Tag Archives: art

Sweet samplers

I’m drawn to embroidered items, as much for their backstory as their beauty. I like to imagine the crafter with the fabric in her hands, adding embellishment by the flicker of a fire or television screen, lost in the meditative quality of the work. I pick up pieces at estate sales and we actually use them.


I love that one of Eileen’s great (or great-great?) grandmas embroidered that napkin she now waves around in her banana cereal fist.

Embroidery seems to be having a moment now, and I’d like to get back to it and learn more intricate stitches.

I just ordered these pretty collar pins from Baobap Handmade as a girly/springy accent to my jean jacket. I love the concept of collar pins and had to refrain myself from also getting a space-themed pair, and succulent ones.


Happy Cactus is a fun instagram follow. Her custom embroidery is great, but I really love these fern notecards with images from embroidered pieces on them.


Alphabet embroidery is such a sweet baby shower idea. We have a blanket my aunt stitched hanging in the playroom, but this Miniature Rhino sampler is a slightly less ambitious option that could squeeze into the teeniest nursery:


Her zodiac and constellation patterns are sweet, too.

I’ll always also love Posie, and this Daisychain crewelwork ABC sampler. My mother made it for me as a gift for my first baby shower. I’ll treasure it forever!


It’s been a long time since I’ve attempted anything more involved than this simple home brewer cross-stitch I made for my brother for Christmas a few years back. It might be time to brush up on skills! This Creative Live e-course might also help me get those basic stitches down.

Leave a comment

Filed under Getting crafty

Art appreciation with tiny ones

I don’t think I’ve been to the Des Moines Art Center since June, when I was overdue with Emmett (huge/cranky) and my mom and I walked the nearly two-mile distance from my house in an unsuccessful effort to induce labor.

Technically, Emmett was at the Art Center in utero twice, with the first time being for the Pollock Ball — before I was ready to announce his existence. He got the full experience today when we visited with cousins Caroline and Norah and aunt Ellen. He typically hangs with those ladies four days a week, but for me to tag along on an adventure was a treat.


It felt like a very grown-up day with the tiny ones because we timed things about a half hour off and were forced to hang out at La Mie for a few minutes before the Art Center opened. (Woe is me, right?) I can’t stop laughing at Caroline’s expression in this photo:


She loved the sweets, but apparently loathes the dreaded sticky hand syndrome that comes with snarfing danishes.

I was so impressed by how patiently the kids wandered the galleries with us. Emmett quietly chewed on the Ergobaby strap the whole time and seemed mesmerized by the colors and the natural lighting that streamed through the halls. Caroline delights me with her perspective on the world.


Every one of us was in awe of “Gravity and Grace,” the fantastic exhibition by El Anatsui, which runs through Feb. 9, 2014. (Details here.)

Image via Huffington Post

Image via Huffington Post

Photos aren’t allowed in the exhibit, but this Huffington Post article gives some insight into the work when it was installed elsewhere. There’s even a little area to watch a video about the artists’ process and for kids to get creative. Caroline and Norah both got right to work on mini masterpieces.



If you have a tiny, live in Des Moines and are looking for a way to beat cabin fever, the Art Center is hosting a “Baby & Me Gallery Talk” series 11 a.m. – Noon on Wednesdays Jan. 8, Feb. 12 and March 12. It’s free and drop-ins/strollers/babywearing are all encouraged.


Sometimes on the days I’m home with Emmett the only thing that saves our sanity is to gear up and go somewhere. Although you all really should have seen us this morning. I thought maybe I could put the baby in the stroller and walk the dog in freezing temperatures in the 10 minutes before I had to leave for a meeting. Not so much. I’m surprised nobody driving by the screaming child, skittish dog and frenzied mother trailing six yards of scarf didn’t call us in as loonies.

1 Comment

Filed under Baby, I love Des Moines, Iowa adventures, movies/art

Why Houses Matter

Last Friday, we went to the opening for “Why Houses Matter,” an art show curated by Rachel Buse. Rachel says the only thing she loves more than art is houses, so the theme of this show makes total sense. Her first job was as an AmeriCorps volunteer with the nonprofit Rebuilding Together, which rehabilitates the homes of low-income owners, and the organization came in as a sponsor for the show.


Rachel’s own aesthetic seems to embrace imperfection —  things with a certain lumpiness or a kooky-charming crookedness about them. (Sometimes even an ugliness that she manages to make appear endearing, by virtue of her enthusiasm for the subject shining through.)


The show features works from five different artists: Holly Wist, Julia Franklin, Tiffany Sinnott, Tatiana Klusak and Ramona Muse.

Rachel called in and shared a little bit about it on Talk of Iowa the other day.



I think Rachel is one of the most genuine, creative people in Des Moines, and I had fun helping her hone her talk “The Moment Before Making” for TEDxDesMoines last year.

The 2013 TEDxDesMoines is coming up soon – Sept. 8. Get tickets here. (If you really want to go, but can’t afford a ticket, let me know and I might be able to help work something out.)

Leave a comment

Filed under I love Des Moines, movies/art, What I'm into

Felt love

My friend Amy’s felt book, So Pretty! Felt is out, and I wanted to share the trailer a few friends made for it’s debut.


It’s extra awesome when talented, creative ladies make something magical like this. Way to go, Katie and Bethany!

A bunch of craft bloggers are doing “So Pretty! Felt” book-related posts, if you’re interested.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books

“I do” + art, part II

I’ll admit: That title is a bit of a tease, because I only have a photo of one other piece to show you today! I took a bunch more as promised, but they haven’t made the jump from camera to computer yet. It’s been a flurry of activity around these parts.

This piece is mega-meaningful, because Joe’s sister Molly made it for us as a wedding gift. Molly is a preschool teacher who has a serious crafty streak. It might be hard to tell from the photo, but this is a collage made of tiny pieces of paper she cut and glued in the shape of our house, down to the weather vane! The shingles are separate pieces, and the window cutouts are intricate. We have this hanging next to our front door in the entry; it’s one of my most favorite gifts I’ve ever received. And, if you haven’t seen a picture of my house yet, this snowy one should prove that the tiny paper replica is pretty darn accurate!

Molly even put the photo* that Joe and I used in our  newspaper-themed wedding invitations in the doorway. *Taken by our friend Bethany.

So, not quite the house tour I promised yet, but both of these fit the wedding theme!

P.S. When my bestie Amanda got married this summer, we sent her and her husband this and this poster as a gift, because they live in and own several awesome rental properties in the Tower Grove neighborhood of St. Louis. Noah MacMillan did both of them, and he was excellent to work with!

1 Comment

Filed under At home

“I do” + art

In atypical traditionalist fashion, I knew I wanted to take part in the custom of spousal-wedding-gift-giving when Joe and I were married two years ago. A watch seems like the typical token of sentiment for the occasion, but I wanted my gift to have a little more individual meaning. When I saw this piece by Jeff “Buffalo” Bonker, I knew investing in original art that we could share in our home would be a great way to celebrate our commitment:

It felt like a fit for a bunch of reasons, like the fact that Joe is an ardent Cubs fan, that our house was once owned by Sec Taylor, the famed Des Moines Register sports editor after whom Principal Park was originally named (it’s still Sec Taylor Field), and that the artist was a colleague when Joe and I met working at the Register. Plus, with the gold dome of the Capitol in the background, if we ever leave Des Moines we’ll be able to take a landmark with us. And I thought it was just plain cool, especially since it’s acrylic painted on wood and has some heft to it. I talked with Bonker about the piece, which I first saw on his Facebook page, and we were able to work out a deal that fit my budget. I’d purchased art on Etsy before, but this felt like a real investment in a local artist, and it was exciting! I knew Joe would love it, too.

Fast forward and it turns out I chose an award-winning painting. Bonker submitted an image of the work for inclusion in the Des Moines 2011 Performance Report, and it won People’s Choice!

Bonker was able to pop by and borrow back his painting back for a couple days to get some higher quality images, and I get to be tickled that the Iowa Cubs wanted to buy it from him, but he had to tell them it was mine! Sounds like there might be a commission in the works. When I ran into him at Americana the other day, Bonker told me that he’s recently moved into the Fitch Building, where he’ll finally have a studio, and is newly represented by Kavanaugh Gallery. It’s exciting to see passionate people gain momentum like that.

I’m already running out of space, and there are a bunch of local artists I still want to purchase. I’ll follow up this post with some stories of other art we’ve acquired (on a budget) for our home so far. It’ll be a fun little tour, because I’m a total nerd.

P.S. TEDxDesMoines speaker and local artist Rachel Buse had a thoughtful post on the art choices for the Performance Report on Art Beacon Des Moines.


Filed under At home

Des Moines date-in-a-box: Eastside Art

This is the first installment in a new series of Des Moines dates*. Each will include something to do/somewhere to eat and another fun element to make your evening with someone even more delightful. *Although I will reference romance, clearly these could also work as friend dates!

This Eastside Art Date is easy on your pocketbook and will probably take you out of your typical Saturday night element, which is great for getting to know someone.

Dinner: Thai Flavors, 1254 E. 14th St. (Picnic it!)
Yes, it’s tucked in a strip mall, but this unassuming spot has inspired a pretty loyal fan following. (For some reason, I feel like this is owned by the same people who do Cool Basil on the west side, too.) I like the Hawaiian Fried Rice and crab rangoons, myself.

The dining room here is decent, but if the weather is perfect and you’re feeling extra romantic, I recommend ordering ahead and getting the dish to go. Pack a big blanket and some drinks and head a couple blocks west to Union Park. It looks like the Heritage Carousel will be open until 8 p.m., which will make for a super fun backdrop to dinner. Bring $2 cash so you can both ride it!

Photo via Jenny with a Camera. Check out her Flickr set to decide which animal you want to ride!

Then, ready yourself for some art!

The activity: Sensory Overload ( 7 p.m.-Midnight, Saturday, May 12)
Experience a mind-bending art ambush in an abandoned school. Installation art, a costume contest, performances — it’s an evening that’s going to give you and your date a LOT to talk about. I highly recommend clicking through the fab Art Beacon Des Moines to get a sense of the vibe. Suggested donation is $5 per person, but pony up a $20 for the two of you to show you’re generous. Karma will reward you.

The sensory overload site.

Designed to stimulate all of your senses, I have a feeling this event is going to be one that people talk about for awhile. I mean, rumor has it there’s going to be a fake meth lab and I think I saw something about bubble wrap? Regardless, if your date is going well, you should try to fashion hats or something out of recycled/found materials together and wear them to this.

Thanks to my new friend Brian for suggesting I start up this series. It’s fun to meet people who still remember my writing in Juice and want me to help them be all romantical 🙂


Filed under Des Moines Dates, I love Des Moines

Reading list, etc.

We hosted book club at our house tonight and it was nice enough out to bust out the fire pit for a rip-roaring discussion about diplomacy, sleeping around in 1930s Berlin and the essence of human nature, thanks to Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts.” (Larson will be in town this May for a free discussion as part of the DMPL AViD series.) Most of our group are big fans of “Devil in the White City,” but this book only garnered middling reviews. It’s interesting to learn about the leadup to World War II, but the consensus here was that the book is more of a slow burn that never really gets to a boiling point. Also, we were divided on whether it made us more or less likely to want to keep a detailed journal. Another of our nonfiction picks we thought would have been better as a long magazine article. (Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.)

In addition to a bonfire and braunschweiger (gross), Joe made these delish German Chocolate Macaroons from a recipe in a back issue of Cuisine at Home.

German Chocolate Macaroons

I know it’s a shameless plug for the husband, but I must say that this spring’s “Fresh and Fabulous,” which should be out soon, is pretty awesome. Joe re-creates a lot of the recipes they’re working on and I was a big fan of everything he made.

Anyhow, back to the books. In our typical caucus decision fashion, we chose “Girlchild,” by Tupelo Hassman. I’m going to give you the synopsis, and you’re going to think I suggested this book, but it was really Joe! It was up against Hemingway, which I voted for because I’ve honestly never read any Hemingway and that seems wrong. But I do think I’ll love this book. I’m just a little nervous to discuss it because I think I’ll reeeaally love it and I expect a divided opinion.

Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scouts. She hasn’t got a troop or even a badge to call her own. But she’s checked the Handbook out from the elementary school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice (Uniforms, disposing of outgrown; The Right Use of Your Body; Finding Your Way When Lost) for tips to get off the Calle: that is, the Calle de las Flores, the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.

Rory’s been told that she is one of the “third-generation bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” But she’s determined to prove the county and her own family wrong. Brash, sassy, vulnerable, wise, and terrified, she struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good. From diary entries, social workers’ reports, half-recalled memories, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother’s letters, Rory crafts a devastating collage that shows us her world even as she searches for the way out of it.

Synopsis via IndieBound.

I know. A main character with the name Rory AND Girl Scout references?

In other Des Moines Arts and Culture news, the next Civic Center season is going to be amazing. As soon as I got the announcement in my inbox, I forwarded it to my mom:

This amazing season, plus cheap flights starting this fall between Chicago and DSM? Who else can I lure here?


Filed under Books, I love Des Moines