In my VT shop, I have a wooden cartridge case from 1942 that held .30-caliber ammunition:
I absolutely love this box. The wood and metal, the history, the look, the smallness of it to store precious things…love, love, love. I’m a big fan of small spaces. Ever since my parents had a secret room built in the back of my closet growing up so I had a place of my own (THANK YOU) – a place to go to when the world seemed too overbearing and to write poetry on the angled drywall ceiling that I still read when I visit them – small spaces are my go-to when all is not well. It may sound odd, but it’s like a big, familiar hug to me. A safe zone. When I’m having a really bad day do this day, my husband will still find me sitting in a closet. He knows. And I have no shame. You do what you need to do on days like that. Y’all know what I’m talking about, even if we as females don’t typically talk about it.
When I met with a client/friend a few weeks ago to discuss the bookcase she wanted built for her house, she said the magic words: “You have free rein.”
I love building pieces for people I know. It helps to know someone’s personality, their interests, their life stories…and this dear friend’s life story had taken an unexpected turn.
As we talked about the project and caught up about life, we slowly walked our way around her neighborhood. I was in complete awe of her. She had just undergone major surgeries in her fight against cancer. Sore or not, she was determined to get some fresh air and sunshine, and I was happy to help her accomplish that.
Knowing that her husband hunts and she loves barn wood, I choose prize pieces of flooring from the old barn in Saugerties for her piece, which was inspired by my ammunition box – perfect for a hunter. Those barn wood planks were so beautiful in their natural state, they deserved to be showcased as is without stain, Waterlox, or poly. And the design of the bookcase modeled after the ammo box was something that developed like a Polaroid picture: blurry at first but then it came into focus. My friend was open to the idea of having a ‘hidden’ wall; since the bookcase was going to be facing the door but also the back of it would be facing her daughter’s bed, I wanted it to have a divider to make it look like it stopped, but in reality it was double-sided. I added a secret shelf on both sides for phones, electronics, personal items…and then left two shelves on each side for books.
When I build custom orders, I can’t help but think of/pray for the person I’m building the piece for as I work. Cheesy or not, love goes into each piece, whether I know a client or don’t. As an artist, you inevitably put fragments of your heart into each creation. As the finishing touches were put on the bookcase, I teared up. The bookcase is massive: 2x2x3. Perfect for someone to curl up with the shelving removed and be cocooned from the world. Totally unplanned (by me at least). A big, familiar hug.
All I want to keep doing is hug this friend when I see her, but with her surgeries, hugs must be painful, especially my bear hugs. (I’m a hugger. Love, love, love hugs. More than this ammo box.) To provide a piece for her home that hopefully brings her joy was an honor.
To my sweet friend, you inspire us all with your strength, honesty, courage, and faith. You are cherished. You are thought of daily and lifted up.
You are loved. Enjoy.