Friday, January 31, 2014

DIY: Chalkboard Art on Serving Trays

Have you ever seen the potential of a thrifted item, purchased it with intentions of doing something wonderful with it and let it sit for years and years and years? I have done this more times than I'd like to remember!!

I purchased this wood tray at least 20 years ago! Putting a coat of chalkboard paint on the bottom of this tray was the perfect way to cover the ugly newsprint transfer. I love how I can write out a word or holiday message on it now. What's most fun for me about it is that I don't leave it in a cabinet or above my refrigerator anymore. It's now part of my living room decor!!

 A great tip I learned from my daughter is that using pastel chalk instead of regular chalk gives you a brighter, bolder color for your chalk art. I picked up a box at Blick Art and love playing with all the colors!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

DIY: Branch Bouquets

I was asked by someone recently about how I bring the beauty of the garden into my home. Since I don't have the budget to buy a fresh bouquet of flowers each week and my flowering garden plants are in their quiet winter mode, that answer is not among my multiple choice options right now.

When nature is fully clothed in its blossoms and green leaf shrouds we can miss the architectural beauty of the trees and plants that we walk by every day. We have over a dozen mature trees on our property and they drop a lot of branches. I like to collect them, like a freshly picked bouquet, and arrange them in my favorite vases.

My most recent collection if from the sycamore tree outside my bedroom window. The fun thing about branches is that they can hold all sorts of ornaments year round! I've also been looking for a place to put the sweet little hummingbird nest I found in our redwood tree last year. Complete with three small egg-shaped moonstones it now has a home!

My sister Catherine sells the more adorable gift tag/ornaments in her etsy shop. When she sent me a bundle of them last month and my branch bouquet was the perfect place to display them. I actually just ordered some of her adorable valentine theme tags.

Branches.....that's one of the ways I bringing nature's beauty into my home. Perhaps it's time for you to go on a nature walk and gather a bouquet! I'd love to hear how you decorate them!

Monday, January 27, 2014

String Art Collaboration

When I found out that my son and daughter were collaborating on a creative project together my mama's heart was filled with joy! collaborative string art with

Scott is the co-founder of WOD Gear clothing company and a self-employed graphic designer. Heather is a profoundly talented photographer, creates amazing upcycled items for her etsy shop ~ Green Bug Marketplace, teaches 5th graders in a Pasadena-based after school program and has a passion for art and art history. string art window display with string art window display with collabrative string art display with string art window display. collaboration with

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rediscover the Magic of Everyday Beauty

Changes are in the air like a shifting in the wind. I started to realize it when I was the featured artist at Belle's Nest last Fall and I've been going with the promptings of my heart ever since.

I've been growing in confidence as an artist. With confidence comes courage. With courage comes the willingness to evolve and grow. With growth comes change. As I shift with the change from this season to the next I am finding new inspiration.

The watercolor charts were part of a painting exercise that I did several years ago. I added a layer of color in the square, let it dry and added a different color layer on top. It resulted in a grid of luminous colors that are mesmerizing to me.

I've been considering changing the look of my blog for several months. Alisa Burke's online class "the Art of Blogging" has been instrumental in the changes that you see here and those that are coming. I feel a kinship with Alisa in that I want to make all the changes myself rather than hire someone to do them for me. The process has been frustrating, eye-opening, challenging and gratifying!

One of my strengths (which can often be a stumbling block too) is my craving to learn. Learning takes time and I'm often impatient with the process. I just want an instant information download!

So last week I had another aha-moment. It reminded me of the day when some design ideas came together in my head and Mama Bleu Designs was born. Even though I love to learn new things, so much of what I draw inspiration from has been tugging at my heart for years. Yet again.....I am drawn to the simplest of things for a new idea. Those watercolor paint charts catch my eye everyday. There is something magical about those little squares of color all lined up in rows.

When we come across stunning beauty it can take our breath away and cause us to ponder. But....if it is part of our everyday life we tend to take it for granted. We no longer ponder. My hope for you is that you rediscover the magic of the everyday beauty!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Refurbishing Thrifted Furniture

You know how it is after the holiday - you take the decorations down and suddenly the living room looks empty and in need of a face lift! When it comes to decorating my home I usually put myself on a tight budget. I love it when home decor projects cost me little or nothing to put together.

Case in point, I went out to purchase a book last week and came home with two pieces of furniture that were put out on the curbside to take for free. I saw potential in them and got to work on refurbishing the dresser this past weekend.

I had two goals in mind as I started my project. I wanted to make it look good enough to replace an end table in my living room and I didn't want to purchase any supplies. With a garage shelf lined with painting supplies, a collection of leftover materials from other projects and a few of my husband's tools I knew that I could make it happen.

My first impulse was to put a coat of paint on the whole dresser but then I got to thinking that I should take the palm sander to it instead. I love the look of distressed furniture but this thing needed a more refined look than it had. And....this was so much simpler than painting it!!

I loved the way it was starting to shape up but the fake wood look of the table top needed some work. Using some charcoal grey and dark brown acrylic paint from my art supplies, I slightly mixed the colors with my brush to give it a variegated look. When the paint was dry I sanded the edges again.

After wiping the dresser down with a damp cloth the painted surface of the dresser looked dull. I remembered that I had some furniture wax left over from another project and once I applied a couple of coats of wax to the dresser it improved the look considerably!

With a couple of vintage glass knobs as drawer pulls (part of my collection of vintage odds and ends) this dresser, now acting as a side table in my living room, resembles something from a Restoration Hardware furniture catalog!! 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Etsy Science: Trends for 2014

When I opened my etsy shop in September of 2010 I didn't have much of a business plan. All I wanted to do was create art and sell it. As I networked with people on different teams, listened to my customers and watched the trends on both etsy and pinterest I gradually became more aware of what is going on in the marketplace.

I am not a fashion expert, nor am I in the know about the hottest home decor ideas, but through online resources I can have my finger on the pulse of upcoming trends. Why does this matter? It can help help you map out design decisions.

Did you know that Radiant Orchid is the pantone color of the year? A collection of colors are selected each year and several are highlighted for each season. When you are considering making some color changes to your product line, it's not necessary, but often helpful to refer to these palette of colors. I could see this coming with the number of requests for purple wedding clutches increasing throughout the year. I've decided to increase my choices of purple fabric this year but I'm also making sure that those who don't love purple have plenty to choose from too.

radiant orchid floral personalized clutch by mamableudesigns on etsy

 Along with color trends, there are style trends. I have found that Pinterest, with its continuous flow of beautiful photos, is a great resource in this area. I joined Pinterest a couple of years ago simply for personal reasons. I'm a collector of information & resources and I love beautiful I was hooked. Over the last year I started using it more strategically for my business. Watching bridal trends there helped me firm up my decision to introduce my black clutches!

personalized black clutch by mamableudesigns on etsy

I've signed up for Etsy's newletters and appreciate getting links to blog posts delivered to my inbox. Did you see the recent blog post about trends to watch for 2014? Good stuff!!

A quote from Etsy Admin in a recent Forum discussion states, "Etsy is an incredible launching pad from where the latest trends emerge". This means, even though there are lots of resources outside of Etsy.......Etsy itself is an amazing resource too.

If you want to invest in your business and its success, I encourage you to take the time to get connected to what your customers want. Who are leaders in the marketplace? Watch them and take clues from what they are doing!!

I'm a firm believer here at Mama Bleu Designs that I need to watch, listen and connect more with high profile people in the marketplace. I don't have the time to do all the research that they do. My intention is not to copy....but to be influenced. I take my own ideas, put them through the "trending" filter and create something new and fresh but still true to my esthetic.

I went into the Los Angeles fabric district with my daughter the day after New Years and told her about some new ideas I had and what fabrics I wanted to look at. When she asked the reason behind it I told's trending.... and I think it's a good fit for me. When I received the "trending report" from Etsy a few days later I was thrilled to see that my homework had proved me right again!!

I'm so excited about the things that are on my worktable right now. No sneak peeks yet but they are coming soon!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

DIY: Rustic Garden Tool Wreaths

Several years ago while out on a walk I noticed a "wreath" of garden tools hanging on a large side gate of a home just a few blocks from our neighborhood. I became intrigued by it and eventually went by to investigate how it was put together.

We had plenty of old, rusty, useless yard tools leaning in the corner of our garden shed so I went to work constructing my own garden tool wreath. It has hung outside my back door for at least 15 years and I always thought I'd like to make another.

After cleaning out our garden shed recently I found another collection of worn out, rusty tools and it was time to either toss them in the garbage or make another wreath or TWO!!

You will need 7 garden tools with long handles for the main part of your wreath. Worn out brooms, rakes with missing tines, rusty shovels and hoes. The vertical tool will stay it's original length but the others will be cut down. Lay them out on your driveway or sidewalk and figure out an arrangement that you like. Draw lines on the handles where they intersect so you know where to cut them.

Using a short section of 2x4 lumber cut to about 8-12" as the base,  arrange your tools and attach them with a couple of screws. To prevent the handles from splitting it is helpful to pre-drill the holes before screwing them in place.

Now the trick is to arrange all sorts of small handled tools, old sprinklers, garden pots, etc to cover the 2x4 and create a center point for your wreath. Use lengths of old wire (it's going to get rusty in the weather anyway) and attach them as best you can. Don't worry about being fancy. It's all part of the rustic feel of it!