Happy Cinco de Mayo! Mexico taught me this…
The central highlands of Mexico are some of my favorite places to be on Earth. (I haven’t been to ALL the places on Earth, but I’m pretty sure it would still be on top). The combinations of weathered raw materials, handcrafted everything, and bold colors and textures still inspire many of my designs. Stories are everywhere. In fact, one of them is story I tell as a pivotal moment in my early twenty-something life that rocked what I knew to be true about achievement, community, and self-sufficiency. Read it below amid a peppering of our Cinco de Mayo lunch table setting. Happy Cinco de Mayo!
I spent a quarter of my last year in college in Cuernavaca to assist our architecture department in building a kitchen for an elementary school in an ‘underprivileged’ community outside of town. As we worked with and spent time in the homes of this community, it became obvious that this town was rich in ways that were unfamiliar to me.
My American upbringing and education seemed to be one giant helping of the following message repeated over and over in different ways:
- You are here to express yourself as a unique individual.
- You are special and above average.
- You can be anything you want.
- You can and should achieve as much success as possible.
In this community, we are irritated with stagnant growth, frustrated that we are not receiving the support or resources we need due to our circumstances, or the government. Frustrated that we are not recognized for our obvious above average-ness. This community can be lonely and endlessly interested in what happens next. We are obsessed with our wins and others failures.
Contrast this with what I perceive as the Mexican message to their kids:
- You are an important and useful member of this community.
- You are, and always will be a loved and involved member of this family.
- You can and should learn lots of varied things that will bring you joy, and support your family and community.
In this community, the people make and do the things that their community needs. If there’s a gap, they fill it. For the most part, they don’t rely on anyone outside of their own community. This community is vibrant, connected, and really, really happy because their measure of success can be achieved now and for the rest of their lives.
One message prizes individuality, connects happiness with future success, and assumes that if you haven’t achieved what you want, you are not doing it right. The other message prizes connections and supports the idea that things are great now, if things get bad, we can figure it out together, and please pass the mole.
So, every Mexican celebration, I give thanks to one of the happiest, supportive, and inventive communities I know. Whenever I get frantic in pursuit of a dream, I am reminded that things are pretty great now. Ultimately, there is no need to push. There are people to be loved, and connections to be made and cherished, for a life of daily success. This week, success included lunch on my sister’s patio with some old and bold table decor.
New Perspectives and Long Car Rides/ Grateful
A new place, a change in routine, will inevitably wiggle your brain enough to gain some new perspective. Or rather, some old wisdom that you already know and need to be reminded.
This is happening today as I drive home from Thanksgiving in South East Washington with a too-big dog in my lap, and my sweetie pie driving, also lost in thought. Outside my window the scene is always changing: canyon, hills, shack tucked into a hillside, forest, river, pond dotted field. The east side of the state is a landscape that always seems thirsty, even in winter. The state is dissected by a mountain range. On the west is our home, squishy with rain and always alive, even in winter. This Thanksgiving had been one of smallness and simplicity. It was nice. Now, facing the mountains, I am thinking about the projects that need finishing; life and business always under construction. Up until this point, all that crazy thought had been still, just like this landscape of long, sweeping, shapes. And now trying to think of life on the other side of the mountains, the edges are blurry and pulled out.
It’s easy to get caught up in creating a certain kind of life and wonderful to find yourself in a new place, away from things that are familiar, dreaming of endless possibilities. It reminds me that lives can be made over in a hundred different ways. In a place where there are less edges, it’s comforting to know that the edges of the path I think I’m on are not so distinct.
taxes, payroll, grassland
The edges of this landscape are connected, and fuzzy. They’re not really edges at all. Not like the hard edges of a thousand things in a cluttered workshop. The sky doesn’t really break and suddenly become trees, the east doesn’t break and become west. It’s a great reminder, on a day for gratefulness, to let it all seep in and blur the edges; and when we lift our head up, to reach back out.
Salvage and Survival
This morning I cautiously popped my head out of my sliding front door before heading out. Not to see if it is raining, no. To size up the perils of my backyard and what lies beyond. Birds chirping, check. Appropriate level of street noise, check. Piles of leftover construction wood- unkempt, but in an organized sort of mess that would make sense to only me and my sweetie. No OCD intruder has come in the night to organize our yard. Wood, Check. On the way to the car, I suspiciously eyeball the people at the bus stop before jumping in the safety of my Korean hotrod (it’s actually closer to a old boot on wheels.)
Why am I acting like a freak? No, we haven’t been burgled. I stayed up all night reading the Hunger Games and now I’m obsessed. Tired and hungry, too. That just makes it all the better to feel like I’m on some sort of quest. A bird flies into the understory and I think, “Ya, you better get out of here… or I’ll eat you.”
I don’t read fiction often because of the life disrupting effects. Not only have I not eaten, slept, or completed any urgent work, this morning I have an overwhelming need to go to the metal scrap yard. Work will have to wait again. On the drive down, each person I pass is a competitor, and I throw them a glance as my Korean hot rod passes them at a cautiously fast but clearly superior speed. Breakin’ the rules. Stickin’ to the… well, I guess I don’t really have a point in passing everyone. To win, I guess.
I haven’t been to Pac Iron since I was a sculpture student in college and now I have a hankering to see what types of junk can be remade into cool stuff. I need fodder for a post but more importantly, I can’t help but think this place would be like a treasure world for a survivalist. So I’m off to Pacific Iron and Metal.
A whole bin of machine screws. Like candy.
Hefty sheet metal- protects from all sorts of elements including poison fog.
These are cool. I almost brought some home, but the face on the container was a little scary.
Nothing jumped out at me to take home and remake, though I may go back for some of these chains for a chandelier project we’ve got coming up at Lola Floral (stay tuned for that!).
I had forgotten how much I like the smell of burnt metal, but overall I was underwhelmed. I remember this place having a lot more cool junk- from boats and stuff. But then it hit me. Of course. The rebellion. It’s all being melted down to support the rebellion.
And since I didn’t find something I wanted to remake into something else, here are some great uses of repurposed materials from the nation’s rebels.
Wishing you all a mental vacation and some salvage inspiration.
Romance Now, Dammit!
It has come to my attention that I might not be romantic. At least that’s the feeling I get as I am introduced to event industry folks as a floral designer. The gist of what I hear as they describe me, in my role, is as follows:
Them: “This is Emily of Lola Event Floral & Design. Their designs have this great earthy, organic, handmade element.”
Them: “This is Emily Ellen. She does these amazing sculptural creations.”
Them: “This is Emily. She does these bold, modern arrangements with dramatic shapes.”
Them: “This is Emily. Her designs club you over the head and drag you by your hair back to her creepy plant cave.”
Them: “This is Emily. She stole my socks.”
Me: “Well, why did you leave them by my croissant?”
Well, I’ll have you know, we are planning a little marketing photo shoot this weekend. It’s gonna be romantic. It HAS to be romantic. All the other participants’ work ooze romance.
Vintage Ambiance? Hello!? The bones of romance.
Alante Photography? Capturers of wistful glances.
Victoria’s Couture Bridal? Anybody who makes dresses this exquisite and customized can only be of the Fairy Godmother variety.
Kerry Efendi? A treasure maker.
Lilli-Pilli Patisserie? Dreams to eat.
Oasis- Herban Feast? Earthy wonderland.
Mollie McGrath of Pinup Salon: Expert of dewy skin, touchable hair, and kissable lips.
Until recently, I thought, “Ya, no problem. Weighty, drippy pieces, graceful sweeps, soft textures, fluffy something, soft lighting. Got it.”
Then, something started happening. My thought process went a little something like this…
“Well this is all too much texture.” I thought, “How is anyone s’posed to see the shape? It’s so blobby? The flowers look like a junior high cheerleader pyramid. That’s it. Cut out the flowers- just grasses with some flowering branches. Readable. But that’s not country estate in Northern France romantic. (sigh) What mademoiselle wants a load of grass and sticks on her table…?”
“Hmmm. Is there a way to incorporate rocks? Oooh, a pile of jagged rocks in a dark corner with desaturated blue light and a piece of driftwood holding one of Vintage Ambiance’s candelabras… Moody.”
“Bah! Moody does not equal romance.”
“I couldn’t get peonies in the right color. Can I even have romance without peonies? What are romantic flowers.”
“Gasp. The colors. All muted tones. Without the contrast, without the massing, won’t they all resemble the approximate color of undercooked pork?! This is a mess, what am I doing? Can one who drops food on herself daily truly be responsible for creating a romantic arrangement?“
Why is suddenly trying to be romantic so damn strange? After all, I have done this before.
I’ve temporarily regained composure. As for romance, we shall see. I’m sticking with my original recipe for romance: graceful shapes, naturally weighted elements, effortlessness, abundance. I’ll keep you updated from the shoot.
How to Make Room for More Food.
There seems to be one Thanksgiving tradition that every family I’ve ever known shares in common. The Thanksgiving walk-about. For some, it could be a way to clear a house made over-hot by all the cooking and lounging bodies. It could be because nobody could stand another game of UNO. For me, its purpose is to guarantee that the ingested mounds of deviled eggs, squash thinga-ma-jig yummies, and spinach dip have not compromised my stomach’s turkey-relish-candied yam holding capacity. Often, several walk-abouts are necessary, including one in between Thanksgiving dinner and Thanksgiving dessert.
It helps when your walk-about is around a picturesque mountain river.
Here’s a photographic account… Also, it’s also kind of a study of steel blue, rust, and desaturated orange colors in nature.