Posted on 04-29-2016
Inside the antique white patina of Cross Creek Animal Hospital, the fresh, tropical scent of pineapple and coconut from a burning candle floats in the air while the brilliant afternoon sun filters through the wooden blinds, throwing the stone fireplace into sharp relief, and Heather Ellison—our designated interior decorator—works with her brow furrowed down and fingers flying over her latest craft. Her silver-blonde hair is tucked behind a black headband, but that doesn’t prevent her from flicking the ends back behind her shoulders while she works. She’s concentrating on the dazzling array of tulips and hydrangeas before her, carefully arranged in umbrellas and tied off in a beautiful burlap bow. She peers out the weathered windowpanes for incoming clients before hanging them on the door.
She spends several minutes arranging the slant of the umbrella, checking once, twice, three times that the angle is perfect before securing it in place with double-sided tape. Heather then fluffs the flowers up and goes back to perfecting the bow. Every detail is precise and exquisite. Her work is flawless and it doesn’t take long for clients to chime in.
“These are beautiful!” One woman says while admiring the door.
“How did you make this?” Exclaims another.
“Do you sell these?” One client curiously asks.
Heather flashes her easy smile that lights up the blue in her eyes and happily explains her process. She uses her hands while she talks, walking through each step thoroughly and excitedly. She makes it sound easy. She makes it sound fun, but you can definitely tell by the beautiful blooms and the careful weave of fabric that Heather poured her heart into this bouquet.
“I genuinely feel excited about working with something that could be beautiful,” she says. A very slight Texan drawl hangs on a few of her words. “I have interest in making things and working with my hands, that’s the fun part of it.”
Our owners and our Practice Manager did not take long to put Heather’s talents to use. For the past year, Heather’s stunning creations from flying paper bats to themed wreaths adorned with gems and jewels have lit up our lobby, complimenting Cross Creek’s warm farmhouse feeling.
Heather’s interest in the arts is in her blood—creativity runs strong in her family, running back several generations. She lists her painter grandfather and her artist father as big influences.
“My dad used to hand paint signs for businesses before they became electric as a profession. He gave us books on how to draw.”
But it was under the love and guidance of her mother that her craft really started to develop. Heather recounts stories where boring projects were made interesting when coupled with her mother’s enthusiasm for the arts.
“We did Girl Scouts so we were always making things,” she says. “One thing I remember is making these Sit-Upons… We thought that they really lame, but with my mom, we just couldn’t make a simple Sit-Upon—we had to make it unique for us. She made something that really quite boring into something fun.”
Over the years, Heather’s involvement in church, school, and community functions allowed her to explore her talents and expand on her many artistic techniques. She continued her mother’s tradition by sharing her crafting prowess with her children, but wasn’t until one of her daughters expressed interest in origami that Heather found her true passion.
“I love working with paper!” Heather exclaims, barely taking breath between her words. She details her parchment exploits, which range anywhere from paper purses and paper dolls to paper folding and paper balls, also known as kusudama balls, which have been featured on several decorations around the clinic. Heather has traveled to nearly every craft store in the Fayetteville area to ensure her paper is of the highest quality. It’s a bit of an old-fashioned sentiment, but she is an old-fashioned artist, preferring to touch and hold her product before working on an artsy endeavor.
“I like to feel my product, look and see if it will fit with what I have in mind,” she insists. “You can’t really do that if you’re buying online. There’s a lot of paper out there that isn’t good quality and if it doesn’t look good to you… it won’t make the project look good.”
This exact philosophy breathes life to all the decorations she has made for Cross Creek. Flashy pearlized paper, beautifully curled paper, heavy parchment paper, and even pages carefully folded from the bindings of old books are carefully and purposely selected under Heather’s scrutinous eye.
“I especially like working with books,” she says. “I like seeing the words on the pages being made into art.”
Each month Heather focuses on a theme and crafts her stunning adornments around it. In March, she curled pearlized paper and made rabbit wreaths to usher in spring. For Halloween, spooky baubles and paper bats swooped down from the ceilings. Last year, paper pinwheels and spangled stars in red, white, and blue greeted clients for the Fourth of July. Each decoration is handmade and of craft-show quality, a sentiment she has pursued a few times.
“I’ve actually sold stuff and I’ve been to craft fairs under Twisted Parchment,” she smiles. “I would like to start a business on Etsy one day.”
Watching her fuss over small details on her finished products with crafty fingers and softly talking to herself in her calm voice, if definitely makes an eyebrow raise considering she is a veteran and a former Operation Sergeant in the Army. When she talks about her time in service, she stands a little straighter and talks a little clearer—a Soldier through and through. A Field Operator and then an Operation Sergeant after, her hectic schedule with work and home life left little time for crafts.
“I was Signal. I was a talker,” she says “I was shuffling paper in a whole different way.”
She laughs when she remembers how her gentle nature and soft voice made her an in-demand commodity over the field radio.
“When I wasn’t on shift, the other soldiers would call in asking for the ‘nice lady!’” she says. This moniker carries over to today with many clients calling in for Heather, referring to her as the ‘nice lady’. Only now she is also known as the ‘creative one.’
Always thinking of new ideas, Heather has expanded her passion into privately commissioned pieces for clients and employees. Much of what she creates for the clinic is sold to make room for new crafts that add color and life to the old farmhouse. She never uses the same idea twice—all of her finished products are singularly unique. She takes great care to make sure the embellishments for the dog-side lobby differs from the cat-side decorations.
When clients notice her work, they almost always tell Heather how beautiful her own home must look. Heather snorts when she hears that, but politely says no.
“My daughter was making fun of me actually,” Heather says, “she pointed out a commercial the other day for Michael’s where it calls itself a store for ‘people that like to make pretty things for others.’”
Heather is laughing now and she shakes her head.
“And my daughter says, ‘Mom! They just said your punch line on there!’”
As we close out yet another beautiful month of colorful decorations, Heather has been spending her time away from the clinic thinking up her newest idea for May. Her lips have been sealed on her anticipated project and with the countdown now in the single digits, she is close to her big reveal. This is one of those exciting times at Cross Creek where our employees and clients come in and not only feel welcome, but feel proud of our clinic. Heather's handwork, creativity, and passion make Cross Creek inviting and beautiful every single day and for that, we cannot thank her enough.
We can't wait for May!
Lisa Wade-Wellington said:
At the first of each month I start looking at the lobby doors to see what they are going to be decorated with. Her work is amazing and I am always in aw of her creativity.