Show and Tell: Keepsakes of my cedar chest

May 31, 2010

I have a cedar chest that my mother-in-law bought me when I was newly married.  Today, I was reorganizing my sewing paraphernalia, which was all stacked on top of the cedar chest.  It has been at least a couple of years since I've opened the chest, so going through it this afternoon was a joyous rediscovery of old, treasured things. 

I store my wedding dress in the chest, and next to the white satin gown was this little yellow knit dress that I wore as an infant.  I can tell it was loved as there is a nickel size hole near the hem, and the inside tags are worn and unreadable. 

Another keepsake from my childhood was my brother's baby blanket, which I've always adored.  I based the first baby blanket I made for my daughter on the sweet checkered design.

As I dug deeper into the chest, I was thrilled to find this quilted wrapping cloth that my grandmother gave me several years ago.  She was just a teenager when she made it, embroidery and all.

My grandmother passed away a year ago this time, so this piece is very sentimental to me.  I don't embroider as much as I would like to, but it was serendipitous that I had worked on a little piece this morning before finding my grandmother's embroidered work.

While rifling through piles of fabric, I found some sawtooth star blocks that I handquilted years ago.  I thought that I would spruce them up by adding embroidered designs.  This is the first piece I completed this morning.

The wonderland of Tord Boontje

May 30, 2010

It's no surprise that a book on industrial designer Tord Boontje would open with a quote from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland,
So she sat on with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality.
His fairytale-like designs of flora and fauna have captured the hearts of many admirers around the world.  In a recent trip to the library, my eyes were dilating from excitement when I spotted this over-sized, mesh covered book recounting ten years of his designs.  The 272 page book is chock full of colored photos of his past collections, products, and installations.

Boontje is known for his romantic lighting.  Shadow Light (shown above) is still one of my favorites. Below are close-ups of a couple of his spectacular crystal chandeliers. 

From drawings to product designs, Boontje's work is full of charm!

New work, "Books"

May 28, 2010

Since last Fall, I have been reworking a lot of my older pieces.  This particular piece is a monoprint that was originally in black and white.  It's been sitting in my portfolio for years.  After finishing Sea last week, I decided to tackle this piece next.  The design has always reminded me of books, like old books sitting on a library shelf.  Using watercolor and marker, I colored the vertical shapes based on book covers in my classic book collection.  (Pink is the one color I added for fun.)

I just added Books to my Etsy shop, where you'll also find more information about the piece. 

Art and fashion with a Scandinavian flair

May 26, 2010

I have a thing for Scandinavian folk art.  I just love the stylized characters and the use of simple, yet unique patterns.  Today's collection showcases a couple of contemporary artists whose folk art-inspired works make my heart flutter.  Also featured are a couple of fashion lines that complement each other and the design elements of the folk art. 

These two works were created by French illustrator Anne-Lise Boutin.  I love the minimal color palette, and the dolls are absolutely stunning. (So I realize that matryoshka dolls are Russian, but I still feel that they have a Scandinavian look, yes? Especially so with the deer and tree graphic.) 

Lina Rennell hails from California, and title of her collection last year sums up her fashion sense perfectly- "Big Sur Meets Helsinki."  I love the tent print! 

Sanna Annukka has a passion for folk art.  Shown above are a few of her more recent works. (That little birdie is hard to resist!) She got her first big break in illustration by designing Keane's Under the Iron Sea album cover! Since then, she's worked with companies like Marimekko.

Ivana Helsinki was one of the first collections we ordered when we opened a retail store in Portland a few years back.  The log cabin and tree design are still two of my favorite patterns.  At the time, Ivana Helsinki had a home collection as well as a fashion line.  So a pattern that was used for a dress (such as the log cabin) was also used for a journal cover.  You know a pattern is good when it looks good on a form and on a tabletop!

Creating art from found materials

May 24, 2010

Whether it's worn clothes, old magazine clippings, discarded security envelops, or yellowed book pages, I seem to come across a lot more found and reclaimed objects in art nowadays.  I'm a huge proponent of resourceful living.  So, needless to say, I love the idea of giving used materials a new purpose in art.  Here are a few of my favorite recent finds. 

Lesley Bricknell

Michelle Thompson

Sarah Nicole Phillips


Sticker Giveaway

May 23, 2010

Today I printed a couple of my smaller drawings on clear sticker paper.  I placed the rose sticker on my laptop and the tree sticker on my work desk.  I tried putting a sticker on cardboard, but it didn't seem to adhere as well.  Now that I have a small pile of stickers leftover, I figure I would let readers figure out other ways of using them. Just leave a comment below, and I'll randomly draw five names on Tuesday, May 25th at 12p PST.  The winners will receive both of the sticker designs shown above.  And because I love giveaways, I'll also throw in a set of postcards.

UPDATE: Thanks to all for such lovely comments! The winners of the Sticker Giveaway are moodymama, Rosemary, Katie, Tina, and Heike.  If you are one of the lucky winners, please email me your mailing address.  My email is catmcmurray[at]  Oh, and I'd love to hear where the stickers end up going!

New work, "Sea"

May 21, 2010

This week I decided to "recycle/reuse" one of my older monoprints.  There was one that reminded me of the ocean, and I felt compelled to add some patterns and details to it.  The new work is titled Sea, and, measuring at 18" x 24", it's the largest mixed media piece I've completed in the last six months. 

Lately, I've been experimenting with flattened features in relation to three-dimensional qualities.  With this particular piece, I wanted to create a multi-viewing experience, kinda like looking at a fish bowl.  I wanted the viewer to feel as if they were underwater and also looking at the water from above.  To help with this interplay of perspectives, I added some tiny leaves that are falling onto the surface of the water.  

The pattern of ovals can be viewed as a ground or a structure.  I drew each circle by hand with a pen and then filled in the spaces with a small brush and black ink.  It was tedious but therapeutic at the same time.

Although time-consuming, I enjoyed working at the larger scale.  And I'm all for taking art work that I'm not sentimental about and reworking it into a new piece.  I already have ideas for the next monoprint make-over! 

The art of sculpting books

May 19, 2010

When tired books are rescued from the inevitable and given new life . . .

Nicholas Jones

Sam Winston

Jonathan Callan [image sources: Haute Nature, Mattress Factory]

Cara Barer

Polaroids of the famous

May 17, 2010

I've met the actor Matt Dillon before.  Okay, met is a stretch.  I said hello and he said hi back.  Maybe it was just a nod back.  My high school friend was infatuated with Dillon, and we found out one day he was shooting Drugstore Cowboy near the school.  We waited for two hours just to see a glimpse of him.

Drugstore Cowboy was directed by the acclaimed Gus Van Sant (My Private Idaho, Goodwill Hunting, Milk), who calls Portland home.   I actually haven't seen the movie yet.  I am, however, planning to see Polaroid portraits of the cast. Yesterday was the opening of "One Step Big Shot: Portraits by Andy Warhol and Gus Van Sant" at the University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.  The exhibition explores the parallels between Warhol and Van Sant, featuring 300 original Polaroids of actors and other notable individuals taken by both artists.

The show's title comes from the Polaroid Big Shot camera, a favorite of Warhol's.  He liked how the flash flattened his subjects. Van Sant used 665 film, so that he would have negatives of the images as well as the positives.  He used the Polaroids to help him cast his films, like Drugstore Cowboy.  All of Van Sant's Polaroids on display are on loan from the artist. 

"One Step Big Shot" also features several short films by both Van Sant and Warhol.  And if that doesn't get you headed in the direction of the show, I hear that there's a Polaroid of River Phoenix in the exhibition.  Where are my car keys?
[Images: Drew Barrymore, Gus Van Sant; Jack Nichlaus, Andy Warhol; Debbie Harry, Andy Warhol, Debra Messing, Keanu Reeves, Gus Van Sant.  Sources: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Eugene Weekly]

My Week

May 16, 2010

new hanboks for the girls thanks to hal-muh-nee (grandma)
the birthday girl running through streamers
my new mixed media piece: Kites

Buy art and give back

May 13, 2010

If you're a sucker for Girl Scout cookies, then you definitely need to check out The Working Proof.  They don't carry Samoas, but they do have the next best thing- sweet art!  And like Girl Scout treats, the art is for a good cause.  With each art purchase, 15% is donated to a charity.  Over thirty charities have been supported by The Working Proof, including Keep America Beautiful, Teach for America, and Doctors without Borders

A new print is released every Tuesday.  This week's feature is one of my favorite artists, Danna Ray.  Her limited edition print, We Are Connected, is shown above.  Read more about the work in this  interview.  

The limited-edition prints are quite affordable, many priced at $30! Some of the current prints available on The Working Proof include (left, clockwise):

Shopping for art online

May 12, 2010

Sebastian Foster has a well-edited selection of artists, many who are from Portland!

The internet can be a wonderland for art shoppers, that is, if you know where to look.  In the last couple of years, I've discovered so many great sites showcasing the latest in independent art.  I have been compiling a list to share with you all, and then Kate from Art Hound came out with this list that put mine to shame!  Here are a few of my favorites:

and, of course, Etsy

Happy browsing!

Old School 3-D

May 10, 2010

When I was vintage shopping at the beach the other weekend, I found a box of stereographic cards in one of the antique stores.  I had never seen photographs like these before.  The lady behind the counter informed me that these cards were designed to be used with a stereoscope, which gives the viewer a 3-D image.  I was charmed by the stereographic cards and ended up buying a couple.  The above photo is of Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.  I picked this particular photo because I was mesmerized by the majestic scenery, and I guess I wasn't the only one.  When researching this beautiful Alpine village online, I found out that it was the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien's Elven valley, Rivendell. Very cool!

On the backs of the cards are descriptions of the images.  Some read more like stories than formal summaries.  Here is the text accompanying the Bluebird's Nest photo.

I find it intriguing that 100 years later, 3-D images are a fad again.  More and more, newly released movies are being viewed in 3-D.  I expect to see museums move in this direction, creating virtual tours of architectural and sculptural masterpieces. On the Louvre's website, there is an "Explore in 3D" section.  Here's the link to the page if you want to check it out.

Color me plaid

May 8, 2010

I have been working in brighter hues this week.  Maybe it's the anticipation of summer and seeing blooming flowers all around me.  I created this plaid design a few days ago.  Yesterday, my daughter needed some wrapping paper for a birthday present, so I made a print of it for her to use.  This got me thinking of other uses for the plaid.  I found some large blank labels and decided to make a decal for my laptop.  Ideally, I would have used a printable vinyl sticker, but I only had white labels on hand.  I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.  Now I'm ready for summer!

Other colorful moments in my week . . .

flying a kite

my latest works

"Painting" with reclaimed wood

May 6, 2010

photo: Nash Baker        

Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveira creates incredible sculptures out of old wood fences from construction sites.  Shown above is his installation last year at the Rice Gallery in Houston.  It's titled Tapumes, which means "fencing" in Portuguese. 

His three-dimensional works are representational of two-dimensional works.  He forms the wood pieces in his scuptures to look like paint strokes on canvas.  It's brilliant!

Below, I've paired some of his paintings alongside of his three-dimensional pieces.  You can see the similar qualities in movement, tone, and pattern. 

Here are a couple of fascinating videos on Oliveira's sculptural works.  The first video features the artist talking about his art and the fencing material used.  The second video shows the artist installing Tapumes at the Rice Gallery.    

Small Treasures

May 4, 2010

When I taught high school art, I had several tackle boxes in my classroom.  Inside the tackle box compartments resided tiny natural objects, such as shells, seed pods, and insect carcasses. As a drawing lesson,  I would have students study and draw one of these objects for at least 30 minutes.  I even passed out eye loupes so that students can see the objects' textures and patterns close-up.   

When I was at the beach this weekend, I stepped into a store that carried a variety of tiny sea objects {many of them imported from warmer coastal areas}.  I couldn't help but get all giddy about starting another miniature collection.  Shown above are some of the items I got at the local beach shop.  The barnacle is first on my list to draw!

Show and Tell: Antique shopping at the beach

May 1, 2010

I find that it's harder to snatch up great finds in antique malls in Portland, seeing that anything retro is all the rage here.  So one of my favorite places to shop for vintage items is the coast, particularly Lincoln City.  It seems like whenever I'm in this small coastal town, I'm able to pick up an item or two that I absolutely love.  This weekend, I came away with a small hoard of items, and all for under $50. 

hand-molded ceramic dish found amongst random children toys and mismatched dishware
i'm crazy about the patterned tree design on the lid and side of the bowl  
. . . . . . . . . . 
a cast iron sauce pan with lid that I've been coveting since the last time I was in Lincoln City
kitchen ware like this makes me want to cook more
i'm thinking chocolate sauce with pound cake right now, mmm
. . . . . . . . . .  
couldn't resist this gravy boat
it's the diamonds

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