February 28, 2014

Printmaking Class at the Rusty Barn

Posted by Cathy Heck

Our printmaking-in-heaven class in Santa Barbara is over and Ellen and I are back in our respective studios–renewed, rejuvenated and remembering the fun. The Rusty Barn was an amazing place to make art. And, Ellen was a thoughtful teacher for the Combination Woodcut and Drypoint Workshop held last weekend for a group of talented artists. Here is the story of our three-day printarama from the perspective of the mom-student and daughter-teacher.



Cathy: Ellen, I know it’s probably hard to choose, but who would you say was your favorite student?

Ellen: Well, Mom … it was definitely you.

Cathy: Are you just saying that because I brought you some Peeps?

Ellen: No, you really did listen carefully, and follow instructions … most of the time.

Photo below: Cathy pulls a woodblock print … mostly following directions–my print is sideways and on back of paper. This does not happen again. Learning from mistakes is a silver lining.


Ellen: Mom, can you tell us what you learned about printmaking in pictures and words?

Cathy: I will be delighted to share. First, the teacher (Ellen) asked us to introduce ourselves and tell a bit of our art histories. I was definitely the least experienced in printmaking, but I had come to the class with enthusiasm and some new tools. (More about my tools later.)

Photo below: Some of us working at one of the inking tables in the bright and cheerful art barn.


Cathy: First we learned how to use our drypoint tools to etch a copper plate. We also learned that the soon-to-be-extinct phone book page is an excellent tool for wiping down the copper before printing.

Photo below left: Ellen demonstrates copper plate prep with a smile. Below right: My plate becoming shiny bright from the K section of the Santa Barbara phone book.


Ellen: Mom, you really picked up where you left off thirty years ago with the drypoint tools … how did you like the new experience of woodblock printing?

Cathy: Not my favorite. I was definitely more comfortable carving into copper than into wood. I will go ahead and admit right here that when I started the woodcutting stage, my wood splintered all over the place. I quickly called the teacher: “Ellen, I don’t think I can be a woodcutter.” Ellen said, “Let me see your tools. Oh dear, Mom, I think you accidentally bought jewelry carving tools.” I replied, “Uh-oh.” Ellen gently assured me: “But don’t worry. I can set you up with some proper tools.” (Whew! It’s good to know the teacher.)

Here are some photos below of my painstaking and painful wood carving attempt. (And these are even with the correct tools!) I realized after the last wood curl that I had not been making the proper rocking motion needed for pleasurable wood carving zen. I was more of a wood hacker than wood carver. I can assure you that I will not be quitting my day job!

Photo below left: chopped eggplant. Photo below right: the textbook method for NOT cutting wood to avoid gouging other hand. (Fortunately I had not gouged my hand … knock on woodblock.) Lower photo: Inking the wood block.


Ellen: Although you were sort of fighting your woodblock, didn’t you have fun with the final surprise prints?

Cathy: I did! I love that about printmaking. No matter how much one tries to control the line, the plates and inks add their own artistic marks. It was a collaboration between me and my materials … the artist, the smooth copper plate, the jiggety line of the drypoint tool, and the stubborn wood block that would not mind me. Plus, remembering to write backwards!


Cathy: I think my favorite print of the day was the one with all of our practice marks and your excellent cupcake for demonstrating all the different phases. What did you think of that one?

Ellen: I know. That’s what is so great about printmaking … even a sample print might turn out to be a masterpiece!

Photos below: Our sample piece upon which all of the artists practiced using different tools and pressures. The final print demonstrates that removing or softening lines (with burnishing) can be as important as creating them.



Cathy: What was your favorite part of teaching the three-day print workshop?

Ellen: There were so many favorite parts. I loved getting to meet new artists (now friends) and watch them successfully engage with this uncommon combination of printmedia. The variety of responses to this technique was inspirational, and I know I learned a lot. It was also great to be able to spend quality time with Leslie Lewis Sigler, who was responsible for introducing me to Holli Harmon and Mary Ince, and who was a huge part of Cathy Heck Studio back in the days before the Heck sisters joined up.

Photo lower left: Ellen cheers on Leslie as she examines her first reveal. Lower right: Ellen bonding with Bruiser, who was not supposed to receive treats. (We are pretty sure Ellen accidentally gave some snacks to this cute studio pup. Lower photo: Ellen standing between new friends, Mary Ince and Holli Harmon, who are the artists-in-residence of the wonderful Rusty Barn studio.


Cathy and Ellen: Thank you to everyone who participated in the art learning, art making and art sharing.  We loved every minute.



February 21, 2014

Printmaking Thirty Years Later

Posted by Cathy Heck

I am so excited to be heading to California to take a printmaking class from a printmaker that I know, Ellen Heck, the co-author of this very blog. Yes, the mom-artist will be learning from the daughter-artist.

Ellen is teaching a Combination Woodcut and Drypoint Workshop at The Rusty Barn in Santa Barbara. And, I was lucky enough to be accepted. (I think it might have been hard for them to turn down the mom.)

Interestingly, 30 years ago, almost exactly, I was taking my first printmaking class at the School of Visual Arts in New York in the evenings, after my day job as a freelance illustrator. When I finished the first session, I asked my teacher this, “Um, I just learned that I am pregnant. Should I take the next session, since it involves chemicals?” Teacher: “Um, no.” So, happily for that baby, who was Ellen by the way, I did not print away her brain cells. (Note: I am happy to report that printmaking has come a long way, and the use of chemicals today is far less toxic.)

And, if you are a mom, you might guess that I did not have a chance to take another printmaking class until … now. Thus, below is my first etching (1983) and (with the exception of a few more class projects) my last.


For our first project at SVA, we just drew what we could see. I made an etching of my shoe. (I loved those Tretorns. I wore different versions for years.) For my new class, I can’t decide what to draw. Should I continue my shoe saga? Birds? Flowers? Food? Food could be good. Ellen suggested a self-portrait, but I keep thinking about the sound I make when I accidentally turn my phone camera toward myself, “Aaaaah.” It’s just so startling.

No matter what I decide to draw, I am definitely prepared. Here are my supplies ready to go: various knives and chisels, pencils, erasers, brayers, and even the very apron that I used in New York (the red one) … the white one is from one of our trade shows–I knew it would come in handy one day. I am also taking one Peep for the teacher. I’m not trying to bribe her, but I know she likes Peeps and if she happens to give me some special attention, well, so be it.

So California, here I come, with chisels and knives … and, yes, I’m pretty sure that my luggage will be inspected. If they don’t confiscate my new tools, I will send an update with my etching/woodcutting/snacking progress. I will also let you know if my teacher gives me an A.



February 19, 2014

The Bewildered Gardener: Clockwork Camellias

Posted by Cathy Heck


As you know, I am an accidental gardener.  Thus, every single year, on February 15ish, when our camellia bush puts on the show dog, I am simply amazed. It’s like clockwork. All the other flowering shrubs are still getting their beauty sleeps, and yet the camellia thinks it’s time to say, “HELLO DAAHLING!” (I think that’s how she might say it, if she could talk.)




And, it’s possible that our show-off Southern florabelle must know she has a fan club.  Of all of our Pinterest pins, this one (shown below) has been re-pinned the most. We have even had a bride-to-be contact us to find out the way she could replicate these for her wedding. We were proud.


If you would like to receive some excellent camellia decor cred, you can try this treatment above: stemless wine goblets (from Target $9.99) + camellia blooms + water = perfect. And, perfectly easy. Plus, when they have gone to camellia heaven, you can use your wine goblets for … well, wine … perhaps a rosé in honor of the flowers that christened them.

If your blooms are a bit smaller, as ours are this year, you can put several in one bowl. I picked these three today. They are happily floating together emanating just a faint scent … and hint of springtime to come.


February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine’s Day from Cathy Heck Studio

Posted by Cathy Heck

Hope your day is full of hugs, kisses and chocolate!  From your Cathy Heck Studio valentines.







Categories: about us

February 7, 2014

Studio Break: James Turrell’s Skyspace in Austin, Texas

Posted by Cathy Heck

Our new official full-time studio member, Julianna, is our blog guest today. Since we have been chained to our computers all week, Jim decided to kidnap us for a forced zen moment at exactly 5:32 on Wednesday. Here is Julianna’s account.

There is a lot going on in the studio as of late. New collections are brewing, our workspace is undergoing a huge pre-spring spring cleaning (both digitally and physically), and I am now present in the studio (both digitally and physically). With our noses to the e-grindstones, Jim decided to switch things up and instead of the traditional Tuesday night yoga session, we all got our zen on at the James Turrell Skyspace, The Color Inside, at the University of Texas.


The Skyspace is an observatory in the middle of the UT campus, and anyone can visit to watch the sky change through an oculus. It is best to go at either sunrise or sunset, because during those times, colored lights illuminate the walls, which contrast with the natural light that is seen through the oculus. (Photos included here were quietly taken with my iPhone. No clicking allowed.)

The entire presentation lasts about an hour. I know what you are thinking: “Staring through a hole for an hour–I don’t think so.” Well, first of all it’s free, so, that’s a bargain. And, secondly, I never felt bored. It was like watching Mother Nature creating a color theory assignment. How was it possible that the sky looked as if it was getting lighter, even though I knew it was getting darker outside?

If you are in Austin and are looking for something to do that is both inspiring and calming all at the same time, I really recommend the Skyspace. Also, there is an added bonus–the black basalt seats are heated. And, if you are really lucky, like I was, as the sun sets, a faint scent of fried chicken will wash over you, courtesy of the Chick-fil-A in the student center, three stories below. I hope you enjoy this multi-sensorial evening as much as we did.

Note: It is a good idea to make a reservation, because only about 25 people can comfortably sit upon the warm basalt benches for this zen event. Namaste lumos!



Categories: about us

February 4, 2014

Painterly Birds: A New Spring Collection for Pottery Barn

Posted by Ellen Heck

Spring feels like it’s in full swing here in Berkeley, where the magnolia trees are bursting with their palm-sized leathery petals and all the ornamental pears look like brides. It feels like the perfect time to share some glamour shots of one of the new Spring groups we’ve designed with Pottery Barn for 2014.


This new painterly bird group is light and colorful with splashes of flowers and paint. We enjoyed working with Pottery Barn last year on a small group of bunny-themed pillows and towels, so it was fun to work with them again on a collection that has a completely different feel. Here is some of the melamine dinnerware. I think it would be fun to eat bright fruit off of these plates – pineapple chunks and green apples.


And here is the bedding collection, looking crisp and fresh (and, thanks to PB) gorgeously photographed. I think they did an amazing job translating all of the many watercolor hues onto fabric.


Stay tuned for some more new products next week. But for now, imagine falling into this cool, crisply-ironed pillow for an amazing afternoon nap… I’m talking to you, Cathy Heck! :)


January 29, 2014

Crocheted Headbands Are Handy on a Snow Day

Posted by Cathy Heck

It’s was a really-and-truly no-school Snow Day here in Austin, Texas, and we actually had the opportunity to wear Margaret’s holiday craft projects.

This Christmas, Ellen gave Margaret a crocheting lesson and some yarn to start. And, Margaret became a crocheting ninja. I’m not kidding. She was so fast. Her fingers looked like spinning machine wheels whirring along at top speed. I admit that it is possible that her nimble needle rhythm was partly due to One Direction tunes playing in the background. But nevertheless, that only added to the wonder of it all.

As you can see, she started with an infinity scarf. Next a headband. Then another headband. “Oooo, I like that. Will you make one for me?” “Me, too. Me, too.” Another. And, another.

Next thing you know, she had started her own indie craft store. In our living room.



Above is Jules modeling a forest green version with Margaret’s signature red stripe. She started adding it to every piece. If you see one like this when you are on the streets of New York, you will know it’s an original Marge. Watch out Christian Louboutin!

You might not be able to tell from there, but these two pieces (above on Jules and below on Margaret) are made from yarns that contain threads throughout, which glow under the light of a car’s headlights … it’s true … I tried it and I looked like a giant candle … so there ya go … they are not only fashionable accessories, but glowing safety attire, as well.

If you, too, are yearning for a fancy new ear sweater (with a signature red stripe), just let me know, and I’ll ask my source to make some more. However, she has headed back to college, so we might have to place you on the “after finals wait list.”


Above is the designer, with her favorite model of all, wearing his very own Margaret original. It’s a little toasty for him with his thick part-Husky mane, but even Neville knows how important it is to accessorize.

And speaking of warmth, we would like to take this opportunity to send wishes to all of our friends in the snowy parts of the country that you are staying as warm as our trusty, obedient and patient pup!

January 24, 2014

Window Stitching: Atlanta 2014

Posted by Cathy Heck

Gosh, I am so sorry to be so long in posting some pictures from the Atlanta Show. I just have one excuse. Food Poisoning. If you have ever had it, you will know why I can’t really say the words “shel_ fi_h” ever again.

BUT, the good news is that we were able to see our pretty window in the front of the C.R. Gibson showroom before I went for a fun dinner and ordered … well, you know … the food that shall not be named.

So, finally, here are some pictures from the debut of our Made With Love collection. The original stitchwork for the covers and interiors, fronts to backs, were stitched by our own little fingers. We were drawing with thread! We hope lots of new babies will feel the love we poured into this group of baby memory books.

CathyHeckStudio_AtlantaGiftShow1 CathyHeckStudio_AtlantaGiftShow2

Above are several of the new products from the collection, which you will be able to buy at retailers across the country. You can contact C.R. Gibson for more info. (The new collections are not up on their site yet, but will be soon.) The cute fox seen in the photo above, however, is not part of our group …  he was just the perfect spokes-model for our Made With Love stitches. (He comes from the family of adorable critters from the blabla group of knitted toys.)

One of our favorite additions to the collection is this adorable jaunty elephant coin bank, pictured below. And the cute Grandma’s Brag Book will just make you want to … well … smile!

CathyHeckStudio_AtlantaGiftShow3 CathyHeckStudio_AtlantaGiftShow4

Of course, the best part of seeing a new group introduced, is seeing the wonderful people who collaborated to make it happen.  We were so happy to see the director of the project, Sherrie McCulloch, (below left) who worked with us on every detail, from the perfect paper stock to the prettiest book binding.  And, below right, is Betsy Ferg, who we know gave up some Christmas holiday time to make sure that the fun window display was ready by the first of January!


And, below, is the person we really have to thank for this inventive collection coming to life … Ellen, herself. The original sketches for this group came from her head and hands.  Her persuasive encouragement went something like this …

Ellen on phone: “Really, mom, I do think we can stitch a 72-page interior by the deadline … if we all do it together. Jules can help, too. We can do it!”

Mom: ……..

Ellen: “Mom … mom … hello, Mom, are you there?”


But, Ellen was right … we did it … and it is, indeed, a labor of love. Be sure to keep an eye out for our new collection … and as soon as we receive our samples, we’ll be hosting a fun giveaway.

In the meantime, here is my next call to Ellen:  “So Ellen, I had this idea for a 72-page interior that we would mold out of clay, what do you think?”

January 8, 2014

Hello Atlanta, Hello World

Posted by Cathy Heck

We are off to the Atlanta Gift Show for the debut of our new collection, Made With Love. We created this group of friendly characters one stitch at a time, and, it is indeed made with love just in time for cute babies arriving in 2014.


If you are headed to the Atlanta Gift Show, be sure to stop by the C.R. Gibson showroom to see our new baby collection. We hope you will feel the love, too!

We’ll be sure to tell you all about the show and share pictures when we return.

Love, the Heck family stitchers … well, except Neville (the dog) … he can croon, but he does not stitch.

January 1, 2014


Posted by Cathy Heck



Wishing you a very happy new year from everyone at Cathy Heck Studio.



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