Online Store Launched

I’m now selling a few hand-made odds and ends online.

Just a quick note to let folks know that I’ve decided to start selling a few of my hand-made items online using Square.

Here’s one of my recent ornaments. Sorry, but this one isn’t available for sale — I included it with a Christmas gift to an extremely supportive family member.

If you go to, you’ll find whatever items I’ve had time to photograph and put online. So far, that’s most likely to be a handful of fused glass ornaments that I’ve been making with my kiln out of recycled wine and sake bottles. Because each piece is hand-made and, thus, different, I need to photograph each one so they’ll be listed as quickly as I can photograph them. I’m just hoping Square doesn’t display items that are out of stock.

I’m still sitting on the fence about listing my honey, mostly because shipping it will be a bit of a chore and I really don’t have that much to sell this year.

Anyway, this is mostly for the folks who have been complementing me on my glass work. They’re telling me they want to buy these things so here’s where they can do it.


Turning trash into useful items.

Over the past year or so, I’ve really embraced the idea of upcycling to make useful things around my home.

According to Wikipedia, coined in 1994, the term upcycling means

the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.

Why Upcycle?

I like the idea of upcycling for several reasons:

  • Upcycling really appeals to my scavenger instincts. For most of my life, I’ve wanted to gather discarded items that I think have some use. Hell, back in my college days, I furnished my dorm room with perfectly good items discarded by departing students, including an area rug, lamp, and table with chairs. You know what they say: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
  • Upcycling enables me to have more for less. With my recently limited budget, I have to make do with less money. While that often means doing without, it could also mean building my own solutions.
  • Upcycling reduces waste in landfills and recycling centers. Seriously, don’t we put enough crap in landfills and the ocean? Upcycling is better than recycling because it makes something useful without it first going through a waste stream. That means no transportation costs, no sorting costs, no remanufacturing costs, etc.

First Projects

Coop Construction
A look at my chicken coop under construction.

Pallet Garden
My first pallet planter makes an excellent strawberry patch.

I blogged about my first upcycling project before I even knew the word upcycling existed. In “Chickens Again, Part II: The Coop,” I wrote about the chicken coop I made, in part, from wooden pallets I’d scavenged. Two days later, I wrote “The Pallet Planter,” which showed off one of eventually three raised garden beds I’d built with more scavenged pallets.

Why Now?

All this is pretty new for me. In my old, half-dead life in Arizona, I wasn’t motivated to do much of anything — there just didn’t seem to be a point. And even if I did want to make or build something, I didn’t have tools or a useable workspace.

But here in Washington, things are different. I feel like I have a purpose in life, a reason to get up in the morning and make things happen. I also have a lot of free time on my hands that’s not filled with the need to try (and mostly fail) to make someone else happy.

I began acquiring decent power tools about a year ago — through purchases and hand-me-downs from friends — and have most of what I need to get projects done. And I have plenty of space; with my RV garage still mostly empty and my shop laid out to give me the best access to tools and workspace, I can tackle almost any sized project.

More Projects

As I work on my home to do all the wiring and plumbing — more on that in other blog posts — I take time out to get creative with “waste” materials.

Rolling Workbench
My first rolling workbench is a masterpiece of usefulness, built with a discarded crate and scrap lumber.

My favorite project to date is turning crates into rolling workbenches. There’s a business I pass when I go into town that gets engines and other parts on pallets and in crates. They discard the pallets and crates on a corner of their property near the road, under a sign that says “Free Wood.” If I’m driving by in my truck and there’s something worth taking, I pull over and load it up. (I actually keep work gloves in the truck just for this purpose.)

Small Rolling Workbench
I built this smaller rolling worktable yesterday. The only cost was the wheels, which I bought for about $10.

I picked up two large crates a few months back and turned one of them into a stand for my garden beehive. The other just sat in the dirt for a while, occasionally used as a work surface for cutting wood. When my building shell was finished, however, I got a brainstorm. Why not lay it on one side, add plywood shelves, and put wheels on the bottom? I had all the scrap wood and even the wheels that I needed. The resulting mobile workbench is perfect for woodworking projects and storing my power tools in a handy place. I even made a smaller version just yesterday.

Yes, I did mark the length of each piece on the end and sort them by size. That makes it extremely quick and easy to find just the piece I need.

Because I’m such a scavenger and because I told the builder to leave behind any scrap wood, I needed a place to store the useable pieces. That meant a sort of woodshed. I built one out of pallets (again), scrap lumber, and leftover metal from my building. The result is a 4 x 10 sort of lean-to with shelves that keeps the lumber out of the rain and snow. And yes, I filled it almost immediately — it’s extremely handy to be able to quickly find exactly the piece of lumber I need for other projects. Best of all, it matches my building so it isn’t an eyesore from the road (which it faces).

I’m also working on glass projects, although I don’t have any photos yet. I start with discarded wine bottles which, because of the sheer number of local wineries, I can get in any number I need. I’ll be melting down glass rings in a kiln for use in wind chimes. And I’ve also been cutting the bottles in half and finishing off the cut edges to make drinking glasses and vases. This is time-consuming, tedious work that I’m not exactly excited about doing. But the results are impressive. I expect to make an entire set of drinking glasses for my new home out of wine bottles. I’d also like to melt small glass pieces in a kiln to make jewelry; we’ll see where I go with that.

Creativity Can Be Rewarding

I can’t tell you how proud I am of these silly little projects. Seeing waste turned into something truly useful that makes my life better or easier is extremely rewarding. Knowing that I’m the one who thought up the design and executed it makes it even better.

What have you upcycled lately? Use the comments to brag about it!

Writing Tips: Soaking Up Creative Energy

What is it and how can I tap into it?

The other day, I posted a blog entry about distractions. In it, I shared an exchange between me and one of my Twitter friends. He’d tweeted that the coffee shop he was trying to write in was distracting. When I asked why he’d try to write there, he said the place had “creative energy.”

On “Creative Energy”

I should start out by saying that I don’t really believe in “energy” as the term is used by New Age folks. I’m a skeptic about most things and the older I get, the more skeptical I get. So if he was referring to some kind of weird, new age “energy” fields — like the vortexes supposedly in Sedona — he completely lost me (and much of my respect).

But I don’t think he meant it that way. (At least I hope not.) I think he meant something I do believe in and understand.

Did you ever go someplace or do something or read something or see something that made you feel almost feverish about writing (or painting or doing something else creative)? It’s as if this place or thing gave you a poke with a creative juice taser. After (or during) the experience, you must create. You’re driven to create.

I really can’t describe it any better than that.

On WritingThis happens to me once in a while. Stephen King’s book, On Writing, made me feel like this. Although I couldn’t put the book down, I also couldn’t wait to get back to my novel in progress the whole time I was reading it. (And no, I’m not a big Stephen King fan.)

I’ve also felt this way other times. It’s a great feeling. It reminds me of why I wanted to be a writer.

It’s frustrating, too, because when it hits, I’m not always prepared to drop everything and get to work. Sometimes, it hits when I’m traveling on vacation or for business and I simply can’t make the workplace I need to get the words out. Or by the time I can, I’m too exhausted by the day’s activities and can only sleep.

I think my Twitter friend was referring to this feeling. I think he feels this way in the coffee shop he tweeted to us about, or in other places like it with “creative energy.”

Soak it Up!

I don’t think that places with creative energy are the best places to write if they’re also filled with distractions. But that certainly doesn’t mean a creative person should avoid them. Instead, why not use them as a place to soak up that energy?

Take my Twitter friend’s coffee shop example. How could you tap into the creative energy you might feel in a place like that?

Sit down with your coffee at a corner table, facing the room. Have your journal open and your pen handy. Take notes about what you see and hear. The woman with blue streaks in her hair is carrying a molecular biology text book. That guy’s accent is weird, like a cross between Australia and New Jersey. Those two women are talking about the guy sitting in the opposite corner, staring into space. There’s a crack in the ceiling that looks as if it might have been dripping last week. The smell of coffee is strong in the air. A song you haven’t heard in years has just come on over the speakers. It reminds you of the road trip you took during college.

Any of these people can be characters in a book or screenplay. The things they talk about can be ideas for articles or nonfiction works. What’s going on around you can trigger ideas that can get your creative juices flowing and help you break the writer’s block that may have sent you to the coffee shop in the first place.

But not if you try to build your workplace among these distractions by keeping your eyes on your laptop or notepad and earphones in your ears — which is what my Twitter friend was apparently trying to do.

Work in your workplace. Soak up the creative energy of other places by actively paying attention to it when you find it.

There’s More than One Work Mode

For a writer, there’s more than one way to work.

Sure, you can go into your distraction-free working place, as I discussed in my earlier post, focus on your writing, and churn out the words. That’s one work mode. The one that actually produces finished (or nearly finished) text.

But you may need to do things that generate the ideas and get you fired up about writing. If going to a coffee shop with “creative energy” does that for you, it’s an important part of your writing routine. I might think of it as the “pre-work” mode. And for folks who write fiction, there’s nothing better than an hour or so of people watching with your journal nearby to get those creative juices flowing.

And people watching isn’t the only pre-work you can do. Take a walk in the park and jot down notes about what you see. What’s the weather like? What does it smell like? What do you hear? Go to the supermarket at a weird off-hour. What’s it like? Hang around outside an office or retail space before it opens or as its closing. What’s going on? Think about the scenes in your work-in-progress and go to places like them to get the real-life scoop of what they’re all about.

Pay attention! You’ll be amazed by what you come away with.

Remember: Characters, dialog, and plot are only three components of fiction. Scene is another. Doing your homework can help you write about realistic scenes.

As for journals…well, I need cover the importance of those in another post.