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These arrangements are much tinier than they look in the photos!

I provided a Theme Luncheon, Decorating for the Seasons: Fall, for the 2011 Quarter Connection Online Convention and finally realized that I had never added it to the website, so here it is -

Fall in El Paso is especially appealing - summer's heat and intense sunlight are past, the days are clear and crisp and energy seems to crackle around us. Roadside stands have pumpkins, squashes, gourds, apples and other fruits, chile ristras, nuts, jeweled jars of honey, homemade jellies, jams, fresh baked goods - and everywhere is the incredible aroma of roasting green chilies. On a drive to Old Mesilla in New Mexico one can see red chilies spread on old adobe rooftops to dry.

For many years early on a fall morning I clapped on my hat, grabbed my lightweight canvas shoulder tote holding gloves and shears, various smaller baggies, my cell phone, and a Thermos of coffee, and off I would go to prowl the roadsides and canal banks to admire the last of the wildflowers and see what had gone to seed, pod and husk. I loved spotting brilliant rose hips among thorns, berries still clinging on bare branches, the crisp curl of leaves and beans forming intricate new shapes after their softer greener days.

My husband also often brings me little plant treasures he finds when he is hiking. The desert has incredible plant life but you have to look; some larger plants can be seen from the car, others can be spotted while bike riding, and many desert plants are so tiny they are barely visible when one walks. I love those days when he says, "Oh, I found something today; don't know if you can use it or not ... " and starts rummaging in his Camel Back for little baggies and sometimes crumpled handfuls of fresh and dried plants.

And those goodies form the basis of my real life Fall decorating. The challenge, of course, is searching through my stash and our roadside gleanings to find the pieces that can duplicate in quarter scale those often over-sized arrangements that are such fun to make in "real" life.

He brought a double handful of these stems after one of his hikes. "I think it is called
Whitethorn," he says, but it grows smaller and finer in our high desert mountains than other places.

Happily, I sort through all my treasures - leaves, pods, blooms, even the thorny stems
stripped bare - examining each piece. I squint and examine each curling, winding stem,
speculating what it can become left as is or when I cut it, and what it can become when I paint it. What fun! What a guy!

The whitethorn leaves look like miniature fern fronds. Its fruit on close examination
looks like cones, especially when painted brown. Although round, at this scale if the eye expects pine cones, that's what it will see, is my philosophy, especially if tucked under evergreen bits.

Left natural, the pods make decorative green balls to pile in a wooden or copper bowl
along with other tiny natural bits. The "wooden" bowl is made of quilling paper, varnished.

As I was Ooohing and Aaahing over his finds one day, my eye fell on something on the table left from another project. It was a stacking set of ink pads from Martha Stewart Crafts. Knowing how some dried greenery loses its color over time, I looked down at the little leaves and thought, I wonder ... and sure enough, when I pressed the leaves onto the green ink pad they picked up the color beautifully. I am not sure how long the color will last, but so far, so good.

The next time DH went hiking he found more whitethorn plants, but they were in an
advanced stage; the pods had burst into fuzzy little yellow blooms. I tried rolling the blooms over the yellow ink pad, but they were too fragile. Instead, I sprayed them lightly with matte finish and put them aside to see how they maintain their color. Usually, yellow and purple seem to hold better when they dry; at least around here, but I have learned that in the long run it is better to paint because I have seen too many natural dried plants fade over time. The alcohol inks work well because they have a more realistic translucent look, although I use acrylic paints all the time, too.

And, a few days later, he brought me a whole handful of the beans, even smaller, and
already turning dark brown. As is, they would work in 12th scale, but I cut them into smaller bits for quarter scale.

I look for possible containers.

It's a lot easier to work on these tiny arrangements when they are closer to eye level. Here I have used an asparagus can as my base, and a foam dot to hold the container.

These are very useful for holding tiny things in place, both for arranging and for painting, and adding details like ribbons or trims, etc.

Wow, those tiniest curling beans are great for establishing the line of an arrangement.

As is so often the case with quarter scale, this rather modern arrangement looks better
in real life than it does in the photo.

Some of the leaves look almost like statice in this arrangement..

These are tiny dried grasses, left as is.

What says Fall like a hearth broom?

And this arrangement which includes small pumpkins, apples, oranges and grapes, like the season it represents, is colorful, plentiful, slightly more passionate than the rest of the year, as Nature makes her last full- throated call before the deep silences, fading and bleakness of Winter.


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