Studio Visit - Maria Schoettler

I visited artist and illustrator Maria Schoettler in her sun-drenched West Oakland  shared studio.  The large, open space gives each studiomate working space with an oversized utility table in the center, made by her dad. You can tell the space is loved, with warm touches of home and a cozy pink couch and functional kitchen with fresh flowers.  Maria's work is a celebration of the seasons filled with produce and flowers (mostly California natives). 

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How did you get your start as an artist and illustrator? I've always been an artist in one way or another, since I was a little girl.  One of my favorite pastimes as a child was drawing and painting: creating images of my "ideal world", perfect neighborhoods of little houses, rolling hills, flowers, family, things of my imagination.  Growing up, I was also involved in performing arts: dancing, singing lessons and performing regularly at the local dinner theater.  I attended magnet programs for the arts in middle and high school. In college I majored in visual art and never really stopped painting from that point onward.  I was always fitting art into my life, even when I was working full time at a Montesssori pre-school in the Oakland hills.  As a young college graduate, I wanted to be an artist with a capital "A", but didn't really know what that would look like as an adult with bills to pay.  So I started doing what was fun and enjoyable, working on paper, doing little illustration projects for myself that that possibility started to take shape.  I made my first "seasonal produce calendar" in 2009 for my own kitchen and it wasn't until friends and family started wanting one for themselves that I put it together that people might actually want to buy! It all went from there and it's been a long road being able to make a living off of my artwork and I'm so grateful I've been able to find a way.

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How would you describe your style? My style is very vintage inspired and eclectic.  I love color and unexpected combinations.  I've always felt like I was born in the wrong era, because I love objects from the past so much - be it music, clothes, home decor and art.  The 1970's is one of my favorite era's to draw inspiration from as far as my home and wardrobe. Stylistically my artwork is very nature-focused, and I love how delicate natural objects can be and how they provide a way to explore and play with composition and color.

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What are some of the things you enjoy most about your studio? I love how much light comes in from the skylights and windows.  But most of all I love being around my fellow makers that also work in the space.  There's so much value in having other creative people to look at your work and give feedback and collaborate with.  I'm an extrovert by nature, so I get so much joy from having human interaction throughout my work day.  Some days, it makes work not feel like work!

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What are some of your favorite places in Oakland? I love Redwood Regional for hiking and getting a nature fix.  I love getting outside.  I regularly walk at the Mountain View Cemetery which has been a really meaningful place for me since I moved to Oakland eleven years ago.  It's such a special place - the grounds have beautifully kept gardens (tulips to die for in the spring!) and the views of the Bay Area are unparalleled as far as a place accessible to the public. Another fixture in my Oakland life is the Temescal Farmer's market on Sundays and the Tuesday Market on the Oakland/Berkelely border, it's where I get my food for the week and very often, a shopper's high.  From a glass of wine, I love Ordinaire on Grand.  Ramen Shop for really quality ramen incorporating seasonal veggies and a simple and fun dinner out.  A16 for authentic Neoploitan pizza.  The list goes on...

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What's on the horizon? I'm not a huge planner and I like seeing what comes my way.  I want to make more fun products and teach more classes and continue to collaborate with interesting people and businesses.

Thanks Maria!  Find her website & Instagram here.

House Visit - Chelsea Dicksion

Chelsea Dicksion lives with her husband Chris and their young son Coleman in a sweet cabin on the outskirts of Sebastopol, California.  The cabin, hand built in the 1970's sits on a hill among dawn redwoods. Their bedroom on the second floor has windows on three sides of their bed, giving the effect that you're in the trees.  Outside, they have a large sunny plot to garden, with a small studio up the hill they are using for storage that has remnants of the past tenants ceramic tile studio.  I spent a recent spring morning with them in their cozy West County cabin eating Chelsea's warm focattica bread and drinking fresh lemon balm tea. 

How long have you lived in your house?  We've lived in our little cabin since late 2012 when we were farming a one acre piece of land for our small CSA, Furlong Forest Farm. We first moved to Sebastopol and lived in a different house about 5 minutes away from the farm, but we got lucky when the couple who lived here were going to move and we leapt at the chance to rent this sweet cabin surrounded by willows and oak trees. It was a really wonderful 30 second commute to the farm property. We had to let go of our farm dream once our son arrived in the summer of 2015 since farming was no longer something we could manage with a baby and continue to make a living. But, we still live in this sweet space. 

What makes a house a home for you? A house is a home when you love adding the daily details to it such as tidying up a particular corner, or adding a tiny floral and foliage bouquet on a windowsill, or making it smell delicious with fresh bread or a home cooked meal. 

How would you describe your style? I'm not sure if we technically have a "style" to our home since we are renting the space and I never feel the freedom to do what I really want within it. I'd love to hang more art, I'd love to simplify our "stuff", and I'd love to put in more time to our garden spaces. 

What are some of the things you enjoy most about your house? My favorite features of our cabin are the inviting red front door, the angular shape of the eaves, and the cozy "sleeping among the trees" feeling in the upstairs bedroom. I also really love our old Wedgewood stove and it's the best I've ever cooked upon. You can see more angles and views of our home on Instagram under the hashtag #ourfrontdoorisred

How has motherhood changed the rhythm of your house? Or new rituals you do? Motherhood has really brought about a slow patience to everything I do in our home. My son and I have, overtime, created a daily rhythm that involves his favorite household chores like vacuuming and cleaning up our messes, we often take a walk down the road, always spend a lot or a little bit of time outdoors in the sun or rain depending on the season with multiple baths depending on how dirty we get, and lots of book reading and some toy play. We also try to do something creative everyday. Our creative time could be something simple like crayon play on paper, chalk outdoors on the back porch, or something more elaborate like watercoloring a collaborative painting, or collecting plant materials for our dye pot for natural dye projects. I also enjoy our recent collaborations in the kitchen through chopping vegetables and adding them to the pot, stirring cake batter or cutting cookies with heart shaped cookie cutters. 

What projects do you have on the horizon? I'm working toward bringing my watercolor back into practice. It's been tough to dedicate much time to focusing on my art since my son was born. Currently, we are collaborating on a 30 day journaling creative practice and my hope is that it breaks my insecurities on perfection and brings on more play in my artwork. With more play and forgiveness on imperfection, I hope to release some new territory within me creatively as a mom artist. I'm also working on an idea to create various nature journals for kids. I have a lot of complicated knowledge on plants that I'd like to simplify for family friendly learning. 

As a plant person, what are the most important things for you to grow?  I absolutely love growing our own garden fruits and vegetables. There's nothing better than going out and picking peas to munch on or cutting a head of lettuce or eating that first tomato. But, my heart lies with growing anything native to where I live. I've always been drawn to the plants that grow nearby, even as a young girl. As a former nursery manager for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, I will always be looking to add natives to my garden, even if I no longer grow them myself. 

What are some of your favorite places to go in West County?  I feel like we definitely need to get out and explore more in West County. We spend so much of our time at home if we aren't in town doing errands. It's a good thing we love our backyard! Some of the places I've loved taking our son have been Bodega Bay, Ragle Park, a secret not- so-secret loop trail in our neighborhood, and any park in Sebastopol. We clearly need to do a bit more exploring in our future! 

Follow Chelsea on Instagram @furlongforestfamily, for more of her artwork @watercolorpaper and @colorsofourown for a community of creative parents.

You can also purchase her watercolors here.

 

Studio Visit - Kimberly Rose

Napa Valley native, Kimberly Rose runs her floral design business from a home-based studio behind a sweet 1930's house in Napa she shares with her husband, David (who also works from home) and their two young sons, Emmett and Marlon.   Recently, I spent a lovely sunny morning in her studio.

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How did you get your start in floral design?  I used to work at a store in San Francisco that would get amazing florals delivered every week and I was so intrigued by them.  Having a background in art, I thought the idea of being able to use my hands to  create sculptural floral designs would be a good fit.  I decided to apply to different floral designers looking for help.  An SF based florist took me on and taught me so much.  I eventually started working for other people around the Bay Area and then eventually created my own business.

How would you describe your style?  Textural, somewhat structured.  I like to try different things to keep things interesting.  I hope that my designs are always evolving.

What is your favorite time of year and what materials do you like to work with during that season?  I love spring.  Flowering branches are so pretty (I love working with branches) and there are so many different varieties of delicate flowers to choose from at that time.

What do you find easiest and hardest about having a home-based studio?  It's great to be able to walk out of my house and right into my studio, no travel time.  Another thing I enjoy, is to be able to take a lunch break with my family and get quick visits from them throughout the day.  I actually love having a home-based studio for the same reason it can be hard.  It can be challenging when my kids/husband come in and visit while I'm working because it can be hard to get things done with the distraction of my family.

How has motherhood changed your approach to design and your business?  I have come to realize that my time is very important to me and where I put that time and energy is important.  I now only take on business/jobs that I really enjoy the look of and have fun making.  Having the opportunity to be creative while supporting my family is such a gift.  I want to make sure I am spending my time doing what I love, otherwise it's not worth it to me.

Some of Kim's artwork in her living room.

what are some of your favorite places to visit in Napa?  We live pretty close to the Oxbow so we end up going there a lot.  They have a lot of affordable good quality food options and can be quick and easy at the same time.  I've also started doing a lot of kid friendly things lately like going to Connelly Ranch to see the animals with my kids or going for walks and to different parks around Napa.

Studio Visit, VALLEY FLORA

Recently, I visited my friends Polly and Brooke Harrington the mother-daughter team behind Valley Flora, a custom floral design studio in Napa.  I tagged along as they delivered to one of their weekly accounts, The Thomas and headed back to their studio to finish orders.  We talked about what we always talk about, flowers and the flower world.  Polly has a strong background in cut flowers and a vast knowledge of plants.  To say that Brooke is into gardening is an understatement, she has such a deep love for plants, her garden is the envy of every green thumb!  Polly and Brooke are incredibly hardworking and dedicated to maintaining the inherent beauty of flowers, their work is simply beautiful.

Questions with Polly and Brooke;

How did you get your start in floral design? Polly:  I started working with flowers very young, when I worked at my family's resort gathering flowers from the garden, arranging them in cute little pitchers and placing them on the guest's tables.  Brooke:  I got my start in floral design when I was about fourteen years old!  As a teenager I was pretty naughty and as punishment for my episodes my mom took me to work at the butt crack of dawn to the flower studio to process flowers all day!  I guess it wasn't a punishment after all, I love my job.

How would you describe your style? Polly:  My style is loose, garden (natural) style.  Brooke:  I would say my style is garden inspired.  I like to take what's in season and looking great and use it in my arrangements as much as possible.

How is it working with your daughter/mom?  Polly:  Working with my daughter is a blessing and a joy, but like any relationship sometimes there are challenges.  Brooke:  Working with my mom is great!  Sometimes I feel like we read each other's minds. We do have the occasional bumping of heads but quickly get over it.  Even though I have been fired (she was pissed when I really didn't come in to work the next day).  Ha ha.

How do you feel the cut flower industry has changed in the past decade?  Polly:  The cut flower industry has changed with the economy.  For a while there was a decline in variety, a lot of the unique perennials were not available.  Now, they are becoming more available, lots of new choices again.  Brooke:  The floral industry has changed dramatically in the last decade.  Before it was all word of mouth or who you knew, now it is almost ALL social media.  It's my personal feeling that some people get by with a large following EVEN though they are not the best at design, just because they are good at marketing themselves.  People can take a floral workshop class and instantly think they are a designer!  On the other hand, I had to earn my keep!  I worked for five years with a very talented floral designer learning the basics without ever being about to design!

What are some your favorite flowers and plants that you would like to see being used more? Polly:  I love garden roses, peonies and most viburnums.  I also like a lot of deciduous shrubs: deutzia, weigela, fothergilla etc.  Brooke:  My favorite flowers (right now) are cestrum, nicotiana and nasturtiums.  All are really easy to grow and just so cute in an arrangement!  Strawberry plants are really fun and fresh in the springtime as well.

As avid gardeners, what are some of your favorite nurseries?  Polly:  Emerisa,  Devil Mountain,  Berkeley Horticulture,  Cottage Gardens and Sonoma Mission Garden  Brooke:   Where do I begin!  I spend so much of my free time hoarding plants!  I frequent Berkeley Horticulture, Annie's Annuals, Sonoma Mission Gardens, and Flowerland.  I also find treasures at Friedman Brothers (Petaluma is the best one) and my local Benicia Ace Supply.

Laura Miller, Floral Studio Visit

Laura is an Oakland based floral designer who specializes in weddings and special events.  She was kind enough to open her adorable house and studio to me this past weekend, which she shares with her dog Parker and cat Cleo.  With nearly two decades in the floral industry, Laura describes her design style as "inspired by nature, the way plants grown naturally, with layers of texture and dimension.  And as an avid gardener, I include unique blooms from my own garden into my designs whenever possible".  She has an awesome garden and a massive love for clematis and succulents.  Laura is also a collector of vintage ceramics and has wonderful vignettes displayed throughout her house.

Questions with Laura;

How long have you lived in your house?  Eight and a half years.

What are some of your favorite things about living in your house?  I've always been drawn towards older home and feel in love with it's character and charm, along with the garden space, at first site.  It's small, but has everything I need wrapped into a perfect package.  I love the diversity of Oakland, and the fact that it's so centrally located to many different areas allows me to work in areas outside Oakland.

When did you start your floral design business?  I started working in a flower shop in Los Angeles as a bookkeeper, quickly I was drawn into the "floral" environment, being a gardener at a young age in made sense. I worked in a few retail florists and gift shops as a sales person learning the ins and outs of the business, then I landed a job where I learned design, and that ended in my purchasing an existing business 16 years ago.

What are you favorite elements to design for a wedding?  Lately I'm enjoy creating centerpieces more and more, but I've always loved making bouquets and boutonnieres.

What would be your ideal setting and florals for a wedding?  Outdoors in a natural setting. Being a lover of nature and gardens, I've always been more attracted to including a wide array of elements in my designs.  Including textural foliages along with different sized and shaped floral blooms to create what we see in nature. I'm a sucker for a cool vessel.

What do you find easiest and hardest about having a home-based studio?  The easiest thing is NO commute traffic to deal with ever. The most difficult is motivating myself to get things done every day, to keep on top of the future work. When I do have a job I have a difficult time saying good night and not going back outside to work on something else after hours. 

You have a lot of collections and vignettes around your house.  What are some of your favorite pieces?  My doll parts and pottery collection are the overall favorites. I love the floral prints above my desk and the old sheers, but the current favorite is a wooden box vignette in my room.

What are some of your favorite places to go in Oakland and the East Bay?  Tail of the Yak (ribbons), Urban Indigo (gifts), Bocanova (food/drinks), Redwood Regional Park (hiking with Parker), Dona Tomas (food/drinks), Tattoo 13 (tattoos),  Esqueleto (jewels), The Fox Theatre (music venue), Farmer Joe's  (grocery store)

Roy & Rachel

Brother and sister duo, Rachel and Roy Blodgett started Serpent & Bow which they describe as “The serpent and the bow are both fluid symbols, used to describe our wish for the collective to bend and contort, accommodating an entity that will be forever changing with the curiosities and whims of various artistic visions as well as our collective ambitions."   

I visited them at Roy’s house, where Rachel has been staying this summer as she relocates back to California from Rhode Island.  They both have a love for vintage and a strong relationship with the handmade, their father is a goldsmith and they have both worked (Roy currently) in their family's jewelry shop which specializes in estate and antique jewelry.  Their styles are their own but compliment one another well.   

Questions with Roy;

How long have you lived in your place?  I have lived on the general property since July of 2012, but only moved into my current space upon its completion in late December of 2013. Before that I had been living in the primary two-bedroom house at the western side of the lot, while my landlord was building the structure in which I currently reside. I didn't have the intention of moving out of the main house until the second structure was nearly complete and I realized all of the potential it had for a home and workshop space. 

What are your favorite things about living in this house?  The light in the second level is really wonderful, with windows on all sides, and I enjoy the way the room changes throughout the day based on the natural light flooding in. I also really enjoy the use of salvaged materials throughout the house, as they give the space a soul and character all its own and soften the sharp, shiny edges that usually come with a recent home. Perhaps most of all, I like how open and efficiently everything is laid out, with the upper level essentially a single room that serves as kitchen, bedroom, and living space - it's very comfortable, given that I live by my lonesome. 

You have a lot of collections displayed.  What are your favorite things?  Well, I try not to collect anymore just for the sake of collecting, as I don't want to clutter my space with anything I don't need or use - but  almost everything I have in my home has one glaring attribute in common: they're all well made and serve a function. Starting at age eighteen, I began outfitting my home and wardrobe with an emphasis on quality. I don't want to buy anything twice, and I try to be the most considerate consumer I can. I'm very fortunate to come from a family of craftsmen and women that both recognize and value quality workmanship, and I inherited those values double-fold. My favorite things are those rare items that blend quality, function, and beauty; an old Swiss military backpack I've used everyday for years comes to mind. 

Your house is pretty great, but what would your perfect space look like?  Or, what kind of "improvements" would you make to your current place (if you could)?  I suppose my perfect home would be one of my own making. Like many of my generation, I dream of owning land and building my own small home, and I'd really like to take that to an extreme and make every aspect of that home myself - from framing, all the way to hinges and fixtures. I'd like to grow and learn alongside my home. Aesthetically, my taste is heavily influenced by Japanese architecture and the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. I envision exposed beams, stone, iron, copper, natural light, wood heat, and maximization of usable space. Everything with an intention to guide it.   As for improving my current place, I'm beginning to focus on the lower level of my home, which has been largely neglected these first many months. I intend to convert the space into a general workshop where I can pursue my interests in various arts and crafts, from etching to drawing to woodworking, leatherworking, metalworking - most of which I've only had the space and time to pursue at a very basic level thus far. If all goes as hoped, this next year will see a lot more time spent wearing in the space and investigating these pursuits further. I yearn for a more meaningful connection between my efforts and the results they produce, and it seems there's no better way to address that longing than to work with my hands and make mistakes and successes in equal measure. 

You collect and sell vintage clothing and wear a lot of Native American jewelry.  What do you think about men's fashion and what do you see changing as American men become more interested (in general) of men's style?  My own take on men's fashion is based on the principle of function over form. I have a basic wardrobe comprised of only a few items that are very well made and tend to to work well together in a number of permutations. I catch some flak once in a while for wearing the same items all the time, but they are items which have truly moulded to my form and become part of my character, and I don't see anything wrong with having less and meaning more. I used to care a lot more what people might think about what I was wearing, but it's become a non-issue as my values have changed. I also struggled for a long time to find sources for a style that felt like it represented my character and ideals, but with the trending surge of interest in 'heritage quality' goods, scores of brands have come up, most notably out of Japan and the USA, such that finding ethically-made, quality clothing is a lot easier than it has been in recent decades. It's no longer out of reach for the average Joe to find a his niche amid the fray.  I also really like to accent my wardrobe with small details that I feel have a certain mystical quality. I have a few vintage items I feel that way about, and my Native American jewelry definitely falls into that sentiment. On that subject, wearing it is something I've considered and reconsidered many times over. As a representative of a very privileged minority, being a twenty-something white guy in California, I feel it's extremely important to have reverence, intention, and understanding of cultural importance when wearing such pieces. It's too easy to simply buy a turquoise cuff with no idea of where it came from, or what it means, or why it's important. I try to research and educate myself on these matters. I don't think of these items as accessories, so much as talismans with significance and power. 

Questions with Rachel;

How did you find Indigo?  And what drew you to it?  I started using Indigo when I was a student at California College of the Arts. At first, I was not really excited about it because I figured it was just a single color and it would get boring, but very quickly I became addicted to the process and the mythology surrounding Indigo as a color and as a dye, historically. It is one of the oldest dyes and so it has collected a lot of symbolic meaning as well as technical variation within the different cultures that have used it. Lately I am especially excited about Indigo as a medium that connects me to other makers throughout history. The genealogy of a color.

What is your favorite part of the process?  I love the ritual aspect of indigo as it requires daily care. Working with an Indigo vat is an intimate relationship that evolves a lot over time. I am still learning about the little cues that the dye vat is always giving me, teaching me how to care for it. It is also really magical to watch the color shift from neon yellow to cobalt blue as a piece of cloth oxidizes before your eyes!

Who do you want to wear your clothes?  The process of designing the clothing is very personal; usually a way of physically manifesting my own desire for a certain garment. I consider most of the clothing to function as talisman, carrying a symbolic meaning that brings strength or helps to visualize a specific intention for their wearer. I have personally struggled with a lot of health issues over the past year, and have been making myself a custom underwear each month as a way to mark time and depict the changes I have gone through spiritually and mentally. I would hope that my level of care and intention is recognized by whoever wants to wear the clothing; I hope it makes them feel empowered. I think that treating yourself to handmade underwear is an incredibly empowering thing to do.

What is your ideal studio situation or studio/living situation?  I feel really grateful for the space that I have been occupying (at Roy's). I love that I have easy indoor-outdoor access. I am in town but the space feels like a rural sanctuary. I think the most important aspect of a studio for me is access to the outdoors because I prefer to keep the indigo vat outside, and I love to do the painting outside.

You are leaving Roy's at the end of the month.  What are your plans?  For the months of September and October, I will be subletting my friend Kate Klingbeil's storefront space in Oakland, with Catherine Sieck. Catherine and I are organizing some workshops and events (including dye days!) and we will also have open hours for shoppers to come in and see our work. I am really looking forward to being able to make something and immediately place it on a rack in the storefront to display and possibly sell. Beyond that, I am hoping to wind up back in Sonoma County. Santa Rosa has felt like a cornucopia. I am really grateful for the community of friends and family in this area, and excited to be a part of it. 

See more of Roy here and more of Rachel here and here

Also, this post from when my brother, Julian was working with them creating beautiful batik.