Sunday, May 02, 2010

Play Date

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion Creative Workshop in St. Louis. I learned of the event nearly a year ago, signed up around Christmas and patiently waited for May 1 to attend. My friend Amy Barickman of Vintage Workshop and I drove the three hours to St. Louis last Thursday night for the initial meet and greet of all 160 attending and the minute we hit the room full of fellow artists, panelists, authors and crafters we knew it would be a great weekend- but little did I know how much it would effect me in the end.

Right off the bat I headed for the vendors that were selling their wares. All kinds of books, crafts, bits and baubles were for sale from the many guests and speakers.

Books from Matthew Mead

Vintage grocery signage

Books from guest panelist Amy Butler and instructor Kaari Meng.

Antique Millinery Stemens

I zoned in on one table from Stone Ledge Antiques offering antique paper ephemera where this amazing book caught my eye full of crochet samples- oh the possibilities, had to buy it!

30 tattered pages of crochet samples carefully sewn in a scrapbook.

I was soon shaking hands with Mary herself who congratulated me on Curious Sofa but admitted she had never been to the store. I encouraged her to try and make it to Kansas City for our Prairie Village Art Show weekend.

My Hallmark friend Margo Tantau was there to be a guest speaker as well as my personal hero's Wendy Addison and Kaari Meng of French General. I also spotted style editor Matthew Mead surrounded by fans and have to admit he is the real reason I wanted to attend this event. Matthew worked for 10 years at Country Home (don't we all miss that magazine!) and as a fellow photo stylist, I have followed him and his work from afar. I would hear of him through mutual friends but he and I had never met. I wanted to know this man, talk with him of his work and his future in publishing and see if Curious Sofa might be a small part of anything he had up his sleeve. As I introduced myself he admitted he had heard of the store and couldn't wait to come see it someday. I told him I had signed up for two classes with him and was looking forward to the next morning to begin.

Matthew Mead helping a student shoot her props for class.

Friday at 8:00 a.m. I found myself sitting in his class, learning more about his background and listening to instructions on making Printer Wall Art. The assignment: use props and paper to create photographs that would then be used to decorate plain kraft boxes:

The beginning supplies for our project.

My tiny vintage suitcase I brought full of jewelry parts and paper scraps for embellishment.

Some of Matthew's props he brought for us to utilize in a photograph.

Great prints to also use from old magazines.

I pasted the printed images of props I styled to the insides of the boxes and wallpapered the sides with old book pages.

A few shots later, I was off and running. For me to sit still, away from the store and just create something that had nothing to do with my business was such a treat. I really felt like I was back in Vacation Bible School! Two hours later I had created this:

I layered, accessorized and hung the boxes to create this collage.

And the work of some others in this class:

Next stop: three lectures on licensing, spotting talent and copy writing then my afternoon class was with Kaari where the group made this French General bracelet from scratch (as the bifocals were flying!).

Marcia Ceppos from Tinsel Trading (left) and Kaari explaining the bracelet construction.

All the parts from the kit. I had already added all the eye pins.

The finished bracelet with extra vintage pearls I added.

As Amy and I passed other attendees in the hall between class, networking ran amuck! Everyone was snapping pictures, sharing business cards, asking for personal info and I could tell come Monday (if not that night) the blog world was going to be saturated with images and commentary on this event. That night Amy and I were exhausted from all the artistic stimulation and opted for room service instead of enjoying the Central West End neighborhood.

Saturday morning we started again. My first class was with Wendy Addison to make a Victorian Whimsy.

Wendy signing her letterpress posters.

I felt for the poor fellow who would later vacuum this room as moss and glitter were covering every square inch but the women were having a ball. Suddenly we felt like contestants on Project Runway creating clothing and head wear for this Fantasy Lady.

The core of the project: kraft cone with paper doll figure to be embellished with moss, shells or anything else we desired.

My finished project.

I glued tiny seashells to the ends of jute thread to dangle from her bouquet.

I made this fan from antique German money then glued vintage pearls on a cardboard star.

From behind I added a bustle with netting and a vintage rhinestone buckle.

Other designs by the class.

At 11:30 we all gathered in the hotel ballroom for a luncheon with guest panelists, goody bags and door prizes.

I won this amazing 16" x 16" mounted print in the raffle by Laura Zeck.

Other workshop projects were on display during the luncheon:

Millinery Flower Pins taught by Kaari Meng (made by attendee)

Fabric Bird Sculpture taught by Kathy Curutto (made by attendee)

Cuckoo Clock taught by Charlotte Lyons (made by attendee)

Guest panelists were Mary, Marcia Ceppos of Tinsel Trading, Amy Butler and Dena Fishbein. Questions were asked about each persons background, their art and business, the future of handmade goods, the integrity of original artwork, individual creativity and passions and any advice they had for us. Some of my favorite quotes from the panel:

"I have to create something every day or I cannot breathe" Amy Butler

"If they don't get what I do, why am I talking to them?" and "When you get creative people around you, it can only take you further." Marcia Ceppos

Mary Engelbreit speaking to the crowd.

Somewhere during this luncheon I felt the lump start in my throat. I admit, the idea of these craft events made me roll my eyes a bit as I am not much for gathering with strangers with my glue gun while sharing personal stories! My sole purpose for going was to meet Matthew but now here I was surrounded by so many important artists. Each one living and breathing their work, creating and putting themselves out there, trying to make a living at this and getting smarter in their business. I could not help but learn from it all.

Getting my shop through 2009 was probably the toughest thing I went through professionally and I wanted 2010 to be 'all about me'. There, I said it. This boss-woman wanted to lay low in the new year, travel more, rub elbows with the like-minded and find her passion again. As I sat there listening to creative wisdom from the panel or cutting and pasting with other crafters, I felt something start to kindle. This was what I needed.

That afternoon my final class was with Matthew again as we made Tag Art. My project below:

Chipboard cut to tag shapes then covered with fabric or paper.

My final tags which I hope to frame as shown.

I scored big when I asked Matthew and his wife Jenny to dinner that night. They were more than happy to have me bend their ear but I was not ready for the comfortable camaraderie that resulted. For nearly three hours we sat at Cafe Italia talking of our past and future, how we see things and the images we love, what excites us and plans for our business. I learned of their home, studio and warehouse full of props for any photo shoot a client can dream up. I learned about his experience with launching Flea Market Style magazine and how he is stepping down to pursue his own thing which will be a self-published magazine (PLEASE SUPPORT!). I learned of his 10 years at Country Home and all his experience with editors, publishers and photographers. I was a sponge listening to him but we also shared so many similarities. As we walked back to the hotel and said our goodbyes we both admitted we felt like we have known each other for years. I cannot wait to see and work with them again soon.

My drive home on Sunday morning was filled with so much to think about: the shop, my art, my press, the future, all those great people and the next move for myself and Curious Sofa. Stay tuned for the results.

It was such an eye-opening weekend for me and I thank all those who contributed. If you are interested in attending an event like this for your own well-being, sign up for the Creative Connection Event in September. I will be a guest panelist so I hope to see you there.
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