Support Small Business

I believe not only in supporting small businesses, I also believe in focusing consumer-based decisions around thoughtfully made items. Items with a story - an origin that you can actually know. A face you can see. Many artists today struggle to stay small. They struggle against the temptations of doing things easier, like instead of hand-making they might buy a laser cutting machine or start casting all of their jewelry. They might stop painting and go digital because prints are easier. It's always great to grow and think outside the box and to consider how to be efficient with how you work so in the end your profits are enough to sustain you. 

With that in mind, I would like to put forward a few products that I really like, and that might fit the bill of what I just wrote. 

MUDRENKO - handmade ceramics from the Ukraine

One of my favorites is "African Bird Guinea Fowl" - the artist's collection is very much inspired by nature, which is apparent throughout. It's really beautiful. 

MBUNDY - handmade pottery from the US

I took a ceramics course in college and I loved it. I've always been a fan of vintage pottery, mottled glaze techniques, and that crazy richness you can achieve... pottery truly is an art and it's a very tactile experience. The gratification you get at each stage of the process is immeasurable.

What I like so much about Meg's style is the marriage of that vintage feel that blends so nicely with the sharp edges and geometric designs in her tribal line. Here are two of my top picks!

Tribal ceramic hanger and the Waterlily and Honeycomb water bottle 

So I've studied A LOT of different things in school - one of my longer jaunts was 2.5 years at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Textile Development. I had no idea textiles were so scientific but yes! textiles today are designed to withstand fire, liquid, extreme cold, wind, you name it. Of course we're speaking of performance fibers. But for as long as humans have worn cloth, weaving has existed. We're very lucky today to have the opportunity and access to learn about and enjoy traditionally made fabrics from all over the globe. In fact once might say that it's very trendy at the moment to own re-purposed pillows, blankets, bags, etc... as well as to buy via collectives which manage production and ensure that rural villages who make these new yet traditional products are treated fairly and receive the monetary benefits of their hard work. Importantly, collectives like these help to sustain these traditions which might otherwise be lost. With lesser demand, it's no longer appealing to hand the trade down generation by generation so we need to consider these things when we look for globally handmade textiles. 

FAIRLY WORN - based in Switzerland

This small company is owned by Valerie & Bettina. They travel the globe in search of vintage textiles and African products. They also work with a collective in Bangladesh that makes their stunning kantha quilts. These are products I can get behind - and I really respect the extra work that these two women take to ensure that their passion is combined with local activism in support of tradespeople. 

Two picks from me: 

Rustic Kantha Placemats in old rose and Vintage Hemp Purse - made with Hmong hemp and indigo fabrics. If you're interested in textiles, there are so many things you can learn about techniques just by reading a bit further than product care instructions. Kantha is a technique of embroidery from South Asia, primarily Bangladesh, where old sari fabrics are sewn together and the end result is a colorful quilted texture fabric with visible stitching. The below place mat is a beautiful example. As for the Hmong handbag, Hmong refers to a group of villages in the mountains running from China to Vietnam. Here villagers produce their own hemp textiles and dye them with natural materials, including indigo. Many farmers used to repair their work clothing by applying a patch over the worn area and sewing it in a method called "boro" which you can see on the backside of the handbag.

 

COM ART - based in Portugal 

Christina makes beautiful, crisp, richly textural art. Maybe that's a mouthful but there's something so primitive about her work and I dream of buying a piece or two for my home. Fortunately she also sells smaller format originals and prints which are quite affordable and they make GREAT GIFTS!

70 x 100 abstract on paper - this would be my first choice. 

So that's it for today.

None of these shops have Black Friday sales that I can see - they're not necessarily cheap either. But isn't it more interesting to buy less, but buy more at the same time. Instead of an empty, manufactured print from IKEA or pottery from Anthropologie, why not small production - story-based - hand crafted - non-sell out commercialism driven art? 

Think about it. 

and onward I go

I've been twiddling around with buttons and Mail Chimp and Canva and my clunky old sewing machine these past weeks, all whilst battling a very persistent flu. I'm not looking for sympathy, folks, but I'd be lying if I said I have never been compared to a man, having a bit of "man-flu". So I guess I can be a little whiny and feel sorry for myself. But hey - I was sick! 

Alas, it all took longer than what I'd wanted and still, things continue to creep along at a snail's pace but I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it has recharged my inspiration and energy levels. 

To celebrate launching my webshop - for now most of my products are sitting on Etsy  - I've decided to have a sale. I lucked out with timing and it corresponds nicely with this Black Friday madness that begins later this evening and runs through the beginning of next week. Leave it to Capitalism to invent Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday - so there's plenty of opportunity for people to be seen! 

And with that - now through November 30th, you can have anything you want from my shop with a 20%  reduction. Go forward and shop, I say!!! 

Knowledge is Power

Something that I've been working on as part of my Miracle Morning routine - is delaying gratification (or reducing procrastination) which is really tough if it's something that you do in your day-to-day life! I'm guilty of putting off activities which I feel less confident about ut I've been working on the opposite which is jumping head first into those activities and getting them done right away in the day - then later on when I dork out on Facebook I feel like I deserve it and there's nothing hanging over my head.

This edition of Let's Know Things touches on that, and I want to share it with you!

I'm "nearly" famous!

Back in May, I was blessed with a huge compliment - my JL Moller chairs were featured in Avenue Lifestyle! Holly Marder is an extremely talented stylist here in the Netherlands and I was super thrilled when she asked. I thought - OF COURSE you can use them!  

The level of craftsmanship on these chairs is on a whole other level and I feel privileged that I've had the opportunity to work on them and discover the magic of Moller. Picking up paper cord weaving has been another great benefit because I've since been hired for another project that turned out beautifully! Paper cording is a lovely technique that leaves a timeless, refined, and sturdy surface so I'm chuffed with myself.

I have 4 of these chairs for sale (they must go as a set). Check my shop for details!

Product photo courtesy of Holly Marder

Product photo courtesy of Holly Marder

Feel the Burn

I definitely did, whilst I was busy weaving the second seat on my Møller chairs, I was regularly popping over to check on the progress of my patina experiment. I’ve been in the process of making several pairs of earrings and I wanted to see what kind of finish I could achieve on them using a basic “at home” patina technique. This involves ammonia, salt, a closed container, and some patience. You can Google patina tutorials and find all sorts of suggestions. I chose to start with the most basic option, where you set kitchen paper towels into the bottom of a container and douse it with ammonia. Sprinkle ample salt onto the top of the wet paper, place your metal object on top of that, place a new sheet of paper on top, and douse again. Peel back the paper, and sprinkle more salt onto the metal. It should be wet and thus the salt will stay put!

The reason you need to be patient, is because the time it takes for your “desired”patina to arrive can vary from 1 hour to 24 hours, or more actually. I set about checking mine every couple of hours during weaving breaks. The reason for the burn reference is this: if you have any open wounds, torn cuticles, or cuts and you hold that part of your body over the fumes of ammonia, it really hurts!! So even though I wasn’t touching my sore fingers to the liquid itself, just examining my pieces caused discomfort. It’s the only “burn”I’m feeling these days, by the way. (not to get into politics!)

Let’s take a small detour…

Why am I attracted to patinas? (not that anyone is asking) Because I enjoy the surprise aspect; every time you check your container it’s like opening a gift. Patina has a mind of its own. It’s simply not possible to guarantee that any two items will achieve the same result. I could set 3 pairs of earrings in the same container and each one will come out unique, thus one of a kind, and that makes them special. Also, patina jewelry is very personal in that it either speaks to you or it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s a certain patina that will attract the eye of someone, and not another. There’s a scientific element to creating patinas. Basically you’re back in chemistry and you’re combining elements that create a chemical effect. In this specific case, the use of ammonia (NH3) and salt (NaCl) has resulted in an altered appearance of a naturally occurring base metal – so it’s natural, and the earth’s capabilities inspire me.

Did you know that copper is pure and was the earliest metal to be used by humans? It was the first metal to be cast in a mold, and was later used in conjunction with tin to create bronze. Brass is also a child of copper which is made by mixing it together with zinc. Most of the metals used in jewelry are indeed minerals and pure metals which are harvested from our planet. Despite the fact that gold and silver are the most coveted and expensive, silver and brass should not be overlooked!

I am extremely happy with how these turned out.

 

Slowly she emerges through the other side

Finding my way artistically, creatively, and professionally has, so far, been an experience worthy of self reflection. When I quit my job, I knew that I wanted to work with my hands. I knew that I needed to create space in my head that would allow me to feel creative again, after years of a stressful job-induced drought.

I’d like to mention a couple of things, one being that I realize that a lot of jobs are harder and more stressful than what mine was. People have horrible jobs, with horrible managers, horrible commutes, long hours, dangerous and filthy jobs, jobs that involve dealing with death, violence, and certain horrors of the world, and by comparison, I had a very cushy job. My job was full of laughter. My manager was and is wonderful, and my colleagues were and are wonderful. (most of them, anyway). For me, the decision was of course difficult for many reasons, however, at the time in my life I felt that I was not capable of being the person I wanted to be at work or at home and then regardless of all of the above, the choice seemed like one without much of an argument.

But quitting my job didn’t really change my life overnight. I didn’t wake up the next day and make a painting. In fact I spent the weekend crying and lamenting my pending lack of income and (financial) independence. I promptly managed to break my foot the following week, and then I spent a few weeks largely immobile and feeling sorry for myself.

Quitting my job uncovered other things about my personality that I could no longer blame on being too busy, or in other words, blame on my job.

The new year came and went, and I was flopping around like a wet fish, doing bits and pieces of various projects, yet completing none of them… and again I could not point my finger anywhere but in the mirror. It’s sobering; owning your self-induced personal failures. But it’s also important, you know, to man-up and decide what to do next, instead of jumping into the self-loathing downward spiral that I have grown very familiar with.

If I go back and look at the things that I’ve started and not finished, I’d have to ask myself why. Why don’t I finish? Why do I start the race only to frighten myself at some point and run in the opposite direction? I have to believe it’s a fear of failure. It’s fear that says something like, “I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. I’m not unique. I’m not offering anything more valuable than anyone else.” All of those self-battering notions are definitely enough to stall any motor and as long as I allow them to circulate in my head space, I’m allowing them to hold me back. I can’t say I’m going to change overnight but I can say that I am stronger today than I was 2 months ago.

Initially I began doing sketches of various earring ideas. I saw a few that looked like they had potential, and I kept sketching and further developing them until I felt confident enough to put them on stock paper and cut them out. I purchased cheap metal to work with, and started sawing until the designs I’d made were laying in a pile in front of me. I allowed my curiosity to bloom, and experimented with the pieces using different hammers and shapes, and I exposed the metals to chemicals. After a handful of pairs, I started to see something happening, a theme, a style that was recognizable from one earring to the next.

Around the same time, I started posting about what I was doing on Facebook. It was really difficult for me to share my personal life with people online but I knew that I’d need to do that if I wanted people to see my work and to support me, perhaps even buy something from me and ever importantly, to share my work with others. I started blogging more, and sharing the blog links online as well and that was really hard. But it was good at the same time to take that leap and put myself out there.

I created an Esty page for my earrings and I met with Tara Lutman Agacayak to discuss my goals. Working together with her really opened my eyes and helped me align my priorities. I felt more focused and decisive and as a result, empowered to move forward and with a greater momentum. The result of that was finishing several pairs of earrings and putting them in my webshop. So on that note I can definitely recommend her as a coach or coaching in general.

Ironically at the same time, I received an email from Holly, a talented young stylist who runs Avenue Lifestyle. She’d seen some of the weaving I was doing (via a friend on Facebook!) and inquired if I’d be interested in a paid job. YES PLEASE! So in parallel to my jewelry I met this woman, and ended up being hired to do a handful of extremely interesting and rewarding projects for her. And she’s lovely and inspirational to be around, something I’m seeing as a huge value in my life right now – people who inspire and who have drive! Seeing the work I’m producing for her has raised my self-confidence and spurred me onwards to pursue a certification in upholstery this coming fall.

Another very talented friend of mine is a brand expert/graphic designer, and she’s agreed to work with me on creating my brand identity. Initially, I’d felt that all of these creative things that I do should fall into separate categories. I’d have a different business name for each thing, because, wouldn’t I have different clients and wouldn’t I have to approach each one from a personal perspective to that? At the same time, I felt, and feel, that I don’t want to do that. I want to be myself and I want to be inspirational for other people. I want to share who I am, and what inspires me with people and I hope that eventually – that creates my identity. What is truly exciting is that my friend surprised me with exactly this sentiment when we met recently. It was such a breath of fresh air to hear her say it and to know that was the direction she wanted to head into. I left the meeting feeling invigorated and ready for the next thing… what’s next? Isn’t that a fantastic question to ask yourself?

I’ve sold 2 pairs of earrings (and one was to a customer I don’t know at all) since I posted them online 3.5 weeks ago. I’ve completed 2 projects for my new colleague and I’m mid-way into the 3rd. When I come back from my holiday, I’ll likely have my brand identity well underway and I’d like to hit the ground running.

I have ideas churning in my head, for new jewelry, and I have upholstery projects in my queue… and that damned painting that I’ve been looking at every day that really wants to be finished. And I want to do it all. And I’m so happy to think that I can do it all, and that there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s something that I can do, and I can celebrate the quality in myself that allows me to be a creative. I paint, draw, sew, I’m a decent writer and photographer, I make nice jewelry,  I’m an upholsterer, a weaver, an idea maker, a color lover, a curator of inspiration, and I am becoming a stronger person and business owner. Hopefully with these new challenges in my life I’m also becoming a better person for it, a stronger woman, and all the other things I aspire towards: to be a better partner, friend, daughter, neighbor, etc… they all count!

Watch this space.

She Works Hard for the Money

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This chair took me two days to weave. I started the one in the back first, but realized the weave wasn’t tight enough. I couldn’t have done this without first watching this fantastic video by Ed Hammond. I think the next chair will progress more quickly as I know what I need to do without having to double check at each step in the process. Some tips for Danish paper cord weaving:

  1. You order your supplies in a huge roll of cord. Most of the weaving is performed using cord directly from the roll (to avoid having to cut and tack each segment and for a cleaner look on the underside) – I strongly suggest using something to keep the roll in 1 piece, like a vertical pole attached to a base. In the video, Ed has attached his to a rotating wheel which is very handy. If you don’t do this (and I did not do this, so that’s why I’m writing these words of wisdom) somewhere along the line, your spool will become tangled. If you think untangling a string of Christmas lights is annoying, try untangling one that is 100 times that length. It SUCKS. So, get a spool holder.
  2. Don’t be too conservative when wrapping the front and back rails. You shouldn’t see a lot of wood through the strings and if you don’t wrap enough between the long strings you will end up in this situation. I think the ideal scenario is 5 wraps between each segment in the front, and 4 in the back, with some room for variance if you just can’t get to that number.
  3. Your hands, back, and any other part of your body that is involved in repetitive movement during this process will ache, be raw, sore, red, or rashy. I advice stopping every 30 minutes for a walk and a stretch. Wear long sleeves to avoid scraping your forearms across your legs or the ropes. I’ve seen some videos where people wear well-fitting boating gloves. It might be an idea.
  4. Knitting needles in the last part are super helpful in getting the cord through the small openings

After a 2 day break I feel that my fingers have healed enough to proceed. So here I go… chair number 2 is on the roster for today.

New Acquisitions

I’ve recently discovered that there are not 1 but 2 thrift stores in my town. I’m extremely pleased by this because it’s huge and way better than the one I’ve been going to. I’m also annoyed that I have been living here, unaware that this place has existed for the past 2 or 3 years. How does one manage that? (I’m living in a small town, by the way)

Anyway, hooray for this place and their new street banner. Without it I’d have gone on in complete ignorance of their existence.

I can wander in a thrift store for a long time. But often I don’t because I’m usually with someone else and they’re annoyingly shadowing me, waiting for a sign that I have completed my browsing. So I pretend that I am done but in fact, I could remain for much longer, in search of that little item hiding in the corner somewhere. I’m also like that when I go back to the US and shop at big discount shoe stores. You have no idea how many amazing deals I’ve found by pouring through the final sale corners. I have no shame. I am a deal hunter, and further, I typically do not spend my money on impulse. I peruse, I may place items in my basket, but always prior to completing my purchases, I stop somewhere, and look at the contents of the basket to decide what I really want or need and put the rest (sometimes all) of it back.

I am proud of this for some reason… probably because I’m American and we’re all about deals. But really, I see no value in paying 400 EUR for shoes when I can buy them later for 35. It’s about quality and awareness, not quantity! Working every day sucks, why do that and then toss your cash away for something material? Use it for better things, like traveling or eating in a nice restaurant. Eat your savings away!

OK so my long-winded point here, is that in finding the new thrift store here in town, I have also found this lovely old chair. I saw it and I really liked the way the back rest hugs the shape of the person sitting in it. I wasn’t sure about the quality or if it was worth anything in the world of MCM (Mid-Century Modern), so I passed it up. As you have seen above I do not like to impulse buy… but once I was at home, I couldn’t put it to rest so I went back a few days later. I took some photos of the underside and went  home to investigate. The tag on the chair doesn’t jump out right away as anything interesting. It says, “Garantie voor Goede Constructie en Goede Arbeid” – which translates to, as you may have guessed the first part “Good construction”and “Good Labour”. I thought maybe “arbeid” would equate to craftsmanship but it really means labour. So this chair was made with good labour. In the upper right corner I saw what looked like a logo and tried it out, and I was in luck! This chair is interesting, after all.

 

I determined that it was made in the 1960’s by Dutch designer Louis van Teeffelen for AWA. The chair is called “Koehoorn” (cow horn) and if in very good condition a single chair can sell for about 100 EUR. Niet slecht, toch?

I went back yesterday and the chair was still there (of course) and now it's half-stripped on my table here. I need to dismantle it and restore the wood, some joins need to be re-glued, and I will probably reupholster it in “skai”, which is a leatherette or synthetic leather material which was and still is quite acceptable to use on MCM furniture. I am pleased that the investment was so low that I have no pressure to sell it and instead it'll become my new office chair! 

 

Warpaint update

So I’ve made some small progress on this, although I needed to rethink the position of her left eye. She won’t stay half blind

Overall I’m very pleased with how this is going. I’m learning a lot about how to achieve the result I want with paint, about how to finish these boards, and about composition.

When I started with this, I did not sand the board. I don’t know why. Probably because I’m lazy but I learned my lesson. I put 1 layer of acrylic gel medium on the surface and started painting. This is a big mistake because the texture of the wood catches extra paint and created hard little bumps. I had to sand her face and remove some of the paint. Now it’s mostly flat but I need to touch it up a lot. Instead of focusing on the face and skin tone again, I’m going to move onto her head dress. I’ll go back later to her face because I get too caught up and feel like I’m not progressing enough.

Yesterday I sanded my next board. I applied a few layers of gel medium and I plan to sand it fully before starting anything!

But you know, why is this taking me so long? I have a short attention span, too many hobbies, and too little structure. Surely it can’t be all that bad though?

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Worthy thoughts on living

Worthy thoughts on living

Unfortunately, money IS an object and it is difficult to manage without. What is interesting though, is to take a moment to reconsider what is NEEDED to live and be happy in this life, and then to re-assess how much money is required to sustain that. Of course in our society we have extravagant ideas about what necessities are, like travelling to exotic places, regularly, and dining out, often. We want to live in major cities with nice objects around us and have a successful career.

I think all of those things are wonderful. I’m lucky that whilst I do not live in a major city, I already have a lovely home, an amazing partner who supports and loves me unconditionally and fantastic family and friends, and all of those things make dreaming of MY bigger picture possible. I’m eternally grateful for that.

In the end, for me, it’s been all about rethinking, re-prioritizing, adjusting comforts and habits, and allowing myself to desire things that bring a different kind of reward than what we often chase after in this modern society. More money, a better job title, more respect, beauty, affluence, acceptance, status. I’m not sure if those things bring happiness, despite happiness being another major goal for people in life. So maybe it’s worth revisiting and considering what elements are missing from your life. For me, it’s being creative. For years, I’ve lacked the desire and energy to create something and the peace and space in my head and heart to appreciate all of the other things that make me feel whole.

So, what if money was no object. What would you do differently?

I am fairly sure that most people would not end up working in an office for a big corporation or in finance – which is probably what most people do today

When everything was about romance

While we were back home, we stayed in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn. I've no clue why I'd never been to the subway museum but really, it's fantastic! I'm a very nostalgic person... I appreciate old-world craftsmanship and when most things were hand made by tradespeople. Sitting in this train, I could almost close my eyes and go back in time.

When everything was about romance