Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.

Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.
CLICK ON THE RABBIT ( yes, those are cabinets) TO SEE MY PORTFOLIO, AND LEARN MORE ABOUT MY SERVICES...theartofthehome.com

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This seat's taken (so make your own!)

Several types of evergreen trimmings are accented with oregonium, red seeded eucalyptus, and a few silk flowers, in this chair turned planter.
Last month our garden club made evergreen arrangements, to give winter interest to our summer flower pots. Most garden club meetings center around the growing of beautiful flowers, tending succulent vegetables, and maintaining pest-free gardens. Nobody asks for my advice in these matters.  Sheesh. I grow some pretty flowers, and not all of them are the dandelions that my favorite rabbit likes to nibble on.

Same idea, but this time I mixed some coppery accents, tufts of dried grass, and wired ribbon into the evergreens in this chair.
Needless to say, when winter comes around, and my pathetic attempts at front yard greenery look no worse than anyone else', I have a certain sense of reprieve. When November rolls around, and we stuff our summer planters with evergreens and other goodies, I even have a sense of accomplishment. This I actually do well enough that a few people even pay me to do theirs.   

The planters are made by creating baskets of chicken wire, nailed into the chair frame.  These are lined with burlap (I use recycled coffee bags) and filled with dirt.  Come winter, the dead flowers are removed, and to keep top-heavy branches from falling out, a grid of twigs is threaded across the top.  I insert evergreen branch tips into this, and keep the soil moist until the temperature drops below freezing.
My own planter took a beating in the wind a few days ago, and now needs just a wee bit of fluffing, plus about half a spool of wire to prevent that happening again, so the planters shown here are a pair I did for someone else. Those with a good memory might recognize the chairs from a post last December, but I promise these are new arrangements. 

Happy holiday decorating!  If you want to try this yourself, and the basic directions I've given aren't quite detailed enough, feel free to post questions in the "comments" below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Shop local, eco smart, and oh-so-unique!

This post is especially for my Minnesota followers, but there are shops like this all over the country having similar sales this weekend and next.  If you aren't a near neighbor, Google "occasional sales" plus your area description and see what you find.  Please, please, please, wherever you live, resist the mega malls and Big-Marts, and see what the locals have dreamed up to make your holiday sparkle with real warmth. 

The once-a-month shops in Carver and Chaska are opening for their December sale a bit earlier than their usual third-Thursday weekend.  You can shop them this Thursday, December 1st, from 10-5, Friday, December 2nd from 10-4, and Saturday, December 3rd from 10-4.   They all sell vintage and antique things, and you'll find a bit of everything at all of them, but each one has it's own special flavor.  I popped into their November sale to chase down vintage goodies for a client, and snapped a few photos to tempt you to venture out and visit them.

Ms. Mac's too, 204 Broadway, Carver, MN 
Jessica features a lot of classic country primitives and farmhouse style vintage goodies.

The Vintage Cottage, 208 Broadway, Carver, MN
This charming husband & wife duo stock a delightful mix I think of as vintage elegance, with some nice gentlemanly bits to temper the fancy.  I always find their prices surprisingly friendly, too.

The Nature of It, 300 Broadway, Carver, MN
Cindi specializes in garden related vintage and antique items.

Seasons in Carver, 300 Broadway, Carver, MN
Sarah must have had a heck of a weekend, because I took photos late on Saturday, and her shop was nearly empty.  Not to worry, though!  She's had a couple of weeks to restock her amusing array of quirky finds.  Season's is known for the kind of stuff you're more likely to find in Grandpa's barn than Grandma's kitchen.

Mustard Moon, 300 Broadway, Carver, MN
Jane sells a lot of classic shabby chic white stuff, but you'll also find new displays every month, like this one, and a fun little room with 40's thru 60's childhood memories.

The first snow storm of the season cut my shopping expedition short that day.  Minnesotans seem to forget winter driving skills over the long humid summer, so it's never a good idea to be on the road for the first storm.  Unfortunately, this meant I missed visiting Good Junk Garage, 109 1/2 East 3rd, Carver, and just down the road a couple of miles, Linda's Cellar in Chaska at 112 East 2nd Street.

There was a time when you had to be sure the recipient liked vintage stuff, for fear they might think you were just wrapping up your old tat to give as gifts.  These days, vintage is so popular they can't manufacture the fake rust fast enough in third world countries, but why buy fakey knock-offs?  Treat yourself to a diferent kind of shopping experience and check out your local junk shops, antique stores and occasional sales.  You'll find plenty of great things for decorating and gifting, and creative ways to use and display unusual items.  Plus, not only will you get the real thing, you'll probably get it a whole lot cheaper than the copy at Big-Mart. 

disclaimer:  author of this blog will not be held liable for junkin' addiction.  Shop vintage at your own risk!

You find the treasures for your home, and I'll paint beautiful backdrops behind them.  Check out the website to view my portfolio: theartofthehome.com.

Questions or comments?  Post them by clicking the word comments below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Give me a "Hu"!

Last week, I asked for a "Huzzah!" if I finished my three long drawn out projects, namely, the bathroom paint job, the staircase treads, and the dresser in the dining room.  Well, I've finished the bathroom paint as far as I could, having forgotten there was some drywall mud to finish on the arch before I can paint that area.  And I made good progress on the dresser, but of course added detail to the art, which is taking longer than anticipated to complete. 

It's getting there!  A few more days off, and I'll have it.  Only problem is I don't really have any days off coming up.  Guess you know where to find me at 4:00 every morning, next week.

I did finish attaching the treads on the stairs.  Took me until 2:00 this morning, but by golly it's done, and I only smashed one finger with the hammer...multiple times.  It hurts to type, and I'm dead tired, so I'm going to call this a post.  Keep rooting for me to finish the other two projects in the next few days, as I really want to get started on new projects, but have promised myself I won't until these are done.

If there is something you think I might be able to do to complete the decorating in your home, the info on how to hire me is on my website, theartofthehome.com.

If you are more of the D-I-Y type, don't hesitate to ask for advice on a project if you think I might know something useful.  I don't mind a bit, and in fact, I'm glad to share.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Enjoy the holiday, and I'll catch you back here Friday night with a progress report on last week's project goals, and maybe some alternatives to the usual Christmas shopping madness.  I'm grateful for many things in my life, including you, my readers, in which category I happily include all you lovely Google people around the globe, who post my photos to Google Images. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The key to my heart

Because I paint so much at the library, Georgine, the librarian, has given me my own key.  I secretly (okay, not so secretly now that I've written it here) never want to give it back.  It's not that I use it when I'm not painting, I just like having it.  I love libraries.  Home libraries, public libraries, school libraries, and the little tiny free libraries that are popping up in towns across the country.  These are like oversized mail boxes, where you can take any book (to keep!), as long as you leave a book. 

Library columns before.  Could have just given them a fresh coat of white, but what fun would that have been?

When I was painting the doors there this summer, Georgine asked me to give the City a quote for repainting the columns, and I told her I would only do it if it was a faux finish, as I 'm not in the straight paint business. There was actually a good reason to do a marble finish on them, which you can see by the close up of the base. Not only was the white badly scuffed, but the bases were wrapped in carpet, disguising sloppy glue joints that plain paint wouldn't hide. The carpet was beginning to peel away, looking even scruffier than the joints, so though I hadn't bid this into the job, I went ahead and removed it, then spent most of a day scraping off the glue residue, before coating everything with bonding primer.

Base before, with scruffy carpet which doesn't seem to have prevented the columns from being scuffed up.
There are lots of ways to paint marble, and for realism, I prefer to create it from layers of glaze, as the translucency is what makes it believable. In this case, however, durability and ease of touch-ups were the most important feature, so I chose to use a Woolie tool and full strength industrial grade paint. It's not likely these will ever chip, but if they do, anyone can dip a fingertip into two of the four colors I used, and dot it onto the bare spot. The repair will blend in without a trace.

Though white columns were appropriate to the decor and architecture, marble columns have more presence, and hide scuff marks much better.

So, now that the columns are done, I've had to come up with a way to keep my beloved library key a little longer.   I've promised to letter a short quote on the beam above the columns.  It will of course, take time to find just the right quote, and then because I am planning to letter it to appear carved into the beam, painting it won't go quickly, either.  That should keep "My Precious" safely in my pocket another month or two!  After that?  Perhaps the story hour room needs a Hobbit mural?

There are more samples of faux marble on my website, theartofthehome.com, as well as all the information on how to hire me.

Need tips for marbleizing something yourself?  Feel free to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com, or just post it in the "comments" below.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Personal Shopper

This week, I get to do a lot of shopping, for a couple of different clients.  It's not my usual thing, but when it comes to digging around salvage yards and antique stores, it turns out that not everyone shares my enthusiasm, and would rather pay me to do it.  Personally, I cannot imagine not thrilling to the adventure of urban archaeology, but then, they can't imagine anyone not being excited at a sale on Coach purses, so to each her own.
We found these treasures at City Salvage, but one can often find similar things at Mustard Moon, and the other occasional shops, down south of the twin cities.

Tomorrow, I plan to hit the once-a-month shops in the nearby towns of Carver and Chaska.  They carry an eclectic mix of vintage and antique bits, running the gamut from fine furniture to rusty parts of old farm machinery...very flea market chic.  There are several open the third Thursday through Saturday of each month, but the easiest way to track them all down, is to start at Mustard Moon, and ask for directions to the rest of them.  mustardmoon.blogspot.com.  If not in my neck of the woods, Google "occasional sales", to find your local treasure troves.

Yesterday, after spending the morning with the Third Thursday Artgroup (check back here Monday for photos from that, most likely), my friend Sherry and I ventured into the big city.  I was grateful for a clear day and dry roads, because I do not love driving in Minneapolis. 

Just inside the front door of Architectural Antiques, we found a few possibilities.  Since I was on reconnaissance for a client, I took advantage of my sidekick for the day, the often mentioned Sherry Willard (the angel of a friend responsible for the sneaky weeding a few months back).  Having a human visual reference communicates size much more effectively than emailing measurements. 

I don't know if people steal the street signs in Minneapolis, or if it's budget cuts, but there are an awful lot of one way streets that are unmarked and no, I didn't just miss seeing the signs.  I know this for sure because I circled the same blocks multiple times, trying to figure out how to get to places in plain sight, but seemingly impossible to actually approach, from within a quarter mile.  I don't have one, but I've ridden with others using GPS in this city, and I don't think those gizmos make it any less likely that one will suddenly be facing the front grille of a Metro Transit bus.  After several harrowing aborted turns, and by the grace of God and the drivers behind me, we eventually made it to all three of our shopping targets.
Architectural Antiques had an enormous selection of lights, including this enormous chandelier.

Our first stop was Architectural Antiques. (archantiques.com), where we were pleased to find well lit showrooms and polite staff, who kindly answered our questions.  Lots of gorgeous stuff, but the prices reflect the time and labor involved in polishing it all up and displaying it nicely.

These terra cotta corbels are probably too small, but they might do the trick.  It will definitely take more muscle than I'm packing to install one as a console table base.  Bauer Brothers did have several options in this size, though most of the others were Victorian style wood.
And what would we want with roof drains?  Oooh, turn them over, hang from chains, insert a glass and add a votive!  This was just the first of many ideas.
Our second stop was Bauer Bros. Salvage (bauerbrotherssalvage.com).  This is the only one I had been to before, and in fact used to visit them regularly, when I lived in Minneapolis.  If you are looking to buy a salvage business with three unheated stories of treasures, it's yours for a cool two mil.  I just wanted a corbel and a mirror, but didn't find either in my size, this time.  Prices here can be good, but buy it when you dicker, because the next day the price may be completely different.

City Salvage charmed us with their cool old brick building, eclectic collection of beautifully useful stuff, and their randomly placed accents...vintage motorcycles pop up throughout like fabulous exclamation points.  I'm not into bikes at all, but they made me smile, both for their unexpected appearance among the polished mahogany and rusty tin, and for their truly sculptural designs.
 Back in the van, we warmed up, while navigating the maze of one way streets, and eventually arrived at City Salvage (citysalvage.com)  This was our favorite.  The vibe was a little funkier than Architectural Antiques, the attention a little more personal, and the prices a bit more tempting.  Oh, and unlike Bauer Brothers, it was heated, though of course that means a lot smaller.  Still we found the best selection of the types of things we were looking for here.  We'll happily return to all three, but next time, we'll start with City Salvage...after planning a carefully plotted route of the one-way streets!

City Salvage does have a few things outside, and a basement that you might have to ask about to gain admission.  We loved these cast iron corbels, even if they were too small for our needs.
If you have never shopped in a salvage yard, make it your next adventure.  You never know what treasures will tempt your fancy, or what echoes of the past will catch your ear.

When I'm not playing in the junk yard, I do play with paint in people's homes.  You can see my portfolio at theartofthehome.com.

If you are creating something from salvaged treasures and run into a tricky spot, email me or comment below, and I'll help if I can.  dawnmariedelara.@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Never put off for tomorrow...

...what you can leave for the day after tomorrow.  -Mark Twain
This week's message on the kitchen chalkboard
I, Dawn-Marie deLara have a little trouble with procrastination. Or maybe I just have a lot of irons in the fire.  It's sort of hard to tell.  Yeah, prob'ly both.  Whatever the label, the situation is the same, and the charm has worn thin.  Completing jobs for clients is no trouble, as I take responsibility to others very seriously.  Completing projects for myself?  Well, I finally chalked the above message where I have to see it every day, and then had a heart-to-heart with a friend, to get a little back up in dealing with this.  I need to make serious progress on some major projects, and for me, tackling big things is always more successful with someone to lend a little encouragement...or threats, guilt trips, and bribes.  Basically, if it works on a three year old, it'll work on me.
dresser in progress
I don't lack ambition.  I've started more projects around here than I can count.  I just find it more interesting to design them and work out the glitches, than to actually finish.  A couple of weeks ago, I moved this dresser into the dining room to hold art supplies, and last Sunday, after thinking about the design and color scheme until mid-afternoon, I finally started painting it.  Considering it's sat in just it's primer for eight or ten years, that's not so bad, but knowing I'm hosting several open houses this December, and it's not the only thing I need to complete,  it can't go unfinished for long.
The walls look finished in this shot...

...but that's as far as I got!
When I decided I needed to do this bathroom plaster project for a promo piece, I painted just enough of the walls to do the plaster around the mirror and get photos.  The areas above the tub and toilet never got finished, and I still need to sew curtains for the shower, window, and a shelving niche.  I seriously gotta get a move on!
Fabric stair treads I started a little over a year ago.  Eleven done...

...six to go.
I ran out of upholstery tacks about the time life hit a rough patch last winter, so I never did finish attaching the stair treads.  I think it's time to spend an afternoon with the hammer and get it done.

There are lots more things I would like to do before the holiday season hits, but Thanksgiving is a week away, and decorating a house the size of Belle, with enough style for December holiday tours, will take up all my "free" time the week after that, so I think I can be content with completing this much.  There are of course client deadlines to meet this week (no problem), and some writing ones as well, but Sherry promises to hold me to those, and now that I've written this here- not just that I've started, but that I must finish- you can hold me to completing these three projects.  Can you do me a favor and provide a bit of incentive?  If I finish by Thanksgiving, I want a big "Huzzah!" in the comments here, on facebook, or in my email, from you, dear readers.  And if by chance I don't?  No need to say a word, as the shame of failure will do me in... for about a day.  I'm resillient that way. ;)

Do, by the way, feel free to keep me too busy working on your house to have time to finish mine!  Check out my website for all the information on how to hire me at theartofthehome.com

If you are trying to finish projects of your own and have questions I might be able to answer, click on the word "comments" below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Play date for the grown-ups

Give me your...cast off glass tchochkes and epoxy?  Pamela is incapable of taking a bad picture, even when she's clowning. 
  When I was a little kid, I wanted a play room.  I imagined it would be filled with all the fabulous plastic toys my friends had, and I did not.  Having some taste, I also imagined it would have a beautiful, ornate puppet theater with hand carved marionettes, a ballet barre and mirror (with about an acre of wide open floor for dancing), and a collection of art glass kaleidoscopes.  The other half of the room would have all the art supplies sold at Ryder Brothers Stationery, The Idea Shoppe, Baker Printing and Lithography, and the basement of Levinger's Drug Store, all combined.  (I never did dream small.)  Alas, my parents did not own a mansion with one wing devoted entirely to my amusement.  Oh, wait, did I include the mermaid pool with waterfall and grotto?  Yeah, well, I didn't have that either.

Now that I'm a grown-up, I still don't live in a mansion, but I do have a play room (the back parlour turned art studio), a dance room (the master bedroom turned home gym, including ballet barre and mirror), and I am in the process of officially turning the dining room into a second dedicated art space, since I do more fun crafting than fine dining.  I used to jokingly call it the studio annex, but who am I kidding?  Most days there is at least one project overflowing onto the dining table, and a second table in the corner is a permanent art journaling station.  Rather than having a dining room that converts to art space, I'm setting it up as art space that looks like, and can function as, a dining room.

Although the room already has a buffet, I needed more storage for art materials, so I relocated the piano to the livingroom, and moved this dresser down from the bedroom. 
It worked perfectly this Saturday, when I had the fun of hosting an art day for a handful of my grown-up friends.  I invited them to bring a project to work on, or to poke around in my supplies and books, and find something to try.  I promised a big pot of soup on the stove, and all the instruction I could provide.  Three rules:  Keep your shoes on (to keep your socks clean, and your tootsies safe from fallen objects); Don't eat anything I serve if you don't like it (or I might serve it to you again); and No children under 18 (so the grown-ups will play, instead of helping the kids). 

Cat is planning to add a beaded glass fringe "skirt", and arms made of glass Christmas drops to her garden lady.  She's also planning to cook the soup for January's gathering.  Mm-mm good!
 The idea started a couple of months ago, with Cat, who admired a stacked glass garden sculpture of a woman at the Jordan Art Festival, and wanted to hire me to teach her how to make one.  Another friend chimed in then, and a few others have mentioned wanting to try this craft or that, but not wanting to invest in a bunch of supplies for a hobby they may not really take up.  Thus, our Second Saturday Studio Club was formed.  I provide the space and materials, and a pot of soup, and they bring nibbles to share if they want.  I don't charge for instruction, as this is a gathering of friends, not a business venture.  To keep me stocked on the essentials, anyone who uses a large quantity of something that I didn't acquire for free, pitches a few bucks into the kitty.

We ran out of epoxy before Mary got her garden spire glued, and in fact the design morphed into something even prettier than this, so I'll show you that next month.
  We had a blast.  A few of the gals had last minute things come up and couldn't make it, but those that did were already planning next month's project an hour into this one.  Most of them followed Cat's lead on the glass sculpture, though Darla chose to start a china mosaic table top, to be used as a Christmas decoration.  Most of the others are planning to try mosaic next month. 

Darla made a good start on her mosaic project.  While they can go quickly, if you just want a random patchwork look, something like this Christmas tree, with bead garland, takes a little longer to design and execute.
 I had thought I would work on something myself, but instead spent the time assisting, advising, trouble shooting, digging for materials, and locating the soup ladle.  I wouldn't have had it any other way.  It was so much fun helping them with their creations!  Besides, I get to make stuff in my play room practically every day...in all my play rooms...my whole house full of play rooms...including the one in which I am in the process of sculpting a water sprite, stepping out from a mural of a grotto ( I had honestly forgotten until just this moment that this was a childhood wish...love that)! 

Dream big, dearhearts, and don't forget to notice when your fondest wishes come true!  My blessings are great, and I am grateful.

Want help rethinking the spaces in your home to better suit your lifestyle?  I offer interior design consultation for this sort of thing, along with splashing paint in artistic ways.  You can chek out my portfolio and the information about hiring me on my website at theartofthehome.com.

Questions or comments?  You can leave them here by clicking on the word "comments" below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Beginning at the beginning, again.

Today I started the first phase of a project that will probably get a lot of write-up on here, come spring.  One of my most stylicious clients, Jodi, called me about a month ago to warn me to block out a chunk of time next February, because she had a lot of painting for me to do.  Previously, I had custom finished her kitchen cabinets and with her help, covered her fireplace in chip-china mosaic.  Sadly, a fire recently took their stunningly beautiful house down to the studs. 
Just wait til you see what we have planned for this corner!
Happily, Jodi assured me all kids, dogs, and husband are safe and sound, and miraculously, although almost nothing was salvageable, the fireplace was saved.  Though not a happy crafter, Jodi had worked with me on this creation for several days, so she knows first-hand what it would take to replace it.  Aside from an insane amount of time, there are bits of Grandmother's jewelery, and ceramics gifted by friends.  It's basically irreplaceable, so she's extremely grateful that it won't need to be! 
This fireplace is one of my favorite jobs I've ever done.
Our meeting today was to go over her decorating plan for the main floor, and figure out which parts I could do.  Basically, she showed me gorgeous tearsheets and luxurious samples, and I tried not to drool on them.  She made my job very easy by having a binder filled with well-organized magazine clippings, and fabric samples for most of the major upholstered pieces.  We sifted through them, looked at decorative objects she was starting to round up, and then toured the house, which was stripped to the studs, and getting ready for the last of the sub-floor to be pulled out.  Having worn dressier clothes than normal, I was immediately reminded why I usually live in paint rags and hiking boots...silly me.
Just a few of the dozens of clippings that help a client communicate wishes to a designer.  My task is to take my cue from these, but create something completely unique for my client.
There will be some basic faux finishing to do, and then some amazing pattern added to a couple of walls, a painted floor or two, painted ceilings in the kitchen, butler's pantry, dining room, and a hallway, and a very cool bit of trompe l'oeil drapery, cascading over a built-in display ledge.   
When Jodi pointed out this decorative tray propped on a bookshelf in their temporary house, saying she liked the design,  I immediately saw a ceiling pattern.  Imagine it exploded to room-size, with a chandelier dropped from the center!   Lucky for my neck, I have a couple of months to spend with the Bowflex, getting in shape for this particular project.
I also get the job of searching out some big architectural salvage pieces, and possibly creating a very cool bench out of restyled cast-offs, which means a day or two haunting some of my favorite Minneapolis salvage companies. Some gals get excited at the prospect of a day at the mall. Me? My idea of a great day shopping involves dark, dusty warehouses filled with grimy bits of the past. I'll keep you posted on what I find!

While the circumstances that created this job for me are sad, this transformation will be such a joy to complete.  Jodi had created a beautiful space that showcased her unique style, but because the house was built for another family before hers, it was laid out for a different lifestyle.  She now has an opportunity she never expected to shift walls, change details, and make the space function better for her family.  I am so looking forward to playing my part in this, and sharing the progress here, with you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Third time's a charm...I hope!

One of the nice things about having a piece of furniture custom painted, is that it is custom.  Which means you can change your mind, even after it's completely done.  It will cost you more, but you get exactly the piece you want, exactly the color you want.  

Julie's hutch, take 3.
This hutch was on the blog just a couple of weeks ago. Julie was thrilled with the blended finish when I left, but called about a week later to say that after living with it for a bit, she really wanted it darker. I stripped off some of the previous paint, so I would get some wood showing through at the end, then added a spruce green glaze, topped with an icy wash of the original pale green.
Julie's hutch, last week.
There isn't really one right way, or one right color.  I think both finishes are equally pretty, but I do admit I like the darker green with her cherry cabinets and black counters.  Mostly, I like when my clients are completely happy.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I just be holdin' the brush!

For information on how to commission me to paint for you, visit my website, theartofthehome.com.

If you are customizing a piece yourself and run into questions, feel free to email me, and I will do my best to answer.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Monday, November 7, 2011

What's pumpkin dip got to do with it?

I remember how Mondays were, back during those rare times I worked for someone else.  Favorite blouse laundered but forgotten in the washer, hurriedly blow-dried to semi-wrinkle-fee wearability, only to discover the laundry trolls had stolen a button.  Late to arrive, grumpy hung over co-workers, snarky corporate office person dropping by, Snackens from the vending machine for coffee break at 10 a.m., and then only six hours left to go (with stale garlicky Snackens breath...ugh).  Regular paychecks were nice, but not nice enough to tempt me back.

One of the joys of self-employment is the flexibility of working at home.  Actually, most of the time, I work in other people's homes, but Mondays at least are spent mostly here at Belle.  Today, after a morning of torturing one art student with perspective, shading, and the math required for building scale models, and a few errands, I was ready for a break.  I was also aware that I needed a blog topic for tonight.  Call in this season's stand-by, pumpkin dip.
Recipe:  One regular (vegetable can-sized) can of pumpkin, one package of reduced fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), brown sugar or maple syrup to taste, about 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp of nutmeg.  Whip cream cheese with mixer until smooth, blend in pumpkin, then add maple syrup or brown sugar to taste, starting with about 2 Tbs.  Blend in spices.  Serve with apple wedges or ginger snap cookies.  This also works great on a dessert buffet piped into bite-sized tart shells.  A few nights ago, I sent some home with a friend who planned to have it on bagels for breakfast.  It's very versatile, very fast, and very good.

I worked the weekend, so I balanced that today by slowing down the pace, keeping the do-list to a minimum, and treating myself to the pretty details.  I don't have time for this because I'm self-employed, I make time for this, even though I'm self-employed.  Since I don't have paid sick leave, I decided years ago not to get sick.  I am not exaggerating when I say I have not had a cold or flu for more than five, maybe six years, now.  Occasionally a day where I feel a little run down, maybe the hint of a scratchy throat, but nothing that lasted the day.  It's a choice I make.

I choose to be well.  I choose to slow down when the Speedy Gonzales thing starts feeling like too much too fast.  I choose to take time every morning for a meditative period of writing and prayer ( and I choose to get up ridiculously early for this extra hour).  I choose to deal with troubles as they arise, and when I can't, to try to remember that worrying accomplishes nothing, while having hope makes hard times bearable, and keeps the door open for help to arrive.  I choose to forgive as quickly as I notice that I'm holding hard feelings.  I don't do it perfectly, but I do it consistently, and I make it a priority.

I'll mention this process to people occasionally, when their litany of illness finally is too much to listen to any longer.  They usually get hung up on forgiveness, sure that the rotten bastard in their life is far worse than anything I've faced.  Hmm.  Let's just say, I've survived enough RB's to write a pretty harrowing mini-series, and leave it at that.  I didn't say I forget injustice or injury, I just choose to try to understand why the perpetrator would be so rotten, and then, in a forgiveness meditation, I let it go.  I acknowledge that I would have preferred that things had been different, but I release my expectations of them.  It's very simple, in a very difficult sort of a way, and profoundly effective.

I truly believe you can prevent most, if not all illness, but it's not just one magic bullet, as seen on TV, or one rare and costly miracle herb, as reported in this month's issue of Health Fads and Foolishness.  It's a way of life, and while for some that means a slew of vitamins and blender drinks, fancy exercises and alternative treatments, for me it's a state of mind, and a choice to keep things balanced and joyful.  I live in a beautifully imperfect home, I practice my faith mindfully and daily, I maintain friendships with a core group of rather quirky like-minded souls, and I choose to make it a priority to live the moments of each day with as much attention to detail as I can make time for.  Is it always as pretty as today's afternoon tea?  No, but it is when it needs to be.

Do I believe my way best for everyone?  Nope.  Different personality types probably respond best to different methods.  Some people even find it easier to catch a virus and get over it than to do any sort of program or lifestyle change to prevent it, and who's to say that's so wrong?  But if you find you look forward to calling in sick and staying home, I have two suggestions:

First, consider creating a business of your own that would allow you to work from home, and create a really nurturing home from which to do it.  You will most likely work more hours, but if you choose something you love passionately, perhaps something connected to a hobby that already gets a chunk of your time, you won't mind that.

Second, if you choose to work for someone else, use your sick day and call in well once a month.  It's best if you belligerently tell them you are calling in well, in my experience, though I do have a higher tolerance for risk than most people.  There just seems to be added anti-oxidant power in confusing management, but use your best judgement.  Take this day to do some spiritual reading or journalling, drink something yummy from a pretty cup, eat what makes you happy, whether that's spa food or three meals of Godiva's finest, and do something playful like a craft project, rearranging the living room furniture, or going through your memory chest.  It's most beneficial to do the whole day in pajamas.  Do not do laundry, especially laundry that doesn't belong to you.  That is not a day off, and will negate all benefits, and waste a perfectly good day of paid leave.

It's November now, and we're headed toward the holidays.  May all your days at home these next two months be healthy ones, surrounded in beauty and comfort.  To steal Garrison Keillor's line, "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch."

If you need paint work done before Thanksgiving or Christmas company arrives, there is still time to make that happen.  Visit my website to see a portfolio of possibilities, and all the info on how to hire me.  theartofthehome.com.

Any thoughts to share or questions to ask?  You can click on the word "comments" below and leave them there, or email me at dawnmariedelara.@gmail.com

Friday, November 4, 2011

Creative Spark: Dayle Doroshow

Dayle Doroshow teaching at Maureen Carlson's Center for Creative Arts.  (click the names to view their websites)
 Change the mood
 That was the message on the "chaos card", I was directed to select, when I stopped in to say hello at Maureen's, on my return from the paint store.  Dayle Doroshow, one of the Big Names in polymer clay art, and a popular teacher in the US and abroad, was the instructor this week, and though I wasn't in the class, she included me in this Creative Spark exercise.  I was on my way home to work on a commissioned painting, so I was to use this directive to put a new spin on the piece.  One thing led to another though, and I didn't get to that project this afternoon.  However, as blogger just mysteriously deleted my nearly completed blog entry, causing a minor (okay, maybe not so minor) temper tantrum, perhaps I'll play that card now.

I love all the interesting textures, patterns, colors and details in these figures!
Originally, the posting was a brief bio, and information about Dayle and this class.  I haven't had time to actually create anything inspired by her, but I am inspired by her story, by her life, and most decidedly by her artwork.  Her class this week was about trying new things to spark interesting, creative discoveries.  Since the whole goal of this blog is to inspire you, my precious reader-friends, to try new things, you can imagine how delighted I was to stumble into this gathering!  So let me tell you how a chance encounter today has inspired me, and given my heart a change of mood...

Some of Dayle's samples for this class, in a collage I just created in my simple little photo program...look out folks, I just discovered how to blur the edges, and I fear I am in danger of attacking all photos with this treatment for awhile! 
 Dayle leads a really expansive life.  She's been a professional ballet dancer in New York, and an actress.  She now lives in California, creates fabulous mixed media art, and teaches all over the U.S. and in France, where by an interesting series of events, she came to own a home, her perfect French home, on the same street as the place she teaches.  Although Maureen originally turned me on to her work, I've seen Dayle featured in numerous magazines, and photos of her artistry in a slew of books on polymer clay and collage.  She does not hide her light, but shoots it out in seemingly all directions at once, like a pyro lighting a fireworks finale.

Why is this student smiling so contentedly?  You do see the table load of creative possibilities in front of her, right?  Add a teacher like Dayle, and a retreat center like Maureen's and what creative soul wouldn't be blissed out?
Dayle not only leads an expansive life, she's also a really expansive person.  She is generous with compliments and praise, and with her knowledge.  Though I was a party crasher, I was invited right in, given quick explanations of the various projects being worked on, and then invited to stay for the afternoon demo.  In thirty or so short minutes, my head was stuffed with dozens of sparks of ideas, challenges to think or see differently, and a resolve to re-expand my concept of the possible (I find I lose focus and let the boundaries of my life shrink, if I'm not vigilant).  There are lots of vague dreams I've left floating around in the not-really-serious realm of Some Day.  Thanks to Dayle, I find I'm in the mood to get serious about some of them.

Let Dayle spark your imagination!  Check out her website to see where she's teaching next:  Dayledoroshow.com.  If you can't make it to a class, she has a book out, co-authored with Cynthia Tinapple:
This is the first time I've grabbed such a flashy link, so in case it quits functioning at some point, just click on the link to Dayle's site in the story above.
When I'm not crashing classes at Maureen's, I do actually work at creating inspiring environments for my clients.  You can check out my website at theartofthehome.com, for more information on that.

If you have questions about a creative project of your own, feel free to email me.  If I know the answers, I'll be happy to share. dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Peacocks and Periwinkle

Guess what I finished!  Remember the post awhile back, "There are peacocks in this bramble patch"?  This was about the nearly finished bathroom that I decided to add a little more detail to, and ended up on yet another "hike through the brambles"(that's where I skip the road less traveled, and head off through the underbrush).  Well, after spending about forty hours of my "free time" standing in front of the mirror, which I haven't done since highschool, my eyebrows are still wildish, but I think the wall looks mighty fine.
Hand sculpted plaster squash blossom scrolls, with hummingbirds, this time in a slightly Art Nouveau style.

Okay, of course, no it isn't really finished. Nothing in my house is ever finished. It just gets to an interesting stopping point. Last night I finished sculpting (I'm pretty sure) the scroll work around the mirror and peacock sconces.

Perfectly nice periwinkle painted bathroom, with custom vanity, topped in faux marble counter.

Hand sculpting this takes about an hour to an hour and a half per running foot, including the time it takes to plan, prep, sculpt, scrape off not-quite-right bits, and resculpt them.  I plan the general layout and style in advance, but the detail is created as I go.
 Although it is perfectly fine to leave this natural, I might eventually give it an antique glaze, or just maybe I might silver leaf it. Not the paint, but the real metal leaf, which is it's own trip off through the brambles, which is why I'm not going to start it now.  I really like the way this looks as is, and I have other things I want to do in this bathroom, like figure out something interesting for the ceiling, maybe paper, maybe stenciled plaster, and then there's the window that needs a curtain, but what about stained glass, and the shower curtain needs at least three layers of fabric and trim, not to mention the tub surround which needs me to decide on the tile, and I never did paint the shelves Dad installed on his last visit, and...

A good adventure is never really finished!

Do you think I should add a blossom down here for this hummer?

If you like the hummingbirds, but not such fancy vine work, check out the plaster page of my website, http://www.theartofthehome.com/ornamental-plaster.html.  There is a version there with very light, more naturalistic vines.  While you're on the website, wander around through the pages to see what else I do.

If you are trying something like this yourself, scroll back to a post last summer titled "where feng shui meets Santa..." for some basic product info and directions.  If you still have questions, feel free to email me, and I'll try to answer them.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.