“The Sand and the Sea”

Here is an all-time favorite sensation of mine, start to finish:

Spread a beach towel on warm summer sand, sit down on it and scrunch around until the sand underneath conforms to your body. Lay down. Drift into semi-consciousness to the sound of the surf sploshing onto the sand and being sucked backwards. If there’s a crowd, listen to their voices swell and swing different directions with the breeze. Fall asleep.



I know, I know. You’re wincing because of the sunburn. I just didn’t know much better when I began this habit as a kid in California. So here’s the grown-up me: Avoid painful developments by employing advance planning and self-discipline, specifically with SPF 50 sunblock.



I no longer live near an ocean. (In fact, we now live in a Midwestern town whose name ends in “Lake.” Not that I’m complaining! But it does help explain the bobbing boats in these photos.)

Still, I have memories of enough beach-naps to keep me happy for some time. Plus I have a brother and family in San Clemente, where crashing waves set the ambiance perfectly. And I have two daughters and a son-in-law on Michigan’s west coast, where dune sand creates gorgeous sleeping spots. No shortage of lovely beaches to visit, right in my family.



Sandi, who custom-ordered this blanket, has beach memories tucked away as well, although she is currently a fellow-Midwesterner. But she will always love the beach and the way it makes her feel. (Her name IS Sandi, after all.)

When Sandi first wrote me, she said, “I am a beach lover! My favorite colors are ocean blues, sky blues and shades of turquoise blue-greens. Those colors simply make me feel better.” She now makes her home in the middle of Michigan and, part-time, allows her beach memories to inform her own creative design work with jewelry. The name of her business? Sandibeach Jewelry! (Her website is currently under construction.)



In the mid-20th century, Anne Morrow Lindbergh spent some time by the sea and wrote a small book about thoughts it coaxed from her. In large part, she recorded reflections on her life at that stage as a wife and a mother of five. She called it Gift from the Sea. 

The thing I want to share here is her description of the effects of time near the sea. She expresses it far more beautifully than I did above:

“Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic rhythms of city and suburb, time tables and schedules. One falls under their spell, relaxes, stretches out prone. … Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”  


Sandi, may this blanket — with its calm ocean blues, its hot-sand whites, and its sparkle of sun on the surf — carry you to that pleasant place where the beach can present to you its gifts and its wonders.


“The Sand and the Sea” (70L x 55W)

This blanket was a custom order.

Tour de Fall

Two years ago I made a delightful discovery: there is such a thing an “artist studio tour” and fall is the time for them around here.


On a summer weekend with the family in 2011, we stopped in at the Brewery Pottery Studio in Mineral Point, WI, for two of the five of us to have a look-see. (Does this “conflict of interests” exist in your family too??)


I bought a perfect, lacy mug (above) made by the owners, Diana and Tom Johnston, and picked up a flyer for the simply-named “Fall Art Tour” in southwestern Wisconsin. Artists in adjacent towns would open their studios and put their works on display for sale. The two of us who shopped that day made a pinky pledge to try to make the tour.


The date didn’t work, but we were so enamored with the idea that in fall of 2012 we found another studio tour north of Milwaukee, and booked a room at The Stagecoach Inn in Cedarburg, an artist-haven sort of town. Our map led us to artists and their studios in old barns, in the lofts of old brick buildings, in their own unique homes, and in one power-plant-cum-architects’ studio. We talked and learned about each one’s art.


That was just the beginning. We were hooked. Besides, it’s hard to go wrong with ANYTHING in the fall in the Midwest, what with deciduous leaves and all.

We changed it up a bit this year in order to include all three of us girls, and picked YET ANOTHER studio tour, this time south of Saugatuck, MI. (We can nearly drive blind-folded around the tip of Lake Michigan after a two decades of such trips. Well, we probably COULD, if it weren’t for the semis.)


For fun, I checked VRBO.com for a place to stay. VRBO is “Vacation Rental by Owner”, and I highly recommend it. We found the tiny Saugatuck cottage, “The Nutshell”, bravely holding down its postage-stamp bit of land between Kalamazoo Lake and Lake Michigan. It was just right for three nuts.


Okay, enough about us. Back to the ARTISTS. This weekend was called the Blue Coast Artists Studio and Farm Tour, as local artists and local farms (apple, pumpkin, fruit, cheese, etc.) got together to hold a giant open house. All are located along the Blue Coast Highway in western Michigan, each just a short drive from the next.


The photo above is at Khnemu Studio, an 1890s farm-now-studio with solar panels enough to power artist Dawn Soltysiak’s electric kilns. (We had rain on the weekend, which did put a damper on photo-taking but not on our spirits! A deluge had passed through not 30 minutes prior to this set of shots.)


That’s Dawn above, in the blue plaid. She has just removed a bowl from the kiln (left) and is applying a special technique to it in the straw fire. One of the barns contained work by several potters, and we bought a few pieces. Hidden until Christmas, they are!


One fun part about this farm was the free-range birds, EVERYWHERE.








The  fellow above was a beauty. The hen below got a notion in her head about our ankles. Time to be on our way.


We stopped at Evergreen Lane Farm for a goat cheese sample — and ended up meeting the goats and Dash the horse, hearing the story of how Farmer Cathy started making cheese, buying two cheeses, and picking a half-dozen organic apples.


The boy goats (above) were too busy competing in King of the Hill to come meet us. The girl goats (below) were eager to see visitors and could barely hold still. We let them gum our fingers (no teeth on top!).




Farmer and cheese-maker Cathy (on the right) graciously lent Grace and me farm boots to hike back to the organic apple orchard — I think I mentioned the rain?


The fresh-picked apples and goat cheese staved off our late-afternoon hunger until we made it to our dinner destination in Fennville:


The Salt of the Earth restaurant. Wow, were they worth the wait. They collaborate with local farms to serve fresh produce, dairy, and meats from this agriculturally abundant area. Listed in the menu’s sidebar of partners, we found Shady Side Farm, where fellow blogger and wool-lover Lona and her husband raise sheep and more! I visited Shady Side last winter for sheep-shearing time.


The next morning, we made one last stop at the studio of Reverie Design & Craft, where Sandra and her husband are finishing construction of this cozy structure. Sandra makes beautiful and playful pieces of pottery. I bought a small “pot” for sewing tools in my work area. I love that it makes me think of artists in other places when I use it.


And that’s my story of an artists’ studio tour. I can see how each tour has its own personality. Last year in eastern Wisconsin, for instance, we saw much more two-dimensional work: a large variety paintings, and drawings. This year, lots of ceramics — and farm products!


Each artist’s story is unique and each path to and through their craft so full of thought, passion, unexpected turns of events, plans, and serendipitous associations. Very, very interesting and very fun.

So, YOUR TURN! Have you gone a-visiting like this? Do you have recommendations for intriguing places to go?