Navigating life as a creative empath

 Photo by: Tao Heftiba

Photo by: Tao Heftiba

In the past, summer had been my slowest season aside from the years when I carted my wares from art festival to art festival. This summer, though... has been as busy as a few of my previous holiday seasons. I'm so excited about it. As an artist, you always wonder when people are going to finally get sick of your work and move on. So the idea that five years in and I'm still busy ( more so than ever ) is really amazing to me. 

But along with business/work growth ...life happens, right? 

So instead of getting overwhelmed, I decided to take some calm time this morning to talk about it. I know that most people feel like they're juggling a million things each day.  Balancing life, work, and family while finding a healthy balance for your own needs is tough. To all the people out there raising kids on top of that -- you are superheroes, go treat yourself to something special without guilt. Right now. 

I'm inherently empathetic, so when people ask me for help or need me... I don't just hear it... I actually FEEL it. I actually think of it as an honor to have people that trust me enough to know they can count on me. I know that not everyone is that fortunate. But, to be honest I wasn't always able to cope with daily responsibilities that well. They overwhelmed me. I'd handle everything well outwardly only to crumble into my own bed afterward like I was retreating from battle. 

When I'm not running my pottery studio, I'm also the caregiver ( and only relative ) of my 90-year-old grandmother. Everything she needs ( apart from what her assisted living center can provide ) is on me. Her health has not been good and there have been many appointments and many middle of the night emergencies over the last few months. She lives 2 hours away because she's afraid to leave the town she lived in her whole life. I haven't said much of anything about it until now but I think that it's important to talk about the tough stuff, too. I spend my time feeling split between two worlds trying to juggle the things she needs and running my business. Not to mention the guilt of feeling like I'm not there enough to be a good partner for my amazing husband. 

Sometimes, I feel like I'm failing everyone. I know that everyone feels this way, too at times. In the process of checking boxes for others, we can forget to give ourselves time to check our own. So I want to talk about how I've taught myself to manage it all. 

1.) Take joy in creating. -

I used to panic about the orders I needed to get out. I was terrified I would miss a deadline and let someone down. It prevented me from appreciating the fact that I get to do what I LOVE every day. Now, I remind myself to move slow and steady. I make myself appreciate the things that made me start this, to begin with. Like the way the clay feels as I smooth it in my hands and the way you get a little burst of excitement with each piece that gets completed. Guess what? taking my time hasn't caused me to miss any deadlines. It's just allowed me to enjoy the process and actually be more productive with much less stress.

2.) Give yourself an hour -

1 hour is not going to change anything for anyone except yourself. There needs to be 1 hour a day you take to do something JUST for you and absolutely without any guilt. It makes ALL the difference and makes you better prepared to handle all the things life asks of you. Everyone will be okay if you take one hour. In fact, they'll be better because they'll get you in a better state of mind.

3.) Remember to separate yourself - 

I used to think that if I didn't take on other people's problems that I wasn't a good person. But taking on other people's every interaction with the world around them isn't feasible or healthy. I've learned that you can help people without being consumed into their issues. We're all here with our own daily experiences and other's peoples aren't any of my business. I can help them in ways that are productive and meaningful without making them my own. In fact, I've learned that I can actually help them better this way. 

4.) Be kind and have patience -

We all feel pulled in a million directions. If we remember that when we deal with each other, then everyone can work together with a little less stress and judgment and a little bit more calm and compassion. 

So now that I've taken this hour to drink my coffee and get this all out and off my mind  I feel totally ready to keep working away in my studio. I'll work today until I catch up on all my orders so that tomorrow I can make my 4 hr round trip drive to help my Grandma get to her appointments. Knowing I have everything up-to-date in my studio will help me be totally present for her and her needs. Then, my hour for myself tomorrow will be dinner out with my mom and sweet cousin who is about to leave for her second year of college because I miss her terribly when she's gone. Friday's hour for myself is going to be shamelessly hitting the snooze button, and Saturday's is going to be totally cut off from technology with my husband. 

Now, I'm totally excited for the rest of the week. 

 

 

 

 

 

A day in the life

 Photo by: Magnolia & Magpie

Photo by: Magnolia & Magpie

As an artist and small business owner, I definitely do not have a traditional 9 to 5 job. When people ask me what I do, they always have a slightly perplexed look on their face when I attempt to explain. The traditional idea of what a job should be or look like seems to block the querent from initially understanding what my "job" looks like from day to day. So I've decided it is about darn time that I explain it a little bit better. 

Other small business owners get it. They know that each day is absolutely different from the last. That's actually one of my favorite parts. I have never done well with stagnation and definitely need new challenges to keep myself feeling useful. But despite the purchase orders changing and the styles that I make waxing and waning, the general bones of running this crazy little project stay the same. So let me share them with you. 

 photo by: magnolia & magpie

photo by: magnolia & magpie

How I start my day. 

So this is the part that I feel a little bit guilty admitting. It's definitely a perk that I feel very lucky to have. You can call it non-commuter guilt. I have quiet morning coffee and can plan my day's tasks. Since my studio in right in my home, I don't have to rush out the door first thing each day. I get to wake up with my two little pups and husband, who more often than not hands me coffee right in bed. ( yes, I know how lucky I am. ) After he leaves for his office, I answer any emails that have come in from the previous day. Most of the time, this part totally happens in my pajamas. I'm not even going to pretend otherwise. If you have received an email from me before 9 am EST... it was sent from the comfort of my fuzzy slippers. 

 Photo by: Annie Spratt

Photo by: Annie Spratt

The variances 

So the next part changes from day to day. Most of the time, I am in my pottery studio making wares for either myself or one of my wholesale accounts. But I don't have any employees ( Unless you count my husband and the two jack russell pups who never leave my side. My mom also takes pity on me and works for free as a office admin to reply to general inquiries when things get busy.) But for the most part, that means that website updates, shipping, some of the product photos, and production are all on me. I schedule out of the studio days when I know I need to get photography, web updates, or promotional emails / social media squared away. Typically, this method works but during busier seasons I definitely feel like splurging on a clone of myself might be a really solid R.O.I. Each email you see, post you view, or package you unbox was sent by me or my husband, Steve. He definitely is a shipping live saver when we get hectic. 

 photo by: magnolia & magpie

photo by: magnolia & magpie

My work is a mixture.

I alternate between hand building and wheel thrown pieces. Some of my pottery even has aspects of both. I learned that encorperating both gives the work a more well-rounded and interesting feel. For me, one feels incomplete without the other. The hand built aspects feel very raw and natural while the wheel's components give things a more polished finish. When combined together, I find my personal aesthetic.

 photo by: magnolia & magpie

photo by: magnolia & magpie

My biggest struggles.

There are certainly things that I struggle with. One of the most frustrating is my pickiness for design and pattern. I am never satisfied with myself. I design and produce and then always feel at the end of it all that I need to change it all over again. In a way, it is good to constantly strive for better but it's also a great way to loose some sleep. 

Also, I struggle with honing my craft while still  getting work orders out the door. Obviously, current orders always have my top priority. But sometimes that takes away from available time for me to experiment and refine my work. I've learned over the years that proper time management and setting up and sticking to a decent schedule for myself works wonders to help all aspects of my work receive their due attention. 

 photo by: magnolia & magpie

photo by: magnolia & magpie

But truthfully, the biggest struggle that I have never fully gotten over is the same as so many other artists. Self doubt. It is still an evil little whisper that I hear in the back of my mind every time I make a new design, post something to IG, or even as I write this blog entry. But I've learned that in order to keep going you have to do it all anyway. We are all our own worst critics and no artists ever started off great. Even great artists sucked one upon a time. The difference is they pushed through the self doubt and frustration because they're a learning process that helps elevate your work each time you delve a little bit deeper in. 

 photo by: magnolia & magpie

photo by: magnolia & magpie

The studio space.

My studio is definitely very much a full working studio attached to my 1970s home. If you looked at my house from the outside, you'd currently have no idea that a full pottery studio exists inside it's walls. It's in a quiet neighborhood with friendly neighbors. My studio door overlooks our backyard and very unsightly swimming pool. I have plans to add a lot more curb appeal to it this spring & summer when we add a walking path from the driveway to studio for order pick ups. The inside of the studio is changing too. We're in the middle of adding a much nicer pick up area and consult space for brides wishing for a registry! 

 photo by: magnolia & magpie

photo by: magnolia & magpie

My favorite part.

There are a lot of things I love about being a studio potter. But there's definitely one thing that is even better than the rest. Having real people show excitement and enthusiasm for my work is a feeling that I will never get tired of. Since I started selling my work, I have see my pottery help people make connections with each other. I've seen people give it and use it in acts of kindness and love. I've helped people ship ceramic pocket hearts to their deployed loved ones, made mugs that were used in proposals, hand painted platters that will serve as a focal point for years of family dinners, and felt the absolute and overwhelming gratitude from people who use one of my mugs as their favorite mug each day. It makes me feel SO connected to you all. 

 photo by: magnolia & magpie

photo by: magnolia & magpie

 

 

 

 

Change is a good thing.

Hey, Everyone! 
 

For the last 6 years, we have proudly been The Potter & Woodsmith. However, over the next months, things will be shifting in an exciting way and I wanted to reach out to let you know how and why. As an artist first and foremost, I feel it is important to dive deeper into my aesthetic and personal brand. In that spirit and in an effort to get back to the core of what started this little "side project" to begin with, we've decided to re-brand. 

In the weeks to come, we will become known as

Ritual Clay Company.

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The decision to re-brand is definitely not one that has come lightly and without a great deal of consideration. We know that doing such a thing is taking a risk. But we started this whole company on a big risk and because of your help, that risk has absolutely paid off. We've always considered our branding and web presence to be fairly decent. However, we're planning to transition into something much stronger and exciting than we've ever felt that we've had before and we really want you to get excited, too! We want to make sure we're notable and easily understood. When someone sees a piece of my pottery, I want there to be no mistaking where it came from.

Why Ritual Clay Company? 

When I first started thinking about a re-brand I knew that I wanted the name to strike right at the core of who I am as an artist. I wanted my brand to be an absolute reflection of who I am and why I create the functional art that I do. 

The interaction between someone who buys my pottery and how it makes them feel is why I'm driven each day to create.  I am deeply pulled by the hope of bringing people together through my work. There is one thing that is a common thread amongst everyone. Habit and ritual. Some people make themselves one peaceful cup of coffee in their favorite mug to start an otherwise hectic day. Others cook large Sunday dinners for their whole family and serve it up on a platter I had the honor of making. Regardless of how we ritualize, we do these things as an act of love and devotion to the people we cherish or things we deeply believe in.

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Each time I set out to make a new piece there's also a certain set of steps that I take towards a finished work that is a ritual all its own. Now, more than ever in my artistic practice, I am inspired by the things that connect us and the moments that allow us to celebrate the goodness of life. Whether big or small, Ritual is how we show the world who we are and what we love. 

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What will change? 

  • Our core inventory will be my handcrafted pottery. 

  • Woodcraft other items will become something we only offer on special occasions. 

  • Steve will still very much be apart of the company because I cannot do this without him. However, he's shifting roles to help me with our growing pottery demand and administrative tasks. It will also free him up to do more entrepreneurial projects that he has been nice enough to put off all these years in order to make wood items for P&W.
  • We will no longer carry art prints.
  • We will have a brand new website. 
  • We will offer Wedding Registries!
  •  Local pick up, consults, and shopping will get easier! We're currently building out a private entrance to our studio space that will have a tiny little retail-style front to it.It will be by appointment and availability only. 
  • The stamp on the bottom of each piece! It will now say Ritual Clay Co. 

What will stay the same? 

  • Handcrafted Pottery! Focusing only on clay items will give me a great opportunity to show all aspects of myself and my work to my customers who are demanding more! 
  • All of the popular pottery items we sell will stay and I will be able to produce more of the most coveted items.  I also have plans for more new items throughout the year based on supporter feedback. 
  • Our address will remain unchanged. I'm still working out of my home studio in Rochester, NY

I know that change can sometimes be scary, but I really hope you all embrace this new chapter with us! I promise to do my best not to disappoint! If you have any comments or thoughts please feel free to use the comments section and I will do my best to reply. If you're following us on Instagram, please sign up to get notifications. That will give you a step-by-step update of all the new changes as they unfold. 

Thanks so much for your support. 

- Sara:-)

 

 

 


 

 

It's been 1 year since our move

 

Since I first decided to start the blog, I’ve struggled with how much personal information about our lives to include. The fine line between business and life is hard for me to navigate in a world where social media makes our lives so much more visible. But the whole point of the blog was to let people in and tell our story. So, on the anniversary of our move, I’ve decided to get a little more personal than I ever have.

One year ago today, we were packing up what would end up being the first of three moving trucks. It was only Steve and I with moral support and food provided by my mom and her close friend to help get us through it. We were on our own lifting every single box and piece of furniture that we had collected while we lived in South Bristol. We had actively made a very difficult choice. The four years that had preceded that day were tough. It was a time when we needed to come to some harsh realizations about our lives and the home we had purchased in the middle of wine county. 

 We spent two summers landscaping and gardening the various beds on the property

We spent two summers landscaping and gardening the various beds on the property

On paper, it seemed idyllic. An old B&B farmhouse, nestled between grape fields and Canandaigua Lake. A big yard for the dogs, our garden, and views of the lake. In one sense, we lucked out big time. We bought at the absolute bottom of the housing market. Quite frankly, we probably wouldn’t have been able to afford it in a better real estate climate. 

 This was the view from our covered deck at the old farmhouse. 

This was the view from our covered deck at the old farmhouse. 

The first year in that home, I cried myself to sleep every single night. I couldn’t take the isolation that the quiet walls were so good at providing. I had just lost my grandma. Realistically, she was my best friend. She was everyone’s best friend. Above all, the thing in life that she was best at was being our grandma. I thought that the sadness would pass as I dealt with the loss and found my place in the new environment. 

 My favorite photo I've ever found of my grandma. She was always way younger than her age and loved a good party. 

My favorite photo I've ever found of my grandma. She was always way younger than her age and loved a good party. 

We were in that area of New York more out of necessity than from desire. I was fresh out of college with no job. Steve lost his job with Daimler Chrysler when they shut down production in their facility in our hometown. Unfortunately, our town didn’t exactly have any other prospects for an Aerospace Engineer. Like so many young college grads, we had a tough time finding jobs in 2012. Then Steve got a call back from a company in rural southern, NY and we found ourselves quite literally moving WAY out of our comfort zone. 

We grew up in a community full of family and friends. I never knew how important that was until it was stripped entirely away from me. In fact, growing up I consistently felt like the introverted awkward one out. I never fully felt like I fit in anywhere. When kids were having sleepovers I wanted to be in my own bed by 8 pm. In college, bars and parties were something I went to out of a sense of obligation. Most were spent silently thinking of how wonderful it would be to just be home creating art or sleeping. I was pretty surprised when I found myself longing for the human interaction that I had spent most of my life actively avoiding. Who knew someone with social anxiety could feel so lonely. 

For the next four years, Steve and I poured all our time and money into renovating that old lakeside farmhouse. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in those walls. As the last few marble tiles went up in our master bathroom, I still had the same sad empty feeling inside my soul. It was heartbreaking. Looking back, I should have known that renovating a home wasn’t going to make it feel right. Steve spent most of his time commuting to work and at his office. I spent most of my time alone. I could feel the sense of guilt Steve had every day when he had to leave me alone in that house. We sold one of our cars to fund the move. I was essentially stranded until we finally got a second car a few years in. 

 Mid-way through the first of 2 bathrooms we remodeled. 

Mid-way through the first of 2 bathrooms we remodeled. 

Pottery was my salvation during those isolating years. I am forever grateful to Steve. He insisted that I buy the equipment for a home studio despite it being a huge expense that we probably shouldn’t have taken on at the time. Our business quickly became my sanity. It was the way I was able to get up and start each day. It gave me back a purpose. Slowly, I found a sense of community again. We started doing simple art shows to sell our work. It gave us an excuse to drive the hour North to Rochester and get out into the community. I began to fall in love with the city. It was so vibrantly artistic and inclusive. People unapologetically scream out who they are here with kindness and acceptance for those who are not the same. It was a breath of fresh air. I finally felt like I fit. I wasn’t the square peg in a round hole here. 

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Now that we’ve spent a year living here, I am even more in love with Rochester than ever. Something truly amazing has happened. It was like the second we took control of our unhappiness and decided to move, doors opened up to us that I would have never thought possible. Through opportunities that seemed to just come out of nowhere,  we’ve met true friends from all over the United States. Friends who care for, accept and understand us. Our business has grown exponentially. We’ve made the most amazing business partnerships. We have that sense of community that we had so longed for. The shocking thing is that not only did we find community in our neighbors, friends, and the local area we’ve found amazing connections all over the US and abroad. 

 My Work in one of our partner's beautiful retail locations

My Work in one of our partner's beautiful retail locations

The social anxiety I spent so many years fighting is so much less now. Somewhere along the journey, I realized that what it all boiled down to was surrounding myself with people that understood me. The anxiety stemmed from feeling like I needed to change things about myself to connect with other people. The feeling that I wasn’t good enough the way I was. I spent most of my life feeling like I was odd and unlovable. 

The thing about being an artist or craftsperson is that you can’t hide. You show your true self through your work. Those little coffee mugs unapologetically scream exactly who I am from the rooftops. And when they yelled from that sad farmhouse, people who felt the same way I did inside started yelling back. Those are the people I am lucky enough to now call friends, partners, and supporters. 

 One of the first real "photoshoots" that my friend, bri helped with. 

One of the first real "photoshoots" that my friend, bri helped with. 

Our new home, although not as aesthetically pleasing, feels far more like “home” than the old house ever did. We feel far more like “us” than we ever have. We’ve dedicated our free time to renovating the new house. Although, it will happen much more slowly than the last due to all of the amazing new things we’re proud to be involved in. Our days are filled with more joy, friendships, to-do lists, and hard work than ever before. We wake up each day excited for all that we get to be a part of. 

So, what’s the point of this giant rambling post? I know that we’re definitely not the only ones who have made what can feel like giant missteps. I know that the feeling of isolation is far more common than people pretend. I know that it can seem impossible to shake. We’re proof that if you make a plan to change the unhappiness and act on it, really exciting things can happen. Taking control of your life and owning exactly who you are and what you want is so important. It has given me a sense of inner peace that is priceless. Moving quickly into the time of year when everyone starts reflecting on what they are thankful for, we find ourselves unable to even list all that we are grateful for. There are so many things that have made this past year absolutely remarkable. Steve and I are so excited for what is still to come. 

 

The Art of the Cheese board - An afternoon at Claire's house.

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We’re lucky to live in a city FULL of amazing food. People know how to make local, fresh ingredients look beautiful and taste amazing. 

One of those local people is our friend, Claire. We first met her at a launch party for the cookbook she’s co-authored called Flour City Flavor. It’s all about making local Rochester-grown ingredients taste amazing. Claire grew up in a big farm family where meals spent together were of great importance. Her love for gathering around the table with great food stayed with her throughout her adult life. Now, cooking is an outlet that helps her bring joy and show love to her family and friends. She also caters private events and provides personal chef services and cooking instruction to families in the Rochester, NY area. The minute you meet Claire, you feel warmed by her presence. She is a bubbly light of enthusiasm and energy and we just love her for that. We certainly need as much of that type of energy as we can get moving into the holiday season!

 When we met up with Claire at her home last Sunday, she had a big pot of Turkey Chili cooking on the stove. It was a cold and rainy day. She served us chili and tea and it was perfect. Steve insisted her cornbread was more like cake than cornbread. Needless to say, he loved it. 

When we met up with Claire at her home last Sunday, she had a big pot of Turkey Chili cooking on the stove. It was a cold and rainy day. She served us chili and tea and it was perfect. Steve insisted her cornbread was more like cake than cornbread. Needless to say, he loved it. 

Our bond with Claire about the fun of entertaining sparked a conversation about how to perfectly plate and style offerings on our wood serving boards. We had all the pieces to make a great cheese board spread, but we needed Claire’s guidance to make them truly picture perfect. That has prompted us to send a little help your way for the holidays! We’ve asked Claire to break down the art of the cheese board for us. 

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Claire’s tips for creating an amazing cheese board:

Size of Board & Number of guests: 

    Consider the size of the cheese board in relation to the number of guests. You want a cheese board that everyone can try something from, but be careful not to over-fill a smaller board with too much.

 Brie is one of my favorite go-to fancy cheeses. Claire taught us how to make it even more special topped with decadent caramel, candied pecans, almonds, and other goodies. The small wheel is perfect for our round handled signature board. Perfect without being too much for this smaller board to handle. 

Brie is one of my favorite go-to fancy cheeses. Claire taught us how to make it even more special topped with decadent caramel, candied pecans, almonds, and other goodies. The small wheel is perfect for our round handled signature board. Perfect without being too much for this smaller board to handle. 

Categories:

    Once you’ve determined the board size, breaking the food choices down into categories will help organize your ideas.  Below is a list of the different categories for assembling a great cheese/charcuterie board. The idea is to pick one or more from each category depending on the size of the items and the board. Keep in mind how each of your selections pairs and tastes with each other, as well as the time of year you’re making your board. For example, apples would be great for fall. 

    1.) Cheese - choose from four types. 

        Aged - cheddar, gouda, provolone, parmesan 

        Blue - gorgonzola, maytag, stilton

        Firm - manchego, immolate, asiago 

        Soft - goat, brie, mozzarella, ricotta 

    2.) Meat - salami, prosciutto, mortadella, jamon, sausage

    3.) Condiments - honey, apple butter, fruit preserves/jams 

    4.) Nuts & Olives - marcona almonds, candied walnuts, kalamata olives 

    5.) Fruit - apples, pears, dried cranberries, figs, grapes

    6.) Vegetables - tomatoes, pickles, snow peas, roasted peppers, roasted garlic 

    7.) Herbs ( fresh, for garnish )  - sage leaves, thyme, oregano, pea shoots

    8.) Crackers / Bread / Bread Sticks

Make Selections & Arrange: 

    Choose and arrange the cheeses first (think about varying colors), then fill in with all the other ingredients.  Use small bowls for nuts, olives, and condiments.  Fill the board completely, creating an interesting display. 

Use Seasonal Decorations: 

    Don’t be afraid to use seasonal items as decor.  Small pumpkins, gourds, leaves, etc. work great! 

Most importantly, HAVE FUN! 

We'll make the mugs... if you fill them. - Nurturing Hope for the Nations

 

I’ve recently discovered that when you tell people that you’re doing a fundraiser through your business you get A LOT of different reactions. Both positive and negative. The hardcore, business-minded seem to mention the toll and time it would take from regular, profitable production and advertising. Other people make you out to be some kind of saint for “helping”. I don’t buy into any of those philosophies. When I found out about Nurturing Hope for the Nations I knew I wanted to do something to be a small part of their mission.

Our family is diverse in opinions and lifestyles. However, there is one thing that every one of us had nurtured and instilled in us throughout the generations: you reach out and you help. My grandparents Cal & Jackie made that a foundation for our family’s life. No matter how much, or how little they had at any given time, there was not a holiday, or party, or an everyday moment when they didn’t welcome in anyone who needed them without a second thought. If a friend had nowhere to stay or needed a place to spend a holiday, Cal & Jackie were there. I remember times when the Thanksgiving table was a full two rooms in length to accommodate everyone that came to eat. My mom and her siblings tell me about how the bedrooms were always packed with anyone who needed a place to stay––everyone knew you could go to Cal & Jackie’s house. 

That mindset has been carried on through the people I love in many different forms and it is inherent. You help. Not because it makes you look good or you can benefit in some way but because it is the right thing to do. There was just simply no other way. My grandpa would probably now say something about how my Grandma gave him no other choice in the matter and we were all too loud. He's a humble man and certainly never one to ask for recognition for the way he always carried those around him. He is also right. One thing we’ve never been is shy to speak up. In this spirit, I want to tell you about the kids in Kibera, Kenya.

Video Courtesy of Nurturing Hope for the Nations - www.nurturinghopeforthenations.com

Kibera has 1.2 million people living in a 1.5-mile radius. Their homes are 12ft x 12ft shacks built with mud walls, a corrugated tin roof with a dirt or concrete floor. An average of 6 - 10 people live in each. Human excrement runs through the streets and the average life expectancy is 30. 

In Kibera, I would be an old lady. Can you even imagine what it must be like to be a 28 year old woman and feel like the majority of your life is over? 

And speaking of those young women whose lives have not even truly begun: they’re at risk most of all in Kibera. 66% of girls in Kibera routinely trade sex for food by the age of 16, many beginning as early as 6 years of age. It is a shear matter of survival. Ironically, that also puts them at grave risk of STI's/ HIV / AIDS. At any one time, about 50% of 16 to 25 yr old girls are pregnant. Abortions are common, without the supervision of trained medical professionals, and extremely dangerous.

The unemployment rate in Kibera is 50% and half the population is under the age of 15 years old.

Nurturing Hope's school gives children in Kibera daily relief from the hardships they face in Kiberan life. It gives them insight into life beyond the slums and food when they would otherwise have none. 

Here is where you come in: as you start planning for special life events to come, please consider a thoughtful gift with true meaning. Along with the help of our friends at Nurturing Hope, we've designed a truly special mug, one with a Kenyan spirit and a healthy dose of Potter & Woodsmith charm. The proceeds will go directly to helping the kids in Kibera. We want to inspire them; we want to let them know they have food waiting, education, and hope for their future. Our aim is that this mug will grace your coffee table, kitchen shelves, and counter tops for the years to come and become a favorite among your family. We also desire that it would be a declaration that these lives don’t go unnoticed or these sweet voices don’t go unheard.

Each mug will be numbered, unique, and a daily reminder of the help you gave. 

 
 

Here's how you help...

We've designed this limited edition mug for Nurturing Hope for the Nations.

They are an amazing non-profit providing daily food and education to children living in Kibera, Kenya.

Our hope is that this mug will be a beautiful way to give a meaningful holiday gift. 

All proceeds go directly to Nurturing Hope for the Nations. 

This mug is currently on pre-order from now through October 31st. 

Mugs will ship in early December just in time for holiday gift giving. 

*All photos in this blog post are courtesy of Magnolia & Magpie Photography Co. All rights reserved. 

Building a Garden

 

Hey, Everyone! It's Steve. I’m very excited to share the first ever Woodsmith post!

To kick things off, I want to talk about one of my greatest passions.

Gardening. 

For me, gardening gives me a little bit of quiet time in an otherwise hectic day. Since we first moved in together, Sara and I have always had a garden. It is a labor of love for us both. 

We started with very small gardens and have grown them over time. They ebb and flow as we've moved from one home to another. Now that we're staying put we have big plans for the largest garden we've ever taken on.  

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After our last move, we knew we would need to start from scratch with a flat area of lawn. Instead of tilling into the soil we opted to build raised beds on top of it. The benefit being that we can better control soil quality and drainage. 

Our inspiration comes from traditional English estate gardens that have defined planting areas. For our first year, we decided to stick with four clear planting areas. 

1.) A medicinal herb garden
2.) A cut flower bed
3.) A full sun vegetable bed
4.) A soft fruit bed

Before we began, we had big plans but a small budget. We knew what we wanted but we couldn't seem to find wood that was the look we wanted for the price we needed. We decided to hold out until we found an economic solution.

Then, one random spring morning I got an excited call from Sara. She told me to meet her with my truck on my lunch break. As I pulled up, I saw exactly why she was so excited in her call. 

The local vineyard had just finished clearing out all their old vineyard posts. They were still in really great condition and made from cedar. Best part? They were giving them all away for FREE. 

We both looked at each other with giant smirks on our faces. We had found the perfect material for our raised beds. We loaded up the truck with as many cedar logs as we could fit. They varied greatly in size and were covered in nails. Cutting them down to size and removing nails was a small price to pay for free garden beds.

Each 4 x 8 bed has two tiers of posts that are mitered at the corners. We covered the inside edges with landscaping fabric to hold in our mushroom compost. We lined the bottom with leaves to keep out weeds and to add extra compost nutrients. Also, we made sure to measure just enough room in between each bed to get our push mower through. Eventually, we want to add a gravel pathway in-between each garden bed when we expand.

Despite the cold and rainy Spring, we've had great success with a lot of our plants. We grew most of the plants from seed, and I think we were fortunate to have everything grow so well considering the unfavorable weather. 

I will admit, our efforts for a fruit garden did not pay off this year. The deer and the bunnies got the best of the blueberries and raspberries. I don't think anyone would want to see a photo of a stick that the rabbits had stripped bare. Overall, we're really excited about the fresh start we've had with this garden and the growth we've seen so far. 

Recently, I realized how few people understood how important gardening is for Sara and I. Even people who see us frequently seemed to have no idea until we started sharing our stories on our blog and social media. We love fresh vegetables. We make Caprese salad from our tomatoes and basil; tea from our chamomile. The quiet moments that start in our garden and end in quality time together are the moments that no one else sees. But they're the moments that make up the truth of our life together. We really want to share with everyone the aspects of our lives that give us motivation, inspiration, and sense of calm amongst the craziness of daily life. That's really what the purpose of this blog is all about.

 

Overcoming Buyer’s Remorse - The Plan

 

There has been absolutely one top priority since we moved into our new house last November.  Our company and our amazing followers. But, now that summer is really here I’ve been more lenient with myself on weekends. Instead of working through them I’ve spent the last few dreaming. I’ve formed a plan on how we can realistically take on our house woes while still staying focused on everything that owning a small business requires daily. 

Here’s the plan. 

 We found this mantel at an amazing local architectural salvage store. We gave the owner the dimensions of our fireplace insert and he took us around the whole store. Two buildings and nothing fit. Then he remembered this was in the back of his pick up and it fit PERFECTLY. I think it was fate because he  hadn't even pulled it out of his truck to  he clean it up for sale yet.  We didn't paint or refinish it. Every scrape tells the story of it's journey to our home. We LOVE that about it.

We found this mantel at an amazing local architectural salvage store. We gave the owner the dimensions of our fireplace insert and he took us around the whole store. Two buildings and nothing fit. Then he remembered this was in the back of his pick up and it fit PERFECTLY. I think it was fate because he  hadn't even pulled it out of his truck to  he clean it up for sale yet.  We didn't paint or refinish it. Every scrape tells the story of it's journey to our home. We LOVE that about it.

 

1.) Keep the walls, change the colors & textures. 

Typically, when we tell friends we are redecorating a room they’ve learned to assume it involves demo and rebuilding. Believe me, there are areas in this house where that is certainly tempting. However, for the most part, we are going to focus on keeping a lot of what is already there, and layer textures, textiles, and color throughout the space that represent our style in a way that can be achieved on a weekend or even after work when we can manage.

 We found this bold toss pillow and loved how detailed the embroidery was. Down to the little tassel, I loved it. I have some future plans to incorporate some aspects of this pillow into other designs for P&W, too.  

We found this bold toss pillow and loved how detailed the embroidery was. Down to the little tassel, I loved it. I have some future plans to incorporate some aspects of this pillow into other designs for P&W, too.  

 

2.) Buy great quality things ONE time. 

I think it is very easy to get distracted from what truly speaks to your design soul when we’re constantly flooded with trendy designs that come and go. I know I’ve been guilty in the past of settling for what might be easy to access and less expensive at a big box store. 

My new motto is this: Ignore design trends. Listen to my gut. Buy quality when my mind is truly made up. 

 We've cheaped out on furniture before. It fell apart and we ended up having to re-buy it just a few years later. When we bought our new living room set with a bonus check for Steve's hard work at his day job, we went with pieces we knew would last. This ottoman is two years old and still in great shape. We had our old furniture not much longer when it looked sad and saggy. Paying more for quality living room furniture that we knew we would use every day totally paid off. 

We've cheaped out on furniture before. It fell apart and we ended up having to re-buy it just a few years later. When we bought our new living room set with a bonus check for Steve's hard work at his day job, we went with pieces we knew would last. This ottoman is two years old and still in great shape. We had our old furniture not much longer when it looked sad and saggy. Paying more for quality living room furniture that we knew we would use every day totally paid off. 

I don’t even want to know how much we've spent over the years on seasonal trends that aren’t great quality only to hate them two months later. That ends now. It’s wasteful and ridiculous. If we see something and love it, we now refuse to care if it’s what is popular.

 There were old books and knick-knacks from my Grandma's house in boxes from before our last move. When she downsized, I ended up saving a great deal knowing I'd love to decorate with them at some point. I found the trick of filtering through 100+ years of storage was being able to filter through it all to keep the items that were quality and make us feel good. Happy memories are triggered by so many of the items in our house and that's exactly how your own house should feel. 

There were old books and knick-knacks from my Grandma's house in boxes from before our last move. When she downsized, I ended up saving a great deal knowing I'd love to decorate with them at some point. I found the trick of filtering through 100+ years of storage was being able to filter through it all to keep the items that were quality and make us feel good. Happy memories are triggered by so many of the items in our house and that's exactly how your own house should feel. 

There's nothing better than a gas range that gets your excited to cook or a truly soft and quality statement rug. Things like that are what we're taking our time to find. If that means saving up to buy this time around then that's what we're going to do. Taking our time also makes us slow down and really think about what we want each piece of a room to really look like in the end and not settle for something that KIND OF works. 

 When we decided to buy a new stove we wanted gas. We had settled for electric in our old home and there's just nothing like a good gas range. Maybe we're crazy but we feel like you can taste a difference in the food. This is definitely one of the largest investments to our new home that we've made but we plan to have this stove a VERY long time and know that it will last.

When we decided to buy a new stove we wanted gas. We had settled for electric in our old home and there's just nothing like a good gas range. Maybe we're crazy but we feel like you can taste a difference in the food. This is definitely one of the largest investments to our new home that we've made but we plan to have this stove a VERY long time and know that it will last.

 

3.) Our house is our home, not a hotel. 

We need to make our spaces personal. Modeling our home after a hotel room or stock photo that is meant to appeal to the masses disconnects us from the space. We will fill these spaces with personal quirky items regardless if they “match” perfectly or appeal to the tastes of everyone that comes to visit. We get a lot of family and friends who come to stay for long periods of time. We used to make the whole house more "neutral" so that everyone we love who spends time here felt comfortable. Although we absolutely want them to still feel comfortable we have decided to stop tip-toeing around bold colors or "weird" art in order to do so. They love us, they don't care. It was silly to think that mattered, to begin with. 

 This wall is filled with items we've collected from our family's past. Such as a Veterinary Diploma from my Great Grandfather, a morse code tapper from Steve's Great Grandpa, Tools from family stone masons, and My Grandma and Grandpa's wedding announcement and coverage from the local paper.

This wall is filled with items we've collected from our family's past. Such as a Veterinary Diploma from my Great Grandfather, a morse code tapper from Steve's Great Grandpa, Tools from family stone masons, and My Grandma and Grandpa's wedding announcement and coverage from the local paper.

 

4.)Use what we already have & love.

Nothing is more personal that the items we have that remind us of the people we love. We are lucky enough to have a great deal of our family's heirlooms. We're refusing to tuck them away because they don't match our current style. Instead, we're making them the focal point of everything else that comes into our rooms because we know our love for them will withstand the test of time.

 

 A full set of stunning Paul Revere Copper Pots was given to us by a family friend. To say we are honored she thought enough of us to pass down such an amazing family heirloom is an understatement. They are so loved and will ALWAY hang proudly in my kitchen. Copper is "trending" right now, but I have plans to show these off for the rest of forever! 

A full set of stunning Paul Revere Copper Pots was given to us by a family friend. To say we are honored she thought enough of us to pass down such an amazing family heirloom is an understatement. They are so loved and will ALWAY hang proudly in my kitchen. Copper is "trending" right now, but I have plans to show these off for the rest of forever! 

5.) Plants are important. 

Steve and I don’t ever feel quite as at home as when we have living plants and bouquets in the house. We plan to grow indoor plants year round and have started a cut flower garden bed to help us enjoy beautiful seasonal bouquets on the cheap during the warmer months. 

 We try to keep fresh flowers and plants in each room of our home as often as possible.

We try to keep fresh flowers and plants in each room of our home as often as possible.

 When NYS weather will allow we grow as much of our own food as we can. Really, it comes down to getting what is left after the bunnies, deer, and dogs eat it on us. But that's okay. We grow enough to share. haha.

When NYS weather will allow we grow as much of our own food as we can. Really, it comes down to getting what is left after the bunnies, deer, and dogs eat it on us. But that's okay. We grow enough to share. haha.

 

6.) Design for US and YOU.

As we go, we always think of pieces that we can’t find in any store that would be a statement piece for a room. Such as really great shelf brackets or tile. I’ve found that some of our most popular selling items were things we originally had a need for in our own lives. 

When that happens, we’re going to do our best to make them for both our home and yours and make them available on our web store. 

 When ideas strike I have a tendency of drawing them on the nearest surface available. When Steve develops his hand-turned wood items, that little leg will make an appearance. 

When ideas strike I have a tendency of drawing them on the nearest surface available. When Steve develops his hand-turned wood items, that little leg will make an appearance. 

 

7.) Buy when we travel. 

NOT a plastic snow globe of the Statue of Liberty but something that is great quality and will last. For example, a print from a local artist or a flea market find from a far away town. That’s what we’re keep our eye out for. The objects in our home should all carry their own little story. Nothing is worse than not feeling a special connection when you look around at the items in your own house. 

 

 We were lucky enough to be at the same event in Mississippi as a Tin Type photographer. We had him take our photo to fill in with our wall full of family memorabilia. It fits in so well people would don't know us might assume it's just another relic from the past.

We were lucky enough to be at the same event in Mississippi as a Tin Type photographer. We had him take our photo to fill in with our wall full of family memorabilia. It fits in so well people would don't know us might assume it's just another relic from the past.

8.) Use what we’re drawn to — in multiples. 

Naturally, I am drawn to antique china and fun eclectic dish ware. If it's handmade that's an even bigger selling point for me.  Steve has a fascination with antique tools. We plan to collect and incorporate both of those into the house as wall decor.

 We accidentally already have an antique tool collection started. My great grandfather was a stone mason. When we were helping my grandma downsize we found his whole work chest full of AMAZING antique tools in her basement. SCORE. 

We accidentally already have an antique tool collection started. My great grandfather was a stone mason. When we were helping my grandma downsize we found his whole work chest full of AMAZING antique tools in her basement. SCORE. 

 

 

So, That’s the plan moving forward. Now, I’ve got to get myself back into my studio where the wall decor always comes second to functionality and getting beautifully designed orders out on time! ;-)

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A tale of buyer's remorse... and how we're changing it.

 

If I had a blog a year ago, I could have posted grand remodeling stories of our 1900’s farm house. We renovated basically the entire place down to studs, moved some walls, re-routed plumbing, and even put in a salvaged clawfoot tub that I refinished by hand. It was my dream bathroom suite and had a lake view. But then, life happened.

 Many weeks of our lives wen't into making this room a reality

Many weeks of our lives wen't into making this room a reality

For many reasons, we moved and reality hit hard. The real estate market was FIERCE. Our old home sold in a day and we had no idea how hard we would have to fight to find a new house. It was certainly a crazy seller’s market and all the beautiful old homes we found sold in a matter of hours. We didn't stand a chance and had no time to waste. The house we did find worked so well for our studio space and we saw what it COULD be. It was in the right area so we hurriedly signed on the dotted line. 

Ridiculous as it is, a little bit of panic and heartbreak set it. Nothing about my personality likes a “new” house. It sounds so silly to say, but old homes are immeshed down deep in my soul. I get a feeling of comfort and happiness from them that a new house just cannot fill. I know that I should just be happy to have a warm and safe roof over my head. I get that, I really do. But at the end of the day, I still have to live there and be inspired there in order to make my business and personal life thrive so I can pay it forward. So, I guess that’s how I will shamelessly justify my fussiness for housing and decor. I’m a Taurus, who inherently likes the finer things in life and it simply can’t be helped.

The house we bought is very much a relic of 1970s suburbia with updates but not in our style or any particular style for that matter. The house didn’t feel like it knew what it wanted to be. Like it didn't have a clue what it was. A little bit of 70s here... a little bit of 90s there ... After our first night there I told Steve that I felt like I had spent the night in someone else’s home. I should also mention that on the first night we slept in a room that the previous owner had painted HOT PINK AND ZEBRA print that made sunglasses indoors at night seem very appropriate. The silver lining was that it worked so well for my day-to-day studio life which I desperately needed in order to make my growing business work. I thought it would be amusing to share with you the photos of the house as it was left for us at move in. For those friends who are interior designers, I beg you to forgive me for the graphic content you're about to encounter. 

I cannot imagine that I am only one who has had this feeling. So I am going to share with you how I am overcoming my buyer’s remorse by stopping the ridiculous and quiet pity party. This is where I will document everything we do to transform it into a house that we actually see ourselves living in for a long time. This section of our blog is going to be all about being grateful for what we have in our home and making it our own. Its going to be real and a real work in progress. This isn’t something we’re taking a loan out for or a rapid renovation project. It’s the day-to-day, still got bills to pay, take it in slow stride approach to claiming our space. We are deliberately taking our time to find the right things to make our house feel like home. We refuse to continue to buy and re-buy “on trend” decor that doesn't truly speak to our souls or feel personal. There won’t be a grand reveal of each room. I plan to post as we transform our spaces with creativity, antique finds, and thoughtful family mementos. If for no other reason than to remind myself to be grateful for the amazing home and life that I am so fortunate to share with the people I love.