Wire Art Jewelry by Mel: I started making jewelry over 10 years ago, even longer if you count some jewelry I made with my father while I was still in grade school. I am basically self-taught with the experience of working with several great artists and teaching. My degrees are in art and psychology from a small liberal arts college. I moved to California to go to grad school, but never made it. I started creating jewelry as my main source of income there and began working for a company (whose name I cannot legally mention) making jewelry showcases for department stores. So, you may have seen my work without even knowing it, since they did not incorporate the artists names. I moved back near Chicago a few years ago and continue my passion for art, working from a studio in Wheaton.
Watercolors are my favorite medium to paint with. I’m always astonished by how each painter is unique in their process and execution of this medium. The following artists are some of my personal favorites. Notice how the use of watercolors change from artist to artist and celebrate the difference with me.
Geninne’s Art Shop is full of intricate watercolor paintings. The artwork here makes me feel like I’m looking at beautifully illustrated scientific classification books. This particular painting, Crafty Bird, would be a cherished gift for your crafty friend or to yourself. I want one for my sewing room!
Several months ago I was fortunate to win a print of Lisa Kaser’s work. I instantly fell in love with all of her quirky characters and the sense of storytelling portrayed in each piece. Her use of gentle colors and humorous scenes invites peace and conversation. You will love the high quality of her work.
I marked CGalla Fine Art as a favorite almost one year ago and I check in every couple of weeks to gaze into the melting colors and movement of the paintings. I can’t get over how much emotion is conveyed from the brush strokes. The up-close faces are my favorite but there are several landscapes and still life paintings as well. This is an exquisite gallery!
I just about fell over when I discovered Be Happy Now. You will be smiling from ear to ear each time you glance at the artwork found there. Calendars, prints, collages and originals are all waiting for you to dive into. I’m fascinated by the lighthearted portraits painted in brilliant color combinations.
Do you love a little mystery in your art? If so, skip on over to Oh My Cavalier. The drawings and prints will have you dreaming of forest adventures and make believe friends. There is a vintage feel to the artwork and the restrained use of color is fantastic. I’m captivated!
As you have seen, watercolors are an intense and quite intriguing medium. Aren’t the different uses and styles wonderful? I hope you found a few artists to add to your favorites and perhaps a piece or two of artwork to add to your ever expanding collection.
In our busy lives these days, we use a lot of disposable things without giving them much thought at all. So much is single-use, single-serving, throwaway packaging—things that are (hopefully) recyclable and that (hopefully) wind up in the recycling bin.
The great thing about today’s eco-friendly artists is that they see a lot of our everyday trash as raw material. Instead of heading to the recycling center (or worse, the landfill), our single-use, throwaway “stuff” gets a beautiful new life as housewares or wearable art.
Take the plastic bottle, for example. We use a lot of plastic bottles. Somewhere near 28 billion single-serving water bottles are used each year in America alone. Yet less than 20 percent of them are recycled. Some estimates are as low as 12 percent.
Armed with a heat gun, or tools as simple as a pair of scissors, artists are making some incredible items out of those bottles. gulguvenc (photos above and below, left) uses a heat gun to shape PET bottles and then pierces them to create amazing bowls and jewelry.
anettesplastics crochets old plastic bottles into amazing jewelry forms like this necklace (above, right) and the rings below, while both arnym (below, left) and ArtworkbyKD (below, right) cut shapes from old bottles to make their jewelry.
The great thing about plastic bottles is that they can be recycled. They can be made into new bottles, or processed into other raw materials, like craft supplies. There are plastic bottle yarns out there now, and felt and fabric made from recycled bottles. But recycling, like the production of the bottles themselves, takes up a lot of energy. Keep that in mind the next time you reach for a bottle of water. It might be worth investing in a reusable bottle to complement your new handmade purchases!
Bottle rings and fruit bowl above also by anettesplastics.
Remember when going to a craft fair meant wandering through a dusty church basement with your grandmother? Recall the mountains of Easter egg-hued pom-pom’ed hats, the macrame plant holders, the toilet paper and Kleenex box cozies? Yeah, you remember. So do I, but times have changed, and mercifully, so have craft fairs.
One of the best known and loved is the Renegade Craft Fair, launched in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois in 2003. It’s now going strong in four additional cities across the U.S.: Austin, Texas; Brooklyn, New York; San Francisco, California; and Los Angeles, California. Its massive success eventually led to the opening of Renegade Handmade, a permanent, brick and mortar extension of the Fair, affording a location for artisans to sell their goods year-round. The shop is sunny and vibrant, with something interesting to look at everywhere you turn.
I caught up with Sue Daly, the owner and one of the founders to ask if she was at all surprised at how these two enterprises have taken off. “I was definitely surprised when we started Renegade, just because there hadn’t been a way to measure the interest in the real world at that point. I knew the DIY craft community had momentum online, but was really happy to see people react so enthusiastically to the Fair and the artists and their work.
“It makes sense in retrospect — everything is so unique compared to what was available at other arts and crafts fairs, and especially what’s available in mainstream stores, and the like. I think bringing the DIY craft scene out, in more of a public marketplace kind of way, introduced people to well-designed items you can use and wear.”
But Sue is more than just an astute business woman with an eye on future trends, she comes from a family where crafting was always going on, and is a talented jewelry maker as well. “My mom was crafty. She was always working on some hobby project. Needlepoint, crochet and knitting mostly. She always wore folksy clothing and jewelry too, and I think I just grew up around interesting little accessories and everything. I’d tag along to the little boutiques and craft stores with her, and I think that inspired me most. When I was about 10 or so, I starting dabbling in jewelry-making and beading.
“So that’s how it all started. But then I grew up and starting making jewelry again in about 2001. I had some success selling pieces to co-workers and online, so I started doing arts and crafts fairs just for fun a couple years later. I couldn’t find an event where I really felt like my work fit in and wished there was a DIY craft fair to participate in. Then it occurred to me that it would be fun to start one. So, along with a friend, we started the ‘Renegade’ Craft Fair that year.”
As the old saying goes, location is everything and Sue possibly couldn’t have picked a better part of town to open her doors. On the day I visited, the shop was bustling with customers and curious passers-by, apparently oblivious to the recession that is plaguing so many retailers. Renegade seems to be fitting right in with the long-standing art and design vibe of the Wicker Park neighborhood. “The neighborhood loves our shop. We’re helping keep the arts alive in Wicker Park, and offer a completely unique shop in Chicago-at-large, too. Since we have a national presence with the fairs, we also get a lot of tourists and destination shoppers too.”
And, as if providing the community with a sunny storefront and shelves, racks, boxes and bowls filled with well-designed, unique handmade crafts isn’t enough, Renegade Handmade also plays host to several events and workshops. The roster of in-store events is as unique and varied as the merchandise. There’s something new to experience every time. “We began having in-store events and teeny gallery shows last September. It’s different all the time, so we don’t have regular workshops we offer or anything like that. We had two artists make things in our front display window one week, and they sold the items that were made at the fair at the end of the week.
“We had Jill Bliss paint us a custom mural in-store, and she had a show of her original drawings and accessories. We had a needle-work showcase featuring over a dozen artists for our last show. Jenny Hart came and gave an embroidery workshop, which was great. It’s been a lot of fun being able to showcase the artists and the work in this kind of way. The art shows fall under our Spotlight Series gallery shows that last about six weeks each time, while the in-stores and workshops are kind of pop-up events.”
And for those who are not local to Chicago, fret not. Since December 2009, Renegade Handmade has been selling online. “It just seemed like the next logical step in growing the store’s presence and success. With our national notoriety, we want give people who aren’t in Chicago the opportunity to buy the handmade goods we have available here.” So, Chicago has its hot dogs, its stuffed pizza, and now there’s Renegade Handmade bringing some of the city’s best handmade crafts to the world. The website is the place to go to learn about upcoming events in the store and at the Fairs, and to shop online. “On February 19th, we’re kicking off a new Spotlight Series event with Mummysam. She makes incredible soft sculptures with all natural materials. I’m a big fan of her work.”
You know what, Renegade Handmade? We’re big fans of you, too.
Renegade Handmade, 1924 W. Division St., Chicago, IL, 60622, USA.
On the web: http://www.renegadehandmade.com
There are so many talented artists out there creating beautiful, functional works of art from re-purposed and recycled materials. One of my favorite trends right now is the application of old re-purposed barn wood into projects like the ones shown in this post.
The handmade owl rack shown above is available at HappyAcresArtworks. It is made from re-purposed barn wood and has been hand painted to give a natural, worn-in look. The artist from HappyAcresArtworks was raised on a 150 acre dairy farm in rural Chester County Pennsylvania and credits her upbringing for her desire to take inspiration from nature in her work. Use this owl rack to organize and hang your treasures in any room. The color scheme of her items are especially well-suited for a nursery or young child’s room.
TrueConnection is another wonderful shop specializing in one of a kind pieces made from reclaimed wood. From their wedding decor to their home decor, each piece is beautifully crafted and has it’s own unique character. The wood used for the items at TrueConnection comes natural with nail holes, knots, and a natural wood grain variation. The farm house entry table shown above is rustic and charming. Use it to keep your shoes off of the floor and out of the doorway and to keep your everyday items like keys, mail, or even your umbrella neatly placed at your home’s entry for easy access.
Last but not least, check out this simple, adorable earring holder from ParadiseHillDesigns. Keep your earrings neatly and artfully organized with this rustic, yet refined handmade frame. The weathered pine used to create this piece was gathered from the side of an old cabin and has been carefully sanded, but otherwise has its natural beauty shining through. The interesting character of each piece of wood is what makes projects like these so beautiful. The artists at ParadiseHillDesigns create many other earth friendly products such as picture frames, decorative boxes, home decor, desk accessories, and more.
Have an item that you created from reclaimed wood?
We’d love to see it! Link to your projects in the comments.