Wednesday, July 6


My last blog entry I was facing this month. I had already geared up my mind waiting to set off summer with a bang. The month of July when hot dogs and hamburgers begin sprouting from grills across our great nation. With a bang it becomes summer and everyone is geared up for fun. However not always so much for us, the Klein family. Remember me touching on my last entry of my wise sage of a grandfather and his papa stools. Well Papa Rudy left us all here and went to be with his Lord the 5th of July. So for those who knew him July comes not with a hunger pain for the grilled goodies, but rather a pang of the heart.

Feeling out of sorts all week, I have tried to busy my mind. Keeping away from just how gosh darn much I miss him. But when you have a papa like we did, when your blessed enough to have known someone like him, it sure ain’t easy.  Tears seemed to jam up like ice on a river in the spring. I could feel the power behind them yet they just stayed tangled like the yard on the scarf I am still trying to learn to crochet.

I loosened tonight…. my little Hannah and her daddy Ky were cleaning up her bedroom and moving around some furniture. With me being so incredibly laid up I am pretty much useless for packing around old furniture. She was doing her best to help. She is small, tiny like me. She was trying to get a grip on the old dresser and walk awkwardly in tow with her dad. It wasn’t going well. “It’s too heavy”, “I am too little” . She is little- itty bitty in fact. And it is a huge dresser some all wood monstrosity from some era before I was born when they used real wood to make furniture.

That is when I heard myself use a Rudy-ism as we called them. Wonderful little quips, clever nuggets of wisdom and wit from the mouth of my papa. The tears who had been too frustrated to come all week finally let loose and began streaking down my cheek like the kids to on their slip and slide. I was suddenly back with papa. In his den when he was pulling out the old carpet. I cant remember how old I was, probably not much more than little Hannah is now. And I remember his bright blue eyes , his white newsboy cap cocked on his head, his gingerbread cookie skin and the long crooked finger pointed at me when he said these words “It doesn’t matter how small you are, or how big it is, you just pick it up and go”. And I did. The dirty smelly carpet, heavy and wrapped in a roll, scraped my arms and I thought for sure the burning down my arms from the weight would surely leave me limbless above the waist. But down the hall, through the kitchen, pass the living room and out the slider door we went. I just picked it up and went!

WOW! Who knew ? Something that simple could be so profound and I haven’t realize it until this moment just what “Pick it up and go” had meant all these years. So often folks have asked how I used to get done all the things I did back before my health packed up and left. I don’t know, I just picked it up and went. I tore down sheds, I built sheds, I took out radiators and put new ones in,  I hauled boats, I chopped wood. I wrangled cows. I drug massive deer from the woods, I built fences. I installed carpet, I took out carpet. I built shelves I tore down shelves. There never seemed a task I was afraid to tackle. Less than 100 pounds has never stopped me from doing anything. Even my work bounty hunting teenagers. I never once considered my five foot two frame and my 90 something pounds with a heavy woolen sweater dripping wet. I just went!

So often too emotionally…things happened, life? God? Whatever… has thrown some really tough curve balls, things that should have decimated me. I mean really big life changing earth shattering bad bad ugly things. But no. I picked it up and went. It didn’t matter how little I felt, how big the problem I just picked it up and went. I am still doing that. Right now this very moment I am doing just that!  I am picking up this enormous weight of losing my independence and mobility and somehow I am just going to go. I am going to find a way, to pick this up and go, even if it means this stupid wheel chair. At least I will be going.

I miss my papa so much. I may be all grown up, but there is just so much Papa the fix it could do for me if he was still here. Not just mend my broken toys but mend the broken parts of my life. I miss him. I mean really miss him. I know though that in his wisdom he has given us all the tools we will need to fix our own lives and mend all our broken parts and hearts. More than any Rudy-ism he has given us the Lord. And I know with out a doubt whatever advice he would give me right now about this struggle with my body that is betraying me it would end with “Well pray about it and see what the Lord has to say about it”

And so...that is where I will leave this. I will go and pray and see what the lord has to say about it. But my guess is the answer will not be delivered quite as witty or cleverly as a Rudy-ism would be!

Wednesday, April 13

Pull up a stool...

I was the first of a long line of grandchildren. This often made me the automatic “tester”. When my grandparents, aunts, uncles etc had something to try out, I was the first they went to. Sometimes this did not prove to be in my best interest, like the time my Uncle Twins thought perhaps I would make a nice football. To my mothers horror they were lobbing me back and forth across my grandmother’s living room. It was a concrete floor covered with a braided rug. Years later, the rug and concrete were covered with padding and carpet and none of my other cousins probably even remember the braided rug, nor have faded memories of the Uncle Twins tossing them like salad.

All of us cousins do have a common thread, and eventually that will lead to today’s featured artist, but first about my Papa. Our Papa was a carpenter. He could build or fix almost anything. If our toys broke beyond what daddies could repair, it was off to Papa's shop. He would clean corroded battery compartments, rewire things, glue miniscule parts together and like something mystical our toys were suddenly fixed. It could be related to Santa’s workshop in the magic of it all. The best things though to come out of papas shop  were not reconstructed toys, but life lessons. It seemed there was allways a lesson or tale playing from grandpa’s lips, background music for our lives echoing from the shop. He loved raising us up right.

He also loved to make us Papa stools. And me, being the tester got the very first one! They were a right of passage. Once a grandchild became old enough to walk, but was still too short to reach anything from their newly upright position, Papa made them a stool. It had a little handle and could be carried anywhere. They  were useful for more than just stepping on. They became lap tables when we ate dinner at the TV, they were desks for color books and crayons, flipped upside down with a blanket in them they were cradles for our baby dolls, for the boys they could use them as bridges for their trucks. Oh… a Papa stool. Mine was the first. I loved it. It was stolen a few years back from my front step. I had been using it for a seat whie I pulled weeds from the flower beds. It broke my heart, and continues to break my heart every time I try to reach something and its just out of grasp. Almost like papa now, he too is just out of reach, gone, stolen all to early.  I can almost hear his voice when I am working on a project, can almost hear the faint echo of his voice guiding me, the flicker of his blue eyes shining, the warmth of his hug...but ..its right there, just out of reach.

Imagine the joy I felt though when I came across the work of Matt Ricketts. Right there in his Bonanza shop, Rdesigns, he had a papa stool. Well not exactly a papa stool, but pretty darn close- worth grasping for, for sure! Obviously his work caught my eye and as I browsed his listings I became more and more enchanted by him. It wasn’t long and he and I were scheming to get him here on the Bumpkin Blog. His witty comments and sense humor have kept me giggling through this interview process and I have enjoyed greatly working with him.

So in his very own words….

 Matt Ricketts, RDesigns

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

My name is Matt. I grew up in a small town in northeast Iowa. I currently live in Colorado, a bit north of Denver. Close enough to the mountains to be able to see Rocky Mountain National Park from my back porch. Or at least I could before they finished the houses behind me. So I’m in town enough to essentially be about in the middle of a subdivision. Far enough out of town to hear the coyotes at night.

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

Most of my family is back in Iowa. Each generation seems to move a bit farther out from the center hub of where my grandparents lived. And each generation seems to have one member who splits off and moves a couple of states away. Last generation it was my uncle Larry. This generation it is me. At least I didn’t have to dig my own outhouse.

3. When did you first become interested in art?

Hmm… This, I think, is going to be the most difficult question for me. On the one hand, there is the simple answer that one of my grandmothers started me painting when I was around 5 years old. It later became apparent that I can’t paint (or draw for that matter), I moved into other areas. The thing is, nothing I did art-wise then has anything to do with what I am doing now. In fact, there were several years when I did nothing artistic at all.

I guess the most honest answer is that what I am doing now didn’t come from the realm of art. And I kind of have a hard time thinking of myself as an artist. This seems kind of odd since I was just featured as a guest artist at the Madison & Main art gallery in Greeley, CO. Then again, when I went to the reception on opening night with the rest of the artists, it felt kind of strange. Like clothes that don’t quite fit right. I’m more of a craftsman, or at least that’s the level to which I aspire.

4. Who was your biggest influence and why?

My inspiration started with my parents and grandparents. My grandparents grew up during the Great Depression and lived through the Second World War. Growing up during that period taught them some enduring lessons. They did not grow up living in a disposable society. While that trend did begin to rise in the late 40’s & 50’s, it was not something that they followed as much. The still did much of their own canning, had large gardens, and watched carefully what they bought. They bought plenty of things, don’t get me wrong here. What they did though, what they taught their kids to do, is to evaluate carefully what they did buy. They would look for the best quality that they could afford. Then they would see if that item was worth buying at that price or if it would be better to save up some more and make do with what they had until they could afford a better quality item. They were not the disposable sort. As I said, they instilled this into their children. So between my parents and my grandparents (who were always more than happy to give their grandchildren a lesson in personal economics), I never had a chance. I was going to be a non-disposable person in an increasingly disposable society. I know that I’m not the only one. I see it in the surge in popularity of handmade goods. I hear it from other shoppers.

I can understand people’s affinity with old homes. I share it. I acknowledge that the homes we build now often have much better technology, there is nothing romantic or cool about a 50 year old electrical or plumbing system (at least not when you are the one living with it). It’s hard to be nostalgic about what passed for insulation then or the joys of drafty old single pane windows. But that’s not why we love those houses is it? No, we love the old mantels and the old trim work. We love all of those little details that used to get incorporated, like putting the decorative scalloped siding on the upper parts of the outside of a Victorian house. When those old beautiful houses were built, the craftsmen who built it treated their work like building fine furniture. Their work was not only beautiful, but it was solidly built to work well and to last. I approach what I make in the same way. As much as I’m inspired by those old houses, I’m even more inspired by the craftsmen who built them. They weren’t particularly flashy or boastful. We don’t even remember their names anymore. They let their body of work speak for them. It is still speaking for them now and they wouldn’t have accepted anything less from themselves. Those are the men that I try to emulate and that is what I try to live up to with everything I make.

5. What is your favorite medium and why?

At the moment it is probably wood, since that is what most of my work is in at the moment. I’ll probably start doing a bit of metal work in the next year or so and I’m sure I’ll enjoy that (I actually preferred metals to woods in high school. Welding is just fun.). The leather working I’m doing at the moment has been quite enjoyable. Moving from helping my wife design jewelry to actually making some myself has also been enjoyable. I think I’ll be learning to knit and crochet here soon. You know, for my spare time (LOL, I crack myself up). The knitting probably won’t be for sale though, I’m thinking prayer shawls.

It’s not so much the medium really. It’s taking something, using your own skill and creativity, and creating something more than the sum of its parts. It’s about creating something of use and beauty that benefits people for years into the future. Something whose overall effect is hopefully far greater than the materials and time that went into it. Something that lives a life greater than its beginning.

6. How long have you been working in this medium?

I’ve been doing woodworking for about 10 years or so. Leatherworking about a year. Jewelry, I don’t know. A couple years off and on?

7. What other arts do you enjoy?

Oh let’s see, I brew beer. I make wine with my wife. We both cook, garden, and can food from our garden. We make candles from time to time. I’ve taken talking my wife into sewing something for me to something of an art form. Does that count? Other than that, give me a couple of months. I get distracted with something else. It’s like art and craft attention deficit…. Ooo look! A squirrel! Shiney objects! What were we talking about again?

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

Oh I could, but frankly it would be a little boring. If I’m making something specifically for somebody, I’ll ask them a couple dozen questions to get an idea of what they want. What do they want it made out of, the function, the size, etc. Then I’ll draw it up, probably ask a few more questions, send them the drawing, and maybe ask a few more questions to refine the plan.

Otherwise, I’ll start with what I want to build (for example, wall clocks). Then I’ll get a rough idea of what materials I want to use (Do I want to add crystals to it? Inlay?). Then I’ll come up with a couple of basic shapes in my head and build it once in my head. Then actually draw one up on paper to make sure that how I built it in my head will actually work. In the process probably forget about the other shapes I had in mind and then remember them at some other inconvenient time (and hopefully remember to sketch them so I can come back to them later). Then it’s just a matter of building one, probably changing something half way through, and hope it works. Or at least make notes as to what to do differently next time around.

9. Where do you find inspiration?

It really depends upon what direction I’m working in. I get a lot of my inspiration from furniture styles that were popular around the time of the Founding Fathers (Federalist, Georgian Revival, etc.). That being said, the ideas going through my head for larger works at the moment blend modern/contemporary designs and rustic/primitive designs.

When you look at my body of work, you will notice that you can’t really pin me down to one style or genre. I see too many inter-related aspects in seemingly unrelated things (such as art and math). Why does my work go off in so many different directions? Because my brain goes off in that many different directions. Actually, it goes off in more directions, I just haven’t built the rest of them yet. Just wait until I add the steampunk stuff I have in mind. Oh, and the mixed media too….

10. Where can we find more of your work?

Probably the best place to go would be: Rdesigns.

You could also check my facebook page: Heck, if you have a gmail account, follow me on Google Buzz.

Tuesday, January 11

Creating a Concept...

A new year and a new list of great artisans to feature. Bringing you guys the artist has to be a highlight of my days. I love seeking out new talent and hearing how they came to be the incredible artist they are. As always there is so much more to art than meets the eye and I hope my interviews can bring some of the unseen to the forefront and we can really get to know the great folks behind this great art.

Great art from around the world. Today’s artist Alex heralds all the way from Milan. Here in Alex’s own words is the interview!

Creative Concepts:

Can you tell me your name and a little about yourself and your studio/creative space?

My name is Alex. I am originally from Milan, Italy, where I studied Arts and Design, and also worked as textile designer before moving to the United States. I’ve lived in California for many years. For the past ten years I have worked in various US cities as interior and graphic designer. However my main passion remains decorative arts, which I’ve been pursuing for the past several years on a part-time basis.

My art is a fusion of ideas I like to experiment with new techniques and mediums. I paint on paper, fabric, canvas, cork and wood with acrylic paint, gouache and/or watercolor. I use images from my original paintings for my greeting cards and prints and I sell them through local stores and also through online shops like (creativeconceptsds). I also make hand made crafts and felt ornaments. Starting January 2011 I’ll be opening another e-store on, that will be featuring my arts and crafts as well as vintage and felt accessories.

I also illustrate children’s books and in collaboration with my husband, we published our first book titled: “The Adventures of Mr. P, the Case of the Missing Cheese” by Let Me Do It Press, a whimsical full-color publication for ages 2-8 years. It’s now featured on Bonanza (mrpadventure), Etsy (mrpadventures) and Amazon (The Adventures of Mr.P). The book is getting very good reviews from all around! We’re now working on two new books that will be published sometime in 2011

Where do you live and what is it like?

I live near Santa Cruz, California but I often travel back and forth to Europe/Italy and Seattle, Washington, where I have also an art studio. My travels tend to influence my art and inspire me to explore new ideas.

Where did you learn your medium?
I started painting when I was only five years old. My aunt was an artist and taught me how to use a brush and tempera (a type of opaque watercolor). I then helped her paint a colorful mural when I was 6-7 years old…it was so much fun! I also went to art school where I learned more techniques and studied art history. Later on I worked as textile, graphic and interior designer, which gave me a solid technical experience in addition to a better understanding of design and arts & crafts. I always loved to work with my hands, create pretty things and make people smile a little.

What are your goals with your work?
At the moment I am planning to get some of my designs licensed out to retail companies and/or go wholesale. I’ll be launching a new website in January 2011 through


 How did you come to selling online?
A friend of mine told me about and through the Etsy’s forums I found out about (now known as It became a fun part-time alternative activity

Where all do you sell? (creativeconceptsds and mrpadventures) (mrpadventures) (The Adventures of Mr.P, The Case of the Missing Cheese)
Local stores around Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz (
Local fairs

What is the best piece of advice you can give other artists?

Be curious about life and art, appreciate the good work of others and learn from them. Create a “design mind” by observing what’s out there or around you: shops, people, nature, places, museums, books, local art programs, you name it! I think one should never stop trying to improve and explore new avenues or ideas. But the joy of creating seems to me above anything else.


Why do you think that buying and selling handmade products benefits society?

Handmade is a celebration of both the artisan/artist and their dreams. I believe they profoundly contribute to create a better world for everyone.

Your shop name and link?


Thanks for reading about Alex. I hope you take the time to visit some of the stores and see more work from this great artisan! Remember I love hearing from you all, so please drop me a note. If you know of any great artist that need to be featured, pass them on!


Until next time...