Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bloggers Unite for Hunger and Hope

BlogCatalog and Heifer International have partnered to call for the end of world hunger and start of hope today, "Bloggers Unite for Hunger and Hope" day. They have asked that bloggers use today's post to bring awareness to world hunger, so here goes...

The statistics of people living in "absolute poverty", or who are considered underfed or chronically hungry are staggering. Those unfair numbers are not just from far away places, but right here in the US as well.

What can you do? Buy a cow, give someone a micro-loan, make a small donation, click to give free rice, or take some other action to end world hunger.

"...the worst thing you can do is nothing." — Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Millipedes and Indecision

My new work seems to be all over the place. Settling on one concept to design a new line around is proving to be a challenge lately. This indecision is just part of the creative process, I know.

I have buttons and millipedes and navels and other wacky concepts floating in a cloud above my head, but can't seem to pin one down.

These Millipede Earrings have made it to the finals. Their only other companion piece so far is the Millipede Ring . The Button Ring and necklace are an idea that could make a good line of jewelry as well, but these and other designs will have to be turned over in my head and developed further.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the designs I mentioned above -- all opinions welcome. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Backyard Beauties

While some parts of the country have recently had some wild weather, the Northeast has been enjoying a string of glorious days of sunshine and warmth.
I thought this would be a nice time for an inspiration spread, as we emerge from our homes and enthusiastically begin moving our lives outdoors again. Enjoy these photos from my own backyard.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Unexposed Talent: OhMyCake

Keeping in line with the previous post and making handmade gifts for children, this week's Unexposed Talent is OhMyCake.

Found this shop while browsing Etsy (I've done this before, haven't I?) and fell in love with the delightful sewn toys.

The shop has a small assortment of felt baked-goods that speak for themselves. I am drooling over the Strawberry Egg Tart and Cherry Roll and the Fruit Cake, which can be "cut" into 4 slices. I think the Pretend Play Food Donuts and Cookie (pictured above) takes the cake. Yum. And fun!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Handmade Friends

Between the holidays and the endless roster of birthday parties to attend, we have alot of kids' gifts to give throughout the year. I am always searching for crafty ideas that will satisfy the gamut of recipients, from infant to 8-year olds, both boys and girls.

A few months ago, I found Amigurumi crochet patterns of the cutest stuffed toys on Etsy (Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals). They were irresistible, so I bought a few patterns and and got to work figuring out how to stitch these fun little friends.

I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a seasoned crocheter. My crocheting experience before this endeavor included scarves, blankets, and any other item that is rectangular. So, crocheting these adorable 3-dimensional objects was an intimidating prospect. I soon learned I had nothing to fear. The patterns were very well written, with clear instructions and pictures to accompany me through the steps. Before long, I had a pile of Juggling Chickens, Horses, and BlueBirds to give.

Nuts About Crochet, and FreshStitches are two shops I have purchased patterns from, so I can attest to their great customer service, and easy-to-follow patterns. Amigurumi Kingdom and Amy Gaines also have some precious patterns. I am thinking Amy Gaines' Matryoshka Roly-Poly Dolls are going to be my next project. Wish me luck!

To learn more about Amigurumi click here. Watch a tutorial video here. I also found some free patterns (score!).

Monday, April 20, 2009

All Buttoned Up

A small silver button-like bauble sits atop a thin ring shank, making this this a delicate and delightful ring. The forged dome has two polished silver wires threaded through four holes, which stand out against the oxidized background and suggest a sewn-on button.

The "button" measures 11mm (slightly less than .5"), while the thin ring shank measures 1.5mm.
For more information on this piece, click here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Unexposed Talent: M.E.K.O. Kids

This week's Unexposed Talent is M.E.K.O. Kids -- a line of THE most adorable children's wear.

Established by friends Leslie and Ashley, M.E.K.O.Kids opened their Etsy shop less than 2 weeks ago, but I have a feeling it won't be long before their business takes off. Their products include custom baby, toddler and kids apparel, plus bags, aprons and more.

The line was born out of the desire to create cute clothes for their own children that were still functional and affordable. These precious pieces, from dresses to patchwork shorts feature eye-catching fabrics from the likes of Amy Butler and Heather Bailey. Perfectly placed ruffles and pockets adorn the clothing, which is all machine washable and dryable.
They also make bags and aprons for grown-ups that are both stylish and practical.
Pop into their shop to see the whole line of beautifully sewn items. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Artist Challenge: Create for a Cause

In tough times, sometimes it's easier to donate your skill and labor in lieu of money. As communities, businesses, and families alike struggle with cash flow, the organizations who count on the kindness of others to help those in need suffer even more. With that in mind, now seems like a good time to consider donating an item of your creation to the charity fundraiser of your choice.

Take a cue from Chuck from DownToTheWireDesigns who, after having the opportunity to design some pieces for a non-profit, realized that he could easily donate something to one auction a week throughout the year with little hardship to himself. (read his story, featured on the Etsy blog, here)

Tamara, from McFarland Designs, runs a project called Jewelry for Charity, where she donates a percentage of all her sales from both her bead shop and her jewelry shop to a different charity each month. She started the project in 2007 and as of March 2009, she has raised a whopping $9,685.00 for various causes. Read more about her Jewelry for Charity fundraising project here.

I recently had the opportunity to donate a necklace for a charity auction. Designing a piece that would reflect the specific sentiment of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day was a unique and satisfying challenge. To read more about my experience designing the necklace, click here.

As artists and crafters, we should consider ourselves lucky to have the ability to create objects of value. For the price of our donated time and materials, we can help improve our own communities and beyond, one treasure at a time.

If you need a hand choosing a cause, Charity Navigator can help you find one that's right for you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ethical Metalsmiths

The following is an excerpt from Ethical Metalsmiths' December newsletter:
It has been shocking to learn that the precious metals and gems that are integral to our work are shadowed by a dubious past. None of us made a decision to work with silver mined by children or gold leaving a trail of mercury contamination. No one believes that supporting armed conflict or polluting rivers to make jewelry is acceptable. No one thinks mining should have absolute priority over all other public land uses in the US. No one knowingly wants to make, buy or wear jewelry that is tarnished by such practices.

Although mining issues are complex and far reaching, we believe that well-informed metalsmiths and jewelers, because of their deeper knowledge and connection with materials and their understanding of the cultural and social values of jewelry, have a unique perspective and potential to bring about needed changes. This is why we founded Ethical Metalsmiths. Click here to read the full article.

Please visit the Ethical Metalsmiths website to sign up to receive their newsletter and find out what you can do.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Unexposed Talent: Half a Cup of Tea

Half a Cup of Tea, this week's Unexposed Talent, caught my eye while window shopping on Etsy a few weeks ago. The shop features miniature paper treasures that capture the imagination and fascinate all who see them.
Glory, the Hong Kong-based paper artist started out as a buyer on Etsy, but during her year of browsing the endless shops, her creativity was stirred. She began honing her paper engineering skills, and after a series of small "accidents," ended up with a line of the most fascinating tiny paper sculptures.

Here's what the artist has to say: "I like to picture a complete scene with meticulous details everywhere. I imagine I'm painting a tiny picture with my knife. The process is painstaking, but the result is stunning and satisfying. And I always like to incorporate emotional elements or storytelling qualities in my art."
Her pop-up bookmarks are a delight and would be a cherished gift for the reader in your life. The 3"x 3" framed Cuckoo Cuckoo Miniature Paper Sculpture , with its mind-boggling details, would be a conversation piece for years to come.
Visit Half a Cup of Tea's Etsy store and you'll quickly be as enchanted as I was.
To read more on paper engineering and pop-up books, check out the post In Praise of Paper Engineers and Magical Lives from the blog, 'L' is for Latte.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How Craft-Based Manufacturing Can Provide Self-Sufficiency for the Homeless

I recently learned about Project H Design, a charitable organization whose tag line is "Product design initiatives for Humanity, Habitats, Health, and Happiness."

Project H Design has an initiative called Abject Object, which focuses on assisting the Los Angeles homeless in finding healthy, creative, and educational ways to move towards self sufficiency.
To learn more about how Abject Object is "Moving from a 'hand out' to a 'hands on' model of rehabilitation", click here.

For more information on Project H Design, click here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Seed Time!

Ahhh...back from our family vacation. We got a sweet sampling of summer weather, but our beachy glow was quickly extinguished when we came home to a frigid downpour. An over-stuffed mailbox produced some much-awaited items that soon made our day seem sunny again. The seeds and seed potatoes had arrived. Let the fun begin!

We wasted no time and started the seeds yesterday.

The tried-and-true vegetables came first: tomatoes (large and cherry), peppers, zucchini, butternut squash, basil, and cucumbers are all on their way to germination. Next came a few new varieties we added this year: watermelon and birdhouse gourd (we're excited to dry the ripened gourds and make them into homes for our backyard friends). I have never had any luck with corn, but we are going to give it one more try, since the seed company included them as a freebie (anyone have any advice?).

There are plenty more veggies to go, but they will be sown directly into the garden: lettuce, sugar snap peas, rainbow chard, carrots, string beans, kale, and various herbs. Some will be planted as soon as we can wade out into the mud pit that is our garden, some will have to wait until after the danger of frost has passed.

The garlic is up (pictured above), after wintering in the frozen earth. We regret not planting parsnips last fall, as we would be pulling those sweet treats and adding them to soups right about now.

This year's all-organic, mostly-heirloom garden promises to be our biggest ever. We have found a new use for the forgotten sandbox by turning it into a raised bed for the potatoes. I also have my eye on a grassy patch that would make a great spot to grow some fruit.

As our garden takes shape and the seedlings turn to plants, the rewards for our efforts bloom before our eyes. Few things are more satisfying than home-grown food. Happy gardening!
Click here to learn more about when to plant what.