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.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Stitching Fraktur

For those of you who follow my mom’s blog,, you will know that she recently went to Iowa to teach a wool appliqué workshop at Wheaten Woolens. I went along as a helper, in exchange for bringing a few things with me to sell. It was an adventure, to be sure, in more than one way.

I met some lovely new people there and spent time at a beautiful stone house and barn, a hidden oasis in a Davenport neighborhood. Since I was visiting a new state, crossing a new river, and meeting new people, it seemed an apt opportunity to do something else new. While mom was teaching the workshop, I began my first attempt at a wool appliqué project. I designed my own little piece using whatever mom had on hand and stitched with the lovely ladies.

The funny thing about sewing is that if you are already an artist, you sew like you paint. Mom has always said that, and as you can see by the image below, it is true with me as well. My wool applique design looks like a fraktur. It is fun to do what you are comfortable with in a different medium. There is a beautiful rhythm to stitching which makes the hours slow and puts your mind at ease.
I designed my own piece using frakturs as inspiration.
It just came out that way!

And now I am hooked! I did one little piece, and I already have two other matching pieces in progress to make a little mat, with more ideas coming every day. I never thought I would get into sewing, but here I am. I won’t be selling anything in the near future, and it is nice to have something to do just for myself. So I encourage you all to try something new! It could be the start of a new hobby. While not good for your wallets (or mine), it will be good for your soul. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A New Chapter

The months have whizzed by since I last put my fingers to the keys and my words to this page. So much has happened since then. I now have a Master’s degree in Museum Studies. It is hard to believe that two years have passed. I feel very much the same as I ever was, and yet so much more has been added to my mind. “Education is not the filling of a pail but lighting of a fire.” The source, though often misattributed to Yeats, is unknown, but it encapsulates how I have always felt about my education. I look forward to feeding the fire.

Looking forward is the next step of course. The museum field is not an easy one, but worthwhile. And so as I search for a job, I take up the old-fashioned pen, dipping and scratching out the pictures in my head on the page. Perhaps my art tells no apparent story—no memorable Greek myths, no records of my time, no firm political statement. My art does not belong in the great museums of our time. But when you look at my work as a whole, it tells a story about a family who has kept a tradition. A story of small beginnings, slow growth, and little rays of sunshine handed out with every exchange.

If you are interested in seeing what I did during my time in grad school, feel free to check out my portfolio here (and share it!):

My mom and I have a web show coming up June 15, 2015 at 8pm EST. I will have some new frakturs available (including those pictured here), so come see at

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Writer's Art: The Alphabet

 Alphabets are a fascination with me.

It might come as a bit of a surprise, as I do not incorporate too much lettering into my work at this point. Calligraphy is an art which I have not the time to practice (though I do practice) and so until I have mastered it enough to make something folky I have chosen to simply work with motifs. For now, my calligraphy dances across the page, and not gracefully. 

That is not to say I do not do letters, though. Ah, yes, thankfully I can do illuminated letters. In fact, they may have started me down the whole fraktur trail. Armed with sharpies, I drew letters on every scrap of paper I could find. I happen to have a few of those scraps, too, so I thought I would share. To the left you will see an example of how I kept sane in school at 13. It appears to be on the back of a recipe for home ec class. (The historian in me notes that we were making Mississippi Mud Cake). 

Letters were my doodles, and with some helpful direction (and a bit of persuasion) from my mother toward frakturs, letters became my art. I do find what opportunities I can among the tulips and the houses to illuminate those strange bits of language that make all the difference. And I am planning to incorporate them even more in the future. 

I find it very apropos that I love letters so much. I am both artist and writer, after all, and so live "in awe of words" (Anonymous). I live in awe of letters both on the tome and the sketchbook page. If you want to see more of the letters that inspire me, check out my Pinterest board devoted solely to letters, called "serif or sans?"  here.

February Sale Note: I will have some new items for sale February 2, 2015 starting at 8pm EST at I am very excited about these latest pieces, so enjoy! 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

In A New Year

We have entered recently into a new year, and I have found it is time to blog again. I am a bit ashamed at my absence from this blog. Being in the last year of my graduate studies, the semester was even more taxing and intense than those before. I have mostly recovered thanks to some time with family and some time to get back to ink and watercolor.  

I feel I must have a little reflection and recap of From Our Hands and Hearts, the November folk art show put together by two of my favorite artists (my mother, Rebekah L. Smith and Lori Ann Corelis). The show was simply amazing. I was grateful to get to meet some of you who have kindly commented here and pinned my art. It was bustling and busy, a whirlwind of activity, with an atmosphere of Christmases past. My work was so graciously received by both the other artists and by those who attended the show. For those who took a piece of mine home, I hope my humble skills have brought a little joy into your house. I am grateful for my family's help, especially my mom in giving me the opportunity to be a part of the show. I am also grateful for my boyfriend, the engineer who bravely forayed into a world unknown (art shows), doing my sales for the day and making an urgent Kelsey-forgot-something-important run. Altogether I had a lovely time and cannot wait to do it again this year!

In the meantime, I will be doing a web show with my mother in February. I do not have a date for it yet, but I will let you all know. To make up for a long silence here, I have included some sneak peeks once again of things you will be seeing on the website come February. Warm wishes to all as we brave the winter, finding joy in our tea, our books, and our art, whatever your art may be.