Exciting news for me to share today.... I've moved into my new workshop.
This is the part where you say, "New workshop? I don't remember hearing anything about a new workshop? Did I miss a blog post or tweet that would have prepared me for such exciting news? "
No, you didn't. I kept this one pretty well underwraps. In part because I've never been good at talking about things in progress but also because the domino of things that had to happen to get here was longer than I wanted to explain mid-stream. In a nutshell, byrd & belle out-grew our previous live/work space on Nicollet Island; it was no longer something that could be lived alongside. We needed a new situation and we found what seems to have been the perfect situation a little farther up river in northeast Minneapolis: a house with good bones, a big yard for our big dog and a new (but unfinished) space for byrd & belle.
Construction took 6 months of nights and weekends starting in January which is likely the least fun time to start a project in an unheated space in Minnesota. My brother Scott and my Dad were very generous with their time, their advice and their tools. I got to do things I'd drawn a million times when I used to work in architecture but hadn't actaully done (like electrical wiring... my inspector said I did a very good job for my first time). And there is still more to be done. I have plans to add more storage so I can bring in all my non-essential tools and materials but for now, I'm just happy to be here and I'm grateful to have had the oppurtunity to do this. I feel very connected the space and I suppose it feels appropriate that as a maker, I also made the space I work in.
Ok, I've got to get to work but follow me on twitter if you'd like to see more of the new space.
Sending "Happy Birthday" wishes out into the universe today to my Aunt Donna in Iowa who first taught me how to sew. Here is a photo of her holding my father at their childhood home which is also, incidentally now the site of my childhood home.
I have no idea how old I was, likely 6 or 7 but we sat in the back room of her house and made a purple fleece house coat which was something like a robe with a turleneck that you put on over head. Killer.
I am forever grateful to all the women in my life who have taught me how to sew and stitch and knit and crochet and quilt and craft. Thank you Mom, Aunt Donna, Aunt Annette, Aunt Pam, Aunt Colleen, Donna Lincoln and Grandma and to all the other ladies along the way who taught me when I was little and continue to support me today.
I ventured out into the suburbs tonight to steal some of their left-over halloween candy have dinner with my brother's family. This is Tom. He's 7. He tells me got these glass from his friend Dennis who is in the 4th grade. He tells me that even though he's only in 2nd grade, he sometimes hangs out with kids in 4th or even in 5th grade. He tells me his friend Dennis also just gave him his entire set of Pokemon cards because Dennis is retiring from Pokemon. He tells me these used to be 3d glasses but he took the lenses out. He tells me all these things while we take these pictures.
1. I am writing far too many blog posts in my head. I mutter to myself while sewing. I tell stories to Gertrude the dog. I seem to have a lot to say but no time to sit and type complete sentences. I've decided to make a list.
2. Macbook Air: I have been getting a ton (a TON) or requests for a macbook air sleeve. Before now, I've always done these as custom orders but now I am working on a new design made specifically for the wonderfully thin 'mba' (that's what the kids are calling it... mba=macbook air). Hopefully in the next week. I'm very excited about a few of the new details and I'm thinking of releasing a similar design for the ipad and the macbook pro.
3. Cargoh is awesome: If you don't know... cargoh.com. It's kind of like an edgier, more independantly-minded version of an online independant designer marketplace. My first introduction with them was watching them fall flat on their face last summer. It was truley spectacular. They had a ton of people migrate very quickly from Etsy but then decided they wanted to have control over who was on their site. People were asked to leave, people were turned down at the door, people threw temper tantrums... it was quite the public relations car-crash. Yeah, it was likely not the best situation but there is something to be said about knowing what you want to be... even if it is a few months late. Being the bad guy is hard to do. SO, the reason I think cargoh is awesome? I mean besides all that bravery crap? They support their artists. They blog, they tweet, they retweet, they send nice emails and on more than one occasion they have sent people to my own website and not just my little spot on cargoh. Which means (or at least it makes me feel like) they are supportive of what I do and not just what I'm doing on cargoh.com. Class act, Cargoh. Class act.
4. Gertrude: There were a pair of squirrels in the back yard today and Gertrude lost her mind. (It's true but mostly inserted for lightness and brevity).
5. Lady Workshop: Someone in my social circle floated the phrase, "Lady Workshop" a few weeks ago. Since then, I'm obsessed with what a "Lady Workshop" would be and how it would work and how can I be a lady in the "Lady Workshop".
6. Dear China: After a vigourous letter and email writing campaign, a company in China that had stolen my photos and was selling knock-offs of my laptop sleeves seems to have gotten the message and taken down the listings. (ps. I wasn't really upset about the knock-offs because well, knock-offs happens but what really got my goat was that they used MY photos to sell it... my photo with their url tattooed across it which made me more than a little sad. It was like someone writing their name on your dog). Unfortunately, they are still using photos from other designers. The only thing I can still find that is mine is an old photo towards the bottom of this listing. When I was in the middle of this mini-nightmare last summer, D and I joked that I should just start buying my sleeve from them as they were only charging $7 for each sleeve. What a deal! Update: The photos have been reposted. *Grrrrr. If interested, you can see them here and here.
7. Mmmmmmm.... chamomile/vanilla tea.
You know that saying.... something about the cobbler's kids having no shoes or the plumber's home having bad plumbing? It is the same here. Everything I have ever made, D has said, "Can I have one?". Yes! Sure! Just as soon as I (insert excuse here). He has had a number of my cases and sleeves but most of them weren't really made for him. His sleeve was the one shot for ReadyMade Magazine and his iphone case was a prototype. His pencil pouch was one grabbed out of a box of products on the way to Rhode Island because the zipper was scratched. So last month, when 1 week before his birthday his work upgraded him to a new 17" macbook pro, I decided it was and excellent opportunity to make something for him that I've never made for anyone else.
David requested a leather messenger and I really didn't give it a second thought. I've done messengers in wool before and really felt and leather have the same construction issues. The densities and thicknesses are different but the sequencing of construction can be the same really. In the end, it was just a matter of figuring out the connection details. A handsome bag for a handsome fellow.
Most of the leather I use I hand-dye myself but for this scale of bag, I decided not to hand-dye. The leather I ended up using was one I had my eye on for a while. It is actually considered a "utility" leather and it is thick and It feels smooth... sort of like honed stone. It has an oiled finish which means that it scuffs and weathers easily but when I showed the leather to D, I think that was the part he was most interested in. He's only had the bag for a few weeks and already, it looks comfortable and used as if he's carried it for years.
The bag is un-lined with a full leather pocket on the back for notebooks. I also made two separate horizontal wool felt slip sleeves inside for the laptop and ipad. The sleeves have no closures; just simple slips but they protect the laptop from the chargers floating around in the bag (as well as bumpy rides to work on the scooter). For the most part, the wool sleeves stay in the bag and the laptop is put in or pulled out easily, I guess if he wanted to walk around with the laptop in the sleeve, that would be possible too as the sleeve isn't connected to the bag but the good fit between bag and sleeve means it doesn't feel loose.
I liked the idea of the simple felt slip sleeve insert so much I decided to add a few to the shop. It is terribly simple idea but it worked so well for D so I wanted to share. It seems to offer a bit a flexibility... able to work in a bag or walk around on its own. I made up some in three different colors today and shot some photos to be added to the shop later this week. As for adding this bag to the shop.... I think maybe in the future. Could make for an exciting new addition once things slow enough for me to focus on them.
So Happy Birthday, D! I'm glad you love your bag. Thanks for parting from it long enough for me to shoot a few photos.
Green has overtaken my studio window . I can barely see the blue sky anymore (and it has been blue quite often this Spring). All that green and the sun and the warm air on your skin is such a welcoming change after the cold winter and these days, any time not sewing is spent outdoors.
Last month, D and I potted flowers, planted two small raised garden beds for herbs and vegetables and we laid a patio using reclaimed street pavers. Our projects only take up about 25% of the yard as the other 75% belongs to Gertrude who does a great job of ensuring that little grows... ever... by tamping down hopeful sprouts with her huge dog feet or digging up what is left of the grass we naively tried to plant last year. I don't mind though... my outdoor aesthetic is controlled chaos; somewhere between Grey Gardens and native prairie but with a steady hand coaxing the green in certain directions. I live and let live (or die, as the case may be).
The new patio has become the perfect spot to take morning coffee and to sit with friends in the evening. I'm also seriously considering doing a few hand-stitched leather projects as they will allow me to work outdoors without having to bring electricity with me. During my last trip to pick up supplies, I purchased a special wooden lap vice that would allow me to sit in a chair and stitch with two hands. I may have to give it a try this week if the weather holds.
Tomorrow marks the most hopeful day of the year. Yes, it is the darkest day... but it won't be getting any darker. Slowly but surely, we will be officially on our way back to those long-lit Minnesota evenings.
I took a bit of time off this weekend and D and I transformed the studio into a place to gather some new friends for a meal inspired by the foods of his Hanakkahs-past. Sewing machines and cutting boards were stashed, multiple Jewish mothers were consulted and D put together the most delicious meal of Potato Latkes and home-cured Gravlax, cheeses and charcuterie and topped it all off with Chocolate Bouchon and homemade ice cream. My good fortune of sharing my space with such a capable gentleman is not lost on me.
Although it was back to work for me this morning, it was nice to have a completely clean and clear table to bring all my tools back to and this beautiful bouquet that decorated the table last night are reminding that I really should start buying myself fresh flowers for the studio more often as it makes things seem a bit brighter.
And so now it's t-minus five days until the 25th and I've just returned for my second consecutive Sunday night trip to the MSP Airport as that post office is open 24/7 and can I tell you that it was PACKED. Luckily, I print my own postage so there was little to do but skip the line... "see ya suckers"... and drop it off. It is nice to know dropping it there makes it just that much of a shorter trip as it will likely be on a plane and on its way tonight. Also nice was the fact that D and Gertrude made the trip with me so I wouldn't have to go it alone (see aforementioned comment on my good fortune).
Green leaves under white snow.... not cool. Yes, it is beautiful and it reflects a cool white light in through the studio windows as I sip espresso and type this post but I have been patiently waiting for all of these trees to turn orange and yellow. Herrumph.
Of course, not only is the snow here but it was preceded by two weeks of below average temps. But not to worry for I have devoted the last three days to combating the forces of low R-values.
Our space is charming and eccentric and we have grown quite attached but around this time of year, we have to face facts: we live in Minnesota in a building that used to be a school bus depot and our main source of heat is a charming wood stove which means, we dress in layers... all the time.
This year however, I think we may have gotten a leg up on ole man winter. My confidence is prompted by the biggest and best find of split firewood ever. You see there's this guy named Craig and he has a list and on Craig's List on Friday, I found an ad for split firewood for a rather good value. I dropped everything (sorry Friday emailers... I did get back to you on Saturday though) and my brother and I drove the 45 minutes to look at it.
The conversation went something like this (if you've ever seen the movie 'Fargo' or told a Leena & Ollie joke, you'll do just fine)
"So, looks like you got some wood to git rid of, eh? Yeah, looks like you got a good three da four chords dare."
"Yeah, yeah, I will take $150 fer a chord or $500 fer da whole of it"
"Well, we'll take it (quick cash exchange without counting money). And we'll head back twards da cities to git our trailer, eh?"
So we made three trips and spent hours breaking our backs but in the end we ended up with 6 1/2 chords of seasoned and split firewood (Minneapolis street value = $3250... ka ching) for only $500. This is more than double what we have had in previous winters so hopefully we'll have some left over for next year too. Either that or we'll just burn it all and spend the winter in our underpants.
The excellent find of wood domino-ed into a weekend of sealing cracks and filling gaps and putting plastic on the windows. So, needless to say when I saw the snow this morning, I was not worried and chest didn't well up with the anxiety of 3000 little things to do before the real cold set in but rather, I was excited and decided to take Gertrude outside for a few shots.
Sat her down, we waited for adequate snow flakes to fall on her muzzle, I raise the camera.... she breaks pose to catch a snowflake
I say, "NO! Sit!"... and she gives me this face.
I've been obsessed with this photo for awhile. In fact, I can tell you exactly how the obsession began. I was at this M.Ward show, standing at the rail of the left balcony, listen to this song and I thought... "hmmm.... you know, a rollercoaster might be an interesting idea to work with. Maybe as a graphic on a pencil pouch or a coaster (yes, (bad) pun intended).... a hand-stitched rollercoaster?"
That was April, this is October and although those ideas are still fuzzy, this photo I've kept close.
It is awesome when you consider this fluid and animal-like symbol of a temporary and terrifying fix is made up of a bunch of blunt, short "sticks". It's so much more interesting than those new-fangled coasters, completed in a day, with their pre-formed steel runs, hoisted into place by cranes and then more steel is hoisted in to support it from below.
This one happened from the ground-up as most good things do. In an intense grid that not only reveals how the loads of the coaster were supported but is also of a scale you can relate to because it is a scale more closely related to the human-body. It's easy to imagine men in grey coveralls standing within the grid, hoisting up more lumber to the man above him.
It is ambitous and beautiful. It is intense and planned below... but completely wild and flowing above. But I think most of all for me, it is handmade. I think that is why I like it so much but I didn't really realize that until right now.
What he does is put in flawless snaps and grommets with the press of a lever, which in itself is enough to warrant praise but he does something else that is far more valuable.... he does it all in near *silence*. No more hammering, banging, cussing. He is the mechanical equivalent of telling someone to "shut up and do your job" and I love him. A love for a machine so simple and effective it can only be adequately expressed through the ancient art of Haiku.
Shiny red, steel friend
install hardware that fastens
you connect us all