Reputations come fast and easy in a small town and Prince Rupert is no exception.
The word-of-the-day girl has garnered the intellectual curiosity of all those who pass by her red two-story home on Sixth Avenue West.
Sandra Cummings has entertained this reputation by placing a different word in her kitchen window facing the street below each day for the past three and a half years. What many residents may not know is that she’s also an artist, owns her own painting business, Color Fresh, was a former special education teacher and a deck hand.
“I have worn a lot of hats. I like to do a lot of different things,” Cummings said.
Her creativity is as diverse as her resume. She paints and restores furniture, but it was her love for mosaic creations that led to her daily ritual with words.
Three years ago, Cummings used her kitchen table as her art studio. Shards of glass would collect in the shag carpet in the room as she worked. Her husband, Mark Seidel, didn’t appreciate the cuts his feet suffered so he promised to build her an art room if she stopped.
At the time, she had bought three letters, E-A-T, to fit into a mosaic she was designing for the kitchen. She stopped her project but the words remained on a countertop until her husband placed them on the window over the sink.
The word that started it all was EAT.
“A friend of ours who was working in town saw the word EAT in the window and he came up. He knocked on the door and let himself in and says, ‘Hey your window says EAT so I came for dinner’,” Cummings said.
The couple invited him in but quickly changed the wording to ATE to avoid any other unexpected guests. From there the word game evolved. Seidel picked up more letters and installed an aluminum rail at the top of the window.
Each week is a new theme. Big events or holidays take precedence. Once, there was a French-themed week for a teacher in town as part of a project for students.
“I’ve had teachers tell me that they’ve had kids that have a hard time reading and they try to sound out the words in our window,” Cummings said.
Chatter about the word-of-the-day house spread around town. Based on comments from other people in the community Cummings is certain that half the population knows about her daily ritual.
“We’ve had people drop off wine with thank you notes saying how much they appreciate it. I get messaged on Facebook or email about the same thing and then sometimes parents ask if we could put their child’s name up on their birthday,” Cummings said.
There’s a lot more to Cummings than being the word-of-the-day girl. She grew up in Chilliwack where she craved a more rural lifestyle by the water. She moved to Prince Rupert in 1999 and worked as a special educator for students with severe behaviour.
She also worked over 10 years in fishing resorts and logging camps. Her most interesting job was as a deck hand for a floating fishing resort.
“It was a 60-foot converted tug boat that used to actually patrol the lower coast,” Cummings said. “You get up at 4 a.m. and you go to bed about midnight and I was in my boat a lot off the West Coast of the Charlottes — very remote.”
In 2005, she left Rupert for a few years for the Sunshine Coast where she painted boats and houses professionally.
Prince Rupert tugged at Cummings and she returned in 2008. She continued to paint for other companies until she started her own business. She also met her future husband in General Paint. He asked her to paint his house — the very one they share now.
In the art studio he set up for her in their home, Cummings is working on her next project: a glass mosaic of different animals with horns or antlers. She plans to set up a website for her artwork and build a collection to display in a show.
As creative as Cummings is her lexicon of themes and words is starting to dry up. She requests donations from the public.
“I’m running low of words people so if you would like to give some donations of about seven to 10 words for one week, and we’ve used a lot of words so you’ve got to be creative at this point. We don’t mind getting lists of words in our mailbox.”