photography


A parody of my ACEO Gypsy Cat listing on Etsy

I apologize in advance for a post that will probably come across as complaining at best, bitter at worst…. but I do have a message for you to hear, if you shop online. Or sell online for that matter. ๐Ÿ˜‰

There seems to be a great deal of “Photoshopping” going on with product photography.

It has probably been happening since the dawn of the internet, or the birth of Photoshop, whichever came first ~ hehehe …. but lately I’ve been noticing it quite a bit on Etsy, and it’s bugging the crap out of me.

I do want to defend Photoshop, which has an unfair bad rap.
It’s a very useful tool when used correctly (to edit out stray marks & unwanted objects, brighten under-exposed photos, correct ugly color tints from incandescent light, and more)….

Artists can also create stunning photomanipulations (“photo collages”) using various images blended together, and you can even digitally paint with Photoshop… although a program like Corel Painter has better tools for creating the look of realistic oil or watercolor paintings.

I love Photoshop and use it daily. I cringe whenever I hear people speak of something as “being photoshopped” in a negative connotation.

But I’ll be honest… Photoshop can cover a multitude of sins, and actually allow online sellers to create deceptive photo listings for products that do not exist and/or need to be seriously enhanced to attract customers.

Whenever I find an Etsy listing that is obviously a photomanipulated product, I have to question the quality of the item:
Why isn’t the seller comfortable taking a real photo of it?
Are the colors of the print inferior to the digital scan?
Are there flaws? Cracks?

I’m not a professional product photographer, and my earliest Etsy listings look like cat poop to me now.
I seriously wonder why my first customers ever purchased from me, except that they must have seen some potential, and were willing to give me a chance.
Thank you guys!!

But I spend a lot of time staging and taking photos of my artwork, framed on the wall and lying flat, so that customers can see the real prints and judge their quality.

Shopping online is hard enough, without a tangible product to examine… we don’t need to muddy the waters, confuse, and deceive our customers with smoke and mirrors.

Take for example: a listing for an 8″x10″ photo print. The accompanying image looks like this:

Parody listing, Photoshopping a digital file on the wall

(Using Anne Elliot Cat, I created this parody of an actual item listing I saw on Etsy… an enormous 8″x10″ photo hanging on the wall)

I will confess to having occasionally used an image I’ve taken of an 8″x10″ print for a 5″x7″ listing, and vise versa, if there was no obvious point of reference in the photo to compare sizes…
But I wouldn’t dream of listing an ACEO mini print using a poster sized image on the wall. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Another item that gets Photoshopped frequently is the infamous “art pendant”. Whether they are selling Scrabble tile pendants or “vintage” lockets, I’ll come across 130 copies of one generic photograph of a blank pendant with artwork digitally pasted onto it.

The trouble with this lazy habit is that the quality of the real printed image may not meet customers’ expectations; depending on the printer, paper, and type of resin/glue used, the print might not retain the beautiful, vivid colors and small details of the original digital file.

The only companies that might be able to get away with this are professional print-on-demand labs, and websites like Zazzle.com who have a solid reputation and stellar customer service.

Otherwise, can you really trust a shop full of digital clones??

Using Photoshop to paste photos onto blank pendants.

And while you may be thinking that customer feedback would highlight the poor quality items being sold, thus separating the wheat from the chaff… remember that feedback can be deceptive, too. It’s always best to read the comments.

For instance, in the case of one faux-photo-happy pendant seller… with thousands of sales, and 100% positive feedback… there were some obvious incidents of poor quality and misrepresented photos, that actually inspired me to write this blog post.

Last night, I stumbled upon a beautiful pendant while browsing a friend’s recent Etsy favorites, and was tempted to buy one.
When I visited the seller’s shop, however, I noticed that ALL the product listings were created using Photoshop… which made me curious:
What do these pendants really look like?
With thousands of sales, people must be pleased with them. Right??

But did you realize that 100% feedback doesn’t mean every customer is happy…
that, in fact, a negative review on Etsy will be cancelled out by a couple hundred positives, restoring a seller’s ‘perfect’ score?

I didn’t think it was possible to claim something was 100% if it wasn’t entirely true. 99.99% maybe. ๐Ÿ˜‰

In addition to a few negatives ( 2>10 ), and neutral ratings in the double digits, many of their positive reviews weren’t entirely positive….
For whatever reason, these customers chose to give a good rating, but the accompanying written feedback tells a different story:

“….not as bright and vibrantly colored as what you see on website…”

“… I just expected something different from the picture…”

“…They are a bit darker than shown in the pictures…”

“…I thought they would be metallic and basically prettier, but they’re not.”

Sharing my opinion that feedback scores should accurately reflect the buyers’ experience doesn’t always make me popular in Etsy forums.
Sellers are happy to get ‘second chances’ to reclaim their 100% status, especially if they felt a negative was undeserved.

I get it. Really. Sometimes satisfaction is truly beyond a seller’s control.
A customer could potentially leave a negative because they waited until Dec. 22nd to order a custom gift, and were upset because it didn’t arrive in the mail the following day.

I’ve worked with the public enough to know that pleasing people is an art form all to itself, and very few of us have completely mastered it.
Mistakes happen, too.

In my first year on Etsy, I started selling journals with my artwork on the cover.
My friend and fellow Etsian, Lily, from TwoStrayCats, purchased one… and unfortunately I didn’t ensure its rigidity in the mailer.

The postal worker folded it in half, and shoved it into her mailbox.

Ouch. When she contacted me, I was horrified and embarrassed…. I offered a replacement and a refund, but she benevolently refused both, saying that after a bit of ironing, it was almost flat.
And the crease gave it character.
Bless her heart.

It would’ve been reasonable to chew me out, demand her money back, and perhaps even leave negative feedback.
Instead she wrote:
“The dashing Mr Darcy is now officially residing in Alberta ~ Canada
and I must say that I am very happy to have made his acquaintance…

(while ironing out his wrinkles)”

I added that last bit. heehee ๐Ÿ˜‰

However, the close encounter has stuck with me, and with each package that I carefully support with thick cardboard, conducting my various “Bend Tests”… I’m continually learning from my previous mistakes.

Apparently after a year’s worth of disappointed customers’ comments, this paper collage jewelry seller still uses Photoshop rather than taking accurate photographs of his/her real pendants. And obviously hasn’t learned a thing.

But I have. And hopefully you have as well.

When you’re shopping online, take a few extra minutes to read the entire listing – pay attention to size, color, and materials – and look carefully at the photos. All the photos. Are any of them unnecessarily duplicated?

Read the feedback comments, even the positive ones. Especially the positive ones.
Some of them may be negatives in disguise.

(And yes, you can typically tell which negatives are undeserved, too, if you read the whole story.
Or if they don’t bother to explain a poor rating at all.)

And lastly give props to those sellers who value integrity, and don’t use Photoshop as an excuse for laziness, or worse… blatant deception.

Artisans who spend hours ~ (hundreds of hours) ~ brushing up on their photography skills, or hiring a professional to shoot their products, to give you a faithful representation of their work.

So that “what you see is what you get”.
Even on the internet. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Wild violets, nature photograph by Tara Fly.

If these blog posts aren’t worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, I have to lay partial blame to the ridiculous childrens’ television program playing in the background. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Yes, I’m guilty of using Nick Jr. for entertainment… especially on too-hot-to-play-outside days.
Although 80% of the time, the kids run off into another room, to plot mischief or merely to raise my blood pressure with their squeals and giggles…. (Aargh, what are they doing NOW?!)…
And I’m left in the room – alone – listening to Dora, Kai-Lan, or *shudders* worse yet, the Backyardigans.

How can someone possibly compose a masterpiece, when yellow penquins and hippos are singing:

“I want my river back, I want my river back
Fresh water’s what I lack, I want my river back…
For one thing I feel thirsty, or another thing I feel hot.
And some folks like to feel that way, but I myself do not!”

What’s going on with this crazy weather anyhow? ๐Ÿ˜›

I’ve had to double-check a few copies of published 2011 calendars, to see whether or not last month was officially removed from the roster.
It certainly seemed as if Mother Nature was in a temper, and substituted 2 months of April’s showers severe storms, instead of the usual balmy breezes of May…

Spring itself suffered from neglect, except for a few lovely days in February, where 70+ degree temperatures convinced the bulbs and buds to sprout early.

Magnolia tree blossoms, photo by Tara Fly.

I was lucky to capture the local advent of cherry and magnolia blossoms in March, even though my afternoon walk through Funkstown was accompanied by a downpour of rain.

I love taking photographs during rainshowers!
Not only do I get to practice those popular “water droplet” macro shots, but without the harsh contrasts from the sun, the colors of nature are richer and more vibrant in the diffused light.

wildflowers taken by Tara Fly.

You can see more photos from my Spring Walk series on Flickr… ๐Ÿ™‚

Over the last few days, our temperatures have spiked into the triple digits…. *melting* …and the window fan in my art studio wasn’t adequately keeping the room comfortable; testing my dedication to remain long enough to get anything done. LOL
So we installed another air conditioner, to match the metal boxes hanging from each bedroom window.

To help offset the increase in electricity, I’ve taken further steps towards greener living… by putting the clothes dryer into semi-retirement.
Yes, friends, we’re drying clothes on the line!

Hanging clothes on the line

This was a common practice for us, while living in the country, but I gave up line-drying laundry over five years ago when we moved.
I’ve already left clothes hanging during rain showers, and overnight!

The towels sometimes feel like sandpaper, and everyone in the family thinks I’m crazy because I like my towels that way!
Bone dry towels seem to absorb more water than the expensive, fluffy ones.

We spruced up the front garden with a few additions – including a bleeding heart bush, a rosebush, some forget-me-nots, pinks, and phlox… the coleus bulbs which grew last summer will be filling in the front again this year.

TaraFly's garden

One aspect of gardening I don’t particularly enjoy is weeding, but not for the reason you may think.
I don’t mind getting my hands and knees muddy (and my feet too!) while digging around in the soil.
But determining which plants are “attractive” enough to let live, and which ones must be ripped out by their roots to starve to death, seems akin to mass slaughter: The Hitler of wild plants.

Woodland fairy garden of clovers

I realize that an overabundance of weeds can choke the nutrients from my pretty flowers, and some culling needs to be done. But I’m not aggressive about removing weeds altogether.

Small batches of clovers can stay, as well as wildflowers… and I love the wild berry vine growing along the back wall, even though its vines encroach on my other plants and need to be pruned back. It does a marvelous job of camoflaging the ugly plastic drain.

Drain pipe covered by a wild raspberry bush

Another project in the works is to grow some food. Our first batch of lettuce and green pepper seedlings were ravaged by kids and cats… but we’re trying the experiment again.

Our strawberry plant has been a big hit, though! Even if the toddlers are impatient to eat them, not fully understanding the concept of ripeness.
We’ve been through the discussion of green vs yellow bananas many times, so I pointed out that red strawberries can be eaten, and green ones need more time to grow.

Jake and the strawberry

Recently, Mia began excitedly ‘babbling’ about the strawberries… which was odd, because her vocabulary is usually quite clear.
I asked her to repeat herself, which she did – emphatically, but I still couldn’t understand what she was saying.
Over and over, she insisted upon using these words… and her confidence was unshaken, as I tried to suggest other possibilities.

“Hongsuh” and “bluesuh” sounded like total nonsense, but I let it go.

Until a few days later… sitting right here, at my desk, attempting to work, I overheard the words again.
Jake and Mia were eating lunch while watching “Ni-hao, Kai-Lan”; bits and pieces of the annoying catch-phrases crept through my selective sound barrier:

“Let’s Find… (clap, clap)… Out why!”
“You make my heart feel super happy!”

And suddenly, there they were! The two words she’d been using for the strawberries: ๏ปฟ ๏ปฟ๏ปฟ๏ปฟ‘hรณng sรจ’ and lวœ sรจ

They were learning Mandarin Chinese colors – green and red.

Mia eating a homegrown strawberry

She knew what she was saying all along! I felt guilty for discouraging her, and realized perhaps I should start brushing up on my Nick Jr. ๐Ÿ˜‰

But not today… the weather is tolerable, so we’re hitching up the wagon and heading to the park.

I’ve been distracted and unfocused this past week, bouncing from one project to another… but I did manage to sneak in a photo shoot using my awesome new thrift store finds!

soft dreamy vintage photoshop filter tutorial

Gossip Girls 8x10 Archival print, shown in frame.

It happened to be an overcast day, when the children finally decided to behave themselves, so my lighting situation wasn’t perfect… but nothing a little Photoshop couldn’t solve, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’ve also been excited to experiment with some vintage filter techniques, so I fired up Google and set off to find a great Photoshop tutorial.

This “breathtaking, dreamy, vintage” tutorial seemed to fit the bill at first glance, but after reading through it, I found myself disappointed by its rigid structure.

Use these (x,y,z) settings… download this (abc.jpg) texture… and this (etc.jpg) one… and this (blah.abr) brush…

I know.. I know… What the heck was I expecting with a tutorial?!
I dunno, perhaps a little wiggle room… the chance to stretch my own creative muscles.

Because you see, I don’t play by the rules.

I don’t follow recipes to the teaspoon, or sew using patterns…

I quit piano lessons at the age of six, after only two months, because I was frustrated with my teacher’s strict and seemingly limited Suzuki method.
Impatient to play any piece by sight, I begged my grandmother to “just teach me to read the treble and bass clefs, pulleeze?”

With that in mind, after getting the basic gist of this photoshop tutorial, I threw it out the window. My childish foot stomping: “Don’t tell me what to do! Let me do it myself!”

But I’d like to show you step-by-step what I did instead, using PS Elements 6 (as the original tutorial had different settings)… and encourage you to explore these steps on your own as well.
Just remember as we get started, no decision is right or wrong, as long as you enjoy how it looks!

Another Vintage Dreamy Photoshop Tutorial

I started with a few shots taken of my “Gossip Girls” Regency Cat art, framed and hanging on the wall.
You can see here that I had some issues with lighting contrast – bright sunny spots and deep shadows.
Hey, that’s okay – *deep breath* – we can fix that problem.

three photographs of TaraFly's art studio

Three photos of my framed artwork, taken from different angles...

I chose the photo on the left, because I liked the angle, and all the key elements (props, etc.) are relatively centered.

The reason why this matters?
Well, I want to upload the finished piece to my Etsy shop, where pics are recommended to be 1000×1000 square.
When I set up my photo shoots, I try to keep a cropped “square” in mind.

In this screenshot, I’m using Levels to fix the lighting problem, which can be done by sliding the arrows (left or right) to accentuate the light, shadows, or midtones.
In this case, I slid the right arrow over towards the center (where the wavy lines begin), causing the entire image to grow brighter.

adjusting light with photoshop levels

Brightening my photo with Levels

**Quick note – normally, you wouldn’t want to saturate a photo this much.
See how washed out my poor porcelain pitcher is? For a nice “realistic” photo, I might create a mask to ignore the basin, and lighten just the chair and wall.

Next, I cropped my image into a rough square for Etsy… it was actually 1000×960 but close enough.
Obviously, you can crop your picture however you please, or not at all.

Okay… here is where the real fun begins.

1. We’re going to create duplicate copies of this image: I made 2 copies (plus the original).
We will be adding a different color effect to each copy, and then blending them together.

creating duplicate layers in photoshop

Right click, and select duplicate background/layer

2. Make two of the copies invisible, by clicking the eyeball next to each thumbnail. That way, we can work with one layer at a time, and see the results. (Otherwise, the layers above would block our view)

3. Go under “Enhance > Adjust Color” …. we have multiple options here, and you’re free to try them all.
Our goal is to shift the color balance of each layer… making the photo appear redder, or greener, etc.

Adjusting Color Variations in Photoshop

Selecting Increase Red for this photo's midtone colors

I personally chose “Color Variations”, which allows me to alter the color values of the image’s shadows, midtones, and highlights.

4. I selected “Midtones”, set the sliding arrow about mid-way, then clicked on “Increase Red”.
And… Voila!

TaraFly's tutorial, increasing red with Color Variations in PS

Yes, that is definitely an increase in red!

I did the same thing for both of my duplicate layers, by making each one visible again, and increasing the blues and greens.

5. I chose to increase the blue shadows on one layer, and the green highlights on the other.
Resulting in this:

Altering the highlights and shadow colors in Photoshop

Looking at my green and blue layers, side by side

6. Now we blend the layers all together, using the Blending mode (located next to the Opacity level).
The two duplicate layers get blended, and you can experiment with different blending styles of course.

I chose Soft Light.

Adding soft light filter to blend layer in Photoshop

Selecting Soft Light from the list of blending options...

7. I also set the Opacity level of the Blue shadowed layer at 100% and the Green highlighted layer at 45%, which toned down the green somewhat.
If a particular color looks too strong for you, try a different blending mode (Overlay, Lighten, etc…) or even adjust the Opacity to a lower setting.
Everything is negotiable.

After you’ve finished blending and playing with the transparency, you’ll have a better idea of how your image is coming along…
Mine looks like this:

creating a soft dreamy vintage style image in Photoshop

It looks very warm, soft, and inviting, doesn't it?

8. At this point, I merged all the layers into one by selecting “Layer > Flatten Image” from the top menu.

This isn’t necessary, but neither is having a bunch of loose layers hanging around, since we’re basically done editing them… it just keeps things tidy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Okay, now we’re ready to add some aged effects!

You know those spots and splotches of UV and acid damage commonly found on vintage photographs? We can re-create that appearance digitally using a photograph of clouds. Seriously!

You probably have pictures of clouds somewhere on your computer or photo albums; the shot doesn’t have to be award-winning, so don’t worry, but it helps if the clouds have a nice shape and strong outline.

If you don’t have any on hand, let me direct you to a great stock photographer for your fluffy cloud needs – Hatestock on Deviantart.com.
She’s an artist who also provides free-for-any-use stock photographs.

9. I took this cloud photo from her gallery and cropped it, resizing it to match my photo dimensions.

dark clouds with patch of sunlight, photo by Hatestock on Deviantart

Photograph courtesy of hatestock.deviantart.com

10. Next, I added a new transparent layer above the cloud image, to experiment with gradients.

Yes, you can add gradients directly onto the photo, but I also like to play with blending modes.
I’m just a layer junkie, okay?! ๐Ÿ˜›

11. Choose two colors that you would like to create a hazy effect with… (I picked a pinkish violet and gold) and add a gradient over the transparent layer.

Create one by selecting the Gradient Tool, and click/drag your mouse over the transparent layer, to establish the direction with which one color will fade into the other.
Mine was a diamond-shaped gradient, beginning in one corner and expanding outward.

12. Then we can blend it into the clouds on the layer beneath, using various settings (Overlay, Vivid Light, Dodge, etc…)
until you find something interesting that you like.

I chose Color Dodge, and set the Opacity to 85%… creating a large burst of whitish yellow light and fluffy pink/purple clouds.

Using Photoshop gradients to add special effects to clouds and sky

My gradient in the corner, and my new pink cloud layer underneath

13. Merge the layer onto your clouds, then copy and paste this new creation onto your original image.
Again, adjust the blending mode to suit your tastes.

I used Vivid Light at 50% Opacity this time.

Creating a vintage style photo in photoshop, adding cloud texture

Clouds create a gorgeous deteriorated effect, don't they?

*Keep in mind, you DO want these colored clouds to be visible, even if the image looks really weird at this point. LOL

I also wanted to add another texture to age it even further, add a bit of graininess and a few tiny scratches… like this poor photo has been kicked around in a dresser for fifty-odd years.
The perfect thing to get a texture from, is a bit of rusty, scuffed up metal…. like an old, grimy cookie sheet.

an old rusty cookie sheet, used for a metal texture in Photoshop

Well, not truly grimy... it does get washed after every use.

Please don’t tell me that your cookie sheets look nothing like this, or I’ll accuse you of sounding like my mother. ๐Ÿ˜›
Hey, I line them with aluminum foil.
And…. they’ve been scrubbed a million times.
They’re clean, I swear!!

But I digress.

You can snap a picture of some old, dirty metal object in your home… or scan it…
OR …for those of you with pristine, immaculate homes … *cough* yeahright *cough* …you can surf the web (i.e. Deviantart) for “rusty metal textures”.

14. One way or another, grab an image of a rusty, nasty looking scrap of metal… preferably scratched or dented… then crop and resize it to fit your project.

15. Copy and paste the metal image over your cloud layer, and set the blending mode to Overlay, with 100% Opacity.

A photo with two textures applied for vintage look in Photoshop

Now THIS looks like a beaten-up, weathered photograph.

Using Overlay eliminates the majority of its color, and leaves you with just the texture of scratches and scuff marks.
You could’ve also converted it to black and white scale first, but it isn’t necessary.
If a bit of the metal color comes through, it just adds to the effect, right?

So, by now you’re probably thinking “What the frak have you done to this picture?!”
It does look pretty rough! LOL

But wait! Here’s the best part:

16. Take your bottom layer (with your color-altered image on it) and duplicate it.

17. Drag this new copy up to the top of your layer heap, above all the textured stuff….

Now of course, all the textures are hidden under this new layer, which matches the bottom layer, like a rainbow sandwich.
But not for long.

18. Set the blending mode on the duplicate layer for Multiply, and leave the Opacity at 100% by default.

The result is that your duplicate image now softens the effects of the cloud and metal texture, while still allowing them to bleed through.

dreamy, soft, vintage aged photoshop tutorial by TaraFly

At last, a soft and romantic vintage inspired photo.

At this point, I’m calling it quits! LOL I like my picture just the way it is.

19. When you’re finished, click “Layer > Flatten Image” and save it as a .jpg file.

However, you might want to continue making small adjustments…
Perhaps it’s still a bit dark, and you want to brighten it? Go ahead.
Add a sepia filter? Sure, why not!

One thing I’ve noticed with my product photos:
** The clouds or metal texture sometimes will encroach on key elements that you want undisturbed. **

I could’ve easily wound up with my framed artwork of “Gossip Girls” covered in purple clouds or rusty black spots.
Not exactly flattering when I’m trying to sell reproduction prints, eh?

In that case, I would need to take the Eraser Tool, and erase the cloud or metal texture layer just inside the framed area, or whatever object needs to remain free from clutter… like the faces of people, for example.

Experimenting with Photoshop is an ongoing process, and as I said, there really isn’t a right or wrong way to use it.
If someone tells you otherwise, bite them. Not too hard, though. ๐Ÿ˜‰

You should feel free to take this tutorial as a starting point, and make improvements, or completely throw it out and start fresh…. but I’d love to see what you create!

If you did this project, please show me your results!
If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. ๐Ÿ™‚

TaraFly's 3-year-old daughter Mia in the studio.

My daughter Mia, posing with Mommy's thrift store finds.

This weekend I had the rare opportunity to spend Saturday afternoon treasure hunting.

Joe stayed at home with the three little beasts, and I hijacked the car for a pleasure-filled frolic through Hagerstown’s thrift-store district. ๐Ÿ˜‰

My purpose for this little adventure was to find some props for staging photo shoots.
I’ve been growing increasing dissatisfied with my current set-up…
Even though friends tell me “Your shop looks great!” … I’ve decided that I want to brand my work against soft, romantic backdrops of lace and porcelain.

I have this vague destination in mind, and I’m struggling to find the right path to get there.

Most people have enough “things” lying around the house, that if mixed with a little creativity, can produce interesting tableaux…
and believe me, I’ve searched our house from top to bottom.
My blinders must be heavily padded, because I’ve given up, unable find any cute knickknacks to stage a scene with.

We don’t really own much anymore… I’ve learned one lesson after years of living with cats and children:

1. Do NOT bring anything valuable or fragile into your home.
And
2. Don’t grow attached to your material possessions.
Okay, two lessons rolled into one. ๐Ÿ˜‰

But I’m determined to set my work apart… even more so than it already is… so it’s off to the Goodwill thrift store, to look for diamonds in the rough.

wooden jewelry box with keyhole lock

a charming wooden jewelry box

In the past, my trips to the second-hand shops were focused on finding usable, affordable items – tables, dressers, toddler clothing – especially children’s coats and seasonal items that will be destined to repeat the adoption cycle in a few months.

I don’t normally see Hagerstown’s thrift stores as eclectic troves of buried gems, not like the dusty yet magical shops depicted in made-for-television films… where the heroine discovers one-hundred-year-old love letters in an antique writing desk, and embarks on a journey to uncover the couple’s star-crossed history.

Browsing the racks of my local Goodwill typically gives me as much excitement as weeding out my closet.
My neighbors’ discarded apparel, worn paperbacks, and chipped dishware look nearly identical to our own.

As the saying goes: one man’s trash is another man’s… ermmm… trash.

porcelain water pitcher, basin, candle holder with handle, copper skillet

A few of my recently acquired treasures...

Saturday was different, however. My mission wasn’t to search for everyday functional items… rather, I specifically wanted old junk.
The older the better.
If a piece wanted to tell me its story, I would invite it home for coffee and biscuits.

I walked into the Goodwill with a fresh pair of eyes – leaving those industrial-strength blinders at home where Joe would likely need them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I headed past the racks of clothes and toys, making a beeline for Housewares. Originally hoping to find some crystal goblets or china plates… I was met with initial disappointment at the limited selection.

But my luck soon turned, after stumbling upon this lovely porcelain water basin and pitcher… looking for all the world like it belonged on the bedroom nightstand in a prairie cabin. I scooped it up for $8.00 and canvassed the shelves for similar accessories.

porcelain pitcher and water basin with vintage photo filters

My pitcher and basin, with candle sticks on a string...

Additional treasures I unearthed included a colonial style candle holder with handle, a pair of large wax candles molded as Victorian Christmas carolers, and a wooden plaque sporting a reproduction of baroque painter Peter Paul Ruben’s self-portrait with his wife Isabella Brandt.

trio of painted bird figurines and box covered in tapestry paper

My bird trio, and a papered box

I also picked up this decorative trio of bird figurines for $5.00, because I liked the irony of photographing my predatory cat portraits alongside their painted prey.

Quite a number of people gave me strange looks after glancing at the odd mixture of items in my basket…
I wasn’t the typical Goodwill shopper: arms filled with paperback romances and blouse/skirt sets.

Studying my finds as an ensemble, I was mightily pleased with how well they coordinated (at least, they seemed related to me) …
and calling it quits, I hauled my collection up to front counter.

Passing the furniture section along the way….

Where I spied two lovely Victorian balloon back chairs positioned near the corner window.

victorian balloon back side chairs at thrift store

Pair of Victorian balloon back chairs at the Goodwill thrift store

I rested my loot on a farmhouse table, and went over to examine the side chairs.
They were $35.00 a piece, and although I preferred the chair with the squarish shaped seat, naturally I wanted them both!

Unfortunately, I hadn’t budgeted $70 to spend on furniture.
I snapped a couple of photos of them with my cell phone (my first attempt using the mobile’s camera, and it worked!) …before letting the cashier ring up my other items, and went home to beg discuss it over with Joe.

He acknowledged that one chair could be afforded, so I sent him back to grab the smaller one that I favored.

Shortly after he arrived at the shop, I received a phone call from him: the chair that I wanted, he feared, wasn’t structurally sound…
One of its legs had been broken and re-glued, something I hadn’t noticed.
I did see the cracks in its back frame, and some of the carved details had been sanded down.

The round chair, however, looked alright and felt sturdy when he sat on it. So I forfeited the smaller chair for the opportunity to bring home its sibling.
[See: Rule #1 above]

In addition to adding character to my product photos, this lovely piece inspires me to model again in my Regency wardrobe. I haven’t created any new stock photos in years.

TaraFly's art studio photography corner, with Victorian chair

My ready-to-shoot photography corner of the studio...

I even reorganized my art studio to accommodate an actual photography corner, where my precious chair and a temporarily repurposed filing cabinet can remain dressed and ready for lights, camera, action.

Of course, you know what this means… right? More work for me!
For the next few weeks, I’ll need to experiment with staging and photographing my art prints, incorporating these new props.

You won’t notice dramatic changes overnight, but I’ll gradually re-shoot the majority of my listings.

And once I finally have my shop designed exactly as I’ve envisioned it…

It will be time to begin all over again.

Because my website, much like my house, gets vacuumed 37.2 times per day on average… dust and fur doesn’t settle around here. *sigh*

rural countryside autumn

This week, in lieu of the already-written rant regarding sleazy sales-reps that I planned to post, I will share a few images to celebrate autumn color.
Since I don’t feel like offering sleaze and sales today. ๐Ÿ™‚

If it weren’t so blasted cold during this time of year, autumn would easily be my favorite season. Spring is lovely, certainly, but I prefer the rich colors of fall:
golden yellow and burgandy, umber and evergreen.

autumn fall tree red green yellow

Last weekend, the weather was unusually warm for November, and my children recklessly ripped off their jackets (claiming to be overheated from exercise) ….
I protested as a sensible mother, but I couldn’t help but snap a few pictures of their play.
These autumn days are too few, and soon the snow will encroach upon our back porch and make outdoor fun more laborious (for the adults, anyway).

TaraFly's son and oldest daughter

Tuesday required a trip to the post office, thanks to a wonderful buyer who purchased my “Queen of Cats” painting. I decided to walk into town, taking a few photographs along the way to document my journey, as we parted ways and bid her safe travel to Chicago.

wet rainy sidewalk autumn leaves

Tuesday was a typical November day – it was bitingly cold and it rained the entire afternoon. Everyone thought I was nuts to walk in that weather, even though the post office is a mere 3 blocks away. Three looong blocks.

white house autumn tree side door

I didn’t want to waste the car’s gas, which was very low, but secretly I wanted to explore Funkstown a bit.
We moved to the outskirts of Hagerstown seven months ago, currently living right on the border of the two “towns”, but I’ve only seen these streets through a car window while running my errands.

rainy day wet sidewalk autumn fall leaves

Besides, I’ve wanted to take some nice nature shots of autumn trees and so forth, and these rainy days are the best conditions for capturing true colors.

So off I went… with my little slippers on, a bulky coat given to me by a former co-worker three years ago (because I owned none), no umbrella, armed only with my camera and a very carefully packaged painting wrapped in layers of plastic grocery bags.

yellow autumn fall leaves cement steps

I began with the intent on snapping images of trees, brightly colored leaves, and maybe an odd weathered fence or two, but I wound up being distracted by the architecture of the houses I passed.

19th century 1800s stone house barn door basement

Funkstown was built in the 1760’s (originally named Jerusalem) and was the setting for one of our American Civil War battles. Of course, everyone who lives in this area knows that battles were fought everywhere!
In the three states where I’ve resided, there are monuments and signposts littered along the highways and main streets, proclaiming this or that is a historic landmark.
With Fort Frederick 30 minutes down the road, I’m sure this entire area of land was crawling with dying soldiers, and is now crawling with ghosts.

creepy old house in funkstown maryland

One house in particular looked especially creepy… and I took a detour, after stopping at the P.O., in order to get a better look at it.

I snapped a few pictures, and then realized the house is still occupied. Hehe oops….
That is, unless the resident spirits like to leave their living room lights on. Hopefully nobody saw me poking around with a camera. In the rain.
You see why my family doesn’t let me run loose in town much? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Closer look at creepy spooky old house

Doubling back, I wandered down both sides of the main street – Baltimore St. – taking pictures, and admiring the molding and trim work of the older homes. I also passed a couple antique shops – and stopped inside to warm up and look around.
Browsing over the belongings of people who’ve been dead for centuries is food for the imagination… old travel trunks, rocking chairs, a baby walker from the 1800’s, a loveseat, clothing irons (made from real iron) with detachable handles, and plenty of handwritten documents under glass.

antique store in funsktown maryland

If I had a fortune, I’d furnish my entire house in antiques… except for the upholstered items, because a 200-year-old loveseat wouldn’t last 20 minutes around my cats.

Guten Tag gift shop funkstown maryland

I also discovered a quaint little gift shop, named “Guten Tag”, which is owned and operated by a fellow artist/craftsperson.
She only conducts business Thursday-Saturday (small towns are like that), so I’m summoning the courage to return and introduce myself and my artwork next week…. and hopefully I won’t make my initial impression looking like a wet mangy dog. ๐Ÿ˜‰

terra cotta pots outside roostervane gardens

I know the brightness of these photos look deceiving, but I assure you that it was dark and raining most of the way.
I had the camera settings adjust the exposure to let in more light, but the sky looked more like this…

yellow streetlight in storm rain dark sky

You can see more photos from this trip here on Flickr.
Simply click on a thumbnail to browse them all.

brick steps wet rain autumn leaves

I encourage everyone to take a walk downtown in the rain. Leave your umbrella at home, and bring a camera instead.
People WILL stare at you, and you might find yourself labelled as crazy… or at least find yourself catching a cold. But there is nothing quite so exciting as setting off on an adventure in your own neighborhood, taking a few undiscovered side streets, and like every good explorer – documenting what you find.

yellow peeling paint cobalt blue door house

The best part: Coming home to a warm house, kicking off your soggy sandals, sinking into the couch with a cup of hot chocolate and a dollop of Cool Whip… and sharing the beauty of where you are with friends.

rain water droplet on autumn leaves