I prefer working small; the above amphora necklace focal is 1.75″ tall, plus the millinery and stick pins. But since I’ve been seriously delving into the polymer clay medium, I’m realizing that even the smallest object holds the promise of so many lessons, from forming to surface texture to paint.
The photo above is where I left the object last night… it had finished baking and I was disappointed with the dirty gray color and lack of translucency (I had mixed in gold leaf to very little effect). Still some things to master, but I wasn’t going to let all the work I’d done be for naught so I slept on it, and put some intentionality toward waking up to work on it some more, knowing that paint was the answer but feeling too sleepy to carry on.
I’ve never been a clay or paint person, in art school or in my 30 years as a practicing artist/designer; I am now falling in love with handling clay and with applying paint in built layers. To make these amphora charms, I’ve taught myself how to create a slab vessel out of clay, because I wanted these to be hollow… more lightweight (for jewelry), and more real. I sort of made it up as I went along, doing what seemed to make sense. Softened and rolled out a sheet of clay, and started forming it, then making and attaching the neck separately from the body.
None of these images capture fully the delicacy of either the textures or painted colors. By using the dirty gray as my middle tone, I was able to add shadows or low lights and high lights, applying pigment slowly. Close up above shows a bit more of the detail.
The texture of the wing was produced separately from the vessel (stamped into the clay), with the top level sliced super thin like the thinnest swiss cheese and then applied to the surface. After this, the piece can’t be handled much until post-baking. All of these techniques can be learned via tutorials and videos on YouTube. I’ll try to find time to add some links to this post soon, but a quick search on Etsy and YouTube will yield everything you need. I’ve been studying and learning so much, even just making a tiny little object like this.
My creative impulse tends to build to a boiling point during periods when life is too busy, chaotic, stressful… and then as soon as the gift of time is provided… it’s like the floodgates of heaven and hell open, simultaneously.
It started with this object, a very ancient glass bottle that I purchased in a crazy hippie crystal alchemists shop–The Crystal Fox–in Laurel, Maryland of all places. I think there was something about that visit that set things in motion; I’m blaming it on breathing too much incense smoke as Molly and I were in there for like three hours.
This second object is something I’ve wanted to make for a truly long time, and after finishing it I realized its relationship to the image in the So Charmed website masthead, an image that has always compelled me in powerful ways. The boot is ceramic, and I made the teeny little vintage-style hatpins.
The tiny ceramic or bisque boots are dear and expensive, so the following day I set about to make one out of polymer clay. The above piece thus is entirely handcrafted and I’m not sure I don’t like it better. Anyway, I plan to make more in both styles.
This little guy is an ancient bisque doll, dug up from an abandoned factory in Germany and poor thing was headless, as so many of them are. I dearly love animal-human hybrids (this is my second foray with this concept for jewelry) and felt this one to be incredibly successful, to the point where I may not be able to let go. More are planned.
During a manic creative period, there is a point where things either peak in an orgiastic art-fest or flame over the top in a heated blaze that can make one feel truly a bit mad. It is hard to know which thing is happening, only that it IS happening. Hence, Octoboy.
An amphora bottle with velvety millinery and more hatpins. Hard to see but there is a ring of tortured rhinestones around the top. I spent most of the day on this, and I’m very happy with the result. Riveted holes will allow me to wire it for a necklace.
I am going to continue making these with the intent of selling them at So Charmed. But… as always, how to price?? It’s so very hard. These take a day to fabricate and an endless amount of supplies, some of them costly. Above is the table in the dining room where I keep clay supplies so that I can be near the kitchen for baking. Below, more supplies and tools.
Look closely, do you see two tiny Jiffy toothache medication bottles? Since Molly is refusing to give up her soon to be yanked wisdom teeth for the sake of her mother’s art (Mom, get your OWN out!)… I was forced to make some little toofs out of clay.
Here is the entire collection to date. I love seeing them together as it suggests a certain consistency of vision that will manifest itself in so many differing and delightful directions. Yay for the muse!
I have a love/hate relationship with polymer clay. After shunning it for years based on my perception of the overly cutesy-wootsy suburban housewife crafter (gingerbread men) and psychedelic hippie (cane) aesthetics, I’m here to tell you, polymer has come into its own. This is my second foray into this medium, the beads above were made a few weeks ago. And they got me very excited indeed about the possibilities for this medium.
As I set about to experiment again with polymer clay, I came up initially with the pieces above. I felt they were okay-ish. But they somehow felt a little safe. The leaves were beginning to have a nice, burnt feeling to them and I went on to create the entire suite of components below (Burnt Offerings collection).
What you can see here is my experiments in both surface texture and coloration. Do I start with dark or light clay? Paint it? Powder it? Gold leaf it? Smash it, scratch it, etch it, impress upon it, embed into it, bake it, carve it? The answer is yes! All of the above and more! Polymer is a really forgiving and soft surface, and therein lies its beauty and frustration. You can get GREAT results. If you handle it after you do, those results will smooth back out quickly. It seemed like starting with a batch of small components was a great way to experiment without wasting supplies.
Of course, you know me. Attention span of a gnat. Easily bored. Gotta go over the top. The above/below piece is a focal for a bracelet, entitled Octopus’s Garden. It has holes on either side to attach chain or ribbon, and a nice curve for the wrist achieved by baking it over a soda can. Features some of the burnt leaves poking out of a dark and spooky garden. With a squid tentacle and of course bling/sparkle/glitz. Because I can’t help myself! Darkness and light, people, darkness and light.
I did not invent any of the techniques you see in use in these pieces… they are out there for the grabbing… all over YouTube. I probably watched about 8 hours of how-to videos over the course of a week while I was working on these pieces and collecting up some supplies. Just go over to the site and search for polymer clay, it will all come up. And you can follow links in the videos for additional blog posts.
Most supplies are available at any craftstore; I went to Michael’s. I also stood in the aisle and read most of a polymer clay how-to book, so as to not have to buy it. Picked up some valuable tips! It was a full immersion into the medium… and I’ve still got a very long way to go with results. I like what I’ve done, but I’m still working it out.
Having started with black clay, it was challenging to get any contrast going with the textures/colors. Although it’s even more challenging to photograph these, and they actually have a LOT of coloration. Above you see experiments with a sparkly white clay, as well as embedding a vintage image under a glass dome. I think it’s important to mix polymer clay beads in with other kinds of beads as you see in the curation above (which will be a necklace) entitled For Amusement Only (imprinted on the vintage brass carnival token also pictured).
So, this is as far as I’ve gotten with this round of polymer. I’m pleased and excited to make more things. There are some truly amazing polymer artists out there who make the clay look like everything from metal to raku-fired pieces. I’m no expert, but if you decide to play, feel free to get in touch with me; I’d love to chat! Unless you decide to make ginger-bread men… then I don’t really want to hear from you. JUST KIDDING!!!!
PS: I have not yet bought the requisite pasta machine for kneading and rolling clay. I’m not sure I’ll need one for the small batches of work I’ll do.
In my work as a designer, both my professional communications design and jewelry design, one of my very favorite aspects has always been the toggle between big picture thinking and small detail management. I’ll assert that having a love and capacity for both aspects of design is a rarity for the creative soul. For me, it took decades to reconcile the fact that I feel most deeply satisfied when both left-brain (creative) and right-brain (reasoned) thinking come into play. I like to make a mess, but I like to clean it up too. I love big ideas but I love tiny little decisions as well. I believe this series of new necklaces exemplifies what I’m talking about. Click on the images to see them much larger or visit with them on my flickr.
My strategic communications work is always in service of a story; whether about meetings for healthcare professionals or the annual findings of a trade association… a narrative unfolds in words and pictures, often with an actionable objective: Enroll, donate, attend. With jewelry, I’m up to the same kind of storytelling, although it tends more toward abstraction. Nothing compares to the excitement of ideas and meaning. I believe this is what we think of when we talk about design. What is the story we are telling, and, importantly why, and to whom?
Making connections is part of this concept process, in communications I connect text with images in creative ways and with jewelry, I make, source, and bring together disparate elements… often from countries thousands of miles apart, and decades that now fall across two or even three different centuries. An early plastic button from the 1940’s or a glass Victorian one, beads from Africa, tassels from Asia, mid-century American toys, the tin lid of an oil can from India… how can these things possibly tell one story? With jewelry, the stories are sometimes gathered over years and finally come together unexpectedly. This is the part that seems magical (but isn’t, imho).
Once the elements are selected, located, obtained or made, the right-brain engages as I work out actual construction issues. Whether I’m creating style sheets in InDesign, or linking fine threads to metal… problems must be solved at a more micro level. I find this to be the most challenging place in the process; the place where I may want to turn away from the project and find something new to conceptualize, because that’s just so much more fun and flows more fluidly for me. That said, this construction place is also the land of greatest reward (soldering, for example!). When I stick to it and make something impossible work, I am so damn proud of myself! the storytelling comes easily and readily, like breathing. Am I lucky or cursed?
The final stage, or production, is the most micro of all. This is the time where most of the big picture problems are solved (though sometimes these can change even at this point) and where I buckle down to wrap tiny strands of thread around and around for hours, detangling as I go, or sit quietly and sew on minuscule beads one at a time, perhaps I’m styling text for hours on end, bold, italic, larger, smaller. I generally and truly delight in the zen of this work, though too much of it becomes boring and my mind will start to itch. This is why it’s great to have several projects going at once, a brochure being designed, another being produced… necklace concepts coming together, materials arriving from distant lands, pieces being made and photographed and shared.
Which stage(s) of design and making do you love most? Where do you have to push through difficulty or boredom? How does it affect your work? I’d love to hear from you!
As the weather turns cold, I seem to turn to textiles as my preferred art form. Pictured above and below, a recent construction. The beautifully embroidered top was found as-is, been trying to find a way to work with it for YEARS. Ancient tattered and be-sequined black tulle/lace affixed. Worn as an apron (ties in back) over a very vintage cream slip. I love the way my bones necklace looks with it and will probably wear this all together.
Made this a little while ago, a fairly simple deconstruction of a thrifted vintage black wool jacket, with some very pretty very old lace. Beneath it is an Antik Batik dress purchased at a consignment shop in the Marais Distric, Paris. Most divine thing ever.
Another decon jacket with children’s scissors affixed. Has weird red velvet reverse patches and several men’s ties, one of which hangs down like a long strap from the bottom. For some reason, I’m always narrowing the sleeves down to being very skinny and fitted.
The back has more of the strange and surreal shapes. I think this one is sort of Schiaparelli inspired.
Another (and very moody!) shot of two pieces from last year… very tribal 80’s fusion, with neon and animal print and vintage Afghani jewelry for sytling.
I shall leave you with this, a dress you may have seen many times, The Broken Teacup. I still delight in this piece and am always amazed to see it linked and pinned all over the Internet. You can visit all of these photos in larger sizes over on my flickr.
Blythe. Where to start describing the love affair with this plastic doll whose head is 10x too large for her body, whose eyes bulge and boggle, and whose history is one of mass rejection turned crazed global obession? To get the basics of the story hit this wiki link.
Pictured above is my first Blythe doll, a Veronica Lace, issued by Takara in 2009. I fell in love with her romantic look but once she arrived, I have to admit… I was somewhat terrified of her. I named her Sophronia, took just a few photos (one of them below) and put her away in a vintage trunk. For four years.
During a recent time of particular sadness (and maybe it is always during such times that grown women turn to dolls), I fell in love with Sophie again. And this time, it was different. Although she was still the intimidatingly expensive, freakily proportioned, strange little toy from Japan, I lost all fear of engaging with her. Suddenly I had to dress and photograph her in environments I carefully handcrafted and curated toward some particular vision or another.
She had to be a Factory Girl, hanging out with Miss Sedgwick…
She became a gypsy perched upon a tiny handmade ottoman of the finest silk sari trim from India…
She absolutely needed a set of papier mache rabbit ears, Day of the Dead style…
And she needed a friend (recent Takara doll release called Simply Lilac). She might well require more company before all is said and done, as well as rooms and things and shoes… and, oh my. Blythe!
You may be looking at these dolls and thinking… what the heck?!Or maybe, like me, you’ll be drawn into their crazy allure, feel repelled, be drawn in again. Be warned, once you are hooked… it’s bad. Real bad!
As a Blythe addict you may spend the grocery money irresponsibly but also you are lucky. There are people way more obsessed than you ALL OVER THE WORLD! You will hang out on flickr and “meet” them. You’ll troll etsy for the best handmade clothing, accessories and furnishings, learning quickly that there are trends, and sub-sub-cultures, all about a doll named Blythe.
You might even begin to dream about a customized Blythe… with crazy curly hair (!), a lovely matte face with special gothy make up, and an outfit you could only dream of wearing. And while you are having all of this fun, you might just begin to think about this doll from a social or intellectual perspective: What is it about her that has gangs of smart, creative girls and women enthusiastically collecting, making, photographing, and connecting with one another through blogs and Web sites? That’s another post for another time.
The completed necklace above is fashioned from an Afghani artifact, a heavily beaded tassel, probably used to decorate a camel. This is unlisted due to my complete inability to part with it.
Here then, is another gorgeous tassel I’ve been trying to work with, this one is African and made of leather. The colors are amazing, both dirty and brilliant in perfect combination. The beaded ring is my addition but I can’t seem to properly finish this WIP.
Above is the most recent tassel experiment, made from an upcycled plastic Winchester rifle bullet casing that is insanely rusted and distressed, then gilded (of course). I have a batch of these in the most wonderful desert-faded colors. This is all very unfinished, just playing right now with materials and thought you’d enjoy seeing the influences leading to the design.
I know I will be using these Indonesian blue glass beads; amazing color against the red.
And the Indian sari silk fiber is working for me. I love how all of these tassely objects are related to one another, coming from arid deserts and plains, the recycling and repurposing, how in some cultures even the animals are adorned to the hilt… but the humans too. I don’t know what I’m saying, I’m just…. all jazzed up about… tassels.
These pics are over on flickr in case you want to ogle them larger.
Lastly, I am planning to donate a portion of proceeds from any/all jewelry that utilizes bullet casings to a US gun control organization, so if you want to recommend one, please comment or email me.
Suddenly. In. Love. With. ROCKS!!!!!! Pictured above, from the top: fluorite, blue calcite, citrine (but suspiciously looks like calcite and am contacting dealer about this), raw garnets (!), amazonite and quartz points. Gemstones are MUCH cheaper by the strand, and ebay is a good bet for locating best pricing.
Big batch of Rocking Rings made yesterday, now being varnished to protect the gold leafing and patina work. As soon as they’re dry I’ll start listing. They are really and truly beautiful, if I do say so, and although chunky, very wearable. Earrings are coming next, can’t wait to play with these stones in that context. As always, larger photos up on flickr for your viewing pleasure.
Am in the process of gilding pretty much everything in site, including this amazing piece of Russian military surplus, a small metal tube that will become a necklace focal. I’ve got a batch of these babies to play with.
And this simple pair of vintage brass findings… I love how the metal leaf clings to and shows the fine detail of the… metal leaf(s).
A big-ass ancient glass chandelier crystal gets the gilding treatment, creating a weird world-within-a-world effect as you can see the inside of the other side through the front side. Yeah.
Here’s a finished piece, a ring holding 2 raw crystals, citrine and amethyst. Then goldified, oxidized, and totally effed up. In a good way. I hope. Ring section coming soon over at So Charmed. Lots of these beauties will be for sale at rock bottom prices. harhar.
Bigger pics for better examination of the (charmingly) rustic and pathetically unskilled job of gold leafing of which I am capable: flickr.
A great gold leafing video, watch and learn and then go make your own mess!
I like to fool myself into thinking that anyone could possibly be interested in my creative process, the inner workings of my designing mind at the earliest stages of making things. Hence, WIP (work in progress). Everything here represents an idea in formulation, not remotely finished.
This is how it begins with earrings. Vast supplies in my studio. Many little things scattered on every available surface. One day the things… they start making their way toward one another as if by some poetic pull. At the top of the post, an Afghani coin finding with brilliant emerald glass, a gear with verdigris patina, an ancient crystal bead and a piece of industrial trash. Above, a newer finding paired with a Mexican milagro.
More Kuchi coins above (these are used in traditional costume including belly dance) with lovely glass rubies, being riveted to a pair of seriously rusted bottle caps scavenged from some American desert. Fiber may be added at some point.
How do these tiny objects — a old discarded button, an African Vaseline trade bead, a bumpy middle Eastern bead, a tiny verdigris sparrow — come together? Some ways might be: color, form, content, texture, juxtoposition of cultures and histories. Things that resonate as similar or opposite, or both. The rule of chance encounters. The joy for me is that I don’t think much about any of this.
Part of it is the trained eye, the practiced hand, designing for years, decades, a lifetime. Part of it might be something inaccessible; dreams, associations. Above, an ancient glass button, possibly 1920’s, likely European, paired with a Mexican heart milagro charm. A tiny visual poem begun, beauty, an adornment.
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!
Those of you who’ve known me for awhile might remember that my little jewelry business, So Charmed, began in 2001 as a small Web site selling themed charm bracelets with titles like Alien Abduction, Mod Squad, and Tutti Frutti. There were Alice in Wonderland bracelets and darker gothy pieces. Shortly after, I began designing custom charm bracelets for clients the world over… from the US to the UK, from Lebanon to Paris. Lots and lots of charm bracelets, each with a highly personal story to tell. And then… I took a break from charm bracelets.
When Margie’s family got in touch recently to request a gift bracelet, I couldn’t say no. Pictured at the top of the post, with additional detailed shots, the process, result, and exclamations of joy from Margie reminded me fully why I LOVE LOVE LOVE creating these magical little heirlooms.
Margie’s bracelet is sweet-with-a-bite, titled: Smitten, Bitten, and a Kitten. It includes the articulated fangs shown above and loads of vintage beads in dusky candy colors. After doing dozens, possibly hundreds of these, I can tell you, the endless nature of how they turn out never ceases to amaze me. And I’d really like to start offering them again on my site!
Above is Margie’s daughter Abby’s bracelet… a long ago creation. Completely coincidentally, I chose the SAME kitty bead for Mom’s bracelet! Everything is up for grabs on these pieces… thematically, stylistically, color, charm selections. Materials are all sterling… sometimes with pewter charms used to keep costs lower.
Above is the add-a-charm bracelet designed for a one-year-old who is very special to me and my family. I left the bracelet blank enough to receive goodies annually. Please note, the bracelets are NOT appropriate for children or even super-active teens. They do have a certain inherent fragility, and should be handled with some care. Charms can be soldered in place for added security, this adds greatly to cost though. This and other childhood pieces are curated for presentation at a much later date.
One of the most elaborate bracelets I ever created was Wendy’s, pictured above. This one includes many custom resin charms, which are not at this time being offered. Still available though are an endless variety of gorgeous sterling and enameled charms, food charms, vintage charms, even a Tiffany’s gift box charm. The sky really is the limit.
Custom charm bracelets start at $400 + insured priority shipping; this covers my time and the basic supplies with pewter charms. Most of the pieces cost $450-600, with some going much higher. What drives the cost higher?Sterling/enameled and other specialty charms, vintage rare charms, and soldering (+$20 ea charm). The best approach is for YOU to decide your budget or range, and then I will work within that. Intrigued? Get in touch! And stay tuned for a section on the site offering these lovelies once again.
PS: No, I probably can’t get one done by xmas. In the past though, holiday recipients have been gifted with cards telling them that something verrrry special is being custom-designed and made for them. Trust me, no one has been disappointed to date!
The sky was a bright electric blue when Mo Lappin of Howlpop and I sat down to tea and chat about lawless fashion and what shoes to wear to the apocalypse. I’ve been a huge fan of Mo’s cut & paste recycling genius for many years now and boast a solid collection of treasured garments. Here’s the transcript of our get-together, sans the noise of bombs dropping and suns exploding.
Jo B: Hi Mo, thanks so much for coming to this Mad Tea Party today! Let’s start with the name Howlpop, which grabbed me instantly when I found your Etsy shop. Is there anything behind the name? It always put me in mind of Alan Ginsberg Meets Michael Jackson… something like that! Am I close?
Mo Lappin: The truth of the matter is not such an exciting story. Back in the mid 90’s I was living in SF venturing into the eBay world and I had a vintage bright yellow donut phone I was selling. It sold to a guy in Japan with a user name of POP HOWL, and I just loved those two words together. I loved the way it sounded, just like you Jodi. It wasn‘t really inspired by pop culture, but I just liked the rawness of the words. It’s like pop art, with teeth! There are no rules in all this, the Howl is the edge. I toyed around with the words for a year or so, then I bought the domain in 1997.
Jo: Well, that makes sense, the Japan connection. I love how the Japanese mash up Western culture and send it back to us spinning on its head. Howlpop seems to have a strong New Orleans connection, but I also get the sense that your life is an adventurous one (and thanks, btw, for the great photo of your own trusty magic boots, below)… Which places have had the biggest influence on your work and why?
Mo: I grew up in Boise, where I had a vintage/alternative fashion boutique called Retrospect for eight years (1988-1995). This period gave me the chance to develop a point of view concerning fashion and design. I moved to San Francisco in 1995 where I lived for five years. I relished the anonymity of the large city, and embraced the feeling of the whole world in a microcosm. After five interesting years the wild west call of New Orleans was irresistible. So I landed there in the spring of 2001. I determined from that point on I would live as an artist, and made myself sit down and overcome my fear of the sewing machine. I realized my designs had to be self made or they would lose something. The idea of New Orleans and the freedom to live as an artist with the whole culture of parading and festivals, I mean, there is always a reason to dress up there, Jodi! Life is a festival in New Orleans! I was delighted to discover that nothing that I made was too far out for someone not to love it and want it in that magical city. I realized there was a niche for me there, people didn’t know what Howlpop was, but they loved it!
Jo: Boise! For me, it was Columbus, Ohio and then here in the DC Area a vintage shop called That Girl which I ran out of my house for awhile. There must be something to this land-locked youth that sends us flying to the coasts in search of a different context for life. I love the whole concept of life as a festival and I really see that in your joyful design aesthetic. And I can’t believe that you too had a fear of the sewing machine… I wonder if that’s more universal than anyone realizes?! Your work is so incredibly free; have you had to push yourself to allow for chaos and chance or does it come naturally to you?
Mo: I call myself a line eraser when it comes to art and life, removing obstacles and unnecessary lines allows me to embrace chaos and chance. This automatically assumes that I have to be open to the happy accident as well as drawing from my surroundings and life experiences.
Jo: What a great way to express that… line erasing. It’s really gentler than my version which seems to want to veer toward a certain violence with scissors, but truly springs from the same place of a desire to remove barriers and obstacles. I’m going to think about erasing, that’s a whole new idea to me. Still, I can’t say exactly why I feel this way, but your aesthetic seems to have socio-political underpinnings. Are there any manifestos in the world of Howlpop or is it really just for fun?
Mo: Is it fun? Perhaps I am sometimes bored of the sewing part, but the designing is endlessly enticing. I am self indulgent enough to only end up making things I really like. And even after all these years and so many things, I get very excited when I start making something. When I start cutting into things I often have no clear picture of the end result. Every piece is a sketch, that is why I don’t take it too seriously and that is why I don’t take it to the fine finished point, I spend an intense but short period of time designing each piece.
In Boise, Idaho in ‘91, I started my first fashion line called Shrew. The men’s line was called Shrewd. I was, in my own Edith Wharton style, reclaiming a word that had negative female connotations, and twisting it to open possibilities for conversations about feminist issues. So you got me there, Jodi!! I consider myself a citizen of the world these days, and this prompts me to use language and elements of design to be inclusive and enable connections between everyone. I mean, 8 year old girls or 70 year old ladies can go crazy about Howlpop! People seem to like to rest their eyes on something that confuses and delights them. A lot of my fashion is intentionally unisex. I sometimes wonder why people waste their personal billboard space advertising for Nike or Gucci, which tells us nothing about their own personal world view, and it wastes all the opportunities of their first impression. So, yep, there is intent. Busted!
Jo: Shrew and Shrewd… you are just brilliant with the poetry, you know? And I can see you working intensely and super fast, while I’m intense but work for so long that I often have to go back and edit because I’ll tend to go past the actual endpoint. And I can truly see the politics of inclusiveness operating under your creativity, the genderless ageless aspects of your art. In fact, I think this photo above is one of the first Howlpop images I saw and when I contacted you I felt certain I was talking to the guy in this photo.
What do you think of the description “post-apocalyptic” in art and fashion? Is that a term you’d use to describe Howlpop? And can you tell us exactly when/where the apocalypse is going to happen so that we can start planning our wardrobes now? In particular I need to know which shoes to bring.
Mo: Yeah! I would say that post-apocalyptic is a great description of Howlpop! Because it is completely recreated from existing materials… so, much like the coming apocalypse perhaps predicting a time when things aren’t manufactured anymore, and we make from what we have, which is certainly plenty here in America. A trip into any second hand store reveals the mountains of cast offs available now, so I don’t think that anyone will be running around without clothes after the apocalypse, unless that is their desire.
Heels! No heels girlfriend! Completely impractical for the apocalypse. Jodi, wear your favorite shoes, but there could be a lot of basketball. And remember, a hot pink flat goes with everything.
Jo: Ok, I’m going to take your advice and not go tripping through the apocalypse trying to shoot hoops in my Westwoods. Speaking of the upper eschelon, are there any fashion designers you particularly admire or have been influenced by? I think we both share a love of Alexander McQueen and I’m trying to remember if you made it to the Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met last year…
Mo: For me to miss the McQueen show would have been the equivalent to a Tibetan monk missing the Dali Lama. I went twice. It was a pilgrimage. It was so eye opening in a real way, to be able to stand so close to his work, and to see how he put things together, it demystified him for me and awed me simultaneously. Martin Margiela and the whole Belgian deconstruction movement really blew my mind about fashion in the late ’80’s early 90’s. I’ve always looked at fashion since I was a young girl, it is infused in me. Xuly Bet and his fashion collages and Coco Chanel and her liberation of the female form; Any designer who liberates through their work inspires me.
Jo: I wish I had gone back to the McQueen show a second time b/c the first viewing was so visually and emotionally overwhelming it was hard to truly absorb it all. And Xuly Bet! I can’t believe you brought it up… I haven’t thought about that Funkin’ Fashion house for a long time. I bought a little collaged sweater from that line back in the early 90’s at Patricia Field, when her store was still on 8th Ave., and I loved that piece. He was so ahead of it really, from upcycling to modern tribalism, his African pop-culture vision was so fresh and unique. And of course, I too love those Belgian deconstructionists particularly Ann Demeulemeester. Now, I must ask, how massive is your stash of discarded garments and textiles for reworking? Are you any better than the rest of us at using materials at the same rate as you acquire them?
Mo: When I moved into my new studio, I winnowed out all the riff raff from my raw materials. In doing that it helped clarify my vision for what I’m up to right now. That said, I’m a genre jumper, and I still enjoy surrounding myself with unlimited possibilities. So, yes and no, Jodi, yes and no.
Jo: Awhile back I tried to get to Asheville NC to take a workshop you were giving, but sadly I never made it. Do you give workshops often, and how do you teach other artists to embrace their own inner Howl?
Mo: Jodi, I love doing workshops because it is really fun to explain my lawless techniques to current/future seamstresses and see the lightbulb go on when they realize they don’t need a tape measure to fashion-party Howlpop style!!
Jo: Sharing your freedom to create just takes it all to another level in my mind and heart. What music is playing in the Howlpop atelier when you’re at work? Somehow I picture there’s a hard-rockin’ soiree when you’re designing!
Mo: Jodi, I’m gonna come clean here. It is more often than not new country, straight off the radio. I like to stay in touch with the real world, but I do go all over the road with what I listen to. And then I get hung up on songs, depending on the show or event I’m working on, the ideas I’m trying to get across are driven by the music, so I relentlessly listen to the same song over and over while I design the show.
Jo: I never pictured a country soundtrack for Howlpop, but of course it makes perfect sense and one of the things I love about you and your work is the constant surprise element. Well, I could personally stay and chat with you all day, but I’d better let you go off to your next adventure. Do you have any parting advice for readers who want to make clothes but feel they may not have the skills and training in the traditional sense?
Mo: Pick up the scissors, and start! Be fearless, because really, what is the worst that could happen?! It’s not brain surgery.
Jo: I love this picture of you celebrating The NOLA Saints big win, and I’m going to chant that mantra when I’m working… What is the worst that could happen?!. Thanks so much Mo for breaking all the rules and helping us keep it fearless. xoxo
Seems I’ve been in a wild animalia mode creatively this past week or two. Above is a necklace I designed and made this week. The bones are found (West Coast, USA), mostly deer. There is one other necklace in progress, I’ll share soon.
The piece is titled Come Here Little Dreamer and also features sweet vintage glass beads including rare African trade (vaseline), Indonesian glass, and native American glass crow beads. This necklace both scares and delights me and currently resides in my own collection.
Here is another completed garment. This is a thrifted 80’s wild thang party dress ($3) recon for the end of the world. It had coffee stains on the zebra-print fabric and when my vintage consignment shop rejected it I brought it home and decided to have at it. I’m really glad they didn’t take it!
The back is super cool, even the zipper got hit with the neon spray paint. I cut off a pair of very long sleeves that will be useful elsewhere, removed some ginormous shoulder pads, as well as several layers of zebra floof.
I also turned the lining to the outside around the neck b/c it was so pretty in that deconstructed way. Removed/replaced a big matchy rhinestone-encrusted zebra bow which will undoubtedly show up elsewhere.
The color is otherworldly. The neon green/yellow fabric glows as if lit from within.
Close up of the “confetti” treatment. I just sewed randomly with contrasting thread and stopped every so often to place a tiny scrap of the neon fabric, then sewing over it. I love this effect as it’s both purposeful and random.
This is the garment that inspired the confetti idea. On this lovely piece, the lace bits are just barely tacked down by a row of machine stitches and since they are larger, they flutter some. A very fun idea.
Head over to flickr if you want to see these images larger. Clothing is always listed in the horrifically titled Misc Stuff I’ve Made set.
I thrift in two ways. One is that I think VERY specifically about what I’m looking for (usually project related, sometimes just a fashion issue) and it is frightening how often I find exactly that thing. The other is just a random trip for the inspiring thrill of the hunt. 50/50 success rate.
Yesterday I went to score cheap old tshirts to make another dress. Didn’t happen due to an overwhelming number of ridiculously gorgeous textiles lurking about. Top of the post, the whole score. Above, a set of pillowcases (India) with amazing mirrored handwork on both sides of each, total of FOUR panels. Katie, Bethy, Dorie… one each for you local craftistas.
This blanket (India) is the most amazing shade of yellow-maize with faux fur and sequiny embroidery. Anthropologie eat your effing heart out. Wish I had skills to make a coat, but I’m going to do a skirt. Seems weird, hopefully will work. There’s lots of yardage.
Above, The Gettysburg Address, in its entirety, printed on a scratchy burlap tea-towel sorta thing. LOVE this typography and can’t wait to use patches of it on garments.
Have to research if it’s an image of Abe’s handwriting (as I suspect). I thought the Lincoln portrait was a bit tacky, but it’s grown on me and might get incorporated somewhere.
Warning: This one’s gonna make you swoon.
This vintage Indian garment fits me, but is a bit shapeless. I do not have it in me to cut this; yes I have boundaries. So, if I can’t easily alter it into a flattering shape by taking in the side seams, it will just hang on my wall. Isn’t it divine????
The back, though plainer, is also lovely, with rainbow thread embroidery on this incredible gauzy layered base fabric. This piece was $5, less 25% but is priceless.
There are often great curtains, linens, and doilies but I try not to over-collect hoard them. You might hear me muttering: Someone else’s treasure… my anti-hoarding mantra. At $1.49, could not pass these up. BTW, the one at the bottom is a “pineapple” pattern. Sweet!
A crazy stitchy day yesterday, several things going at once including this little tshirt remake dress.
Big breakthroughs in stitching tshirt fabric: 1. Buy JERSEY needles for your machine. Life-altering and about $3. 2. Zig-zag keeps the fabric stretchy, and it works to set your stitches wide and flat.
To make the top, just find a tshirt that you like (this one is a thrifted Volcom, I like their graphics!) and that fits your chest and cut it into whatever shape suits you. I tend to like no sleeves (cap sleeves could be cute too), a wider neckline and back to bare my tatt, and a higher waist. I do this freehand, but you can also use a favorite tank as your “pattern.” Don’t fear the scissors!
We interrupt this sewing for a kitty break. Napping kitties are irresistible, don’t you think?
Big fierce yawn!
Fully awake, ready for snacks. Or to sit on fabric laid out on floor for cutting.
Here is another in-progress thing, a dress, but I’m not sure how it’s going to be finished. I want it to be extremely plain, sort of prairie/nun-like. So I may end up not using the pretty vintage doilies (a whole set, thrifted for a couple of bucks).
Definitely will use the Victorian scrap pictured at the top of above shot. It’s really lovely.
The pieced part will be the main dress, the fabric is sheer and super stiff, like voile.
Here’s the finished Desert Babydoll dress, which needed… something… and got a flaming heart treatment + gold spray-painted big safety pin.
I just love how this piece looks with my tassel necklace.
Close up of the velvet heart (it’s a pocket!). The shimmery turquoise fabric is INSANE, and was scored at ScrapDC during one of their fill-a-bag sales.
All photos can be seen at full size over on flickr.
The first rule of Fight Club is to watch Fight Club at least once every few years in order to go crazy over the sets and costumes, most especially HBC who is one of my always and forever fashion icons. The styling in Fight Club launched a million dystopian thriftstore wardrobes and wannabe revolutionary soap-makers among other things. Oh, and kids, smoking is not cool, ok?
So here’s some stitchery completed over the weekend. I’ve always wanted bits of neon in my dystopian costumery, and sparkly flotsam/jetsam of the post apocalyptic world.
Above pictured mermaid Mad Men remake is the work of Mo Lappin at Howlpop, a scissor sister whose work I’ve been collecting for awhile now and who inspires endlessly. Her freedom to slash, burn, and collage celebrates the punk aesthetics of chaos, mistake, and chance. The red velvet bag is my creation.
The dress was not a perfect fit for me, so I decided to revise, knowing Mo would be cool with my collaboration. Thus, the back zip was removed, the dress opened up to a slightly more swingy and less wiggle-tight, can’t-sit-down style. Altho the decisions seem random, I worked to integrate my changes front and back. Hello matte black spray paint.
This tunic length top began life as a happy/dressy little number, and was quite lovely as-is, though missing enough sequins to eliminate the possibility of wearing to any real-life high-end affair (as if I go to any of those). I knew when I thrifted it for 4 bucks that it was destined for an attack of some kind.
It’s hard to capture these garments in photos and without being body-worn; they fit gorgeously since I drape/pin them on my antique dressform and on my own (antique?) body. The colors in this one are just off the hook; colors that seriously may not have existed until right now. While it can be difficult to get used to chopping into, stitching onto, and spray-painting a garment that you know was once extremely expensive… that’s really the exhilaration of it all. Trust me.
I love the juxtaposition of neon polyester sports fabric with all these dressy sequins. A perfect downgrade to a more plebe use of this rejected little number. Maybe she once attended a swank DC ball, something I’d never be invited to. Ha, and look at her now, ready to tromp through the post apocalyptic wasteland. With ancient Afghani beaded tassel necklace, likely once worn by a camel. Because yo, the apocalypse WILL have a desert theme, right?
A hideous camisole meets a nasty discarded curtain swag in this little flirty desert-punk babydoll dress. Another Afghani tassel necklace, the beadwork on this discarded item literally breaks my heart.
From the back, the garment includes an ancient piece of Victorian lace, avec neon spray paint. Held my breath and cut loose with the can. Was it the fumes or the act that made my heart race? This one is still in progress, needs hand-stitchery.
Loving the sick juxtaposition of trashy crap manufactured lace with insanely gorgeous handmade heirloom lace. In yer face.
And again, previously non-existent colors. I kid you not. The thrills just keep on coming.
This is the most elaborate piece in the collection. Started many months ago and threatening to be sadly overworked, with weeks of distance I was able to edit out the nonsense and get it to its essence. This is a burlesque-y top, short in the front with full-on neon bustle out the back for a big booty shake. The embroidery references a cosmological event, SW 1644+57 that you want to check out. We’re talking a black hole that ate a star and then blasted a 3.8 billion light-year beam at the Earth. Yeah, freaks, that’s what I’m talking about.
BTW, this started life as the ugliest plaid “work” dress of your worst office nightmares. Unwearable by any standards. This is actually the lining of the piece, over which a shapeless sheath hung like a limp feedsack in jaunty tartan. Why hide all that body-hugging sex appeal under a plaid workaday burka? This is a question you’ll have to answer for yourself. Oh wait, I just did.
The second rule of Fight Club? Don’t talk about Fight Club. But you knew that.
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
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.
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.
So I get a call the other evening from a vintage shop owner who knows me well and she says: I got this really odd coat in and I think it has your name on it. I take such calls seriously. Went in the next day and scored the above-pictured divine asymmetrical muslin garment by Ivan Grundahl. For $20. Perfect fit.
At home I did some research and found out that Grundahl is a major veteran designer from Denmark, whose work is coveted by avant garde fashionistas the world over.
Here are a bunch of photos I found online… his collections are consistent over several years… neutral colors, lots of black, romantic, gothy, asymmetrical, lots of tulle, often shown with clunky gun-boots. Swoon.
Here is the lovely back of my Grundahl coat. I’m going to guess that it is a few years old, came from a ready-to-wear collection, and likely sold for about $400+ new. SCORE!
Did I say something about no longer doing custom work? LIAR LIAR PANTS ON FIRE. Pictured in this post, a custom mixed media necklace commissioned by a group of lovely midwestern ladies for a mutual friend who is beautiful forever. Happy Birthday, Amy.
Vintage silk sari fiber from India, wire, glass beads, vintage rhinestone chain and buttons. Hand forged clasp.
And a gorgeous vintage chandelier crystal focal. More of these pretty necklaces might just be available at So Charmed soon and large lucious photos are available for viewing on flickr.
Those of you who follow my ramblings on Facebook and my pins on Pinterest, know that I’ve taken a sewing detour of late and have been making the prettiest little dresses using Jody Pearl’s Piece of Cake frock and tunic pattern. Pictured above is my favorite cake to-date worn by me, and featuring a crushed velvet top and yardsale damask (art deco) skirt. Not to mention vintage French faux-fur trim… it is quite the confection! You can see the rest of the cakes in progress and finished/worn over on flickr.
Meanwhile, I spend an inordinate amount of time scouring the world (real life AND virtual) for textiles; a recent post highlighted an obsession with Japanese prints and I’ve been haunting my local thrifts for curtains and bedspreads! This post will highlight fabrics found on Spoonflower; an incredible web site that allows anyone to design and upload/sell their own textiles. And there is truly GORGEOUS stuff to be had.
One of the coolest things about the cake dresses is pairing the fabrics so I’m going to upload these images in order of possible pairings. I love odd color combos and on Spoonflower I seem to fall in love with some very macabre, outre textiles!
First pairing of flies and skulls. Second is a pair by the same artist and I actually like the similarity of color with the difference in imagery… busses and telephone wires.
Above, an odd rococo pairing with squids ‘n roses (like guns ‘n roses only better)! Apologies for not linking all the swatches, they are easy to find by searching Spoonflower and ARE linked over on my Pinterest Craft Board.
Cities (Tokyo) and wolves… I LOVE this pair.
Bones! Scary Forests! The mind reels with possibility. Spoonflower, btw, is print on demand. They offer eight fabric choices and you can obtain a swatchbook for just a dollar, which I’ve done. The fabrics are pricey (but I think it’s worth it to support the designers), starting at $16.20 per yard for quilting weight Kona cotton and going up to $34.20 per yard for silk crepe de chine, which I will NOT be ordering. For the cake dresses I recommend either the Kona, or (and especially) the linen-cotton blend which will be similar to the Japanese fabrics I’ve used and work really well to hold pleats, giving the frock nice fit/form.
Hey local peeps! In what can only be described as a truly rare event in my life, I’ll be making a public appearance at the lovely boutique Art & Soul, in downtown Washington, DC, for their April Girls Night Out event, this Thursday 4/5, 6-9 pm.
My jewelry will be for sale at the shop, including three sets of bangle stacks. Pictured above, Cake Bangle Stack, which features vintage rhinestones and millinery in a sugary confection.
Should you prefer your jewelry spicy rather than sweet, don’t miss out on Bombay Bangle Stack, pictured above and below.
Owner, Marjorie, also acquired the Everywhere You Go Bangle Stack, formerly listed over on my site, an elegant grouping to accompany you on adventures.
All of these boho gypsy-esque bangle stacks feature vintage sari silk ribbon from my collection along with an assemblage of curated beads, charms and other goodies. Hope to see some of you at Art & Soul!
Some supplies get used as quick as can be. I’d been visiting and longing for those vinyl record beads from Africa forever so once I got my hands on them, I had to use them immediately. The pink btw, is bright neon.
The vintage black buttons look like vinyl records to me, they are art deco and were purchased long ago. I have a tupperware container of buttons for each of about 8 colors. A sorting exercise when I was buying the buttons in bulk from ebay. It really does make them easier to use and was fun seeing each and every button in the large lots.
No idea where that little glass smiley bead came from, have also had that in the stash forever. So I wore these out last night to decide whether I could part with them. For now, I simply have to keep these. They really express how I feel about the world, in a way that I just can not describe.
To see these photos full size, visit my flickr page.
Having a far-away art friend is today’s version of a pen pal (which I’m old enough to also have had), only better! Manuela lives in Milan and we met on flickr — where she goes by the name Gigliotigre and/or PoppyPoppins. We were drawn to one another’s jewelry images; pictured above is Manu’s hand-knit plastic necklace, Knotting Lies.
Although we barely know one another, we decided to do a destash trade… destash being an invented word crafters use to describe the sharing of their overflow hoard of supplies. I was so excited to get Manu’s package, note the mustache tape! Inside was a little suitcase and inside that…
A crazy little mini-hoard! Here are some pix…
Manu also sent me a super sweet pair of earrings from her PoppyPoppins line, pictured below. Of course we both LOVE polka-dots.
Lastly, here is one more necklace creation of Manu’s, entitled Erasmus, “la tete Mundurucù” dedita all’ubriachezza molesta or The head hunter’s first victim.
Despite our language barriers — Manu’s English surpassing my Italian by a gazillion percent — we’ve become great friends. I’ve sent a package off to Italy and knowing their mail system as I do… I hope it arrives before Xmas! I can’t wait to see the extreme craziness that comes of this trade. And I hope to introduce you to a few more of my talented art-buds soon.
Having some fun with solder again today. These necklace focals are both made with thin sheets of micro glass, between which stuff is sandwiched, then soldered.
This is particularly fun, because you can see the lace from the other side of the charm. I used two little claw-foot findings to make loops for stringing chain. They were a beeeyatch to solder… I need one of those third hand thingees before I burn the bejeebus outta myself. The lace is tea stained and the flower is millinery, both very vintage.
This image shows you the flip side of the scissor charm. These are vintage tobacco tags from India, with the coolest graphics. I used a filigree broken in half for the top… one piece soldered to each side. Crafty!
I’m so excited to share this with you… a new necklace focal — printed images soldered between thin pieces of glass. Above is one side, below is the other. I added the little fleur de lis charm for fun and patina and sanded everything to a messy aged black.
Since giving up the resin process, I’ve been agonizing over not being able to play with text and images. Having had this entire soldering kit around the studio for several years, and having experimented with it a bit lately, I finally got inspired to go the full distance creating one of these sorts of picture things. The technique is nothing new. But I hope I’ll be bringing that So Charmed touch to the whole thing.
And here are some CRAZY tribal focals made with clay (polymer), wire, and dental teeth, which I believe are porcelain, but not sure. They didn’t melt in the oven… so I’m assuming they aren’t plastic! I have a few cards of these… they are used (I believe) for shade matching.
I have to say, these scare even me. They are so incredibly creepy. But I do love them and can’t wait use them in jewelry. Big hugs to Steph of Vladthebatsattic and Simona of HappyFallout for the clay inspiration. Visit their shops to see really great stuff made with actual fired clay… much better than my efforts!
Here’s the second Marie focal, with a vintage brass ribbon thingee soldered on. This is LOTS OF FUN to do.
The back of this second charm features an ancient guillotine illustration. Had to go there…
I remember last week… when I had a life other than lying in my bed feeling like CRAP on a stick! Oh yeah… I was vertical. I left my house once in awhile. I was making stuff.
In fact I made this pretty necklace — I See Myself in You — just before the plague hit and rendered me stoopid. It features an amazing vintage piece from India as a focal, a mirrored thingee with holes for stitching onto clothing. Beautifully distressed, just a gorgeous found object. It was fun surrounding it with my earthiest beads, a color palette that is a little different for me.
The backing was a piece of plain chipboard, just begging for a collage. I used scrap from magazines, Chinese newspaper from an nearby restaurant, and some pretty tissue wrapping paper. Very fun. I used some fiber scrap to make a dangling bit, one of the pieces is lace from a dress I made called The Broken Teacup. You may have seen it here.
Welcome to the first of hopefully many Charming Chats with some of the people I adore in the Craftsphere. First up I’m honored to bring you the amazingly talented and often quite private, Julie Jackson. Julie started Subversive Crossstitch in 2003, one of the very first women to launch a DIY business celebrating the then-dying/dead art of crossstitch. Julie gave this “women’s work” the hilarious and snarky kick in the butt it needed and the rest, as they say, is history. More recently Julie, along with photographer Jill Johnson, and Boone — glamourpuss extraordinaire — launched Kitty Wigs to global acclaim. Read on for an intimate cozy chat with Julie over a cup of virtual tea.
Jodi: Julie, hi! Isn’t it great for us to find time to chat in our busy DIY-diva lives? BTW, you have the most charming little Texas accent. Who knew? Did you grow up in TX?
Julie: Oh no, do I? All those years of voice training were for naught? Kidding. Yes, I’m from Dallas. Big D, Little A, Double L, A, S. The stars at night shine big and bright… etc. Can you hear me singing from there? Yee-haw!
Jodi: Ha! And I’m from “What’s round on the ends and hi in the middle… O-HI-O!” I remember when we first “met” and we traded some work; a sampler for a charm bracelet. That seems like forever ago! But, I think my daughter is finally old enough for me to post the sampler you did (pictured above) without seeming like a very bad Mommy. Back then she might have said: “Inappropriate, Mom,” and then charged me a quarter for her swear jar. It is such a cherished object in my studio. Do you still find time to do personal projects?
Julie: Cool! I just came across a photo of that today, oddly. We’re psychic friends! Personal projects… hmmm. Oh yeah, I did something recently, though of course it’s not done yet. We love that weird song by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, “Some Velvet Morning”. I found myself stitching the title on some dark green velvet. Then I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I wrapped it around an old piece of wood and now I’m going to bead the ends. So I guess that’s a weird personal project, huh? Also, I’m taking on a lot of custom work. I haven’t felt like stitching for a long time but I’m getting back into it.
Jodi: Oh I love Nancy too; I wanted to be her when I was a little kid… with some cool go-go boots for walking! So, I know you’ve been up to some exciting things in addition to Subversive Crossstitch, but since you’ve been doing Subversive for so long, I have to ask: What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about it? What keeps the fire burning and what parts do you wish would go away?
Julie: My favorite thing is the incredible interaction I have with my customers and people who take the idea and make it their own. Also, I get the most amazing emails from people who found stitching Fuck Cancer to be incredibly therapeutic or cathartic, their stories are so moving. It makes me feel like I’m in the right place doing what I’m doing. Least favorite is shipping because I hate getting behind with orders–it is completely overwhelming doing everything myself. I love it when I can afford help, but I wish I could hire a fulfillment company. I’m glad I started a PDF shop, because it’s a win-win situation. I can design something and put it out there without having to stitch first, and the customers get the pattern delivered instantly. Brilliant.
Jodi: That is brilliant. And I have to agree, it’s those relationships with customers that totally keep me going. For me, I wish the Web code would go away! And yeah, it’s challenging for sure to be designer, maker, shipper, writer, photographer, Web programmer…. so many hats. But it just sort of happens, doesn’t it? So, I’m sure people will want to know, have you been a stitchy girl forever? How did you first get into making things?
Julie: I’ve been a crafty girl forever. I was always super creative — my mom says that when I was a kid I would just make whatever I wanted. If I wanted a purse, I made one. I never would have guessed I’d be doing it for a living, though. I thought I’d be stuck at office jobs forever, writing away at a desk all day. I guess I am actually doing that, but at least it’s my own desk and my dog is asleep on my feet.
Jodi: It seems like some of us just have to be making things doesn’t it? You know, the handmade world has really changed a lot since 2003 when we both opened our shops. I remember when I first wrote to you and told you that your stuff reminded me of Jenny Holzer’s work. I mean NO ONE was doing anything like Subversive at the time. What developments have been either good or bad for handmade?
Julie: It seems like ages ago, doesn’t it? I adore Jenny Holzer, so I liked you instantly! hee. I think the way the craft scene has grown is amazing and fantastic. I’ve always said there’s room for everyone, and I love that places like Etsy make it so easy for anyone to give it a try. Almost everyone in the craft scene is friendly and inviting and supportive of each other, it’s just a great place to be. I don’t really see any negatives, it’s all good.
Jodi: Do you have any favorite stories of people you’ve made friends with during the process of building your business, other stitchers or crafters or artists? Who would you want to meet if you could?
Julie: Oh, I had the chance to be on a panel once with Amy Sedaris. Our paths have crossed a lot, but it would have been so cool to be on a five-person panel with her–I think it was at BlogHer or something. But I was just too chicken to put myself out there like that. My friend Leah Peterson was putting it together and she was kind enough to send me all kinds of Amy paraphenalia afterward even though I wasn’t there. The pill box is my favorite — it says “Pee on Me” in Amy’s handwriting on the outside, with her photo. Some of my very favorite people I’ve met are Katherine Shaughnessey of Wool and Hoop, Laurie Cinotto of Itty Bitty Kitty Committee and author of Making Paper Flowers, Stitchy McYarnpants of course, Emily and Matt at Steotch, Claire at Miso Funky, Jamie and Bridget of MrXStitch… there are so many. Also, I love the ladies at Bust magazine, Natalie who used to be the editor at Craft, Christina Loff and all the people at Chronicle… man, this list could go on forever. I’m already composing apology emails in my head to the people I know I’m not listing. There are just SO many funny and generous people out there who inspire me and keep me going.
Jodi: The mutual support in the community is truly inspiring. And I think anyone you forgot will forgive! One of the things I love about your shop is that there are soooo many hilarious subjects, it’s like there’s really something for everyone. What’s been Subversive’s hottest selling kit? Is there one in particular that just keeps on keeping on?
Julie: It used to be Go Fuck Yourself, but now it varies more. Sometimes Fuck Cancer goes through a phase of big demand, or Awesomesauce, or whatever’s new.
Jodi: I personally love CandyAss, that was the first one I did and it’s on display in my bedroom (pictured above)! It makes me think of Jeff Koons for some reason. And I did Whatever for Molly’s room, which I also love. Oh, and the Stephen Colbert Truthiness kit… I have that too; I LOVED seeing your piece on his show. But even with so many sparkly ideas, I know that my creativity seems to go in cycles and most artists I’ve talked to describe similar things. Do you ever get stuck? And if so, how do you unstick?
Julie: Yes. I just wallow in it. Sometimes there’s nothing to be done. I’m prone to pretty awful bouts of depression, so sometimes I can only do the bare minimum. It makes me more thankful for the productive times like I’m in now. I’m totally in flow right now and it’s great. I hate to go to sleep at night and I can’t wait to wake up in the morning. This is mostly because I’m completely redoing my website for the first time in almost ten years.
Jodi: I think every single artist I’ve met has the depression thing kicking around, myself included. It seems to come with the territory… I know there have been studies about this. And hey, so cool about your new Web site. I think the new So Charmed site will launch shortly after yours, and I can’t wait. It feels like such a fresh start doesn’t it? And we really need that from time to time. Let’s talk about your larger Subversive Empire for a minute… books, media coverage, and having your work in major hipster emporiums like Urban Outfitters. How exciting and glamorous it all seems! But is there a stressful side too? What’s it like having a book deadline, or seeing your work broadcast nationally? What sage advice would you give the young up-and-comers about this stuff?
Julie: Oh, it’s not glamorous AT ALL. And it’s never as much money as you hope it will be. It’s very stressful and the scariest part is, what happens if I get hit by a bus? It’s all on my shoulders and sometimes it’s hard not to freak out on that. If I have any advice it’s probably the advice everyone always gave me: follow your bliss. Kind of cliche, but it’s true. I used to stress out so much in my twenties about what I would do the rest of my life and you just have to wait and everything will unfold. You have to follow your heart and your instincts. The goal is to not have to do work that you hate. Also, I think something magical happens when you hit 40 – you kind of figure out what you’re all about, FINALLY. And things seem to start to fall into place. Don’t worry, enjoy life.
Jodi: Oh, I agree totally about bliss-following, and if you think 40 is magic… honey, 50 is nirvana! I’m thinking I’ll probably just explode with joy at 60! Lately, I’ve really discovered that it’s super important to sometimes shove the business stuff on the back burner and just get back to the joy of making things, of discovery and adventure. Speaking of adventures, how did you first come up with Kitty Wigs? The Web site talks about loud music and dancing. If we can turn back the hands of time, tell us what you and Boone were dancing to when Kitty Wigs was born.
Julie: Scissor Sisters! Yeah, Boone used to sit on my desk and stare at me all day long and I took a lot of photos of him. One day I was goofing off, looking around on Flickr, and I searched for “cat wigs.” I was surprised that there were only a couple of photos and the cats all looked mad and the wigs were clearly too big and really sloppy (no wonder the cats were mad). I don’t know what hit me, I just thought if people were going to take photos of their cats it should be more interesting and enjoyable for the cat (if possible). After a lot of research and trial and error, I found the right wigs and the right photographer. Again, I had no idea the idea would catch on so crazily, even bigger than Subversive. I’m still stunned but it makes me really happy that it makes people laugh. And gives them a new way of interacting with their cat that can result in amazing photos. It’s not at all like dressing your cat in outfits, it has turned out to be more about noticing things about your cat… it’s hard to explain. If you see the photos in our book, you can imagine how floored I was when I first saw them — it’s like the cats are showing their innermost personalities, it’s insane.
Jodi: Oh, I know, it’s really portraiture at its finest! Did you and Boone get to meet any of the famous people who have created buzz about Kitty Wigs? Conan? Chelsea Handler? Anderson Cooper? I can see Anderson having a cat who wears Kitty Wigs. Do you have any Kitty Wigs celebrity gossip to spread viciously through this interview?
Julie: We didn’t meet anyone, but I would have turned down any kind of public appearance. The Kitty Wigs photographer, Jill Johnson, was great to appear on my behalf in the press — she is such a pro and has such an amazing personality. I guess my favorite celebrity thing was Graham Norton, because I adore his show anyway so I was watching it when he suddenly started talking about Kitty Wigs and showing the website. He also talked about Subversive years before but I knew about that in advance and shipped some stitched pieces. The Kitty Wigs appearance was a complete surprise. I love Graham because he totally gets it, and he is just brilliant and hilarious. As for celebrity gossip, the people who were the coolest to correspond with were probably Bobcat Goldthwait and his girlfriend. They just reached out to me and were so nice. Bob had posted Kitty Wigs on his site and he ended up writing a blurb about it and sending me photos of he and his cat in a wig. Bobcat is truly a cool cat.
Jodi: Oh I would love to see those Bobcat photos! Before we finish up the last sip of our tea, will you tell us what else goes on in your world along with snarky crossstitch and wigs for kitties? What do you do to relax those busy fingers and that busy brain of yours?
Julie: I devour the internet, I always have looked to it for inspiration and I love those “wow” moments when I find something amazing. I’m always trying to get my friends to join in on my latest idea, like adhesive eyebrows for dogs or pistachio castanets. I’m the mischief maker.
Jodi: Yes, you are such an instigator, and that’s why we all love you so much! Anything new coming down the Subversive Road that you want to tell our readers about?
Julie: The Subversive website will be completely fresh and new — I’m hoping to re-launch on February 15th! I can’t wait, it’s going to make all of our lives so much better.
Jodi: Well, I know I’ll be looking for that launch email. Thanks, Julie, for doing this. You’ve made such a huge difference for so many people, helping to pave the way for so much of what’s going on today in crafts. And, with such good humor and generosity! Thank you thank you!
Wanted to share this Voodoo Candy necklace in its finished state. Detail above shows focal, clasp and some of the crazy beads.
In its entirety… very allsorts candy and licorice. This may not be everyone’s favorite colorway, but I’ve always loved the high contrast and the dark playful aspects of using lots of black with neon.
This view shows these strange natural black coral beads that are so scary and freaky.
Here’s a piece made/sold several years ago, a handknit cuff thing using neon potholder loops that were made into yarn. This is one of those pieces I miss and keep thinking I need to make another for myself.
Detail. Looks like a strange futuristic mutated sea creature.
And, one last picture of the first batch of Unstrung Hero beads, all grouped together before they come apart for use in jewelry. More beads to come soon… as Steph warned (and now you’ve been warned too): HIGHLY ADDICTIVE.
For a week when I felt sluggish and unproductive, I’m surveying my labor and thinking… wha???? Well, nothing was finished, so maybe that’s why I felt sort of lacking. Incomplete. A bit on the edge (of my seat?). Anyway, it is a good thing I shlepped out to Hobby Lobby yesterday for supplies. Ice storm this morning and we are housebound. What else is there to do but experiment with MAKING BEADS! As the BF asked when he woke up and stumbled into the kitchen: Because there aren’t enough [beads] to buy?? Yep, I fired up the old oven at 7:30 a.m. and created the above set, which also includes a few non-handmade spacers. Personal message to the BF: Did you say PIE? I thought you said BEADS. Sorry.
The necklace above inspired the beads above. Dirty Neon Tooth. (great band name, eh?). Black beads with neon frit. Reason for yesterday’s supplies trip was actually to get black beading thread b/c I didn’t like what was happenin’ with the white in this necklace I’d started.
So, this is my new favorite thing, a necklace focal after Man Ray’s infamous Cadeau. From the Tate Modern (oh how I LOVE that freaking museum) web site:
By adding a row of nails, Man Ray transformed a household flat-iron into a new and potentially threatening object. The nails and burning metal suggest a violent eroticism at odds with the work’s title, the French word for ‘gift’. The original version, given to the composer Eric Satie, was lost but became well-known through Man Ray’s photograph of it. Although made at the height of Paris Dada Cadeau, like Man Ray’s other objects, anticipated the exposure of hidden desires found in subsequent Surrealist objects.
Sigh. This object had a massive effect on me when I was an art student. It just seemed SO right. Not to mention sums up my relationship to housework.
But you guys know I can bring the pretty. The glass beaded centerpiece above is probably from the 1930’s. I’m not sure, so if you know, share. I love the combination of the refined Frenchy beadwork with some rustic primitive tribals.
PS: Unstrung Heroes, a name for my new bead shop? As if I need something else to try to sell. Copyrighted, yo.
I’m reading Thomas Hardy (Far from the Madding Crowd) on my ipad (which no doubt is a bit weird) and was feeling very Victorian this morning… so here’s a little something in progress fresh off the bench–a dear distressed frame with buttons handsewn on vintage upholstery fabric. Not sure yet what the necklace part will look like, or if there might be additional things dangling from the lower eyelets. I’m planning to do some more of these with bits of salvaged embroidered hankies and such. What I’m happy with here is that the fabric isn’t under glass or resin or anything, which I felt would compromise the surface detail. Images also on flickr.
I’ve been wanting to share the above since last November when I completed this commissioned holiday gift for The Anthropologist’s wife.
This sweet pouch was designed and made to contain a very special object; a stone that The Anthropologist picked up in Darwin’s garden. Yes, that Darwin. Charles. When he first told me about the stone, I had envisioned wire-wrapping it. But when it was presented to me over lunch, I immediately knew that it had to be left free in order to be held in one’s hand for contemplation and meditative purposes.
Commissioned work is challenging because I want to satisfy a particular person, whilst remaining true to my creative vision. And in this case, I was thinking not just about The Anthropologist, but about his wife, who is a very creative, discerning woman. I wanted her to love the finished object as much as I knew she’d love her husband for thinking of such a thing. I am happy to report that the gift was a success.
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!
The game of jacks was a very big deal when I was in junior high school, back in the late 60’s.
10 metal jacks and a rubber ball, played on the smoothest floor available. A series of maneuvers appropriately titled: onesies, twosies, threesies, foursies, and so on. I was pretty good. A girl named Susie ruled.
I’m not really nostalgic for playing the game, but for the memory of the excitement and competitiveness it engendered. Very childish… yet also serious business. I think that’s what I wanted to capture and convey in this necklace.
Lots of Indonesian glass beads here in the most amazing subtle and not-so-subtle colors, with larger handcrafted clay beads, including the jack focal by a wonderful Belgian artist named Steph. The jacks were a creative collaboration between us and I happily have several more–along with lots of other Vlad the Bat’s Attic pieces to play with in the studio.
I spent most of my making-time at the end of the week and this weekend on this necklace. The challenge for me here was in using a handcrafted focal bead (the lavish bird heart) that is so lovely and gorgeous in its own right. It would be easy to string something so pretty on a simple chain. And believe me, I gave that a bit of thought for the first month this object lived on the studio workbench! Knowing full well that was not what made me acquire it in the first place.
The focal instantly reminded me of time spent in New Orleans, and I knew that I wanted to surround it with a bit of sweetly dark elements in keeping with that voodoo ghostly theme. But honestly, I did not have a clue where to start. Or finish.
In art, there are often pieces that I hate tremendously during the making. The shabby-chic tendencies here were a little frustrating and twee. But that only served to push me to figure this out.
There is SO MUCH going on with this piece, I won’t bother trying to detail all the goodies involved. A few are: ancient German bisque doll arm/hand, very rusty key, India sari fiber, tribal glass beads, handcrafted toggle, a weird tusk shell in the most amazing shade and the above-pictured shell teeth that I am currently in love with.
Finally, I think it achieved the right vibe and I’m loving this necklace. Shabby and sweet, but a little dark and scary too. Which is what, in the end, I always seem to go for. Like a parade in the French Quarter, non?
Decorated handbags are nothing new; wonderful examples of this crafty form of entertainment can be found dating way back, with a proliferation of such objects in the mid-20th century. The work of artisans like Enid Collins of Texas (think glittery bejeweled wooden boxes and woven bags circa 1960’s) is in fact highly collectible. Because there was a time when my thrifting was so intense and the availability of really cool retro bags was plentiful, I’ve amassed a nice little collection. And, at some point, I started using them as little art canvases. The bag above was purchased in Columbus a couple of years ago, decorated as-is with shells etc. What I love about this one is that the shell purses are always very summery, white basket weave, very Florida! I had never seen one in black velvet. I added a few things to the front of this bag to give it even more edge; can you guess which objects? I call this one Summer Gothic.
I sold a ton of these vintage car emblem bags many years ago, but a few of them had to remain in the personal collection. The bag above is from that period, and was recently out for a spin to a very fancy Boston wedding. I absolutely love carrying this red velvet one. The bag itself is not really vintage, more late-model faux vintage, but it’s somehow perfect.
Here is another I just could not let go of, mind you, I don’t even know what an “Electra” (the car) looks like… but I know that a girl named Electra would carry this bag and be wearing the MOST chic LBD with a string of pearls.
The girl carrying this one is super tall and model-thin, with a HUGE afro, gorgeous brown skin, and legs up to there. She’s on her way to the disco. Sometimes I’m that girl. In my dreams!
This crafty girl wears broken babydoll dresses, big platform shoes and striped mismatched tights. I love the lucite ice-cube clasp on this little velvet bag, and the german glass glitter star acquired a nice patina in about a week of air-exposure. Lovely vintage millinery also.
I’ll leave you with this morbid little number, a Victorian mourning bag complete with vintage “Portland Casket Co.” metal label. Memento mori, people!
These images are up on flickr in their larger sizes, and check out the “embroidery mine” section over there for a few more recent bags created my mad moi.
At 14 I almost ran away to join the circus. Not wanting to be too big for my britches, or cause my mother an untimely death (she would have been only 34 at the time) I opted instead to spend a lot of time at the State Fair with a handful of glamorous characters several years my senior. Hours spent wandering the chicken building for exotic feathers to tie in our hair, licking hot sugar from mini-donuts off our fingers, and screaming down the giant slide, which seemed it might go on forever, dumping us into another star-filled galaxy in the night sky, far away from parents and school and our utterly boring lives.
Quieter times were spent sitting by the door of the Fair Arts Building with a surrealist boy, discussing anarchism, the poetry of rockabilly music and plans to run away to San Francisco. Laughing until tears fell like mewling kittens from my shining eyes.
You think I’m making this up. Well, I have witnesses.
Two lovely boutinniere corsages designed for the so charmed relaunch. There will be more. Interested now? Please get in touch.