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My name is Rachel Gregor and I’m a fine artist living and working in Kansas City, Missouri. I grew up about 30 minutes west of Minneapolis, Minnesota where my parents own and operate their own retail greenhouse and nursery. My mom was a freelance illustrator and graphic designer before getting involved with the greenhouse with my dad and grandfather, so that’s where a lot of my interest in art came from. I remember as a child while she worked at her seeding bench she would place me at a table nearby with blank pieces of paper and crayons. I was always drawing at a young age and she rarely bought me coloring books, so I had to invent scenes and stories to draw. That’s how it always was throughout grade school, I was the kid with the sketchbook drawing Pokemon and trying to sell the drawings for 25 cents. Eventually that led me to applying to an arts high school in Minnesota called Perpich Center For the Arts Education, I always knew I wanted to be an “artist” but that’s when I started to learn what that meant and then it became real. I then went on to receive my BFA in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute, gained a lot of great mentorships, and now here I am.
A lot of my work is inspired by nostalgia. When I was in college my grandparents started the process of moving out of their home and into a nursing home, and I started to become really homesick for their old house. Even if the setting in a portrait is vague, I’m usually thinking back to their house and trying to get the idea or sensation of what it was like there. I’m a huge fan of mid century patterns and household kitsch so oddly enough just surfing Etsy for weird ceramic knick knacks and table cloths gets me excited for painting. In my larger compositions I usually try to hide away objects that I remember from my childhood. I want my portraits to feel very still and mundane, but underneath the cheer and kitsch there is some darkness. Even if they’re surrounded by flowers and cute prints, my figures are typically alone and isolated.
I like to get pretty nerdy over my material process, but I think to be a painter you have to be very familiar with your medium. When I’m doing a larger piece I work on stretched linen, typically a finer weave, always raw and never pre-primed. I stretch and size my linen myself with rabbit skin glue, and once it’s prepped with an oil ground and has had time to cure, I can get to work. I use rounds and filberts for my brushes, typically hogs hair, from various brands, it doesn’t really matter too much which brand as long as the brushes are the size I want and bristles aren’t shedding. Rarely do I need fine sable brushes but I sometimes use these when working on really slick surfaces and for details, like with my still lives. For my figurative work I like to work in a really direct method, wet into wet, and then switch to more indirect methods and using a dry brush. Lately I’ve been really enjoying doing a grisaille, which is painting with a single pigment like burnt sienna or an umber, and white, letting that dry, and then doing layers of scumbling on top of that, which is essentially glazing but with little to no added oil medium.
When in comes to smaller pieces or studies, I really enjoy painting on toned paper prepared with acrylic gesso and ground pumice stone. I prepare this myself but ColourFix makes great toning gessos with grit in them and ready to use pre-toned paper. The nice thing about prepping it yourself is you can tint the paper tone to any color you like and because I’m using acrylic, the paper is sealed so I can use the surface for dry media, wet, or oil. The pumice stone adds a really nice grip as well, so it has a nice tooth for both pastels and for painting, the brush can grab the surface and it doesn’t feel like you’re just smearing paint. I also like to keep a roll of Grafix’s Dura-lar acrylic film around for the same reason, if I want to do a quick, small painting or study I simply cut a piece from the roll and no prep work is required. One side of the film is foggy and has a bit of a grip, it’s not totally smooth, so again your brush has something to grab to and it doesn’t feel like you’re just smearing paint.
As far as specifics go with mediums and brands, I like M. Graham & Co. walnut oil for a painting medium and walnut alkyd if I’m working with dark earth tones. Walnut oil has a slower dry time than linseed and is clearer and a bit more glossy. Alkyds will start to form a skin within a few hours so be ready! I only use alkyds in the final layers. If you want your paint to have that varnished look, sun dry your walnut oil by placing it in a shallow bowl and let it sit out for a few days. It will become thick like honey and give your paints a beautiful gloss, much like an alkyd but I find it’s a bit more forgiving and workable. I don’t like relying on varnish to give my paintings that final polish, it can become a crutch. If a painting is built up with the proper mediums, it shouldn’t need an immediate coat of varnish as soon as it’s dried.
At this moment I probably have around 10 or more different brands of paint tubes, from Old Holland, Michael Harding, Winsor & Newton, to store brands like Utrecht. I’m not really loyal to any particular brand. Brands specialize in different products and mediums and I think it can be foolish to swear by one brand for all of your mediums and pigments. When I’m at the art store shopping for paint, I look at the individual pigment, let’s say burnt sienna. I like my burnt sienna to be very hot and orange, which goes against what a lot of people say burnt sienna should be-that it should have purple undertones. So I go through each brand and sample the paint on a piece of paper and look for one that has the right temperature and undertones that I like. I also look for how much medium they add to the paint, if it’s separated, if it feels dry, ect. Even if I have a go to brand for one type of pigment, I always check because there can be variances between the batches. Look for what you want in your pigment, just because Winsor & Newton makes a beautiful hot burnt sienna doesn’t mean that their yellow ochre is any good, it might be too green or too orange for what you want in that specific color. Also never judge a brand by it’s price tag, more expensive brands at the store like Old Holland might make some beautiful tubed paint, but that doesn’t mean that the formulas or the pigments are right for your specific purpose. Of all things, I actually like the student grade Winton cadmium red light a lot. They add a wax filler to the paint to extend it, and if you are aware that it’s there that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I really like the added wax for painting flushed cheeks and ears.
My zine, ‘Flowers from Home’ came about after my partner and I moved into our new house and I finally had the space to start gardening on my own. I started thinking a lot about native plants and researching plants native to the midwest. My studio work was consisting of a lot of still lifes based on Dutch Golden Age masters like Rachel Ruysch, and I started working on my own still life compositions based on dutch paintings but using native flowers. Once I got a lot of sketches built up I decided to draw them out on a larger scale and reproduce them in a zine.
I decided to focus on native flowers from both Minnesota and Missouri since those are the two places I’ve so far considered ‘home’, so my native areas, and group the flowers based on blooming seasons or growing locations like prairies and woodlands. It’s supposed to be semi-educational, since I did quite a bit of research going into the project I wanted the viewer to have to do some research as well. Each drawing is accompanied by a list of all the flora featured, but it’s in alphabetical order by it’s scientific name, so if you want to identify a specific plant you’ll have to look up the names to try to ID it.
I like the idea of appropriating Dutch Still Life and using midwestern native flowers in place of the exotic and cultivated plants the Dutch loved. Often times art scholars brush aside Dutch Still Life as a genre that’s purely aesthetic, but I find it extremely philosophical. Many gardeners as well tend to ignore the possibility of using native plants because they aren’t showy enough or they think they can get weedy, without realizing that actually a lot of cultivars you find in nurseries are bred from US native wildflowers, or that there are many possibilities and ways to include native plants in your landscape along with cultivated plant species. Both seem to be kind of mundane and humble in their own right, and I like the idea of combining them and using them to elevate each other.
While I’m working sometimes music can become too distracting and I find myself wasting time at the computer trying to find something or I realize I’ve been sitting there for several minutes just hitting the “skip” button. If I’m listening to something, it has to be familiar so I can use it to fill the silence but I can also just ignore it, but I usually don’t mind silence, a lot of the time I prefer it. If I need some sort of background noise though, I typically open up Pandora and put it on the Mirah station. I also like Pinback, Death Cab for Cutie, and Wilco for working music. A lot of the same indie music I’ve listened to since high school. Very often though, I will listen to Brontë Sister novels via Librivox. I’ve read them enough where I can tune in and out of listening, and I won’t ever get bored or frustrated and feel the need to skip the track.
These 10 beginner DIY art kits are so inspiring, as well as affordable! Start with a kit to learn some basic embroidery, origami, painting, etc, and in the end you’ll also have something fun to display on your wall or shelf.
The first kit comes from The Wild Woods on Etsy – learn how to carve your own stamps with this kit, which contains all the carving tools and blades that you’ll need, as well as carving blocks and ink!
This DIY printable bird garland comes as an instant download from the Printspiring Etsy shop. You can see a video of this garland here. After downloading, you can print each bird yourself and follow the instructions to make the garland.
The Wildflower Art Studio sells beautiful starter kits, including this DIY watercolor kit. This kit includes beginner tutorials on beginner watercolor painting techniques and projects, along with all the brushes, paints, and paper needed.
This DIY Leaf and Flower Press Kit is handmade in the US with cherry and maple wood, and details are included on how to collect your leaves, press and mount them.
I’m happy to introduce Anastasia from the Etsy shop Asilda Store. Anastasia’s shop is based in Playa del Rey, CA, and focuses on selling pins, patches, and stickers for photographers (especially film photographers!). Feel free to read my interview with her to get to know more about herself and her life selling on Etsy, and make sure to check out her shop!
I got involved in a pin/patches project for a motorcycle company back in May of 2014. Then I did a trip on Route 66 and bought everything I could find along the way. I looked at all displays, all packaging, all patches and pins I could find. At that time I got the bug. After doing 6 tour patches for the motorcycle company, I got more into it and wanted to expand the lineup to more designs and more stores. That didn’t get any support, so I was sitting at home around Xmas time thinking I should just do something for myself. I knew film photographers including myself who are very passionate about the craft, so that was clearly a great starting point. I am currently selling products in 2 series, with the future plans for 2 more themes. It’s all coming up, but in a remote future. With 3 designs I launched the store and in an hour got an order for 5 items. Then more orders started to come in, and more… I think this is very much a skyrocketing business to be in right now.
If you read my bio, it’s kind of a wild jungle :). Tennis player, entrepreneur, photographer, store owner, web designer, etc. I have many interests and if we’re talking about Asilda Store, it was never the main thing I always wanted to do. I see my career in photography as the focus. Just so happened that I also really like working on the business side too, and am involved with multiple companies on that end. I love doing reviews, I love working on new pins and patches…it’s just all part of a mix of who I am. I tend to mention just a few things when I meet new people because everything together becomes too much. But it feels comfortable to me to have so many interests. Asilda Store somehow combined all the things I learned from everywhere else and added up to become this awesome venture that I am very proud of.
There is a lot of research and preparation involved. I start with general ideas and things I want to tell people through the phrases and designs. I look up tons of inspiration photos and pull everything I can to give to the designer. I usually work with 1-2. It’s been a challenge to find new designers to keep the volume going and stay true to how I want things to look. So there has been many times when I had to back away from working with some designers. I have a briefing document on the specifics of manufacturing of pins and patches with thread colors, guidelines on borders and coloring. Both pins and patches are pretty technical when it comes to making them, so I’m still learning what works best and what doesn’t. For a new person it’s not easy to imagine how a vector design will look as a product, so I try to train and help my designers as much as possible. I have one awesome guy who did most of what I have in store right now and he keeps getting better and better. Once the illustration is complete, which usually takes weeks before it’s looking exactly how I imagined it, I talk to the manufacturers and get the digital proof with recommended changes. After that I choose the materials and sizing and send all this off to production, which is another 3-4 weeks. It’s a long process…
It’s picking up. I am doing much larger volume through the main website store (asildastore.com), but Etsy is a perfect place to capture the audience that’s craving for cool things like pins and patches. Etsy is for people who appreciate all the different crafts and that is why it’s a great place to reach many passionate enthusiasts for specific products, like mine.
Make and sell what you like. Also, enjoy the process of promoting your products. I’ve started a business before where I liked building the product, but not selling it and that whole things failed pretty quickly. You need to have a bit of an obsession :).
Make sure to visit Asilda Store on Etsy to get one of these awesome pins/patches/or stickers! Anastasia also sells t-shirts.
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It is my pleasure to feature Vera Jonkers from the Studio VerSie Etsy shop in Delft, Netherlands who makes modern woven wall hangings! I hope you get some awesome wall decor ideas after reading this post!
I’ve been a crafter for as long as I can remember. As a child I was always drawing, painting and making things. But it wasn’t until I got pregnant with my first child that I started gravitating towards yarn. I studied Architecture at the Technical University of Delft, but that didn’t result in a creative job. This creativity had to come out somehow, so I dabbled in a few creative hobbies, like knitting, crochet, painting and even screen printing. That’s when I discovered woven wall hangings in magazines, online and in stores, which sparked my interest towards weaving. It wasn’t until my husband coincidentally bought a loom for my daughter that I really started to pursue the idea of weaving. I started looking for tutorials online, stole my daughters loom and got started. It instantly got me addicted! I’ve been weaving almost every day for a year and half now and I love it. Finally, I have found something I am very passionate about.
Most of the time it starts with me seeing something inspiring, like a combination of colors or an interesting pattern. This usually gives me a visual idea of something I could make. Then I will sit on it for a while to let the idea grow and take form. When I feel it’s time, I make a little sketch in my notebook and lately I even paint them. From there I start weaving. It usually takes me about a week to make the larger weavings.
At the moment I have a temporary studio, but in a few months I’ll be moving and I’m so looking forward to that. I really love everything interior and I want my work space to be a happy place. I envision shelves filled with yarn, a large desk with a lot of space to weave and pack orders, a lot of light and inspiration on the walls.
I love listening to music. My taste is very diverse, it depends so much on my mood. Among my favourites are the soundtrack of the movie ‘Into the Wild’, the Common Linnets (Dutch) with ‘Calm After the Storm’ (you should really listen to that one!). One of my favourite songs is ‘Follow the Sun’ from Xavier Rudd. But I also love to listen to Dance music, from artists like Martin Garrix. You can find me dancing in my studio regularly!
Besides the weather, I love living in the Netherlands. The people are fun and outgoing, the cities are filled with so much history. The Netherlands is a small country, but we are an innovative little bunch of people and I really appreciate being a part of that. There is one thing I miss though and that is mountains, it is so flat here. I guess that’s why we can basically live on our bicycles!
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It is my pleasure to introduce Kat Lendacka, a printmaker from the UK. You can visit her shop at katlendacka.etsy.com!
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey with printmaking?
I am a printmaker and my favourite technique is lino cutting. I live in Northamptonshire, United Kingdom, with my family and a whippet called Spot. After studying Graphic Communications (Illustration) and working in the graphic design industry for some years, I gradually moved away from sitting at the computer all day to using my hands (although a bit of computer work still remains)!
I was born and grew up in Litomerice, a rather picturesque small town approximately 40 miles north of Prague in the Czech Republic. My first ever try at lino cutting was when I was about 13 years old with a retired art teacher and an academic painter, to whom I used to go for art lessons with several other youngsters. I wish I liked the man more! I might have done a lot more lino cutting! Next time I had a go was while a first year student of Graphic Communications (Illustration) degree at Northampton University. This time, I fell in love! Linocut images appeared in many of my student graphic projects as well as in the final major project.
It still took some years before it became my every day obsession due to a full time job, lack of space and then babies taking over my time and the house! In the last 3 years, lino cutting has taken over the dining room and conservatory which are essentially my make shift studio. It is also where I run very small workshops.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you use references for your work?
Inspiration for me is everywhere. While walking our dog, exploring the countryside with the children, day trips to old cities (Oxford being my favourite), visiting my old home town Litomerice which is adorned with the most beautiful old houses! Animals in the British countryside and some fabulous gardens (Coton Manor Gardens being my absolutely favourite place on Earth). There are also a few artists that I find mind blowing – Angie Lewin, Emily Sutton being a couple of them.
Your work is so detailed. What does the process look like for one of your multicolored animal prints?
In the last 2 years, I have moved away from only black and white (one layer) images to multi block lionocuts. I prefer this technique to reduction linocuts. Using various materials (Japanese Vinyl, soft lino and old flooring vinyls), I like to cut out shapes and play ‘jigsaw’! Usually, I stick to 2 – 3 colours.
How has business been these days? Are you working on any new and exciting projects?
What next? I am happy doing what I am doing, more images as they pop into my head. Grow my Etsy shop. Pluck up courage and try a couple of art fairs! Experiment with some more products. But most importantly, have fun (as my Uni teacher Ian Newsham used to say ‘if you are not enjoying it, you are doing it wrong!’).
Can you give me a little background on yourself and how you developed your unique style?
Hi, my name is Sally and I live in Brighton in the UK. I went to art school and took a degree in design and then a masters in ceramics in Cardiff, Wales. I was then awarded funding by the Welsh Arts Council to do a one year ceramics residency in a small town in Germany. I had already been doing a lot of drawing during my M.A. and had produced some kind of 3D assemblages with wood I picked up in the street and other items collaged together, and in Germany I continued with this, creating paintings of animals using some of the ceramics tools and techniques I was using on my pots too. I think working on wood is a little like decorating the surface of a pot, because its an absorbent hard surface that can be carved into or sanded back. I like that you can keep a design simple whilst still giving it depth in that way.
Why the use of reclaimed wood?
Partly I use reclaimed wood because I like the idea of turning old things into new and reusing something that already exists. From an ecological standpoint I think that’s a good thing to do. Also though I just really like the look of wood that has already had a life and looks a bit battered, so its also for the aesthetic.
My inspiration comes from animals, our two pets (a dog and a cat) but also from feelings and human emotion. I am really interested in facial expressions and what they do and don’t reveal and how human expressions do not always reflect our true feelings: animals and young babies don’t cover their sadness or anger with a smile or “put on” a confident face when they are nervous etc. That’s something that interests me.
I work as a facilitator on a great project at the Brighton Museum, which is about providing a space for marginalized artists – often people with a diagnosed mental health issue or learning disability to make art. This is a project that has been running now for several years and is very inclusive and person centered. People can pretty much create what they want there and I find that very positive and inspiring. For my own work, I honestly feel that every day that I can make art is pretty exciting – I feel like I have the best “job” in the world!
Have you worked on, or are you working on, any exciting projects?
Coming soon I think is a book that will feature one of my cat paintings. It will be written by Desmond Morris (a famous and respected sociologist and author in the UK and a painter himself). The book is called Cats in Art and is due out in September. I have also just finished taking part in an Open House exhibition with other artists at Bright Moon Studios in Brighton, which was a lovely experience.
What is life like as an artist in Brighton?
Life for an artist in Brighton is really good. Brighton has a large artist community and many galleries and events where you can show work and take part in open houses, craft fairs and networking opportunities. People here seem very supportive and interested in art and the city itself is close to London, with its major museums and galleries and also the countryside of the Sussex Downs and the wonderful seaside. Sussex has a long artistic history going back years and the Charleston House (home of Vanessa Bell) (@CharlestonTrust) and Virginia Woolf‘s house are nearby as well as the Ditchling Museum which showcases the work of significant local artists and craftspeople of the last century.
Thank you for reading and make sure to check out Mogg Shop on Etsy and get one of Sally’s reclaimed wood paintings!
I am pleased to introduce abstract artist Melissa Mary Jenkins, a 2016 Etsy Awards Finalist based in Erin, Canada. Please visit her shop at melissamaryjenkins.etsy.com. In the following interview she discusses the creative design process related to her abstract contemporary art paintings and her small business on Etsy.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and the development of your artistic style?
I was a high school teacher for several years before I began painting. I would say that I was always a creative person, from a musical and artistic family, but I didn’t begin painting till about 10 years ago. A good friend of mine and a very talented artist @kylahkussmannart began painting with me to help guide me through the loss of a pregnancy. I was immediately hooked on the magical feeling that arises from being the sole creative force behind creating a piece of art. I feel as though I progress daily in my artistic style but I struggle between the ease of creating abstract floral paintings and the freedom that abstract painting provides. I love interior design and how art can enhance and “complete” the look of a room.
Do you use any kind of reference for your abstract pieces?
I often try and picture my abstract art in a room in my home. The colours of blankets, pillows and plants in specific rooms will often inspire my paintings. I live in an old stone farm house surrounded by farm fields, a pond and ever-changing gardens which also influence my colour choices. We spend most of our summers up North on a lake, so my paintings often tend to take on the vibrant colours of the lake and trees in the summer months. Instagram also plays a huge role in providing inspiration for my paintings. I live with a chronic illness and often don’t venture out into the world as much as I would like to, so following artists, interior design feeds and travel photography on Instagram helps to spark my creative juices and be connected to a fabulous support network of artists.
Can you tell me a little bit about your mudcloth paintings and the process that goes into creating them?
My mudcloth paintings were sparked by the desire to provide a more affordable alternative to the typical (and gorgeous) mudcloth pillow or tapestry. I wanted to be able to incorporate the mudcloth trend in a unique way.
I was first attracted to mud cloth because it creates a touch of boho with handmade whispers of the clean geometric lines of a modern aesthetic. But when I started to research the process of creating this traditional Malian textile, I was drawn even more to the idea that each symbol creates a story that is meant to be interpreted and that it was believed that the mud cloth had the ability to absorb powerful negative experiences. As I create each piece, I think of my story that brought me to this artistic destination. I suffer from a chronic illness, but when I am able to create, I like the idea that the work of art can absorb my pain and dashed hopes and create a story of beauty.
Are you working on any new projects? How has your experience with Etsy and your buyers been?
I am currently working on a large floral commission and when I need a “break” I am creating mini abstracts inspired by all of my house plants and terra cotta planters mixed with my love of indigo blue and a pop of blush pink. I have been selling artwork on Etsy for about 5 years and all of my experiences with customers have been amazing. All of my commissions have been positive experiences and I am yet to experience a disgruntled customer. I was honoured to be a 2016 Etsy Awards Finalist, my work was featured in a collaboration by @houseandhomemag and @EtsyCA this spring, and I have been selected to be featured on @EtsyCA social media channels in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday. Etsy has provided me with a platform to sell my artwork without having to leave my home (except to mail the artwork), which works for my energy level and family responsibilities.
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It is my pleasure to introduce the wonderful Nessa Ryan from Tel Aviv, Israel ~ visit her Etsy shop at nessaryandesign.etsy.com.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, your shop, and your creative process (materials, thought process, etc)?
“I studied fine art and specifically sculpture in Ireland and also Rotterdam. After graduating I moved to New York and started to paint. I worked as an interior decorator and muralist and had my own art studio. I exhibited and performed with my band in many venues and galleries. I had a child and moved to Tel Aviv, where I started primarily to illustrate. I currently work as a children’s book illustrator and exhibit my illustrations. I work with paper, paint, ink, pen, markers..anything really. If I work on a book it is a collaboration, a dance of sorts, where sometimes the image takes the lead and at other times the text does. When I work on my own illustrations, my inspiration comes from everywhere..movies, poetry, books, memories etc. I love the meditation and process of creating an image , the excitement of colour and mystery of line. It is a wonderful world to be apart of. I joined Etsy to get a larger audience and try my hand at attempting to run a small business, I am afraid I am not a very business minded person, and have little time for marketing and promoting my shop, but every now and then I make contact with someone through the store and I find that valuable enough to keep my shop open.”
Where does your inspiration come from for the content of your work? Can you tell me a little bit about how your content and style work together?
“As I mentioned above, my inspiration comes from everywhere, I collect images in my head from just being awake ( and actually dreams are a pretty good source of inspiration, too). I do not like to take photos , so I suppose I consciously memorize something and know that it will appear if needed when I work. Most things evoke some sort of emotive response, and if not then an intellectual one. It is interesting to play with this and see where the idea decides to land.”
Is there any significance behind the oval shape that you use as a kind of frame for your illustrations?
“I wanted a free floating image, I think it seems less restrictive – it’s like an atom or a cell..it has its own energy/story in an infinite space (the page being the infinite space). The confines of the page size are irrelevant , as the page just becomes part of everything else around it. However, I am not loyal to any format, so things can change.”
“I am have almost finished my latest book, I am very excited about it, it was a collaboration between my friend and I. It is a Hebrew alphabet book, each letter is given a poem or a story, the writing is fantastic, it is philosophical, funny and sentimental, both kids and parents will enjoy the read. I found illustrating it to be a joy, as the text was so inspiring and free – children’s books can be so ‘safe’ this days and lack a juicy text, so it is rare to have this much fun illustrating.”
What is life like as an artist in Israel?
“I think it is the same as anywhere else. Life as an artist is intellectually and emotionally stimulating and financially devastating. If you are inferring that because of the occupation and violence here, then it maybe different, and it depends where you live. I live in Tel Aviv and I am Irish, so I can focus on raising my child and work. If I were a Palestinian living in Gaza or the West Bank, I would still be trying to raise my child and work, but on top of that I would have to deal with the ongoing brutal occupation. It is, for sure, a very uneven and unfair reality here.”
Nessa Ryan’s Etsy shop: nessaryandesign.etsy.com
Photographs from DreamTreeShop on Etsy
See more at www.dreamtreefineart.com
(Photographs © Amy Cater. All Rights Reserved.)