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, December 31, 2012

I resolve to forget my resolve to remember the camera.

Happy New Year to you!  Got big plans for tonight?  For the year ahead?  Me?  "No" to the first, "Of course" to the second. 

I celebrated New Year's Eve this afternoon with my artgirl, Faithie, and her little sister Ava, making a puppet theater.  Photos of this were supposed to be tonight's blog post, but silly me, I was too busy living life to remember to photograph it.  Just another thing that would have disqualified me as Super-Mom, if I'd had kids of my own (They would have had lots of messy fun, but no scrapbooks to show for it).  Oh well, in the life I do have, my reputation as the fun grown-up has survived another year, and since that is about the best measure of success I can think of, I'd say 2012 was a great success.

Enjoy your evening, and however you start 2013, I hope you're too busy enjoying it to remember to take pictures! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Whew! In the nick of time...

So was your Christmas celebration as perfect as you planned?  Better? Great! Mine, celebrated on Christmas eve with dear friends and their extended family, was predictably perfect.  Early dinner, laughter, desserts, singing carols, a visit with Santa while sitting on his lap (everyone is required to do this), presents, midnight supper, then conversation well into the wee hours of the morning, followed by a quiet journey home to Belle Ami.  Blissfully perfect.

Display niche in an open foyer with custom plaster surround.
 The week before was not so smooth.  I started this little niche project a few weeks ago, but finishing it got held up, waiting for the mirror my client ordered for the inside.  "Sure, we can have that for you in five days" apparently meant five to ten business days, which meant we waited two weeks for twelve little rectangles of stock mirror, which finally got cut after the client made a very pointed phone call on business day ten.  They threw in the mastic at no charge.  Discovering that they weren't all square nor identical half way into the installation was just an extra little challenge.  Take it back on the Friday before Christmas?  Uh...No.

With no frame, this slightly contemporary little display niche just sort of floated in the middle of a wall too large for it.  Looking at just this picture, one wouldn't expect it to be in the room pictured in the first photo.
A bit of strategic placement, and some pretty little escutcheons (those are fancy washers, or in this case, jewelery findings from the craft store) layered under the upholstery tacks at the intersections, and nobody will ever know.  Well, except the client (who isn't going to point this out to her guests), and now you all.  Shhhhh.  Perfectly imperfect.

Now, whatever Jean fills the space with, it has presence, sparkle, and a frame that coordinates with her traditional furnishings and curvy light fixtures.

Next time a client says "no rush, let's just get it done before Christmas", I don't care if it is a two day project and it's early August, I'm going to insist we start immediately.  Whisking the ladder out the back door as guests come in the front is not my idea of a relaxing start to the holidays, though in truth, I wasn't cutting it quite that close.  Ah, well, it all came 'round right in the end, and a beautiful holiday was had by all.

When I'm not writing here, did you know I write, edit, co-publish and design a quarterly bookazine?  Check it out!  365being.com.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Autumn revisited...

I'm working on a plaster frame around a display niche this week, and though that isn't ready for photos, a project I did in the same home last autumn finally is.  I showed the completed mural and faux stone surround, but with the rest of the room unfinished.  Here's the final...

Jean's finished powder room. I'll try to backpost the designer's info, when I get it. I know his name is Thomas, and he has a huge smile, and a great eye for combining textures and materials.

And here's a look back at my part in creating it...
Blank canvas, er, Sheetrock.

Mural roughed in, "stone" arch taped and mud underway.

This ten inch crown moulding isn't really wood.  The client distressed the white polystyrene stuff, then had me paint and glaze it.  Nobody would ever know, if Jean didn't insist on telling.  Bad for the illusion, but good for business. 
I'll post this week's project Monday, or maybe I'll back that up to Sunday, since I plan to be busy sitting on Santa's lap Monday evening.  You think I'm kidding.  Santa and I are old pals...:)

Winter issue of 365 Being is now available at 365being.com.

More of my mural and faux finishing work can be seen at theartofthehome.com.

Monday, December 17, 2012

...and a partridge in a pomegranate pile...or is it a grouse?

Partridges in pear trees are so last two centuries.  How about a quail (grouse?) in a pomegranate pile?  Okay, maybe not catchy enough to rate a line in a song, but winter birds and fancy fruits celebrate a season of abundance, no matter the variety.  Work with what you have, and what you spot at yard sales in the coming year.  Stuff that isn't typically Christmas might not jump out at you, so look at everything with squinty eyes and sugarplum vision, next summer.

Belle has lovely old radiators, but no fireplace, so I am slowly capping all the rad's with mantles.  This one was made from an old headboard and a dresser top (found curbside on trash day), and the whole thing painted gold and black, to unify it.  The mirror was missing, so I used smaller ones (free from a friend cleaning out leftover stuff) broken up and mosaiced in.  I didn't need a third mirror in the space, but I liked the idea of the sparkle and reflection on this side of the room.

The feather embellishment at the top was meant to go on my tree, but it was too big.  Using it here connects the natural look of the tree with the glitterier look of the mantle.

The little tree is a fake tree underneath, with natural branches stuck in.  I often use this trick on banister and porch garland.  Looks natural, and stretches the bundle of greens much farther.

Decorating is just more fun when you drop the idea that it has to be perfect and pricey.   Hope your sparkles are all in place and you are ready to relax and enjoy the beauty of the season!
365 Being update:  The binding on the winter issue of our bookazine was finished this morning, and the glue was drying.  We are expecting delivery in time for Cat to make it to the post office tomorrow afternoon, so watch your mailboxes!  Thanks for your patience with this first full sized issue.  Not a subscriber yet?  Pop over to 365being.com.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

That's the spirit!

Okay, check one thing off of this week's list (seeing as it's Thursday night, I'd say it's about time to check something off of the list):  I finished decorating the porch.  On Monday, it was very neutral and natural, which was pretty, but not very festive.  I really wanted to just work with what I had on hand, and avoid a 40+ mile trip to shop for things I really don't need, but I wanted a completely different look than anything I've done before.  Luckily, I'm not attached to the traditional red and green, so I have lots of options, and after rummaging through all the ornaments and ribbon from previous years, I managed to come up with something both baroque and quirky...

Winter Belle...BEFORE.
I got the bones of it done before the garden club arrived on Tuesday night for our annual Christmas gathering, then finished the details just as the sun set this afternoon...

Christmas Belle.
Since the porch already has a lot of orangey-red, and since I used this color on the foyer mantle, I made this my starting point.  I pulled out last year's dark orange and gold ribbon from the Christmas boxes, along with all the dark orange sparkly things, and anything nature themed, but glittery.  I searched through old party decor, and the sewing room for ribbons with this color, as well as anything black and white, to add some whimsy.  Walking through the house with an open mind led to some unexpected bits, as well.
I wired glittered faux oranges to the branches of this spindly little tree, then added glittered acorns, leaves and cones.  The bow at the base matches bows I used on the garland and chairs.  The tip of the tree was already bent, so I played that up, creating a star from layers of fabric, hung from coiled copper wire. 
The color scheme is based on the red dresser, but the style came from my quirky spindly tree with the bent tip, which I had tucked in the pot that used to hold the mailbox post.  I have a thing for funny spindly creations.  You too?  Check out this link for artist Doreen Kassel: http://www.doreenkassel.com/France-Workshop.html  (If I could figure out how to stay a couple of extra weeks in France next summer, I'd take this class, too!)
Holiday decorating need not cut into the gift budget!  I swapped out the trunk for the red dresser (which I nabbed for $20 at a garage sale last summer, specifically to place on the far end of the porch), then brought down the other little chair from the balcony(another yard sale last summer, $50 for the pair), and in place of a traditional wreath, hung an old picture frame (yard sale two summers ago, $1, including a really cool drawing that was tucked behind a cheap print, and which I re-framed for my guest room).  The only actual Christmas decoration in this photo is the flying Santa in the middle of the frame (Goodwill last year for 99 cents).
Once I moved the dresser and the tree into place, I knew I needed a little more of the fancy stuff, but it had to be pretty weather-proof.  We get some wicked winds whipping down Main Street, and I didn't want to put anything too fragile out here.  My garage sale finds are probably sturdy enough to withstand the wind, but even if something does topple, I won't lose anything terribly precious.  That's the fun of using second hand treasures --  being able to use indoor things outside, fancy things in rustic places, pretty things for everyday purposes.
After coveting the MacKenzie-Childs checkered ribbon on a client's banister, I dug through my stash and found some similarly patterned ribbon, left from a race car theme party set.  Not quite as posh, but combined with a few loops of rich velvet ribbon under, plus a bow of last year's orange and gold brocade  ribbon on top,  I think it does a pretty fine imitation, and no shopping required.
Now that I have the decorating done, I can finish the work week, and get busy making presents for my family.  Maybe this will be the year my gifts arrive before the wise men show up.  Then again, perhaps I've already tweaked enough traditions this year.
I really wanted to find a place for this silly flying Santa, but he was too big for the tree, and too small to hang alone.  I've had this frame hanging lopsided like this on the back screen porch for a couple of years, and spotted it this afternoon, when I went out to grab the step ladder.  Since I'm not exactly drinking my coffee out there on these snowy mornings, why not raid the decor?

In case anyone is wondering, The Winter issue of 365 Being was printed a week ago, and is at the binder's, apparently a little bound up.  Cat's got the envelopes all addressed, and all your extra goodies tucked inside, so we'll ship them the minute they arrive.  Not a subscriber yet?  Click on over to 365being.com!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Presto Change-o!

Normally, I love decorating for Christmas so much that I carefully plan out an elaborate theme for my front porch and entry (though I never complete all the details I dream up), plus a few more designs for other rooms in the house.  I don't usually buy much of anything new, just remix the ornaments from previous years, with silk flowers, feathers, colored glass dishes, plus whatever salvage treasures and fabric remnants are needed to carry the theme.  I can go for Baroque, or keep it simple country cute, or just about anything in-between.  This year though, I'm really dragging my feet, and feeling a serious lack of enthusiasm.

So far, I've got my very natural tree in the foyer, with a coordinating banister garland, and I'm just sorta stuck there.  Part of the problem is that I have a lot of orangey-red on my front porch, and I don't want to spend the time to completely change it, even though I'm not in an orangey-red mood.  On the other hand, I'm hosting a holiday gathering tomorrow night, so it's time to do something, mood or not.

Autumn welcome.  Guess it's
about time for a change.
Pull out the dried stuff, pop in some evergreens and a branch of tiny glittered faux oranges, and presto!
For today, I did manage to take the autumn rusty chunk wreath and restyle it for Christmas, and am feeling a bit better.  It was quick, simple, and I think it bounced me out of my rut.  People ask me how I come up with all my ideas, seeming to expect me to say I tap into a magic well of creative possibilities.  Yes, the well is always there, but more often than not, the great Christmas ideas overflow in March, and about now, I am bubbling with new garden layouts. Honestly, it's often more about pushing through the seeming lack of ideas, and making myself start with what I have, be it a file of magazine clippings or an orangey-red color scheme.

Being an artist isn't a magic genetic gift.  It's choosing to show up on the uninspired days to take the next small step.  That's why I restyled the wreath.  I knew it had no possibility of becoming complicated and pitching me back into the throes of procrastination.  I think it even got me moving, which was what I pretty much expected. 

I scored this dresser at a yard sale, specifically to tuck into this spot and block the wind that roars through here, sending anything small flying out into the yard.  The trunk will have to do its best for awhile.
It's very cold and very dark out there now (I belatedly discovered what else was on the old kitchen circuit that I disconnected when I installed a new light Saturday morning, so guess I'll be playing electrician with the porch light next), but tomorrow morning I'll swap the trunk with the orangey-red dresser from the end of the porch, to get some color by the door.  If I can't lose it for the season, I may as well feature it.  Hmm...now where is that orange and gold ribbon from a couple of years ago?  And what if I bring the other tall spindly tree, which Bernie-the-woodsman brought me, up onto the porch, and do a sort of
s t r e t c h e d   o u t
Yup, now I'm getting in the mood.  Time to go dig in the dungeon and see what's in my dragon's hoard of treasures!  Another artist thing:  when inspiration strikes, grab on and go!  I'll show you a shot Thursday of the whole porch.

Stumped?  Maybe I have the idea you're looking for.  Ask in the comments below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

I invite you to check out the magazine I co produce, 365 Being, Savoring a Life of Abundance, Joy and Beauty, at 365being.com and 365being.blogspot.com.

Oh, and yes, my full time job is creating personalized interiors for fabulous folks like you.  Portfolio is at theartofthehome.com.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ginger makes you brilliant...

Since I haven't finished anything photogenic or new and interesting this week, I was having trouble thinking up a blog post for tonight.  I finally decided to curl up on the sofa with my trusty pen and clipboard, and maybe a nice cup of tea and a cookie, and see if I could doodle up an idea.  Once in the kitchen, I realized warm milk might be wiser this far past bedtime, and as I pulled the jug from the fridge, it struck me that the ginger cookie recipe would be a fine blog post.  This was confirmed when I took a mug from the cupboard, and the inscription on the side said "brilliant painter".

Last year, a package arrived just after Christmas, as packages from my parents usually do.  It contained a half dozen cookie recipes, plus the spices and specialty ingredients for each.  Being thoroughly sick of sweets by that time in the holiday season, I kept it for use throughout the year.  This week, I decided to try the ginger spice cookies.  They sounded good, but I made a couple of changes to the recipe.  Here's my quick and snappy version:

Cream together
     3/4 cup butter
     1 cup brown sugar
beat in
     1 egg
     1/4 c molasses
     2 tsp baking soda
     3tsp ground ginger
     1 tsp ground cinnamon
     1 tsp ground cloves
     1/2 tsp salt
then stir in
     3/4 to 1 cup chopped crystallized ginger
followed by
     2 cups flour

This will be a very soft dough.  Wetting hands if necessary, roll into 1" balls, and roll these in white sugar to coat.  Place balls 2" apart on lightly buttered cookie sheets.  Lower carefully into the oven, so as to avoid rolling the little boogers onto the floor, stepping on them, and having to spend ten minutes cleaning cookie dough out of the treads of your hiking boots.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes until nice and richly brown, but be careful not to burn.  This makes about three dozen buttery crisp cookies, depending on how many dough balls actually make it into the oven. 

Mom's spices came from a co-op that gets them extremely fresh, so the flavor is a bit more intense than grocery store spices.  Don't hesitate to round up the measurements on the ground ginger, cloves and cinnamon.

So there you go.  Try them, and see if the mere scent of them doesn't give you brilliant ideas, or at least a cheerful optimism conducive to problem solving from your favorite end of the sofa.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Inspiration: Sandra Evertson

 After collaging about 70 pages for the winter issue of 365 Being, one would think I would be tired of paper and paste.  Never.  Not that I can squeeze any playtime in until later in the week, but I'm ready to make some paper ornaments and cards.  Although the book Fanciful Paper Projects, Making Your Own Posh Little Follies, by Sandra Evertson doesn't actually have instructions for ornaments, almost all the projects could be done from Christmasy papers and used as such.  I leaf through it often for inspiration, and I thought you might like it too.  Connect with her through sandraevertson.blogspot.com.

Here's a piece I created a couple of years ago, which I call "Skeptical Angel".  It was inspired by some of the projects in the book.  I started with the cone skirted tarts, but wanted to make something like the little paper theater stages, too, so of course I wandered off in my own direction.
Sandra Evertson's book inspired this paper folly.
 The book contains all the pieces printed out for the projects, which you can copy, then cut and assemble.  For me, half of the fun of paper crafting is coming up with my own designs.  The other half is collecting the paper, so not only did I not exactly follow the directions, I used my own collection of stuff.

My angel's face is a Madonna (who some of you will recognize, though I don't remember which master painted her).  I think the crowd is from the same painting.  If you don't have years of accumulated calendars from which to cut such images, just check the book section at Goodwill for art books.  It seems a shame to cut them up at first, until you realize you can get another about every week.  And what to do with those old encyclopedia Britannicas?  Angel wings are just one use. 
Great photos and really clear instructions make this friendly for beginners, inspiring for experienced artists.
I have papers that have moved with me for more than 20 years, from Oregon to Alaska to Minnesota.  I have a drawer full of gift wrap saved from gifts I have received, another full of tiny boxes, yet another brimming with vintage crepe paper, and a lifetime supply of scrapbook papers and clip art books.  Is it obsession?  Mmm...maybe a bit, but mostly it's just that I like having lots of things to choose from when I start assembling, and it's easy to collect lots, since paper crafting is one hobby that doesn't require a big cash investment to really get into it.

Some of my stash ended up on the collaged pages of the Winter issue of 365 Being, which went to the printer today.  Along with pretty pages to look at and read, we're including a tuck-in page with the pattern for the Love Dove ornament shown on the cover, along with photos of several versions, to get you inspired to make a flock for yourself.  You can subscribe at 365being.com