Friday, April 17, 2015

chasing a dream- opening a gallery

There are so many thing that inspire me: a colorful sunset, a trip to the museum, a great book, learning a new technique - but one of my biggest inspirations comes from hearing other people's stories. Stories of chasing after dreams, trying something new and pursuing a passion project are the things that really get my heart racing! I've got some new content coming to the blog in coming months, and something I am really excited about is a new series where I will be sharing the stories of creative entrepreneurs chasing after their dreams. 

I am kicking this series off by sharing my friends Staci and Sara's passion project, a gallery for makers in Astoria, Oregon called Maiden Astoria. These days it's really easy to start an online business but opening a brick and mortar business is an entirely different (often challenging) experience! When Sara told me they were opening a gallery, I jumped at the chance to follow them throughout the process. I thought it would be really interesting for my readers to get an inside look at the process from start to finish. Today I am sharing the beginning of their journey.

A little background:

Sara Knighton relocated to Astoria from Hawaii a couple of years ago. When she is not working at local hot spot, Blue Scorcher Cafe, she is juggling a screen printing business, weaving on her loom, selling her wares at the Astoria Sunday Market and playing in the ocean. She is one of those people who thrives on making things and loves learning, experimenting and getting lost in the creative process. 

Staci Daniels in originally from Grants Pass Oregon and at eighteen moved to LA to attend Otis College of Art and Design. She spent 20 years in Los Angeles working in fashion where she owned her own company. After wanting a change in her life, Staci picked up and moved to Oregon and ended up falling in love with Astoria where she now lives.

The two met in a weaving class at Astoria Fiber Arts AcademyThey forged a friendship based in a mutual love for art and craft. With passion for handmade products, the two decided to open up a gallery for local makers - a unique venue to showcase the work of local artisans called, “Maiden Astoria.”

Tell us a little about the location of Maiden Astoria:

SARA: Maiden Astoria is located in the Young's Building. It is located on 14th street across from Street 14 Coffee and next to Gimre’s Shoes. It was built in the early 1900's and is one of the few buildings to survive a massive fire in 1922. The building is a beautiful historical space with great bones and tons of potential. For the last year, I have rented a studio space upstairs and when the retail space below my studio opened up, Staci and I started dreaming big and thinking about possibilities. After a lot of thought and brainstorming, we decided to take the plunge and move forward with our idea to open a makers gallery.

What is the space like and what renovations have you have made so far?

STACI: The space has lots of potential! We have about 700 square feet to work with. The front portion of our space will be the gallery and the back area will serve as our studios. The ability to have studio space on site was a really big bonus for us. 

The first thing we had to tackle was getting everything cleaned up and then we got busy painting. Things were really dark and dated when we first moved in so we decided to paint everything white to brighten and lighten things up. The floors and walls all got a couple coats of white paint and one wall is painted with a light grey chalkboard paint. Since we are on a budget, we have to get really creative with how we make updates. Paint was one of the ways that we have been able to cut costs but still make a really dynamic transformation. 

SARA: Other than painting, we have been spending a lot of time gathering furniture and display items. Again, we are on a budget so it has been really important for us to be creative about the things that we use. We are both big believers in recycling and using what we have, so we’ve been pulling furniture from our homes and shopping at thrift stores before buying something new. We are even using the old radiators from the space (they were going to be thrown out) and turning them into the base of our counter.

What is the next step in the process?

STACI: After we get the painting and updates finished, we’ll be moving in the display and then hanging art and filling the space with handmade products. Amidst all the cleaning, painting and renovating, we have both been working around the clock reaching out to local artists and crafters for work.

Can you share any lesson learned at this stage?

STACI: Getting creative within our budget has really helped us cut costs at this stage. While it would be easy to say yes to all kinds of expensive updates, we’ve been really frugal with all the decisions we have made.

SARA: Test paint before diving in! We made the mistake of painting with a color that we thought was white but it was actually cream. We painted the walls before realizing it was not the bright white that we wanted and had to start all over.

STACI: Since we are working as a team, we've found that it's really helpful to take on tasks that play to our strong points. Sara is free-spirited in her approach while I tend to be more detail oriented. We've found that things work better when we each take things that play to our strengths.

Thanks ladies for letting us peek into your project! I look forward to watching this space change and develop.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

taking creative notes

Back when I worked in an office, I had very little time in my 8 hour work day to fit in my creative projects. Ironically it was during this period in my life that I had some of my best ideas and was really inspired. There was something about having limited time that really made me productive. Despite my schedule, I would challenge myself to still do SOMETHING- ANYTHING creative throughout that 8 hour work day to capture my ideas. 

My brain was always looking at everyday things in my daily routine as inspiration. I would carry a journal or notepad with me, a few pens and pencils and a little set of watercolors, Throughout the day I would take 5 minutes to take some creative notes, document ideas and do really fast simple sketches.

It was during this time that I developed a quick process of dissecting and documenting my ideas and inspiration. Instead of spending hours and hours of time (that I didn't have) on my drawings and paintings, I would take notes. Sometimes this process was simply journaling the things that caught my eye, colors combos, shapes or ideas that were sparked. Other times I would quickly and expressively sketch what I saw. I would then use these notes as a place to begin when I had the time create. 

These days I have a lot more time and a creative business where I have to stay fresh and inspired. This "creative note taking" process is something that I depend on in my routine and it is actually how I begin most of my drawings, paintings and projects. You might be surprised to see many of my sketchbook pages filled with messy notes, sloppy drawings and all kinds of scribbles of color! 

Here is what my process looks like:

1. I typically start with identifying something that inspires me- it could be anything from objects to colors to shapes, texture or pattern.

2. Next, I take notes- sometimes I simply journal and free write about what I am doing, while other times I will write down descriptions of the weather, the sky, the tide, treasures that I found. I've discovered that taking notes is a really quick way to capture my ideas, my inspiration and is a really helpful reference when I have more time to create.

3. Next I sketch shapes, patterns or designs VERY quickly. They don't look very pretty or anything like a finished project BUT this process allows me to capture the essence and vibe of my inspiration. This process has come in handy for me now because I am always on the go and juggling a million things and I don't always have lots of time (or want to take lots of time) to sit somewhere and sketch for hours. Instead I take a little bit of time to quickly capture ideas.

4. I look for details or things that catch my eye or spark ideas and just try to get them down on paper. I literally "dissect" my inspiration and try to get anything and everything down on paper that I can- you never know if you will remember a good idea or have the same moment of inspiration.


Use a journal sketchbook to record your visual findings.

The key to this process is to work quickly and expressively without the worry or pressure for things to look perfect.
Challenge yourself to reflect on why things catch you eye and write it down. Ask yourself questions like: How does a color make you feel? What makes you notice certain things? What catches your eye? What draws you in?

Try to find unique and interesting patterns in your everyday world. In my experience you can always find great pattern in nature.

Add color to your pages with easy to access tools and materials.

Collage paper, swatches of color or things that you find (photos, paint, scraps of paper, paint chips, pressed leaves and flowers) onto your pages.

Not sure where to begin when looking for inspiration? Start with the everyday things in your life! Clothing in your closet, landscaping in the yard, home decor, your meals or anything that is a part of your everyday life can be inspiring.

Reference these pages when working on your creative projects.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

throwing a pot: the basics

For those of you new to my blog (or my background), my parents are potters and I've spent my entire life around clay.  I was introduced to clay long before painting and spent a great deal of time dabbling in pottery as a kid. Growing up my mom and dad ran a successful pottery business from their home studio- I spent my childhood watching my dad throw pots on the wheel and my mom run a wholesale tile business. My brother and I spent weekends and summers at craft shows and art galleries so it's really no surprise I grew up to be an artist!

Lately we have been spending a lot of time working with clay and today I have teamed up with my dad Jon to share the basics of throwing on the wheel. While I know clay, a wheel, glaze and a kiln are not easily accessible for everyone, I am hoping some of my pottery posts will inspire you to think about playing with clay or even try throwing on the wheel at least once in your life- I promise it will completely change your view of the creative process forever.

Throwing on the wheel is CRAZY DIFFICULT and even though I learned at an early age, it never stuck with me. My dad on the other hand is a pro and makes it look so easy! Back in college he was a photography major and after taking a pottery class, he fell in love with clay and the rest is history. He has been throwing for over 40 years and spent most of those years making a living selling pottery.

Today we have simplified the process in a handful of steps to give you an idea of how it all works! If anything, I hope that you reach the end of this post with a greater appreciation for handmade and hand crafted items.

Throwing on the wheel starts with pounding your clay into a ball. Then that clay ball gets thrown with force onto a wood bat. A wooden bat is a round removable piece of material (wood, plastic or hybrid material) that is placed on the wheel. The purpose of a bat is to easily remove the thrown pots from the wheel. 

Next the clay needs to be centered. This is often the trickiest step, especially for beginners.   I am terrible at centering my clay and I always have to ask for help! My husband Andy on the other hand, is really good because he has a lot of patience and some strong arms.

With wet hands, the clay gets cupped and squeezed into a tower shape and then pushed down- doing this a few times helps center and align the clay. 

Once the clay is centered, it is time to open things up. Poking a finger into the top of the clay is the beginning and then pulling the clay out until that hole becomes larger creates an opening.

The next step is to raise the walls. This process typically involves squeezing a sponge and your index finger against each other to  slowly raise the clay.

For a seasoned pro like my dad, this process is easy- after years of making pottery, he knows by instinct exactly how much water and pressure it takes to raise the walls of a pot. On the other hand I am still a rookie and always seem to squeeze too hard, use too much water or overwork the clay which means things can fall a part. Thankfully clay is forgiving and mistakes can be fixed.

The process of raising the walls can also include altering the shape of the pot- pressure, pulling, even using a variety of tools can change the shape of a pot.

All of these steps put together look a little something like this:

See what I mean about it looking easy! This video was barely edited which means it took my dad 1 minute and 17 seconds to throw a simple bowl. I have been watching him do this since I was a kid and it never ever gets old!

Once a pot is finished, it needs to dry and then it will get trimmed when the clay is firm enough to be handled without damage but not quite dry. Trimming totally transforms a pot, can clean up mistakes and even change the shape. I'll be sharing this process in the coming weeks.

Looking to try working with clay or throwing on the wheel? There are all kinds of resources out there for learning how to throw, here are a few:

  • There are TONS of videos and "how to" pottery resources online. If throwing on the wheel is calling to you, start by doing a little research. Ceramic Arts Daily is a great resource and has all kinds of information on in their forums. You can also find all kinds of video tutorials on YouTube that show all kinds of different potters throwing!
  • The best way to learn is in person so I would recommend starting by doing a little research to see what is in your area. Often community colleges or art centers will have pottery classes. This is a great way to learn and have the opportunity to use equipment.
  • Another option would be to see if there are local potters in your area who teach workshops or would be willing to give private lessons. I cannot stress enough how helpful it is to learn from an experienced potter and good teacher!
  • There are clay companies and pottery supply stores around the country, especially in larger cities. This is where you are able to buy clay and pottery supplies but often they also offer workshops. A quick internet search will be able to tell you if there is something in your area.

You can check out my entire series of pottery posts HERE and stay tuned for more clay inspiration coming your way!

Monday, April 13, 2015

lettering with makewells: crafting phrases

Hello everyone! I'm back with my guest lettering series, and today I'm talking about some of my tips and tricks for crafting phrases. 

Drawing phrases (or words put together), utilizes the same things we talked about when practicing drawing words, or drawing letters. We are now adding one more realm of possibilities: the infinite ways to combine words. 
Once again, my most trusted exercise when it comes to improving my hand lettering skills is practice and repetition. So just like the previous practice methods (1 letter, 100 ways/ 1 word, many ways), writing out the same phrase in as many varieties as possible is going to open your eyes to so many creative combinations. 
For this exercise, I picked a phrase on the shorter side (4 words): "Enjoy the Small Stuff".

To begin, I challenged myself to sit down for a solid two hours, and "sketch" out the phrase in as many ways as possible. So using a pencil, I sat down and started drawing. 

One thing to think about when drawing out a phrase, is what words you find most important. For this phrase, I decided to treat the words "small stuff" as one, breaking down the phrase into three sections: Enjoy - The - Small Stuff
You may find it helps to practice each section of your phrase on its own before putting them all together. Or even the first letter of your phrase:
I started with my phrase sketches by mixing different styles of lettering together, giving each section a different treatment. And from there, I moved towards using only script lettering (my favorite).

Above are just some of my favorite sketches, but trust me, there were quite a few that didn't make the cut. 

Once I had worked on these for the allotted time, I went back and chose a favorite to develop further. You can do this by using tracing paper, or simply looking at your sketch for guidance. I went back in pen to make a clean black and white drawing.

And then, I painted a final version using the tricks I talked about in my last post.

Enjoy practicing and don't forget to post your work on instagram using #redefinecreativelettering ! I can't wait to see what you come up with!
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