My So Charmed Life

So Charmed

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Fashion Brilliance for Fall

08.27.12

Ahhh, Marc Jacobs. I love everything about this collection. The lean silhouettes with long slim-fitted coats and slender cropped cigarette pants work delightfully against the outsized Mad Hatter-meets-Mac Daddy hats. Hats AND chunky but feminine buckled shoes are whimsical, fantastical, while everything in between is infinitely wearable, even by Washington DC’s conservative standards. The staging and music… creepy/cool! Favorite collection for this fall, fashionistas. PS: Shout-out to Pam for sharing! And in case the embedded video doesn’t load for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydtH4cfOEng

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.

No Regrets, Lots of Regretsy

08.03.12

I set up shop on Etsy in 2008, 4 years ago. Prior to that, I had been selling jewelry online at So Charmed for 7 years, opening the first incarnation of the site on my birthday, September 2001. For the first couple of years on Etsy my work made loads of treasuries and the coveted front page regularly. Sales were decent. Courtney Love discovered my work on Etsy, ordering enough jewelry in 2009 for me to consider myself “on the Love payroll” for several months. She was also sharing my work with some of her friends, such as Oliver Stone, and regaling me with stories of wearing her Robert Johnson pin in the recording studio for inspiration (she was working on her latest record at the time.)

All of this was wonderful. So wonderful in fact that I was inspired to open several additional shops, with breakout lines such as LaPatisserie (sweet little rings using cakes and vintage buttons).

And another shop, SewCharmed to sell vintage clothing and sewn items. There were at least 2 additional shops; a veritable Etsy empire, I thought.

For those of you who like numbers, all told, I made 500 sales +/- on Etsy in a 4-year period. Those numbers, however, are kind of meaningless in terms of how much income I realized via Etsy. It’s a much longer story for another time (or not), but suffice to say, that even at peak performance on Etsy–a few hundred sales per year, I was real real real glad I hadn’t quit my dayjob (despite Etsy’s then-constant promotion of just that very dream).

Etsy was brief for me. Around the time of my becoming rather discouraged with the site… decreased sales and an ever-growing presence of jewelry (when I checked this morning, there were 2,965,000+/- pieces listed on the site), with prices for jewelry lowering ridiculously (current average price of an Etsy sale: $15-$20 with 3.5% going to paypal and 3.5% to Etsy), with an insane number of resellers, ie, “handcrafters” selling cheap jewelry manufactured in factories (mostly China)… and a maddening number of copycat “artists” blatantly stealing every new idea that comes along, a site popped up on the internet humor scene to poke fun at all of this alleged glitter-huffing. Enter: Regretsy, where DIY meets WTF.

Somehow, I happened upon Regretsy from its very first post, and after overcoming my jealousy at not creating the site myself, I became one of its biggest fans. It is… hilarious. And mean. And hilarious. I exchanged a few emails with April Winchell, the cool, funnygirl founder of the site and was shortly after invited by her to create the divider page for the jewelry section of her upcoming book. Above is one of the images I created, below is the one she chose to publish. I was never sure if anyone got the little Jew joke I put in. I thought April would love that.

Then, with my increasing Etsy discouragement, I refreshed the design and blog of my site, rethinking what I wanted to make (and sell), and determining that with the limited hours (fulltime job, parenting, family, etc) that I have to pursue personal creativity and art (as opposed to my client-centered professional design work), I just couldn’t bring myself to focus on listing amongst nearly 3 million pieces of cheap jewelry in the closed retail wholesale world of Etsy (you have to have an account to shop there).

And please, don’t get me wrong: there is some real, amazing talent over on Etsy a few people I’ve seen make sales in the thousands or tens of thousands… deservedly. There is fantastic original jewelry, and many other wonderful handmade goods from soap to clothing. For supplies and vintage… Etsy still rocks, bigtime. (BTW, all of Etsy’s top sellers sell jewelry supplies… duh!) I still love the idea of Etsy and I still wish all of the vendors nothing but success in their making and sales.

My Etsy shops are empty(ing), as are so many other sellers’. Because it costs nothing to have a shop on Etsy, I’m not going to officially close them down; it was a lot of work setting them up and they contain online histories of work, sales, purchases, and customers that I wouldn’t want to lose. I reserve my right to change my mind about Etsy, should the admins find ways to truly support the hardworking, orignal artists that are paying their bills. So, no regrets.

PS: So what is the answer to successfully selling handmade goods? Shows? Brick ‘n mortar boutiques? Other sites like Dawanda? A best friend on the Barney’s buyer team? Sorry, haven’t found the answer yet! Will keep ya posted!

Must Everything Always?

07.07.12

A question I try to occasionally ask myself: Must everything always be so complicated?

This morning I thought I’d answer that with a resounding nope.

I made the things pictured here and love them for their seemingly happy simplicity. The necklaces feature big wooden beads that are probably about 60 years old, there’s a geometric brass bead (40+ years old) with amazing patina, glass trade beads, ancient toys, copper chain, wire. Oops, wait, not sounding quite that simple!

Have had these ancient clicker toys around the studio for a long time; love how these turned out. You can still see the bug’s eyeballs through decades of rust. Well, at least they look simple.

So… mostly, yeah, simple. Right?

Uh, well, I don’t actually think so. Here’s the thing: One should never confuse simple with easy. Simple, it turns out, is actually effing complicated. Yep. Nope. I don’t know! And… whatever!

Biggie photos here: flickr. Hoping to post these for sale at so charmed early next week, holler if you have an urge before they hit the site.

be quiet, be violent and original

07.03.12

A dear friend I’ve never met recently posted that I had been so quiet lately. For some reason, this singular comment — simply a caring remark upon my being missing from facebook and other social media — made me think. A lot. In a creative slump and feeling stressed and sad for weeks, this morning I thought I’d try to join the threads of my quietude together. A look in the mirror revealed one thing: my hair, never quiet. Not unlike Samson, I tend to equate my creative spirit with my unruly curls, which are this summer blue and growing like a weed atop my head.

Then I turned to the book I’m reading–Look at Me, by Jennifer Egan (yes, she of the Pullitzer-winning Goon Squad visitation). A few weeks ago I’d also read a brilliant, captivating short piece by Egan in the Sci-Fi issue of The New Yorker. Turns out the seed for that short story was planted long ago in this novel, with blatant references to it throughout. The theme of these writings is our concept of beauty, examined. As well as our needs to be exceptional, public, and viewed.

Here is another book of mine, a treasured volume, Extreme Beauty. This book is not about fashion. Ok, it is not just about fashion. Here are two of the spreads:

My quietude has lately taken me to a place of studying adornment from a new angle. I am suddenly drawn to the palest non-colors in clothing — white, ivory, maybe gray, and fabrics that are natural, light, stiff — voile, cotton, linen. The combination of Victorian clothing with tribal adornment is of great interest. And, a certain thing that I didn’t know was even a thing, called Lagenlook, translating from German to “layered look.”

One of the most inspiring designers within the lagenlook realm is Ewa i Walla, from Sweden. Pictured above, three of her Tine skirts, which are so fluffy and starchy stiff they will stand up on their own on the floor. You can purchase some pieces here, but the shipping is insane ($60 from Sweden to the US, OUCH). You can also find pieces — new and used — on ebay, as well as at obscure online European boutiques at deep discounts.

Here is a video of the Ewa i Walla 2010 catwalk. I can not stop watching this and if you can by some chance id the music, please advise.

Bloomers and other legwear is an essential part of the lagenlook.

Pictured above 3 pairs: top left/center, a pair I made from blue thriftstore pajama bottoms; bottom left, a pair scored for $7 at Hells Kitchen Flea Market… they appear to be genuine Victorian; right, an Ewa i Walla pair with their monogram in oxblood red.

The wide double doors of my gigantic closet serve as an inspiration board, with articles of found and created clothing, jewelry, accessories, hanging together in a collage of colors, textures, silhouettes. I stare at and often photograph this wall for another perspective.

This detail shows a very old Afghani artifact I acquired before my recent trip to NYC ($22, which seems criminal, frankly). Wearing this around my hometown and in New York last weekend I was stopped on the streets and asked about it many many times. I have no information about it but can tell you that when I opened the package an evocative smokey scent emerged. Not cigarettes, outdoor open-fire smoke. I loved this smell, and breathed it in deeply, knowing it would quickly and somehow poetically dissipate in its new Western home (it did).

The primary purpose for the recent 6-hour bus trip to NY (just $45 rt from DC), was to see the exhibit pictured above at the Met. I knew I would be disappointed by this exhibit, and I was, probably for the following reasons: 1. I had seen an unbelievable Schiaparelli retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art years ago and thought that would likely kick this exhbit’s ass — it did. 2. Prada is not of huge interest to me. 3. Last year’s McQueen exhibit at the Met still looms SO large and 4. This was a show about clothing, not art.

Of FAR greater interest to me were the Met’s collections of Africa and Oceania art and artifacts (particularly New Guinea, adornment pictured above). I wandered through these vast rooms in a dream, thinking of ways to potentially hide and spend a terrifyingly inspiring night amongst the powerful objects.

The exhibit at the Met will not adversely affect my decades-long abiding love for Schiaparelli. On either side of my bed are advertisements for her perfume, Sleeping. I imagine these figures dancing around my night visions.

One thing to love about Schiaparelli is her signature color, a shade of pink called “Shocking” (I know, I contradict myself!). The spread above, Extreme Beauty again, makes nice use of this exact hue.

Before the trip to NYC I was poking around the Internet looking at available Objects de Schiap, the only two of which I could afford were the neckties pictured above at about $10. Imagine my delight to find them lined in shocking pink with darling labels to boot! I had every intention of using them on some inspired and wearsble creation — perhaps a Schiapesque hat — but that never happened (and still might). I don’t like most upcycled necktie stuff at all. Iggy Pop and I are contemplating ways around this.

However I absolutely LOVE this amazing pannier created by Janay Rose, otherwise known as The Window Lady, and acquired from the artist in San Francisco last year.

Made almost entirely of pleated and ribboned neckties and tulle, it stands out from the body, much like those worn by Marie Antoinette, pictured below across a 2-page spread (Extreme Beauty).

Above is a jacket I started making/altering this morning, the seeds for this were planted awhile back; I’ll post photos when it’s done. The necktie is not Schiap (but of the same time period, I believe), and features an amazing pattern of surrealist eyeballs. I’ll post pics when I’m finished. Goodbye quiet, until we meet again.

Finally, a quote emailed from a dear friend who I have met and which served to trigger a rescue of sorts from my terrible malaise:

“Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
Flaubert

prim.itive

06.05.12

My neighbor Katy and I don’t generally ask one another to borrow a cup of sugar or an egg. We have, however, been known to knock on the door inquiring after spare dressmaker’s dummies, scraps of fabric, books about fashion & sewing, or an opinion about a new creation.

Recently, Katy stopped by in a newly thrifted crisp white dress and asked if I had any accessories lying about that might take the look from prim to primitive.

With just about my entire jewelry stock currently on view at the Curiouser & Curiouser exhibition, I offered to whip something up, you know, custom.

Katy went off to China and I headed into my studio to create a special gypsy bangle stack, just for her.

Ingredients include a glittery Bollywood bangle, rust, vintage tattered sari ribbon from India, handmade clay beads, a quartz crystal point, MOP shell heart charm, vintage ruby charm, Indonesian glass, beach shell, wire, chain, and lots of prim-no-more goodness. It’s been a busy month so if you’re in need of a bangle stack and tired of waiting for them to appear over at So Charmed, just holla and I’ll get to making you you’re very own.

WINNER!

06.05.12

I announced this weeks ago on Facebook and then promptly forgot to post to the blog! DERP! Anyways, thanks to Molly for pulling a name out of the hat, and we do have a winner. It’s the lovely Jenna from Honey Bijoux. Been trying to email you, girl, so do get in touch with your address! Thanks to all who played, I loved each and every answer and will post a new giveaway soon. xoxo

Give it away, give it away, give it away now…

05.16.12

Here’s another give-away guys, and please feel free to sing along with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song while you review the rules, regulations, and photos herein.

If you hurry, you can be the 9 MILLIONTH person to view this video! I like Mr. Keidis’ sparkly lipgloss, don’t you?

So, this is a sweet romantic necklace from the personal collection of the artist (ie, my ENDLESS jewelry box), but it is time to find it a new home. Features a darling vintage love-knot charm (and I can’t find any more of these anywhere), creamy Czech glass pearl rosary beads, vintage cherry red Czech glass star bead, and tiniest brass skeleton key. The chain used is vintage and so delicate I frankly can’t figure out how I was able to work with it at all!

I’m going to leave the narrative for this one up to the new owner’s sense of poetry, memory, and meaning. How to enter? Leave a comment here answering the following question: If you could invite anyone living or dead to dinner, who would it be and why?

Entries will not be judged for content, anything goes. Deadline is Friday, May 18th, 6pm at which time my lovely daughter Molly will randomly draw a name from a hat. Have fun, good luck, and thanks for playing! Winner will be contacted and necklace will ship out next week.

Curiouser & Curiouser, Through June 15

05.14.12

My exhibit entitled Curiouser & Curiouser, sponsored by Takoma Park Arts & Humanities, runs through June 15.

There are four large glass cases filled with everything from jewelry, to textile work, to clothing explorations. Hard to photograph through the glass… but I hope you get the idea.

7500 Maple Avenue, Takoma Park, MD, 20912. Also please visit the senior show of the Einstein High School arts magnet program in the Atrium Gallery.

Some of the work is for sale at So Charmed, other pieces are from my personal collection. If you visit, send an email inquiry regarding purchase.

We forgot to get photos of the petite artiste herself (resplendent in a PUT A BIRD ON IT taxidermy-festooned vintage 1930’s hat that Isabella Blow is coveting from fashionista heaven), but never fear. Yours truly was interviewed by a nice young man from Takoma Cable Television! Not sure when that will be available for local viewing. And available, and available… I’m sure this will be at least partially, if not fully mortifying.

Big loving thanks to friends and family who came by for the opening and a special huge hug to Molly for her amazing skills at setting up the cases while Mom was just pretty much freaking out.

Surrealism, Africa, Holland, and Me

05.03.12

I’ve been making a lot of dresses based on the Piece of Cake frock pattern by Jody Pearl of Sew Outside the Lines and when the above pictured African wax print textile (lower fabric) arrived at my attelier (purchased here) , I decided to make something in a queenly maxi length. I also became utterly obsessed with this gorgeous fabric, searching high and low for info about it. Is it genuine wax print or fake? Most importantly, what ARE those strange objects and why do I find them so impossibly alluring?

My research deadended and I sort of gave up, and then, while searching for more textiles on Etsy, I came upon the above (purchased here). Uhhhh, wait a minute! That’s MY textile. And I like it even better in this crazy colorway! I immediately contacted the lovely seller, Angela, who came forth with loads of info about the The Gallery of Poems textile collection from Vlisco, renowned Dutch (not African) textile manufacturer.

Here is Vlisco’s description of their 2011 Collection: GALLERY OF POEMS: DRAMATIC ROMANTICISM

Once upon a time, Vlisco created a mysterious new fabric collection called ‘Gallery of Poems’. Dreams wander, floating into your own fairyland. Step into a new world and view the designs as objects of inspiration. Some designs will magically transform into a piece of art, adding a romantic touch to the poetic drama, while others illustrate a surrealistic passing of time. The decorative collection is intensified by a flamboyant colour palette. ‘Gallery of Poems’ makes you feel like a fairytale beauty.

This is where I about fell on the floor. Surrealism? Although this is another story for another time, suffice to say that at age 14 I came under the influence of members of the American Surrealist Movement (one of whom remains one of my oldest friends), and my life at that point was forever changed. Thus, it seemed that my locating this textile, and the subsequent journey into the world of high-fashion African wax prints, was deeply connected to other aspects of my life as an artist.

Of course, me being me, it doesn’t end there. The above video from Vlisco is absolutely fascinating, explaining the wax print process (pattern ends up on BOTH sides of the cloth) and a lot about the history of the company. These fabrics are so incredible, words can not express. Vibrant color, a slightly stiff substantial hand, and beyond gorgeously weird concepts that combine traditional African imagery with modern Western icons in a global village collision that makes my head spin. Pricing aligns with the incredibleness… yardage is sold only x6 yards and at $15 per, + shipping from the UK… OMG. Here’s your source; Vogue Fabrics UK.

I’m obsessing over the four textiles shown here.

Know someone who might want to share yardage? Put them in touch, ASAP!

Because I….

…want to make more dresses!

PS: Added bonus video; How to tie tradtional African Gele (head wrap):

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