Mother’s Jewelry Box

My memories of this jewelry box as a kid:

I recall thinking of the myriad ways which I could make it part of Barbie’s “house”, which for me was usually fashioned out of a chair turned on its side with a towel for the walls. This chest seemed like a perfect doll-sized “armoire”. (“If only mom would find another place for her jewelry and just give it to me.”) It had gold velveteen-lined drawers and those doors that closed the whole thing up neatly with a satisfying magnetic “clunk”. These jewelry chests like this were commonly made in Japan back in the 60s and 70s. I believe my mother got this one at Cost Plus in North Beach, in San Francisco, when it was truly an “Imports Store” and not the chain of mall stores it is now, known as “World Market”. Cost Plus back then was an eclectic mix of incense burners, kites, teak Danish style furniture, and other assorted imported and inexpensive gewgaws. When we shopped there, I recall there was usually something that appealed to each and every member of the family. No one went home empty handed, and no one broke the bank on their allowance. And this was my mother’s choice. Or it might have been a gift from my father. Or she got it at JC Penney. Whatevs.

These chests nowadays all over eBay and Etsy, and there are some lovely decoupaged works of art made from them. So suffice it to say, this was a project that I had in mind to try for quite some time after my mother finally did give me hers. Those “swirly” shapes are outlines from some rather unattractive bent cane or bamboo that I removed moments before I snapped these pics and remembered I needed to take “before” photos. But after I removed them and the Asian or even Filipino theme they imbued, I heard The Muse in this thing say to me: “I have always wanted to be French Shabby Chic”.

Ok. French… shabby chic… sure.

I’ll pause here to add that this was long before I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, a book that discusses among other things, how creative ideas come to us, what happens when we say no to them, and what happens when we say yes. I can think of a million reasons, most of them nostalgia-based, to leave this chest alone and ignore its pleas to be transformed. It belonged to my mother. What would my sister and only sibling say? That I destroyed an heirloom, cheap as it was at the time? What would my MOTHER say? “Really? You’re going to paint over natural wood?” Some people would call that “ruining it”.

I think I procrastinated for a good 2 years before I decided last summer to take it all apart for the photos above, when I heard the little Voice Idea. Or I saw it. Elizabeth Gilbert calls it entering into a contract with inspiration. The following photos are me, following through on the contract.



The gold velveteen STAYS!



Furniture medallion “bows”, which I already had on hand, seemed to be waiting for this perfect moment.


No one was upset with me. My sister saw it last summer and loved it. My mom flipped and thought it was incredible! Yay! Not everyone reveres nostalgia to paralyzing effect like I do!


Pivoting to a personal note: I made a recent decision to undergo professional hypnotherapy to stop a life-long habit of nail and cuticle biting. As an ex-smoker, I can tell you that quitting cigarettes was easier for me than leaving my hands alone. After just two sessions, I was able to eradicate this disgusting habit from my life. For good! But in the process of reintegrating my conscious mind in the discovery of why I was doing this to my hands, I learned that I really did have some hang-ups and rather negative thoughts around my creative gift and that my primitive brain was indulging in this habit because of some deep dissatisfaction over beliefs and personal views about my creativity. I have to believe that other creative people wrestle with this from time to time. If this is something you struggle with, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic is a book I cannot recommend enough. After hypnotherapy, I was able to reaffirm what I had been suspecting for some time; that listening to the horrible news of the day is absolutely toxic to my creativity. It might be the motivation for other people’s muse. And if that’s your vibe, that’s great. But for me, it’s a creativity killer. For this reason, and because I like to practice Cognitive Anchoring when I work in the studio, I HAD to replace my habit of listening to NPR, and Canadian Radio (which I felt were calmer alternatives – WRONG!) with something more positive. So I made the decision to listen to, rather than read, Gilbert’s book. Her reading voice is pleasant and witty and it was five hours of my time that I will never regret investing. I feel like I’ve been on an amazing journey, and I’m happy to tell others about it. If this helps anyone as we begin a new year of making and creating together, then I am glad.

P.S. The link on Cognitive Anchoring above takes you to Heather Ordover’s site. Heather’s podcast Craftlit is fantastic! I’ve been creating while anchoring to Craftlit for 15 years. If you like classic literature and loved your High School English Literature class and wished it could go on forever, check out Craftlit. (She’s starting Anne of Green Gables next. Whoo hoo!)



A friend decided to crash the photo shoot.



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