Beginning The Goodbye

I think I might just see the end in sight. As I said the other day, I’ve been dragging my feet, or in my case, my knee. I didn’t want to move, but as often happens, life sometimes makes our choices for us, this one wasn’t mine to choose. I believe we will be for sale by Wednesday. The last few details to be finished in the coming days. The endless weeks of primping my house as if she were going to her first prom are coming to an end. Freshly painted, immaculately clean (OK, so the cat hair tumbleweeds can be an issue), and dressed to the nines. I’m like a proud mother sending my girl off to the dance, and as any mother can tell you it’s never easy, except this time it will be me leaving my nest behind. I will worry and fret that she is loved and cared for in the same way I did. There has been much life lived in this house. My daughter was married from it, my son grew up in it, both Dan and I lost a parent while living in it. We found security within its walls as our life fell apart. As long as we had our home we felt that everything would be OK.  We celebrated our love and marriage of twenty-five years in it. When we left Chicago (actually the Village of Lindenhurst), where we bought our first home, we left behind a piece of our hearts as well as a sneaky reminder of us. Dan carved our names into the bottom of a post he installed between the living room and dining room, and had the kids sign as well. It remains to be seen if we will leave something so tangible here, but we will leave the ghost of us in its walls . The laughter, the tears, the heartaches, successes, and so much love, are the essence of what a home should be, and they are here, and in our hearts and minds. I only wish for those who follow the same kind of bond, the same kind of love, the same kind of precious memories that make a house a home. I will miss this place, my beautiful garden, but most of all I will treasure the memories that were created here.

 

I have made much of how I will miss my garden. I was looking through old photos tonight and thought I would share what our vision created.  A before and after, an engagement party for Jessica and John that we held there, and finally one garden project that will travel with us. The table that Dan and I built together. We will have to build a new garden around it.

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Back In The Saddle Again

It has been six days again. I know I said I would post twice a week, but much going on in my life and no time to write. Our daughter heads East later this week, lots to pack for her, and the Chicago Blackhawks are in the playoffs, so of course that takes precedence…We actually found a local pizza restaurant, a franchise from Chicago, and honestly it felt like being back home when we went to watch the games. Chicago is full of little neighborhood bars, the kind where everyone knows everyone. This is much the same. It felt nice and nostalgic, and of course the hockey and deep dish pizza weren’t bad either.

My cheesy title tonight refers to yet another tabletop for our bookstore. I had posted one some months back for little girls, a checkerboard with fairies on it. Tonight it is all about the boys. I had an idea, and I am happy to say it came to fruition beautifully. A western themed board, which is particularly appropriate here in Temecula. This is a town from the Old West. Another unfinished piece from the home improvement store. Preliminary sketches on the first pic.

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Now the finished wood burned piece.

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And finally a shot of the finished piece.

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I’m really enjoying these pieces. I love the effect of the wood burning and the pearl paint (although my burnt fingertips would say otherwise!), the plan is to continue to work towards the business, and in the process the furniture. As much hand painted by me as possible.

No complaints tonight. I was right, Dan was right, working makes me happy. I feel my stress melting away with every piece, and that is a very good thing.

Finding My Way Back…Once Again

I was going to name this post “Did You Miss Me?” The truth is that I’m missing me. The year I spent on my artistic project and blog had re-energized my creative self. It had, as I expressed before, become a lifeline, but then I let go. I allowed the waves of misery, depression, sadness, and self-doubt take over my life. It has now been almost fourteen months since Dan lost his job. There is an interview on the horizon, and it looks good, but I think the hope has been drained out of me. Our plans for the business are still alive, just far more complicated than we had anticipated. And now for the positive. I refuse to give in.  I kicked myself in the backside (which would be quite an accomplishment if I could actually do it), I decided to focus on what I can do in the midst of this beyond my control situation. I realized not only had it been days and days since I posted on this blog, but also that I hadn’t done one artistic project in the process. In fact I have three projects all started in the last six weeks that are languishing in my studio. Yesterday I was adding items to our etsy shop when inspiration struck. A Majolica plate that I was on the verge of listing spoke to me. Last year I posted two table projects I had painted. As it turns out both will be part of the furniture for our shop, but it is a cafe/bookstore therefore I need more tables. I ran to the home improvement store and grabbed a circular wooden tabletop. Using my plate as an inspirational starting point I sketched out the design, grabbed my wood burner, and went to work. When I was finished with the burning (I still don’t have full feeling in my finger tip), I used my Martha Stewart Pearl, and Martha Stewart Metallic to paint my waterlily design. Dan and I decided that we didn’t want the entire table to be painted, but that we liked the look of one of my other pieces where the pearl paint was set off by stained wood. I think we were right. I’m very happy with how the tabletop looks. A little touch up tomorrow when the stain is dry, and a mission will to be to find just the right piece to create the bottom.

Today felt good. It’s time to grab the lifeline, time to get back to what kept my head above water, art. My lifelong best friend, the one thing that has always been there for me. There is also my husband, Dan, the guy on the other end of the rope pulling me back in. He reminded me how focused I was while I was involved in last years project. Good days and bad I worked, maybe not always my best work, but I created every single day. So here is the commitment, it’s to myself, minimum twice a week for posting. As for art, something creative every single day. Unfinished work, new work, things for the business. No more feeling lost when what I need to find myself is right here in my hands.

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First Steps

Today was a day to plan the future. We spent today on the hunt for a possible business location. It’s harder than you might imagine. There is a lot at stake here, and finding the right spot is essential. The entire process of opening a business is both exciting and terrifying. It is however a dream that I have had for many years. Now it is a dream that must become a reality if we want to find a way to earn a living. That may sound melodramatic but at our age people seem to view us as too old to be of any use. Dan has had his age come up repeatedly in interview after interview, and has been asked more than once if he can “keep up”. One of my friends has a husband just a few years older than us who has been out of work. He is a hardworking man who knows his business. He is also in excellent shape. He continues to play softball with his sons and their friends who are in their twenties. He recently had the opportunity to pick up some part-time work. The young man who was interviewing him for the job actually asked if at his age he could still climb a ladder. Trust me this man does not look his age, and looks in much better shape than your average thirty year old. My sister lost her job in December. She is one of the hardest working women I know, and she can run rings around people half her age. She was turned down for a job because the interviewer was concerned about how much longer she could work. She is only fifty-three. As we move forward in this business I will be going out of my way to look for the kind of mature responsible employees that my sister and our friend are. There’s a lot we can teach some younger workers about how things need to be done.

I have an upcycled project for tonight, but as so often happens I forget to take the “before” shots. (I guess I’m getting old.) An old cabinet door front that has been given new life as a shadow box. I left the door as it was found, just a little cleaning, and built a box to attach to the back. I gave it one shelf right in the middle. On the bottom I added another small vintage wooden shelf. I painted the interior in a dark maroon. The perfect place to display some of my pottery.

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Growing Confidence

It’s been some time since I visited my orphans. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, they are the pieces of work that I have left undone. Many months ago when I first relayed the tail of my “orphans” I had offered the explanation that it was because I was suffering from such a lack of artistic self-esteem that I was in effect, afraid to finish in fear of being judged. This project that I have been working on for the last year has done tremendous things for me. I no longer sit in fear of judgement by anyone, particularly myself. (And I do that better than anyone) Last week I was sick and did a really crappy piece of art, and you know what? It happens, it isn’t the end of the world. I was hung up on perfectionism in a world that is far from perfect. I’m still not happy when something doesn’t work out, but I no longer use it as a means to tear myself apart. That is some real progress.

Several months ago I began using my friend Theresa’s old kitchen cabinet doors to create new things from what essentially would have been material for a landfill. Recycling maniac that I am, that just wouldn’t do. Theresa had been kind enough to offer the doors to me knowing that I would do something. At this point I’ve used only five or six of them with plans for the rest. I had used one of them to create a mirror. When I posted the photo not all  the pieces were fully attached. I had painted the piece out in a silvery blue, but in the end I wasn’t happy with it. The pieces languished in my studio for months. The other day as I began to look through my things for pieces for my upcoming show I came across it. I decided to revisit the piece. I took a section away, and added another, and then changed the paint color. The blue was flat, boring, and did nothing to highlight what I liked most about the piece, the raised curved lines, the crevices, and the intricacies of the added floral wreath. Using a combination of metallic paint colors, silvers, antique bronze, and a champagne, changed everything. The colors really made the mirror come to life. It no longer looks like a kitchen cabinet door, but what I wanted it to be, something that looks like it’s been around for a while. Something beautiful and elegant. It left me anxious to get to the next one, and gave me a little more confidence, so much so that I may be adopting more of my orphans in the near future. First a reminder of the mirror with the blue paint finish, and then the new metallic finish.

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Compromises

There are times as an artist when you feel the need to bend just a bit on artistic integrity. By that I mean working for the almighty dollar instead of for the love of the art. That is where I will be for the next two weeks. I have a show in two weeks at a charter school. I have some pieces ready to go, but not nearly as much as I’d like to have, and these days I need the cash. I have so many small wood boxes and pieces sitting around that I’ve been meaning to get to. Now is the time. I’d like to head in to the show with at least fifty painted wood pieces. It would mean a lot for me to contribute to our dwindling finances. I’m sure many people who know me and some who don’t wonder why at this point I haven’t gotten a job. Three reasons. The first is that Dan hasn’t wanted me to. The second is that I never finished college. I was married, working full-time, and attending night classes when I discovered I was pregnant with Jessica. I was roughly a year from graduating and made the decision to leave school. I had never really figured out exactly what I wanted to do anyway, but I did know that I wanted to be a mother. Now I find myself in the position of not being qualified for anything other than standing on my feet, and when you’ve had six knee surgeries that’s a problem. Finally, I quit my last “time clock” job twenty years ago, again it was about being a mother. Brian was three, Jessica was nine, and I felt the need to be home with them. I’ve made money here and there since then with my art, but the truth is that I’m completely intimidated. Years ago my Mom said that the longer you stay out of work the harder it is to go back. She was right. I know that I’ve mentioned our business that we hope to open, but that will be a work of joy. A dream come true, and of course Dan will be at my side, and that makes me feel invincible. So this is the work I can do, and when I say I’m doing it for the money it in no way means it won’t be my best work. I always do my best.

The piece I’m working on tonight is for a child’s room. A small toy box dedicated to reading. I think instilling the love of books is one of the greatest gifts a child can receive. Each panel of this box will feature a beloved character from a book. I am usually so respectful and careful not to copy the work of others, but this is a one of a kind, one time use, and done in great admiration for the people who created these characters. Only the two end panels are started. The piece had to be sanded and primed first. I’ll post the finished box tomorrow.

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Learning To Let Go Of The Negative

Last night I wrote about believing in myself, and how we should remember that while some people might not like our work as artists, others do. We all tend to hang onto the negative, we remember the bad stuff. Dan and I have talked about this with our children. Their recollections of incidents are vastly different of ours. Careless or meaningless remarks made by us were words that they seem to have taken to heart. This morning on CBS Sunday Morning there was a piece about criticism. It seems that our brains are actually geared this way, that our ancestors had a built-in self-preservation system. They remembered the things that were bad or dangerous in a particular part of the brain in order to stay safe. It evolved into an area that processes negative thought. In other words, we hang onto the bad stuff by nature. It shapes who we are. (I’m loosely describing the story, but its worth checking out.) When the piece finished airing Dan and I had an interesting discussion about what we remember from our own childhoods. We both remember many negative incidents, things our parents said or did. When we though about it, we really couldn’t remember as much of the good as the bad. The negative things definitely made the stronger impression, the more lasting memories.  I’ve thought about it today. I think finding that piece of information out might actually help me in my struggles. Maybe if I concentrate on focusing on whats good about my work, understanding all the while that those negative thoughts are part of who I am, I can change that within myself. I’m not foolish enough to think that I can change thousands of years of evolution, but I’ve always thought that being aware of a problem is half the battle. The power of positive thinking. We’ve all heard those words. I think I’m giving myself some homework. All of the work I have produced for this blog is in one file in my computer. I’m going to look back at it tomorrow. I’m going to make a list of the positives I see. Funny, but it automatically just entered my mind to list the negative as well. I’m not going to do that. This is an assignment to change my thought process. Results tomorrow.

I didn’t produce any art today except in my kitchen. Academy Awards are known around here as my Superbowl. Our kids, our friends, good food and fun. I’m posting a piece from awhile ago. Mary Cicely Barker, who I may have mentioned in the past, is an artist who painted the “Flower Fairy” characters. A few years ago I began mixing my painting with her work. This is a checkerboard tabletop I painted and then decoupaged with her characters. Its sitting on top of another table because I haven’t been able to find the right legs for it as of yet. I’ve been giving serious thought to contacting the estate to gain permission to do one of a kind pieces. That again is something I keep putting off.IMG_5782

One For The Money

Every now and then I can pick up a small side job, or a craft show that brings a little money into our house. These days any extra cash is welcome here. I have a dear friend who has in the last few months thrown a little work my way. She has found projects around her home that she has asked me to update, or refinish. I really appreciate the business. Last year I painted a mantel shelf for her. A few weeks ago she asked me to paint a table to match. The table is my art project for today, I’ve spent the better part of today perfecting the finish. I unfortunately didn’t take a “before” photo, but if you can imagine it in its original form it was brown, non-distinctive wood. A few coats of polyurethane and it’s finished.

I haven’t really picked up my regular paintbrush in a bit. As things here at home have gotten down to the wire I’m feeling very stressed. I haven’t felt like painting. It’s honestly been a struggle to work at all in the last few days. I have so much on my mind, hesitant to hope with Dan’s job opportunity, adjusting to Brian moving out, and daily issues with my aging father. I need to figure out a way to relax and let my mind wander, and recharge my creativity. There are a few things in my life that always cheer me up. Three of them are my cats. One of them is always near getting in my way while I work. Whether its to sit on me, to sit on the paper I’m working on, or making a bed in my drop-cloth so I can’t move it, they always make me smile.

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One Man’s Trash

Some time ago on this blog I wrote about my Dad and myself and how we “saved” things. I referred to us by the name my Mom gave us which was Sanford and Daughter. This morning I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, the news and human interest story program. On one of the segments there was a piece about hoarders, it is now a diagnosed mental disorder. I didn’t even have to turn my head, I knew Dan was smiling behind the newspaper, particularly when it came to the woman who saves the metal holder off the top of Chinese takeout containers because, “You’ll never know what you can use them for.” Famous last words. Words I have spoken so much, much more than you can imagine. My “Artistic Fridge” that I am in the process of cleaning out is filled with lots and lots of  “I can use this for something” fragments. In my defense I actually do use some of these pieces from time to time, but I will admit there are probably more pieces than I will ever get to. People with this disorder have anxiety when separating from their things. It apparently runs in families. Funny since I referred to my daughter as “Sanford and Granddaughter”only yesterday . It made me sad to see how difficult it was for some of the people on the show, but also made me realize that maybe I really need to look at all the stuff, the fragments, the pieces of things I have kept. I certainly think I may have just a touch of this disorder, or harkening back to another post about Myra and Emma (the ladies who rewarded us neighborhood children with candy for picking up trash), it may just be that I can’t stand to see waste, or see something perfectly usable end up in a landfill. Could it possibly be The Boxcar Children? The books by Gertrude Chandler Warner that so enthralled me as a child? All that said, I’m ninety percent finished with the first of my window projects. An old window, scrap plywood, left over fabric, and vintage hooks. In other words, garbage. Bits and pieces given new life in something quite useful and pretty.

I’ve again leaned the window against a mirror for the center. There are three small hooks on the bottom for hanging jewelry or keys, and one larger hook on the side.Tomorrow we attempt to cut the mirror once again.2 23 14 (2)

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Superstitious

I’ve never been to see a psychic. I’d like to say it’s because I don’t believe in psychics, but the truth is that I’m not sure if I believe in them, and I know myself. I have a very active imagination, and as I have mentioned more than once in past posts, I’m Irish. (If you happened to have not read it, it means glass not full, nor empty, because the glass is shattered on the floor.) I’ve always been afraid that if I heard something that wasn’t good I’d obsess. (I’m also phenomenally good at obsessing.) It would rule my life, no matter how much I would try to convince myself that it was nonsense there would be that little corner of my mind that would poke its nasty self into my every waking moment. It’s much the same with superstition. We’ve had a rough year, and the disappointments, bad luck, and struggles continue and seem to have no end. (Dan does have a promising job interview on Tuesday, but I’m honestly afraid to be hopeful.) In the last few days I’ve been writing about the never-ending window projects. I left them alone yesterday, I needed a break. Today with fresh eyes I went back to work on one of them. This would be the larger of the two that I intend to turn into sort of a jewelry/mirror/memo center. A place where you can check hair or makeup, choose your necklace, and read your to do list before you have to run out the door. I coated four of the triangular shapes with magnetic paint, and then on top of that a few coats of chalkboard paint. The two side panels will allow for tucked in memos, I plan on covering them tomorrow and adding ribbon detail, and finally the center, which will become a mirror. Except this, I bought a door mirror to cut to fit the center. I’ve never cut glass. I watched a YouTube video which of course made me an instant expert.  I broke a piece off. Seven years bad luck. Then Dan came in. He has cut glass, successfully, but not this time. Four breaks. So basically right now we are looking at another thirty-five years of bad luck. (Openly groveling for all reading this to wish me good karma.) Do I believe in the superstition of seven years of bad luck for a broken mirror? Seven years times five? Not to mention we have to try again tomorrow!!! I’d like to say no…but there is that nasty little corner of my mind….

So here is what’s happening so far…IMG_5625

I leaned the window against a mirror in my guest room. (Notice the magnet) Still much to do, but I think you get the idea…

…to be continued.