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In what feels like a lifetime ago, I owned a Pilates studio. It not only served as a fun place to workout, it was a networking hub, and to a great extent — my lifeline during a challenging period of my life. 

Outside of writing about fitness, most of the human interest stories that I wrote during those fifteen years came from the women whom I trained. 

One of these awesome women, Valerie, is an artist who works with an eclectic medium: the discarded. Small parts, bits, components, hardware, odds and ends found at antique stores, junk yards, and garage sales comprise her artistic materials. These items that she covets the most are mainly overlooked by others, as these trinkets are typically not obvious to the casual observer — she obtains her treasures typically from the junk pile in a back room. 

Valerie’s workspace is magical: imagine the scrapbooking aisle at a big-box crafts shop, but instead of new, shiny new merchandise, the room is filled with random buttons, old wires, damaged vintage toys, jewelry, discarded scraps of ribbon, and all sorts of mismatched items that most people would dismiss as trash bin fodder. Her workshop is the most meticulously organized room that I have ever seen. It’s one thing to find fun items to play around with in an art project, it’s altogether amazing the vision Valerie sees when she finds something to work with: she turns these odds and ends into desirable (and expensive) sculptures. Each is a uniquely exceptional work of art. Her brand is called “Re-imagine”.

Valerie turns the miscellaneous into the magnificent. 

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As an unexpected “thank you” for writing a feature on her, Valerie generously gifted me a sculpture she created especially with me in mind. The figure is based on (this part is not surprising) a writing theme. The base of my sculpture is from something fabulous and resembles a small bundt pan, only for maybe a muffin? The legs are vintage antique wood sticks, paint worn and untouched from its prior iteration. The body is a repurposed tin box that at one time contained a typeset ribbon for a typewriter. The upper torso is a wood block with the letter “X” on it. A large wood bead serves as a neck, a nut (v. bolt) serves as a collar, and the head is from a small doll and decoupaged with dictionary pages. The hat is of magical origins (unknown to me) with a brim that faintly reads, “made in Canada”, and its arms are formed with wire. The entire sculpture is a collective of items which possess their own unique story. 

Looped inside a hand is a repurposed key from a typewriter that’s been turned into a charm.

I started to cry. 

At this time, none of my Pilates clients knew how deeply I was struggling. They were unaware that I was in survival mode and was running towards the emergency exit of my marriage. Those women in my Pilates studio were my daily dose of hope.

The key Valerie chose for my beautifully sculptured art piece reads, “Shift”.

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