Opening Our Retail Shop

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Opening Our Retail Shop

In June, 2017, we opened our retail shop, the Quirkshop (an art gallery of sorts).

Things are definitely slowing down around here at the Quirkshop, but it has been an incredible first season. We have learned so much, met a lot of interesting and friendly people, and got to see our dream become a reality. It took over 100 people's help (through our Kickstarter as well as physical/skilled help). Here is a little glimpse of the transformation:

The photo below is the before. It is taken from the vantage point of where the wall will be built to separate the studio from the Quirkshop:

Before

Before

We took out the wood stove, had our electrician friend remove the overhead fluorescent lighting to allow for these oversized Ikea Hektar pendant lamps. They fit nicely into our little budget and add to the industrial-whimsy look we were going for.

View from behind the sales desk

View from behind the sales desk

This beautiful wood wall was already here, but we had to flip it from the other side (our bathroom and kitchen) to the Quirkshop side.

Starting renovations.

Starting renovations.

We knew our walls were going to take a beating from hanging and rehanging our artwork, so we had Ray from RBM Construction build us our huge (and budget friendly), 13 feet high x 22 feet wide OSB wall dividing the studio from the Quirkshop and to cover the other two exposed walls. We colour matched the green from old salvaged windows in our sales desk, for our floor colour: "Relentless Olive" from Sherwin-Williams. The wall colour is "Queen Anne's Lace".

Covering that fuse box was listed as "make the fight right" on our renovation to-do list. No reason to get into it here, but let's just say we disagreed on how to resolve that little issue...

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Now we have this beautiful space to showcase our Birdmouse and Birdmouse Jewellery designs, as well as the work of other talented makers, such as: Bad Mouth Soap, Quarrelsome Yeti, Ally Oaks felted designs, Lamplight Studio, Nova Scotia Oatcakes, Shiny PaintTNT Candles, Lucus Craft, The Black Spruce Live Edge Ladles, and more to come.

And notice that prize wheel?! Lenny made that and it is hanging from that 10 foot tall barn door. Our visitors can make a donation to either a people/nature based organization for a spin to win one of Lenny's art pieces. We had two lucky winners this summer. Stay tuned for a Christmas Spin-to-Win special edition! We are planning on hosting some festive night shopping events.

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If you had a chance to visit this summer, this was a common sight: Timber posing for instagram.

Timber the shop dog

Timber the shop dog

We look forward to sprucing up the exterior next year. It's looking a little haphazard at the moment, but it's cool, we'll make it happen. We do have a pretty slick little parking lot, thanks to the hard working folks at Kings County Construction.

Would it hurt you to plant a friggin tulip?!

Would it hurt you to plant a friggin tulip?!

I think there was only one major blooper for our first season: we open at 10am and I was usually ready to greet the public by that point in the day. One particular day, however, I was still in my pyjay-jays when a camera crew showed up at the door at 10am, ready for us to open to shoot part of this promo video. Of course.

I'll wrap it up by thanking our Kickstarter backers once again for making this happen. It was so exciting to watch that sales graph climbing to make our dream come true. As they say, it takes a village. And we definitely got a little boost when this CBC article was published. We do still owe a coffee table, a couple of art pieces, and birdhouses, but they're coming!! It feels so much better to be in art debt than bank debt, so thank you, thank you, thank you!

A still from our Kickstarter promo video

A still from our Kickstarter promo video

And thank you to everyone who has visited us. Being a homebody is so much easier and enjoyable when people come to you! We are so grateful for your continued support that allows us to keep making art!

As for what is next? We have 7 acres here and are open to collaborations and ideas. Get in touch if you have an idea on how we can work together!

- Heather

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From Farm To Table

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From Farm To Table

A look at our most recent take on a modern harvest table, using wood salvaged from a 150+ year old farmhouse and locally welded steel legs from Burke's Custom Metal Works:

All set up in this beautiful space overlooking the water.

All set up in this beautiful space overlooking the water.

Where Birdmouse tables come from lately.

Where Birdmouse tables come from lately.

After we pull the boards from the walls and floors of the farmhouse (pictured above), Lenny planes them to the same width, but leaves the original finish on one side. Each board is then sanded down while maintaining some of the colour and weathered look of the wood. I like to give it a spray with bleach and let it dry out for a few days in the studio before finishing. Fortunately the wood is quite protected and dry from this particular source, but it still feels better to bleach out any germies. After it is thoroughly dried, it is sealed on both sides with a water based polyurethane. We offer other finish options, but this one is low maintenance and durable. We will also use it, or epoxy, if there is any lead in that paint that is left on, it will keep it encapsulated and safe to use. The finish has a low sheen so that it looks rugged, but some light is reflected so that it still feels clean.

Drying out after a good sanding and scrubbing.

Drying out after a good sanding and scrubbing.

These boards are only grooved (as opposed to tongue and groove). The "tongues" were separate strips of wood inserted into each side-by-side grooved board. Lenny made new tongues to join the boards together as a tabletop.

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Looking right at home in its cottage. Our clients found these beautiful chairs on Kijiji to compliment it. We love how the matte black legs modernize the farmy top and carry over from the window muntins and the chairs add a touch of elegance. The table end caps are secured with gorgeous old screws salvaged from a late 1800s pump organ.

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Contact us to discuss a design for your own custom table from Birdmouse.

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The Making of "Pixel Wave" Outdoor Art Installation

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The Making of "Pixel Wave" Outdoor Art Installation

My design was selected to be a part of the Town of Montague's Centennial Art Trail here on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

The piece is located right before the bridge over the Montague River, so I wanted it to celebrate the natural landscape of the waterfront. I wanted it to almost blend in with the environment so rich in greens and blues (in the summer anyhow!). 

Ready to be installed on to the fence.

Ready to be installed on to the fence.

To create the image, I took a photo of a crashing wave and opened it in Adobe Photoshop. I altered the image to enhance the pixels, creating distinct blocks of colour.

Original hand drawn sketch on paper.

Original hand drawn sketch on paper.

From that image, I grouped similar colours together so that I wasn't working with individual colours specific to each block. The image was further blurred in this process.

The photoshop pixel map Heather worked up with colours grouped together.

The photoshop pixel map Heather worked up with colours grouped together.

The wood blocks were made entirely out of 2x4s collected from this collapsed community hockey rink located on our property. The quonset style building was built in the late 1960s by the church down the road. Much of the wood was likely locally harvested and milled on site.

St.Georges, PEI.

St.Georges, PEI.

I listened to podcasts while I sanded in our sunroom which was also made from wood and windows that were in the rink before it collapsed. I listened to Stuff You Should Know and Canadian True Crime (not for everyone!) podcasts.

Heather sanding.

Heather sanding.

We are grateful to our friends who actually seemed to enjoy sanding hundreds of blocks with us on their weekends! Thank you so much to Dennis and Heather, Jay and Angela! And Lenny's Mom helped too!

Have thousands of blocks to sand? Host a Block Party! photo credit: Angela Russell

Have thousands of blocks to sand? Host a Block Party! photo credit: Angela Russell

Our friend Jay painting shades of seafoam.

Our friend Jay painting shades of seafoam.

There were blocks friggin everywhere when we got to the point of putting it all together. Managing different colours and the amount needed of each colour got a little tricky here. Our dog, Timber, likes to take chunks of wood to chew on AND we had little kids come and visit us - this meant that we were finding blocks in random places (in kitchen cupboards, on bookshelves, under the couch) weeks after the piece was installed!

I did adjust some colours after they were glued up because they didn't look right. (The computer can make a bluish-yellow colour - physically mixing those turns...you guessed it = green.).

The studio was pretty block-swamped for a few weeks.

The studio was pretty block-swamped for a few weeks.

Install day always gives you a little adrenaline rush and who knows what other hormones with all of those feelings of pride, anxiety, relief, and accomplishment in the mix. It went really smoothly with Lenny's help (when levelling, he's a very talented by eye guy!).

Lenny drilling bolt holes.

Lenny drilling bolt holes.

And now it is up! It is much different than I visualized in my head: the colour blocking turned out way looser than I expected. It also had to be in completed in four separate pieces due to the sections of the fence and they had to be spaced to allow for the centre gate to open. Framing each piece wasn't in the original plan, but Lenny suggested it and I am so glad he did. I love the end result and am so happy with the culmination of this group effort.

My favourite aspects are how prominent the colours change from the left to right, light to dark. I also love how much the visual changes from far away and up close. Working with colour was new to us, which was fun, but I almost wish I had integrated more bare wood into the design. Oh well, perhaps age and weathering will do that for me. 

Thank you to Lenny for his artistic opinions throughout, cutting all those blocks, putting the beast together and getting it up on that fence. Thank you to our friends for the power of time travel. We lost huge gaps of time laughing while working and made that sanding job feel like it flew by on block party days. And thank you to the Town of Montague for the strategic effort to add arts & culture to the community.

If you have any questions about the process, ask away!

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The Cottage Package - Part I

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The Cottage Package - Part I

So, we haven't been posting much new material lately and we haven't added any new items to our online store. That is because we have been working on furnishing two whole cottages this past winter and spring. That's 15 pieces, if I counted correctly!

Here is the first cottage, located in picturesque French River, PEI, and available for rental. You can check out the listing here. It is bright, clean, and modern, but with some original details and warmth.

These pieces were made using wood from: a cattle barn's feeding trough, a 100+ year old house that was torn down in Bridgetown, a kitchen renovation in Fortune, PE, a century old piano and pump organ, and an antique tabletop. Each piece was hand rubbed with several coats of tung oil and finished with a protective coat of beeswax.

Let's start with the main floor:

The Dining Table:

And Bench for additional seating:

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The Coffee Table:

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The Night Table:

And up to the second floor:

The Desk:

The Bookshelf:

And the Headboard/Night Tables:

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Here are a few behind the scenes shots to prove we made them!

Lenny taking apart the bolted wood from the cattle barn.

Lenny taking apart the bolted wood from the cattle barn.

Heather's all bundled up to apply Tung Oil.

Heather's all bundled up to apply Tung Oil.

The Desk - BEFORE

The Desk - BEFORE

There it is! We are so grateful for our clients' trust in our creativity. We managed to discuss and reach decisions about dimensions, style, and finish all by email and facetime, as the cottage owners were in another country during the building process. The result is quite beautiful as a whole and we think Rita's French River cottage will make the perfect little Island getaway!

We will be delivering furniture for the second cottage package in the next week, so watch for Part II coming soon!

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Top Ten Designs of 2016

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Top Ten Designs of 2016

Here we are - wrapping up 2016 with our self-nominated, self-awarded Top Ten Designs of the year! Thank you to everyone who has given us your "garbage" wood and to all of our supporters and customers who add the fuel for our creativity. There were lots of great projects that didn't make our list - the top ten are the projects that are of impressive scale or particularly unique. Enjoy and we look forward to diving into 2017 with more custom projects and adventures in art.

If you would like to see 2015's Top Ten, click here.

#10. The Narrows

Like that scene in that movie/show where the vertically closing door is on its way down and "main character" slips under just in time (most recently seen in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency), Lenny sneaks this piece in just before the 2017 door drops. And it is big, bold and beautiful. As any artist will tell you, sometimes you have to push your commissions to the side and make a piece that comes solely from yourself. The Narrows was made for no one and everyone and is available for purchase as of today. Click here for a more thorough look.

The Narrows.

#9. The Wall

This was some serious square footage and it turned out beautifully. We supplied the wood and design layout as a sort of kit and the homeowner's contractor carried out the impeccable installation. Most of the wood came from a 100 year old farmhouse. Looking modern in the city!

Photo: Mike McKenna (thank you)

#8. People From the Town Holiday in the Country and Country Folk Holiday in the Town

This piece - made using a door panel as the frame - went to the exact right customer. The title is based on our favourite line from the 1964 British tv series "Seven Up" - which the owner of this piece studied in film school! AND they live in a big city and holiday in their cottage on PEI. Perfect!

Our first Instagram sale!

Here is the clip from "7 Up" - (at the 1 minute mark)

#7. Modern Table

This is probably the most modern piece we have ever made - using an ancient door. We attempted to strip the 700,001 layers of paint to expose the original wood (with the help of visiting friends from Victoria, BC), but the paint was stronger than we were. Our clients kept an open mind, we worked with what we had, and everyone loved the result. This has a super glossy epoxy finish on top and sleek metal legs below.

So old, so modern.

That's a thick and heavy wood door.

#6. Flame of Thrones

Our client came to visit our studio and discuss side tables we were designing for her, using one of her own salvaged doors. She left with a commission for a throne! This started with that magnificent wood slab and finding a project for it. We love that this now exists and we've said it before, we have the best clients!

Majestic.

#5. Call Zones for the Startup Zone

This was a very important project for us. We were just coming out of a pretty slow winter - a couple of large projects had to cancel on us for legit reasons, but it left us struggling to pay the billz. This project landed in our inbox because the original designer dropped out at the last minute. We had a few weeks to design and build two of these indoor phone booths. They function as a little cubicle if you need to answer your cell phone in the middle of a workshop or presentation. This is a pretty cool collaborative space and worth looking into if you are thinking of your own startup on PEI.

Anyway, this project came along when we really needed it and we haven't slowed down since (feeling: grateful).

Excuse me, I have to take this.

#4. Fishing Village

Inspired by a Quebec fishing village with buildings on staging scattered amongst the rocky shoreline. Our clients provided photos for inspiration and also supplied wood from the actual location as well. This is a larger piece, measuring about 6 feet x 2.5 feet and makes for a pretty impressive addition to our clients' beautiful home.

Merci, Quebec!

#3. At the Cottage!

This delightful crew found us on Google while in Australia (an SEO win!)! It all started with that coffee table in the centre - made from our neighbour's horse stable doors. We were then provided with 3 doors from their family's old home. One was turned into the artwork seen on the wall. The second was turned into that bar-height dining table to the left. The third was made into a pair of side tables (not pictured). We are happy to be a part of the bright, airy decor of this cheery seaside cottage.

A dream come true - furnishing entire rooms. Client supplied photo (thank you).

Sun, sand, drinks, art!

#2. Elemantel

Air, water, earth, fire - the elements incorporated into a fireplace mantle. (Elements + Mantle = Elemantel!) We are so lucky to have clients to provide us with this large canvas within their home, list some imagery they would like incorporated, and then just let Lenny's imagination run wild with it! This home has soaring ceilings with one wall completely windows - so this large scale, highly detailed piece has a grounding effect.

Hot hot hot!

Some serious hygge happening.

#1. MFT 

Have you heard of Marijuana for Trauma ? It is group of veterans helping veterans to access medical marijuana to support treatment of PTSD. The folks down at MFT have had a huge effect on our lives - not only in support of our creative work, but also our mental health (they also help civilians with illnesses that show benefit from the use of medical marijuana). Because of this, we were able to have a much more productive year. We are willing to go as far as to say that our business would likely not have made it through another year, without this mental health aid and we are truly grateful. Because of this, we are naming this project #1! Plants not pills!

This striking logo was designed by MFT and hand painted by our friends at Shiny Paint.

MFT - our mental health heroes.

Thank you again! A couple of exciting things coming down the pipe:

1. Starting January 1, 2017, we will begin weighing every piece that is sold, so we will have a running total weight of wood reclaimed.

2. We will 100% definitely be opening a studio gallery that is open to the public in Spring/Summer 2017. This was intended to happen this year, but...it didn't!

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Duality

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Duality

Lenny and I have plenty of time to reflect out here at "Free Time Farm". Lately we have been discussing the concept of duality. Light/Dark. Good/Evil. Happiness/Sadness. Asleep/Awake. Winter/Summer. Warmth/Cold. Life/Death. 

Balance.

Everything seems to strive for balance/homeostasis. On a cellular level, our bodies aim for balance of water, nutrients, hormones, oxygen, blood... On a global level, thinking about this has been blowing my mind, the human sex ratio for our global human population. We are what, around 7.4 billion people now and our sex ratio is roughly 107 boys to 100 girls at birth. Would be more impressive if it was 1:1? Well no, because men happen to die younger of natural causes than women and are more likely to die in wars or of homicide, so it ends up evening out. It worked out for my Dad's family. He has three daughters, his brother has three sons, and their sister has one of each. It's wild. My sister has a daughter - I would bet money that if I was going to have a baby, it would be a boy. I betcha. But when you have a baby, there is a 50% chance for either a boy or a girl (single birth, no anomalies). After you have say, a girl, that doesn't change the odds for your next baby in favour of a boy. It is still 50:50. So how can there be this global balance? This world wide "knowing"?

So I have been thinking about this as it comes to everyday life and the positive and negatives that make up our day to day. I follow a couple of woodworkers who have branded themselves into a sort of celebrity status on Instagram (maybe you follow them too: Aleksandra Zee and Sons of Sawdust?). Anyway, they are both quite open and share information about their personal lives somewhat freely. They each appear to be experiencing much career success, exciting projects, and media attention. They have also each experienced huge tragedies in the last year or so. Ugh! Please tell me this is not some price they had to pay.

I remember watching an episode of Sex and the City a long time ago and the main character had said something along the lines of, "you can never have a great job, apartment, and relationship in New York all at the same time". Is it impossible to have everything? Is that pessimistic or is it just the natural balance, fact of life? Light/Dark. Happy/Sad. Success/Failure. Is it better to live in the middle? In the gray? Or are there only the extremes? If you have suffered hard times, does that mean the light is about to shine brightly on you? These are the rambling thoughts of a rural maker...I am curious to hear what you think about this!

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Top Ten Designs of 2015

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Top Ten Designs of 2015

Here is a self nominated and self awarded list of our top ten birdmouse projects of 2015. It is a mix of both our artwork and furniture. Here we go:

#10 The Stan Desk

The client wanted a simple, clean design.

Love that wood + white.

#9 Sarah's Eyeglass Display Case

We used the side boards from the collapsed community hockey rink on our property for this piece.

Because where else does one keep 20 pairs of eye glasses?

#8 Yoga Studio Reception Desk

The client wanted custom dimensions to hold bolsters and mats inside.

Namaste!

#7 F%#& This S%*#!

This video was more popular than the amount of snow the Maritimes received last winter. Snowmaggedon induced harsh language.

Watch artist, Lenny Gallant, as he paints a masterpiece inspired by the springtime weather on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

#6 Abstracts & The Super Blood Moon Series

Artwork is a more recent addition to our reclaimed wood repertoire. It took a more sophisticated turn this year which you can read about here.

A supermoon energized highly creative and productive shift for birdmouse.

#5 Habitat for Humanity Design Challenge

We created a puppet theatre from an old armoire for the win! After their debut at this event, we released our "Manana" logo t-shirts in our online store

Birdmouse took the cake! A fun night for a great cause.

Birdmouse took the cake! A fun night for a great cause.

#4 Knitting Cabinet

The client wanted a personalized piece to showcase their family heirloom stained glass.

Custom Knitting Storage Hutch

#3 Loft Ladders

This is something we never expected to be making and so had to review our trigonometry (SOHCAHTOA!).

We made not one, but two loft ladders for separate, and equally lovely, clients.

#2 Watercolour Headboard

This custom piece incorporated the client's heirloom sewing machine and was based on a watercolour painting of the client's. You can read more about this project here.

Inspired by the client's watercolour painting, this makes a striking headboard.

#1 Upstreet Craft Brewing's Logo Wood Mural

2015 was really the year of Upstreet in Charlottetown's hang out community. You can read more about this project here.

20 foot murals in super popular community spaces happen to be our #1 favourite projects!

20 foot murals in super popular community spaces happen to be our #1 favourite projects!

Wow - these were just the highlights! We met so many amazing people over the year and it is truly an honour to create pieces that play a role in your homes and businesses. What will 2016 bring? We look forward to hearing to your ideas and what we can make for you. Contact us to discuss your ideas and get a quote. We may have some unique projects up our sleeve as well...

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Description of Authenticity

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Description of Authenticity

Over 125 years old.

Over 125 years old.

It is a great day at Birdmouse when we get the call to come and check out someone's ancient house that is about to be torn down. "See anything in here that would be useful to you?" 

Yes. Yes, we do.

We see panelled wood doors, wide, well worn floor boards. We see mantles, foot wide baseboards, stair treads - and we want it! Because we also see harvest tables, coffee tables, shelving, night stands, artwork!

The Master Suite.

The Master Suite.

In this particular house, all of the upstairs bedrooms had light fixtures - except the south facing master bedroom. There was a little window on an interior wall, however, that would let light in from the landing's fixture. It is hard not to think, in a room this old, how many tender words were spoken, or arguments contained, prayers whispered.

The Attic.

The Attic.

There is never enough time, energy, or space to collect all of the beautifully aged wood that we would like to reinvent. It is true, this house is not what it once was - under the weight of itself, the wind, the snow, and that ever persistent vagrant, water, working its way in. But we are grateful the owners saw the abundance of salvageable material within. We wish we could take more, alas we are only two and our workshop storage space only one. 

"New" Coffee Table using reclaimed floor boards.

"New" Coffee Table using reclaimed floor boards.

Thank you to our customers who appreciate this wood's story - with all of its little imperfections and character. We get to transform that old house into something useful and beautiful again. Every piece of furniture we design now comes with a "Description of Authenticity". This document outlines your piece's history, the conditions under which it was made, and any additional inspirations that went into the design.

History + Artistry Documented

History + Artistry Documented

As Lenny put it, "We are connecting people's stories." From the various residents of a 125+ year old house in Eastern Prince Edward Island to a home in Moncton, New Brunswick, as a coffee table that will be treasured for many more years to come. And then? Who knows what is next!

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