I love my parents house. It's one of my favorite places in the world - definitely in the top five. It big, beautiful, comfortable, smells like cookies, clean-but-not-too-clean, and warm. The walls are painted calming neutral colors. Lovely high quality furniture sits in every room, but it is not a museum. You know the kind of house I'm talking about? Where you can't put your feet up? They make me uncomfortable. If you look closely around the house you will notice a few - how should I say? - collections. But they are not from my parents collecting tendencies. They are from my grandparents. Both sides of grandparents, actually. My parents are not collectors, unless you count my dad's running shoes and my mom's non-running shoes.
These collections are unique, too. They range from giant stuffed animals, to Christmas houses, to Iowa Hawkeye hats. I think the collections would start when my grandparents found a Christmas gift that we liked, and then they would just stick with it - forever. One of these collections are funny little creatures called Isabel Blooms. They took over my parent's house a long time ago. And now they are slowly taking over my house too. But that's because I smuggle them out of the country.
Isabel Bloom is an artist from The Quad Cities, my dad's home town in Iowa. She started her career working with clay and painting but after spending the summer at an art commune she began putting all her energy into sculpting.
For years she experimented with and looked for a unique material to work with that was inexpensive and readily available. Finally, after much work in her basement studio she developed a concrete combination that suited her purposes. She learned to give the creatures color by mixing her famous green tint concrete and brushing it on as the final layer. The final polish produces the white around the details.
Her art's popularity spread around town and soon she was commissioning one of a kind pieces for museums, fundraisers, and schools. To keep up with the high demand she opened a small studio in town where she could put some pieces on display and reproduce popular pieces at a higher rate.
Isabel was known for her love of animals and children - it is where she found most of her inspiration. There are stories of her selling pieces to the local children for the price of the change in their pocket for mother's day presents. I'm pretty sure my dad was one of those kids. He vividly remembers driving down to her store every year and finding my Grandmother's Christmas and birthday presents. My Aunt Lowell did the same. Isabel Bloom sculptures were always a winner for my Grandmother's gifts.
And now, as payback, my Grandmother has loaded my family up with creatures.
They are literally in every room. (This is Violet, my favorite of them all.)
On the floor, in the corners, next to the refrigerator.
On the ledge of the bathtub.
Next to the grandfather clock. You know, the usual places.
Note: The stones are river rocks from the Mississippi River. Well, at least they used to be.
And on kitchen countertops.
Originally, the bottoms were all signed by Isabel herself. Now, since Isabel's death and new ownership of the company, the finishing artist signs Isabel's name and also adds their own initials.
Don't let these artists near your checkbook. They're great forgers.
So, go ahead, find an Isabel Bloom that speaks to you. Embrace your own piece of polished concrete. They come in all different sizes - I'm sure there is something that suites your fancy. Support the midwest. Find a corner, or a countertop, or a ledge that needs a little bit of whimsy. Trust me, you'll enjoy it.