If you've been paying attention since the late 1980s, you know her from the deliciously odd group Lambs Eat Ivy, and then from Girls Ranch and Radiant Pig -- searing vocalist, mistress of the washboard and banjo, and creator of performance stage sets described by one of her friends as "Van Gogh meets Flannery O'Connor."
These days, Liz Downing is creating large-scale artwork for the outdoors. "My mission is to cover every outdoor surface that I can," she says.
Downing speaks with clients to divine their wishes; then, with a sensibility that seems equal parts wit, spirituality, joy and an appreciation of what is true and incongruous, she fashions her pieces. She has created everything from aquatic creatures to mandalas to vine-like images, and one prominent Baltimorean's garden is alight with skeletal figures wearing bowls of fruit on their heads.
Her pieces begin at $400 and vary in price depending on complexity and size. Contact her at 410-254-7938 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The twinkle of stars, indoors
To look skyward on a fine spring night and be bewitched by the cosmos is eternal. Artecnica, a California architectural studio, taps into that pleasure with Starlightz.
The concept is so simple, the result so beautiful: A 10-foot-long cord with a socket at one end holds a standard 60-watt (or smaller) bulb; the bulb nests inside a protective plastic cage, which is covered by a star-shaped paper shade (printed, punched and glued by hand). Through apertures that form kinetic, complex designs, the light twinkles forth.
Starlightz are available in a 21-inch-in-diameter size for $32 and a 33-inch-in-diameter size for $36 -- at Mud & Metal, 813 W. 36th St., 410-467-8698.
For the well-designed wall
Hemlines and lapel widths are said to fluctuate with the stock market; one might argue that consumer demand for wallpaper does, too. Not a far-fetched thesis, given that wallpaper, associated with luxury, is less likely to be on a homeowner's shopping list during lean times.
But without shredding a budget, wallpaper can add a richness and depth unrivaled by paint. York Wallcoverings, one of the nation's oldest and largest wall-coverings manufacturers, has opened an interior design center in Timonium that underscores that point.
York's archives -- thousands of historic fabrics, printed papers, hand-painted designs and rare reference books -- date from the mid-18th century, and serve as inspiration and reference points for the designers who create York's inventory. The Timonium design center showcases a number of wall coverings and fabrics, ranging from the traditionally elegant (stripes, country-house prints) to the playful (huge, op-art-esque daisies). Staff designers are full of ideas, and the onsite fabrication team can create anything from window treatments to shower curtains.
York Home Interior Design Center, at 2442 Broad Ave. in Timonium, 410-560-2999, is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
* Judge for yourself whether they'd smell as sweet by any other name: The Maryland Rose Society will present its 56th annual Rose Show on Saturday at Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Ave. In the morning, amateur rose growers will compete for awards, and the public is invited from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 410-374-1070 before 9 p.m.
* Fresh Fields will offer samples of items they stock as well as their gourmet-to-go specialties at the Mount Washington Village Merchants Association Festival, Smith and Kelly avenues, from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
* Garden ideas take flight at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, with "Wings of Fancy," a live butterfly show that will highlight some of the best annuals for butterfly gardens. The show runs daily through Sept. 23. Show tickets and parking are available at the visitors center and conservatories, 1500 Glenallen Ave., Wheaton. Admission is $3. Call 301-949-8230 or log on to www.brooksidegardens.org for more information. -- J.K.
Home Front welcomes interesting home and garden news. Please send suggestions to Mary Corey, Home Front, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or fax to 410-783-2519. Information must be received at least four weeks in advance to be considered.