Brookline Street Studio is now Birch Paper and Home!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Now at Antiques, Etc., in Exeter

I'm so excited to be setting up shop in my new home town, Exeter, NH.  I've rented space in a recently opened multi-dealer shop right on main street, called Antiques, Etc.  The shop is owned and managed by Andrea of Willowby Wood, who also sells at Sage Farm.  It's a great location, just a few steps from Stillwells Ice Cream and a short walk from the farmer's market, river walk and boathouse!

I have the first space on the left as you walk into the shop.  It's next to the window, so it feels light and happy!  I filled the space with tulips and daisies, so that helps give it that springtime feel:-)

It looks like I'll be working Mondays and Fridays, 10-1:30.  I'd love to see some of my old clients and meet some new ones!  I've had such fun meeting the people who've strolled in to check out the new shop!  One step closer to having my own storefront!!!!!!

Have a happy day!

Michelle Graham

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Nature Study

I have a serious case of cabin fever.  One beautiful day followed by snow and frigid temperatures here in New Hampshire didn't help.  I figured if I can't get outside (without freezing), then I'll create a bit of nature inside.

As you may have noticed, I am a big book lover!  My favorite books by far are my Natural History collection.  Ornithology.  Entomology.  Botany.  Geology.  Okay, so I am a science geek at heart.  I was a biology major.  Science is cool.

My wonderful husband recently took me to the Harvard Natural History Museum.  IT WAS AWESOME!!!!  He had to drag me out.  I was taken by their collections of insect specimens.  I've always loved butterfly specimen displays, but never wanted to make one with real butterflies.  This week, I made one with paper!

Looks pretty real, right?  I'm not going to say this was an easy project, but it was well worth the time. Here's how I did it:

Paper Butterfly Specimen Tutorial

First, find some butterfly or other insect illustrations online.  I used scanned images from my own collection, but you can find plenty of great ones on Pinterest, like this one.  Next, grab yourself a glass of wine.  You will need a steady hand and lots of patience!

Print your images using the highest quality setting on your printer.  I printed mine on cotton paper.  Light card stock would work just as well.  Now, find your sharpest, pointiest, tiniest scissors and start cutting.

Stay as close to the edge of the image as you can.  The trick is to turn the paper, not the scissors.  Be extra careful around thin parts, like the antennae.  I left those for last so I wouldn't accidentally rip one off while cutting around a wing, like I did.  But if that happens, no worries!  You can glue it back on, like I did!

Eventually you will have a bunch of pretty insects just waiting to be mounted!  For my first specimen box, I mounted the butterflies to a scrap piece of mat board.  I didn't happen to have a shadow box around, so I just removed the glass from and Ikea frame.

This is not the best picture, but you can see that I used a glue pen to apply glue to the back of the specimen.  Be sure to add a few dots to the antennae (if the exist) or legs (as in the dragonflies, below).  I also put a few dots of glue on the wings, just outside the center of the body.  This gave the specimens a bit more structure.  When the glue was completely dry, I used my fingers to put a gentle curve in the wings, to create the shadow effect.  And, voila!  I have my very own butterfly specimen box!  I did a second one using dragonfly images!

What do you think?  Let me know if you try this!  I'd love to see what you create!

Have a happy day!


(disclaimer:  no insects were hurt in the making of this blog post!)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Upcycled Style!

Have you seen Matthew Mead's new magazine, Upcycled Style?  If not, run right out and get a copy! It's hitting shelves everywhere!!!  Matthew is an incredibly talented photographer, designer and stylist.  I absolutely love everything he does!  And this is why I am so very honored to be featured in his article, Book Smart!  Take a look...

For those of you who have already seen the article, I have a confession to make.  My studio only looks this tidy when I'm NOT WORKING.  My creative process is messy.  I have a tendency to have several projects going at once, filling every surface in the room with "stuff."  But I'm getting better at reigning in my clutter because a cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind.  Plus, my studio is such a happy place when it's in order:-)

(Can you believe I scored this piece for $40?)

That's just a little taste of the article.  I don't want to spoil it for those of you who haven't picked up the magazine yet!  You can find a copy at major bookstore chains and grocery stores in the US and Canada, as well as Target, Walmart, Rite-Aid, and Walgreens.  I'd love to hear your feedback!

Have a happy day!


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Snowed in? Try something new!

Nope.  I won't be lying in the warm sun anytime soon.  In fact, another 16 inches of snow has fallen since I took this photo.  And right now a new storm is moving in that promises to drop 12 or more inches of fluff on top!  It's beautiful, but enough is enough!

To make the most of my time indoors, I decided to join Skillshare, an online learning center for creative souls.  Two classes got me hooked:  Crafting a Brand Identity and Basics of Photoshop.  Both were short, chock full of great tips and tricks, and fun! Each course includes a participant project component.  You get feedback from other students and get to follow what your classmates create!  What did I create?  Well, first, here is a moodboard created in Photoshop:

I've always wondered how designers create those amazing moodboards I see all over Pinterest!  This was a perfect project for my Photoshop class, because one of the first things I needed to do in "Crafting a Brand Identity" was to create a moodboard for my brand!  Done!

Next, I learned to combine color, typography and graphics into a logo and packaging suite that expresses my brand perfectly!  I started with the fantastic birch branch logo that my step-daughter, Jessica Graham, designed for me.  I pulled colors from the moodboard and played with some new fonts.  Here is the result:

What do you think?  Clockwise, from top left:  hang tags, business card front and back, post card, and labels.  I am especially fond of the hang tags!

So if you find yourself stuck inside because the snow is piled up past your windows, why not try taking a class on Skillshare?  It's a fun and inexpensive way to learn a new skill.

Have a happy day!


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Yankee Magazine!

 I was so excited to open the latest issue of Yankee Magazine. Why, you ask?   I'm one of three "upcyclers" featured in their Home section!  That's me on the left, shopping at Todd Farm flea market, and that's the "after" photo of the piece I repurposed for the article.

This article was nearly a year in the making, but I enjoyed every moment!  Many thanks to writer Lindsay Tucker, photographer Kindra Clineff and videographer Kathy Kliskey for making me look like I know what I'm doing!  It was a pleasure to work with each of you!

Now for the back-story.  Here are some photos of that same piece when I brought it home from the flea:

I am always drawn to unique pieces with quality craftsmanship, good bones and a story to tell.  This piece was no exception.  With a little research, I discovered that it was originally a collapsible parlor organ, called a Melodeon.  It was built in the 1860's of rosewood and mahogany and likely spent the first part of it's life with a traveling preacher and his choir.

That said, it had its issues:

A previous owner decided to remove the actual organ parts from the piece.  To do this, they literally ripped off the top, front, and inside supports.  The piece was then reassembled using scrap parts and nails, but not in its original configuration.  You can see the obvious damage to the joints and structure from the photos.  And the top of the console, though made of beautiful solid rosewood, was irreparably warped and had to be replaced.  But I saw instantly what this piece could become, so I went to work.


...and clamping...

I added an internal shelf and used the existing notch (originally for the pipe leading from the foot pedal to the organ) to install a power strip.

Next, I painted the base.  I went with a "sophisticated" grey in latex paint and mixed in Websters Chalk Paint Powder to make my custom color act like chalk paint.  I generally use paint colors that I've matched to vintage pieces, so I LOVE that I'm not restricted to a specific paint palette with Websters.

Last, but not least, I replaced the original top with some scrap pine boards.  I used a dark walnut stain, as I knew it would 'pop' next to the grey paint.  A little sanding, some wax, and a couple of Home Depot hinges and I was done.  And I couldn't be happier!

You can tell from this photo that I left two-thirds of the top stationary, while hinging only the front third.  I wanted this piece to work as a console in an entryway, and that means having decorative items on top that shouldn't have to be moved in order to insert or remove electronics.

As stated in the Yankee Mag article, I am currently "in love" with this piece.  It sits in my living room, next to my ultimate dumpster dive (I'll repost from my old blog, Brookline Street Studio).  It currently holds four iPhones, two iPads, one Macbook, and a samsung mp3 player...with room to spare:-)

So, now that the Yankee article is published, I'm feeling the pressure.  Pressure to post, to list on ETSY, to give more time to my business.  It's been a tough year.  Growing kids (one on crutches), a move to a new town and school system, a studio move, and caring for a dear grandmother who has gone from living independently to being in a skilled nursing facility with a hip fracture and a diagnosis of Alzheimers in just a few months.

And I have the happiest event happening in only three weeks---I'm getting married to my true match, my soulmate, my best friend.  I didn't really believe in true love before meeting Doug, but I'm a happy convert.  Somehow, I will pull together a completely DIY wedding in three weeks.  I'll keep you posted...really, I will!

Have a happy day!

Michelle Cooke (Graham...soon!)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Garden Wine Rack

This repurposed garden tool wine rack was the talk of the show last weekend at the Design and Decor Market hosted by Matthew Mead and From Out of the Woods Antiques.  I have to admit that it came together more by default than by design, but I'll take credit for the genius design!

We've all seen repurposed metal rakes used to hold wine glasses.  I had one and decided to attach it to a cupboard door left over from another project.  Then I thought...what to to with all that empty space?  Wouldn't it be fun to add a wine rack!?  I looked around at my garden tool collection and decided to employ a few oversized knobs for the job.

This project was simple, but a bit tedious.  Getting my hands on the right length and width carriage bolts proved somewhat difficult, but I ended up finding what I needed at Lowes.  I used carriage bolts to hold the garden knobs because they fit perfectly into the square opening and ensured the knobs would stay put.  I then used a lock washer and nut to secure the back of the knob to the bolt.  I drilled a hole through the wood door to just fit my bolts and secured each bolt with a lock washer and bolt on the front and a locking nut on the back.  

In the end, this is what I ended up using for supplies:

1 old cupboard door
1 metal rake head
1 pipe clamp for mounting rake
2 large and 2 small garden knobs
2 12-inch and 2 8-inch carriage bolts, 1/4-inch width (the actual length and width will vary depending on the size of the knobs and the thickness of the wood)
8 1/4-inch nuts
8 1/4-inch lock washers
4 1/4-inch locking nuts

I think I'll build another one for the Vintage Bazaar in September!

Have a happy day,


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Vintage Bazaar...I missed you!

Photo courtesy of Vintage Bazaar on Facebook

It was a spectacular weekend for the Vintage Bazaar in Salisbury, MA!  I had a two-tent display filled with rustic-industrial-cottage furniture and decor, lots of happy little things to stimulate your creativity, and new Birch creations!  Well, I almost did.  Instead, I was stuck in bed, sick, for the third week in a row!  Thanks to all of you who looked for me at the Bazaar...I was there in spirit!  And a special thanks for all the emails and texts of well wishes.  Your kind thoughts worked...I am up and on the mend!!!!  In fact, I hope to get a clean bill of health in just a few days (fingers crossed!).

Being stuck in bed for so long makes an over-achiever DIY-addict gain new perspective.  Most importantly, I am determined to never let myself get that sick again!   In addition, I want to do a better job of nurturing my creativity.  More studio time, more happy lunches with inspiring friends, and more blogging!  Okay, that last one is a pretty easy goal, as this is my first blog post in over six months...sorry!

Over the next few weeks and months, I hope to turn this blog into a place to share projects, techniques, great products and sources, and creative inspiration.  Who knows, maybe I'll even try my hand at a few video tutorials?  And if I have to take a road trip or two to gain new creative insights, well, I'm willing to do that for my readers:)  ( in?)

Thanks again for sticking with me all these months!  I have some great projects planned...including a wedding!!!!  Yay!

Have a happy day!