It's the holiday season, and I declared that this would be the first year in awhile and the first of many... that I would not succumb to the winter blues. This season used to make me feel very down about not celebrating with all of my family the way I used to while growing up or not being where I always imagined being by this time in my life. To help me do that this year, I poured myself into creative projects for myself and others. This blog post documents a few DIY projects that are easy and fun, and perfect for decorating your space for Christmas.
1. Holiday Wreath
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of crafting another front door piece, this time requested by my sister and with the help of my niece on a lovely Friday evening. My sister had seen versions of what she wanted in several stores, but all of their prices were $50 and up. I offered to help, and the picture above is what we created together. She supplied all of the materials, my niece created the design (seen in the photo to the left in action), and I led in the project's execution. We started with a plain wreath, many variously sized and colored ornaments, a bow, scissors, needle and thread, and glue gun with glue sticks. Below, you can see a photo slideshow of how the wreath transformed, step-by-step.
2. Tree Topper Star
A little over a year ago, I had the desire to break into new traditions for the holidays and wanted to decorate my own tree. Still living at my older brother's house during the time, I didn't get to do this immediately; but I remember browsing online and seeing different holiday-inspired decor styles and spotting one particular piece that I really LOVED. The sixth idea on a list from Decoist entitled "8 Beautifully Unusual Christmas Tree Toppers" incorporated old sheet music in a very unique design that I HAD to try for myself. Of the two examples of the sheet music design, one (seen in the first photo in the gallery below) was from a featured blog site, Thoughts from Alice, now alicewingerden.com.
This tree topper reminds me of the real story and meaning of Christmas and the star the Magi saw that led them to Baby Jesus. Last December, I wrote a blog about how things were changing and for the good. Newly baptized, that blog was about a Canvas Creations I co-facilitated in celebration of the "Reason for the Season." We discussed the Messiah at that paint party and the star the wise men saw that led them to Bethlehem. Creating a star tree topper this year felt like a divine part of God's plan. It was a joy to put together and I love how it completed my Christmas tree. Photos below show more of the process.
This year is the first that I've realized that I am not alone in dealing with [my] loss, and I don't have to deal with it by myself. People all over the world from backgrounds of all kind, as shared in this NPR article, cope differently with the disruption of loss and changing holiday traditions. Loss is a form of grief, as my therapist tells me; and everybody grieves in their own way. Since I was a teenager, the shifted dynamics of my family trickled into the way I felt about observing the holiday season. It became challenging for me, but I now find purpose in those challenges and in that past pain and hurt. As of result of it, I encountered God's love as well as the love for art and creating. I have the power to observe the holiday in the way I CHOOSE; and I celebrate love, joy, peace and Christ all throughout the year. Crafty DIY projects like these ones are all a part of my continuous observation of these important things in life.
3. Handmade Musical Ornaments
My niece made a small fan the night we made our DIY wreath together. Even though she used regular, lined paper and crafted it because she was hot and wanted to cool down; her little creation is what inspired these additional tree ornaments. Photos in the slideshow and gallery below both document the transformation of these pieces as well as the perfect little tree that helped me get in the Christmas Spirit.
As I move forward with creating my own holiday traditions in the years to come, I want to make sure I always do two things; (1) Seek, find, and keep Christ front and center in the season, and (2) Honor and enjoy life and the loved ones I have in it. The old sheet music tree topper and these matching handmade ornaments were a couple sparks to the beginning of new traditions for me.
I could not believe it. It was a Thursday afternoon, and as I settled in at my desk at my day job, I opened the Gmail app on my phone to quickly browse my personal and business email account inboxes. My eyes got BIG and my mouth almost dropped as I held in a HUGE SCREAM. Instead, I clicked the email's "reply" button, and typed in, "Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh..." to begin my response. I was so excited to see that in just a few days, I would have the opportunity to attend Diddi Emah's "Hit the Stage" Workshop through NC Underground Dance's classes. I wasn't completely sure if I would actually take the class, but I knew immediately that I wanted to because it seemed like a "once in a lifetime" event.
Those that are close to me know that I have a major affinity towards Diddi's close friend and fellow choreographer, Sean Bankhead. The first time I came across his work could have been in 2011, when I saw his "Girls (Run the World)" video on YouTube. Diddi was one of the leads in this project, among many dancers referred to as the Bad Girls Club; and every time I did my own impressions of the dance, I WAS HER. See the video below in case you need a taste of its awesomeness!
Anyway, her workshop was amazing. She gave all types of industry advice, talked about her journey, gave us steps that challenged us to deliver, and spoke about her future endeavors. Before leaving, she let us know about her new music out and the #DakadaChallenge on Instagram. I was intrigued and decided this week that I would enter the competition in my own way.
You'll find a timelapse video I recorded and edited of the watercolor portrait painting process below. Her song is the background music, which has a great, uplifting message and catchy beat! The official video for it is pinned below as well. Thanks so much for checking out this post, and as always... feel free to leave a comment or any questions/concerns in the section below! The challenge ends on December 15th, so maybe you'll even feel inclined to join it, too.
What an exciting time it's been to continue to settle in at home, and make it [for the most part] everything I ever imagined while incorporating my own personal style. During this time, I've also had the chance to step away from social media and better manage my intake of everything going on in the world. It was a much needed break, and allowed me great amounts of time to slow down, refocus, and plan for the future. DIY projects are an awesome way to relax and get creative.
This door decor project was one of my favorite to do during my social media break. Though I am a fan of wreaths, which are commonly hung on doors... the beautiful arrangements whose ring or circular shape is meant to represent eternity are also laid on graves and often seen as related to death. Growing up, I would always hear my Mom say she (or Liberian people in general) didn't use wreaths for decoration on their doors/at home because of this. I was looking for a design that would be just as gorgeous as a wreath, but way different than what you'd typically see hanging on a door or at a funeral.
Within a few minutes of online searching, I found a design that I liked and looked easy enough to replicate. I skimmed through my craft supplies, frames, and outdoor spaces and scavenged for all of the materials I needed (needle, thread, small branches and twigs, faux flowers, pine cone, plexi-glass, frame, ruler wood burner/stencil cutter, chalk markers, sealant, 3M hanging strip, scissors, spray paint, water, a rag and hot glue gun)! After some short, sporadic sessions of putting everything together, I hung up the sign on my front door... for $FREE.99! To seal and weather-proof the piece on the door, I sprayed the chalk ink lettered design with fixative, but that left it with a foggy residue I was not happy with. I ended up testing which spray of the ones I had on-hand were the best on sections of the first piece. Then I redid the lettering on a new cut of the plexi-glass. Of the four sprays that were tested, Krylon's Crystal Clear had the best results. Pictures in the gallery below show a little of this project's behind-the-scenes process. Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed and/or feel inspired to create one of your own! Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section if you have any!
Whether attending a festival to enjoy good music, to serve the community, or to work as a face painter or vendor, festival life has become THE LIFE from Spring to late Fall. With Durham Art Guild's Swing Into Spring arts fundraiser to kick off this year's festival season in the Triangle, I've had quite a few that I enjoy participating in each year. Those include the Eno Festival, the African American Cultural Festival, and the Art of Cool Festival; however, there are so many more that take place. The Dreamville Festival was scheduled to kick off this year in Raleigh, and I was reeeeeally looking forward to being a part of its Art Market. It was canceled due to Hurricane Florence, but will be happening next year on April 6th instead, so I will still be looking forward to that. Mark your calendars now!
Each event has its own type of crowd as well. Being a vendor at events for the past year now, I've learned to better prepare and cater to my audience. I'm still learning and growing, but here are some photos from past occasions where I've vended. The evolution is real. Thanks for reading!
In the words of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, "There's NO place like home!" I'm officially ten full weeks in at my new place, and this is the very first time I have felt "at home" since moving to North Carolina. The word [home] alone is one that has given me mixed feelings my whole life. Growing up in two separate households from the ages of 12 through 18 as well as living as a first-generation [naturalized] American, "home" always felt bittersweet and family gatherings grew to feel strange. I dreamed of one day starting over and being able to create a home and family of my own. Fast forward 11 years, and I'm almost halfway there!
Earlier this year, the phrase "Home is where the heart is" had me pondering the idea of 'home' once again. I was participating in an art auction and fundraiser hosted by the Carrack Modern Art and Smashing Boxes for Habitat for Humanity of Durham, where they used the phrase as the event theme. "Where was my heart?' I wondered.
The answer is that my heart is in good ol' North Carolina... for now. NC is where I found what I love to do and where I learned to heal, forgive, and love myself fully. NC is where I finally came out of my comfort zone and grew up. I am grateful for this place. I settled into my first apartment here. I lived by myself for the first time here, and I feel like I can call the place I reside "home" without any lingering feelings of sadness.
In the ten weeks it took me to settle into my apartment, the wall art I imagined hanging up in my bathroom slowly came to life. I wanted some art to match a piece of counter top decor and the beach-theme shower curtain and colors of my bathroom. I learned a lace and spray paint technique while teaching at Seeking the Self summer camp this past July, which I tried out on the background, then used other sources of inspiration from there. See below for pictures of the transformation and read on for the revamped classroom caddie, refurbished bookshelf, and reused window decor projects I did for my living room as well!
Summer is a busy time for an Artist that's involved in camps. As the time for longer and warmer days end each year, I get a little nostalgic and reflect on all of the great things the season brought. This year I returned to Hidden Voices and Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate's Seeking The Self (STS) Camp as an Assistant Art Instructor and also joined SEEDS' Summer Camp as a Guest Teacher to [finally] complete my North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program's Community Partnership Project. Working with the kids lesson-by-lesson to come up with a concept for a mural we designed together and began painting was a challenge, but very rewarding. I met many talented young artists and it was a pleasure to teach them some of the basics of art and design. Photos from SEEDS' Camp directly follow. Read on for more about STS Camp after that!
Two years ago at this time, TYPE USA and See Why Designs were deep into planning and preparing to lead Canvas Creations for the very first time, which took place on September 10, 2016. We came together almost two weeks ago to "celebrate" that... but it was completely staged and the brainchild of my cousin, Michael Stewart (TV Personality seen on Lifetime's Love at First Flight). Not all attendees knew the secret, but he was using the event to be the perfect place to pop the big question to his then girlfriend, Britney. Many friends and family members joined to make this day special, and it was a real pleasure to be a part of it. Big thanks to Zweli's for serving as a great venue and everybody for showing up and making it a success. Photos are below, mostly captured by Esther of Esther Hicks Photography. Enjoy!
How Two Days Taught Me Two Valuable Business Lessons
I recently had the honor of lettering a huge, overhead chalkboard menu for Zweli's, a Zimbabwean restaurant that opened up its doors to customers in Durham, North Carolina in late June 2018. It was a great opportunity, especially with it being the first time I had ever done such a large-scale project. Although I had the pleasure of getting this job under my belt and having much of the process video documented, two major and hard lessons were learned as well through unexpected challenges I had to face first-hand. Check out the video below and continue reading for two things all creative business owners and/or DIY-ers should know when tackling similar projects!
Art for Cause..
Going down Memory Lane today to share photos I took at an artist's exhibition at the Scrap Exchange three years ago. Beauty From Toxicity, by Denise Hughes, was a show created entirely by upcycled plastic and displayed in Durham from Friday, June 19th to Saturday, July 11th, 2015. Hughes creates and shares her work to educate the public about our overproduction and overconsumption of plastic. She invites people to send their used plastic items to her studio instead of disposing them. That way she can use them in her mural projects and artwork while also diverting them from our landfills and waterways.
This show was a huge inspiration because I was only a few years into my Artist journey at the time and was still exploring the possible ways to create art for a specific purpose, outside of making money. Years later, I now realize that art has been a healing exercise for me and sharing it with others helps to show how they, too can feel relief, hope, freedom, and all types of other good feelings that are often felt through painting.
In fact, that's what I've enjoyed the most about sharing my love of art with others. IT FEELS GOOD. It also helps to open conversations about deeper topics. I had the pleasure of assisting at a teen's paint session a few weeks ago at StepUp Ministry Raleigh led by my good friend and fellow creative, Nate Key. They discussed identity and reflected on who they are and what makes them them. Art helped me to re-learn that for myself after college and relocating to Durham, NC. I really appreciated their dialogue and the opportunity to engage with such a dynamic bunch of young people. As the months go on and summer approaches, lots more activities and events are planned to happen. It's bound to be a busy, but [God-willing] fruitful summer and I'm very excited for all the good things ahead. I am grateful to God for it all. Stayed tuned!
For the good. As things change, I, too, am changing. I'm believing there is more in store for me than I can even imagine. I am planning for a great start to the new year, and I pray that by God's grace this will be my year.
I had the honor of facilitating a Canvas Creations session for Vision Church RDU's Living Life Content (LLC) [Singles] Ministry's End-of-Year event on Saturday, December 9th. In celebration of the holiday season, we had a great time in fellowship and painting together. More photos to recap are in the slideshow below.
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