Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Beautiful Blues

Here's a preview of just a few of the beautiful blue items included in this collection which was curated by one of my fellow artists on, PatchworkMountain.

To see the entire collection, click on the link button below.

Monday, July 5, 2010

5 Tips For Buying Quality Stained Glass

Recently, I was once again asked to repair a piece of stained glass for a friend which got me thinking about customers who like stained glass but don't know what to look for when they are buying a panel or sun catcher.

If you are in the market for a nice piece of stained glass that will last, here are 5 things to look for before you buy.

1) This probably can go unsaid, but it’s not a bad idea to make sure the glass is indeed glass and not just colored plastic. Glass is heavier than plastic and sounds different than plastic when you tap it with a fingernail, coin or key.

2) The glass should fit tightly together with no “wiggle” room. If it’s not snugly encased by the foiled solder seams or the lead came, it will eventually crack or fall out.

3) Structurally, straight lines in a design are not as stabilizing as curved lines unless they have been reinforced with rods or stiff wire. This is especially important around the edges in a free-form piece, such as where the hands meet the sleeve on an angel.

4) Look for rounded (bulbous) solder seams. Flat seams will eventually peel away from the glass, especially around the outside edges.

5) Avoid buying a sun catcher or art glass panel with long narrow pieces of glass. When pieces of glass are very narrow (less than 1/4” and more than 5”, which is a ratio of 1:20), they are prone to cracking across the smaller dimension.

There’s nothing like seeing stained glass in person. However, if you are buying a piece of art glass online, read the description carefully. E-mail the artist with questions about tips 1, 2, and 3, especially if the answers are not evident in their product descriptions or photos. Hopefully the artist has included some detailed close-ups of solder lines, joints, and embellishments (as in the photo at the beginning of this article) and you will be able to see the quality of their soldering and look at their design elements.

If you have any other questions, just Ask Me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St Patty's Day Blessings in Green

Having a wee bit of Irish in me blood, I just couldn't let tomorrow pass without posting some clever handmade goodies that made me smile. Smiling itself is a blessing these days, and I hope seeing these bring a smile to you this Happy Saint Patty's Day.

Thanks to the artists behind these green pieces that were found while roaming the pages of Artfire and Etsy.

May God grant you every blessing, especially the ones you forgot to ask for.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Say I Love You with a Gift that Keeps on Giving

Here comes Valentine's day, and if you are like me, you are still recovering from the pace of life during the Christmas holiday season. So, if you are looking for a simple inexpensive way to say "I love you" on Feb. 14 or for your anniversary, why not give a gift that keeps on giving.

Read on for the story behind the inspiration for this item and how it can take otherwise ordinary moments and make them extraordinary.

My husband and I went on a Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend in 1989 while stationed overseas, and for the past 20 years wehave continued to be involved with other couples who strive to enrich their relationships on a regular basis. This gift idea was inspired by a short presentation given by one of those couples about 15 years ago. They talked about how good solid relationships are built one moment at a time. At the end of the presentation each couple was given little hearts and encouraged to hide them for their spouse to find. At first it sounded kind of childish, but we decided to give it a try, and I'm glad we did.

We each took a heart and hid it for the other to find. The first time I found one I had an instant flush of excitement tingle in my cheeks that put a big grin on my face as well as in my heart. Over the years, I've experienced this warm and fuzzy sensation whenever I find a heart that my husband has hidden. I then spend a few minutes trying to think of a good hiding spot where he will stumble upon it and get a similar sensation. Sometimes they are so well hidden that it's days before we find one, but it's a little romantic gesture or game that we continue to play simply because it is fun. Sometimes, when one of us needs to travel we each keep a heart in our pocket so we can finger it, which prompts fond thoughts and feelings about each other.

Approximately 5 years ago, we shared the idea with another group of couples as an inexpensive way to introduce a little fun into their lives. Recently, they've begun asking about getting some new hearts to replace the well worn ones that have inadvertently gone through a laundry cycle and the ones that have either been lost when they fell out of a pocket or hidden so well they are considered missing in action.

Their inquiries and the release of the movie Fireproof, prompted me to dust off this idea, upgrade the quality of the hearts we were using as tokens of our love, and make them available to any couple who is willing give this simple idea a try. Or if you'd prefer to do it yourself, check out my article on entitled DIY Valentine Project – Make a Gift that That Keeps on Giving. Its publication date is scheduled for January 17, 2010.

Whether you buy one of my packets of Love Tokens or decide to make some for yourself, my hope is that you will at least give this idea a try as a way to appreciate the unnecessary and add a spark of romance into your everyday lives.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Good Deal on Decorative Painting Books

Bauernmalerei, a style of decorative folk art painting, first caught my eye while living in northern Bavaria in the late 70's. It seemed like every where we went, whether stopping at an inn for dinner, visiting a neighbor, or strolling through town, bright cheerfully painted functional items were plentiful. I was intrigued by the simple yet intricate stroke work that adorned everything from outdoor flower pots to old milking cans turned umbrella stands, to backs of chairs and kitchen counter-top canisters.

However, it wasn't until we returned a decade later to the Heidelberg area that I had an opportunity to learn the techniques associated with the hand painting done by rural peasants residing primarily in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. These commoners used the stylized stroke work to embellish household items from tiny wooden thimbles to large pieces of furniture.

My first and only teacher was a talented and patient woman named, Edna Terry. She taught her students the basic strokes by demonstrating proper brush techniques using a #3 round brush and a liner. She also taught us about paint consistency and introduced us to several of the different styles of European stroke work. As a hands-on learner, after 12 weeks in her class room, I was off and running. Everything else I've learned has been self-taught through reading decorative painting books.

Pictured here are two examples of my work that recently sold. You can see other examples of this type of folk art painting by visiting my online shop at ByCoco on Artfire and/or ByCoco on Etsy.

Recently, I ran across My Idea Center, which is a wonderful online source of decorative painting books being sold at a discount. The site carries books from many well know artists including Donna Dewberry, a popular American decorative painter, and Scottie Foster, one of my personal favorites who also lived in Germany for a while.

Decorative painting is a great way to add a little pizazz to ordinary items, turning them into extra ordinary pieces of art. It's also a great way to give new life to an old piece or turn some one else's trash into an eye-pleasing treasure. So, I wanted to pass along this site that is full of inspiring books, just in case it might spur you on.

Happy Painting!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hunt for Hidden Santa and Enter to Win a Christmas Gift Bundle

One of the online artist groups I belong to is the eSMArts team and we are "sharing the love" this holiday shopping season with a handmade bundle to warm your holidays!

Enter our Hidden Santa Treasure Hunt to WIN a Christmas Gift Bundle of unique handmade creations donated by the participating (sponsor) shops. The complete prize package, item photos and detailed descriptions will be announced on the Esmarts Blog shortly.

Our contest begins November 14th so check the Esmarts Blog for the full list of Sponsor Shops.
Sponsor Shop banners will be displayed at the top of the our team's blog (both left and right sidebar). To join in the fun and start hunting, simply click the banners to visit each of our Sponsor Shops.

How to Play:
  • Check the Esmarts blog for contest details and a list of participating eSMArts Sponsor Shops.

  • Visit each participating shop to find the hidden images of our Santa.

  • Make note of the URLs where you find our Santa pictured!

  • HINT: Santa images are not embedded yet. They won't be online until the contest start date of November 14, 2009.

  • Contest runs November 14-28, 2009 (close is November 28/09 at midnight eastern).

  • Drawing takes place November 29th.

  • Winner will be announced here November 30th.

  • Prize package ships December 1st, 2009.
Here's how to complete each entry:
  1. Find 3 Santa images that you haven't previously submitted.

  2. Email the URLs along with your name & address to esmartspromos [at] to be entered. (Don't forget to substitute @ for [at] when entering the email address.)

  3. 3 new Santa image URLs equals ONE additional contest entry so enter as many times as you like by finding 3 new Santa image URLs!

  4. Entries will be validated to ensure that contestants are submitting new Santa sightings.

Check the eSMArts blog often for hunting hints and tips.
Happy Hunting and Enjoy!

Tip: If while browsing around a sponsor shop you do not find Santa's image, try looking through that artisan's sold items as another shopper may have already bought that item.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Believe it or Not: Dreary Weather Inspired Bright Tropical Colored Fish

Alas, here in Maine, the neon like autumn colors of leaf peaking season have passed and the past few days have been gray, chilly, and dreary. Being a southern gal who delights in bright sun light and the vibrant tropical flora of Louisiana, I caught my mood waning. But rather than give in to the call of the couch, a pile of blankets, and a good movie, I decided to create something that would transport my mind and my mood to a warm, sunny and colorful place.

Rummaging through a closet of projects that were put on hold, I came across 17 terra cotta fish shaped clay pots, which had originally been bought as supplies for a fountain I intended to make as a house warming gift for one of our sons when he moved into his own place. That was many moons ago, so I shook my head and chastised myself for letting my good intentions evaporate into "nada".

Then, "Ding!" The light bulb went off in my head. As I looked at the fish, I began dreaming about all the places I'd rather be. Tropical colors began dancing before my eyes, and it only took a few minutes to gather up some brightly colored paints, and voila... my mood brightened as I painted away.

These pots originally came from K's Studio in Portugal and are approximately 6"x3"x3". I used a glass enamel paint which was oven cured for durability. Each is a one of a kind original, but they were all painted using the same colors making them complimentary when grouped together. Each fish is a unique one-of-a-kind piece and has been assigned a number as part of this limited collection of 17 fish.

A grouping of them would make a stunning centerpiece in a beach side bungalow, or they could be used as decorations during a tropical themed wedding and then be taken home by members of the wedding party. Use as a pot for a small plant, fill with glass marbles or individually wrapped candies, or use as a pencil holder to brighten up your work area. Wherever you could use a splash of cheerful color, you can use one or more of these fish. You'll find them individually listed for sale in my Artfire Studio: ByCoco -- Art for Everyday Enjoyment.

This is the time of year, I'm usually focused on creating traditional holiday themed pieces, but even though these tropical looking fish don't conger up images of enjoying hearth side warmth during a snow storm, they do make me feel Merry, and I hope they'll do the same for you or for someone you know who likes tropical things.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quick and Easy to Find Handmade Stocking Stuffers

Are you looking for one of a kind stocking stuffers that won't break the bank?, makes it easy for online shoppers to find unique yet inexpensive items as gifts this holiday season. Take a look at Artfire's Stocking Stuffer Trend Page.

On that page, you'll have quick access to items priced $10.00 and under that have been hand crafted and sized to fit in a traditional stocking. Below are just a few examples of what caught my eye when I went browsing through the stocking stuffer trend page:

Please help the rest of us quickly find unique and fun gifts by leaving the URL of stocking stuffers that catch your eye in the comment section below. Or if you sell your handmade pieces through another online venue like Etsy, 1000 Markets, IndiePublic, Dawanda, etc. or even your own website, and your item would make a good stocking stuffer, feel free to post a link to the item you are selling.

Have fun shopping... And don't forget that most of the artists and artisans selling online are open to filling a custom order. Just contact them through their online shops to make your request.

And, as always, Kudos for buying handmade!

Tips for Transforming the Ordinary into an Extraordinary Experience...

Sometimes good ideas are born from "mistakes" and excellence is experienced.

Last week, my husband made apple sauce from the Maine grown apples we harvested, but alas, there was "a little" more sauce than we had jars. (The Mistake: we ran out of jars.)

After dinner, while the left over apple sauce was still warm, we decided to spread it over some Gillford's vanilla ice cream for dessert...Umm, Ummmmm, Good! (The Good Idea: warm apple sauce over ice cream.) It was like eating hot apple pie a la mode, without all the work of making a pie.

I was amazed at how the apple sauce transformed plain old ordinary vanilla ice cream into an extraordinary dessert. So the next time you run out of chocolate syrup, or whatever topping the kids are asking for, open up a jar of apple sauce, add a little cinnamon and other pie spices (optional), heat up a portion (microwave works just fine), and pour enough to blanket a scoop of ice cream.

What's that? "Too out of the ordinary!" you say? You are afraid your kids will balk. Well, forget the kids. Sneak a private taste test. Yes, you deserve something deliciously uplifting. Why not treat yourself to a bowl of this heartwarming combo when no one is looking. Chances are you'll decide to keep this little tip to yourself to ensure that your household's apple sauce and ice cream supplies don't mysteriously disappear from the kitchen while you aren't looking.

However, should you decide to share this dessert idea with your family, and if you succeed at convincing little Mikey and the other naysayers to try it, I bet they'll like it. Be forewarned though; there's a good chance that they might not stop eating long enough to actually say, "Thank you, Mom." But, as you watch them change their tune from "Yu-uck!" to, "Umm, Ummmmm, Good!" you'll know that you're a cool Mom in their eyes, at least for the moment.

Have you used an unusual topping to turn plain ole vanilla ice cream into an extraordinary treat?
Share your tip in the comments below.

And, Enjoy!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sell Your Handmade Arts & Crafts through ArtFire’s Free-For-All

ArtFire - Buy Handmade - Sell Handmade

Do you like to dabble in crafts? Do you make your own gifts by hand? Have any of your family or friends suggested you try selling the items you create? Do you already sell online but want to try another venue?

If you answered yes to any of the above, now may be the right time for you to take advantage of the ArtFire Holiday Free-For-All--Just click on the graphic above. Artfire is the fastest growing handmade venue on the internet and is offering a risk-free way for potential sellers to test the market.

During the month of October, those who sign up for a Basic (free) account can use the the Global Product Editor and the Etsy Importer, which are features usually reserved for Verified ($12/month for life) account sellers. During October, even basic accounts can list an unlimited number of items in their studio. And there, are no listing, selling, or other fees.

It almost sounds too good to be true. But, Artfire is hoping that new sellers trying their venue will be so pleased with their experience that they will continue on as an Artfire seller after the holiday season. So this is their way of “Paying It Forward” and helping all handmade artists have a very merry holiday season.

This is one time you might not want to procrastinate. After all, it’s a Free-For-All.