Berkshire Seasons tote

Berkshire Seasons Tote

Happy New Year! December sure goes by in a whirlwind and this year was a bit different since for the first time I participated in my first festival: the Alchemy Initiative Handmade Holiday Festival in Pittsfield, MA.  The festival was the first weekend in December and it was two days.  I had fun meeting other vendors, chatting with people I have not bumped into for sometime, getting feedback from customers, and displaying my art and a few new products. Participating in this festival made me think about ways I could use my art for other products.  When I was thinking about this, I realized I had painted barns in all four seasons and came up with the “Berkshire Seasons” design.  I used my green barn that is on Holmes Road, Pittsfield MA for spring; Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown, MA for summer; the Sugar Maple Farm on Dalton Division Road, Pittsfield, for fall; and the yellow barn on Bailey Road, Lanesborough, MA for winter.  Visitors to the festival seemed to love these tote bags since I sold out of all of the ones I brought!  Since everyone is trying to reduce the number of plastic bags used, reusable bags are a fit for everyone.

I love these tote bags, not only because my images are on them, but the tote bag is one I found out in Seattle, Washington.  A few summers ago, we were visiting Pike Place Market in Seattle and I bought a similar tote bag with a Pike Place Market design on it.  I found that I use this bag constantly because is really sturdy and light; holds lots of items, but not overwhelming.  The inside fabric is slick so it is easy to clean, it has really strong handles (in the picture they are tucked in) and there is a pocket on the inside for keys or such and a pocket on the outside for your phone, etc.  The bottom is wide so it can stand up by itself and doesn’t tip over like many other bags. I searched and searched to find the same tote bag for my design and finally found a supplier.  My images are printed on a stone colored tote and the image is permanent and is washable.  In honor of the New Year, I am offering free shipping for these Berkshire Seasons totes found on my website http://www.mjnicole.com under Whimsical Creations. Cheers!

The Castle

The Castle

After living in the Berkshires for over 10 years, I have found that in order to really know the true Berkshires, one must explore! The Berkshires hides some of its natural beauty, but also some pretty interesting national organizations keep a low local profile. One example is in the town of Great Barrington, if you drive down a rural road called Division Street, you will come to a massive stone wall. If you turn between the stone pillars, and drive up the long windy driveway, there at the top of a large hill sits a brick mansion that is fondly called “The Castle.” This Castle is home to two organizations: one is the American Institute for Economic Research http://www.aier.org (that conducts independent, scientific economic research) and the second is American Investment Services http://www.americaninvestment.com (that provides asset management services). American Investment Services (AIS) is where my husband works. I bring my children to visit occasionally; the view from the top is delightful and the grounds are fun to explore. We have visited in all of the seasons, but when there has been a fresh snowfall, the Castle and grounds look magical. My painting is of the Castle coated with fresh snow. The view is from someone coming up the main drive; snow clings to the branches of the grand tree that stands post by the back courtyard. This image will be used for some really special AIS holiday cards and the original can be viewed at http://www.mjnicole.com

Fall Colors

Fall Colors

Mid-October was the peak of fall colors in the Berkshires and “leaf peepers” have left, but in different spots there are still some brilliant trees and colors. It is like a special present to still find a tree full of leaves. I found this group of trees as I made my way to Lakeview Orchard in Lanesborough, MA to purchase some cider donuts. These donuts are so delicious and I mailed a dozen down to my brother-in-law in Texas as a surprise. I paint from my photographs so I try to be observant and stop and take pictures when I am out and about. This group of trees actually took two different tries; the first time was earlier in the fall and the shadows were too dark, but a few weeks later as I passed by, the sun was out and this photo turned out the way I wanted. Watch for this image in a future painting at my website http://www.mjnicole.com