Meet Robert Giordano of Giordano Studios

Robert GiordanoYou’ll know their names and their wonderful designs, but what do you know about their backgrounds and sources of inspiration? Joanna has been chatting to some of the top artists whose original stunning artwork is transformed into craft products and featured on her website.

In this blog Joanna talks to Robert Giordano, of Giordano Studios, the artist behind many popular design Joanna has featured on her website.

1. Where do you get your ideas from – what inspires you?

Inspiration can come from so many areas. My family inspires me, through their interest, support and love. Nature is also a great inspiration. Each Spring I marvel at the activity of songbirds in my yard, how hard they work looking for nesting material. As my wife and I prepare the garden after a long winter, among the many other Spring commitments like trade shows and family celebrations, I think of the birds and realize we are all part of the same world, each busy in our own way. The budding flowers and the world becoming green again inspire me to create.

2. What do you enjoy most about your career?

The day-to-day changes. One day I might be asked to develop a new Kitten design, the next it might be Santa on a rooftop. It could be July and 100 degrees but inside the studio clients are putting together lines for a year to 18 months down the road so they just might be needing winter and snow. Being self-employed allows me to attend daily family events be it in the afternoon or during school hours. However as the principle in the company, I know discipline is a very important word and sometimes the business of the day never ends. I also enjoy seeing our art bring joy to others, sometimes we take that for granted as we’re so focused on business, our fans and consumers remind me of that and I’m grateful to hear they like what we do.

3. What do you like the least?

Being dependent on the state of retail and consumer spending. It’s getting difficult for retailers to keep the same business model and so much of our world has changed. It’s important to build good relationships with manufactures who look to our studio to keep their lines fresh.

4. Are you a night owl or a morning person?

That depends on the season! In the summer I’m definitely a morning person. I love to fish and find solace in being on the water well before sunrise. My wife also gets up rather early for work so the days of sleeping in are few and far between for us. 

5. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

I would have liked to go away to school for college. I went to the School of Visual Arts in NYC about ten miles from where I was raised and, although I loved the education, it lacked a social and campus-like lifestyle and I’m a social person. No regrets, but I think it would have added a different perspective to my formative years.

6. What is your favourite childhood memory?

One of Giordano Studios charming snowman designsGrowing up in a wonderful family I’m fortunate to have so many. Sunday dinner with my extended Italian-American family, averaging 22 to 28 people, all in a smallish dining room in my Grandparent’s apartment. Sketching with my Dad and brother Greg at the Museum of Natural History or one of the city’s Zoos and myy Dad stepping in when we were finished to critique in a positive way.

7. If you had to choose just one of your designs as your absolute favourite, what would it be?

The one that has sold the most! Probably one of the teddy bear designs from our Bearhugs collection. It’s rather simple, a snowman holding a teddy bear in his arms while two others who look like the baby’s siblings build the snow around him.

8. Who do you think has had the most influence on you?

Hands down my father Joseph Giordano. Not only was he a great artist, he was a great father and husband as well. His influence on me is endless in so many positive ways. He started our licensing business in 1980 and I worked with him from 1984 until his passing in 2011. He was painting 24 hours before he passed on, doing what he loved all of his life. He worked out of his home studio and, where I mentioned having to be disciplined, that comes directly from him. He was always working, always trying to Robert, his father Joseph and brother Greg the next series to bring us success. He worked hard and played hard, enjoying the beach, the sun, his family and friends, not necessarily things that only come from financial success. Other influential artists are Winslow Homer, Frank Benson and John Singer Sargent. You can see their influence in my fine art, primarily seascapes and maritime in theme.

9. What was the last gift you gave someone?

I bought my son Luke a pair of white shrimp boots for our fishing ventures for his birthday. He’s 14 and growing like a weed so his old ones were too small. Our fishing boat is rather small and wet and it’s comfy keeping your feet dry. I wish I could say it was some fabulous gift for my wife Maureen for mother’s day, but hanging plants for our porch has become the norm the last few years. Note to self, sparkle her next year!

10. Do you have any future plans you’d like to share with us?

Just to continue bringing Joanna Sheen customers the Giordano brand be it Puppies and Kittens or some other lovable critters. It’s been great working with Joanna and the Joanna Sheen design team. I’m delighted with what they’ve done with our art applying it to the craft and made by hand industry.



Eat your greens!

As the sap rises and the garden blooms, hen pal, and partner in writing crime Julia Wherrell, has been pondering her chickens again…

Last year, we had a bit of a disaster. On a very windy May day, the gate to the chickens’ run blew open and they escaped. There was no road kill or fox massacre, they simply strolled into my veg patch and ate every pea, broad bean and lettuce in sight creating their very own version of carnage. I was not impressed, but the hens were chortling merrily and happily stuffed with greenery. My partner felt sage and onion might have been more appropriate, but I restrained him.

A typical bowl of chicken scraps with rotten bits of fruit, wilted rocket and ends of vegetables.Chickens are omnivores so they’ll eat, or at least try, just about anything and spend much of the day scratch the ground looking for insects and worms. Any large insect, like a butterfly, foolish enough to drift through their run will be hotly pursued with all sorts of acrobatics and excitement and generally not come out alive. They love cheese rind, pasta and they have slices of brown bread every day and yes, they are spoilt.

They are also exceedingly fond of their greens. Any scraps we have – the bits you cut off the end of your vegetables, corn on the cob husks, wilted lettuce – they fight over. For entertainment, my farmer friend Greg will eat an apple and then lob the core into the run and watch the ensuing rubgy match as chicken after chicken grabs the core, runs off chattering happily, puts it down to eat it, whereupon it is instantly stolen by another hen and off they go again… A kindly neighbour regularly gives us the discarded outer leaves and stalk of cauliflowers which, to the hens, is about as exciting as receiving a box of chocolates!

Cauliflower leaves – better than a box of chocs!Of course we give them ‘proper’ chicken feed, including corn and things called ‘layers pellets’ but, just as we do, they love a varied diet. But greenery seems to play an important part in making their yolks rich and yellow. As a result, our hens’ egg yolks are a stunning deep rich orange and taste delicious. I rarely eat eggs anywhere but at home as I find their paleness unappetising. Sponges and quiches all look gorgeous as they have a naturally golden hue and they really do taste wonderful.

Now that my veggies are well advanced, the hens will be getting even more treats. Bolted cabbages, rocket and lettuces disappear down their greedy beaks in seconds. They won’t thank you for an onion or a leek though. And this year, my partner has adapted the door to their run so that it swings shut, even in the strongest gale, so I can be sure the greens they get are the ones I decide to give them and not the ones they steal!






Meet Ellen Jareckie – the talented artist behind House Mouse!

Ellen Jareckie at work in her studio.You’ll know their names and their wonderful designs, but what do you know about their backgrounds and sources of inspiration? Joanna has been chatting to some of the top artists whose original and stunning artwork is transformed into craft products and featured on her website.

In this blog Joanna talks to Ellen Jareckie, the talented artist behind the House Mouse designs. 

1. Ellen, where do you get your ideas from – what inspires you?

I’ve always loved mice, ever since I was a little kid. I find them fascinating because of their small size. I had a pet mouse, named Tiny, who was the inspiration behind the line of mouse characters.

2. What do you enjoy most about your career?

I enjoy many things about my career, and I feel very lucky to be able to do something fun as a career. I work at home, which is very relaxing, and I also take in Just one example of Ellen’s many lovely designs that we featue on the website.orphaned mice occasionally, so I spend the day creating the artwork as well as tending to any orphans. I really enjoy making a needy creature feel warm, safe and well fed, and I love creating new images too.

3. What do you like the least?

What I like least is doing any kind of bookkeeping, but I make myself do that, since it’s necessary to keep good records.

4. Are you a night owl or a morning person?

I’m definitely a night owl. I get up a bit later in the morning than many people do, and work until late at night. But if I’m tending to a critically ill orphan, I have to get up in the middle of the night as well as early in the morning because it’s so important to be vigilant with an orphan that arrives seriously ill or starved.

Pipsqueak, the orphaned piglet, that Ellen hand raised.5. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

If I could go back in time, the only thing I would do differently is start riding a motorcycle earlier in life than I did. I started riding at age 48, I think. Other than that, I would not do anything differently. And Barry and Nicole are my agents, and I would keep them, too. They are great people, and I could not do what I do without their hard work. Barry’s marketing skills over the past years were what really helped launch the designs. 

6. What is your favourite childhood memory?

My favorite childhood memory… there are lots of them, mostly very funny ones, so it’s hard to choose. I think that Pipsqueak, the orphaned piglet I hand raised, was my favorite memory. She was at a pig farm, dying of starvation (too many babies in the litter) and I asked the farmer if I could buy her. He said, “She’s going to die anyway, so I’ll sell her to you for a dollar”. Since I was only 14, that was an affordable price for me. I brought her home and bottle-fed her and she lived on our property. I love pigs! They are sweet, intelligent, and have a great sense of humor. 

Pipsqueak, my piglet, tilling the soil while Muzzy the mouse sits on her back.7. If you had to choose just one of your designs as your absolute favourite, what would it be?

It’s hard to choose a favorite design, but maybe that would be the picture of Pipsqueak, my piglet, tilling the soil in a garden while Muzzy the mouse sits on her back. This was years ago and the design was featured in the 1999 calendar!

8. Who do you think has had the most influence on you?

In the book, “Charlotte’s Web”, there are some incredibly endearing illustrations by Garth Williams. It is those illustrations that inspired me the most. There’s a picture of Fern (the girl), holding Wilbur (the piglet) in her arms. Also, a hilarious picture of Templeton, the rat, after he’s eaten too much garbage at the circus – I love that illustration, and that character

9. What was the last gift you gave someone?

The last gift I gave was to a friend of mine who just had a birthday yesterday. I gave her a box of fresh tarts from the bakery along with some hand soap that smells like freesia flowers, and other fun items.

10. Do you have any future plans you’d like to share with us?

In the near future I plan to do a little more animal rescue work, and I also plan to expand on some of the Wee Poppet, Gruffies and Happy Hopper images too. I also hope to get over to the UK to see your beautiful country, and if I do, I hope to be able to visit with some of you. To all of you who are viewing the blog, thanks for all your interest, support and enthusiasm for the designs. And thanks to Joanna Sheen, and to everyone who works with Joanna. You are all fantastic! Thank you!

Thank you Ellen! We are sure you don’t need telling, but you can find lots of House Mouse products in our craft shop on our website. We’ll be featuring more of our wonderful artists in future blogs!



Many Happy Returns!

Here’s a lovely large birthday card that would brighten anyone’s celebrations! The decoupage in the centre is made from Jayne Netley Mayhew’s Summer decoupage and shows some lovely garden robins nesting in a garden pot!

This is a real statement card and, although we may not make cards quite this big too often, it certainly shows off the decoupage! The ivy leaves embellishing the right hand side are actually silk not paper and garden twine has been used for the stem. The butterfly and sentiments are from the same sheet.

Robins hold a special fascination for me as they are so friendly, there’s one that often keeps me company in the garden. I fondly imagine he is smiling at me, but I suspect he is much more likely to be criticising my gardening while hoping that I will dig up a worm for him!

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Thinking about Easter

It’s not long now until Easter – it must be about as late as it can be this year – with Easter Sunday falling on April 20th. I have so many possibilities for making Easter cards but I think Jayne Netley Mayhew’s animals will be my inspiration for cards this year.  Both of these designs use the decoupage in her spring collection and they make wonderful Easter cards.

The little row of ducklings always makes me smile, the decoupage is quite easy to cut out and you can put a plain card around it or something a little more decorative as we have here. The Grand Nestability die makes a good card shape and with some simple embellishments it’s a simple card to make.

The Easter bunny card is a little more complex but still easy for a beginner. The decoupage is simple and the backing paper has just been pleated which, once you have got into a rhythm, is quite quick and very effective.

These two decoupage designs come with Easter greetings on the sheet if you wish to use them, but there’s plenty more inspiration in the rest of the Spring decoupage pack – you can have a look through them here.

Happy spring cardmaking! 

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