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

Saturday, July 30, 2011

In Process...

The art I make for clients has deadlines and design parameters.  I design, I do, I'm done.  The art that I make for myself isn't so easy.  Sometimes people comment that it must be hard to do commissioned work, but honestly, that's easier because the possibilities are confined, if not strictly speaking, limited.  Because art for myself involves so many possible choices, and so few deadlines, I'm amazed anything ever gets started, much less finished, around here.  This week, although nothing finished, progress was made.  This post is a peek at what's "in process".

First, I love birdcages, but although I had a parakeet as a kid, I don't feel comfortable keeping a caged pet.  Not that Mighty Bird spent all his time in his cage, but I am past the age and fitness level where I can climb trees to retrieve a parakeet who accidentally gets out the front door, and as I own the upholstery in this house, I'm also a bit less willing to have birds loose in here.  Still, for some reason, I am drawn to the graphic aspect of bird cages, and have used them to display plants and small collections, in the past.  Recently, I decided to make a sculpture from one.

I could call this piece done, but I have a little green glass window, with one missing pane that I want to hang on the wall behind it, and then have a flock of little finches scattered from inside the cage to just flying out the window.  I think also that I might want to give her a longer overskirt, and a much older look, by tea staining  and umber glazing her, but I haven't quite decided, and staining's not something I can undo, if I start and discover it isn't to my liking.  She'll hang here as-is, until I suddenly get a clear idea for the next step.  A piece of fabric will present itself for lengthening the skirt, or another artist's work will give me an idea for mellowing the color.  Around here, art is finished when it says it is, so I just keep on with the conversation until it speaks to me.
This is the starting point of another sculpture, which I worked on tonight during Open Studio at Maureen's (maureencarlson.com).  It looks like a dress form, but it's actually a foam casting of my friend Lisa.  Yup, like the urn on Monday's post, it's another one of those odd bits given to me by friends who know I'll take the things they can't quite bear to throw away.  Lisa's been hanging around here for about a year now, and for the past few weeks she's been suggesting I do something with her.  Tonight I spent most of the studio time clarifying the vision, bouncing ideas off of Maureen and another artist.  It was Maureen who suggested I tell a little about this process in tonight's post.

I know for sure I am giving her limbs and a head.  I'm not a big fan of amputated art, for symbolic/energetic reasons.  Not an issue for everyone, but for myself, I prefer wholeness in figurative art.  Tonight, I carved a Styrofoam skull, and started covering it with paper clay, and figured out a couple of options for attaching arms.  I'll wait until I decide for certain what she is and what she's doing, before I make those.

I had thought I might carve out niches in the chest and belly, and put interesting objects in there, but I was waffling on this.  Maureen brought out a showcase book of 500 figurative sculptures, to give me visuals on what I do and don't like.  It wasn't so I could find something to copy, but to look at how other artists have approached the human form, and give me a chance to see how some of my ideas might look finished.  I discovered that I don't care for holes cut into the body, as they creep me out the same way missing limbs do.

I do know for sure there will be raised pattern on the surface, and that although I had thought she would be woodland, like the greenman from Monday's post, she will most likely be a mermaid.  Maureen was excellent at asking questions to clarify her meaning to me, which was really helpful.  Unlike commissioned decoration, which requires quite a lot of initial design and planning, I don't have to know everything about this piece of art at the beginning, but I do need some concept of the finished design, in order to limit the possibilities enough to make a start. 

So, that's a peek into my process of beginning a piece of art.  Over the next few weeks, I will have some shots of how they progress, and maybe even the finished work.  In the meantime, if there is something artistic I can do for you, please ask!  As lovely as it is to have time to work on my own things, I do have to make a living, afterall.  Info on how to hire me is on the website, theartofthehome.com (just click here), along with a portfolio of possibilities. 

If you are inspired to try this yourself, info on my sculpting process is two posts down from this one, at the end of the post that features the urn.  As always, you can ask me questions about anything artistic at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com, and I'll share whatever I might know.

And by the way, if you happen to be headed toward Owatana this weekend, Maureen is doing a show there.  I think this is the BIG art and antique show, but I didn't get a chance to google it and it's so far past my bedtime that I've actually fallen asleep writing this more than once, so you're on your own with tracking that down!  Wherever you are, if you are shopping for fun or gifting this weekend, PLEASE feed the artists by staying out of the malls and hitting the art shows.  These artists work hard to design the things that manufacturers copy (and have made by cheap labor in foreign countries), and they deserve your business.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My best days always wear hats

I'm a hat girl.  I've always been a hat girl.  My stuffed animals had whole hat wardrobes, when I was a kid.  Born in a different era, or perhaps a country with royal weddings, I would very likely have become a milliner.  Alas, I became a painter/sculptor/decorator/writer, and today, I wore the hat of caterer.  Actually, today I wore a cute little vintage navy blue "chimney sweep", while stepping in as caterer, at a tea for 18 Red Hatters, at Marion's Place (do click here: atmarionsplace.com, for info on this venue!).
Cindy serves a round of seconds, while I take a break from the kitchen to snap a couple of photos.  Mary Flynn, front right, is one of the first people I met in Belle Plaine.  Hers is one of my favorite smiles ever, and unlike some of the others on that list, hers is never elusive.  I asked, and no one at the table has ever seen her without it!

I do this about once every ten years to remind myself why I did not follow in the footsteps of my mom, for whom cooking has not only been her career, but a 24/7 passion.  Today went so well, I could almost forget that making production food is not my idea of fun by day three, and that many times when catering, the stars do not align perfectly, as in the time with the blowing dust, beating sun, and the rather tragic floral ice ring in the punch bowl.  Let's just say that thawed violets in muddy punch is not a pretty picture, even from a distance of 20 years.  Kinda funny, in hindsight, but not pretty.

That's my future piano teacher on the left.  She doesn't know what she's agreed to, yet.  Shhh.  Don't scare her off.

Today, though, the stars did align.  Despite an accident Monday involving the rapid descent of a very large clock that left a very large lump on my forehead, which was still throbbing this morning;  and despite my cohort who, on a mission to retrieve a table top from her dark barn late last night, stepped on the only board with a protruding nail in it in a 4,000 square foot building (don't worry, we really are both fine, thanks); and despite a string of minor snafus in the normally simple production of meringues this morning that led to one very grumpy trip to the grocery store, the stars aligned.  Actually, it was because of that little fiasco that the whole day turned around for me, and the stars clicked into alignment.

I meant to photo all the food before it was served, but I've never been one who lives behind the camera...featured to the left of these ladies is a plate of cucumber sandwiches, or maybe those are smoked salmon...recipes for both at the bottom of this post.

I knew I was being way too harsh on myself.  A whole string of things, including the nail incident, led to the schedule being tight this morning, which made a minor egg incident a disaster of (melodramatic sigh) dire magnitude.  Before I even got out of the driveway, I knew I had to get a different perspective on things, or risk mucking up the day for a lot of other people.  This was a day that 18 women, 20 including Cindy and I, were looking forward to.  These women were out around Belle Plaine this morning, possibly in the very grocery I was on my way to, happily telling people they had plans for tea this afternoon.  These women were trusting that it was going to be a wonderful time, with wonderful food.  Beating myself up was not going to help me make anything wonderful, and I know only too well, how it can do the opposite.  I also know that cooking done with love has real magic in it.  That unseen voice, reminding me that the only cooking worth doing is cooking done with love, was what changed the day.

Chocolate dipped strawberries are sooo easy.  Melt, dip, chill.  Click here for the recipe for crunchy cinnamon toasts. 

With my focus there, things just started flowing smoothly.  I caught the rhythm, and as Cindy graciously greeted the guests at the door, tea water came to a boil.  As she seated them and served Earl Gray and blueberry scones, the cucumber sandwiches piled up on the serving platter, followed by smoked salmon sandwiches, deviled eggs, and matchsticks of carrots and celery in little cups to cleanse the palate in between.  A pot of Irish Breakfast tea followed the Earl Gray, and honey lemonade was poured for those who wanted something cold.

Another photo missed before the food left the kitchen.  The platter of tartlets, which included kiwi and peach, along with the mango and lemon curd pictured on the left-over plate here, was beautifully colorful.
 I'm not surprised the food came out fine.  Since the incident of the weeds in the punchbowl, I know better than to test new recipes on clients (sorry friends, I don't extend this rule to you.  Somebody's gotta be the guinea pigs!).  Maybe I'm not even surprised that the flow of things came out fine.  It was after all the prayer I sent up, the intention I set, as I careened back up the hill with the second carton of eggs.  I'm just so exceptionally, perfectly, blissfully content with the whole experience.

Those pesky meringues.  Someone commented that they look like fried eggs.  Fitting, since the white is egg white, whipped with sugar, and the yellow is made of egg yolks, lemon juice and sugar.  Recipe at the bottom of this post.
 Tea continued into the sweets with crunchy cinnamon toasts, banana muffin bites , dipped strawberries, fresh fruit tartlets (mango-nutmeg, cinnamon-peach, and kiwi, all honey glazed), and those blessed, troublesome meringues, topped with homemade lemon curd.  Each thing landed on the platter just as Cindy was ready to serve it, and with the final pot of Jasmine tea, we coasted to three o'clock, with time for me to come out of the kitchen and visit a bit.  Everyone was relaxed and happy, and stuffed to the gills.

This day started with several perfectly plausible reasons to postpone it, and bumped along precariously for the first few hours.  Cindy, bless her brave heart, let my explosion of expletives at the egg incident fly right past her, and she would have serenely made up for my attitude, and whatever arrhythmia might have come out of it, but thankfully she didn't have to.  Thankfully, I've learned a few things, like to listen to that unseen voice that says, "This day is what you make of it, and you have a chance to make it special for a lot of other people.  Show up with a smile in your heart, cook with love... and wear a really great hat!"

My blessings are great, and I am grateful.


Link to Cinnamon toast recipe is beneath its photo above.

Click here for banana muffin bites.

Tea Sandwiches...
     I make whole sandwiches, then trim crusts and cut in quarters.  The filling for our cucumber sandwiches combines one package low fat cream cheese with a dollop of mayo, a whole bunch of dried dillweed, and a sprinkle of salt.  Spread it thickly on one slice of bread, top with four slices of cucumber, patted dry, then add a second slice of bread spread thinly with the cheese mixture.  Trim and quarter.
     The smoked salmon spread combines one package of reduced fat cream cheese, one tall can of salmon, (bones and skin removed and saved for your favorite cat or dog), a splash of lemon juice, about 1/2 teaspoon of liquid smoke seasoning, and salt to taste.  This is also really good on crackers.

Tartlet Pastry:  quickly rub one stick butter into two cups of flour and 1/2 cup powdered sugar.  Add a few tablespoons of water until dough will just form a ball.  Pinch off walnut sized balls of dough, flatten in your palms, and press into a mini muffin pan.  Bake shells at 400 degrees for about ten minutes, until lightly brown.
     Two tricks..always sweeten or season the dough for tiny tarts and quiches to compliment the filling. When you have such a small proportion of filling to crust, making the flavor of the crust to fit in with the flavor of the filling keeps the final result from tasting like a mouthful of piecrust with a hint of filling.  Also, press the dough very thin, as these puff up, and can fill the whole tin.

Tartlet Filling:  Chop any fruit you like very fine, drizzle with honey, and stir in a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg, or another herb or spice of your choice.  Allow to sit a few minutes to blend flavors.  Drain excess juice before spooning into tart shells.

Meringues:  Whip four egg whites with two cups of powdered sugar, and a pinch of cream of tarter, or a splash of lemon juice, until very stiff.  This may take awhile.  Room temp eggs and spotlessly clean mixing utensils help speed this.  Put meringue into a pastry bag, fitted with a 1/8-1/4 inch round tip, and linc cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Pipe a circle, then raised sides, about two inches in diameter.  a teaspoon dipped in cold water can be used to help open these nests up a little bit more.  This stuff puffs, so don't fill the center any more than necessary.  Bake in a 250 degree oven for about one hour, fifteen minutes.

Lemon Curd:  In a small saucepan, beat together 2 egg yolks and 1 whole egg, then add 1/2 stick of butter, and 1/3 cup of lemon juice.  Whisk over medium heat until butter melts.  Continue to whisk CONSTANTLY until it starts to thicken.  Remove from heat immediately and transfer to glass jar or bowl.  Can be stored for up to one month in the refrigerator, unless you have a lemon addict in the house.  If it comes out lumpy, pour it quickly through a sieve while its still warm, to remove the bits of scrambled egg.  Put dollops of this on meringue shells, into tart shells, on crispy cinnamon toasts, over ice cream...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Where Feng Shui Meets Santa Claus, or not...

While my friend Cindy and I were clearing her barn for painting the other day, she came across a big plaster urn with too many chips to be charming, and asked me if I wanted it.  All of my friends do this when they have things that ought to go to the dump, but they are too cheap to haul them, or too sentimental to actually toss them out.  "Give it to Dawn-Marie!  She'll take anything!", seems to be the prevailing rule.  And, sucker that I am, I do say "Yes" to just about everything, on the condition that I can do with it as I please, including pass it on.  They are content with not having to decide the ultimate fate of this just-slightly-too-good-to-throw-away object, and I have a room in my basement, full of swell treasures to turn into cool new furnishings (or not).

Plaster urn with hand sculpted greenman face, as game table base

So, back to the urn.  I had been looking for something large and visually weighty for the base of a game table in my foyer, and had an idea that this might be just the thing.  As I'm trying to finish writing decorating book chapters, I have to finish decorating the rooms they relate to, so I'm working my way through Belle Ami, adding the final details to each space.  I've spent the past several days on the front porch and foyer.  Yes, I'm back at chapter one...of thirteen...cruising right along, thank you very much.  Don't rush a good thing, and all that.

One broken table + one crumbling urn + handsaw + paperclay + paint = one new table

So, really, back to the urn.  I hauled it in from the garage (It hadn't yet made it to the Great Trash Heap Below), and sure enough, I loved the shape and scale of it with the chairs.  Next, I went foraging down the rabbit hole for a table top.  I figured I would have to temporarily use an old window, while awaiting the appearance of just the right thing.  However, I had the top of a table missing it's little Duncan Pfyfe-style splayed legs, which although I was sure would be a tad too small, and a bit too clean lined, actually worked perfectly, once I patiently sawed off the remainder of the base.  Reminder to self:  handsaws and humid days are not a pleasant combination.  Whew!

I chose a more Pan-like version for my greenman, since I have a hard time imaging him being fat and jolly on a woodsprites diet.  I also nixed the fairly common branches growing from eyes, nose and mouth.  As for ears, which are often deer-like on greenmen, this one's a watcher, not a listener.

Next, I had to decide what to do about the chips.  Cindy had figured I could patch the bad spots, or maybe glue on silk flowers, but I had another idea.  I wanted to make it look like some fabulous antique European thing, maybe with a lion's head.  Problem is, lions are Cindy's motif, and she'd be trying to either steal it back, or talk me into selling it to her, if I did that.  My motif?  Well, I'm not exactly a fairy person, as in cute little Tinkerbell sorts, but I love the old stories of forest sprites and nature deities, like those remembered for us by J.R.R. Tolkien and others, so the idea of sculpting a greenman was obvious for me.

My fairies tend to be a bit more wildish than cute.  This one was an Art Group challenge that another artist gave us, based on the greenman idea.
The green man exists in nearly every culture, and is represented in almost all mythology.  He is usually a symbol of growth, death and rebirth.  I once read that the part of the Santa Claus legend about him knowing when you are naughty or nice, and meting out treats or tricks(that disappointing lump of coal),  is an old winter solstice tradition from somewhere in Northern Europe, where the Greenman, hidden in the trees, keeps an eye on you, to make sure you are doing your work and behaving, though I had no luck finding the source of that online today.  Still, since this urn will lose it's table top and hold my Christmas tree next winter, I like the connection. 

The finished face.  It is serious, but doesn't look quite so solemn in person.

I also like the fact that this watchful spirit is located in the part of my home that feng shui associates with helpful people and travel.  I don't rigidly follow feng shui practices, but energy follows intention, and honoring unseen helpers seems a good idea.  Besides, what I did find online about this symbol, which is frequently found in churches with carved or sculpted ornamentation, despite it's pagan origins, is that like the saints that replaced the earlier Gods of this and that, he's the patron of inspiration to the committed artist.  He can come as white light or a gleam on a blade of grass.  The sign of his presence is "the ability to work or experience with tireless enthusiasm beyond one's normal capacities".  I wish I remembered from research I've done on Catholic saints where I read that description before!  At any rate, in a home full of symbolism, I really like this one right in the hub of things, watching the front door, positioned to keep an eye on me where I write in the adjacent living room, and where I can see him as I run up and down the stairs between the computer and the work table. 

The only bad thing may be its intended purpose as the base for a game table (mainly for Scrabble tournaments with my friend Carol).  See, feng shui gets all picky about where you store games, and probably has something against putting games in proximity to helpful people energy, as it might invite normally helpful folks to play games with me.  Well, hell.  This is why I don't rigidly follow feng shui rules.  If I did, based on the layout of the rooms in my house, I'd probably have to store Scrabble in the bathroom, and keep my lingerie on the back porch, which would make for some pretty awkward explanations when visitors come knocking at my door.  I'll play the trump card on this one:  If one consciously chooses to direct it, energy follows intention, and I intend this sculpture only to remind me that helpful people are always out there, cheering on my latest endeavor, and waiting to celebrate my successes...or maybe just waiting to give me their cast-off junk to play with.  Whichever!

Are you looking for furnishings that are a little more than just decorative?  Check out my portfolio of possibilities at theartofthehome.com, where you will also find all the info on how to hire me to create something absolutely one-of a kind for your home.

Want to try this yourself?  Use a concrete bonding agent, like Weldbond, or even just Elmer's Glue-All on the dust-free chipped plaster (or whatever at least slightly porous surface you are sculpting on-glass and tile are doable, but adhesion is trickier).  While it's wet, smooth on the air-dry clay of your choice, building up your sculpture.  Many sculptors like Creative Paperclay, but I prefer Das (Prang) Modeling Compound, which is a paper clay, but doesn't say so on the package.  You can order it through dickblick.com, if your local art supply store doesn't have it, though check the kiddie craft section, as it's sometimes there.  I use cheapie basic clay sculpting tools, and a few sizes of knitting needles for all my shaping, along with my fingers.  maureencarlson.com is a great resource for sculpting books (the techniques for polymer work just fine on any clay, and her instruction is the best for beginners!)  I learned all my technique from her, first by book, and now in person.  If you run into questions, feel free to email me, at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com, and I'll do my best to clarify.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What's in Your Skillet?

My version of the perfect summer supper:  Swiss chard or spinach, sauteed lightly, tossed with a baked or boiled potato (cubed), and maybe accompanied by an egg or slivers of cheese, if I've worked up an appetite.  Today was another writing day, and though the morning was fresh and cool, the humidity settled in again this afternoon.  In weather like this, I'm glad I don't plant a veggie garden, because unlike seriously green-fingered folks, I would not be out there weeding and harvesting, with bug dope sweating into my eyes.  Lucky for me, I don't have to garden, to get fresh organic food.

One of the perks of this little town is our Farmer's Market, run by two of our local insurance agents, Lisa Fahey (my local agent), and Diane Skelley (who runs a competing agency).  This week, the vendor turn-out was small, with temperatures pushing toward 100 degrees, and humidity soaring, but I managed to get lots of great veggies, a pint of raspberries, and a jar of zucchini relish, too.
I salute the dedicated folks who not only grow my food, but also bring it to a park a few blocks from my home, every Wednesday, May through October, whatever the weather.
I grew up in a family that gardened on a subsistence scale, so I know the work that goes into it.  I may not care to do the labor myself, now that I have a choice, but I still prefer home grown food.  I also know that by buying local, I keep money in the community, supporting the neighbors who support me; I know minimal petroleum was used to get my food to market; and I participate in the exchange of energy that only happens when standing face-to-face with the actual person who planted and harvested my dinner by hand.  You can't buy that at the supermarket.

My supper tonight was grown and harvested by this local gardener.  Nice to know the face that goes with the thank you said at grace, don't you think?
 So many people say they don't have time to shop this way, but I think it mostly requires a shift in perspective.  You have to think of marketing this way as an activity that makes up part of a beautifully lived life.  If you have children, take them along.  Teach them to pick out the freshest things, to imagine what will go with what on the menu, to choose some flowers for the table, and to have conversations with the growers.  After which, of course, you let them cajole you into buying them an ice cream treat from the little cart at the curb (you might enjoy one, too), and if you are as lucky as Belle Plaine to have your farmer's market in a park, you let them play for awhile before going home to help you whip up a salad, and maybe grill some summer squash.  Of course, if you don't have children, don't pull the "it's not worth it for just me" malarkey.  Eat beautifully, live beautifully.

When I'm not writing decorating books, or procrastinating on writing decorating books, by hanging out at the local farmer's market, I paint some pretty wonderful walls.  Check out the portfolio of possibilities and all the info to hire me at theartofthehome.com.

Questions or comments?  Leave them below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com .

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A (Fairly) Quiet Week

It's a quiet week here at Belle Ami, aside from the near constant roar of air conditioners and fans.  The heat and humidity have been absolutely wicked, but we are being promised a break in it tomorrow.  Dang, just when my gills were coming along nicely.  Faithie's shelf project is coming along nicely, too, and since my project of the week is writing and editing on my book, we'll show you hers...

Faithie the Brave and her Mighty Hammer
 I seldom wish for a video camera, but I sure did when Faith finished the second of the trays, which used fancier trim, and thus required her to make very tricky mitered corners.  The happy dance she did around the art table waving it over her head made me think of someone in a New Orleans marching band, which is such a terrible description, I'm sure you're now wishing I had a video camera, too.  Suffice it to say, she is one proud little girl, and she has every right to be.  Mitered corners are challenging for experienced woodworkers, and overcoming fears the way she's done at every turn of this project is no small feat, either.  Finished shelves will post in a couple of weeks.
First carpentry project: trays to go on shelves she's making for her bedroom.  These will keep art supplies corralled.

 When I'm not writing and teaching Artgirls, I do sling paint and plaster at client's walls.  Check out the portfolio at theartofthehome.com.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Isn't it lovely?

I heard today that a local weatherman mentioned that the only place more humid than Minnesota this week is the Amazon Rain Forest.  I don't know how the air could hold any more water and still be called air!  Lucky for me, while I was waiting for a friend to come help set the air conditioners into my windows (hundred year old houses aren't usually set up for central air), I had an air conditioned job site to go to.  Aside from being perfectly chilled, the house is full of the vibes of this sweet young couple, and putting a love note on their bedroom wall was a perfectly lovely way to spend a steamy Sunday afternoon.

If you know who to credit this quote to, would you kindly email me, or comment below, so I can add the name at the end of the last line?

This was another lettering project I did last week.  I'm not a sign painter anymore, but when friends and neighbors ask, I'll do it, as long as it makes sense not to go with vinyl from a sign shop.  In this case, vinyl lettering doesn't stick to rusty sawblades, and wouldn't look as appropriate. 

This was for a neighbor whose company makes gorgeous furnishings out of salvaged barns, and sells a few other salvaged rustic bits from the showroom here in Belle Plaine.  Check out the website at reclaimed-woodworks.com. Look under the "More" tab at the display frames, which I absolutely love.  They make excellent bulletin boards in eclectic, transitional, and (both European and American) country style interiors.  If you want something other than what's shown, don't hesitate to ask them.  I've seen some seriously cool stuff that's not on the website.

Got something to say on your walls?  You can check out my portfolio of possibilities at theartofthehome.com, or if you are doing it yourself and have questions, feel perfectly welcome to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Good Times and Signs

It's Bar-B-Q Days in Belle Plaine, this weekend.  This Friday night, while others braved the fairgrounds in mud boots to dance to the first band (wicked torrential rains here today, well into the afternoon), I finished signs for booths that will open tomorrow after the parade.  Somehow, the couple of signs I was painting for St. John's Catholic Church multiplied like rabbits, then invited in friends.  Lots more to paint in the wee hours tomorrow morning.

About 1/3 of today's sign projects overflowing the dining room table.  Almost a dozen pizza boxes, and not a sliver of pepperoni to be seen.  That's just wrong.
 I took time off from work this week, to share my home with an old friend, and a new one.  Peggy is a dear friend I haven't seen in about 18 years, who now has a three year old daughter.  When she emailed to ask if she could come visit, her one request was that we not go do the sights, but hang out and make art instead.  She just wanted to relax and recharge, and catch up on each other's lives.
Artgirls come in all sizes.
The weather was perfect, so we spent some time outdoors, too, decorating my sidewalk, playing soccer, and introducing her small daughter to croquet, at which she soundly whipped us.  We didn't keep score on the soccer.
Future floor painter?

She definitely has the jeans of a floor painter, now.
  While Peggy worked on her project,  I baked her a birthday cheesecake, and Dana did some designing...

Designing requires serious concentration.
  Then she did some hammering...

Dana didn't spend a lot of time playing with toys while she was here.  Maybe if I had started like this at age 3, I could pound in a straight nail today.
  Then she took a break to experiment with making music...

Just like my regular Artgirls, Dana played me some pretty good notes on the old piano.

If she lived close enough, Dana would be my youngest Artgirl.  She has an insanely long attention span, a full vocabulary, which she isn't hesitant to use (she has great mastery of the "well, yeah" that indicates you have just asked the most moronic of obvious questions), and excellent logic and fine motor skills.  She and I built a cardboard model car (her backpack of toys contained about a dozen toy cars, and four fairies), and though I was a bit taxed by the instructions, she sailed right through matching up part numbers and fitting tiny tabs into slots.
Peggy and her fabric collage moon.
Today it was back to work for me, and with taking time off, I'll have to be up in just a few hours in order to finish all the sign orders in time, but it was so worth it.  The whole point of having the home of your dreams is to have a place to live out your dreams with the people you love.  Belle Ami was filled to overflowing with the dreamiest of love, and the loveliest of dreams, this week.  Bliss.

Is your home ready to welcome the people you love?  If you think I can be of help, check out my portfolio and the information on how to hire me at theartofthehome.com.

Making your dream home yourself?  If you run into decorating questions, feel free to email me.  If I know the answer, I will gladly share it. dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I've got this little bundle of love sitting on my lap, right now.  She arrived last night, with her mom, a dear friend I haven't seen in about 18 years, and she leaves tomorrow, so I'll catch up with you all here on Friday night. 

3 year-old Dana, with the model car she let me help her assemble today.  Yup, it does seem I only know amazingly brilliant, completely adorable children.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Entrance to Wonderland

The bones of the back porch decorating are done.  There are art pieces to add to, and other bits that will find their way in, and maybe next summer I will paint the house periwinkle blue, so the walls will change color then, but for now, it's usable, enjoyable space.  It's already the new favorite spot of Artgirls, which is no surprise, considering the decor is straight out of a storybook...or two.
This is what it looked like when I
cleaned it up, and decided maybe the
floor needed a fresh coat of paint.

Amazing what a difference a fresh coat of floor paint makes, huh?

One of my old trade show signs, from before I changed the business name stands in as a valance, over sheer purple curtains, and of course, a swagged lace tablecloth.

Flamingo croquet mallets lean against a wooden chest cooler.

Most people buy sconces to display collectibles.  I don't collect anything.  Except for sconces.  Each holds a cut glass goblet with a candle, which lets the sconces take the starring role.  I'll add to this collection over time.

The finials to this curtain rod are salt and pepper shakers.  I fell in love with the thistles and bought them not knowing what I would do with them.  Now we know.

Silver forks make great hardware for all sorts of things.  Here they function as curtain tie backs.  Might be serving soup and finger foods exclusively around here, if I keep this up.

 Guardian.  This squirrel tailed Odd Fae was an Art Group challenge project.  We were each given a doll spray painted green, and invited to raid another artist's stash of embellishments.  The fur of her tail and on her arms is salvaged from vintage clothing.  Her hair is black feathers, and her wings are the shafts of peacock feathers that another artist used the tops of.  Her leggings are tree bark.
There were a lot of other things I could have done with my "free time" the past week and a half, but creating this space not only gave me a great summer space, safe from gnats and skeeters, it helped me recharge my joy supply after a kind of difficult week on the job.  There were other things to be done, but this was the most important.  I'd go enjoy it right now, but my friend Cindy just called and needs me to come help her prep her barn for transformation into a wedding venue.  Watch for pics of that, coming soon!

To see my full portfolio, go to theartofthehome.com, where you'll find all the info you need to hire me to do a storybook transformation in your space.

Doing it yourself?  If you have questions, email me, and I'll share whatever answers I have: dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dandelions? What dandelions?

I do love this time of the year.  This is the time when enough stuff is in bloom to make even the laziest of gardeners (that would be me), look good.  Who notices the dandelions when the pink lilies pop against the background of the neighbor's shady yard?  Who cares if last year's cilantro went to seed all over the place, when it flowers so pretty with the bee balm?  And maybe ditch lilies and purple bells are as common as weeds, but so what, when they surround my broken-winged fairy so charmingly?  Of course, now that it's all so pretty, the mosquitoes are so thick, and the humidity is so high, that the best view of the garden is from an air-conditioned car in the driveway.  This may just be why I'm the laziest of gardeners.

enchantment among the lilies and bells

bee balm and cilantro peeking between hydrangeas

If you know the name of this lily, please tell me.  It is a little more of a rhubarb pink than the photo shows.
I'll be spending my weekend mostly indoors, if the forecasted 90 degree temperatures and high humidity roll in, but that means the details for the back porch project might get finished.  Check back Monday night to see the room all put together.

To see my portfolio of paint finishes, including garden murals, click on over to theartofthehome.com.

Need garden advice?  Don't ask me!!!  Need advice on a decorating project?  Email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com, and if I know the answer to your question, I'll be happy to share it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Just a quick lick...

Last week, with a long weekend looming, I thought I would clean up the back screen porch a little, so I could use it for writing in the mornings, and having tea with friends at other times.  After moving my bicycle to the garage, and giving the last of McDog's no longer needed paraphernalia to the neighbor dogs, I gave it a ceiling to floor scrub down, then decided a quick lick of paint would be a good idea.  You caught that, right?  The words quick and paint in the same sentence, coming from me?  By now, you all know I am incapable of quick paint when it comes to this place, so why don't I know it?  Let's just be nice and call it optimism, okay?  Thank you.

Could I limit it to a bold shade of purple, and call it quirky enough? 


Start with a squeaky-clean floor, prime with a good bonding primer, top with an exterior enamel, preferably the kind made for floors, though I'll admit I cheated and used what I have on hand, since the 105 year old porch will need to be rebuilt in a few years, anyway.  Mark off the main pattern features in chalk, and start painting.  Of course, leave drying time between all steps
Could I just do a nice quick Woolie color-meshing number with a couple shades of purple?

Using a loose freehand technique, fill in each color, allowing to dry between colors, or risking dragging your toes through the paint behind you.
Could I maybe limit it to something that could be completed in a long weekend?

Sure.  Almost.
Keep adding embellishments until it looks finished.  To make it as quick as possible, I limited the design to what could be done with "comma" strokes, and three sizes of paint brushes.  This keeps things fairly uniform, without needing elaborate measurements, or masking.  If you want a more precise look, be as picky as you want.  Me, I wanted to stick as close as possible to the original plan of "a quick lick of paint"
So, while everyone else watched fireworks and fed mosquitoes, I painted my porch floor, and then covered chairs to match, dug through the junk stash for cool stuff to hang on the walls, and finished a couple of art projects that might give personality to the space.  Just waiting now for the floor to cure, so I can put it all together.  Might happen Friday, so check back here after midnight, if you want to see.

 You are invited to High Tea
 This Saturday, Cindy Faus Heimerl and Cat Isles will host their monthly high tea at Marion's Place.  The setting is enchanting, the food fabulous, and the company is always a delightful mix.  Oh, and they serve good tea, too, of course.  This month it's a flamingo themed tea, so be prepared for pinkness.  You will find all the info on Cindy's website atmarionsplace.com, then RSVP to Cindy to reserve your spot.
Cindy Faus Heimerl, artist, entrepeneur, and wedding officiant extraordinaire never lets a little thing like pouring rain ruffle her feathers.
If you would like to hire me to paint ridiculously detailed pretties in your home, you can see my portfolio at theartofthehome.com, then contact me by phone ( number is on the website) or email, or better yet, catch up with me on Saturday at the tea. 

If you have questions about painting your own floor, please don't hesitate to ask.  I love it when people get creative in their own homes, so feel free to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  I'll share whatever I know.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An independent celebration

Ever wonder what Santa Claus does on the Fourth of July?  Do not seriously expect the guy to go along with your plans for his appearance at your Christmas in July sale.  He has places to boat, and fish to catch!  Yes, that's my dad, and yes, he really is Santa.  Wanna make something of it?  Too skinny?   The belly is a myth.  How would he get down a chimney packing a paunch like those department store guys?  Sheesh.
Today, along with most of the United States, I celebrated Independence Day, but in my own way.  I celebrated my personal independence by painting my back screen porch floor purple (multiple shades), and planning how to fluff the space. This used to be bike storage and McKinley the Malamute's domain, but now that I have room to park my bicycle in the garage, and Mac sleeps in the great dog bed in the sky, I decided to create a place to write and meditate in the mornings, or enjoy refreshments with friends later in the day, safe from the notoriously nasty Minnesota mosquitoes.  I would show you this tonight, but the paint is too fresh to place the furniture, and drag in ladders to hang the light cover and wall stuff, so watch for it later in the week.

Instead, here are some photos from the "archives" (a.k.a. the box in the closet), of how I spent the holiday in earlier years.

1969, the last year I watched the Kiddie Parade from the sidelines.
I haven't managed to ransack Mom's albums for photos of the first few years of parade costumes, but I remember my first was a dog costume, with a sandwich board sign that read "Hot Dog, It's the 4th of July".  It was very hot.  It won the "Comic Costume" division in my age group.  I thought the pink ribbon for participation was prettier, but the blue was good, too.

A few years later, my friend Teri and I, having done a few parades together, planned a beautiful swan costume that would be sort of like a mini float, akin to the ones in the Rose Parade.  My oldest brother, Ramon, helped us give it a neck made from a bamboo carpet pole that could bob up and down, and shoulder straps, so we weren't carrying it on our heads.  The bird's head was papier mache, and lacking anything else, we made the feathers from grocery bags cut into strips of fringe.

Alas, it did not match our swanly vision.  Sigh.

Out of time and resources, we had to figure out how to salvage it.  After a bit, we decided it actually was a pretty good chicken, so we set aside our visions of elegance, put a sunbonnet on it's head, practiced strutting and pecking, and when an old neighbor surprised us with giant styro eggs, we created an egg-laying routine.  The judges loved us, the crowd roared, and we realized that a dancing chicken was a lot more fun for everyone than an elegantly gliding swan.  Blue ribbon in the "Comic Costume" division looked pretty good hanging around Henrietta Cluck's neck, too.
1975, Tiger tamer with tiger and beautiful assistant.
The next year, undaunted by the swan turned chicken, I planned another beautiful float.  This one involved my friend (now sister) Kelly, an abandoned wagon with a wonky wheel, one of the neighbor's new kittens, another neighbor's hamster cage (returned before the photo was snapped), one roll of green crepe paper, and when that ran out, a roll of green toilet paper (remember when it used to come in colors?).  At that point, we (officially) abandoned glamour for humor. The sign below the kitten read "Wild Tiger.  Please Don't Feed!"  

Once again, the blue ribbon was for "Comic Costume", not "Most Beautiful", but the minute the parade turned onto Main Street, our disappointment was forgotten, as people laughed and pointed and clapped.  Thus cheered, we put on a great show of whip cracking and bowing (me) and graceful posing like a model on the "Price is Right" (Kelly).  It wasn't about getting attention, it was about creating something that made people happy, and we knew even then that the elegant float we had planned wouldn't have done that.

Robbing the Sumpter Valley Railroad with the Baker Community Repertory Players and Dance Company, 1980.
 By 1978, I was too old for the Kiddie parade, and though Kelly was still my bestest, I had a new crowd of friends, in the form of a dance company.  We did  parades as can-can dancers, with a group of gunfighters, and at festivals, did a whole wild-west travelling variety show, which at some point usually included a gunfight or train robbery.  I was given the belly dance number "Little Egypt", partly because all the other girls had very religious parents, and partly because I was just enough of a clown to knock the sexiness down to acceptable levels.

So, while my work is usually about creating beauty, my way of being apparently always has been (and surely always will be) more about seeing and sharing humor.  If I had to choose just one?  Well, it was a blue ribbon day a few days ago, when I ran into my chiropractor, whose office I've decorated from front to back (and his home from top to bottom), but whom I haven't been in to see in awhile, and he said "We've missed your laughter".  I hope your 4th of July was filled with laughter, mingled with moments of beauty, and gratitude for the freedom to enjoy them both.

Need a decorator with a sense of humor?  All the info on how to hire me, along with my portfolio, is on my website theartofthehome.com.

Need advice on a DIY project, or your latest parade costume?   Email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com, and I'll answer whatever questions I can.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Making a great impression...ist

This week's first project was a dining room.  A nice Woolie job, tweaked to show up as well at night as in the day.  Fairly simple and straight forward.  If you want to do it yourself, the directions come with the tool, but if you run into problems, please feel free to email me.  I used to demo for the Woolie company at Home Depot, home shows, and the state fair, and I've used them frequently for about a dozen years.  If you get splotchy results (splotchy in a not-good way), it's probably this:  an old, dry base coat combined with too little paint, and timid little movements.  Be bold.  You can pat it down more if it's too wild to start.
Classic Color Mesh (TM) with a woolie tool, using two shades of chocolate, plus blackberry and cream.  Yum!

The next room wasn't so simple.  Since the client was adamant about "no VOC" paint, and glaze doesn't come that way, I had to figure out how to get the effect without the material.  I used paint bases and custom tinted them.  Deep tone base can work as glaze, though it doesn't have the extenders and slipperiness.  In this case, drying time could be short, and semi-opaque was fine, so it was just a matter of working it until it looked finished. like this:

Makes me think of the colors in a Monet.
First, use a double roller to roll dark blue and thistle over a thistle base, then trowel some on, too.  Allow to dry.

Next, trowel on some bright blue, allow to dry...

...then some icy blue, and allow to dry.

Then start blending by sponging on small areas of color, and then with a flexible rubber trowel lightly whisking it out, using a rag to soften even more, and with the sponge adding pops of lime green, here and there.  On this step, it's really just a matter of playing with it until you like the look.  Unlike most glaze techniques, if you do something you don't like, you can let it dry, and go back over it with the lighter colors, which are opaque, and build it up again.

Don't want to do it yourself?  Check out my website theartofthehome.com for my portfolio and info on how to hire me.

You can email me for more explicit directions for these two finishes dawnmariedelara@gmail.com