Feb

13

Posted by : schoolhouse | On : February 13, 2017

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I was sooooooo excited!!! Over the Moon elated!!! One of those phone calls that makes your heart pound and inspiration swell. Out of the blue – Two One Two Design, a renown firm from New York City, called to inquire if I would be interested in collaborating to create a series of custom, hand-painted ceiling medallions for a new Starbucks Coffee shop. Much gratitude to the most excellent customer service staff at Modello Designs for referring me as a New York based decorative artist well-versed in ornamental ceilings, particularly large scale designs that involve using the custom decorative masking patterns the company creates.

Of course I would be thrilled to do so. My bread and butter clients have typically been high-end residential. Always a pleasure to whittle away the hours creating one of a kind finishes in some of the most beautiful homes throughout the Central New York Finger Lakes Region. Sprinkle in a few fine restaurants, boutique hotels and special project stints like the Larkefield Manor Ballroom, North Shore of Long Island. The Starbucks gig would be my first major corporate commission.

As the dialogue ensued, I was delighted to gather that the new Starbucks cafe was to be built within the exchange of the Fort Myers Joint Military Base. Located next to Arlington National Cemetery in the heart of our nation’s Capitol region.

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Blessings appear nearly every year with a special project that results in a travel adventure.  I dub them “working vacations.”  Always happy for the chance to leap outside my usual terra to work and explore elsewhere….to partner with new contacts, network and grow creating in tandem with talented designers, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, fellow artists and the like.

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I was awestruck when I received the blueprints depicting the scale, layout and design for the scope of my work.  Not only with the concept and how beautiful it would be, but for the respectful nod to the Military symbolized by the ornament.  The series of four ceiling medallions were inspired by the Medal of Honor.

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Each measuring eight foot in diameter, my calling was to hand-paint the medallions on the ceiling in metallic gold.  After which, lit chandeliers would be hung from the center of each.   It was especially poignant considering my beloved grandfathers Leslie Crandall and Robert Bruno, and my great-grandfater Edward McNeil were dutiful military men….who were proud to serve their country.

My beloved grandfather, Leslie Gene Crandall - World War II - stationed in the Philippines

My beloved grandfather, Leslie Gene Crandall – World War II – stationed in the Philippines

My beloved great-grandfather, Edward McNeil - World War I - stationed in France

My beloved great-grandfather, Edward McNeil – World War I – stationed in France

Beloved grandfather, Robert Bruno with grandmother, Virgina.  World War II - stationed on the Corporal's ship in the San Fransisco Harbor, as a member of the military band (trombone) on December 7, 1941

My beloved grandfather, Robert Bruno, with grandmother, Virgina. World War II – stationed on the Corporal’s ship in the San Fransisco Harbor, as a member of the military band (trombone) on December 7, 1941

I loved the concept, and ran with it back to Modello Designs to create the custom templates required to work large-scale overhead, and a smaller maquette version to create a series of samples for Two One Two Design and the Starbucks executives to approve…it had to be just the right gold.  I planned to offer a range of light bright gold, medium but richly glowing gold, and even richer antique gold hues created using the Modern Masters line of metallic paints.  Priority expressed the package to New York City for review.  Medium gold is perfect, which was my favorite too….considering the basecoat flat paint ceiling color was a creamy soft tan vs. the ‘usual’ stark white.

Tillie supervising...the range of maquette samples to depict various hues of gold.

Tillie supervising…the range of maquette samples to depict various hues of gold.

I was on que for weeks, which turned into months, while the construction began. I kept shimmying my existing clients forward and back to prioritize being able to leave town at moments notice for the Starbucks gig.  The construction schedule was extremely tight to open on time – prior to July 4th festivities.  Throw in a few setbacks like having to reopen the entire finished sheetrock ceiling to reinspect fire sprinklers – the pressure would amp even more to work as due diligently as possible to stay on track.  I guesstimated I could render one medallion per day – make that per long super-focused day.  Upon our pleasant meet and greet in person the morning I arrived General Contractor, Harman Ranger – owner of Constructure, inquired if I could finish all four medallions in two days.  I smiled politely and said that would be above and beyond a super human feat.  “It is what it is to work through the production process.”  You cannot rush the perfection I was aiming for, and was expected to deliver.  I offered to work through the weekend instead – which panned out well having the space to myself to work and think in peace for at least two days.  Being a bit of an introvert my nature, I work best in silence and solitude.  The other two days of working amongst other trades was a frantic do-si-do of skirting in, out, around each other…and the deafening “STOMP” like clammer of saws, hammers, screwguns, crash, boom, bang, you name it.

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Template application after I assured perfect layout via measurements

Once template was centered and adhered, I finessed any seams and began applying the metallic gold paint

Once centered & adhered w/ finessed seams – I applied metallic gold paint

Each of the eight foot circular medallion templates had to be cut/produced in twelve separate parts at Modello Designs. Shipped from California to my home in Skaneateles, New York – I laid them out in my studio to sketch, number, and study them well in advance. Measure four times if not six, and adhere to the ceiling once to line up seams. A little wiggle room not preferred, but inevitable = safe release painters tape to the rescue and the ultimate back up of hand-retouching to perfect edges.

Averaged one medallion per day.  Final step; finessing with hand-wrought detail to perfect edges and seams.

Final step; finessing with hand-wrought detail to perfect edges and seams.

Aside from rendering the ornament I had to insure perfect placement, which was crucial for the overall effect. Crunching measurement math end to end, side to side through the expanse of ceiling, I noted two of the four light boxes were off by 1 1/2″. Unfortunately, in turn, this seemingly slight variation would bump the medallions off from being perfectly centered in a row. Deep breath….and step back for two days for Harman’s crew to open the prepped ready-to-go sheetrocked ceiling to move the two light boxes accordingly. Fresh tape, joint compound repair, and paint is always a cringe when using the adhesive backed decorative masking patterns. The essential proper prep process should never be rushed, as it always requires proper cure time. But with looming deadline – this was not the luxury of an option. Pray….bring in fans, and thank God for the super product Binz 123 primer. After researching and speaking to tech reps, this product did in fact live up to its promise of being a super-sealing super-gripping primer. I was relieved that my insistence to use Binz resulted in minimal ‘blisters’ (areas where the adhesive template may pull off the barely cured repaired areas of the basecoat).

I made the most of the two-day setback, and struck out from my hotel to explore.  WOW!!!  I had no idea how beautiful, powerful, and majestic our country’s Capitol region was.

The grand architecture of our Capitol region....awe inspiring

The grand architecture of our Capitol region….awe inspiring

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Spent a day walking through Arlington National Cemetery, the monuments, and historical sights associated with it.

Arlington National Cemetery - located next to Fort Myers Military Base

Arlington National Cemetery next to Fort Myers

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

It’s hallow ground.  Gave me a lump in my throat, and deepened respect for the centuries of sacrifices made on behalf of forging our great nation.  There was so much to take in and learn about our country’s rich history.  I studied an ornate display showcasing the various Military awards for valor and bravery – especially the Medal of Honor.  Talk about feeling inspired…

 

The next day, I explored the entire National Mall.  I meandered everywhere, weaving on foot through all the magnificent memorials representing poignant points and milestones in our commitment to Democracy and pursuit of Freedom.  I paused at each to really absorb their meaning, and the difference all the military sacrifices made – for all of us and the quality of life we enjoy today.  Our government buildings are the finest examples of stunning architecture, symbolic ornament and power.  You could just feel it in the air.

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Couldn’t help acting like a star-struck tourist when I pressed my face through the wrought iron fence to stare at the stately White House.

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Those two days were really a blessing in disguise to rev me up with a super charged surge of inspiration for the hard, labor intensive physical work that lay ahead – now that I was ‘back in the saddle’ with a green light to proceed.

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The work went swimmingly well, and the days became a blur of my hands dancing nonstop in a flurry of gold detailing overhead.  It was quite the work-out, but my adrenaline and aspirin helped me to rally.  I finished on point and in the nick of time.  Drove home dreamy eyed on July 4th to my beloved Tillie, family, and schoolhouse sanctuary.  Took the entire following week off to let my body rest and repair itself.

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Everyone was wonderful to work with, and as always, I made new friends.  It was truly an honor to be involved, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to lend a hand with this inspiring project.  Even more so, for the opportunity to explore and experience the the heart of our Nation’s Capitol region and stoic Military memorials.

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The Starbucks commission was testament to my great faith that I can accomplish anything I try hard at, or set my mind to, no matter how daunting the task.  The end result was a huge hit – everyone loved the Medal of Honor medallion accent. The new Starbucks Coffee shop at Fort Myer’s is suitably a unique and beautiful variation from the usual cafe in honor of the soldiers who will be served there.

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With respectful gratitude,

Heather

“We are stars wrapped in skin, the light you are seeking has always been within”            – Rumi

Apr

30

Posted by : schoolhouse | On : April 30, 2015

 

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Enjoying an ocean side respite…finally, a chance to rest, reminisce and write! It’s been a whirlwind year full of inspiring projects, and whittling away on my circa 1814 schoolhouse renovation every ‘spare’ moment. Time goes by in a blink!

A recent career highlight was the fortunate opportunity to paint and play with my dear friend and muse, Melanie Royals. Melanie is the creative super nova founder of my favorite ornament resources; Modello Designs and Royal Design Studio. She’s a renown decorative arts industry leader. I’ve travelled often to her studio headquarters in California for classes – mastering methods and mediums to create exquisite finishes for all sorts of hand-wrought surface design applications.

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November 2014 – to celebrate my 15 year milestone of being self-employed, I joined Melanie and friends for another epic painting adventure in Marrakech, Morocco. Like the 2009 project we worked on at internationally famous blogger Maryam Montague’s estate home and hotel boutique Peacock Pavilions, I knew this would be an incredibly inspiring experience and trip of a lifetime…

Like other painting adventures Melanie has coordinated for projects in Morocco, Italy, and France – the team she gathered was an eclectic ensemble of personalities, professions, and experience…unified by creative spirit and longing for adventure.

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We flew from New York City to Casablanca to Marrakech to get acquainted via a savory Moroccan fare dinner at our home base, Maison Du Tresor. The Maison (French for ‘home’) is an elegant, peaceful riad (traditional Moroccan style home with an open inner courtyard) in the heart of the old city near the famed Djemaa-el-Fna square.

Sprawling mysteriously behind an unassuming gated entrance door…

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The hotel has been renovated by it’s Italian owner in the tradition of discreet luxury and intimate hospitality.

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I loved the the roof-top terrace with cozy nooks offering sweeping views of the ancient fortified city and snow-capped Atlas Mountain range in the distance. Above the bustling maze of streets, the roof terrace is a surround sound stage for the daily calls to prayer which resonate from the Muslim minaret towers punctuating the landscape.

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Melanie has travelled to Morocco over a dozen times, paving the path for numerous collaborative projects. For this particular painting excursion, she partnered with her dear friend and gallery owner, Hadia Temli, to design beautiful wall finishes for Hadia’s up-and-coming space in Guelez (the newer, more cosmopolitan city facet of Marrakech). Hadia hails from a well connected family with a great appreciation for art – from antiquities to contemporary.

Melanie and Hadia worked months in advance to conceptualize the project, fine-tune design details and prepare logistics for our arrival to execute the decorative painting.

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With great camaraderie and teamwork, we were thrilled to work on the walls of Hadia’s new gallery.

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We painted two feature walls in a tone-on-tone white paint with metallic pearl stencil creme to create a subtle, but eye-catching backdrop. Melanie designed the Moroccan Key and African Protea Flower allover stencil patterns used, which are available via the Royal Design Studio collection.

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The piece de resistance was a room dedicated to the rendering of a ‘Haiti’ wall mural. Haiti’s are ceremonial wall hangings created from pieced and embroidered silk. The original, an early 20th century vintage piece, which inspired the wall finish is from the Temli family art collection.

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After completing the paint project, we spent the rest of our stay savoring all the senses – experiencing the quintessential exotic nature of Morocco.

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The sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feel of the region is an eclectic mix of Middle Eastern, African, and European influences.

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As a decorative artist, I am in awe of the intricate detail, hand-wrought craftsmanship, vibrant color and geometric patterning of Islamic art.

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Everywhere I looked was a visual feast; from centuries old historical settings to swanky restaurants, to the souks in the medina teeming with food vendors, henna artists, musicians, snake charmers and artisans selling their handcrafted goods.

Our itinerary was thoughtfully planned to allow us the gamut of great experiences; fine dining, cooking classes, shopping, a hammam spa treatment, visiting historical sites, artist studios, cocktails at the Royal Mansour…

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Everything we did provided a deep sense of cultural appreciation, left us inspired and feeling rather privileged.

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The highlight for me was a day trip to the majestic Atlas Mountains.  Passing caravans as we wound our way through narrow mountain passes…listening to Berber music, was a wild ride to say the least.

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Landing in the village of Imlal, we hiked up to Kasbah du Toubkal for afternoon mint tea.

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Partway along a foot trail to reach the Kasbah, I stopped to hone in on a hauntingly beautiful sound…calls to prayer occur 5 times a day in the predominantly Muslim country of Morocco, and at that moment it was echoing through the mountain valley.

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Atop the Kasbah, I took the time to slowly turn 360 degrees studying the incredible raw beauty of it all…imagining the experience of daily life there. What if I had been born in that mountain village, rather than in Skaneateles, New York?

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Well…I surely would love to weave the amazing, one-of-a-kind Berber carpets which the region is famed for. It fascinates me how much ‘creativity’ is seeped in our nature as human beings.

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I feel blessed to love what I do and to do what I love. I feel blessed to live in a beautiful region…and to venture out for opportunities to explore our beautiful world. For me, inspiring friendships and the adventure of travel are what make life rich. I know when I’m old and gray and still painting away I’ll look back on this experience…and smile.

With much gratitude,
Heather

“You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop” – Rumi

Jun

11

Posted by : schoolhouse | On : June 11, 2014

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An embossed leather feature wall I tucked into an entrance alcove to complement the 'Old World' design scheme.

An embossed leather feature wall I tucked into an entrance alcove to complement the ‘Old World’ design scheme.

Make a statement and celebrate the art of living with a custom painted feature wall accent to personalize your home sanctuary. Feature wall concepts are a clever, quick and easy way to inject color, add mood or enhance a room without redoing the entire color scheme that exists. Give any room in your home a lift by accentuating one wall, essentially creating a feature wall, whose design differs from the other walls in the room. As a Decorative Artist, custom feature wall finishes are one of my favorite means to create an original, stylish reflection of a client’s personality, tastes and interests. Aside from adding excitement to a room, feature wall finishes may also serve an aesthetic purpose to highlight an architectural element or frame a design nuance like artwork, a headboard, or fireplace mantle.

I faux finished this entire entranceway in Brown Suede Lusterstone. A niche alcove with bench seating served as a perfect place to accentuate a feature wall with gold Pompeian ornament...highlighted by the filtered light coming through the front door window.

I faux finished this entire entranceway in Brown Suede Lusterstone. A niche alcove with bench seating served as a perfect place to create a feature wall with stenciled gold Pompeian ornament…highlighted by filtered light shining through the front door window.

When entering a room, intuitively feel which wall facet naturally falls as a focal point. There’s always a logical reason why a wall invites special treatment and deserves attention to draw the eye. Elements to consider include balancing color and design with existing features and planned furnishings. Also, the quality of light entering the room during the day, and ambiance created by sconces, chandeliers or table lamps in the evening hours. Selecting colors and faux finish treatments is always a collaborative venture with designers and clients. Creating sample boards allows me to work through the brainstorming process to determine what looks and feels right for the home and client.

I put countless hours in behind the scenes...working in my studio to brainstorm different finishes, color and ornament options to create the 'perfect' finish for each project.

I put countless hours in behind the scenes…working in my studio to brainstorm different finishes, color and ornament options to create the ‘perfect’ finish for each project.

Color palette may be layered in the same color-way to keep the look coordinated with tone-on-tone lighter/darker variations of a hue. Often times I’ll play off the tone-on-tone effect by leaving 3 walls flat painted in a favorite color, and create a feature wall in a similar shade but differentiated with a faux finish medium such as venetian plaster or glazed color washing.

Before shot of Family Room feature wall...

Before shot of Family Room feature wall…

After shot of Family Room feature wall with subtle tone-on-tone Lusterstone finish - which added a layer of coziness, warmth, and interest to the room.

After shot of Family Room feature wall with subtle tone-on-tone Lusterstone finish – which added a layer of coziness, warmth, and interest to the room.

The tone-on-tone hand troweled Lusterstone feature wall was embellished with very subtle damask accents.

The tone-on-tone hand troweled Lusterstone feature wall was embellished with very subtle damask accents.

When working in a particular color scheme – sometimes it’s fun to inject a pop of color and/or ornament that adds personality and excitement without overpowering the room. For ornamental decorative paint finishes, seeds of inspiration are often found in window treatment, pillow, and upholstered chair fabrics. A recent commission highlights the process of gleaning inspiration directly from a fabric bolt used to upholster two armchairs.

Client requested a family room feature wall inspired by upholstered armchair fabric. I traced the ornament on a sheet of mylar and hand-cut a template to lay the design out on a 30' expanse of wall.

Client requested a Family Room feature wall inspired by upholstered armchair fabric. I traced the ornament on a sheet of mylar and hand-cut a template to lay the design out on a 30′ expanse of wall.

With the family room walls base-coated a rich shade of Sailboat Blue, I began stenciling the basic layout of the ornamental fabric pattern.

With the Family Room walls base-coated a rich shade of Behr Sailboat Blue, I began stenciling the basic layout of the ornamental fabric pattern.

After the ornament was mapped out, I reworked the entire design with a 1/2" brush to richen the design with hand-wrought flare. Most guests thought the finish was wallpaper, until upon closer inspection, the painted gesture marks were apparent...and there were no seams.

After the ornament was mapped out, I reworked the entire motif with a 1/2″ brush to richen the design with hand-wrought flare. Most guests thought the finish was wallpaper at first glance. Upon closer inspection, the wall is seamless (unlike wallpaper) and the quality of painted gesture marks are apparent.

The fabric inspired ornament perfectly fit the expanse of feature wall, and was a lovely complement to the bold, elaborate woodwork.

The fabric inspired ornament perfectly fit the expanse of feature wall, and was a lovely complement to the bold, elaborate woodwork.

The seed of inspiration found in design accents...that tie it all together into a beautiful package.

The seed of inspiration found in design accents…that tie it all together into a beautiful package.

Most recently, I partnered with celebrated Interior Designer – Rene Settineri of Rene Designs to create a ‘very special’ feature wall for the 2014 Central New York Parade of Homes Tour. Rene is a lovely Muse and a delightful professional patron to work with…kind, generous, devoted, inspiring. There’s a natural fluidity, bounce back and forth to our brainstorming process and creative partnership.

A glimpse into one of the many brainstorming and sample review sessions I had with Rene Settineri...the celebrated Interior Designer who commissioned my work for the 2014 Central New York Parade of Homes.

A glimpse into one of the many brainstorming and sample review sessions I had with Rene Settineri…the celebrated Interior Designer who commissioned my work for the 2014 Central New York Parade of Homes.

Before shot of the Parade home master bedroom feature wall - with yours truly, Interior Designer Rene Settineri, and new home owners the lovely Lauren Marinelli and her fiancé, Ryan Geiger...a great team!

Before shot – the Master Bedroom feature wall base coated in Benjamin Moore Covington Grey.  Project group portrait with yours truly, Interior Designer Rene Settineri of Rene Designs, new home owners – the lovely Lauren Marinelli and her fiancé, Ryan Geiger…a great team!

The Harden bed with uber cool headboard Rene selected for the soon to be newlyweds Master Bedroom commanded a backdrop – which the feature wall concept was well suited for. Rene preferred our feature wall palette range to be in shades of soft grey, silver, and black – which coordinated with the headboard and bedding fabric design. I pulled the part of selecting ornament and the best mediums to work with to create a stellar effect – opting for the elegant glow of Ebony Frost Lusterstone with gilded silver leaf to ad visual interest, depth to the ornament, and a clever means of catching the light cast from a large window during the day and ambient chandelier in the eve.

Starting the creative process...while a gentle breeze through an open bedroom window swirls about the delicate silver leaf to be used as eye-catching accent

Starting the creative process…with a gentle breeze from the bedroom window swirling about the delicate silver leaf I intend to use as an eye-catcher.

Stenciling Ebony Frost Lusterstone to layout trellis ornament across expanse of wall

Stenciling Ebony Frost Lusterstone to layout trellis ornament across the feature wall.

Applying the sizing medium, which comes to tack for the gilding process of silver leaf application...

Applying the sizing medium, which comes to tack for the gilding process of silver leaf application.

Applying the silver leaf accents in a random manner to create interest and an abstract modern art feel to the feature wall

Applying the silver leaf accents in a random manner to create interest and an abstract modern art feel.

The master bedroom feature wall custom painted and gilded design element upon completion

The Master Bedroom feature wall – custom painted and gilded design element upon completion.

Our desired effect of 'catching the light'...adding depth and interest to the wall selected to frame the newlyweds Harden bed

We achieved our desired effect of catching the light, adding depth and interest to the feature wall selected to frame the Harden bed in a newlyweds Master Bedroom.

Our joint collaboration to create an interesting and unique feature wall with modern flare has been a huge hit with the new homeowners Ryan and Lauren, colleagues who observed our work process behind the scenes, and guests who’ve been flocking in to admire the finished, well-appointed home for inspiration.

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We’re geared up to host the show home, and are so thrilled to celebrating the fruits of hardwork and great teamwork. Please join us at The Farmstead in the Town of Clay, New York. The 2014 Parade of Homes Tour runs from June 7th – 22nd. Hours are Monday – Friday from 1:00pm to 8:00pm, Saturday – Sunday 11:00am to 6:00pm.

Rene and I will be happy to greet you in the JMG Custom Homes ‘Genevieve’ model…hope to see you there!!

With great joy,

Heather

“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.”  — Rumi

 

 

 

Nov

10

Posted by : schoolhouse | On : November 10, 2013

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Decorative Artist, Heather Bruno-Sears, admiring prehistoric Indian rock art in the Valley of Fire, Nevada.  Imagining the symbolic meaning of petroglyphs from ancient tripes...

Admiring prehistoric Indian rock art in the Valley of Fire, Nevada. Imagining the symbolic meaning of petroglyphs from ancient tribes…

Welcome friends! Very pleased to present my blog…a fun channel to share creative inspiration and current project updates.

I’ve always loved the creative process…in nature, life and art…it’s fascinating and ever-evolving.  To be an entrepreneur in business doing what I LOVE to do, is truly a blessing.  A fine balance of freedom + discipline = success!  Celebrating 15 years of following my bliss…everyday is a new adventure.

As an Artist, the spark of “idea” is akin to an ecstatic pressure to be born…

photoForging the fire of imagination into hand-wrought physical form via my decorative arts repertoire is tremendously rewarding. When clever concepts, exquisite finish work, and one-of-a-kind surface design techniques bring joy to a client by making their home and sanctuary more beautiful, personalized, interesting or unique…I’m happy ten-fold. It’s a win-win for the customer and for myself as Artisan.  The positive energy pays forward to rally an excellent professional reputation, word-of-mouth referrals for future projects and creative collaborations.

My home and circa 1814 schoolhouse studio are located in the Finger Lakes Region of Central New York...a scenic source of inspiration in all seasons!

My home and circa 1814 schoolhouse studio are located in the Finger Lakes Region of Central New York…a scenic source of inspiration thru all seasons!

So, pleased to have you join me as I work hard, play hard, and ramble on about the fruits of labor…

With love; to mind-walk, day-dream, brain-storm and…always see the potential in things.

With intent; to share a smile, savor the moment, to inspire and…admire the beauty of the world around us.

With kind regards,

Heather