Adelante! September Here We Come

Gemma used to always say 'Adelante!' Onward, upward. I named this painting Adelante probably, at the time, inspired by my dear darling friend and mentor's words. I finished this piece at Gemma's table after letting it sit in limbo for years shoved in between my fridge and my cabinet on my small studio apartment. I met Bob days after finishing this piece. I was ready for everything that onward and upward would bring in my life. And here we are now, welcoming a new month and I was inspired to call this post 'Adelante.' Let's just see, shall we? Let's just see what unfolds for all of us when we move onward and upward.

Sometimes after a long busy weekend full of adventures and aha moments and chick peas and bit-in-half blueberries and hummus all over my leggings and 11-month-old-earlybird-getting-the-worm-every-single-day and spilling water on my iPhone and going to see great friends and finally folding the laundry and crusty finally getting done dishes and drank too fast morning coffee and Mr. P pop-pop-popping his way around the park walking at the speed of light pushing his big boy walking toy and Facetiming families making exciting plans… Sometimes it’s enough to give a crazy long sentence recap and leave it at just that.

It’s the beginning of a new month. Happy September, darling readers. When I think ahead to October 1st it feels like one million years away. So for now I will savor September each day as it comes. Onward, upward, one wonderful day at a time.

Good things, darlings.


* Day 25 of my commitment to write/post a blog in 30 minutes.

A Day In Pictures: Patchwork Culver City

This past Sunday was a major milestone for me. My first ever big show for Said The Butterfly. There could not have been a more ideal setting for this major event in the life of my beloved brand than the Patchwork Indie Arts and Crafts Festival at Helms Bakery in Culver City.

Here I am proudly presenting the booth for a quick iPhone shot to share with my Facebook friends. This is taken just seconds after an almost-meltdown full of pre-show jitters.

Why the jitters you ask? This was my first time having a whole booth to fill. 8 x 8 feet. So the pressure was on to get all my products there, make sure they were presented well AND to somehow make the booth look like more than a folding table in the middle of an empty space. There’s also the huge factor that I was putting it all out there for the public to see…

This is no longer all of my artwork hanging in the comfort of my treasure-filled home. This is wearing the entire contents of my heart on my sleeve for the world to see. Was I nervous? Yes, yes, YES! Thankfully, with the help of the excellent/fearless/energizing/tireless Bob Gustafson, AKA my awesome husband, we pulled it all together at the last second. Here’s Bob sporting two pocket-fuls of bookmarks and that smile and two-thumbs-up attitude that never seems to go away. Love this guy so much!

Here’s the whole booth…

New banner… new card display…

Bookmarks in vases…

Magnets and tiles… the mailing list sign-up… And my first time using Square to accept credit cards. I’m starting to feel like a real live business and it’s feels so good.

So back to the display set up: I happily repurposed some hinged doors that I found in the trash over five years ago. We wrapped them in white wrapping paper to cover the coffee and paint stains from its one-time life as my studio tabletop. Then, we hung a bunch of originals. We also hung one of my prints in the IKEA Ribba shadowbox frame that makes my prints look extra amazing without spending a ton on framing.

For a final lucky touch, I draped the doors with the magic-tasseled multi-colored sash I have had since I was about 15 years old. (Hello, that was twenty years ago!) I still remember the day I bought it in El Quetzal, one of my all-time favorite shops in Philadelphia’s darling Chestnut Hill. Finally, I added the last minute beaded butterfly and the world started to feel right again.

Then the real fun began… the booth quickly filled-up with so many amazing people. New friends…

Friends from way back when… so nice to see Rachel!

All kinds of people were drawn to Said The Butterfly… this sweet woman below is a first grade teacher. She bought “I started a list of things I love about you I stopped when I reached the moon” to hang in her classroom. She’s planning on doing activities centered around the message of the print. Such a beautiful idea for a 1st grade classroom. I love seeing how my work speaks to people and what it inspires. This will never cease to amaze me.

Matching journals for matching striped sisters…

Nothing makes me happier than seeing people enjoy my work. Happy, happy!

We got a special guest appearance by the 17-day-old Olivia Alyx! Big props to her brave mama for bringing her out to see us that day.

I loved seeing Gemma Del Rio and Beth. We have such great memories of our magic days of painting and creating with the one-and-only Gemma Taccogna.

These ladies bought the “Forever starts today” tile as a high school graduation gift. I am so amazed that while most of my pieces are not intended for specific occasions they somehow speak directly to what people are looking for. I am so grateful for that…

Awesome to see Angela… Her husband, Tyson, is the mastermind carpenter behind the wood card display. Have I mentioned I am in love with this display? It fits more than I ever imagined… better than I ever imagined. Thank you Tyson!

Balance is beautiful tile for Nora! Can’t wait to see how she displays it. This girl has got style.

So nice to see our neighbors from our complex at home.

Enough about Said The Butterfly! Now onto the show at large…

Meet my Patchwork neighbors Bird and Feather and Sun and Glory. When I first got my Patchwork booth assignment, I knew I was in for a treat when I saw their names. I couldn’t wait to meet them and see their work. As you can see, their creations are both earthy and elegant. They set up the most ethereal and welcoming booth-shop.

Meet my other Patchwork neighbor, Skin Like Butter. Her scrumptious body products had a line of admirers all day long… including my sister who still can’t stop raving about her new lotion.

I was so excited to run into ReMade in LA. We met at Craftcation in March. It was so cool to see the way designer Eeling reinvents old shirts from “charity shops” into renewed one-of-a-kind designs.

I’m pretty sure this ice cream pop stand was the show-stopper-hit-of the day. Everywhere I looked people were licking up a storm on these heavenly fruit and ice-cream pops. Of course I had to have one… and so did Bob. Heaven on a hot day! (In all my excitment, I lost their business card! If anyone knows the name and website of these amazing pop-creators, please comment below!)

There were multiple “wings” of Patchwork goodness… here’s a peak into ours.

More colorful creators…

So that’s the scoop on my first big show ever! Now it’s back to work restocking the Said The Butterfly Etsy shop.

Before I signoff, I must end with some major gratitude:

I am so grateful to Patchwork co-creators Nicole Stevenson and Delilah Snell for making such a creative community event exist – I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

I am so grateful to everyone who came to show some Said The Butterfly love at Patchwork. There are tons more pictures of all of you on the Said The Butterfly Facebook page. Be sure to “like” the page for updates and fun. Please comment to say hello! I love hearing from you so much.

I’m so grateful to my husband Bob for all the setup patience, manpower and love. And I’m super grateful to my dear, dear friend Bernadette Cosgrove for all the help packing up the booth at the end of the day. I’m so lucky!

Thank you darling readers for reading this, for being here, for being you.

Love, Melissa


Update on the Said The Butterfly Facebook drawing! We reached our 203 fans (and now we have 210, woohoo!) and had our drawing. Huge thanks to all who participated and congrats to our winners:

Jenn of JennKL Photography: notebook winner

Julie of A Little Bite of Life: magnet winner


Want Good Things Darling delivered to your inbox?

Enter your email in the box on the right here. 



A Day In Pictures: Stems Mother’s Day Art Show

I had such a great time at the Mother’s Day show at Stems Floral Design last weekend. It was an exciting day debuting the new line of Said The Butterfly originals plus all kinds of new items including bookmarks, notebooks and tiles. Most of all I loved sharing all of this with great friends old and new. So much to tell, so much to share. I’ll let the photos do most of the talking.

Here I am all set up and ready to go:

I can’t even tell you how exciting it is seeing all twenty originals as cards as last.

Tiles! Brand new Said The Butterfly offering…

Part of my new improved display thanks to soooo much new knowledge and inspiration from the Craftcation Indie Business and DIY conference I went to in late March.

First buyer of the day. She got teary eyed when she saw the “You’re My Favorite Song” card. I love love love knowing what speaks to people. I also love that that line came from a poem I wrote for my husband Bob for his 30th birthday a few years ago.

And there’s Bob! Taking a yoga break/lesson from Lincoln. Bob needed the break after helping me setup all morning. Lincoln is such a great teacher!

Lincoln picked out a few things. So did his Mama.

Bookmarks for Mother’s Day! Anthony, Francesca and Giana. They were going to add these to their Mother’s Day cards. Good thinking…

The Lublin clan. I think they bought one of everything, including an original. Selling an original is always especially meaningful to me. This one was “Life is one great big unfolding yes.” Jenn is the inspired and gifted photographer behind my recent Said The Butterfly photo shoot.

Maria! A Mother’s Day gift :)

I bet Judy is going to fill up this whole journal. How exciting :)

A print for Susan. “Every time I think of you I smile inside and out.” I am so in love with seeing which pieces speak to people.

Bernadette spotting! Bern is my oldest (as in I have known her the very longest since freshman year in high school back east) friend in LA and one of the most avid readers I know.

You guessed it! That’s my sister Lauren making a few Said The Butterfly purchases. I love that she didn’t even know I had tiles. It’s not often that Lauren does not know something about me. Is that smile priceless or what?

Courtney brings in the aloha…

A journal for Christina’s mom :) Christina was also selling her amazing creations at this show. Keep scrolling, you’ll see.

Gemma Del Rio and her magnificent scarves. I love how bright they are. They look so great blowing in the breeze. Peacocks and butterflies and leaves and flowers and abstracts, oh my!

Sarah Munoz of TSB Designs. That’s short for The Space Between. Her jewelry is stunning and so unique. Happy to say I have several pieces I’ve gotten as gifts from my sister.

Christina Pezzolo and her magical mermaid handmade wrap towels. I love how her daughter was her model in those photos in the front. Priceless!

There were about nine of us artists. I didn’t get pictures of everyone, but there was so much creativity flowing that day.

Happy shoppers, sunny gorgeous day. On more than one instance I found myself saying “I feel like I’m in a movie set.” That’s how charming Stems is.

More happy shoppers…

Yes, that is the ocean right across the way from Stems and its home in magical Malaga Cove. This place will always have an extra special place in my heart because my sweet, darling mentor and friend Gemma Taccogna‘s studio was in Malaga Cove for years way back when, way before my time here in Los Angeles. But her tile work is still all over the plaza… and of course, so is her spirit.

A big Said The Butterfly thank you to Katie, the owner of Stems and the mastermind behind this fabulous show. Thank you Katie!

My next show is Patchwork Culver City and I’m super-beyond-excited for that too.

Thank you friends old and new, near and far for showing me so much love that day. You are appreciated more than you’ll ever know. And thank you darling readers for reading this, for being here, for being you!

Love, Melissa


Become a fan of the Said The Butterfly Facebook page here. When we reach 203 fans (three is my lucky number!) we’re having a party-style-drawing for a journal. Who’s gonna win? Will it be you???

On Meeting Gemma Taccogna, My Mr. Miyagi

Hi darling readers, I am taking a break from the creative alphabet today. I sat down to write “C is for…” but then this poured out instead. And you know what, I am glad it did.

If you’ve ever talked to me for more than 5 minutes, chances are I’ve talked to you about Gemma Taccogna. But just in case I didn’t, or if you’re always up for more of my many Gemma stories, I have a new one for you today.

A peek into my studio. As you can see, I have not kept up the lesson to keep the paint organized by color.

I met Gemma in the spring of 2002. I had been in Los Angeles for just about a year and I felt like an alien. I knew almost no one and the prospect of feeling as connected and loved as I had with all of my friends and family back east felt slim to none.

Then one fateful day I met Gemma. I was 25, Gemma was 79. Her dear daughter Gemi inspired the whole meeting. See, they were my neighbors. But I, in all of my focusing on being an alien in martian territory, failed to realize this. Gemi came over one day and introduced herself. After just a few minutes she proclaimed, “You have to meet my mother.”

My eyes tear up every time I think of this. Right now, they are tearing up. For me, it feels like my soul has been struck by some magic chord. It felt like it then and now, almost ten years from that day, it still feels that way.

That summer, I joined Gemma’s classes that she taught in her living-room-turned-studio, right next door to where I was living. I’d stay long after class, for hours on end, talking to Gemma. She would invariably put me to work, which I loved.

Another peek into my studio. Paint bottles everywhere...

One of my first jobs was organizing the paint by color. That is, remove the hundreds, dare I say thousands, of small paint bottles from their racks, and order them by shades of colors so that from a distance the bright whites led to the beiges to the yellows to the oranges to the reds… you get it.

This took not just hours, but days. Was there a moment when I wondered what was this woman trying to teach me? YES! And I didn’t figure it out until years later. Part of it was commitment. Was she testing me out to see how committed I was? Part of it was she could use the help. Part of it was she enjoyed having me around and the job kept me there. The truth is, I so enjoyed being there I often did the dishes and scrubbed the counters and replaced the paper on the table just to stay longer and longer.

Eventually these charades were no longer necessary and Gemma proclaimed I was part of the ‘famiglia’ – a phrase I will forever treasure. Perhaps my biggest theory is that she was preparing me for some future I could not even imagine yet. It occurred to me recently I was not organizing the paint by color. I was “waxing on and waxing off.” I was Daniel-son and Gemma was my Mr. Miyagi. That whole summer and for the next five years – until her passing in 2007 – I studied with Gemma and had the honor and joy of calling her my darling, dear friend. A legendary creator took me under wing and now I could swear I have wings.

I would love for you to meet Gemma, too. If you have not seen this mini documentary by her granddaughter Evie Elman, I would love you to check it out. You can also check out this bio of Gemma that I wrote. It originally appeared as Gemma’s obituary – her family gave me the privelege of celebrating my dear friend’s life in this way.

PS – I am having so much fun with Pinterest right now, are you? Check out my Gemma Taccogna Board here.

B is for Bravery

I’m only on letter two of the creative alphabet and already I’m having a fight with myself. Because I have two absolute favorite “B” words. Balance and bravery.

Balance means being healthy and aware in all aspects of life. It’s about knowing when to start and when to stop. It’s about knowing when to “do” and when to “be.” It’s about creating harmony between work and play and rest and all the other “things” that go into this amazing thing we call life. “Balance is beautiful” is one of my top-selling Said The Butterfly cards. People tell me it keeps them centered. I love that.

"Dream Brave" is about the balance between dreaming and bravery.

But… It’s bravery that allows balance to be possible. You have to be brave to be willing to take the steps of creating balance. I can still hear Gemma telling me to be brave. To put myself out there creatively. To be willing to shut my eyes and trust myself to create something wonderful without the pressure of my eyes and mind judging it the whole time. And then, to leave the comfort and safety of her studio to enter the world and apply those same philosophies to life. To live it. That’s bravery.

Bravery makes things happen. A dream is only a dream until you’re brave enough to act on it. Even if you’re terrified and there are a million sometimes tedious and painful steps, it’s bravery that keeps those feet moving. Then one day, you wake up and your dreams are coming true. Only because you were brave.

So my dear readers, the battle between balance and bravery is over. Bravery always wins.

Good things,

Want Good Things Darling delivered to your inbox? Subscribe here.

Have you seen my line of inspired cards and gifts? Visit Said The Butterfly here.

Want to see more of my drawings, paintings and collage? Visit my Flickr Art Gallery.

Lessons from Twelve Resting Caterpillars

I have twelve caterpillars lying on my coffeetable. They’ve been there since last weekend resting and feeding and growing. But they are by no means ready to fly. Sometimes they scream at me:

“Hey you, get over here and work on me!”

“Don’t you wanna get a little creative?”

“Come on! Stop everything else. And start painting.”

“Can’t you finish what you start?”

But mostly, they whisper to me ever so sweetly:

“It’s ok… you’re doing your best.”

“We’ll be here when you’re ready for us.”

“You’re doing so many good things right now. We’ll wait.”

“Thank you for making us. We wouldn’t even exist without you.”

And then they confide in me…

“We’re in no rush. We are so happy to be resting and at peace.”

So I am reporting to you, darling readers, and I’ve made peace with it in my mind, that the major studio time that I told you was coming, has come and gone. And I have twelve half-sort-of-started caterpillar paintings to show for it. They are farther along than the blank panels you see above. But they are by no means ready to share with you. So I am faced with the great unknown. What to tell you? What to make this post about now that we are already this far into it? The truth. I promised this to you in my very first post, I just didn’t think it would be happening so soon. My creative process is taking a little longer this time. I need to listen to the lessons from my own writing and artwork. To have the faith to “just see.”

Another lesson? Balance really is beautiful. And I am proud of myself for not just writing that and painting that and selling cards that say that… but I believe that. And I’ve had a remarkably balanced few weekends. I joined a new gym. I’ve had some extra-special quality time with my husband. I even had a day-long business and budget meeting for Said The Butterfly. These things are so important. Almost as important as the paintings themselves are the managing the details that allow me to make them, sell them and share them with the world. I even took two naps and got a mani and pedi. I know! Indulgent and amazing.

I also think of my frustrated self this time about four years ago. I hadn’t painted or written one thing in what felt like forever. I confided in Gemma like I always did and she reassured me with clarity and brilliance like she always did. “You’re living it,” she said. “When you’re ready, you’ll make a million paintings and write a million books. Right now, darling, you are living it.” * Gemma made everything make sense. Everything was exactly as it should be.

I can’t wait to share with you completed works of art that emerge from these resting caterpillars. Until then, let’s have the faith to listen to the message from the mellow tree. Let’s remember that balance really is beautiful. Let’s live it. Good things, Melissa

*Please note it’s been a long time since I’ve spoken in person to my dear friend Gemma Taccogna. She passed away in May of 2007, the day before her 84th birthday. Any attempt I make to quote her on this blog is the essence of these beautiful memories that I am so grateful for. “You’re living it” is an exact quote that I will never forget. The rest is the essence of what followed.




We Have A Winner!

We have so many reasons to celebrate! First of all, thank you everyone for all of your wonderful emails about my official launch of the Said The Butterfly website and this very blog, Good Things Darling. The Facebook fan page has been there since April and it’s been encouraging to share developments baby step by baby step. The community is growing and it’s just plain awesome. For me, it’s like the sunshine in the quote that inspired Said The Butterfly from the very beginning.

I decided it was time to celebrate with a surprise giveaway. Tonight was the drawing. I thought it would be much more special and fun if I shared it with you so here’s how it all went down. First, I wrote every single one of Said The Butterfly’s 149 Facebook fans names on a little piece of paper. I had a grateful moment with each of you as I used my extra-special LePen to write your name in cursive on scrap paper.

What better “hat” to draw from than this head vase by Gemma? This was the very first piece I bought when I started collecting Gemma’s work. I have so many now I’ve lost count. One of these days I’ll share my whole collection. For now, I thought it was the perfect way to kickoff the fun. I can just hear Gemma proclaiming it a “parteeee!”

Then I decided I could shuffle all the names better if they were in a bowl. So I shook it up and down like popcorn to mix up all the possible winners. Did you feel yourself with the sudden inclination to jump up and down? If so, now you know why.

Then I put all the names back in the Gemma head vase…

And drew the winner. Congratulations to you, Elise Palinkas. You are now the winner of your pick of any 5 Said The Butterfly cards.

Take your pick. Let me know which 5 you’d like and I will mail them to you.

As promised, we’ll do this again TWICE when we reach 200 fans on Facebook. Tell your friends and let’s all get in on the creativity and the good times together.

I’m looking forward to some major studio time this weekend and I can’t wait to share some works in progress with you. Stay tuned darling readers. Until then, good things to you. Melissa