My BYOB tour of Pittsburgh – that’s “B” for botany, birds, and bugs!

One Mission. Two Months. 12+ Paintings. Hundreds of new friends (with 2, 4, and 8+ legs). Thousands to thank.


Self-directed residencies are like cooking classes (stay with me) – they have a habit of leaving you exhausted, proud, and wanting to do more without always appreciating the work that everyone around you put in to make it possible.  Thank you to the organizations, businesses, friends, family and broader Pittsburgh community for making it possible for me.

For those playing a bit of catch up, my summer artist residency project was fairly simple: 1. Suffocate myself with birds, bugs, and botany, and 2. translate it each day into a pattern, print, or fine art work . I’m happy to report that both objectives were successfully met, plus loads of additional perks. Here are a few highlights:

1. Meeting scientists – Spending my days with ornithologists and entomologists selecting behind-the-scenes bird and insect specimens made for a huge boost in my creative output. Hearing these experts talk about their work and studying their collections flooded my brain with ideas for the paintings that lay ahead. And as word spread about my project, other scientists introduced themselves, which led to opportunities such as touring the amphibian and reptile collections at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Who knows, exotic frogs and reptiles might soon make an appearance in my work.


A tray of Red-legged Honey Creeper specimens at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.


Carnegie Museum of Natural History entomologist John Rawlins poses with a Brahmin Moth. He jokingly calls this his “mad scientist” face.


2. Lunching in good company – I didn’t think there would be such a response to the open invitation for people to come join me for lunch wherever I was painting on a given day. Yet, nearly everyday in July and August an artist, interior designer, retail shop owner, scientist, or just about anyone you can imagine accompanied me for my afternoon break to learn more about the residency.


I made all of my lunch dates pose for an obligatory photo, including these two – illustrators Molly Thompson and Gregg Valley.


3. Painting from floral arrangements made specifically for my artwork – Stephanie Kirby of Blue Daisy Floral Designs hosted me at her beautiful shop to paint her signature arrangements. She took my paintings-in-progress-patterns when I arrived and used them as the basis to create custom arrangements. It was such a fun collaboration! Another perk was installing enlarged prints of my artwork in Stephanie’s bridal consult room – check them out if you are in the area.


Stephanie Kirby’s floral handiwork and my painting of her bouquet. The painting is a work in progress.


Painting from fresh floral arrangements after installing my work in Stephanie’s bridal consult room.


4. Makin’ the news – Fortunately, this project garnered some media attention. I was interviewed on CBS’s Pittsburgh Today Live, and Alexandra Oliver wrote an article about my work for Pittsburgh Articulate.


On the set of Pittsburgh Today Live with host Brenda Waters.


5. Befriending budding artists and scientists – One thing I didn’t see coming was the fact that my residency schedule overlapped with peak summer camp season. Between the hours of 10am and 2pm-ish, I was regularly surrounded by swarms of curious elementary students.  Questions flowed like the juice boxes, but the sticky fingers were worth it because of the many endearing conversations I had similar to this synopsis of a chat with six year old Nora – Her: What are you doing? Me: Painting a moth. Her: That’s really good. Me: Thank you! Her: [long thoughtful pause] Do you want to be friends? Me: Of course!



6. Getting better at what I do. On my last day at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I decided to be a glutton for punishment and paint a Brahmin Moth. After an entire day of painting nothing but this single mind-numbingly detailed specimen, I sat back, looked at the fruits of my labor and thought, “I think it’s fair to say I’ve become a better painter.” Practice makes perfect.


A real Brahmin Moth specimen and my own painted version of it. The painting is a work in progress.


What’s next? There’s talk of a show of all of the finished paintings – stay tuned for details. In the meanwhile, mark these bigger events on your calendar where you can buy prints of my residency paintings, as well as scarves, pillows and other products printed with these works:


All 12 of the paintings from my residency together. Several are still works in progress.

If you’re hungry for more visual eye-candy from this project, I regularly posted photos from the project to my Instagram and Twitter accounts.

A marathon of painting birds, bugs and botany

Ashley Cecil painting flowers

Maybe you’ve seen my elusive Instagram or Facebook posts about my “top secret” summer project of 2015. If the suspense is killing you, don’t fret because this blog post is the grand project announcement.  The secret is that I’m partnering with Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the National Aviary, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and four Pittsburgh florists to undertake a self-directed artist residency during all of July and August. In plain English, that means I’ll be on-site for those two months at these seven organizations feverishly creating new paintings from their respective specimens, exhibits and floral arrangements.

"Blue Jays on Gray" painting with Blue Jay specimens

Why? Well, it’s twofold. Firstly, because I have a young child, I’m not a fit for most formal residency programs where an artist packs up to spend weeks or months of uninterrupted time producing new work at a purpose-specific facility (it turns out, people don’t like toddlers throwing tantrums nearby while they’re making art). Secondly, because I find painting my paintings and selling my paintings to be two full-time jobs, I need to find a ways to get myself in front of new audiences while not compromising on my production time. So, this residency is my solution to staying close to home while creating new work while also meeting new people equally interested in birds, bugs and botany.

Ashley Cecil with beetle specimen

I’ve spent six months planning the unique residency in coordination with over a dozen individuals at the seven institutions and businesses. After many emails, phone calls and meetings, we’ve ironed out a schedule for the public to watch me work. I’ll spend one day per week in my studio getting the paintings to the stage where I’m ready to paint the objects in the foreground (birds, insects and plants). On the following three days, I’ll work from live and taxidermied specimens of birds, insects and plants at the participating venues (admission fees apply at the three institutions). On top of the regular painting sessions, social events are scheduled at two florists for you to sip cocktails while enjoying the art and my fragrant floral subjects.

Like all things I plan, this schedule will likely change. So, get the latest updates on my whereabouts from day-to-day on social media (I’m on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook), or email me (ashley(at) I’ll also be using the hashtags #ashleycecil, #byobirds, #byobugs and #byobotany. Hmmm, this sort of feels like a spinoff of “Where’s Waldo” in the making.

Week 1
Wed, July 1 – National Aviary
Thurs, July 2 – Phipps

Week 2
Mon, July 6 – Studio
Tues, July 7 – CMNH (insects)

Week 3
Mon, July 13 – Studio
Tues, July 14 – CMNH (insects)
Wed, July 15 – National Aviary
Thurs, July 16 – Blue Daisy Floral: Painting followed by a happy hour from 5:30 – 7:30 PM. RSVP required.

Week 4
Mon, July 20 – Studio
Tues, July 21 – CMNH (insects)
Wed, July 22 – CMNH (birds)
Thurs, July 23 – Phipps

Week 5
Mon, July 27 – Studio
Tues, July 28 – CMNH (insects)
Wed, July 29 – National Aviary

Week 6
Mon, Aug 3 – Studio
Tues, Aug 4 – CMNH (insects)
Wed, Aug 5 – National Aviary
Thurs, Aug 6 – Phipps

Week 7
Wed, Aug 12 – CMNH (birds)
Thurs, Aug 13 – Cuttings Flower & Garden Market: Painting and open house with drinks and refreshments from 2- 6 PM. Event details are here.

Week 8
Mon, Aug 17 – Studio
Tues, Aug 18 – CMNH (insects)
Wed, Aug 19 – CMNH (birds)
Thurs, Aug 20 – Phipps

Week 9
Mon, Aug 24 – Studio
Tues, Aug 25 – CMNH (insects)
Wed, Aug 26 – National Aviary
Thurs, Aug 27 – 4121 Main

Come solo, bring a friend, bring your kids – all are welcome. And, since I do have to eat everyday, I would also love to get lunch with you at CMNH, Phipps or the Aviary. Let’s make a date!

Win a “maker date” with me to support art and technology youth programming

I’m back in the dating pool. Well, sort of. Let me back up…


If you follow me on the social intertubes, you’ve probably seen my posts about a series of workshops I’ve been teaching at Pittsburgh’s Assemble. The nonprofit “connects artists, technologists, and makers with curious adults and kids of all ages” through STEAM based programming (science, technology, engineering, art, and math).


The workshops I’m involved with have been specifically for middle school girls participating in the Girl’s Maker Night program. I’ve been guiding them through the process of taking their own artwork inspired by natural sciences and translating it into a repeatable pattern for surface design – ultimately using their pattern to create a silkscreened public art installation for this incredible space. Pretty fantastic, right?


Back to the part of this story about the date – As a result of facilitating the workshops, I was asked by Assemble’s executive director to participate in their annual fundraiser (this Saturday) as one of nine makers donating an experience to share our creative process with winning live auction bidders. The experience (as well as the fundraiser) is called a “maker date.”

What will my date entail you ask? We’ll take a behind-the-scenes tour of the ornithology and entomology collections at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Then we’ll head to my studio for a one-on-one pattern design tutorial (both digital and analog). Who knows, I might even have the resulting pattern printed on fabric for a pillow or tea towel. Oh yes, the pattern-making pressure it on!

The important part is that the funds raised by MakerDate support Assemble’s STEAM in-house programming, making them accessible for everyone. Their school year programs are FREE and their summer camp is FREE for kids who live in Garfield.

So, basically what I’m saying it that you should be there. You could be my date!

Click here for MakerDate tickets
Saturday, May 16th
6:30 PM to 11:00 PM
Teamsters Temple
4701 Butler Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201

Kentucky Derby party Pennsylvania style

My experience at last year’s Kentucky Derby set a very high standard for subsequent Derby celebrations. So when I endeavored host a 2015 party 400 miles from Louisville, Kentucky, I knew I had to pull out all the stops.

As luck would have it, my friend Regina Koetters both owns my favorite Pittsburgh brunch spot, Marty’s Market, and is also a former Louisvillian. Regina and I love to geek out on all things Derby, which over time blossomed into the idea to co-host a Derby party – I would create a new equine artwork to unveil, and Regina would prepare the southern-inspired food. That of course left one critically important element unresolved – who would provide the booze, and more specifically, the mint juleps. The solution was literally a stone’s throw away at Wigle Whiskey. Not only did Wigle craft a mint julep with their spirits, they hosted the full blown southern soiree for over 120 guests at their barrel house on Pittsburgh’s Northside.


Wait, it gets better. One of the highlights for me was collaborating with Pittsburgh milliner Gina Mazzotta on my hat. I gave Gina (pictured above on the left) a yard of my own custom fabric and she worked her magic. The result was a fantastic creation of bold and very vertical awesomeness. My head had never felt so special.


I was pleasantly surprised at how well “Derby attire” translated this far from Kentucky. As illustrated by my friend Jeff’s outfit above, people dressed to impress with full-on seersucker suits, bow-ties, and hats so large air kisses prevailed over hugs to prevent headgear entanglement. Indeed, the competition was stiff for our best-dressed award, which was judged by Kiya Tomlin of Uptown Sweats.

A great perk of throwing such a fashion-forward party was piquing media interest. JoAnne Harrop of the Trib Review wrote a lovely article about our event detailing the many collaborations among local women entrepreneurs and even a fascinating snippet about the origins of whiskey actually being in Pennsylvania. Although not fashion related, Wigle also got a TV spotlight on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live to share the secrets to making a mint julep like a boss.


Ok, one more shot a super impressive hat – this one above was worn by Kate Stoltzfus of Propelle (a network of women entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh). Kate’s hat was the handiwork of Thommy Conroy of 4121 Main. Stunning, right?


And last but not least, I finished possibly my best painting yet for this party, titled “See Hue Later.” The original is a 24″x36″ acrylic and oil painting on board. Painstaking detail is apparently becoming my thing, which was no exception with this piece. I guess all of those grade school report cards stating something along the lines of, “draws horses during algebra” paid off. For the horse and/or Derby enthusiasts, I made an 18″x24″ limited print edition of this painting, which is available here.

And just like that, another Derby has passed. I’m already onto the next several events, including a special Mother’s Day edition of Pittsburgh’s Neighborhood Flea on Sunday, where I’ll be selling my artwork and textile products at Wigle Whiskey. Come say hello and tell me your thoughts on my Derby hat!



PA whiskey meets a KY tradition in Pittsburgh on May 2


I won’t be going home to Kentucky for Derby this year, so I’m bringing the party to Pittsburgh. On May 2, I’m co-hosting a Derby soiree with Marty’s Market and Wigle Whiskey. If you love booze, southern food, live music, gambling, seersucker suits and ridiculously large hats, get your tickets quick because they’ll sell out fast when my co-hosts open the event up to the public next week.


My contribution is of course my artwork – I’ll be unveiling a new painting with an equine twist (sneak peak above of my practice run of painting roses that make the patterned background on the actual canvas). In addition to prints of said painting, I’ll also have new textile products on hand (just in time for Mother’s Day).

There also will be a local milliner, Gina Mazzotta, selling her stunning creations. Actually, I have a meeting this week with the talented Ms. Mazzotta to talk about the hat she’s making for me, which will incorporate my custom-printed fabric into the design. Hopefully the finished product requires ducking under doorways like last year’s hat.

Y’all/yinz don’t want to miss this! Get your tickets here:



Old painting with a new purpose

I suffer from a condition I call “Maker Syndrome.” Being a member of Pittsburgh’s Techshop worsens the symptoms, which are creative distraction, idea overload and project envy. It takes a great deal of focus to keep myself on task with an already tedious painting process. So, I’m thoughtfully adding new skills to my repertoire that build on what I’m already good at. My latest budding area of expertise is reupholstering furniture.

Ashley_Cecil-Pin_tailed_Manakins_on_Blue-chairThe first few attempts were on chairs from Craigslist, like this outstanding find. I sanded them, spray painted them and recovered the seats with my custom-printed fabric.

Blue_Jays_on_Gray1Then, I landed a commission to give the makeover treatment to a client’s family heirloom dinning room chairs. The commission started with the client picking this existing 24″x24″ acrylic, oil and 22k gold painting of Blue Jays, which I then translated into a design conducive for printing on fabric.

Blue_Jays_on_Gray1_for_fabricIn this particular case, the parts of the original image that were intentionally cropped off at the edges of the canvas had to be Photoshop-ed in so the image could be centered on the seat. The gold leaf in the circular design also had to be replaced with a solid color since an image of gold printed on fabric looks, well, fake.

Ashley_Cecil-chair_commissionBlistered knuckles, a box of upholstery staples and an entire season of “Orange Is The New Black” later, I had eight of these beauties to return to my client’s dinning room. They’re a match made in heaven with that rug, right?

Digitally manipulating the original painting was not at all easy. Actually, I had to take a six week-long class on Photoshop specific to artists/textile designers to figure it out (well worth it by the way). I emailed the folks who run the workshop on Pattern Observer to show them the fruits of my labor and their excellent teaching skills, and they posted about it on their blog!

It was a lot of fun giving this old painting a new purpose (sans the blistered knuckles part). Do your chairs need a facelift? Or do you need that orange chair above in your living room? Get in touch and let’s talk upholstery.

Snail-mail love, just for my blog followers

Jan2015-sketchI had an epiphany – I spend too much time incentivizing people to subscribe to my blog and not enough time thanking the subscribers I have. After all, I had three drawings in 2014 to give away free prints and such to new people who signed up for my updates. But what about you, the peeps who have been following my work all along? Don’t worry, your time has come my friend.

I’m going to use my new year’s resolution to sketch more regularly to show my appreciation. The drawings won’t be in my sketchbook – they’ll go on blank fine art paper postcards and be mailed to you, the folks who read this stuff. Who doesn’t love handmade snail-mail and a “thank you?” Well, if you don’t because you prefer all things digital (I won’t judge), you can get your fix on my Instagram feed (@ashleycecil), or see the inspirational eye candy I’m pinning on Pinterest

If you are interested, well, you had to be a subscriber. Sorry. The folks who were already on board got a different version of this post in their inboxes with instructions on how to participate (if you subscribe via RSS feed, please shoot me an email at So, if you want to be in on future fun, stick your email in that box on the right side of my blog homepage. Thanks!

Rejuvenated for 2015 – new paintings and press

Do you ever have moments of reflection after finishing a behemoth project when you look back and think, “how did I pull that off?” The whole of 2014 made me feel that way. It was packed with learning curves, new commissions, artistic experiments, my first four art festivals/markets, having dinner with my favorite living artist AND meeting the President of the United States. Whew! So, I took a break over Christmas to float in the ocean and eat copious amounts of ackee and saltfish.

PopCityArticleWhile I was away, all of that hard work got a nod from Pop City here in Pittsburgh – they ran a feature article about my work! I tried to keep up with the resulting influx of messages and social media chatter, but apparently T-Mobile’s network doesn’t work too well so close the equator. Nonetheless, I was flattered by the article and thrilled with the congratulatory notes that followed. I came back to my studio rejuvenated and ready to paint.

Ashley_Cecil-painting_processSo, I loaned my newest stuffed feathered friend (and a random single wing) from a local museum and got started on two new pieces.

Ashley_Cecil-processHere is my subject, a male Royal Northern Flycatcher, drawn on craft paper and cut out with a x-acto knife.

Ashley_Cecil-processHere he is again being traced onto the painting.

Tada! This is his final portrait, version 1.

Royal_Northen_Flycatcher_on_Blue1And final portrait, version 2.

As usual, the titles are purely functional (helping me to not forget the bird species). Hence, “Royal Northern Flycatcher on Blue 1″ and “Royal Northern Flycatcher on Blue 2″ (I’m a painter, not a writer, ok?). Also included are Orb-weaver spiders, an Elephant Hawk-moth and bunches of Sir Matt Busby fuchsia. Each painting is done in acrylic and oil paint on a 12″ x 12″ board. Not a bad start for being three weeks into 2015, huh?

Ps – If you’re interested in one or both of the original paintings, please send me an email at If you’re interested in these paintings as prints or textiles products, be patient! Gosh.

Dear Santa, you can take over now

In 15 days, I’ve participated in four holiday markets, growing my number of email subscribers by over 200 (welcome, new folks!), stocked my wares in three new retail stores, and managed online sales. I’ve just dropped off the last of my Christmas orders at the post office and delivered a client’s set of dinning room chairs newly reupholstered with my fabric. Starting tomorrow, I’m taking a hiatus to sleep full time. So, Santa is in charge now. You can direct your last minute gift requests to the North Pole.

My first year being on the vendor’s side of the holiday madness was quite the adventure.

I learned how to condense a 10′ x 10′ exhibit booth worth of stuff into this pile.

Ashley's car packed for holiday market
I learned how to maneuver that same pile of stuff into a single load in a Honda CRV (I’ve added “magician” to my resume).

Said pile somehow looks like this unpacked.

Ashley and her son
I got some help from a pretty adorable elf (little does he know he’s recruited to work my booth as soon as his head clears the display table).

Kathy wearing my scarfpillow on customer's couch
There were multiple episodes of the warm fuzzies when new customers sent me photos of my wares on their person or couch.

new painting with a dead bird
I also honed my time-management skills – somehow, I squeezed in starting a few new paintings last week. This Royal Northern Flycatcher will be my next subject.

Rachel wins the print drawing
The cherry on top after the chaos was informing Rachel of Monroeville, PA that I randomly drew her name (out of all my new email subscribers from the holiday markets) to receive a free print of my work. She picked “Pin-tailed Manakin on Blue 1“. It suits her well, don’t you think?

And with that my friends, I’m out! I hope Santa is good to you this year.

Mark your calendars for these upcoming holiday markets

The interwebs are great for staying connected and all, but nothing beats saying hello in person. So, I hope to see your beautiful face at one or more of these upcoming holiday markets that I will be participating in. And to my blog subscribers, that discount code I sent you last month applies to these events – just mention it when you check out.

These markets are the best place to conquer your holiday shopping list. And I don’t mean to brag, but the Handmade Arcade made the cut for Buzzfeed’s top 35 indie craft fairs worldwide. This is serious crafting, people.


I’ll have giclee prints of my original paintings, pillows, scarves, stationery and phone cases (and possibly some new reupholstered chairs if I can get my act together in time). Between myself and the 80+ artists exhibiting, great finds are guaranteed. So, here are all of the details of each event  – go ahead, put it in your calendar:

I Made It Market 2014 flyer


handmade arcade poster



For those that need a copy/paste friendly version:

I Made It! Holiday Market
November 28, 2 – 8 pm
November 29, 11 am – 5 pm
623 Smithfield Street, Downtown Pittsburgh
See more at

Handmade Arcade
December 6, 11am – 7pm
David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown Pittsburgh
See more at

I Made It! Holiday Market –  Last Minute Shopping at the Boyd Community Center
December 13, 10am – 3pm
1220 Powers Run Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15238
See more at

My process step by step

George, the stuffed Passenger Pigeon has gone home to his drawer at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. It was great getting to know him as he stared at me day after day while I painted his portrait. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end (literally in his case as an extinct species of 100 years). The process of creating this homage was well documented and gives me an opportunity to share how it works.


Step one is covering the canvas with a solid color in acrylic paint, followed by a flat pattern.

Passenger Pigeon - painting progress

There’s no room for error with anything that’s added from this point forward because the next layer of painting is done in oils – if I did make a mistake, I couldn’t paint over it with the background color because you can’t paint acrylic (water-based) over oil. So I’ve developed a way to eliminate or at least minimize mistakes – before I continue painting, I draw the bird(s) that will go in the foreground of the painting on craft paper exactly posed and sized as I want them on the canvas. Then I carefully cut them out and lightly tape them in place.

Passenger Pigeon - painting process

Now I use a color of oil paint similar to the background to trace the silhouette of the bird so I know exactly where everything goes.


And then I paint it in with oils.


I usually freehand the foliage and insects because a stray brush stroke of a flower petal is far easier to “fix” than any part of a bird. Sometimes I add a design in gold leaf, but I don’t think this one needs it.

So there you have it – a finished “Passenger Pigeon on Mint.”

Painting is still only one part of what I do. I’m also a textile designer and seamstress/maker. Just this week, Ben Saks of Float Pictures finished a video documenting my process from start to finish. So I will stop typing and let you watch. Enjoy!

Nice to meet you, Kehinde Wiley!

Kehinde Wiley and Ashley Cecil

Who do you admire for their work more than anyone? If you’re an architecture buff, maybe it’s Frank Gehry. If you love a good fiction novel, maybe it’s J.K. Rowling. For me, it’s an artist, of course – Kehinde Wiley. A hefty book of his elaborate and exquisite portrait paintings always sits close at hand in my studio to remind me what swinging for the fences looks like.

So, you can imagine how ridiculously excited I was to meet him recently at Ginny’s Super Club in Harlem. I asked my date to hover near me at the bar, camera ready to go, as I approached Kehinde to say hello, give him due praise, and ask for a photo. I realized this must be what it’s like to have a celebrity crush when I had to remind myself not to act like a giddy teenager meeting Justin Timberlake.

For several hours, I had the honor of sitting in the artist’s presence while enjoying a multi-digit course meal created by the culinary mastermind, and friend of Kehinde’s, Chef Marcus Samuelsson. There was a brief Q and A session where Kehinde elegantly answered some tough questions from his dining companions. My favorite was about his process of asking complete strangers on the street if they would model for his paintings. The question went something like, “What was your most uncomfortable moment of inspiration?” His answer:

“I was thrown in jail in the Congo for asking young Congolese people to form a line and assume certain poses from art historical sources. We didn’t know that it was the national election. We didn’t know that there were suspicions surrounding Westerners in the country. I didn’t know also that there’s no way of explaining that you’re in Sub-Saharan Africa to explain a new way of looking at Sub-Saharan Africa. You show the books, you try your best to explain in what broken French you have. But in the end, it was decidedly uncomfortable to spend the better part of a week in prison, especially given that you were slated and scheduled to paint the president of that nation.”

I left the event feeling both inspired and frustrated. The latter plagued me because I was reminded of what’s possible and how far I am from accomplishing it. But a good challenge never hurt anyone.

And so the year of checking things off my bucket list continues…


Painting in progress, September 23, 2014

My latest work-in-progress is highly atypical for me – not for any aesthetic reason, but because I loathe pigeons. This bitterness blossomed during my stint in London, where all pedestrians compete with these aggressive and plentiful nuisances for scarce sidewalk space. However, I’m challenging myself to get up close and personal with the urban winged pest in honor of the 100th anniversary of the extinction of a specific variety of the bird, the Passenger Pigeon.


The painting has taken me to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for visual reference material. Typically, I have access to their extensive ornithology collection. This time, I learned that there are limits when it comes to extinct species. Yet, I lucked out and was allowed to borrow a “crappy” specimen missing a tail and a patch of feathers on the breast. The mangled bird is temporarily sitting on my desk, staring at me as if to say, “it’s a good thing I’m stuffed lady, or I would peck your eyes out.”


Today, I drew the bird on paper at exactly the scale and position I want it on the board, which is already prepped with an intricately painted design. I’ll carefully cut the bird out of the paper and trace its outline onto the board before painting it in. In the end, it will loosely resemble the photo above (plus some variety of orange foliage and Darkling Beetles).

While I’m cohabitating with this creepy bird, it feels appropriate to name it. The very last Passenger Pigeon died on September 1, 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo. The bird went by Martha, named after Martha Washington, American’s first First Lady. So, I will call my pigeon George, of course.

An artist’s dilemma: working the social interwebs

First, a quick tech notice: I recently changed the method I use to deliver new blog posts to my email subscribers. All of my phalanges are crossed that my technology jinx doesn’t botch it, but if you receive multiple emails, have trouble viewing the email, or anything else less than desirable, please email me (

Marketing. For me, it’s akin to gardening – if I had all of the time in the world, I would be a pro. However, I always seem to be running on empty when it comes to time. But I get it – if you don’t spread the word about your work, how will anyone know you’re out there doing your thing? So, I do what I can to tell the world, “I’m here (painting)!”

Obviously, I blog, and you read it (and you’re awesome, by the way!). I’m on EtsyTwitterPinterest and LinkedIn. I’m also lucky enough to catch a writer’s attention from time to time, such as Sara Bauknecht, who recently featured me in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Sunday Edition “Stylebook Snapshot.”

Post Gazette Stylebook Snapshot June 2014

And then I convert folks to blog subscribers at events by doing drawings for prints and such for people who provide their email. For example, Ashley Noble, who signed up for my blog updates at this year’s Three Rivers Arts Festival, won this print, which is already framed and hanging in her house (congrats, Ashley!).

Print give away winner

Nonetheless, people tell me I should be on Instagram and Facebook (not my personal account), submit my work to art blogs and style magazines, and do handstands outside of my studio (just kidding, no one has ever suggested that). Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate how to keep up my marketing momentum.

So, I’m curious to know, how do you connect with artists or other people doing creative things you love? What should I drop? Be honest now, have you ever bought art via an Instagram discovery, or a magazine feature? I’m counting on your clever insights to hone my shameless self-promotion. You’re a smart cookie when it comes to finding creative and beautiful things, I know it.

Nice to meet you, President Obama!

Ashley-Obama-500x500px-72dpi Photo credit @billpeduto

Last weekend, the events coordinator at TechShop Pittsburgh (where I’m a member and textile department regular) called to ask a very unexpected question, “Would you like to be at the TechShop on Tuesday when President Obama is visiting?” Hopefully, I said something more articulate than what I was thinking, which was, “Are you serious? Uh, yeah!” Clearly, I proceeded to jump in place and fist pump the air while remaining on the phone trying to prevent my voice from reflecting my giddiness.

After a thorough vetting by the White House of my upstanding citizen-ness, I was given the go ahead to report to the TechShop on Tuesday to join other TechShop members to meet the most powerful man in the world. We waited (a long time) for his arrival. He eventually appeared, and as he made his way to his stool to speak, he approached a few us (myself included) for a moment of direct eye contact and a strong handshake. Amazing.

Why did get to shake his hand you ask? Because I was seated in the first row, in front of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Senator Bob Casey. My head was literally obstructing their view, which is how Mayor Peduto got this shot of me asking the President a question. How did I get the photo? Bill Peduto tweeted it, of course. I can’t make this stuff up.

The question I posed to the President was about today’s environment for mothers who are entrepreneurs. In a nutshell, he said it’s difficult for moms, and more broadly for families, to run businesses in the US where the support systems for them is among the worst of all developed countries. However, he’s seeing a shift where employers are acknowledging the need for flexibility for parents, and in turn they get happy employees who give 110%. For entrepreneurs, he basically agreed that it’s a challenge and hopes that people continue to evolve their thinking about professionally penalizing businesswomen with families.

Apparently, this was a hot topic because I was literally yelled at by three news anchors at the end trying to catch my attention to interview me about my own experience being a mother and small business owner. I’m told I was on live TV. Although, unfortunately, the interwebs seem to have caught no trace of such footage.

Yes, I contemplated giving President Obama one of my scarves for Michelle, but  then I thought, 1. He must get enough gifts to fill a football stadium, and 2. multiple Secret Service agents told me repeatedly not to hand him anything. I did as I told by the very intimidating men in suits with earpieces.

And that was my Tuesday.