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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bits and Pieces

mixed media/china mosaic fireplace with mirrored hearth

Chip china mosaic is one of my favorite things to do, and is surprisingly simple, though it can be extremely time consuming.  This fireplace is the most mixed media mosaic I've ever been asked to do.  I loved hunting for things to embed. and then seeing the direction the design took, once we started placing the elements.  Along with thrift store china, there are bits of iron from a shelf found curbside on trash day, brooches from the client's grandmother, old typewriter keys, game pieces, flowers from a friend's ceramic vase, and a cherub from another friend's garden, broken mirror, and even glass cabinet knobs set at strategic points for hanging Christmas stockings.  Had the kitchen sink not been fiberglass, it might have made it into the mix.
click for close-up, click again to enlarge

mosaic end table
Tables present challenges, as even the flattest china plates have some curve, so lamps, knick-knacks and vases may not sit steady.  On this end table, I filled the previously glass center (glass missing) with painted plywood, and added the mosaic to the outside border.  Legs were cut off of a matching table to make the ottoman.

salvaged cabinet door frames a mosaic mirror
On this piece, seashells were added to the design, and a small dish to catch rings was clipped in half and added to the bottom.  I actually use tile nippers to break the plates, as it is easier to control the size of the pieces.  Just smashing the china usually creates a lot of unusable shards.

Here's a quick and simple project...Use a papier mache ball, glue on broken teacups, salt shakers, and other convex pieces, then grout in black for added graphic appeal.  Display one atop a candle stick, several in a silver dish, or even hang them as Christmas ornaments on a sturdy branched tree.

Paper mosaic tabletops are even and lightweight.
And then there's the easiest version...Paper mosaic.  Not any faster mind you, at least in the making.  What is faster is the collecting of patterns.  Rather than spending months haunting antique stores and flea markets for just the right colors and styles of dishes, spend twenty minutes at your nearest scrapbooking store.

The method is simple:  Paint your tabletop the color you want the grout to be, cut several patterns of scrap booking paper into inch to inch and a half pieces, arrange into a pleasing pattern, leaving even spaces between them for the "grout" to show, then glue down with white glue.  Once dry, coat with three coats of satin Poly-crylic.  The shine protects the surface, and adds to the illusion of china.   I'm amazed by how many people think this is the real thing, even after they touch it. 

Aside from the ease of collecting coordinating patterns, the other really nice thing is that you don't have to worry about your wine glass tipping on an uneven surface as with most china mosaic.  I don't know about you, but I think keeping a wineglass upright is challenge enough, without the wonky china hazard.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

There's More to Belle's Kitchen Than Pretty Paint

I've been meaning to expand the blogging to other days, and other home arts besides decorating, so the easy place to start is with good food, and share the recipe for today's soup.  My only difficulty is that there isn't a recipe.  I cook soup at least once a week, from whatever is in the fridge, and because I had the good fortune to be raised by a chef, among a whole family of creative cooks, I don't use a recipe.  But not to worry, because what I want to inspire you to do is experiment, and trust me, soup is way easier to make than you think.

Start with broth.  I always have fresh chicken stock, as McKinley the Malamute (see photo at the top of the page thartofthehome.com/about-me.html) eats homemade dog food, for which I have to boil chicken.  He gets the meat and fat, I get the broth.  On the slight chance that you don't boil chicken a couple times a week, you might want to buy canned stock, or a condensed one.  Some are healthier than others, so read the labels, and choose a low sodium one, so you can control the saltiness.

For this pot, I used about

5 cups of stock
1/2 of a very large onion, coarsely chopped
2 dark green ribs of celery, coarsely chopped
4 small Yukon Gold potatoes, 1/2" dice
6 or 8 mushrooms, quartered
1 can of cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
1 can of butter beans
1 or 2 fully cooked brats, chopped
about a tablespoon of dried marjoram
a heaping teaspoon of chopped garlic
about a teaspoon of cumin
a rounded teaspoon of prepared mustard
salt to taste

There are two ways to cook this:  Be chefly and saute your onions until carmelized, brown the sausage, use only fresh garlic, and spend about an hour at it, after which you can wash the extra skillet and utensils.


Use the easy basic soup method:  Start the stock warming to a boil, and begin chopping and adding the veggies in order of firmness.  I started with the onion, then the celery, then the potatoes, though I would have done those first if they were chopped larger. Toss in the sausage, the beans, the mushrooms, then the seasonings, let it boil about 10 minutes, then check for salt, and add as needed.  You can let it simmer a bit longer, if you like your veggies softer. 

This works for any soup made with pre-cooked beans, and either fully cooked, or diced raw meat.  If using raw meat, boil until pink is gone before tasting, to be safe.  Is this as good as the chefly method?  You lose a little depth of flavor by not carmelizing things in a skillet first, but this is soup for people who have other things to do besides cook, and yet want something better than canned soup.  And it's waaaay better than canned!

It takes about 15 minutes to get it all in the pot, and it's ready for the table in about another 15.  Longer if you use raw meat, or want to let it simmer longer.  If you have a stainless steel pot, you can store it in the pot in the refrigerator, and dip out bowls to reheat for lunch or dinner for the next few days.  Very few dishes, pretty lean if you put in enough sausage for flavor, but not a full serving in every bowl, and very comforting on cold days like this one.

You can easily alter the recipe.  With chicken stock, try light meats like chicken or pork, white beans, and the seasonings mentioned.  With beef stock, use beef, and/or red beans, and use Worcestershire sauce in place of the mustard.  (Mustard and Worcestershire both work to strengthen the flavors, but don't really taste like themselves when used in such small quantities.)  You can season toward any nationality, and alter the veggies according to what's about to expire in the crisper drawer.  Be brave.  It's soup, and just about anything goes.  I can almost guarantee you that even the worst experiment will still taste better than Campbell's!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Paper Or Plastic?

Next time the grocery clerk asks if you want paper or plastic, take a minute to think about your walls.  Really.  Grocery bags are great as either tools or materials for a variety of wall treatments.  For instance, if you want a nice faux leather paint finish, you can get one with glaze manipulated with plastic bags. 

base coat, roll on glaze, smoosh with a plastic bag, repeat very quickly to avoid dark lap marks
However, if you have a room in which the newest of four patterns of wallpaper was applied prior to 1946, and you know the plaster under it is crumbling, you might (if you are as disinterested in tedious repair as I am) want to ask for paper.

I'm  still working on the entry and living room, here in my own house, Belle Ami,  but when I decided to steal a bookcase from the studio for the front hall, I knew I better take care of the studio walls while I had the room dismantled.  For the cost of a gallon of glue (cheaper by far at the hardware store than the craft store, by the way), and six months of accumulated grocery bags (no, I'm not a pack rat, I was saving them
especially for this), you can create some interesting effects.  I left mine simple, as paper arts are a passion of mine, and this is my art room, so having walls that are obviously torn paper makes me happy.

Rip bags, crumple and smooth, slather with thinned Elmer's, slap on wall, slather with more Elmer's, let dry, glaze with burnt sienna, then raw umber.
You can also get a realistic leather effect from brown paper.  The trick is to glaze it first, in a rich brown, or leather shade of your choice, then once dry, rip it and decoupage it onto the walls.  The torn edges will give the look of pieces of uncut rawhide.  It can be done with wallpaper paste, making it "removable", but it still may be best as one of those last-resort-before-new-drywall techniques.  You can do it over tatty panelling too, but do a quick fill of the grooves first with joint compound, and use white glue as your bonding agent.

If you just can't get enough of it, or if you perhaps don't have enough grocery bags (or patience/time/desire???) to cover an entire room's worth of walls, this technique is great on furniture, too. 

click pictures to enlarge, then click again for details

Follow wall directions above, then embellish with scrapbooking diecuts,  paper lace doilies, vintage magazine pictures, and painted swirls and words...or whatever else strikes your fancy.
Makes a nice background for collaged and painted detail, plus it covers a multitude of surface issues, including chipped veneer, gouged leather, and deep scratches.  And, of course, like anything leather, it just looks cool.

If you really want to try this, but need more detailed instruction, email me and I'll be happy to explain more, though there's really not much more to it. dawnmariedelara@gmail.com
Have you checked out the new website yet?  theartofthehome.com

Have a wonderful, wonder-FULL, Thanksgiving!  After dinner with friends old and new, I'll be spending the weekend building new studio bookcases to replace the one I commandeered for the foyer...pic's to come, of course!

Dawn-Marie (Quinche) deLara, Artist in Wonderland at The Art of the Home.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Santa Baby...

Dear Santa,

For Christmas I want a drill press, an air compressor, an air-powered stapler, and something pink and lacy.  Not that I mind borrowing T.C., the carpenter's (tools, that is!), but it would be lovely to have my own, here at the house, so I can use them anytime I dream up a new project.  I promise to change into work clothes.  Say "Hi" to the reindeer and Mrs. Claus, and let me know if you need any elf apprentices.



Having access to the right tools makes torturing innocent silver tableware sooooo much easier.
Trowelled paint staircase wall in progress.    
Painted bar top in progress.

Last week was wild!  After a jam packed Monday, I spent the rest of the week working on all the details for the projects above, plus a few more.  I'll finish this job on Wednesday, but I won't have pictures for a few weeks, when all the other contractors finish up.  I'll go back to do touch-ups, and get final photos then.

Over the weekend, while much of the area was without electricity, due to a nasty wet snow storm, and despite the fact that my van sprouted electrical problems of it's own (has this thing ever broken down less than forty miles from home?), I got to take a class at Maureen Carlson's Center for Creative Arts www.maureencarlson.com

Barb Kobe taught "Making Your ARTfield of Dreams".  This is a personal board game in which you make an interactive map of your goals for the next year, allowing you to plot action and track progress.  

The board is divided into the four seasons, collaged with magazine clippings that pertain to each season, then embellished with quotes, words, and more.  There are playing pieces that represent myself, helpful friends, wise counsel, financial and spiritual resources, resting places, animal totems and more.  I didn't quite finish making the "rewards" cards, or the "Stuck?" cards, so I'll do that next weekend.

This side of my board features a staircase for plotting and tracking the steps for my major goal, followed by a well deserved rest, which I intend to be in the form of a visit to my big sister.  As I've only played with it once, just this morning, I can't speak of great success yet, but I can say it was really inspiring to have a three dimensional map to look at as I set my intentions for the day. 

If this looks like something you would enjoy, Barb offers this as an online class, too, so you don't have to wait until next year.  www.barbkobe.com.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hats off to the girls!

Mondays are my favorite days, now.  Not only do I get to teach art  classes to two or three 7-9 year old girls, I get to meet with an amazing bunch of female business owners, The Keystone Women's Circle.  Keystone was formed when a few of us noticed that most of the non-bar businesses left in downtown Belle Plaine were owned by women, and yet we had little voice in the Chamber of Commerce.  We meet once a week to share our business plans and dreams, personal goals, frustrations, and successes. 

The energy is amazing.  My friend Cindy joined us for the first time last week, and by the end of the meeting had firmed up her resolution to turn a rental property she has into a place for weddings and other gatherings, and got most of the group to commit to helping her prep for an open house she intends to have five days after her current tenants move out.  Cindy could probably pull this off single-handed, but with the energy of this group, there's no doubt.  Today while we started the meeting, we folded her brochures, which went into gift bags at a local event tonight...state your wish and be prepared to ride a wave of enthusiasm from this group!

Today was hat day for Cat Isles, pictured below.  Cat has a greeting card company, bridgingtheuniverse.com, as well as a children's book coming out in January, and a series of stories about a family of adventurous foxes that is meeting it's publisher next Thursday.  She announced last week that she thought she would like to be a woman who wears hats, so those of us who already do wore ours today, in support, and brought her some to start her collection.  It's that kind of group.  Every dream or idea is a worthy one.
There are lots more in the group, and you can meet most of them on the Keystone blog, keystonewomenscircle.blogspot.com.  I'll keep you posted on all the gals ventures as things progress.  For now, save December 5th to attend Cindy's open house at "Marions Place".

Meanwhile back at the studio, I had two Art Girls today.  Faith starts my Mondays, as she homeschools, and can come in the morning.  She nearly always has a stuffed toy with her in her apron pocket, and today it was a crowd of hamsters, thus...Still Life With Hamsters:

Once finished with the drawing, Faith spent the rest of her class painting a recycled frame in her older brother's favorite colors, as the hamsters are shown drawing a card congratulating him on the birth of his new baby.  Now he has art for the baby's walls, painted by the proud Aunt Faithie.

Kadence comes after the Keystone meeting, when school lets out.  When she appeared with a stuffed squirrel in her pocket, I figured we may as well follow Faith's lead...curriculum?  What curriculum?  So, I give you...Still Life with Squirrel:
I also wanted to share Kadence's fairy house creation today, which she finished while my computer was down.  It actually turned into a house for "zoobles", little toy anime-style creatures that pop out of spheres.  She created amazing details, using all kinds of things from the treasure drawer in the studio. 
This spacious property comes with swing, slide and swimming pool.

I never worry about copying.  Artists are constantly inspired by each other, but as shown in the drawings above, and should you scroll back a ways and see Faiths fairy castle, which inspired Kadence's zooble habitat, creative souls can't be content with copying.  It's fun to watch them all start at the same point and branch off in their own directions.  Makes Mondays the best day of the week!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ever have one of those days?

Nope, not one of those days.  I mean one of those days where things just fall into place, everybody either loves you or leaves you alone if they don't, the appliances all work, you don't run out of shampoo, toothpaste, or deodorant, the dog does not barf on the carpet, the new client ups the order, and the current client's husband even loves the funky paint job.  Bliss.

I did forget the camera, but said client's husband, Randy, was kind enough to snap me a few pictures and zapped 'em over to me.  I'm doing several things in their home, including troweling four colors of paint on their dining room walls, painting some furniture, and turning builder oak kitchen cabinets into something way cooler.  Here's a sneak peak at one of the doors (Full views next week).

The knobs are vintage and antique metal salt and pepper shakers.  Thank goodness their kitchen isn't any larger, because I've scoured every antique store, thrift shop and occasional sale in a 30 mile radius, and I'm still short three.  Oh well, guess I'll have to go antiquing again tomorrow, on the way to the job site.  I do love my job!

I can't say I've loved the other part of my job these past months, as that's been designing a new website.  Do you know how long it takes to re-size and caption an entire portfolio of photos?  Neither do I.  I lost track of the hours that turned into days that turned into months.  But I'm not whining, because this is one of those days...the day my new website launched!  Check it out at theartofthehome.com!

I'll still be blogging here, in fact I'll probably be blogging more.  There's more to the art of the home than just painting cool cabinets and wonderful walls, and I'm looking forward to writing about the rest of it.  Maybe now that the website is done, I'll have time to actually do some of the rest of it. 

For now, I'm going to call it a night.  I hope you, too, had one of those days.  Wishing you bliss!