I took a little weekend trip with my folks to the Oregon Coast, and it was the first time I had visited in four years. It was also the first time I had been there without my grandpa. As hard as I thought it would be, it actually gave my soul great comfort to return to the place where I spent every summer vacation my entire life. It is a place that holds so many fond memories for me and it truly feels like my second home.
My trip made me think back to last Christmas when my family decided we wanted to try and make handmade presents for each other. It was a really fun idea and let me tell you, my family is full of very creative people! A few months earlier, my parents had found a unique piece of driftwood on the beach, and my dad gave it to me asking if I could make a special sign for him. He wanted it to say “Captain Ken’s Campground” so he could hang it up at their property where they camp. Needless to say, my gift to him wasn’t really a surprise, but that part was not as important to him as the meaning behind his request.
When my grandparents took their children camping on the Oregon Coast for the first time, they unknowingly created a long-standing family tradition. My mom would tell stories about camping there every summer, and like her, my sister and I have the exact same childhood memories. It is a beautiful tradition we all cherish.Grandpa Kenny grew up in Oregon, which was probably why he held our yearly vacation spot so close to his heart. You could see the joy he got from taking his own little family, and then his grandchildren to such a special place.
He had stories for everything, and my sister and I would get so excited to see the places he used to go when he was our age. We still know every story by heart; the time his friend walked over the top of the Yaquina Bay Bridge for a quarter is our favorite. Looking back on all of those years driving down there, our cars packed (sometimes literally) to the ceiling and singing as loud as we could to Garth Brooks, Madonna and the entire soundtrack of “Remember the Titans,” we were making stories that we now love to tell over and over like the ones grandpa always told. So it’s only fitting that when we now visit this special place, the first thing we see when we pull into that familiar camping spot is Grandpa Kenny’s name there waiting for us to make the next story.
My first custom sign was a bridal shower gift for one of my very best friends. I’ll admit, I definitely stalked her Pinterest board looking for her favorite quotes and DIY home décor projects she had pinned to tackle someday for her new house. I would like to take a moment here and reassure potential customers that I will not invade your privacy and stalk your social media accounts in order to produce custom orders. Friends and family? Sorry, you guys are still fair game!
When I was making this particular gift, I was living in an apartment and created the sign right on my living room floor. What a process that was! I’ve always enjoyed painting and drawing, but I had never experimented with stencils in all my years of creating art. After hours of obsessing over whether the letters were straight enough, and taking breaks to clean paint off of my cat Marshall’s paws each time he decided to touch the paint, I stood back and admired a type of art I had never attempted before.
A few weeks later my friend opened the present I had worked so hard on, and worked even harder to keep secret until the day of the bridal shower! It was fun for me to see her expression wondering how in the world I knew she wanted that quote for her and her husband-to-be’s home. Not long after that, I began making custom signs for other friends and family members. Every sign I’ve made has come from reclaimed wood, each piece unique in its own way. The funny little quirks give my custom pieces a distinct personality, and it is one of the inspirations that lead me to start my small business. I enjoy restoring such beautiful material and giving them life with personal, meaningful words. They truly are a pleasure to make and a genuine labor of love, but what means the most to me is knowing how much they impact the people who take them home. That’s what this is all about for me — creating something that is inspiring, encouraging, and a daily reminder of your family, faith and your life story.