Lunch Table Set

Auctions are a great place to get art supplies, and I especially like industrial auctions. It’s usually dirty, noisy, and sometimes too many smokers show up, but it’s a chance to poke around in factories and other places you wouldn’t ordinarily be allowed. It’s also a  social event, you often see some of the same characters. Plus there’s usually donuts, hot dogs, and hot chocolate at the concession trailer.

This week’s auction I nicknamed the Mod Table auction. It was at a stretch limousine factory — which means metal, metal-working tools, sewing machines, bundles of leather, big bolts of vinyl and foam, velcro, spray adhesive, seat belts….. The company is moving all their operations to Ohio (without offering any of their local employees jobs which seems pretty crummy, I might add) and liquidating the entire factory.

Sometimes there’s a bonus at industrial auctions. If there happens to be some retro furniture, it usually sells a whole lot cheaper than it would at an antique auction, because industrial bidders aren’t interested in that sort of thing.

The contents of the lunch room in the factory were on the list to sell. I thought these chairs were sort of cool-looking — maybe from the 70’s? They are really strong, waterproof, and stack. I thought if they went cheap enough, they might be good for a party at the studio, or maybe I could donate them to the Creamery Arts Center because I thought they’d be good for kids’ art workshops.

The tables seemed sort of ugly and odd though. But the wooden tops would be great work surfaces or could be recycled.

Bidding started. The auctioneer offered them at $50 per table. No bites. $25 per table. Not a nibble. $10 per table. Nothing.

There was a lot of more important stuff to auction, so he decided to offer the whole set of 5 tables and 40 chairs for one price and move on.

But no bidders at $100, $50, or $25. So the whole Lunch Table Set sold for $5.

When it was time move everything to an already stuffed trailer and truck, there was a little surprise.

The tables we had bought were not the tables that we thought we had bought.

We had actually bought 12 tables, 40 chairs and a whole lot of wood for $5.

And guess what, the tables stack too!

Vintage Friday

buttermilk_pancakes.jpg Long ago I told Paper Dolls for Boys that I would post vintage photos on Fridays, but I really haven’t got that many great vintage photos.

I do however have a nice collection of mid-century cookbooks — many I found when I bought two big boxes of old papers at an auction. They appear to be the entire 1950-60’s Home Economics classroom files of a woman named Frances, and are full of leaflets and brochures about choosing silverware, how to use a deep freeze, bug sprays, dieting, and more.

I love looking at these old cookbooks, finding a lot of humor and inspiration for my work from the drawings and advertising copy in these retro pieces of domestic history.

So Tracy, I hope you won’t mind if I post some of these instead of photos. For some more inspiration from retro graphics, check out my Flickr set here and the Flickr group mid-century illustrated.

Update: I almost forgot to post these, here are some folks who actually did the photos:
Los Angeles is My Beat

Laughing Living and Loving in Austin
A Jen Too Many
and  be sure to check out the hula hoops on

Clay and Hearts


Remember last year when I mentioned being struck down by ceramics by Lisa Naples? It was one of the those epiphany moments for me: Whoa — clay being used with texture, color, words, and images!

>>>Update: Some how I missed linking to Lisa Naples main website here! Thanks Andy! <<<

After that day I talked a lot around here about getting back into making stuff with clay. Not that I plan to stop making quilts. But I’m interested in bringing to it some of my ideas and things I’ve learned over the past few years.

So guess what appeared under the Valentine tree last weekend? A whole set of clay-making stuff — a wheel, kiln, clay, bunch of glazes, and hand-tools. My sweetie found a ceramics studio that was going out of business and got a truck load of great stuff at auction. What a surprise to find the whole setup in our studio!


I’ve gotten a lot of metal hearts over the years, but this the first time for a clay heart. What a great guy! I can’t figure out how he got it all here, and I’m pretty overwhelmed.

I’d better brush up on my Greek Architecture


The spirit of the Olympics has filled me, and I had to get to work on this rendition of an early Greek athlete. I had him trade in his dumbbell for an iPod shuffle though, so I guess that brings him up to date.

I print out big patterns for my quilts but nothing is set in stone. Throughout the process, I continue to have new ideas, so I’m often drawing the changes on the pattern as I go along. In this case, I finally had an idea how to use this great light table that Russ got at auction last spring. I don’t know the exact size, but for scale, that’s a Sharpie pen on the right side of the drawing.


Sort of looking like a cowboy right now, but give it time. I’m loving working with all these new characters, it’s getting to be like a crazy party in my studio with lots of interesting wallflowers.

Moving a Sculpture, or this weekend reminds me why I make quilts


We finally got back up to Omaha to pick up this sculpture purchased at the Bemis Art Auction last fall. It will be a fun Memorial weekend project to move it back home for our new sculpture garden collection.

It’s very heavy and awkward to move — took six guys to drag it to the edge of the loading dock at the Bemis, before it could be lifted with a fork truck.



Oops, lost a wheel.


Actually in the end, it worked better to take off all the wheels and load them separately.


Oh well, if the wheels really worked, it would just spin in a circle anyway. The sculpture is very heavy and now the truck and trailer is difficult to drive on the highway. Although it was a beautiful evening in old downtown Omaha last night, today the forecast is for heavy storms, wind and hail. Should be a exciting trip home!

Also stopped yesterday at the 51st Brownsville, NE historic flea market and craft festival. Wait till you see what I got there…

Vintage Christmas


We’ve had housefuls of company this year, so I’ve had little time to make anything myself, but I always enjoy getting little vintage treasures out of their storage boxes. This is a nativity scene made from a coconut and other nuts that I found in a bucket in the basement of an old house during an estate auction.


My grandmother had lots of craft parties with her friends, especially around the holidays when they made ornaments from things like wishbones and egg shells. But my favorite is this angel wall hanging that inspires me in my studio.


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Bemis Center Art Auction


I’ve been doing some small experiments lately to more closely bridge my drawing and work with cloth. This is a shoe I sat next to at the Bemis Center art auction a few weeks ago, a great place to see and draw lots of characters.

Based in Omaha, Nebraska, the Bemis Center is an artist-residency program in a historic downtown building with great galleries for exhibitions and community out-reach programs, and right across the street from Jun Kaneko’s studios and upcoming creativity museum ( a link to our visit there last year) and (and day two.)


The art auction was the slicked operation I’ve seen in a long time. It was packed, there was great food, open bar, and three sections of silent auctions, a buy-it-now room, and the live auction. It’s well supported by artists, because the artists can set their minimum, get 50 percent of the selling price (same as a gallery), and the Bemis provides education about the artist and unique creative experiences for many.


Of course the top dollar part was the live auction. If attendees wanted to keep the party going, they could stay noisy in the buy-it-now room, and still watch and bid over a big-screen closed network. In fact all the key staff were wired for communication, and before the end of the night, the silent auction items were labeled and bubble-wrapped for taking home. (update: just found out the auction raised a whopping $440,000!)


We bought a James Surls linocut, and something really big that we’re going to have fetch with a truck, so more adventures coming….Thanks Russ for the photos. Since I was so busy drawing, I didn’t have time to take any myself, except for this one. Uh, make that a truck and a trailer!


Empty Spools

I was wondering why I was collecting all the old wooden spools that I find at auctions, and now I’ve found one good reason.

They are great for winding on this hand-dyed thread I bought from Laura Wasilowski when she was in town. I always wondered what people did with all that thread she sells. She has several different weights, #3 is good for hand embrodiery, #8 for bobbin work (which I don’t like to do), and this is #12 which you can machine stitch with a top stitch or quilting needle.

I still couldn’t figure it out until she told me to wind the #12 on an empty spool, and finally the light bulb went off! It’s tricky to do though, without ending up with a whole mess of knots.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to quilt my kokeshi dolls because the background is lots of little pieces instead of one solid. So I’ve been experimenting with stitching a pattern over many pieces, something that’s new for me. It’s fun and I like the effect I’m getting with Laura’s varigated threads.

Chinese Checkers

Oh my, it was a beautiful day today…I saw a guy and a dog flying a kite in a big grassy field.  Actually I spend the morning inside drawing, not a good use of the fabulous weather, but I did get out in the afternoon to go to an auction, and got this great Chinese Checkers set.

This one has unusual graphics with this odd little Pixie guy, and it says it was made in St. Louis.

And wow, does that guy really have five hands? I sure could use his help around the house!