The Reluctant Artist: Some of My Recent Work

"Royal Beetle" by Emily Weerts, 2010; acrylic on canvas, 6"x6"

I don’t like to make a strict distinction between art and craft.  I feel like it sells craft short – making it less than, or at least different from, art.  I’d hate to have to define art, but I’m pretty sure that most definitions for art would also suitably define craft.  I also have a proclivity for art in practical forms.  Although we have an increasing collection of framed art on our walls, I’m always drawn to everyday items that reflect an artistic sensibility. I love the playful home design of Koziol and Kikkerland.  I would be thrilled if many of the items sold at DWR were actually within my reach.  Good looking design and art, however, should not only belong to those who can afford to spend a small fortune on it.

"Gentle Giant" by Emily Weerts, 2010; glass beeds and silicone, 5"x7"

"Gentle Giant" by Emily Weerts, 2010; glass beads and silicone, 5"x7"

It is for these, and many other reasons, that I sometimes find myself creating what can only be considered visual art.  I’m reluctant to call myself an artist – not because it feels too pretentious, but because I don’t consider myself accomplished enough.  I’m much more comfortable being a crafter, a maker, or a tinkerer (titles that I all think should carry as much prestige as the Artist label).  Nevertheless, somehow I ended up being asked by Arthouse to contribute a piece to their recent FIVE by SEVEN art show and sale.  I decided to use materials I had around the house, and was inspired to work with glass beads and silicone to create “Gentle Giant”.  I’m not sure I’d work with the same materials in the future, as it was tedious, especially making sure all the beads were laying upright (except of course, for the suckers on the tentacles).  I did want to submit a piece that showed lots of care and work, as I knew it would be sold for $100 (all work at the 5×7 show is displayed anonymously and sold for $100).  Apparently, my work sold!  All proceeds go to Arthouse, which is a great resource to artists and art appreciators in Texas, so I couldn’t be happier!

Because I’m about to be working longer hours, I wanted to finish up a few pending projects.  Among them was a canvas I have from Six by Six Gallery in New York City.  Artists interested in submitting work can order a kit from the gallery and send back the finished work.  The art then goes on display at the gallery and online, and, if the artist gets lucky, it gets sold to an appreciative buyer.  I’ll be mailing in my piece, “Royal Beetle”, this week.  I used acrylics, including an iridescent gold, to paint the beetle.  I’m happy with how it came out, and especially like how the gold outline makes it pop against the purple background.

I’m generally happy with how both pieces turned out, and am encouraged to make more art (even if it’s “just” art, and not practical).

Our First Merch: DIY Luggage Tags

A few of the finshed tags (personal info has been photshopped out, sorry stalkers!)

One of my favorite aspects of the indie craft movement is the sharing of ideas.  Online communities, like Craftster, have fostered an environment where the sharing of ideas, resources, and inspiration are the norm.  Far from being possessive, many crafters share the step by step instructions for their projects with anyone, free of charge.  Of course, this does create problems for those makers trying to get by on the profits from their crafts.  How many times have we gone to craft fairs or surfed Etsy and, upon seeing someone’s offerings, thought “I could make that!”.  Such a declaration is not typically followed by an eagerness to reach for your wallet in order to pay full price for something you could make, usually for much cheaper.  Despite this potentially earning-damaging reality, you can find a free tutorial online for just about every item in the craft repertoire.  Not all crafts are created equal and skill of execution, access to materials and tools, and aesthetic judgment does vary – ultimately, the cream floats to the top.

At the risk of running myself out of business, one of my visions for this site is to share how to instructions (and eventually, step by step tutorials) with y’all.  For ATX DIY’s wide berth, that means sharing recipes, gardening tips, craft tutorials, and much more.  So, stay tuned!  To get things rolling, here’s some quick info about a project I finished recently.  I’ve traveled more this year than usual, and have lost a few luggage tags in the process – no big deal, but I hate to keep paying for new ones, and felt like I could do better than the free paper ones the airlines provide. This simple project was made possible with the help from two of my crafty weapons of choice – my laminator and zip-ties.  I printed out our logo on some colored paper I had floating around the craft room, and wrote all the pertinent contact info on the back.  After adding a dinosaur sticker, I ran the cards through the laminator.  A hole punch and zip tie finished the job, and we now have ATX DIY branded luggage.

For those of you without regular access to a laminator (I occasionally used the handy plastic melting machine while working at a school, then decided I needed one all to myself!), I can recommend a few alternatives.  First of all, if you know me and live in Austin, contact me and I’d be happy to share!  If not, Kinkos and other copy shops usually provide laminating service – if you’re paying someone else to do it, make sure to get as many things into one page of laminate as possible.  Also, plastic badge pouches seem like they’d do the job nicely.  I have a few floating around from various conferences I’ve attended, and always relish an opportunity to re-purpose – it sure beats adding ‘em to the landfill!  Finally, clear packing tape and steady hands can work as a laminator in a pinch.

I think this relatively mundane project (born out of necessity, as so many great crafts are) has a lot of potential.  I think they’d make fun stocking stuffers or great Bon Voyage gifts, and I like that they are endlessly customizable with any image, shape, color, etc. you choose.  Now, where should we traveling next?

Where Crafters Come From: Happy Mother’s Day!

My mom, on the roof of the Academy of Sciences in SF.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you crafty moms out there!  Sorry it’s a few days late – I’ve been out of town on a secret mission.  This year, I finally had the chance to do something I’ve wanted to do for some time – fly home to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day.  My mom, however, is shrewd and with help from a couple of people who aren’t so sly, suspected that I might be coming.  Still, the trip was fun and a good time was had by all.

I craft, in large part, because my mom crafts.  I think she’d say the same about her mom.  Mom cooks amazing food and taught me the value of making things from scratch.  She knits, crochets, sews, tats, weaves, spins, and quilts.  She has tried glass fusing and hot glass lampworking, sandblasting, wreath making, cake decorating and I’m sure countless other crafty pursuits that I’m forgetting.  My grandma is similarly gifted and my three aunts each practice some form of needle arts.  I know this is a Mother’s Day post, but it would be shortsighted of me to not mention that my dad is crafty too – he makes and flies model rockets, builds paper models, works on bikes, fixes stuff around the house and much more.

The scissortailed fly catcher stencil I made for the studio, posted here because Mom wanted to see it.

I don’t think I realized that I had such a DIY focused upbringing until I got older.  Didn’t everyone’s mom cook dinner (from scratch, no TV dinners or Hamburger Helper in our house) every night?  Didn’t everyone’s mom sew any Halloween costume requested?  And what’s a boxed cake mix?  I was probably in Jr. High when I began to realize that not everyone’s mom was as crafty/talented/involved as my mom.  It took me even longer to recognize that I was craftier-than-most, a distinction that I now embrace unapologetically.

So, thanks Mom, for all the inspiration, wisdom, and countless project-saving-tips provided to me over the phone.  I love you!

A Do-It-Yourselfer’s Dream Weekend

The Renegade Craft Fair is finally coming to Ausitn!

In my experience, every weekend is a DIYer’s dream weekend in Austin, Texas.  There’s always some workshop, art show, plant sale, volunteer opportunity, or countless other tempting event that competes for my love, attention, and attendance.  But this weekend’s big DIY happening is a long time coming – finally, the Renegade Craft Fair is coming to Austin! Renegade started in Chicago in 2003 and has been one of the premier indie craft shows ever since.  I never made it to San Francisco Renegade Craft Fair but was luck enough to attend Austin’s own Stitch craft bazaar until the event organizers parted ways in 2007.  Since then, the hometown of Austin Craft Mafia and a key player in the neo-craft movement, has suffered a significant craft-extravaganza-deficit.  I have enjoyed the occasional local craft sale, and of course won’t miss an East Austin Studio Tour or Flatstock as long as I live here, but for me it’s all about the shows with a national pull.  Luckily, I have plenty of opportunities to see and purchase the work that’s being made locally by Austin crafters.  I want to see new stuff.  I want to be inspired by things I’ve never seen.  I’m super excited for all the local makers who will show this weekend – Austin crafters and artists are some of the best around and will no doubt represent our fair city impressively.

The show takes place on Saturday and Sunday, May 16th and 16th, at the Palmer Events Center.  Admission is FREE and the show features over 200 vendors.  There will be workshops and demos taking place throughout the weekend – also, some live music from Minor Mishap Marching Band, Shotgun Party, and others.

Briefly, here are a few of the participating artists whose tables I’m particularly excited about drooling over:

Berkely Illustration – Portland, OR – Inexplicably charming portraits of animals in old timey garb.  Because everyone needs a framed likeness of an otter in a bowler and a suit.  Seriously, I love their work.

Krank Press – Los Angeles, CA – A letterpress shop that makes, among other things, a perpetual calendar that features planting and harvesting info.  They also have great bird prints, and I have a weakness for bird art.

Mat Daly – Chicago, IL – An artist and printer who plays right into my bird art addiction.  He routinely makes owl posters, often to promote Renegade Craft Fair itself.  This print, minus the text, is hung in our bedroom – don’t tell the other art in our house, but it’s one of my favorite pieces.

Letterpress Delicacies – Austin, TX – So, apparently these folks are from Austin, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them at any other craft fair.  I’m looking forward to chattin’ ‘em up about printmaking in our fair city.  Also, I’ll definitely come home with one of these cards.

Circa Ceramics – Chicago, IL – This couple screenprints on ceramics, before glazing.  I have a few questions for them regarding process, and like the retro look of their work.  Maybe we need a chicken spoon rest.

Mehoi – Toronto, Canada – I think the Japanese side of me is drawn to these sickly cute (or more accurately cutely sick) enamel pins, charms, etc.  Everyone needs rice cooker cuff links!

Year of the Milliner – Oakland, CA – I may not be hip enough to wear any of these carefully crafted stylized Robin Hood hats, but I’m definitely going to try some on.  I’m a big hat fan and am always happy to see more people practicing the fine art of millinery.

Ovarian Outrage: Where My Chicks At?

Thanks for the eggs, ladies!

For as long as I can remember, my father has been a frequent Letter to the Editor writer. In the highly-educated, liberal, relatively small town I was raised, contributions to the local paper could get quite contentious. A level-headed fellow, Dad most often metaphorically bites his tongue and generally limits his letter submissions to a few a year. While I did inherit my dad’s sense of indignation, I did not necessarily get the trait that pairs provocation with rational, non-emotional, expressive ability. Instead, I have a tendency to rant. Consider the preceding to be a disclaimer as I embark on my first blog diatribe. Dad, this one’s for you…

Earlier this week, Bug and I went to Wheatsville Food Co-Op to grab a quick lunch a few groceries for the week.  During the grocery gathering portion of our trip, I breezed past the egg section, only to notice in passing that they seemed to be out of most of their local farm eggs.  We’re raising our own hens and have plenty of eggs.  So, while I more closely surveyed tortilla offerings, Bug read a sign on the egg case stating that due to a Texas ordinance,  Wheatsville can no longer sell ungraded eggs (and their two local farm egg suppliers, Alexander Farms and H&J Farms, do not grade their eggs).  On our way home, Bug mentioned what he’d learned, and I promptly consulted the interwebs for details.

Although I didn’t find anything directly addressing the eggs in store issue, I did find this article from a November issue of the Chronicle.  I encourage you to read the article for yourself, it discusses the nuances of a regulation that the Texas Department of Agriculture must enforce that requires producers to grade their eggs.  Egg grading involves checking eggs for soundness (making sure there are no cracks in shells – something that small farmers are currently doing), size, and freshness (by exposing eggs to light to determine the size of an air cell inside – the smaller the bubble, the fresher the egg).  In the article, a state USDA supervisor admits that the ordinance is in place to protect consumers from large factory eggs that may have spoiled after being kept in cold storage for incredible lengths of time.  Local farm eggs, like those supplied to Wheatsville, are nearly hen fresh and don’t travel long distances to get into the hands of consumers.   

You Heard it Here First: Free Seedlings!

A small number of transplants that I dropped off at our CSA pick-up spot.

In January, I started a bunch of seeds in a cold-frame in our front yard. Most of the seeds came up and over all, the endeavor was a success. I did, however, end up with far too many seedlings. I planted over a dozen variety of tomatoes and now need to move more than fifty plants. I brought about a dozen plants to our CSA pick-up site on Friday and will be leaving the rest on the picnic tables at Cherrywood Green starting at noon today. The majority of the tomatoes are heirloom varieties and there are full size and cherry plants that will produce many colors of tasty tomatoes. There are also a few melon and pepper plants. All of the seeds were grown naturally, without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides (I hesitate to say Organic, just because I’m not certified and all that jazz).

WHAT: Free Seedlings (Mostly Tomatoes)
WHEN: Sunday, May 2nd – Noon until they’re gone
WHERE: Cherrywood Green (1698 E. 34th Street, Austin)
WHY: Because everyone should grow they’re own food, even if it’s just a plant or two!

Please take what you will use and share your harvest with others!

Garden Eye Candy: Three Eggs, One Dog

Today's eggs. In the background, Hazelnut tends her flock.

For the past three days, our three hens have laid three eggs.  Three eggs a day is certainly more than the two of us can eat, so we’ve shared some with neighbors, and have nearly a dozen in the fridge.  I’ve also tried some new recipes, which I’ll happily share soon.

We have three buff orpington hens who live in a chicken ark in our backyard.  We’ve had the hens for a few months – in that time, they have grown a lot and just started laying a few weeks ago.  For us, the chickens are pets who produce food (we are vegetarians, so the hens themselves won’t end up on the dinner plate).  Perhaps best of all, they make eggs for us by consuming the weeds and bugs that live in our yard.  We’ll post more details about our urban chicken raising shortly.

The Biggest Project of My Life (Thus Far)

Studio, sweet studio.

This will likely be the first of many posts about our ongoing endeavor to transform our backyard out-building/garage into a screenprinting studio, so I’ll first provide a little bit of background. As I mentioned previously, I spent many nights in high school and junior high hand-hand painting t-shirts and hoodies of various bands that I enjoyed (read: was obsessed with). In college I took a screenprinting class at the Craft Center and immediately became hooked on the medium. After taking the class, I volunteered at the Craft Center, taught summer camp there, and eventually landed a job as the Screenprinting and Textiles Student Manager. All the while, I had access to the screenprinting lab and equipment.

Eventually, I left school and the Craft Center (another tale for another day), and since haven’t done much printing. Many people successfully set up home screenprinting operations in their bathrooms, which I think is awesome, but I’m the first to admit that having access to a studio totally spoiled me. At its core, screenprinting is a versatile process – some DIY printers make their own screens with embroidery hoops and glue on mesh while giant commercial printers put logos on thousands of shirts, mugs, pens etc. using an industrialized process based on the same principals. What I want for our home studio falls in between those two extremes.


Garden Eye Candy: A Very Hungry Visitor

The very hungry caterpillar.

Just a quick post to share this photo with y’all…

Late last year, we bought rue plant at the Natural Gardener.  It was an interesting looking plant (reminiscent of a tiny Dr. Seuss tree) and our friend had told us that it was a favorite food for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.  (I had also heard that rue repels fruit flies, but we planted ours in the garden and didn’t test those properties).  This weekend, while doing routine gardening chores, I found two of these (not so little) guys munching away on our rue.  They stayed for two days, until the rue was all but a stem, and presumably went to forage elsewhere.  I hope they come back to visit in their post-pupal form!

(My apologies for the out of focus photo, I captured the moment using my phone.)

Stick ‘em up!: Last Minute DIY for Events

The wildest hair clip in the West.

Howdy pardner!  I just snapped a picture of my latest creation – a pistol and holster hair clip that I threw together last night.  Now, I must confess that I can’t take much credit for this project as something I made entirely myself as it’s a simple re-engineering of a store-bought item.  Also, I’m not sure how ‘last minute’ the project was seeing as how I’ve had the components for more than five years and every intention of turning ‘em into this very thing.

Let me explain the sorted provenance of my latest craft.  Before I lived in Austin, I lived further out west in California – I grew up and went to college in the same quaint town, and during school, in addition to fostering a life-long love for making stuff (a tale for another night), I took a film class all about Westerns.  I quickly gained an affinity for the bad ass films of Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, Clint Eastwood, and others.  In 2005, on a family vacation down south, we stopped at the Gene Autry Museum in large part because of their special exhibit all about Leone.  The exhibit was great, and in the gift shop, I scored a pair of holster diaper pins that would, five years later, adorn my hair.


© Copyright 2007 ATX DIY . Thanks for visiting!