Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A View into "Wool Applique Folk Art"

    From the very start of the journey into creating this book of projects, I knew exactly how I wanted my pieces to be photographed and where I wanted it photographed. The pictures in my mind were of each project piece in a period setting giving the reader an idea of how the piece could be used. The photographs were going to set the stage of the book and really give life to my work. All along as I designed, stitched, and wrote, I continued to develop how each piece could be staged for their big photo shoot.

    Once the technical writing was finished it was time to focus on the long day of photography it would take to get just the right shots to express the feel of this book. It started with my West Coast publishing company choosing a photographer in Northeast Ohio. Not only did they find a capable photographer, but Laura is also a very talented artist with the camera. We set the big date for July.

Before I even wrote my book proposal, I had approached Ron & Kathy Wright about the idea to photograph my work in their beautiful and historic home should the publisher agree. The Marshall House is a stately home that sits on a bluff overlooking the Grand River and is steeped in history of local and national importance. It was built by a leading citizen of the community and was a stop on the Underground Railroad. With many period-styled rooms and a wonderful collection of antiques, their home would offer just the right backdrops.

Now it was time to assemble the team. Yes, it definitely took a team. I have two highly trained assistants in my daughters Kelsey and Karly. They are both artists in their own rights whose advice and design skills I can always count on. The three of us along with homeowner Kathy worked a whole day a week in advance of the photo shoot to get each piece staged in just the right setting. The Wrights were very generous to let us move items in their collection from room to room in order to achieve just the right setting. 

The day of the photo shoot arrived dark and gloomy. The final and important team member, Laura arrived with gear in tow and ready to get started. Once she had a look at our settings and set up all of her equipment, we dived right in knowing that it was going to be a long day. We divided into two teams now, with Kelsey and I staging each shot just ahead of Laura and her assistant Karly who would get the shot and which would then be approved by all. Then Kelsey and I would clean up after each shot and return items to where they belonged in the house. We had started at 9am and with a brief lunch break, finished at 6pm. We gathered around Laura's computer at the end of the day to see the fruits of all out labors. It was an amazing moment as I saw for the first time my book come to life in these pictures.

To say "Thank you" to Ron & Kathy for their generous use of the Marshall House seems so inadequate as I am so grateful for all of their support. Laura's talent with a camera is so evident in these photos, and I am just so thankful C&T found her. My two assistants also deserve a lot of credit for always being willing to support me in my work.

As this journey with my book continues, I will share more about it with you in hopes it will inspire.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Making of "Wool Applique Folk Art"

Last year this post was a favorite among readers so I would like to share it again with new readers. 

      Hello readers! My name is Tessa Smith, the daughter of your favorite Rebekah L. Smith. I would just like you to see the difficult and extremely stressful steps to writing a book. My mother has been working hard all winter and spring to get it done, and I would like you all to see what she has to go through. I must warn you, though, she may not exactly know about these photos, for I took them when I encountered them from afar.
    This first photo is of the "Design Phase," or where she starts to get her ideas out for her book projects. The Himalayas of paper you see all around her are the sketches she either didn't like or she hated them (there is a difference). Also to keep herself awake and focused, she used really bright colored markers, because the black was dull and boring. She doesn't want either of those things to be included in the process or the actual book itself.
    During the next "Wool-Sorting" stage, she was what she called "hard at work." I don't buy it, because I found her sound asleep after sitting there for seven minutes. Yes, I felt bad, but she is the one who stayed up too late coming up with her final design. I think she finally got it.
    This next step is the "Cutting and Snipping" stage. I was startled by the giant "snippers" (I call them shears) she was wielding in such a drowsy state. I was at the same time impressed she could cut such tiny and fine details into the wool. You can see them in the design behind her.  

 This photo shows the "stitching" step. As you may see by her garments, it was the dead of the winter when she was trying to get this done. After a while, she couldn't feel the small needle in her hand, so she started to have to use bigger and bigger ones. She ended up using a three inch long needle.
     The next step on her journey to being an author in print was the "Writing Stage." Since she was writing a traditional styled book, she decided to wear colonial dressing, in company with a quill and inkwell. After she got a little tired of the fancy script writing and flimsy feather, she time-traveled a hundred years ahead. She liked the idea of the retro style typewriter, which she said was going to be as advanced as she would get in this process of the book. She refused to touch a computer or smart device. Then one night, I woke up to strange noises in the basement. I go down to find her in the dark on her brand new laptop, typing away at the steps for this project in her book. She saw me and quickly closed her laptop and shooed me off to bed.

 This last picture was not taken by me, but it was intentional. This is her proudly holding up her finished project so my father could take the picture. I am very sorry for the inconvenient blacked-out part. That was her finished project, but she signed a contract, and she can't show it to the public until the book is released. Have a great day and I hoped you enjoyed this post. Signing off, Tessa Smith-13 years old.

Note: She actually does know about this post and approved it.

Now that the book has been released, it is time to sit back for some summer reading!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Wooly Weekend

 This weekend all came about, when Beth Anne Smiley, owner of Wheaten Woolens in Davenport Iowa, contacted me about holding a wool applique workshop at her rug hooking studio. I was excited about the prospect of taking my workshops on the road. For so many years I have been working in my studio and have stayed mainly close to home in Ohio with shows and workshops. It was time to take this on the road!

  My daughter Kelsey kindly agreed to accompany me on this adventure. She is a great traveling buddy and we always have a good time. She has been my apprentice since she was 14 years old and makes a great assistant as well. She is well-versed in what I do and can answer questions and take care of "the store".

 Just a note: Kelsey also takes all of the photos thus she is not in any of them. kasfrakturs.blogspot.com

    Wheaten Woolens is an oasis in the midst of a Davenport neighborhood. Beth Anne and her husband Barry have over two acres that lie six hundred feet above the Mississippi River. The stone house and barn are from the 1860's and true gems. We were so amazed to find their place surrounded by gardens, lots of trees, and hills that made it seem as if you were well out of the city and in the country.

    The wool studio, housed in the stone barn, is wonderful. Beth Anne has filled it with antiques, rugs, and tons of wool! For the classes each day, the ladies were working in the studio in this great setting. It was so inspiring and delightful to have the doors open to the gardens and be surrounded by so much talent and energy.

    The students came from Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, & Texas. All of the ladies were so great to work with. They brought their enthusiasm and love of wool with them, and made the weekend so special!

    If you are ever in the Davenport area, you must look up Wheaten Woolens. Check the website for when the studio is open. Beth Anne also teaches rug hooking.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June Inspirations

Shopping at the local antique show is a great way to find inspiration!

   What inspires me in June? Well, right this minute it is the soothing cool breeze and sunshine after several days of humidity and rain. June is that calm month after the storms of school and the May days of yard work, garden planting, and spring cleaning.

   Right now I have this one sweet moment to look at the fruits of our labors, the birds of the yard, and listen to the happy chatting of our girls in the background. Beside me is a long list of things that need to be attended to, but I will get there eventually, not just now.

So much green after the long grey winter!

"I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart..."
Psalm 9:1a

I call these my "Shades of June Sky" .
What inspires you in June?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

For Keeps

Wooly boxes on their way to a show.
 What would we do without boxes? Where would we put all of our treasures, supplies, and even food? Of all the items I collect, the box is my favorite. These long appreciated receptacles of life have found a very necessary and affectionate way into our hearts and homes.

     As I am not a historian I will not attempt to give my readers a date in history of the first box, but the Bible makes mention of the box in the Old Testament. There are some very ancient boxes that I have viewed in museums. However, the boxes I gather are of a different sort--more utilitarian in nature. These are mostly constructed of wood and date to the early 19th century. Everything from flour, cornmeal, spices, sugar, and tea to documents, artist's supplies, Bibles, sewing items, and candles was tucked away in them. I have large boxes for blankets and linens and tiny boxes for, well, I am not sure what some of them were for! They all are hand made, well-constructed, and beautiful. Their age is showing, but to me that makes them even more appealing.

Early Boxes possibly for documents.
In the end, who can have enough boxes? Where would we keep our mementos, articles we will some day read, cards from loved-ones, photos, jewelery, and on goes the list? I for one am always on the look-out for another wood, tin, or paper box. They hold a lot of possibilities within their spaces. And when I cannot recall what is in a box, it is an opportunity to rediscover, and I am rarely disappointed in what I find.

Early diminuative tin boxes

19th century meal bin 

Antique wallpaper-covered band boxes

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What is a Woolie?

Antique Woolie
Photo by Paul Vandekar
     Over a decade ago I was reading a periodical for those whose interests include antiques, when I came upon a work of folk art depicting a ship at sea which was completely stitched using wool. The caption declared that it was called a "woolie" and was worked by a sailor. This was fascinating to me for two reasons; I love nautical motifs and the term used to describe this piece. The name resonated with me and I quickly decided that it was exactly the word I was looking for to describe my wool applique work. So as not to cause any confusion, I decided to spell it "wooly".

Antique Woolie
Photo by Paul Vandekar

     Woolies are pictures stitched by sailors on their long journeys at sea. They used mostly wool but also silk or cotton and most often were nautical in theme.There are British and American examples of woolies and original works can bring strong prices. Be sure to follow this link to a wonderful article that explains the world of woolies and their makers written by Paul Vandekar.   Woolie Catalog
Antique Woolie
Photo by Paul Vandekar

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Commemoration in Wool Applique

                                          Once again it the season of Statehood in Ohio!
A simple project in cotton & wool.

     What can I say about Ohio that I have not already articulated in my last Annual Statehood Day Post? We spent a lot of time touring the state last year and met a lot of wonderful people. As always our travels take us to antique shows & shops, historic sites, museums, and fabric shops. Also, trying a few new restaurants and of course exploring the waterways and parks that we are so blessed to be able to enjoy.

     As we begin another season of living here in Ohio, I was inspired to create another wool applique piece which I want to share with you. I call this "Circa 1803". There are 17 Ohio star motifs as we are the 17th state in the union. 1803 was the year of our statehood and is partnered with the colors of our state banner. I am including the pattern pieces for this wooly free for your own enjoyment.

Happy Statehood Day, Ohio!

Full project finish size 11.5'' h x 27.5''w (without border)
Light Backgroun 11.5" h x 17.5'' w
Dark End Pieces 11.5" h x 5.5"w

Click here for pattern pieces.

     Maybe I will see you around Ohio this year as I will be traveling to promote the release of my first book. The projects were designed and the text was completely written in Ohio. So much of what I love about this state is in this book.