"What one can see out in the sunlight is always less interesting than what is behind a windowpane."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Valentine's Day Party

We celebrated Valentine's Day this year with 13 girls between the ages of 2 and 10 making Valentines, eating lots of sweets, playing games, and decorating Victorian cones (which they later filled with candy). It was all kinds of fun; admittedly, maybe more for ME than the girls.

For 3 weeks, I shopped thrift stores, raided my mom's stash, searched through my own stash, and treated myself to some vintage goodies on Etsy.com. Days before, I stormed Sam's Club for huge bags of candy and the dollar store for fillers. We decorated with pink, white and red crepe paper and balloons, vintage paper dolls, buttons, and jewelry, bowls of candy, cookies, dipped pretzels and strawberries - who could resist?

It took me two weeks of cutting out 1940s paper dolls, punching out balloons made from scrapbook paper, shaping Victorian cones, gathering supplies, but we made it. My favorite part though, was decorating Santa! Poor Santa. Ted found him in a dumpster and brought him home for me. He was missing a leg and smelled like coffee. After Febreezing him and later giving him a few shots of Ted's cologne...it was time to fix his leg. I found a sturdy piece of wood in the basement and shoved it up his pants leg. Oh yes, I shoved! Then, stuffed it and gave him new boots. Ted's old boots actually. Once Santa was standing all by himself, we figured he should stay for the party! And since he was already dressed in red and white, he was already dressed for it. We add sparkly heart picks, feathers, and ribbons to his bag and draped light pink and white pearl necklaces across his hat. A spring-time brooch fit perfectly on the brim of his hat. Next, we gathered flowers for him to hold in his other hand, along with alittle stuffed teddy bear and I made a big glittery Valentine from vintage lace, wallpaper, and a 1930s Valentine from Mary's great-grandmother. It still wasn't enough. We cut out white felt hearts for his pants and another home-made Valentine for his other hand. Standing in front of Santa, we set a little antique table, covered with Mary's pink sheets. On top, we placed a 100 year old tool box and filled it with bags of treats for the girls to put inside their Victorian cones.

*whew!* I'm even tired writing about it!

The party was lots of fun and I loved seeing the imaginations of these fresh young minds.

Mary's Art Studio

Last summer, while watching HGTV's "That's Clever" where crafters show off their studios, my 6 year old Mary, turned and asked, "Mommy, can I have an art studio?" It was music to my ears!
At first though, it seemed impossible. Where could we possibly find a little art studio for her? The basement's too dark and damp, the attic needs heat. Both kids share a bedroom. hmmm......AHA! I KNOW!

What used to be the original foyer to the house, a tiny little dark room we were using to store the vacuum cleaner and coats, could be converted! It'd be tiny, but just perfect for a 6 year old.

In two month's time, I scraped off two layers of 63 year old wallpaper, learned to chip off old water-soaked plaster and spackle the right way, and painted walls, and shelves. An antique writing desk we had stored in the attic made the perfect work station. Ted hung sage green shelves to store her gymnastics awards, pictures, and vintage metal lunchboxes filled with markers, crayons, and other supplies. I traced and painted her favorite characters on the walls (Disney fairies, Smurfs, the original Strawberry Shortcake characters, Lightening McQueen, and Mater). A colorful little rug and vintage Carebears tin wastebasket made the perfect accents. Finally, we invested in a really good artist's lamp. Of course, when she saw me painting characters on the walls, she had to try it herself. So I let her have one wall to freely draw on!

Now, what was once the smelly old dark closet, is now a bright, welcoming little studio for Mary. She loves spending time in there, creating and framing her works of art, making Valentines and cards for her friends, and sometimes "just needing privacy" as she puts it. The best part is, it was all done on a dime.

If any of you crave a space to call your own, think of us...in our tiny little home...converting a tiny little closet. It's amazing what you can do on very little money and a lot of creativity.

At this point, we're hoping to convert the attic into an extra bedroom or two. Maybe then I'll also have a studio of my own. Like mother like daughter. Or in this case...like daughter like mother!!

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Monday, February 22, 2010

New to the Blogging World

Now I know how writers feel. Sitting here, starting at a blank computer, wondering what to write...wondering if I should just try again later....wondering what the heck I'm even doing.

OK, let's take it from the top. Hi! I'm Jill. I live in historic Bucks County Pennsylvania. The history of Bucks County and appreciation of how it wants to preserve the past is what inspired my name, "Bucks County Folk Art". Like Bucks, I also love to preserve a little of the past. I do this by creating timeless folk art.

As I learn my way around the ins and outs of blogging, I hope to post pictures and inspire others with both my entries and my art. Right now, I'm a bit intimidated, but that'll soon pass and I'll look back on my first entries and shake my head at how "stiff" I sounded.

Now for some background: I grew up #5 of 7 children in Trenton, NJ. My mom stayed at home until I was 8 before getting a full-time job to help make ends meet; so I have many great memories of Mom being home. Dad, oh my poor father, worked 2 full-time jobs to support his family. He'd work all day, come home and TRY to sleep with 7 loud kids, and go to work at night. Other times, he'd work a full-time job with 2 part-time ones. Dad instilled a very hard work ethic in his children.

All my life, I wanted to be an artist, but unfortunately, reality has a way of hindering dreams. Instead of following my love, I chose the "safe" path, earning a Bachelors in Office Administration.

I took a couple basic art classes, but also found I hated it. I hated the pressure of creating something I wasn't inspired to do, just for a grade. Then there was my own lack of confidence, enhanced by one teacher who told me I should definitely go into the art world (Got an A in his class) and another teacher simultaneously telling me I had no business being an artist (I was failing his class). Art was the one real joy in my life and it was being sabotaged, so I decided to keep it as my own. In that sense, I don't regret my decision to play it safe.

Moving on....years of the corporate world left me feeling empty and unfulfilled. With the encouragement of my new husband, Ted, I went back to school and earned a master's in School Counseling. For 4 years I worked full-time while earning my master's at night, plus held 2 part-time positions. (Like father like daughter). By the time I graduated, I was as burned out as you could get, but thankfully, got a job right away as a counselor at our local high school. It was only offered part-time, but it worked out great because almost as if God placed it in our hands, we bought our first home....a tiny little stone cottage here in Bucks County. It was completely beat up and needed so much work, but we saw its potential. This is where my artist's eye really came in handy.

We worked on the house constantly for a year and built ourselves a cozy little place. In the meantime, Little Mary was born in April, 2003. Goodbye second income, hel-lo diapers! Next came Nicolai, 2 years later.

In June, I turned 40. Something happened - something WONDERFUL that completely transformed my life. I gave myself a birthday gift. I gave myself the gift of TIME. I decided that it was time for me to say NO to things so I could rediscover what I really wanted in my life.

In the meantime, my mom was diagnosed with Diabetes, sending me into 3 months of very hard research into this disease. As a precaution, I started following a Pre-Diabetic lifestyle. I dropped 20 pounds in 3 months and never felt healthier! Ted got me a treadmill and I also started practicing yoga and pilates. Feeling great physically, I decided it was time to integrate art back into my life.

9 months later: Physically - 20 pounds lighter. Mentally - 100 pounds lighter! Since putting myself on the "To Do" list, my priorities have changed. I now intentionally make time for myself and my art as it lifts my spirits and fills my soul. How sweet it is!