Monday, October 24, 2011

Water Jug Makeover ...

my galvanized tin water jug

Don't you just love a good find?  I was rummaging through a bin over at the Cambridge Antique Market last week and came upon this vintage galvanized tin water jug. For some reason it just called to me.  Maybe the under $25 price tag was doing all the calling.  I thought it might make the perfect prop for my front porch but it needed a little makeover first. 

naked tin in my studio

Here is the tin before I gave it a makeover.  I used some painter's tape to mask off the areas that I wanted to keep paint free.  My thinking was that a little bit of the zinc colored tin would look great peeking out from the new paint job.  It also would keep the vintage vibe that it already had going for it.

all dressed up and ready to go!

I sprayed the tin with flat black enamel spray paint and then carefully peeled away the painter's tape to reveal the galvanized tin.  I like it and think it's ready for it's close up ...

standing sentry with the gourds 

mini makeover complete

I love the extra pop of black to finish off my montage to autumn on the porch.  

Wilson Farm autumn display

Thought you would enjoy an Autumn view of Wilson Farm in Lexington.  Such a great and inspiring  pumpkin display - don't you think?

Enjoy your week and I'll see you soon,


Monday, October 17, 2011

Black and White

all photography by Ellen McHale

Black and  White photography can elevate the lowliest of objects to "artwork" status. If you are in the market for some original artwork for your home - why not grab your camera and take a hike? Did you know that you can set your digital camera to "black and white" before you point and shoot.  By starting in a black and white mode, your camera will do all the work for you in terms of settings and light.  If you choose to convert your color photos to black and white via your computer after your photo shoot - you won't always get the quality that you are hoping for.  Take a few moments to get to know what your camera can do for you.  

garden angel

portal to the heavens

Knowing that you are shooting in black and white kind of takes the pressure off of you.  You don't have to worry so much about lighting and color.  You can focus on the object or the shape and line that appeals to your sensibilities.  I think it frees you up in terms of taking a good photograph.  You are free to play.

Kenney Farm Wagon

It is surprising the types of things that look good in black and white.  Rustic, beaten-up objects look divine in monochrome.  Black and white focuses all the attention on form and shape.

crumbly wheel

"s" is for style


When you set out to do a session in black and white you start to see things that your eyes were not open to before.  You begin to look at things from another angle and see art.

tractor seat

tractor seat up close and personal

The tractor seat above would look beautiful blown up and mounted in an oversized matting with black frame.  A collection of "farm" photos would look amazing grouped together on a wall.  Think outside of the box and photograph the suggestion of the item and not the literal translation - this keeps things interesting for you and the viewer.

keeping predators at bay

chain link

a walk in the park

Be open to beauty no matter what form it takes.  A length of chain is just as interesting as the more predictable scenic view of the bridge in the field.  

beans - good for you!

farm stand

don't overlook signs as art

You can pretty much take your black and white photos in almost any kind of lighting. The shadow play is what makes the artwork pop.

tree roots


iron gate


All shape is good shape when it comes to creating visually interesting photographs.  Get up close and personal when taking your photo - you will be happy that you did.

a wing and a prayer

bird on pole

a crisp Fall day

Maybe you will be inspired to try your hand at some black and white photography.  Grab your camera and set it for black and white before you leave the house.  Open your eyes to the extraordinary beauty that surrounds us in ordinary things.  Get up close, change your view and snap away.  You will be surprised at how beautiful your photos are.  Blow them up, display them proudly and don't forget to sign the artist's name at the bottom. 

(all photos by Ellen McHale)

see you next week,


Friday, October 7, 2011

Terrarium DIY

a simple terrarium

Terrariums are glass or transparent enclosures where plants or nature's beauty reside. They run the gamut from a simple topiary under glass to an entire miniature world existing in an elaborate container.  The trend over the last few years has been a return to an appreciation for hand-crafted goods and repurposing items for home decor. The creation of a terrarium is particularly rewarding as we usher in the colder weather and put to bed our warm weather gardens.  

Anything can be captured in a terrarium.  Fond memories of a beach vacation can reside in a jar in the way of sand, sea glass and driftwood.  Small clippings from a loved-one's garden can be nurtured in a protective enclosure while providing a little piece of beauty in a room. Your creativity can really let loose by planning out an elaborate miniature garden complete with pint-sized statuary among tiny hills. 

Terrariums are relatively easy to make and even easier to care for.  There are many choices of containers - that is up to you and what look you are striving for.  Apothecary jars, deep glass bowls, aquariums, a cloche or bell jar or the Wardian case - the original terrarium container. The containers can be closed or open, that is completely up to you.  An open case may need more care because there will be more evaporation of moisture compared to a closed case that captures the moisture and requires less watering. 

Let me show you how easy it is to create a little nature under glass to get you through this winter ...

gather your ingredients

Pull together your ingredients just like when you are trying out a new recipe.  I've got my container - A Wardian Case that I found on One Kings Lane and my plant material that I found over at Gerard's on Rt. 2 in Lincoln, MA.

more ingredients
You will also need some river rocks or pea gravel, horticultural charcoal or aquarium charcoal (to keep the smell out), soil and moss (here I have some irish moss).


Don't forget the plants.  You can find tiny plants, succulents and topiaries at many garden stores.  You can also take your own clippings and try your hand at them.

gourds and pumpkins

My terrarium is going to start out with an Autumnal theme so I am using some mini-pumpkins to add some interest.  You can add little toys and statuary to make sweet vignettes.


Add your layers in this order.  First you want to line the bottom of your vessel with your pea gravel or rocks for drainage ( a good couple inches of pea gravel).  Next you want to layer charcoal over the rocks to filter the water.  You should use horticultural charcoal whenever you are planting anything that does not have drainage.  You can add your soil next - make sure you have enough so that you can plant your plants.  Pack it down so it is even and add more where necessary.  Next you can use your moss.  Some people use sphagnum moss under the soil to help with soil drift.  I did not - I used the irish moss on top of my soil to add some visual interest. Lastly, start planting!

my terrarium planted up

I've added my plants, succulents, pumpkins and moss.  Once you like the composition, you are good to go.  Give it a light watering or misting and then close your terrarium and enjoy nature's beauty!

My completed Terrarium

Case closed!  My terrarium is complete and you can see some condensation forming at the base of the container now that it is closed.  You will want to monitor your terrarium whether or not your container is open or closed.  Check to make sure the plants are thriving.  Have you over-watered or under-watered?  A light hand is best.  

You don't have to plant up live plants in your terrarium.  You can collect twigs and acorns on your Sunday Stroll and put them up in a glass jar.  Your beach memories can live on in an apothecary jar on a shelf in your office.  An exquisite mini orchid can live happily under a glass cloche on a cake stand.  Even a mini topiary takes on artwork-status when displayed under a dome.

My beach Terrarium

Display your summer vacation in a jar.  This is an apothecary jar that I bought at Ikea.  It is sitting on an antique clay pot that I am using for a base.

gourd terrarium

Sometimes simple is best.  Here, I've placed a tiny white pumpkin on a clay base and topped with a glass cloche.  It is simply lovely.


Display is the thing! Have fun showcasing your terrariums - they are truly pieces of art.

table top terrarium

My new terrarium on display at home ... I kind of love it and I hope you did too!  

I had a lot of fun shopping for my "ingredients" at Gerard's on Rt. 2 in Lincoln.  For those of you who haven't slowed down enough to jump off of Rt. 2 and explore his shop - you really should. There is more to it than meets the eye.  It is like a little piece of Europe (Belgium to be exact) fell from the sky and landed in the strange location of Rt. 2. What looks like a road side farm stand is actually a curiosity shop of the best kind.  Antique garden statuary, obligatory plants, topiaries, green house, pies, fruit stand, jams, jellies and chocolates! Inside you will find a carefully curated collection of European antiques and vintage finds.  I actually found one of my favorite purses there that receives more compliments than seems possible - considering I bought it at my roadside garden shop!

take a peek at a few pictures of Gerard's:

Gerard's (Panetta's was previous name)

Gorgeous Floral Creations

Seasonal Finds

Fruits, Jams and Pies

Shop for European Antiques Here!

Well, this was a long post but I hope you enjoyed.  Let me know if you make your own terrarium.  send me a picture and I'll post it to share.

See you next week,