October 26th, 2010

Riccardo Barthel

Well, I’ve made a decision. When my dreams come true, I will buy a villa or palazzo in Italy. While I’m dreaming, I might as well just make a commitment to visit Riccardo Barthel in Florence because, you know, I am going to need HELP decorating my new digs.


 This amazing design store was right next to the hotel where our Italy Painting Tour group stayed a couple of weeks ago.


They specialize in, well, LOTS of amazing things, it seems….




…like a seemingly endless variety of hand painted tiles for floors, walls, backsplashes, and countertops.


They also featured a lot of gorgeous custom furniture, frames, mirrors, furniture, fabrics, and fine art…


…all set amidst unique displays….


,,,that contrasted contemporary wall treatments with centuries-old painted ceilings.


There was  also had a wonderful “shed” filled with antiques ready to be rehabbed and restored-or sold “as is”.


Truly amazing (and bank breaking)  though, were their kitchen and bath fixtures.



Unfortunately, everything there was completely out of my price range, but WAIT, I AM dreaming here….. 

The next time you are “museumed-out” in Florence, check out the dreamy Riccardo Barthel store near Porto Romano in Oltrarno for yourself!

October 17th, 2010

A Golden Moment

There were MANY golden moments this past September when the PDPA, an organization dedicated to elevating the field of decorative finishing, held it’s first Education Summit in Golden Colorado.


After many years of work and planning by some of the most notable artists in the decorative painting field, the PDPA is working towards reaching its own “summit”, thanks in large part to the vision of founding President Andre Martinez (left) and incoming Executive Director and industry dynamo, Pat Ganino.


At this year’s inagural event there were daily morning lectures on a variety of topics…


held in a converted chapel that is now a local art center.


These were followed  by morning demonstrations in the garden by master artisans such as Sean Crosby,


and hands-on training in a variety of classic techniques by other notable artists in this field, such as Sheri Hoeger.


Before the afternoon presentations began, there were delicious hand-prepared lunches,


featuring guest chefs. Here, the incomparable  Pierre Finkelstein shows that he is a man of MANY talents…

Pascal playing 2

…as is French artist  Pascal Amblard.


One day’s afternoon sessions featured informal discussions on business practices with noteable artists such as Nicola Vigini of Vigini Studios.


The ultimate “Golden” moment for ME came when Mark Golden, president of Golden Paints…


…awarded the newly esteemed “Golden Brush Award” to 4 people who have helped to shape and support the decorative finishing industry in their own unique ways. Here I am, looking shocked and sheepish (and trying not to get TOO emotional) as I was the first recipient called to the stage. Truly, it was a great honor to receive this recognition from a man who is so highly respected and admired in our industry. Golden Paints is a company that is well known for putting it’s customers and employees first-a key to their ongoing success.


Congratulations to fellow recipients Jon Sunde, a master artisan and expert in the field of Tadelakt application…


…as well as Ilia Anassov, who works diligently to keep the art of true fresco painting alive. Unfortunately, I had to leave the event early to catch a plane and am unsure of who the 4th recipient was??


Next year’s Summit has been scheduled for Sept 8-10. 2011 and is open only to PDPA members.  Perhaps you’d like to be their to create your OWN Golden moments?

All photos by decorative artist and photographer, Jon Smith.

September 26th, 2010

Reflecting on the Possibilities

As a decorative artist and surface finish designer, I’ve enjoyed creating literally 100′s of unique finishes that incorporate pattern. In fact, I simply don’t “do” a finish without pattern!! I love the combination and manipulation of design, medium, tools, color, textures, and reflective qualities, and the million different ways that those can be combined to create something with purposeful beauty. My latest pattern process “love” is working with mirror and glass, and I am quite proud of the finishes and techniques that I share in our latest Virtual Workshop, Patterned Mirror and Glass. Not only do these techniques present amazing new artistic possibilities, but I really feel that this workshop offers amazing value and opportunities for decorative artisans.


For this workshop, I’ve taken everything (plus much more) that  I used to teach in a $1,000 3-day hands-on workshop ,and put it into 5 hours of recorded video lessons, an 85-page illustrated book, and a 2+ hour interactive Webinar meeting. When you throw in the cost (and aggravation) savings of an airline flight, hotel room, and schedule juggling, the lower cost of a Virtual Workshop becomes an even greater value! At least that is what our students say…..:)


But the even biggestvalue of this workshop is not even that you are getting a great deal on unique, quality information that you can review over and over. The biggest value is in what you can DO with the information. Beyond making pretty little glass and mirror samples, this workshop provides you with options for expanding your artistry over a wide variety of new surfaces and applications. If you are a DIYer, you can create unique accents for your home. If you are a professional decorative artisan, you can expand your portolio and add income to your bottom line with valuable additions to your decorative projects. Use these Patterned Mirror and Glass techniques on framed mirrors….


…ceiling medallions…


….custom tabletops, countertops, and protective/decorative furniture tops.


You can have custom mirror shapes cut to create one-of-a-kind wall art…


…or transform an inexpensive catalog side table into something highly unique and personal.


Use the easy “Faux Iron Grillwork” to add architectural interest to French doors, cabinet door, and fixed windows.


There are countless commercial applications for these techniques, as demonstrated by this focal point logo mirror installation by Garay Artisans in a retail boutique. Regina attending one of my hands on mirror workshops a couple of years ago and her company has worked hard to successfully develop their own signature techniques and market them effectively. Photo from Modello by Design, Volume 2.


Also from Modello by Design, Volume 2, this reverse painted glass backsplash beautifully demonstrates the possibilities of displaying and selling these finishes as backsplash options through high-end kitchen and bath showrooms. If you are already doing cabinet finishing and countertop surfacing, coordinating backsplashes are an easy and elegant “add on” project!



On a personal note, I also incorporated Patterned Mirror and Glass into my recent wedding. 20″ mirror rounds were patterned and patinated and placed in the center of each table. They beautifully reflected the lovely flowers and flickering votives. The cake “plate” used the same pattern, this time gilding on the front of an undistressed mirror round. Yet another marketing opportunity for these techniques: wedding and event planners!

Want to see more?!  Click here for lots of inspiring past posts on Mirror and Glass finishes!

After becoming fully inspired, sign up for our Patterned Mirror and Glass Virtual Workshop to get your login info to start viewing the 36 different video lessons, and you’re on your way!!! Then, take advantage of our Friends with Benefits program: refer a friend and get a $25 product credit while your friend enjoys registering with $25 off!! Call Jillian at 800.663.3860 for details.

We also have Virtual Workshop Combo Packages where you can save by enrolling in multiple workshops at once.

September 24th, 2010

Eat. Play. Love.

Married life is SWEET!  Our special day went by in such a fast blur I really appreciate having these photos to relive it and it makes me smile everytime I play this video I created through Animoto….Thank you to all of our wonderful, loving  friends and family who were there, and all who weren’t who sent their love and good wishes.

September 23rd, 2010


I love going to Europe! My favorite European city so far HAS to be Barcelona, the capital city of Catalonia, Spain. Barcelona has it ALL you see: the sea, the mountains, cava (champagne!), tapas, shopping and people watching along La Rambla, the Bari Gotic (old Gothic Quarter). It was not exactly PAINFUL to get “stuck” there for 5 additional days at the end of our honeymoon last April!


Our wonderful local friend, Paul Deprez picked us up from the apartment we needed to vacate in the moody, Medeival, Bari Gotic area and got us settled in to a lovely modern hotel in the Eixample (phonetically eye-sham-pla) district.


Developed mainly in the first  part of the 20th century, the Eixample district is famous for its unique Modernista architecture and the amazing buildings of  Antoni Gaudi, such as Casa Batll√≥ shown above. While I truly love the old, historic streets and buildings of the Bari Gotic, the Eixample district for me is an inspiring source of jaw-dropping visual delights.  In fact, there are so many fine examples of fine craftsmanship and insanely beautiful decorative details that could be easy for many to completely miss them because THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!


Of course, some of the most striking architectural details, for me, are in the abundant sgraffito walls and facades.


Sgraffito is a process of scraping and scratching through a top layer of colored plaster to reveal a different color layer below.


I have written before about the sgraffito in Florence, Italy, but in Barcelona the look is uniquely light and colorful.



In addition to the amazing sgraffito, there is ornate plasterwork, exquisitely detailed metalwork, and unusual stained glass.


I will be traveling BACK to Barcelona for a few days next week, on my way to our painting trip in Umbria, Italy, to visit with Paul and finalize the details on ANOTHER painting adventure-to Barcelona in June 2011!! This trip will feature the best of many worlds, as it will include a 5-day stay in a serene, historically significant monestary in the rolling hills just outside of Barcelona where we will conduct a class and complete a painting project on site. After the project is complete,we will move to apartments in the city for a week to experience this amazing city up close, in between side trips to taste cava and explore the surrounding area.

More details to follow, but please let me know if you are interested in travelling to Barcelona with me, because the group will be limited to just 8….

Pssst! There are some fantastic flickr sets of photos of Barcelona and the Eixample district if you want to see more!

August 13th, 2010

Sparkling Susan Bickford

I have blogged here before about Susan Bickford and her decorative finishing business, Singing Walls. Susan is a wonderful, regular customer of Modello Designs whose work has been featured extensively in our inspirational “idea” books, Modello by Design-Inspiring Interiors from Artists’ Portfolios. Susan recently sent me photos of a fabulous ceiling project that, unfortunately, came too late to make it into the most recent book. Fortunately though, it’s NEVER too late for a blog post!


Susan worked with one of our talented graphic designers, Michelle, to customize our popular EasPan114 pattern, which features classic Japanese plum blossom branches, for a bedroom ceiling. You can see how well she coordinated to the colors to the drapery material in the room in the shot above.


As an added touch, Susan and her friend Elaine Castronova added 100′s of sparkling, Swarovski crystal to accent the flower petals.


Some of the photos of Susan’s work which DID make it into the recent book show the heights that she will go to in order to add a pattern that will compliment an architectural feature! Shown here, OrnCen164 in a dome-topped stairwell.


EasPan102 used for a fabulous striped treatment by Susan, along with another decorative artist, Lorna Soble.


Above, a motif pulled from our Ornamental Panel Collection was used in pie shaped dome. I particularly love this photo because it represents how much impact you can get just by using a fairly simple and enexpensive Modello pattern. It’s hard to imagine that this space would have even a fraction of the visual interest it does without the bold contrast of colors and design.

Click here for more information about Modello by Design-Inspiring Interiors from Artists’ Portfolios, Volume 2

PS It just so happens that today, August 13, is Susan’s birthday. Happy Birthday Susan!!

August 7th, 2010

Walking on Art in Portugal

While pouring back over honeymoon photos to create a slideshow for our wedding reception (yes, I know, VERY backwards!) I came back across my lovely Portuguese pavement pictures, and thought they would be nice to share…Calcada Portuguesa is the art of combining small chiseled and polished pieces of white limestone and black basalt to create beautiful mosaic patterns on wide sidewalks and in stately piazzas. It began in Lisbon in 1849 with a wave design in Rossio Square (4th picture shown below) and soon spread throughout the other major cities of Portugal and even to the colonies. There are literally MILES of this amazing, hand crafted treatment throughout Portugal, and I wish I had shot photos of every one.  Here are but a few…






As you might imagine, this is a painstaking process and a dying art form, but just one of the many delightful things about this small and special country.

August 5th, 2010

Patterned Mirror and Glass

Last Fall, I introduced our exclusive Virtual Workshops; web-based learning that combines hours of pre-recorded video lessons backed up with detailed written instructions and one “live” ,online, interactive webinar for review and Q&A. The response has been fabulous and the reviews have been very rewarding! For many months now, I have been (off and on) hard at work creating a followup workshop to Foilin Around and Stencil Impressions that focuses on Patterned Mirror and Glass techniques.

Patterned MIrror and Glass Workshop

I spent days and weeks recording video lessons, as this subject offers SO MANYpossibilities! Well, the editing is ALMOST done and we are set to launch the program starting September 1, 2010. With double the amount of information provided in the first two Virtual Workshops the cost for this one has increased, but it is still quite an economical way to learn. You don’t even have to leave the comforts of home! If you register for the new Patterned Mirror and Glass workshop before September 1, you can save $25 off the registration cost.

We have changed the Virtual Workshop format a bit, in that you can now start watching the video lessons and will be mailed the printed material immediately up0n registration. You will then automatically be enrolled in the next monthly “live” session for that particular workshop.


We are also now offering a special combo price (save 10%) when you enroll in the two original Virtual Workshops at the same time. We have the next ”live” meeting for these two workshops coming up next week….

Hope to “see” you in a Virtual Workshop soon! ;)

August 4th, 2010

Peacock Peeps

I have been EXTREMELY fortunate to take and lead many decorative painting trips to many fabulous countries, including France, Italy, Morocco, (and soon) Spain! While the landscape, culture, food and sights are always droolworthy, it’s the fabulous people and friendships that I get to experience that make these trip truly special. We had a small but mighty ( and super interesting and talented) group of ladies on the last trip to Marrakech, and damn! we had some fun!!


Touring the Bahia Palace…


and snapping pics of ourselves snapping pics of ourselves..


having a rooftop henna party…


with frothy cocktails, of course.


Visiting the famed Majorelle Gardens…


..and enjoying the, um, view at La Mamounia.


Waiting for our Moroccan knight in shining mini van Mustofa…


…and making friends on shopping excursions.


Making a splash in “the hood”…



…and strutting in the lovely seaside town of Essaouira.



Enjoying the “entertainment” at Chez Ali…


….and providing “the entertainment” at the Hotel du Tresor.


Overall, it was a bit of a spiritual experience I can’t wait to repeat….

Much love to peahens
Lisa Wilson
Maggie O’Neill
Alicia “Lulu”  Danzig
Angela Perrone
Nancy Jones

Want to go? Let me know….

August 2nd, 2010

Marrakech Redux

As I told you in this blog post, our most recent Peacock Painting trip project in Marrakech was themed around Moroccan embroidery designs from Fez. This style of  embroidery is characterized by a singular color of thread, usually black, on a cream-colored background.


The project was fairly simple and straightforward: stenciling the patterns in black on the interior walls of a canvas tent built especially for entertaining. The stencils were designed to coordinate and combine in various ways to create a unique, overall scheme.


We started with a border. Then added a diamond pattern banded by a different border set on the diagonal.


Then we added a more complex lacy border to complete the dado area.


It probably sounds tedious, but it was actually a LOT of fun. We felt like we were doing an old-fashioned quilting bee. The six of us worked really well together and Maggies’ music mix and nice l-o-n-g lunch breaks kept us humming along.


It WAS nice to near the end though, and as each subsequent “wall” was finished and rehung, we enjoyed being enveloped by our handiwork.


The cat provided a temporary distraction, but other than that was no help at all….


So we continued on to stencil the door panels (that convert to awnings) in a coordinating pattern…


until we got down to the last brush stroke….and then it was Moroccan Mint Tea time! My awesome little flock of Peacock Painters this time were Lisa Wilson, Nancy Jones, Angela Perrone, Alicia “LuLu” Danzig, and Miss Maggie O’Neill.

All of these stencil patterns have now been newly added to the Royal Design Studio website here. There are lots of ways to mix and match them and they will be equally fabulous in both bright and pastel colors!