Amidst falling linden leaves, I passed by and heard the sound of a Skilsaw coming from the potting shed. For about a year I’ve been hoping to catch a glimpse of the backyard artist who lives three blocks away. Wrapped in yellow paint, her windowed workshed is a tiny haven of reclaimed creativity. The corners are stacked with orchard pear and apple crates, rusty nails waiting to be extracted. On a high southern shelf her 1940’s radio serves as friendly company between searing wood cuts. “I love Chris Fabry while I’m working,” she says nodding to the familiar voice overhead. Long planks of end-of-driveway fencing are being refashioned into nativity stables. Our dogs romped the fall green lawn as we chatted about how she began this truly cottage industry. “I started making them back in 1985 for my family and then a friend offered to buy one and I realized I could make a little business out of it.” She hand fashions the nativity figures as well, starting in January. If you are interested, here is a look at what she makes on Etsy:
Every artist needs a “room of my own” as Virginia Woolf described it. While I don’t yet have a whole room dedicated to my version of creativity, the old Lincoln desk is where I cozy up with words. Objects in the hutch inspire with past, present and future reminders. A skull – from my San Antonio love of calaveras and their celebration on Dia de los Muertos. We are all mortal. An ancient copy of Pilgrims Progress because we need the tangible scent of old leather and crinkling pages for connection with ancient predecessors. My “chop,” brought back from China by a close friend. Plunging the carved dragon into blood red ink to sign my name in Chinese characters links my arms with another culture in word and symbol. The smattering of these sentimental friends extends my heart into the world while typing on green felt, at home.
Karen Cushman has her own out building – a writing studio. A place apart from the bustle of laundry, the phone and distractions. Cats sit on her lap all morning or ball up around her feet like an angora blanket while she researches her next novel. Stephanie Hulthen, who took the portrait photos for this website, lives on a farm with a gaggle of children and geese. Her photography studio is a small barn, set apart from her zany house full of runny noses, spilled milk and broken crayons. Here she can put things together with vision, seeing them through her singular lens, taking time amidst the drying corn stalks that stand on the periphery.
Before walking my dog home, I bought one of those nativity stables as we talked over linseed oil soaking into the grain of reclaimed wood. The sawdust smell alone forced me to do it, but also the joy of seeing my neighbor putting her hands to what she loves in her shining corner of the world. If you don’t have a room of your own, stake out a parcel and start creating. If you do, send me a photo or a comment about what lurks there. If you aren’t creating something now you MUST at minimum have your own cozy reading nook. See some favorite reading nooks on my pinterest page: http://www.pinterest.com/margaretphilbri/