Start your weekend early with a DIY office cottage

DIY cottage projectDesperate for the weekend? Stuck in an office? Just like the sod houses of early prairie settlers, your best chance for survival is to get creative with what you have on hand. office storage roomAll you need for this DIY cottage project is a well stocked office storage room and a boss who’s open to a bit of out-of-the-box(es) problem solving – at least on Fridays. Because sometimes the only way to escape an impossible situation is to story your way out…

“Well, dear,” says my realtor, “you told me you wanted a cottage property that’s easily accessible from work, and with your budget, I really think this is the best option you’re going to find.”

I’ve always tried to see the best in a situation – although a few exes might disagree – but, although charmingly designed, this sad little shack isn’t exactly screaming sunshine and sailboats.

“But it’s only twenty feet away from my office door,” I complain. “What kind of vacation is that?”

My realtor, a middle-aged firebrand with a forehead as immovable as her shellacked bob, isn’t one to give up easily, on youth, 80s style eyeliner, or a sales pitch.

office cottage“But look at all the features!” She points out relevant bits of recycling as she enumerates. “Bubble wrap window for light and built-in entertainment, foam paving stones – so soothing to the sole after a long workweek. You’ve got an end-of-roll doorknob, decoratively staggered tube fencing, garden area with overhang and canopy, and just look at that darling slanted roof.”

“What happens when the wolf comes and ‘blows it all down?” I can’t resist asking.

She ignores my sarcasm and plunges on, “And talk about environmentally green construction, this cottage and its landscaping are made exclusively of unaltered found materials.” (author’s note: because I had to put everything back exactly as I’d found it… sigh)

“Double vanities?”

“Not quite, but the public washroom is just around the corner, opposite the office utility closet.”

“Fantastic.”

“Seriously, Cymbria, for right now, for today, this is as good as it’s going to get.”

I know she’s right. That’s the worst of it. So I do what so many of us have gotten in the habit of doing when offered only a scrap instead of the whole – I take it.

Modeled by Barbie – How to turn Walmart’s ugliest Muumuu into sexy DIY loungewear

diy barbie clothesI bring out the adult-size version of this catsuit inspired muumuu transformation to show my Blank Canvas Living Creative Counselling client. She’d been brave enough to strip off her Walmart muumuu to expose her addictions, and braver still to hand over the epically unflattering pink and orange synthetic protection in hope that I could show her a different kind of comfort.

Last session, she was enthusiastic in her adoption of the new language of addictions – glamours, insatiables, and be-all-end-alls – and ranked her own obsessions according to this novel nomenclature. We discussed how these words open new patterns of positive brain associations and allow more space for change. But now, faced with a different life dangling in front of her on a thin wire hanger, chest wraps (two long narrow strips of fabric for wrapping around the torso) pooling on the green carpet, she looks more than a little dubious.

suspicious face“Is this really part of the treatment plan?” She asks, her expression and voice the definition of incredulous. “You want me to join Cirque du Soleil?”

“For goodness sakes, no! This is about transforming your perception of an object – in this case a protection – that you think you know, and taking that change out of the theoretical and into the physical world. This is about embracing a whole new definition of comfort. Rather than making yourself invisible by hiding behind your learned glamours and insatiables, we’re going right back to a genetically coded human glamour – swaddling! This DIY bodysuit can give you that close womb feeling of being held when you swaddle yourself with the chest bands. You can change the wrapping pattern to play with your body to let its secret curves surprise and sustain you (and your most intimate relationships) rather than layering on artificial distractions and escapes.”

barbie clothes patterns

Note: The basic pattern pieces shown above can be adapted for any fabric or body (or doll) size. From top to bottom: sleeve/top (cut one), fold sleeves along horizontal dash line and sew to vertical dash line; leggings with bootie (cut two), sew as per leggings; chest wrap (cut two), sew onto angled front-neck of top and attach back of top to leggings.

“So let me get this straight,” she says, “dressing up like Comic-Con Stripper Barbie is going to help me stop drinking and waiting for calls from bad men?”

“This is to get you back in touch with your body and start opening up more creative avenues of perception. The real hard-core brain work comes later. Funny you should mention Barbie clothes, though. I actually thought the ultimate sex kitten would be good place to practice. And don’t worry about your body not looking like Barbie’s, or Adrianne Curry at comic-con. But I can promise you that you’ll be amazed at how your body will respond when you start to get your glamours in gear. So do you want to play?” I put down the hanger and pull two dolls out of the canvas bag behind my chair.

She takes the brunette with all the grim, ceremonious reluctance of a subpoena. But before long her and I are laughing and joking as we compete for who can come up with the most risqué-chic chest wrap variation.

“You know what,” she confesses with pink cheeks and a naughty grin, “this is actually really fun.”

This is a Story Thread post – Click to read more…

The design process applied to office sanctioned crafting

design processCreative problem solving isn’t about sitting by yourself in a little corner hashing out some rigid step by step plan of action. It’s about responding to your materials, interacting with your environment, and fearlessly risking your time and ego by challenging your ideation at every step of the process.

When my boss asked me to design paper gauges for our two giant printers, I was thrilled; especially considering that despite my background, I’ve deliberately chosen a job that strictly confines me to rolling said paper when it comes out the other side of said behemoth printers (but that’s another story).

“Ooooo yes please!” I said, always eager to engage in any office sanctioned crafting. And really, is there any better kind?

I quizzed him on the design criteria: show amount of available paper (two sizes) without having to open the machines. And set to work, scouring our office for any potentially useful materials. A key exercise in creativity – feel free to try this at home – is to look at objects in terms of their inherent physical properties, not just by their associations (click here for classic candle/box experiment). For example, an elastic’s basic properties can allow it to become be a shock absorber, a vice, a sound generator, a friction enhancer, a weapon, a hinge, a sex toy… etc.

First attempt: I cut out the center of two paper plates (using small ceramic plate template), used Sharpie coloured wood coffee stirrers as indicators around a central pivot made of a paper clip (by first creating holes with thumbtacks and securing potential wood splitting with packing tape), then partook in label making to obscene excess. Brilliant!!

Except… for the fact that the resulting gauge looked exactly like two paper plates with coffee stirrers sandwiched in between, and carried the ugly evidence of someone with an obsessive fetish for label makers. And then there was the embarrassing discovery that moving one indicator influenced the rotation of the other. Sigh… not so brilliant after all.

Solution: Back to the drawing board. Always a sharp physical pain, but part of the creative process that must never smell your fear. There can be no mourning period. Huzza! Onwards and Upwards! I extended my foraging area to include resources available within walking distance on my lunchbreak.gauge design Brass spread-leg fasteners obtained! Cardstock… cardstock? After waiting for an eternity at the counter of a print shop, I’d almost given up hope. Then low and behold, a miracle! A dashing, ever so gallant, white knight of customer service came to my rescue with a stack of backroom off-of-stock-list sheets of two different weights. Huzza!

Sometimes, when you go out into the world with excitement, openness, and a clear mission, that world gets excited along with you and gives you what you so desperately need without asking anything in return. The gift of those few sheets were more than enough motivation to re-energize my demand for perfection from this project. No more compromises! This gauge was going to be perfect down to the mm… who are we kidding… the 1/2 mm!

Final design: So what if the heavier cardstock jammed the printer. I simply laminated the lighter version with packing tape and got on with X-acto-ing and blending my pencil crayons to a professional blur with strips of Kleenex. Brilliant! Perfection achieved! Perfectly proportioned, eminently easy to read, two super pro looking paper gauges = Mission accomplished?

“What do you think?” I asked my boss, proudly showing off my brand new twins.

“Hmmm,” he said, “I was thinking of something maybe a bit smaller.”

…oh for the lova’ pete.