December 6, 2013

Creative Expression Then and Now

Posted by Cathy Heck


Today is Julianna’s Senior Show at VCUarts.

To all young parents out there in blogland, if you give your little artist some markers and paper, and she decides that paper is not her preferred substrate for artistic expression, don’t worry …


… because one day, she might be graduating from art school, where face painting is not only allowed, but celebrated. Congratulations Jules. And, heck yes, have a great show.





Categories: about us

December 3, 2013

It’s the wrapping time of year!

Posted by Ellen Heck


Now that’s it’s officially the Christmas season, we’re excited to show off one of our new designs, Snow Angels, which will debut this year on boxed cards and wrapping paper at DesignDesign and on glittered fabric by David Textiles at Jo-Ann stores.


November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from Cathy Heck Studio

Posted by Cathy Heck


We knew those extra Surtex mustaches would come in handy one day.

Happy Thanksgiving to your family from ours. Hope you have a wonderful day full of friends, family and delicious food, which may or may not include a handsome turkey.


Categories: about us Tags:

November 25, 2013

Sketching Together: 7 Tips for Family Drawing

Posted by Cathy Heck

I am in awe of Mica, the artist Ellen featured in her last blog post, who lets her four-year old finish her drawings for a wonderful collaborative result. When we had four-year olds, I’m not sure that I could have been quite so collaborative. I think I would have been sneaky and would have offered them my rejects to finish. “Here honey, this is a very special drawing that Mommy made. Will you finish it?” “But, Mommy, you just pulled that out of the trash can.”

Even though I wasn’t quite the team player that Mica is, Ellen’s post reminded me of so many shared drawing moments we have had through the years. And, happily, it has really paid off, since my little sketchers are now big sketchers for the studio. And, we do now, in fact, finish the work of one another … for wonderful collaborative results.

Many of our early sketching-together occasions took place when we traveled together.  Some of our most interesting journals were made when we were in Japan for four summers teaching English at a summer camp there. Here is one of my favorites, created by Margaret at the Fujiwa Hotel. We were apparently drawing and humming together. Inscription on the back: “Im drawing mommy in this picher.” It was a picher within a picture!


This is the image that I was sketching of the entrance to our hotel, while Margaret and I were humming. It was so much fun to pull out some of the old sketch books and relive the wide-eyed wonder of a new place and different culture. (the wide-eyed wonder of the children AND their grown-ups.)



People often ask me if I think that children inherit their artistic skills genetically. Maybe. But, I think that providing an environment full of art-making ‘stuff’ and lots of creative opportunities is probably the most important way to nurture future artists and inventive thinkers.

Here are my little tips for sketching with your children.


1. Always have paper and pens handy in your bag everywhere you go. Keep them in a plastic bag, because tops are occasionally (often) left off and then there goes your purse with a giant ink splot. Or, these excellent bags make perfect supply holders, and they are fashionable to boot. (If you are a dad, you might have to start carrying a dad bag, which can be very hip these days, by the way.)

2. Children (and you) do not need to draw directly into a sketch book. Feel free to glue “restaurant drawings” into a journal later. Sometimes a beautiful blank journal is a little bit intimidating. Keep a stack of paper or perforated journal pages handy, and you can pick and choose your favorites to adhere to the real sketchbook later. This is a great journal with heavy paper for pasting favorites later.

3. If your restaurant waiter is taking for-ev-er (more than 3 minutes in toddler time), play a fun drawing game: Here’s an easy one: One person draws a line, and everyone guesses what she is drawing, then another line, another guess, another line, until finally someone guesses correctly and wins (but not too loudly, as we are using our restaurant voices). If the food is STILL not there, repeat and repeat.

4. Above tips sound like we only eat out, but really, the kitchen is our biggest studio. Keep your art supplies handy in a drawer next to the silverware. (Chopsticks can go in either drawer.) Throw paper and pens at your children all the time. (Glue and glitter, too, if you don’t mind a little fairy dust in your beans.) While you wait for the pasta water to boil, you can sit down to draw, as well. Your children will be shocked.

5. Although I LOVE technology, as you know, since I am visiting with you from a screen, I recommend that little ones start their sketching careers with real pencils, pens and paints, instead of pixels. Pixels can come later. I guarantee that their pixel work will be better for it.

6. Be sure to write the date on the back of all sketches before throwing them into the “To Save” box. This is very important. We have an old drawing of mine that was either made when I was 6 (in which case I was amazing with perspective) or when I was 12 (in which case it’s amazing that I am an artist at all.)

7. Capture every sketching moment during the early years. There is really nothing more pure in composition and color than the drawing of a child.



And, if you do this when your little ones are little, one day, you may find yourself sketching with them at the Louvre! Happy drawing or painting or sculpting or gluing with your petites artistes.

Below: about 15 years later, sketching at the Louvre: Angels seem to pop up in the drawings of the Heck girls, whether they are 5 years old or 25.



P.S. I highly recommend side-by-side sketch-a-thons for grandparents, too. Although, you might want to forego the glitter … you already paid your fairy-dust dues.


Categories: about us Tags: ,

November 22, 2013

The not-quite-so-blank slate

Posted by Ellen Heck

I just ran across this sweet sketchbook collaboration between a mother and her four-year-old daughter.  The story is adorable, and the shared sketches fresh and fun – the magical fruit of a multi-generational partnership.


I loved reading this because Cathy (my mom) and I (and now Julianna) get to do this every day – and it’s just as much fun after three decades!  While there is nothing more pure than the line-quality of a four-year-old, it’s also extremely satisfying to see the sleek and type-rich website your graphic-designer little sister made for the family business.  :)  Can you tell what we’ve been working on these days? (Coming soon.)

Here was a recent collaborative sketchbook Cathy and I did for C.R. Gibson’s Markings Journals series.  It was a fun project, and we think a lot of our artist friends from Surtex might be starting some more shared journals in the near future.  We can’t wait to see them!


Here’s another of my favorites from Mica Angela Hendricks and her daughter, Myla (I love the little toes on the prancing dino):



October 31, 2013

Empty Nester Confession: I Dressed Up Our Dog … Again

Posted by Cathy Heck

It’s Halloween and all of our girls are now in college or beyond, and I have no one to dress up. There was a day when I feverishly created clever–yet fast costumes … all, without sewing skills. But, now, I can actually sew. Just think of the masterpieces I could have created for my girls if I had learned to sew earlier. I am almost certain that my costumes would have made it into this video, Halloween Tribute From Awkward Family Photos.

But, alas, this year, the only ‘person’ in the house who needs a quick and clever Halloween ensemble is … Neville, our dog.


Above is a mock-up of the costume that Neville requested. Of course, he chose the most popular costume of the year: What Does the Fox Say? from this viral video by Ylvis, and I knew we would never find one in his size. Plus, all of my sewing time last week was dedicated to Quilt Market samples. So, poor Neville was out of luck, and had to choose a repurposed headpiece from our “hats and headresses” box.

Which is your favorite look for our fella? 1) N’awlins Neville, 2) Heavy Metal Fella, 3) Peter Panville, 4) Spider-Nevs, 5) The Cat In the Hat Dog, 6) Professor Neville McMutt.

I think I will have to vote for the professor look … it seems to bring out his inherent intellectual giftedness.




Happy Halloween everybody and enjoy dressing your little ones, because before you can say, “boo,” they will be dressing themselves for a college Halloween party (now that really is scary!)

Have a fun and safe night of trick-or-treating! From Cathy and Neville, reporting to you from the Heck family emergency costume closet.


October 30, 2013

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jog

Posted by Cathy Heck

We’re home from Quilt Market, and although we loved every minute, the term, jiggety, is probably a good one to describe our sojourn. We were stuck on the Katy Freeway, just outside of Houston, for 4 hours! Thank goodness we all like each other!

But once we finally arrived, it was so much fun to see our wonderful clients and friends. And thankfully, we made it just in the nick of time to give a little tutorial about Cuteville County Fair, our new collection for quilt stores, and about the way Ellen and I work together from our studios in Austin and Berkeley.

We loved meeting all of the quilt store owners … here’s a little video snippet of the fun.

When we arrived at the Henry Glass booth, we were delighted to see another beautiful Cuteville quilt made by Jean Anne Sharrai.  It felt like a shoemaker’s elf had been stitching through the night! If you are needing a fun and easy-to-make play or picnic quilt, here is a free download with the instructions for this pattern. (We were able to bring it back to the studio so we could take pictures for you.)


We were intrigued by the way Jean Anne backed the quilt, too–using bits and pieces from the panel.  It gave it a vintage feel of days gone by when a quilt really was made from scraps of this and that.


And if you look very closely, you can see that the actual quilting part has its own story: paisley swirls for the background reflecting the bandana border, and cloud stitches mimicking the clouds behind the ferris wheel. Thank you Jean Anne for stitching up some surprises for us.


We will be back with a few more Cuteville DIY projects that you can make.  I know you can do it, because I did it during my learn-to-sew-right-now month. Cheerio from Cuteville.




October 26, 2013

To Market, To Market, Jiggity Jig

Posted by Cathy Heck

We are wondering how many sewing machines were making the same whrrrrrrr ours were making this week before International Quilt Market .  And how many floors looked like this?


We will have so much to share when we return from Houston.  Most importantly, I (Cathy) will be able to demonstrate that you, too, can learn to sew in one month!  It’s true.  I even learned to make my own piping, so I am feeling like a sewing stud. If I can do it, you can do it!


When we received our beautiful samples of the new Cuteville County Fair fabric, which we created for Henry Glass Fabrics, we pulled out our sewing machines, and I pulled out my sewing machine manual.  I made a little quilt, and Ellen made a big quilt. Thankfully, Ellen taught herself to sew in the 5th grade when it was clear to her that sewing was not in her mother’s skill set. We will show the quilts at market and the big quilt even has a free downloadable pattern on the Henry Glass site.

Here is Julianna pretending to be a quilt model in the back yard on Ellen’s big quilt.


Come see us at the Henry Glass booth at 2pm today (Saturday), where we will be sharing a bit about the way we work together from our studios in Austin and Berkeley. Even though I have been designing for fabric companies for ten years, it’s more fun than ever now, because Ellen and I create the collections together. Also, we are bringing a gift for the first 30 visitors–a DIY kit which includes everything you need to make a fun personalized embroidered pillow using the Cuteville fabrics … I bet you know a Best-In-Show baby that needs one!

Photos below are of Julianna making excellent kits. Thank you Jules, you are definitely the Blue Ribbon studio elf of Cuteville County.




See you in Houston.  And, for those who will be following the show through the blogosphere, we’ll be sure to report back next week.  Off to Cuteville.


October 11, 2013

A Must-Read for Aspiring Artists by Ronnie Walter

Posted by Cathy Heck

If you ever dreamed of walking into a shop and seeing your artwork on a card, cap or candle, but didn’t know where to begin, this is the book for you! My friend, Ronnie Walter, has written an excellent “how-to” or sometimes “how-not-to” book that will inspire you to just do it. Ronnie is an artist and writer and has been successfully licensing her work for 20+ years.

Ronnie gives you plenty of textbook-worthy licensing tips, but, happily, they are all wrapped up with her funny life story. She reveals the tips and tricks she has learned through the years, and since I was learning through the same years, I just nodded my head, “yes, yes, and yes,” as I pored over the pages. (That’s my official endorsement.)

And, did I mention that I show up on page 37? Well, it’s just for an instant at the 1996 Licensing Show. But, I feel certain it was a pivotal moment in Ronnie’s journey to licensing success … even though we were both a little confused at the time as we tried to understand the licensability of the new property, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I mean, really, will people buy into that? (Lesson learned: yes they will.)

So, get yourself over to your Amazon screen-store and buy the paperback or download the kindle version of Ronnie’s book, curl up with your beverage of choice … and your chocolate of choice … and prepare to be inspired. (P.S. You might keep a pencil nearby for sudden bursts of creativity.)


October 9, 2013

A Garden Flower Faux Pas Corrected

Posted by Cathy Heck


Another segment from a fledgling gardener, who grew up in West Texas, land of high skies and little foliage.

Our apologies. After bragging so much about our amazing Pride of Barbados in the last blog post, our beautiful Plumbago’s feelings were a little bit hurt.  What were we thinking?  She bloomed every bit as proudly as our Pride, but her flowers were soft and blue and delicate.  I guess she just didn’t yell as loudly as Mr. Showoff.  So, today, we officially honor our dear Plumbago with the title, Miss Congeniality 2013.  She greeted every day with a smile during the hot summer drought, with nary a drop of perspiration.  And, she reminded us of Sandra Bullock’s Miss Congeniality, because she occasionally displayed her strong side and was a little rude to flower-eating deer, which is the reason she was able to wear such a beautiful frock this summer.



Plumbagos remind me a little bit of hydrangeas, which are so difficult to grow on our limestone hill. So I like to think of our plumbago as a tough (yet pretty) Texas cowgirl version of a hydrangea. If she could talk, she might say, “It’s hotter than a two-dollar pistol out here, and the poor little tulips are just coyote ugly today, bless their hearts.”

Dearest Plumbago, we hope you will continue to bloom and know that we are so proud of you! (Photos below: Neville, showing his Plumbago pride, and a close-up of our summer superstar.)



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