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Stories, sketches and thoughts from a creative mind. What is happening in the studio and what inspires Brush & Inc.

Alt Summit 2019 (part 2)

Michelle Vinson

Let’s jump in where we left off shall we. We are now mid-week of a jammed pack conference. After two days of volunteering, I was ready to fill the day with everything on my list. Here was my schedule . . .



9:00 a.m. Ask an Expert: Take an e-newsletter from “Meh” to “Yeah.”

I have done countless newsletters for clients over the years (both paper and e-newsletters). However, I think I have only done two for myself! Eek! So, I wanted some guidance and attended Asia Rau’s chat about e-newsletters. Asia owns Sparrow Soirées, a consulting service. Instagram and Facebook can go away in a second. What do we do then? We build our email lists now and connect with our customers that way. E-newsletters are another avenue for engaging and interacting with the people that love our brand. Asia kept stressing the importance of answering a question in every newsletter or solving a problem. What should you do this weekend? What can I buy mom for Mother’s Day? Tips of prepping your watercolor to paint. How to clean your brushes . . .

Make your newsletter a quick and easy read that is pleasing to look at. Mailchimp and Constant Contact are great platforms to use. Make sure you have permission to use someone’s email address . . . you can’t just randomly add people (unless they are mom or dad.) Use subject lines that won’t get lost in spam, but grab your reader’s attention. Include contact links to your website, email, phone or social media. After going to this session, I added to my instagram so I can collect email addresses with a simple click. Create give-aways and specials that also collect email address (remember to ask permission to add them to your newsletter list!) and when customers place orders (if you have an online shop).


11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m Ask an Expert: Brand Collaborations and Licensing with Jennifer Perch of Good Brand Licensing

Licensing is a huge area of my business that I would love to expand. I have done a couple of projects that involve licensing, but I want to learn more. Jennifer’s talk included finding a potential collaborative and licensing partner and how to present yourself. She talked about finding a good lawyer and team to guide you through the licensing world, protecting your art and knowing what your worth is.

She also shared some samples of artist overview sheets. Her examples showed a bio and photo of the artist and then a sampling and range of the work they have created. She mentioned that the amount of followers that an artist has definitely attracts partners and brands. They see this as a natural draw to your work which would result in sales for them (and you)! I have more research to do on this and have a call scheduled with Jennifer to talk about it more. We shall see where this area of my biz goes.

Then, I sat and watched this guy paint. This guy is Michael Corr and this is the start of his Frida Kahlo Mural. Love it.


How to Make Friends with the Media and Get Yourself and Brand Out There.

Trae Bodge shared some tips on following up with media and getting your brand out there. Follow up with kind and authentic messages and not generic cut/paste email inquiries. Know what you are pitching and why it would be a good fit for this publication or media outlet.


Her tips for forming good relationship are:
1. In Person: try to steer the conversation for them to think that you will benefit them at some point.
2. Social Media: Commenting on their posts or sharing their information so they know you are out there.
3. Referrals: use your friends and contacts to share their contacts with you.
4. Familarize yourself with their work before you reach out.

How to tell a compelling story and answer a need.
Create a press release with a Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of your business. Have you opened a new store? Added a new service? What can you offer advice for?

Don’t pitch using DM or call. Send out emails. And follow up.


Tara Nearents. Photo credit:  Rad & Happy

Tara Nearents. Photo credit: Rad & Happy

This is Tara Nearents from Rad & Happy. She’s actually Rad and Happy. Her talk was all about Rocking your Instagram Stories. Instagram stories are super awkward for me, but I know that they are also so important for a brand and for instagram. Apparently, they are more important than your actual posts now and are tremendously helpful in building your brand and engagement with customers, fans, viewers, all of it. Anyway, she was upbeat and positive and motivating in just going for it with your stories. She also said to not rewatch your video more than twice before posting it. Or . . . you will make yourself crazy! And, don’t imagine someone eye-rolling as they watch you. Imagine your closest friend or your sister smiling ear to ear. She said to smile with your eyes. Be authentic, but don't be a downer because no one wants to watch someone who is negative day in and out. Anyway, she is pretty awesome at her stories . . . I get it, I watch them. My take away from this workshop . . . I went outside and did an instastory right after and I am getting a little better about doing them on a regular (I’m working on it).

After Tara, I stuck around for Katie Saffert’s presentation on the Power of Creating a Community on Instagram. Katie is the founder of Hatched Collective which is a company that helps other companies build their brand. It was good for me to attend because it focused a lot on planning. Planning out your posts to create a story and a look and using instagram as a reflection of you and your brand. Mondays we do this, Tuesday post a commission, Wednesday a pattern, Thursday a new project idea . . .I’m making all of that up, but I need to plan more. If you have a business on instagram, do you prep and plan all of your posts? Do you schedule them? Do you use Planoly or another app to color coordinate your posts to look good together? Anyway, I schedule posts in batches sometimes, but I definitely need to focus on this more.

After 4 classes and a lot of talking (ha!) . . . I was ready to skip out and grab dinner with my mom, dad and Papa. They live less than an hour from Palm Springs and dinner with them was the perfect mid-week evening break.

My cute, cute family.

My cute, cute family.

How To Slay your Flat Lay!

Thursday morning, Ginny and I headed over to The Ace Hotel for a workshop on Flat Lays with Amber Dorsey. We worked on our own flat lays with props and backdrops that Amber brought. It was nice to attend a hands-on workshop on the final full day at the conference. These are a few that I did while I was there . . .

That marble counter top is really a piece of paper. Fun tip: purchase it on Amazon.

That marble counter top is really a piece of paper. Fun tip: purchase it on Amazon.

That wood grain backdrop, also paper.

That wood grain backdrop, also paper.


Once the workshop was over, Ginny and I took pictures in front of this incredible mural created by artist @_lauraberger_. It is so perfect.

I could not wait to attend the Panel: Changing Course—How to Find Your Passion For Your Brand and Thrive by Jahje Ives from Baby Jives, Kristen Ley from Thimblepress and Stacie Bloomfield from Gingiber (remember when I embroidered with them on Monday?). This was by far my fave talk of the week. They were honest and open and all three of them shared their stories about where they started and how they got to where they are now. It was so good that no one wanted it to end. So . . . a handful (more than a handful) of us followed them to lunch and continued the conversation there.

Kristen Ley, Stacie Bloomfield, Jahje Ives. Photo credit: Jahje Ives

Kristen Ley, Stacie Bloomfield, Jahje Ives. Photo credit: Jahje Ives

Our continued lunch conversation.

Our continued lunch conversation.

After lunch, I headed over to The Parker to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing with Ginny, Janice and Lisa MacCarthy. Lisa helps influencers and entrepreneurs launch profitable clothing lines. We talked about our goals, next steps, keeping in touch and what we got out of the week. Then, we sipped our iced coffees and chilled in the most beautiful lobby and then again outside.


We couldn’t leave without a shot in front of the infamous Parker wall . . .


My week was coming to a close. I was tired and excited and couldn’t wait to implement what I had learned into my everyday. Where will I go from here?

I have set aside time each week to work on my brand and create more art. I say “yes” to new opportunities, but am also learning when to say “no.” I am signing up for the National Stationery Show in NYC in August to increase my wholesale business, I am pulling together my wholesale catalog and also creating a bio/style sheet for potential licensing partners. I have scheduled a professional photo shoot to finally get a real headshot and working-in-the-studio shots for my website and to use on social media, I am working to make my studio/office a more organized space. I work out every morning and remember to continue my self-care/take breaks/eat a good breakfast/stay hydrated plan that I followed while I was at Alt Summit. I am excited to meet up with Ginny, Janice and Lisa again on the Parker Palm Springs lobby couches in 2020 to see where we all are a year from now.


Until next time . . .


Alt Summit 2019 (part 1)

Michelle Vinson

It’s been a little over a month since I attended the week long conference in Palm Springs called Alt Summit. The conference was held across 4 different hotels (Saguaro, Ace Hotel, Parker Palm Springs and The Riviera). Each venue was packed with multiple classes, workshops, round tables, panels and demos to chose from. I met some amazing women and made some lasting friendships. From the power of instastories, mapping out your instagram posts, newsletters, photography, scaling a biz, using a manufacturing partner, taking your biz to trade shows, when to hire, how to license, pitching to press . . . the list goes on and on. I’ve put together a small sampling of everything that I walked away with. So . . . here it goes (at the least the first part of it).


Saturday evening, I arrived at Newark Airport and boarded a plane headed to Palm Springs. Although, I had some jitters about leaving my family for an entire week . . . I was also happy to escape the last days of winter.

I had always wanted to go to Alt Summit and I knew it was time for me to attend. On a whim, I applied to volunteer for a free ticket. I would be responsible for my hotel stay and plane ticket. I totally forgot I even applied thinking I’d never hear back and then one night I get an email saying, “You are going to Alt Summit.” I took this as a sign that I had to go. I could figure out the rest and I was going to just go by myself. No buddy, no sis, no group to tackle the week with. . . just me. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about that and had some anxiety leading up to the week. I was going to stay with someone that my sister knew. “You will love her,” she said. I did.

This is Ginny . . .


Owner of Ginny Ball Consulting. Ginny is smart and funny and became a fast friend. She is a connector and a cheerleader for all of the businesses that she works with. She wants them to succeed, she works hard and she knows her stuff. We stayed at the Saguaro Hotel. It’s a pretty instagrammable hotel in Palm Springs. Bright colors and some good Mexican food (which we ate almost every night…ha!)

We met, checked our bags and then went over to The Riviera for registration. I mean look at the welcome we received . . .

Photo credit: Alt Summit

Photo credit: Alt Summit

There I am in my floral dress, with Ginny and Janice Christensen, Director of Communications & Branding at Nora Flemming. Janice is also pretty incredible. In the first hour of arriving, I realized that these were “my people,” creative and driven, and so happy and grateful to be there.

Check in done and badges in hand, we separated and picked a class to attend. I started off listening to Amy Webb of This Little Miggy speak about her Alt Summit experiences and how to jump into the week and make a plan to make connections. Amy is an artist, advocate and writer. Her writing focuses on changing perceptions of disability one story at a time. This is Amy with her new book, When Charley Met Emma. Also, go follow her on instagram because she dances periodically and it always makes me smile :).


Then, dinner with Ginny, Janice and Amanda from Scatter and Create (products that encourage joy and kindness) and then early to bed to tackle the week.


My first volunteer assignment was at The Parker Palm Springs. Now, the Parker is pretty incredible. Scott and I stayed here a few years ago for a night and I soaked up every design detail then and again now. The hotel was designed by Jonathan Adler. The hotel, the grounds, the ballroom, the door that you walk through to get in, the café . . . all perfect. My assignment . . . greet people as they came in. Rough life, right? It was a great day. I met a ton of people, the weather was perfect, the setting was perfect. A good first day. And, this was lunch . . .


Once, my shift was over . . . I walked the grounds and stumbled upon an embroidery workshop lead by Stacie Bloomfield of Gingiber. I follow Stacie on instagram. I love her style and how she shares the ins and outs of her business. I have enjoyed watching her grow from afar and was pleased to meet her in person.


Two self-care tips that I wanted to follow throughout the week were: 1. Eat a good breakfast every morning and 2. Take little breaks for myself each day. This was the most perfect afternoon break. I sat next to Kristen Ley from Thimblepress and Jahje Ives from Baby Jives. Both successful, creative, bad ass women and both that I have kept in touch with after Alt.

Courtney and Robert Novogratz were also in the space presenting their new outdoor furniture line and home goods. Their style never disappoints. I have watched all of their shows and followed their sweet family over the years. So, this was also a treat to chat with Courtney. She is as sweet in person as she is on television.

Love these pillows!

Love these pillows!

Courtney Novogratz and me.

Courtney Novogratz and me.

Monday night ended with a gifting party. After a long line into a room full of goodies, we were allowed to select five. These are my five and they were all so so good!


Day 2

My second and final volunteer day was at The Riviera as a greeter. Again . . . easy peasy. This time I attended some of the roundtables and listed to some keynote speakers. I started the day off with a great breakfast at the Riveria. I sat over there in the corner with my cup of coffee and power fruit/oatmeal bowl.

Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 5.25.48 PM.png

Wait . . . go back . . . before my relaxing breakfast, I made myself take a selfie at the Alt photo stand. I could hear Scott’s voice in my head telling me to do everything. “Do everything they have there for you to do.” Okay, I’ll take selfies and pose in front of art installations. I’ll do it. I’ll do it all.


Okay, back to the roundtables. What is a roundtable you may ask? A roundtable is literally a room full of round tables filled with different speakers/topics. Each session lasts about 30-40 minutes and then you rotate to a different table/topic. It was a little exhausting (I’m not going to lie), but it was a great way to pack in as much info in during a short amount of time. My shift included 2 (1-1/2 hour session) and then keynote speakers, The Novogratz and Cyndie Spiegal. Loved them both.


My big take-away from this day was sitting in on the roundtable discussion from Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen of Slumberkins. These girls have been best friends for 20 years and dreamed up and created this incredible brand. Their talk was so inspirational. They asked us to finish this sentence, “I know I have made it when . . . “

Their answer was, “When there is a Slumberkins on Ice.” Which they originally would joke about, but they now have a partnership with Jim Henson studios, books, and a huge line of products. So, I don’t think Slumberkins on Ice is out of their reach. They were smart and inspiring and didn’t hide the mistakes and bumps they have faced along the way. They also talked about the importance of celebrating small and big victories. They talked about how they once hired friends and family and quickly realized that, for them, that business plan did not work.

Since this roundtable, I periodically ask myself the question, “I have made it when . . . .?”
. . . I am in Target.
. . . I run into people that I don’t know and they are wearing/carrying/wallpapering with my patterns.
. . . Oprah wants me to custom design her table linens.

The day started to unwind. I sat and chatted with my friend Ruth Rau, founder of Mouse Loves Pig (that I met at the airport on our way out to Alt). Seriously . . . . these women are amazing. Ruth was another person that I was meant to meet. So much talent.

Roundtables done. Volunteering done (which I actually enjoyed so much). Facetimed my sweet family and then hopped into a photo truck, because why not?


Ginny and Janice hosted a meet-up called “Gift Shows Demystified —Your Guide to Attending and Exhibiting at Market.” We sat poolside and listened to some valuable tips and tricks from these two experts. It was a lovely end to day two.

Ginny Ball & Janice Christensen

Ginny Ball & Janice Christensen

This was only Tuesday! I know . . . it was a busy week. So, I’ll stop here. But, stay tuned for Part 2 because my Wednesday was jam packed with some useful info that I will share and my Thursday was kind of perfect.


Foundry Harvest Weekend

Michelle Vinson

Over the summer, Cooper Boone and Amy Flurry met and had the perfect idea to create a magical weekend of sharing between creatives and writers. The event would be held at Cooper’s Farmhouse and showcase the beautiful Upper Delaware River Valley region (which I call home), include locally sourced food and drinks, prepared by an incredibly talented chef and amazing mixologist and be captured by one of the best photographers that I have ever worked with.

This team of amazing professionals came together to make that vision come to life, last weekend, for the first Foundry Harvest Weekend at Cooper’s Farmhouse, in Shohola, PA. A weekend to remember.


Months leading up to the event, Cooper and I met to discuss the invitations and inspiration behind the weekend. Everything that Cooper puts together is a dream so, I was excited to get started on the project right away. I went back to the studio and pulled together some color swatches, found objects, photos and textures, started painting and came up with this . . .


We loved the invite so much that we decided to transfer the designs onto fabric and have cloth napkins made. Jana Platina Phipps (aka Trim Queen) added those gorgeous tassels.

cloth napkin.jpg

Cooper then worked his magic on the tablescape in this gorgeous space, foraging in his garden and creating this fall goodness. Every detail was just perfect.


The food was prepared by the incredibly talented Brandon Grimila of 403 Broad. He created a meal that I will never forget. He is so talented and passionate about what he does . . . you can taste that with every bite.

All of the food was locally sourced: Castle Valley Mill (Grains), Bella Bella (Duck), Beaverkill Trout, Butchies Organic (Pork), Lackawaxen Food Hub (Veg), Samaki (Salmon), Willow Wisp Farm (Organic Vegetables), Jasper Hills (Cheese), Apples (Soons Orchards), Pasta (403 Broad), Finding Homes Farms (Maple Syrup), Orchard Hill Cider Mill (Hard Ciders), WineBow Group

Still dreaming of this dish.

Still dreaming of this dish.

All of the dinnerware (Foundry Black) was provided by Fiesta Dinnerware and pulled together for the event by my gorgeous sis, Danielle Elderkin of Cover Story Communications.


Meet Donnan Sutherland from Orchard Hill Cider Mill. Donnan’s drinks were a-mazing. Every single one . . . and I drank them all. So good. So so good.


The guests arrived to this beautiful place out in Shohola, PA on Saturday afternoon. The weekend was a gathering of writers, creatives, good conversation and new friends.


At the table . . .


After a night in this beautiful farmhouse, we enjoyed a brunch at Foundry 42 that was catered by Fogwood and Fig and walked up and down Front Street in Port Jervis, NY.

Amy Flurry (Recipe for Press), Alan Flurry, Catherine Dash, AJ Mapes, Marjorie Gage, Jana Platina Phipps, Lang Phipps, Brandon Grimila, Donna Sutherland, Michael Bloom, Danielle Elderkin, Mark Veeder and Cooper Boone (Cooper’s Farmhouse, Foundry42), it was a treasure to have spent the weekend with you all.

And, the man behind the camera (and not pictured), Michael Bloom . . . these photos are incredible.

Bug Life

Michelle Vinson

It's summer, we live in the woods, I have two boys. In the past 7-ish years, I have held, touched and moved more bugs than I have in my entire life. My boys always show me the beauty and excitement in things that I don't normally notice. And, so . . .I'm painting them. And . . . they are pretty beautiful. I plan on using these little creatures to create a fun fabric pattern, prints, birthday invites. I can't wait to see how they turn out. This is what I have so far . . .


Flower Mandala Love

Michelle Vinson

I am currently working on a floral mandala. My goal is to create a series of paintings that represent different seasons using different objects in nature. The first mandala that I've started represents summer and will be light and feminine, in the color and flowers/leaves (pictured below). I always like to create things that will work as a stand alone piece, but also translate well onto fabric, wrapping paper, notecards, etc.

Don't tell anyone, but I'm just kind of of winging this first one . . . adding and finding elements and measuring things out as I go. So . . . the finished result will be kind of a surprise to everyone, including me :)!

The history behind the mandala is both spiritual and ritual and you can find these symbols in Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. The geometric pattern represents the cosmos and the universe. In some traditions, the mandala can be used as a spiritual guidance tool to aid in meditation.

I think they are beautiful, I've seen them popping up in places and wanted to create my own pattern using a watercolor technique. This is what I've started so far . . .

And here are some other gorgeous samples that I've found for inspiration . . .

image c/o Design Fest

image c/o ABC Carpet and Home

Stay tuned for the finished piece!

Coffee & Champagne

Michelle Vinson


Sometimes I meet people that are super smart, talented and nice and I like to make things for them! I painted and designed a set of 4 cocktail napkins for the amazing NYC food blogger, Michelle Williams of Coffee and Champagne.

I'm so flattered and honored to have them featured on her recent blog post. Make sure you follow her for some great restaurant guides, recipes and some gorgeous food photography. 
Instagram: coffeeandchampagne
Facebook: coffeeandchampagne

Napkins are available for a limited time only in the shop!

Tell me what to paint Tuesday!

Michelle Vinson

It's been a month since I started a new series called "Tell me What to Paint Tuesday," throughout social media. I ask people to tell me what to paint and challenge myself to get it done (in an evening) and post the finished painting the next day. Each week, I randomly pick the winner and then give him/her a free mini print. Picking at random can be a challenge since I don't just select the easiest, most comfortable suggestion. By posting the results and having the "players" anticipate the winner the next day, this also puts pressure on me to make something that I'm not mortified to show . . . eek!

I have a list of projects that I am currently working on (and am excited about), but it's been fun to dedicate a couple of studio hours a week to do something a little spontaneous.

I am excited to see what the next few months will bring. This is what i have painted so far . . .


I like how you roll . . .

Michelle Vinson

I've been working on a new series called "I like how you roll." The series consists of a handful (8 total) of different vehicles and the things they carry along with them. All of the vehicles have a classic look to them. This old fashioned wagon with luggage, an old pickup truck with surfboards, a Volkswagon bus with a canoe. . .

This all started because I like to people watch and I started to notice that people/personalities match what they drive. So . . . I took it a step further and added some fun items to the top of the vehicles. I really feel like each person will connect to one of these prints in some way. Maybe it's the life you lived before you started a family . . .with an old Pinto and band equipment on the roof. Or, a life that you dream of having . . . a little Vespa with shopping bags behind you. Or, the life you live right now . . . a motorcycle taking your dog for a ride.

I am making each vehicle illustration into little mini 4x6 prints and then a big poster with all of them together. So fun and sweet and I am excited about it. I may even get some wallpaper made with all of them together for a little nook in our home. Making them made me smile so, I hope you like them too.

PS: I drive a Jeep Cherokee . . . soon to have a couple of kayaks on the roof. BK (before kids), I drove a Toyota Echo that I bought off of Ebay because I didn't want a car payment and drove that baby until it just wouldn't run anymore. That is how I roll . . .

Here is another sneak peek . . .

OMG . . . I'm such an . . .

Michelle Vinson

Photo courtesy of  Buzzfeed

Photo courtesy of Buzzfeed

Have you ever seen, or heard of, a long-haired donkey? I never saw one until I was commissioned by a friend to paint one for her Aunt. Now, I'm in love with them and kind of want one (sorry Scott, we are getting a long-haired donkey for Christmas)!

Here's the thing . . . they are fun and I had a good time showing their little personalities in these paintings. Hope you like . . .


This Rocks!

Michelle Vinson

I try to draw or paint a little every day. If I ever take a long break, I always feel a little rusty and then it frustrates me and I extend the break a little longer. So . . . instead of always feeling the pressure to paint innovative, clever and current trendy things . . . I now just paint. Anything.

Today, I painted rocks. Just rocks. I found that something so very simple is filled with so much texture, dimension and color variation. I draw from both photos and real life. I decided to play around with a feminine color palette and I love the way it is turning out . . .


I heart Fiesta!

Michelle Vinson


It's always fun when you get to work with a client and you LOVE their product. Cover Story Communications has been working with Fiesta Dinnerware for many years now. We all love them, we have all of their dishes (in almost every color). When you love to paint and you get asked to paint something for's always a winning project! Some hot tea, popcorn, good music and a late night resulted in a fun watercolor that Fiesta used as a desktop wallpaper download for their customers/fans. Take a look at the finished product and blog post here

Relish Life!

Michelle Vinson


My good friend Erin Ruppert, certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, is launching her nutritional therapy practice this month. She's super talented and has a true love and knowledge of all things food and health related. When she came to me to design her logo, website and marketing materials, I was thrilled. It's always so fun to create a brand for someone that loves what they do. 

And . . .since she is a friend, I felt like I could convince her to let me add some watercolors to her new look!

Take a look at her website here!