The Story of Paper

Lake Harriet Bandshell, Minneapolis

Lake Harriet Bandshell, Minneapolis

Cut paper, adhesive. 2013. Available here.

The subjects that I choose for my work are almost always things and places that have deep meaning to me. Landmarks, memories, a sense of place – all are themes that I visit often in my artwork. Working with paper gives me the opportunity to literally construct each building, sign or street layer by layer, digging through stacks and stack of paper scraps to find that just right color, pattern, or texture. One of the beautiful parts of this is the opportunity to give materials context, to breathe life and meaning into them by involving them in the story I am telling. There is the paper that I find or buy knowing I want to use it right away, and there are the pieces that have sat in my drawers for years, waiting for their opportunity, for their perfect context.

The music note paper belongs in the latter category. It’s nothing too eye catching or special. It’s difficult to coordinate with other colors and patterns, and can even look dingy in the wrong combinations. But all the sudden, I started creating the Bandshell, which is a beige story of music and water and sunshine and popcorn and summer evenings. And that little scrap found its story.


SoWa on the Brain


Ever since finding out SoWa will be part of my summer, it’s been on my mind. I’ve had this idea to make a Boston food truck calendar for a long time, but I think now’s the time. I started with my obvious favorite – Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese. If you’ve never experienced one of their amazing sandwiches, a) I’m sorry. b) go. now! I’m so looking forward to midday food truck runs at SoWa, and I have feeling Roxy’s will usually be at the top of my list. Anywho, Roxy’s was first up, next on to the Taco Truck!

* This print will probably eventually be available as a greeting card, and maybe a 5×7? Let me know if you’re interested!

At the SoWa Open Market!


Big news! I just found out I was accepted as vendor for the 2013 season of the SoWa open market! This wonderful vibrant market of indie  makers, artists, and crafters is one of my favorite things about Boston, and I’m thrilled at the chance to participate this year. Find me at the market on the following dates (all Sundays):

June 16
July 14
August 11
September 8
September 29

You can find out about the SoWa market and get directions and more hereNow I’ve better get busy – I have a lot of getting ready to do!

Linden Leaf Studio Tour!


I admit it. I love peeking in to other people’s apartments and studio spaces. Perusing the sneak peek feature on Design Sponge is one of my little Monday rituals. There’s something so inspiring about being able to peek into others’ spaces all around the world, to learn a little about their lives through the stories of their stuff. Way back when in the days of on-campus apartments and later when living with roommates, although I LOVED (and miss!) them, I would always yearn for a place all my own. A place to set up a proper studio space, to spread out a bit (without feeling guilty), and to be able to really feel like the space I was in represented me. 

Well. Fast forward to a lucky find and a lot of penny pinching, and here we are! I’ve been in a little brownstone one-bed since September and I am head over heels in love. Yes, there is more than one feature of this space that is not ideal (ahem. carpet.) but the layout is great, it’s spacious and right where I want to be in the city. Oh, and there’s brick. Lots of it. I feel pretty lucky.

As time goes on and grad school looms, I likely won’t be able to afford living here forever. I’ve joked with friends that living here has made me never want to live with anyone again, but depending on where life takes me I may one day again be in the land of roommates. But for now, I’m deeply enjoying the now of my time in this space. And I thought I’d share.

studio3At first I didn’t know how I would like having my studio in the middle of my living room – but that’s what I had to work with so that’s what I did. It’s actually been a really good motivator to keep it clean. Storage is still a bit of an issue, and when I’m really in the middle of a project it still pretty much explodes into the whole room. But overall I quite like it. The desk is Ikea, the wooden cubbies are from Urban Outfitters, weirdly enough, and the old metal drawers and flat file are from SoWa and Etsy. 

mass ave original lo resWork in progress. When it’s finished you can find it here.

studio2My living room is anchored by this wonderful couch from West Elm. It’s the only piece of real furniture I own, other than my mattress, and it was worth every (on sale) penny. It does have to last me until I’m 35 though, so there’s that. Bookshelf and semi-ugly (can’t decide?) lamp from Ikea, everything else thrifted or from SoWa or Etsy. I made the wood piece from lath I found in the dumpster.

studio5The kitchen was definitely the ugliest area of the apartment when I moved in. Note to landlords: white laminate is NEVER a good idea. Ever! I took off some of the doors, added some dumpster wood and mason jars, and while it’s not perfect it’s much, much better. The spice rack has definitely encouraged me to use more spices in my cooking! I found the wooden grape box on the street and the photo is a girl and teacher at the social service agency where I work way back in the ’50s.


I love this tiny dining nook. The table very kindly came from my boss, and I couldn’t believe how perfectly it fit. The chairs are from an architectural salvage place by me, and I found the door in the dumpster down the street, which is a strange treasure trove of finds. The print is Wesley Bird, and was the quote I put in my yearbook in 8th grade. The old cameras all around my apartment belonged my parents, who owned a small-town newspaper in the ’70s. I kidnapped them and took them to Boston. Woops. 

studio7My bedroom is kind of boring still, but I’m working on it. It’s strangely laid out and pretty big for the size of the apartment. I made the headboard with more dumpster wood and the lamp from an old globe. The artworks are some of my paper quilts and there’s a poster from my beloved Amtrak. Amtrak is the best, best, best way to travel. I’m currently saving up for another train adventure. 

studio6I squeeze as many plants into this place as I can. I love plants, but I’m not so good at keeping them alive (or fish, for that matter – ask my preschoolers) so succulents and cacti and weird palm-like things are my friends. I am, however, pretty good at finding weird containers to house these indestructible plants – a card catalogue drawer, enormous rusty ladle, and coffee mug, among others. 

studiocatAnd, because no look into my studio would be complete without this guy and he didn’t feel like posing today, here’s some Instagram goodness of Milo, my crazy cat, in all his regal glory. Don’t  let his good looks fool you, though. He’s nothing but trouble. 

And there you have it! Thanks for stopping in!


Inspired By…Sketchbooks and Paper Like Skin

One of the things I love most about Boston is that it is a weekend trip away from so many amazing places. I will always be a diehard Midwesterner at heart (Minneapolis to be precise), but even I have to admit that’s something the East Coast’s got us beat on. Within an hour or two (or five) on the bus or train are dozens of cities large and small to explore. It’s something I admittedly don’t take advantage of enough, with one exception – New York City. I headed down there with a friend over President’s Day weekend and spent three lovely days wandering Brooklyn and Queens, seeing friends, drinking good beer and eating better food, and taking in some pretty inspiring art.

We headed over to the Brooklyn Art Library in Williamsburg, home of the Sketchbook Project in search of the sketchbook I recently completed with my lovely preschoolers. Alas alack, it hadn’t been catalogued yet, but we still got to spend a lovely bit of afternoon taking in the Art Library. This place is literally a library of sketchbooks – they have what must be 12-15,000 packed into neat shelves. You can search on a catalog by location, age, profession of the artist, mood, whatever, and the staff finds that book and brings it to you along with a “mystery book.” It’s like sketchbook roulette. And it was pretty amazing.



We also spent time at the Guggenheim, which I had never been to before but HIGHLY recommend. What a beautiful, inspiring place. I loved the way that the layout moved you through the museum at a pace that felt manageable but substantive.


They had a great exhibit up of Japanese avant-garde artists from the ’40s and ’50s that included original works of art you could but from a vending machine for $1. Sweet. We later found out from a docent that the artwork was entirely created by Guggenheim staff, many of whom made hundreds of pieces. I also loved their exhibit Zarina: Paper Like Skin, but the guards were not so hot on the photos in the galleries thing and I’m not that good at being sneaky, so no pictures.


I also may or may not have had a Garden State moment in their bathroom.


All in all it was a great sunny, windy, wandering weekend, and made me itch to come home and create some new work. Nothing better than that, right?

Well Hello There!


Hello There!

Welcome to the brand spanking new blog of Linden Leaf Designs! I hope this can be a space where I can share my inspiration, new projects, in-progess thoughts and musings, and more. In case you’ve stumbled across this blog, my name is Helen, and I make art under the name Linden Leaf Designs. I work primarily with cut paper collage, and sell my work on Etsy and Society6, as well as several shops in the Minneapolis area. I’m based in Boston but have deep Minneapolis roots, so both themes are present in my work. Please visit my website for more information.

Thanks for stopping by!