Sunday, December 23, 2012

Art Buddies

I have had the recent pleasure of participating in the Twin Cities Art Buddies program. Art Buddies is an art program for inner-city kids where volunteer artists from the community work with kids on a project, once a week, after school, for an 8 week period. Typically volunteers work with a single student but sometimes that changes, like in my case. My Art Buddy whom I'll call K1 has a little sister, K2, whose after-school programming fell through, and so I worked with both of them. Everyone worked in teams on creating costumes that the kids chose for varying reasons, mostly having to do with attributes they saw in themselves. I was fortunate enough to have had help from another adult Art Buddy during two of our sessions which was very helpful in getting both girls costumes done in time for the finale parade and also giving them the one-on-one attention, even during the most chaotic of days, that they deserved.

K1 ended up having many different pieces to her costume and did wardrobe changes between the parade and the professional photography sessions at the end of the program. Below she is in her pantsuit and crown while K2 is in her sparkle butterfly/peacock ensemble. The Art Buddies program coordinators are still working on getting photo releases, until then K1 and K2 will be perpetually happy!

This holiday season think about donating to the Art Buddies program. It's an important and worthy program that sees tangible results from its programs. They would love to expand to other inner-city schools in 2013 and need additional funding to achieve that. Donating your time as an art mentor is also a great way to give back, and they're always looking for new recruits, read more at

Donate today!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Drawing Hodags

I love drawing hodags. I think mainly because hodags are fictional and therefore open to interpretation, which can be a lot of fun. Last week the Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce asked me if I could do a quick logo for their new Broom Ball Tourney. They just wanted a hodag with a broom ball stick which was succinct direction for a quick turn around logo.

I've been working within a certain illustration style on some personal projects, some prints and most recently my redo of Goodnight Ranger. I really love the gesture of it and because I'm so comfortable in it it took me no time at all to whip it up.

Go Hodags!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hodag Holiday Shopping

Don't forget that Happy the Hodag books are available at the Book World Rhinelander location AND at the Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce!!

Happy Hodag Holidays!!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lots and Lots of Rocks (and Snow)

My husband is a geologist and he has accumulated a nice collection of rocks over the years. There are all manners of shape, texture and size of rocks, some more display appropriate than others.

A geologist will, on occasion, argue with a designer about what constitutes a display worthy specimen and so this is a concern that stays pretty top-of-mind for me. For years now I've been brainstorming about different ways to display his expanding collection that does not include 'tucking' them into every free bit of shelf space he can find. I have a folder I have filled with inspirational displays that I've found in magazines and blogs over the years and somewhere, although it's source is not indicated, I found a doozy of an idea. Someone, somewhere is sewing thin slices of geodes onto paper and framing them.

And so my newest home decorating project was born, although I went for the whole rock in all it's multi-faceted beauty. In order to support the weight of the minerals I first identified points by which to securely sew them onto the hard back boards that came with a set of Ikea shadow-box frames. I then drilled out the holes, cut out matching sized watercolor paper, placed it on top with double-stick tape, and punched matching holes through with a thumb tack.

With a simple needle and transparent thread I then sewed the pieces onto the board.

I put the pre-cut matte and frame back on and voila, a dynamic vertical rock display solution!

It's been snowing all day and it's just lovely. It was the perfect setting to shoot the final framed mineral pieces in and a great day to run out and get all of my Christmas shopping taken care of. I've never had such consistent rock-star parking as when I go out in a snow storm - not to mention no checkout lines.

The following images are just a few I shot in the yard in the early afternoon, that's a lot of snow!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cut Paper Art

While color coordinating and organizing my newly inherited thread board organizer and spools of thread this weekend I happened to slice through my middle knuckle on my left hand, to the bone. How can this happen? Well, not all of the spools of thread had the little notches by which to tuck and trim thread ends, and if it's going to hang in my studio, it's going to be done right. Because this board was inherited from my husbands grandmother it's suffice to say these spools are pretty old. While putting a tidy little notch in a wooden spool and exerting far too much pressure, the whole thing cracked and I found my exacto blade buried in my knuckle.


This is very depressing to me (although the cut is doing really well) because I actually consider myself to be an expert Exacto handler. After watching friends slice their fingertips off in college and once working with a girl who was doing some cutting on her couch and got up for a drink...when she returned, and sat down, she learned that her errant Exacto knife had slid into a crack between the cushions and was now lodged in her thigh. Yes, the lessons I learn best are from experience, and not always my own. Always know where the blade is in relation to your body.

Obviously with the infamous Exacto on my mind I started thinking about the true masters of the blade. Paper cutting artists. Take a look at Helen Musselwhite's art below. So talented.

I found her on this site, in the company of other amazing artists.

Chronicle Books has a wonderful blogpost on it here This is an image I pulled off of it, it's by Yulia Brodskaya

Tis the season for this simple Exacto project.

I found this paperback christmas tree tutorial linked off of the Farcountry Press Facebook page. Happy (harmless) cutting!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Acorn Ornaments

This past year I have done a lot of spray painting. Mirror frames, rusty vintage kitchen carts, display stands and on and on.

They were calling for such beautiful weather for Thanksgiving day this year that I made sure to bring a couple of projects up to the cabin with me. It was indeed great weather and while spray painting something completely different I noticed the paint covering some of the acorns strewn across the gravel driveway, they looked pretty awesome. So of course I gathered some together and painted them glossy white, but I only had enough paint to do the one side of the group.

I had a little silver paint left and so finished the other side with that, and it ended up, to me at least, looking like snow on a silver acorn.


I was so taken with this unintended project that I did a quick collection of more acorns and tops before I ran out the door for one of many Thanksgiving dinners for the day. I was being picky about the ones I chose and so ended up with a small collection.

That night I decided to collect a bucket full... in the morning as I was pretty full from the many dinners I had partaken in. While I had been told it was going to snow the next day I did not realize they meant in the wee early hours of the morning. I awoke to a few inches of snow on the ground and thus no more acorns.

I intend to use fishing line to complete this project but I only have twine at the cabin studio. I think you can still see how pretty a decorated tree would be with these though. I also think a nice red and gold metallic paint would look great mixed in with the silver.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Connie Helke Pottery

This weekend was beautiful weather to head to Marine, MN on the St. Croix and visit the studio of Connie Helke. Yesterday was the final day of her holiday sale and today she'll be turning the heat off. In one of those 'small world' moments that happen to me all the time here in the Twin Cities, it turns out that Connie spent the first seven years of her life growing up in Rhinelander, WI. Specifically on a little peninsula on Boom lake, the same lake my mom grew up on. Additionally her father was a pilot for the Rhinelander Paper Mill executive plane that my grandfather, a paper mill employee, used to catch rides on to Florida in the years previous to when he and my grandmother began Wintering there. It also turns out that one of my Aunts on my dad's side now resides in one of the four houses that occupy that very peninsula, I can't wait to find out which house she's in...

This is the studio shop that Lyle, Connie's husband, built for her. It's so gorgeous and has amazing light.

These pieces are from a new series Connie started in 2012 that she calls 'Dancing Ladies.' I really, really wanted one of the two pieces below, but of course, they were sold by the time I got there.

I did, however, score this amazing piece. As a friend who was over for dinner last night commented, it looks a lot like the style I'm currently illustrating the updated Eleven Odd Mushrooms in. Yes!

On our way home my husband suggested stopping at a little antique store in St. Paul that he's had his eye on. I picked up all of these pieces for under $10. AWESOME. Vintage typography and design can be so beautiful and finding paper tools, one of those pieces is a Bridge scorer, is all the better.

[crummy photos complements of my forgetting my camera up North again]
This last photo is also a Connie Helke piece, a series she worked on last year in which she pressed knitted pieces into the porcelain. The exterior has no glaze but the inside has the most beautiful glaze, like a geode, is how I think of it. Look at how my minature vintage tools (perfect for mini sketch books) fit so perfectly in this piece. I had one little white shelf left in my studio that needed something, and this is perfect.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Multidisciplinary = Design Excellence

Today I was going to talk about information design, which of course was going to centralize around the great Edward Tufte, but his website derailed me. He has this absolutely wonderful video posted on his site, and now I find myself waxing nostalgic.

Inge Druckrey: Teaching to See from Edward Tufte on Vimeo.

This film covers seeing beyond the object, finding form, and creating and manipulating spatial relationships within drawing, graphic design, typography and information design. There is a little bit of color theory and practice in there too. This would have been a great piece to watch in my early college years.

I don't often pine for my past but I found myself thinking back quite fondly on some past professors. Rebecca Alm: Color Theory and 2D Foundations, Piotr Szyhalski: Poster & Web Design (also my first introduction to Wim Wenders - is this available yet? *swoon*), Dean Arnold: 3D Foundations and Furniture Design and last but not even remotely least is Peter Seitz: Foundation Design Principles and Master Abstracter.

Anytime I think about what I learned in school and have practiced personally and professionally I am racked with guilt. One of the top things that is etched into each students brain from the very beginning is to keep sketch books and to fill them up often. I've been alternately awesome and horrible about this over the years. The books below are from a particularly focused period of time and have provided hours of inspiration for other projects, just proof that sketching can be a powerful muse in and of itself.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Studio

As the temperatures drop and nature goes into hibernation I return to my studio. I pretty much abandon it in the warmer months except for a few freelance projects here and there, but certainly nothing too creative is happening until it turns cold.

I have many lists of things I want to accomplish this Winter, all piled up on a shelf and ready to be tackled. One thing I demand from my work space is that it be clean and organized. Each project may be as messy and space consuming as it needs to be however everything must be put away when it's finished. It's easier for me to go from drawing to painting on to writing and then sewing in an organized space. Each day is a clean new slate.

A few of my favorite things in this space include my beautiful pantone cabinet knobs from Anthropology. I bought them when I lived in Chicago having first laid eyes on them in a CS product spread. Love at first site, I went out and immediately bought a dozen even though I had nowhere to use them at the time. The deer skull on the top shelf is another favorite. My father, a farmer, spied this gem at the edge of field and forest during Spring planting one year while I was in college. The last time he saw it he said 'Wow! That's really neat, where did you get that?" They say the memory is the first to go... just kidding Dad!

I just recently made a new cover for my office chair, underneath that cover is a bright orange two-tone chair stained and filthy. I love it. I inherited it from a design studio I worked at when I first moved out West. We were doing a little redecorating and it was getting tossed, I'm a sucker for orange.

The orange chair below is from the Milwaukee Airport pilots lounge. My mother found it at a garage sale while up at their cabin. The woman who was selling it told my mom that her husband had been a pilot and when they renovated the airport way, way back in the day he had rescued this chair. Are you starting to see a theme of rescued chairs?

The gold chair below is from the Rhinelander Public Library. Joan at Brown Street Books bought it from them years ago, note the dangerous 4 legs ill suited for public use, and when she closed up shop last year I bought it from her.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Steven Heller

I love Steven Heller. Not only does he write and edit the best books on design but he is an amazing and insightful advocate of graphic design.

My first Steven Heller book was Graphic Style. My copy is well loved, having purchased it in my college years and having referenced it a hundred times over since.

But this post is about a more recent volume of his and Louise Fili (can you say FABULOUS designer?) I was reminded of it after a post I made a couple of weeks ago in which I vaguely reference styles bygone but now back in heavy circulation. I would love to tell you more about said referenced styles but when I picked up Stylepedia, I found it hard to direct my attention to any one entry but rather to get lost in the history of so many.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Last Fall and now again this Fall I've noticed a significant increase in squirrel insanity. When the first chill arrives they begin to liberally take their lives into their own hands as they make mad dashes, in droves, into the streets barely missing moving car tires, and some not so much.

There's also a park I frequent that on early Fall mornings hundreds of squirrels appear, spread out into a pleasing composition on the leafy expanse of park grass, and just sit there. For a very long time. All of them, just sitting there in the morning Fall light, it's weird and the first time I noticed it I was a little spooked. So here I am in my second Minneapolis Fall and alas, the squirrels are once again answering an early morning call unheard by any other animal to do nothing but sit, evenly spread out, in the park.

It comes as no surprise then that this is also the time of year that I dig out A Really Super Book About Squirrels.

I love this book so much, I really do. When I lived out West working in publishing one of the other book designers had it sitting on her shelf like you would a birthday card. Every now and then she would bring it down and read it, and it made her smile. Every now and then I would take it down and read it, and it made me smile. And so I finally bought my own, and you should too :)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hibernation Test Complete

I was in Northern Wisconsin over the weekend and awoke on Saturday morning to blustery winds and... snow. It's always a delight to see the first snowfall of the season but the feeling soon faded when I remembered that it's only the first weekend of October. If this weather keeps up it's going to be a very, very long Winter.

Compared to true deep Winter though, I know that I should be outside soaking in the last bit of color out of the forest, pocketing whatever warmth the sun is offering and taking long brisk walks in reasonable shoes before it's nothing but slow snow trudges and ice dancing that often ends in a bruised ass. But alas, I tried hibernation on early this year and found it fit well. Unfortunately that also makes me boring and so I had to dig around inside for something to post today.

This is a collection of lichen, mosses, shells, grasses, leaves, etc. Most of the things in here have been collected over time in disparate locations, different seasons and with a variety of intentions. However, here they sit in this box and I have to say I'm so fond of the collection of it all, and being able to haul it out in the dead of Winter and look through it that this may in fact be the only purpose it ever serves.

The rest of the images today are from a couple of pieces of retro packaging I picked up over the Summer. I love the colors and styles of both pieces, it's rare to find specimens like this in such good shape. It's also easy to see some of the same style influences in these as in modern day fashion and design.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Home Brewing

A very popular past time that friends from every city I've ever lived in indulge in is home brewing. Up until very recently though I've never had the pleasure of drinking the fruits of their labors. Last weekend our neighbor invited us over for a taste test throughout a broad range of his very tasty beers and this weekend we were invited to a Fall brew party by another friend.

I had grand plans of getting great beer pictures all day long, and the day was perfect for it too, 80 and sunny with Fall colors everywhere which could only be enhanced by glowing glasses of the many shades of micro brew. Alas, only a few, including the brewmaster himself, were actually drinking from a glass and not red plastic cups. Oh well! Thanks for a great day of gourmet beer tasting Matt!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


A quick trip to the North Shore is always nice. Fall colors, some of my favorite textures from nature, surprise fighter plane fly-overs and fiery eyed chipmunk cheese thieves made for an interesting day.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


My first proper herb garden (minus the mixed in strawberries, and tomatoes, of course), early fall trimming harvest and initial yield. Love.