Holiday Open House and Sale

Some of you are on my contact list and likely received this via an e-mail blast this morning, but in case you aren’t, or missed it, I am sharing this invitation here with my Richmond area friends, or any of you who happen to be in the area on December 5. Also, I am accepting custom orders. Should you have a sentimental stash of trash, I can fashion your broken treasures into unique costume jewelry,mosaic memory jars, tables or trays.

Kindly RSVP by December 2, to mary@garnermitchell.com or in the comments below.

Holiday Open House and Sale 2015

Holiday Open House and Sale 2015

 

Table “escape”

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Spring is trying its best to show itself at Stagfield, but the forsythia and quince are sadly going to freeze their buds off this weekend. Aside from vinca minor’s pops of purple, little is blooming and thus I had to scrounge around for a centerpiece for tonight’s table.

We more often than not entertain in the library. That room is in the 1781 part of the house and has this undeniable energy that we enjoy. Setting the large “Garner” pine table there for four gives a wide berth for “stuff” and what I lack in flowers today, I made up with things collected from here and there around the house.

The tablecloth is a “Goodwill via Target clearance” shower curtain whose winter to spring palette was my inspiration. Next, true to the room’s period I selected the brown and white Meakin “Americana ” plates with scenes of Mount Vernon, brown napkins, and pewter flatware as the soft patina married with that of the cloth colors. Then a few vintage books (about Virginia, France and of course, Mount Vernon), wood and pewter candlesticks, a few architectural pieces, lichens, river birch bark, turkey feathers, antlers and my roving deer figurine coached this gathering into some sensical theme… I think. I just enjoyed mixing the colors and shapes and justifying my junk-o-holicism! Among the junk are a sampling of old glass shards that have bubbled up from the garden over the years. They, along with a seed box full of artifacts we’ve collected here live in the library.

A couple of things about busy tablescapes, if conversation lags, they offer a jumping off point at least. That won’t be an issue with tonight’s guests, our good friends Allen and Melissa. And if I don’t stop “playing” and get to the market, we may all be reading rather than eating!

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Silver lining

© Mary Garner-Mitchell.Tea table at Stagfield

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Tea table at Stagfield

“Usually, when the distractions of daily life deplete our energy, the first thing we eliminate is the thing we need the most: quiet, reflective time. Time to dream, time to contemplate what’s working and what’s not, so that we can make changes for the better.”
Sarah Breathnach, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy – January 17

My distain for December is equal only to my joy for January.  January is that big sigh of relief after finishing a dreaded chore — for me, the holiday season. It simply exhausts me.

January is polished silver. A time of reflection. A time to put away or buff up the old and start over, making way for a new day, a new year. A time to organize. A time to clear the clutter from the house and my head. A time for a new plan.

(It’s gonna be good.)

Simple gifts …

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Bookshelves at Fantastic Thrift, Richmond, Virginia

Finding a penny, a blue heron, or a hawk crossing my path, such “signs” from above or beyond never fail me when I need a boost or comfort or just some divine assurance that I am never alone, that there is something “more” and beyond my mere mortal comprehension.  My most knee-buckling “sign” however is one of song. It is uncanny how this tune seems to follow me no matter where I go or whether my mood is sheer happiness or one of heartbreak.  I know it’s popular and it always pleases me to hear it whether at weddings or funerals. Yet it is impossible to recount the numerous times I will be driving along in silent melancholy, flip on the radio and it is this song floating into my ears. It is the old Shaker Hymn “Simple Gifts.”  Just last week, I happened to mention this musical phenomenon to someone in an email and a day later, only hours after learning of the death of a very close friend, it happened again. Only this time a bit out of the ordinary. In my grief, I found myself stumbling around a thrift shop (truly, I hardly remember driving there) and as I walked past the books, I was struck dumb as the booklet you see here was lying face up on the bottom shelf.  It is an illustrated version of the song’s lyrics, very whimsical and brightly colored, and fully of silly cats! I caught my breath, snatched it up and I carried it around in my shopping basket for an hour. I eventually decided that it wasn’t for me to actually buy or have. I know the words by heart and perhaps another would benefit from its simple gift — the message to once more take heart, to not be sad but instead to be thankful for the wonders of this life and the blessings and people in it, both past and present — to be encouraged and to “Come round right.”

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“Simple Gifts” was written in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett (1797–1882) while he was at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine. These are the lyrics to his one-verse song.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.[2]

White Room

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Collection of miscellaneous white porcelain in the kitchen at Stagfield, Ashland, Virginia.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression Like white on rice?  (You have to be Southern to say it “rite!”) Lest you wonder, it means something that’s integral, something through and through, something so stuck on something else that there is no separation.  I’m that way with old things. I don’t particularly like new, unless it’s a new car. That’s why thrift stores and junk shops are so appealing to me. And I seem to always be drawn to things that are or once were white.

I like how my collections of white objects are testament to their former purpose or previous life. Maybe with antique linens being the one exception, cracks, crazing, grease spots, the way a sugar cone has oxidized over the years earn these items  “most favored” status for they are the pieces that speak to me of memory, of time passing. Rarely do I think, “Oh, I wish this were restored to its original gloriousness, all clean and pristine.”  No, I like “50 shades of white” over the singular non color of new … “where the shadows run from themselves.”

© Mary Garner-Mitchell.

This photo deserves a bit more of a caption. Daddy made this Shaker-style table in 1975 for my first apartment from walnut he and my grandfather harvested long before I was born. If the house were to ever catch fire, I would certainly grab this piece on my way out! The reticulated bowl and platter filled with dried lichens may be one of my best thrift shop finds. It has an impressed stamp on the bottom that is hard to make out. If the Roadshow ever comes this way, I’m taking it and an early 19th century piece of French needlepoint for evaluation.The deer figurine is a yard sale find and I think I paid a whopping 5 bucks for it the year we moved into Stagfield. It moves around the house quite a bit. It is soapstone, I believe. The round plaque, a reproduction I buried in the yard for a winter so it would get mossy and gross enough to earn its spot amongst the old stuff!  The chalk urn I spotted in the barn of the same grandparents’ home when I was a little girl. When they held the estate sale many years later, I asked my mother to look for it and it was exactly where I had remembered!  It is my all-time favorite flower-arranging vessel. It holds pussy willow from the yard most of the time. The ironstone tureen is a much-treasured piece, and it, too, is on the “save list” as it has been handed down from my mother’s family for several generations and has held the centerpiece florals at numerous weddings, mine included.

Compost happens …

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Dual compost bins my birthday gift several years ago built by my kind and sweet husband, Chip Mitchell. I grow great dirt!

I wish I could take credit for that headline, but I can’t.  It was a bumper sticker included in a press kit I received when HGTV first came on the scene years ago. A really cool press kit, too, as I recall, with little pencils made from twigs and a pocket folder made of great corrugated paper stock in a warm, red brick color on one side, and cream on the other. I went around the newsroom trash bins collecting those that got tossed. I was always scavenging for “supplies” that others routinely pitched. Still do. But I digress…

This being Monday, and a not-so-good Monday at that, I thought this particular image of my compost bins was appropriate.  Arguing with off-shore folks at Avis rent-a-car, an unexpected ER bill (false alarm, Chip was fine), chasing a long-overdue invoice, topped off with the realization a back-up hard drive has gone to … well, “compost,”  has made this Monday one to forget.  I believe I’ll pretend I’m a cat, dig a hole and bury it.  On the upside, this extremely hot spell followed by a soaking thunderstorm last night has my compost a-cookin’ good! That’s the “done” pile on the left. Martha would be proud.

“Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week.” – Joseph Addison

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. “Objets de Barn Art” found mostly on site at Stagfield, c. 1781, Ashland, Virginia.

Relatively speaking, I suppose.

While Friday’s storms had us somewhat consumed with cleanup (we were luckier than many), a pool and a shared bottle of Prosecco underscored a couple of delightful days that I want etched my memory as they otherwise held so few demands, despite downed limbs and buckets of sweat.  Late yesterday afternoon, my friend Nancy Hugo windowsillarranging.blogspot.com/  invited us for a swim and happy Happy Hour that was the exclamation point ending to a weekend punctuated by what to me is “Summertime” – golf,  gardening, grilled suppers, oppressive heat, wind-whipping thunderstorms, good friends,  a good book, a good nap – and with Nancy and John, always good conversation. Which brings me to our discussion of “brown” and an ongoing thread that has  woven itself through my ponderings these last few days, weeks, perhaps most of my collecting life!

According to Nancy’s sources (her children and their peers), the generation just starting housekeeping eschews brown furniture – meaning the pieces handed down through at least the last three or more generations. They don’t want it and the antique and consignment shops are testament to this sad trend. It’s a real shame, for just as our parents and many in my demographic of Boomers are downsizing, this glut of apparently unappreciated, quality “brown furniture” has depressed prices to alarming levels. I have a house full of it!  I’ve noticed even the preponderance of Pottery Barn is moving over for Mod, and while I appreciate aspects of most styles and love a mix, it pains me to see what I fear might be a lack of regard for the real patina of rich walnuts, mahogany, heart pine — in other words, BROWN!

Which brings me in a round-about way to why I like rust.

How ironic that marketing guru, Seth Godin, in his blogpost today http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ notes “Shine is fresh and new and it sparkles. Shiny catches the eye and it appeals to the neophiliac, to the person in search of polish. Patina, on the other hand, can only be earned. Patina communicates trust (because the untrusted don’t last long enough to earn a patina) … “
I believe such is true of lots of things, not only in business and brands but furniture, too. Wrinkles come to mind as well! (sigh…)

So, ANYWAY, today’s photo  seems an appropriate way to illustrate my musings above and my love affair with all things old, rusty, worn, well-used, and well, brown!  “Objets”  I believe worthy of exhibit if only as “barn art” discovered  in the dirt here at Stagfield.  Why? Because they earned it.

Keys to Happiness

Some of you have asked for additional pictures from my estate sale fix from last week, so I thought I would post these photos of the red toy piano I picked up for a song! My brother Rex reminded me that it is the same turkey red color of the old upright he and I both learned to play as kids.  Oh, the wonderful times and tunes we would beat out on that behemoth.  Our duets could get pretty raucous. Our favorite? “A Lion Sleeps Tonight!”  Rex has “Big Red” in his basement studio with a his collection of instruments, string and otherwise — each and every one he plays. Such talent I’ll never have musically, yet I still play on a baby grand I purchased at auction (cheap, of course) and had totally rebuilt (not so cheap). The day that piano was delivered to my doorstep a missing piece of my soul was restored. I’m terribly shy about performing, however, due to a freak-out screw-up at a senior recital when I was in high school. I was playing one of Bach’s two part inventions, messed up and never recovered. I can still play that piece. But my favorite playing is “by ear” and by myself.  I started playing at three according to a photo of me at my toy piano on an early Christmas morning, with a smile about as wide as the keyboard you see here.

“Little Red” © Mary Garner-Mitchell

© Mary Garner-Mitchell

Estate Sale Rehab

Concrete folk art bird was once painted red like his brother. A round mound perch of cement studded with river rock plants him firmly on the porch rail. © Mary Garner-Mitchell

I’m just coming off the high of Friday’s estate sale. The rush extended through the weekend in what I like to call a “Piddle Party.”  This is when I excuse myself from the typical weekend house chores and focus on getting creative in the garden and/or in the barn with my found objects and junk. So, my new treasures didn’t disappoint as I got to work early Saturday morning cleaning and scheming without an iota of buyer’s regret!  The concrete birds are perched on the deck for now, but I’m sure will flit here and there (as much as concrete birds might) as the months go by.  The most transformed item was what was left of a twig table I had culled from the trash in the estate sale barn. Off-kilter and wobbly, its three legs were all different lengths and it was missing a couple of “teeth” along it’s top. All the stretchers were missing save one that was broken.  I went to my store of sticks and easily replaced and secured all parts.  The burled ones came from a creek bed at Nancy Hugo’s Flower Camp, in Howardsville, VA.  I knew they would eventually find a home one day, and they complete this now sound rustic table. For the tabletop, one of the slate shingles (salvaged two summers ago when our local train station was re-roofed) was an easy fit with a single cut. I won’t go into detail on other “rehabs”, except to say that all cleaned up rather nicely and seem to be happy in their new home!

Miscellaneous found objects welcome “Red” — brother to concrete folk art bird — make up an ever-changing tableaux on my porch bench. © Mary Garner-Mitchell

Surely bound for the dump, a twig table found a new home and new life. All it took was a few prized sticks, a slate shingle for a top and a little spar varnish! © Mary Garner-Mitchell

“Hello. My name is Mary, and I’m a junk-o-holic…”

The signs were everywhere, along every main and side road all over town: “Estate Sale” … and it happened to be a house I drive by every day and wonder who must live there, or if anyone is still living there.  I got my answer this morning at 8 a.m. as one of the first of the hard-core “pickers.”

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Nothing gives me a rush or makes me feel as euphoric as going to a sale like this one. These days they are far and few between, and today I drank up the clutter, dirt and dust in excess. From what I could gather the widower who owns the place has gone to assisted living and thus, the sale of a lifetime’s collection of farm and household items. The outbuildings were the most fun and a few of us diehards dug through the piles of rusty tools and wood and were handsomely rewarded. Most of what was culled was just pennies. The tramp art table, clocks, blue/green pot, zig-zag trim, baby gate (makes a great trellis) and other items not pictured came to a grand total of $2. That’s T-W-O dollars! Truly, they almost paid us to take it. I presume the lady of the house must have been a flower lover like me because one outbuilding was piled with old flower pots, soil, chemicals and garden hand tools, in various stages of long neglect. (Ahhh… sweet elixir!!) Sadly though, as I waded through mounds of junk, I couldn’t help but notice the saved and now decayed funeral arrangements, still in their metal baskets piled in a corner. When did they stop making these metal baskets? Had to be  40 years ago. Sigh…

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In the house, just a few odds and ends met my trained eye. So much was tempting, but either something I could “do” without, or just a tad too pricey for my Silas Marner sensibilities. Besides, I was really on the hunt for things I could re-purpose for the garden … containers, etc. (I even tried, with no success, to buy the piles of rocks in the yard.)  I did find one item though that is totally a stupid, must have:  A toy baby grand piano, with the sweetest decal above its keyboard,  and its xylophone “innards” are in perfect tune. Precious! I don’t know if I will keep or resell. I just may use it as a prop in a photo for a future painting, then perhaps resell.  A bargain at $28, I can probably double my money if I’m so inclined. Everything else in this photo with my new toy ranged from 50 cents to 3 dollars. Most were under a buck!

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Perhaps my Concrete Cardinals were the best find of the day. Can you believe $3.50 each? The white one was out in the yard, and I found the red one undiscovered in the basement and the sales people were amazed that they had not found it earlier. Could it have been the snakeskins decorating the cellar floor??? Anyway, I was amazed that they sold it for the same price.  Folk art-ish, art they?  I LOVE them!

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Check out the plant stand made of old machine parts and a black bucket! And the antlers are huge! More for my Stagfield collection.The real fun will be tomorrow when I start cleaning up the REAL junky stuff and making something “new.”  More photos to come! Have a happy weekend! I know I will.