The Constant Apprentice is a place for curious humans to explore craft, visual arts, writing, nature, food, and all things classic, then and now.
{ Curators: Roseann & Jonathan Hanson —> }|{ Craft }|{ Classics }|{ Travel }|{ Food }|{ Nature }|{ Science }|{ Writing }|{Visual Arts}

Beautiful patterns in nature ~ scales

Not everyone thinks snakes are beautiful, but to me they are. It's snake season here in the Sonoran Desert, so it means being a little more careful where one puts feet or hands. But when you chance upon a rattlesnake hunting, like this one, coiled near the bird feeders, it is a chance to appreciate the beautful colors and patterns in their skin, rendering them nearly invisible in the pebbly ground.

Cream-white: the color of Sonoran Desert summer

As we move into full summer, the colors become bleached . . .
Saguaro cactus blossom
Soaptree yucca flower stalk
Seed pods of pincushion flower (Chaenactis)
Deer skulls and antlers

Beautiful patterns in nature ~ rocks

Today is cloudy and rainy, the colors muted, and the patterns in this little pile of rocks on my front porch just appealed to me in the soft light. All collected within a mile of home: tumbled amethyst-striped quartz; copper ore; chalcedony (white and amber quartz); and a translucent red and soft green (rock types unknown).

Yellow: The color of early summer in the Sonoran Desert

During April and May, the desert is awash with yellow.
Hillsides glow, trees are laden with flowers. Bees rejoice.
Mesquite blossoms
Prickly pear cactus blossoms
Coyote melons
(Squirrel snack, coyote melon)

Found objects - Travelers' Treasures Collection

These two pieces represent art made from treasures found while traveling. Pieces such as this can be some of the most treasured we have . . . with each bit reminding us of a moment, a place, a person.

Although created 10 years apart, they ironically were each inspired by focal points found along England's southern coast . . . a piece of green sea glass from near Dover, and a small granite beach cobble worn with a perfect hole.

  • Olde England: Hastings bedrock granite pebble bead, made by the Atlantic, found last year (2008); feathers from a garden rook and an African lilac-breasted roller (we were en route back from an East Africa trip, stopping to see friends in Hastings), English coins, blue beach glass, obsidian, fossil ivory (from England), and amber, including an earring whose mate I lost on that same trip.
  • Seaside England: Ten years earlier I had found the lovely tumbled green glass on a walk along the Dover shore; I drilled it, and used lilac waxed cotton to string pearls, seashells, and painted/dyed fish vertebrae beads from an old Seri Indian necklace bought along the Sea of Cortez on a trip with the same English friends we were with in Dover.
Do you have treasures from your travels? I will do commissions upon request. Please email me at this address.

Food as art . . . chipotle salsa

Cooking is a creative process, identical to creating jewelry or painting or clothing. You begin with an idea, you work with flavors as a palette, and there is a definite aesthetic. A few days ago I cooked up half a dozen jars of my chipotle salsa - and I think it is a good example of Food as Art: the flavor palette includes spicy fresh jalapenos, smokey chipotles (smoke-dried jalapenos) reconstituted in a homemade sweet-vinegary adobo sauce, tart onions, and acidic tomatoes. The aesthetic includes a not-quite-smooth texture, with small bits of onion and chile and tomato, and a color that is deep oxblood red.

Beautiful patterns in nature ~ cryptic coloring

Summer is dawning on us gently this year in the Sonoran Desert. Two nights ago the Lesser Nighthawks began trilling - one of the signature sounds of desert summer. It is still cool - we haven't had any hot days yet. But the ancient rhythms carry on. Soon there will be nighthawk nests, which aren't really nests at all but just barely discernible indentations under a small shrub. A cryptically colored egg or two is laid. In a few weeks, a chick will hatch, if the parents are lucky, and it will be ready to fly very soon - nighthawk young are precocial, like baby quail - they must be ready to run or fly from predators very soon, since their rocky nests offer no protection. The egg above is beautiful - inspiration for a future art project. 

Beautiful patterns in nature - spots

Since I was 12, I have been in love with spotted cats. I am irrationally moved to possess anything adorned with the gorgeous patterns of leopards, cheetahs, or jaguars. I am normally quite a rational, even frugal person. But I can be walking through the grocery store on a mission to buy a gallon of milk, and out of the corner of my eye spot (pun intended?) a leopard-print mug - and I'm completely sidetracked. I often buy it, even if the price is silly. I recently found myself spending an extra $20 for a Flip Video, just so I could get the 'custom' version with cheetah spots. I bought leopard-print fabric to cover my truck's center console, then it ended up on the visors, too . . . How bad can it get?

Here is video proof.