November 18, 2017

Holiday Gift Guide by Snowywinds

This time of year finds me busy painting; snowmen and evergreen trees, candy canes, and stockings.  Then, there is the pair of jeans I am hand painting for my 8 year old niece; a hippie style flower.  I love being able to share my art.  Ever since high school, I have given handmade &/or hand painted gifts to family and friends; framed prints, Christmas tree ornaments, original t-shirts.  

It can often be difficult coming up with the perfect gift.  There are your parents who have everything, the office Secret Santa with a $10 spending limit, and the fashionista who always has a cool bag.  To share the variety of gift items I make, I have put together a 2017 Holiday Gift Guide by Snowywinds.  

October 10, 2017

What I listen to when I work - Music? Podcasts?

As I look around my classroom, I notice a variety of earbuds and headphones plugged in while my students diligently work away at their assignments.  When I was in high school, way back in 90-something, we were never allowed to listen to headphones during school hours.  If there was one rule I could have changed, that was it.  I listened to music constantly, on the bus, while jogging, while painting, and having the opportunity to listen to music while I did school work would have helped me focus even more.  
Between then and now, I went through a period of ‘silence.’  Maybe it was music overload during college; I was a music major at Shepherd University constantly listening for class, practicing flute multiple hours a day, and being surrounded by others practicing and making music.  While this was the college environment and degree I wanted, when it came to studying and paper-writing in my dorm room, I turned to silence.

I still find myself sometimes needing that ‘silence’ while I work. I have also found a new fix for my ‘listen while I work’ - Podcasts!  I never thought I would be into talk radio, but over the past two years I have really come to like listening to these conversations.  And not just when I work, but also on my commute to and from school; the school I teach at is 45 minutes from home.

What I listen to depends on what I am doing.  When I run, I love to have on something cheery like Grace Helbig’s Not Too Deep.  Her laughter lightens my mood. Other podcasts that get me in good spirits are Ask Me Another and The Dollop (a history podcast.)
When I am painting, sewing, or looking for creative inspiration, two of my long time favorites are Elise Gets Crafty and Etsy Conversations.  In a community that is largely online, hearing these conversations with other makers brings that much needed human connection.  

A few years back, the Etsy Success Team asked “What music do you listen to while you make?”  Amidst the variety of answers, I was pleased to see I'm not the only podcast listener.  When it comes to music though, my favorites include Impressionist composers Ravel and Debussy, singer songwriters like Jack Johnson, and the alternative sounds of Wilco.

What are you listening to?  Add your comment below!

September 10, 2017

Hiking Burlington VT

Nature is a huge inspiration to me, both creatively and spiritually. I love walking in the woods, sitting outside to read, and visiting high overlooks. These loves have taken me all over the country searching out beautiful vistas, amazing trees, and the smell of earth.  

One of my goals for this blog is to share my hiking experiences.  With this post, I am introducing you, the reader, to my hiking adventure in Vermont.  In September 2012, I ventured on my own to Burlington, VT.  I packed up my new, little blue car and hit the highway.  The entire vacation is a trip to remember!  

There are two hiking destinations in particular that I enjoyed; Shelburne Bay Park and Shelburne Farms, both about 20 minutes south of Burlington off Route 7.  First, I visited Shelburne Bay Park, then made my way to Shelburne Farms totalling about 6 miles between the two hikes.  I made sure to relax afterword at Magic Hat Brewing in South Burlington.

Shelburne Bay Park, which covers 104 acres, is managed by Shelburne Parks & Recreation.  This park is dog friendly but leashes are required at all times.  I hiked this trail in the AM and encountered several dogs out for a walk.  The dogs I encountered were super friendly and reminded me of my dog, Rissy, back home with my parents.

The walking/hiking/cross country ski trail loop, known as the Allen Hill Trail, is approximately two miles along Lake Champlain.  Listed as easy to moderate, this trail does include an initial upgrade, but is not overly strenuous.  The loop takes you around a peninsula with beautiful views of Lake Champlain.  Most of the trail is surrounded by lush greenery.  I captured this photo of the sun’s rays shining between the trees.

Next stop was Shelburne Farms. While at dinner the previous evening, a Burlington local highly recommended the hiking at Shelburne Farms.  While there is a small General Admission ($8) it is well worth it!  General Admission is charged mid-May to mid-October, and includes access to Walking Trails, a Children's Farmyard and cheesemaking demonstrations in the historic Farm Barn.  There are 10 miles of trail hiking available.  I chose the Farm Trail, which is 4.5 miles, though I did take the wagon ride up to the Farm Barn initially before beginning my hike.  

At the Farm Barn, I enjoyed several educational experiences including watching the making of that yummy Vermont Cheddar.  This delicious farmstead cheddar is available for sale at the Welcome Center.  I made sure to leave with a chunk!  Also at the Farm Barn, I experienced several animals including a giant tom turkey.

The grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, famous for his part in designing Central Park, NY.  The Farm Trail starts off in a nice woods mixed with picturesque meadows of long grass and wildflowers and leads you to Lake Champlain.  There are fantastic views of the mountains on the other side of the lake.  I was fortunate to get time by the lake by myself, as I didn’t encounter too many other hikers the day I was there.  After the shoreline, I took a small detour down an unmarked trail.  It was on this small path that I encountered a stretch completely covered by arching bushes creating a tunnel.  It felt magical, like I was in a fairy garden.  It is stated in the brochure that this farm is a “landscape sculpted for both work and leisure; a landscape natural yet contrived.”  It is clear that this is a working farm, but this beautiful hike helped clear and rejuvenate my mind.   

If you are to find yourself in Burlington, VT, first make sure you have comfortable shoes, second make time for Shelburne.

*All photos taken and owned by me with the exception of the Google Map

August 15, 2017

Paw Print Clothespin Magnet DIY

Of the many household tools, one that is starting to go obsolete is the clothespin.  Not as many people hang wet clothes outside to dry on a clothesline anymore.  So what can you do with that basket full of clothespins just sitting in the laundry room?  Clothespins are finding new life with other purposes like a chip-clip or to hold papers on the fridge.

In this blog post, I will be providing you with instructions to DIY your own clothespin magnets. I was inspired to make these by one of my favorite Etsy shops: Sugar and Paint. The style I am making today is pet inspired; paw prints!  I am looking forward to featuring these at my Snowywinds Booth on August 26 at Dog’s Day in the Park.


Acrylic paint
Acrylic varnish
Paintbrushes and paint-sponge
Paint pallet
Wax paper
Round magnets
Hot glue gun

Step 1:
Make sure the clothespins are clean. Separate the spring from the two wood pieces. Make sure to keep the springs lined up with their wooden pieces. Early on I forgot to do this; when I went to put the clothespins back together they didn’t all line up correctly! :(

Step 2:
Paint the solid color. I use wax paper to prevent newsprint from sticking or transferring to the clothespin. *Depending on the age of the clothespins, you may want to apply a multi purpose sealer prior to painting the solid color.

Step 3:
Paint your design on the wooden piece you have chosen to be the front. To make a paw print, paint an upside-down heart, round off the top point, and add four toes. *Remember, dogs & cats have 4 toes!

Step 4:
Coat each wood piece with a clear varnish. Let sit overnight. This is important.  You do not want the varnish to be tacky when putting the clothespin pieces back together. If so, the mouth of the clothespin will stick shut.

Step 5:
Get the hot glue gun warming up. Assemble the clothespins making sure to use the correct spring for each wooden set. Using the hot glue gun, attach the magnet to the back of the clothespin about level with the spring. Remove any glue strings.  And voila! You have your clothespin magnet!

*All photos taken by myself

August 1, 2017

My Hippie Style

Flash back to my middle school years, a period of tying to discover and establish my self-identity. I found myself gravitating to the music of the late sixties, early seventies; the Doors, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin. On the TV show The Wonder Years, Kevin’s older sister was my favorite character. I loved the fashion styles of that period, so I started wearing tie-die and my Mom’s old “vintage” clothing. When low cut, bell-bottom jeans came back in style in the early 1990s, I had to have them. I would wear flowers in my hair and round “John Lennon” sunglasses. Peace signs were everywhere, including my Cold War poster hanging in my room. This was my style.
In high school, I began painting things in my newfound hippie style. My wooden desk chair was painted with multihued peace signs, paisley, and organic swirls. Then I started on my jeans: roses, the happy face, and more peace signs. I also painted some T-shirts for friends and myself. When the jeans wore out, I cut the painted part off and pinned them up on my cork-board. I didn’t know what I was going to do with these remnants, but I knew I wasn’t finished with them!

In the early 2000s I got my own sewing machine. I was very excited to try it out and start sewing. As my creative mind began to spin, the idea of making a purse from recycled fabric came to me. I had a pair of super comfy khaki pants that wore out beyond wear-ability. I cut the material into two panels. Then machine embroidered one of my jean pieces (rainbow peace sign) onto the top panel. I picked up some really cool fabric ribbon at Joann Fabric that reminded me of my Uncle’s camera strap. The ribbon is primarily black with bold colors; red, yellow, & green. While I have needed to make new bags for myself, the strap has been reused for the third time and has lasted 15 years.

Bag #2
I received (and still receive) a lot of compliments on my bag. Women asked if I made bags with other designs, like dragonflies, painted on them. This got me thinking… I started with a dragonfly bag. This bag was not only hand painted, but also had hand embroidery. I would sit outside in the evening and embroider. From there I moved on to my painted daisy bag, machine embroidery, and other repurposed fabrics like olive cargo pants and fabric samples. As I create and sew, it is my goal to encapsulate that 60s-70s hippie look in my bags.   

July 3, 2017

Hiking Kilauea

What is it like to hike through a volcano?  In her book, High Tide in Tucson, Barbara Kingsolver includes two essays on her trip to Maui and hiking the dormant volcano, Haleakala. Ever since reading those essays, I have wanted to hike in a volcano!  

Nature is a huge inspiration to me, both spiritually and creatively.  From luscious greens to beautiful flowers to geographical magnificence.  These loves have taken me all over the United States searching out beautiful places where I connect to the Earth.

In July 2014, my husband and I flew to the Big Island of Hawaii for our honeymoon. This was not your traditional Hawaiian vacation focused on sandy beaches and coconut drinks.  We came for the volcanos, more specifically Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. The main feature is the active volcano, Kilauea with its Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road. The date we were there, the south side of Crater Rim Drive was closed between the Jagger Museum and Chain of Craters Road due to volcanic activity.  While we could not get close enough to see the lava flowing, we saw the glowing smoke rising from the Halema’uma’u Crater.

To the east of the main Kilauea Caldera is the Kilauea Iki Crater, dormant since 1959.  The crater is a mile long and 3,000 feet across. Beginning with a steep and rocky descent, the hiking trail takes you 2.4 miles across solid lava with scattered steam vents, then back up switchbacks through lush rain forest.  Ahu (stacked rocks) mark the trail across the crater floor.

The porous and jagged rocks of the western side of the crater made for difficult hiking. Sturdy shoes are a must!  ‘Ōhi‘a bushes populate the rugged terrain bringing back vegetation to the crater.  The ruggedness turned to a smooth surface about midway through the crater.  Also the temperate increased.  At 3980 ft, the beginning of our hike was drizzly and chilly even in July.  As we reached the steaming part of the crater, we were unzipping our coats and removing our hats.   

It was truly amazing to see the remains of volcanic eruption.  That a force from under the Earth’s crust shot up sprouting red hot lava 1600℉ is mystifying.  The Hawaiians attribute this activity to Pele, the spiritual force of the volcano, and her various moods. Whether it is science or gods, it is truly amazing.  We live on an amazing planet that somehow has the right combination of elements to create this geological and ecological beauty.

I hope you have glimpsed the impact this hike has had on me.  I will always remember it.  If it is not already on your list of places to see, put it there!  

All photos taken by myself

June 17, 2017

Summer 2017!

School is out for summer!  Let Summer 2017 begin! 

This past Saturday was the kick-off event for Snowywinds Studios’ Summer 2017 event season. I was all set up at Sonnewald Natural Foods and magnets were the hot item. Currently, there are three events scheduled with the possibility of two more to be added.

When I was a kid, my parents would drag my brother and myself to all kinds of “-- In the Park” events around Maryland and Pennsylvania.  I would always appreciate the handmade products for sale.  Even in my teen angst phase, I still appreciated these artists creations. Deep down, I knew I wanted to do that one day with my own art.  Art was always my favorite class in school and making crafts was my favorite aspect of scouting (tied with hiking in the woods.)  In 2015, I finally took the leap and began doing in-person events with my very own maker business, Snowywinds Studios.

Entering the world of vendor events has definitely been a learning process.  I love the personal contact of art & craft shows, festivals, and flea markets.  My customers can actually hold my creations, try my bags on, and learn what makes me passionate about creating.  Participating in events has also been valuable in networking with other sellers within my community.  Last, I learned so much about branding and merchandising, which is an art in itself.  

When it comes to in-person events, I am still trying to find my niche.  My products are made from repurposed materials and I’m Earth conscious (The 3 R's = Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Check out this video with Jack Johnson!).  Nature themes abound in my art; flowers, mushrooms, butterflies.  My love of pets also finds its way into my art.  The three events I have lined up so far include yoga, dogs, and flea marketing.  

Before I go, I want to give a shout out to the Etsy Team Craft Fairs... it's a living! for all the advice and anecdotes shared in the discussion feeds.

Feel free to comment, contact me, &/or visit my Facebook page!

May 13, 2017

My Etsy Shop


I began my Etsy shop in 2011. It doesn’t seem like that long ago. I had less than 20 listings, but it was finally time to go for it. I kept at it, gradually adding more pieces and improving my listings. The next year I finally had 2 sales!
Today my shop has just over 50 listings with a goal of reaching 100 listings by September.  My listings fall into two main categories; handmade handbags and hand-painted gifts.  Both reflect my hippie style and unique artistic style.  I enjoy painting with bright colors.  Two of my favorite artists are Frank Stella and Henri Matisse, both known for their use of bright colors.  I was very fortunate to be exposed to modern art at a young age, having visited the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.  I also had two fantastic art teachers in high school who found it essential to take their students to prominent art museums to witness the work of the masters.

The perfectionist in me always strives for realism in my art, but yet I can not avoid modern impressionism.  Following after my grandfather, Frank Winter, I use photographs to draw and paint from. After conceptualizing the design in my head and sketching my idea, I turn to photographs to get the detail, color, and proportion.  Even when using ‘unrealistic’ colors, for example pink mushrooms, I still seek to get my proportion and shading correct.

Snowywinds Studios on Etsy allows me to share my creations.  Today, I find myself painting on recycled slate shingles, seashells, and fabrics.  My in-person events also include hand painted bricks, river rocks, and clothespins.  Nine months of the year I am a school teacher.  As summer break approaches, I look forward to getting more ideas from my head to the paint brush.  My artistic journey can be followed more closely on Instagram: @snowywindgrams

“I paint flowers so they will not die” ~Frida Kahlo