5 Spring Decorating Ideas For Your Living Space

Bouquet of rose flowers near window with curtain – Adding a few flowers can brighten up any room!

When spring rolls in, it’s time to lighten and brighten your home decor. Hopefully, you’ve had time to do some deep spring cleaning and now have all the possibilities spread out before you.

Can you imagine your home as a canvas? You are the artist that makes your space the cozy charmer it is and can be.

And now, as the earth renews itself, there is something in the riot of flowers and greenery that makes us want to put our living space through its own renewal, too.

Let’s look at a few ideas of what can be done to freshen up and beautify your home.

Artwork

Take a look at your walls. If they’re leaning towards darker, deeper colors you might consider rotating some of your artwork with the season. 

To draw from the powerful rejuvenation of spring and to be “so much sunshine to the square inch,” to quote Walt Whitman, bring Nature inside and slather it on your walls. 

Look over a room you want to change. Do you want a space that sings with color? Or do you want a room that makes you feel calm and peaceful with the softness of spring pastels? Perhaps it’s a touch of coastal beauty that you long for.

Expand your horizons and check out the appeal of some abstract nature artists. They bring the outside into your home. Some do so with more of the emotion of a natural setting rather than with the rigidity of realism.

Capital Reef Abstract by Tate Fairbanks

To get an idea of abstract nature paintings, check out new artist Tate Fairbanks at the TSC Gallery or the available collections at Saatchi Art

Small Changes with Color

If you’re up to painting a room or an accent wall, yes–that will dramatically change your living space and brighten your environment. Luxe paint company Farrow & Ball have an eco-friendly product and employ consultants to help you pick the right colors for your home. At the very least, their online galleries are a great place to get some inspiration.

However, if you don’t have the time or inclination for a painting project, add pops of color with new lampshades, pillows, and maybe a cheerfully painted cabinet.

Embroidered Cockatoo Lamp Shade by Anthropologie

Blush seems to be the choice of the current season. We’re seeing a lot of layering with different shades of this soft color. Our blushy rosefinch is a perfect neutral pink to add that won’t clash with other hues, but be sure to check all of the pinks if you want to add this trend to your home.

However, just because this popular color is in vogue, doesn’t mean it’s right for you if it isn’t your style. Find some throws, table linens, and pillows in spring colors that thrill you!

Windows

Take down any heavy draperies and replace with lighter, brighter fabric. Perhaps replace with sheers, or really let the light in by letting your windows go nude in rooms where you don’t need more privacy at night. Especially if the windows or the views are particularly pretty.

Greenery

Flower cuttings are a gorgeous addition to any room. And, consider some permanent plant fixtures for your home, too. Green is the color of spring, and when it’s in our homes it tends to raise our contentment levels to blissful, new levels.

According to The Sill, “indoor plants don’t just look good – they can make us feel good, too. Studies have shown that indoor plants…

  • Boost your mood, productivity, concentration and creativity
  • Reduce your stress, fatigue, sore throats and colds
  • Help clean indoor air by absorbing toxins, increasing humidity & producing oxygen
  • Add life to a sterile space, give privacy and reduce noise levels
  • Are therapeutic to care for (it’s true when we say Plants Make People Happy)” 

Light Fixtures

Rather than lots of tiny changes, perhaps choose one big one. Update a light fixture in your home with something that’s a bit of a show off. You could look at fixtures made from a lighter material or pick pendant lights made with colored glass, like these modern Nordic fixtures from Lampswell.

We’d love to see your design choices. Send pictures of your favorite spring changes. Good luck!

The Art of Spring Tablescaping

Photo by: Claudia Reese

The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also. ~ Harriet Ann Jacobs

Spring sometimes comes with a shock of hope.

When winter lasts and lingers, sometimes we forget there is even such a thing as spring. We know, of course, the season exists–intellectually speaking. But sometimes our hearts forget.

When spring comes, it brings in all kinds and colors of joy. It’s reflected in the art we create, the food we make, and the way we add its life and hues to our homes–which is an art form all on its own.

Maybe we remember how much our grandmother loved lilacs, and we may stop and appreciate their beauty in her honor and bring in cuttings for the table.

Because the spring of the now ties into the seasons of the past, and it makes us happy to incorporate the memories of the bygone years. So if it isn’t spring for you until your garden is covered in poppies, then bring on the poppies!

And take your own sacred version of the season and bring it to your table for a gorgeous, personal space. 

Here are some of our favorite tips.

Florals

Flowers aren’t everything when it comes to spring tablescaping, but it’s they’re certainly a great place to start.

When you pick the color scheme of your floral design, then you know what you need to do to tie in the rest of the table. Many people choose tableware that’s neutral and then use napkins to mirror the natural colors of the centerpiece.

Consider choosing long, lower containers for the flower so your guests can still see each other. Or, you could use multiple smaller vases filled with loose bouquets and spaced in between the sightline.

Also, make sure the table isn’t so crowded that your friends can’t eat comfortably. If the plates are crowded, you may have overdone it and need to pull back on fashion in favor of function.

A Decorative Gift

A lovely touch for your guests is to place a small offering on their plate. 

You can use a rustic or silvery charger topped with a large plate and then a smaller one on top, which is often the layered plating chosen for spring, and then add a small decorative present for your guests on the smallest plate. 

For instance, you could place a pretty woven nest on each place setting filled with a trio of foil-wrapped or other egg-shaped treats. Or, place a large chocolate egg in an egg cup. You can also use the nest or cup as a placeholder, adding a pretty, personalized paper nameplate.

A container with a small bouquet at each place is a beautiful touch. You could also choose a living plant, turning your table into a ”host of golden daffodils” or another profusion of blooms that your guests can take home with them.

Go Local and In Season

What does spring look like where you live? The happiest blossoms in your region can often be the best choice for your tablescape. But don’t be limited by flowers; a centerpiece of greens can be transported on its own. Also, local fruit can be incorporated into your design. 

Shop your local farmers market with an eye to tablescaping. You might find some excellent ideas you’d never considered.

If using fruit, make sure they’re clean in case your guests want to eat those beautiful grapes, peaches–or whatever you’ve chosen–for their dessert.

Glassware

Laura Remmert, the owner of Laura Remmert Events, states that “adding a pop of color with your glassware is both a playful and elegant addition to any spring tablescape. A fun twist on classic black and white—the green accent glass brings a colorful touch to … tabletop design perfectly tying in the natural green in the flowers.” 

Photo by: Claudia ReeCse

This seems to work particularly well if you’re using white or pale blossoms for your spring tablescape. 

Extend Your Tablescape

Don’t leave your design all clumped together in the middle of the table. Extend your creation with a natural table runner such as greens or a collection of thin branches. You can also use a tablecloth folded lengthwise into thirds. In this case, we prefer organic cotton with natural dyes.

Also, a collection of small white, pastel, or silver candlesticks placed from the center of the table outwards will also extend your design. 

Happy hosting, friends! We hope you’re enjoying this spring season as much as we are.

7 Last-Minute Easy Holiday Gift Ideas

There are people in our lives who are a dream to shop for. There’s the aunt who is thrilled to receive the latest National Book Award winner or a pair of clunky, silver earrings, your nephew who is perfectly happy with a new t-shirt, and the cousin who collects teapots and can never get enough.

Then there are those that don’t have any identifiable hobby or interests. Or, if they do, you’d have to mortgage the house to buy anything they’d want. When we do our holiday shopping, we tend to procrastinate purchasing gifts for our difficult friends and family and buy easier presents first. I suppose we hope inspiration will strike as we browse.

When it doesn’t, then we’re in for a last-minute scramble to find the perfect gift for a perfectly difficult recipient.

Here are some suggestions.

Alpaca Socks

You know times have changed when your favorite gift under the tree is a pair of socks. With this silky-soft alpaca footwear, however, your change of heart from when you were a child is perfectly reasonable. 

The Nordic Star pattern is particularly lovely, and the striped socks are stylishly fun.

S’mores Kit

Especially wonderful for families, this stainless steel s’mores maker lets families have the fun of toasting marshmallows and sandwiching them in a gooey chocolate and graham cracker sandwich without having to brave the winter weather.

Earrings

The ever-popular Kendra Scott Earrings come in a variety of materials including onyx, mother of pearl, rose quartz and more. With the introduction of the Elle design, Kendra Scott stood out at the Bloomingdales’ jewelry counter and ensured a flurry of compliments from wearers.

The company also carries engravable, delicate bracelets and necklaces for your special someone. These graceful pieces have the on-trend daintiness that’s particularly sought after this year.

Bonus: Kendra Scott’s website states “We believe in a world in which all women and children live their brightest, healthiest, and most empowered lives.” In other words, a portion of your purchases is used to support programs to help women and children.

Tea of the Month

There are many companies out there who will send your giftee a monthly selection of fragrant and flavorful tea.

Plum Deluxe, for instance, hand blends their tea in small batches to ensure fresh flavor and aroma. They use organic, fair-trade sourced ingredients, and are committed to non-GMO, no corn, no soy, no gluten and no dairy products. Their Santa’s Blend of blueberry and cinnamon is only available in December.

Charge and Clean

The PhoneSoap Smartphone Sanitzer cleans your phone while it charges. 

PhoneSoap is happy to inform you that your phone is 18 times dirtier than a public restroom. Don’t click on their tutorial, it’s too disturbing. All you need to know is that your phone is crawling with bacteria; you don’t need to know any more details of how it got that way.

Perfect for a germaphobe–or for anyone, really–this device helps keep you free from the illnesses we can pick up when we’re out and about.

Future Travel Plans

For your wanderlusting relative, who is probably climbing the walls at this point of the pandemic, give them some hope for the times to come. This scratch-off map allows them to remove the exciting gold film covering the countries of the world. They can scratch off where they’ve already been and plan for the future when they’ll be off to foreign climes to hear the chatter of foreign tongues.

Hand Block-Printed Scarf

Many of our customers may be unaware of all of our products. Besides table and kitchen linens, we also carry scarves.

Handcrafted and made out of 100% natural mill-made voile cotton, our women’s scarves are lightweight and semi-sheer. They are comfortable for all-day wear during any season and in any climate. Available in elegantly modern prints and colors, our cotton scarves are 46” x 78”. This larger size makes for easy wrapping and draping, so you can wear one as a wrap or a scarf.

Happy holidays!

3 Holiday Tablescaping Elements That Use Glass Etching

Setting a beautiful table where friends and family can gather is a gift. 

During the holidays, this gift becomes profoundly beautiful, turning our special moments into memorable events. The food, the setting and the company are all particularly important. 

A simple way to take an elegant table and turn it into a work of art is to align your setting with the season. It doesn’t take much effort to reflect the winter wonderland that’s all around us in the colder months. Add a little shimmer and shine, candles and maybe a few rustic elements to mirror a woodsy winter scene, such as pine cones and perhaps a garland.

Our tablecloths in pewter would be perfect for a frosty table setting, or one in linnet green if you want a background with an evergreen vibe.

One crafty way to personalize a holiday table has been around for years, with the modern version starting in the 1800s. It’s the art of etching and it’s particularly well-suited for entertaining during special occasions, and it’s easier than you think. 

How it Works

Etching allows you to alter glass surfaces to create your own designs. You’re creating art on the surface of glass by applying abrasive substances. The removal of glass causes the rough surface and translucent quality of frosted glass.

Basically, you take a sheet of vinyl with an adhesive back, sketch your design and cut it out. You then keep the sheet with the negative space, peel off the adhesive and stick it to the glass surface. Apply etching cream, available at craft stores, and allow it to set for several minutes.

Wipe away the cream, wash it off, and you have a new frosted glass design.

But be aware that etched glass is permanent! Also, don’t include the children in this process. The caustic nature of etching cream limits the possibility of making this a family project.

Here are a few ways to use the method for your tablescaping.

1.Personalized Goblets

What makes this accent fun is each guest gets their own goblet with their name frosted onto the glass. Use plain goblets, nothing with too much scrollwork or design elements already in play. 

With lettering, you’ll probably want to choose some vinyl stencils with an appropriate font, unless you have excellent penmanship and the ability to cut out tiny details with perfect accuracy. Cursive lettering is especially nice for a special occasion.

Of course, the personalized goblet’s main function is as an elegant place card, without taking up any extra space on your table. But the personalization will also allow your guests to mingle without becoming confused over which drink is theirs. The goblets will also make the members of your party feel like an important part of the night’s festivities since you took the time to etch their names into the place settings.

Don’t be tempted to alter your great-grandmother’s crystal goblets or anything that has a special place in your heart or family traditions. 

Pick up an inexpensive set from a chain store and you won’t regret your arts and craft moment.

2.Other Placeholders

If you don’t love the idea of goblets as a placeholder, you can also pick up a pack of small oval or round mirrors at a craft store that you can etch for your guests and will catch the light nicely on your table. Or, a personal favorite, order and etch some glass ornaments that also serve as a present for each of your guests. For example, a star or a glass reindeer ornament placed artistically near each place setting adds a lovely touch and is a meaningful memento of the evening.

3.Centerpiece

There is nothing quite like candlelight to bring a magical glow to a dinner party. The soft romantic light brings a traditional warmth to your gathering and reflects off of your glassware, filling the creative space like starlight.

You can double the effect with a mirror or similar reflective surface under the candles, like a wintry, frozen lake. You can also mark the importance of the occasion by etching your own design around the edge, and perhaps including the date and family name. 

Instead of a surface for candles, you could choose a glass container for flowers, Christmas crackers, Christmas pudding or other holiday fare. If you have a family crest, by all means, etch away. Use your imagination and your artistry.

Happy Holidays!

Artist Spotlight: Erin Fitzpatrick

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Erin Fitzpatrick’s portraits are lush and full of color.  I LOVE everything about them – the colors, the patterns, the energy.  When looking in her subject’s soulful eyes it’s almost as if they are speaking directly to you.

Erin is a Baltimore native and graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art.  She started painting portraits in 2008 and has a significant body of work.  I am delighted I was able to ask Erin a few questions about her inspiration and process to share with you here.  Enjoy!

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  1. When did you first get interested in painting?
    I have been interested in making images since I was young, 5 years old or so. I developed my skills in high school and art school, but I didn’t really start painting until about 12 years ago. Before that, I was mostly drawing. Now I paint almost every day.

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  2. How did you settle on portraiture and painting icons?  How do you decide on subject matter?I’ve always been interested in making portraits because there is an unlimited supply of subject matter.  People are so interesting and I love meeting new people whenever possible. I can paint a portrait that aims to show the soul of the subject, or I can use a model to create a character. The icons are more for fun. I only sell those paintings once in a while because they are painted from found images. One day I hope to be at the level where I’m meeting these people and photographing them myself.  I have been thinking about creating limited edition boxes that include an icon painting and other handmade items, but that concept is still in the works.

    As far as choosing my subjects, these days the majority of my paintings are by commission, so the subjects are clients. When I choose someone for a personal work, I usually have some kind of mood board for the painting and I seek out friends or people on social media to model. As far as the icons I’ve chosen to paint, sometimes I select them based on a striking image and sometimes because I’m a fan. When I painted Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg, it was because I was possibly going to have the chance to meet Martha and I wanted to give her something cool (I did meet her and give her the painting!)

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  3. You use lush colors and often have gorgeous patterns in your paintings.  Have you always been attracted to colors and patterns?It’s funny. I took more classes in the fibers department than I did painting in art school. I took 4 semesters of weaving, not to mention several other classes in the department versus only two painting classes. I learned to dye and create textiles and studied textile design from many different cultures. At some point I asked myself, if you love this type of imagery, why aren’t you painting it? After that, pattern and color became an integral part of my work.

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  4. As someone who loves colors and patterns myself (August Table is all about patterns!), how do you decide which pattern to use in a painting and where do you get your inspiration?When I work with a client, I ask them about color scheme (what will look awesome in their homes) and then I make a digital collage with ideas for their patterns. We work together to select what will look best in their custom portrait. When I make my own work, I build a small set for my model to pose in. The “wallpapers” are either textiles that I’ve hung or paper that I’ve hand painted. In my last large work, I spent 20 hours hand painting a wallpaper for the photo shoot. It’s kind of tropical and was inspired by a trip to Cuba.

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  5. What is something fun about you that no one knows?I’ve always been a traveler. As soon as I was old enough to go somewhere on my own (17 yrs) I started exploring the country. I did two summers of Dead tour and had many adventures (and misadventures…like unknowingly spending the night with a cult in Nashville). I also got stranded in Mississippi once (22yrs) and lived in The Ole Miss Motel for a month. I still have this sense of adventure.

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Hi! I’m Erin. I decided to get rid of the stuffy third person bio and just tell you a little about myself. I’ve been painting (mostly) portraits since 2008 and now have collectors around the world. I create artworks of my own design as well as custom paintings by commission. This is my full-time job and I am currently booked for over a year (my clients are awesome).

I’ve painted a mural for Senator Kamala Harris and Martha Stewart owns one of my paintings! Oh yeah, so does Ringo Starr…like of The Beatles! How wild is that?

I love textiles, plants, patterns and interior design, and these themes often make it into my oil paintings. For my personal work, I actually build a set for the photo shoot to create a reference image, often handcrafting the items like rugs and wallpaper.

Summertime and travel are my favorite things, so you’ll catch me enjoying one of the two if I’m not painting my fingers off in my studio. The best place to check out my latest work is on my Instagram @fitzbomb

Artist Spotlight: Lisa Krannichfeld

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Lisa Krannichfeld first caught my eye on instagram.  I’m not sure how I stumbled across her work but I was captivated from the moment I saw one of her paintings.  The boldness of color, the prints, patterns, and the electricity I felt coming off the subjects.  I simply fell in love with each piece.   Lisa’s recent bodies of work: Undomesticated Interiors and Girls and Guise are rebelling against the traditional portrayal of women of the 17th – 19th centuries as demure, decorative objects, belonging to their husbands or fathers and seeks to retell the female narrative.

Lisa’s website states “Girls and Guise references a play on words. In this context guise references both the facade created by men of the female gender, and the heavy emphasis of the patterned clothing in the pieces. Their clothes, or guises, are infused with feral and aggressive animals, a symbolic rebellion against the historical domesticated depiction of women.  The jarring, faceless compositions represent any and all women who desire to define their own perspective and create their own narratives. Intentional hand gestures hint at conviction.”

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I had the opportunity to ask Lisa a few questions and share her answers below.

1.  I understand you grew up in the south, in Little Rock, AK. At what age did you first discover you loved to create art and paint? 

Honestly, there never was a time that I remember where I wasn’t obsessed with art and creating. I remember in elementary school art class being the most magical, fun place (until our state cut out art classes from the curriculum, sadly). It was always a part of my life, however, I didn’t really commit to it being part of my professional life until my senior year in college.
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2.  Your current body of work is focused on women with deep meaning and purpose behind your intent, refuting historical portraiture of women.  Can you share a bit about this?  How did this body of work evolve?

The work first started with portraits of women done in a headshot style. I found painting honest facial expressions more interesting than just pretty faces, so I would paint anxious faces, angry faces, confused faces, defiant faces. This led to painting women in general in a more honest way, void of just physical beauty and sexual appeal.  I started expanding my compositions to the entire figure and the figure within interior spaces.
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3.  You describe your work as loose expressive portraiture and use lush colors with many patterns and prints in the mix.  What drew you to including prints in your paintings and is there meaning behind them?

There are a few reasons why I include prints and patterns in my work. I love how the order of the patterns and prints juxtapositions itself with the chaotic style of the painted areas. I like to think of it as a metaphor for all the states a woman can be in.  Women have to juggle so many roles and be mindful of so much at any one moment that it makes sense to compose them of so many different materials in my paintings. I also use a lot of patterns that have flora and fauna as a part of the prints so there’s a bit of hidden wildness to the overall experience of the painting which I think is also a metaphor for women.

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4.  What is something fun you can share about yourself that no one knows?

I love a good creaturey sci-fi thriller. I am obsessed with french pastries. I can’t whistle. I tie my shoes bunny-ears style, which apparently no one else does.

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Lisa’s work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and publications nationally and internationally including shows across the United States, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Most recently her work was chosen as the grand award winner in the 2018 60th Annual Delta Exhibition. In 2017 she won the grand award at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center Juried Exhibition, and Best in Show at the 2017 Magic City Art Connection Art Fair in Birmingham, AL.

She has had work featured in numerous worldwide publications, was the face of Saatchi Art’s Spring 2019 “Refuse to be the Muse” campaign, and has had work featured in Anthropologie. Her work is included in several private and corporate collections throughout her home state of Arkansas as well as in collections around the world.

She is currently represented by M2 Gallery in Little Rock, AR, Fort Works Art in Fort Worth, TX, and Saatchi Art with shipping worldwide.

 

 

On the table

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Each season brings with it an abundance of varied flora, fruits, vegetables and natural elements that can all be used to decorate your table.  During the fall and winter months I like to incorporate a mixture of flowers, gourds, pine cones, branches and more.  I’ve pulled together a collection of images here to hopefully inspire you and your table.

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Unexpected Arrangement by Better Homes and Gardens

Layering colors and textures make your table more vibrant.

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Simple fresh herbs, fragrant and lush, are always a favorite of mine year round.

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Fresh Herbs by Better Homes and Gardens

I love the purple cabbage in this centerpiece.

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Look to the Veggie Aisle by Better Homes and Gardens

An edible centerpiece is always a hit.

Holiday Mason Jar Crafts

Edible Centerpiece by Better Homes and Gardens

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White Pumpkin Centerpiece by Better Homes and Gardens

Seedpod centerpiece

Dried Flowers by Better Homes and Gardens

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A Green Garland by Better Homes and Gardens

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Gather – Flowers for your table

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Wildflowers collected from our fields in White Stone, VA

I firmly believe that when you gather friends and family at the table you should always have fresh flowers there too.  They elevate the experience and can be done simply and inexpensively from gathering wildflowers in various shapes and sizes to pulling together one flower, in one color, to make a statement.

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Wildflower arrangement by Jamie Campbell for Decoratop

You can pick one vase to fill for a center arrangement or find various jars, cups and vases in varying sizes to place organically around the table and house.

When I have a special event, dinner or meal and want that extra help I love collaborating with a florist in order to get more unique flowers than are readily available in the yard or at the local market.

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Photo by Will Hawkins / Flowers by The Wild Bunch

It’s also fun to add in fruit and vegetables as part of the table decor.

Think about what season you are in and pull from what is growing at that time.  Lilacs are my favorite flowers and I love to fill vases of them in the spring all over the house for their soft color and lush scent.

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Mason Jar Vase and Lilacs by Country Living 

If you have a large group, it’s fun to have flowers run down the entire table so that everyone gets to enjoy them like I did last summer for a large family gathering in the photo below.  I worked with Cindy at The Wild Bunch in Kilmarnock, VA.  She does amazing work.

If you do not have a garden or yard to pull from, visit your local market or grocery store.  When in Boston, I love what Trader Joe’s keeps in store year round and look for groupings of one type of flower to mix and match colors as opposed to the prearranged bouquets.  Another favorite – peonies…

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Peonies / Photo by Amber Lilyestrom

When creating your own arrangements, you must strip the stems of all leaves for the part that will be below the water line.  This slows up any bacteria growth and keeps the water clean longer.  I like the flowers to be cut shorter in the vase, so that the flowers are poised just above the top of the vase and often tie the vase or jar with twine or a ribbon.  Cut each flower individually to fit your vase in order to have various heights and place them loosely for the look you want.

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Flowers by The Wild Bunch

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Our Climate Crisis and a Sustainability Journey

Yesterday hundreds of thousands of students from 1,600 cities around the globe walked out of school to protest the climate crisis.

The “School Strike for Climate” movement was started by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager who, at 15, started her strike last August in Stockholm outside of the country’s Parliament.   Greta’s passion and singular action has sparked an international climate movement.  Yesterday’s strike was the most recent organized event following on the heels of a strike on March 15th which brought over 1.6 million folks out to demonstrate from 133 countries around the world.  It is expected that yesterday’s turnout surpassed those numbers…

In light of this, I thought today was a good day to share a recent conversation and interview I had with Charlie Szoradi, someone who has committed his entire life to sustainability.  His passion and interest in sustainability was first sparked in 1979 at 13 when he waited in the gas lines to fuel their family car, and he started thinking about alternative transportation. For his science fair project that year, Charlie, with two of his friends, built Omega Boat of the Future and won the Science Fair Popular Prize, which set him on the path that fueled his passion for a career in sustainability.

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Charlie is an architect, inventor, author, entrepreneur and CEO of independence LED Lighting.  He is committed to energy-saving solutions and global cost-effective sustainability.  Charlie’s book “Learn From Looking – how observation Inspires Innovation” was published in 2017 and it covers over 20 years of travel insights and drawings from around the world on 400 pages with 200 sketches.  The book focuses on actionable intelligence for innovation, sustainable design and critical thinking.  The drawings herewith are Charlie’s, taken from the book.  Charlie studied architecture at the University of Virginia where he first became friends with Krister over 30 years ago.   This is the first of several posts that I will share about Charlie and his work that focus on the ecosystem of sustainability.

I share snippets of our conversation below.

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CA: My blog August Ardor is about passion and sharing stories about people’s passions to inspire others.  I often encourage people in my writing to slow down and pursue things they love, to reflect on what’s important, and live in the moment.  I love how in your book “Learn from Looking – how observation Inspires Innovation” you talk about taking an “observational pause” – the change in tempo lets us look closer at certain things that we may otherwise take for granted and this can inspire innovation and learning.

 Is Sustainability your main passion and are your initiatives outgrowths of this – the book, founding the LED lighting company, Future Food films, the online resource Green and Save….?

CS: Yes, sustainability in the purest sense is to think beyond the immediate element that you might be impacting.  If you buy a water bottle from the vending machine you need to think about where the bottle will end up.  Thinking in this way impacts everything –  lighting, air conditioning, algorithms and architecture – how you design your home.  Thinking about the purchases you make is a vote – you vote with your dollars.  If your purchase can be functional for you and have an aesthetic that you like, but also fit into the context of the community, not just you personally, you can make the greatest impact.

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 CA: Can you tell me more about your passion for sustainability, what you do and why?

CS: Voltaire wrote in Candid (1759) that, “we must take care of our garden.” I am passionate about improving the world through micro actions that lead to macro change. You can lead by example in the decisions that you make to cultivate your own “garden,” and others will see those actions and perhaps emulate some aspect of them. I live in a solar house, ride my bike wherever possible, work for a company that focuses on energy-saving lighting, travel the world to continually learn more, and share insights on sustainability from my work and travels with anyone that may care to listen and engage.

 

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CA: How do you define “sustainability”?

CS: For me, sustainability is the concept of stewardship with an understanding of the actions and reactions that are part of an integrated eco-system. I don’t see sustainability as an obligation but as an opportunity to explore lifecycle costs and find lifecycle benefits. Sustainability is a wholistic approach to long-term thinking focused on the most cost-effective means to use resources and clean technology to achieve desirable results for the individual and the collective.

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CA: Who inspires you with their work in sustainability?

CS:  Two architects inspire me. Kinya Maruyama is a Japanese architect, who was one of my Master’s degree professors at the University of Pennsylvania. Kinya hired me to work with him in his Tokyo studio and served as my mentor. William McDonough is an American designer, advisor, author, and thought leader. Both of them have dedicated their careers to sustainability.

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CA: The term “sustainability” is being used more and more in the market place and investment community.  Any thoughts on this?

CS: The market has started to catch the “green” wave, and in many cases, corporations have increased their attention on sustainability initiatives. The positive eco-trend increases demand for cost-effective solutions, which in turn attract investment dollars and opportunities. The key to sustainability success is to look at the bottom line with ROI and clean-tech job growth as bookends to a myriad of performance metrics.

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CA: Please elaborate on what you do to support your work and ideas in your book, Learn From Looking?

CS: I pause to observe and think carefully about the impact of each of my actions. In my daily life, I think of my environmental carbon “footprint” as if it were the footprint of everyone else. This approach extends from what I eat to how I can meaningfully share information with others.

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CA: Please tell us about other trends you are seeing in sustainability – like Microgreens…

CS: Microgreens are a great example of a new generation of eco-friendly smart food. Direct Current (DC) microgrids along with light-emitting diodes and energy-smart houses are other examples of trends that will become increasingly part of the fabric of our clean-technology landscape.

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CA: What do you see as the biggest challenges or barriers to the ‘field of’ sustainability?

CS: One of the sustainability challenges is the perception that “green” is a politically liberal cause that requires subsidies rather than an economic driver that can create jobs. Sustainability and economic prosperity are not mutually exclusive.

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CA: What would you tell the next generation about the field of study of sustainability and its integration into actions?

CS: I speak at many schools in addition to conferences and other events, and I tell people young and old that we are individual spokes on a wheel. The wheel rolls on because of our interconnectivity to each other and to the living fauna and flora. The word eco-system has “system” in it, and we should not forget that we are part of a greater system.

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CA: If you would have us leave here today with one core idea and one actionable step for us to take related to it, what would that be?

CS:  Think of each purchase of a product or service, no matter how large or small, as an “eco-smart vote.” A cheeseburger requires over 600 gallons of water to produce, given the water needed to grow the food for the cow. The cap on a single use plastic water bottle may end up adding to the massive plastic waste in our oceans. You can think about the lifecycle impact of what you do and vote with your wallet to embrace environmental stewardship from a salad to a re-usable drinking container. One action to retain: Pause before you purchase.

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Charlie Szoradi is an architect, inventor, and the CEO of Independence LED Lighting. He is passionate about cost-effective sustainability and is a sought after speaker. As an entrepreneur, Charlie has pioneered groundbreaking new energy intelligent products and services. He graduated from the University of Virginia and earned his master’s from the University of Pennsylvania. Charlie has authored numerous articles, op-eds and the biography of Leon Battista Alberti for the Encyclopedia of Architecture. He lives with his family in a solar home that he designed outside of Philadelphia.

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Passion Prints

I have spent much of 2019 thus far looking inwards and reflecting on what’s important in life, what’s important to me, focusing on my daily rituals, which ground me and give me a cadence I crave, so that I can be true to my authentic self and show up every day full of love and inspiration in all that I do.  (At least that’s my goal…of course we all have good days and bad…)

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August Table “Sequoia”“August”, and “Talelayo” block prints in Tern Gray

Following your bliss and passion are key to finding happiness, key to slowing down and embracing each moment.  Life is better when you slow down and pursue things you love.  One of my passions is Indian block-printed textiles.  Patterns made with wooden blocks, hand printed by skilled artisans, with natural dyes, derived from indigenous plants – indigo, turmeric, hibiscus, pomegranate and ochre.  Each print has imperfections that add beauty to the overall artistry.

While block printing was first developed in China roughly 4500 years ago, the practice of block printing is about 2000 years old and trade in cotton cloth is said to have existed between India and Babylon from Buddha’s time.   It was on the Indian subcontinent where hand-block fabric reached its highest visual expression.

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Photographs by Mehera Shaw

In home workshops scattered throughout India, you can still find chippas, a caste of printers who continue day after day to stamp lengths of cotton fabric with color using hand-carved wood blocks. They were taught this trade by their parents, who were, in turn, taught by theirs — each generation working almost exactly as the one before, going back at least 300 years.  They are truly skilled artisans.  The recipes for the plant-based dyes are developed within the families and kept alive for generations. The colors are dependent on the quality of the plants, the water and skill and knowledge of the printing masters.

Last year Krister and I worked with an amazing team in a little factory in India to design our own block-printed textile patterns for linen napkins and tablecloths – and August Table was born.  August Table and our block print designs bring together so many passions for me.  Passion for connecting with loved ones over a meal, passion for baking and cooking, passion for entertaining, and a passion for trying to inspire others to find joy in the same.  I also realize I have a love for styling photographs with our textiles, slowing down in the present to capture a moment of our daily lives.

Additionally, we get great pleasure in knowing through the production of our textiles we are providing a source of income to many village families in an environmentally positive approach with mill made cotton and natural dyes.  Using cloth napkins is good for the environment while also bringing a touch of boho elegance to your meal, and the linens get softer and better with each use as they age. A few of my favorite shots from 2018 with our textiles are below –  a visual diary of quiet, caught moments, special moments, celebrations and more.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Transitions

I love the cool, crisp Fall in New England.  The cooler days, the changing leaves, the dark evenings, all make me want to curl up around a fire and have meaningful conversations with my friends and loved ones.  This season always makes me pause and think about the year ahead – as it feels like a beginning with the kids back to school, and I start planning out the festive holidays to come.

The fall has so much bounty that inspires me: gorgeous dahlias, zinnias, cosmos, leaves turning their golden hues, apples heavy on the limb – ready for picking, pumpkins and gourds of all shapes and sizes.

All of this quietly stirs up anticipation within in me… thinking about what is to come, what I can create and make, bringing friends together.

As the season quietly transitions from Summer to Fall with the days getting shorter and cooler, this site is also quietly transitioning.  August Ardor remains all about passion.  I still welcome guest posts, written by my insanely talented friends, whenever they feel moved to share anything about their passions; however, I want to bring some focus to my efforts, which can be wrapped up around a table.

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I have always loved gathering people together, planning delicious meals, flipping through cookbooks (another deep passion of mine) and setting a fun and inspiring table.  I know my love for this grew out of spending summers with my Grandmother Corinne Earle every summer in the country, down on the Chesapeake Bay in Lancaster County, Virginia.  She was the ultimate southern hostess and taught me to garden, make jam, set a table, make biscuits, steam crabs, plan a party and more.

Beautiful design, in every form from architecture, to interiors, to painting, to setting a table all inspire me.  I want to focus on these topics – entertaining tips and tricks, recipes, inspirational thoughts, mindfulness, healthy living, and beautiful design.  Krister will share his passions and architecture.

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Today as the blog takes it’s new focus, Krister and I are launching my long-time dream of August Table, an online store with handmade block print linens that we have designed and had made in India, along with curated products that we love –  to help inspire you to be the baker, the cook, the entertainer, the designer and the gardener.  All things that I am deeply passionate about.

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Helping inspire others around the table is a passion project.  If you gather in the kitchen, around the table, on a picnic blanket, you are hopefully with people you love and care about and have healthy delicious food, which can be very simple and fresh – not a huge ordeal.  The main goal is to make connections.  Slow down.  Savor each moment and every bite. Relax and Enjoy.  A common thread I always talk about is slowing down and unplugging.  Perhaps it’s because I too get easily caught up in email, busy life, my wonderful job in corporate innovation, trying to pack in too much all the time.

I long for quiet days filled with beauty and slowness, which can take many forms.  Making time for creation, things that inspire me, including writing this blog, help me find my quiet days of beauty.

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I’ll close with this quote by author and poet Victoria Erickson:

If you inherently long for something, become it first.  If you want gardens, become the gardener.  If you want love, embody love.  If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation.  If you want peace, exude calmness.  If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint.  If you want to be valued, respect your own time.  If you want to live ecstatically, find the ecstasy within yourself.

This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Stefan Barton – Notebook

At one point, when there were too many things to keep track of, I started to carry a notebook with me at all times: A kind of external, analog and, as I first thought, static second brain.

Observations

Barton, Stefan. Observations of the three-eyed. Drawing.

In there (I am at least at book # 10 now) is an unruly mixture of dates, appointments, locations, lists, contacts, errants, links, random thoughts, acute ideas, etc.

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Barton, Stefan.  I should not have said anything. Drawing

This mess of words, numbers and other symbols experiences a treatment of crossing-outs, underlinings, grouping, linking (with arrows of a multitude of shapes) alterations, additions, subtractions, disintegration, annihilations (with wild force or with nice-looking spirals).

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Barton, Stefan.  Untitled. Drawing.

A current page is alive and morphing. It may become a rudimentary picture, with balance (or imbalance), impromptu composition, with it’s own energy and surprises out of nowhere, unintentional, emerging, self-organizing.

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Barton, Stefan. Garbler. Drawing.

In these erratic arrangements I may find new forms and connections I can work into the chaos.  Letters, words, scribbles and scrawls, lines and arrows become parts of figures, faces – literally embodiments. Eyes form spontaneously, placing themselves, looking back at me in concert with a variety of lively facial expressions, with pleas or disdain, with personality and maybe fate.

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Barton, Stefan. Prototypes. Drawing.

In the book my personal notes become a chaos-generator. And the resulting disorder I can turn into an aesthetic problem, and, if inspired, a solution in the process. Some of the images (and note, the book is not a sketch-book) are silly, some seem profound, some I turn extern into full-grown paintings.

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Barton, Stefan. Glint. Drawing.

The unplanned images cannot possibly be completely coincidental. They are based on meaningful thoughts, information, and the processing thereof manifesting through pen and pencil. It appears that they are more than the sum of their parts, even if they might in fact be less, depending on the value of the initial momentary notes, any resulting revelations, and finally on the quality of the emerging picture, on which I might have spent a good amount of time.

Barton, Stefan. Nicht Nichts (Not Nothing – as you can see these two word are almost identical in German, unfortunately not in English, but not a drama… ;-)).

The unwitting and somewhat automatic (when on the phone for example) playing with letters and numeration make me realize which lines and forms and circumstances I am drawn to.

Barton, Stefan. Random Number Service. Drawings.

Recently these preferences find their way into other, ‘higher’ forms of artistic expression like intentional drawings and, as mentioned, paintings. In fact, words have found their way into my newer paintings precisely because of the action that takes place in the note-book. The words are not there to be read, they are just part of the artistic language. A layer of intrigue, mysterious and uncomplete messages perhaps.

Barton, Stefan. At the very End of Infinity. Drawings.

For me an empty page or canvas is not an inspiration for artistic work – chaos is.

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Stefan Barton resides in a village near Hamburg, Germany, but he spent 20 Years in the US (San Francisco and Boston Area). He works on paintings, drawings and printmaking. To see more of his images contact Stefan (stefan.bartongmail.com ) visit  http://clex-werk.blogspot.de/  or look at a book:

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