Monday, June 13, 2016

In Weakness

It has, once again, been some time since I posted here. There has been a great deal happening, and so my art has been pushed to the side for a little while. But now that I am getting into the swing of things, I am hoping to push ahead with more designs.

This has been a dabbling year. I have started dabbing in embroidery-painting threads on fabric, a more rhythmic craft that pen and ink. I enjoy the steady repeated stitches, the hum of my own pace with needle and thread.

I have dabbled alongside my sister in block printing. This, too, has a rhythm, and I am find that the repeats offer chances to improve, to flourish, and to make sense of things. We have done both paper and fabric, and are finding our way to where this art might lead.

The main fabric, printed with black tulips, is an original design by my sister Karly and I, hand printed on cotton. The bindings are made from purchased quilting fabrics. 

Of course, I have continued with my fraktur designs. The feel of watercolor is still my favorite. The pooling colors swirling, the uneven ink rambling over rough paper.

A few pieces sold at From Our Hands Creative 2016. The show was lovely, and I so enjoyed meeting everyone! 
Finding the time for all of this has been a challenge. I have three jobs, if you include my art, and so balance has been difficult. Where does it all fit, I wonder? Am I enough for this? I certainly do not feel it. I do not feel that I am enough for all of this, nor that my life has enough room for all of this. 

But perhaps this is the very best place to be. A place of emptiness, of unworthiness. Because if things go well, I will know that it is not I who did it all on my own, but that it is the power of Christ in me. When I empty myself, I am filled beyond my expectations. He brings us low so that He can do His great work.

So I try to stay low, and pray simply that the work of the Lord be done.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Beauty in its Time

 It is easy to feel like a small person in a big world, isn’t it?

I am an artist, and sometimes I feel that way about my work. Why does it matter that I draw and paint and sell it and draw and paint some more? What difference does it make when the world is full of tragedy, people without homes and food, people dying and in need? In a world like this, why does art matter?

That is a big question. Academics have written and rewritten over and over why they think art matters. They look for some kind of answer in art that makes them feel bigger than themselves, something that makes a political statement, comments on social issues, or even makes change. It is not enough to simply make something beautiful—you have to say something for it to really be important.

Well, holding my art up next to that is humbling. My art makes no political statements that I’m aware of; it makes no comment on social issues. It is an act of tradition and of beauty. Can this hold up next to what the world of art deems to be “art”? What if it can’t?  

Maybe you are not an artist, but I am sure that you have asked the very same question: “Is my work superfluous?”

Solomon asked the very same question. “What gain has the worker for his toil?” he asked in Ecclesiastes. He was a mighty king, a man of great wisdom and power. And yet still, even this man asked why his work mattered. I feel that question hang heavy some days. So why do I keep at it?

For one simple reason:  my art is an act of obedience.

You see, I believe in a God who changes hearts, who changes me—and works His changes through those who cling to Him. I believe in a God who gives us gifts to use for His work in the world. We are given our gifts by the Lord to use them for His purpose. That purpose is not always clear to us, like it is not for me right now, but we can’t see the big picture. We only see the fragments in our range of vision. He sees it all, and makes it all beautiful.  I do not say this lightly, for I have seen Him work in and through people in this way. I can only pray He uses me this way, too.

So how does this change things for me?

It means two things. One, that my art flows from my love for the Lord. It also means the outcome of my work is not in my hands. For Solomon answered his own question: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

I cannot see the big picture here. I desperately want to, but Solomon also pointed out that “he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”  What does it mean to have eternity set in my heart? It means that I can feel the big picture. I know there is a God who is bigger than I know and yet I cannot know His entire plan and self. I know Him and yet what I know only scratches the surface. The eternity is our hearts is like an awareness that there is something bigger going on.

So do not fear, dear one. Your work matters to the Lord, no matter how small it seems to you. Whether you are a plumber, a bank teller, a CEO or just a friendly face at your local fast food place, the work you do matters to God. He is working a plan so much wider than the scope of our view that we can only sense it, not see it. One day we will see how every transaction, every phone call, every email plays a part in the steps towards the last day. This is the gift he gives to us: to be His hands making beauty in His time. Will you trust your work to Him? 

“What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 ESV

Monday, December 7, 2015

Tags on Bags and Other Things

Tags on bags
Tags on boxes
Tags on gifts
Tags on garlands
Tags on trees
Tags on treats
Tags on any thing you need! 

I love little paper items. I suppose that is why I wanted to make fraktur tags. Versatile and fun, they are a little different from the typical framed piece.

The design of these tags is something of a mystery to me. I have been making them for quite a while now, but why I originally chose to do them folded instead of flat, I really am not sure. It does provide a little extra space to write in for those of us who overflow with holiday cheer to those we hold dear (Christmas makes me write in rhyme and rhythm it seems!). Regardless of the reason, people seem to enjoy something with a little more to it, and I like the added flexibility of a more card-like tag. 

Because I love these little tags so much, I thought I would share with you some of the ideas I have had for using them. I so enjoy decorating for Christmas, and these little tags come in quite handy at this time of year! 

Tags on Bags

Stuck with a boring bag? No problem! Grab a tag and make it beautiful. 

Tags on Boxes

Don't forget to mark your gifts--wouldn't want them to be mystery gifts. If you like the fraktur style, this goes well with simple patterned and craft wrapping paper.  A sprig of greenery adds a nice touch.

Tags on Garlands

For something a little different on your mantle of over your door, make a garland with these. There are a number of ways you could do this, from ribbon to string to greenery. I chose to tuck them into a pine cone garland with added fresh greenery.  

Tags as Gifts

For someone like me, I thought it would be neat to get some cute pens, a nice box, and some tags and ribbon. A fun gift to help people give! 

Tags on Treats

I like these tags for putting on baked goods at Christmas, because they are small enough to not be in the way or dwarf the treats. They attach easily if hole punched, or even using double-sided tape. 

Tags on Trees

These make fun ornaments as well, if you are looking for a simple way to add something of a different texture to your tree. You could even cut the back side off and punch a hole in the top if that makes hanging them easier. 

Feel free to use any of these ideas and may your season be merry and blessed! You can find my tags for sale at!store/c1upg

Monday, September 21, 2015

So Sweet to Give

“This is the law by which we live—
It is so sweet to give and give.”
Sang the wildflowers in Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard.

I love flowers—both wild and tame. I grow them, I pick them, I draw them. I look for them in fields and forests, on mountains and in valleys. Wherever I go, I look for those living things which “give and give” to us without taking anything. Armed with wildflower guides and my phone, I identify those which I find along the way.  

When asked why I take the time to do this, I tell them what my sister has said: “I like to know the names of my friends.” Not only that, but it is a way for me to give thanks to God for all of His creation. I take time to study each flower, marveling all the while at the amazing life on earth. It is a way to live gratefully in the present, not so caught up in past or future that the beauty all around us fades away. We live in a vibrant world, and I want to give thanks to the One who gave it to us.

And so this set of note cards, From the Garden, is the result of my personal study. I hope they inspire you to wave to the chicory along summer roads, smell the sweet roses, and send a little spring or summer to a loved one. 

These and my other set of cards, Creatures of the Forest, are now available on my webpage here. Click the "frakturs by k.a.s." button to find my new note cards. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Creatures of the Forest

You probably know by now that I love to write letters.
I cherish the very deliberate kind of communication that takes longer but has a physical presence in another's life. A piece of one person sent through many hands and bags and trucks and over miles of road until it reaches another.

I think that is why I love to make note cards. In some small way, I hope I am keeping a tradition alive. In a world of at-your-fingertips-communication, a letter might seem like taking horse and buggy when there are cars and buses to get you where you are going. But there is still value in the handwritten, the authentic nature of putting pen to page. That authenticity never really goes out of style.

And so with that, I present to you my new note cards. There are two sets coming, Creatures of the Forest and From the Garden.  Today's post features Creatures of the Forest, inspired by the creatures I see frequently around my yard (with the exception of the bear, thankfully).

The cards will be available for purchase online on Monday September 21, 2015. I will post here and on Facebook a link to the store page-so stay tuned! I hope you will take the opportunity to send a friend some encouragement with these cards.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Artist’s Toolkit

There are those, in this world, who feel an extreme compulsion have the right stuff. Not just any stuff, but those special items related to specific tasks. You know what I mean—the latest, greatest, best-of-the-class kind of gear for whatever the task. “You cannot simply leap into something without the proper tools,” they tell you. “We must go buy the Williams Sonoma proofing basket and baking stone if we want to make authentic homemade bread! It’s just not the same without it!” Nervously you think where is the nearest Williams Sonoma? After several hundred dollars and a trip to Amish county (for the freshest of ingredients), you are the proud owner of all the special tools necessary to make an authentic hearth loaf (which might taste better if it had not cost so much.)

Much like cooking, golfing, and other activities, there are those of the mind that an artist must have all of the proper tools. Only the finest tools will do—this is essential to the process.
I, too, believe in having the “right” tools. Only the finest materials for me, as you will see below.

And so I give you Kelsey A. Smith’s Fraktur Toolbox.

Exhibit A: Watercolor Brushes
I cannot do without my good brushes—cheap ones simply do not compare! Experts say these brushes need to be replaced as they begin to deteriorate so that neat and tidy lines can still be achieved. This particular brush is my very favorite. I would tell you what kind it is, but I don’t know because the paint has fallen off.

Exhibit B: Watercolors
I’m very particular about brands. I use Grumbacher, Cotman, and Essentials irregularly. The quality of the watercolors is, I have found, directly related to the sale price and number of coupons applicable.

Exhibit C: Good Quality Ink
Research is essential. After hours of intending to do research on ink kinds and qualities, I impulse bought this French ink two years ago at a paper store. If anyone reads French, I would be interested to know what it actually says on the label.

Exhibit D: Toolbox(es)

These are incredibly important-I cannot stress it enough. Hence I chose an “antique” tempera paint box to store my watercolors and palettes in. But the finest container I have is the cylindrical box my loose-leaf tea tumbler came in. Only the most specialty box for me. Not only does it store my brushes upright, but the lid doubles as a shorter holder for better selection as I paint. Indeed, I fail to see how any watercolor artist survived without this particular container. Ridiculous that the art stores don’t carry them...

There are other essential items, like palettes, pens and paper, but as fascinating as an examination of them might be, I cannot give all of my secrets away, now can I?

A Non-Satirical Note: I really do pay attention to quality of certain items in my work, in case I had any of you worried. But I am also a firm believer in making do with what I’ve got. Some of my tools are quality, and others are more haphazard in selection. I do what I can, with what I have, and try not to take myself too seriously. That, to me, is really what folk art is about: making do with the talents and tools we have to make a corner of our world just a little bit more beautiful. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Small Victories

I actually finished my first sewing project, inspired by fraktur motifs.

For those of you who did not see the first post about this little rabbit trail I’m on, you can read about it here.

I thought I ought to say a few words about how I have enjoyed this new venture. My sister has been encouraging me to write more, and branch out in writing styles. So here I timidly place a little poem inspired by my new hobby. It might say better how my sewing inspired me than comfortable prose. 

My stitches are crooked,
like prayers.
Some big and overreaching,
others small and timid.
Some are hastily done,
and others carefully placed.
I am wholehearted,
and I am halfhearted.
But I keep going ahead.
For the more stitches there are
the tighter the seam
between my fabric
and His.

So it seems I am delving into quite a few new things as of late! I am still inking and watercoloring—this, of course, is still my first love. Still, it is good for us to stretch ourselves beyond the bounds of our comfort zones. It may not be a prize-winning textile, and my poem not a great piece of literature, but they are both from the heart. I hope it inspires you to take a leap and be adventurous in little ways.