December 31, 2013

A Wrap-Up for the Year 2013

This was probably the craziest year of my life for so many different reasons. 
Back in November of 2012 I had quit my job, trying to get away from the stress of it all, with a clear plan to start my own creative business. My boyfriend had received a wonderful new job offer to draw for an educational Winnipeg-based comic book, and in the summer we had just purchased our new home. We already had so much on our plates, but figuring out my time off would be better in the long run was such a relief to me. I could fix up our new house, where previously we were both always at work. But best of all I could start working on my own dream of building myself a little business. I didn't know where it would take me, and honestly I wasn't expecting much, but having the freedom to work on something I loved was so gratifying. 

In February I got a massive wake up call in my life. I spent some time in the hospital and then again in April. At that point I realized I had a medical issue that wasn't just going to go away on it's own. I don't talk about it often, but in my real life, it's a daily struggle. I'm not ashamed of it, because it's what I have, and the real problem is not to wish it away, but to overcome it or learn to live with it. It's kind of a mystery, but I have very severe, violent IBS, which without my medication, I truly would not have survived. Imagine your worst flu, but it happening almost every day for an entire year.

It came on suddenly and has effected so much of my life. Every day is different. A lot of my time is spent in bed, sleeping and waiting for the dizziness and nausea to leave. It's a very lonely problem, as it's something that's happening inside my body and you couldn't possibly imagine every aspect of the discomfort it brings if you're not experiencing it yourself. I've gotten a lot of inspiration from reading message boards of other people in the same situation as me. The reason I'm not afraid to share this is there are so many people out there with this exact problem that feel so alone and helpless. It has taken up a whole year of my life and will continue to take up more. It seems like it wouldn't be as awful as it is, but I've never been so interested in how the human body functions as right now, just because of all the symptoms and abnormal things my body is doing just as a result of one problem. Health is an incredible thing, and you should never take it for granted. I know that now.

I think the worst part about it is how much it affects my entire body, including my mind. I spend a lot of time detached from my life and work. The hardest thing is that I feel I am always operating on low-speed, and a lot more could get done if I were healthy enough. Every day I tell myself that first and foremost I am a creative person. I have so much to offer in my life. I have so much I want to build and draw and share, that trying to get my work out there is top priority for me always. It was at the beginning of the year, and it's all the more true now. 

I couldn't predict I would get sick this year, but I also couldn't have predicted my one business would mould itself into two. This Fall I opened my Vintage Section in my Etsy shop. It was honestly the best thing I could've done this year. I've hunted and found the most incredible things that I never would've guessed would be in my possession. I've found things Ive kept for myself, and things I was just satisfied with holding for a while and letting go in my shop. Just coming in contact with some of these lovely treasures has made my entire year. Next to "meeting" all these lovely items, my shops (and this blog) have opened up my life to meeting new people. I've come in contact with some talented and creative people through my work that only inspire me more to keep going. It's a real gift to realize people you have never met are waiting for you to do more. 

This year I have sold my artwork all around Canada and the United States. One of my favourite originals that I had completed in high school, was purchased in New York this Summer. Shipping that one off was bittersweet, but I'm glad it made it's way to such a special new place. I've made incredible customers with my vintage shop also, who are very patient with me as I add new things and contact me through all my social media outlets with questions and comments. (I love being a part of your buying process and hearing what you are going to do with your new items, so thanks so much for including me and making it all the more personal! It's the closest thing to owning a physical store and I treasure it.)

This winter I made things truly complicated when I got a "real" job again. I found my place again in the beauty industry, working part time at a new store in a better location. Balancing everything together has been a disaster and times, but a real gift. On a weekly basis I get to do everything I love. 

This year has had so many ups and downs and as I write this it seems so surreal that I actually did all this in one year. In my mind I had labelled 2013 as kind of a write-off year. I know I have so much to do still and so much room to grow. I only hope 2014 is just as eventful. All I know is I couldn't have gotten this far without my friends and family. They didn't always understand what I was going through, but they stood by me. And to my boyfriend, who took care of me all year, when all I could do was lay there on the couch for months on end, I wouldn't have made it without him. He listens to me complain and talks me through the rough times. He buys me endless amounts of Gravol and ginger ale, and helps me get all my orders shipped on time. And best of all, he's the first to find the positive in everything. 

Sorry for the novel, but we are talking about a whole year here. I can't believe this year is over already. I feel like I've slept it all away, but when I look at everything I've done, I clearly had some time in between to make this all happen. Thanks for sticking by me this year, stopping by for a read, or purchasing from my shops. You've made this year happen for me and I'm so thankful. I hope 2014 brings you good luck, health and all the happiness you deserve. 

So much love,

Marissa xo

December 29, 2013

Christmas 2013

Christmas went by too fast this year. I've been so busy, and we truly haven't even spent a whole lot of time at our own home. It was a real go-between for all our get-togethers and holiday hangouts this year. Next year I plan to spend more time at home, and maybe try hosting our own party here. (We'll just see what my tiny 1950s kitchen will allow.) Anyway, I wanted to show you what we've been up to this year at the Howes-Tien household.
This year I decorated three trees! Well I normally do, but this year Wai helped me put ours up, which was really special. The top left is our tree of course. A purchase I made this Fall off Etsy, and I couldn't be more pleased with it. The right is my Mom's tree. I decorated this baby all by myself this year! Below is my Dad's tree. I couldn't pass up a photo of this cozy situation right here. I could cuddle up in front of that fireplace forever!
I've always had a green tree growing up, but because our cat Royal chewed our tree lights to bits last year and we had a dark tree all holiday long, I wanted to opt for something different and without lights. It took some getting used to but our first year with an aluminum tree was a real success! Not that I don't miss our old standard tree!

Bringing colour and whimsy into our home has been a goal since we moved in. Wai and I have very different styles, but we were both interested in bringing a fun and not-so-serious look to our home. That goes for Christmas too. We've been so lucky to be gifted incredible vintage christmas decorations from my Mom and Grandma. Most of our things are incredibly retro-looking, so we aimed to incorporate more pastel ornaments this year. With our home looking more and more like a 1950s/60s dollhouse every day, I wanted our house to keep its vintage fantasy look all throughout the holidays!
Last year I made this cone christmas tree. It's not quite finished and I didn't get around to completing it this year either. A definite goal for next year!

This year my mom let me take home a bunch of old ornaments I always coveted growing up. It always amazes me how careful we were around all the old christmas decorations as little kids. But I shudder when I think of the fragile mercury glass ones we broke by accident, or the ones that were swiped off the tree by the dog's tail; smashed in pieces all over the floor. 
She also found me some gorgeous ornaments this summer that were exactly right for my new tree this year! If you don't know already, she's my thrifting partner-in-crime. We constantly teach each other everything we know about antiquing and vintage-hunting. We both have such different styles, which helps us cover off a huge range of knowledge. I probably wouldn't love vintage this much if it weren't for her instilling it in me from a young age! With her new ornaments and some cute wooden ones I found at a Wisconsin garage sale, all for 25 cents in September, I decorated our tree and home in a whole new way this Christmas.
This year I was very aware of how dark our house was. Winnipeg winters are very low-light and can be quite depressing at times. To bring some much needed brightness to our home, I decided to open up our front curtains for Christmas. The cats sure agreed that it was a great idea!

This year I took part in the GoodyGoodyGiftSwap, and this was the card I made for my swap mate. I would definitely do it again next year, because it was loads of fun. The gift I received was 
over-the-top adorable! I got a pair of screw-back rhinestone earrings and long glittery-gold gloves with pearl buttons. How cute! I also took the plunge to cut off my long, dark hair to my shoulders and start bleaching it black slowly to my natural hair colour. Blonde, here we come!

Christmas is also always jammed with parties for one more reason - my little sister's birthday. She turned 22 this year! 
For us, the parties are essentially over, but I know lots of you are still celebrating away. Happy holidays to you, your family and friends. I hope Christmas 2013 was a wonderful and magical time for you and it continues on into the new year!


Marissa xo

December 20, 2013

My 2013 Holiday Wish List

Some truly incredible gift ideas for me, if the sky were the limit!
Apparently I have more interest in home decor than anything else...

What's on your wish list?

Marissa xo

December 18, 2013

Getting Crafty - Handmade Wreath and Mini Mid Century House

Here's a wreath I made this season in some of my down time. It took about an hour to do in total, so if you're thinking about attempting something similar, do it! In no time at all, you'll have a very adorable new holiday decoration!
I started by mapping out pieces of cardboard to construct the walls and roof of my little home. Then I carefully glued it all together piece by piece with my fancy new glue gun. (Somehow my old one disappeared!) 

Also if you're wondering, I left the inside of the house hollow, so it would be lightweight and could later be glued easily onto my wreath. 

I wanted my house to look super crafty and casual. Sort of an imperfect, slightly wonky look you often find on vintage mini Putz-style houses. To achieve this look, for all my fabric and paper pieces I didn't do any measuring. I glued the main wall coloured paper on with my hot glue gun and the rest of the smaller pieces with regular craft glue.
Here's the other side, which I did in a completely different colour pattern! It's a 2-in-1! I liked the idea of turning the wreath around to get a new style if you were bored of the one side, or maybe it wouldn't always go with your other holiday decor. A little change can be good. 

Can you spot the little tree I cut out of shiny metallic green wrapping paper? There's one on each side for some extra detail.

The roof was so much fun to make. I used a mixture of white glitter and some vintage heavier-weight glitter, which is actually more like tiny, clear plastic chips. My Grandma gave it to me from her years of painting and glazing ceramics. She used this one for her christmas village scenes, to look like snow, so I thought this was fitting. I first covered the roof with blank white paper and then drew scallops on the top with my glue gun. While still warm I dipped it in a bowl of my glitter concoction. To create the appearance of icicles, I let the glue drip off the side of the roof a little, and dipped the sides in glitter as well.

To finish off the look I hid the unfinished edges of the house with embroidery thread. 
                               Now all that was left was to glue it onto my wreath I made a few days prior. 
                    All I did was cut a thin square out of cardboard, staple one end of tinsel garland to it and 
                             start wrapping away! Once I got to the end I stapled the other end. Super easy.  
Side one...
and side two!

I packed this one up recently and shipped it out to my Giveaway Winner as part of her prize. For some reason I always end up giving things away more than I keep things for myself. I was planning to make more of these, but it looks like I have run out of time. The next couple of weeks are already scheduled full, so I doubt I'll be making any more mini houses this year. Next year I'll make time to create a whole village!

Happy crafting everyone!

Marissa xo

December 16, 2013

New Vintage Coming Soon

Here are some of the new things that will be hitting the shop just before Christmas. Just a heads up, we will be having a pretty nifty Boxing Day Sale, so I'm getting some new things ready and lowering some prices... You're the first to know!
I'm aiming for 20 new listings. There will be clothing, accessories, kitchen items, wall hangings... you name it. I'm in love with this new vintage-selling gig of mine. I'm so happy that all of you have taken an interest in my collecting and curating. And so thankful to those of you who have purchased from the shop. You've made these first months so incredible! I plan on continuing on for quite some time. 2014 will be packed with more vintage goodness. Let's face it, nothing can stop me from frequenting garage sales and thrift stores at this point in my life. It's clearly an addiction.

Lots of love and luck on your own vintage adventures,

Marissa xo

Custom Atomic Era Confetti

Recently, my very sweet customer received her custom confetti order and started mailing them out to her friends and family. I said that I would show the finished details when she received them, so that it would be a surprise to her and her loved ones. Social media is awesome for connecting, but so many surprises get ruined these days, don't you think? I tried my best to keep things under wraps.
But now that the wait is over, you get to see the finished confetti!
 I started with hand punched confetti dots like usual and then added my handcut shapes. 
Every piece is carefully cut out of colourful paper. Some are solid colours, some textured and some with beautiful designs like wallpaper.
 Next I divide the confetti in equal parts into their sachets, and add the requested glitter of choice. Here we decided to use a very irredescent silver glitter. It sparkles in so many colour ways! Glitter makes everything better!
Packaging is so important, and I hand-cut and customize each one with care!
She enjoys warmer colours, so I chose soft yellows, pinks, corals and oranges for the packaging background.
 After a little brainstorming, we came up with some cute little sayings to put on the packaging.
Now, I was in a huge excited rush to get these out to her, I forgot to take my own pictures. Clearly the anticipation of finding out what she thought of her housewarming confetti was number one on my mind! But the darling Jill let me use her photo, and I'm so thankful. The Mid Century home in the background of the "Home Sweet Home" font is actually an outline of their new home! We wanted to find a way to work that in somehow. 

In all I'm really happy how these turned out, and I'm so pleased they went over so well with her friends and family. I was thrilled to be a part of the process. It was such a clever idea to celebrate buying a home with confetti for friends and family. It just goes to show you confetti is alive and well, and can be used for so many different things!

So for all you confetti lovers out there, CharmingShop is open and ready for any and all custom confetti orders. I do love a challenge!

Marissa xo

December 09, 2013

New Clothing at CharmingShopVintage

Here's a quick update from CharmingShopVintage.
The shop got some new, fresh faces...

See anything you like?
I know I do!

It was harder than ever to give up some of these pieces. But you can't keep everything, right? Head on over to the shop to view these vintage clothes in the photos plus more! 

I've extended our holiday coupon to make sure everyone gets a chance to look over the new items and has the opportunity to use the holiday discount. The listing date for these beauties got pushed back a bit, so I wanted to keep that coupon code going until December 15th. How do you get your coupon? Type in the code "HOLIDAY20" at checkout to get your discount, dolls!

Lots of love,