Guest Blogger

Mommying, designing, playing at the park, and living-room dance parties are a part of each day for Kristal Davis. Editor of the handmade design and eco friendly blog and design studio the rikrak studio (her sustainable goodies are available in over ninety shops and galleries around the globe). Kristal and her wonderful and creative little family live in the pretty rolling hills outside of Toronto, Canada. Links to her Etsy shop and her blog.

Thanks ever-so-much for having me chit-chat about the handmade olympics, Kathreen! It’s such pleasure being part of whipup for the day- you’ve crafted such an inspiring and resourceful home for many things near and dear to my own heart. We all thank you so much for that. (and i’m THRILLED to have you on-board as a judge this year! yay!)

I LOVE a good celebration, and so it was with celebrating creating at its artsy soul, a couple of years ago an idea known as the handmade olympics was crafted.  Just like when nations gather for that ‘other’ kind of olympic fun, I thought a few weeks of cyberly cheering for handmaking would be great for all of us.

Now in its 3rd year, here’s the basic idea: Just 3 easy steps:

  • Step 1: Folks nominate their favourite handmade items and crafty bloggers in 7 events. It’s a wonderful way to pay homage to the works of others you love, (and make someone’s DAY by nominating them!) and to show the world what your are making, too! It’s also a wonderful way to discover amazing works by others around the globe! Just in case you needed another incentive …  there’s also $1700 worth of handmade prizes up for grabs! Nominations close 5 April. So hurry and nominate yourself and another in EACH EVENT here!
  • Step 3: Let the voting begin! On april 17th,  it’s your turn again, nicies, your chance to demonstrate your demoCRAFTic right and come VOTE for your fa


Parson Gray is the brand of David Butler – artist and lead singer of the band Black Owls. With a decidedly “folk modern” approach, David uses richly muted palettes and organic, geometric prints with hand-drawn sophistication anchored in modernist simplicity reminiscent of mid-century studio design. His brand offerings range from textiles, to fashion, home and personal accessories.

Thanks for swinging by Whipup and letting me indulge for a bit. I’m going to ramble about my design inspiration and process for just a little while, and if you get bored, well, that’s my fault. Some of you may know me as the husband of the awesome designer Amy Butler, and some of you (fewer of you) might know that I also have a band called Black Owls. I lead a very full and very kinetic & crazy life, just the way I like it! I’m glad you’re here.

Start by saying that I always have ideas and inspiration pinned up on my boards. I know pretty much what the collection of prints is going to be when designing fabric. My inspiration boards contain strange elements and shapes in nature, rock music, folk art, mid-century design, motion, fashion, all things that I find exciting and soothing at the same time. I use these inspirations more for tone and story rather than real reference for the art. It never really seems to work that way. I like to have an over-abundance of reference, and drawings/paintings, and edit down from where I started. There are many parallels to creating music. I like to write a large volume of songs and then pare down to get to an album. The difference is with rock music, I co-create with my partner Ed who writes the music. We have sketches, we finalize them (demos), then we turn them into final art (masters). It just takes a heck of a lot longer to do the music than it does to do the fabrics!

For Curious Nature there were a few prints that went all the way through coloring and then bit the dust after I put together the entire collection. (Just like our new album) They seemed a perfect fit when I started, but didn’t flow well with everything else once it all came together as a color story. I pull together my drawings and prints in black and white and scan them in. Then I make my repeats and clean up the art as I need to. I intentionally keep the hand-drawn character, flaws and all, because it is inherent to the character of the art. I then make my step and repeats on the computer and build my color palette. Then it’s all just experimentation. Dropping in colors, printing them out, laying them on the floor and editing. Like I said, not everything makes the cut. The whole process for me takes a little less than a week to complete.

My next range is already designed and in production. It’s called Seven Wonders. 24 prints that will work alongside Curious Nature. I wanted to expand upon the palette that I’ve built with the first line, and create a world of prints and colors that go together – So folks can refresh their investment in Curious Nature with an addendum set of colors and prints. I love the idea of expanding upon something already built. I’m currently working on a series of other products and ideas (while helping Amy with her business and photography, website, etc..). A Black Owls double album comes out soon too. I need a nap.

Thanks for checking in! – Dave


Julie is a slightly unhinged fabric junkie! She is also stitching and crafting obsessed. As well as being addicted to tea. And cake. She is mumma to three beautiful little girls and cares deeply about the world they will inherit.  Julie blogs sporadically at Relish.

Modern Quilting

The “Modern Quilting” movement is happening around us and yet, what is modern quilting? What does that term mean? And how many people are actually aware of the movement? With the release of a number of books with the title “modern” recently, I have been thinking about what the term, in relation to quilting, really means.

When looking at art, there is a (reasonably) definitive period into which modern art fits. There is a generally accepted timeframe (from about the 1860’s to the 1970’s) and within the overall modern art movement, there are many styles (including impressionism, cubism, expressionism and fauvism). There are also many interpretations of the styles by many different artists but collectively, they form a movement that was an important turning point in the way we see art – these artists shifted art from being commissioned pieces for the wealthy, to being accessible to the greater population. Artists began to create for the sake of art rather than for a specific purpose (i.e. portraits of the privileged), they formed communities and practiced together, developing technique, discovering mediums and refining skills.

For me, there appears to be a great difficulty in defining modern quilting. However, when I began to think about modern art, I quite quickly drew parallels to the modern quilting movement. As modern quilters, we too are stepping aside of tradition, using colour in new ways, changing the rules if you like. We too have many styles within the movement and we too have developed communities, both online and in the real world. We are inspiring one another to push boundaries and experiment with our craft. Modern quilting, for me, is a movement that does not discard tradition but rather uses it as a basis to embrace change, to explore and to bend (and break) the rules.

While thinking about what modern quilting is, I have also been wondering about how popular or well known it is. A recent conversation with a quilter friend posed some interesting questions for me. My friend is very much a “traditional” quilter. The quilts she produces are stunning, technically precise and more than worthy of quilt show prizes. She is prolific in her crafting and belongs to both the local guild and a social quilting group. Yet, she knew very little of the online quilting community, did not understand what I meant when I mentioned modern quilting and was completely unaware of the style I was referring to. In addition, my local quilt shop stocks virtually no solids and certainly none of the fabric ranges that immediately come to mind when I think modern – certainly no Anna Maria Horner, Joel Dewberry, Anita Hoey – I do most of my fabric shopping online for this reason. When I have taken some books into the store looking for fabric that may be suitable for a project, the owner has not heard of the authors and is not aware of the blogging crafty community that I feel so connected to.

I want to know if this modern movement is known amongst quilters outside of it, are others aware of it? Can they appreciate modern the way I appreciate traditional without having to work that way? Or do they just not know that there are other options, because like me, their LQS does not stock the fabrics and books that allow them to branch out and they don’t follow the online quilting community? I wonder if modern quilting will one day be studied as we now study traditional quilting? Will it be recognised as a time of change, of inspiring a new generation to become sewists?  Modern quilting raises so many possibilities but what I’d most like to know is what you think? How do you define modern? Are you a modern quilter? And if not, how do you define your style? I’m really interested to hear your thoughts…

Two modern quilting books

I have so many books on the shelves that I just like to look at. I buy them and love them and am inspired by them. I also use them to get a creative fix when children and life get in the way of me actually stitching. Today I want to tell you about recently published ‘Modern’ quilting books which inspired the modern quilting thoughts above:

Book 1: Modern Mix by Jessica Levitt, (Stash Books 2011), features 16 sewing projects including quilts, pillows, bags and other projects (apron, camera case, table cloth, wall hanging) made using vibrant saturated prints and a range of Kona solids. The ‘modern’ aspect of this book centres on how the designer uses fabric and colour and the author offers advice on fabric selection and design and colour, which can be useful for building confidence in making a selection.

Book 2: Modern Minimal by Alissa Haight Carlton, (Stash Books 2011), features 20 minimalist quilts in a variety of sizes. I have serious quilt envy after coming across this book! While the design of each quilt is simple, the effect of the bold colour and contrast is stunning. The author provides two quilting options for each quilt and those who are more experienced can challenge themselves with the quilting detail as the designs lend themselves to showcasing stitches.

Comparison:  This is the hard part. Both books are beautiful and I am inspired by a number of the projects in each. I really like the layouts, Stash Books have achieved a clean and clutter free design (a modern essential) with lots of white space that makes these books easy to read. Both books contain projects that are straightforward and many would suit beginners.

In terms of ‘modern quilting’ I am more drawn to  Modern Minimal for the contemporary designs, use of colour and contrast and the move away from traditional blocks. It provides an inspiring platform of ideas from which to launch further creativity. It guides while encouraging exploration. In Modern Minimal I felt I was seeing something new, I enjoyed the improvisational piecing section and also the clever use of colour. This book is a beautiful example of ‘modern’ as it moves away from the traditional block assembly. The quilts are all achievable in terms of difficulty level and time – (which appeals to this time poor Mumma). In addition, as these quilts are made with solids, they are relatively budget friendly. While Modern Mix provides a variety of projects suitable for all levels of sewist, and the use of fabric and colour is bold and eye catching. By simply changing the fabrics and colours the traditional quilter would feel right at home with many of these designs — perhaps this will help to expose the modern movement to a broader audience.

Do you, like me, enjoy books just for the eye candy? Or do you purchase them because you will absolutely make a pattern you’ve seen? I like the tactile nature of a book so often I will purchase one that I see online because I just have to touch it, I just have to touch and flip those shiny new pages… Are you satisfied with reading online or do you like to touch too?


Vicki Smith has created unique pastel illustrations for a wide variety of clients in the publishing and corporate arena including posters, menus, book covers, annual reports and magazine art. Her storybook images are used to create the handmade books, toys and prints that she sells online. She finds that her teaching of children informs her own art and her art informs her philosophy of teaching. Today Vicki is discussing how (and why) she teaches art to kids. She blogs at Art with Kids.

As a child I illustrated my first ‘book’ in the fourth grade about a troupe of dancing mice, so it is no wonder that I went off to art school and a career as an illustrator. Now that I have the privilege of teaching art part-time at a Montessori school I make it my mission to bring the children tactile projects that are stimulating and broaden their perspective of what constitutes art.

Making art incorporates principles of math and science, gives children permission to get messy, and teaches the invaluable lesson that you should make your own choices as opposed to merely copying what “Susie” is painting at the easel next to you.  The tactile experience is important for children to feel connected to what they are creating, and to learn how materials behave when handled. Here are some ideas:

Paper making using old newspapers is great fun and an activity that recently kept ten preschoolers occupied for an entire hour! Playing in water is certainly very tactile and this activity does not require much equipment. The children love being involved in all the steps of the process while squealing over how “gross” the pulp looks and feels.

  • I fill a plastic basin about half way with warm water (I use the container we put the newspaper in for recycling). This project also requires a small picture frame with window screen stapled to it, sheets of felt cut to the size of the opening in the frame, and an old blender. It’s important to use an old blender as it will never be completely clean again.
  • Fill the blender about half way with the water from your basin, add torn sheets of newspaper, and start pressing the buttons on the blender. Then dump the mixture into the basin.
  • Repeat this process until you are able to lower the frame into the basin and a layer of grey pulp covers the screen.
  • After this, let the kids lay a sheet of felt on top of the pulp and press the excess water out with their palms. When it’s dry the felt can be peeled away and let dry in the sun, leaving beautiful paper to be written or drawn upon.

Crafting assemblages inspired by the work of sculptor Louise Nevelson is a way of appreciating art that is nontraditional.

  • I gather household items such as large buttons, wing nuts, old keys, empty spools of thread, clothes pins… etc and start the lesson by playing a game that involves only the sense of touch.
  • I place one of each of the items in a paper bag.  The children take turns reaching into the bag with their eyes closed and try to identify the item by feel.
  • After the game they gather the items that they find interesting and glue them down onto a piece of corrugated cardboard. We talk about the different ways that they might consider arranging their objects.
  • I spray paint the assemblages and they resemble the monochromatic work of Nevelson. Without color the art is now all about the shapes.

Using scratch foam or Styrofoam sheets to create a printing plate is another project that has a strong tactile component.

  • The children press drawings into the Styrofoam sheet and apply printing ink to the foam with a brayer. The ink does not go into the depressed lines so that the drawing prints as the color of the paper.
  • The children love rolling the ink onto the foam plate with the brayer and being able to print multiple images.
  • Another positive aspect of this process is that changes can be made to the plate before making additional prints, and one can easily print on both fabric or paper.  The possibilities are endless.

These endless possibilities reminds me of the importance of allowing the children to stretch the limits of a project in different directions. When we make paper I encourage the children to suggest materials other than newspaper and as a result we have used colored tissue paper, thread, and dried leaves. When making their assemblages they may decide to stack items or glue them down on both sides of the cardboard creating more sculptural work. And instead of relying on pencils to press lines into the foam I encourage them to think of other tools that could be implemented. It’s about a tactile and fluid learning process as much as it is about having a finished product.


For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

For the past 17 years Susan Schwake has run an independent art school where she works with people of all ages and abilities. For the past eight years the art school has been part of artstream gallery and design studio. She has recently written a book Art Lab for Kids (published by Quarry Books February 2012). She blogs at artesprit.

I was thrilled when Kath invited me to write a post about my new book: Art Lab for Kids  here on WhipUp.  Art Lab for Kids is a smattering of lessons which I chose from the past 18 years of teaching fine art to children and adults. It is my hope that Art Lab for Kids could be used by  parents, home schoolers, teachers, community groups, librarians, and any combination of people wanting to learn technique, be inspired and to express themselves in fine art.

At first it was difficult to narrow it down to just 52, but with the idea that someone might use the book as a year-long experience for teaching art to a child (or themselves) it became clear.  I wrote the lessons to be stand-alone projects – but arranged them in an order that they also would build upon skills as you go through the book. Each lesson includes inspiration from an established artist – some famous, some not so – to broaden the reader’s idea of, and to help then gain confidence in, their personal style and subject matter in 2D art.

One of my personal goals in teaching art is to build confidence and fearlessness in making it. Part of becoming fearless in making art is being prepared. The introduction and first chapter give the reader some ideas about making art with others, setting the stage for creativity and a comprehensive outline of setting up a studio. Having taught both children and adults in my own studio, in large community settings, public schools and in workshops one of the most important keys to success is being prepared – it puts everyone at ease. Each lesson is laid out with a “think first” section, then step by step photos and a separate materials list to help insure success. Organization counts!

The photo shoots were the most fun part of making the book. My husband, (a media designer extraordinaire, goofball and lover of all things child-like) was the photographer for the book. This choice was natural because not only is he a wonderful photographer, but he has a great knack of putting everyone at ease. We worked together setting the shots and styling for each lesson – including wrangling more than a few odd cords, oil pastels and interesting still life subjects – and reminding the kids that it was okay to smile, (making art is a serious business!), while working. There were more than a few giggle- fests which help to ease the slow process of shooting the steps.

The kids had a lot of fun making artwork for the shoots as well as the excitement of being in the book and the gallery exhibit of all their artwork with the artist’s work side by side this month at artstream I have been having fun offering workshops for children during book signings and at Plymouth State University for emerging art educators. You can follow along at my site or at facebook It’s my hope that people will use my book to discover their own passion for art.


For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website