Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Elements

The Promotion is Beautiful guild on artfire is having its first event; a contest!  Some of our guild members created pieces that embody one of the elements (water, air, earth, fire).  We want you to vote on your favorite.  So....what do you think?


Loon Moon Giclée by Barb Kowalik

Seaside Shell Bracelet by MeganJaneJewellery


Earth Tone Carved Jade & Tibetan Silver Necklace by 123gemstones

Blustery Day Polymer Clay Necklace by ajoeynamedroo

The Elements
Loon Moon Gicle
Seaside Shell Bracelet
Earth Tone Carved Jade and Tibetan Silver Necklace
Blustery Day Polymer Clay Necklace

pollcode.com free polls

*poll ends Mon Aug 16th*

Monday, July 26, 2010

Helping Artisans

I recently heard of a site called KIVA on the Stuff You Should Know podcast.  Apparently Stephen Colbert has a team, so you may have heard of it already.  KIVA sets up loans with people in need around the world, and one of the things that I find the coolest, is that it's not a donation.  YOU are actually providing a no interest loan, and you receive the money back.  One great thing about this is you can simply reinvest it with another group, keeping a cycle of money going throughout the world.

I loaned money to a furniture manufacturer in the Philippines named Mercedes Gabiran.  There is only $50 left on her $175 loan request.  She was the only artisan I found on the site, although I'm sure more phase in and out.  I wish I could see some of the completed furniture, but in the background of the posted picture you can see some beautifully carved wooden slabs.

What an amazing idea, and a great way to engage with other artisans around the world!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Rachel and I have decided that it is time to create more specialized shops...so...we present...(drumroll)

please go check it out.  It is obviously still majorly a work in progress.  I'm trying to post a new item every day, and we're listing items from the original shop as they retire.

No fears, it's still the same sister team of Rachel and Sarah.  We're simply dividing up managerial tasks a little bit.  While we both contribute to both shops, I manage TOO and Rachel manages ajoeynamedroo.
When the transition is complete, ajoeynamedroo creations will be all bath and body, and ajoeynamedrooTOO will be knits and jewelry.

Hopefully this is a positive step in the development of our online presence.  Please let me know what you think of the new shop!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Craft in History--Origin Stories

 click here take a closer look at these woven items

The importance of craft to the ancient Greeks can be seen in the myth of Athena and Arachne.  It not only shows the importance of weaving to the ancient Athenians, but also exposes a number of lessons that I think are important to remember about crafting itself.

Arachne was an Athenian of the lower class.  She would have been unimportant and ignored by her neighbors if not for her great skill of weaving.  People came from far and wide to see her works.  Even the nymphs would come to see her works.

Given the beauty of her works and their great renowned, Arachne considered herself the best weaver of all.  She even put her skill above that of Athena, goddess of crafts, and the namesake of the city.  Arachne's refusal to acknowledge Athena's divine part in her skillfulness.

Of course, the arrogance of Arachne made Athena livid.  So, she came down from Mt. Olympus to confront the girl.  Athena disguised herself as an old woman in order to give Arachne one last chance for modesty.  Athena, in her disguise, reminded Arachne that it is important to honor the gods, and recognize their superiority.  Then, she encourages Arachne to ask the gods for forgiveness.

Instead of heeding the old woman's advice, Arachne brags that Athena is simply too fearful of her superior skill to accept her challenge.  This is too much for Athena, who sheds her disguise, showing her true self in all of its shining glory.

Everyone else is mightily impressed, according to Ovid, but Arachne shrugs it off.  The two weavers begin their contest.  Athena, weaves an image of herself defeating Poseidon, to claim Athens.  Arachne, on the other hand, shows the transgressions of the gods in her tapestry.  She weaves images of the many infidelities of the male gods.

The beauty of the tapestry, and its offending content are simply too much for Athena to bear.  In rage she strikes Arachne down, splitting open her head.  Arachne, to preempt Athena hangs herself from the roof beams.

Athena, takes pity on the girl, and decides to save her (kind of).  Athena pours a juice on Arachne's head that makes her hair fall out, her face smooths, she grows more limbs, and shrinks.  Athena curses her and her ancestors to live as spiders, weaving their whole life long.
This story immediately shows the importance of skilled craftsmen to the ancient Athenians.  Along with trade, agriculture, and urbanism, one of the defining characteristics of a civilization is division of labor.  Along with other markers, this is evident in the skills of craftsmen.  The story of Arachne shows the glory of Athenian culture, and marks it as highly civilized.

Arachne, in her arrogance, refused to acknowledge ANY of her craft's ancestry.  She seemed to forget that her skill had not originated in her alone, but instead had much more ancient origins.  In the story the origins were easily traced back to Athena, but really crafts have been developed and perfected over the years by many diligent hands.

This story just reminds me of all of the accomplished weavers, knitters, seamstresses, cooks... who came before us with creativity, despite a lack of acknowledgment.  No matter what you do, you owe your craft to those people!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

the BIG crafty...so big!

The big crafty was this past weekend, and as always we were a frantic mess.  Despite my blog entries about preparing for a craft fair we were not prepared.  When we got there almost everyone in our area were already finished setting up, although there were a few other "late screw-ups" too :P.  We are very used to being the late people, and we had plenty of time to set up!  This time I thought our table looked a lot better, and less cluttered than before.  See what you think.  We didn't make the mistake of putting out everything this time.  So all in all I think it looked a lot better.

We didn't have samples to give away this time.  Last craft fair I think it brought a lot of people to our table, but I'm not sure how much that translated into sales.  I think we just ended up giving a lot of our merchandise away.  The crowd was incredibly huge at the Big Crafty.  I wasn't prepared for how enormous it was.  They filled all of Pack Place and also blocked off the roads surrounding it.  It's amazing what a crafting presence there is in Asheville, and how interested its citizens are in the arts.

The other thing that Rachel and I have been talking about is that we have too much variety in our products.  In a craft fair that big, I think it's important to be recognizable.  We're still trying to figure out what that realization means for our business.  I'll certainly keep you posted!

All in all I think there were a lot of lessons to be learned at the Big Crafty, and I'm pretty sure we've only realized a few of them.  I think that both Rachel and I had too high of expectations.  We had done our first show, and we thought that we were ready for the big leagues.  I'll just say, I think that is still in our future.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

craft in history--subversive embroidery

Subversive craft is all the rage right now. In order to keep a safe distance from our grandparent's generation new trendy crafters use irony to differentiate themselves. I would argue that to a large degree this is because we craft in a different context and for different reasons. Today's crafters have a diy attitude not out of necessity but instead to claim something we feel has been lost and also to provide an alternative to what the mainstream commercial world has to offer.

 not necessarily "subversive," but these are certainly not your grandmother's embroideries!
Click here to take a closer look

Although it may not look as subversive as the embroidery of today, the embroidery by Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th was far more subversive than any embroidery that I have seen.  Mary Stuart was queen of the Scots while her cousin, the infamous Elizabeth the great was queen of the English.  As in all the stories of royalty there were a number of power grabs going on between the two monarchs.  The "stuff you missed in history class" podcast mentioned that had Mary and Elizabeth not both been women they would have been married to one another in order to consolidate power, and prevent the continuous grabs for power.  The subversive embroidery comes into play when Mary's husband, an Englishman named Lord Darnley mysteriously dies in an explosion.  Mary is suspected of being involved in the assassination, and after marrying one of the murderers (under duress) looks even more guilty to the Scottish people.  The couple is imprisoned in Scotland.  Mary escapes to England, where she hopes her cousin Elizabeth with protect her.  Elizabeth instead imprisons her for her supposed crime.  Elizabeth fears Mary's claims to the English throne.  Elizabeth is the offspring of Henry VII's second marriage which many, especially Catholics claim to be illegitimate.

During her time in prison Mary had little to do but work on her embroidery.  The pieces look to be innocent enough often featuring animals.  However, there is said to be hidden symbolism in the embroideries, representing the life and times of Mary.  The symbolic embroidery that I heard about was was the one named "A Catte," but there are a number of other interesting pieces detailed here.

photo from http://www.marie-stuart.co.uk/embroidery.htm
I love how in this age you could pretty much spell things however you wanted.  I think it gives writing a little personality (darn you Webster).  Mary's embroidered tapestry shoes a cat playing with a mouse.  The ginger colored cat is meant to represent Elizabeth, who still, as in her day is recognized for her ginger colored hair, while poor trapped Mary is meant to be represented by the mouse.  She is implying that Elizabeth is simply playing with her by allowing her to stay alive.

What strikes me about this piece of embroidery is that it was done at the time.  It was not done after the fact to be an historical reference, instead Mary was putting her feelings down on cloth.  Whether Mary was conveying what she really felt or trying to get a message to the outside world, Mary's embroidery certainly made a statement.

After a number of plots to get Mary on the throne were uncovered, Mary was sentenced for treason.  Elizabeth signed an edict for Mary's death, and she was executed in 1587.

Here's where I got my info.  Check them out for more on these royals:


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

creativity overdrive

TangleCrafts Zine that sounds helpful with
a layout of the author's time, to-do lists, 
and patterns.

I've seen a lot of blog posts in the handmade community about what to do when you encounter a creative block. I certainly think that this discussion is relevant and important. However, the struggle I find that I encounter far more often is way too much creative ambition. Often I want to do everything and I want to do it all at once. I have this great fear of losing my ideas in the great recesses of my head because I could never have enough time to complete all of them.

For me, this experience can sometimes be crippling in a similar way to a creative block. There are far too many exciting things to do, so I find that I can't really settle on anything.  Sometimes I will even end up working instead on an old standard because I feel so overwhelmed. I've attempted to deal with this using an
information ribbon and to-do list, but those (along with most of my historical organization attempts) have fallen by the way-side. Perhaps this process is really a factor of filtering out non feasible or generally bad ideas. I think that is what I am going to choose to believe!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

never too old for a bib

  1. purple hydrangea 
  2. brown tones 
  3. rose bib hinged 
  4. french connection 
  5. paper flower 
  6. mask stone 
  7. rosebud 
  8. adieu tristesse
  9. handcrocheted black

    Bib/statement necklaces are everywhere these days, and have become especially prominent on etsy.  I initially had my doubts, and there are still a lot handcrafted bib necklaces that go way too far in making a statement.  I have noticed a number of really gorgeous necklaces.  These are only a few of my favorites.

    The bib necklace simply by sense of scale gives the crafter a lot more space to express their creativity.  One of the problems is that as with many crafting trends, I feel like I've seen a lot of people expressing someone else's creativity.

    It's certainly difficult to work within a trend, and also make it your own.  The successful crafter takes a little bit of a chance with their creation, engaging in some give and take with the trend.

    Finally, I have to comment on the tag "statement necklace."  It seems to me that the point of jewelry, even more than clothing is simply to make a statement.  It seems like a bit of a "no duh" phrase, but in a way I like it in the way it acknowledges what should be obvious.

    I've decided to try my hand at the trend.  Here is my newest creation:

    Thursday, July 1, 2010


    I finally made a banner for the craft show.  It took me such a long time to even start because I had such high hope.  I had it in my head that our banner needed to be EXACTLY like our current banner/logo.  I've finally conceded to myself that it doesn't have to be that way.  As a result, I've created something that I really like, and I feel like it engages the spirit of our branding, even if it doesn't replicate it exactly.

    I tried to use the same font and general color scheme as our original branding.  I also took the sparrow.  I'm hoping that it will tempt at least a few buyers to our table at the big crafty.

    It's still not completely ready.  I haven't figured out what would be the best way to hang it yet.  I'm thinking that using ribbon would be nice, either to hang the letters individually, or to glue the letters across a piece of ribbon.  I'm still thinking...