Update: Designing a new line

Over the past couple months, I’ve been in deep with a new project- developing what has become a new line of products. At first, I was just experimenting with a new illustration style…very soon I was in over my head! I wanted to share some of my process for how this has happened.

Here’s the first drawing I did on that first Sunday, moving through its phases of development- a pen and ink owl.

When I finished I couldn’t believe 7 hours had gone by since I settled in on the deck with my pad and pens. I hadn’t gotten this blissfully lost in the process of making art in more years than I can count.

I could hardly wait to start on the next creation- an elephant.

Since I embarked on this journey, I have spent many days immersed in this process, resulting in about a dozen new designs! I will share more of them on the blog upcoming, and they are being introduced as high quality prints, suitable for framing.

Obviously, this line is a departure from the colorful style you see in my current gifts. These have a different feel with the intricate pen and ink detail, but I think the new designs, while fresh, retain some of what makes my stuff my own. I’m still drawn to the whimsical, to images from nature, animals, and celebrating the important things in life. Stay tuned to see how I these themes appear in this new line of prints. You can get your hands on them this holiday season!

Mary Engelbreit inspiring change

A few days ago, Mary Engelbreit, a fellow artist and designer and a native of St Louis, posted this illustration and reflection on her Facebook page:

“When situations turn horrible and I find it hard to move on, I usually draw my way through it. These drawing hardly ever see the light of day, since they’re really just a form of therapy for me. But these events unfolding now in my hometown and across the country , shining a light on the ugly racism that still runs rampant in our country, made me think that maybe this drawing could help in some small way. While it’s not a cheerful little picture you’d want to hang over the sofa, you might know of a school or an office or a police station that could use it. All proceeds from the sale of this print will go to the Michael Brown Jr. Memorial Fund.
mary engelbreit hands up don't shoot

http://www.maryengelbreit.com/store/In-The-USA-Fine-Print.html

Mary received a huge response to the image, raising $25,000 over the next few days for the memorial fund. While most of the comments were positive, she also came under criticism from some who viewed the image as inflammatory.
Mary kept her resolve, later posting this update:

mary commentary

The above was removed by Facebook, and she followed with another update:

“Thank you all—-well, most of you!— for your kind words and support over the last couple of days. They far outweighed the negativity I received. Obviously tempers run high during a terrible situation like this, and without any clear leadership in Ferguson or St. Louis releasing accurate information, it’s going to take a long time to settle down, I’m afraid. I hope my drawing was a help to some of you, anyway. We’ve made well over $10k so far that will be donated the the Michael Brown Jr. Memorial Fund, so thank you for that. I know it’s been difficult to get on our website due to the large numbers of people trying to get on, but the print will always be available, so there’s no need to rush!
Also, Facebook got in touch with us and said they would put the post back up (although I don’t know what’s taking them so long; we put it back up in about 5 minutes, without the picture) and they told us they would make sure it wasn’t removed again.
I’m going to return to my “regular programming” later today, which I know will bore the crap out of a lot of you, so thanks for being here for these few days, and thanks to most of you for being so kind.
Meditate, pray, hope and/or work (whatever works for you!) for peace and SANITY to return to our world. Be the change you’d like to see.
Love,
Mary, A Known Subversive. ( My absolute FAVORITE comment!)”

Thank you, Mary Engelbreit for showing compassion and conscience in the face of a difficult situation. It is the role of artists to do what we can to make this world a better place- through inspiration and encouragement, but also through responding with courageous truth-telling. Your actions point the way to a better world.

Mary Engelbreit was interviewed on her local NPR affiliate about the story. Listen to what she has to say here.

 

 

Back to School Gift List

Back to School lists are out, and now is the time to stock up for a great year. Pencils, binders, backpacks, new shoes, and don’t forget this unique alarm clock from Paper Scissors Rock. This tiny clock makes a great gift for your favorite teacher, ensuring that they will start their day right, bright and early.

Clock with an apple on the face and the words "to teach is to touch lives forever" with floating pencil second hand

My alarm clocks are not just for teachers. Look through the dozens of designs in my alarm clock gallery to find the perfect one for the student in your life- preschool through graduate school!

ballet alarm clock
The clocks feature reductions of my original paintings and collage work, on a tiny 2 X 2 clock face. They are cordless and lightweight- perfect for travel. But what makes them totally unique is the miniature image that floats around the face counting the seconds. For instance, on the ballet alarm clock above, its a miniature ballerina. Check out the whole collection for great back to school gift ideas.
Its also the perfect time pf year to get a classroom in shape and off to a great start with clever decorations that celebrate the work of teaching and learning, such as this teacher wall clock.

teacher wall clock

And don’t start off the year without these stylish glass gem magnets, perfect for displaying student work, reminders, and to-do lists.

teacher glass gem magnets

Here’s to another great year of learning, growing, and teaching!

Any time is coffee time! (gifts and recipes)

Coffee lovers enjoy their joe in all weather- cold brews and blended drinks this time of year. But there is more than just the same old iced coffee and frappucinos. Cold coffee lends itself to desserty shakes, cocktails, and all kinds of fresh combos. I’ve found some fun recipes to share with you at the end of  this post.
My lineup of gifts for coffee lovers are a hit here in the Pacific Northwest, where coffee is a way of life.

Check them out:

coffee time travel alarm clock

Wake up and smell the coffee with our portable battery-powered coffee time alarm clock. This clock was made from one of my original paintings. The little red cup is the second hand which seems to magically float around the clockface as it ticks.

coffee glass gem magnets

Coffee appears in seven forms in these super strong glass gem refrigerator magnets, made from miniature reproductions of my paintings. Use these to post recipes and memos on your fridge, like: “get more coffee”. They come in a reuseable metal gift tin.

coffee time wall clock

 

This colorful “Any time is coffee time” wall clock is made from prints of a bright mixed media piece I did-colored pencil, collage, and acrylic. It is dry-mounted on black foamboard and laminated, creating a tile that looks exactly like ceramic but is lightweight and break-resistant.

Coffee-lovers, try out these hot weather coffee recipes:

1. Nutella Coffee Frappe Take your hazelnut coffee to the next level with this yummy blended drink made with real Nutella.

2. Iced Brazilian Mocha-Cola The fictional drink on the Nickelodeon tv show Drake and Josh is actually all the rage in Brazil. It sounds weird but the combo of cola, coffee, and chocolate milk appeals to many.The taste is like a cross between a rootbeer float and coffee ice cream.

3. Vietnamese Iced Coffee with Sweetened Condensed Milk Simple and sweet– this is a traditional recipe that makes the list.

4. Cold brew coffee with Lime Simple and refreshing, sweetened cold brew with lime. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!

5. Shoeless Joe This unique cold brew mocktail again brings in the cola- along with black cherry syrup and soda. Try adding vodka or rum to the mix.

Carved watermelons make fresh art!

In my 30+ year career as a working artist, I have enjoyed working in a variety of different media. One of my favorite things is to try out making things with a new, interesting medium. I have done painted eggs, painted furniture, beading on various objects, and more. Now I mostly produce my painted or collaged designs on functional household gift items- clocks, alarm clocks, night lights, magnets. I am always inspired by discovering artists who work in creative media, and the internet is full of examples, such as this master watermelon sculptor I recently discovered, Takashi Itoh. It turns out that watermelon carving is a traditional Japanese art called Mukimono. 

From his FAQs:

Q: Can you eat carved watermelon?
A: Yes. They are natural and delicious.

carved watermelon

His intricate carvings are as refreshing as his medium.

wedding watermelon cake

It was fun to see some of my same themes and inspirations pop up.
Why hello, Mr. Van Gogh…

van gogh watermelonvan goghs ear

Dolphins and penguins, on watermelons and clocks:
dolphin and penguin watermelondolphin alarm clock


penguin wall clock

Love:
hearts watermelon

 

 

hearts alarm clock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We both do lots of flowers:
flowers watermelon carvedflower bouquet wall clock

A quick google image search revealed tons of other watermelon talent. Here, a dia de los muertos carved watermelon! (Next to my Day of the Dead wall clock.)

dia de los muertos watermelondia de los muertos clock

Mermaids!

mermaid watermelonmermaid wall clock

Turtles:
turtle watermelonturtle wall clock
W
hat are your favorite watermelon designs? What other new media for have you discovered that makes for awesome art?

 

Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly Away Home

Last weekend I was walking through the garden center outside of the grocery store looking for flowers, and saw a basket full of clear plastic tubs. Curious, I walked over to see what they were and was surprised to find that they were filled with ladybugs. Now, I know ladybugs are supposed to be lucky. They are also said to bring prosperity. But none of that has anything to do what with why I did what I did.

I could blame it on the fact that I was pretty depressed. My cat had just died and the flowers I was shopping for were to plant on her grave. But for whatever reason, seeing 1500 beautiful little ladybugs trapped in each of those plastic tubs made me really sad.
decorative ladybug refrigerator magnets in tinThese ladybug magnets  I sell in metal gift tins remind me of my little friends in captivity….
I stood there for a while and looked at them, then went inside the store and did the rest of my shopping. But I could not stop thinking about those little ladybugs. When I finished getting my groceries, I found myself back outside, standing at that basket. At $10 a tub I couldn’t ‘save’ them all, but I felt compelled to set at least some of them free.
ladybug travel alarm clock
I know, I know. They were all  meant to be purchased and assuming they were, would be set free eventually. But what if there weren’t? What if they died in those tubs? And how miserable must they be all heaped in there on top of each other? Those were my sad silly thoughts at the time. Inwardly was laughing at myself. I couldn’t really believe I was doing it… so when the woman at the register asked what I was going to do with the ladybugs I simply mumbled “Um…Well….they’re good for aphids.” Not that I have any aphids. Heck, I don’t even have a garden.
ladybug nightlight
When I got home I took the tub outside put it on the deck railing next to Ramona’s new grave, and opened it. I kind of hoped a huge cloud of ladybugs would rise in the air like a tiny flock of red birds and fly off into the blue sky. But that’s not what happened at all. They just gradually begin to crawl over the edge of the container and onto the deck and explore. And eventually I got impatient and poured about half of them out into the grass.

So yeah, it was pretty anticlimactic, but it still felt good. I keep hoping I’ll see some of them around but they seem to be long gone. But hey, ladybugs – if you do bring prosperity – don’t forget me, okay?

How I started paying it forward

Last week for April Fool’s Day I shared a”prank it forward” video where a waitress was given the best shift of her life by friends and coworkers, and I asked if anyone has done a “pay it forward” type prank.
I have a regular pay it forward tradition. It started right after September 11th, 2001.  
Just four days after 9/ll, I decided to do something different at my Pike Place Market booth in Seattle by giving my clocks away that Saturday. At first I didn’t think I could even show up at the Market so soon but I couldn’t imagine staying home alone any longer, filled with the immense grief we all felt that week. I needed to go be with my friends and fellow artists even if there was no one shopping. Then on the 60 mile drive to work it occurred to me that in giving a gift, I could do something positive both for myself and for others. 
heart4web
The market felt strange that day. People were there, walking around as usual, but the air was so full of sadness. When someone approached my table, I waited and when they picked something out I would bag it up. Then when they reached for their wallet and I’d simply smile and say “You can put that away. I’m not taking any money today”
peace dove travel alarm clock
What happened was astounding.  At first people couldn’t understand what I was offering. All of them refused the offer at first. But when I said “I think we all just need to be kind to each other right now.” without exception, every one of them burst into tears. Then I asked them each if they would do something nice for someone else in return. People really broke down at that point. Do you remember how raw our emotions were at time? How grief stricken and vulnerable we all felt?  I cried, my artist neighbors set up on either side of me cried. Other artists in the market passed the word of what I was doing and a small crowd of them gathered in my booth to watch every time a customer approached. Several customers came back later and reported their pay-it-forward deeds with pride. One proud father came back later to tell me that his 5 year old gave all of her allowance money to a homeless person after they left my booth.
Within a few days word of this story made it’s way onto the Internet and travelled around the country. A man from Georgia actually looked up my website and called me at my studio in Olympia, Washington, just to see if I was for real.
This was such a rewarding experience that now every day that I work at my booth I give away one clock. I never know how it will unfold or who I will give the gift to. It might be a little kid who clearly really wants one but his Mom says no, it might be a woman who falls in love with a certain design but just can’t afford it or seem to justify spending her money on it. Once it was a woman who got choked up when she saw my ‘Reach for the Stars’ clock, because her recently deceased mother used to say that to her all the time. Sometimes it’s just a traveler on a tight budget or someone who makes me laugh.
reach for the stars wall clock
Each day I wait for a feeling. It’s always a strong pull that sweeps over me in the moment, a sense that this person is the right person. Generally, I continue to talk to them as I nonchalantly pull the clock they are admiring from my back stock and put it in a bag. Then I might ask when their birthday is and when they tell me I say “Well, since I’m not going to see you on your birthday, I’d like to give you a gift now” and I hand them the bag.  
This is always met with a look of bewilderment. They peer in the bag, they say “what?” they reach for their wallet.  They often refuse to accept it at first, but I always insist, telling them I give something away every day and I wait until the right person comes along and “Today it’s you.”. After they thank me and express their disbelief, I follow it by adding “There is one thing I’ll ask you to do in return, And that’s to do something kind for someone else, preferably a stranger”  That’s when they almost always start to cry.  And I find on a day when I am selling very little, when business is slow, when I’m worried about paying my bills – it’s the best thing I can do. Although I may reduce my profits even more, I’ve done something way better because it always makes me feel full and alive – and reminds me that the best things in life have nothing to do with money.
12things4web

“The Best Shift Ever” April Fool’s positive prank

April Fool’s Day can bring all kinds of pranks- mean pranks, slapstick pranks, elaborate pranks and witty pranks. But THIS! This video is an inspiring story about an ordinary good person, Chelsea, a waitress at the Sprint St. Smoke House, and the gifts that her community arranged for her in the form of a positive ‘prank’. Her friends and coworkers worked with a television show to plot ‘The Best Shift Ever’ for her.

She receives amazing tips from customer after customer, and although she’s amazed, doesn’t seem to suspect a thing.

1. At 1:31- $1000 cash tip.
2. At 2:14- Vacation to Hawaii as a tip
3. 3:20- Her dream job offer!
4. 4:30- A new car to replace her junker!
5. 5:38- A visit from her old friend. Here is where the tears start to flow!
What an amazing woman and heartwarming story.

12 Things money clock

Have you ever done a “positive prank”? Or received one?

 

Actress Patty Duke visits the Craftspeople at Pike Place Market

Having grown up watching her TV show, when I booked Patty Duke to ring the bell at the market I was thrilled. Like many of us, I have seen The Miracle Worker, for which she won an Oscar, many times. And of course, I’ve seen her in many other films and TV shows over the years. But as fun as I imagined the day might be, I never dreamed it could be as special as it really was.

Patty Duke (whose real name is Anna) is still absolutely beautiful, and she and her husband Mike are two of the most genuine, loving, fun people you’ll ever meet. The couple met when Anna was filming A Time to Triumph, the true story of a woman helicopter pilot. Mike, who was a drill sergeant at the time, was hired as a consultant to teach her how to salute, march, etc. and in the process they fell in love. They have been married for 28 years, and they both exude a combination of warmth, humor and kindness that is rare to find.

Patty at roll call, wearing the fabulous hat given to her by Goldie of Lidwear

Patty at roll call, wearing the fabulous hat given to her by Goldie of Lidwear

What not everyone knows about Anna is that while we were all at home happily watching her on TV and in movies, she was enduring a difficult & traumatic childhood. And on top of all the trauma she experienced in her personal life, in 1982 she was also diagnosed as bi-polar. She has since become a passionate advocate, author, speaker and educator on mental health issues. (My brother is a psychiatrist and when he heard I’d be meeting Anna, he called to make sure I know what an amazing woman she is. He told me that he feels deeply indebted to her on behalf of his patients, and what a difference her work and voice has made for so many.)
As I took Mike and Anna on a tour of the market, I watched with admiration as Anna looked into the eyes of every person who approached her, and greeted them as if they were already a friend – whether a fan of her TV Show, movies, or books, or someone who has dealt with mental illness in their own life and knew of her advocacy work. She gave out hugs that clearly came from her heart, and her sparkly personality and openness left each person she met glowing.

Actress Patty Duke Pike Market SeattlePatty Duke by Pam CorwinPatty Duke with Paper Scissors Rock and Pike  Place Market artists

At one point, I told Anna & Mike about a dear friend at the market who is bi-polar had hoped to meet her but couldn’t make it that day. Her husband died recently and our community is worried about her.  Anna listened with clear concern and both she and Mike simply said “Call her.” So I dialed the phone and Anna took it and walked off to give her support and sage words of advice in private. Our friend was blown away by the kindness and generosity of this amazing woman.

After Anna rang the bell, a small group of us went out to breakfast. What a lovely time it was! We were joined by Lori Ness, of Northwest Prime Radio (who is the person who put me in touch with Anna), Mary Kay Sherwood of Sherwood Silkscreen, and Kat Allen of Symbols in Art.

Mike made me laugh all morning.

Mike made me laugh all morning.

After breakfast so many people wanted to give Anna and Mike gifts and thank them for coming that it took us two hours to get through the market.

Patty Duke and artists have breakfast

Mel Dofredo of Villanueva Arts is still talking about the wonderful, heartfelt conversation he had with Anna.

Mel Dofredo of Villanueva Arts is still talking about the wonderful, heartfelt conversation he had with Anna.

screen print art at Pike Market with Patty Duke

Sarah Porter of Saragrapics

Seattle textile artist and Patty Duke

Sheila Mead of Gypsy Wings Textiles  shared her work with Anna.

I never expected to meet two such down to earth people and make new friends that day. But these two are in my heart (and I hope my life) forever.

If you want to know more about Anna’s journey, I recommend you read her best seller, Call Me Anna. If if you or anyone you love lives with bipolar disorder, I  also highly recommend her second book, Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness.

Anna and Mike will be at the Hollywood autograph show the 12th and 13th of April, in LA. http://www.hollywoodshow.com/main.php

Anna will be speaking in Kadima, Michigan on Thursday, May 8th

Anna will be attending a screening of The Miracle Worker in Omaha, Nebraska on May 23

Duluth Superior Film Festival, May 28th to the 31st

And she will be speaking in Connecticut on June 6th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near Middletown, CT

Follow Anna on Facebook 

New York Times Bestselling Author Garth Stein at Pike Place Market

On March 1st I was lucky enough to host Garth Stein the author of The Art of Racing in the Rain when he rang the bell to start our day at Pike Place Market, in Seattle.

If you haven’t read The Art of Racing in the Rain, you’re missing out. It’s a fabulous book, and was a New York Times bestseller for 156 weeks.  The story is told from a dog’s point of view. You‘ll fall in love with Enzo, who believes in the Mongolian legend that a dog who is prepared will be reincarnated in his next life as a human.

garth stein at pike place

Before he rang the bell, Garth told us all a story about his sister who once sold her art at the market.  On days when business was slow, she’d make origami cranes out of dollar bills and put them on her table on sale for $1.00 each. One day two women paused to look at them, shook their heads, declared them an overpriced rip-off and walked away. That got a huge laugh from the crowd.

 Garth Stein and artists gift shopping

Garth is a fascinating person. He was a race car driver himself and co-produced an Academy Award winning short film, The Lunch Date. And he is as wonderful a human being as you’d expect after reading his book. Kristin Schwartz of Silver Cherry jewelry greeted him with me, and after we showed him the underbelly of the market and told him a couple of legendary market stories Kristen showed him around the Market and took him to our famed mini-donut stand for a treat.

She then escorted him to meet the many market fans who had brought books for him to sign and wanted to gift him with their art.

garth stein art of racing the rain

Garth has a new book coming out. A Sudden Light, will be published on
September 30, 2014. And great news for kids: Garth’s children’s picture book, Enzo Races in the Rain, will be published in November of this year.

Garth is also one of the founders of Seattle7Writers, a collective of Pacific Northwest authors creating connections between writers, readers, librarians and booksellers to foster and support a passion for the written word. They are hosting a Book Club Brunch at Mount Baker Community Center on June 21, 2014.  Keynote speaker is Daniel James Brown (The Boys in the Boat).  See www.Seattle7Writers.org/events for information.

Insert Movie (on dropbox) here

Follow Garth on Facebook and Twitter 

To be sure you get all of Garth’s news sign up for his newsletter.