Custom Art

I’ve been getting commissions from people all over the country for art they can’t find elsewhere or art that would cost too much—“my budget is slim, so I thought I’d see if you can do this for less”—and, after figuring things like canvas and ink, printing and labor and shipping to assemble, etc., I’m finding win/win in the art department.  Before I go full guns on creating ads and really focusing on ONE thing (I have to wonder if that’s possible), I’m going to tell one story.

I got a call from a man in Bloomington, Indiana who had purchased a Mid-Century Modern home and decided to restore it to original.  Because the innards of the house like plumbing and electrical needed replacement, he decided to go room by room with furnishing it. He found a complete bedroom set of Haywood-Wakefield furniture that included a long dresser and wanted to find some art to go over it.

I suggested, in our initial conversation, that he try art.com or One King’s Lane, searching both for “Mid-Century.”  Within a week or so, he wrote back with a link to a piece of "found art" he had come across on One King’s Lane.

One Kings Lane

He said, “This would be perfect, but at only 13" x 20" it’s too small.  I need something closer to 26” x 42.” Plus, this one is sold.  Would you be able to duplicate it in the size I need? Please let me know if so and how much.” I told him I could do it for $500.00 with shipping, and we had a deal. I can’t afford to take a risk that a customer will leave me hanging, so I ask for the money up front.

A week later, I took delivery of the canvas, and three days later, I shipped this! Which placement do you like better?

wall

What’s great about my product is that a customer knows—up front—what he will get and can pretty much choose the subject matter and size. My medium is collage, so I work with segments of paper or torn paper or pre-printed murals or entire collage walls (if you live close enough). Because I gallery wrap my canvas art, you don’t need a frame . . . and most of the time matting and frames cost more than the art (at least in my world).  If a person chooses art that isn’t in the public domain (FREE) and the artist is still living, I track the person down and offer to pay a royalty for the use of their art. A lot of the art I use in things I create comes from new, young artists, so I love offering them some money to use art they have already created, for which they have to just give permission (they love it, too)!

So . . . I think I have a pretty cool way to transform rooms with large-scale art for a very affordable price. Let me know what you think, and please let me quote any job you might have.

 

Winding Down on 8345

As we near the finish line, I have realized this house is like a person to me. A person I know inside and out.  I don’t think I know anyone so well—myself included—but I have come to love this house and have learned more than I ever thought I could . . . about the process, the people involved, myself and the business.  I don’t know if I’ll ever have this kind of opportunity, again, but I got to live my dream, and for that I feel eternally grateful.

I read a book called The Artist’s Way, about twenty years ago, and one of the questions author Julia Cameron asked went something like this: If you hadn’t been born to the life you’ve had, what is the one thing you’d be doing differently? She went on to say, basically, it isn’t too late. She gave an example of a person who—at the age of sixty—said, “I’d have become an Olympic skater.” He started working with young people to get them started. And it fulfilled him.

When I read that passage, I thought, “I’d be a writer and a designer and an artist and a gardener and a teacher,” before convincing myself those were all pipe dreams. I made great money as a lighting sales manager and didn’t dare rock the boat. And—I rationalized—I had nice gardens and fulfilled my passion for design in every place I had ever lived, from the first apartment to the fifth and final house at 8237. In retrospect, the truth is I didn’t have much faith in myself. And I certainly didn’t think other people would like my work enough to hire me to do anything for them.

In 2000, I had just moved back to Indiana from Portland, OR, and the family who had rented my house and told me they were moving—which decided my move—changed their mind and were staying. “No,” I said, “I have a moving van with all my stuff coming in two weeks. I based my move back on your decision.” That’s when I learned about squatter’s rights. My youngest would be starting 4th grade. I wouldn’t be able to take a job that required travel. My three kids and I ended up living with my gracious sister for five months, till I could evict my tenants, who’d gotten three continuances and planned to move then, anyway. I tell this part because it’s when I went back to teaching and realized how much I love it. I became a Visiting Instructor at Purdue, earning 24,000/yr., with benefits but only had a two-day teaching commitment. Had I started this endeavor then, today might be different. As it was, I lived in a 3,000sf home and needed about 5K/mo. to maintain the lifestyle I had created for my kids and me.

Bottom line: I couldn’t finish raising my kids on 24K a year, before taxes. So I taught while I looked for that six-figure job and borrowed equity against my house. In the eleventh hour, a custom lighting manufacturer in CT hired me, and I resumed life for another three years. I don’t know if you’ve ever been part of a merger or acquisition, but in the lighting industry, the last thirty years can be summarized in either of those words. And, when a company works to position itself for buy-out, job security doesn't exist.

By 2006, I was forced to sell my house and move to something more affordable. Determined to never be caught jobless, I taught nights and did freelance writing while I searched full-time for the next big job. No sooner did I move to my current (and I hope last) house, than I got the next position as a Regional Sales Manager with a company in Ohio. Once ensconced, I started teaching again, only by this time, the best I could hope for was two classes/semester. Universities may charge an arm and a leg for tuition, but I will attest: it does NOT go to pay instructors. Little could I possibly know that the Universe was at work, providing me lesson after lesson telling me to work for myself. The days of working for the same company and retiring 40 years later with a gold watch died with corporations taking care of their workers.

So, remembering the words of Julia Cameron all those years ago, and—by now—having met and fallen for a real artist—who sustained himself as an illustrator for most of his adult life (he said good-bye to corporate America in the 80’s), I took the leap. And—no matter what happens after this house is completely finished—I won’t regret having left “the job.” I still haven’t completely processed this experience . . . and I’ll share that once I do, but it has been one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done, beyond motherhood.

The client moved in December 12th. It was NOT like anything you’ve seen on HGTV. I had hoped to stage such a dramatic unveiling, but this isn’t television. Last minute faux pas (where on TV they break for commercial, then come back with a solution already implemented), some of ours took up to two weeks to remedy. So, when she texted me that “I’m coming today; I can’t wait another second,” I told her to bring her work clothes.  

All in all, the project was a labor of love with very few “you must be kidding” and a lot of “thank you, God.” And, the most important part is that the client is happy. Very happy. She’s already thinking of ways to promote me. So that means a lot. I’m tired as hell. But on the plus side, I lost weight and exercised every muscle in my body, cleaning, moving in furniture, cleaning, unpacking, cleaning, knocking down boxes, cleaning, wallpapering the bathroom, cleaning, installing the mural, cleaning and scrubbing the tile, post grout.

She wants me to do gardens and landscaping in the Spring. I hope I’ll be very busy by then. I also have a lot of projects I want to try my hand at that would work nicely for an Online store . . . so we’ll see. I’m going to the high school, as soon as it resumes, to see about teaching a pre-college Composition class at 8237 HQ, and I’ll reach out for classes in Gratitude and Self-Empowerment through writing, so I’m excited to see what the future holds! 

The Final Weeks

I thought the hardest part of this job was going to be the conception. In composition, that’s the pre-writing phase, where a writer thinks about what he wants to say, determining his Purpose and Audience and how to deliver the message.  I tell my students they can THINK about an assignment while they’re doing other things and work to write it in your head, before you touch the first key of your computer to begin arranging it. In design, this is where I think about how to bring the owner’s wishes to light, before and after I meet with the architect to discuss the project.  I am amazed at how a little 750 square foot house built in 1942—a basic Sears Build in One Day model—with two tiny bedrooms and one bathroom, a small kitchen and small living room, can turn into something ARCHITECTURAL, but it has. It’s where—after a few meetings with the guy who’ll create the drawings that spell it all out—I can plan other things like color palettes and furniture arrangements to further the vision. Getting his input has helped my vision, and the collaboration with him and the builder has made this a joy.

My client and I both knew the minute we saw the newly designed house on paper that we were all in agreement.  It required removal of the ceilings--a desire of the client--adding some widows to bring in more light--a given by the architect, who wanted to make it look like it had always been an open concept with 14’ ceilings--  and I wanted all the storage in one spot, so the Wall-O-Cabinets, as they have come to be known, with five large “transom” windows, illuminated to highlight the volume, come to life!  My client also wanted a fireplace.  When I saw the one with a corner opening, I knew it would lead the eye through the space to the staircase, which we moved from its original side entrance, straight down in a narrow, confining space that sat smack in the middle of the basement.

I have spent as much time in the house as I can, to get a real feel for it.  I’ve read it’s best to live with a space before deciding how to decorate it, but that doesn’t work, when I am the designer.  I’m supposed to know how to do that.  What I do know is that I have never met someone who says—a year after moving into a newly built home—It’s perfect; I haven’t changed a thing!  So, I’ve spent hours sitting in the space and had countless back-and-forths on Pinterest, where I send her a picture of a piece of furniture or glassware or bathroom sinks, with a comment that she can respond to.  It has proven invaluable for both of us, and I feel totally confident there won’t be any disappointment, when she finally comes to her new home.

I have felt a delightful pressure in choosing EVERYTHING for this project.  Delight in that I know it all works together.  Every single item in the house was designed with every other item in mind.  For example, I’m using brass finishes in the kitchen, which transitions to the living room without walls.  Our feature chandelier has a silver finish (it only came in silver), so I will slowly transition to a mixed metal (gold and silver) as I get to the space beyond the kitchen island.  I actually like mixing my metals, as long as there are equal parts both. Otherwise it looks like an accident.  The pressure comes from still pinching myself that someone would entrust me to make ALL the decisions on implementing my own unique way of doing things. “That’s why I hired you!” she tells me every time I tell her I think my taste might not be 100% what she wants.

The kitchen cabinets come Monday.  The furniture that hasn’t been turning my house into a warehouse will come next week (the 12th), and the painter will start the 9th.  Things will stay in boxes or plastic while he works, and I’ll start the collage wall in her bedroom once he has painted the ceiling and primed my canvas (the entire wall leading to the transoms above her bed). So, while I haven’t written for a while—you can imagine what I’ve been up to—I wanted to give you a view of some of the material picks.

I hate to open boxes—lest anything get damaged in the move from my house to hers—but I have to make sure nothing is already broken because once material leaves the factory, I have ten days to file a damage claim for 100% replacement. One day I was working in the yard when UPS pulled up with a package. As the driver handed it to me, I could hear broken glass rattling around, so I was able to refuse it on the spot. So far, so good.  But we have miles to go before we sleep!

Using pieces of slate on my own large work table as placemats (to make it a dining table when I have dinner parties) ties things together, so I’m using pieces of the tile from 8345, too.  I have purchased tablewear here and there for an eclectic and playful table setting (she loves bunnies) and have more pieces in differing shades of sea glass on the way. I’m looking for fabric I can use to make some great napkins, but I might be able to talk her into using sack cloth dish towels (my guests love them) instead!

The bathroom uses three tile patterns, and the floor tile (seen as the place mat above) continues into the bathroom as well, so I’m using splotches of gray here and there, to make it all flow.   One of the client’s directives was I don’t want a lot of storage space.  I don’t want to be tempted to fill it, so just give me what one person will need. I will use this felt basket for towel storage, and chose a mirrored medicine cabinet for the small stuff.  I had to order one more piece of the penny tile, so we could wrap the base of the shower.  Even though I listened to TileBar (a fabulous supplier of amazing tile) when they suggested extra, to account for the unexpected by deciding to wrap it around the outside, too, I needed one more piece.  It’s already on the way, and I ordered it yesterday.  Good vendors are critical to my success, and I’m putting together a list of the best.  I’m working to be able to design a room for anyone—anywhere—that will include a list of vendors they can order from to do the actual work themselves.

I’m trying to remain calm and carry on, but truth be told, I’m not sleeping a whole lot. Timing is everything and a lot will happen in the next three weeks.  If all goes well, I’ll have even more than usual to be thankful for on Turkey Day.

 

OMG Smiley Face!

In case you don’t know what this is, it’s the same as a Blue Ribbon, an A on a Final, a call from the Accountant saying, “You’re getting money back,” or the biggest compliment you’ve ever received.  It’s the indicator tag that says the house passed inspection for framing, electrical, mechanical and plumbing!!  I met with the inspector at 10:00 this morning, and he took less than a half hour to comb through all the new mechanicals before reaching into his pocket and pulling out the green!

I haven’t written for a while because we’ve all been so busy.  After the demolition of most of the interior walls, ceiling and stairwell—and all of the innards of a house that make water come out of the faucets, toilets flush, showers rain, thermostats give you the temperature control of Mother Nature only kinder, lights turn on or outlets make your vacuum sweeper work—we had to have the Town Inspector come by to decide if it meets all the building codes.  Having a wonderful architect and superb subcontractors who know their jobs should make that easy, but I have heard horror stories where that didn’t happen.  There’s even a show on HGTV (Holmes on Homes) where the host finds nightmarish problems that somehow got a pass the first time around but will cost the homeowners a bundle to fix.

So, here’s what the Inspector took a gander at this morning. Look what goes in the walls of a bathroom! Plumbing, electrical and venting for the ceiling fan and stackable washer/dryer that will be in the bedroom closet on the other side of the wall.

Here’s the outlet where our Masterpiece Chandelier will hang.  It’s 5’ in diameter and 5’ in height with aircraft cable suspension of 79”.  It has 18) 25W bulbs (of course we’ll swap out LED at 4W each) so we’ll have 430W of light (at full brightness—that means the dimmer is all the way up—and bright enough to perform surgery) that we take down to 72W of energy consumption.  And instead of replacing those bulbs every 800 hours (we’d get about 1600 with a dimmer even at 90%) the LEDs will last 25,000 hours.  In the incandescent case, we’d probably get a few years.  Since LED works the same way as incandescent with lamp life and dimmers, these bulbs won’t have to be changed for 50 years.  And while you’re at it, check out that ceiling.  Nobody’s better than Bacera Construction/Isaac.  Pure art! And with those open 14’ ceilings, we’re going with a closed-cell foam. The advantages compared to open-cell foam include its strength, higher R-value, and its greater resistance to the leakage of air or water vapor. We saved what this insulation will cost in not having to sister all the 2 X 6’s to accommodate thicker insulation, had we gone with an open cell, needing ventilation.

We’re still deciding if we want to drywall this ceiling, downstairs.  It’s only 7’, so if we leave it open and spray everything black, we’ll get almost 8’ and—according to all the design books—it will look much taller.  One painter who bid the job told me I’m crazy for leaving it open.  He said it would invite spider webs and be a constant invitation for bugs.  His bid was low enough that –if it won’t cost too much more to drywall it—we’re leaning that way.  Nobody in my client’s inner circle is over about 6’, so she perked up at the notion of a light, closed ceiling.

Here’s what we had to accept, if we wanted adequate heat upstairs.  Chicago winters can get pretty harsh, so there was no discussion.

The four windows that will completely change the look of this room and make it look like it was always a modern two-story open concept (instead of a 1940’s bungalow) are the reason to always hire an architect!  Between these four and the opening created by the removal of a vent in the former attic—which, because the architect just happened to be there that day and suggested “glass there, too”—we’ll have another architectural element on this wall.

This was my brainstorm.  I like to go to the house in the afternoon, after everyone has left, and just look at the rooms and imagine them complete.  Originally, the bathroom ceiling was going all the way up, too.  As I sat here, I got the idea to have an 8’ ceiling on the bathroom (saving a ton on tile) and creating visual interest for the homeowner, when she’s in her bedroom.  The 10 X ’10 space above the closet and bathroom, give the feeling of doubling the space of the bedroom, exposing all five transom windows and offering a wonderful view of some very cool angles.

And what have I been doing all this time?  Ordering the contents of this house. Rugs, beds, sheets, towels, dishes, furniture, lighting, cabinets, appliances, tile . . . everything.  Too nervous that some critical item would be on backorder (they never tell you till you order), I decided to start, and I kept going.  And, because I don’t have a warehouse, guess where it’s all going?!?  I’ve been a bit of a wreck, lately, and don’t even ask me to itemize what I bought.  I shopped till I hit the budget #.  I told my client, “You’ll be able to take a shower, sleep like a baby and have a party.  Beyond that, I don’t know.”  I wake up about three times a night remembering something I forgot to buy.

I’m also doing two collages: One on her bedroom wall and the other on the wall where the coat closet used to be.  I bought a very cool metal bench for that area and five coat hooks for the wall.  It’s going to all be very open, so I’ll use furniture to designate “rooms.” I’ll spare you the picture of my garage, full to the rafters!  I couldn’t take a chance things wouldn’t arrive on time, so I took delivery early, rather than late.  Living Room/Dining Room furniture, kitchen cabinets and appliances will come to the house upon delivery, since they are still a few weeks off, and Isaaac will pick up the tile from the store, where they have been gracious enough to hold it for me. Here are the inspirations for the art walls.

Stay tuned for insulation.  I have six weeks to completion.  There’s a VERY GOOD chance I’ll make it!!  Insulation, drywall, paint, tile, cabinets . . . and the jewels as I call them: lighting, plumbing fixtures, furniture!  

I told my client I’d go to the grocery store for her, too and have a hot meal waiting!  I think I’ll cook it here, though!

 

Painting With Light

Most of us, when we hear the word “lighting” imagine a cool fixture in the entry of a two-story house or a great lamp on a table next to the couch.

Once I started calling on architects, I learned that if an element won’t enhance the architecture, a designer would just as soon leave it out.  Nothing irks a space planner faster than smoke alarms and sprinkler heads on an otherwise clean ceiling line.  Same is true for lighting.  Hence, an architect’s favorite way to provide ambient light (that layer in the ceiling where most people stop) is through recessed cans, flush with the ceiling line.  They come in a variety of circular or square trim configurations, and depending on how much light is required, the opening will get bigger.

Most of the big-box stores carry inexpensive 6” diameter white stepped-baffle trims, suitable for use with a standard incandescent or PAR (parabolic aluminized reflector) bulb (we call them lamps in the business).  I could write a book on recessed cans, but it would put most people to sleep. There is a reason, however, that they range in price from fifteen bucks (for an inexpensive remodel can with built-in trim) to over $600 for a precision beam LED architectural model.
 
Over the years, I have gone from a lamp on every table and no light in the ceiling to 3” adjustable recessed squares in the ceiling and no table lamps. By using a can   with a lamp I can position, I can highlight art on the wall or aim it straight down over chairs, for reading. I have one little pendant next to the front door as a welcome light and space divider above what used to be a planter right at the entry of so many homes built in the 60’s.   In my 11 x 14 living room, I have 10 recessed cans that used to use 50W PAR20 lamps providing 500 watts of illumination.  Before you wonder whether I also use it as a landing strip, let me explain why.

1. On those rare occasions where I need full light (only when I’m cleaning), I have enough to spot every cobweb and dusty baseboard, thereby making that chore a breeze.
 
2.  Most of the time, I have them on a preset dimmer at 50% (using 250W of energy).  I get even illumination and light overhead for reading or other tasks, since I placed them strategically, knowing what kinds of activities take place in here. By using a dimmer, I get exponential lamp life, so I change a bulb about once every five years.  And now that I have upgraded to LED, even at full brightness, I’m only using and paying my utility for 50W (they use 1/5th of the energy) and they have a 25,000 hour life.  Do the same equation by adding a dimmer—if you dim only ten percent, you double the life—and I will NEVER change a bulb again.  Even if I live to be 100.
 
3.  I have no table lamps to take up space, need dusting or not be the right height to provide adequate light.  Hence, I have clutter-free surfaces and a sleeker, more architectural looking living room.  And that leaves the eye free to look at art!

The advent of LED(light emitting diodes) has made it possible to highlight objects like countertops or cabinet interiors, or architectural elements without showing the source of the light (photo).  And because of the low energy consumption and long life of the product, it really is a one-time investment.  Now you can put light only where you want to make a statement.  And—best of all—it is cool to the touch, even after being on for hours—so you don’t have to worry about it starting anything on fire.
 
4. No cords to hide or (worse) require an extension cord to reach the plug.

Designers have painted with light for a long time, using linear fluorescent and cold cathode, but short life made maintenance a nightmare.  Now we have it all.  And from a residential perspective, it’s relatively easy to create some gorgeous visual effects fairly inexpensively.  All these tiny upgrades will help you love your house.  I can’t tell you how comforting it becomes when home isn’t just an address.

You can visit my Pinterest page to see more of my favorite lighting.

A Good Start

Happiness typically comes in waves.  Like the ebb and flow of the tide, we experience good, bad, and everything in between.  As I learned in a therapy group, healthy people trade in one set of problems for a new one in this thing we call life, while the dysfunctional ones (usually because of some kind of addiction or Family of Origin problems) carry the same ones, adding to them.  For much of my life, when I experienced an unusually long “winning” streak, I grew hyper vigilant, half waiting for trouble to balance all my luck.

NOT THIS TIME.

As I have embarked on the house—henceforth known as 8345—my life has taught me the truth of, When you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. I live with a man who has worked as an illustrator for the last thirty-six years, and while he would not characterize it as eternal joy, he is a very happy person, whose giant cup of coffee is always half-full. And I have finally discovered the thing that makes me want to jump out of bed in the morning. In finding my bliss, I can now follow it.

So, here’s what I’m doing to two floors (750 s.f. each) at 8345, with the excellent team I have assembled:

Working with VCArchitects (who designed my own addition) to:

  • Re-design interior, opening it up to create a better flow
  • Remove some interior walls and ceilings (there’s another 7’ of height to be gained)
  • Add exterior stairwell to the basement, so the owner can let her two Labs out, without having to go through the house.
  • Remove all interior duct work, to be replaced with radiant heat throughout.
  • Turn bedroom on north wall into part of the living room
  • Move stairs to basement, using open risers and aircraft cable supports to keep the space open
  • Add awning windows in living room, kitchen and bedroom to increase the open feeling and add natural light

Formerly "finished" portion of the basement, separated by wall to laundry and service area. Stairwell will move, walls will come down and room will open up (with special doggie hotel).

Kitchen--accessible from side door--will gain space after demo and relocation of stairs. Stove will be installed in island across from sink, and ceilings will rise to peak at 15'.

View from the LR towards hallway (which will go).  Closet wall will go, opening kitchen, and load-bearing wall (on left) will extend upward 15', to support open ceiling.

Entire bathroom goes, to be replaced with new. Walk-in shower will replace tub and run perpendicular to this view. Ceiling will slope to 15' on shower side.

I’m serving as the Project Manager/General Contractor, so I can maintain control of the job and working with subs, to assemble a reliable group, so I can offer seamless, turnkey solutions from concept through implementation as I develop my business.  With Corban Construction, I have found a person who does concrete, demolition and framing.  He bills me AFTER he does the work and stays in constant communication (key) as we move forward. He is more than capable of playing General, but actually likes the notion of my doing all the leg work, while he does the heavy stuff.  He’s conscientious and dedicated.

As anyone who has embarked on home-related projects knows, things rarely turn out as planned, and on-time delivery disappears.  Remember my addition that was supposed to take 30 days, that turned into a nine month project?!?  That was when I decided to “do it myself.”  And it requires daily interaction, pre-planning, scheduling, interfacing with subs and total immersion on my part, to get it right.

Maybe that’s why I worked for others for so long.  I get it.  And I’m a communicator. And a go getter. And I’m not juggling multiple projects. Yet. A month from now I’ll be teaching four classes, but –because I have scheduled properly—I will be at a good place in this house re-design by then.  

My client—whom I also communicate with DAILY; thank God for the Internet and Camera/Video capabilities on my phone—asked me the other day what I’m most nervous about.  I told her, “I’m not worried about anything.”  And I meant it.  Little could she know that for the first time in my life, I’m not worried about anything.  My kids are all grown up and thriving.  My house is as close to being finished as it will ever be.  And I have used my Composition teaching methods of plan, execute and revise to work as a designer, too.  The house is completely designed, in my head (the planning stage).  And now we are executing the changes.  When the first two steps are done well, the editing becomes in design what I call “details.” It’s when all the little things are added, to reflect the owners and make it theirs.  

Communicating with an owner—all the time—reveals things about her that she might not even know she likes.  I have used Pinterest to send her hundreds of photos, telling her what it is I want to use, or what I think in modified form will reflect her.  It has become an invaluable tool.  I have to be careful, though.  Too many times, unless I am explicit about just what it is in an image, I get feedback about another element.

I hope to showcase the project as it moves forward, so I’ll post before, during and after photos, just to give you a glimpse of the scope.  The best thing is that we are leaving the exterior (except for a new driveway and new landscaping, which I’ll do next Spring) exactly as it is. The owner made it clear that she had no intention of purchasing a small house in a quaint neighborhood—this house was built in 1941—and turning it into something that doesn’t fit.  Not so on the inside, though!  I asked if she wanted to go 40’s on the interior and she said, “That’s up to you; I just want simple and clean.”  The evolution has taken us more contemporary than 40’s, but a lot of today’s Modern or Contemporary has elements of Modern Classic, so that’s where Pinterest comes in handy.

The exterior stairwell is almost complete.  A basement water expert will guarantee a dry, humidity controlled basement with a system they’ll install as they demo the basement while Corban turns the main level into a small ballroom, and then we’ll get the plumber, HVAC and electrical subs to do their thing, followed by insulation, framing and drywall.  Then . . . onto the finishes.   Stay tuned.

I'm Officially IN Business

I’m still in shock.  When a person decides to start a business, it either takes some major financial backing or some large cojones. I have the latter—figuratively speaking, of course—but before saying good-bye to my six-figure corporate job and deciding to also build the classroom/studio, I decided I wanted the leap to be an act of faith, rather than desperation.


I got in touch with my spirituality, when I directed my first psychodrama (my own) in therapy twenty+ years ago.  As the psychologists so accurately say, “What you think is wrong is only the latest manifestation of something that happened a long time ago.”  The old Family of Origin Dysfunction, as John Bradshaw described it through his own recovery.  My Self fractured when I was ten years old and my mother died.  I concluded she didn’t love me, and I was certain God didn’t love me, so I abandoned my Self as quickly as I could and became an overachieving person, in the hope if I DID enough, I’d be forgiven. Of course, this was all SUBconscious.


I participated in a group, where our therapist had the members of my group reconstruct family of origin psychodramas, in which we’d choose people in the group to play people from our past, who screwed us up:  mothers, fathers, teachers, siblings, religious figures, other relatives, babysitters, God, etc.  Then we’d explain what those people said or did to hurt us.  The theory behind this is that—by psychologically traveling back in time to the original pain but still being in our adult bodies—we can safely confront the abusers and witness—from our adult Self—what happened when we were defenseless kids.   We can then tell those people how we feel about what they did and begin to release the bottled up pain and abandonment issues and start to recover our original, healthy Self.


There were probably ten people in my Group, and watching these psychodramas week by week and the impact they had on the person doing the work (and the rest of us) is more than I can put into words. What also made this process so intense is that the therapist would direct the actors in ways the individual didn’t anticipate, to create an even more powerful healing experience.  I partook in these dramas, playing various victimizers in people’s lives, in an effort to help them heal.  After each psychodrama, the person who had done the work would address each of the actors and tell the person they played what he/she wanted to say, as his/her adult Self, in the present. After that, each player would reclaim his real identity: “My name is Debra. I am not your _________.”  Then we’d each explain to the person who’d done the work how it impacted us.  NOTE: We didn’t evaluate the person; we discussed the issues in ourselves that their work tapped.  VERY POWERFUL stuff.  Finally, the person who had done the work told us how it felt before, during and after the psychodrama. After all of that (I need to sigh, even now), the therapist would talk.


Rather than bore you with the details of my own psychodrama, suffice it to say my relationship with a higher power (the Universe, God, etc., whatever we call the Master) had been utterly destroyed with my mother’s death.  I lived in fear my whole life, which turned me into an over-achieving people-pleaser.


And, as a result, the people I chose for my psychodrama weren’t other people; they were facets of me: the very small child who needed attention and nurturing; the preadolescent who assumed the role of glue after my mom died; the overachieving student, cheerleader, actress, artist, comedienne, singer, performer and all-around chameleon.  Whatever someone needed . . . I became (it’s why, as I decided to take that leap almost a year ago, I came up with Teach, Design, Create and Represent).  Why on earth would I do just ONE thing?!?  I also had the Rebel and—finally—the Co-Dependent (which is how I got to therapy in the last place).


So . . . when I did my psychodrama I began to heal from the notion that I was so awful, not even God wanted anything to do with me.  


We are combinations of physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual being, and as long as we’re fractured, we can’t operate functionally. I have to maintain my conscious contact with the Universe in order to feel grounded and know in my gut that I’m on “the path.”

I also had a reading with a numerologist whose first words two years ago were, “Why haven’t you started the business?!? You were supposed to do this years ago!”  I told her I had the plan absolutely FINE TUNED to the gnat’s ass but I didn’t know how to launch it.  She said, “That isn’t your job. That’s God’s job. Get to work!”


A YEAR later, I took the leap. It took me that long to trust the process enough to win . . . or crash and burn but trust that no matter what happened, I’d be OK.


As you know, if you have read the other blogs, the classroom/studio didn’t take the 30 days I was told by the contractor I hired to do the job . . . it took nine MONTHS. I asked him prior to starting, “I have only one request and that’s to please not start till you con go straight through and finish.”  He said, “No problem.”  GET IT IN WRITING. Live and learn.  But that’s all in the past.


So, why am I in shock?


A week after the contractor finished his job, while Patrick and I worked non-stop on getting the landscaping done and working on the button wall (another blog I’ll write, once we take delivery of the last 2120 buttons to complete the project), I got a call from a friend who asked if she could come and see the room.  I told her, “It isn’t done-done yet, but sure.”  She asked, “Can I bring a friend?”  I said, “Of course.”


An hour later my friend and her friend came by and the first thing Ann said is, “You HAVE to show Lee the house!”  So I did.  Room by room, project-by-project, story-by-story, I showed her what Patrick and I had done with 1100 square feet, initially.  When I bought the house, it consisted of two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room and a kitchen (no appliances, forty-year-old cabinets around half the kitchen and a linoleum “parquet” floor.  The ceiling fan blades were covered with contact paper from the 60’s).

I feel very passionate about design and what we’ve done without palette, so my show is really a show and tell.


Little did I know . . . the “friend” was really interviewing me. At the end of the tour of the landscaping and a quick lighting demo in the new studio (I can demonstrate the five kinds of lighting and why using them together is the way to go), we sat down at the new table, and she said, “I want to hire you.”  “Great,” I said. “What do you want me to do?”


“I just bought a house up the street from you.  I want you to do your thing on it.”


“Which part,” I asked (feeling my adrenaline start to pump).


“All of it.  I live in another state and won’t be leaving there till the end of October.  I want to drive up here with my dogs, cats and suitcases, and take up residence.”


Do you have any idea what it’s like to wonder if you have heard correctly but know you have?  I learned a long time ago not to fake it, so I said, “So . . . you’ll do the rest once you move in?”
“What rest,” she asked?  “I want you to do EVERYTHING.  Just like you did here, only I don’t want you to take ten years.  I want you to do it in five months.  Since it will almost be Winter, you can do the landscaping in the Spring. “


O.M.G.


I learned through all the therapy, self-help books, journaling and creative visualization I’ve done, that seeing something in your mind is the first step to manifesting it.  And seeing it is one thing, but believing you DESERVE it is another.  I think that’s why it took me another year after my numerology reading to be ready.


The nine months of waiting was my test.  BY NO MEANS was it a cinch.  I agonized and questioned myself nearly every day before stopping in my tracks and affirming, “I trust the process of life.” But in that time—as I contemplated why I should be on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and all the other Social Media sites I’m still learning about—since I’m LOCAL, I opened my thinking to the possibility that “Hey, I might get a call from a person in California who says, ‘I love your work. Come out here and do every door in my house,” or “How fast, if I have the material, can you collage three kid’s bedrooms?”  Or any other challenge beyond a 30-mile radius of Munster, Indiana.


I never dreamed it would be my first client. So, in the last month, I have hired an architect who’ll design the few structural changes we want to make, assembled a list of sub-contractors who’ll do radiant heat on both floors; re-configure the bathroom and add another one downstairs, tear out walls and ceilings, add, subtract, install, and finish.  Every square inch. I’ve started designing every room up and down; hunted for suppliers/wholesalers and discussed “surface treatments” by Cut+Paste with the client and Patrick.


And I have conceived of it all, as Mozart said in Amadeus, “in my noodle.” It has gone from the indivisible to the divisible.  Now I’ll start the process of making it all visible!  It’s great to be busy doing what I love.  I strongly recommend it.