Inspired By: Painting Studio Spaces

Now that I’ve thought about all the tools and process of painting, I’m daydreaming about painting studios ahead of the Floral Painting class at Gather on Saturday March 16th. I am always fascinated by how other artists set up their work space. Painters tend to have specific things in their spaces: a window with good light, an easel or wall where you can tack your paintings in progress, space to hang your inspiration or other art in process, flat files and storage for your canvas and of course your paints and brushes close by.

Some artists prefer a more serene, calm space with lots of blank walls and others like to be surrounded by little vignettes of collected items and inspiration. I find that most artists are collectors and magpies at heart and like to “see” their treasures around them, including their supplies since they are very visually driven people.

I love the idea of a tucked away backyard studio space where you can get as messy as you like and keep your home and art separate. That is a one-day goal for myself, hopefully with a dog underfoot just like here but really any space with great light and lots of wall space to hang things on will do.

Do you dream about one day having a space where you can paint and create? What does it look like? Do you already have one? I’d love to see.

Will you be joining me at the Floral Painting Class at Gather with instructor Sarah Jane Tart on Saturday March 16th? You can register here.

Images: Rustic painting retreat, Collection of artist tools & inspiration, paintbrushes in glass vessels, paint tube display, backyard art cabin, tall windows in artist studio, plant filled painting space

Feeling Painterly, Inspired By: Upcoming Floral Painting Class at Gather

I’m feeling inspired by all things painterly due to an upcoming Floral Painting class at Gather on March 16th. Participants will learn to make their own floral masterpiece taught by Durham, NC based graphic designer/painter Sarah Jane Tart at our downtown Cary, NC studio and classroom space. Students will paint from a fresh bouquet still life. Very fun. If you’d like to join, you can register here.

Images: A Creative Mess / Caroline South, Scraps of Us / Simone Bodmer-Turner / Stoneware Vessels by Apparatu / Handmade paper samples from @farmettepress image by foil & ink / Art by Laura Horn

Whenever I begin a painting or any piece of graphic art I first start by assembling inspiration either digitally or on a physical pinboard. I then start to see what patterns are emerging. Here I see lots of earthy muted shades of salmon, terracotta, sage greens, rust, charcoal, creams and gray blues. As far as graphics I see repeated rectangular and circular shapes stacked together in an organic fashion. Identifying these commonalities helps to give you a visual template to refer to in the back of your head of imagery that resonates with you and styles to experiment with and incorporate into your piece.

While not specifically floral per say, elements from the above can still be worked into your own art in subtle ways creating texture and layers. My own art process and process in general involves lots of layers built upon one another. I am currently working with encaustic painting techniques just as a personal creative release and I’m enjoying it a lot.

Paint covered hand photo via Maureen O’Neill / Paint covered apron via The Odyssey Online / Belladonna Art

I love how messy that painting is. It is a chance to work with your hands and get them dirty and to step away from all the screens we are so often focused on. It is a good excuse to just experiment and not have set expectations or results in mind as far as output. When I’m painting I certainly get paint all over my hands, surfaces, feet you name it so it’s always good to have an apron on hand to protect your clothes.

Having the tools that you need on hand is definitely helpful when the urge to create strikes. As you get better at your craft you can invest in higher quality brushes and paints but I am a firm believer that you should start with what you have and learn as much as you can, then when your skills improve and you meet the tools at your level you will be amazed at how symbiotic it becomes. This recently happened when I upgraded my camera which I have been using for years and years to a much more professional level one, I was blown away at how much my skills that have been growing over time gelled with the technology. I’m glad I’ve worked my way up, it was such a treat to reward myself with the “next level” of tool instead of just having it straight out of the gate.

Paint Covered Apron via Clare Basler / Black Paint Palette / Paint Colors via Moglea / Brush Strokes / Art Brushes

As far as taking care of your painting tools, the most important thing is washing out your brushes after every use so they don’t harden and become permanently unusable. You should store your brushes bristle side up as well and you can even make (or buy) brush rolls that store nicely when you amass a large collection or need a portable solution.

As far as paints to buy, again, start with what you can and as far as colors you really only need a basic palette of red, yellow, blue, black and white and from there every color can be mixed, this way you are really creating the colors you need and want versus having to buy a specific shade. My painting teacher in college drilled that into as, as well as how to make our own canvases (super easy) and that the paint should be the consistency of tomato soup so it is easy to spread on the canvas. As far as painting on canvas you also want to make sure it is primed with gesso first so that the paint “takes” evenly.

Are you a painter, a dabbler? Do you prefer oils or acrylics or watercolor? Something else? Do you want to learn or just have a pretty floral painting to hang on your wall? Will you be joining us for the Painting Florals Class at Gather on Saturday March 16th? If so, you’ll need to register here.

Cheddar and Herb Biscuits Recipe

Recipe & Text by Megan Crist
Photography and Styling by Michelle Smith

I’ve been diving into southern culture lately. I make a lot of multicultural dishes, but hello! I’m looking everywhere except where I am for something mouthwatering to make for dinner. The American South really does have its own repertoire of delicious food. Trust me when I tell you, I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject. I’m still no expert, partly because I’m vegetarian, but one of my favorites is, and always will be, the classic biscuit.

They say you can’t get a truly good biscuit outside of the South and I don’t know how true that is, since I’ve never actually had a biscuit outside of the south. So this is my savory biscuit recipe, for which I’ve learned many uses. It’s not just a vehicle for bacon, eggs, and cheese… Try topping casseroles or cobblers with biscuit dough for example. Crumbling day-old baked biscuits into tomato pie lends texture and keeps the sogginess away. It means cozy comfort food like this Tomato Florentine Soup (link) has an equally delicious and flavorful carb for dipping.

TIME 3 Hours


food processor

mixing bowl   

chef’s knife

measuring spoons

baking sheet

parchment paper or silpat


4 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ cup cheddar cheese

⅓ cup parmesan cheese

¼ cup chopped parsley or herbs of your choice

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon baking soda

1¾ teaspoon baking powder

8 ounces butter, ½ inch cubes, cold + 2 tablespoons for melting

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

8 ounces milk


  1. Mix the herbs and dry ingredients in the food processor.
  2. Add the cold butter cubes and pulse a couple times.
  3. Pulse several more times while streaming in the liquid.
  4. Turn the dough out into the mixing bowl.
  5. Gently work the dough together by pressing, not by kneading. If you REALLY need more moisture to bring the dough together, try adding a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.
  6. Roll out dough to about ¾-1 inch thick. This is highly debatable, but there is a nice spring to this recipe.
  7. Layer the scraps on top of each other to roll out once more. There should be about 12 biscuits.
  8. Freeze biscuits at least 2 hours, or up to one month ahead.
  9. Preheat oven to 425F. When ready to bake, remove as many biscuits as needed from the freezer and brush the tops with melted butter. Do not defrost before baking.

Inspired by Embroidery Artists & Fiber Art

This Thursday at Gather we’re hosting an embroidery class with Allie Paige of Humble North Hamilton. She’s going to teach students a variety of stitches and they’ll walk away with a finished piece inspired by the state of North Carolina and its state flower the dogwood. I’ve rounded up some work from other inspiring embroidery & fiber artists below.

How beautiful is this tone on tone piece on a translucent fabric background by Ontario based artist Sarah Godfrey? I love that the textures in this piece are what make the impact versus bright color. You can follow her on Instagram here.

Lisa Smirnova’s work is vibrant and painterly. This embroidered peach rendering feels very retro and modern to me because of the colors (and subject matter) that are very of the moment but have a decidedly 60’s feel at the same time evocative of avocado kitchen counters, salmon colored appliances and wax fruit in bowls.

This piece by Amelia Dennigan reminds me of fireworks and ocean corral and just how similar the shapes in nature are, whether they come in the form of pyrotechnics or underwater plant life.

Here, Thea Haines a textile design instructor at Sheridan College, shows us different embroidery stitched on naturally dyed fabric swatches resulting in a cohesive collection.

How cool are the textures in this piece-in-progress by local Raleigh based embroidery artist Elena Caron?

More work by Lisa Spirnova, this time her work is an avant-garde apparel piece on a deep navy waffle textured fabric that allows the corrals and pink threads to really pop.

A Scandinavian-inspired botanical silhouette looks just right on a pink circular background on this art by Claire Crider.

A patchwork coat embellished further by Lisa Spirnova.

Dax Sheppard on Choosing His Relationship/Life Priorities

I caught this video of Dax Shepard sharing some poignant insight into his relationship and life priorities. It’s moving and worth a watch.

If you aren’t familiar with Dax you need to stop everything and watch Parenthood immediately. His portrayal of the character Crosby Braverman, a rebellious but charmingly flawed black sheep of the family, is a highlight in an already stellar show. You should also listen to his podcast, Armchair Expert where he interviews others in a similarly disarming, straight shooting, weird and funny way.

Bee Sting Cake (Bienenstich)

Bee Sting Cake (Bienenstich) recipe

Recipe by Megan Crist
Photography and Styling by Michelle Smith

Hey there fellow foodies. Have you fallen off the January health-kick bandwagon in search of the perfectly decadent treat to reward all of your amazing lifestyle changes? Ha. Me too. (Total veganuary fail, if I’m being honest, because cheese exists…) This is a bit of an involved recipe, but lucky for you, you’ve got the whole week ahead to dream and plan for making this. Enter the Bee Sting Cake.

This is a yeasted German pastry (officially called Bienenstich). The cake part has a texture somewhere between actual cake and a cinnamon roll dough. The filling is a fluffy pastry cream. You might want to save this recipe just for that. I use a variation of it for my banana pudding. It’s crazy good.

This is a yeasted German pastry called Bienenstich. The cake part has a texture somewhere between actual cake and a cinnamon roll dough.

TIME 4 hours


    9” cake pan

parchment paper

    mixing bowl

    medium saucepan

    wooden spoon


    mesh sieve

    kitchen scale

    measuring spoons

    liquid measuring cup

    serrated knife

    oven mitts

    stand mixer

How to make a German bee sting cake with recipe and instructions.



1 tablespoon yeast

6 ounces milk, warm

2 ounces honey

10 ounces AP flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground ginger

2 eggs

2 ounces melted unsalted butter


4 ounces unsalted butter

3 ounces sugar

3 tablespoons honey

6 ounces sliced almonds

¼ teaspoon salt


4 ounces milk

12 ounces cream, divided 4 ounces and 8 ounces

2 tablespoons cornstarch

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 egg

2 ounces sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

2 ounces butter

1 tablespoon honey

Bee Sting Cake Recipe with Pastry Cream Filling



  1. Add milk and 4 ounces of cream to a saucepan until warmed through and approaching a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk egg, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small mixing bowl.
  3. Slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture, whisking quickly until completely combined. Don’t pour the milk too fast or your eggs might cook and we’re not looking for scrambled eggs in our pastry cream, am I right?
  4. Pour everything back into the saucepan and stir continuously over medium heat until thickened. You should be able to see the bottom of the pan when you stir and it should not fill in quickly.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and honey until melted and combined.
  6. Strain the pastry cream into a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to avoid the formation of a filmy layer.
  7. Refrigerate until cool (at least 2 hours). You can make the pastry cream up to 2 days in advance.


  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.
  2. Line a 8” cake pan with with round of parchment and butter or spray the sides.
  3. Mix the yeast, honey, and warm milk together and set aside.
  4. Measure the remaining dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast, honey, milk, and eggs, and mix on low speed until combined. Add the melted (but not hot) butter and mix until incorporated, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Allow the batter to rise in a warm location for about an hour. It won’t quite double in size.
  6. At this point, pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and allow to rise again.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350F and begin to make the honey almond topping.
German Bee Sting Cake Recipe


  1. In the same buttery sauce pan, add the butter, sugar, honey, and salt. Once the butter melts, boil mixture for about 3 minutes over medium heat. When it starts to look caramel-y in color, take it off the heat and stir in the almonds with a wooden spoon (This is going to be thick, so you want something sturdy).
  2. Let it cool for a few minutes before you pour it onto the cake. Distribute the topping as evenly as you can over the surface of the batter.
  3. Bake for about 25 minutes on the middle rack. Allow to cool about 10 minutes in the pan before turning it out onto the a rack.


  1. Whip the remaining 8 ounces of cream. Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream in batches. Until evenly combined.
  2. Use a serrated knife to slice through the center of the cake horizontally. Remove the top half.
  3. This is not required, but I occasionally have some flavored simple syrups in my fridge. A generous brushing of a vanilla or orange syrup on each side of the open cake is a nice touch. (Simple syrup is 1:1 water and sugar heated until sugar is dissolved.)
  4. Scoop the pastry cream onto the bottom layer of cake and spread evenly to the edges.
  5. Return the top half of the cake it’s place on the pastry cream and enjoy.

Gather Gift Guide

Just in case you are still looking for gifts and you are a visual person like me, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite items from the Gather Goods Co online shop for holiday shopping. There are of course a lot more on the site.

Pink Dots Ceramic Coastersbecause they last forever, Stylish Sunglasses, the hardest working accessory, Be Kind Sweatshirtwe could all use the reminder, Goat’s Milk Hand Soap smells amazing and is made on a solar powered farm outside of Nashville, Copper Chimes with Airplanta pretty way to nurture your green thumb, Palo Santo Sticks – perfect for new homeowners or someone looking to get rid of bad juju, Triangle Earringsjust the right amount of edginess, White Speckled Ceramic Mug – because it looks like you’re drinking from a cloud.

North Carolina Long Sleeve Pulloverbecause winter equals cozy clothes, Black & White Palm Print a simple but striking statement for your walls, High Five Cardbecause we all deserve one every once in awhile, Find Me Under the Stars Enamel Pin because dreaming is everything, Black Bar Necklacestylish and sweet, Activated Charcoal Detox Scrub because winter skin needs a boost, Things Will Work Out Print – a good reminder, Maidenhair Fern & Hand Print – to make your world a little lovelier.

Take A Hike Sweatshirt because bundling up and heading outdoors makes winter shine, A Hanging Succulent Kokedama Ball – perfect for all the crazy plant ladies (and men) in your life, Artisanal Ceramic Serving Platter – elevate your dinner table, Cactus Cards because it’s “Thank You” season, Sage Feather Ceramic Coasters your grown-up furniture will appreciate it, Petite Fern Necklacefor your favorite naturalist, Dried Eucalyptus Wreathfor an elegant door display.

October Playlist

I am a summer girl through and through, still, there is something magical about the Fall isn’t there? Our heat is out at home and it is the first really cold day here. And truth be told, I am loving this excuse to sit curled up by the fire with my wool socks on, my warm tea beside me and a good movie on in the background while I crank out emails that have gone neglected over the past few weeks. Why is it that in the summer months I don’t make time for such indulgences but here in the cool temperatures it feels just right? Either way, I am embracing it as I’m long overdue for some “me” time. Here are some images that have been inspiring me and a playlist I created that I have been listening to on repeat these past few weeks.

Images: Field photo via Instagram-vagabondanse, Gratitude quote via Instagram-wetheurban, Autumn style via Instgram-caro_linebiene, Dried wreath via Rose Golden


Terracotta Textures

I’m really feeling these terracotta colors and textures these days.

Images: Top Left to R: Terracotta tassel earrings online at Gather Goods Co, Chunghi Lee fabric assemblage 1999 (raw hemp, cloth, stitched) from the collection of jack lenor larsen photo scanned from the book: jack lenor larsen, creator and collector, Willow Leaf Semi Flush Mount Light at Anthropologie, Tablescape photographed by Amy Batog for Anthropologie discovered via Lonny, State Fair flowers photographed by Michelle Smith for Gather Goods Co., painted swatches via Natasha Marie, Flowers by soil & stem, photographed by Jaqualine Hayward, Short Sleeve Linen Shirt by Rachel Harrah

State Fair Flowers & Phone Wallpaper

Every year in Raleigh the State Fair comes to the Fairgrounds and everyone you know is there eating fried foods, riding the rides, scoring Rasta banana dolls and watching pigs race. It’s a bit of a madhouse and my family likes to go early on a weekday to avoid the crowds – even still it is a lot to take in.

The food staples that we’ve come to count on are hot mini doughnuts (cinnamon of course), roasted corn, kettle corn, BBQ and this year I found a hot baked potato vendor. My husband has a lifetime goal of getting a blue ribbon for biscuits (he’s already won one for his scones).

But my most favorite part (and the only thing I really go for) is the prize winning plants and flowers. It is an oasis amidst the chaos. How charming is it to see all the cuttings of basil and single stems of flowers lined up in a row? I love thinking of the thousands of gardens these came from and the people who nurtured them

If you are like me and can’t get enough of pictures of flowers, you can right click on the photos above or press on the photo and press save photo and save them as your phone wallpaper.

Are you a Fair fanatic? What are your favorite things to do and eat there?

Photography by Michelle Smith for Gather Goods Co.