My So Charmed Life

So Charmed

Making Pretty Pictures

01.06.13

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!

These Boots

11.14.12

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) here in DC has a wonderful exhibit up called Women Who Rock. Artifacts — including a lot of clothing — from Billie Holiday‘s mink stole to Meg White‘s embellished suit (cover of Icky Thump) are displayed along with posters, videos and a terrific historical timeline for context. Of course my favorite objéct, by a longshot, were Patti Smith‘s boots, pictured above, circa 1974. At this shrine, I considered genuflection. Meanwhile explaining all of this to my 75-yr old mom, who I was so happy to have with me that day.

That was Sunday afternoon. Last night, I had the surreal experience of standing in a dark basement club (U Street Music Hall) with daughter Molly and her stepmom Beth to see her Dad, Glenn’s band, 7 Door Sedan open for none other than the Rezillos! But that’s not all. As we were dressing to go out, daughter Molly came and asked if she could borrow a pair of boots. She chose my Nana pole climbers, pictured above, which have been in my life and on my feet for 30+ years, rocking around the globe from Vancouver to San Francisco, to Europe, NOLA, everywhere. Words can’t describe the feeling I had standing next to my beautiful kid, age 14, wearing MY boots and big black underage X’s on her hands, in that loud banging club.

Suffice to say, there is no lack of boots at our house. Pictured above are the BF’s black suede pointy-toe Chelsea boots, purchased on the King’s Road in London, circa 1990. They’ve rocked a stage or two. And, b/c the BF is certifiably insane, he has had a SECOND brand new pair in the box since 1990 just in case something were to happen to these.

And should YOU, dear reader, require a pair of killer boots to call your own… and should your feet be a demure size 6.5 or so, you are in luck. Visit the Oh Victoria vintage lace-ups over in the new So Charmed clothing section, a great score and made for walking… or dancing and twirling, whatever your pleasure.

PS: The bands totally rocked it. 7 Door Sedan will have video of the show soon, Molly shot 400+ photos with her new Canon T3, and Rezillos were wild and outta control.

PSS: Got a favorite pair of yr own? Send me a pic and I’ll collect/post ’em.

Atelier Charm

11.01.12

Anyone who sews understands the frustrations of having to haul your machine onto the dining room table, make a huge mess, run upstairs to where the ironing board lives, clean everything up for dinner, and begin again. Agonizing, especially during an intense time of creating. Here are photos of my newly created nook. Above, among other things, you can see the little Indian dress which I am in the process of altering to fit… and it’s coming out GREAT!

It’s taken nearly a decade of living in my little house to figure out that I had the space and even the furnishings I needed to work this out in a far more satisfying and workable way. Above you can see that I used free weights against the folding table legs to help fortify it. I’d still like to find a sturdier table at the thrift sometime.

Top floor of the house is basically one master bedroom suite, outside of which is a lovely hallway / anteroom that is actually big enough for a small sewing elf such as me to feel cozy working in. Above you can see my grandfather’s desk, a beautiful old thing I’ve had in my life for over 30 years now. I remember him using it… a small round silver dispenser of stamps and a little dish with a wet sponge for applying the postage. There were always other fascinating things to look at in the desk cubbies.

To the left of this image is the doorway to the bedroom, a very large and quite gorgeous room that was expanded by the previous owner. My dressmaker dummy is in that room and the ironing board sets up easily there.

This is the other end of the hallway, if you spin around you’re at the stairway leading down to the main floor. I dearly love all of my old hat boxes, suitcases and my dolly pram full of vintage hats, which was thrifted for about $10. Major score. All images can be seen at full size over on flickr in the aptly titled set “house.”

The Joy, Curse, and Politics of Curly Hair (A White Girl’s Perspective)

10.20.12

Much has been discussed, filmed and written about black Women’s hair.

From fake (Photoshopped) Internet images of First Lady Michelle Obama wearing hers “natural”…

…to Chris Rock’s documentary, Good Hair, about the subject (including the vast industry surrounding the care of said locks) …

…to the recent hullaballoo about Gabby Douglas–the beautiful, talented, teenaged olympian star who should not, in my opinion, have to suffer such nonsense.

Despite certain fantasies I at times like to entertain, I am not a black woman (or a gay man, but that’s another post for another time), and it seems likely I never will be.

All of that laid out… how ’bout that photo above? Yes, I am my hair and I always have been, like it or not. It’s been my joy and power, my cursed (sometimes won, often lost) lifelong battle. From Shirley Temple in the 50’s to Dippity-Do in the 60’s, to the Afro-Sheen aisle in the 70’s. Me and my hair have been on a long and at times fitful journey together.

Curls go from super tight (sometimes referred to as kinky, but I’m never sure that’s leveraged as the compliment it should be) to looser ringlets (which sounds so darling doesn’t it?). Frizz is a whole other factor (dryness, due to over-washing and harsh treatment), as is density. Curly hair can be thin, but is most often thick if not extremely dense. Mine is pretty tight and very thick. Here’s a fun fact: my hair has to be 4x longer than straight hair to appear the same length. FOUR TIMES! I like to joke that it really doesn’t get long, it gets big.

People do compliment curly hair, but usually in weird ways such as… is your hair natural? I’m so knocked out by this question that I usually retort: Uh, do you really think I would PAY for this?? Really? I then look at them queerly b/c while they may be admiring the curls in that moment, a certain terror often appears in their eyes as they run through what it might actually be like to tangle with such hair on a daily basis. I try to hear the compliment through my long years of hair-loathing.

Oh, and hairstylists–except for the highly trained in all things curl and for you people: R.E.S.P.E.C.T!!!!–quiver in their shoes when I come through the door. Black salons and white salons are verrrry segregated, although I see that changing some. Still, white women with curls need to seek out trained stylists. Naturally curly hair MUST be cut specifically to look its best.

The joy of curly hair is very present when you are a young child. There’s a lot of ooo-ing and ahhh-ing and cheek pinching and fondling of your curls. In my case, in the 50’s, lots of Shirley Temple exclamations… Yes! Shirley Temple Jew! Charles Schulz’s character, Frieda, was an early pro-curl grrrl, but she was probably in first grade when it was still cute to have curls.

In early adolescence all of this cutesy adoration just ground to a screeching and alarming halt. Suddenly, it was incredibly uncool and unattractive to have curls. Peggy Lipton. Twiggy. The Supremes. My public schools had large Jewish and black populations and as the 60’s rolled into the 70’s there were more and more afros and jewfro’s. But weirdly, (at least in my memory) it seems it was more acceptable for boys of both persuasions. There were some black girls sporting fabulous (and huge) naturals; it seems in retrospect that they were considered radical at the very least.

And the Jewish girls? Ummm, no. Not then, and still, not too often now. Today, black women seem to be experiencing (hard won battle) more choice about hair than Jewish women, if you ask me. Most of the Jewish girls you know whose hair seems straight? Wellllll, some, but not many of us really have perfectly straight hair. It is, more likely, chemically relaxed, ironed, SERIOUSLY blow-dryed, and the latest: some Brazilian treatment that costs hundreds of dollars and lasts a few months. No thanks. And all of this because long, straight white hair is still the mark of wealth, power, success, beauty, and desirability in Western culture. It is expensive and endless work to have straight hair when you’re not born with it, and I do not believe we would bother if it didn’t matter so much.

I have tried chemical relaxers (actually “perms”), and even in the 80’s corn rows because Boy George did it and it looked so damn good on him. Ouch, the pain was intense, it lasted only a week (half of which I had a blistering headache), and Boy George was in fact prettier than me. I discovered a great love of hats, especially vintage hats for those bad hair days, which were 9 out of 10. Young white women didn’t wear pink and blue wigs back then and have only recently have been getting weaves (excuse me, I mean, extensions) and those cost the big bucks. I never went in for rasta-twists, but thought about it many times and I think it can look cool on women of all shades. My mother would have plotzed.

Recently Molly and I have been talking about self-esteem and we agree that most people either have none, or maybe have some, but the people who appear to have tons are probably faking, covering up, at least most of the time. This doesn’t comfort us… we of wild hair, or Asian eyes, or short stature, or of mixed-race families. We dream of a day when these qualities ALL will be truly celebrated, or maybe even not matter, but we feel pretty sure that although the world is greatly changing, for us, these things will likely continue to matter, and sometimes a lot. We do feel mighty lucky to live and work and attend school in a community where things are generally far better regarding diversity than many/most places across this great land of freedom. Hooray for Takoma Park!

Recently I am happy to share that things for me and my hair have turned around again. It might be a middle-age acceptance thing, and I am seeing more freaky curl flags flying in fashion and other media. As more and more sisters of all colors embrace their fabulous hair texture, I find myself standing strong in a place of defiant adoration of my own crazy curls. Most days. Oh, and btw, I’ve got NO (absolutely NO) problem with anyone straightening their hair. For me, it’s about choice. Having one and exercising it. Not feeling like you have to straighten for acceptance or to get somewhere, or to succeed. Curly sisters, let’s be tolerant of everyone’s journey.

What’s really interesting is that hair products are following along with this growing desire amongst us to free our curls, and to have them appear healthy and sexy. Black hair, Latino hair, Jewish hair… so many textures, and each deserves its own specific product line for optimal care (not race-based, texture-based). My favorite, hands-down, is DevaCurl, pictured above. It’s a system of products and treatments (and training for stylists who cut curls) that has been life-altering. DevaCurl claims to work on ALL curl, from highly textured to less so. It’s available a little cheaper at Ulta than your salon. My bio-sister — beautifully curly-topped — is a Ouidad devotee, and her hair always looks gorgeous. Of course our purses are gouged for these products… We are not talking Suave here, curlygrrrls. For now, it’s worth it. And here’s my final tip: STOP washing your hair every day. Dampen and condition, but wash it much less. Your hair will be healthier, not dirtier (yeah, another judgement!).

As Sistah Ru Paul always says: If you can’t love yourself, how the HELL you gonna love somebody else?

Do you have a curly hair story to tell? Please share!

Beach Eye Candy

08.27.12

Rehoboth beach was lovely this year. The gray skies kept us from burning our skin, and allowed for loooooong days with feet in the sand and noses in books. These Seussian kites appeared at dusk in the evenings in front of our hotel.

Between us, 7 books were read in 6 days time. Record-breaking and so relaxing. Impressively, Molly made it through Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood in 3 days, and my favorite read was Citrus County by John Brandon, also a crime novel and a very gripping read.

At night the whole town is transformed, the garish lights, the noise of Funland, and the parade of humanity on the boardwalk.

Molly is on this ride, I am not!

We discussed riding this together… until Molly said: Mom, you know it goes backwards.

This made us laugh. A store riffing on the Hot Topic brand, but in such a lame way!

We gambled the nights away, winning tickets and cashing in for a giant stuffed giraffe and many other goodies.

Above, this year’s favorite photo, and one that really sums up the experience for me. Sweet as… well, the sign says it all.

My Domestic Life: 10 fun photos from ’round the house

04.13.12

Bedroom: Thrifted fabrics awaiting (and providing) inspiration.

Foyer between designfarm office and so charmed studio: The Molly Shrine, featuring painting by Carrie Mitchell (center) and self portrait collage with braids by Molly (age 7ish).

Entrance to basement at bottom of stairs: One of several household baseball shrines.

Dining room: Flowers from the BF. Weekly. No, I’m not kidding.

Bathroom upstairs: Favorite bling photo for Jody Pearl’s weekly JaM blog post.

Bathroom upstairs: Favorite bling photo #2 for Jody Pearl’s weekly JaM blog post.

Bathroom upstairs: Favorite bling photo #3 for Jody Pearl’s weekly JaM blog post.

Bathroom upstairs: Yes, it’s the back of the toilet. Yes, that’s a book entitled “Zen Judaism.” Yes, that’s a kleenex box cover handcrafted by Bethy in the shape of a piece of coconut cake.

Bedroom: The cavalry is coming, ie, Jodi’s boots. Details added 4.14: From front to back: Molly’s old riding boots, Fly London, my oldest boots, pole climbers by NaNa… have been all over the world with me, blue vintage riding boots, burgundy vintage riding boots.

Bedroom: The cavalry is coming Part 2, ie, MORE of Jodi’s boots. Details added 4/14: from back to front, thrifted Frye engineers, Fluevogs from SF with coolest blue lining, thrifted Harley harness boots… fit like a DREAM and were nearly new when found, newest boots: Frye tan lace ups.

Home Run Valentines Day

02.17.12

We celebrate the mid-February holiday of romance at our house, despite some jaded opinions that it’s simply an evil conspiracy between the Hallmark and Whitman’s companies. How cute is this little heart-shaped baseball box of chocolates? Well, there were only three candies inside, and the BF was sweet enough to share with Molly and I.

The BF went the traditionalist route with a gorgeous bouquet of pink and white roses that have been slowly opening all week.

Molly, a reluctant celebrator of this holiday, not only picked out the CUTEST Valentine at the store (I was actually lusting for this one when I picked mine out)… but she also wrote very tender and funny notes to both of us inside. Couldn’t get a great photo, but it reads: Mom: Thanks for dealing with all my crap all the time. Even though you drive me insane, I love you. Molly

A keeper forever.

So anyway, for the real history of the holiday, a pagan ordeal which includes a Christian saint, and the alleged sacrifice of a goat AND a dog hit the link. (ewwwww).

What I Wear (and a little about why I might wear it)

01.13.12

Last night, Molly and I had our weekly girl’s night out for dinner at Chipotle, browsing about downtown, hang-time. In the car on the way home I asked her why she thought people buy and wear jewelry. Her answer: Expression.

Now, this is really interesting to me, and granted, she’s my daughter. But I asked her then if she thought there were any other reasons… and so we talked about status (bling) as well as attracting the opposite sex. Ultimately though, we both agreed, expression is king.

Jewelry-making for me has been another medium my art has taken. I’ve explored (and am still exploring) SO many mediums… photography, drawing, fiction-writing, stitchery. Fiction (10 years) and jewelry (another 10) have lasted the longest. I think, at heart I’m a storyteller.

So, what does the jewelry-maker, herself, wear? Above is a recent piece that I’ve never even so much as photographed b/c it went right into my jewelry box. I guess this is my glamuorpuss version of steampunk? It’s so very balanced and symmetrical; a tendency I have to fight to overcome, but which I also think serves me at times.

This is a really early piece, a reworked vintage rhinestone princess necklace. I’ve had many offers to buy this right off my neck, but this is a piece I really wear a lot. It looks so good with dress-up clothes, or just t-shirt/jeans. And it is NOT symmetrical! Yay! I’m not sure what the story is behind either of these pieces, and it doesn’t really matter, in fact I’m happy when it’s a bit obtuse. I just know they mean a lot to me. A version of bling, attraction/repulsion, questions about value and adornment and an I-dare-you-attitude that was not as prevalent then as it may be now. Those would be some of the themes.

I also wear thrifted vintage jewelry. Above are two favorites. The black beads are super heavy glass faceted, I’m guessing mid-20th century Czech. I bought this at the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market from this really oddball, charming old man. I actually think of him when I wear it… he seemed to be borderline insane and/or homeless and/or hoarding. I liked him a lot. The pink piece is also glass (older than the black necklace, maybe Japan), scored at a local thrift and I can’t really figure out the time period. The beadwork is truly unusual and gorgeous. These two necklaces are both choker length, which I love, and they look great layered. Rescuing old stuff has been and continues to be a lifetime mission. And it’s not about the environment to me, it’s about history. Who owned these? Where were they worn? It’s evocative and makes me feel connected to something both unknown and imagined.

I do, on rare occasion, purchase jewelry made by other people. Above and below are two pieces by Louis Waitt. I fell hard in love with both of these. It was as if they were made just for me, for no-one else, and if I didn’t have them I’d die. The ring above is a chunk of broken glass, smithed into a simple exaggerated pronged setting. This is my engagement ring. I am engaged to and betrothed to and in love with Art. Not a guy named Art. A practice of Art. A life of Art. A muse that I follow with the passion most follow a lover. It’s so corny, but this is a universal truth for me.

This piece, also by Waitt, is high-concept. Again, there is no way to say what it definitively means. It doesn’t matter, there is some feeling I get in my heart when I look at and wear this. An exuberant cow, riding along on his rusty three-wheeled cart. The wheels actually turn, so this is also a toy… it’s unbelievably playful, joyful, child-like. This cow is not on anyone’s plate. He’s wild and free and doing a happy dance!

Nature vs. Nurture

12.21.09

cooking1

A constant conversation in the life of an adoptive mom, Nature vs. Nurture. While my mom is fond of calling my Korean-adoptee daughter, Molly, “Little Jodi” there are definitely ways in which her Nature shows itself to be nothing of sort. Her Nurture? Ahh, that is another matter all together! I am blogging this morning to share the evidence of Molly’s having inherited my love of (and world reknowned skills for) cooking and the resulting Martha-Doesn’t-Live-Here treats.

cooking2

You thought you were viewing a delicious sugar cookie in the first photo, didn’t you? Well…. you were. Sort of. But if you view the second picture above you will see from the skillfully placed pop-top (for scale) that it is really a GIANT SINGULAR cookie, made from the batter of a recipe for baking 3-4 dozen cookies!

cooking3

Ahhh, Molly. The thing is… as we were discussing just how we might break up the super-sized hard-as-brick cookie into tiny crumbs in order to feed the poor blizzard-stranded birdies in our yard… we began eating it and lo, it tastes GREAT! Watch your crowns and other expensive dentistry… this is a very (very!), um CRUNCHY cookie… but it is actually quite delicious. Sorry birdies.

cooking4

To Molly, and her friend Jenny’s credit, the above pictured brownie-cupcake weapons were also created in the same 24 hour snowbound period. These too are rather… um, crunchy. However… 20 seconds in the microwave renders them warm, soft, chocolately, and (surprise!) possessing of a rich “lava” center. Great with coffee the morning after the big snow storm of 2009.

Thanks, my little nurtured girl.

A Series of Short Posts on Random Topics

11.10.09

shortposts6 (more…)

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