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Archive for the ‘Southwestern art’ Category

Reflections on Home

®®New Play Area

My philosophical mother left me with many quotes on which to ponder, one of them being:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world.”

That certainly is a fact, as each of us was created to be unique.  Each of us is an original piece of art.  Although we may have similarities we were not intended to be prints or reproductions of another human.

I try to understand other people whose style and preferences differ from mine, and it’s just plain fun to discover whom people are and what “makes them tick”.  Perhaps the best way to get acquainted with another person is by visiting in that individual’s home.  I want to believe that most people who spend considerable time in their homes have some pastime they love, some kind of a life within their walls.  This life may be reflected via the books on the shelves, the cookbooks and appliances in the kitchen, baskets and tables overloaded with crafting supplies, the presence of houseplants indoors and gardens outside the windows, a dog or cat (or both), and of course a musical instrument—perhaps more than one.  The presence of art on the walls and family photos on shelves and tables says a lot—if indeed the walls, shelves, and tables are laden with pictures which are worth a thousand words.

But occasionally when visiting a home I draw the proverbial blank.  No books, no projects, no art to reveal a period or style of interest, no messes, no pets, no plants beyond the “tastefully correct” one or two—potted in matching, stylized planters rather than those ice cream buckets and COOL WHIP® containers which frequently hold my overflow of greenery.  Not even a happily messy computer corner!  Sadly, only one piece of equipment normally characterizes the apparently wasteland homes:  that ubiquitous television.

Quite possibly, the homes which appear sterile, sans personality, may not actually be like that at all.  When one is a guest, one seldom sees all the nooks and crannies.  In the most generic of furniture store homes, there are apt to be hidden away places where the residents read, craft, make music, or whatever.  As interested as I am in people and their lifestyles, I certainly don’t want to be crass and ask to see their hidden recesses—the NO ENTRY zones of a house.  So I give my host or hostess that benign benefit of the doubt.  Certainly they have some life passion, some activity that causes them to jump out of bed each day and say “HELLO, WORLD!”  Probably my host and hostess simply have chosen not to divulge exactly whom they are and what they are about.

I accept the preference for anonymity, and I understand that I may be the odd one in today’s world.  I LOVE to share.  I love to be transparent—an open 1000 page book with loads of information on every page.  As much as I love to know, I love to be known.  And as far as I know, that’s the way life was originally intended to be!  Unlike that pair in the Garden after the fall, I have absolutely no desire to hide from God or anyone else!

Meanwhile, since Joe and I have moved into a four room condo it is easier than ever for visitors to ascertain what we are all about.  Our interests pervade every corner of our home, for all to see and enjoy.  We have never had more of ourselves on our walls, tables, shelves, and floors—and we are delighted beyond expression with the overflowing abundance of our current time of life.  Crowded, YES!  Even CLUTTERED—although to me “clutter” bespeaks random chaos, and I will have none of that.

Tidiness and order rule the day, and we can always stuff one more meaningful object into the order of our home.  Minimalist gurus (who for some odd reason find no significance in memories manifested all around them, no joy in the colors and textures of a life well-lived) will call us “hoarders”.  I call us “LOVERS OF LIFE”!  Thus the spinning wheels (which really spin beautiful yarn from luxuriously fleeced sheep’s wool) lurk behind a favorite easy chair, accompanied by baskets of wool and more baskets of yarn—plus needles and other accoutrements of knitting.

My piano hosts an assortment of music books—and musical scores printed out and taped together so that I can play without turning pages.  Our kitchen contains the necessaries—toaster, coffee pot, blender, crockpot—plus a representation of bygone eras in funky kitchen collectibles.  Our dining area buffet serves as a display area for my soap industry—while hundreds more soaps are stacked in drawers and stored in huge plastic bins under furniture and in closets.

Our bedroom is also my art studio, with a messy table for acrylics, collaging, etc., and another table for watercoloring.  Crammed into a bedroom corner is my writing studio with my very own laptop, printer/scanner, and voluminous files (I will always love paper).

My husband’s den is his bit of Heaven on earth with the TV, his own computer/printer/scanner, filing cabinet, posh reclining chair (suitable for snoozing on), and even a daybed for that occasional afternoon “lie down”.  Joe keeps his clothes in a dresser and closet in his den, while our enormous bedroom closet houses my clothing plus bins and shelves laden with more soap and somewhere between 600 and 800 paintings.  I tell our children they’ll have a post-humous fortune on their hands some day.  (Obviously, I’m joking!  My art is amateur stuff, paying dividends of endless and infinite fun!)

Both living room and bedroom have indoor garden areas—with tropicals in the east facing patio door, and succulents in our south facing bedroom window.  And everywhere are BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS.  Shelves groan with books, tables support the weight of them, and floors feature book towers in every room.

All of that—including a zest for collecting with a partiality for Victorian era art glass produced by our great American 19th century glass companies, English china, and most anything vintage and funky—goes a long way toward telling our guests whom we are, in this happiest of homes which I’m inviting you to tour with me today!

The above play area is a magnet for our great-grandchildren (16 children, ages 10 and under) who visit whenever they can.  And my happy little kitchen beyond.  (Actually, it’s Joe’s kitchen for the duration of my post-surgical, arm-in-sling adventure.)

Fiber studio

My fiber studio resides behind a living room easy chair.  The spinning wheels are not for “show” (although they are very beautiful, made from cherry wood).  The spinning wheels spin, and produce luxury yarns for sweaters, scarves, and hats.  Years ago, Joe made the pine dry sink for me.  It houses my collection of English flow blue china and my Grandma Kate’s English (Aesthetic Period—circa 1885) Indus wedding dishes featuring graceful birds and foliage reminiscent of the British Empire in India.

Most of the baskets in our home are homemade.  The one with the coral insert is an Irish potato basket, and below it with gorgeous ultra-marine blue/violet fleece inside is an egg basket—both crafted by moi.  The larger basket, in the style of Wisconsin Native Americans’ basketry, was woven by our daughter-in-law, Cheri Been.

make art

One of the many perks in our condo home is the fact that Joe and I each have our very own bathroom.  What fun is that!  Joe’s is the larger of the two, and it contains a shower which he loves.  (I HATE showers, probably because they remind me of that most detested of all scenarios—high school gym class!)  I have a tiny bathroom, but it contains a TUB (one of the great loves of my life).

I painted the blotchies on the upper walls, and our grandson, Tyler Been, painted the gorgeous New Mexico-ish red lower walls.  This is my Louis L’Amour bathroom—replete with cowboy pictures, and photos of family members on horseback.  As you can see on the above left, I have hung some of my own Southwestern art here as well.

TPJ 2

Here is another shot of my sweet loo.  The Civil War era folding chair is a family heirloom, with needlepoint painstakingly stitched by my mother many decades ago.  I treasure the no-longer-available glass ARIZONA TEA® bottles, plus my collections of all things horsey and Western.  (The oil painting on the left is not mine.  It was a rummage sale prize, unearthed a few years ago.)

Art 3

The messy inner sanctum of my studio is open to all who venture here, since we always have our company put their wraps on our bed.  That’s an old fashioned thing to do, perhaps dating back to when closets were not so prevalent as they are today.  To me, wraps on the bed are the most gracious way to go.

soap 5

No home photo shoot would be complete without a glimpse of my soap.  I brag about my soap way too much.  It’s excellent, and we have used nothing but my home made soap since 1976.  Today my soap is far removed from that crude stuff the pioneers made over an open fire, using fat drippings from their slaughters and kitchen grease cans.

I use the finest vegetable oils (olive being the Lamborghini of oils!) and pure, rendered tallow—all of which I purchase online from COLUMBUS FOODS in Chicago.  High grade cosmetic pigments go into the soap for color, plus quality fragrance oils.  I have online sources for these ingredients, as well.  Soap making is an expensive hobby, well worth ever drop of cash and elbow grease involved!  And we saponifiers always have a beautiful gift to offer our family members and friends—the gift of the finest soap.

Ambience (2)

Old painted furniture, dried hydrangeas, British India style shelves, platters and bowls which don’t fit in cupboards and thus are relegated to the floor, family photos, sparkling glassware including Vaseline glass with glass fruit, cookbooks, a teapot and cups and saucers (just a few of a plethora about the home), and a toy bear (also one of many) co-exist in happy harmony.

Now if you happen to be thinking, “This is really weird!” just remember:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world!”

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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Recently our daughter, Laura, shopped for upholstery fabric for her sofa.  Laura wanted a print which would incorporate the soft colors she loves, to accent the muted gold walls in her new home.  At her first stop, Laura was told emphatically that patterned fabrics are unavailable because they are “not in style”.  Only solid colors are “in”.

At the next store Laura was told that patterns were scarce, but the decorator/clerk was helpful and willing to look.  Amazingly, she came up with a print in a traditional design which contained all the colors Laura desired.  Both our daughter and the clerk were delighted! 

Since hearing Laura’s account of shopping for fabric I’ve been musing on the patternless trend in decorating.  Not only does a lack of pattern go against my grain—it seems totally unnatural.  Nature is full of patterns.  If we are observant we cannot look anywhere without seeing a variety of designs.  Even in vast expanses of sky and sea, patterns are evident in moving clouds and undulating waves.  And our personal lives overflow with patterns as well!

Not only do I love patterns, but I love to mix them up and feature them together in the smallest of areas.  How many patterns can you detect in the below photo?

In this room alone, I have counted at least twenty-two patterns—including those in furniture, throw rugs, table runners, decorative shawls, afghans, and pillows.  Not taken into consideration were the patterns in dishes on shelves and art on the walls. 

Quite obviously, eclectic decorating is (and nearly always has been) a dominating pattern in my life!  Back in the 1990s, I received so many comments (pros and cons) about my “style” that I recorded the following message on our telephone answering device:  “You have reached the Beens, and the headquarters of Outrageous Home Decor.” 

Unfortunately many callers failed to comprehend my funky brand of humor, and they registered rank confusion.  They just didn’t get it.  So we replaced that message with one that was thoroughly boring and “socially correct”.*

Returning to current decorating trends, there IS HOPE!  This week I went to TARGET, in search of towels for my bathroom.  We have two bathrooms in our condo:  a big one for Joe and and a sweet little one for me.  A private loo!  How wonderful is that?!!!  Having my own loo means it is ALL MINE, and I can decorate it however I wish.  At TARGET I found incredibly gorgeous towels in Southwestern-ish stripes of many colors. 

I bought several towels and wash cloths, and rejoiced all the way home with this amazing bounty for my bathroom which abounds in cowboy pictures, art reminiscent of New Mexico, photos of family members with horses, my Dad’s spurs, and glass ARIZONA TEA® bottles with a Western or Native American motif.  (Fondly, I call the loo my “Louis L’Amour bathroom”.)

I’ve been waiting for a grandson to come over during his school break, to paint the above described bathroom.  But hanging the new towels set an idea moving in my patterned brain.  Wouldn’t it be fun if . . . ? 

Below, you will see the fun (and funky) outcome of that idea:

When we moved here three plus years ago, the bathroom walls were already sponged with blotches of tan.  I added life to the room by charging the walls with blotches of vibrant color, plus a few of my favorite words. 

Having (just this morning!) added these fresh patterns, I guided my husband into the bathroom while instructing him to keep his eyes shut until we were in the room with the door shut for full effect.  Even in my wildest imagination, I wasn’t prepared for Joe’s response.  He broke into an immense grin and said, “That’s BEAUTIFUL!”

Then Joe added that instead of painting my bathroom we should keep my folk artsy walls this way, with the words and colorful blotches—while using the gallon of paint we’d purchased for my loo, for painting his den instead.  The paint is BRIGHT, BRIGHT RED!  That’s the result of nearly sixty years of happy marriage! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*We could only stand our generic, “socially correct” answering machine message for a very short time.  Finally we changed it to one that remains right up to this minute—and will remain:  “You have reached the LOVERS—Joe and Margaret Been.  Please leave a message, and have a great day!”

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Yesterday I wandered through a local art gallery, and enjoyed the creativity displayed there in paintings, textiles, and pottery.  Then I came home and wandered through our condo, and was awed once again by the ambience of home art and the fun of living in a personal “gallery”.  Here is another mini-tour—this one focusing on some of the art and artifacts which comprise our home gallery.

Above is a shot of my Louis L’Amour bathroom.  Yes, Joe and I each have our own bathroom.  What a joy to have a loo of one’s own to pack with stuff!  I have named my bathroom after one of my favorite 20th century novelists.  Oddly enough, I do not at this point own a Louis L’Amour book but I’ve borrowed and read most of them from libraries.  Perhaps someday I’ll run across a L’Amour at a reasonable price.

Pictured are a few of my ARIZONA TEA® bottles with a Western theme.  The bottle with the cattle driving scene was a “once in a lifetime” find at King Sooper’s in Denver.  I’ve never seen this issue anywhere else.  Southwestern pictures, my home made soap, a bighorn sheep horn, a copper sheep bell, a bit of lace, an artificial barrel cactus, and photos of family members with horses fit nicely into this bathroom cranny. 

Meanwhile, out in my garden is a Western steer’s skull—just waiting to be cleaned up and added to the bathroom decor, Georgia O’Keeffe style.

Partially pictured above, in the lower left corner as you face the screen, is a unique bit of home grown art:  two large clay pots joined bottom to bottom to create an hourglass effect, and mosaic tiled with Native American symbols.  I think one of the symbols is a Harley® thing.  It’s orange and black and it has wings.  This gem was purchased at an up-north rummage sale for all of $2.00.

Pictured below in the same loo are switchplate covers decoupaged by my artist niece, Nancy, who lives in Colorado Springs.  Beneath the switchplates you can faintly see a painting of sheep, probably set in the Hebrides, unearthed at some antique shop back in the fathomless mists of time.

Our neighborhood abounds in funky finds.  In fact, the hanging art pictured below was purchased from a local recycle artist who has named her business FUNKY FINDS.  On this hanging wonder you’ll see an assortment of glass bottles, bells, beads, a butterfly, and even a die left over from a board or dice game.  The herb (catmint, I think) in tandem with the art is a snippet from my garden. 

Behind the funky find is a poignant, tinted photograph of my mother at age three.  The photo was taken in 1899.  On the small shelves to the right are some of my parents’ toothpick holders, and a Royal Doulton® Mrs. Tiggiewinkle which Joe and I bought in Beatrix Potter country—the Lake District of England.

Below, you will see an answer to the question, “What does one do with those boring kitchen cupboard doors?”  In past homes I have removed them altogether, as cupboard doors make a house look new—and who would ever want that!?!  Also, I’ve been known to paint the cupboard doors, to liven things up a bit.

When we moved here and I mentioned removing the doors or painting them, I could actually see Joe wince in his chair.  Finally it was Joe who said, “Why don’t you decoupage your art on them?”  So that’s what I did, and we both like the result.

Finally, the gallery pictured below is an integral feature of most every happy home I’ve ever visited:  The Refrigerator Door Gallery.  How precious is children’s art, nestled among snapshots and assorted fragments of family life!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2010©

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