Disclaimer: The person who this gift is for has not been the cause for my anxiety or perfection disease other than the fact that I feel I owe her my best. She even said “anything made in love is wonderful” or something to that nature way back when. All thoughts are my own mind working against itself and it’s own disease to please.
A few months ago a dear friend of mine was explaining her struggle with her new place and I felt compelled to try and help by offering her some handiwork to make it feel more like her home…this is the saga.
I try to be a “fixer”. I have learned along the way that I can’t and my friendships don’t need a “fixer” and sometimes just need a listener but I can still get swept up in trying to help when I know someone is struggling or in pain. As I said, a dear friend had been struggling with her home environment and I offered to make one of those farmhouse, rustic signs for her new-ish apartment to hopefully create the feeling that she wanted.
I like to think of myself as relatively handy and crafty but as soon as the words were out of my mouth the second guessing already started. Often when it comes to my handiwork I have an idea in mind but actually being able to bring it to fruition takes a few dozen trial and errors, and usually the Mr. for some back-up. I had never made something like this and only had a vague understanding of what I was really trying to do. This person is also gracious and understanding, had I gone to her and explained the predicament of not actually knowing what the hell I was doing I’m sure she would have let me out of our “deal” but this woman has meant so much to me and my family that I didn’t want to back out or let her down.
So thus I started:
I first cut the wood in July, then it was followed by the “aging” (AKA beating the snot out of it with various implements) and staining process. Then I spray painted it the requested royal blue color, and then I froze. I got to that point and realized that I didn’t have the skill to hand letter the wood with the paint. I searched for fonts that I thought would fit for this person but couldn’t figure out a good way to make a stencil that would be big enough. I tried to make my own stencil:
Then I used this stencil to paint:
And I was really disappointed in it. I had come home with the stencil all excited because I thought I had free-handed something that wasn’t half bad but the paper I used to create the stencil combined with spray paint did not make something I was particularly proud of and I definitely didn’t feel comfortable giving as a gift.
I had been so excited and then I was so deflated. I knew the person in question would never tell me she didn’t like something because she’s just that awesome but I knew in my heart of hearts that this wasn’t good enough, not for someone who gives so much to those around her. So I went back to the drawing board. I sanded the wood down to get rid of the lettering, gave it another quick dose of the blue spray paint and tried to figure out exactly how I was going to get the text on there.
The Mr. weighed in and recommended getting thicker paper (i.e. more like poster board) and trying to make the stencil again and suggested that maybe spray paint for the letters wasn’t the way to go. I had a gazillion coupons to use at Joann’s so I thought I would at least peruse their stencils to see if there was something I could use. I found a lettering font I liked but they were too small…should I cut the boards down again? Should I try to find something else? And ended up finding another stencil with the quote “you are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem” and decided that was perfect to add to this sign. I could figure out how to arrange it and if not, just save the receipt and return them.
I taped the stencils, having to do a couple of passes to make sure I got the letters dark enough to withstand sanding and when I pulled the stencils off, I still wasn’t sure I was thrilled with the product. Partially because there was still bleed over, not sure why it wasn’t cooperating, I’ve stenciled in the past but I also didn’t have a 2.5 year old helper before; the munchkin wanted to help me in the worst way and I decided to let her for better or for worse. Then I had to distress it a little with the sander before deciding whether I liked this version enough:
The more I look at this final product the more I love it, even with it’s imperfections. I was letting the “perfect be the enemy of the good” and also letting my desire to do right by Kate set me into analysis paralysis. This is why I started the process in July but didn’t actually finish it until October. It doesn’t take 4 months to paint a sign but the anxiety and fear I had over the lettering for this sign kept me from getting it done in a timely fashion.
This was truly a labor of love and I know there are things that I could have done better, but I truly believe that sometimes it’s the messy parts and the imperfections that make something more precious. Could I have made it a little neater or tried to get the stenciling perfectly aligned? Of course I could have but it also wouldn’t seem as rustic or worn. I sent the last picture to Kate and she replied with an enthusiastic “OMG. This is gorgeous – I sooooooo love it!!!!!” which justified my taking time to redo the first sign. I’m glad I’ve undertaken this project….I’m sorry it took so long, but like anything, I’ve gotten over the first one and when it comes to wood, you can always sand it down and start again!