Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's Growin' On: Caterpillar with the Munchies

We've been planting a butterfly garden in one of our large beds in the backyard, which we affectionately named "The Monarch" after this guy.

Yes, we've named all of the flower beds in our garden. It really simplifies things when you're trying to discuss & plan things and shop for plants and stuff. It's way easier to say, "Let's plant a hyssop in The Monarch" than to say, "Let's plant a hyssop in that bed that's on the far right when you're looking out into the yard from the back door, you know, the one where we're going to plant all the butterfly-attracting plants?"

You'll be hearing more about all of our other beds & their names in future posts; for now I just wanted to share our fantastic little visitor with you. He'll (she'll?) be pupating in a week or two, then about 3 weeks later emerging as a beautiful monarch butterfly.

I have to admit that I was scared when I first glanced it shimmying across the ground. I'd never seen a monarch caterpillar up close - it's not exactly friendly-looking! But when Patrick informed me that it was a monarch, I immediately started oohing and ahhing at it like it was a precious newborn baby, and then ran for my camera. The bright yellow & black & white stripes are a warning to would-be predators: "Don't eat me! I'm highly toxic, so step off!"

Milkweed is the monarch's preferred food. This little guy stripped off entire leaves.
In about 20 seconds.

As it eats, the caterpillar derives toxins from the sap of the milkweed that will deter predators from eating it, in both the caterpillar & butterfly stages. We've already seen quite a few butterflies flitting around our new butterfly garden, so I can only imagine how amazing they'll be when The Monarch is fully grown in!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Local Talent Tuesday with Jamie Dorfman

Today I bring you an interview with Jamie Dorfman, the designer behind ax + apple. Jamie has a great eye for vintage pieces that she turns into fabulous, one-of-a-kind jewelry. Her table at shows is always one of the prettiest, too, with her pieces cleverly displayed on vintage books & picture frames to draw you in.

First, please give us a little background on your studio.

Jamie: I have been a chronic thrift/antique/estate sale shopper since as far back as I can remember. I remember being 14 and buying tees at the thrift store and chopping them up or reinventing old clip-on earrings into brooches. As I got older, I started getting more and more compliments on my personal style and "where'd you get that?" sort of attention.

I decided about 2 years ago to take a stab at making pieces to sell. I started ebaying and selling in random boutiques wherever I happened to be living. The ax+apple line has only been around for about 6 months, but the reaction has been incredible. I have finally honed in on a look and feel that encompasses my passion for vintage fashions while keeping everything modern and fresh.

You can find ax+apple jewelry at, in Feather's Boutique on South Congress, and at Kick Pleat on 12th.

I work out of my one bedroom apartment, which can get a little intense. But I love that my work is always accessible. I get inspired at the most random times.

Beth: Where do you find the inspiration &/or motivation for your creative work?

Jamie: Antiquing antiquing antiquing. I can spend all day everyday in antique stores and never get tired of it. I let the charms and links I find speak to me. For example, recently I have been working mostly on my Pen Knife Collection.

Pen knives were originally invented to sharpen the tips on quill pens and designed not to interfere with the appearance of dress clothes. They were attached to the end of a watch fob chain and slipped in a pocket. So what I do is find old watch fobs and repurpose the links into necklaces. Then I very selectively find pen knives to hang on the chains. So the concept and materials are the same. But now they become neck pieces instead of being hidden away in a pocket. Vintage and fashion forward at the same time. The knives are so beautiful. They are statement pieces all by themselves.

Beth: Describe how a really productive day of making art goes for you.

Jamie: I have my studio set up in my kitchen. It is the simplest process ever. I pull all my materials out and lay them on the table, put my ipod on shuffle (I have to have my music) and stare at it all until something jumps out at me. That really is it.

Beth: What are your big-picture goals for yourself as an artist & your art-related business?

Jamie: Brick and mortar baby. The reaction to the ax+apple line has been overwhelmingly positive. And I would love to start sewing again. I do a lot of vintage alteration. I am hoping in 2 years time. Knock on wood!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tutorial: Hammered Flower & Leaf Prints

While skimming through my latest Craft Magazine email update, my interest was piqued by the entry "How-To: Simple Botanical Prints." I love botanical prints & illustrations. Flowers are one of my favorite subjects to draw, and I've a tendency to want to capture their EVERY detail.

A lot of times when I see a flower or leaf that has interesting contours, I'll think about what a cool illustration it would make, but then I decide not to do it because I know I will get obsessive about the detail, making it a time-consuming & somewhat frustrating drawing exercise. Isn't that silly of me? It's ridiculous, I know, but it's true.

So imagine my delight when I saw this tutorial for hammered flower & leaf prints, written by Wendy of Build/Make/Craft/Bake. Seems like a great way to capture all the gorgeous details of a flower or interesting leaf, with their original colors, even! You hammer the plant to release its natural dyes, resulting in a beautiful, life-like image. Great for those artists with obsessive-compulsive tendencies, like me. I can't wait to try this awesome idea.
P.s. All the pics here are Wendy's.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Etsy Day!

I just learned about Etsy Day yesterday, so I don't have any outrageous plans for it or anything. I do think it's a cool idea, though! It's a day to raise awareness about the amazing, worldwide, online marketplace known as Etsy. I'll be checking in with Etsy to see their reports of the best guerilla marketing ideas, and blogging them here if they are supa-cool.

Here's more info from the Storque article about Etsy Day:

To learn more about Etsy Day, check out the latest forum post by Shugirl here.

Here are some ideas from the Etsy Admin:

1. If you get people to sign up for Etsy on Friday make sure they mention your Etsy username in the Referrer Username box at sign up! If we see a user who really rocks this, we'll automatically include you in our Etsy Day follow up post. So if you print out flyers, get on the news, or get Ashton Kutcher to tweet about Etsy, make sure you get your username in there, too!

2. Tweet your endeavors via Twitter and make sure to add the hash tag #EtsyDay. (And send it to @aplusk. Let's get Ashton Kutcher's attention on Etsy Day. Ha! Mr. Most Twitter Followers.)

3. Support a new seller on Etsy Day! Buy an item from someone with no sales (you can find them on Pounce Undiscovered), and wish them a "Happy Etsy Day" in the Message to Seller field when you check out.

4. Print out schugirl's Etsy sign to stick in your car window or download and print out the design Anda made for Etsy Day!

5. Get an Etsy tattoo!

6. Dress your family in all orange. When you get weird looks, whisper "Etsy."

7. One final clarification..."Etsy" is pronounced like "Betsy" with no B.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

breaking news: 4/25 Austin Handmade Market postponed

The Austin Handmade Market scheduled for this weekend (April 25) is being postponed until the following Saturday (May 2). That will be the weekend before Mother's Day, so it should be a good one!

Another Austin Handmade Market this Saturday!

Etsy Austin | Austinites on Etsy: Austin Handmade Market April 25th noon-6p

Here are some pics taken at the last Austin Handmade Market on Easter weekend. Click on the pics to see each of these EtsyAustin members' shops!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What's Growin' On: Suspended Flower Pots

Happy Earth Day!

On Sunday we went on a plant shopping spree at one of our favorite locally-owned nurseries, The Natural Gardener.

The cute little 1955 house we bought last December came with quite a blank canvas in the back. So we have a TON of ongoing gardening projects, which we'll be blogging about in the What's Growin' On? column here.

We used those colorful flowers on the bottom rack of the cart to make this potted plant stand, which I am quite proud of. I can't stop staring at it from my kitchen window.

It was super-easy to make, too. You just thread some terra cotta pots onto a piece of re-bar (we actually used a piece of metal conduit, but I wouldn't recommend it; re-bar will be much more stable). Use a hose clamp to hold the bottom pot where you want it. Sink the pole into the ground 12 - 15 inches for stability. Then comes the fun part: filling 'em up with pretty flowers and stuff! We put drought-tolerant sedums on the top 2 levels, and thirstier flowers on the bottom where they'll benefit from the overflow of water from the upper pots.

Admittedly, we stole the idea from similar pre-made pot stands for sale at The Natural Gardener... but seeing as how we are regular customers there, I'm hoping they won't mind. ; )

What's growin' on in your garden? Tell us about it in the comments below, with links to photos if you have some. We'd love to see!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Local Talent Tuesday with Jen Bryan

Welcome to the second edition of Local Talent Tuesday! This time we're featuring Jen Bryan of Lucy Blue Studio. Jen creates really cool jewelry & accessories, using mainly her own photography & original, digital collages (although sometimes she uses vintage illustrations). She also keeps a great blog called Crafty Redhead. Thanks for talking with us, Jen!

Beth: First, please give us a little background on your studio.

Jen: My studio is in this weird little second living room. We think it used to be a bedroom or a formal dining room but the former owners added a wall and some weird 70's half walls with banisters. I knocked those out and put in shelving. I am now doing my art full time, though I prefer having a job. Makes it easier to not sell consistently, plus the less time I have for a project the less likely I'll procrastinate. I got my DBA in Oct of 2006 but didn't really do much with it until the fall of 2007. I mainly sell on Etsy. I do a few shows when I can and finally started approaching stores to carry my work.

Beth: Where do you find the inspiration &/or motivation for your creative work?

Jen: I find inspiration everywhere. I know this is the most common answer, but it's true. Nature, my friends, movies, museums, my favorite restaurants. I think all creative people soak in their surroundings like a sponge only to regurgitate it later in some recognizable (or not) form. The best ideas always come at 3 in the morning when the previous day's events finally gel into those weird little thoughts that randomly pop into your head when you are tired or half asleep.

Beth: Describe how a really productive day of making art goes for you.

Jen: A really productive day requires that there be no one home but me, as in, Wes has gone out of town. I get distracted by housework, dinner, [and] various domestic things if I think there is going to be someone around to appreciate those things. I always get on the computer first thing though I'm starting to think I need to make that the last thing I do in a day, then I go into my studio and hunker down. I focus so much on what I'm doing that occasionally I can forget to eat.

Beth: What are your big-picture goals for yourself as an artist & your art-related business?

Jen: My big picture goal is to be able to pay the bills with my art. I'm not sure I want to license it out or anything and I'd always like to be able to handle the labor end of it without having to hire anyone, yet still do well financially. To make a stable living would be a good thing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hungry? How 'bout Crawfish?

Oh man, is this cool or what? This amazing crawfish caught my eye in the CRAFT Flickr Pool Weekly Roundup. So I headed over to GoBuggyGo's photostream and saw lots more of her outrageous, hand-sewn felt goodies. I love this crawfish dinner! Nice work, Go Buggy! Check out more awesome faux food in Go Buggy's Etsy shop.

While you're at it, you might want to look around at more amazing food-themed plush and felt delights. There are a ton of cool examples on Etsy! The craftsmanship is outstanding, and the pieces usually have a very impressive level of detail. What a fun gift these pieces would make! I would've loved having these to play "kitchen" with as a kid. They would've been great for serving in my pretend restaurant.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Photo Styling... Which Do You Prefer?

This pic of Zandra was featured on the tchotchkes blog today, in a great post called "Storytelling Photography." Soulyluna, the writer of this blog, has a wonderful biz called Treebottom Wool. They make the cutest little kids' clothes, using "luxuriously soft cashmere or other itch and scratch-free wool made from re-purposed sweaters." They also "fancy unusual applique designs, vintage buttons and collecting pockets." Their stuff is really cute & unique, and so full of imagination.

When a fellow whimsical-stuff-maker like Soulyluna writes nice things about my photos, it's very flattering of course. But it's also been a little unsettling... Self-doubt is creepin' in & it's got me wondering about the new direction I've taken with my photos. Patrick's been re-shooting all of the toy pics so we can phase out these old ones with the painted background scenery. Personally, I like the new photos' look so much better than the old ones. I do like the old photos, especially how the backdrop is not the natural setting for these animals (giraffes & elephants in a grassy field among trees whose trunks looks suspiciously like oaks). In my mind, the imaginative setting of the pics sets the tone that these are toys meant to inspire creative thinking. And I guess that's why Soulyluna likes them, too.

But there was always something that annoyed me about those photos: the setting looked too unnatural, as in not organic or healthy. The watercolors I used to paint the grass in the backdrop ended up looking too blue (which made it really difficult to achieve the right color balance in the pics) & the shiny Astroturf used as a stand-in for grass is as unnatural as you can get.

Those old photos didn't seem to hit the right note for The Snuggle Herd, which prides itself on being earth-friendly. I wanted photos that played that aspect up, with a warm, inviting look to them that amplified the animals' soft & cuddly-ness (as opposed to the strange, fake look the painted background & Astroturf have that seems to say "you better keep your distance").

So we decided to use softer, natural materials like wood (drawers from my night stand) and fabric with warmer tones. As an added bonus, this modular drawer setup makes it much easier for us to accommodate products of different sizes and different display situations. We can hang the onesies, lean things up against the drawers, etc., while still keeping a consistent look to the photos, which I think is really important for branding our shop.

But now I'm totally curious, which do you prefer?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Must-Have: "I Make Stuff" Totebag

Meet Beth (not talking about myself in third person here; different Beth). She's awesome. She's one of my fellow crafty chicas on the EtsyAustin team, shown here peddlin' our team stuff at the Austin Handmade Market last Saturday.

Beth designed the nifty team t-shirt she's wearing, as well as these fabulous new totes screen-printed with "I make stuff." They are so cool! They're really roomy & only $20, which goes toward operating expenses for the EtsyAustin team.

These totes will soon be available in our team Etsy shop, but if you want one right now, you can contact Beth & order one. Be sure to check out her other adorable tote bags, stationery and gifts in her Paired Hearts shop!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Goofy Easter Pic

Here's a silly pic of me & Patrick I from Easter at my parents' house. It was a fun day. My nephews showed up with these ears, and I think everyone in the family ended up wearing them at some point. Hopefully it was a nice bit of comic relief for you. Now back to work for me (or, more accurately: time to START some work)!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Local Talent Tuesday with Curlin Reed Sullivan & Laurie Wisbrun

Happy Local Talent Tuesday! I'm really excited to bring you this new feature here on Crafty Mishmash. I'll be gushing about a different crafty Austinite every Tuesday (or possibly only every-other-Tuesday; we shall see). I've written up a few questions that I thought would make for interesting interviews, and I hope you'll agree.

Curlin & Laurie are local gals I've had the pleasure of meeting, and both are absolute sweethearts. They've recently been collaborating on the lovely new things pictured here - so perfect for spring! So without further ado, here are today's crafty supah-stahs:

Curlin Reed Sullivan
of Pippingtooth Studio

& Laurie Wisbrun
of The Scarlet Fig

First, please give us a little background on your studios.

Laurie: My background is in advertising (on the business and strategy side, not on the creative side). After nearly 20 years of doing that, I decided last year that I really wanted to make some changes and explore some of the creative things that I really love doing. I was living in Brooklyn at the time and working in Manhattan and really wanted to stay there. But when you want to quit your day job, that’s really not a realistic place to be and be able to not have a “real” job. I went to school here in Austin and before I moved to Brooklyn I had lived here for 15 years. So it made sense for me to come back here. Austin is such a creative town and I knew I could integrate myself into the arts community and still be able to rely on my marketing and advertising network for project and freelance work when I needed it. And it’s Austin after all!

So I really scaled my lifestyle back and rented a tiny little apartment over on South Congress. Where a dining room should be, you’ll find my “studio”. Which is really just my fabric stash, my sewing machines and all of my supplies. It’s cozy for sure!

A few weeks after I moved back, I took a surface design class with Kat McTee at Art Cloth. And Curlin was in the class. She and I met and it was like creative sisters separated at birth. Since then, we’ve been working to find projects to collaborate on and spend a great deal of time together brainstorming and working to leverage each other to grow each of our businesses.

In terms of where I sell my work, I rely primarily on my Etsy site. I’ve just recently started to build my plans for targeting wholesalers.

Curlin: I work in my sunny treetop Pippingtooth Studio overlooking my garden. I also have a clay studio w/kiln downstairs. I'm so lucky to have such nice studio spaces at home because I toggle between motherhood and Pippingtooth biz-gal all day long. I started Pippingtooth almost 10 years ago. Collaborating with Laurie this past year has been a blast. We work very easily together because we share a similar aesthetic and we both worked in advertising for many years (I was a copywriter). I sell my work online from my website. My cards have been carried in stores across the country and Laurie helped me relaunch the wholesale side of Pippingtooth this year. I've exhibited at trade shows in NYC and have had success licensing my art with different companies.

Beth: Where do you find the inspiration &/or motivation for your creative work?

Laurie: In terms of inspiration for the textile designs, I have a love for pattern that goes way, way back. I was always that kid who was wearing too many patterns and throwing together things that traditionally didn’t ‘match.’ And in my book, a chair or a sofa is a real marvel. To have something utilitarian like a chair that serves a purpose but can take so many shapes and have so many personalities... I just love that! Lots of the designs I’ve been working on really celebrate my love of simple patterns, modern colors (that maybe go a bit against the grain) and the beauty of chairs.

Curlin: Golly... I find inspiration everywhere... plant shapes, flowers, leaves, stones. I work with them to create my botanical character studies, so a blossom can make me swoon; a twisty vine can send me into the studio in seconds. I love wonky shapes and imperfect lines, how clay slumps, how watercolors wander their own way. I'm drawn to any work that shows the hand of the artist. I'm interested in first instincts and works that have not been fussed over too much. I think that's why folk art inspires me. I love when art is accessible and available to anyone in terms of price and venue. I'm not inspired by art scenes that are self-important, exclusive or snobby.

Beth: Describe how a really productive day of making art goes for you.

Laurie: For the first few months of starting out, I really worked without a schedule and without a plan. I just did whatever felt creative and fun. I initially thought I would be hand sewing many of my products but found that [the] design process was what excited me and the production wasn’t nearly as rewarding. So I shifted my focus a bit and really dove into the design side of the business. Since I made that realization, that’s the area I have really been focusing on and dedicating the most time towards.

Once Curlin and I came upon the idea for the paper tabletop, that was a great way for she and I to be able to collaborate and bring our two styles together. Curlin’s style is really folksy and celebrates natural materials. And mine is more focused on pattern and color. The paper table top has been lots of fun to design together.

A really productive day would look like:
-Wake up and drink coffee, walk the dog, check email
-Spend some time working on designs working solo here in the Lilliputian apartment
-Head to Curlin’s studio and have fun gabbing and working on some new product and on marketing/PR plans for the existing stuff we have collaborated on.
-Head home and fulfill Etsy orders.
-Work on marketing/PR plans for the textiles. Lately I’ve been doing research and compiling my list of targets to approach for wholesale.
-Read blogs and see what else is going on in the design world.
And then of course there are days when none of this happens and I’m doing freelance marketing work. The name of the game these days is flexibility. But I love it because I am finally doing something that I can be really, really excited about!

Curlin: up at 6:30. boys off to school with hubby. coffee. email. NY Times online. coffee. blogs. studio. noodle around with new ideas, old ideas, clay, paper, new product ideas. more coffee.

The days Laurie comes to the studio are some of my favorites. I love collaborating. It's my oxygen (I created my 2009 calendar this year with another talented artist & graphic designer, Kristy Battani).

pencils & computers up at 2:30ish when i realize it's time to pickup my kiddlins. after dinner, the studio often beckons. I love being up there and creating things that make me smile.

Beth: What are your big-picture goals for yourself as an artist & your art-related business?

Laurie: Frankly, I’m still figuring that out. But I know one goal is to explore licensing some of my designs. I’ve always wanted to be a textile designer and would love to get Scarlet Fig fabrics out on a much broader scale. I feel like I’m off to a good start as people have been so receptive to the designs. I’m still figuring all of that out but really loving the process.

Curlin: Big picture: have fun everyday. make things that make me happy. work with other talented folks often. design and create new products with Laurie. make some money. have fun. have fun. grow. learn.
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