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I am reluctant to observe that it has often been the challenges and the trials that have formed me most into who I am. The times of joy and enthusiasm offer strength and healing relief from the times of true forming found in the trials. This makes me gravely thankful for the hard times for they form me. And deeply appreciative for the mercies that come in the seasons of relief for they help me heal and give strength to then implement the lessons learned through the previous fire.

I would gladly exchange the pain for joy on any day. I don’t like being sick; I don’t like being sad; and I really don’t like lose. Like most, I would much rather laugh than cry. But it seems only with these tools is the well dug for deeper gratitude, peace, and contentment. These trials seem to expand the hands which will eventually hold the blessings yet to come.

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There are many people I deeply respect who have modeled this truth to me with their lives. While I’m quite sure they didn’t plan for their lives to be an example in how to hold pain and loss well, they nonetheless have taught me so much of grace in times of tears. And one who stands out to me today is my dear friend, “Jane.”

Despite the tearing and the ripping of hopes and dreams, she walks faithful… gracious.. and beautiful.

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I’m not sure if chairs can ever effectively model life lessons, yet it seems to be my current mode of communication. And so here is the process I used to symbolize such formative loss through the upholstering of the Jane chair:

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Taking loose scraps, I quilted fabric to form the yardage which would clothe this chair in beauty. Salvaging discarded remnants, a new piece of cloth was born.

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And while one would most likely much rather have just been made with the fabric in the first place and not have to go through the season of being set aside and seemingly forgotten, nonetheless… the piece is somehow– mysteriously– made more beautiful through the time of stretching and discomfort. And so it seems, out of the times of life being torn to shreds, beauty can appear. Unexpectedly; uniquely.

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Much love and respect goes out to those currently facing trials of a unique making. While hope does live, so does the current pain. And for that the tears roll…

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May grace be present in your journey. And hope be your reward.

And may the scattered pieces of your life slowly transform into a radiant cloth covering you in beauty in the end.

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“The Nathan Chair”

…Handsome and Strong…

Before

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After

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Four years ago, I wrote this blog about marriage. Not knowing, of course, that four years later I would be married to Nathan, my “best friend/ boyfriend/ ex-boyfriend/ it’s complicated,” of the last ten years.

Now in reading that blog from the “inside of the institution,” I find I have an ever-increasing esteem and reverent awe for the precious covenant that it is. And a deepening and widening love and respect for the person I’m in it with, Nathan.

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Nathan and I have known each other for sixteen years now– only two of which have we been married.

There’s a special gift in being with someone who has known you that long, all the shared stories and understood exposition on one’s life. And then, all of the sudden, there’s the wonder and surprise that comes in learning something completely new about the other—it’s an endless road of wonder and discovery.

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And maybe that too is what marriage is about… learning. Learning one another, learning one self,  learning one self with the other, and hopefully, learning how to be better for it.

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Stanley Hauerwas writes,
“We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being (the enormous thing it is) means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is… learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.” (emphasis mine)*

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Even after 14 years of friendship and two years of marriage, I am learning new things about Nathan all the time. I can confidently say that marriage to him has changed me. I have learned of humility, generosity, and strength in watching Nathan’s example at a close proximity. I have experienced greater depths of creativity, joy, and adventure in journeying by his side. And he has taught me of intention and integrity as he leads me as his wife.

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And my prayer in me being his wife is that I will bring him “good, not harm” all the days of my life. (Proverbs 31:12) This life we share together.

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Yep, marriage is a game-changer, a truly “enormous thing.” And what a gift when traveled with the one you love. And grow to love more. And learn to love more and more.

 

 

*As quoted by Timothy Keller in “The Meaning of Marriage,” pg 134

When considering why it’s taken me so long to blog, I realize I have had a bad case of the writer’s block. Which is pretty ironic considering this next chair’s name sake is Gertrude Stein– arguably the most influential writer of the 20th century. What can I say, sometimes one just gets stuck in a rut… “a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose….”

Presenting… “Gertie”

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And, while Gertrude Stein would certainly bemoan this fact, I have to say that I’m much more intrigued by her person than her writing. See, Gertrude Stein, along with being an influential writer, was a premier art collector of that time gathering works from such avant-garde artists as Matisse and Picasso, just to name a few. In fact, she gathered such a stellar art collection that on Saturdays she would open up her front room as a sort of “salon” where she would invite guests to come and view her unique collection and then stay to dine at her place.

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The notion is inspiring to me. Art serving hospitality and community. What a beautiful pursuit. The home became known in certain circles as a gathering place for ex-pats and outsiders in Paris to come, be heard, be seen– all the while searching for “genius.”

DSC_0600I’m intrigued by this idea because truth be told, I want that to be our story– of our home. But often times I find it’s actually harder to live out in day-to-day life than in an isolated, imagined scenario. For instance, I usually already have plans filling up the day. So to stop– sit, talk, listen– can sometimes feel like an interruption instead of a goal. I’m not always good about setting aside my own short-sided agenda of productivity for a loftier pursuit of hospitality and community.

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In truth, I don’t know if Gertrude was really any better at it than me. But I do know that in the midst of her failings, she did it. And that is genius.

DSC_0586So with that thought in mind, I think I’ll take a seat and welcome neighbors to do the same. Who knows what discussions may come — of life, of faith, of pursuits, of art, and of the genius of Love.

Please, I invite you… Gertie is waiting.

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When I was little I loved peach. Not pink, mind you, peach. My whole childhood bedroom was decorated in peach and white. In fact, I painted my own headboard in those coordinating colors at the age of 6. (Funny, I guess this was a bit of a precursor of things to come.)

At the age of 6, I also swore that my future wedding would be in peach. In true 1980’s fashion, I imagined my bridesmaids in peach puffy sleeved dresses… much like this:

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(Special thanks to This Side of the Pond)

Instead, come 2013, I opted for this:

girls at wedding(Special thanks to Atelier Pictures and my super awesome girlfriends.)

And, come 2013, at this wedding, I imagined furniture. Lots of furniture. (Imagine that 😉 To offer respite to guests weary from standing, of course. Well, okay, and to look pretty.

Only one problem, this was to be an outdoor wedding. Where would we get all of this furniture and where would we store it ahead of time? After much discussion (*ahem*), my now husband (lucky me!) and I agreed that in the weeks prior to the wedding we would simply bring in all necessary furniture for these seating stations. So we advertised our need and scoured Craigslist until, in the end, we ended up filling 3+ loads in the back of our pick-up trucks to provide at the wedding destination. (Gotta love those DIY weddings!)

A glimpse into the reward:

Station 1…

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Station 2…

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This furniture, for the most part, also came with us in our move to Santa Barbara and further served to furnish our first apartment together.

IMG_1027Yep, there in the back is the same settee as in Exhibit 2. And that’s the same settee as has kindly offered its ornate frame for my next re-upholstering project.

A Peach Patchwork Settee!

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See… after all these years, I just can’t escape Peach!

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And now for the Making Of!

First, there came the laying out and arranging the fabric swatches. Then, came sewing them to together to create the upholstery patchwork…

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And then the upholstering…

(Here you can see some of my markings for the middle and the placement of the buttons.)

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The final touches:

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And here we are, as happy as can be.

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Even without my imagined “peach” themed wedding day, you can still tickle me pink!

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The plan was simple: attend an artist’s talk at a museum where my husband was to have his next big art show.

Truly, it was that simple… in, and out. We never intended to find this amazing settee at a bargain price at an antique shop just down the road. And then we never expected we’d purchase it, then and there. And we certainly didn’t envision we’d lug it over 150 miles in the back of our pick-up truck!

Sometimes the best things in life come unannounced and when least expected.

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Here’s a glimpse into the surprise happenings of the evening. Me, in the parking lot, with the settee– actually, on the settee. Yep, that piece actually fit into the back of that truck (…along with my luggage, my husband’s many art supplies, and various other sundry items which mysteriously find themselves in the back of one’s vehicle.)

This piece has a unique asymmetrical frame with ornate woodworking detail. But it had some u-u-uugly fabric.

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So with a little TLC and a lot of work, one may just end up with…

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The Steps towards Transformation:

Since the webbing was coming off in places, I decided to strip this settee down to its bare bones.

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Can you tell how “hooked” I am on upholstery? Groan, I know… 😉

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After stripping it down, re-webbing the base, and re-fitting the foam onto the frame, it was time to upholster.

I had to seam together three segments of the inside back and outside back fabric in order to accommodate the curves on the frame.

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Those arms were tricky!

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The Grand Reveal:

Here’s the settee making herself comfortable in our one-bedroom, slightly over-furnished apartment.

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And here she is on our neighbor’s porch… (since the space on our own porch may or may not be taken up with storage of yet-to-be upholstered projects. Yikes! :-/

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And just in case you think I’m the only one in the family with a chair problem… here is a sneak peek from my husband’s amazing solo show at the Sweeney Gallery in Riverside (which happens to be this settee’s namesake).

Shop Talk by Nathan Huff

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My dad used to call me a cat. Saying, with mustered support in hearing every new venture I attempted, “Well, you always land on your feet!”

For this reason, it seemed apropos to dedicate my first completely solo re-upholstered chair to him.

Before

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After

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The Process

Part of the joy of upholstery for me is discovering the past “lives” of the chair: its past aesthetic phases and antiquated upholstery techniques used. Here you can observe me “sleuthing” through the chair “guts” as I strip the old layers off the frame.

IMG_1474I sewed patchwork yardage which I then used to re-upholster the back of the chair and the top of the seat cushion.

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Here are the pieces making up the whole:

a view from the top!

IMG_0109The right side…

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The left side…

IMG_0113Detail of the patchwork on the outside back…

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And the cushion!

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Dedicated to Gerald K. Sims

1951- 2014

“Pieces of you, in Pieces of me”

Pieces of you, in pieces of me

The remnants remaining in memory.

 

Pieces of you, in pieces of me

A hot summer’s run picking blackberries.

 

The smell of fresh sawdust on a constructed beam

Or a vision unfolding of a newly formed scheme.

 

A dreamer. A preacher. A writer by trade.

You never denied me a chance at my game.

 

With loving support, so resiliently brave

You showed me the way from the womb to your grave.

 

And now, with strangers who knew you and called you by name

When they see me, do they see you as one and the same?

 

Cause you trained me. You raised me. You taught me of life.

You sought to show me the wrong from the right.

 

And now that you’re gone and I’m standing here

I hold on to reflections of you ever near.

 

And though I can’t tell you this face to face

I know and I treasure the parts that remain:

The pieces of you, in pieces of me.

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To commemorate you: Geraldine.

 

 

 

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My friend, Christine. She gives great hugs. Even from way over in New Zealand.

IMG_0050We Skype regularly and enjoy frequent conversations. We share joys and struggles– we laugh and we cry. And in all this time,  I can’t remember a meeting with Christine that didn’t leave me feeling encouraged and “filled up.”

IMG_0054I think that’s why I named this chair after her. Cause this chair may have a little frame but it sure has a great “hug-ability” factor.  See, as I began upholstering it and adding extra padding and cushion, it began to grow and grown in its comfortability. Now it gives you a big bear hug when you sit in it.

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This chair was originally a channel back chair.

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But, after a little TLC (and a lot of foam and padding) it became a wingback chair.

IMG_0051And that’s the versatility of upholstering your own furniture!

(And having amazing friends who inspire your creations.)