The Artful Krista

I’ve been suffering from a disease I like to call blankwallitis.  As a novice DIYer, every single blank wall seems to be taunting me, waiting for a picture, poster, shelf, or piece of art to be hung.  Our guest room/office has been looking a little bare for the past three years that we’ve been living here, so I thought that would be a good space to start.

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I have a lot of art.  This is just a sampling of the Ikea prints I bought on a whim. (How can you beat a price of $10 for five prints?  You can’t.)  I’ve been hoarding postcards, colored paper, fabric, and even customized art for years since we’ve been living here.  While I love the colors and the fact that they’re adorable abstract designs of woodland mammals, none of these small postcards really said “focal point of the room” to me.  So out came the big guns.

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For our wedding, we received an amazing print from a friend that explains our relationship perfectly.  Engineering: where the man tells his wife he loves her by building it out of blocks.  I tried to seek out art that would compliment the engineering print, coupled with this awesome poster that I bought from The Wire Poster Project.   For all my Wire fans out there, you’ll recognize this quote from Omar.  All proceeds from this poster design company go to the Baltimore Urban Debate League, so it’s a really awesome business with a social cause.  Lastly, based on the orange and yellow color scheme, I found a fun New York City print (close to our hearts!) on Etsy from Albie Designs which brought all the colors together.

I still wasn’t convinced that these three pieces meshed well together (Clueless, anyone?). I realized it was time to bring all of my whimsical art purchases together.  After playing around, I came up with this arrangement – and don’t worry, Omar’s wisdom will find its place somewhere.

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I actually cut up a blank, chevron-printed card from the clearance bin at Michaels and framed it to bring all the colors together.  I also couldn’t resist the adorable Ikea bunny print.  When it came time to hang the art above our couch, I cut pieces of paper in the shapes of each frame and hung them, centered over the couch.  Enter Dan’s quip: “This means we can never move the couch.”

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After a few test runs, we knew this was the right fit.  Just imagining guests staying over, even if we change the couch into a real guest bed, made me giddy.  I just love adding some fun into a room.  The smallest touch can make a big difference.  Just call me the Artful Krista.

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The Styrofoam Cup: Reflections from Leaders Eat Last

Last week, I was at home while my students ran an event on campus.  I had spent a significant amount of time dedicated to my marketing committee, both in and outside of work hours, discussing with them how to promote this event through social media.  After the event ended, I noticed that social media was silent: they had forgotten to make their posts, a simple task that I had invested my time and energy into ensuring would happen.  I took matters into my own hands and made the posts myself, typing furiously on my bed at 10pm.  My frustration mounted, my chest tightened, and I spent the next day venting to anyone who would listen.  I became all-consumed with my work and my event.

Shortly after the Social Media Crisis of 2014, I was in the process of live-tweeting my current read, Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek.  I came across a story about a former Under Secretary of Defense who spoke at a large conference.  The former Under Secretary revealed that the previous year, when he was still in office, was flown to the conference in business class, escorted to his hotel room, and treated to a cup of coffee in a ceramic mug.  When he no longer held the position, he flew to the conference in coach, drove himself to the hotel, and poured himself coffee into a styrofoam cup.  Then came the part of the story that just jumped off the page and slapped me in the face.

“‘It occurs to me,’ he continued, ‘the ceramic cup they gave me last year…it was never meant for me at all. It was meant for the position I held. I deserve a styrofoam cup. This is the most important lesson I can impart to all of you,’ he offered. ‘All the perks, all the benefits and advantages you may get for the rank or position you hold, they aren’t meant for you. They are meant for the role you fill. And when you leave your role, which you eventually will, they will give the ceramic cup to the person who replaces you. Because you only ever deserved a styrofoam cup.”

At work, I’ve been called a “woman on a mission”, so mired in details that I’ve missed out on meaningful moments with students.  I’ve neglected doctor’s appointments, given myself anxiety (see above chest pains), and snapped at countless friends/family members over my job, and for what?  The former Under Secretary is right: whether we want to admit it or not, we are all replaceable.  We all deserve styrofoam cups.  I spend countless hours dwelling on the all-important community service event (granted, community service can have a great impact on students, as all of our work can have) without even regarding my own health or happiness.  Not only that, but I do my students a disservice as I toil away on tasks they could learn, generating a catering order or drafting a reflection workshop.

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As a student affairs professional, my goal is for my students to do amazing things for Community Service at Rutgers, not me.  It’s not my work and my event.  It’s their work, and they should celebrate their successes and analyze their failures (with my support).  My students are the ones who should be in the spotlight, giving amazing Ignite-style talks at conferences, being quoted in the campus newspaper, and drinking from their ceramic mugs.  It’s their precious and exploratory four years to pave their way into a career, not mine.

As one of my great friends put it, “If we’re doing our jobs right, no one will even know we are there.”  I tend to agree.  I’m shifting the spotlight over to them.  After all, I am only in the background watching them shine, drinking from a styrofoam cup.

Window Shopping

Ever the procrastinator, I’ve had a major DIY project brewing since spring break of 2012.  It all started when I was working on a house with 12 amazing students in Ansted, West Virginia on a service trip for Rutgers University Alternative Breaks.  Aren’t we a good looking group?

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While rebuilding, I came across a diamond in the rough that I had only previously seen on Pinterest: an old window.  If you’re a frequent pinner or DIY aficianado, you know what I’m talking about: repurposing an old window with fabric, colored paper, and photos to turn it into a gorgeous picture frame.  I was determined to take this baby home and turn it into a masterpiece, so I packed it up into our Suburban and brought it back to New Jersey.  Little did I know that this window would sit in my basement, untouched amidst hundreds of other wedding-related projects.

A year later, I finally brought the window out of hiding. I set it up in the garage on a jawhorse and used WD-40 to remove all the residue and dirt from the panes.  This took a lot more elbow grease than I was expecting (meaning: I need to work out more).  The window was already missing a piece of the pane, but I thought it added to the charm and rustic feeling of the project.

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Next, I ordered 8×10 photo prints to place inside each of the four intact panes.  I chose Mpix after reading reviews about their quality and price, but I’m sure that Snapfish or Shutterfly would work too.  Four large prints came out to $12 and I paired them with several 4×6 prints from the wedding to make a collage.

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 Dan and I also had to decide what kind of material we would use for the mats.  Fabric, cardstock, and linen paper were all options that came to mind.  Given that our wedding was nautical-themed, I came up with the idea to use cork as a mat for each photo.  I bought some 8 1/2×11 cork sheets from Michaels for 99 cents each and laid out a few options on the floor.

After unsuccessfully attempting to back the cork with cardboard we had lying around the house, we decided to use foam core ($4 from Michaels, with a 40% off coupon) as the backing behind the cork sheets.  After carefully measuring and re-measuring the space between each pane, we decided to use Elmer’s glue and a roller to adhere the cork sheets to the foam board.

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Next, we laid out the photos to be centered within each pane.  They needed to be centered on each cork sheet, but more importantly, they had to be centered within each pane itself.  So we would lift the frame over the foam core to check that our measurements were correct.  Here’s Dan laying out some of the photos.

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We soon realized that it was nearly impossible to accurately measure each pane separately, and we ended up having to scrap the entire project and start over.  Ahh, the life of a DIYer-in-training.  We carefully unpeeled all of the photos and Dan bought a full sheet of cork from Amazon for about $11.  This time, we only had to measure out the spacing of the photos and just adhered the entire cork sheet to the foam core board. Much better.  The photos were glued down smoothly as well. As for our finished product?  It’s mounted proudly above the fireplace.

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The window frame came in at about $33 for all the materials and photos, not including what we already owned.  Just call me the DIY Queen, with Dan as my loyal blacksmith (I’m only kidding, he did a LOT of the work on this project). The craftstravaganza was definitely worth it as we now have a one-of-a-kind focal point for our living room!