Friday, April 2, 2010

Kate Birch - Flights of Fancy

I fell in love with Kate Birch's paintings the moment I laid eyes on them.
They're beautiful, upliftings and fun. I found them to be modern but to have since of history and quality I find refreshing and honest.

Kate graduated in 2005 with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from University of Utah. Influenced by the decorative work of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Kate work in deep with pattern and texture her love for textile design is evident in her mixed-media floral pieces. Don't think Laura Ashley they're not stuffy but light, colorful and new. Her work is currently being published by Poem’s Publishing and is sold internationally. Over the past two years her paintings have been used in two feature films.

Kate, I love your work and I think it such a smart idea that you offer prints. Tell us about your process for the originals. What kind of prints do you offer?
My process is a combination of additive and deductive layering of paint. My paintings certainly don't feel flat and this is due to the layers and layers of paint that I apply. I prepare my panel with an acrylic matte medium before I begin painting (this is what gives it the textured appearance). From there I work both up and down, applying stencil and paint and then both wiping and rubbing the paint away. I'm never really certain when I begin a painting where I'll end up, and that's what's so fun about the process. Usually I know when something feels done, but other times I can work on one painting forever and never really feel that it's complete.
As far as my prints are concerned, I was very lucky to sign on with Poems Art Inc. (my amazing publishers) a few years ago. They do a tremendous job producing my paintings into really lovely, high quality posters. I think it's smart for artists to branch out and make prints and use their work in a broader manner.

Your work is so modern but has is very rooted in ancient art traditions. What artist has had the biggest influence on you?
I've been inspired by too many artists to count. While I was getting my degree in painting and drawing at the University of Utah I used to go to the library at least once a week and check out as many art books as I could carry. I devoured these books in my spare time and fell in love with Rothko, Diebenkorn, Pollock, Van Gogh, Degas, Cassatt... My list could go on and on. I find a little something different to admire and try to emulate in each of these artists. In school I was also lucky to be surrounded by some great contemporary artists. I loved the work of my teachers John O'Connell and Maya Chachava as well as the work of some amazing graduate students. To this day, I'm always looking for inspiration in all kinds of art.

I love birds. But what has drawn you to their imagery?
I'm a big fan of birds too. Sometimes you find an image that just works for you and birds have definitely been that for me. Not only are they beautiful, but they evoke so much, like hope, freedom and beauty. I think most people have their own personal connection to birds, maybe because they're a piece of nature that can be found anywhere; a little piece of the wild that perches in our own back yards.

What was your favorite game as a child?
As a child I loved to use my imagination. My best friend had a pool and a barn at her house and we spent hours pretending we were mermaids or playing house in the bails of hay. I was lucky to grow up in a neighborhood that still had acres of land to explore and I spent much of my summers building dams in the creek behind my house and playing in the woods.

So did I. I think it's a huge lose for kids not to be able to discover themselves through nature.
Your work would translates so beautifully? Have you ever thought of branching out (pardon the pun) into stationary, notepads, calendars or fabric design? If so, I'll order the first calendar.
I've always dreamt of making my own line of fabric. Some day I hope to branch out into textiles, although that hasn't happened yet. My publishers are really great and are always looking for new opportunities so maybe some day soon you'll see my work in unexpected places.
Please let me know when that happens.
If you were a bird, what bird would you be and where would live/migrate.
It's funny that you asked this because I often wonder this very thing. I'd probably be a chickadee, definitely something small, the kind of little song bird that you see around home. I've never had huge dreams of travel and I don't think I'd be flying off on any grand adventure (at heart I'm a home body), although I'd love to sore over farmland, just high enough up to touch the tree tops. I love that your work does that for me. It takes me to the tree tops and allows me to daydream.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rural at Art! Interview with artist Sara Renzulli

Sara Renzulli has always had an innate love for all things rural. Even as a little girl growing up in the city. Today, Sara works from home in rural Elkton, Maryland with her two young boys and many critters dotting the hillside and underfoot. I am a self taught painter and needle-felter.

Sara has an intrinsic need to know animals and to create that has followed her her entire life and she "expects it will never leave." Her childhood bed was a nest of stuffed animals, Sara says "the more realistic the better. I would cut off their tags to erase any sign that they were actually made in China." A no-pet policy household drove little Sara to try any angle for every little critter I thought I might stand a chance to convince my Mom to keep. All the while, I was drawing, drawing, drawing.

My art has been shown at sporting art venues across the country for over 10 years. Recently I have branched into landscapes and portraiture. The wool critters are a new endeavor but, I am sure, one that I will elaborate on for the rest of my life. When I am not taking care of boys, horses, donkeys, dogs, or chickens, I am painting or felting them!

Needle felting is growing in popularity as well as many other arts and crafts mediums. Why do you think this market is so popular.?

I only began needle felting two years ago. I had never heard of it. Most haven't. I think as a craft it is bound for great things (someone should jump on it with an info-mercial) because it is inexpensive, few tools, lightweight, and extremely forgiving. As for those purchasing needle felted items - each is its own special, never to be duplicated, piece of art. (Did you know there is no word for "unable to be replicated?" I tried to say "irreplicable" in a description on my etsy store but my family gently informed me that it was not a word.)

As a child you had many stuffed animals, any favorites?

My Mother, who could hardly be called indulgent, bought for me a stuffed horse (a sleeping foal to be exact) that I remember seeing in a gift shop while we were at the beach. It was $44. That was A LOT for a stuffed animal in the 1970's. I think that horse finally met its end a few years ago. I also loved a monkey, too embarrassed to tell you his name, that my sons still play with. And the bears. Loved the bears. Still have those too.

Tell us the life story of the Snow Hare? Where is she from, what is her house like, her family etc.

I have stories for many of the critters but the hare is more of a spirit or soul type creation. My mother sent me a link with a picture of a snow hare. I sat down to make him immediately. I have since made larger critters but he was my first of that size. As I was making him I kept thinking "this is going to be good." I was inspired in every sense of the word to make that rabbit; by the picture, the wools, the angora, the challenge.
How did you begin needle felting and how does needle felting work?

My sister bought a few supplies. We were using wool fabric and wool roving (loose wool) and felting two dimensionally - like painting on the fabric with colored wool. I then bought a kit to make three mice. Once I learned how to sculpt the wool I was hooked. I thought, "Well, if I can make a mouse than I could make a......" I have been collecting supplies ever since.
Wool and some other animal fibers have a property that allows them to be felted. (Cotton and other fibers can not be felted) Both wet felting (like when you put a wool sweater in the dryer) and needle felting cause the wool fibers to hook and not pull apart. Needle felting uses tiny barbed needles. The felter just stabs the wool over and over to sculpt and shape it. Most of my critters have an armature made of pipe cleaner or wire. Then I use various rovings and wrap, bundle, roll, and stab them on.

What CD is in your stereo right now?


Tell us about your gnomes?

One of my favorite artist is a Rein Poortvliet. He was a Dutch illustrator. He is famous for his "Book of Gnomes." (But illustrated many books; my favorite is "Noah's Ark.") The first time I saw the gnome book I was very young. I fell in love with the world and culture that Rein created. I'd say the inspiration for my gnomes is steeped in that book.

Sara, Thank you for the interview. I loved that book as a child too. It nurtured my sense of fantasy and mythology as a child and inspired much of my playful nature now.

Please visit Sara's site to see more of her beautiful work.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Masquerade - Who's Behind Those Beautiful Masks?

I know it not Halloween yet and it's way past Mardi Gras but you have to see these masks. I saw my first MeriMask at an event is San Francisco. I ask the wearer where he got it and he gave the Andrea's Etsy site. I was excited to see her huge selection and was amazed at the detail and craftsmanship of her masks. Andrea has sold over 1000 maks since 2007. I viewed the over 1000 of designs and styles and totally confuse and bewilder myself Itrying to decide which one was me. I have decided that the Sunflower Sun Mask is on the top of my list. Followed closely by the Persian Raven and the Frost Dragon Mask. Andrea was thrilled in January of 2009 when Cirque Du Soliel purchased one of her designs to sell in there stores.
Andrea Masse-Tognetti is a self taught artist living in Tonawanda New York, and has been working exclusively with leather sculpture for over sixteen years. She has created mask designs for Cirque Du Soleil, and last fall her masks appeared on stage in Tokyo in the "Muscle Musical" stage production "Magicarade". Her leather sculpture has been featured in "Weird Tales" magazine, the Niagara Gazette, "Artvoice" magazine and "J Select" magazine.

1. Why masks and why leather?
Leather is just a great medium for's not messy, you can carve durable details into it, and it's a natural, renewable resource. The masks were just a logical progression once I learned how malleable the medium was.

2. Which of your designs is favorite and why?
I love so many of my designs...I love all of them really, or else I wouldn't make them. My favorite right now is the "Fighting Bettas" mask though...I think it's just a really strong, beautiful design. It'd be great even if it wasn't a mask.

3. You studied soft sciences and archeology. How did these fields help in your designs?
My studies in Archeology/Anthropology definitely gave me an appreciation for the cultural significance of the mask. Every culture has them...their importance is worldwide and dates back to the earliest pre-history of the human species.

4. What design did buy from you? That must have been exciting, tell us about that process.
Cirque bought and produces my "Frivole" mask. It was based off of the makeup for a character in "Saltimbanco"...very colorful and clown-like.
The story behind this piece is long and dramatic. Let's say it was a real learning experience. Initially I was going to produce the masks for Cirque's gift shops, myself, but the contract...! It was a difficult negotiation. In the end, they decided to purchase the rights for the design outright and manufacture it themselves, which was much better for me and everyone involved. They market it as a child's mask.

5. Looking through you 50 pages of sold items, impressive. I saw a lot of custom orders. You must like the challenge. How do you start a new design?
It helps if the customer has an idea of what they want. Most of my custom orders are just modifications of masks I already do. Sometimes the customer wants something totally new. In those cases, a phone conversation, source images (if it's an animal of some sort), and a great degree of trust is needed. They have to trust me & my design abilities to come up with something new that they'll like. So far everyone has been happy. ^_^

6. What is your favorite movie?
I love movies! Rather than a favorite movie, I'd say I have favorite directors. I love Akira Kurosawa, Miyazaki, Tim Burton, Jim Henson. I guess if I had to narrow it down to just one movie though, it'd be "Bladerunner". Because I'm a nerd.

Check up which mask is you at: