8 November, 2021

New Book: Native Plants of the North Woods

2021-11-08T22:05:54-06:00Book Reports, Everything Else|Comments Off on New Book: Native Plants of the North Woods

I started this collection of native plant illustrations in an art residency I did with The Bell Museum, a local natural history museum. My project was to study their herbarium collection of preserved plants native to Minnesota and create art inspired by it. I wrote all about that project here.

When I started to make my plant illustrations I realized there was something missing from the plant specimen sheets. You can see one pictured behind my mask, shown below. The plant’s habitat and person who collected the plant were well-documented by the museum. However, even though I could study the shapes and sizes of the plant from the preserved sample, they all looked dull, flat, and brown; there was very little information about the color or texture. As an artist, those two qualities are very important to me!

I went in search of more reference material. I studied local field guides and resources from non-profit organizations that focused on native plants, like MNWildflowers.org. I looked for shapes, colors and tiny details that make each plant unique. By using these details to craft a more complete picture of each plant, I could bring them back to life.

I used hand-painted deli paper to make each cut paper illustration. Deli paper might not seem like an obvious art material, but it’s thin and strong so it’s easy to cut out fine details and make layered shapes. As I painted, I designed one-of-a-kind papers for my plants. I blended colors and created textures with the brush. I drew stripes and speckles. I even cut out a paper alphabet to make a custom typeface for my plant labels. I chose to make the plants larger-than-life rather than try to make things actual size because some of them are tiny! I really wanted the reader to be able to see the details that I would never be able to render in cut paper when the blossoms were only 1/4 inch wide. I also decided to picture each plant as you would see it in early summer, so most of the pictures show the flowers you would see in the summer time but not the berries or seed pods you might see in the autumn.

For the final project for the residency, I scanned and printed the illustrations on to fabric. I made a set of face masks. I was inspired by native plants with medicinal properties and how, like face masks, these plants can help protect us from disease. The museum displayed a small collection of these masks, but I knew that exhibit was just a seedling, so to speak.

The seedling grew into this book: an artist’s field guide to native plants. Native Plants of the North Woods features 21 different plant species and 11 native pollinators in a family-friendly field guide. Each page has details and quirky facts about each kind of plant and is geared at an upper-elementary age reading level. I started studying Minnesota species because that’s where I live. My parents are from upstate New York and remember the plants they grew up with too. As I showed each finished illustration to my mom, we realized that many are common to the north woods all the way from Minnesota to New York. She remembers walking through the woods with her parents, finding huge patches of trillium and popping the seed pods of touch-me-nots. I hope you will take a walk in the woods where you live to see if you can find these plants. And I hope you’ll make a little art inspired by them too.

Get the Book in my Etsy Shop
See the Fabric at Spoonflower
Get the Postcard Set
16 October, 2018

Book Review: The NEW Spoonflower Quick Sew Project Book

2018-10-16T13:40:56-05:00Book Reports, Sewing & Design, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|Comments Off on Book Review: The NEW Spoonflower Quick Sew Project Book

Just last week, Spoonflower released their second book, The Spoonflower Quick Sew Project Book. You might know that I worked on the first book, The Spoonflower Handbook and we get a little shout out in the intro for this new book.

The author for the Quick Sew book is my friend Anda Corrie. I have known Anda for a long time, although we only met in person in 2016. Anda worked at Etsy for many years and I asked her to be a juror for a grant program that I administrated when I still worked in the arts admin world. She also was a contributor to the first Spoonflower book. She has a project (pg 85) and she did the illustrations for the book. I love the aesthetic of her fabric designs: colorful, whimsical, and simple, but in a way that has so much character.

I wanted to tell you about this new book and a little about what I think is great about it. (This isn’t a sponsored post or anything like that. Everything I say here is my own thoughts and impressions.)

The book in a nutshell

It’s a sewing book. Where the Spoonflower Handbook focused on teaching you ways to create your own design, the main focus of this book is sewing. It has a great variety of projects that use different amounts of fabric from swatch to several yards. Although there are several projects that show you how to design something that is personalized, that isn’t the main goal. In some ways, I feel like this one is the prequel to the other. The Quick Sew book teaches you how to sew some great basic things with designs you get in the Marketplace, the Handbook takes it one step further to showing you how to then design your own fabrics. They are great companions.

Sewing skills needed for these projects vary. Some are great beginner projects for those who are just learning to sew. Some are a little trickier or demand a little patience. I tried one of the trickier projects, which I will show you later in the post.

Projects I love

I picked out three different projects which I wanted to highlight. My favorite section might honestly be the Notions & Trims section of the book.

I have looked at a lot of beginner sewing books and I have never actually seen a section that breaks down and shows you how to make bias binding, piping, and covered buttons. I use these things all the time and I always make my own because I have a certain way I want them to look or a color I need to match and the premade things that are available are pretty limited. The piping is my favorite from this section. I figured it out by a lot of trial and error, which was not always successful. Did you even know you could make your own piping?

Next, I love this bear rug from the Multi Yard Projects section. He made me smile when I first saw the photo and I can imagine this would make for super cute baby photo props. He’s made from minky, so super soft and cuddly and I think the fabric design choice for this one was perfect. It’s “officially” a rug, but I can see it being so much more. I know my youngest niece and nephew would have dragged this around to watch tv with and pretend the bear was like a flying magic carpet so they could fly across the living room (because you know the floor is always lava.)

Here’s what I made

I decided that I needed to make something if I was going to do a proper review, so I decided to make the Tiny Circle Purse, which is one of the projects in the Swatch projects section. I had some scraps of faux suede left over from one of my own projects, so I used those scraps instead of a swatch to make my little bag.

I have to admit that I cheated a little bit. I didn’t have a 10″ zipper that the pattern called for, so I shortened a 12″ one. I also didn’t have extra wide bias binding, which is used to finish and connect the ends of the zipper, so I just used a couple of scraps of fabric and turned under the edges to make it work like bias tape. To draw 4″ circles, I traced around the lid to a container which just happened to be the right size.

The raw edges of the fabric and the zipper on the inside are contained inside bias binding, which is tricky to sew in a little tiny circle, but looks pretty cool. I had some premade in neon green, so that’s what I used for this step. Because bending that zipper around in a tiny circle is challenging to sew without wobbles, if I were doing it again, I would just hand baste the zipper in first and then sew the seam, zipper and bias binding all in one step. It’s a cute little pouch and I think I am going to use it to keep bandaids and such contained in my purse. A fun project; a great use for a swatch or two.

What didn’t I love?

I don’t think it’s an honest review if I only write about the things that I love about the book and didn’t tell you anything else. So here are things that I noticed that bothered me. The fabrics featured in the book are beautiful and there are some great designers featured, but I would have loved to see more of the wonderful weirdness that makes up Spoonflower. I had exactly the same feeling about the designs featured in book I worked on. For me, part of the reason I love Spoonflower is that there is EVERYTHING there that you could ever want to find on a fabric. Corgis with sushi, oboes, vintage calculators, or steampunk robot whales. As Kermit says at the end of the Muppets Take Manhattan:

That’s it! That’s what’s been missing from the show! That’s what we need! More frogs and dogs and bears and chickens and… and whatever!

I get so very tired of everything looking like a perfectly photographed, exquisitely vanilla Pinterest or Instagram feed. Snore. But that’s a pretty personal thing and it’s just not my style. That being said, there are some really great simple modern and geometrics featured throughout the book. If that’s your vibe, you will see some things there you love and you won’t have a hard time finding similar fabrics to make your own versions of the projects.

You can get both books at Spoonflower or on Amazon. If you try something from the book or even just spot it in the wild, post a photo on Instagram and tag @andacorrie so she can see it (and me too, I always love to see your projects!) After working so hard on a project like a book, just a little note saying that you’ve seen it is like giving the author a chocolate cupcake. It seems like just a little but it means a lot.

28 July, 2016

When art won’t let you go, you write a book.

2016-07-28T10:43:45-05:00An Artist's Life, Book Reports, ProspectPark|Comments Off on When art won’t let you go, you write a book.

Sometimes when I finish a piece of art, I’m not finished. The ideas or inspiration or designs are still in my head and they still have something to say. I think this is why many artists do things in a series, like Monet’s variations on haystacks. The piece itself might be done, but the art is still trying to say something.

This doesn’t happen to me often. Usually, I am done and ready to move on. But the art for the recent public art/utility box project that I did is one of those that stuck around and wouldn’t let me go. Before I had even finished up the final technical details of getting those pieces ready to be installed, I decided that I wanted to write a book.

The beautiful thing about making a book from this project was that most of the hard work was done. Because I was already making print ready files for sticky vinyl coverings, I already had high res files that were perfect for printing. And I had a lot of “leftover” photos. When I started the project for Prospect Park, I took about 500 photos so that I had options to work from. I wasn’t sure what I would need and I knew I didn’t want snowy winter pictures, so I shot a lot last fall.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 9.42.17 AMThe story for the book I wrote at about 2 am one morning and it started with pictures of feet. The book has a very simple story; basically it’s about taking a walk with an artist and looking around you for art. Exactly what I did when I took the photos to make the collages. I realized that I had several photos that had my feet in them, because whatever I was photographing was on the ground. I was planning to just crop out my feet if I used those photos, but what better way to illustrate a walk and bring me into the story a little bit?

It’s a “kids book”, because I think there is a lot in it that kids would enjoy. Did you know that I snuck in a few pictures just for me? My dog, Leo, appears on one page. (I’ll give you a hint: it’s just his fur, and he’s wet.) There are lots of things to look for in the photos and I continued the I Spy game with thumbnails of things like colored pencils and faucet handles to look for in the photo collages.

IMG_3667I decided to publish this book myself. The great thing about that is that I got to be the writer and editor and marketer and designer and proofreader. The terrible thing about that is that I got to be the writer and editor and marketer and designer and proofreader. But I really think that was the best fit for this kind of a book. And I love how it turned out. I used a service called Blurb to print the books. It is a print-on-demand company, which means I can get as many or as few printed as I want to. They had a template set up for InDesign, which I use all the time, so the setup was really easy. And thanks to my sister Beth, who is my best second pair of eyes. She always sees the stuff I missed and doesn’t hesitate to tell me when something looks dumb.

Of course, I would like to sell a few, but more importantly for me, I want people to know the story. How many times have you run into art out in the world that was without context? Sculptures in parks, murals, mosaics. There is rarely an artist’s name and there is almost never a story. And don’t you always have things that you wonder? Why are there whales painted on the wall under the bridge? What’s the story? There is something fun about making up your own story, but I am curious. I want to know the artist’s story. I want to know the connections and I want to make my own connections beyond just thinking “I like those whales.”

So this book has several different stories. It’s about the art that’s in the book. But I also included a page about the art that I made first, the art that’s on the boxes. If the world is kind to them, the installers tell me that those wraps can last for several years. And I hope people wonder about them and have questions. I wasn’t allowed to put my website on the boxes (lest it look like advertising) but maybe through the magic of Google, someone will be curious and find the story.

And don’t think I am forgetting about fabric in all of this. I collected lots of photos of circles, thinking I would use those for making some part of the designs. They didn’t make the final cut for the boxes, but I used them for the cover of the book and to design this fabric:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 10.20.30 AM

I made a dress from it to wear to the walking tour the neighborhood association did for the boxes. You can see a little bit of that here in the article that the local paper wrote about the project and it’s available at Spoonflower.

Members of the Prospect Park Association take a tour of utility boxes in the area that have been wrapped in art by local artists. The project was completed in an effort to stop graffiti and bring beauty to the neighborhood. - photo courtesy MN Daily

Members of the Prospect Park Association take a tour of utility boxes in the area that have been wrapped in art by local artists. The project was completed in an effort to stop graffiti and bring beauty to the neighborhood. – photo courtesy MN Daily

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 4.33.35 PMIf you’d like to get a copy of the book, you can get them at:

29 September, 2015

Online Party: A Spoonflower Handbook Giveaway

2015-12-01T21:06:44-06:00Book Reports, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|4 Comments

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 12.45.16 PMI know that not all of you live in the Twin Cities area and you can’t all make it to our book event here, so I am going to have an online party as well and I am going to give away a copy of the book as a door prize.  (That’s my way of saying thank you to all of you out there in my online community too.)

To enter yourself for my doorprize drawing, you just have to give me a shout out and I will put your name in the hat.  It’s that simple.  Between now and October 16…

  • make a comment on this post
  • hop over to my Facebook page and say hi
  • tweet me something @beckarahn
  • send me a hello message through my Spoonflower shop
  • sign yourself up for my e-newsletter (there’s a form right over in the sidebar)

Any of those things will put your name in for the drawing.  If you already have a copy of the book or have seen it, I would love to hear what you like best.  (I love the Pen tutorial on page 203.)

The fine print.

  • If you already have a copy of the book (YAY!) and you win, I will send your prize as a gift to a friend.  You tell me where it should go.
  • Make sure I can get in touch with you.  ie. If you leave a comment without your email address entered in the comment form, I won’t be able to track you down.
  • Any comments, tweets, posts etc I receive before 11 pm (CDT) on October 16 will count.
22 September, 2015

You are invited: Spoonflower Handbook Book Party

2015-09-22T09:51:19-05:00An Artist's Life, Book Reports, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|2 Comments


We are throwing a party and we want you to come.  I would like to personally invite all of you to join us at a book party for the release of the Spoonflower Handbook.  I wanted to do a little event here in Minneapolis because this community has been so fantastic.  So many of you have taken a class or asked me about a project or taught me something about design, that I thought it was only right to do something fun to say thank you for all of your help and encouragement and inspiration.  So, Stephen is coming and we will talk about the book.  He’s bringing all of the projects from the book (and some more really fun bonus projects).  We will have door prizes to give away.  Textile Center will have books to sell.  We will even sign your books if you want us too.  (I can’t believe I actually have a book to sign!  How cool is that??)

The party will be held at Textile Center on Thursday October 1 at 6pm.  (Go to www.textilecentermn.org for parking & directions.)


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