December 20, 2011

Studio is Completed!

At the end of the day, this post is more about my husband than my studio.  Because it's about how couples prioritize and what that says about what they value.  When you own an older home, you have to do a lot of prioritizing.  You ask yourself and each other, what should/can we repair or replace or add first?  I imagine most couples would begin by addressing the single bathroom upstairs that is currently serving our family of five. Or the fact that our detached garage is posing as our basement while our cars sit in the driveway. Or maybe some couples would prioritize a vacation to escape the never ending projects that come with owning an older home.  My husband prioritized studio space.  I don't know if he'll ever fully understand the love letter he wrote with that decision.  He was telling me something about what he values and that something is me.  Thank you, my love.  I heard you.

There was no room inside the farmhouse for a studio so we had to look outside.
Our detached saltbox garage had attic space above it that was perfect.

A pull-down hatch entry was the only way in.  

New framed-in stairway replaces hatch entry.

Insulated and finished walls and ceiling.  New skylights bring in natural light. 
Benjamin Moore Cloud White covers walls, trim, and ceiling.

Wrapped beams, added track lights the length of the room,
and installed laminate floor to make paint cleanup easier.
Built rolling table for flat files so it can double as a work counter
and be pushed out of way when not in use.


November 20, 2011

The Family Meeting -- I'ts Time

We're trying it.  The Family Meeting. We were putting it off until the kids had enough maturity to make it worthwhile, but that was a moving target for sure.  Tonight marked the second Wilson Family Meeting and I just had to document it here for all those who are trying it with their families and are getting discouraged.

There are a lot of great resources online about how to run family meetings.  I read several articles, took notes and tried a lot of their suggestions.  I created an aura of excitement with professional invitations, included dessert, and kept the meeting reasonably short.  I listened patiently when they had difficulty staying on topic and used the mommy skill of gentle redirection.  I made sure to balance serious discussions with playful ones.  It was going pretty well.

During one part of our meeting, everyone was invited to share a concern or a need that was bothering them, openly and without repercussion.  I'm not sure they quite understood, because one of my children reported they needed new underwear and another told me we were out of homework pencils.  To illustrate what I meant, I expressed how I would love it if Daddy would stay awake during family meetings.  (Nice, Drew.)

The meeting quickly disintegrated.  They talked at the same time, they interrupted each other, they enjoyed the pulpit a bit too much and attacked each other with smirks on their faces as they "got away with it" in the spirit of open disclosure.  They were fixated on who's turn it was to make dessert next and whether or not mom was going to make them set goals again for next week.  But then it was time for questions.

One of the ways my mom and dad used to get us talking was with the Ungame  -- a collection of thought-provoking questions for all different age groups.  I decided to use these same questions at our meeting to help our kids get comfortable talking about real and sometimes difficult topics.  As you can imagine, they were nervous and cracked jokes when they should have been attempting an answer, but they'll get better at it.  This is what Drew would call a "stretch goal."

Then it was my turn and I got the question, "Describe an experience of answered prayer."  I started crying immediately as I tried to describe a moment of answered prayer I would never forget.  And then I told another one.  And another one.  I think they would have sat there all night watching their mommy in tears, describing how real God is to her.  They weren't laughing anymore. They were still and respectful and curious and hopeful about this God who speaks so loud. I will try to remember this night when future meetings fall apart and seem like a waste of time.  Little nuggets of Truth and Love are going to sneak in when we least expect it.  All we have to do is show up.

November 3, 2011

Upstate Beauty Unfolds

I forgot how exciting it is to see the seasons unfold for the first time in a new/old house. So far I've only known this property's spring and summer face, and its fall one is full of surprises.  With the leaves dropping, I can see more of the mountain framing our property than I ever expected. I had no idea we were nestled on three sides!  It's an entirely different scene than that of summer and I can only imagine what it will be like in the winter with a full view of the escarpment blanketed in snow.

Sydney ran down the stairs the other day screaming for us to come see the "cotton candy mountain".  When the sun hit the escarpment that morning it had a completely different glow with the changed leaves and a scattering of our season's first unexpected snow.  It was so difficult to capture on camera (because of my skill), but the last two photos will give you a tiny glimpse of the beauty that greeted us that morning.

August 14, 2011

My Family's Route 2 Rural

It was a slightly different summer than I had planned, and my art took a back seat, appropriately.  My supplies are still in boxes, but they are no longer in a storage pod in Indiana, they are in a temporary storage room in OUR NEW HOME!  After struggling to find a home and living in a rental property for 3 months, we moved into a home of our own 8 weeks ago.  Even though my studio boxes are with me, there's no space for me to unload them quite yet.  You all know how strongly I feel about carving out a creative space in which to work, so a new space will be carved.  In an attic.  Above a detached garage.  Away from the house.  I am so excited!!  Below is a picture of the current unfinished space.  We have a million other projects that trump this one, but I can feel it, I'm getting closer.  Won't this be an amazing place to work?!

Attic space above garage -- home of my new studio!

You artists all know that a special house can be its own canvas.  God chose something for me that is way out of my comfort zone and is going to be the biggest artistic challenge yet -- a 1795 historic farmhouse.

I'll keep you posted on my studio space and let you know when that first box gets cracked open.  Hopefully I'll still know how to letter!  Haven't touched a nib since December.  Wow.

August 12, 2011

Inside the Farmhouse (Before)

It's almost impossible to describe this place.  I didn't set out to find a historic home so it continues to surprise me, like a gift begging to be opened by someone who's never experienced Christmas.  How can I explain the secret storage place behind the coat closet, or the narrow winding staircases, or the memorial marker by the boarded-up well? How can I describe the 6" long iron key that we actually use to lock the front door? Or the beehive bread oven next to the original fireplace that kept a family warm and fed 216 years ago at the very beginning of this country?  I can show you pictures of how my furniture fits (or doesn't fit) and what a country breakfast looks like in our sweet kitchen, but I can't easily show you the richness of the wood beams marked by the cuts of an axe.  I can tell you what historic paint color I'm going to use for the family room, but I can't begin to describe what the original plaster ceiling with the huge crack feels like when you sit underneath it.

I was so moved by this house and the enormity of our responsibility should we own it, that I felt I had to tell the owners the condition of my heart before they even considered our offer.  In my letter, I wrote,

We can’t imagine fully what it will mean to own a piece of history, to fall asleep under the covering of a roof that sheltered so many others, and to lovingly play the role of caretaker to something that is not completely ours.   It is no small thing to become one of the names on the list in your kitchen  -- a list of families who have accepted the important role of steward of this property.   We also can’t imagine the responsibility you must feel in the transfer of that role to another.  We wanted to let you know that we felt something when we entered your home that we have not felt in any other.   It was a feeling of respect:  respect for you in how you have cared for it, respect for the families before you that protected it, and respect for the country that bore it. 
So with all of that said, as I walk you through the house, please remember I am merely a custodian of this amazing estate.  My goal is to protect it, to preserve it, and to modestly improve it so it can shelter many families long after we are gone.  (And if I can make it cozy and beautiful for my family in the process, all the better.)  I promise better pictures soon after I figure out how to light this place!

To the right of chaise lounge is a butler's pantry that leads to kitchen.

Family / piano room

This is previous owner's decor.  Wanted to show the fireplace.

Guest bedroom
Foyer hallway and stairs with 2-story, hand-painted mural.

There are built-ins everywhere!

I absolutely love this kitchen.

That's it for now.  There's an office, a workshop, mudroom, two bathrooms, three stairways, and a really scary basement I'll have to show you another time!

Next up -- Shalom, Dorcy, and Daffodil

August 9, 2011

We Found a House!

You know when I take a break from blogging something crazy must be going on.  So here it is in a nutshell:  we've moved.  Again!  We made a commitment to upstate New York and to this community through an actual house purchase.  I guess we're not on vacation after all.  I know now that the rental house was a precious bandaid from heaven as we all took some time to "heal" into our new surroundings.  And to continue the metaphor, God ripped that bandaid right off in June and gave us a place of our own. We were ready.

Remember my love for contemporary architecture and clean edges and openness?  Remember my desire for a full, finished basement for the kids?  Remember my need for enough bedrooms for guests?   And space for a studio?  You'll never believe what we just bought.  A 1795 historical Federal Colonial farmhouse with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, no A/C, a basement we pretend isn't there, smaller proportioned rooms that barely hold our furniture, and a musket over the fireplace.  It is awesome. Who knew?  God knew.

Here are few pics of the property.  I'll show you the inside tomorrow, but you'll have to ignore the decorating because we just moved in and I simply had to stick my belongings wherever they would fit.  Even in its current state, though, it is absolutely perfect for me.  Because it is perfectly imperfect.  Like me.  Now this is a house with a soul.  Who knew I could love a house like this?  God knew.  He just had to rip off the bandaid.

The house is VERY stretched out as rooms were added, barns were converted, and front doors became back doors.  We're still not sure how to get in.  This is the front. Or is it the side?  Actually it's both right now.
This is the original main entrance that is not currently being used.  

This is the back.  Sort of.  That dirt pile is our new septic tank which we had to install the day after we closed.  The original one collapsed during the home inspection.  No kidding.   
Here's a diagram to show what's what.  Click to make it larger.

The house is nestled near the base of the Heldeberg mountains.

It's hard to show the whole yard!  It goes on forever.  Six beautiful acres of rolling lawn, forest, and creek.
There are beautiful stone walls throughout the property.
View from Syd's bedroom window.


That gives you an idea of the property.  Tomorrow we'll go indoors.

June 19, 2011

Sheep Shearing Day

Finally the day came for the sheep to be freed from their heavy coats before it got any hotter.  We city folk grabbed our chairs and our popcorn and lined up for the spectacle.  But it wasn't the jovial occasion we were expecting. Sydney and I both nearly cried as we watched our poor little sheep man-handled and thrown around until they were rendered immobile on their @$$.  They were stripped of their dignity right in front of us. We had to look away.  It just wasn't right.  The chairs and popcorn were completely inappropriate.  

Seth got a discount. 

April 28, 2011

Parking Lot Angel

Written Jan. 13, 2011
Lettered with simple scribe's tools found in purse, a Uniball pen and 2HB pencil. 

There are angels among us.

Today I was walking to my car in the Lowe's parking lot, juggling two gallons of paint, rollers and stir sticks, a purse that was much bigger than it needed to be, and a styrofoam cup of coffee that was much smaller than it needed to be.  A kind, older gentleman saw me struggling and offered his assistance.  As he walked away I wished him a wonderful day.  He simply said, "It's one of a kind, isn't it?"  I turned around and stared at him.  Could it be?  An angel sent to me -- placed in my path to wake me up to this day?  His words were so simple, so profound, so necessary they could have only come from one place.  I have been running too fast, allowing fear to control my priorities and uncertainty to order my day. I have forgotten to make room for joy.  It's easy to do that, isn't it?  To get sucked into a certain type of day, week, month that if it was your last you would weep at all the loss.  My parking lot angel spoke so loud to me today he could have been screaming.

We are moving to New York.  I haven't had time to blog, to create, to sing, to read to my children.  Soon I will be driving away from everything that is safe and familiar.  I have to admit that as we prepare our house for sale and pack up memories that came from this special place, I am not making room for joy.  I am only making room for fear.  My days are all about holding on to any shred of peace I can find.  And because of all that holding on, I'm not finding any.  I have completely forgotten how to live and love this day in my frantic pursuit of creating a perfect "tomorrow" for my family.  But this day is one-of-a-kind, my parking lot angel reminded me.  One-of-a-kind.  Unique.  Pertaining to a singular example.  Never to be repeated.  And certainly not to be wished away.

I hesitated to get in my car in case he had more words for me.  My angel had stopped and was looking in amazement at a souped-up truck parked next to my minivan.  Chuckling, he pointed to the truck and repeated, "It's one of kind, isn't it?"

Though my parking lot angel ended up being just a man who appreciates a nice truck, my God remains a God who speaks to me in unexpected ways when I need it most.

April 26, 2011

Play for Me Kokopelli

©2009 Shannon M. Wilson
Though I created this a long tine ago, I remember lettering it like it was yesterday.  It was the first time I had attempted layered and circular text of one of my first paste paper backgrounds.  I remember studying pictures of sweet Kokopelli and his feather-laden hair and trying to reflect the spirit of the southwest in the colors and textures.  It was a gift for my mother on the occasion of her 65th birthday.  (To say her  home decor has a southwestern flare is an understatement.)  

It wasn't the art that made her cry, it was the words that accompanied it -- a beautifully presented little speech by my oldest son comparing her to the mythical flute-playing character that can be found all over her house.  As the kids and I studied the history of this figure that is sacred to many Native Americans, we had to laugh at the similarities between the two of them -- mischievous, whimsical, joyful, charitable, musical, bringer of joy.

Kokopelli was a wanderer who carried songs on his back.  Representing everything pure and spiritual about music, he brought good luck and fortune to anyone who listened.  His flute was said to symbolize happiness and joy.  When he played the sun came out, the snow melted, grass began to grow, birds began to sing, and all the animals gathered round to hear his songs.

You can see the same reaction in the children, grandchildren and students that sit at my mother's feet as she "sings" her love for them through her teaching, her stories, and her infectious energy.  She believes in the potential of each child and student so fiercely that they end up believing it too, and that's when the magic happens.  Their special gifts (that were always there) start pouring out and lives are changed.  

Whatever the true meaning of Kokopelli, our family knows him as an endless source of joy -- just like my mother.

I'm sharing this piece here, now, because our recent move to New York took her daughter and grandchildren away from her. I wanted her to know, again, how much she's loved and missed and thought of.  I know she is asking herself, "What now?," with her grandchildren far from home.  I want her to remember that it is children she influences and there are hundreds near her wherever she is and wherever we are.  She has only scratched the surface on what she has left to give.  I love you, Mom.  Hang in there.

April 24, 2011

First Easter Away from Home

It's our first holiday without family and the feeling that something is missing is casting a shadow over this otherwise beautiful day.  I know that time is going to make it easier as we form new traditions and break bread in other ways, but we still have to do today, don't we?  I've never cooked an Easter meal.  My mom, in-laws, and siblings have taken care of that for me for 42 years. (Can I show my heartfelt appreciation to you all now?!)  I joked with Mom on the phone today that Taco Bell was on the menu because it's easy to fall into that "What's the point?" mentality.  But that's the cup-half-empty way of approaching this new season and I can't let that dominate.  My kids are watching.  God is watching.  The five of us will break bread together tonight, and talk about how great the food is in our rental farm kitchen, and how blessings continue to rain down on this family.  We'll talk about new beginnings and hope and freedom -- messages that echo today's Easter service and our family's journey.  We'll talk about how crazy an easter egg hunt can be across 55 acres of wooded farmland.  And we'll raise our glasses to the rest of the family we love and miss terribly on this important day.

Here are some pictures from our hunt.  It was cloudy and mild, but the rain held off and it was perfect.  Even if we didn't find all the eggs.

Drew hid 88 eggs over a half-mile trail.  The kids found 77 on the first swipe.

Drew continues to remove any doubt that the Easter bunny is a farce.
Coyote candy.  Syd, seriously, put that down.
Thinking of you.