Archive for July, 2011

Celebrating Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter and her dog Kep in 1915

Beatrix Potter and her dog Kep in 1915

Happy Birthday Beatrix Potter, author, artist, naturalist and conservationist!

We all know Beatrix Potter as a beloved children’s author. Generations of children (and adults) have treasured her small, illustrated tales of Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, Jemima Puddleduck and friends.  But what separates her animal stories from all the others? Potter’s animals wear clothes and live in a world of houses, furniture and crockery, but beneath their clothes, they are rabbits, cats, ducks, mice, foxes, squirrels, hedgehogs and frogs.  Potter was an exceptional observer and was able to combine her observations with a seemingly, effortless mastery of watercolor illustration to create characters who were fanciful but fashioned on a foundation of truth.

From an early age Potter carefully observed the behavior of the small creatures that she and her brother collected, recording her observations in notes and drawings.  At the age of 10, she was given a copy of Birds Illustrated from Nature by Mrs. Blackburn.  Her drawings and paintings based on that book and from life showed such promise that her parents provided her with art lessons.  By her late teens, Potter was so skilled that her work was of professional quality.   Her subjects were plants, animals, insects, fossils and archaeological finds, rendered with great detail in dry-brush and often to scale.  She made use of a microscope to show details too small for the eye to see.

Potter became an avid mycologist and did original research on spores.  Her findings were presented to the Linnean Society of London, though she herself could not make the presentation, as women were not allowed, at that time, to address the Society.  She created over 300 scientific illustrations of fungi and lichen.  With the success of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Potter’s career as an author and illustrator of children’s books took precedence over fungi.

Amanita muscuria, Fly Agaric, frontispiece of Wayside and Woodland Fungi by W.P.K. Findlay

Amanita muscuria, Fly Agaric, frontispiece of Wayside and Woodland Fungi by W.P.K. Findlay

The popularity of her children’s books gave Potter the resources to buy Hill Top Farm in the Lake District, one of the most beautiful regions of England.  Over the years she added more farms and properties to her holdings, in an attempt to preserve the natural beauty of the area.  On her death, the land was given to the National Trust, an organization devoted to preserving the environmental and cultural treasures of England, Ireland and Wales.

For more information:

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has an online collection of Beatrix Potter’s work.

The section, Nature’s Lesson’s, has examples of Potter’s scientific illustrations.

For a brief assessment of Potter’s mycological studies

Linda Lear, an environmental historian, has written a biography, Beatrix Potter – A Life in Nature, which focuses on Potter’s relationship to the natural world.

Examples of Potter’s scientific illustrations can be found in Ann Stevenson Hobbs, curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Beatrix Potter Collection, Beatrix Potter’s Art – Paintings and Drawings


This is another in an occasional series of posts celebrating the birthdays of environmentalists, ecologists, travelers, adventurers, thinkers, artists, writers, and scientists who have inspired us to a greater appreciation of and participation in life on planet Earth.  Who has inspired you?  Please let us know, so we can add them to our celebration list.

Breaking News: Seminole Canyon Temporary Park Closure

If you are planning a visit to Seminole Canyon in the near future, you may have to change your plans. As of July 27th, the Park is temporarily closed due to problems with the public water supply system. The Park hopes to have the problem resolved soon.

For detailed information about Seminole Canyon visit the website of Texas Parks and Wildlife.

For the most up-to-date information please contact the Park at 432-292-4464


Happy Birthday Andy Goldsworthy!

Andy Goldsworthy from Rivers and Tides

Happy Birthday Andy Goldsworthy! British natural artist.  Working with leaves, grass, feathers, berries, wood, dirt, sand, stone, ice and water, a true natural palette, Goldsworthy creates art that can surprise and delight us with possibilities often overlooked in the world around us: a track of leaves arranged chromatically, a delicate sculpture of stalks completed by its own reflection in water, arches made of snow or stars made of icicles.

Knotweed stalks Derwent Water, Cumbria  from Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature

Knotweed stalks Derwent Water, Cumbria from Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature

 

I take the opportunities each day offers: if it is snowing, I will work with snow, at leaf-fall, it will be with leaves; a blown-over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches. I stop at a place or pick up material because I feel that there is something to be discovered. Here is where I can learn.”

A documentary, Rivers and Tides, shows the artist at work.  His hands are battered: the seasons and his materials have taken their toll.  Goldsworthy, persevering through repeated collapses of wood and stone, shows how challenging it can be to create art that seems to spring magically from the earth.

“I enjoy the freedom of just using my hands and found tools – a sharp stone, the quill of a feather, thorns.  I am not playing the primitive.  I use my hands because this is the best way to do most of my work.”

Soon after their completion, many of Goldsworthy’s creations are carried off by wind, water or the heat of the sun.  Thankfully, they are preserved in photographs. The works in stone seem more enduring, though they too are subject to the elements.  Their decay will be measured in years rather than in minutes, hours or days.

Detail of the Tilberthwaite Touchstone Fold  photo by Espresso Addict

Detail of the Tilberthwaite Touchstone Fold photo by Espresso Addict

 

“Each work grows, stays, decays – integral parts of the cycle which the photograph shows at its height, marking the moment when the work is most alive.  There is an intensity about a work at its peak that I hope is expressed in the image.  Process and decay are implicit.”

Goldsworthy sees himself as a collaborator with nature.  His goal, using nature’s materials in a specific place at a specific time, is “giving nature a more powerful presence.”

For a quick visual introduction to Andy Goldsworthy’s work:

The University of Glasgow has created the Andy Goldsworthy Digital Catalogue which samples his work from 1976 to 1986

The documentary, Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time, records the artist at work in some spectacularly beautiful sites.

Many books have been published on Goldsworthy’s art.  Two of the best are Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature and Time, both by the artist.



This is the first of an occasional series of posts celebrating the birthdays of environmentalists, ecologists, travelers, adventurers, thinkers, artists, writers, and scientists who have inspired us to a greater appreciation of and participation in life on planet Earth.  Who has inspired you?  Please let us know, so we can add them to our celebration list.


Celebrating 40 Years with Whole Earth Provision Company

Celebrating 40 years!

Whole Earth Provision Company has just added two more ways for you to help us celebrate our 40th anniversary.
We’ve been hard at work going through boxes, files, photo albums and slide carousels in search of some very special photos to share in our new virtual scrapbook and Flickr group.
The scrapbook is a whirlwind tour of photos, ads and memorabilia from our early days up to the present (note: there’s a lot to see, so please be patient while it loads – it’ll be worth it!).  We had far more material than the scrapbook could possibly hold, so we created a Flickr group to share the abundance of photos with you.

 

Do you have photos of Whole Earth Provision Company events and Earthlings?  If you would like to share them with us, join our new Flickr group “Celebrating 40 Years with Whole Earth Provision Company.”

 

Whole Earth Presents Contribution to Green Spaces

April was ‘Earth Month’ at Whole Earth. One of the components was to raise money for local environmental organizations around the state of Texas. Our store in the Quarry Market Center in San Antonio collected donations from our customers, staff, and friends for the benefit of Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas, an innovative non-profit doing wonderful projects all over Bexar County.

Shown above from the left is Max Kokinda, Whole Earth store manager, presenting a check for over $1,400 to Susan Hughes, Green Spaces Executive Director, and Blair Condon on the right, also a Green Spaces manager. They plan to employ the funds in their ‘Picture Your World’ youth photography program: one that fosters an appreciation of nature, art, and creativity in elementary school students in San Antonio.

We extend our deepest gratitude to all the community-minded folks in San Antonio who contributed to this Earth Month endeavor. Great job!