Monday, April 14, 2014

Trip to Harrisburg, PA

Hello! I find myself with less to say and more to show today. Adam and I just came back from a weekend in Harrisburg, PA, visiting dear friends and installing the newest batch of art to come out of the studio. I'm so excited about this new work - I stumbled upon some new lower-cost ideas in an attempt to make art in all kinds of price ranges. The image above is part of that new series. I had some small, antique frames (I'm talking 3"x 4" small) lying around and discovered that the knitted house I was playing with fit perfectly inside them. With that idea, I took off designing more house variations to fit within each unique frame. The gratification was instantaneous since I didn't have to rely on Adam to help me build the frames. And, since the frames were cheap and the knitting small, I can put a lower price on them. They're for sale at $70 each.

Adam, working on frames for the larger pieces, in his new shop out behind the house (aka the old 2-car garage). We realized that for the first 3 knittings I ever did, it took us like 6 months to make the frames. On the second go-round, there were 5 knitted pieces that probably took about a month or two. This time, we had 7 pieces and got those babies framed up in 4 days! We both had more confidence with what we were doing - I was able to help a lot more, doing all the sanding and lacquering - and having the shop set-up made everything faster and easier.

Support for the frame getting set in with a brad nailer on the back. This is what attaches the plywood holding the knitting to the frame. We had so much fun spending our nights together in the shop; working on the frames, listening to bad radio and enjoying each other's company.

Now for some art up in Stash's space! Here you can see "Tig Ol' Bitties" hanging above the changing room. We tacked a yardage of fabric to a bit of old trim and then pinned the crochet to the fabric. I really need to find a permanent way to show these large-scale crochets. I just don't want to do anything that takes away from the fabric essence of them. This mounting was definitely hacked. There's gotta be a better way to show these!! 

I thought I didn't get a picture of the appetizer table with one of the toothbrush knittings on it but I'm glad to see it got caught in the corner of this pic. We had a little opening while I was there but the big one will be on Third in the Burg, Harrisburg's monthly art walk. 

"Dead Dead Dead"
Collaboration with Oliver Hibert
29 in x 24 ½ in

This one's not for sale as it is part of a swell trade between Oliver and myself. But I gotta show it off for a bit before it goes to live in Arizona.


Handshake Rug
7 ft x 3 ft 4 in
This monster is priced at a whopping $6,000 hehe lots and lots of work went into that one! All the yarn is hand-dyed; a great time spent outside experimenting.

More tiny houses. So happy with these guys!

19 in x 17 ¼ in

The walnut frame on this one really turned out beautiful.

"Real Intimacy (#3)"
16 in x 12 ½ in

"Your House Wife"
17  in x 20 in

An oldie but a goodie! Loved the way it looked resting over the mantle of the old storefront's original fireplace.

Also while we were there, Wayne White was an Artist In Residence at York College in the neighboring town. He has been a big inspiration for me in the pursuit of my art career. I mean, come on!, he uses text in his art and is a southern man with a beard. Thumbs UP in my book :)

A couple of my favorite pieces on display from his 13-year retrospective. So fun to finally get to see some of his work in person. We actually saw him in person at the opening of his installation but didn't get up the courage to say hey. I regret that decision now. I guess sometimes I get afraid to meet those people I have looked up to from afar. Sometimes when the bubble of celebritism gets popped and you find yourself in front of a regular person (potentially great, potentially not so great), the disillusionment of reality can be a bit to much to handle. It's like going to see a band you really love play live, and they suck, and it ultimately makes you lose interest in their music. I guess I feared breaking that bubble I had created around who I think Wayne Wayne is. Or maybe I just really didn't want to be another swarming weirdo in the crowd that was circling him.

I don't know. I guess regret is a pretty stupid emotion so how bout I just move on.

Basking in the glow of another show hung. I loved the way all the art looked with the vintage surroundings. I don't really think of my art as retro but the textiles do give off a certain throw-back vibe.

Can't wait to get these finished pieces officially photographed and up on the website to share with all of you! I would love to hear any comments of what y'all think about the new work!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

NEW ART SHOW + Color Conclusions

HAND IN HAND art show by Ann Tilley, is a multi-colored explosion of knitted and crocheted art pieces telling the small stories of relationships in the home. A symbology of everyday objects expresses the intimacy of shared spaces. Painfully familiar one-liners pulled from the world’s journal wrapped in the cuddly kitsch of textiles. A personal inner voice experiencing love through fragmented text and the ordinary. 

What does your toothbrush say about you?

That's the write-up for a new solo show of my work going up in Harrisburg, PA next month! My bestie from SCAD days owns a store up there, STASH, that functions as a treasure trove for vintage clothing, a resource for the local and handmade, an art gallery, and an anchor for the young community that's slowly revitalizing this historical downtown. The show will feature more of my object work rather than my text work; all those toothbrushes and houses that have spawned out of the original LOVE SIGNS show I put on last year. This is a great opportunity for me to get my most recent knittings framed and get a chance to visit a dear friend. It will also be the first time I've shown my work out of state. Does this mean I can call myself a national artist?? Yes? Okay, I'll go ahead and add that to the other inflated text in my resumé :)

------------------------------SIDE NOTE----------------------------
I remember when having a resumé was SUCH a big deal. I used to stressss over getting on the computer and trying to design that wow write-up that was going to get me my dream job, whatever that was. I eventually hand-wrote the entire thing because I couldn't find a font that made me happy. Did you ever find it important to actually have a resumé? Or was that just another thing you did at the end of school because everyone told you to do it?
----------------------------END SIDE NOTE------------------------



As a follow-up to my last post on color...I figured out what was bothering me with that knitting I was struggling with and how to fix it. In fact, the resulting work is the center image in the poster above. And wouldn't you know, the answer came from my own damn advice. I guess I finally started listening. 

Here's the backstory and ultimate conclusion I came to: 

I have an idea in the works for an outside installation, and I needed bulky yarn. So I went to Knit Picks and ordered nearly every color they have of their Brava bulky. While it was en route, I thought I could further utilize this new yarn in another toothbrush piece. So when it came in, I picked colors from my options and failed to make something that made me happy. Why? The first conclusion I came to was when I traded the olive green for a bright chartreuse green. I realized that olive green is not one of my colors. Chartreuse green is. What had led to my failure was that I ordered every color they had because I wanted options, not because each of those colors spoke to me. The way that I build the color stash I work with is to buy the colors I need for a project, when I need something specific, or buy the colors that stand out to me. And I don't just buy from one place. I do this in every yarn store in my area, as well as online. This means that when I approach my yarns to design a new knitting, I'm working from my color wheel. This gives me the greatest chance for success because I've already said 'yes' to each of those colors. I see now the mistake in buying every color from one vendor. There are probably yarns in there I will never use. But, on the bright side, I now understand a part of my process and the importance of allowing myself to buy yarn organically as I see something that compels me. 

It's just like being in a relationship. The more you understand they way your partner ticks, the way you react to situations, what does and doesn't work; you get better at being together. 

The better you start to understand your own artistic processes, the better you can be at your work. And we can all stop making things we don't like!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Working with COLOR

After the debacle that plagued me yesterday (see above), and continues to leave me uncertain this morning (do I like theses colors??), I know exactly what I want to talk about today. 

- how to make smart decisions in the design phase, how to use lots of color successfully, and the methods I employ to keep from tearing my hair out and wasting my time making projects I hate. 

I will be talking about the way I use color in knitting design, but these ideas can be used in any kind of project to help you make good color choices. As for the project I started yesterday.... ...STILL can't tell if I like the color choices or if I should abandoned the sinking ship before I commit any more of my time to it. And since I can't get anyone around me to make my decisions (shucks) I guess I'll mull this one over a while longer...

I can tell you straight up that designing color knitting is the hardest task I've ever encountered in terms of making successful color decisions. With quilting, you can lay piles of fabric next to each other and get an idea as to how they will look together. Markers, paints, a little more challenging as you have a certain shade or tone when it is wet and may differ when dry. Knitting? Well, there's something there that one cannot foresee. Simply placing balls of color next to each other may look nice but provides no guarantee that they will work well together once you've spent all that time knitting them next to each other. It is an enigma that has led me down the path, more than once, to failed projects. See example below:


This was the very first knitted text project I ever designed and made. I had an idea as to what I wanted to do, but the whole process still overwhelmed me and I hadn't figured out the tools to allow me to design a piece successfully. I knew I wanted to employ color knitting techniques (in this case, stranded or Fair Isle, the only one I knew at that time) and I wanted lots of color. SO, I thought I would be clever and just buy a yarn that automatically changed colors, that makes sense right? Well, what I didn't foresee is that some colors, placed next to similar colors in shade or tone, will completely disappear next to each other. I learned that lesson the hard way but the important thing was that I learned.

I could talk about color theory; the color wheel, tint, hue, shade, tone, blah, blah, blah. As much as this information is valuable, even I can feel it breeze over my head when trying to understand it in book terms. I have taken years of color theory and would be stumped if you asked me to define tone. (Go google it if you need to know, that's what I just did.) Instead, I'd rather empower you to trust your gut, use colors you love that make you happy, and maybe try out some of these tools and tricks I like to use, to make the decision process easier.

 This little tool I picked up at my local yarn shop. Created by Gail Callahan,  she's basically found a way to break down the color wheel and give you quick color options instead of trying to explain why. And sometimes, don't we appreciate just getting an easy answer?! I use this to help me come up with different color stories in the very beginning. 

 You start by placing your base color (the one color you've actually forced your brain to make a commitment to) in the large circle in the center. Then the guide immediately shows you various lighter, darker and similar versions of the color (some would say tints, shades and tones but let's use simple terms). These obviously will work with your base color because they are pretty much the same color. But then she also shows you the complementary color to your base. A great example of this color palette in effect is the very first quilt I made (seen here) I was new to quilting so I decided to just pick all green fabrics. But, to make a successful design, you need contrast and focal points. So, I used the complementary color of green --red-- as my center in each square. Lots of the similar colors (the ones in the circles) and a pop of the complementary (the color in the bar).

A very basic way to divide all color is between warm and cool colors. Your warm colors are your reds, oranges, and yellows; think of a fire. They are most commonly associated with the feelings of energy, action, and, of course, heat. Your cool colors are your greens, blues, and purples; think of ice. They produce feelings of calm, peace, and the nighttime. One of the reasons why complementary colors work so well is because it will be the opposite "warmth" of your base color. Red and green. Purple and yellow. Blue and orange. If you painted a canvas full of cool colors and then put one dot of red on your piece, the eye would go to that red. The contrast that lies between warm and cool provides interest in your composition, so use it to your advantage!

Also, considering the energy that a color can bring to mind can influence the way your work is perceived. I intentionally chose mostly cool colors for my toothbrush piece because I wanted it to be a peaceful, calm image.

Me being somewhat of a snob, thought that this kind of tool is just showing me information that would be obvious to me, what with alllll my higher education  >nose-in-air<  but it just makes it so you don't even have to pry that information out of whatever crevice it has settled in, and it really just makes it easy to keep thinking of new ideas.

I'm sure there are more types of tools like this one on the market. Consider picking one up to help kick start those brain-thinkin' juices.

This next method helps you look at almost removing it entirely. So, what I've got here is a piece of red transparent film. I'm not exactly sure what type of material it is. It was a leftover scrap from a project my college roommate was working on, and I snatched it up. There are red viewers that you can buy for this purpose but you can use whatever is available to you. (I found one here.) All you need is something that is red and see-thru. The idea is that you look through the red at your project. The red acts as some sort of color blocker, and shows you basically a greyscale version of your work. It is good to see a greyscale of your work because the contrast of a light color next to a dark color is going to have more of a visual impact than two colors of equal darkness. You still might see a difference between them when viewed in color, but you won't get that extra variety or pop.

Here you can see that I employ all three basic levels of color contrast: light, medium, and dark.   Because I'm rendering an object (in this case, 2 toothbrushes), I want to show the dimensionality of the item. If I put 2 toothbrushes on a table and looked at them, part of them would be in light and part would be shaded, a cue to your eye that what you're looking at is in 3-D. So I've got my dark colors on one side that make it look like there's light coming from the other side. I also want to make sure they don't get lost in the background (think about my failed project above) so it's good that the majority of the brush is in contrast to the shade of the background color.

Finding contrast using a red viewer is not just for designing an image to look 3-D. It can be a great way to find balance in your project. It gives you an opportunity to look at your work from a different perspective; the closest you'll get to looking at something with a different set of eyes. Take this example here:

This is a rug I made several years ago. The color choices were not premeditated and I instead would pick as I went along. I knew that I might run into some overall visual problems if I didn't somewhat consider what I was using beforehand, so, I decided to use the red viewer. With this tool, I chose to alternate light, medium, and dark yarns evenly as I worked. 

As you can see, I didn't do it precisely, but enough to create an overall balance to the piece. It also just helped from a decision point-of-view. Sometimes, when you have 50 choices, it can be harder to pick one rather than 5 or 10 choices. (In fact, it's been proven to be the case ---> Sheena Lyengar's TED talk) So, limiting myself to my only the dark yarns or only the light yarns, just simply made it easier to keep progressing. You don't want your inability to make a decision to keep you from moving forward!

Okay, so it seems like the red viewer idea only works after you have made something. How do I come up with color choices before I start? I'll get to that next!

When I design my knitting projects, I do this initial work in greyscale, like I'm starting with the red viewer over my eyes. This allows me to only focus on composition and structure. I'm breaking down the design process into chewable parts. When I feel happy with my work at this point, I move on to color. 

I design my images in a spreadsheet and then import them into Photoshop. Actually, Photoshop Elements, the more affordable little brother of Photoshop. It works just as well for this sort of project. Here I can play with color easily and quickly. I will sit in front of my yarn, in a  well-lit space. Natural light is a MUST. As much as I want to sit on the couch and work, my den has very yellow bulbs and I don't get an accurate depiction of color, when looking at my yarn in this light. I only work with colors that I already have in yarn-form. It's easy enough to pick any color in the world off Photoshop but then trying to find that exact color in yarn version? Not so easy. Work with the colors you've got to alleviate future headaches. Here is another opportunity to use that red viewer. You've already decided that a dark color needs to go in this one space. So put on your red eyeballs and pick out those dark yarns that fit the bill.

The computer is an absolutely valuable tool when you want to test out an idea before you start. If you do not have access to these sort of tools, there's always good ol' paper and markers. The hard part with this way is just your limitations on how accurately you can recreate the colors of your final material or pigment. 


SO, when interpreting a color that you are thinking about using, consider these two factors:

-- what color is it? 
(is it warm or cool? If all the colors you picked are warm, consider something in the composition that you want people to look at and make it a cool color)

-- how light/dark is it?
(how does the color read when looked at in greyscale? If your composition has all medium contrast colors, consider a light or dark color to add interest)

Understanding these two basic ideas can help you pick a successful variety of colors for a project. When it comes to the actual selecting of colors, go with the ones that excite you and that you think look good together. You will ultimately be living with the final project, whether it's a personal piece or something that goes out into the world with your name on it, so put your colors into it. If you're not sure what colors are your colors, look at your wardrobe, look at your house. What colors are most commonly found? What colors make you happy? Inversely, what colors annoy you? It's good to know those so you can avoid them! Look at famous paintings you love and break down what colors were used. Eventually you'll develop your personal palette that you'll come back to again and again. Using these tools will simply help you put them together in a successful way!

Do you feel like you have an innate sense of color? Or rather, do you find tools like these crucial?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Details in the knitting

I realize that I've been posting more writing than photographs lately so I wanted to share some shots of the work coming off my needles these days. What a change from when I first started this blog and was too scared to write anything because I felt like I sounded stupid! Oh, the invisible audience that terrorizes us all.

Above is my latest text knitting venture, where I'm riffing off of the ideas I started with "Full-On Meltdown". So far, I've only had one significant mistake that ultimately turned into a happy accident. I changed the direction of the striping every 10 rows, and the text had been designed to fit into 12 rows......SHIT! So, I had to delete the 2 spacer rows I initially had between the letters and, once I saw the results, I came to the conclusion that it made the design more effective than I had originally intended! PHEW!

May all our mistakes turn into happy accidents!

 This is a knitted hot water bottle cover I made as a gift for my boyfriend's birthday. Nowadays, when I'm faced with any knitting project (especially those that are not my design), I have to find a way to make it that much more interesting, or at least involve some new technique so I can learn and grow. I customized this simple cover with a hexagon pattern and chain-stitched lettering. 

My boyfriend was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis last year and this was my way to aid in a difficult situation that I have virtually no control over.

And I HATE not being in control!

 I couldn't stop thinking about these 2 toothbrushes that I had designed originally for this piece. And after buying a great miniature antique painting a few month back, I've been thinking about small art. I'd love to do more with this simple format. I think we'll be getting around to building frames sometime next month so only then will I really get an idea for how this will turn out. Looking forward to that.

This idea came directly out of a personal experience I had when I first started dating my main man. We had been seeing each other for a few weeks and I had already taken to spending the night over at his house. In an effort to 'be cool' and not be like 'other girls', I decided to leave my toothbrush in his medicine cabinet, but hide it on the top shelf where I thought it wouldn't be seen. Adam is like the coolest guy. Seriously. I've never seen him do anything uncool. We hadn't officially labeled our relationship so I was working extra hard to be cool. By the next time I came over, he had found my brush and placed it next to his brush by the sink.

It was such a small gesture but it really said something to me about us.

So now I look at 2 toothbrushes side-by-side as a real, everyday reminder of the deep intimacy I share with my wonderful man.

This is a secret that I must not reveal for fear of those who might been looking! 

Stay tuned for more on this project...

Until then, I'll be in my studio.

Have a great day!!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


I attended the Southern Entrepreneurship in the Arts conference this past weekend in Greensboro and it totally surpassed my expectations. I had a great time! It was hosted by UNCG and ran the gamut on topics pertaining to every kind of person pursuing an art career. That meant they had speakers on issues as broad as "Making A Career As An Artist" to entertainment lawyers providing insight into copyright laws to clinical psychologists leading discussions on creative blocks and procrastination. It was truly a unique and valuable opportunity for me to be in a place where I could relate to everything and everyone around me.

There were 3 keynote speakers and then tons of breakout sessions where we could choose which speaker and what topic we want to attend. My favorite part of the day was with a woman named Ellen Lloyd who hosted an interactive session on crafting your vision and mission statement for your art career. This is something that I've always heard is important to create - like a business plan for yourself - yet it always felt so abstract that I was burdened at the very thought of trying. So, I had to go sit in and hear what she was going to say. I was so blown away with how successfully she was able to debunk the mysteries out of my own head that I went home and tried the lesson over again with my fellow artist and longtime friend Megan ("Bring post-its!") We had so much fun and I learned so much more doing it again that I decided to share the lesson here. 


 -- all you need is some Post-It notes, a writing utensil, and a cleared table top or wall space --

Complete the following sentence as many times as you can within a 10 minute time limit, putting each answer on its own Post-It note. When you're done with the note, simply place it to the side until you've completed your 10 minutes. Notice the word "ideal", this is not necessarily where you are now but where you want to be, so think BIG!

"In an ideal world, I strongly believe my artistic endeavors will ____________________."

When you are finished, arrange the notes in front of you, grouping similar answers together. I had 3 different clusters in all. Start to reread your notes and underline words that you use more than once. Then, create a title for each of your groups, giving them their own Post-It.

Now you are ready to take a stab at writing the first draft of your vision. Your vision explains in one broad sweeping sentence your dreams of what you want in your career. It's like the thesis statement to the essay that is your dream job. So, look at those underlined words, see the groupings you have made, and start formulating. You in no way are committed to your first draft, this is just a starting place.

Once you feel like you got a handle on that, you're ready to attack the mission statement. The mission statement is like the rest of your introductory paragraph in your dream job essay. Here is where you define the what, how, and who. What do you do, how do you do it, and who is it for? This summarizes your core values and how you pragmatically fulfill your vision. 

So, same idea as before with the Post-Its, new sentence. Start with the first blank and write as many notes as you can before moving onto the next blank.

In an ideal world, as an artist I      (what you do)     
by        (how you do it)      
for      (who)        .

I found this sentence to be more challenging. Try to think practically. State the obvious. Once again, take note of the word "ideal", do not put down "part-time waitress" because that's what you do now. Put down that dream job. Another way to think about it, if this sentence structure fuddles you, is:

I am        (what you are/want to be)      
that       (does what and how?)       
for      (who)       .

Now assess the new notes in front of you, arranging again into groups and acknowledging repeated words and phrases. Begin formulating your sentence or sentences; your mission statement can be as short or long as you want, as long as you get all the pertinent information in there. A lot of businesses have vision and mission statements written for their company. Think of yourself as a company of one.'s vision and mission statement is summarized in one sentence: 

“Our vision is to be earth's most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” 

Obviously can't sell anything anyone wants to buy - that's their ideal speaking. But it works; it's clear, to-the-point, and leaves room for eternal growth. And they managed it all in one simple sentence! 

Maybe your vision and mission statement can get directed down to one sentence or it can be more, all that matters is that it makes sense to you, and gives you a touchstone of reference as you steer the course of your career. When done correctly, this is your north star for every decision you will make. Too many times, as artists (and others), we sacrifice our dreams for the prospect of easy money or to help other people with their dreams. Frankly, I'm tired of how often I say 'yes' to projects that I find no creative energy in. I'm ready to put my vision and mission statement into the forefront and stop forgetting about it when it comes to making decisions!!

I hope that you will find a chance to try this activity out in your own time, as many times as you need to clarify your goals. I highly recommend doing it with a friend and sharing your Post-Its along the way. I was amazed how different Megan would answer questions than me, and it got me inspired to think in new ways. Rereading sentences out loud helped put things into perspective. But, if you really don't want to share your vision with anyone else, you don't have to. This should be for you to come to a better understand of your dreams

But everything is better with a support system :)

Friday, February 21, 2014


Now for inside photos of my new studio!

Here's something silly about me: we're starting this project, the new doors have gone in and I'm walking through the space, trying to figure out future orientation of the room. As I take in my surroundings, I start to groan over my decision to cover up all the old that exists here; the beautifully-uneven floorboards, the humble tin roof, the smell and character of all this wood (which I'm sure came directly off the property we sit on). This is history here, as simple as it may be, and I hated to hide it. 

After moping to Adam about it, I realized that it needed to be covered to make the space practical; clean, bug-proof, and (mostly) level and even. He was right, and I fortunately got over it once I started to see the results. And I still had the outside of the barn to satiate me.

BAM! Whatta change! (Ok, really don't miss the old interior now)

Remember how I was telling you that reusing old materials can be hard? Yep, these doors taught me that lesson. They wouldn't square up with each other or the door frame and, oddly enough, one of the biggest puzzles we had was how to create a door closure. Being that these were originally interior doors, they were too thin and narrow to fit a standard door knob. The solution became simple pulls and separate locks for the inside and out. Maybe not ideal but it's now keeping the draft out. Can you see where the original knob was on this door? I swear Ma and Pa Troxler were shorties! (We've since gotten over the sensation of feeling like giants in our home)

Another challenge was to figure out what to do with the floor. I would've loved to save these oak floorboards but they weren't tongue-and-groove and being able to see the ground through some of the cracks was not a good thing. It was a challenge because flooring can become a very expensive project and I hadn't failed to remember that I did not own this building and was only renting. We eventually decided to cover the existing floor with OSB and cover it with the cheapest indoor/outdoor carpet I could find. 

Cons: harder to clean, fibers/threads stick to it, seems to be pilling with traction over time. 

Decision made, executed, and moving on.

Check out that table!! Adam built this for me. In my ideal studio, I would have a bolt-width table (50"-60") that I could walk completely around..........not gonna work for this space. Once the machines came in, the dimensions got smaller in the room and for my table. I covered and mounted foam-core board with batting to the wall. Thus, it can function as a design wall (with fabric being able to stick to the batting) and a typical cork board. Also a highly-recommended source of organization for anyone working with fabric is a roll-away bin stored underneath the table (barely seen here on the left-hand side). This is where all errant fabrics go that are too small or unruly for more sophisticated folded storage.

My Yamata safety stitch machine (or serger) and hanging flat patterns for pants. This machine allows me to finish any edge and sew with stretchy fabric.

One of the last projects has been to make these wonderful, red velvet curtains that are working wonders at keeping the space warmer and (as Adam noted) creating the atmosphere of a brothel when viewed from outside at night. Just need to hang a red light to complete the look :)

My Brother industrial single stitch machine. Speed and automatic thread cutting puts this machine miles ahead of any home sewing machine (although I will pull my old one out for the occasional zig-zag stitch).

New purchases for the space were a full-sized ironing board and a gravity-fed steam iron (aka-the IV looking thing hanging in the top right corner). I had been toting around a table-top ironing board for years. It was one of those things where what makes it convenient also makes it obnoxious. The fact that I could move it and store it so easily was nice but that it needed a table and was perpetually getting moved around to various sub-par surfaces made it a pain to work with. We found this great, old board in an antique shop in Asheboro for an easy $28. The steam iron was an indulgent purchase but I was straight sick of the incontinence problem I had with my old domestic iron. Not to mention the taxing, repetitive process of twisting your wrist every time you need to set it down (this one always stays face-down on a silicone mat). And simply, when you get used to working with great, industrial tools at work, it gets harder and harder to go back to your average, made-for-home-use equipment. 

And we've all learned by now that great tools make all the difference!!

A before shot of the back wall. This photo answered a lot of questions after we started mounting the shelves and, through lots of trial and error, eventually found the studs. I mean come on! Just look at that crooked-ass stud there on the right!

I can smell the organizing potential! We didn't run the shelves all the way across simply because a standard length of plywood only goes this far. It just made it all-around easier and, being that it was one of the plethora of projects I was roping my boyfriend into doing, I wanted to keep him happy and sane. Turns out now that extra spot on the side is a great place to store bolts of fabric. I'm hoping to maybe span the gap with a rod to hang patterns from but haven't thought seriously enough about it to go get the materials.


Totally creativity explosion!! I originally planned the center shelf as a working surface; an extension to my table where I could place materials and keep the table top works better as a place to pile stuff... And the turntable is not working as a viable source of music. You can't get any work done if you're stopping every 5 songs to flip a record. I'll eventually get everything set up right!

This is the second real studio space I've been fortunate enough to have, but I've been setting-up and breaking-down many a work space in my time. And, every time, I add something new to the "ideal studio set-up" dream list. Not all of my dreams were possible in this space but, with every move, I get closer and closer to functioning more effectively and efficiently. My last studio was much more suitable for making quilts but now this studio is better for dress-making. It's a give and take when you're limited on space. 

I've been freelancing full-time for over a year now and doing it part-time for much longer. The greatest gift you can give yourself when you do this kind of personal work is to create a separate space to house this part of your life, even if it is just a room in your home. Shutting that door to your to-do list and the mess in-progress projects can bring, is the closest thing anyone of us can get to work-life balance. I am much more tolerant of clutter in my work space than I am in my den.


On that note, Alain de Botton's views on work-life balance and career anxieties has been one of my favorite TED Talks this week. View it here.  (He also has recently written a books titled "Art as Therapy" that I'm inclined to read. I like this guy!)

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Absolutely, hands-down, without-a-doubt, HERE IT IS!! The GREATEST gift I've ever given myself is contained within these 4 walls; a fully-equipped art and sewing studio!!

Our house is about 100 years old and part of the property behind the main house was an active farm until Dean's parents got too old to maintain it (at least 40 years ago) and no one else took up the responsibilities in their absence. Traces of old animal pens now hold trash heaps (country folk used to think it was a good way to discard their rubbish, devaluing their land in the process) and different out-buildings dot the land in various states of run-down.

It's sometimes hard to see how neglected this land is, still, I love living in a place with so much history. 

This building was originally used as a place to cure meats, and, being one of the only barns still functioning as a shelter from the elements, was called the 'dry barn'. After a failed attempt to return to school for upholstery in the fall, I decided to reallocate those tuition funds towards fixing it up as a home studio. Moving out to Julian meant the studio I was using in Hillsborough was no longer convenient and I needed somewhere to work. I decided to hire a contractor (Adam's childhood friend and former Bronzed Chorus drummer) and he got right to work insulating and finishing out the inside.

I always think about high school psychology in times like these -- when I find myself facing a large decision-making task. I remember learning that bigger decision-making is one the last skills we develop as humans, usually in the mid-20s. I won't say that this project is necessarily a cornerstone decision in my life, but when you're dropping down what you consider a larger chunk of money, it can create insecurity. "Am I being smart about this?" "Is this what I really want/need right now?" Ultimately, I knew that to further my career, make more money, and realize my dreams, I needed a place to work.  And I just looked at it as paying all my rent up front.

Hey, just think about how much money I can save by not driving anywhere!

We took off the existing door and replaced it with these french doors that originally lived in the main house, and were currently being stored in the dry barn. This alleviated the problem of not having many windows and made the space more inviting. A pane was missing from the bottom corner so we used the opportunity to add a cat door. Also, the removal of the vent created an extra window above.

Damn, look at all those leaves! We didn't know what to do when fall came. I'm learning a lot about what it takes to live on and maintain a large plot of land.

When we ran electricity to the studio, we also ran it to the the 2-car garage nearby. This will serve as Adam's future wood-working shop, but we're waiting till spring to start that project. No more hauling the table saw over to the house to plug it in! In this picture, I had taken the first door off to start the arduous process of scraping all the old (oil) paint off and re-finishing it with exterior paint. Man, that was a bitch! Such a pain, in fact, that I never got around to the second door.... And, with the onslaught of winter weather we got, my motivation was long, long gone.

Lessons I learned from this project:

-hiring someone else to do work for you is GREAT! along as you've got the money to do it.

-trying to refurbish or reuse old materials is WAY harder than building new. But it stays in line with my passion for recycling and love of all things old.

-I do NOT like using power tools -- watching me wield a drill is as awkward as a cow on roller skates.

-I do NOT like being in charge of a project I cannot do myself, relying on other people for every step was a hugh lesson in patience.


All in all, the project was a success and well worth the trouble. The freedom and ease it now gives me to work is a real blessing.

These photos are from when we first moved into our place back in June. It's hard to believe our yard was ever this green! Or that within 8 months, I would've completely renovated this shed into what it is now.

Stay tuned for BUILDING A HOME STUDIO - Part II, where I'll talk about and share pictures of the inside of the studio!

Monday, January 27, 2014

I found a great quote the other day that I wanted to share. 

"The important thing to remember is that no project is the ultimate; each is a step along the road. Enjoy, experiment, take chances, have fun: this is the learning process. Learning to see, then using what we see is a lifetime project. I have yet to finish a piece that I couldn't visualize improvements to. I keep reminding myself of what a gallery-owner friend once told me. She said that she differentiates between art and craft, not by the medium, but by the attitude of the person who created the work. A craftperson produces the same thing over and over, an artist continues to change and grow."   
                                ---- Dorothy Bird

I feel like I have been straddling a line between art and craft for years; and the way I have perceived my own work, along with others' perceptions, has led me to constantly re-question this idea of what is art and what is craft, and what the hell am I doing??

In the Fashion Department at SCAD, craft was a 'dirty' word. A fashion designer was NEVER a crafter and the very idea led my professors to sticking their noses even higher in the air. Of course, this made me want to incorporate crafts even more into my designs. It was easy for me to see past the kitsch, housewife stereotypes that I believe they were hung up on, and instead saw the variety of skills and techniques that encompassed my notion of craft. Honestly, to this day, I still don't really get why they abhorred the idea so much.

In my need to always be different, I have relished the idea of blending two supposed different areas of concentration, in an attempt to see both of them in a new way. I have never once doubted my ability to blend art and craft successfully, but I can't help but hear the naysayers. The galleries that turn me away because they don't perceive what I'm doing as fine art. The people who look at my work and can't understand that it's not a sweater.  I guess there are those who have such ingrained ideas as to what fine art is and what knitting is that I perplex them with my muddling. And now I'm so far deep into it that I don't get what's so hard not to get. 

Today, as I slowly carve an art career path, the foundation I am building my name upon is entirely craft-based. Knitting, crochet, have completely replaced the traditional canvas, paints, brushes. I find that the limitations of knitting, the rules that cannot be changed, give me enough parameters to allow my creativity to flourish, and free myself from the 'blank canvas' syndrome. To me, this all feels right. 

So how do I define art and how do I define craft? I don't think either need to be limited to one person's definition. Isn't art a visual display of hand skill and execution? Don't tell me that you have never seen a quilt that expresses love and beauty. (If you haven't, let me know, and I will show you.)

So let's have a big middle finger towards the boundaries of definitions and stereotypes, and show the world what creativity really means by being open to it all.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"The New Forest"

completed and ready for framing. This piece breaks my heart a little bit every time I look at it. We are in the midst of having all the forest around our house get torn down to build a solar panel farm. It makes me sick to my stomach when I think it about it. I just want peace and quiet and nature around me. Can't everyone just leave me alone??!! I should've made the panels twice as tall as the house with evil faces on them. Ugg.