The Power of Handmade with The Slower Home



Today I'm talking with Melissa Parman of The Slower Home.   Her beautiful photographs of simple, every day pleasures drew me and I encourage you to follow her on Instagram and check out her website.  She and her husband live in a small home in north Texas into which, she has brought many practical things made beautiful by the hands that have created them.  In particular, Melissa talks about how using and working with handmade objects allows time for meditation and gratitude.  Let's get started.  


LINKS TO AVOCADO DYE TUTORIALS (photos courtesy Melissa Parman)



Photos courtesy Melissa Parman, The Slower Home




Today I'm talking with Melissa parman of the slower home. Her beautiful photographs of simple everyday pleasures drew me in and I encourage you to follow her on Instagram and check out her website. She and her husband live in a small home in North Texas into which she has brought many practical things made beautiful by the hands that have created them. In particular Melissa talks about how using and working with handmade objects allows time for money Meditation and gratitude. Let's get started. So, Melissa, welcome to the style matters Podcast. I am delighted to have you here and I am intrigued by the name of your blog, the slower home. 

Melissa Parman 4:16
Hi, thank you.  And I'm so excited and glad to be here

Zandra Zuraw 4:21

in a recent blog post, you were wondering, and maybe it was on Instagram, you were wondering if this pause, as you call it, which I think is a great word, in our daily routines is unearthing a new perspective for us. So tell us how you're perceiving this new normal, where we're all spending so much time at home what you said it was been kind of eye opening for you, in what ways?

Melissa Parman 4:44
Yeah. Well, I mean, obviously First off, just a huge amount of appreciation for everyone who is having to be out and about on the frontlines of all this
absolutely. Never, never like diminish. Seeing the work they do because it's so important. But for myself, I it's actually been somewhat of a sounds weird, but a hidden blessing. My silver lining I guess, if you will, of just staying home and really having the focus be on the three of us in this house, myself, my husband and our dog.

Zandra Zuraw 5:25
What's his name, by the way? He's so cute. 

Melissa Parman 5:26
Cali Cali little miniature darkman Yeah, she's adorable. We just have really been focusing on us, obviously, and kind of spending a lot of time talking about where do we see each other like growing and progressing and learning through this because I don't want this time to pass by and not learn something from it. Hmm. And there is a lot of good I think that's coming out of this. People were having more family connections. People are going out. More, which I think is a beautiful, beautiful thing. We've just started building cedar beds for a vegetable garden, which we've said, I don't know about you, but you've gotten some things done that you've said for years. You're gonna do yeah. We finally have that done. We had I see them the other day. Oh, so we're so excited about that. And just, I mean, the sunlight heals. I genuinely believe that right? I feel really refreshed and just alive and awake and you feel thankful.

Zandra Zuraw 6:34
Yes. And and being grateful I think is is so healing to oneself. Hmm, yeah. So this all intertwines, I think with your what seems to be your your way of living, or at least your attitude toward life, which is this slower home idea. And so I feel like you're Probably in a very good position to take on something like this stay at home order because it seems like you were already thinking about your home as a way as a place to put a lot of your energy.

Melissa Parman 7:13
Mm hmm definitely, I think home has increasingly become a priority for me. It's where I feel most safe and nourished and I get my energy from if that makes sense. I'm naturally an introvert, I very much take my energy and my passion from kind of being able to be a little introspective and quiet and just creating a safe space for myself and my family.

Zandra Zuraw 7:49
So this idea of of focusing on the home and slowing down is very much reflected, I think in your aesthetic and in the beautiful That you share of your home and in the projects that you're working on. Where did Where do you think this came from? Because you say in your website that your fondest memories are deeply intertwined with home. And I'm wondering, are you talking about when you were growing up? Is this something that you've kind of had instilled in you from for a long time?

Melissa Parman 8:20
Yes, I honestly attribute most of this to my growing up. When I was growing up, my mom and dad really instilled and cultivated a sense of exploration and creativity. I grew up homeschooled, and I really believe that that gave me kind of the framework to not only have a rich learning experience, but I also was able to cultivate these other ways of learning, whether it was through art through music, through dance Hmm. Don't know, there's just kind of this drive in me to keep going and keep learning. And even when I do get frustrated with something, if I just put it away and kind of center myself, and maybe I put it away for a couple hours, maybe I put it away for a couple weeks, but often come back to it. And I used to think that was kind of a bad thing, huh. tend to have a lot of things that I love spinning.

Zandra Zuraw 9:28
Yes, I know what you mean. Like you're interested in so many things that you've got a lot going and then you feel like, Oh, am I not finishing anything? 

Melissa Parman 9:35
Exactly, yeah, but I'm kind of now like starting to just slowly realize that all these layers are adding up to something bigger and more powerful. And I'm really excited to see where it goes. And I'm kind of just lean into that. It's already informing some of my practices that I'm doing now with the quilting and painting and even like kind of touching into some natural dyeing. Yeah, so been really exciting to see even things that my mom would encourage us doing. When I was, you know, five or six years old sitting at the dining room table. I can say, you know, I did that then and that helps you, I guess maybe even subconsciously give me a little more confidence to do that now.

Zandra Zuraw 10:19
Ah, yes, absolutely. I think just doing things get built your confidence. So let's, let's talk more about your art. And when I first found you, I was looking through like I said, Your beautiful photography. I assumed that you were a longtime quilter and then I kept going going and like, Oh, no, wait, I think her art is actually painting. But now I'm thinking maybe it's everything. So tell us a little bit about what you like. What do you do, what fuels you what artistic pursuits do you have?

Melissa Parman 10:55
It's kind of a lot of everything I used to try and box myself into Like, I'm a painter, I'm a photographer, I am a, but it's just, I want to pick things up and put them down and meld them together. And it just, it doesn't ever really work for me just to say that I'm one specific thing, okay? I did study photography, film, photography and college. Okay, now that photography has really informed almost everything that I've done, the quilting kind of came up very suddenly. I have always loved quotes. I have always had people in my family who have either quilted or embroidered or done something, some handicrafts like that. And I've always loved them. And I actually started painting. Oh, yeah, I started painting the blocks with watercolor. And I was like you I really would love to just learn how to do this. Yeah, makeup lock, you know, maybe make little Studies of blocks and then do the watercolor I kind of was just just diving into it with no agenda. No plan. Oh, I love that. Yeah, yeah, I kind of just fell in love with it. I say, I think somewhere on my Instagram when I first started talking about it that it kind of just found me and when I needed it.

Zandra Zuraw 12:21
Was there something in particular going on that it's spoke to you?

Melissa Parman 12:26
I was kind of going through a hard time. I think that was last summer of just trying to grapple with some things and my mind was constantly running and anxious. And once I started with this quilting thing, it just kind of honed my mind down and I was so focused on the fabric and the feeling and the work that was in front of me right? That it just kind of soothe my anxiety. And I realized that wow I love doing this I love painting as well but it just doesn't quite do that for me. Hmm. I think I need that tactile viewing of putting things together and seeing something actually come to life that's functional. Yeah. And quilting really just kind of brought all these things together you making something that is absolutely beautiful, but it's also incredibly incredibly functional.

Zandra Zuraw 13:28
I see this a lot of my mother in law's house or this is where I really have this, this image in my mind because she, she quilts but she also buys quilts, especially antique ones and she really appreciates the craftsmanship that goes into them and she just have a pile, you know, of quilts folded in this kind of antique, I don't know, it's not even it's not even a it's like a cupboard and the colors and the patterns that you can just see along the edges when you're looking at the stack of quilts to me It, it just felt so comforting and homey and beautiful. And I wanted a piece of that, you know, and so that has really drawn me toward quilts as well. I think on one of your posts, you said something about how whatever is going on in your life while you're making the quilt is sort of woven into the quilt itself. So it it's imbued with that kind of energy and


Melissa Parman 14:30
Yeah. 100% I am a strong believer and there is a spark about something that is handmade. Uh huh. There is a life that it takes on I was just talking to my husband the other day, about the joy and the that kind of energy that our a lot of our furniture pieces have, because my dad handmade them. Oh, and I was like I could have just gone And purchase a table, a beautiful table from you know, a countless number of stores, but it never would give me this just utter joy and sense of belonging that his piece because his hand touched every inch every centimeter of this piece. And I think that quilts have that same effect. Every single layer, every single part of that quilt was touched, the fabric was chosen or died, the fabric was cut, it was put together. It was then basted together and then it was hand stitched. Is it a lot of time and a lot of effort to do that. Right. And a lot of life happens during that. So I do think there's just kind of this magical thing that happens when you work on something over time. You know, I have memories of dying, hand dyeing this quilt that I'm working on now, with avocado stone. Yes, that way Ate during the pandemic 2020

Zandra Zuraw 16:04
Okay, we have to talk about this for one second because the the avocado dye is this beautiful blush pink. Well, it's different shades of pink probably depending on. I don't know how long it's day you're dyeing it for whatever. Can you give us a little quick rundown? How does one take an avocado and turn it into dye?

Melissa Parman 16:25
Well, there's a lot of different factors and how your dye will end up looking and 100 different factors. You can use just the stones, okay, um, or just the skins or both. I use both. Okay, and all you want to do is just kind of clean them off a little bit. You don't want a lot of the green.

Zandra Zuraw 16:46
Yeah, the float. Yeah.

Melissa Parman 16:48
And they have a lot of natural tannins, okay, and which helps bind the dye to the fabric. And they're the last have other things that you want to do to help kind of solidify that interaction between the dye and the fabric so it doesn't wash out, okay? And which is easy to Google encourage everyone to try it at least once because it's so fun and so satisfying. But the overall idea is that you put these stones and or skins in a stainless steel pot or an ammo pot, okay? And bring them up to a simmer. And you can do it for 30 minutes, you can do it for hours. The longer you go, the deeper the color will get.

Zandra Zuraw 17:36
Okay, I look at the photos of the things that you've been dying. And I mean, clearly you are a photographer because the photos are gorgeous, but they're sort of just this these beautiful pieces of linen or cotton. They're hanging in a window just drying, I assume and that you've died and it's just it's such a beautiful moment. Think to see the sunlight kind of coming through the cloth in your home that that alone seems worth it to me to try this just to have that moment of beauty. But But in, in addition to that, it's not like you're saying, oh, I've been doing this for 50 years, and I am a professional added, I know exactly, like, Nope, I'm just trying it and you're just trying it and you're getting all this beauty out of it. And that is so encouraging because I think a lot of us especially when it comes to handmade things, what we appreciate is this fabulous craftsmanship that you know, has taken years and years and years to cultivate. And that's all true. But there also seems to be in what you're saying. This idea that you can create a little bit of beauty in your home and you don't have to be perfect and you don't have to know everything.

Melissa Parman 18:48
Yes, definitely. And I still struggle with that. I struggle with making something and not loving it. Yeah. Or making it and sharing about it. But one thing that has given me such encouraging Is that, like you said, like, it's something that we all struggle with. And people have reached out to me and said, I didn't think that I could do this, or I could learn that. Yeah. And I you 100% can, there's just you have to kind of get over this block that we all kind of have. I don't know why and just do it. And I think that doing something maybe low pressure, like the avocado dye or a black T dye, okay, yeah, maybe just do it with a strip of fabric or maybe do it with a baby one v. Do it with a scarf, and just plop it in there and see what happens. 

Zandra Zuraw 19:40
I want to switch gears just a tiny bit. You have a lot of images of your home that show kind of everyday items like brooms or dust pans, cutting boards, but your all of your items look beautiful. Your cleaning tools in particular, looks to be handmade, or at least they're not off the racket target. And then I read in one of your posts that doing a deep clean of your home is one of your favorite ways to spend a day and I thought okay, well I think if I had those beautiful tools, that would definitely be my first step because it would at least inspire me a little bit but you've got to tell us what do you love about doing a deep clean so that maybe some of us who hate cleaning will kind of come around to your way of thinking.

Melissa Parman 20:23
Well, don't get me wrong, the bathroom is still if something runs out or if it breaks over the years I've kind of tried to replace it with something that is more sustainable. Okay. And I really want to support small businesses. Yeah, my purchases so or I have a craftsman do it like most of my cutting boards and my dad has made or I have a friend who has made some of my mugs, okay. Some of my hand brooms and it's just a really great way to support these small makers, especially now and right The world that we're in right now, but it kind of gives you I don't know, I don't know, again, I think it goes back to that idea of there's a spark and a life and something that someone made. And I feel that when I'm sweeping the floor with a beautiful broom, it just feels so much nicer than taking your little plastic, the right room. Right. And that takes time. You know, we have had plenty of the plastic right tools for a long time and it just took years of slowly switching those things out.

Zandra Zuraw 21:36
I'd like that. I did too, because that's almost more sustainable as well. It's not like this one clean decluttering you know, rampage that you went on to get rid of everything and then replace everything all at once because that that can also feel a little bit daunting. You know? I like it for sure. Yeah. As it broke. He replaced it with something nicer. Yeah.

Melissa Parman 21:55
Yeah. And I think that just kind of flows into setting This mindset about cleaning, you're using these beautiful tools. And you're kind of just honoring the tools in your home and cleaning it. I find that it's really meditative for me in the middle of a very busy week, I'll often look around and I'll throw on some of our favorite music and just start sweeping and dusting and it just helps me back away from whatever I'm doing or whatever I'm thinking and just take care of the space. Yeah, we've been given to take care of.

Zandra Zuraw 22:30
Yeah, it is a wonderful way to honor our homes, I think. So as we're talking about your home, you mentioned that it was small, and I remember reading somewhere I forget. What's the square footage? It's 1100 Square, right? 1100 square feet. And you've renovated A lot of it right? Yes. Okay. It's so beautiful. And you have a very thoughtful aesthetic throughout your home. I mean, you can tell that everything. Your rooms are very, you've considered what's going in there, and it's lovely to look at what does this do for you? How does it affect your your daily life? How does how does your stuff How does your style affected? How does your style decisions affected? And why does style matter? 

Melissa Parman 23:19
Surrounding myself and my family with a home that feels like us is one of my utmost priorities, creating a sacred space in a safe haven that promotes wholeness and creativity and joy is really, really important to me. And that includes what I bring into the home. We kind of had this big moment years ago, I actually found out that I was chemically sensitive after someone came and sprayed, and we actually had to get rid of a lot of things. And kind of just start almost from scratch. Hmm. And it was such a hard time it was so disappointing. And we had to move out of the house for a while.

Zandra Zuraw 24:10
Wow sounds serious.

Melissa Parman 24:13
Yeah, it was a big, big up ending thing that lasted months. But now I'm actually look back at that. And I'm so grateful not only because I've now noticed about my health, mainly because we approach our home so differently now. And we only bring in things that are beautiful and functional, and healthy for us. And whatever that looks like you know, that will look different for each family each home. But it's considered for us and our family. Which makes in turn your home feel like you.

Zandra Zuraw 24:49
Thank you so much for your time today.

Melissa Parman 24:52
Thank you. It's been such a joy to talk with you and just share home.



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