Checking in

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Last summer’s political and racial unrest here in the U.S. kicked off a season for me of learning, listening, and reevaluating. I haven’t talked much about it here. Mostly because, well, I’m a naive white woman, and listening is what I feel like I need to be focusing on right now. If you’ve been following along though, you know I said I was going to do some things. I thought I’d take a minute to report back.⁠

  • I realized that even though in my personal life we have always made sure to prioritize generosity in contributing to organizations we care about, it wasn’t something I was doing as a business. ⁠Since June, I (yeiou paper objects, that is) have been making monthly contributions to a local organization that works to keep families housed, and also helps unhoused families find emergency and long-term places to live.⁠ I contributed a portion of each house portrait sale in 2020 to an organization in my town that distributes food to families in need (a need that grew exponentially in 2020). ⁠
  • Over the summer I also made a one-time contribution to an organization that was running a creative business incubator program for students, which was a no-brainer for me to contribute to, since my own business was bootstrapped by my husband’s income, not something I would have been able to do without financial support!⁠
  • In addition to these concrete things, I’ve been looking inward and reflecting, reading, learning, and having conversations about what it means to be white in this country, where the idea of “whiteness” even came from, the systemic atrocities of white supremacy, and how to move toward something better…all sorts of light things.⁠

This doesn’t feel like much in the grand scheme of things, but if you were curious, that’s the update!⁠

Oh, and P.S. Black Lives Matter⁠

And, if you’re interested, here’s some of what I’ve been reading / watching to broaden my horizons and to better understand the colonial and white supremacist backdrop of the world I’ve been raised and living in:

Reading & Watching List

Non-Fiction

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

Heartland

All the Agents and Saints

Stamped

American Harvest

The NYT 1619 Project

Fiction

Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Talents

Kindred

The Broken Earth Trilogy

The City We Became

Watching

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

Thirteenth

Dear Georgina (I also want to watch their longer documentary, Dawnland)

This is of course just a tiny list in the grand scheme of things, I may add to it over time, but if you’re curious about other things to read and watch there are lists pretty much everywhere.

So Many Thanks – a free printable project

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I first created this printable project as a fun Thanksgiving craft a few years ago, but this year it felt like a good thing to talk about on Veterans Day (Remembrance Day in Canada and the U.K.). I’ve been trying to be much more mindful of the world around me and specifically the struggles of people who aren’t just like me as sort of an ongoing personal project this year. Six years of working alone at home made my radius of awareness pretty small, it turns out! It took a pandemic, a major social justice movement, global Black Lives Matter protests, and a lot of thinking about my own privilege.

So, today, for the first time as an adult, I’m taking a moment to think about Veterans Day. Specifically, to think about it as more than just a day off, or a day when the post office is closed, or even a “bonus” day to get more work done. I don’t know what it’s like to serve in the military, but I know that every single person who has served or is serving has at a minimum given up time spent with their loved ones, and likely a lot more than that. Thank you, veterans, for all of the different sacrifices you have made. So many thanks.

Partially-assembled printed "So Many Thanks" banner

Whether you’re celebrating Veterans Day or getting a head start on Thanksgiving or have a random act of kindness to thank someone for, here’s a crafty way to do it:

Partially-assembled printed "So Many Thanks" banner

House Portraits: It’s all in the (architectural) details

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Tiny architectural details fascinate me.

One of the reasons I love living in urban Massachusetts is the sort of details prevalent in neighborhoods full of homes that are over 100 years old. The more detailed, the better!

Do you like looking at old houses and hand-crafted details?

I sometimes get lost walking around my own neighborhood because I look up and around at the houses instead of down at the street signs and where I am going. It’s still dangerous for me to drive around in new areas because I really just want to stare at the houses! If you like looking at houses in your neighborhood, online, on TV, (This Old House, anyone?), or in any form of photography, you’ll know just what I mean.

The tiny details are the reason I kept creating house portraits

There is magic in the details, and bringing that to life is one of my favorite parts of creating an architectural portrait. I excel at picking out the details that make a home unique, no matter how small. 

Of course, your house’s design and the scale of the finished piece, how closely the proportions match the frame dimensions, and the quality of photograph all determine the level of detail that brings your home or special place to life behind the frame. But if there’s something special, like this weathervane, that makes the home yours, please make a note of it when you contact me! 

The artist's thumb and pointer fingers holding a tiny paper weathervane that looks like a bird in flight.

This weathervane is one of the microscopic details I’m most proud of. The bird is 0.34 in (0.86 cm) wide and 0.2 inches (0.48 cm) tall. The entire weathervane is smaller than my thumbnail!

Sometimes I get to fully build the details like this bird, but details with more dimension in real life force me to create some illusions. Take a look at the chimney below. Using 8 separately drawn and cut shapes of paper I created the illusion of depth using layering and subtle scoring and folding.

Detail of a custom house portrait showing a double chimney and how it attaches to the roof

It’s all part of the process

Hand-cut corners and lines also give miniatures the feel of the real place. This is where a house portrait becomes a house sculpture! The scrollwork on this roofline is all cut by hand. The detail is about half an inch wide and crafted from three separate intricately scrolled pieces and some shorter straight pieces.

Close-up of intricate scrollwork that will be part of a custom house portrait's roofline, with scraps and other in progress pieces in the background

What architectural details make your home unique? Be sure to point them out when you purchase a house portrait slot!

Join my email list to get updates on when orders open, and to learn a little more about the process. You can also visit my Etsy shop to see more architecturally-inspired paper art.

Celebrating the Family Home

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One of the things I love about creating house portraits is that it takes a beloved family home and allows you to carry it with you. Many of my clients commission portraits when they are getting ready to move, and particularly when they are leaving a childhood or long term home.

As parents get older, they often want to downsize to something more manageable—or just something that’s less work! Why not spend less time managing a property, and more time doing something you love?

While it’s understandable, downsizing can be bittersweet for everyone involved. An architectural portrait preserves not just an image of a home, but the physical proportions and feel in a tangible way. 

Art to Remember a Family Home

When a good friend’s mother decided to sell her childhood home and move down south, she was beside herself. She knew it was the right thing for her mom, but the home had been in her family for over 100 years. She wanted something to commemorate this big change, so she turned to art. 

At first, she commissioned a photographic family portrait in front of the home, but the family members covered up key architectural details. She also realized that a photograph, while lovely, reflected the weather and season just as much as the house. She wanted to be able to take the architecture with her and capture the details she loved. 

I sent her some of the images of past house portraits my clients commissioned for their parents. Each of these gifts evoked special memories, and one family was so touched they decided to commission a second copy.

House Portraits to Celebrate Home

The gift tag on this home says it all:

“Mom and Dad, we wanted to give you something to remember the house where we grew up and have so many wonderful memories.”

Finished house portrait wrapped with brown kraft paper and baker's twine with gift note on top

I shipped the completed house portrait directly to the parents after they moved from their longtime home (the left side of the duplex below), so I worked with their children to make sure that the unboxing and unwrapping experience would be special.

Hand holding a finished, framed house portrait on a light gray background.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for your parents to downsize to celebrate the place where they raised you. The house portrait below was an extra special milestone birthday gift from a daughter to her father. 

Finished house portrait on navy background in black shadowbox frame
Paper house portrait with navy blue background on top of scraps from the design process.

This next house portrait was also a birthday gift from kids to dad. This home hosted extended family for countless occasions ranging from Sunday dinners to the birthday party where dad was gifted this portrait.

Completed house portrait, framed, with an orange background.

I accept new house portrait commissions every two months or so. You can find more details on the House Portraits page, or join my mailing list to get more information on the house portrait process and how to prepare photographs of your house, you’ll also get updates in your inbox when orders will open again.

Reflections on a year of house portraits

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Porch detail of a custom paper house portrait

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.

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#100daysofpaperfun My 2017 100 Days Project

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If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve likely seen me posting random paper projects for the last month or so. This random little goat “faux taxidermy” piece I created on a whim was sort of the impetus for the project:

I realized I have all sorts of random scraps and pieces and materials that I’m “saving” for a “special” project, and that in addition to the mental health benefits that come from doing something fun, it might be good to experiment and see if I land on any new product or project ideas.

I’m 32 days in, as of today, and it’s been really fun! I’ve made some random thing, tested craft kits and paper craft projects designed by other people, and had fun modifying and decorating my own products. Some days the open-ended-ness of “fun” is a little overwhelming, but I’ve been trying to be intentional about doing what feels good, and sort of following my energy (even if that meant taking a day off because I had no energy).

Highlights, in no particular order

I made a paper chicken, something that I’ve been meaning to work on for…a long time. 

I played with embroidery and cross-stitch on paper! I’ve been wanting to play around more with embroidery for a long time now, and combining that with paper was pretty awesome. Definitely planning on more of that in the future!

I made an Easter basket, by weaving strips of paper together:


 

I’ve also done a few experiments with cutting and folding tabs, this one was hand cut, so it has a nice organic feel (that’s what I’m telling myself, anyway), almost like fish scales or something. I’m thinking about ways these sort of shapes/tabs might be interesting as elements on a 3-dimensional form or on something flat, like a card, or maybe even a shadowbox? 


 

You can see the whole project at #100daysofpaperfun on Instagram, and basically everything I post there is paper fun, technically, so if that’s your jam, follow along!

If you’re looking for ideas to have some paper fun of your own, I’m collecting project ideas and finished projects on my Paper Fun Pinterest board.

Things to think about after your wedding invitations are in the mail

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After the invitations are sent: Get organized
After the Invitations are Sent: Making a Plan for Day-of-Wedding needs

Yay! You did it! You wrote an invitation, collected all the contact information, and sent that invitation out into the world. The party is officially on!

At this point, you will have a ton of things to continue to sort out over the few months remaining before your wedding day. At some point you’ll consider things like: seating charts, table numbers, place cards, programs, signage, welcome gift bags, menus, favors, cupcake or cake decorations, cake or cupcake decorations, and gift table decorations,

The sooner you can give some mental space to these things, the more likely you’ll be able to achieve whatever vision you may have for them! Whether you choose to take care of all of these elements yourself, or outsource some or all to a designer and/or calligrapher, the sooner you can set aside a few minutes to sketch out a plan, the easier it will be.

I’ve created a printable worksheet that can help you get organized:

Download the day-of-wedding planning worksheet

Just like your invitations, there are a million different ways to make these things happen. The resources I listed in my post about making invitation decisions can be helpful here: many of the print-at-home or print-on-demand invitation services also offer place cards, menus, and other printed pieces. There are DIY kits and tutorials all over the internet, and kits at your local craft/hobby store.

I’ve collected some unique and interesting ideas for various pieces on Pinterest:

100 Days: Weeks 3 & 4

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Week 3+4 of #100DaysofHouseandHome

I’ve moved 10 times in my life, but since my parents still live in the house I was born in, that counting starts when I left home 13 years ago. I generally refer to “home” as the place I’m currently living. And I’ve been in the Boston area for long enough now (8 years??!) that it feels more like home than Illinois does, but I still occasionally refer to my parents’ house, or the midwest in general, as “home,” since I did spend some important time there…but honestly, maybe also just because “my parents’ house” is a lot more syllables than “home”!

It’s a strange feeling, though, to know a place intimately, then leave it for a while, and then come back – some things are the same they’ve always been, and some things are totally different. It’s almost like time travel.

We spent some time traveling to and through the midwest last week, to visit the in-laws and roadtrip from Illinois to Oklahoma to see more family. When we go back to visit I’m always surprised at how much sky you can see from the side of the highway driving through rural Illinois. We have clouds here in Boston, but they’re harder to see without craning your neck.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been working on! We were (obviously) far away from my studio, so these things are mostly cobbled together from the few supplies I brought with me, crafted on grandma’s kitchen table, and photographed in …exciting… lighting conditions.

(These are just my favorites, since it seemed like overkill to embed all 14 images here. You can also see all of the current #100daysofHouseandHome images here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 2: 100 Days of House and Home

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Week 2: 100 Days of House and Home

This has been a really interesting challenge so far, just over two weeks in. The theme of “home” keeps coming up in all sorts of places! Some friends and I have been talking about neighboring, and how being a good neighbor can make a huge difference in daily life and in the life of a city. I worked on some house illustrations for that project right around the time the 100 Day Project was starting, and that helped kick off my theme.

I went to a talk last week at the Boston chapter of Creative Mornings. The speaker, Shawn Hesse, compared fictional zombie apocalypse stories to real disasters that have happened around the world that are connected to climate change. His main point was that in the case of a zombie apocalypse, science people have actually calculated that given a hypothetical “zombie virus”, it would only take 3 days for the virus to spread to the entire world, and civilization would fall incredibly quickly, with everyone fighting for food and resources, bands of survivors eventually finding each other to be greater threats than the zombies themselves, etc. He talked about the different hurricanes, droughts, and other climate events that have caused similar crises, and similar desperation, though on a localized scale.

The parallels are remarkable, and sort of terrifying. The thing that struck me, though, is the work people are doing in resiliency, to try to plan and prepare for disaster. He mentioned specifically the Rockefeller Institute in New York City, working to build resiliency in communities by focusing primarily on building community and connecting neighbors, along with work to build resilient infrastructure. Their theory is that infrastructure doesn’t matter if people can’t work together to take advantage of it.

I’ve been thinking about that talk all week. Then, on Tuesday we woke up at 4:30am to catch an early flight to Chicago and sneak some friend time in before our week of family time. We had the chance to visit the Art Institute of Chicago briefly with a friend who has a membership, he said we had to check out the Van Gogh exhibit, since it was closing soon.

We walked into the exhibit and the intro blurb reveals that the entire exhibit is a reflection on the artist’s experience of home. Van Gogh moved 37 times in his short 37 years, and spent a lot of time and words writing about home and belonging in letters to his brother. One of his most famous paintings is an image of his empty bedroom in the house he felt was the only place that was really his home. He was so moved by this image that he actually painted it three separate times.

Here’s what I made in week two:

 

 

What does home mean to you?

100 Days of House & Home: Week 1

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I’m just over a week into the project! Woohoo! It has been harder to get back into the rhythm of this than I expected. Partly because my life is generally more full of things, partly because my eye for photography is better and I’ve been trying to finish my project for the day before the sun goes down, and partly because (at least so far) I’ve been trying a little harder and spending more time on each day.

I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done so far, though!

(Note! I’m posting these on my personal Instagram account, @yeiouamp, because, well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. You can see more paper things more consistently at @yeioupaperobjects)

I also worked toward my goal of doing some more 2D work, and experimented with painting some of the stained glass in our house in watercolors. It’s not an amazing painting, but I’m pretty proud of it as the first representational painting I’ve done in over 5 years.

And I am apparently working on designing a quilt based around this idea of house and home, as well. I started by thinking about the floorplan of our current space and what that would be like in fabric form, and I’ve started pondering what would happen if I made a whole quilt of floorplans of places I’ve lived. Still not sure what or how this will evolve, but I’m excited about it.

So, this feels like a pretty strong start! I imagine I’ll skew more toward painting/drawing as the challenge progresses, since I may run out of paper houses to make. I also have to figure out what I’ll do during two separate weeks of travel coming up next month. I suppose I’ll explore some ideas around temporary/transient homes!