Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dreaming of Europe

I love Europe. I officially caught the travel bug when I studied in Florence over the summer of 2002. Since that incredible experience, I have had an immense thirst to see more of Europe and I definitely have not seen as much as I have wanted. Don't get me wrong; I have seen a lot, and I feel lucky to have traveled as much as I have. But when you have been bitten by the travel bug, it's never enough.

Last year before I turned 29, I told Scott that all I wanted for my 30th birthday was to make a trip to Europe. I wasn't sure at the time if we could really make it happen, but I was determined. Scott has traveled abroad to Israel, but not to Europe. Not only am I thirsting to go back, but I do really want to share the experience with my husband. We have made several small trips around the US together and we are the same kind of traveler: active, curious and on-the-go. I believe that once Scott and I go to Europe together, he will understand my obsession and hopefully share the same passion as I do. I also want to make this trip while we don't have the responsbility of children.

We have been slowly but surely been saving some money, and Gypsy Lane Designs has helped put some more change in the pot. I definitely did not start a business just to go to Europe, but as my profits grew, I saw the dream of Europe become more tangible. I am giddy at the thought that this trip will really happen. Ideally we want to go this summer, (I turn 30, Scott turns 31 and we will be celebrating our 2nd anniversary) but it seems to be the most expensive time of year to travel in Europe. We may go in April over my spring break. Then there is the exciting question.... where will we travel? I love the trip planning process... there is so much anticipation, excitement, possibility while mapping out travel plans.
  • My first choice is to make a return to the beautiful country I love: Italy. You can't beat the culture, the history, the food, the art, the romance. While studying there, I was able to see Florence, Rome, Venice, CinqueTerra, Siena and San Giminano. I never made it to the Almalfi Coast, and it's on my list of places I'm dying to see.
  • Originally when I was gushing about my dreams of celebrating my 30th birthday abroad, I declared that I wanted to go to Italy and Greece. Every time I see pictures of the beautiful Greek Islands, the bright white buildings and the pristine blue water, I just melt a little bit. I don't think we will be able to make more than a 2 week trip, so I believe that seeing both Italy and Greece in 14 days or less will unfortunately be too much. I do vow to one day make it to Greece.
  • Italy seems to be more pricey than some other Western European countries. Another option is to possibly see London, Paris and Amsterdam. I have been to London 2x before, but Scott has never been; it's an affordable hub to fly into and we can easily get around from there.
  • There's so much more I want to see! Prague, Turkey, Monaco, Africa, Thailand........
I am constantly dreaming.........

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Post about Needing to Post

Hi All! I have been seriously neglecting my poor little blog. I really do love writing in here and I hate that my last post was almost a month ago! I am still quite overwhelmed with life but wanted to let you all know I am still alive. I am making it a goal to post more frequently. Just to catch you up, here is what is currently on my plate:
  • My custom artwork is really thriving! Every week I have had at least 3 projects to work on.
  • I just started creating handpainted picture frames and mirrors. I have so many ideas, I wish my hand worked as quickly as my brain.
  • I currently have 3 regular private art students. I am just loving it. After a hectic day at school where I dont get much one-on-one time with students, this is heaven. I am working with a 7th grader, 4th grader and 2nd grader. They are like little sponges and want to learn so much! The only downside is that one of my appointments is 1 hour away near Lancaster and I often hit traffic on the dreaded 76.
  • I am feeling kind of worn out by school already. I can't believe it's only November.
  • I am finally going to Scarlet Fiorella next week with a load of framed Alphabet Art. I am also bringing a sign to advertise my info which will hang by the mural.
  • Debating whether I should look into a holiday craft fair/Hanukah Bazaar. This would be my first, as the Lehigh Avenue Arts Fest was a bust. (It was more flea market-y than craft fair). Not sure if I have enough ready-made stuff to sell, and as much as I want more business, dont want to overwhelm myself.
  • Trying to carve out time for hubby, family, friends. I love to be on the go, but I am just beyond tired these days. When I get free time, I want to sleep! Still working on the time management............ 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

New Ideas

I am constantly thinking about my Etsy shop. So it's inevitable that I have lots of ideas swirling around in my head at any given time. While browsing around Etsy, I was inspired by a fantastic shop, Fancy Prints. I am pretty obsessed with her "Thumb Print Tree". I wish I had known about this before I got married, because I would have totally wanted one of these Thumb Print Trees for my wedding. Oh well. Moving on!

I have begun working on Personalized Name Blocks for children and have found that I love painting on this new surface. It breaks up the redundancy of working on paper. Immediately as I began working on the Name Blocks other ideas began to take root in my mind. One of those ideas is a set of Family Tree Blocks. I am in the process of trying out this idea- the blocks below are not yet completed.

I love love love trees. I love the organic lines, the movement, the beautiful simplicity. I couldn't wait to paint the tree, but I found that after painting the tree on the blocks, I hit a roadblock of questions.

  • Will I include just first names of family members? Full names? What about other info, like maiden names, birthdate, birthplace, etc?
  • If I include all of this information, how will I make the text look neat? Could I really handpaint it or will I have to look into some other methods?
  • Are these more suitable for children or adults?
  • Can they be used as toy for children? If so, how can I make them safe?
  • Wouldn't it be cool if they can be displayed in other ways? For instance, I could decoupage a photo of each family member on the back of their block. So the tree could be displayed as pictured, or as a set of photo blocks of family members. 
  • Would people really want to buy these?
I would love any feedback or thoughts as I am tackling all of these questions. Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Time is Precious and Germs are Everywhere

Here we are, full swing into the 2010-2011 School Year. I am now experiencing the challenges of working full time and running my own little business on the side. I worked a 9-5 office job before teaching, and there is something about teaching that leaves me incredibly physically and mentally exhausted at the day's end. It has become a running joke that my husband always finds me passed out in the living room when he comes home from work. I fight to stay awake and usually I do not win the battle.

My time to create is now limited to the evenings and weekends. I have had a goal each day to put aside a chunk of my evening to work on Gypsy Lane Designs. After all- I have had a fruitful September so far- with a lot of custom orders, preparations for selling my Alphabet Prints at Scarlet Fiorella and Ali's Wagon, getting ready for my first craft fair, finishing up illustrations for a children's book- as well as getting things rolling with private art lessons, staying on top of my blog, Facebook, etc. Time is precious, and now more than ever, I want to use it wisely! All of this extra work is just fantastic and I feel very lucky to have these opportunities. I want to do it all.

This week, I got thrown for a little loop and I am sick. Germs are everywhere in my classroom, and I find I have gotten sick more often as a teacher. My energy is at a low-point and I am more frustrated than ever that I cannot get everything accomplished that is on my agenda. But I do think my body is sending me a very important message that I have been resisting and ignoring: REST! I am sick for the 2nd time in 2 weeks. I still feel a sense of guilt that there are things still to be checked off on my list, but I have come to terms with the fact that I need a break. Tonight will be a night of REST.

Sometimes you just can't do it all. I had high hopes to be 10000% prepared for the Lehigh Avenue Arts festival, but as I am juggling my schedule and all of the extras, preparations were pushed aside. I even grappled with just not going, as I don't feel ready. I talked with some of the wonderful Etsy folks in the forums, who convinced me to still go to the festival. To get experience even if things don't pan out the way I want. To improvise. I will be printing out a lot of previous samples of my work and setting them up on picture stands so as to create visual interest. Maybe I won't have as many "ready made" pieces to sell, but I simply don't have the time right now.

I think it's important to keep the ball rolling and do as much as possible, but this week I am learning to improvise and rest. I hope it leaves me more rejuvenated tomorrow.

What time management techniques do you use?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Featured Seller: Simply Pretty Prints

My latest featured seller is Sarah of Simply Pretty Prints. Her Etsy Shop is a pretty mix of handpainted and handstamped items for home, garden and more. I think her designs are sweet, simple and refreshing.

"I’ve enjoyed being creative since I can remember. One of the things that sticks out in my memory is regularly spending hours drawing cartoons and sketching things with my best friends growing up."

I asked Sarah about her inspiration for opening up an Etsy shop.
"Working as a design engineer for about 9 years nurtured my scientific and methodical side, but not so much my creative and artistic side. After feeling a little burnt out, I had to find creative outlet, nourish my hobbies, and find some balance. Always wanting to learn something new, I took guitar lessons, painting, dancing, and worked on little craft projects on my own. Eventually it evolved into starting my own etsy shop."
Sarah finds inspiration everywhere, especially in nature. She take lots of pictures when she is out walking and hiking and works from those pictures. Her current favorite item is something she just made, the Hello Love Coffee Mug.

When asked if she has any new ideas for her Etsy shop:

"I can’t stop thinking of ideas and creating new things! This is mostly a good thing, but sometimes makes it difficult to stay focused on my long term goals."

What else can you find Sarah involved in when she is not devoting energy to Etsy?
"I love to do things outdoors, eat and make good food, watch shows or movies that make me think or laugh, hang out with good friends and family, travel, and learn new things! I try to stay active by hiking, riding my bike, and most recently, playing racquetball."

A Popular Item at Simply Pretty Prints: Pair of Japanese Tea Cups

My Favorite Item in SimplyPrettyPrint's shop: Garden Markers

Sarah's recent favorite Item: Hello Love Mug

Monday, September 6, 2010

Endings and Beginnings

Today marks the un-official end of summer and tomorrow is the beginning of a new school year. I had an awesome end of summer working on the mural at Scarlet Fiorella in Center City. Wanted to share a few pics of the final product!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lehigh Avenue Arts Festival

Just signed up for my first Arts Festival and already my mind is spinning! I will be setting up a table on September 25-26 at the Lehigh Avenue Arts Festival. My to-do list is ever expanding. Here are some things I am brainstorming for my table:
  • Make a fantastic sign for the table.
  • Create tags/stickers with my logo on them as well as price tags.
  • Create a binder filled with images of previous orders of custom baby name paintings.
  • Order business cards through Etsy. This is a MUST. I would love to support other Etsy-ians and have found tons of sellers who offer graphic design services. It will definitely save me some time.
  • My sister-in-law suggested hosting a raffle. People put business cards in a box and I draw one name. They get a free piece of art from me. Love this idea!
  • Figure out a creative way to display my work at the table. I'm thinking a trip to HomeGoods to search for inspiration is in order. I don't quite have an idea in mind, but they have some cool tabletop accessories there. Hopefully I will resist other temptations, because I LOVE HomeGoods!
  • This festival will be good motivation to finish my Alphabet Art Designs. Still have to finish painting the letters of the alphabet, scan and clean the images, and then have them printed. I already found a fine art printing shop in Old City with reasonable prices called Silicon Gallery Fine Art Prints. Hopefully things will go smoothly! I think this will be the most time consuming task.
  • Try to create as much artwork as possible! I will definitely be creating more mix-n-matchable textile blocks and some sweet little embellished canvases like my Elephant.
I'm going to start researching other ideas too, so check back in as I update the progress on preparing for my first craft fair....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Featured Seller: BedBuggs Boutique

My Favorite Bedbugg's Item:
Hooter the Owl Pillow
Etsy is full of the most amazing design work and I am humbled and inspired every day as I find new shops. Meet featured seller Krista, of Bedbuggs Boutique. She is a twenty-something, married to her best friend, and mom of two. Krista has always been creating in various forms.

Do yourself a favor and check out her Bedbuggs Etsy Shop right away! Her shop if full of cute, unique and affordable handmade gifts including the cutest pillows and hair accessories. I love that her inspiration comes from her obvious commitment and love for her family.

Learn some more about Krista's inspirations and motivations.
"My inspiration comes from my "bedbuggs" (nickname for my kids who always end up in bed with my hubby and I). I love creating things to make them smile. I also am inspired by other Etsy Shops. I'm always blown away with how many creative people there are in the world."
"I learned about Etsy from a friend, and I toyed with the idea of an Etsy shop when my hubby was diagnosed with a rare eye disease causing him to slowly lose his vision. But it wasn't until my hubby was laid off and we just couldn't find work that I decided to give Etsy a try."
Krista's current favorite item:
White Rose on Robin's Egg Blue Pillow

So what is next in line for Bedbugg's Boutique, described by Krista as cute, unique and chic?
"I have millions of ideas running through my head for my shop. I'm working on a squirrel pillow (very cute design), car pillows and more flower/ rose pillows. Really I have far more ideas than I have time."

What advice does Krista have for anyone with an Etsy shop? 
"My advice for anyone with an Etsy Shop is to shoot for the the sky really is your limit, and just be positive and confident in your product! If you really love it, someone else is bound to love it too!"

Bedbugg's also sells children's hair
accessories and tutus.
Follow Krista's Blog:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mural Beginnings

The brushes, paint, drop cloths, drafting tape and rulers are out. I'm just beginning the mural at Scarlet Fiorella in Center City Philadelphia. We decided on a rowhouse theme, and I am painting bright patterns on each house so that the mural is very fun and kid friendly. I have had a few challenges so far, namely:
  • Parking. Ugh! Parking in the city is a beast. Not to mention I have to move my car every 2 hours so I dont get ticketed. All you artists out there know that when you are in a groove, it can be really hard to put the brush down.
  • The nooks and crannies. I am painting in the back corner of the store, and while the space is fairly open, I have had to maneveur myself to get into some corner spots. It can be kind of awkward to paint while twisted around in certain angles. I am also trying to be extra careful as there is merchandise all around me. 
  • Whoops! I already dipped my hair in the bucket of paint by accident today. I'm sure there will be more bloopers to come as I am not exactly a vision of grace. 
  • The clock is ticking. I am in a race with time. In just one week I will be back at school :(
Otherwise, things have been going pretty smoothly. I've really been having an absolute blast working on this project and am so excited to have such an awesome opportunity.

Paisley Rowhouse in progress. The wall extends higher than pictured here.
Above the door are windows with planter boxes that are yet to be painted.

Close-up of Paisley. In Progress. I am a huge Paisley fan.
Next steps: The merchandise to the right of the curtain will be moved.
There is actually much more wall space that I didn't photograph on that side.
 I will be using this wall to paint more rowhomes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One Year

August 22nd is our first wedding anniversary, and it truly was the best day of my life! I am not into cheesiness though, so here are a few non-cheesy ruminations about my experience as a bride.
  • Thoughts about transitioning into marriage. Having lived with Scott 1.5 years before our wedding, things didn't feel very different after the big day except having a new last name and being a "wife". I am a big supporter of living together before marriage. We both knew exactly what we were in store for :)
  • The dress. It was the most expensive and beautiful dress I will ever wear in my lifetime, and I will never be able to wear it again. BUMMER!
  • The best decision ever! A lot of people tried to convince us not to let our dog Gigi walk down the aisle as our flower girl. We had to do it. She's family! She was amazing and the prettiest flower girl in the world.
  • Funniest wedding moment. When our chairs were lifted into the air during the horah, whoever was lifting us kind of half-assed it and could barely get us off the ground. When our dads decided to go up in the chairs after us, everyone came from the ends of the earth to help lift them and they were flying high. They stole our spotlight!
  • The weather. It was a mess all weekend. Torrential downpours. When it wasn't raining, it was humid and sticky. We went outside to take pictures when the skies were dry, but it was so hot that one of my bridesmaid's makeup was literally dripping all over her dress. I thought bad weather was going to ruin my wedding, but in the end, it really didn't matter.
  • It's all about the company you share. When will we ever have all of our friends and family members celebrating together in one place ever again? I think that's pretty amazing. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mural Musings

This weekend I have begun sketching ideas for the mural I will be painting at a boutique called Scarlet Fiorella in Center City, Philadelphia. I am beyond excited to tackle this project. Not only is Scarlet Fiorella an adorable shop with lots of vintage-y inspired, shabby chic and cute kids' items, but the store owner Michele seems great to work with. She isn't set on a a particular theme for the mural, but we narrowed it down to 3 choices which will have a kid friendly look.
  1. Rowhouses. So fitting for a city boutique. I love the charm of rowhouses and Michele likes my "H is for House" painting as a starting point.
  2. A huge tree. Trees are so beautiful and organic, and I think the simplicity of a tree mural could look awesome.
  3. A pretty pattern. I majored in "Surface Pattern Design", and patterns are my thing. I just love em. There are so many different options for the mural if we go this route.
Inspiration for a tree mural design. Isn't this gorgeous?
H is for House- From my Alphabet Art Line

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sweet Summertime

Ahhhh summer. It never gets old. I'm 29 and summer still feels just as blissful as it did when I was 9. I am an elementary school art teacher and I am head over heels in love with summer vacation. I do realize how lucky I am. With this gift of time, I have delved into the world of Etsy (Click to see my shop, Gypsy Lane Designs) and now the Blogosphere.

So, WELCOME! I'm glad you are here. I am Rachel Levitt, the artist behind Gypsy Lane Designs. As an artist, having this time to dedicate to my work is just amazing. I share my home on Gypsy Lane with my husband and our awesome rescue dog Gigi, as well as my ever-growing supply of art materials (They have a life of their own). I have spent countless hours painting, creating, revamping, re-editing, rethinking. As an artist, you are constantly critiquing yourself.

I started this blog as a visual way to record the process of my work, explore others' work, share new ideas, and include tidbits from my life as an artist, wife, doggie mom, teacher, and passionate traveler. I have a lot to share and am excited to venture into the blogging journey!

As you get to know me, you will see that I don't like to stay in one place too long. Hence, my love affair with summer. Summer has afforded me the time to visit the Caribbean, Chicago, Rhode Island, Maryland, Cleveland, and New York City. While in NYC, creativity heaven, I was inspired by a company in the Limelight Marketplace called Brocade Home. They have a line of canvases draped in vintage fabric that inspired my "Textile Block Paintings" line. Check out their beautiful, fresh and feminine designs. I love their use of the damask pattern- a classic! Plus, they aren't outrageously expensive. (By NYC standards, anyway)

It's easy to sum up my summer.
Art Creation + Travel. It's all I could ever ask for.

Drive from Cleveland to Philly

Maegan's Bay, St. Thomas.
Millenium Park, Chicago