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There’s a Distance Between*

What brought me here today:

I remember having a small, internal melt-down the first time I shopped for art tools, materials and supplies in Finland. There didn’t seem to be any store that had anything like what I was used to in the US. And when I did find tools, materials, and supplies, more of the time, they were priced too high. I couldn’t afford them.

Returning to the US has also proven to be more challenging. Especially when attempting to locate and procure the materials and supplies that I grew dependent on while living in Finland. It is easier to find ready-to-use art materials and supplies in the US. But not everything I want or need requires a ready-made art-related item. Recycled and upcycled items have become a mainstay of my art practice.

Finding recycled items so far:

During my years of teaching elementary school art, I learned a great deal about repurposing all kinds of items into art materials for my students. While living in Finland, I applied this knowledge. I looked at what kinds of materials I could find easily and then let the materials guide me in shaping the artwork I created. Cardboard, carton board, and newspaper were three items I had in abundance. More cardboards could be found at local grocery stores at no cost. Newspapers were delivered to my mailbox.

At present, I’m swimming in corrugated carboard. Even though we didn’t purchase a lot of furniture, I have a great deal of recyclable cardboard. We’re trying to eat less processed foods, so accumulating carton board may take a bit more time for me. Newspapers are something that I simply have not seen since we moved. Hopefully I can locate some soon. It’s an important material for me. Paper mache will not work without it.

Second Hand:

The second hand shops in Finland were incredibly cool. They always had a little area that would have all the yarns, fabrics, buttons, all kinds of sewing notions, etc. in it. Lots of the items that the second hand shops had were vintage too. I found some of the coolest threads, buttons, fabrics, and sewing books in these shops. Jewelry, beads, and storage were also things I could easily find second hand.The best parts of purchasing second hand arts and crafts materials were the uniqueness of the items and the low price points.

I also purchased clothing that I would pick apart and use the fabrics to use in the creation of my artwork. Sometimes, the cloth was used to create clothing for a doll. More recently, I’ve begun using the fabrics to cover the outsides of some of my larger, paper mache pieces.

Just a click away!

I didn’t do a great deal of ordering tools, supplies or materials online while living in Finland. Although I did order from Buddly Crafts and Wool Warehouse in the UK prior to the Brexit becoming finalized. I preferred to spend my small art budget in the local shops, including the second hand shops, around the city I lived in. Even when I knew that I was paying a bit more for a specific item, like embroidery flosses and pearl cottons.

I’m getting ready to place an order for felt with two different companies in the next week. Some of the felts that I’m ordering are ones that I used regularly prior to leaving the US. Today, I received an order of new thread. The order was placed only two days ago. An additional order is coming tomorrow evening. It feels so odd to me to just be pointing and clicking and then POOF! The materials are on my doorstep.

Sensory overload:

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to a US chain arts and crafts store. I was completely overwhelmed by the huge selection of art materials and supplies they had for sale. A few purchases were made. Some Aleene’s Tacky Glue, pom-poms, and a dozen and a half or so skeins of embroidery floss. The embroidery floss was .62 cents each. I almost burst into tears on the spot. Embroidery floss was so much more expensive in Finland. (2.60 Euros each)

Looking at materials and supplies online also gives me a sensory overload. There are just so many different things that can be purchased so, so, so easily online. I get so overwhelmed with the seemingly limitless choices that are on offer. There have been lists created of supplies and materials that I would like to purchase, but haven’t as of yet. Part of me doesn’t know what I’m waiting for either.

That certain something:

I need to purchase felt. There’s no part of me that feels bad about placing an order for a material that I have used in the past, and am using in the present, to create my artwork. After all, I make a lot of dolls! Being able to purchase embroidery floss at such an incredibly low price is something that I plan on taking advantage of a lot in the future too.

That all being said, there are still some things, or should I say, some ways of procuring materials and supplies that I miss a great deal. I have yet to find a second hand shop locally that can compare to Ekocenter or Fida. The stores are either not easy to get to by foot or bus, or are open for two hours on a random day of the week. In addition to being difficult to get to by foot or bus. I miss Eri-Keeper glue desperately, and am trying to figure out how to get my hands on some here in the US.

The sense of being overwhelmed by the choices of art materials and supplies that I can easily order online, as well as fairly easily after a bus ride, makes me feel incredibly uneasy. I liked knowing that when I purchased items from a local shop in Finland, the money stayed in my community. There was a feeling of creative satisfaction I gained from buying second hand items, supplies, and materials and creating my artwork with them.

So, now what?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I’ve only been here for a short time. There have to be interesting shops and businesses that I just haven’t discovered yet. I also need to remember that there is still a pandemic going on, so ordering materials and supplies online can be seen as beneficial to reducing the spread of the Delta Variant (as well as any other variants that may exist). My husband and I are fully vaccinated, but are being careful.

ANYWAY. I’ve missed being able to create artwork for the time we were moving. Part of me still feels a little ‘out of phase’ with my own mind. Creating new artwork will help me to anchor myself better in the here and the now of living in Delaware.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Tuesday!

*The Devo song, Out of Sync from 1982’s Oh No! It’s Devo has been running through my head a lot lately. Unlike the lyrics, I have accepted that I feel out of sync. Time and some mental and emotional work are what will get me back into sync. The first step for me was acknowledging to myself that I still wish I was living in Finland. And the place that I find myself in physically is not exactly where I wish I was.


2 thoughts on “There’s a Distance Between*

  1. I have been following your story. I can understand you missing Finland. Perhaps your new home will grow on you. I have heard that there are some great secondhand shops back east. Hopefully you will find one near you that has some supplies that are useful for your artwork. You always seem to adapt to your surroundings. I can’t wait to see your new art. Annette

  2. I know that where we’re living right now isn’t “forever”. If we decide to stay because we like it, then we will. I hope I can find some good second hand shops soon!

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