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Many of you who know me well, might have found yourselves asking, “what’s up with the quatrefoil?” in reference to both my floral quatrefoil logo and the little quatrefoil necklace(s) I wear all the time. (I have quatrefoil bedding as well, in case you were curious).

Well, I’m glad you asked. The answer is a long one and is deeply tied into my creative story.

The quatrefoil symbol has been around quite a long time, most traditionally used in ancient church architecture. It is thought to have originated in ancient textile design. Some people think it means luck, like a 4-leaf clover, some say it is a version of the Greek cross and represents the four gospels in the Bible. It really could represent anything in fours – the four seasons, the four cardinal directions on a compass, the four elements, etc. I love the history in all of that, but for me the meaning is a little more complicated.

If I had to give you the shortest answer, I would say that, to me, it means that no matter the season, or the direction I would like to go, God has a plan for my life. I also really love the historical context, that it is tied to my art background, and that it is a version of a flower (I grew up in the country). I also just think it is a really pretty symbol.

Here is the longer story: (warning: lots of text and no pictures)

It’s no secret, if you’ve been around here for a while, that my college years were a rough time for me in many ways. I had health issues and was often sick (undiagnosed Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, and gluten intolerance), had extremely low energy (undiagnosed thyroid issues and general lack of sleep), missed my once close-knit family (that was beginning to fall apart), missed the country, and in general having a home and a place that felt settled and safe. Along with that, I struggled with figuring out what to do with my life, what to study, and what path to take to the career I wanted (along with the general stress of tough college courses and a heavy workload).

I’ve always been a creative person and I’ve loved art since I was really little. I would paint with watercolors at my Grandmother’s kitchen table for hours as a pre-schooler. In elementary school, my mom taught me to sew and embroider, knit and crochet. In middle school, I became interested in photography and digital design in Photoshop (it wasn’t until college that I learned Adobe InDesign or Illustrator). In high school, I was on the Publications team creating layout and ads for the yearbook, involved in designing and sewing costumes for school plays and musicals, and organized my school’s Fashion Show every year. But my small town background made me naive to the creative careers possible for me. I thought that the only way to work in the world of art was to be a painter or a photographer– selling your work on the street, at festivals, or online.

So when it came time to go to college, I began majoring in English, with the intention of becoming a teacher, just like my grandparents both were, and just like the majority of people I’d known in my life up to that point. While I enjoyed the way that my English classes made me think, analyze, and find deeper meaning, I didn’t feel like English nor teaching English were my true passions.

It wasn’t until part of the way through my freshman year of college that I heard the term “graphic designer.” I was on a field trip with my TIDES class (a required Tulane course in your choice of subject area to orient you to the unique culture of New Orleans). The TIDES course that I had chosen was called “Design It Yourself NOLA” and we spent our time learning about New Orleans architecture, graffiti culture, Katrina and the geography and history of the city, touring green-build houses, visiting a warehouse of Mardi Gras parade floats and learning how they were made, beading Mardi Gras Indian costumes, and going to Creole Creamery to learn how their ice cream was made. But the most influential stop, to me, was the day we toured a local art gallery and print/publications house. We met with a graphic designer who showed us the digital page layouts for a book she was designing about how to navigate a major city disaster like Katrina. I was amazed. Something that combined my love of art and English into one marketable and needed skill? Sign me up!

I went home and immediately started researching graphic designers. Why hadn’t I ever heard this word before or thought about something like this as a career? I did small graphic design projects for myself already (in Photoshop and Publisher, oy!). The more research I did, the more sure I felt that designing is what I needed to do with my life. The bad part came when I realized that Tulane, the University that I was already attending, didn’t have a graphic design program. I met with my (terrible) guidance counselor (who basically told me I shouldn’t have come to Tulane and should have gone to a trade school). She pointed me towards the art department and they directed me to the printmaking department. But I didn’t want to make books by hand, I wanted to design them digitally.

Through a long string of events, and many stressful nights and long cries, I did sign up for the first class in the string of art courses required for a major — beginning drawing. I was so confused as to what to do with my life, but seeing as I was already in college, I didn’t have a lot of time to figure it out. God was looking down on me though, and blessed me with the most amazing art professor and I was amazed at my progress from beginning to end in Drawing 105. So much so, that I started to wonder if I wasn’t in the right place after all and signed up for the next drawing class, along with a painting class, and an art history class. (and then printmaking, and ceramics, and more painting, and more drawing, etc…)

This story is taking a long time to get to quatrefoils, huh? I told you it was a long story.

I didn’t give up on my graphic design dream. The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I did an internship with a small graphic design and printing company in my hometown. There I learned the very basics of Adobe InDesign and I started to begin familiarizing myself with Adobe Illustrator (but didn’t really get proficient at that until after college). I also became familiar with various printing processes — preparing files for print, screen printing, vinyl cutting, etc. I initially thought that I would like to work in the book/magazine publishing industry designing book or magazine layouts, and I was thrilled that this internship was getting me one step closer to that! However, that same summer, while living back at home, reading my mom’s Country Living magazines, I stumbled across an article on Anna Maria Horner and her career in fabric design. It was another lightbulb moment! I had grown up sewing and collecting fabric, I loved painting and art, but I also loved digital design. Did I really want to design book layouts or did I want to design FABRIC! Fabric, of course! This opened a whole new world of possibilities to me (read more about AMH and that article here).

The next semester at school, I took my first art history class (a beginning survey course) and fell in love with the history of art, particularly the design motifs in ancient church architecture. (SPOILER ALERT: THE QUATREFOIL!) On my class notes I would draw quatrefoils and trefoils, gothic arches, and rose windows. I dreamed of using my art skills and budding design skills to become a fabric designer and design patterns inspired by art history.

Fast forward through more school, more English classes, more art classes, more stress, and low energy. The final project for the first painting course I took at Tulane was two combine two objects — one that represented your past and one that represented your future. I could go into further detail about why I chose what I chose, but in the air of brevity, I’ll just tell you that I picked an antique watering can full of impatiens to represent my past and in the background I painted a turquoise and mint quatrefoil pattern to look like fabric to represent my future (you can see and read more about that painting here).

Fast forward even further — past the rest of my English and art classes, past starting my blog and following the blogs of my favorite designers, past my wedding, past opening a web and graphic design business with my husband, past diagnosis of my thyroid and gluten intolerance — to the summer after college graduation. What am I going to do with my life?! What is my next step? Where do I go from here??? With a degree in English and Studio Art (concentration in Painting) and a plethora of self-taught design skills, there were a lot of ways I could take my career. I (obviously) wanted to be a fabric designer (more largely a surface pattern designer), but I didn’t yet know how to make repeatable patterns or where to even start to get into that industry. I looked into going back to school for textile design, even started touring schools, but that was too expensive with my husband already having so many student loans (and I really wasn’t mentally ready to dive into more school just yet). I started to focus on finding a job within my skill-set to help pay the bills while I spent my free time figuring out how to design patterns and studying the industry. I didn’t know what that job would be, but I prayed and asked God to lead me to wherever I was supposed to go next. The end of that summer, I got a call from the Director of Administration at a church in New Orleans that was looking for a Web and Publications Coordinator. He had seen my resume online and said that with my English, art, and graphic design background, I seemed like the perfect candidate. A week or so later, I started working there, without having even applied for the job. Guess what the church logo is? A quatrefoil. I guess the painting about my future was right, even if it wasn’t in fabric.

After I’d worked at the church for a few months, I came across a little quatrefoil necklace on Etsy (pictured above). The quatrefoil charm was the exact same color of turquoise as the quatrefoil fabric I’d painted in that art class painting. Again, well before I knew it, God knew what would be in my future, even if it wasn’t exactly the way I’d envisioned it. I bought that necklace (actually Drew bought it for me for Christmas that year) and I wore it nearly every day until it started to look a little ragged and I replaced it with a little gold version (I also have a pearl one).

Now I know how to design repeatable patterns and I understand a lot more about how the fabric manufacturing industry works. I’m still working towards that fabric design dream. But to me — the little quatrefoil (and my floral quatrefoil logo) serve as a reminder of my story – that all those parts (that I didn’t understand at the time) had a purpose and were leading me where I needed to go. God will provide. I can make plans (four directions) and want them to happen when I want (four seasons), but God is directing my steps and will lead me where he sees my future. He’ll also lead me through tough times and deliver me from distress (Psalm 23).

On a side note, I designed a more floral quatrefoil for my personal logo, as a way to combine the quatrefoil with a flower, a symbol of my country upbringing and love of nature.

I hope this has fully answered all of your questions about my obsession with quatrefoils. 🙂

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This summer, my niece Ashley asked me if I would design a fabric for her senior Homecoming dress. She wanted a watercolor floral in pinks, purples, and blues.

I started with some quick watercolor sketches from photos I had taken last spring of my birthday peonies and some lilac photos (also from last spring) that my sisters, Blair and Jill, had sent me from their yards. Two of my favorite flowers and they don’t grow in New Orleans!

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I scanned them in to my computer, vectorized and re-colored them, then turned them into this pattern:

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We both liked it, but thought it needed less leaves and less white space to really pop on the dress. So I played around with a few more variations of it before we finally settled on this pattern:

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She had envisioned the skirt to be made of light colored tulle, so I wanted to make sure that the pattern on top was bolder and colorful.

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Then I ordered the fabric (on Spoonflower):

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I sent it to her and after a drama where it got stuck in the mail for two weeks (and we thought it was lost!), she had it made into the dress and wore it last weekend for Homecoming. I think it turned out wonderfully!

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It is so exciting to see my designs on fabric, but even more special to see them worn for a special event. I’m honored to have had a part in your senior year, Ashley!

P.S. Aren’t her and her boyfriend so cute? They remind me of Drew and I when we were in high school. So sweet! Ashley was in elementary school when Drew and I started dating! 🙂

A month or so ago, I finished piecing my Mod Hexagon Quilt that I started at the Cotton and Steel Patchwork Weekend Workshop at Anna Maria Horner’s Craft South in Nashville. I was nervous to try quilting it myself (I’ll try that on the next one!) so I sent it off to a lady I met at the workshop to have her long arm quilt it for me (Elizabeth Beck Quilts). I got it back last week and I LOVE the way it turned out!

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I used all Cotton & Steel and Anna Maria Horner fabrics. I love the way the colored bits make little paper airplanes.

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The weather has finally turned a little cooler in New Orleans, so I’ve been enjoying snuggling up with it on the couch! This is my first quilt and I’m so pleased with the experience of making something that can be used for a practical purpose. Most of my “making” has usually been painting, digital design, decorating, or sewing things like curtains. All those are lovely, but they can’t be “used” in the same way that a quilt can.
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I love how sparkly that woven Loominous fabric is by Anna Maria Horner. It is hard to capture in photos, but it person it is so glittery! I think it really makes the quilt!

Last weekend, I attended the Cotton and Steel Patchwork Weekend Workshop hosted by Anna Maria Horner at her new (and fabulous!) shop, Craft South, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Craft South is so insanely beautiful and inspiring. You can’t walk into this space and not be inspired to create. How I wish this space existed in New Orleans (or that I lived closer to Nashville!).

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I love the workshops that Craft South is putting together. So many great things happening there! (see upcoming workshops and classes here).

As you all already know, Anna Maria Horner and her fabulous fabric design skills have been an inspiration to me for quite a while (read more about that, here), so I’ve been dying to get to Craft South and take a workshop ever since she announced that it was happening (she started Craft South workshops last summer in another location and then opened Craft South the store this past May).

When I saw that she had put together a weekend workshop with all five of the founding designers of the fabulous Cotton and Steel, I jumped at the opportunity! Six amazing fabric designers all under one roof teaching me how to quilt and chatting about the industry? YES!!

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My older sister lives right outside Nashville, and we love the area, so it is always nice to have an excuse to make a visit up there. It is only a few hours from my hometown, so my parents and sisters also came down to visit while we were in town for the workshop (we had a tie-dye birthday party for my niece, Evie, while I was there too!).

I loved getting to explore the 12 South neighborhood of Nashville that Craft South is in. I hadn’t spent much time in that area before, but it is a great little area! Lots of cool restaurants and shops.

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I was a little nervous to take the workshop considering I’ve never actually made a quilt before. But I have a sewing background and I’d done some other quilting-type projects before (I made a quilt top and stretched it like a canvas to paint on in college and when I was younger I did some paper piecing), so I was prepared enough. If you remember from my goals for 2015, quilting was one of them!

I really love the way my quilt is starting out! LOVE those little paper airplanes! The quilt pattern we worked from for the workshop is the Mod Hexagon Quilt by Rashida Coleman-Hale (one of the designers for Cotton and Steel). The patterned fabrics I’m using are fat quarters of different prints from Cotton and Steel and Anna Maria Horner. For the background fabric, I’m using a metallic woven from Anna Maria’s Loominous fabric line (it is so pretty and sparkly – I wish you could see that better in the photos).

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We also learned how to make fabric yo-yos and patchwork zip and Gamaguchi pouches, but I mostly stuck to working on my quilt. I wanted to get as much as I could done while I was there. I still have quite a bit left to do. I enjoyed getting to sew on the Janome machines while I was there. Craft South is also a Janome dealer if you are in the area and looking for a new machine. If I decide to keep quilting, I will probably have to eventually upgrade my basic Singer machine, but for now I can make it work.

Here are some other photos of the workshop posted on Instagram by the Cotton and Steel designers or other workshop attendees:

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It really was such a great weekend and I’m so glad I went! All the other workshop attendees were the best and I enjoyed hanging out and sewing with them for the weekend (and learning from them!). All the designers of Cotton and Steel (Melody Miller, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Alexia Abegg, Sarah Watts, and Kim Kight) are seriously some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. It was such a treat learning from them about sewing, quilting, and the fabric design industry. I especially chatted with Melody and Alexia at dinner both nights and loved hearing about their stories, successes, and advice they had for others wanting to explore the fabric design and manufacturing industry.

If you get the opportunity to meet these amazing ladies or take a class at Craft South, do it!!

A couple weeks ago, over the 4th of July weekend, Drew and I took a little mini-vacation to Asheville, North Carolina. We’d heard so many good things about the place and it seemed like our perfect city (arts, nature, GF food, craft beer). We couldn’t wait to check it out, and it definitely lived up to the hype! The weather was amazing, the views were gorgeous, and it was one of the most relaxing trips we’ve ever taken.

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We got a late start due to Drew’s flight delays getting back to NOLA from a business trip in Philadelphia. He was supposed to get in the night before we planned to leave, then we planned to get up at 6 a.m. to make the 12-13 hour drive (plus an hour time change) to Asheville. He ended up spending the night in the Atlanta airport, then making it to Dallas the morning we were supposed to leave. Finally he got to New Orleans, but not until 10:30 a.m.! So much for leaving at 6 a.m.! I guess we shouldn’t plan back-to-back trips like this, but it all worked out in the end, we were just really tired by the time we got to Asheville!

We stayed in this adorable Airbnb, which I highly recommend. It was the cutest little apartment with our own kitchen, living room, bedroom, office area, and bathroom. It felt secluded out in the country (we had an adorable little patio area), but was only a few minutes from both the River Arts District and Downtown.

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We checked out the adorable little downtown area with shops and restaurants, the River Arts District full of artist studios, drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway for amazing views of the mountains, headed to Montreat Conference Center for a cute little 4th of July parade and fun playing in the creek (I work at a Presbyterian Church and Montreat is well talked about here! It was nice to finally see it in person!), watched the fireworks from a Veteran’s Memorial, found the most amazing antique stores, toured the Biltmore house and gardens (and winery and museum), and visited many craft breweries.

It was a fun, busy, and relaxing weekend! I wanted to hike to some waterfalls and kayak down the French Broad River, but we didn’t get a chance on this trip. Next time!

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One of the best things about Asheville was the amazing food! They are very gluten-free friendly, so it was so easy to eat well and GF! Our favorite restaurants were: King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffles (GF chicken and waffles, yes please!), Homegrown, Tupelo Honey Cafe, and Biscuit Head (GF biscuits and a jam bar!). We also checked out French Broad Chocolates, which was great, but a little too rich for me! Everyone raved about 12 Bones BBQ, but we tried it and the meat was tough and dry. Some of the worst BBQ I’ve ever had, actually. Maybe it was just a bad day? Other places we wanted to check out, but didn’t make it to: White Duck Tacos (they were closed when we tried to go) and Sunny Point Cafe (we tried to go the last day, but the wait was an hour and forty-five minutes!).

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While Drew was enjoying craft beers, I was sketching flowers I’d seen around town. I even did this digital illustration when we got home of my sketch of some Hosta flowers from the backyard of our Airbnb.

We fell in love with Asheville and can’t wait to make another trip! We’d highly recommend it! Especially a great place to visit in the summer to escape the blazing hot New Orleans heat!

A little over five years ago, during my freshman year of college (2009/2010), I first realized my desire to be a designer. I’d always had a love of art/painting and spent time in grade school and middle school playing around in Photoshop and in high school designing ads and spreads for the yearbook, but it never really clicked until I was in college. Before I went to Tulane, I toured SCAD’s campus and dreamed about how amazing it would be to study there, but I thought being an artist meant having to sell paintings on the sidewalk. So I went to Tulane and planned to major in English and become a teacher, just like my grandparents.

I won’t go into my entire creative story thus far, but after mentioning a bit about Anna Maria Horner and her role in my design career, I wanted to share a little more about it.

During my freshman year at Tulane, one of my classes took a field trip to visit to a small art gallery/publishing house where I met the first person I’d known who called themselves a “graphic designer.” Something clicked in me during that visit, and I started to realize that design was the career I’d been looking for all along — a way to be artistic and creative, but in a practical way. I moved back home for the summer (between my freshman and sophomore year) and interned at a graphic design/printing company in my hometown. There I learned the very basics of Adobe InDesign, a bit about vectorizing in Abobe Illustrator, how to create logos/business graphics, set up print jobs, and about vinyl cutting and screen printing techniques.

While living back at home, I spent a good chunk of my summer re-designing my childhood bedroom, gardening, painting, and reading my mom’s Country Living magazines. In one particular issue (the July/August 2010 issue to be exact), I came across this article, about Anna Maria Horner and her career as a fabric designer. I was intrigued by the article, but what caught my attention the most was the floral sketch on the bulletin board in the photo. I recognized that design! It was from my dorm room bedding! That sketch turned into Anna Maria’s Small Gathering print in her Good Folks fabric line. I had picked it out and designed my dorm room around it the summer before.
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My mom is a seamstress and I grew up sewing and crafting and have always had a love of fabric. But never before had I put much thought into who designed the fabrics I bought. The whole idea surrounding it was exciting. Maybe I could do that! Not just design boring logos and business graphics, but use my love of art and painting to create designs for fabric! I spent the rest of the summer just giddy about the possibilities.

Tulane didn’t have the option to major in textile design, or even graphic design, so I studied art (I ended up with a degree in English and Studio Art, Painting concentration) and made it my mission to teach myself as much about digital design as I could. I honed in on my Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop skills, and Drew and I even started a Web and Graphic Design business to make money during college. My sophomore year of college, I discovered the world of blogging and started following the blogs of Anna Maria Horner, Heather Bailey, and Sandi Henderson, some of my favorite designers at the time. I learned bit by bit about their design world through their blogs while I continued to study English and Art and learn digital design on my own. But I was still left with a desire to learn how to create patterns and repeats and how to get into such an elusive industry as the fabric manufacturing world.

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After college, I started working full time as a graphic designer while continuing to learn surface pattern design by taking online courses, reading books, and playing around in Illustrator. I started making connections in the industry, which led me to Quilt Market, where I met Anna Maria Horner (and many other amazing designers) in person. Several weeks ago, I was able to travel to New York City to take an in-person Fabric Design Workshop with Anna Maria Horner and Heather Ross. It was an amazing experience to learn from Anna Maria after admiring her work for so long! What was even more amazing, is that she actually brought that Small Gathering sketch from the Country Living article bulletin board to the workshop and talked about the process behind it! She drew it while watching her children’s swim meet with art supplies that she had packed for her kids to color with.

There is much more to my creative story, and it is nowhere near over, but it amazes me how Anna Maria Horner and this sketch/print in particular tie into it. Isn’t it amazing when things come full circle?

This past weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to New York City and attend a three-day Fabric Design Workshop led by the amazing designers Heather Ross and Anna Maria Horner. (I’ve mentioned AMH several times on here before, you might remember me meeting her at Quilt Market last year).

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Three days of insight into the fabric design and manufacturing industry, peeks into the design process of Heather and Anna Maria, looks at their sketches and fabrics, great conversations, learning a different design process, and exploring the awesome city of New York. Above Anna Maria is showing us an example of her original sketch and then her final pattern (Eucalyptus from Pretty Potent).

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Again, another sketch to final pattern example. This one is Small Gathering from Folk Song. I was so happy that she showed this particular example, as this fabric was actually quite influential to my own story. When I was prepping for my freshman dorm room at Tulane, I bought this fabric (in her Good Folks collection in the sea colorway) to make a pillowcase for my bedding. That fabric ended up being the jumping off point for my dorm decor. It was while I was living in that dorm room that I realized I had a passion for design and that I wanted to be a designer. Not long after that that I read an article in Country Living about Anna Maria Horner and saw this sketch on her bulletin board in the photo of the article and realized she was the designer of my pillow fabric. I had always been a collector and lover of fabric, but hadn’t before thought much about the design process or the designers behind them. That article and AMH’s fabrics started my desire to learn more about this elusive industry and made me want to design fabric of my own!

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I also love the sweet illustrative style of Heather Ross’s work and I loved getting to learn about her process as well. In the photo above, she is showing the class how to build repeats in Photoshop using one of my designs as an example. Loved seeing the subtle differences in the colors she chose, verses the jewel tones I was originally using.

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I really love how the final pattern came out. It is a different style than my other work (much more sketchy and hand-drawn looking), but I really love it! As I said before, the original colors I used were jewel toned, as they usually are, and in Heather’s demo, she changed the colors to these. I loved seeing my work re-colored and in a new light. These aren’t colors that I typically would have chosen, but I love how they work together. It has me looking at colors differently now! Anna Maria also gave several talks about her color theories in her work and I loved hearing her perspective.

From AMH & HR on Instagram:

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hrinsta1For this course, we learned how to design pattern repeats in Photoshop. At first I was a little wary of that (I like using Illustrator for pattern design), but in the end, I actually really loved learning this process and the different look it gives the artwork. Although I do really like the flexibility of designing in Illustrator, I might give this Photoshop design thing a try more often! (Photoshop was the first Adobe product I starting using, way back in grade school!)

The class met in the same building as Heather’s studio, on Fulton street in the Financial District in Lower Manhattan. It was only a few blocks from the new Freedom Tower/One World Trade Center, and was an awesome area to get to explore a bit. We walked over to Chinatown one day for soup dumplings for lunch.

I was in class most of the time we were in NYC, but I got the chance to explore a few other places in the evenings. This was my third time visiting NYC, so I didn’t try to squeeze in a lot. I really wanted to make a trip to MoMA, but alas, it wasn’t open late enough for me to make it after class. It was Drew’s first time in NYC and he explored craft beer/coffee/food places during the day while I was in class.

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Chinatown, the East River Ferry (we stayed in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn), Flatiron Building, Times Square, The High Line (so awesome!), Chelsea Flea, ABC Carpet and Home (so amazing! floors and floors of amazing furniture, bedding, awesome rugs, etc…). I’ve had a great time every time I’ve visited NYC, but this time I really fell in love with New York! The weather was amazing, I mastered riding the subway, and I came to appreciate the determined energy about the city and the fact that so much is all at your fingertips. It was a really awesome trip.

I’m so glad Heather and Anna Maria put this class together and I’m so grateful for them opening up their careers to give us advice and insight. I came to New York with a mini portfolio of designs and I left with a different perspective and new direction and ideas for my work. This class made me grateful for my art degree and left me wanting to draw/paint/sketch/block print and in general put a little more art into my design work.

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Interested in taking a similar workshop? Heather is hosting another Fabric Design workshop this fall! Details can be found on the workshops page of her website, here. Anna Maria also hosts different workshops at her shop, Craft South, in Nashville. Find more info on her workshops and classes, here.

My senior year of college, I took a hand-building ceramics class because I was required to take a 3-dimensional art class for my art major. That class made me fall in love with ceramics. Don’t get me wrong, I love painting and I love digital design, but there is something so nice and rewarding about creating a 3D object with your own two hands, whether for art or function. The fact that it can often be functional is also really nice. I only have so much wall space for paintings, but can always use cups, bowls, mugs, vases, and platters (or gift them!).

Anyway, the class I took in college was a hand-building class (not wheel-throwing), so I made several platters, but mostly art pieces instead of functional ones. I made a giant artichoke (you can see it on my living room bookshelves in our house tour, here), a miniature replica of my childhood home, and a few other pieces. Unfortunately, I took the class my senior year and didn’t have a chance to continue into ceramics more than that.

Signing up for another ceramics class has been on my list of things to do for several years and this year I finally made it happen. Well actually, a friend of mine, Christina, who has an extensive ceramics background, made it happen. She wanted to get back into ceramics again and asked if I wanted to join her.

We signed up at a local studio (Earth and Fire Studio) for two hours one night a week, for two months.

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During this studio time, I decided to learn how to work on the wheel. It takes a while to get it down, but I’m so happy with the 11 pieces I made in the last couple months!

None of them are perfect (which I kind-of love), but they are all functional! The first pieces I threw are the short, fat ones (that light pink one in the back and the white speckled one in front) and then as I got better I was able to make bigger, thinner, pieces like the mugs and bowls.

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Ceramics is such a process. Cutting and wedging the clay, working on the wheel, letting things set-up and get leather-hard, carving, trimming, making and attaching handles, bisque firing, glazing, final firing. I think it is really neat how ceramics relies on all the elements – earth, water, air, and fire.

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I’m so glad I took the time to learn this new skill and to spend time with a friend while doing it. I wish I had more time and energy to keep doing it! I’ll be back again sometime!  In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying drinking my morning tea out of a nice ceramic mug I made myself!

Drew and I just got back from an amazing vacation! We spent just over 8 days taking a road trip across California!

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The map above gives you a good idea of our route. It isn’t completely accurate, because Google Maps would only let me put in 10 destinations and we went to several other places in the San Diego area. In general, this is where we went:

Friday, April 3 – Fly from New Orleans to San Diego, California. We got there around 6 p.m. and Drew’s brother, Wes, his wife, Trang, and their 8-month old baby girl, Aili, picked us up from the airport. We ate dinner at home with them and stayed with them in La Mesa, California.

Saturday, April 4 – We all had a lovely breakfast together, then Drew went to work with Wes at Societe Brewing, stopping along at a coffee shop along the way. Trang, Aili, and I got ready and went to North Park to walk around in some cute shops (loved Pigment). Later on, we picked up Drew and had a nice lunch. We had a nice afternoon walking around at Sunset Cliffs (one of my favorite spots in San Diego!) and then stopping by to eat some raw desserts at Peace Pies. We headed back home, prepped dinner, Drew and I took a walk around La Mesa, we visited with Wes once he got home from work, and ate dinner. After dinner and more visiting, Aili went to bed, Trang and I had a great time chatting about fabric design and our business dreams and Wes and Drew went out to check out Fall Brewing, Counsel Brewing, Toronado Bar, Hamilton’s Tavern, and a burrito shop for him to get a California burrito (with french fries in it).

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Sunday, April 5 – Drew and I took a nice morning walk around La Mesa while Aili took her morning nap. Then we got breakfast from a restaurant called The Mission and ate it at the Cabrillo National Monument, overlooking the ocean and San Diego. Then we visited Torrey Pines beach, Coronado Brewing, Ballast Point Brewing, AleSmith Brewing, and had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant before heading back home. Drew and I were exhausted from travel and the time change, so we fell asleep at 6 pm! We woke up later to visit some more before going to bed again.

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Monday, April 6 – We woke up and had brunch at The Cottage in La Jolla, then spent the morning hanging out at La Jolla Cove (another favorite spot in San Diego!). The weather was so nice, the water so beautiful, and there were some sea lions sunning right next to us on the beach! We walked around in some shops in La Jolla, had some awesome gelato, then left to drive around San Diego a bit more. We drove up to Carlsbad, California to check out Pizza Port Brewing and walked around there and went to the beach. We also went to Lost Abbey Brewing (can you tell that Drew and Wes are into craft beer!?) and then had tacos for dinner. We spent the rest of our last evening in San Diego visiting with Wes, Trang, and Aili — Drew and Wes sharing some great beers together, as always.

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Tuesday, April 7 – We had breakfast together one last time, before packing up our stuff to head to get our rental car. On the way, we stopped by a gluten-free bakery in Santee, California (my great-grandpa used to live in Santee). Drew and I headed up the coast, stopping in Laguna Beach, California to check out Kerry Cassill’s gorgeous block printed linens shop (beautiful area too!) and then we continued on, stopping to eat lunch at Joe’s Falafel in Los Angeles (probably a totally random place to go for our only stop in LA, but it was delicious!). We would have explored LA a bit more, but we had more ground to cover and we didn’t want to exhaust ourselves. We did see the Hollywood sign as we drove through. Then we headed up and into the mountains to the Ojai Valley. Gorgeous area with mountains and orange groves. We dropped our stuff off in the pretty little cabin we stayed in, then walked around for a bit, enjoying the scenery, visiting shops, and eating dinner in the little town.

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Wednesday, April 8 – We woke up, packed up our stuff, then headed into town for breakfast. The drive from Ojai to Yosemite was gorgeous. We drove through the mountains, seeing green hilly mountains, sharp stone ones, and dusty desert hills. We drove through the Santa Barbara pistachio farms, stopping to get a bag of pistachios to snack on from the Santa Barbara Pistachio Company. We also passed the Sunmaid Raisins vineyards. Then continued on, stopping in Fresno for food/groceries for our stay in Yosemite. We continued our drive into Yosemite where there was snow on the ground!! I had thought that we were going to drive though the Mariposa Grove on our way into Yosemite to see the giant sequoia trees, but I guess you had to go off the main road to see those (and I think the road might have been closed to there because of the snow). I’m a little bummed we didn’t get to see those, but I guess there is always next time!

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Thursday, April 9 – We woke up, ate breakfast in our room, then bundled up and headed to the Yosemite Valley Floor to start hiking and exploring. We visited the Yosemite Visitor’s Center, then hiked part of the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls (it was steep and slippery, so we didn’t hike it all). We packed snacks and our lunch, so we stopped on a rock along the trail to eat lunch while admiring the scenery. After that we relaxed for a few minutes by the river, then headed over to hike to Mirror Lake. That hike was much easier and less steep, but Mirror Lake was less impressive than I had imagined. We stopped back by the Vistor’s Center to see the Gift Shop and Yosemite Museum Exhibit before heading back to our car and then back to our room. It was an exhausting day of walking! We made dinner in our room and spent the rest of the evening relaxing and watching HGTV.

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Friday, April 10 – Drew and I both developed head colds when we started heading into the mountains on Wednesday, so by this point, neither of us were sleeping very well. I guess this day it came to our benefit, because by 6 a.m. I was wide awake and tired of laying in bed and not being able to sleep, so we got up super early (for us!) and packed up our stuff and headed out to make our way to San Francisco. It worked out well that we left early because we made it to San Francisco by lunchtime. We stopped downtown for lunch, walked around in some shops, and Drew checked out a bar with some local craft beers on tap. After that, we headed to the Ferry Marketplace to check out a gluten-free bakery and walk around the pier a bit. Then we drove down past the piers to get a good view of the Golden Gate Bridge before heading to check into our room. I took a brief nap, as my head didn’t feel good and I was exhausted from lack of sleep. Once I got up, I drank some tea, then we drove through Golden Gate Park, up to a beautiful look-out over the Golden Gate Bridge, then past the Painted Ladies, and on to a little seafood place for dinner. After dinner was ice cream and then a stop at the Palace of Fine Arts and then a drive through Chinatown.

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Saturday, April 11 – We got up and had breakfast at Radish in the Mission District. I had the gluten-free pancakes with freshly-squeezed orange juice and Drew had the biscuits and gravy with hashbrowns. Both were great! After breakfast, we headed North of San Francisco to Santa Rosa, California to go to Russian River Brewing, then Petaluma, California to check out Lagunitas Brewing. We then drove around through Napa and Sonoma, admiring the gorgeous lush hills and vineyards, eating dinner at The Red Grape in Sonoma, California. After that, we headed back towards San Francisco to the Berkeley/Oakland area to check out Faction Brewing (amazing sunset views of SF), head to IKEA, visit Rare Barrel Brewing, and lastly to Target to get cold medicine!

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Sunday, April 12 – Our flight back to New Orleans left at 6:15 a.m., so we had to get up at 3:00 a.m. to have time to put gas in the rental car, drop it off, get through the airport, etc. So that wasn’t fun! But we made it to our flights on time and got back into New Orleans around 3:00 p.m. (we had a stop over in Dallas). Let me tell you, flying with a head cold is no fun! I woke up that morning with a raw throat and no voice and the change in elevation/altitude hurt my ears so bad! It wasn’t until Monday that they finally popped and started feeling better (although not 100% for a few more days!). I could barely hear all day Sunday! But we were so happy to see our kitty again!

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Overall this was such an amazing trip! California is just so beautiful! We saw cities, small towns, beaches, mountains, valleys, deserts, rivers, streams, lakes, waterfalls, hills, orchards, nut groves, vineyards, bays, sunrises, sunsets, and so much in between all in the same week! Drew and I had been to both San Diego and San Francisco before (we got engaged in San Diego almost 5 years ago!) and flying is so convenient, but you just can’t see the same things you do when you drive across a state. Such a different experience! And really, for us, 16+ hours of driving across a week is no biggie. We are used to driving 20 hours (10 there, 10 back) from New Orleans to our hometown in Southern Illinois over long weekends, so this trip, with such beautiful things to see and the driving spread out over several days, was super enjoyable!

Until next time, California!

In the last few months there were two new babies born in the family, so I used that as a good excuse to get my crochet up and going again. I made both of these granny square blankets as gifts and I love the way they turned out. For one, they weren’t finding out the gender until birth and I think that teal/mint color combo is a great gender neutral color combo (that isn’t yellow and green!).

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Classic Granny Square Baby Blanket
adapted from these directions for a basic granny square

Crochet Hook: H/8 – 5 mm
Yarn: 3 colors of your choice, one skein of each

Directions:

Chain 4; join into a ring with a slip stitch.
ROUND 1: Ch 4, (3 dc into center of ring, ch 1) 3 times; 2 dc into center of ring; join to third chain of beginning chain with a slip stitch. Slip stitch from the end of the round until you reach the ch1 stitch at a corner. Continue with the next round.
ROUND 2: Ch 3, work corner (dc2, ch1, dc3) into the same stitch, work remaining corners: *ch1, skip over the 3 dc from the previous round, (dc3, ch1, dc3) into the same stitch; repeat from * two more times, ch1, join to third chain of beginning chain with a slip stitch. Slip stitch from the end of the round until you reach the ch1 stitch at a corner.  Continue with the next round.
ROUND 3: Ch 3,  work corner (dc2, ch1, dc3) into the same stitch, work remaining sides:* ch1, skip over the 3 dc from the previous round, dc3, ch1, work corner (dc3, ch1, dc3); repeat from * two more times, ch1, join to third chain of beginning chain with a slip stitch. Slip stitch from the end of the round until you reach the ch1 stitch at a corner.  Continue with the next round.
ROUND 4: Ch 3,  work corner (dc2, ch1, dc3) into the same stitch, work remaining sides: *ch1, skip over the 3 dc from the previous round, dc3, ch1, skip over the 3 dc from previous round, dc3, ch1, work corner (dc3, ch1, dc3); repeat from * two more times, ch1, join to third chain of beginning chain with a slip stitch.

IF YOU WANT TO CHANGE COLORS: Cut yarn, leaving a tail, and draw it all the way through the slip stitch to secure it.  Join the new color at a corner by drawing a stitch through a ch1 stitch. Continue with the next round.

SCALLOPED BORDER: 5 dc in same stitch, slip stitch in next space, skip 1 space, then continue with next 5 dc. 7 dc in each corner scallop.

I did 18 dc rows of cream, 1 dc row of mint/pink, 7 dc rows of teal/peach, then 1 sc row of mint/pink, followed by a scalloped row of mint/pink.

ABBREVIATIONS:

dc: double crochet
sc: single crochet
sl st: slip stitch