Friday, April 10, 2015

More Ollie the Monkeyman Stories!

It's time for another Ollie story!

Ollie is a male red-side Eclectus parrot who LOVES crafts, watching me create art, feeding the dogs (and playing with their toys...aka stealing their toys), whatever we are eating...and music!

He also talks.  I mean talking as in actual communication using appropriate sounds and/or human words/phrases.  Most people who do not know birds well assume that talking birds just mimic words and have no idea what they mean.  Intelligent parrots like African Greys and Eclectus, however, are capable of actual appropriate use of words--which are sounds--and other sounds to communicate their thoughts, needs, and feelings.

For example, Ollie learned a long time ago to imitate the sound of a dog squeaky ball and use that sound to convey happiness. He will always make that squeaky ball sound whenever we turn on the shower and ask him to step up so he can be transferred onto his perch inside the shower stall and enjoy a bath.  He spreads his wings wide and allows the water to thoroughly soak his feathers during his bath.  When I tell him to step back onto the perch (so he won't get soap or shampoo on his feathers), he will immediately step back and up onto his perch.

HOWEVER....if he just HAD a bath the previous day and doesn't really need another one, he will not make that sound.  He'll go into the shower with us to keep us company and enjoy the higher humidity, but won't spread his wings or attempt to get wet.  And no squeaky toy squeal of delight!

After his bath, I place one of his small towels around him, dry him off for just a moment and then replace him and his perch into the bathtub where he then listens to country music and preens himself in the sun streaming in the window. He sings to the music, then takes a nap.

 Hopefully it will finally warm up so the windows can be open and he can once again enjoy full spectrum light!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Trends, Colors and other Predictions has definitely been a busy, busy trade show season!  I've personally attended three shows in three industries over the past three months (Craft & Hobby, Gift and Home + Housewares).  And, while I didn't attend the Atlanta Gift Show myself, my licensing agent I had to create new art collections for her to present, simultaneously with my getting prepared for everything else !

One of my favorite things about trade shows is spotting and/or validating trends. This can include overall design themes (like chalkboard or Steampunk), image specific themes (such as owls or forest creatures) or color palettes.  Not sure how or why, but I've always had a weird ability to "feel" trends coming in way ahead of the curve.  All of a sudden I'll have an overwhelming desire to use colors I normally don't use or combine...or want to ONLY paint certain images or themes.  I may not catch every trend or color palette because some colors or images I just don't like naturally, but when it is a major shift, I'll pick it up light years ahead of when it actually appears.

This odd trait surfaced when I was fairly young. In fact,my first memory doing this was when I was a teen.  I was a student at the Junior School of the Art Institute of Chicago and in the downtown area every Saturday.  After class, I would stay down in the city for hours, either exploring museums, enjoying the city or looking for other visual inspiration.  Or, I'd do what any other normal teenage girl would do....SHOP!

Those shopping excursions, of course, eventually took me down Michigan Avenue (or "the Mag Mile", as we native Chicagoans call it) and into all the trendy high end stores. I'd see the latest trends, the newest designer fashions, and soak in colors and fabrics and everything I could!  And that's when it started.

Before the internet and instant access to what retail stores carried, we had to make trips to stores to see everything.  Shopping malls or strips didn't really exist either.   Except for limited catalogs, we couldn't order things, have them delivered and then return them if they didn't fit.  We had to actually GO to the stores.  And, sometimes  we had to make countless trips to store after store during specific times of the year for certain types of winter boots or matching accessories.  Individual stores only carried what they could put out on their shelves and keep in their back rooms.  Mass market merchants didn't exist except as department stores like Marshall Fields, Sears, etc. There were no Targets or Walmarts. We also couldn't compare sale prices online. And discount sales only occurred at specific times of year.

It was a different world. Fashions and trends moved much slower because we literally couldn't see everything instantly.  Taking public transportation to and from shopping was time consuming so all seasonal shopping took longer.  Which leads me to how I first discovered my ability to sense trends before they even appeared.

I wanted a pair of fashion boots.  But I had a VERY specific look in mind.  I wanted a pair of boots that came up to or over the knee and folded in a cuff.  The styles at the time were lower or mid calf and absolutely nothing had a cuff.  So I started my search late summer when  fall fashions started appearing. And found nothing.  I continued my search all fall.  I found nothing even remotely resembling what I wanted so I gave it up for that year.

Next summer, I started the process all over again.  What had started as a simple search rapidly became a frustrating and impossible waste of time.  Now I was getting mad. I really WANTED  boots in this style!  But, since I also needed boots for the practicality of wearing boots, I eventually gave up, caved in and finally bought a pair of fashion boots as tall as I could find them...without a cuff.

The following summer, high boots with cuffs--exactly as I had envisioned the colors, styling, etc--appeared in ALL the high end shoe stores on the Mag Mile.  They were ALL the rage in fashion that year!  Of course, I never got a pair because I had spent all my money the year before.  That's the irony.

It's up to you to decide whether I had actually sensed this big fashion trend or whether someone had listened to this persistent artsy looking teenage girl when I kept reappearing at the shoe stores asking for tall boots with cuffs.  Either way, I knew this was all a bit too coincidental.

Over the years, I've identified many trends and color palettes before they were apparent to most. Finding paint or fabric in the right colors has always been frustrating because I am always SO far ahead of the curve when a major color shift is about to happen.  I had already called out the travertine palette  and was redecorating my home long before it was announced 3 years ago by the Pantone Institute... but  I'm still currently OBSESSED with this palette, along with the incredible subtleties of travertine, gray and all the neutrals.

Don't worry.  I'll let you know when the next major color shift is happening. It will be obvious when I can't find anything in it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Introducing....Ollie the Monkeyman!

For those of you who may not already be familiar with my "Ollie" stories, let me explain.  Ollie is a 5-1/2 year old Eclectus parrot who LOVES, LOVES, LOVES crafting and all things artsy, colorful and creative.  Not sure if it is the positive energy I give off when creating and creating art--or the sheer fascination he has watching things happening--but Ollie is at his happiest when he can watch creative things going on.

Lately, he has taken on new responsibilities. One of his new jobs is to tease Lacy Lulu, our 7 month old Border Collie puppy.  Like all "siblings", each wants to have what the other has.  In Ollie and Lacy's case, that means food and toys. Each, of course, will immediately grab the other's toy(s).  Ollie has also discovered how much fun it is to reinforce training the puppy by saying "Good boy!" when Lacy obeys a command and will often drop tasty bits of food off the side of his feeding station (aka the kitchen island) on purpose just to each her eat them up. Sometimes his enthusiasm goes a little into hyperdrive, however, and he will (literally) empty his entire bowl over the edge, one piece at a time. Maybe that is just his own way of expressing himself creatively!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Creative Crafty Friends Make Winter Warm!

I've been a VERY busy creative the last few weeks! First came CHA SHOW in January with all the prep, teaching and follow up from a zillion meetings. (Plus a nice break in warm southern Cali as a bonus!) Working on projects for magazine articles, new art collections for licensing and bring part of the Linnie Blooms Design team has been more recently filling up my long and socially isolated winter days.

BUT..what has really filled me with energy has been chatting daily with so many of my creative peeps!

For people living in warm climates or who managed to escape to warm climates for winter, the past few months have been normal.  For the rest of us, however, they have been exhausting. Winter is so isolating. And it runs way too long.

Okay, the first snowfall or two may look all sparkly and magical...and add delightful ambience to seasonal holiday decorations and themes...but by the umpteenth storm warning, travel nightmare/flight cancellation or emergency rations run, snow totally loses its appeal.  At least for me it does. 

I haven't  gone for a walk outside for weeks.  No wait, make that months since the only place to walk would be in the street. For someone who normally walks daily, it's been an eternity. The dogs all feel the same way. The Arctic air mass has made it even harder to deal with. While I love to show off a cute new warm, snuggly sweater and finally get to wear my boots without stinky sweaty feet, subzero temps and Arctic air is just plain painful to breathe in anymore! Even if the sidewalks were clear, I just can't take the frozen air.

I'm SO ready for spring. Not ready for the allergies that accompany trees waking up and going a little wild in the pollen making department perhaps, but definitely ready for the dirty, crusty, condensed snow to melt and clean, non-slippery sidewalks to magically reappear!

From the dozens of conversations sparking back and forth on social media, it seems all my cold climate creative peeps feel pretty much the same. We are all ready to breathe in fresh air that doesn't burn our lungs and enjoy the outdoors once again with other people.  Yes! I cannot WAIT to emerge from this long isolation. Can't wait until the swans return.

But the one thing that has truly helped me make it through such a long and frigid season has been you, my creative friends.  Your funny jokes and comments on FB....those hour-long one-on-one chats on Messenger...surprise texts and emails...and lively group discussions...  This is what has made a very depressing few weeks inspiring ones instead! You all keep me creatively inspired and always ready to craft or draw or experiment with new products and techniques. And for that, I thank each one of you. I sincerely hope I brightened up at least one hour for every one of you! 

Looking forward now to a great year with you creative friends... 


Sunday, March 1, 2015

My first Linnie Blooms Design Team Project is Live!

Yay! Go check out my first project and tutorial at

Then return Monday to my blog for a new post...on the importance of having creative friends!

Doesn't this cute little hanging just make you think SPRING!?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Project Goes LIVE tomorrow! But first...BEAK FACE!

Tomorrow my FIRST project on the Linnie Blooms Design Team Blog goes LIVE!
Stay tuned...or go directly to

A little more crafty parrot from tonight....this time is a crafty FOOD BEAK!
Can you guess what Ollie had for dessert tonight???

That's little Lacy Lulu peeking behind Ollie.  She's every watchful for the slightest morsel that might fall.  Sometimes, those food tidbits don't just accidentally fall.  Ollie LOVES to feed his puppy!  He'll give me the "stink eye", then literally just toss everything out of his bowl just to watch her gobble it all up.  They have already become friends in crime!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ollie the Crafting Parrot

Many of us have family members that share our studio space with us--or at least visit us from time to time in our creative spaces.  I just happen to share my creative spaces with a parrot who LOVES crafting!

The past couple days have been spent in crafty bliss, creating projects for the Linnie Blooms Design Team ( ).  And Ollie the Monkeyman ha been hanging with me, quietly watching all the creative magic going on.  When I was properly covered from head to toe with ink and glue and couldn't find an extra square inch of table surface ANYWHERE, it was time to do a little cleaning up. My hands were so inky from sprays and sponging I couldn't have Ollie step up on my hand so I just walked about the room, cleaning up.  A couple times I had to leave to wash my hands in a sink in the adjacent room amidst Ollie's screams of protest.  Other than that, he hadn't made any sounds the entire time we were in the room working.  

So, just making conversation, I casually asked him if he liked watching Mama do crafts...and the clever boy immediately responded with a loud, emphatic "YEAH!"  And repeated his answer twice more for emphasis.  

Most people do not share their lives with parrots and think all talking birds do is  mimic what they hear.  That's not the case with all species.  Ollie is an Eclectus parrot, a species that is very intelligent and capable of much more than just imitating sounds.  He uses words and sounds appropriately and we have managed to form a great communication vocabulary.  He is definitely a thinker and will only respond to what makes sense to him.  For example, he understands what hurt and pain means and totally respects when I tell him an object or action will cause him pain.  Obviously I wouldn't allow him to just wander around a work table with craft tools and supplies but if he reaches for something that would be harmful for him to touch, I only have to say "don't touch" or "uh uh...scissors OW!" and he stops immediately and backs away. 

He is also a critic.  If he sees something he recognizes, like if I stamp an image of a bird, he'll say things like "Look!  Look at THAT!" He LOVES it when I stamp and is totally fascinated with the images that appear.  

Yes, he is a lot of work and yes, he needs lots of fresh food multiple times a day..and yes he also makes some high decibel sounds at times...but he is also a fascinating creature.  And the fact that he keeps me company in what can be a very isolating profession, is a blessing.