April 26, 2012

make it round and wrap it up

{with the help of some upholstery tacks}

I love round tables. I grew up eating all my meals on a brightly painted, round turquoise metal patio table, that was appropriately moved indoors and raised to the status of dining room table because of it's awesomeness.  It had the hole in the middle for the umbrella and everything, which we sometimes stuck candles in or accidentally dropped food through, depending. I remember the old green enamel light that hung above it, much like the antique ones I have now, and the corner bench we sat upon, upholstered with beautifully textured stripes and kilim pillows.

Building this table, I had it propped up in my dining room on a stool, with my normal table pushed aside to make space, it made me realize that I think I want a round table of my own. Some rooms just feel better with the smooth curve of such a centerpiece to soften the space, and I think my dining room is among them. It took me seeing it here to realize this.

Oh, and dear upholstery tacks, you rock. My clamps weren't even long enough to clamp around the  damn table to attach the trim, but you upholstery tacks did the job in their place! Glorified little brass nails of joy. Gotta love 'em.

April 23, 2012


{PART ONE: back to work}

It feels great to finally get back to business. Though I did have to kick myself to get moving, there was a day where I may have just sat here, stunned into stillness, hoping a little light would just point me in the right direction so I wouldn't have to think for myself. Where does one begin with a long list, dwindling materials, and an ever-shrinking space? It can be quite overwhelming. Mostly the space part.

So I picked something and began. Working will cure all that ails.

{PART TWO: let's get real}

...Well, most of what ails. What really cures all that ails is talking about it. I've had thoughts rattling around in my head for a while now, and I think many of you might also have some things to say on the subject. I want to breach the tricky and prickly topic that has been on my mind, and clearly on the mind of a few others too. It has to do with inspiration and imitation. There's simply no way I can say it any better than she did, so listen to her before you listen to me {and here too} but it's definitely a fine, fine line. And I think the world of today has made it way easier for those lines to be blurred: the fragile boundaries of copying. 

Now I don't want to freak anyone out if you think I'm referring to you, because chances are, if you think you might be guilty of this, you probably are NOT, especially if you are using inspiration as it's definition implies. I think the one's who we need to be aware of are the ones who believe they are not copying someones work when in fact they are. There's a lot of psychological denial in the works. When is it someones original idea? Who's to say. When is someones work too similar to someone else's? That's a tough call. 

All we can really ask is that we hold ourselves to a certain moral level.

Because unless it's horrifically blatant, you can't really stop it, even if it clearly crosses all the lines. It's all about what's on the inside: Ask yourself the question am I knowingly copying anyone's work or ideas when I make this? Hopefully the answer is no. If we start with ourselves maybe one day the standard will be raised again. The vengeful side of me has to be content with thinking to myself hopefully within their heart of hearts they know what they did. Is it more complicated than that? Totally! Have I ever copied someone else's idea? Sure! Maybe for my own home, for my own enjoyment, or to learn. But I'd never promote that. Do I want to paint all my doors black because he did and it looks fantastic? You bet I do! Do I want to make one of these super cool throws? Uh, yeah! Do I want to start making amazing cards and paintings about baseball because hers are so awesome? Heck-freaking-yes!

But will I? No. 

I didn't invent the damn table, and I sure as hell didn't invent using reclaimed wood. This, we know. I also didn't invent making one out of the other, but at a certain point, you put the two things together in the same way I do, then your getting into a sticky situation. Most people know this. Duh. So you ask, Hmmm, is she speaking from experience? And my answer is a sly maybe with a winky face. I suppose I wouldn't be rambling on about it if it weren't. Let's just say that someone may or may not have asked me if I had any copyrights on my table patterns {uh, yeah}. And there may or may not be a table or two out there that look quite a bit like one of my designs. I've spoken to many friends who have had run-in's with the copy-cat in worse situations than my own though. It's just something that comes with the territory; put your work out there, eventually it will be copied.

But it's sites like scrap hacker {I shake my fist at you!} and, yes, even Pinterest *gasp* that don't mean any harm but essentially promote the copying of others' ideas. The entire D.I.Y. trend is great and all {and you know damn well that I am all for picking up a hammer and getting it done} but it's not so great when people only rely on the images of others work to create. There should be limits. It's like the world has become one giant coloring book, extra praise given if you color within all the lines and with all the pre-labeled colors. What ever happened to just drawing on a blank piece of paper?

Moral level, y'all. Moral. Damn. Level.

Because for one, I'm not necessarily a D.I.Y blog. Take that with a grain of salt though. What I promote is the idea of building. What I stand for is the concept of creating with very little space {see image above of table top on kitchen floor}, of learning new materials, of overcoming stereotypes, of adoring power tools and wood-working just as much as the guy next door, as your dad, as your grandfather. What I stand for is finding humor in sexist comments at Home Depot, of building furniture that's stronger and prettier than guys who went to school for it {Hey, let me humor myself here!}. And I think most of you, if not almost every single one of you, totally gets that. I'm probably preaching to the choir. I promote the idea of building, but I don't promote replicating exactly what I build. Especially if you're gonna try and sell it. If you've got the urge to copy something, steer yourself in the right direction and copy this beauty instead.

So go dumpster diving, go build yourself a table, I'll help you figure it out if you've never done it before. Go splurge on a chop saw to use in your kitchen and explode saw dust all over your couch, go get a miter box and prop it up on your dining room table, or just continue building what you are building if you already know how. I'd like to believe that most artists are honest and know how to use inspiration properly, and that almost all of us learned how to site crap when we were writing fifteen-page art history papers in college. But even some adults still cheat sometimes, and maybe that's because they just haven't thrown out their old coloring books yet.

To quote a wise soul: Onward.


April 16, 2012

a year to the day

Today deserves a shout-out. Today, one year ago, we hit a bit of a milestone. This was way back when, as though time barely feels real and the memory is a happy one, of beginnings, of success, of possibilities. This, ultimately, is what started it. It was this day that I sat back and felt somewhere inside me that this is what I was going to do with my life. So, you darling 16th of April, you happened in a shady driveway in California with two happy girls, two hammers, a jar of little nails and a chop saw.

Let the table building begin, right here.

And because more photographs are inevitable, let's cap this happy memory off with another batch of images, because, yes indeed, we were once just a pile of wood in a driveway, and now, we are a place where people line up at the door to get in:

And I'm pretty damn happy about it.

April 9, 2012

to west again

{a sunset, a heavenly tart, and the general feelings of joy}

It's never a simple thing returning to a place where you've spent six months, thirteen hours a day, seven days a week, building, sweating, worrying, jumping with joy, happiness, exhaustion, excitement and pride. I've never dedicated more energy to anything in my life as I have to il vecchio. And now I'm back for a visit. And it's marvelous. And odd. And all sorts of things.  

Being back, I feel happy and useless. It's a funny thing. It's like my child that's grown up, and he only sorta needs me. I spent most of today photographing it and just sitting, observing. I ate the most incredible spinach and ricotta ravioli, an insane strawberry tart {three pieces!} and hung out with all the delightful new people working there that I've never met before. And after swiftly whisking away the two horrid ficus plants that had crept their way in without my watchful eyes to keep them out, I replaced them with those lovely rambling yellow roses from the backyard fence, I felt even better. It was spring, I was relaxing, I had just eaten a meal that had topped any I'd ever had, and I was watching this well-oiled-machine work wonders and enchant all who enter it.

Tables and headboards and commissions and emails, they will all just have to wait for now. This trip, my focus is on eating pasta.

April 2, 2012

what the sea helped me build

This story begins with a trip to the beach, months prior, along with a few exploration-loving friends who are just as inclined towards painfully dragging home heavy, dirty objects as I am. Well, this lovely trip resulted in the acquisition of two very awesome, half buried, semi-barnacle-ridden, red and white painted tide markers.

The second part to this tale is that one lovely man contacted me about building him a desk, so over he came to my ever-shrinking studio to see some pieces in person. He instantly noticed these tide markers, up against a wall, over in the corner, and asked can you incorporate one of those into the desk? Well, of course I can!

He preferred the more worn, faded tide marker, the magnificently silvered one with very little paint that is simply aged to perfection. An exquisite specimen, it is! But before I could begin, I had to plane it down to one inch thick from the back, as they are originally two inches thick and would not match the thickness of the top of the desk. I don't have a planer, so I took it to a local wood shop and asked if they could take it down an inch on the backside. I spent an hour de-nailing the damn thing, so I was really excited to get on my way and start building.

Well, I was admiring this wood shop's spaciousness {the opposite of what I have}, their light filled industrial windows, drooling over their wonderfully kept professional tools, not really paying attention. And -- of course -- BOOM. In three seconds the tide marker, in all it's old glory, was dead. Gone. Poof. Yep, the man had attempted to help me out, but instead he had planed down the FRONT. The front! The side with all the beautiful paint on it...

I was crushed. Devastated. Lovers of old wood, you may want to avert your eyes!

I know. Horrendous. So terrible, that I must admit, there may have been a wee bit of crying involved {hey, what can I say? At least I made it out of the woodshop filled with macho guys before bursting into tears}. I was dreading the email I would have to send that said Dear Sir, I have accidentally murdered your tide marker and you will never see it again. Yeah. Not fun. But lesson learned. Very, very learned, and in three parts:

One, be clearer.
Two, pay more attention.
Three, freaking do everything myself!

Ta-dah! Hello beautiful, precious, incredible Bosch planer that's so smooth and wonderful it's like shaving off butter. Butter I say! So ultimately, I lost an irreplaceable piece of wood in order to initially save myself a hundred and fifteen smackaroos. I should have just bought the damn planer in the first place.

So, onward! To less horrific parts of the story, like when little Shop Cat here helps me build the frame.

And here she is. The Tide Marker desk. A collaboration of ideas that made me put two things together I may not have thought of on my own. Such a lovely thing, learning and adapting, overcoming disasters, and realizing that even with that sadly destroyed piece of wood, it will still make a damn nice shelf.

April 1, 2012

shop cat update

Sometimes we people just gotta show pictures of our pets. I try to at least sprinkle those photographs into other posts about my work, but occasionally, well, you know how it goes. So here's the kitty update: this is what my adaptable little Shop Cat has taken up while I'm not even ten feet away using the chop saw. Is he bad-ass or what?

So forgive me my post about my cat. Here it is. It will never happen again. I swear.