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Archive for the ‘Junking and antiquing are wonderful therapy’ Category

Castle at Oban, County Argyll #2

Have you ever noticed the plethora of paintings that abound at garage sales, resale shops, and sometimes even in an antique mall?  These works, often created by people like you and me (home-grown, everyday artists as opposed to those who are world class or at least widely known) may be sold for anywhere from $15.00 to 75 cents by the artist himself or some family member who simply doesn’t have space (or an inclination) for “Grandma’s art”—or whatever else it might be.

I have purchased a lot of these works at rummages, and I’m always happy to make room for them in our home—even if it’s a bit of floor space against a cabinet or desk.  I marvel at the skill represented in “rummage art”, and always wonder why it’s up for grabs at a ridiculous price rather than adorning someone’s wall, or standing in the studio of its still-producing creator.

Perhaps in many of these cases, the artist just quit making art.  Somewhere along the line he or she lost interest in the process—while quite possibly thinking:  “I’ll never be “good enough”; so why bother?”

Most artists (whether well known or otherwise) agree that given an absolute passion for making art and access to good quality materials, anyone can be an artist!  Of course along with the passion and the materials, one must be willing to devote time—lots of time—to one’s chosen medium of expression.

Likewise, most painters agree that every artist encounters periods of self-doubt—days when nothing goes right in the studio, and times of incriminating flashbacks where we consider a previously accomplished piece far superior to anything we are producing at the moment.  In my life-long discipline and profession of writing, this experience is called:  “Writer’s Block”.

As a writer, what have I done with Writer’s Block?  I’ve gone right on writing.  Thus, with what we can call “Painter’s Block”, I am determined to go right on painting—regardless of whether or not my chimes (or anyone else’s) are ringing over the work in progress.  There are ways to deal with the dry spells, and sometimes even prevent them.  Here are a few:

1)  Periodically invest in new-to-you colors of paint, from different manufacturers.  There is nothing like squeezing a generous blob of fresh, gooey paint from a brand new tube onto one’s palette, to give a person a kick in the rear (reminiscent of the commercial for V-8 Juice®).

2)  On “down days”, generate prints from your computer file of your own scanned-in art.  I produce lots of 3″ x 5″ prints, and affix them to artist quality blank stationery by Strathmore—a fine company located right here the Fox River Valley Paper Kingdom of Wisconsin.  I rarely buy commercial greeting cards or stationery anymore, as I have a huge inventory of art to share.

3)  Try a different technique, paint medium, or variety of art.  Periodically I branch out into gouache, and get excited all over again with its possibilities in combo with transparent watercolors.  On days when the watercolors don’t flow the way I want them to, I may move to my collage table and get atrociously messy with acrylics paints and mediums plus my bins full of saved “everything under the sun”—from Oriental papers, cheesecloth, feathers, sequins, ribbons, family photos, dried flowers and leaves, symphony programs, theatre tickets, wedding invitations, old letters, and scraps of yarn—to dog hair.

Recently I ordered a set of Winsor & Newton water soluble oils.  This is tremendously exciting, as traditional oils are off-limits to my tetchy breathing apparatus.  Scientists have discovered a method of changing the molecular structure of the oil base (linseed oil, most likely) so that “oil paints” will dissolve in and clean up with water!  No turp, no toxic fumes.

4)  Take out a dud which you very fortunately neglected to file in your trash bin.  (Some flops are worth saving, for reworking.)  The above-pictured example was a really stressed out piece of Arches 140 lb. cold press paper—apparently “ruined” on both sides with failed attempts at a landscape.  I had one more go at vigorously scrubbing* the paper, removing all but faint tints of the paint.  (Arches holds up remarkably under such abuse—whereas some other brands of 140 lb. paper will not).

Due to the scrubbing, virtually all of the sizing was removed from the paper, creating a totally different effect from work on fresh, clean Arches cold press.  Without sizing, there is no resist and the paint soaks and soaks.  Therefore any paint containing sediment is apt to look more “sedimentary” with this process; the paint soaks away and the sediment remains—along with the scribble scrabbles of fiber which surface when you were destroy your paper.  Never mind all that.  Just keep plugging along, to see what will happen!

Not all my duds are as satisfying when reworked as this one, which is called “Castle at Oban”—because it recalls a trip my husband and I made to my ancestral home of Argyll.  Scrubbing the living daylights out of paper can create a total mess, but my Scottish Castle turned out to be kind of moody.  I like it.  It enabled me to work through Painter’s Block, and the very next day I created a work that truly delighted my heart.  Here it is:  Kingdom at Sea”.  I must have castles on the brain—and probably beautiful Scotland as well!

*A fantastic aid for scrubbing out paint, is the MR. CLEAN “Magic Eraser”®.  This unbelievable product removes stains and spots from all over the home, as well as on art paper.  My husband says, “It’s just a sponge.”  But I never knew a sponge could do what MR. CLEAN accomplishes with his “Magic Eraser”!

Kingdom at Sea

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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Last evening I had a BDN.  That’s “Bad Disc Night”—not “disc” as in computers, boom boxes, or DVD players, but discs in the lumbar region of my body.

Joe and I like to go to bed early with our books and George Winston.  George is not actually present in person in our home, but we have 3 and 1/2 hours of him on our IPOD mounted on a boom box.  We play all kinds of music in the daytime—from opera, to requiems, to symphonies, and Celtic harp.  But at night only that poet of the piano, George Winston, will do.

Last night even George, my achey/bakey (a flannel bag filled with feed corn and heated in the microwave), and my prescription pain medication were no help.  Bad discs!

I was studying a newly purchased book:  ART MAKING, COLLECTIONS & OBSESSIONS, by Lynne Perella.  This book, packed with pictures and inspiring text, contains “An Intimate Exploration of the Mixed-Media Work and Collections of 35 Artists.”

I read, viewed, and savored page after page of wonderfully funky stuff—shelves and boxes crammed full of tantalizing junk, plus art and unique groupings fashioned from junk by imaginative minds with skillful hands.  But even the delectable contents of my book, in tandem with the above-mentioned remedies, couldn’t tame those bothersome lumbar discs.

The book finally catapulted me out of bed and into the living room.  Suddenly I just had to create something—a little vignette on the coffee table by one of our sofas.  I gathered odds and ends, puttered, and voila:  the above table laden with some of my (many!) favorite things.

From left to right behind the platter of shells you will see:  the corners of two 1917 nature books with gorgeous watercolor illustrations given to me by a precious friend, Georgian, who married my Dad when he was a 95 year old widower; a watercolor sketch of Joe fishing, quickly done by me as I sat behind him in the boat while dipping my paintbrush in the lake; a Cheerios® mug containing not cereal, but rather a baby jade plant; and my watercolor rendition of a wolf cub howling his heart out.

On the mirrored platter you will find:  a variety of Atlantic Ocean shells and some coral; a 1920s crystal door knob; an elegant little notebook given to me by our daughter, Judy; a battery operated tea light in a green glass votive dish; a piece of tattered lace; and (left front) a diminutive, ornately framed photo of my two sisters when they were young—Ardis who was 8 years older than I, and Shirley, the sister who died before I was born.

After creating this scenario of beauty, and surveying my personal “art making” with much satisfaction, I went back to bed and also to sleep—raging discs notwithstanding,  

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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A few years back my KOVEL”S ANTIQUE COLLECTOR’S NEWSLETTER told of a study at the University of Iowa which indicated that collectors have damaged frontal lobes. 

Actually, I think the study focused on folks who save decades of empty cereal boxes, plastic refrigerator dishes, and stacks of newspapers.  Those of us who collect English teapots, Teddy bears, and vintage kitchen kitsch may be exempt from such a dire (and seemingly ridiculous) judgment.

Nonetheless, those of us who do enjoy our collections find the “damaged frontal lobe” diagnosis to be hilarious.  If we are “damaged”, so be it.  We are contented, adventuresome, and never bored!

Environment may play a part in our hobbies and activities, but genes are also involved.  My parents were collectors.  However, their tastes were a bit more limited (and perhaps more refined?) than mine.  I have taken the gene thing to a new level. 

One of my nephews and a daughter share the collector’s gene with me—as well as at least one granddaughter.  More grandchildren may surface as they become mature adults.  Even I was once a minimalist, until something snapped in my early thirties and I never looked back!  It takes maturity to discover exactly whom we are and what rings our chimes!

Another, similar gene has been passed down in my family:  the passion for creating way out, funky stuff.  The Brits, who love to turn verbs into adjectives, call people like us, “makey”.  Would the “experts” at the U. of Iowa determine that we eccentric makeys have damaged frontal lobes as well?  It seems that collecting and eclectic creating are related, at least in my experience!

The first truly makey person I know of in my family was my Aunt Lois, although there must have been pioneers before her.  Aunt Lois was born in 1900.   I’ve blogged about her before, and I probably will again as she was a true mover and shaker in my life.  I think of her nearly every day!

Lois’s funky spirit first went on display when her husband taught at Berea College in Kentucky, and she immersed herself in mountain arts and crafts.  From there, Lois and her husband moved to California.  Need I say more than that?

I only saw Lois a few times in my life, in the 1930s and 40s, when she would return to Wisconsin for a visit and breeze in wearing the most interesting hand-made costumes.  Maya Angelou has called such garb “get-ups”.  My Aunt Lois was the Queen of the Get-ups.

I found Lois to be inspiring and wonderful.—not only her shawls, capes, and hats, but her entire persona.  She was full of smiles and excited descriptions of whatever craft she was into at the time.  She eschewed patterns and rules in her art.  Lois was an original.  Although not a hippie in lifestyle, she had that free creative spirit which would explode in wild, wonderful color generations later—the very wild, wonderful color that permeates my life and home.

I’m pleased to carry the Lois gene, and I have a niece in Colorado who has the gene as well.  I don’t think my niece ever met Lois, but the makey stamp is there—plain as the words I’m keyboarding at this very moment.

Among many other skills, my niece is a decoupage artist.  Here is a sample of her work, photographed in her Western home:

It just occurred to me that the makey gene has been passed from aunt to niece, and then again from aunt to niece.  I wonder what Aunt Lois’s aunt was like!  I’d like to see an MRI image of her frontal lobes!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Indeed, it is SPRING!  My heart pulsates to the music of cardinels, redwings, robins, mourning doves, sandhill cranes, Canada geese, and other skyward signs of the season.

There is another sign—or rather a plethora of SIGNS—which soon will pop up in yards all over the little communities in our vicinity.  They may vary in wording—RUMMAGE SALE, GARAGE SALE, ESTATE SALE, YARD SALE, or whatever.  But these signs all mean the same thing:  absolute, abject BLISS!

I think some folks endowed with a sense of humor cackled when Joe and I moved to a condo last fall, after we had lived in fairly roomy houses for over fifty years of our marriage.  “HA,” these individuals reasoned.  “Now she’ll have to stop collecting!”

Well I am having the last “HA”.  We had scarcely unpacked our 280 moving cartons last fall when we discovered that we were smack dab in prime rummage country, and we dug right in—always coming home from a Saturday morning foray with one more thing to stick in a bare spot somewhere. 

Now we are relishing the realization that rummages will resume, any moment now.  There is alway room for more STUFF—somewhere, somehow!  I call it “uncondo-ing the condo”. 

Sometimes I don’t know which I enjoy most—the treasure hunts resulting in adding fresh decor to our home, or the raised eyebrows and eye rolling of those folks who “just don’t get it”.  When people unversed in the joy of junking visit our home, they look perplexed—even distressed. 

But most fun of all, are those few individuals who “do get it”.  They may be practically strangers in terms of longevitiy of friendship, but something snaps when they enter our home.  These kindred spirits move quietly from room to room, wall to wall, and corner to corner—studying every detail with intense interest.  Appreciation and a sense of freedom are written on their faces. 

Appreciative visitors experience THE GREAT AHA as they wander through our home as if it were a museum.  They know that, when it comes to interior decorating, “MORE IS MORE”. 

There is a nasty word out there, for those of us who love rummaging and junking.  We are called “hoarders”.  Never mind.  We are a mighty army of individuals who find beauty in things that the trendy folks cast off.  We are a brigade of non-materialistic “materialists” who value things for their sentimental implications, memories evoked, funki-ness, and unsung beauty rather than for their status or price.  You will not find the latest and most fashionable in our homes (or on our bodies, for that matter).  But you will find the most fun in our lives—as expressed in our homes and personalities. 

We are never bored—always alive to whatever we see, hear, smell, touch, or imagine.  We are an esoteric sorority and fraternity bonded by our enjoyment of stuff.  We share a priceless gift of creating beautiful arrangements comprised of whatever the trendy people throw away.

Maybe we collectors are hoarders:  hoarders of dreams, memories, and fun.  Hoarders of pizzazz and panache unearthed in everyday life!  Hoarders of quality of life!  But unlike the quintessential hoarder in fact and fiction, we junkers are hoarders who share!  We love to share our home, our stuff, and our joie de vie with whomever will slow down long enough to appreciate! 

So here’s to my “sisters and brothers” in JUNK:  Karen, Betty, Judy, Alicia, Sandy, Barbara, Julie, Andy, and countless others.  Here’s to author/photographer Mary Randolph Carter and her wonderful junk books which keep me vicariously and happily junking even in winter. 

ANY MOMENT NOW!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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Yesterday was the first day out of seven, that I didn’t have a fever which reached over 100 even though I kept beefing up with aspirin.  After lugging a cement sinus head around and feeling like something a cat might have barfed up, you can imagine the thrill of an outing!

We went for breakfast at a local restaurant—one of those owned by Greeks who know how to serve huge platters of food for a good price.  Joe and I always split a meal at these places.  Otherwise we’d leave feeling like we were going to blow up and we just might!

Then we went to THERAPYVILLE—that’s what I call one of my favorite stores:  the BEN FRANKLIN store in Oconomowoc.  This place is incredible for craft supplies, decorating stuff, creative gifts for all ages, you name it.  There I found:  YES! paste for all those collages I want to create; a set of goauche paints—new to me and wonderfully creamy to use; a funky mop brush for applying a wash on paper (the brush has a clear plastic handle with a pretty pink stripe); an angle shader—3/4″; and a set of wooden puzzles for our great-granddaughter, Brynn, who will be three years old in a few weeks.  (Brynn is passionate about puzzles.)

What a joy it was to get out!  Looking back, I recall many happy outings in the wake of sick spells.  One memory especially surfaces:  a 1962 recollection of going downtown in Milwaukee to the Shrine Circus with our first five children, after being incarcerated for ten days with what was then called the “Asian flu”.  I can close my eyes, and hear/see/smell that circus!  (And I can still taste the pop corn, even though we always brought our own to the circus.)

There are branches of THERAPYVILLE all around our home:  colorful coffee bistros, resale shops, used book stores, STEIN’S GARDEN CENTER—and charming antique shops in our villages and up our country lanes.  How delightful to come home with bounty.  The therapy lasts and serves me well, even when stuck indoors with a fever!

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

NOTE:  See that green stuff outside the window on the above photo?  It’s GRASS!  Coming soon!  🙂

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Yesterday my true love, Joe, and I had a “normal day”–if any day can ever be called that.  Our daughter is healing amazingly well from cardiac arrest, with her faculties intact.  She is scheduled to go home on Thursday, just 2 weeks after the crisis.

Joe and I celebrated by taking time out just for fun.  We ate at our favorite Mexican restaurant, enjoying the colorful decor and friendly service in the place along with our meaty/cheesy enchiladas. 

Then we proceded to an activity which delights both of us in different ways–a trip to an antique mall.  Joe and Baby Dylan  (our corgi) relaxed in the warm van, dozing and listening to Wisconsin Public Radio while I spent a portion of infinity browsing in the store.  Since WPR sets my teeth on edge and Joe gets weary in antique stores, this arrangement suits us both.

I find it tremendously theraputic, to wander amongst old things:  vintage clothing, 40s kitchen kitsch, Victorian glassware and china, primitive pots and enamelled kettles, ornate sterling silver and silverplate, faded pictures and tattered books, and old furniture–either aged and polished to perfection, or scarred and chipped.  (I like “scarred and chipped” most of all!)

The antique mall yielded 2 treasures:  a vintage sheep picture in a gorgeous old shabby chic frame, and a Royal Albert cup and saucer decorated with blossoms and REDWING BLACKBIRDS! 

Although I love English tea pots, cups, and saucers, I have a strange confession to make.  I am not inordinately fond of hot tea!  (Iced tea, whoopee and hooray!)  I collect a plethora of tea paraphernalia just for the aesthetics, while consuming huge quantities of full strength, leaded COFFEE every day.  

This morning I’m sipping rather than chug-a-lugging my coffee, from the Prince Albert redwing cup placed on its dainty saucer.  With redwing blackbirds at hand, can spring be far behind?

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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