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Archive for May, 2007

Picasso and American Art at the SFMoMA

Posted by Kyle Design on May 31, 2007

I took my family to see the Pablo Picasso show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) over the Memorial Day weekend. The show, Picasso and American Art, was a collection of nearly 150 pieces of work by famous American artists including Stuart Davis, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Wesselmann, Andy Warhol, Arshile Gorky, Davis Smith, Max Weber and John Graham that were displayed alongside the influential works of Picasso that inspired them.

It was fascinating to see the impact Picasso’s work had on these artists. They experimented with his color pallet, the dissonant shapes, the subject matters. In general, thought, I felt that Picasso did the better job: that’s Picasso’s pieces were stronger, more visually interesting than those who attempted to imitate his style. Although Picasso never visited America, he had a huge impact on the direction of American art.

While some of the artists in the show seemed just to create in his style, others took the ideas Picasso presented and made them their own. When I asked my 11-year old daughter, Parker, which piece in the show she liked best, she brought me to the piece I, too, like best – a small work of abstract shapes painted in cool colors by Willem de Kooning.

Picasso’s legacy certainly had enormous impact on American art, if in no other way but to force artists to move beyond the realistic and embrace the abstract. He caused artists to look at their work in a different way, to see in a new way, and this stretching of the creative mind was a very good exercise for the American art scene. Seeing the show really gave me an important context for interpreting and evaluating contemporary works of art by modern masters.

My girls also liked a painting by Jackson Pollack called Gothic. I pointed out that Pollack was one of the artists featured in the book Olivia, and it was fun to see the smile of recognition spread over their faces. Another piece they liked was the 3 dimensional kitchen scene by Tom Wesselmann entitled Still Life #30. Still, the thing that caught their attention the most was a toy – a color changing ball from the museum gift shop called the Switch Pitch Color Changing Ball. They were tossing it everywhere, even where they shouldn’t have been. >:-(

Afterwards, I took the girls to Britex Fabrics on Geary Street in San Francisco and they loved it! Four floors of gorgeous fabrics from around the world, trims, tassels, lace and buttons. Although some of these wonderful fabrics are several hundred dollars a yard(!), they also have unique selections that are still affordable. If you are an artist or are at all visually inclined, then Britex is a don’t miss stop!

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San Francisco Humpback Whales Make Happy Headlines

Posted by Kyle Design on May 30, 2007

Good news this morning in the San Francisco Bay Area as the mother Humpback whaleMother Humback Whale and Calf Magnet Clip and calf have made it back into the salty water of the S.F. bay after two weeks of wandering the Carquinez Straight and the upper Delta. These international stars have been making headlines with their twists and turns throughout their 90 miles of travels past Rio Vista and on up to near the port of Sacramento in the North. They have been a tourist magnet with whale watchers lining the waterways and delighting in each sighting.

Things were not looking good for the pair late last week. Both whales have gashes, believed to be from propellers or boat keels, that were not healing properly in the fresh water of the upper delta. Scientists were able to inject them with antibiotics on Saturday with the hopes it would help the gashes heal, and they were indeed looking better yesterday.

The whales have been stuck in the Delta because they seemed afraid of swimming back under bridges, perhaps due to the noise or the vibrations, and often turned north again away from the ocean just before each one. There are four bridges the whales traveled under to reach Rio Vista – the Golden Gate (between San Francisco and Marin County), the Richmond bridge (between Richmond and San Rafael), the Carquinez (between Vallejo and Crockett) and the Benicia bridge (between Benicia and Martinez). There had been talk of closing the bridges as the whales neared in hopes of encouraging them to swim back under, but in the end they braved them on their own.

Many methods were attempted to get the whales to return to the oceanHumpback Whale Tape Measures including squirting them with fire hoses and using dissonant sounds, but they didn’t work. Others asked about airlifting them out, as is sometimes done to move much smaller animals, but the mother whale measures about 45 feet long and weighs 45 tons, so this was never really an option. The whale calf is about 20 feet long as well.

The whales are now within about 8 miles of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean and seemed to enjoy playing in the San Francisco Bay late Tuesday afternoon. It is hoped they will soon leave the Bay and join other whales feeding off the Farallon Islands. Humpback whales are an endangered species with only about 1,200 belonging to the California-Mexico population.

The Whale Magnet and Whale Tape Measure above are from the Kyle Design Whale Gifts and Decor collection. Please visit for more fresh gift ideas for whale watchers.

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Monster Pig Beats Hogzilla in Battle of the Bulge

Posted by Kyle Design on May 27, 2007

Jamison Stone, an 11-year old from Alabama, shot and killed the pig shown in the photo on May 3 at the Lost Creek Plantation hunting preserve in Delta, Alabama. Monster Pig, as it is now being called, measured 9 feet, 4 inches from tip of its snout to the base of its tail and weighed in at 1051 pounds. Jamison killed it with a .50 caliber revolver, but his dad and two hunting guides were ready with shotguns if the beast decided to charge. They chased it for 3 hours before finally killing it with 8 shots.

If the weight and length of Monster Pig are verified, it will beat the title for biggest pig currently held by Hogzilla who experts believe was about 8 feet long and weighed about 800 pounds. They hauled the wild boar out of the woods on a backhoe and used a recently calibrated scale at the Clay County Farmer Exchange to weigh it.Pig Drinking Flask in High Polished Stainless Steel

Anyone chasing an animal this size would wonder if they are dreaming or perhaps have had a little too much to drink, but once its size is confirmed they certainly will have reason to celebrate. I think a Pig Flask would be the appropriate vessel for Jamison’s parents to use if they want to party. Jamison’s mother, however, may not be ready to celebrate when faced with the challenge of how to reclaim her freezer.

As the Stone family will now be preparing many recipes using pork, bacon and ham, I humbly offer up my family favorite recipe for green beans. Lest Monster Pig creates a battle of the bulge in the Stone household, I offer up a lightened version of the recipe.

Green Beans with Bacon Pig Magnet Clip for Green Beans with Bacon recipe

1-1/2 pound green beans

1051 pounds chopped bacon, fat removed, or for the lightened version, just 1/4 cup

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1 teaspoon salt

Steam green beans over boiling water until bright green and tender crisp, about 7 minutes. Fry bacon until brown, pour off any extra fat and set aside. Add crushed garlic to pan and cook for about 30 seconds. Add onion and cook for a few minutes until soft and clear, adding just a little water to the pan if they start to stick. Return bacon to the pan, add green beans and salt, and toss until coated.

If you are like me, your idea of close encounters of the pig kind involves only a frying pan. However, if you do enjoy cooking as much as I do and would like to post this recipe up on your refrigerator for the next time pork appeals to you after seeing the photo above, the handy little Pig Refrigerator Magnet shown above would be perfect for the job.

Posted in Cooking, Flasks, Humor, Recipes, Social Commentary | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What’s New at Kyle Design: Switch Plate Labels

Posted by Kyle Design on May 22, 2007

Nickel Silver Nameplates for Light Switches

Nickel Silver Nameplates for Light Switches

Hot off the design table are switch plates labels. Tired of flipping the wrong switch and turning on the disposal instead of the light? Are guests opening the garage door instead of the turning on the ceiling fan? Have a bank of multiple switches that are too confusing to keep straight? Time to get organized!

Polished Gold Name Plates for Light Switches

Polished Gold Name Plates for Light Switches

Kyle Switch Plates’ versatile new labeled tags for switchplates come in 4 different metal finishes – nickel silver, brass, copper and gold – so they can coordinate with the most popular light switch plate finishes out there while adding a touch of style. Better yet, they are designed to fit on BOTH standard toggle switch plate covers as well as the newer Decora style rocker switchplates. Labels even fit oversized switch plates. Nameplates are especially appreciated by seniors moving into a new home as well.

Antique Brass Light Switch Labels

Antique Brass Light Switch Labels

These clever switch plate labels attach with double-stick tape or with your standard switchplate screws and are available in sets of six. Set One contains the following name tags: Kitchen, Light, Disposal, Fan, Porch and Garage. Set Two includes Master, Hall, Closet, Inside, Outside and Basement. $8 per set.

Antique Copper Switchplate Labels for Identifying Switches

Antique Copper Switchplate Labels for Identifying Switches

Nickel Silver Switch Plate Name Tags coordinates nicely with Stainless Steel, Chrome or Nickel wall plate covers.

Copper Switchplate Labels coordinate with copper or black light switch plate covers.

Antique Brass Labels for Switchplates are stylish against antique brass, satin brass, bronze or ivory switchplates.

Polished Gold Nameplates for Switches look especially attractive against polished brass, white and ivory switch plates.

So if you are someone who appreciates organization and efficiency, try out these new name plates and let the confusion be gone!

Posted in Decorating Ideas, Functional Art, Home Decor, Switch Plates, switchplates | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Maker Faire – High Tech Meets DIY Crafts

Posted by Kyle Design on May 21, 2007

The Maker Faire was held in San Mateo, CA this weekend. This show is a mind-blowing combination of high tech creative types displaying all the cool gadgets, computerhandcrafted Computer Magnet Clip programs, machines and handcrafts that they have come up with. It is absolutely amazing to see what these home grown artists and inventors have created. Fun, wild, thought-provoking, environmentally correct. Many of the exhibitors are simply doing this as a hobby and are just happy to share their ideas. This is cutting-edge ingenuity at its best.

Steve Wozniak of Apple Computers fame spoke, although we didn’t stay to listen to him – even The Woz is too abstract to hold an 8-year-old’s attention. However there was plenty more that did. Robot wars, crazy bikes you could test ride that were of made from found parts, giant Tesla coils spewing electricity, neon, lasers, holograms. Musical instruments with cool sound systems. Catapults. Blimps. Kite aerial photography. Computers. Hundreds of uses for tiny microprocessors. And more and more and more. The creativity and inventiveness displayed are absolutely amazing.

Construction Tools Christmas Ornament for DIY CraftersThis show is put on by Make Magazine. We attended their first one last May. They are also holding another fair October 20 & 21 in Austin, TX, this year as well. Here’s how they describe their own event:
A two-day, family-friendly event that celebrates arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset. It’s for creative, resourceful folks who like to tinker and love to make things. We call them Makers.

If you have the opportunity to go, don’t miss it!

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Graduation Gifts: Using Your New Business Card Case

Posted by Kyle Design on May 16, 2007

If you recently received a new business card holder as a graduation gift and are thinking, “But I don’t even have cards yet”, I have some great suggestions for you on how you can start using your gift right away.

Obviously, the most expected use is for holding business cards if you have them. Custom Ribbons Business Card HolderNobody wants to be handed a card that looks like it was picked out of the bottom of your purse or retrieved from the far reaches of a pocket. A striking business card case is a great conversation starter and it will make a professional impression, both important reasons for being prepared and keeping your cards neat and clean when you do finally have them.

But if you don’t have business cards – perhaps because you are just starting out or in a field where they aren’t the custom – business card holders are still one of the most useful gifts you can receive. Here’s why:

Metal business card cases make excellent thin metal wallets. They are the perfect way to carry your driver’s license and creditPersonalized Business Card Cases cards. A slim case holds just the essentials when you want to travel light or keep a slim profile. With a sleek business card holder, you can just tuck in what you need and slip it into a pocket or tiny purse. Jamming your regular leather wallet in a pocket just won’t do, nor do you want to risk leaving cards loose in a cavernous purse, briefcase or bag.

Kyle Design even makes a slightly thicker business card holder. It allows you to carry your license, credit card, HMO card, health club membership card, plus several bills – up to 9 credit cards or 12 tri-fold bills, or some combination of both. I find it can accommodate everything I need for most trips and it keeps me organized.

Another slick use for these cases is as a sugar packet carrier. It is just the right size to store packages of sweeteners, tea bags or spice packets.

Many fashionable women nowadays who enjoy going clubbing or who are actively dating haveMartini ID and Credit Cards Case started carrying calling cards. ID calling cards are just like a business card but with simply a name, email and possibly a photo or cell phone number. This is a classier and safer way to provide contact information when meeting someone new. Again, if you are interested enough to give someone new your ID card, then make a good impression by pulling it out of a gorgeous card holder. Even better, by keeping this case in a pocket, you’ll never have to ask someone else to keep an eye on your purse again. And, if so inclined, you can even carry a condom in your card holder.

There are many situations where I prefer not to carry my purse with me, preferring instead just to bring my ID, cards and cash. Among them include hotel conferences, helping out at my children’s school, or an evening out. My purse at times can feel like I’m carrying everything but the kitchen sink, but I’m finding more and more situations where less is more (comfortable).

For example, most hotel key cards fit in a standard business card case, Aluminum and Steel Carrier for Two Sets of Business Cardsso you can leave the bulk behind while working the crowd in the conference room. (Kyle Design even has cases that allow you to hold your credit cards on one side, business cards on the other.) At school, it is too easy to set my purse down, get involved with the kids and forget to take it with me when I walk back to my car. Besides, I often play jump rope with the kids at recess and don’t want to have to keep an eye on my purse. At the movies, I prefer not to set my purse on the sticky floor or sit with it in my lap (my kids often want the spot instead). For more formal occasions, I prefer to use a tiny purse or evening bag, and depending on the style, find that my designer business card case is the perfect size to tuck inside.

There is a security benefit as well. Metal wallets and business card cases prevent the Classic Metal Card Carriers in Silver, Gold and Blackunauthorized scanning of any debit or credit cards embedded with an RFDI chip, something that a leather wallet cannot prevent. Smart Cards, blink cards, wave cards, paypasses or contactless credit cards are among the many types currently being promoted for their speed and convenience features. I feel more secure knowing those cards are safe from someone with a scanner.

This is just a small sampling of situations where business card cases are the more convenient way to carry the essentials. With all the distinctive, artistic choices available nowadays, it is easy to find one that reflects your tastes and style. To see the full Kyle Design collection of cases, visit Chic Business Card Carriers and Holders. And for other cool ideas for grads visit our Unique Graduation Gifts page.

Posted in American Made, business card holders, design, Fashion, Functional Art, Metal Wallets, Unique Gifts | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Artist’s Spirit: Starting Out – Part 6 – Willingness To Evolve

Posted by Kyle Design on May 15, 2007

So, you want to be an artist. How do you know you have what it takes to make a career of it? This is the sixth in a series about what it takes to survive by a woman artist who has so far managed to make a living at her work for 25 years.

Willingness To Evolve – Be ready and willing to evolve. You might have a great selling line but in time the appeal is likely to fade as tastes and styles change. You simply cannot rest on your laurels. Once people have seen your work around for a while it will no longer be the latest thing, the fresh new look. My path has been quite varied. Handpainted Silk Bracelets and EarringsI started out as a fiber artist, hand-painting large abstract silk wall pieces. I moved on to batik scarves, then hand-painted silk jewelry. The jewelry evolved into combining the silk with etched metal frames so I could break out of the basic round mold. I had a long run with jewelry, coming up with many diverse looks using mixed metals, manipulated wire and Conemporary Nibium Jewelrycolorful aluminum, among other interesting materials. Each look was so radically different than last that customers had no idea it was still my work until I pointed out my name on it. Then I moved into home furnishings – switchplates, Christmas ornaments and night lights. Abstract Shell Business Card HoldersBusiness card holders and personal fashion accessories followed. That is just my experience, but the point is the same for any artist. Don’t sit back and think you can get by through your whole career with just one style. (Some have, but that is the exception, rather than the rule.) You must always be working on something new, have something different ready in the wings. I sold at Arts & Crafts fairs for years, and I found that customers are more inclined to check back periodically with you to see what cool new thing you’ve come up with now if they can count on you to deliver. The last think you want is customers thinking to themselves, “Oh, I’ve already seen her work, let’s find something new.” When a customer asks, “What’s new?”, you do not want your only reply to be, “The prices.” (!)

My work definitely has evolved over the years – I absolutely love designing and inventing new products. In the beginning I worried I wouldn’t be able to come up with any new designs or products or styles that people would Antique Art Deco Tape Measurerespond to or would want to buy. As the years have gone by that fear has receded. I have found that the more you design, the more of a mental portfolio of ideas, lines, color combinations, etc., that you have in your artistic vocabulary. Like learning a language, the more you use it the more comfortable it becomes. You learn as you go along, what works, what doesn’t. It is fun and it comes easily to me. Designing is still an extremely personal experience for me. It is invigorating yet exhausting at the same time.

Some artists warned me that once I had kids, that I would become less creative, perhaps because kids take so much time and energy or because so much effort would be pulled out of my creative endeavors and poured into my kids. But I have found just the opposite. IArtist Kyle McKeown Mansfield and her two daughters have gone through a huge period of growth and I think my girls were important to this. Kids are happy, energetic, and they are a wonderful means of getting out and having new experiences. Furthermore, I so want to share my thoughts and ideas with them, to teach them, and that keeps me in the creative mode. I bring them to my studio and let them play with all the colorful beads, ribbons, fabric, glass, etched metal parts, wires and other interesting bits and pieces I’ve collected over the years. I’m thrilled when I see the artistic side of them come out!

Looking over my life as an artist so far, I can assume that my work will continue to evolve. I look forward to seeing where I end up. I’m a type of inventor. Who knows where my mind will take me next? I have more ideas in my head than time to implement them. So I’m not worried. Life as an artist is an adventure and I embrace it.

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Watch Out: Here Comes the Spider-Man (Box Office Record)

Posted by Kyle Design on May 7, 2007

Spidey fans came out in droves this weekend with the release of the third “Spider-Man” movie. With a haul of $148 million in its first three days, it smashed the Kyle Design Spider Pill Boxprevious record of $135.6 million held by “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” which came out last summer.

“Spider-Man 3”, which again stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, also broke the single-day record with $59.3 million on opening day Friday beating out the “Dead Man’s Chest” record of $55.8 million on its first day. That is quite some web Sony pictures set, in light of the mixed reviews the movie received.

I suppose we can expect a onslaught of everything spider, which may even continue until Halloween. Even my daughter, Parker (note: any association with the character Peter Parker is just a coincidence), asked for a spider costume in 2002, the year the the first “Spider-Man” movie came out.

I love creating new and unusual Halloween costumes – it is the chance for the artist in me to let loose and not worry about how much it will cost to produce or whether anyone would buy it. The “Spiderman’s Girlfriend” costume I made was a modified flapper girl dress in blue satin with red fringe along the bottom, overlaid with black spider imprinted sheer fabric and sheer sleeves with black bead-chain webs attached between the arms and the sides of the dress.Kyle Design Spider Night Light in Purple

Any of you Spider fans out there who’d like something a little different may want to check out our Spider Gifts page. We make contemporary spider themed night lights, business card holders, key chains, pill boxes and drinking flasks with a design of a spider in a web – and you can customize any of the gifts items with any color or metal finish you like.

Posted in artist, Gifts, halloween costumes, Home Decor, kids, Night Lights | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Queen Gets Some Street Sense

Posted by Kyle Design on May 6, 2007

Queen Elizabeth II attended yesterday’s 133rd Kentucky Derby Kyle Design Decorative Horse Night Lightat Churchill Downs in Louisville. She got to see Street Sense, a muscular dark brown colt wearing yellow and blue, pull out ahead of the pack after the horses came around the second turn while easily won the race.

I found the winner’s name amusing considering that the queen was in attendance. My family and I had just watched the movie The Queen starring Helen Mirren in a spot-on, Oscar winning portrayal of Elizabeth II. Pink Princess Drinking FlaskThe movie focuses on the reaction of the royal family following the death of Diana,  Princess of Wales. They chose to treat her death as a private matter, to treat it with dignity while noting she was no longer a part of the royal family and was just a commoner. However, the way their response came across to their subjects, the British public, was anything but dignified. They appeared cold and aloof – a reaction totally lacking an appreciation for how much the public adored Diana. The British subjects had looked to their monarch for guidance and leadership during this national tragedy, but sadly she was not able to provide it. The royal family stayed away from London and made no public comments on the whole affair.

In the film, Queen Elizabeth II finally makes a comment to the effect that there had been a huge shift in values and that she had been oblivious to it. After getting a clue with the help of close advisers and Prime Minister Tony Blair, she finally got some Street Sense.

If you’d like being treated like a queen, visit our Crown Gifts page.  If you’re a horse racing fan, as is The Queen, then be sure to check out our Unique Horse Gifts selections.

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The Artist’s Spirit: Starting Out – Part 5 – Adaptability

Posted by Kyle Design on May 2, 2007

So, you want to be an artist. How do you know you have what it takes to make a career of it? This is the fifth in a series about what it takes to survive by a woman who has so far managed to make a living as an artist for 25 years.

Adaptability – An important lesson I learned along the way is that you have to be adaptable. I’m an artist who loves contemporary art, colorful abstracts and hard-edged designs. In the beginning that’s what I designed and there is a market for it, although that is just a portion of the potential market out there. Handpainted Silk and Metal NecklacesHowever, early on, I received a request to make some representational designs, to apply my creative talents to something recognizable. I finally relented, feeling I was perhaps selling out by not being true to my style. I designed an abstract heart and it immediately became my best-selling image. A light went off in my head. Was I trying to force my narrow preferences and tastes on everyone, or was I willing to use my talents to create stylish versions of familiar shapes, perhaps create a new twist on an old design? I began to enjoy the challenge of finding a new way to express the common. Poker Metal Wallet or Cigarette Case How about a poker design? What do you usually see – 4 playing cards splayed out, the queen of hearts, or a set of dice? Check out the design I came up with: Poker Gifts.  Doesn’t look like anyone else’s poker design you’ve seen, now does it? I like to rearrange elements. “Repetition and subordination”, I can still hear my late artist father’s voice saying in my head. “Break out of the predictable shape.” “Create something that hasn’t been done before.”

So let me just emphasize this point more specifically: listen to your customers. They will tell you what they want, what they need. Design that, and you have a ready-made market for it. I’ve had so many wonderful customers over the years who have taken the time to make suggestions for designs, bring segments of the market to my attention that I had no idea existed, or to ask if I could come up with something that could fill a need. It’s a win-win situation: they get what they were searching for, and you get a new customer base. This has been invaluable to me and has allowed me to survive in a challenging, fluid career that offers no guarantees. To any of you customers who’ve made those suggestions over the years – THANK YOU!!

Posted in Creativity, design, Gifts, Jewelry, professional artist, small business, woman | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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