HOMEMADE APPLE PIE WITH CRUMB TOPPING
Ancient peoples celebrated Samhain (or Halloween as we know it today) in part out of fear of the upcoming winter and in part out of a reverence for the natural world. Despite all of our intellect, technology, and human ingenuity we are still so very small next to the power of nature. Fall will give way to winter, whether we like it or not. I am no big fan of winter…It’s cold and dark, and I could do without the ice and high energy bills! But just the same, I respect the seasonal transitions and what they mean in the greater scheme of things. Autumn is that in-between time—the bridge between the warm summer and the cold winter.
I draw my personal and creative inspiration from nature and natural things, and Fall is my favorite season by a landslide! Fall is pure perfection! It’s nature’s last defiant celebration before the onset of the cold weather with its ice, snow, and plummeting temperatures which create the desire to hibernate. Autumn is the season that fearlessly faces the end of nature’s bounty and prepares us for the stinging cold to come. But until that time arrives, let it be glorious!
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So we lost our cat Marco suddenly today. It happened so fast and he was dead by the time we put him the car to rush him to the vet. My poor baby. He was our fourth child. We had him since he was a kitten—14 years. We will miss him so much. This house will be empty without him. I can’t believe he won’t be here anymore. It doesn’t seem real.
We had plans for a few weeks now to get another kitten—a buddy for Marco—but that will have to wait until we are able to process this situation. There is his litter box to deal with, along with the scratching posts, bed, water bowl, and food. I just can’t bear to touch any of them right now. And the house will need a good clean before we bring another animal into it.
So…I am lost right now. My business goals for this week are up in the air. None of it seems to matter. I don’t know what to do with myself right now. My natural tendency to dealing with stress is to move and do things, like clean. But I feel like cleaning right now would be an insult to his memory this soon after losing him. I had a long list of business stuff to do today, and I am still trying to decide if I should go ahead with my plans, if only to keep myself busy. But part of me just doesn’t want to deal. At the same time I don’t want to just sit here…Maybe I’ll go outside for a bit. It’s a cloudy, rainy day, but at least it’s not hot. If it’s not raining maybe I’ll pull weeds in my herb garden.
His fur is on my clothes…on my floor…on my furniture…on my blankets. I’m sitting here looking at his scratching posts and toys. His bed and litter box still sit in their spots. He’s all around me, but he’s not here. This is so surreal. So unexpected and sudden. It all happened so fast. We lost him only six hours ago. The irony is that he was not the one we thought we would be losing this week. Our guinea pig, Lucy, is dying and on her last leg. I expected her to die today, to be honest. Not my cat. Not my beautiful, beautiful boy. But his heart decided today was the day to give out. And we have to deal with that now.
God I’m going to miss that cat…Goodbye my Marco. You were so loved.
This has been a strange day…Hell it’s been a strange year so far! Anyway, I had an idea all set in motion for a creative blog post, complete with some awesome images and meaningful thoughts. But that will have to wait…This one concept—gratitude—has been digging away at me for a few weeks now, and a light bulb suddenly went off!
If you spend any significant time on social media, you will come across hundreds of memes and inspirational posts that talk about “gratefulness” and “thankfulness”. It’s so prevalent that you probably just rolls your eyes and move on. Enough already, right?
Well, the reason why you see these things constantly is because there is real truth to the positive effects of being grateful and thankful. Yes…I am going there!
Let’s try something…Think about someone who has done you wrong—someone you are very angry with and maybe wish you could pummel. Think about how you feel when you think about them and what they have done to you. Not good. Not good at all. And then ask yourself, in this moment, do they know how bad you feel? Do they care? If the answer is no, then you are just victimizing yourself by holding onto bad feelings. Now what if you could turn this on its head, and make a positive out of a negative? What if you could feel grateful that you came out of the experience a better person, or more aware of certain things, or stronger in some way? What if you could let go of your anger and be a better person than the one who did you wrong? What if you could feel thankful that you are a good person, no matter what the world around you does to you?
And what about this scenario…You find yourself working hard every day to have a happy, meaningful life, but life always seems to kick you in the teeth no matter how much you try to make things better. You could sit around being angry and bitter and resentful. Is that helping you? Does that solve all your problems? No. Life is hard. Harder for some people than others. It’s not fair, but there it is…We all have our cross to bear. I have learned recently though that much of what we experience in terms of emotions depends on our perspective. And, guess what? You can actually change your own perspective!! Who knew?! I am the biggest skeptic of them all, but I tried it. Several times. And it works. It does! And here’s how…
You can CHOOSE to think about all of the bad things. You’ll dwell on them, get angry, cry, drink, whatever. But you can also CHOOSE to think about good things as well. They both exist together side by side, but you get to choose which one you focus on at any given moment. For my part, I have realized that every new day is a new beginning. It’s a new opportunity. Even if it just means that you have lived through another day. Life is a gift. That light within you is a gift. Your job is to nourish the light and make the best you can out of the hand that’s been dealt. Open your mind to possibilities instead of barriers. Learn to see the long view, or the short view—whichever helps you the most. Just don’t choose to sink into darkness. It doesn’t help. In fact, it usually makes things worse. Be grateful for what you do have even if you don’t have much, and what you have accomplished even if it is only small things.
Gratefulness and thankfulness are all about realizing that you are enough with what you have already, and that what you have is a gift. It is the opposite of thinking about what you don’t have or can’t do or who you are mad at. And it really is a choice:)
What are you thankful for today? Feel free to comment below:)
Since Mother’s Day is coming up soon it got me thinking about the meaning of this particular holiday. As a mother of three adolescent boys I feel like I am re-discovering the definition of being a mother, and realizing that the role of a mom changes as the kids move into different stages of their own lives.
And then I got to thinking about what I need most as a mother, and how Mother’s Day—and the gifts that come with it—relates to my everyday world.
Well let’s start with what most mom’s get on Mother’s Day. Cards, flowers, handmade stuff from kids, jewelry, dinner/lunch/breakfast out, anything customized just for mom, gift certificates, a “break” for the day…
These are all very sweet. But let’s explore them further…
A card is nice. It’s full of thoughtful and nostalgic poetry and sayings with pretty artwork on the front that looks nice on your tables and counters…but it gets thrown in the trash in less than a week. To me, this feels like such a waste of money! (And never mind the trees!) Unless it’s handmade, of course…
Cut flowers die within a few days, so this is another well-intentioned gesture that sadly ends up in the trash. Potted plants are the gift that keep on giving. They can be placed lovingly in a nice spot in the home, or some can be replanted outside as part of the landscaping. But then there’s allergies to think about. I personally have a rough time with flowering plants, what with the sneezing fits and sinus headaches! A nice green leafy thing works so much better! And just as an aside, you can find handcrafted gifts and decorations with FAUX flowers by Di’s Studio Designs that never die and don’t irritate your allergies!
Handmade stuff from kids…Well what can you say about that?! Every mom loves to get handmade stuff from their kids. The things you get from little kids do tend to end up in boxes and drawers, but can make for interesting conversation and reminiscing years later once found again—if you can remember which one of your kids made it! And items handmade from adult kids (that includes the HUSBAND) can become cherished items that have a place of honor somewhere in the home. I also think that handmade items say much more than a store-bought mass produced gift could ever say. Handmade items are made from the heart and with thought, and not just “purchased”. One year, when my two oldest kids were little, hubby made me a small jewelry box with a photo inside with me and my kids, which really meant a lot and it is a really special keepsake.
Eating out on Mother’s Day is sweet and gives mom a break from cooking that day (in theory). The one thing I personally hate though is how crowded the restaurants are on Mother’s Day. Personally I’d rather do takeout and avoid the crowds! But that’s just me.
Anything customized for mom falls under the same umbrella as handmade stuff. What mom doesn’t love to get a gift that has her kids’ birthstones or names, or some other decoration symbolic of motherhood? This type of gift shows a bit of thought about the gift in question, which is what makes it special. And speaking of custom gifts, check out this lovely lady’s site for some unique, versatile, and customizable jewelry for that special mom in your life!
Gift certificates…This can be good or bad. Often when I get gift certificates they end up sitting around for a while before I have the ability (usually that means “time”) to use them. This is what I call the “delayed gift”. Gift certificates for spas are awesome. With that being said, I hardly ever have time to go to a spa!!! Gift certificates to stores are great, so long as you like the store…but that’s a different conversation! But the one thing that many gift certificates do is allow you to choose specifically what you want, rather than getting some random gift. It’s a bit of a cop-out, but it works for the woman in your life for whom purchasing a gift is difficult.
And my all-time favorite—a “break” for the day. This one…Well this one is complicated, isn’t it?! ALL moms would love a break for the day. I just don’t think there actually is a true “break” from being mom. You’d have to tie me down to keep me from picking up something, cleaning something, worrying about something, or cringing after things have been “cleaned”…As long as I am within those four walls I am still on “mom-duty”, and I don’t think I am alone in this dilemma. I am not a stay-in-bed-all-day or just-relax-all-day kind of person. Nope. Not happening! If you want me to truly have a “break” from “mom-duty” you have to kidnap me from home and take me elsewhere for the day…Otherwise the gesture is pointless. Sweet—but pointless! But then again…it IS nice to have other people pitch in and help. So, complicated…
After all of this reflection on motherhood and how others show their appreciation for all of the countless things that mothers do and represent, I have come to the conclusion that heartfelt gifts and gestures are always the best form of expression. These are the “gifts” that mean the most because they come from a place of thoughtfulness. Pitching in and doing all of the household chores for the day shows (and teaches) appreciation for all of the hard work that goes into taking care of household and family. Buying custom gifts or making something handmade for mom from scratch shows you really put some thought into the type of gift SHE would like, rather than purchasing something off of a shelf in a store. And I think we need to get back to that…get back to appreciating personal things and handmade. My boys are getting to an age now where they need to realize the importance of the human connection. Soon they will be men and and I hope they have learned enough to appreciate all of the women in their lives!
I would love to get some of YOUR thoughts on Mother’s Day and what it means to YOU. And what was the BEST Mother’s Day gift you have ever gotten?
Happy Mother’s Day!
My first two candleholder design concept sketches, Waterfall and Forest, May 2015.
It’s been two years since I started out on my current entrepreneurial journey. I had just been laid off from my job, and was desperately—and unsuccessfully—trying to find an internship to finish my degree in Interior Design. So I decided that I wanted to try to start a business creating and selling handmade home decor and candles. I came up with a couple of concept sketches for wooden candleholders—Waterfall and Forest (seen above). I had no idea how to make these designs, but I was determined to figure it out! It was during this process that I sat down and decided to write a blog entry about my thoughts at the time. And then I lost the blog entry. Don’t ask me how—it just vanished! I forgot about it for a long time. And then suddenly a couple of weeks ago it appears out of nowhere in an old file on a flash drive. Reading this lost entry has reminded me that so much has changed since then…and yet so much is the same!
I thought I’d share this trip down memory lane, for those who might be interested…
Dabble & Babble
So, here’s me sitting here trying to figure out what in the world to do with this blog?! There are so many things that interest me, so what to write about today? Tomorrow? Next week? Lately I’ve been dabbling in furniture design, candle making, SketchUp, Photoshop, and AutoCAD. I’m also learning a lot about e-commerce and entrepreneurial “things”. Trying to find my niche, you might say…Or maybe I’ve just lost the plot. But here’s the thing—I’m learning lots of new “things” and I need a platform to explore it all and share my experiences…And so I think I will babble. I will babble about candle making or Etsy or starting a business. I will probably babble about the interior design industry and internships. I’ll babble about furniture design and my (own) furniture ideas. And maybe I’ll babble about castles (because who DOESN’T love castles!). This blog will be my babbling brook of ideas, if you like. Okay, maybe I took that just a little too far, but you get the gist! Let’s throw it all against the wall and see what sticks (for all of you “Odd Couple” enthusiasts).
Speaking of the “Odd Couple”, it’s been brought to my attention recently that I might be a bit like Felix—incredibly anal about tidiness and quick to panic at the mere site of a crumb. Well, okay. I can live with that. But in my defense, I live in a household of Oscars!
Which got me to thinking about tidiness! Tidiness and organization—specifically home organization. I’m apparently good at it, and in the absence of being able to find an internship in interior design, I’ve been thinking a lot about organization and being an entrepreneur. I’ve already started dabbling in candle making, and I am making some real progress while learning about how to set up a craft business, but I also want to do some meaningful work in my field. I can’t call myself an interior designer (yet!) but I believe I CAN do some good and help people with organizing their spaces. No doubt I’ll be posting lots of things relating to that topic as I explore it further and hash out some type of a business plan.
So I’m exploring all aspects of this brave new world of entrepreneurship and freelancing. It may be difficult for some people to understand, but I’ve read a statistic lately that almost a third of our population is living in this new realm of reality. That’s especially true of us creative types. In a highly competitive and unforgiving job market if you can’t FIND a job then you need to MAKE a job. Eager to see what’s out there and how I can use my skills to make a difference!
In the mean time, candle making has quickly become a fascinating adventure! Well, maybe not in the beginning. The first month of experimenting with soy wax candles was a bit rough…to say the least. By the time I had created my sixth candle I was ready to through all my supplies out the front door and slam it shut. (“And STAY out!”) This s?@t is hard!! I’ve since done much better with getting a nice scent in my candles, but there’s still some tweaking to do with the wicks so that I get a nice “hot” throw, as they say in the business. As a matter of fact, I’m sitting here right now with one of my creations burning in the background, still grumbling about how I’m not getting a really great aroma in the room. I want to smell the damn strawberries and cream already! Well, actually I think I actually DO smell it, but I may be what is called “nose blind”. I have been around the smell a lot lately so now my nose is just used to it. At least I HOPE that’s the problem! It’s so irritating when my candles don’t smell the way I want, and trying to figure out all the subtle (and not so subtle) techniques to get it all just right has been like a trip through hell for someone like myself who is “patience challenged”. And yet I’m falling in love with it…Explain that! I guess I just like the abuse! But there IS progress and it’ll all come together in the end—eventually. Next week I’ll dabble in wood working skills so I can finish my designs for some of my candleholders. Oh goody…a whole new hell to look forward to! But I like the abuse, so it’s all good. And it’ll give me something else to babble about!
Well, here it is a couple of years later and I think I have the candle making thing down, and I’ve come a long way with my woodworking skills. I still haven’t tackled the idea of offering services in home organization or interior decor, but I’m working on my interior design portfolio, so stay tuned! And I haven’t worked on any of my furniture designs because, well, there is just no time!! But reading this little written time capsule helped remind me of some of my long term goals. Sometimes it’s good to be able to take a look back, if only to see how far you have come!
And along the way I did manage to figure out how to create my original designs!
Recent photos of the finished versions of Waterfall and Forest, with their smaller counterparts, Waterfall Mini and Juniper Tree, April 2017.
I’ve been wondering recently if I think too much, and if thinking too much is also holding me back. Okay, you need to think things through and have a game plan, but sometimes you have to know when to stop! Just that one thought too far and you’ve fallen down that rabbit hole, where you find yourself in a place where you are trying too hard to control everything. The truth is—sometimes the best things happen when you just plot a course and let it be!
Take this little piece of artwork for example.
The backstory is that I was sick with the flu on the day I made tis sketch—or “study”, to be more precise. On this particularly miserable afternoon I needed something to do that didn’t require too much thought or effort. I just wanted to DO something because I was sick and tired of being sick and tired!
So I’ve been experimenting lately with drawing and creating Celtic knots, and developed a fascination with them. In fact I’ve fallen in love! Something about them draws me in, and creating one—even when it is hard work—feels somehow spiritual and incredibly satisfying. Magical—that is the word I think I am looking for—magical.
Recently I watched a YouTube video where someone was using a free style technique to draw a Celtic knot, and I filed a notion in the back of my mind that I would take some time to try this technique as soon as I had some free time.
And so on this awful afternoon—coughing, sneezing, whining, aching, coughing some more, and trying not to pee myself every time I coughed (yeah it’s a thing when you reach a certain age!)—I decided to sit and just try out a free style knot. I put the pencil to the paper and just let it go in whatever direction felt good, with little to no thought about patterns or what the end result would look like. My only consideration was not creating too many crossovers too close together that would create problems later on when I drew the thread and crossovers. So I drew my initial guideline. Then I created my double lines, erased my guideline, created my “overs and unders”, and finally did my shading to create that 3D effect. I cleaned it all up, took a snapshot, and posted to Instagram. And then I really looked at it…
This is not a great work of art—just a study in technique. But something strange and almost eerie happened here. Remember I said I did not plan out the line direction or pattern, just let the pencil go where it wanted to go? Now look again at my free style drawing…Do you see the “D” clear as day in the center? I did not plan that! Now look again…Do you see the cursive “L” incorporated into the “D” pattern? These are my initials!! D.L. There it is as plain as day…but I did NOT try to create that effect! In fact I had no idea it was even there until I was totally finished and was critiquing my work to see what I liked and did not like about the drawing.
Something about this experience hit a nerve. I have noticed that I think too much, and I have noticed that some of the best things materialize when I plot a course and have faith that I am going in the right direction. But when I fall into the trap of thinking…and thinking…and thinking…(OVER thinking) I find that I only get in my own way. I then fail to see the really obvious stuff that could be sitting right in front of me! And sometimes I miss opportunities because I am just too focused somewhere else.
I wrote a blog post last year about Bob Ross and “happy accidents”. Well, I guess you could call this a follow up to that story. Or more likely it’s a reminder or a wake up call to just have faith and trust in my own ability to create the very things I am seeking. Time to start reminding my brain to shut up and get out of my way!!
What are your thoughts? Have you had similar experiences with something happening that you initiated, but then let the universe (or God or Karma or whatever you want to name it) take over? Were you surprised by the results? Do you think it would have worked out the same or just as good if you had micro-managed the situation in order to control the outcome?
Feel free to share your thoughts and/or experiences…
I write this little cautionary tale from the perspective of an artisan that uses tents for craft and vendor events, but it occurred to me that other people use tents as well—for parties, weddings, barbecues, you name it! So this is not just something interesting to read for fellow crafters and artisans.The warm weather is coming and at least some of us will have to deal with a tent or two during the next few months, right?
To get started let me tell you a bit of a back story…
Last September I booked my very first ever craft event. It was an outdoors event in my neighborhood that lasted from 8am to 4pm. Let me tell you, I was amped! I was so psyched about doing my first ever event in my own community, and I was all set to knock it out of the park. I was going to talk to EVERYBODY, pulling out all the stops with greeting everyone who walked by, small talk, explaining my products, passing out business cards, building my email contact list. I was going to make all KINDS of local contacts and customers. I was ready to go.
It was going to be a LONG day, with setup starting at around 6:30 in the morning. Up at 3am, packing the car around 5am, out the door by 6:15. Setup took three of us about an hour and a half. But it was beautiful! I had such a beautiful boutique look going on, and I was so proud. What a way to start off my day and kick start my brand image to the public!
The first hour was rather quiet and uneventful, just settling in, greeting the few passersby. Lovely light breeze blowing, but nothing substantial. Decided to do a bit of sketching in my down time while waiting for the crowds to arrive. People finally started showing up sometime shortly after 9, and I was just getting geared up for making contacts and sales, when….
An unexpected gust of wind came along, and there went my tent! And my heart just sank. In one quick moment my whole day was ruined. I went from smiling and happy and confident, to completely stressed out and worried. Worried that I couldn’t get enough weight to keep my tent in place. Worried that it would blow over again and damage my merchandise, or worse—someone else’s merchandise or heaven forbid hurt a customer. Worried that if I had to get rid of the tent altogether my candles would melt in the midday sun. Worried that I might have to pack up early and leave, tail between my legs.
The next six hours dragged by slowly, consisting of me, my hubby, and son trying to find ways to hold down the tent poles—sometimes standing at critical points and holding them by hand—carefully watching with every single puff of wind. I would have cried, but I wasn’t going to let anyone see me crumble. I continued greeting everyone I could, trying to stay upbeat, but my attention was not fully there anymore and I did not really engage anyone. I did manage to salvage the day—just a bit—by making just enough to cover my space fee. So, not a great day.
There’s a couple take-aways from this situation. And I take sole responsibility for the decisions made that lead to such a nightmare outcome. First of all, I did have sand bags that I could have filled with sand or litter, but for some unknown reason I did not buy sand or litter to fill them. Unbelievable! WHY would I not buy the material necessary to weigh down my tent?? I think I just assumed that we would be set up on grass and I would use pegs to anchor down my tent. Note to self—NEVER assume such a thing! We get there and are pointed to our spot…on concrete. So obviously pegs are not going to work. And as if I hadn’t already made ENOUGH bad decisions, I decided the tent would be okay not anchored because it was not windy…that morning…at setup time. And I assumed that the rest of the day would be just as calm. Note to self—again NEVER assume such a thing!
Well, after all was said and done, nothing was damaged and nobody was hurt—except my self esteem and my nerves!
Fast forward to today. It is now Spring, and guess what? It is craft event time! And I have to deal with what to do about the dreaded tent situation. So….THIS time around I am going to test out ALL of the equipment at home, in my back yard, BEFORE going to an event…First things first, test out the sand bags…You know the ones I had but never filled?
I have learned through research that you should have at least 40 pounds of weight on each of the four tent corners, and some events actually require this much weight for your setup. As long as my bags hold up, this should not be a problem.
Next step is to do a mock setup of my tent with weights (no pegs) in my back yard and leave it there for at least a couple of days to see what the wind does. I have to admit I am a bit worried about the lightness of my tent, so this part will be a crucial part of my decision making process. Will my current equipment work? If it does, great! Time to book some events! If it doesn’t, well then I have to scrounge together enough funds to purchase a sturdier tent and better weight bags. And I will lose valuable time that I could have spent at vendor events…
But…That’s the trouble with tents:)
Spring is coming!
That sentence is both exciting and horrifying to me! Exciting because—at long last—we can emerge from the cold, dark, icy, nasty, yucky winter weather. Horrifying because I have just now realized that I could use a little self help…a LOT of help if I were to be completely honest!
It is time to start facing the reality that I could use some self-help, some self-love. It is always my first instinct to emotionally and psychologically hunker down in the winter and just go with things, just get through the long cold days and miserable weather. BUT…Spring is coming fast, and it is time to get out of my shell and create within myself that positive energy which I have been so sorely lacking these past few months!
I have decided that the first order of business is to address my need to get back to my practice of yoga and meditation. Not only do I need to re-adjust my mindset, but a little bit of exercise would do me some good (and help me lose that 30 lbs or so that has accumulated somehow)! A new hair-do and a re-evaluation of my current wardrobe wouldn’t hurt either.
As trivial as some of this may sound, I really have allowed my usual practice of self-care to slip. And boy do I feel it!
In all fairness, winter sucks! But if I am being completely honest, I started slipping before the cold weather rolled around. I buried myself in my business and daily to-dos and forgot that everything I am working towards is built on my ability to be ME!
So I feel a little lost, a little overwhelmed by all of my goals for this week, this month, this year. I started off the year thinking I was going to explode into Spring…instead here it is March and I am dragging my ass along! I’m getting things done, but I am feeling pummeled and drained. And let me tell you, this latest round of snowy wintry weather did nothing to lift my spirits.
BUT…Spring IS coming. Time to look at my personal goals, break them down into manageable chunks, and get ‘em done! Time to shake it all off, take a deep breathe, and do some damn yoga!!! Namaste :)
How are YOU coping with the up coming change of seasons? Feel free to share your thoughts below:)
This is the time of year when we emerge out of the cold dark winter and into the warm light of spring. It’s the time of year for rebirth, and a refreshening from the stale air of the last few months. For many of us that means it’s time for the dreaded spring cleaning. You know that cob web in the ceiling corner of your bedroom? The one that you have been trying very hard to ignore for the past few months? Yeah, it’s time. It has to go! We all have a tendency to think about the work to be done and groan, but what if we turned it on its head? Instead of seeing this as a negative thing—a tedious chore to be done—what if we thought of it as a welcome opportunity to purge the dust and cobwebs, re-assess our households, make changes, and add new things? It’s time to give our homes—and our spirits—a much needed burst of rejuvenation!
To help things along, here are a few tips on tackling the prospect of spring cleaning:
First step: Breathe!
Second step: Coffee!
Third step: More coffee!
Fourth step: While sipping yet another cup of coffee, assess which room to start. Pick a room and set your mind to finishing that room today.
Fifth step: Put that coffee down and get to work! It’s time to rid the room of all the junk and clutter that has accumulated over the past few months. Trust me, this will make the next step MUCH easier!
Sixth step: Now clean! Start at the top and work your way down, with floors being the last to be cleaned. Dust the high up places (like those dreaded ceiling fans that short people like me can’t seem to reach). Wash the curtains and blinds. Windex the windows. Dust and polish the furniture. Freshen, vacuum, fluff up the upholstery. Wipe down those walls and baseboards. Vacuum, mop, or scrub that floor.
Seventh step: Breathe in deep the clean air—the hard part is done! Now for the fun part…Decor!!! Now is the time to brighten up your space with some pretty things. Start with what you have already, and don’t be afraid of bare spots (you’ll deal with the empty spots in the next step). Use what you have on hand and find that perfect spot for it.
Last step: Shopping! When you are done working with what you have already, assess the empty spots, then go shopping for a couple of key items that will breathe new life into your decor.
(Oh, and keep that coffee maker running—there are still more rooms to be cleaned! Sorry. Don’t shoot the messenger!)
In the spirit of starting anew—and to help you with that last step—I spent the months of January and February hunkering down and giving all of my products a much needed re-think, and re-worked many of my items.
The goal was to freshen up the candle displays and re-design other displays in order to create a better product for my customers. The candle displays (like the ones you see below) received a much needed freshening up with all new design, wax, wicks, and scents.
(From left to right: Baby Powder, Jasmine Dream, White Petals)
During my re-assessment I decided that some displays would be re-designed as decorative faux floral displays, without the candles. Here’s just a few of my new looks:
(From left to right: Champagne Toast, Spring Meadows, Tropical Paradise)
I am happy to say that—after quite a lot of hard work—I now have some beautiful spring decorative displays (like those in the image below) to offer to those of you who are thinking ahead to that last step of your spring clean!
(Clockwise from left to right: Spring Flowers, Waterfall Mini, Bird Song, Juniper Tree)
And in the spirit of rebirth, I have a brand new design to offer! A new item called Celtic Charm has just been born, just in time for spring. In preparation for this moment, I spent months learning how to draw Celtic knots and learning as much as I could about wood burning so that I could bring this vision to life. It’s the perfect symbolism for life and renewal, and a nod to my love for all things Irish and Celtic!
Celtic Charm by Di’s Studio Designs
So my mission for my new year of business and re-launch has been accomplished! The spring clean is done, and a new item is added. A perfect way to start off the year anew, with fresh looks and new ideas!
And now—after working so hard spring cleaning my merchandise—it’s time to spring clean my house!!!
O Lord, I am going to need a LOT of coffee:)
Feel free to share your spring cleaning woes in the comments below!!
Anyone who has been buying candles and related paraphernalia lately has surely noticed the popularity of candle warmers. These gems come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and styles and can range in price from as little as $10 to upwards of $50 or more. Styles can range from purely utilitarian to high end style, depending on your budget and needs. Last month I decided that I would like to sell wickless candles as a safer alternative to candles that need an open flame, and so I embarked on a research project to get myself more acquainted with that segment of the market. I decided to share some of the basics, for those of you might be interested in exploring the use of warmers, including a few types of warmers and how they work, some pros and cons to going wickless, and some final thoughts on safety. (Yes you do still have to consider safety!)
Types of warmers:
Warmer lamps—Warmer lamps work by melting your candle from the top by using a halogen lamp over the candle that warms the wax to just the right melting point. The lamp will melt an inch or two at a time, releasing the scent into the room usually within just a few minutes. Once the scent seems weak (generally after a few melts), you just pour off the melted wax to expose more unmelted wax that will then release a nice strong scent again. There is the potential for overflow of melted wax in the beginning with the first melt, but excess wax can be poured out to prevent this occurrence. I’ve seen examples of these lamps online that range from very simple and modern to very stylish.
Warmer lanterns—Warmer lanterns work the same way as warmer lamps, melting the candle from the top down. The difference is that these candle warmers are in the form of decorative lanterns, and may be a bit more pricey than some other options.
Warmer crocks—Another very stylish candle melter is a crock warmer. With this type of warmer the candle is set completely inside a small crock. This style creates an all around melting starting at the bottom and then up the sides. It is faster—though can be more expensive—than using a warmer plate. Crocks come in a variety of stylish designs that disguise the candle jar or container while complimenting your decor.
Plate candle warmers—This is one of the simpler (and often cheaper) warmers. You simply place your candle on the plate, turn it on, and the wax melts from the bottom up. The scent is released once the entire candle is melted—which could take up to an hour or more depending on candle size. Once the entire candle is melted, however, you will enjoy hours of scent in your room.
Tart/melt/fragrance warmers—These type of warmers are made to melt the small wickless candle tarts and melts that do not come in containers. The warmers can be either electric (such as plugins) or may operate using a tea light under the melting dish. For this type of appliance the wax melt or chips are placed directly in the ceramic bowl provided and melted from underneath with either a bulb or tea light. Once melting has started the scent will release for hours, until the scent is finally exhausted. Tart and wax melt warmers need to be emptied and cleaned once the scent has gone or the user wants to change to a new melt, or once the wax is less than 1/2”.
Pros & cons to using warmers:
Pros—One of the best pros to going wickless is that there is no open flame, so there is no risk of a lit candle catching fire or tipping over and igniting items nearby. Also, many wicks can give off chemicals as they burn, a problem that is eliminated with the wickless versions. Some users of wickless candles claim that their candles last much longer than traditional burning candles, and that there is a longer lasting scent release.
Cons—During my research I have read posts from people who say they plug in the warmers and forget about them—sometimes for days. I do NOT recommend that! Remember you are still using some type of electrical (usually) appliance, which has its own safety issues. (If you are using a tea light warmer you need to follow traditional candle burning safety precautions). Even the best made containers could possible crack, break, or melt due to imperfections, so it is always a good idea to be aware of what your candle is doing. Another safety issue is understanding which type of warmer to use with the appropriate candle container. Not all candle containers can be used with just any warmer, so make sure you read instructions and use UL or ETL approved appliances. A couple of non-safety relate drawbacks for wickless candles are that electric warmers limit where the candle can be placed due to the need for proximity to an outlet, and bulbs need to be periodically replaced with some appliances.
Candle Warmer Safety Checklist:
Use product in a well ventilated area.
Only use appliances and products UL or ETL approved for the candle or tart being melted.
Read and follow all instructions for safe use of approved appliance.
Never melt wax tarts or candles on stove or other unapproved electric appliance.
Do not add water.
Do not cover.
Keep out of reach of pets and children.
Never leave melting candle and appliance unattended while in use.
Discard when wax level falls below 1/2”.
While you are pondering all of this useful information, come check out my new line of wickless candles! My new candles are hand poured soy wax—scented with a variety of mostly phthalate free fragrance oils—in 6 oz. hexagon jars (net weight 5.2 oz.). These little scented wonders are perfect for that small gift for the holidays (or maybe that small gift to yourself!). Happy shopping!
I am not typically a “sharer”, but I wrote this rather raw entry a couple days before my very first ever craft fair a few weeks ago—and have agonized ever since on whether or not to post it. I decided to post it for all those other moms out there who may think they are alone in their struggles…They are not…
This morning my son said something that shocked me. Until this point I never realized how my kids saw me. I was always so focused on getting things done. There never seemed to be the time to deal with anything else.
Tomorrow is a big day for me. My first ever craft fair, and really the first time I will be putting my beautiful creations (that I have spent a year working on) in front of strangers. I wanted to make a good impression, so I painted my nails—for the first time in I don’t know how long. It’s probably been years. I found myself frequently staring down at these beautifully manicured nails reminiscing about the last time I was able to do such a thing for myself. And then my son said something that cut me to the bone…”You don’t look good with your nails painted Mom”. Such an innocent statement, but it hurt deeply. I don’t blame him, and I’m not mad at him at all. It’s just that I suddenly realized that I’ve spent many years working hard at being a mom but not a human being or anything close to a successful woman. I’m the cinderella that cooks, cleans, runs errands, takes the kids to the doctor, pays the bills, manages the household—all of the important things. But there just never seemed to be enough time left to be a woman. Even the part time job I had for a while was a low wage gig that did little to really help our family financially and virtually nothing to further a career. I realized that he doesn’t really know who I am, but then again I don’t know who I am right now. So it’s not his fault…He’s only ever seen me as this mom who doesn’t dress up everyday with professional clothes, manicured nails, and perfectly groomed hair. I suddenly realized that my kids have never seen this side of me, and I cried. Yes, I’ve taken care of all their needs and been there when they needed me, but they’ve never seen me succeed at anything.
It’s nobody’s fault, and even if I could go back in time I wouldn’t be able to change anything anyway. I did what I had to do—what my family needed me to do. I had to sacrifice being a career woman for the sake of my family. I won’t go into the reasons why, but there really wasn’t too many other options. So I took on the role as full-time mom and did it so well that that is all I am today. And it hurts. And I now realize I have a lot of work ahead of me to grow into the next phase of my life.
So many things to accomplish. I’m out of shape and about 30 lbs overweight. My hair needs a complete makeover and so does my wardrobe. But these are just the superficial dressings. Most importantly, I have a lot of work to do in my head. I am loving this new home decor business of mine, and it really reflects who I am inside—maybe more than anything else I’ve ever done. I am both elated to be selling my craft and totally terrified! I have started on the path to some new level of growth and I’m feeling the growing pains. I am at the start of something that will require a tremendous amount of focus and I need to be up to the challenge.
I am hoping that someday soon my kids will be able to see me in a different way. Suddenly I can clearly see that this new adventure is not just important to me, it’s important for my kids as well.
…And maybe after a while those painted nails won’t be such a shock!
Reuse and recycle is part of what I do…
I love to browse consignment shops and second hand stores for unique materials. Sometimes people give me unique things, which I then re-imagine as a candle design.
Unique pieces inspire ideas, and ideas inspire designs…
The finished pieces from items such as this tend to be deliberately one-of-a-kind and not likely to be duplicated, but I love experimenting with new ideas that help me expand my creative juices. The more I experiment, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I want to experiment. It’s a beautifully creative cycle that has its own momentum!
The roots of this fascination with repurposing goes back many years. In the late 90’s I got hooked on the Christopher Lowell Show. It was truly inspiring how he took everyday items and created a whole new life for them by doing things like sanding, repainting, repositioning, and combining with other items. The end results were not only aesthetically attractive, but very creative and unique. It just goes to show that with a little imagination and some work, a mundane or previously used item can be transformed into a talking piece for the home or even as a gift.
My Tuscan Vineyard candle display is a perfect example of this type of repurposing for decorative use.
The creation of this display started with a second hand metal urn with grape relief, spray painted a beige stone texture. I also had a second hand small metal plate in my closet for a while, so I decided to use that as a base for the urn. I spray painted it a brown texture, then attached the urn to the center. A second hand drinking glass was filled with hand poured 464 soy wax scented with phthalate free Tuscan Wine fragrance oil. The unadorned piece looked great on its own, but I dialed it up a notch by adding in faux grapes and vines. The end result is a candle display with an Old World Tuscan theme.
Another fun project that follows my ideals on repurposing are these recently completed Harvest Cocktail candles.
On one of my shopping trips I saw these beautiful frost glasses with gold leaves painted on them and couldn’t resist. A vision of a fall candle design immediately started to form in my mind, so I made the purchase. As I worked, the overall design took on hues of frosted and muted greens, reds, and oranges, and the end result was a beautifully rustic candle display.
I have to say I am very pleased with the end result, and the reaction from other people was similar in appreciation. I am just proud to be doing my part to reduce, reuse, and recycle!
The items shown above can be purchased on the following links:
This project was like a defiant child that refused to accept the future envisioned for it. Apparently it had higher aspirations, and so the original simple concept of three tea cups on a platform with some decor steadily grew into this beautiful elaborate design complete with handcrafted pagoda on a carefully crafted wooden tray.
The initial inspiration came from an impulse buy at a second hand shop. This set of second hand miniature tea cups instantly caught my attention, reminding me of an Asian tea set. In my mind’s eye I saw these cups perched on a small black lacquer rectangular platform, with some bamboo twigs thrown in for final decor—similar to my Halloween Whimsy project shown below.
At least that was the original concept. Small, simple, quick to create. It was apparently not to be! As I researched decor options, the concept in my mind expanded. I became inspired by tea sets, bonsai trees, bamboo, garden pagodas, and so the concept grew more elaborate. I decided that I wanted to create something with a real Asian flair, complete with tea tray, tea cups, bamboo, bamboo mats, and a pagoda. Let’s just say the only part of this process that was easy was the process of filling the tea cups with soy wax. The rest of the process involved a LOT of woodworking and hard work. To add to my misery, I struggled to find just the right bonsai trees and/or pagodas that would be the right height and within budget. No dice. I finally decided to just design and build my own garden pagodas out of bass wood. The whole project took me 3-4 times as long to finish than I had originally anticipated. So here is my process for this labor of love—which I almost lit on fire with a match three weeks in out of sheer frustration!
Part 1: Tea cup candles
Second hand miniature tea cups (2.5”D x 2.25”H) with an Asian inspired design were filled with a hand poured 464 soy wax colored with green and yellow candle dye and scented with a Green Tea fragrance oil. The result were twelve miniature tea cups that smelled like green tea. Mission accomplished!
Part 2: Wooden trays
Once I had established that my base would have to look more or less like a traditional black lacquered Asian tea tray, I set about measuring out and hand cutting wood pieces for the tray bottom, tray sides, tray footings, and decorative trim. The wood used was a combination of balsa and bass wood. The base itself was made with basswood and measures approximately12”L x 10”W. The vertical sides around the tray were also made from basswood, topped with mitered decorative balsa strips. Balsa strips were also added to the interior perimeter of the tray. The footings created for the tray were made from 2” x 2” basswood, bringing the end height of the tray to 2.5”H. The entire tray was then sanded and painted in two coats of black paint, then finished with a low VOC varnish. Felt furniture pads were added to the bottom of the feet for additional protection.
Part 3: Garden pagodas
Each one of those horizontal and vertical pieces in the handcrafted garden pagodas were all individually hand cut from basswood! This was by no means an easy task! To save myself some time, I did decide to purchase pre-made mitered square trays to cap off the very top and bottom of the pagodas, but otherwise all of the other wood pieces were hand cut and carefully glued together to create a finished garden pagoda—again, no easy task! The assembled wood pagodas were then treated with wood putty, sanded, then painted with several coats of a stone textured paint. The finished look does deceive the eyes! (Several people have asked if the pagodas are actually wood or are they stone—I assure you they are all handmade from basswood.) Each finished pagoda is approximately 5”L x 5”W x 8”H.
Part 4: Final decor
The finishing touches came with their own set of issues, the biggest one was trying to find the right size vase and flowers to fit inside the pagoda. After a few weeks of searching, I finally found the perfect miniature flower pots and miniature flowers to fit inside. The rest of the decor was cake…Bamboo mats were glued to the bottom of the tray with the miniature tea cups placed on top. The look was topped off with faux bamboo sprigs. The finished dimensions of this labor of love (and sometimes hate!) is 13”L x 11”W x 10.5”H.
Although there were points during the making of these trays that I felt like they would never be finished, and times where I felt like destroying my own creation, I totally fell in love with the finished pieces. I really challenged myself, pushed my skills to the limit, and stretched myself creatively. I am very proud of these trays and the hard work that went into making them. I hope that someday someone can enjoy them as much as I do!
My whole life I have always been deeply affected by nature—trees, flowers, plants, animals, water, soil and stone. It’s not just about hugging trees. (In fact, leave those trees alone—they don’t deserve the indignity!) This is a beautiful and sacred rock that we live on, and on this rock spring forth all of the life sustaining elements that we need as organic beings. The natural world provides the air we breath, the food we eat, the water we drink. This is not optional—we NEED these things, so they need to be respected and preserved. Hide in your concrete jungle all you want, but you can’t survive without the natural world. Not even in the worst case scenario post-apocalyptic vision of the future that we seem to have these days. (Does Wall-E ring a bell?)
But it’s not even just our physical needs that benefit from exposure to natural elements. Our SOULS need to see and experience the creations of whatever divine beings you may worship or whatever wonder you may experience as you ponder the existence of the universe. We do not live in a bubble. We live in a complicated, multifaceted, connected universe on an equally complicated, multifaceted, connected rock that acts as our own special incubator that keeps each and every one of us alive—without exception!
Which brings me to why I do what I do…I create things that mimic those things that I hold most dear. It’s that simple. If I can fit a flower or rock or bush into one of my designs my day is complete. I get nothing but joy out of a finished piece—even after all the frustration, mistakes, bleeding, cursing, and things being thrown. It’s all worth it in the end. Just seeing something that mimics the natural world makes me feel more peaceful and whole, and I feel like this is something that I have to share. I have to share it because it means something, to me and to everyone else on this planet.
My background in interior design may seem counter-intuitive because much of what designers create is non-organic, but I fully believe that a good designer can step it up a notch by adding a touch of the organic world to enhance the spiritual needs of the client. My pieces bring a sense of nature into the home—a place that for many people is often void of anything organic.
As an example, many people don’t put plants in their home…and I get it. I suffer from the “black thumb” syndrome myself! In my household some plants make it…and some plants don’t! I make a point of apologizing to all new plants the first day they enter my house. I know as sure as I am sitting here that a certain percentage will fall victim either to well-intentioned over watering or under watering due to my short term memory loss. If a month has gone by and they are still alive then they’ve won the lottery of life. (BTW—don’t ever give me an orchid. I’ve killed two out of two…so far.)
Which is why I love making candle and home decor pieces that incorporate nature into the theme. It stays alive forever and brings endless beauty into a space. My vision is to create a world where it is no longer necessary to create awkward moments with the trees in the backyard. In my vision, the outdoors finds a way into the interior of the home through nature-inspired decor that will put a smile on the face and create a more harmonious interior space. Put one of these beauties on your table…The trees will thank you!
This week I thought I’d share the inside scoop on a project I just completed. The project is called “Forest”, and I literally just put the finishing touches on it this morning! It has been a long and arduous road to get to the finish line, to say the least. There were many roadblocks and logistical problems along the way, but I kept at it and stayed true to my original vision. The inspiration behind this particular design was to create a unique candleholder that would be a semi-abstract form of a group of forest trees. Images such as those pictured below helped to keep me focused, and also served as a reminder of what I was trying to achieve despite all of the hardships along the way!
My original design concept was a very primitive and abstract form, using very linear geometric shapes to create just the illusion of tree trunks and canopy set into a bed of stones. The only embellishment was to be some small bushes in the tray bed and the green votive candles in the canopy. I used hand renderings and SketchUp models to sharpen my vision and tweak the preliminary design, drew out full scale schematics for my candleholder, and then took my ideas into AutoCAD to create cleaner scaled schematics from each important angle.
Once I was sure I had solid plans from which to work, it was time to gather all of the necessary materials needed to bring this design to fruition. Votive holders were filled with a soy wax scented with Juniper Breeze and colored with a couple drops of green candle dye. A wooden base and small canopy trays—made from basswood—were cut out and assembled according to my schematics and attached to pillars of varying heights. The assembled “trees” were then attached to the base. The whole piece received a round of sanding, followed by three gradients of brown paint to achieve the look of weathered tree bark.
The only difference between the original design concept and the finished product is the inclusion of tree branches. I managed to get my hands on juniper sprays, which I thought added an incredible organic feel to the piece. So the design ended up not being quite as “abstract” as I had in mind at the start, but I am definitely in love with the end results! This decorative candleholder will make a beautiful addition to someone’s table, that’s for sure!
Anyone a Bob Ross fan? I love this guy! My mother was an amateur artist, and I remember her watching “The Joy of Painting" growing up. I can’t paint worth a damn, but I love watching this man paint and always have to pick my jaw up off the floor. Every. Single. Time. I recently started watching his shows on youtube, starting with the very first episode in 1983. So far I am up to season 4. I am still—and always—mesmerized by his technique. And I love his catch phrases—“happy accidents”, “happy little clouds”, “almighty mountains”, “this is your world, and anything can happen in your world”… Bob Ross is so well known to me that it never occurred to me that many people who are not into the creative world don’t know about this incredible artist. On the flip side, it seems like anyone who is creative knows the reference, and you can throw out one of his phrases and they get it immediately, like an inside joke!
I decided to write about Bob Ross this week because I often hear his phrases in my head when I work—particularly when I royally screw up! The real measure of success lies in the ability to take that screw-up and make it work. Your forced to take a different path, trust your instincts, and let go of the control you THINK you have over your project. Truth is, if you are willing to trust the process, you may very well end up with “happy accidents”. You could end up with something different than you had in mind, yes, but maybe a better version. Maybe this new version is more creative. Maybe it stretches the meaning behind your work to a level you couldn’t have imagined at the start. Or maybe it just bombs…but that’s part of the adventure, isn’t it?
My “Grapeful” candles fall into the category of “happy accidents”. This project includes repurposed wine glasses filled with soy wax that has been colored with a combination of red and blue candle dye and scented with Tuscan Wine fragrance oil. I was initially going for more of a “wine” color, and the freshly poured wax looked so promising, but the result after the wax set was just too purple for my original vision. It turns out that blue is a very strong color, and maybe I should’ve used a brown dye with the red instead. Live and learn! So it was time to scramble a bit to figure out whether to start over or to move forward with a new idea. I had nothing to lose either way. After hunting around for decorative elements that would work well with the finished wax color and scent, I was finally able to reimagine this project. And so I was “Grapeful” that I could salvage the project with a classy grape juice theme instead (which works well anyway with the grape scent of the fragrance oil)! The wooden trays are on my to-do list to cut out this week, so this is a project that is still in the works, but will hopefully be done by the end of next week.
Another “happy accident” occurred while I was trying to complete a still life assignment for my drawing class several years back. I spent a half hour trying to arrange this perfect still life in my living room and was just about to put some finishing touches on the coffee table, when up jumps my fur baby, determined to be the center of attention! Now I am not very good at drawing animals, but I just decided to go for it anyway. Admittedly the kitty did not turn out spectacular, but he’s been immortalized in a sketch as at the ham that he is…So much for the same old boring still life!
Truth be told, today’s blog article was a “happy accident”. I sat down to write and realized I didn’t have a clue what to write about this week. I had nothing! No ideas. Zip. Nada. Not a clue. So I opened up an empty page and just started typing about the first thing that popped into my head. I let the thoughts take me wherever they wanted to go. And there it is…Now go off and create some of your OWN “happy little accidents”!
But before you do, watch one of my favorite “The Joy of Painting” episodes so far and be inspired by a REAL artist!
Browsing through my web site you will see a category titled “Di’s Studio Design Exclusives”. These items combine the simple geometry of hand cut painted (or stained) wood pieces with organic and decorative elements. One of the products listed under this category is a beautiful creation I call “Waterfall”. This week I thought I’d share an inside look at the process involved in creating this piece. As with all of my creations, this design has a story—a story of inspiration, design modification, and hard work. The project started out as a vision of a candle centerpiece that tiers downward like a small rocky stream in some secluded forest. I drew out some quick thumbnails and idea sketches before settling on a design like the rendering seen here.
In order to get an idea of how this design would work, I sat down with a pencil, some large pieces of paper, and a ruler and recreated my ideas in full scale schematic versions of the top and side views. Once I was satisfied that my measurements would work, I then went into AutoCAD (an architectural and design rendering software) and created some preliminary digital schematics to further iron out any kinks in the design.
Once the concept stage was finished, it was time to dig in and get down to the business of creating this piece. Bass wood was used to create the finished piece, as the design required a material sturdier than balsa wood. While measuring out and cutting the wood pieces, some changes were made to the original design in order to simplify the process, but overall the basic design remains the same. The wood pieces were hand sanded, then glued and nailed together to form the tiered tray. Cracks were sealed with wood putty and then sanded carefully for a smooth even surface. The next phase was to apply the paint. Black and white paint were mixed to create a medium grey tone which was painted onto the wood structure as a base coat. Next a thin layer of glue was applied and allowed to dry to a tacky texture. On top of that layer a much lighter grey was applied in order to create contrast and a weathered look. The finished wood piece was then varnished and allowed to dry overnight.
For the candles, glass votive holders were filled with blue wax and Spring Rain fragrance oil. Once set, these votives were then glued into place on the wooden structure, one on each of the three tiers. Natural and blue colored stones were scattered on the tray bottoms and glued in place, along with artificial shrubbery. At this time, I decided that I wanted a slightly “wetter” look so I purchased Realistic Water and Water Effects from Scenic Woodlands (a company that sells products for modeling) and applied these elements to the base of the tray to add a bit more of the desired water effect. This application also aided in keeping all the small pieces gelled together. The finishing touch was the application of artificial moss along the edges of the wood base.
I have to say, this project was incredibly labor-intensive, but it was a labor of love and I really enjoyed creating a finished design piece that represents things that are most dear to my heart—water and nature. The idea of using abstract designs as a base for organic finished centerpieces and decor is endlessly fascinating to me, so I will certainly be creating more pieces like this in the future to add to my Di’s Studio Designs Exclusives category—and I already have some thumbnails to get me started. Stay tuned!
We have all experienced this lovely phenomenon. Last week, yesterday, or even just an hour ago we were on a roll! Inspiration and motivation were egging each other on, creating this wonderful self-sustaining cycle of progress and creation…and then BAM! One hundred miles an hour straight into that proverbial brick wall. Everything stops. We’re left standing there wondering what the hell just happened. The urge to move or get anything done has vanished into thin air. I don’t have to describe this anymore. It’s too painful, and we all know the feeling.
So….The first question is, how did I get here? Well, first off I got a little lazy with the self-talk. That positive internal dialogue—as it turns out—is critical to getting new things started and then keeping the momentum going. If you are not telling yourself anything, it is the same as telling yourself negative things. The effect is the same. Positive self talk immediately puts you in a different space in your head.
Here I was about ready to launch my company and I just wasn't feeling it. Sure this was a stressful and anxious time, but something was off. What had changed? I still loved what I was doing and wanted to do more. This was a lifelong dream. I still believed somewhere inside that this was right, but I was confused by the fact that I felt empty and detached. The only thing that changed was the self talk…so the self doubt crept in. I wasn't telling myself negative stuff but I sure wasn't telling myself positive stuff either, and so my mind defaulted to the negative feelings. In the absence of the positive, the negative chatter took over. Fear, doubt, overwhelm, anxiety, and frustration all took over. All of those negative thoughts and doubts, all of the feelings of past failures, were taking up valuable real estate in my head. They needed to be evicted…The old stuff needed to be demolished so that the new could be built. I have accomplished and learned a lot so far, but I still have a lot yet to learn and accomplish, so there’s no time for hoarding old junk. It's just holding me back.
And it didn’t help that the same week I officially launched my new venture I came down with this wicked cold that my germ-ridden offspring so generously shared with me. Sickness does have a way of sucking the life right out of you at the worst moments.
Then my car needed expensive repairs…Then we discovered that my beautiful fur baby (named Marco) may be seriously ill, and my heart is breaking just thinking about the possibilities. It’s so hard to keep focused.
So how do you stay motivated, especially in the midst of personal dramas and traumas? I guess the answer is that you make a practice of telling yourself every day—reminding yourself--of what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what good qualities you bring to the table. Tell yourself you are capable. Force yourself to see the good and the wonderful. Don't just casually smell the roses, but really look at them and see the beauty in the little things. Touch the rose, feel the velvety texture, and really study the way the petals are perfectly layered—the way they open a layer at a time to finally reveal this work of nature in its full glory and bloom. Understand that everything happens in its own good time, and when the universe decides the time is right. You can’t force these things, but with a little effort you might be able to ride the storm as a happier human being. Motivation—as I am discovering—is as much about patience as it is about accomplishment.
My mind keeps returning to the image of the rose. The beauty and softness of the petals coexist with the harshness of the thorns, and somehow they need each other. The thorns serve as a reminder to be mindful, or be painfully pierced. Slow down and focus on the moment. Be motivated to understand not only the big picture, but the smaller aspects as well. A smart person knows you can’t just grab a rose—you have to handle it with care. Be more patient. Focus on the little things. Take baby steps. See how the small things effect the big picture, and vice versa. Then look back once in a while to see the tremendous amount of progress that has already been made.
And since I’m on this rose kick, this seems like a good time to reflect on a couple of my recent projects--just to lighten the mood…
And on that note I believe my get-up-and-go just came back! (And thank you Aerosmith for such a memorable catch phrase!!)
Do you ever stop to think about what inspires you? What is it that hits that most sensitive nerve and resonates in a way that is too deep for words? You don’t have to be an artist to be inspired, but maybe artists are more inclined to listen, and then—in a vain attempt to explain that which often cannot be unexplained—create an interpretation. Inspiration is the spark that happens during that moment of private meditation. It’s that moment when the universe opens the door just a crack—just enough to get a peak at something bigger than yourself. Sometimes we already recognize the things we love and admire, but inspiration can also be something deeper and infinitely more mysterious. Inspiration—the moment when we are looking at one thing but “seeing” something else. We dream and then we try to create. Merriam-Webster defines inspiration as “a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.).
On my own personal journey I have come to realize that inspiration doesn’t happen in any one particular way. It can be a dreamy yet semi-predictable process, such as when you are thinking about the things you already know you love and consciously attempt to incorporate those ideals into a specific project. And then there are times when there’s truly a revelation taking place, when some unexpected idea emerges from some seemingly mundane experience.
I love nature, so it’s no surprise that I would be inspired to create things that mimic the natural and organic elements that mean so much to me. My Forest and Waterfall (seen below) designs come from that respect and wonder of the natural world.
Last week I briefly mentioned about my admiration for the works of architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright. His style incorporates natural elements such as stone and wood, light and sometimes water, openness and seclusion. FLW’s style was inspired by the natural landscape, and also in part by traditional Japanese design. I myself have developed a respect for the simplicity and versatility of Japanese design. The point being, I am consciously aware of the influence of each of these elements, so that part of the creative process is not all that mysterious to me.
But then there’s the Bird Bath project, inspired by a trip into Center City, Philadelphia (of all places). On a balmy sunny summer afternoon I found myself sitting on a bench in Logan Square, waiting for my son to finish his volunteership while absentmindedly watching the fountain. I found myself particularly fascinated by the water jets and the sound of the splashing water, and reveled in the delicate spray that the light breeze carried my way. Sitting in this idyllic setting, I decided to pull out my sketch book to scratch out a few thumbnails for future ideas based on water. This one moment—this one mundane activity born out of boredom—didn’t just inspire one idea, but spawned a whole host of ideas that I have filed away in the mind of “Di” to be dusted off at a later date when some of my current projects are finished.
Some final thoughts on Inspiration…
Inspiration is not limited to only one concept, but can be exponential in its capacity to change first our psychological and then—by extension—our physical world. The universe is our muse and shows us—if we are willing to stop and observe—that our potential for creating positive things (and thus creating positive energy) is as limitless as it is ethereal.
"Inspiration." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.
So last week I talked a little bit about my views on the role of creativity in our lives and my personal creative journey. This week I thought I’d expound on that topic by sharing an example of a specific project—my Autumn Bonfire candle piece—and the ups and downs I experienced making this unique Fall decor item.
Well this candle project had an interesting beginning. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to achieve, but nothing concrete. Here’s how the whole creative journey unfolded…
One day—while out shopping for something else entirely—I came across this box with three sets of very unusual yellow glass candle and votive holders. I opened the box, loved them instantly, and knew that I could create something beautiful with these golden treasures. And that’s all I had…Just an inkling of something in the back of my mind.
Well, the box sat in my cupboard for months. I’d take the box out occasionally and look at the votive holders, pondering and brainstorming. I’d show them to people and energetically chat about my ideas…and then put the box back in the cabinet for another few weeks. Finally, I decided enough was enough and I really had to do something with at least some of these pieces. It was my favorite time of year—Autumn—and I was inspired. I had just made some candles using a wonderfully spicy Autumn Magic scent, so I put one of my finished votive candles inside a votive holder and thought for a bit. “This would look amazing lit”, I thought to myself, “Almost like a glowing flame.” From this epiphany, the gears in my mind started to turn, and I was envisioning this little votive holder sitting on top of a wood pile. My thoughts turned to my favorite architect—Frank Lloyd Wright (a subject for another day)—and I could see cantilevered wooden shapes in my head. But I just could not visualize something that really clicked. So I sat down and literally played—like a three year old child—with a box full of balsa wood pieces, absentmindedly stacking different size wood pieces in various directions, knocking them down, then stacking other pieces…until finally something magically appeared out of the fog! There it was—the image of wood stacked in an alternating pattern and my pretty little yellow candle on top.
Now it’s one thing to finally know how you want an art piece to look, and quite another to figure out exactly how this is supposed to happen in a realistic way. Designers can and do envision all kinds of creative things, but only a portion of them will actually be safe and functional. Not only did my finished piece have to be visually attractive, but it absolutely had to be stable. Ok, so now I had the idea and a direction to follow…now the fun could begin. Now we figure out how to make this idea functional. Once I started work on this project, the ideas came fast and furious, and the problem solving skills mixed with my creative imaginings and the whole thing just took on a life of its own.
The first thing I needed was a flat base on which my wood pile could sit. In my mind I could see the two-part base which would be made up of a wooden tray with a lip and sitting on top of this tray would be the wood pile with alternating strips. A wood square plank was cut, along with thin strips of balsa wood which were then nailed along the perimeter of the plank. This tray piece was then sanded, stained with craft wood stain, and sealed with varnish. The top portion (the wood pile) was built with a series of balsa wood strips set in alternating X design to create the illusion of a pile of wood stacked for a fire. Each individual wood strip (7 or 8 for each candle) was sanded, stained, sealed, and then nailed and glued together. The finished wood pile piece was then nailed and glued to the bottom tray.
Now that the basic construction was finished, it was time to add in the decorative elements. My wood pile needed the look of earth or stone to finish off my abstract idea of a bonfire. To this end, natural colored decorative stones were spread around the bottom tray and glued in place. Not only did the addition of stones add visual quality to the piece, but they added much needed weight to the tray so that the finished item would not be too light or easy to knock over. Faux fall leaves were glued on top of the wood pile in an alternating pattern to create the illusion of a flame. The yellow glass votive holders were then glued in place on top of the leaf piles for the final touch. When all the pieces of this project coalesced, it was like looking at a miniature fire pit, complete with stones, stacked firewood, and flames. I couldn’t help myself—I smiled and thought “This will look magical once the candle is lit.” The Autumn Magic scent of the candle really adds the smell of Fall to the design as well—making this piece a feast for the nose as well as the eyes. I absolutely fell in love with the overall design, and I definitely think I will be making more of these in the future (including one for myself!). I’m already thinking of some variations in the design to make it more versatile.
After months of hoarding these precious yellow votive holders and knocking around various ideas, I finally had a finished product that I loved. A nondescript, vague notion turned into something real and tangible. Out of chaos came order! And that is the epitome of the creative process, is it not?!