Please touch the art.

At long last, I’m getting to an art/design project that’s been going through my head for years. A Busy Box is an interactive artwork that can be easily taken off the wall or picked up from a surface and played with. Two or more Busy Boxes = Busy Board. Think toddler’s sensory board – but for adults as an artwork. I’m excited to begin a group of different designs that will display well together and invite interaction.

busybox1bThis Busy Box is “Abstract Roller Disco”.  It changes as the viewer moves one of the four wooden rollers. For this piece, each roller is covered with a different section of canvas from an original abstract painting. Rollers are set permanently within a 1.5″ deep wood frame. It can be hung in any direction or orientation, as it is open on the front and back and lacks hardware hangers. Rollers can also be turned without removing from the wall, and the depth of the frame allows it to sit free-standing on a surface.

The idea is to repeat the Roller Disco form with different image making techniques. On the horizon: Lakeshore Roller Disco. A variation made using an image transfer process.

In a physical sense, this project continues themes I’ve been interested in for a long time. The interaction of the viewer, and the interpretive factor that the viewer brings to the artwork. I’m looking forward to exploring this further in different forms, with variations on each.


Finishing Summer portraits & planning Fall projects

These 18″ imagined portraits have been a lot of fun. Slowly getting them on a few online galleries. All painted on the rough textured side of a Masonite panel. A few different approaches and techniques – the upper right has pieces of painted canvas applied to the surface of the panel. All have been an attempt to add brevity and spontaneity to my painting process.

For Fall, I’d like to go larger and non-figurative. Hiking season is drawing to a close, and I’ll have more time on the weekends in the studio. My previous abstract paintings have kept the object in place with central light source and point of action. In the coming paintings I’d like to explore ideas of open field, dispersed focal point and overall calm. We’ll see. 🙂

Small Painting Summer

This may have to extend into the fall. I’ve had such a great time with smaller paintings this summer. It began with the commission of “Connectivity” shown below. There has also been the start of the “Wonder of birds” series, one of which is in the Onimatopoetic show at MIX Ypsilanti for the month of September. A group of 18″ square figure portraits have developed. So many in fact, that I’ve sworn not to begin any new ones until I finish some up. The studio is becoming littered with little figures. 

I had hoped to move toward landscapes and take some with us on our weekly hikes. That just hasn’t turned out to be the case. Both my current visual interests this season and my partner’s bad knee have played a part in that. It hasn’t kept me from working though, and enjoying the result. More images to come. 

  Connectivity, 2016     Acrylic on canvas      Commission

Autumn Clearing Mirror

Mirror Detail

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed working out several designs for wall mirrors. Much more interested in the design process than in production, many have been one-of-a-kind pieces. This is one I created in a few variations.

The Autumn Clearing Mirror has several layers spaced apart to allow for a reflected view of hidden textures. The branch layer is cut from 1/4” thick masonite and given a rounded edge. Both cutting and shaping were accomplished using a high speed rotary tool. The facing branch surface was painted off white, with gold leaf applied to the reverse side. This metallic element is seen in the reflection of the mirror, which extends to the frame of this 25″ square mirror. It is only in the center that a 12″ clearing allows for the functional part of the mirror to be used.

In front of the wood branches floats a stretched and block-printed sheer silk panel. An overall print of fall colored leaves is made by stamping the silk with leaf shapes in acrylic paint. What I loved was that the leaves, the branch shapes and the gold leaf layer all reflected and create an overall appearance that’s dreamy and full of motion. I eventually made and sold several mirrors through 16 Hands where I worked at the time. A lot of fun to design and make.

This design was featured on the HGTV show “That’s Clever” and is shown on the HGTV web site as the tutorial “How To Make An Autumn-Inspired Framed Mirror“.


Autumn Clearing Mirror

Reduce, Reuse…ReCircles

ReCircles wind sculptures are made from a variety of reused items including cookie tins, signs, bakeware, license plates and a variety of other recycled light sheet metals.

For several years I played with designs for a wind sculpture based on concentric circles, held together with swivel spinners. The idea initially was to have sheet metal cut in the shapes I needed. In 2007 I began hand-cutting a few prototypes from light metals I had easy access to.

What began as a make-do measure quickly became an important part of the design as I watched the variety of colors, textures & printed images play off one another.  And ReCircles were born.

 ReCircles continue to be made from recycled materials
and are available made-to-order.

Bell Tower Candle goes into production Summer 2016

Bell Tower Candle, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Leading up to this I’ve created the original model, made a silicone glove mold and an outer shell. Twice. I’m now able to pour 2 Bell Tower Candles and 3 Water Tower Candles at the same time. For me that’s high production! More details and photos can be found at

you had me at ‘Bell Tower Candle’
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A prominent landmark and symbol of the University if Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mi, the Burton Memorial Tower and Baird Grand Carillon is commonly known as the Bell Tower. Rendered here as a hand made soy-blend candle. The Bell Tower Candle stands 10.5″ tall. I have many great memories of the tower from rallys and protests on the U of M diag, to a personal tour and concert played on the amazing carillon bells. Because of the unique shape of this candle, dripping may occur. Always place in a heat-safe plate or dish when burning. Burn time aprox 30 hours. 


I’ve learned enough to know that for most questions relating to the creative process, there isn’t a simple yes or no answer. More common is a continuum of options, depending on other factors. In electrical terms, there are more dimmers than switches in life. Recently I started thinking about the process of making things in similar terms. There is a continuum of craft, and it doesn’t necessarily get better at each end of the spectrum.

A group of wall mirrors I made several years ago illustrates this idea. I had decided I wanted to design a tile mirror – a wood frame with a tile border, surrounding a mirror in the center. I had seen these made really well using various glass tiles, beads & ceramic pieces. Still, I wondered if I’d find something new by making the tiles myself. Without access to a kiln, I was soon rolling out polymer clay and employing various techniques to create the colors and textures I wanted. I love this kind of  work. I found myself doing drawings that I’d then transfer to the clay surface (think silly putty/comic strip transfer). I went as far as making custom cutting tools, like a cookie cutter in the form of a grid to give me a uniform tile size. It was a process lover’s dream. From imagining the final product, I’d worked backwards and made the elements of the mosaic myself, even the tools to make the elements. That’s like…three levels deep into “handmadeness”. Great, right? Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, I was happy with the result. In fact I made and sold several mirrors. Even a commissioned wall mirror for a hotel in Hawaii. The problem was that it was a very time-intensive process. I had allowed my love of the various stages of process to influence my decisions. Had I needed this to provide meaningful income, the entire project would have failed. Even though I was happy with the finished product, I’d never be able to get the per piece I needed to cover the time and effort. As it was, the mirrors were pricy. I had strong doubts that, had I done the breakdown of time and materials, the numbers would have made sense at all.IMG_0669

I loved making them though, and I wasn’t relying on them to pay the bills…so no harm/no foul. The lingering problem still bothered me.  I enjoy the market-viability part of designing. Even on the one-man-show level, I like figuring out how materials and technique can work together efficiently. I like making things that satisfy both the look AND the numbers. It irked me that I hadn’t considered time in the mix on this one, and that the process of making them had gotten out of hand. For these mirror, in this form, the numbers didn’t add up. I eventually stopped making them. Would the numbers have worked out if I had just purchased tiles? Probably. After all, the work of making the tiles (and the tools I made in older to make the tiles) would have all been saved. The path to a finished product would have been more direct, a savings of both time and money. But it would have been a different product.

I have no regrets about it. Ultimately I really enjoyed making them. Moving forward, I’ve approached subsequent projects with a new appreciation for the depth of handmadeness, and more consideration for where I want a project to fall within that spectrum. Now I’ll often Stop myself and ask, “do I need to make ALL the parts? Should I really start from scratch?” The answer isn’t always “no”, but before I say “yes” I take a hard look at what it will mean for both the price and the viability of the finished product.