Afghans, Clocks and Owls… Oh My!

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“Junk is the ideal product…the ultimate merchandise.  No sales talk necessary…” –William S. Burroughs

Here is a little peek at some of the treasures I’ve scooped up at the thrift stores lately.  Perhaps junk to some…. but I think they’re simply divine!  I couldn’t resist the colors in this afghan, and the key holder was just too cute.  The clock has an 80’s vibe that looks good in my craft room along with the vintage sewing book.  Finally, have you ever seen such an enormous owl necklace?  I hope to be bold enough to wear it!  I hope your junking trips have been fruitful!  Happy Labor Day and happy thrifting!

Book Review: “A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life”

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“At the worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived.”    –Dame Rose Macaulay (1881-1958)

A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life:  How to live creatively with collections, clutter, work, kids, pets, art, etc… and stop worrying about everything being perfectly in its place. (Rizzoli New York)                                     by Mary Randolph Carter  

Have you ever read a book, and thought that perhaps it was written specifically for you?  This lovely book is likely to strike a chord with many of us who live with: collections, memories, children, pets, clutter, work and lots of creativity. Mary Randolph Carter, author of several books dedicated to “junk,”  has written a book that provides much-needed affirmation for those of us who experience a love-hate relationship with our houses.  We hate the burden of keeping them clean and tidy all of the time, but we love to bring lovely things into them, and fill them with the items that speak to us and bring us joy.  Somehow these two desires create a conflict.  Carter’s solution?  Give up the idea that our houses have to be perfect, and simply live in them in a way that brings comfort and joy not only to you, but perhaps more surprisingly, your guests as well!

Seriously, think about the houses you enjoy visiting.  Are they the stark homes in which you feel nervous to set foot inside?  The homes where not a picture frame or throw pillow is out of place?  If you’re like me, you much prefer your friend’s house where you can admire the refrigerator filled with family pictures, paw through the stack of books on the ottoman, tuck your feet under you in a cushy chair, and delight in the creative vignette of collected whimsical items on the mantel.  A little dust?  Who cares.  A friendly dog giving you a friendly greeting?  All the better!

This book is a treasure-trove of lovely photography that gives readers a glimpse into the collected items and lovingly “lived-in” homes of not only the author, but a host of other diverse folks.  These are the kind of homes you want to sneak into and peer into every nook and cranny admiring the chipped vases, distressed picture frames, frayed quilts and stacks of books.  (Take a look at the picture on page 114-115 and you’ll see what I mean!) Truthfully, when I look at the homes featured in many decorating magazines, I say to myself, “No way!  Where’s all of there STUFF?”

Take Away’s:

1.  There really are other people out there who have a compulsion to bring something home from the side of the road or from a junk shop.  They don’t NEED this item, they just love it for some unexplainable reason, and it makes them happy to look at it.

2.  For many beauty lies in the imperfect and the informal.

3.  It’s okay to embrace your home less with the “housekeeper’s broom and more with the homemaker’s heart.”

5.  On page 131, Carter shares her practice of keeping a personal welcome book… a place for friends to jot down their memories of visiting your home.  This idea stuck with me and it is my intention to purchase a simple blank book and some colored pens to encourage my guests to chronicle their time at our cabin in the mountains.  Isn’t that a fun, simple idea?

6.  There’s a fine-line between living with our treasures and being on the next episode of Hoarders.  Be mindful that you don’t cross the line!

7.  It’s okay to have a “purposeless room!”

Favorite Quotes:

“At times you may think you’re crazy to own all these things or else brilliant for finding these treasures so many other eyes missed!”— Liza Carter Norton (p. 27)

“Clutter is the poetry of our homes.  It is a fingerprint of an experience, a souvenir of our childhoods, an expression of our humor, a collection of things that we just can’t live without… Embrace it, make peace with it, take control of it, share it, reorganize it, and when the time seems right, bid it farewell.” (p. 51)

“Never stop to think, “Do I have a place for this?” (p. 259)

Happy Reading! I hope you will pick up a copy of Carter’s book soon.  I found mine at my local library, of course!  Sit down in a comfortable chair with a glass of ice-tea  (Be sure to bring the sticky-notes so you can mark all of the pictures and quotes you will want to re-visit!)  and spend a few quiet hours honoring your creative, imperfect home.  After all, you can dust later!  (You might also like my review of Dottie Angel: the Peachy Crafty World of Tif Fussellhttps://kerriemore.com/2011/10/06/dottie/)

Aside:  On more than one occasion, I have mentioned my favorite magazine Where Women Create created by Jo Packham –  which is a quarterly gallery showcasing the creative spaces of a diverse group of artists.  If you are a fan of this publication, you will know what I mean when I say you want to slow down and savor each picture, admiring each lovely item in these creative spaces.  I felt the same way about Carter’s book. On more than one occasion,  I would put the book right up close to my nose to try to figure out what lovely item was tucked on the corner of a shelf or under a table.  That’s how I enjoy each lovely issue of “Where Women Create”!

(Photo CreditsA Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life by Mary Randolph Carter published by Rizzoli New York.)

Simple “Pots of Gold”

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‘Tis better by far at the rainbows end to find not a pot of gold but the heart of a friend.’ — Irish saying

I hope you will enjoy a peek at my latest thrifty finds.  I don’t often see cute, vintage St. Patrick’s Day treasures, so this was a true “pot-of-gold” that made my day. I also love to gather up vintage books with retro graphics such as this little story-book and the Reader’s Digest Condensed edition peeking out from below.  They are so much fun to use in decorating because of their great colors and patterns.

St. Patrick’s Day is about celebrating a few little fun things:  a bright-green scarf, a tasty plate of corned-beef and cabbage, and perhaps the lucky little “pots-of-gold” in your life: a cozy home,  a shelf full of good books, a hot mug of tea and a faithful companion with whom to share the blessings.  Wishing you nothing but luck this week and all the year through.

McCoy, Red Wing, Haeger, Oh My!

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“The collector is an artist in his own way, by the way he puts things together. You can read a person’s soul from their collection.”
– Ayers Tarantino, Art and Antiques, Dec 2008

Confession time….. I’m obsessed!  With pottery.  Specifically white pottery.  Several years ago, I picked up my first piece at a thrift store for a couple of bucks.  I brought it home and looked up the name on the bottom, McCoy.  I was then very, very happy at my good find, as it turns out, McCoy is a very collectible brand!   Well, since then, I have been unable to resist these creamy vases of beauty, and I have amassed quite a collection.  I absolutely adore the way they look together, and don’t mind filling-in with a piece that bears absolutely no name, but looks as if it may have been lovingly painted by someone’s great-aunt and fired at the local ceramic shop.  I also love little surprises, like my latest find at the thrift store labeled: Frank Moreno.  I’ve looked it up, and it appears he is someone of note, and his pieces are sold in galleries.  I don’t really care about making money on my finds, I just enjoy the serendipity of finding something unique for a good price and adding to my happy little (okay, large) collection.  That first piece, however, is still my favorite, and I look at it as the beginning of a beautiful relationship…. with pottery.

Some of my favorite brands:  McCoy, Haeger, Red Wing, Hull, California, USA, Franciscan, Bauer…. Although, who really cares what name is on the bottom if you really love it!

Christmas: Thrift Store Style

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“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” — Edith Sitwell

I don’t really have a lot of space in my house for decorations, so I enjoy creating small “vignettes” for each season.  This tends to keep my small decorations clustered, so they have more of an impact.  Yesterday, I made a fruitful stop at my favorite thrift store and hit pay dirt.  First of all, I have a huge addiction to cream pottery from manufacturers such as California, USA, McCoy, and Haeger.  My thrift store has created a new room for antiques and collectibles, and has begun to price these items somewhat higher.  However, they missed this gem…. a Haeger cream planter.  I found it with the other common “junk” for $2.50.  There’s a small crack on one corner, but hey, turn it around, and no one knows!  The next find was the cute little round, green vase/planter.  I’m a sucker for the glassware! The small wooden tray was nothing special alone on the shelf, but it’s the perfect place to cluster my treasures.   Then there was a great box of vintage Christmas tree decorations, so I pulled out this green one for my display.  Oh, the finds continue…. I found a small bag of blocks, and lo-and-behold “NOEL!”   (I also picked-up a great old wooden box of dominoes – which is prime for another project!)  The snowmen were a previous years’ gift to myself, and they make my display come to life.  I love it when I come out of the thrift store with so many wonderful treasures!

Perfectly Pumpkin

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“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”   -Henry David Thoreau 

I’ve had a lot of fun lately, enjoying some fruitful thrifting, some bountiful fall blooms in the garden, and some happy crafting for Halloween.  First of all, let me say that two years ago, when I toted home a small Chinese Lantern plant from my farmer’s market, I had no idea that it would spread so eagerly.  I has literally taken over my front flower garden.  So, what’s a crafty girl to do?  Find a way to use them for fun fall decorating, and to make cute decorations to give away! I found this cute idea in the Martha Stewart magazine for turning Chinese Lantern pods into small pumpkin favors.  I’ve also had some exceptional luck at the thrift store lately.  The orange pot in the background is McCoy (I’m kind of a pottery snob!) and the pumpkin is a vintage Haeger planter.  I found these things just hiding among all of the other Halloween “crappity-crap.” (thanks for the term, Dottie Angel, it’s perfect!)  Fall decorating is my favorite, and I only wish the season wasn’t so short.  Right now I’m pressing some leaves for another crafty idea I saw on Martha’s website… I’ll be sure to share the results.

My Sheldon Rose

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“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.”         — Ernest Hemingway

I was poking around in one of my favorite consignment/antique shops in Bigfork, MT, when I saw……THIS.  My Sheldon Rose.  It’s huge, it’s amazing, it weighs a ton, and I had to have it.  This is a large piece of art made of typography letters arranged in this cool shape. IMG-0658

I chatted with the seller, and she said that she was selling it for her aunt, who was elderly, but had purchased it with her husband when they were young and living in Seattle.  Apparently it was a gallery purchase, and she was always particularly fond of it, but now had to downsize to move.   I found some auctions sites who have a few of his other pieces for sale.  They’re quite pricy, so I’m thinking that I got a fair deal on my piece.  If anyone knows anything about this artist, please fill me in.  Whatever the case, I get happy every time I look at this above my couch.  It’s full of letters, my favorite thing, because letters make words, and words make stories, and what could be better than that?!

Buckle Up!

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Collecting has been my great extravagance. It’s a way of being. I collect for the same reason that I eat too much-I’m one of nature’s shoppers.   Howard Hodgkin

I was scrounging through my messy garage for some wrapping paper when I stumbled upon a box of “goodies” that I gathered from my grandmother’s attic.  Yes, I have one of “those” grandmothers.  Even though she is no longer alive, she has left us with a treasure-trove of STUFF.  Ever the pack-rat, she filled her house and attic to the brim with what many considered to be…. junk.  I, however, have a fondness for junk, and am loving the fact that she couldn’t throw anything away. I found an old coffee can full of cast-off belt-buckles.  No doubt, she was planning to do something with these.  She was one of the original recyclers.  I just thought they looked cool lying together – like a picture.  I’m brainstorming a way to display these properly.  Ideas are welcome….