Adams Farm Road

It is officially complete and in the hands of the owners, who came by my studio to personally pick up their home portrait. They are delighted with the result and I am pleased as well.

And now for your viewing pleasure, I present Adams Farm Road home portrait!

Adams Farm Road home portrait ©Natalya Khorover Aikens 2019

Personal ephemera used: sheet music for wedding song and lullaby (printed on silk organza by me), baby announcement, moms hospital bracelet, baby's hospital tag, fabric from the hospital baby hat, and fabric from a onesie.

My materials: silk organza, various cotton, silk and rayon threads, interfacing, stretched canvas and acrylic paint.

Techniques: fabric collage and hand embroidery and a bazillion French knots of various, but mostly tiny sizes....

I get so much pleasure from creating these one of a kind treasures, and I love when the owners allow me to share the process. Will you let me do one for you? Email me! (natalya at artbynatalya dot com)

I see it!

I see the finish line.... let me lead you to it with this update.

Here's what happened to the Adams Farm Road home portrait this week, my fingers have been very busy!

the grass started "growing" on the front lawn

it grew quite well on that precious fabric of the newborn's hospital cap

then the trees started filling in (yes the roof is sagging at the moment, but not for long!)

filling in nicely with teeny tiny french knots

I really need a macro lens for these... (Santa?)

The stitching is done! This is my highly advanced weight system to help the piece smoothly adhere to the canvas.
In about 24 hours I'll release the portrait from its weight prison, trim the edges and paint the sides of the canvas. Then it'll have its very own photo session and will be presented to the owners. And then I can share the final product with all of you!

Now is the time to check out the commission page on my website and email me (natalya at artbynatalya dot com) to book your very own portrait.

a beginning

I am delighted to be working on another home portrait. And happy that the owners are allowing me share the process.

This sweet family has sent me their baby announcement, first hat, a onesie, and music sheets as part of the ephemera to create the portrait from. As you can see from the pictures below, I am quite enamored of the music sheets. I have printed them on silk organza and so far think that they will be a perfect representation of the siding on their home.

I have drawn on tracing paper the favorite angle of the home and am now placing all the ephemera in various spots to see what will work best where. This can take a few days as I like to fully take in all the materials and sometimes let them rest in a few places before I finalize my decisions.

the house sketch over the music sheets

will I put the hospital tag with the music?

there is a hospital bracelet to consider as well...

and where will I add this sweet face?

maybe I'll combine the words on the onesie with the sheet music?
In a day or two I shall start in with the scissors and there will be stitching! Stay tuned!


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the US. I have many people to be grateful for this year... but here I thank all the readers of this blog! Thank you for clicking, scrolling, reading and commenting! I appreciate that you take the time out of your busy day to stop by... I appreciate the thoughtful and kind comments and suggestions that you leave here!

Thank you!! and happy Thanksgiving to all!

the little hump backed horse

Hello! long time.... Happy New Year!

As you might imagine life has been busy. The projects in the pictures below have consumed my life for the past two months. It was fun, challenging and hard work. And now it's done. Here's proof (in order of appearance on stage):
Ivan and the magical horses
Magical horses again
Ivan and the Little Humpbacked Horse find the Firebirds feather
the bazaar scene
The Tzar arrives
the Tzar and his Attendant
the Firebirds dance
and dance some more
I love this blurry image of the Firebird being captured
The Tzarina Maiden
the Moon and the Sun
the Fishes
Fish begging forgiveness from the King Whale 
more Fishes
The Tzarina Maiden with her Prince Ivan magically transformed 
my favorite colorful players
how adorable are they?
and for good measure the Moon and the Sun again...
That was a lot of pictures I know, hope you enjoyed them, I could have posted many many more! Here's the English version of the story if you would like to read it.
Now off to clean up my studio and make some art!

Oh and I must confess... I stole all these pictures from my friend Ekaterina who painted the fish heads and horse heads for me. I have an excuse! I was back stage helping with costume changes! And she did give me permission. Really.

so much to do!

Autumn is such a busy season in so many ways. School activities are in full swing, holiday prep is in full swing. This year I had the opportunity to be in many exhibitions, so that means packing and printing labels and gallery sitting. I've been hard at work on my latest home portrait, it's almost done and I'll be sharing it in my newsletter very soon.

And now another annual tradition has crept up on me... Costumes for my daughters annual Russian School Christmas play! So among the finishing stitches on the home portrait, I have been sketching costumes, making lists of children and dreaming of how to bring my ideas to life. And I do mean dreaming. I been having costume construction dreams quite literally.... now I have to start stitching in real life though.

This years play is "The Little Hump Backed Horse". I gleefully ran to my kids home library and dug up the book from my childhood, I have always loved the illustrations in it. We watched the cartoon version just get up to speed! We have yet to watch the ballet, but that I'd want to see in real life...

So I thought I'd share a few of my sketches here. They are of the more fantastical costumes that will be a challenge to construct...
the Little Humpbacked Horse and the three beautiful horses

the Moon and the Sun and the Firebird

the Fishes

the Tzar and the Tzar Princess
I'll be back with in-progress pictures of this motley crew in a week or so... You can also follow my progress on Instagram.

saturday snapshot

...or several... This spring I indulged in something slightly different from my usual oeuvre.

In our Russian scouting tradition we have a wonderful little quirk that everyone loves. During the second summer in the older kids camp, they receive their forest name. It could be anything from an animal to a force of nature. Everyone awaits in anticipation and speculates what name they will wind up with. It's a tradition to embroider the name on your neckerchief, or stitch a patch on. I indulged my daughter and her friends and stitched a few names for them.
an arctic fox
a cherry blossom
a lyre bird
a waterfall
a white rose

The hole you see in each one is made with a hot stick from the campfire. It's burned into the neckerchief as they get their name. And looks like I'll have a few more to embroider in the near future...

The Tale of Tzar Saltan,

...of His Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich, and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan.

How's that for a mouthful? That's the full title of Alexander Pushkin's poem that our Russian school put on for our Christmas play this year. Yes Christmas. Russian Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7th, and with all the holiday festivities and the coordination of other Russian schools plays, we got the last possible time slot... But that's ok! Gave us all more time to procrastinate (ahem) and put on a great show!

I am once again honored to work with such dedicated parents, super creative individuals, and professionals who all volunteer their precious time and donate resources, so that our children can learn about their heritage in such a hands on way!

Here are a few pictures...yes only 15... Too many for a blog post? Perhaps. I couldn't take any as I was backstage, so these are all taken by the artist who painted many of the backdrops and stage props. She shared 445 pictures with me (which means she edited out at least 100!) I managed to get down to 15 to share with you, my readers... edited down to show the costumes as best as possible.. enjoy!!!
three sisters singing by the window
The Tsar chose his Tsaritza
the wedding dancing entertainment
more wedding dancers
evil sister plotting
mother in law plotting
the three comic relief characters plotting
the people reading the order
the best shot we could get of the very fast moving bee!
black hawk fighting with the white swan
swan wings in action
swan princess revealed to the prince
the magical squirrel
the bogatyr of the sea and his army
people taking a bow after all is well again...

Phew... and now I'm off to clean my studio....

playing dress up

Things have been crazy around these parts...No time to blog, just sewing sewing, sewing... and some gluing, cutting and painting too. The final push before Sunday's performance.

Here are a few Instagram shots that I have shared over the last several weeks as I have been working on the costumes for our Russian School play "Tsar Saltan". You can read about the design stage here.

I'll share photos of everything in full glory next week and then it's back to artwork! Wish me luck!

kings and queens...

Yup. It's that time again. Time to design and make costumes for the annual Russian school play in January. I took the last year off, but this year I'm back for another round...

This years story is The Tale of Tzar Saltan, of His Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich, and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan. What do you say that we'll call it Tzar Saltan for short? If you click on that link you'll read the wikipedia entry about the poem by Alexander Pushkin. The whole poem is here, translated to English of course. And the famed composer Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov wrote the opera for the tale, here's the most famous bit of music from it. Of course if you'd like to see the cartoon version, that's here....

As one can see the tale is pretty famous, been done very famous people. We, the Russian school volunteers humbly accept the challenge....

Here are the sketches that I drew of the costumes. They are really more of an idea, an inspiration for the kids to see while they are rehearsing. The actual costumes will depend greatly on the fabrics and clothing available to us and may not closely resemble the sketches. But I'll try...
The Swan Princess and Prince Gvidon
The kite bird and Chernomor the leader of the sea bogatyrs
The three trouble makers

Prince Gvidon as a bumblebee and the magical squirrel
Tzar Saltan and his Queen
Wish us luck! The sewing marathon is about to begin!

a foodie moment

Cooking has kept me and my kitchen very very occupied for a big part of the week. We turned this weekend into a Russian food feast and I'm showing you the results of my excuse for not stitching much...
Our everyday food experience is rather utilitarian and sometimes even on the run, so an excuse to set a beautiful table and make artful arrangements of food is always welcome.
a feast
molded fish in aspic
roast beef, tongue and kolbasa Russian style
herring under a blanket
lobio, kidney beans Georgian style
chicken pate, my mama's version
olivier the Russian every thing salad
And those were just the ones I remembered to photograph! By the way for anyone non-Russian interested in Russian food, I alway recommend The Art of Russian Cuisine by Anne Volokh. She does an excellent job.

....and now back to stitching...

breast pockets

My friend Melly Testa had put out the call and tons of people answered. She is seeking  a physical representation of the women that we know, who made the decision not to reconstruct their bodies after breast cancer by way of making breast pockets. Melly was the only person I knew until it occurred to me ask about my maternal grandmother who fought breast cancer in the 60's in the USSR. And now I just learned another family history detail.

These pockets with Pushkin's poems are for my grandmother Elizaveta

These pockets with wrought iron lace details are for Melly and her iron will
The pockets are constructed of rust dyed and painted muslin, thermofax screened with Lumiere paints.

fabric art in the woods

I'm just back from spending a little over a week in woods with kids. We are all thoroughly bug bitten, dirty and happy. Just as we should be...

I managed to introduce the kids to fabric painting guerrilla style. First I read a bunch of tutorials online, the day before leaving I did an experiment in my driveway, and two days after arriving in the wilderness made 20 kids ages six to ten sunprint bandannas in the woods. They had a blast and so did I!
the sun was hot that day, just what the crazy fabric lady ordered!
The basic concept was easy to grasp and making a mess was the bonus treat. Even the boys enjoyed it for a bit.... I just ran laps around them with a huge spray bottle of water and attempted to convince them to not over do it. Hah!
gorgeous results
how to wear your bandanna
The girls of course took it to the next level. Embroidery was such a hit, even the boys came back for more crafting. And from now on children will be threading ALL my needles always.
nimble fingers

city inspiration

Last Sunday I took my kids to the Katonah Museum of Art for a family art day based on their current exhibition titled "New York, New York!". The girls had sooo much fun participating in different art projects! I got inspired too and could not keep my sketchbook in my purse. They were building and decorating buildings and I drew a little. 'Twas so much fun!

A temporary installation of kid art!


We're celebrating Earthday a bit early in my kids school this year as it falls during spring break. I am doing a recycled art project with first graders this time. I think I have learned a few lessons since last year when I had second graders build all sorts of contraptions large and small and the glue took forever to dry. 
These kids are younger, so we're decorating backgrounds, cutting out our hand-prints and finding initials in the logos. They are having a blast and the teachers are appreciating less mess...


Today is my birthday! Happy birthday to me! But the present is for you!!!!Yes, in a shameless quest for more birthday wishes I am offering a gift just like last year. So.... wish me a happy birthday here in the comments and I will enter your name in a drawing for this little gem - okoshechko/little window 40. (You might have seen the blog post on creation of this and other little windows here)
I will have my older daughter write all your names on a scrap of paper (which I will later collage LOL) and my younger daughter will pull out the winning name. You have until Saturday night to wish me a happy birthday as we will not have chance for this elaborate ritual until Sunday. But Monday morning your gift will be on it's way to you!

I love New York

Had the most fab day in NYC today. Really should do these more often.... Took my girls to the MAD (Museum of Art and Design) to see the "Dead or Alive" exhibit and participate in a family workshop. I highly recommend this museum and all it's programs, very well done, very thought provoking and smack in the middle of Columbus circle - what more could you ask for? While waiting for our friends we walked through the Time Warner shopping complex and I enjoyed the view out of it's glass wall onto Columbus circle and MAD. And while at MAD I could hardly keep myself from taking a photo out of every window. The views were stunning and I loved the effect the stripes on the glass provided for the views... so here's an edited selection of photos from the day from inside, outside, up and around... if you love NYC - enjoy!