have duplicates of anything that you make, it's good to get the exposure in both venues. And a related tip: don't use the same description in both listings. From my research, people advise that you change at least 30% of the language, because Google's search results ranking, released in February 2011 (called Panda) penalizes duplicate postings. I listed the ebook on my website, Artfire, Etsy in kindle format through Amazon, and in print format through Lulu. If you're curious, you can check out how I changed the descriptions in the Etsy and Artfire listings. I'll check my Google Analytics to see whether I've been Panda slapped -- that's what they call it when your traffic goes way down because the Google algorithm is displeased with some aspect of your website. Click here to go to my blog

Hummingbirds in the trees

Growing up back east I don't recall ever seeing a hummingbird. I'm amazed that to see these flying treasures now, all I have to do is go out to our garden or up on our deck. This female Anna's hummingbird was perched on a tree in our yard.

Hummingbird on branch

As part of making our garden into a wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), we provide food, water and cover for local and migrating animals. George's garden includes many flowers for nectar, and he is always replenishing the sugar-water feeders for the hummingbirds.  He also avoids using pesticides, because that could harm or kill the birds.  Here's an article by NWF about feeding hummingbirds.  The sugar-water is a supplement to their diet of insects and nectar.  This article goes into more detail, and has good advice about the important issue of keeping your feeders clean. This is a male Anna's - the brilliant color of his head and neck shines with iridescence when it catches the light.

Anna's hummingbird on branch

This is another male Anna's.  You see how different the color of his feathers appears, this hummer shines with a more magenta hue.

Anna's hummingbird

Hummingbirds are among the limited species of birds that can hover.

Hummingbird hovering

When awake, they are almost constantly in motion. I had to quickly shoot the photos of them perching on the tree, because they don't land for long. Here's a shot of two of them, one about to land on a branch, and another zooming by above.

I caught a shot of this young hummer with his beak open.

Anna's hummingbird on tree

Do you know what kinds of hummingbirds visit or live in your area? I'm lucky to have George, who has studied this extensively, to tell me who's who.  He said that at this time of year we're getting only the Anna's hummingbirds, and that they stay with us year-round.  Does your garden have nectar flowers or other plants to attract and feed hummingbirds?  Do you have hummingbird feeders to supplement their diet? Click here to go to my blog

First monarch caterpillar emerges

And here's one of my closeups of one of the eggs we found - for scale, remember that they're about the size of the head of a pin!
I keep telling you about the size of the eggs, so here's a photo I took of an egg alongside a normal-sized straight pin:
We decided to raise them inside, because it greatly increases their survival rate. We found 13 eggs, and carefully brought them inside on Thursday. By Saturday some of the eggs had lost their yellowish color, now appearing grayish-white with darker shading inside (the caterpillar's skin has formed and is showing through the egg, which is actually translucent).
Here's a tighter closeup:
And voila! By Saturday evening the first tiny caterpillar had eaten its way out of its egg. The newly-hatched larva is a little more than a millimeter long, and has a gray body with a shiny black head. Here he (or she) is:
You can see its egg to the right. The tiny caterpillar is exploring and eating the milkweed.
More of the caterpillars are emerging, so check back for more photos!  In fact, here's a new photo of our second baby. This caterpillar emerged from the only egg of the batch that we found on another type of milkweed, the Asclepias physocarpa.
It's headed back to eat more of the eggshell.
And finally, another photo with a pin for scale, showing the size of the newly emerged caterpillar:
    Click here to go to my blog 

Monarch eggs in the garden!

Well, guess what? George was right that she was a female - she left us some precious gifts. Yesterday I noticed many tiny yellow eggs sprinkled on our milkweed plants. Here's an extreme closeup of one, it's about the size of the head of a pin!
Isn't it amazing how she tucked it up under the cap of the bud of the unopened milkweed flower? Most of the eggs that we spotted are on the Asclepias cancellata "Wild Cotton," which we got at Annie's Annuals & Perennials.  You can read about this beautiful milkweed plant on Annie's website. Here's another extreme closeup:
You can see the oval shape and tiny lines (which my poor eyes can't even see without blowing up my photos).  This side view really shows the oval shape:
I think this one is getting ready to emerge from the egg - the black speck appears to be the tiny larvae (caterpillar) breaking through:
Click here to see an incredible time lapse video on Youtube of a monarch caterpillar breaking out of its egg.  Pulling back a little, you can see this one tucked among the unopened flower buds:
Finally, I really hate to post an out-of-focus photograph, but I took this one last night when we first found them, and the light was fading and I had no time to set up my tripod (excuses, excuses), so sorry for the fuzziness, but it shows you the size of the egg in scale with George's finger.
I mentioned in my prior blog post that we have hardly seen any monarchs in our garden for a couple of years. I checked, and it was Spring 2009 when we last had the good luck to find monarch eggs on our milkweed. We raised and released them, and I photographed the entire process. You can see those photos by clicking here.  The mortality rate of butterflies left outside is quite high, due to predators, weather factors and other causes, so raising them indoors greatly increases the chance that they will survive. We're honored that this monarch trusted us with her eggs, and we will guard and nurture them until they emerge, then let them go to continue the cycle!

Monarch in the garden

A good day -- a monarch butterfly is flitting around our garden! Here she is perched on the leaves of the peach tree.  
Monarch butterfly perched on a peach tree
  It has been a couple of years since George watched a monarch lay eggs on the milkweed in our backyard. We brought some of the eggs inside to raise in safety.  Click here to see the photos I took of the whole process, from the tiny eggs, to the caterpillars, to the chrysalises, and finally to the butterflies which emerged (and which we released.)
But despite all of the milkweed George has planted to attract them, we've hardly seen any monarchs in the garden since that special year.  So imagine my delight when I saw this one -- she (George got close enough to identify her as female) was sunning on the angel's trumpet, and she also seemed to like the fennel plant and the dogwood tree, as well as the milkweed.   Here she is on the dried seed pods of the fennel, which is one of the anise swallowtail butterfly's larval food sources.
  She spent quite a bit of time on the milkweed, and I'm hoping she left some eggs.  
I love this milkweed, it's Asclepias physocarpa. Bees like it too - can you see the honeybee a bit to the left of the butterfly? Physocarpa is also known as “Family Jewels” because the seed pods look like ... well, here's a photo I took yesterday of one of the dried seed pods, see for yourself.
If you want to find more information about Physocarpa milkweed, check out this link to Annie's Annuals & Perennials. Here's a closeup of the butterfly on the milkweed, you can see her poor tattered wing.
Did you know that one of the monarch butterfly's protective characteristics is to poison its predators? In the larval stage it eats milkweed leaves to incorporate the milkweed toxins into its body. Perhaps a bird realized after getting a bite that it didn't want to keep eating. Click here to go to my blog 

Photo of the week 10/23/11

This week's photograph of the week is another blended collage.

Candles

Every year I create a couple of holiday cards from my photos that George and I send to friends and family. I used to print my own cards, but for the last couple of years I've had zazzle print them.  I like the quality, and the price is reasonable.  Zazzle was having a half-off sale on cards, so I stayed up late the other night getting this year's card finished. I started with a photo I took of our holiday bubble lights in candelabras. George found these - they're really fun because the liquid inside the glass bubbles up as it is heated by the light bulb. We even use one as a night light!

Bubble lightsI blended it with a photo I took of our lit Hanukah menorah candles. This reflects our blended family, since we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukah.

Menorah candles

I thought that the blending tool I chose brought out some interesting colors and patterns.  Here's a closeup of one of the variations I made, this one is more abstract:

This is the whole image:

Candles abstract

Do you design and make your own holiday cards? I've noticed that each year fewer people are sending cards, is it the expense or just the ease of email?  Are you going to say "Happy Holidays" on your facebook page, by email, or by card?   Click here to go to my blog 

Betty-cat 10/21/11

We recently had to say goodbye to our wonderful Betty.  Betty was a sweet shy black cat, with the softest furry cheeks.

Betty-cat

She spent a lot of time in her "cat room", which is a large closet at the top floor of our house where she would run whenever she heard anyone in the house other than George or me.  For this reason many of our friends doubted that we actually had a third cat. She dearly loved her brother Dorian, and he frequently washed her face.

Betty and Dorian

She didn't always get along as well with her pesky little brother, Lars, but once in awhile they shared a cuddle.

Lars and Betty

A few months ago, our lovely Bee was diagnosed with intestinal lymphoma.  Dr. Benjamin Otten, of allCreatures Veterinary Clinic , referred us to veterinary oncologist Dr. Sabhlok at PETS Referral Center.  Dr. Sabhlok treated Bee with chemotherapy for several months. She rallied for about a month or so, but the lymphoma caught up with her. In our sadness we were moved and comforted by the outpouring of sympathy from our veterinarians. We got several cards from Dr. Otten and the people who work at allCreatures, from Dr. Sabhlok and the people who work at PETS, and from VCA Albany, where we had also taken Betty. We wanted to express our appreciation for their kind gestures, and especially for their care and treatment of our precious Bee.  I decided to make mini-quilts for them, and printed my favorite photos of Betty onto fabric. Here are the two that I've finished so far:

Betty and Lars mini-quilt

Betty and Dorian mini-quilt

Bye Sweet Bee, we miss you... Click here to go to my blog 

Photo of the week 10/16/11

Has it really been a week since I posted my first Photo of the Week? Yikes, well okay then, here's the second - my favorite photo(s) from this week, with some background ...

Admiral butterfly feather collage

Okay, obviously not a straight photo. It's a collage from three photos I took this week. I started with my photo of a red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta):

Red admiral butterfly

George and I trekked up Albany Hill to check on the monarch butterflies - starting around this time of the year they overwinter in the eucalyptus trees there. Last year we only saw a few, so this year we were very encouraged to see far more. Hopefully they'll keep coming.  I didn't get any photos of the monarchs because they were fluttering around high up in the sky, but there were a lot of red admiral butterflies flitting lower down and then landing to sun their wings on the duff. This one let me creep close enough to get a shot. I blended that photo with a closeup I shot of a small bouquet in a vase on my windowsill. It's a black and white striped hen's feather next to a dried stalk of some soft pouffy grass.

Feather and grass

I was struck by the conjunction of the lines and disparity of the textures and tones. The third photo in the collage is another closeup of part of the same bouquet.

Silver dollar plant

It's the remains of a seed pod of a money plant (Lunaria Annua), also known as silver dollar plant. The plant has been slowly eroding, and I liked the juxtaposition of the frame of the disk with the empty spaces and few remaining tattered pieces. I used the layer blending tool in Photoshop Elements to blend the photos. I liked a few of the different settings to blend the first two, but finally settled on the 'overlay' setting.  I then added the money plant and blended them all into the final collage.  When I make my blended abstract collages I usually take photos from different years - it was fun to use three that I shot on the same day.  Here are some of my other blended collages.  You can see that butterflies appear in many of them. What are your favorite subjects in your art or photos?   Click here to go to my blog 
 
© 2013 Heidi Rand Garden Delights Arts & Crafts