Family means everything, and a gallery wall is a uniquely personal and fun way to celebrate the lives and love of those humans connected to us by DNA, even if we never got a chance to meet them. Yes, I know this is a tablescape blog, but I’m hoping you will indulge me and perhaps get inspired for a different sort of decorating. After all, if you frequently entertain family like I do, they will get a kick out of seeing the faces of ancestors mixed in with the thoughtful symbolism artfully displayed each time they come to visit.
I finished creating this gallery wall – the love and life story of Ramon, me, and our ancestors – in the library just in time for guests coming for Thanksgiving and Christmas 2014 to see it. As we’re all squirreled away for these cold winter months and looking for indoor projects to fill the time, perhaps this will stir something in you to create a gallery wall with your own memories!
(Click on any photo, then click again to enhance/enlarge it.)
The “connecting” elements between Ramon’s family and mine are many, but none stands out greater than the fact that both our Dads worked for the railroad early on in their lives. My Dad talked about it often in very fond tones, and I wanted to honor both Dads by using railroad tracks as the literal and figurative connectors on this wall. I put a length of tracks dead center on the wall beneath a side-by-side collage of Ramon and me at the approximate ages we were when our Dads were working on the railroad. (Don’t judge! I was just 6! 🙂 ) The tracks serve to visually “connect” the 2 sides of the wall that are dedicated to my side and Ramon’s side of the family.
The huge clock represents not only the passing of time over the generations, but also reminds me of the kind of pocket watch the Dads carried during their time on the railroad. (Still thinking about adding a chain to it.) The oversized high school diplomas in their original frames were earned by my paternal grandparents in 1912 and 1916. (Yes, they made diplomas THAT big back then!!!) That makes Grandpa Wilson’s diploma an official antique and Grandma Wilson’s on its way to that status one year from now! The collage above the diplomas are photos of my paternal grandparents, paternal great-grandparents, and other members of my Dad’s family. The Ws beneath the diplomas, of course, represent the Wilson family name.
I turned the corner of the gallery wall to display collages of my Dad. The frame at the bottom is a medley of him from a baby on up. He was a handsome devil!!! the portrait on the opposing wall is of my Grandmother as a child.
The frames beneath my Grandmother’s portrait hold letters written to her from my Dad when he first left the farm and went to work on the railroad. Notice the lovely calligraphy he splurged on for the top right-hand corner envelope to impress his Mom!
As a tribute to those who pass before us, I like to create personalized shadow boxes. My Dad’s is encircled by railroad tracks. Inside the shadow box are bits & pieces of his life that I will always remember including his love for golf, popcorn, Vegas, tending to his various fruit trees, and teaching me to shoot. The shadow box also has a railroad spike and a wrench because Daddy could fix and build almost anything. On top of the box is a Scrabble “W” for Wilson, a replica Nickel Plate boxcar, and a Missouri Pacific Railroad pin.
Beneath the clock is a collage of photos that I found amusing. Three photos taken at different times in history of little boys with their red wagons. Clockwise: my son in 1981, my uncle (with my Mom being cradled) circa 1928, and my Dad in 1925. Cool, huh? I hot glued the tiny red wagon to the outside for a 3-D look.
The center of the gallery wall has photos of my Mother’s side of the family (Starks) above the photos of Ramon and me as children. (I was in 1st grade in my school uniform, Ramon in 2nd or 3rd.) The 6-pack to the upper right represents five generations of Starks women starting with my great-Grandmother. The single photo directly above is of my maternal great-great-Grandmother. The couple to the left are my maternal Grandfather and my Mom’s stepmother/my Grandmother. (Mom’s birth mother died when my Mom was just 7 years old.) The photo you see of the young man playing the violin is my Grandfather as a youngster.
The Nichols part of the wall is a little skimpy. I don’t have a lot of photos on hand of Ramon’s side of the family, but I did my best to represent the generations. The 3-pack at the bottom has photos of (L to R) his paternal Grandmother, paternal great-Grandfather, and paternal great-Grandmother. The collage above that has Ramon’s parents at the top, his children on the bottom tier, and Ramon and grandson in the middle.
The shadow box in memory of Ramon’s Mother represents her love/skill for cooking and sewing, including a vintage cookbook. I had a lot of fun putting this box together with miniatures found at Hobby Lobby. The “R” is for her first name.
I had lots of fun items to include in Ramon’s Dad’s box! He was an avid fisherman, an accomplished gardener, a devout Catholic, and a proud member of the NRA. I also included his pocket watch and compass from his days with the railroad as well as a railroad spike. Beneath his box is a Hobby Lobby craft deer head that lauds his abilities as a hunter. As with my Dad’s shadow box, Mr. Nichols has railroad tracks encircling.
You may wonder about the various keys and vintage-look door handles. These represent the keys to our past and the many doors opened from one generation to the next. The stars at the very top of the gallery represent those who have gone on to heaven.
I wanted to carry some of the themes from the gallery wall throughout the library. On the desk is a handful of railroad spikes, and on the secretary is a violin first played by my Mother’s Mother (my maternal Grandmother) back in the late 1920s and passed down through the generations.
Our library gallery wall is still a work in progress. I hope to fill this room over time with the many artifacts that reach back into history to tell our story of what happened when two people fell in love!
I am still on the mend from my January 8 spine surgery with little chance of getting back to tablescaping any time soon. Please hang in there with me. I miss you all so much and want to get back to doing what I love sooner than later. Meanwhile, THANK YOU for all the emails, texts, cards, gifts, phone calls, prayers, and general outpouring of love and affection!!! It’s been like Valentine’s Day for me this whole past month! (Except Valentine’s Day doesn’t hurt like this!!! 🙂 )
♥Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!!!♥