Sunday, December 30, 2007

And the winner is...

Congrats to Julie K from Middlesex, VT! Her Name-the-Bag Sweepstakes entry form was chosen by an impartial party and she is now the pleased owner of this Secret Pocket Handyman Helper Bag featuring Chad, owls, cowgirls and weather resistant stripes.

Though I did get lots of entries at craft fairs and the Open Studio Weekend I'm afraid I wasn't completely clear about the whole affair. My main objective was to get votes on two product names I was considering: "Pocket Handyman Bag" and "Secret Helper Bag." Many folks got the impression they had to come up with a brand new name in order to enter and were therefore shy to do so.

Julie did offer some other great names:
Six Pack Sac
Shrunken Hunk Tote
Dream Tote
Pocket Man Bag
Hot Pocket Bag Thanks Julie and everyone else who voted and/or weighed in with a great name (see below).

The results of the vote between Secret Helper and Pocket Handyman were virtually inconclusive. Amazingly, out of all the entries that voted on the two names, the discrepancy was ONE VOTE in favor of Secret Helper. My dear friend and sometimes lovely assistant, Rowan Sherwood, penned that one. And she voted for it, too. If I had broken the rules, filled out an entry form, and voted for Pocket Handyman (my brainchild), it would have been dead even.

Other wonderfulness came out of this though. From the minds of others:
Mother's Little Helper
Surprise Inside Bag
Hunk Sack
Hideaway Handyman
Peek in my Pocket Bag
Just Bag Him
Over the Shoulder Peep Show
Bag a Man
Six Pack Currier
Hunk Tote
Dream Bag
McSteamy Pocketbook

But the universally fave entries were Anne Holbrook's "Bloke in a Tote" and Peter Talbot's slogan: "Put your stuff in this stud muffin" (to be chanted with a 1-2 Shakespearean rhythm). I beg permission to use these as headings and headlines for future posts and press.

If my sewing projects can inspire this kind of word fun, I am accomplishing my life's goal of making a positive contribution to society.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Moutain Ash Design in the news!

The Times Argus printed a review of "Celebrate!" (otherwise known at "Buy More Art"), the annual member show/sale at Studio Place Arts in Barre, Vermont. The Handymen HotHolders are prominently mentioned! To read the article go to, scroll down on the left and under "Features" click on "Art" and scroll down to the headline "Art, whimsy and variety: SPA's gifts for us all."

Get thee down to SPA for some local art-gifts!
“Give More Art,” the annual Studio Place Arts members show/sale runs through Dec. 29. The opening reception is Dec. 1 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. There is also a Sunday tea featuring live entertainment with “The Recorder Underground” on Dec. 2 from 2 to 4 p.m. The gallery hours have been expanded. The hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 8. From Dec. 10 to Dec. 23, SPA is open until 6 p.m. during the week, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The Christmas eve hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, go online to or call 479-7069.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Secret Helper" or "Pocket Handyman?"

Help me to name my new bags. To encourage lots of feedback on this product name (and to do a little market research while I'm at it), I'm sponsoring Mountain Ash Design's first ever ...

Bag Giveaway Sweepstakes!

If you help me to settle on a name for this new product, you will be entered to win a drawing for one of these oh-so-useful shoulder tote bags with a full length handyman on the inside patch pocket. Big and strong enough to hold up to 11 inches. Oh my!

See more bags on my flickr site:

So are they "Pocket Handyman Bags" or "Secret Helper Bags?" Can you understand my dilemma? Do you want one for your very own? Or for someone else with a certain kind of sense of humor? Just email me your answers to the following questionnaire and be entered to WIN! These bags are, in value, way beyond the $172-$180 I'll be asking for them at my holiday shows. Read more about their design, construction, dimensions, materials, etc here:

Here's the question form: I encourage you to email your answers to me because you just might WIN!! My email:
I'll be drawing the lucky winner on December 17th from the forms I get before that date, that way I should be able to ship for delivery by x-mas.
Thanks! I love feedback.

Name-the-Bag Sweepstakes!
note: All fields must be filled out to be eligible to win.
your name _________________________________
address _____________________________________ zip ___________
email ________________________________________
Which name do you prefer for our new bags?
__ “Pocket Handyman Bag”
__ “Secret Helper Bag”
Do you have another idea for a name for these bags? Let’s hear it! _______________________________________________________
What new products would you like to see from Mountain Ash Design?
At which event are you filling out this form?
__ Wellspring Holiday Faire __ Women’s Festival of Crafts
__ VT North by Hand Studio Tour __ Orchard School Craft Fair
__ Queen City Craft Bazaar __ I’m emailing it in
How did you hear about this event? ____________________________________
Where do you like to shop for gifts? ____________________________________
Many thanks!
from Mountain Ash Design

Monday, October 22, 2007

*gulp* + Holiday vending schedule

*gulp* I just signed up for the four day Visiting Artist Program in March at the Art Business Institute in Philadelphia.

It's in conjunction with the Philadelphia Buyers Market of American Craft, produced by craft marketing guru Wendy Rosen and company.

I guess I'm getting serious about this whole endeavor. Actually, my plan from the start was to do retail shows for 2-3 years in order to get direct customer feedback, work out my products, etc., then start doing wholesale shows and just be in the studio more and in production. I really enjoy interacting with the public, but retail shows - it's a lifestyle. So much of it is not the fun social/selling aspect, but traveling away from home a lot, packing, setting up, breaking down, keeping up your display, etc.

The experiences I've had over the summer and fall in Norwich, Woodstock, and the Open Studio Tour, as well as some mentoring I've received from other artists, has taught me so much. I've gotten a lot of valuable feedback. Much of it is telling me that my work would do well in big cities.
Like Seattle.
Portland, OR.
Washington, DC.
Most of the aprons I've sold went to NYC.
I just can't go to those places to do enough retail shows to make a living, so I'm looking into this wholesale business about a year ahead of schedule. Don't worry, I'm going to meet with a business counselor at the Vermont Women's Business Center before I completely shift gears.

And in the meantime I'm going to enjoy the holiday vending season right here in Vermont (and Southern New Hampshire). I hope you can stop by one or more of these events. I'll have discounted items at the Open Studio Tour and the Wellspring School Holiday Faire and I'll be having a big New-Product-Naming-Contest-Prize-Drawing-Giveaway going on throughout all 5 events!

Here's my schedule:

11/17 9am-3pm Wellspring Holiday Faire
Chelsea Town Hall Chelsea, Vermont

11/24 10am-5pm Women's Festival of Crafts
11/25 11am-4pm Women's Festival of Crafts
Burlington Town Hall on Church St., Burlington, Vermont

12/1 10am - 5pm Queen City Craft Bazaar
Union Station (bottom of Main St.), Burlington, Vermont

12/8 9:30am-4pm The Orchard School Craft Fair
The Christmas Trees Inn, Marlow, New Hampshire

12/8 and 9 10am-5pm Vermont North By Hand Open Studio Tour
Topsham-Corinth Road, Topsham, Vermont

Please email me for more info, directions, etc.:

And stop by the Howe Library in Hanover to see my display (pictured here) before it comes down October 25th (that's next Thursday).


Saturday, October 13, 2007

RevCo pre-show antics

I had so much fun at the Revolution Vintage Fall Fashion Show last weekend. "Fashion Show" is not even the right term for this event. It's more like 48 short performance art pieces with amazing costumes, make-up and hair. But the stage aspect is such a small part of the experience for me. The fun is the hours spent visiting and hanging around watching everyone slowly transform into fantastic butterflies - or something. It is such a social and upbeat scene. Here are my pictures on my new flickr account:

see more by visiting...

Friday, October 5, 2007

Don't you want this kind of help in the kitchen?

Please meet my new spokesmen. I don't want to call them "mascots" because that rather takes away their personhood, don't you think? I try to think of these guys not just as vacant pin-ups but as complete human beings, suspended in this moment of cheeky sensuality. Their names are even starting to come to me: Tommy, Steve, Oscar...

When I started this whole endeavor to get HotHolders out into the world in earnest I was inspired by some retro beefcake beach boys who were depicted snuggling up to their surf boards, holding giant lobsters, strumming their ukuleles, etc. Very friendly and charming and they disseminated almost immediately. I've been hankering for them, or at least some worthy replacements, ever since.

I discovered the Handymen above in the spring and they have been one of my best sellers all summer. When I bought my first couple of yards, I thought, "Maybe the ladies will like these." Well, the ladies have been buying them up almost exclusively for their gay male friends, bless them. One exception was the woman who bought one for her 83-year-old mother as a stocking stuffer. "It's okay because he's winking...and because she's my 83-year-old mother."

I think it will be okay for lots of other ladies, too, of all ages and stages of mother/daughterhood when these handymen make their Montpelier debut next week at Swingin' Sphere and when they make the rounds at my holiday fairs. I'll post a schedule when I have it finalized.

related/unrelated announcements:
Come see me, my theatrical lumberjack friend Nick, and about 40 other characters who are "a little bit brave and pretty on the inside" as we skip down the AstroTurf catwalk tomorrow night at 9:30 at the Tip Top Cafe for the Revolution Vintage semi-annual "fashion freak show."
I think Kim just called it that because she gives us complete creative license on the runway. I get to strut two fab outfits this time: one rather butch and one very femme - in fact, if anyone has a long, thin black cigarette holder, I could use it for a prop.

then...Please come help me stay alert and cheery the next day at the last Norwich Craft Sunday of the season, Sunday, Oct 7, 10-3. I made Nick promise to get up early and help me put a tarp above my stall if the forecast threatened rain. Lucky for him, it looks like the precipitation will hold off.

I'm ending this post with a special commemorative beach boys HotHolder I made recently using the last scrap of that fabric I have depicting one of their sweet faces. But Tommy, Oscar and company are sweet, too. I think I've found very worthy replacements.

Mountain Ash Design behind glass

Stop by the Howe Library in Hanover to see a display case of my wares complete with interpretive signage- up until October 25th.

To see more bags go to my September posts or try this link:

To see more aprons go to



To see more HotHolders, well, they are all over the place! Start with the post below. More coming soon.

Cowgirl with French bicycle

Some selections from my latest lines of HotHolders featuring...

Mexican loteria cards,

retro pin-up cowgirls. These are in response to all the people who have seen the handymen HotHolders and ask where the girls are.
Wranglers against cutesy Asian kittens and fishies - the perfect combo.

Dancing and flirting Day of the Dead characters.

New vintage-inspired western fabric. I think cowgirls would consider French bicycles in the right situation.
Some of these and more, plus pretty hostess aprons, will be available soon at Swingin' Sphere, Montpelier's new indie craft boutique. Visit them online at the link below.'sphere

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Open Studio Weekend Report

The open studio weekend was great! I want to express a warm thank you to everyone who came by: friends and neighbors, friendly strangers, and my customers from beyond my neighborhood. I was very pleased by both the number of visitors and the amount of sales. I just didn't know how it was going to go being one of 22 artists fairly spread out over several driving miles. And Richard has such an unusual product and established client base (he's been at it for 11 year in this location) I feared people would identify our driveway as "the papermaker's stop". And there certainly were people who only went into the barn, but I'm coming to a place of acceptance about that. Some people just aren't into textiles. And that's okay. I had my own special visitors, though, including some of my customers from the Norwich Craft Sundays, and a few accomplished seamstresses who closely examined my work. These pictures look weird with no people but I was too distracted by said visitors to take pictures of them when they were here. I marked down a lot of HotHolders from the previous year and most of the pillows. Suddenly objects I thought no one was ever going to want where flying out the door - and I was getting cash in return! These deep discounts are going to be offered again at the Open Studio weekend December 8 and 9 so if you didn't get your deal yet, there's still a chance.

The studio part of an open studio is the most compelling to me. When I was in college in the Boston area we used to go to open studio in the area and I would explore the Putney artists' studios when visiting my aunt there Thanksgiving weekend. As a budding artist I was very interested in getting some insight into how these people worked. I wanted to learn about their creative process, how they actually made their art. I remember being particularly disappointed in Putney one year when I drove a long way to find a quilter's studio. She dyed her own fabrics and I wanted to learn about her process. She didn't have any of her pots or dyes out - just things she'd made that were ready to sell. It wasn't actually a studio at all. More like a show room. And she was very engaged talking with friends at the time and I was too young and shy to interrupt and ask questions. Ah, regrets of my youth...

Well, now I'm the artist and even though I couldn't actually invite folks into the room where I do my creating (it's in a part of the house not good for the public: up steep stairs, through my daughter's bedroom, etc.) I did want to be all mysterious with just the end products out on display. So I set up production on the dining room table and was framing, cutting and sewing while folks looked around. And I had some examples of HotHolders in different stages of construction: full of pins, just quilted with the three inner layers visible, border and loop pinned up for final stitching. And I had some work in progress hanging about.

In these pictures you can see some wall quilts I am working on. I also had some fabric and thrifted button-downs hanging together which I call "bags under consideration." I explained that I choose some fabrics that I think might go well together and hang them together on the wall of my workroom for a few weeks. After looking at them for a while, if I still like them I sew them up. My picture of that part didn't turn out so I guess I am being mysterious. Hmmm, maybe this calls for a future post...

We got lots of comments about our wood stove (seen in this photo - in the back, on the way to the pantry), which is one of the best features of the house, especially now that it's getting colder.

Okay, here's a beautiful sight. This is probably why so many people went straight into the barn. Picture this off our short driveway: Huge barn door wide open, on one side a long row of firewood beautifully stacked (by Richard. I stacked last year's 6 cords while figuring out what I was next going to do with my life: This! Yay!!), artistically arranged giant Hubbard squash and gourds (grown by Kitt) and gorgeous painting of pears, cheese, hills and quail chicks by John Hurlburt, our friend and Richard's part-time papermaker. He is a wonderful artist. A really stunning scene for those leaf-peepers/art lovers.

The bundles of grassy things above the woodpile is the flax Richard grew in our "field garden" this year, for anybody reading this who came over for the Garden Tour in June.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The latest from the product development department

Welcome to the Internet unveiling of my newest product: The Mountain Ash Design shoulder tote. Dimensions are approximately 12 inches high, 17 inches across the top, and the bottom measures 5 inches deep and 12 inches wide, with thin cardboard stabilizing the bottom, hidden in a pocket. Take out the card for a slouchier look, or when the bag needs a washing.
A patch pocket in the style of a HotHolder on the outside. Repurposed button down shirt used for the lining. I've taken the buttons off so they won't snag and outlined the breast pocket in contrasting thread so it's easy to find. Check out the guy fly fishing inside this chocolate brown bag. The outside is new Hawaiian print bark cloth, with a pocket of wranglers surrounded and lined by french bicycles.

This bag of blue batik is very special. I am not usually drawn to batik, but my generous neighbor, Betty, gave me a piece of very high quality vintage batik. It still had the tag on it with calligraphy writing. I wish I could say what language it was in. The texture is like very thin leather. The patch is also vintage - linen, with beautiful flowers rendered in many gorgeous colors. The bag lining and the orange border/inside of the patch pocket are repurposed button down shirts. This bag can be viewed up close in a display case at the Howe Library in Hanover, NH until October 25th

One of my sleepy midnight owl friends gets to be the pocket on this bag made from some cast off upholstery fabric that was Lisa Locke's sister's. No guess how old it is. Not more than 20 years, I think. Feels perfectly new. Inside patch pocket of a sleepy owl at dawn surrounded by light purple feathers.

Betty gave me enough of the batik to make three bags. This one is in combination with a new retro inspired green print. I used the same combination for a half apron and it's one of my fave combos to date. The prints are from completely different cultural settings, but perhaps not different eras. I find that kind of juxtaposition really interesting. The colors are very dynamic together. There are little orange dots in the 1940's inspired print, perfect to tie in to this orange with blue plaid shirt lining the bag.
And what's this? A full length handyman ready to hold your knitting needles, boarding pass, or whatever you've got. He graces a fully functional pocket down to his knees. His calves and feet lie along the bottom, where there is another 5"x11" pocket to hold a stiff card stabilizing the bottom of the bag.
I did make another bag with the batik/green 40's print combo, but without a secret helper inside. Instead it is lined with a youthful blue/green/white plaid shirt with two breast pockets.
More bags to come featuring retro cowgirls, loteria cards, a Mexican stroll of the dead, and more adorable owls.

visiting hours

Come on over this weekend! Richard and I and about 20 other artists in our area are participating in the Vermont North By Hand Open Studio Tour this Saturday Sept 29 and Sunday the 30th.
This is a great time to drive around the hinder lands of Vermont, as foliage is peaking here now. Topsham and Corinth are charming villages to pass through, quite undeveloped and surrounded by meandering rivers and working farms.
There is quite a variety of creative work being done in these hills and valleys. Not only pottery, photography, fine woodworking and art on paper, but also botanical art, textile arts and even vintage motorcycle restoration.
Part of the VNBH mission is to provide education about the arts and crafts. I will be demonstrating those tricky HotHolder construction techniques. There will be 40 inch wide handmade paper being made next door.
You can even buy something the kiddies have made (or grown!). Expect deep discounts on select pillows, aprons, HotHolders and 4-Way-Entry Bags by Mountain Ash Design. Zucchini bread, pumpkin cake and apple cider is on us.

This event called for a deep cleaning of the house and barn. Here's Richard sweeping away spider webs on the front porch. The kids like to fatten the spiders up all summer by throwing grasshoppers and flies into their webs. Not to worry. The spiders have been evicted by this point.
The pictures below are little previews of a new product I'll be debuting at the Open Studio this weekend: shoulder tote bags.

These aren't the bags. And, yes, they look like HotHolders. They are fancy patch pockets, interfaced and lined and stitched with my signature star burst and swirl. They will be sewn on the front outside of the bags.
I'm making the bags of heavier-weight fabrics and lining them, mostly, with recycled button-down shirts, so you can use those breast pockets for important little do-dads or whatever you got.
And, um, these are the other inside pockets. I was intending to introduce them with a post all their own. I've been making and selling HotHolders featuring these guys all summer. They've been one of my top sellers. I had them in a bin with the cowboys and firemen and labeled it "Firemen, Cowboys, and Handymen." Unfortunately, because of their size I can only fit their torso onto a HotHolder. Their legs and boots are so well drawn I needed to find a way to get them out in the world in their entirety. More on this in a future post.

I will be making bags free of handymen, for those of you who don't want to carry a pin-up around with your knitting.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Honoring the full apron at the Market on the Green

Here's a little touch of Bone romance to start off this blog featuring my full aprons. Still loving Jeff Smith's levitating shoulder straps. How do I get mine to do that?

This photo shoot took place on the green in Woodstock during some spare moments while vending at the "Market on the Green" Wednesday afternoon. My lovely model is Honor Hingston of Cherry Hill Farm, my neighbors during my tenure at the Market. Her family grows raspberries, blackberries, and especially red currents and black currents. They make all of this into the most wonderful preserves (called Vicky Day's Preserves, after her mother). The black currents have a lot of natural antioxidants=very good for you.
I've never met anyone named Honor, though I have met women named after other virtues; Constance, Patience. Honor said when she was in college and met other "virtue girls" they joked that they should get together for a tea party or something. Honor is the IT specialist in the family and has put up very useful features on the family farm website.

By the way, when you are a farm girl at an outdoor market in Vermont, it is appropriate to wear hiking boots.

The Woodstock Market on the Green is primarily a farmers' market so you see the same people coming along each week to restock their refrigerators and pantries. And you see the same dogs. I seem to notice and identify the dogs more readily than the people, except for the little girl and her mother who came in matching hats each week. This corgi and human friends are waiting in line to buy beautiful fresh veggies from Jean from Tunbridge Hill Farm. This is actually a short line compared to most weeks. I love seeing all these people consuming local foods. I'm really into the localvore movement so it's very exciting to see others eating local, too. Plus Jean is a great guy and our kids go to school together so it's fun to see people so into his veggies.

Mountain Ash Design special recipe supplement: Yummy ways to eat your Vicky Day's Preserves. Here is a treat I invented (not strictly localvore). Buy some of Vicky Day's Preserves off of the Cherry Hill Farm website I am especially partial to the Raspberry Red Currant and the Raspberry Black Currant. The one with black currant is very intense. I had to work my way up to it. But now I can't get enough of it! Now, melt some semi-sweet chocolate (I use baker's chocolate) and spread it on saltines or similar (the light crunchy/salty thing is nice). Put the chocolate crackers in the fridge for a while to harden the chocolate.
Put Vicky Day's Preserves on top and - yummy!
Here is Peter at his tent enticing passers by to taste the goods. Once they have a taste they have to have a jar, or two, or more! Peter and his wife, Victoria (aka Vicky Day) are English, had a current farm in England for 20 years, and now have a berry farm in Springfield, Vermont. One of the things I learned while being their neighbor at the Market is that if you are English and you don't live in England, it's nice to have a corgi (they have one). But if you have a corgi in England people will laugh at you because the royal family has corgis.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

on the line

...on the clothes line, that is! Here are some of my latest half aprons, many featuring some newly acquired mint-condition vintage fabrics and some inventive new ways to recycle shirt cuffs. Check out the angle of the points on the vintage blue/white stripe collar on this first apron. In combination with a skirt and ties of new designer fabric and waistband and pocket of a fabulous vintage fabric I got at an antique barn in Maine last month. Rich colors - I had enough to use on three aprons.

These ladybugs have been popular and one of my all-time fave fabrics over the years. It was a jumper my sister wore as a little kid in the early 1970s. I've paired it with some very fine shirting fabric - Brooks Brothers grade, I'm not kidding. I used to have a contact at LLBean who gave me yardage of fabrics they were testing for possible products. These blue stripes are edged in tiny pinstripes of red.

More of the same shirting, only a lovely medium blue. The white stripes are edged in red. Just the thing to go with this vintage floral I got a couple of weeks ago in Waitsfield, VT while checking out the Mad River Valley Crafts Fair. I don't know what color-name to call the collar. It's one of those earth tones, a light rust but more brown. See the little fish skeleton above the pocket? I live for those little unexpected touches.

This is actually one of the loveliest of the batch, but the lighting wasn't just right for the shot. More of that high-class LLBean-tested shirting; red stripes this time, edged in blue. I didn't have a shirt collar in dark blue I wanted, so I went after the sleeve cuffs instead. I think they work. Yay! Yet another part of the shirts that will not go to waste. It feels good to get the fullest use out of my resources. I'm like the hunter who used every part of the animal.
This one is rather stately. Blue/white pinstripes skirt, rather sturdy and crisp; vintage yellow/green floral; black shirt collar with white pinstripes.
More sleeve cuffs! And check out these wonderful fire-colored (yellows, oranges, reds) birds on blue foliage. The skirt is a new little 40's style calico - circles and dots print.

These sleepy owl make good aprons. They are rather cute, tired after being out hunting all night. They have whiskers drawn on under their beaks for some reason. The whiskers don't look out of place, but I didn't know owls had whiskers. maybe they are the whiskers of their dinners, sticking out...?

I made two full aprons with other types of complimentary colors. You'll get to see them in the full apron blog coming soon.
Blue trellis surrounds a sweet Asian garden scene on this vintage fabric my cousin Colee, got for me. (More gifts from Colee for you if you make it to the end of this post).

This subtle combination is one of my favorites. You can't see it very well here. I'll just say that the collar is from a shirt something like what I used to wear in the early 90s and the little sailboat on the pocket is actually the corner of the moon from the midnight owls fabric.

I cut and pieced the waistband to get more of the dark leaves around the yellow violets. They feel dark and mysterious to me, needing another dark collar. Like the deep woods of fairy tales.

My 9-year-old daughter is a big fan of my work. Actually, I get lots of little girls drawn into my booth - mostly by the kitten pillows, I think. Anyway, Edith (daughter unit), is a child of the fairies and loves to make things out of birch bark and leaves. She has mentioned several times that her "dream house" is a little log cabin in the woods with a stream running nearby. Think The Three Bears or The Seven Dwarfs. I didn't tell her the mood I was trying to evoke with this apron, but when I had this batch finished a week or so ago, she told me that this one would be perfect for her dream house. She gets me.

Thank you for getting all the way to the end! Like I said, here's another gift from Colee: she emailed me a link to Flight of the Conchords on YouTube. Please view this clip if you want a brilliant laugh. Thank you, Colee!