Creating my dream zebra chair by reupholstering an antique reproduction.

I’ve had a dream of black and white, irregularly shaped stripes, for some time now. Having no idea how to fulfill this dream, I’ve coasted along on the less exciting path of straight lines and cotton candy fluff. Just when I was losing hope, I found this glorious image and dream incarnate! 

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This chair stopped me in my tracks! It’s stunning, glamorous, edgy, yet timeless. Unfortunately, this gorgeosity will set you back a pretty penny. 

Thus, I began the chair hunt.  For weeks, I scanned the internet, antique stores, and even whispered to little birds. Nothing even came close to my number one. Then, I thought, “there must be antique reproductions that I could reupholster in all their zebra glory!” I was finally able to percure a set of reproduction antique chairs that fit the bill (craigslist of course). 

In order to find out what is in store for me in re-creating this chair, I visited a master wood worker in town, and he kindly explained what the process would entail—it was not for the faint of heart.

First, there would be staples— thousands of staples—that needed to be removed from the chair. Next, the wobbly joints would need to be fixed and stabilized. Cha-Ching! Then, the chair would need to be sanded and painted in a semi-gloss black.  I would need to secure the right cowhide or fabric to reproduce the look of the chair. And then, if I hadn’t given up completely, the wood worker said I could finally present the chair to the upholsterer he recommended.

Is that it? That’s all? No problem. The photos below show my first attempt at removing the old upholstery. Let me just say, there are a few new blisters where there shouldn’t be, and my husband had to finish removing the cursed staples.  I’d love to say that he is some generous, zen, hipster, who only asked for a hug. But no, he wanted much more!

These pics document day one. There is more to come, and I shall post again once the chair has morphed into something less pathetic. 

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#zebrachairproject #reupholsteringcraigslist #oldchairnewagain 

Shut up and do something!

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Ok, so I keep obsessing about art, design, photography. Eject, repeat. You get the idea. It gets old wondering what it would feel like to just start doing something, anything creative on a regular basis. 

Here is my first attempt at collage. I was inspired while reading an article in Darling Magazine, where I came across a quote about getting away from calling women “girls.” I love saying “hey girl” to my girlfriends, but hate feeling like a little girl when the moniker is used in the wrong way: to insult, oppress, or belittle. 

With this in mind, I decided to make a collage centered around the quote “I was once a girl, and I loved being a girl. Now I love being a woman.” I hung this piece over my desk to remind me that even though I often have doubts, and feel vulnerable (like a girl), I am also a woman; with all that this implies—wisdom, strength, warmth, humor, intelligence, empathy, and the ability to pick myself up and keep going! 

I hope you are also inspired to go do something creative. 

Better late than never?

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So...it's been a while since I posted. I guess that's the hazard of having a day job ;)  

Confession: I'm often frustrated that I didn't go to art school and become a "real" artist. Or, that I didn't pursue acting when that's all I wanted to do in high school. It's an ongoing dialogue in my head, and the answers vary from year to year. 

Lately, I'm realizing that I don't have to travel to far away places, or do anything special to be creative. I can explore where I live and photograph common things in uncommon contexts--like capturing my daughter's glee at washing her hands with the self-drying faucets. Just grabbing my camera in the bathroom and deciding to capture that moment made me crazy happy the rest of the day. 

I'd still like to learn how to make documentaries on my iPhone, but at least this is a start.  

Phenomenal Woman

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Even though I was just 21, I adored Maya Angelou's Poem: "Phenomenal Woman." I felt like I could crawl inside of it and rest for a while, comfortable in its confidence and feist. Like a suit of armor, it had my back. It's here, in this place, that I yearn to return sometimes. I'm not sure how I lost my edge over the years. Now, a 40-something woman with children--just as sassy, and maybe more confident, but needing to remember that she still has my back. 

Here's to celebrating all of you phenomenal women, without whom, I wouldn't stand a chance.

Phenomenol Woman  

By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size  
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,  
The stride of my step,  
The curl of my lips.  
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,  
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,  
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.  
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.  
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,  
And the flash of my teeth,  
The swing in my waist,  
And the joy in my feet.  
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered  
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,  
They say they still can’t see.  
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,  
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.  
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.  
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,  
The bend of my hair,  
the palm of my hand,  
The need for my care.  
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Saying "no", women's lib, and the pull of family

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Saying "no." It has always been hard for me, and I still struggle with it in my 40's. I recently said  "yes" to something I really wanted to say "no" to, and ended up surprisingly angry at myself. Why is it so hard for me to say what I really feel when it might go against someone's wishes? When I don't speak up for myself, every fiber of my being feels wrong. Yet there is the pull of my upbringing telling me to be nice, and to avoid conflict at all costs. 

Feeling temporarily untethered, I ended up at my favorite theatre--The Nickelodeon. Without kids, or anyone, I was free to see what i wanted. I chose "20th Century Women." It transported me into the minds and souls of women in the 70's, who seemed much more free to explore their thoughts and desires than women today. This may sound strange, since we are supposed to have come a long way since then, but I haven't truly felt free to say or do what I want, as a girl or as a woman. Sitting alone in this movie allowed me to feel that I could--if only for two hours. 

 

Women's March, Oakland

I joined tens of thousands of people in a peaceful protest, walking with my friend's young daughters, feeling the overwhelm from the crowd--the deep sorrow that we are not safe, not heard, not respected. It's clear that so much more has to be done! I will continue to join this peaceful resistance, and I'm encouraged that you may too! 

#oaklandwomensmarch #jointheresistance #riseup

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Pink Sparkle!

Yesterday my dear friend surprised my daughter with this spectacular cake for her preschool graduation. While preschool may not be a big deal, her gesture meant so much to me. I'm not good at asking for help, or for support. Yet, this friend knows me so well, she was able to bust through all this and show up in the most amazing way. And then, there's this glittery pink cake! 

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Universe

Feeling frustrated with the current state of affairs. Wanting so much to have a new creative opportunity. Not totally clear on which direction to go, and in the midst of this, I have a conversation with a dear friend and hear myself say "come on universe, cough it up bitch!" Laughing, my friend and I wonder aloud if I've just agitated whatever powers that be, and my friend replies "no, I think the universe has a sense of humor and you just appealed to her." Let's hope so! 

Busting out!

I had the worst work week ever. I have a "sensible career", but am finding myself daydreaming about other options...Having always wanted to do something creative, images of making a documentary about my father keep entering my mind. I find myself researching camera equipment on Amazon each night after the kids go to bed. $750 for the basics, and then up from there. I could do this. Could I do this? 

At the same time, I am reading creative women's blogs obsessively and trying to find a kernel of direction for how to get started. One woman wrote that she doesn't like the pressure of being asked "what do you do?" Rather, she prefers to talk about what she is into right now. I love that idea. Why put so much pressure on the rest of your life? 

Two small children, well into a career path, living in a multi-generational home, and yet wanting to start down a new path... 

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Design delight!

Finally, after years of the previously mentioned dark velour couch, the family room is coming together! More to come soon but here it is so far.

 

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So, it's been a year!

Yes, it's been a long time. Between two little one's, work, and the chaos of life, its taken me a while to get back to this.

Recently, I thought it would be a good idea to get some new furniture to replace our old crusty, dark brown, deflated couch and chair. Trying to stay within budget, I found a great down couch and chair at a "gently used" home store. Not wanting to have a million pieces of furniture in the livingroom, I asked my husband to put out the old dark furniture and replace it with the new stuff. Within minutes, some skaters came by, picked up the free couch, and skated off with it. I thought, great now everything is neat and organized and I don't have to worry about getting rid of the old furniture.

My dad wheeled into the livingroom and immediately started to drip and sneeze. It never occurred to me that the former owners of the furniture may have had cats and dogs, both of which we are allergic to. 

Shit! What am I going to do?  Shit! I went online to order new covers from the original store. The customer service rep informed me that the covers had been discontinued. Fuck! I can't believe I got rid of the old furniture and now I have to get rid of this furniture too. What the hell are we going to sit on in the living room? I walked in the other room with my head down. "What's wrong?", my dad said. I told him what happened, and he just looked at me and said "that's why I would've kept the old furniture."

Really dad? You would have?  Thank you for sharing that brilliance! 

In the end, we ended up getting some furniture from Macy's, but sat on the floor of our living room for two months waiting for it. Next time I'll skip being thrifty in favor of having a comfortable seat under my bum! 

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A long time coming

It has been a long time coming. This tattoo. Trying first to get one at 18, I chickened out. But then, turning forty, something changed and this happened. Thank you to Mara at Neither Snow for the gorgeous design. Thank you to Nick Vargus at F/U Tattoo for the excellent job.



i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

 

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

 

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

             

                                                                 e.e. cummings



My heart could burst!

I have wanted to put www.leilakramer.com back up for a long time, but didn't have the (fill in the blank) to do it. Tonight, I did it. All of the Instagramming and Facebooking wasn't quite filling my photographic soul. Here's hoping to cross paths with other people, who among other things, love photography and dialogue! Thank you for coming here and spending a little of your prescious time. I'd love to hear from you!