Can I wax contemplative for a minute? Home is both where I'm from and also where I am now. My Midwestern roots feel less like home in some ways, now that I've lived in a major city for almost seven years. I've found that living in a city changes you - the way you see the world shifts to a wider angle lens as you come into contact with a vast variety of perspectives. At the same time, I've felt more homesick for the Midwest over the last couple years than I have in the entire time we've lived in Arizona, because once I had Edison, I realized just how important roots are for support. Sometimes I feel like a branch with a heavy burden tied to it, that's just been stuck in the dirt, struggling to stay upright.
But as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I'm working on this whole "rooted" thing by reading This is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live. One of the practical takeaways so far has been that people who love where they live act like they love it - just think of "Don't mess with Texas" pride. People who love where they live do things to take care of their place and show a sense of ownership. I'm pretty sure that Texans are the only people to get tattoos of their state on their bodies.
I'm not ready for that level of commitment yet, but I did want to pay tribute to my roots as well as all the amazing experiences and adventures Arizona has brought me in the last seven years - pretty much all of which I've documented on this blog, in fact!
At a local mom-made craft and business fair (side note: another habit of people who love where they live is shopping locally) I bought this wooden outline of Iowa for about $6. As soon as I got home, I started kicking myself for not getting a matching one of Arizona. But then, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to figure out how to DIY one - no scroll saw required! And, it only cost a few cents to make!
You will need:
- A square piece of wood, or a square canvas for your background. I happened to have some leftover square pieces of wood from our kitchen shelf project.
- White paint for covering your wood or canvas background.
- Sandpaper. This is optional, if you like the distressed farmhouse look.
- Metal picture hanging bracket.
- Super glue. I used Loctite 411 because it's what I found in the garage.
- Balsa wood - I got a piece large enough to make 5 or six states for $5 at Joanns.
- Craft knife.
- Watercolor paint in black and brown (you'll see why!).
Step 1: Paint your square piece of wood or canvas white and let it dry. I also painted the edges of mine copper, because ... copper.
Step 2: Sand your piece of wood if you'd like a distressed farmhouse look.
Step 3: Use your super glue to attach the metal bracket to the back. I know what you're thinking, but yes, this Loctite 411 glue will absolutely hold. It's crazy strong, and this was much easier to me than trying to find little nails to attach the bracket, but you could go that route if you really wanted.
Step 4: Google "*Your state here* outline" and print off one of the options. I found one of Arizona that matched the size of the Iowa one perfectly.
Step 5: Cut out your state, and place it over your piece of balsa wood. Trace around it with a pencil, and cut it out with your craft knife. I cut out two, so that I could match the thickness of the purchased Iowa cutout.
Step 6: Carefully sand the edges if they're a bit rough. Balsa wood is extremely soft, so proceed with caution. Glue your pieces together if you're doubling up like I did. I used Elmer's glue, and put a book on top of the state while it was drying so that it didn't bow.
Step 7: Now it's time to break out the watercolors. Make a dark brown mixture, and paint the edges of your state. This gives it a lovely wood-burned effect.
Smudge the edges with your brush to mimic the effect of wood-burning, basically allowing the super dark edges to bleed over a bit. Then, wet the surface of the state with your brush, and go over it with a light brown wash.
It looks a little dark initially, but it will dry lighter. Place a book, or something flat and heavy, on top to prevent bowing while it dries.
Step 8: Glue your states onto your canvas or wood background! I used good old Elmer's for this again. Once it dries, you're ready to hang your art!
Now this wall begins with where we're from, ends with where we are, and has some aspirational locations in the middle.
I still have plenty of balsa wood left, and used mostly things I already had, so this project probably cost me less than a dollar to make!
If you were going to make state art, what state would you choose? Let me know in the comments below or on social media!