Long-awaited Studio Tour

Remember when I promised you a studio tour approximately one thousand years ago? Well, I thought I’d finally make good! Here’s where I spend my days:

BDA_studio_officeDesk: Obviously a lot of my time is spent here: designing new letterpress imagery, working on freelance design projects, managing social media and of course blogging! I try to keep my desk fairly neat, but let’s be honest, there is usually a bit more clutter!

BDA_studio_deskdetailsEven though I have significantly fewer appointments these days, I still love my planner. I finally discovered the most perfectly designed planner four or five years ago and have ordered the same style online every year since! For lists that need to last more than a week, I prefer a small notepad—the one pictured here is a very fancy letterpress version given to me by a former intern.

The coffee mug was thrown by yours truly in college. I love drinking from a handmade mug, I always taper my mugs at the bottom so they’re perfect to wrap hands around. And I make them extra large so I only need a few refills each morning.

On the right are Bermuda stamps so I’m ready to send a card any time. I love the stamps here—they’re absolutely gorgeous.

BDA_studio_press BDA_studio_press2Now for the lady of the house: I’ve got Bess set up on a rug with a piece of plywood underneath to protect our light-colored tile floors and my feet. With my type cabinet on my left and a clean table to my right for finished product, I’m set up for maximum productivity!

BDA_studio_inkI keep my ink on my type cabinet, as that’s sort of the “dirty zone.” You can ruin an entire run with one inky finger leaving marks on your work, so it’s important to sequester ink and non-clean items in one area and wash your hands A LOT. When I was in my parent’s house that meant going upstairs every time I needed to wash up, so I feel downright spoiled that our kitchen is just 10 feet away.

Anyway, I mix my ink with a putty knife on a thick piece of glass; standard printmaking procedure. I currently use oil-based inks by Gamblin and Graphic Chemical and save my mixed colors in folded-up freezer paper (another product of my printmaking roots). And yes, I always label colors really specifically: robin’s egg, light orchid, plum, often with notes about consistency as well.

BDA_studio_typecase BDA_studio_toolsThe top of my type cabinet is quite warped (imagine that after a century or so), so I lock up my type on the dresser I use for storage (it belongs to our landlords, so I protect it with a plastic cutting board that just happens to match my yellow rug). I didn’t bring all my furniture (which is the wood blocks used to keep the printing plate or type tight in the frame), so I just keep it in a ceramic bowl I threw in college.

Other necessary printing tools: a ruler, screwdriver, masking tape and pencil hang out on the small side table of my press.

BDA_studio_finishingOver on the clean side of things: a small table to lay out freshly printed work, and my cutting mat for trimming and folding. I use a rotary cutter, thanks to my mom who is a quilter. I find that it doesn’t leave the dragging edge of an exacto knife and it’s much easier on your hands!

BDA_studio_dresserThe newest addition to the studio is this dresser, pilfered from the upstairs guest bedroom with Andrew’s help. I was trying to get by with just a few small drawers of storage and it just wasn’t working out. The room is much cleaner and more organized with it!

Above it, I decided to create a sort of inspiration wall. The alphabet was printed by Sugar Cube Press and purchased at Anthology in Madison before I moved. I’ve added other prints I’ve made, photographs, art pieces from my Australian penpal and others, and my own letterpress circle garland.


The Bent Tree Gallery

Recently one of my cards was featured in a treasury alongside a pair of beautiful bent wood chairs. I initially thought they must be miniature furniture, made from the most slender twigs. Once I discovered they were indeed human-sized, I had to know more! Enjoy a little Q & A with Marcia of The Bent Tree Gallery.

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
I’m a rural midwesterner, raised by farmer parents who experienced the Great Depression. I was taught not to waste, so became creative with what we had. We were not poor, just thrifty. I found it was fun, as well as challenging, to create something from available inexpensive raw materials, like wood, recycled fabrics, etc.

How did you learn your craft?
I took a basketmaking class in 1981, and my husband (a farmer) taught himself to make rustic furniture in 1982. The ‘farm crisis’ was in full swing; lots of farmers were going bankrupt. We used our newfound basketry and furniture-making skills to supplement our farm income. We have both since taken a few classes, but the main learning takes place as we create. Any new idea or evolution of an old one helps to make us better craftsmen.

Tell us about your sustainable harvesting practices.
We use wild willow trees almost exclusively for our furniture, candle holders, and wall hooks. This tree species is unappreciated by farmers–it spreads into their fields, grows fast, and makes farming around the edges of the property difficult. Similarly, the highway maintenance crews cut it periodically, as it interferes with their roadside mowing practices. So we have no problem getting permission to harvest…it’s a tree nobody wants (except us!). When we cut, we do it in a way that does not kill the tree. We can go back the following year (if it hasn’t been mowed off, sprayed, etc.) and harvest again. And again.

How has your work evolved?
Our work has evolved over the past 30 years by becoming more refined and more sophisticated. At first we didn’t sand anything, and didn’t use a finish. We didn’t kiln-dry, we didn’t use jigs (contraptions that help insure that every piece is the same size and shape). We made just the basics…chairs, loveseats, end tables. Today we still make the practical items, but they are much more esthetically pleasing. And we do lots of custom orders for people, and also make nonfunctional pieces, like our orbs and our wallscapes.

What is your greatest challenge?
Our greatest challenge is probably time. There are so many pieces we want to make; so many items yet to become reality. So many ideas; so little time.

What inspires you?
We are inspired by nature and we never fail to be amazed and impressed by others’ art. We might see something made from steel, and we think, “how can we do something similar with willow?”

What advice do you have for people looking to take up a new artform?
I would say, “Jump in and try it. Maybe take a class first if you are insecure. Otherwise, find instructions online or use your own common sense to try something new. It may not turn out exactly how you’d envisioned, but you will learn a lot from that
first attempt. Then you can move on from there.”

How does one care for your furniture?
Our furniture is kiln dried and finished with several coats of a hard satin sealer. We do recommend it be placed in a sheltered location. A covered porch is fine, and lots of people keep it inside. Clean as you would any other fine wood furniture. However, you may take it outside once or twice a year and just hose it off, if it’s on the porch and gets dirty or dusty.

How did you discover etsy.com?
Our daughter got us started on Etsy. She had been having success selling her leather handbags (www.stacyleigh.etsy.com) and thought we would benefit from an Etsy shop, too. She was right! Etsy is not our main business; we have a brick-and-mortar gallery (The Bent Tree Gallery) in Clarksville, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River, which is open six days a week. We also have another website, www.thebenttree.com, which generates much of our furniture orders. We also do 2-3 art shows a year.

What advice do you have for new etsians?
It takes a while to build up your sales. Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t selling much for awhile. But do keep your shop active by listing, relisting, answering convos promptly, keeping up with any treasuries you are in, etc. And be sure to provide excellent customer service for those people who do buy your work. This will result in repeat customers, and repeat customers are the best…they are saying, ‘your work is so good I have to have more!’ That is the best kind of encouragement!

Honey, I’m home!

DSCF0197The press is here! In my house! Everyone say it with me, “FINALLY!” My parents loaded up the back of the truck one (last, maybe?) time and hauled the press, one type cabinet and supplies down here a week ago. I spent the day setting up and was printing by Sunday night! I’m really pleased with my new workspace—the smaller of the two bedrooms in the old part of the house, you’re welcome, Mike—it’s big windows and fresh coat of paint make it such a bright place to work. I’m still figuring out the best arrangement for all the furniture in my tiny room, but here’s how I’ve got it worked out right now!

DSCF0199It took me much much more time than it should have to get those shelves level, but I fit all of the cuts I currently have in rotation! Paper storage in the clean white shelves, type cabinet is just to the left of the frame of the picture.

Spruce Home

Amanda Brown and Lizzie Joyce of  Spruce design studio combine their backgrounds in art and their love for vintage decor to update furniture sure to “spruce your space.” And while with a little luck anyone can find a great vintage piece, this duo also has an amazing collection of fabrics with which they reupholster their pieces and a great eye for combining colors.

Furniture Shopping

Since it’s been almost a year since we bought new furniture for our apartment, I thought I’d finally get around to shopping for the miscellaneous pieces we still need — a coffee table and an accent chair or two. This time instead of hitting the huge department stores, I thought I’d start out looking for something made by a real person. I still haven’t decided on anything, but I thought I’d share the shops that are at the top of my list:

Framework Designs coffee table (photo courtesy of Framework Design)
Framework Design's "coffee" table (photo courtesy of Framework Design)

This stunning modern coffee table from Framework Design is as clever as it is beautiful. The indented squares spell out”coffee!” in braille.

Lunar Lounge Design
Lunar Lounge Design

Lunar Lounge Design, while mostly out of my price range, has a fantastic collection of mid-century modern tables and seating that owners Colin and Jonathan make to order. Love their innovative designs and fab color choices.

Michael Arras
Michael Arras
On the other end of the spectrum are these gorgeous natural wood tables from Michael Arras. Each one is completely unique and custom made of organic oval discs finished with your choice of stain.
Revival Home Goods Petite Paisley Chair
Revival Home Goods' Petite Paisley Chair
I’m also loving the fab recovered chairs over at Revival Home Goods. Joan is an avid antique store shopper who finds pieces with great bones and gives them an update. I’m a sucker for all things paisly so this black chair is definately on the short list!
Crook and Cranny cabinet
dust*furniture Crook and Cranny cabinet
Last but absolutely not least: dust*furniture. Their complete disregard for the way furniture “should” be results in gorgeous pieces worthy of Dr. Seuss himself!
dust*furniture Clocks
dust*furniture Clocks