Dad Time, Art Time, & Rethinking Naïvety

Like a lot of families, ours is a working family, our time together shaped by the routines of work and school. Unlike most of the families I know, we’ve never had babysitters. And there are pros and cons to that. On the down side, for the first few years, my wife and I didn’t have much time for well-rounded lives: swapping off, we were either … Continue reading Dad Time, Art Time, & Rethinking Naïvety

Politics & Picture Soaps: Wry, Silly, & Beautiful

In my working life, I started out as a graphic designer at Stirling University, Scotland. As an employee, I had the chance to study for free, and so, while working full time, I embarked on my English undergraduate degree, which led me to quit graphics and head for graduate school for studies in literature and language. And that’s the course I’ve followed ever since—apart from … Continue reading Politics & Picture Soaps: Wry, Silly, & Beautiful

The acorn is a mighty little something

Last fall, while on a woodland walk by Camp Bullfrog Lake in Willow Springs, Illinois, I gathered up some acorns, in the same way I sometimes collect fallen leaves and flowers to press and keep: though I didn’t have a particular project in mind, I pocketed them thinking I might find some use for them. Once we were back home, I worked them into a … Continue reading The acorn is a mighty little something

Scissors, Shakespeare, Material Culture

Years ago, when I still lived in Scotland, I picked up a vintage printing of The Tempest, dated 1778, from a used bookstore on Henderson Street in Bridge of Allan. Around that time, I was an English undergrad at Stirling University, taking classes with, or sitting in on lectures by, well-known Shakespearian scholars such as John Drakakis (hurrah!) and Neil Keeble. Shakespeare, like Marlowe, Johnson, … Continue reading Scissors, Shakespeare, Material Culture

The Holiday Craft Fair That Ate Wicker Park

The Holiday Craft Fair That Ate Wicker Park is coming to Chicago this Saturday, to the Den Theatre (10:00am-4:00pm @ 1331 N. Western Ave., 60622), where I’ll be selling my wares for Tree of Life Ceramics. And I’m super excited for my first craft show. Prepping, of course, has been a craft project in its own right: hunting down a bolt of burlap and stitching … Continue reading The Holiday Craft Fair That Ate Wicker Park

A lovable kind of grotesque: The Lewis chessmen

If you scout around online, you’ll find armies of replica Lewis chessmen (chess pieces carved from ivory in Norway around the twelfth century that made their way to the Scottish island of Lewis) for sale, mostly in three-dimensional sets and single figures, but also in posters and prints. My adaptations for Tree of Life Ceramics are a wee a bit different since they flatten the … Continue reading A lovable kind of grotesque: The Lewis chessmen

Book of Kells, Christ

Artwork in progress: Book of Kells portraits

This week (early September ’17), I’ve been working on two relief adaptations from portraits in The Book of Kells—the Latin manuscript of the Christian Gospels, produced around 800 CE, probably on the Scottish island of Iona, decorated in mind-boggling complexity.   Modern artists have long borrowed material from this book, adapting its lavish interlacings, knotworks, and animal motifs. But, as staggering as many of these … Continue reading Artwork in progress: Book of Kells portraits

Making decorative stone coasters

Plenty of inspiring crafters’ tutorials online show how to decorate ceramic tiles. Not many, though, show how to work with original art. In this post, I want to share my process for applying original artwork to decorating stone coasters. It’s from a seasonal project for Tree of Life Ceramics, a series of twelve coasters adapting “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (a traditional song with a … Continue reading Making decorative stone coasters

Bullion Stone Tile

Sure to appeal to lovers of drink, lovers of horses, and lovers of drinkers astride horses, the Bullion Stone is a slab dating to c. 900-950, found at Invergowrie (near Dundee), Scotland, and dug up during road construction in the 1930s; it’s currently held by the National Museums of Scotland (NMS). It features a bearded warrior on horseback, at an angle suggesting a steep incline (hence … Continue reading Bullion Stone Tile

Tree of Life Ceramics Store on Etsy

We’re delighted to announce the opening of our store, on Etsy, at https://www.etsy.com/shop/TreeOfLifeCeramics . We opened with 9 tile designs—six Lewis Chessmen figures, The Wanderer, The Wife’s Lament, and a Tree of Life—in various materials and finishes. We’re also excited to have made our first sale, though our four-and-a-half-year-old son had a hard time seeing us pack it and prepare to ship it out (a … Continue reading Tree of Life Ceramics Store on Etsy