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Tin earrings saved my life

Sometimes the best crafty ideas come out of desperation. In my case, watercolor paper earrings were my salvation.

Back in the day, my husband and I scored $2,000 at our wedding dollar dance. For two blissfully in love, unemployed, wannabe artists, it may as well have been $2 million. We giggled in disbelief at our unexpected windfall as we neatly stacked the bills inside a wood cigar box. On a whim, we ditched our hometown of Phoenix for an indefinite romantic honeymoon in Tucson. Our goal was for him to perform music, and me to create artwork. Three months into our stay at the Maranatha Haven apartment complex, we turned the box upside and tapped it – just to verify that all funds had,
indeed, been depleted. Not happy news, considering we had just received a turn-off notice from the electric company. Between the two of us (soon-to-be-three), we scrounged up $20 and vowed to spin some gold. Fast.

We ventured to the craft store and examined the options and settled on a pad of watercolor paper, 4 bottles of craft paints, fish hook earrings and super glue. Always thinking about the presentation, we kissed the last $5 and spent it on a blank canvas to display the finished pieces.

My theory? Make a dozen earrings, hang them on the canvas and sell the entire batch to a boutique owner on city’s artsy 4th Avenue area. We sat at our tiny kitchen table, and grooved to Ziggy Marley on the boombox as we sketched, cut and painted through the night. In between bumping elbows and critiquing each other’s work, we prayed for these earrings to sell. We prayed so hard, in fact, that our eyes hurt from squinting.

The next morning we suited up and headed out to wheel and deal. However, the stores were a bust. Buyers deemed our Mexicali color palate blindingly bright, the concept of paper earrings a bit too innovative, or maybe they just didn’t want to invest in the whole tamale. Just like in the movies, we were in the middle of a drama-filled, hopeless situation, tears and all. But with one store left, we weren’t about to throw in the paint towel.

The crafty gods must have been smiling down on us. The owner of that last store found the idea of a canvas full of colorful earrings brilliant. There was one glitch. Because it was summer and we had walked so far, the varnish we used caused the earrings to melt into to the painted canvas, which was also varnished. Sweat began to race down my head as I watched the meticulous store owner rip apart the pieces that we had worked so hard on the evening before. She bought them, but only if we agreed to fix them. She kept her word and eventually placed a larger order. We had pulled it off.

That was 16 years ago, and my husband and I nod our heads and then wink when we think back to that time. Not only did we pay our light bill, we also planted the seeds of what would become a fruitful career in arts and crafts.

I love sharing this story because it’s our proof that even when you think you’ve reached the end of the line, whether financially or creatively, there is always room to push a little harder. Fancy tools, or expensive paints or papers aren’t necessary to carry out a decent plan. Even now, when our studio is stocked full of killer supplies, we force ourselves to look beyond the obvious for other sources that are clever and best of all – cheap.

Here are two ideas from those early days that always came in handy. One uses the inside of a disposable cookie sheet as a substitute for craft tin, and the other is the crafty recipe for those infamous paper earrings. Because we all have an electricity bill to pay, right?

New Year’s Eve Party Poppers

Thank you to NPR and James Garcia


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