Tag Archives: real life

Happy Birthday to AIRL

Happy Birthday to AIRL

December 13, 2013 ,  Art in Real Life’s 2nd Birthday!!!  Woo!  Send in the clowns….NOT!


Art in Real Life so far has been a pretty in-depth study in discipline and perseverance.  Doing the work. Keeping my head in the game.  Following my heart.  Learning what makes me happy.


It has been a way to share a journey to find what happened to my artistic self over the last 25+ years.  What started out all enthusiastic ambition in my younger days got jaded and lost somewhere between art school and here. I lost the connection with that side of myself, and eventually handed over the trust I had in my own creative nature and declared,” I am not really an artist” out of fear of failure or judgement.  Fast forward to 2011 when I rediscovered that passion and started making up for lost time and Art in Real Life was born.


Making a mark, small or large, on canvas, paper, fabric, the internet or at a job, or at home takes a certain amount of bravery. It requires effort and intention and a lot of trust.  What everyone who has taken a risk and put themselves out there knows is that inspiration is in the doing. Which cultivates more creativity which gives one the courage to try something even more. Posting here in this arena about my personal journey back to creativity in real life has been a lesson in discipline, perseverance and bravery for me and hopefully offers a tiny bit of inspiration for anyone who may have given up on that voice.


Art in Real Life 2013 the year of ….

Handmade Weddings:  Wedding planner is not my profession but this was definitely the year of the wedding, no doubt. Our dreams were big but our time frames and budgets tight so we were forced  to look deep and roll up our sleeves.  Creative thinking, faith and a lot of glue took us from a couple of bland banquet halls to romantic colorful spaces filled with personality and meaningful moments.


Project 365: One of my favorite developments from this blog. Many versions of this project exist on the internet.  There is a website 365Project.org that does a good job of explaining why, in this world of instant everything, does it matter to take one photo every single day for a year of your life.  My Project 365 is not a product of any of those just a suggestion by an extremely talented photographer friend . Her level of photography puts me in my place but she inspired me to really take notice of the everyday happenings, no matter how mundane or messy, and pay attention.  I like that.   Sometimes it is just capturing one simple moment brings me back to that day and the back story.  Looking to keep up with that habit and go for Project 365 2014.  Discipline and  perseverance…

Day 307

Design for Real Life: Although 2013 was all about weddings (and cats if you look at my 365 Project!), I am looking forward to being more active in this particular aspect of my creative life in 2014.  Our company, Closet Factory, has the newest cutting edge drawing technology that presents some learning curves (for me!) but  through discipline and perseverance we have been able to offer this incredibly comprehensive tool our company to our clients.  Helping people beautify and organize their homes is another passion that takes a lot of discipline and perseverance on my part.


A.R.T.:  or Acts of Random Talent page is a place that I am using to curate inspiring artists’ work as I find them around the internet.  Hoping to create a collection of unexpected art that has its roots in real life.  People who, even though they may have come to their calling in a non-traditional way, have made the connection to that inner voice and have stepped into being the artists that they were meant to be.  Really, we are all artists.

alexa meade

Gallery: It hasn’t been all weddings and cats but there has been some actual “visual art” happening around here, too. There have been paintings and classes just not so much on the gallery page.Studio renovations as well as house, food, fabric and yard projects have been a big part of the year, too!


Thank you so much for being a reader, (even if you are related to me in some way and just feel obligated!)  I am ever so grateful for your time. I am aware there is a lot of ways to spend your screen time. Thank you for stopping by.  I hope you will leave me a birthday comment if you have a moment.  I would consider it to be a wonderful gift. You could even subscribe and get an update in your inbox when there is something new here if you want…extra special thank you to my “inner circle” of subscribers!  Love you guys!


Here’s to the next 365 days of Art in Real Life!  Do something powerful and creative – be yourself!

Handmade Wedding: I lied!

Handmade Wedding: I lied!

Yes, It’s true…I thought I was done with the wedding posts but nope, got one more in me…

7 a.m., Nov. 15th, I got this Facebook message from a very dear friend who shared with me a couple of months ago that she had found a very special “beau”, “Do you plan to be in town November 30th?”.  I had a feeling what was coming.  She was getting married!  Very excited for her as she deserves every bit of the happiness she has found.  What could I say, other than “Do you need some paper flowers?” wedding2flowers She had two weeks.  I had lots of sticks and flowers (and spreadsheets!)  Let the turbo-planning begin!   Made that four month timeline for the first wedding seem extensive!  Although that quick turnaround presents all kinds of obstacles, there is also a wonderful simplicity in planning and designing a wedding with a tight timeline. Obviously there is stress, but it is not a prolonged stress.  Decisions just have to be made.  You have to work with what you have.  You cannot worry about that which you cannot change.  And for the most part, it turned out absolutely perfect.wedding2back

Starting with the theme of joining hands to become family, we wanted to be sure that we hit the main features that the bride felt were important. Creating an intimate space, just for the two of them, was the most important with a bit of drama and a dash of glamour. Look familiar?


Since the groom was a great friend with their pastor, who also served as the best man, the venue was set. The bride’s four grown children along with her sister formed the bridal party.


A hand blessing read by the matron of honor, sister of the bride, had special meaning for the bride and her family. Gotta love that hooplah!

DSCN7741In order to include the children of the bride in the ceremony and create the family bond, the couple presented each child with a special necklace to commemorate the day.DSCN7760It was a wonderful gesture that along with their family sharing in communion together, symbolized the new oneness of their family.DSCN7762The look on her face here says it all…wedding2toast

There was a sparkling cider toast..(how do you like the giant flowers’ new role? Pretty cool way to fill up wall space.)wedding2cuttingcake….a wedding cake to cut….

wedding2ladies…great food…(I see black and white engineer prints!)DSCN7765friends and family to witness and share it all…wedding2prekiss…and a honeymoon in the mountains.   .

As we were breaking down the wedding decorations in April, some of the helpers( let’s be honest, mostly the menfolk) asked, “What do you want us to do with this stuff? Put it in the dumpster!?!?!”  WHAT!?!? ARE YOU INSANE?!?!  However, truth be told,  we really had no idea what we were going to do with them. They have been in storage ever since. To be able to reimagine and share them with this couple on their special day made the decision to hang on to them a blessing.

Now, who’s next?

Walking Art Part 1…

Walking Art Part 1…

Colonial Beach, VA is a lovely small town on the Potomac River on the Northern Neck of Virginia. Back in October, I joined over 85 artists as a member of the Colonial Beach Artist Guild – fondly known as CBAG (maybe should have thought that name through just a little more, ya’ think?)  The second Friday of every month, they host the Colonial Beach Art Walk.

For December this year, as part of the Art Walk, CBAG (he-he!) hosted an all-member show featuring recycled art at the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in town. A large empty meeting room with lots of wall space graciously serves as a gallery. Being that I am all about creating art and basically making something from close to nothing, I committed to putting a piece in the show.  There’s a first time for everything!

artwalk cbag img

Making a bag out of recycled fused plastic bags was the perfect choice for this show so I got busy designing and creating something to represent Art in Real Life in a public way. (More about that process can be found here.) Information about exactly how was it going to be displayed, however, was scarce.  Sitting on a table?  On a pedestal? Should I hang it on the wall? Because I wanted some control over the way it ended up being viewed – I decided to build a custom table-top display from which it could hang. Seemed simple enough…

After searching all over Pinterest and Google, I found virtually nothing except for one craft show blogger who had made a multi-purse display using a clay pot as the base with PVC pipes, configured like tree branches, coming up out of it. I knew I didn’t want that look although the basic structure seemed like a good place to start. My idea was more of a wooden box with some sort of a metal or wooden arm coming up out of it to hang the bag on. I headed to Goodwill, my go-to place for anything quirky, and started looking for some kind of an open wooden box . Within 10 minutes,  there it was, almost exactly what I was imagining.  It was weird.  Like someone knew what I was going to need and put it on the shelf. I wanted an open wooden box and I got an open wooden box. It was not quite as big as I originally was thinking but I decided that I could compensate for that in the design by beefing it up with an applied treatment of some kind.

box elements

After a little trial and error with some different materials, I determined to make the display “nature inspired” to contrast with the “plastic nature” of the bag itself. Cut branches had the potential to be too country rustic looking but I was hoping that by painting them all black and using some linear cues in the design, it would come across more modern rustic. The woods behind my house provided a perfect supply of enough small diameter branches to cover the box and one pretty sturdy “arm” with a perfectly shaped “crotch” to hold the bag.  I ended up cutting all 83 branches by hand with a miter saw in equal lengths about 5 1/2 inches long.  The more I looked at the inconsistency of the bark on the branches and thinking about painting them black, I decided I needed to go that extra step to peel off the bark and sand each one. Criminy!

sandpaper stix

So much fun! Sanding each and every twig both by hand and with a power sander was a precious 3-4 hours of my life I will never get back.  Worth it, for sure, had to be done, but as always, much more work than you can possibly anticipate.

cutting legs

Using some scrap wood that was hanging out in the shed from an old project, Mr. Man cut a few square blocks for the legs.  He’s helpful that way. He holds his tongue just right!

attaching feet

Wanting to expand the visual space that the base took up, I needed to mount the legs so that a part of them extended beyond the box bottom and lined up with the twigs surrounding the sides.  The only way to accomplish that was to add   some cardboard filler underneath in the recess of the box’s bottom to support the legs.  E6000 is my friend. If it is possible to love an adhesive…I do.

weighted box

Once that was done, I used more E6000 to glue the blocks on to the box bottom, added masking tape to hold them in place, flipped the box over, added a brick and a 4 lb. box of plaster to weigh the box down onto the legs while the glue dried overnight.

prepainted box

Next day, we double secured the legs to the box by drilling holes from the inside and screwing them on. After a good sanding it was on to painting.

gluing sticks

I spray painted the exterior black before attaching the twigs so that any gaps between them would be less likely to stand out.

Here’s a little gluing tip I learned somewhere – E-6000 is a super strong adhesive but it takes awhile to set up. I used a bead of hot glue, which hardens pretty quickly but doesn’t really have the best long term binding abilities, along side the bead of E-6000, which will virtually last forever, to hold the twig in place while it dried. Two glues, serving two different purposes, working together.  Kum-ba-ya….

post glued stix

I lined all of the twigs up at the base in a straight line even with the top of the legs then allowed the top edge to be more naturally free form. The blunt sanded flat tops are organic but with a modern edge. I like it.

painted stix

Using the brick to hold it up, the arm got spray painted black but I just couldn’t bring myself to paint the smaller twigs on the box! I loved the look of the wood and the black together.  I decided to reserve my option to paint them if I didn’t like the way the whole thing looked once it was together.

brick box2

Final use of the brick, and its permanent home, was inside the plastic lined box.  I lined the center hole of the brick with a cardboard paper towel tube cut down the side and taped so that it would fit around the arm to give it some support.  I also wanted to make sure that the stick/arm could be switched out to another size or shape to accommodate a different hanging piece. The plastic lining is in there so that #1) the plaster didn’t unexpectedly start leaking out of the sides/bottom of the box and #2) I actually have a secret hope that the whole inner block will be able to be lifted out and the box used for something totally different in the future, if needed.  Way too much sweat and love for a one time display!

pouring plaster

Next, my girl and I had a science lesson all about plaster.  Who knew?  It is a fascinating material that I am sure I am going to use more and more.  Especially in encaustics,  when I get a chance, as well as painting.  We learned all about air bubbles, heat, setting time, gypsum, different types of plaster for different uses, molds, etc.  Ours was just a box from the local craft store.  Have no idea what kind it was or special properties it might have and there are many cool types that serve different needs, but it worked!  We naively thought at first that we would only have to use one of the four 1 lb. bags to fill the inside since there was that big brick in there.  Ha!  We used all four bags and were thinking we would have to run out and get more!  Actually, in the end, it turned out to be the perfect amount to leave room for the  final embellishment. – black floral marbles.  Again, funny how it all works out like that!

black marbles

All along, I was thinking shiny black aquarium gravel or fire pit glass or smooth black rocks to cover the surface of the plaster base to the top edge of the wood box. Of course, I would have had to make another trip out to buy that. Then I started searching around the house and found the perfect solution.  I had two bags of these black floral marbles, still in the bags, from some past project that never happened, in a basket in my laundry room!  Honestly, it’s like they were made for this piece!  After looking at the contrast with the natural wood and the shiny black glass, I was convinced not to paint the sticks.  What do you think?

finished box

Here is the almost final result….still needing touch-up paint on the all of the black and the cardboard tube.There’s also a little sneak peek of the bag. Total cost of materials to make the display: $3.25 for the box, about $6 for the plaster, $3.00 for the tube of E-6000, brick, sticks and marbles $0.  For around $12, and a solid 9 – 10 hours of work, exactly what I needed came to be. (Total cost of the bag? Almost $0 in materials but easily 12 hours of work – check that out in Part 2)

I am convinced I could never have found something ready-made that I like as well or is as perfectly suited to my project for any amount of love or money.  If I had hired someone to make it, I could never have afforded to pay them what their time would have been worth. I had to put a price on it for the show. That was a hard one.  I picked $210. but that’s not nearly what the time I put in is worth. It was very much a labor of love just to get what I wanted not to mention  incredibly satisfying and magical to see an idea come to life as you find creative solutions all around you along the way.  Truly Art in Real Life…the pieces were all there, they just needed to come together with some creative help.

Coming up –  Walking Art Part 2 -the finished piece all together with the bag on display….let’s go on the CBAG Art Walk and see what the Beach art scene has to offer. It was a whole lot of fun!

Until then, got ideas? Start somewhere and see what happens -Peace and love –


Clara Flora…

Clara Flora…

This is Clara….Clara is a flower farmer.

This is Clara’s flower farm.

Clara generously invited our Art co-op out for a flower class. Clara is a beautiful person and a wonderful hostess. She generously shared with us all about her operation and cutting flowers for arrangements….

She had many beautiful specimens…I  don’t know all of the names.  I want to.  But I don’t…

I know these are Rudbeckia or black-eyed Susans…

beautiful colors….these are zinnias…

Did you know that you should always have a bucket of hot water with you as you cut flowers? If you can immediately plunge the stems into hot water, It allows the cells to remain open, drink up the water and remain hydrated.  If you use cold water, and the cells close they cannot open again.  I did not know that!

Beautiful shapes….(I was mesmerized by the zinnias…can you tell?)

So much inspiration and beauty!

Art in real life right here…


When we brought them back to the tents to “process”, we left them in the bucket for 10 – 15 minutes to allow the “field heat” to dissipate and the blooms to rest.

Thinking that this was a good opportunity for us all to stay hydrated as well, we had yummy mango smoothies and some sparkling wine…

Processing the flowers involved recutting the stems, stripping lower leaves  and dipping them in Quik Dip to kill any bacteria.  Those two steps help the vase water from becoming cloudy. They were then placed in a bucket filled with water and FloraLife to extend freshness while we arranged.

We spent the better part of the next hour arranging, placing, trading and clipping flowers, leaves, greenery and stems to create beautiful art in real life using  Nature’s gorgeous palette.

Perfect for the German-themed party we had this weekend.


Having fun with Instagram …


Living in a planned community on a lake in suburbia, as I do,  is quite comfortable but has its limitations.

Many of the women in our co-op have the luxury of space along with gardens, goats, chickens and even llamas. Being a homebody, I could get used to being self-contained on a big piece of land. A lot of work to be sure but what I really, really want is a barn.  I would love to have one big enough to make into a studio, teach classes, host parties, play basketball, whatever.  I am putting that out to the universe.  I want a barn in the country. ( With some water nearby…while I’m asking!)

With a big freezer and the internet…I think I could get along just fine.

Thank you Clara for sharing your little piece of that dream.

For more on our flora farm adventure, I have linked up with Becky’s post on Farm Girl Paints.

me artsy at farmgirl paints

Thanks for stopping by….