A cardinal of a different color

A male Northern Cardinal with a rare mutation has become an Internet sensation!

Former shelter kitty Lucky Wilbury, who is currently recovering from a life-threatening bladder blockage.

To commemorate this avian celebrity (and gently rib certain curmudgeons in the birding community), I created this homage to Andy Warhol’s colorful silkscreen portraits of celebrities. It’s now available in my Mountain-Gem Arts store on Zazzle on men’s, women’s, unisex, and kids’ T-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, and more in a variety of bright, medium, and dark colors, including many bird-friendly options. A cropped version including the left and center panels is available for your wall and as a 2-inch square button to adorn your Tilley hat or birding vest (or as one of your minimum 15 pieces of flair).

Proceeds from sales of this design (and everything else in my Zazzle shop) will help defray the cost of recent lifesaving veterinary treatment for my indoor-only rescue kitty, Lucky Wilbury.


Mountain-Gem Arts Cyber-Monday update

No Gila Monsters were harmed in the making of this pendant.

I’ve been busy this fall, but more with art than birds.

Mountain-Gem Arts now has a permanent URL—www.mountain-gem-arts.com—and new stuff! I’m most excited about the new Gila Monster series (right), inspired by a request from a friend in New Mexico, but there are new additions to the Heart of the Woods and Rainbow Ripples lines plus new nature-theme earrings: Ornithophily, Kelp Forest, Autumn Leaves, Blue Lagoon. You can also browse a gallery of recent work.

I’ll be exhibiting at the Cascabel Community Fair next weekend, so at least some of the items available now on the Web site will have new homes by Sunday. If you see something you love, better grab it before someone else does.

There’s be more to come soon. If you’re looking for a gift and can’t decide, e-mail me about a gift certificate.

Future additions will include reproductions of some of my 2-D art and links where you can purchase my e-books (in progress).

Thanks for supporting small businesses and independent creators!

Dear Etsy Legal Department…

I know your job is usually to ignore copyright and intellectual property infringements (except when it involves the IP of Disney and other powerful and highly litigious corporate entities), but could you please take a moment to ignore this probable violation of federal wildlife law?

This shop is selling items made with real bird skulls:

soultosoul19: Dead Birds & The Lost Key

Though the skulls are not identified by the seller, they are obviously not from common domesticated birds such as poultry or pigeons, ornamental gamebirds such as pheasants or peafowl, or common cage birds such as parrots or finches. They appear to be from wading birds and seabirds and were most likely salvaged from nature. Since the seller is in the United States, it is almost certain that the skulls belong to species that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The Act states the following (in part):

“…it shall be unlawful at any time, by any means or in any manner, to… possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment, ship, cause to be shipped, deliver for transportation, transport, cause to be transported, carry, or cause to be carried by any means whatever, receive for shipment, transportation or carriage, or export, at any time, or in any manner, any migratory bird, included in the terms of this Convention . . . for the protection of migratory birds . . . or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird.” (16 U.S.C. 703)

If these items are in violation of the MBTA, their sale, purchase, and shipment are also violations of the Lacey Act.

If these skulls do not belong to native birds covered under the Act and were legally acquired and legal to resell, there should be a statement to that effect in the description of each item and some documentation to back it up. If not… well, I’m not a lawyer, but I’m sure you’ve got the resources to figure out the exact legal ramifications for the company.


Sheri L. Williamson

cc: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Etsy’s boilerplate non-response:

Case #: 38410
Jason Seger
JUL 16, 2012  |  07:26PM UTC
Sheri -Thanks so much for contacting Etsy. As you may know, by using the site, each person agrees to comply with Etsy’s policies and with applicable laws. Also, Etsy is a venue which is comprised of third-party or user generated content. Etsy is not a juried site.Thanks so much for sending this link to Etsy. If you have questions about a certain seller’s material, you may choose to respectfully contact that person with an inquiry.

Etsy complies with our policies and we remove material when we are notified by proper authorities and have reason to believe that the material is not in compliance with Etsy’s policies.

Etsy Legal Support

Update: As of September 20, the store is still online but is now empty.

Does that mean that:

  • the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service stepped in?
  • Etsy decided, without direct prompting from federal officers, to enforce its own rules?
  • all the illegal items sold, and “soultosoul19” needs to scavenge more bird carcasses off the beach to restock his/her shop?

The last option seems unlikely, as Etsy shop pages usually list the numbers of sales, but the fact that the shop is still on line is troubling. I’ll be keeping an eye on it just in case.

Mountain-Gem Arts update

Lucifer Hummingbird Heart I

Lucifer Hummingbird Heart I

Wow. My polymer clay jewelry has been really well received. Most of what I’ve added to the shop in its first few weeks has already sold, and to fill demand I’ve made new versions of popular designs, including four Lucifer Hummingbird Hearts (so far). I’ve received other special orders, too. This is truly gratifying, and I thank everyone who has made a purchase from the bottom of my heart(s).

The holiday shopping season is the perfect time to start something like this, so I don’t expect this run to continue, but that’s just as well. I do art in part as a way to keep burnout at bay, so I wouldn’t want it to turn into drudgery.

There is one major but hopefully temporary change in the shop: I’ve disabled the shopping cart by marking available items as out of stock. You can still buy them, but only by contacting me directly. I regret adding this extra step to what should be a seamless process, but I no longer trust PayPal with my money. The company has a nasty habit of putting holds on customers’ accounts for extremely flimsy reasons (too few transactions, too many transactions, transactions not marked as shipped, alleged violations of the TOS, etc.), all to earn more interest off the money before its rightful owner can withdraw it.

I never used to worry when I used PayPal only to make payments. Since the Regretsy Secret Santa debacle, though, I live in fear that the company will freeze my account and deny me access to funds I need to pay for supplies and postage, buy groceries, pay bills, etc. This is predatory behavior and a serious burden to microbusinesses like mine that depend on electronic payments. Until PayPal changes the way it does business, I choose not to do business with PayPal.

At present, PayPal is the only payment option available from my storefront host, Storenvy. If that doesn’t change soon, I’ll be looking for an e-commerce alternative. In the meantime, I’ll be setting up accounts with other electronic payment services and will accept prepayment by personal check.

One positive development is that my sickly laser printer has received an overhaul and is working again. That clears the way for the next version of the Supplement to A Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America. I’ll be busy through the end of the year with jewelry orders, Christmas Bird Counts,  field trips, etc., but watch this space early next year for the announcement that the new edition is ready.

Diving into art

I’ve taken the plunge this week and become a working artist again. It’s not so much a mid-life crisis as an economic one. We’re in the middle of the fall shoulder season for birding in southeastern Arizona, which leaves me with several weeks of no SABO activties and also/therefore little or no salary. My paid writing gigs for WildBird and the Audubon Guides blog have helped to fill in the gaps between paychecks, but the gaps grew into yawning chasms in the aftermath of this summer’s wildfires.

Making and selling art will keep my mind and hands busy even if it doesn’t keep food on the table and the bankers at bay, and so I introduce you to Mountain-Gem Arts:

Mountain-Gem Arts screenshot

Mountain-Gem Arts

For the grand opening, I stocked the store with a few pieces of my own handmade polymer clay jewelry and several pots I’ve purchased from the artisans of Mata Ortiz in Chihuahua, Mexico (about a half-day’s drive from my house and a short jog off our route to the land of Thick-billed Parrots and Eared Quetzals). I sold two jewelry items in the first 24 hours the store was open and have another two reserved, so I’m walking on air.

The creative direction I’m most excited about is my Hummingbird Hearts series: The vivid colors and patterns of hummingbirds superimposed on an iconic shape.  The Ruby-throated Heart is available now, and one inspired by the Fiery-throated will be along soon. It could get pretty crazy when I take on the coquettes. I’ll also be working on sculptural bird portraits in the form of pins, pendants, and earrings as well as colorful abstract things that appeal to my ADOS (Attention Deficit Oo-ooh Shiny!). When the next edition of the Supplement to A Field Guide to Hummingbirds goes to press (= when I can afford a new laser printer), it will be available in the store as well.

If you like what you see in the current inventory and/or in my Art set on Flickr (as a taste of things to come), I hope you’ll bookmark the store for future browsing and/or “like” it on Facebook for updates on new items, discount codes, etc.

Birds + clay + Arizona = FUN!

I recently connected with a kindred spirit in master polymer clay artist Carol Simmons. Carol also shares my passion for nature in general and birds in particular, so it didn’t take much wheedling and prodding on my part to convince her to team up for a clay + birds workshop in southeastern Arizona next April May!

Carol will share her techniques for creating and using her exquisite intricate cane veneers, and I’ll lead optional low-key, beginner-friendly bird walks and field trips. Casa de San Pedro Bed & Breakfast has been tapped to host the workshop, and early April mid-May birding along the San Pedro River is a colorful and inspiring experience (so are the breakfasts!).

For more information as the workshop develops, please bookmark Carol’s class and workshop schedule.

UPDATE: The workshop is scheduled for May 13-19, 2012 at Casa de San Pedro Bed & Breakfast. Fees and registration information to follow.

And now for something completely different: A clockwork heart

Clockwork heart

Originally uploaded by fieldguidetohummingbirds

It’s been an exciting month for creative efforts and a grim one for hummingbirds, so I thought I’d blog about my art for a change.

This is one of my latest efforts in polymer clay. It started out life at the To Bead True Blue show in Tucson as a lump of murky purple scrap. As a helper at Polymer Clay Party Night (sponsored by artists who exhibit and teach at TBTB), I attempted to create a bright purple clay when the prepackaged supply of that color ran out. Unfortunately, I grabbed the first red and blue that came to hand, and they didn’t get along.

Not wanting to condemn the ugly lump to the scrap pile, I started mooshing it into a heart shape. With a tool from my clay kit, I cut out a square in the center, using gold clay mixed with a bit of green (for a brassy look) to edge the cavity and add accents.

Back home, I “installed” watch parts purchased from master polymer clay artist Christi Friesen and sealed them under a layer of resin. With some shimmery russet and violet mica powders to improve the color, a couple of grommets for added visual interest, and a salvaged wire ring for a bail, the steampunk look was complete.

I’ve never been a “heart person,” but this got me on a roll. I’ve filled a couple of sketchbook pages with new heart designs, most with a nature theme. You’ll see some here at LB&E as they come together, along with other polymer clay pieces.

To a young Anna’s Hummingbird

A modern haiku inspired by yesterday’s Hummingbird Field Clinic:

Summer sun reveals
dark continents adrift in
seas of boiling lava

The Emperor is nekkid again

From an art blog that shall remain nameless comes another pretentious artist, this time working in the medium of chewed parrot toys instead of Necco wafers. I admire artists who use discards in their work to make an environmental statement, but this is just silly as well as unattractive. At least there’s no parrot poop on them (but if there was I’m sure some art critic would gush over that even more).

Her pierced metal pendants are nice, though.

The recycled birds of Jane Gillings

gillingsbskiAustralian artist Jane Gillings makes colorful, cartoonish, yet faithfully rendered birds from discarded plastic. Some samples are included with her artist profile for her exhibition at the NG Gallery (someone got a bit too creative with the page layout – you’ll have to scroll  way over to the right to see the photos).

Thanks to Susan Lomuto at Daily Art Muse.