Why do I create?
I love making junk into useful and/or beautiful products.
I also love teaching others how to find their inner creative.
Recycling lights me up; it makes me feel I’m carrying on my family’s heritage of frugality, ingenuity and straight up pioneer spirit. This all generates passion in me by giving people a piece of my heART. I’m doing my best to enrich peoples’ lives through creativity AND I’m doing my part to save the environment.
I feel like it’s important to share this with y’all because in the midst of weeks of introspection, I really figured out some important stuff about myself, and I guess if you don’t care about that, well, ok, fair enough, but I also have followers who like to know what’s happenin’ in m’world and what makes my junk machine tick. I have a lot of new followers, and I figure these recollections might be interesting for new and old followers alike.
I started Junkyard Farmgirl in the summer of 2011. I was row-crop farming full-time, covering about 950 acres. My oldest daughter, Creek, was about 8 months old.
I had all sorts of rusty junk on the farm, and I wanted to use it, so I welded up flowers out of it and started selling it. I really enjoyed taking junk and castoffs and turning them into something useful and beautiful. It was a welcome creative outlet after weeks of sitting in a tractor seat while planting the fields. I sold my metal flowers, roosters, owls, and other art at local events like the Lamar Fair and Farmgirl Fest.
Before I knew it, I was hoarding junk art and flea market magazines, and when I was working ground or planting crops, I’d set the auto-steer on the tractor and thumb through all sorts of pages, and while cultivating the soil, I was also cultivating my mind’s ability to see uses for stuff that was just junk. In my spare time, when I wasn’t farming, I was either welding junk art in the old machine shed or digging through somebody’s junk pile.
My love for turning junk into useful and beautiful things comes from a yearning to recycle. I lived in Memphis TN for 5 years between college and moving back to the farm. When I lived in Memphis, I recycled a lot and minimized a lot of the trash we were sending to the landfill. It really annoyed my roommate that we had all those plastic bins in the kitchen, until she realized about a month in, we were only throwing away about 3/4 of a bag of trash each week, compared to 5-6 bags before; the rest was all going to the recycling center. When I moved back here to Missouri, I really wanted to start a recycling biz, but the attitude toward recycling here is not enthusiastic; in the city, recycling is part of your monthly utility bill, you see, something that wasn’t an option. Outside of the city, no one wants to voluntarily pay for someone else to perform that service. Upcycling, repurposing and teaching others how to do it is a way to scratch that itch and save local items from the landfill.
Recycling really lights me up, so to speak. I’m happiest when I’ve turned some wore out old cog into a pretty little flower that’ll never die. My grandparents grew up in the Great Depression. My Grandpa Moore would make me toys from things like a little tractor made from old thread spools and a rubber band, a yoyo from a piece of thread and a button, and other things like that. They had to make do with what they had, and that quality of being able to turn one thing into something else was passed down to me.
My dad was always fabricating his own pieces of machinery on the farm when I was growing up. He had a scrap pile that was off-limits from sending to the scrapyard: stuff that he thought would be good for patching this if it broke or making into that. I remember building my own little “barnyards,” as I called them…taking little pieces of junk I had unearthed from the machine shed scrap pile, or to Mom’s chagrin, dug up out of the dirt floor of the ancient garage (there was ALL SORTS of metal treasures buried in the dirt in there), and I would construct little farmsteads out of them. I’m sure it looked like junk to anyone else, but I most usually had myself a barn, a windmill and a functional chicken coop there, and I would use my little John Deere miniature tractors and implements to work up the dirt around my barnyard. I always got in trouble for leaving that stuff lying around. It makes me laugh now, how well I was foretelling my own future.
So, I feel like upcycling, fabricating and creating are part of my family heritage. It’s like farming. It’s in my blood.
It’s important to carry on this part of my heritage; I want my kids to pick up on this, to find usefulness and delight in working with their hands, to find their own niche in the industry. Because it IS an industry. People love unique things that are not native to the purpose that we establish for them. I think it’s important to inspire kids and teach them to do what we’re doing and pass down traditions of reusing and recycling instead of buying things new. I love having kids’ workshops in my studio; they are so much fun to create with because they don’t have the inhibitions that adults do, they don’t know the ‘rules’ of ‘normalcy’ that adhere to the adult brain and block the formation of brillliant ideas.
A scripture in Proverbs I have always liked is “She works with her hands in delight.” I had never read the actual passage in the Bible until the day of our family’s homeschool presentation last fall. In preparation for our presentation, I jotted some notes down on what I thought it meant. ‘I serve others. My family. My friends. My customers. It makes me happy to share my food, my art, and making things for others. I make people well when they are sick. I share health. I make gifts rather than buy them. It means more to me, even if it does not mean the same to them, to make it with my hands and weave my own thought, love and prayer into the item. I want my kids to live this life and feel the satisfaction of it.’
I sat down in the fellowship hall before our family presentation and opened to the actual passage in the Bible. It brought me to tears. It was truly amazing. A total God moment. That scripture echoed every word I had written in my own hand and added to how I felt in my heart, the person that I already am and who I strive to be. It encompasses me and what I stand for and what I want for my children.
Handmade items generate passion in me because when someone buys or receives something I created, they are getting a piece of my heart. A meaningful, heartfelt item with careful thought and prayer woven into it.
My business gives me an avenue to help bring out the creativity in “uncrafty” people. The ones who come into my DIY workshops saying apologetically “I’m really not crafty. I am NOT creative. You’re going to have to help me a lot.” Those people always leave with THE COOLEST projects. I don’t tell them what to do. I merely help them figure out what they want to do and delve into the side of their brain that they’re just not used to tapping into. I get them started, present them some options, then I give them space to let their mind run wild. My store is the place to do that, to be wild and create something special.
I also give people memories. When someone brings their granny’s quilt into the shop and we put it behind a window with a “Life is like a quilt” poem, that project brings that quilt OUT of the hope chest and puts it on their wall, which allows them to access those memories of granny’s cookies, or her unique scent, much more freely than before. They don’t have to open the hope chest to feel it. It’s right there on their wall.
When someone finds a special item in my studio or in my booth at a junk show, an item that takes them back to a happy place in their life, it’s so rewarding. The man who found a drawer pull in my rummage bin at Vintage Market Days…he had designed that pull in his uncle’s cabinet shop in 1978. He went to work there straight out of engineering school and It was the very first piece of furniture hardware he ever designed and created a mold for. I watched that guy walk away with the drawer pull in his hand. He looked at it, tossed it in the air, caught it, and stuck it down in his pocket, still clutching it in his hand. He stopped by on his way out and said it was the best dollar he had spent all day, and it was worth every penny of the show admission to have found it.
I follow two big junk shows faithfully; I’ve only missed a couple shows since I started doing them in 2012. You can always find me set up at 2 Friend & Junk (held at several locations around the Mid-West, www.2friendsandjunk.com) and at The Junk Ranch (Prairie Grove, AR, www.thejunkranch.net).
I missed a show at the Junk Ranch a few days before the birth of my youngest daughter Cale, and I missed a couple shows during my last year farming crops. I wanted to savor my last harvest. But now the shows are a huge part of our lives. Part of my motivation in homeschooling is that I want my kids with me when we go to shows. The girls love the shows, and the other vendors and the event promoters adore them, like, they’re little celebrities.
Our booths are kinda magical. I want people to walk into our booth and say “Wow.” And they do. I pack every crack in the booth with product. There’s a lot to see. It’s normal for folks to spend a lot of time in our space, and they usually come back to go through it again before they are done at the show. We bring raw junk and finished art, so there’s cubbies of interesting junk to dig through and walls full of finished product to peruse.
An ultimate dream or ours is to travel the country from show to show, junkin’, creatin’, and inspiring as we go. But the studio will always be home base.
My studio is full of things that transport you; it’s a place for people to escape to creativity. Like my old tractor cluttered up with magazines about junk art and flea market style, it’s a place to cultivate your mind to do things you didn’t know you could. A place to be wild, to create. I’m here to create things for other people that have meaning and to inspire others to use junk to let their mind go wild and create something with heart and soul and prayer intertwined, which in turn makes them feel amazing. That is my purpose.
Do you need a gift for your favorite junkin’ buddy? Check out this cute journal…tuck it in a basket of goodies for her birthday or just because! Affiliate link: https://amzn.to/2tpvYym