Archive for the ‘mixed bag’ Category

In the fast paced cyber world that has reached all of us in some form or another, a day of escape to Gruene, TX for the Texas Clay Festival was just what the doctor ordered! The artists, all talented clay workers, showcased the best Texas has to offer in this medium. In addition to their well priced booth products, many gave live demonstrations in several venues throughout the day.

Randy Brodnax finishing a piece with ferric chloride spray after live firing.

Randy Brodnax finishing a piece with ferric chloride spray after live firing.

Randy Brodnax collected quite a crowd as he pulled hot pieces from his onsite gas fired kiln. Pieces were selling “hot off the press,” with one especially “hot” item – three legged frogs.

THis lucky frog made it through the firing into a trash can with newspaper reduction process.

This lucky frog made it through the firing into a trash can with newspaper reduction process.

Movement, composition and texture were very strong in many of the artisans pieces. Here are a few favorites:

Massive sculpture by JoLea Arcidiaco , gifted sculpture from San Antonio, TX

Massive sculpture by JoLea Arcidiaco, gifted sculpture from San Antonio, TX

Round Rock, TX artist "Shika" had some incredible vases and teapots.

Round Rock, TX artist “Shika” had some incredible vases and tea pots

Abstract art plates by Ron Boling, self-proclaimed "rakooster" from New Braunfels, TX

Abstract art plates by Ron Boling, self-proclaimed “rakooster” from New Braunfels, TX

Creative dinnerware was an easy find. Kym Owens, Vietnam orphan, adopted as a baby, grew up in Lubbuck, TX. Also a classically trained dancer, she can be found at teaching at Sunset Canyon Pottery in Austin.

Creative dinnerware was an easy find. Kym Owens, Vietnam orphan, adopted as a baby, grew up in Lubbuck, TX. Also a classically trained dancer, she can be found teaching at Sunset Canyon Pottery in Austin.

Clay shard enhanced skulls were selling quickly from Jessica Battes both. This artist lives/teaches ceramics in San Antonio, TX

Clay shard enhanced skulls were selling quickly from Jessica Battes booth. This artist lives/teaches ceramics in San Antonio, TX

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Prepared to be inspired! Artist studio tours throughout the U.S., you can help get caught up with artistic inspiration. Even if you are not an artist yourself, or shopping for quality art work,  the unique homes and studio spaces may inspire you to pick up a remodeling hammer in your own space.

The April-May 2013 WEST studio tour featured west side Austin artists within 178 individual stops. Each stop had one or more artist featured, so the two weekend show was impossible to view in it’s entirety within the time frame. However, we managed to squeeze in about two dozen artists. A few inspiring images follow:

Love the gargoyles in this creative landscape. We knew a clay artist lived nearby…

Landscape outside the Patricia Meheriuk clay studio

Followed the path signs on well used easels to talented Brigitte Edery’s studio:

Follow the signs

Follow the signs

The creative use of an L-shaped lot, with only a small amount of street contact in Austin, TX, worked well for a studio/home combo for Diana Seidel. The small home near the street was converted into a quaint potter’s studio. The larger open back of the lot was used to build a new home.

Diana Seidel's customized studio in front of her Austin home.

Diana Seidel’s customized studio in front of her Austin home.


Entrance to Melissa Grimes home/studio was inspiring. The inside space allowed for three secluded porches that wrapped around the home for a welcoming entrance, a well lit studio and private eat-in porch. Grimes noted the turn of the century home was “pulled” into the Austin neighborhood. Detailed preservation but also some added interior features make the structure comfortable and workable.


Melissa Grimes home/studio in Austin, TX


Many artists use their creative energy both inside and outside their properties. Stephanie Bradley, artist/realtor saw a diamond in the rough in her central Austin home. The rough, disheveled yard was converted into a storybook walk to additional studio space in the garage.

Yard work constantly in progress at Artist Stephanie Bradley's home

Yard work constantly in progress at Artist Stephanie Bradley’s home


For many of the artists on the tour, we were allowed a rare glimpse of work in progress. Across the alley from the Austin Art Garage, we were allowed into the inner sanctum of Austin artist Joel Ganucheau. Not every painter has an easel!

Studio wall of Joel Ganucheau's space

Studio wall of Joel Ganucheau’s space

So get online and do a Google search for “art studio tours” followed by the name of your city. The drive and inspiration is incredible, as well as meeting the artists in person. Understanding their perspective may change your perspective entirely on what to purchase for your space. Or you might be inspired to get your own studio started!




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Ash in the Past

Over a year ago, Todd Van Duren’s pottery workshop, behind his home, literally went up in flames. But many of his fellow potter’s in the Austin, TX area came to his aid the next few days to sort through the ashes. Not only were many finished pieces saved, but the artist says the glazes took on incredible colors and patinas resulting from the high temperature “firing.” 80% of the salvaged pots sold fairly quickly to discerning collectors that realized this one-time opportunity.

As the sort/salvage on the burnt out structure progressed, the roof tin from the old studio was kept and later used to work as siding when rebuilding began. During the recent WEST Studio Tour in Austin (April and May 2013) we saw the new workspace. The interior was still waiting on wall board, but the exterior proudly shows off the burned tin as a tribute to the assistance of his fellow artists.

Todd Van Duren clay studio with tin reclaimed from earlier fire.

New Todd Van Duren clay studio with tin reclaimed from earlier fire.

Van Duren continues to work on his “housing projects,” slab built structures made entirely of clay.

Slab home - clay - by artist Todd Van Duren, Austin, TX

Slab home – clay – by artist Todd Van Duren, Austin, TX

The new studio has lots of light and entirely new wiring.  Note to ANY artist considering a garage remodel into an art studio: Check your wiring thoroughly. The in wall wiring Todd had not replaced in his space caused the studio destroying fire. And don’t forget to insure any structure that is part of your creative business!

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Artist’s minds don’t stop being creative just because they are out of their studios. The artistic eye of Sarah Bork in Austin, TX is always on the look out for her “daily image.” Bork made a commitment to do a full year of iPhone photos with a daily piece placed on “calendars” drawn on her home walls. In addition to using the iPhone to take all the photography, she found editing apps that allowed her to manage any contrast and brightness issues she could detect on the spot. The nearly completed year was on display in her home during the West Studio Tour held in Austin (April and May 2013). Kudos to Sarah for sticking to the daily plan, but also showing her amazing photographic eye in such an accessible method.

iPhone shots daily by Sarah Bork - Austin, TX

iPhone shots daily by Sarah Bork – Austin, TX

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From an original spelling (no “B” in Thumprints) to original style, we love the new introductions from Thumprints lighting collection.

To get to know brand designer Allison Davis a bit better, we asked her a few questions about her line.


Here is a glimpse into her design aesthetic and a few exciting new products.

Mill and Leaf: What are your earliest design memories in any medium?

Allison: I started making lamps by going to antique stores and finding unusual objects.  I made them out of candle sticks, boxes, blown glass, wine bottle etc.  You can make a lamp out of just about anything, which is what makes them such fun accessories!!

Mill and Leaf: What excites you about working with lighting, in particular, as a designer?

Allison: I am not sure why I got into lighting, but I still have several unusual lamps that I picked out for my high school bedroom, so I have always been intrigued by unique lighting.  Lighting is an important part of every room, and lamps can simply serve the functional purpose of lighting, or become an artistic focal point of a room. When designing lamps for the line, I focus on creating pieces of functional art – “lamps as distinctive as your thumprint”.

Mill and Leaf: What art style, either current or historical, is a favorite…and why?

Allison: I like abstract art and bright colors.  I am also drawn to sculpture and three dimensional design. Thumprints lamps are artistically-styled, and often “sculpted” from a single object or form, and combine textures, shapes, colors and materials, all of which I attribute to my love of abstract art and sculpture.


Mill and Leaf: Any especially interesting fact/feature concerning your company or products  that you would like to share.

Allison: All of Thumprints 2012 introductions are Made in the USA.  We are proud to support American manufacturing!

Sounds like you found your calling Allison. We are happy to share your innovative designs with our customers!


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Searching this week on great ways to incorporate an interesting over-the-range tile backsplash idea with stacked stone tile, I came across this interesting article in Houzz.com. A creative DIY project included wine corks in a backsplash.

In my humble opinion, the corks will eventually reduce in size in a dry climate or possibly expand with kitchen steam or humidity. I think the color variation is great though, so may try to recreate with colored tiles instead.

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With everyone’s focus on environmentally friendly ways of living, we were thrilled to find these recycled natural fiber area rugs.

Recycled over-dyed natural fiber area rugs

Recycled over-dyed natural fiber area rugs

Natural wool area rugs are given new life with an entire soak in earth-friendly dyes. The range of colors used on these rugs is astounding. Dark classic tones to bright moderns give the renewed area rugs a vintage feel. These 9′ x 12′ room sized over-dyed rugs range in price from $8,000 to $15,000. But one of a kind finds like this are art works in and of themselves.

Recycled natural fiber area rugs

Ecofriendly dyes provide broad range of color

Pair these area rugs with vintage decor or modern designer pieces. Either way, you’ll know your design choice leaves less impact on Mother Earth and more design appeal in your home.

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My eight-year old daughter, like many children, has a very curious mind when it comes to how things work. She has been known to take apart the dishwasher for example. So I can’t wait to show her these photos of how hand-tufted area rugs are made!

To hand-tuft a wool rug, loops of wool are pushed through canvas that has been stretched on a frame. The canvas has the rug design on it which can accomodate a complex pattern since each tuft is done individually. Take a look at this partially tufted wool rug:

Detail of Tufted Rug Outline

Check out the design on this partially tufted area rug!

Half complete tufted rug

This shows the entire area rug when it is half complete with the tufting process.

It is fascinating to me to see the detailed pattern on the canvas that the rug maker then uses during the tufting process. Hand-tufted rugs are great for high-traffic areas and generally last between 12 and 20 years.

Hand-tufted area rug stretched canvas

Here you can see the canvas stretched on the frame.

In terms of impact on the interior design of your home, hand-tufted area rugs deliver a huge bang for the buck. Not as expensive as hand-knotted rugs but still having intricate patterns and details, these types of wool area rugs provide a more budget-friendly alternative.

I’m already envisioning my eight-year old hard at play on a hand-tufted rug for her Polly doll’s house.

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Ever look at the interior of a home and say to yourself, “Wow… this should look really great, but something just isn’t right here?” There’s a gut instinct response that is sometimes hard to put into words. And then, little by little you notice it. Everything matches. Like…everything. The chair fabric matches the pillow fabric. The wood type and style for the end table matches the dining room table. The living room curtains match the kitchen paint. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not into the “matchy-matchy” look. Home decor should reflect your personality and quite frankly, I’m just not that put together. One of my favorite quotes is, “I think my life would be easier if I could just get my selves to agree on something.” (Brian Andreas of Story People)

So imagine my love of pairing seemingly contrasting items for a surprising home decorating idea. For example, pairing soft textured fabrics with the rough feel of reclaimed wood.

Reclaimed wood table

Soft chair…rough table. Love it!

Try this: Take a look at the reclaimed wood table below and find something visually appealing in your house that would not be an obvious pairing.
Reclaimed Poplar Wood table from the Shandong Province

Reclaimed Poplar Wood table from the Shandong Province

Fun, isn’t it? I bet you actually came up with several items. When you free yourself to look at a broader range of options for home decorating ideas, the combination possibilities suddenly grow.
This is especially true of reclaimed wood. Reclaimed wood touches a cord with us on many levels. There’s something about making something useful again that is appealing. It seems to embody the circle of life and ground us in Mother Nature’s worldview. Once a rarity, reclaimed wood furniture is becoming more and more accessible. Don’t let the industrial look of it scare you off. It just may be the piece that allows your other pieces to really shine.
Industrial buffet cabinet made of reclaimed wood

Industrial Buffet Cabinet Made of Reclaimed Wood

So the next time you see a home decor item that appeals to you don’t say, “Oh…but I don’t have anything that will go with that.” Stop for a moment and allow yourself to expand your design thinking! You’ll be surprised and happy with what you discover.

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Just having returned from the High Point Furniture Market, it seems to be a great time to recap on new lines and evolving lines we found.

Vintage furniture was high on the list of “up and comers.” The “Restoration Hardware look” was found at multiple vendors. Some vendors had to to “rough up” their existing sleek style, while others who have done this classic styling for years, suddenly became more relevant.

Check out the our top picks in vintage chairs:

Super comfortable, with a vintage industrial look.

New designs on a century old pattern.

Who wouldn’t enjoy a pint on one of these perches?

Vintage sofas abound from multiple vendors. Love the tight tufted look.

Looks great in fabric or leather!

Or if you are really into vintage decor, grab one of the three hundred year old looks in a candlestick chair or antique desk. Incredibly rich in finish and style, but can still mix with modern furniture in the right application.

Pair this authentic repro with a reclaimed wood or glass table.

Reproduction Antique Desk – with dovetail joints and all wood drawers, this piece will last another 100 years!

The old adage, “History tends to repeat itself” might be a good thing here. The most popular styles in years past, were the ones that outlasted the rest!

All these quality pieces will be available in 2013 on Mill and Leaf. Don’t be a stranger!

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