New Years Goals

2014 was my first entire year out of school and I spent most of it reflecting and setting goals.  It’s been a strange transition, but I feel like I have a better idea now what I want for the future.  I’ve set up a few challenges for the New Year:

  • Take down the Christmas tree
  • Run 10 miles a week consistently
  • Read 52 books in 2015
  • Spend less time on the computer
  • Stop compulsively looking at the phone during downtime
  • Apply to at least one art show a month
  • Set aside a dedicated day of the week for making art
  • Sketch everyday
  • Take more risks
  • Worry less
  • Spend more time outside
  • Grow business further
  • Get rid of more things
  • Build (or at least seriously plan/start) a tiny house
  • Find a nice place to put said house
  • Buy some Christmas decorations next year

As a compulsive list maker I find it really rewarding to set goals so I can come back and cross a few off later.  I’ve always thought New Years was a good opportunity for self evaluation and goal setting.

Christmas Gift Update

This Christmas was the first year in along time that I’ve had the time to make some nice presents for my family. After a trip to the local wood shop I began my first attempts at working with hardwoods. I’ve done woodworking before but it’s always been for larger items made with pine or plywood.  The three projects I made were two stands to hold a vaporizor and e-juice, and a toolbox.  I used padauk, birdseye maple and walnut.

The two stands I made were pretty challenging, as I didn’t realize just how much time it would take to drill holes in 1″ lumber with a handheld drill.  I think the project would’ve gone smoother and turned out better had I used a drill press.  This was also the first time I’ve made a project that’s only held together with glue.

The toolbox I made was quite fun. It was challenging to put together as the wood I bought turned out to be a bit warped. I bought a block plane to even out the sides of the wood, but soon realized that birdseye maple is about the hardest thing to plane.

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Gearing up for Christmas

So Thanksgiving is over and I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas.  This is the first year since I was 5 that I’m not either in school or teaching/travelling.  It’s the first year I’ll actually have time to do some of the things I’ve always talked about doing for Christmas like decorating my house and getting a real tree.  Only time will tell if I actually get around to these things, as there’s much more I have on my holiday to do list.IMG_1763

I visited the local wood shop last week for the first time, other than sourcing wood for school projects. I did a little research on different types of wood after I decided I’d make a small wooden gift for everyone in my small family.  I’ve done woodworking before, but nothing too far outside of the pine and plywood category.  As easily as I could’ve spent $100+ there I managed to leave with 30 dollars worth of birdseye maple, walnut and padauk. As much as I’d love to share some of the models I’ve drawn up and in process shots of what I’m working on, I don’t want to ruin the surprise for the 3 readers who will be unwrapping them for Christmas.  I’ll be sure to make an update post after the holidays are over!

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Over the last week or two I’ve been readying my Ebay store for holiday shopping.  Since I’ve been spending this year trying to save money and develop a business that will allow (and finance) me to make art, I’ve been trying to find ways to make more money.  In preparation for Christmas, I’ve been working about twice as much, and plan to keep the pace up next year if my profits reflect the extra work.  A friend of mine gave me a box full of vintage Christmas ornaments to sell on commission, so I spent all of last week listing as many of them as I could before Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

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While listing these I ran across a handful of vintage Putz houses. I never knew what Putz houses were before but now I’m totally into them.  According to an article on Retro Renovation “These glittery little holiday houses date to 1928 — invented by the Japanese, likely building on the concept of the similarly small “candy box” houses that they had been making for the American market. Their “golden years were from 1928 through 1937, when the looming war discouraged consumption.”  After reading a bit about the houses, my mom and I spent a night last week watching TV and building our own.  I’ve never been much for holiday decor, as I have a theory that it lives in closets and slowly reproduces (the amount of estate auctions I’ve been too with closets full of tinsel, bows and wreaths confirms this). Still, I love the idea of making anything I can to decorate. I wanted my Putz houses to be something I could hang onto for a long time and that would remind me of where I am now. I made one of the tiny little house I rent now and another of the big pretty Tudor revival I grew up in.  I included every detail (down the the derelict kayak in our yard) but somehow forgot to include chimneys. I made them from leftover mat board, cellophane for windows and as much glitter and fake snow as I could glue on.  They don’t look like much now, sitting on my coffee table, but should hopefully shine when they’re lit up and put under my aluminum tree.

Working from Home

I work from home.  I’m never quite sure how to describe what I do.  When I meet people I often get asked what I do.  When I tell them I make art they then ask what I do for a living. The assumption is that those who make art make a living by other means.  This isn’t always true, but I’ve never met a 25 year old that was self-supportive selling art.  So, like anyone else my age, I’ve worked hard to secure a job that makes ends meet and doesn’t drive me insane.

I started an Ebay business about the time I graduated college.  I’ve always had a series of small business ventures. Since I was 16 I’ve bounced between selling paintings online, doing custom sewing and selling vintage.  I’ve only had one conventional job, waiting tables, and I hated it.  A lot of my friends wait tables, enjoy it and are quite good at it.  There were aspects about it that I liked, but my introversion eventually got the best of me.

I love what I do now because it provides flexibility. If I want to make more money, I can, because I set my own hours.  I can also save up a bit and close shop for a week or two if I want to go somewhere.  There’s also a lot to be said for having no commute and being able to work in your pajamas while drinking beer and listening to loud old punk albums all day (not that I frequently do this, but the option is always there).  Like any other job, it can eventually lead to lots of drudgery, email answering and screen staring though.  Spending most days at home can also be draining, which is why I’ve taken up running as I search for hobbies that don’t take place in my house.

I work for about 5 hours a day, most of which is spent photographing, organizing and listing things.  On the weekends I haunt yard sales and estate auctions.  I mostly sell costume jewelry and nick nacks but I’ll buy just about anything I can turn a profit on.  There’s something about an old country estate auction, early on a cold morning, elbowing your way through a crowd of coverall clad country dwellers to yell out a bid that satisfies the primitive urge to hunt.  I’ve bought and sold broken clocks, prosthetic arms, antiquated electronics, absolutely hideous clothing and ceramic figurines that look like something conjured from a nightmare. Every day it’s something different.

Day 2 (75)

I’m thinking about doing a series on tips for starting an online business.  If this sounds like something you’d like to see on my blog, leave me a comment with some topic suggestions and I’ll try to address them when I start writing.

Pants Project

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It’s that time of year where the first cold wind sends me running for my long johns and I start thumbing through the LL Bean catalog and mixing hot toddies.  Every year I get a bit of a fascination with flannel, fleece, denim and thermal knit.  This year I’ve been thinking about the one pair of jeans I own.  I’ve had them a year and while I love the design and the fit, they’re starting to look a little worse for the wear.  The knees have gone baggy, they’ve started to fade and I wouldn’t be too surprised if they started developing holes.  In general, if I buy something new and in style I’ll opt for something that isn’t too expensive.  This leaves me with many things that aren’t as well made or long lasting as I’d like.  I got the idea to make new pants.  I wanted something that styled like a work pant (wide enough to fit over boots, roomy with big pockets) but would be warmer than any pants I’ve had.

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I started by making a mock up over the course of a week.  I hadn’t made pants since high school, about 2007 when low-rise jeans were still popular.  The only pattern I had for jeans was one with a very slim fit and low waist.  I changed the pattern a lot, making the pockets bigger, the rise higher and the legs roomier.  I ended up omitting the waistband in favor of a large yoke to which I’d attach the flannel lining. I didn’t want to spend much (as I didn’t know how these would turn out), so all I bought new was denim (a 98% cotton 2% spandex dark wash from Hancock’s) and a spool of heavy duty gray thread for top stitching.  The flannel, zipper and button I already had. I would like to make these pants again and match the zipper and button better and add rivets.

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The denim I bought wasn’t very thick but the flannel is extra cozy.  I started sewing the legs together and top-stitching everything.  This part was pretty easy.  The hard part about making pants is the dreaded fly.  The only 2 other pairs of pants I made ended up with a fly that didn’t close right and just screamed “Hey look at this poorly constructed crotch!”.  So I took my time and spent several hours on the fly and front yoke/waistband.  I made the flannel lining out of just the leg pieces and sewed them to an inside yoke made of denim.  I joined the lining and pants at the top seam and stuffed the lining inside.  I stitched the two together at the bottom with a top-stitched seam and hand stitched the two raw edges left by the inside fly.

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They turned out better than I thought they might.  They’re big enough that I can wear them over wool tights and leg warmers,  but they’re also form fitting where it counts.  There’s a tiny gap at the back waist but I’m not sure if I mind enough to take them apart and fix them.  The front fly came together well, but the zipper is still a bit visible. I probably shouldn’t have chosen such a bulky zipper, but again, I didn’t want to buy a new one.  I’ll be saving the revised pattern I made with these and will probably try the project again in the spring, aiming to fix some of what I didn’t like about these.

Recent Finds

I had wonderful luck at an estate auction over the weekend.  They had several boxes of jewelry and luckily, almost no one else bid against me. Two other bidders won a few individual pieces but I stuck with my strategy of buying whatever is left when they offer it up as one lot.  The 200 pieces of jewelry I bought will be cleaned, photographed and will soon serve as fodder for my Ebay store.  I found a few pieces though that I absolutely loved and wanted to share.  I’m a complete sucker for small functional pieces like lockets and pill cases.  The first piece I bought was a set of cuff links, shaped like books that open to hold a picture of a sweetheart and a St. Christopher medal (the patron saint of travelers).  I’ve never run across the book/locket/cuff link/religious medal combo before.

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I also bought this little hinged sachet piece by Florenza.  I feel like it was likely worn as a pendant and could have held some sort of fragrance

This cute little tiny pill case in the shape of a book has a hinged lid and was made in Mexico.  It’s the one piece out of this lot I’m going to have a hard time parting with.

This last piece is not quite a locket and not quite a picture frame.  When its folded up it measures just 1.5 x 1 x .5 inches.  I’m not quite sure what you’d use it for but its just adorable.

I’m always in search for old costume jewelry when I’m out looking for things to sell.  It’s easy to find, store, photograph and ship.  Also (even though I don’t wear jewelry much), it’s all pretty cool and fun to look through.  While I’m rather nearsighted I’ve found that I have better luck making out the tiny brands stamped on the pieces than most.  I’ve been selling jewelry for a while and just from buying a researching small pieces, I’ve learned a lot more about it than I ever thought I’d know.

Tiny House Update: Week 25

This weekend was a bit of a step backwards.  My dad originally installed a Tarkett snap-together laminate flooring for the house.  After installing it my parents were disappointed with how it went together and looked.  After a few weeks of trying to warm up to it, my dad finally decided to rip it out and start again.  After buying Pergo brand laminate, we went to work replacing the floor on Sunday.  It was the first day after daylight savings time ended and I think everyone was tired and a bit frustrated, so we really didn’t get too far.

Handmade Winter Wardrobe Additions

So I started a capsule wardrobe a few weeks ago, made up of 40 items that I’ll wear all fall and then switch out with some new items for winter.  I thought that paring down my wardrobe would give me added incentive to sew, because I have a bad habit of making things and then never wearing them.  Knowing that they have to go into a small rotation or 40 things should make me more mindful in drafting up clothes that are practical and well made.

I have a wonderful pattern for leggings that I’ve used a few times (McCall’s M6173).  I raised the waistline a bit and cut them down some from what the pattern called for.  The fabric I used for these is a cozy woven cotton blend stretch fabric with gray designs on a black background.

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I also finally got around to finishing a skirt I started almost a year ago.  I made it after seeing a cable knit skirt for sale that I knew I could never afford.  I went thrifting and found an old sweater that I cut up and made into a warm skirt for winter.  I used some scrap fabric from the leggings to make the waistband, because the sweater scraps had too much stretch to serve as a good waistband.IMG_0147

I have a few more projects in the works that I’ll post later as I get more work done. The first project I’ve already started is a pair of work pants that will be lined in flannel. I’m modifying a pattern I’ve had since about 2007 when low-rise jeans were all the rage.  I don’t know if modifying this to my current tastes will be too difficult or not.  I’ll be making the pockets bigger, adding a few more utility pockets, reinforcing the knees and sneaking in a flannel lining.  I never find pants that fit and last for more than a year, so I’m hoping to get better at sewing pants and just start making all of mine.

Recent Finds

I generally buy anything I can second hand.  Since I spend a lot of time searching for inventory, I get a chance to go to a lot of estate auctions, yard sales and thrift stores to find things I need for myself too.

This weekend I happened upon an estate auction where I found more than I expected (or thought would fit in my hatchback).  I’d been wanting to trade my old bicycle for a while.  The one I had was a bit too small and I wanted one a little bit more functional.  I like running errands by bike and wanted something I could put a basket and saddle bags on.  I found this great vintage Western Flyer bike for $30 that is just my size and even matches my style.  It’s the first single speed, girl’s bike I’ve had in a long time.  I cleaned it up a bit and put new tires on it and now it rides perfectly.  I’ll probably be spending the next few weeks getting my legs in shape enough to ride a single speed bike for more than a few blocks before cursing myself.New (old) bikeI also came home with a old school sweeper that I can use to sweep up under-the-couch crumbs without electricity, a hot dog maker I probably didn’t need and a set of Yaktrax, which I’ve been wanting for a while since they’re predicting a bad winter here.  I paid $1 for each one of these.

I also bought a wonderful vintage coffee table that simply spoke to me.  The top is solid brass and the legs are collapsible (fitted together with hinges that allow them to fold up flat).  The juxtaposition of the mid century style wooden legs and the opulent decorated brass top was unexpected.  It was so unique that I’d never seen anything like it. I did a little research and found out its a Hollywood Regency style piece from sometime around the 50’s. They were very popular in the middle of the century, and people would often hang the brass tops on the wall for decoration.  I can see myself making a template of the legs and using them to design something similar when I start building furniture after our next move.

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Tiny House Update: Week 24

I promised my mom I would make the cabinets and counters for the house, but then I got distracted.  Before I even got started planning my dad started building.  I’m glad he did because I’m sure the cabinets will turn out much nicer now.  We were originally going for stark simplicity, but my dad loves a challenge and has been designing and fitting drawers, shelves and doors.  Today we got 3 drawers put in.  It was pretty challenging and took most of the day’s work.  In the end they fit well and move smoothly.  They look rough now because they’re just set in the shell of the counter, but soon we’ll finish the rest of the cabinetry and put faces and pulls on the drawers.  We were also able to cut all of the pieces for the other set of counters, on the opposite wall.

The work is going a lot slower now as the days get shorter, but every week it looks a little less like a box full of lumber and supplies and a little more like an actual house.