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The Secret is to Know When to Stop

February 20, 2013

Last fall, one of the household felines got attached to a tomato box.  Cats are weird.  Still, I accommodated him.  I cut holes in the box for doors and let it stay in the living room.

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1 tomato box

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After sprucing up my living room, though, I realized I was very tired of looking at that ugly tomato box.  I tried safety-pinning fabric around it, and even gave it a little floor with some leftover tiles from a project at work.  I still hated it.  It never stayed in one place, and neither did the new scratch post I was trying to train them to use (instead of my chairs).  Plus, it was a tomato box.  I don’t even like tomatoes, to be honest.

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One day I found an old crate and decided to make my furry overlords the best little playhouse ever.

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crate project 1

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I had huge plans for that spot.  First, I applied velcro to the bottom of the scratch post, to keep it from sliding around.  I bleached the crate in the bathtub, nailed and glued it back together, and gave it a couple of coats of white paint.  I used leftover tiles from my own kitchen floor to make the top and bottom solid.  Then, armed with the knowledge I had gained from slipcovering the chairs, I dug some leftover denim from my sewing supply and set out to make a cover for it, with a proper doorway.

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crate project 2

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What a fiddly pain-in-the-ass that last bit of work that was.  It didn’t look right and I had to keep re-sewing bits until it at least fit properly (which it never truly did).  I hated it from the moment I pulled it over the crate.  It was twee.  It was so twee.  And it was so dark.  It sucked all the light from that part of the room.  Truly, it was awful.  And so, so very twee.

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8 slipcover

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Art is kind of like this.  With a few extra pencil strokes or a few daubs of paint, a perfectly wonderful creation can suddenly be ruined.  Then you attack the work with an eraser, or keep slapping on more paint, trying to fix it, trying to get it to be just as perfect as you had it before you went too far and fucked it all up.  But it’s too late.

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Luckily, a slipcover is a thing easily tossed.  I decided to live with the white crate and the velcroed scratch post as is.  Still, my overlords have never quite forgiven me for throwing out their old tomato box.  Just like children, they would rather have had their stupid cardboard house than the fancy ass playhouse I had made them.

I even had to bribe them with treats to be in this picture:

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9 bribe

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The secret with any creative project is to know when to stop. With anything we create, whether visual art or music, or anything in between, it’s important to pause, step back, and listen or look. Frequently.

It’s not always easy when you take delight in creating something. Stopping means you are done, and you have to figure out what the next project will be. But sometimes if we keep going, we are in danger of overworking something brilliant, and making it ordinary, or even ruinous.

Not that a white crate with vinyl tiles on top is brilliant or anything.

But the velcro turned out to be useful.

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Dodie Goldney

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related posts by Dodie Goldney:

Animal Creative Consultants

Creative Thinking = Accidental Organizing

Procrastination and Perfectionism


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