There's no better celebration of any season than the decorated tree adorned with the rich symbolism of nature—my ritual to inform and inspire you in the journey called life.

Friday, December 31, 2010

new year glitz

TWO-THOUSAND-ELEVEN  sounds a bit like science fiction. It only seems like a few years ago that I brought in the year 2000 in Minneapolis, Minnesota at a huge, multi-themed night club called appropriately-enough "The Gay 90s," which is still alive and well. How does the time fly by like this? This year, I'll be having a more quiet affair (I'm thinking) at a friend's home. You never know though, how enlivened a party can become once people get enough bubbly in them. I'm planning also on attending a New Year's party tomorrow. It will certainly be more tame if everyone is nursing a hangover from New Year's Eve night. It's always good though to start the new year with friends, no matter if quietly, or with a bang.

IT'S  EASY  TO  FORGET  the nuances of the years that have flown by. Friends come and go, but for old times sake, I don't easily forget the people most important to me—you know who you are. The classic New Year's song Auld Lang Syne begins with a rhetorical question as to whether it is right that old times be forgotten. This New Year's toast and tree is my way of remembering long-standing relationships and wishing all loved ones (including blog followers) a happy and prosperous 2011. 

MY  GOAL  this year is to self-publish a small digitally-produced photo book or magazine with photos of my trees and editorial information about their creation. The plan is to sell it here on the blog and use it to shop my ideas around to real publishers. So, I'll be posting less here and spending more time on that. I've gotten so used to burning it at both ends though, who knows what the new year will bring? I do plan to have posts just as I have surrounding the major holidays.

THAT  IS  the exciting thing about a new year. It is a time to fix yourself a drink and reflect on old and new goals alike. My only definite plan is keeping sight of the end result and keep moving toward it—hoping for the best. I'm not good at wiping the slate clean—I sort of look at what I've collected in life (physical and otherwise) as my palette. The problem is, it is all getting to be an unorganized mess that is harder and harder to move ahead with. So I'm taking a few steps back to refocus and to hopefully be able to take a larger step forward. 

BRING IN THE NEW | (Top) Bringing in the new doesn't always mean throwing out the old, but it certainly is necessary to make room for new aspirations.This large mercury glass tree is encircled with a garland made from my collection of beaded snowflakes attached to a garland made of wire and glass beads from Cost Plus World Market. Two miniature metal cups and a champagne bottle from Crate & Barrel hang from a stately deer's antlers (made from recycled aluminum). The champagne-filled glasses are garnished with rosemary sprigs that I've given a sparkle with a coating of egg white and coarse sanding sugar.

TOP SHINE | (Above) I've retrofitted this tree topper by Seasons of Cannon Falls with a new glittered disk of type of my own design. Surrounded by beautiful glittered and tinseled metal rays, the manufacturer got that part right, but the original type with the clip art champagne glasses (left) was a bit clunky for my taste. I purchased my topper from Bayberry Cove.
SPARKLY SNOWFLAKES | (Above) Part of my fancy collection of glass-beaded snowflake ornaments (mostly made in Czechoslovakia) are assembled together on a garland around a large and sturdy mercury glass pleated tree form (made in India) from Home Goods.
GLEAMING NEW | (Above) This beautiful reindeer from Home Goods symbolically stands guard and brings a cup (or two) of good cheer on its antlers. The champagne flutes are garnished with sprigs of sugared rosemary as a symbol of remembering the good times.

OVERVIEW | (Above) Looking from above, it's easy to see the ground—a promise I am making to myself this year to step back so I can see the big picture. The glittery bugle-beaded charger is from Z Gallerie.

Photography, collecting and styling by Darryl Moland

Friday, December 24, 2010

a gift for Santa

CHRISTMAS  EVE  was always a magical night for me as a child, as it continues to be for many of the more fortunate children of the world. Just the thought of a large elfin man dressed in a red suit being flown around the world in a sleigh pulled through the sky by flying reindeer, excited my imagination more than the toys and other gifts that were left for me when I awoke the next morning. Always early, always after a fitful night's sleep, I always hoped I could catch him in the act. But he always got away—not before he left an array of toys that I asked for and other surprises for which I didn't. I was one of the lucky ones. A lot of children aren't so fortunate. And some children understand that it's not about what you ask for, but about the spirit in which you ask. Leaving Santa a plate of cookies and a tall glass milk for his troubles was a resonant part of the evening. Of course, I also left carrots for Rudolph and the other reindeer.

WHEN  YOU  are at the age you stop believing in Santa, it's also easy to stop believing in the magic that is always around us. If you're looking, and sometimes if you're not, you'll encounter people (and sometimes things) right under your nose that—against all odds—hold close and dear, the very spirit of the holiday season. The best gifts in life are the ones that you don't expect. Knowing someone who recognizes the magic of the world is one of life's great treasures. If you blink around such a person, they might just disappear.

ONE  SUCH  person is my friend Ron Bartlett, who is also a coworker. Since we spend a great deal of our lives at work, it's nice to find people there who can share your dreams and ideas beyond work, lending you their gracious support. I have to say, if it weren't for Ron being such an effusive supporter for what I am trying to do with this blog, I don't know if I could muster the energy to do it in the way that I do. Having people in your life that expect the best and truest part of your soul to be expressed by what you do makes it all worthwhile. I thank Ron for that.

THE  FUNNY  thing is that Ron looks a lot like Santa Claus. He's a big jolly man, who never fails to make me smile when that spirit of life takes leave—as it often does in the daily grind of work. Early in his life, he even was Santa for some lucky kids in California. I asked him to share something from this experience. And he wrote down this heartwarming story: 

At 60 years of age I still believe in Santa.
Understand that and what follows comes easily:

I WAS BLESSED to play Santa for one of the busiest McDonald’s in the world one year. Being skinny at the time, freshly back from the Vietnam War, I took a lot of padding to play the part. (Which, unfortunately, is no longer true!)

Sitting on my Santa throne, elf helpers guiding kids to and fro, I went through a good 250 kids, all telling me (in no uncertain terms) what toys to bring them on Christmas Eve. Understandable seasonal selfishness was rampant.

And then it came the turn of a young girl, probably 8 years old, who brought ME a present. She brought a present for Santa. It was wrapped as prettily as only an 8 year old who believes in magic can wrap. It was perfect. I was touched.

She climbed upon my knee and I asked what she wanted Santa to bring her. Her reply was instant and sure. She assured me I did not need to bring her any toys . . . or dresses or anything at all. She stammered out that she had been a very good girl and done all her chores and helped her Mommy and Daddy every day. So I asked her what she wanted Santa to bring. She said that all she wanted was for me to make her baby brother better. He had cancer and was very sick. And would I please make him all better?

You ever have one of those lumps in your throat the size of a Hyundai? I did. My eyes watered. One of the older women elves knew what was coming next as Santa was about to bawl his eyes out and she whisked me away, telling the children and parents left there it was time for me to feed the reindeer.

I hid out in the business office for over an hour letting out the plethora of emotions from a war-wearied heart. I never did go back on Santa duty that day and never will again—even now that I really do look like Santa.

So, did the child get her Christmas miracle? I have no idea. But I DO KNOW that child gave me the best gift of my life—the gift of HEART, which has remained with me all through the years.

SO  THERE you have it. Even though I haven't believed in Santa for years, I have understood that he is not really a person at all. Instead, Santa is that undeniable spirit of life that keeps you on track and moving in the direction of your dreams. Santa is an idea, and Santa is forming that idea into reality in the workshop of your mind—a mind that can be as expansive as you let it be. My friend Ron knows that well. He reminds me almost daily at work with his happy disposition. He told me the little girl's physical gift to him was a small piece of wood she lovingly painted and carefully wrapped in her special magic. He says he has kept it all these years to remind him of the release of joyful tears she brought to him with her unselfish request for her little brother.

I  THINK  OF  my parents often at the holidays. I remember how they created the magic of Santa for me all those years of my childhood. Now that they're both gone, I only have their memory and spirit. I remember my father and I lighting a White Pine with colored lights in our front yard until it grew too big to do so. And my mother nurtured the talent I have for decorating trees by giving me free reign with the family tree(s) after I was old enough. And I understand more fully than I ever have, that if you bring meaning to everything you do, then the spirit of Santa will surely and magically guide your sleigh, even if you're sixty like my jolly friend Ron and almost fifty like myself.

IS  THERE  a Santa Claus? My mother's last word to me was "Yes!" and her name was Virginia, so it makes perfect sense to me, that "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." This is the phrase made famous in a newspaper editorial written over 113 years ago. It remains the definitive treatise on believing:

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly  as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy."

IT'S  NICE  to have Santa as a friend. This is my gift to him. And you know what? I have to believe that the little girls (in both stories I share here) got their wish in one way or another, if only by inspiring generations of children, old and young alike, to believe in the magic and wonder of every holiday season. 

SNACK FOR SANTA | (Top two photos) These two faux springerle molded "cookie" ornaments from Williams-Sonoma recall the German tradition of baking picturesque springerle cookies and hanging them on the tree.Three vintage bottle brush trees stand guard along with a glass of milk left for Santa on Christmas Eve.

SANTA BABY | (Middle) My friend and coworker Ron Bartlett at work as a Television Director/Editor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. We both work in the same office and I visit him almost daily to get a lift. He's living proof that Santa's spirit abounds.

SPRINGERLE SHAPES | (Above) My small collection of seasonal springerle molds, from which I plan to make either cookies or ornaments with one day. Good sources for the molds online are House on the Hill and Springerle Joy.

WORDS OF WISDOM | (Above, right) The original editorial that ran in the September 21, 1897 edition of The Sun of New York. This response to a little girl's question "Is there a Santa Claus?" spawned the oft-repeated phrase "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," which has become an indelible part of popular Christmas folklore in the United States and Canada. This philosophical editorial was written by Francis Pharcellus Church. We would all do well to read it at least once a year and remember to "continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

Photography, collecting and styling by Darryl Moland

Monday, December 20, 2010

here comes the sun

Here comes the sun, 
here comes the sun, 
and I say it's all right . . .
                 —the Beatles

WINTER  SOLSTICE this year will be marked by a number of simultaneous celestial events. There will be a lot to see in the sky on December 20-21, which will be replete with a full moon, a total lunar eclipse, and the Ursid meteor shower. So it's definitely a time to wish upon a star—I'll start with the brightest and best—the unblinking sun at the center of our solar system.

NOT  SINCE  1638 (372 years ago) have Winter Solstice and a lunar eclipse coincided. The Solstice lunar eclipse will be visible starting in the early-morning hours of December 21st here in the Eastern United States (actually visible late tonight for the Western United States). So, you'll have to be a night owl or an early bird to view it. Visible from four continents, the best views are from North and Central America. It also may be seen in totality from northern and western Europe, some of northeast Asia, Hawaii, and New Zealand.

FROM  BEGINNING  to end, the eclipse will last about three-and-a-half hours. The sight can be spectacular, because refraction of the sun's light by the Earth's atmosphere will color the moon's surface unpredictably (depending on how much dust or the number of clouds in the sky). During past eclipses (see the video of a 2008 eclipse below) the moon has appeared a deep bronze, blood red or even a dark yellow.

WHAT  DO  THESE  celestial events mean in conjunction with Solstice? According to my astrologer friend Cathy Burroughs, this year's Solstice lunar eclipse has the capacity to be "profoundly transformative."  She recommends a reading to help guide you during this time of astrological upheaval and new direction. It certainly can't be a bad idea to get in touch with effects of the more cosmic aspects of the universe by which we are all connected to nature—even if only to view things more philosophically. 

ACCORDING  TO  information Cathy sent me, the Solstice lunar eclipse this year occurs at 29°21' degrees of Gemini with the Sun in Sagittarius, just five degrees from the Galactic Center which speaks of the global impact of its astrological significance on all of us. It is also interesting that aside from being the shortest day and longest night of the year, the sun's daily maximum daily position in the sky is the lowest. And as the days start lengthening and the nights get shorter, interpretation varies from culture to culture, but most hold a recognition of rebirth.

CELEBRATING  such a special Winter Solstice called for decorating my tree with sun ornaments I've collected over the years. Most of these are from the late-eighties and early nineties when all things celestial were all-the-rage in the market. Just as I dug through my past to collect all of these ornaments together again, I'm thinking from what I read and hear that a lot of old stuff will be dredged up by such a strong set of celestial events. After all, the tradition of the decorated tree began in the Old World as a pagan ritual to conjure up the return of the spring sun when the cold and seemingly lifeless winter months began each year. The warmth of spring always followed though, thanks to the sun.

IT  CAN'T  hurt to pay attention to our more humanistic connections with the cosmos and the natural world. The Earth, Moon and Sun influence everything from the birth of babies (more are born during the full moon), to when we plant and nurture our crops, aside from how long our days are throughout the seasons. The transformation marked by this year's coinciding cosmic events signify all that the holiday season is about. From the birth of Jesus as "the reason for the season," for a large part of the world's population, to simply believing in the the promise of the returning light of the sun. We're all connected to nature and the cosmos in the most profound way.

LET THE SUNSHINE IN | (Top) In the cold and sometimes dreary winter months, it certainly helps to think of the sun's warming rays and significance in our Earthly lives, as I have done with this collection of sunny ornaments. I wired fresh balsam fir evergreen branches to conceal a heavy wire tree form and shaped this custom tree that will hold a good number of heavier decorations.

FACING THE SUN | (Above) My widely-varied collection of sun ornaments were the inspiration for this golden tree full of sunny faces.

ALL  AGLOW | (Above) A symbolic harbinger of spring is represented by this clip-on bird with a long feather tail. It perches on a branch among a varied collection of ornaments that are direct or indirect reminders of the warmth of the sun.

RAY OF LIGHT | This glittery ornament serves as a spectacular tree topper and evokes the brightest star in our sky—the sun. It could also represent the night star that led the wisemen to Bethlehem.

DOE, A DEER | Alert at the base of the tree among the presents, are two deer purchased this season from Nandina Home & Design in Atlanta. Ornaments included from my collection shown in this photo range from hand made (like one of my favorites—the sculpted sun face surrounded by four metal rays) to a hand blown glass finial and traditional stamped metal, wood and mercury glass ornaments.

TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE | (Added December 21, below) A brilliant time lapse of the December 21, 2010 total lunar eclipse illustrates its dramatic presence. I saw it progress until the clouds covered it just before the total eclipse (only a sliver of the moon was lit), so I didn't see the red/orange moon, but there were pinkish clouds in the sky from the refracted light of the sun. This morning's eclipse was brilliantly photographed by William Castleman in Gainesville, Florida. [©2010 by William L. Castleman, 1:10 AM EST (6:10 GMT) to 5:03 AM EST (10:03 GMT). Music is Claude Debussy Noctures: Sirènes]. Double-click on the image below to view widescreen or full screen on the Youtube website.

Photography, collecting and styling by Darryl Moland

Monday, December 13, 2010

white Christmas

RARELY DOES it snow in the American South. Today it has flurried most of the day. Not much usually accumulates in Atlanta, but it still brings a magical quality to the air. It makes it feel a lot like Christmas—the fairy tale type of Christmas anyway. I remember it snowing a good bit more during my childhood, but not so much anymore. I think we get about the right amount of the white stuff in the winter months here. I know I wouldn't want to deal with the snow as my Northern neighbors do almost every day in the winter. 

IT'S STILL an event when it snows here in the South—especially in December. Maybe this year I can dream of a white Christmas. Just an hour or two after I finished this tree and photographed it yesterday, it started snowing. What a magical thing to happen! It almost seemed like I conjured it up without knowing it. I decided to eat lunch at a local diner with wrap-around windows just so I could watch the snow floating from the sky for the first time this season, while thinking of what I might write for this post. This tree and the leaf ornaments on it are wrapped in words—just what I try to do in this blog—wrap each tree I photograph in words.

IT WASN'T but a few years ago that I remember waking up on Thanksgiving day and looking out and seeing the ground blanketed with a fresh snow. But I was visiting my friend Andrew in Toronto, Canada. He, being a Canadian was used to the snow and wasn't surprised (it was their first snow of the season that year though). I remember my excitement. Who ever heard of a white Thanksgiving? (It was Thanksgiving in America, not Canada). And just learning this year from Andrew that he has advanced cancer, I'm sure he's counting his blessings. I know that a white Thanksgiving in Canada was quite a magical time for me. It was the first time I had been out of the country since the summer after high school. And I hope Andrew has more white Christmases than the doctors predict. You never know what magic can happen.
IRVING BERLIN wrote the song "White Christmas"  (poolside, in the summer, it is speculated) and it remains the best-selling singles of all time. Famously recorded by Bing Crosby, it first appeared in 1942 as part of an album for the film Holiday Inn. I've seen this movie several times with my friend Craig. It was a yearly event for us to get together and watch it around the holidays—maybe it's time again. The song probably became an instant hit because of its mix of melancholy— "just like the ones I used to know"—with images of home "where the treetops glisten," due to American soldiers being stationed overseas. The Armed Forces Network during World War II was flooded with requests for "White Christmas." I'm sure my father, who was in Europe during the war, heard the song and longed to be back in Alabama, whether the treetops were glistening with snow or not.

SO HERE'S DREAMING of a white Christmas this year in Georgia or wherever you might be. After all, a holiday tree like this might really conjure up some snow, or maybe just only a memory of a particularly magical moment of your life. Whatever it might be, the cool whites of snow, are a fresh way to go.

STUDY IN WHITE | (Top, middle and above) A snowy tree all dressed in white and silver to capture the magical quality that snow can create. The Twig Topiary tree is from this season's David Stark Collection at West Elm, which I've placed in a heavy antiqued aluminum vase. Faux snow from Pier One Imports simulates an icy-cold look. Hanging the ornaments with white cotton thread gives a consistency to the wintry look.

SNOWY ASSEMBLAGE | (Above) From left, a German lametta icicle ornament from my collection, a silver paper (backed with print) leaf ornament from the David Stark Collection for West Elm, a Snövita Scandinavian folded star ornament from IKEA, and milk glass pinecone sphere and finial ornaments from Z Gallerie.

STATELY CONTAINERS | (Above) The tree is placed in a gunmetal gray aluminum vase bought several seasons ago at Restoration Hardware. I dabbed strategic areas of the vase with a wet sponge to make the "snow" stick for a natural windblown look. All other ornaments, the silver foil candy container ornament and white milk glass container are from my private collection.

Photography, collecting and styling by Darryl Moland

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

made in Germany

RARELY  DO  I  see an evergreen tree around the holiday season that I don't instinctively want to decorate (or redecorate). I even joked with a friend the other day when seeing a large cell phone tower disguised as a pine tree that it could use some seasonal help. But trees are naturally beautiful all on their own (I'm not sure about the impostor cell phone towers).

GERMANY  has long been known to produce some of the best holiday decorations. The authentic ones are less commonly found outside of Europe. A number of German companies now have their ornaments manufactured in China. But it's evident that a lot of pride and care is taken with those that are actually still made in Germany by the craftsmen that have learned their art from previous generations. The glass ornaments are crowned with stamped metal caps that signify the company or family who made them. I always look for the stray box or two at discount stores that sometimes have little tags on their hangers or are in specially-designed boxes with hangtag information that proudly say "Made in Germany" and tell you the story of their origin. There are plenty of sellers that import a variety of authentic German decorations also. One of my favorites sellers online for authentic German ornaments is the Christmas Haus in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. Imported heirloom-quality ornaments are more expensive, but are well worth it when you see them.

ASIDE  FROM  THE  beautiful glass ornaments and heavy silver lametta tinsel (that ages with a beautiful patina), one of the most intricate and skilled forms of folk art are "span trees" (above) and the decorations and ornaments based on the tradition of Spanbaumstecherei (Erzgebirge wood folk art deftly crafted with intricate curly branches formed from a single piece of wood). Span trees are referred to by several names—span trees, chip trees, splinter trees, shaved wooden trees, twilled trees, or curled trees. Using a method developed in the 1930s, the trees are meticulously hand carved of linden wood, curl by curl, layer by layer. They are so beautiful on their own, they need no other ornamentation. An evergreen doesn't seem complete without glittery baubles attached, or tinsel carefully draped on its branches during the holiday season.

MARTINA  RUDOLPH  and her husband are among the leading woodcarvers who produce these trees, ornaments, and other large wall and window decorations. As a child in the Erzgebirge, she learned her craft (the family tradition of Spanbaumstecherei) from a well-known wood carver—her father Helmut Beyer. Practice made perfect and the skills that started as a hobby became a profession—the age-old craft was reborn for the world to see. In 1996, she opened her own small workshop in Seiffen to once again produce her family's unique Erzgebirge folk art. It's becoming a rarity to see folk tradition carried to the newer generations. All-to-often the art is being lost to industrialized production, which makes cheaper ornaments, but they aren't the quality of those made with the love and care handed down through generations of craftsmen. These ornaments composed of thin strips of wood can't be mass-produced, which broadens their aesthetic appeal, just like the quilt made by your grandmother's hand. Nothing less is as warm and satisfying either.

IF  YOU  ARE  serious about collecting ornaments, the ones made in Germany are crafted to become heirlooms. Some of my favorite German-made ornaments in my collection are from Krebs Glas Laucsha. such as this hand blown and decorated Pinocchio ornament pictured here (who, in the story was not carved by a German, but an Italian woodcarver named Geppetto). The small village of Lauscha in the middle of Germany lays claim to being the birthplace of modern glass tree ornaments. The art of glassblowing from Laucsha became popular all over the world, with some of the most beautiful designs being developed by the Krebs family. The bohemian art of Krebs glass work later moved to Thuringia. The handcrafted Krebs Glas Collection has long been a favorite of collectors like me.

SPAN TREES | (Top) Shown with a traditional German smoker (incense burner) representing a spanbaumastechcherei woodcarver, two beautiful span trees are nestled within three handcrafted 3-D wooden star ornaments (2nd from top) from Straco Land (Erzgebirge Woodcraft)

ORNAMENT CRAFT | (Middle) Martina Rudolph and her husband make these beautiful star ornaments, wall or window hangers based on the meticulous craft of span trees handed down from Martina's father. They are sold in the U.S. by The Christmas Haus in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. 

SHINY AND BRIGHT | (Above) Authentic German silver lametta tinsel is distinctively heavy, drapes well, and oxidizes to a rich patina like fine silver after a few years. The glass indent German ornaments shown here came in a box of four (found at Tuesday Morning) were not marked by a particular company, but made in Germany tags proudly marked each hanger. If anyone can identify the cap (that pertains to the company) on these ornaments, please let me know. The brown coloration and gold glitter are distinctively rich and typical of old world ornaments crafted by artists that take pride in an art handed down by generations.

WOODEN BOY | (Right) This spectacular hand-blown and painted glass ornament is made by Krebs Glas Lauscha in Germany. The popular book The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi told the story of an Italian woodcarver named Geppetto, who carved Pinocchio from a piece of pine, creating him as a puppet, but dreamt of him becoming a real boy. 

 ©2010 DARRYL MOLAND | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Photography, collecting and styling by Darryl Moland

Spanbaumastechcherei ornaments, window, or wall hangers are handmade by Martina Rudolph (or her husband), photography courtesy of The Christmas Haus in New Oxford, Pennsylvania

Thursday, November 25, 2010

holiday migration

THE  MONARCH  butterfly is known in North America for its incredible fall migration every year south and northward return home in the summer. This trip spans the life of three or four generations. Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains (most famously) are the ones believed to overwinter and roost in the forested mountaintops within central Mexico’s Transvolcanic Range. The ones east of the Rockies travel to small groves of trees along the southern California coast. They often return to the same trees every year creating an amazingly magical sight. This miracle of nature is expressed by the tree I’ve decorated with their facsimiles for my Thanksgiving post.
JUST  AS  many species of birds migrate south for the winter, the Monarch does also. Unlike birds though, the lifespan of the butterfly during this migration is completed by children and grandchildren of the butterflies that start this incredible journey—done without their elders to show them the way. Unlike most insects, Monarchs cannot survive a long cold winter, so they migrate. Seasons change. But it might not be as simple as that.

DO  THEY  follow magnetic fields or use the sun to guide them? Are they following landforms (rivers, coastlines, mountain ranges) as their navigational tools? The innate nature of this migration has baffled and inspired researchers for decades. There is still a lot of mystery behind this yearly event. What are some of the other reasons for such a distinct migration? How long has this natural pattern been in place?
AS  SUCH, humans migrate and gather with friends and family during the holidays, usually starting with Thanksgiving day every year. Generations join together to share good times and celebratory meals together. This gathering is to celebrate life and abundance. And there is much to be thankful for, even as things change over the years for better or worse.
I  CALLED  my brother Mal yesterday to wish him a happy Thanksgiving. I haven’t been home to Alabama (where he still lives) much since my parents died five years ago. My “bro” is my family touchstone and keeps me informed about the goings-on back home. Now that my parents are gone from this world, I distinctly realize that they were the glue that held our family together as all my sibling's lives went in different directions. I miss those migratory days of going to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving and Christmas—the home I lived in until I went off to college and for a short time afterward. 

Jason Laferrara's "Viceroy" has the map.
I'LL  NEVER  FORGET  that Thanksgiving day when I got the call confirming my first job as a designer at Southern Living magazine back in 1984. Tom Ford, the art director then, I think saved the news for that special day when my career took flight. That day changed my life forever while linking it to a day of abundance. I remember my mother being thrilled that she had a son working at a magazine that had become an institution in the South. I worked at that company (most as assistant art director at Cooking Light magazine) for ten years before my move to Atlanta. I give thanks for all the familial celebrations of life—family and friends alike. There is a part of me that still fulls the pull homeward.

BUT  MAYBE  you "Can't Go Home Again." That phrase comes from the finale of Thomas Wolfe's novel of the same name. In the end its protagonist realizes, "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."  

THIS  TREE  is a not-so-subtle reminder of the hope that all will come together again. One day we will realize our paths in life are for more than just survival. Our better instincts will inform us—just as it does each generation of the peculiar Monarch.

CRITICAL MASS | (Top, left and below) I've simply covered this Heirloom Ornament Tree from Smith & Hawken (2005) with Monarch butterflies, ironically made from feathers as a tribute to their winter roost far south from home (from Ashland Nature Center, distributed by Michaels). The faux sugared fruit placed below it is a reminder of the abundance celebrated each American Thanksgiving.

BUTTERFLY CONGREGATION | (Middle) This amazing real-life photo of a tree covered with Monarch butterflies is from The Green Children Foundation website. Many organizations are dedicated to the education, conservation and research of the Monarch butterfly and its amazing migration. A good place to start is Monarch Watch.

ART IMITATES LIFE | (Above) Digital artist Jason LaFerra from Mechanicsville, Virginia renders beautiful artwork of insects, birds and animals on historic maps tapped into from online. These giclee prints of his digital collages on watercolor paper (especially "Viceroy" with it's own map) are resonant and beautiful. 

Photography, collecting and styling by Darryl Moland

Sunday, November 14, 2010

simple harmony

SOMETIMES,  simple is better. I've always had a hard time with that though. The more I do, the more I realize that simplicity is not as easy as it looks. The broad brushstrokes of simplicity can be made up of layers of meaning even as it speaks to our most basic needs and instincts. Somehow simplicity harmonizes with nature and our place within it.

COMMUNICATION  was propelled into the future with the printed word and left us with a recorded history. Printing, or the duplication of images, started in Mesopotamia around 3,000 B.C.. China and Egypt led the way with small stamps for seals that led to larger printing blocks. Printing moved from silk and other cloth to papyrus scrolls in Egypt. Movable type was first created in China from porcelain, but was rarely used because of the enormous Chinese character set. Metal movable type was first created in Korea. Fast forward to 1439 and Johannes Gutenberg developed the first movable type printing technology and the European age of printing on paper began about 10 years later.

IN  OUR  increasingly digitized world, it seems we are moving away from the printed word and becoming more and more disconnected from one another to distraction. Maybe it was meant to be that the printed word was to be experienced as well as seen—and that involves certain tactile qualities like turning the page or experiencing the texture of paper. As I write this digital version of what I wish to someday become a book or a magazine, I realize that today's accessibility of information on the internet is crucial to the way our society now works. But is technology and industrialization of everything threatening to destroy our physical library of knowledge? Or is it an opportunity to become more in tune with our collective consciousness?

DIGITAL  VERSIONS  of information may, or may not become actual printed pieces. I do think the revolution that is happening in publishing is exciting and can be even more interactive in some ways (see the new iPad publication of Boundless Beauty from Martha Stewart for an example). But there is a definite connection to our basic nature when you curl up with a book—even if it is only because paper is made from trees, which in turn (physical) books are made from paper. There's a certain ancient wisdom that comes from that fact alone. For when you commit something to paper, you want it to be accurate and you want it to be lasting. It has become something that is less and less accessible for the everyday person to have something printed the old-fashioned way, so our memory for what we had is replaced with what we have. I'm not sure that is always good. History is always doomed to repeat itself if memory is short.

THE  TREE  I decorated for this post (see product information below) is laser cut from a thin piece of Poplar wood supported in a wooden block. The garland is made up of paper circles with text printed on some of them sewn together with metallic silver thread—which represents a quality  Smythe sewn book. The bird (that doesn't Tweet) is decoupaged with the same printed paper. The globe underneath the tree is made of porcelain and is subtly etched with the outlines of the continents and meridian lines. The German wooden stars placed in the branches are reminders to our ultimate tie to the cosmos and our insignificance in its vastness.

MAYBE  IT  is important that we don't forget or destroy our collective history, which seems to be more and more malleable as information is more easily changed and "updated." The largest and most significant ancient library was the Library of Alexandria in Egypt and functioned as a major center of scholarship until the Roman conquest of Egypt in 48 B.C. A great deal of history was lost in the destruction of that library. 

THESE  DAYS, a lot is lost in translation to the digital world. Less importance is placed on the accuracy of information because it can be so easily updated and changed. Publishing is screaming in new directions out of necessity, but would be well-served by remembering the how in how far we have come. Information is a precious part of the way we communicate and there should be a certain kind of reverence to its long and fruitful history. 

REAL SIMPLE | (Top and above) This Alpine Centerpiece Tree is laser-cut from Poplar wood and slides into a white wooden base (from Design Ideas in Springfield, Illinois). Available at Nandina Home & Design and at Star Provisions in Atlanta (sold in several sizes this season—this being the X-large size). Evocative of the holiday season evergreens to come, my tree is simply decorated with natural-finished German wooden stars from my collection and a garland sewn together from textured silver paper and printed paper circles with silver metallic thread (from the current David Stark Collection at West Elm).

TWEETY BIRD | You can't reduce what this bird (top and left) has to say to 140 characters (including spaces) as Twitter does! This adorable decoupaged paper mâché bird is also from the David Stark Collection at West Elm.

GLOBAL  REVOLUTION | (Above) This porcelain globe from my collection is subtly traced with the outlines of the continents and global meridian lines. I thought it would be good to include as a reminder of how small our world has become because of the print and digital revolutions. I hope it also reminds us to not forget the complexity of our place within it, even as it seems simpler to communicate, nature is still a formidable presence in all of our lives.

WHITE-ON-WHITE | (Above) These white blown glass ornaments with translucent lines are simple and elegant (from tag).

©2010 DARRYL MOLAND | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Photography, collecting and styling by Darryl Moland.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween candy

TRICK-OR-TREAT  is the well-known mantra of ghouls and goblins that show up on your doorstep on Halloween night. The sometimes hostile supernatural forces and the ghosts and spirits of the dead are supposedly free to wander as they wish, as they walk on the thin line separating them on this scary night. Over the course of centuries, the present-day custom of trick-or-treating was born out of such superstition. Is it only that, or did our ancestors know something we've forgotten?

GIVING TREATS  to the tricksters, according to Halloween lore is said to appease the wandering spirits and keep them from doing dastardly deeds to your property (or flock, as it were). Wearing masks and other disguises are meant to confuse the spirits roaming amongst us.

AS A KID, I remember roaming around the neighborhood with a gaggle of friends, going unsupervised to neighbors homes (after a certain age) where we would find homemade fudge, popcorn balls and other treats carefully packaged in paper treat bags printed in black and orange. Of course the trickster tradition of papering (or rolling) someone's yard was great fun also (usually friends or teachers)! The freedom of these innocent times has been curtailed these days with more supervision since the trickster spirits seemed to have taken hold of the holiday. Maybe it's only because—more often than not—the treats aren't as carefully considered and made with love.

IT HAS BEEN  quite a trick to create the images of this post, but I had a lot of fun doing it, so I'm going to let them speak for themselves and not be as long-winded as usual. The large ornaments on the tree above were hand-cut and crafted in New England and sold in the online Stromboli's Wagon store on Ebay. Inspired by vintage imagery and beautifully finished in paint and glitter, it's obvious they were made with love and care. The Jack-O-Lantern metal bell ornaments are from Pier 1 Imports—in three sizes, they lend a great compositional depth in decorating this glittery tree cutout. It all sits atop a gothic-style wooden table.

SHE COULD very well be the Queen of Halloween — my always supportive and inspiring blog friend, folk artist Johanna Parker created some wonderful Halloween hangers this year that I've added to my collection (from her commercially available collections, available here, here and here). I told her they might just become my holiday totems! In describing her thought process in making these spooky-fun creations, Johanna says "When designing these fun hangers, my intentions were to add a little more movement to my holiday product line. Typically, my Halloween characters are fashioned for the shelf, mantel or table top, so the thought occurred to me to add a little kinetics to the mix. Double-sided hangers came to mind and naturally all things that haunt us from the skies popped in my imagination. I absolutely love owls, bats truly fascinate me, and well, Mr. Moon is certainly a key player in setting the spooky mood!" Inspired by her collections of vintage holiday novelties, Johanna admits that her favorite subject matter is Halloween. And why not? Her birthday also falls on October 31st. Happy birthday Johanna!

AND SINCE cats are my favorite animal associated with Halloween (actually my favorite animal, period), I've created a simple cat tree this year. It seems that Halloween is rivaling Christmas in popularity everywhere. It's no mystery that according to that one quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween. Let's hope that's enough to keep us safe from the evil trickster spirits for at least another year.

GOTHIC GLAM | (Top) This glittery tree stands in contrast to the blue backdrop painted with Martha Stewart Living paint in azurite from Home Depot. It is decorated with glittered vintage-inspired ornaments from Stromboli's Wagon and Jack-O-Lantern metal bell ornaments in three sizes from Pier 1 Imports. Altogether they form a vintage Halloween look. Since the bells ring, does that mean the spirits get their wings? 

GLITTERY RETRO | (Above, left) The handcrafted ornaments were hand-cut and crafted in New England and sold in the online Stromboli's Wagon store on Ebay. Inspired by vintage imagery and beautifully finished, it's obvious they were made with love and care. 

HALLOWEEN HANGERS | (Above, right) I couldn't resist these Halloween owl, moon and bat hangers designed by my blog friend Johanna Parker (left, in her Halloween finery). Oversized and double-sided painted papier-mâché ornaments of this size certainly set a spooky-fun scene for a tableau like this. I purchased these folk-art finds from blog friend Debbie Buchanan's online store at Bayberry Cove.

CATS IN HATS | (Bottom) These black cat ornaments in orange hats from Pier 1 Imports are a simple trick for this coated wire tree from IKEA. The multi-colored bumpy glass ornaments are from a past Martha Stewart Kmart collection. The cat/costumed folk-art figures were lent from a friend's private collection, all placed atop a sparkly beaded spider placemat from this year's Halloween collection from Target. 

photography, collecting and styling by Darryl Moland