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Preview: homemade circus

homemade circus

mixed media art, lamps, prints and illustration

Updated: 2016-09-07T21:26:06.738-07:00


50% OFF SALE!!


Hey there! I know I haven't blogged for what seems like YEARS but wanted to let you know that I'm having a 50% off sale in my Etsy shop til Sept. 12. Here's some photos of some of the sale items--click on this link to take you there!

New Site/New Blog/New Work!


Back in October I posted about potentially starting something new, something with surface design which I have many years experience in...well I'm doing it! I'm excited to say that I have a new site/blog to post my surface design and pattern work that I'll be debuting at Surtex this May. These designs are a sample from my "Just Desserts" collection. After Surtex, I plan on creating more 2 and 3D artwork to sell in my easy shop, but for now please check out my new digs here:
Oh and I'll be having a giveaway within the next few weeks to celebrate so be sure to follow me for details.

Happy Monday!

Teaching My First Workshop!


I am very excited about the opportunity brought to me by Jenny Doh (of the fabulous Crescendoh) to teach a mixed media workshop in lovely and hip Santa Ana, CA! The dates will be June 23-24, 2012. We will take a very unique and fresh approach to this workshop, in that I will teach you how to use wire, metal, clay, and various other found goodies to create dimensional works that reflect you or a person in your life. For instance, The Juggler for the person who is always multitasking (and who isn't nowadays?) Or the trapeze artist for someone who is a risk-taker (or longs to be.) We'll draw inspiration mainly from the circus, but it doesn't have to be limited to that. Let me help you unearth those facets of your personality with a mixed media piece that is truly all your own! For details or to sign up, please click here!

Ending The Year on a Good Note


Well I finally finished the New Orleans piece! I actually completed it a few weeks ago but have been remiss about showing the final product. Here is how it turned out--the person who commissioned it seemed very happy with it and I hope his wife was too as it was an anniversary present. I loved stretching beyond my typical narrative to include a specific place like New Orleans-especially since I have such an affinity for that place. I hope to create more pieces in the future around a specific city or place perhaps. Although I plan on continuing my 3D work, for now I think I'm going to take a break from blogging to concentrate on my upcoming Surtex show in May. I might be starting a new blog under the name "Tammy Smith Design" but not sure yet when that will be but I will be sure to keep you posted! I want to say a huge THANKS for the kind comments and support you have given me since I started this blog--it really helped when I felt like I was working alone to know that someone out there was seeing what I did and it spoke to them. I SO appreciate you for that:) Please keep checking my website for new pieces-I still have at least 15 or so pieces under Artwork-Available. I wish you all very happy holidays and a wonderful new year! xo-Tammy

Creating A New Visual Narrative: Part Deux


Okay I'm finally back to working on the custom commission piece that I accepted many months ago. I hate to think of how long it's taken me to get started, but in my defense the client said they were in no hurry. Plus I actually have been making other pieces in between...okay, enough excuses!'s where I'm at now. I'm FINALLY getting a solid, clear vision of what I want this piece to look like. It took me a long time and a lot of mulling over because, as I said before, I've never done a piece that depicts a certain city. Below I've listed the steps I've gone through so far. Next step is to actually roll out the clay and begin sculpting! Oh boy:)What helped me most was finding the "stage". Many thanks to my friend Eric for bringing this wonderful old barn door over. I just love the thick, chunky bolts in the top! We had to cut it in half and add a small shelf at the bottom for the city to sit on.Next I researched on the web-the pics I have here are an amalgam of many photos that I pulled from Flickr, real estate websites, etc. I cropped in tightly on these photos to get the detail of the wrought iron that is so specific to the French Quarter. After looking at the research and building the stage, I started sketching the piece to scale. I don't have tracing paper large enough so I had to tape several together. I wanted to have the words "Vieux Carre" in there somewhere as that really says French Quarter to me in a romantic way. I also didn't want a realistic depiction of the Quarter-instead I wanted to give the flavor of it by focusing on the swirls found in the ironwork and the shapes in the peaks of the roofs, etc. I also wanted to get the large palm leaves in there as they are ubiquitous to that city--I ended up placing them within the context of the buildings, as when you walk by a courtyard gate and see nothing but a proliferation of palm fronds.This is showing the trapeze couple that will hang in the upper right hand corner. This piece is to celebrate a 25th anniversary so I wanted to have two lovers flying over the city.In this antique cheese box, I will have 3 sculpted heads, 2 saints and 1 "sinner", as NOLA is called the city of saints and sinners. The buildings will be constructed from a combination of all the mediums I use: clay, painted metal, twisted wire, and found objects.[...]

Do you know what a murmuration is?


I know I didn't. Watch this wonderful video to find out what it is! This has apparently gone viral and for good reason. It takes place on the River Shannon in Ireland.

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Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

A chance encounter and shared moment with one of natures greatest and most fleeting phenomena.

60s Graphics Love





Okay how come nobody ever told me about Georges Briard? I've been admiring his work for many years but never knew who was responsible for the cool graphic designs on a lot of the vintage bowls, mugs, and towels that I've seen in antique shops and thrift stores for years. These are just a few of his images but if you're as inspired by him as I am, just do a google search under his name and see what pops up!
On the surface design front, just sent in my payment for my booth so I'm officially committed to doing Surtex in 2012! I'm continuing to pull inspiration from lots of different places and am really having fun creating new collections. I'm also trying to research the places/websites that I think might be a good fit for my work. It's always important to consider your customer first (or who you'd like your customer to be.) I'm starting with the stores or sites I love to shop at and trying to target that consumer. Have a fun creative day!

Finding inspiration where you are



I went out in search of some visual inspiration the other day to help me get started on a Moroccan themed collection. Fortunately I didn't have to go very far because I live just a mile from a very beautiful place-it's called the Country Club Plaza. It's a Spanish/Moorish/Moroccan style shopping area here in KC and although I pass these buildings almost daily, I never stop to take photos of them. I thought you might find them interesting and inspiring as well! Is there somewhere near you that's also inspiring or different? If so I'd love to see it.

On The Other Hand....Something Completely Different


I am very excited about a new direction I've decided to go in! It's both a departure of sorts and also revisiting my past...I'll explain. When I worked at Hallmark here in KC, I was in the Party and Giftwrap department. We didn't design the cards that Hallmark is most known for--we designed the surface pattern. The decoration that went on everything from wrap to bags to plates, napkins, and cups. I became well versed at creating a repeat in Photoshop (after computers came along-before that we did it by hand with photocopies.)
So I have decided that in addition to continuing to create my 3D pieces (and finishing that commission piece from the last post), I am going to Surtex next May to begin my reintroduction into licensing! I am shooting for having at least 12 collections of 8 coordinating designs each. I started a couple of weeks ago and now have a few card and collection ideas's really exciting to work in another dimension for a change. I think it uses a completely different side of my brain than building mixed media pieces, or at least it feels that way. How about you? Heading in any new directions?

Creating A New Visual Narrative: Part One


I've been commissioned to do a piece for a friend commemorating his wedding anniversary. He has given me free reign to create anything I want (which is a gift but is also somewhat scary to me) but it does need to be about a city-specifically, it should be about New Orleans. This city holds special meaning not only to my friend and his wife, but also to me as I used to live there and still have family there. I've been mulling it over in my mind and I keep getting do I create a piece that depicts a city yet is still in my style? I've never done a city before....I mean, what would it look like? I called this post "Creating a new visual narrative" because in a sense that's what you do as an artist when you set out to create something that has your unique look to it--and it's not always easy. I'm showing you my sketchbook here with some beginning twigs of an idea...(now you can see how bad a sketcher I am.) These aren't the first sketches of this piece by any means, but this is the first one that actually has promise-at least to me. To you it probably looks like chicken scratch, but to me I know what to start on now. A title "Saints and Sinners" popped into my head so I've drawn some saints flying overhead and also contained within boxes (Saint in a Box-THAT should be a product:). Now to create the scene: I'm thinking of trying to do a wrought iron gate along the bottom with a 3-dimensional Saint Louis Cathedral behind the gates. Not sure yet how to build the church, possibly out of wire with either fabric or papier mache over. I'll keep posting my progress here in case anyone else is interested in how a piece comes together. This is what I'd call "Part 1-The Struggle". I know something's going to work out, just not sure what yet!

New Word Signs Too!


Walk The Tightrope Tame The Beast TaDa! Step Right UpPlay With FireFlex Your MusclesI almost forgot to show my new word signs to you also! All are similar to old sideshow signs but with a double meaning. They are handpainted and handlettered on recycled wood, with painted and aged metal, clay, and acrylic paint. All are for sale in my etsy shop or on my website. Click the titles beneath each sign to be taken to the etsy listing for that piece.[...]

New Work-Fall 2011


The IllusionistThe Control Freak Pacing The CageThe Tightly Wound WomanBed Of Nails 2The Invisible WomanThe ImposterI've been AWOL for a long time I know, but I have several new pieces to show for it! I did these pieces in preparation for the Plaza Art Fair, held here in KC Sept.23-25. This time the theme I focused on was sideshow freaks, but not the type you usually think of--instead I wanted to show how we all have idiosyncrasies that make us each freaks in our own way. In fact I feel like I have been each of these people at various times in my life! The show went well for me and I want to thank everyone who came by. I always love doing the PAF because it's one of the few times I get to see old friends who I used to work with and also make some new ones. Below are most of my pieces from the show. I also have smaller pieces that aren't shown here so be sure to visit my etsy shop to see them all. I'll be putting those that didn't sell at the fair on my website and etsy shop later today. Please click on the title of the piece to go to those links.[...]

More New Lighted Pieces


Lighted lovebird nest-$90.00 Polka Dot lamp with lovebirds-$160.00Flying Bird lamp-$160.00 Grow Tree lamp-$175.00Hidden Potential lamp-$275.00Hippodrome lamp-$250.00Lighted Circus Cage with bird-$90.00The Hobbs building show here in KC went really well and many thanks to those who came by and visited my little "light" studio for the night. Here are some pieces that I still have and will now be for sale in my Etsy shop.[...]

New Work for Hobbs Show-Our Lady of The Serpentine


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Thanks to a wonderful show in New Orleans, I had to get busy right when I got home to prepare for my upcoming show tomorrow night and Sat. at the Hobbs Building-a cool old building full of artists here in KC. Pictured below is one of my new pieces. This show will be all about light--I'll have some hanging lamps and small lighted lovebird pieces as well as lighted sculptures like this one. The title so far is Our Lady of The Serpentine. She is made of clay and the piece is constructed of metal, fabric, wire and paint. The bulb in the center is a 7 watt bulb, which I found gives off the subtle glow that I was going for. She will be for sale on my site and in my Etsy shop next week if she doesn't sell at the show.

Well-Being vs. Happiness


I was running in the rain today with my trusty sidekick Lucky and somehow started thinking about the H word. Everybody seems to be transfixed on being "happy" but I have to say when I check in with myself to see how it's going and I ask myself if I'm happy, I falter a bit. Well sure I'm happy-- I mean I should be-I'm healthy, I have all kinds of great people in my life and I'm doing what I love--but somehow happy isn't the word I'd use. It seems to require a bubbly-ness that takes alot of energy to sustain...I'd say what I feel is more subtle, more enduring...maybe it's well-being...?
One of my favorite writers is Eckhart Tolle and he said once that if you're aware and living in the present moment, you're either in a state of acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm. Sometimes, like when I don't hear back from potential clients or things don't happen the way I think they "should", I'm doing my best to be in that state of acceptance. In fact, I'm kindof struggling to get there. But I'm realizing now that accepting that state is a sort of well-being...a sort of peace. When I was running in the rain today, I accepted the fact that it was raining. And then after accepting it, it started raining harder. I accepted that. My dog and I were soaking wet, but before the end of the run, I was actually enjoying the rain (not sure my dog was:)
I hope you're able to find acceptance and that feeling of well-being in whatever stage you're in right now, in whatever's happening to you at the moment. And if not, well, accept that too. It will change, you'll see.

Getting Taken (Almost)


I should have known first by the fact that I couldn't find their seller name in Etsy anywhere. But the email came from Etsy and had the seller's name in the message so I thought it was okay, a little odd but okay. They said they wanted to purchase one of my large pieces but that they needed to first make sure I was an "honest and trustworthy" person. Then they said they had their own shipping co. so they would include some extra $$ on the check for shipping and would have the piece picked up from my house. They were sending me a cashier's check that I would need to cash immediately and then pay the excess to their shipper. Fast forward 3 days--the cashier's check arrives at my door via FedEx however the sum on the check is about 4 times what my artwork price is....I should have stopped there I know but I went to my bank, cashed it and was on my way to wire the overage when I thought I'd stop in at a local gallery that carries my work. Started chatting with the girl who works there about my weird sale and she said that had happened to them too---very similar circumstances. After that, I made a beeline back home and called the bank that the check had been drawn from (I did think to scan the check in before I cashed it.) There the woman told me that no account under that name existed and that the check would indeed bounce. Lesson learned!
I feel a bit stupid that I fell for this at all but so glad it didn't go further...I hope this helps any other internet sellers out there. Remember: a cashier's check still takes at least one day to clear and CAN be fraudulent so check it out first.

The "Reveal" Lamps




Had to show you 2 more new lovebird lamps that I've just completed...and as for where the inspiration came for these? I don't really know, all I know is that I wanted these lamps to each have a small "reveal". With the polka dot lamp, when the light is off you just see white dots on black background but when the light turns on, TADA--there are small stars that appear behind some of the dots. With the curly leaf lamp, I made 2 layers of leaves-smaller ones that are made from sheet music and larger light brown ones that cover the others. You can see the outline of the smaller leaves but they really show up when the light is on. Click on this link to see more photos or info on them in my Etsy shop.

Where I Get Inspiration (plus a new lamp)




Striped Lamp with Lovebirds
(in my Etsy shop)

Happy Friday! Thought maybe you'd like to see where I get some of my inspiration for my pieces, other than old carnivals. I live in Kansas really near the state line for Missouri and close to downtown. However, getting out to the country isn't very far away--in fact, scenes like these of old weathered barns are about a 10 minute drive from my house. I never really thought before about how they inspire and inform the way I create because they feel so familiar to me that they've just become a part of me you know? I guess I realized after watching this video from Kaffe Fassett that I'm pulling from all the patterns and textures around me every day. Try to notice at least a few things in your world each day that inform the way you create. What do you find around you that inspires?
(barn photo credit-Renate Smalley)

Aloneness 101


Hey there all you work-from-homers, how's it going out there? Are you relishing the solitude of your life? Or, like me, do you sometimes feel like you wish there was someone around....someone you could ask an opinion of, like "Should this be blue or red?" or "Was this email I just got a bit passive aggressive or am I being paranoid?" I'm writing this because I realize that now more than ever there are SO many people who don't leave their homes to go to work--some, like me, might have had a job in the past and were used to seeing people on a regular basis. Others may not know any different but I just wonder: Do you get lonely working from home or do you not?If you're like me, the answer is yes, you do get lonely occasionally (or more than occasionally). Don't get me wrong, I love what I do and feel so lucky to be able to do it but I do miss that casual back-and-forth synergy that can happen when you work around other creatives.I can tell you some things that have helped me in case you're feeling this way:1. Build a community--large or small--of friends who you meet with (in person) on a pretty regular basis. I have a small group of 3 other artists who, like me, used to work at Hallmark so we have that shared experience even though we worked there at different times. Sometimes we'll even plan workdays (I call them WTF days-meaning Working Together is Fun:). Everybody brings whatever they're working on and we each take a room in the house to work independently for awhile but we can come together and ask opinions if we need to. We don't do this nearly enough but it really helps me feel connected to something.2. When you can't do face-to-face, do email chats. We will send jpegs of whatever projects we're working on to each other to get opinions via email when we can't get together. If the project is really complex, we may need to chat on the phone about it too.3. Get out once in awhile. For me, when the walls start closing in I get out...literally. Even if the weather is really cold or rainy, I put on the coat and boots and get outside with my dog to remind myself how big this world is and how many other things there are outside my little world. This usually helps me to calm down if I'm upset about anything and also gain a better perspective on things.4. Be with it. By this I mean, stop fighting the solitude and learn to embrace it. That means that when those voices in your head appear and tell you that what you're working on is awful, instead of trying to quell it you just say "Hmm, there's that voice silly of me" or "Wow, SOMEone's being negative today"-- something that will make light of it and not make you feel worse. We all have those voices when we create-you just have to cajole them into being your pals instead of your enemies. That's the only way they get quiet for me.5. MOVE. I know that alot of you have kids and can't always work out during the day but any chance you get, and I mean even for 15 minutes-take it. Move in a different way and cadence-whether it's running up and down your stairs in short bursts, doing 20 jumping jacks or going for a quick jog around the block, I am a big proponent of exercise. I think it rearranges the molecules. I work out six days a week and if I ever miss it, I feel different for the day (and not in a good way.)That's all for now. I hope this little bit of advice has helped if any of you are going through some of the same things that I am. Please let me know how you deal with loneliness if you have different ways than mine--I am always looking to learn! Have a great day.xo-Tammy[...]

New Black and White Lovebird Lamp


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I've been making some new lamps lately with a more graphic yet still romantic feel. I love limited color palettes so I've decided to do a few lamps that are black and white only. The clay lovebirds in the nest made of weathered wire, old sheet music, and torn bits of canvas are pale yellow. The shade is made from layers of black and white tissue paper and it is rimmed with black fringe. The light is 5 watts, which gives a soft subtle glow and is suspended by a 15-foot electric cord with weathered brass chain. This is a OOAK piece. Please click on this link for more info or to purchase in my Etsy shop!

and now for something different: Burlesque Bar Towels


Recently I got to participate in a show with several other artists around the theme of burlesque and body art. It was a blast and the KCSOB(Kansas City Society of Burlesque) performed. In honor of my hometown burlesque troupe, I created this set of bar towels featuring each of the members. I designed a "brand" of liquor for each performer and hand printed them on high quality white cotton towels. The towels are printed with archival inks and can also be printed on archival paper if you wish!Click on this link to see them in my Etsy shop.[...]

Crescendoh interview


That Jenny Doh. She amazes me...she never seems to lose her fascination and enthusiasm for artists and bringing people together around creativity. Although I've never met her in person or even talked to her on the phone, I feel her positive presence every time I get an email from her. She must have a life full of good karma and wonderful friends! I was fortunate enough to be interviewed on her wonderful blog Crescendoh. Take a peek here to see the full article:

Etsy shop reopened!


Well, today we dug out of our deep snowdrifts after the biggest blizzard in years. Sounds like most of us in the U.S. were affected in some way. We were lucky and didn't lose power but I know quite a few did. The snow was sure beautiful though.I decided to take advantage of this snowed-in time to finally reopen my Etsy shop! Below are some of my new mixed media prints that are in my shop. They come in two sizes: 5"x5" and 12"x12". They'll bring a fun, whimsical look to either your childrens' rooms or your own room. Each of them is made using a multi-step process. First I cut each of the words from a linoleum block, print them and combine them with the rest of my hand drawn illustrations. Then they are printed with archival inks on heavy duty canvas before being mounted on another 2" deep gallery canvas that has been handpainted and distressed. Finally they are finished with tinted wax encaustic for that vintagey circus poster look. Click on the following link to visit my shop: [...]

Happy Holidays!


Merry Merry Happy Happy to everyone! Thanks so much for all your support, great comments and inspiration this year. More artwork and ideas to come in 2011--stay tuned for some new and different things!

Inspiring and Practical Advice for Artists


Last night I heard this incredible speaker and I wrote down some notes from that in hope that what inspired me will inspire you also. I hope I haven't misrepresented anything that he has said. I thought it was very valuable for artists in any discipline. Take a moment and see if it speaks to you.(And I know this may seem ironic that I'm posting this after my previous post about a holiday sale of my art, but I like to think that some of my pieces are made purely for self-expression. If the piece speaks to someone and is purchased by them, that's icing on the cake.) Andrew Simonet-TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, NERMAN MUSEUM Andrew is co-director of Headling Dance Company, Philadelphia, PA Thanks for doing what you do. This culture needs you. 99% of what is out there today visually in the form of imagery is there to sell something. You are putting out the 1% that is not. The general opinion out there is that there is the top layer of artists/performers who make scads of money and enjoy great acclaim, to the rest it’s just a hobby. Just because you don’t achieve that overwhelming acclaim or notoriety you wanted doesn’t mean that you failed. You can’t always say what has been accomplished. Andrew thinks his real mission is telling this message, speading these words to other artists. 
Artists’ lives can be burdensome and relentless. Your goal should be to build a life that is balanced, sustainable and productive. Things that stop artists are 1) workaholism 2)perfectionism/competitiveness and 3)poverty. 1) Workaholism-Plan downtime. You need it. All artists work too hard and are too hard on themselves (i.e. I’d be more successful if I only worked harder.) 2) Perfectionism/Competitiveness-Get used to “good enough”. Why are other things in our lives good enough, but not our work? On competing with other artists, repeat this mantra-“The success of other artists is good for me.” Repeat as necessary until you mean it. 3) Poverty-Figure out the amount of money you need to live on for one year without financial panic. Figure in time/money for vacation, insurance, savings. Mission- Be rooted in why you’re doing it-people love to connect to your mission. Some may envy that you have a mission as they’re still trying to figure it out or don’t feel connected to theirs. The world really wants you to stay close to that mission. Represent yourself well. We need to be able to talk about and write about our work well. Don’t shortchange your skills. Conceiving, planning, putting together and delivering a project on time takes skills that are considered management level skills in the outside world. Partner with people who get your work. Talk to them, have coffee with them, they can move your work forward. Placemaking-People need a HERE. Be where you are locally and share, be interested and open to other artistic work outside of your discipline. It’s important to have a local presence as well as getting out globally with your work---what you do globally brings others back to your locality, and what you do locally opens others’ minds to what can be done globally. Community is important. It’s a loop—give---get---give---get. Figure out something that connects people. Keep making work that is visionary, dangerous, and interesting. [...]