Category Archives: Upcycling

Memorial Day, Murals and Guitars

I hope everyone had a good Holiday weekend. I’m working through it so we can go camping this week. We always go camping the week AFTER Memorial day. We are the kind of campers that want to get away from everyone! Even in New Mexico, that is impossible to do Memorial Day weekend, so we wait until Tuesday when everyone else is back at work.

I’m writing this blog ON Memorial Day and remembering all the brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I was in the military during Desert Storm and personally knew a few of those people. I will never forget them, their sacrifice or the families they left behind.

Painted guitar in progress, Strat body.

Painted guitar in progress, Strat body.

Over the weekend, I started my guitar painting for the Sierra Club show in August. I’ve had this Strat body sitting in my studio for literally YEARS! It has been patiently waiting for me to make it beautiful. It is still in progress and I’m hoping to make this one my first playable guitar painting. I’m counting on my husband to help me with building the guitar from the empty solid body it is now. I’m showing only recycled art at the Sierra Club, because what better place to promote recycling, right?

Mural design, 12 x 12" oil on canvas, this will be painted at 10 times the size of this painting!

Mural design, 12 x 12″ oil on canvas, this will be painted at 10 times the size of this painting!

On Friday, I will be getting started on the mural project I’ve been writing about for the last couple months. I have created the design and have approval to get started! I’m really excited about painting LARGE! 10 x 10 feet large! I plan on making a time lapse video of the whole process so stay tuned. I may share bits and pieces of it during the process.

 

People Who Inspire Me: Scott White

Scott White is a phenomenal furniture maker based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I first met Scott when we represented Scott’s work in our gallery. I had seen his work around town for at least a couple years before we opened Chroma Gallery and when I started filling our huge 4,500 square foot space, I knew Scott’s furniture would complement the art perfectly.

Once I met Scott, what struck me immediately was his positive outlook on life. Like Aaron and I, he had experiences similar to ours with serendipity, and he knew he was following his heart by making things with his hands. This is what first struck me and still inspires me about Scott. He is living his soul purpose.

Scott uses recycled metal and wood in his craft, as well as plywood and other woods. His chairs are just plain gorgeous and comfortable to sit in. Though he doesn’t like to consider himself an artist, his furniture is sculpture and therefore, Art with a capital A!

Scott’s Statement about his Craft:

In the current environment where ‘disposable’ is practically shoved down people’s throats, my longing is to make objects that will outlive the owner. This culture needs to revive the art of craft wherein the pieces that reside in your space will effect you even when you aren’t physically there. They possess the energy of the maker where the hand touches everything and they think about every line. My technique has evolved predominantly, to that of sculpture, where the object appears to come out of a single piece of wood. I collaborate with the material and rarely make sketches, paying attention and sensing how the form will resolve. The process is conscious and deliberate.

Paula: If you had the power to change one thing in this world, what would it be and how would you change it?

Scott: I have the power to change many things in this world simply by opening my mouth…..or opening a door. Many have said “you’ll never make a difference,” but to those I say, “wait”. One never knows what a kind word or even gesture will do for someone else. I think we are all here to plant seeds…

Plywood chair by Scott White

Plywood chair

Paula: What or who inspires you?

Scott: People who are passionately authentic inspire me. Those who are willing to be vulnerable….anomalies in a culture that stresses uniformity.

Paula: Who has had the biggest influence on your craft?

Scott: In the realm of furniture, George Nakashima and Sam Maloof are my go-to people. I lean towards George’s aesthetic…….. “luscious utility”. I came across Sam years ago before I started building furniture and he was etched in my mind from day 1. He once told a story about the mailman being all worried that his mail contained some bills, knowing Sam and Freda, Sam’s wife, were struggling. Others include Rebecca Solnit, a force of nature who eloquently talks about real change. The natural world is huge for me….not that I get out a lot but to see the genius everywhere is invigorating.

Paula: What do you want your art legacy to be?

Scott:  I don’t use the word ‘artist’ to describe myself. That’s such an ethereal word and employed by a lot of people (on the outside) who deem what is or isn’t ‘art’. I make objects yet wouldn’t even go as far as to call myself ‘maker’. That said, I hope my ‘legacy’ is that I helped more than I hindered, and that I’m remembered occasionally.

Three Tiered Round Table, Mahogany by Scott White

Three Tiered Round Table, Mahogany.

What should I blog about?

I have some photos to show you of recent art pillows I’ve completed. Other than that, I cannot think of anything to blog about! I’m going to leave it up to my readers. What do YOU think I should blog about? What are you interesting in hearing about from me? What artist stuff do you want to know? Now, hold back a second, I’m not opening this up to ANYTHING! I want serious ideas here people! 😉 Process, progress, thoughts, ideas? What do you want to know about this artist? Thank you so much for any input and feedback! 🙂 I want you to WANT to read my blog, I want it to be interesting to YOU! I already know what I’m interested in, what I don’t know, is what YOU are interested in. Please, let me know! In the meantime, I will share some photos of my latest #Artpillows! All 3 of these pillows and others are available in my Etsy shop. Follow the link to see them all!

Recycling

shreddingwool2

shredding wool

I have been living with guilt. For the past few years I’ve thought an awful lot about recycling and reusing. As an artist who paints on canvas, I had a real problem with what to do about putting more STUFF out in the world. In my personal life, I’ve always been good about recycling and not wasting ANYTHING. I recycle everything I can. I’ve purged so much stuff out of my life. I consider myself a minimalist. I only buy my clothes used at thrift stores, except for underwear, socks and sometimes shoes. I take my own bags to the grocery store. We compost our organic trash. I even save water as much as possible since I live in the desert.

In my art life however, I’ve been faced with a dilemma. Not only do I use brand new canvas and wood stretcher bars for my original paintings, I use toxic paints. This is not an eco-friendly way to be. I switched to water soluble oil paints over ten years ago. So, I no longer use the solvents needed for cleaning up after using regular oil paints. Still, I use wood from trees and the canvas is manufactured somewhere.

I have racked my brain for ways to reuse more and not use toxic substances in my art. I  paint on recycled items, old vinyl records, beat up guitars, old furniture.

My recent change to sewing has helped so much with my new mind set. I reuse old clothing, upcycle sweaters into new items. Now that I’m making pillows and dolls I have to use something to stuff with that is soft and fluffy. I’ve done a lot of searching online and found so many different eco-friendly ways to stuff my creations! I never would have thought about stuffing my dolls with animal hair, or plastic bags?! Honestly, I didn’t think those were very good ideas. The animal hair? I’m allergic to it, and I know I’m not the only one! Plastic bags? Too much crinkly crunchy noise from the plastic! No thanks.

shredding wool

Using my rotary cutter and straight edge, I cut thin strips from the sweater and then cut crosswise to make soft little wool pieces.

The one idea I really like is shredding old wool sweaters. I had one here in my studio from another sweater recycling project, so I decided to test the idea. I used my rotary cutter and straight edge to cut the sweater into strips and then cut crosswise to make little pieces. There was a lot of fuzz from those little pieces! What a mess! I made two small pillow forms and filled one with fiber-fill and the other with shredded sweater pieces. I washed the pillow with the sweater pieces to see how it held up.

wool filled pillow form

Wool filled pillow form, you can see it’s a little lumpy, but still very soft!

I’m pretty impressed with how it came out. The wool pieces are a bit more lumpy than the fiber fill, not quite as fluffy and soft, but still a nice cushy pillow. My thinking is I’m making decorator pillows and not really sleeping pillows, so I don’t think they need to be super soft. What do you think?

The shredded sweater stuffing takes a bit more time and I think I can figure out a way to make it more fluffy. I saw a blog post about someone putting chunky fibers in a blender to make it more fluff, but I haven’t tried that yet.

What I like most is reusing something old (don’t worry I wash everything in hot soapy water first!) and making something new, pretty and functional. 🙂 Granted, I’m still putting more stuff out in the world, but at least it’s eco-friendly stuff that isn’t going into a landfill! 🙂

Art Pillows

And just like that, I’m on to the next thing! This one has been on the back burner for literally years! No longer. I ordered more custom art fabric this morning and will be making a whole slew of Art Pillows. I call them art pillows because the fabric used to create the focal point of the design is printed with my own art work.

Just about any of my paintings can be turned into custom fabric. I look forward to a variety of different designs, using the art fabric and other fun fabrics and colors.

So far, I’ve made two pillows. The first one is made using my “Heart Love” design. Both pillows are available in my Etsy shop.

back of Heart Love Art Pillow, a nice soft suede upholstery sample

back of Heart Love Art Pillow, a nice soft suede upholstery sample

Side view of Heart Love Art Pillow

Side view of Heart Love Art Pillow

The second pillow was made using a variety of fabric scraps and an upholstery sample I had in my studio. In addition to my “Art Pillows” with the custom art fabric, I am making pillows using scraps and upcycled/recycled fabric samples and sewing notions.

photo of polka dot patchwork pillow

Back of Polka Dot Patchwork Pillow

Back of Polka Dot Patchwork Pillow

Side view of Polka Dot Patchwork Pillow

Side view of Polka Dot Patchwork Pillow

More Rag dolls

fourgirls

The “girls”, though we are NOT gender biased here, they can also be long haired boys or transgender dolls.

My Etsy shop is now stocked with my new “Love” ragdolls. These cute little dolls have been so much fun to make, I must admit I hug them regularly! I have to! I named them “Love” dolls for a reason. They are given tons of love before they are sent out to their new mommies and daddies, where they will give love for years and years to come.

fourboys

The “boys” and bald babies, like the “girls” there is no gender bias here, they can be whatever YOU want them to be.

They are made with multicolored fabrics and yarns to represent all the ethnicities of the world. Their bright colors are meant to make them happy, loving dolls. They all have a cute little smile on their faces and an embroidered heart on their chest.

I realized yesterday that I made my “love” dolls just in time for Valentine’s Day. What girl or lady wouldn’t want a cute, hugable Love doll from their Valentine? I would! 😉

I am also offering a custom, “memorial” doll. What exactly is a memorial doll you ask? A memorial doll is made in memory of a deceased loved one, using a piece of clothing that belonged to the loved one. It is an upcycled doll that will keep giving love long after a loved one is gone. The doll can be made with the same hair color and eye color as your loved one and will also have the person’s name embroidered within the heart on the chest. These are special order dolls, so contact me directly if you are interested and we can work out the logistics, ie sending me the item of clothing and determining custom elements for the doll.

I am also happy to make regular custom dolls with specific colors. These dolls are selling quick! Get yours while you can! Thank you! 🙂

My Grammy’s Sewing Machine

Several months ago I eluded to changes coming soon to Paula Manning-Lewis’ studio. You’ve seen the “fab bags” I started making a couple months ago. Today, I will show you what brought about this change.

IMG_0542

My grammy’s sewing machine!

I inherited this sewing machine from my grandmother many years ago. Honestly, I cannot remember how long I’ve had it. For many years, it sat, collecting dust. When I finally pulled it out to start using it, it wasn’t working properly. I did what anyone in my position might do. I took the sewing machine to my mom to see if she could figure out what was wrong. At the time, several years ago, I didn’t really have any pressing use for the machine. Besides, I was always welcome in my mom’s sewing room and she has better machines, plus she has every possible tool I might need!

photo of my first jeans patch

The first patch I made, using fabric and notions I had on hand.

I recently decided that I wanted to get back to making things with fabric, basically as soon as I found Spoonflower! Once I knew I could custom design fabric with my art on it, the creative juices started to flow and I started to think of all the things I could make!

photo of my peace patch in pattern form

The beginning of the Peace patch. I drew the peace sign pattern.

I made my first “fab bags” in my mom’s sewing room, but it quickly became clear that this was something that wasn’t just a passing phase for me. I talked with my mom about what she thought might be wrong with my sewing machine and she said she would take it into the repair shop and let me know once she found out how much it would cost to fix. I told her to go ahead and have it fixed, because I wanted to use it and would pay whatever it cost. Sure, I could have bought a new machine, but I had an attachment to THIS machine.

photo of my peace sign patch in progress

Peace sign, cut out and ready to attach to the backing material.

A couple weeks later my machine was done, it just needed a simple part. My mom ended up paying for the repairs and said it was “for your birthday”. Needless to say, I was excited about finally having my “own” sewing machine again!

Peace sign in progress

Peace sign patch, work in progress. The peace sign was sewn on by machine, the flowers are hand stitched.

All the ideas in my head were now possible! So, I started researching other ideas and in the meantime I remembered my new favorite pair of jeans. These jeans have some really cool embroidered patches on them and my thought was, I can do something similar with my art fabric! I’m still waiting for my first order of fabric to come for making jeans patches, but while I wait, I’m using samples and scraps that I have on hand. So far, I’ve finished one patch and started a second one. Stay tuned for more to come! 🙂