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!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Blinking Light Gallery

I've got some sweet aprons and more for sale at the Blinking Light Gallery in Plainfield, Vermont. Stop by when you are in town to eat at Positive Pie, The River Run, or visiting your funky mid-Vermont-dwelling friends.

Someone recently told me these are called "hostess aprons." Well, that does rather go along with comments made by some of the older ladies I meet at outdoor markets that they are "too nice" to use as an apron. Maybe that's why most of them have sold to young women visiting from New York City and Boston. (They never say they are "too nice") This pink gingham one is made from the remains of a sheet I bought to back a quilt many years ago. Vintage green/yellow shirt collar, new designer fabric depicting Mexican folk masks, and a stripe at the bottom and pocket of a wonderful vintage bamboo fabric given to me by my 85-year-old neighbor, Betty. She says is was her mother's curtains, but it must be very high quality, because it doesn't feel nearly that old. I would have guessed circa late 1960s. But I suppose her mother could have still been around then...

Classic cherrys print apron: I cut the skirt fabric on the bias. I often like to do that with plaids or stripes or other vertical prints to give it a bit more energy and interest. Recycled blue/green/turquoise button-down collar, and the waistband is new designer fabric that's a great reproduction (or at least inspired by) of a 1930's kitchen calico. Actually, I bought enough to make my new kitchen curtains out of it. Before that my kitchen curtain where the kittens and fishies on the pillows below, and before that they were the cherrys on yellow/white plaid in this apron.

This black and white fabric was a hippy skirt I got at a thrift shop or rummage sale or something. Can't recall the exact source. I think it sets off this wonderful blue/green vintage watercolor-y floral print very nicely. Orange collar from a linen Anne Taylor sportswear shirt from the early 1990s.

And here's the gallery. You can see it from Route 2 just over the rise at, what else, the blinking light. There is currently a cool show up of welded steel sculpture and colorful paintings on canvas, plus all the member work. Pictures of my display are below: 4-Way-Entry Bags, HotHolders, and hostess aprons, plus a basket of pillows, all in the fiber section, as you can see.

I think this is one of my best aprons. {I'm sorry the pics are so dark. You won't be able to get the magic color combination unless you see it in person. I think my old digital camera is on it's last legs.} The skirt fabric is a bright red, almost orange, with a China doll-pagoda-carriage-lantern print in black, yellow, blue and pink. I inherited this from my mom's fabric collection. She bought it in the 1980s, I think, and never made anything out of it. I've had it for years, waiting for just the right application. When I started making these aprons, this fabric finally found it's calling. I had enough to make three - the other two have different collars and waistbands. One went to a new home in NYC, one is here at the Blinking Light Gallery, and one was getting a serious eye-balling by my LA cousin, Julie, when she saw it in Maine last month. She bought loads of HotHolders and a 4-Way-Entry Bag instead. The trim on this one is a light turquoise button down collar and some new 1940s style nursery fabric. I got these bubble-headed little gamboling fawns on lavender in a pack of vintage reproduction prints and I had a total aversion to it until I put it in combination with this red skirt and turquoise collar. Somehow it just works and now I like it.

Birds of a Feather show

I have some wall art at the 10th Anniversary Show at the Northeast Kingdom Artisan's Guild (NEKAG) in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Look for the purple awning on Railroad Street. (HotHolders and pillows by Mountain Ash Design are also for sale there.)
The show is up only until October 3rd, which suddenly seems not very far away, especially since we had a good frost last night. As my daughter said when I woke her up for school this morning, "Time to eat some Brussels sprouts." Richard already harvested some a couple of weeks ago, but our friend Carl Demro said he was waiting until after a frost to harvest his. "They just don't taste right to me until after a frost." Tradition? Special frosty sweetness? We shall see.

Anyhow, the creature on the sidewalk above with the lovely blond hair is my 12 year old son. Entire hair coloring industries were developed so women could chemically achieve what he has naturally, and he doesn't even care. (of course) And he has those long boy eye lashes, too. He does care that it's long, only because he doesn't like haircuts, I think. He's totally oblivious about trends, Z-Boys, etc., but definitely knows he's out of the mainstream after the daily feedback he got at school last year. This year my kids go the the Wellspring School in Chelsea, VT and whattya know, there are several boys with long hair there. It's one of the norms.

But this blog is supposed to be about my art. Okay, got a little sidetracked there. So I make a little wall art every now and then. These two pieces are currently at NEKAG in the Birds of a Feather member show celebrating the Guild's tenth anniversary. The top one is called "Plains Riders" and is about 18 inches square and features a piece of this wonderful western vintage barkcloth that I've had for almost 20 years. I used some of it for HotHolders last year and they immediately sold out. The colors are so rich, as is the texture and the images are great. I only have smaller pieces left, so I'm going to have to do more of these fabric collages to get it out in the world for others to enjoy. I made this in August while on vacation in Maine. (sound insane, bringing my sewing machine on vacation? Well, I had a lot of sewing to do. Don't worry, I had plenty of relaxing and came back looking "well vacated," as my sister-in-law, Gail, remarked.)
The piece on the bottom here is titled "In houses." It's 44" x 55". It also includes some of the vintage western barkcloth, and some other choice vintage and more recently recycled jems of fabric. I actually pieced it about 10 years ago and had it machine quilted by Barnyard Quilting in West Fairlee, VT. Sharon does a wonderful job, outlining the picture elements at times. She just hiked the Appalachian trail solo, too, and I think she might be over 50. I'm impressed.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Grandma Ben's apron

I guess it probably seems like I'm very influenced by comic strips. It's not really true, but I do have a few favorites. I wanted to post these from Bone because of the full aprons.

This one features a little green leaf-hopper as one of the characters. We have these creatures around where I live. Now, whenever I see one, I think, "Ted!"

The Bone graphic novels by Jeff Smith were my son's first independent reading project, so as the mother of a reluctant reader, I can't help but to be fond of them. But they are a wonderful read regardless; full of humor, friendship, adventure, great characters, and are beautifully drawn and colored. I hope you can read the pages here and then go out and read the books. Jeff Smith started writing them in the early 90's when Riot Grrls were catching the interest of the mainstream. That is, pre- Brittney, Paris, Olsen twins and the like. ("Train wreck girls" - isn't that what they call them now?) Anyway, his female characters are awesome, maybe speaking to the attitudes of the era in which he developed them. They have so much strength and interesting personalities, also mysterious histories. Raising my kids I've been sensitive as to how the genders are portrayed in the media they ingest. I fully approve of Bone for boys and girls.

When I first started selling half aprons people began asking for full ones and Grandma Ben here, on these pages, was my inspiration. She never takes that thing off, and other characters of all kinds don the full apron throughout the story. Gotta love the levitating shoulder straps. I wasn't able to manage that with mine. In fact, I couldn't make the whole straps-down-the-back-meeting-the-waist-tie thing without putting them all the way out of many people's price range. Anyway, Grandma Ben is sweet, old, white-haired (like me), runs a farm, has super-human strength and speed, likes to beat up rat creatures and is in charge. Turns out she is the warrior queen of her kingdom and has been hiding out for 15 years - for good reason. (Sorry to spoil -I won't give any more away!)

Stay tuned - Full aprons by Mountain Ash Design to follow in another post.