Sunday, December 2, 2012

Open Houses Nestled in Nature

Yesterday Cindy and I checked out several unique Holiday Open Houses south of Charlottesville discovering wonderful crafts and a new Winery.

Beautiful quilting by Majorie Shepherd.
On our way south, we took a quick detour west to the small rustic Free Union Country School where artisans assembled to sell lovely carved and turned wooden vessels, Honeysuckle Vine Wreaths, hand quilted items, Pottery, and Jewelry.  The exotic wood bowls by Madera were some of the most beautiful I have seen.  The abstract quilting by Free Union resident, Marjorie Shepherd was bold, colorful and unique.  The Honeysuckle Vine creations by Anne Scarpa McCauly were wonderfully simple in form but technically detailed.  An extra bonus was the nice assortment of snacks and what was to be the best Apple Cider of our trip.

Little white primitive tree at Bittersweet.
Next we headed down 29 S to Bittersweet Branch Primitives in Faber, VA. This quaint little shop never ceases to amaze me.  If I could pick up a store and install it in my house, this would be it. Beth has discovered wonderful shabby chic vintage items and rustic primitives to share with you in her shop.  An artist and designer, she always knows how to tastefully display her found treasures.  Delightfully stacking architectural pieces displaying fabrics and crafts to keep your curious eyes entertained.  The shop building is equally as interesting appearing to have been plucked from an English Village and artfully nestled into nature off 29 S.  Warm and cozy, complete with a wood stove simmering miniature potpourri herb rabbits, and delicious Crab Dip and Pumpkin Cake yummies.

Darling primitive Farmer and Wife - pattern for sale.
The Holiday mood meter was about a 7 out of 10 at this point but once we ventured to Not Forgotten Farm the meter hit a 9 and we certainly will not forget this darling shop.  This cozy mind-blowing creative little farm shop was quite a surprise.  Off the beaten track in Amherst County but not too difficult to of a journey and certainly worth whatever it took to get there was this charmingly delightful shop filled with one of a kind little works of art and creatures.

Nocchi the Donkey loves Persimmons.
Lori certainly has a wonderful imagination and has shared it in her needlework and patterns.  Her shop mainly offers patterns for you to recreate her darling creatures but is also a source for unique primitive style fabrics, notions, and other items.  The needle shop was built by her husband but made to compliment the adjoining white clapboard farm house and rustic animal barns. We spent a long time with the menagerie of farm animals.  A pair of Donkeys greeted us on arrival and we later discovered chickens, Guinea Hens, a Peacock, and majestic Roosters in the barn... and two sweet doggies along the way.

Our visit ended eating Ginger Cookies dipped in Pumpkin Sauce chatting with the Clauses.  Glimpsing up to the parting sign "U'all Come Back", we tore ourselves away planning a trip next year to their Halloween Festival.

Sheep on the mountain top with a view.
Our last stop was up 1800 feet to the top of a mountain ridge in Amherst County to Ankida Ridge Vineyards.  I'm really glad that we took the effort to find this remote and breathtaking spot.  Reservations were required and they were full but told us to come anyway (they did not know I was a blogger).  Overflowing with what I would call "southern hospitality" from the second we parked our car.  Being taxied up higher on the mountain to the tasting room by a kind employee and greeted happily by the owner at the door really made an impression that we were in for a welcoming visit.

Sheep in the Grape Vines.
By the end of an hours time we we were singing Christmas Carols with Jessie (the niece of the owners), had tasted five wines, enjoyed a hay ride, and visited with all sorts of farm animals. Wine tasting was free if you donated an ornament to help fill their first Holiday tree.  That was a nice touch - I've not heard of other wineries making such offers and I'll have to say that not all wineries give you a welcoming feeling when you hit the door.  We chatted with one of the owners, Christine, who shared with us how the vineyard came about.  Their original intention was to find a remote piece of land in order to relax from demanding jobs (her husband is still a veterinarian in Virginia Beach and commutes).  It seems the fresh mountain air cleared their minds welcoming dreams of building something to keep them entertained for years to come.  The name Ankida is an ancient Sumerian term meaning where the Earth and Sky join and is a most appropriate name for this vineyard that sits on the cusp of heaven.

Hay Ride up the Mountain.
Groups were shuttled by hay wagon up to the tip top of the mountain where the 2 acres of vines are located protected by fencing allowing grapes to grow and pets to roam.  With Guinea hens on full alert, the sheep keep the grass and weeds short, chickens peck grubs and larva, and cats chase moles.

The ambiance and their full rich bodied port wine really hit the spot topping off a really nice day in the country.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Cyber Monday Deals

Vintage Red Nose Reindeer in my shop.
Cyber Monday is a great day to find online shopping deals.  Mainstream retailers have lots of great deals to be had but I suggest you steer toward the small shops that provide unique gift items.

There are over 800,000 active shops all rolled into one shopping experience on  It has become one of the most popular places to shop online.  Items are restricted to handmade craft items (made by the shop owner), vintage (items 20+ years old), and supplies.  Etsy shop owners take their businesses very seriously and often provide perks such as gift wrapping, gift boxes, etc.  Why not mail a gift directly to a friend or family -- I'm happy to include a nice holiday card signed by you!

Pretty "like new" Gown in my shop.
I've been an Etsy vintage seller for 3 years now and have sold over 300 items.  On Cyber Monday I will be having a 20% off sale in my two Etsy shops.  All items in and miscellaneous Eyewear items in my optical shop, will be 20% off on Cyber Monday.  To receive your discount in ForsythiaHill use COUPON CODE: CyberMonday.  The discount in DontUWantMe is already taken in the listed price for select items.

Decorative Wine Rack for YOU in my shop.
You don't have to buy a "new" item for a gift.  There are many vintage items that are "like new" and far better quality than what is currently made.  Prices are often lower for vintage than new manufactured merchandise and have a history to share.

Don't forget about entertaining this holiday season.  There are wonderfully unique items to be found on Etsy that your friends and family will most definitely comment on!

I hope you will support alternative small business owner shops this holiday season, it might just open  your eyes to a whole new way of shopping.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fall Artisan Studio Tours

A cow greeting at Nedra Smith Gatehouse Studio 
Early November is a wonderful time to trek into the colorful hillsides of Central Virginia. Each year two counties, Rappahannock and the area surrounding Albemarle, host Artisan Studio Tours.

I don't know what I enjoy more, seeing the interesting art or touring around the hills soaking in the majestic scenery.  The fall foliage provides a breathtaking background for charming art studios nestled in the hillsides.

Fish by Far Ridge Ceramics
My husband and I checked out the Rappahannock studios.  I found the tools of the trade and studios themselves quite interesting.  It seems there are not enough tools made to supply an artist in their trade.  Wide assortments of bits, clamps, and brushes are needed to satisfy the never ending creativity of an artists mind.

Beautiful view from Rick Meyers studio
We drove up rugged roads into the hillsides surrounding Washington, Virginia in Rappahannock discovering fine crafted studios where artists can become inspired.

Apparently it helps to have an incredible vista outside ones art space.  With each passing studio, I would think, I want to work in a place like that... only finding the next studio to top the prior one!

Jackie and Anthony with peeping Ducks

The River District Arts Gallery in Sperryville, Virginia is a restored Apple Packing Plant that houses numerous artists and a warm cozy restaurant.  We specifically went to check in on Jackie Bailey Labovitz's recent addition of animals to her photography collection of Native Plants. On first sight of her work, it appears to be painted.  The printed surface has a sheen to it and her images are so crisp and clean that you can almost reach out and feel the animals fur, feathers, or scales.  I've yet to be disappointed and not down right amazed at her serenely beautiful works of art.

Necklace by Goodine's Designs
I was glad my husband got a chance to talk with Jackie about her process and learn a little bit more about this fascinating woman.  Jackie's theory, based on personal experience, is that art is created from somewhere in your memory - consciously or unconsciously.

Jackie's lovely Native Plant Exhibit, Understory, will be on display most of next year at the U.S. Botanic Garden on the Mall in D.C.

Amazing view from Rockfish River Pottery
This past weekend a friend of mine and I hit studios in Nelson County.  It's fun traveling with someone that has an equal appreciation for the mountains and glowing colors of the Autumn season.  We could not get enough of the colors and the wonderful views artists have right outside their door.

Thanksgiving will be next week and that will officially be the end of Fall... I hate to see such a beautiful season come to an end once again.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fall Trip to Scottsville, VA

Last week Hurricane Sandy was slated to batter the East Coast so the girls decided to hit the road to see the colorful leaves before they were all blasted off the trees.  We headed South of Charlottesville to the quaint town of Scottsville, Virginia.  It was a scenic drive down Highway 20 with lovely hillsides covered in glorious yellow and orange with a few splashes of red.

First stop was to travel on the last poled ferry in the United States, The Hatton Ferry.  This was the final weekend of the season to catch the ferry trip from Albemarle County to Buckingham County.  Ironically, the water level was so low (pre-Sandy) that we could only venture halfway across the James River.  Regardless, it was a lovely day and our ferry driver was a wonderful guide, born nearby, which allowed him to share a bit of local history while we enjoyed our ride.  The ferry has operated for 140 years and is still in motion thanks to the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.

Next we strolled downtown Scottsville.  It reminds me so much of my old small town residence of Pulaski.  Like many small towns, the economy has really done a number on it but we did find one great shop, the recently opened Scrumpcious Sweet Shoppe.  Ohhhh, and Ohhhh, and Ohhhh does it ever have great cupcakes!  I was really happy to see they provided samples and man did that hook me into wanting MORE.  The White on White was the best, the Chocolate on Chocolate was no slouch.  Creamy rich icing and a soft buttery cake.  It has been a long time since I've had such a good sweet.  The reviews on the Chocolate Cake with Mint icing were mixed.  I loved it and wanted more but my friend didn't like the icing because it was Spearmint and not Peppermint.  I personally loved the surprise and love Spearmint!  The Pumpkin Cupcake was excellent but I still liked the sample White on White the best.  I WANT MORE.

Ivy coated Mennonite Church, Schuyler, VA
After devouring our sweets we were off  to Schuyler, Virginia where the creator of " The Walton's", Earl Hamner, grew up.  His home still stands as do several beautiful churches tucked into the landscape.  The Walton's Museum was closed already (darn those cupcakes) but several interesting structures remain in Schuyler.  The Mennonite Church covered in Ivy is a treasure.  We were invited in for a service by the local Non-denomenational Church group but we were trying to make it home before dark so had to pass. 

Darling Rockfish Post Office, outside Schuyler, VA.
The little Rockfish U.S. Post Office is now closed but the darling little structure still remains.  It is so sad to think this community no longer has it's little Post Office open.  Such a gem and I can imagine quite the "community center" when it was up and running.

We zipped up 29 N back to reality, but it was a nice venture back into the country, little traffic, a lot of wildlife, and little noise.  Just how I like it.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Vintage Finds

Cool Fall weather and trips to see my parents have led me to all sorts of crazy finds.  I can't help myself, even with a room full of items to sell, I stumble across more treasures.

Retro Metal Amoire - before - and after sanding and painting.

Check out this 1950s era metal Armoire that I picked up on the last day of a yard sale in Roanoke, Virginia for $5.00.  It was sitting alone ignored and no one wanted it until I wanted it (funny how that works).  Luckily there were men hanging around and with a little arm twisting, the back of my Subaru once again handily accommodated another treasure.  A little Hammered Copper Spray paint and it is as good as new.  I love the retro look and it looks great in my Dining Room (of all places) with my copper color theme.  The kicker is that I had a coupon at Lowes for $10.00 off a $10.00 purchase!  Which brought my grand total for this item to under $10.00 and its life has been extended for another 70 years.

Vintage Wine Rack after sanding and painting.
I found this Wine Rack at the Recycle Center in Charlottesville.  At the time it was rusty and a bit under the weather and I did not realize it was a Wine Rack.  I only noticed the lovely pattern and grape leaves and that was enough to pitch this totally free item into the back of the car.  I mean it was just sitting there looking up at me crying... I am so cute, you can make me all better... ha ha... sooo, I took it home.   My husband decided to help me by sanding it and painting it!  I forgot to get a before photo but trust me, it looked as if it belonged in the dumpster.   The Wine Rack will soon be for sale in my vintage shop, since we are freaks of nature and don't drink wine.

I picked up this "Chicken Playhouse" on Freecycle.  My Subaru came through again.. we had a good laugh over hauling this home (I am lucky to have a husband that supports my habit).

Off to get busy and list items in my shop.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Too neat to eat

Too neat to eat.
The Voices for Animals coordinated 16th Annual Cville Vegetarian Festival is this coming weekend, September 29, 11 am - 5 pm.  Over 6,000 people attend this festival located in Lee Park in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia.

Activities have been expanded this year to include lots of music and cooking demos held nearby at The Haven.  Several interesting speakers are booked this year that can enlighten and encourage your journey with vegetarianism.

My little laying hen to be with me until natural death.
Ninety vendors have signed on and applications are still being accepted.  It sounds like a really good event this year!


Monday, September 17, 2012

Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival a Winner

Thomas Jefferson's Garden
Saturday I wallowed in Gardener Heaven at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. This festival is a must, must, must, must attend if you are a gardening junkie like me.  There is exhibit after exhibit related to gardening, homesteading, farming, nature, plants, natural eating, and DIY. 

This year I made it out of my house at 8:15 am to get first dibs at the Old Timey Seed Swap.  It's amazing to see the generosity of gardeners.  There was a vast assortment of containers full of copious amounts of SEED fresh from the gardener.  Some seed swappers had made the trek from other states!  This is a big event for those that especially grow vegetables.  It seemed a little less crowded this year so I had plenty of time to look through all the colorful offerings.
After about an hour of this I began roaming the festival, searching out food samples and checking out the few chickens and Jersey cows that were in attendance this year.  I'm not a big fan of bringing animals to festivals but all were in the shade and well cared for.  It provides a chance for city kids to see farm animals and shockingly, some have never petted a farm animal!

The festival seems to grow each year, and I discovered several interesting booths.  The Xerces Society had a lot of timely information about our vanishing bees.  Typically we think of raising bees in handmade hives but this group is focused on native species and the lack thereof.  They currently are in search of 2 native bee species and sightings should be reported.

In the midst of booth hopping I came across the top freebie at the festival - hot liquid CHOCOLATE.  I am ashamed to say that I snuck back six more times to get a shot glass of liquid lava.  At first I tried to disguise myself... putting on a hat, taking off a hat, putting on glasses, taking off glasses... in the end deciding to just duck down and stick my arm through the hordes of people that had also caught onto this delicious delight.  I dreamed about it that night, bathing in hot liquid chocolate.

During the day a large array of seminars are held.  There were so many things to taste, booths to see, plants to view, and music to hear, I barely made it to two seminars.  I found the "You CAN bake bread" seminar interesting hosted by Deborah Niemann.  One recipe of yeast, flour, water, and salt - does it all.   I also enjoyed the well attended Chicken Whispering discussion by expert Patricia Foreman.   I loved the part of her discussion about involving your chicken in dinner parties and TV viewing... chickens are more "pet like" than most people realize.

Lastly, I sat at the local chicken groups booth for an hour, CLUCK.  Talking to chicken owners and those planning on having a flock one day.  The numbers are certainly growing and I always advise those interested in getting a flock to look for chickens in need.  As the popularity for a certain pet expands, so does the discarding of those pets (Dalmatian explosion from the re-release of the movie 101 Dalmatians is just one example).  My six hens are "rescue" hens and I would not do it any other way.

Yellow Hibiscus with Monticello in the background.
It was a glorious day, one spent relaxing, observing, and learning up on the top of the world among fellow gardeners... sucking down chocolate... BLISS.



Friday, September 7, 2012

DIY Reclaimed Material Storage Cabinet

We've been dragging around these huge heavy shutters for years now.  Storing them in our shed and even moving them from SW Virginia to Central Virginia.  I knew that one day we would find the perfect project for them.  Our neighbor had taken them off his parents house and of course we took them off his hands.

Gear eating up our patio.
We had a lean-to Greenhouse on our old home where I stored all my gardening pots and gear.  When we moved there was no place for my stash and the pile was getting out of control so my smart husband decided to finally put those 70 year old + shutters to good use.

I just love my new cabinet to keep things tidy and out of sight.  I still have a little tidying up to do but it is much improved.  This was a 2 day project that used up 100% scrap wood and screws that we had on hand. 


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Food Products

Currently there is a big push to EAT basic HEALTHY foods and buy locally.  I definitely agree with that mantra but lets face it, sometimes convenience foods come to the rescue when you just can't manage it all.  My main objective is to find prepackaged foods that are not full of sugar, salt, and chemicals that you can't pronounce.  The least number of ingredients and natural ingredients.  If it says Yogurt, then milk better be the first ingredient and I avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup.  The most heavily used ingredients are listed in the first several slots in the ingredient list on the package.

Here are a few of my very favorite convenience foods that you might want to try.  I would love to know what you can't live without that doesn't contain a bunch of horrible ingredients ... leave a comment!

To reduce my dairy consumption (for pro-humane animal treatment - I don't have my own cow named Daisy) I switched to Almond Milk years ago.  I have found it can be swapped in baking without a taste or texture alteration.  If you like to chug milk in a glass with your Oreo's then I would recommend sticking to dairy milk.  The taste is just not the same, BUT a good substitute for that purpose is Silk Dark Chocolate PureAlmond Milk.  It is different but pretty darn good.  Coconut Milk is all the rage now and is basically equivalent in baking, but check the fat % before buying, sometimes it can be higher than Almond Milk.

I still have a weakness for dairy based Yogurt.  I have tried many different yogurts over the years and have found The Greek Gods Honey Flavored to be the absolute most delicious yogurt on the market.  It does have a higher fat % than some other comparable yogurts but this is my daily indulgence.  I pile it on my Oatmeal each morning and it is like butter on a cake.  It is my last dairy based item because I have yet to find anything non-dairy comparable.

I discovered several frozen faux meat products that even my husband loves!  My favorite veggie burger is Morningstar Farms Mushroom Lovers.  I've tried it seems every brand of frozen faux burger on the market but this is the only one that holds up on the grill and tastes BETTER than a grocery store meat burger.  If you like a big huge pile of meat, this will not satisfy you, but if you like a thin burger loaded with condiments, then this is the ticket.  The other Morningstar varieties are not as tasty.

Gardenin Crispy Tenders and Quorn Grounds, and Quorn Chikin Cheese Cutlets are abfab.  When you are enjoying your dinner, you can be relieved that this was never a factory farmed chicken or cow in a prior life.

I often match my faux meat with a side of homemade beans, salad, or to save time, grill some colorful veggies right in the pan with the frozen meat.

Making wise shopping decisions is your first step to improving your health and our planet.  Some faux meat products contain way too many weird ingredients so look at the label before purchasing.

May be eating meat free is new to you, so start with "Meatless Monday" and give some of my suggestions a try and comment on my blog as to what you thought!


Friday, August 3, 2012

Life Pledge #3

My Gus and Cesar fresh from the Animal Shelter.
Actually, this should have been my Pledge #1 because it has been my commitment for the past 15 years and I feel very strongly about it.

I Pledge to never purchase a pet through a Pet Shop, Breeder, or Online Seller.  I exclusively will adopt from a reputable Animal Shelter, Rescue, or by "discovery".  For the sake of not making this post too long, I am going to talk specifically about dogs but I feel even more strongly about cats. 

Wonderful hound, a typical breed found in local shelters.
Thankfully over the last decade, Animal Welfare groups have taken on the cause of shutting down inhumane Puppy Mills.  The battle is ongoing as is the battle for safe food, fair taxes, and the like.  There always seems to be someone making a buck that is fighting tooth and nail to continue their vice at any cost.  This is the case with Puppy Mill owners.  They will do anything to keep their cruel moneymaker bringing in the cash.

I have seen first hand the misery caused by Puppy Mills.  While the Director of a Humane Society located inside of a county owned kill Animal Shelter, there were many instances of abuse as a direct result of Puppy Mills and irresponsible Breeders.  Personally, until there are no more pets killed in U.S. shelters, I choose to not adopt from responsible Breeders as well.  It's simple economics... Why would I trade the life of a shelter pet for one purchased from a breeder?  I wouldn't. 

A "vicious" shelter Pitbull & PCHS Pres. Rita.
Let's get to the numbers.  You may think only small numbers of pets never make it out alive of Animal Shelter Agencies.  Think again.  In 2011 in the State of Virginia, almost 80,000 dogs and cats never found their new home.  Nationwide in the U.S. up to 4 million are euthanized each year.  The numbers are staggering and to think they have actually improved over the last decade due to the hard work by Humane Societies, SPCA's and dog Rescues Groups.

A growing trend is to hide the cruelity by selling pets on the internet masked by cute or heart wrenching websites.  You may think that "others" are doing their part and picking up the slack for your decision to adopt from an unknown online dealer -- NOT...  According to Wayne Pacelle, CEO and President of the HSUS, only 1 in 5 owned pets are adopted from a Shelter or Rescue.  More people need to face the facts and the numbers that animals are dying directly because of their purchase decisions. 

My sweet doggie Simba, my first shelter pet.
Being part of the humane movement for years gave me that first hand look into what is good and bad.  I can attest that Puppy Mills and breeders, breeding purely out of greed, diverted charity group resources toward animal rescue instead of animal prevention services.  Funds are always limited and can easily dissolve when animals are so mistreated that they require medical care at the charities expense.  Compound this problem with the arrival of 50+ abused and neglected Puppy Mill dogs and you are looking at a huge expense and housing problem.  Many agencies are already maxed out on both fronts.

While I was in the midst of pet madness as Humane Society Director, I often wanted to scream at the top of my lungs (and actually did) for people to take this issue seriously and NOT PURCHASE A PET but ADOPT instead!  Irresponsible breeding takes such a physical and mental toil on the good souls that are trying so desperately to help our little furry babies.  Kindness and love has totally disappeared from the souls of Puppy Mill breeders... it's time they were put to a stop and you can help by making thoughtful and humane purchase decisions. 


Thursday, July 26, 2012

William Wells Brown Lecture

Two days ago I received an email announcing the Rare Book School (RBS) was featured in the New York Times. After perusing the RBS website, I discovered they host a Summer Lecture Series. Unfortunately, there was only one lecture remaining but I did make a point to go.   It was held in the beautiful Small Special Collections Library on campus next to the Alderman Library.  I had about 30 minutes to spare so enjoyed two exhibits. One being Sound in Early America which showed off numerous wonderful old music related manuscripts and books in their collection.

Last night Dr. Ezra Greenspan, "an archaeologist of the written word", spoke about the nineteenth century writer William Wells Brown.  For many years, Dr. Greenspan has been meticulously investigating physical locations, archives, and publications in attempt to recreate Brown's footsteps and will publish a book about his findings, due out in 2014.  Dr. Greenspan presented his fascinating journey and the twists and turns encountered while researching the nearly unrecorded history of the man he classifies as the most important African-American writer of the nineteenth century.

Familiar Childrens book for sale
I was unsure exactly what the lecture encompassed... was it on Browns life, or one of his published books, or the actual printing process of a book?  Given the short timeframe between my discovery of this lecture and the event, I went rather blindly to it but with eyes and ears wide open.  Dr. Greenspan enthusiastically led us on a journey through the history of an African-American that began his life as a slave and ended it as a renound writer.  An intriging journey of his attempt to research a mans life who had very few early family documents to support his existance.  In the early 1800's there were few mentions of slaves , other than number and if lucky their "American given" names. The only documents Dr. Greenspan had to use were slave owner family histories, which he has meticiously pieced together to ascertain the early history of William W. Brown.

The lecture brought back wonderful memories of my cousin Lee and I researching our own family history in the nearby library and driving around town to discover an actual road named after our family!  It was a great discovery and led us down another path to find more links to our past.
If you are an antique book lover, as I am, you must visit the Small Special Collection Library.  My Grandmother Hall was an avid book reader, school teacher, and writer, publishing one book.  I moved into her home 25 years after her death and the renters of 25 years had lovingly left her books throughout the house in various bookcases!  Twenty years after that, just a month ago, my mother and I were "cleaning the garage" and discovered boxes and boxes and boxes of more of my Grandmothers books!  We sorted through, donating a car trunk load to the Goodwill (of god forbid hopefully) non- valuable books.  What remained is mostly at my house... "mostly"... there is MORE.

Dr. Greenspan continues to look for leads into the past to fill in more missing links of William W. Brown and has given me the motivation to seek out old family history that might not be obvious on the written page.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Lesson in Botanical Photography

Jackie's Studio Loft in Sperryville.
The Gardening Group of the Newcomers Club of Greater Charlottesville took a trip to Sperryville, Virginia to hear a presentation given by Botanical Photographer, Jackie Bailey Labovitz.  Not only were we all thoroughly blown away by Jackie and her description of botanical escapades but the Studio where her artwork is housed is nearly as exciting.

 River District Arts Building.
The River District Arts (RDA) building within Rappahannock Central was once the home of a 1930's Apple Processing Plant.  RDA is now a converted Artisan Loft.  The building compound contains several interesting businesses; Artisan Studios, a Distillery, and huge Antique Store.  I was so impressed with the conversion of the Apple Plant to a beautiful open sunlit space.  This gem is a block off the main drag and is not to be missed if you are planning a drive to the Shenandoah National Forest.  Sperryville is a small town at the scenic mountain foothills convenient to Charlottesville and Washington, DC. 

Mary B. Allen - Studio work in progress.
We enjoyed perusing various works of art (coincidentally all by women) of approximately a dozen different artists, each having their own little "art stall" in which to work and display their creations.  We had prepaid for a catered lunch which was delicious and held in a beautiful space where a restaurant once operated (the owner is looking for a new restaurant to come on board).  We also were treated to coffee and snacks prior to Jackie's presentation.

Jackie describing her beloved Trout Lily Photo.
On first examination of Jackie, she appears to be a small framed conservative woman that could not possibly hike in the woods alone carrying all the heavy camera equipment necessary to produce art worthy of gallery space in the National Museum of Natural History in the Smithsonian Institution.  We soon learn that this little dynamo has figured out exactly how to capture that perfect shot with a philosophy of less is better and practice makes perfect.  Housing all her equipment in a light weight small backpack prepared to hike as far and as long as required, she produces magic on canvas.

Highlighted in her presentation was her methodology of using simple and lightweight items and that photography is more about understanding the medium and being blessed with the tenacity to see a project through no matter what the challenge.  Given she has a degree in Fine Arts, her eye for detail and perfection is an obvious part of her work.  Her process is meticulously handcrafted, starting from the shooting and down to printing on canvas at home, all of which gives her work an ethereal hand painted feel.  Earlier in her career, Jackie published a nature book on Wildlife that is glorious and her photography style has been carried over into her recent botanical art series, Understory.

Jackie's description of searching for the elusive Pink Lady's Slipper and thirteen of Thomas Jefferson's favorite Wildflowers gave listeners insight as to how much time she has devoted to her art.  Hunting down teeny pinkie sized flower buds (or no buds at all for that matter), hiking in and around forests over and over, and combating extremes in weather proved to be a challenge that I would say most people would not see through no matter what the reward.

Stoneware Toad House by Michele M. Soderman.
There is nothing I love more than a good story about flowers and photography.  It didn't hurt that a strong woman over 50 (with a good man at home for a lot of support) was the hero.  It was inspiring to hear that success has no age limits.

Jackie's work can be purchased and viewed at her studio in Sperryville and will be shown next year at the US Botanic Garden in DC and at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond.

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