Favorite Artist: Robert Kipniss

Robert Kipniss
Artist – Robert Kipniss

When hubby and I were first married, we bought a ramshackle condo in need of – everything.  It had ‘good bones’ (which is what we kept repeating to ourselves, to avoid the other pervasive thought – holy crap – we’ve made a HUGE mistake). 

We did the newlywed nest-building and except for vacations where we’d tag along with my folks, or follow his family to the great Northwoods, we spent our time, funds, and energy on our home.  We learned heaps and heaps of lessons about DIY do’s and don’ts and mostly, looking back, those were good times because we were compatible about our goals.

HOWEVER – it was stressful at times as we were mindful of the magnitude of owning real estate.  Mistakes can be costly, and we made a few.  (Note to readers:  Do not attempt to install parquet hardwood flooring if you’re a beginner.  It was nearly a marriage buster. That and wallpapering the smallest bathroom in the world.  Just don’t do it.)

Given all of that, our families thought we were nuts when we’d save and scrimp in order to buy art for our condo.  We adored our art-loving friends who’d tip us off when something REALLY cool was available.  Learning about artists and their process was exciting and it felt very ‘adult’ to the two youngsters that we were.

Our friend Anne introduced us to Robert Kipniss and his lithographs, and we fell in love.  Four decades ago, these seemed like foolish purchases, but we needed to bring these two prints home:

They’ve been fixtures in every house since the condo and for random reasons recently, I wondered if the artist was still alive.  In Googling him, I found his website and learned he’s 91 years-old and still doing his thing.  I love that.  I also learned he started his creative life as a poet.  Why am I not surprised?  His loving landscapes ARE poetic. 

Cheers to Robert Kipniss for the joy he’s brought this married couple for many years.

-Vicki ❤

One Precious Painting

city scape black and white painting
It’s “the Jud”

In the late 60’s my sister-in-law Patty worked in downtown Chicago as a journalist.  Fresh from her graduation at Marquette, she became a REAL city girl, with a big-time job at a news station nestled in one of the skyscrapers. 

Patty described it as a bustling, creative time for writers and artists of all sorts and she made a friend in Jud, who, despite his day job in graphic design, longed to JUST be an artist, a painter.  And he was! Photo evidence above. 

I believe this is the only piece he ever let go of.  Admonishing his own skill, faulting his technique, he scoffed at Patty’s praise. Still, she wrestled it from him, insisting on preserving and framing this bold, black and white depiction of the Chicago financial district, circa 1968. 

Since then, it’s logged more miles than some humans 😉.  It’s a shared treasure. Residing first in Patty’s closet-sized apartment in Chicago, then migrating to the suburbs, eventually to Alaska and then back to the Midwest. 

It’s a beloved piece, in part because of Jud’s humility.  There’s been fake-family-fighting for years about who takes possession and for how long.  We just referred to it as ‘the Jud’.

Today when I passed “the Jud”, nestled nicely in a picture-perfect spot in our entry way, I smiled.  Patty jokingly said, maybe two years ago, “It’s time – I want MY Jud back” and we did the fake fighting and verbal tussling about it, telling her if she wanted it, she’d need to fly in from Alaska to fetch it.  All in good fun.

I wrote about the importance of family mementos a few weeks ago, right after Patty passed away unexpectedly.  Take a look at that post if you have a moment. The loss of her still stings; seems unreal.

My point?  Remember those who’ve passed – however you can.  Even if it’s just a city scene, painted by a dear man who will forever be an artist. Thanks to Patty.

-Vicki ❤

Beautiful Books

antique books on a fireplace mantel
In their spot!

I love it when home décor is simple and books – especially lovely (albeit musty) old volumes – come to my rescue. 

Here’s a snap of a fireplace mantel in our house.  It was an empty space that drove me batty because it’s narrow and nothing I envisioned worked.  I left it barren for a long time because I was annoyed.  How could such a teensy space be so difficult to address?  And so, for a few months I gave that ledge my side-eye, considering possibilities. 

Eventually I relented – trusting that whatever was supposed to rest there would rise up and declare its intentionsHey Vicki – over here – see us?  We’re the antique books imprisoned in the storage tomb…err…tub…with the silverfish!  Get us out of here…we’d like to get into the light and we know just the spot. 

Oddly, that happened.  Except for the part about the books actually speaking to me, of course. 😉 In another of my periodic forays into forgotten family bins and boxes, these little guys appeared.  And I knew where they belonged. 

Such a satisfying moment – dusting them off and placing them on the mantel.  I suspect one or two might be first editions, but their value is in the sweet visual they created, not their market value.  Home, finally.  In their spot.

When I help others with home décor conundrums, I encourage patience.  The need to do a rapid-fire retail spree – buying everything at once – might be tempting. I get it; I am a ‘task completion’ kind of girl. But when it comes to your precious safe space, your home, your haven, I prefer slow over speed. 

And don’t get me started about shopping in your own house.  Often all you need is a little reset – not the acquisition of anything shiny or new. 

Here’s to repurposing with love!

-Vicki ❤

Repeating Patterns

I’m predictable.  It’s my affinity for black and white art and symmetrical architectural design – the more monotone and classic, the better.  Over the years, I’ve filled my head, heart and home with imagery reflecting that aesthetic.  Destined? Unavoidable?  Genetic? 

I’ll explain with a photo tour.

Top Left:  A cryptic, archival rendering of a 16th century home.  See the architectural details?  Peaked pediment, symmetry in the placement of windows?  Last year I was wowed to learn of distant ancestry in France.   The trail goes back 10 generations to a grandfather who painstakingly built this home.  News to me!  My father’s patched together family history was like many immigrant stories:   He’d say ‘We’re a mix of this and that’ anytime I asked about heritage and homelands. Family roots in France?  Unexpected. When I tripped over this nugget of family history I began to wonder if my love of antiques, Renaissance design and black and white images are snippets of my genetic code.  Why else would I – unknowingly and on repeat for decades – make choices that mimic and align with this tidbit of family history?

Top Right: As a teenager, I bought this pen and ink drawing from an artist named Bruno in Montmartre.  I was captivated by the whimsy of the street scenes, the cozy homes and cafés and the fact that Bruno sketched himself into every nook and cranny.  In a long story I’ll tell another time, I was nearly stranded in Paris when I ditched my travel group so I could circle back to Bruno to negotiate a price low enough to take this piece home.  It was an altogether epic adventure involving an angry chaperone, a lost passport and a sprint through the airport to board the flight, but I did it.  I got it.  And it came home with me.  

Bottom Left:  At a flea market, maybe 20 years ago, I nearly tackled a lady who was perusing a stack of mis-matched plates and crockery.  Why? Scanning the teetering piles, I spied ONE lone black and white piece that I needed to examine more closely.  The plate had a hand-painted image of a house.  A house that looked familiar and I gravitated to it.  Not pricey at all and because it was woefully out of place with all the floral and pastel plates, I figured I did the vendor a favor by buying the oddball item.  For years, it’s migrated around the house as a favorite object.  It’s been used as a landing pad for remote controls, a serving dish for small bites and occasionally a candle rests upon it.  I love it. 

Bottom Right:  Mind you, as I give you this chronological overview, I’m building to something.  What’s this last pic?  It’s the fixer upper house my husband and I bought several years ago.  Notice anything – despite the snow that’s in the mix?  The style of the house – design, placement of the windows – the symmetry.  We bought it – and that’s a story, too – because the house waited for us, languishing on the market until we were ready for the challenge.  We’ll be the weary couple remodeling for years to come, but we don’t mind.  Cue the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young music: “Our house, is a very, very, very fine house….”  Or it will be one day.  Between now and then, it’s still HOME.

Patterns repeating.  I wonder if the things I love are a mix of “me” plus ancestral roots still pulsing across the generations?  Hard to say but worth pondering. 

-Vicki ❤

I Confess…A Vitamin Story

white porcelain covered bowl
Just a bowl?

I confess…I am a shallow girl who loves a good decorative bowl.  Would I diagnose this as a malady?  Preferring form over function?  Style over substance?  Maybe.  I know I walk that line.

If I’ve learned anything about myself, I’ve come to terms with some inevitabilities.  I’m that person who hates clutter and it’s not a just a neat-nick kind of thing.  It’s about visuals and overstimulation.  Of all my senses, sight is the most acute and I’m plagued with a need to tidy and straighten and I hate things out of place.  A little compulsive, sure, but I’m okay with it. 

I was the child who couldn’t do homework until my room was organized and I’m the grown up who will sweep into every space to remove errant bits of this-and-that before I tackle any sizeable project.  Oh yes.  Self-imposed detours. 

Am I easy to live with?  Let’s not address that here (wink!).  I’ll probably need a family member/guest blogger to volunteer if we really want to ‘go there’.  😊

For years I despised the tray of vitamins that sat on the kitchen counter.  It drove me nuts.  Altogether, the humans in the house TRY to take eleven different supplements – every day.  The doggo?  Hers are easy – just a once a month chewy that smells like liver.  Easy to stash in a cabinet. 

I looked at every incarnation of pill organizers and hated them all.  The easy fix was to plop everything in a cabinet, but when we tried that, the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ aspect resulted in day upon day of skipped vitamins.  Not good. 

My solution?  A covered jar that I think was intended for sugar?  I don’t know for sure, but it’s domed enough that we can sort a week’s worth of colorful supplements into it if we nest a smaller bowl inside – double decker style.  It works!  Vitamins in plain sight but disguised just enough that I’m not visually disturbed.  How’s that for disclosure you didn’t need?

bowl with vitamins inside
Ta-dah!

But there’s more:  The ceremonially clattering of ceramic-meeting-ceramic when the lid goes back on?  So satisfying!  The clanking sound proclaims, ‘well done and good for you!’  It’s a wellness signal for me – paving the way for more good decisions, all day long.  And it matters.  A day or two without my regular regimen results in noticeable changes in how I feel, move, sleep.  Add the additional, emotional layer of generational issues with eating, described in this post “Angry Eaters”?  I am a motivated woman on a mission to make good choices. 

Here’s to you! Thanks for reading.

-Vicki ❤

Well Worn and Loved

women's brown vintage sandals
Vicki’s vintage sandals

These shoes.  Oh…these shoes.  They saved me one summer when I was ‘studying’ abroad in France (and I should probably confess that the “studying” part is open to interpretation).

Packing light – backpack only – I foolishly wore my favorite Frye boots and took no other footwear.  None at all.  Now – know this.  I come from a long line of boot-wearing, Texas-loving, cowboy-wannabee lineage.  Boots are (and were) the shoe of choice in my family.  Especially the first pair gifted to me from my dad – right before my first trip to France. 

I don’t think actual cowboys believe Frye boots count as ‘western wear’ but I wore those babies proudly for two months.  Were they hot when my travels sent me to the coast – to Nice and Marseilles that summer?  Indeed. 

Which is where this pretty pair of ultra-soft leather sandals surfaced.  I needed relief. I spent my last bit of fun money on these wedges which meant I ate baguettes and not much else as my travels winded down.  At first touch I loved these shoes; handmade AND they truly DID feel like ‘buttah’.  As much as I adored my boots, I switched over and marveled at how happy my feet were.  Is this what custom footwear feels like, I wondered?

That trip was decades ago, so I figure I can share that my well worn and loved ‘south of France’ sandals are a treasured keepsake.  Yep – I’m old enough to have my very own ‘vintage’ and antique apparel!

In my closet, shoes come and go but these will forever hold a place of privilege because of the memories they hold – no matter how bedraggled they look. 

The boots?  They were resoled several times but my sweet papa kept buying new ‘shit kickers’ for me anytime I asked.  I wish I’d never let that first pair go.  They were discarded in a frenzied closet clean-up. Silly girl.  Why did I do that? Consolation?  Yep.  These shoes.  😊

-Vicki

Comfy Wins!

black and white photo of blonde woman wearing black turtleneck

I confess.  The pandemic pushed me to admit I’m not wired for buttoned-up fashion.  Time spent working from the comfort of my favorite pajama pants propelled me toward cush. 

Cushy fabrics, forgiving waistlines and silhouettes.  But wait – there’s more! 😊 I love all black outfits.  I know what you might be thinking.  Whatever it is, I’ve heard it.  You’re such a happy, positive person – why all the black?  Oh – black again, Vicki?  Shocker!  Do you own ANY color?  Maybe a print or two? 

I admit.  My choices may not be popular but you must admit there are benefits.  Everything matches (wink!) and my occasional accessories – a belt or a scarf or a fun pair of shoes – stand out so much more. 

There are down sides.  My closet is…well…pretty dark.  Thank goodness for good lighting (all the better to root out which of my nine favorite black turtlenecks I might fancy on any given day). 

Do I care?  Not so much.  The joy of settling into my own skin and my love of black clothing is liberating.  I’m not foregoing comfort for the stress of what-goes-with-what any longer. 

Call me Steve Jobs if you must.  I’m okay with that.  Ah, the love of a good black turtleneck.

Let’s celebrate, not condemn the choice, if for no other reason than the fashion world’s loss of Issey Miyake last week.  Miyake famously outfitted Jobs in an endless wardrobe of black t-necks and made Jobs the most recognizable and (I’m guessing here) the most comfortable CEO.  Ever.

Cheers to what works for you.  I’m off to buy more Woolite dark laundry detergent. Need to stock up!

-Vicki 😉

Visual Vignettes

Antique dresser and decorative objects

I love creating little vignettes and I know what I like.  Hard wired, I swear. 

I was the tiresome teenager constantly rearranging furniture – not just in my room but in the whole house if I had the chance (which wasn’t often – my mother had a penchant for baby blue shag and moving her objects d’art was off limits – no matter how offensive her style).

  • The opportunity to reflect my love of black and white with nuggets of neutral is captured in this pic – near the entry way in our home. 
  • Some items are found objects.  Some are keepsakes handed down (the print of the weathered old sailor and the dresser – vintage pieces from grandparents). 
  • I love the punchy black and white floral vase.  I think it cost $2 nearly twenty years ago – salvaged from a clearance pile at Hobby Lobby – but I LOVE it.  The graphic, large scale lotus-like flowers look perfect, to my eye, nestled in this setting. 

Why does this matter?  It makes me happy and I as I pass by this tiny space (dozens of times, every day) I smile.  I know I’m in Vicki’s space.  I’m home, I’m safe and I’m grateful.

Wishing you the same,

-Vicki

Inspiration Nooks

This is going to be a little bit of a ‘Where’s Waldo’ experience – and I know it.

workshop and tools, family mementos

With permission, I’m sharing a snap of husband Paul’s workbench. It’s his homebase and the launching pad for projects and his ‘thinking space’. Let me give you a tour – you just need to zoom in and I’ll walk you through the memento map of Paul’s hangout. Possibly his favorite roosting spot in the house.

Top left – Family Mementos:

  • The clock his dad made from scratch. Chimes and all. A treasured keepsake and memory of his father who could fix ANYTHING.
  • Delaney puzzle. A sweet reminder that our very grown-up daughter was once a tot who loved nothing more than ‘tool time’ with her dad.
  • Flashback Ale Sign:  Fun times touring breweries in Boulder during Delaney’s college years. 

Just underneath the “Delaney” puzzle – mementos that keep his parents nearby in spirit. A favorite from his dad’s workshop – words he lived by – with a wink and a smile:

  • ‘When in charge, ponder; When in trouble, delegate; When in doubt, mumble.

Next to it? His mom’s favorite little sign – reflecting her love of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan:

  • I’d rather be UP NORTH’ Yep. Declaring her truth. Hung over the sink in her kitchen for at least thirty years.

In the Middle – Wanna-Be Cleaning Tools:

Two varieties of small, yet mighty, DeWalt power tools for clean-up and vacuuming and an old school dustpan and hand broom. Accompanied by spray bottles and gloves. Note how spic-and-span these tools are. Good cleaning intentions but (I say) not used much! Thankfully the fire extinguisher hasn’t been used either.

Paul and Vicki – the Early Years. Standing proudly in front of shelves he made, a framed pic of us circa 1985. Yep – we’ve been married a LONG time and I love that this pic earned a place on Paul’s pegboard wall.

Remembering My Dad: Paul was close to my father and the salvaged license plate with his nickname on it, “Solatio” reflects it. I love that Paul’s kept it as a reminder of my papa who’s been gone for years. This keeps him close, I think.

The Workbench Itself:

  • You don’t need to zoom in much to see the interesting mélange of small tools, notes, wires, and cables. There’s a little room to work and the combo of the I-pad and camo Bluetooth speaker help to keep Paul’s “thinking time” upbeat.
  • What you can’t see in the pic is a substantial whiteboard to the right where he doodles and designs. You also don’t see his comfy shop stool. A little cushiony, too. You know, none of us are getting any younger.

Why does any of this matter?

I think places speak to us – reflected in how we create our nooks and alcoves. Me? I have a compelling need for neat and Paul’s workbench and pegboard, while quintessentially HIM would never work for me. I like tidy piles and feel drawers were made to be used, but hey, that’s just me.

Our spaces should reflect who we are and it’s where my love of design comes from.

Your nooks should be yours. Take the time to clear the clutter but do a little curating. Mull over and sort through meaningful mementos and be sure some are nearby. Especially in our thinking spaces. Inspiration is near – sometimes in everyday objects and keepsakes.

Not sure where to start? It’s easier than you think. Trending at Atkinson Group is this very need – rethinking spaces to create nooks and inspiration alcoves. It’s the latest wellness revelation – craving and creating comfort in a corner of the world we can call our very own. If you don’t have it now, make it so. And…most importantly…

Be well!

-Vicki