Years ago Jonathon asked me to dream up a phrase that would describe my shop. As we are in a tiny industrial district way off the beaten path, I thought “dirty little secret” would both reference the foundation upon which all I do becomes possible-and furthermore would encourage people whose curiousity was sufficiently piqued, to seek me out. I try my best to have my three quarters of an acre ready for company every day. This wreath, a warm, plain, and beautiful Douglas Fir wrap around a cast limestone dog, is displayed in the front of the house. The back of my house, stuffed with holiday materials scattered all over the place, is another story. I know this is my second post about wreaths in a week, but these modest circles of green can so enliven your winter landscape-so bear with me. No need to confine your wreathing to your front door either-a sculpture, a pot, a gate can be dressed in a wreath. I am persisting with this discussion, as I think these modest circles based on green can endow a winter landscape with an impact vastly beyond their small size. They are a distinctly personal expression. My workroom is entirely given over at this moment to taking those green circles a few personal steps further-special orders. There are so many materials-both natural and not, that can be arranged, wired or glued on the surface. I have made a lot of them over the years; they are miniature gardens that go together fast. Rob meets with his clients; pictures of possible combinations follow via email. Helping people put things together that they like individually is a big part of the job.
The workroom, my dirty little secret , is home to the tools, the good light, and the space necessary to make things. My only wish for my life-to be able to make, and go on making. Landscapes, gardens, topiary sculptures, flower arrangements, paintings, essays-specific to a person, a time, and a place. Everything I make inplies the person out there. These landscapes do not take weeks, or years to put in place. Even a complicated arrangement rarely takes longer than an hour. The trick is having all the materials and tools at hand, and ready. The rest-trying out whatever strikes your fancy.
My workroom is not particularly fancy. A 4′ by 8′ painted plywood layout table holds all manner of materials and tools at a height that makes the work easy. Underneath the top is space for plans, rolled up and labelled with a client’s name, and date-some of which date back 20 years. Lots of flourescent lighting banishes shadows, and makes it easy for me to see the details. Every surface is put to use; if something is put away, I forget I have it available. I collect bits of this and that all year long, for the wreaths.
Shelves loaded with containers organize like materials-I need this level of organization, given that I am in progress with multiple projects. I hate searching for the ribbon scissors, so it has a home. Things have gotten a little out of control, but I resist the impulse to clean. I am so lucky to have a big space that needs no daily cleanup. At the end of the day, I just go home-the litter can wait until I have time to clean it up. This is MCat’s favorite time of year-so many things that have fallen to the floor to play with. Some days he finds a spot on the table to snooze.
I like loading the layout table with materials that speak to each other. I move things around, I add and subtract until I get a mix that seems to work. This can take a lot of time. Once I come to some conclusion, the construction phase kicks in. My industrial grade glue gun-an invaluable tool. I cannot stitch, sew, or cook, but I can glue. I also take things apart before I use them. One half a seed pod might work better than a whole one. Garlands and picks cvan be unwired, and their elements used individually.
The dried grasses, the oregonia, the bahia pods, the magnolia stems, acorns, the bark wire-all of these materials seem just right for clients for whom I mail out a slew holiday wreaths the Monday after Thanksgiving. They love all manner of natural materials-they trust my mix, different every year. I photograph them, so they know what gets sent.
The eucalyptus, acorns, magnolia leaves, pine cones and oregonia say hello and happy holidays to their friends and family. The jute bows are a new thing. Rob is so good at seeing the beauty of a raw material beyond its ordinary use. This workroom is a gardener’s junk drawer on a big scale. Once these wreaths are hanging on a door, who would suspect the happy mess from whence they came?