The Etsy Store Journey

About the time I was developing this web site I began to hear about Etsy. But I must say I knew nothing about it and didn't have any idea what people were talking about. Maybe I just should have asked ? But a couple of years ago I began creating pillows out of some vintage textiles. And I began hearing that Etsy name cropping up again !! This time I did investigate and it seemed like just the right place to showcase my vintage work. 

So I began on the journey to create an Etsy store ...and it has been a journey !! Being a non technical type person all that stuff is foreign to me. But with lots of help from friends and some determination I got it done. And for those artists who haven't tried it you might find it kind of fun . Now that I have the hang of it I'm enjoying some of the things it allows you to do. For instance on any given day you can see how many people have gone to your store. And the amazing part for me is you can see what country they are from. Wow ......I have sold from New York to Japan exciting !! 

So check it out or and enter shelleysstudio in search. Hope you enjoy !


Do a New Thing

It is so easy to get stuck in a rut in life and in our art. We bob along with out daily routine with work and chores and for most of us we try to sandwich our art in between it all.

I have been focused of late on my web site and updates. And I haven't even taken time to see the new opportunities that are all around me. When right in the center of our little town on the main street is our local gallery run by faithful volunteers. It's a wonderful venue for artists to show and sell their art as well as be a part of their web site . I was honored to be accepted into their ranks and now have lots of other opportunites opening up for me through the local art community.

Last month I entered my first show with them a Peoples Choice event and I'm thrilled to have managed to do one new thing. That feels so good and now I'm wondering what else I've been missing. Give it a try and do one new thing for your art this week, this month or this year. You'll be glad you did too.

New Horizons

Well my move last fall to a new home and studio definitely brought new horizons into more ways than one. I literally look out my windows on fabulous ocean views with snow capped mountains just as far as the eye can see. And the bay is populated with everything from sail boats  to fishing boats, kayaks and folks in canoes with float planes and military jets flying over head. It's a big view and it's giving me " much scope for my imagination " as Anne Shirley in Green Gables was fond of saying.

Although there has not been much actual studio time of late with all the settling in here and just the busy pace of life. Still in my mind I have been creating wonderful new art and getting excited about getting back to work. And I'm dreaming of new horizons literally with scenic textile wallhangings, pillows and mixed media paintings filled with glimpses of land and sea.

I'm seeing my studio space differently now too. The outdoor patio space beyond my studio door is opening up some new horizons. I'm seeing it not just as a pleasant seating area or a place to have my easel and work table for painting. Just imagine creating outside in the fresh air or perhaps for having art classes for 3 or 4 or more.

So I encourage all you time strapped, heavy ladden artists to look for those new horizons. They are always there if we have eyes to see and they may be right outside your door.

One Thing Leads to Another

Have you ever worked with hand made paper ? It's just a wonderful material for all sorts of mixed media art. Just a few years ago I really knew nothing about it I just thought of it as something you used to make cards.

But there happened to be a unique shop in my town run by a couple of artists who sold hand made papers. I had browsed through a few times just to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the shop and meet the owners. I was intrigued by the stuff but didn't really see how it related to any of my work.

It wasn't long before I returned on a quest for something I could use for back drops for my window displays. And that began my journey of discovery of hand made papers. Working with them to create banners I learned to love the wonderful textures. And they are so versatile because you can paint on them, sew on them and bead them and more. I hand painted three banners with trees and beaded them with sequins for an award winning Christmas window for a gift shop. And I went on to create many unique banners for other display accounts. They were certainly getting peoples attention too because the store owners kept telling me people were wanting to buy them

Well one thing lead to another and before I knew it I was not just using them for my store displays I was sewing them into my wall hangings. And then I was ripping them for collage on canvas in my paintings. They created such unique textures, colors and layers that you just can't achieve with paint. I was officially hooked !

Hand made papers were not love at first sight for me but it's definitely a love affair now. I have storage drawers over flowing with them and have to restrain myself from buying more and more. So if you haven't experimented with hand made papers give it a try and see what you have been missing!

Times of Change

For many years I have done visual display work which has paralleled my interior design and art career. Little did I know 30 years ago when I offered to create a window display for a high end ladies clothing store where it would lead. Since then I've had the priveledge of working for art galleries, home decor stores, floral and garden shops, a department store and even an eye glass office.

My largest project was a two year display contract with the new eatons store. I was there as a visual display specialist for their home floor for two years, from the refit to it's ultimate demise. To say it stretched me to my limits creatively and physically would be an understatement. I had never worked on that kind of scale before and the 20,000 sq. ft. I was responsible for later doubled when I took on lingerie and childrens wear.

Since a move to a smaller community eight years ago I have been working mainly for owner operated shops. Doing displays and merchandising for home accessory, chocolate, coffee, gift and lingerie stores. And along the way I did total store make overs for a home decor store and a funky gift shop. It has been a wonderful opportunity to meet people and grow creatively. I've even been able to design and create paintings of angels that were the focus of Christmas windows. Photos of those windows and others are still being used by the downtown association on their web site to advertise the Christmas celebrations in the town.

But the times they are a changing. Recently a store I worked with for eight years to create award winning windows decided to close it's doors. It really feels like the end of an era. But as the expression goes when a door closes God will open a window. So I wonder what is next for me creatively so I can continue to grow and learn?

Guard Your Heart

No one has ever said that being a working artist was an easy road. If I knew 20 years ago what I know now I may not have opened my studio. The disappointments and set backs seem to be all too frequent.

But I do it for the love of creating something wonderful and beautiful. There is nothing like having a vision of a piece of art or design and see it unfold through your hands. Then the ultimate reward is having someone fall in love with what you have created or being touched by it in some way. Some how in that moment it all seems worth while.

The day to day pot holes on the road of life we all endure and learn to soldier through. When the client doesn't pay and the rent is due or the serger breaks when you are on a dead line or the computer crashes and you lose your files. We thow up our hands and threaten to throw in the towel but we know in the morning the sun will rise again.

Harder to deal with it seems are those dreams that go unfulfilled, the door that doesn't open and worse still the one that closes. That is when I have learned to guard my heart and not allow bitterness to take root in my soul. But to trust my Creator who knows all about it and has a bigger plan for my life.

Marketing a Whole New World

These days all the artists I know are scrambling to find new ways to market their work. It seems the methods we have used for years are no longer as effective as they once were. So we are all being forced ( like it or not ) to think outside the box.

Almost 20 years ago when I started my studio it seemed to be enough to do artisans shows, exhibit in a gallery and hang a sign by the door. But lets face it artisan and trade shows are often not profitable. And there is all that setting up and taking down of booths not to mention travel expenses. So many of the galleries have succumbed to the difficult economic times. And if they have hung on they have been forced to take a higher percentage of the final sale. It also seems more difficult to get a business license that will allow you to open a home based business to the public. And in most cities it is almost impossible to find affordable retail space to operate a studio. So what to do ? Most of us have gone the web site route in the last few years. While the younger and more techy seem to be embracing social media in all its forms. But we are all looking for other avenues that will work whether globally or in our local market place.

Last year I joined with some friend who sell amish furniture to try something new. We rented vacant store fronts in malls to show case our work. I set up displays in the windows with signage inside and attached business card holders outside. People could see the displays, read the signs and pick up a business card as they were rushing by doing their shopping.It was really cost effective because we didn't have to man a store and everything was safe with the mall security. Although in the end we had hoped for more actual sales it did expose our work to a lot of new clients. And the cost to rent the space for a month was about the same as running a couple of small ads in one edition of the local paper.

So in this new world of marketing be bold and try a new approach to selling your art and see what happens. 

Studio or Artist Man Cave

To an artist the mention of a studio brings a far away look to their eyes. Every artist has a vision of their dream studio....a special sanctuary in which to work, create and play . Sort of a " man cave " for artists!!

I am in the throws of setting up a new studio after 8 years in the same location. At first it filled me with terror just to think of moving all that stuff. But then the excitement started to take over and out came the graph paper to make a floor plan. And out came my stack of Studios magazines to get me inspired on new storage methods. What fun !!

I've found with most studio locations....I've had 5 others in the last 20 years.....there are always the same issues. Is there enough storage, heat, light, power and can you hang out your sign without getting arrested because of some bylaw . And it was no different in this new location .

Well after much sweat and labor everything is in place. Gratefully the movers didn't get hernias lifting my industrial machines and work tables into place. My paint brushes, fabrics, trims and threads all all stashed in bottles, bins, cans, jars and new canvas boxes. The light is pouring through the windows and I have a lovely view of the ocean and the mountains beyond. I have yet to black out the neighborhood when I turn on my machines, lights and irons at the same time. And my cat seems to have deemed it warm enough to curl up on my work table on top of my latest wallhanging. However my studio sign looks rather lonely propped against the fireplace. Some how I don't have enough energy left to untangle the red tape and find out if I can actually hang it outside where it can be seen !

I think I am just going to turn on my tv and get a glass of sparkling cider from the bar fridge and enjoy my artists " man cave " for awhile. For an artist does it get any better than this!

For Everything There is a Season

I have always loved that saying whether as the classic folk song lyric or as a bible verse. No wonder it inspired one of my first textile art wallhangings. But in the last couple of years I've come to appreciate it's meaning more.

There have been a lot of changes for myself and many of my friends as we enter ( or exit ) our middle years. So many like myself have taken on the role as caregiver for an ailing parent. Others have a disabled child they continue to care for or they now have grand children to raise. Some have had grown children arrive back on their door step out of work and in need of a shoulder to cry on. Still others have lost their precious mates and have seen their worlds torn apart.

This season of life has certainly reorganized my priorities. Caring for a precious loved one bumps everything else on the to do list out of line and rightfully so. Those things that have always seemed to be so important are automatically eliminated or given a much lower rung on the ladder.

And with little free time at my disposal I'm learning to enjoy the moment. Something I've always been very poor at doing. Always too concerned with work and plans for the future. Now it all pales with the concerns of the day and the uncertainty of life in this changing of seasons. I've finally learned we only have this moment in time we are not promised tomorrow. So this is my season in life to enjoy those moments caring for those I love.

Textile Artists That Inspire !

I am always excited to see the work of other artists! Especially textile artists....perhaps because there seem to be fewer of us out there.

In the 70's while working as a designer in Halifax I discovered "Suttles & Seawinds" creations. An ambitious undertaking by a local designer to update traditional quilting patterns and hire local women to create everything from quilts to clothing. Suttles & Seawinds not only prospered in Canada but received acclaim in major centers like New York . And I certainly treasured the pillows and vests I purchased from them for many years. And it planted a seed in me to have my own studio one day working with textiles.

After moving to B.C. I saw Carole Sabiston's wallhangings in Munro's book store in Victoria. I was fascinated by them and later had a chance to see her art close up at a show at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. And although it would be many years before I created my first tapestry type wallhanging she inspired me to use textiles to create art not crafts.

Just last year I received a book called Rags to Riches about Laurie Swim's work. And I was immediately captivated by her scenic textile wallhangings that have been inspired by her new home in Blue Rocks N.S. I grew up in Mahone Bay which is only a few miles away and I can testify that she has captured not only the images but the lighting and mood of the east coast. I have had a twinge of home sickness ever since. And her huge commissioned art quilts have inspired me to think big!

I truly believe we can always learn and grow creatively by studying other artists work. Even if they work in a different medium or in a completely different style we can always be inspired by their God given creative gifts working through them.


To Hoard or Not to Hoard!

Now I know that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Then why do we all seem to have so much stuff ?? I was raised by two super neat, organized parents so I have always been tidy. My many years of working as an interior designer has also reinforced that motto that you have a place for everything and put everything in it's place .

However we all have our downfalls and mine seems to be my stash of fabric that is once again over flowing it's borders ! My excuse seems to be that as a textile artist I just never know when that special piece of fabric will be needed for an upcoming project. Did I mention that I have some favorite fabrics that are almost as old as I am ? I recently saw a reality show about hoarders and it was enough to spur me into action for fear I may soon qualify for that show !

Gratefully I have found a wonderful local charity organized by grandmothers who make crafts to raise money for aids orphans in Africa. It does my heart glad to know that all my treasured bits and pieces can be put to use for a good cause. It has encouraged me to buckle down and reorganize and clean out my fabric stash. I can just see the grannies smiling faces as I drive up with my vehicle filled with bags of fabric!

So I challenge all of you potential hoarders to find a charity in your area who can use some of your stuff to be a blessing to someone else. I'm now in the process of looking for more containers to sort my fabric into...shouldn't I be aiming for less containers ?!?!

Olympic Fever !!

I would be the first to admit I am not an athlete. Growing up in Nova Scotia I never mastered riding a bike or skating fact anything that required coordination. How I have managed to climb ladders for many years to do visual displays is beyond me ! So I have some difficulty relating to the fever over the winter Olympics that are now being hosted in B.C. But it has increased the pride I feel for this country of Canada that I love .

As athletes, sports fans and news crews have poured into Vancouver I have to wonder how many are aware of the prophetic call upon Canada as a peacemaker to the nations . I incorporated this theme into my wallhanging titled O Canada . It features a maple tree as a symbol of Canada and english and french textiles to represent our bilingual heritage. It is detailed with the text - the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.

So as Canada hosts these games I pray that the spirit of peace will prevail. And when everyone returns to their homeland they will not only carry metals and memories with them but friendships that will last a lifetime. And that the Olympic fever will turn into a fervor for peace around the world.

Happy New Year

Sorry for such a belated greeting ! I have been so busy getting the word out about the web site I almost forgot about the blog ...and everything else !

I gratefully seem to be getting myself refocused on my painting. I plan to complete a large painting I began last year and didn't get finished . It features a mother and child walking through the desert towards the mountains and new life. In light of the recent earthquake I know I will be thinking of the people of Haiti as I paint.

My next large wallhanging has progressed from the sketch stage to fabric selection . It is going to be based around a verse " God walks in the still of the garden " and will be a peaceful garden scene. The color palette will be in cool blues, greens and yellows with lots of bead details ...or that's the way it looks right now . 

A special thanks to all of you who have taken the time to visit the web site, send comments and pass the web address on to friends . I can't wait to check my email now and see who I may have a message from .....exciting stuff!! And I just shipped a painting off to the east coast today and that's exciting too !! 

More soon ...keep those comments coming , Shelley 


ShelleyI am thrilled to officially announce that my web site is up and running! It has been a long and winding road since I began in the spring and it was definitely not a trip for the "faint of heart". However with a lot of hard work and a collaboration with a very gifted photographer and a group of talented web designers it has come together beautifully. But I know without the prayers and support of friends and family I would have never seen my vision fulfilled.

The first of the year I plan to begin blogging on a regular basis to let you know what's new and exciting at my studio. And I would love to hear from you with any suggestions for the blog or comments on the web site. I really hope you enjoy what we have created and that it will be a blessing to you.

Take care , Shelley


He filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen and weavers - all of them master craftsmen and designers.

Exodus 35:35

Your creations are beautiful.
Cam B.

About Shelley

For designer and artist Shelley Barr, "God is in the details". This belief has earned her the affectionate nickname "the detail lady". Whether Shelley is creating a textile wallhanging or mixed media on canvas, it's her attention to details that makes the difference.