Sunday, March 30, 2014

Finding My Childhood Under A Jello Mold

Growing up in Northwestern Alabama became a challenge right about the time I hit puberty.  Gone was the enchantment of playing in the woods and planting flowers with my Mom; 
I was ready to move on, and never look back.  
All grown up, I wanted to dump that frivolous kid stuff and go search for
the Real Meaning of Life.

Or something like that.

A Buttercup Meadow near my house that reminds me of my childhood.
But for the last three weeks, pushed by a brief created by
Lilla Rogers in her Assignment Bootcamp,
I have been gently delving in memories of my childhood; 
peeling back the layers of life to get back to that sweet time
when nothing was more important than what was happening at that moment.

Just that.

Drinking it in, smelling it, tasting it, lying on the ground and rolling in it.

I have to explain 
that growing flowers and vegetables was one of the premier pastimes of my young life.
My Mom and Dad were gifted gardeners who understood in their bones and souls 
the miracle of planting tiny seeds and nurturing them to verdant
stalks that bore strenuously and gave no hint of their small, dry beginnings. 

On Spring and Summer evenings after supper, we would remove
to the yard, where soaking hoses had been laid in the flower beds.
With the smell of grass around us in the radiant evening, my Mom and Dad
taught me to lift the tiny, fragile new plants from their watery bed
and tease their roots apart.  With a poke of the finger, a welcoming cave
would be made and the newly separated and tender plant would be pushed into it,
surrounded by a muddy water bath that would nourish it to its full potential.
I loved those times.

Besides that memory, one of the most powerful recollections
 wrapping around my childhood life like a fish net are the Sundays and Holidays
spent at my paternal Grandma's house.  I say Grandma's, because
I'm a girl, she was a girl, so Grandpa didn't count as far as the house went.

Every year on the day after Christmas, we gathered at my Grandma's house 
for my Grandpa's Birthday and a huge potluck dinner.
The pride and joy of two of my aunts were their amazing Jello molds. 
I was scared to death of those things.

Can you imagine facing this when your head is only just above the level of the table?  And you have no clue what that stuff is that is trapped inside that jiggly green gelatin?  My mother, to her eternal credit, never made me take a bite "just for manner's sake" out of any of those nuclear bombs.  I love her all the more for that.

So, when Lilla Rogers gave us her mini brief on March 3 and the subject was Jello Molds, I was swept back to that time in space...

My first thought was those heart throbbing moments of sneaking past those
congealed salads and wondering - with the clarity of distance -
if there really were bugs and spiders trapped in that jello?


Then I started drawing.  From the first bug-themed jello molded salads of my nightmares came a natural progression...I'm wondering if any artist does this differently?  
What flowed out of my pen were traceries of molds, egg beaters, whisks, and of course,
gelatine molds.  Remembering the copper molds on my Mom's kitchen walls,
I smiled and dug deeper.  The molds quite naturally were
joined by botanicals.  To my great surprise, the simple bluebells of my childhood meadow
wanderings became front and center.

The molds became more ancient, more Old World and I was off down the river again.
Once you jump in, you just have to go with the flow, you know?

When the time came to post my final submission, I was still dancing in flower meadows, smelling my childhood, and unwilling to stop.
But a deadline is a deadline, and this is the real left-brain-sided world,
so I hugged my rosy cheeked child-self and posted my final:

And now I'm going back to dance some more, plant some flowers in memory
of my Mom and Dad, and just maybe...maybe make a congealed salad.  Maybe. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Stitch In Time For Yeppoon Australia

The 7th Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap is on!

Here's the plan:

Make a Post Card using the theme Create.

Use any materials you want, but put some stitching somewhere.
Then send it to someone you've never met, from another country from where you live.

This is all orchestrated by Beth Nicholls of Do What You Love.
She is an amazing person
who inspires literally thousands of artists around the world on a daily basis.

Include stitching?

Not a problem - I have MULTIPLE sewing machines scattered around.
(Some have collected dust while I dance with the MATS Assignment Bootcamp)

Finding stuff to use is also not a problem...
I have A LOT of fabric, paper, and fringe drops.
Like most artists do.

The decisions of where to put what got harder and harder to make.
I had SO MUCH STUFF I wanted to put on my card
for my new friend in Yeppoon, Queensland, Australia.

I finally decided to use it all.
What the heck.  The theme is CREATE, for crying out loud!!
You can't hold back when in CREATE mode.

When she opens the card, she'll see these instructions:

And now, I'm going to go create something while my card is flying to Australia.

And stick it on my refrigerator door.

Off to the studio!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

When Tiny is Really Huge

Sometimes, a very tiny thing is actually quite large.  Powerful.  Eye-grabbing.

It's a tough act to pull off, but Lady Bugs and Wild Mushrooms in the forest 
manage it with a classy aplomb that I envy.

My Iphone Case, "Hello Hello".

What's all this tiny talk about?
I'm taking another Lilla Rogers class online - this time it is called Assignment Boot Camp.

All of us who have taken her previous two classes have an edge, because we've already had truck loads of information about the Surface Design Market shoveled into our psyche.

And one of those things is this:  
When you submit your artwork to a company you are simply dying to be with,  
a very good test is to shrink your submission to about the size of a postage stamp. 
Leave the room and then come back and see it grabs you.
If it reads at postage stamp size, you've cleared the first hurdle.

Sounds simple, but with all the 10 million other industry secrets that Lilla has tossed our way, it gets hard to remember.  Especially when you are in creative throes.

For our first assignment, Lilla teased us with a mini-brief.
Draw Cuckoo Clocks.
Lots and lots of them.

For a solid week, cuckoo clocks poured into our online classroom.
Some clocks looked like engineering marvels, with stag heads on top, woodmen and their wives standing on a deck in the middle, and the utterly necessary cuckoo bird screaming from the loft doorway.  It was amazing.

 I started to wonder how on earth something as detailed as a traditional Cuckoo Clock could be translated into a powerful, instant-read icon.
For the Market, remember.  For the broad Masses, you know?

Then Lilla pulled one of her famous tricks.
Take all those very detailed drawings that we had made for a week
and arrange them on an Iphone case.

You know how big/small an Iphone is, right??

She said we didn't REALLY have to put our presentation on an Iphone template, but it would be just fine if we did.  By the time the deadline arrived, I had decided not to - I couldn't choose from the icons I had and didn't want to ditch any of them.  

On Tuesday of last week, Lilla presented to the world the gallery of submissions.  And most of them were on Iphone templates...

We had been drilled to the wall with Lilla's lesson about the importance of a tiny read.
And I won't forget it again.

If you want to have access to over 400 artist's interpretations of Cuckoo Clocks, with quick links to their studios and websites, Lilla Rogers and Beth Kempton have made the class gallery accessible to the public - an amazing gift, both to us and to the public.

Here is the link:  Boot Camp February Gallery

Go take a look - I'm on Page 7!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Three Big Lessons from The Atlanta Gift and Home Market

Now that the Market is over, I want to share with you the three biggest things I learned.

Big Lesson #1
At the Atlanta Market, I saw a lot of booths and showrooms that didn't "have it".
Their displays were drab or too simple, reflecting a lack of effort or even worse,
a lack of awareness of their product and how it looked from the curb.

Then I would pass by a showroom that was packed tight with buyers, music was amped up, 
and the atmosphere was electric with positive energy.  
It was a happy uproar.
Image of Creative Co-Op Showroom by Creative Co-Op
Showrooms like Creative Co-Op had attended to every detail of their appearance "vocabulary".
They were confident in their work because they had done their homework,
attended to every tiny detail,
 and were consequently comfortable enough to let 'er rip.
They were having fun.
And it showed.

The Lesson?
Do your homework before you start.
Be aware of what is going on in the Market.
Know what your vocabulary is.
Then work your composition until you know there are no holes in it.
Have a blast while you are doing it, because that will automatically show up.
Stand back and see if it has curb appeal and joy - if it does, it will grab the buyer's eye and hold it.

Big Lesson #2
While walking this Market, it was easy to spot the new trends,
alongside the trends which have already run their course.

Owls and chalkboard art have had their time, but you will continue to see both for seasons to come.
Farm animals, big florals, and outdoor activities like camping were strong,
along with coastal and shore images, but there were still foxes, hedgehogs, dogs, alligators, crabs...
know what I mean?

Orange and blue were dominant "trend" colors, but I also saw every color in the rainbow.
Image from Company C

When you walk through any large shopping district, you see eye-catching displays
of "on Trend" products.
But you will also see other themes displayed just as beautifully.
What anyone ends up buying to put in their home or to give as a gift
 will always boil down to personal choice.

The Lesson here?
If you are an artist trying to sell your art for application, stay aware of what's going on out there,
and then just go and make your own absolute best art.  Every day.

Because there is a buyer out there for everything.

Big Lesson #3
Amy Howard of Amy Howard At Home has been tremendously successful because she practices several personal rules, which she passed on to us in a short seminar at Market.  I won't go into full detail here, because I'm sure Amy will be teaching this in her upcoming seminars and retreats.
But what I took out of her session was this:  Get Your Game On.  Really.
Images from Amy Howard At Home

When you walk a Market like this, you realize with absolute certainty that you have to be at the top of your game, and you need a game plan to follow to get there.

I picked these two simple steps from Amy's rules to

Be The Best At What You Do Best:
1.  Figure out what your Achilles heel is.
What stops you from being the best you could be?
Procrastination?  Record keeping?  Organizing your studio?
Face it head on and figure out a way to handle that weak point.
Create a solution to keep it from gomming up the works
and stopping your work flow.
Do that NOW, with a firm hand.
Commit to your solution.

2.  Then, take a critical survey of all that you do with your creative self.
What do you do BEST?
Now apply yourself to doing that better than anyone on the face of the earth,
and let the things that you do WELL fall by the wayside.

As Amy loves to say, "don't be a Jack of All Trades, and a Master of None".

Make what you do best be what you are known for.

And that's it.  I hope these Three Big Lessons will help you out - I am off to school again:

Lilla Rogers Assignment Boot Camp!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

More Trends from the Atlanta Gift and Home Market

The Atlanta Market is winding down,  but I continue to be blown away by this show.

Image from Peking Handicraft

The showrooms I visited at the beginning of the show in the Merchandise Mart were all about Old European Style, wood, metal, flaking paint, burlap and tweed,
unbleached canvas and natural linen.
A fairly masculine feel.

And then...
The last two days, I focused on the flip side - Powee!
Fabulous color - several million square feet of it.  And florals, chevrons, dots, patterns, 
and throbbing style:

Image from All For Color

Image from Peking Handicraft
Image from Thomas Paul

If I had to name a single color that stood out the most in the Atlanta Show, it would have to be Orange.  Followed by Blue.

Image from Kay Dee Designs
Image from Peking Handicraft

Motifs and themes that popped out of this more colorful side were all about the Shore, 
both Lake and Coastal. 
Lots of Octopi, Sea Horses, Conch Shells, Starfish and Sea Turtles. 
And Whales.  I saw whales everywhere.

The Great Outdoors was also a constant theme - 
camping, hiking, and playing outdoor sports.

Canoes, Bears and Moose.
Fly Rods.

Image from Sideshow Press
A huge, beautiful Market! 

Now, think about the millions of dollars spent in developing all these products.
And the thousands and thousands of hours that artists spent 
creating the icons for these products.
It will all wind up on store shelves and then float into your homes.

It all starts with a sketch.
Pretty unbelievable to think about, huh?

Think I'll go put my feet up, pour a glass of wine, and sketch something...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Report from Atlanta Gift and Home Market

I've walked the Market for two days, and that just about sums it up in one word.
This show is HUGE.
And the products are gorgeous.
Take a look:
Block and Brayer image

Block Prints on canvas or twill or linen.  
Colors ranged from charcoal to every hue of the 2014 Pantone chart.
So beautiful, so graphic, yet so "mark of the hand".
All made in America.  
The lovely prints above from  Block and Brayer are just one of the collections represented in the Market that are either hand printed or screen printed from the original 
hand-carved blocks.

Image from Low Country Linens
Low Country Linens had a pretty booth, chock full of block printed linens that are made in the Low Country area of South Carolina.

Image from Design Legacy
This image from  
Design Legacy includes many of the themes that the Atlanta show is filled with-
Lots of Blues - Cobalt, Indigo, Delft, and Navy.  Most of the time, the punch combined with these blues is....
Orange, of course!

Wooden spools of every size, most wrapped with cord, ribbon, or jute.

Maps.  Maps.  Maps.
Old World Maps,
 Compass Point Maps.
Printed on a variety of surfaces.

And those vintage style numbers are still everywhere.

Lowcountry Originals (those artisans in South Carolina sure are busy!) pulled me right in to their oyster-shell adorned booth, as always.  Lovely lighting, furniture, and accent pieces, all cleverly incorporating oyster shells.  

Image from Lowcountry Originals.

Sitting on one of their mantels was another icon that permeates the Atlanta show...
Hogs.  Pigs.  Wild Boars.

Like this pig from Eric and Christopher, who take pictures of animals on Eric's farm, and then Christopher turns them into screen prints.  Visit their website and read about their process; it is very inspirational.  Makes me want to Push, Pull, Print!

Animals are huge in this Market, with Pigs leading the way, accompanied by Sheep, Goats, Cows, Chickens, Squirrels and a few Foxes and Hedgehogs.

Mostly, it was all about large farm animals.

Owls, Blackbirds and Crows 
were still around, 
but not as much.  

The overall feel of the Market is still very Old World European, with delightful punches of color.  There is still a lot of burlap, iron, rust, distressed paint and topiary, relieved with natural linen and softened canvas.

The Authentic Movement Showroom was divine...

Fishs Eddy.
Always pleasing to look at and pick up.

Check out this Bow Tie from Forage;
their packaging is perfect.

Lucia Soaps, and more divine packaging:

The fabulous Mara Mi:

 And Lotta Jansdotter...

Tomorrow and Monday will be filled with more scouring, observing, and appreciating...

Appreciating all these thousands of artists who design all this lovely stuff.
Now do you see why Lilla Rogers says "Get Cracking!"??   

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Meeting the Nutcracker Prince

Early this past Monday morning, our class with Lilla Rogers was given a brief to begin working on.  It was concise, stipulating that we were to study and sketch Winter Holiday ornaments and candy, in order to create a Greeting Card later in the week.  
My little Santa Belles started chingling in the background, 
and within an hour, I had gathered my inspiration board to work from.

Inexplicably, instead of the Reindeer and Snowmen and Candy Canes I had expected, my board was filled with Nutcracker Ornaments and Ribbon Candy.  Neither of which I have EVER had anything to do with at Christmas.  What the heck? 

Grumbling at what I believed to be wasted time, I began sketching, drawing the ferocious teeth that every operational nutcracker automatically has. 
How would he crack those nuts, otherwise?

And then, without volition or conscious reason, I went back and erased those teeth and drew real lips, with a reserved but sweet smile.  The eyes became kind and open, instead of ferocious, and the contour of his face became less of a caricature and more of a man.  I was falling softly in love with this Sweet Prince, and I didn't even know who he was.

Image courtesy of
I was remembering that about 15 years ago, Husband and I went with friends to a presentation by the Atlanta Ballet of The Nutcracker.  Halfway through, the men were glassy eyed, and I was struggling to understand the wordless ballet.  It was beautiful, but I had never read the Nutcracker story, wasn't raised with it, so I didn't know what was going on.  I felt bad about that, since this was obviously a beloved cultural tradition.

Enchanted by the ballerinas "on point", and the graceful strength of the men, I missed the whole story line and was sleepily glad when the final curtain fell.

Image courtesy of

So, as I drew and amended my Nutcracker, I decided that after I had finished this brief, I would go and find out what the story was behind this beloved symbol of Christmas that had 
taken command of my easel.  But first, it was more important to finish the assignment 
than to understand the story - at least to my way of thinking.

I kept working, unconsciously adding candy sketches, cedar trees, and a snowstorm.  Again and again, I edited out the candy and snow flurries - too busy, too busy - and they kept creeping back in like little mice.  The background kept on being black, when I wanted it to be Christmas Red.  As the deadline loomed, I sat back in my chair, arms crossed, and studied my results.  A drawing I was no longer in control of...somehow, my Nutcracker Prince had softly but firmly steered my artwork to what HE wanted it to be, and I knew it.  
I turned off the lights, and went to bed.

The first thing I did this morning was to search the Internet for 
"What was the story behind The Nutcracker Ballet"?

And there it was.  The girl falling asleep with her Nutcracker Christmas gift wrapped in her arms.  The dream battle with the evil forces, and the girl's decisive throw to kill the evil Mouse King.  An enchanted forest, the candy kingdom, and the snow storm - all introduced by this gentle Prince, who had taken over my drawing.  
This all took place in the deep of the night, of course, so the background had to be black.

I won't question  how that happened, or try to reason through it.  I would rather accept the sparkling enchantment that came alive in my studio for a few days, 
the traces of which linger still.  

Hello, Sweet Nutcracker Prince.  It is lovely to meet you, and more than a little mysterious that you took charge of my drawing, over and over.  You wore me out.

I know you now, and I can't wait to meet you under the Tree, 
or perched on the corner of my desk again.  
This time, I won't fight you so hard, and will get a lot more done with that extra time.

And now, I wish you Good Night - I am off to dream of cedar trees and snowstorms,
with Tchaikovsky's Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairies wafting through the cool night air.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Back To School - With A New Tool Box!

Wow.  I can't believe it is time to Go Back To School already.

Monday morning at about 5:00 AM my time, Lilla Rogers, working in concert with Beth Kempton of Do What You Love for Life, will post the first mini brief in the classroom, and it will be Game On for five very intense weeks.

Just like the class that took place in June and July, the roster of students is as impressive as it is, well, intimidating - artists from all over the world will be slinging paint and brandishing Wacom Pens at all hours of the day and night as we race the deadline to submit our assignments every Sunday at 5:00 PM.  A few hours to breathe, then 
it starts all over again on Monday morning at 5:00.

It is utterly Exhilarating,
 and a Powerful Blooming Time
 for every single student in this class.

I have new tools to use in this segment: for starters, a new Wacom Intuos4 wireless pen tablet that I am besotted with. 


And a new understanding of Adobe Illustrator CS5,

and a subscription to to answer any questions I might have at any hour of the day (or night) about how to do something in Photoshop or Illustrator.

Because Lilla and Beth are all about business -the name of the course is Make Art That Sells after all - I also have a brand new website :

and a start on building my profile on the new 
Moyo Directory of Surface and Pattern designers:

Hard to believe how much I had NOT done to market myself before taking this class, and I have to say I've still not submitted to Art Directors, because I want all those websites finished before I do...what if they were to take a peek and say,
 "Well.  She simply doesn't have her act together.  Next, please."

The tools that I gained from the first segment in June/July would fill several tool boxes and are almost overwhelming - Lilla Rogers and Beth Kempton have packed these classes so full  that I'm still trying to absorb and put it all to use...and now, a new class begins!

Wowzer.  Time to go Get Cracking.
With my New Tool Box!!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

An Aha Moment in Skagway, Alaska

At precisely 10:47 AM on a misty gray morning in Skagway, Alaska, I had an enormous
 Aha! Moment - triggered by this fabric pattern:

I'm not 100 percent sure who the artist is that drew this happy group, but the palette and line work makes me think it is Helen Dardik -I apologize if it isn't, and would love to hear from anyone out there who does know. 

Now, this is a little complex, so bear with me here.

Skagway is nestled in a cove at the end of the Lynn Canal, off Chilkoot Inlet, with towering emerald green mountains draped around it - the gate keepers to the Klondike Gold Fields.   A pretty town, it is frothing with gorgeous blooms that drink in the cool, moist air.

We arrived by water, like most visitors do, and were given the day to explore. 
As we strolled the downtown area, I spied a quilt shop sign down a side street.
I'm not a quilter, but felt compelled to turn down the street to investigate.  After all, 
it takes art to make quilting fabric, and I was missing that kind of thing.  

Never mind that we were seeing jaw dropping art sliding past our ship every minute of every hour, I was craving the human-rendered connection to those miraculous vistas; patterns, color charts, and Photoshop in use by humans to capture the power of nature.

The magic stuff, you know?

Struggling through the crowds on the boardwalk that resulted from about 7,000 people being poured out of the cruise ships in the harbor, I made my way to the little doorway.

It looked like a good portion of those people were packed into this one tiny shop, the 

Turning sideways, I eased into the foyer and wriggled my way over to the left wall, where cut pieces were neatly folded into bundles with belly bands, stacked from floor to ceiling.  
Photo by The Rushin Tailor's Quilt Shop in Skagway, Alaska
  Something from Week 1 of  Lilla Rogers' Make Art That Sells  class tugged at my brain.

As I hung there in a space of my own, zooming up and down the corridors of my mind, chasing that tantalizing clue, a little girl eased up beside me and stroked the fabric bundles in the basket thoughtfully.  She already had a piece held carefully in her hand, and she spoke to her father, who was squeezed in behind her.  "I like this one, too...".  I looked around me and saw the same thing going on all over the shop.  Men, women, and children were carefully studying and comparing the thousands of bundles packed into every available nook and cranny, and their faces held a quiet pleasure I had seen nowhere else on this trip.  

I felt like I had walked into a chapel. 

I picked up the bundle of Llama fabric and suddenly, the Lilla Lesson came into sharp focus, running like Surround Sound in my head.  Every single item in the shop was the result of someone's artwork.   An Art Director had bought or licensed the art to use on fabric.  This fabric.  Suddenly, I wasn't just looking at a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes anymore, 
I was DISSECTING the designs, automatically!

See?  Here is one of the main characters from that fabric - a Placement Graphic:

Notice the eye contact, and the sweet, open face that says, "I like myself, and I like you. "

It is part of this fabric design, but it could also be pulled out and used by itself on a child's back pack, wall decal, pencil case, etc.

See these mountains?  See how they overlap and create a whole new motif to look at?  That little overlap area could readily be pulled out and made into a whole new design for a coordinating fabric, or a stand-alone design.

And this little guy could be lifted right out and centered on a child's T shirt - throw on a pair of purple pants, and you have a cutie-patootie outfit!

See what I mean?  Dissected. So many motifs in that one pattern, in yummy colors, that could be pulled out and used in clothing, children's tableware, bedding, wall art and decals.  That is what Lilla kept pounding into our lessons - give the Art Director who is looking at your work some Bang For their Buck.  Give them a lot in every design. 

I wasn't able to see the promise in these individual icons, until my Aha Moment - during the six week course, submissions by my classmates looked like random collections of artfully drawn and colored shapes, pasted onto the requisite 8 x 10 file.  I couldn't see the "X Factor" in many of the ones she selected to review, until 10:47 AM, Skagway time.  I got it!  

Good.  This isn't going to be easy, so I'm off to practice.  
A lot.

Thank you for visiting with me!


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