Sunday, October 4, 2009

What Santa's Elves Must Feel and Wild Horses Couldn't Keep Us Away

It's been a while since my last blog post, and for that I apologize. It is not my intention to neglect you or this blog. However, in my defense, the busy season (aka the holidays) is upon us and my family and I have been spending long hours and late nights working on new pieces. We have been as busy as, well, Santa's elves. So, like many crafters out there, we empathize with Santa's elves wholeheartedly.

Nevertheless, we are having a lot of fun creating new pieces like our Hanging Steer Skulls (which are made by modifying our classic Steer Skulls and adding a steel wire hanger), incorporating new and vibrant colors into our line of Geckos (which are the most sought and bought at every show we attend), and experimenting with new molds and colors for brand new line of Thanksgiving and Christmas items (more will be online soon) to compliment our Halloween holiday items. (Speaking of Halloween - become a fan on our Facebook page and get a special discounts - this month receive 10% on all Halloween items by becoming a fan and using the special code.)

This is what my dining room table has looked like (with pieces interchanging day to day) as we get ready for our upcoming shows.

Speaking of shows, we have quite a few lined up in the Southern Arizona area - so if you are in the area, stop by, we'd love to meet you in person! (see our show schedule here.) We have so much fun at the shows meeting new people, spending time with our new artist friends, and immersing ourselves in all the wonderfully creative art on display. Wild Horses couldn't keep us away!

And that's not just a reference to a great Rolling Stones song! Dark Horse Arts and Gifts is donating 5% of all item sales to the American Horse Defense Fund. The AHDF rescues wild horses and donkeys; purchases, restores, and maintains land for natural habitats so these majestic animals can roam free; coordinate efforts with other non-profit groups and more!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Halloween is ghoulish fun, with tricks and treats and my favorite holiday!!!

Fall is here and I am so excited that Halloween is just around the corner! Halloween is hands-down my favorite holiday of the year. I love that it's all about fun and decorating and dressing up. Typically I don't make it out for trick or treating, but I do love to decorate just the same. What other time of year can you add skulls, carved pumpkins, ghosts, scary witches, hang a skeleton from the ceiling and use colors like orange, purple, red and black in your decor and not be considered truly odd? Plus, you get to eat candy and treats without any guilty feelings! :)

I've been pretty busy this past month making a few new favorites for the season. I'll share them here, plus some other great discoveries for Halloween I found at Etsy and 1000 Markets...

I am really honored to have this handy pumpkin candy dish featured
in an Etsy Gift Cuide for Halloween!

Here's a little ghost candy dish/box that is just too cute!
He looks bashful and somewhat embarrassed... and he should be -
hiding all that candy under his lid!

These grinning pumpkin dishes are my favorite this year along
with the lighted jack o'lantern that I posted at the top. They are
really fun and unique and I was very lucky to have found this
mold which was being disposed of by a company that
went out of business - lucky find indeed!!!

Black and white pumpkins are very popular this year, and I really
like the way this jack o'lantern figurine turned out. I used a jet black
underglaze against the white clay and used a sponging
technique to highlight the leaves.
I think this would be a great addition to decorations, and envision it
as a lovely centerpiece to add to any Halloween party table.

These Halloween Tags are so adorable and made by Catnip Studio
at 1000 Markets.
I love the name "Catnip Studio"!!

Anna's Trunk created this Halloween-Edgar Allen Poe-Raven
Nevermore Quotation-Sachet/Mini Pillow. I love E.A. Poe and his
spooky stories.
What a great and unique idea for adding a little "spooky" feeling around the house!

Another great table-decor idea from YourWayEmbroidery -
Embroidered Lace Halloween Doily.
I love the little bats around the cat with the witches hat - great design!!

Wishing you a great fall season and Happy Halloween!! Pumpkin juice cocktail anyone?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Something old and something new.... Victorian Crossroads

Dark Horse Arts and Gifts was recently accepted into the Victorian Crossroads Market and I cannot begin to tell you just how wonderful this market truly is! While browsing this unique and beautiful market, you start to feel as if you have been transported to a time past that is full of elegance and beauty, simplicity and grace.

The feeling of the Victorian-Edwardian Era (1832-1918) is represented very well at VC, and I love exploring all it has to offer. It is fascinating to me that an old era can be blended so beautifully in today's world.

I have found wonderful prints and cards, jewelry with an old-fashioned flare, lovely hats, great drawings and even honey! For me, being part of the Victorian Crossroads Market has meant an exploration in something old, but something new as well.

I have always loved this interesting time, but have never fully explored it. Now, day by day I explore and learn a little more and find it is very nostalgic and peaceful to browse and expose myself to this lovely marketplace. As explained in VC, this was a time of etiquette, glamor and romance amidst so many changes in the world like the many scientific advancements and the industrial revolution.

What a time it must have been, and how like the times we live in now....

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bloomin' Cactus!

Well, it's mid-August and still awfully hot here in Southern Arizona. Amazingly though, just this past Saturday, I noticed that despite the high heat some cactus around the house have started to bloom! I was thrilled to see such beauty in the middle of the hottest and driest season.....rather late bloomers I must say!

The colors on this small barrel cactus are really dramatic~

I love the flower-within-a-flower on this tall flowering cactus~
I just planted these cactus in April 2009, so to see them doing so well is inspiring. I must not be too bad at gardening :)

Also on Saturday, I went to a local art fair hosted by the Central Arizona College. I brought along some of my favorite ceramic pieces to show. Unexpectedly, a local store-owner in town commissioned me to make several sets of cactus salt and pepper shakers and a couple of large saguaro cactus for them. So it turned out to be a wonderful bloomin' cactus kind of day!

Custom order for Cactus Salt & Pepper Shakers will include
"Casa Grande Arizona" painted on the front of each piece.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Paint Your Own Ceramics Now Available!

Earlier this year, I offered paint-your-own Easter Baskets at some local shows because I thought it would be great for kids (and adults) to get together to create their own unique ceramic bunnies and Easter eggs. The kits included the ceramic pieces in bisque - ceramics that have been fired in the kiln already and ready for glaze/paint to be applied. Plus I included the paints and a brush. Several people bought these kits for their children and grandchildren - I was thrilled knowing that I may be helping to create the next great artist.. hehe :o)

I have lots of fun painting our ceramic figurines and other items at, but there is a whole new generation of DIY-ers (do-it-yourself) out there. Plus I love to see others create their own works of art. So, I decided to start offering bisque and whole DIY kits at

Here are a few of the ceramic pieces that you can paint yourself using the kit which includes the ceramic dolphin, snake, steer skull, gecko, etc. plus the paint and 2 good brushes. I think this makes for a great family activity and also good for birthday party activities.

I plan to keep adding kits so that every piece that I have available as a finished piece can also be a DIY piece. I would LOVE to see what masterpices you can make! ~~♥~~

Friday, July 31, 2009

Frog Days of Summer SALE!

Ok, so it's hot outside and summer continues here in super-sunny Southern Arizona.... so started our Frog Days of Summer sale! Why not have some fun and add a frog to your patio, garden, planter, or hand one on a wall? These guys are cute, some really funky, and best of all - they are ALL on sale for only $20-25 each plus I will ship for free in the U.S.

I have to admit - we went a little crazy being cooped-up in the air conditioning all day and created some unique amphibians :o)

Have a great summer y'all! RIBBIT !

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ceramic Art - It's a messy business!

Unless you have had first-hand experience in school or at a recreation program making your own ceramic pieces, then you may not know the process in making ceramic art. I thought you might like to see a glimpse of how we make our ceramics....

The type of ceramic art we produce is called "slipcasting" because we use natural liquid clay made in the United States and this type of clay is called "slip" and the method of pouring it into preformed molds is the "casting" part.

Here you can see the plaster mold that shapes the bunny

The two parts of the mold are held together by a large rubberband

The slip (liquid clay) is poured carefully into the mold

The mold is a very dry plaster and as the slip sits in the mold, the water from the slip is drawn into the plaster and a type of skin starts to develop, sticking to the inside of the mold.

The mold must sit with the slip inside for approximately 1/2 hour until the correct thickness of skin has formed - too long and the piece will be extremely heavy or even solid, which is no good, or if not enough time and the piece will be too thin and brittle.

The slip that remains liquid inside the mold is poured out and re-used for more "pourings" later

After the mold sits and drys for a few minutes, the spout skin must be removed, leaving the characteristic hole in the bottom of all slipcast ceramic pieces.

After about a 1/2 hour more, you un-band the mold and very carefully separate and lift half of the mold straight up - if not done correctly, the piece can be dented or even ruined.

This bunny is poured to a correct thickness and since the top of the mold has just been removed, the set clay is very wet and the piece must wait another 1/2 hour to dry more fully so that it can be lifted from the mold without mis-shapping or damaging it.

Now that the bunny is cast, it must sit to dry for at least 24 hours before the next step - cleaning.

Because there are two parts to the mold, a seam running around the piece must be trimmed off the fragile, dry piece and then a wet sponge is used to smooth the seam until it can no longer be seen - possibly the messiest part of the process since the dry clay forms a fine dust that gets everywhere when being scraped off, in spite of one's best efforts to keep the dust down!

After cleaning, the piece is finally ready to be painted, fired in our electric kiln to approximately 2,000 degrees F, which brings it from the "greenware" stage to "bisque" stage. Firing time lasts for about 5 hours, but cooling takes at least 8 more hours. There is no way to cool faster, and if you do then the pieces themselves will crack and can even completely break. After cooling, the bisque piece is glazed with finishing coats and then fired again to bring it to a glossy finish that will never fade or wear out.

The average piece of ceramic art takes a minimum one week to pour, clean, paint, fire, cool, paint again, fire again, cool again and then - voila! - you have a ceramic piece created by hand start to finish! It's a messy job working with the clay, dust and I'm not even going to mention that I tend to glaze myself as well as many of the pieces...hehe.... but I love it!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Wild, Wild West

We are located in Casa Grande, Arizona, about half-way between Phoenix and Tucson, which is one of the hottest and windiest places in the U.S.! It amazing that anything can survive (and thrive) in this climate. Right now, it's 110 degrees F outside and I am staying inwith the air conditioning! :)

Our shop is located next to a beautiful mountain and we are fortunate to have incredible sunsets almost daily...

There is such diversity here.... rabbits, jackrabbits, ground squirrels, quail, snakes, lizards, road runners, prairie dogs, coyotes, and of course desert flowers, mesquite trees, saguaro cactus and even purple colored cactus are all seen here throughout the year.

Rabbit in Mesquite

White Lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth at our Honeysuckle Bush

Crystal Castles saguaro cactus taken locally by Cory Schreider

Lone Star saguaro cactus taken locally by Cory Schreider

Being in this rural location is such a treat and indeed some of our work is inspired by the nature and scenes of the Southwest. We thought it would be wonderful for people to be able to bring a little of the Southwest into their homes, patios, gardens, even some red-hot chilies to spice-up your kitchen...

Red Hot Chili Peppers - bring on the heat!

Classic Symbol of the Southwest - Steer Skull & Rattlesnake

and one of our very favorite pieces -- hanging on my living room wall as we speak....

Horse Whisperer Shadow Caster discovered at chriscrooks

I love this "Horse Whisperer Shadow Caster" made by Chris who we actually met at a local arts and crafts show in Tucson this year! He does great work and I was thrilled to see his work on Etsy.

Hope you will follow-along as I embark on my next blog project... posting the process of making ceramics start to finish. It's a messy business, but we love it!