Archive for Inspirations

New art for Outlander Season 3

We love Outlander! Our newest drawing to celebrate Season 3 is now available. It’s been fun drawing an homage to the Outlander series written by Diana Gabaldon and adapted for TV by Ronald D. Moore for Starz. My latest artwork features a sea turtle diving from inside a compass circle. Other details include the palms of Jamaica, a sunset over the Caribbean, chains, a heart with prison bars, celtic knots, and standing stones. Of course, the Printshop sign is prominently displayed. The entire piece is capped off with an 18th century tall ship at full sail. This latest art is the third in a series of drawings in celebration of Outlander. Each is available as a signed, limited-edition 8 x 10-inch print on heavy-weight, premium, watercolor paper in full color. Matted prints are also available. 5 x 7 prints and cards are available upon request. Buy all three 8 x 10 prints for $65.00 and save! We hope you enjoy our homage to Outlander.

IMG_8014dia-giveafighedgehog art lr

Peace & Joy for the Holidays

gaf-peacejoy16-smWe are very excited to present our new Give A Fig™ card for 2016—Peace & Joy for the holidays! It was so much fun to research this concept, sketch out our approach, and create the final artwork.

I started with the idea of a partridge in a pear tree but it’s always important to me to explore a fresh approach—one that’s unexpected and incorporates other ideas and symbols. There are many things going on in this little frosty scene than appears at first glance!

Many of you know the English Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The song was published in 1780 but it’s thought to be a much older song of French origin. Some believe each cumulative gift represents aspects of Christianity and more specifically the Catholic faith. See Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/music/12days.asp

Regardless of any secret meanings behind the lyrics, I’ve always loved the song and the imagery of a partridge in a pear tree. By the way, this is what a real partridge looks like! I also included four calling birds—the wee purple songbirds represent “joy.”

There are other meaningful symbols from pre-Christian celebrations at the Winter Solstice incorporated here. Many of these traditions were adopted by Christians in their celebrations of Christmas. http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-general/why-christmas-held-25th-december-001161

Deer and rabbits are shy animals. They’re widely hunted and need to hide to avoid becoming prey. In my artwork, they represent “peace.” It’s a quite, snowy day in an orchard, a pear has fallen from the tree and the birds are singing. A lovely stag with a jeweled collar sniffs the fallen fruit while a large, white hare admires the scene.

The hare wears a collar of holly sprigs. Along with the holly, I drew ivy growing on the tree, fir trees in the background, and small white berries to represent mistletoe. All of these plants had special meanings in ancient times, especially to the Druids of Celtic tribes. During the dark and barren days of winter, holly was prized for its green leaves and bright berries, signifying the green of growth and fertility and the red (or blood) of the renewal of springtime. The Romans used it in their winter celebrations known as the Saturnalia. http://www.druidry.org/library/trees/tree-lore-holly

Ivy has the ability to bind all things together. It can wander freely, linking tree to tree and providing shelter. The image of fir trees, prevalent this time of year, has many meanings. In some countries, it was believed that evergreens kept evil out of the home—evil spirits and illnesses. For this reason, evergreen boughs were often cut down and hung over doorways and inside the home. The green branches represented everlasting life.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant associated with healing. http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/history/mistletoe.htm It was greatly venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans and used as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans. The Greeks and earlier peoples thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. From the earliest times mistletoe was one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac.

Our Give A Fig™ holiday card for 2016 features a richly meaningful scene with birds and animals in the snow and a central pear tree. During this festive time of year, we wish everyone “Peace & Joy.” Please enjoy your time with family and friends, spend time outdoors in the beauty and tranquility of nature, and don’t forget to put out food for the birds and wildlife, and hug your beloved pet friends.

New Celtic Dragonfly Card

gaf-dragonflyceltic-smEarlier this year, I created a limited edition print featuring a large central dragonfly amidst Celtic symbolism. I was inspired to create my art as an homage to “Outlander,” the beloved, bestselling books by Diana Gabaldon, now a hit TV series on Starz.

The second book in the series is entitled, “Dragonfly in Amber.” The “Outlander” story follows Claire, a WWII nurse who is mysteriously transported back in time to the early 18th century after falling through a circle of standing stones in the Scottish Highlands. She marries a Highlander outlaw, Jamie, and together they struggle to save themselves and the Highland way of life from British overlords.

I’m inspired by art and nature, and here I was also intrigued by the author’s title, “Dragonfly in Amber.” The motif of a dragonfly has many meanings, but with the addition of the insect set in amber, it becomes even richer. Amber is known as the “memory stone” and is thought to contain magical properties. It locks thoughts and memories in place to keep them safe. Amber is seen as a window into the past. It is ground and used medicinally for soothing. This organic gemstone is formed over millennia from the hardened resin of ancient pine trees. It remains but transforms in time.

In the story, Jamie and Claire wonder if it is possible to change time, specifically to avoid the disastrous Battle of Culloden. The dragonfly is a universal symbol of “change.” But when “change” is trapped in amber, then the object that symbolizes change is frozen in time and cannot be transformed. Change becomes part of memory. In this case, the dragonfly may represent the Scots’ defeat on Culloden moor, which changed the Gaelic way of life in the Highlands forever.

There are many other interpretations of this title which makes it such a rich metaphor. Gabaldon has stated it symbolizes Jamie and Claire’s marriage. In my artwork, I incorporated many symbols from the story. The dragonfly glows within an amber sphere, along with other icons. Notice Claire’s two wedding rings, interwoven like an infinity symbol. There is a star-filled dome that refers to the King’s chamber at Versailles. The top ring doubles as a compass, alluding to “Voyager,” the next book in the series. The word “CHANGE” is inscribed there with the “N” pointing north on the Eiffel Tower—a nod to Claire’s time in Paris during the war. A fleur de lys of France sits at the south point. The silver ring contains two hearts for Jamie and Claire above the purple mountains of the Highlands. The curved lines on either side of the dragonfly create balance and harmony while honoring the Gaelic culture. The spirals may also represent horseshoes for good luck, clefs and musical notes, snakes, and the twisting storylines of plot and subplot.

This Celtic knotwork weaves in and out of the standing stones of Craigh na Dun to ground the entire design in Scotland, now incorporated into a new greeting card with a Celtic border. I hope you enjoy it! Look for two new designs coming soon for the first book, “Outlander,” and the third book, “Voyager!”

Our favorite fungi

gaf-mushroom-smHere’s a preview of our newest Give A Fig™ card, featuring our favorite fungi! In Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, where our Give A Fig™ studio is located, it is known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World” because mushroom farming in the region produces over a million pounds of mushrooms a week. To celebrate this heritage, Kennett Square has an annual Mushroom Festival when the town hosts a parade, tours of mushroom farms, and artisans and food vendors sell all kinds of goodies. There is also a large, lighted mushroom that gets lowered from on high by a countdown on New Year’s Eve like in Times Square!

Here are a few unusual and interesting facts about mushrooms. (Thank you Fungi Perfecti for compiling these!)

1. Mushrooms are fungi. Fungi are as uniquely different from plants as plants are from animals. In fact, fungi and animals are now in the same super-kingdom, Opisthokonta.

2. Fungi recycle plants after they die and transform them into rich soil. If not for mushrooms and fungi, the Earth would be buried in several feet of debris and life on the planet would soon disappear.

3. The oldest mushroom found in amber is from 90 million years ago—a Cordyceps. Scientists recently discovered a fossil first uncovered in 1859 and named Prototaxites, dating back more than 420 million years, a time when the tallest plants were around 2 feet tall. Prototaxites was 3 feet tall laying down, but if standing was nearly 30 feet high. In either case it would be the tallest organism on land… and it was a giant fungus!

4. Some of the oldest living mushroom colonies are fairy rings growing around the famous Stonehenge ruins in England. The rings are so large that they can best be seen from airplanes.

5. You can make beautiful colors by boiling wild mushrooms and dipping cloth in the resulting broth. The book The Rainbow Beneath My Feet shows you how to make dyes with mushrooms.

6. Many mushrooms grow towards light, following the sun just like other plants. Unlike plants, scientists do not yet know how mushrooms use sunlight; only that they do.

7. The spores of mushrooms are made of chitin, the hardest naturally-made substance on Earth. Some scientists suspect that mushroom spores are capable of space travel; a few even believe that some fungi found on Earth originally came from outer space! (Others believe that people who think this must be from outer space themselves.)

8. Under the right conditions, some mushrooms’ spores can sit dormant for decades or even a century, and still grow!

9. Mushrooms are useful not only as food and medicine; some are also being used in bioremediation, to absorb and digest dangerous substances like oil, pesticides, and industrial waste in places where they threaten the environment.

At Give A Fig™, we care and we give back. When you choose a Give A Fig™ card, you show that you Give A Fig™ too. Thanks a bunch for choosing Give A Fig™ cards!

Symbolism in “Dragonfly in Amber”

By Suzanne DeMott Gaadt

A dragonfly is a powerful symbol around the world. I have wondered about the symbolism in Dragonfly in Amber, the second book of the beloved Outlander series by Diana Gabaldonhttp://www.dianagabaldon.com/books/outlander-series/dragonfly-in-amber/ As an homage to this story, I created a new design with my characteristic layers of meaning in watercolor and pen-and-ink. Here I share some thoughts about Ms. Gabaldon’s title, as well as the motifs contained in my art (shown here).

The Outlander novels and their exquisite adaptation by Ronald D. Moore for the Starz television network, http://www.starz.com/series/outlander/featured are the story of Claire (played by Caitriona Balfe), a WW II British combat nurse and the wife of an Intelligence agent. While picking wildflowers in the Highlands, she passes through a stone circle and is unexpectedly thrown back in time to Scotland in the 1740s. For her safety, she marries Jamie Fraser (played by Sam Heughan), a noble Highlander and outlaw of the British redcoats.

After the couple is forced to leave Scotland, Claire and Jamie shake things up in Paris on the eve of the Jacobite rising. “Dragonfly in Amber” focuses on their time in France working together to thwart Bonnie Prince Charlie before returning to Scotland to fight for the salvation of the Scottish clans. Since Claire is from the future, she knows what will happen at the Battle of Culloden when the clans are wiped out, but she has the audacity to try to change the future with Jamie’s help. We admire their fortitude and conviction in the face of a doomed cause. Gabaldon has created a world richly informed by history, science, magic, and eternal love. I sense she does not choose titles lightly.

Ms. Gabaldon says the dragonfly in amber is “sort of a symbol of Jamie and Claire’s marriage.” It is a metaphor for “something of great beauty that is preserved and exists out of its proper time.” In almost every culture, a dragonfly symbolizes change—the kind of change that brings a deeper understanding of the meaning of life. It represents going beyond what is on the surface and looking deeper into the implications and aspects of life. As a token of wisdom, it stands for transformation and adaptability in life. For Native Americans, it is a sign of someone departed.

The motif of a dragonfly has many meanings, but with the addition of the insect set in amber, it becomes even richer. Amber is known as the “memory stone” and is thought to contain magical properties. It locks thoughts and memories in place to keep them safe. Amber is seen as a window into the past. It is ground and used medicinally for soothing. This organic gemstone is formed over millennia from the hardened resin of ancient pine trees. It is transformed by time.

In the story, Jamie and Claire wonder if it is possible to change time—to prevent the looming conflict. However, the fact that Claire is living two hundred years before her birth has already had an impact on people and events in her time in the present. She changes time—all the time. With her healing skills, she saves lives that would otherwise be lost. She alters Jamie’s life and just about everyone else she meets just by engaging in decision-making.

If we think of a dragonfly as a universal symbol of “change” and if “change” is trapped in amber, then the object that symbolizes change is frozen in time. It no longer changes. Change becomes part of memory—it is even prevented from changing! In the case of our main characters in the story, they hope to change the future but if “change” is set in amber, the future cannot be changed. In this case, the dragonfly may represent the Battle of Culloden. The result of the Scots’ defeat changed the Gaelic way of life in the Highlands forever. It could not be avoided and is set in memory.

Caitriona Balfe, stated in an interview that she thinks of Claire as the dragonfly—another possible meaning. https://samcaitlife.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/new-sam-and-cait-attend-qa-at-the-apple-store-soho/ A dragonfly begins to grow in water then moves into light and air to fly. These agile, long-bodied predators can fly up to 45 miles per hour! They have 20 times more power in each wing stroke as compared to other insects, and an ability to move in all six directions: backwards, forwards, up and down, and side to side. Claire is a time traveler, moving between centuries backwards and forwards—beginning life in one reality before moving to another. She adapts to her surroundings and goes beyond the surface to delve deeper into life. Claire as the dragonfly set in amber is imbued with magic and lives in memory.

In my artwork, the dragonfly glows within an amber sphere, along with other icons. Notice the two rings, interwoven like an infinity symbol. They represent Claire’s wedding rings: the gold one from Frank and the Celtic silver ring from Jamie. There is a star-filled dome that refers to the King’s chamber. The top ring doubles as a compass, alluding to “Voyager,” the next book in the series. The word “CHANGE” is inscribed there with the “N” pointing north on the Eiffel Tower—a nod to Claire’s time in Paris during the war. A fleur de lys of France sits at the south point. The silver ring contains two hearts for Jamie and Claire above the purple mountains of the Highlands. The curved lines on either side of the dragonfly create balance and harmony while honoring the Gaelic culture and the medieval monks who illuminated manuscripts. The spirals also represent horseshoes for good luck, clefs and musical notes, snakes, and the twisting storylines of plot and subplot. This knotwork weaves in and out of the standing stones of Craigh na Dun to ground the entire design in Scotland.

I was an art history and communications design major in college in Philadelphia and Rome, Italy. I am fascinated with symbolism in the arts and culture, the hidden stories behind certain motifs, and the meaning of myth. My interest in Celtic mythology began as a child with my Irish grandmother and led to the discovery of the King Arthur legends. For thirty years, I have traveled the world for business and pleasure, seeking out UNESCO World Heritage sites, especially Iron Age ruins in northern Europe. I wandered the stone circles in the Orkney Islands of Scotland http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/skarabrae/, marveled at the ancient mounds of Newgrange in Ireland http://www.newgrange.com, and climbed the sea-washed stones of the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland http://www.giantscausewayofficialguide.com.

I dedicate this art and essay to the creative vision of Ms. Gabaldon, whose legions of fans have enjoyed reading and re-reading the Outlander books for 25 years. I also want to thank the outstanding actors, writers, producers, directors, and crew of the Outlander television production for their artistry and integrity.

I welcome comments!

Prints of the artwork are available here at this site. If you have any questions, please message Suzanne through this site, the Give A Fig Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GiveAFig/ or Twitter at https://twitter.com/GiveAFig1.

© Suzanne D. Gaadt, 2016. All rights reserved. No part or whole of this essay or artwork may be used in any way, quoted, borrowed, scanned digitally, photographed, or otherwise copied without the express written permission of Suzanne D. Gaadt.

Free GIVE A FIG card

GAF15 lrGIVE A FIG™ is excited to present three new greeting card designs. To celebrate, we will give a free GIVE A FIG™ card to our first 10 fans. We want to hear from you!

The first of the three new designs is a birthday card. It turns things topsy turvy by featuring artwork with a fox riding a horse. The sly fellow wears traditional “hunt” attire and his top hat flies out behind him as the horse jumps. A phrase on the front encourages the recipient to “Horse Around” for his/her birthday and includes “Happy Birthday.” The bright red coat on the fox contrasts nicely with the rich green of the background clover pattern.

“I’m very fortunate to live in an area of rolling hills and bucolic countryside. There are many horse farms. I see the bushy tails and pointy noses of red foxes almost daily.” Suzanne recalls. “I thought it would be fun to switch it up and have the fox leading the horse.”

A second design is a superhero card featuring a woman flying over the city. She is a polished, realistic model rather than the typical comic book heroine with impossible proportions. Our message is that we are grateful to all the women who do so much for their communities and their families at home and at work. Her cape flies as she moves onto her next challenge. The title declares, “You’re a Wonder.” She is a companion to our male superhero card, “You’re a Hero.”

Finally, we’re very excited to share with you our third new design, the 2015 holiday card, “The Holiday Musicians of Bremen.” Suzanne has always been enthralled with the story of “The Town Musicians of Bremen.” This 19th century German tale, “Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten,” features four animals past their prime: a donkey, dog, cat and rooster. They meet on the road to Bremen where they join up to become town musicians. That night they discover a robber’s shack in the forest. The traveling minstrels peer in the window and see thieves surrounded by food and other treasures. The animals are hungry, cold, and weary so they scare off the criminals with a loud chorus of howls. After a failed attempt to reclaim the hut, the thieves move on and the animals settle into their new home. http://germanstories.vcu.edu/grimm/bremereng.html

Suzanne says, “Germany is a magical place during the holidays. Many of our western Christmas and holiday traditions began there. This story also reminds me of Mary traveling on a donkey to Bethlehem with Joseph to give birth to the Christ child. Music, snow, pine trees, peace, friendship and feasting are all cherished symbols of our holiday season.”

Click here to order: http://giveafig.net/shop 

Whether you want to buy one or 100, contact us today. We have cartons of new cards and envelopes for sale. We hope you like all three of our new Give A Fig™ cards!

Please be sure to check out the list of stores that carry Give A Fig™ at our home page.

Remember to show someone you care and send them a card today. It is one of the most meaningful ways to express genuine sentiment and show someone you’re thinking of them. Because you Give A Fig™, we can continue to offer new designs. And we give back. A percentage of profits goes to help arts and environmental nonprofits fulfill their missions.

As in all of our other designs, these new cards are printed on the finest paper from responsibly harvested and recycled stock. They are printed in full color on the front and back, and blank on the inside so you can include your own personal message. Our studio is powered from renewable energy sources and the professional printer also utilizes sustainable practices. Thank you for your support and interest!

Update – Where to buy Give A Fig cards

• State and Union, Kennett Square, PA:  http://www.stateandunion.co

• Winterthur Museum Bookstore, DE:  http://winterthur.org

• Gateway Garden Center, Hockessin, DE:  http://www.gatewaygardens.com

• Harvest Market, Hockessin, DE:  http://www.harvestmarketnaturalfoods.com

• Red Tulip Gallery, New Hope, PA:  http://redtulipcrafts.com

• Wyre Naturals, North East, MD:  http://www.wyrenaturals.net

• Sarafina Fiber Art, Elkton, MD:  http://www.sarafinafiberart.com

To purchase cards, schedule a house-party, or to arrange a wholesale purchase, contact founder & artist Suzanne Gaadt at suzanne@giveafig.net.

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Six New Give A Fig™ cards

We’re excited to present the six new Give A Fig™ cards for 2014. They include a special, limited-edition “Celebrate the Season” holiday card. Two new birthday-specific cards feature a fire-breathing dragon and a frisbee-loving dog. Another new design inspired by my yoga friends and teachers encourages balance and calmness with “Just Breathe.” We also have a card for celebrations with a hot air balloon. It symbolizes peace in the world with a lion and gazelle sitting in the gondola enjoying a cup of coffee. Our most popular new design combines fine typography with a steaming hot cherry pie because “Love is all you need” (and maybe pie). It can be used for Valentine’s Day or any day of the year as an expression of love. We hope you enjoy the new looks as much as we do. Let us know which one is your favorite new Give A Fig™ card.

 

GAF dog front GAF snowcard GAF new balloon GAF yoga GAF dragon GAF love pie

Dive Into New Summer Reads

mermaid-Give-a-fig-cards-with-a-onsciousFor many book lovers like me, summer is the season to dive into a few new books. Whether at the beach or relaxing at home, take the plunge with one of these new releases chosen by “The Millions” as Most Anticipated for 2014. Also, scroll down for a link to great lists of Mermaid books on Goodreads.

1. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

2. Last Stories and Other Stories by William T. Vollmann

3. Mount Terminus by David Grand

4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

5. The Brunist Day of Wrath by Robert Coover

6. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

7. A Place in the Country by W.G. Sebald

8. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

9. Min kamp 3 (Min kamp, #3) by Karl Ove Knausgård

10. The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham

I recommend The Invention of Wings by Kidd, also in Oprah’s Book Club. It’s the story of “Handful,” an urban slave in early 19th-century Charleston SC, and her reluctant owner, Sarah Grimke. Both women long for something larger in their worlds but are limited by society’s attitudes regarding gender and race.

If you’re lured into the watery depths in search of Mermaid books, check out these lists on Goodreads. There are plenty of Mermaid Tales for all the Fin-atics out there: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/mermaids

What’s your favorite summer read?

You’re My Hero, Dad

heroI can still see my dad lugging heavy boxes of books up several flights of stairs. His dark hair and beard made him look distinguished, even as he sweated under the weight of all my stuff. I loved his quick smile, full of wit, charm, and an impish humor. Dad was my moving man when I changed dorms in college and apartments as a young professional living in Philadelphia. I moved several times! “Why not live on the first-floor?” he’d ask but he agreed I was safer on the third. “Don’t you have enough books?” he’d laugh and his blue eyes would sparkle. Books were almost all I had (and heavy art supplies). When I got married and we moved into our first home, Dad helped haul in our new refrigerator, washer and dryer. And more books. He was much too young when we lost him. You’re my hero, Dad! Happy Father’s Day to all the amazing men in our lives.

Please share your favorite “DAD” stories!