With a little patience and the right materials, you can turn any old window into an antique mirror:
With a little patience and the right materials, you can turn any old window into an antique mirror:
Happy New Year, friends! I know; I have been M.I.A. for most of the summer and fall (and now winter…where does the time go?!). Besides having the most busy show year ever with events almost every weekend in various states, I was pouring every last bit of energy, time and resources into a special project in Vermont.
For years, I have dreamt of owning and operating a bed and breakfast. I bought the books. Researched. Traveled to the Caribbean, looking at properties to invest in and calculated the risks. And I then landed in the place that always felt like home; the one place in 38 years that brought me peace and healing. The place that never failed to foster my creativity, no matter where I was in life. This is where Nature Calls, LLC was birthed years ago. Where it grew. Where it morphed in an entirely different direction this past year. And for once in my life, I didn’t overthink it. I just trusted the process and went along with it with blind faith. I was stripped down to the core, and now God is rebuilding what was left after being refined to that painful extent.
For those of you who worry about my isolating tendencies, trust me. This whole experience has taught me that (wo)man cannot live on communing with feral animals alone. As much as I loved Diesel and have been trying to domesticate the other chipmunks, spastic red squirrels, and innocent-eyed juncos, I know. I. Know. It may have taken longer than you thought fitting, but…may I gently remind you that people progress in timeframes applicable to their own healing journeys. I just hope that you extend grace, not just to me, but to others in your life whom you may feel should be further advanced on their journeys than they may be. You can’t rush the process. Leave that timing up to God. But if God is tugging at your heart, hopefully you’ll be there when those loved ones emerge on the other end in whatever condition they may be in. That’s all they need. Just for someone to be there. In the trenches. Letting them know they aren’t fighting the war alone, even if you don’t understand their battle.
Where have I been for most of 2017? Creating the largest work of art I’ve ever made. Nestled on the side of a mountain in Vermont, lovingly creating this space while wrestling with learning to love myself, and by the grace of God, through it all, continually taking another step in recovery and trying to create something beautiful from the ashes. Ironically, or not so much to my Lord, Easter Day of 2018, I will celebrate 1 year of total recovery from my eating disorder, something I haven’t known since 2000. 18 years. Something that almost killed me too many times to mention. The thought of experiencing that freedom each day free makes me well up. Driving all over upstate NY and VT to reclaim the precious barn wood and shiplap that generous people were offering and then repurposing it into functional walls and ceilings while hearing exceptional life stories from those who donated those materials and the lesson of “I create all things new” echoing in my ears. (EVERYONE has a story worth hearing if we just give people a chance…) Developing relationships with people in this small town to find trustworthy tradesmen whose work ethic matched my own and whose craftsmanship brought me to tears. Where locals supported my dream and showed up, knowing this girl with a big dream needed a hand when she was too proud to ask for the help. Where friends from back home rightfully questioned and challenged what the HECK I was doing with my time and resources, continuously keeping me in check. And where my loving Lord kept quietly affirming in the chaos, “I have you. I’m holding you so tight. Trust in me. Trust the process. I. LOVE. YOU. Stop doubting that. STOP.”
This cabin has been in my family for years. This town is the town where our family grew up vacationing together. My parents had enough money when they were first married to either buy a pop tent or go out for dinner; I am thankful they chose the tent. That decision led to family vacations at the campground instead of trips to Disney, and it instilled something in me that I will treasure until I leave this earth. “There is pleasure in the pathless woods…” I learned early on that God wasn’t confined to the four walls of a church structure; God was living and breathing in the very canvas that He created. And from a young age, I learned that God spoke most to me when I was in His creation…just him. Me. Nature.
And now I have the opportunity to share this beloved piece of earth with others. That’s why this space means so much to me. I was given the opportunity to transform an unused space into something that others could experience, and hopefully, love. I poured my heart and soul into this living gallery in a way that I never built, designed, or created before. I collaborated with Vagabond Craftworks, a highly talented, rustic industrial craftsman who blended my reclaimed, rustic style with his high-end, Manhattan loft-meets-Montana cabin design.
And it miraculously worked.
Every slab and piece of wood was picked in person, the outcome of scouting out craigslist leads and discovering precious treasures. Every concept was poured over. Every design thought out for the comfort and happiness of future guests and the integrity of our work. Every discarded barn wood board and shiplap scrap from the dump, repurposed and given new life and turned into something beautiful. And I couldn’t be more happy or proud of the final product.
“Escape” is truly that. An escape.
You know you are happy with something when you want to live in that space.
The amazing photography is courtesy of Maya Rafie (you can follow her at @mayarafie on Instagram! She is an incredibly talented artist based out of Boston). The finished product is something that far exceeded my initial vision. Rustic meets industrial. Manhattan meets VT. It’s a one-of-a-kind living art gallery, available for people to enjoy if they need to get away from the busyness and chaos of life for awhile.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds. But I trust the process. And right now, I’m the happy host of an air bnb that is bringing a small amount of joy to others and a great amount of joy and healing to myself. There is so much to do in every season if you choose to venture down the mountain, away from “Escape.” But if you need a place to hole up for a bit of time alone or with a significant other, this has it all as well.
Unwind. Relax. Escape.
I’m thankful beyond words that I’m booked every weekend through the end of February. I love this place, and love sharing the joys of it with others. To book your “Escape,” please visit https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/20818283?location=arlington%2C%20vt&s=sWpNLqMR. Check out the discounted weekday rates if you are looking to come skiing/boarding!
I look forward to hosting you! Thanks for embarking on this journey with me.
I finished up work on my first tiny house this past week. What a fun space! Clients I had met at a show over the summer hired me to create pieces for their new tiny house on a creek in upstate NY.
Given how obsessed I am with the tiny house movement and the amazing location I was working at, well…This. Was. Awesome.
By far, my favorite project was the birch railing for the loft/sleeping area. Not only did it give me an excuse to use my lumberjack tool (a.k.a. “Big Red”), but I got to design and build something I had never built before out of local birch from Arlington, VT.
I went back to tie in the birch railing with birch joist accents.
Sorry for dropping off recently. I am struggling to write, to be honest. It’s a lot easier to just upload a picture of something I make on Instagram and choose a hashtag (says the woman who swore off Instagram for years). Most of my days and nights these past months have been devoted to working on a huge art piece (more details on that next) and I’m only now resurfacing.
But in the meantime, this was a project I completed last week. Took an antique warehouse cart that my friend found for me, ripped off the rotten planks on the cart, treated the sides and poles, gave the iron a coat of matte black paint, and then build a tabletop and new shelf out of barn wood from that precious dairy farmer in the Adirondacks who so graciously let me come and get as much barn wood as I wanted this past year after his 200-year old barn came down in a storm.
It’s been a gut-wrenching ten days since losing one of my best friends. After returning from her funeral in Texas, I was thankful to have this project to distract me. As people gather around tables tomorrow with family and friends, it’s a reminder to give thanks for the people you love/loved and who love/have loved you, whether there are empty chairs at the table or your “cup runneth over.” Because love is a choice. What a great gift to have been loved by this friend and to have also loved a friend so deeply in my lifetime. We had gone through hell and back together, and both knew we weren’t easy to love in many of those valleys, but we did so unconditionally. We never hesitated telling each other, “I love you,” no matter how hurt or broken or vulnerable or upset we felt. Those ended up being our last words to each other.
These words from Louise Erdrich meant a lot to her:
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. Give love and thanks and laughter in abundance…not just tomorrow, but every day.
Thankful for each of you!
I tried not to throw a tantrum when I walked into Home Depot a month ago and saw Christmas decorations. Yes, I love Christmas; it’s my absolute favorite holiday for many reasons. But I also like Thanksgiving and adore fall and don’t like to blow past those times of the year in lieu to get to my favorite season. I like my seasons and holidays compartmentalized. (I may or may not have some OCD tendencies…)
Which is why I usually don’t bring holiday items to the summer shows. But one of my friends told me two years ago that she looks for Christmas items even at summer shows, so with her voice in my head, I started to bring holiday decor to every show. It started with the Wood Peeps. And she was right. People wanted holiday stuff all year long. Go figure.
So then it morphed into something bigger: the green mountain sled. There’s so much that I love about these sleds. I found something to do with that beautiful old, red, barn wood from the green mountains of Vermont; no two sleds are alike; you can use them for multiple seasons/holidays. AND the small ones are great for the wood peeps.
Each sled is made 100% from reclaimed wood: barn wood, pallet slats, barrel staves, birch logs, and more…
Available at Vine & Branches Gallery (Bennington, VT) and via custom order!
Prices range from $25 for a small sled to $79 for a large one. Can be ordered with white lights and Vermont greenery.
It’s not uncommon for tractors to drive up and down the mountain. But for a tractor to come right up to me with an old Orvis Adirondack fish chair in its bucket, then drop the chair in front of me like an oversized red dog presenting me with a toy, well…that was a first. And an inspiration.
My neighbor had that chair for a long time and literally loved it to pieces. Dilapidated as it was, it survived its descent to my driveway.
“I thought this could be a prototype for you!” She said before heading back up.
Immediately I knew that I would be making one of these for her to replace the one she parted with. She’s looked out for me and been an incredible neighbor this past year; a fish chair was a good start at a thank you to her for her selflessness. I’ve never made a fish chair before. Wanting it to be entirely out of reclaimed wood, I went on a hunt around the shop and barn to see if I had enough lumber to build one of these.
OH HAPPY DAY. I had enough to build two. A fish chair for her, and a chair for her wife, a yoga instructor in a nearby town.
My take on the fish chair resembles a barracuda more than a Battenkill trout, but…
I’m not big on following step-by-step directions. Even IKEA instructions frustrate me. (Yeah, they’re all pictures. I know.) Learning to build these was the exact way my brain works best. Study something tangible, and then try it out for myself without any plan of my own or paper in front of me. I’ll never be a fine carpenter because of this (and, well, because of my aversion to all things mathematical, but that’s a different story). But for how my brain is wired and the line of work I do, this works.
In the middle of the craziness with shows and constant traveling these past few months, doing a fun build was downright…fun. And reminded me why I love doing what I do.
Some customers have asked about custom chairs for the spring. Besides traditional Adirondack chairs, pallet chairs and barrel stave chairs, I’m happy to make any kind of chair you’d like!
One. Last. Show.
I ran two full marathons in my life: sheer euphoria and pure hell wrapped up in a not-so-tidy 26.2 mile package. This show season reminds me of the months of training for those and then running the races. Except this time, I’m limping across the finish line.
The weather has made this show season particularly rough. That, coupled with having the bright idea of signing up for shows every weekend for two months straight has left me pretty weary. I know that when I don’t listen to God and pump the breaks on my life, He tends to step in and intervene. That seems to be the case this week.
Wind gusts from yet another tropical storm whipped through Harvest Fest at Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks last weekend, causing huge pallet racks to break free from their zip tied places on the grid wall and sail in the direction that gravity deemed. I just happened to be sitting under the ones that took flight and now have the bruised imprint of two 3-foot pallet racks across my back and a jacked up left arm where another piece of agony art went careening into my unsuspecting wrist.
While unpacking my trailer yesterday morning, a groggy bee rallied one last time to sting me multiple times in the left palm.
I then removed a tote from the trailer, and, forgetting it had poured the night before and my tarp has a hole in it, poured a gallon of water that had collected on the tote’s lid down the front of me until it pooled in my boots.
During life seasons like the one I’ve been in recently, it would be so easy to sullenly sit in a corner, licking my wounds from the ramifications of doing life my way. I have to remind myself to see the joy in each day and be thankful for the little things, even while in the throes of refinement. That my boots will dry. That I’m not allergic to bees. That I’ve had the chance to travel around the east coast and meet some incredibly talented and awesome people. That while I have this weird protrusion on my arm, I didn’t break it. That the pallet rack missed my neck by a few inches. That I’ve had this huge internal growth spurt at the age of 38.
And instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you find yourself smiling at the poignant encounters with others. Like chatting with a 6-year old girl at your booth about school and then giving her a pencil holder full of pencils, to which she responds by rooting through her bag of black and yellow eggs that hold prizes from an egg hunt, cracks one open, and hands me this glittery plastic ring in exchange:
Or how antique windows and doors keep showing up on my driveway from a kind-hearted neighbor who knows they are treasures to me and lugs them over from all around the area on my behalf.
Or how friends save random pieces of this or that for me to incorporate into a pieces, like this wine table that was inspired by the small metal glass holder you see underneath the 167-year old barn wood table top. Another friend has been on the hunt for sewing machine bases for me, so when I got this antique Singer sewing machine table from him (complete with the sewing machine), I took it apart, painted the base, added a barn wood top along with wine bottle racks I’ve been saving for the right piece, and added the glass holder underneath. It’s like a mini wine bar. Perfect for this last show. It rolls. And it won’t fall off grid wall. And it’s a reminder to celebrate the end of a growth season on Monday, no matter what this weekend holds.
Find the joy in the little things.
(I have two of these wine tables for sale; if you are interested in one, please let me know before Thursday evening as they’ll be road tripping with me to Oyster Bay!)