Featured Artist: Jane Foster

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Here is my first and only post this week. The last two weeks have been filled to the brim with firings and re-firings and kiln disasters and troubleshooting. But I think, I hope, that we’re back on track. The business plan for the new studio/storefront is almost done, and I am going to check out a commercial space today and I think I fixed my kiln problems, so all is looking up.

And, to top it all off, to make up for my lack of posting this week I’ve got ONE AMAZING post! Jane Foster, printer and designer from the UK, makes brightly coloured screenprints and textiles, much of which is retro and Scandinavian inspired. This week, she generously shared with me some fun tidbits about her life, artwork and inspiration, and sent me TONS of awesome pictures that literally made me squeal with delight. Check them out below the interview. Enjoy, and thanks again, Jane!

Me: Can you tell us some more about how started out as an artist? Were you always really interested in screenprinting and textiles, or was it more of an evolution?

JF: My first taster of screen printing was when I was 14 at secondary school. My teacher let me have my own table in the art room that I could use at lunch time so she must have known I was keen! I was 16 when she let me screen print onto fabric using paper cut stencils. I also remember printing some curtains and tee shirts. I left home at 17 to study at music college before teaching for years and years. I didn’t screen print again until I was around 36! I found a print studio around the corner where I was living in Brighton and was hooked. I had the feeling within minutes that this is what I wanted and should be doing with my life! I then very gradually started to carve out a new plan of changing my career from music to art. This didn’t happen overnight.

Me: How does your background influence you as an artist (personally and/or culturally)? One thing I love about your work is the use of vintage textiles and retro, Scandinavian design elements¬– can you talk about where that came from?


JF: I grew up in the 70s and my parents (my mum in particular) had bold taste. My mum loved bright Scandinavian fabrics and Danish design. They shopped at Habitat and Heals on Tottenham Court Road - these were trendy shops that sold designs for their aesthetic instead of comfort. My Auntie Jennifer lived in a really wonderful architect designed SPAN house in Blackheath and I remember falling in love with 60s design and all her wonderful colourful fabrics, furnishings and ceramics. We visited her often so I’m sure she was also an influence. My parents would also take me to London art galleries such as the Tate Gallery where I was exposed to the multi coloured pop artists and the screen printer Bridget Riley. Although my parents weren’t particularly creative (one taught maths and one taught physics!) I was encouraged to explore all my creativity with music and art. I was also allowed to paint murals on my bedroom walls and make my own clothes!

Me: You’ve started moving into selling glass and ceramicware featuring your designs; Do you have any interesting plans for the future that you’d like to share? Are you interested in designing other types of homewares or objects?


JF: Yes, I’ve collaborated with a company called Make International who use my designs on their mugs and glasses. We’re also hoping to produce other products in the future and in September, they’re launching a Haberdashery range with my toy kits, screen printed knitting bags etc.. Would love to all go into bedding and other products.

Me: Do you see your home as an important space of inspiration for you? Can you tell us about an object that you have in your house that makes it feel like home to you?

JF: Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve managed to get pictures on the walls within a few days! I love making my home a home, filling it with belongings we love and things we’ve collected over the years. I always make a home colourful and happy. One of my favourite areas is the Mantle piece where things my daughter has made are kept, and other precious finds.

Me: Can you tell us about a piece of art that has really inspired you in your own work?

JF: I can’t think of a specific piece but I do think the illustrator Dick Bruna has been an influence as I was brought up with his Miffy books and love simple colourful designs with black outlines.

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Featured Artist: Karla Pruitt

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Karla Pruitt is a surface designer and painter living in Athens, Georgia. I first saw her work at Hygge & West, a company that produces the loveliest wallpaper I’ve ever seen. She’s also done fabric, greeting cards, a couple of amazing sets of funky playing cards (see below), and lots of art prints. She kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her life, work and inspiration, and here’s what she had to say (thank you, Karla, for sharing yourself with us)! To everyone else, check out the rest of her work at karlapruitt.com. You'll find more photos at the end of the interview.

Me: Why are you making art (this could mean, what drives you, or how did you end up doing what you do)?

Karla Pruitt: I've always loved to draw and paint, and when I got to college and realized textile design was a career, I was so excited to learn I could turn my hobby into a paycheck. As a textile designer, I discovered there were licensed artists who created artwork for companies to use. I always thought that when I started a family it would be a great to try to become a licensed artist instead of working as an in-house desinger. It's been a lot of hard work to make that transition, and it is much harder to get any work done with a baby than I'd imagined, but I'm so glad it's working out.

Me: What’s your favourite medium or material to work with?

KP: I love to paint with guache and watercolor. I also love working straight into photoshop with a stylus pen/ waccom tablet.

Me: What’s one of your favourite works of art?

KP: Anything by NC Wyeth is my favorite; I wish I could paint like that. I also love lots of folk art and modern art too.

Me: Can you describe a real-life situation that has inspired you as an artist?

KP: My Garden wallpaper for Hygge & West is full of florals drawn from my neighborhood in Athens, GA. I just installed some in my dining room, and I love that the same azaleas and camellias that are blooming outside inspired what is inside now.

Me: What makes your home feel the most like “home” to you?

KP: I am lucky to have quite a few pieces of antiques from my family that I really adore and have been moving around with me since college. I try not to get too attached to things in general, but they've been with me my whole life!

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Themey Thursday: Floral Prints (Warm Colours Edition)

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I love floral prints. And there are endless lovely floral things I could put in a floral-themed post, so I narrowed it down to some of the cutest warm-coloured things that I could find, all of which I wish were in my house. So here we go!

1. Ruth Broadway, Sunflower Print, $56. I can't find this colour for sale online anymore, but you can purchase a similar one in red at Rostra Gallery.

2. Layla Amber, Poppy Posy Brooch, $32. Find it here on Etsy.

3. Marimekko, Unikko Tea Cup, $24. Find it at marimekko.com.

4. Hunter's Kitchen, Vintage floral cutting board, $22. Find it here on Etsy.

5. Erin Flett, Daisy Pillow, $105. Find it at erinflett.com.

6. Yay Retro, Crown Devon Sugar Jar, $30. Find it at yayretro.co.uk.

7. Camp Cirrus, Tea Towel Rabatten in Yellow, $24. Find it on Great.ly.

 

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In our House: Fabric Trumps Doors

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I remember as a kid really being into fabric– when I was old enough to ride my bike around town, my cousin and I made Fabricland one of our top summer afternoon places-to-go and we’d raid the liquidation bin for remnants that we could afford on a 12-year-old budget- we’d make Barbie doll clothes, or I’d upholster the furniture in my miniature houses made from twigs, and once we made curtains and painted our inside jokes all over them… but my most memorable project was a tent made from this shiny, royal blue dress lining that hung from the ceiling all around my bed. It was inspired, I think, by an episode of “Trading Spaces” (my favourite show), and it was truly awesome. It was like hanging out inside a warm, blue cave, or a womb, or a cocoon.

All this to say, I always loved fabric, but I also never developed any real skill in using it. All five of my dad’s sisters are amazing seamstresses, and I gleaned little bits of knowledge off of them the few times I watched them in action. When I sit down to the sewing machine now, as I feed my little quilt squares through, the smell of the sewing machine working hard combines with this really subtle hint of cigarette smoke lingering in through the screen from my downstairs neighbors’ house. And I get such a surprising, nostalgic feeling that brings me back to my 12 year old self, spending the afternoon at my auntie’s house helping her cut out fabric to make skating skirts.

Since I remain not so skilled in sewing, but with an intense love for fabric, I’ve gone back to the things I certainly can do, which includes sewing a straight seam. When we moved into our apartment last year, most of the doors (except the obvious ones) had been removed so that the wood floor could be refinished. They were stacked in our back shed and could have easily been put back on, but we just never did. Little by little I started tacking up extra pieces of fabric I had instead. I think I still feel like I’m in a fun tent-world when there’s fabric hanging from the ceiling. It’s also like having easily removable wallpaper in little spots around my house. The fabric that hangs in the bathroom covers the little section of the room that houses our washer and dryer, and some storage cupboards. There’s something so convenient about knowing that if you don’t have time to put everything away, there are little spots like this where you can hide a pile of junk and pull the curtain in front of.

But really, I just love fabric. And who needs a door when you have an extra piece of pretty floral fabric?

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Themey Thursday (on a Friday): Florida Orange Kitch

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Today's theme is a bit of a riff off of our own collection of strange, face-laden oranges, most of which are souvenirs from Florida or California- turns out they're into the exact same souvenir look (or they were at some point in history).

1. Orange Clock, vintage, from www.trishhunderfinds.com.au

2. Happy salt and pepper shakers, vintage, being sold by 3 Florida Girls on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/listing/125409549/vintage-florida-oranges-souvenir-salt?utm_source=Pinterest&utm_medium=PageTools&utm_campaign=Share

3. Souvenir Florida Orange Bell, vintage, found by us at The One-of-a-Kind Antique Mall in Woodstock, Ontario (this little buddy started the obsession)

4. This strange toy is described as an "anthropomorphic tape measure" on Pinterest, making it that much more appealing: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/8725793004423681/

5. Fruit Buttons, vintage, found on pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/108719778479162115/

6. Arabia of Finland Jam Jar, Vintage, sold by Wise Apple on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/listing/90224941/vintage-arabia-oranges-jar?utm_source=Pinterest&utm_medium=PageTools&utm_campaign=Share


Did you notice the pun I sneakily put in there?

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Joyful Fruit

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One of the biggest themes that I’ve returned to over and over again this year with each step toward growing this business is the question, is doing this craft-making thing worthwhile? This question feels so redundant as I write it down, especially after sticking out five years of university art history classes. In some ways that nagging concern of mine really is related to those academic questions, like whether craft is art, and how to categorize objects as high art or low art or somewhere in-between, and how to decide that something is valuable.

But in another sense, it’s simpler. I think that everyone, at least to some extent, wants to feel like they’re doing something useful. It’s been odd to become more and more invested in the world of making objects that I think people will like aesthetically. My day-to-day work focuses on thinking about concrete things; how much pigment do I add to make this colour brighter? Are bunnies as cute as cats? Should I make this leg thicker so that my planter doesn’t fall over? Will the faces look cuter if I lower them proportionally on the bodies? These questions are so normal for me. And it’s funny to come home at the end of the day and talk to Jo about how his day was (he works at a day centre for homeless folks), and to hear about things that are really normal questions for him– how do I love this person when they keep taking drugs, or talking back to me? Or how do I listen well to peoples’ stories, but not let those stories become a burden? The contrast sometimes feels so stark, and it’s easy for me to start thinking that the questions that he’s thinking about are more meaningful than the ones that I deal with.

It makes me realize that I have choices in how to see my work, and in how I see the world. I love that Jo does the work that he does (even though it’s very hard). I love that he gets to be helpful to people at the centre, finding them the resources they need, listening to their stories, and giving them food bags so that they have enough to eat for the week. It’s just so obvious that this is good, useful work.

But I am learning, slowly, that there is something very important about my work too, even though it is small and simple. There’s something that gets me so incredibly excited when I find a new piece to add to my collection of mid-century Scandinavian ceramics, or when I try out a new colour on my work and it’s exactly what I was hoping for, or when I check on my balcony garden and there’s a perfect little ripe fruit ready to eat on the tomato plant.

The first time that last happened this year, I found a single cherry tomato that had ripened among tons of still-green ones. I picked it and then Jo and I brought it into the kitchen, and I cut it in half carefully with our little paring knife, and we cheers-ed the two halves together, and we ate and grinned. I tasted all the hard work and all the hopefulness I’d put into helping that plant along, and the freshness of the fruit, and it was utter deliciousness. It wasn’t sustenance for a whole person, or even a whole meal. But it was a glimpse of beauty, this joyful fruit!

So I am starting, and hope I will continue, to learn to see my work like that, too. My little salt cellars and planters won’t accomplish the same kind of work that Jo’s work will. But I get to make little glimpses of beauty, and there is a different sort of hopefulness and life in that.

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Nice To Meet you!

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Hello and welcome to World of Beardbangs! My name is Alicia Zwicewicz, and I live and work in Montreal, Canada together with my husband, Josiah, and our cat, Pandora. I own a business called Beardbangs Ceramics that specializes in functional pottery. My main goal is to make useful objects that are as mind-blowingly cute, whimsical and colourful as possible.

Blogging is pretty new for me. I’m creating World of Beardbangs because I want a more focused way to be able to share our processes, inspiration (including fun artist features), diys about the craft of pottery (and other projects I’m working on). Please feel free to share comments, suggestions and your own inspirations in the section below, or email us about anything you feel like at beardbangs [at] gmail.com.

At just around one year old, Beardbangs is at a bit of a crossroads; we are getting a little bit too big for the studio we rent out of a friend’s basement, and so I’ve started dreaming! What do I want to do with this business? What can I do? It turns out a lot more than I had even considered is actually possible. And so in the next months, we are going to move into a new, bigger space, and hopefully get a community ceramics studio started where other folks in Montreal can come in and fool around on the wheel. More to come on this, as well, in the future!

I have learned so much over this least year, about problem-solving in the studio, about running a business and crunching numbers like I never thought I could, about balancing work and rest, and about what I’m capable of. I still have so much to learn in all of these areas! I hope that some of the insights that I’ve had could be helpful to you too, whether it’s about starting your own business in the world of art, making your home a little more inviting, or creating for the sake of creation. And maybe we will learn some things together, too.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you again soon!

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