A couple of years ago, I switched from a satellite dish tv provider to a different provider. I got on the roof and dismantled the dish itself to return the parts of it that have to go back. What they don't want back is the dish itself. I get that...what would they do with it? Heavily faded and weathered oval shaped metal bowl of sorts. What was I going to do with it? It sat on the front porch for a while, half hidden behind a column and a bush. Wasn't sure if it could go into my recycle bin? I was sure it could be something more interesting...
At the same time, SmART (the art supply reuse store that I've mentioned before) had a donation of different sized wooden spools. Not the spools you'd wind thread or yarn on, but spools for wire and cable. The most obvious thing those big spools make you think of is a table. Sometimes the most obvious is perfect. Especially when it tells you what to do with that satellite dish. I selected a medium spool and had already purchased several bags of small different colored square tiles; they were waiting for me to find their inspiration. I was getting close.
First, I painted the rim of the dish in black gloss enamel. I had some in the basement so there wasn't a big design decision about that. Even though I knew I'd have to touch it up after tiling, that was better than having to paint it completely after tiling...I knew it would be almost impossible to have a clean edge between the grout and the metal.
Second, I filled the dish with concrete. This was trickier than I expected because of the curve of the dish. I needed to make it as flat as possible and fill it evenly about 1/4" from the top of the rim. It took some time, but I got pretty close. My approach was to slightly overfill it and use a damp, but very well rung out, sponge to level and smooth, removing small amounts of wet concrete with each pass. I let that set up for a few days.
I sorted the tiles and had everything set up on the island in my kitchen so I could work on it a little at a time. The inspiration came from my doodling habit. My notebook at work is filled with notes from meetings, and on the sides, top, and bottom, with doodles and faces. I'm not great with faces but my doodling is pretty darn good. Over the course of a week of so, I worked with one color at a time and free form laid the design. I used more concrete to grout the tiles once they were all set. The biggest cautionary piece of advice is to make double sure you have enough tile for a project! I was sure I had more than enough, however....you'll notice in the pictures that there are a few lighter gray tiles and a small detail of six salmon colored tiles. I ended up using the tiles I had set aside because they were odds and ends...yikes!
The spool didn't need much work to make the table base. I ran my rotary sander over it, brushed it with wood conditioner, stained and sealed it. Because the satellite dish is like a low bowl, I attached four small wood blocks on top of the spool to hold the satellite-dish-now-table-top steady. It now lives on my front porch. Voila!
I've been working on this post off and on for at least a week. I keep trying to figure out what my point is? Essentially, I'm writing a tribute to a chair. A big overstuffed club chair that has been with me for half of my life. When I started this post, I was thinking about living simply...the idea of it anyway. Thinking about it leads to an exercise in identifying the things...actual touchable, usable things...that are important and the things...passions, commitments, ideas...that are important. My chair hit the first list because it is a touchable, usable thing but it also kind of hit the second list because of its history...the memories...and its current function as my morning nest where I spend time quietly, being in touch with my passions, commitments and ideas.
This all started as I was listening to a conversation about minimalism on public radio. I like the idea of minimalism in theory. But to be honest, probably not in full expression. I like kitchen gadgets, chairs, and shoes--to name a few--too much to dive fully into a minimalist lifestyle. But moving in that direction can't be a bad thing. I have gone through periods of purging...post divorce, post kids going to college, Spring cleaning...and it's true that a 'lighter' house results in a feeling of being a lighter and less cluttered person. And, moving in the direction of a more simple life does help weed out what's important and what isn't.
The most obvious not very important things are shoes and clothes that I haven't worn recently and things that sit eternally in cabinets, drawers or basement storage. The things that seem important but really aren't are things like furniture (mostly chairs) that I like but don't use, kitchen gadgets in that category, and extra stashes of fabric and yarn. Things that really are important are my bicycle, sewing machine, jewelry bench, photographs that my father took and some other art, and the big club chair. Like I said, the club chair is a funny thing to be on the 'most important' list, but because of the history it holds, I'm not getting rid of it.
This chair currently lives in my kitchen. It was made sometime in the 70s, or maybe 60s. I rescued it off the front porch of our next door neighbors before they found time to haul it to the landfill. I was pregnant with my second...who is about to turn 28. Though well used even at that point, it was easy to see that it had good bones. I have made 5 or 6 slipcovers for it over the years and replaced the seat cushion twice. The stories it could tell. I held sleeping babies in that chair, read books to toddlers in that chair, gave it to our sweet yellow lab for a couple of years when he needed a soft place for his old hips to rest and cried my eyes out when he died in that chair. For the past several years, it's been my morning nest. It's where I drink coffee, write in my journal and welcome the day. It's where I search my brain for good ideas and creative energy.
The importance isn't in the physical being of chair of course--except that it is ridiculously comfortable--it's in all this other stuff. A place to remember, a place to be present, a place to dream. A place like that deserves a tribute. Whether it's a place among too many possessions or cushion on the floor of an otherwise empty room, everyone should have a place like that.
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1. hinduism, a word or formula, as from the Veda, chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer.
2. an often repeated word, formula, or phrase, often a truism.
Listen. Create. Sweat. Be kind. Give back. Be open. I think of these nine words as my personal mantra. Not exactly a philosophy of life, but the things at the this-is-who-I-want-to-be finish line. And the finish line is my carrot at the end of a stick...always moving toward it, but won't ever actually get there and be able to say, for example, "ok, I listened, that's done!"
These words emerged a few years ago when I needed to write something at work for a semi-regular email communication to our donors and community of supporters. It wasn't a fundraising communication, but a 'let's stay in touch' communication. We're an organization (Progress Inc. in Nashville, TN) that supports people who have disabilities to be their best selves. I started thinking about what being 'your best self' means for every person; what did it mean to me?
My best self is a combination of things that are so important to me that without them I would be an altered/lesser version of myself...create, sweat, give back...and things that I respect and aspire to but am absolutely not accomplished at yet...listen, be kind, be open. For me, these nine words cover a lot of ground; I want to write about each separately over the next few weeks. What I'm really curious about today though, are the words that define and challenge others...you? Share!
I think of this blog as primarily a place to talk about art...creative process...things that inspire...things that are beautiful. But sometimes life jumps in and holds all that hostage for a bit.
I'm a cat person. I've been a dog person too, but I've been a cat person since before I have fully formed memories. My mom told me that I would dress up our old tomcat in doll clothes and drive him around in a baby carriage when we lived out in the country in Kentucky. We moved to Indiana just before I turned three, so what this tells me is that my first creative endeavor was as a feline stylist. Apparently he would actually tolerate being costumed for a period of time and then he would disappear for a few days. Poor guy.
Cats have always been in my life. Growing up in Indiana, we had a cat (who then had kittens...when you're eight or nine, that is just so much fun) and at least one other who wandered in and adopted us with a big gash on his shoulder. My mom treated that gash about a dozen times before it finally healed.
Since living in Nashville...um, that would be 31 1/2 years...I've always had a cat. Or cats. When my oldest son was a freshman in high school, we had 3 dogs, 2 cats, 2 kids, and one mom. A friend of his was feeding a cat who was about 2 years old that had been dumped. It was October, starting to get cold, and the friend's parents said they could not adopt the cat. Caleb asked me several times if we could take the cat. Several times I said no, repeating the perfectly logical explanation that we had 3 dogs, 2 cats, 2 kids and one mom. I didn't think I was being unreasonable...I thought I was being sane. So, in Caleb's brilliant, adolescent, manipulative wisdom (knowing his mom so well), he decided that I should meet the cat I was saying no to. "Hey mom, this is Addie. I knew you'd at least want to meet him. I know we can't keep him, because, um, you said no. I'll figure something out...just don't know what it will be...."
After 15 years of being amused by Addie's quirkiness, left over from whatever happened to him in those first couple years of his life before he landed with us on Benson Street, and listening to his part-Siamese yowling, and realizing he would never fully accept the two little cat brothers that Caleb brought to me from Texas a few years ago (another story), and finding him sleeping on the corner of my bed in the winter, and purring like nothing you've ever heard when he got a head scratch or a back rub, I lost him this week. My other son, who went with me to our very kind and wise vet, kept reminding me that he was probably the equivalent of a human centenarian. It was time. He was ready. Doesn't make it easy though to say good bye.
Addie in 2013.
Hi, I'm Donna. Long time artisan/creative. Full time work in nonprofit world. Mother of two adult sons. Currently, also mother of two cats.
The patience project. Because patience is a virtue. And a creative challenge.
Don't mess with imperfection. How copper and heat speak for themselves.
Politics and Art wage war inside me
Write 100 words, take a nap and share your mantra
Tile and wood floor...this year's winter project...kitchen renovation