Friday, April 12, 2019

Looking Back on my First Craft Show

Wow! What an incredible—and exhausting—experience! Last weekend I showed my Shades of Autumn (leaf-covered lampshades) for the very first time at what's arguably the best craft show of them all, the American Craft Show.

I have new respect for my fellow artisans, not just for the near perfection of their craft, but also for the amount of organization and sheer work it takes to display it so elegantly. Many of them take on several of these shows a year.

 What I hope for is some good ol' word-of-mouth.

It takes a toll on an introvert like me having to be up and "out there" for a total of 27 hours over three-and-a-half days. But the rewards made it all well worthwhile: humbling praise from visitors; camaraderie with fellow exhibitors; practice with my "elevator pitch," and a few important lessons learned for future exhibitions.

Actual sales? Fewer than I'd hoped for, but exactly what I'd expected. Several visitors promised to send me their lamp dimensions for custom orders. And I'm told exhibitors are often contacted by folks who simply needed some time and inspiration before buying.

As for the future, I'd be honored to be asked back to the ACC show next year. And I'll consider other exhibitions—possible shows attracting vacation home and cabin owners. And I'll make sure my on-line presence gains some prominence.

Of course, as an introvert - both in person and virtually - what I really hope for is some good ol' word-of-mouth. And that's where you come in...

Thanks! (And if you'd like to learn more about my new occupation and see examples of my work check out my website: Shades of Autumn.)


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Craft Show Update

Well, it's finally here; the American Craft Council's St. Paul show is this weekend. After five months of intensive work — collecting and processing leaves; producing a range of lampshades to display; creating and producing my Shades of Autumn graphics and collateral material; and designing and outfitting my booth — I think I'm ready to let go and truly enjoy this amazing experience.

If you're in the Twin Cities Metro, I hope you'll come and enjoy all the extraordinary crafts at this awesome show. And while you're there stop by my booth to say hello and see what I've been up to all this time.


Regular show dates are Apr. 5-7 (Friday through Sunday), with a special preview event the evening of Thurs., Apr. 4.

As friends of an exhibitor, you can get half-price tickets here: (This promo includes only pre-show on-line purchases and will not be honored at RiverCentre, the event venue, once the show starts.)

EVENTBRIGHT   Use promotional code MSP2019GUEST

Friday, November 9, 2018


Those of you who’ve followed my ramblings here on One Man’s Wonder and my travel blog, El Viajero Contento during the past few years know I’ve embarked on a new wonder-based enterprise: Shades of Autumn – lampshades handcrafted from pressed autumn leaves.

My work’s been accepted for the big, juried American Craft Council Craft Show in St. Paul in April, so I’m going to be busy, designing and producing enough shades to exhibit a range of styles—not to mention creating an elegant booth and all my promotional materials.

So-o-o-o, I’m afraid I’m going to have to take a hiatus from blogging for a while to focus on that project. Thank you for your loyal following! I’ll be checking in from time to time to field any comments on past posts. And you can always follow my comings and goings on my Facebook page.

If you’d like to see my lampshades, here are a few. More will be on display on my Shades of Autumn website, due to be up and running in early 2019. And please, if you're in the Twin Cities area this coming April, stop by my booth at the American Craft Council Craft Show taking place at RiverCenter in St. Paul, April 5-7, 2019. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fresh-mown grass painted on pavement by recent rains takes on new life as a bounding cottontail. Or perhaps you see something else?

Monday, October 1, 2018

KARMA CHAMELEON – Nature’s Optical Surprises

As you should know by now, I’m constantly awe-struck by Nature’s small wonders. But as I’ve ramped up my botanical-lampshade-making craft over the past year or so, I’m discovering new surprises every day.

I’m experimenting with all sorts of leaves, stems, seeds and berries, to discover how they act when held up to light. One of the surprises is Nature’s incredible witchery with color.

          It turns out the skin of those deep blue 
          berries isn’t really blue at all.

For example, I found that an autumn grape leaf—a sort of muted gray-green to first glances—turns a luxuriant burgundy when I put a light behind it.

The ornamental grass in a pot on our neighbor’s patio turns that chameleon feat around; when you pick a blade, you’d swear it’s color is something like maroon or oxblood. But hold it up to the light and it turns green.

As I play around with ways to create natural “gems” of bright color to accent the more muted browns, golds and rusts of most leaves, I’m experimenting with various berries. One of them, that of the Solomon’s seal plant, is dark blue.

I wondered, what if I cut those berries in half, scraped out the seeds and goo inside and filled them with clear-drying acrylic medium. Would that give me a nice, translucent, bright blue “gem?”

Well, it gave me a gem all right. But as it turns out the skin of those deep blue berries isn’t really blue at all. It’s a brilliant emerald green.

So the search continues. I’m thinking, what color berries must I look for to serve as my red gems? Green ones?

Can you recall any of your own such surprises from Nature? Where what you thought you saw turned out to be something very different? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Friday, September 7, 2018

LIFE AND LIMB – The Healing Embrace of a Cottonwood

Today I visited a dear old friend — one with many limbs and five trunks.

Years ago, during my recovery from neck surgery, I would take tentative walks around my Saint Anthony Park (St. Paul) neighborhood. Doctors orders.

Besides the therapeutic benefits of just walking, I found many healing influences on those outings, especially around the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota—the so-called ag campus. Among them, a certain cottonwood tree which, at first glance, appeared unremarkable.

        I would stand in that living enclosure...
        and feel blessed.

But as I walked past it, it spoke to me. Like so many cottonwoods, this one comprised multiple, distinct trunks. In this case, five of them arranged in a neat circle, each separated from the next by just a few inches of turf, leaving about a four-square-foot patch of ground in the middle.

I would step into that living enclosure, lean back against one of the massive members, and feel utterly enveloped in a force—a spirit—that made me feel blessed. I’m convinced that tree helped me heal.

For years after that lonely, painful period, I would stop every time I passed that tree, step inside, profess my gratitude and refresh my soul as I did that first time.

Flash forward to this morning. Our sweet little miniature schnauzer, Sylvia, remained in the throes of a nasty infection or poisoning of some sort. She’d been throwing up every few minutes for 36 hours with no end in sight. Yesterday I’d taken her to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Clinic’s emergency room to see if we could find out what was going on.

Sally and I have been consumed with worry about her. She’s so little, so helpless, so precious. Neither of us knows what we’d do if anything happened to our sweet little girl. Since Sally’s had to work these past two days, much of the burden of caring for her has fallen on me. I’m glad I'm able to do it, but it’s been an incredibly stressful and emotional time for me.

  I suggest the lack for them may lie not with the 
  trees’ capacity for communication but their own.

This morning, seeing no improvement in Sylvia, our concern grew still more acute. So she and I paid a second visit to the ER, where they did more tests and gave her some sub-cutaneous fluids and an anti-nausea injection. It seemed to help right away. Guardedly, I felt the first ripples of relief.

As we’re driving home I notice we’re passing the block where that old cottonwood used to live. I look to my left and there it is. I pull over, put my flashers on, and walk over to it as if greeting a dear old friend. Then I notice. One of its trunks is gone, apparently the victim of thunderstorm winds. 

Somehow I sense we understand each other's vulnerability. Once again, I step into that knowing embrace. And again I feel its acknowledgement, its grace, undiminished despite the amputation.


I look up at the wrinkled fingers of the enormous hand that's holding me. A deep breath upends the anxiety that's had its foot on my chest the past two days. All at once a wave of emotions crests over me: relief that sweet Sylvia’s responding to treatment; the joy of having this precious creature in my life; and gratitude for the deep blessing Nature bestows on all who will let it.

A tree that understands and communicates? I know some may find that pretty flaky. But I suggest the lack for them may lie not with the trees’ capacity for communication but their own.


UPDATE: A day later, as I finish this reflection, Sylvia’s still not out of the woods. The anti-emetic is keeping her from vomiting, but this morning just before she was due for her second dose, she was again retching. We can only hope and pray the vet’s best guess—that it’s a viral infection—is right, and that it will soon give up the ghost.
Meanwhile, I may just go back for another session of my arboreal anti-anxiety treatment.
SECOND UPDATE: It's now a week since Sylvia showed the first symptoms of her illness. And I'm delighted to report that she's back to her wonderful, normal self. Thanks to all for your good wishes for her!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

THE SOUND OF MOONLIGHT – Sensing the Pulse of a Late-Summer Night

I’m inspired today by naturalist Jim Gilbert’s column in yesterday's Minneapolis Star Tribune. It’s about crickets, specifically the ones whose effervescent chee-chee-chee chorus bejewels these precious late-summer nights.

I’ve wondered about crickets my whole life. Not that I’ve done much about it. Mostly, as with so many of Nature’s ubiquitous small wonders, I’ve come to take their amiable background music pretty much for granted. I should do better.

One question I do ask myself is, is this really crickets I’m hearing, or might it be tree frogs? Here in east-central Minnesota, though spring peeper frogs sound quite similar to crickets, they generally sing only—as the name suggests—in the spring or early summer. Crickets are harbingers of late summer.

There’s also a difference in the quality of sound emanating from the two singers. Frog voices are a series of smooth notes ranging from sharp, bell-like dings to longer whistles, each one rising slightly. Cricket chirrs, on the other hand, because they're produced by rubbing its upper, serrated wings rapidly together, have a high-pitched grating quality and maintain nearly the same tone throughout each note.*
        House and field crickets are known
        more as soloists than choristers.

Another question: are these night-chorus crickets the same ones folks are used to finding in their homes? You know, the stocky mostly black or brown ones thought by many to bring good fortune? Not likely. Those are either house or field crickets known more as soloists than choristers.

The most common of our night-singing crickets here in the Twin Cities is the snowy tree cricket. They’re delicately built and mostly green.

             Listen to the Snowy Tree Cricket Sound

Snowy tree crickets definitely sing en masse—though just the males. With their individual songs blending into what sounds like one pulsing strain, it’s hard to tell whether there’s dozens or hundreds of the critters…or just one really big one.

Tree crickets are the ones thought to gauge the air temperature through the rhythm of their song. (Just count the number of pulses in 13 seconds, then add 40 to find the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. By the way, I tried this last night and they were spot-on!)

    Here is a tweet we can—and must—believe.

Enough with the phenology. Though the facts are fascinating, I’m also moved by the intangible qualities of this summer-nightly cricket chorus. The peacefulness. The poetic possibilities. The reassurance, with this sweet sound’s constancy in my life, that somehow everything must be okay. That perhaps there is still hope for my own species…for this world.

And, certainly, as sinister forces do their damnedest to render suspect so much of what we once knew to be good and true, here is a tweet we can—and must— believe. If we're to save this precious planet from ourselves, we must notice tiny creatures like this, know their names, care about their well-being.

So are you as moved as I am to tune in your senses to cricket sounds? Why don’t we listen first to the whole ensemble, then zero in on one individual, track it down and shine a flashlight on it. Say hello to this incredible little performer. Thank it for the constant reminder of Nature’s astounding, eternally fragile beauty.

Let’s do it tonight!

   If moonlight could be heard, it would sound just like (crickets).

* Cricket song is a result of stridulation, an insect’s rubbing particular body parts, called stridulatory organs, together to produce sound.