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I hear everyone saying, "I’m no artist, and I have no time to do these things". Being a crafter means a lot of things, only one of which involves any artistic ability like drawing or sketching. And besides that, I’m convinced that if you love something enough, and learn how to look at it, you can duplicate it -- at least to a degree. I’m no Renoir, and I used to tell everyone that I couldn’t even draw a stick person. But you know, I can draw one if I have one to look at, or trace over. I’ll bet you can too.

Sometimes you just have to know where to look to be inspired enough to try something that could make someone’s holiday special. Have you ever wandered through a craft store? I wandered recently - for some inspiration - you know, to get the creative juices flowing. I didn’t bother with the small stores that have high prices and not much in the way of craft supplies. I went to a full-fledged craft warehouse - one of those huge ones that has a little of everything and a lot of everything else. Sure, they have classes and instructors on hand if you’re interested, but I just wandered around looking at things.

As predicted, I was not only inspired, but somewhat overwhelmed. The quantities of projects were incredible, with varying skill levels required! I don’t crochet, so I skipped the yarn. I don’t do embroidery, so I quickly eliminated that section, but I found myself drawn to the floral area, and then to the paint section. Being somewhat of a clothes hound, I had to look through the various shirts, vests, canvas totes, and aprons there, and I found myself overloading on ideas.

I like to paint. I’m not great at it, I just like it. And there aren’t too many days that slip by without me having a paint brush in my hand. Paint is friendly, cheap and makes a big impression. Besides that, paint can be put on just about anything as long as you buy the right paint for the surface you want to put it on. You can paint on shirts, vests, aprons, and towels. And even if you are not artistic, you can purchase stencils of virtually any subject matter and use them on the fabric!

While wandering the craft aisles, I stumbled upon this rather large shopping bag that just screamed someone’s name to me. I had to buy it along with the fabric paint and a stencil to create a personalized gift. (No, I’m not saying who it’s for -- they’re probably, at least they’d better be reading this.) There’s one gift down.

Then I found the tile aisle. There were pre-made wooden frames for holding tiles in place and numbered tiles in various styles. (Do you know of anyone who would like a new address marker for the outside of their house?) All you need to complete that project is some adhesive caulking that holds the numbered tiles together, and some paint for the frame. There were also plain white tiles with nothing on them. I realized I had some of those same tiles left over from my kitchen counter. There, next to the tiles -- peel and stick cork backing for the tiles! Surely you know what I thought of -- painted, one of a kind tiles that could be used as a trivet or propped on an easel as art! (I bought the backs.)

That person the shopping bag was perfect for told me something that I’ve never forgotten. That is: ‘If you know where to look, you don’t always have to know what you’re looking for’. She’s one of the best shoppers I have ever known. By this time of the year, her Christmas shopping is 98% done - but I love her anyway. She makes herself available for the "potential" gift throughout the year, and finds it.

Amazing things happen when we make ourselves available. That’s how creative people operate -- not so structured or planned, just available. You’d be surprised how much you can learn and how much fun you have at the same time.

I have another friend who sees the beauty in the tiniest seashell. She walks along the beach almost every day and collects "shells" to create beautiful, artful, one-of-a-kind pieces. Then she takes them home, cleans and sterilizes them and then weaves them into magical art forms. She knows all the shells by type, and combines them in artistic fashion to create no less than masterpieces. Sure, she does shell wreaths -- lots of crafters do that -- but she also decorates lamp bases, candle holders, mirrors and Christmas ornaments - just to name a few! When I saw her work, I asked her if she sold her creations. She blushed a little and said, "Well, sure -- if someone wants them -- I sell them". I was blown away. This is not your normal beach souvenir -- this is art!

Every year I try to think of something that I can easily create for my closest friends. For those of you who were with me last year, you know all about how to make a garlic baker. For those new friends who haven’t heard how easy this one is, check out These are a few of my you can do things in the archives. This year I’m torn between stamping and painting, so maybe I’ll do a little of each. But whatever it ends up being, it’ll be special because it was handmade, hand-designed, and hand-picked for those people.

Think handmade is less than elegant? Crafting is not all construction paper and glue you know. It’s time and thought and energy and creativity all wrapped up together. And in most cases, it’s love. So whether it’s stained glass, a new house number, a garlic baker, or a candlestick maker, know it’s refined and genteel in a way that matters.

For those of you who don’t make it to the craft’s store this season -- at least in time to be inspired AND get the project done -- stroll through the store anyway. You’ll find some bargains on things like ribbon, wreaths and floral picks. So even though the most serious crafters start Christmas in July, you’ll benefit from experiencing all the creativity that’s out there. You may even decide to buy a brush or two, a stencil or a rubber stamp. If you leave the store empty handed, that’s ok too. At the very least, you can appreciate what crafters do and what they do it with -- and a little knowledge can go a long way. Who knows? You might receive a handmade, hand-designed and hand-picked gift, and now you’ll know how special you are to that someone who created it just for you.

DÉCOR DATA: NEWS YOU CAN USE
    Everyone asks what’s hot and what’s not. Scary. Colors, styles, attitudes all revolve -- what’s "in" today, may be "out" tomorrow, so it’s best to avoid decorating decisions based upon trends. Interiors today are approached from the point of adding only the things that are necessary, then stopping. To give you an example, 10 years ago a window would have had a valance, an under-curtain, a heavy side panel, and probably a shade underneath it all. Today, designers are more pragmatic, using shades or shutters for light control and lightly dressing the window with softer fabrics. This works for every style, from contemporary to country, and it will work for your style too.

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