Tuesday, September 9, 2014

These BLOGS Make My Little Heart Sing

I dance just like Little Lucy when I read the blogs listed below.

There are more blogs I follow than magazines I read, which has been a reversal for me that happened in the Great Purge of 2014. When my husband and I married last year, I moved my things slowly, as I was moving into a 1700 square foot house which was going to now hold 2 kids, the hubs, 3 dogs and a cat (who finally had the good sense to bail on the situation last year).  Therefore I don't buy stuff for our house anymore, and am still in the process of purging things as 2014 has not ended.  These events led to all the magazine giveaways, non-renewals and lots of recycling. Good God, I had to have less paper in my life!  Reading blogs was the perfect way to get the visuals I longed for, and to find something else I did not even know existed from reading magazines: connection.

Here I Give You the 2 Blogs I Have Followed the Longest:

A Photo I took of Pam's Stitching at Silver Bella
http://www.pamgarrison.com/ - Pam Garrison is an artist who photographs her lifestyle and art so well, you would think you are looking at a printed publication. She got me into succulents, does a variety of mediums making her blog fresh and evolving.  Along with art journaling, embroidery (which is not your mama's stitching), painting, Project Life, baking, DIY projects with her kids, her travels, the art courses she teaches, she takes on new adventures all the time. Recently, she started weaving on small looms, and shows people her beginning products (whether good or bad, but let's face it, everything she does is good) and how the work evolves.  I love her willingness to pick up something and let the reader follow along with her as she takes an art class (right now it is Sketchbookery).  I have taken a live class from her, and would recommend it, not just for the class itself, but to see her visual journals and stitching in person.  There needs to be a museum for this work.  Plus, she is a nice soul.

Crazed I am about succulents 

http://dispatchfromla.typepad.com/ - Mary Ann Moss.  This is the longest blog I have continued to follow every single week.  The first blog I started to leave comments on, and the first blogger who thanked me and replied.  I have emails saved from this woman, you know for prosperity.  Interesting, never standing still, the documentation of her trips, her breathtaking photography, the journals and books she makes - Ahhh!  I adore her! I have taken almost all of her online art courses, and fell in love with her style from the first one I took. She describes herself as a guerrilla sewer in one e-course, code for 'I'm not a perfectionist, people!' Thus, I finally understood there were people in the world like myself, who don't want to measure and line things up.   Enjoying the process is more fun to me, and I like getting better with repetition. 

Before Mary Ann takes one of her glorious trips, she makes a book for the trip. When she went to Paris, I got so inspired by her posts, I made a book in advance for the day I get to go.  One of the jewelry artists' I was representing at the time, Vandi Hodges, took a trip to Paris and supplied me with all the ephemera for this book.  I even made a little book for Lucy. I sent Mary Ann pictures, and she generously, sent me a whole itinerary of things she did and places to check out when I go there. Don't you love that?

I still don't have the patience to bind my books.  I use rings and ribbons - works for me.

I even marbleized my own paper (on Whole foods grocery sacks).

Now the coolest part of this story is these two artists are now good friends.  Maybe they were friends when I first found them, but they didn't talk about that fact on their blogs.  In the past several years, they have started renting homes in Palm Springs and doing art retreats with each other and Mary Ann's sister. Gosh, I want friends like this!  I often wonder is there enough time left in my life to get all the art I want to do done?  And for whatever reason, these two women seem to embody this principle. They are always experimenting, writing, taking pictures and making art.

If you like creativity, these are my two muses.  Enjoy your day and please share with me who inspires you!  I might get the opportunity to interview them.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Artist Hope Wallace Karney

Art journal page created by Hope Wallace Karney

In my last post with Amy Huff, I described an artistic retreat known as Silver Bella, founded by Teresa McFayden, that is now sadly extinct.  This is also the place where I first came upon the likes of Hope Wallace Karney: graphic designer, web designer, layout designer for publications (an example of which is Heather Bullard's magazine, Souvenir, pictured below), blogger, art journaler, photographer and collage artist.

Example of one of Hope's Souvenir magazine layouts

When I met Hope, I had my first twinge of artistic envy.  Being new to the creative scene, I didn't recognize the green-eyed monster sitting on my shoulder as we sat down for lunch with a group of women. Hope seemed to know e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e at Silver Bella, and ladies would walk by (who were the superstar bloggers in the industry or the top teachers) and she'd clap her hands and say, "There's so and so. She's a client."  Without conceit she said these things, she was merely excited to see her clients and help promote them.  Clients she now considered friends.

Example of one of Hope's Web Designs for Bittersweet Designs

Another Site Hope created for Artist Lori Oles

First on my list of things I want to know about someone when I interview them is what was the first project they did that lit a spark. It could be something that happened in your childhood, and was later forgotten.  For Hope, she used to make collages on poster board when she was young.  Clipping words and pictures and putting them together. Her niece, who is 10 years younger, and more like a sister to her, remembers Hope incorporating her into this activity. Her niece thinks it's funny now that those collages are how Hope makes a living.

One of my favorite Art Journal spreads by Hope

Hope abandoned this craft as she grew up and started her career. But one day, a co-worker asked if she wanted to go to a rubber stamping group at her church.  Since she was new to town and didn't know anyone, she went and found one piece of vintage sheet music.  With no desire to stamp, she played with that sheet of paper the entire time; cutting it, trying to shape it into things, and staring at it.  The next day, she went to an antique store and bought a box of vintage paper for $5.00 and got busy.  Her collaging skills ignited again, and since she already had a blog, she slowly started sharing her collages with her online community.  Next thing, people started to encourage her and there were offers to buy them, but she wasn't really selling them (yet).  She started thinking about things she could make with them and decided to create some postcards and greeting cards.  When one of her postcards was featured in Mary Engelbreit's magazine, Home Companion, there was more demand for her product.  She took the next step and built her own website (because back then there was no Etsy to sell your stuff).  

I love her use of this vintage women and how her skirt has a fold-out to more hidden wording

She'd print out her cards on a quality printer at her work, with her own premium paper, before the office opened, and pack all her orders before the work day commenced.  She was working full-time as a tech project manager for medical data (yes, really). One day, an artist who had a high-traffic blog, called her to ask if she would design her website for her.  Hope said what a lot of self-taught creatives think, "But I don't design websites for other people."  This girl was persistent and kept asking.  Finally, Hope said, "Well, okay, I'll try it, and we'll see how it goes."

Examples of some of Hope's Postcards and Greeting Cards

Her educational background was technical, not design-oriented. Yet, after the design of this one blog, more artists started calling her to build their websites and their blogs. With her current job, she found herself sobbing on her way to work in the morning, and finally got the courage to quit and look for a design job.  When she applied for 3 different design jobs, and it came down to her and one other designer for the position, she had an awakening.  Rather than lamenting that she could not get hired, she realized if I can get to be a finalist with 3 different jobs, having no formal education, I can do this myself.

I remember leaving Silver Bella and going to the blogs of artists I connected with at the retreat and I swear every one that I liked was designed by Hope.  When I wanted a new look for this blog, I hired her, then hired her again to do my business website, and my business cards.  We never met in person to do this (she lives in Maryland), but did it all by phone.  She asked me to make a Pinterest board of images I loved and describe what I loved about them and answer a few questions, and then created this.  

Example of my business website that Hope designed

This is a talent I cannot begin to comprehend.  When I asked her how do you do this, she said:
I love getting to know people.  I treat every client's site as a personal challenge to put the person in the web presence.

Hope has an app she created, numerous online journaling and hand-lettering classes that you can buy and take, and teaches at art retreats nationwide.  I've taken several of her online classes, and I covet her hand-lettering so much that I asked her to use it when she designed my Little Lucy and Scooter blog.

Picture of Hope's App - Nostaglic Musings

When I asked her where she gets the confidence from to try new things, this was my favorite part of interviewing her.

Confidence comes because I have the Internet as my shield. It's easy to change who you are behind the computer.  I find myself comfortable sharing myself online and that helps me explore new things.  I taught various types and levels of computer classes at a previous job. That might be a reason I started the online journaling courses. When live teaching opportunities have come my way, I take them because I like getting out of the house.  But I never actively look for them.

What are her creative rituals? 
Doesn't have any.  "I can journal anywhere - in the doctor's office, the airport, it doesn't matter. When an idea strikes, I'm writing."

Favorite TV shows or movies visually? 
Anything set, in the 1800's; "Game of Thrones" for the sets and scenery; "Doctor Who," "Outlander" (which was also chosen by Amy Huff in my last interview - people watch this!); the Sherlock movies with Robert Downey, Jr.; and "Penelope" for the time frame and visual scenes. [NOTE:  I ask this question more for my own selfish benefit, dear reader, as watching something visually is a way for me to turn my monkey brain from 'writing mode' to something normal.  It helps me recharge.]

Your studio is messy or organized?
"It's either completely messy or completely organized.  It gets too messy, and before I will let myself create, I'll clean it too perfection, and then mess it all up again when I get going."

Tell me about your furry friends.  
She has 2 hounds: Tuala, her 12 year old beagle who is timid, and Milly, her 3 year old dachshund that rules the world.

Funniest thing she said to me?  
Well, it was hard to pick one.  "My dog, Tuala, loves to lick old paper, which she taught to our other dog, Milly.  I sometimes worry they're going to die from it like in that episode of "Seinfeld," where George's finance dies from licking the gum on the envelopes for their wedding invitations.  I could see my beloved vintage Dennison labels being the culprit."

If that doesn't sum up the essence of why Hope is the-kind-of-girl I'd love to meet weekly for coffee, I'm not sure what would.  I love the stories of self-taught artists and hope you get inspiration from it today.

And this is Hope.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Amy Huff and Her Double-Secret, Undeniable Creativity

Portland Graffiti captured by Amy Huff

I met Seattle artist, Amy Huff, at a Silver Bella art retreat in Omaha, Nebraska in 2008.  This was a fabulous retreat created by artist, Teresa McFayden, who was my last interview.  I remember flying up to Omaha in 2008, leaving my two-year old behind for the first time, knowing that when I would arrive, I would not know a soul there.  For introverts, like myself, this is not something high on our list of things we want to do.

When I walked into the ballroom with 200 other "bellas," I thought I was going to hyperventilate.  They all seemed to know each other, most of them looking like Anthropologie cut-outs, and, to my surprise, inclusive of newcomers, very chatty and gracious.  My skin was crawling.  I got to my table, and there sat Miss Amy with the same look on her face as mine: was it fear, as well?  I wasn't sure, but I noticed she had less to say than I did, which was why I liked her immediately.

She was from Dallas, and me from Houston, and maybe both being Texans unified us.  Or maybe it was that both of us had no one to cling to, and therefore, found some safe harbor with one another.  That first night, I watched her and saw she had mad skills, but the humility of Mother Teresa.  I was representing artists at the time, and had become adept at one thing: spotting talent.  Every artist I tried to represent or did represent had this one thing in common - they were consumed about what they did and their approach to it was unlike any I had ever seen.  Most of them were self-taught, but even if their background was formalized artistic studies, it was their technique that made them stand-out.  Amy had that same quality.  She had the insatiable need to create, get it right, think about it and master it.  I watched at how adeptly she handled making glass Christmas ornaments, sewing a hat, making mobiles, and her double-secret, undeniable mastery at jewelry making.

Peace, Love, Om necklace by Amy Huff

In one class we took together, taught by Kaari Meng of French General, the task was to make a handmade rosary.    Kaari came over to Amy and said, "Your links look professional, and your technique is incredible.  How long have you being doing this?"  Amy, humble as always, was totally shy about it, and probably doesn't even remember this.  I wanted to hit her on the arm and say, "Dude, that was Kaari Meng saying that to you.  You are that good."  Look at the link work below...good gracious...total perfection.  I've seen artists struggle for years to get this good.  She sometimes sells her jewelry, and has an Etsy site

Mala style necklace by Amy Huff

After the retreat was over, Amy made a necklace for me and sent it to me as a surprise.  The thing I love most about artists is they have the most generous souls.  I've watched Amy grow as an artisan the last six years.  She makes jewelry, blogs, bakes like a professional pastry chef, solders, cuts glass, paints in art journals, but probably my favorite thing to watch her do now is see her photography and Project Life books.  Project Life is a fabulous, innovation that I learned about from artist Ali Edwards that takes the old-school scrapbooking methods and replaces them with methods that are cleaner, less cluttered, easier to keep up with and just plain fresher.  The emphasis is more about documenting stories, capturing simple moments, and being able to do it quickly and efficiently .   

Project Life example by Amy Huff

Poject Life page by Amy Huff

Amy's editing and photography skills are something to behold and I often look at her Instagrams, study them, and  actually write down the filters she uses, in order to try them later on.  The picture below of her daughter, Sophy, is the type of photo you wish you could get even once in a lifetime.

Photograph by Amy Huff

When talking to Amy about how her creative process started, she said something that stood out to me.  "When I was little my mom was always creating something - Halloween crafts, Christmas cookies with all the different colorful icings, sewing constantly."

It was the absence of creativity, when I moved away from home, that made me want to create again.

In 2006, she went to her first art retreat in Dallas, followed by a metal cutting class, and classes with Sally Jean.  Her husband was working nights at the time, and even though, she was working full-time, she would stay up until two o'clock in the morning soldering, metal cutting and making all types of jewelry.  Her studio and how it is set up is something she fights with herself about.  She says, "I fight with myself about this.  If I don't see it, I won't use it. So my studio is organized chaos."

And it's better for her if her studio is a mess.

When asking her about how she handles failure, being a perfectionist, she said it used to stop her if she made something poorly.  Now, she just pushes through it.  And professionally, she thinks a failure has been to take risks.  She recently read an article that stated women only apply for jobs where they think they have 90% of the qualifications.  Conversely, men apply with 60% of the qualifications.  This is something she is focusing on changing.

Her ritual for creating?  Get all pieces spread out in front of me, grab a big mug of tea (dang it, I forgot to ask what type), light a citrusy candle that her friend Randall makes (I want to be friends with this guy), and turn on her Avett Brothers radio station on Pandora (who I was not familiar with, so I listened to them non-stop while I wrote this post, and enjoyed more than my first snickerdoodle).

Favorite art supply? Brown-nose pliers & charcoal pencil
(note to self: charcoal pencil was Teresa's too-I gotta get one)

Worse sense to lose and what you would do about it? Sight.  She'd miss seeing her daughter's smiles, especially first thing in the morning. If she lost it, she would take up quilting, sewing and stitching, in order to have the tactile ability to create.

Favorite TV show visually: Outlander on Starz
(Bob and I checked this one out this weekend...um...for the love of all that is holy...turn it on! Even the man loved it).

Favorite Aha Moment for me interviewing her:  Finding out there is another person in the world who salivates over the sets of one Nancy Meyers, and adores the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun."  I knew Amy and I had a lot in common, but since I have every one of Nancy's movies recorded with instructions "that they are NEVER to be erased off our system," it's nice to know someone else has this same affliction.

Dream job if money, eduction or anything else would not hold you back?  Be a professional travel blogger who went to art retreats and wrote about them.

With the amount of retreats this girl has done, her writing abilities, photography skills, and her focus on taking more risks, I like the direction I see her heading in.  One thing leads to another, as one job prepares you for the next one.  Can't wait to see her what she creates in the next 6 years.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Coffee Talk with Teresa McFayden

When you go to Teresa's website, you'll see right under her name:  Artist, Instructor, Latte Slammer.  And she drinks Starbucks, so I knew I would like her. Silver Bella creator and founder, she is known nationwide for a variety of mediums: painting, hand lettering, paper crafting, art journaling, stitching and embroidery, and that ever popular item circling the Internet for years, The Advent Calendar made from a cookie sheet.  Her talent as a teacher beams through her online art courses, which have detailed and thorough explanations along with organized curriculum.  I have taken 4 of these, and left each one with skills I did not think I would ever be able to accomplish (much less from the Internet), probably because her background was in elementary education.  Along with online art courses, she started selling her various works on Etsy years ago, and let me tell you, things blew out quickly.

No matter what she does, I've noticed she always seems to be at the forefront of the latest art trends.  Being one of the first to lead the pack in art retreats and online art classes, I'm interested to see what her next focus will be.  Right now, her focus is painting.  She seems to be in the mode of...
The fewer things I use, the better result I get.
Painting has opened a new place for her since focusing on it seven years ago.  She did not like her results initially, but she kept doing it because it felt good.  She approached it as play, and in playing, her skills developed.  I wish more people could use her example to do what feels good, and get better while you practice and have fun.

With two kids in college, and one three years away, I think a lot of women can relate to the desire to pair down and simplify.  She moved to her new studio seven months ago.  Her old studio used to occupy the bottom portion of the house, meaning it was huge, but being located in the basement left it light less and with room for a whole lot of stuff she no longer used.

Tired of walking into her space and seeing messes, which looked like work to her, she started to avoid her studio.

Now, that she has light, plants are in places where stuff used to be.  As she said, "Plants represent life and energy to me."  I asked what other rituals she added to her new room:  a fresh cup of water, music (always), her essential oil diffuser and her little Yorkie, Lilly, laying on the floor.

If you follow Teresa on social media, you would know she is a big believer in essential oils.  This has become a heartfelt vocation for her.  I asked her if I could post a video she recently did (WITHOUT MAKEUP) showcasing her skin routine with these oils.  I felt like this was such a BRAVE thing to do, and I wanted to highlight it because it shows her sincerity behind her conviction.

With all her successes, I noticed there were many failures.  Not really failures, because the proverbial closed door helps to open a new door, but many avenues that ended and then she had to sort of reinvent something new.  Many, many years ago, she did a local TV show where she taught all types of crafts.  When this station went belly-up, she had gotten to know every creative-type in the state.  Hello, Silver Bella Art retreat, where she already knew the clientele to draw and also in doing the show got noticed from a national company to travel around the country and demo their products.  Another closed door happened with  a rough experience in licensing her products, as the company was sold two years into their working relationship, and then the new company had a different direction.  Hence, her products were no longer selling.  What she gained from that experience was national exposure, and "the belief that as an artist you can bounce back from any experience.  You are the one with the creativity and it starts and ends with you."

When I asked her if she could do anything else (money, location or education aside), she came out with "Coaching women. Confidence seems to be something a lot of women struggle to obtain.  Helping them gain this would be rewarding."  Could this be an aha moment for the future?  One can only hope.

No canvas is ever ruined or wasted.
You can paint right over it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The New Mission of Little Lucy & Scooter

I've been thinking about this blog for awhile. I went on vacation recently and sat for many hours looking into the Texas landscape trying to figure out what to do with it. What did I want it to be in 2014 & 2015? What is its current mission?

Originally, I started this blog because I wanted to write. I had no clear purpose. Just wrote what came to me. Some days on the blog that was showing a cool new book that I made, or doing a tutorial of sorts(which I found to be loathsome, tedious and definitely not something I wanted to do). Since I write often at my real job, I wanted this blog to have as defined a purpose as my work blog.

I know what I like and what my life has been missing.  Above all things, I LOVE writing about other artists.  Promoting their work, showcasing their product and going behind-the-scenes in their studios. Love paging through their sketchbooks and seeing where that idea of theirs originated. Nothing thrills me more than looking in the tray or box of unfinished projects and asking, "What's this?"

When I started the company, Little Lucy and Scooter, in 2008, I sold handmade products for artists and specialized in selling to Art Museum Gift Stores.  My first client was The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and quickly, I was selling to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and The Menil Collection. I added a slew of retail stores to my client base, and then the recession hit. Stores that were buying these wares outright, no longer had the money, and wanted to put future purchases on consignment.  I probably could have continued on, but add into the equation that I went through a divorce, making it inevitable that I had to move on, get a "real" job with steady income, and think about the next chapters in my life.

The part of this job that I loved was writing about the artists.  I wrote their bios, wrote Press Releases, got them in The Chronicle, on the Tidbits blog, and all types of Houston local magazines.

I can sell.  Sure.  I've been in retail for 32 years.  What I love more is writing and promoting other people's creative evil-genius side. All this writing about artists taught me the foundations for writing people's online dating profiles.  It taught me how to write a personal, authentic, and often quirky bio that stands out.

An artist's mind is something to behold.  When people are brave enough to put something out in the world that they created for all to see, I want to applaud them.

My new mission is to feature artists on my blog.  I'll be featuring artists in all mediums (taught, self-taught & especially outsider), designers, bloggers (because they are artists too), retailers with crazy-cool visions and well anything else that makes me think "Geez. How the hell did you think of that? You're amazing."  I'll also be throwing in things about Lucille (my daughter pictured above) and her side-kick Scooter who this blog has always been dedicated to. 

If you're an artist and would like me to consider writing an article about your work, just shoot me a message. Believe me, I'm not above meeting you in a needlepoint store, finding out you're a letterpresser, inviting myself over to your house and then holding you up as the biggest Martha Stewart in-the-world.

One thing that always amazed me about my former business was the way artists found me. I never found them.  It was always this happy coincidence that was Divine, I promise.  I look forward to feeling that again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Carol Hicks Boton - Oh How I Love Thee

Your tour guide today.

If you don't like taxidermy, best to not go in, 
because there is an abundance of it.

By far, our favorite stuffed scenario.

A lot of bedding...and one thing I love at her stores is the pillows she does for the foot of beds.

I told you there was a lot of this.

Fab light fixture.

If in Fredricksburg, go visit.  Plan on an easy hour or two.
I did this in 15 minutes, because I had Lucille and I'm not going
to drag my kid to a store like this for hours and expect her to have fun.  But in 15 minutes, we had a blast!!!!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Letters for Miss Maya...and the list goes on.

My letter writing project has been going well.  If you missed why I am doing this, then look here.  Once I found a format to follow and started a system of sorts, it's now the same as the regular routine of brushing my teeth.

I think the most difficult part of the learning curve initially was not getting in the groove of writing the letters, it was sitting down to think of who to write 62 letters to.  Have you ever sat down and written 62 letters, maybe for graduation presents or your wedding?  When do do write a note of thanks in these situations:

  1. You know what you got.
  2. You know who to thank.
  3. You pretty much know what to say.

But when you sit down to purposefully write notes to people to acknowledge them and say all the things you have never said, guess what happens?  It creates an avalanche.

You start thinking of all kinds of things...stuff you might have never said to your partner (good and bad), things you wish you had told a previous employer, quippy responses you should have said to a customer.  I find this experience somewhat like a cleanse.  

One key to the success of this is not writing a letter everyday, but writing multiple letters when I am in the mood.  So, I have a list, I know what letter I should be on, some days I fall behind and some days I am ahead.  And that's cool because these are my rules.

Miss Maya...I know words are powerful.  You taught me that.  Thank you for that lesson.  This experience is changing me in ways I had not quite imagined, and I am enjoying doing it for you.