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 23, 2014

And a dragon in a spruce tree...

It's two days before Christmas,
and my schedule is laggin',
But at least the Yule tree is up,
Complete with a dragon!
Yes, the children are nestled
all snug in my head,
My inner 3-year-old,
(obviously) never quite fled.
Thus, the garden fairy twinkled
her sweet little nose,
And fashioned this tree from
whatever she chose.
It's dressed all in feathers,
from it's tip to its root.
Some think it's Pagan,
others think it's a hoot.
It has gold-sprayed hydrangeas,
bittersweet and faux cherry, 
and a Spruce-Crested Whatchamacallit,
made by my friend Mary.
(Okay, the faux cherries are really oranges, but that doesn't rhyme, so work with me here.)
And a little old bluebird,
I fashioned of clay,
Though as a gift for a friend,
It's soon flying away.
So if you're being too serious,
as you approach Christmas Day,
Remember life is mysterious,
And we all came to play!
Happy Yuletide to all, and to all a good night!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What Mary Ann Likes, Mary Ann Gets

Mary Ann is a woman who knows what she likes.  Personally, I think she's pretty easy to like, herself!

Knowing who you are and what you like makes decision-making easy.  Just ask Mary Ann.  She knew she wanted a faux finish, and when she mentioned to friends at dinner one night that she was looking for an artist to do it, they knew who to call.  Kinda helps that she and her husband, Jim, were having dinner with my carpenter and his wife.  TC not only does the carpentry on my jobs that need small bits of woodworking, but he and Carol live in a very elegant, fully restored, early 1900's four-square style house, and have had me in to do a lot of the paint work for that.  

Here's the wall I started on.  At the beginning of the day, Mary Ann could be heard in the condo hallway, telling friends they had to wait until I finished to see what we were up to.  However, when she saw me start putting the veins on the marbled background using a turkey feather, she was astonished, and within minutes, she'd brought in an audience of neighbors!  I don't mind this a bit.  I actually love showing the secrets behind the magic, in hopes it makes trying creative things less intimidating for those who just might want to pick up a brush themselves.  Okay, and yes, my ego loves the strokes, and it doesn't hurt in the picking-up-new-business department, either.  Mostly though, it's just fun.

Within a day of that dinner, Mary Ann and I were on the phone, scheduling a consultation, and about two minutes into that meeting, she saw a sample in my portfolio that was exactly what she wanted.  No, she did not want to see the rest of the portfolio.  No, she did not need to see this technique in different colorways.  That marble, that color, and how soon could I start?  

I could get spoiled by clients so easy to please.  Not that she isn't particular.  In fact, it's because Mary Ann was so particular that she was easy to please.  I didn't have to do a design consultation to figure out her style and color preferences, because she clearly knows what she likes.  This is a condo they have downsized to for easier retirement living, and they carefully selected only their very favorite things to furnish it.  Since Mary Ann has been collecting Victorian era antiques for years, no need for me to figure out a thing.

Mary Ann had saved these favorite candle sconces, but was at a loss for where to put them, and had decided to sell them on ebay.  They were the style she wanted, but too small in scale, next to the King-sized, reproduction bed...until we decided to paint faux marble panels behind them, to give them some bulk.  Finding ways like this to use her favorite treasures was such a delight for both of us.
I simply had to paint.  And help arrange some furniture.  And some of the artwork.  And then paint the rest of the rooms.  And sit down and eat lunch.  And take home a fresh loaf of bread she picked up for me, from the bakery next door.  And go boating with them.  And... yeah, I could get spoiled by clients like these.  As it is, I've been adopted.   Lucky, lucky me to have made the list of things Mary Ann likes!

Here's a slick trick to give artwork a bigger presence.  We linked these two paintings with a tapestry bell pull, whose colors could be found in both.  This is how we connected two pieces of only vaguely similar style, and used them to balance a larger painting on the opposite side of the china cabinet.  Not only do I "have brush, will travel", but I also have a hammer and a cordless drill, and very strong muscles, and I will help you put your room back together, once the painting is done.

You can view my online portfolio at theartofthehome.com.  All the info on how to hire me is there too.  Adoption is entirely optional!  Here's another option:  if you like what I write here, you might like my other blog, Creative Soul, at dawn-mariedelara.blogspot.com

Monday, November 10, 2014

Raising the Barre

Folks who have toured my home, Belle Amie, know she's pretty much all creative space with a bedroom, a guest room, and a bath.  Oh sure, Belle's a 4 "bedroom" house, but one of those is the office where I write stuff like these blog posts, and the other has been my dance studio for years.  That's the room originally intended as the master bedroom, but what grown-up needs an acre for a bed and dresser?  I decided to sleep in a smaller bedroom, and put this space to better use.  To be honest, despite my intention to have my dancer's body back by my 50th birthday in 2015, I've used the room infrequently these past few months.  I might have reached the goal anyway, but something happened recently that just about insures I'll make it, or at least work blessed hard at it.

About a month or so ago, I was giving a tour to a house guest, and our mutual friend Jill was tagging along.  Jill happens to be the mama of Artgirl, who's been featured frequently in my blog posts over the last four years (Scroll down or back a few posts and you'll find her).  When we got to the dance room, my guest Yvonne, an accomplished Irish dancer, was a bit disappointed she hadn't brought dance shoes, and wouldn't be around long enough to play, anyway.  Jill, who's seen the room a dozen times, suddenly lit up with an idea.  Her younger daughter would really love to play in the dance room...maybe with a little dance instruction...maybe I'd like to consider...?  Jill is one of those people who has a hopeful "maybe???" face nobody can say no to, which explains why my thighs are now screaming every Monday afternoon, even as my heart leaps and sings with joy.

Dancegirl has relocated the "ugly machine" to this corner, and the wicker chaise stacks on top of it during dance class.  This is probably as much to get the chaise out of the way of her leaping as to keep me from collapsing onto it after a dizzying series of turns.  I am expected not to just keep up, but to lead, after all.  Nothing like a child's faith in your abilities to bring out reserves you thought were long gone! 

You see, I've always loved dance (used to be pretty serious about it, in fact) but I haven't taken classes myself for nearly twenty years, and as I've said, I'm not exactly (snort!) in dance shape.  Jill didn't think this not-so-little detail mattered one bit, since Ava is just nine, and has only taken beginner level classes.  Jill's problem was that ballet, jazz and tap classes aren't available here in town, and Ava doesn't really like kickline, which is a competition dance sport done in the school gym.  Not that she totally loves recitals and (most especially not) itchy costumes, either.  She just loves to dance, and she loves the atmosphere of a proper dance studio.  Sooooo, since I have several years of (rusty) ballet, tap and jazz training, and the requisite hardwood floors and a few mirrors, Jill and I stuck a deal:  

Artgirl on Monday mornings, Dancegirl on Monday afternoons.  (When the bliss of that sinks in, feel free to envy me every Monday as you groan your way to the office.)   I LOVE MONDAYS!

"Instrument of torture", a.k.a. "ugly machine", a.k.a. generously gifted Bowflex.  (Thank you again and always, Sarah and Oscar!)  Little dancers don't need to work out, but I find it helps grown ones tremendously!

After sifting through the pins I sent her on Pinterest, a Youtube video from So You Think You Can Dance caught Ava's eye.  It involved stairs, which of course I don't have in that room.  I do have nice wide cement steps up to my front porch though, so for the past few weeks, we've done a quick warm-up, using a chair as a ballet barre, then headed out front to dance on the stairs.  

If you've never toured my house, you may also not know that it is in the heart of downtown, on Main Street, directly across from The Sparetime Tavern.  Yes, I have been tap dancing up and down my front steps, during afternoon rush hour, on Main Street, in yoga pants.  Secretly, I've always wanted to dance down Main Street here, like I did with my friends back in high school, but somehow in the fantasy, I'm a good bit sleeker, the dance is a bit more polished, and passers-by are charmed.  But hey, guess what?!?  Do this with a delightfully vibrant 9-year-old, and passers-by actually are totally charmed, and I'm positive (more or less) that not one of them even notices my butt in yoga pants (this is my current fantasy, and I like it just fine as is, thank you).

"I got this."  Dancegirl has been watching her older sister, Artgirl, get to play with power tools for a few years, now.  Today, she finally got her turn.  Obviously, she's been paying close attention all this time. 
Today, however, we could not dance on the steps.  Nature has done her natural thing, and the season has turned.  We did not get the 12 inches of predicted snow, but we got a dusting of it just wet and cold enough to make things slippery, so Ava agreed that it's time to bring dance back indoors.  We were ready for that, as she's directed the rearranging of the space over the past few weeks.  Well, mostly ready.  

She's been patiently waiting for me to install a proper ballet barre, and was happy to see I'd at least scrounged up materials from the treasure trove in the basement.  I'd wanted to shop for prettier brackets and a heavier pole, but function was needed now, so I'll upgrade in the future, when I find just the right thing.  I was about to promise her yet again that I would install it during the coming week, when it occurred to me she might want to help.  She's watched her big sister and me use power tools on several carpentry projects over the years, so wondering if she wanted a turn at it, I gave her the choice of doing a chair-barre warmup , or installing the barre... like, with power tools.   Yup.  Kid after my own heart, I tell ya.
It's all about centering.

...and keeping at it until you get it right.  Carpentry and dance have a lot in common, I guess.

Look out world!  Like any ballerina, Dancegirl here is strong and fearless and coordinated.  She can manage a tape measure and a cordless drill just fine, thank you very much, and she'll follow it with a fine grand jete' (that's a big leap) and a few pretty pirouettes. Ta-Da!!!

So today, while my not-exactly-fit body got a break, my dance student raised the barre.  Not only did she install it, but she expects me to use it, so I can teach her all those moves I used to do.  I'm actually pretty excited about the challenge.  My nearly fifty year old knees, and my comfortably padded derriere maybe not so much, but they'll come around.  By the time Spring arrives and the snow melts, it will be recital time on Main Street.  Dancegirl will steal the show, but I'll be keeping up with her, as we dance with sleek polished style down the front steps, and on down the block.  We'll keep you posted on the date, in case you'd like a front row seat at the Sparetime Tavern.  (Oh, look Jill!  It's everything you ever wanted in a dance class, plus beer served at the spring recital!!!)

Seriously, when's the last time you evaluated how you use the space in your home?  Whether you have kids or not, you probably have a creative soul that's longing for room to sew, craft, dance, paint, or something, and most homes have rooms that really aren't used to best advantage.  Look with fresh eyes, and if you need help with imagining how this could possibly work in your home, don't hesitate to email me!  

Have you repurposed a room in your home?  Tell us about it in the comments, below! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Q: What's white and lacy with paint all over?

A:  Linda Hughes' living room walls  (OK, yeah...and certain parts of my wardrobe, but I'm not sharing photos of that mess!)

Lace panels are surrounded by a glazed faux finish, using the same colors as Linda's stripes in her kitchen.  (Note:  You can click on the pictures to see them somewhat enlarged.)
When Linda told her neighbors she was having me paint lace on her walls, they thought I was probably stenciling it, maybe even using lace as a mask to paint through.  That's a lovely idea, and it works, but lucky for me, with my love of mixed-media projects, Linda Hughes likes to do things that are a little different.  

This neighbor came to see the lace, and was delighted to be surprised with a painting of hers displayed on the wall!  She had put it in a give-away pile, and Linda just couldn't let it go to the thrift store.  Linda has great taste, and great neighbors!
I wasn't so sure when Linda plucked the painted lace sample from the second batch of samples I brought for her to see.  She had liked several things in the first batch, but would unmake her mind almost as fast as she made it up.  Painted lace is actual lace, painted onto the wall.  As in permanent texture, and not exactly the usual thing folks do to walls.  Linda had so far been pretty particular, and I needed to be sure she loved it on a large scale, before I started this process, so I invited her to my place, where I have it on my artroom walls.

She absolutely loved it.  No doubt, no question, no need to sleep on it. It wasn't that Linda didn't like the other choices.  She just knows better than to settle for anything less than real love.

Here's the version in my art room.  The pattern shows up more with the darker glaze, but the subtlety of white is equally beautiful, when seen in person.  Yes, the trim here is made from burlap and acorns, and yes, the ceiling is quilted.

In my art room, I've done the painted lace technique glazed in moss green, and it goes from ceiling to baseboard, with most of the wall area hidden behind shelving and supplies.  For Linda, I suggested we do it in panels, and to balance with the rest of her place, that we do her lace in white, with a green faux finish surrounding the panels.  This way she would keep a paler version of the green color she had, which had turned out to be way too dark for her north facing condo unit, while lightening up the walls, for that airy, fresh cottage look.

Here's a close-up of one panel, showing three patterns meeting, with a tiny doily masking a bare spot.  To get a similar look to these walls, begin by collecting every piece of lace curtain, tablecloth, valance, doily, and mantilla you can find in a summer of garage-saling.  The stained ones in the Free box are perfectly fine for this.  Next, roll a coat of white paint onto your wall, and while wet, staple the lace to the wall (I cut larger pieces apart for more interest), then roll paint over the top of the lace.  Think of it like decoupage with paint instead of glue.  The staples will show if not strategically placed, so sometimes it's good to add interestingly shaped upholstery tacks for more detail, and to help secure edges and small bits.  Once the paint dries, you can leave it as is, or glaze any color you like over the top.  I used a very sheer umber on Linda's to keep it white, but enhance the details. 

Linda's thrilled to bits with the end result, and with the tweaks she also hired me to make to her furniture and accessory arrangements, throughout the condo.  She knew her taste, and had great pieces, so it was easy to show her a few designer tricks for creating a finished look that flows throughout her home.  It was also a whole lot of fun.  She's one of those clients who takes good care of those she hires, pampering, praising, promoting, and oozing generosity, and she loves to play, too!  I couldn't have asked for a better way to end the summer than creating this mossy, lacy confection for such a sweet soul.

Whatever your style, I'd love to help you take it all the way to blissed-out perfection!  Click on over to my website (theartofthehome.com) to see my full portfolio, and to get the details on how to go about commissioning me.  And yes, as a matter of fact, I do travel.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Asking and Receiving

Mural by Dawn-Marie deLara for the Belle Plaine Library, BP, Minnesota.  A young swordsman reads Dragon Hunting for Eejits, while barely hidden behind him, the dragon reads up on Safe Cracking.  And the Princess?  She takes a break from reading The Practical Princess Presents:  Dragon Proof Your Own Palace.  I'd like to say she's the smartest, but truth told, all of them are so buried in their books, they fail to see the pranks being pulled by the animals behind their backs.  The mural is called, "Everything you need to know in life is in a book...well, almost everything"

A little story about the librarian who asked for what she really wanted...and got it.
Step 1.  Even though it doesn't show in the end, wash in background color, to banish the overwhelm of a big blank wall, then go home and figure out how you actually want to paint this one.  Nope, did not know what style I was painting, at this point!
You might know I live across the street from the local library.  No?  Ah, welcome then, new reader!  Not only am I over there often for printing and scanning (they have way better equipment than I want to invest in), and for the usual checking out of massive stacks of books (which I rarely return on time, despite the proximity), but I've also done a lot of painting there.  Mostly wood graining trim and marbleizing columns, until recently.  
Step 2.  Having decided to layer solid light colors over dark shadows, paint in inky black in the background, then come over the top with shrubs, hanging branches and ferns.  Step 3.  Add in a bunch of animals that weren't in the original sketch, and work on painting the rippling creek water.
What to use?  On an interior mural of this size, craft paint and basic acrylics work just fine.  I sometimes use Flasche acrylics, which are a velvety French brand, but they are quick drying and for this reason, very hard to blend.  In the end, I don't think the results are much different.  Other muralists would disagree with that, so use what pleases you.

Last winter, when I lettered a quote on a beam, Georgine the librarian asked me if I could letter the words "Juvenile Books" over that section of the stacks.  Now, since I practically live at the library, I happen to know that Georgine has long wanted a mural for "her" branch, but has been waiting for a long talked about, but still not quite funded addition to the building.  She's asked me more than once over the years if I'll paint it, and with her retirement looming, she's been despairing of any of her pet projects happening on her watch.  

Step 4.  Rough in the main characters, and add more grass and ferns.
Looking at the space she wanted lettered, it occurred to me that I could actually fit a carefully planned scene right there, and even with any future additions and rearrangements of books, some part of the kids' section would likely always be there.  Thus, instead of a quick quote for lettering two words, I submitted a proposal for two versions of that, plus one for a full mural.  Georgine was delighted, and the Friends of the Library were willing to pay half.  I had offered to donate part, so we were good to go, but Georgine and the Friends, who I sometimes suspect consider me (their local artist) a pet project, thought perhaps we could get some Legacy Funds, as well.  
Step 5.  Work up faces and details.  At this point, titles are added to the books, and the mischief the secondary characters are up to becomes apparent.
I used photos from books for most of the animals, though some readers will recognize the wolf as my beloved, though long departed malamute, McKinley.  The princess and the swordsman were both painted from photos of my Artgirl, Faithie, who also helped rough in some of the background color one day, and who patiently rescheduled her art classes around my wonky painting and sleeping schedule.  If you have none of your own for models and slave labor, do as I do and borrow kids from friends!
Here in Minnesota, we have funding set aside by a vote of the people to pay for arts and cultural heritage projects, known as Legacy Funds, and our libraries benefit quite a lot from this money.  This funding brings world class musicians to small town libraries, traditional and folk dance instruction with live music to one branch, and pays for classes like the collage and book arts workshops I taught at several libraries this summer.  I'm sure it pays for lots more, but those are the programs I've personally enjoyed.  This funding has also helped pay for murals in a few libraries, and for Belle Plaine, they agreed to match what the Friends would pay.  With the original sketch fully funded, I went ahead and donated matching hours for extra animals and details.
Step 5, continued... Finish main characters' details plus secondary characters on the other end.   Step 6.  Go back two additional mornings to tweak details, including adding lots more grass and leaves to tone down the dragon a bit, and to better show the crows that pilfer his treasures.
Also useful for mural painting:  Plenty of fresh water, lots of good strong coffee (particularly if working through the night), and audio books and good music.  Two of the artists I listened to while painting, Chad MacAnally and Dean McGrew, are both musicians I discovered through Legacy Funded programs at libraries.

For the last two weeks of summer, running straight through Labor Day Weekend, I painted in the off hours, meaning mostly late at night and on the weekends, tidying away my scaffold and ladder each morning before the library opened, much like the shoemaker's elves.  I was asked to work some while the library was open, but on a scaffold over the heads of young children in a small space?  Sounded like a Berenstein Bears episode in the making, so I had to decline, though the last two mornings, I was still finishing up when the doors opened, so they got a little of what they asked for.  They also asked for a presentation, which Georgine somehow turned into three, but I don't mind.  I never run out of words!
Georgine-the-Librarian.  Also known as, "She-Who -Asked".

We all got what we asked for, in the end.  Georgine got her mural; I got paid the full value of the original submission; and the library got some live action mural painting, a crazy silly story hour, and a couple of "meet the artist" events, the last of which will happen on Saturday, September 20th at 11:00 a.m.  Life is that way.  We do get what we ask for.  If you aren't getting what you want, may I suggest you check to be sure you're asking (and saying "yes, thank you") with all your heart?  If you don't believe me that it works, ask Georgine, who asked loudly and often, until the right people heard it at the right time.  

It's your little world!  Ask for what you want, and always, always, always Paint Happy!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Orgasmic Rose...wait, I meant Organic...well...

Photos in this post thanks to Ann Viveros, mandala artist, Jamberry Nail rep, and soul sister.  Click her name to get to her website.

I'm back.  Hopefully this time, back on a weekly schedule.  I've certainly stacked up plenty of projects and whims and gourmet goodness to write about for months to come.  I wasn't too busy, I just hadn't the heart to write much this past year.  No big trauma, just burn-out from the crazy schedule of publishing the five issues of 365 Being, while still blogging at least twice a week, and working on three children's books.  Even Lucie the adventure mouse has been on the back burner most of the year.  Wait!  Not literally.  I promise, not cooking up mice!   
Yup, I'm back.  Yup, cut my hair, surprised my friends:  Cindy says never wear it any other way.  Maureen says I look dangerous.  Kit calls it sexy.  Kae hates it, but Kae also hates fresh basil, so her opinion is suspect.  I love it some days, and want my braid back on others.
Anyway, my love of wordsmithing is back, and I've been cooking up some lovely stuff, and itching to write about it.  Lately, since it's the Icky-Sticky days of summer in Minnesota, I've been making ice cream for my friends, instead of the usual soup.  I'm not one to collect fancy kitchen gadgets, as those would displace all my fancy mismatched china that I collect, but the ice cream maker was only ten bucks at the thrift store, and the memory of childhood summer nights with my father at the crank washed over me as I stood gazing at it.  This memory, coupled with the fact that this machine came with a cord instead of a crank (no dad muscle required), made me forget I was there to buy a few paint shirts, and instead I came home with a gadget.  

Which I promptly stuck in the back of a cupboard and forgot about for a couple of years.

I'm not that much of an ice cream eater.  However, every summer there always comes an evening, when I've worked a long day, and on the way home, I stop to get a pint of something wonderful.  That day came, but wonderful was not to be found.  Sure there are a jillion decadent indulgences in the freezer section, and many that started as little companies, then got bought up by the mega giants, thus making them available in ever wider varieties.  So lots of choices, but not one without artificial ingredients.  Even the premiums.  

Now, to be fair, I was at a small grocery, and I am way beyond reasonably picky.  I'm sure there were lots of flavors with ingredients that even in massive doses wouldn't hurt you.  But I don't eat chemicals.  Period.  Except when friends and clients feed me.  I do not eat antifreeze.  I do not eat artificial colors, and I completely fail to understand artificial flavors, especially in high priced (used to be)gourmet items.  What am I paying for if not the exquisite best the world can offer?  I was grumpy.  I was incredulous.  I was disheartened.  I was ice cream-less.

A few days later, I pulled out the machine, dusted it off, and read the directions.  After another round of grocery store label reading, I had vanilla without weirdness (WTH Watkins???  You still have the rep of being all natural, but you are most definitely NOT), cream without corn syrup and diglycerides (Don't assume that a one-ingredient staple is what it says it is), milk, eggs, and cane sugar, plus my friend Kae's childhood favorite recipe.  I made her vanilla frozen custard, then tried Strawberry ice cream, Peach Sorbet, Almond Joy ice-milk-less, Chocolate shower ice milk, Rockin' the Road ice milk, Rose frozen custard, and Raspberry Rose, as well.  I am suddenly more popular than ever on the potluck circuit.

Am I saving money?  No.  By the time one buys clean ingredients, plus ice and rock salt for the freezing process, and a bunch of extra containers to package it for give-aways, Godiva is a bargain.  Having gone chemical-free, I've resigned myself to buying expensive groceries and thrift store clothes (which actually can be a bargain, but the $120 sweater for $10 is a story for some other post).

Am I eating ice cream three meals a day?  Thankfully, no.  When my heart finished its mending, a month or so back, I totally lost the craving for sugar-sweetened comfort, so luscious pints are stacked in my freezer, ready to go to friends, paint clients, and folks who do me favors, and 20 pounds has fallen from my frame.  I only crave a bite or two, when a long, hot afternoon melts into soft evening, and the sound of the crickets conjures the rhythmic scrape-scrape-whirring of Papa at the crank, the buzz-buzz-slap of mosquitoes being dispatched by sleepy-eyed onlookers, and the natural goodness of summer chilled to icy perfection.

My friend Ann requested Rose ice cream, and even brought a bottle of rose water down from the city.  We took it to Friday Open Studio at Maureen's (Maureen Carlson's Center for Creative Arts), where Kae, who usually hates anything not "Iowa food" moaned for ten straight minutes.  Thus, the name...

Annie's Orgasmic Rose Iced Custard

6 eggs well beaten
1 1/4 cup sugar
6-10 cups whole milk
1 Tablespoon rose water

Add sugar to eggs in the top of a double boiler and add as much milk as will fit with room to stir.  Place over simmering water and cook, whisking constantly until thickened, about 12 minutes.  If you aren't sure, dip a clean spoon in.  It should thickly coat.  You want to do this slow and careful, or you'll have curdled egg in a milk bath*.  Pour the cooked custard through a sieve (there will be a few rubbery lumps, so just do it) into your ice cream maker's container, and add as much milk as you like.  On the 6 cup end, you have rich custard, on the 10 cup end, you have a lot more to feed your friends, and I think it's more refreshing.  Stir in the rose water.  Yes, 1 T is enough.  Taste the mixture before churning, if you don't believe me.  Freeze according to your machine's directions.  Then place in cartons in freezer for at least 2 hours before eating.  

Best to freeze in pints, as after several hours, homemade ice cream is harder than store bought (no anti-freeze, and not much butterfat in this particular recipe), and needs to soften a few minutes before scooping.

* If you do curdle it, pour it through the sieve and freeze the sweet, rosy milk anyway.  Serve it within a few hours of churning, for best scoopability.  With no fats, it will freeze quite hard.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I'm not a mason, but I do a good job of make believe.

I hesitated to write today's post, having neither the camera nor the photography skills to get shots that really show what the eye sees on this project.  The homeowners were overjoyed to the point of tears though, and I know they'd like this to be posted so they can share with far away friends, so I'll ask you to use your best squinty eyes here, and trust me that it looks almost indistinguishable from the real thing in person.

Cookie and Ed first called me in to do a faux finish in their bathroom.  They loved this Southwestern style wall paper mural, but after a remodel it was floating awkwardly on the wall.  I simply glazed the wall around it in a matching adobe finish, and extended a leaf detail from the mural out across the wall, just a bit.

I didn't paint this mural, just the wall around it, when the room was enlarged for wheelchair access.  The trick here was to paint the base coat over the wallpaper, right up to the edge of the window, then match the finish to the little bit that shows at the top.  The shadow hides the wallpaper edge on the side, and the bottom edge was sanded a bit to help it blend in, prior to painting.

They were so pleased with this that they asked me if I had any ideas for the plain niches that held their favorite bronze statues.  The rugged, western style sculptures needed something richer than a plain beige wall to set them off, and Ed thought perhaps a mountain mural would do the trick.  I've done such things for taxidermy displays, but I wasn't sure, and Cookie was strongly opposed.  As we talked, or rather as I babbled on, trying to keep up with the free flow of ideas that spews out of my brain at times like these, I said something about a rocky desert cliff face, and Cookie's eyes lit up.  Seems the rock wall on the other side of the room was her consolation for giving up the stone fireplace in a recent remodel.

Art niche with faux stone plaster finish.
There would be no way to install more of the real thing in such small niches, but I could simulate it in paint, or if they wanted, in plaster and paint.  They loved the idea of some real texture, so I hauled in a bucket of mud and a couple rolls of masking tape and got busy.  Just masking off the stone shapes in two niches took about five hours.  This step involves cutting off the straight edges of every piece of tape, and then once they're all placed, going back and adding shaping to all the corners.  For this room, it also involved lots of stopping to compare it to the real rock wall, to be sure sizes, shapes, and placement looked like the original.

The real thing, except the color is a bit washed out here, and I couldn't get it back.
Prep work like this feels a bit like cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  You know, that feeling you get when the meal you just spent five hours preparing gets scarfed down in about fifteen minutes?  Yeah, it's kind of like that, because as soon as you trowel the mud on, you pull the tape right back off.  Good thing this has the happy reward of instant (though unfinished) stones to admire, unlike that holiday dinner that leaves you nothing but a carcass and a mountain of dirty dishes.

Once the "stones" dry, I scrape over them with a taping knife, knocking off all the sharp points and shaping the edges, and then I give them a white or clear base coat, and let that dry.  While it's drying, I mix several stone colors to match the real stone, and then start brushing it on, scumbling it into the divots and crevices, and blotting some back off.  Every stone gets a bit of almost every color, though which is dominant varies from one to the next, and extra shading is added to some of the stones, making them appear to protrude much farther from the wall than they do.  Sadly, this is where the camera knocks things flatter than they appear in person. Sigh.

This shot held onto some of the shading.  If you squint, you might get back a bit of the shape the camera insists on flattening. :)
By the time I was done tinting these, the mortar spaces had turned very nearly the color of the real mortar, so I didn't have to add anything there.  We all stood back to look it over, and agreed that all that was needed was a bit of extra shadow to give the individual stones the definition of the real wall.  It made the work day stretch a little late into the evening, but the results were so worth it.  The statues got backdrops strong enough to support them, Ed and Cookie got something they said was better than anything they expected or imagined, and I got warm fuzzies from their tearfully enthusiastic hugs (and a lovely tip, thanks you two).

Joy for me is in the details; the details of the jobs I do, the details of the lives of the people I meet, and all the little moments in a work day that confirm that I'm in the right place, doing the right thing.  Whether I'm writing a kids' novel, illustrating a picture book, or decorating homes like this one, it seems my job is always to make stuff up, and if it's all made up, well, why not have fun and fill it with all the detail possible?

May your home, your work, your life overflow with joyful details!

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Mother's Work

Over the weekend, at the monthly soup and studio gathering I host for friends, we celebrated the impending motherhood of our friend Pamela.  Part of the celebration involved sharing a story about a childhood memory of our mothers, and how it impacts our life, now.  I thought I'd share mine with all of you.  Like most folks, I didn't get exactly the childhood I wanted, at the time, but I got just what I needed...

Just one corner of Baker Food Co-op.  

When I was little, my mom got together with a couple of her friends to order organic food in bulk.  We had the van to haul it, and the other two had driver’s licenses.  After a few years, many more friends wanted to join in, but the van couldn’t haul enough, and nobody had room in their home to divide up that much, anyway, so they came up with a plan to form a food co-op.  Those three women, along with a handful of other folks, met around our big dining table.  They hammered out articles of incorporation, filled out non-profit paperwork, and discussed by-laws and boards.

My mother had no degree, and at that time, no real business experience.  However, she had grown up with entrepreneurial parents, she knew food, and she was an absolute budget queen.  She was starting to work part time in a local restaurant, but she still considered feeding her family to be her primary job (though as a 70’s feminist, you’d not have heard her say it that way).  She held meetings, argued ethics, read everything available on sustainable, organic food production and consumption, and spent hours on the phone tracking down sources.  This was long before internet and unlimited long-distance.

And where am I in this story?  I’m the kid at the table, with her own cup of Seattle Spice tea, listening to it all, or in the next room, “holding meetings” with the children of those other folks.

What started as three women and a van grew into a true co-op, with a downtown location open to the public, and significant discounts for working members,  which make health food in my home town cheaper than typical grocery store fare.  Last time I was home for a visit, I stopped in for a few things, and the clerk ran them through on my folks' membership number.  A clerk in training raised an eyebrow, and the other clerk explained who mom is.  Still, the trainee looked unsure.

“Look,” I explained, half joking, “My whole childhood is invested in this place.  I painted posters for the windows after school, I fell asleep to the sound of Mom balancing the books on an old fashioned adding machine, and countless family weekends were spent building shelves, hauling produce, and re-packaging bulk cheese.  If mom and her friends had started it any earlier, my first words would have been “non-profit corporation”, and I’d have teethed on the drafts of the by-laws that covered every surface in our house for months.  The co-op got my mom, so I get her discount, once every few years.”

Sure I wished my mom had come to more of my baseball games and been backstage for my ballet recitals.  I wish now that I had a few more memories of Mom and me playing together, but I think no matter what our moms give us, we wish for something more, or other.  I envied the kids whose moms brought cupcakes to school, and sewed the costumes for recitals, but in hindsight, I’d say I did alright.  My mom taught me young to bake my own cupcakes and sew my own costumes, so she could get out in the world and show me how to be a woman with vision, passion, and tenacity.  Cupcakes are overrated.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Midnight in New Orleans

Sky ceilngs are fun to paint.  Usually I'm asked to do them in a nursery, but I've done them in pantries, dining rooms and bathrooms.  Just before Christmas, I got to paint one in a master bedroom.  Usually, the clients want a cheerful blue sky with just wisps of clouds.  These folks didn't want the usual.  These folks wanted:  

  •    Moody romance
  •    Maybe with a stormy sky, if possible
  •    A 1920's vibe...art nouveau perhaps
  •    Perhaps a little New Orleans
  •    Perhaps a little Celtic
  •    Work with their lavender walls and traditional mahogany furniture

Here's how all that worked into one design...
This shot actually shows it a little brighter than it looks in person, but you can see the overall idea here, anyway.  Perhaps you can understand why I spent a couple of days singing everything from "Stormy Weather" to "Bad Moon Rising", as I painted.  As music is not one of my talents, this will hopefully fade from the client's memory fairly soon.
All the necessities, and then some.  Most clients give me hugs, but these folks gave me kisses!  
Here you get a  better sense of the ceiling color.  The clouds fade down onto the walls, where they are overlapped by a free form border, based on a 1920's wrought iron design, which I crossed with some Celtic line work from an ad of the same vintage.  Though the ceiling was mostly blue and gray, I used some purple toward the edges, to blend with the walls, and then a shade of raisin for the main scrolls to link the purple and lavender with the mahogany furniture.  
Yes!  One shot where the camera saw what people see.  Here you see the plummy undertones in the lavender, the extra ribbons of white in the border, and the clouds in their full glory.  This shot explains why this is my new favorite project.  Of course, I'm one of those odd ducks who loves thunder storms, so I'm biased.

So, what's on your ceiling?  Bored with plain white?  Even if something this dramatic is a bit much for you, there are lots of other possibilities.  Click on over to my website to see some other ideas, or give me a list of everything you like, and I'll see what I can stir up.