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The artist unleashed

I’ve always been a creative person – dance, writing, crafting…. even the way I run my business has been more creative than most. For many years, I lived with someone who was the self-proclaimed artist of the family, which meant I was supposed to choose a different role and leave the act of decorating to him. If I dared purchase a throw pillow for our home, it would be taken back to the store with a little shrug and the comment that the color just wasn’t quite right. A different pillow would take its place, one that was not much unlike what I had picked, but this one was supposedly more a better choice “artistically.” Eventually, I just gave up having a voice in the decor of my home. It wasn’t that I disliked my environment, because my partner shared a very similar style to mine and we had  common artistic sensibilities so our homes were lovely. He was a talented designer. I just missed the fun of being able to express myself or putting my stamp on our home too. Creativity is like a muscle. The more you flex you artistic eye, the better it gets.

One of the biggest shocks (and thrills) of becoming single again was my freedom and untethered right to unleash my subdued artistic gifts.  I was afforded this blank slate of a new life upon which to paint whatever kind of style I wanted – with very limited resources, of course.  My first apartment was lovely despite my having no money and nothing to work with. I built my own shelves, purchased wall hangings on e-bay to cover the white walls, and decorated with things that had deep meaning to me from my former (missed) life. It turned out very warm and inviting.

My little house that I moved to after the apartment was decorated and remodeled as best we could with limited resources, but took on a lovely zen quality that defined me and what I wanted from my new life. My daughter commented over and over that none of her friends had as “pulled together homes” as we had. Funny, considering I was shopping at Goodwill, and did what I could with repainted furniture and some specialty lighting. Apparently, if you’ve got a flair for the artistic, you don’t need money – you just need space and a chance to experiment a bit and something unique will be the outcome.

Meanwhile it is fair to say my studios, all designed by me, turned out as nice as any we owned when we were spending a fortune to build them, even though I had to put them together on a shoestring this time around, with most of the contents coming from goodwill or  Craigslist.

Two years later, I moved into a place called Heartwood with David. The home and land needed LOTS of repair, but had more potential than any home I’ve ever lived in. We both fell head over heels in love with the place, and I can honestly say, I’ve never lived anywhere prettier or more “me”. David feels the same.

David is the  idea man. If I dream it, he can create it. So his creative stamp on our life is huge, and I can not in any way take credit for the lovely environment we’ve created in our home  because without him, nothing would manifest. He fixes what doesn’t work, and thinks through problems to find better solutions. He has built ponds, gardens, arbors, shelves, and hung lights, and more.  I have had the luxury of being “the designer” – and his encouragement and appreciation for my ideas and efforts has been probably the greatest gift I’ve ever received. Back when my creative acts were swept aside and innocently treated as less than adequate (NOT inadequate, mind you, just “less” than what someone else could do)  I couldn’t help but lose confidence. And then, I lost heart. In order to not be corrected or to have my work disposed of or pushed aside, I stopped trying and found other outlets for my creativity, channeling my artistic drives into writing books or making up dances or in creatively running the business. Now, I’m not complaining because I could have put my foot down and complained mightily anytime I felt as if I was not afforded my rights to decorate my own home – but the right to buy a throw pillow just wasn’t worth the battle. The freedom to shop and to make choices to express oneself was more important to him than it was to me, so I was OK with silencing my interior designer voice. But I missed being able to see something inspirational on a store shelf and feeling free to bring it home to be a part of my beloved environment.

Years later, I find myself on 5 plus acres with a new partner who is creative, generous and deeply appreciative of my creativity. And he has no burning desire to be the interior decorator of our life.  Suddenly I had a fantastic house, yoga studio and land that needed to be “decorated” and I was given liberty to do so any way I wished.  But damn, for all this was exciting, being all creative and forming a masterpiece is not as easy as I’d hoped now that I was working with very little money. So it was back to goodwill and Craigslist  for me. But you know something. I really liked (and still like)  the challenge. Your artistic instincts are more taxed when creativity extends beyond the project to figuring out how to use worn out resources and make do with what’s on hand, or knowing you have to hunt treasures in unexpected places.And I like the idea of reclaimed items for many reasons- not the least is the good intention of saving the planet.

David makes things from scratch with old tools and scraps from other projects. I put together things from recycled objects. We manage. And the result is not only lovely, but different and worthy of conversation. Mostly I love the feeling of competence and pride (yes, ego too) that comes with creating something lovely out of nothing.

So, here is our living room.

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You can’t see everything up close, and I’m too lazy to take pictures of a zillion items to brag about, but two stone table lamps are a goodwill find, as are all the silk plants, a gorgeous vase on the fireplace, and some of the art on the walls. A beautiful large iron hanging light fixture hanging over my dining room set (something my sister was throwing out, so I took it gratefully) was discovered at Goodwill.

I saw it and said, “David, this would have been great in my home in Georgia.”

He said, “It will be great in a home here. Let’s buy it.”

So we spent 39.00 on a dismantled hand made blacksmith’s light fixture (we know because David’s brother is a blacksmith and he specializes in antique light fixtures that he repairs and sells on e-bay.) The find had paint and other marks on it, so it was pretty rough but for 39 bucks, it was worth the risk. The moment we got home from Goodwill,  I went to work, and when I got home 3 hours later, David had cleaned and polished the light, and hung it too. I was amazed at how beautiful the piece turned out.  When we sold that little house, the only thing we refused to let go of was our 39 dollar goodwill fixture, It was priceless to us!

Our furniture has been mostly purchased on Craigslist. Wine racks, Chinese break fronts, end tables, tall art lamps, etc..David does repairs. I find new uses for things – nothing we have is of “rooms to go” normalcy. We have items we really love in our home, his musical instruments, my collection of vintage bottles filled with homemade cordials, art painted by my mom, knick knacks that have meaning for me.

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But what I love most of all is that I had (have) free rein to be the interior designer, and anytime I stroll through goodwill or run across something on Craigslist, I can drag it home and experiment with it. Decorating, even when you are broke, is a deeply satisfying experience and I feel so grateful to have this door open to me once again!

My clearance, yard sale and goodwill items have spilled out to our gardens too.It began with my bottle garden – a place where many of my vintage bottles, collected for 50 cents each at a flea market in Georgia, came from.

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I love how the light catches the bottles at different times of day. Mostly I love the memories I have of finding each and every bottle. Lovely days of browsing a flea market, being happy, and finding “treasures” for 50 cents.  I plan to make a fence of bottles in the back of the “bottle garden” soon.  Might try my hand at a glass structure. Been leaning that way. Damn Pintrest and how it fuels your artistic fire even when you have no time to play.

My bottles became a theme at Heartwood (we have stained glass windows in the home, so glass outside seemed a perfect extension of the house. So when we built a second pond right by the front door, I suggested we decorate with all blue bottles and blue ceramic potted plants. David was in charge of back lighting them (And I suppose he should get official credit here because he made the entire pond, an artistic feat well beyond my little decorating of one edge of it. ) But in the end, our pond is natural, beautiful and artistic.

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Meanwhile, my goodwill frog planter found a better home (OK, that was one item I dragged home that David almost didn’t approve of. I had to paint it (since it was a crazy deglo pink formerly) but once that was done, he reluctantly congratulated me on my super cheap acquisition and I admit it, my frog borders on looking queer rather than cute some days depending on my mood… but I like it anyway.)

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My next super goodwill find for outside was 4 huge white Indian outdoor metal (rusted) lamps at 10.00 each. We stuck them in the ferns, but recently moved them to a hillside by the yoga center with a buddha statue and a few big chunks of white stone that we purchased on Craigslist for a song when we were getting materials for the pond. This little artistic grotto has a way to go, but we have high hopes for planting some moss, succulents and other growing things in between the rocks to make this area striking too. At night it lights up in a beautiful way. David gets credit for this one.

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Today, I stuck some succulents in a birdbath my dad was getting rid of. I think it turned out pretty.

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Another trash turned to treasure.

I could go on and on, but my point is, I feel deeply grateful that my life has room for design and creativity now. My work has always been creative – I teach, make up dances, make brochures, write, do costuming etc… etc.. You can’t  run the kind of businesses I run and NOT be creative… but it is nice to do things just for the fun of it. It is nice to feel your home is a work of art. It makes you feel like your LIFE is a work of art.

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

One response »

  1. Outstanding Ginny. Your home is lovely and very inspiring. Happy holidays!
    Karen Hake-Lipman

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    Reply

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