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Whitney Buckner Photography_Barn Warming 2013 (5 of 54)

A few weeks ago we hosted an open house in our work studio!

It’s been a while since we moved into the barn, and you know how it is, it just takes a while to feel settled. We feel like it’s our home now, and we are so thankful for a place to call our own, and for all it has done for our business! If you missed out on reading about how we decided to renovate a 100+ year old barn for our work space start by clicking right here. And, to read about how the whole project progressed click here, and here, and finally here.

It has been a big year of transition for us, in a lot of ways. A lot of really good ways. We’ve grown from just the three of us, to a staff of nine (plus a few extras who help out pretty often). Our product line has been steadily growing all year long, and our list of retailers who carry our products has literally exploded. It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around the growth we have seen. It’s SUCH a blessing.

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We know that we are so lucky to be able to do what we do, and we wanted to have a day of sharing it with all our family and friends.

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Also, we knew that a lot of people were really curious to see the barn, so we opened it up to everyone. And, everyone came!

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A big huge thanks to Whitney for snapping all of these really great photos!

Also, thanks to everyone who came by to see what we have been up to and for supporting us and our dreams in so many ways!

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Karen, Beth, and Carrie

“Hey! What Kind of Paint Do You Use?”

Let’s talk about paint.

People frequently ask me what kind of paint I like to use, and when my response is “gouache” the next thing out of their mouth is usually, “what’s that?” Most people are familiar with acrylic, and oil, and watercolor. I guess gouache is a lesser known variety, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome!


How do you pronounce the word gouache? Well, it’s one syllable. It rhymes with squash. And wash. And…that’s all I can think of. Gouache.

The best way I can describe it is that it behaves much like watercolor, but instead of being transparent it is opaque. In other words, if I painted a red area and let it dry, I could paint on top of the red area with blue and the red would not show through. If I did the same thing with watercolor, the red would show through, and where the two colors overlapped it would probably look purple.

Make sense?


It’s not too hard to get nice clean edges between colors, and you can lay down big areas of color, and then go in later and add details. It’s also possible to mix colors and get a lot of variation.

It’s so versatile! And that’s why it’s great.

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There are two brands that I like – Windsor and Newton, and M. Graham & Co. The little 0.5 oz. tubes can be expensive, but it is WORTH IT for the quality! I can tell you, it is absolutely true that in the world of art supplies you get exactly what you pay for.


Work surface is important. Recently I have been working on illustration board, but there are other good options out there as well. I also have a few favorite brushes – a good brush is necessary. I could talk a lot about both of these things, but I think they might be conversations for another day!

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My experience with gouache is not as extensive as you may think! In the past I have painted a lot with watercolor and acrylic, and just a little bit here and there with gouache. About a year and a half ago when we decided to expand our card line to include some with hand painted illustrations gouache seemed to be the natural choice to me. Since then that’s about all I’ve been using. I’m still learning, and my painting style keeps evolving. I hope that’s always the case! That is my favorite thing about the whole artistic process – learning and making changes and seeing my work evolve and get better.

Have you ever used gouache? What is your favorite painting medium? Do you have any secrets to share?

:: Carrie ::


Settling into our New Studio

A few weeks ago we officially moved into our new workspace, and we are slowly but surely getting settled in. It’s been an adventure – taking a 100+ year old barn and making it into a place that we can use – but we are SO glad we jumped in and did it! To hear the whole story you might want to go back and read this post, and this one too, and finally this one. All caught up? Good.

To get the full appreciation of how much changed take a look at the barn loft before…

Kind of dark, and rustic to say the least…

But it had good bones, and a lot of potential.

And here it is after…

A pretty big change, isn’t it? I still can’t believe that the old barn that I played in as a kid is now where I go to work. It’s really crazy.

We’re thrilled with how everything turned out, it is just what we needed, and it’s made all the difference in the world for us! We still have some details to work on, and some furniture to buy, but it is coming along.

One of the very most difficult parts of the whole process that we found was trying to figure out how to get high speed internet wired into the barn. We are definitely not that far from some highly populated areas, but it seems like we are in a black hole as far as internet service goes. After sending a guy up to the top of the grain bins next to the barn to mount a little receiver, and then running a wire into the barn, it seems to be working well. Most of the time.

We have a lot more work space now for packaging cards and packing orders…

and enough shelf space to keep the inventory nice and organized.

Most of all, it is so fantastic to have a place that is bright and cheery, where we can all work together. EVEN if that means that sometimes I have to shut my door and separate myself from the fun that is happening just so I can concentrate. It’s a good thing.

:: Carrie ::

Paying Attention to the Details

We are getting so so close to being ready to move into our new workspace! It’s mostly done, really. We are just trying to get all of our ducks in a row so that we can make the transition from our current location to the barn quickly and as painlessly as we can – so that our day to day operations are disrupted as little as possible. The plan is for that to start to happen next week! We are SO ready for the change, in so many ways.

I’ll give you the full tour once we are somewhat settled in. Right now things are a bit disorganized, and not so pretty to look at. But here are some of our favorite small details…and it’s the details that give a place character, right?

Some minty green french doors, with antique glass doorknobs.

Nails driven into one of the cross beams, who knows how long ago. They came with the place, we wouldn’t dare pull them out!

And, some green enamel light fixtures from Barnlight Electric. They’re perfect.

:: Carrie ::


New Studio Progress

It’s getting close. So close to being done.

The last I left you I think our new workspace had some interior walls framed, and they had begun spraying in the insulation. We’ve come a long way since then. Here’s a little peek at what has been going on…

We have an awesome new staircase.

When we first talked to our builder and told him what we envisioned for our new space we emphasized that we wanted to retain the character of the barn, but we also stressed that we are on a tight budget. He understood perfectly, and we have been amazed at his resourcefulness in finding amazing materials at a low price that are just what we need. We picked the right guy for the job, definitely. For the staircase, he found a local amish guy who cut these huge oak planks that might just be sturdy enough to hold up an elephant. It definitely means business, but it fits in perfectly with the architecture of the barn. We love it.

A couple of weeks were spent installing the panelling on the walls that covers up the insulation. It was a sawdusty mess for a while. Just imagine the loud grinding of the table saw and the buzz of the miter saw, set to the background music of Blake Shelton and all his country music friends blaring on the radio. And the guys yelling out measurements to one another over the sound of it all. A real construction workers environment.

One of the biggest surprises so far is how BEAUTIFUL the floors have turned out. We did nothing to replace any of the old existing floor – they simply fixed a few boards that were broken or seemed weak, and then they sanded the whole thing down a little bit. Then, they put a couple of coats of polyurethane over the whole thing, and it instantly brought out so much COLOR! I wish I had taken some better photos of the floor before, because it is a huge transformation. Also, I can’t believe that I can walk barefoot on those floors now. Unbelievable.

This past week they spent some time cleaning up the big beams and spraying them with a coat of sealer. Next week they will start installing the ceiling, and the painter is coming to begin painting the walls. Things are really going to feel close to being done when that happens. We are busy tracking down furniture for the new space, and picking out light fixtures, and fans, and faucets for the bathroom sink, and all of those things that go with building something new. Or, in this case, giving new life to something that is old.

We are hoping to be able to move in within the next few weeks. Hopefully. We also have the National Stationery Show coming up about two weeks from now, which means we are scrambling to get a bunch of new products finalized and get everything packed and shipped off to NYC. It’s definitely an exciting time!

:: Carrie ::

“Hey! What kind of pens do you use?”

I’ve been asked this question many, many times, so I thought I would just spill the beans.

Actually, it’s no closely guarded secret. It’s not like I have some magical pen with super-powers. I’m still looking for that one, so if you know where I could get it, please tell me about it.

These are the four that I use the most, and I like them all for different reasons.

The Uni-ball vision and I have been tight for a long time now. It’s a ball point pen, and it draws a nice clean, fine line. It’s also waterproof, so you can paint overtop of it with no bleeding, if you want to.

The Zig Real Brush pen is new to the line-up, and I’m growing to love it. It has an actual brush, like a paint brush, for the tip. It takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty great. The best part is that the tip never wears out, as long as you take care of it. That’s a big plus. I’ve been using it quite a bit for lettering, especially for fancy script lettering. It makes some good curves with varying thicknesses.

For drawing on a little bigger scale I like the Faber-Castell brush pens. They are really easy to control and they produce a nice line quality. I also like them for lettering of all kinds. What I DON’T like about them is that they wear out SO quickly. They have a felt tip, which means they are really awesome when they are brand new, the tip breaks down really fast. I go through these like crazy.

For drawing and writing on an even larger scale I love the Prismacolor Premier brush marker. I usually only use black, but these come in a whole rainbow of colors, if you are interested.

What are your favorites? I’m always looking for better ones. I’d love to hear some suggestions!

:: Carrie ::

Studio Progress

How about a little update on our new studio? A few weeks ago I told you that we are expanding our workspace up into the loft of our old barn. It’s a big project, and that’s why we have hired a really great contractor and top notch carpenters to make it happen for us.

Here’s what has been going on so far…

First of all, they actually had to take out some of the old cross beams and raise them up a couple of feet so that we don’t hit our heads on them every time we walk under. They also framed a couple of interior walls, and put in all of the electrical wiring.

One of the biggest changes so far are the two big windows under the peak on both the north and south ends of the barn. We also put in four smaller windows on the west wall. Letting in all that light immediately changed the whole feel of the space. We LOVE it.

New meets old. We are keeping the original framework of the barn exposed because we like the old post and beam construction. Check out the wooden pegs holding it all together. And, some of the posts still have the bark from the tree that they were cut from over 100 years ago!

Last week the insulation guys came and did their job. We decided to go with the foam insulation that gets sprayed in and immediately expands and hardens. There are so many gaps and holes in the walls that it was obviously the best choice to keep this old building warm. Let me tell you, it gets WINDY out on the prairie, and we don’t want any of that cold air getting in.

We had some really nasty winter weather for a while that held things up for a bit, but things seem to be moving a lot faster now! By the end of the week we should have a new staircase so we can actually get to the loft without climbing a ladder. We thought that would be a nice touch.

It’s so much fun to watch it all change and start to become what we’ve been imagining. Slow and steady. We’ll be moving in before you know it.

:: Carrie ::