Snow day reprieve; time for the studio


Its been 2 weeks since I packed up my studio in Canterbury along with my life and moved to our little colonial in Portsmouth, NH.  Scraping, painting and unpacking the household has been my life thus far so today with “Blizzard 2015″ I have had a day just for the studio.

Unpacking and sorting…deleting and abbreviating…repurposing and organizing in 1/3 the space of my former studio.  This process is good for the soul; letting go of what once was useful for the possibility of something new, learning to see different associations and finding that old collections serve up new inspirations.  Such a metaphor for life…reducing size for the appreciation of minutia!  Snuggle up…

studio 1 b & a studio 2 b & a


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Artist’s showcase design; the new LNHC gallery! part 1


It began with a simple idea; bring the hidden work of craftsmen to the public eye.  During the Great Depression this was the mission of the League of NH Craftsmen; to support and expose the great craftsmen here in New Hampshire.  In 2015 the League continues their mission by opening another gallery to showcase craft which I am proud to have had a part in.  Follow this blog series to see some of my design ideas and for the final unveiling of this new gallery around the first of February!

In the mid-1920’s of rural New Hampshire when crafting what you needed by hand was a home art, this form of functional beauty was recognized and a store was opened to showcase the work. A league of craftsmen was formed which eventually became todays League of NH Craftsmen that hosts seven galleries, craft education centers and an internationally acclaimed craftsmen’s faire. Their newest gallery is being planned to open at the Hooksett visitors rest area along I93 and I had the pleasure of designing the space.

I follow the traditions of those early craftsmen as you may have noticed throughout the history of this blog. In the same scrappy way, I exercise my artistic expression through many avenues, crafting what I see in my mind’s eye with the use of my hands and limited tools. (My arthritis will testify to that!) So as a juried member of the League when presented with the opportunity to design the interior of this new LNHC store, my old-fashioned ways were embraced. No Autocad; just sketches and discussions and visual representations.  This is the League at it’s best; recognizing the quirky craftsmen’s mind and letting us execute our ideas in our individual way. [this sounds like another topic for a blog post!]

The back story: The League was approached by the builder of the new visitors rest stop in Hooksett, NH to be part of his retail vision; a sampling of NH-made goods in a microcosm representation of New Hampshire for visitors entering the state on I93. LNHC embraced the idea for this new type of craftsmen’s gallery; a microcosm of its own self as a way to further educate the public to our nationally known fine craft.  So committee was formed who worked diligently for months on end to make this vision become reality.

Rusty pointing to Store space IMG_4127

The store space presented a design challenge; only 300 square feet to represent not only the 800+ juried members but the existing larger galleries. The negotiations began long ago in the spring of 2014 when there was no store space even framed yet; architectural plans were subject to change, actual measurements were unclear, lighting and windows were unknown and there was no way to visualize.

But these were our guiding design principles:

  • Educate and entice the eye of the customer with carry-home sized craft while showcasing larger craft as a backdrop to lead them to the larger gallery spaces.
  • Showcase all the forms of craft that the League supports; jewelry, metal, glass, clay, wood, paper and fiber.
  • Have the fixtures support the feel of a hand-crafted studio while still allowing for modern technology that allows us to bring the work to the public.
  • Have the colors used enhance the many varieties of work that will be displayed.

So I just made a stab at what we might need.  These were some of the initial sketches.  Hoosett initial sketch Hooksett outside sketchIMG_0847IMG_0850

Terri Wiltse, the League’s operation manager, and myself on one of our first trips to the site.

Watch for the next posts to see how the plans developed.

Flowers in the snow; new artwork

Flowers in the snowMy studio was a cheery place this last month in December; the snow piled up outside while gardens grew inside.  Inspired by my previous abstracted-nature works, my client Heather Brountas commissioned me to create a painted and quilted textile art work to grace the wall behind her Portsmouth office desk. So I painted flowers and painted flowers and painted flowers…

The color palette came from her existing scheme of hanging artworks;  watery sky views, ocean pastels and the warm complex white on the walls.heather color layout

I painted cotton fabric using my mono-print technique—paint goes on my board then the fabric gets “printed” with it.  I stitched flowers together in random clumps then stitched the clumps together randomly.

DSC06222 DSC06226 DSC06227 %22A stroll thru the garden%22; janebalshaw.comWhat do you think?


Merry Christmas last minute cheese spread!

DSC06254In case ANYONE is checking their emails today, Merry Christmas from my place to yours!

Here is a last-minute recipe for amazingly delicious cheese spread made from left over bits in just a couple of minutes. Enjoy!


Soften all cheeses to room temperature or microwave until soft. Blend all ingredients together in a food processor until smooth. Fill into a container then decorate and chill. OR chill then shape into a ball and roll in decorations.

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 8 oz of assorted left over strong-tasting cheeses, grated or crumbled. Blue, cheddar cheese, feta, parmesan, etc
  • 2-3 T. liquid to smooth and add flavor; cream, 1/2 & 1/2, cream sherry, port, wine juice, broth….anything. Will help create a deeper flavor profile.
  • 1 tsp granulated onion or garlic
  • 1/2 tsp additional spice if desired; oregano, thyme, sage, etc
  • 2 dashes worcheshire sauce or 2 squirts mustard

Toppings can include dried fruit, nuts, seeds, crumbled bacon, etc.  Be creative and use up your left-overs!  Spread on crackers or toast.  Makes GREAT grilled cheese sandwiches!



Top photo features one of my painted canvases.

Color study; festivus digitus


Vivid red and evergreen against pure white; classic seasonal colors.  Taken from snowy winter landscapes, the combination is uplifting and bright.   We see it repeated and repeated this time of year so why not on festive toenails too?!!

If you want your colors to pop, set them against a neutral background—like white—with proportions of approximately 2/3 neutral to 1/3 color.  To be exact, use the golden ratio of 1.61803 to 1.  As an example, if you have a wall that measures 8′ x 8′ for a total of 64 square feet, the perfect size of an artwork to hang there is 24 square feet or 4′ x 5’ish.  If other furniture is against the wall count its size within the number also.  It’s the “negative” space of the neutral color that allows your artwork to show off.

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Old House rehab; final photos and surviving a remodel (with your spouse!)


8:00PM on the final night of completion.

Remodeling a house is a metaphor for life. It starts, it ends and in between are all sorts of lessons to be learned; “think outside the box”, “let of go of that plan to try another” and “let your spouse have their own way!”  It was 74 days working every day off to complete this rehab; exhaustion, doubts and mental stress ensued but we survived.

David and I have done other remodel projects together and here is what we have learned about tackling huge projects and doing it together.

  • Understand that everyone has their own Learning & Doing style. David and I  approach projects each in a very different way. To avoid conflict, we have learned to work separately. In this project he worked one half of the day and I worked the other half or on completely separate days.
  • If one person feels very strongly about an idea then just go with it. Trust that they have some creative vision that is important to them. (Even if it not what you would do)
  • If you are living with the person you are doing a project with, save room to “have each other’s back”. On the days that David worked a long one, I made sure his laundry was caught up and that there was a meal at the end. He did the same for me. This kept home stressless.
  • If you push yourself hard to the end of your “mental and physical rope”, have a nest to collapse into. In advance, prepare for your end-of-the-day to be restful both physically and mentally so that you may recoup. I took a hot lavender or pettigrain bath each night and read The Goldfinch during this project. I did not allow myself to think about any else than resting.
  • Save time for friends to keep your eyes focussed on what is important in life.  Honestly, it was the 1/2 days spent quilting with my buddies and the dinners after work with friends that kept me going.  I think David feels the same way.
  • While working hard physically, think of your body as a machine that needs to be primed and lubed. Drink LOTS of water and make an effort to eat healthy foods. I tried to cook large dishes once or twice a week that we could pack left-over meals from. Even still, we did rely on plenty of coffee and the occasional burst that sugar provides!  No one is perfect.
  • As a woman, I needed to step back into a polished profession after each work session so I applied these tricks.
    • Paint your nails with clear nail polish. At the end of the day remove it and off with it comes any paint, dirt or grease. I have even painted my cuticles too.  (I hate wearing gloves while painting.)
    • Coat your hands before and after a days work with a heavy salve to avoid stains. I used Artist’s Hand Creme.
    • The skin on the face is sensitive and paint fumes can cause rashes so I coated mine each day with a protective creme. I used Stop it!

The Old House rehab project is finished.  C. W. moved in last week and is busy feathering her nest.  What we did matched her sense of esthetic, she is improving upon it and the bones of this building are creating a refuge for her as we had intended.

Here are some final shots of the living room to close with.  Thanks for following!

mantle B&ADSC06094DSC06144DSC06146stairwell B&Alooking at front door B&ADSC06141DSC06139

Old House rehab 8; the laundry and new half bath

Laundry hook-up wall B&A

The once inside, then outside, then inside again room in this old house contained the most history and was the room that needed the most help.  It’s laundry facilities were battered and out of code draining into main pipes that were leaking and the 40″ apart floor joists let the tile floor sag and crack.  So it was a gut job allowing us to then incorporate a 1/2 bath.

The first step was to rip out the floor to expose the pipes to replace them, run new plumbing for the 1/2 bath and update the laundry pipes.  (see post #3 Uncovering the Layers)  New floor joists were installed and new subfloor was laid.

I had speculated that this room was returned to an inside room around 1964.  However, once the painting began I noticed some details I had missed before.laundry photo of wall detailUnderneath that paneling was remnants of some Art Deco wall trim circa deco trimThis then made sense of the layers of paint colors that were clearly seen underneath the door trim.  The Deco trim was a chair-railing wall border to either the earliest sliver of yellow or the bright green paint.  The color history shows us an earlier pink—circa 1920—then takes us forward through 1950-1960 teal blue which is how we found the place with its coordinating wall paper painted over.  So my first guess at this becoming an inside room again around 1960 was incorrect; more likely it did shortly after the house’s arrival to its current foundation in 1900.deco trim and paintI painted the walls the same lively cream color as throughout the house.  David installed new bead board in a white-white to continue the bright white theme of the adjoining kitchen along with the same plank vinyl flooring in the kitchen.  Lighting and vanity from Lowes, mirror from Target.  Since the room was to become a 1/2 bath as well, we had to scout out a door for privacy.  It was an odd size so David found a vintage one that fit perfectly at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore Salvage shop in Portsmouth; just $20!  Sanding, washing and several coats of paint.

laundry door hallway B&Alaundry door inside B&Alaundry room John B&ALaundry hook-up wall B&Alaundry sink wall B&ADSC06117DSC06128I would live in this house!  I really enjoy your comments.