“We are born makers. We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands.” – Brene Brown
One year ago, in my first article for Cottage Lifestyle Magazine I wrote about the movement towards “hand-made is home-made.” I wrote about how the future is about reusing and creating and how the maker movement has gained traction in our time of consumer fatigue. Turns out one year later, this couldn’t be more true faced with our current experience that has tested our communities and ourselves as individuals to the very core of our humanity. More than ever we have been forced to slow down and rediscover the art of craft. We have had to become resourceful, creative and frugal to survive in this new world order. Crafted goods allow for a story to be told. Perhaps that is what has inspired so many of my own crafts lately and those of my friends and family. Perhaps we are telling the story of our very real and raw human experiences through this new history we are now a part of.
My social media feed has been bursting with the crafts of current and new makers, all with a story to be told no matter the age or community. This emergence of personality and individuality is encouraging human-made unique ideas as we discover our authentic selves, and begin to tell our stories through crafts.
As we move into the dog days of summer, I thought it relevant to share some of these craft projects to incent and inspire possibilities as we begin to connect more with nature, others and ourselves.
By Joanne Clark
Natural Wood Stump Side Table
Here is a relatively easy craft made from your basic campfire stump. These often retail for a pretty high price tag so creating your own side table or stool is a viable option for basically the same look. This is not a new idea so you can source many how to references online. It’s important to let your stump dry out over the course of a month or so inside. Once dry, you can remove the outer bark with a chisel. This will clean up the look of your stump and allow for sanding, staining and sealing. Once the bark has been removed, you can use a palm sander or sand by hand. This project is best done outside, although I will say I did mine inside on a rainy day on a drop sheet as I sanded mine by hand. When you are finished and the stump is smooth to the touch, you can either leave as the natural wood tone or stain to your desired shade. I stained mine for a more refined appearance but you can’t go wrong with whatever approach you take. You can also seal your stump however, mine isn’t sealed. Sealing will take a few coats and if you want to be really thorough you can sand in between the various coats of sealant. Let your stump dry indoors for a day or so and after that you can use it as a side table in a reading nook or even pull it outdoors for extra seating in a pinch.
This craft is really up to you as to how big and what the presentation ends up being. The vessel is really going to be part of the showpiece so spend some time thinking about the look you are going for. I used a glass vase for a more elegant look and the silver bowl for the moss ball really elevates a simple craft. This could easily become more rustic using a terra cotta planter, a wood bowl or even an antique pail. I found that the moss in the woods simply peeled off branches and rock surfaces in large sheets. I was able to use an old partially deflated volleyball as the mould for the moss ball and I simply formed the moss around the ball. I think this craft took all of 10 minutes. The vase arrangement took longer sourcing the right shade of wood, length of wood and arranging everything for the right look. You could easily make this a lot smaller. The moss is simply set on each branch at certain areas to add interest and color. I’m sure the moss will fade over time but so far mine are still showing shades of green after a couple of weeks.
Bench: Mark Jenkins • Cushions: Northern Patio
As a more advanced craft, one can easily decide on a variation of this maker project that is suitable to their skill level. This craft allowed for an interesting way to use a narrow piece of deck. The outdoor bench in this case is 15’ long however you can easily build to scale for your particular area and needs. I wanted a floating base that allowed the bench to feel spacious and airy. We found many ideas online and someone versed in wood working can make recommendations as well for type of wood and style. I needed this bench to weather naturally and to be low maintenance for our northern climate. The weathered white pine will continue to age and lends the appearance of always having been there. You could also forego the cushions, however in this case I used outdoor Sunbrella fabric to withstand the summer elements.
Sour Dough Bread
Nothing new here I’m sure for many of you. You can find a ton of recipes online. I think I had more fun staging mine after as I’m not a baker and I was pretty proud that I made this happen to begin with. My neighbor gifted me the starter kit and I was pleasantly surprised as a first- time bread maker, how simple it was and the end result far surpasses effort. Those are my favorite crafts by the way. My end result is wonderfully staged but my loaf not so much. I’m sure many of you have jumped on this corona craze and have turned out something more appealing looking than mine.
This is a fantastic craft for all ages. My neighbor as you can see has cornered this cute tic-tac-toe set using fun colors and that familiar wood stump craft makes an appearance again. Use exterior paint if you plan on playing this outdoors which can also easily be used indoors as an addition to my wood stump side table idea. This would be really cute in a child’s bedroom, near a campfire or in this case a fun diversion for an outdoor patio seating area.
The Original Painting
If “art is expression” then we are certainly in a time where we could all use a little “expression.” Using old wood scraps is an ideal way to recycle and provides a basic artist canvas. Using leftover interior or exterior paint is also economical and adds to the easy facilitation of a painting zone for all ages. Anyone can grab a brush and immerse themselves in the creative thinking and planning that art allows for. Getting back to the most basic of all crafts, painting can help us make sense of the world. Set up an area and find your inner Picasso. Our outer existence right now is craving an outlet and a way to express ourselves.
As much as the hashtag #covidcrafts gained traction, hopefully our quest for self-expression through crafting and making can carry on even after things normalize. Hopefully we are learning as humans to create through the many mediums that we discover during a time when our lives have been reduced to only that which is essential. The tangibility of craft supplies, to hold something secure despite the confusion of the world around us, allows us to be productive through all the waiting. Who knows what new skills and interests may develop out of our new found confidence as a result of what we are able to create.