Artist-in-Residence: Edisto Beach State Park

I recently had the incredible opportunity to be the artist-in-residence for a week at a South Carolina State Park and was thrilled to be assigned to Edisto Beach State Park. This is my second state park residency, but a new location, and although I expected beautiful things I was truly blown away by what I found when I arrived at the coast.

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My time on Edisto was a combination of exploring the town, the surrounding natural areas, learning the history, and finding inspiration for my current body of art which happens to be needle felted wool landscape paintings featuring scenes from the state of SC. In addition to my work in wool, which was my primary medium during my stay, I also painted, sketched, and designed some new jewelry pieces for my handmade collection at Once Again Sam.

I was given a cabin at Edisto Beach State Park to use during my stay, and this became my base camp and studio away from home. I worked outside as much as possible, enjoying the screened-in porch with a breath-taking view of Scott Creek. Each day, I hiked several miles in the park, biked around the island, tried a new restaurant in search of the best seafood in town, watched the sun set, and created art inspired by what I saw all around me. I took time to notice the wildlife, the plants & trees, and appreciate how different the water looks depending on the hour.

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Throughout the day, I’d come back to the cabin and work on a felted piece, then I’d go back out the next day and photograph the finished piece in the same location that inspired it to begin with. I quickly learned the time of day for returning to the same spot mattered because the tides made the beach and marsh look completely different!

I completed 12 wool landscapes during my 6 days in the park. Some pieces featured the beach, others the marsh, and several were inspired by Botany Bay Beach and it’s fascinating ever-changing driftwood sculpture garden. I returned to this beach several times – it’s so unlike any other beach I’ve seen before. I loved how visitors left the shells they found propped up on the downed trees or hung like Christmas ornaments from the upturned roots.

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This being my first visit to Edisto, I asked around for recommendations beforehand, and so many people told me they’d been coming to the island for 20+ years. Now I can understand why! It’s remote enough to have a quiet charm where you can’t help but relax, but there’s enough to do that you can break up the day with various activities like boat tours, bike rentals, hikes, and shopping if you so choose.

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Some of my favorite things from my time at Edisto:

Favorite meal: Fish tacos, street corn, and margarita from E & O Tacos

Favorite sunset spot: Beach access #31

Favorite hiking trail: Spanish Mouth Trail + Scott Creek Trail

Favorite place to bike: Jungle Shores Drive

Favorite excursion: Botany Bay Beach

Favorite place to watch pelicans: The marina

Favorite place to shop: With These Hands Gallery

Favorite Moment: Taking in all the details of low tide in the marsh. If you linger on the boardwalk on the Scott Creek Trail during low tide, you’ll smell the salty air, you’ll see the tiny snails clinging to the colorful grass and the shadows of the silent pelicans flying overhead, you’ll marvel at the appearance of hundreds of oysters that weren’t visible just a few hours ago, but what I enjoyed the most was the sounds. There’s a lot of life hidden in the tall grass and buried in those muddy banks, but you might not notice unless you stopped to listen for a moment. If you hear past the sound of the grass blowing you’ll also hear tiny clicking sounds from crabs scurrying around, and delicate little burps and popping sounds coming from under the mud.

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My time on Edisto was the perfect balance of exploring, relaxing, and creating. I couldn’t have asked for better place to seek inspiration for my art. Although I’m back in Greenville, SC now and within view of the Blueridge Mountains, my future work will continue to showcase the coast, and I look forward to exhibiting my collection of 100 landscapes from all over the state, including the Edisto series, this summer at Greenville Center for Creative Arts.

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All new video sharing a glimpse of the scenery, my process, and why I would go back in a heartbeat. Be sure to checkout my video from last year’s residency as well!

The 100 Day Project

On February 1st, I started down a very long road, and this week I will cross the half way point of my #100dayproject. Every day I’m needle felting a landscape with dyed wool fiber that features a scene from the state of South Carolina. I’m exploring my new home state (since 2010) in person and online, taking inspiration from all over the different parts of this beautiful place.

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Needle felting is something I’m totally hooked on, but I didn’t always work in this medium every single day. This daily goal of creating one piece is pushing me (in a good way) to work even if I’m not totally inspired. It’s been a total surprise how things have worked out so far. Some of the days when I was truly dragging myself to make something turned out to by my best work, in my opinion. Working daily in one medium is stretching me to expand on my skills. I’m really enjoying it so far! For the first time, my landscapes are starting to include man-made structures and animals. I’m starting to include a lot of moons as well. Who knows what will show up in the next half of the series!

Once this collection of 100 pieces is complete, which will be sometime in May, they’ll be exhibited as part of a group show at Greenville Center for Creative Arts. This will be my first large-scale long-term exhibition and I couldn’t be more excited to share the whole series with you. For now, here’s the first 25, and be sure to follow along on Instagram and Facebook to see a daily sneak peek at what I’ve made. I’ve had to make a few pieces in hotel rooms so far due to travel plans - but nothing can stop me from meeting my goal. Well, that’s not true. A broken wrist would certainly stop me…but fingers crossed!

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Clearly Abstract: Belle Armoire Feature

I’ve been dabbling and developing abstract painted jewelry for about 2 years now, and my latest version of this simple concept is combining paint, gold leaf, clear acrylic and walnut wood. As with previous versions of the abstract painted line, I’m still making a larger abstract painting (this time on clear acrylic) and cutting it up into unique pieces for the setting, but now I’m adding in gold leaf and making my own settings with laser engraved wood. I’m so thrilled with the direction this collection is taking!

Read all about my process and how this whole series got started in this month’s issue of Belle Armoire Magazine. All items pictured are available at www.onceagainsam.com in the splatter painted jewelry section.

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When Things Fall Into Place Perfectly

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About a year ago, I applied for something big, something that seemed like a long shot: a large-scale gallery exhibition at Greenville Center for Creative Arts. I was thrilled when I got news that my series of 2D needle felted landscape paintings would be part of a group show in June & July of 2019. It seemed like so far off at the time, but now it feels like it’s right around the corner (because it is!).

Tomorrow is February 1st, and it’s the day I have chosen to embark on the #100dayproject in which I’ll create one piece per day for 100 days straight. This will be a continuation of my needle felted wool paintings featuring South Carolina landscapes and other natural things from the region. These 100 pieces will be the body of work exhibited this summer and will be created during the months of February, March, April and the first part of May. I can’t wait to get started tomorrow and I’ll be sharing each piece on social media if you’re intersted in following along.

During my 100 day project time period this spring, I’m excited to share that I’ll be working onsite at Edisto Beach State Park as South Carolina State Parks Artist-In-Residence for one week in April. I had the honor of doing a residency last year through the same program at Poinsett State Park, and it was truly life changing. I’m so lucky to have the chance to do this again at a new location! Expect to see lots of coastal landscapes come out of my brain in April as I take in the beach, the marsh, and all the beauty the lowcountry has to offer.

A gallery exhibition, a challenging 3 month project, and a residency ahead are just the starting point of my exciting news. I was recently awarded a grant by Metropolitan Arts Council to fund this project! This was my first time writing a grant proposal so this was a huge win for me and I’m so thankful to have financial backing for my upcoming series. The cost of creating a large body of work like this is pretty daunting (materials add up quickly and framing is expensive) but I felt so strongly about challenging myself to work daily, work big, and experiment along the way, I’m free to do so now. So thankful for all of these opportunities!

Sometimes things fall into place perfectly. This is definitely one of those times! I’m excited to start this journey and look forward to sharing along the way. Lots to show you between now and June!

Photo curtesy of Eli Warren and TOWN Magazine (shot on location at Poinsett State Park in May of 2018)

Photo curtesy of Eli Warren and TOWN Magazine (shot on location at Poinsett State Park in May of 2018)





2018 - A Year in Review

2018 has been quite a year. I didn’t realize I’d hit so many milestones all at once, but I suppose that’s fitting because it’s my 10th year in business, which in itself is a milestone.

This year was my best year in some respects, but it was also a hard year at times. Some things fell through that I previously counted on, other opportunities found their way to me that were totally unexpected. It all worked out in the end!

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10,000 Etsy Sales:

This major milestone snuck up on me. I remember when I first opened my Etsy shop in 2009 (and started Once Again Sam simultaneously), I obsessed over every sale until I made it to 100 sales, which took about a full year. After that, I stopped worrying about the number and focused more on where I wanted to go with this handmade business. It’s been an incredible journey on Etsy and I hope to see 20,000 sales one day!

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100 Craft Shows:

That’s 100 set ups, 100 teardowns, 200 precise packings / re-packings of the car, thousands of miles on the road, good hotels, bad hotels, perfect weather, horrible weather, early mornings, late nights, and who knows how many hours talking to customers & other vendors. It’s a hard life. I admire people who do festivals full time, but I’ve learned over the last few years that I don’t want to be in a different city every weekend. I have drastically cut back on the number of events I do now, but all of those experiences at various craft shows and art festivals have taught me so much about my product, my customers, and myself.

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Record Sales:

I had a sales goal for the year, and I made it, but just barely. Every month I checked that we were on track to make that goal, and most of the time we were, but not always. I love a good “stretch goal” - something that pushes you to keep going, keep trying, keep making.

Record Number of Wholesale Orders & Stockists:

2018 was the first year I did multiple wholesale trade shows, and it paid off. With Etsy Wholesale closing up mid year, I had to hustle to make up for that loss, and when I look back at the number of wholesale orders from the year that came in solely from tradeshows and contacts made there, it’s easy to see this is a worthwhile investment for my business.

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Largest Commission:

I took on my biggest commission (both in quantity and in size) this year for a local company called Kentwool. I created 75 custom landscapes for them in the spring, then in the fall, I took on my first extra large needle felted landscape commission which was 24” x 36”. That was double the size of my largest piece previously!  I never would have attempted something that big on my own, but now I feel empowered to work at whatever scale I want.

Largest Fiber Art Collection:

In May of 2018, I had the honor of being Artist in Residence at Poinsett State Park, and during my time there I created 40 pieces inspired by my surroundings which were then exhibited at Art & Light Gallery. Never before have I created such a large series around a specific location, and I really enjoyed the challenge. I enjoyed it so much I’m doing another residency next year and have an even bigger exhibition opportunity lined up for the summer. That’s all I can share till next year!

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10 Years in Business:

It doesn’t feel like a long time to me, but I have come to realize a lot of Makers and small businesses simply don’t last that long. I’m one of the lucky ones! I think one big factor in why I have lasted this long and made every year better than the last is because I do a variety of things. When I’m sick of needle felting, I bounce back to jewelry. I’m not stuck in a single medium. I also never gave up my day job, and continue to work a few days a week as an Interior Designer, which gets me out of the studio and uses a totally different part of my brain. I’ll admit I don’t have much free time anymore, but I’m doing things I want to do with my time, and that matters far more to me.

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