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, September 3, 2015

Rather Magical Herb Jars (with instructions, if not actual spells)

You've seen these spice jars on the blog before, and I was sure I had posted instructions at some point, but I can't find 'em, so apparently that was one of those things I imagined so often, I actually thought I did it.  Anyway, since they are featured in a little spread of my kitchen in Faerie Magazine's autumn issue, which hits stores and mailboxes this week, I guess it's a good time to actually write that post.

These are pretty simple, but time consuming.  I made most of my set of 16 (so far) several years ago, inspired by the first Harry Potter book, to create some witchy whimsy in my kitchen.  Every few years I get around to adding another.  My friends Mary and Kit have both been after me to teach this as a class, so at our last (literally last, but that's a happy story for next week) Second Saturday Soup & Studio gathering, I pulled out the supplies. 

Mary getting serious about this project.  Mary is a seriously fine friend.  You know the type.  She never forgets a birthday; she always shows up for gatherings, and always brings food or a hostess gift; she often makes time to connect old friends with new ones; and she never bats an eye at those of us who don't quite manage to be so perfectly thoughtful.  She's also responsible for a weekly delivery of garden goodies appearing on my front porch all summer long.  I hope you have a Mary in your gathering of goddesses.
 The first step in creating these jars is to indulge yourself, and give in to the urge to buy gourmet goodies in interesting glass jars with metal lids.  Either that or live your inner Bond, James Bond, and consume daily dirty martinis, thereby accumulating appropriately sized jars.  You can always tell people they are maraschino cherry jars.  Wash the jars, removing all labels, and once dry, wipe them down well with denatured or rubbing alcohol.  I'm not sure if gin works as well, so maybe save that for the martinis...and maybe save the martinis for after you finish this project, as a steady hand is involved in places.

To paint these jars, I use Pebeo Porcelaine paints and outliners.  Pebeo makes several other paints, all packaged in the same type of bottle, so be sure to read the label.  Porcelaine used to be commonly sold at craft stores, but lately I've only been finding it at (Dick) Blick Art Materials.  If you cannot find them at your local art supply store, find them online by clicking here: Pebeo at Blick  Blick recommends soft natural brushes, like those used for water color.  I've had good results with brushes designed for decorative painting with acrylics, as well.  You will want a one half inch wide, flat one for covering large areas, and a few small flat and round tipped brushes for painting checks, dots, and small areas.

For my jars, I chose a mix of magical colors, including Olivine, Amber, Turquoise, Garnet Red (plummy magenta), Amethyst Purple, and white (for some labels), plus both black and gold outliners.   It does not work well to brush one color over another with these paints, so plan out your color placement in advance.  I mostly follow any lines molded or embossed into the jar, often adding an oval or a fancy shape for a label.  Brush strokes will show, but you can wash off and repaint until you are either satisfied, or give up.  I've played around with stippling and basket weave patterns, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter.  People ooh and ah over my spice jars all the time, and if you look closely at all, every one is most definitely "perfectly imperfect".  

After the base colors are dry, details and letters can be added with the outliners.  Most of my detail work consists of scrolling combinations of S, C, Dot, and Comma strokes.  Just like in decorative painting, there's a bit of press-and-pull-and-lift action to this.  Practice on a tile or plate until you get the hang of it.  Again, until it's baked, this paint can be washed off of glass and ceramics.  On your jar, wipe off anything you don't love immediately, or you will likely wipe off your base color, as well.  

Allow your finished jar to cure for at least 24 hours, then bake the jars for 35 minutes at 300 degrees.

Now, for the lids...
 The lids are done by covering the metal jar lid with polymer clay, which you can get in any art or craft store.  There are various brands, including Sculpey, Fimo, and Premo.  I don't recommend the ones marked "Soft", but sometimes, that's all that is available.  By the same token, if you squeeze a package of clay, and it's rock hard, don't buy it.  You can easily reconstitute dried out clay, but if this is your first PC project, you don't need that hassle.  Clay that is too soft can be rolled out flat and laid on a sheet of copy paper for a few hours to blot out some of the oil, which will firm it up. 

If you want colors like mine, you will have to mix them.  My olive green, persimmon orange, dark raspberry, and peacock blue are very bright colors mixed with metallic gold.  I like my colors overripe, and with depth. You can also use a little black or a complimentary color blended in to mute or soften a color.  I mix little sample balls to figure out what works, then do my best to remember what I just did, to mix a big enough batch to cover a lid.

There are a few basic tricks and tools for working with this clay...
  • Most important:  Even if your clay is soft, knead it for a few minutes.  This wakes up its molecules and will make for a stronger finished product.  You can use your hands, or if you are going to get into polymer clay, buy a pasta machine and crank your clay through this, folding it in half and reinserting it multiple times.  
  • For this project, the only important tool to buy is a tissue blade.  This is a thin, flat metal blade that makes very precise, clean cuts.  
  • The rest of my tools consist of a cheap little paring knife, a corsage pin, and a few nails with different sized heads, for which you can make polymer clay handles, as shown in the photo above.  
  • You will need to roll out your clay, so if you don't have a pasta machine (dedicated to clay), buy an acrylic rod roller, or find a 6' length of smooth 1" dowel or other cylindrical object.  
  • A little container of cornstarch and a soft brush to dust it on your work surface is going to be mecessary.  
  • I use a plain 12 inch ceramic tile as a working and baking surface.  You can work on your table top, and bake on an old ceramic plate.

To cover the lid,  dust your surface with cornstarch, roll out a thin sheet if clay, lay your lid on it, and cut around it, leaving enough overlap to cover the sides.  Carefully lift the clay up, turn it over, and starting in the center, press the clay down, easing air bubbles out the edges.  Prick any remaining air bubbles with a pin, press out the air, and gently feather the pin hole closed with your fingertip.  Then ease the edges into place and smooth them, wrapping them just around.  Use your tissue blade to cleanly cut the clay flush with the bottom edge of the lid, then use your fingers to feather the clay to the metal.  You don't want a bulky lip down here.

All smoothed, and ready to flip over and trim flush with the lid, using the tissue blade.

To decorate the lid, you can use ropes, twisted ropes, balls, dots, teardrops, and anything else you desire, layered until it looks finished to you.  If your clay is too soft, these little bits will be sticky and especially the twisted ropes may not hold shape well.  If this happens to you, work on a piece of copy paper, to help blot out the excess oil, leaving things there for a bit, if it gets frustrating.  I forgot to tell Mary this, and she did have a booger of a time getting a twisted rope to come out nicely, and finally gave up.  Not until I was proofing this post did I remember Maureen or Renee Carlson teaching me this.  Oops.  Sorry Mary, darlin'.

On my thyme jar I did use a plain rope, pressing a nailhead into it to create the scallop effect.  Mary used this technique on her jar, too.  If you are doing a directional design, or putting a letter on the top, gently screw the lid onto the jar, to be sure your placement will line up with the front of your jar.  Once you determine and discreetly mark your center front spot, take the lid off to finish working on it.  Otherwise, you risk squishing your finished work, trying to take the lid off for baking.  I probably remembered to do this on at least one of the fifteen I've made.  The most important thing in decorating the top is to be sure your little bits are pressed in firmly enough to stay stuck after baking, when the lid is handled.

Bake your finished lids according to the manufacturer's directions, adding about ten minutes to the baking time.  If you've mixed brands and types, you'll probably find there are different temperatures listed.  Use the highest temperature, usually 285 degrees. 

Your Rather Magical Herb Jars are fully washable, by hand.  I occasionally take an old toothbrush gently to the tops of mine, to get any cooking crud out of the crevices.  Some of these are at least fifteen years old, and have held up just fine.  I use a lot of herbs in my every day cooking, which is why I needed larger than normal jars to hold the spices I buy in bulk, so I can safely say this is one well-tested project.

If you want to learn more about working with polymer clay, my teacher, mentor, and Gatekeeper to the World of Polymer Clay is Maureen Carlson.  You can find her books, molds, and more at Maureencarlson.com.  Sign up for her newsletter, follow her professional page on facebook, and look for her pins on Pinterest.   You can also check out Cynthia Tinapple's phenomenal blog, Polymer Clay Daily, polymerclaydaily.com, for an ongoing feed of inspiration from around the world.  Oh, and don't forget to order your subscription to Faerie Magazine, if you didn't find your way here by way of them, to begin with!

It's a magical world, and I lead a magical life, for which I am enormously grateful.  I hope you will check back next week for news on the newest chapter of my life, which I'm just beginning to write.  Big exciting changes are underway!  Wishing you hugs and happiness, and oodles of creatively fulfilling time spent doing whatever you love best.

The nice photo of all the jars at the top of this post is by Toni Fogarty, frontporchphotos.com.  The less than spectacular shots that follow are all mine.  Yes, it's beyond time for a decent camera, but for now, perfectly imperfect will have to be perfectly fine.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

You Can Take it With You

One of the most unique techniques I do for customers is sculpting plaster, actually Italian paper clay, onto walls.  I've done variations of this over arched doorways and on column tops, above kitchen cabinets, spanning bay windows where curtains and pelmet aren't needed, and even tumbling across a master bedroom wall over a massive Tuscan bed.  I also have it in my own home, bordering my dining room in a gilded swag of fruits and leaves, and surrounding my bathroom mirror, in a slightly more Art Nouveau style.  I never get tired of the process of modeling these dimensional pictures.

In addition to the chickadee and hummingbird here, the panel has two more hummers in the vinery, and a dove at the base.  The dove was originally a rabbit, but it somehow wasn't quite right, and after a few hours of sleep, I awoke knowing it had to be a dove, so I scraped off the bunny and started over.  Since the circle starts there and the whole story comes back around to that point, and since Sharron is deeply spiritual, anchoring the piece with a dove not only looked right, it "felt" right. 
Recently, a woman who had seen the plaster in my bathroom during a tour of my home, asked if it had to be done on a wall.  Sharron really wanted something very much like what I have, but she's likely to downsize from the home in which she raised her children, to a condo, in a few years, and she wouldn't be willing to invest her heart and money in this, and then leave it behind.  Since I use paper clay for all kinds of art, I could tell her for certain that it is most certainly possible to do it on anything from wooden panels to plaster urns. (Look to the sidebar on this blog for the urn.)  That was all she needed to hear, and after I made a quick visit to her home to get a feel for her personal style, she gave an enthusiastic green light to my sketches, and the fun began.

Oh, wait, no, the fun did not exactly begin.  The process of creating a stable, arched, seven and one half foot tall panel began.  This is Minnesota, and it was February.  No possibility of doing woodworking outdoors.  No possibility of calling in my regular carpenter, as he was wisely on his annual Mexico vacation, and hadn't left me the key to his shop, which he'd have happily done, if he'd known I needed it.  No possibility of fitting this large a project in my tiny basement workshop, which is sized for things like picture frames and footstool repairs.  Nope, this one had to be built in that art room annex formerly known as my dining room.

Sure, I still serve dinner in this room, just not every day.  Note the gilded fruit border to either side of the doorway in which the panel leaned while I worked on it.  Same technique, different finish.
I can't claim this is totally unusual.  I often do quick bits of woodworking in here.  I don't usually do quite this much cutting, though, and by the time I'd jig-sawed out all the curved pieces, and there are more than meets the eye, as there's a 2-by structure backing the plywood face, I was really wishing I'd closed more doors, and hauled out some dust sheets.  It's not the end of my world, but let's just say my once every month or two dusting habit is not gettin' the job done these days. 

 So, once I had the panel built, I was able to start slinging paint.  Oh, wait, no, once I had the panel built, I got to spend a few days doing a gesso-like process of turning the grainy plywood into a smooth surface, using a mixture of primer and joint compound, and sanding it (oh, joy, more dust), repeatedly.  Then I got to start slinging paint.  The background color is made up of five shades of blue, ranging from periwinkle to teal, plus a little bit of dark purple and deep rose.  The palette was taken from favorite fabrics in Sharron's quilting stash.  

(Oooh, you might like to see her quilts, huh?  I'll see if I can get some pictures this weekend or next, and do a post on her!)

Instead of painting the color on the background with a brush, I troweled it on with a six inch taping knife, of the type used for drywall finishing, and an old credit card, of the type used for everything except actually purchasing things, plus a sponge, to soften and blend a bit, as needed.  It's a very imprecise wet-on-wet technique, and I work and rework it until I like it.  Sometimes it's quick, sometimes it takes awhile to "feel" finished.  Finally, with the background paint done, I could attach the face frame, and  begin sculpting.
In addition to this iris, the panel features delicate branches of wild rose blossoms and buds, and of course, a dandelion.  Why a dandelion?  Because.
People are often surprised to learn that this is not created on a table, allowed to dry, and then glued on,.  It isn't.  The modeling of the clay happens directly onto the wall or object.  Hmmm, instead of rewriting that whole technique though, let me go search the archives, and see if I can locate the post that shows it (now is the moment I regret witty blog post titles that don't actually say what the post is about)...  

Aha!  Here you go.  If you want to see how it gets sculpted wet onto a wall, a wooden panel, or whatever, click here:  sculpting scrolls, and to see that project completed, click here:  Peacocks and periwinkle  
The placement of the art high on the panel was so that it can be used as a headboard.  Sharron and I also planned for the  option of using it behind a dresser, or a demilune table.  The face frame was intentionally scaled to match the width of standard trim, so that depending on where it is placed, it can appear at first glance to be part of the original architecture of most any home.  Even the logistics of the future move were planned for during the design phase, so this piece is fully mobile.

Sculpting in paper clay is truly one of my favorite techniques, and this piece is most definitely my current favorite thing.  One of my other favorite things?  Finding a way for a client to have their heart's desire.  I so love saying "Yes!"

There's lots more in my portfolio of paint and plaster on my website, at theartofthehome.com, and of course, as you now know, if you see something you like, but you need it done a different way, just ask.  Best way to reach me is via email, here:  Just Ask

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Build it yourself, Babycakes.

"To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk." ~Thomas Edison 

    I've been meaning to put a sign on the basement door that says "Dragon's Stash", but maybe "Edison's Heap" would make more sense.  I mean, while there is a lot of jewel toned glass and several pounds of glitter neatly shelved down there, there's also one room devoted to salvaged furniture bits, old hardware, and scraps of trim, which I suppose no self-respecting dragon would be caught dead with, except as fire pit fodder.  I've tried thinning it out over the years, but it seems for every piece I give away or use, some friend brings me a replacement.  Sadly, I've never met an antique radio cabinet I didn't like, nor a vintage headboard that couldn't be repurposed.
What do you do when you're not quite 13, and you can't just go buy the desk you want?  You build it yourself, of course.  ArtGirl is also ToolGirl.
    Sometimes I even threaten to haul the lot up and put it on the curb with a FREE sign, but my Saturdays (the friends who come once a month to eat soup and raid my stash to make projects) cry out in not-so-mock horror, and I am rather too easily convinced that my curating this collection is a valuable service.  Hey, my favorite teenager thinks so.  She loves my basement, and really, why wouldn't she?  No matter what she wants to build, she always finds what she needs in my magic supply cupboard.  Take this desk, for example:
Everything is assembled with screws, and this photo, with the desk top and shelves removed for painting, pretty much shows everything you need to know for construction.  Just remember to use a square and pre-drill your screw holes.
    Faithie picked out a desk from Ikea for her bedroom, but after waiting a year for her parents to purchase it, she gave up and asked if we could just build one.  She drew a sketch of what she wanted, we talked about how it needed to function, revised the sketch, and raided the basement.  We came up with a storm door missing the window panel (That's because she used that as a door on the fort she built the summer before, which you can see if you CLICK HERE), a headboard, two pre-cut shelves, a pair of brackets, a scrap of chicken wire, and a 2x2 fence picket. 
    The top shelf is stationary, but the other small shelf can sit above the desktop to hold supplies, or slip down below to act as a book shelf.  Although hard to see in these photos, the open area of the door is filled with chicken wire, which makes a great bulletin board (CLICK HERE for another example of that).  Faithie's creation actually functions better than the Ikea desk would have, and fits into her bedroom better, and she especially likes the chicken wire bulletin board, as it doesn't block the mural she painted on her walls.

    Working with salvaged materials is such a great celebration of abundance, and a fabulous way to create really personal and functional items.  Even if you aren't 13, and can drive yourself to the mall, may I suggest you hit a few garage sales instead?  ArtGirl and I absolutely promise you that building stuff is way more fun than buying it.

How to find me:
Need wonderful walls to go with your clever creations?  Check out my portfolio at theartofthehome.com .
You can read my musings on spirituality and creativity on my other blog, Creative Soul.
If you have questions or comments you don't want to leave below, you can EMAIL me.
And, you can find me on facebook, and pinterest.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

And a dragon in a spruce tree...

It's two days before Christmas,
and my schedule is laggin',
But at least the Yule tree is up,
Complete with a dragon!
Yes, the children are nestled
all snug in my head,
My inner 3-year-old,
(obviously) never quite fled.
Thus, the garden fairy twinkled
her sweet little nose,
And fashioned this tree from
whatever she chose.
It's dressed all in feathers,
from it's tip to its root.
Some think it's Pagan,
others think it's a hoot.
It has gold-sprayed hydrangeas,
bittersweet and faux cherry, 
and a Spruce-Crested Whatchamacallit,
made by my friend Mary.
(Okay, the faux cherries are really oranges, but that doesn't rhyme, so work with me here.)
And a little old bluebird,
I fashioned of clay,
Though as a gift for a friend,
It's soon flying away.
So if you're being too serious,
as you approach Christmas Day,
Remember life is mysterious,
And we all came to play!
Happy Yuletide to all, and to all a good night!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What Mary Ann Likes, Mary Ann Gets

Mary Ann is a woman who knows what she likes.  Personally, I think she's pretty easy to like, herself!

Knowing who you are and what you like makes decision-making easy.  Just ask Mary Ann.  She knew she wanted a faux finish, and when she mentioned to friends at dinner one night that she was looking for an artist to do it, they knew who to call.  Kinda helps that she and her husband, Jim, were having dinner with my carpenter and his wife.  TC not only does the carpentry on my jobs that need small bits of woodworking, but he and Carol live in a very elegant, fully restored, early 1900's four-square style house, and have had me in to do a lot of the paint work for that.  

Here's the wall I started on.  At the beginning of the day, Mary Ann could be heard in the condo hallway, telling friends they had to wait until I finished to see what we were up to.  However, when she saw me start putting the veins on the marbled background using a turkey feather, she was astonished, and within minutes, she'd brought in an audience of neighbors!  I don't mind this a bit.  I actually love showing the secrets behind the magic, in hopes it makes trying creative things less intimidating for those who just might want to pick up a brush themselves.  Okay, and yes, my ego loves the strokes, and it doesn't hurt in the picking-up-new-business department, either.  Mostly though, it's just fun.

Within a day of that dinner, Mary Ann and I were on the phone, scheduling a consultation, and about two minutes into that meeting, she saw a sample in my portfolio that was exactly what she wanted.  No, she did not want to see the rest of the portfolio.  No, she did not need to see this technique in different colorways.  That marble, that color, and how soon could I start?  

I could get spoiled by clients so easy to please.  Not that she isn't particular.  In fact, it's because Mary Ann was so particular that she was easy to please.  I didn't have to do a design consultation to figure out her style and color preferences, because she clearly knows what she likes.  This is a condo they have downsized to for easier retirement living, and they carefully selected only their very favorite things to furnish it.  Since Mary Ann has been collecting Victorian era antiques for years, no need for me to figure out a thing.

Mary Ann had saved these favorite candle sconces, but was at a loss for where to put them, and had decided to sell them on ebay.  They were the style she wanted, but too small in scale, next to the King-sized, reproduction bed...until we decided to paint faux marble panels behind them, to give them some bulk.  Finding ways like this to use her favorite treasures was such a delight for both of us.
I simply had to paint.  And help arrange some furniture.  And some of the artwork.  And then paint the rest of the rooms.  And sit down and eat lunch.  And take home a fresh loaf of bread she picked up for me, from the bakery next door.  And go boating with them.  And... yeah, I could get spoiled by clients like these.  As it is, I've been adopted.   Lucky, lucky me to have made the list of things Mary Ann likes!

Here's a slick trick to give artwork a bigger presence.  We linked these two paintings with a tapestry bell pull, whose colors could be found in both.  This is how we connected two pieces of only vaguely similar style, and used them to balance a larger painting on the opposite side of the china cabinet.  Not only do I "have brush, will travel", but I also have a hammer and a cordless drill, and very strong muscles, and I will help you put your room back together, once the painting is done.

You can view my online portfolio at theartofthehome.com.  All the info on how to hire me is there too.  Adoption is entirely optional!  Here's another option:  if you like what I write here, you might like my other blog, Creative Soul, at dawn-mariedelara.blogspot.com

Monday, November 10, 2014

Raising the Barre

Folks who have toured my home, Belle Amie, know she's pretty much all creative space with a bedroom, a guest room, and a bath.  Oh sure, Belle's a 4 "bedroom" house, but one of those is the office where I write stuff like these blog posts, and the other has been my dance studio for years.  That's the room originally intended as the master bedroom, but what grown-up needs an acre for a bed and dresser?  I decided to sleep in a smaller bedroom, and put this space to better use.  To be honest, despite my intention to have my dancer's body back by my 50th birthday in 2015, I've used the room infrequently these past few months.  I might have reached the goal anyway, but something happened recently that just about insures I'll make it, or at least work blessed hard at it.

About a month or so ago, I was giving a tour to a house guest, and our mutual friend Jill was tagging along.  Jill happens to be the mama of Artgirl, who's been featured frequently in my blog posts over the last four years (Scroll down or back a few posts and you'll find her).  When we got to the dance room, my guest Yvonne, an accomplished Irish dancer, was a bit disappointed she hadn't brought dance shoes, and wouldn't be around long enough to play, anyway.  Jill, who's seen the room a dozen times, suddenly lit up with an idea.  Her younger daughter would really love to play in the dance room...maybe with a little dance instruction...maybe I'd like to consider...?  Jill is one of those people who has a hopeful "maybe???" face nobody can say no to, which explains why my thighs are now screaming every Monday afternoon, even as my heart leaps and sings with joy.

Dancegirl has relocated the "ugly machine" to this corner, and the wicker chaise stacks on top of it during dance class.  This is probably as much to get the chaise out of the way of her leaping as to keep me from collapsing onto it after a dizzying series of turns.  I am expected not to just keep up, but to lead, after all.  Nothing like a child's faith in your abilities to bring out reserves you thought were long gone! 

You see, I've always loved dance (used to be pretty serious about it, in fact) but I haven't taken classes myself for nearly twenty years, and as I've said, I'm not exactly (snort!) in dance shape.  Jill didn't think this not-so-little detail mattered one bit, since Ava is just nine, and has only taken beginner level classes.  Jill's problem was that ballet, jazz and tap classes aren't available here in town, and Ava doesn't really like kickline, which is a competition dance sport done in the school gym.  Not that she totally loves recitals and (most especially not) itchy costumes, either.  She just loves to dance, and she loves the atmosphere of a proper dance studio.  Sooooo, since I have several years of (rusty) ballet, tap and jazz training, and the requisite hardwood floors and a few mirrors, Jill and I stuck a deal:  

Artgirl on Monday mornings, Dancegirl on Monday afternoons.  (When the bliss of that sinks in, feel free to envy me every Monday as you groan your way to the office.)   I LOVE MONDAYS!

"Instrument of torture", a.k.a. "ugly machine", a.k.a. generously gifted Bowflex.  (Thank you again and always, Sarah and Oscar!)  Little dancers don't need to work out, but I find it helps grown ones tremendously!

After sifting through the pins I sent her on Pinterest, a Youtube video from So You Think You Can Dance caught Ava's eye.  It involved stairs, which of course I don't have in that room.  I do have nice wide cement steps up to my front porch though, so for the past few weeks, we've done a quick warm-up, using a chair as a ballet barre, then headed out front to dance on the stairs.  

If you've never toured my house, you may also not know that it is in the heart of downtown, on Main Street, directly across from The Sparetime Tavern.  Yes, I have been tap dancing up and down my front steps, during afternoon rush hour, on Main Street, in yoga pants.  Secretly, I've always wanted to dance down Main Street here, like I did with my friends back in high school, but somehow in the fantasy, I'm a good bit sleeker, the dance is a bit more polished, and passers-by are charmed.  But hey, guess what?!?  Do this with a delightfully vibrant 9-year-old, and passers-by actually are totally charmed, and I'm positive (more or less) that not one of them even notices my butt in yoga pants (this is my current fantasy, and I like it just fine as is, thank you).

"I got this."  Dancegirl has been watching her older sister, Artgirl, get to play with power tools for a few years, now.  Today, she finally got her turn.  Obviously, she's been paying close attention all this time. 
Today, however, we could not dance on the steps.  Nature has done her natural thing, and the season has turned.  We did not get the 12 inches of predicted snow, but we got a dusting of it just wet and cold enough to make things slippery, so Ava agreed that it's time to bring dance back indoors.  We were ready for that, as she's directed the rearranging of the space over the past few weeks.  Well, mostly ready.  

She's been patiently waiting for me to install a proper ballet barre, and was happy to see I'd at least scrounged up materials from the treasure trove in the basement.  I'd wanted to shop for prettier brackets and a heavier pole, but function was needed now, so I'll upgrade in the future, when I find just the right thing.  I was about to promise her yet again that I would install it during the coming week, when it occurred to me she might want to help.  She's watched her big sister and me use power tools on several carpentry projects over the years, so wondering if she wanted a turn at it, I gave her the choice of doing a chair-barre warmup , or installing the barre... like, with power tools.   Yup.  Kid after my own heart, I tell ya.
It's all about centering.

...and keeping at it until you get it right.  Carpentry and dance have a lot in common, I guess.

Look out world!  Like any ballerina, Dancegirl here is strong and fearless and coordinated.  She can manage a tape measure and a cordless drill just fine, thank you very much, and she'll follow it with a fine grand jete' (that's a big leap) and a few pretty pirouettes. Ta-Da!!!

So today, while my not-exactly-fit body got a break, my dance student raised the barre.  Not only did she install it, but she expects me to use it, so I can teach her all those moves I used to do.  I'm actually pretty excited about the challenge.  My nearly fifty year old knees, and my comfortably padded derriere maybe not so much, but they'll come around.  By the time Spring arrives and the snow melts, it will be recital time on Main Street.  Dancegirl will steal the show, but I'll be keeping up with her, as we dance with sleek polished style down the front steps, and on down the block.  We'll keep you posted on the date, in case you'd like a front row seat at the Sparetime Tavern.  (Oh, look Jill!  It's everything you ever wanted in a dance class, plus beer served at the spring recital!!!)

Seriously, when's the last time you evaluated how you use the space in your home?  Whether you have kids or not, you probably have a creative soul that's longing for room to sew, craft, dance, paint, or something, and most homes have rooms that really aren't used to best advantage.  Look with fresh eyes, and if you need help with imagining how this could possibly work in your home, don't hesitate to email me!  

Have you repurposed a room in your home?  Tell us about it in the comments, below! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Q: What's white and lacy with paint all over?

A:  Linda Hughes' living room walls  (OK, yeah...and certain parts of my wardrobe, but I'm not sharing photos of that mess!)

Lace panels are surrounded by a glazed faux finish, using the same colors as Linda's stripes in her kitchen.  (Note:  You can click on the pictures to see them somewhat enlarged.)
When Linda told her neighbors she was having me paint lace on her walls, they thought I was probably stenciling it, maybe even using lace as a mask to paint through.  That's a lovely idea, and it works, but lucky for me, with my love of mixed-media projects, Linda Hughes likes to do things that are a little different.  

This neighbor came to see the lace, and was delighted to be surprised with a painting of hers displayed on the wall!  She had put it in a give-away pile, and Linda just couldn't let it go to the thrift store.  Linda has great taste, and great neighbors!
I wasn't so sure when Linda plucked the painted lace sample from the second batch of samples I brought for her to see.  She had liked several things in the first batch, but would unmake her mind almost as fast as she made it up.  Painted lace is actual lace, painted onto the wall.  As in permanent texture, and not exactly the usual thing folks do to walls.  Linda had so far been pretty particular, and I needed to be sure she loved it on a large scale, before I started this process, so I invited her to my place, where I have it on my artroom walls.

She absolutely loved it.  No doubt, no question, no need to sleep on it. It wasn't that Linda didn't like the other choices.  She just knows better than to settle for anything less than real love.

Here's the version in my art room.  The pattern shows up more with the darker glaze, but the subtlety of white is equally beautiful, when seen in person.  Yes, the trim here is made from burlap and acorns, and yes, the ceiling is quilted.

In my art room, I've done the painted lace technique glazed in moss green, and it goes from ceiling to baseboard, with most of the wall area hidden behind shelving and supplies.  For Linda, I suggested we do it in panels, and to balance with the rest of her place, that we do her lace in white, with a green faux finish surrounding the panels.  This way she would keep a paler version of the green color she had, which had turned out to be way too dark for her north facing condo unit, while lightening up the walls, for that airy, fresh cottage look.

Here's a close-up of one panel, showing three patterns meeting, with a tiny doily masking a bare spot.  To get a similar look to these walls, begin by collecting every piece of lace curtain, tablecloth, valance, doily, and mantilla you can find in a summer of garage-saling.  The stained ones in the Free box are perfectly fine for this.  Next, roll a coat of white paint onto your wall, and while wet, staple the lace to the wall (I cut larger pieces apart for more interest), then roll paint over the top of the lace.  Think of it like decoupage with paint instead of glue.  The staples will show if not strategically placed, so sometimes it's good to add interestingly shaped upholstery tacks for more detail, and to help secure edges and small bits.  Once the paint dries, you can leave it as is, or glaze any color you like over the top.  I used a very sheer umber on Linda's to keep it white, but enhance the details. 

Linda's thrilled to bits with the end result, and with the tweaks she also hired me to make to her furniture and accessory arrangements, throughout the condo.  She knew her taste, and had great pieces, so it was easy to show her a few designer tricks for creating a finished look that flows throughout her home.  It was also a whole lot of fun.  She's one of those clients who takes good care of those she hires, pampering, praising, promoting, and oozing generosity, and she loves to play, too!  I couldn't have asked for a better way to end the summer than creating this mossy, lacy confection for such a sweet soul.

Whatever your style, I'd love to help you take it all the way to blissed-out perfection!  Click on over to my website (theartofthehome.com) to see my full portfolio, and to get the details on how to go about commissioning me.  And yes, as a matter of fact, I do travel.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Asking and Receiving

Mural by Dawn-Marie deLara for the Belle Plaine Library, BP, Minnesota.  A young swordsman reads Dragon Hunting for Eejits, while barely hidden behind him, the dragon reads up on Safe Cracking.  And the Princess?  She takes a break from reading The Practical Princess Presents:  Dragon Proof Your Own Palace.  I'd like to say she's the smartest, but truth told, all of them are so buried in their books, they fail to see the pranks being pulled by the animals behind their backs.  The mural is called, "Everything you need to know in life is in a book...well, almost everything"

A little story about the librarian who asked for what she really wanted...and got it.
Step 1.  Even though it doesn't show in the end, wash in background color, to banish the overwhelm of a big blank wall, then go home and figure out how you actually want to paint this one.  Nope, did not know what style I was painting, at this point!
You might know I live across the street from the local library.  No?  Ah, welcome then, new reader!  Not only am I over there often for printing and scanning (they have way better equipment than I want to invest in), and for the usual checking out of massive stacks of books (which I rarely return on time, despite the proximity), but I've also done a lot of painting there.  Mostly wood graining trim and marbleizing columns, until recently.  
Step 2.  Having decided to layer solid light colors over dark shadows, paint in inky black in the background, then come over the top with shrubs, hanging branches and ferns.  Step 3.  Add in a bunch of animals that weren't in the original sketch, and work on painting the rippling creek water.
What to use?  On an interior mural of this size, craft paint and basic acrylics work just fine.  I sometimes use Flasche acrylics, which are a velvety French brand, but they are quick drying and for this reason, very hard to blend.  In the end, I don't think the results are much different.  Other muralists would disagree with that, so use what pleases you.

Last winter, when I lettered a quote on a beam, Georgine the librarian asked me if I could letter the words "Juvenile Books" over that section of the stacks.  Now, since I practically live at the library, I happen to know that Georgine has long wanted a mural for "her" branch, but has been waiting for a long talked about, but still not quite funded addition to the building.  She's asked me more than once over the years if I'll paint it, and with her retirement looming, she's been despairing of any of her pet projects happening on her watch.  

Step 4.  Rough in the main characters, and add more grass and ferns.
Looking at the space she wanted lettered, it occurred to me that I could actually fit a carefully planned scene right there, and even with any future additions and rearrangements of books, some part of the kids' section would likely always be there.  Thus, instead of a quick quote for lettering two words, I submitted a proposal for two versions of that, plus one for a full mural.  Georgine was delighted, and the Friends of the Library were willing to pay half.  I had offered to donate part, so we were good to go, but Georgine and the Friends, who I sometimes suspect consider me (their local artist) a pet project, thought perhaps we could get some Legacy Funds, as well.  
Step 5.  Work up faces and details.  At this point, titles are added to the books, and the mischief the secondary characters are up to becomes apparent.
I used photos from books for most of the animals, though some readers will recognize the wolf as my beloved, though long departed malamute, McKinley.  The princess and the swordsman were both painted from photos of my Artgirl, Faithie, who also helped rough in some of the background color one day, and who patiently rescheduled her art classes around my wonky painting and sleeping schedule.  If you have none of your own for models and slave labor, do as I do and borrow kids from friends!
Here in Minnesota, we have funding set aside by a vote of the people to pay for arts and cultural heritage projects, known as Legacy Funds, and our libraries benefit quite a lot from this money.  This funding brings world class musicians to small town libraries, traditional and folk dance instruction with live music to one branch, and pays for classes like the collage and book arts workshops I taught at several libraries this summer.  I'm sure it pays for lots more, but those are the programs I've personally enjoyed.  This funding has also helped pay for murals in a few libraries, and for Belle Plaine, they agreed to match what the Friends would pay.  With the original sketch fully funded, I went ahead and donated matching hours for extra animals and details.
Step 5, continued... Finish main characters' details plus secondary characters on the other end.   Step 6.  Go back two additional mornings to tweak details, including adding lots more grass and leaves to tone down the dragon a bit, and to better show the crows that pilfer his treasures.
Also useful for mural painting:  Plenty of fresh water, lots of good strong coffee (particularly if working through the night), and audio books and good music.  Two of the artists I listened to while painting, Chad MacAnally and Dean McGrew, are both musicians I discovered through Legacy Funded programs at libraries.

For the last two weeks of summer, running straight through Labor Day Weekend, I painted in the off hours, meaning mostly late at night and on the weekends, tidying away my scaffold and ladder each morning before the library opened, much like the shoemaker's elves.  I was asked to work some while the library was open, but on a scaffold over the heads of young children in a small space?  Sounded like a Berenstein Bears episode in the making, so I had to decline, though the last two mornings, I was still finishing up when the doors opened, so they got a little of what they asked for.  They also asked for a presentation, which Georgine somehow turned into three, but I don't mind.  I never run out of words!
Georgine-the-Librarian.  Also known as, "She-Who -Asked".

We all got what we asked for, in the end.  Georgine got her mural; I got paid the full value of the original submission; and the library got some live action mural painting, a crazy silly story hour, and a couple of "meet the artist" events, the last of which will happen on Saturday, September 20th at 11:00 a.m.  Life is that way.  We do get what we ask for.  If you aren't getting what you want, may I suggest you check to be sure you're asking (and saying "yes, thank you") with all your heart?  If you don't believe me that it works, ask Georgine, who asked loudly and often, until the right people heard it at the right time.  

It's your little world!  Ask for what you want, and always, always, always Paint Happy!