Once Upon a House Part 2

All of the houses we planned to visit in La pine were on at least 1 acre of land. We wanted some room to spread out, live more privately and, most importantly, NOT feel like we were still in suburbia.

The first house we visited was a 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch that looked remarkably like many of the other homes we had passed by in the neighborhood. It was red on the outside and varying shades of plum and tan on the inside. It had a weird floor plan, with lots of unusable space in a entryway and then no real room for a full living room. The kitchen had vaulted ceilings, the bedroom had almost no closet and the whole floor plan flowed like a river that had been diverted too many times. Even though it was still occupied, and nicely decorated, we said, “no tahnk you” very quickly and were back on our way. I guess, looking back, there was really nothing wrong with the house at all. It was perfect….we did not want perfect though, we did not want to keep up with the Jones’ or have someone else make the decorating decisions for us. We wanted our cabin, unique, rustic, a diamond in the rough.

So back on the bumpy, muddy road we went. The second house we visited was a manufactured home that was on over 10 acres and was selling for a very reasonable price. When we pulled up to the obviously neglected house, I was instantly disinterested, but we decided to have a look inside just to make sure. 10 acres is 10 acres after all. The house was a large double wide and while not in perfect shape, it was not TOO terrible on the inside. we wondered from large dirty room to large dirty  room. I tried my best to say something positive with each new discovery. “My that’s a big window”,  “I sure could see myself being able to cook a large meal in this kitchen!”…blah, blah, blah. This house was not occupied, so we were able to open drawers and peek in cabinets without feeling like criminals. The last room we walked into was the master bedroom, where we got quite a surprise. There was a bed in the room, recently made up with a sleeping bag and a few extra comforters. La pine gets VERY cold in the winter and this house had no heat… I peeked into the master bathroom and suddenly felt like I was being watched, so we quickly decided it was time to leave. Nancy hopped outside and made a slightly panicked phone call to the Realtor who was listing the home and off we went

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The third house was another interesting one. It had originally been built when the neighborhood had planned for a cul de sac to follow. But the economy in Central Oregon crashed in the late 90’s and the cul de sac never came to fruition. as a result, this house now sat on a flag lot behind a number of other homes and after making our way down the awkward driveway, we found ourselves facing the back of the house. No driveway or road had been installed to circle around to the front, so instead, the main entry to the house was through the laundry room! We nicknamed this house “big blue” because the previous owners had painted it an alarming shade of electric blue. Once inside, we had a really nice surprise. This house was HUGE! it had 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a den and a full family room as well as an ample living and dining area. It had new carpet throughout. When you walked to the front of the house, there was a big porch, reminiscent of the Walton’s and a view of a large grassy field, where the street and other houses were originally meant to be. Also unoccupied, we toured this house a bit more slowly. There were cabinets everywhere…my brain started to crunch ideas….there were TWO master bedroom suites….crunch crunch….there were patched holes in the walls everywhere…..and the ceiling….and there were STILL holes in two doors…loud crunch. I asked Nancy what had happened, and she did not know but told me the previous owner had agreed to repair everything before the sale was final…..no, I thought..crunch… This house was TOO big and TOO fake and perhaps TOO filled with someone else’s latent anger. Everything was carpeted, and I was sure that if we pulled the carpeting up, we would find chip board and maybe serious water damage. Plus, let’s get serious here, who wants to keep their laundry room “guest ready” all the times!

After that, I know we visited at least one other manufactured home, I remember the kitchen but in truth , it was all a blur once we stumbled upon the house of our dreams.

We were just about to give the search up when my husband said, “what about the house with the dogs?” Nancy seemed to know what he meant and quickly checked the listings. Yes, she had it and we could go there next. All I had seen about this house was a grainy photo from the outside and a picture of two dogs behind a gate. The one thing that made it worth visiting, my husband reminded me,  was that the map showed the property butting right up against La Pine State Park. If this house were worth it, we could have a 6000 acre back yard and that, in an of itself, made visiting worthwhile.

As we drove to the property. Nancy reminded us that this house was  short sale. I let my husband absorb that statement, having no idea myself what it meant and watched intently out the window as we pulled up through a slushy yard and parked right outside the front door of a small gray house  with two garages.

Once Upon a House

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This is the beginning of a story that will carry on for years. Back in 2012, my husband and I purchased this home in La Pine, Oregon which is a very small town just south east of the center of Oregon. The climate there is referred to as “high desert”. Dry air, cold nights, perfect days and lots of blue skies. The air in La Pine smells like apple sauce in the spring and vanilla in the morning when the sun just starts warming up the Ponderosa pines. If TV had smell-o-vision, they would have added this smell to the Bonanza series, because without it, there is a large piece of authenticity missing.

When I met my husband (#3 I confess) back in 2006, we bonded over a shared dream to have a cabin in the high desert of Oregon. We joked about designs we would add, like a trap door in the middle of the main room so I could sweep all the junk under the house. I lightly argued about the placement of the wood stove and whether or not we would have indoor plumbing. It was a dream but one that was fun to imagine.

If you read my first blog, you will find that I once had a sizable nest egg that was subsequently seized by the IRS. Well, in 2012, 4 years after the money was taken away, the IRS unexpectedly refunded almost 1/4 of the money and as a result, we started thinking about making our little dream a reality.

We had already been looking at houses on a Bend, Oregon real estate site so the next step was to find out how much financing we would be able to get. I went to our local USBank, where we held a checking account and met with their mortgage specialist. I won’t mention her name, but needless to say, after a confusing and very curt meeting she calculated a sum of $130K and I left feeling like an uniformed idiot. As a first time home buyer, I had a lot of questions about terminology and the difference in finance rates for manufactured homes, property and “stick built” homes….which was a term I had only learned when she abruptly corrected me. She made me feel foolish and immature. So, in typical introvert style, I left with visions of whomping her WWF style and instead drove home like I was Mario Andretti.

We now had a number to work with, so we wasted no time hoping in a car and driving 4 hours to get to Bend. The Realtor we met, Nancy, we very genuine. It was February and the roads were covered in slush and ice. We drove the 1/2 hour from Bend to La Pine in relative silence as I admired the small pile of rocks she kept in the cup holder of her SUV and pondered what the day might bring. My husband had been armed with a sheet of listings he had pulled off the internet and Nancy plotted them in order of nearest to farthest away from Bend so we would have a feeling for how long a commute we might have for employment and significant shopping.

LaPine….or is it La Pine….can’t get a real answer on that…is a township of about 5000. Rural Highway 97 cuts right through it connecting California with Canada. There are a few fast food restaurants, a small grocery chain, and even a Best Western, but mostly, it is a town that you might overlook as you passed through. While that is difficult for the economy, it makes it nice for those of us who grew up in and appreciate small towns. Back behind the familiar corporations that line the highway, there are fabulous restaurants, wonderful gift and craft shops and the friendliest hardware store I have ever been to. It would behoove you to stop if you are ever in the area and get the BEST Mexican food and service at Cinco de Mayo…or go to the Red Rooster for breakfast….and if you are crafty and like cloth the Quilt shop will literally leave you salivating.

Enough said, La Pine was the place for us. The first thing I noticed as we pulled off the highway was that the majority of roads were not paved. HUGE puddles of indeterminable depth blocked many of our paths, but Nancy waded through like a pro, even bottoming out her SUV at one point, in a hole so deep that there was a muffler left behind by a previous driver. We bumped and slushed our way for miles and came to the first house on our list.

And here I will leave you for a bit because I KNOW you want to go and research La Pine, Oregon and get a good visual before I continue. In blogs to come, you will hear a home buying nightmare, a costly victory and continuing takes of renovations, decorations and the ETSY business I try to keep afloat through it all.

It has been a CRAZY year!

Etsy and the Future of Handmade

I was recently engaged in a conversation with another blogger about the new changes that have been made to ETSY. If you are unfamiliar with ETSY, as imagine most of you are, it is (or perhaps was) the foremost site on the web for selling and purchasing handmade arts and crafts. If you were looking for a truly unique, one of a kind hand crafted treasure, ETSY was the place to look.

When I joined ETSY in 2011, I was extremely optimistic. Not optimistic that my handmade crafts would sell necessarily, but optimistic that there was a place out there on the great information highway that was not only listening to the small, introverted, creative wave that pulsed vibrantly through space but also celebrating it! We have always been here. The craftsmen, the artists, the woodworkers, sculptors, jewelry designers, painters, weavers etc. Our ancestors have their handiwares in museums, because they are considered to be a part of an important cultural past and, well, a lot of what we make is just plain AWESOME.

We are special…bear with me….To decide to make one’s living as an artist, takes guts. It takes a belief in yourself that most of society did not help nurture. Most of us had to turn our backs on “better” careers that would have ensured financial stability. Most of us still have a “real” job on the side to support what the majority of non artists see as a hobby. Most of us…heck ALL of us, can’t help ourselves. The desire, the need to create is innate.

ETSY was a place, where we could all congregate, converse, support. promote and CARE about each other. I am an introvert, and I do not use that term lightly. ETSY gave me a platform that allowed me to not only show the world my talents, but give them value in the form of cold hard cash. Psychologically speaking, ETSY was great therapy, it was a safe place to take a risk with something new, or collaborate with others to create something unique. We, as artist, did not have to compete with machines, or corporations, or mass produced junk. We were among friends, kindred spirits, we had a home.

At this point you are most likely wondering why I am writing this all in the past tense. ETSY has, at the urging of those with their hands on the financial forecasting spreadsheets, decided to allow artist to have their designs created by a manufacturer. Now at first, you might think this is no big deal, and in truth, sellers like this have been popping up all over ETSY for years, unchecked to my knowledge. But what this means is the ETSY marketplace will be dramatically altered. If I design a dress, I can have a factory make it in a variety of sizes and colors. I can send my drawing to ZAZZLE or a similar site and have several cases of coffee cup made, ready to ship. I can, in theory, design almost anything my heart desires and have it mass produced to sell on ETSY. Now, the powers that be, say that the seller will need to identify themselves on their profile as a designer, not a crafts person, but lets get real, who looks at a seller’s profile before making a purchase any more?

So, now when a customer wants a unique, hand crafted treasure, and they type in “coffee cup” they will have to wade through the same mass produced products they can find anywhere on the web. They will have to read every seller’s profile to see if they are getting what they want. Mass produced items will have a lower selling point, so when a buyer is looking to spend only $20.00, their top options they will see will not be from the artisan, but from a designer. Don’t get me wrong, the creative world turns on designers, EVERY item you buy was designed by SOMEONE. My own daughter is in art school hoping to be that someone, some day. I have a great respect for all areas and levels of creativity, but ETSY was the one place that WE had. WE the hands on crafts person. WE who had no other venue but seasonal craft fairs and farmer’s markets. WE who so desperately needed and deserved a platform high enough that someone could hear our voice. And now it is gone.

The kind folks at ETSY have told us that they know they did not implement the support structure to protect the lowly artisan from mass produced items…. YET. They know that they “still have a lot of work to do”. They know we are unhappy. They know we feel betrayed and I hope they know that by not giving us, the artists, a voice, they have ruined many dreams and put many of us out of business. They tell us they know……they know. But do they care?

Please let me end by saying that as a shopper, I still highly recommend ETSY. There are still thousands of artists slugging their way through, trying to get your attention. We on ETSY have heard from several of you, who despair at the time and effort it takes now to find us through the confusing mess….please don’t give up on us. We need you!!!!

And then There was Yarn.

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I started collecting yarn a few years ago. First I bought the traditional way; by going to Michael’s or Joann’s and clipping coupons every week. Then I moved on to the bigger sized purchases, made through eBay primarily. In the process, I discovered many wonderful yarns that today I make a staple of my business. I would like to introduce you to two of them

The bulk of the yarns in this picture were purchased though Stephanie’s Studio. I discovered her on Etsy and have since done a fair amount of business with her through he main website, http://sumi-soft.com/yarn/. She sells yarn in bulk from her sale page, saving you A LOT of money and giving some fun surprises too. I have never been disappointed. What I love most about Stephanie’s yarn is that it is designed to be used in a knitting machine. This gives the hand worker (like myself) a few really cool advantages.

  1. You get A TON of yarn on a single easy to use spool. Thousands of continual feet. No need to find enough skeins or worry about dye lots. As for knots I have never found one!
  2. This is high quality STRONG yarn. It was designed to be yanked about in a machine, so while most of her yarns are very light weight (fingerling-sport) they are anything but weak. Your product will stand up to the tests of time
  3. Too light a yarn for your purposes? I think not! I have a wall of these yarns because I can create my own pallet that way. I combine 2 or three yarns to make a standard weight and have a truly unique product. Add a soft green marl and a thin black 2ply and you get a yarn that is sweater soft, but not found anywhere else!
  4. Quality. Her acrylics are not waxy and synthetic like most of the yarns you can get at a craft shop. You won’t be disappointed.
  5. Almost all are 100% USA made! – All the one’s I have purchased are, but I don’t want to make a blanket statement without proof.

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Another yarn that I am very fond of is Cestarti Yarn. The wool for these yarns comes from Cestari Farm in Churchville, Virginia. They make the yarn on site adding cotton and silk to some of my favorite varieties. The best part about their wool is that it is not chemically processed. Most wool is sent through a bath of acids that removes every last trace of vegetable matter that might be stuck in the hair, but as a result, the proteins in the wool are also destroyed. Advantages to this yarn include:

  1. Because it is not chemically processed, it remains soft and much less scratchy. It is machine washable! You may (OK do) find small bits of straw embedded in the yarn from time to time, but they are easy to pull out.
  2. End projects made with this yarn have a very natural look, feel and drape. Very authentic.
  3. The colors they offer are all very natural and work well with the yarn
  4. 100% USA made! (It’s a theme)

The only down side to this yarn is that it is hard to buy. I bought a large amount from a yarn store that was going out of business. Otherwise you have to call the farm and request and order. http://www.cestarisheep.com/about.html. You have no visuals for colors and the shipping is quite slow, but the yarn is worth it! There are very few stores that carry this yarn. The closest to me is 300 miles away and I live in a very urban area,

So there you have a first glimpse into my studio. There is still quite a bit more yarn than that. I deconstruct high end cashmere sweaters in one corner to make my own spools of yarn and I salvage every bit of yarn I do not use in hopes of making a really cool hand woven rug one day.

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Baby blanket combining three machine weight yarns

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A wrap made with Cestari yarn

A New Beginning

I have just re-written the business side of my life.

My online store name used to be Gillsie (which was a nickname I had in high school) until I realized that someone else had also been using that name and I felt like an impostor. The new name I have chosen is “Tangible Imaginings” because that about sums up how I feel about the creative process. If you are interested, here it is : etsy.com/shop/tangibleimaginings

I started my store in earnest about two years ago, when a series of events made me believe that I had the luxury of being able to quit my day job and pursue a dream.

My uncle passed away in 2008. I had only met him once, but I knew that he was schizophrenic and old and that my father was afraid of him. He came to my first wedding and fully believed that he was a Texas millionaire, complete with the boots, hat and accent. I am relatively certain he had never been to Texas, but because my parents had recently moved there, he was trying to fit in. When he died, there was a moment of sadness for me, but audible relief from my father. A few months later, I got a call that made me park my car on the side of the freeway and not move for a very long period of time, it felt like hours. My uncle had a trust fund, set up by my grandparents to take care of him and due to his low maintenance life style, it had grown into a huge sum of money. A huge some of money that my brothers and I were now to inherit, a HUGE sum of money….a shook for hours, stopped breathing a few times, felt my head pound with the meaning of the words that the lawyer was quickly ticking my way….how much? what?

I quit my day job as an underwriter for Farmer’s Insurance, and decided instead to put my time where I thought it would be better spent; with my family and art. I made wedding plans to marry my boyfriend of two years. I started cooking elaborate meals, I bought a used,  red, convertible Mini Cooper, tires for our cars, mattresses that did not poke you in the back, furniture that was not full of holes and a TV that you could see decently from across the room. The kids got braces, the dogs got their shots, my daughter traveled to New York on a school trip and I BOUGHT YARN.

Some month later, I got a call from the same lawyer. Seems there was an issue with my grandfather’s estate after he died in 1992, seems neither the IRS, nor the lawyer could come up with his tax return, seems what was supposed to be a generation skipping tax skipped the wrong generation, seems there were back taxes, penalties and such, seems like we were screwed.

About the same time, my step son started his new crusade to become the worlds youngest drug lord….and addict….and focus of my entire life. We put him in rehab, we sent him to counseling, we spared no time, expense or moment of thought, love and support. My life whirled around phone calls, meetings, methods, appointments and huge bills but when my head felt ready to explode, I would crochet, and crochet and crochet and then I BOUGHT BEADS.

Now it was 2010. My step-son was living with his mother, who let him do whatever he wanted, my youngest daughter started having medical issues and my blood pressure was through the roof. I was hording piles and piles of yarn. I had purchased another jewelry makers entire stock as she went out of business and I started making plans to open an Etsy shop.

There is, of course, a great deal more to this story….like having both of my feet reconstructed, getting paid back by the IRS and buying a house right before the IRS changed it’s mind and took the money back AGAIN.

in 2011 Gillsie: Tangible Imaginings was born out of the dust of a crazy, chaotic mess like a phoenix with a serious head cold.

I am a meticulous artisan. detailed, exacting and educated. I am NOT a marketing guru…nor even passable apprentice. What I do have is a good sense of humor, a tremendous faith in a greater power that I call God and life!

This blog, and all of its links and references to come is my attempt to reach out to the world and share the stories behind my creations. There will be hits and misses, thoughts and utter failures and no doubt, a great deal of soul searching from which I hope you can glean some value.

Now to begin the new beginning.