Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Story Behind the Art - Robin Pickens

The Story Behind the Art-Robin Pickens

Hello and welcome to the eleventh installation of 

If you are new to my blog, The Story Behind the Art will take you on a little journey into the STORY behind a particular piece of art or collection created by one of my talented friends from around the globe. The stories are posted on the first Wednesday of each month.

Robin Pickens and I have known each other for several years now and as soon as I saw her work I was an instant fan. We mainly see each other on social media but sometimes I have the pleasure of seeing her in person  and it's always a treat!
Thanks for sharing your story Robin!

I’m so excited to share my new project with you because it’s been a really fun journey that has been a long time in the making in some ways yet also an unexpected twist of direction! My story is not just about one design but more about my path to a particular type of work. I have a new fabric line with Moda fabrics that is shipping to stores in November. It is called “Poppy Mae” and I also have designed quilt patterns that use this fabric (or you can use any other fabrics with the patterns too). I was so honored last year to be the Fabric8 winner on, which Moda was sponsoring and offering a contract to produce the line. They were a company I aspired to work with and they have been just wonderful!

I grew up in a house with a lot of creativity. My father was an automotive designer and my mother did silk screening, knitting, sewing, quilting, and all kinds of creative projects. I learned to sew at her Pfaff sewing machine which was a rather intimidating machine with some burned out middle speeds and a knee pedal, so it went from slow to super fast with my inexperienced touch! When I went to the University of Michigan School of Art I studied graphic design and industrial design. I was also interested in fiber art and textile design but the fiber art class I took was more geared towards weaving and fabric dying vs pattern design so I stayed focused on my other design directions.

I ended up working in the television industry as a broadcast designer and animator for many years. With so much time at a monitor and computer (and I do love designing on my Mac!) I found it was really nice to spend time outside of work on more tactile things, using my hands to make something. My mother and sister were both making quilts at that time and they really had an appreciation for modern quilts. Visiting fabric stores was high on the list of activities that had to be fit in when traveling and I loved the fantastically beautiful fabrics and started building a nice stash. I attended quilt shows with them when possible and of course bought more fabric!

My mother was visiting one time after I had moved to LA and we decided to take a quilt workshop together at the Quilters Studio in Newbury Park, California. I decided to draw on some of my solid fabrics with a sharpie to make the types of patterns I wanted for the project. That’s when it started clicking with me…the thought of being a fabric designer. I started taking classes at Otis College of Art and Design in LA in textile and surface design. I loved it! I also started licensing my drawings and designs at this time for other products. 

A number of friends recommended I check out for offering fabric designs in a print-on-demand structure. Spoonflower has weekly competitions with design themes and I started entering them. Soon it was one of my favorite activities of the week to work on some of the funky and eclectic themes for the competitions. Annually spoonflower has a Fabric8 competition with a fabric company as a sponsor and I jumped in when it was the Botanical Sketchbook theme. I chose poppies because my mom has talked about going to see the poppies in California and she is the one who influenced me originally with sewing. I was very honored to win the competition and decided to go to Quilt Market last October to meet with Moda and check out the show. 

At market I met a number of other designers for Moda who also design quilts and make quilt patterns. This was not anything I had thought of doing before but suddenly I found myself on the airplane making sketches of quilt ideas and head buzzing with a new direction. I’ve taken numerous classes and workshops on quilting, often in more improvisational ways. Traditional patterns are not something I’ve tackled before. But I love a challenge and learning new things and I have two of my very own experts- my mom and my sister- to ask for advice. I attended QuiltCon in Pasadena and joined my local Modern Quilt Guilds. Some days my head is so full from all the new information that I think I’m crazy to do this. But I just keep designing and cutting and sewing and trusting in it. I work in both EQ7 (Electric Quilt 7) and Adobe Illustrator for designing quilts. I designed three different quilt patterns to launch with my Poppy Mae line and just last week I sent off patterns to my distributor, United Notions. I wanted a range of quilts that were easy and could be pieced in a weekend to more complex and detailed. I just finished 6 quilts that are samples I will take to Quilt Market in October to show my patterns. I have learned about getting barcodes, writing and printing patterns, hang bags, making samples, ease and difficulty of different patterns, techniques for faster piecing, types of rulers and templates to make cutting certain shapes easier, the tools I like to use, finding long-arm quilters to work with and photographing quilts. My sister has looked over my patterns and been my editor and math re-checker (thank you Wendy!). My friend Darcel has opened her home to me and photographed my quilts in her beautiful setting. My husband has helped fill pattern orders. My mother has offered her advice and been a huge cheerleader for me.

I have such a sense of pride at creating quilts which also stand for upholding a family legacy and tradition. It has made this work feel deeply personal for me. Writing pattern instructions also has the feeling of teaching with it and I like to think through the logical steps. Working on quilts is fun because of the infinite possibilities due to color combinations and pattern placements. I never expected to enjoy this so much! I have more ideas in my head than hours of the day. Enjoying the world of quilt-making has been a surprise, yet natural direction too.

My other work includes my calendar line, Seize the Day, for Sellers Publishing. I am currently working on my 7th year of calendars for them). I also create coloring books for Fox Chapel Publishing/Design Originals and I’m working on some inspirational faith-based books now. I have a new coloring calendar from Plan-Ahead out in Walmart where I am featured with Jane Maday, Debra Valencia and Nancy Archer. And now I’m working on my next line for Moda and thinking of new quilts for that. My studio space has become more and more about coloring and sewing than I ever imagined. That is a really happy place to be!
You can find out more about Robin and her work by following these links.


Robin Pickens Shop on Spoonflower
for fabric, wallpaper and gift wrap

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Paper Navigations-Amsterdam

Paper Navigations
The classroom at The Lloyd Hotel, Flow Magazines, stamps and a work in progress.

Ever since meeting Rachel Hazell at a a workshop at Les Soeurs Anglaises in France, I have wanted to take a class from her.
I am happy to say that I just returned from her Paper Navigations class in Amsterdam and it was everything (and more) that I thought it would be.

We folded paper, made books and maps, ate biscuits (cookies) and laughed a lot. There were field trips to some wonderful stationery and paper shops AND we met Irene and Astrid, the creators of FLOW Magazine. My suitcase was so laden with magazines that it was almost over the weight limit.

Flow Magazine
Flow Magazine and a work in progress.

Paper Navigations
Bits and Pieces of a work in progress.

Besides learning some new techniques, I met a great group of amazing and talented people who all shared the desire to create things. 

Paper Navigations
The class included talented ladies from the England, Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, Canada and the USA

I came home totally recharged (after recovering from the jet lag) and ready to create just for the fun of creating. It is also going to be fun incorporating some of my new skills into my commercial work.

Paper Navigations
I can't wait for my next creative adventure!

If you are a creative person, I can't stress enough how important it is to get out and go on some kind of creative retreat or to take a workshop. You don't have to travel 4000+ miles like I did. Just google classes in your area and sign up for a workshop. I would also encourage you to take a workshop that is a little outside of your everyday norm. The Paper Navigations workshop was all about mapmaking and book making, two things that I have never done.  It really helped me to step outside of the comfortable, little, creative box that I had created for myself.

As we approach the end of another year, maybe taking a creative workshop is a goal you can set for 2017.  

As for me, I have always wanted to take a Macaroon making class. Surely that will be beneficial to my creative path (wink). What class would you take?

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Story Behind the Art-Going With Your Gut

Normally the first Wednesday of the month is dedicated to a fellow artist who shares the Story Behind Their Art
Well, this month I messed up the schedule and ended up without a story. Since I had a spot to fill I thought I would share a story of someone who has totally inspired me. 

There is a lot of talk about "Following Your Passion" but I prefer to call it "Following Your Gut" and that's exactly what Robin Davis, my therapist (lol), guru and bestie is doing.

About a year ago, she announced that she was no longer going to pursue licensing her art (which by the way, she was pretty darn successful with) and was instead, going to get back to making things. 

She turned down work that just didn't feel right and concentrated on the things that made her happy. In other words, she followed her gut. I like to imagine her leaping out of bed in the morning and running down the stairs to get to work. 

When we chat, she is so happy and excited about what she is working on that it makes me happy. And it's contagious.

Look at these awesome things she is creating!

Found Object Robot
Robin's found object Robots

Found Object Robot

Watching her follow her path has encouraged me to take a step back and examine the kind of work that makes me happy. I do still love working on licensing projects for clients but I miss making things with my hands. 

This past month, with no deadlines looming, I have been experimenting with different media and just making things for the fun of making them and it's been a real treat. The plan is to settle on a technique, stick with it, and see what happens. 

Hopefully while on this little creative adventure my gut will speak to me because I will be listening.

Thanks for stopping by!

Want to know more about Robin? Just follow the links.

Website-Robin Davis Studio

Follow her on Instagram

Check out her Blog

She has a Facebook page
Robin Tweets

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Giving Yourself a Permission Slip

As far as I can remember, this summer has been one of the more hectic ones. 
Between the 14 + houseguests (some were "checking out" as others were "checking in"), traveling and several unexpected work related projects, I  took a leave of absence from my blog.

In addition to that I also said no to a couple of projects, and more recently (yesterday as a matter of fact), I threw in the towel on a personal project that I had been working on for a couple of weeks.

None of these decisions came easy and some required extensive phone sessions with my friend Robin Davis. We are always able to talk each other down from the ledge.

I am not one to give up on something. I'm that person who sits all the way through a horrible movie and reads a book to the end even if it is boring me to tears. 

For me, giving up or turning work down comes with a lot of guilt and feelings of failure, but sometimes you just have to do it. And you know what? After you make that decision, it feels pretty good.

What I learned from all of this is this:

When I took the summer off from my blog the world didn't end and there were no people screaming in the streets in fits of hysteria. I doubt that anyone even noticed.

When I turned down work and worried that I was losing out on the income, something else more lucrative and creative came along.

When I pulled the plug on that personal project that I had been struggling with for a couple of weeks, it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I also figured out what it is that I would rather be working on. 

In short, I had to give myself a permission slip for each of these decisions. One to take time off and enjoy my summer, another to turn down work that just didn't "feel right" and one more to abandon a project that I had a good deal of time invested in. 

Is it hard for you to give yourself permission to say no? Feel free to share your story in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Story Behind the Art - Sue Zipkin

The Story Behind the Art - Sue Zipkin

Hello and welcome to the tenth installation of 

If you are new to my blog, The Story Behind the Art will take you on a little journey into the STORY behind a particular piece of art or collection created by one of my talented friends from around the globe. The stories are posted on the first Wednesday of each month.

Sue and I met many years ago on an icy (and sandy) winter's night when I had an artist gathering at my studio. We have been friends ever since. I am also a big fan of both her and of her beautiful work. Sue is one of the most sharing, giving people I know, and is always there with words of encouragement when needed.
Thanks for sharing your story Sue!

I am so honored that Paula invited me to share The Story Behind my Art.
Being dyslexic, the written word is always a challenge for me but hopefully this will make sense! 

I work in a few styles so my head is spinning in so many directions!  
When I’m creating, I need to think about the market, what clients I will be showing my artwork to and the different product categories that it could be used for. I am grateful that I earn a living from licensing art.  

I have been designing dinnerware and ceramics for many years, if you do a Google search you can find samples of my older patterns. Some I am proud of and others scare me! 

At times I create art that I feel would look good in my own home and others homes. 

My dinnerware collection, Tunisian Sunset came about because
I thought it would be fun to have some dinnerware with medallions in deep jewel tones to match some furniture I bought.
Having always been inspired by mixing and matching icons and patterns as well as my love of Indian motif. I layered in pattern, garden floral’s and some unexpected surprises.
Tunisian Sunset

My calendar for a well-known spiritual teacher, Ram Dass, came from similar inspiration.
Ram Dass

A few years ago I started to experiment with mix-media. I love that it is all about getting messy. I am good at that!  I got out my acrylic paints, canvas, textured papers and some of my own patterns to explore the technique. (I had already been using a lot of textures and layers in Photoshop.) At the time I was thinking I needed to expand on what I can put into the mix media. I started to look for sources to find handwritten ephemera in the public domain. My friend Kathy Alpert (coincidentally she is also the brainchild of bringing my artwork together with the Ram Dass teachings in the calendar, thank you Kathy!) has been a collector of ephemera for years.

One day she shared an ephemera society trade show on Facebook.  I met up with her at the show and I was forever hooked. I love the stuff so much I purchased some to download’s from Paula's etsy shop!     


I am thrilled to announce that Ganz just introduced a new line featuring this style of artwork. It is on wood items and the wood marries well to the withered feel of the art. That’s the other thing I love about this style, I get to mess it all up. I love withered paint!  Sometimes the ephemera dictates my art, it speaks to me.  I wonder about the person who might have created it and think about all the history in it. I love repurposing it and using it as background textures. At times I end up painting over most of it. You might have to look close to find it!


Lately I have been inspired to create very loose watercolor paintings of flowers so I search out beautiful flowers to paint! I also paint some of the flowers I’m growing in my garden.  Painting from life is so much fun because you can really get a sense of the individual flower you’re painting, how it grows; they all have their own personality.  I have a passion to paint them. I’m not really sure where this art will end up. So far some are on some greeting cards. Sometimes you just have to break away and create things just because it feels right without a clear direction of the market.  If you would like to see more, please follow me on Instragam 

Sue zipkin

If my memory serves me correctly, the beautiful handwriting in the background is one of Paula’s ephemera downloads.  
You can find out more about Sue and her work by following these links.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Typically when I take on a new project, the first thing I do is research. After 25+ years in this business I have quite an extensive portfolio, so I typically start there. It's always fun to look back at what I have created along the way.

There are images that I totally forgot about, others that make me say "Wow, I did that"? and then some that make me cringe and say "What was I thinking"?

Recently I took on a project geared to children, which I have to say is one of my favorite kinds of projects. It is always a nice challenge to create something for a child that appeals to the adult that is purchasing the item.

While I can't share the new art, I can share some of the images that I came across in some of my older portfolios. As with all projects, each one required a different style depending on the client. They know how to keep me on my toes!


Childrens art

Children's illustration
These Fairies were done for wall art. They are made of printed and painted paper, fabric, stitching and buttons. Although they were created years ago, they remain two of my favorite pieces. I still have the originals and keep thinking that I need to frame them.
I believe that they are still available as prints at AllPosters.

Children's Illustration

Children's Illustration

These two were created for a calendar I did for Lang. Both were based on my own childhood memories. (You can read more about that on an older blog post if you are interested). Both images were made from cut paper.

Children's Illustration

And then sometimes I get asked for line drawings. I loved doing these because the line drawings were what got me into licensing in the first place. These images were done for onesies.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane.