Purpose: everyone’s got one. It’s like having a dog. You feed it, you tell it (and yourself) that it’s the best one that’s ever existed, you strut it out in public so everyone can see you and your purpose, and getting one is an obvious step in any serious American adult’s life. But what happens when you suddenly don’t know whether your dog ... I mean, your purpose, is really what you want?
Most of my life has been spent trying things on for size. For a while I wanted to be a veterinarian. It was a great fit: I was smart, loved animals, and had butt loads of compassion. Perfect. Then it was a “rocket scientist”. I wanted to work for NASA, and to get offended when people said “it isn’t rocket science!” (do people still say that?). It was also a good fit: I was smart, fascinated with space and physics, and I had a tenacious creativity. Then it was architecture, engineering, medicine, biology, writer . . . then artist and instructor.
Mostly I believe my purpose was to seem intelligent. Something changed when I set my sights on art, though. All of the other things I wanted to be, I knew exactly what those people did: a vet saves animals, a NASA employee obviously made rockets, an architect designs structures, and so on. What does an artist do? The answer a younger me would have yelled out with confidence is “Makes art!! Duh.” Art about what? Using what materials? With. What. Purpose.
Ugh. The question of “What is your purpose?” has driven me nuts for years. To be an artist! Obviously. I’m fairly sure I disgusted my professors with my inability to answer this simple question. Everyone else had these clear, defined ideas of what they wanted to do in the world. Even through their extra-media explorations they were driven by reaching that goal still. I was all over the place. I wanted to learn everything and be everything and know everything I had missed out on previously. I have an obsession with differing perspectives that drove my instructors nuts. I remember specifically being asked one time what my intent was with a certain collage. I asked to hear what other people had to say first and the professor chuckled saying I was taking the easy way out.
I love hearing interpretations. I love analysing other people. I think I am simply interested in how personality is formed, and how it becomes a lens for us to look through. A detached observer who interacts through their character, their role. Which is also, perhaps, why I was so intrigued by the idea of living a life outside of the normal parameters. I've always been a bit of a rebel, so when I learned there was another way to evaluate the success of your life, to escape working for The Man, to be held accountable to only your own standards ... I was intrigued to say the least.
I believe I have perhaps found a purpose, however, that can combine all of my skills, including the one that drives me to attain new skills: Homesteading. In the past year I have learned so much about become sustainable and relying less on authorities to tell me when my art / way of life is good or not. But this has landed me in a pickle. I do not own land and even though I am fairly close to living in the country, there are strict landlord-enforced limitations on what can be done on the property.
In hopes that I can still contribute to the Sustainability community, and that one day we can make the leap to our own land, I would like to use this blog to fuel my purpose and to document what it takes to build up a sustainable lifestyle completely from scratch. I was never even aware of how crucial a simple act of recycling was until my adult years, so, trust me ... when I say “from scratch,” I mean it. So if you’re interested in getting started but don’t know how to, or can’t believe the wild claims that you can become more sustainable from right where you’re reading this, please, allow me to share my journey towards a purposeful, meaningful, sustainable lifestyle.
Today I’m going to share a few of the many forms our living room has taken in the past 6 months. As stated before, space is very important to me and the living room is top priority to me. For one, I do most of my work in this space - I write, I brainstorm, I research, I watch, I play . . . so on. For another, it is very openly connected to our kitchen and I must admit to being a bit of a neat freak when it comes to the kitchen, which is spilling over into the living area (because I can see the mess . . and it sees me). I am definitely the person who has to clean for 20 min before I can sit down to any work. Some of you are wishing you could do that, but let me just tell you . . . don’t.
Evan and I moved in here in December, and so far this space has changed the most and the most often. It is our first place together - though we spent a few months in my last solo apartment before finding this one - so we are constantly learning about working together on arrangements and furnishing.
When walking into apartments that you think you may like to move into, don’t be like me. I have this knack for seeing only potential - it’s great when it comes to helping my students (I’m an art instructor), but it sucks when you are now 6 months into your lease wishing you had asked the questions that needed asking at the beginning, like: can I paint the walls? Yes, I could still ask, but now it’s just more of a thing. At least, it is in my mind.
At the beginning we were just trying to get everything into our new space, and transitioning from VERY high ceilings to very normal ceilings. It made all of our stuff feel cramped despite the fact that we had just moved into a large space. Our solution was to do the boring old everything-against-the-walls approach. This lasted for a while, but then discontent grew among the ranks, and Evan and I both needed a change. I wish I had more images of that initial layout to share with you, but, thank goodness, I must have deleted them.
We switched to a more conversation-friendly, more inspired, more Romantic layout of the seating facing one another. Instead of a fireplace to showcase, however, we have our TV! Woo!
Mirror plate SOLD! Stop by the shop to see what you still can buy out of my living room (LINK AT TOP RIGHT OF PAGE). I do love picking fresh flowers for the living room. Sometimes I put them in the bedroom as well, but mostly in here. I love that spring offers such an abundance of color on this property.
There’s a lot I still want to see changed, but goals are different than discontent. I greatly enjoy our current layout, and we even sometimes shove the coffee table out of the way and scooch the couches together in the center of the room to form a sort of couch/pillow fort.
Some of my goals for the space are as follows:
A few tips for the both of us to continue the war on living room boringness:
What helps you love your living spaces? Please share below!
Our final theme introduction: the United States. Now here’s a place I know about! Or... should know about? I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I find myself more and more often wondering how much I really do know about the US. Who’s engineering this crazy train, anyway?
The Americas, of which we are only one part, are a truly expansive and wonderful group of continents. The history of even the Western-settling of the land is as diverse as those who already occupied it. With that being said, my main focus here will be on those who settled the woodsy landscapes of the British Colonies. I have been fascinated lately with the symbolism, symmetry, and colors used in Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, so that has definitely shaped my thoughts on what to pursue here. Though, as all of the eastern lands here can claim, there was heavy Scotch-Irish settling as well. Truly, what makes the Americas unique, all of them, are the crosses of culture that took place. Despite trying their damnedest, early settlers even had to take on Native American culture. If they hadn’t, they would have died: from starvation, from cold, and from simply getting lost.
Also, my interest in woodworking has lead me to looking at a lot of “primitive” home furnishings lately. Now, when I say “interest in woodworking” you should know that it is not a well-practiced skill for me yet. Hence the interest in “primitive”.
Which is not to say that I could even achieve “primitive” level. But hey, I’m getting there.
A few years back I also went to the Frist museum in Nashville to see their Andy Warhol exhibition. At the same time the museum had an exhibition of Shaker woodworking. I can definitely tell you that the contrast between these two displays was intriguing. I spent hours walking through the straight lines, dark stains, and natural materials to then walk into a Warhol wonderland. The Shakers were design geniuses. Anything that can hold its austere weight next to Andy Warhol is deserving of a gold medal.
Anyhow, here are my thoughts for the American section of my Etsy shop (click here to see). I will focus on the Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch influences, with these materials and influences in mind: wood, steel, quilting, weaving, baskets, and raw carpentry, with natural tones, dark stains, greys and bright pops of folky colors. Here are some visual examples of what I have in mind:
Scotland has become one of those places for me: a destination I dream of night and day. I want to wander through the heather, seek out fairy pools, explore crumbling castles, and eat fish by the coast. There are several Scottish names in my family tree . . . the added allure of retracing my ancestors’ steps gives me an even bigger desire to see the land for myself. Not to mention one of my favorite poets, Robert Burns, was a through-and-through Scotsman. *sigh-of-delight
Ev'n then a wish (I mind its power)
A wish, that to my latest hour
Shall strongly heave my breast;
That I for poor auld Scotland's sake
Some useful plan, or book could make,
Or sing a sang at least.
Scotland, for me, is a place filled with magic. Perhaps I should never go there so that I can never be disappointed. However, it is quite difficult to disappoint me, and I think I would find it to be overwhelmingly magical anyway.
My idea for the Scottish section of my shop is the explore the ever bountiful Scottish hunting lodge. This particular fascination for me begins with the symbolic white stag, a staple of Celtic mythology. Then, after the introduction of the character Rose on Downton Abbey at her family’s Scottish home, I knew that this was the direction I wished to take this section.
For the Scottish section the materials and ideas I will be focus on are hunting, tartan, leather, wool, wood, stags, pheasants, unicorns, mountains, pewter, and the colors red, navy, green and brown. Here is another selection of images I have found which at least lean toward what I have in mind:
I must say, my connection with France is far more removed that with England. However, I do have a long-running obsession. I’m not completely sure of where it started, though I suspect it was probably the dose of Franco-Anglo history and French language I got in my classes in the UK, or something I read as a child. However, I can specifically acknowledge crediting the continuation of that obsession in my adult life to Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette (2006). The film was released during my Sophomore year of highschool (I know, I’m a young gun), and I soon after wrote a research paper on the “real” Marie Antoinette, which I’m sure was totally biased and obsess-y in nature. This specifically calls to mind the first time I was taught [read: forced] to use note cards to keep track of all of the research and sources I collected. I was such a free spirit before that . . .
Just kidding. It takes a lot to break a romantic soul ... probably because we allow ourselves to be broken over and over again. Oh. Woe is us.
In more recent media, I have, again, been reinvigorated by Outlander: Claire and Jaime’s stint in France has been one of the more action-packed parts of the series and is certainly filled to the brim with French politics, intrigue, mystery, and drama. Another less recent inspiration is Disney’s classic retelling of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). Again, filled with magic, politics, and Parisian architecture, it created a special place in my heart for French storytelling and activism. This is all not to mention the breathtaking screen-adaptation of Les Miserables (2012) which was just ... wonderful.
I must say, for a country (the United States, that is) that supposedly hates the French so much, we sure do retell their stories and history quite often in our media. And, to segway, we quite often appropriate their fashions and decor as well!
In my view, the French have a very special relationship to the history of Romanticism. Their country went through major political upheaval because of the words of their writers. It was violent. It was liberating. It was powerful. Oh-so-Romantic. And the effects from the French Revolution have lasted. Not only have their writings influenced our political ideals since, but France has remained a politically tumultuous country - and in a good way. All of this said, I must admit that it is not the bustling cities nor the tres chic Parisian apartments which interest me most, but it is the countryside. Dotted with ancient chateaus, farms and flowers, France is known best for what comes out of its countryside: wine and champagne, perfumes, and cheeses. And, for this reason, I would like to pay tribute to the French farmhouse (but hopefully not in the demeaning way in which Marie Antoinette did).
For the French section the materials and ideas I will be focus on are printed linen, country, fishing and picnicking scenes, stripes, light, unfinished woods, whites, dusty blues, pinks and creams, gold accents, and functional porcelain. Here is another selection of images I have found which at least lean toward what I have in mind:
For about 2 years of my childhood my family lived in the United Kingdom. Not only did we live in the UK, but we lived in one of the most magical counties: Wiltshire. Every day on my way to school I would see giant white limestone horses carved into the sides of hills. We lived near Avesbury and Stonehenge wasn’t too far either. This is not to mention the usual charm of the English countryside: crumbling stone walls, lichen-consumed headstones in the churchyard up the road, local pubs and phone booths, and even a cold, desolate pill box leftover from the World Wars along an otherwise placid canal. There were horses, sheep and cows behind our house, luscious gardens inside every home's fence, hills upon hills for miles, and this was only in our neighborhood. I remember visiting other’s homes to explore streams and forests, what I was sure were haunted stone barns, and a canoeing trip up a canal with family friends while my parents visited Paris (yes ... they went without me; though, it should be noted that I was apparently quite a snob and wasn’t interested in visiting Paris - probably the only way they could have convinced me is if there had been a tour on horse-back).
Greenery, slugs, gardens, pastures, stonework, and horses. These define my memories of my time there. No matter what they tell you - the rain will always be worth it. And hey, I loved every moment of stomping through puddles in my wellies. I was always outside there. I was standing on the fence, feeding apples and oats to the fat white horse behind the house. I was riding and jumping horses at school. I was playing football and cricket with the neighbors, or sitting out next to the small, newt-filled ponds. Even at school we walked the gardens and sat next to pools, painting with watercolors or drawing; our recesses weren’t filled with brightly colored plastic equipment, but with running through trees and over grass, pretending to be horses or fox ourselves; we marched down the lane to the on-campus chapel to sit in the stuffiness and sing from old books. The rain made the earth, the leaves, the air smell stronger. The roses climbing every side of our house hung heavy; the slugs grazed freely; everything was warm and damp.
These are my strongest memories - in the gardens and fields - and what I hope to capture in my English decor section of my Etsy shop, CountrysideRomantic. The garden and growing things were a large part of everyday life there. No wonder when I read Pride and Prejudice later in life that I could have slapped Caroline Bingley for her snickering at Elizabeth’s hem. Then there’s Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, which turned my mind into a garden-planning machine, ready at any moment to find my own private plot of land to turn into MY secret garden. In this section, I look to bring the garden inside and to appreciate the quiet dampening effects of rain. The materials and ideas which I am using to define this section are floral + striped patterns, velvet, garden scenes, tea, lamps, roses, sheep, and the colors grey, red and green.
Here is a selection of images I have found which at least lean toward what I have in mind: