My So Charmed Life

A Few of My Favorite Things #25


In the blurring worlds of visual arts and crafts, there can be simultaneous explosions of ideas, subject matter, supplies, and inspirations. Those that truly take hold become trends, and a trend run amok sadly becomes that wearying thing you wish would go away. Think owls, deer, mustaches. Fortunately, the things that don’t take hold simply act as threads linking artisans from across the world together. When I began experimenting with a simplistic cloud form in metalsmithing class, the idea bubbled up out of who-knows-where, and seemed to work as a shape that would not require the skills of a master, could absorb mistakes and inconsistencies, and had the potential for variation and expression. So I went with it. You’ve seen the results on the blog here, and above is another of the finished hollow-form brooches, entitled She Wept Crocodile Tears. That’s a vintage 1930’s cabochon with a vintage crystal chandelier drop.

I hadn’t seen loads of clouds out there in the marketplace, but a recent search pulled up a few… mostly sort of pedestrian, but some that were lovely, cute, scary, weird. This post collects and displays my favorites. Pictured above, from JessQuinnSmallThings in the UK, the delightful Clarissa Cloud brooch. There is much art to admire and purchase at Jess Quinn’s shop.

This adorable mobile, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, is by BabyJivesCo in Philadelphia, PA, and is one of many tres cute handcrafted baby things available.

This rockin’ crochet scarf is by Manifested Dreams, from Pittsburgh, PA. Very disco kawaii!

Cloud and Thunder Handbag Minaudiere Purse, from RandomIntent in Atlanta, GA, is very cool. The artist, Debra Gavant’s work, has been written up in major publications (NYT, Art Forum, WWD) and sold at Henri Bendel.

I’ll leave you with the adorably creepy Rain Cloud Dolly, by MungoCrafts of British Columbia. You’ll also find stylin’ handmade hoodies and other fun things at her shop.

A Few of My Favorite Things #24


As the perfect piggyback to yesterday’s post, allow me to introduce you to the work of Karen Ruane, who I believe is single-handedly (pun intended) keeping alive many traditions of sewn craft, with a particular focus on embroidery. Pictured above, from Karen’s Etsy shop, Contemporary Stitches, is one of a pair of handmade buttons. What a gorgeous treat for the closure on a handcrafted garment!

I first met Karen over on flickr, during my aforementioned personal adventures in stitchiness. When she put something of mine in her favorites list, I was entirely blown away, and although intimidated by her masterful work, I got in touch and we became fast friends (of the virtual kind). Pictured above is another of Karen’s works, entitled Precious Textile Fragment. This white on white art object, precious indeed, features a broad variety of stitches and techniques carried out with masterful skill.

Karen applies her craft in service of both the functional (such as buttons and cards) and museum-quality fine art works that are conceptual and personal. From her wonderful blog she states: For centuries women have used cloth as a tool of comfort and as an expression of beauty within their homes. Creating cloth for warmth, cloth for shelter, our female predecessors embellished these linens with hand stitch using laborious and time consuming techniques thereby enhancing the functional beauty of objects which enveloped and protected their families. Inspired by these women I hope my creations pay tribute to and recognise the devotion expressed in cloth by our female ancestors.

Published in Handmade UK magazine, Karen will also soon be offering an online course (hit the link and scroll 2/3 down) with 19 other artisans as part of Alma Stoller’s 2012 STITCHED WORKSHOPS. She also offers hew own online class Embroider, Embellish, Create, here.

BTW, Karen’s works of art are copyrighted (this post and all others in this series appear with the artist’s permission). In the New Year, I shall be posting a lengthy rant on the subject of “copying” in crafts, a topic of great debate that I have been burning brain cells on of late. And aren’t you looking forward to that?

A Few of My Favorite Things #23


Confession: It’s not all about the angst and edge around here; I absolutely love vintage hankies and many other very delicate collectibles. I can’t explain this, really. I’m old enough to remember when these objects were functionally in use and there is still something about them that I find incredibly evocative. Hankies, and vintage buttons too. They just seem to hold a lot of history… women’s history, in particular.

All of the dainties pictured in this post came from one delightful shop, aptly named The Hanky Lady.

I wonder if the hanky lady herself is liquidating a lifetime collection; as of this writing the number of items in her shop is staggering 262, with only a smattering of non-hanky goods.

The fabrics and handwork on these, the amazing embroidery and lace techniques… such lost arts, for the most part. I have a personal collection of hankies gathered over the years, some are family items, but I also remember scoring many dozens of them at a clip in thriftstores back in the day. Recently I was exploring embroidery myself and used hankies as my canvases at times, here are two such objects from my finished pieces. You can see more of this adventure up on flickr, second “set” on the right called embroidery (mine).

Sugar & Spice
vintage 50’s handkerchief with added embroidery.

Snips & Snails
vintage 50’s handkerchief with added embroidery.

A Few of My Favorite Things #21 & #22


Just b/c you are out of wall space doesn’t mean you have to stop buying art. There are always… pillows. Above is one of my favorite pillow-makers (pillowists?), In the Seam, who I met at Renegade Brooklyn this past year. I tried to get away from their booth unscathed, but returned for one of the NYC pigeon pillows pictured above. Would love to have a whole flock!

Of course then the flock would absolutely need a sewer cover, wouldn’t they? Of course they would! Cleverly, this pillow comes in NYC, Detroit, and Seattle versions. Love!

Speaking of Detroit, here’s another pillow-person, SaltLabs, who hails from that city, but doesn’t limit his/her work to same. At this lovely shop you can buy Paris, pictured above…

…or a vintage map of the Detroit River.

A Few of My Favorite Things #20


We have a framed piece hanging in our living room from YeeHaw, which bills itself as All Letterpress, All the Time. Their work is so flipping cool, and they’ve expanded their offerings since my last visit to include clothing, cards, and calendars along with their gorgeous art prints. Pictured above is Otis Redding from their Mini Soul Series.

I’m going to send you off to Wiki to learn about letterpress printing, if you don’t all ready know, but what you can’t experience until you see it in real life is the absolute lusciousness of these inked paper surfaces. And although wide commercial use of this process fell off in the 19th century, there’s been a substantial resurgence since the 90’s (including lots of wedding invites etc, but also ART). YeeHaw is one of my favorite houses of this craft and the Robert Johnson piece above makes me feel all woozy. Is it weird to want a bigger house only b/c you need more wall space???! I think we can still squeeze a few things in.

A Few of My Favorite Things #19


I “met” Moxie over on flickr, while looking through the favorite images of some friend of a friend of a friend… and I thought she and her bright pink hair and her darling felted goodies really rocked! Of course she’s also got an Etsy site where, lo and behold, you can buy KITS to learn how to needle-felt tiny cute things like the adorable bumble bee, Little Bugger pictured above!

Or you can pony up just $20 for Moxie’s book, I Felt Awesome, and also load up on supplies like roving, as well as tools, all at hifiberknits, her corner of the Etsyland.

I really have wanted to try needle-felting for a long time, but I need another craft passion addiction like I need one more little hole in my head. Still, Moxie’s got me mighty tempted. You too?

A Few of My Favorite Things #18


Wishing you the best of luck in resisting the needle-felted charm of VioletPi, Shop of Little Things. The shop is the work of Jennifer Novack, and needle felting never found a more capable, imaginative and delightful hand. And yes, they are even more amazing in real life. Pictured above is Green Retro Bunny, who reminds me a lot of the work of Mark Ryden, but in 3-dimensions!

And here we have Tiny Bee, standing only 2 inches tall. Unbelievably wonderful.

Since yesterday’s post came to you this morning… stay tuned for a related post this afternoon… yes people, it’s two-fer Monday.

A Few of My Favorite Things #17


Beads? Me? Nahhhhh. Ok, yahhhhhhhh. And here’s a favorite place to score gorgeous beads of every flavor, from Czech glass to tribal goodness, and even some incredibly rare (and expensive) ancient beads. HappyMango will not disappoint.

PS: If you’re joining us late, I’m doing a once-per-day post through the month of December (yes, that’s 30 freaking posts), designed to help you support handmade and all things crafty for the holidays. Enjoy!

A Few of My Favorite Things #16


Even though I really don’t wear it all the time, I’m a scent freak and I go through periods when I’m just deeply into perfume, oils, etc. When I found the site LuckyScent, I went a little crazy… because for just $3-$7 you can sample most of the very high-end, obscure, cult, artisan fragrances that they carry… and they carry loads of them. One of my all time favorite scents is pictured above, Rhubarb, by Comme des Garcons (Series 5: Sherbet). The descriptions on LuckyScent are like little fictions, I love reading them and in the world of art perfume, these are likely a big part of the seduction. Here’s the LuckyScent scoop on Rhubarb:

Rhubarb is the tart one in the Sherbet series, perfectly capturing the sourness of a rhubarb stalk with a tiny dash of sweet. A beautifully fresh, green stem scent runs throughout the evolution, and it dries down to a creamier version–like an icy rhubarb sorbet mixed with a non-sweet (or overtly feminine) vanilla. We pick up a bit of wood (wenge) in there, too. Completely unique and unisex (go on, show us someone you know who wears a rhubarb scent), the tart green of Rhubarb is a study in converting taste into an exhilarating and crisp bottled scent. Extremely addictive, you just may drool a little when you smell this.

I find this scent to be perfect all year ’round, super fresh for warm weather, but has a weird iciness that works in the winter-time too. Although a lot of the scents carried at Lucky are truly unisex, I think this one is pretty girly. Nothing needs mentioning about the house of Comme des Garcons, right?

This is my other current scent, which I actually bought in a store in Georgetown… having determined I really really needed a new fragrance in my life. I spent a couple of hours there, until my nose went dead, and ended up with L’Ombre Dans L’Eau, by Dyptique. Dyptique is a small boutique-y perfume house founded in 1961 by three friends who had trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Here’s the Lucky description of this scent, which I find hard to wear in winter unless I feel like really having a super green summery visitation:

An amazingly evocative scent, this transports you to an English riverside garden with overgrown roses and a tangle of blackcurrant bushes. This is startlingly green, almost astringent, in the opening and then the roses appear – fresh and vivid and beautiful. You can smell the wet earth of the riverbank and the berries weighing down the branches and the older petals that have fallen to the ground. The name translates as “Shadow in the Water”, and appropriately, there is a hint of melancholy here, a touch of the bittersweet. However, there is also a rejuvenating freshness – perhaps the riverside garden is where we go to recover from heartbreak. This is a truly original fragrance – and an utterly beautiful one.

If you are a freak for scent, and want to get away from department-store fragrance, you will love love love LuckyScent, those little samples are such fun to get in the mail and experiment with! Oh, and when you do make a purchase, you can also request a handful of free samples. Awesome!

Lastly, if you are buying fragrance as a gift, I do recommend purchasing something the recipient already wears and loves. Scent is so personal, and there is nothing worse than wearing a perfume you don’t like (VERY torturous!). I couldn’t find gift cards on the Lucky site, but check your recipient’s fragrance bottles and see what’s running low, then head on over to Lucky to stock up.

A Few of My Favorite Things #15, WE ARE HALFWAY THERE!


Columbus, Ohio:
State Fair butter cows, buckeyes, my childhood stompin’ grounds, and… home of Flamestitch, creators of some of the most badass handbags ever. Pictured above, the wonderfully titled: Old Slut on Junk. I’d kill for this bag.

My other favorite, Cat Belly, lives only in their sold section, and comes with “ten pink Ultrasuede cat teats (or nipples if you prefer) sewn into the purse flap.” Visually, conceptually, I love everything about this object.

Above, the Oscar Wilde Tote is lovely too, featuring the decadent one’s signature silk-screened on linen.

In addition to the Etsy shop, owner Renee Parrill has her own site, and here’s part of her terrific bio: I am Renee Parrill, and I learned to love sewing in the upholstery shop my grandparents owned. I spent many bored hours coveting the fabric in upholstery sample books. I held a protected and tender spot in my heart for the sparkly Naugahyde, and imagined a day when I could make it my own. Around the same time, I started making my own clothes. My creations would sometimes earn disapproval from my grandmother, who described them as something “Lipstick Blondie” would wear. Lipstick Blondie was a war-time “loose woman” who may or may not have “known” my grandfather. At any rate, grandma didn’t like her. These two factors combined fluidly to influence my designs, specifically: The Old Slut on Junk, The Cheating Whore, and Wonder Woman.

And because I know you Columbus folk want to get your ink on, here’s a link to Renee’s husband’s shop: Fate Tattoo, located at 2202 N. High St. Yes, Columbus, I’m talking about YOU! Or maybe me… next summer, a new tatt? We’ll see…

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