Friday, December 31

Boom boom bloom...

An entire year is coming to an end. Sometimes it seems the year drags by and the hands move slowly and the days barely fall from the calendar. This year though has been as if the days come off two at a time and I have felt against the clock most of the year. Why I don’t know. It isn’t as if I am well enough to be busy. But the goals I would set for myself seemed to be continually barreling down the track of daily living and suddenly I would be derailed again.

Last year a dear friend of mine as you will remember from her interview, told me chooses a word for the new year. I too choose a word and it was bloom. I reflect now down that track and wonder, did I? Did I bloom? In so many ways yes I did. Artistically yes, definitely. I am trying new things and new styles and can say I have a veritable garden of new styles that I can tend to in the months ahead. But personally, did me, the person bloom? Did I grow, did I change? Am still the little seed sitting in the dark waiting to sprout? Or did I spring up, come forward and grow tall. I think it is easy enough to say yes I did. I faced so many challenges this year, incredibly hard challenges, the kind most folks only face every few years, and yet boom boom boom our family was hit with them repeatedly. I often felt like a spent dandelion with parts of me blowing all over in the wind, no direction or foothold. But we landed on our feet and from there we bloomed again!

Not sure what the word of the year should be now? I have mulled over so many in my mind. Words are funny things, they are. I had considered health because of being so incredibly ill, but really? Do I want my focus on me and health? I suppose I could use cooking dinner for my family, planting a healthy garden and ya ya ya that sort of stuff. But I want something more. Something more tangible and less concrete. So then I wandered to “wellness’ Because we could throw in physical wellness, mental wellness, and so many other things could be tossed into that pot and make a nice little salad of words. But it just doesn’t seem to have “ring” to it. Silly that I have been worrying so much about one little word isn’t it? But no, hear me out. A word can carry you all year. a resolution, well we all know those are broke in about a month or less, maybe 2 months if you have great tenacious will power. So a word dang it , give me a word!

Bloom was last years, so why not go that route? My mind dug around in the dark soily depths and has come up with grow. Naturally after something blooms it must grows. It stretches itself skyward, it leans into the warm sun, puts its roots down deep, plants itself. Readied for whatever may come its way. The wind, the rains, doesn’t matter. It grows despite all adversity, in good and bad times it grows. It scatters itself, proliferates and becomes more.

And with that, I choose GROW. I wish to you will grow with me in this new year. My hope for the blog is for it to continue to grow and include everyone we can think of. A place for artist to gather and share. This isn’t my blog, it is our blog. So please join me now in choosing a word for the new year. I would love to hear what you choose!

In the mean time…off I go, to grow!

Sunday, December 19

Yum, the ART of cookie making...

Oh the smell of cookies baking in the oven. Here is a great Snickerdoodle recipe we found....

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon

 1 Preheat oven to 350°F.
2 Mix butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar and eggs thoroughly in a large bowl.
3 Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
4 Blend dry ingredients into butter mixture.
5 Chill dough, and chill an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10-15 minutes in the fridge.
6 Meanwhile, mix 3 tablespoons sugar, and 3 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl.
7 Scoop 1 inch globs of dough into the sugar/ cinnamon mixture.
8 Coat by gently rolling balls of dough in the sugar mixture.
9 Place on chilled ungreased cookie sheet, and bake 10 minutes.
10 Remove from pan immediately

Wednesday, December 8

Standing in awe...

I have met a lot of incredible folks while doing this blog. Many have enormous talents and the personality to match. I feel very blessed to be able to get to know these artists and then pass them along to you. I recently came across something so far beyond my usual. The artwork held me, mesmerized. I instantly had to know more! The creations were bits and pieces of fabric, buttons, lace mashed together haphazardly and yet at the same time deliberate, a mishmash of bliss. They formed little Rag Tag Critters. Little bits and pieces all held together with perfect stitches coming together to form the most creative critters one could imagine. I combed through the descriptions and online profiles and still had not satisfied my insatiable thirst for more. The images and words lingered in my mind and I knew I needed to contact this artist. It was as if a thread had begun weaving itself into my soul.

The more I learned about this artisan the more I felt as if I knew her. As if the fabrics of our lives had somehow been stitched together a hodgepodge of serendipity. Something almost Devine weaving the fabric of our lives together. We shared so many scraps of our lives, our own personal struggles and triumphs were like complimenting pieces of fabric. She the calico and me the plaid, her the silk, me the satin.
So today I so humbly give you Rag Tag Critters

Created by Peggy Elliot in Door County Wisconsin, the work and words you see here will leave you feeling different. You will see the personality of both the writer and the characters emerge as you too get to know this incredible woman. I have started and deleted this post uncountable times. I am not sure just how to capture something so magnificent. There are times in life when you just know something is so much bigger than you, more profound. How would you paint with rays of sunlight, how would you fill a jar with stars? This is how I felt beginning this blog.

Dog walking his person!
So In her own words I will let Miss Peggy Elliot tell you about herself. No amount of magic marker scrawling across the screen, could add to her words, no cyber scissors could take away from them. I want for you to meet her in her completeness and feel this vibrant celebratory spirit come to you unfiltered by little ole me!

1. Can you tell us your name and a bit about yourself and where you live?

To introduce myself, I am Peggy Elliott and I reside in Door County, Wisconsin. Though held housebound by a body that has betrayed me, I roam the world through this instrument that has become a lifeline for so many of us - the computer.

Being “stuck” in Door County is not such a bad deal, either, for this is a glorious haven for all creative types, with a very large and, surprisingly, well appreciated artist community.


2. What about your family, can you tell us about them?

My family means the world to me, though I don’t get to see them too often. My daughter, her husband and 2-½ grandchildren live 7 hours away, a busy family of teachers and nurturers, with little free time to spare. I do miss them.

My parents are closer, and I’m so fortunate to still have them both, though they, too, have had to surrender to a life of far greater limitations.


3. When did you first become interested in art?

I have always been involved in creative pursuits. Too many, in fact. In my younger days the joy of my life was found in singing, but I have always been messing around with pencils, pastels and paints.

My mother taught me to embroider; high school taught me how to use the seam ripper - I was the champion, in fact. If you’d told me back then I would one day be creating these dolls it would have struck true terror in my heart! Never!


Goat in a moat!
4. Who was your biggest influence and why?

I guess you’d have to say the creation of the Rag Tag Critters came from my desire to do something fun and different for my granddaughter and grandson. I’d made a couple of “normal” dolls, one was finishing up a lovely lady my grandmother had begun and never finished. So I had an idea of how to sew them, had lots of material around, goodness knows, I had the time!


5. What is your favorite medium and why?

Rag Tag Critters are aptly named, for they are created from the recycled fabrics, clothing no longer wearable (amazing the amount of “shrinkage” my friends, family and I seem to have run into) and other cast-offs and cast-outs everyone seems to have cluttering up rooms and closets. One person’s “rag” is another one’s “Rag Tag Critter!”

I’ve been very lucky, as there have been so many people who have gone out of their way to provide materials. Without their support I would not have been able to create the Critters. Sometimes I can’t believe the supplies I go through - I had a supply of buttons I thought would last a lifetime. Wrong!


6. How long have you been working in this medium?
The first Rag Tag Critters were made for the kids’ Easter gifts in 2008. People who saw those two wanted to know if I would make some for them. The teenage granddaughter of a friend wanted one and then so did her friends. Sewing like a fiend, I managed to supply them with 25 for a fund raiser.

And on it goes…. When people actually see and hold the Critters they tend to come back for more.


8. Can you tell us a little bit about your process?

I begin a Critter by first drawing a rough sketch. This provides a simple guide, so I have an idea of the materials I’m going to need, and how I want to put them together.

The workroom has piles of fabric, shelves of yarns, ribbons, “stuff,” all neatly arranged and categorized (Yeah, right!). From the sketch, I have an idea of the colors I want to put together, what all is needed to create the character that is just right, if not more than a bit “weird.”

Everything is cut out by hand, everything is sewn by hand - this isn‘t because I have an aversion to sewing machines so much as I never learned how to control one (see earlier reference to “seam rippers“). I’ve even been known to occasionally make tatted lace for collars, edgings or head pieces. These are definitely labor-intensive one-of-a-kind items.

The most fun comes from watching these bits and pieces come together to form a Critter, with their attitudes and unique individual characteristics. They take on a life of their own as they grow in my hands and by the time they are done, they have a name and a life’s story to tell.


Sr. Citizen Tooth Fairy
9. Where do you find inspiration?

I’ve always had an over-active imagination. I just finally found an outlet that’s appropriate.

Despite how they appear, these Rag Tag Critters are grounded in the world around me. Even the “Sr. Citizen Tooth Fairy” arose from an incident in which my Scottie knocked out one of my bottom teeth. “Where’s the Tooth Fairy when you need her?” says I to myself.

Well, she’s here now - her wand held together with Duct Tape, once beautiful locks of hair now frazzled, tattered wings and carrying a bag of denture adhesive instead of the quarters we used to get as kids.

Like I said, an over-active imagination!


10. Where can we find more of your work?

The Rag Tag Critters are found online on Bonanza, Etsy and eBay. I am also honored to have them featured for sale at the Miller Art Museum, located in downtown Sturgeon Bay, WI.

So there is Peggy in her own words. I know huh! Incredibly interesting. I think some back story will add to this wonderful person you have just met. So please bear with me as I continue.....

Peggy like me, deals with Chronic health issues. As I mentioned the serendipitous twist of the divine, we both have Crohn's disease; we both deal with mobility issues, and the other obstacles that go with it. To deal daily with an illness turns you into a different person. No longer viewing the world as others. Minimal tasks become mountains and as Peggy said “we are rock climbers” It strengthens a person, it toughens us and gives tenacity like no other. It is in the creating the artistry that we forget this difference that art, truly becomes something more than a creation.

She pours her heart and entire soul into each Rag Tag Critter. One stitch at a time brings her hands to agony and yet her mind to unabated bliss. I know this. I know that feeling. A viewer can see this in her work. You can look and stare and then something happens. Those critters walk ever so real into your heart. They stitch themselves on your psyche and don’t let you go. Isn’t that what true art is supposed to do? Weave its way into your life to hold the viewer and not let them go? Of all the features of the entire artist I have seen, no one, not one has captured me the way Peggy has.

Happy New Year
I hope you see this. I hope you are profoundly affected by the haunting look in the eyes of these amazing works of art. I see the “Skool Dazed” doll and then suddenly stitched across the dolls face and mine are the jumble of emotions of those first back to school days. When I saw “Happy New Year” I saw a woman struggling with where she has been and where she is going. The doll a woman ageing trying to recapture her youth, not ready to give up the youthful flashy clothes and make up. Dolling herself up for one more chance to grasp the magic of New Year celebration. Questioning herself and yet setting her jaw, dolling up and stepping out- determined to make this the best year yet.

Skool Dazed
Tiny details fill each Critter. Hand tatted lace, little beads, a tuft of hair, a perfectly chosen button for an eye. Every small detail builds upon itself and suddenly the medley tells a huge story. Peggy explain in and email “There's been such a transition, not "growth," as so many like to tag it, but more development, more assured and engaged in the creation of the Critters. Guess I've given myself permission to experiment with them, allowing them the freedom to become what they want to be, instead of my forcing them to fit an idea I have for them. “ I am left in awe of each and every one of her Rag Tag Critters and though I have purchased two I know instinctively –the same instinct by which I knew I had to find out more about Peggy- that the two critters will not be enough. I will buy more. I won’t be able to help myself. With amazing talent, incredible personality, and an artistry above no other. Rag Tag Critters have sewn themselves tightly to my side, woven into my heart and buttoned to my brain!

PLEASE PLEASE check out her stores and see more of this wonderful work!

Monday, December 6

Timeless Rarity

We all know the holidays are approaching. The television commercials fairly shout out the countdown and the number of shopping days we have left. Aside from the obvious of the material race to get the packages under the tree our minds begin to race as well. Memories of Holidays past begin to fill the space in our minds like the packages fill the spaces under the tree.

The memories and the call to our past has inspired my next guest here on the bumpkin blog. She is a very talented gal who is calling up her past to begin a bright future.

I give you Rayven’s Rarities.

Katherine, her given name is not the name we know her by. She goes by another, her native, Rayven. This is just one way she is getting back to her roots. Nestled in the high dessert of Oregon, she turns out beautiful pieces of Native American jewelry and has a Bonanza store Rayvens Rarities, absoluely loaded with incredible beadwork. Please hop on board as we discover more about this sparkling gem.

Beautiful Native cuff earring set
 Created by Rayven
Her work is incredible. Itty bitty tiny beads stack upon themselves one at a time to form elegant chokers, earrings and other fine jewelry. It is a craft that goes back eons, and yet is rather new to Rayven. Rayven is just now coming to think of herself as an artist, and while not truly a late bloomer she is just late at the realization. Her first connection to her creativity was a cake decorating class. She tells us “I took a cake decorating class to make extra money for school. I got pretty darn good at decorating cakes. Don't know why cause I can't even draw a good stick man, but hand me a tube of frosting and a cake and I become Michelangelo. So, due to that, I eventually got interested, later in life, with other types of craft work.”

Watermill created by the talented duo
Again that creative streak reared when her and her father would work in the woodshop together. The duo would piece together incredible birdhouses, yard decorations and so much more. I have included a photo of a lovely water mill they worked together on. Incredible in its detail it features working components and actually turns water. It is remembering these times with her father that inspires much of what she is doing today.

One of the many Native American  items in her store.
Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come from anywhere. I love to ask artist what inspires them. When I asked Rayven I was told it can come from anywhere “Oh that's easy. Just take a look around outside at nature, at a favorite store, or even just talking to a friend. It's amazing the ideas I've had pop into my head at the oddest of times.” Her store is filled with lovley items, some made by Rayven herself and other treasures she has mined from her vast supply of incredible artists.

 The more I learned about Rayven the more I realize she is deeply connected to her roots and yet used them to draw upon for future endeavors. She spends much of her time sewing and will soon be filling up her Artfire shelves with wonderful and unique items , so we will have to be sure and look for them. Speaking of looking have a peek at the adorable Lillee hanging out in one of Rayvens latest creations. Lilee is an honorary niece and was blessed to have this wonderfully made, cosy, shopping cart snugglie. The photo of her sewing room was perhaps my favorite and I had to share. You can see there, her right hand man, Jax helping her to create yet another wonderful piece.

The passion and connection she has to those in her life, and her roots is a definite vein running through the goldmine of her creativity. When talking with Rayven you can feel this goldmine unearthing. “You know, I can't really say I have a favorite. All the craft work I've done, I've done with a passion and whole heartedly. To narrow it down to just one choice for me, would be next to impossible.”

Another fabulous piece found in Rayvens store.
Handcrafted by one of her local favorites.
I am looking very forward to seeing what is next from this lass Please join me in adding her to your favorites and checking back to see where this creative streak leads. I know you like me will be striking it rich as we come to know her, and her fantastic talents.

Please visit Rayven at Rayvens Rarities

Friday, December 3

Hopping for joy to bring you LaRusc Studio

As promised I have gathered up some great talent, intervies and pictures. I always love bringing yo the best of the best. I scoure sites and boards to find only highly talented and unique individuals to bring to the Bumpkin Blog. As always if you know of someone who should be features here please drop me a line.

Today I give you, Laura from LaRusc Studio

Laura Rusciolelli, is an artist from the beautiful Pennsylvania who is especially drawn to creating animal artwork. Laura has a home studio, LaRusc Studio, where she teaches children's art classes and spends her time creating these adorable and yet graceful works of art.

Laura refers to her husband as her personal cheerleader and tells us it was him who let her build the studio to her exact specifications. When asked about her greatest work of art Laura told us “My greatest artwork may be the three children I've created, a son and two daughters, all of whom are happily gifted with art and music talent. I also have a fluffy doggie, Buddy, and four (yes 4!!) cats.”

Her interest in arts goes back as far as she can remember and credits much of her inspiration to her grandmother. She tells us she feels incredibly blessed to be following her bliss down the path of art. In the true spirit of an artist she is giving back her gifts by teaching and inspiring other creative minds.

When asked her biggest influences Laura related to us, “ My biggest influence in my art life was a local artist, Storma French, who taught me privately for several years. Strangely, in the wider art world, I have always been drawn to Impressionist works, especially Renoir, yet I am almost exclusively a realist painter, and most of my works are miniature art cards, called ACEOS, that are the size of a baseball card.” ACEOs don’t we just love those. You guys should really check out some of her cute, whimsical designs. Priced affordably you can gather up several and have yourself a wonderful collection from this very talented gal!

Laura goes on to tell us “My favorite medium, watercolor, was one I was actually dragged in to kicking and screaming from painting mostly in oil. I was afraid of the lack of control with watercolor as opposed to oil painting, but soon was cured of that! Watercolor was the last painting technique I explored, only about 5 or so years ago. I enjoy oil painting, and acrylics. Altered art/collage is another favorite, and playing with papier mache.”

It is hard for me to relate her process and technique so again we will hear from Laura in her own words. “My process, hmmm. I am a very visual drawer/painter, especially with the animal portraits, so I usually need to have reference photos for that type of work. I envy artists who can "see" all in their head and put it right down on paper. As I settle in to whatever project I am working on, I will have music or even the television playing, a cup of coffee handy, and a cat or 2 lying around somewhere close by. My inspiration can come from something as simply as the way a bird alit on a branch, or the way the cat turned and looked at me, or a comment one of my art students might make. I'm always walking around inside and outside with my camera. I'm sure some of my neighbors think I'm a nut.”

No, Laura you are not a nut. The readers and myself would be the nuts if we couldn’t find the beauty in every piece we have seen on display. The form and colors seem to come alive and the viewer can almost see the nose of a bunny twitch or a bird about to take flight. The movement and tranquility of the piece, while sound in contrast make Laura’s work unique and a definite must have.

You can find the website at . She also sells miniatures and other artwork on eBay, where she can be found by typing LaRusc into the search bar. Etsy to is graced her wonderful paintings and you can get there by following this link. .

Be sure to hit those links and see more of this adorable, stunning work!

Check back soon guys for more wonderful artisans!