Charmed by Julia Rothman's patterns

Feb 28, 2010

Daydream wallpaper

If you are an avid follower of the independent art scene, then you've already heard of Brooklyn-based illustrator and designer Julia Rothman.  Her art work has been covered in countless publications relevant to the indie culture, and her pattern illustrations have been applied to all sorts of home decor and accessory items, including bedding, wallpaper, handbags, and stationary.


A year and a half ago, we had the privilege to work with Julia on a pattern show in our shop.  She made a limited edition collection of fabric squares printed with her pattern designs, and I regret not snatching one before they all sold!

A few weeks ago, I came across this video on Julia and her journey as an artist.  It's quite good. 

Zoom In Online

And be sure to check out Julia's book blog, Book By Its Cover.  It's definitely a favorite in the art and design blog world.    

Up close and personal

Feb 27, 2010

Cabbage Leaf, 1931.

I'm a huge fan of straight photography, which is a style of photography that captures natural beauty with minimal image manipulation.  One of my favorite photographers to pioneer this style of photography is Edward Weston (1886 - 1958).  I especially love his study of natural objects like vegetables.  Who would've thought that a pepper could look so sensual?

Pepper, 1930.

Artichoke, Halved, 1930.

 Chard, 1931.

New work, "Seasons"

Feb 26, 2010

I started this drawing, Seasons, several weeks ago and then hit a major artist's block.  This week I was determined to finish it.  I normally don't like letting things sit unfinished for a long time, particulary artwork.  A good example of this is a 30" x 40" landscape painting that I had started over four years ago.  I was actually nearly done with it when I decided to paint over the whole thing a few weeks ago.  My family was shocked to say the least, and I explained that the painting no longer was relevant to me.  I had moved on, emotionally and stylistically.  I am about a third of the way done with the new painting, and I already feel a sense of renewed energy and vision.  I'll try to post some pictures of my progress in the near future.   

Lovely crocheted and reclaimed items by Ingrid Jansen

Feb 25, 2010

I found a wonderful website yesterday while searching for new crocheting projects.  Dutch designer Ingrid Jansen is the creative mind and hands behind Wood & Wool Stool, a collection of handcrafted products for the home.  Ingrid made her first recycled wooden stool with a crocheted seat cover a couple of years ago, and Wood & Wool Stool was born.  In addition to the handmade stools, Ingrid designs pillows, hangers, garlands, frames, and blankets.  Yep, and I pretty much want it all!

Too see Ingrid's latest creations, check out her blog here.  Her pictures are beautiful!

Vintage china for the contemporary home

Feb 24, 2010

The other day I came across this retro china collection from the '80s.  These would be great additions as singles.  I absolutely love the design of the coffee pot.  I think I used to have a sweater in the third grade that had similar stripes!

source: Replacements, Ltd.

Nina van de Goor's plate and mug collection have a similar look to the retro collection, but more playful in design.  She screenprints images on vintage china with charming floral and folklore designs. These are perfect for a little dose of cheer every day. 

And then these are my favorite. I love the little houses, but that cloud is just too cute!
By the way, Nina's blog is great.  You should pay her a visit at Ninainvorm. She always has lovely pics.

A beautiful weekend at the Oregon Coast

Feb 23, 2010

Last weekend I was in Cannon Beach, Oregon, and we were spoiled with June-like weather!  Located just 80 miles west of Portland, city dwellers flock to the small coastal town when it's sunny and warm.  Its famous landmark is Haystack Rock, which is 235 ft tall and has been featured in many Hollywood films. 

On Saturday, we strolled down Hemlock Street to the town's center.  It's practically ritual to stop in a candy store at an Oregon beach town and get saltwater taffy.  I never really liked the stuff when I was a kid, but now I want it every time I'm at the coast! 

Like candy stores, art galleries are aplenty at the coast.  I went inside this glassworks gallery called Icefire.  I love these heart-shaped forms that were in the studio.  They feel like a stone but are made out of glass.  The glass is etched with hydrofluoric acid, which is a process that has been used by artists since the 17th century. The one shown here was my favorite one in the gallery.  I adore the color combination and pattern.

Portland/Brooklyn Artist Series, Week 2: Michelle Ramin

Feb 22, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, I had a friendly encounter with another art enthusiast at the local art store in downtown Portland.  We briefly chatted about art supplies, and I was impressed by her knowledge and usage of different art materials.  It wasn't until the next day that I found out I had been talking with artist Michelle Ramin.  The funny part of this story is that I had already been corresponding with Michelle via email about the artist interview series.  I love living in a small city!

Michelle's studio is a warehouse turned artist haven in SE Portland's Industrial District. 

How would you describe your work?

As of late, I've been working mostly with graphite and acrylic on wood panels.  In the last year, I've also been working on the figure, portraits in particular.  Before then, I had been creating almost exclusively small, illustrative marker and pen drawings of architecture.

The figurative pieces have incorporated a lot of the aesthetic qualities of the smaller, more graphic architectural pieces, but with much more content and meaning.  I always quote the artist Marisol, "Everything the artist makes is always a kind of portrait." These portraits are a way of defining myself by defining the people around me.

Golden fluid acrylics are some of Michelle's favorite art supplies.  

Tell us about the biggest risk you have taken as an artist.

Making art is like learning a new language- you have to build your own unique artistic vocabulary.  Every time I add a new "word" or "phrase," I take a huge emotional risk.  I know that the vocabulary I've had has been working.  It's risky to add something new to that vision or to move away from that vocabulary entirely to find a completely new realm of words.  The risk is that the new work may not be as accepted by others or even by myself.  Growing stagnant in my work, however, is a much worse consequence.

Michelle's largest work to date- a 5' x 5' mixed media on birch panel.  It will debut at a solo show next month.

What are the greatest challenges of being an artist today?

The economy has plummeted in a way that is deeply affecting even the best selling artists.  I no longer count on selling art as a source of income.  We've all had to go back to our jobs or increase our hours at our part-time jobs.  There is definitely less time for painting.  However, the time I have now is much more important, and I am more focused.  The down economy has pushed me to create some really fresh and exciting new work.

What do you love most about Portland? 

Driving 10 minutes out of town to Sauvie Island, where you feel like you're a world away from city life.  The farmers' markets, the bike lanes, the festivals, the music scene!

Everyone is friends with everyone else.  It's youthful and energetic, full of quirks and humor and art.  I like that people here aspire to composting and organic gardening, DIY beer making, commuting by bike, reading every Vonnegut book ever written and backpacking the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail).

Lots of pencil shavings from working on her large figurative works. 

What makes Portland such a great place for independent art?

Affordable living and emphasis on art culture.  People flock here from all over the country, sometimes the world, in hopes of finding part-time, low-responsibility jobs that pay enough to make the rent but give enought flexibility to take time off to travel, to hang art shows, and to experience our lives.

The community is a DIY community- we help each other out.  All of my friends are creatives-filmmakers, musicians, photographers, web designers, graphic designers, chefs, comic book artists, spoken word poets, painters.  Whenever possible, we want to make each other grow and prosper in our respective fields.  Portland's an amazing city in that respect.

Michelle's favorite studio chair.   Photos by Sarah Hooper.

Michelle is currently showing at Blossoming Lotus through the end of this month.  In March, she will have a solo show of her recent figurative works at Bellamy Studios. 

This week's featured Brooklyn artist is India Richer.  Read her interview on Art Hound.

As part of the artist interview series, we are inviting readers to participate in a dialogue about the Portland and Brooklyn art communities.  This week's question: Do you think it's harder for artists to make a living in a small city or a big city?

Preserving wetlands with a red ribbon

Feb 21, 2010

It's hard to believe that this lush, natural habitat in Qinhuangdao City, China was once a dumping ground for garbage.  Designed by landscape architect Kongjian Yu, the waterfront park along the Tanghe River has become a popular place of gathering for local residents. The most noted feature of the park is the red steel "ribbon" that spans for a third of a mile.  It functions as seating, and it actually glows at night!  So beautiful! 

photos: Kongjian Yu, Cao Yang

Different color palettes of art

Feb 20, 2010

My daughters are polar opposites, even when it comes to ice cream.  One loves chocolate flavors while the other prefers fruity blends.  When it comes to art, I wouldn't be surprised if one preferred a darker, monotone palette, and the other, a fusion of bright rainbow colors.  This week, I happened to come across a few artists who created works in both of these palettes.  I work in a wide spectrum of colors myself, so I love both color groups.  Maybe this is why I like a double scoop of ice cream!

Betsy Walton, Riverbank, acrylic gouache.

Two Teas, gouache on paper.

Kristin Brenneman Eno, Just One Pod, monoprint.

Cells, oil.

Tony Wuman, Herring Chandelier, plastic and brass. 

Herring Pendant, plastic.

Alex Beeching, The Constellation of the Elephant.

 Dolce, digital photography.

Spring is near

Feb 19, 2010


The sun has been out this week, and I'm happy.  So are the birds!  They are chirping louder than I've ever heard them, and it's been fun watching them swoop down from the trees to take a quick little bath in puddles.

This week I finished two small works that are inspired by the recent Spring-like weather.  One is an abstract drawing, and the other is a painting of a tree branch.  You can see more photos of the pieces in my shop.


Hole-y Moly!

Feb 18, 2010

Looking for a new hobby?  How about drilling into egg shells? These remarkable and very fragile works are created by Slovenian artist Franc Grom. There are literally thousands of holes bored into one egg shell. Wow!

photo sources:, national geographic

The stunning colors and imagery of Rachell Sumpter's art

Feb 17, 2010

Brothers in Sport

I'm in awe.  These mixed media works from Rachell Sumpter are so beautiful and mesmerizing.  I absolutely love the look of the detailed gouache work layered with the blended pastels background.  The style is very dream-like and contemporary, and the use of cultural imagery is so compelling.  I can't wait to see more!



 Molten Kin

Is As Was

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