21 December 2015

Loft Office Design

Carlos and I recently moved to an old loft complex near our art studios. I've been mulling over the design of the new office/guest room space and have finally arrived at a plan.

Things may change a bit as the room comes together, but it feels good to have the general direction decided upon. The first step will be painting the walls a warm white (already started!), followed by building a desk the length of the room (11.5') with two work stations, and cubbies/shelves over it, like the inspiration photo in my moodboard above. I'll be on the lookout for a midcentury modern sideboard or dresser for another wall to house office supplies and give our guests a little storage space. A convertible sofa will be great for overnight visitors and provide a place for a snooze or some work, depending on the day. I desperately want to replace the current "boob" light in the ceiling with an updated sputnik-type chandelier and have found a great, reasonable source for it. Now to save up some pennies! Here's a quick "before" photo of the room (yeah, that green is outta here):

While the living and dining rooms of our loft have brick walls, wood beams, and lots of character, the bedrooms have less character and no bricks, but do have really high ceilings and are large rooms. The furnishings and textiles in the office/guest room will give it the character that it needs.

Here are peeks of the living, powder, and dining rooms for a hint of that charming loft character.

I'll share progress photos and furniture building and sourcing tips as we go, so please check back!

20 December 2015

Tiny Beetles

Now that I've shown you my giant beetles, I'd like to show you some tiny beetles. Each of these beetles is 1.5" square and framed in a 4" square frame with a custom-cut mat.

A few of these tiny beetles have copper tape wrapped around one edge, all have stamps or "chops" on them, as well as a design stamped from a bit of metal screening material and acrylic paint, for texture. 

Each is $25 framed and an additional $5 shipping but I'm offering free shipping through the end of the year, so if one of these tiny beetles needs to live at your house, don't wait!

11 December 2015

Giant beetles!

As promised yesterday, here is a recent piece with two seriously big beetles. "Elfreth's Alley" is a mixed media collage with stitching on a 36" x 48" stretched canvas.

This is the first in a series of at least 8 new works, all depicting large-scale insects. I've sketched out the next four already. The one I'll start next has a big-ass moth on it. This is a fun series to construct because I'm having to invent methods and techniques to make what's in my head work in real life. I'm enjoying the unexpected turns that this project is taking me. Check back for more progress and updates!

10 December 2015

Swarm - new art cloth

Sorry about missing the last couple of days of blogging, there was nothing blog-worthy going on over here! Today I hung up a new piece, Swarm, outside my studio. It just returned from a show at the View Art Center in Old Forge NY.

The piece is art cloth (no batting or backing) that started as plain white heavy cotton. First I painted it with a diluted acrylic ink wash. Second I blockprinted with a mustard acrylic paint a series of geometric blocks that I'd made previously. Next I screen-printed a swarm of beetles with a thermofax screen and an opaque navy acrylic paint And finally I added some hand stitching with coral linen floss. It's 18" x 36" overall.

I've been on a beetle kick for a number of years now. I find their forms so intriguing, and they've come to symbolize how I feel about climate change. Beetles are at once formidable and fragile, much like the earth herself.

Tomorrow I'll show you my recent gigantic beetle piece - each beetle is over two feet long!

07 December 2015

Art Business Housekeeping

December is a busy month for most people, but it's also a good month to attend to some year-end art business housekeeping tasks. Steal away 15 minutes here and there and you'll be off to a great start when January rolls around. Here is my list of suggestions of categories to work on this month, one at a time, as time allows.

Update your website
Most of us finish our website and then stop thinking about it once it's published and uploaded. If you haven't updated yours in a while to reflect new work, a current calendar, new workshops, etc, take a bit of time and make certain it's up to date. Pro Tip: Set a reminder on your phone to update it at the end of every quarter (or more often!) Websites that are updated regularly rank higher in search engine results than websites that are stagnant.

Review your business cards and other promotional material
Business cards often need updating too. Sometimes the image on it might not reflect what you're currently doing, or you might have a new blog or a new email address. Take a business card or postcard out now and check to see that everything on it is up to date and that you're happy with it. If not, spend the time to correct it. Then order new ones so you have them on hand for all of the holiday gatherings you'll attend. Pro Tip: My favorite place to order business cards and postcards is Moo.com. The cards are high quality, you can have different images on each card for no extra cost, and their "moosletter" is chock full of great info for marketing and promotion and they offer coupons and discounts. Get 10% off your first order with this link.

Update your mailing list
When I go away to teach I take a notebook with me so I can collect email addresses from my students for my email newsletter. What I often forget to do when I get home is transfer those names to my emailing list program (I use Mailchimp). December is a great time to make sure that your emailing lists are up to date Pro Tip: If you haven't added a widget for an emailing list sign up to your website yet, now is the time to do it. And if you haven't signed up for my newsletter yet, please do!

Update your Etsy store or online selling platform
Check to make sure that all of your listings are up to date, your prices are correct, and shop and shipping policies are current. Pro Tip: Review your descriptions and labels. These two things are the most important (after good photos) in getting found and getting sales.

If you'd like to join my online mentorship group with tips, tricks, and homework like this all year, please sign up for my mailing list above to receive notification of when it starts in early 2016! 

06 December 2015

Custom Built-in IKEA Billy Bookcases

One of the more fun projects that I've tackled lately has been customizing some IKEA Billy bookcases for a client. I've got the skinny on how it came together, in case you'd like to try something similar. I don't have the glamour-shot "after" photos yet with the perfect styling and the new rug so I'll be sure to update this post when I do.

We started with four of IKEA's ubiquitous Billy bookcases in a space off of their kitchen that was newly designated as a library.

They had just purchased new comfy reading chairs and wanted to use their existing pedestal table. I created a moodboard, or collaged image, of what their space could look like with some changes. We knew we wanted a new rug and lighting above the bookcases, as well as some fun detailed woodwork.

We were on track for a cosy area to read and relax, except for one minor detail. Behind all of those bookcases was a length baseboard heating, causing the bookcases to sit out from the wall about 6" and not allowing us to anchoring the bookcases to the wall to prevent toppling. So I built a base or platform for the bookcases to sit on from 2 x 4s bolted securely into the framing of the house and the floor below. This ensured that there was no weight on the heater itself and that the bookcases would be supported and flush against the wall. I also ran electricity from the existing outlet to a new switch that would be hidden inside a shelf and a new outlet near the ceiling for the lights that would be installed above the bookshelves.

Here are all four bookcases securely fastened to both the newly-constructed base and the wall behind them. They are also screwed to each other in a number of places for stability and to keep all of the front edges even. I used metal L braces on both sides of the bottom of each bookcase to secure them to the 2 x 4s that they're sitting on. I like to build things rock solid with no possibility of failure, so I add fail-safes wherever I can think of them. It might be overkill, but I sleep better. 

You can see one light in place as a test, and the new outlet peeking out above the third bookcase. The homeowner had made a hole for a power strip in that same bookcase, but it didn't end up being in the right place for the new switch (which is camouflaged just to the right of it) so that got patched.

Once the bookcases were secured I created a soffit above with a frame of 1x2 pines and added  painted planks of wood in different colors, trimmed it out with moulding, and installed the four new lights. The switch inside the bookshelf behind a picture frame controls the lights. I loaded all of the books back on the shelves, staged the table with a vase and flowers, and stood back to admire the work so far.

So the top of the bookshelves looks great, the bookshelves themselves look fabulous, but the bottom is looking a bit unfinished. To remedy this, first I trimmed out the opening below each bookcase with pine and stained it to match the bookcases' finish. I also stained all of the visible parts of the 2 x 4s that make up the base (which hadn't happened yet in the photo below).

Because I wanted the heat from the baseboards to be able to reach the room (there is a wood burning stove just out of sight to the left, so it is really warm there, but still), I purchased metal grating to cover the openings below the bookcases without blocking the heat. I cut them to size and spray painted them oil-rubbed bronze. Those got nailed in place. Then I added trim around each of the grates, mitering the corners.

The fronts of the bookcases were also trimmed out in lathing strips over the areas where two bookcases meet vertically so that the units appeared more custom and built in. You could no longer see four individual bookcases, but rather one large unit. I added a 1 x 12" pine board to the left side of the last bookcase, notching around the baseboard, to complete the custom look (not pictured, but I'll take one from that angle the next time I'm there and post it). In retrospect, I should have painted the baseboard heaters (and maybe the floor inside the base) a dark brown color so they wouldn't be noticeable through the grating.

After using wood putty to fill of the nail holes, I stained everything with a Kona brown stain to match the existing finish on the Billy bookcases. It's hard to remember that the actual bottom of the bookcases is way up in the air, hidden under all of the trim work. Stay tuned for the stunning "after" photos!

05 December 2015

New Birds on Cradleboard

I created three new pieces recently for an exhibit at the gallery in the building where my studio is, NEST Arts Factory. One sold (and I didn't have a chance to take a photo), but I can show you photos of the other two.

These are collages of fabric, painted papers, and art paper, mounted on cradleboard. I really like the presentation of the cradleboard. It's sharp and clean, and easy to hang.

The pieces are 10" square and are named "raven" in various languages. The top piece is Corbeau, the bottom is Corvo. The piece that sold is Cuervo.

Cradleboard is a rigid surface with a wood frame (or cradle) on the back. The sides can be painted or left unfinished (you usually see solid wood or layers of plywood on the edges, either is pretty). It's available with different surfaces on the fronts, everything from canvas, gessoboard, board prepared for encaustics, clayboard, or unprimed, and in a wide variety of sizes and prices. Try it!

04 December 2015

Pattern Play

I've been experimenting with pattern in the studio lately. I designed and made some large blocks for block printing.

Often the first thing I'll do with a new block is print it out with black paint on white paper to play with the repeats and secondary designs.

Next I'll test out some paint colors on colored backgrounds. I start with white fabric and paint a wash of acrylic ink and water to achieve the color I want. Once the background is dry, I'll mix and apply paint to my block and start printing. Here are some recents results:

As you can see, I like to keep the colors fairly close in family, or neighbors on the color wheel. These designs will end up as home decor items (pillows, lamps, etc), wallpaper, and more. I think the rabbits are my favorites so far!

03 December 2015

A new website for Phyllis

I've just finished a website for a lovely friend, Phyllis Lee. Phyllis is a talented artist whose media are ceramics and drawing. Her work is though-provoking and rich in detail. Check out her website to see her wonderful work: www.phyllisleeart.com

If you'd like to work with me on a new website, or if you'd like to take a class with me in how to design a professional and pain-free website yourself, please get in touch!

01 December 2015

31 Day Blog Writing Challenge

The lovely Muppin, Cheryl Sleboda, has challenged bloggers to take part in her 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge and I'm jumping in. I'll be blogging each day this month (or doing my very best to, at any rate). If you've been neglecting your blog, like I have (!), and need a kick in the pants to get you going again, join us!

And because you can't have a blog post without a pretty picture, here's a pretty picture:

See you tomorrow!

08 November 2015

One Room Challenge - Week Five: The Home Stretch

This week in One Room Challenge news I've discovered that if you work all day on projects in your room that by the time you're ready to snap some pics you've lost the light and are reduced to taking iPhone photos with the room's lights on. Oof, sorry! You can catch up on all of the other participants of the One Room Challenge and read more about it on the Calling it Home blog.

This week I completed the desk area, updated a sorry-looking filing cabinet, and gave the room a touch of light-hearted whimsy.

My clients' filing cabinet had seen better days but I knew that a little TLC could perk it up and help it look like it belonged in the beautiful new room.

The filing cabinet was wood and had modern lines but it had suffered an uneven paint job while the top was laminate and had seen better days.

First up was touching up the paint with some glossy black latex paint and adding handles to the drawers. I couldn't find the shape and size handles I wanted in a gold finish so I bought silver and spray painted them. When I ran out of gold metallic spray paint after the first coat, I bopped over to Lowes for a new can. To my horror I discovered that the local Lowes no longer carries metallic gold Rustoleum spray paint. At all. WTH, Lowes? Every other metallic color is there, but even the shelf tag for gold is gone and the helpful paint department guy had no idea why gold was discontinued, only that it was. You guys need to get on that, Lowes, a girl's got to get her gold on!

Next up was constructing a new top for the filing cabinet. I basically built a hat that fits snugly over the existing top. It's made of ash and maple and stained a rich walnut color.

The squared off edges of the new top take it right out of the 80s and into this century, while also making it compatible with the room's mid century modern furniture. Check out the side by side difference.

The final touch was building a simple riser for the printer to sit on, that would store excess copy paper and add a pop of color to the desk side of the room.

The next project for this area was all about adding some whimsy into the space. My clients' son, the occupier of the room currently away at college, is a star athlete and has many sports trophies. I wanted to add a nod to the trophy idea without altering his actual trophies. I hunted down some vintage 4H trophies on eBay (see what I did there?) and went to town with an orangey coral spray paint.

I love the levity of the rabbits and the cheerful color they are now. Adding something fun and unexpected to a room gives it so much more personality and takes it away from catalog perfect and cookie cutter. Go bunnies!

If you remember last week, I marked out the location for two shelves over the desk. This week I hung them and added storage containers, art, and accessories. The shelves and brackets are from Ikea, as are the tailored, tweedy boxes.

The desk lamp is a placeholder until I can find something more interesting and I'm also on the lookout for a stellar chair.

Here's hoping that I (and all of the other ORC participants) can make it across the finish line next week. It's been a wild ride - and so much fun to see what the other participants are up to!

01 November 2015

One Room Challenge - Week Four: the desk area and textiles

Week four of the One Room Challenge is upon us! This week I was in Houston Texas teaching classes in recording your videos, a social media boot camp, and how to get published in books and magazines, among other things, so there wasn't as much progress as there was last week and as there will be next week, she said with confidence.

I'll be block printing an original design on fabric to make a throw pillow.

A quick trip to Target yielded some gorgeous choices for sheets, pillows, vases, bowls, and more.

Right before I left I had a chance to map out where the shelves would go over the existing desk. I marked the studs with painter's tape and planned the heights for two new shelves.

And I'm waiting for this interesting lot of vintage 4H trophies to arrive from a seller on eBay. Just wait until you see what I have planned for these!!

23 October 2015

One Room Challenge - Week three: Dresser and Nightstands

In case you've missed the shenanigans of the beginning of this One Room Challenge that I've undertaken, go here for part one and here for part two.

This week we refinished the dresser and gave the vintage mid-century nightstands a day of beauty. The dresser is one that my client loves - and with good reason, it has great lines and is a solid piece! It had been used in her sewing studio and was purple at the time and had silver handles. Here it is in its purple glory in the former studio (another room that's in the midst of a major makeover!)

I chose a gorgeous deep blue shade for the dresser and my client jumped in and painted it.

I also chose some striking brushed gold handles to replace the outdated silver ones.

Here's a tip when painting furniture - add a little bit of Floetrol to the paint (found in the paint department). Brush strokes will flatten out and you'll end up with a really smooth, professional finish. My friend Tracey Anderson of Finished With Style shared that with me and it makes all the difference. I pour some of the paint into an empty container and then add a bit of Floetrol and mix well before applying the mixture with a brush or roller.

The only photo of the nightstands I have is an iPhone photo that I shot the day I started, my apologies - both for the grainy photo and the original Kermit the Frog green wall.

The nightstands were very dry, the finish was dull, and there were a few rings on the tops from drinks being left on them. I rubbed a coat of Feed N Wax into all of the surfaces of the nightstands, let them sit for about 20 minutes, polished with a clean cloth, and they came right back to life. Feed N Wax is beeswax, carnauba wax, and orange oil, and it smells good and works miracles.

I'll leave you with a sneak peek of the dresser in the room with the vintage mid-century mirror hanging above it. Art is even up on the wall! 

Next week is going to be tricky because I'll be in Houston teaching for 7 days starting on Monday, but I'll have at least a preview of what's coming next in this makeover.

Check out the other over 170 guest participants in the One Room Challenge, as well as the 20 invited participants. There are some amazing makeovers happening out there!