“I Do As I Please”: The Paintings of Martha Rich

I don’t remember how I happened upon Martha Rich‘s work, but I am so glad that I did. Her paintings are bizarre and funny, thoughtful, unexpected, mysterious. Everything exists in a world of flat, bright colors, and snippets of conversation. Her work features rebellious talking animals, women with blank expressions or plastic smiles, speech bubbles abandoned and out of context. Rich wrote that she learned early on of “the absurdity of life and to laugh at it,” and that sense of humor comes through loud and clear in her work.

She is both a fine and commercial artist, and has also experimented with low-cost original works, from $20 post-it notes to a series of $100 original paintings. It’s refreshing to see an artist making her work so accessible, and embrace sharing quick, sketchy pieces, in addition to more complex works. She wrote in her artist statement of “insignificant moments that accumulate and become something significant.” The simple moments and one-off jokes in her paintings do just that– collect moments and objects that might otherwise be overlooked and turn them into something worth hanging on the wall.

More of Martha Rich’s work.


Pack It Up: How I Package Orders

I’m part of a creative small biz discussion group that was recently talking about freebies and packaging. It was so interesting to see what different makers send along with their orders, and the way that they package their goods. I know as a buyer, getting a package that’s put together in an interesting way is always so endearing. When you run a business online, clearly you don’t get the same opportunity to charm somebody as a brick and mortar storeowner can with a cute storefront or a friendly clerk behind the counter. But there is a different intimacy that can be created with an online order. Especially when ordering from a creative small business, you know that somebody put care into the item you purchased, and it’s likely that those same hands (or just a few others) packed your order up to ship, too. Opening up a great online order can, at best, be not all that different from opening up a birthday present.When I started out, I was dirt poor, and, since my studio was also my bedroom, space was at a premium. I didn’t have the option to order a bunch of different size Uline boxes, stock lots of fancy wrapping or invest in printed boxes. Even so, I knew that as important as it was to make great puppets, the presentation of the order was important, too.

For a long time I wrapped packaged in pieces of old dress pattern paper. It has the same qualities as tissue paper, but is an unexpected touch. Not to mention the stuff is cheap and plentiful at the thrift store, often totally unopened. And because my puppets can ship flat, I figured out early one that half-size manila envelopes were the perfect option for cheap and easy shipping. I can fit up to a few puppets in one envelope, and they’re small enough to still ship first class letter rate.

I’ll admit that manila envelopes aren’t the most interesting thing to look at, so over the year’s I’ve experimented with things to do to brighten them up. One of my favorites has been bright packing tape (I love the patterns that TapeSwell offers), as well as addresses written in bright colors, and my weakness– cute stamps!I always knew that there were great stamps out there in the world, but all my local postal branches seemed to carry were the most boring, ugly designs. (“Really, flags and Liberty Bells are still all you’ve got?”). I finally realized that though the branches don’t necessarily keep a great stock of stamps in-house, there is a nearly endless supply of interesting stamps designs to choose from through USPS online. These days I’ve been using a lot of Johnny Cash and the Miles Davis/Edith Piaf set, though the Modern Art in America set from a few years back is still one of my all-time favorites. They were huge and took up half the envelope, but what kind of a monster complains about a giant Georgia O’Keefe on their envelope?I have hand-written the address onto the front of nearly every order that I’ve shipped over the last 9 and a half years– close to 1700 addresses! We’re all sending and receiving less mail, and even less hand-written mail, so I giving my customer’s a chance to receive something in their mailbox that has a human touch. It’s fascinating to get up close and personal with exactly where the order will be going– another neighborhood here in Chicago, a far off country, strange street names, towns I’ve never heard of. One of my favorites is getting to send a puppet someplace that they “belong”– an Omar Little to Baltimore, a Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Washington, DC. I like to imagine that the item is going home : )

Mailing the last of my 2009 holiday orders. Note the envelopes are rocking some Simpsons stamps.

Though I do still hand-write each address, I did invest in a return address stamp a couple years back. Not because I minded writing that, too, but because it was something of a symbol for me. When we bought our house back in 2011, one of the things I most looked forward to was feeling settled enough to get something printed with my address. Through my twenties, I never lived in the same place for more than two years, so it felt momentous to put down roots. The return address stamp felt almost as official as the house-buying paperwork did. And, in addition to orders, it comes in pretty handy for things like thank you notes and holiday cards, too!Return Address Stamp

Check out Part 2 of the “Pack It Up” series.

Queer Icons

The last few weeks have been momentous– a mixture of triumph and tragedy, successes and setbacks. From Charleston to the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, singular moments of protest around the confederate flag and a movement that is far from finished, it’s a lot to sit with all at once. These types of ambiguities–loss, joy– are celebrated in Queer Icons, a series by photographer Gabriel García Román.Queer Icons features powerful portraits of queer activists of color transformed into religious icons. The photo collages borrowing Catholic symbolism, royal colors and jewel tones, hand-written poems and classical patterns, and exist as a critique and protest against art history– and history in general– that so rarely features voices or images from this community. And the results are stunning.queericons_1queericons_2See the full series on García Román’s website.

Via NPR.


DIY Plant Hangers

I’ll admit, I was a little slow to jump on the macrame hanging planter bandwagon that seems to be all the rage right now. To me, they spoke so loudly of the decor I considered outdated when I was a kid, it was hard to get past that.

That said, as a houseplant lover with mischievous preschooler and a dog who loves barking out the window, I have embraced getting the plants up as much as possible. Not to say that my hanging planter project isn’t still sitting next to me half done, but a girl can dream at least ; ) And to that effect, here are some of the best DIY hanging planters I’m currently dreaming about maybe actually completing.

 (Love the dip-dye in this one, but I do not condone spray painting your plants. That’s just stupid.)blog-3Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 11.05.54 PM

Punch Today in the Face

A few years back, I wrote about “Instant Comfort” pocket boxes meant to be carried on your person just in case you need a bit of extra support during the day. Along the lines of that one-the-stop positive affirmation, I love these motivational pocket mirrors from Nicola Rowlands. In a perfect world, we’d be taken just as seriously whether or not there’s a bit of spinach between our teeth, the world can be a fickle place. So if you’re pulling out a mirror to double check before heading into the big meeting, chances are a little affirmation will be welcomed. These mirrors deliver just the sort of “Go get ’em, tiger” we can all use, whether or not there is actually a bit of lunch still hanging out on our chin.

Pattern Security

I’ve grown to accept that there are things that were commonplace in my childhood that my son will never get. This is inevitable, of course– my mom talked about Howdy Doody, and I’ll tell Henry stories about MTV actually playing music (if he even knows what MTV is). But it occurs to me that with the small amount of paper snail that I still get, he’ll certainly receive even less, and maybe none at all, so he may never know the pleasure that is a lovely security envelope pattern. I coveted these as a kid whenever my mom left a particularly good specimen laying around after paying bills, and I remember trying to copy the patterns in ballpoint pen. Of course my lines were never as reliable, or as straight, but I always felt like these fascinating patterns deserved more.

This Flickr group was created to document and celebrate the art of the security envelope pattern, and for a weirdo like me, it’s a magical, nostalgic place. Finally the security pattern gets the attention it deserves.

Via Joseph King on Flickr.