May 2, 2010

Creative Company


I guess it is official. I think it is out now. I am talking about the summer issue of Where Women Create. I received a couple of very nice emails from women who read my article in the magazine and I was so touched by their words. The issue was printed and mailed out earlier than I was told it would be, so it beat my new website, darn it. But you can peek at my "coming soon" page to get an idea of the new look. 

First, let me say that I don't think I have the words (really, no joking) I don't have the words to express what an honor it is to be in the company of such creative women, much less, on the cover of such a beautiful publication. I was truly, truly shocked when I got the email that told me I would be on the cover and even more shocked to be sitting in my office, looking at my computer screen seeing my own work space on the cover! I have to tell you, as dumb (and funny now that I think of it) as may this sound, I was so shocked the first time I saw the cover on my computer screen, I studied it for a moment, then I turned around in my chair to look at my big cabinet behind me. I have no clue why - it was as if it wasn't real or something. 

Now that my article is out and you can finally see my new office, I am excited to finally show you! I haven't been able to share it with you due it being saved for the publication. But before I go into more detail about my office and show you some before photos and give you a little "tour" on some personal items, I would like to take a moment to thank some people that I couldn't thank in my story. My original story for the article was much, much longer and I was required to cut the word count way down (I know, hard to believe, isn't it?). So, I wanted to take a moment and expand a little on my published story, if you will allow me.

First, I want to thank Jo Packham for giving me the honor of being on her beautiful publication's cover - I am still smiling from ear to ear when I look at it. Thank you Jo!

I want to thank Mary Engelbreit for taking a chance on me, way back when, and publishing my apartment in her wonderful magazine, Home Companion. Mary walked into my store after I was opened only seven days, and before I knew it, a year later, my apartment was on the cover of her magazine.Mary is always hosting workshops with Barbara Martin, and when those two team up, you can't go wrong. So, thank you Mary and Barbara for "getting me out there" into the public world for the very first time, so many years ago.

Before I moved into the apartment, it had not been lived in for months. It had been used as storage and was a rat trap. This is where I want to thank with all my heart Sherrie Whitehead. My very first friend I made in St. Louis. She is a fabulous artist and she is the one who did those great murals you see on the walls in the living room and the "mirror" painted in the entry and the walls in family area. She worked with me night and day, mixing and remixing colors until I got exactly what I wanted. Thank you Sherrie for your hard labor, lovely art work, but mainly your friendship and all the laughter you freely share with me!

With my article being cut short, my thanks to Sharon Derry of Secret Leaves was not included. She is what she called herself as my "shop girl" for so many years. Sharon entered my life at the perfect time and helped me in so many ways I can't count. The customers just loved her and every shop should be so lucky to a "shop girl" like Sharon. Her true talent is with paper. See for yourself on her website! Thank you Sharon for all the devotion but mainly for taking such good care of my customers and my shop when I couldn't be in two places at once.

I also want to thank Anthony, my ex, and my friend. He is the one who pushed me when I didn't think I was ready to be pushed and he is the one who believed that I was ready to go forward when I truly thought I wouldn't be ready for years. About two weeks before my store opened, I was sitting on the floor, totally exhausted, worried, broke, scared, and I was unwrapping some soaps, and started to cry. I cried out loud, "What am I doing?! I have never even worked in a store before! I have no idea what I am doing!" I was just so, so tired. Anthony was hanging up a chandelier, and without even coming down off the ladder, he just said very matter-of-factly, "When you are doing what God has planned for you, you can't fail. You are meant to do this." That's all he said. I thought about it for a moment, and in my gut, I knew he was right. I stopped crying, just kept unwrapping soaps, and wondered how I was going to pay rent next month. So, thank you Anthony for pushing me when I definitely did not think I was ready.

I also want to thank Debbie Dusenberry of Curious Sofa. I hope those of you who have read this is reading it again. This is the third time I have edited this section, as Blogger keeps knocking out this paragraph for some reason and I don't know why. I want to thank Debbie for befriending me after I opened my store only a few months. She has been a mentor and friend and has always encouraged me to see the value in my talents. She always let me bend her ear and she believed in all that I ventured out to do. Thank you Debbie!

I also want to thank all of my wonderful customers and readers. My customers and you readers, are the people who have kept me going all these years. Whether I am running a store, writing stories, designing a room, designing bedding, taking photos, or taking a devoted readers are always there to give me encouragement and a lift. Know that I never, ever take you for granted.

Finally, my most loving thanks goes to my husband, Randy. 

The beautiful work space you see on the cover of Where Women Create was actually his office that he lovingly turned over to me to do with as I wish. It is the very first place that I ever worked in that has windows, heat, air, and no joking! If only you could have seen his face as I clapped my hands together and announced that I couldn't wait to paint the floors! More on that later. Thank you honey for not only the work space, but for the huge space in your heart that you seem to have saved just for me.

Not that I meant for these "thank you's" to sound like the Academy Awards, but I feel it is important to let others know that there is no such thing as a "one-woman show." Without the help, love, work, and connections of many people who have crossed my path over the years, I truly believe the cover of Where Women Create would have never happened. I never want to lose sight of that and I want to make sure that my readers know how much gratitude I have.

Okay, now, on with the "back story" as I like to say. I would like to share some of my office with you in more detail, if I may. I would also like to share some before photos and a few behind the scenes shots....and some photos of some of my past work spaces. 

To start my "tour" I would like to start with my desk, or rather, Randy's desk. He didn't want me to paint it and we had no room for it anywhere else in the house.  I wasn't happy about not being allowed to paint it, but as the paint Gods smiled down on me, Randy had left a big pile of his papers on the desk for months and as he removed them, something gross was stuck on the bottom of them which stained right through the top of the desk....and so the paint Gods smiled down and Randy relented as the desk was "ruined" and I was now allowed to paint it! I picked out one of my favorite quotes to paint on the side and then distressed away. Actually, Randy now says he actually loves the desk.

When I announced I would paint the floor, Randy agreed to it since it was "my room." But he did go on to tell me that after he bought his house, he spent two weekends removing tar from the floor and renting a sander to bring up the wooden floors....I felt bad for about..... a second...but I couldn't get out my brushes quick enough. He was a good sport about it because the floors in that room did not match the hallway anyway as you can see a few photos below.

I masked out the floor and used three colors. They are all Ralph Lauren colors. I then aged down the floor to purposely make them looks dusty and a little dirty. Then I sealed it with three coats of poly urethane. I also painted the walls and aged them very lightly as well. The room is tiny - only 8 feet by 7 feet. I really needed to use every inch of the room for storage.




I found the drugstore cabinet at a local antique mall and had my eye on it for two years. It was on sale at almost 50% off! It almost fit...I had to cut the corner of the edge of the window sill off at an angle to make it fit, which kinda flipped out Randy a little...I reasoned that I was going to keep the little cut off corner piece and when we finally sell the house, I would glue it back and paint over it. I think at that moment, he realized he married someone who will do whatever it takes "to make it work" which makes him nervous....but he admits, it keeps him on his toes.


I painted my cabinet and loaded the shelves with some of my favorite mementos as well as useful storage items. I have a WWII photo of my father, the very first store sign I had written on a small platter when I had antique booths in Texas, some items from my European days and old pharmacy medicine dispenser bottle that I always loved and now I have a pharmacy cabinet to attach it to. On the opposite wall is a marble top shelf that is from Sweden. I love it. The marble is actually from an American cabinet that I placed on top of the shelves. The shelves are a natural gray and weigh a ton. Again, this piece fit just perfectly along this tiny wall and holds a lot of my files.


The dress you see in the corner, near the Swedish shelves, is yes, my wedding out fit, that I designed and the "EH" you see in the window next to it is from my store counter. My ex carved three of them out of wood and I painted them. When I sold the store counter, I popped them off and kept all of them. One in each window and one over the door. And speaking of the door...that door is the door from my apartment that was over my store. I first bought that door in St. Louis while visiting here from Texas and brought it back to Texas. Then when we realized we were going to move to St. Louis, I brought it back to St. Louis and replaced the apartment door with this beautiful old door. I designed the "frosted glass" which is actually frosted laminate at a cost of only $30. 


When Randy gave me his office, I really wanted to use my door for my office but it didn't fit. It was too costly to rebuild the entire door frame. I was really disappointed, but that was okay, I would make do. Then one day, while I was taping down the floor and deciding on wall colors, Randy called me up and asked if I would be home all day. When I told him I would, he sent a friend over who built an entire "fake" frame around the door jam so my antique door would fit. It was still costly, but Randy wanted me to have my door - which I absolutely love looking at it. It is probably the most favorite part of my office. When we move, we can take the door with us, pop off the fake door frame, and replace the original door again.


The curtain you see hanging next to the door is covering up the opening that use to lead to the kitchen. It is now covered on the kitchen side and on my office side, it will have small shelves to hold all of my photo disks. The curtain also came from my store apartment and I love looking at as well. The bathing beauty canvases on the wall are prints from the ten foot long original print that I had hanging in my store over my counter. I used to sell these prints in my store.

These organ pulls came from the very first Victorian organ that I painted and turned into a display case for my booth back in Texas. My ex was fixing it up and restoring it and I was painting an old stool near him. I stood next to the organ and wondered how it would look if it was painted. Back in those days, I only painted "ruined" furniture. This organ was in mint condition with solid walnut wood. I walked right over to the organ with my giant paint brush of white paint and slapped a huge splash of paint right across the entire side of it before I could stop myself. My ex gasps and just stared at me. I then said, "I guess, we will have to paint it now..." It was the best thing I ever did. From that moment, I no longer painted only "ruined furniture." The organ display case sold very quickly and I made several since then as well as desks from old organs. And I have painted everything from solid cherry wood, walnut, tiger oak, oak, and even - gasps - rose wood!  :-)  

The little metal drawer cabinet fits just perfectly in the nook area. I painted the drawer front with chalkboard paint so I can label the drawers as needed. The drawers hold a 8x11 reams of paper just perfectly and magazines. I covered the top with a St. Louis grain sack. Since I had so many European items in my office, I thought having something local would be nice. The old typewriter, I had for years and has been used all over my store and in displays. That little piece of paper with the "EH" on it is actually 10 years old! Ten years ago, I remember sitting up until 3AM and tearing up sheets of paper that I had printed tons of "EH's" on and soaking them in tea and then baking them in the oven. I have used these little pieces over and over again. It is hard to believe they are ten years old.


This French mannequin is one of my favorite girls and actually my first girl. Around her neck is my father's WWII compass as well as some mementos from friends. The Victorian jacket was my inspiration for my wedding outfit jacket.


Leaning against the desk are boot lasts that came from a flea-market in  Tongeren, Brussels. My brother, Bill and I were at a flea-market and he bought them as a surprise for me and I love them. They weigh a ton and little does he know they added to my much limited weight allowance (which he didn't understand back in those days) but I would never trade them for anything! 

Next to the boot lasts is an old metal and canvas mail cart that Randy bought for me as a surprise. I fell in love with it at a local antique store and he couldn't for the life of him understand why I would want a "rusty old cart" for my nice new office. He told me one day to go ahead go get it and when I did, it was already sold and gone. I came home disappointed, only to walk into my office (which was empty since I was painting it) and right in the center of the room sat the old mail cart! Inside the cart hold my very old European grain sacks and other items that I adore and never tire of looking at. The cart originally was going to be used to hold files, but it turned out that I had enough storage for my files so I could use it decoratively instead.


On my desk is an old silver gravy boat that holds my cards. If you don't have the issue of Where Women Create, I will repeat my story of the little bags. When I first began back in 1998, I couldn't afford professional printing. Back then, printers weren't nearly as good as they are now and I definitely did not own the best at that. I printed my own cards, and they would smear if held too long, so I the only solution I could come up with was to put them in these "ugly" brown paper bags that I would stamp with a design. Finally, the day came I could afford professional printing, and, yeah! no more ugly bags! Little did I know that the ladies at the antique malls went ballistic when I stopped using the little bags and wanted them I had to go back to using the bags...little did I know that the customers found them so cute. Now they are my signature. That is what I call a "happy accident" in forming my business identity. 

And now we are back around to my chair. That is my dining room chair that goes with my set. It is currently in storage since we have no room in our little home for my set. The little vintage blouse that hangs on the back, I would like to  tell you that I planned that all out, but to be perfectly honest, I had a bag of linens that I was digging through one day at my desk. I came across this, and just "hung" it on the back of the chair while I kept digging in the bag looking for something. I forgot it was on the chair and took the bag back down to the basement. When I returned, I saw that I left it behind, was too lazy to take it back downstairs again, and so I rearranged it on the chair and discovered it fit perfectly, and so it there hangs today. Another "happy accident!"


I hoped you enjoyed the tour of my office. I know I enjoyed writing about it to you from my desk. I would love to say that my office is always this neat, but not nearly so. Many times, I have fabric spread out, notes on the floor, or papers on the desk. But, I do like to keep it fairly neat only because I have worked in such horrible conditions for so long. Below are some photos of work spaces of the past:

This was my office for five years beneath my store. No heat, no air, no windows. Yes, that is a sewage pipe right next to me. I could hear flushing and water running. Above me, you can see the rafters. In the morning, I would find "crumbs" or "things" on my desk left from "critters" the night before. You are only seeing about a tenth of the wires, plugs, and fire hazard conditions. Something that most people don't know about me: I am deathly, deathly afraid of mice and rats. I mean, freakishly afraid. I have no idea where this fear comes from...but I have to tell you a story. One day, after working late into the wee hours of the morning, I was so tired, I went to bed for just a few hours and got up to go back down to my office to work. Sharon wasn't at work yet and as I went down my narrow steps (see below) and headed towards my desk, I stopped in my tracks as I saw a rat on its back on my desk, with maggots squirming on its belly and I screamed  really loud and ran up the stairs. I don't remember who, maybe it was Sharon who called the exterminator when she got in, but when he came, I went down the stairs behind him, right on his back, creeping behind him, and I was sort of yelling, "oh my god, oh my god..." over and over. I was freaking out. I stood about 10 feet away from my desk as he went towards the desk and as he got closer he said he didn't see anything...I stepped closer, saw the rat, jumped back and screamed, "oh my god! oh my god! oh my god!!!" over and over and pointed at the desk and yelled at the poor guy, "IT IS RIGHT THERE!!!" The guy jumped at my screaming and went back and looked and said he didn't see it and I went closer, saw it again, and pointed again and yelled, "IT IS RIGHT THERE!! THERE!! THERE!!" He looked at me like I was on acid. I was covering my eyes because I couldn't look at the maggots moving around and I am wondering, what is wrong with this guy????  In the mean time, Sharon is wondering what the hell is going on down in the basement. The guy finally calmed me down enough to get me to go closer to my desk, and as I got closer, covering my eyes as he pushed me towards the desk, I peeked through my fingers and saw that I was looking at a small, tan, shag carpet sample, that had some threads that were moving from the fan that I had turned on the night before!  The guy looked at me like I was a freak. I don't blame him. I was just so tired, so freaked out about working down there for five years, I was just losing it! But I laugh about it now...When I look back at these photos, I shake my head and wonder how I managed.

This was my workshop area right by my "office" area. It must be summer because my hair is sweaty. I burned up in the summer and froze and wore parkas in the winter. I remember many nights working late because it was so cold my items took forever to dry. The building was so old and so large, it was impossible to heat. The landlord from hell would never do anything about it.

I almost forgot about these stairs. These are the stairs that I took every single day from my store down to my office. I went up and down them about 100 times a day some days. They were very narrow and not to code. When carrying VERY expensive bolts of fabric, I had to be extra careful not to let them touch the walls, the wires, the floor, or snag or it could mess it up the material. Bolts of fabric are very heavy and all you want to do is drag it... not carry it carefully!

It feels good to be clean, warm, dry, and in sunlight....

I just wanted to close and say again how fortunate I feel to be a part of such a great publication and in the company of such talented women. Please take a moment to enjoy their stories....I know I will.

Now back to getting busy - lots going on over here...but mainly hunting down photos to finish up my website. My website is only a start of other things to come. I am excited that my site is in the final stages of going up and from there, I will only add to it. The nice thing? I can work late into the hours and never hear anything above me and never find any "crumbs" on my desk left over from any critters the next morning...unless Randy has been checking his email at my desk while he munches on chips, that is. But he is a good critter....who is welcomed in my office any time. 

Thank you for visiting with me and until next time, think about what Howard Ikemoto, artist and professor once told this story: 

"When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college-that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget?" Howard Ikemoto.

Let's not ever forget how to create....

From my house to your house,

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