Before Stratoz and I started making our own art, we were big fans and collectors of art tile. When we discovered the Handmade Tile Association Guide to Handmade Tile and Mosaic Mosaic Artists, we knew we wanted to be a part of it. A box of the glossy catalogs arrived!
The HTA is based in Minnesota, and many of the artists listed are in the midwest or pacific northwest, so it was cool to help fill out the northeast listings, in the company of two tile makers we love and own work from Moravian Pottery & Tile Works, and the Sligo Creek Tile Company.
I featured our house numbers. I braved the learning curve of figuring out how to make an advertisement with photoshop. Part of my planning for the business is getting the point that I can hire other talented folks to do some of the things that take me a long time!
I am grateful for clients who ask for colors in such a vivd and detailed way, and then set me loose to translate this into glass mosaic. Stratoz’s Flickr friend Ghir commissioned a house number for a Christmas gift for her sister. She described the house and her vision:
It is a bluish grey with darker charcoal grey roof, with dark teal and white trim. Inside, they’ve decorated with many items from Alaska trips, so the colors on the outside of their house remind me of weathered totem poles. I was thinking white numbers on a dark teal or teal and blue mixed field, maybe with contrasting details of dull red or yellow for the totem pole idea. . .
This made me think of one of my favorite artists, the Canadian Emily Carr(1871-1945), and some paintings from Emily Carr: An Introduction to her Life and Work by Anne Newlands. Emily Carr made totem poles a central part of her art, and in 1912 visited over 15 coastal First Nations villages in Northern British Columbia, drawing and painting the carvings. The watercolor that I remembered from Newlands’ book was House Post, Tsatsinuchomi, BC, with the weathered blue-green and bits of red. Working on this house number commission was a delight, and several other clients have asked to have those colors in their signs.
House numbers are a source of reimagining for Stratoz and myself here at Nutmeg Designs. First, Stratoz designs the pattern for each house’s digits. Each configuration of numbers has its own personality, own way of relating number to number. 54s has a great swooping on right and left with the curved 5 and 2, meeting in the middle with the 4 and its cross bar. The client is in Evanston, IL, and his house was painted in “vintage wine” and “pine grove.” These are earthier versions of red and green, and its interesting to see how a shift toward muted tones makes for a still resonant pair of complementary colors. The client said he was drawn to how our numbers often seem to glow(even though light is not actually passing through), and he wished he had another house to commission a sign for. We love to delight our clients!
Stratoz and I feel very blessed when we have the opportunity to create something that will give clients joy every time they come home. Adam in Pittsburgh commissioned this 1441, and we were bowled over by the note he included with his order:
I searched for house numbers on Etsy and your designs were one of the first ones that I found. After looking through pages of other designs, I kept returning to your work! Each of your pieces are wonderfully unique, and imbued with love and care. Every tile is crafted individually. No other artists who are creating house numbers seem to capture so much elegance in a single piece.
Thank you Adam! He said he was “seething with anticipation” and for a moment we had some trepidation about whether we would meet his expectations, and were delighted and relieved when he loved his sign and sent us photos after installing it. We also had a moment of anxiety when we saw the orange ribbon, since we don’t want any wind disaster to befall our clients, but Adam assured us that the ribbon is just for show and there is heavy gauge wire hiding beneath. I love having a client who adds his own orange, since I am a big orange fan(as evidenced by my Orange Tuesday posts and Orange Tuesday Pinterest Board.)
Adam also graciously included a comparison photo of his old address plaque and his new one, and we appreciate the love.
Stratoz has a gift for communicating the essence of an animal, and our latest house number commission had three totems meaningful to the clients: a hippo, a butterfly and a feather. The hippo was the disconcerting one! We’d never looked closely at hippos before. We thought “gray” but there are flashes of pink. What are your totems?
It was Stratoz’s birthday, and he asked me to take a photo of him in our front yard, by the brand new Sunflower, holding a sheet of glass destined for a lizard stepping stone for Snowcatcher. Gardens and glass are two of Stratoz’s favorite things, so this is an apt portrait, and also the final one in his Flickr Project 365, which he started the previous year on his birthday. The year has been one of growing creativity and more collaboration in our art, with our mosaic house numbers(observe the glimpse of “45” through the porch), and the Fruit of the Spirit commission.
When we met in 1986, Stratoz was already drawing intricate doodles with colored pencils, but starting Nutmeg Designs, and making art that expresses our spirit and brings joy was not what we predicted. We have both evolved into our “two-studio-one-bedroom-rowhouse” and my heart is happy that we were blessed to celebrate another birthday weekend(my birthday was July 29th, and July 30th is celebrated by annexation.)
Are you part of a creative couple? Tell me about someone who supports you, inspires you, and is creative with you. Creativity is not limited to art. It informs all joyful things.
The response to our collaborative custom house numbers, which we premiered in November, has been fabulous! I can tell by the way people gravitate to the sample sign that the combination of mosaic and slate is striking a chord with those who want something different to number their house. It’s a pleasure to create something that acts as an identifier and badge of someone’s home. As someone said to me, “It’s not numbers from a big box home improvement store.”
Stratoz and I were planning to make house number plaques, and not getting to it, and then our good friend Joanne encouraged us to make a sample one so people could see one incarnate. We did the 960, which has been on tour with us to shows, and are grateful for Joanne’s push to create one. The 477 was one of the first commissions, and went to someone from my former life as a librarian, and it’s nice to have him as a client once again! I love how intense the blue turned out, and so did he.
We work with the client to choose the colors that sing with their home. Some send pictures of their homes, some know what colors they like. Legibility is very important to us, and we advocate for high contrast, so the numbers pop. We have a gallery of completed signs on Nutmeg Designs’ Flickr for inspiration. [Edited to add: Check our website for a Nutmeg Designs House Numbers Colorways Guide.]
Stratoz uses his design ability to make a drawing of the numbers for each commission, creating cutting lines, and relating the numbers to each other as a unit. He cuts out the pattern, then the glass, grinds to the exact shape on his glass grinder, and hands the pieces over to me in the adjacent studio.
I use newly quarried Pennsylvania Slate, from just an hour up the road in Northampton, as the base with a coat of primer to let the maximum color shine from the glass.
After tracing the pattern onto the slate, I glue the pieces from Stratoz into their configuration, which involves some tweaking and adjustments, since there are multiple pieces, and they all relate to each other, and need to look like the numbers they represent!
Then the intricate work of mosaicking around the numbers begins, figuring out the flow of the shapes. I use waterproof glue, because house numbers tend to be outside, or on the porch. Finally, I grout with sanded grout, and seal for stain and water resistance.
We package it very carefully to send to its new home.
If you want even more coolness, like a rainbow border, we can talk custom prices.
I know I wanted a house number sign for myself, and made the 45 for the Nutmeg Designs abode! If you also want one, you can use the contact form on the right, email me, or go to Nutmeg Designs Etsy.