Fulfilling feeling

Kaia, 25, Minneapolis.

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I signed up for Photoshop classes. Sometimes experimenting in actual oil paint can be overwhelming because in the back of my head I’m just thinking, “Don’t waste paint, don’t waste paint!” Experimenting with digital painting and photo manipulation seemed like help me feel less inhibited as I’m coming up with new ideas.

The downside? Six hour classes = serious burning sensation in eyes…

This little guy got a fancy makeover and a new home in New Jersey.

After selling a painting, it’s so exciting to see how the buyer incorporates the work into their home.

I sold the painting on the far right a couple of weeks ago, and the buyer was kind enough to send this lovely photo of the piece framed and hung.

I love her style - pink walls; cool, geometric rug; and a mix of contemporary and vintage art.

Are you doing the January Cure?

I read Apartment Therapy pretty much every day — it’s incredible how much content they produce, enough to keep up with even my short attention span.

I haven’t done the January Cure before, but this year, now that I’ve lived in my place by myself for about 15 months, I had enough crap and potential projects to schedule into a month-long bonanza.

I couldn’t have gotten anything done without space to rearrange and organize, so the first thing I did was to clean out my craft cabinet and 3 closets.

Ughhhh. I had a lot of stuff that I kind of knew that I needed to get rid of, but I didn’t realize how much it would be.

I love to shop at Goodwill because I like to take things that are worhtless and make them useful again. I feel kind of guilty when I end up not being able to make them actually useful, so I’ll just save them to use later. By doing that, I’d acquired a ton of pillows, fabric, rags for crafts, and storage containers. Without realizing it, I’d also been hoarding cardboard boxes under my bed.

I do end up selling many of the things that I find at Goodwill by upcycling them and putting them on Etsy. Seeing how much stuff I still hadn’t sold after having it in my shop for a year made me feel a little bad, but it felt much better to just say “screw it” and get it out of my house.
After I loaded all the donation stuff into my car and threw out some other stuff, I tidied up my closets and cabinet. It’s nice to have so much space again.
I’ve also sold 3 paintings and some housewares this week…on Etsy it pours when it rains. That made me feel good, obviously, about being able to make things that people do find beautiful and useful, and now I have some monies that I can spend on curtains and a new table from Craigslist without, of course, buying so much stuff as to fill my closets again : )

Want to try your hand at making your own lacquered and leafed box? What you’ll need:

1. Something to leaf. You can buy cute little boxes at a Paper Source or any craft store, find them at a thrift store or refurbish something you already own.

2. Get your gold leaf. I bought this starter kit at a nearby Blick art store. I would not spend more than $10-12 on this, and the leaf I got in this starter kit was enough to cover two small jewelry boxes, the inside of a small bowl, and a 12” tall toy horse. A lot was also wasted in my first attempts. That’s an easy-to-convert unit of measurement for you!

3. Black spray paint. A simple matte black from Home Depot is what I used.

4. Lacquer spray paint, also very inexpensive at Home Depot.

5. A couple of cheap brushes to apply the adhesive sizing. This stuff is incredibly sticky and hard to remove from bristles, so I wouldn’t recommend using your favorite brushes.

Ok, are we ready?! Yeah!!!

For quick and dirty directions, look at this Design Sponge DIY, which doesn’t give any step by step info.

First, spray paint your little object with your base spray paint color. If you have any drips, sand them down and spray paint again. The gold leaf is very thin and will pick up the texture of any object it’s applied to; you won’t want those drips showing through. Go easy on the sanding if you’re working with a cardboard craft box, because you don’t want to rough up the actual paper.

Ok? Ok! Good job! You’re ready for the next step!

Now it’s time to apply your gold leaf. As you can see in the first picture, I did a simple triangle pattern. I free-handed it, but you could lightly draw on your pattern with a pencil to follow it, too.

*You will want to work on a solid surface, like wood or glass, because once the sizing starts flying, the gold leaf will stick to anything and everything.

*The gold leaf comes in a little book with each leaf sandwiched between sheets of tissue paper (see pictures 2 and 3). This can make it a little tricky to pull out a whole square intact, because it is sewn into a binding and is likely to tear.

*The imitation gold leaf is also incredibly responsive to static electricity, so it twitches a bit as you try to pick it up. This makes working with whole sheets very difficult. It also gets a bit jumpy as it nears the adhesive sizing on the object: it wants to stick to it asap, and will twist and fold around as you try to apply it.

*That’s why I suggest cutting out the shapes from your book to create many small triangles, squares, or what have you, instead of trying to cut them out of individual sheets or imitation gold leaf. I would also recommend having a plate or some other more non-sticky surface to keep your gold leaf separate on and minimize the risk of wasting it by having it stick to things.

So, you’ve cut your little shape out and now you have a whole stack of little gold leaf triangles sandwiched between tissue paper triangles, as in picture 4 (or whatever shape). Right now, while your hands are not sticky, delicately separate the gold leaf from the tissue paper so that your little gold triangles are all ready and waiting on your separate gold leaf work space (see picture 5).

Pour a bit of sizing in a cup, as in picture 6. The plastic bottle is easy to tip over, and you don’t want to spill this thin glue everywhere.

Now use one of your brushes to paint on your design in adhesive sizing. Your gold leaf directions recommend that you wait till the adhesive sizing is dry but tacky, but I think this increases the chances of making mistakes and ripping the leaf. You have more flexibility to correct your mistakes as you go if you work while the sizing is wet.

While the sizing is still wet, then, use your wet brush to pick up your leaf pieces. Touching them gently with the wet brush should be enough to pick them up, and you can use another wet brush or your finger to help tap each piece of leaf into its desired place.

As you place your gold leaf, don’t worry too much if it tears or wrinkles; you can always place another piece of leaf over it and it will not be noticeable. It’s totally fine to overlap pieces of gold leaf, and the wrinkles are pretty and, let’s face it, inevitable. The most important thing is to stay “in the lines” of your design. If you don’t, you can always go back and touch up and paint over lines and errors with a little spray paint in a bowl and a brush.

I also suggest covering each piece of leaf with some adhesive sizing as you go. Keeping it wet will help keep it from sticking to an errant finger tip or piece of tissue paper, and set you up to place another layer of gold leaf on the piece if you desire.

Alright. So, you’ve applied your design to the best of your ability. Now let that sucker dry. Give it a day at least, probably two. I know you’re antsy, but wait.

Now you can go back and apply gold leaf to any areas that have errors. To fix up areas that you intended to leave your base color, you can spray some spray paint into a bowl so it pools and you can dip a brush in it. Work quickly with one of your brushes to paint on the spray paint where it’s needed.

Looking good? Good! Once you’re happy with your object, apply a couple coats of lacquer spray paint. Voila! You’ve made your own lacquered, leafed box!

RenoI’m a renter, so there’s really only so much I can do to fix the bones of my apartment. The kitchen and bathroom tile, the carpet, the subway tile in the bathroom, all of that is staying, and that’s that.

Even though not all of it is clean or in particularly good condition: the carpet is mostly plastic, so it’s picked up some burning and melty marks in its day, the bathroom tile is brown, and the walls themselves have layers of fuxx and hair and dust sealed in along with each coat of paint. It’s gross.

But, one thing I can do is reseal the funky grout in my bathroom.

So last week, I picked up some Poly Blend Grout Renew at Home Depot and went to work painting in onto each line of grout. It is so white and shining. I love it.

If you have some episodes of Scandal you want to watch, and five hours on your hands, give it a try.

Last Friday, I had the sick day from hell.

Uh, I don’t know how many of you follow Minneapolis weather news, but it has been really, really cold up here. On Monday, January 6th, and Tuesday, January 7th, the governor closed all public schools so those little childrens wouldn’t have to wait for the bus or have their little noses exposed to the windchill.

And that was when my heat broke. I texted my building caretaker on Monday morning — the apartment below me had a leaky ceiling, so a handyman was supposed to be there Monday during the day to fix it. When I texted him Monday night, it turned out that the handyman’s car wouldn’t start that morning, blah blah blah. Tuesday, still no heat. Wednesday, Thursday: no heat.

So on Thursday night I finally emailed my landlord that I hadn’t had heat since Sunday. I expected him to be concerned and helpful…erm, wrong.

Instead he asked me, “Are any of your windows open?”

….?!?!?! What the f@&%!??

He had CC’ed the caretaker, too, and asked him to bleed the pipes that run water through my radiator, which is a baseboard vent system.

Meanwhile, that day I had work I had noticed that I was getting sick…sore throat, worried it was strep.

Friday morning, I was home sick, whiling away the day in a restorative couch stupor. Suddenly I heard a gurgling noise like a one of those milk steamers on an espresso steam. And then the spurting; just water seeping out of the baseboard vents onto the tile in my kitchen, the carpet behind my couch, the base of a floor lamp.

Then the next 7 hours are a really unpleasant blur. The water was leaking through my downstairs neighbor’s ceiling. A handyman had just arrived at the building, and he told both of us we needed a plumber asap.

A plumber arrived, and said there were 5 leaks in the pipe so, no, there hadn’t been any heat in my apartment.  He replaced the pipe in my living room. Then we went to look at the ventilator in my bedroom, which is behind my bed. To look at it, we’d have to move my old, dried out wooden bed.

The plumber asked, “Is it pretty solid?”

And I said, “No.”

Then, we very foolishly tried to move it.

And one of the posts snapped. The dry old wood had a slot where you insert the bar on each side that connects the headboard with the baseboard; some wood splintered there.

At that point, I also snapped.

I left a message for my caretaker and for my landlord, neither of whom I’d heard from yet that day despite my calls, and, umm, may have dropped some f-bombs.

Anyway! Long story short, the heat is finally fixed. My landlord is prorating the days I was without heat, will reimburse me for the fixes on my broken bed, and even kind of apologized in a “sorry, not sorry, it probably wasn’t even that cold” sort of way.

I can’t even imagine what home ownership is like.

Yay! Just sold this weird little guy to a nice home in Virginia.

Last year for Christmas or Valentine’s Day (winter is a blur), my boyfriend gave me 3 vintage Norwegian dishes. They’re part of the hand-painted Lotte series that the Norwegian Figgjo Flint company produced. (I gave him these framed collages.)

This year, he got me an adorable coffee cup and saucer.

Who knew that the man was also so good at giving presents?

Images are pieces from the series that are currently on sale at Etsy. Dish is at Tienda Nordica, cup at Earth’s Trove.

Earlier this month, my work team and I went out for lunch at The Lowbrow to celebrate the year. The South Minneapolis cafe has a very cute, silly mural along one wall. A giant bear growls over the serene paint by number landscape.

As my coworkers and I were talking about plans for the holidays, my eyes kept sliding away from the table and to the life size paint by number mural.

The ubiquity, simple compositions and prescriptive palettes of paint by number paintings may relegate them to the lowbrow, but there’s also something really beautiful about them.

Max S. Klein, an engineer and owner of the Palmer Paint Company of Detroit, Michigan. and Dan Robbins, a commercial artist, introduced the first paint by number kits in 1950. So yes, the style is a testament to mass production and a 1950s aesthetic.

Surprisingly, the end result of the process also synthesizes the evocative beauty of two very different styles: relief printing and Impressionism.

Like block prints, paint by number scenes are built out of interlocking, organic shapes that represent artificially unshaded areas of light, shadow and texture. The result is a very static, graphic image.

Yet the bright, natural palette evokes Impressionist works painted en plein air. Impressionists sought to capture the movement of color in an open space:

"Other artists paint a bridge, a house, a boat, and that’s the end. They are finished. I want to paint the air which surrounds the bridge, the house, the boat, the beauty of the air in which these objects are located, and that is nothing short of impossible" (Monet).

(Monet’s style of plein air painting was facilitated by the advent of paint in tubes in the 1870s. Artists had previously ground and mixed their own pigments. Eighty years later, our paint by number artists were receiving their pre-mixed paints with a pre-drafted canvas.)

This lowbrow decor manages to do something that is so difficult in visual art: it pins down those organic shapes that we find so unexpected and beautiful in nature, in the colors that, through the legacy of Impressionism, we associate with air and light, the immaterial.

Back in the highbrow, this is an accomplishment that Fairfield Porter fully realizes in his great paintings. His light and airy paintings resolve in the stillness of unbroken, almost graphic blocks of colors that form his figures.

1. The Lowbrow 2. Horse Tin 3. iPhone Case 4. Art Block 5. Vintage Cottage Painting 6. “Laurence Typing,” Fairfield Porter