Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Life in an Old House

My guest blogger today is my daughter Karly. She is an educator/writer sharing her thoughts on growing up in a century home restoration project. Check out her blogs on my sidebar!
personalized house sign

An old house never sleeps it seems—as long as it has a family to look out for.

We looked at many slumbering houses before we found the Phelps house. Some were snoring so loud I wasn’t allowed to go in them, while others had been rudely awakened into something they were not (one strangely resembled an aquarium. Lots of fish tanks). But this old place squinted at us just the right way, and we packed up and settled on a hill facing west.

176 years take their toll on windows and walls. It sure wasn't much to look at, and we learned to smile cheerfully in the face of bewildered and questioning looks. We would also learn to smile bravely in the face of immovable stones, ravaging stumps, hidden decay, and delay.

On the subject of questioning looks, explaining that one lives in a 176-year-old house can be difficult. Can it
be summed up into 5 years in a tiny cottage while fixing electrical and oodles of other problems, then moving into the big house with a temporary kitchen? That doesn’t quite convey the feel of it, the adventure. My friends from high school and college never quite got it unless they came to see it. I would proudly march them to the real kitchen to show off the lovely pit of dirt that it was for a while (Now I just tell them it used to be a pit of dirt.)

Can I explain the kind of resourcefulness required for fixing up a fixer-upper?
You need to be willing to get dirty, plow through confusion, and make do with what you’ve got. When the stone is 6-feet long and it bends two iron bars? Yeah, build the foundation around it. And the shower in our only bathroom may look a bit Trek-y, but a curved corner shower is all that would fit. It came in 100 pieces—exactly 100. With some help from an extra pair of hands, I put it together from the single, almost picture-less page of directions included. (Well, there were ten other pages, but they were in every language from Mandarin to Portuguese.)

Still, life in an old house is art. It is living alongside your dreams for the future, watching them slowly grow, learning patience. Walking around and seeing what can be beyond what is sitting there with peeling paint or temporary plywood.

Living in an old house is keeping it awake.
Copyright Karly A. Smith

Friday, August 1, 2014

Nature"s Studio

      

This was one of those scarce days in July with crisp cool morning air and a sunny pleasant afternoon. While I have a new studio, the day was calling me to labor in the outdoors. Not the kind of labor I should have been doing such as weeding and mowing, but of the creative kind.


Although this summer has been deliciously cool and great for being able to handle my wool work, the vegetables are protesting by not supplying our table with their bounty. Also, there are some great summertime home improvement shows being played out on at house this year such as "American Scrapers", "Who Wants to Paint the House Again?", "Desperate Diggers, The Patio Edition", and my favorite "Lost in the Grass, A Cat's Journey to find the Back Door".


Back where I came in with this blog post. So, I spent the day relishing the great weather that is so inspiring and energizing. It was a great time to catch up on painting as well as stitching. It's hard work running your own business, but I really wouldn't have it any other way. What other office has such amenities as butterflies, cool breezes, clouds, and your favorite cat as a coworker?


Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Great Day in Peninsula

      We got off to a great start at the Peninsula Foundation's first (possibly annual)" Historic Art in Historic Places". We had a wonderful group of students taking the classes who were very enthusiastic and talented!
They really made teaching fun.

There is a lot of preparation that goes into getting ready to teach a textile workshop. Starting with the initial design of the project and getting it stitched to dissecting it for students. I then spend several days getting wool dyed, and more time copying patterns, cutting wool, and all of the other necessary ingredients for the project.
Then my assistant puts together the all of the individual kits. All of this I enjoy.

Workshop day is always the most fun though. It's great to meet new people and visit with friends.

Thank you to everyone who participated and especially to my fellow instructors, Kathy Wright, Lanna Omlor, and Lori Ann Corelis! Also, a huge thank you to Karen at the GAR Hall. It was a beautiful venue and perfect for the workshops!


I'll keep everyone posted on my next event and the future of "Historic Art in Historic Places"

Friday, July 4, 2014

Symbols of Patriotism

As I sit here thinking about the 4th of July and all of the meaning it holds for us here in America, I pause to give thought to the symbols that we so often see that invoke patriotism. We folk artists very often find our inspiration for our work in these and the things we call Americana.

I am often drawn especially to flags and eagles, and can always find a new way to work these motifs into a piece. Commemorative pieces are also another favorite of mine, and I have often done paintings that not only reflect our independence, but also the spirit of American and its building.

This year we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the penning of the "Star Spangled Banner". Our national anthem is a true symbol of this nation and those who felt it was worth the sacrifice.
As we join together to observe another 4th of July, my wish is that we would not take it for granted. I would coin the phrase, "Freedom is not Free".

I wish all of you a happy 4th!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Resistance is Futile (or Bruce is always right)

Wooly added to a burlap basket




   After years of planning, countless details to get in order, and not a little procrastination, I am on the verge of launching my website. My patient husband once suggested to me many, many years ago that I might want to get an email address to keep in touch with clients. I assured him that would never be the case. Since my feeble quest to stay tech-free came to an end with a taste of the world wide web, he next suggested that I have a Facebook page for my business in order to show potential clients my work. No! I would not be a part of that "social media" herd. "You know that takes over your life" I argued. I don't like to take up too much of my time with unpleasant things. As it is my idea of housework is a quick sweep of the dirt into the cracks of our old floor, and a large bouquet of wildflowers to distract the eye from lingering dust webs.
   


Wooly Box
  Since the Facebook page has been set up as an online portfolio, my dear husband made a new suggestion: a blog. I somehow had the odd notion that a blog was a cross between a forum to rant about conspiracies and a way to bore the world with what you ate for breakfast. Since you are reading this you can guess the outcome of my husband's advice.


   This leads us to the next phase of my work. It really has been years in the making, but with the help of my home-grown design assistants, we are beginning a countdown to the launch of my new website. You will be able view galleries of my work, shop current items for sale, and keep track of events along with other features. One of the special features is a page dedicated to my daughter Kelsey's fraktur artwork. When is the big day you ask? June 26, 2014 we will be going live. I look forward to connecting with you in a new way.
Pennsylvania-German motifs on an early document box

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Summer Workshops

This summer I am partnering with some talented textile artisans and the Peninsula Foundation to bring you "Historic Art in Historic Places". This event created by the Peninsula Foundation is not only an opportunity to create some beautiful projects, but also to spotlight the rich history we have in the traditional arts. We are offering a variety of classes in this one day event at the historic GAR Hall in scenic Peninsula, Ohio.

All of the details are on the website peninsulahistory.org. Call or make your reservation via the website soon as class sizes are limited.


We look forward to this time of creativity and education!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Book

     Hello readers! My name is Tessa Smith, the daughter of your favorite Rebekah L. Smith. I would just like you to see the difficult and extremely stressful steps to writing a book. My mother has been working hard all winter and spring to get it done, and I would like you all to see what she has to go through. I must warn you, though, she may not exactly know about these photos, for I took them when I encountered them from afar.
    This first photo is of the "Design Phase," or where she starts to get her ideas out for her book projects. The Himalayas of paper you see all around her are the sketches she either didn't like or she hated them (there is a difference). Also to keep herself awake and focused, she used really bright colored markers, because the black was dull and boring. She doesn't want either of those things to be included in the process or the actual book itself.
    During the next "Wool-Sorting" stage, she was what she called "hard at work." I don't buy it, because I found her sound asleep after sitting there for seven minutes. Yes, I felt bad, but she is the one who stayed up too late coming up with her final design. I think she finally got it.
    This next step is the "Cutting and Snipping" stage. I was startled by the giant "snippers" (I call them shears) she was wielding in such a drowsy state. I was at the same time impressed she could cut such tiny and fine details into the wool. You can see them in the design behind her.


    
 This photo shows the "stitching" step. As you may see by her garments, it was the dead of the winter when she was trying to get this done. After a while, she couldn't feel the small needle in her hand, so she started to have to use bigger and bigger ones. She ended up using a three inch long needle.
     The next step on her journey to being an author in print was the "Writing Stage." Since she was writing a traditional styled book, she decided to wear colonial dressing, in company with a quill and inkwell. After she got a little tired of the fancy script writing and flimsy feather, she time-traveled a hundred years ahead. She liked the idea of the retro style typewriter, which she said was going to be as advanced as she would get in this process of the book. She refused to touch a computer or smart device. Then one night, I woke up to strange noises in the basement. I go down to find her in the dark on her brand new laptop, typing away at the steps for this project in her book. She saw me and quickly closed her laptop and shooed me off to bed.
     


 This last picture was not taken by me, but it was intentional. This is her proudly holding up her finished project so my father could take the picture. I am very sorry for the inconvenient blacked-out part. That was her finished project, but she signed a contract, and she can't show it to the public until the book is released. Have a great day and I hoped you enjoyed this post. Signing off, Tessa Smith-13 years old.







Note: She actually does know about this post and approved it.