Last year, I bought a wooden card with a colourful seahorse on it and sent it to my husband’s work address. It collected some curious staff members eager to learn who would sent so bluntly a Valentine’s card to a married man. His wife (of course!) although that turned out to be an anti-climax for some but warmed my husband’s heart. He returned home that day with red roses. The card said: ‘You are MY seahorse’ and because that cute sea creature has zero resemblance with my husband, it made me laugh. However, thinking a bit deeper, male seahorses are terrific fathers. Male seahorses are equipped with pouches; when mating, female seahorses deposit up to 1,500 eggs in male’s pouches. A male seahorse carries her eggs for 9 to 45 days until the baby seahorses emerge fully developed, but very small. Learning about this devoted fatherly fact, it reminded me how, when I was a new mom, my back was often burning with pains by carrying my toddler daughter and how my husband carried her on his shoulders, back, and front in a baby carrier. So, after all, he is my seahorse.
I like to point out Mandarin Ducks art cards or a Mandarin embroidery hoop (there is only one available) as perfect Valentine’s gifts. In Asia mandarin ducks are associated with love. Having a mandarin print in your home supposes to attract love. This is handy information for some of us looking forward to Valentine’s Day. Maybe it isn’t a myth at all.
In traditional Chinese culture, mandarin ducks are believed to be lifelong couples, unlike other species of ducks. Hence, they are regarded as a symbol of love, affection and fidelity. Receiving a Mandarin Duck card is a gift experience. Its inlay is full colour. There is a full colour name card of me with two couples of Mandarin Ducks. Plus a seal sticker and a vintage post stamp. The cards arrives in a plastic cellophane or fully addressed if commissioned. Mandarin duck cards help gift-givers to express themselves through a lovely and colourful designs of two ducks that are cosily resting together.
My booklet has one chapter with illustrations on a Mandarin duck couple too. It is here.
Mandarin and Wood ducks nest in tree cavities. The female doesn’t feed her ducklings because that is too much work compared to having a nest on water level between reeds. There is another bird that doesn’t feed its young. Lapwings don’t feed their chicks but for other reasons. Lapwing chicks are born on a field that lies fallow, which means they are very vulnerable to predators. Parent lapwings use all their energy to guide and defend their chicks. Feeding would lead predators directly to the cute fluff balls.
There is another difference between lapwings and mandarin and wood ducks, apart from lapwings being meadow birds and the other two are waterfowl. Lapwings both take care for raising their young in a coordinated manner. When danger is detected one of the parents will call out orders (mainly ‘For the love of life, freeze and remain still!’) while the other parent will cleverly distract or lead the predator away from the chicks.
The male mandarin and wood duck, both being such handsome drakes, can’t do that, they wisely stay away from the mums and their ducklings. Should the extraordinary colourful daddy of the family take part in feeding the ducklings, he would draw too much attention to his reproduced and fluffy DNA. For a female mandarin duck to be married (yes, for life) to such handsome fellow comes with a price.
I have made a few Mandarin and Wood Duck cards, with a full colour inlay. They come in protective cellophane and a seal sticker. There are at my Etsy, but you can contact me too via the contact form. (scroll down).
I lived some months near a duck pond in Ireland and that increased my appreciation for these capable birds. Yes, capable. We tend to think ducks are hilarious and silly, like geese, but ducks are threefold capable; they can fly long distances, dive deep, and can spend days on water. Mandarin ducks are perhaps the most loved ducks because they symbolize friendship, loyalty, and love. You send a Mandarin Duck card to somebody to invite or celebrate a long-lasting friendship, loyalty or love. Mandarin duck drawings and prints are my best selling items of my Etsy shop. It is a nice to make art that celebrates love and friendship.
P.S. The cards come with a full coloured inlay, a seal sticker, and on its backside a decent sticker that says my name and website.
P.S. I promised eye-candy? Here is a corner of my studio. It was easy to set up. Not so easy is setting up a studio exhibition of my drawings as there are too many and I prefer to keep them safely stored in my portfolio case. So, if you like to see my work, pop over to my Etsy shop or browse through my website. I remember deleting a fast amount of my work after discovering copies on other sites, still this website shows that I love to capture Nature’s beauty, mainly birds, butterflies, koi fish & botany.
For the sole purpose of inspiring you, I like to show you what dropped in my mail box from Japan; two lovely packages with beautiful Sashiko threads. I chose these colours for representing Earth and Ocean. The earth being dressed up in autumn colours and the ocean with different hues of blue and green.
You can travel the world by car or plane but you can also travel through the world of crafts. I wrote in a former blogpost that I can’t exactly remember how I ventured into the world of Sashiko. But by dwelling in the world of Sashiko, I noticed how beautiful some Japanese hand-dyed threads are. I come across a lot of thread that I can’t order because I can’t read Japanese. However, these threads I found at the Japanese Amazon and they will soon assist me in creating a Sashiko display that is both experimental and (hopefully) decorative. Before you think, ‘Paula has traded her pen and pencils for needles’. No. Certainly not. Please, return soon for more creative updates and inspiration.
Love from Paula
P.S. Being back in the Netherlands, I designed a new, bilingual name card. I also re-activated my Etsy shop. It needs some tweaks but it shows that I am back again after a long Irish sabbatical.
Good-day to you! I am a King Eider and this is a coloured pencil drawing made by Paula Kuitenbrouwer. Paula is currently preparing an international move, thus her pencils are disappearing into big boxes. As she is rather creative and doesn’t like to put her creativity on hold, she is using my portrait and that of my beloved wife as an embroidery design.
Forgive me my vanity, but don’t I look handsome? And doesn’t my wife look adorable? Paula has done me great favour by expressing my black plumage in a contemporary style. Over the next few weeks, Paula will finish the feathers of my wife. In a way she is painting two portraits, one with coloured pencils and one with a needle and thread. While Paula is busy, we swim in Arctic waters and showing people how ‘King’ we are.
Artist, Author & Expat
‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’
My Tufted Duck series is growing steadily. One more to go for having six.
Every duck shows different stitches.
A few months ago, I bought The Embroidery Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden. Leafing through it propelled me back to Junior School, art-class. I could see myself, as a young girl, working on a Needle Sampler. I still remember it! It was a pretty one with many different stitches, numbers, puppets, and floral designs.
It is fun to get acquainted with different stitches again. I also feel that textile crafting is good for the brain and a fun thing to do. It keeps my hands busy and my mind creative. It does demand concentration but in a pleasant way.
Textile crafting certainly has the same effect as meditation.
After finishing an embroidery hoop, there is some tidying up and reorganizing to do. And after that, I like to study which different embroidery arts exits. I am very smitten with Japanese and Chinese ‘silk’ embroidery but also I am impressed by Crewel designs. Most likely, I will end up creating eclectic pieces, being so widely inspired.
Remember the lino print that I made recently? It was inspired by observing a Tufted duck couple. Although the stylized style is new to me and not often practiced by me, I enjoyed playing with the intertwining lines. In fact, I enjoyed it so much (it felt positively Celtic) that I copied my drawing and set up an embroidery design.
My preening ducks keep me busy. What wing part is from the right sided duck and what from the left? Nobody knows and that I find the most charming part of this design.
My duckish ambitions haven’t acted out completely and I foresee more playing around with these lovely ducks. In fact, the next embroidery is in the making, as you can see. (By the way, Tufted ducks aren’t green. The male is black-white and the female brown. They have darn cute, large and round shaped heads with a charming tuft).