28 February 2010

saint brigid

Saint Brigid is the patron saint of--among many other things--fugitives, chicken farmers, and midwives. And also of printing presses. I learned this last bit just recently, and I'm kind of fascinated by it. I like the idea of a saint interceding on behalf of a printing press. From what little I know of printing presses, I can imagine that they could sometimes use the help.

If I'd known about St. Brigid sooner, I might have started bending her ear a little bit, just to cover my bets. My partner-in-crime signed up for a letterpress printing class last fall, and ever since, he's been churning out the most amazing things. Postcards. Business cards. All working up to a grand finale--our wedding invitations.

I am pleased to announce that the invitations are done. And by "done," I mean "printed." There's still some assembly required--which will probably call for some heavy machinery and maybe a few beers. And then comes all the envelope stuffing and handwriting of addresses. Which actually sounds kind of nice to me. I really like postage stamps.

Of course, I'm not going to ruin the surprise for anyone by posting a photo of the invitation--you never know who's reading--but I can share the save-the-date card that we slipped in with our Christmas cards last December.

What looks like a tiny red thread in the photo above really is a tiny red thread. I tied sixty or seventy of those miniature bows in the course of a few grueling hours last winter. And it was totally worth it, even if my fingers were a little stiff for a few days afterwards.

Figuring out the save-the-date was a snap compared to all the debate that went into planning our invitation. Between the two of us, we have one person who's obsessed with language and one with very discriminating tastes where layout and color are concerned. I think, in the end, we both got what we wanted, and hey, isn't that what this whole marriage thing is all about?

I really want to show you the invitation now, but I can't, so instead, here's a picture my man took of the work in progress. Before you can print anything, you need to set the type in a frame called a chase. The blocks of wood filling in the gaps around the type are called "furniture," a detail that I'm enjoying almost as much as the whole St. Brigid thing.

I'm pretty jealous of all the fun stuff my partner-in-crime has been doing in the studio. I love the big, hulking printing presses that he's been working on, and when all the chaos is over, I'm going to make a point of learning more about how this all works. If you're as intrigued as I am, I'd recommend taking a look at www.briarpress.org. If you're in the Seattle area, you'll find that there are several classes available in letterpress printing, including the one that my man has been taking at Pratt Fine Arts Center.

We knew from the start that we'd be making our invitations, but I don't think we really imagined we'd end up with anything like this. Here's hoping that all of those other things we're taking on--like, say, the food--will work out half as well...

26 February 2010

buried treasure

Sometimes a box of junk is just a box of junk.

But usually not.

I love it when the best things in a pile of stuff are the hidden wonders buried at the very bottom of it all. I can spend hours trolling thrift store aisles or shuffling through garage sales on the off chance that I'll stumble across that one special thing.

My partner-in-crime certainly shares this affliction--which I find incredibly endearing--and I know we're not alone. Maybe it's some vestigial hunter-gatherer instinct, or maybe we just can't pass up a good bargain. Whatever the reason, I've become an avid treasure-seeker, and every once in awhile, it actually pays off.

I spent some time today digging through bits and pieces of old light fixtures. Along with a lot of dust--and a little bit of mouse poop--I ended up with a few fun things to mess around with.

For the time being, I think they'll be little votive holders. Until I think of something else to do with them...

Hope you all have a lovely weekend. I'll be back on Monday with more to share...

25 February 2010


If you've been reading my previous posts, then this may come as no surprise to you. Even so, I'll just come right out with it: I'm a pretty big believer in "doing it myself." If something comes prepackaged, pre-assembled, and ready-to-go, it's just not all that appealing to me. Generally, I can't stand those craft kits that come with "everything you need to get started." I'd rather figure it out myself, thank you very much.

Now, having said all that, I'm incredibly excited about what came in the mail yesterday.

It's my very own "paint it yourself kit" from Goose Grease Undone. You can visit their Etsy shop here. And while these may just look like a couple of peg dolls, by this June, they'll be custom-painted cake toppers at our wedding reception.

I'll admit, I'm a little nervous about this. I've never done much painting, especially of something so tiny. The whole thing gets even more serious when you consider it self-portraiture. What if I get my ears wrong? How will I paint his beard? I seriously thought about having Goose Grease handle the whole thing for me, but in the end, I decided I was up for the challenge.

Funny thing is, I'm not even sure we're having a wedding cake. If we do, it will probably be a small one, maybe just for the two of us. If there's no cake, I guess I'll just balance these little guys on top of a pie or something. And afterwards, we'll have them as keepsakes. Wedding souvenirs to put on the mantel or hang on the Christmas tree.

I kind of like them unpainted. It makes them look more--wholesome.

The best part? Look who came through the shop a few months ago. I knew they'd come in handy someday...

24 February 2010

cake lights

There's a certain style of light that comes drifting through the shop on a regular basis. Although it no doubt has a proper name, we call it a "cake light," and, as you can see in this photo, it isn't nearly as exciting as its nickname might suggest.

This is the light my great-grandmother Lucille had in her farmhouse kitchen in Ohio. Maybe it's the one you had in your first apartment. This light is all about function, and the only kind of cakes it brings to my mind are good, sturdy, Midwestern cakes. Like bundt cakes. Or maybe a coffee cake. Something respectable, but reserved.

I don't mean to sound dismissive. I actually like cake lights. I think they're kind of homey. Today, though, while I was doing some reorganizing at work, I came across some light shades that I thought were much more deserving of the name "cake."

Martha Stewart Weddings has featured wedding cakes inspired by fashion, and even by architecture. I think someday Martha and her crew should tackle cakes inspired by lighting. Wouldn't one of these look just swell on top of a vintage cake stand?

The lights pictured below are from a church in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. The church was damaged by an earthquake and was ultimately demolished several years ago, but the lights live on. I think they're stellar.

So, edible? No. Delectable? Definitely. I've been trying to imagine something like this as a reception table centerpiece. It would definitely be way too posh for our wedding, but hey, a girl can dream...

23 February 2010

about chalkboards

If you're planning an "elegant farmhouse" wedding, it seems that chalkboards have become another reception must-have, just like mason jars filled with lemonade, wildflower bouquets, and vintage cake toppers.

And so they should be. After all, who doesn't love a chalkboard? It's an icon of childhood. All those memories of dusty erasers and that satin smooth surface gliding under your fingertips while you fiddle around with a long-division problem. Games of hangman during a rained-out recess. It's much easier to be nostalgic about chalkboards than, say, overhead projectors.

I do love chalkboards, and because of that, I really wanted to love chalkboard paint. You can use it on anything you want and create an instant chalkboard. How great is that? It's practically alchemy. I've always been fascinated by the idea of chalkboard paint, and a few days ago, I finally decided to try it.

I started with two unfinished cabinet doors that I found at work, one in maple and the other in oak. I sanded them down a bit and did my best to clean off the resulting dust. I probably could have been more thorough with all that, but frankly, I'm incredibly impatient sometimes, and I just really, really wanted to paint something.

I used some newspaper and quite a bit of masking tape to cover everything except the center panels of the doors, in order to leave an unpainted border around the edge of each chalkboard. And then I broke out the spray paint.

After two coats of paint and a few extra hours of waiting around, I pulled off the tape and newspaper. Underneath all that mess, there were two little chalkboards just begging to be written on. The oak door, in particular, came out well. The grain of the wood shows through from under all that paint. It's definitely not what I had expected, but I think the end result is pretty great.

I'm not going to lie. There's something missing here. The can of spray paint promised me "a chalkboard surface," and that's exactly what I got. It's not blackboard slate, though. It doesn't have that silky smooth finish, and it doesn't really take me rushing back to the third grade. I should have known better. That's not the sort of thing that you can buy in a can.

I'm still really happy with my chalkboards, though. They're sweet-looking and I'm going to have a lot of fun thinking of new things to write on them.

22 February 2010

inspiration boards

Some of my favorite wedding blogs, like Once Wed and Snippet & Ink, feature inspiration boards--gorgeous cut-and-paste confections of color. If you haven't already tried it, you can build your very own inspiration board here.

Now, I love inspiration boards. I can spend hours and hours browsing though the lovely collages of fashion photos, floral arrangements, stationary samples, and so on. They're lots of fun to look at, but I'm not sure how much they really inspire me.

If I had to name the system that I use for arranging different ideas together in order to communicate a unifying theme I think I'd call it--and my partner-in-crime will back me up on this--inspiration piles. Sometimes making a giant stack of books and paper and yarn and ribbon helps me to see just exactly what is amazing about each of those single elements and, even better, the fantastic ways all those individual things fit together in spirit and meaning.

When I'm at work, the same thing sometimes happens. Fortunately for my co-workers, my pack rat habits aren't nearly as pronounced as they are when I'm at home. But there's always so much to look at and sift through, and every once in a while I come across something that I can't quite bear to part with. I end up tucking away one small thing after another and sooner or later, there's another inspiration pile.

I'm fortunate, both at work and at home, to able to surround myself with mountains and mountains of fascinating stuff. I'll be honest; sometimes I do wish that I could keep things neatly filed away, like with like. I really do like structure and order. It's just that I can't quite seem to keep the chaos at bay long enough to establish those perfectly-sorted systems. And most of the time, I'm okay with that--even when the incredibly well-mannered guy that I'm lucky enough to live with is decidedly not.

So here's to inspiration piles. And inspiration drawers, inspiration notebooks, and inspiration clotheslines. And yes, to inspiration boards. To whatever it takes to help you see the incredibly surprising way that two or three or twenty different things can fit together to become something entirely new. There's no wrong way to kick-start your creative thinking. I, for one, will use any trick I can find...

21 February 2010

starting small

When we first started talking about the details of our wedding, my partner-in-crime and I decided not to mess around with flower girls or ring bearers. I'm not sure why we were so quick to rule them out. Maybe it was our reluctance to have too much "ceremony" in our ceremony. Or maybe I was just heeding the warnings of my Aunt Kathy regarding the unpredictable nature of small children who are asked to do important things. It seemed obvious that we'd just go the old-fashioned route and ask our maid-of-honor and best man to carry the rings and produce them at the appropriate point of the ceremony.

Recently, though, I've been reconsidering the idea. We're still not planning on having a ring bearer, but I'm starting to think that those teeny, tiny symbols of our eternal commitment might deserve a little more attention. I don't know exactly how those rings are going to make it down the aisle--we have until June to figure that out--but I do know that they ought to travel in style.

I've been playing around with a few ideas--ring bowl, bird's nest, wooden box--and while I haven't yet come up with a winner, I did cobble together the little number pictured here.

I came across the vintage coffee tin at work and couldn't bear to toss it in the recycling pile. The colors and the font are fantastic. The best part, though--and you'd have to squint to see it here--is the "good to the last drop" slogan under the upside-down coffee cup. Really, is there a better sentiment for kicking off a long, happy life together?

The hat pins were a thrift store find that had been drifting around in my craft stash for awhile, and I needle-felted some wool roving into a kind of cushion for the rings to perch on. The tiny banner was an after-thought. It might be a little too cute for my tastes, but I think it's a sweet idea. (My niece and nephew came up with the names for the fictional bride and groom. It felt too strange to use our names. I wonder at what point this whole wedding thing will start to feel real to me...)

I don't think our rings will make their much-anticipated journey down the aisle in this tin, but it was fun to put together, and it's definitely given me some new ideas...