Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Friday Sale

Happy Holidays Everyone!
I'm starting the shopping season
off with a 10% discount on everything in my Etsy shop. One day only, Black Friday (Nov 26th) Just type in BLACKFRIDAY2010 when you check out and you'll automatically get a 10% discount. The code will only work on Friday Nov 26th. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

In the Studio with Mud Pie

I've always found pottery to be a little soulful. There's something about holding a hand-made mug warmed by hot tea that evokes a sort of poetic mood. It's like holding a little bit of the earth, just polished and smoothed by an artists touch. I met Stacy of Mud Pie Studio over a year ago after I contacted her for a trade. In exchange for some of my work, I got some hand-made mugs for Christmas gifts. Ever since our trade we've gotten to know each other and our crafts a little bit more. Stacy invited me over to play with some clay in her home-based studio and I brought along my camera.

She sells her work full-time on her Etsy shop: MudPie

It's great to have a fellow Etsy friend to share in the ups and downs of running your own home-based business. She's just as swamped as I am, and often even more so because her work is so labor intensive. From raw clay she creates her custom pieces, each one made from scratch in her home-based studio. Stacy has become a well known potter on Etsy for her custom name and monogram clay creations. She even has a few copycats out there trying to achieve her success.

Below are her signature monogrammed pitchers. First pictured is a work-in-progress. Each piece requires at least two fired in one of the 3 kilns she maintains in her backyard.

My favorite pieces are the mugs with couples names on them. I've bought some for friends but want one for myself!

Stacy's most recent works include hand-carved graphic details that require an illustrators steady hand and an eye for precise detail.

This is her dedicated studio assistant taking a break from the photo shoot.

Stacy has an impressive collection of letter press block she uses for her personalized pieces. She even has some elvish script for the fantasy fans.

There are a lot of items ready to sell that she hasn't had time to list on Etsy. Top of my wish list are these clay earrings. Each one is hand-crafted from scratch.

Stacy let me play around with creating some pieces of my own. I'm no potter, and of course was once again drawn to creating trees. I made a simple little clay dish with trees etched in the clay. It's such a treat to get to take a break from my own mediums and explore another art form. If my little dish survives it's first trip through the kiln I'll be back to the studio to glaze it and hopefully make some more. There's talk of Stacy and I possible co-creating some pieces for sale next year.

Mud Pie, thanks for sharing your space and time with me! If you want to purchase some of Stacy's work you need to buy now because she's already limiting the number the holiday orders she'll be taking this year. So Shop now!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Birthday Painting

This past Saturday was my dad's birthday. We were up till 2am the night before ringing in his 60th--not bad for an old man! The next day, a little less than top notch, we decided to tackle another "father daughter" painting. You can read more about the history of these paintings in a previous post here.

I bought the biggest canvas I could fit in my car. It was about 4x3 feet. The day was so beautiful and pleasantly cool for August in North Carolina, so we decided to paint outside. We wanted to paint a friendly landscape of a summer day.

I laid in the clouds and then the blue sky while dad put down the green fields.
We both worked on the trees. In this photo you can see where I've just begun to layer in the grasses down on the bottom of the canvas.

While I continued to build up the field and add in red little poppies dad painted in the dirt path winding off into the horizon. He did the wooden fence with a palette knife to give it some rough, splintery character. We both love painting with palette knives. I first learned how to use the palette knife in high school while copying some of Van Gogh's work as he use the tool a lot in his paintings.

We didn't have time to finished the canvas before folks started to arrive for the birthday party but we got about 3 or 4 hours in. The painting isn't finished so we'll just have to wait until the next beautiful Saturday to finish. We're planning on adding sheep in the field as well as continuing to build up the grasses, flowers and the background trees still need quite a bit of work. And the path and the fence will get some highlights and shadows to create a more defined look. But I think it's a great start. And we certainly had fun painting it. Happy Birthday Dad!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Somehwere Over the Rainbow

Well folks, it was a fabulous wedding. That's the great thing about weddings, every one is different and it's just a matter of making it work for you. Ours was complete with a 45 minute rain delay with a loud clap of thunder during the outdoor ceremony. In my opinion, this was the icing on a perfect day. While dad and I sat excitedly in a car waiting for the clouds to clear, our guests sipped prosecco under a big white tent and listened to Mozart across a manicured lawn.

The day started out at a blistering 97 degrees of North Carolina humidity. I planned a morning of "wedding yoga" to help de-stress any wedding jitters I might have had. A bunch of other folks joined in on the fun. But as we began our yoga class in the loft of the house, the air conditioning went out and our relaxing yoga morning turned into a sweaty Bikram class. This ended up being amazing because we all sweated out any hangovers we may have had from the rehearsal dinner the night before. The intense heat threatened to turn our wedding day into a sweaty mess.

About 20 mins before the 5pm ceremony the storm clouds rushed in with a flurry of cooling wind and shade. You can see pictured a large patio umbrella that went for a swim in the lake. The showers came and cooled everything down with delicate drizzles and it couldn't have been more perfect.

At 5:45 with wedding guests a little looser thanks to the prosecco we started the ceremony. Nicholas and I were actually married in the lightest of rains and it was perfect. A family friend, Mary Gayle Green, who just happens to be a professional Opera Singer sang out over the balcony as dad and I walked down the aisle. After the ceremony we were showered with rose petals from above. We walked back down the aisle to "Somewhere over the Rainbow" by the late Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole. A fitting song for our Maui honeymoon where we saw rainbows daily.

Before we get to the party, I'd like to mention a few of the details about my handmade wedding. The dress was actually just a simple BCBG white dress that my mom doctored with some vintage lace. I wore red ruby shoes because I'm the bride and I can do whatever I want; and there's really no place like home.

All the flowers were done by my talented best friend Emily. My bouquet was so stunning that even the fabulous photos can't capture it. She put some pears in it that were growing on a tree out back of the house. The house by the way is a beautiful Italian Style Villa my parents have flipped on and it's for sale.
The programs were made by my friend Elizabeth Turnbull and the adorable birdcage veil by talented Etsy artist Marisol Aparicio

Our dear family friend Wally Turnbull performed the ceremony. We are so honored that our wedding was his first! There is a beautiful image is of Wally outside just before the ceremony praying away the storm.

You can see images about my wedding ring here in a previous blog posting.

I told my hair stylist that I wanted her to do whatever made her happy with my hair. I wanted her to have creative license and she really came through with something stunning. The little silk flower clips were also made by Emily on the day off the wedding. The pearls I'm wearing were a lavish gift from my late Aunt Becky. She knew she was dying of cancer and wrapped these pearls up as a gift for the day I was married. She even included some pearl studs for my future husband which Nicholas wore on our wedding day.
The gorgeous photos were taken by local photographer Annemie Tonken of Megapixie Photography. Her work is, as you can see, stunning. I asked her to capture moments rather than staged pictures and she really came through with fabulous work.

The party afterward was a joyous blur of sparklers and dancing late into the night with the talented band Boomerang. There was an improptu late night limbo contest. It wasn't until I was one of 3 left that I realized everyone had been cheating for me. And the whole time I was excited to be doing so well as I'm terrible at limbo.

As I mentioned before, it was a wonderful wedding. Two days later we were off on our honeymoon. A 5 day stay in Alaska and then 8 days in Maui. A special thanks to Nicholas who took the traditional bride's role and essentially planned the whole event. I just got to enjoy it all.

Friday, June 4, 2010

In 8 days I’ll be a Mrs.

Basically everything is taken care of, mostly thanks to my efficient fiancĂ©. He’s been busy putting this wedding together while I’ve been focusing on getting my last minute orders out the door (and insanely agreeing to do a craft show today). I took care of the “fun stuff” the photographer, the wines and champagnes, music, flowers, rings…those sorts of artsy tasks. Nick got stuck with tent and table rentals, food ordering, technical music set-up--the logistical tedious parts. This is just one reason why we work so well together, he does all the hard stuff.

I find myself in a unique position, being 8 days away from a Mrs. There’s no stress or nervousness about actually getting married. That’s the part I’m ecstatic about. It’s the pleasing family, friends and expectations that are stressful. As an artist who works with brides-to-be daily I now better understand their messages and custom requests. These girls aren’t being “Bridezillas” they just want everything to turn out perfectly, and for a good reason. It’s a special day and everything about it should be special, down to the particular shade of green in their peacock toasting flutes.

There is a light at the end of the planning tunnel (besides the "I do's"). The honeymoon! Nick jokingly says that our honeymoon is great wedding insurance. Even if I get cold feet I wouldn’t back out. Not with Alaska and Maui just 10 days away. We aren’t yet sure exactly how one packs for glacier hiking and snorkeling in the same suitcase—but that’s what the day of the flight is for. We’ll have about 4-5 hours to creatively cram snorkel gear, parkas and trousseau pretties into a bag before for the 12 hour flight to Anchorage. I’m looking forward to the 12 hours of nothing--nothing in my hands to paint, nothing on the computer to check, nothing on my to-do list to prepare. But back to the wedding….

My dress(es) have been an adventure. My grand plan to have an artist make them backfired. After two attempts I finally gave up and bought one at a store from BCBG. It’s adorable and with a little added lace that my mom stitched on it’s just darling. My two “disaster dresses” will be put to good use. But I don’t want to spoil any surprises so you’ll just have to wait for the photos on how I plan to use them. The ceremony music will be performed by a professional Opera singer Mary Gayle Greene, who just happens to be a close college friend of my mother’s. Everyone attending will be spoiled by this musical treat. Not many of us have the chance to visit an Italian Opera Hall. So the opera is coming to Durham and will be sung from an outdoor balcony overlooking guests sipping Prosecco with raspberries and a very nervous bride hopefully not biting her newly manicured nails. It will be one of the rare days that my hands aren't covered in paint, I hope.

The flowers, thankfully, have not been on my mind one bit. My best friend and professional florist is flying in this Sunday to take care of everything. I’m just going to set her loose and see what magic she comes up with.
I'm mostly nervous about leaving my shop for so long. Owning and running your own business certainly has some cons to go along with the many pros. I'll worry about customers not being able to reach me, I'll worry about the amount of work I'll have waiting on me when I get back. I'm hoping all this preemptive worry will be for naught. Etsy what? Etsy who? I'll vaugley recall something about glasses and packages 10 feet under turquoise water with a bright red and yellow fish lazily swimming by.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Video Tutorial on Painting Lavender on Glassware

An easy step by step video tutorial on how to paint Lavender Buds on your Glassware. Perfect for Mother's Day gifts. Here is a finished image:

Sweet little lavender buds to enjoy with your bubbly. I've hand-painted delicate stems of lavender with non-toxic paint. The flutes are dishwasher safe and are perfect for everyday toasting. Notice the tiny detail of the two-toned purple lavender buds.

Cheers to Spring!
Check out more of my work here:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Soapy Treats

I'm really excited to share this post with you. My friend Laura and I have been toying with vegan soap-making. We've made a few batches before--some more successful than others, but our most recent batch turned out far better than the rest. In fact, I think it rivals some of the finer soaps I've purchased from well established soap makers. I'd like to take you through a photo tutorial of how we created our soap. As you'll see in the photos it's a real ugly duckling story. We turned lumps of fats and oils into beautiful, sweet smelling, soapy treats. Here's how it starts:

We measure out the lye using a postal scale. I knew exactly what I was doing asking Laura to be my soap making partner. Laura, thankfully is more scientifically minded than myself. When I want to eyeball the measurements it's Laura who speaks up and says "Let's actually measure it out exactly Mary, so we don't die."

We pour the lye into cold water. We have to do this outside as the chemical reaction heats up the water instantly to well over 120 degrees. We have to let it sit and cool until it's the right temperature to add our oils and fats.

The fumes that come off from the lye and water are really intense. Laura and I will take turns stirring, rotating every 15-20 seconds it's that intense. You can feel a sharp, scary burn in your lungs if you get too close. We always keep a bottle of vinegar close by in case there is a spill. The vinegar will neutralize the lye. If any of you have seen the movie Fight Club you'll remember the vivid demonstration of how dangerous lye can be on the skin.

While we wait for the lye and water to cool down, we measure out our oils and fats. We wanted to make our soaps vegan. The idea of using lard or bacon fat like in the old days really grosses me out. In our most recent batch we used Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, and Palm Oil. Everything gets measured out exactly and melted down in a large pot.

When the temperature of melted oils is within 10 degrees of our lye it's time to combine the two.

The lye is always poured into the oils rather than the oil into the lye. At this point the danger zone is over as the fats help to neutralize the lye.

Once the two mixtures are combined it's time to mix. Our first batch we used simply a metal whisk and the whole process took well over 3 hours. Thanks to a purchase of this cheap immersion blender the mixing time takes only about 10 minutes.

The soap is ready to pour when tracing occurs. Tracing is when the soap changes from a thick liquid to more like cake batter. It is at trace that we added our spearamint essential oils to give the soap a refreshing scent.

Pour the soap into a wax lined cardboard box. It will sit in this box for a few weeks while the soap hardens and cures.

Laura and I added cosmetic grade French green clay to our soap. French green clay is great for facial masks and is known to draw impurities out of the skin.

A few weeks later the soap has hardened and is ready to cut.

We found this soap to be so fabulous that a tiny amount goes a long way. It lathers quickly and the soapy lather is silky and luxurious. I cut the bars down further into tiny squares and wrapped them in bits of silk that I had previously marbled.

The end result is a precious little bar that smells of delicate spearamint. I think they look lovely dusted with the green clay. A little bit goes a long way so if you're one of the lucky ones to get a bar use it sparingly!