Bird watching at the Clever Hand

Bird watching at the Clever Hand

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  • Everyone needs handmade beauty. Please support the artists! Annette F.
    Southborough, MA
Ann Schunior birding in the Clever Hand Gallery

As winter’s grip was still holding firmly onto Clever Hand’s Wellesley home, the gallery was preparing for spring. Birds are always flitting about the gallery, a craft conservatory of sorts, and in early spring  they gather here in a diverse flock, getting ready to migrate.


We decided to take stock this year and do an “official” Clever Hand Gallery bird count.
We looked for birds everywhere in the store: on walls, on shelves, in the card rack, in the jewelry cases, on quilt racks, on clothes hangers, in the windows and overhead. If an object had more than one bird of the same species, such as Edie Allen’s penguin alphabet and Eli Helman’s pen and ink drawings of flying geese, we counted it as one bird. However, if a work contained more than one species, such as Kris Vezza’s mobiles, we counted each individual species in that piece. Click HERE for the full bird census.


Avian diversity at the Gallery is as strong as ever.
Several familiar New England species, such as cardinals (24) and chickadees (18), were abundant and portrayed in a variety of media: photos, paintings, pottery, clothing, potholders, glass, jewelry and cards. Penguins (19), an introduced species, were also numerous. Owls were well represented (23) including the famous Clever Hand Blue Owl. Click HERE for more about them.


In addition to the large flocks mentioned above, we have a good representation of familiar birds, including blackbirds, bluebirds, blue jays, chickens, cranes, crows, woodpeckers and puffins. We also had 41 unspecific birds represented.


We have prepared an Official Clever Hand Gallery Bird Checklist for you to use in exploring the birds we have resident here in our gallery. It is available
HERE and also at our front counter during spring migration. Since our population is dynamic, we can’t guarantee that they’ll all be here when you come in, but we invite everyone to see how many they can spot.


We urge you to visit one of Mass Audubon’s outstanding sanctuaries, Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, which is just five miles down Rte. 16 from Clever Hand Gallery. It offers diverse habitats including meadows, woods, pond, brook, a large marsh, and hiking trails. Click
HERE for a bird checklist and information about Broadmoor. There you can see everything from red-eyed vireos to bald eagles. You will, however, have to come to Clever Hand to find a blue owl.

Keeping Memories Alive with Quilts

Keeping Memories Alive with Quilts

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  • Everyone needs handmade beauty. Please support the artists! Annette F.
    Southborough, MA

Liz Foss blogs about the challenges of making a tee shirt quilt and a prom dress quilt.

Liz Foss at work on a quilt.

I spend a lot of time browsing fabric stores and websites, searching for the right patterns and colors to make my quilts. When a customer handed me a bag of tee shirts and asked me to make a quilt as a graduation gift for her son who loved sports, it was a mixed blessing.  These weren’t materials I would have chosen, but the project was meaningful and fun.

A bag of sports tee shirts Liz Foss will use for a quilt.

Tee shirt quilts are not a new idea. In fact, there are books about how to make them, but the tee shirts are usually in boring straight lines. I wanted to do something more creative while keeping in mind that the quilt would go on a college student’s bed in his dorm room.

A bag of sports tee shirts Liz Foss will use for a quilt.

There are limits to what you can do with the fronts of tee shirts, but I liked putting the puzzle together.  The graphics came in different sizes and colors for me to play around with and I added some geometric shapes to fill in the gaps. Here is the finished product. I hope that my customer’s son will enjoy it for many years.

Liz Foss: Quilt made from sport tee-shirts

I have also made memory quilts from loved ones’ clothing and even horse show ribbons. A friend of mine commissioned a prom dress quilt as a gift for her daughter, who had gone to several proms but couldn’t hang on to the dresses forever. Fortunately, my friend gave me her blessing to cut up the dresses and no special instructions except to “make something funky.” That’s just the kind of freedom an artist loves.

Liz Foss: Quilt made from prom dresses

The materials, silk and satin with lots of sequins, were a challenge. They didn’t behave like cotton and I had to use lots of pins.  I added flowers, embroidery and some of my own fabrics as embellishments. Now the dresses will live on as a wall quilt.

Liz Foss: Quilt made from prom dresses

Do you have an idea for a quilt that will rekindle fond memories? I’d love to hear from you.

Marcia Dean’s Opal Serendipity

Marcia Dean’s Opal Serendipity

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  • Everyone needs handmade beauty. Please support the artists! Annette F.
    Southborough, MA
Jeweler Marcia Dean in her studio

Australian boulder opals are magical, with rich blues and greens and flashing surprises of every color of the rainbow. I had never seen such stones or even imagined that they existed.

.

A man showed up at my booth at a craft fair in Northampton back in 1981 (my first craft show ever) wearing a backpack shaped like a frog.  He explained that he was an art teacher and had just started experimenting with cutting stones for craft use. Would I like to buy some?  When he took the opals out of his pack, I was captivated on the spot and immediately purchased as many as I could manage.

Boulder opal is found embedded in large boulders of ironstone in Australia. The opal develops within veins and fissures. The ironstone matrix adds to both the durability and the vibrance of color. Gemstones are usually cut to maximize and preserve the precious opal strip rather than to conform to a calibrated form.


In 2008 and 2013 exciting opal deposits were discovered in Ethiopia. They display a more “liquid” looking opalescence and a brilliant color play is present. Many of these opals are “hydrophane” opals and they easily absorb water. This can temporarily change the color and transparency of the opal. As it dries the color is restored completely.
 The opals in the last two photos are all from Ethiopia.

My fascination with opals lives on! Each one is a unique visual pleasure. Each one-of-a-kind shape requires an individual setting to be exactly fabricated to fit around that specific stone.  I use gold, silver, or a combination of the two, to create rings, pendants, and sometimes earrings.

Edie Allen – Alphabet Animals

Edie Allen – Alphabet Animals

What you’re saying

  • Everyone needs handmade beauty. Please support the artists! Annette F.
    Southborough, MA
Liz Hyde shows us how she puts her leafy designs on her bowls and platters.

I’ve been making my Alphabet Animals name signs for over 20 years. The concept has always been the same: each animal has something that illustrates a letter in a name. The animals have evolved, along with the tools and materials that I use to create them.

Liz Hyde shows us how she puts her leafy designs on her bowls and platters.

This is one of my earliest name signs.  Mice were the only animals that I made. I cut out everything by hand, including their eyes. One of my mother’s friends said it had the perfect CQ (Cuteness Quotient). I appreciated the compliment but knew that there was room for improvement.

Customers offered many suggestions. Could I do other animals? Use other colors? Make something besides apples for the A’s and nightgowns for the N’s in a name like Anna? Could I make the names easier to read?  The answer to all these questions was YES!

What you’re saying

  • The colors in my house come from the Clever Hand Gallery. Sheila C.
    Wellesley, MA
Liz Hyde shows us how she puts her leafy designs on her bowls and platters.

Old books of wallpaper samples provided a treasure trove of material for the animals’ clothing. When wallpaper lost its popularity, I purchased scrapbook paper. When it was hard to find bright stripes in primary colors and other patterns that customers requested, I designed my own with markers (an unforgiving medium).

I acquired many craft punches: circles, stars, leaves, anchors and tiny little cars. To make the letters, I bought an Ellison die-cut machine.  I ordered custom dies, based on my drawings of my animals. This spared me a lot of repetitive work, such as cutting out mouse’s tails.

Then one of my tools broke: a hand-held punch with cassettes of little letters and numbers. Nobody made them anymore and I really needed numbers to illustrate the letter N. It turned out to be a lucky break because it pushed me to buy a Silhouette cutting machine, which could do a lot more than just cutting out numbers.

By scanning my drawings, it let me make patterns of all my animals, vary their sizes and increase their CQ in many ways. Now my elephants could raise their trunks! I could cut out objects like the guitar, the oar, the valentine, the Earth and the recycling bin with a degree of precision that was impossible before. I could print Milo’s name on an envelope and make a tiny stamp for it. When a customer requested blues, greens and purples for Vera, I could download a splash pattern from the Silhouette store and create designer clothing for the rabbits. It has helped me raise my own CQ (Creativity Quotient).

The name signs are not just for babies. Over the years I’ve done signs for a 92-year old grandmother who collected mice, a hamster, a pet rabbit and a dog named Lilly. My reward is knowing that I may be creating a work of art that a family will always cherish.

Click here to learn more about Edie.
Click here to order a name sign.
Vist Edie’s website, Alphabet Animals.com

Nancy Rich Photography – Art Afloat

Nancy Rich Photography – Art Afloat

What you’re saying

  • Everyone needs handmade beauty. Please support the artists! Annette F.
    Southborough, MA
Photographer Nancy Rich

My passion for photography took hold over 50 years ago while on a second-grade field trip to the Bronx Zoo. At that young age, I was fortunate to own a Brownie camera and have easy access to developing film at my father’s drug store. While most aspects of my life at that time were out of my control, I found it powerful and magical to be able to create a record of my life’s special moments.

Photograph of wooden boat by Nancy Rich

My interest in small boats began in the summer of 2000 when I was taking a photography class at the Maine Photographic Workshops in Rockport. I attended classes there for three summers focusing my efforts on capturing images of the small boats that dotted the waters in and around Rockport. Wooden boats intrigued me most. I saw in each a distinct and beautiful character revealed through the scars, peeling paint, and worn surfaces.

Photograph of wooden boat by Nancy Rich

Sadly, small wooden boats are now difficult to find, in large part because they are expensive to build, buy, and maintain, and their constant exposure to salt water and sun eventually breaks them down.

Photograph of dinghies by Nancy Rich

Once ubiquitous along the northeast coastline, small wooden boats are being replaced by boats made of durable and significantly less-expensive materials, such as aluminum, rubber, plastic, and fiberglass. To help preserve their memory, I sought the dinghies, prams, and tenders that serve as both pleasure boats and workboats ferrying lobstermen and women to and from their larger craft moored offshore.

Photograph of small wooden boat by Nancy Rich

In the fall of 2009, I was very fortunate when Sheridan House published Afloat on the Tide, a 208-page book of my wooden boat photographs. It serves as a historic record of these special boats. The magic and power of photography endure.

Photograph of seaweed by Nancy Rich

With wooden boats becoming more and more elusive and Afloat on the Tide in print, I became excited about photographing other subjects. I made a transition to shooting the beautiful and eye-catching shells and plant life that I had collected during my years walking along the shoreline.

photograph of oyster shells by Nancy Rich

This change in subject led to a focus away from landscape-type photography to a fascination with macro photography, taking images up close to the subject, at times 1-2 inches from it. I titled this new collection “Glass and Ice Capades.”  It includes photographs of objects floating or frozen in liquid or ice.

photograph of rose petals by Nancy Rich

Now that I have retired from my professional life as an educator and administrator, I have time to devote to sharing my love of wooden boats and my photography. The Clever Hand has given me a steady platform for showing my work, and I enjoy speaking before community groups. I was recently honored to have a solo exhibit, titled “Afloat,” in the Class of 1925 Gallery at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Nancy Rich at University of Wisconsin Class of 1925 Gallery