Beth Meadows


The Art of Style

"art", "collage", "exhibit", "fashion", "inspiration", "women"BComment

Elle/ Marc Jacobs

If you weren't able to make it to my opening at Bliss Home in Market Square last Friday, I hope you'll stop in this month to see it. And when you do, remember that everything's for sale.

I wrote an artist statement for this work, but I've been thinking about it lately and want to share more about the background, things from my life that have led to making these pieces.

I'm a very thrifty person, a scavenger of the unwanted. Most things in my home were free or bought at thrift stores. It's amazing what I've acquired for little to no money. Sometimes I wish I kept a running log, putting a monetary value on these things to see how much I've saved. I'll probably never do this, but it's interesting to think about.

Carolina Herrera

While I (absolutely) love walking the aisles of thrift stores, scouring the shelves of unwanted items, I've started to run into several dilemmas.

My instinct is to think to myself, "I must buy this ceramic cat. If I don't, who will? And all this potential will be lost!"

Possibly 50% of the time, I give into buying this object that's main purpose becomes to collect dust somewhere in my all ready cluttered apartment.

Sidenote One: I buy the ceramic cat because it speaks to me. I think, "This object is special; it draws me in and I should make it mine." I didn't realize until recently that you can be thrifty and materialistic simultaneously.

Sidenote Two: I promise I'm not like those people in hoarding reality TV shows. I have a lot of stuff, but it's not a medical condition. At least not yet. 

But an internal conflict for me has arisen recently, a tension I feel about a) wanting to hunt and gather lots of "stuff" and b) a deep, untapped desire to lead a minimalistic, well-designed, and streamlined life.

Pink Feathers

I moved recently and have been confronted with that amount of things I own, items that I have carted around from one place to the next. I give things to Goodwill almost monthly, and still, it's incredible how much stuff I have.

I have this dream of being able to pack all of my belongings in one car, in case I wanted to up and move somewhere exotic. There is a subconscious weight to the things we surround ourselves with.

I have another internal conflict: c) fighting the urge to buy lot of cheap things that will last a short time in order to buy fewer high quality things that will last, possibly, a lifetime.

Arizona Muse

Growing up, I had everything I needed to survive and more. My dad worked hard and my family was never in want. Maybe you could say my sisters and I were spoiled, but it was mostly in the quality of what we had or the experiences my parents gave us, but not in the quantity. We never had a room full of cheap plastic toys, but we had a wonderful two story playhouse that my grandfather and dad built us. And one Christmas we all got neon Nike jogging suits and a trampoline. We went on some great family vacations, too.

In regard to the things I surrounded myself with as a child supported financially by my parents, I can't say the style I had growing up was my own. I wore and placed around me things my parents gave me. It wasn't until I started driving that I began choosing my own clothes, but it really took years to develop and accept my innate sense of style. While my parents' and my tastes differ greatly, we do have at least one thing in common: an appreciation for good quality, a common ground that is very enjoyable as I grow older.

But now that I'm an adult and finally know that I have exquisite taste (read: expensive), the universe has played a cruel joke on my by giving me a very tight budget.


While I covet items in magazines, it can be tempting to think if I had more money, I could buy great style, but I know this isn't true. It just takes a little more effort when money is tight.

Being the artistic person I am (this is the reason I give for all my shortcomings), I tend to leave spaces disorderly and am not great at, that funny term, nesting.

It's something I think a lot about as a creative person. Knowing in your head what you want, how you want it to look, but missing the mark because of laziness or a lack of focus or discipline. I know I can make something look how it is in my head with the proper amount of time and effort. More often than I'd like to admit, I've slapped a lot of things together at the last minute, which makes no one happy. With a little time and patience, things will come out the way you imagined them to.


So this work that I've made for this show is inspired by the most cutting edge trends in fashion and design. I looked through the pages of magazines, found particular images for inspiration, and made these pieces using things around me, from thrift stores, mostly, or things that were free.

I used product packaging- mesh produce bags and plastic newspaper bags-, fabric that was given to me from retired seamstresses, and frames and transparency paper I found at thrift stores.

South by Southwest

In a comical way, I like to think of myself as that kid from American Beauty, having a fit over the  beauty of a plastic grocery bag floating in the air.

I'm not lying. I think there is a vast amount of beauty in an orange plastic newspaper bag.

I'm working more and more to make my surroundings (my home and my studio, even the inside of my car) beautiful in the way I believe they should be. I want to do this without overspending or accumulating too much. Really, having less might do the trick.

With my artwork, I'm taking the things that are accessible to me and giving a nod to the most current ideas in the fashion world today, something I admire greatly from my modest life afar.

New Work at Bliss Home during the month of July

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Next Friday, July 5th from 6-9pm, there will be an art opening at Bliss Home in Market Square featuring work I've made this year. If you can't make it that night, my work will be up all month so please stop in another time.

For this show, I'm mixing some work I made at the beginning of this year with work I'm in the midst of making right now. The inspiration is women's fashion and current trends in design.

Here is my artist statement for the show:

My work lately has been inspired by a subscription to Vogue my sister gave me a few summers ago. Most pieces began by tearing out pages from these magazines- photographs of scenes, models, and clothing.

I enjoy looking at fashion photography for aesthetic reasons- colors and patterns, for example- but also like being aware of new trends. I admire designers' innovation and craft, and on a business level, like to see how they market their specific look.

From a consumer's standpoint, I am intrigued by how much people are willing to invest in good design. I also wonder how important an item's timelessness is to them.

My work is about good design and the market that is out there for it. It explores trends and asks what it takes for something to be considered a classic.

Bliss Home
29 Market Square
Knoxville, TN 37902
Opening July 5, 6-9pm
Show runs all month

"Knoxville Girl" Interview for Blank Newspaper

"17th Street Studios", "Knoxville", "Nostalgia", "art business", "blog", "family", "inspiration", "knox heritage", "mountains", "music", "web", "women", "writing"B2 Comments

I was interviewed recently by Jennie Everett Caissie for Blank Newspaper. You can view the story here on their website or read it below. Such an honor to be considered a Knoxville Girl!

Knoxville Girl: Beth Meadows
Salvaging Knoxville’s Art Scene 

KG: So, Knoxville Girl, are you originally from Knoxville?

Beth: No. I am from Memphis and I came to Knoxville in 2002 to study art at UT. When I graduated in May of 2007 most people I knew were moving but I decided to stay because I love the mountains and I had really started enjoying Knoxville. I remember the first time I went to First Friday. I was in college and I borrowed a bike and rode from campus to downtown and it was an exhilarating experience. I decided to do it every month. I felt like the Knoxville arts scene was really just starting to get going and I really wanted to be a part of it.

KG: A lot of kids like to draw and paint when they are young but lose that creative spark as they get older. What made you decide to study art in college?

Beth: When I was young I drew all of the time. I didn’t really know what it meant to be a professional artist but I knew I wanted to go to art school. But I did try to change my major several times in college because it scared me too much. I think mentally I wasn’t prepared to make the kind of work I really wanted to make. I just felt I wasn’t ready yet, if that makes sense. It takes a lot to be confident in your work.

KG: What is the oldest piece of your art your parents have on display at their house?

Beth: My parents are really sweet and they bought a lot of my artwork when I was in college. I am sure they have boxes and boxes of my art from over the years. My parents do have a painting hanging up that I made in high school. My dad took a photograph of a mountain landscape that I painted.

KG: You are quite an active blogger, from writing for The Sunsphere is Not a Wigshop to your own blog WithBearHands. How did you get involved as a blogger?

Beth: I was invited to be a writer for the Sunsphere is not a Wigshop blog not too long after I graduated. It was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. I wasn’t a big blog reader, but I loved writing and I eventually started writing way more than the other writers. There were seven other writers but I felt like I was the most active. We even won Best of Knoxville for two years. Our perspective for that blog was to pretend that we were tourists in Knoxville and that made me love Knoxville even more because I could look at it from the standpoint of what is new here, what have I not seen, and what can I go find out and share with other people. Then I started my own blog, WithBearHands, which now is a blog mostly about what I am creating right now. I really want to use my blog to promote art in Knoxville.

KG: A lot of artists have poor web presence but yours is pretty impressive. Do you have any formal training in web design?

Beth: I have a great friend named Luke who built my website in college. He is a genius. He taught me how to update it myself using code and really set me up for success. I also learned a lot from just being on etsy. The reason I started my own blog was that people on etsy have their blog and then move to Facebook. Anyone can do etsy and blogs but it just takes time.

KG: You also helped to start in the 17th Street Studios at Redeemer Church. Tell us about that.

Beth: I go to church at Redeemer Church in Fort Sanders and they weren’t using the second story of this wing of the church. Pastor Eddie Young, who does a lot with young people, said he didn’t know what to do with the space and I suggested artist studios. So in May 2010 I wrote a proposal with two other people and we submitted to the church and now we have about 13 artists working up there. It is really cool. Each artist has their own studio and there are common spaces too. Artists just apply to me, then there is an interview process, and it’s only $40 to $50 a month. But there is not any heat or air or running water on the floor. It’s kind of basic, but it is a great space to work.

KG: I started Knoxville Girl to introduce the un-sung heroes who do so much to make this community great. Do you ever do any volunteer work or donate your talents, art or time?

Beth: Recently I started in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and I just got matched so in a couple of months I will have my new Little Sister who is in sixth grade. I wanted to do it because I needed a challenge and this will definitely be a challenge! In college I did a lot of volunteer work but I mostly jumped from organization to organization. I even organized a play group at KARM. But my favorite experience was after I studied abroad I came back and decided to give rides to international students. It had been so awesome when people gave us rides over there. So I decided to do it at UT. My friend said it’d be creepy but I made flyers and put them up all over campus and I said if you are an international student I will give you a ride anywhere, just call me. I tried to organize other drivers but it ended up just being me. So I would take students to get their driver’s license or to the store and they started inviting me to parties and giving me gifts from their countries. And I still keep in touch with some of them from China and Macedonia and Romania… all over the world. I’ve never seen more appreciative people.

After college I started working for Knox Heritage as a volunteer. I was living in Maplehurst at the time and the buildings were falling apart and it just led me to Knox Heritage. They eventually hired me as their administrative assistant and then they hired me full-time to work in their salvage program, which was a dream come true because I love working with my hands and working with materials. I realized that so much of that needed to be recycled because people may not necessarily see the value in them so I started making artwork using materials from the salvage. I curate the “Salvage Show” for Knox Heritage, which has happened twice now. About 20 Knoxville artists make furniture and art out of the salvaged and donated materials and proceeds are shared by the artist and Knox Heritage.

KG: Knoxville has so much going on all of the time. What are some of your favorite things to do in Knoxville?

Beth: I’ve really started doing a lot of new things lately. The other night I went with a couple of friends to the Bearden Beer Market and we did their 5K where you run with a group of people then you drink beer afterwards. It was hard but I would love to keep doing it. I also have a friend who coordinates square dances at The Laurel Theater and it is so much fun. Of course I also still do First Fridays but right now I am in my studio a lot. Plus I love music but as an artist I am on a very limited budget so I love that Knoxville has so many amazing free art and cultural things to do. Basically, if it is free and cultural, I am there. Especially if there is beer! But really, anymore, I am up for whatever.

KG: This ought to be fun. Tell a little-known fact about you.

Beth: A little known fact about me is that I had open heart surgery in high school. But on a lighter note, I like some of Michael Bolton songs. The video for “Said I loved you... but I lied” has fire, flames and stallions, and a lady on the beach. I do like some cheesy music like that. That should be embarrassing enough.

KG: What would you like to see happen in Knoxville over the next five years?

Beth: I think the Knoxville art scene is on a good path, but we have not arrived. It needs a lot of work and the only way that will happen is if good artists can find the means to stay and work here. I stayed in Knoxville to help with that any way I can. I want to see higher standards of art and venues that display art in Knoxville and want to see more people in Knoxville buy artwork.

KG: Where can readers learn more about your art and upcoming projects?

Beth: I have a booth at the new Nostalgia on McCalla and I will have a show at Bliss Home in July, but mostly I am in my studio doing a lot of custom work so I don’t have a lot of shows planned right now. I also have a picture hanging in Bistro at the Bijou or you can also go visit Chyna Brackeen or Peggy Hambright. They have some of my art. But the very best way to visit my Facebook or blog WithBearHands or visit

KG: There are so many inspirational women in this town making a difference and changing peoples’ lives for the better. Who would you say is your “Knoxville Girl”?

Beth: Peg Hambright who owns Magpies Bakery. She is a baker and artist but she is an awesome business woman too. She does so well in communicating her product, her color-schemes, her designs, and how they sell themselves; she just does such a great job. She really inspires me.

What does With Bear Hands mean to you?

"Nostalgia", "art business", "being an artist", "community", "fashion", "juicy", "women"BComment

I'm not really asking you this (I'd feel silly doing that), but it is a question I've been asking myself over the past several months, and I'll tell you why.

I'll kill you with my bear hands
acrylic on canvas
To give a little background to those of you who do not know, the name With Bear Hands spawned from a painting I made a few years ago called I'll kill you with my bear hands (above). It's one of my favorite paintings, a good blend of dark humor.

Booth Sign for Dealer at Nostalgia on McCalla
In trying to think of a title for this blog long ago, there was this natural progression of abbreviating that painting's title. So much of what I enjoy doing involves using my hands, my bare hands, to be precise. I decided to use bear instead of bare to add a bizarre element, maybe confusing, hopefully kind of funny. There's really no other explanation than that.

(Well, I also like bears. They're pretty dang cute, and they can also kill you. Sidenote: I saw a black bear for the first time in the Smoky Mountains last year (in the woods and not from my car). We locked eyes, and within a second, he ran the opposite direction. I was in love, mesmerized, happy, scared, exuberant, so glad he ran the other way, bewildered by the fact that he could tear me to pieces, but I scared him more. Amazing...)

Small mason jar paintings on salvaged wood
As time has passed and I gradually refine my business skills, I have wondered whether or not to keep using With Bear Hands as the official name of my business. Is this a good title for all the work I make? Should it only encapsulate part of what I do? All business is, I've come to find out, is a journey of answering a lot of questions.

Commissioned portrait on salvaged window sash

Detail of portrait
I do see a split within my work, specifically drawing a line that separates the work I make that is more accessible to people (i.e. mason jar paintings) and more conceptual fine art (collaborations with Juicy, fabric work, even my narrative paintings).

Available on my etsy shop
But as I keep wandering down this unknown path, there is even more.

Limited Edition prints of original paintings. This is Meet Cute.

In this post, I'm sharing photos of things I have made recently. Several people have asked me to make work for them, which has been really fun as well as educational. It is so rewarding when a person comes to me and says, "I like your work. Will you make me (insert shared idea)?"

I love this aspect of involving people in my studio practice, and so even more, this is what I have realized, not fully, but in part- that With Bear Hands is not only about the mason jars or the fine art I make, it's about all the people involved. Something more: I also want it to be about supporting and promoting other artists' work that I admire, because that seems like an important thing for me to do right now.

Fashion drawing
Paint pen on acetate layered on coffee package
8 x 10"
So I guess a new theme I've picked up is the Art of Sharing. Sharing is caring, y'all, and I hope to do more of it in the future.

While we're on the subject, a great way for me to share with you is to follow me on Facebook. This is my new favorite way to talk about what's going on with With Bear Hands.

Commission piece: Tin ceiling tile shadow box

Google Search Rabbit Trail Adventures and More

"Vogue", "beauty", "celebrity", "design", "drawing", "exhibition announcement", "fashion", "music", "salvage", "women", "writing"B1 Comment
Happy belated New Year! 

Many unforeseen events (aka life) happened at the end of 2012, and so writing here was put on the backburner more times than I liked. With the new year and some new opportunities on the horizon, I hope to stroll through the blogosphere more often. I know you're glad. I am.

I've made a few pieces so far this year, and I'm sharing some of them today.

paint pen and sharpie on window sash
I'm continuing to work on the window drawings which has been really enjoyable.

Aubrey (detail)
For me, first finding each image is the most fun aspect of these pieces.

I find most of the images in magazines, but Google Search takes this process to a completely different level of wonder and delight. For example, for Aubrey I searched "Aubrey Plaza fashion ads" (because over Christmas "break" I watched what feels like 100 episodes of Parks and Rec) which led me to Miu Miu's short film It's Getting Late, which led me to Spotify to listen to Zola Jesus, which pointed me to Polica, which just so happens to be a sound I've been in search of for some time.

Oh, the magic World of the Wide Web.

paint pen and sharpie on window sash
Last year, I watched The September Issue, a documentary about Vogue, where Anna Wintour discusses the phenomenal impact photographing celebrities instead of models has had on the fashion industry.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately because I had never intended to draw celebrities, such as Aubrey Plaza or Elle Fanning (above), but when you're looking at fashion as an inspiration, I suppose it's inevitable. While I'm more interested in the image than the fact that they're famous, I did choose photographs based on if I like the celebrity or not. Something about this feels... I don't know... too easy?
I struggle when things come too naturally, wondering if it's worth making if it's too enjoyable. Should work cause some amount of tension if it's challenging in the right way or is making art about finding the least resistance?

Elle (detail)

I'm ready to expound on and expand these drawings. Green Room (below) is the start of using the whole window and more "scenic" subject matter. The image is from an Anthropologie catalog. 

Green Room
paint pen, sharpie, and acrylic on window sash
I'm not satisfied with the outcome of this one, but I'll keep toying around with the idea to see if I can improve. I have high hopes.

Below are images from my show at the Tomato Head in West Knoxville. Some work from the end of last year, the drawings on windows above, and some new fabric pieces are there until Feb 3.

Please go take a look because (my) photographs don't do many of these pieces justice.

Fashion Show (at Lunch)

"beauty", "drawing", "fashion", "salvage", "women"B5 Comments

Below are photos of six drawings I have up at the Tomato Head right now. They are drawn with paint pens and sharpies on the front and back of window sashes. Each exposes the wire in the back for hanging, and the windows are each about 24" at their longest dimension.

Valentino (my favorite!)

As you can probably guess, my subject matter is models/ the clothes they wear.


They're titled after the model, the designer, or a detail about their clothing. 


I'm anxious to make more of these and try some other subject matter as well. (I've all ready begun drawing mason jars on glass.)


There is a sense of delicacy to these pieces, not only in the femininity of the subject matter but also the materials used. They are glossy, the metallics shiny. These qualities are off-set by the older, salvaged wood frame.


Note the captions to find out which ones are still for sale, and please let me know if you're interested in purchasing one by emailing


New work at The Tomato Head

"Vogue", "abstract", "beauty", "collage", "color", "exhibit", "exhibition announcement", "fabric", "fashion", "friends", "painting", "pools", "salvage", "vintage", "women"BComment

Next week officially begins my art show at the Tomato Head in downtown Knoxville. I say officially because they asked me to hang two weeks early due to the opening of their new location out west, so some of my work is there right now along with work by Dean Yasko who graciously agreed to fill a wall since some of my paintings were still in Nashville. Next week, his work will leave, and more of my work will go up.

Dean is currently studying sculpture but dabbles in two-dimensional work as well. He is the type of artist that I admire but am not naturally, revolving his work around found-objects, allowing the process of making art to be visible, and finding that process to be as valuable as the final product.

If you have the chance, please go there over the next few days to see these pieces. Then, when he becomes famous, you can say you saw his early work in real-life.

The pieces I'm showing are from three different series that all fall under an intrigue with modern female fashion, not only the garments but the industry as well.

One of these series is the paintings of swimming pools I made a couple of months ago that you may read more about here.

The second series features pieces made using stretched fabric. I've painted on some and others I've cut patterns into and layered up. 

The third are drawings of magazine photographs on old windows. I used paint pens and sharpies to draw on both sides of the window, creating layers. These were a lot of fun to make. 

As I mentioned before, some of this work is there now, and more will be added within the next week. It will be at the downtown Tomato Head December 5 - January 5 and at the new location out west January 6 - February 3. Hope you can stop in.

 I will post some more photos of this work once they're available.

Thoughts on Strong Women

"folk", "hiking", "love", "men", "mountains", "simple", "single lady", "women"B1 Comment
I saw this old lady on TV a while back who lived in the mountains. Her hair was long and grey and she wore a pink nightgown. She grasped the rungs of a wooden ladder with her bony fingers to climb on top of her tin roof where she showed off apples she had laid out to dry. (The photo below is not her, but it reminded me of her.)

My dad and I went hiking last weekend in the Smokies near Wears Valley. It had been raining off and on, saturating the color of everything. When we reached the Walker Sisters Cabin, the rain stopped for a brief moment. I walked around in the silence, imagining what it would have been like to live there.

I did some reading about the Walker Sisters later. They refused to give up their home when the government began buying up land in the 1930s to form the National Park. Eventually they gave in in exchange for a lifetime lease so that they could spend the remainder of their days there.

I wonder about their lives, especially in regard to men and love. They were spinsters, but what was the reality of that? Did any of them ever fall in love or want to have children? Did any of them go on hot dates while the others stayed at home? Were they satisfied living a simple life together?

They were known for living traditionally and for possessing good character, so much so, they became a tourist attraction.

Imagine walking through the woods and seeing smoke rising from their chimney.

When I was in Namibia several years ago, I met a woman who raised Arabian Horses on a farm with her husband. She was overwhelmingly hospitable, kind, a woman full of virtue. We talked under an expanse of stars while she grilled meat from their game reserve for my friends and me. We only spent a few hours with her, but I'll never forget her for as long as I live.

I think about these women a lot, strong women living amongst nature because that's what they want. 

I imagine this kind of woman knows her worth outside of a romantic relationship, and if a man ever did come around that was worthwhile enough, she'd be the best lover of him. She would love out of fullness, not necessity.

Life can feel like it's racing by at a speed we can't keep up with, and simultaneously many women struggle with if they're doing enough, adding up enough, accepted enough.

Lately, I try to think about things, like

an old woman in a pink nightgown drying apples on her tin roof.
five sisters writing a letter to the government, refusing to give up their home.
a naturally beautiful woman leading a glossy horse by its reins.

I think about what and whom I've been given a capacity to love. What is right in front of me and am I taking care of it the best that I can?