Thursday, September 30, 2010

my sketchbook - no. 4

I'm lucky to live in this home. I have a loving family, a cool cat named Paul, and a magnificent 100-year-old newel post in our entry. According to the 1910 Sears Roebuck Home Builders Catalog sitting on my coffee table, it is a Plain Sawed Red Oak Newel - Part No. 63B8308 that cost $2.96 at the time).

And speaking of coffee tables, I sanded, stained, and distressed a farmhouse-style table that I scored at the local Goodwill this summer for only $12! Thinking of using it in some future photos.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

relda, velda and my etsy holiday mission

Part of my "duty" as a participant in the Etsy Success Holiday Boot Camp is to write a mission statement that will give me a sense of focus and help guide me through all the anti-calm of the season. I am thankful for this.

The exercise was relatively easy for me because I have just recently declared my artistic purpose and started sharing my thoughts and work through this blog. Since I am clear of what I want and what I need to do as an artist, creating a mission statement for selling my work came naturally. Danielle's link to Seth Godin's blog post, The Hierarchy of Success, was also very helpful -- thank you Danielle!

But before I state my Etsy mission, I should first introduce you to two very special women who inspire my work as an artist: my maternal great-grandmothers Relda and Velda. I will blog about another highly influential woman, my mother Relda Jane, in a later post.

This is my great-grandma Relda Mae Carpenter Fossett (my mother's namesake).
She raised eleven children.

This is my great-grandma Velda Boles at a family picnic on the prairies of Kansas. She is standing in front of the tarpaulin on the far right.

Secondly, you should also know that I have a strong affinity for the old ways and timeworn objects. Back in the early 1900s when my great-grandparents and their parents homesteaded in this country, they lived off the land and relied upon each other to survive. They had to be creative and industrious with what little they had. Many people took on apprenticeships to master traditional crafts like tool making, textile production, soap and candle making, and much more as so beautifully described in John Seymours' The Forgotten Crafts (I have a copy on my bedside table). The point I'm trying to make here is that all these creations and processes exuded quality, durability, and in my opinion, beauty.

So what's this have to do with my Etsy holiday mission? A lot!

My mission this holiday season is to create little pieces of art and handmade goods that embody the ingenuity and resilience of my great-grandmothers, Relda and Velda. To only offer goods that are not mass-produced, but rather one-of-a-kind creations these ladies would be proud of. And use earth-friendly materials and sustainable practices whenever possible...hopefully teaching my daughters the value of craftsmanship along the way.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

getting my creative on

weathered silo's blockprinted eco textilesa fresh batch of my block-printed eco textiles

It was a rare day here in Seattle. The sun was shining and I had the entire house to myself. No, I didn't catch up on housework or laundry. Instead, I selfishly got my "creative" on by stamping a batch of eco textiles for the holidays and mordanting fabrics for an upcoming woad project that I'm absolutely giddy over. Lots of discoveries; plenty of production. I'd say it was a really great day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

etsy success holiday boot camp

my hand-carved "Boxwood with Berries" block print

This morning I'm reporting for duty....Etsy Success Holiday Boot Camp duty that is!

Yes, in the midst of working on a series of oil paintings and discovering the beauty of dyeing textiles with woad, I've decided to use up some lovely sustainable-crop textile remnants and a treasured hand-carved block print of mine to create some holiday ornaments and accessories my great-great grandmother would be proud of. All the art I create pays homage to the resilience and ingenuity my ancestors displayed as they homesteaded on the prairies of Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico.

As a participant, I am asked to pledge my commitment to helping fellow artisans rock the holiday season by sharing ideas and encouragement. See my pledge below.

In the meantime, I will give you a peek at some of the materials I'll be using for my eco goodies. I'll post more photos as they become available. Cheers to Danielle, Etsy -- thank you for the inspiration. Happy holidays!

100% organic cotton thread

block printed hemp/organic cotton + organic linen textiles (non-toxic ink)

I, Mandy Behrens, pledge to participate in the Etsy Success Holiday Boot Camp to the best of my abilities. I vow to check in every week, do my homework and support my fellow Holiday Boot Campers. I will read the weekly newsletters and blog posts, check in on the weekly forum thread, read the weekly blog post, check off the checklists and salute the mascot. I promise to share what I've learned with those who need it, support my fellow Etsy indiepreneurs and, most of all, have a positive and persistent attitude. I understand that together we can spread the word about our handmade and vintage goods, making this holiday season a more unique and meaningful one to gift givers and give-ees everywhere!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

my sketchbook - no. 3

Last year I carved a wreath block print for use with textiles and non-toxic, water-based inks. I wanted to create something that reminded me of the winters of Colorado. I decided to stamp it in my sketchbook. Then I decided to include a swatch of my organic linen fabric bearing a garnet wreath print (sewn into the book). The last image is of my kitchen yesterday when I was scouring some hemp/organic cotton fabric in preparation for natural woad dye. I'm grateful for this project.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

my sketchbook - no. 2

Here are a few more images from my "If you lived here" sketchbook project. The duncan phyfe sofa above is one of my all-time favorite possessions (we scored it at a garage sale in 2003 and restored it to it's early 1900s glory). The jade seen in all my photos is a treasure from our 2002 trip to Chengdu, China where we adopted our first daughter, Laria.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

my sketchbook - no. 1

I was born to create. I've dabbled in drawing, painting, sewing, decorating, even writing. What matters most is that I keep my "creative" on to be the best person I can be. My sketchbook goes everywhere with schools, karate practice, on walks and everywhere in between.

Here's the first installment of sketches from my sketchbook. Over the course of this project (ends mid January) you'll see that I sometimes like preciseness, but mostly not. I relish the abstract, the weathered, the imperfect. I hope you find some meaning in what you see.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I am extremely fortunate to live near Earthues, a premier source of natural dye extracts and colorants serving artisans and industry for more than 30 years. I just love that they are committed to fair trade, non-toxic, culturally sensitive colors and dyes, and teaching the art of sustainable natural-dye techniques. My hat is off to these pioneering ladies!

In addition to offering a vast array of stunning dyes cultivated from around the world, Earthues provides exceptional customer service and an abundance of technical expertise. Case in point: yesterday I met with partner Kathy Hattori to discuss my upcoming woad project using hemp/organic cotton and hemp/silk charmeuse textiles. Not only did Kathy help me choose the correct mordants, color changers, scour, and supplies to get started, she set aside extra time to share her technical know-how and personal experiences with making "mother vats" of dye, mordanting fabric, and dipping. She gave me advice on which type of stock pot to buy and instructions for each step in the dye process. We even talked about our love for Bleu de Lectoure and her recent May visit to this tannery in France.

Kathy is a gem and I'm so grateful for all her assistance. Please consider Earthues for your next dye project. If you can't stop by their Seattle studio, visit them here for a list of retailers or here to place an order online. You won't be sorry.

Friday, September 10, 2010

the incomparable andrew wyeth [repost]

South Cushing, 1955 - tempera on panel

Art has always been a part of me, especially painting. I credit this gift to my mother who in her own right is an exceptional painter. She is the one who introduced us kids to Andrew Wyeth's body of work. My attraction was immediate and resolute.

So imagine my delight when I came across Andrew Wyeth Autobiography - Introduction by Thomas Hoving, a compilation of 133 tempera, drybrush, and watercolor paintings and pencil sketches spanning Mr. Wyeth's 60 years of paintings. Included on the pages are stories about each painting by the artist himself...simply awe-inspiring!

Here are just a few of Mr. Wyeth's paintings (one with narrative) that resonate with me:

Weatherside, 1965 - tempera on panel

"I wanted Weatherside to be a true portrait of the house--not a picturesque portrait, but one I'd be satisfied to carry around in my wallet to look at because I knew this house couldn't last. I did it purely for myself. I had this feeling that it wouldn't be long before this fragile, crackling-dry, bony house disappeared. I'm very conscious of the ephemeral nature of the world. There are cycles. Things pass. They do not hold still..."

Curtain Call, 1979 - watercolor/paper

The Pantry - watercolor/paper

Pantry Window -- watercolor/paperThe Milk Room - watercolor/paper

All images sourced here.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

no better than this

I feel so lucky because I've seen John Mellencamp perform at the amazing Red Rocks Ampitheater. Now I'm enjoying his latest album No Better Than This via this video of the title track. My only complaint is that I'd rather see more of John than the dancing woman, although I can see why she's so moved. Enjoy.