To the untrained eye this may look like I have plans for a weekend curled up reading mild romance novels. I’ve been visiting the Lions Club weekly to scoop up these and some lovely hard cover books for a couple projects. If you came out to see me on Saturday you may have noticed the paper valentine garland hung on the front of my booth. I had hoped to make at least a few of these to sell but only had time to pop out this prototype using stamps.
If you read the flags closely you can see I made this valentine bunting out of Harlequin Romance novel pages. I am certain not one person realized it, but I knew. And it made me smile.
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Melanie Shaw is maker/owner at Melanie Shaw Cermaics. Her favorite themes are floral and leaf patterns, space travel, comic figures, and occasional monsters. She is also owner of Art Off Center, a ceramics teaching studio in nearby Taylor, Texas.
Her Oklahoma grandmother taught Melanie and her siblings to crochet, knit, embroider, bead, and sew. She recalls stitching strips of cloth onto newspaper squares to start some simple blocks for quilts that they all went home with at the end of summer. She find myself using all these skills with her applied art pieces.
1. Why did you move to the Bastrop area?
We decided to move to Texas in 2014 from Brooklyn; my daughter and family moved to east Texas a couple years before we did. Hubs is in the music business, so we basically moved down and just started looking for houses that suited our purposes in and around Austin. Having always lived in really busy and noisy neighborhoods in New York and Brooklyn, the house in Bastrop checked a lot of boxes. The neighborhood is lovely, quiet and we both had enough room in the house and yard to set up individual studios and still be close enough to Austin to travel in for shows, etc.
2. What compels you to spend time creating?
I teach pottery at my commercial studio, Art Off Center (www.artoffcenter.com) in Taylor, so I’m often looking for new items to push my skill levels and additionally for items that are fun to teach. I have a mental list of items to make, so making and creating have become a part of my everyday life. I’ve learned that once the floodgate was opened to creating it’s become a complete love of craft.
3. Tell me three things you’ve learned in the past five years.
I’ve learned a lot over the past five years, especially after buying Art Off Center three years ago. I’ve learned how to craft a website that works for a small business. In the same regard, I’m still learning about marketing and public messaging. For me it’s all about how the studio fits into the local community and how the community has taught me how to engage. We “volunteer” to help where and when we (I’m referring to myself and the fellow artists at Art Off Center) can for various purposes.
4. What are you currently making, reading, watching, or listening to?
I’ve usually got a few projects in progress, so I’m currently working on making items that are meant for a wholesale line. Hubs and I have been trying to avoid the news lately, so we’ve been watching a lot of “making” shows, like the “Repair Shop” or just dive off into sci-fi style shows like “Mandalorian”. I’m a news junkie, so I listen to NPR and various news shows on my work days back and forth from Bastrop to Taylor. And for books, I’ve been listening to audible books by Ta-Nehisi Coates and James Baldwin and have the occasional new release books from my favorite pottery authors too.
5. Cake or Pie?
I’m definitely a pie person, I’m terrible at making pies, but I just love the filling versus the lovely crunch of the pie crust. I’m a huge fan of tart versus sweet, so Key lime pie is my favorite pies. One of the local Taylor chefs recently started a great online pie service with delivery, Flake Bakery and Larder, so I ordered her great pies for the holidays and supporting local business at the same time! Win, win!
The folks at Bitter Southerner published a hardcover book of Micah’s photographs from inside Waffle Houses all over the South which first appeared on their website in 2019. Waffle House Vistas is currently sold out, but you can get on the list to be notified when avaialble.
Looking to get lost down another rabbit hole? Turn off your TV and log on to Folkstreams.net for a deep dive into Americana. Folkstream’s catalog includes documentaries of foodways, quilting, blacksmithing, music, and more.
If you’re looking for something to watch this weekend the Australian mini-series Upright is a fearless, hilarious, and sweet road trip across the Nullarbor with a down on his luck musician, a runaway, and a piano. I’m embarrassed to say it took me until the third episode to realize the title was about the piano. Available here.
I’m on a quest to try find the best one pot pasta dishes. Why can’t all recipes be this cute? Recipe link here