Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I'm going on a blogging break—in addition to a real break in the direction of the East Coast come Thursday morning—so I'm leaving you with this lovely image from Abby. I think it captures the season, and reminds me that it's the small things, like a bit of sparkle, and the big things, like a new baby boy who was born over the weekend to friends (welcome to the world Gus!!), that are cause for big celebration. Enjoy the holiday everyone!

P.S. Abby's shop is closed until the new year, but maybe this goes on a 2011 treat list? Just a thought!
P.P.S Please cross your fingers that the weather is decent later this week- we have a 19 hour drive ahead of us!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Homespun for the Holidays

It's getting down to the gift-buying wire and if you're like me, you're starting to feel the pressure to just buy something that will work for those left on your list. Which isn't all that festive when it comes right down to it. The whole point of gifts is that they are meant to be thoughtful, a way of showing that we care and understand the person we are gifting to. But for me, when I have one particular person left on my list who is the Hardest Person to Buy For Ever—because he has such amazing taste and I get nervous worrying that what I choose for him won't measure up—I can loose the point of it all.

So today I'm stepping back and remembering some of the things that I liked most about our holiday last year. One of them was this snowman from my sister. She made them for each of us as gift toppers, so each was unique and sweet and somehow related to our personalities. I love mine and have been trying to think of how to display her ever since.

I also really loved a gift that I made for Josh last year, when he was coming home to my family for the first time. We have a tradition of handmade stockings (my Dad's mom knit all of ours), so it was important to me to make him one that he could use for years to come. I made it out of feedsacks that I had in the house, and which happened to be red and green and very festive. I haven't gotten around to embroidering his name on it yet, but maybe that will be a project to do on Christmas Eve.

So as we head into the last weekend before the holiday, this is my reminder to try to push away the retail pressure and remember that it's really the little things that come from the heart that can go the farthest.

Though, of course, if you don't have time (or the inclination) to start making gifts now, hit up your favorite local store—I have a trip to Ephemera planned—or search for "ready to ship" on Etsy. Other people's handiwork counts too!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crocheted Holiday Goodness from ReRae Shop

I spent some time late last week putting up some decorations around my office work space and I am definitely in the holiday spirit. I wish that I could have draped the place in these lovely items from Rae of the ReRae shop on etsy, which I think are the perfect decorations precisely because they would work all winter long.

Crochet Garland in Natural

Here's a bit from Rae on her work:
"I have been making textile pieces since I was 13. I made many of my clothes in high school and took an almost obsessive interest in sewing. Apparel design was my focus at university and I now work as an accessories designer at a local retailer. During my career, I was lucky enough to take a trend trip to Japan and was immediately inspired by the simple and delicate care taken in curating and celebrating the small things in life. I think about the look and feel of these small, rustic and almost pioneer-like boutiques every day."

Tiny message in a bottle ornament
"I have always loved needlecrafts and the vintage lady-like mood that they convey. Working with crochet is so flexible, and has a delicate look that is contrasted well with rustic materials. I can utilize many different fibers, shapes and applications in my craft." 

I think that the vintage lady-like mood is just the thing that I also love about needlecrafts. Thanks so much for sharing a bit about what you do Rae! Check out her shop to see more colorways of these items and also brooches, necklaces and some super sweet tiny pouches.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tis the Season for Stitchery: The Making of My Wedding Dress Update #2

Hello friends! I have some big news to share today—I have started beading the panels of my wedding dress. Which means that I've completed the stitching and I'm on to the fun part. I have realized that doing this sort of handiwork must sound so tedious to some, but the remarkable thing is that when I do this, I am so overjoyed with the outcome that I have to forcibly make myself get up and do something else!

The beading actually goes pretty fast, in comparison to how long it took me to stitch each panel- I think it's probably 2 hours to bead as much as I'm currently doing on each panel, which is nothing compared to about 10 hours of stitching on each panel. (This works out really well for me right now, when it's subzero outside and being busy with a needle and thread is the perfect way to spend a Sunday!). You might notice that I decided not to do the reverse applique—it just feels more like me this way. I love it.

I learned the basics of beading at the workshop, and I've consulted my Alabama Studio Style book a few times. But I also figured out a way to bead, by which I mean the actual orientation of them, on my own which differs slightly from the pattern of my design. I like how the smaller medallions look a bit like stars, and how the sparkles suddenly transform the dress into a Dress (or it will once it's put together). So exciting!

In other exciting news, my good friend Katherine gifted me a most amazing quilt last week. I was overwhelmed, to say the least, upon receiving it—what a remarkable thing it is to have something that she spent so much time on. I love that she has a quilt that I made for her, and I have one that she made for me. Somehow, it makes me feel like we don't live so far apart after all. The quilt is living in our living room so it's within arms reach when we need a bit of warmth.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Lesson in Irish Crochet from Emily of Nothing But String

I came across Emily's work a few days ago and I've had the image of this bowl stuck in my head ever since. It's just so amazing with the texture and the color—I can see this in a very traditional house, or in a most modern one, which I think is the mark of something very timeless. Let's hear more from Emily herself, of Nothing But String on etsy, who also makes jewelry (bracelets, rings, necklaces, brooches), gloves, and scarves, among many other things.

How did you learn to crochet?
I first learned how to crochet at a very young age from my Italian grandmother.  She also worked out of her home making crocheted dresses, woman's skirts and jackets, and beautiful bedspreads and tablecloths for people.  Over the years I stopped crocheting, it just wasn't cool for a teenager, but as life's stresses started to take their toll later in life I found a comforting refuge in crocheting.

What's your favorite thing about the craft?
I've always been a fan of thread crochet and I've always loved making doilies and tablecloths.  It was while searching online for motifs to make a new tablecloth that I discovered Irish Crochet [a form of crochet that involves many more stitches than regular crochet, and is often much more delicate, like tatting—admire the pincushion above to get a sense of it].  I was just fascinated by the technique and the quality of workmanship.  It's not like any other form of crochet that I know of.  Needless to say I haven't looked back since.

What inspires you?
I get my inspiration from just about every where I look, but it's mostly flowers.  I love how they look and how they can accent all sorts of items.  I can say with all sincerity that this is no longer my grandmother's crochet.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thoughts of Home (via the Hudson Valley)

Part of why I like my job so much is that I am able to spend time in nyc about once a month—which also means that I get to see my friends here very often, which is pretty great considering how far away I actually live. Lately though, I am finding it harder to be away from my Iowa home for extended periods of time, which I think is simply telling of how much life there suits me. I think all of those things are good things, a big old blend of love and friendship made easier by plane travel. 

I am grateful for all of the lovely people in my life, friends who live near woods like shown above, another friend who gifted me with amazing handmade quilts, and family with whom I'm able to have Sunday night dinner. And a fiance who's been sending messages of delightful things cooking away in our slow cooker, reminding me of the comfort that's waiting for me at home.

P.S. You should totally watch Mary Poppins again. We did over the weekend and it was so darn good. And you should visit Clay, Wood & Cotton if you are ever in Beacon. Handmade holiday shopping mecca.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Love: Cozy Textures Edition

I think I'm on a cozy, texture-rich kick now that the temps have dropped, so this week's holiday picks are all on that theme. While you may not think a footstool is a sexy gift, I think this one is the one to change your mind! With a fiance who loves a good foot rest, I have come to appreciate really well designed ones, and I love the patchwork on this version from Kim and Leanne of the Black Strap on Etsy. It's all handmade using vintage materials and I love the mix of textures and patterns.

My second pick this week are these upcycled Sweater Owls from my new friend Sarah (who proved that those who work in magazines all wind up knowing each other at some point- we have a load of friends in common!). I LOVE her tiny sweater owls and am so excited that she gifted me with one recently. It's hanging on the door to my office so I can see it all the time. Sarah is a super talented designer with mad crafty skills and a penchant for jumping in museums. Check out her blog here.

And really, I can hardly contain my joy for these little Booties Made For Walking from Lena in Tel Aviv on etsy. I love the color combination and the crocheted texture. It's a good thing I don't have more friends with babies or otherwise I'd be broke from buying the lot of these! Check out the rest of her store for more booties, and other crocheted goodies.

Enjoy the weekend all and thanks for letting me share, as always.

P.S. Happy Birthday Dad!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Story Behind the Polymer Clay Jewelry from Mel's Art Buffet

I never would have expected that the inspiration for such interesting jewelry could have come from a Celiac diagnosis—read on to learn how Mel of Mel's Art Buffet expresses her love for food, even when she can't eat it. Just a little reminder to me that it's always a good idea to learn the backstory of handmade items I like, because more often than not, it will add an unexpectedly interesting element to my understanding of the work.

1. Tell me a little bit about your work- what makes it unique?
My goal is to create show stopping, head turning, mind scratching jewelry. I think accessories should be bold & fun. It is with these concepts in mind that I set out to design truly unique jewelry. To accomplish this, I make my “thread webs” the center of attention for each piece. Organic & natural, the thread webs are one of a kind each & every time never to be duplicated. As we are all unique & special, it is important to have jewelry to match.

2. Can you explain the process of making your jewelry?
I make my thread webs & their vessels separately. So, many times I will start with a thread web and create a custom carrier or maybe pick a frame from a batch previously made. Its always fun to see what combo will be born. Polymer clay is currently my medium of choice. Polymer clay is a moldable blank canvas, the perfect medium to unite with my thread webs. One of the most challenging design aspects is to determine how the focal will be attached to something else...This will dictate the jewelry type whether it be a brooch, ring, necklace, bracelet, earrings? Next, I will go bead shopping, in my studio mind you. I have enough beads to open a small shop. I tend to get carried away but its nice to have what you need when you need it! I'm really excited about the thread webs & think I have just begun to skin the surface of ideas to incorporate them into workable wearable art.

3. Is this your full time work?
I work full time as an office manager for a residential appraisal company. The days are between 10-12 hours long depending on the financial climate. While I love my day job & feel fortunate to work with a staff hat has become family over the years, my heart & mind long to create. I will always crave more time to devote to my Etsy shop but I am thankful to have such a wonderful day job. Some days I will leave work with several sketches, to set my mind at ease.

4.How does making jewelry help you balance the rest of the demands of your life?
Designing & creating are absolute essential aspects of who I am. With jewelry design, I am able to loose myself in a world of creativity. It is my form of meditation. When I create something my energy is refreshed & revitalized. I am lucky to have found the perfect creative outlet necessary for balance with the every day.

5.Where are you located? I was born, raised, & currently reside in the great city of Memphis, TN. We have a beautiful downtown area that is so much fun! Rich with local art & outstanding music. And, you can't beat grabbing a drink to watch the sun set over the Mississippi River.

6.What inspires you and your work?
Inspiration comes easy to me. My main inspiration is derived from food. I know this sounds crazy but stick with me... In 2004, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, which means no gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye, barley & oats. So, being on a restricted diet I eat visually what I'm not allowed physically. I love to read recipes but more so love to look at food images. Alluring food pictures & blogs are where I find major inspiration. I think food is beautiful & the colors are simply pure & inspiring. A slice of bread, the crumb from a cupcake, or a swirl in a bowl of soup. I can look at a picture of pie & draw multiple sketches for a jewelry piece. I'm obsessed. So this is how Mel's Art Buffet blossomed, buy combining my greatest love in life – food & art.