Monday, November 16, 2015

Artful Dodger

We're having more noon gloom than June gloom here in Kansas City.  Yesterday a friend texted at 4:30 saying, "Does it seem like it's getting dark already?" Still, there's no reason to give in to it - better to seek a little sunshine.

I've gone back again and again to Los Angeles art dealer, Maggie Kayne's, modern home for inspiration.  The Architectural Digest feature produced by Mayer Rus is the freshest thing I've seen on paper or screen for a long time.  Architectural pedigree? Sure. Iconic furniture design? Yes.  Bold and arresting art? Of course.  But there's something fresh and remarkably un-decoratory about her home.  It seems so personal.  It reminds me of House & Garden.  Okay, when one starts to get nostalgic about magazines, it's time to sign off.

You can see the entire feature here.

Image, Architectural Digest, December 2015.  Photography Douglas Friedman, produced by Mayer Rus, styled by Michael Reynolds.

Friday, November 13, 2015


I spoke to a group of women a couple of weeks ago and my talk focused on creativity.  A few months before I was having drinks with a friend who is a designer and we were talking about what I should do next.  She said, "When you're creative, you just have to see where the energy takes you." I agreed with her sentiment, but I thought she was talking about herself.  I waited for the segue into her advice for me, then I realized that she thought I was creative.

It's not how I thought of myself.  I thought of myself as organized, administrative, logical. This one conversation sent me down a path, less of discovery than recognition. I began to think about how we have these invisible tags safety-pinned to our psyche and how they steer us and inhibit us as we move through our lives.

When I write I know that I will start from a place of chaos and that, eventually - usually just on or past deadline - everything will click in my head and I will begin to rearrange the words that had henceforth been higgledy-piggledy into some sort of order.

But when I decorate or draw or paint, I often begin in insecurity.  I begin convinced that I won't be able to do it, but that I can always tidy up whatever mess I make. This is how I felt after the daisies.  That the entire project was all wrong. That I could not do it.  That I was in over my head. Very clearly, I knew that I was not an artist.

What I did was not give up, but keep going.  I'm less fearless than stubborn. I realized later, that this adjective - creative - that I refused to give myself, was based less in reality than in a poorly defined concept of what it is to create.  As we look at paintings and the glossy pages of magazines, we forget that things do not always go well the first time.  The best outcomes are often the result of painting over, of trying again, of recognizing our shortcomings and giving it another go. What a shame it would have been to give up because of a few unfortunate daisies and never know the joy of having a pink dining room decorated with enormous blooms.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bracelets I Cannot Afford

Bracelets I Cannot Afford is an on-going and irregular series of what are usually large and chunky things I would like to have wrapped around my wrist.  Last night I attended a very lovely cocktail party at Tivol (beautifully and deliciously catered by Jo Marie Scaglia) featuring the work of Marco Bicego.  Bicego's pieces are lively and undeniably wearable.  The cases were two and three people deep.  I'll work a little harder when it comes to jewelry and I did nudge my way in to see the wares.  There were lots of pretty things, but it was this bold and graphic bracelet that I circled to see three times.  Perhaps the article on Flora Crockett was still bouncing around my brain, but I wanted nothing more than to feel the links against my skin as the colorful stones winked back, reassuring me that the universe is often random and irregularity has its own appeal.

Monday, November 9, 2015

New Dining Room, New How-To, Part II

These may be the worst pictures I've ever taken, and I've taken some pretty poor ones in the last eight years.  I snapped these for my benefit - not so much to publish - but, we're all friends here so what the hay.

 I've never liked pink.  Even as a girl I don't remember liking pink, but suddenly about a year-and-a-half ago pink began to appeal.  She seemed warm and pretty and flattering instead of cloying and juvenile and ick. This is Ben Moore's Queen Anne Pink, which is close to a Fowler-y pink, though less red (I think.)

I liked it, you know - the process.  I knew that I would.  Entirely unconstrained. I paint at night, when the house is quiet.  I should be tired, but I'm excited as I dip the brush in the can and pull one flat edge against the side, watching the excess fall back into the pail and fill the narrow trough that rings the rim.  

I loved the freedom of this project. When I painted the other mural, I worked close.  I was eye-to-eye with the blossoms and branches.  But this time, I stretched the brush up over my head as far as my hand would reach.  I loved the indulgence of moving my whole arm, of turning my wrist and watching the petals appear.

But I hated the daisies.  I hated them at first sight.  I kept thinking I would grow to like them. They were just as I'd imagined them to be, except that I thought they would delight me and I loathed them instead.  There was only one thing to do.  I painted over and started again.

Part III, the finale (far from grand) tomorrow.  (Really, it might be tomorrow.  Three posts in three days. Who knew?)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

New Dining Room, New How-To, Part I

It all started last year down on the farm with Ann Marie Gardner and her Gucci dress.  Those hand-drawn (looking) flowers made me a little itchy to start messing with my walls again. I had wanted to paint the walls of my dining room, but did not want to repeat the mural I'd done before. It wasn't until this flaxen-haired milkmaid appeared in her $2000 frock and Hunter boots that I knew what I wanted.

The flowers on the dress reminded me of the happy blooms of Paule Marrot.  I liked the idea of the flowers feeling more like illustration than representation. Still, I turned it over for a while before I settled on a plan.  I wanted to paint flowers on my dining room walls and I thought I would paint them in white silhouette as I had before, but I did not want to do what I'd done before.  Because, well, I'd done that.  It was time for something new.

For several years I'd wanted to paint a room with flowers so big that it made you feel as if you were in the midst of a flower bed.  I didn't think I could quite pull off my fantasy, but I knew that I would, at least, enjoy working in that scale.

I began as I had before.  I gathered a few tools and I practiced.

This is the second time I've shown one of my tests of surface and brush.  I know you're thinking, "She should have stopped right there." But the point of the practice is not to get it exactly right.  Rather, I just try and get a feeling for the movement that the shape will require.  Once I have that, it doesn't matter so much what the poster board-with-the-book-report-on-the-back (saved for just such an occasion) looks like.  Once my hand knows what my eye wants, it's time to begin.

More, likely tomorrow.  But, you know how things go around here.  No, really, I'm aiming for tomorrow.

Image, top, Harper's Bazaar, date unknown, photography Christopher Sturman. The image of Marrot wreath is from Natural Curiosities.  It is no longer on their site, but many other charming pieces are.  You can find them here.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Love at First Sight

The first time I saw him I thought, "Oh, my.  It's too good to be true." But then he turned up again and again, each time better than the last.  I didn't know if he'd be good for me.  I wasn't sure there was a place for him in my life.  So bold. So vibrant.  So self-assured.  

But the more I got to know him, I realized he didn't always need to be the center of attention.  He could sit quietly (all right, not too quietly) in a corner.  One thing's for sure - I just can't shake him.

If you care anything about decorating, I'm sure that you are aware of Miles Redd's new collection of fabric and wallpaper for Schumacher.  That the product is completely in line with his aesthetic and true to how he lives is not surprise to me.  Authentically is just how Miles does things.  

The product is engaging, but the editorial images have been a delight.  Seems, the whole process was a bit of a party.  "I had a blast working on the collaboration with Schumacher," Miles told me.  "Dara Carponigro, [their creative director] is a design force and we saw eye-to-eye the whole way."

Not completely altruistic, Miles reaped his own rewards. "Personally, I got to make a lot of fabric that I had longed for in the market, which doubled the fun. I suppose I am greedy!" he said.

Still, it's win-win.  There are four or five fabrics I could use right now, including Cubist, pictured top, which I just cannot shake. Pick your favorite here

All images courtesy of F. Schumacher & Co.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Last week my youngest came through the front door and headed straight to the electronic heaven/hell that we recently moved to my oldest's bedroom.  (It's a small house.  If you take up residence somewhere else for nine months, you should expect to find your space modified when you get back.)  I wandered in after him and asked, "Do you like the living room?"

"Huh?" he said.  "Sure.  I told you already." He did, with some effort, provide a little eye contact as he waited for his game to load.

"So you noticed it's different?” I said as I leaned against the doorjamb.

"You moved some stuff to the cabinet where the TV used to be," he said with confidence.

He was referring to Stage One of Moving the Television Out of the Living Room, which had played out the week before.  We rarely watch TV and the boys had mentioned that they wanted a place with a little more privacy to play games with their friends.  We consulted the oldest about moving the TV to his room. (I have forbidden TV in their rooms, so they must all think I'm either softening or losing my mind.) He said, "Yeah, sure."

I looked calmly and steadily at my youngest, his thumb poised over the controller.  He began to squirm a little.

"I moved the entire room around," I said.  "Every single piece of furniture is in a new place.” I smiled. “You walked right through and didn’t notice."

He's the youngest, as I mentioned, so he knows how these things go down.  He put the controller on the floor and said, "Oh, let's go look!"

Do not for a moment think that this was a reflection of his interest, or even good breeding. What he knew was that this was where I was headed and it would be much faster to look, comment politely and get back to his game.

I had moved the furniture around late one night.  There's only one long wall and, while the television resided in this room, that was the only place for it to live.  This meant the sofa had to be across from it, which meant the sofa was in front of the window.  Rosie and Dexter loved this as it made a perfect perch for watching squirrels and the mailman. They know dogs are not allowed on the sofa, but if you put it right under the front window, well, what do you expect? I wasn't happy with this arrangement.  Moving the television meant that I could make sense of this room and how it wanted to be. I could create a little order.

 Moving the sofa, chairs, chest and tables myself is such a normal activity that it's not worth mentioning.  I slid them all around a few times until I thought I'd sorted it out.  The problem was that the completely full bookcase in the back corner needed to move to the other side of the room.  I thought, with great confidence, that I may be able to slide it.  I wrapped my fingers around the supports of the lower shelf, the cool edges pressing into the pads of my fingers, and pulled.  Of course, it did not budge.

This was late in the game, well after midnight, and I was starting to get testy.  Still, I wanted it settled before I went to bed. I decided to begin taking books from the top shelf and work my way down until I'd removed enough to be able to slide the piece.  Grabbing books by the handful or pressing sections between my hands, feeling the muscles across my shoulder blades contract, I began to pile books on the sofa.  With every clean shelf I would try to move the bookcase again.  When only the books on the bottom shelf remained, it relinquished its grip on the southeast corner and slid four inches north.

Once I had the bookcase in place, I turned back to the sofa and the piles of books upon it.  All the books that I keep mean something to me, but I'm less attached to the ones in the living room.  The books that matter most are in my bedroom and they are as important to me as my jewelry.  The books in the living room are not worn or dog-eared.  Either I need them as companions, or I believe I will read them again, or I think I will loan them to a friend. I always arrange them the same way.  It's not so much by genre, as how they relate in my mind: the books I loved in childhood, fiction and biographies that touched a nerve, a smattering of mysteries.

I did not have the energy to sort all that out at one o'clock in the morning, nor did I want to leave a mess. I piled them back on the shelves willy nilly and that is how they remain.  The youngest did not comment on this as he surveyed the new arrangement.  He either didn't notice (which is likely) or was in a hurry to return to his game (which is certain).  “This is great,” he said.  “Before, you saw the TV first thing when you walked in and it made it seem like we are about TV, which we’re not.  This is better.”  Then he headed back to defeat his virtual enemy, unaware of the irony.

All week I’ve thought I would pile the books on the sofa and begin to logically sort them back on the shelves.  Yesterday, my mood as grey as the weather, I sat and looked at their disorderly piles.  The rest of the room is twinned.  I tend to buy pairs and this leads to a case of over-symmetry that I always have to work to stir up.

In my gloom, I decided to leave the bookcase as it is. Not because I lacked the motivation, but because it’s more interesting like this.  The comfortable memories of childhood rest upon mysteries.  Love stories touch tragedy.  Enduring works mix with entertaining nonsense that will soon be forgotten.  Everything is still there and I will be able to find what I’m after. Perhaps it’s better to show a little chaos rather than lining everything up in neat rows.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Live an Extraordinary Life

I was aware of India Hick's book, Island Style, which was published earlier this year, but I hadn't picked it up.  There are some design books that I buy because they enable me to clean out a pile of tear sheets (though, honestly, I rarely do the cleaning out.) Some I get because they offer me a new perspective from the designer.  Magazine features are, after all, short. Books often give designers a little more room to talk.

I wanted these familiar images of Hick's home on Harbour Island in the Bahamas,which she shares with her partner and five children. I wanted them as a reminder of how one can hold on to one's past, both burnished and blemished, and fold it in with the ever-evolving present.  Her home reminds me that the best of old can be mashed up with not only the new, but with organic pieces that hold energy of memory and experience.

Once I had the book, however, I found myself delighted by the narrative.  It's refreshing that Ms. Hicks has written the copy herself and that she has such an engaging voice.  "In the beginning, everyone wanted a pure design book," Hicks told me.  "But I didn't want to write about the color of the walls.  I wanted to write the emotional journey of living with design."

Hicks is sentimental.  Many pictures include descriptions of where or how something has come to her. Nearly everything has a story.  Along those lines, she has saved a collection of envelopes from over the years.  I was struck by the variety of ways that people addressed her.  Miss, Ms. Mrs. (though Ms. Hicks has not married her partner, David Flintwood, of over twenty years.) It is as if some folks can't quite figure out how she fits in the world as she has followed an untraditional path.

She has done the figuring out for herself. The book includes stories of travel and travail. "I've led an unexpected life," she says.  "Sometimes my mother's history and my father's success in his life of design made it difficult to find my own way.  Travel was the best education.  It gave me a different understanding of the world and helped me find who I was as a designer.  Coming to the Bahamas enabled me to find my own voice and my partner, which eventually led me to the courage to say, 'I am a designer.'"

Hicks has designed homes and bedding and fine jewelry in the past. Now she is in the midst of launching a new business.   "I had stretched as a person.  I used to think I'd grown quite a bit, but I didn't want to stop.  I wanted to keep growing," she says. To this end, she has launched a product line currently consisting of jewelry, bags, beauty products and accessories. Rather than focusing on retail locations, she is developing local partners, or "ambassadors," to rep the products.

"It's no longer just about me and my team.  There are currently about five hundred women - an amazing community - who are with us starting businesses of their own.  Many smart and accomplished women take on the roles of wife and mother and lose who they are.  We are able to work together to take that back without the expense of their other roles."

If you follow Hicks on Instagram, you'll see that she is on a tour of the States that looks fun and energetic, but also grueling.  "I feel like I haven't slept for a year," she says.  "But I'm fueled up by it."

You can find more about the book, the new line and Ms. Hicks's life here.

The top three images - excluding the fuzzy one, which is mine - were photographed by the ever charming Miguel Flores Vianna. The long table photographed by Vince Klassen and the portrait is Brittan Goetz. All are courtesy of Rizzoli.  The final image I swiped, with good intent, from the site.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mrs. B at KC Needlepoint

I will be at KC Needlepoint on Wednesday, October 14th from 11 a.m - 2 p.m.  Please stop in and say "hello!" If you can't be there, you can find my designs on their site here.

Monday, October 5, 2015

On the Grid

When I am writing for work the words flow just fine.  When I am writing here, which I think of as running scales, snapshots of my life transform into paragraphs quicker than I can tap them out. Often they are lost, left on the conveyor belt of the grocery store or the pillow on which I laid my head to recover from a rare and ridiculous hangover.


But the story that I want to tell, of how home has affected me since I was small, sticks.

Orange Blossoms

I've written long hand, which is my preference. I've written on my desk top computer, staid and stationary.  I've written on my laptop in different rooms of my house as well as parks and coffee shops, wandering to find my muse.  But when I read back over what I've written there's no rhythm.  

Show Off (Peony)

Plodding and pedestrian, I only keep it as some sort of pre-writing that has captured facts that I don't want to lose.  I don't want to admit that it was a waste.  Of time.  Of energy.  Of ink.

Mums the Word (Chrysanthemum)

Sitting at the large round table in my dining room to paint is different.  It is not effortless and there are lots of mistakes and many starting overs, but I am finding lightness here.  Here, I find my groove.

Roly Poly

Painting feels as natural and essential as writing has in the past. I am trying to open myself up to it and stop judging what I should or should not be doing.

Dancing Girl

The boys and dogs don't notice a difference. At least they have not mentioned that the writing mess of legal pads and pages of text scratched through with my thick black pen has been replaced with canvas and brushes and small bottles of paint.  If they're aware that I pull on the same tattered and splattered jeans every day and that my hair is always in a ponytail, they're not concerned.  Their trains, as it were, are still running on time. Mine, too, I suppose.  It's just running in a different direction.

Something to Crow About

KC Needlepoint has very graciously offered to feature my work for the month of October.  This is the first group of canvases; I'll post the rest when they are available. You can find them on their site, here.  If you have questions, please feel free to email or comment here.