in search of the art we love.

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Once upon a time in a lifetime of mine long, long ago I worked in New York City.  Ok yes, decades ago at this point but there were things outside of work that are still these pleasant snippets of enjoyable experiences and memories.  Among them was there was (and still is) art everywhere.

Music, art, theater.  Subways with poetry on posters like my favorite poem by William Butler Yeats:

Image may contain: textWhen You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Hearing fabulous jazz bands at the Blue Note.   Rediscovering Caffè Reggio on MacDougal.

All of the various street fairs, and flea markets, and art markets. Dusty old bookstore, antique stores, thrift shops.

A lot of what I liked at the time was down around Greenwich Village. There were so many cool stores and places to check out.

And then there were all of the artists you would see hawking their wares outside of various museums all over the city like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  A lot of this still goes on, incidentally…in between the knock off designer handbag stands and so on.

I was young and well when you are young your salary doen’t go far and funky shoes from a boutique on the Upper West Side was likely to win out over art because well…you couldn’t wear a painting to happy hour, right?   But here and there there were artists I would see and just liked for whatever reason.  Not necesarily them personally, but their work.

There was this one artist named Anna Tefft Siok whose work I had seen somewhere one time that I liked, but had then forgotten even her name.  It had been a bird watercolor.  An owl. Sort of abstract but I liked it. And that was saying something because abstract is not really me.

I had not seen work from this artist again in the intervening years until a piece popped up on eBay a year or so ago.  Dishfunctional in West Chester had this woodpecker for sale in their eBay storeIt was that artist from long ago. I remembered the owl. Her name was Anna Tefft Siok. Only I did not want to pay what Disfuntional was asking for something I would have to definitely re-frame.

So I watched the woodpecker print and waited…and over a year later I pulled up the Disfunctional listing just to see.  The print had not dropped in price but when I put in the artist’s name another copy of the print showed up with an antique dealer in Maine.  At less than half of what the other exact same print was listed at. That seemed more reasonable to me. (I have found the Disfuntional prices to be a little high at times, sadly.)

Today I took my newly found woodpecker to be framed.  Framers Market Gallery in Malvern is who I use for all of my framing. As a related aside, they also represent quite a few Chester County artists.  I will have to take something off of my walls when the woodpecker comes home.

I love the process of finding the perfect mat and frame.  Framers Market Gallery is very patient with me when it comes to that.  And the owner Jayne has impeccable taste.

We ended up with a double mat and a frame which will pick up the texture of the woodpecker’s tree:

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The frame my print arrived in was older and while in o.k. condition, the print had never been properly framed and you could see some yellowing on the edges – nothing which was properly acid proof was in the frame with the print and when we took the old mat and paper away from the print we could see the damage from inexpensive framing, sadly.  When it is finished, the woodpecker print will be framed properly and last a long, long time.

Curious about the artist, I went a Googling.  I discovered she had gone to RISD in Rhode Island and had taught for years at Greenwich House Pottery and  the 92nd Street Y.

I found her obituary, which told me more about her:

anna obit

Courtesy of Greenwich House and the pottery staff the following  sentiment from them was shared with me about my rediscovered artist:

Esteemed faculty member Anna Siok taught children’s classes at Greenwich House Pottery from 1958 to 2009. Throughout this period, Anna’s generosity of spirit enriched many lives. We established the Anna Siok Award in her honor in 1995, which honors her life of creativity, nurturing support and enduring presence. We continue to give out this award annually to an artist at Greenwich House Pottery who displays excellence in handbuilding.

I will note I also contacted the 92nd Street Y.  Sadly, they had absolutely nothing to share.  What I got was “Unfortunately we don’t have her bio on file. Good luck in your ongoing search!”   Anna Tefft Siok taught at both places for over 50 years.  I know she died in 2010, but seriously? They had nothing on file? It’s like she never existed.

I am glad Greenwich House too the time for me.  I urge people to check out Greenwich House Pottery.  It seems really cool.

In the obituary online, I found photos of my artist:

I know people probably think this is strange, but it’s part of the provenance of the piece: who created it.  Now do I think her work is going to be worth tons of money? No, but I like it. Or I like this piece.

And once again that is the thing about art: buy what you like.  It does not have to be expensive.  It does not have to be a famous artist, although Anna Tefft Siok was respected and was well known throughout her life in New York.

Art brings me joy.  I have core things I will never part with (my Margery Niblock wood cuts for example), but I will replace art pieces I discovered with other pieces I discovered.  Tastes change, we evolve in what strikes a chord with us at different stages of our lives.

Art brokers and gallery owners alike probably wouldn’t like me saying art doesn’t have to be rare or priceless to hold huge amounts of monetary value. But art should make us happy, evoke a memory, provoke a memory, cause a new memory to happen. Or when all else fails, you just like something. And no one else has to like it. Only you.

So many people love art yet live with blank walls. Sometimes I think it’s because they do not know what to buy. Or are afraid. To them I say: what do you like? What would make you happy?

For me it makes me happy that I stumbled upon an artist once again I had seen long ago.  And living in the woods, having a woodpecker print is kind of appropriate, I think.

I will close with one last photo of this artist from her 2010 obituary.  Painting in the summer.  I now have a cool provenance to go with a print I just liked.

Explore art.  Support local artists wherever you live. Life is too short for bare walls.

painting

 

buy art that makes you happy

I found myself a small treasure today. “Society Hill” by Margery Niblock.

I have written before about family friend and artist Margery Niblock. She was a New York transplant who lived in Philadelphia for many, many years before heading north to Maine.

Margery has been a printmaker artist of woodcut and linoleum since 1958. The 1972 UNICEF Engagement Calendar had one of her woodcuts, “Fantasy,” chosen for inclusion, and her work was used as a cover and feature story in the then “Today Magazine” of the Philadelphia Inquirer She also taught private classes for both adults and children. (Yes, I was one of her students!)

Margery was commissioned by many organizations to do special pieces during her many years in Philadelphia — The Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital, Ars Moriendi, Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), American Friends Service Committee, Pearl S. Buck Foundation, Developmental Center for Autistic Children, and Support Center for Child Advocates.

In 1989 Margery moved to Maine, where she has had solo exhibits as well as illustrating quite a few books. In Maine, her drawings and woodcuts appeared in Greater Portland Magazine and the Maine Times. For a while she also produced beautiful jewelry made out of found beach objects – like shards of pottery and beach glass.

Margery, or Margie as I have grown up calling her, is a family friend. I have many memories of her and being in her home as a little girl which was across the street from St. Peter’s where I went to grade school. We are still connected today and I treasure her.

As I had already mentioned, she taught me how to do woodblock and linoleum cutting and printing. I still have the scar on my right wrist from when she warned me how to hold my tools when cutting and I did not listen. As a creative medium, I loved wood block and linoleum and I did some of it throughout high school.

To this day, Margery is still one of my favorite artists.  If I see her work anywhere (and it’s affordable), I buy it.  Her work represents very happy memories to me. (I see it and I smile.) I can still see her prints as well as the work of other artists fluttering on clotheslines held by clothes pins during the craft fairs of my childhood at Head House Square, known also as “the shambles”.

Circa 1974. That is me on the left watching a quilter at the Head House Square Craft Fair.

One time when we were little, Margie used my sister as a model.  My sister was sitting on the beach in Avalon playing with my mother’s wide brimmed straw hat and playing in the sand.

And during the holidays, Margie would also create these fabulous Christmas-y wood cuts. I have several of those framed and hanging in my home now as an adult. My mother saved them for me and a few years ago I framed my favorites.

When I stumble across her work now, it is referred to as “mid-century modern” . This inexplicably makes me giggle and I wonder since a lot of what’s out there was created when I was growing up, I guess that make me mid-century modern too?

Art brokers and gallery owners alike probably wouldn’t like me saying art doesn’t have to be rare or priceless to hold value to us. But that is a very simple truth. Art should make us happy, evoke a memory, provoke a memory, cause a new memory to happen. Or when all else fails, you just like something. And no one else has to like it. Only you.

So many people love art yet live with blank walls. Sometimes I think it’s because they do not know what to buy. Or are afraid. To them I say: what do you like? What would make you happy?

Living in Chester County, we have so many amazing artists living here among us. And the art these artists create are at so many price points, so there is literally something for everyone’s budget.

In Chester County we not only have galleries and studio tours, we have the Chester County Art Association. Their gallery in West Chester and their outpost in the Exton Square Mall. (You can find some of my friend and artist Catherine Quillman’s work there, for example.)

Art is everywhere around us.

My friend Sherry Tillman who owns Past*Present*Future in Ardmore, PA started First Friday Main Line years ago to literally put art in unexpected places. The whole thing was about making art accessible to everyone, and to make the process less intimidating.

Sherry is so right. So many are intimidated to go into a traditional gallery setting even if they should not be. But because art is everywhere, you can find art at consignment boutiques, thrift stores, rummage sales, fairs, and so on.

Today I stumbled upon the wood block I opened the post with. It’s one right out of my childhood years and the location is also right out of my childhood years. It’s value is I like it. It made me smile as soon as I clapped eyes on it.

I am literally really lucky that I have quite a few friends who are artists. I feel connected to their work in part because I know them.

Yet on the flip side, there is art I feel connected to just for the subject matter. I don’t know the artists at all.

So here we are in the season of giving so why not something homemade? Like art? Buy a piece of art even if it’s just a little print for yourself. And if you need something framed I will gladly direct you to Framer’s Market Gallery in Malvern. (They also represent quite a few local artists, so make sure to check it all out!)

Thanks for stopping by.

My perfect Thanksgiving card from my friend and artist Catherine Quillman

100 artists of the brandywine valley by catherine quillman

Recently my friend Catherine Quillman gifted me a copy of this glorious book she wrote, 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley.

I love it! I think everyone should own it 😊 and you can read an excerpt HERE.

Catherine is very talented and just a wonderful human being!

You can read more about Catherine and what she has been up to on her website. (Catherine is always on the go, so her website is not updated often . She is also a regular contributor to West Chester FIG .

In addition to being a writer and author of many wonderful books (some of which I own!), Catherine is a working artist. You can often find her work at The Chester County Art Association . As a complete segue but related, the Chester County Art Association ofersterrific classes for children and adults and some classes are even free.

Catherine’s book 100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley joins my copy of Eugene D’Orio’s Chester County: A Traveler’s Album on my coffee table.

Chester County is home to so many talented artists and writers!

christmas 🎄 serendipity


Tonight we went to Malvern’s Victorian Christmas. I have sponsored a lamp post Christmas tree the past couple of years and we couldn’t go last year. Sadly I did not find my tree but serendipity was the word of the evening. We did a little shopping, had dinner….and strolled.

While we were strolling I noticed the sign photographed above. I had seen it fly by on Facebook- it is the new gallery next to Gallery 222 on King Street (which was also so much fun this evening as a matter of fact!)

Painted Fine Art & Gallery Coming Soon the sign said. The gallery exterior was warm and festive. So I had to check it out, and I am so glad I did, as this is definitely Malvern’s next treasure! (you heard it here first😊)

Inside the studio greeting people was the gallery owner and artist, Sharon Henderson McHugh.

I have an affinity for artists to be sure, but Sharon is someone you would just like if you met her somewhere else. Warm and welcoming, and her art is amazing I think. She has a tremendous sense of color, texture, and light. Her subjects also come to life on the canvases – each has a vibrancy.

Her middle room were portraits and portraits of nudes. Nudes can be extraordinary if they are painted by the right artist. Sharon is in the photo above, and I photographed her next to the nude that is my favorite. I also love the garden scene which is the last photo in this post.

I am sorry I did not take more photos of her art. She also has some pencil drawings which are exquisite.

I look forward to the gallery’s opening and you will definitely want to check it out.

#ShopLocal and go to Malvern’s Victorian Christmas tomorrow! So much fun!

small art

Small art is anything but. They are a little jewel boxes of works of art that you can tuck into small corners in your home. You can even tuck them into bookcases.

My friend Sherry Tillman, who is an artist and owns a store in Ardmore, PA called Past*Present*Future used to have an artist show hang in her store occasionally during First Friday Main Line events called a "Square Deal".

This "Square Deal" was a show that always intrigued me – it was a show of literally small art as in inches big that was affordable to everyone, and helped spread the principle of art in unexpected places and didn't intimidate people. Because that is the thing about art – it shouldn't intimidate people but it often does.

A lot of people when it comes to the art in their homes are hung up with names and value. To me it is more important to have something hanging that you love to look at, versus an actual monetary value.

Nothing is worth anything if it does not bring you pleasure when it comes to art. And beautiful art can be sourced from all sorts of places and doesn't have to cost a lot.

For example, one of my favorite pieces in my home has no real value and I found it quite literally on a trash pile before a home in Haverford, PA was demolished years ago near the Haverford School. It had meant something to the occupants of the home at one time, but it wasn't anything that would ever have resale value so after the property was sold the house with everything that was left inside of it was demolished. This one piece was left propped up with bags and bags and boxes of trash and I happened to see it walking my dogs. So I took it off the trash pile, and had it reframed.

Again, nothing valuable, I just like it.

And that is how I have chosen my art. Do I like it when I see it? Does it evoke emotion in me? Do I think it's pretty?

I have never forgotten those "Square Deal" art shows. They have made me mindful of the beauty of small pieces, so when I see ones that I love I don't pass them by.

Recently I found three very small pieces. Not expensive, in fact so inexpensive you might term them "cheap" yet there's nothing "cheap" about them.

These pieces are Chester County scenes and they are literally inches big. None of them are signed that I can determine, but I think they're beautiful.

I just tucked them into little spots around my house. And there they will hang, bringing me pleasure.

I have written before about how you can find art all over the place. You can find artists hanging art at local fairs and festivals. You can find art at garage and yard sales and even estate sales. You can pick art out of barns, and find it in thrift shops and consignment stores. The piece just above this paragraph is a little winter scene oil painting. I paid six dollars for it. It is about 3" x 5". Tiny and I love it.

You can also find reasonably priced art of lesser known artists at local galleries. It doesn't have to be expensive – the most basic of rules (again) is you just have to like it.

The only person you need to impress with your art choices is yourself. Art is a very personal thing – just ask any artist who creates. And don't forget as we grow as human beings, often or tastes will change or evolve. So you don't have to be wed to pieces. You can swap things out.

Twenty years ago I would've looked at people like they were crazy if someone mentioned to me how cool small art was. Today, I totally get it and appreciate it.

Experiment with small art. And always remember you can source local art probably more inexpensively wherever you live then the fake art canvases you will find at stores like Home Goods or TJ Maxx.

When you find yourself a piece of local art it ties you to where you are from no matter where you move in the course of your life. Small art is portable. And to me the other thing that is important to me is someone actually took the time to create it, it just wasn't an image transferred in a factory onto a canvas.

One of the great things about living in Chester County is the fact that there is a thriving arts scene. You can find beautiful quality pieces hanging in local galleries and shops, festivals, fairs, and so on. And one of the things I love is the abundance of small pieces out there that you can buy to experiment with.

Small art. It's a good thing 😊

Thanks for stopping by.

something new: gallery 222 in malvern

222-1

Today I had a meeting with someone at The Buttery in Malvern (one of my favorite places).  On my way out of the door, I realized I had not been able to make the opening over the weekend of the brand spanking new gallery that opened on King in Malvern.

And there it was, across the street.

So I crossed King (carefully, today pedestrians in the crosswalks were largely invisible and ignored by drivers – Malvern PD can you do some enforcement?) and cheated on my Malvern favorite, JAM Gallery.

29988643225_f8072635e2_oIn my own defense, I love local art and I love welcoming galleries even more. And Gallery 222 just beckoned me like an old friend.

I did a Facebook live video that is loaded on this blog’s Facebook page but the audio today on every Facebook live thing I tried was messed up, but it is a very nice virtual tool.

The owner, Andrea, is a friend of a friend.  And much like walking into JAM which is across the street and down a piece, it’s a comfortable feeling when you enter. And the art is lovely.   I saw several pieces that also like at JAM, are reasonably priced.

Andrea said to me that this is her dream to have a gallery. I totally get that, and her dream is ever so lovely. She will also have artist space above the gallery floor, which to me is so cool. She is creating an artists’ colony right in her building!

29988643315_4c99f49927_oMalvern having a presence in the local art scene with galleries and artists in residence is a great idea, and so positive for a small town.

Ironically, I have a friend who shares this vision.  My friend Sherry Tillman who owns Past*Present*Future in Ardmore, PA and who is an artist  in her own right. She had the vision to create First Friday Main Line to put art in unexpected places. For several years before I moved to Chester County, I did the event PR and photography for First Friday Main Line and loved every minute.

222-2Sherry made me remember why I loved local and regional art.  It wasn’t about the price point or if they were a listed artist, it was about liking what you saw. Did it evoke an emotion? Strike a memory chord? That was the thing: you liked a piece for whatever reason. And when the art is affordable, you can take that piece of happiness home and look at it every day.

Looking at art is a wonderful experience.  And no, you do not have to like all of it.  For example, I might be committing art sacrilege but I do not like Picasso anything.  I never saw the genius.

29694684380_567dcb36bd_oI like landscapes. I love portraits that tell a story. I like my farm animals and my farmhouse scenes.  I also like a lot of the work of my parents’ friends who are (and were) artists.  Joyce De Guatemala, Harry Niblock, Margery Niblock, Noel Miles.

I don’t know the artists of some of the stuff I have picked up over the years. I just bought whatever because I liked it. It made me happy.  I have a  watercolor of three girls and a dog that was an early 20th century equivalent of sofa art.  I found the piece on a trash pile years ago when a developer was getting ready to tear down what was the Clothier House in Haverford on Buck Lane. I saw it and felt bad for a piece of art tossed like a sack of rotting potatoes on the trash pile.  I was walking my dogs when I saw it and walked it across Lancaster Avenue and had it re-framed.  It has no real value but I like it.

Local artists have a way of connecting us to where we live in very special ways, so I am happy Malvern is becoming a gallery town at one end. I told Andrea today that 222 and JAM should do a Gallery Night – maybe quarterly as the seasons change.  I learned from First Friday Main Line that bringing art to the community is so positive, so why not spread the love further in Malvern?

I wish Gallery 222 in Malvern a long and happy existence! I look forward to their next show and JAM Gallery’s as well. I like the idea of Malvern being an art destination.

Gallery 222. 222 East King Street Malvern Pennsylvania 19355
610.608.6636 | andreastrang@gallery222malvern.com

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jenkins arboretum

 I am at Jenkins Arboretum for a gallery  

 opening for my friend Dr. E Ni Foo. The exhibit of his latest paintings run through the first of November or so. The show is amazing and so is the arboretum. I also had to buy some plants and a membership!

 

    

    

yes, I also brake for yard sales…and barn sales…and so on

chair

Chair $40 at Eclectic Market in Malvern, floral needlepoint pillow $8 at St. David’s Church Fair a few years ago, and chicken pillow $4 at St. Paul’s in Exton during AngelFest

Truly, you can hire that interior designer if you want to  but you don’t have to.  You don’t have to be design challenged and you can find the time.  I get inspiration from all over. People like Lara Spencer and Cari Cucksy inspire me.  Not Martha Stewart any longer. Besides her issue with bloggers she is way too comfy with pastel paints and washes and she is enough to make you dream in crème de menthe which is too close to Kmart green and similarly pastel nightmares, but I digress.

Lara Spencer used to be a host on Antiques Roadshow.  A lot of people know her from being an anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America, and from Flea Market Flip. Now she has a book I Brake For Yard Sales and a series by the same name that made what appears to be a limited debut on HGTV.  I say limited because HGTV is a little hard to figure these days.  They replay a lot of home crashing series but no real gardening shows any longer and don’t have a lot of air time (in my opinion) on some of these fun shows like I Brake For Yard Sales or Cash & Cari.

Chair one of a pair ($18 for both) from  Smithfield Barn, Downingtown. Sampler pillow embroidered by me and other pillow a gift

Chair one of a pair $18 for both Smithfield Barn. Sampler pillow embroidered by me and other pillow a gift

Why I love watching ladies like Lara Spencer and Cari Cuksey is because they show you it is not a beige, beige world and not everything has to be all matchy-matchy. They give you great re-purposing ideas too.

I have never needed to hire an interior designer or decorator. And I know a few who are amazing.  But in this economy, why not train your own eye and save some money?  At least do some of the leg work if not the whole thing?

I did our new house by myself with my sweet man (and a terrific carpenter who built us amazing bookcases and storage benches).  Fortunately our tastes are compatible.  Or should I say he is a man who will actually communicate about house stuff?

unknown watercolor - approximately $20 from Smithfield Barn in Downingtown.

unknown watercolor – approximately $20 from Smithfield Barn in Downingtown.

I guess I am kind of sort of quasi-traditional with a dash of quirky .  I like vintage and I like the lines of a lot of older furniture.  I like a more country or should I say less formal kind of look as in what some would call “farmhouse chic”, but if you are expecting mad for plaid with ruffles, gag me with gingham, so not my style. Yet I am not so casual as in Cindy Crawford icky denim love seats or lots of plastic things. Comfortable and pretty works but not a frilly gilded lily. And also a component of my home to be considered are things from my childhood home I liked and wanted to emulate.

And interestingly enough, my sweet man and I both had mothers who loved to check out estate sales, so you could say we sort of inherited this treasure-seeking meets bargain hunting fun.

I do think my style is uniquely my own and can’t be pigeonholed as one particular category because to me what I have done is a little bit of this a little bit of that.  I have put what I love into my home and it is a house where every room is used.  No, the living room is not for teenagers to play video games in, but neither is it some shrine to formal living and roped off with a velvet rope except for special occasions and sherry by the fire.

I like pops of color and am not afraid of color.  I don’t like wallpaper.  I can admire it in other people’s houses in small doses, but would rather look at a colorfully painted wall than wallpaper. I remember once being in a house in Massachusetts near where the Brimfield Antiques show is held.  You would have thought they house would have been New England fabulous, right? It was instead a  study of  contradicting and competing wallpaper.  Every room was papered and even the halls. And nothing complimented or flowed.  The house literally gave me a pattern headache. And the owner was so house proud too.  But they loved their house, so that was what mattered.

I have a glass bowl my sister gave me one year for Christmas about ten years ago.  It was inadvertently color inspiration for a lot of my current living room.  The bowl is a beautiful almost cranberry crossed with raspberry kind of color.  With it in mind I found a traditional Chippendale hump back sofa of similarly colored damask circa late 1950s or early 1960s  at Reseller’s in Frazer for $125.  Yes, really.  It was a lucky find that had sat on the sales floor until it was reduced, reduced, reduced.  It was in pristine condition and the only thing it needed was the legs dusted.

At the Eclectic Market on King Street in Malvern one Saturday last fall I found a vintage wing chair in a pattern that was palatable, and compatible to my sofa.  Yet it isn’t nauseating matching like furniture garanimals. And this sturdy chair was…wait for it…forty dollars. Yes $40.00.

It is that easy.  A little time and effort and it actually comes together. Not all on one day, but it does come together.

You all know by now that I love barn picking.  And yes, the Smithfield Barn in Downingtown is that awesome.  Kristin has a fabulous eye and thanks to her I can actually identify some country antiques now that might impress an actual farmer or if not that an antiques dealer or two.

I also will check out yard sales and estate sales and church sales and country auctions and resale shops and flea markets.

I love Frazer Antiques and the dealers who work there are so incredibly nice and patient with my 10,000 questions.  They are helpful too.

Resellers Consignment in Frazer is also a favorite haunt and they get fabulous stuff all the time – even vintage table linens, crystal, lighting fixtures, garden ornaments,  artwork and china.  Not just furniture.  But the trick to them is if you like it, buy it because much like the Smithfield Barn, stock move quickly because the pricing is reasonable.

And I can’t forget Garage Sale Chic Chester County.  Now there is a woman with a terrific eye! And without her I would not have my pot rack for $60 in my kitchen and the only floor lamp I have ever liked in my life.

I bought the  furniture pieces mentioned because among other things they are sturdy, classic pieces I can reupholster  some day and still love them.  And that is part of developing your eye: imagine what something might look like stained differently, or painted, or reupholstered.

I love going to places like Clover Market  (Ardmore, Chestnut Hill, and Philadelphia in the winter at the Armory) because I might spy something fun and quirky.  The true kings and queens of repurposing are vendors there  like Nanny Goat Antiques, Chairloom, and Brandywine View Antiques (who should also be visited and often in Chadds Ford), so I also always leave with great ideas.

I go to high-end antiques and craft shows to educate my eye as much as anything else.  I don’t really buy at those shows, I am not in the demographic they shoot for – I am just average. But you need to educate your eye, because that is how you learn.  And trust me, I have seen and be able to recognize some pretty amazing things in thrift shops and picking barns as a result.

I eBay too for small stuff like vintage table linens and locating the vintage plates and even cookware I like to use. I also will swap things with friends and so on.  I am an insatiable bargain hunter with a knack for barter (I am told another word for it is “hondle”.) It’s fun.

At the end of the day, I want my home to reflect me, not someone else who doesn’t live there.  I want it to be homey and personal. And what I hang on my walls isn’t running away from the Philadelphia Museum of Art or something. I prefer things I see by more local artists and unknowns altogether. One of my most favorite things is a watercolor in a simple wood frame I bought for $20 at the Smithfield Barn.  It’s no Wyeth and never will be, but it makes me happy.  I buy what I like.  It doesn’t have to impress anyone, I just have to like it.

little table from Berwyn estate sale a few years ago - about $15. Candlestick and dish $5 from Harriton Fair at Historic Harriton House ten years ago. Print on the table of Chester County Farmhouse a gift

little table from Berwyn estate sale a few years ago – about $15. Candlestick and dish $5 from Harriton Fair at Historic Harriton House ten years ago. Print on the table of Chester County Farmhouse a gift

Another example is the little painting my sweet man found for me recently. Nothing fancy, but some unknown artist did a print of a farmhouse I love to photograph and have photographed in West Nantmeal Township. To me I would rather see things like that on someone’s walls than framed posters of art reproduction. Do you have a First Friday celebration in your community or near by? You might pick up a cool piece of art at a First Friday. Or check out local art shows.  The art show prices are generally high, but if you like the artist, take down their information and contact them after the show. (For fun and funky art and high end crafts try Past*Present*Future in Ardmore )

Home is where your heart is, so to me that makes decorating where you hang your proverbial hat easy.  Assemble your home to make yourself happy.  I like looking at Architectural Digest, but I don’t want to live in Architectural Digest. I would rather live in something most probably found in Country Living Magazine, truthfully.

My photo of the same farmhouse in the print above!

My photo of the same farmhouse in the print above!

I do Pinterest.  It to me is like a giant cork-board.  I will pin rooms that inspire me, things I might want to try, recipes, and so on. I will also ask my friends how and what they did if I like what I see.  I am not dumb, I will not do work a professional should do so you won’t see me putting up dry wall and slathering mud on, but I can do basic painting if I have to and goofy things like sponge painting stair risers.

I do have a pretty good eye for color and special relationships and I can hawk a bargain. And most of all I still like looking even when there is nothing I need to buy.  Window shopping is fun and inspirational.

So while you might find some in the Exton or King of Prussia Malls, chances are you will find me in a consignment shop , yard sale, or barn hunting for treasures.

My late father always said if you can read, you can learn to cook and I think a similar vein can be applied to decorating your home. And taste evolves, so what you like today could be completely different from ten years ago and twenty years in the future might be different again.

All I am saying is start small and just try.  Then if you really don’t have a Designing Women gene, find someone to help you.  But they should understand that you are the boss and listen and have a compatible personality.

I don’t know if I am doing it right or wrong. I just know what I like (and I know my limits.)  It has been a process of trial and error over time. Kind of like when I experimented  years and years ago with purple eye shadow. Some ideas work better than others.  After all if you hate the color the walls are painted, you can always paint them a different color.

And oh by the way, this coming weekend is an OPEN barn weekend at Smithfield Barn.

malvern getting art gallery with an edge to its voice….

bridge in Chester County by Averil Smith Barone

So… There is a gallery to open in Malvern…They are touting being sandwiched between those East Side Flats buildings under construction. I think East Side Flats are way too big for Malvern which like it or not is a village smaller than even Narberth and the development is seriously lacking human scale and style, but will be glad to see an art gallery. Art is good for a community.

“Remains of the Day”

However, I do not like the almost negative commentary about Chester County barns and covered bridges- as a photographer they are not only among my favorite things to photograph, they are part and parcel of what makes Chester County so special. I know that this particular commentary shouldn’t be sourced to the writer of the article in the paper as originating this PR spin, so I would caution the new gallery owners, who themselves are artists to have a care about what I feel are borderline pejorative comments about the art historically and dare I say traditionally known in Chester County.

One of my own Chester County inspired still lives taken at a Goshenville Historic Day in East Goshen. I reproduced the photo on canvas, framed it, and ironically it sold out of a Main Line gallery and now sits on someone’s wall.

Long before I moved to Chester County I frequented art shows like the fabulous annual affair in Historic Yellow Springs. I also have a friend named Averil (an artist herself) whose late mother was a Chester County artist named Valerie Lamb Smith. I will never forget visiting Averil’s parents’ house for the first time (smack in the middle of Chester County horse country way before it was trendy) and seeing her mother’s art hanging in a farmhouse outbuilding that served as an art studio. Averil’s mom had work strung on lines and they were wafting in a breeze. It was such a thing of beauty I remember it still in my mind’s eye to this day. It was her mother’s work that truly made me begin to love and appreciate the Chester County school as an adult.

The Chester County “school” of art and artists is a very real and beautiful thing, so if these gallery owners want to open something edgy and different that is their right, but they should refrain from knocking a style of art a lot of us old and new to Chester County love. And to quip that modern art looks good in Main Line homes makes them sound like interior decorators not artists or art curators. And maybe it is just me, but I hate people who refer to Philadelphia as “Philly” . Philly is a cheesesteak, Philadelphia is the city. As to who will live in the behemoth of Malvern known as East Side Flats, only time will tell.

Another one of my barn photos- it is no great secret that in addition to the beauty of Chester County itself as inspiration, the plein air and traditional styles of the Chester County school has inspired my own photography- the magic of ordinary days

Do I believe that homes should have a mix of art? Absolutely. But to give an interview that is pretentious and by interpretation knocks the art Chester County is know for is just bad form. Loving particular forms of art is entirely subjective and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have photographed a lot of art over the past few years for First Friday Main Line as well as publicized it as part of the publicity for this non-profit’s events. But never in a million years would I ever dream of publicizing one kind of art or artist or art discipline at the expense of the other. It is a big world and there is room for many different styles and forms of art. So JAM Gallery, welcome and best of luck as new kid on the proverbial Chester County block, but please, show a little respect for the plein air and other styles that have made Chester County their home before you. Also interested to hear that Malvern still has First Fridays- hadn’t heard about that in a LONG time.

Introducing JAM Gallery, where contemporary art meets Victorian Malvern By Caroline O’Halloran

Poised to open this fall, Malvern’s mammoth Eastside Flats has long been the talk of the town…. JAM Gallery will open Saturday, Aug. 10, and, like its towering neighbors still under construction, it’s a decidedly 21st-century addition to the quaint Victorian borough. You won’t find the usual Chester County barns or covered bridges displayed on JAM’s walls. Instead, look for paintings and sculpture that are edgy and imaginative, some even avant-garde by Main Line standards…….The backyard is adjacent to the outdoor area that Eastside Flats plans to use for “Second Saturday” gatherings showcasing local merchants. JAM is a three-way family venture, with Melanie overseeing the art, her husband Jerry, a retired pharmaceutical executive and eager oenophile and cook, bartending and making hors d’oeuvres for gallery parties, and son Adam handling the books. Co-curator with Fisher will be Lynnette Shelley, an artist of similar stylized bent, who moonlights as the lead singer in the experimental “avant rock” band, Red Masque, she founded with her husband….In the walk-to-train apartment-retail complex Eastside Flats, the two see an opportunity. “It’s short-sighted to think, ‘This is the Malvern, you can only have plein air landscapes on your living-room wall,’” says Shelley…..Modern art, she adds, looks fantastic in traditional Main Line homes.

My tip to people looking to add life to their homes with art? It doesn’t have to be expensive, it doesn’t have to be pretentious. It should be something that moves you – something you enjoy . It can be as simple as a flea market or barn picking find. Or something found at Resellers Consignment in Frazer, or something from your childhood home or grandmother’s attic or from Clover Market in Ardmore (they have had some great artists affordable to buy from since the market’s inception).

Buy the art that you love. Leave the need to impress to others.

I still think this gallery is worth checking out. JAM Gallery will be opening at 321 E. King Street, Malvern. 484-433-3571. Find them on the web at http://www.jamgallerymalvern.com. The public is invited to attend the opening reception, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10 as per Main Line Media News.