The timeless art of The Prairie – a gentle retreat

viviUntil I was asked to teach at the Vivi Magoo art retreat, I had never heard of The Prairie, a meeting and event venue in Round Top, Texas. People from all over the country fly in to Austin or Houston to stay at The Prairie, but since it’s just a couple of hours away from San Antonio, we drove up on a quiet Monday to check it out. I knew it had been founded by Rachel Ashwell (the inventor of “Shabby Chic”) but I was curious to see how art classes would work there.

Now that I’ve seen it, I can’t wait for next week to get here! We saw no one when we first drove up to the collection of lovely old houses and barns – the only sound was the breeze, and the only signs of life were the white linen sheets blowing on the clothesline and a white horse in the pasture.

We explored a bit, and then found Sarah, a lovely young woman who was readying the main house for next week’s gathering. The whole place is otherworldly and serene – I really felt as if I had gone back in time. Here’s a collection of photos that I took while we were there – it’s truly a beautiful environment. If you want information on the upcoming Vivi Magoo retreat, click here. And if you want to visit The Prairie, you’ll discover it down a secluded gravel road about five miles out of Round Top, Texas – but be prepared to find yourself in another time zone!

Seth Apter, master of mixed media and a darn nice guy

Seth Apter had been an Art Hero of mine long before I heard he was coming to Texas from NYC. His work is a fusion of fine art, accessible craft and  mixed media exploration that I so often try to achieve. Only he does it consistently, and seemingly effortlessly. Check out his work and you’ll see what I mean.

On Thursday I got a chance to  work with him in person (woohoo) at his all-day Collage Camp workshop sponsored by Roadhouse Arts. I learned a lot about collage techniques, and even more about approaches to teaching. Seth is a master at constructive critique. All of us appreciated his feedback. I only wish I could have taken the next thresethe days of classes with Seth, but, alas, I needed to be in Bulverde for the opening of my encaustic show, Coeur Samples, with Michelle Belto.

But guess who showed up at our opening at Dan Pfeiffer’s Gallery yesterday evening – Seth! He came with Bulverde friends Lisa and John Meyer. What a treat! I told him that having him there definitely added to the show’s mojo!

One of the things that makes Seth such a fine teacher is the way he organizes his classes, step by step, and in a logical way that helps you internalize the steps and elements. In the Collage Camp, we started with a series of eight small collages, each of which demonstrated one of Seth’s design principals.  These will serve as an informal reference book for future work. Here are some photos from our day together – what a fantastic group with an unforgettable teacher.

You’ll enjoy looking around Seth Apter’s website – he told us that he’s getting ready to launch a new line of mixed media tools and products that will enhance anyone’s mixed media work, info at the link below – I am grateful to have met him – isn’t learning new stuff fun?


Dyeing to Show and Tell


New painting by Lesta Frank, from Sunday’s Show and Tell

From dyeing on Saturday to Show and Tell on Sunday, this weekend rocked. It started with an afternoon of small-space dyeing with Rosemary Uchniat and ended with a Show and Tell with the usual suspects and some new ones, as well. Part of Show and Tell is always sharing upcoming shows, so here are two to pass along:

Small-Space Dyeing has become one of the fastest sold-out workshops at the Studio. Rosemary’s unique formula for fabric dyeing success produces fun, no fail results every time, even for novices. Take a look at the video from Saturday.

Sunday’s Show and Tell photo gallery gives you a clue to the diversity and talent of the participants – everything from Acrylics to Zentangle – I am grateful to the generous and highly creative people who share their ideas with all of us at  these get-togethers.

milagroLast but not least, the winner of the Friday Freebie heart milagro is lucky SHARDS subscriber #134, Arwen Lynch Poe, a friend who has just moved from Texas to New Mexico. Arwen, send me your new address and I’ll send you this little gift to remind you of how much we miss you!

I had lots of requests for info about this piece, and I plan to have some for sale at the Black Saturday Studio sale on November 28th with Lesta Frank and Alison Schockner! Happy Monday, everyone, and thanks, as always, for reading SHARDS.

I HEART Friday Freebies

Here’s a little love charm for you – I’ve made a few of these earthenware pieces from a press mold of a large sacred heart milagro. This one is about 4″ high and has been adorned with some silver straw stars and rainbow ribbon. If you are a SHARDS subscriber by midnight on Sunday (old or new) you will be in a random drawing for this little guy.


Also, if you are in San Antonio, please come by the Studio for Show and Tell on Sunday from 2-4 – and have a wonderful weekend!

Beeswax collage workshop – personal and inspired

The beautiful visual stories seemed almost to create themselves in Sunday’s Beeswax Collage workshop at the Studio. Participants were given a limited choice of vintage images, some basic collage and texture materials, and some beeswax, walnut ink, and gold leaf. Then, as one person said, “The magic is happening!”

Sunday’s workshop was a delightful combination of the perfect medium paired with the perfect group – everyone had a chance to take risks, make decisions, and turn “mistakes” into assets in their work. And they did it! Take a look at some photos from the workshop.

Congratulations to all of the artist and bravo for the great work – and now, for a commercial break. If you want to see how this beeswax collage process works, I have written an e-book called Behind the Veil that explains this process step-by-step, including where to find free vintage images. It can be yours to download for a mere $5.99 heck, a fancy latte costs more than that!

But wait, there’s more – no, actually, that’s all for now. It was a great workshop and I thank everyone who participated! Have a lovely  Monday, everyone.

Mood indigo

Part of the fun of teaching a new workshop is the research (aka play) that goes into developing a curriculum and a process. Michelle Belto and I have a chance to teach a class in indigo, shibori and rust dyeing for Vivi Magoo at The Prairie in early November, and we jumped at the chance. I had done shibori and rust dying, but had not worked much with indigo (OK, I so had never worked with indigo, but don’t tell anybody).

Like learning most new things, learning indigo dye techniques was a combination of asking people how to do it and practicing on my own. It’s an amazing substance – this plant has been used for dyeing since 2400 BC, and maybe earlier. Cakes of indigo were used as currency in the Revolutionary War. Once dyed, indigo is so colorfast that it can last for centuries or even millennia. Here’s a video of my first indigo adventure.

I have a lot more to learn about creating color with indigo, but yesterday I worked on learning some basic techniques, mixing the indigo properly, and experimenting using paper and fabric. The deep blue-greenish color is a natural partner for the terra-cotta shades of rust dyeing. I really can’t wait to teach these classes at the retreat and share this wonderful process! Hope you’ll think about joining us at Vivi Magoo at The Prairie on November 3rd. I promise that it won’t make you bluewell, maybe it will.

Miro at the McNay – prepare to be astonished

The Miro exhibit, currently on view at the McNay Art Museum until January 10, 2016, is full of surprises. We went yesterday with our friends, artist Pablo Solomon and his wife, Beverly (their cat is named Miro, so you know they are huge fans of the Spanish painter).

The first surprise was the astonishing scale of the paintings. These things are huge! Pablo and I both said that we expected “normal sized” painting from the photos we had seen in catalogs, but these works were six, eight, ten feet tall, some in gigantic frames with glass as big as skyscraper windows. Miro’s colorful shape-figures of birds and women dance around within these huge canvases like playful giants. It’s so much fun!

The second surprise, at least for me, were the delightful sculptures, each with a rich industrial-like patina on bronze, and all constructed from sand-cast assortments of goofy objects that worked to form creatures with vast appeal. I felt like applauding!

The final surprise was realizing that all of the 50+ works in the show were created in Miro’s later years, the last 20 years of his life. It seems to be a journey back to the celebration and simplicity of a personal artistic language. The catalog says, “In his quest to transcend the idea of easel painting, the pictorial space is enlarged across expanded canvas fields, on which calligraphic signs reach maximum intensity through minimum resources, reflecting the artist’s attempt to reach a square one of painting. . .” I dare you not to get a little teary when you walk into the room with the last three paintings, huge white canvases with a very few spots of color, a star, a dotted line – all seeming to be exiting the playing field. Beautiful.

Good friends Beverly and Pablo Solomon pay homage to the mater, Miro - what an exhibit!

Good friends Beverly and Pablo Solomon pay homage to the master, Miro – what an exhibit!

So do what I tell ya – go have a nice lunch at Twin Sisters with some good friends, and then get yourself over to the McNay just down the block. Pay the special exhibit ticket price – it’s worth every dollar – and prepare to be astonished.

PS The whole city is celebrating Miro – here’s a list of special Miro-inspired treats, from jewelry to decadent chocolate cake that will be on hand during the run of the exhibit.