A Deco Style Magazine Table Gets a Facelift

Roxy-beforewmRoxy-front-3quarterwmThis little magazine table with its waterfall top and deco style handle grabbed our attention at a garage sale. It was a bit worse for wear and looked like someone had tried to refurbish it and given up.

But we saw possibilities and quickly scooped it up and stowed it away in our little station wagon. You can’t beat a small station wagon for garage sailing. Just fold those seats down and you’ve got lots of room for hauling all sorts of good stuff home.

In fact, speaking of cars, the style of the table brought to mind cars of the 50’s, some with two colors. Lovely rounded cars with curved chrome details, in colors like two tones of green or maybe black and pink. Whatever happened to painting cars with two tones? So much more interesting to look at than all these gray cars you see. Our car is gray and I keep looking at it and wishing I could change it. But I digress. Back to the little table.


Will liked the two tone paint idea and chose a lovely soft almost mint green and black. The body became the mint green. The magazine holders and the contrasting veneer on the top, he painted black.

And then, just to give it a bit more pizzaz, a touch of orange to echo the rounded elements. And now that the little table had a whole new look, we gave it a new name too…. “Roxy”. Roxy will be featured on our online shop on Diggit right here in Victoria.



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 )



Bench Swing Transformation


Today, a little story of a colorful “make over”, so to speak, of a tired little bench swing, transformed by taking on the colors of the garden.




A couple of years ago, Bill and I, on one of our garage sailing Saturdays, found this old bench swing. It was kind of old and worn, kind of rusty, but I could see it, in my mind, totally transformed. And for only $7 to buy and another $7 to have delivered, well, we didn’t have to think twice.


But as life goes on, not everything gets done right away. And so the swing was used as it was for a couple of summers, and spent it’s winters under a tarp under the greenhouse. But I didn’t forget my vision.


And finally this summer the time was right for a colorful makeover. We were planning a party and I decided, ok, this was its year to shine. So preparations were made, the tarp laid out to catch paint drips and the paint, which just happened to have been bought for other purposes, turned out to be perfect for my plan.


The metal framework was the first to be painted. A lovely pistachio green, painted on by brush. I’m not a big fan of spray paint, since I’ve always found a lot is wasted and it’s hard to control. Besides I kind of like the streaky texture we got and left it there deliberately.


Then we started on the periwinkle blue for the bench.


and then the red for the side tables.


As we went along I couldn’t help doing a bit of color transformation on my old Crocks too.


Finally, the bench was painted and looking pretty good. But, as we sat on it, I decided it needed a bit of a cushion too.


Which led to going through my stash of fabrics and a couple of days with the ironing board and the sewing machine out in the kitchen. We’d just replaced our foam bed topper and it occurred to me that the old one would make a good stuffing for the cushion. A little more recycling accomplished.


I had a rather fun time putting together another Intuitive patchwork.


And finally, the finishing touch was complete. We’ve been pretty happy with the final result and have been enjoying a little swing on a summer day.



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.



Having Fun with Intuitive Quilting



In the run up to Earth Day, recycling is on my mind. I do recycle dishes in my mosaics. Lately, I’ve been having a bit of fun quilting with recycled shirts, some thrift shop fabric plus a few squares of quilt fabric found at a garage sale last summer. Sort of doing a mosaic with fabric. I’ve been inspired by quilts found on the internet and also from books about intuitive quilting by Jean Wells and Rayna Gillman. I’m not one of those quilters who likes pattern and measuring and rulers. So the slice and dice, intuitive style that these two quilters teach really resonated with me. And Gees Bend quilts have always been a big inspiration too.


recycled shirt

Quilting is one of those old and beautiful forms of recycling that has come down through the ages. Oh, I know these days, a lot of new quilting is done with new fabric, but the beginnings of quilting came from recycling fabric that was at hand like old shirts and even flour bags. And I love using old shirts too. Besides, being one of those slap dash sewers who doesn’t like the button hole attachment much, I find using the button front on shirts as a closure works great and recycles just a bit more of the shirt.

Plus I’ve gotten some new toys at the Fabric store. I’ve discovered the Rotary Cutter! Wow! This is so much fun to use on the self healing cutting mat. Ok, I admit I didn’t really get the hang of sewing curves as shown by Jean and Rayna, but I did have fun slicing up fabric. This is me having fun and a long way from the skill shown by the quilters who inspired me.  Sewing curves will come later I’m sure.  Now the ladies above cut the material in strips first and then sew.


Rotary cutter and cutting mat


Being me, I found my own odd way of creating strips. I’d cut up a few bits of fabric in almost the same width and start laying it down, good sides together and sort of guess-timate the width of the next strip I wanted and sew it. Then I’d cut off the excess, and set down a new fabric and so on. That way I got varying widths and didn’t waste much.







When I’d gotten a few strips made sewing bits together randomly and intuitively, I started to arrange them. I’d been collecting pillow fillers at garage sales already and they were waiting to be used, all washed then dried on the clothesline last summer. So it was just a matter of laying out strips over the pillow form until I had enough to cover. I did come up short but then just made a couple of narrow strips to fill in, which added to the overall design anyway.




I made one side with the buttoned section of the shirt inserted between the strips. I’d added a lot of the shirt fabric into the strips as I went along to integrate the color of the shirt into the rest of the quilting.


And voila! A pillow cover that’s a lovely surprise, almost a mosaic of fabric. I’m sure I won’t be able to resist trying to make some more but for now it’ll have to wait. My little studio can only handle painting and mosaic so the sewing gets done in the kitchen. There’s only so long I can live with an ironing board and a sewing machine on a kitchen table full of scraps. Until the next time the urge to quilt hits me….




My Over the Top Cats and Roses Mosaic

Actually, I created this mosaic a few years ago. Another one of those shrines that come together almost serendipitously. I had an idea of creating a mosaic with cats and to that end I’d been collecting all sorts of cat ornaments. And although there are quite a few on this particular piece, there are still an awful lot left over that are still waiting for homes on a mosaic or at least a shelf or windowsill. I do sometimes bring them out to the kitchen windowsill to sit among the African violets. But I wander from the point…

Ok I had a amassed a huge collection of thrift shop cats, since I tend to have a soft spot for cats. And I was looking for some sort of a background to set them against but nothing had came to mind. Then one summer day, Bill and I came upon a garage sale that had a lovely collection of rosy bone china saucers. As I remember it, the cups were missing so the saucers were going cheap. And they were absolutely full of bloom and color, you could almost smell the scent of roses coming off them. I snapped them up. I’d suddenly had a vision of my cats with all these roses!

Cats and Roses mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Almost as soon as I decided on the theme, I found at another sale soon after or it could have been the same day, quite a collection of rose ornaments with these deep purple roses as well.

I put together a bit of a unique color scheme. Not so pastel, with that dark green around the rim and those dark almost black roses. And now I also had the place for some really outrageous rose ornaments as well. I decided to go over the top!

And it must have been too, because when I had a big display of my mosaics at the local municipal hall, I got written up in the local community paper. And what did the writer wonder about? Well, as I remember, she wrote that although she loved all the mosaics I’d made, she thought the whole Cats and Roses shrine was a bit too sweet and she hoped I was being facetious when I made it.

All I can say is that she did get the gist of it. It was meant to be Over the Top. But I like the combination of Cats and Roses, they have an affinity. Both so beautiful but with sharp bits like claws and thorns. So maybe not so sweet after all? Who cares? It’s not meant to be serious.

Cats and Roses mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

But it’s over the top Kitsch too. And I love kitsch. I once heard of a garden that was full of things that were over the top kitsch like flamingos, vintage signs and the oddest things for embellishment. What I loved most, though, was the unapologetic sign in the garden that said to please tell the gardener if anything “tasteful” was found and he would make sure to remove it right away. Love it. Hope you enjoy my little Over the top take on Cats and Roses.


New Years resolutions? .. . or trying to create order in my chaotic studio.

The new year has begun. Usually my New Years resolution is not to make any resolutions. Resolutions are usually difficult goals, like lose weight, eat less sugar, eat less chocolate, eat less of all the things I enjoy that are bad for me. We’re talking deprivation here. So no, I don’t make resolutions. I don’t want to start the year thinking of LESS. I want to start the year thinking of MORE.

MORE happiness, health, wealth, laughter, creativity…..

Ah creativity, that brings me to my studio. Another area that I could use MORE in. As in more space, more time, more organization? Ah yes, perhaps since I don’t have more space, it’s time to get down to organizing all the stuff I’ve got in there. So many dishes, so many shards that I can’t throw out and have saved for future works.

So I’ve dragged out all the little pots and trays full of  broken dish shards left over from making Pique Assiette mosaics. I’ve  spread them out and started to reorganize them. It’s looking like chaos here.  But I’ve set myself to sorting, categorizing, creating piles and piles colors, textures, patterns and whatever, all the while taking lots of tea breaks to keep from being overwhelmed with the chaos I’m creating.

chaos-in-studiowmAnd hopefully, when I’m finally done, the shards, at least will be saved, sorted and ready to be used. Another recycled package put to good use. All those salad packages make the best transparent storage ever. These packages plus other smaller ones I save from where ever I can, go to good use here.

boxes-of-shardswmAh chaos to order….now that’s a start for the New Year.


How we Created our own unique collage Christmas Cards or E-cards

xmas-holidaywmEvery year we look for Christmas cards but rarely find exactly what we like. We’ve also looked at e-cards. Not that there isn’t some wonderful artwork out there. But this year we wanted to do something unique to us. And we want to be green about it all too. So what to do?

I used to look for Christmas cards at Thrift stores. Believe it or not they do exist there and you can buy a real selection that way instead of a box of all the same card. It’s a good idea, you’re recycling but takes a lot of time.

Bill and I happen to really like to create collages from old magazines. This is what I call fun with Glue sticks and Scissors. Why not create collage Christmas cards? Some will become paper cards and all the images will be used for e-cards too.

This year I just happened to have found in my reorganization of old mags and papers saved for collaging, quite a few Christmas editions of decor mags. Voila, lots of relevant stuff to create our own Christmas cards. And I also kept some of that glossy junk mail that comes to our mailbox to use as more collage fodder. If you’ve saved old Christmas cards you may want to look at them with a new eye, as fodder for Xmas collage.

So with the table strewn with mags and busy cutting out colors and textures we soon had more than enough to start with. The idea is to look through all the mags cutting out bits with an eye to color and texture not necessarily literal depiction’s of trees, santas etc. We try to go for the “feel” of Christmas. And with a sense of abstraction as well. And this is what we came up with…… a few abstract art cards in the Christmas theme

Deck the Halls with lots of color


An abstract take on Rudolf?


A psychedelic take on Giving Joy


Sometimes you only need one word….Merry


Another collage using almost the same elements, the snowflake and the colors


Another idea we had last year was to create our own e-card in Photoshop. So in a way, just another collage but of a favourite Santa ornament and some decor arranged into a jolly looking card. Now you may not be a fan of e-cards. They are hard to display for one. But we think of the paper and resources saved too. I also like to take the time to send a little personal message to everyone with each email.


Ok some people on our list still get the real card. We just happened to have a lot of old stock greeting cards from a former business and we just scan our images into the printer and create a new image and tape that onto old cards. You can do the same by just taping an image onto card stock cut to fit any envelopes you have. So there you are, a DIY way to create your own unique take on the Christmas card. Have fun. We did.

Oh, here’s a little bonus thought, in case you didn’t get your cards bought and sent in time.  Why not create something great with some family photos and collage and create an e-card you can send out at the last minute? Cheating? maybe, but why not? It’s still personal, you get a chance to be creative and send something unique to your friends and rellies.


My Santa collection revisited or should I say recycled?

christmas-daywmWe are all about recycling, and living the recycling lifestyle has also given us an abundant lifestyle especially at Christmas. And especially where collecting Santas is concerned.  What started as a little collection to add some color on the sideboard at Christmas grew to over 100 Santa ornaments in no time.  How do you create such an abundant display of Santas?  Well, it’s almost all secondhand thrift shop finds and a few are gifts from friends who knew I’d been collecting.  In the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of recycling I’ve decided to recycle some of my old posts about Christmas.  Three years ago I spent some time for every day for the 25 Days before Christmas making up little vignettes of my huge Santa ornament collection.  Today, to make it much easier to view, I’ve decided to replace and recyle those posts and put all the collection on one post. Starting with my  fave Grumpy Santas and ending with my other faves, the Gumby Santas.  Enjoy….

Introducing my faves, The Grouchy Santas


The Globe and Moon Santas


The Wine Taster Santa


Collector Santas


Candle light Santas


Skinny Legged Santas


Odd Santas


Santas from around the World posed on an Atlas of course


Tropical Santas


Santas Waving


Tiny Santas


Softy Santas


Scary looking Santas


Salt and Pepper Santas


Night Santa all lit up


Santa in an Evergreen Sleigh


Santa in a Chili Pepper Sleigh


Big Thoughtful Santa and Two rather Surprised Santas


More Santas in Sleighs and a handsome Reindeer


Santa on a Sledge


Racing Santa


Santas thinking of Tropical nights


Santas bringing, what else, gifts


Troubadour Santas


And ending with my all time faves, Gumby Santas


Of course, by now I probably have more, but I haven’t unpacked them yet.  There’s like about 5 boxes of them in the basement!  But hopefully, you’ve enjoyed my much quicker look at this runaway collection.  I swear, I’m NOT collecting any more.  Really, positively, no ….. more.


Playing with Paper, Scissors and Glue Sticks on Rainy Morning


I’ve not been posting much but I have been working…..really.  I won’t even show  a photo of my studio..way too much stuff going on but none of it resolved.  But the other day,  at the kitchen table, good music on the CD player and a few old mags found at garage sales last summer I had a little fun.  Here’s my rather over the top collage of crazy color. Nothing quite like playing with glue sticks, scissors and recycled papers and mags.  I’ve got another one waiting, still to do.  Oddly, I’m finding this a good exercise for generating ideas for my other studio work.  I may just play again this morning.  My motto:  Have Fun EVERY DAY!