Is it too early to start wishing everyone a Merry Christmas? I don’t know why, but I’m just feeling the Christmas spirit early this year! And by early, I mean the last week of November instead of the first week of December. Growing up, we never put up our Christmas decor before December, and because we always get a real tree, you truly can’t put it up too early or it will be dry and dead by Christmas Day. However, I do now like to put up my other Christmas decor before then. And for some reason, this year I was just itching to pull out my boxes and get my room in holiday mode, so I decorated this week.
As always, I used pretty much all the same decor, but styled the pieces in different ways to keep things interesting. The only new acquisitions were the adorable mini Christmas trees, which I picked up a few weeks ago from the thrift store for $3.00. (There were also some larger bottle brush trees in the bag, but I gave those to my sister) Honestly, no one ever need buy new Christmas ornaments, trees, tablecloths and tins ever again; I’m sure there are more than enough available at the thrift stores!
I also only used about a 1/3 of the Christmas decor I have, because it would look like a decorating store exploded in my room if I used it all. I only have two storage boxes with decor, but it’s not that big of a room either.
As for those new mini Christmas trees, I arranged a couple on the top of my shoe shelf, but wasn’t sure what to do with the others since they are a different colour and style. Then I realized they fit perfectly on the picture frames in my gallery wall! It’s a subtle detail that makes this wall look so festive.
Another recent acquisition, though not holiday specific, is this wooden bowl from the thrift store. It was a salad set of 5 pieces and I only wanted one small bowl for another project, but decided to keep them all rather than split off an incomplete set. The bowls were in pretty bad shape; cracked, and in desperate need of an oiling, but for $3.00 for the set, I took a chance. I sanded them smooth, glued and clamped the cracks back together and then oiled them with linseed oil and they look gorgeous now! (I didn’t remember to take a before picture, so you’ll have to trust me!) The large bowl was the perfect place to display some dried orange slices and pinecones on top of my dresser.
I also redecorated the top of my dresser with some of my fashion books instead of a tray. I’ve been wanting to try this for a while, but I’m not sure whether this was a smart idea because I’ll have to move everything off if I want to look at my book! But it does look nice in the meantime. And again, this year my woodburned garland found it’s way to the top of my dresser mirror.
Now for the statement piece of the room: the garland over my window! I decided to try a garland across my window this year, rather than doing a bouquet with berries and branches like I’ve done in the past. We have a massive juniper thicket growing at the edge of our treed area; you can gather branches from it every year and never even notice they are gone, so it’s perfect for winter decorating! (I don’t know how I’ll decorate if we move!)
Juniper has a fairly long cut life. I’ve had bouquets last 2 months before in a vase, and even when it starts to dry, it just gets lighter in colour and crispy, but doesn’t drop needles. So, I don’t know how well this is going to last, and if it’s going to make it to Christmas Day, but I thought I’d make a garland out of live branches. They are up high so even if they do get dry and crunchy, they’re not going to get mussed around. I think if I just leave them there, and don’t touch them, they should be fine.
They did smell very strong and earthy when I first brought them in, and I wasn’t sure about the smell since it’s in my bedroom, but after an hour it dissipated as the branches warmed up.
And I love how the window turned out! The red berries are festive, but not too bright, and the tan berries really give it a nice natural feel. And of course the fairy lights add the perfect sparkly touch (and they make a great night light too!)
For the rest of the room, I added my paper crafted house and tree made out of book pages that I made last year, and some pinecones to my bookshelf.
I also hung up my favourite little winter scene by encaustic artist Donna Hanson on the wall by my closet. I always get so excited to hang this one up in Winter- I love it!
And as a final touch, I hung my mini silver wreath over my gold oval mirror, placed an evergreen bouquet on top of my shelf, and scattered a couple of beeswax candles around. I have been enjoying burning them in the evenings when I read, which just adds such a nice hygge atmosphere.
I think we’re going to decorate the rest of the house this week, which I’m looking forward to. We’ve got some renovations going on, so the areas to decorate are fewer than previous years, but it’s still nice to put out a few festive touches despite, or perhaps as an antidote to, the chaos.
Did you get your Christmas decor up early this year, or are you still planning to wait a while? Do you like to try new things each year or stick to a tried and true formula? What is your favourite Christmas decoration?
I’ve never been much of a slippers person. Usually in the winter I go around barefoot in the house because I’m in danger of being too warm, not too cold. However, there have been a few cold days so far this winter where the house has felt rather chilly and I’ve been trying to bundle up rather than turn up the thermostat. I don’t have any super warm socks, so I decided that the next item I would make would be some felted wool slippers out of a sweater. So far I’ve made mittens, a beret, and some baby boots and shoes, so it follows that the next item to make would be slippers.
I actually ended up making five pairs of felted wool slippers, so the technique was pretty well perfected by the time I got to this pair. I didn’tlove how my first attempt turned out, so my sister took that pair. Then I made a pair for my mom. Then I attempted another pair for myself, but they ended up too small, so I donated them to the women’s shelter. Then I made a pair for my brother-in-law. Finally I made this pair and, after all that practice, they turned out pretty nice.
I estimate that they took about 1-2 hours to sew, so they are a relatively quick afternoon project. (Not including the time to felt the wool) If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for someone, then these would be the perfect handmade option!
To Make Your Own Felted Wool Slippers, You Will Need:
A 100% old wool sweater. Make sure it is real wool content, so it will felt for you. I know you can also use blends that have a high wool content, but I’ve never done that myself, so am not sure whether they felt differently or not.
Needle & thread/ sewing machine
Button to cover, or a decorative button of your choice
Elastic to make the slipper fit tighter around the ankle, optional
The first step is to felt your wool if it isn’t already. You can put it in your washing machine on hot, with a bit of detergent and then wash as normal. If you put in a few sweaters, they will felt faster, because of the agitation. Check your wool once washed, and see if it is felted enough- if not you can repeat the process until it is. Then let it dry.
I would not recommend that you take a perfectly good wool sweater and felt it, because it always seems like a waste to cut up something in good shape that someone could actually wear the way it is. However, there are so many wool sweaters in thrift shops that are no longer in good condition. Whether it’s due to the previous owner accidentally shrinking them, or they are full of moth holes and runs, the thrift shops are full of them. This project is a perfect way to recycle and refashion those sweaters that are completely ruined and useless into something new! I’m using a green boiled wool coat and the binding from a grey cardigan.
To make your pattern, trace your foot and then round out the curve. You can make a “left” and “right” sole if you’d like, but it isn’t really necessary because the wool will mold to your foot. You can make one pattern piece with 1/2″ seam allowances and one without, or you can simply trace the pattern piece, adding the seam allowances on your fabric. My sole pattern piece measures 3.75″ wide by 9″ long.
The slipper top pattern is shaped like a “U”. Measure across your foot at the widest part and draw a semi-circle with that width. My foot is 5.5″, so my pattern piece is 6.5″ across with seam allowances. For length, I made it the same as my sole, plus 1/2″ for seam allowance (finished length 10″). You can double check the measurements of the outside edge of the piece with the outside of the sole. This isn’t super exact and the wool is a rather forgiving material to experiment with (if you make it a bit too long, you can always shorten it). Make the “U” cutout inside the semi-circle piece the width of the opening you want for your foot. Or, measure how high up your foot you want your slipper sides to be, and make your “U” in those dimensions. My upper pattern piece measures 10″ long and 6.5″ across. The cutout inside measures 5.25″ long by 1.25″ across. I’m a size 8.5 for reference. These dimensions include a 1/2″ seam allowance around the outer edge of the upper pattern piece. (For the pair I made my brother-in-law I added an inch to the length of the sole and then replicated that length onto the top piece.) Also note, I angled the back edge a little bit so it would slope into the heel.
Cut 1 upper piece for each slipper.
I’m sure you could make the slipper soles with one layer, but I did two layers of wool for extra warmth. Cut 2 insoles using your pattern with no seam allowance added. Cut 2 outer soles with the seam allowance added- see the picture below.
Felted wool doesn’t have a grain, so you can cut your pieces wherever they fit.
Place your insoles (the grey pieces) on top of your outer soles (the green pieces), smooth them flat and pin around the edge. Using a zig zag setting, stitch the two pieces flat around the edge to create one piece.
Next, stitch the top heel ends together. I lapped mine rather than using a normal seam, so as to reduce bulk.
Now take your top piece, and pin it to the sole, easing the fabric around to distribute the bulk. Make sure that the right sides are pinned together: this means that your insole is facing outward. I made my mom’s with the smaller insole on the outside, but I think they look better with that raw edge flipped to the inside of the slipper.
Once you’ve pinned the life out of them, sew around the edge with a zigzag stitch, following the edge of your insole. (I realized when looking at these photos that I added a 1/2″ seam allowance to the pattern, but sewed my seam at only 3/8″. It turned out OK though.)
Turn the slipper inside out and try them on to see how they fit. If they fit well, then you can grade the seam a bit to reduce bulk.
If the slippers fit well as they are, depending on the thickness of your wool, you might be able to finish the slippers off at this point with a blanket stitch along the top edge. If they are too loose to leave like that, then you can move on to the next step which is adding a cuff to the top.
I cut the binding off of the collar of a sweater to create a cuff at the top of my slippers. You can also use the hem of a sweater. (I used all of the hems we had on the other slippers, so all I had left was this one grey piece!) Cut the binding piece 1-2″ smaller than the opening of the slipper.
Stitch the ends of the binding together to form a loop.
Next, with right sides together, pin around the top edge and stitch the binding to the slipper top.
Then, fold the seams to the inside and pin it liberally! (If you think that you will want elastic around the top, you can add it now, which is a bit tricky, or you can thread it through at the end like I did.)
Now, for the trickiest part of the process, from the inside, stitch the pieces “in the ditch” or slightly onto the top slipper piece. This is hard to describe, but if you look at the photo, it should make sense. If your binding has a finished edge, you don’t have to fold your seam under, which makes this step a bit easier. However, my binding was a cut edge and I didn’t have enough length to felt it, so I decided to fold the edge under for neatness. I probably could have left it raw, but this worked out OK.
It isn’t perfect in all places, and the stitches show through on part of the cuff on the front of the slipper, (it must have shifted during sewing) but it is sturdy. And as my brother says, quoting one of the creators he follows, “It’s not just good, it’s good enough.” I’ve been trying to embrace that philosophy a bit more in my projects. I tend to be a perfectionist, but sometimes that means that projects don’t get done. I’d much rather that there are a few stitches showing, but I have usable slippers, than a pile of unused felted wool in a basket on my shelf.
Once I put the slippers on, I realized that the cuff was a bit too loose for my foot. While I could have tried wetting the slippers and shrinking them a little bit, I was afraid that they’d end up too small again, so I decided to instead add a small piece of elastic to the top of each slipper. I cut two pieces of this small round elastic, and then threaded them through the top of the slipper. I simply sewed the ends of the elastic together and then hid the end inside the seam.
Then for the final step, because this sweater had all these cute embroidered buttons, I decided to add one to the top of each slipper, just for fun!
And there are my cozy warm felted wool slippers perfect for the cold days this winter! Of course we only had a few really cold days since I’ve made them, but I’ll be ready for the next cold snap! They’ll be perfect for Christmas morning too.
I’m really enjoying making projects out of felted wool; it’s such a great way to use up old sweaters. We’ve had a bin of sweaters for years, and making all of these actually used up quite a bit of them- what will I do when they’re gone!?
Are you a slippers person? Do you think you’ll try making your own felted wool slippers? What project should I make next out of the wool? What other projects have you made with felted sweaters?
I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’ve been working on a furniture refinishing project…and here it is! I thought it was going to be a weekend project, but this antique Empire style dresser ended up needing a lot more work than that. However, after a few twists and turns, I’ve finally finished it, and I absolutely love how it turned out.
So for some background, my uncle gave me this Empire style dresser several years ago. It had been stored in his workshop for a while and, as he was clearing some things out, he decided he wasn’t going to refinish it. He knew that I liked antiques, so he passed it on to me. I didn’t have time to refinish it then, so I put it in the garage and left it for a couple of years…but I finally decided to tackle it this summer!
It was in rough shape and desparately in need of some help. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to strip and stain it or paint it, but when I unearthed it from the garage and brought it into the workshop, I discovered that there was more damage than I had remembered.
As you can see in these photos, the finish had crazed and “alligatored” over time. This can, apparently, be caused by heat and sunlight (being stored in a shop/garage for several years probably didn’t help that much). The top of the dresser was also extremely warped and cracked. I wasn’t sure if it was salvageable, or if a new top was required. The wood was also chipped along the bottom of the side panels, so the decision whether to paint or stain was decided in favour of painting.
At this point I was contemplating painting only the sides and drawer divider frames black and then leaving the fronts of the drawers stained wood. I’ve seen a few pieces of furniture done this way and it can look really beautiful. However, I wasn’t sure if it was something that I was going to love for a long time, or whether it was going to be one of those trends that would date the piece in about 10 years and I’d get tired of it. I was a bit hesitant to put the time and effort required into a piece that I wasn’t sure would stand the test of time….so I debated this for a long time. (Ask my family- I drove them nuts trying to make this decision!)
But before any of those kinds of decisions were made, the first step was to dismantle and sand the entire piece to get rid of the alligatoring. I unscrewed the top from the dresser, and immediately cracked the wood around one of the screws. This wasn’t off to a good start! When I removed the top, I also found these artifacts tucked up inside, but I can not find much info online about Laco Lamps. This advertisement is apparently an ink blotter, and there is one for sale here from a different store.
I had originally assumed that the dresser was veneer, but as I dismantled it, I was surprised to discover that the drawers were dovetailed and the rounded drawer fronts were solid cherry wood! That was my first clue that this dresser was old. The finish on the dresser was very interesting, as well. I had originally thought that the pattern of the wood was the grain of the wood, but realized that it was actually a design printed onto the dresser, and then stained over the top with red stain in order to make it look like an exotic wood.
After the dresser was apart, I started sanding. And sanding. And sanding. After half an hour with the orbital sander, the finish on the drawers wasn’t even coming off. It was getting dusty and scuffed, but that alligatored texture was not smoothing out.
Thus I switched to Plan B, which was doing a test to see what kind of finish it was: shellac, varnish, lacquer, acrylic… I did a test with alcohol and the finish did start coming off, so I determined that it was shellac. This was interesting, because shellac has not been a commonly used finish for many years; it fell out of favour after the 1920’s as a commercially used product. That was my second clue that this dresser was fairly old.
I spritzed alcohol onto the drawer fronts and wiped them with a rag. Again, after half an hour, some of the red colour was coming off onto the rag, but the finish wasn’t dissolving enough to completely come off. I was beginning to wonder if this was why my uncle had decided he didn’t want to refinish the dresser…
So, of course, it was a long weekend and the hardware stores were closed, but we had some paint and varnish stripper from a previous project and my brother had mineral spirits on hand for me to use to clean up. I put on a ventilator and got to work with the stripper. While I was hoping to avoid the use of solvents, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. Oh and, I forgot to mention, we had a heat wave as I was trying to do all of this! I got up at 6:30 each morning and went out and worked on the dresser for about 2 hours until the sun got too warm to work in. It took a looooooooot of application and scraping, but I eventually was able to dissolve all of the finish off. (I lost count but I think it was over 10 hours.) However, the red stain colour was soaked into the wood and would require a ton of sanding to bring back down to bare wood. The red stain was a less than lovely colour; I don’t mind cherry wood stains, but this one was a bit too maraschino for my taste.
Thus, at this point, the decision whether to stain or paint the drawer fronts was decided for me by the dresser… and that was to paint the entire dresser, staining only the top. (This piece of furniture had a lot of opinions about how I was going refinish it!) At one point in the stripping/sanding process, I had tossed around the idea of painting the dresser a creamy white, but somehow this dresser just wanted to be black. One of the most important things about refinishing furniture is in going with what will enhance the beauty of the piece. I do sometimes shed a tear when I see people painting beautiful antique pieces without a thought of whether they are improving or degrading the beauty and integrity of the piece. Even though I do love white furniture, the heavy rounded shape of this dresser demanded a dark colour! Fortunately I had some black Country Chic paint on hand from previous projects.
I decided to try an antiquing method, watering down the paint slightly, painting sections and then wiping some of the paint off in strategic areas around the edges of the trim, knobs and drawers to mimic the look of a timeworn historical piece. The most important part was in making sure that the wear pattern wasn’t too uniform, so it would appear as though the paint had rubbed off in high use areas. It turned out just as I was hoping for! The maraschino red colour actually looks very pretty when it’s just peeking out under paint, rather than covering the entire piece. (Ps. you can see my inspiration Pinterest board here).
As for the top, I was able to salvage it. First I sanded it down to bare wood, as much as I could. There were some red patches left behind, but I figured they would blend into the new stain, which had a red undertone anyway.After sanding, I wet the bottom of the wood with a towel to encourage it to swell and go back into shape, but I didn’t think to clamp it, so it warped again as it dried, even worse than when I had started. Oops! It also caused a lot more of the red dye to bleed out (which I had to eventually sand again…I was really getting tired of sanding that red dye!) So, then I googled how to fix the top, and found a few woodworking tutorials about straightening boards. I then wet the wood and clamped it between boards to encourage it to dry straight. However the clamps weren’t strong enough, so I ended up wetting it for a third and final time, laying it out on the garage floor, covering it with towels so it wouldn’t get scratched and then piling three layers of bricks on top to weight it as it dried. That worked! While there is still a slight bend in the wood, it was enough to be able to attach to the top of the dresser, and I don’t think anything could have gotten that warp out of such old wood. I also didn’t worry about the cracks; I had originally planned to use wood filler, but decided to just leave them as “character”.
After the top was reattached, I stained it in three coats of “Mission Oak” by Varathane. I wasn’t sure about the resulting colour and wanted to stain it a bit redder and darker, but after buying a stain which ended up being the completely wrong colour, I decided to just leave it as is. And, after a few weeks of living with it, I’ve decided that the colour is just fine.
I oiled the top with Tried and True linseed oil, which is a product I’ve used before and really like. It smells like fish and chips when it’s first applied, but it at least it doesn’t have any chemical dryers, so you can apply it indoors!
As for the black painted section of the dresser, I waxed it with the Country Chic natural wax, because I’ve never done a piece of furniture that way before, and well … I’m not in love with it. The wax didn’t cure well or dry very hard- it almost has a bit of a tacky feel to it in spots and the dust has stuck into the wax some areas. I don’t know if I didn’t buff it enough or whether something else went wrong? I’m going to leave it for now, but I am planning on getting a buffing pad to attach to a sander and will try going over it with that to see if it will polish it smooth. At worst it might remove some of the wax, but that’s OK. It will just make the piece look even more aged, right? I wish, in hindsight, that I had oiled the painted sections, because the linseed oil cures to a dry finish, which is also quite a historical look. The wax is historical too, I just am not sure if it was the right choice for a black piece of furniture. Black shows everything!
One of the other fixes that needed to be done was the knobs; one of the small knobs was cracked in half. The bottom had been glued back together, but a piece was missing. I was hoping to be able to buy a new small knob to replace it, but I couldn’t find this shape of knob anywhere. Then, I thought I’d replace all four small knobs with reproduction brass ones from Lee Valley, which would have been nice, however, their store is several hours away and I didn’t want to order online because I needed to match the brass colour of the keyhole hardware. Finally I thought of sculpting a piece of clay to fill in the broken section of the knob. However, when I talked to my brother, who does mini figure models, (and the one who came to my rescue with the mineral spirits!) he said he could mold me a knob to match! Even better! I am a novice at using the material he made the knob out of so my sanding/smoothing abilities on the knob were less than excellent. However, I painted it brown and red to match the colour of the other ones, and then painted it black, and you can’t even tell which knob it is…except for the fact that I just showed you!
Finally, the last step was to line the drawers. The drawers were strong and sturdy, just needing a bit of glue and tightening up, but the some of the insides were damaged and splintered so I decided to line them with wallpaper. I was browsing on Rona and Home Depot to see what was out there, and was envisioning a soft vintage inspired floral, like this, or even something fun and quirky, but softly coloured like this, but as soon as I saw this Art Nouveau paper, I knew it was the one!
This wallpaper is by Crown and it is the Flora Art Nouveau pattern in Peacock Green. (They also have a Russet colour way available). I love William Morris and Arts and Crafts wallpaper patterns, but they aren’t something that I would ever do on my walls. However, a peek of pattern and colour in a dresser drawer is just perfect. After I got the wallpaper, I learned that it is actually an archive print from 1910, which would explain why it’s got such an authentic Art Nouveau feel! I love seeing at it every time I open a drawer and the colours in the pattern perfectly match the red and black tones of the dresser. I attached it using Mod Podge because I wasn’t sure whether starch or wallpaper paste would stick to the rough wood. The Mod Podge stuck very well, and if the wallpaper ever gets ruined I will just replace it with new wallpaper, so I’m not concerned about potentially ruining the wood with the glue.
So remember how I said that as I worked on the dresser, I was starting to get the idea that this was a pretty old piece of furniture? Well, there is a stamp on the back that reads “The Coye Furniture Company”. Upon looking into it, learned that the company was founded in 1899 in Stevens Point, Wisconsin by Mr. William Henry Coye who had moved to that town from Grand Rapids. There is very little information about the company, but I did find a couple of print records. One is this “cordial invitation extended to visiting buyers” from the Coye Furniture Co. in this Grand Rapids Furniture Record, Volume 31, Page 114 from 1915. It says that the Coye Furniture Co. will be exhibiting in the Karpen Building in Chicago, although they, sadly, didn’t run any other ads in the catalogue. I would have loved to see what furniture pieces they were showing! Maybe they were showcasing this model?
That’s pretty much all I could discover about the company until 1916. In that year, another furniture factory owned by the Joerns Furniture Company located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin was destroyed in a fire. The Joerns company had been founded by the three Joerns brothers in 1889. After the fire, they purchased the Coye Furniture Company factory in Stevens Point and began operating it as part of their furniture manufacturing company. Any mention of Coye disappears after that sale, while the Joerns company is still in operation today (Although they’ve renamed, and instead of residential pieces, they now make hospital and healthcare furniture.)
So, while I don’t have hard proof, this information, coupled with the fact that the drawers were solid dovetailed wood, and the piece was finished with shellac makes me think that this piece dates from before that 1916 transfer of ownership! I don’t think any pieces made after the company sold would be marked with the old Coye company name, although I could be wrong. There also was that Laco Lamps advertisement, which I thought dated later, but that eBay listing has it placed between 1910-1915 although I couldn’t find any other information as to whether that’s an accurate date or not. When I first got this dresser, I had assumed it dated from the 1940’s or later, but finding out that it is over a hundred years old makes me happy to think that I “rescued” it and restored it back to it’s former beauty, albeit with a different look. And, it’s also so perfect that the wallpaper pattern I chose is from the same time period. How serendipitous!
I don’t have a permanent spot for it yet. Because it’s an Empire style dresser, it is very big, and very heavy measuring 46″ wide and 22″ deep. It doesn’t fit in my bedroom, so I’ll have to squeeze a spot somewhere else in the house. I’m using it to store linens, silverware and decor in it; the deep drawers hold so much! I also forgot to mention that there is a matching mirror, but the structure that held it is missing. I didn’t refinish the mirror since I’m planning on using the dresser as a buffet, but maybe I will fix it one day.
I can’t say that I really enjoyed every step of this furniture refinishing process, it was a bit of an unexpected journey, but I do love saving and repairing things, and I’m so happy with how it turned out!
Have you ever started a project only to discover it was going to be way more work than you first thought? Or that you had to change your original plans as you went along? Do you know any other information about the Coye Furniture Co.?
Hello and happy Saturday, Dear Readers. It’s a snowy day today, so it’s the perfect time to settle down with some books or blog posts to read. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed lately.
I recently received my birthday gifts and my Victoria magazine in the mail on the same day. I got these three new books: Nora Murphy’s Country House Style, Feels Like Home by Marion Parsons and How Not to Kill Your Houseplant by Veronica Peerless. I’ve really been enjoying reading decorating books lately, getting some from the library and now a few for my own shelf.
I have read, and written, a lot about fast fashion (you can read more posts in the “sustainable fashion” category on my sidebar) but every time someone talks about it, I always seem to learn something new. Mostly I learn that the fashion industry is very corrupt and has no incentive to change. I wouldn’t have bought from Shein anyway, but this video by Karolina Zebrowska definitely solidified that decision. Of course we all need to wear clothes, and we can’t always afford to buy ethical brands (I own some fast fashion pieces myself), but the key difference I see is in the attitude we have when we approach our clothing. We might not have the power to revolutionize the fashion industry, but we each do have the ability to revolutionize our own closets by choosing to buy only what we need and then loving and caring for those pieces well, no matter their price tag.
“Be satisfied with the fact that although your art or talent may never be accepted by the world as anything ‘great’, and may never be your career, it can be used to enrich your day by day life: enrich it for you, and for the people with whom you live….and come to the recognition of the fact that it is important for you to BE creative in this area to the extent of your talent: important for you as a person who IS a creative creature.” – Edith Schaeffer
Also by Edith Schaeffer, I really liked this one too.
“If you have been afraid that your love of beautiful flowers and the flickering flame of the candle is somehow less spiritual than living in starkness and ugliness, remember that He who created you to be creative gave you the things with which to make beauty and the sensitivity to appreciate and respond to His creation.”
And finally, revisiting one of my favourite posts, “Home”, from one of my favourite bloggers, The Palest Ink. She has a beautiful way of weaving words with Biblical truths.
That’s all for today’s post, and I hope you have a lovely weekend!
When you have a blog called “The Artyologist”, it kind of follows that you are supposed to be creating Art (with a capital “A”). So what happens when you don’t want to anymore?
A few months ago, I made the decision to pack away my watercolour paints. Not very far, they are just in my desk drawer, but they are gone nonetheless. Out of sight and out of mind.
When I started The Artyologist blog in 2016, my plan was to open an online shop and blog mostly about my art. However, that is not what happened at all! While I do sometimes blog about art and share my photography, I have mostly shared fashion, homemaking and sewing.
Over the past few years I opened a Society 6 shop, a web shop, an Instagram account and even placed my artwork in a local gallery for 4 months… but it didn’t pan out the way I had hoped, and I have now closed all of those avenues (except for my Poshmark shop). While I made a few sales along the way, it wasn’t enough to consider it even as a part time job, and I came to realize that watercolour was a hobby and it wasn’t going to be anything more than that. After I pulled my artwork from the gallery at the end of my agreement last February, I decided that I was going to stop trying to focus on selling my watercolours in hope that my love for painting would be rekindled.
That didn’t happen though.
Instead, when I walked into my beautiful new art space, instead of being excited to open my paint palette and a pad of paper to sketch a new piece, I felt guilty because I wanted to work on sewing projects, or paper crafting or even tidying instead. In the back of my mind was the nagging thought that I “should” be working on watercolours.
So, when so much of what you enjoy doing and identify with as a creative person is tied up in one specific genre of art, is it OK to quit? It is so hard to end a dream, even when you aren’t enjoying it anymore. You question, “Did I really give it my all?”, “Should I have tried harder?”, and “If I was more talented, it would have worked out, right?”
I’ve come to realize that sometimes we enjoy something for a season and then move on from it…and that’s OK. What’s not OK is to feel creatively stagnant, and then stay there.
I haven’t completely gotten rid of my watercolour paints… I’ve been watercolour painting on and off for over 15 years, so I don’t think that I am quitting completely…I’m just refocusing onto other things right now. Somewhere along the way, I just fell into a rut of “I’m a watercolourist” and didn’t feel like I should try new things… but that is the antithesis of creativity!There are so many other mediums out there.
When I was in high school I loved to do messy scrapbooking and art books. I experimented with paper collage and acrylic paints and ink and ephemera.
Then I really started to enjoy couture sewing techniques and pattern making as I got into vintage clothing. I loved to dream up clothing ideas and then breathe them into being. I started playing around with ribbon and beads and started DIY’ing hats and headbands. Even if I wasn’t using the proper millinery techniques, I created some cool pieces!
In the past few years I’ve really gotten involved in furniture restoration and decorating. I’ve painted some furniture pieces for my home, and crafted home decor to beautify my space. I’ve enjoyed wallpapering and painting, and then putting together displays of my vintage home goods to curate my favourite bedroom I’ve ever had!
All of these are different ways to express creativity. Somehow along the way, I pigeonholed myself into a box: when I was painting I was being an artist, but when I was doing all of the other creative things, I wasn’t.
I want to get back to that feeling of love for creating, even if it’s something I’m not good at and it turns out badly! I want to try new things, and not feel the pressure to promote it. As soon as I “hung up my shingle”, in order to try selling my watercolour, the creativity was sapped and even though I’ve had months and months to start again, for myself, I haven’t found that creative spark again. I’m not decluttering the paints, because maybe in the future I will return to them. But I’ve realized that even if I decide that I don’t want to return to them, then that’s OK too.
Creativity doesn’t need to look like anything in particular, and you don’t have to be defined by your hobby. It is supposed to be enjoyable, after all. If it isn’t fun anymore, then that’s a signal that something needs to change. Over the past few months, after I packed away my paints, I have rediscovered my love for other artistic endeavours. What’s on my desk right now? Mod Podge, and calligraphy pens, and felted wool scraps, and a half finished millinery project, and some pattern pieces, and hot glue and sandpaper and a decorating book, and the ubiquitous cup of tea.
It’s a very random and eclectic assortment of items which tell a story of all of the projects I’ve been working on lately. I’ve begun paper crafting again and making cards. I’ve been sewing some new clothes for my winter wardrobe. I refinished an antique dresser. I’m learning calligraphy…. Creativity doesn’t have to look like one thing, and there certainly isn’t time to feel guilty about not doing one creative endeavour, when there are so many others you can try.
I am widening my horizons and trying new things. The perfectionist in me hates the idea of trying something new and failing at it, but that’s a part of the creative process: we have to try new things in order to learn new things. It takes time and practice, but I’m excited to try out some new stuff. Some of these things might make their way to the blog, and much of it probably won’t, but I am excited about the thought of creativity without the pressure of an audience. It’s just for me, and just for fun; isn’t that what creativity should be?
So, I’ve learned over the past few months that, while it can be hard when one artistic endeavour comes to an end, that doesn’t mean it’s the end to your artistic endeavours!
Well, that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. I hope that my ramblings about my discoveries over the past while might encourage you today in whatever creative endeavours, or ruts, you may find yourself in.
Have you ever tried a creative endeavour and it didn’t work out how you hoped it would? Have you ever gotten into a rut and felt “creatively stagnant”? Do you find it difficult to try new hobbies? What creative activities are you enjoying right now?
(Ps. I do still have my Poshmark shop, linked in the sidebar or here, with all of the pieces I already had on hand!)