Me and My Big Ideas
Updated: Aug 14
You know that old saying "your eyes are bigger than your stomach"--when you take too much on your plate and can't finish it? Well, I have the same problem with new ideas. They sound so good at the time--some innovative, some interesting, some do-able, and some just to take care of a task in a more efficient way--right! So, I pull them all onto my plate, where they threaten to create a mudslide of "undone-ness" and bury me under tons of unfinished good ideas! Because, of course, an unfinished good idea is just like cleaning out and re-organizing your closet. You know it's going to get a lot worse before it ever starts looking better.
When we moved into the Victorian house on Wallace Ave, I immediately scraped a one foot by one foot square of salmon pink paint off the wainscotting in the foyer. Yes, right in the middle of a very visable room, the entrance to the front door. No discretely trying a few inches behind the front door, or anything like that. I had never removed paint, before and I was laboring under the silly idea that it was an easy, fast job. Spread the gooey stuff on, wait 10 minutes, take a paint scraper and take off all the pink, white, green paint and four coats of shellac. Just like that. Nope, wasn't that easy. So, because I couldn't resist the urge to peek under the pink paint---
I spent the next 12 years supporting the college careers of the Zip-Strip Family. So, by the time the woodwork on the front porch was considered, I was heartily sick of the smell, the mess, everything about strippers--I had tried them all. That's why, when a handy-man friend said, "you should get a heat gun and burn the stuff off." He had no idea what wildly dangerous words he was putting out there. Just joining me and "heat gun" in the same sentence should have been cause for evacuating the premesis, right then. But, I'm willing to try, so I went to my local Sears Store (woof, woof) and wandered through the tool department (woof, woof, woof) admiring those gorgeous red metal tool cabinets that I had always lusted after. (owooo woof woof). I had to ask the guy with the tool belt (yes, woof) where to find the heat guns. When he asked did I want the regular one or the extra heavy duty one, I, of course answered in my best "one of the guys" voice that I'd take the biggest and the best, because I had a whole front porch to strip. He seemed impressed. Or maybe stunned.
The first day nothing went right. I kept shorting out the wiring, the cord not long enough, on and on. BUT-by the second day I was sort of getting the hang of it! The 7 layers of outside grade oil paint that had been there since 1895, just seemed to peel off like butter. The third day, I was on to the pillars and the fourth day, I set the whole thing on fire! Whoops! Call the brigade!! Not really too much damage--well, okey, a couple of pillars had to be re-built--but it was fun, fun, fun 'til the husband took my heat gun away-ay-ay.
So, here's a bright idea that I'm sure NONE of you would have fallen for. But, it just looked like so much fun! We had built and moved into our amazing log house on 20 acres of deep woods. We had had the usual dump of snow on Halloween, so it was time to get out the snowshoes. We had cleared a few trails down to the river, but hadn't gone as far over as our Northern boundary, but we knew where it was.Soooo--the night before, there had been a very informative program on PBS about this guy who would take his portable deer stand out into the woods, set it up high up in a tree, and stay up there, bellowing the moose mating call--which strangely, sounds a lot like one of the boats answering the ariel bridge. Then, he would take pictures of the resulting moose that came around. Well! I had tried out the call--I was pretty good at it if I do say so. So why not give it a try?
I knew there were moose around, I had seen their leavings on our trails, like extra large size root beer barrels. Right? So, enlisting our dog, Toby and buckling on my snowshoes, I took off for our Northern borders, to talk to the mooses. Did I tell anyone?--no, because there was no one home at my house. Did I take my phone? No, I didn't have a phone, yet--it was 1990! Did I have any idea what I was doing? Apparently not.
After struggling through the deep snow for about 1/2 an hour, I came to a spot that I thought looked promising. I knew I was close to our property line and I knew I was close to the Lester River, where the moose liked to congregate. Bracing myself against the closest tree, I took a deep breath and let whoop with what I thought was a very authentic Lady moose invitation. Toby turned around and looked at me like "what! Are you crazy?! I am outta here!! And he took off." At that moment, I realized that 1. I was about 1/4 of a mile from my house. 2. I can't run on snowshoes. 3. I didn't have a deer stand. AND 4. What the Heck did I think I was going to do when a big Bull took me up on my come-hither message, ANYWAY?? So much for that idea! I got out of there as fast as my little legs could carry me--Toby, hey Toooooby, wait for me!! So, when Tom got home from work and asked what did I do that day, I just gave Toby "The Look" and said, "Oh , we went for a little walk". Nothin' much.
Here's another idea, destined to be a trainwreck from the first glimmer--Our daughter and her husband also built a log house, not far down the road from us. But, they are both very handy people, can do almost anything, so they did a lot of the work, themselves. The land had to be cleared, trees and shrubbery cut down and hauled away, before the foundation could even be stepped off. Here comes the defining statement for my idea--ready?? "It was the year of the last and greatest Army Worm invasion". They were everywhere.!! In the concrete that got poured for the foundation. In the sub-flooring. A board would get laid down and you'd have to sweep the worms off before you could wedge it into place, because they'd be squished in between if you didn't. So, I got a wonderful "Mom Will Help You" idea of what I could do to save the day. I got a heavy metal coal shovel, two large garbage containers and green plastic bags. I would shovel those green wriggley slimy things into the garbage bags, put them into the containers before they knew what hit them and then our kids could haul them away to the Dump. So I did that--but the kids didn't do that. The garbage cans sat there in the burning sun, all closed in tight, all dying, all fermenting, for about a week---until one unlucky soul happened to say--Hey what are these trash containers doing here and what is that ungodley smell. Y'know they still bring that up 25 years later???? YOU WOULD THINK by now, they would have gotten over it.
And then, there was the unfortunate tale of the painted birds. Marilyn Badger and I had collaborated on a quilt that I named "Yellow Bird". Not sure why, because there wasn't a single bird on it, until Marilyn made them up and quilted them on there. It went to a couple of shows, did okey, but, one Saturday afternoon I was thinking that the birds were so great, I wished they showed up better. and MAYBE I should PAINT them! This was in 2006. People were quilting paintings that had been done on cloth, they were quilting around beautiful appliques that looked like they were painted, but as far as I knew, nobody was painting on quilts AFTER they had been quilted. Especially when they were accepted and scheduled to go to another national show in two weeks time.
And besides that, I didn't own any fabric paint. I had colored pencils, Magic markers, colored inks and a watercolor paint box. But wait just a minute! Didn't I just buy some new oil-based paint sticks....nice big fat ones! at the last quilt show?? However, I tried them and they just weren't pointy enough to do the small bird beaks and other details. I needed to brush the color on. Maybe I could melt the colorsticks and make paint?? Maybe in the microwave??--nope, still too thick. What do you thin oil paints with?-Turpentine? didn't have any. Nail polish remover? That sounded dangerous. One article mentioned citrus dissolver of some sort--didn't have that, either. BUT, I had pure citrus room deodorizer! And guess what?? it worked! I was able to thin the colors enough so I could use a paint brush and paint the birds--so I did that, ALL of them! They were wonderful!! They showed up beautifully, even their pointy little beaks!! Two days later, however, they were still gooey. A week later, they still weren't dry. This, in spite of having a fan on them night and day. They were scheduled to go to MQS in two more days. They were still dampish. Hair pulling time!! What to do, what to do? The lightbulb comes on-- Why, of course!--iron them with a hot industrial iron! Yayheyhey! Sussman saves the day!! And did they win, you say?? Why yes, yes they did!!
A few of my big ideas actually have turned out--like buying up all the orphaned doilies that nobody wanted in 1974 and making "over-the-top" Victorian pillows from them--just as that "Habersham" look was coming in. My business name was "Confections" and boom! I had merch in 165 stores throughout the Midwest! Or, making a pair of Faux" boot tops to cover the chubby legs of the visiting tenor between the tops of his own boots to the bottom of his knickers. That "think on your feet" idea caught the attention of the director/costume designer and landed me a long and fascinating job, making not boots, but millinery and headpieces for the A. T Jones Costumers and the Baltimore Opera Company. Just as, 5 years prior to that, figuring out how to make a "Peter and the Wolf" "climb-able tree" from a wooden 6' stepladder, a cardboard refrigerator container and a 2 x 4, started my costume/set career at the Duluth/ later Minnesota Ballet. From 2 X 4s to flat tutus, a long apprenticeship.
And I'm thinking this might be a winner, too--booklets of original design projects for the quilter who is tired of the "same old, same old"--5 in every book, beginner to adventuresome. You can order them on my website. Techniques from traditional piecing, strip piecing and paper piecing to machine turned-edge applique and sneaky tricks, shortcuts and tips. And LOOK what you can make!