In the Best of Company….

Since 2008, we have been very privileged
to be part of an incredible group of
Traditional American Folk Artists…


We have met so many of them in person over the years
at period craft fairs, and also through our family’s store…

… And they truly are a wonderfully down-to-earth group of folk artists.


And we’re always amazed that we can be included.


Thank you, Early American Life Magazine
for giving so much encouragement and support
to Traditional American Artists!

A Small Token…

I’ve been working on this year’s Valentine designs, and thought I’d share with you the process of doing a papercutting from start to finish! It takes a bit of inspiration to get ideas for a historic-style papercutting. I usually spend a few hours going through reference books on early fraktur. I rarely do exact reproductions of historic pieces, but instead, try to get a feel for the layout of antique papercuts. I’ll also doodle a bit, trying to create birds and flowers that look like they were drawn a couple hundred years ago. And, I’ll read through the translations of the German sayings to find an inspiring phrase or verse.

The Gift is Small, The Love is Great is one of my favorite resources for Pennsylvania German fraktur. It focuses on small works of art, such as the Vorschrift (writing samples), Book Plates, and Rewards of Merit that teachers once gave to their students. The Gift is Small also includes little love notes and tokens of remembrance given between sweethearts and friends, as well as other little fraktur-style drawings. None of the artwork in this book is particularly elaborate, but mostly just small tokens made by simple folk.

In coming up with new designs, other
sources of inspiration are also required…

(My art kiddos have asked about those little dishes of
chocolate chips hanging around the art room!)

And when the internal balance between visual references, doodling, coffee (or tea), and chocolate has reached the appropriate settings, I’ll start sketching. I start with a piece of paper cut to the size I need for the frame I want to use. I was trying to use two 6″ x 7″ frames that I had “ready-to-go,” so these cuttings are 4 & 1/2″ x 5 1/2″. However, there is actually a “historically correct” size that these little tokens should be! In the 18th and 19th centuries, “standard” sheets of paper were usually 13″ x 16″. Fraktur makers used either full sheets, half sheets, quarter sheets or eighth sheets to do artwork on, getting their finished size by simply carefully folding and tearing the paper. These tiny tokens were usually done on an eighth of a sheet of paper.

I almost always start my sketches from the outside in, establishing my borders by measuring carefully. Did you know there’s a correct way to make a square or rectangle? After years of being a frustrated young artist, I learned a few technical drawing skills in a college cartography class. Drawing “square” was one of them… Maybe that would make a Really Helpful Upcoming Post!

This will be the back of the papercutting. I have to keep reminding myself that everything will be backward on the finished piece. My originals will also get pretty smudgy from all the graphite dust, but it’s a necessary evil to designing. I keep trying to sketch on my Wacom tablet or my iPad, and I’m starting to get the hang of it, but there’s nothing like a real pencil and a kneaded eraser! Once I have the sketch close to how I want it, I start cutting…

I use a rubber-coated X-Acto knife with #11 blades. Any sort of padding or rubber on the handle is a HUGE help when doing lots of papercutting. Hand fatigue happens very quickly without it. I also go through blades like crazy… I cut mostly with the very tip edge of the blade, and curvy designs seem to snap them pretty quickly. Buy them in bulk! My knife… or my pair of scissors… are sort of like a second pencil to me. That’s what I use to straighten out my sketch lines and create the final design.

Once I have the original cut, I make a copy of it and use the copy to make a pattern for duplicate cuttings. As you can see, this is a relatively simple design… much of the artwork will be added in the painting process. But first, I’ll stain it to add some age. I make a strong solution of instant coffee and boiling water, and apply it to the papercutting with a natural sponge.

I’ll actually soak up the excess coffee with the sponge so the paper isn’t sitting in puddles of water. I let the paper dry naturally (Usually… sometimes impatience gets the best of me!) and then iron it between two sheets of white paper to smooth out any wrinkles. Here are the two new Valentine designs once they are stained…

And… although I had every intention of showing the painting and inking process, I got into painting and forgot to take pictures. So, here’s what they look like AFTER they’re painted…

I went with rather bright colors on these, which believe it or not, is quite true to history. The Pennsylvania Germans LOVED color. The colors in most of the antique artworks we see today have lost a lot of their original vibrancy due to sunlight and time. So I sort of compromise a bit… adding staining to make them look old, but also pumping up the color to make them look new. Artistic license.

Once they’re framed, they look like this…

I should be adding them to our shop’s Sweet Remembrances page very soon… Keep an eye out for them! We’re going to make a limited supply of each for this year due to time constraints, so if you need one let me know!

A Date with my Sweetie, Part One…

Last week, Hubby and I took a day to go exploring. We don’t do that often enough, but have resolved to try to go “do something” at least once a month. So we headed North, and ended up at the Delaware Art Museum for the first part of the day. Which actually ended up being pretty much the whole day, because one of us likes to read Every Single Plaque when in museums. (Name withheld to protect the guilty party.) However, the other one of us really likes art museums, so that person didn’t complain. Not one bit. We ended up seeing about half of the museum, and helped them close up. So that means we need to go back and see the other half, right?


One part of the museum focused on early American artists…

Still Life with Fruit by Severin Roesen

…And I can’t believe they let me take pictures!

I wrote a paper on Frederic Church last
year for an art history class…

South American Landscape by Frederic Church

…the paper also included Benjamin West!

The Return of Tobias by Benjamin West

There was a beautiful sculpture by John Rogers…

Coming to the Parson by John Rogers

And there was an exhibit of works on paper by a
twentieth-century Color Field artist…
I recognized her from my Art Appreciation textbook
and thought I’d better take a look…

Work on Paper by Anne Truitt

 It was definitely an exhibit that made you stand back and say “Hmmm…”
I took a picture of this one because green is my favorite color.

A guard came in and explained to my dear perplexed
Hubby that the exhibit was “Arty.”

There was a momentary bonding between the two guys.


The Delaware Art Museum has a wonderful
collection of Pre-Raphaelite art,
like this painting that illustrates a scene from
Briar Rose, or The Sleeping Beauty

The Council Chamber by Sir Edward Burne-Jones

 And an allegorical painting depicting the
composition of music…

Veronica Veronese by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

 The Pre-Raphaelites produced beautiful paintings that focused on nature, literature, and the Middle Ages. Early Pre-Raphaelite paintings had a Christian emphasis, but unfortunately as they grew toward a more aesthetic approach, they veered away from their origins. (If you read all the little plaques about them, you may get a bit disillusioned.) However, their illustrative style greatly influenced the artists of the next generation…

The Storyteller’s Art:
ReImagining America through Illustration

What a great exhibit.

Of course, Howard Pyle was the star.
He’s just plain incredible.

This is Hubby’s favorite…

The Fight on Lexington by Howard Pyle

 I liked his black & white pen drawings
that look like old woodcuts…

Lady of the Lake by Howard Pyle

 I also loved this poster for the very first
Children’s Book Week by Jessie Willcox Smith…

Illustration for Children's Book Week poster, 1919 by Jessie Willcox Smith

And I discovered a new female illustrator…
I LOVE this picture…

She Loved to Have the Children About Her by Eugenie Wireman

 Howard Pyle operated a school for illustrators in Wilmington, Delaware in the early 1900’s, and N.C. Wyeth was one of his students! What I found to be really amazing was that about a third of his students were young women! There were some beautiful illustrations at the Delaware Art Museum by these talented ladies. Go see them if you get a chance!

And of course, we had to leave because they
were starting the turn out the lights…

The Crying Giant by Tom Otterness

And it’s the end of the post too…
but Part Two is coming soon!

The End by a member of Pyle's weekly sketching club

“They were never so finely told in prose before.
And then the pictures – one can never tire of
examining them & studying them.”
~ Mark Twain, in a letter to Howard Pyle,
on Pyle’s The Story of King Arthur and his Knights~ 


Feeling Flaky.

Things have been a little “flaky” around here lately! It takes just the right amount of frosty weather and just the right amount of baking myself by the woodstove to get in the snowman mood. It takes trips to the library for inspiration. Sometimes it even takes some hands-on research. But the Snow Folk of 2010 are finally ready, and are submitting themselves to the framing process. This year, they’re generously giving their hearts away… and are perfect for Valentine’s Day! Keep an eye on our Currently for Sale Page as we add them the next few days.

American Folk Art updates today at noon…
I Give You My Heart

Thanksgiving and Expectation…

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Our family did, only life was a little too full to post about it until now! We had dinner here at our home, with family from both sides joining us… and LOTS of good things to eat. (That’s the beauty of inviting all the good cooks in your family!) I wanted to post a short list of things I’m thankful for, and this rainy Monday is just the time to do that…

I’m thankful for my husband and daughters and my son-in-love.

And my grandboys.

And for parents and grandparents
that raised me to love the Lord.

For my home and land.

For the creatures great and small that have lived here.

For a great big huge crazy fun family.

For Christian friends that encourage and edify.

For work and God’s provision.
(A Very Special Thanks to all our customers
who have supported us this year!)

And for my Saviour and the season of Advent
when we celebrate His birth!

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent… it sort of snuck up on me this year, since it fell on Thanksgiving weekend! However, even though the Advent wreath isn’t hung, and the candles haven’t been found, and the Christmas trimmings are still in the attic, and the first present hasn’t been wrapped, and all the other fluff and fun we humans have added along the way…

…even though all that…

…the Spirit of Christmas…

…of Expectation… of Hope…

…of Christ-like giving…

…is burning in our hearts.

Come Thou long expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us; Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.

P.S. If you get a chance… head over to American Folk Art!
The new “Holiday Cheer” theme was just updated today!

And keep an eye on our Currently For Sale page
as we add Christmas things!

Home again, home again, jiggety jig!

We returned home today from Mount Vernon’s Colonial Crafts Fair, and had a wonderful weekend! The weather was much more cooperative than last weekend’s… not a single drop of rain! There were so many wonderful crafts, fun entertainment, talented musicians, and we especially enjoyed the Virginia hospitality! :-)

When we pulled into the driveway, we were greeted by freshly washed clothes hanging on the line, a “Welcome Home!” note on the door, fresh flowers on the table, and new homemade curtains… Somebunny had been busy… and somehow managed to hide those curtains from me as she was sewing them! Thanks Kate!


And… tomorrow at noon, American Folk Art is updating it’s theme! Head on over there to see some pumpkin-inspired folk art!


Hot, Hot Hot… American Folk Art Update!

We are officially having a heat wave here on Delmarva!  We really can’t complain, since we’ve had such a lovely summer, but the past week has been HOT. The stay inside and crank the AC sort of HOT. Which is a perfect opportunity to work on papercuttings. My current work station is sitting on a little kid’s stool at our coffee table…


The air conditioner is in the window six feet behind me, and I alternate between having in on and freezing my back, and having it off and getting HOT. (Note the air conditioner remote control thingie sitting right in the middle of the muddle.) It’s a delicate balance. Just ask my family.

Kate’s little corner of the world is across from me at the other end of the coffee table. She’s working on some cute fall stitchings to put in the store…


Perched between us is a stack of inspiring magazines… we’re currently into self-sufficiency sorts of magazines. Most likely because we know the electric meter is spinning around in furious circles as I flip the AC on and off. Maybe we can come up with a solar-powered air conditioner. Hmmm….

Of interest on this HOT day… today at noon, American Folk Art is updating it’s theme! The theme of the day is Dog Days of Summer, which I think is incredibly appropriate. Pop on over and check it out!

Apples of Gold in Settings of Silver…

Hello folks! Just wanted to let everyone know that American Folk Art updated it’s theme today at noon! “May Apples” is the new theme, and I know there will be some great folk art to check out over there! Go take a peek!


Apples of Gold
11″ x 11″ Framed Size
(Frame is Burnt Umber Hills & Valleys with Swirled Corners) 

This is one of my favorite verses from Proverbs! I think still life paintings are my favorite to do… but the silver bowl was a challenge! (Especially on paper that’s been stained brown to look old!) The frame wouldn’t fit in the scanner, so I scanned it frameless!

Our other contribution is…



Paradise Lost
8″ x 10″  Framed Size
(Cranberry Folk Swirl Frame)

 What a lot of trouble those apples caused! The biblical story of Adam and Eve is one of my favorite themes to use! (It’s a bit of a challenge to keep them modest though!) Here it is in the New England Primer… homeschool families are partial to early primers! We actually used a lot of these old readers when teaching the girls to read. McGuffey’s was our favorite!


Sweet and Sour…

Hello folks! Still plugging away with papercuttings, and my head is full of paper snips! So… I took a break from regular duties the other day and drew a lemon…


Sometimes it’s fun to do something that is not on your “to-do” list. I got inspired by the latest issue of Victoria magazine… there was a great article about Catherine Watter’s Botanical Illustration. If you love pretty things, you will love her artwork! I want to draw like that when I grow up. But for now, I’ll have to be satisfied with a lemon.

Lemons are sour, but if you click here you will see something really sweet! Jackson is 18 months old!

And a new project… In Edward Hicks’ later Peaceable Kingdom paintings, there are these interesting girls sort of in the background. Some are more visible than others, but they usually have a dove and eagle with them, and sometimes there’s a sheep as well. I really like this version, where Hicks explained the symbolism…


She’s going to be a papercutting in the next few days, but she’s also on her way to being a watercolor painting… that is if she turns out! Here’s a start…


A little bit of a re-make. I want her to be pretty, and sometimes Hicks’ faces weren’t that pretty! Couldn’t figure out what she was holding, so she’s getting an olive branch. And a Federal-looking drape just because. Can’t wait to spend a little more time on her!

And a little child shall lead them…


Good morning folks! Just wanted to let you know that American Folk Art is highlighting Lions & Lambs in folk art! The theme will be updated today at noon… be sure to check it out! The Peaceable Kingdom is one of my favorite folk themes. No, it IS my favorite. And Edward Hicks is one of my very favorite artists of all time. For a little bit of history on him, check out this old post! I often yearn for a peaceable kingdom… don’t you?

Oh… and Kate created a very gaudy, really cool, pretty/ugly (or pretty ugly?) messenger bag sort of thing yesterday afternoon. You’ve got to go take a peek. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts, that if she wears it today, somebody will ask where she got it!

Hope you all have a great Monday!