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Articles tagged as 2023 Northern USA Trip (view all)

Glorious Glass: Top 3 Destinations

23 March, 2024 2 comments Leave a comment

If you are like me, whenever this time of year rolls around I yearn to see fresh colour.

Even though the browns and grays of winter still cloak the landscape around me, I am excited to witness the vibrant spectrum of life returning to my world.

Since the full flush of spring is still weeks away, this is the perfect time to bask in rainbow-hued memories from our travels last year. Care to join me?

In this post I am sharing three amazing places we discovered, and they all have to do with extraordinary glass hand-crafted by world class artisans.

Please take a seat, enjoy some exuberant artistic creations, and maybe add these places to your bucket list.

#1: Museum of Glass (Tacoma, Washington)

This premier contemporary art museum opened in 2002, focused exclusively on the work of local glass artist Dale Chihuly. The Museum has since expanded its mission to include works in glass by contemporary artists worldwide.

The Museum of Glass houses the West Coast’s largest and most active Museum Glass studio, which hosts many artists-in-residence and allows visitors to watch them create art from molten glass.

To say the current exhibits of glass art took my breath away would be an understatement. The ever-growing permanent collection as well as travelling exhibits were astounding.

The wall art piece shown below by Amber Cowan is titled Creamer and Sugar, Swans in Sky and measures perhaps two metres across. I added a close up photo for better viewing of this remarkable piece.

Amber starts with historic American pressed glass, like you might find at a thrift store, or in your grandmother's china cabinet. She takes these commonplace items and revitalizes them into an intricate wonderland, by adding hot-sculpted, flame-worked, and blown glass details.

These botanical orbs are blown glass with flame-worked elements by Paul Stankard and each measures about 10 cm in diameter. I looked at these and wondered how on earth he managed to encase intricate glass vignettes in solid clear glass.

Paul is an internationally acclaimed artist and pioneer in the Studio Glass movement. He is considered a living master in the art of the paperweight, and his work is represented in more than 70 museums around the world.

Dale Chihuly is arguably the most famous contemporary glass artist in the world. His name draws vast crowds to site-specific glass installations across the globe as well as to art galleries and museums internationally. His technical and design innovations played a leading role in forming the current perception of glass as fine art.

Pictured here is his Gibson Chandelier at the Museum. It is over three metres tall and two metres wide. A close up photo of it is shown at the beginning of this article.

The city of Tacoma recognized and honoured its native son and glass maker with the spectacular Chihuly Bridge of Glass. This unique pedestrian bridge houses over 2,000 of his glass creations and crosses over a freeway to connect the Museum with downtown Tacoma.

I took this video of the Bridge to try and capture the sheer wonder of it. Click the image below and be amazed.


#2: Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company (Kokomo, Indiana)

My husband and I were thrilled to have a factory tour of the oldest art glass company in America, as part of our Made in USA guided Airstream caravan last fall.

Kokomo Opalescent Glass is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of art glass. Founded in 1888, they are the oldest producer of hand cast, cathedral, and opalescent glass in the USA and are known worldwide for their high-quality, hand mixed sheet glass. One of their early customers was Louis Comfort Tiffany, and KOG estimates that 75% of the world’s churches contain it’s glass. 

In this video, I share with you their process of making hand mixed sheet glass, and a sampling of the colourful results in the KOG warehouse. Click on the image below to view.


#3: The Henry Ford American Glass Collection


If you have not visited The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, I suggest you add it to your list of 'Amazing Places to See'.

We spent two days there during our Made in USA Airstream caravan and plan to go back next year to experience more of its wonders.

The scale and excellence of this world class museum and 80-acre historic artisan village is simply astounding.

There are four working farms growing crops, raising livestock, and cooking meals using recipes from pioneer times. Skilled artisans throughout Greenfield Village are dressed in period costume and practice authentic period crafts and trades.

The Henry Ford’s American glass collection is one of the most comprehensive in the USA, numbering approximately 10,000 objects.

About 700 pieces of the collection are on display in the Davidson-Gerson Gallery of Glass, a converted 1888 machine shop in the Liberty Craftworks District of Greenfield Village.

Nearby is the Glass Shop, where visitors can see and talk to glass blowers demonstrating their craft.

The Gallery traces the history of American glass making from the 1700's through to the present. I was pleased to see a wide array of functional glass, including everyday products like Pyrex and canning jars, as well as beautiful glass art.

There were gorgeous works by important artists like Louis Comfort Tiffany and contemporary masters of the Studio Glass movement.

Shown here is Fireside Yellow and Red Persian by Dale Chihuly. It is a collection of glass pieces resting in a free-form glass vessel about a metre in diameter and a half metre tall. Imagine forming all that by hand from molten glass!

I hope you have enjoyed this colourful tour of exceptional glass destinations and that you have a chance to visit them in person if your travels take you near these locales.

Glass creations, whether made to function as part of our daily lives, or simply for the sheer beauty of their form and colour, cannot help but lift your spirits. Just like the advent of spring after a long winter! :)

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more travel tales, painting stories, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.

Pictured Rocks Perfection

19 November, 2023 4 comments Leave a comment

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, photo by Karen Richardson

This past summer and fall, my husband and I enjoyed a 5-month camping adventure in our Airstream trailer. We began our trip by travelling to the west coast through the USA and back through Canada. I shared highlights of the western portion of our explorations in these posts:

My Summer Travels in the High Desert

Pacific Northwest: Forests and Freshwater

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, photo by Karen Richardson

We spent the final two months of our journey discovering the wonders of the American states surrounding Lake Michigan. This exploration began with with a tour of the Upper Peninsula, which lies between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.

Although there was much to see and do in the 'UP' as the locals call it, the most exciting highlight of our time here was taking a scenic afternoon cruise out of Munising, Michigan to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, photo by Karen Richardson

This 42-mile stretch of protected lakeshore includes 15 miles of towering multi-coloured sandstone cliffs, as well as beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls, inland lakes, and forests. Pictured Rocks was established in 1966 and is managed by the National Park Service.

The cliffs reach a height of 200 feet and are made entirely of sandstone. The sedimentary rock layers erode at varying rates due to different densities. This produces the sea caves, arches, pillars, and other fantastic sandstone formations we see today.

Colourful vertical streaks are caused by groundwater seeping through the sandstone and depositing dissolved minerals on the cliff face. The orange-red streaks are iron, blue-green are copper, brown-black are manganese, and white are limonite. When afternoon or evening sunshine lights up these cliffs, the glow of rock contrasted with clear turquoise water is breathtaking.

I put together a short video from our scenic cruise, to give you a glimpse of the unique majesty of these natural formations. Click on the image below to enjoy two minutes of relaxing sights and sounds.

Our boating excursion was hosted by Pictured Rocks Cruises and I highly recommend their services.

I expect a few of these remarkable rock formations will find their way into a painting or two of mine down the road. I hope I can do justice to these natural wonders. Stay tuned!

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

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My Art Studio on the Road

31 October, 2023 5 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson and her husband with their Airstream

My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring western USA and Canada in our Airstream trailer this year. It has all the comforts of a small apartment, and I often refer to it as our mobile condo.

During the 20 weeks we were away, we drove just over 20,000 km which made for a comfortable, relaxed pace. Some locales we visited only a day or two, and others had us settling in for a week or more, depending on what there was to see and do in the area.

High Desert reservoir, photo by Karen Richardson

In previous blog posts I shared my favourite photo highlights from the first half of our trip. If you missed them, here are the links:

My Summer Travels in the High Desert

Pacific Northwest: Forests and Freshwater.

I will be sharing more travel stories and including videos and photo highlights of our trip in coming months, as time permits. I have a lot of painting to do, since the fall and winter seasons are when I produce the majority of my artwork.

Karen Richardson in her mobile studio

However, as we travelled, I made sure to take time for a few hours of painting every week or so.

I have learned that this regular creative time is essential to my well-being. I get cranky if I have a long stretch of time without having fun making art.

My husband would go off to see a car show or for a walk, and I would set up my portable studio at the dinette in our trailer, as pictured here.

Karen Richardson's mobile studio setup

My painting setup is very simple: a fistful of brushes, two small travel palettes, a dozen small tubes of paint, pre-cut sheets of watercolour paper, a few foam board supports, and some reference photos. I also employ a folding LED desk lamp, old rags to protect the dinette surfaces, and some repurposed pantry equipment.

I generally had three paintings in progress at any one time, so if I had to stop working on a painting while it dried, I could work on another one in the meantime.

Getting all my equipment set up at the dinette takes about five minutes, so it is no trouble to paint for just two or three hours, and then put everything away.

Cleanup takes about ten minutes, including washing my brushes. Watercolour is especially suitable for a mobile studio like this, as there are no solvents needing disposal.

Karen Richardson's drying area in the RV

To avoid the risk of mould or mildew, I have to let my paintings, brushes, and rags dry fully before I pack them away. I also need to let my palettes dry so the paint won't spill during storage. Watercolour paint can be reused another day, by adding water to dissolve the dried paint. This is another factor that makes this medium ideal for travel.

I came up with the idea of using the shower stall in our Airstream bathroom as an overnight drying area. This keeps all the materials out of our way so we can use the living area of the trailer. This photo shows three paintings drying after a painting session.

The shower seat holds the paintings on their supports as well as my palettes. On the floor is a zippered clear plastic bag (the kind that blankets come packaged in) that I use as a storage case. Resting on top of that is a rag and my wet brushes. The shower stall has a small retractable clothesline (not shown in the photo) that I use to hang more rags to dry.

After drying, all my painting supplies fit into the blanket bag, which I then stow into one of our overhead cupboards in the Airstream.

New works by Karen Richardson


I was very happy to complete these ten new paintings during our travels. That equates to an average of one painting every two weeks.

Mounting paintings in Karen Richardson studio

Back home in my art studio, I mounted the watercolour paintings onto archival wood panels, shown here.

I use various heavy objects at hand (including my awesome pebble collection) to help affix the watercolour paper to the cradled panels.

Once the adhesive was dry, these paintings were trimmed, varnished, and framed. A few of these new paintings have found their forever homes and the rest are being delivered to my retail galleries in Huntsville, Fenelon Falls, and Port Perry, ON. To view details and locations of the remaining pieces, visit the New Paintings page on my web site.

For a complete description of how I mount and varnish my watercolours, see my article Framing Watercolours Without Glass.

We had a wonderful holiday and it feels great to be back home again. I am keen to start on several large scale northern landscape paintings in my roomy studio. Now that cold weather is here, my little gas fireplace will be put to good use.

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more travel tales, painting stories, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.

Pacific Northwest: Forests and Freshwater

25 September, 2023 1 comment Leave a comment

Northern Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

When examining the map of the Pacific Northwest region of North America, one might assume that mountains would be the most remarkable feature travelers would encounter.

But when my husband and I explored the Pacific Northwest for five weeks in July and August, I found this not to be the case.

Northern Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

As we camped and hiked throughout northern Idaho, Washington, and southern BC, I was much more intrigued by the pine trees, lakes, and rivers we encountered.

In my view, the mountains became more of an attractive backdrop that gave context to the landscape.

The first group of photographs pictured here were taken as we explored northern Idaho, following our travels in the high desert of Wyoming and southern Idaho in June and July.

Journeying north from Boise, we followed along the Salmon River and were thrilled to see many parties of river rafters floating in the current.

Rafters on the Salmon River, Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

We didn't have a chance to investigate this time, but if we return to this part of the world, we will look into taking a guided rafting trip down the Salmon River.

It looked like a lot of fun, not too challenging, and the scenery was gorgeous.

Lake Coeur d'Alene, photo by Karen Richardson

When we used to travel all over the US and Canada by motorcycle, we attended a Honda Gold Wing rally in Coeur d'Alene and were impressed by the beauty of the area.

As we planned this year's trip, we were sure to include a visit to this scenic lake, pictured here from the Mineral Ridge hiking trail.

Karen Richardson and her husband

We were thrilled to take a site seeing cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene one warm evening. We got to know some of our fellow passengers and enjoyed excellent live music by a local band, while watching the sun go down over the surrounding hills.

It was a magical experience and the scenery reminded me of Lake Muskoka, with many luxury homes and resorts nestled along the shore.

Karen Richardson in Deschutes Falls Park

We journeyed on from northern Idaho across Washington and up to Vancouver to visit family and friends for a week. Then we made our way south to Olympia, Washington.

For two weeks we camped at the Washington Land Yacht Harbor, an Airstream-only RV park and mobile home community.

From there, we explored the area around Tacoma. We asked a local resident about scenic hiking areas and she directed us to a hidden gem near the town of Yelm.

It was Deschutes Falls Park, a 155 acre sanctuary featuring a lovely old growth forest and a small river gorge, and we spent a pleasant afternoon hiking in this shady park.

In this photo I am standing beside one of the venerable trees beside the forest walking path.

Deschutes Falls Park, photo by Karen Richardson

The river water dropped 27 feet over rapids and a series of small waterfalls, interspersed with calm clear pools. All we could hear were the soothing sounds of trickling water, a breeze in the treetops, and birdsong.

The moss-covered rocks were a type of conglomerate that looked very different from the Ontario granite and limestone I am used to.

Another day, we took a bus trip to Crystal Mountain (the largest ski resort in the state of Washington) with some fellow Airstreamers. We enjoyed a gondola ride up the mountain and lunch at Summit House restaurant.

As our cable car slowly ascended, more and more of the surrounding mountain ranges came into view.

View from Crystal Mtn, photo by Karen Richardson

I loved seeing the progression of blue shades in the mountains, from pale cerulean in the far distance, gradually darkening to a smokey navy blue in the foreground. 

You can see two gondolas in the centre of this photo.

Mt Ranier, photo by Karen Richardson

At the summit of Crystal Mountain we enjoyed beautiful views of the Cascade Range and Mount Ranier, which we learned is pronounced ‘rah-NEER’ in Washington. (We had been calling it ‘RAY-nee-er’.)

With its snow cap glowing white in the sunshine, contrasting with the clear blue sky, Mount Ranier was an impressive sight. We also could see Mount St. Helens and Mount Baker (which we had glimpsed often when visiting Vancouver.).

Rivers Edge Ranch RV Park, photo by Karen Richardson

Our travels then took us east through Washington, crossing back into Canada at Yahk, BC, where we found a delightful little place to stay for a few days.

River's Edge Ranch RV Park was nestled on the bank of the Moyie River, which was a shallow glacial stream with a gravel bottom.

In this photo of the campground, you can see our Airstream on the right.

Rivers Edge Ranch, photo by Karen Richardson

The campground was just off the Crowsnest Highway and was part of a horse farm, surrounded by the Kootenay Rockies.

The owner said we could hike beside the pasture area, so we were able to stretch our legs and see the horses up close.

Rivers Edge Ranch, photo by Karen Richardson

We drove to nearby Creston for groceries (having crossed from the USA with a nearly empty fridge) and were delighted to find many roadside stands selling local produce from vegetable farms and fruit orchards. We loaded up on organic sweet peppers, summer squash, cherries, nectarines, and apples. Delicious!

The next day we walked into the quirky village of Yahk, home of Two Pump Paul's gas station, and enjoyed lunch at a tiny ice cream shop and cafe called Two Scoops Steve's. Next door was an artisan soap shop that had a pen of pet white goats.

Between the two stores was an entrance to a public garden that lead to a charming forest walk, which eventually brought us to this beautiful spot on the Moyie River.

Our stay in this interesting community, surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty, was as delightful as it was unexpected, and allowed us to conclude our visit to the Pacific Northwest on a high note. It was time to head east towards Ontario and more adventures...

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more travel tales, painting stories, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.

My Summer Travels in the High Desert

31 August, 2023 6 comments Leave a comment

Flaming Gorge, photo by Karen Richardson

I grew up in northern Ontario near Algonquin Park, and my formative years were spent on the Canadian Shield, a land of rocks and pristine blue lakes and rivers. As an adult, my art now centers on the wild scenery I learned to love in my youth.

When my husband and I spent several weeks exploring high desert regions of the USA earlier this summer, I was surprised to discover the most beautiful places we visited also featured rock and blue water.

Over the course of three weeks, we sampled the scenic delights of Wyoming, northern Utah, Idaho, and eastern Washington. In this post I am sharing my favourite photos of the dramatically beautiful landscape we discovered there.

Richardson rig, photo by Karen Richardson

Our mode of travel is a pickup truck towing our 2021 Airstream Classic 30-foot travel trailer.

I think of our recreational vehicle as a moveable condo, with all the comforts of home including full kitchen, 3-piece bathroom, bedroom, dining area, lounge, art studio, and internet access to support all our entertainment and communication needs.

We began our trip in early June, crossing from Ontario into the USA at Niagara Falls, and headed straight west to Wyoming.

Airstream rally, photo by Karen Richardson

Our main reason for going there was to spend an exciting, informative week at the 2023 Airstream Club International Rally, held at a huge outdoor events complex in Rock Springs.

Ours was one of 1,200 Airstream trailers and motor homes hosted at the site, each provided with full utility connections. In this photo, taken by a drone flown by one of the 2,300 attendees, you can see about a quarter of the Airstreams camped there.

Flaming Gorge, photo by Karen Richardson

At the rally, we met tons of friendly, interesting people, got to see inside vintage trailers, and attended a variety of camping-related seminars.

For example, I went to two Instant Pot cooking demonstration sessions and my husband learned about optimizing solar power on trailers, and tire maintenance.

One day, we went on a sight-seeing bus trip to tour around the 91-mile long Flaming Gorge reservoir, pictured here and at the top of this article.

We both enjoyed the rally trade show offering travel accessories and equipment for sale, and I volunteered at a fund-raising art show to benefit a local charity.

Wyoming storm clouds, photo by Karen Richardson

In the evenings, there were themed dances and concerts, and star gazing with telescopes.

One of the aspects I loved about the high desert was the dramatic and huge skies we saw there.

With no large trees to block the view, one could appreciate the vastness of the weather patterns in all directions.

I took this photo of an approaching rain storm from our trailer at the rally one evening.

Indian Bathtub rocks, photo by Karen Richardson

Elsewhere in Wyoming, we hiked on Indian Bathtubs Trail to see some interesting granite rock formations, shown here. The rocks have unusual depressions caused by natural erosion.

According to legend, when the Great Spirit decided to give rain, Native Americans played in these 'tubs'.

As we journeyed on through southern Idaho, we were very keen to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve to see the lava fields there.

Craters of the Moon lava cave, photo by Karen Richardson

The most interesting feature was the lava tubes. These are natural conduits formed by lava flowing from volcanic vents.

The surface lava cools and hardens, forming tubes that later become empty underground caves after the hot lava drains away.

Over millions of years, the roof of the caves collapses here and there, creating access openings to the underground tunnels.

In this photo, my husband is pictured inside one of the huge caves. The rock debris in front of him is from a collapsed roof.

Snake River at Twin Falls Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

Elsewhere in Idaho, we learned the Snake River aquifer is an important resource, providing sustainable irrigation for farming a wide variety of crops in the desert, including the famed Idaho potato.

When we approached the city of Twin Falls, suddenly this huge Snake River gorge appeared below us. As we stopped to take photos, we were thrilled to see base jumpers leaping off the bridge to parachute into the river.

Shoshone Falls Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

On the other side of town, we stopped by another section of the Snake River to view Shoshone Falls, which is often called 'Niagara of the West'.

It is 212 feet (65 meters) in height, 45 feet (14 meters) higher than Niagara Falls. Shoshone Falls flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) wide. It was a wondrous sight to behold.

Columbia River, photo by Karen Richardson

The Snake River originates in Wyoming, crosses southern Idaho, and flows west into Washington where it empties into the Columbia River, which is pictured here.

Having spent several weeks in the high desert, I understand how important these large river systems are to the region.

It is uniquely awe-inspiring to drive through an arid desert landscape, full of dusty brown and grey rock, and suddenly come upon a vast ribbon of deep blue life-giving water.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post, where I will share photos from the next leg of our summer journey, as we explored the Pacific Northwest.

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more travel tales, painting stories, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.