Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Glass Paperweights as a Photo Collage

Okay, so you are probably familiar with these old glass paperweights. You can find them in a range of sizes and shapes at thrift stores, antique shops, yard sales, and so on. Sometimes you find them empty, and sometimes they have an old image, or sea shells, or dried flowers in them. Several years ago, I took an old one, I don't remember where I had found it or what was in it, and put my own photograph in it. It's one of my very favorite photographs of the seven children in my family, back when we were still children (I'm the little girl on the bottom right). For a long time, that was the only one I had. Then, slowly, I gathered more of the old paperweights, and scrounged around my mother's house for more old photographs, like this one of my father with his brothers, his father standing in the background (his father died a year or so after this photo was taken, so it's a rare image of my grandfather). And so the collection grew. I haven't done any in a while, for reasons of space, and also because I've now represented just about everyone in my family. So, lately I've been thinking of doing these as gifts, but I have yet to follow through on that! I do worry a little about keeping them in front of a window that at some times of year does get direct sunlight, so I am planning on making some sort of simple fabric cover for them so that they don't fade.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Nice Old Hooks on a Board

Here's another slightly crummy, definitely old, thing I found in my house when I bought it, though this time in the garage, rather than the basement, where I found this dirty old box. This set of hooks on a board was in the garage, where, for all I know, it had been for 100 years, used to hang up the sundry things we keep in our garages. Check out the hooks, aren't they great? And they are all in perfect shape. So, I cleaned it up, both the wood and the hooks, with a wire brush, then I put two coats of polyurethane on both the wood and the hooks. I decided to poly the hooks so that they wouldn't leave rust spots on anything wet that might end up hung on them. I considered painting the hooks black and putting poly on the wood, but decided against it because 1) that would take longer, which would mean that I would get less done that day, and 2) I like the look of the 'raw' iron. Once it was dry, I hung it up next to the shower stall in the back bedroom. I love how the browns of the wall, the wood, and the hooks all complement one another.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Another Item from the Trash

Sometimes I think of my house as a small scale Humane Society for lost or abandoned things. I take them home, clean them up a little if need be, give them temporary shelter, and then try to find them a permanent home. Take this little lamp for example: I found it in the trash back in the Fall. When I first spied it, on top of a recycling container, I immediately thought "must be broken or something, but maybe the cord will be worth salvaging". But when I got up to it, I saw that there was not a single thing wrong with it - it even had its light bulb. So, I took it home and the next day offered it to a friend, who wanted it, but I held onto it so I could take a picture and post about it. (She has it now.) I really just can't wrap my mind around why someone would just throw it away. Didn't she have a friend who would want it? (I did.) Or couldn't she be bothered to put it in a box with other unwanted items, which, when full, could go to the Salvation Army or some such place? We live in a disposable culture, which is surely going to contribute to our undoing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

From Dirty Old Box to Collection Display


Okay, so I found this dirty, dusty old wooden box in the basement soon after buying my house. (The fork is there just to give you some sense of its size.) It was holding old tools and hardware, oil cans and door knobs. But I thought I could give it a better life than that. So, first, I cleaned it up by scrubbing it with a dry, stiff brush. (I decided not to wash it in water because I didn't want the wood to warp.) Then, I painted the backs of the compartments with BIN: an alcohol-based primer. I used BIN because 1) it will stick to just about anything and makes a good, clean painting surface and 2) the box had some rust-stained areas, and since BIN is alcohol based, rust stains don't bleed through, as they do with latex primer or paint. Then I rummaged around my paint shelves and settled on the paint left over from the inside of my open kitchen cabinets: Castleton Mist from Benjamin Moore. (I LOVE this color - I used it on all my downstairs ceilings, as well as my bedroom.) Then I rubbed boiled linseed oil over all the wood that was unpainted and would show. The linseed oil brings out the grain, seals the wood, and adds a little sheen. (It is much easier to apply than polyurethane and doesn't need to dry. You just apply it with a rag and then use a clean rag to wipe off the excess.) The next step was to add these hangers: Then it went up on a wall in my kitchen and I promptly filled it with just a taste of my way too large collection of green handled kitchen utensils:

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Triple Letter Score - Scrabble Redux

I recently found this old scrabble game at one of my local thrift shops: the Kirkland Art Center Thrift Shop in Clinton, NY. I paid $1.50 for it. And it's a good thing I found it, because my scrabble tile cache was getting dangerously low, after I used up 482 tiles doing this:The inside of the door to this original-to-my-house medicine cabinet had an indented space that was just perfectly sized for these tiles. So, just a few months into home ownership, I took a break from spackling and sanding and spackling and sanding, and spent a few hours doing this. It was great fun. I worked in a few big, nice words quite intentionally, but then ended up with more words by these two means: the completely fortuitous words, and the almost fortuitous words. These last ones I had to nudge into wordiness by a letter or two. I was surprised that the whole thing took 482 tiles - almost 5 games worth! This dashed my hopes of ever covering even a small wall in tiles! At least not until I've collected a hundred games or so....

Monday, February 12, 2007

Great Shopping Sites, Part 3: Green Glass, Inc.

I just love the whole idea of this endeavor: taking empty, used wine bottles (and sometimes bottles that are rejected right off the assembly line) and keeping them out of the 'waste stream' (meaning keeping them out of either landfills or keeping them from being traditionally recycled) by turning them into drinking glasses (and other nifty objects as well). Green Glass, Inc. is a small, new company, started in South Africa and now operating in the U.S., doing just this. What a great wedding gift for people who are more environmentally-conscious or, like us, hate to see good things going to waste when there are creative ways to see those things put to new uses.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Great Shopping Sites, Part 2: Elsewares

Here is another great site for buying handmade, independently produced, artsy stuff: elsewares. To be honest, I haven't yet bought anything from this site, but there is much to admire and lust after.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Great Shopping Sites, Part 1: Etsy

Okay, so part of my whole deal, and much of what inspired me to start this very blog, is that I eschew the normal, mainstream (and may I say, very wasteful) consumer culture that makes America what it is. Part of this is that I HATE spending any serious amount of time in a soulless mall that makes you feel like you could be anywhere, which feels an awful lot like you are nowhere. And I want to have things, even when I only have them long enough to give them away as a gift, that are unique, handmade, inspired. Moreover, if someone is going to benefit from my spending, I'd rather it be an independent crafts person than a corporation. But even I do have to shop sometimes and so I've become more and more taken with a few great websites that sell great, interesting, handmade, and cool stuff. So I'm going to post about a few of them, and keep a running list of them up at the top of the page.

First, I was introduced to Etsy a few years ago by a good friend. She recommended it as a place I could sell the jewelry I design and produce, which I may or may not do (a tautology, I know) sooner or later. But meanwhile, it is a great site for finding really cool stuff. I've never bought myself anything there (perish that thought), but I have bought various gifts on it. It is a little like Ebay, without the adrenaline-driven thrill of the auction. But Etsy simply provides the site, so that all the transactions take place directly between the buyer and maker/seller.

I've had nothing but good experiences so far, and have found some nice gifts. So save yourself a trip to the mall, support someone who is trying to make a living making things, and check it out!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Dog Tag Fringe Lamp

I just love this lamp, made by Kathy Neustadt, a Boston area artist. It was back in the summer or fall of 2002 (I think), and my sister had put together a show with a group of fellow artists, whose work is related by their passion for working with found and rescued objects. Here's a site of a show they did a while back. Here are their biographies, including Kathy's. Anyway, I went to the opening and there was this lamp. I was there early to help set up, and so I was able to snag it up right away. I had recently adopted my dog, (who is certainly the best thing I ever recovered from the trash, if you can call being abandoned in a back yard being trashed, which certainly strikes me as fair), and I was in a bit of a canine-philic stage of life (which not everyone thinks I have come out of) so I was very excited by the dog tags being used for the fringe. Kathy had found them all when she rented a house from a former animal control officer in a small town in New Hampshire. The lamp shade is rescued from something else, and the shade has been fitted to a great old fifties lamp. I've had this lamp for all these years now, and I've always given it pride of place.