Earlier this year, Etsy put out a call for entries for their first ever “Etsy Design Awards” or “The Etsies”. I submitted my custom house portraits to the contest, and then went on with my summer. Between keeping up with commissions as they came in, and making sure I had inventory for my summer events, my days were full!
I got a call late summer letting me know that Etsy chose me as a finalist. Out of all of the entries, my house portraits were chosen as one of the 150-ish finalists! There are some amazing items in my group of finalists, the “Creative Collaboration” category, all products that are custom or customizable.
I’m now focused on getting through all of the orders I promised in time for holiday gifting, and orders are still coming in for shipping in early 2020.
As part of the publicity around the Design Awards, I was interviewed in my studio by our local NBC news station. We talked about the Etsy contest and I shared a little peek behind the scenes. They filmed me going through each step of the custom house portrait creation process. It was so much fun to spend a few hours in my studio with the crew! They did a fabulous job telling my story, and you can watch the video here:
March marked the 12-month point from when I created my first paper house portrait. Since March of last year I’ve delivered 24 custom house portraits to art lovers in 7 different states. The commissions range from a famous church in Greece to a girlfriend’s childhood home in the Midwest, to a family’s vacation home in Florida, to a construction company’s office, and more. Several were gifted to clients or friends who just purchased a new home, or as a wedding, anniversary, or birthday gift. It has been remarkable to be a part of such momentous occasions in people’s lives, and be able to create an heirloom that will hopefully be a tangible reminder of the memories and relationships that center around these homes and spaces.
My primary observations after a year, in no particular order:
I’ve challenged myself to work larger. My original portraits were 8″ square, and lately I’ve been creating more pieces that are 11″ x 14″, and even one that’s 20″ x 20″. Working larger has allowed me to add more nuance and detail to the houses, since I’ve learned that one can only cut a piece of paper so small before it kinda just falls apart.
I’ve experimented more with using colored paper for different areas of a house, to add contrast between the roof and the walls, or the walls and the shutters. I look forward to exploring this more, and I’m currently trying to figure out how I can store more different kinds and colors of paper, so that I can expand what I keep on hand to include more colors that make sense for homes and buildings.
I’ve learned that porches are tricky to make, especially the kind with lots of posts and a roof. I can’t tell yet if it’s the sort of thing that will get easier with practice, or if every house portrait is so unique that every porch will be tricky. For one of my house portraits, I spent an entire day just trying to get the porch right. I may have to add an extra fee for houses with big porches, but I’m going to try a few more times first.
As I head into the summer art show season, I have temporarily shuttered my online shop so that I can focus on the house portraits already in my queue and spend some time coming up with fun new products (and hopefully making progress on organizing my workspace – it’s been a disaster for a long time). The shop will re-open mid-May, just in time for my first weekend of outdoor shows, the Bedford Plant & Art Sale and Inman Eats & Crafts.
Fall is my favorite, it has always been. I’m a sucker for back-to-school season and its emphasis on stocking up on pens and paper. I love apple and pumpkin and cinnamon any day, so it’s pretty delightful when those flavors are suddenly everywhere I look! Fall crafting is pretty great, too, because it’s such a visual season: leaves, pumpkins, apples, fall flowers, Halloween characters, turkeys – so many options! I decided to put together some pumpkin craft ideas, since pumpkins are an icon that spans the full range of the season!
I’ve rounded up a wide variety of mostly paper-based pumpkin craft projects here on my Pinterest board:
Most of these projects use things you have around the house, like newspaper, old books, or those five random sheets of orange tissue paper that you never know what to do with.
The biggest pumpkin sports stick-on googley eyes and a cut-paper nose and mouth. The smallest one has similar features also cut out of black paper and stuck on to the pumpkin with bits of tape.
Pro-tip: if you use masking tape, you can take the face off after Halloween and keep the pumpkin around for the rest of the fall decor season!
This medium-sized pumpkin, the one on the left, got a face before I assembled him. After I folded along all of the pre-scored lines, I drew a face with pencil on the inside of the pumpkin. I then used a craft knife to cut out the shapes! Drawing on the inside of the pumpkin means that the lines aren’t visible once it’s assembled. Which is good, because the lines I cut didn’t perfectly line up with the shapes I drew! This pumpkin glows like a real jack-o-lantern if you put a little battery-powered light inside.
I decided to make this pumpkin more appropriate for Thanksgiving. Before I assembled it, I got out my watercolors and painted polka dots in a few sizes and colors. The pumpkins are made of really sturdy paper, so they can handle markers, crayons, or even paint!
I’d love to see your ideas for decorating or modifying these pumpkins! Tag me on Instagram or email me photos, and I’ll add to this post!
Last but not least, I have a free printable project for you!
This paper pumpkin printable is a scan of a watercolor wash and pumpkin leaves that I painted. In order to turn this square of orange into a pumpkin shape, follow the directions for a traditional origami “water bomb”. There’s a link to the video on the sheet you’ll print out, too.
I launched my little paper villages last spring, and didn’t really have a plan for them. They were an evolution of my generic little paper house design. I was selling them singly or in sets, and people seemed to really like them, and be interested in more variety of design. The first village combined a mini version of my paper barn and animals kit with two pretty basic little houses, and I added three more village designs over the last year and a bit.
I realized a few months ago, though, that calling them “Village Number Two” or “Village Number Three” was not only kinda lame, it meant that as I grow my product line I have to decide whether to just increment the numbers, or replace the existing #1 with a new design….it felt confusing just thinking about it!
So, I sat down with my chief strategy advisors a.k.a. my husband, Brian, and our cat, Bash:
Brian had the brilliant idea to name each kit after different trees that grow in the New England region. It seemed fitting to name these paper products after the plant they come from. Bash just knocked things on the floor. He was definitely less helpful.
We landed on tree-themed street names, specifically. The neighborhood I grew up in had a mix of trees and states for street names, so it reminds me of my home town, but lets you also imagine your own neighborhood around these kits.
The original village kit is now “Spruce Lane”, a nod to the less-saturated colors and cooler feeling:
“Beech Street” for this kit that feels very New England summer:
“Village #3” became “Willow Road”, a nod to the bright, light, springy feel of this color combination:
Village #4, all decked out in heart-shaped windows, is now “Pine Drive”:
These little neighborhoods are also begging to be made into a map, so stay tuned for that – just have to figure out what to call it! Yeiouville? The Village of Yeiou? Yeioutown? Let me know if you have a brilliant idea!