Friday, April 19, 2013

Today I Rediscovered...

4.19.13   Today I rediscovered the wonder of Handmade.


Last week, I was in Desperate need of some time off. Some time with no commitments, no appointments, most of all, no schedule. I have a very unhealthy relationship with the clock. As its tiny hands tick away the minutes and the hours, I feel more and more pressure each time I see its little face.  It fuels my feelings of inadequacy and makes me feel that I can never keep up. So some days, I boycott all time keeping devices. I've even gone so far as to put a sticky note over my computer clock so I can be in the moment, whichever moment that may be.

Anyhoo, on this particular day, I decided to while away some delicious free time at a local boutique/gallery. (by wonderful coincidence, it happened to be cold and rainy. All the better to be alone with my musings...) They sell only handmade items, from jewelry to greeting cards to clothing, etc. They also maintain a rotating art gallery in the back of their space. I can't say the art is ever "my" style but I can say it is always eclectic, unique and a great chance to expand my mind, by peering into the minds of others.

I won't divulge all the details of my time there (after all, they were my moments and my musings), but I do want to share one very important thing. As I wandered through that little space, I rediscovered the wonder of the handmade....As I turned over each item and took time to soak up the intricacies of its construction, I was just amazed at the singularity that is The Individual. No matter how simple the work of art may seem, I know that, even presented with the same raw materials and tools, I would never have decided upon quite the same use of them as did the Artisan whose work I'm holding. And that fascinates me.

When I interact with something handmade, I feel very linked with the Artist. I can sense the time that went into it, I can see the wheels turning in their mind as they bring something entirely new and unique into being, and I feel a real sense of awe at being allowed to share in the life of their brain-child.

I left that little space with my sensibilities refreshed and a little spring in my step, hoping I could continue to share my vision with the world, along with a generous helping of Wonder...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Shame, Paradigms + Reality Checks

It's time to tell a secret of mine. It's one I think a lot of you will relate to.

Early into this adventure, my husband started telling me I should share my actual work processes with my readers. Meaning photos, and even scarier: Videos. Why was this scary? To put it bluntly: I was ashamed.  I didn't feel like a real designer. I didn't feel worthy. I was ashamed of my little workspace, with its undecorated beige walls and stained carpet. I thought, I'm just a nobody. A pretender. A wanna be. I was sure real designers were organized and worked surrounded by beauty and inspiration. All the photos of my fellow Etsy-ers only reinforced my assumption. And my shame.

I couldn't let the world see where I worked. I couldn't let them see me in mismatched pajamas and a messy bun, working on my most basic-of-the-basics sewing machine. I couldn't let them see......Me. I wasn't there yet. I wasn't successful. I wasn't "real". I was just some grown-up kid who somehow dared to dream she could deceive people into thinking she had something.

Then something happened that shifted my paradigm.

My husband (supportive and devoted fan that he is) landed me a "gig", if you will. A meeting with a "real" professional: a fashion consultant and former owner of multiple boutiques. She was getting ready to launch an online boutique and, after interacting with some samples of my work, wanted to carry my products. This had to be real. She hadn't just seen pictures of my work; she had seen the real deal and still wanted them. I was in shock.  And nervous as...well, you get the idea. Anyway...

The meeting went well. We decided on dates. We signed a contract. And then I worked my butt off for the next several weeks, frantically trying to produce something that would measure up. (another story on that later) So the big day came. Time to deliver the goods. It was a strange feeling, I'll tell you.  All of my ideas, my sketches, my color choices, all of my cuts, all of my stitches, all my stress, all the work of my heart and soul were packed up into just 2 Rubbermaid containers. And now I had to show them to almost perfect strangers.

I called Ms. Professional's assistant and was told she hadn't made it into the office yet, but to go ahead and bring my stuff over. I was so nervous on the ride over (you know the kind where you're trying to keep it under control, but you feel nauseated and just all around on edge?). I could see it all in my mind: the office complex, the glamorous decor, the desks, the "professionals". Who was I to be going there? To be pretending I was some kind of "designer"? What the heck was I doing??

Nerves or not, I couldn't back out now. I had signed a contract, I had spent months working, and most of all my husband was in the driver's seat. Literally. I couldn't have turned the car around or gotten "lost" no matter how much I may have wanted to. I was just the passenger. And he wasn't going to let me off that easy.

So we followed the GPS into an unfamiliar part of town. Made a left turn off of the main road, onto a lonely tree-lined street. And pulled up to a house that looked.....Just. Like. Mine.  

-blinking in disbelief-


The office, which I felt assured must be so glamorous, so official, so "real", turned out to be a tri-level home built in the 70s. The very same house I lived in across town. I couldn't believe my eyes. Going inside only further unraveled my faulty fantasies. There was wood paneling (classic 70s) and an inspirational message scrawled across a dry erase board. The only thing hanging on the walls, if my dazed memory serves me correctly.

I was so confused. Didn't she say she had an office? Didn't she have a successful career and multiple businesses under her belt? Where were all the accoutrements that told her she had "arrived".....?


I left there that day minus the 2 Rubbermaid boxes I had come with. I left there with some great compliments on the quality and originality of my work.  But more importantly, I left there with a firmer grasp on reality. The reality that success is a process, not a place. The reality that I am "real" if, and only if, I take myself seriously and stop undermining my talents and my being.  And best of all...I left my shame sitting by the curb, where all refuse belongs.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Humans > $$$

I have always hated Capitalism, even before I knew what it was called. I hate the concepts of putting money first, of turning people into drones, of killing the human spirit and working people to the bone.

The farther I go along on this adventure (almost a year into it now), I am incredibly impressed with the drastically different values of my fellow (and most successful) artists and artisans. Every one of them shares the same message: Be true to your Self and your craft. Don't worry about trends, don't worry about money. Just do what you love and people will respond. 

Not once has anyone said: Make what sells. Make what people want to see. Sell out to be successful.

In fact, everyone says that the more they tap into their own unique vision, the more clearly they convey that to the world, the more positive feedback and results they experience.

I am so happy and content to be a part of such a community, via and beyond. And I can't wait to see where this adventure will take me.....and who I'll meet along the way.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Adventure Begins...

So...what is it that started me on this organic purse adventure?  Well, like most things in life, to explain the present you have to understand the past.

Up until recently my existence could perhaps best be described as being "squeezed into a really uncomfortable version of myself" (to quote my husband). I'd have to say that's an accurate summation. I had come to believe that there was great virtue in conforming to what other people expected of me. (Or more accurately, conforming to what I thought other people expected of me.) 

It took me a long time and a lot of lessons learned to realize there was no happiness to be found in such a life.  Over the last couple of years in particular, I've become much more in tune with who I Really am. And I realized what I've always known deep down: I like myself. 

It took a while for this new-found Realization to grow into outward Courage.  But eventually it did. And it showed.  I gave up "conservative" clothes and stopped taking my fashion cues from other people. In other words, I embraced my inner hippie.  The problem was every time I put on my Me clothes and went out the door, I was grabbing a designer-label, patent-leather-red purse. And it just didn't fit.

I kept hoping to make time to shop for a new purse, something that would reflect things I believe in and value...but alas, shopping is Not one of those things. Creating, however, is. It nearly tops my list. It satisfies, engages and liberates me like nothing else I know.

So, I set my mind to it and with only a hand-sketched pattern borrowed from a fellow blogger, an empty burlap rice sack and some clearance table canvas, I got started. 

I resurrected the sewing lessons my mom had given me as a 9-year old and...some hours (and a few instructive mistakes) later...I had reached the first stop on this organic purse adventure.

Hannah's London

The 2nd stop on my new adventure was inspired by a good friend of mine who saw my vision and wanted to join me on the journey.  I was thrilled at the prospect of creating something completely unique for her, something that would be capture a piece of her lovely essence.  So we started to brainstorm together.

She is a gifted dancer. A lover of music. And, despite her youth, has a true appreciation for classic artists.  Since she was recently quite captivated by The Beatles and all things London-ish, I decided to create something to embody that love.

Grey. Grey was the first ingredient that came to my mind.  When I was 24, I spent four very grey days in the British capital. Now...some people are quite opposed to greyness but I find it can be rather cozy. Greyness, and its close companion Raininess, can drive one indoors - meaning more time spent in close quarters, with good friends, good food and soul-warming beverages. Or...if one chooses to venture out into the Grey, it can drive one's Thoughts inward, giving you a chance to think thoughts you may have never "thunk" in the hustle & bustle of sunnier days.

So Grey it must be.  A lovely, London-sky grey.  But how? I set to researching & eventually found a helpful reference to blueberries made by a fellow blogger.  After some careful experimentation in my kitchen, I took the plunge, hoping to turn my unbleached canvas into the perfect London grey.  Piece #1 came out wonderfully.  Piece #2 was most definitely...purple. 

Ergh.   This would never do. (think, think, think....) Perhaps I could simply lighten it?  What could I use?  My husband's maternal grandmother (who I never had the privilege of meeting) had been a laundry genius.  She would buy truckloads of antique linens and make those babies shine like new. Well...ok...maybe linens don't shine get my point.   One of her secrets?  Borax. The problem was I didn't have any.  Poopy! 

I finally settled on trying baking soda. I mixed up a solution, held my breath, and dunked Piece #2 beneath the surface. And miracle of miracles! chemical reaction of chemical reactions! It turned grey before my very eyes!!  I was giddy with excitement & am quite sure I engaged in much jumping up and down alone there in my kitchen.

So now to fill my lovely grey canvas....

I scoured the internet looking for the perfect image to work from.  I finally found one.  Hanging on my kitchen wall. The very one I had captured on my aforementioned London excursion.  Funny how often that happens. We look all around us for beauty and inspiration when, in fact, we are carrying what we need within us the whole time.

Pulling from my ever-growing collection of clothing longing for a second shot at life, I found just what I needed in my husband's old work uniforms.  An old Steak and Ale nap became the unmistakable silhouette of Big Ben & the Parliament building and a red button-down (from a job now only known as Stir Waste-of-Time), bold block lettering. Perfect against that grey sky(!)  I was extremely excited with the results but something was missing.  For this purse to be just right for my Hannah, it needed an appropriate but subtle nod to the four blokes she so admired.  

I found it in a tiny yellow submarine.

I'm glad to say Hannah loves her purse as much as I loved creating it for her.  And I'm glad it can set out with her on her youthful adventures.  Who knows...maybe she will take it on her very own trip across the pond one day...

Friday, December 21, 2012


This blog is aesthetically quite far from what I intend for it to be. However, in the interests of progress over perfectionism, the show must go on. Stay tuned.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.....

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bi is for Beauty

I love how inspiration can be found in the least expected places.  On a rather ordinary walk around my block, I spotted a crushed Green Tea can. You know the one? The crisp, minty shade of green, covered in gorgeous cherry blossom branches? Well, I saw it, drooled a bit over its beauty. And, quite oddly for me, walked on by…back to my homestead.  But days later, I was kicking myself over that choice.  I went back to retrieve it but alas, it was gone. 

Believe it or not, that can haunted me. Not in an evil way, but still, I couldn't get it out of my mind.  Now, I guess most people might just go to the store and buy said can full of green tea...But...i knew I wouldn't drink it, loaded with high fructose corn syrup as it was. And I just didn't want to spend money on that, even if (or perhaps especially if) it was to simply pour down the drain.  So i did what any eco-friendly, slightly-neurotic person would do: I visited my local recycling center.  And, joy of joys, they had one in the giant dumpster full of so many less-attractive cans.  The kind, eco-friendly, slightly-neurotic gentleman (yes, we can recognize our own type a mile away) working there lent me one of those long-armed thing-a-ma-jiggies that any pirate would envy and I fished it on out!!  I sit looking at its loveliness at this very moment.

Anyhoo.....that can inspired me. And will continue to, I believe.  I may in fact run it over with my car one day to recreate the full effect of its initial impact on my psyche. We shall see...

The bag you see before you is the marvelous end-result of my inspiration.  I carefully crafted the branches from a skirt I was given but knew I would never wear (sorry, Mom... :/).  And used the scrubs from my prior, all-too-long stint as a medical coder/biller to create the delicate blossoms.  (I can not think of a more noble use) They also went into making the four (yes, four!) pockets found on this bag - one cannot have too many pockets.

The sole exterior pocket bears the Kanji symbol for beauty, Bi (pronounced bee). You can learn more about Kanji here:

I love, love, love this bag and thoroughly enjoyed its creation, from inception to completion. Having resisted the temptation to keep it for myself, I'll be delighted for it to find a happy home on the shoulder of a fellow lover of all things beautiful. Yours, perhaps?