Wednesday, 29 July 2009

I've sold two chairs!!!

The original happy chair and the frog pond child's rocker are sold!!! Wheee!!!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

The Birthday Boy

Who knows how but Ed and Emma (in her birthday suit) are now up.

Friday, 24 July 2009

The Other Side of the Looking Glass

What we appear to be is likely the face we want reflected. What it hides is a backside that is simply all our virtues turned inside out. Adults reveal that other side occasionally, inadvertently when under stress, when totally relaxed by alcohol or drugs, and also when they are in safe environments where they can trust enough to know that they will be forgiven because they are beloved.

Old people, if they are lucky, sometimes lose their inhibitions too. Jenny Joseph wrote a poem called "When I am Old, I Shall Wear Purple". It is about throwing off the constraints created by the expectations of others, including her children.

Kids are free to reveal that hidden side of themselves to trusted parents.

I met Emma last summer. Emma has absolutely no inhibitions. She is 5 now, and is loved without reserve by her father, mother and teen-aged brother. She interacts with everyone as if there are no dangers in life, as if everyone will love her as they all do.

At the party last night she went swimming wearing her skirt ... and then stripped off and went back in nude to swim and play with two little boys, aged eight and eleven, who were much more self consciously covered. When I went to take photos of their play, she splashed me and I had to move away and remonstrate about cameras and water. She didn't avoid me after that. Instead she was right there in my face hamming it up for the camera and telling me jokes. She knew that I wouldn't hold her exuberance against her.

We could all learn a great deal from Emma. I think I will start today.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


I woke up this morning to the sound of a garbage truck lumbering along the road on the other side of the lake (or maybe it was a lumber truck making garbage of that road). Whatever.

I grabbed my housecoat and ran up the hill with the garbage bag in one hand, the recycling in the other and Kenya, her ever ready stick in mouth, behind me. On my return trip, I slipped, grabbed hold of the railing, and took only a sliding mini-tumble that bruised my heel and ankle.

On my way down, I thought, quite creatively, and optimistically, I realize now, "It's a good thing it's garbage day. Someone will eventually arrive to hear my screams and carry me out of this mess."

I also remembered that I had thought before I headed up the hill, and only momentarily, about the consequences of wearing slick soled slippers instead of taking the time to put on footwear more suitable to using a wooden staircase wet with last night's rain. Of course I had foolishly dismissed the warning.

On a happier note, I read this when I came back in:

"When you create you get a little endorphin rush. Why do you think Einstein looked like that?"

Robin Williams

I think I will finish my tea and then go for that endorphin rush. Mud Mama said, when I asked whether I should leave ambiguous the red blob (mother with child ... nursing mother ... unborn child) , that I should do something with it; that a red embryo was a little creepy. I did ask.

I have been playing with that image so long that it never occurs to me that it might be anything but the symbol of exuberant life and nurturing! Good thing I asked!

I have also started working on the next happy cat and wonky woman chairs. First coat of main colour has been applied. Today I will apply the second coat and the real fun can begin. And then just watch those endorphins flutter about and stand MY hair on end!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Looking Backwards into the Mirror

I found an old Kenyan friend on Facebook a few days ago by googling his name after finding out from a mutual friend that he was studying in the U.S. Well, he was now back in Africa, in the Sudan, working for World Vision. Too bad ... I would like to have seen him while he was in Boston.

But it gave me an idea. I have lost track of some wonderful students over the years and wondered what they were up to. Snaking around through Google and then through the Blogosphere I discovered the website of a marvellous photographer and former student. Check out Joe Wenkoff's site in my sidebar. He has an amazing slide show of some very powerful images on his home page; photographs that show his concern for people all over the world, his feelings about war ... and all without sentimentality ... and great beauty.

As a result, I wrote my first fan letter to a former student.

Le Carousel, Lavender and Wild Flowers

I have been asked by my favourite Susan to re-name the lazy susans I am creating ... so now each will be one of "Le Carousel" series. I am still working on the first one, "Everything Under the Sun", and should complete it today. I'll post a photo.

The Frog Pond Rocker looks a lot happier than it did, but it really is impossible to create a silk purse from a sow's ear or a beautiful piece of furniture from something that was always ordinary and whose mistreatment has made it ugly over the years. That said ... this little rocking chair should make some little person happy. I am thinking about donating it to a friend's daycare which will be starting up in the fall.

Yesterday I drove in to Hull to see a doll's cradle at a garage sale. The garage sale had been canceled because of the rain, so instead, I went for a long walk with Carlos and all three dogs, spoke to Tamarack(she's away on a course) on the phone, and had lunch at their place. We had potatoes, squash done with maple syrup and cinnamon, and pork chops ... yummy!

On the way home I stopped at another garage sale advertised in Chelsea and found it rained out too, so continued on up the line to the Wakefield Hospital's annual fund raising Tea in the Park. Some of my neighbours were there and I bought a beautiful crocheted necklace and some wild flower seeds to strew in my side yard.

The day before, Eric and Renee stopped by to talk to me about what needs to be done with the lakeside garden where the old cottage stood. I am going to have stone put in first to cover any remaining debris, and then I will make square foot gardening boxes for the back area where the upstairs was, and a pleasant area with patches of perennials, large rocks, planters and seating in the other part where the kitchen and livingroom were. Next year will be its first real year but I want to get it started now so that it will be ready. Because they are going to bring in a small machine to move the rock I will lose my tiny garden box that is filled with lavender, chives, tomatoes and basil. It will be no loss for the tomatoes as they are doing almost nothing, but I want to transplant everything anyway.

The lavender will be planted somewhere on the septic field with the wild flowers. Imagine a whole side yard of lavender and wild flowers, and a clothesline full of laundry drying over it absorbing the scent!

It looks like another rainy day so I will brighten mine by working on the carousels and starting the next chair. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Friday, 17 July 2009

African Wisdom

This is Good

The story is told of a king in Africa who had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, "This is good!"

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation, the friend remarked as usual, "This is good!" To which the king replied - "No, this is not good!" and proceeded to send his friend to jail.

About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake. As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone who was less than whole. So untying the king, they sent him on his way.

As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend. "You were right," he said, "it was good that my thumb was blown off." And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened." And so, I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this." "No," his friend replied, "This is good!"

"What do you mean, 'This is good'? How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?"

"If I had not been in jail, I would have been with you, and not here with you right now."

I have one blog reader who is also a daughter who has believed that everything happens for a reason since she was very young. I am not so sure I believe in the fatalistic part of that but it does seem that everything, good or bad, simply sets me on a different path where I discover more about myself and do some growing. So if the gunk is hitting in the fan in your life, it might help to remember that everything happens for a reason ... even if you create the reason as a result of it.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Playing with the ideas

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Metaphor: the Image

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I have been working on versions of this concept for a while now ... and after several sketches and chalk drawings I realized that my use of the yin and yang symbol required two different colours so I began anew. The gold symbolizes the sun, the dark blue purple the night and the bright turquoise day. This lazy susan will likely not end up being Mud Mama's because the colours will be all wrong ... but I am quite excited about what I am discovering as I play with the ideas of balance and male/female images, and shapes. More when it is a little further along. I am not sure if the image will appear. I seem to have lost it. If it doesn't I will post it in the next post.
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Today I have been cleaning and sanding, doing a bit of painting. Tomorrow I will start priming a new cat chair, a new funky female chair and one other that might also become a funky female. And I will polyurethane the little frog pond rocker and the green stool with the funky rainbow flower.

Today was a glorious day ... I went out in the kayak with Kenya ... A Bell Telephone technician fixed my phone jack and I now have improved phone and internet service as a result ... and I had a great dinner with a little wine for the first time in a few days.

Finally ...

It was only when I stopped trying for realism, for a match, and started to play that it came to me ...

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Monday, 13 July 2009

Three Good Reasons

The little shop in the village has given me three good reasons to reconsider my decision not to sell my chairs there:

1. They are no longer going to charge me rent.

2. They are going to be asking $125 for a chair like the cat chair and I will be paying a commission of 20% to the person managing the store and selling the goods.

3. The store is opening this coming Monday.

That all sounds fair to me and so I am going for it. Wish us all luck!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Lucas Enjoying Sprout's High Chair

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Kenya on top of the rock wall

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Wet Bed and Those Damned Nails

Sarah and Dan came out yesterday afternoon. Dan flexed his muscles and took the big carpet I have been tripping over for weeks up to the garbage cans, and then moved other stuff up there as well. He looked at the weed eaters and told me what to do with the electric one I can manage (it needs a new spool), got the gas one going, and did some clean-up for me.

After dinner (a yummy chicken and veggie curry that Sarah made), we all went swimming with Remi and Kenya. They took shifts because Lucas was in bed sleeping. Sarah and I swam for ages. I'd forgotten just how great it was to skinny dip at night with a water-loving friend.

Afterwards we all joined the baby. I slept the deep uninterrupted sleep of the innocent -- the kind I only seem to have when I feel safe; when other people are sleeping nearby. Kenya came into my bed ... hence the damp bed this morning.

Off and on, all day, before they arrived, I made banana bread, painted schools of little fish on the rockers, dragonflies on the arms, and clouds and birds above the fish pond, and pulled staples and nails from the other chair. I think that chair would have lasted forever if it had been kept indoors. Where a modern craftsperson would have stapled once, the maker of this chair used twenty-five staples going in two directions plus nails and glue. I worked out a rhythm ... thin wedge to start the lift ... screw driver to finish it ... and pliers to pull the whole thing out ... off to the side ... thin wedge ......... until my back began to complain and I had pile to put in the garbage can.

It is almost clear of the staples, nails, burlap and damask now. I am looking at a lovely bright blue silk damask with silvery tracings as the one to use ... maybe paint the chair black with silvery trim? Not sure. I will make a sketch and try out paint colours on paper first, I think. This chair will be happy because it is clean, living indoors away from pigeons who used it for an outhouse, and wearing elegant clothing, not because it is funky. I think!

And I think I will follow the guidelines of the original seat maker ... burlap or the modern equivalent stapled onto the wood frame, dense foam glued in place, the covering stapled on, then a bordering trim attached with pretty upholstery nails.

With this chair and the little fluorescent rocker, I feel that anything I do has to improve it, but this one makes different demands on my newly forming skills. I hope I have what it takes to do the seat properly.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

My Favourite Memory of Time with Arrow

But first the nails ... tomorrow?

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Some of the Choices

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The transformation of the flaking fluorescent chair progresses

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Kandinsky, Kayaks and Snakes

I have insomnia ... again ... damn ...

Yesterday I had such good intentions but, as often happens these days, I was led astray.

I began to work on the lazy susan and decided that I didn't like the symmetry that was happening. I was working within a circle and using triangles, curved lines and circles, but I began to make symmetrical patterns with the same objects. It looked more like wallpaper or fabric than one of my funky things. So I put down the chalk and went up to look at Kandinsky's art. He used the same shapes but didn't repeat them. Rather he balanced the composition by suggesting a circle sometimes or by placing two small triangles opposite a larger one ... So ... I made myself some large pieces of paper the size of the lazy susan and began drawing. It is getting there, but it's not finished yet.

At lunch time I took my book and my plate down to the deck, ate and then went out in the kayak with Kenya swimming behind me. Occasionally she swam to shore and made her way through the woods. At Tanya's she was polite enough to shake a fair distance away from Tanya's chaise longue where she was reading. At the beach she scared one child and delighted two others by rushing up to say hello.

Then I cut the grass and beheaded a small garter snake. Instinctively, I said, "I didn't mean to." It didn't help the snake, of course, to know that his death was entirely accidental, but I thought about how much I have changed to have said that. I have had a phobia about snakes all my life. I realize now that I am no longer afraid of them. Oh, they can still startle a shriek out of me when they appear suddenly from under a board I am moving, but I no longer feel the abject terror or sick horror that used to seize me. No longer do I have that adrenalin rush that makes flight at amazing speed my instantaneous reaction.

I did some housework and walked down to collect the mail, but I didn't sand any chairs or do any painting. I did play with the silk scraps and think about the sexy black chair with the gracefully slim legs. And I did finish reading The Flying Troutmans and begin reading Barack Obama's autobiography.

I cooked chicken on the barbecue and ate dinner alone because Tamarak and company had brake trouble that kept them home. And then I watched Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash movie that is one of my all time favourites, while knitting a pair of little girl's socks from the wool/silk/nylon blend I bought on Wednesday. They feel lovely and silky smooth. And then it was bedtime ...

Tomorrow is another day ... and it may just disappear in a haze of indecision, inaction and enjoyment too. Aren't I lucky?

Friday, 10 July 2009

The Tough Chair

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In a Quandary

Lazy Morning Write

I am disappointed with the way the artisans' centre is unfolding. They expect a year's commitment of $50 per month towards the rent plus a 20% commission for selling each item. If (as I think would be reasonable) I were to get $75 for one of my chairs that would mean that I would have to make and sell 10 chairs before I made a cent ... and that does not take into consideration the cost of the chair, the materials needed to clean, sand and paint the thing or the value of my time. And ... the shop does not intend to open till September 1 ... almost the end of the season for tourists, cottagers and train customers. So even optimistically, I would be making no money at all in the first year; in fact I would be subsidizing each sale with my time and the materials needed to create the chair.

One option would be to increase the price but we have been advised not to do that; that "our increased sales would more than make up for the lower return on each item." Bull roar, I say. I can only produce a pair of socks or a chair at a certain rate. I cannot increase production. I don't have a Chinese crew living in my house being paid in rice.

Mud Mama has told me that it is most unusual to have to pay both rent and a commission, and she thinks the commission should be about 15%. Even if 20% were reasonable, though, I don't like the idea of rent as well.

Another option is to rent a stall at the Wakefield market for $20 a pop and sell only on summer Saturday mornings when the train comes in and people come to buy honey, local produce and goodies. It is a much more vibrant place this year with music and way more vendors than in the past. I could sell socks and small pieces and have a piece or two of furniture available for sale or just to show the kind of work I am doing ... and give potential customers the necessary contact information if they wanted to buy larger pieces from home.

And another option is to try to sell on-line at Etsy.

And I haven't given up on the idea of a weekend open house with Tamarack and Carrie.

Any ideas would be welcome.

One of the chairs I got from Erin's barn is defeating my efforts to clean it up. Her mom must have started to strip it and the stripper and paint layers have become solid ... so stripping it might be the only way to go, and I am not sure I want to bother if I am just going to paint it ... but we will see.

A second one has lovely graceful legs, and needs not only painting but also an upholstered seat. I am envisioning this one painted black with sexy bits of scarlet and a velvet and silk seat. I have some wonderful silk scraps that I brought home from Mongolia ... but ... when I was rummaging around looking for them I found another possibility ... a pieced square I made years ago using silk and flocked velvet ... done in purple, pink and burgundy with bits of green and ivory ... so my black lady of the night's chair might have to lose its scarlet touches. But first I have get all those damned upholstery nails out!

Today is a glorious day to be outside cutting grass with my little hand mower and washing and sanding chairs. I also have a stool and a child's rocking chair that just need final touches before polyurethaning and a lazy susan with a chalk drawing finished (I think ...) that is ready for the fun part of painting.

Have a great sunny day today!

Monday, 6 July 2009

I Must be Meant to Read This Book!

A few days ago, Lois (a lurking blog reader friend) sent me Barack Obama's book, Dreams from My Father. I was delighted and very appreciative but thought I had better finish reading Miriam Toews' new novel about a totally dysfunctional family.

Today an old friend with whom I have traveled to Jordan and other Middle Eastern places, and who was with me with a different organization (VSO) in Kakamega, Kenya, sent me the same book just before she took off for Cambodia.

You have to understand. I almost never receive gifts. I almost never receive snail mail. And yet ... in less than a fortnight I received two copies of this book. Is fate at work ... or what??? Soooo ... tonight I will finish the novel and pass it on to Sharon .... and tomorrow I will start ready Obama's book.

a few words in between chores

When I say good bye to animals and their people after a stay there is always the bitter sweetness of the empty house. Kenya makes no bones about how she feels ... she mopes around in a semi-depressed state. She sleeps a lot. Maybe she is partly relieved that she is no longer on duty 24/7, but I think she also misses the other dogs ... and this time the cats as well, especially the cats.

I am too busy cleaning to feel deprived. That will come tomorrow, maybe. Or maybe not, because this time, the dogs slept downstairs. Usually boarding dogs share my bedroom with Kenya and me, but I thought that Kenya might resent two dogs in my bed. She never minds Remi sleeping with me, but these two usually sleep with their people ... in two beds ... and there is only one of me to go around ... and Kenya made it clear that while she can share toys and brushes and treats and petting, she was keeping the upstairs part of the house free of the interlopers. I never witnessed a confrontation over this but neither Chelsea nor Olive seemed inclined to come upstairs when Kenya was around.

So far today I have mopped, swept and washed the bathroom and laundry room floors and found the missing kitty toys in various hidey-holes, done a huge laundry (3 rainy days with 3 dogs that love to swim creates a lot of dirty linen), swept and mopped the rest of the upstairs, cooked up a batch of beets from the market, started a stew in the slow cooker, put a final coat of base colour on the ugly little rocker, a lazy susan and the second stool. The rest of the work will be picky and fun.

I doubt if I can make this poor little rocker beautiful, but I can make it much happier than it was wearing its flecked and peeling fluorescent orange paint. I am trying to decide on a theme. All the lines on the chair are plain and straight. The colours are turquoise with small amounts of the dark blue purple, gold, warm brick red, celery green and deep pink. I will use other colours on the joint areas and to create the images.

Some possibilities: frog sitting on the seat and other creatures like fish and butterflies elsewhere

a circus theme ... balloons, cotton candy, striped tent top ... not sure what to do with the seat ... maybe the rings?

The other problem I am facing is how to tone down an unfortunate colour choice. On the card it looked like a lighter mossy green. In reality it is an acidic Koolade lime green that I hate. I have tried a wash of darker green but it just puddles. I think I will have to mix my own colour and paint it on top. Please let me know if you can think of a simple solution.

Friday, 3 July 2009

B-I-G-G-G-G Nanny Dog

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Nanny Dog

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Almost Guilt-free

I always feel virtuous when I clear my TO DO list ... when I pay my bills ... when I accomplish a major cleaning job. It is a kind of catharsis ... the purging of guilt and worry ... a wiping clean of the slate. I think it likely dates back to my teaching days. At the end of the school year I would leave my classroom clean and ready for the August onslaught of a new set of students. Student papers had all been handed back. Exam marking was finished and the results sent off to the Ministry. All the paperwork had been done. All the files were closed. All the books in the book room were accounted for. I had handed in my keys. I felt free for the first time in almost eleven months.

Today, after balancing my cheque book and paying a few bills due tomorrow and in the next two weeks, my TO DO list still stares down at me with reminders to make THAT phone call that I have been avoiding since June, and to clean THOSE windows, one each day. Unfortunately, there is also a reminder to re-examine my tax returns to figure out why I owe Revenue Canada money and why Revenue Quebec sent me a cheque (a much smaller one, I am afraid). I would rather clean windows with Q-tips than deal with taxes, so I know which chore will be left till last.

But, I have cleared the most pressing items, so I listen to the stream rushing down the mountain, the rumble of distant thunder, the soft thumps from the bathroom where a small cat and kitten play, and the muted snores of a sleeping dog ... and I think, "That's enough for today. I am going to paint the second stool and the ugly fluorescent orange rocking chair with a coat of primer, and the dogs and I are going to go out for a walk once it is possible to dodge the raindrops."