Friday, July 30, 2010

Inspired Image: Sarah of Navare Jewelry

Today's Inspired Image (well images, since Sarah chose two!) comes from Sarah Jess, who makes completely lovely one of a kind jewelry made from found objects, vintage pieces, and repurposed thrift store finds. Read on to find out more about these images, and scroll down to see some of Sarah's work. And if you want to submit your own inspired image, email me at thingswemake at gmail dot com.

Hello, my name is Sarah Jess.

You can find me at and

This image comes from "Circe Invidiosa" was painted by John William Waterhouse; "Berengaria's Alarm" was painted by Charles Allston Collins.

It inspires me because "Circe Invidiosa" encourages my imagination because it deals with mythology.  "Berengaria's Alarm" inspires me because Berengaria originated in Navarre, an ancient kingdom between France and Spain.  I have done a lot of reading about her and other royals throughout history, and I find the customs and the lavish lifestyle fascinating, as well as the fine quality and interesting color palettes of clothing and jewelry from the past. Navare is also the name of my company, inspired by Berengaria's Navarre.

I particularly love the deep blues and greens in the sea and the dress, and own an oil painting reproduction of "Circe Invidiosa" that I gaze at every day. There is such drama and force in the painting, with Circe's emotions and the natural temperament of the sea!  I am intrigued by the mystery behind Berengaria and the kingdom of Navarre.  There isn't a lot of information available about Berengaria, but I adore her unusual name, and the fact that she was passionately in love with Richard the Lionhearted, and followed her dream to  marry him and no one else, depite the fact that her relationship with him brought about much disappointment, loneliness and pain.  With some of the same fervor, I hope to continue pursuing success with my business, inspired by these two heroic females.

It makes me feel passionate, with a deep longing to explore and investigate history, old fairy tales, other cultures, and mythology. Thus, my love of vintage jewelry, and the challenge of reusing and repurposing pieces that were created a long time ago, and giving them a new life in our modern world, contrasting their timeless beauty and quality with the disposable merchandise of these times.

The 3 words it conjures up are rich, suspenseful, expressive.


I am totally in love with Sarah's jewelry and I think hearing about why she choose her images gives her work some nice context. Here are some of my favorite pieces of hers, but you can see more of the pieces available here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Q&A: Ceramicist and Paper Accessories Maker Kat Kraszeski

Name: Kat Kraszeski 
Location: I live and work (from my home studio and from the downtown Cultural Arts Center) in Greensboro, NC

Tell me a little bit about how you decided to make what you make?
I got into ceramics some in college while majoring in design, but did not take a wheel throwing class until last year when my mom and I decided to try one out at our cultural arts center.  We both loved it,  got my older sister to join, and I have been making clay creations ever since!  The garlands and gift tags just kind of came about because I have always been a little over the top with making party decorations and wrapping gifts for my family and friends.  They always liked my creative touches and encouraged me to try to sell those as well.  It is hard for me to focus on just one creative pursuit, so I find that letting myself work in both clay and paper satisfies my desire to do a little bit of everything!
What sets your work apart?
As far as my ceramics go, I think what sets my work apart is that it is all really one of a kind.  My ceramic mushrooms are a custom design and are pretty labor intensive.  My trays are special because each image is something from my head that has been carved into the clay.  Those marks can't be changed or duplicated once they are put down, which to me makes them incredibly sweet and special.  I love being able to combine that idea of a really simplified nature illustration with a 3-dimensional piece.

Is this your full time work?
This is not my full time work, I am a full time high school art teacher, so I try to spend most of my summer's off creating work for my etsy shop and playing in the studio.  

How did you learn how to make your products?
I have had a couple of great pottery teachers who have helped shape and cultivate my ideas into the forms I am now making.  Other than that my work is self-taught, just me trying to put my own ideas into tangible objects.

Where do you find your inspiration?
Gosh, I find inspiration everywhere!  Etsy, design blogs and publications, and the internet give so much incredible inspiration to draw from.  My ceramic pieces are certainly nature inspired and that normally comes from walks with my boyfriend and dog in our neighborhood and time spent in my garden.  Colors, shapes, and textures can jump out and inspire me from just about anywhere I seem to be and being around creative students and friends always helps as well!

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Ode to Pesto, Now in Recipe Form

I am not sure why I didn't post a recipe with my ode to pesto, but here you go! Remember to check my tips to make this both easier and less expensive.

adapted from How to Cook Everything* by Mark Bittman
makes about 1 cup

2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves (rinsed and dried)
salt, to taste
1/2 cups flat leaf parsley (rinsed and dried)
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil (or more until you get the consistency you want)
1/2 c (or a few decent size chunks) Parmesan or Pecorino Romano**

Combine all ingredients into a blender except for the oil. Add your 1/2 c of oil, then process, scraping down the sides of the container if necessary and adding more oil if you want a thinner pesto.

Keep in mind that as long as you get the general ratios right, it will turn out well—which is code for me admitting that I don't measure when I make pesto. I like to guesstimate, especially when I make a bigger batch, though I understand why having an actual recipe is important!

*I heart the searchable HTCE app!
**Pecorino has a lovely smooth flavor and is often much less expensive.

[Image from]

Weekend Highlights: Pesto, Pesto and More Pesto

I would like to start the week off by saying that I am incredibly grateful to have gotten a break in the crazy humidity—that meant that we were finally able to eat meals on the porch without dissolving into puddles. Our back porch is where I fell in love with our house back in April when we first moved in and would eat dinner out there after painting or breaking down boxes. So heavenly.

I managed to put a huge pile of our basil to good use in the mother load of pesto batches. We ate some of it for dinner over steamed potatoes, squash and green beans and I froze two family-size portions to use come fall and winter. I plan to do this every time I make pesto through the rest of the summer to stock our freezer nice and good.

Here are a few hints on the pesto-making front:
1. Don't use the huge basil leaves, or if you want not to waste them, make sure that you have enough of the smaller ones to balance out the flavor. Having a goal to use smaller leaves might also help remind you to use it before it gets enormous.
2. If you have a fridge bursting with summer produce, like we do right now with our own garden goodies and our weekly CSA share, steam it, then pour pest on it. Trust me, the green stuff turns a plate of veggies into pure summery bliss.
3. Use walnuts instead of pine nuts. They are much cheaper and you'll never notice the difference. And skip toasting them!
4. Throw in a handful of flat parsley to help the color stay bright green. Add a bit of lemon juice for even more protection against gray. And don't skimp on the olive oil! (Because I knew I'd be making a bunch, I bought a big bulk jug last week at the store.)
5. Lest you think you have too much on hand, you can use it on pasta, on potatoes, as a sauce on veggies, stirred into scrambling eggs, stirred into a summer vegetable soup, slathered onto a sandwich, as a dip or sauce for grilled shrimp, chicken or meat, or in place of red sauce on pizza.


Friday, July 23, 2010

July Print of the Month: White Tent from Gretchenmist

This is my seventh purchase in this year's mini print of the month series, which is my commitment to buying a photography or illustration print from an independent artist each month this year. 

When I'm looking for a print of the month, I try to choose something that speaks to me right where I am in life. Which makes sense when you consider this print in the context of my recent vacation where we spent a full week living out of a tent. I loved the simplicity of that week and there were many times when it felt just as warm and glowy as this White Tent print from Gretchenmist. The print is part of a series that captures the feeling of the camping holidays that the artist, Belinda, took as a child. She's also participating in the Poppytalk Handmade market to raise funds for the Gulf, so click here to see more ways to support our friends down there by buying handmade.

I am very much looking forward to hanging this print in my guest room/office where I am sure that it will help remind me of our lovely trip.

Speaking of which, it's Friday, which means that it's almost time to enjoy a mini-break for all of us. We're having neighbors and friends over this weekend, which means lots of cooking (hooray!) and sharing of the load of produce currently in the fridge. And I have to bring a dessert to a baby shower tomorrow, so am currently debating between cookies or ice box cake...decisions, decisions!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Handmade Floral Accessories by Christine of Bean and the Sprout

Christine, who happens to live very nearby, makes one of a kind floral hair accessories and jewelry. Read on to hear about how she started her line and the creative ways she sources her raw materials.

Name: Christine
Location: I work out of my home studio in Urbandale, Iowa (a suburb of Des Moines)

Tell me a little bit about your work.
Bean and the Sprout is a line of handmade accessories inspired by Southern ladies. Each piece is created by hand from vintage fabrics and jewelry found at estate sales, thrift stores, etc. I love taking an old outdated dress or blouse and turning it into something beautiful. Each of my pieces is one of a kind and meant to add a little elegance to any ensemble, whether it be a t-shirt and jeans or a party dress.
How long have you been making your creations?
I started making my creations about a year and a half ago. I just finished up art school but didn't have a job, so I began making headbands for myself. Slowly, my friends began to express interest, I did a craft fair and got great feedback. The momentum just built from there.

What sets your work apart? 
Since everything comes from vintage materials, there is a story behind each piece, whether it came from an old prom or wedding gown, or a men's tie. Each of my pieces has a really beautiful delicacy. I create each piece by hand, and I love bright, vibrant colors. I think there is an unexpected quality to many of my details (a vintage medal, a small pin in an interesting shape). 

What inspires you? 
I am inspired by springtime in Savannah, great vintage jewelry, oak trees covered in Spanish moss, old books on etiquette, anything I find at a thrift store, estate sale, or flea market. I'm inspired by Alphonse Mucha, Art Nouveau, and anything with sequins.

Where did you learn to make your pieces? 
My mom is an amazing seamstress and taught me how to sew when I was little. Most of what I currently do has originated from goofing around and playing with fabrics that I had on hand. I love color and texture in any form whether it be in visual arts or fashion. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Beets, Beans and Surprises in the Flower Beds

We had quite the dramatic weather weekend with a huge storm Saturday night that brought 60-70 mph winds, which resulted in us losing power for 24 hours. Which was helpful considering my goal to stay off of the computer on Sunday, but frustrating since I couldn't cook in advance of this week (part of my share of our chores) and we had to deal with a melting freezer (and you, know, the heat inside the house). But, it proved to give us a chance to do other, simpler things, like play guitar (Josh) and quilt (me), read, and spend time outside in the garden. Here are some snaps to give you a sense of how things are progressing.

Above was our first batch of beets, both regular red ones and Chiogga ones (that are striped on the inside). We had them grated in a salad. Here are some of our tomatoes, from our enormous plants.

A pea!

A bean! Actually, we've eaten about three batches of these beans already, which has been rather exciting.

Here is a big patch of thyme that is just waiting to be put to use in eggs- it's particularly good with eggs and sauteed onions, actually. There is also a mountain of basil, so as soon as I get my hands on a container of pine nuts, there will be a bulk batch of pesto going into the freezer.

And finally, since this is our first summer in the house, we keep being surprised by what's blooming, like this bed of coneflowers and what looks to be some type of hibiscus. They make the bees really happy.

Link Love: five things that have caught my eye lately online.
1. The Canning 101 series on Simple Bites to make good use of all of your summer produce.
2. The wedding graduate post from 20 year old Ashlyn on A Practical Wedding, which just proves to me that everyone has the right to get married when the time is right for them, in the way that is right for the couple.
3. The Italian floral inspiration on this We Like it Wild post on Design*Sponge.
4. This Grown Up Lemonade recipe from Kelly at Eat Make Read.
5. This Cathedral Windows Pillow from Make Something, which I Must Try at Home as it completely makes my heart happy.

Hope you all had a great weekend and thank you for your thoughts on balance!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Have Embroidery, Will Travel (With a Few Thoughts On Balance)

When I was getting ready for vacation, I knew that I wanted to pack a portable sewing project (my current baby quilt is a bit too much to cart around in the backcountry!). Luckily, I was in NYC and had the chance to stop in at Purl Patchwork's new location—heaven—where I picked up this Indian Paintbrushes & Daisies Crewel Embroidery Kit.

I've never done this sort of project before, but it came with meticulous directions which were helpful. Interestingly, I actually saw a lot of these specific wildflowers while in Montana/Idaho, so it all worked out quite well though it will take me a while to finish this—it frames out to be 10x20 inches.

I mostly worked on this in the car between destination as it seemed like all I wanted to do during our other downtime was to read. (If you are into food, definitely get a copy of the Best Food Writing 2009. It's quite the enjoyable read!)

I had a lot of time to think while away and I definitely got a heaping dose of perspective about my day-to-day life. I think we all tend to overextend ourselves a bit, so it was completely amazing to have time to sleep as much as I wanted/needed to, to read without worrying that I was missing an email, to take unhurried walks, to have long conversations where I could really listen without feeling like there was something else that needed doing. I know that part of this is simply the point of vacation, but I came to the realization that I want to try to do something to bring a little more balance, a little more of the feeling that I had for much of the past two weeks, in to my daily life—to my days when I can easily spent 10-12 hours in front of a computer not necessarily ever really focusing on just one thing.

It's tricky because I strive to be good at what I do, to keep up with relationships, to cook from scratch and support local foods, to make time for sewing and quilting- but there is also the simple reality of having a house to keep up with, email to return, bills to pay, which all together sometimes feels like too much. (When do we sleep?) It's like we're just rushing through one day to get to the next. Which is exhausting as I am sure that you know.

Plus, while we were on vacation Josh and I took a big step—we're going to be getting married next summer! It's terribly exciting (and he proposed by the most scenic river/waterfall that alone nearly made me cry) and it will mean that we have a lot of planning to do. And I want to enjoy it and figure out how not to miss the important everyday moments, whether big or small, since they matter so much.

So I'm going to be trying a few things including:
1.) Staying off of the computer on Sunday. This already sounds hard to me (I have so many wedding blogs to look at for inspiration!), but I think unplugging one day a week will do wonders for my state of mind—and it will give me time to bake, cook and simply enjoy other things.
2.) Staying off of the computer when I get home from work, whenever possible. The 10-12 hours can happen by 6 or 6:30, so I'm working on enjoying dinner followed by a walk, a good book, or simply time to catch up with loved ones.
3.) I'm going to be blogging less. Since my community here at TWM is so important to me, I want to be sure that I am giving you quality posts and insights into other artists. I think it will be hugely helpful for me to start posting 3 times a week to give myself a bit of a break. The last thing I want is for this to start feeling like an obligation and I think this adjustment will go a long way in keeping this a very happy place for me to spend some time.

I'm curious about how all of you find balance in your lives as I know for certain that I am not the first person to go through all of this. I would love to hear how you are handling it, so please comment away if you've made any changes that have really worked for you! And also, if you have any nuggets of wisdom as we're about to enter wedding planning, please share that too!

And thank you for listening. That was quite the lengthy post.
Happy weekend!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

10 Things I Learned on Vacation in Montana/Idaho

1.) If you see cherries at a farmers market or roadside stand, you should always buy (eat) a bag.

2.) Just because it's July, that doesn't mean that there can't be snow/sleet/sub-zero temps at high altitudes—as there was in the Yaak for our inaugural night of camping. Always bring waterproof gloves and layers.

3.) There are few things that I enjoy more than listening to family stories and learning more about places that hold deep rooted meaning.

4.) You can learn a lot about a town by looking at the interior of their grocery store (like this one in Troy, MT).

5.) There's nothing quite like a good parade.

6.) Making big life promises and celebrating love by a gushing river is a fantastic idea.

7.) When your vacation plans are interrupted by the unexpected (like back pain), go to a National Park (Glacier in our case) and starting walking. The scenery will soothe the aching muscles.

8.) It is highly exciting to spend a week of camping during high wildflower season.

9.) Even when you are keeping a look out for wildlife (bear, moose, deer) while hiking, don't forget to look down and take in the details.

10.) Spending two weeks enjoying this sort of scenery (this was taken in the Selway Bitterroot wilderness area), reading books, embroidering and enjoying loved ones is the perfect recipe for refreshment. If you can take a break from multitasking, do it.