Thursday, February 27, 2014

Paint First

These last 10 days have found my family mourning the death of a dear aunt, and feeling almost hyper-focused on what really matters in this life (if I can get a little philosophical/dramatic). We've been a little calmer and more gentle with each other. It's been interesting.
In addition to big important things like cherishing the small, sacred things in our days, I've also been thinking about how I spend my time. And I'm realizing that when I say I want to paint, I mean it. And I need to start painting every single day. Every. Single. Day.
 So all I did today was paint over three panels that were never finished to my liking. The painting here was originally going to be a blue-footed booby bird - yes, that's right. (You can see the head and beak in the first two photos.) But now it is going to be a flower arrangement. So there. xo

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Yearning for the sea...

When I turned 45 last year, I traveled solo to Seaside, Oregon to have some time alone and to take one of Alisa's amazing classes, You, Me and the Sea. It was such a wonderful combination of time to recharge and time to learn something new and challenge myself. I'm missing it today. xo

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentines Day from the House of Cynics

In France, Valentines Day is only for lovers - grown up couples - my children tell me (curse you French Conversation class). Although the story of their teacher being horrified when her newly-moved-to-the-USA children told her they had to bring valentines for everyone in their classes -well, that was a good story. And an interesting one. I made chocolate covered strawberries anyway - our only real valentine tradition over here.
Kyle made his own valentine container to resemble a poisonous snake habitat. Brown box and snake skin duct tape? Wha? Fourth graders were asked to put hints about themselves around their boxes. I offered to help Kyle use magnet tape to keep his hints closed. "Nah," he replied, "clear tape is fine…" (If it made a noise, you would have heard my throat constrict just a wee bit right then.) For the love of washi, have I taught my kids nothing?
"Valentines Day is just to put pressure on people to spend money," said my head-over-heels-in-love-with-me-husband. (Hah! That's one point for writing whatever you want on your own blog!) Cynicism abounds.
We gave our kids gluten free chocolate bars and Skittles anyways - no complainers there. Today is grey and cold. I like this holiday - it's not just for lovers. It doesn't even have to be about love at all. It's just a little reminder about sweetness and life. That's all. And I'll take it! Happy Valentines Day! xo

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Journals about love (kind of) (sort of)

Just delivered a new set of Simple Words journals to Flowers to the People - several of them reference love (in the spirit of the season)! Bridget's shop is a beautiful sight - her flowers are sustainably grown, she has amazing skills and her shop is full full full of Valentines Day goodness. I don't know that I've ever seen so many flower bouquets in one place. xo

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Works in Progress

I'm working on Simple Words journals today. My art room could not be more sun-infused, and I could not be more thankful. I try to put a bit of "snark" into my Simple Words journals whenever I can. The above quote is from Neil Gaiman and ends with, "Horrible, isn't it?" Hmmm…I hope I'll be able to fit it all in.
It's freezing in the midwest still. Happy Tuesday! xo

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Karen Miller: : Ceramics

Today we are visiting the home studio of Karen Miller, ceramist and owner of Binx Ceramics. Karen is a master at creating all things miniature: woodland creatures, cottages, mushrooms, holiday figures and gnomes (her best seller). She also makes jewelry, hair accessories and miniature vases. (This year she will be releasing a collection of necklaces.)
Seven years ago, Karen began making miniatures with paper clay. She enjoyed this medium, but many of her customers wanted her figures for their terrariums and fairy gardens. The paper clay was not water resistant enough to last, and Karen began experimenting with ceramics. Five years ago, Binx was born. Binx is named after two very loved cats in Karen's life.
Karen started small and fired her work at a local clay studio. As her business and customer base grew, Karen knew she would need to be able to fire from home. Meet Bertha, Karen's kiln.
And here are Karen's beds of nails. Seriously. That's what they're called, and they ensure that Karen's work does not get stuck to anything in the kiln while it is being fired at up to 1945 degrees.
In these trays, you can see Karen's sculptures before they are painted.
Here are some gnomes that are painted, but not fired or glazed.
And here is a finished matryoshka doll. 
By day, Karen works at Webster University. At night, she works at her kitchen table and makes her art. This year, she will do around 16 shows - all in the St. Louis area. Karen is thinking about starting to travel with Binx. She has a following now, and knows that several of her customers come to St. Louis for her shows. 
"If you loved cute, tiny things when you were little," she said, "you will love them when you're older." This evening, Karen was making earrings. These small shapes are going to be birds, or post earrings made from button molds. 
I asked Karen about recycling and upcycling. She reports that she has very little waste in her work. She uses a low fire technique with her kiln, which uses less energy, and her glazes are all non-toxic and food safe.
Here is an example of Karen's art upcycling. She uses vintage buttons to make molds. Then, she makes clay beads and buttons for her accessory pieces. These molds...
helped to make these hair clips...
And this mold was used to make these post earrings. Adorable!
Karen is impeccably organized. She works at her kitchen table and uses one of her bedrooms for storage, display and works in progress. She reuses egg cartons to hold her miniatures safely. She is so organized that I told her I thought she should become best friends with this artist immediately!
Karen is inspired by colors from vintage miniatures. She has an impressive collection of them.
She also tries to focus on more "common" creatures in her art. She calls them "backyard buddies" and purposefully stays away from exotic animals to be true to the aesthetic she is creating.
Fall and the Christmas seasons are her busiest. This winter alone, she participated in 12 shows. 
Her routine is also purposeful and organized.
For this first quarter, she sculpted in January, she will paint and glaze in February and she'll work on presentation and preparation for her shows in March. She also works from large to small so that everything gets enough drying time.
Advice for new artists? "Just make it happen!" Karen said. She recommends finding a local, non-juried show and signing up. Once a person has a spot in a show, s/he has a goal. Karen said you can figure the rest out from there.
This approach certainly has worked for her. Karen loves going to shows - juried and non-juried. And her business is thriving. (This ladybug is new this year.)
She has too much demand right now to stock an online shop and she has enlisted her parents as her "employees." She jokes that her mom (who helps with glazing and firing) is her Vice President and her dad is her General Manager. "I couldn't keep up with the volume of my work without them," Karen said.
This little cottage is one of my very favorite things that Karen makes.
And here is a little bonus look into Karen's life. One of the perks of having a home studio is that you can be surrounded by the things you love most. In addition to vintage figurines, Karen collects garden gazing globes. Did you know that gazing globes date back to the 13th century?  Karen's collection is extensive. The photos below show about half of it.
Karen's next show will be Green with Indie on March 8th. I should have mentioned earlier that Karen is hilarious! She often posts funny anecdotes, photos of her works in progress and show updates on her Facebook page. 

Karen's website:
Thank you Karen!!!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snowy day...

We went to bed with snow in the air and hopes that we would have school today and that we would not have school today. Alas, as is always the case, the kid who wants to have a snow day is not granted one, and the kids who want to have school, have the day off. 
After a very impressive argument (think lawyer argument, not quarrel argument) we decided to keep them all home.  I read this article yesterday and am telling myself that by teaching my youngest to advocate against injustice now (oh, what a world this would be if all children only had to worry about unbalanced snow day distributions), I am really helping him to know and believe that he has what it takes to tackle, walk away from, and advocate against injustice in his older years. But probably the bigger truth is that I didn't want to get out of my pajamas this morning.

In other news, Joey turned 14 this week. Everyone says it. Everyone. But the days do fly by way too quickly.  
This hat will be off my needles today and on its way to keeping the birthday boy's  head warm. I've wanted to do some kind of Noro striping for years - it was super fun.
 I have my first visual journal. Artists I follow have forty of these things. One has to start somewhere. And one of these days, I'll show you the inside. Maybe. Hope so. In the meantime, Alisa is so generous always about sharing her sketch book pages - she is such an inspiration! Mary Ann is too. And so is Pam. Hmmm...I think I will do a post someday of all the art journalers who I follow.
I've added some vintage paper treasures to my etsy shop. The bird illustrations are my favorite by far. If they don't sell, they will be hanging in our home by Spring - they are just gorgeous.
Happy Day! xo