Monday, December 29, 2008

A Very Handmade Christmas

Like most people who make things, I come from a long tradition of do-it-yourselfers, particularly on my Mom's side of the family, where we have been exchanging homemade gifts for as long as I can remember. My grandpa makes maple syrup on the same land he was born on. My grandma painted beautiful oils when I was young and now, she makes stunning quilts. My mom can draw and paint and embroider anything she wants, even if years have passed since last worked in the medium. My sisters and I all grew up loving and making lots and lots of art.

My homemade gift wasn't an all-out artathon this year (I framed an old trade card of Colorado Springs for my Brother-in-Law who went to college there) I did receive something absolutely stunning from my grandpa, who had my name.

This meticulously created cutting board was the result of carefully fitting together small pieces of wood from trees on their land. I could have received nothing else for Christmas and been totally and completely happy with just this. Its a symbol of where I come from, both physically and figuratively. Its perfect and I will cherish it always and be sure to pass it down. Tonight I cut up a few potatoes and I couldn't even bear to use it!

Most of the handmade work I made this holiday season looked a little something like this:

Tomorrow night the store's holiday decor comes down-- which we made almost entirely and painstakingly by hand this year. Each of the ceiling ornaments is two-sided, hand painted on black foamboard. There are around 40 of them throughout the store, along with a giant painted tree, endcaps that look like gift tags, and and entire wall of falling snow.

I don't know who I was kidding about starting new prints in the midst of all of this-- I finally made a whole slew of thumbnail sketches tonight and after a little research, will be starting some new work by the weekend. I consider myself lucky to be in the company of so many creative individuals-- and I look forward to another year of continued inspiration fueled by their influence, love and friendship.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Finding Me

I always find out later if my work has been featured anywhere-- like the time I had no clue that my shop was on the front page of Etsy until I found a photo of it after a Flickr search:

(center column, third row)

I had four items in my shop at the time-- all slow sellers that I was growing less fond of by the day and have since taken off of their frames and retired in the lessons learned category.

Such was the case again when a random search turned up this article. A pleasant surprise from the paper of my most recent alma mater. I vaguely remember talking to someone from the Echo-- I think I was still star struck after meeting Jennifer Guerra of local NPR fame.

Anyway, no surprises were necessary after swapping prints with Shannon Buck of Loaded Hips Press last week-- she wrote a lovely post about our Icy Tundra Print Trade in her blog, and I will be returning the favor very soon.

I've also recently started a Flickr account, you can find a brief synopsis of the last six months of my life here.

To answer a few questions ahead of time:
1) yes, we really did canoe that much this summer. we're addicted.
2) the 2 photos of my cat only represent about one half of one percent of the total photos I have of him. my poor coworkers can vouch for this.
3) the big green monster biting Adam's finger is actually a timed sculpture I made with my art team co-workers to benefit the Scrapbox. This is one of my favorite places in town. They have pieces of rubber that cut down like big lino-blocks (but easier!) for $1. They have envelopes for 2 cents each. I most recently found a pack of rounded-corner mat board pieces that I have been printing on and sending along as notes! My plan is to mail off a pack to one lucky blog reader (or maybe my only lucky blog reader, time will tell) so check back for that!

My birthday is this weekend, but I'm still hoping to kick out a new screen print I'm really excited about. Here's a hint-- the theme is terrarium.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


(a portion of this week's art to be shipped out!)

It has been a busy week here at HQ (aka, the storage closet off of my dining room). I have had plenty of holidays sales off of Etsy-- which is amazing to me, because Etsy is such a dense web of sellers and work that I feel like its easy to get overlooked. I was preparing a shipment to the four corners of the country when I received an email asking me to ship to the UK. After a little research and math, I'm happy to report that I am now shipping internationally! I sent prints to both the UK and France this week, and am thinking about their long voyage ahead.

I also took this week to make some trades with other art lovlies for Christmas gifts. I met Chrissy of Boh Bon Soap Co. at the Detroit Urban Craft Fair-- her table was across the way from me and she came over to take a photo for a DUCF write up on IndieFixx, and then the whole day was so busy we didn't get to look at each other's tables at all! I now have six wonderful bars of soap on the way to disperse to friends and family for the holidays-- I'm sure they'll all be very excited to get something other than one of my prints!

I have been eying prints by Loaded Hips Press for months-- I love her scenes of Chicago, and I think they would work really well hung near each other. So Shannon and I made a little trade this week as well. This was probably the most direct trade I could ever do on Etsy-- we use the same basic process, in around the same size, and price them about the same. The only difference is that I ordered urban scenes from her, and she natural ones from me-- its funny how that works!

Aside from all of that I actually spent a large portion of the weekend relaxing. I can't remember the last time I made it a point to relax-- the older I get the more I'm becoming one of those people who can't sit still for very long! We did take a trip to the DIA-- Chris is a huge Dali fan and they have a fantastic modern art exhibit right now that promised to include Dali by way of its title. In the end, it only had one Dali, which was a little disappointing. I had never seen a Dali up close though, and that was amazing. It looks like it was printed off on an inkjet-- the surface is so smooth and crisp, not at all painterly. I was also slightly perturbed because almost everyone in the exhibit was on an audio tour, and walking around like dumb cattle hooked up to cordless phones. I like to get my face right up in paintings-- I think because I feel like I might be able to gleam a little knowledge from brushstrokes or application-- that was a lot harder with 40 people in front of a piece staring at it while their phone entertained them. I don't know-- I just did not like the vibe in there. Everyone attached to machines, being fed what to think about each piece. Almost none of the whispers you hear in museums as friends exchange impressions of disgust or delight. Surprisingly, my favorite piece in there was by Otto Dix-- I thought it was really exciting to see something once deemed degenerate by the Third Reich. His portraits say a lot more in person than they do on the slides or textbooks where I saw them in art school.

We went to the modern wing afterward, and I got to spend a little quality time with my favorite at the DIA:

(Helen Frankenthaler, The Bay. 1965)

This photo does it no justice, but I used to look at this like Africa with Egypt hooked on and then one day I realized wait! this is a bird's eye view! I haven't seen it the same since. I'm always trying to figure out what the orange spot means-- other than the fact that it might indicate the best place to live, ever. Frankenthaler pioneered this stained canvas idea (one I have tried before-- its VERY hard) I am in awe of the beauty and control in this huge piece-- the colors are so vibrant that they radiate off of the canvas.

We went to the Golden Fleece in Greektown afterward-- Chris used to go with his family when he was young. The gyros were amazing, tasty and huge! The lamb was perfect and the tzatziki sauce was the best I've ever had.

I have today off as well-- I'm trying a longer 4 day work week-- so I am off to do a little holiday shopping today and not trapped in the back of the store where I can't see the sun. I will pay for today with an extra hour tacked on to T-F, but I'm hoping I discover that its worth it.

I did experiement with making a little something new this weekend-- I will be posting about that this week!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Shadow Art Fair Wrap Up

So yesterday was the Shadow Art Fair and I had a blast! 12 hours made for a long day (especially on only a few hours of sleep) but it was so much fun, and I wouldn't trade those last couple of late night hours with the reallly drunk patrons for anything-- they were hilarious! It was also my most successful show to date, and of course, I sold all opposite things than I did in the last show. Its so bizarre how some prints don't sell at all at some shows and then fly off the shelves at the next one. The bestsellers yesterday were the Honeycomb and Ladder Fern screen prints, and the Bird's Nest woodcut, but only the ones with the green added in the tree top! I also made some really amazing trades with the folks at Letterform, Wei's Open Secret, and with Lish Dorset --all of which I intend to give for Christmas gifts! I also made a trade with a mystery girl who brought some beautiful blown glass she had made herself and wanted to trade for some prints. Mystery glass blower, I love the vase! I put some water and a floating candle in it and it throws the most amazing shadows on the wall! Call me!

My friend Heather Anne (who used to make signs with me at Trader Joe's) was also a vendor at the show, selling her lovely cakes. As luck would have it her table was right next to mine, so we got to spend the whole day together. She sent me home with a little magical pumpkin cake that is so good I think about the half that's left approximately every 5-10 minutes.

Here are a few photos:

Here's my table in the morning-- not an inch to spare! Sadly, I was so tired last night that I left my beautiful plant in the car and it froze to death! I love houseplants so much, but I definitely have a brown thumb when it comes to caring for them.

Here's Heather Anne's cake table!

To say she likes orange and green is an understatement! The colors definitely kept me cheery while it snowed like mad all day.

So in summation, Shadow Art Fair was excellent. I met even more really amazing artists and art lovers. I only had one beer, which may or may not be a good thing depending on how you look at it.

Now I am putting the leftover prints up on Etsy-- most of the screen prints are up today, and the woodcut prints will go up tonight or tomorrow. Then I plan on taking it easy for awhile, I'm currently attempting to talk Chris into roadtripping to Chicago this weekend for some R+R. In the meantime I'm just glad that my house is clean and I don't have ink in my hair.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Plugging Away & My Day Job

I am switching gears tonight and working on woodcut prints. I tried this method prior to the last show-- where I amass a pile of screen prints and then focus only on woodcuts, and it worked really well. The hope is that I make around 200 5x7 prints between today and tomorrow. Those sold the best at my last show, and I'm thinking this next one will be very similar.

I have one more day off to really pump them out, and then back to the day job for another 40 hours. For those of you who don't know me very well, I am very fortunate to have a really wonderful and creative day job, so you won't hear too many complaints from me on that end.

In addition to spending the last few months selling prints in shows and online, I also work as a sign designer for Trader Joe's. If you're wondering what that entails, its probably a safe bet that you haven't been in the store. Trader Joe's is a kind of wacky gourmet grocery chain-- there's around 300 stores in the US, most of them around metropolitan areas. Each store keeps a small staff of local artists on who make every single sign in the store by hand. In addition we've worked a lot on the visual merchandising end this year-- giving the store an entire new look with a community theme and creating and working within cohesive brands and images for events. Right now we're about to hang huge hand-made ornaments from the ceiling for the holidays. Here's the theme introduction to our Thanksgiving-- its the first thing you'll notice as you walk in:

This setup is a collaboration between myself and Adam, by colleage and creamate. For those following along at home, a creamate is a soul mate in the creative realm, and yes, I just made it up. I will post more about Adam and his many amazing talents later. We spent around 4 hours at 4 thrift stores putting this look together. The shadow boxes are made with black foam board and old wood frames and they're so perfect that we're going to recycle them as gift boxes for our Christmas display.

All right, I'm fresh out of stalling material-- time to get to printing!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Print Preview (Shadow Art Fair Edition)

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I had lots of wonderful traditional food and am fueled up and ready to print like mad over the next two days.

Here is my very first edition of Print Preview! These are two recent prints I will be selling at the Shadow Art Fair next weekend. The top is based on Hazelnuts-- I am drawn toward botanical images with winter leanings this year. Michigan is a gray haze of short days and long nights right now, but you can catch glimpses of beauty in the plant skeletons that remain and in seasonal cuisine. I'm sure hazelnuts are tasty all year round, but they'll always be a Christmastime food to me.

The bottom is a reprint. I have touched on this design (Appalachia) several times and wanted to again make it in green on green. The design is slightly altered this time-- I think it looks a bit more like paperclips. Mmmm... I love brown and green together. I visited the Blue Ridge Mountains with some friends many springs ago, and fell in love with the hills of greenery.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Launch the Blog!

Here's the deal with the blog.

First off, the title comes from a lovely little saying by John Cage:

"Nothing is a mistake. There's no win and no fail, there is only make."

I'm slowly starting to realize that even if I don't like what I make it served to teach me something about design, technique, process or myself. This philosophy appeals to me for two reasons. One, it values work. Somewhere deep in the family tree I inherited a really insane work ethic, so giving persistence value strikes a chord with that part of me. It also allows me to give myself a break and look at my work more like a process in a continuum than on a piece by piece basis.

So that's the story there. I'd like to accomplish a few things with this blog:
1) Process Posts: I would like to explain how the work I sell is made-- and maybe even teach a person or two how to do it themselves.
2) Print Previews: I would like a place to share work that is not currently for sale on Etsy because its out of print or hot off the presses.
3) Design/Inspiration: I pour through the internet looking for visual bits to jump start my creative juices all the time. I'd like a virtual filing cabinet.
4) Reviews: This might end up going a little off-topic, but I love to share things that are awesome, and I am religious about reading reviews before making a purchase.
5) Random other bits-- work from my day job, bits from my life.

More to come. Soon!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A quick first post about two upcoming shows 1) Detroit Urban Craft Fair is a juried show with lots of local handmade goods. Everything from night lights to felt finger puppets and everything in between. I will be there next weekend from 10am-7pm. You can check out for more information on the show and to check out the vendors.

2) Three weeks later I will be at Shadow Art Fair in Ypsi! This event is at one of my favorite bars in town and after having lived here for almost three years I'm really excited to be a part of it and not sidelined by my school work. ( for more details)

My next post will actually contain substance like 'what is this blog about' and that sort of thing.