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

Friday, August 30, 2013

Travelling With Lucie

Well, I thought I'd write a decorating post today, but there was someone else on my travels who certainly deserves her own post.  You've seen bits of Lucie's adventures in some of my other posts this summer, but she stared at me this morning until I agreed to give her a post of her own.  She's still staring at me, of course, but with the guilt beam deactivated.
Staying in a castle with a moat suited Lucie's sensibilities just fine, just so long as the swans kept their distance -- they're mean!
You can learn all about Lucie on her website.  (As of August 2013, I haven't had a chance to update the site.  Lucie is not sending postcards at this time, so if the postcard purchase page is up whenever it is that you happen to read this post, be sure it's a promo for a current trip.)
Star and Chronicler, in France.
Traveling with a mouse and photographing the trip from her perspective, as her chronicler, was a fun assignment I gave myself.  Part of the fun was that it took me out of my comfort zone, and gave me an excuse to do kid things, like lay on the platform of the subway station in Brussels.  I didn't do it for the reason a kid would, but rather to try to get a shot from a mouse's perspective, but you shoulda heard my friend, Teri.  She put on her mom voice and sternly informed me, "If you do not get up this instant, I'm going to leave you here."  Of course, her two kids were with us, and I was setting a bad example, so she would have been justified, except that I warned her I was coming to visit just so I could instill properly naughty behavior, and she assured me she had done it already.  Sheesh.
Would have liked to have gotten a shot at a better angle, with a train arriving, but small Kai was already freaked out by Lucie crossing the yellow line.  Figured it wasn't the place to set a really bad example for small boys, and besides, I was at risk of being stepped on...or left behind..  
Teri's boys loved Lucie, especially Soren, the older of the two.  He was so good about letting her sit on his shoulder, so I could try to get shots of her gazing at all the tourist attractions.  (If only I'd figured out the camera settings for doing this effectively [sigh].) Of course, there was the day at the farmer's market, while we rested on a bench, that Soren did ask, "Could we put Lucie away now?  It's getting kinda embarrassing being seen with a mouse."
The violinist seemed to like Lucie as much as she liked him, and Soren was a darling about his job as Lucie's personal prop.  Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me to turn them around and get their faces anywhere, like normal tourists would do.  Sorry Soren,  Lucie and I would have loved a few shots with your sweet smile.   Ah well, maybe next time...?

Lucie and Kai contemplate their odds of getting away with pretending they don't know what that sign says.
I do believe Lucie impressed the Faerie folk in the woods behind the castle, with her refined ways and fancy clothes.  Lucie wanted to know if I actually believe faeries are real.  Like I wasn't conversing with a mouse in a negligee???
You see a beautifully carved antique mirror frame.  The four cats see a tasty little treat, just out of reach.
 In France, my classmates, who were all my age and older, seemed to delight just as much as the boys had in dreaming up adventures for Lucie.
Lucie did think about rafting down the copper cooling rivulet, but it's swift and cold, and empties into a fast moving river.  She's adventurous, but not extreme, thank goodness.

One day we got locked out, and Lucie looked for ways in.

Waiting for the postman.  

Lucie thought the cheesemaker's son might want to befriend her, as Kai and Soren had, but I didn't think his papa would go for having a mouse about the business.
I'm chronicling Lucie's story as a serial (for now) in my quarterly bookazine, 365 Being.  You can get the first installment in the summer issue, in PDF, and at the time of this post, there are a few print copies left, as well.  Eventually, the story will get a proper editing, and publish as a novel for young readers.  Eventually.  

For now, I'm hard at work trying to get the last photo albums out to the kind souls her helped fund Lucie's adventures (Thank you, my darlings!!!), while also trying to get the Autumn issue to press, between my regularly scheduled decorating work.  It's all one big adventure!  Have a fun weekend, and check in on Tuesday morning.  Who knows, with summer ending, maybe I really will get back to posting about decorating...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What I Did On My Summer Vacation (France)

You've met my classmates, and seen some of the architectural eye candy over the last dozen or so posts, but before I get back to posting about decorating (oh, yeah, this is a decorating blog), shall I show you what I did in art class this summer?  In case you don't read every word I write, every time I write it, let me bring you up to speed.  The class was Dayle Doroshow's Capturing Ancient France, mixed media journaling.  It was held at La Cascade, in Durfort France ( in the south, about an hour from Toulouse, near Revel).

This storybook doll is made of polymer clay around a matchbox.
Although the intent of the class was capturing ancient France, I was on an "in the moment" jag, so my projects captured all the colors and fun that swirled around me.  I love the kind of collage often featured in publications like Somerset Studio, all sepia and oldy-moldy looking, but no matter how hard I try, my stuff just insists on being colorful.  So much for ancient.  [Shrug]

The matchbox drawer is removed, and the cover is slit to open like a book cover.  I copied one of our round poems onto an accordion folded piece of paper.  It starts out poetic and profound.  It ends with "59 barrels of beer on the wall".  This is much funnier when one of those barrels has been consumed.
One of the fun things we did after dinner one night was writing "round poems".  You do this with a group of say five or more, each person starting with a piece of paper, on which is drawn a large circle.  Written along the outside edge of the circle are three or four words, to which you add a few words, then pass your paper to the left.  You keep doing this, reading only the last few words written before adding your own, until the string of words meets back at the beginning.   Then each person scans the poem in hand, chooses where to begin (not always where the writing began), assumes an appropriately theatrical voice, and reads it aloud.  There are deep moments and hilarious moments, especially if a lot of wine has been consumed.  I don't drink, but since I easily soak up the moods of others, I didn't miss out on the silly at all. 

This is an idea collector book, and was used to create a sampler of techniques.  When I have a play day, I'll add photos from the trip to some of the pages.
We did several projects, but they're not all shown here, mostly because I didn't finish them all.  The book shown above was my first shot at creating a handmade book, and I am now addicted to this process, and planning to make many more.  As for new products tried, my most useful discovery was Sobo glue.  As an artist, I have heard of it frequently, but I didn't realize that though it is a white glue, it's quite different from Elmer's.  It behaves beautifully!  I am using a lot of Sobo now, where I used to use Elmers and Fabri-tac, though I still use both of those for certain things.  If you haven't tried it, I really recommend that you do!

These honeycomb folded pages are called VW pages.  I loved the peekaboo cutout concept.
Since we ate a lot of apricots, I chose this fruit as the subject of my "wood cut", which was actually carved into a sheet of baked polymer clay.  Instead of traditional ink and brayer, we printed by coloring the block with markers, and also with water soluble oil pastels.  Hadn't done this technique before, but I'm thinking I'll try it again as a Christmas card.
Back at the beginning of this series of posts, I featured the silk painting class we took at a studio just up the street.  I stuck a bit of my tester in my idea collector, along with the instructor's card.
You may be aware that I traveled with a mouse by the name of Madam Lucie Bonnard.  In fact, Lucie was born from a pre-class assignment, and in the end, she even paid for part of my trip.  Her story is at postcardsfromlucie.com.  I have not updated Lucie's travel plans as of August 2013, so know that Lucie is not sending postcards at present, but will be again in 2014 or 2015, from somewhere else.

Lucie spent a bit of time among the clutter on my work table, and contemplated nibbling a negligee from my silk.  These little rolling computer desks were great in the classroom, as the pull-out keyboard tray was a great place to stash tools and supplies when not in use.
Traveling with a mouse, and documenting the scenery from her perspective, would have been easier had she wanted to stay on my hat, but she wasn't particularly shy of humans.  I had to get over some shyness myself.  You know the grandest thing about mid-life?  Getting completely over worrying about what people might think.  I spent a lot of time laying on the ground in Brussels and France, not always to the delight of my human companions and passers-by.  I also spent a lot of time trying to explain my semi-imaginary traveling companion to people who didn't speak my language, nor I theirs.  Most of them were charmed.  We did our best to be polite, Lucie and I, but we had a job to do, and we just couldn't be too worried about those who didn't get us.

This is how I'll be remembered by many.  Just another strange American.  I'm good with that.
One great thing about travelling for a class like this is the mini tour group aspect.  We took time away from class each day to go out and explore someplace together.  Obviously, you can't very well capture ancient France, if you don't get out and see it.  The villages we explored were already old when our own Declaration of Independence was signed.  Shoot, some of them were old when the Mayflower docked and disturbed the Natives.  Sometimes, it was possible to feel the layers of history, like wisps of memories, clinging to the old stones.

The young professor at the pub gave us a lesson on dinosaurs.  Luckily, scientific names don't need translating!
Not everything was about the old.  We hung out in the local pub, shopped the markets and ateliers, and careened up and down the mountainsides in air-conditioned comfort.  If not for the AC, we could have lived up to one of our Broadway (Way-Off Broadway) numbers, and brought the hills alive with the sound of music (or perhaps silenced them?).  As it is, the group of musical theater lovers that my class turned out to be is planning to reconvene in a couple of years, and possibly sing in public.  I guess I'll be taking voice lessons before then.  Not to avoid embarrassment (no, I'm over that), but to be kind to my companions, and anyone who may hear us.  And because, though I march to my own drum,  I really do think it would be more fun to sing in tune with everyone else.

Just as I imagined, and more!
Now those are some steep stairs!
If you think this adventure sounds like fun, do check out the class schedule for La Cascade!  You will be well taken care of, in a setting that's simply divine.  Think you can't afford it?  How I managed this is a saga for some other day, but don't tell me (don't tell yourself!) you simply cannot.  You get what you truly, in the depths of your mind, say yes to.  If a trip to France is your true desire, say "yes", hold it in your heart, and stand firm.  My gratitude to the Divine, in all it's forms and channels, for this adventure in Yes.
Dayle Doroshow taught our class, and acts as host for many others at La Cascade.  She is definitely the hostess with the mostest!  I hope you get to spend time with her, someday soon!
Dinner music on the terrace at La Cascade.  No need for a Broadway cast.
 Live juicy!
...and come back Friday morning.  Maybe I'll actually post something about decorating.  Maybe.

Friday, August 23, 2013

When in France, eat like the French do, but better...

Meet Nese Pelt
When the weather was warm enough, we ate on the terrace at La Cascade.

Up to this point in my life, my travelling has always been with family, or to visit family.  Going to France and Belgium this summer was really the first trip I took completely for myself, and on my own.  I wasn't alone, though.  In Belgium I visited one of my very dearest childhood friends, and in France, of course, I was attending a class with eight other people.  It was a bit like a tour group, as we did have daily excursions, but even better than a tour group because, by the nature of the class (Dayle Doroshow's Capturing Ancient France, mixed media journaling, at La Cascade), the group was small, and the participants were already to some degree kindred spirits.  

Chef Nese , whipping up something yummy.

Now, most of the time, I like being alone, prefer it even.  Solitude is almost as necessary as air for most artists, and I'm no exception, but I don't think I would like traveling really alone.  I know I wouldn't like eating alone day after day.  I occasionally do the woman-alone-dining-out thing, and I gotta say, good food isn't all that much fun without someone to discuss it with.  

Nese's version of French cassoulet has the traditional beans and sausage, but I was told she adds more veggies than are the norm.  We loved it!  She also said that using fresh beans, rather than dried, solves the gas problem with beans.  Frozen limas and edamame are about the only beans found in grocery stores this way, but perhaps your local co-op or natural foods store carries more varieties, if you don't grow them yourself.
In France, eating alone was never a problem.  Not only did I have lots of dining companions, I had lots of good food to share and talk about.  We did eat at a couple of restaurants, and we bought nibbles and treats at market stalls and sidewalk cafes, but mostly we ate at La Cascade, where Nese (pronounced Nesha) Pelt, chef (and now owner), took very good care of us.  

She's as cute and funny as her food is beautiful and delicious.
When I raided Nese's facebook page (link: buddha du jardin) for recipes, I saw she hasn't posted since just before the summer season of classes began, so I know she's super busy.  She owns a yoga and massage studio already, and with the new addition of not just cooking for but also owning La Cascade...well, I have a pretty good idea of just how busy that is, so I didn't pester her with a request for recipes to share here.  "Like" her facebook page, and when she gets back to posting, her charmingly written recipes will come across your feed..

It all started with the story of a dare to lick a bowl in a restaurant, and pretty soon, we were doing it, too.  Considering how good the cake was, how freely the wine flowed, and who was involved, this is not really surprising.
Another great thing about travelling with others is that if they are willing to share, one has many more photos to choose from, insuring a great shot of just about every minute of the trip.  In this post, the only photo I took was the one at the top.  I am not an accomplished photographer, and in fact have to really force myself to stop and take pictures.  I love living in the moment, and stopping to record the moment for the future, or for my blogs and bookazine (365being), is just contrary to my nature.  

I did try, and mostly I failed.  Oh, I took nearly eight hundred pictures.  About a hundred and fifty are focused, and capture the moment of, rather than the moments after.  My photos of Nese?  Mine all captured the whir and blur of her bustling around the kitchen.  Great memories for me, not such great illustrations for you.  It's a very good thing I had very kind, very generous companions on this adventure, and I'm so pleased you popped in here to meet them (if you haven't been here lately, scroll back through previous posts to meet everyone who contributed to my fun and photos, and even farther back to see some wonderful old architecture).  

If you're curious to see what I made in class, that will be Tuesday morning's post, so have a great weekend, and check back here, then.  For today, I'll leave you with Nese's recipe for chocolate cake...

chocolate cake without flour and no butter 
Lifted straight from Nese's facebook page, which you can just click right over to
buddha du jardin
*250 gr. chocolate 
* 6 eggs
* 200 gr. sugar
* 200 gr. ground almonds
* half tea spoons cinnamon 
* 6 soups spoons cognac
* 1 p. of baking powder or 3 tea spoons

** break the chocolate in little pieces and put hot water or hot coffee on it , don't mix , let it for a little time and put the liquid away ( except of some ) or drink it, and now mix .

*** egg yolk and sugar mix for a long time and add the melt chocolate , mix add cinnamon and cognac, baking powder and almonds .

**** beat the egg white and add , mix very careful.

***** back it in middle heat for 30-40 min.

the decoration is how you want with or without cream .........have fun

Monday, August 19, 2013

In Tandem: Cynthia Tinapple and Blair Davis

Cynthia Tinapple and Blair Davis
As you may have noticed, there's been a lot written on this blog lately about polymer clay and polymer clay artists.  Among the classmates I've introduced you to in the last few posts, many are polymer clay artists, and even those who aren't do dabble, when the need arises.  If you are at all curious about this versatile medium, the artists who work with it, or the range of fabulous jewelry and art that these artists make from it, then you really only need to know one name:  

Cynthia Tinapple.  
Cynthia shares her idea collector book during show and tell.

Cynthia curates the blog about what's new and interesting in polymer clay.  Polymer Clay Daily brings to the public eye the creations of the best and brightest polymer stars, as well as amazing artists tucked in far off corners of the world that most of us would never come across on our own.  On her blog and in her personal life, Cynthia is deeply interested in others, and in other cultures, and has traveled many places, including Nepal and a charity she has close ties to there, Sammunat.  This organization helps women who are facing domestic abuse find both safety and financial independence.  If you click that link,  you'll find many beautiful items made by these Nepalese women, including wonderful polymer beaded jewelry.
Cynthia, always the enthusiast, admires Nona's floral scarf.  Her own creation is in her hand, a lovely geometric in gorgeous shades of  fresh mossy greens, apricot, and plum.  

Cynthia  made this trip to France with her husband, Blair Davis.  He didn't take the class (Dayle Doroshow's Capturing Ancient France, mixed media journaling, at La Cascade), but joined us on our excursions, though not in our on-the-road renditions of the Best of Broadway.  He may not belt out show tunes, but Blair does have both a practical manner, and creative flair, not to mention plenty of height to reach the top shelves in any store, so all that combined with a kind nature made him perfectly appreciated in the gaggle of girls.  
Cynthia leading the way off of the mountainside, while Blair suggests alternate routes?  No idea actually what we were looking at, but isn't this setting just behind La Cascade lovely?  
Lucky for me, Blair also happens to have sharp eyes, and spotted Lucie (the mouse who was my travelling companion -- top of the column on the right, if you have no idea who I'm talking about) on the floor of the fabric shop we were visiting one afternoon, and thus rescued me from certain heartbreak.  I have to admit that when I think of this, I do wonder if he was reminded of parenting youngsters who insisted on dragging their most favorite toys everywhere, despite the enormous risk to family tranquility, should they be lost.  Surely my own father can't be the only kind soul to ever have backtracked forty miles for a forgotten stuffed animal?  Ummm, yeah, this wasn't the first time...not even the second.  Thanks, Blair.  It wouldn't have been pretty.

The next village over from Durfort is Soreze, and that's where we found these charming wood cut-outs, and the posters explaining them...

Cynthia took one of these as her inspiration for her dashing cadet...
Cadet doll by Cynthia Tinapple.
 If you haven't already done so and returned, do take a moment to pop on over to Cynthia's blog.  Many artists I know do this almost every day, for a little refresher in the midst of the business of art.  Even if you're just an admirer of the creations of others, you'll appreciate the careful curating Cynthia has done for you.

Cynthia is either admiring the waterfalls, or checking Blair's progress on a gardening project he undertook while we played with clay.

I recently came to realize that this summer's trip was, for me, the manifestation of a childhood wish to go away to summer camp.  My time in France, boarding for a week with a whole group of gals (okay, plus Blair), was everything I could have wanted: new friends in a new place, far from my boring small town life (which, as an adult, I actually choose), with fun activities, and dessert twice a day.  Oh, speaking of dessert, there is one more person to share with you.  Come on back Friday morning and meet Nese, our chef.  I'll see what recipes I can wheedle out of her, (or snag from her facebook page) before then.

Friday, August 16, 2013

You might already know Judy Belcher and Julie Eakes...

There is enough to tell about these two women to give them each a post of their own, but they're good friends, and they sort of go together, like peanut butter and jelly, or music and lyrics, or Rodgers and Hammerstein, or, well, nevermind.  Anyway, Judy Belcher and Julie Eakes, in certain circles, are demi-goddesses.  To polymer clay artists, their names are familiar from features on other blogs, like Polymer Clay Daily, from the covers of their books, appearances on TV, and workshop rosters across the country.  Even a fringe-folk like myself (I experiment, but I'm not addicted), knew who these two were, when I saw them on the list of participants in the class I took in France, this summer.  (If you haven't been reading this blog lately, scroll back a few posts to meet some of the other characters from my summer adventure)  Anyway, I confess to being a bit star-struck when I read a few of the names on that list.

Judy Belcher is from West Virginia, and she is warm and funny and real.  These photos capture her charming southern lady side, but miss her equally charming other side, which is, well, hmmm...let me just say that I really didn't need to spend those two weeks prior to my trip cleaning up my wharf rat's language.  Not that she swears like a sailor, well, oh bloody 'ell, I'm diggin' a hole here.  Let's just say that Judy, along with several others in the class, can tell a story with the best of 'em, and there wasn't a thing I coulda said that would have curled ears.  Real women, with real stories, in real words.
Judy with Ann Mason, learning silk painting.
Silk painting was unfamiliar territory to Judy, but not the geometric design of her sampler square.  Here's a shot I blatantly stole from her website, featuring a project from a class she taught awhile back:  
metallic blend pendants by Judy Belcher

If you like something a bit sleeker still, how about this:

Judy Belcher takes polymer clay in some pretty sophisticated directions.

That's enough thievery from me.  You better just take a break here for a minute and go check out her website. Be sure to come back, cause I haven't run out of words, yet, and you have to meet Julie, too, who shows up further on down this post.

Judy shares her book during our final show and tell.
Judy isn't just a world travelling polymer clay artist and teacher.  She has a new book out, Polymer Clay Master Class, which she co-authored with Tamara Honaman, in addition to another book and a video. As if that's not impressive enough, she's also her state's representative to The American Crafts Council, and she's heavily involved in working with Tamarack, a juried artisan venue (and more) implemented by the State of West Virginia.  Judy is so incredibly passionate about getting artists to take the value of their work seriously, and connecting them with patrons and buyers, and I admire her enormously for her choice to take time away from her own creativity to do this.
Ah, here's the story telling face.  
On this storybook doll, by Judy Belcher, the book isn't a book at all, but ribbons of fabric on which words can be written.
I'm not sure who was more charmed by whom...the Southern Belle, or the French Artiste.  He's a copper artist who lives just a few doors up the street from La Cascade.
Julie Eakes, like Judy Belcher, travels and teaches, and tells tales.  One of the great things about Julie's blog (yes, that's a link, which you better click in a minute, but read on a bit, first), is that Julie will talk openly about what didn't work.  Of course, when you see what she attempts, and what she considers a failure, well...her worst attempts look better than a whole lot of my best ones.  Still, she isn't afraid to let the world see the imperfections, and this, among many other endearing qualities, makes her instantly lovable.
Ann Mason with Julie Eakes
Julie deftly paints the center motif.
It was fun to see how the silk paintings we did were similar to our other work, and Julie's intricately patterned scarf was no exception.  On my Internet thievery spree this morning, I also nabbed a few works from her gallery to show you.

Holy cane-oli!  I so love borders and bands and patterns, and Julie Eakes does them like no one else.

Okay, so you see the amazing patterned border?  Now, get this, that face in the center?  That face is not a photo, and it isn't painted.  It's made from a polymer clay process called caning.  Most polymer clay artists strive to do this technique as well as Julie does it on the borders, creating quilt-block like shapes in logs that can be sliced and placed in patterns.  Creating face canes like this is beyond masterful.  She does mosaic faces, too.  
Okay, now you really must check out her blog.  While you're there, in her comments, please razz her about at least posting a teaching schedule, even if she can't come up with more time to write posts.

Saint Julie (?!) visiting her village.
Usually in classes, I am the clown, and have to remind myself sometimes to tone it down.  Partly because I was laid low and rendered dull by the first cold I've had in six and a half years (yeah, there's some "interesting" timing for you), and partly because there were several exceptionally witty people in the class, I'm not sure anyone there even suspected this was my reputation.  Julie was one of the most vocal of the comediennes.  Literally.  Not only does she have a quick wit, and a great grasp of the ironic, but she can sing the appropriate line from any Broadway musical to cleverly deliver the joke.  She was the one most responsible for turning our two carloads into a travelling musical revue, everywhere we went.  

Julie's storybook doll, Candy, displays a little of Julie's signature cane work, in her striped stockings, but mostly shows off a whole lot more of her great sense of silly.  Perfect example of an artist on vacation.
Julie Eakes with Candy, cracking up.
Julie Eakes, cracked up.  Apparently, the Julie Eakes Mohawk is a trademark hair-do, as it was begged for at the dinner table, by those in the know.  She obliged, and she let me take photos.  She also didn't openly hate me for passing that cold on to her, well, except for calling me Typhoid Mary, at one point.  (Sorry darlin'.  I wouldn't have wished that buggar on anyone.)
I am so grateful to Dayle Doroshow for putting me in this group (I wasn't picky about which week I went, so I let her choose).  I got to meet women I've idolized from afar, and others I'd never have known any other way, and spending time with them really felt like being among my own tribe.  If you're an artist or other creative soul, you probably have a sense of just how rare that can be, and just how wonderfully refreshing it feels.  Oh, but this isn't quite the end of my introductions.  Cynthia Tinapple is up on Tuesday morning.  You want to meet Cynthia, so come on back.

Does all this talk about polymer clay intrigue you?  Did you know that the summer issue of 365 Being features polymer clay artist Maureen Carlson, and her tutorial for creating some simple canes?  Now you do!  You can purchase the single issue in PDF or print format, or a year's subscription, just by clicking here:  365 Being Bookazine