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!

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.