Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.

Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.
CLICK ON THE RABBIT ( yes, those are cabinets) TO SEE MY PORTFOLIO, AND LEARN MORE ABOUT MY SERVICES...theartofthehome.com

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Plaster, paper mache, or a bit of both?

Since the article in the Star Tribune came out, I've had lots of inquiries about what I use for the sculpted plaster.  For some things, like stenciled plaster, and twig trellis, I use joint compound...

Twig trellis plaster, natural white, over troweled plaster base.

Twig trellis plaster back splash, majolica glazed.
Stenciled plaster motif, with piped garland, on cabinet door.
For the squash blossom and fruit garlands, I use DAS modeling compound, which seems to be a cross between plaster and paper mache. Since a lot of books on European historical buildings refer to the baroque plaster work as paper mache, just as often as they call it plaster, I kind of wonder if it isn't a blend. Perhaps next summer when I'm in France for a mixed media art class (check it out at DayleDoroshow.com!!!), I'll have a chance to find out.
Hand sculpted paper clay on my bathroom wall.

A more natural style of vine and hummingbirds.  The gray is where the paper clay is still wet.  It dries brilliant white.

The gold border is hand sculpted paper clay, the pattern in the burgundy part is stenciled joint compound.
I also use DAS for things like the Gwragedd Anwnn sculpture that I started last summer, and hope to get back to sometime this summer, and the Greenman face on my foyer table...
Gwragedd Anwnn, a human sized Welsh water sprite, will eventually walk out of my living room mural.  For now, this paper clay over carved Styrofoam head sits on my work table, patiently waiting for me to get back to her.
Paper clay hides a crack on this plaster urn.  The gray tones are where the material is still wet.  The finished urn, used as a table base, can be seen in the column to the right of this post.

Wandering around on Pinterest a few days ago, I stumbled upon this website:  http://ultimatepapermache.com/ , which had a recipe for making one's own paper clay.  I commented on her clay recipe, including a photo of my hummingbird plaster, and she commented that it might not be as fine as DAS, then jumped right on perfecting it for finer detail!  I haven't checked back yet this evening to see if she was successful, but her enthusiasm to see if she could meet my need just rocketed her right up toward the top of my Favorite People list. 

I sometimes think this old computer sucks up way too much of my time, but isn't it great fun to connect with people you probably would never have met, without all the social networks and amazing blogs?  What a world of ideas you can travel to, right in your own home...if you can't join me for Dayle's class in France...just a thought...

You can see my full portfolio and the information on how to hire me at theartofthehome.com.

If you have comments or questions, leave them by clicking the comment counter below this post, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  Don't be shy.  I really don't mind answering your questions, if I know an answer.

Monday, March 26, 2012

For the love of letters...

What do you get when you cross a book-addicted, compulsive-card-sending, organizational expert with a paint-slinging, soup-simmering goofball?  A fabulous new series of lifestyle books, of course!

Cover sample completed.   It will be interesting to see if the actual cover ends up anything like this.  It's a long process.
My friend Cat Isles (author and owner of Bridging the Universe Greeting Card Company), has long wanted to write a book on the art of correspondence.  I've long wanted to be the person who sends the perfect card for all occasions.  At least one of us accomplished her goal, this week.  Cat's book, with the proposal and my sample illustrations, went in the mail today.   

Because 365 Kind includes a yearbook for recording birthdays and such, I get to do twelve different pieces, collaging my watercolor pen-and-ink illustrations with old letters and found objects.   I'm designing all the elements for use also on greeting cards, scrapbooking ephemera, and related creative items.  Ohhh, the possibilities!
From the minute we started working on this one though, we realized that we had so many book ideas swimming inside our little heads, it was like minnows in a bait tank.  Once 365 Kind, Being the Thoughtful Correspondant You Always Wanted to Be,  is accepted for publication, I'll have about a dozen more illustrations to do for it, and by then, Cat will have written the second book in the series.  Don't worry, there are some titles in the series that are mine to write, but even so, I get to make smart remarks in Cat's, to give them the feel of a conversation between friends.  It's been wicked fun.

So, here's most of my part of the package...sample illustration, cover sample, hand painted mailing box...
And what else will we be talking about?  Hmmm...random acts of kindness, fabulous food, gifts and gift wrapping, organization, decorating, real beauty, and so many more, I can't remember them all.  The subjects aren't new, but our approach, coming from the perspective of being (embracing) the person you want to be, gives them a different feel:  Warm, fuzzy, and perfectly imperfect. 

Yes, I custom painted the mailing box, just to be sure it wouldn't get lost on the editor's desk.  We also included a fancy chocolate bar and tea.  Bribery?  Of course not!  It's just a lot to take in, and we wouldn't want her to become famished while perusing our submission.  Oh, and yes, we did notice the smudged ink, and rushed it back to the art room for a touch-up, a top-coat of Polycrylic, and a blast of the hair dryer, and no, the postmaster did not slap priority tape willy-nilly all over the box.  He was such a sweetie, carefully placing the tags and stickers just so, even if he's not a fan of rabbits in the garden.  We looove him.

And yes, for anyone keeping track, my own book, featuring the decorating here at Belle Ami is still in the works.  It too is a lifestyle book, and as my lifestyle went through a major change last year, so too did the book...all for the best, even if it did delay the plans a bit.  Patience, like remembering to send birthday cards on time, is a virtue.  I'm working on the virtuous thing.

Cat blogs at bridgingtheuniverse.wordpress.com.  Be sure to check her out!
When not blogging, making soup for my friends, and scribbling pictures on paper, I scribble pictures on people's walls.  You can check out my portfolio at theartofthehome.com.

Feel free to post comments below, or email me with those or questions at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  If you are working on a creative project of your own and want to pick my brain (for whatever that's worth), I'm always happy to share whatever I know.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Take me home...

Sometimes, the art of the home is knowing when it's time to get out of the house.  Tonight I went up to Merlins Rest, a pub in Minneapolis, to hear folk singer/songwriter, Shaun Daniel play.  He's a fairly recent transplant to Minnesota, coming from the Pacific Northwest, where he knows my parents through an environmental organization.  I've been meaning to go see him perform for months, and tonight, it finally worked out that a few friends and I were able to make the show.  I took photos, but he came out with glowing coals for eyes, and my cheap little photo program wouldn't fix it properly.  You can check out his music here, reverbnation.com/shaundaniel (good stuff!), and find him on facebook, if you want to see what he looks like (cute young pup).

The nice thing about going to a bar (and this is the first time I've gone to a bar since sometime before they went smoke-free, several years ago), is being reminded how much I like being home.  Cozy old house, warm jammies, favorite books, and music on the CD player, where I can actually hear it ( I bought Shaun's, tonight).  I'm glad I went, getting to hang out with dear friends and meet Shaun in person, but I'm glad to be home again.  It's just my favorite place to be.

I did get some work done this past week.  Here's the medallion I started last week, now finished, with the ceiling glazed.  They will be adding the chandelier soon, but it's easier to get a full view right now with the temporary fixture in place.
This was the start...

...and here's how it turned out.
 I hope your home is your favorite place to be. If not, perhaps there is something I can do to help. Check out my website, theartofthehome.blogspot.com.

Working on a D-I-Y or craft project? If you run into questions and think I might know the answer, please feel welcome to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pipes and Pints

When St. Patrick's Day actually falls on a Saturday, the usually rowdy celebration in Belle Plaine draws a bigger crowd than ever.  Add to that record breaking temperatures in the high seventies, and it was probably the biggest, loudest celebration ever.  I've no idea what they were cheering about, but there were roars and cheers still coming from the street party well after midnight.  Sometimes, living in the heart of downtown isn't quite so charming.  Ah well.  We only do a couple of street parties a year, and by Sunday afternoon, someone had cleaned up the beer cans that were abandoned in my yard, so no real complaints from me.
This year, I walked down to the church, so I could walk back along the parade route listening to the bagpipes.  Of course, I forgot my camera, but lucky for me, the March of the Clans ends in front of my house, so as we arrived, I ran in quickly to grab it.  Just missed catching them in formation, of course, but you wouldn't believe I took the picture if I ever caught the money shot, now would you?

I do love bagpipers...er bagpipes!

I think the Fogartys draw the biggest family crowd, though since no one checks pedigrees, I know they fill the ranks with a lot of Polish in-laws.  Heck, they've made me an honorary member of the clan, despite my Scottish ancestry.

Oh, look!  There's our favorite carpenter.  I'm pretty sure T.C. drives the truck that pulls the trailer to get out of any expectation that he wear a kilt.  I bet it would look cute with the tool belt.

Though not the tour bus of forty-plus that visited me a few years back, the Whitlocks made a showing this year.  Name sound familiar?  Their grandaddy, Friend J. Whitlock, Jr., built my house.

Whitlocks, significant others, and the clan mascot, Katie-boy.

Katie-boy, named for a departed sister (apparently she would approve of this honor), Pat (I do hope I got that right), Jim, and Mary.  Their daddy's boyhood bedroom is the room I'm sitting in right now, typing this blog post.  Wonder if it's his ghost who occasionally hugs me, giving me cold, though not unfriendly, chills. 
 I gave several house tours that day, a couple, like the Whitlocks, were scheduled, a couple were surprise knocks on the door.  A neighbor who grew up across the street in the 1940's was the first surprise.  She knew Friend's daughter Mary, who inherited her aunt Dorlisca's house next door, and told me a little more about this remarkable woman, who was not only an outspoken feminist, before the idea existed, but a kind, compassionate soul.  My other surprise tour was a woman whose sister had saved the recent newspaper article, and had said she should see if she could find the house.  Since they had lunch at the Sparetime, right across the street, it wasn't too hard to track me down!  She was sweet, and I have to admit, it felt a little like being famous!  How fun.
Don't know this cutie's name, but I bet the daddy looked just like this several hours later!
So, now back to the work week.  Today I taught a ten year old an art lesson, and drew a rabbit.  Tomorrow I glaze a ceiling, then through the week, there are some walls to splash paint at, a mosaic fireplace to repair, and an eight foot tall Eiffel tower photo to turn into an altered art piece.  There are a couple of details to add to some book illustrations, and a couple of color consultations, in the mix, too.  Pretty much what I did all weekend, when not ogling bagpipers and giving house tours, but this I get paid for.  Hope your work week is as pleasurable!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Last one in is a ...

Starting a new project this week.  Finally.  A month later than expected, though I didn't really expect to start on time.  It's the problem with being a decorator, when dealing with a remodel or new construction (this one's a rebuild after a house fire).  I'm always the last one in, and I'm about the only one who gives set quotes, so this means that by the time everyone is out of my way, months later than they promised, their extra months have pretty much eaten my budget.  Grrr. 

It looked less daunting when I bid it...

The other guys are still there, on this one, though thanks to a kick-butt homeowner, they're staying out of my way.  They don't seem happy to see me, but I'm killin 'em with kindness.  No proper cause to be rude to me, when I don't bitch about the not-done base-coat, but just grab a roller and do it myself, and they can't grouch about my scaffolding in their way, 'cause I gave 'em permission to use it to stain the way-high window trim when I'm not on it.  You just can't be mad at "Missy Sunshine", can you boys?  (Thanks for lessons in sugar-coating, Mama, and for having me last, so I had big brothers to practice on!)
The hardest part was positioning and transferring the pattern, in quarters, upside down, without a helper.  To give him credit, the general contractor did offer to help hold it in place, when I was on the last quadrant. 
Now, truth told, I'm not sure I'm totally sad they ate the budget for faux finishing the 17 foot high foyer.  Even shrinking the dining room ceiling medallion, which was originally going to cover the entire ceiling, I'm not totally sad about.  It would have been very cool, but as it is, it's still going to be really "wow" at six by eight feet (maybe 8x10), and my neck is really glad it's no bigger.  My neck is also really glad that tomorrow is Friday, so after finishing the colors, there will be a three day break before I go back to glaze that ceiling! 

In fact, my neck is also pleased to know that Cindy Faus Heimerl, owner of Rubies & Rust Wedding Barn, and retired massage therapist, emailed that she's coming to see me tomorrow.  You might want to save April 29th, as she's having an open house to show off Rubies & Rust's new improvements, including a charming addition to an upstairs corner.  Click the photo at the top of the column on the right to get a peek at how gorgeous it already was last year!

After wrestling the pattern and finally getting it transferred, I painted it first in umber, then started adding color over this.  An umber undercoat helps the colors look older, mellower.  I'm using both regular and metallic paints, which looks pretty in person, but isn't posing nicely for it's photos.

If you live in Minnesota, Saturday is a big day out my way.  Belle Plaine's founders were mainly German and Irish, the fancy French name being a marketing ploy (probably dreamed up by the daddy of the man who built my house), and Saturday the Irish descendants get their green on.  There is a March of the Clans from the Catholic church to (theoretically) my house, though it goes through the bar district, so no one ever rounds the last corner anymore.  Since most people watching the march stand in front of the bars, it's more a herd of surging humanity than a march, but the bagpipers bravely play on.  Since we are forecasted for around seventy degrees, I'm bettin' the pipers'll be wearin' their kilts this year...oh yeah!

I thought I would get into it more this year, and design a t-shirt with my clan tartan, and the words:  "It's great to be Irish...if you aren't lucky enough to be Scottish!"  I'm sure I'll be perfectly safe, if I get back home before the serious drinkers catch sight of it!  Tune in Monday for photos of men in plaid, and other fine fun, Thursday for shots of this project finished and glazed.

To see more ceilings check out my website, theartofthehome.com.

If you have questions or comments, leave them below, or feel welcome to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mind Craft

My Artgirl, Faith, likes to keep me up to date on the "real" world. Without her, I wouldn't know what happens on network TV, what toys are currently popular with kids, or what the latest computer games are all about. Okay, actually, despite her best efforts, I still don't know much about any of it.

I know there are recent findings saying computer games are excellent for developing fine motor skills, and rapid hand-eye coordination. This seems like a very useful bit of training, especially if you want to train young people to kill "monsters", without questioning a faceless entity's say-so that they are indeed monsters. I find that kind of disturbing. I find it disappointing that the only way to keep kids interested in a computer game that involves building worlds, seems to be to have them defend their worlds against monster attacks.  Oh, never mind that my brothers and I built countless Lego forts, then bombed them with marbles (though we were only demolishing buildings, not killing inhabitants, which didn't exist in Lego in my childhood).

Sigh. There are a few small souls out there somewhere who should be relieved that I was never lucky enough to be a mom, 'cause I'd be hopelessly uncool. Faithie thinks I'm "the fun grown-up", but that's because I only get to control how she spends an hour and a half each week. This project was my rebuttal to Minecraft.  I wanted her to get a taste of all the steps involved in designing tangible things, with a reminder that peaceful worlds can be fun places to play, too.  She's actually quite the Peace Girl in real life, and she did think this project was fun.  She even said she's planning to build more model houses at home, now that she knows how. 

Score one point for the puny human art teacher.
To build an actual model, you have to start with a vision, and draw up a plan.  Faithie first painted her favorite setting, mountains, forest and stream, then the perfect house to go in it.  Getting into the spirit of the thing, she decided her little world would be made of cookies and candy, and would be called Sweetland. 
Next step in building a model is creating a pattern, which involves a lot of measuring and fractions.  Faithie isn't especially fond of math, but she got the hang of it, and once she saw things folding into 3-D, she even got a little enthusiastic about the math.

Who knew a fifty cent sheet of tag board could be as interesting as a fancy schmancy computer game?

Last year, when she built a gingerbread house, I thought Faith might be the up-and-coming architect, but clearly I was thinking too small.  I'm seeing the cool, hip, young real estate developer, ready to sell me a sugar-coated plot.  And I said I wasn't buying into it...hmm.
 When not torturing art students with math and actual materials, which I actually only do for about an hour and a half each week, I paint faux finishes and trompe l'oeil murals that often look virtually real.  You can see some of them at theartofthehome.com.

Please be sure to leave comments below, especially if Faith's adventures inspire you.  If you have questions about any art or craft project, do feel welcome to email me.  If I know the answers, I am always happy to share.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Quick Dinner/Quick Blog...gotta get to a meeting!

Here's something yummy for you to chew on, while I zip off for the evening to quote on a new project:
Sesame and ginger make sweet potatoes sing in your supper.
My friend Cat is in love with this meal.  In fact, she loves it so much, she has asked me to cook nothing else but this for her.  She even sent me an email asking if she brought the ingredients on her next visit, would I Pleeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaasssssssse cook it for her.  I'm not exaggerating the please.  That's what she said.  Now, if she didn't regularly take second helpings of other things I cook, I might think this is the first thing I've fed her that she likes, but Cat follows rules, and we have two rules here at Belle Ami:  1.  Leave your shoes on, or your socks will get dirty, and I'll be embarrassed.  and 2.  Do not eat anything you don't like, or I'm likely to serve it to you again.  She reeeeeeaaaaaaaallllly likes this.

She doesn't have to bring ingredients.  It's one of my favorites, too, and I always have these things on hand:

1 skillet of veggies + 1 pot of noodles = 1 happy tummy.  I actually use an extra large skillet for this, because I'm too lazy to get the wok out of the stack of things on the high shelf in the pantry.  My big skillet isn't as photogenic though.
Sweet Potato Stir Fry Pre-cook your brown rice, or start your pasta boiling just as you start the stir fry, so noodles will be done at about the same time.

In about 1 Tbsp peanut (or other) oil,
1/2 onion halved again and sliced in strips
1 sweet potato or yam, cut in sticks (julienned)
and 1/3 small head cabbage coarsely sliced.
8 mushrooms, sliced
I start the onion cooking, then slice the sweet potatoes and add them, and so on down the list

When those are just about as soft as you like them, which takes almost no time, add...
about 1 tsp minced garlic
about 1-2 Tbsp sesame oil
about 2 Tbsp fresh minced ginger
and saute about a minute.

You can add hot sauce or hot pepper flakes if you like.
Toasted sesame seeds are fabulous.
I use salt, but most people add soy sauce to taste.
If you want protein, add cooked pork, chicken, beef, or scrambled egg.  The meat is, of course, tastiest if you stir fry it just before the veggies, seasoned with some of the same yumminess.

Serve over brown rice or brown rice pasta.  If you haven't tried brown rice pasta, you can sometimes find it in the Asian aisle of the grocery store, but more often it's in the gluten-free aisle.  The brand pictured is my favorite, so far.  It is really good, and not at all like whole wheat pasta, which though I grew up on it, I still think tastes like munching on a hay bale.  Don't ask me how I know what that tastes like.

Serves 2-4, depending on appetites, and how much meat you add.

While you are enjoying your happy tummy with a little ginger glow, pop on over to my website, theartofthehome.com, to see some of the delicious paint treatments I cook up, when I'm not feeding my friends here at Belle Ami.

If you have comments or questions, leave them below, or feel free to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Like plaster finishes? Join the Club!

Whew!  Just got home from a couple of weeks at the country club...
Mid and upper walls are a velvet finish done with a Woolie tool.  The base is a troweled plaster marble.  The accent band of cast bronze is actually stencilled joint compound with a metallic glaze.
 If you know me at all, you're waiting for clarification of that unlikely statement.

The new sconce lighting and artwork haven't arrived yet, but there's lots to see already.

Okay, I just spent the last couple of weeks completely transforming the walls of the Fireside Room at the Minnetonka Country Club, just west of Minneapolis, in Excelsior, Minnesota.
I just can't get enough of playing in the mud!  More uses for joint compound:  faux marble, and faux cast bronze.

They got the room primed before I had a chance to get a "before" shot, but picture that '80s classic combination of teal and mauve, with brick painted to match hunter green wallpaper, and a floral wallpaper border heavy on the pink cabbage roses.  It was lovely in it's day, but the effect was always dark, and somewhat at odds with the architecture of the space, which I believe was built in the 1970's, but could lean toward the Arts and Crafts era, without too big a nudge.
I've done troweled marble finishes before, but on a tip from my big brother, Jesse, I added about 1 part latex paint to 2 parts joint compound, threw in a splash of concrete bonding agent, and tinted the colors deeper with universal tints.  I used four shades:  umber, raw sienna, burnt sienna, and white.  The paint gives the mixture a lot more slipperiness, which makes the patterns much more interesting than without it.  This did mean I spent about double the expected time creating this wainscoting, but it just wouldn't be a Dawn-Marie job without a "hike through the brambles", now would it?

To minimize the very maxi-sized radiators, I took the finish right down across them.   Even though the latex paint increases the durability, you still have to topcoat this finish with two coats of Polycrylic. 

We started with a basic plan and color scheme for the space, but they kindly (bravely?) let me do my thing, which involves letting the design evolve one element at a time.  Paint and plaster are so spectacularly flexible that we were able to tweak and tint and rethink each part, to get a result that should be pretty timeless.  A room design is rarely meant to last forever, but this one is classic enough, and relates well enough to the architecture of the space to hold up for a good long while.
This technique was done very much like the dragonfly tiles I featured a while back, in a post called "Playing in the (drywall) mud, again".  You can scroll down for the basic directions.  The finish is Modern Masters English Brown metallic paint, topped with McClosky's bronze glaze.

The one "before" picture I managed to get was the fireplace, which featured more of the green-painted brick that I covered up elsewhere in the room.  Although I didn't work on it, the fireplace underwent a transformation at the same time.  Mike Thompson, who happens to moonlight as one of their bartenders, is a remodeling contractor specializing in tile.  He did a beautiful job of precision fitting the irregular stone tiles, and incorporating slate and ceramic tiles into the design.  You can check out his website mikethompsonconstructioninc.com.  I've only worked with him this one time, but management told me that the club members he has worked for have all been well pleased.

Fireplace "Before".  There are no words...

Way much better!  The photo doesn't really do it justice.  Seen in the scope of the room, it now creates a warm, inviting corner, and the fire isn't even installed, yet.
If you live around here, you can check out this room in person.  In fact, you might want to have your next event there (non-members can rent the space).  Linette, whose home kitchen sports some of my trompe l'oeil painted "tile", is your contact for that.  If you are into golf or tennis, or the social life a country club affords, you might want to consider membership, which is extra affordable until the end of March, as they have a zero-entry fee special, right now.  To learn more about this, you can talk to Mark (Mr. calm voice on the phone, no matter how rushed I was when calling them) and Steph, who calls me Kiddo (this is always good for my vanity, tho perhaps it refers more to my Tigger-like lack of sophistication, than any possibility that I actually look younger than him...it's good either way).  These three, along with all the staff, were really nice to work with, and you can find their contact info at minnetonkacc.com.

Ready for an artistic transformation of your space?  Click on over to theartofthehome.com, where you can see more of my work, along with the info on how to hire me, references, links to other artists, and if you are a new reader to this blog, my bio, which should clarify for you the first few sentences of this post.

Want to try this yourself?  If the overview isn't enough information, you can request more info by clicking on the comments below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Can we call tomorrow Monday?

I worked straight through the weekend, and then today as well.  Really straight through, as in stayed on the job site and napped in a club chair, straight through.  Have just one more detail to finish at Minnetonka Country Club, so will photo that in the morning, and write my Monday post tomorrow night.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My 15 minutes of fame...

Those of you who read the blog regularly may remember that I was interviewed a while back by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  The article came out yesterday, and not only was it extremely complimentary, it was extremely BIG!  I don't know who decided I would get so much space, or such placement, but I am feeling so incredibly blessed!  See what I mean...
They gave me the cover of  the Variety section!

And then they gave me most of an inside page, too!
As they seem fond of saying around this part of the country, "Holy Buckets!" 

Here's the link to the story online, if you would like to read it:

If you already saw the story, and are looking for contact info for me, scroll down to yesterday's post.  My name changed a year ago, and for some reason the telephone company changed it on the bill, but can't make it show up in directory assistance.  They assure me they are working on it.  Not exactly the best time to find this out.  Sigh.