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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Auld Lang Syne (The Old Long Since)

May we always remember these days fondly, by the steps they build to the future we've yet to live.

2013 was, for me, a year of blessings and transformations, new adventures undertaken, new friends made, old friendships deepened, pleasures shared, treasures safely held onto, and a few dreams let go of.  A pretty typical year, by that description.

In reality, although my life isn't exactly typical ever, I'd say this year was exceptionally not so, thanks to some great friends... 

Cat Isles, author, patron, sometime business partner, and generous friend.

Cathy (Cat) Isles commissioned me to illustrate her children's book, Fruit and Veggies Aplenty!...


During a writing assignment for an art class, I met a mouse named Lucie..

 Lucie loves bread and cheese, negligees, and Italy.  Wait, Italy?  I think that's a different adventure!
Lucie (along with a few other dear friends) helped me take a dream trip to Belgium and France....
I seem to have taken more pictures of bookstores than of the panoramic scenery.
I met a crew of kindred spirits in France...
Most of the merry band of revelers I spent a week with at La Cascade in Durfort, France.

Sing every Broadway tune ever written?  Sure!  Swear in French-a-la-southern -gal?  Sure!  Behave badly at the dinner table?  Repeatedly!

Oh, and we made books.  That was what the class was all about, after all. 

And I reconnected with one of my dearest childhood friends in Belgium...

This is my childhood Bestie, with her two younguns.  If you listen to MPR, these are the faces on the other side of the microphone when you hear, "Reporting from Brussels, this is Teri Schultz."  Yeah, the boys are often right there with her, 'cause news happens in the middle of real life.

And now I'm currently writing the final chapters of Lucie's adventures, Postcards From Lucie, a novel for middle-grades readers, and beginning to shop for a publisher!

Watch for Postcards From Lucie, coming soonish (we hope) to a bookstore near you.

With my friend Cat, I published three more issues of the magazine we started in 2012...
Cat with our friend and constant mentor, Maureen Carlson, in a 2012 photo.  We were too busy to pose for photos in 2013, I guess.
And then we let it go...a beautiful dream that was a bit too fragile to sustain longer, but that lived long enough to give me deep joy, new connections, and I must admit, great pride and satisfaction.  

Those were just the brightest highlights.  I spent much of the year in the homes of wonderful clients, in and out of the studio with my Artgirl, Faithie, and enjoying the company of some of my dearest friends, a.k.a. "The Saturdays".  Of course, I'll continue painting and decorating for clients, but as those who've followed this blog over the years have surely realized, I'm doing less of those projects lately.  As you may have noticed from this post, I've fallen rather seriously (deeper) in love with books this past year, and I suspect my focus is going to shift even further in that direction in 2014.  Time will tell.  One adventure leads to another, and someday, these days will be the "Old Long Since".  I hope I'll still have all of you to swap tales with. 

May your new year be filled with deep love, bubbling joy, grand adventures, abundant prosperity, and the very dearest and sweetest of friends.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Don't lick the tree!

Last year's Christmas tree was a freshly cut, quirkily spindly spruce, decorated in a rustic, natural simplicity.  It was beautiful and peaceful, and I loved it.  This year however, with the outside of the house covered in frosting and candy, I had to do something sweet inside, as well, so the tree is a sugar-saturated confection.  Well, actually, it's mostly paint and glitter, though the cookies and candy canes are real.  Kinda wish I'd used a real tree this year too, as the fresh balsam would have smelled heavenly with the scent that wafts from the cookies...sigh.

Sugar coated Christmas Tree

Cupcakes in rainbow hues mingle with...
Ice cream cones in five different flavors, and...
chocolates, intermingled with...
Classic gingerbread hearts.
Of course, I always have to have a few words with my visuals!

Here's a peek at what's marauding as edibles:

Cupcakes are made by removing the satin thread covering those ubiquitous unbreakable ornaments.  These are always nearly free at most any thrift store, and waaaaay less expensive than buying new Styro balls.  Be cheap and green and recycle!  The frosting is created with cotton-type pads.  Quilt batting will work, but these thin little pads (I think they came from an industrial supply place) look amazingly real when stretched and hot glued to the ball.  The ball is glued into a cupcake paper, and then the "frosting" is tinted with a wash of thinned acrylic craft paint and sprinkled with iridescent fairy dust glitter, while still wet.  A dark pink pom-pom "cherry" was glued on top for a finishing touch.

Ice cream cones also start with those satin covered balls, though for these, you needn't remove the satin threads.  The ice cream is created with Sculptamold, which is a coarse plaster/paper mache material, available at nearly any craft store.  Just glop it on the top 2/3 of the ball, leaving a little lip to overhang the cone, like all the best ice cream parlours do.  Instant paper mache will also work, as will most air dry clays.   Once dry, paint with thinned acrylic paints, and sprinkle with fairy dust while wet.   The waffle cone is made from a quarter circle of tag board, covered in a lace doily, or scraps of old tablecloth or curtain lace.  Use a heavy coat of Mod Podge or white glue to stick the lace to the tag board, then saturate the top of the lace, too.  Without waiting for it to dry, paint this in caramel and brown tones of acrylic paint, and curve gently into shape.  Once dry, hot glue the quarter circles into cone shapes, trim the top edge a bit if desired, and hot glue the ice cream into the cone.  

Close-up of how the "ice cream" looks.  No need to be fussy, and in fact, they looked more real when I quit trying so hard to sculpt them.

The chocolates are simply brown pom-poms (made from thrift store yarn), some trimmed square, with snippets of ribbon, mini-gimp, and ribbon roses icing their tops.  I applied Minwax Polycrylic to both sides of candy papers to stiffen them, them coated the edge in gold paint, immediately dipped into gold micro-glitter, then hot glued the pom-pom chocolate in the center, with a hanging ribbon tucked under one edge. 

All of these are easy enough for pre-teens to create, and Artgirl helped with some.  Others I worked on at Friday Open Studio, at Maureen Carlson's Center for Creative Arts, though I had to guard them closely from my so-called friends, who were like kids ogling the cookie jar before dinner.  Click the link to Maureen's for Open Studio info.  If you're in the metro area, come join us!

However you decorate, however (and whatever!) you celebrate at this time of year, may your holidays be filled with sweetness and light!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sugar Shock

   Christmas brings out the kid in me.  Okay, yeah, I know what you're thinking.  Tuesday brings out the kid in me.  Waking up in the morning brings out the kid in me.  Fine, yes, we all know my inner 3-year-old runs the show.  Still, I don't usually get to play this much.  I took a break from writing these last couple of months (blogs books, and bookazine), to get life back in balance. (Thanks for the emails, cards and messages, dearest hearts.)  Seems I'd forgotten what it was like to end the workday at 6, instead of whenever I finally fell asleep on my feet, or at the computer.  Still, my idea of relaxing rarely involves turning on a television, and with audio books I can get my lit fix and do stuff, so here's what I did with my Monday afternoons, my weekdays when I had no paint jobs booked, many, many evenings, and most weekends for the past two months...
   Gingerbread is a big Christmas tradition for me.  Actually, it's about my only tradition, except for stockings (yeah, still).  I don't have a big stash of sentimental ornaments, so I decorate my trees in different themes every year.  I celebrate in different ways, depending on who I celebrate with.  Growing up, I couldn't eat my family's traditional clam chowder, so I don't have a gotta-have-it Christmas meal.  But I always bake gingerbread.  

   Most years, it's just cookies, but when I have time, I love making gingerbread houses.  The largest one I ever made was a scale model of my parents Victorian era farm house, back when I was in high school.  It was over 2 feet tall, had candy glass windows, and a light inside that glowed through them.  My mother had visions of an architect in the family.  I simply had visions of sugarplums (too bad Cake Wars hadn't yet debuted on television, or I might have had visions of becoming a sugar chef).  Sorry Mom.

   I've wanted to turn Belle (short for Belle Amie...yes, I gave my house a name...if you met her, you'd understand...) into a gingerbread confection for a few years now, and with the help of my Artgirl, Faithie, it finally happened.  Faithie has made a couple of gingerbread houses herself, and is something of an expert on candy, or at least emptying my candy jar, so she was the perfect partner for this venture.  After some initial sketching, brainstorming, and measuring, we figured out the recipe:

Frosting.  Batches and batches of frosting.
Mix 25 strips of muslin into 4 gallons of thinned paint, shape as desired, and let dry for three days.  May need to be made in batches, if space is not unlimited.
   Faithie and I tried spray foam insulation to make frosting, but the foam was difficult to spray in the shape desired, and one can only made a single strip.  We needed 25.  Not friendly to the budget nor the environment, so we nixed that.  I had a mountain of recycled muslin panels, and I knew dipping fabric in paint would make it shape-able.  It took a few tries to come up with something that looked like frosting and didn't take more than 15 minutes per segment to shape.  We tore the muslin into 18 inch wide by 15 foot long strips, dunked each into slightly thinned paint (which I mixed from "Oops" paint and job left-overs, then tinted), then scrunched them with our fingers on a plastic sheet laid on the dining room table.  There was only room for six pieces at a time, and each batch takes several days to dry, so as usual, Thanksgiving dinner didn't happen here.  

Candy.  You need lots and lots of candy
To cook up these, cut discs from 2" thick Styrofoam about 12 times the normal size of the candies you wish to create.  Shape with serated knives, and by sanding with scrap pieces.  Paint as desired.  Make more than you think you need.
   My goal was to make everything for this project from stuff I already had.  Unlike most folks, I used to work in the event industry creating theme party decor, so I happen to have a large stash of stuff like Styrofoam.  All the mints, M &Ms, and candy canes were made of Styro.  If I'd not had this, I'd have gone the stitched-stuffed-and-painted muslin route.  Once shaped, and once you vacuum off all the styro bits clinging tenaciously to your clothing, the round candies are painted. However, to create the stripes on the candy canes, I dipped a few yards of muslin into red paint, spread it out flat to let it dry, cut it into strips, then pinned those onto the canes.  Waaaayyyy easier than painting spiral stripes on styrofoam.

Gumdrops.  Faithie wanted gumdrops.

Gumdrops require circles of muslin, all the empty hanging planters to be found in two garages, large stones and strong twine for wind resistance, cotton batting, tape, paint in gumdrop colors,  and iridescent flitter (large size glitter).

Dunk fabric in paint, wring out a bit, and drape over  pots.  While still wet, sprinkle liberally with flitter for a sugar effect.  When dry, trim the fabric even with the rim of the pots.  Do not finger paint your sister.
  When making large batches of giant candy, I find it's always good to employ child labor.  If you have none of your own, do what I do, and borrow them from other people.  They will usually work for candy, so stock up on Starbursts and Skittles, and brace yourself for an energetic afternoon. 

Lollipops and Candy sticks.  At least a few.
For lollipops you need large Styro balls (never turn down the junk your friends offer, if you have room in your basement to store swell stuff, as you never know when you will need things like giant foam balls), acrylic craft paint, cellophane, wired ribbon, and large dowels or old curtain poles.  Candy sticks are made of cardboard tubes. acrylic or latex paint, and colored tape.
   The lollipops were the first thing Faithie thought of, and we made them in no time at all.  We painted the balls in her choice of colors.  We used a cordless drill with a paddle bit to make a deep hole in the foam ball, then put a bit of hot glue on the rod and inserted it.  It's a good thing we made them early, as the ground was already starting to freeze.  We had to put them up way before anything else, which must have had folks wondering what we were up to.  We also dug a hole for a 2x4 that the candy stick sign post slides over.  We get really high winds, and I wanted to be sure the ELVES AT WORK sign (another of Faithie's ideas), didn't end up down at the donut shop.  It's made of thin plywood and attached with long screws and large washers.
It's not child labor if her parents are paying me to teach her stuff, right?  What, you never used a post hole digger in art class?

Elves.  Faithie said we had to have elves...and a sign...
Work?  Play?  Eh, same dif.
Ingredients for making an elf:  Left over 3-strand house wire, duct tape (you didn't think this whole project could have happened without using duct tape somewhere, did you?), one toddler sleeper (okay, I did have to buy that...thrift store for 2 bucks), quilt or snow batting, one small pair of gloves, fabric for tunic, hood and shoes (an old curtain panel did the trick here), a foam mannequin head or large foam ball, feathers for hair, hot glue and acrylic paint.

We intended to make three elves, but they take a fair bit of time to construct.  Also,  I had only one mannequin head, and no desire to sculpt heads from scratch for this, two months being all the time I had for the whole project.  The basic idea is to create a stick figure from stiff wire, including fingers, and with a long neck.  Use duct tape to hold strands in place, as needed.  Insert the figure into the sleeper, and stuff with batting.  Put a little padding in the fingertips of the gloves, and wrestle them onto the hands.  If you were making a more permanent soft sculpture, you would wrap the wire in batting and muslin strips and stitch things in place.  That's a whole different thing.  This is Prop Making 101.  

To dress the elf, the tunic is a rectangle with a slit for the head cut in the middle, edges trimmed.  The hood is another rectangle folded in half, trimmed a bit in back, and hot-glued along the seam line.  Shoes are made of three pieces of fabric, hot glued rather than stitched. to save time.  Everything was belted with ribbons, and the hood was pinned into the head to hold it in place.  Oh, the head!  I did shape it a bit by pressing a paint brush handle into the foam, then I painted the face, and glued some craft store feathers on for hair.  I drilled a hole into the neck and pushed it onto the wire neck of the body structure.  Don't glue if you want to be able to turn the head.  She's wired onto the ladder for wind (and prankster) resistance.

You should note that as far as paint for this project goes, we didn't worry about interior/exterior/house/craft.  Any acrylic will hold up fine unless you're in a really rainy climate.  I've painted quick "temporary" signs from interior wall paint and craft paints which got left out for years, year round.  Use what you have, or what you can salvage.

So there's our recipe for a gingerbread house.  We'll add a few ingredients next year, since there were a few things we didn't have time for.  Also, the attic windows didn't get any frosting, mostly because I've never opened them, and I thought it perhaps best not to test the old hinges and latches in the dead of winter.  See, I think these things through.  Well, most things.  Like, I thought to put the second storey frosting and candy up before the roof got snowed on....just didn't really think about needing to get it down from the snowy roof in January.  Hmmm... If we don't get a January thaw, I may be taking it down around St. Paddy's day!  Fa-la-la-la-leprechaun!
Artgirl, a.k.a. Faithie.  Best elf.
I love this kid!
So, yes, I'm back to blogging.  Check back here next Monday for a peek at my Christmas tree, if this wasn't sugar enough for you.  In keeping with the sugarplum vision, I covered this year's  tree in cupcakes, candies, ice cream cones and cookies. It's almost as sweet as Artgirl.

If you're wanting sweet paint for inside your house, check out my portfolio of possibilities at theartofthehome.com.  I'm still booking January paint dates.

Questions or comments can be left below, by clicking where it says comments.  

I took the in-progress shots, but Steve Isles was kind enough to come down from Jordan and shoot the afters, including pics of Faithie and I together.  Of course, it had something to do with it also being dollar burger day at Johanne's Bar and Grill, just around the corner.  Whatever the motivation, thanks Steve!