beaded headpiece

July 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

Custom headpiece for the wedding of my dear friends Sarah and Phil. In my early twenties I ran my own business designing bridal accessories.  Each piece was made as the real deal, not a plastic sequin nor a poly flower in sight. My tiaras were solid silver & precious stones, my silk flowers were real silk or velvet…some imported from a tiny village in Cremona, Italy (had to Babelfish the hell out of that 2001-era Italian website). I’m still proud of my sourcing, obviously! Eventually I folded the business when I realized my daydreams were shaping up as crowns instead of songs. Not an acceptable trade of creative energy in my book at that time.

I love breaking out the old skills for friends, though. A custom piece is way more fun, and I get to fit it to the bride’s face instead of guessing. For this one Sarah had the idea of matching a beaded motif on her dress. I sketched the basic shape and started free-forming:

I’m still without a work table in my new place, so this was a spread-out-on-the-carpet job like my earliest art days. In addition to the beading we also chose some Edwardian-yet-kinda-Avant-garde stripped peacock feathers, and I decided to sew them to wire so they could be better controlled…an extremely delicate task.

Early on I concluded this should be several separate pieces to pin into the hairstyle for greater flexibility. It total we had the main motif, the wired feathers, and also several matching pins to continue the sparkle around the up-do. Fun fact: most of my headdress design inspiration came from close study of paintings. Thanks, Mucha!

Projects like this take quite a bit more time and thought than some others, but the payoff is proportional. I want the people I care about to have exactly what they want and the best I can give them, always.

(First & last photo by Love Me Do. See more here:


almond milk

April 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

Homemade almond milk. Just almonds, water, a few dates, and a little vanilla. This is one of those cases in which homemade is substantially better than store-bought. I learned this years ago when my friend Margie started whipping up batches of this stuff. It tastes way fresher, is free of weird stabilizers, and is ridiculously easy to make.

Put one cup of almonds in a bowl of water before bed. Wake up and rinse them off. Throw ’em in the blender with about 4 cups of water and a few pitted dates. Maybe some vanilla. Strain through cheesecloth. That’s it. The almond meal that’s leftover is great to add to all kinds of dishes. Recipes abound on the internet.

My current favorite thing to do with this milk is make a smoothie with just it and a frozen banana. Wow. Try it! Milkshake without dairy coma.

I moved to a new house back in February, and my workshop is in boxes until renovations are complete. This means all art-of-life pursuits are concentrated in the kitchen. Sometimes this sparks a mild identity crisis involving too much domesticity (give me whiskey and tour vans, quick!), but I’m trying to keep in mind that it’s all part of a bigger beautiful-life picture. Drinking my own almond milk from a glass bottle makes me feel off the grid in some way. Knowing how to make things is part of how I like to live.

infused honey

April 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

A trio of infused honeys for a bridal shower gift. Lemon ginger, rosemary, and sage. The couple getting hitched are both excellent cooks with exquisite taste, so I thought they’d appreciate having these to add nuance. I made a lavender honey from my garden years ago, and it was killer on roasted on figs with pink sea salt.

The infusing method is slow but simple. You start with a mild honey and warm it gently in a water bath, trying to keep it below 120 degrees (any hotter and the medicinal qualities of the honey can diminish). Add chopped fresh herbs or zest, let it steep, strain. I wanted a stronger flavor so I also added fresh herbs so they can continue to cold-process on the shelf.

There’s also something about hand making gifts for these life-milestone events that I find extra meaningful. Something involving an older sense of community spirit, the kin and kindred stocking the cupboards of a new couple or family to show support of their venture. One of my favorite gifts from my own shower, approx 100 years ago, was from an artist friend – a set of mismatched & lovely china tea cups and saucers she’d compiled from yard sales, all wrapped beautifully in a fabric in a wooden crate. In a bohemian world it was a queenly gift, and it showed me that she’d considered and comprehended my aesthetic. That thoughtfulness saturated the gift, and I still think of it today when I reach for one of the cups.

feather slippers

March 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Feather-covered boudoir slippers, a housewarming gift for my friend/new roommate. I started with a pair of plain cork heels I found in her size and carefully glued on a design with feathers from my collection.

This project started as a half-joke. We’d been happily brainstorming about the household we would create together and the lifestyle it could inspire. Kimonos and feathered slippers, sunlit rooms. Quality conversation, convivial spirit. A bohemian salon, relaxed but rich with a spirit of artful living.

To honor my part in making that more than idle talk, I decided to start our time in this house with a ceremonial gift of the slippers. Research quickly revealed that most available feathered shoes are pretty hideous. Since I’m physically incapable of buying something I think I can make better,  the day before I moved found me surrounded by boxes at an empty worktable…covered in feather whisps.

A home frames a lifestyle. A lifestyle informs an identity. From identity we take action. The most frivolous of objects imaginable, an ornamental indoor shoe, becomes a piece of proof that a beautiful life is taken seriously. No moment is too common to celebrate.

airy chain earrings

March 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Variation on theme. Same pattern of strands as original earrings but wider-gauge chain and new top-mount design. Applying the common policy of more to the first design, I thought: why not bigger chain? The results were surprising – a wider gauge chain is indeed larger in size but is less dense. So now we have pretty, tough, and…ethereal? I like the idea of a thing that is a statement but has some subtlety to it. Fearless but with finesse.

Each earring has seven strands. Given a chance to number anything and my abundant mysticism will wrench control and choose seven. I was born in the seventh month on the seventh day on the week, seven minutes into the hour. I heard once that the Queen of Sheba wore seven stars on her robe when she seduced King Solomon. Magic number. Whether you believe in the objective power of a charm or just the benefit of focus it can bring, nothing wrong with adding a little luck.

yule gifts

January 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Art of Life, holiday edition! Spiced clementine cranberry marmalade/little loaves of rosemary & black pepper cornbread/wooden ornament. I made about 15 sets of these and distributed them to friends.

I wanted to be a reasonable person again. And by that I mean someone who can not only handle life but do interesting things with it. Gracefully. Surprise friends with something nice, for genuine reasons.

First I decided to make some kind of jam. Pretty sure I chose this recipe because “clementine” and “marmalade” are two of my favorite words. “Clementine Marmalade”…mellifluous and kind of etymologically adorable. Anyway, I actually had to make this batch twice. The first was ruined at the very end by forces beyond my control. Did I mention marmalade in this quantity takes about 6 hours to make?  C’est la vie! I am stubborn once I have a vision. Made it again the next day.

The cornbread was an add-on, but again once I had it in mind it needed to happen. This is a basic recipe that I tweaked with rosemary and ground peppercorns.

The ornament is from the Dept. of Not Knowing When to Stop.  I had these shapes and thought they would be perfect. I then woodburned, stained, and gold-leafed them. Yep. Please let’s never talk about how my press kits for my old business were hand-embossed, a process that took days. That was my early 20’s, though. I’d like to think I only throw that level of perfectionism into things that benefit actual art or people who matter now.

This project represents a more significant milestone for me, however:

My notebook, home of all nascent ideas & general brainstorming. The date of this entry is 12/12/10. From sketch to friends’ hands, approx. 10 days. One of the biggest goals I’ve had this year was to become someone who finishes projects, and one who can get from concept to manifestation in a satisfying amount of time. The best gift I could possible give myself.

wooden leaf earrings

January 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’ve been making these leaf earrings out of wood for a few years now, but I made another batch recently to sell at the Punk Rock Flea Market.  They are organic, simple, and about as light as actual leaves.

The shapes I get precut, and then woodburn them and stain a rosewood-ish tone. Woodburning is one of my favorite techniques. I like its old-school permanence and that how my workspace then smells like a campfire.