Abundance…

As much as I admire simple, curated space – there’s a case to be made for abundance. Let me ask a question first- which organ of the body uses the most energy, the Heart or the Brain? The brain uses a full 20% of the human body’s energy. Sight, sound, scent and taste – these senses originate in the brain, That’s why visual images are so important in design.

The same brain that loves order also enjoys abundance. Half full or mostly empty are generally unattractive. In any type of brand or campaign for products- balance is key. A product page needs to be simple and curated. A special display benefits from negative space. Your physical store, the cover of a catalog, a travelogue or business blog even newsletter are the perfect places for abundance. And don’t get me started on our homes and gardens.

Abundance -without looking cluttered, stuffy or just plain messy- which is universally unappealing. Where to use it? Abundance is a design principle and when selectively, the human eye finds it appealing. Abundance is that satisfying sensation we feel when we see a good harvest, a basketful in fact!

Set an abundant bowl of fruit on a simple table and it immediately becomes more attractive. Common food displayed in rustic basket or a bundle of garlic on burlap speaks abundance to the eye. A well stocked store is far more appealing than empty shelves.

In the landscape, abundance is what we enjoy seeing. An ornate bench is a type of abundance. Used in just the right setting or proportion is beautiful. Generous bouquets are always a welcome sight and tends to warm a simple space up. Green plants generously added to even the most curated space, have a calm, cooling effect in an overly sunny space. Fresh flowers and plants always add to the experience of a home or an event.

I’m convinced one reason grazing boards are so popular is we like a generous spread and selection of food.

Coco Chanel loved her many ropes ..and ropes of pearls- her simple designs were often set off with generous strands of pearls.

And isn’t that what we really want? Generosity? Without saying a word- abundance is generous, satisfying and ‘no worries there’s enough to go around’.

Yes, abundance as a design principle is amazing. You can do this! I know you can- finding the right balance is key -with a bit of practice you’ll find other folks will appreciate it too!

Love y’all, Brenda

Could we talk about Negative Space?

img_5640Could we talk about Negative Space? No, no, no- not that negative space of our mental states. Yet, that’s the point too- when we entered this time of lockdown and uncertainty- our minds were affected and overwhelmed. Still, I wondered – what will I do with this time to help others?  Those who are pursuing creative endeavors- product based or service based, yes even writing a blog. So, in an effort to put to use some of my experience in creative and conventional marketing. When I gave you Five Principles of Good Design–  The use of negative space Is hidden in three of those Design Principles-

  • Focal Point,
  • Light and Color,
  • Abundance and Restraint

Negative Space is a design principle, one so common that you’re apt to ignore it unless you’re looking for it. In fact, hidden in all 3 of those design principles is the use of Negative Space. Use it if you want your artwork, photograph or cupcake as the Focal Point. You actually use negative space- especially with Light and Color or lack thereof. And! Restraint might be the order of the day when Negative Space is employed!

Later, when I wrote a post forInstagram , the use of negative space was so apparent, I realized I had neglected a critical principle of good design. In fact, one photo in particular made me have that lightbulb moment. In collecting charming images of aging adults- some were in black and white- others were in color- to make the post flow as it should I had decided to convert all of them to black and white images. Here it is- see if you can detect negative space at work!img_5611

Yes, it’s the actual image of the lady herself! Not distracted by any other color, wording or clutter around her- she stood out in beautifully stark relief. Her image is the positive space. All around her is what is called negative space. And yes, it works with color also. Take this cupcake, if you’re a baker or food photographer- a tray of beautiful cupcakes cannot compare to a single cupcake pictured with the use of negative space.img_5623

After decades of working in product campaigns, on the selling floors of shops and stores and helping to reset the retail space- it was drilled into us that display space is highly prized real estate. What we put on those walls, in cases or counters hand how it was displayed made all the difference. The composition and balance created on those walls enhanced its appeal to shoppers.img_5614

You can expect these white blouses to be expensive, unique or that this is a new line carried by the retailer simply because of few blouses using up all of that valuable real estate! Think of a handbag display in a high end store– the wall has far fewer displayed than in a discount store, where everything is crammed in tight! High End Shoes are often displayed in this ‘set apart’ manner as well. The couture shoe is highlighted by the negative space around it. img_5626

The eye is able to rest precisely because of an often overlooked and basic design principle called Negative Space.

I wanted to talk to you about the use of negative space in your creative endeavors, one which will uplevel your products or services, make your space more notable and even appear more valuable. The grid of products on your Website or Instagram feed, for shoppers is much like a store front to display your array of products and services. And don’t think color can’t be used to great effect to expand what’s on your Virtual Wall – take a look at this beautiful one… the use of pink is the negative space, the eye rests and then sees the actual products!img_5616

Having to close a physical studio, workshop space or brick and mortar meant you had to up level your online presence with platforms like your website or Instagram (which is the favorite platform currently for inspiration and business.) Negative Space isn’t just an important tool- it’s now a critical design element, so that when anyone looked at your IG grid. With the use of Negative Space design, folks could see- not just a mass of beautiful images of your photographs, jewelry, garden, clothing or accessories designs, negative space highlights your designs and also gives the eye a chance to rest.  Overloaded minds aren’t just yours, the shoppers minds need to rest as well. Take a look at the difference between one image and another- see which one enables your eye to rest (both use negative space by the way)

If your grid is full of images, the eyeglasses will draw the eye far easier than the shoes and accessories image. The use of quotes on blank backgrounds – usually white, neutral  with black type is most effective. Even an image of a simple logo could be considered easy on the eye. img_5634

Use quotes or negative space images every 4-5 blocks also helps your grid – Breathe.  Another benefit of negative space! Closely comparted to the silence in a musical piece called Rest, even though in art, the use of negative space.

img_5503The point is, your customers or target audience, right now, is also as overwhelmed as you are! Regardless of what you’re selling- cleaning tools to soft leather bags even industrial equipment- the use of Negative Space is your insider tip! Try it, I think you’ll be amazed…

Love y’all, Brenda

* I’m going to show you two images- one is a Before I began to employ negative space in my grid on IG- the other is After… side effect was more followers! The first one is Before- the Second One simply adding negative space with the use of quotes-

 

1) Just a bunch of unrelated photographs- img_5628

 

2) Use of negative space-img_5629

 

Contemplatin’ Freedom…

408E9F09-38B0-4454-B5EB-16462BF5C81BI was feeling contemplative about the Fourth of July- okay, I was peeling potatoes for the potato salad- a mindless task… that’s when contemplating is easy. We had just gotten back from a last minute trip to Washington D. C., a city that is filled with more  profound history and symbolism than perhaps any other in this nation. It’s a white columned marbled and statuesque city- some of the marble was quarried right here in Alabama! Of course I’ve been to DC several times in my long and storied life- yet I always come away with a sense of awe and wonder; always learning something new…or something I knew seems to come alive in my mind.  For instance, the expanse of the sky overhead is startling for a major city- there are no skyscrapers- by law. Why?

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CLook at the statue that crowns the dome on top of the US Capitol Building. Her name is Freedom.

  • No building shall rise above Freedom.
  • Nothing in our nation’s capital is allowed to cast a shadow on Freedom.

Pause and contemplate that! Profound, especially when you consider that Freedom was commissioned in bronze when our nation was divided- literally by civil war and unrest. The pediment that Freedom stands on is embossed with the Latin words E Pluribus Unum, out of many one.  The center part of the capitol building had been destroyed during the War of 1812.. it was being rebuilt; the new plans included the iconic dome…made of cast iron weighing 1000’s of pounds… President Lincoln insisted that work continue on the building despite the war that had torn us apart, so the American people would be encouraged that our nation would once again be united and whole.

F7C6A780-B268-464D-BB94-1E223DA6F00BWhen we last visited Washington D.C. renovations were being made to the interior of the dome, now completed, it is once again a masterpiece.  I couldn’t help being reminded of one of my favorite Scriptures…

‘Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses who have  gone before us, let us throw aside every encumbrance and run with patient endurance the portion of the race set before us…’ Hebrews 12:1

George Washington figures strongly in the painting- he is flanked by Liberty and Victory within the dome and each symbolic creature seems to be looking down from the heavens…other figures represent aspects of American life and industry that helped forge our freedom. For instance, Mercury is offering a bag of gold to Robert Morris- the financier of the American Revolution, the war which defeated tyranny and the power of a monarch.  Americans prize freedom; historically, we’ve been willing to fight and struggle to remain free. Now, I know most of you are thinking…

‘Wow, that’s pretty heavy stuff to be thinking when you’re peeling potatoes.’ Well, yes, I guess it is-  however, even Southern girls can contemplate things like this quicker’n whipping up a bowl of potato salad!  After all, it was the Fourth of July- it’s not all about fireworks and barbeque- though I must admit to lovin’ the tastier aspects…. George Washington loved pit barbeque- even gave a few barbeques himself! A tall athletic man, Washington was also endowed with amazing leadership skills, wealth and an impeccable reputation- wouldn’t even lie about cutting down a cherry tree as any school age child is taught. The cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin evoke his memory. George Washington was honored as a Revolutionary War General, the First US President and also called The Father of our Country. Washington was named a national icon in the 1800’s when the new capitol dome was being designed. The dome’s design includes a feature that bathes the entire Rotunda in light. Light is symbolic of Truth and Goodness… the two virtues that our government and her people should always strive to attain.

Anytime you’re going on vacation to an historic city- there’s so much to see and do…it’s good to have a few goals. For this trip to Washington DC, the purpose of our trip was to attend an award ceremony at the Pentagon and take the tour, which included the location in the building where an airliner struck the Pentagon on 9/11- the damaged section is now a chapel with  an honor anteroom, including a window looking toward the frightful path of the weaponized plane and overlooking a memorial garden for the 183 lives lost that fateful day. Also we wanted to see the newly renovated dome, eat a lobster roll at Luke’s near the National Portrait Gallery, eat at Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace in Georgetown and we had plans  to watch the somberly beautiful- Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. CD31FDD7-D9A1-44C7-BD8D-23B97C0FDEB3

The day we were there, four funerals were to be held. As we waited for our tram to take us back- everyone became quiet and with hands over heart- we watched as a caisson slowly passed by- with 6 saddled black horses- the horses on the left had riders…the horses on the right were riderless adding to the  beautiful yet haunting sight. No photographs were taken out of respect for the slain veteran. The architecture in the cemetery is astounding in its masterful detail.

I had finished making our Fourth of July potato salad… A thought had occurred to me- Just how long had it been since I had actually read the Declaration of Independence and why among all of our national holidays had I not made a tradition of reading it? We read the Thanksgiving stories of Pilgrims and Indians, we read the ‘Night before Christmas’ to our bright eyed children…of all the traditions we have in this great nation…why not read the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July? Oh, I think we all know some of the beautiful phrases-

  • ‘When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary…’
  • “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
  • ‘And…with a firm reliance on divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Yet somehow the whole declaration and its history isn’t dwelt upon annually. For instance, when you read the whole document- just the reading of the indictments of the monarch, King George III- are extremely informative. The time frame of it’s writing is also interesting… the Revolutionary War was already underway  when the declaration was written and ratified. Even more pressing and dramatic to contemplate- British war ships were bearing down upon New York Harbor!

In June of 1776, the colonies had become increasingly united concerning the need to declare independence from the Crown and Parliament. The delegates appointed a Committee of Five, which included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson- Time was of the essence…

Jefferson was assigned the task of writing the declaration…he had a little over 2 weeks to write what would become one of the most important documents in human history. After consulting others who edited the document… Jefferson wrote that they ‘mangled it’  even as he exclaimed in his later years that the edits to sentence structure and removal of a full fourth of his original produced ‘the majestic document’ we now know as the Declaration of Independence…it was accepted on July 2, 1776. With that, the colonies had officially severed ties with Great Britain. John Adams believed that eventually Independence Day would become a day of celebration for generations.

  • On July 4 with a few more changes…
  • the wording was approved, it was signed and sent to the printer.
  • Two hundred copies were printed-

Now, this is important! President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock sent a broadside copy of the Declaration to General George Washington, who ordered that the declaration be read in full publically on July 9, 1776 to encourage folks to join the cause and to inspire his troops in New York City…wait for it…

  • The Declaration of Independence was read aloud… as 1000’s of soldiers on British warships were in New York Harbor!
  • This is profound enough, yet when you consider that 225 years later… the United States was attacked near the same location.
  • Standing overlooking the New York Harbor the Twin Towers were pummeled by those who would terrorize the American People.
  • Symbolism is one of our greatest teachers… Overlooking the same New York Harbor, rising up out of the ashes, in 2014 the new and gleaming One World Trade Center stands 1776 feet tall…

EA88D03E-E929-4DDA-BBB1-1CC5A50428C0May I be so bold as to suggest that-between July 4 and July 9 of each year… we make an effort to read the Declaration of Independence?After all, it ultimately became the spectacles through which the US Constitution is interpreted.   And in the reading of it, perhaps we will hear the echoes General George Washington’s voice , full of truth and goodness- as he declares Freedom from Tyranny and hear the inspiring words of the majestic document that still inspires generations..

The Declaration of Independence-  ‘…with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other- our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’

Every thing they had was offered for the cause of Liberty- their lands, possessions and incomes, their very lives and the one thing these brave men valued above all- their honorable reputations.

E2F13F06-B017-41B7-8FDD-73C0CC7D0E9CRemember Freedom? Standing high above our nation’s capitol building? Contemplate Freedom, often. Let nothing overshadow Freedom. Let nothing rise above Freedom.

Independence Day is a wonderful national holiday, full of many reasons to be thankful for the protection of divine Providence – I hope yours was full of good food, fireworks, inspiration and contemplatin’ Freedom.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Please make note: The purpose of Camellia’s Cottage is not political opinion or commentary. Our purpose is to promote gracious inspiration and genteel conversations.

*All photographs are obviously mine. The photograph of the small American flag was near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I wondered if perhaps a young child had placed it there…

*Forgive me for not crediting sources…many are from tour guides and multiple resources from which notes were taken but no one source to provide a consistent resource.

To Blog or not to Blog…

img_4683‘To blog or not to blog, that is the question.’

Over the last year, I have spoken with quite a few incredibly talented folks with hopes and dreams for making a life or a living. Without exception, I came away wishing they had a blog. Why?

My #1 reason has always been, when I find an artist, photographer, author, gardener or an amazing cook or teacher, even a seller, I want to know more about them. A blog offers me the chance to get to know you. I tend to head right to their About page. A business which includes a blog, seems more personal, trustworthy; especially if that business includes a Mission Statement. I’d like to know or see some of the folks who work there too.

2. Then, I scan a few of your posts. All businesses large or small seem more trustworthy, more solid, more stable and committed, if there is a blog. My favorite sites show Behind the Scenes. Showing your reader what you do, engages them, tells your story, makes anything more interesting and personalized. For instance, if you’re a jewelry maker, telling me the piece you made was inspired by the hollyhocks that grow outside your studio, brings me into your thinking and surroundings.

img_4682An artist who tells me what inspired a painting and a bit of your process gives me a personal experience.

A realtor who shows me unique homes, beautiful interiors or simple plans being developed – creates intrigue, increases interest. These things makes me want to linger longer on your site.img_4580

 

3. Your blog is a Virtual Brick and Mortar shop– a place where folks can enter anytime, look around at their leisure, get a feel for the place and owner. A blog gives folks reasons to be there, get to know you, trust you, your services and your products. And! Trust you enough to sign up with their email- giving you a reliable and inexpensive way to stay in touch.

Invite me into your garden, your seed and plant nursery. Let me see your bakery, your design aesthetic, or hear your music.

Now, you know I’ve got far more reasons, yet let me leave you with this- pandemic or not, virtually telling your story, showing your process and conducting business is all about creating a personalized way to engage others. I must say- since talking with all of those folks? The ones who have blogs or started blogs (especially in short form) have far outpaced those who haven’t. So, the answer to the question- To blog or not to blog…is a resounding ‘Yes!’ We will stay in touch and revisit this subject again! Hope y’all are staying safe, well and going strong.

Love y’all, Camellia

Message from Brenda: Since this post was written,  a dear friend, one of the most unique people I’ve ever known, has gone on and been received on the other side. I will miss her terribly. She didn’t have a business. Still. I wish she had shared her stories, which are many, I wish she had written her perspective on things, told her family history and the truly funny stories only she knew how to tell and make us all ‘laugh our sides off’. No doubt she has left behind stories and lessons that have never been told. Just one more reason, for any of you out there who need another reason to blog- this is it. Tell your story.

Practicing the Art of Being Home…

img_4092We’ve been practicing the art of Being Home… and as we say- ‘I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out’ how to stay upbeat on this space, while not minimizing the situations we find ourselves in as we all are trying to stay healthy and well. I’ll admit, I had several posts in the works. Still. I always have a goal to write what I would want to read– especially as it pertains to making life a bit better. So! I decided to come up with a few ways to enjoy being at home, while we are also practicing social distancing. I started brainstorming for a few ideas.. Think of things you enjoy doing at home. What would you be doing at home this time of year? Think of things you’ve been putting off or things you hoped to get done, yet hadn’t had the right kind of time to get done before.

img_4102Practicing this Art of being At Home..  means staying active and while it might not offer all the benefits of working out in a gym- housework definitely burns up calories! And keeping a home, adds to a good mental state, too. I think we’re all trying to stay positive. For me,  the first step has been to accept the situation and it’s helping me embrace  it. And, the best advice is to keep it simple. Is there anything more satisfying than a warm stack of towels or a fresh made bed, with newly laundered sheets.

img_4107If you have fresh flowers or even a bundle of herbs to place bedside- it truly is the epitome of practicing home arts. The little bundle of meaning filled herbs is an easy project.

  • Magnolia and Camellia leaves represent Home here in the South.
  • Lamb’s Ears are a healing herb-  gardeners kept it growing in case of  small wounds or bee stings- wrap a wooly leaf of Stachys Byzantine around a wound, to stop the bleeding and some use lamb’s ear as a dressing to lessen the swelling and pain of bee stings.
  • Sage is a component of this tussie mussie- and we all want to be wise!
  • Oregano is a joyful herb which was thought to foster health and happiness.
  • I added rosemary to this one… ‘Rosemary for Remembrance’ and who doesn’t want a better memory or even sweet dreams?  Please note if you have allergies as I do, just replace or omit any with another one.

Scents in the home are often associated with good feelings… here’s one- Coffee Beans! Coffee beans were used to ‘clear the olfaction’ or the sense of smell after being on overload of fragrances- sellers of perfumes often offer a pouch of coffee beans, so that a buyer can experience new fragrances. I find the aroma of coffee beans to be a mood lifter… just take a whiff of the container and you’ll see! Drinking coffee has health benefits too! img_4095

Citrus scented cleaners, detergents, soaps- oh the list is endless- are popular for a reason! The scent of Lemons, even Oranges are known to be excellent cleaners and! You guessed it- natural mood lifters! Here’s one of my favorite ways to make an air freshener and skin treatment too!

img_4101Save lemon and orange peels, place in a small saucepan, cover with water and simmer for the best natural air freshener you can imagine! Then, cool the mixture, remove the peels and chill the remainder for a wonderful skin tightening treatment. Use regularly and I have found it lightens … ahem, age spots if you’re plagued with them! Wash the face or hands, pat dry. Dip a clean cotton pad in liquid and swipe over the skin. Pat dry again, immediately following with a moisturizer. If you really want extra benefit, instead of a moisturizing product, simply coat the skin with a good Olive Oil. Coconut oil is good too. Please note: high quality vegetable oils are absorbed quickly by the skin and leave no residue! Try this one! I know you’ll love it!

img_4096One thing I would be doing- getting my skin in shape to get a head start on a summer glow. Epsom salts  added to a warm bath, eases tense muscles, and the salts bring moisture up to the surface of the skin, which is always a good thing! Even soaking in that old ancient beauty treatment- a milk bath is easily accomplished by added granular dry milk while the water is running.  Milk is a natural skin softener and simply washes down the drain- The salts or granular milk are both known as safe and healthy additions, they have no harsh chemicals or oils and truly can be mixed for an extra luxurious treatment. img_4089

And here are few things that will actually help keep your immunity levels up a bit higher and also to make life feel a bit more luxurious, using items you may already have!

Make a habit of taking a hot steamy shower. The goal is to…well, perspire. Okay, men you can sweat! Perspiring is one of the best ways to detoxify- ridding the body of toxins is a true immunity booster and improves blood flow, may lower blood pressure and for sure is a mood booster! (In fact, up the temperature in that milk/salts bath and you get the same benefit!) Remember how we sterilized almost everything? Some believe perspiring lowers the risk of infections! Fighting infections through the use of hot water to clean towels, linens, dinnerware and utensils, even clothing at high temperatures is recommended. (be careful with clothing- some fabrics have warnings against high temps for washing and drying! )

Saline nasal mist and clear eye drops are a life saver for me during allergy season- it turns out even with washing your hands- using saline nasal mist or rinse should be on your regimen too. Clearing out the nasal passages, also clears out potential viruses before they become an infection!

img_4093Of course, we need to be drinking lots of water, too! Perspire like that pretty glass and …Apply ice to those weary eyes, tired faces and aching hands. Well known models swear this is one of their major secrets to looking fresh and certainly gets them awake and looking good on camera- Zoom meeting anyone?

And, if you live in the south, float a few gardenias in that bath water…okay camellias, magnolias and rose petals are good too. Our southern mothers floated blossoms on water in cut glass bowls… adding them to a bath was simply a luxurious extension! Ladies everywhere, adding a scented flower to your bath lifts the spirits and believe me, this will make it a bit easier to Stay at Home.

Love y’all, Camellia