Monday, March 31, 2008

SPRING! *cough* (is this thing on?)

So this is the view we woke up to on Friday. *sigh* Yes, I know it is a wonderful view, I'm just wanting it to be a tad more green and balmy and a skosh less freezing cold and snowing.

So I created these polymer clay eggs! They remind me of warm summer days. I had a request to make an egg with a Brown-Eyed Susan theme. I made this one first:

But it looked all soft focus to me and I wasn't sure if I liked that strange effect. So I made this one where the flowers are more like illustrations:

After going so tight with the image, I felt the need to totally go another direction and loosen up so I created this one:

To be honest, I love them all :) They each have their own vibe.

A log of polymer clay with a picture or design in each slice is called a "cane". I used to do a lot of caning when I used Fimo polymer clay back in the '90's, even though the stiffness made it hard to work with, it held images well and didn't distort when you reduced it. I have been working with Premo for a few years, mostly making patterns that don't rely on careful caning. When I tried caning with the newest version of Premo clay, I found it really squishy and my images got distorted. I know what to do about this; I can leach the clay (leave it out overnight wrapped in paper to pull some of the plasticizer out), also I can let the clay cool between steps or even put it in the freezer when I need a firmer clay. I will try these next time but I can be so impatient when I am creating!

I created a slideshow showing most of the process of making the cane for the middle egg:
Slideshow on Flickr

Also I am entering the first egg in the the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy or PCAGOE April Polymer Clay challenge.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New for spring!

Well, it IS spring after all :) Last week I picked up Candace and we went to my mom and dad's house for a tasty lunch. We also made a fun trip to Paper Source in Wellesley, MA. I got all kinds of supplies to print more of mom's cards. Here's mom amongst the papers, she is too cute!

So here is the latest card in our collaboration!

The little cottage is called Crystal Palace. It's in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard. Mom painted the watercolor when their flowers were in bloom. I especially love how the urn breaks the border and gives the image depth.

I couldn't decide which color background looked best with it, we all agreed the image looked great on each of four colors so that's how we are offering it!

Saturday, March 22, 2008


That's what my mom said when she saw this tiny bulb and its spring shoot. And isn't that what we all have to have on cold, gray, rainy, 40 degree March days? It's technically spring now, but the warm weather and green buds are still weeks off at this point. We are all yearning for that first scent of wet dirt on a barely warm breeze to replace the cold, sterile nothingness of winter winds.

People threw trash into December's foot deep drifts and for a season it was invisible. But while March's snow piles attempt to stubbornly hold fast to their ever shrinking plots of real estate, all around the wet perimeters, bottles, cans and wrappers are revealed like the first crocus bulbs peeking through damp leaves.

And we take optimistic walks through the city, still bundled in wool, excited for the day when the Caffe puts its shiny chrome tables back out on the wide sidewalk and opens the giant green doors to the street. Lowell is a city that shines in the warm weather. We had a good winter, but we can't wait to see spring.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Studio Life

I had always wanted a retail storefront. I was going to sell my handmade goods (made right there in front of people) as well as vintage finds that I thought would go well with my handmade goodies. I've wanted to run a store since I was a child. More recently I researched this idea for many years; I managed a fine crafts gallery and saw how it worked, got a job in downtown Lowell to gauge foot traffic and demographics, quizzed every small business owner I could convince to open up to me, read books. And then I abandoned that idea, reluctantly.

But adaptability is crucial to survival. OK, it didn't work out the way I envisioned it, but maybe that wasn't the only way, or even the best way! I couldn't look backwards, it was time to think differently.

Western Avenue Studios is a fledgling (founded in July of 2005) artist community in a series of old mill buildings on a canal just outside of downtown Lowell, Massachusetts. While I was working downtown I heard people talking about it, but I didn't know where it was or how to get involved or even if I wanted to. It sounded a little insular, isolated, maybe intimidating? I have an education in Fine Art, but now I am a crafter, an artisan, there has always appeared to be an awkward rift between the two. Would the strictly fine artists accept me?

I went to visit one December day in 2006 during Open Studios. A husband of one of the artists kindly showed me how to get into the building. We got into the scary freight elevator (pull the heavy doors open from the middle, 1/2 goes up, 1/2 goes down, lift the cage door) and came out on the 5th floor. The smell of paint, the light from many windows, the worn wood floors, artists smiling at me, I was smitten. And overwhelmed. I even knew some folks there including the delightful textile artists at Friends Fabric Art, and that helped.

I went home with my mind swirling about the possibilities and put my name on the waiting list for a studio.

So here I am, over a year later. I moved into A305 in the A Mill in August of 2007, I set up a little display in the front and started making things at my table right away. It's amazing to be able to leave things out overnight! I don't have to clear away my project to eat dinner like at home :) But the best part (besides selling to the community during First Saturdays Open Studios) has been the interactions with other artists. I am a very independent person and I never knew I would enjoy being part of something like this. I have learned so much from the other artists and hopefully been able to be helpful as well.

And now I can see that swirling mind in other artists who visit us, WAS is quite seductive! People are still getting on the waiting list. A studio at WAS is perfect for some artists and for some, it just doesn't take. There are three studios on my floor that were eagerly snatched up and then basically abandoned. I liken it to a gym membership, I was so glad when mine expired and I could stop feeling guilty about not going! I don't know how you find out if studio life is for you, or even if you can tell until after you've tried it. One artist left because she didn't like selling; she started to feel like she needed to paint for sales and that crushed her creativity. She went back to her previous studio, a quiet room with beautiful light nearer to her house.

I love to make things for sale, that's what I do! I can't wait to expand my line of goods to add matted prints, silk-screened items, blankets, pillows, lamps even! But first I need shelving, I want my storage to be beautiful and inspiring. It's all a process, I am in the middle of it, and I am very happy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

March Forward

Last Saturday, March 1st, it snowed like crazy! I wasn't sure if the First Saturday Open Studios, scheduled from 12-5, would happen, or if I would even attend. But as the morning went on, the snow eased up a bit and I ventured out late, getting to my studio just before one. Other artists seemed to be following a similar schedule, with some intrepid New Englanders following us shortly thereafter. Though my parents decided to skip the snowy 30 mile trip, and I think that was the right choice, D did come by with coffee for me as usual despite an unpleasant trip to the dentist earlier in the day. Isn't he amazing? I must be the luckiest person on the earth.

Polaroid by Jeff Engel

So we got some people out to see the new Loading Dock Gallery for its soft opening!

A large space in Western Avenue Studios has been transformed into a co-operative gallery and I joined in at the start. My work is in the case on the left, it's these pins:

Plus some felt beads items.

I am so impressed with everyone's hard work and the effort has certainly paid off! It's a spectacular space. It will eventually be open Wednesday through Sunday every week and hopefully becomes a destination for art enthusiasts all over New England. As part of my commitment to participation, I will work in the gallery 5 times a year.

While I was in my studio on Saturday, I heard visitors saying they saw my display downstairs and came up to see more of my work! Fabulous! I understand some of my submissions for the new gallery Vendzart sold as well (it's a refurbished, repurposed 1940's cigarette vending machine). What a thrill! I just love being involved with Western Avenue Studios! Best thing I (with a ton of help from family and friends) ever did!

Monday, March 3, 2008


I know February is a short month even during a leap year, but it really flew by didn't it? It seems the older I get the faster the days go anyway. The perpetually youthful D had a birthday on the 28th (he was born in a leap year and was almost a leap baby :) One of the gifts I gave him was to (finally) frame a postcard he bought at SoWa Open Market last summer. This fabulous photography is by Such and Such Productions:

I did spend a lot of last month gathering data to file our taxes. This is my first year filing business taxes and although it is just a matter of aggregating data, it's FINDING all my supplies receipts that is giving me fits. Hopefully this painful lesson takes and I will institute a working system for next year :) Even that much maligned cliche of receipts-in-a-shoebox method would be better than my current 14-Paper-Source-shopping-bags-stuffed-with-random-papers-scattered-about-the-apartment system.

Something that caught me a bit off guard was the need to plan my entire year of craft shows in February. Last year I was just starting this business in July and casually applied for shows as I became aware of them, and it all worked out. But this year I need to plan more carefully; choose shows that don't conflict with other events, map out my months, arrange to share booths with people, etc. I didn't see that coming up so soon all at once and I was a bit overwhelmed. Also, all the shows I've applied to so far are juried, so there's that little fret as well: will I even get in?

I feel like a very independent person and maybe not so great at playing well with others all the time, but I find myself very comfortable with and enthusiastic about sharing craft show booths. I am trying to share most of my shows this year to have fun companionship and to save money. I am lucky to partner this summer with Candace of The Intuitive Garden for 6 SoWa Open Market shows! I wasn't going to try SoWa again after my two medium-successful free trials through Etsy last year, but she talked me into it (she's VERY persuasive!) and now I am thrilled she did. We will certainly have a lot of fun no matter what else happens.

In the past I have shared many shows with Liz of Lush Beads who is also an amazing booth partner and wonderful, generous friend.

This summer I may have the opportunity to share space with Amanda of Brick Mill Studio for the the first time, to which I am very much looking forward! She rocks :) I have the best crafty friends!