Meet Mom Katie from Walnut Creek, California…
My name is Katie M. Zeigler and I created k.t. blue designs., a handcut paper artwork design business in Walnut Creek, California. k.t. blue designs. was created seven years ago when my oldest son was born. (Actually, it was created in the two weeks before he was born, since he arrived two weeks late and my nesting instinct was in overdrive.) Bored with watching bad television reruns and unable to walk across the room without hyperventilating, I took out some construction paper, scissors and a glue stick and began creating personalized artwork for his nursery. Seven years (and another son) later, I've created wall art for nurseries, living rooms, children's rooms and kitchens from California to Virginia and lots of spots in between.
I started out specializing in handmade, personalized framed artwork, featuring a child's name and likeness. I've now grown to offer a wide variety of artwork, stationery (including note cards, notebooks, magnets and other cute items) and apparel (children's tees and onesies). I’ve also begun the wonderful adventure of teaching art classes for children and have loved every minute of introducing art appreciation to those who appreciate it most! I also provide “art parties” for children’s birthday parties and write two blogs: one about my business, k.t. blue. blog, and one with recommendations for children’s books; my mamas goodnight blog.
Every piece of original art is made entirely by hand by me (still using construction paper, scissors and a glue stick…). I am a wife, a mother of two boys, a writer, an artist and a firm believer that all the best things in life are handmade.
Walnut Creek, California is a beautiful, family—oriented town within driving distance of San Francisco. My husband and I met in Washington D.C. and stopped in a few places along the way before finally settling here and we couldn’t be happier. We’re nestled right at the base of Mount Diablo, a 3,800 ft. mountain that you can see from just about everywhere downtown. And our home is within walking distance of a gorgeous downtown shopping area. Where else can you sit in your backyard where the occasional deer takes a leap and, within a fifteen minute walk, be at Tiffany’s or Nordstrom?
Our children’s elementary school is two blocks from our house and we adore the fact that we live among such a multitude of families with children of similar age. There’s something so comforting about our neighborhood – the children can walk to each other’s houses and there’s a wonderful mix of new families, older couples, tree-lined streets and really fantastic Halloween trick-or-treating! There’s an air of old fashioned Americana in Walnut Creek that we just love.
On the rare occasion that we actually want to leave Walnut Creek, we can literally just pop into our car and be in downtown San Francisco, the beach, the foothills, Napa Valley, Monterey Bay, or even my alma mater, Stanford University!
I love my home and I am a constant redecorator. Not in terms of furniture, because the pieces I have mostly came from my mother and grandmother and I’ll love them ‘til the end of time. But I am constantly switching out art in my home. I love mixing fine art pieces with pieces I’ve made or the wonderful artwork of my children. One of my favorite things to do with my boys is have “art time” – we just think of a theme and run with it. My son recently decided that there really is not enough artwork devoted to mustaches, so we spent the afternoon making “mustachioed men” out of clay and painting them. These little hairy beasts now occupy a place on honor in our home!
I also LOVE to use wrapping paper as artwork. I’m a huge sucker for all things paper and I really think wrapping paper deserves its rightful place as art! I completely redecorated the boys’ bathroom based on this goldfish wrapping paper I found while on vacation in San Diego – because, honestly, who could resist those little goldfish! Vintage wallpaper is another love of mine – and I just adore taking big sheets of gorgeous vintage wallpaper and throwing them in a beautiful white wood frame. The look is spectacular and it’s much less expensive than buying a framed piece of fine art!
What is your idea of a perfect day with your children?
The perfect day with my boys would entail reading lots of books…I’m lucky to have two little book worms and we love going to the library and finding new treasures to read. More than anything, I just love being with my sons. They’re imaginative, creative, silly, witty, kind and wonderfully individual. We have a big backyard for them to play in and we’re lucky to be able to walk anywhere from our house. Within a few minutes walk, we can be at a restaurant, at a book shop or in a beautiful city park.
Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ values?
Most of our parenting values come from the wonderful way both my husband and I were raised. We were nurtured, loved and, most importantly, allowed to become the people we were meant to become. Both of us were given every opportunity to become good, highly-educated, well-rounded people – and we both want to instill that same sentiment in our boys. My sons couldn’t be more different – my oldest is sensitive, empathetic, thoughtful and cerebral and my younger son is more outgoing, outspoken…much more of a risk-taker than really any of us!
And I adore their differences – and want to make sure that they always know that we, as parents, support them and will encourage them to be whatever it is they want to be. Which doesn’t mean we don’t set parameters and have rules within our household…we definitely expect our children to behave and have manners and speak politely and respect others. Our role as parents is just that – to parent – and to teach them how to go forward into the world successfully and with kindness.
I’m constantly making new paper artwork for my k.t. blue designs business, and my children love it when I bring out my big boxes of paper, my scissors and glue sticks and get to work. I wish I could say I use my actual office for my work, but I can’t seem to tear myself away from the dining room table. I put the extra leaves in the table, cover it with a big bright tablecloth, put some great music on and get to work right smack dab in the middle of everything. I love that my boys join me in their own art projects too – they’re quite handy with a pair of scissors! At this stage of the game, most of their artwork revolves around Star Wars…so we see lots of Yoda and Darth Vader on our walls.
Perhaps because both of my sons enjoy books so much, they also really like to create their own stories and illustrate them. What great keepsakes these are! Especially my older son’s first book, written at the age of 4, entitled “The King Who Picked His Nose.” An instant classic.
What are all time favorite books for the children?
My sons both inherited my love of reading and we really enjoy diving into a new book together. I love to read to my sons and now that they are both reading themselves, it’s such fun to find them, tucked away on a couch, deep within the pages of a new book. We, as a family, are enormous Roald Dahl-ophiles. We’ve read them all, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to The Twits and, my sons’ favorite, George’s Marvelous Medicine. My older son really loves Hardy Boys as well, and my younger son has just realized the splendors of Captain Underpants.
How do you get your books? Bookstores? Online?
We tend to get our books from the library – we go at least once every two weeks to stock up on new books. I also love small, independent bookstores – like Storyteller here in Lafayette, Calif. It’s a lovely little children’s bookstore with the most wonderful employees who know more about children’s books than anyone I know and are so eager to point my sons in the direction of their next great literary love.
What kind of place do you like to go to on vacation with and without the children?
Every summer we visit our family house on Heron Island, an island off the coast of Maine. My husband’s great grandfather bought it in the 1940’s and it is our favorite place on Earth. There are only 24 cottages on the island and most of them are the original structures from the late 19th century. There is no electricity – only gas lamps and some gas-powered appliances and we use collected rainwater for showers and baths. It sounds a lot like camping (which, between you, me and the lamppost, isn’t my favorite gig in the world) but it’s utterly wonderful with my husband’s great grandmother’s blue willow dishes and the original antique furniture and cocktails every night overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. With no modern conveniences, no television, no video games and fundamentally no cell phone reception, we, as a family, become so much more connected while we’re there.
We talk, play games, make s’mores, read books in the hammock, spend time with our extended family, play tennis, beat each other at croquet, eat way too many lobster and just allow each day to bring forth its blessings. It’s my favorite place in the world. My husband has never missed a summer in his entire life, nor have my children. And I’ve never missed one since meeting my husband. It’s this special place tucked in our hearts that we look forward to visiting all year long.
It’s also a wonderfully inspirational place in terms of new artwork. I love to take lots of photographs of the island and then create those images in paper art. I’ve done a few of these – like “Lobster Dinner” and “Little Skiffs” and I love creating artwork from real life. Turning the realistic into the whimsical.