Monday, November 30, 2009

the handmade holiday tour

today i'm leaving the ville for a while to do some window shopping, and i can't think of a better place to do it than at the doorsteps of some of my favorite artists. many of these talented women have stuffed their shops with colorbursts of handmade goods and promotions for the holidays, and i'd like to get there before anyone else does. want to come along? grab a beverage and a few suitcases (just in case) and let's get going...


first stop - georgia! we'll knock first on jess gonacha swift's door. whatever it is, if jess makes it, it's pretty much a guarantee i'm going to love it. i own one of her necklaces, a bunch of her prints, one of her killer scrap packs, and i used to have one of her calendars, but i wanted to see every print at the same time so i cut it up and made a pattern wall out of it. jess's fabrics were featured in the new york times earlier this year and her coasters are in the december issue of food and wine - her designs are on the rise and it's no wonder. check out her blogs treasuring and pecannoot, too - great reads. go, go. you'll love it all.


right around the corner from jess is the irreplaceable allison strine, whose ladybird collages tell stories of everyday life, about the beauty of being human. i love her pieces "she didn't know how much she could do until she got off her ass and did it", "she's her own kind of beautiful" and "autism is a separate world and her love can build a bridge." allison's tale of how she reached her destiny as an artist (see her etsy profile) lends such an authenticity and honesty to her art that i just want to hug her. so do lots of people - her work has been very popular on etsy and in stores all over the place. her blog has more information about her work and holiday promotions - every collage is available as a print, a card, a magnet and a pendant. perfect little feel-good stocking stuffers!


now we're off to miami where venezuelan artist valentina ramos is working like a speed demon with her rapidograph pens. her pieces are colorful and gorgeous and are so intricate that each piece looks like it took a lifetime to create. her shop is stocked with 2010 calendars and beautifully drawn personalized kids' prints. her blog has pictures of many of her original pieces and you can find out where to see her work locally. her work alone is reason enough to go to miami!


off to another sunny california for our next three visits! first up: mishmish market. susie's watercolors look like juicy pieces of candy and they are a huge breath of fresh air in the judaica market. her prints are perfect for hanukkah gifts (which starts early this year, on december 11). i adore woman of valor, tiny village (which i bought) and the seven species hamsa. she creates beautiful personalized children's pieces, too. if you haven't been to her blog, especially if you are a parent squeezing in your art with your kids and trying not to go insane in the middle of it all, and love to swear and laugh, hightail it over to inner toddler.


i wish liz had been around when i was a stationery buyer. i would have blown through my open-to-buy for her goods and it would have been worth every penny. fortunately we can all buy the goodness directly from her these days - i love her use of patterns especially with the dragonfly card set. she has the market cornered on that canary yellow. i love it! you can find out more about liz and her work on her beautiful blog.


i first went bonkers over pixie campbell's work when i saw it on pecannoot a few months ago. her paintings look like they've come directly out of a dream and i cannot help but want an apartment and studio in her alchemy or magic owl pieces. she has both prints and originals for sale in her etsy shop, and she has a great blog where she shares development of her work as well. and somehow she manages to do all of this goodness with two sets of very cute and active feet running around. one might even still be on all fours. even more power to her! i wish she'd put her name for sale on etsy too - i'd love to be called pixie!


put on your warmest coat and we'll head off to the twin cities, my old stomping ground, to see my good friend jen of painted fish studio. she is a bookmaking machine! with her background in design and an incredible technical ability to craft things by hand, i don't know of anyone who can create or bind books more beautifully than she does. she has loaded her shop full of goodies for the season - take a peek!


keep your coat on and we'll take off to pennsylvania where jan is busy scouring the trees, sidewalks, insides of fruits, maybe piles of tires even, for patterns for her drop dead gorgeous daisy janie fabrics. nothing is outside the possibility of inspiration for her. i don't even sew and i went nuts for her patterns - i got hooked on bloom well over a year ago and i continue to hang in the distance, drooling, hoping she'll eventually take pity on fiber challenged people like me and produce some luxe papers of her designs. she does have one set of designs on paper in her beautiful b&w 2010 calendars which she introduced last year and blew out the door. she also has a great blog in which she documents her discoveries, inspirations, collisions with her dog and wipeouts down the stairs.


sorry, i forgot to tell you that you need your passport. go to the philly airport and get on a plane for the netherlands, where one of the most colorful treats in the world awaits you - and it is not a field of tulips, but rather the gorgeous shop of ninainvorm. i almost don't know what to say other than everything nina puts her hand on results in something spectacular. she has an innate understanding of how to use color in just the right combination in her collages and pottery so they are bold and bright but never overdone. she's the one who inspired me to make a collage wall out of jess's prints. i'm more of a lurker than a commenter on nina's blog but i just adore the way she sees the world. she's damn funny and she writes in a very self-effacing way that makes me love her work all the more.


our second stop in europe is in munich, where stephanie levy is busy creating her world/travel/food/life-inspired collages that are gaining more and more recognition each day. i have her schoener wohnen II print, which to me is her signature piece, and i have my eye on a few more because she is really pulling me in with her travel series. you could design almost an entire international house with her collages: i'll take a house of lisbon, madrid, tokyo, bombay and paris! stephanie also writes three blogs: one featuring her own artwork, her interview series artists who blog, and her delicious recipes on kitchen sketches.


time is running short, so goodbye europe, but we're not quite finished - now we'll come back to my little town of lawrence, kansas to meet two of my very favorite local artists, starting with christy. if you are a letterpress addict, go directly to the petite press and i will understand completely if you do not come back. (tell me if you do not want to eat this citrus booklet.) christy's designs are magnificent, and she is so meticulous about every aspect of her work. i have seen her at work; not even the littlest detail escapes her. even the way she packages and wraps her orders is perfection.


i've arranged for us to stop last at the shop of heather smith jones, where you can rest as long as you like to take in the beauty and power of her pinhole drawings and watercolors. captivating isn't quite enough to describe heather's work - arresting is a more appropriate word. when i look at a piece of her artwork i feel compelled to block out the rest of the world and give it my complete attention. heather, like christy, has an impeccable eye for detail, and she is such a gem. meet her here on her blog - she usually has a hot cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll waiting.

and so ends our handmade holiday tour - i hope you enjoyed it! there is a lot to absorb here, so i'll leave this post up for a few days so you can get your fill of these beauties. happy cyberhandmademonday to you all :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009



well, i've been quite the blogslacker this week, but not because of the holiday. thanksgiving couldn't have been more stress-free. we went nowhere, outsourced our entire dinner and stayed in pajamas for a good portion of the day. it was amazing. the reason i've been slacking off is that i've been busy. sorry to get all businessy on you, but it's been a super week in etsyville and i've been printing, packing, and dancing off to the post office. many of my sales came from you and your referrals and i cannot thank you enough! the other reason i've been out of blog commission is that i started working out again with a 30 day killer, and i hurt. since i missed out on NaNoWriMo this month, i'm calling my challenge KickYoAssMo. i'm on day 4 and yes it is kicking my ass.

earlier this week ricë and i had a fun chat about creativity/blogging and motherhood woven into it all - you can listen to the podcast here. i'm fairly sure i didn't offer one shred of useful information but selfishly i just love talking to her. i'm not a phone person so that is saying something. gee whiz, i love this lady. she didn't even make a big deal that i made her audio all wonky because i was sitting in a parking lot at latteland in kansas city with the wind whipping my car all over the place. she's doing an artsyville giveaway, open until sunday, so hop over to the voodoo lounge if you want to put your name in the hat. be sure to check back to see if you win or she'll send the irritated cat after you.

enjoy the rest of your weekend and i'll try to be better about making time for my blog. it brings me a happiness and joy that a few years ago i couldn't have imagined. you all are a big part of that. thank you for making it so much fun for me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

mixed messages















the groovy doodle magnets are finally in the shop! many of the messages cancel each other out, but oh well. i decided to offer the spicy word magnets through special order, so if your situation requires something more than an oh my gaaaaaaaaaaaa then just send me a note and i'll give you a list of the naughties.

a few shop updates: starting today through december 31 i'm doing free shipping on orders over $25. i'll also gift wrap orders and write gift enclosures for your recipients - just let me know what you need in the notes to seller.

thank you all for the jolly commentary in the last post - still laughing!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

o coffee bean


i've felt a dramatic ode to the coffee bean coming on for a long time, and all the pieces came together this week to make it happen: a devotion so fervid that yesterday i stopped for a shot of espresso on my way to get coffee somewhere else. a remark from pixie about wanting to apply the stuff topically and pour milk over the beans. katy's choice of listless for the weekword. an urge to shout in the vocative case. o coffee bean! i'm not sure what i'd do without you.

a couple of weekend treats for you: a delightful interview at artists who blog with thereza rowe (the genius behind tiny red), the jealous curator (featuring the fabu aris moore), jenn's itty bitty journal pages (the trash can mishap is priceless), and krispiecandysurprises (rice krispies + marshmallows + butter + leftover halloween candy). you'll have to come to my house for those. they are going fast.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

sunny day, go away


we've had a spate of biting weather this week, and it was about time because these new boots were getting tired of waiting for the sun to take its business elsewhere. i have to admit it, every once in a while i like a string of cold, dark, rainy days. i tend to create more, i don't feel the need to fly all over the place in manic bursts of energy, the kids get snuggly, go to bed early and easily, and i can catch up with my favorites around the world:

> susie is on the mend and making me laugh again
> terri is making me laugh just as hard
> jan is giving away one of her fabu calendars
> christine is giving away a copy of her new book Scraps
> thereza illustrated these sweet little clothespins
> carmen just signed the contract for her book Seeking Artistic Style
> aris painted a beautiful series of lessons
> alexandra painted a painful one
> and i'm loving the work and words of pixie campbell

the forecast is threatening sun for tomorrow - please send good vibes for ugly skies so i can wear these boots again...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

a workshop at KU






i'm always up for teaching something i don't know much about because i've had a lot of practice at it. in my days as a corporate dweller i was constantly called upon to transfer my lack of knowledge to others, so much that by the time i left grad school my MBA degree should really have read as Master of Bullshit Administration. so when this lovely, talented lady asked me to speak to her typography class at the University of Kansas yesterday, i was not going to miss the opportunity, especially since this time i got to talk about something that i have a deep passion for: the process of creating a letter by hand. i could have yip-yapped to the moon and back about how much i love hand lettering, but i kept my talk short and turned it into a workshop instead. we gave the students 3" x 4" pieces of paper and asked them to design on the spot: a wine label, book cover, coffee logo, something, anything, as long as it was composed of letters drawn by hand. i brought prints of my doodles, my favorite go-to books for lettering inspiration, and folders for them to take home with lists of resources and ideas for lettering exercises. at the end of the class they brought their hand drawn labels to the front of the class and were most gracious about letting me take a photo of their collective work. as you can see, their styles were all very different and that's why i prefer hand lettering to simply typing a message: it reveals a lot about the individuality of the person behind the pen.

i enjoy teaching this way, making a class interactive and spontaneous rather than prattling on and provoking glazed stares. this way topics come up that i would otherwise miss, and it gives the students the chance to share what they know. i believe that no matter what the discipline, students have just as much to teach as instructors do. if i did it over, i would have asked even more questions of them because most of these students have been designing and illustrating and playing around with the technical aspect of it since they were children. i asked how they did their hand lettering. many of them like me drew on paper and scanned it; another was firmly attached to the mouse and a handful were wacom tablet devotees. one student pulled out her laptop and let me play around with her wacom tablet while she worked on her labels. they were a super group to work with and it was an honor to be there. thanks, amanda and students, for the great opportunity.

now if i could only teach my children how to get ready for school in the morning! the interactive workshop idea has been a spectacular failure in my own household and it is undoing me. it does not matter what we lay out the night before or how early we get up in the morning, our house nearly always folds in on itself in the half hour prior to departure because they suddenly turn into immobile robots. if you have any suggestions on how to motivate these kids out of the house without a histrionic performance, i'd be grateful for the lesson...

Friday, November 13, 2009

my music lesson


usually i'm the one barking the orders in the house, but today i was the student. my artsygirl came home with a note from her music teacher offering all students the opportunity to be the music leader for a day if they practiced the lesson she sent home. my daughter took this task to heart. she set up her class in our living room which once again has dirty floors, recruited my younger daughter and me to be her students, and she directed us through school chants, songs, dances and scales. when we didn't stay in our proper places, she ripped up a papertowel and marked our spots with a sharpie to keep her class in order. birdiegirl continued to be a troublesome pupil and was eventually sent to the principal's office, and i was in danger of a timeout in the red chair when i took this photo. in the end i recovered my standing, learned the chants and songs and scales, and earned a prize.

it was a change to see her take on the role of a leader and enjoy it so much. usually she's the dreamer - reading in the sink, writing stories, ringing the doorbell wearing speedo goggles and identifying herself as an orphan from minnesota in search of a new home - basically just lost in her imagination, which is her most endearing quality to me. but i think i often just see her through that lens, and it has shut my eyes to the fact that she can step away from the dreamer and do other things, too. it surprised me, in a very good way. it certainly made up for yesterday's surprise, when birdiegirl piddled a river all over herself at 7th and kentucky and i didn't have a shred of extra clothing with me. (another lesson, i guess.)

other lessons i've been digging this week: 1) cecilia's tutorial on how to make patterns, 2) jen's polaroid journal made from glassine envelopes, 3) jan's painful reflection on hauling too much crap down the stairs, and 4) jennifer's brilliant article on the struggle between art and ambition, the dilemma of putting your passions on the market, and that tiresome question of "what do you do". and of course, please visit alexandra, who chose this weekword and always has wise (and funny) lessons of her own to share.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

favorite dish


most of you know my opinion on food prep - i could go out for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day with nary a regret. when pressed, however, i can make a big ass burrito bowl, curry lentil soup and grilled cheese. when times are desperate we toss anything in the house onto tortilla chips, heat the oven to 400 degrees and cross our fingers.

see jane for more inspiring dishes and aris for more of my bad word magnets. happy wednesday!

Monday, November 9, 2009

monday love


good morning! it was a rare weekend in the 70s here so we spent as much of it outdoors as we could. i dragged the girls on a walk around KU and we found this delight peeking out of a seedy and weedy yard just north of the university. a shed? garage? tornado shelter? something else? who knows? love to you all and have a great week!

Friday, November 6, 2009

holes in their stories








here are a few pieces of overheard conversations to kick off your weekend! i dropped everything to get the dirt on the duet, but no luck on that or any of the others. our imaginations will have to fill in the holes...

Monday, November 2, 2009

meet me in st. louis









i found my dreamer! it was in st. louis, of all places - wandering through the japanese screens at the art museum, going up and down staircases, doodling and writing in little cafes and shops, taking a long walk through the central west end, staring at peppers and purple things at a farmers market and even getting tangled up in a halloween parade full of dressed-up doggies. until this weekend st. louis had always been a conduit rather than a destination for me. but this time i got to explore rather than blow through it on my way to chicago or indianapolis which is usually the case. WOW, was i wowed. it is a beautiful city. most if not all of the public attractions are free, it has the feel of boston and chicago without the honking and congestion, and the people are genuinely friendly, which cannot be said of every city in this fine country. i'd go back in a flash.

the magnet winners, picked randomly, are lori v. and linda b. i handpicked a third, aris, because of her heartrending comment about needing one of those magnets for her property tax bill.

now i'm off to tend to the dreamer before it escapes again. happy monday to you!