Saturday, April 30, 2011

Love, Love, Love: Markets of New York City

If I had my way, I would spend every free weekend wandering through markets. The sight of handmade goods and used treasures, the smell of local foods, and the buzz of bargains-to-be-had get me jumping out of bed long before the caffeine kicks in. Being a Connecticut gal, I usually stick locally to the Elephant's Trunk in New Milford or Stormville Flea Market just over the border in New York. My market horizons broadened thanks to a gem of a book called Markets of New York City: A Guide to the Best Artisan, Farmer, Food, and Flea Markets by Karen Seiger. 

 Everything you ever needed to know...
Upon first glance, you will notice the book is perfect "pick me up and go" size which is ideal for both impromptu trips and planned excursions. Peel open the pages and you will see vivid photographs that really capture the uniqueness of markets and the colors and textures of otherworldly wares and foods. From boxes of vibrant Bakelite bangles to close ups of neatly stacked farm fresh produce, her photographs jump off the page and evoke that "please touch" feel of the market. Karen has traveled the globe visiting markets and she has used her experienced eye to find the best of the best markets in New York City.

Markets of New York kept me company at my recent trunk show.
The book is broken down into types of markets (Artisan and Flea, Food, and Farmers) and within the chapters you can find markets listed by the boroughs. Karen also features bios of local artisans like one of my faves, Grace Napoleon of Folk Couture (see page 91). Flip through the front for some great general tips on  bargaining, and some valuable do's and don'ts when traveling about the city. If you're new to the world of New York markets or just want to make the most of your time while there, I suggest checking out Karen's multiple market itineraries in the back. This book provides a guided peek into the flavor of each locale and inspiration to explore the great market wilderness.

Folk Couture (featured in Markets of New York) at Craft Boston Spring 2011

I had the pleasure of meeting Karen and her husband James at the Prospect Heights Fair back in March. Practically every weekend they visit markets, and cover events for the Markets of New York website. I got to hear Karen's great story of how a trip to Paris, discovery of a great Paris market guide, and job changes lead to this book and a new direction in her life. Her vast experiences have also lead to her new marketing and communications firm called Sirene MediaWorks, which will be sponsoring the Shop the Archway event for Brooklyn Craft Central coming up on May 21st. Gotta love a self-made gal with endless energy!

Mr. and Mrs. Marketplace
Karen's passion for supporting markets, artisans, and farmers is woven into everything she does and boy, am I thankful she's out there! Our chat at the fair was really a highlight to my day.  Through her support, she made me realize there are others out there who spread love, encourage adventure, and take the "Y" out of DIY. If it's a sunny weekend and you're reading this, STOP and head out to a market! And make sure you check out Karen's book/site on your way out.

Now that you're in the mood for markets, here are a few to come and check out:

Friday and Saturday, May 6th & 7th – Twist – Northampton, MA
Saturday, May 21st – Shop the Archway – DUMBO – Brooklyn, NY
 - Markets of New York is sponsoring the event!

Sunday, June 26th - Smith Street Sunday Fun Day - Brooklyn, NY

Saturday, July 9, August 6, August 13 - Greenway Open Markets - Boston, MA

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Something Old, Something New - A Tale of Two Necklaces (Part 1)

Back in December of 2010, I had a table at the Indie Craft Extravaganza in Hamden, Connecticut. It turned out to be a non-stop day, full of enthusiastic customers, interesting wares, and new connections. Shortly after, I was contacted by a friendly gal named Abby who purchased my “Bam! Pow! Zap!” Batman-themed necklace. She emailed me to ask if I would be interested in taking some pieces of her family jewelry and upcycling them into a new piece for her wedding.  She also asked if her friend Allie could join us with some of her special family heirlooms. The email was such a wonderful surprise; I told her I'd love to get together with both of them. 

Bam! Pow! Zap!
The day of the big meet up, I hopped in the car with my camera and a small sketch book and headed toward Starbucks to meet Abby and Allie. I was greeted by two smiling faces and a warm cup of tea. After chatting for a few minutes, and finding we had a lot in common, I felt like I was just hanging out with a bunch of friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Any nervousness that I had about starting up this new project quickly melted away upon meeting these two funny, quirky gals and I felt instantly energized by their creativity and warmth.

Abby's Treasures
The moment Abby and Allie took out their jewelry, I felt a connection to their pieces. Their carefully selected family heirlooms showed me that they too love color and vintage design. They were beautiful pieces I would be proud to have in my own jewelry collection. Each item held special meaning: a mother's birth bracelet, a baby's charm, a whimsical bird brooch and floral bracelet that belonged to a beloved aunt. They held family memories and  anecdotes from the unforgettable women that once wore them. With each family story shared, I could visualize the pieces of the past coming together to form new pieces of jewelry for Allie and Abby.

Allie's Heirlooms
Our gathering was sprinkled with laughter, sharing, and the seeds of new friendship. Over two hours melted in what seemed like minutes. As we parted ways, I felt honored and inspired to be walking away with what would eventually become a wearable family tree and a traveling memorial. 

Read here for part 2!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On the Road - A New Beginning Salon - Eco-Friendly Trunk Show

Saturday was the day after Earth Day - the holiday that most inspires me to upcycle and create. What better day to have an eco-friendly trunk show? In honor of the greenest of green days, A New Beginning Salon and Day Spa in Bethel, CT had a trunk show every Saturday for the month of April featuring local earth-friendly vendors. This spa and salon offers a full array of amazing services for hair, skin, and body. With a relaxing environment, friendly staff, and plenty of earth-friendly Aveda products to go around, it was a great place to showcase my wares.

Aveda Land
I got to do the trunk show with my favorite green gal - Grace Napoleon of Folk Couture. Grace makes clothes out of clothes (or fashions fashion out of fashion - whichever you prefer). With a creative eye, a love for color and pattern, and a touch of whimsy, Grace creates hand-sewn, dresses, tunics, sweaters, and other fun accessories out of once loved apparel. Her finishing touches of embroidered details, frilly trim, vintage buttons, and perfectly placed patches, give it what I call the "Grace magic." People are always drawn to touch her one-of-a-kind clothes because the playful mix of textures and vintage appeal. 

style and Grace

Gals in Grace's Garments - Craft Boston Spring 2011
At the spa, Grace and I got to meet a lot of nice clients getting primped and polished for the holiday weekend. Everyone left with a relaxed glow and smile after getting their spa and salon services. I have to admit I had a little spa-envy and may have to return for a massage soon. We chatted with the lovely owner Carol (who Grace has known since she started cutting hair at her home ages ago) and Helen (who organizes the events at the spa). You could tell that Carol and Helen are passionate about the three R's and spreading the green message at the salon. It's great to see a local business doing their part to help the earth!

Helen sporting an eco-savy smile.
Karin and Sofia - my favorite models
A visit from some local friends and some new happy customers, rounded off the day nicely and made a day at the spa feel like a day at the spa. Happy Earth Day everyone!

Here is where you can find me next:
Friday and Saturday, May 6th & 7th – Twist – Northampton, MA
Saturday, May 21st – Shop the Archway – DUMBO – Brooklyn, NY

Sunday, June 26th - Smith Street Sunday Fun Day - Brooklyn, NY

Saturday, July 9, August 6, August 13 - Greenway Open Markets - Boston, MA

Friday, April 22, 2011

Love, Love, Love: Crayola Marker Caps

You can tell a lot about a classroom by looking at the floor at the end of a school day. Just visit my second grade class. It's like an archaeological site. A dusty pile of bright orange crumbs is scattered by the door. Someone had cheddar Goldfish crackers and missed the garbage pail at the end of snack time. A crumpled Post-It note is stuck to the leg of a chair with the words "suburban neighborhood - houses and lawns." I betcha we studied book settings that day. A plastic Lego guy is laying on the ground next to a cubby. Looks like someone sneaked a toy into class AGAIN. I can only imagine what the custodians must think about each room (and teacher)at the end of the day.

One item there is never a shortage of is discarded and lost pencil box supplies. Careful where you step or a #2 pencil will send you flying across the room. Leaving purple streaks across the linoleum? You must have a crayon stuck in the tread of your shoe. The crunch underneath your feet can only mean one thing...pencil shavings from a busted up sharpener. Several years ago, one particular supply caught my eye while scanning the classroom floor: Crayola marker caps.

Preferred by teachers AND jewelry designers.
It never occurred to me to make something out of them until I started saving them in a container in class. I told the kiddos to hold onto them whenever their markers dried out. The first thing I noticed was that the colors offered today went far beyond the primary pack that I grew up with. Brights, pastels, neons, and even skin colors started to fill the jar. I found out that our art teacher, Mrs. Yessenow was saving them as well. She of course, had many more since she went through markers at a much faster rate. Stacked up in her large plastic jar, the caps looked like Technicolor ziti or giant hamster pellets for rainbow-colored rodents. 
washed, sorted, drilled, & ready to go
One weekend, I took a bunch home. I sorted them by color and was amazed by the variety. I lined them up in neat rows and got the idea for bracelets. They reminded me of the boldness and chunkiness of vintage Bakelite jewelry. After a good washing, draining, and drying (to remove the kid cooties), I pulled out the drill and got down to business. After much experimenting with different elastics, drill bits, drill speeds, knots, and files, I finally made my first bracelet called it a "REcap" bracelet.

The REcap bracelet has become the number one conversation starter at shows. I display them on a cafeteria tray in homage to elementary schools. I love seeing smiles, "aha" looks of recognition, and people calling their friends over to show them the wackiness. It always amazes me how objects carry such nostalgia for people and these bracelets always gets folks talking about school memories and childhood. And being that the cap hasn't noticeably changed over the years, kids of all ages are drawn to the familiarity of the colors and unforgettable shape.

bracelet buffet

Some artists look above for inspiration, but oftentimes the best ideas are rolling around right under your feet! 

Come have a playdate with your inner-child and try one on in person! You can find me at these upcoming shows:

TOMORROW! Saturday, April 23rdNew Beginnings Trunk Show with Folk Couture by Grace Napolean – Bethel, CT
Friday and Saturday, May 6th & 7th – Twist – Northampton, MA
Saturday, May 21 – Shop the Archway – DUMBO – Brooklyn, NY

Monday, April 18, 2011

Love, Love, Love : Vintage Game Pieces

Everyone has a junk drawer, box, or (ehem) entire home filled with all the odds & ends that they just can’t get rid of. Ever since I was little, I would save anything and everything small and colorful in special place. For years, I have been gathering loose game pieces. My collecting started years ago with Bakelite and vintage plastic dice. Each happy die and dot was a mini piece of art to me. I finally capped off my collection when I found the perfect gumball machine to display them in and filled it to the top.

It took a lot of quarters to fill this machine!
I also love pawns – plastic, metal, and wood in every shape size and color. They remind me of being sprawled across the floor with my friend Kim after school and engaged in a friendly game of Parcheesi, Monopoly, or Boggle. At the end of every school year, I have the students in my 2nd grade class pull out the loose pieces from games that have seen better days and save them before retiring the boards. I also keep an eye out for vintage games at tag sales and people are always passing bags of “treasures” to me. When there's a plastic pawn or wooden die, it's a welcome surprise.

There’s nothing more exciting and inspiring to me than spreading out, sorting, and playing with colorful pieces of anything. Whenever I hit a creative roadblock or feel the urge to organize, I will break out my cafeteria trays, spill out my materials, and sort the day away. This usually leads to new inspiration and ideas. It also makes me hungry because the colors look very “candy shop” to me!
Tray o' Play
Most recently, one of these spill & sort sessions inspired my “Fun 'n' Games” rings made from wooden nickels and a collage of game pieces.  I sold them for the first time at the Prospect Heights Fair. The school fund raising event was attended by lots of kids which meant lots of little fingers kept picking up and playing with the rings. I find that my materials, being upcycled and vintage, bring out a lot of nostalgia and people have a tendency to pick up and play with the jewelry or share stories about the items. As a designer, that's a big perk - I always love hearing these personal connections. 

wooden pawns & wooden nickels

wooden letter dice and wooden nickels
Clusters of pawns remind me of mushrooms or little people.

Once I attach the adjustable ring backings, I will have a whole new batch of rings to share at my upcoming shows:
Saturday, April 23rdNew Beginnings Trunk Show with Folk Couture by Grace Napolean – Bethel, CT
Friday and Saturday, May 6th and 7th – Twist – Northampton, MA
Saturday, May 21 – Shop the Archway – DUMBO – Brooklyn, NY
Swing by and play!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

On the Road - Heirloom Flea Market

There's no place like home, or several blocks from home when doing a show. The second show I participated in during the weekend of the 9th was the Heirloom Flea Market at the Heirloom Arts Theater, just blocks from my home in downtown Danbury. Organized by local photographer Mandee Potter, this show brought together local artists, flea market vendors, and a few acoustic performers.

I was thrilled to be sandwiched between and across from many craftanistas extraordinaire. To my right was the multi-talented, always inspiring Lys Guillorn of Little Cowgirl. Lys offered an impressive variety of photographs, cards, jewelry, purses, and other what-nots. I love her new vintage button bracelets and always find her photography striking.  Perhaps it would be easier to list what she doesn't do! And on top of it all, she finds time to write and perform her own music. I recently saw her perform her lovely ditties during Record Store Day at Gerosa Records. Her lyrics made me melt. Lys's superpowers are far-reaching and endless!

Suburban Citizens by Lys Guillorn
The table directly to my left belonged to another busy bee - the jewelry designer and girl with go-go spirit Lydia Mandell of Rubystreet. Her playful use of color, vintage flare, and chunky plastic pieces are reminiscent of the hard candies in grandma's candy dish. She assembles kitschy necklaces, hair accessories, and bracelets, but my favorite pieces of her have to be her "UnDead Ringers." Every time I don one, a fifth grade girl will stop me at my school and compliment me on my cool ring. You know you're cool if a 5th grade girl takes the time to compliment any part of your wardrobe! In addition to creating a color frenzy, you can find her doing the pony in All Systems Go Go.

UnDead Ringer by Rubystreet

 The Hat City Scissor Squad, our local Tuesday night craft group, represented well at the event. One of the founding members, Michelle Barney-Saucier had a terrific table filled with all sorts of goodies including fanciful handmade journals, head wraps, and other fun accessories. She made a clever display/holder out of Legos that made me smile. The other members of the Squad showed up to show their support. You could feel the crafty love!

In Squad We Trust
Only Lauren could make a decapitated head thimbilism necklace look that good!

I was thrilled to get a visit from the Abby and Brian, the soon-to-be newlyweds from New Haven. It was great to finally meet Brian after hearing so many wonderful stories about him and seeing their great 50's style engagement photo shoot. Abby was wearing my "Bam! Pow! Zap!" Batman necklace from the Indie Craft Extravaganza and she wore it like a superhero! I am currently upcycling some of Abby's family heirlooms to make her a necklace to wear on her wedding day in October. She's such a creative bride and I know her DIY wedding, complete with local food trucks, is going to be quite the event. Stay tuned...I will be blogging about her necklace soon.
Dynamic Duo
It was a great day to hang out with friends in my hood and share my wares. In the end I said farewell to another one of my favorite necklaces (That-a-Way) and a few other goodies that went to loving homes. What's not to love?

That-a-Way went that-a-way.
All day laugh track provided by Lys and Lydia. I spell my name "Mei- LYng" whenever I'm around these gals to fit into their "LY" club.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On the Road - Propect Heights Craft Fair

Last Saturday and Sunday I was out and about at two fun shows. The weekend extravaganza started with the Prospect Heights Craft Fair.  I headed off early to Brooklyn with my new set up and a few new items:
Fun 'n' Games Rings - The tops are created out of old wooden nickels and vintage game pieces.

I left bright and early, and made good time to the school. I was welcomed by a warm, friendly parents, fresh baked goods, and coffee. Who could beat that? This was the third year of the event, which was organized to raise funds for an amazing variety of arts programs at PS 9. In addition to vendors, there were student-created crafts, kid events, a raffle with items donated from vendors, and great local food.

I was excited to try out my new display created out of a vintage pink plastic suitcase and some cork boards.

Pink suitcase display

Final Display - Tada!
There was an upbeat crowd of parents, kids from the school, and lots of locals. I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my favorite vendors, Katie of Lily Rain. You know how everyone has a certain something that they wear, that always gets compliments? Well, that always happens when I wear my handmade, free trade bracelets from Katie!

Speaking of bracelets, I got a lot of love for my REcap bracelets (made from Crayola Marker caps). Here is one of my biggest fans. He discovered that my bracelets also make great building materials.

Both fashionable and stackable!
One of my favorite parts of doing a show is meeting new people. To each side of me were fabulously creative and kind gals who made the day fly by. My inner Edie Beale squealed when I saw Deborah Julian's cat photographs. Taking inspiration from the felines in her own life, she incorporates photos of her kitties into classic art compositions. Julie Peng of Bugsella creates a onesie-wonderland with whimsical clothes and accessories for little ones. She hand sews and screen prints her book and nursery rhyme themed wares for many worthy charities. Dana, of DanaMade was one of the first vendors I met in the morning. One look at her rings and I knew she was my kinda crafter! She too makes jewelry out of cool vintage finds. I added her to my Etsy "favorites" list as soon as I got home. 

Ring by DanaMade
Being a teacher, I always get excited when I meet an author. At the show they had a variety of events planned throughout the day for kids, including a visit from local author Ellen Bari. She wrote a book called "Jumping Jenny" about a girl with tons of energy and no place to direct it, until she thinks of having a jumpathon to raise funds for a sister school in Africa. This year the second graders at my school raised over $2,000 for Guiding Eyes for the Blind through a hoopathon. I was so excited to see that there is finally a great picture book out there about kids making a difference through outreach (and believe me...I've been looking!). I was so thankful to meet Ellen, get a signed copy of her book, and hear all about her publishing process. Hopefully my kiddos will be able to Skype with her soon!
Jumping into Action!

The Prospect Heights Craft Fair was the perfect show to start off my spring/summer season. I felt right at home at the school and met many wonderful folks there. Can't wait for the show next year!