Introducing: How To Behave at a Tea Party

I'm so pleased to finally be able to tell you about this book, which will be out in the fall of 2014.

I dont think it's a coincidence that picture book illustrators often have a lot in common with the characters they help create. I'm not sure if art is imitating life or the other way around, but it happens a lot.

How To Behave at a Tea Party is the first of a series about a little girl named Julia, who at first I failed to see myself in at all. But then I told my neice Mattie (who was maybe thirteen at the time) about Julia. "She wants to throw a tea party, and have it all go perfectly and beautifully, but she ends up getting really upset because she's got ssome control issues and things don't go as planned." And she said "Like you at your wedding?" I shot a glare over the breakfast bar in her mother's - my sister's -  direction, but she quickly pretended to be loading her dishwasher, conveniently disappearing from view.

I loved every part of working on this book, and not just because of Madelyn's brilliant mind and wonderful writing style. I also loved it because Julia came into my life at a moment when I was looking hard at how I was spending my time, now made more expensive by becoming a mother, and my own work, wondering if I was living in a lifestyle or a lifestyle brand. Feeling like maybe the perfect scenes I was seeing (and, OK, placing) in social media weren't maybe making our lives harder somehow. If blogs and lifestyle brands and exposure were really adding value to my life, or pulling me away from it, into a virtual world of illusion that made me want more things, want more perfection, more beautiful vignettes. I thought, while sketching the illustrations in this book, about the tea party I had thrown for my one year old daughter, for twenty eight mostly adult guests, on linens and fine china, styled, sometimes forced, and photographed to the umpteenth degree.

Around the time I wrapped up this book I made a new rule in my own life. I would say yes to the work that meant more time actually drawing and writing, regardless of pay. I would say no to anyone who expected me to accept "brand exposure" as a form of compensation for my time or my work. And because these two points would mean that my job would involve a lot of hours working in isolation, I would develop my teaching events into celebrations of the handmade community, which is full of people that I love and respect, and am inspired by. And, most importantly, I would try to hard to not compare (and compete with) my life to perfectly styled scenes, and that when I had the urge, as I do every time something good happens, to take over the scene and manipulate it's composition to make a good picture, I would instead try, as my daugher now likes to say, to "put my phone back in my pocket."

And then, OK, I did throw another crazy fancy party for Bee, on her 2nd birthday. But this time I didn't mind so much when things were spilled or broken, and I put out the good china for the toddlers, and I ecouraged every kid in our neighborhood to come, which they did, fresh from the gravel roads with their little dirt bikes, piled up in a crazy heap with their tires still spinning, in my driveway as though they were left by a biker gang who had just run into a bar for a fight. I didn't even freak out when they moved the party upstairs, moving like a swarm of yelling locusts up the steps and bursting through the hinges on the safety gate with it's sticky latch and leaving it lying on it's side, looking relieved. We ate piles of cake and didn't look at our watches, naps were skipped and the dog ate a lot of things that he shouldn't have, and we did have some very pretty moments, of which we did take pictures, but this time they were of moments that were actually happening on their own.

small steps, I hope, towards really mastering the art of knowing How to Behave at a Tea Party.








Mother Daughter Weekend Sewing and Crafts Workshop, Full Report!


We had so much fun.

Both of our Palm Springs weekend workshops were new formats, both based on our weekend sewing workshops but with some twists and new directions. The first was a mother-daughter weekend, with guest teachers Annabel Wrigley of Little Pincushion Studio, and Jodi Levine, the genius behind Martha Stewart Baby and Kids Magazines and author of the upcoming book "Super Make It". It was like a big crafty slumber party, with moms and daughters stitching away on beautiful Janome sewing machines (once the girls realized they could write things wiht them the workroom becamse a cloth id/friendship bracelet factory) and the kids crafting paper chandeliers and sewing up ponchos and bags, making jewlery with painted wooden beads and felt flowers, and building fabric covered scrapbooks. And when everyone got a little craft-weary we piled up together on beanbags for movies and popcorn. Remember the 1970's Disney version of Robin Hood? Its as good as you remember. We swam, we made friends, we made pom poms. Its was super duper. Bee is still too tiny for a sewing machine (even the teensy little "pink lightning" models that Janome is making, which we love to bits) but she and TC came along. The paper chandeliers became so large and full-bloomed that we had to make super-big kraft paper bags for them, and then we had to cover them in portraits of the kids , just because. That was the sort of weekend we had, lots of "I know, lets try THIS!"

Here are some of my favorite shots, many of them thanks to Annabel's photography....

jumping for joy with our new cross body bags...

our bead painting workshop became the everything-painting workshop...

Annabel and her lovely paper chandeliers, made even easier for kids with the amazing Janome Sihouette CAMEO paper cutting machine...

Making bags....

on our adorable and amazing little Sew-Mini's, Janome's coolest kid's machine...

I was a yarn holder for pom pom making. Gladly.

And Jodi Levine helped everyone make the most amazing necklaces from handpainted wooden beads and felt flowers, each of which was a lovely and wearable take-away...

First time sewing moms made silky kimono-shrugs...

and everybody made friends.

STC Craft sent us stacks of their beautifyul books for gift bags...

some finished chandeliers....

and embroidered portraits still in process...

and Courtney, with her lovely little girl, Molly. This is the same little girl who was just a tiny bump under Courtney's blouse the first time she joined me for a workshop in Vermont, at Blueberry Hill, so it was especially wonderful to have them there for our first Mother-Daughter workshop, making a strawberry bookend together.

and when we got weary, we did a little bit of this:

 We';ve got another Mother Daughter workshop coming up in Vermont, but it's completely sold out. If you'd like us to let you know if another one makes it's way onto our 2014 schedule, sign up for our newsletter, which is where we announce those types of things first.

We are looking forward to more of these amazing weekends.

I'll be back in a few days with the re-cap of our weekend sewing and crafts workshop....



Now Available: Gift Certificates for Commissions, Custom Illustrations, and Portraits

These commissions represent a single piece of artwork, perfect for a portrait of one person or many, together, or a place or house that matters to you or someone you love. They can also be used for wedding invitations, save the dates, or whatever else you can imagine fitting on a page. And because it's the holidays, we came up with a way for them to be tucked under the tree, or presented as a Valentines, Mother's Day, or Engagement gift. we'll even do the wrapping for you.

Nothing makes me happier than spending my working hours drawing or writing, which might seem like an obvious statement but is something I have to remind myself of constantly, as many of you, I am sure, can understand.

I made a promise to myself, about a year ago, that I would stop filling up my days with the jobs that pulled me away from my drawing board (I really do have one, just a very modern one!) and my writing, either physically or mentally.

I knew at that point that I would be spending the bulk of my work days on some really wonderful picture book projects, getting to add artwork to books by some of the best authors out there, and it's been wonderful to have long stretches of time to do nothing but draw, and lovely to see projects stretched out now on my calendar, filling up last year and next year.

Recognizing that a calendar like this would mean a whole lot of solo, sedentary hours, I also made a promise to myself that it was time to bring back and to redesign my weekend sewing workshops, so that the time I did spend away from my family and my creative work was about connecting with other artists and makers and with the individuals that I had come to know online through my work, in beautiful and inspiring places... but more on that later. And, thanks to my family over at Windham, I would design fabric again, with those exact individuals in mind.

This year I offered up a very limited number of family portraits, in time for the holidays. The response was terrific and the project was a lot of fun.  And when I began to work on them, these pictures of homes and loves and babies and one particularly funny looking dog, and to read about the stories behind them, I realized, really, how much I loved doing them. A friend was in my home studio one day and was looking at one piece in particular, and I told him that I had watched the family in the picture, through years of being connected to them online and through workshops and industry events, grow from their wedding, watched as the babies arrived, seen pictures of the quilts and the dresses and the renos and the moves to other cities, and as the dog become all grey on the nose, and he said "it's amazing that something like the internet makes it possible for families to have their own personal artists, like they've got their postman and their dentist and their shrink and their babysitter". And I told him, because it was the first thing that came into my mind, that I would love to be thought of that way.

That conversation led to my decision to find other makers online and commission them to make things for me and for my home, which has become sort of an obsession and which will be the topic of another post - with photos - soon, and to my decision to continue to offer these small commissions to my customers and friends.

OK, back, literally to the drawing board. As always, you can reach me directly with questions here.




LIFE SIZED / Catskills 

A new series of signed, limited edition prints by Heather Ross


This series of large format prints is based on my drawings of the wildlife around my home in the Castkills. Each will depict it's subject at it's actual scale. This project has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, and I hope someday to line both walls in my upstairs hall with nothing but these portraits, from the teeniest framed image of a cricket or ladybug to the field mice who jump around in the tall grass at the edge of my yard to the largest, most lumbering black bear. 

The first of the series is a Red Fox, drawn from memory of a sly little female who crept up to my kitchen door a few months ago. These are printed on very thick, creamy Epson Velvet Paper, which has a soft surface and gives colors a birght, saturated glow. It looks beautiful in a frame or without.

I plan to introduce new members of this series several times a year. The Red Fox will be followed by the White Tail Fawn, also printed at actual size, available mid-winter and shown below. This is the first in a continuing series, previous buyers will always be notified first of new artwork releases, and new artwork will always be announced to our newsletter readers the day that they become available.

For more information, to purchase, or for a sneak peek of the White Tail Fawn that will be available mid-winter, please visit my online store.



Wooden Hangers, Tiny Artwork, and Baby Gifts

I am way behind on a certain somebody's baby gift.

When I had a baby she sent me something, something she had made herself, within a few months. That, in case you didn't know this, is the window of acceptable time for handmade gifts. I swear. But then she had a baby and I put "baby gift for Anna Maria" on my to do list, which is where it still sits, with no little satisfying line through it at all.

Two things, perhaps, that qualify as an excuse: One, she has babies more frequently than I do. But then again, that excuse is sort of canceled out by itself, since she found the time and made me a gift even though she has more babies than I do. Two, there's a bit of pressure to make her something really really beautiful. And useful. If you've been to Anna's home you already know that it doesn't have time for anything that isn't both. 

So Megan and I rifled through the files on the dvd in Heather Ross Prints and found a few small images that we could put on some useful things, like these kid's sized clothes hangers that we found on Amazon, and busted out the modge podge.





The artwork used for this project and the directions for how to decoupage can be found on PG 45 in Heather Ross PRINTS, which can be purchased here

The artwork used above: 1. Clothespin Dolls, 2. Shown in Playing With Horses, & 3. Ugly Ducking, Blue.