Wednesday, January 29, 2014

3 Things That Actually Work

You know how sometimes I go on these excellent adventures and see these amazing things and post these fabulous pictures? 

Yeah, this post isn't anything like that.

This post is a list of things that actually work the way they are supposed to in my home. Ideas, that when implemented, radically changed my life for the better.

Things like, Excellent Idea #1 a Three Bin Wall Mounted Paper Holder.

This is one of those things I wish I had thought of about 5 years ago, but didn't. I have 3 children ages 14-10-6, and they go to 3 different schools. Can you say paperwork nightmare? Most of the time there is a huge pile of papers and mail on my kitchen table. I hate it. Really A Lot. 

I have the most beautiful hammered copper table in my kitchen. It reminds me of home and is one of my personal treasures. I never see it because of all the papers. So I sat down one snow day afternoon while the kids were out frolicking and thought about what I could do to lose the paper mess. By some miracle, I thought of wall mount bins! And after a fairly exhaustive search across the Internet, I found the perfect metal 3 pocket model at The Container Store. (It is called the "Silver Mesh Wall Ladder" and you can get it online here.)
One trip to Tyson's Corner later and I had my wall ladder. It was the last one in the store and I ran to it, held it in my arms like a lover, and snarled at anyone else even thinking about looking at it. Then I ran to the register and said, "I have found the Meaning of Life in this wall mount folder holder. Will you keep it safe for me while I look around some more?" 

I bet they get that all the time.

Once home, I realized it would be helpful to have names on the pockets. I already had these small chalkboards made out of old wooden coasters, so I just drilled some holes and wrapped some wire and viola! Chalkboard name plates. Hip and up-cycled. It makes me giddy.


It was also easy to install. It came with anchors and screws. 
Little ruler and level, little cordless drill, little hammering of anchors and screwing of screws
and then...
POW! paper problems solved.


It makes me happy every time I walk by and see the papers there and not on my table. 
Every. Single. Time.

Excellent Idea #2: the Blue Buffet

I don't know how many of you sew, but I only sew on occasion. And with my art studio in the utility room, having a designated craft room seems kinda nevergoingtohappen. So I just kept my sewing machine on a shelf in the studio and schlepped it upstairs to the dining room when I wanted to sew. 

Well you can imagine what happened. The sewing machine just ended up hanging out in the dining room. In it's original white and mint green cardboard box. Not so attractive in a taupe and cobalt blue dining room. Sometimes I would actually put it away and then talk myself out of sewing so I didn't have to go all the way down there to get it.

At the same time all this schlepping and avoiding was going on, my two younger children had decided that doing crafts on my dining room table gave them a sense of purpose in life. Now, I would not have minded this at all except that they never put anything away. We had mountains of papers and craft supplies and glue and pompom balls and glitter all over the expanse of the table.

After a few years of screaming at the kids to clean up all their crap pondering things rationally, it occurred to me that I might solve both problems at the same time. I simply needed more storage in the dining room than the two small drawers and open shelf of my side table currently provided. After getting beat out on "the perfect thing" by a quicker shopper at my favorite thrift store, I pulled out the big guns and headed for Craigslist. Enter my fabulous vintage mahogany buffet.

Yes, I painted it. Seven layers and two weeks worth of love to be exact. But the mahogany was just too dark and this is the blue dining room. And I LOVE how it turned out. I was inspired in the glaze layering and color choices by this excellent armoire redo from Savvy Southern Style. (I have been meaning to post a tutorial for a while, like 2 or 3 years, but it just never happened. Maybe this year's the one!)

 While I really do love how the finish looks like blue concrete and the wax makes it feel butter soft, the true beauty of this piece is the storage it provides. The two huge middle drawers store all the kid's craft supplies. The bottom center drawer holds all my table linens. In the dining room, where I use them! I know, right? The left side drawer holds office supplies and the right one holds my good silverware. And guess what fits in the side cabinet?

My sewing machine just slips right in here! Door closed and out of sight, but ready for action. Love it!

Excellent Idea #3: Repurpose an Industrial Etagere on Wheels

This idea I can't really claim. It just fell into my lap. 

I have a friend who knew someone in the design world who was going out of business. They had several of these for sale at a price so "I just need to dump this so I don't have to move it" low that I won't even share it. Even on last year's meager budget, I couldn't pass it up and bought two of them. They are solid steel with 2 fixed glass shelves and 2 movable shelves. I only have 1 of the movable shelves going at the moment. The only down side of this deal was not having enough shelf supports included. Eventually I will buy some more.

In the meantime, I am using them as a staging area for all the various things I am working on at the same time. I only have one primary work space in my studio and it gets really crowded and cluttered as I shift from project to project. Once I got these movable shelves, I put the "in process but not today" projects on the various shelves, to keep them out of the way, but not so far away that I forget to finish them. It works amazingly well. And I always have a clear work space.

At the moment I have the second one holding all the stuff that needs to be "dealt with"in the basement. Hopefully that will change soon, as I plan on getting rid of all that stuff and using this one to hold the toys the kids use the most. The wheels are an added bonus as the magnetic dart board sits right above these shelves. When the kids want to play darts, we just roll the shelves out of the way. It really is like magic.

So there you are. 

The three things in my home that have brought me the most peace 
through organization and functionality. Don't you love it when things actually work
as well or better than you hoped?

Will you guys leave me a comment and tell me what has worked in your home?
I am all curious what brilliant things you all have discovered.

Talk to you soon,
CM Shaw

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Michael Sellmeyer: Things That Mostly Go Together

OK, last time we were hanging out,  we were talking about Lauren Boilini's Rabid Habits exhibit at the VisArts Center in the Rockville Town Center. And I took you through the exhibit and then got too excited and took you upstairs to calm down. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, but would like to know, read this post.)Then I did something unexcusable. I left you. I said I was coming right back tomorrow. And then I didn't come back. For three days. Sorry about that.

So when we left off, I believe Anita, the volunteer coordinator, had directed us to the awesomely named "Paintings, Drawings, Prints, That Mostly Go Together" by Michael Sellmeyer.

Cloud of Consternation

I didn't really know what to expect here, as the only piece the Washington Post really described was called "Cloud of Consternation." I don't love "dark" art, so I was a bit trepedatious as I entered the exhibit that it would be full of angry black, scribbly paintings. Not really my thing. I looked around the corner and started smiling because I saw this:

The only dark piece in the show was the one the Post mentioned. Silly reporter.

The rest of it is fun, colorful, and/or engaging. Especially when you start looking at what he used to make them. Laser toner? It's there on the list for one of the pieces on this wall. 

Give me an unusual medium and I go from interested to riveted in about 2 seconds.

Let's take a closer look at the "toner" piece, shall we? It's actual title is Of That Ilk.

Can you see how laser toner could come into play here? Neither do I. Let's look closer.

detail Of That Ilk
I don't know enough about the medium to even recognize it in this usage. But I do know a but about the nature of the other mediums. "Acrylic, ink, graphite, laser toner, paper" are what Sellmeyer listed. The acrylic is the thicker chunks of color. I bet the ink is the colored runny stuff. I wonder if the graphite is the spots where the paint is scratched away? But the toner? I'm still not sure about that.

Hmmm. I wonder if there is another piece that could shed a little light here? Let's check out Sunshine Trot and Your Favorite Half.

Hmm..I still don't know. Let's take another close look at Your Favorite Half.

My guess is that the toner is the runny, lighter black rivulets. But that could also be ink.

Or maybe Sellmeyer printed a base design on the paper with his printer and then painted over it? I really have no idea. My best guess is the black, powdery runny stuff.

Isn't this fun? 

I LOVE trying to deconstruct what an artist did! 
 And the harder it is, the happier it makes me. 
Because that means I could never think of it. 

And if I would never think of it, it becomes far more interesting to me.

Wanna see my favorite piece in the whole show?

Agree To Melt
I love it. 
I wish I had the $500 to buy it. Seriously.

I would put it on the wall near my desk so I could look at it when I got stumped or bored. 

I think the appeal for me is a tie between the colors (aqua and cobalt blue and periwinkle and chartreuse are my absolute favorite colors! Especially when they are together.) and the technique. I would never have been able to even imagine this piece, let alone create it.

It might be the pencil lines. It looks like something my 6 year old used to do when she was 3. And I loved it there too. There is just such freedom and pleasant wandering in the piece.

As I kept looking around the show, I felt like I was missing something. So I decided to do the practical thing. I read the directions. Well, in this case, it was the artist's statement.

I was so impressed, I took a picture so I could read it again later.

His pieces are experiments in "What happens when I do X?" or more specifically "What happens when I use X to make this mark or to spread my paint or to scrape off my paint?" I love the freedom and exploration of that! It's so fun.

I am coming from a place where everything I've been working on is something I committed to a year or 3 ago. There has been very little exploration or spontaneity involved with my creations for a long, long time. 

The idea that the purpose of a piece was exploration hit me like a lightening bolt! 

I totally need to do this. In fact I have a few ideas brewing right now. They are nothing like Sellmeyer's stuff, and I have no idea when I'll get to them, but I think this philosophy may guide my work for the next while. I promise to keep you posted. I also have to warn you, it may be a while. I have to finish my taxes first.

The Good Empties

But wouldn't it be fun to use a bike wheel to paint something? Or stamp something? Just to see what happened? And then see if you could blow paint through a straw on top of it? Seriously, doesn't that sound so stinking fun? I feel like this man has opened a whole new vein into my creative subconscious.

detail A Slice of Twilight

And this, my friends, is why I like to go see other people's art. It seems to tap into my greater creative source and give it a poke. (That and I apparently love yearning to own things I can't afford. I swear I need to get a larger body of quality work, so I can start swapping with people.) I always get cool ideas when I see other people's stuff. And I'm not talking about stealing their ideas. It's a lot easier to recreate something that you have seen already made. I'm talking about taking a teensy idea from what I am seeing and using it in a completely new way. A way that even the artist I got the idea from wouldn't make the connection that their art was the inspiration. 

Seeing other people's art is often a gateway to the NEW for me. 

It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. I really do have to be careful not to go too often if I'm in the middle of a complicated piece because it messes with what I am doing so often. Funny, huh.

Anyway, here's a bunch more of Sellmeyer's work. Just for fun, try to figure out what unusual tool he might have used to create each piece. I'll list the title and mediums to give you a head start.

Peer Stricken

The Sky is Done
Acrylic, ink, graphite

Ghost Diary

 Geometric Bliss
Acrylic, ink, graphite, laser toner, paper

So what did you guess? 
And what do you think when you see other people's art or projects? Leave me a comment and tell me what you think.

Talk to you soon,
CM Shaw

PS: There are one or two more things I want to show you from my VisArts visit. But you'll have to wait until next time. I'm not specifying this time. Life has a way of interrupting even my best intentions. And it's snowing, which means all kinds of mayhem here in VA.

For more info on the VisArts center, check their website here.

For more info on Michael Sellmeyer, see his website here.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Looking for Layered Pastels and Lauren Boilini's "Rabid Habits"

If you read this blog regularly, you may think that I feel like Maryland is this magical place where I can run away from all of my problems. Come to think of it, I DO run away to Maryland periodically, as if Virginia has run out of options for me or something. But the reality is this: Sometimes Maryland just has what I want, and sometimes Virginia doesn't.

This time I blame the Washington Post. They and their cleverly written articles about local things that make you want to go and see them. Who do they think I am? A stay at home mom with all her kids in school or something, with my days pretty much open to do what I want at least some of the time? Oh wait...that's exactly what I am. Yay for me!

So DK hands me the Post Arts section the other day and says,"Weren't you thinking about mixing pastel over top of some other kind of paints this year?" Why yes I am. "Well you might want to go look at this show. Some lady is doing pastels over oils. It looks brightly colored. You'd like it." How he even remembers that I am into these things is a mystery. I can never really tell what DK thinks about me being an artist, but moments like this make me think he might just be OK with it. Or at least have come to be somewhat resigned to his fate.

So when I found myself wanting to blow off my chores unengaged the Friday morning before the show closed, I looked up the address, and headed off to Maryland to see what there was to see. I had to laugh when I realized that the VisArts Center, where the exhibit is located, is off the same exact road as the thrift shop I bought my dining room table at. (You can read about that expansive misadventure here). 

VisArts is a part of the Rockville Town Center complex. (For directions and exhibit info check their website here.) I found off street metered parking, but I wish I hadn't because the docent told me that the VisArt gallery validates parking in the attached garage. So park in the garage and save yourself a $1.00 and spend more time than the hour I was given by the meter.

When you walk into the building, you see this:

  for 20 feet up the wall! 

It's Ground Cover: Roots of Liriope by Israeli-American artist Dalya Luttwak. She got interested in larger than life root sculptures when a tree fell on her car and she had to shoot pictures of it for her insurance company. Talk about making lemons into lemonaide. Your car gets smashed and you get the idea that becomes the center of your career. So cool.

Once I could stop staring at the giant root sculpture, I turned around and 
realized I had found what I was her for.

Lauren Boilini's exhibit "Rabid Habits" was right in the front gallery on the main floor.

The first thing you see is a wall of smaller paintings, with figures coming and going, some like waves of bodies, others harder to describe. There are 48 of these in the exhibit in they had my attention for a while. But I was looking for the bigger stuff.

 Bleed to Love Him was a quarter turn to the right. 
Pow! That's what I came for.

It was huge. The people felt life sized. And it was so full of commotion. I felt squished by it. There is everything in this painting. Pleasure, pain, peace, chaos. It's all there if you look. But despite all the horses and colors I love, this painting made me feel restless, like I was watching something I shouldn't be.

Which is just what the artist wanted. The whole exhibit is a study of when things press to the point of become too much, when excess pushes things into meaninglessness.

I have actually been thinking about this phenomenon as I clean up the holidays and look for new places to stash Christmas presents. But the animals in my version are stuffed, not careening across canvases, tromping on people.

In spite of my discomfort, I couldn't stop staring at the paintings. The technique was so varied and interesting. 

In this detail shot you can see blended oil paint, paint scratched off the canvas, charcoal drawing, and pastel layered over the other mediums. She has rough sketched places, and painted large, smooth sections in other places. Some colors are saturated, some are muted. Even the technique is an exercise in "How much can I squish in here?"

 This is the second huge piece, Rough It Up

I didn't crop it so you can see the scale of these humungous canvases. I took this picture from across the room and you still feel small. This one is about 9 ft x 11.25 ft. There is no wall in my house big enough to hang it.

The third large piece, Modern Love, was my favorite in the show.

I don't really know why I preferred this one over the others. Maybe it's because I could actually see what was going on in it. Maybe it was the colors. I love the blue and the orange and the pink together. Maybe it's the horses. It certainly is not the people being trampled. Boilini and I have had vastly different experiences with love.

It may simply be because the technique in this one was so brilliant. Check this out.

I still haven't quite figured out the order of things here. There is a layer or two of oil color under everything, then it all just goes kind of crazy. Ridges of paint smattered here and dusted there with soft pastel. The sharp charcoal line thrown in on occasion for good measure. It was so fun to look at and try to deconstruct. There is just so much going on. 

 Here you can see really well how she used some kind of water or solvent to make rivulets in the powdery pastel and charcoal. How does she do it? And yes, I want to try it!!

And I just totally geek out when artist can use their freaking technique 
to help make their statement. That is just the coolest! 

OK, deep breathing. There are people watching. 

We better go upstairs. I am getting a little out of control in here.

Upstairs there were people setting up for the next show, With These Hands: The Robert and Sharon Buchanan Collection. I got tot see that one too. You never realize how much work goes into an art show until you watch someone hand lettering the sign on their hands and knees. Above is Susan Main, the Curatorial Consultant for VisArts and another assistant. Sorry I didn't get you name, assistant.

 Anita Dey, the volunteer coordinator was a pleasant face greeting me on the second floor. This was convenient, as I had no idea where the other show I had come to see was. Fortunately, Anita pointed me in the right direction, and off I went to find out what Michael Sellmeyer meant by titling his show "Paintings, Drawings, and Prints That Mostly Go Together." I was completely intrigued.

But you're gonna have to come back tomorrow to find out why.

In an effort to not ramble on forever, I have decided to break this adventure into 4 posts. 
So come back tomorrow to see whether I was disappointed or not. 

I probably wasn't. 

Or maybe I was. 

You'll just to have to click back and see, won't you?

By The Way:

For more info on the VisArts Center, check their web site here.
(mission, classes, shows,etc)
For more info on Dalya Luttwak, the Roots lady, check her website here
(You should look. This one's really cool)

For more info on Lauren Boilini, check her website here.

See you soon,
CM Shaw

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2013 Highlights From a Year of Whimsy

I ran away for the Holidays. I went back to the desert where I am "from". My heart lives in Arizona, even if  I never will again. I am already lost in this picture, thinking about the hike we were on when I took the shot. Staring at it makes me deeply, quietly happy and ache-y, yearn-y all at the same time. 

Since my brain is still tromping through the desert, looking back at my youth, I thought it would be appropriate to look back at a few blog highlights from 2013.

Most Popular Post 
My post on how to build a planter out of 2x4's crushed the stats of anything I've ever posted. I've had 2106 hits as of today on this post. Mind boggling. I did think it might do well when I searched Google last spring looking for ideas myself and there were no posts at all on the subject. Yay for practical, original ideas.  Check it out if you are already planning your spring garden. I just reread it. It's a great tutorial, if I do say so myself.

Most Useful to Families with Small Children

Another very popular post was this one I wrote about my sweet friend Samantha's house. She has such great ideas for living with small kids and still having a stylish space. It has been such fun to update her on how popular this post has been. She is such an unassuming person. Check it out here.

Best Use of a Giant Box of Moss
This was one of the funnest packages I have ever received. How do you not love a 24 inx16 in box full of sheet moss from Forks, WA? I loved it so much, I covered a table with it and then wrote a whole post about how to use said moss in your own home. Check it out here.

Best Homemade Magnetic Chalkboard

 Man you people love your tutorials. This was another Pinterest success. And I have used and used and used this chalkboard, even if it is a bit bumpier than I would have liked. It may be moving across the room soon. I am in a fit of switching things around here, and I have my eye on an armoire that may get a tattoo for that spot. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, if you want to make your own giant magnetic chalkboard, you can read the post here.

Prettiest Barn Sale Photos

I always love the barn sale preview posts, but Holly's shots of this year's products just took my breath away. She really out did herself. If you missed them, check them out here. You can see the pictures she took of the barn sale all staged here, and more of her work from our summer workshop here.

Holly's business is hbsmith designs. And her Etsy shop is here.

Best Farm Table Makeover

Well, it was my only farm table makeover, but it turned out so well! And it was such fun to be Dana's Fairy Godmother for a while. I just love connecting people with the stuff of their dreams. It's such fun to make wishes come true, and so rare that you can. See how I did my magic and go on a tour of Dana's freshly redecorated dining room here.

Best New Medium

I have spent a lot of time talking about chalk paint on this blog. And I thought I need to branch out a little. So when Miss Mustard Seed started her own line of milk paint, I thought I'd give it a whirl. I loved it! It's completely different from chalk paint, but you can do such cool stuff with it. It crackles and peels and gives things all kinds of age and personality. Hence an entire post dedicated to my exploration of milk paint here

Best Birthday Ever

2013 really was my favorite birthday ever! Well, at least as an adult. I think turning 16 and being able to date and drive on the same day may have beat out meeting the REAL Groundhog by just a hair.  But I would highly recommend going to a town that throws a major party every year on your birthday. There's nothing that compares to seeing fireworks at 6:30 in the morning over a crowd of 20,000 people all squished on a hilltop together to watch a rodent predict the weather in the dead of winter. Seriously. It just doesn't get any better than that. Read my very extended account here. What? I needed to save it all for posterity. It was that good.

Most Impactful Experience

Attending the Haven Blogging conference totally changed my life. This post is all about my experience. It was amazing to meet all these women who's thoughts I read daily. It made me feel whole, and part of a larger community of people trying to change the world for the better, one project or thought at a time. it showed me how far I've come and how very far I have to go here in Blog World. But I found my place there. And I think I've found my voice here, on this little blog.

My Favorite Post of 2013

13 Ways to Get a Good Night's Sleep. What a beautiful post. It made me cry with gratitude when I read it again. That I have a garden. That I have such lovely children. That my life can be so simple and beautiful, filled with light and love and beauty. That God would love me enough to give me days like that and the wisdom to write them down so I can feel them over and over again. Such wonder.

OK, now that I've cleaned myself up a bit (that last post used up more than a few tissues), let's look forward to 2014. Truth be told, I don't really know what to tell you here. I am addicted to blogging and usually get twitchy if I don't post at least once a week. So there should be no major surprises there. 

And I am having a consult with Karianne from ThistleWood Farms fame about where to go with my blog later this month. There may be some surprises there. Or maybe not. 

I am doing a lot of things differently with my professional life this year, There will be some surprises there. But I can't tell you what they are just yet. I promise to spill the beans as soon as I have figured a few more things out.

In the meantime, I think I want to go back to my hike in Arizona, just for a little longer. Here, come with. The sun is starting to set.

While we're walking, why don't you tell me what you'd like to see here on 
Gathering Branches in 2014. I can use all the help I can get. 

Plus you know how I feel about making people's wishes come true...

Talk to you soon,
CM Shaw