Upcycling to Create a New Boho Daybed

Before: the old couch summerhouseart.com

Ah, Before and After. This is the story of an old hide-a-bed couch being replaced with an up-cycled Daybed very thriftily made and done up in Boho style.

After: New Daybed summerhouseart.com

 The old couch, with its unbleached cotton cover hiding stains, old age, many, many years of wear, not to mention large shreddy bits made by long gone cats, just had to go! It just so happened that we had most of the components for a new daybed, stored in the basement, waiting to be transformed. Something much more comfy and better looking than a lumpy, old hide-a-bed. We’d just been waiting for a little time to tackle it.

First, had to get the old couch hauled away by a company that would make sure it all got recycled. We had the rails of an old Ikea single bed, missing the slats. Not sure, but I think they may have been used for some other project. We had a couple of substantial wooden chair or couch arms that one of our sons had found years ago and brought home.

Will, stapling the slats made from pallets, summerhouseart.com

We had saved the two foam seat cushions from the old couch to make new back cushions from. We cut those in half with an old electric carving knife and made four cushions from them.

Old foam seats now backs for new daybed, summerhouseart.com

Will, in the mean time had ingeniously figured out a way to attach the arms of the chair to the rails of the bed. And like so many people these days…. he recycled some pallets into slats for the bed. The only new thing we ended up getting was the actual foam mattress. An Eco foam mattress, so no off-gassing etc.

The aforementioned unbleached cotton cover was sewn into “new” covers for the foam. And the material from a thrift shop duvet cover became new covers for the cushions.

And finally, a chance to get creative with all my fabric stash, collected from garage sales and thrift shops. Chaos while deciding on the fabrics I’d use.

Fabric chaos, deciding on fabrics for new pillows, summerhouseart.com

Lovely new pillows, in the Boho Style.

2 new Pillows for the Boho Daybed, summerhouseart.com

Love how the fabric looks with an iris.

Iris with new pillow fabric, summerhouseart.com

And tah dah! New daybed! We love it! Finally a place for napping where you can actually stretch right out and really relax. Makes a nice couch too.

New Daybed, summerhouseart.com




This Spiral Mosaic Has a Story

This piece is one I just refer to simply as the “Purple Spiral”. It was the second in my Spiral series. I was playing around with a shaped base, playing with movement and playing with floating shapes again. But this post is more about the story of the tiles and how I came by them. This story starts way back in Calgary in the summer of 1988.

Purple Spiral mosaic by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

A little background here. We are garage sailers. All spring, summer and fall we look forward to Saturdays when we look for bargains and sometimes art supplies. Sometimes I‘ve found tiles on our garage sale travels.

And the white area of this mosaic is made from little one inch tiles from Italy, that I had saved, waiting to use them for something special. They are from a huge cache of tiles I found many years ago, in one of many dusty boxes of tiles piled up in a garage in Calgary. Each box had a different color or style of tiles. Some beautiful, some not so much. Some styles of tiles had only a few square feet of tiles in them.

Purple Spiral Mosaic by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

At the time, I didn’t buy any of those tiles but for some reason, why, I didn’t know at the time, I saved the man’s phone number in a little black notebook that I always carried in my purse. This was before I’d even started making mosaics.

A year later, in the summer, I think it was 1989, we had started making mosaics. And I remembered that I had still had that phone number. I called the man. Did he still have those Italian tiles? Yes, he said. We’ll come and see them. He still had a huge number of dusty boxes piled up in the hot garage and after doing a cursory check of what was there I asked how much? $100 he said.

Now this is where it gets funny, because we realized that this was a REALLY GOOD DEAL and also realized that there were far too many for us alone. My good friend Mary Kennedy, a fellow student from our Art College days had run into me in Value Village one day buying dishes to break. Intrigued she’d come to our studio to see what we were up to and also caught the mosaic bug.

So, when faced with such an opportunity, I called Mary and said I’d found a LOT of Italian tiles and she had to buy half of them. She said Ok, I’ll bring my truck! Not how much will it cost? Not what sort of tiles? Just, OK I’ll bring my truck. Who does that? Mary. Isn’t she wonderful? I never get tired of telling this story.

Anyway, long story shorter… we hauled home the tiles and split them up evenly and really enjoyed using this mish mash of odd tiles for a few years. Some I’m sure were from the 60’s, sometimes just a few of something. When we moved to Victoria, I ended up giving a lot of those boxes of tiles away, Hey, they’re very heavy! But I did save a few boxes of special ones. And there were only a few of these precious, to me, white ones.

Purple Spiral Mosaic detail by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Ok, maybe this whole piece is about special bits. The little pillow shapes are made from just a couple of little saucers, so obviously also being saved for something. I had no more of those saucers.

Purple Spiral Mosaic detail by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

As I sketched out the design, it seemed that everything came together. The yellow area is mixture of saved yellow dishes. All the bits and pieces, saved for years, suddenly had a place to be.

Oh and even the edges of the piece have a story. The tiles used there are from a box of mixed glass tiles found at the side of Dallas road years ago, put out for someone to come by and use. And slowly I’m using them too.

Purple Spiral Mosaic detail by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com


A Recycled Post about Recycling for Earth Day

Today is Earth Day or for many Earth Week.  I like to think that every day is really Earth Day.  In honor of the day, I’ve decided to do a bit of recycling.  The following is a post I wrote way back in 2010, but I think it still works.  I’d like to share a bit about how to recycle in the garden and even how to use recycled dishes to create art in the garden.

Actually, Recycling, could be the main theme of our lives.  Now it’s called thrifting too.  We’re a couple of old Hippie artists, who were there for the start of the recycling movement. For us it’s just a way of life. We buy everything used and we also get a lot of “good stuff” as I like to call it, absolutely free. Best price there is. And as I mentioned in other posts, it’s a pretty abundant lifestyle too.

Of course we compost. Every scrap of banana peel, tea bag, coffee ground and egg shell is collected in these recycled coffee bins that I brought home from a job. The tiles on the backsplash behind them are all recycled. In fact every tile was actually free and found at garage sales or from sample boards thrown out by tile stores.

Kitchen Compost saving
The composter the food scraps go into, was also free.  Someone in the neighborhood was tossing it. Our rainbarrel is a recycled drum formerly used for soap.

black-composterIn the green house, I recycle too. Every pot from years past is saved to be reused, trays are sometimes taped up to plug leaks but are still put to work. These Black eyed Susan vines are sprouting in cookie packaging.


The seeds for the Purple Cone flower, which I am rather impatiently waiting to see sprout, are planted and living under the protection of packaging, which in its previous life housed a cake bought for my birthday a short while ago.

In it’s next use it may become storage for broken dish shards in my studio, like the many, many salad green containers already put to a second use.

Out in the garden we have, now wait a second, I have to mentally count, at least 4 wheelbarrows. Only 3 are shown here.  All free or almost free. All recycled. I have an abundance of wheelbarrows you could say. I think they are kind of beautiful, in a sort of colorful, shabby, knocked about and used, way.

Wheelbarrow collection, summerhouseart.com


Now that I’ve reached the garden with my recycling theme, I’d like to show you a few pieces of our garden art. Now maybe art for the garden is an odd sort of theme for Earth Day but a lot of our art is made from recyled materials. The mosaic in the herb garden is a recycled chimney covered in old dishes and tiles.

Mosaic Chimney by Helen and Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

The stepping stones are all made using recycled dishes and tiles, a type of mosaic art called Pique Assiette. In fact, all of my mosaic artwork is made from recycled dishes, tiles and ornaments.  If you would like to see how to make them check my post Creating a Mosaic Stepping Stone Helen’s Way.

Stepping Stone mosaic, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Stepping Stones by Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

And old sink found in, I must admit, unashamedly, a dumpster dive, is home to our succulents.

Found Basin for the garden, summerhouseart.com


The chime that Bill fashioned out of an old anniversary cup found at a garage sale and hung with flattened silver cutlery is another recycled artwork. There’s much more art to see on one of my previous posts about garden art called Bill’s Driftwood Chair and Other Garden Art Whimsies.

Wind Chime by Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Here is another great little chime that Will made as a gift, with a metal tassel from a chandelier now no more and few beads and pieces of flattened cutlery.

Tassel Chime by Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

There are so many things that we can recycle and reuse for our gardens from artwork to garden furniture to garden tools and implements. There really is no need to go out and buy new most of the time. I always like to say the world is an abundant place as long as you don’t mind second hand. Not buying new saves resources and cuts pollution. Buying used saves more stuff from ending up in landfills too.  And the best thing is getting out and about on the weekends looking for deals at garage sales ( we always plot the most efficient course to save gas), enjoying the  sun at a beach on the way from one sale and the next.   Life is good.  So that’s my little, I hope, upbeat, message in honor of Earth Day.  Even the post is recycled.

(BTW, if you’d like to make a comment, just click on the title.  It’ll take you to comments….and we do appreciate comments )



Earth Day Abundance – Recycled Art Supplies

Leading up to Earth day I’ve been signing petitions almost everyday. There’s one or two in my email everyday. I care about all the things I sign petitions for:  like no oil tankers on my coast, no nasty pipeline through the forests, saving whales from navy maneuvers, the list goes on and on. So many nasty negative things.  But today is Earth Day and I want to talk about being a Positive force and Abundance!


I want to talk about up-cycling and recycling from an artist’s point of view. I want to talk about looking for art supplies. And all I see is ABUNDANCE! For those of you who are artists and are already using ephemera and found objects to make artworks, you know what I’m saying. There is just so much out there and it’s cheap, almost free, just waiting to be reused, with imagination. It’s more than a trend now, it’s more than a movement, it’s become a way of creating for many artists. And that makes me feel so much more optimistic, it’s the balance to all the negatives that I’m signing petitions against everyday.


My way of life, of finding and reusing everything is so rewarding I couldn’t do anything else now. It’s a way of seeing things. For instance a broken favourite egg cup or milk pitcher causes only a moment of regret and then,


well, it will join all the other shards collected in recycled salad containers ( made from recycled plastic) in my studio.  Another way to create studio storage.


And one day become a Pique Assiette Mosaic tray like this one with handles made from old silverware.


Although I do not subscribe to magazines, since I get them from the library, I do buy old ones sometimes at garage sales



and they become part of my stock of color supplies for collage birthday and anniversary cards.


Or for playing with, creating colorful collages.




And beads, there are so many beads out there, in thrift stores, and me, the eternal magpie always attracted to color and texture can’t help but collect them in my little recycled boxes.


And the boxes stay under the coffee table and sometimes, when I’m watching a movie I’ll bring them out and string them together into a bracelet or two.


Even old frames are collected, most free or almost free. I also collect old board that we cut up to fit those frames and with a coat of gesso they are ready to paint on, whenever the urge strikes, and I never have to worry about the cost of framing.


So this is my little treatise to Earth Day. My little contribution to saving Her from all the baddies out there. It’s small, but there are a whole lot of artists out there just like us and every bit of positive energy counts in the grand scheme of things, I’m quite sure.



A Few Garden Flowers, A Patient Cat and Garage Sale Loot

peonies-and-hostaPeople born in Victoria often complain about rain. I must have heard at least three times some one wondering aloud if summer is already over and all because of one day of coolness and rain. I never let rain get to me, in fact I love the smell of rain. I say stop all that whinging as the Brits put it. Go out in the garden when it’s still wet with rain and find all the flowers you can and pop them into a vase. That’s exactly what I did. And look at the lovelies I found!


Saturday was not wasted, we were up early and off ASAP, water bottles, camera, thermos of tea packed into the car and a list of garage sales to find written on the back of a recycled envelope.

Cruising through James Bay on the way to sale, I saw this lovely house and garden. On the way to the next sale we stopped to admire and photograph it. The bonus was the patient little gray cat on the doorstep. Note the collection of Balls in the window. That’s what had really caught my eye. At the last sale of the day I found a lovely blue and white porcelain ball which may be the start of a new collection inspired by this one.

catwindowgardenAll in all, this Saturday was a great garage sale day. Lots of good loot! Here are the highlights. This gorgeous chair that I snapped up as soon as I spied it across a lawn. $5! Plus another bamboo blind for the green house, the aforementioned porcelain ball, and a trivet in aluminum which will be added to another collection I started last summer that graces the wall above the post box. I must admit the pineapple is my favourite though.




Mile 0, A Lovely Black Cat and a Beautiful Sewing Machine


Bill and I have our little route when we’re out garage sailing. We cruise down the Gorge, swing up to Craigflower, head Downtown making sure to check if anything interesting is berthed in the Inner Harbour and then head out to James Bay. Usually after scouring all the garage sales we can in James Bay, we head over to Fairfield, passing Mile 0 on our way.

Mile 0, purportedly the beginning of the Trans Canada Highway starts at the ocean or at least the junction of Dallas Road and Douglas. Bill and I never really pay much attention to it but we do enjoy watching the holiday makers who feel it is important or at least funny, to have themselves photographed at this “milestone” of sorts. Today I was photographing the photographers. They were clustered around the sign as they snapped shots of the smiling faces of those posed in front of this very touristy photo op spot.  A little something to remind them later of all the sites odd or beautiful that they’d seen.

Since Saturdays are our little holidays, I loved that the bus that brought all these photogenic holiday makers, was called Charming Holidays. A rather charming name I’d say.


A glance to the right, on our way to Fairfield showed a wedge of cloud rather striking above the mountains that were partially hidden by mist. There was just something about that view, which I tend to refer to as my “ocean fix”. Love it.


And then in Fairfield, at the next garage sale, we became a bit confused by the sign on a pillar, on which rested a rather large black and white cat. Were we to make our offers to the cat or was the cat himself on offer? It soon became clear that the cat was neither on offer nor waiting to consider offers. And after receiving all the obligatory compliments on his beauty and softness and getting petted he became bored with us and wandered off to sleep in the shade. Obviously believing, as we do, that black cats look better in the shade. (Bet you’re thinking of that song now about Black Cars by Gino Vinelli, aren’t you? Sorry couldn’t be helped. This video is a hoot, very 80’s and everyone in it  looks like a Drag Queen )


Every now and then we find something on our travels that completely arrests our artistic eyes. A few weeks ago it was the book illustrated by Paxton Chadwick. This week it was a 1929 Singer treadle sewing machine. Sewing machines today are not things of beauty or style. My own is a beige, blocky thing made from plastic but it has all the stitches that I need and is at the most, fairly serviceable. But this beautiful Singer sewing machine was built at a time when a sewing machine was not only meant to work well but to be a thing of beauty too. And this model had a definite elegance and style with its sensuous curves and lines.


The decoration on its shiny black metal surface was amazingly intricate and colorful recalling the deco era. We didn’t buy it and only ,like the cat earlier, admired its graceful beauty and made sure to have a photo to remind us.  Much like those photographers at Mile 0 keeping a photo record of what they discovered on their travels.



Garage Sale Loot, A Russian Tall Ship and a Real Find – Paxton Chadwick’s Illustrations


Last Saturday, unlike my last entry, was the most perfect summer day ever, sunny, warm and just generally full of promise. A good day for garage sailing.

I always have this little superstition that you must find something at the first sale or it won’t be a good day. OK I made up that superstition myself but it often proves true. Garage sailing, as I’m fond of saying is a lot like fishing, sometimes you catch something, and sometimes no luck at all. If we don’t find much I just pocket that weeks garage sale allotment and save it for the next week. The first stop yielded three big pots of plants for the garden at $1 a pot! Now that’s a good start. And we were off to find even more good loot.

And speaking of fishing we found these colorful lures, which will make a nice present for Eric and Scarlette, the avid fishers of the family. Personally, I just like the colors.


How do you like the Garage Sale sign at the top of today’s post? Oddly enough this sign was for a garage sale to raise funds for a group that rescues street cats. Anything to do with cats is something I’ll support and I found a lovely Cat bag and a book of Cats in Art cards. That’ll make a lovely gift for some cat lover don’t you think?


We found a garage sale given by a fellow who claimed that he “used to go garage sale-ing”. How is it possible to be a former garage sailor? I can’t imagine stopping. It’s hard enough to wait for spring and the season for it.

Like a true bargain hunter he had picked up these wooden rings from a friend who was closing up a shop. No idea what they were for… we all guessed for macramé. But they were so lovely that I had to take a couple of photos.



And also a pic of this ornament, which I suppose is supposed to be a Sword Fish. But just a pic, didn’t buy it. I’ve been trying to leave something for others, you know.


Then as we drove on to James Bay by way of the Harbour we spied sitting moored a HUGE three masted tall ship. So of course, we had to go and check it out. Turns out it was a Russian Training ship in port just for a few days. They were giving free tours to anyone who wanted to check it out. It was called the Pallada. I’ve left the cars in the photo just so you can get an idea of the size of this ship.

Pallado Russian Tall ship

In James Bay we found a few more treasures. This little arrangement of garage sale loot shows the vintage colored dominoes I found. We played Dominoes later that night and I must admit Bill won 4 times in a row. A rematch is imminent. Plus I found a glass cream and sugar set, which reminded me of my childhood for some reason. The birds were from the same sale as the dolphin pictured earlier and may feature someday in a mosaic. The cat card is from the book of Cats in Art cards found earlier. This is my fave card in the bunch.


Also found these cement pillars which will end up mosaic-ed soon, I hope and become rather nice plant pot stands.

To get an idea, here’s what happened to a chimney we did years ago.
And yet another little arrangement of treasures. The bedside table will I think get redone and painted, but I’ll leave the drawer which has the greatest texture. We had to snap up these vintage lamps and clock too. Bill is planning to rewire the clock. He loves these old clocks and this one has a most lovely shape.


In Fairfield, I had to snap these colorful buckets of flowers. This store has always been here, a spot I always slowed down to enjoy when walking home years ago when we lived in this area .


But now, for the best, which I have saved for last. For those of you who already know of Paxton Chadwick, this won’t be a surprise. You may enjoy reading a bit more about him, since not only was he a very talented illustrator but oddly enough a Communist in England. What I found out about him could only be found on Communist or Labour blogs.  I’d never heard of him before, but when I found this little beat up book illustrated by him I was enchanted. They have the look of printmaking to them, almost wood block. The detail is fantastic and the colors, well, just enjoy. Now I’ll have to find other books done by him for Penguin Books in England so many years ago. This book was published in 1952. So I leave you enjoy just a few of these fabulous illustrations. I did find a few more illustrations here on Google images. And all this enjoyment for only 50 cents!









Fog, An Old Chinese Cemetery, Art, a Chevy Truck? An Odd little Visual Tour of Last Saturday


You may wonder at my header of beautifully worn grave stones in the mist.  But it’s all part of our day last Saturday.

It started with the rain bucketing down Saturday morning when first we woke up.  But by the time we were ready to go out and do some garage sailing it had let up considerably. Anyway, a little rain wasn’t going to stop us. I love rain here, love the smell, love the cool, love the moist moist air. And fog is like the icing on the cake for me. LOVE fog. And oh, the sound of fog horns….

And our first stop after a few lucky finds at a garage sale, was to take a little coffee and muffin break while enjoying the silence and mist over the Chinese Cemetery as the fog curled in from the water.



Then on again to find more treasures and a quick stop at the Oak Bay Library. Little hint, libraries here have the nicest washrooms when you are out and about, garage sailing. And I can never resist checking out the magazines and books that my two usual libraries don’t carry. In the parking lot we admired an old Chevy truck and particularly noticed the attention to detail on the carefully painted wheel covers.



We picked up a quick lunch at a local Grocery store deli, salads, buns and a sweet (too sweet it turned out) desert. Then enjoyed a leasurely lunch while parked overlooking the ocean. We ended our day with a long trek up Moss Street. It was the day of the Moss Street Paint In. Even on a gray day that had started with rain, it was packed. It usually draws over 35000 people! Not to mention showcasing over 150 wonderful artists. This is my attempt at giving a feeling of the crowds, but go to the Moss Street images for more of the crowds and the art.



Part way up the street is the Moss Street Market and Bill took this lovely shot of the some veggies, gorgeous, even the veggies are artful today!


Then, as we headed, footsore, back to the car, we were drawn to these exuberant Peonies!

And what I think may be Calendulas.


A glance at the still overcast sky brought us this beautiful scene of rain falling in the distance. All in all, a full and enjoyable day. All of today’s photos were done by Bill, gotta give credit where it’s due, he does take a great photo!



Garage Sailing Serendipity


Before I start out today, I must say that the header is one of the best garage sale signs I’ve ever seen. The colors, the printing, everything. Ok maybe you have to be an artist to appreciate it…. So now, on to the post of the day, about, you guessed it, garage sailing.

When we set out on a Saturday morning to go “garage sailing” as I like to call it or “thrifting” as apparently others call it, we never know just what we’ll find. It’s not like any other kind of shopping. You know, the kind where you go shopping for a certain needed thing like a new pair of pants, or a new chair or lawn mower. Whatever, it’s not at all like that.

Oh sure, sometimes we do go out with a mental list of stuff to look for like a new garden hose, well, new to us, that is, or a Wind up Radio for our Earthquake Kit ( which I wrote about recently) And yes, last week we actually found one, with a flashlight yet. Bonus!


But we don’t set out with a rigid plan or list. Garage sailing requires an open mind. That is, a mind that is open to the possibilities of whatever you may come across.

Sometimes people at sales even ask us what we are looking for, and we just say, nothing in particular. Personally, I find it hilarious that anyone would even ask. I mean, if, as I said we’re looking for a garden hose and you didn’t have one at the sale you are having, would we just zoom on by? But no, that’s not what happens. We browse, we consider, we enjoy. Garage sailing is a serendipitous occupation. I like to call it Creative Shopping. We are open to finding anything that may be useful, interesting, inspiring or fun.

Oh yes we’ve run across those focused characters that fly through garage sales, looking only for certain things, like fishing gear for instance. That’s all they want to see and if you haven’t got it, well, they move on pretty quickly. And I must admit to a bit of “Drive-by viewing” myself. Like if it’s all kids stuff, well, we’ll probably not even get out of the car. Although that’s changing because now we’re looking for good books for our grandson Andrew. I cannot resist a Mercer Mayer. Or some good illustration like in the Bear book. And Little Toot, too good to pass up at 25 cents each.


When I say Creative shopping, well, sometimes it’s more finding stuff to be creative with. Got quite lucky lately with these lovely red plates that may work their way into a mosaic.


And these canvasses, still wrapped up, that I got for a fraction, a very small fraction, of what they would be in the art supply store.


Or this lovely oak frame which may be the perfect finishing touch for my next painting on board. I collect old frames just for that purpose and Bill cuts me boards to paint on, sized to fit. This week we even found a batch of glass for framed prints, always useful to use in all those old frames I’ve collected. Did I tell you I once found an old Mat cutter for free? Yup. Free is always the right price.








The Japanese Shirt that Inspired a Little Flurry of Pillow Making


The thing with shopping at garage sales is that A. you never know what you will find and B. you never know where what you find will lead you.
I like to call it creative shopping.

This summer I snapped up a lovely pillow with a Japanese theme of a pagoda and a scooter. A few months later I found this shirt, full of lovely geishas.


Now it just so happens that I have a little collection of Japanese fans, that grace the mosaic I created of Birds and Geishas, that I posted about last year.



A few years ago I’d created another Japanese themed mosaic that also resides in our bedroom. I titled it my Marriage Mosaic. Just to quickly explain, it turned out that after I had put this little tableau together, I found out that, in Japan, the pair of geese or ducks are symbolic of a long marriage. And although I am nothing like the shy little bride on my mosaic, I love the idea that this little mosaic symbolized our long marriage.


Now it also just happened that, being someone who hardly ever throws anything out, I still had a few shirts stashed from our holiday in Hawaii that I’d found at garage sales there. All with Japanese themes and all just waiting to be recycled.


All that was needed was to play with the material and come up with some pieced fabric designs. Almost  like making a mosaic but with fabric. A little trick I like to use when making pillows from old shirts is to use the button front as part of the design. Much easier to undo buttons and insert the pillow than to have to sew in a zipper.



Also a good way to recycle most of the whole shirt, buttons and all. But just a word about my kind of sewing, it’s pretty fast and loose, I cut things out by eye, not one for measuring much. In fact, I just piece things together til I like the look and then cut it all to size.

Of course, I couldn’t stop at just one. This lovely shirt with its gorgeous picture of a Japanese fishing scene just had to become part of another little pillow.


And that’s it, pillow making is over for now. All the little scraps still left over will be saved for another day and another inspiration. But there’s nothing like creating something new to look at and enjoy.