Monday, January 16, 2012

When Mold and Mildew Strike

Do you hear that?  You're probably an hour or two late, but I thought you might be able to hear the echo of me screaming at the top of my lungs.  Why?  Because my post-college fine artwork that I've meticulously cared for through 9 moves in 12 years is covered in mold and mildew.  When my partner and I bought our top half of a house from the 1800's, it didn't occur to me just how much of our place would be unheated, and thus a breeding ground for mold and mildew when the cold air outside mixes with the warm air inside. 

I stored my artwork in the closet off our living room because it's large and accessible.  Seems like a good place, right?  Turns out that three of its walls, plus the floor are backed by our staircase entrance, which is unheated.  Mold and mildew city.  Here's what it looks like AFTER I spent a few hours scrubbing with bleach:

Did I mention I'm allergic to mold and wake up sniffly much of time here?  Mystery solved.  And my artwork.  My beloved art work. 

My heart literally hurts over this.  Thankfully a friend pointed me to this link:

Here are the instructions for salvaging paintings:

"Paintings - make sure there is no water inside the framing - turn it upside down and all around to drain any sitting water behind the stretcher bars,etc. No need to remove the canvases from their frames. The paintings may become white and heavily discolored looking hopeless, but do NOT discard or give up on them. They're surprisingly resiliant and that white is like the ring on a coffee table - it's moisture trapped between the painting and the varnish and can be removed. Again, they're fragile so treat them gently until they can be stabilized.
To deal with the MOLD growing the on the paintings, lightly spray (do not saturate) the canvas, front and back, with Lysol spray (not the liquid). This will help arrest the mold growth, and you may need to repeat this a few times. When the mold is dry and powdery it is now dormant. You can then take the canvas outside it and the residue can be brush with a clean dry paint brush. Remember to wear a mask so as not to inhale the airborne spores, and be sure to remove all the debris from the back and not to allow it to accumulate under the stretcher bars!
Do not wipe the mold off, do not use anything stronger than Lysol, and above all do not use BLEACH or TILEX or anything with bleach in it, as this will cause more damage than the mold will cause and is not reversible.The paintings may still need professional cleaning and conservation, but this will help stop the mold from getting any worse until that time.Frames - remember that alot of them CAN be restored. Do not discard them until they have been examined by a conservator and let us make the determination. Water is the enemy of gold leaf and the plaster covering the wood, so it's important to allow them to dry as well and remember that it's in a particularly fragile state so don't be rough with it or it can completely fall apart before it's stabilized."

My next move today is to go buy out all the lysol in my local grocery store and then start the anti-mold procedures.  I'll let you know how it turns out.  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Super Simple Fleece Mitten Tutorial

I live in northern Vermont and I don't know about where you are, but here it is C-O-L-D cold.  In fact, according to the Burlington Free Press right now, it's this cold:

That's right, 1 degree outside and feels like -13.  So it seemed like the perfect time to use up fleece scraps and put together a quick pair of mittens.  You see, I lose things.  A lot.  And my major triumph of the last several years has been my ability to hang on to my super warm purple fleece mittens.  But alas, this year they mysteriously vanished between May and October, and so I've been mittenless this winter.  But today, it was time to fix that.  1 flippin' degree, people!

I googled the heck out of mitten patterns and finally settled on this:  I'm afraid I don't know who Barlow Scientific is, but it does clearly state that this pattern was adapted from a free pattern for oven mitts this person found at a Hancock Fabric store.  I like the mystery of it all. I also liked that these suckers would be big enough to double as oven mitts.  Did I mention it's 1 degree outside? 

I had approximately 1/3 yard of anti-pill fleece kicking around and it was enough fabric for two pairs, so my guess is that you could make this with 1/4 yard for a single pair. Here are the three pattern pieces.  They make mittens sized for a women's large/men's medium or
  • Hand girth:  9"
  • Hand length:  8-3/4"
  • Thumb length:  3-1/4"
When I saved them from the Barlow Scientific site they were small jpegs, so I scaled them up to the recommended 1" x 1" per square dimensions.  If you click on the images here, they should open in the correct size.

My hands are the size of a 10 year old's hands.  No, seriously, they are.  At the Museum of Science in Boston they have an exhibit that shows the size of human hands at different developmental ages and mine match up perfectly with the 10 year old's - stubby fingers and all.  So I chopped an inch off the top of the mitt and the top of the thumb pattern pieces for mine and it worked out really well.   You'll need to cut two of each pattern.  Because my fleece didn't have a right and a wrong size, I folded the fabric over and laid out the pattern pieces so that I'd have two of each automatically.

For convenience's sake, I've numbered them and I'll use the numbers from here on out instead of piece-with-the-thumb-sticking-up or something to that effect.  You're welcome.

Step 1:  Match pieces 1 and 2 together and sew around the top using a straight stitch, stopping at the black diamond.  I've highlighted the seam in yellow.

Step 2:  Flatten out the sewn together pieces so that the silhouette matches up with piece 3. 

Step 3: Pin together with piece 3 and sew around the outside using a straight stitch. Again, the seam is highlighted.

Step 4: Fold up the unfinished bottom cuff 1/2 inch and sew with a zig zag stitch so that it will stretch.

Step 5:  Repeat with the second set of fabric cut outs to make the mitten for the other hand.

Congrats!  You've made a pair of mittens!  Turn those beauties right side out and enjoy warm hands all season long.  Want to make them extra warm?  You can make a second pair 1/4" smaller, keep it wrong side out with the seams visible, and then place it inside the slightly larger pair and sew them together along the cuff with a zig zag stitch..  The slight decrease in size will keep it from being too bulky - just make sure to trim the seam allowance down as much as possible.  The second layer of fabric will also make them more wind-proof, which - trust me - is incredibly helpful!

Enjoy them!  As my partner always says to get me to wear winter gear when I don't want too, frostbite is significantly less cute than wearing appropriate clothing.  Words to live by, people.  Words to live by.

Friday, January 6, 2012

My State of the Studio New Years Post

I know that everyone and their cousin has a blog post about New Years resolutions and year-end recaps, and yes friends, I'm jumping on the band wagon.  But I'm doing it because 2011 was a heck of a year.  I mean, in the record books of years, 2011 was a big 'un.  It started with me directing a large national service program for the federal government out of an office in a marble laden city hall, and, thanks to federal funding cuts, it ended with me working out of my living room painting and gluing and shipping like crazy.  I'm one of the lucky ones.  Instead of having to go on unemployment, I had a business I'd been building for years to fall back on.  Plus the holiday season was coming and that's go-time for sales, so it seemed like great timing.  But it was a much more challenging adjustment than I was prepared for.  I used to get dressed up for meetings.  Now I can work in my pjs all day if I don't have errands to run...not that I do that...seriously.  I used to have a steady pay check.  Now my sales are my livelihood.  It's been a liberating experience, and yet has been a very rough transition for me.  I've been thinking a lot lately about this transition, and here's my year end cap:

The cons:

  • All of my income goes right back into my business.  This isn't something that's widely advertised when you think about running your own small business, but the majority of your money will get funneled right back into your business.  Pretty much every cent I make goes right back into buying materials to make more.  This is totally fine if you have another means of income, but when you see those sales figures and they're looking really good and you still can't find the money to pay the electric bill, it's a bit disheartening.
  • It's isolating.  Going from working in a large office with plenty of in-person human contact and daily meetings with people I supervised to working alone in my house was rough.  I'm not going to sugar coat this one - I was really lonely and depressed for the first few months I ran Found Beauty Studio full time.  I missed interacting with other people.  I missed having purpose. I missed being able to bounce ideas off of people who knew what I was doing and collaborate at the drop of a hat.  Now socialization outside of superficial interactions with the good folks who work at my local post office takes effort.  I mean, my cats are cute and my husband is awesome, but sometimes a girl just needs to talk to someone else. 
  • The mission is money.  I know this sounds obvious since it's a business and my purpose is to make money, but for most of my adult working life I've worked for nonprofits with really amazing social missions.  It's what kept me going.  When work was tough, I just focused on the mission and it got me through.  Now I am my mission.  Keeping my electric bill paid is the mission.  It takes a major mind-shift to get through this one.
  • I don't have control.  You'd think that as the sole owner and staff person of a business I'd have complete control, right?  But I don't.  My measures of success are all at the mercy of customers and shop owners.  I can't just make something, put it up for sale, and be able to count when it will sell.  That lack of control was staggeringly difficult for me. 
The pros:
  • I work for myself!  I've had some great supervisors in the past, and I've had some really crappy supervisors.  Now I make all my own decisions without having to massage them in a way that makes them palatable to a higher-up.  I may not have control over sales, but I have control over everything else.  And that's incredibly liberating.
  • I make stuff and search for neat vintage items for a living.  Seriously.  It's kind of awesome.  When I'm sick of making one kind of thing I can go make another.  Or I can go thrift store and antique store hunting.  And it's my job.  Instead of feeling guilty that I'm wasting my time when I could be doing work for my job, now this IS my job.  I mean, how many people get to say that?
  • No one can fire me.  I'm no longer at the mercy of grant funding.  No one is going to tell me that my program funding hasn't been renewed and my job will be to close down a program and lay people off.  I don't have to justify my worthiness or my program outcomes to anyone to keep my job.  After years of worrying about that stuff, it's amazing to have that taken off of my shoulders. 
  • My customers are fan-flippin-tastic.  I mean it.  The people who are attracted to my work tend to be hilarious, quirky, fabulous people and I love when I get to meet them in person at shows or exchange emails with them when they buy online.  It's like I've found this secret club of interesting individuals who all like the same aesthetic that I do.  And that's amazing.
  • I can do this.  For years I wondered if I had what it takes to run my own business successfully and, you know what?  I do.  Turns out that I love the business end of things. I love the financials, I love the spreadsheets, and I love the intellectual challenge of constantly looking for ways to innovate and streamline.  I'm running an artisan business in one of the worst recessions in decades and I'm actually making a profit.  I had record breaking sales on etsy in November and December, for crying out loud!  I can totally do this. 

So that's my year-end recap everyone.  It's been a big year with heaps of ups and downs.  It hasn't been even close to smooth sailing but I imagine that anyone who, for whatever reason, leaves full time employment to run a small business encounters much the same thing.  I'm looking forward to 2012 and hope you are too.  Thanks for following my blog, and may your year be full of happiness and good health, friends.