Archive for December, 2009

A lot of people have described handmade objects as representing love and thoughtfulness.  What if the object is specifically made with healing and blessings in mind?

You won’t find any Etsy links in this article because “Prayer Shawls” are not to be sold.  They are made specifically for someone who may be enduring any number of struggles or who may be going through a life ritual:

“…undergoing medical procedures; as a comfort after a loss, during bereavement, prayer or meditation, commitment or marriage ceremonies, birthing, nursing a baby…first menses or croning rites of passage, during an illness and recovery“.      http://www.shawlministry.com/

The project is the brain-child of Jane Bristow and Victoria Galo, two women who started their own ministry, in Hartford Connecticut, after attending the Women’s Leadership Institute at The Hartford Seminary.

On their website you can find stitch suggestions and color symbols and prayers to go along with the shawl.  I found out about Prayer Shawls when my mum helped knit one for a friend.  The woman was undergoing cancer treatments.  Her friends passed around the shawl, doing a few rows at a time, knitting in prayers and good vibes for their friend.

I like this project because it emphasizes intention and positive energy, whatever colors and stitches you use.  Regardless of your spirituality or lack of it, constructing and giving a prayer shawl spreads goodwill and love.


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This week, I had the pleasure of working at the Harvard Square Holiday Craft Fair in Cambridge.  I worked for Cheryl of Black Flower Chocolate on Monday. http://www.blackflowerchocolate.com/

Before this, I worked for my friend Gianna Bird of Silver Moon Designs.  She is a talented silversmith and it is so fun to help her in both selling and production.  Here is my interview with her:

Tell me about yourself:

My name is Gianna Bird.  I’m based out of Westwood, MA.  I grew up in Jamaica Plain.  I went to Northeastern for outdoor education and got my masters in Education from Cambridge College.  I was born in England!

How did you begin your career as an artist?

I was working as an after-school director when I took a Brookline Adult Ed. class on silversmithing.  My father was a carpenter so I was familiar with all of the tools and it just felt natural.  I felt like I’d been doing it all my life!  I started accumulating my own tools, setting up my studio at home.  This was in 1989.  Ten years later, I decided to go fully into jewelry making.  I woke up one day and the balance had shifted.

What inspires you?

Nature, ancient culture belief systems, symbols in general and symbols for connection.

Where and how do you sell your products?  Also, the story of Five Crows, an artisan store in Natick:

My friend and I were going to yoga together.  We talked about doing a home-show for our art.  We both knew some people… So five of us had a home show in November of 2001.  We thought, “Ooh we should open a shop!” and in February of 2002, Five Crows opened!  It was so meant to be.

I sell my jewelry at the Clever Hand in Wellesley, Noa of Groton and West Concord, and the Cambridge Artists Cooperative.  I also sell at fairs like this one and through my website.  http://www.silvermoondesigns.com/

Do you advertise? No.

How much do your sales dictate what you make?

For the most part…they don’t.  I make what feels right.  Pieces begin with symbolic meanings for me.  For example, when I want to make something about courage, I make a bear or wolf.

What do you enjoy most about being an artist?

Being in the flow- the rare times when I’m working on something and I just lose myself and time.  I come out of those times with an object that I didn’t expect.  I don’t even envision the end product.  The materials tell me and I’m open enough to hear it  and go with it.  Another great thing is happy accidents- mistakes that I realize aren’t mistakes.

Do you sell online?  What about Etsy?

My website is sporadic.  There isn’t a shopping cart and I’m not very active with it.  I did put some work up on Etsy and didn’t have any sales.  This was discouraging and I thought, “Well, I have somewhere else I’d like to put my attention”.  However, I would like to get more into Etsy.

Why handmade?

It’s got soul.  Things that are handmade hold some of the artist’s intention and energy.  I love the buy-local-economy thing: helping support local artists and farmers helps the community.

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I was at my local organic grocery store when I stumbled upon these: Snack Taxis.  They are handmade and re-usable, unlike ziploc bags.  I am extremely excited about mine, pictured above.

Snack Taxis are lined with nylon so that the pretty fabric exterior doesn’t get gunked up from your cheddar bunnies or sugar snap peas.  They come in lots of sizes.  Functional Sustainability!  Yay!!

Where to find SnackTaxis near you:


It looks like Oprah has beat me to discovering the Taxis!

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No one can resist the charm and magic of the romanticized forest. It’s someplace attainable, where we can also let our imaginations run wild.  There awaits sleeping bears and hidden rabbit holes, fairies and gnomes.  So many possibilities for art!

As of today, December 16th, on Etsy, there are 769 items tagged with “Little Red Riding Hood”, 1460 items tagged with “cottage woods”, 2104 tagged with “forest creatures” and 1268 items tagged with “toadstool”.

The most interesting items to me from this trend are the Little Red Riding Hood items and the items that bring the forest into the home.

I’ve listed below my two favorite items that perform the forest-to-home conversion.  Myimaginaryboyfriend’s log pillows and chicsindesigndotcom’s bear bean bag literally make the woods cushy and comfortable.   The inherent contradiction is what makes the concept unique.  Take it a step further with the joke and add these items to your urban apartment, or merely go all out with your cottage style.

Myimaginaryboyfriend– This log pillow also comes in brown!

chicsindesigndotcom– Wouldn’t you love to snuggle up with a sleeping bear?  This one looks pretty safe.

Little Red Riding Hood is the best forest art character.  She is innocent and curious, and her red outfit contrasts perfectly with the green forest.  The two artists below pay homage to her.

malam–  She’s fulfilled my childhood fantasies!  I love the buttoned bustier design of the top.

elsita– This is a print of a beautiful papercut.  Red and the wolf look like they might be friends!

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I asked a group of nine and ten year olds-

Which is better and why?  Making presents or buying presents?

Here are some of my favorites:

I think buying presents is better.  One reason is I’ve never made a present.  Another reason is that it takes a long time depending on what you’re making.  After making it you have to wrap it and if it is delicate it might break.

I would make a gift.  Like when I made my mom’s birthday present.  I took a plain white cup and painted it.  When you make a gift I think the person you give it to will think it’s more special.

I think buying.  Why?  Because you wouldn’t have to assemble it.  Plus you couldn’t make a DS game.   Or could you?  Besides, it would take a long time.

I think that I would like to give a gift that I had made because I think that it is more caring.  I love to give.

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This is a project that I’ve been following since it started- a friend told me about it.

The project aims to demonstrate sustainability through creativity.  To do this, Sheena Matheiken decided to wear the same dress for an entire year.  Her friend Eliza Starbuck made the seven identical dresses.  According to their website,

Sheena’s challenge is to reinvent the uniform dress everyday by way of
accessorizing with sustainable goods – vintage, handmade or recycled items. While a playful exercise in sustainable fashion, the serious leg of the project aims to raise funds for educating underprivileged children in India. The donations from this project will go to the Akanksha Foundation, a non-profit educational mission that is revolutionizing the Indian education system, beginning with the children living in the slums.

Sheena also invites the public to donate accesories to the cause- if she incorporates your donation into her outfit, she makes sure to give you a little shout out in the description.  Also, Sheena and Eliza invite you to collaborate on an outfit, if you have a concept in mind.

This project is exciting for simple reasons- it’s on a large scale, and it helps others.  I believe in the Handmade life and pledge not just for anti-consumerism and anti-commercialism, but also because Handmade goods spread love, and have the possibility of positively effecting community.  The Uniform Project is attracting attention because it is astonishing to Americans that a person can wear the same dress daily.  Of course, there are so many people in the world who can count on their hands how many articles of clothing they own.  Reusing clothing is possible, and it can also be fashionable!

And, finally, some exciting news:

The Project plans to further boost the fundraising efforts by making the
dress available for sale and by holding online accessory auctions. Furthermore, there are already a few publishers interested in turning the project into a collectible design book.
By the end on the year, the U.P Foundation hopes to raise a substantial fund for Akanksha’s mission.  There are 7.5 million children in India today that do not get to attend school. The Uniform Project encourages all of their supporters to make a donation via their website, http://www.theuniformproject.com

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I adore this embroidered linen ornament from Littleandbigk!

Why Handmade?

It seems necessary to discuss this early on in the blog.  I spend all this time focusing on handmade- what’s the big deal?  Manufactured goods are consistent, easy to find, and cheap in comparison to handmade goods.

There is nothing wrong with items off the assembly line, mass production and machine-made items.  I am happy every day that I can wear clothing that I didn’t make, from sheep to carding to spinning to weaving to sewing.  If I wanted to, I could still make clothing this way.  What I appreciate is the CHOICE.

Do-It-Yourself is a reactionary movement to the mass-produced.  It’s a return to the handmade craftsmanship that is one-of-a-kind, hard to find, and occasionally priced higher than items off a belt.

Anthropologie, the trendy clothing and home-ware brand under Urban Outfitters, is selling a collection of handmade Christmas ornaments.  There are embroidered felt turtles, wire and fabric boats, and the cutest booties I’ve ever seen.  However, where did these items come from?  They are definitely hand made, but I don’t know from where.  I don’t know who made the ornament and if they also were the creative mind behind it.  I don’t know how much profit the artist and/or maker is receiving.

While I adore the ornaments, I prefer to shop ornaments on Etsy, or at a local artist store.  I don’t want to be detached from what I’m buying and from who made it.  Handmade gifts from your kids are more meaningful because there is love inside the popsicle stick coasters and shell-with-glitter ornament.

As a buyer of handmade, I support artists and their creativity and the care they took to create each item.

See why other people have pledged to buy handmade:


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