Finding Art – Galleries or Goodwill?

One of the hardest things for me to buy for my house is artwork.  I really know nothing about it, and feel very intimidated walking into galleries.  But I also prefer something original rather then the mass-produced pictures found in most stores.  A couple of years ago, a friend told us about the local annual Art League Patron’s Show – a fund raiser for the League.  The show makes picking out a new piece of art fun, exciting, and a little uncertain.

Here’s how it works:  To start with, donated artwork from League members is collected and numbered, and show tickets are sold.  The number of tickets sold equals the number of pieces of donated art, and they sell out within an hour of going on sale.  This year, there were 660 works of art donated by League artists.  About 2 weeks before the show, you visit the gallery to view and prioritize the artwork.  Then on the evening of the Patrons’ Show, tickets are randomly drawn and when your name is announced, you select the piece of remaining artwork that you would like to take home.  The announcer calls off names about once every 15 seconds, so you not only have to keep track of what pieces you want, but also what pieces have already been chosen.  If you take too long to call off your choice, or if you choose something that has already been picked, the entire building erupts in loud BOOs.

Everyone has a different approach to ranking the artwork and keeping track of what is left during the show.  Being married to an engineer, we have a very elaborate system.  Greg downloads and prints the Excel spreadsheet containing a list of all of the art.  We each get a list, and I am told to label every item on my list as either A (like it), B (okay), C (we can hang it in the basement), or X (I don’t want it in my house).  In addition, I select my top 10 choices.  Then with the promise of a relaxing dinner out in Old Town afterwards, we head to the gallery to individually view and rank artwork.  Here is my list at the end of this years review.

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An exercise like this is a good way to learn what kind of art you like (modern and still lifes for me).  And you see how compatible you are with your spouse – bickering is widespread as couples try to agree on their favorite works.  We overhead one woman say she finally started buying her husband his own ticket a few years ago.

Over the next few days, Greg consolidated our lists and printed small color images of all the artwork in our combined top 10, A, and B groups (approximately 100 items).  We then covered the dining room table and ordered everything within each group.

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After a few days of arguing and compromising, we finally had an ordered list of about the top 100 items.  Greg then created a new color-coded spreadsheet.  The colors represent the group (top 10, A, B, or C), and a number next to the item shows it’s final ranking.

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Finally, on the evening of the Patrons’ Show drawing the excitement was palpable.  People arrived hours ahead of time to stake out the best seating areas, carting bags of food and drink. The food choices ran from KFC to charcuterie, and drink included beer, wine, and other beverages to fuel the boos mentioned earlier.

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Projection screens were strategically positioned so everyone could see each piece of artwork as it was selected.

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During the event, Greg maintained the master list, crossing of each item as it was chosen by someone.

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If it was one of our top 100 picks, he told me what number to cross off on our list of ranked pictures.   After a couple of hours, our name was finally called – 416th out of ~660 tickets.  Amazingly, our number 4 pick – Kitchen Knives – was still available.  We have found over the years that peoples tastes for artwork very wildly – even with hundreds of pieces already picked, some of our favorites are usually still available.

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Here is what we selected.  It looks great hanging in our kitchen.

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As I mentioned, not everyone uses such an elaborate scheme during the Patron’s Show.  Our friend blew through the gallery minutes before the show started and selected just 5 works of art – once they were gone, she wasn’t interested in anything else.  Unfortunately, by the time her number was called, all of her favorites were taken.

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Her loss was our gain, however.  When her name was called, she kindly let us select a second item.  These little wooden animal figures were our 15th choice – not too bad considering it was the 437th name called.

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Of course, galleries and shows are not the only place to buy art.  We find many lovely pieces at estate sales and local thrift shops.  Here are three local water scenes painted by artist Caroline Heald that we recently acquired.

bf_heald1Veteran Scullers, 1994, Caroline Heald

bf_heald3Tom and Mixed Quad, 1994, Caroline Heald

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Eights Passing Hunting Creek, 1994, Caroline Heald

Imagine my surprise when we were reviewing the artwork for this year’s Patron’s Show and I saw this familiar-looking Potomac scene by Caroline as one of the donated works.  This picture went home with someone that night, but the 3 pictures above are available from Semper Stylish.

pic126All rights reserved by theartleaguegallery

Hopefully this post has given you some other ideas on other (non-intimidating) places to look for art.  Please stop by our shop at Eclectic Nature in Del Ray – and soon at our new location in Newburg, MD – where we have plenty of artwork (and other nice things for your house) for you to choose from.

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Garage Find Mirrors and a Second Shop

There are a lot of great things about being in this business.  For us, one of the fun parts is finding a diamond in the rough-  the Cinderella item.  Because of this, we love going to the attics, basements and garages of estate sales to hopefully find an overlooked and under loved treasure.  I love getting to the cash station and hearing “where did you find this?!”

One of these recent finds were two identical mirrors found buried in the back of a garage.  Sorry about the quality of this picture.

mirror before2

Both mirrors have this wonderful, ornate wood scroll piece at the top.  Besides being somewhat dull looking, there was evidence of some little creatures making it part of their lunch.  What a shame, but I guess this would be expected for being stored in a garage.

top scroll before

The picture below shows the repair work on one.  You can make out the lighter color of the wood fill.

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Another section of damage was the trim along the bottom of the mirrors.  When we found the mirrors they were standing up right, resting against the bottom trim.  As a result, years of weight and moisture had curved and separated the wood layers.

bowed bottom

closeup bottom trim before

Unfortunately, there was no way to save this so I had my handy man help cut it off.

cutting trim off

Here is a picture of the bottom trim piece removed.  Even without it, the mirror is still wonderful.

cut trim whole mirror after

Because of all this repair work, I knew the mirrors would benefit from some paint. The main part of the mirror was painted with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP) in Paris Gray, slightly sanded to expose the wood underneath, and then sealed with clear wax.

mirror done scroll not

As you can see in these pictures the scroll work, looks even more drab against the newly painted mirror frame.  So, to brighten the scroll work and cover the repairs, I dried brushed it using ASCP in Country Grey.  Dry brushing is where you use very little paint on a dry brush and apply very lightly leaving some of the wood exposed.

scroll painted

Then to enhance the scroll work and make it pop, I used Gedeo Gilding Wax in Empire Gold.

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It is very easy to use and makes a huge difference in the appearance. The mirror on the right has been gilded while the one on the left has not.  I also used a little of the gilding wax along the top curves of the mirror frame.

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The mirrors have been redone to match so they can be used together.  They measure 40h x 29w.   If you are interested they are for sale locally for $170 each.

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We have some exciting news to mention.  Because we are having so much fun, we have decided to open a second shop.  Our new location will be in Newburg, MD off of Route 301, across the the Nice Memorial Bridge from Fredricksburg, VA.

glory days before

The new owners are doing an amazing job with the renovation and are hoping to be up and running mid March.  We will keep you informed.

Basement renovation – Part 1

A lot of girls just want flowers and candy for Valentine’s Day – I just want a new basement.  We have lived in our house for over 12 years now, and the basement is the last area that we haven’t worked on. It is a typical 1950’s era basement with ugly flooring, bare concrete walls, and not enough light or outlets.  It has served us well as a man-cave, exercise area, laundry room, and craft workshop, but we have finally found someone to help us renovate it.  My vision is a retro/industrial space with 1950’s style furniture.  We’ll still use the space for the same activities, but it will be far more inviting.  Below you can see what we are starting with as well as some of my ideas for the new space.

This is the main man-cave/TV watching area (if you look closely, there is some Semper Stylish furniture waiting to be painted in the foreground).

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A long bar area (below) separates the man-cave/TV side from the exercise area.
bf_main3before.jpgOne side of the exercise area (right side of picture below) will be framed off as a closet with mirrored doors.  Part of the under-stair area will be framed in for a small storage area and the rest will be left open for a bar/wine storage.  The HVAC venting will be enclosed in a plywood bulkhead.  We plan to paint the ceiling black to maintain the height.
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This is the original asbestos tile.  It was ugly but indestructable.
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The floors will be replaced with black vinyl commercial grade tiles found for an amazing 51 cents/sqft on sale at Home Depot.  I’ve been warned that black floors show dust, but I think it will look awesome with Benjamin Moore Owl Gray walls and a black ceiling.
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The far end of my basement is the laundry room, craft area, and Greg’s workshop.  This is what the area looks like now (horrifying, I know!!).
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Under the stained glass window in my craft area, cabinets and a formica top will be added along the wall.  Best of all, the contractor is going to make a 4′ x 4′ rolling table on wheels – perfect for Semper Stylish painting and repurposing projects!

The door leading to the outside…
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… is going to be replaced with a full glass door to bring in more light-
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I am very happy with the crew.  When I asked how they were going to make a door for the understair storage area, the framing guy said he was going to cut down and repurpose another old door we were going to throw away.  Now that’s the kind of answer I like – always repurpose when possible!

Another item I plan to reuse is my old concrete laundry tub.  It is stained, cracked, worn down, and weighs a ton, but I LOVE it.  It has a wide zinc strip around the edge and is totally indestructable.  They are going to move it around the corner for me, build a new base to replace the rusted iron one, and add new faucets.
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I have been checking Pinterest for some decorating ideas for my new basement:

Repurposing an old bookcase and adding shuttered doors:
add shutters to bookcase

Adding a shelf in the laundry area from reclaimed wood:
Great laundry room with antique sign decor and burlap skirted plank shelf...'

Rolling wine cart for under stairs (Okay – I know mine won’t turn out this cute, but you get the idea):
Love! Get this casual loft look starting with a salvage-inspired cart balanced by fun accents like the bright wall art, contemporary wine rack, and bottle-glass vase. Top off with just a few accessories--gathering tray, beer glasses, nut and pretzel dishes, a party tub--and let the good times roll.

I am also hoping to win this picture at the Alexandria Art League Patron’s Show next weekend (more on that in a future post).  The photograph is called ‘ICU’.  Wouldn’t it look great hanging over the fireplace?  Hopefully my decorator will be able to stylize around it.
ICU

Please check back to see how the renovation is progressing.  Once my basement is done, the same contractor will be adding a new sunroom to Janice’s house.

Football, cake pops and Poppop

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Are you ready for some football?   We have been fortunate, the last several years, to spend Superbowl night with friends watching “the game/commercials” on their Winnebago sized TV.  Even the pink-tutu wearing hedgehog cheerleaders on Puppy Bowl were the size of Smart Cars- too cute!

As is customary with any Superbowl party, we had food – lots of food.  We stuffed ourselves on jambalaya, chili, macaroni and cheese, and layered nachos.  In addition to all this, what gathering would be complete without dessert?  Karen and I took it upon ourselves to make sure we contributed to these extra needed calories.

Karen made these cute cupcakes decked out in the appropriate Superbowl colors with little chocolate covered almond footballs.

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I decided to try my hand at making cake pops.  I’ve never made them.  My game plan was to “simply” whip together some cake pops decorated like Baltimore Raven and San Francisco 49er helmets, like these from One Fine Cookie

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As I started to run out of time I thought, “ok let’s just put some lines on them and make little cake pop footballs”, like these-

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Hah! While cake pops are not hard to make, I definitely underestimated my timing. So instead of being festive, I went with the minimalist look.  Still very yummy!

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If you’ve never made cake pops, it’s not hard, it just takes time.  Obviously, more than I had.  So if you are going to make these, plan appropriately.

Cake Pop Recipe

You’ll need the following ingredients:

one box cake mix (i used both a chocolate and a vanilla cake mix)

16 oz container of ready made frosting (i used chocolate, strawberry and vanilla)

2 lb candy coating ( i used two 12oz bags each of Wilson chocolate and vanilla Candy Melts bought at Michaels)

-lollipop sticks (can be bought at Michael’s)

cakepop ingredients

The kit was not needed,  but, it got me started with the basics of having the sticks you see above, a cardboard stand for the cake pops (you could also use a sturdy piece of styrofoam), packaging materials to make them presentable as gifts, and an instruction book. Of course, you can easily find cake pop instructions on the internet.

1. Bake the cake as directed on the box, using a 9 x 13 pan. Let cool completely.

2. Once the cake has cooled, using a large bowl, crumble the cake until there are no large pieces of cake left.

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3. Mix 3/4’s of the can of frosting into the cake crumbs using the back of large spoon until thoroughly mixed.  Do not use the whole can as the mixture will be too moist.  The mixture should be moist enough to roll into 1 1/2 in balls and hold their shape.

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4. Roll all the cake balls by hand and place on a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Once done, cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for several hours or the freezer for about 15 minutes.  Cake balls should be firm but not frozen.

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5. Once the cake balls have had time to chill, you can prep the candy coating.  Using a deep microwaveable bowl, melt the candy coating per instructions on the package. My book recommended using a plastic bowl instead of glass as it doesn’t get as hot.

6. Once the cake balls have had time to chill, take a few out to work with. I found when the balls got too warm they were more apt to fall off the stick when rolled in the candy coating.

7.  One at a time, dip the tip of the stick into the candy coating approximately 1/2 inch, then insert the stick into a cake ball no more than 1/2 way through. This helps cement the cake to the stick.

8. Now dip the cake ball into the candy coating until it is completely covered, making sure it covers the base of the stick, and remove it in one motion.  The temperature of the cake balls and candy coating affected how well this step went.  It took a few tries before I was able to get the coating to be smooth and not gloppy.

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9. Repeat with remaining cake balls and let dry completely.  This is where a holder of some kind comes in handy.  As I mentioned my kit came with a cardboard holder but it only had 12 holes.  I fortunately had a thick piece of styrofoam that I used to hold more cake pops while they dried.

10. Decorate as you wish or enjoy them plain.

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So, if you were wondering about the title of this post you got football and cake pops.  The football photo at the top is the 1921 Quakertown High School football team.  And how do I know this, well, my grandfather “Poppop” is in the last row, third from the right.  The guy in the middle of the second row is holding the football with the year 1921.

poppop football team

We have used this photo in some of the items sold in the shop.  Here it is in a black, rustic wood and burlap frame that sold in December.

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And here it is in a burgundy fabric with golden yellow trim frame found while treasure hunting.  It is available for sale locally $180. Total dimensions are 29×24.

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From our Pillow post last week, we received a couple of pillow orders.  Here is a custom pillow in it’s new home in Old Lyme Ct.  How great does that look?

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Have a great next week.

Pillows, Pillows, Pillows

Since we started Semper Stylish, we have found that lots of people like handmade pillows. We want each one to dress up a room in its own unique way – and so far – so good!

Stenciled pillows
Our stenciled pillows are our biggest seller – thanks to our Cameo Silhouette which makes designing and cutting stencils extremely easy and fast. We can barely keep our local latitude/longitude series of pillows in stock!

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Here are a few other stenciled designs from the past year:

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union jack stool1_wm

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Appliqued pillows
Karen’s sister Kathy got us started on appliqued state pillows when she was inspired by an article in the March 2012 issue of Country Living.  Easy to make, these pillows can be personalized as a unique and special gift. We have made quite a few of these over the last few months, many as custom orders.

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On Kathy’s last visit, she found these adorable dog-themed pillows on sale at Restoration Hardware.

Using the same applique technique as the state pillows, she made these dog-themed pillows for our shop:

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Since not all dogs are brown, I made a quick trip to the fabric store and found a good variety of dog fur looking prints. So, with that fabric, we’re ready for your custom orders!

Found object pillows
Found object pillows are my favorite to work on – take something you might have thrown away and re-purpose it into a unique pillow.  The center of this pillow was cut from an old typewriter cover that Janice wanted to throw away – it cleaned up beautifully and made a very unique and special pillow.

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And this old, hideous pillow-

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was transformed and modernized into this-

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New ideas
ethanallenblackchevronpillowChevrons are big now, and I want to try some variations of this pillow offered by Ethan Allen – perhaps burlap on black linen, or stenciling a bold color on painters cloth.

ethanallenblackpoempillowI also love this pillow, also offered by Ethan Allen.  I actually found a similar felt fabric (please don’t ask how much I paid for it), and will be making a few of these soon.

If there is pillow you would like to see us making, please let us know – we are always looking for new ideas and design inspirations!

New finds for the shop

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We had a beautiful, sunny weekend here in the Nations Capitol.  Weather predictions for Monday’s inauguration ceremonies- not as nice.

The beautiful weather seems to have brought out the shoppers as we had a good weekend at the shop.  A variety of items sold, as well as the two pieces of furniture pictured below (the two drawer table in front and the grey side table on the left).   We also sold the pineapple finial inside the birdcage.  Unfortunately, the wooden magnifying glass on the table seems to have disappeared.  Hmmmm.

furniture sold

Here are some new items we’ve acquired – some of which are already at the shop.

Painted bench with black, french theme, upholstered seat-

frenchy bench with black fabric

Fidelio Brewery NYC wooden beer box-

Fidelio Brewery NYC wooden beer boxFidelio Brewery wooden beer box closeup

Kodak Tourist camera and case.  (The case needs repair. Due to age the seams in the back have come apart).

kodak Tourist camera with case

Two paint by number dog prints-

paint by numbers dog pics

A set of four, very cute Beatrix Potter needlepoint pictures-

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Peter Rabbit and Mrs. Tittlemouse-

Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbitbeatrix potter Mrs Tittlemouse2

Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and Benjamin Bunny-

beatrix potter Mrs Tiggy-WinkleBeatrix Potter Benjamin Bunny

A creamer and sugar set with initials and a shaker-

silver pitcher and creamer with initialsshaker

Seth Thomas mantel clock (inards have been removed and replaced with a battery run set of clock hands).

seth & thomas clock

Rustic wooden letter “B” painted black-

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Large vintage wooden picnic basket-

picnic basket

Very large, and heavy, Robbins & Myers fan.  Needs rewiring.

fan 1fan closeup

Large magnifying glass with horn handle (2ft long)-

large magnifying glass with horn handle

Small copper pitcher-

brass pitcher (2)

One very beatup, well used scale-

kitchen scale

Victorian (Occupied Japan) Porcelain bowl with gold embellishments-

Victorian (Japan) porcelain bowl

Set of 5 bottles (opps, we have the 5th stopper.  Didn’t realize it was missing when taking the picture)-

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Fleur-de-lis

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And our best seller, the longitude / latitude pillows.   We dropped this oversized black one at the shop today, and while we were there, a very nice person bought a Del Ray one.

black Alexandria pillow and Spritle

If you are interested in anything we have shown, or have questions, please let us know.  Thank you for visiting.

Ballard Inspirations

One of our most popular posts for 2012 was when I used a beautiful (but expensive) Restoration Hardware table as inspiration for a less expensive reproduction.  While flipping through a Ballard Designs catalog, I was similarly inspired to create my own versions of a couple of their ideas.

My first project was to recreate these great painted wall letters-

Monogram Art

To make my version of the wall letters, I gathered two 12″ squares of artist’s canvas (sold in packs at Michaels), acrylic craft paint, masking tape, and 2 letters cut from freezer paper.  I painted the canvases all over with cream-colored paint and let them dry.

The letter is formed using a “reverse stencil technique”.  Since I wanted the border and letter to be cream-colored, I had to mask those areas off before applying the background color.  I used masking tape to mask off about 3/4″ around the edges for the border.  Then the back of the freezer paper letter (shown in black below) was sprayed with stencil adhesive and centered on the canvas.

bf_stencilPaint the background with the color of your choice – I picked out this lovely bluish green color, Provence, from our abundant supply of Annie Sloan chalk paint.  Since it was such a large expanse of color, I used a foam roller to apply a base layer of the paint, then used a stencil brush at the end to get more texture.  Make sure your stencil is firmly adhered to the canvas before using a roller brush!

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Once dry, I waxed the canvases first with a clear wax, then a light coat of dark wax to give them an aged and distressed look.

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They turned out really cute.  Now that I have the technique down, we will probably try bigger letters next time.
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My next project was to recreate this nautical-inspired cloche from the same catalog-Greenhouse Cloche

I had already bought this glass light fixture for about $4 at our local Goodwill.  It has  lovely bubbled glass and a hole with a metal disk.  Turned upside down, I felt it would be perfect for my cloche.
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Using some jute rope from Home Depot…

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…I cut the desired length of rope and made a Figure 8 knot, also known as a stopper knot, at one end.

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For those of you without a Coast Guard spouse, here’s how to make a Figure 8 knot-

BeFunky_figure 8 knot

The Figure 8 (or stopper) knot provides a large knot at the end of a rope that doesn’t slip once pulled tight.  Thread the unknotted end of the rope up through the hole in the glass, so the stopper knot is inside the cloche.  Then just tie a regular overhand knot snug against the (outside) of the glass.  Tie a second overhand knot near the end of the rope.  When cutting your rope, be sure to take into account the additional length needed for the three knots.

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And voila, a nautical-inspired cloche for less than $5!

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This is how I decorated the same cloche for the holidays-bf_cloche

We really have fun with these inspiration projects, and will post more in the future.  In the meantime, we’ll be keeping you up to date on new additions to our shop and on preparations for our second Luckett’s Spring Market in May.   Thanks for joining us!

Recent additions to the shop

December was a good month for us at the shop.  We are excited that a lot of our own creations sold as well as many carefully selected vintage items.  But we continue to shop and craft, and have added a number of new pieces.  Here are a few of them.

Refinished end table-

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the piece before paint-

two-tiered table with leather top before

Grey Ikat pillows-

grey Ikat pillows

Leather top end table-

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Cute folk art dog bookends-

scotty dog bookends

Large wall hanging with architectural element-

wall hanging with architectural element

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Vintage needlepoint tray-

needlepoint fox hunting tray

Two vintage black enamel trays-

black enamel trays

A few miscellaneous items-

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Our longitude / latitude pillows have been great sellers.  We sold all that we made as well as a few custom orders.  We’ll be making more.

pillows

The shop is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the months of January and February.  Please stop by and visit.

Happy New Year

Hope you all enjoyed your New Year’s Eve.  We wish you a wonderful, healthy and happy 2013.

Happy New YearSS

We thank all of you who followed us in 2012, and hope to have you stay tuned in 2013.

p.s. That is Spritle in the above picture, doing what he does best- sleeping that is (sans the bottle).

Feliz Navidad

Quite a few years ago, our family decided that all of our Christmas presents had to be homemade.  This was fun at first, but got to be stressful as sibling competition intensified and the presents got more sophisticated.  So last year, we added a twist – all presents had to relate to a specific country.  We each put the name of a country into a hat and Mom picked the country for Christmas gifts 2012.  This year’s country was Spain.  And to add an additional twist, the Christmas pot-luck had to have foods tied to Spain as well.

A few weeks before Christmas while perusing Pinterest, I found these flamenco dancers made from clothespins (see directions here).  Janice helped with making a set of them to use for package decorations.

bf_flamenco_girlsOne of them was featured in my Christmas card.

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Our family celebration started out with a Spanish feast.  Kathy made a “Spanish Tortilla” – kind of a potato/onion frittata considered by many to be the national dish of Spain – along with garlicly marinated Spanish olives.  Greg prepared an awesome shrimp/ham/chicken paella in his new paella pan – everyone had at least two servings of that.  Jim & Joanne brought crusty Portugese (that’s pretty close to  Spain!!) rolls filled with ham and cheese – a favorite Spanish lunch.  And of course, no meal is complete without Mom’s traditional Christmas green jello salad.

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Once the meal was over, it was time to open presents.  Here are the unique gifts we made for each other this year:

Beautiful placemats stenciled with a moorish style stencil (okay – it was a Martha Stewart stencil, but it looks moorish)-

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Candles made from cut-down wine bottles, and decorated with similar moorish style stencils-

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Buenas Nochas (“Good Night”) pillow cases-

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An Eldorado-inspired sparkly gold candle holder, accompanied with a poem written by Mom.  In Spanish legend, Eldorado was a legendary “Lost City of Gold”, that fascinated explorers since the days of the Spanish Conquistadors.

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Eldorado
by Zoe Winston Mattlin

There’s gold in Eldorado
The Spaniards used to say.
They took their lighted candles
To help them find the way.

They walked and trudged for days and nights,
But no man ever found
The wealth that legend promised
Was buried in the ground.

So listen not to myths you hear
To lure you far away –
The gold that glitters brightest
Can be found at home today.

And finally, red Trivets made from wine corks mounted in a picture frame.  Included was a poem written by Joanne about the origins of cork-

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We learned a lot about Spain this year, but amidst the good food and awesome gifts, we are making another modification to our homemade Christmas tradition for next year.  We picked another country (France), but this time, in addition to a French feast, we will only give each other French-inspired ornaments as gifts.  Hopefully, that will reduce some of the competitive holiday stress next year (Yeah, right!).  After a few years, we’ll all have a collection of handmade ornaments inspired by different countries around the world.

Hope you all had a wonderful Holiday, and we wish you a Happy New Year!