Friday, October 28, 2016

Things I Love Thursday: Up North Edition

I've lived in Michigan for my entire life, so I know its going to sound crazy when I say this, but it's been over a decade since I've traveled any further north than Grand Rapids. When my mother in law called me a couple of weeks ago to see if I wanted to join her for a mini 'color tour' and a visit to the Gwen Frostic studios in Benzonia, MI I didn't hesitate at all before saying yes.

I was really lucky to have had an incredible art department in High School, including bookmaking courses which I took as many of as they would let me. Our bookbinding courses also covered some side projects where we learned things like photo transfers and linocut or block printing. (You can see a lot of the resonance of those early classes in some of my current work). One of the examples my teacher shared with us was a book of block prints by Gwen Frostic. At the time, I had no idea who Gwen Frostic was, and probably didn't remember her name past that semester, but her nature inspired work gave me all sorts of good feels, and I carried a vague memory of that with me for years to come.

When I first moved to Kalamazoo, I spent many a weekend driving around Southwest Michigan going to estate sales on weekends. Since I was majoring in creative writing, and have always been a huge reader, I would paw through the bookshelves at all of the sales looking for beautiful old copies of books I loved. At one of these sales, I accidentally came across several copies of Gwen Frostic poetry volumes, which are printed on deckled edge papers and vellum, some with sheer overlays, and chock full of her gorgeous natural imagery. I didn't know these books existed, and was instantly in love. I have gradually found a few more since then, and probably own 6 or 7 volumes in total.

It wasn't until 2-3 years ago that a friend clued me in to the fact that Gwen Frostic Studios is still open and running (though sadly the artist has long since passed). Her home in Benzonia is just a few hours north of Kalamazoo, and is truly a magical place to visit. Her house and studios are built into a hill, with a sod roof, and look very much like a real life hobbit house. There is a beautiful bubbling fountain just inside the door, stone walls, wood beams, and tiny pieces of colored glass embedded in the walls. The concrete floors have animal footprints running through them!

You can purchase all sorts of treats in the shop, including some of her books, a multiple sizes of calendars, with a new sew of images every year, cards and postcards, wrapping paper, notebooks, and more.

I ended up buying a lot of Christmas gifts, a ton of cards because I couldn't decide which ones I wanted, and a previous years Calendar. The one thing I was a little disappointed in was that there weren't any larger prints that could be framed as all art. The out of date Calendar I bought is a bit larger, so I am going to take it apart and frame a couple of the prints from it.

When we left Gwen Frostic, we saw a sign for an 'Alpaca Boutique' anyone who knows me, knows I am over the moon for Alpacas. It turns out my travel companions are totally fine with random stops along the way, so we visited some fluffy friends and came away with a few pairs of the worlds softest socks. I didn't manage to get any pictures of the babies, but this particular farm had 11 new babies this summer alone!

When we left the Alpaca farm it was time for afternoon coffee, so we (myself, mother in law, and grandmother in law) headed to one of their favorite spots for a snack: The Cherry Hut.

Everything about this place was super cute and retro, and I was really excited to see that their paper place mats are custom made for them down at the Gwen Frostic studio! I also didn't mind enjoying a hot mug of coffee and one of their famous slices of Michigan Cherry pie!

After the Cherry Hut, it was still early enough in the day that we thought we might be able to make it up to the top of the peninsula above Traverse City, and enjoy more of the gorgeous fall colors. We drove up along the coast, all the way to the top of the Peninsula and got out to walk along the beach in front of the Mission Point Lighthouse. The temperature had dropped pretty dramatically, but the skies were mostly clear and the view was fantastic!

After the light house we drove south again, stopping at a roadside stand to buy lavendar infused honey, at a vineyard with a view, and eventually ending at out AIRBNB in Irons. All in all it was a perfect one-day road trip that I can't wait to do again.

Possibly my favorite part of the trip was actually a brief stop we made at a farm market on our way back to Kalamazoo on Sunday. I couldn't believe how much produce they had, and the prices were INSANE. I got a blooming potted mum and three decorative pumpkins for our front porch, an entire bushel of assorted squash for eating, and TWENTY POUNDS of parsnips for under $13.00 total. The place was in Newaygo, an hour and half drive from home, and I plan to make a trip there every fall!

I used a ton of the Acorn squash for a catering job last night, which hopefully I will post about next week. If you ever have the opportunity to duplicate my trip, I hope you do! It was an easy two day trip, packed full of beautiful views.

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