(Originally posted to Facebook on October 12th)
This vintage Ethan Allen cog table is probably the single most important piece I’ve ever done. And not for any of the reasons that you’d likely guess. Yes, it required a ton of repairs and a lot of work....but the timing of this piece and what it did to my heart and soul are why it will likely stick out to me for the rest of my career.
This was a custom refinish presented to me by my ex-husbands best friend. I accepted the job when life seemed to be running smoothly, family in tact, smiles on faces...and by the time the table was delivered to my home and work was to begin, my life was in absolute turmoil.
Here was a table, once beautiful, laying in front of me with a broken base, an unbalanced and unhinged exterior, blemishes too dramatic to ever hide from the world. And here was a girl who matched it perfectly. The first day it was in my possession, we sat on the floor together and shed so many tears. How would I ever repair the damage? The breaks were too lethal. The scars were too visible. We were weak. So incredibly weak.
I was told that trauma and heartache act as a roller coaster. The drops are incredibly steep in the beginning, gut wrenching, nauseating. But there are still ups amongst the downs, however few. As time goes on, as the ride continues, those ups become easier to climb, and the downs become less debilitating, and the calm between the two becomes more steady and more comfortable.
And so I started with the base. I cleaned her splinters, I sanded her rough edges, I drilled new, sometimes excruciating holes in her interior so I’d have space to add the dowels that would give her strength. I glued and bound and clamped her together....and I gave her time to heal. I puttied her wounds till they became invisible to passerbys, but still cast the tiniest shadow of her past to those who knew her best. And once the base was secure and capable of supporting her crown, I worked my way up. And then I got tired. So, so, tired. I wanted to be finished with the entire project and skip forward to the final reveal, the finished project where she could just smile again...so I cut corners and overlooked issues and skipped steps that were so incredibly crucial. And it showed. Her stained top was unevenly sanded, jumping from one grit to another without care or concern for the wounds left behind. And the stain made it obvious. In some places it soaked in like a sponge, becoming a dark, ugly mess...and in others it didn’t take at all, only showing her old self, her old scars, her old tones.
And so I began again. I stripped her down, and did the work the way I knew in my soul it needed to be done. I spent countless hours sanding her top, starting with the roughest, most damaging of grits....and slowly graduated through the ranks, getting her softer, more beautiful, with every pass. Never completely hiding her scars, but blending them into her new existence and letting them guide her path, but not shape her destiny.
When I finished this table, we shed more tears together. She was strong, oh my god was she strong. But she wasn’t new. And she never would be. She had structure and reinforcements and a newfound beauty amongst the blemishes. She could function, and she could flourish. And she did.
My work has always been a reflection of my soul, an outlet for my emotions, a diary of my state. I can show you pieces that are blended and wild and adventurous and I can map out the emotional turmoil I was enduring. I can show you pieces that are clean and sleek and rigid, and point out the events that led me to need structure. And I can show you pauses. Weeks where I haven’t picked up a brush. Weeks where it seemed crippling to put art on canvas. And that’s not something to be ashamed of. I haven’t been painting lately. Not at all. And that’s ok. I have been writing a lot, however. Filling notebooks with rambles that the world will never see. And that’s ok, too.
But today I stumbled upon these photos and I took a moment to be grateful...for the ability to let my soul out here and there, to be able to connect with a piece of furniture and allow its healing to guide my own. And this one did in so many ways. I’m thankful for the roller coaster, I’m thankful for the scars, and I’m thankful for anyone who crosses my path who can appreciate them without judgement.
Find your outlet, do the repairs, shed the tears....but always look back with grace and gratitude. Find the beauty in your scars and be proud of the ride. You’re still buckled in and that is monumental.
(Originally posted to Facebook on September 27)
I’ve had to write two self bios this week...and while that feels uncomfortably strange, even for this girl who writes about pretty personal shit on a regular basis, it made me realize it’s been a really long time since I actually introduced myself here. I think the last time I did this, I had a few hundred people following along and most of them were already my friends and knew far more about me than I could fit in a few paragraphs. There’ve been quite a few new faces around lately and I’m going to step outside my little box and say hello....
So, uh, hello. 😘 I’m Sam...I’m the owner, designer, builder, and artist behind The Copper Elm. I have lived around the world, but for quite a few years have called Colorado my home. I’ve got two shops here, one in the incredible RiNo District of Denver and one in my quaint little town of Castle Rock. I sell paint (Wise Owl 💗🦉💗), refinished furniture, repurposed home decor, and odds and ends that I find beautiful, fascinating, or both.
I have a passion for teaching, but was recently told by a student/friend/human being that I admire incredibly that my teaching skills play a far second to my mentoring skills....and that was probably the biggest compliment I’ve ever received in this business. I get a rush from selling my own furniture but it doesn’t even compare to the thrill when one of my friends or clients sells a piece of theirs. I love nothing more than watching and (if I’m lucky enough) helping someone see their true potential, unlock their hidden artistic talents, and become the creative person they always dreamed they could.
My life is absolutely centered around the most important person on earth...my four year old son. He’s a spit fire, smarter than I can handle, funnier than he thinks, and cuter than anything in my world. He’s the reason I created this business and the reason I continue every single day. I’m a work from home mom who wakes up every morning and hustles from dawn to dusk so that I can support this teeny family of ours and watch him grow on the daily.
I’m a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve and that gets me into more trouble than anything else. (Well, besides maybe my mouth...that gets me into quite a bit of trouble too....) I love incredibly hard, even when people don’t deserve it. I’m one that forgives easily, and instead of harboring anger, I tend to put all my emotions back into helping those who hurt me. Often times, that leaves me with very little left for myself and that’s something I’m working on...
I’m in my mid thirties and it’s beginning to show in all the best ways. Ive got wrinkles near my eyes because when I laugh, I laugh with my entire soul and it tends to contort my face in ways that don’t show up so cute in photos. I’ve got scars on my body from the things I’ve conquered, and I wear them with pride because they remind me just how much I have survived and just how much more I can endure. I spent a lot of years apologizing for who I was, conforming to what others found to be appealing, and hiding behind lies that made me more attractive to the world. I’ve spent the last twelve months of my life changing that. I was hurt in ways that are somewhat unimaginable, even to myself, and they’ve taught me such a great deal about where I truly stand on this earth. If I love, I say so. If I’m hurt, I say so. If I feel indifferent, I walk away. It’s incredibly cliche, but life is too short to hold back and so, I don’t.
This is me. I’m just a girl trying to do something good in this world, hoping to find some folks to do that good with, while having a few good drinks and a lot of good laughs along the way....
If you’d care to share, I’d love to be formally introduced...who are you? Where are you? Are your wrinkles from smiles or frowns? Do you drink whiskey or wine (I switch back and forth depending on the day)? What brings you here?