I grew up in Vermont’s scenic Northeast Kingdom. My parents, inspired by “Mother Earth News” and models of rural self-sufficiency, provided my brothers and me with an idyllic Vermont “free range” childhood. We had chickens, an apple orchard, flower and vegetable gardens, a huge old barn with a hayloft to play in, neighboring fields and woods to explore, and plenty of trees to climb.
As a child I was always very active, making up stories, poems, puppet shows, drawing or painting pictures, and gluing buttons and ribbons to picture quilts I sewed with my mother’s fabric scraps. I also loved cooking, sculpting snow castles and creatures, playing the piano, recorder, and my saxophone.
Making fish eyes is fun! Onto paper I drip and spray alcohol inks, then daub on acrylic paint to create the pupil and light reflection. I glue clear domed glass cabochons-typically used in jewelry making—to the paper and when dry I simply cut out my lifelike fish eyes. They look like candy!
Encaustic painting is hot and fast; you paint with pools of molten pigmented wax on a heated aluminum pallet with a warm brush. You have to work fast because the second you pull the heated brush off the pallet it starts cooling. Each layer of wax you brush on needs to be fused to the last with a butane torch, then stenciling is a wonderful way create interesting surface texture and pattern while encaustic painting.
I purchased a CNC router table a few years ago. It basically cuts and carves the majority of my pieces digitally through a CAD program and frees me up to focus more on the value add portion of my business like painting, product design, innovation, learning new mediums, working on my website, social media, and customer interactions.
Whenever I go to craft shows I am known as the “fish lady.” I woke from a dream last year where I actually had a fish head…I had to make my dream come true! When I first started creating my helmet masks I used spray foam expanding insulation over a rubber latex mask that I had stretched over a kickball. I carved the foam and applied the air-dry clay over that to sculpt the details. I’ve gotten smarter… now I build an armature over a dirt bike helmet with cardboard and duct tape to which I apply the architectural clay. I build sunglasses lenses into the piece but vision is still limited. I’m so happy that my work brings joy to people all over.
I have worked creative jobs hand painting baby furniture, lamps, etc. for a company called Green Frog Art and worked as a “paint waitress” at two different paint your own pottery businesses. I earned my bachelor’s degree in K-12 art education from Johnson State College and worked a stint as a middle school art teacher, where I was disheartened having to grade and discipline budding artists, which is a necessity in the public school environment.
My husband Sage has always been a supporter of my work and was generous enough to support me while I pursued my art as a full time career. I spent the next few years embedded in the Vermont farmers market/craft show scene selling a whimsical hand-painted jewelry line I created called Posh Pods, custom applique jeans, and “off the wall” fish and dog wall sculpture.
“At the end of the day it is not about the art, it is about the love.”
By 2012 I had phased out the jewelry and jeans portion to focus on fish and dog sculpture. My custom dog portrait business was booming, with a large portion of the work I was creating being pet memorial portraits. They made me sad and I began experiencing creative block for the first and only time in my life. I decided to discontinue the dog portraits and to focus on my fish art. I come from a long line of ladies who love to fish! I became hooked on the sport as soon as I pulled my first bass out of Lake Champlain.
Being a self-taught artist, I am constantly discovering and diving into new mediums and techniques, seeing how they play with those I am already using. My favorite mediums (at the moment) are Skratch architectural clay and encaustic paint. Skratch is an architectural air-dry clay that I use almost every day. It is a durable, environmentally safe clay that sticks to wood, metal, and glass, works well over armatures, is extremely durable and paints well. Encaustic painting involves painting with molten beeswax, pigment, and tree resin. The surface can be scratched or built up to produce gorgeous texture.
P.S. I Love This
My favorite studio item is an old beat up red tractor seat. It is not only an essential tool; it is also very attractive and very Vermont. I acquired it at an antique store. I was immediately drawn to its history, lines and color. Only years later did I realize its true potential for hammering the ribs in my copper fish fins. Believe me, it has seen a lot of action!
I find inspiration in many places. The creatures that live under the water’s surface have sleek shapes that lend themselves to endless combinations of pattern and color. I also love any materials that have a history—especially dirty, rusty, or shiny things. I adore wandering the aisles of Home Depot, Goodwill or ReStore and perusing flea market table treasures. I find inspiration visiting galleries and seeing what other] artists are doing. I like soaking the art in from afar as well as getting up close and personal to the piece trying to dissect the artist’s techniques and processes. The hours between 3:00 am and 7:00 am are my magical time. I like the quiet and darkness of it, uninterrupted-except for the occasional rumble of a plow truck driving by.
“I’ve always believed that if something doesn’t bring you joy, let it go.”
I feel my biggest accomplishment lately is embracing social media. Sharing ideas and inspirations while connecting to like-minded artists and art lovers around the world has been a game changer for my business. The people who respond most positively to my work, online or in-person, are a lot like me in their philosophies, personalities and interests. They are my colorful, exuberant, tribe. The more authentic I am in customer interaction and social media postings, the more I grow an authentic group of kindred spirits.