Problem solving

When the results of first attempts are guaranteed to be imperfect, creativity gets the room it needs to work its magic. The finished product may end up on your coffee table, in your garden, or on the scrap pile. The creative process can turn from fun to frustrating to fun again in a matter of minutes. But that first moment of surveying something finished, something surprising, something not at all how you imagined it, is empowering. So bring on the next project!

January 5, 2012

Davy Deer & The Daughter

Most of my energy these past few months has gone into a whole-hearted attempt to "pull it all together" before "The Daughter" arrives (due Jan 12, AKA next Thursday). This has involved, among other things, hauling pieces of furniture from elsewhere in the house into her room, practicing Moby Wrap ties, asking friends for laundering strategies for cloth diapers, buying items off Craigslist, installing batteries, and making umpteen trips to Target. And near the very end of the to-do list: decorate her walls!

As you will see from the photos, I am not keen on "matching" sets. Not for furniture or wall hangings or anything else, really. Perhaps because it allows for maximum flexibility and prevents me from getting wound up if something gets ruined. If nothing exactly matches, it's easy to just make a swap with a garage sale find! Practical frugality. Love it.

Well anyway, on to Davy Deer. My Mom recently gave me our little worn copy of the children’s book, "Davy Deer's New Red Scarf" by Helen Adler. I’d memorized it as a child, having asked my mom to read it to me so many times, and its worn and yellowed pages held together with masking tape just melted my heart. I knew when I saw it again that I wanted to give it a place of prominence in The Daughter’s room. The illustrations are just too wonderful to NOT be displayed!

The story is of Davy Deer, who is so proud of the new red scarf his mother knitted him (seriously, who needs fingers to knit when you have hooves?) that he runs into the forest to show it off to all his friends, unaware that the scarf is unraveling as he runs along. He soon comes upon an unknown part of the forest and realizes he is lost, and that the red scarf is ruined. Thankfully Buster Bear is there to suggest that Davy follow the red wool back through the forest to find his way home again. And the best part of all? Mother Deer isn’t upset about the scarf at all. She will simply knit him another one! Love. Friendship. Fear. Loss. Hope. Relief. And BIG TIME LOVE all over again.
Suffice it to say, I love this story. So, out came the X-Acto knife and the colored pencils. I assembled this display on poster board and mounted it above the changing table, where I will be able to see it from the rocking chair. And maybe read from it during diaper changes...? We'll see. Anyway, it warms my heart, so chock-full of memories it is.

And speaking of warm memories in The Daughter's room, here is the opposite corner of her room. 
The dresser on the right was my mother's when she was a child! It has the cutest vintage stickers of nursery rhyme characters on it. The tall poster above the bookshelf has the 23rd Psalm written on it, with a picture of a girl tending sheep. The latch-hook rug was made for me by a childhood friend. Josh assembled the new crib, dear man. Above the dresser is another stitching design of a deer in the moonlight that I picked up at a garage sale...another thrilling find. The nightlight lamp came from my parent's house, the bookshelf from my closet (and previously from my friend, Jen), the rocker from a garage sale. And I *think* the blanket was made for Josh when he was a baby.

Such is the beauty of her mismatched room...and clear evidence of her mother's sentimental nature.    

October 21, 2011

Early A.M.

I wish sleeplessness didn't occur in the dark. When the birds are visible outside my window, I am better equipped to rally my optimism.

During this past week I've been waking up around 3:30 am, anxious. Mostly my worries revolve around predictable, pregnancy/baby-related fears. What is a sheet saver, and why do we need 4-6 of them? How many hats does a baby need during a winter in the Midwest? Will we need to buy a stroller with extra rugged wheels b/c of our road, or will we always need to drive the baby and stroller into town so we can walk along sidewalks, and along roads with a 25 mph speed limit? Is it already too late to install new carpet in the baby's room b/c of those new-carpet vapors? Will our baby develop weight problems because I can't stop eating Halloween candy?! Ugh. I know logically that we will be okay and we will eventually figure things out. Yet I feel nauseated over the prospect of being ill-prepared.

Maybe the daylight helps conquer worry because it enables a person to take action, rather than lying in bed, staring at the ceiling as all those thoughts bounce around, trapped. If only someone were available for a carpet installation consult at 4am. Or if I could find a comfortable sleeping position...that might help too.

September 20, 2011

Drying Herbs

Camera-happy Chester, daydreaming of dried catnip...
A mid-September overnight freeze! What else could have driven me to harvest all my herbs at once, right before sunset, toss them in bunches on the kitchen table, and only then ask myself, "Where will I dry all these?"

Earlier this year I cured bunches of garlic by attaching them with clothespins to a length of twine strung between chairs in the basement. But I have an herbs-drying-in-the-basement paranoia that revolves around spiders, oregano and rosemary, and the possibility of eating a home-made spider leg pizza, so I needed a different drying method to put my mind at ease.

Dill leaves/seeds, rosemary, oregano, thyme, mint
My few requirements for the herb drying rack were that it be located on the main floor, out of direct sunlight, out of cat-batting range, and made out of something I already had on hand. And so I created... a willow branch herb drying web.

I made two versions. On each, I first braided together 3 long branches for the frame, and connected the ends to form a hoop.

In the first design, I slightly bent 4 long branches for the interior, leaving loops outside the frame, and then crossing the ends before poking them through spaces at the opposite ends of the braided circle. Luckily, the lopsidedness that you will notice when it is empty is hidden when it's loaded up with herbs.

For the second design I used fishing line to connect the hoop, and instead of bending the branches, I simply cross-hatched lengths of branches throughout the hoop, all willy-nilly like.

Herb-drying frame, version II
As far as looks go, I could have ramped up the country charm by tying the herbs to the frame with bits of ribbon or lace or twine. But sometimes when this sort of exercise is staring me in the face, practicality trumps charm, especially when the need is only temporary.

So, mission accomplished. I could still harvest more oregano to fill all the gaps...but I've got other projects to get to!  

September 13, 2011

Lighten Up

Today, I finally faced it: the cluttered, spider-y south room of the basement. Since we are making room upstairs for a new baby, all my arts and crafts supplies had to be packed up and moved downstairs. So, the room has become a neglected, dusty collection of the aforementioned spiders, boxes, paintbrushes, wrapping paper, and a thousand other little things that I am tired of stepping over!

I envision this garden-level room as an inspiring backdrop for various creative projects. I hope to some day paint and draw in this room with my daughter, wrap presents, sew buttons, press flowers, etc. Ooooh, the anticipation....let the makeover begin!

First, I did something of which I am both proud and embarrassed. Eek. I moved this looming bookcase (above left) from the upstairs to the basement, down two flights of stairs, by myself. I tipped it on its side, braced it from the bottom, and down it went. If it would have gouged the wall, crushed a cat, or broken in half along the way (it is one of those assembly-required models), I'd have to acknowledge I was expecting it the whole time. But seeing as how the cats are fine, the walls are sound, the bookcase is still in one piece, and that I will add: I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS METHOD OF MOVING FURNITURE, let's just move on, shall we?

So, I needed shelves to start the makeover. And, as is my usual M.O., I'd rather use something I already have than invest in something new. The problem with this bookcase is that it has a Darth Vader energy, leaning there against the wall, casting a shadow over the entire room. Elsewhere in the room, there's an antique white iron daybed, antique lamps, antique wooden furniture, a floral table, etc. My vision for this room is Light, Airy, Inspiring and Free. Not... Death Star. So, how do I lighten up this bugger?

     1. Paint or stencil. Paint fumes and pregnancy, however, don't seem to mix, so I think I should find another method.
     2. Wallpaper. The problem with this, for me, is that future flexibility is compromised. Scraping wallpaper in advance of future redesigns (because I never know what will strike my fancy next) sounds like a nightmare.
     3. The Not-Perfect-But-Better-Than-It-Was Idea: Computer paper painted with watercolors in a subtle, easily made design (3 different panels of red, purple and blue splotches, with green around the edges to impressionistically hint at flowers), and taped to the shelves. Cheap, temporary, and I get to play with watercolors. Good enough!

So, for the middle sections, I taped together 3 pages after they were painted, and then taped them up as a group. The left panels are blue, the middle panels red, and the right panels purple, so there are subtle vertical stripes of color. I taped up panels on the sides, both inside and out, as well. I didn't bother papering the shelves themselves, as they will soon be holding my artsy supplies.

My floral design improved as I went along. The first flower splotches were too watered down, too small, too bland. But eventually I could produce a few artistic panels that I really liked in a matter of minutes. I didn't want them to be identical, but I did count the number of splotches so that one panel wouldn't be more cluttered than the next one.

Overall, I think it turned out pretty well. It only took a few hours, and definitely changed the visual weight of the shelves.

Tomorrow I'll fill the bookcase, and then move along to the next project. Doesn't it feel fantastic to begin a project you've been avoiding?! It is one of my favorite things.