Where to buy art: Furbish pop-ups

If you're even marginally aware of design blogs, you probably already know all about Jamie Meares's store Furbish in Raleigh, NC.

Jamie's blog I Suwannee was one of the first I started reading ten or so years ago, and I never stopped. She has a great eye for mixing color and pattern in interiors, and I adore her aesthetic.

Furbish always has some art for sale, but I specifically wanted to call out their artist pop-ups, which are all online. As the name implies, they don't happen all the time; you have to follow Furbish to find out when they're coming, but it's so worth subscribing to the emails just to stay in the know about these pop-up sales. Jamie finds some really cool, eclectic artists for the sales, and if you share her cheerful, feminine aesthetic, chances are high you will be introduced to someone whose work you love. She keeps everything at pretty reasonable price point too--usually under $1,000, and often under $500. 

The downside is that the sales are short and well hyped, so there's some pressure to purchase quickly. Pieces start to sell as soon as the sales go live, and some of their pop-ups sell out in the first day or two. I prefer to put a lot of thought into any art purchase, so I'm not generally a huge fan of situations that require a quick trigger pull. But like I said, they're advertised ahead of time, so you get an opportunity to research the artist to get a sense of the style and price range. They don't post a lot of specifics beforehand, but Furbish staff have always been quick to answer my email queries, so I think they'd be willing to give you a sense of the art size and price range, if it's not obvious from your independent research. 

These pop-ups have all passed, but here are some examples to give you an idea of the kind of art to expect from Furbish:

1. Anna Sims King     2. Lindsey Porter     3. Karin Olah
4. Susie Bettenhausen     5. Jenny Andrews Anderson     6. Melvin G
7. Brannon Addison     8. Lucy Augé      9. Teil Duncan

Collectors, have you ever shopped at a Furbish pop-up? What was your experience like?

Quick tip: Stalking Instagram (Part 1)

Instagram is an amazing resource for discovering new art. It can also be totally overwhelming. One easy way to find new artists is to pay closer attention to the comments on the posts from the artists you already love.

I can almost guarantee that the artists you love are also being followed by other artists, many of whom probably share some qualities of subject matter or style.  

Take this post from artist LeeAnne Wright. The first two commenters are other artists, which didn't surprise me at all. This happens more often than you'd think, and it's how I've discovered several new favorites. (Coincidentally, the third comment is from the gallery through which I originally found LeeAnne's work. The Instagram rabbit hole is circular!)

Lest you think that was a fluke, here's a post from artist Marc Pekala:

Again, several of those commenters are artists. And since Marc's style is very different from LeeAnne's, it shouldn't be surprising that his followers have a different style than her followers too. Of course, in neither case is the commenters' art a match for LeeAnne's or Marc's. That would be lame. But there are similarities, so if you love Marc's style, you could very well find a new favorite among these commenters, and the same goes for LeeAnne's.

Collectors, have you discovered any favorite artists through Instagram? Who?

Readers, I'm always looking for more of these quick tips. They can be about anything related to art collecting: finding art, purchasing art, hanging art, living with art... you get the idea. If you have a one you can share, please shoot me a note from the Contact page.

Two art-centric home office ideas

I work outside my home, as does my husband, so there's no reason to use any of  the limited space we have for a home office. I've always loved the idea of decorating one, though. I've had two home office "designs" in my head for years, both of which revolve around art. (Of course they do.)

Home office design #1: Hogarth's Industry and Idleness

William Hogarth was an 18th Century artist and social critic known for his moral commentary and satire. Industry and Idleness is a set of 12 engravings telling the stories of two young men who start off as apprentices in the same shop. Over the course of the panels, the industrious young man marries the boss's daughter, becomes a magistrate and ultimately Lord Mayor of London. The lazy young man digs into every possible bad deed (Theft! Gambling! Prostitution! You name it!) and is eventually sent to the gallows to pay for his crimes. It is a super heavy handed, black-and-white view of morality--one I don't subscribe to, certainly. But I thoroughly enjoy Hogarth's use of details to tell the stories; there are so many "Easter eggs" to discover as you examine the panels. I love the idea of framing the complete set in 2x6 or 3x4 grid in an office, as a sort of tongue-in-cheek reminder to keep hustling.

I'd frame prints of the series and display them prominently and traditionally as such:

Home office design #2: Gallery of portraits

I know they're not for everyone, but I adore quirky portraits, and I have long fantasized about doing a gallery wall full of them in a home office. I'd refer to them as my "co-workers" and then chuckle at myself, as there wouldn't actually be anyone else around to laugh.

For this design, I'd hang them in a looser, more eclectic gallery wall, like these:

Design-wise the two ideas feel very different. But I like art and interior design that doesn't take itself too seriously, and I think both of these would fit nicely with my sense of humor.

Collectors, what fantasy rooms have you designed around art?

Activist art

What are your thoughts on activist art--that is, politically-themed, social-justice-oriented, and/or resistance art? 

This is a tough category for me. On the one hand, when it's done well, I'm really into it. I love art that tells a story and makes you think, and this genre definitely does that. I've always felt strongly about several social justice issues, even more so over the past year. And I've seen many of those themes beautifully or strikingly depicted in art. On the other hand, when it comes to actually buying art, it's hard for me to imagine hanging these pieces in my home. I know I'm lucky to have been born into a privileged life in so many ways, and absolutely do not want to ignore the sad realities that others must face on a daily basis: racism, xenophobia, war, human trafficking, prejudice, poverty, abuse, the list goes on and on. I want to be reminded of the inequities in my country and the world, so I can fight them--but actually hanging those reminders on my walls feels like a step to far for me. (And in terms of resistance art, no matter what I think about the quality of the piece or its commentary, I cannot fathom having the likeness of 45 on my walls. No way, no how.)

All that being said, there are some artists who do amazing things in this genre. Here are a handful that have stood out to me:

Joel Innovinci Ulmer  Untitled VI  [Price on Request]

Joel Innovinci Ulmer Untitled VI [Price on Request]

Natalia Anciso  Migra  [$850]

Natalia Anciso Migra [$850]

Ben Tankard  Art of the Deal  [$1500AU]

Ben Tankard Art of the Deal [$1500AU]

Michael Fischer Keller  Lift Them Up  diptych [$15,000]

Michael Fischer Keller Lift Them Up diptych [$15,000]

Marni Manning  Stand for Something  [$250]

Marni Manning Stand for Something [$250]

Beverly Ryan  Dante's Drones  [$5000]

Beverly Ryan Dante's Drones [$5000]

Any of you have activist art in your homes? Where do you display it? What do you look for in those pieces? Do you have other activist artists you recommend?  

Meet the collector: Michelle in New Plymouth, NZ

I'm excited to introduce you to Michelle, a collector with great eye in New Zealand. Enjoy!

Michelle Matangi.jpeg

Michelle Matangi, 36, Seamstress/Business Owner, New Plymouth, New Zealand

Who/what inspired you to start collecting art?

I can’t really remember at exactly what point I was inspired, but since I was a teenager I was very drawn to art. I took art class, which I loved, but for some reason as I got older I thought that art was for the rich so I didn’t start collecting until I was in our house now and realized how affordable art can be. 

What was the first piece of your collection?

When I first discovered the Marilyn Bubblegum piece by Michael Moebius, I was so in awe of it but obviously couldn’t afford the price tag of an original.  I ended up finding a print of it on Etsy which I was thrilled about, still to this day it’s my favourite piece I own.

Marilyn Monroe Bubblegum.png

Your most recent acquisition?

My Swan prints by Evie Kemp. Evie is an illustrator from Auckland and does some really amazing work! I have a couple of other prints of hers too; I love how bold and expressive they are. 

Evie Kemp Swans.png

At what point did you feel like an art collector?

I’m not sure I can claim that as I don’t feel like I am, but I guess I started caring about art and wanting more when I was in my early 30s.

What do you look for when you purchase art?

I’m really drawn to portraits. I just can’t help myself.  I also really love abstract pieces and anything really bold.  It’s got to jump out at me to warrant purchasing it. 

What's a mistake you've made but learned from?

Get art framed properly! A really lovely artwork can look terrible if it’s not framed well.  Also if you see a piece of art and you love it, then buy it--obviously only if you can afford it. Otherwise you will regret it.

What advice do you have for other collectors (especially those new to collecting)?  

Just buy what truly speaks to you--it doesn’t have to be expensive, some of my favourite pieces are from thrift shops! Also buy varying sizes because I personally think a gallery wall can look really timeless if done well.

What's something you don't imagine you'll ever have in your collection?

You'll never find typography among my collection, I just can’t!

What, if anything, do you think is "missing" from your collection?

Photography, I really want to add some great photography pieces.

We all have budgets. What's something you de-prioritize so you have extra funds for art?

Probably clothing for myself; anything for my house comes above clothing now.  I feel like I’m cheating on fashion with homewares... before I owned a house, all I cared about was clothes.

Michelle Matangi gallery wall.png

You just got a surprise gift of $1000 (~$1370NZD) to put towards your art collection. How would you use it?

I'd use it to help buy Andy Spain's Bat's Theatre, Wellington, New Zealand I’m completely obsessed with architecture, and this capture is just so brilliant. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Who is an artist whose work you love but will probably never own?

Stephanie Vovas work is one of my all time favourites! 

Can you recommend a local artist who deserves some love?

It’s actually really hard to choose as there’s so many talented artists in my hometown, but I adore Anna Gibson's illustrations. She’s got some serious talent with portraits which i’m so naturally drawn to.

Follow Michelle's collecting and life adventures on Instragram: @michellematangi. And if you're a fan of podcasts, check out her exciting new venture with artist Evie Kemp: "The Pink Room."

Collectors, want to share you wisdom and show off your favorite pieces? Shoot me a message via the Contact page, and I'll give you the details. I'm always looking for new and varied collectors to feature here! 

Where to buy art: Torpedo Factory Art Center

I'm lucky to live in a city that's known as an "arts destination." Alexandria, VA might not have the kind of arts infrastructure you find in places like New York City, but we've got some pretty great artists and art organizations for a mid-sized city. My very favorite amenity in our city, art-related or not, is the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

The TFAC was founded in 1974 in an obsolete torpedo factory (hence the name), and now houses 82 working-artist studios. The artists work in almost every media you can think of: painting, printmaking, ceramics, glasswork, photography, jewelry, fiber arts, wood carving, and more. In addition to the studios, there are also several galleries displaying other artists' work. There's so much original art under one roof.

What makes the TFAC so special is that visitors can not just purchase original art, but they can interact with the artists themselves--watch them at work, ask questions about their processes, learn the stories behind the pieces they've made. It's a really fantastic place, and one I visit at least once or twice each month. It never gets old to me.

One drawback of the TFAC is that, because its purpose is to promote interaction with artists, it doesn't have the most collector-friendly online presence. The website is great if you want to visit the Factory, but not set up to facilitate purchasing art from outside the walls. Most of the artists have their own websites, which are all linked from the main TFAC site, but they have varying degrees of usefulness if you're interested in buying artwork. Having to contact an artist directly about a piece isn't the biggest inconvenience in the world, but I do appreciate websites that remove all of those kinds of hurdles. 

In researching for this post, I've found that many of the artists, more than I previously thought, offer limited edition prints (mostly giclee) in addition to their original works. If you discover an artist whose work you love but is outside your price range, it might be worth asking whether they sell prints. Obviously, the artists want to sell originals so that's their focus, and perhaps they assume people will ask about prints if they're interested, but very few of the studios make this option obvious.

Here are just a few of the kinds of pieces you will see if you visit the Torpedo Factory Art Center (prices shown when listed online):

1. Sheep Jones [$775]     2. Matthew Johnston [$6800]

3. Tatyana Schremko [$35,000]    4. Whitney Staiger [$300]

5. Ellen Delaney [$1400]     6. Susan Cohen

7. John Gosling     8. Cindy Packard Richmond  [$2000]

11. Alison Sigethy [$3000-$35,000]     12. Rosemary Feit Covey [$860]

13. Kathy Beynette     14. Jennifer Brewer Stone [$900]

Visit the Torpedo Factory Art Center at 105 N. Union St. in Old Town Alexandria, VA.

Collectors, have you purchased any art from the Torpedo Factory? What did you get and what was the experience like?

Too much typography?

I love words. I love witty quotes and clever writing and powerful literary passages and smart lyrics and funny pop culture phrases. I love them so much that sometimes I'm embarrassed by how easily attracted I am to art with words. 

There's nothing inherently wrong with art that features words, but I think it's often considered "less than" other art--tiered lower on the unofficial hierarchy of media and subject matters. Maybe because it's so straightforward? "Higher" art leaves more up to the viewers interpretation? Or maybe because it's perceived as involving less skill? Or maybe because, for whatever reason, when a piece of word art gets popular, it gets really popular? (See the ubiquitous "For Like Ever" and "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters from a few years back.)

Right now we have several pieces that fit into the typography / word art / quote art genre. We have a "Don't give up the ship" flag prominently on display, in honor of my dad who passed away last year. It's the first thing you see when you walk in the house. Not far from it, we have a funky wire hand sculpture, labeled "High Five," the last thing you see as you leave. In our downstairs bathroom, we have a cheeky tea towel framed. In the playroom, we have a sweet little motivational watercolor.  In Timmy's nursery, we have a framed handwritten excerpt from a Taylor Mali poem from a dear friend I don't see enough of. I even have a vintage piece that's just a bunch of calligraphed C's--it's not even words, just a letter repeated over and over. 

They're spread pretty well throughout the house, but even so, I wonder whether it's too much. That twinge of embarrassment doesn't stop me from wanting more though.

If you haven't reached your quota for art with words, here are a few options in various styles, all under $100:

1. Nicole Cohen Blanche print [starting at $60]  2. Rachel Kerwin Speak 5 print [starting at $40]
3. Sarah Reiss T is for Taking Care of Business print [$24]
4. Carson Ellis Onward print [$40] 5. Anthony Burrill I Like It letterpress poster [£50] 
6. Bisco Smith Methods screen print [$75]

If you're willing to spend a bit more, here are some more good ones:

7. Ben Eine RIOT screen print [$600]  8. Jennifer Ament It's Not You print [$225]
9. Rachel Castle All the Peoples screen print [$310]
10. Peter Blake Dazzle Alphabet B silkscreen [£575/letter]
11. Yee Wong Disco in the Jungle: Life Is Beautiful print [starting at $150]
12. Alanna Cavanagh The Intelligent Woman's Guide silkscreen [$795 CAD]

Collectors, do you have any typography or word art on your walls? What do you look for or avoid with this kind of art?

Matchmaking: Art for Lauren Liess

One of my favorite interior designers is fellow Virginian Lauren Liess. I don't have the self restraint to actually adopt Lauren's design style to my own home, but she makes it to my favorite list, not only because her designs are gorgeous, but because she's so open about her thought process during the design process. I've learned so much from her blog and her excellent book Habitat: A Field Guide to Decorating. 

For the unfamiliar, here these photos from Lauren's portfolio give you a sense of her decorating style and her use of art, particularly:

As you can see, Lauren usually sticks to a tight, neutral palette of browns and off-whites, with hits of black, greens and blues. She does a lot of gallery walls of pieces that tie closely together, but also uses plenty of larger scale pieces as well (under-represented in my mini gallery here). She uses a lot of botanicals, vintage art, and black-and-white or sepia art and photography. She keeps the framing and matting pretty simple too. I think, in that bedroom image above especially, the consistent matting makers a huge difference in tying together a variety of frames.

If you want to emulate Lauren's style art-wise, here are some options that I think would fit in nicely:

1. Valerie Lueth Young Pines [$175]     2. Lucy Augé Mellow Buttercups [$81]
3. Vintage portrait by Raffaele Frigerio [$395]    4. Valerie Lueth & Paul Roden Daisy Bouquet [$150] 

5. Michael Crouser Ryder Mounting Up [starting at $1000]     6. Vintage painting by Frank Colson  [$225]
7. Eric Rhein 6 Hummingbirds [price on request]     8. Bryan Nash Gill Wasp Wood [$1350]

If you like Lauren's style, make sure you catch the pilot of her show Best House on the Block on HGTV.

Collectors, are you into this aesthetic? Can you recommend other artists or vintage art sources that would work well with this decor style? What other designers / tastemakers would you like to see in a post like this?

Stripes & dots: Energizing

I'm back with more of these simple motifs, this time in palettes that liven up a space:

1. Ann Marie Coolick Confetti Polka Daubs [sold] 2. Gina Julian Prep School [sold]
3. Jonathan Lewis Sweethearts print [starting at $24]

4. Ruth Adler Pink Center Circle print [starting at $325] 5. Milton Shinberg India Monk on Steps print [$95]

6. Taylor Cox Beach Palette [sold]  7. Martina Nehrling Spellbound [$1,400]
8. Erin Clark Cali no. 6 [$400]  9. Kristi Kohut Dots 5 #2 print [starting at $15]

Collectors, what other simple motifs do you like?