Our picnic table was given to us a few years back by some lovely people who handmade it themselves but couldn’t take it with them when they were moving away from the island. It’s been in dozens and dozens of our photos though never itself the subject of attention. Being extra long, makes it extra perfect for our large family, especially when friends and family are added to the mix. More often the tabletop is used as a platform for the children to sit upon and to spring from; this resulted in a board breaking and creating a hole. Just before Nuala’s birthday party last week Johnny refurbished the top using recycled pallet wood and then it was painted with some awesome paint from #Faherty Paints in Galway. It’s substantially heavier but that’s not a problem. I need to pick up more paint to finish the job next trip to the city, but even so, we’re really happy with the results and here you can see the transition for yourself.
Pallets are disassembled…
then pieces are laid out across the top…
and screwed into place.
Ready to paint.
Hooray for having a handy hubby!! 🔨📐🖌
It’s a beautiful first day of spring here on the island and we put the St. Brigid’s cross up on the house first thing this morning. The children are more wrapped up than usual as they head off for school because we had just returned from a wee trek to collect the bundle of reeds that Nuala is holding; they’ll be used at school to make crosses of their own.
The first day of spring here in Ireland falls about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. One of the traditional ways of celebrating is by making a St. Brigid’s cross which is ‘placed on doorways to ward off evil, fire, and hunger from homes’. It’s also called the Feast of Imbolc, an ancient Irish celebration of the change of seasons from the short, dark winter days to the longer and brighter days of spring.
Here’s a link to a post I did a year ago that shows step by step how to make your own St. Brigid’s cross. It also has links to more information about St. Brigid’s Day, the meaning of the cross, and the Feast of Imbolc. https://thearanartisan.com/2016/03/15/spring-willow-project/
Joining in with the ‘One a Week Photo Challenge‘, word ‘happy’ and with Ronovan Writes haiku challenge, words ‘please & blow’.
please wrap yourself up
on this first day of springtime
the wind is blowing
Getting up early and taking a walk with the children was an amazing way to start the day and has me thinking we ought to do it more often. I’m wondering though if the adventurous feeling to it would soon wear off? Perhaps it was just the novelty that made everyone so happy and they would be less excited to do it regularly. I suppose there’s only one way to find out.
Our couch cushions were feeling a bit deflated. A sad case really because our couch and matching love seat are otherwise in exceptionally fine fettle. Purchased when Margaret Maeve was first born, the set has withstood the better part of the last thirteen years under the same roof with five children and there’s not even a hint of rickety in their joints.
Johnny had the great idea to wedge several throw pillows in a single layer between the couch frame and the seat cushions, and it gave a perfect lift to the seats and a uniform look across the front. The wedged pillows go unnoticed because we tuck quilts over the couches.
With five throw pillows used to renew the two couches, they were quickly missed when we lounged around, so this week I made seven new ones. They photographed best outside in the natural light.
A great way to spruce up a room, the new pillows have definitely added a lift for very little dosh. I priced custom cushion replacements and a few hundred euro would make the couches new again. For 1/10 the cost, I already owned the fabric and pillow inserts. While this might be more of an inexpensive alternative than an actual make do and mend job, it’s making due for less, no less.
I could count on one hand all the things I’ve ever created that have no purpose other than to just be. Because of this, I’ve felt less like an artist and more like a crafter, my thinking being that functional things were mostly created by crafters, and ‘things of beauty’ by artists. That thought probably says more about my urbanity than my ability as a maker, a direct reflection of my rural roots.
While admiring my star wreath and thinking how it was one of the few things I’ve made that has no practical function, the thought occurred to me that maybe functional objects that also communicate individual ideas are the very definition of arts & crafts/artist & crafter. As a well-paired couple, maybe it’s a case of them working hand in hand, not one or the other.
It’s not called ‘arts or crafts.’ Continue reading
No more children sitting on their feet and no more cold bottoms because I finally made padded covers for the metal stools that surround the island in our kitchen. It seems noteworthy to tell you that we’ve nicknamed this seating area Inis Meáin, which translates to ‘the middle island’, and is the same name as our island neighbor here in the Aran Islands.
Most meals are eaten here in the kitchen. The dining room table is a hub for crafting, game playing, Lego and sorting clean laundry. As the chalkboard sign in the upper left corner so well documents, it was our 163rd monthiversary, ♥ 163 months married ♥, it was the 24th of November. Continue reading
Around the equinox, both the daytime and nighttime are of the same length and, depending upon where you are, darkness starts to happen earlier and earlier and the temperature begins to drop.
One of the first things I like doing to mark the seasonal transition is to replace the wreath on the front of our house. My autumn bird feeder wreath was created as an expression of my appreciation for the harvest, for our family and home life, for all the good things around us. I like it to be natural and organic and to offer a bit of sustenance to the songbirds. Since taking these photographs, I added in some seeded ivy, cabbage, and kale. I plump it up twice in the season as bits begin to wilt, fade, and get eaten.
Hanging on the front of our house, about four foot by four foot in size.
Have you ever entered an Irish home and wondered what the handmade cross hanging above the door represents? Or perhaps you’ve seen a charm or pendant bearing the symbol that shares pride of place right aside shamrocks, harps, and claddagh rings.
St. Brigid’s Blessing
May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell
Bless every fireside, every wall and floor;
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof;
And every tongue and mind for evermore;
Bless every hand that toils to bring joy
And every foot that walks its portals through.
This is my wish today, my constant prayer
May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.
I made a small cross for the inside of our house and using the above willow, I made a giant St. Brigid’s cross for the outside–my welcome to spring offering, traditionally placed near doorways to ward off evil, fire, and hunger from homes.
Here is a photo step-by-step tutorial of how I made the giant cross. Scroll over any picture to read the details of each step or click on any picture to start a slideshow.
A close-up of the finished center.
1) Rub midpoint of willow gently back and forth on an edge to create a bend.
2) Ease the willow branch in half, folded onto itself.
3) A bit of inventive storage-the bent willows resting in the holes of laundry basket.
4) After a couple hours, I removed the willow and dropped into basket for easy access.
5) Four extra ‘hands’ were needed at this point.
6) The beginning–three branches per side completed; probably the hardest part.
Photographed on a fine and frosty morning.
Below is a tutorial of how the cross is woven. It’s the normal size and uses the rushes that are typically used. My friend Bernie shared how to make them with me and a group of friends this past Feb 1st when we gathered to celebrate St. Brigid’s Eve together.
I started stitching this ‘crazy quilt’ years ago. All the fabrics are recycled from working as a seamstress back in the States. Most are scraps I collected from my client’s clothing and home decorating projects. There’s a pair of my own repurposed jeans in there too. It was set aside in the busyness of starting a family, though, ironically, it was inspired by those same events as a tribute to the life Johnny and I had started together.
stars and hearts stitched to
honour children and true love
on their special days
When the idea was conceived, I imagined it like a map of our family with significant moments plotted out in embroidered calendar dates, with plentiful zig-zags and curves, stops and starts, flowers, fireworks, hearts, and stars that represent the highlights and unexpected twists and turns of travelling through life. Our wedding anniversary, the children’s birthdays, our trans-Atlantic crossing, moving into our home– they’re intentionally not being placed on the quilt in chronological order. While it is our history, I don’t want it to read like a timeline. It’s just not the reality of travelling through life. Or reading a map. Rarely does one travel in a straight line for very long. And, honestly, it seemed a bit boring to do it that way. Since taking it out of storage, I’ve added it to my list of 16 things to do in 2016— that is, to embroider more of the patches. Continue reading
Wreaths are stand-alone decorations that are quite versatile. They can be large or small, indoors or outside, ornate or modestly adorned, hung vertically or placed flat on a table top, and definitely not exclusive to holiday time.
They need not even be a circle– heart, oval, square, or diamond all work beautifully to create a unique visual display that looks custom made for a space.
This year I decided to make wreaths for our children’s bus driver and teachers to show appreciation for the care they provide throughout the school year.