Thursday, December 27, 2012

Late to the Party

I had every intention of posting my holiday decor pictures before Christmas. But first I had to make caramels. And clam chowder. And wire a boxwood wreath from scratch. And then I had to wrap presents and set out luminaries. And then, all of a sudden, it was Christmas Eve. And I hadn't written a word.

On Christmas Day, I certainly wasn't going to ignore my family to blog. I was too busy enjoying my new iPad case and looking up what new hairstyle I would get this week courtesy of the money Santa gave me for that purpose. (Well, if you want to get technical, the note was from Vixen, Santa's reindeer. She mentioned that I was to use the money to up my "sass" factor. I have the note if you don't believe me.)

So there was no blogging there either.

And here we are on Day After Christmas Eve. And as I happen to believe in the phrase "better late than never," here goes, a tour of my Christmas house!

I decided to go with fresh pine garland this year. I like how it looks, but maybe I'll add some ribbon as well next time. And I made the Williamsburg style wreath at the peak of the pine garland myself! I have always love the fresh fruit wreaths. They are just so welcoming. I just don't have the over-the-door space for a traditional one with a pineapple, but my smaller version with a pomagranite and komquats was just right.

And then there was the fresh boxwood kissing ball I made. My husband started calling it "The Holiday Death Star". It even got it's own theme song. Every time he came in the front door, he'd start humming "the Imperial March" from "Star Wars" while adding Holiday lyrics like "Jingle Bells" and the random "Ho, Ho, Ho!"

 Once you come inside you can see my Miss Mustard Seed "inspired" decorations. I loved her idea to hang a wreath off an old ladder. And I had finished making an ornament wreath I started last year, and then abandoned during the Christmas rush.

Here is a close up of the fresh boxwood garland I made. I just used trimming from my unruly boxwood bushes in the front yard. I also relied heavily on the over-the-phone construction advice from my dear friend Andrea, creative floral genius at Lynn Vale Farms. (She also made the gorgeous wreath on my front door) I wanted to make two garlands, one for each side of the ladder, but the first one took me about 5 hours when all was said and done, and I never had the second 5 hour block. Oh well. I love it anyway, and I am crazy proud of myself for learning how to do it.

In the next room, the kitchen, I stole another Miss Mustard Seed idea, a garland with ribbons and ornaments hanging off my chandelier, inspired by this post.

This little ornament was made by my dear friend Leah McGee. See all the tiny stars inside the glass ball? She folded them all out of vintage encyclopedia pages. She's amazing! She made the one behind it with the bow also. All this vintage glitter and sparkle inspired me too.

I filled an iridescent clear glass ball with sparkly white mini pom pom balls that I got at the craft store and put the top back on. Impressive, right? We are sending a few of these to our cousins who live in snowy places to start a "snow ball" fight.

My bay window is the perfect place to grow stuff. And I couldn't resist a few Christmas paper whites and a pretty "Red Lion Amaryllis", that bloomed right on cue.

But the best of my decorations is definitely my mantle. Don't you love the cow boy boot stockings?

And yes that IS a cow skull. I may live in Virginia, but I am still from Phoenix.

I have a small collection of Cowboy Santas and reindeer cows. 
Or just cows looking jolly hiding from their cowboy. 

I even found a place for my antler.

So there you go. My house at Christmas. 
At least this year. Just in time for New Year's. 

Oh Well. At least I got it posted in 2012. 
Happy New Year to you all! 
And thanks for reading my blog.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Choosing the Light

I have a 5 year old daughter. I don't know if all of you know that. 

So even though Friday's unspeakable events didn't happen to me, they still happened. 
I didn't spend time finding out the details. 
I just wept.

I felt so impotent against such great darkness.

And for a second there, I was filled with despair. 

And then I remembered the song "Hands" by Jewel. If you've forgotten it, here is the video.

I have always loved this song. It fills me with hope even in the most extreme situations. 

It's the line 
"I will not be idle with despair". 

It moves me from horror to action. 
And I think there is tremendous power in action spurred from love.

I have decided that I CAN do something to help. I can gather light to people. 

image from the RecycledLightCompany on Etsy

I can hope that somehow, in some unexpected way, God will cause something 
miraculous to rise out of the ashes of that community. I am fasting and praying for this today, 
for experience has taught me that great things can come from the willing sacrifice of others. It makes me feel empowered again. And has filled me with a desire to fight back against the darkness.


I am going to have a Merry Christmas and make sure that all those around me do as well. I am going to keep creating art and helping other people to create things and reach for their potential. I am going to put as much energy and light and love into my children and all those other kids around me. I am going to donate to my local fire department. I will decorate my house so that people smile when they walk by.

I am going to invite all the 5 year olds in the neighborhood over to decorate cookies. 

Because this will bring them joy. 

So, remember that Darkness cannot abide nor over come the Light.

Go into the world and be kind and happy.
For in the end.......only kindness matters.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Antlers, Broken Instruments, and Giant Leaf Mustaches: The Stuff of Pure Fantasy

Antlers can be so inspiring. At least they have been to me lately. And please save me the "poor deers" comments. Antlers are shed naturally, so no deer were hurt in the writing of this blog.

Actually antlers are the reason I set out on an unintentional journey into raw creativity this week. 

My friend Andrea is a floral designer in Gainesville, VA. She owns this huge, 100 year old stone barn at Lynn Vale Farms, and does some crazy good floral arranging. She was one of 15 local designers selected to be in a contest held at Arena Stage. The contestants had to make a floral arrangement inspired by one of Arena Stage's costumes. Andrea had chosen "Artemis, goddess of the hunt and all things wild and innocent." I can still she the flecks of crazy energy floating in her eyes as she told me about ordering a case of real antlers to serve as the support for her arrangement. 

When she said "Wanna help?" this little Western girl was there.

When I got to the barn, she had already pulled out all the stuff we needed: Spanish moss, zip ties, a large vintage pedestal, a picture of the costume, and a mailing box full of antlers. It took a while, but eventually we figured out how to lean and zip tie them together to make a stable base and gradually built a sort of chalice to hold the flower bowl. 

It occurred to me as I was feeling the surprisingly warm December sun on my back shining between these huge, open, old wood barn doors, that this was the first purely creative thing I had done in a long, long time. I have been so focused on home and barn sale and being professional this year, that I keep forgetting to play. Yet here, I was, in a barn, holding a bunch of antlers together for no other reason than it sounded fun, so there must still be some hope for me.

I drug my husband on a date downtown so I could see the finished piece. Impressive, yes? You should get Andrea talking about what each of the different elements symbolize. 
Now that is impressive:

Artemis costume from "Agamemnon and His Daughters" and inspired flower arrangement 
by Andrea Gagnon of Lynn Vale Studios

Our story continued when I got an email the next day from a local music store, where I had left my name and number to contact me if they ever had any unplayable instruments. They had a clarinet for me! Now many of you may not get all excited about an unplayable clarinet, but for me, this was a playground of potential. I could make a lamp like this:

Or I could paint it all cool like this one:

The ladies at Bees Curiosity Shop on Etsy who made this piece do some really cool stuff. 
Check them out here.

All these fabulous possibilities were flying around my head when I walked into the store to collect my lovely broken clarinet. Terresa, the woman who emailed me about the instrument, just happened to be there and said she had something else for me. I just held my breath in wonder. When she pulled out a broken violin, I started jumping up and down -seriously jumping- in the store. I had a dream about a blue violin about a year ago and have desperately wanted to make a piece inspired by my dream ever since. I thought it would be years before I'd get my hands on one. And here it was, broken neck and all, in my hot little hands.

Think of all the ways you could make a violin blue......

I am thinking about decoupaging on this lovely navy blue handmade paper with tiny Chinese characters all over it, but then again, it might be hard to make that iridescent. Maybe I'll use nail polish instead.....

So many options. So little time to work on it.

But the week wasn't over yet. Apparently the forces of random creativity still had something to teach me. In the form of a whole bunch of leaves in the hands of two young girls. That's always the ticket to fun, right?

Can you see it hiding behind my deck?

My husband wasn't feeling well, so my kids and I decided we'd rake the leaves for him. I started blowing them into a pile and both girls started going "No! no! mom. They need to make a smile." Um....OK. 

So I blew them into a smile. 

And then into a handle bar mustache.

 They had already made the eyes and the eyebrows. Yes folks, MY leaf pile has eyebrows.

It was such a simple thing. A yard covered with leaves. And yet, when I thought about the pure joy involved in making a mustache instead of a leaf pile, I was completely blown away. What a gift to have time to do this! To be a part of such random bliss! 

It's so easy to become focused on accomplishing and becoming. That's what we're all "supposed to do" as grown ups. But I am so grateful that for one week, the universe decided that I should stop all that and play. It has recharged my heart and soul, and brought the lighter, funner part of me back to life.

Thanks Heavens for antlers. 

Hmmm.....I wonder if they would look good with my cowboy Santas on the mantle? Maybe I can talk Andrea into giving me a few now that she's done with them. It's time to decorate you know, and they are all the rage on Pinterest....

Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday Shopping with CM Shaw

I love Black Friday. I have gone out, list and strategy in hand for as long as I can remember. To me, it's a sport. I come from a long line of hard core shoppers, women who know how to stretch a dollar. There are at least 4 generations of shoppers behind me. Even my great grandmother from Iceland loved to "go to the shops."

My mother had to work a little harder to uphold this family tradition. With 5 kids in 9 years, she always had a posse tagging along. She loved to shop and so she just brought us, but taught us how pretty all the new things were, how soft things were, how fun it was to go out to lunch. And it worked, at least with the girls. As adults, shopping is our primary bonding mechanism. Well, other than eating and talking on the phone and taking art classes together.

I loved being at the mall with my mom, so I trained my kids the same way. The two older girls love to go shopping. At 13 and 9, they can shop for about 4-5 hours before they get tired. And then a quick snack or meal perks them right back up. In fact, this year, it was the 13 year old's idea to do Black Friday. She ranked all the ads in terms of relevance and excellence of coupon. Then she planned what we should buy and the route we should take. How do you say "no" to that kind of planning and preparation from a 13 year old? And I have to admit, with all the crazies having gone Thanksgiving night, it was calm and pleasant at 6 am on Black Friday. Parking was plentiful and people were cheerful. And I rediscovered JC Pennny. If you guys haven't been there for a while, you should go. They have really cute stuff at great prices. There was even one section where they sold bright color-blocked clothing that the kid and I were both buying things from. Since our taste and sizes are completely disparate, this was a major accomplishment.

Now what does Black Friday have to do with Gathering Branches, you say? Well so many people at the show asked me what I did, and I do a variety of things, so rather than try and tell you, I thought I'd just have my own Black Friday sale (even though it's Cyber Monday) and show you what I do. Or at least what I have been doing. (You never know where I will go from here and I have a few completely different things brewing in the brain.) Most of the prices here have been reduced for your holiday shopping pleasure. And as I love to window shop, please feel free to do the same. If you actually want to buy something, you'll have to email me or just comment below and we'll arrange something.

Annie Sloan Chalk Painted Items

"Cafe au Lait" Dining Table.
$225.00, reg $275

Solid wood with a self storing leaf. Turned legs
Done in Duck Egg blue, with accents in Pure White and Cocoa.
2 Coats of clear wax.
With Leaf in: 66L x 36W x 30H
With Leaf stored: 54L x 36W x 30 H

"The Fairest" Mirror
$85.00, reg $125

Vintage Mahogany Federal Style Mirror.
Done in Paris Grey, with a Pure White Glaze, then silver gilded.
Finally, Dark Waxed and regilded with a blend of Silver and Renaissance Gold wax.
2 coats of Clear wax and one coat of Dark Wax.

"Venice" Candlestick
$15.00, reg $20

Vintage Solid Turned Maple Candlestick.
Done in Duck Egg Blue with Dark Wax and Renaissance Gold gilding wax.

"Belgian Morning" Pair of Candlesticks
$22.00 for Pair, $13 each

Pair of vintage, solid maple, turned candle sticks
Done in a Pure White wash and then clear waxed.

Colonial Candlestick
$14.00, reg $18

Vintage Solid wood candlestick,
Done in French Linen and Pure White, Heavily distressed and Dark waxed
2 coats clear wax and 1 coat dark wax

"Begin" Original Painting/Collage
$35.00, reg $40

This piece was made in a class with Janet Metzger of The Empty Nest in Warrenton VA. It features vintage pictures, two separate color washes, hand painted detail and all over crackle and dark wax.

 "Reykjavik" Candelabra
$20.00, reg $25

 This is a 2 piece wooden candelabra. It is vintage, made of pine, and came from Sweden.
Louis Blue with a Pure White glaze for the stencil.  Heavily distressed. 2 coats of clear wax.

"Solange" Vintage Lamp
$85.00, reg $95

This was a treasure I just had to save. When I found her, she had tiny white gold flowers all over her and a beat up, flouncy old shade. Sweet enough to give you a toothache. But I loved the sleek glass body and the wrought iron base. So I pulled out the Mr Clean Eraser and got rid of the rosebuds. Then I chalk painted the base and waxed it with a custom iridescent charcoal grey wax. She has a new charcoal grey silk shade, all new wiring and fixtures,and a  new chrome harp and neck. This lamp is ready to go for another 50 years.

Here's a few more unfiltered shots:

Jennifer Side table
$75.00, reg $85

This little table is lovely.
Vintage Solid maple.
Base coat in Old Violet with the top coat in Paris Grey.
Heavily distressed. 2 coats clear wax
14.5in L x 20.5in W x 24.5 in H

"Piper" Vintage Walnut Salad bowl
$14.00, reg $18

Food safe solid walnut.
Pure White striped exterior
Food safe wax outside and in.

Other Stuff I Have Been Working On

"The Loft" Vintage Industrial Chair

 This chair was used in a Philadelphia art school. Newly lacquered in a bright, industrial orange.
 Maple seat. All original hardware.

 "Cinnabar" Lantern
$9.00, reg $12

Durable metal lantern
Newly lacquered in hot orange-red
Suitable for interior or exterior use.

"S-Curve" Pillow
$30.00, reg $38

This is a custom pillow made from designer fabric with hand appliqued vintage doily accent.
Natural Down pillow insert included. Hidden zipper. Dry clean only

"Lavender Wings" Original Shadowbox Collage
$40.00, reg $45

I build all my shadowboxes myself. This explains why they aren't perfectly square or true. I up-cycle old frames into shadowboxes by building a box to fit the frame and then attaching the front and back with hinges. Then I add an original photo enhanced with hand made paper butterflies.
All boxes open and close.

"Hosta" Matted Original Collage
$70.00, reg $75 

My photo collages are an original photograph (only two prints at most are ever made from any one image) paired with a leaf made from paper, soft pastel and colored pencil.
All leaves are the original paper. Nothing is done digitally.
All archival materials used, where possible.
11 x 14 in. image matted to16 x 20 in.

"Rounded Curb" Matted Original Collage
$70.00, reg $75.00

My photo collages are an original photograph (only two prints at most are ever made from any one image) paired with a leaf made from paper, soft pastel and colored pencil.
All leaves are the original paper. Nothing is done digitally.
All archival materials used, where possible.
11 x 14 in  image matted to 16 x 20 in.

"Leaf Cradle" Framed Original Collage

My photo collages are an original photograph (only two prints at most are ever made from any one image) paired with a leaf made from paper, soft pastel and colored pencil.
All leaves are the original paper. Nothing is done digitally.
All archival materials used, where possible.
8 x 10 in. image matted to 11x14 in. and professionally framed

"Pavers" Framed Original Collage

My photo collages are an original photograph (only two prints at most are ever made from any one image) paired with a leaf made from paper, soft pastel and colored pencil.
All leaves are the original paper. Nothing is done digitally.
All archival materials used, where possible.
11x14in image matted to 16 x 20 in. and professionally framed

Original Photography

"Roof Tops of Rome"

8x10 in image matted to 16x20in
All archival materials used.


8x10 in image matted to 16x20 in
All archival materials used

"White Peony"

8 x10 in image matted to 11 x 14 in
All Archival Materials used

"Ocean View"

8 x 10 in image matted to 11 x 14 in
All archival materials used