I hold my breath as I open the scary dungeon room door. This creepy room at the very back of our basement has become the repository of every item in our home that we long to forget. It is home to spiders. It is dust and stale air. It is the dark side of our twenty-first century consumer cast offs that I do my best to hide from the world. This door stays closed 98% of the year. I am doing the unthinkable. Urged on by a some powerful muse who wants me to utilize this space in a more positive way, I am opening the door to my personal housekeeping hell.


“We cannot just put this old paneling out on the curb for the trash pick-up. It’s too big. They are either going to charge us a per sheet removal fee or we have to cut it down and get rid of it a bit at a time in our weekly bin pick-up.”

“That’s going to take forever.”

“It’ll take a while. But the removal fee is higher than the cost of new paneling. Just know that.”

“We are never going to be free of the dungeon room madness.”

“That that muse of yours ought come up with more creative ways to get that room cleaned out.”


A mentor of mine purchased a new home in a location far enough away that I would not likely see her again any time soon. I had learned much from this woman and would greatly miss her council. This patient artist, foster parent, and practicing Catholic deserved a handmade parting gift. I found myself eyeballing the remaining old paneling as I contemplated such a souvenir . Could I make her something from this . . . trash?


After briefly studying Japanese Kamidana (home Shinto shrines) and Butsudan (home Buddhist shrines) with their refined elegance, sleek designs,  and often simplistic beauty, the photos in Dana Salvo’s “Home Altars of Mexico” seemed a bit more haphazard. Sometimes a small shelf, sometimes a corner of a room, sometimes covering entire walls, these personalized scared spaces within Mexican people’s homes contained candles, incense burners, flowers, food and liqueur offerings, statues, and images of Christ, Mary, and numerous Catholic saints. Small depictions of the saints on wood, tin, or copper made specifically for home alters were called retablos or laminas. This more eclectic devotional style seemed more. . . me.

I read that St. Joseph was the patron saint of finding new homes since he had to move his family three times and he did so safely. He is also the patron of fathers and family since he parented young Jesus. Moreover he is the patron of workers or craftspeople since he earned his living as a carpenter. What better saint to present to my mentor as she embarked on the next chapter of her life.



“Why are you making four of them?”

“Well, I’ve never done this before and I’m bound to screw up. I’m giving myself four chances to get it right.”

“If they all turn out, you just have three extra”

“What are the chances they all turn out half way decent?”


Three are for sale in my shop.


A little over a week before the Christmas/Holiday party at work, I found myself scrambling to come up with a gift idea for my coworkers. Something affordable yet not cheap. Something unique. Something related to our shared work. . . St. Dorthy, patron saint of Horticulture! Retablos for all!


Again. . . Extras are for sale.


Both because I still have an excess of paneling and because I wanted to improve on my retablo making process, I then created a line of St. Arnold of Oudenburg (patron of beer brewers) .


Then I created a line of St. Catherine of Bologna (patron of artists) .

Recently, I finished a line of St. Gobnait (parton of beekeeping).


Will I be making more retablos? . . . Who knows? But chances seem good since old paneling still remains in the dungeon room.

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