Blythe. Where to start describing the love affair with this plastic doll whose head is 10x too large for her body, whose eyes bulge and boggle, and whose history is one of mass rejection turned crazed global obession? To get the basics of the story hit this wiki link.
Pictured above is my first Blythe doll, a Veronica Lace, issued by Takara in 2009. I fell in love with her romantic look but once she arrived, I have to admit… I was somewhat terrified of her. I named her Sophronia, took just a few photos (one of them below) and put her away in a vintage trunk. For four years.
During a recent time of particular sadness (and maybe it is always during such times that grown women turn to dolls), I fell in love with Sophie again. And this time, it was different. Although she was still the intimidatingly expensive, freakily proportioned, strange little toy from Japan, I lost all fear of engaging with her. Suddenly I had to dress and photograph her in environments I carefully handcrafted and curated toward some particular vision or another.
She had to be a Factory Girl, hanging out with Miss Sedgwick…
She became a gypsy perched upon a tiny handmade ottoman of the finest silk sari trim from India…
She absolutely needed a set of papier mache rabbit ears, Day of the Dead style…
And she needed a friend (recent Takara doll release called Simply Lilac). She might well require more company before all is said and done, as well as rooms and things and shoes… and, oh my. Blythe!
You may be looking at these dolls and thinking… what the heck?!Or maybe, like me, you’ll be drawn into their crazy allure, feel repelled, be drawn in again. Be warned, once you are hooked… it’s bad. Real bad!
As a Blythe addict you may spend the grocery money irresponsibly but also you are lucky. There are people way more obsessed than you ALL OVER THE WORLD! You will hang out on flickr and “meet” them. You’ll troll etsy for the best handmade clothing, accessories and furnishings, learning quickly that there are trends, and sub-sub-cultures, all about a doll named Blythe.
You might even begin to dream about a customized Blythe… with crazy curly hair (!), a lovely matte face with special gothy make up, and an outfit you could only dream of wearing. And while you are having all of this fun, you might just begin to think about this doll from a social or intellectual perspective: What is it about her that has gangs of smart, creative girls and women enthusiastically collecting, making, photographing, and connecting with one another through blogs and Web sites? That’s another post for another time.
The completed necklace above is fashioned from an Afghani artifact, a heavily beaded tassel, probably used to decorate a camel. This is unlisted due to my complete inability to part with it.
Here then, is another gorgeous tassel I’ve been trying to work with, this one is African and made of leather. The colors are amazing, both dirty and brilliant in perfect combination. The beaded ring is my addition but I can’t seem to properly finish this WIP.
Above is the most recent tassel experiment, made from an upcycled plastic Winchester rifle bullet casing that is insanely rusted and distressed, then gilded (of course). I have a batch of these in the most wonderful desert-faded colors. This is all very unfinished, just playing right now with materials and thought you’d enjoy seeing the influences leading to the design.
I know I will be using these Indonesian blue glass beads; amazing color against the red.
And the Indian sari silk fiber is working for me. I love how all of these tassely objects are related to one another, coming from arid deserts and plains, the recycling and repurposing, how in some cultures even the animals are adorned to the hilt… but the humans too. I don’t know what I’m saying, I’m just…. all jazzed up about… tassels.
These pics are over on flickr in case you want to ogle them larger.
Lastly, I am planning to donate a portion of proceeds from any/all jewelry that utilizes bullet casings to a US gun control organization, so if you want to recommend one, please comment or email me.
Suddenly. In. Love. With. ROCKS!!!!!! Pictured above, from the top: fluorite, blue calcite, citrine (but suspiciously looks like calcite and am contacting dealer about this), raw garnets (!), amazonite and quartz points. Gemstones are MUCH cheaper by the strand, and ebay is a good bet for locating best pricing.
Big batch of Rocking Rings made yesterday, now being varnished to protect the gold leafing and patina work. As soon as they’re dry I’ll start listing. They are really and truly beautiful, if I do say so, and although chunky, very wearable. Earrings are coming next, can’t wait to play with these stones in that context. As always, larger photos up on flickr for your viewing pleasure.
Am in the process of gilding pretty much everything in site, including this amazing piece of Russian military surplus, a small metal tube that will become a necklace focal. I’ve got a batch of these babies to play with.
And this simple pair of vintage brass findings… I love how the metal leaf clings to and shows the fine detail of the… metal leaf(s).
A big-ass ancient glass chandelier crystal gets the gilding treatment, creating a weird world-within-a-world effect as you can see the inside of the other side through the front side. Yeah.
Here’s a finished piece, a ring holding 2 raw crystals, citrine and amethyst. Then goldified, oxidized, and totally effed up. In a good way. I hope. Ring section coming soon over at So Charmed. Lots of these beauties will be for sale at rock bottom prices. harhar.
Bigger pics for better examination of the (charmingly) rustic and pathetically unskilled job of gold leafing of which I am capable: flickr.
A great gold leafing video, watch and learn and then go make your own mess!
I like to fool myself into thinking that anyone could possibly be interested in my creative process, the inner workings of my designing mind at the earliest stages of making things. Hence, WIP (work in progress). Everything here represents an idea in formulation, not remotely finished.
This is how it begins with earrings. Vast supplies in my studio. Many little things scattered on every available surface. One day the things… they start making their way toward one another as if by some poetic pull. At the top of the post, an Afghani coin finding with brilliant emerald glass, a gear with verdigris patina, an ancient crystal bead and a piece of industrial trash. Above, a newer finding paired with a Mexican milagro.
More Kuchi coins above (these are used in traditional costume including belly dance) with lovely glass rubies, being riveted to a pair of seriously rusted bottle caps scavenged from some American desert. Fiber may be added at some point.
How do these tiny objects — a old discarded button, an African Vaseline trade bead, a bumpy middle Eastern bead, a tiny verdigris sparrow — come together? Some ways might be: color, form, content, texture, juxtoposition of cultures and histories. Things that resonate as similar or opposite, or both. The rule of chance encounters. The joy for me is that I don’t think much about any of this.
Part of it is the trained eye, the practiced hand, designing for years, decades, a lifetime. Part of it might be something inaccessible; dreams, associations. Above, an ancient glass button, possibly 1920′s, likely European, paired with a Mexican heart milagro charm. A tiny visual poem begun, beauty, an adornment.
Making (and attempting to sell) wearable art is an incredibly multi-faceted endeavor. From the creative aspects of designing work that meets my vision to the artful execution of that work, to techy stuff like digital photography and building web pages, the skill-set required would seem daunting if I weren’t just smack in the midst of it daily.
Clothing is challenging to shoot and if there’s one thing to share with you, it’s this: Clothing photos are most effective when brought to life. I’m so lucky to have a beautiful muse living under my very roof.
Even in close-up to show detail, clothing is best photographed on a living being. The photo above was repinned quite a bit over on Pinterest.
I tend to prefer jewelry photos on a white seamless (just a large “press sheet” from my graphic design day job taped to the wall and draped down across a small table). Props can be an asset (or a terrible distraction); I choose mine pretty carefully. Just forget trying to photograph jewelry against black unless you have mad skills and a sophisticated set-up.
Vertical images can be a problem on Web sites, but occasionally it’s useful and fun to provide a wider context.
Once you’ve made something gorgeous and have set up a little photo area, remember that lighting really is everything. I shoot mostly in natural light, no flash, and unless I just can’t wait, in the morning when the sun is not shining into the studio and casting harsh, warm shadows. Correction (both lighting and color) is still always necessary in Photoshop. I prefer bright, cool whites and under the best circumstances in my decidedly unprofessional studio, I must color correct to minimize the warm yellow/red tones and I always must brighten and beef up contrast to get closer to the reality of the goods as they will be depicted onscreen. And it’s true what they say, monitors vary. Greatly. Mine is high end and callibrated but I actually have no idea what YOU are seeing.
Here is a very old thrifted hardback of A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. A most beautiful story. When I saw this image in PhotoShop I decided I had to title the earrings Yonderways. Happy accident.
With necklaces and longer earrings, the challenge is to show the entire piece but also to capture some of the amazing work in the details. Nothing wrong with a little bead porn.
Then there’s textiles. Sigh. The Snow Dress is a LARGE object to show in very small Web images, so a range of shots is best, as above detailing the vintage lace and neon ribbon, and below in the glamourous model shot.
Photography is such a delight for me. Despite a lot of time studying the subject in college (pre digital, darkroom work, etc.), I still made/make a LOT of very bad photos in order to get to the better ones. The bottom line is this: I don’t believe you need a high-end camera (I use a relatively cheap, old Canon Powershot), nor is a fancy lighting booth required. You do need Photoshop and some basic skills there, so maybe that’s the stumbling block for so many people. Don’t fear the PhotoShop!
Thanks for reading this, and if you have any photography questions, please feel free to comment; I’ll try my best to help! I’ve thought about teaching a little seminar in my studio… maybe one day. Images by yours truly, model: Molly Bess, everything copyrighted but feel free to Pin!
Those of you who’ve known me for awhile might remember that my little jewelry business, So Charmed, began in 2001 as a small Web site selling themed charm bracelets with titles like Alien Abduction, Mod Squad, and Tutti Frutti. There were Alice in Wonderland bracelets and darker gothy pieces. Shortly after, I began designing custom charm bracelets for clients the world over… from the US to the UK, from Lebanon to Paris. Lots and lots of charm bracelets, each with a highly personal story to tell. And then… I took a break from charm bracelets.
When Margie’s family got in touch recently to request a gift bracelet, I couldn’t say no. Pictured at the top of the post, with additional detailed shots, the process, result, and exclamations of joy from Margie reminded me fully why I LOVE LOVE LOVE creating these magical little heirlooms.
Margie’s bracelet is sweet-with-a-bite, titled: Smitten, Bitten, and a Kitten. It includes the articulated fangs shown above and loads of vintage beads in dusky candy colors. After doing dozens, possibly hundreds of these, I can tell you, the endless nature of how they turn out never ceases to amaze me. And I’d really like to start offering them again on my site!
Above is Margie’s daughter Abby’s bracelet… a long ago creation. Completely coincidentally, I chose the SAME kitty bead for Mom’s bracelet! Everything is up for grabs on these pieces… thematically, stylistically, color, charm selections. Materials are all sterling… sometimes with pewter charms used to keep costs lower.
Above is the add-a-charm bracelet designed for a one-year-old who is very special to me and my family. I left the bracelet blank enough to receive goodies annually. Please note, the bracelets are NOT appropriate for children or even super-active teens. They do have a certain inherent fragility, and should be handled with some care. Charms can be soldered in place for added security, this adds greatly to cost though. This and other childhood pieces are curated for presentation at a much later date.
One of the most elaborate bracelets I ever created was Wendy’s, pictured above. This one includes many custom resin charms, which are not at this time being offered. Still available though are an endless variety of gorgeous sterling and enameled charms, food charms, vintage charms, even a Tiffany’s gift box charm. The sky really is the limit.
Custom charm bracelets start at $400 + insured priority shipping; this covers my time and the basic supplies with pewter charms. Most of the pieces cost $450-600, with some going much higher. What drives the cost higher?Sterling/enameled and other specialty charms, vintage rare charms, and soldering (+$20 ea charm). The best approach is for YOU to decide your budget or range, and then I will work within that. Intrigued? Get in touch! And stay tuned for a section on the site offering these lovelies once again.
PS: No, I probably can’t get one done by xmas. In the past though, holiday recipients have been gifted with cards telling them that something verrrry special is being custom-designed and made for them. Trust me, no one has been disappointed to date!
The sky was a bright electric blue when Mo Lappin of Howlpop and I sat down to tea and chat about lawless fashion and what shoes to wear to the apocalypse. I’ve been a huge fan of Mo’s cut & paste recycling genius for many years now and boast a solid collection of treasured garments. Here’s the transcript of our get-together, sans the noise of bombs dropping and suns exploding.
Jo B: Hi Mo, thanks so much for coming to this Mad Tea Party today! Let’s start with the name Howlpop, which grabbed me instantly when I found your Etsy shop. Is there anything behind the name? It always put me in mind of Alan Ginsberg Meets Michael Jackson… something like that! Am I close?
Mo Lappin: The truth of the matter is not such an exciting story. Back in the mid 90’s I was living in SF venturing into the eBay world and I had a vintage bright yellow donut phone I was selling. It sold to a guy in Japan with a user name of POP HOWL, and I just loved those two words together. I loved the way it sounded, just like you Jodi. It wasn‘t really inspired by pop culture, but I just liked the rawness of the words. It’s like pop art, with teeth! There are no rules in all this, the Howl is the edge. I toyed around with the words for a year or so, then I bought the domain in 1997.
Jo: Well, that makes sense, the Japan connection. I love how the Japanese mash up Western culture and send it back to us spinning on its head. Howlpop seems to have a strong New Orleans connection, but I also get the sense that your life is an adventurous one (and thanks, btw, for the great photo of your own trusty magic boots, below)… Which places have had the biggest influence on your work and why?
Mo: I grew up in Boise, where I had a vintage/alternative fashion boutique called Retrospect for eight years (1988-1995). This period gave me the chance to develop a point of view concerning fashion and design. I moved to San Francisco in 1995 where I lived for five years. I relished the anonymity of the large city, and embraced the feeling of the whole world in a microcosm. After five interesting years the wild west call of New Orleans was irresistible. So I landed there in the spring of 2001. I determined from that point on I would live as an artist, and made myself sit down and overcome my fear of the sewing machine. I realized my designs had to be self made or they would lose something. The idea of New Orleans and the freedom to live as an artist with the whole culture of parading and festivals, I mean, there is always a reason to dress up there, Jodi! Life is a festival in New Orleans! I was delighted to discover that nothing that I made was too far out for someone not to love it and want it in that magical city. I realized there was a niche for me there, people didn’t know what Howlpop was, but they loved it!
Jo: Boise! For me, it was Columbus, Ohio and then here in the DC Area a vintage shop called That Girl which I ran out of my house for awhile. There must be something to this land-locked youth that sends us flying to the coasts in search of a different context for life. I love the whole concept of life as a festival and I really see that in your joyful design aesthetic. And I can’t believe that you too had a fear of the sewing machine… I wonder if that’s more universal than anyone realizes?! Your work is so incredibly free; have you had to push yourself to allow for chaos and chance or does it come naturally to you?
Mo: I call myself a line eraser when it comes to art and life, removing obstacles and unnecessary lines allows me to embrace chaos and chance. This automatically assumes that I have to be open to the happy accident as well as drawing from my surroundings and life experiences.
Jo: What a great way to express that… line erasing. It’s really gentler than my version which seems to want to veer toward a certain violence with scissors, but truly springs from the same place of a desire to remove barriers and obstacles. I’m going to think about erasing, that’s a whole new idea to me. Still, I can’t say exactly why I feel this way, but your aesthetic seems to have socio-political underpinnings. Are there any manifestos in the world of Howlpop or is it really just for fun?
Mo: Is it fun? Perhaps I am sometimes bored of the sewing part, but the designing is endlessly enticing. I am self indulgent enough to only end up making things I really like. And even after all these years and so many things, I get very excited when I start making something. When I start cutting into things I often have no clear picture of the end result. Every piece is a sketch, that is why I don’t take it too seriously and that is why I don’t take it to the fine finished point, I spend an intense but short period of time designing each piece.
In Boise, Idaho in ‘91, I started my first fashion line called Shrew. The men’s line was called Shrewd. I was, in my own Edith Wharton style, reclaiming a word that had negative female connotations, and twisting it to open possibilities for conversations about feminist issues. So you got me there, Jodi!! I consider myself a citizen of the world these days, and this prompts me to use language and elements of design to be inclusive and enable connections between everyone. I mean, 8 year old girls or 70 year old ladies can go crazy about Howlpop! People seem to like to rest their eyes on something that confuses and delights them. A lot of my fashion is intentionally unisex. I sometimes wonder why people waste their personal billboard space advertising for Nike or Gucci, which tells us nothing about their own personal world view, and it wastes all the opportunities of their first impression. So, yep, there is intent. Busted!
Jo: Shrew and Shrewd… you are just brilliant with the poetry, you know? And I can see you working intensely and super fast, while I’m intense but work for so long that I often have to go back and edit because I’ll tend to go past the actual endpoint. And I can truly see the politics of inclusiveness operating under your creativity, the genderless ageless aspects of your art. In fact, I think this photo above is one of the first Howlpop images I saw and when I contacted you I felt certain I was talking to the guy in this photo.
What do you think of the description “post-apocalyptic” in art and fashion? Is that a term you’d use to describe Howlpop? And can you tell us exactly when/where the apocalypse is going to happen so that we can start planning our wardrobes now? In particular I need to know which shoes to bring.
Mo: Yeah! I would say that post-apocalyptic is a great description of Howlpop! Because it is completely recreated from existing materials… so, much like the coming apocalypse perhaps predicting a time when things aren’t manufactured anymore, and we make from what we have, which is certainly plenty here in America. A trip into any second hand store reveals the mountains of cast offs available now, so I don’t think that anyone will be running around without clothes after the apocalypse, unless that is their desire.
Heels! No heels girlfriend! Completely impractical for the apocalypse. Jodi, wear your favorite shoes, but there could be a lot of basketball. And remember, a hot pink flat goes with everything.
Jo: Ok, I’m going to take your advice and not go tripping through the apocalypse trying to shoot hoops in my Westwoods. Speaking of the upper eschelon, are there any fashion designers you particularly admire or have been influenced by? I think we both share a love of Alexander McQueen and I’m trying to remember if you made it to the Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met last year…
Mo: For me to miss the McQueen show would have been the equivalent to a Tibetan monk missing the Dali Lama. I went twice. It was a pilgrimage. It was so eye opening in a real way, to be able to stand so close to his work, and to see how he put things together, it demystified him for me and awed me simultaneously. Martin Margiela and the whole Belgian deconstruction movement really blew my mind about fashion in the late ’80′s early 90′s. I’ve always looked at fashion since I was a young girl, it is infused in me. Xuly Bet and his fashion collages and Coco Chanel and her liberation of the female form; Any designer who liberates through their work inspires me.
Jo: I wish I had gone back to the McQueen show a second time b/c the first viewing was so visually and emotionally overwhelming it was hard to truly absorb it all. And Xuly Bet! I can’t believe you brought it up… I haven’t thought about that Funkin’ Fashion house for a long time. I bought a little collaged sweater from that line back in the early 90′s at Patricia Field, when her store was still on 8th Ave., and I loved that piece. He was so ahead of it really, from upcycling to modern tribalism, his African pop-culture vision was so fresh and unique. And of course, I too love those Belgian deconstructionists particularly Ann Demeulemeester. Now, I must ask, how massive is your stash of discarded garments and textiles for reworking? Are you any better than the rest of us at using materials at the same rate as you acquire them?
Mo: When I moved into my new studio, I winnowed out all the riff raff from my raw materials. In doing that it helped clarify my vision for what I’m up to right now. That said, I’m a genre jumper, and I still enjoy surrounding myself with unlimited possibilities. So, yes and no, Jodi, yes and no.
Jo: Awhile back I tried to get to Asheville NC to take a workshop you were giving, but sadly I never made it. Do you give workshops often, and how do you teach other artists to embrace their own inner Howl?
Mo: Jodi, I love doing workshops because it is really fun to explain my lawless techniques to current/future seamstresses and see the lightbulb go on when they realize they don’t need a tape measure to fashion-party Howlpop style!!
Jo: Sharing your freedom to create just takes it all to another level in my mind and heart. What music is playing in the Howlpop atelier when you’re at work? Somehow I picture there’s a hard-rockin’ soiree when you’re designing!
Mo: Jodi, I’m gonna come clean here. It is more often than not new country, straight off the radio. I like to stay in touch with the real world, but I do go all over the road with what I listen to. And then I get hung up on songs, depending on the show or event I’m working on, the ideas I’m trying to get across are driven by the music, so I relentlessly listen to the same song over and over while I design the show.
Jo: I never pictured a country soundtrack for Howlpop, but of course it makes perfect sense and one of the things I love about you and your work is the constant surprise element. Well, I could personally stay and chat with you all day, but I’d better let you go off to your next adventure. Do you have any parting advice for readers who want to make clothes but feel they may not have the skills and training in the traditional sense?
Mo: Pick up the scissors, and start! Be fearless, because really, what is the worst that could happen?! It’s not brain surgery.
Jo: I love this picture of you celebrating The NOLA Saints big win, and I’m going to chant that mantra when I’m working… What is the worst that could happen?!. Thanks so much Mo for breaking all the rules and helping us keep it fearless. xoxo
Seems I’ve been in a wild animalia mode creatively this past week or two. Above is a necklace I designed and made this week. The bones are found (West Coast, USA), mostly deer. There is one other necklace in progress, I’ll share soon.
The piece is titled Come Here Little Dreamer and also features sweet vintage glass beads including rare African trade (vaseline), Indonesian glass, and native American glass crow beads. This necklace both scares and delights me and currently resides in my own collection.
Here is another completed garment. This is a thrifted 80′s wild thang party dress ($3) recon for the end of the world. It had coffee stains on the zebra-print fabric and when my vintage consignment shop rejected it I brought it home and decided to have at it. I’m really glad they didn’t take it!
The back is super cool, even the zipper got hit with the neon spray paint. I cut off a pair of very long sleeves that will be useful elsewhere, removed some ginormous shoulder pads, as well as several layers of zebra floof.
I also turned the lining to the outside around the neck b/c it was so pretty in that deconstructed way. Removed/replaced a big matchy rhinestone-encrusted zebra bow which will undoubtedly show up elsewhere.
The color is otherworldly. The neon green/yellow fabric glows as if lit from within.
Close up of the “confetti” treatment. I just sewed randomly with contrasting thread and stopped every so often to place a tiny scrap of the neon fabric, then sewing over it. I love this effect as it’s both purposeful and random.
This is the garment that inspired the confetti idea. On this lovely piece, the lace bits are just barely tacked down by a row of machine stitches and since they are larger, they flutter some. A very fun idea.
Head over to flickr if you want to see these images larger. Clothing is always listed in the horrifically titled Misc Stuff I’ve Made set.
I thrift in two ways. One is that I think VERY specifically about what I’m looking for (usually project related, sometimes just a fashion issue) and it is frightening how often I find exactly that thing. The other is just a random trip for the inspiring thrill of the hunt. 50/50 success rate.
Yesterday I went to score cheap old tshirts to make another dress. Didn’t happen due to an overwhelming number of ridiculously gorgeous textiles lurking about. Top of the post, the whole score. Above, a set of pillowcases (India) with amazing mirrored handwork on both sides of each, total of FOUR panels. Katie, Bethy, Dorie… one each for you local craftistas.
This blanket (India) is the most amazing shade of yellow-maize with faux fur and sequiny embroidery. Anthropologie eat your effing heart out. Wish I had skills to make a coat, but I’m going to do a skirt. Seems weird, hopefully will work. There’s lots of yardage.
Above, The Gettysburg Address, in its entirety, printed on a scratchy burlap tea-towel sorta thing. LOVE this typography and can’t wait to use patches of it on garments.
Have to research if it’s an image of Abe’s handwriting (as I suspect). I thought the Lincoln portrait was a bit tacky, but it’s grown on me and might get incorporated somewhere.
Warning: This one’s gonna make you swoon.
This vintage Indian garment fits me, but is a bit shapeless. I do not have it in me to cut this; yes I have boundaries. So, if I can’t easily alter it into a flattering shape by taking in the side seams, it will just hang on my wall. Isn’t it divine????
The back, though plainer, is also lovely, with rainbow thread embroidery on this incredible gauzy layered base fabric. This piece was $5, less 25% but is priceless.
There are often great curtains, linens, and doilies but I try not to over-collect hoard them. You might hear me muttering: Someone else’s treasure… my anti-hoarding mantra. At $1.49, could not pass these up. BTW, the one at the bottom is a “pineapple” pattern. Sweet!