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Posted by on Jun 13, 2014 | 2 comments

Margaret Wohler’s Nature Sketchbooks

Margaret Wohler’s Nature Sketchbooks

I’ve been to two of Margaret Wohler’s nature journaling workshops, one for grown-ups at the Del Ray Artisans and one for kids at Huntley Meadows Park, where Margaret has spent more than 20 years as a park naturalist. When she teaches, she brings along a few of her own sketchbooks. I’ve always wanted to spend time one-on-one with Margaret to talk about her art. One afternoon recently, Margaret showed me some of the many journals she keeps in her home that are filled with notes and drawings. She loves the idea of filling sketchbooks with observations in nature, even, she says, if the drawings are crude at times or unfinished. The more one draws, the better the artist one becomes. Margaret always includes a few notes on the pages, such as the date, the weather and maybe temperature and cloud cover, as well as identification of various plants, insects, and other features. She’s experimented with a lot of different artistic media, but her favorite drawing implement is the thin-lined Japanese Goulet...

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Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 | 1 comment

An Artist’s Journey from Del Ray to the West Indies

An Artist’s Journey from Del Ray to the West Indies

We featured Sarah (Coffin) D’Alessandro on DIY Del Ray as an artist (potter, illustrator), student of arts management and all around DIYer running The Empty House Studio (TEHS) art space in Del Ray in 2013. When we discovered that Sarah had moved to the West Indies with her husband Andy as he finishes med school, we started reading her blog, The Study and The Studio, where she writes beautifully about her adventures and artistic endeavors. This is one of Sarah’s first of, we hope, many guest blogs from Dominica to Del Ray in which she shares how she creates art on whatever canvas she can find, including rocks, seeds and shells. This is where I live post The Empty House Studio (TEHS), in the tropical lands of the West Indies, on the nature island of Dominica (pronounced “dom-i-NEE-ka”). It’s exotic, vibrant and very difficult at times. The shapes, textures and colors are shocking to a native Virginian like me. I am enthralled with the visuals even after five months...

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Posted by on Aug 28, 2013 | 0 comments

Steffanie’s Old Town Suds

Steffanie’s Old Town Suds

Soap-making is a true DIY venture, one we’ve talked about before on DIY Del Ray. We’ve seen different techniques from soapers like Mellenie from Truly-Life and Rachel from Wessex Soaps (all locally sold), but what makes Steffanie’s version stand out is she includes ingredients you can both eat AND drink. Beer soap? Wine soap? Yes, it’s a thing! I visited Steffanie at her Alexandria condo to learn about the soap-making process, something Steffanie first learned about by watching YouTube videos. In addition to bar soap, she also makes produce wash, bath bombs, laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaners and disinfecting spray — all eco-friendly and homemade in her small kitchen workshop. Today, she walked me through the process of making bar soaps. Each recipe is a precise science — you must have the correct ratio of lye, water and oils. Why? Because one of the most important ingredients, lye, or sodium hydroxide, is extremely caustic and the wrong amount could lead to dangerous results. It’s such a volatile ingredient that in...

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Posted by on Mar 7, 2013 | 0 comments

Studio Tour: Jen-A-Fusion Fashion Accessories

Studio Tour: Jen-A-Fusion Fashion Accessories

Textile artist Jen Athanas knew she had to move out of her home studio in Del Ray when her fabric samples started toppling over on her. Now, she creates her handcrafted fashion accessories in a roomy studio space about 15 minutes south, in the Workhouse Arts Center. Jen has been working nights, busily preparing for an opening this weekend, but she took some time one evening to show me around her studio. She has one of the 100 art studios in the buildings that served as a prison until 2001 when Fairfax County, Virginia bought the property and turned the space into a cultural arts center. Jen works with recycled, reclaimed, vintage and new materials, which she cuts and then reconfigures into new wearable creations. She’s run her business, Jen-A-Fusion, for the past nine years. You can buy her accessories in her Etsy store and locally in Del Ray at Show of Hands. Jen organizes her supplies floor to ceiling neatly in plastic bins arranged by major color groups,...

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Posted by on Feb 4, 2013 | 0 comments

Welcome to the Empty House Studio

Welcome to the Empty House Studio

Imagine being a “modern day nomad artist with interior styling, organizing, and staging experience, in grad school and living with the ‘rents.” You don’t have much money, but you have a close-knit group of fellow artists with talent and creative energy to spare. And then one day you are asked if you’d like to live in a house that your cousin in Africa just bought, but won’t be moving into for another seven months. What do you do? If you’re like Sarah Coffin, you start a pop-up gathering place for artists of all shapes and sizes — painters, ceramicists, writers, poets, musicians, actors — to create, learn and grow. This is how the Empty House Studio came to life. Sarah’s cousin is completely supportive of the Empty House Studio project and actually was the one who read about DIY Del Ray all the way over in Africa and suggested Sarah contact us. The house, one of those classic Del Ray Bungalows, has two bedrooms which Sarah uses as art...

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