Monday, April 30, 2012

Barbarah Robertson, Potter–Shenandoah Valley Artist Interview

logoToday we have the privilege of interviewing Barbarah Robertson, a well-known potter of the Shenandoah Valley. We hope you’ll appreciate Barbarah’s passion for creating useable pottery with an artistic view.  We love her pottery and we think you will too!
Enjoy the interview! and remember to show your appreciation to local artists by engaging them on FaceBook, Twitter, Etsy, or simply by dropping them an email to let them know how much you love their work.

Artist: Barbarah Robertson
City/State: Strasburg, VA
City/State: Strasburg, VA

BarbarahRobertsonCan you tell us a bit about where you’re from, where you’ve lived, and where you’re currently residing?
Born and raised in Alexandria Virginia, I lived in the DC Metro area until 1994 when I moved to the Shenandoah Valley permanently. I now live in Strasburg, Virginia “Pot Town” where I maintain a residence and studio.”

What type of artwork do you create?
I make wheel thrown and hand built stoneware and porcelain pottery with a focus on functional ware for cooking, table and garden. I occasionally make decorative pieces but have a stronger desire to know my pots are being used in day to day life rather than collecting dust on a shelf somewhere.

How long have you been an artist?
nce I could hold a crayon.. but I've been a potter since 1994 when I fell into a pottery class due to needing a 3 credit humanities elective to transfer back to my college in northern Virginia. Pottery was not the plan, it was the calling that grabbed me and never let go.

Where do your artistic ability come from?
I think that hard work & flexibility rather than “talent” is what affects the outcome of my pieces.

What inspires your work?
My inspiration comes from a strong desire to have a tangible asset at the end of my working day. Numbers on paper will never equal the satisfaction of turning to cut off the light to the studio and looking down upon a room full of actual “things”. Not just any “things” but pieces that I know are hearty, functional works that will fill the cabinets of a family home for a lifetime. Wen I think of family dinners from childhood, I remember certain pots and pans, my Mother's favorite cup, beat up utensils and handed down dishes, all old, all made in the USA. Those “things” bring a certain comfort to our lives & memories that cheap modern plastic “made in china” goodies just can't bring. I find it extremely important and satisfying to be continuing the tradition of true American craftsmanship.

Where do you create most of your work? At home, in a studio, outdoors?
I maintain a studio here in my home in Strasburg, Virginia. It is a constant evolving mess.

How many hours a day/week do you spend creating your artwork?
I spend 4-12 hours per day in the actual studio working, there are too many variables in pottery to maintain an exact hourly schedule. I also spend a couple hours a day doing photos, photo editing, marketing, networking, online sales etc. Unfortunately it's not ALL about the clay. There's also a large amount of time that goes into customer orders, drawing up sketches for clients or new pottery ideas and inventory control.
When you “hit the wall” per say, how do you re-inspire your creativity?
I often will surf the web in search of photos of old pottery to give me ideas, then I figure out a way to make that shape “new” again. I also pull inspiration from plants, large gardens and tablescapes. Sometimes I'll watch a video of another potter or two making pots and it gives me a good kickstart!

Can you tell us about your favorite piece of artwork that you’ve created?
I made a large outdoor garden tile with my teacher/mentor about 14 years ago...I refuse to sell it.

Where do you currently display and/or sell your artwork?
All Things Virginia – Harrisonburg, VA
Edinburg Gallery – Edinburg, VA
7East Gallery – Woodstock, VA
Epearls – Strasburg, VA
Cristina's Cafe – Strasburg, VA
Hupps Hill Visitors Center – Strasburg, VA
Mountain Mystic Trading Co. - Front Royal, VA
Earth Works Gallery – Front Royal, VA
Coming soon to..
Shenandoah Treasures – Stephens City, VA
The Harvest Moon Shoppes – Winchester, VA

What type of music do you listen to? What’s your favorite band or song?
A little bit of everything but here are a couple favorites...Pink Floyd, Daft Punk, Punch Brothers, Hamza El Din, Gaelic Storm, Tinariwen, and a lot of classical

What are your other hobbies or interests?
I'm a hard core gamer, starting with my first Pong unit in 1978 and leading to an addiction to Arcades as a kid :)

Are you a full time artist or is this more of a passion for you?
I am a full time potter & make jewelry on the side as more of a creative hobby.

Can you tell us a bit about your day job?
I clean the studio, prep clay, then make pots.
Clean the studio again, then wax and glaze pots.
Load and unload kilns, clean the studio some more,
Break lots of nails, and wear lots of stained clothes :)”

Where would you like your artwork to take you in life?
I'm pretty much where I'd like to be. Through my work, I've become more aware of my community and try to stay involved with teaching and local charities. Being a full time potter potteryallows me to be home for my family and do a job that satisfies my need to be productive and creative.

What has been your most rewarding experience related to your artwork?
I am pleased every time someone picks up one of my pieces, hugs it to themselves and smiles.
It's at that moment that I know that piece will become part of their family traditions for (hopefully) generations. It will serve them, nourish them, and become a part of their family experience.
That's enough reward for me.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Diane Artz Furlong, Painter–Shenandoah Valley Artist Interview

Today we have the privilege of interviewing Diane Artz Furlong, an impressionist artist painting the Shenandoah Valley. Diane has held true to her roots with her love of the Shenandoah Valley and was born, raised and still resides in Strasburg, VA.
Diane’s paintings have an impact on me each and every time I see one of her works on display. I can instantly recognize her work from across the room. Diane’s landscape paintings bring me back to a snapshot of a moment in my life. Being a lover of the Shenandoah Valley, born and raised as well, I recognize many of the landscape paintings at first glance, instantly bringing me back to that moment in time when that view or landscaped was etched in my memory. Her painting of a hillside on Funk Road (on right) reminds me of the many trips back to Deer Rapids to wade the river. Thank you Diane, for capturing the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and keep up your wonderful work.

Enjoy the interview! and remember to show your appreciation to local artists by engaging them on FaceBook, Twitter, Etsy, or simply by dropping them an email to let them know how much you love their work.

Artist: Diane Artz Furlong
City/State: Strasburg, VA

DianArtzFurlong_thumb2Can you tell us a bit about where you’re from, where you’ve lived, and where you’re currently residing?
I’m a Valley girl, born and raised in the small town of Strasburg, Virginia. My family has lived here for generations so my roots are deep. I never really felt the need to move elsewhere. Besides, my muse is here as there is no where else quite so beautiful. My home is in the country, 5 miles northwest of town.”

What type of artwork do you create?
“I am a pastel landscape artist. I paint impressionist scenes of the Shenandoah Valley.”

How long have you been an artist?
“I was born an artist so that would be about 62 years.”

Where do your artistic ability come from?
“My grandfather and one of his sisters both dabbled in art. They painted landscapes in oil and my grandfather also painted a couple of portraits of my mother. Other than their genes, I like to think I channel some of the creative energy left in the world by great artists that have passed on.”

What inspires your work?
“I am inspired by the natural world—the light at sunset and dawn, the shape of a cedar tree, the curve of a mountain ridge, the colors of the seasons. There is so much beauty to see that I never run out of inspiration.”

Where do you create most of your work? At home, in a studio, outdoors?
“I have a large studio in my home and most of my work is done there. I take digital reference photos from locations I’d like to paint, put them on my computer then study them to work out the best composition. I refer to these images while I’m painting but I do not try to duplicate the photograph. Most often, the final painting looks nothing like the place in the reference photo.”

paiinting1_thumb2How many hours a day/week do you spend creating your artwork?
“When I am not painting at the easel I am thinking about painting or thinking about a particular problem within a painting or thinking about a new series I’d like to do or a place I’d like to visit to get some photos. I paint several days a week but also spend time marketing my art, looking for new places to show my art, following up on sales, commissions and shows,and writing in my blog. “

When you “hit the wall” per se, how do you re-inspire your creativity?
“That is interesting because I’ve just completed two demos for a book on that same topic. The truth is I’ve not really had that problem since I began working with pastel but to change things up a bit I like to pull a completed landscape straight from my imagination or , instead of my usual vista-type landscapes, I will pull in closer to a subject in order to reveal more detail.“

Can you tell us about your favorite piece of artwork that you’ve created?
“That would be a piece I did when I was 8 years old. Drawn with crayons on a sheet of paper, it was an image of a gloriously-colored tree in autumn. The tree stood in the center of the paper with nothing else around it, just the earth and the sky. I didn’t’ worry about drawing leaf-shapes but swirled the color around, layer on layer, until I felt I had added all the colors of fall. It was simple and straightforward, something I strive for in my painting today.”

Where do you currently display and/or sell your artwork?
"I currently have a solo show at Art and Dentistry in Bethesda, Maryland. My work can be seen at Cristina’s Café, Hi Neighbor Restaurant, Buggy B’s, the Emporium, and Hupp’s Hill Civil War Museum, all in Strasburg, the Firehouse Gallery and Shop in Berryville, Virginia and the Espresso Bar and Café in Winchester, Virginia."

paiinting2_thumb2What type of music do you listen to? What’s your favorite band or song?
“Here is my latest song list on Spotify: Gotan Project, Leonard Cohen, Gary Morris, Sting, Marc Antony, George Michael, Los Lonely Boys”

What are your other hobbies or interests?
“My favorite thing is having fun with my 2-year –old granddaughter, Isabela Marie,. I also have 5 dogs and 5 cats, and huge rhubarb patch and a growing herb garden. I like to read biographies, autobiographies and memoirs, especially those of interesting women. I like long car rides when someone else is driving, a yearly trip to the seashore, lunches with good friends and long talks with my husband.”

Are you a full time artist or is this more of a passion for you?
“I am a passionate full-time artist.”

Where would you like your artwork to take you in life?
“I want to make art until the very last day.”

What has been your most rewarding experience related to your artwork?
“Having a woman say, after viewing one of my paintings, that it made her feel like she’d come home.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Upcycled Retro Vintage Soda Bottles

Remember those heavy, unbreakable soda bottles from the 60s and 70s.  We do, (actually we don’t because we’re not that old).  Anyhow, we’ve found a way to put those old bottles back up for display as tiki torches and wall vases and we’d like to share them with you.

I was fortunate enough to pick up over 70 soda bottles from an estate auction, just a couple miles from my house.  It was a brisk Winter day, which deterred most treasure hunters from even attempting to come out in the cold.  Lucky for me, I was there, bundled up and ready to buy.  I purchased 5 truck loads of stuff from this auction including several boxes of old dusty soda bottles. 

Now here’s the best part…..I only paid $2 total for all the bottles, which probably totals over 70 of them, but I’ve never counted them.  I got Coke, Pepsi, NEHI, Hires, Crass, and some other odd bottles that I’ve never heard of.

We’re constantly looking around our pile of junk to figure out what to make next and it hit me….why don’t we make wall vases and torches out of these old bottles….after all we’re already upcycling Wine Bottles into torches and wall vases.

Here’s the results

Be sure to Like us on FaceBook, as we’re always making something new in hopes to inspire your next project:  All these products are also available for sale in our Etsy shop.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Bicycle Chain and Glass Insulator “love” Sign – DIY


I’ve been wanting to create a “message” sign out of old hardware or metal materials for a while now and one day got around to digging through our pile of rusty goodness we’d collected.  We have the start of a good variety of hinges, chains, springs and other odds and ends.  I pulled out a few pieces of old bicycle chain and started working and twisting it until it eventually spelled out “love”.. something I’m lucky to have a lot of….  


So this was the base for my design..  I had thought about mounting it in between two mason jar vases but decided to go with glass insulator candle holders.  (Look for the mason jars in future projects…)

love sign edited_3-001

Then I had to decide what to mount it all to…  weathered barn wood is always an option..  but I had something different in mind.  I wanted to created a collage of beautiful chalk paint colors and that’s just what I did..  the design was complete, here’s how I pulled it off!

I needed a larger board to mount everything to so I grabbed a piece of scrap lumber my husband had in the shed.  For the mosaic of chalk painted boards I purchased a piece of trim board from Lowes.. it comes in 7ft pieces, which was just enough for this project.  My first step was creating my pattern and cutting the trim board into smaller pieces.


Next, I stained all of the pieces with a dark stain.  The large base board because it’s sides were going to be exposed and so the dark color would serve as a background for any cracks between my smaller pieces.  The small mosaic pieces so that the dark color would come through after chalk painted and sanded.


After staining and wiping down, I chalk painted the smaller pieces.  I chose to use three colors I felt go well together.  I make my own chalk paint using a simple recipe of 3 parts paint to 1 part Plaster of Paris, also available at Lowes. 


After painting and allowing to dry (which literally takes minutes with chalk paint) I sanded each piece to give it that lovely worn look and allow the dark stain color to come through.


Next up was attaching these painted boards to my larger base board.  For this I simply used wood glue and allowed to dry overnight while weighted.


The next day I started by attaching the glass insulators.  I decided to attach them with twine, and the first step was drilling two holes for the twine to feed through.


The twine is wrapped around the glass insulator and each end is fed through one of the holes, then tied and stapled to the back of my base board.



I repeated this for the other glass insulator, then it was on to attaching my “love” bicycle chain.  For this I used E-6000 glue, picked up at Walmart in the craft aisle. 


I allowed that to dry overnight with a few books on top to weigh it down.  I screwed an old chain to the back of my base board for hanging, and my “love” sign was complete!






On to the next project!

Megan Signature

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Upcycling Wooden Crates

upcycledcratesNever Underestimate the Use of an Old Wooden Crate!
I’ve observed that wooden crates are the most plentiful item at flea markets and antique malls.  Perhaps this is because I live in the unofficial “Apple Capital of the World”, the great Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.  Apple, soda, and ammunition crates are so plentiful around these parts, that you would probably find 10 of them at one stop, and pay less than $8 for each.  Most people just see them as old weathered wooden crates, but those of us with the upcycling bug see things a bit different.  Tap into the right side of your brain as you enjoy these great new uses for old wooden crates.
Explosive Box Wall Signs
Milk Crate Dog Bed (Sammy's Backyard Crafts)
Shipping Crate Table (MsRekamepip)
7-Up Dog Bowl (SummerOfSeventy)
Pepsi Crate Jewelry Holder (DwayneBullaDesigns)
Gardening Box (Joe Crayton)
Ammunition Box Table (Kristen Villalobos)
Soda Crate Stairs (Corinne Davis)
How do you use your crates?  Post a comment and link in the comments section to share your ideas and projects.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Upcycled Lighting–Wire Up Your Junk

What is Upcycled Lighting?
The concept is fairly simple….you take an ordinary object and transform it into a working light by wiring it up with a lamp kit. 

Our Upcycled Lights (Handmade and for sale)
The Upcycle Process

1. Find a Fixture: What types of items can become light fixtures? The answer to this depends on your imagination and creativity. I suppose you could say that anything can become a light, be it a suitcase, a stapler, a bucket, or a fish tank.

In reality, you’d probably want to choose an item that has characteristics of modern day lighting….for two reasons, 1) so wiring it up doesn’t take weeks, and 2) so people don’t think you’re crazy for converting your pool skimmer into a chandelier. Be creative, but keep it realistic!

Some of my favorite items are antique egg baskets, steel, galvanized, and copper buckets, anything that resembles a pot or a bucket, antique pie tins, vintage ceramic cooking pots, and ball jars. I started with the more traditional fixtures like buckets and baskets, but have since gotten a bit more creative by using an antique cream separator bowl.
You’ll find more than enough items with just one trip to a local flea market or during a mornings worth of yardsales. You’ll likely get a good deal on these items too, since they’re aren’t as desirable to most people. Remember, you’re turning trash into treasure here, so don’t spend more than $10 or $20 on any given fixture.

2. Add Some Character: This is the fun part! You may choose to pepper your bowl with a shotgun, like I tend to do, or you may decide to just put a few coats of clear coat in it. Whatever your flavor, just have fun with it.

3. Wire it Up: Purchase a pendant light kit from your local hardware store, or build your own lamp kit by purchasing individual parts. The kits are by far the best route to go, since you get everything you need to install the fixture in any setting.
Some of My Upcycled Lights

Galvanized Bucket
Galvanized Bucket Pendnt Light

Antique Egg Baskets
Egg Basket Pendant LightEgg Basket Pendant LightEgg Basket Pendant Light

Antique Copper Bucket (Character added by 4 shots with a .410 shotgun.)
Copper Bucket Pendant LightCopper Bucket Pendant LightCopper Bucket Pendant Light

Antique Cream Separator Bowl
Cream Separator Pendant LightCream Separator Pendant LightCream Separator Pendant Light

All of our lights come with a 12’ cord with a plug on the end, as well as an on off switch.
Pendant Light Plug and Switch

I hope you enjoyed the info and the pics.  Feel free to share pics of your own upcycled light by joining us on Facebook, Twitter, Etsy, and at