#CreativeSprint: A Half-Finished Challenge that was Wholly Worthwhile

For the month of April, I signed up to take part in a daily art challenge called #CreativeSprint, organized by Another Limited Rebellion. The idea of a daily assignment delivered to my inbox, intended to spark creativity and get me to try new things, sounded like something I would certainly enjoy, but also benefit from. The challenge promised to “pump up your creative muscles” but it was very open ended, you could take as much or as little time as you wanted for each assignment, and be as literal or abstract as you desired.

The daily assignments ranged from making something that fits in the palm of your hand, to working with your non-dominant hand, to making something inspired by a song. There were days when I knew right away what I would make as soon as I read the email, and other days I felt distracted for hours because I couldn’t come up with anything. All in all, it was a great mix of idea starters that really got my mind (and hands) working. Trying new things is something I enjoy, but don’t often make time for, and #CreativeSprint motivated me to do just that.

I was unable to keep up with the daily challenges once the Mother’s Day rush hit hard - I was simultaneously featured in Etsy’s Editors Picks, the front page of Etsy, and in Woman’s Day magazine, and received over 800 orders in only 3 weeks. Oh my goodness, never experienced anything like that before - it was awesome but it nearly killed me! I was overwhelmed, sick for several days, and had zero spare time for the second half of the month, but I kept the CreativeSprint challenge emails because even though I didn’t get to participate again after the 17th of April, those emails gave me ideas to try out later on.

I almost forgot the best part / worst part: sharing whatever it was you made that day. Eek! Even the stupid stuff? Yep! Sharing my work was a little nerve wracking, because these pieces I made were just experiments and didn’t necessarily “go” with the rest of the work in my Instagram feed. They weren’t previously tested or perfectly photographed, but I enjoyed making every single one of them. I also enjoyed peeking at the #CreativeSprint hashtag at the end of the day to see what other participants did. Lots of talent and creating thinking out there!   

Click through the gallery below for a closer look at some of my favorite creations. 

 

 

Collecting Art

Vase: April Schwingle, Woven Pine Needle Basket: Clay Burnette, Bird paintings: Diane Kilgore, Landscape Painting: Annie Koelle

Vase: April Schwingle, Woven Pine Needle Basket: Clay Burnette, Bird paintings: Diane Kilgore, Landscape Painting: Annie Koelle

When I try to picture an art collector in my mind, I see a wealthy foreigner and his severe-looking wife strolling into a highly intimidating art gallery wearing their finest furs. They gesture towards a huge abstract painting and say “I must have dis”, then they wire the 80K from their elite offshore bank account.

I don’t know where that visual came from, if it was in some bad movie, or just floating around in my brain with other ridiculous caricature stereotypes I don’t actually believe (but keep around for my own amusement).

Felted Bunny Heads: Sarah Mandell ;-) , Assemblage: Jon Andrews, Landscape Paintings: Annie Koelle

Felted Bunny Heads: Sarah Mandell ;-) , Assemblage: Jon Andrews, Landscape Paintings: Annie Koelle

The truth is, many of us, in one way or another, are art collectors. We may not describe ourselves as such, but if you peek into our homes, you’ll get all the proof you need. Anyone can be an art collector, regardless of what it is they favor, and you don’t have to be filthy rich, follow trends, or do it all in one weekend. When it comes to collecting art, there really aren’t any rules, other than buy what you love / what’s beautiful in your eyes / what makes you feel something.

Bird Block Print: Kent Ambler, White Paper Bird: Cara Harris, Landscape Painting: Annie Koelle, Felted Cactus (by me) in Wood Turned Bowl (by Matt Tindal), Mini Buzzard Painting: Canvas Dove, Mini Bunny Painting: Once Upon a Time Co., Illustration prints: Elizabeth Mayvile, Water Tower Mixed Media: Paul Flint, Paper Cat: Jordan Grace Owens, Rabbit Portrait Watercolor: Rachelle Elevingston, Bird Paintings: Diane Kilgore, Abstract City Scape Painting: Jersey's Freshest.

Bird Block Print: Kent Ambler, White Paper Bird: Cara Harris, Landscape Painting: Annie Koelle, Felted Cactus (by me) in Wood Turned Bowl (by Matt Tindal), Mini Buzzard Painting: Canvas Dove, Mini Bunny Painting: Once Upon a Time Co., Illustration prints: Elizabeth Mayvile, Water Tower Mixed Media: Paul Flint, Paper Cat: Jordan Grace Owens, Rabbit Portrait Watercolor: Rachelle Elevingston, Bird Paintings: Diane Kilgore, Abstract City Scape Painting: Jersey's Freshest.

Art is important to me, and I want to be surrounded by it always. I first got the bug when my husband and I married in 2005, and we needed something to personalize the renter’s-white walls in our apartment. However, we didn’t have 80K sitting around in our elite offshore bank account to invest in original paintings, so we found some affordable reproductions and prints, and they made our living space “ours”.

Clay Rabbit Mask: F. Gleason, Assemblage: Jon Andrews, Hanging Terrarium: Amazon.com, Reclaimed Boards: Asheville Hardware

Clay Rabbit Mask: F. Gleason, Assemblage: Jon Andrews, Hanging Terrarium: Amazon.com, Reclaimed Boards: Asheville Hardware

Since then, we’ve found ways to buy original art (guess what, we still don’t have an 80K art budget), and have invested in many pieces we love that range from woodblock prints, to assemblages, paintings, ceramic arts, and much more. Buying smaller pieces and displaying them as collections has worked well for us, because we can always add or rearrange. Buying small because of budget reasons has actually changed my taste in art. I prefer smaller pieces right now, I gravitate towards something I can hold in my hands, and find connection with on a more personal tactile level.

Block Loom: Mary Hamby, Section of Original Wood Block: Kent Ambler, Clay Houses: Crave Studio

Block Loom: Mary Hamby, Section of Original Wood Block: Kent Ambler, Clay Houses: Crave Studio

Everyone is different, and that's what makes collecting art so fascinating. While I may prefer groupings of smaller works for my own home, I still find a single large room-dominating piece to be just as pleasing elsewhere. As we all know, art is a very subjective subject, but that makes it all the more interesting!  

Bee Block Print: Sunny Mullarkey Studio, Bird Print: Sharon Lorenz, Ceramic Bird; West Elm, Carved Pottery Vase: Unknown 

Bee Block Print: Sunny Mullarkey Studio, Bird Print: Sharon Lorenz, Ceramic Bird; West Elm, Carved Pottery Vase: Unknown 

When starting your own collection on a budget, here’s some things to keep in mind:

  • Shop local: support artists in your town (student work too!) by visiting craft shows or gallery openings. Most of us probably can’t afford the work of a world famous or historically significant artist, but honestly, there’s incredible work available in your very own zip code, and at a fraction of the price.

  • Buy small: you CAN afford original art if it’s what your heart (and wallspace) desires. Look for smaller scale work that fits your budget, and build a multi-piece collection a little at a time. Things can get pretty cool after a few years of buying smaller work and creating interesting groupings, and it’s easier on the bank account doing it one piece at a time.

Mini Bird Paintings: Diane Kilgore

Mini Bird Paintings: Diane Kilgore

  • There’s nothing wrong with prints: I’m still a huge fan of prints, and this is by far the easiest way to bring artist’s work into your home. There are tons of amazing prints for less than $100.

  • It takes time: time to save up, time to figure out what you like, time to find that certain piece you can’t bare to leave behind.

I really enjoy curating my own collection, and rearranging what I already own. It’s truly a eureka moment when you find two pieces that don’t have much in common actually work well together!

Rabbit Print: Cory Godbey, Crowd of People Print: Janina Ellis, Mountains Print: Sara Gibson

Rabbit Print: Cory Godbey, Crowd of People Print: Janina Ellis, Mountains Print: Sara Gibson

Here’s some quick tips for curating your very own collection:

  • Group pieces by color, even if the subject matter is unrelated. Or...group by subject matter or style, even if the colors are unrelated. You’d be surprised by what “goes” together!

  • A focal point doesn’t have to be right smack in the middle. Experiment with layouts that are asymmetrical but balanced.

  • Matching frames can help tie in assorted pieces so they feel more connected, but mixing in a wide variety of different frames can add interest too. A unified collection is just as cool as an eclectic collection.

  • Before you start putting holes in your wall, make a quick to-scale sketch on graph paper, and plan where each piece might hang, then adjust as needed. Keep in mind room for growth.

  • It’s YOUR collection, so buy what you love, display it how you want, and enjoy the hell out of it! When you step back and look at your walls, and it makes you feel happy, or excited about what your next piece might be, then you’ve succeeded as a collector.    







Books Books Books (My 2015 Goodreads Challenge)

I'm a little late posting this, but I finally curled up with a cup of tea and my Goodreads dashboard this morning to see how I did in 2015, rather than finishing either of the two books I'm currently halfway through. I didn't meet my Goodreads challenge for last year (which was 35 books), but I really enjoyed just about everything I read. The majority of the books I spent my time with were fiction, and I'd say over 75% of them were audible books (my favorite way to read while I'm at work in the studio!)

Below is my Year in Books. I couldn't decide on a favorite this time. It's a tie between Althea & Oliver, and My Heart and Other Black Holes. Both VERY good, and I'd definitely read them again in the future. 

For 2016, I'm setting my goal at 24 books. I feel like 2 books per month should be doable, so we'll see how it goes! What are you planning to read this year? I'd love some recommendations if you have any.

If we're not already connected on Goodreads, lets change that! Find me here

Treasure Chest: a peek inside a jewelry designer's jewelry box

I dig jewelry. Big surprise, right? I design it, I make it, and I wear a ton of it too. I wear my own work often, but I’m also a huge fan of other jewelry designers and my personal collection is always growing. My dresser is in a constant state of organized clutter. I keep my favorites out on display in little dishes, because I simply can’t wear them all at once, but darn it, I want to look at them on a daily basis at least.

Here’s a look at my favorite designers, in no particular order, and the pieces I fell in love with and wear all the time. It’s easy to brag on these folks. They’re all extremely talented!

1. Cuyler Hovey KingI’ve run into this designer several times at ICE Atlanta, and each time, I can’t help but splurge on something new. Her eye for shape and finish is exquisite, and I’ve found her pendants layer extremely well with other pieces. Wearing as much jewelry as I can at one time without looking ridiculous is my goal in life, and her work is simple and clean enough that it makes that possible.

2. Lily PotteryOut of Greenville, SC, Lily Wikoff creates funky statement jewelry using stamped clay. Her whole line is gypsy-tastic, but somehow I always end up buying rings. Rings, rings, and more rings! That’s all I have, not much in the way of variety considering she makes just about everything, but hey, I’ll eventually run out of fingers and will have to branch out and get one of her “charmer” necklaces.

3. Bold BFrom across the planet, Australian artist Britta Boeckmann’s work literally made my jaw drop the first time I saw photos online. I only have two of her pieces so far, but I absolutely adore them. The wood she uses is native to Australia (and therefore very exotic to me), and looks stunning mixed with the tinted or gold leaf-flecked resin. Whenever I wear these pendants, I find myself constantly inspecting them, utterly distracted while I try to figure out how in the world she makes them. They’re flawless!

4. Audrey Laine CollectionOut of Asheville, NC, Audrey’s line features intricate metal cutouts and castings inspired by nature and geometry. Although I have a lot of her work already, probably more than any other artist on this list, I’ve got several more specific pieces on my wishlist right now. I suppose I have an Audrey Laine addiction!

5. SpectrumJulie Riffel is behind this fabulous brand, and her work ranges from geometric wooden beads, to glass bubbles, to simple brass shapes. What I love most is the variety. There’s always something new to lust after.

6. January Jewelry: From Columbia, SC, Melissa Giglio is the artist behind January Jewelry, and she crafts modern metal pieces that are perfect for everyday-wear. My husband discovered her work at Indie Craft Parade a few years ago and got me a pair of simple triangle stud earrings, and that’s how I first became a fan. He gets credit on this one!

7. Illyria PotteryFormerly out of Greenville, SC, currently out of the UK, Katie Coston is a brilliant pottery artist who’s work I enjoy both by wearing (jewelry) and in my home (decorative pieces). The necklaces I have are definitely some of the largest pieces I own, but they’re surprisingly neutral and go with everything.

Below are some newly found favorites - designers I've only recently discovered, but will definitely be buying more from in the future.

8. Among the RuinsI first found Kim Curtis on an Etsy Team, of all places, and just recently treated myself to a delicate little bracelet from her shop. The reason it took me so long to finally buy one? I literally couldn’t decide. I kept going back and forth. I had 6 in my shopping cart at one point, and finally just had to pick one because I realized couldn’t go wrong.

9. Pink DogwoodsNan Faulker is another local designer I occasionally run into at craft shows. A few weeks ago I caved in and took home this elegant but fun whistle necklace. I’m all about the leather tassel and long brass chain, but that whistle is just too clever. Plus, if anyone ever tries to steal my purse on the street, I have a secret (and oh-so-fashionable) defensive tactic!

10. Happy ArsenalMade in Taylors, SC, by Chris Jones, these etched copper and brass pendants are graphic and versatile. Very lightweight, great for layering. Tons of options available from someone who knows a thing or two about graphic design (he’s responsible for my new logo!)

So what pieces from my own handmade jewelry collection do I personally wear? I have a few favorites, of course! Let’s call it a “job perk”. Believe it or not, it took me a long time to get comfortable wearing my own work in public. I used to dread someone saying “Love your necklace, where did you get it” because I’d always turn bright red in embarrassment, break a sweat, and say something stupid like “I got it on Etsy”. I had such a terrible time taking credit for the pieces I worked so hard to design and create! I’ve gotten over it by now. Sort of. Kind of. Almost. Anyway, these pieces are the ones I made and just couldn’t part with. You might think being in a house where my entire inventory is available would mean I’d wear something different every single day, but that’s just not the case. These are the few treasured items I kept for myself.

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Soup: A Personal Obession

I’m no foodie. In fact, I’m so picky about food, I’m often only able to find one item on a restaurant’s menu that I want to order. Soup, on the other hand, has been a lifelong love of mine, ever since I could operate the can opener. So I guess that makes me a soupie?

To me, there’s nothing better than a steaming bowl of flavors, something that takes awhile to eat and warms me from the inside out (although I don’t want to dismiss the amazing-ness of a nice chilled gazpacho in the summertime). I could survive on chicken tortilla, tomato bisque, miso, potato leek, French onion, white bean chili, she crab, beer cheese, butternut squash, corn chowder, wonton, classic chicken noodle...and the list goes on and on. I’m obsessed with soup, it’s my absolute favorite kind of food, as unimpressive as my foodie husband seems to think that is. You can keep your medium rare ribeye, your 25 pound lobster or whatever. I’ll have the soup with a side of soup, please!

I’ve been thinking about all the soups out there, and which ones are in my book the best of the best. For now, until I go on a soup tasting tour of the world (which would be awesome if someone wants to sponsor me!), I’ve limited my Best Soup list below to the Greenville, SC area.

#5 - Cauliflower and Gorgonzola Soup from The Green Room: It’s almost as thick as hummus, topped with curried raisins, and is a rich and flavorful soup that steals the show in a restaurant where that’s no easy thing to do.

# 4 - Fire Roasted Tomato Bisque from Babaziki Mediterranean Grill: chunky tomato soup, add a side of hummus and pita, plus a cool casual atmosphere to enjoy it in, and you’re all set. I always skip the feta cheese on top, but I’m sure some less picky people would enjoy that. I’ve got big problems with feta!

#3 - Chicken Pho from Pho Noodleville: not just for sick days! I always add extra lime juice to the broth (like ¼ cup or more, no joke), and use every last basil leaf on my plate of extras to perfect this Vietnamese favorite.

#2 - Posole from Tako Sushi: bring a handkerchief because this one will make you sweat. It’s the kind of spicy that sneaks up on you. A giant bowl of New Mexico hominy soup with pork comes with a huge platter of toppings that rival any taco bar to add in as you please. Don’t be shy, dump ALL of that sour cream in there and then ask for more!

#1 - Sopa de Pollo from Compadre’s: it’s the broth that gets me. Whatever’s in it, whatever those spices are that tint the clear stock slightly orange, they’re amazing. Perfectly pulled chicken, an abundance of cilantro, rice at the bottom, avocado at the top, onion and diced tomato floating in between, it all makes for one of the heartiest, most flavorful soups I’ve ever had.

Honorable mentions:

  • Tomato soup from Tupelo Honey - with a grilled cheese, of course!

  • Wonton soup from Oriental House - a bowl of liquid comfort

  • Southwest Chicken Soup from Chili's - a surprisingly good tortilla-style soup you can get in just about any city in the USA

  • Roasted Red Pepper and Gouda from Schlotsky’s

  • Autumn Squash Soup from Panera - even chain restaurants have tasty soups!