It was right around this time last year that I found myself one afternoon wandering around the aisles of Michaels, browsing the devastation of the Christmas products which were all on considerable markdown.
Now this is always a tricky time of year. Because as much as I want to believe there are some hidden gems still waiting for me to swoop in and snatch them up at a giant mark-down, the truth is that most of what’s left at this late stage of the game is either ugly, beat up, or both. So it was with a heavy dose of caution and high degree of scrutiny that I patrolled the displays.
In that frame of mind, I came across what I’d describe as a decorative holiday shadow box. A wood frame painted turquoise bordered a white background that sported some festive leaves and berries, and large letters that read “Oh, snap.” Attached underneath was a resin replica of a gingerbread man with an oh so wittily detached leg.
No judgment to those who enjoy that kind of art, but I knew in a flash that this was not my jam.
But there was something about that turquoise frame that lit me up. I stood for a moment, holding the frame, while my creative pistons fired away.
And in an instant, I saw it. A clear vision of this dorky little shadow box transformed to my idea of cute.
Which by the way was a vision many miles away from my usual holiday look of white lights, neutral colors, sticks from nature, and a handful of fuzzy textures. I am not usually drawn to detailed or figure-oriented holiday decor.
But for seven lousy bucks, I decided to trust my gut. I bought it and took it home.
Stopped to rip the plastic gingerbread man off and throw him in the trash as I walked into the house.
Grabbed a piece of cardboard, cut it to size, wrapped it with a simple silver dot wrapping paper and tucked that into the frame to hide the original message.
A few days later, I ran across a trio of wooden figures at Target. Are they upright reindeer? Mice in sweaters? An anthropomorphic interpretation of the Three Kings? I had no clue but I bought them (also on radical sale), took them home, and lined them up inside my shadow box-in-transition.
And that’s when I ran out of gas.
Several times over the intervening year, I came across my half-baked creation and considered dumping it as an ill-conceived experiment that belonged in the trash. But my gut told me to hang on, to play my vision all the way out before I let go.
Still, when it came time to decorate this year, I saw the ugly little mess and decided to ignore it.
Until today. When working on a different project, I was suddenly gobsmacked with creative drive and knew exactly how to finish off my original efforts.
And a half hour later, the vision that had appeared in my mind a full year ago in the dusty December aisles of Michaels had come perfectly to life, and I was holding the finished product firmly in my hands.
I’m really quite in love.
And while I’ll gladly double down on my original thesis that this little shadow box doesn’t really vibe with the rest of my Christmas look, in some ways, that just makes me even happier.
Because I know for a fact that this project isn't anything I would have intentionally chosen to make. My turquoise shadow box is simply the joyful result of a nearly prophetic creative impulse, and every time I glance at it, I’m reminded of and humbled by the human brain’s awesome power to create.
Epilogue: Later that same evening, I made a quick trip to Michales to grab some wooden beads for an entirely different project I’m working on, and as I made a quick diversionary hike through the heavily discounted Christmas aisles, you’ll never guess what I found.
Yep, another so-not-me shadow box.
And though lightning doesn’t usually strike the same place twice, creative thunderbolts apparently do.
Because I’ve got a fun idea for this new acquisition and I can only sit back and wonder when I will see it come to life.