Being a Creative / Entrepreneurship / Mindset

The Sexiest Stick: lessons from making a witches’ besom

It started with bugs in my house. For the life of me I could not figure out what these new and weird bugs were doing in my home in the middle of February, no less. And it’s BUFFALO! We’re still tundra-esque at this time of year. Where the HELL are they coming from?

I’m not a bug-inside-my-house gal so my family always takes care of them for me, so in general I don’t think too much about them.

That is until I began a new dream project of mine: a handmade witches besom. (That’s broom for the lay person 😉 )

I had searched out and found the most wonderful vine-curled wood for Kentucky walking sticks on Etsy and ordered two branches, asking the seller excitedly to be sure they were super wonky and full of character for my project. He obliged.

When they arrived at my home it was like a creative’s Christmas morning because unwrapping them to see what one-of-a-kind natural wonders would emerge had me all giddy! And they did not disappoint.

Each was unique in their details and curvature – one having most of it’s intrigue bold and billowing at it’s center point, the other more understated in twirls, but with a top end that was remiscent of a bone joint.

the bone-joint branch after being stripped and thoroughly debugged.

The second one was the one I fell head over heels for and was immediately certain would be the second project when I had tried my hand at one initially and made my mistakes there.

I began the process with the first branch, the center twirled one and stripped it’s bark. I’d never stripped bark from a branch so it was trial and error with a curved draw knife and whittling knife. It was going fairly smoothly, though unskilled, until I saw antenae poking out at me from a little pocket.

Mind you, I was undertaking this learning project live on my Facebook page and immediately jumped and darted to the other side of my garage and yelled for my hubby while banging on the garage wall for emphasized attention.

Hubby determined that was THE BUG. THE bug that had been hanging around my house. This stick was the source. Grand.

I continued carving tentatively. Ok, fine. It was more than tentative – I was scared of my stick.

Luckily, the only other critter that had to be evicted was a worm, the larvae for that bug. So since it was a big stick and there were only two, I was lulled into a sense of security when I began carving the spooky bone-style stick.

Still, I took it outside because I didn’t want any potential bugs in the house or garage.

Then it began.

Worm after worm after worm. Only two mature bugs, but I easily removed over 40 worms from this wood…

I almost marched myself to Etsy to have a talk with this seller. But upon thinking for half a second and Googling, I realized I purchased wormwood – the main attraction of which is the channelling the worms do under the bark creating unique patterns on the branches.

Ok, worms. You win and you’re ok. Just get out of my stick.

the two vine-curled wormwood sticks side by side, finished and lacquered.

The thing with this second stick, the one I assumed I would love most, was that the little surprises it had inside caused so much cosmetic debauchery that it really did a number on the beauty and surface I was looking for. So much wood had to be whittled and then dremeled and sanded off that the stick became awfully thin and much less impressive than it was originally.

Looking at them side by side after sanding, sealing, sanding, and lacquering I found that there was deep, surprising, immense beauty in not only the shape of the first stick, but in it’s individual wood color and grain. SO. MUCH. BEAUTY.

a top-down view of the undulating curves and twists of the first branch.
possibly the most sultry picture of wood grain ever – gorgeous hues of burnt umber, caramel, ivory, cream, graphite, denim blue all swirling through the voluptuous parts of the branch.

Here I had my heart set on this one stick, it was going to be the “right” stick, the best stick for the job, the final stick. I KNEW it… and then worms.

(Now, before we get pack-bonded with that wormy stick feeling bad for it’s fall from idealized glory, it is still a phenomenal stick, just not for what I was originally planning on… stick is still loved.)

But it was the perfect allegory for my own creative trajectory in life and career up to this exact moment: had a great idea about what my creative talents would be used for, began the pursuit, was successful and making great stuff and great money, but some worms happened and I realized there was something I had completely devalued and set aside as “not the right thing”.

And that “not the right thing” was allowing myself to be all in on multi-creative work across many niches and industries, working with creatives in all areas. I had pigeonholed myself into one creative field and thought that was the be all.

Wrong. And while the details of the “worms” of my creative trajectory are fodder for another day, they were necessary for me to see the beauty in what was before me and what could be done with the small and important details and beauty I have unearthed over many years of refining and polishing my own artistic spirit.

still, beautiful, but slightly wanting… unlike your creative career if you boldly learn to make shifts and changes that light you up.

Don’t get hooked on your ideal “stick” just because the idea is your baby – that stick my be full of worms. Look for the beauty in unassuming places, subtle sticks because it may be more right for you than you can see until you remove the bark.

OMG. Too many analogies, Kara. I mean *I* get them all because it’s in my head. But hey, welcome to my brain and creative entrepreneurial space. I do hope my stick lesson may have helped you see where you might be setting aside something that seems too obvious to you, too “not something” enough to be worth more attention, and give it a shot – because it may just be the creative thing that sets you free.

Now. Off to working on those besoms!

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