Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from My Grandmother and me

If you have been reading this blog you know that my grandmother was one of my primary craft influences.
Here are some crafts she made for her offspring's families in the 1970s and 80s.

My family received the Scarecrow and Lion as part of a set when we were kids. My sister has Dorothy and the Tin Man now. There were several of these round ones another year. My grandma was a master at embroidery. I also grew up with the owls seen in the background here, but Grandma didn't make those.

I love this advent calendar so much. She really know how to work felt and sequins. And check out her painting on burlap, too.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008: A Year

I feel the urge to write a looking back/looking forward year end sort of post. Maybe it's the xmas newsletter tradition that runs rather strong in my family. I've never been able to put one out for my far flung friends and family, but here I am blogging. And updating my facebook status several times a day. I guess it works better for me when my sharing is limited to shorter bursts of time. And focusing on a few aspects of my life as I do here on the MAD blog helps make it doable also. And facebook - it's become a very nice way for me to feel connected to the outside world as I toil away alone in my garret all week long*. So go ahead and friend me and mention this blog and a bit about yourself if I wouldn't otherwise know you.

*it's not really like that, but it does get lonely sometimes and the weekend vending event social scene is also very appreciated.

I've grown a lot in my little business this year. I figured out that I sell a lot more if I take my wares out into the world physically. So I scheduled a lot of holiday craft fairs. Six weekends in a row. And in doing so I've rediscovered how much I enjoy interacting with the public. It's been made clear to me that aprons and similar are to be a major focus of mine in future (and present). This is great. I've gained a lot of confidence in my sewing and composition skills, so this cuts down on production time, too. Good. All good.

My production techniques really have gotten much more efficient so I think there may actually be some profit in this endeavor some day. I've made major progress in just the past few weeks as I've been forced to immediately try ideas I've been tossing around re: apron production efficiency. And I've gotten a lot faster and the aprons look better than ever. I'm phyched. And proud even. You know, with the recent attention I've gotten from the press and others and my sales figures at the holiday markets I'm starting to feel downright successful and very opptomistic about the future. I think I'm gonna go out and buy myself some shoes!

I have some goals and plans for 2009. All is revealed below, minus the numbers. Am I making a mistake being so...generous in sharing my plans? should they be a secret? oh, goes.

My Number One Big Picture Goal re: Production and Work Flow:

I am going to get my work flow figured out so I have lots of product ready when I start the retail season. After trying a number of items over the past two years I now know which ones I have to make lots of so I can make them ahead. Like, starting in February. January is going to be spent catching up on bookkeeping and listing items on my etsy shop. My farmer friend Betsy Mattox and I are going to barter labor so we'll be busy making aprons and stuff in the winter and be outside hoeing and harvesting in the summer. I am SO looking forward to carrying out this plan. I was inside sewing and ironing in front of a hot sunny window way to frequently last summer.
Research and Development Department:

New items slated to be available to customers in the Spring include children's aprons, eye glass cases, and apron-inspired dresses and skirts with big bows in the back <-- especially excited to work on these. I've always wanted to be a fashion designer. Other possible items for R&D: laundry day aprons, round coasters, simple wallets (special deal on these for other nomadic vendor-types), and maybe even a recycled leather iPod case. div Etsy Plans: First off I fill my shop with whatever I have left after this weekend and more new belts. I think etsy will be an especially good market for my belts and key fobs. Vermonters at craft fairs don't seem to know what to make of the key fobs. To be honest, I had no idea what they were either until my cousin brought them to my attention and I further educated myself on etsy <-- a brilliant place to do product research.
Live Vending Plans: I'm going to be outside in the fresh air peddling my wares at farmers markets and similar as much as possible in the Summer and Fall, with some bigger indoor craft fairs thrown in there, too. And plenty of holiday vending events. If anyone takes me up on hosting a trunk show or house party, I am so game for trying that too. In early 2009 I'm still planning on sticking close to home, but who knows? If my production becomes efficient enough I might try to schedule a show or two in a large city later in the year. Oh my!

Hey, so that's it. A little bit of looking back and quite a bit of looking forward. I'm going to be on vacation from blogging again until 2009 most likely. Thanks for reading, especially if you were directed here by my parents xmas newsletter ; >

Have a wonderful end of the year and into the new one!

***This Friday 12/19 from 11am-6pm and Saturday 12/20 10am-6pm come see me at Burlington City Hall for my final vending event of the year: Burlington City Arts Holiday Art Market.***

Monday, December 8, 2008

in the spirit

You know you're at a holiday show when they are playing Raffi's Must Be Santa and other seasonal tunes during shopping hours. I was really appreciating the switch to the Beatles White Album during vendor set-up and beak down at the Burklyn Art Council Craft Fair in Lyndonville, VT this past weekend.

Some other Highlights:
1. Getting to meet a recent etsy customer face to face. She lives in VT and is an artisan bread baker. *swoon*

2. Selling more clothespin bags than I expected. Hooray for solar dryers! And plenty of aprons, which is getting predictable in the most wonderful way. [Okay, I have to put in a big aside here: Upper Valley Life, the regional glossy mag, contacted me last week to do a story about my aprons for an upcoming food issue in early Spring (!!) Very exciting for me - I love and identify with the local foods movement so much. The writer asked if I had customers she could speak with. I contacted some people to get their permission and golly, folks have said the nicest things. It is all so gratifying that my customers recognize me as an artist and appreciate my use of recycled materials and the tradition of aprons in American culture. Feeling and sending back all the *love* *love* *love*

And I have to share this one story: one recent customer I just met, Heather of The Clothing Line, a stellar used clothing store in Burlington, bought one of my favorite half aprons - one that I've never understood why I haven't sold it yet. She completely got my ~off~ combination of patterns and colors and the vintage 1980's red/orange Asian print. When I called her about the magazine story she told me she hadn't taken the apron off in three days, was planning outfits around it, and her husband was starting to make fun of her. In a good way, I hope. I just feel my heart swelling up. Ahhh...]

Okay, back to my list of highlights from Burklyn. Remember?

3. Expanding my group of nomadic craft fair friends: Diane, Tara, Janice, Chris, Terry and Ran3dy and Nora, and the genius painter of Lamoille County, Jess Graham, and others. I *heart* friends. And really, I felt like somewhat of an amature surrounded by so many clearly long time professional crafters. Not that I'm unprofessional, just much less experienced. All the old hands (and the fairly newer ones too) are very nice and helpful.

4. Meeting new customers and getting to know the market in the Northeast Kingdom.

5. Filling my tanks with $1.69 gas in Lyndonville. The store clerk said the price would be going down again. Amazing.

6. Free food at the end of the day Sunday, including delish carrot cake I brought home for the kids. I bought myself a piece each day.

1. Tiny food portions, but I guess it's a fundraiser. It all came out even in the end though (see above #6).

2. The BAC jury rejecting my HotHolders. The explanations I received were, "There's something about potholders at craft fairs," and "Well, you know, we've seen it all before." What does this mean??? It shall probably remain a mystery.
Here are some pix of my booth. Having a corner is nice. I'm able to set up a pillar of apron/belt display and hide my personal effects inside.

Next up - The market manager in Norwich called to offer me a space at the Holiday Farmers Market this Saturday, December 13, 9-3 in Tracy Hall, Norwich VT. Yay! I'll take it. I was planning to be in Montpelier that day but I'm more established in Norwich and this fair is close to home and is a great opportunity for me to reach my summer customers close to the holidays.

After that I'll be back at Burlington City Hall on December 19th (that's a Friday) & 20 for the Holiday Art Market.
Be There of Be Square!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

MAD on the local news, again

Mountain Ash Design is getting another little flurry of press. Yay! The Channel 3 News was at the Women's Festival of Craft last weekend and the resulting story prominently features your humble servant + clothespin bags + aprons. The waistband of the apron they focus on was made from a cast off button down shirt once belonging to Channel 3's own sweetheart, Jack Thurston. Watch the piece here.

And our regional glossy, Upper Valley Life, will be interviewing me today re: my aprons. I'm figuring the issue will come out when I'm back at the Norwich Farmers Market next Spring/Summer. This is all very exciting!

Monday, November 24, 2008

the economy, good.

Okay folks, sorry if this sounds totally backwards, but I think this "economic downturn" is going to be good for us as a culture in the long run. I was just asked how the economy is effecting me as a craftsperson and I've only been thinking it's going to be good. Here's the answer I just emailed, cut and pasted here for all the world (but especially you):

Here's my take on being a craftswoman and the changing economy: I believe it will be good for my business and I look forward to being there to help households make the necessary lifestyle changes with fun and style.

I've been channeling Depression-era frugality in my business since I started in 2006. Many of my materials are sourced at thrift shops. But also the products I am inspired to make (i.e aprons and other kitchen aids, clothespin bags) are for a lifestyle that many of us may be heading back to, with our heightened awareness about excessive fossil fuel consumption, and now especially if folks loose their jobs and there aren't as many dual income households. Some trends I believe will develop in the near future (and will probably sustain out of necessity) include spending more time at home cooking from scratch because it's more cost effective, yummy, and fulfilling; and hanging our laundry to dry outside because we don't want to pay such a big propane bill to run our dryers and because we are rediscovering the joys of outdoor "work." since I started offering my clothespin bags at vending events I've had a lot of interesting conversations with people about decreasing dryer use. It's good to talk about these things and I'm happy to be able to instigate that conversation.

I think as the economy really forces Americans to change their spending habits there will be an eager rediscovery of the resourcefulness and simple living that was a given 2-3 generations ago. My products will help people transfer that nostalgia into a pleasant lifestyle change of their own.

I am also all about the growing, growing, growing Vermont local foods movement (which I think is totally related to all this necessary/inevitable change). My family raises 60-70% of what we eat throughout the year and we buy much of the rest locally. As Vermonters get more and more enthusiastic about cooking with locally grown ingredients my aprons and HotHolders are right there for them.

Also, I think there will be a renewed appreciation for handmade items now that we can all be openly disenchanted with major corporations and the products they offer us. taking corporate jets to Washington to beg for taxpayer handouts, etc. etc.

Anyone else see any positives to come out of this? Eventually?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sweet Figments

Hey, this apron is featured this week on the shopping guide blog Sweet Figments. Among lots of other lovely things in a guide for gifts for the women in your life. Wouldn't your mom/sister/sweetheart love this? Connie also has a guide for gifts for men - always a mystery. I suppose it's as much of a mystery for them shopping for us. I just want a complete collection of Jonathan Richmond's recorded works. Are you reading this, Richard? Anyway, Connie at Sweet Figments puts together great collections and has giveaways, like, every day, and the items are very nice. Check it out.

Monday, November 10, 2008

it's hot, but I like it

Queen City Craft, phoenix-like reincarnation of the Burlington Craft Mafia, started a blog last month and I'm in their Crafter Spotlight this week. Kacey of subsixstudios and Erinn of urban-farmgirl are keeping the community together with frequent postings of news, "drops of inspiration," and updates on opportunities for Vermont (I always want to call us) third wave crafters (though I know there have been many more waves before us than two).

"Waves?" you ask yourself. "What is she talking about??" Read my interview * and find out!
*disclaimer: at the end of the interview I talk about my new key fobs and I want to say now do not, I repeat do not, walk your dog with them...unless you have a particularly weak teacup model. I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote that.

Here's a picture of my super messy workroom the week before Halloween as I was answering the interview questions. I mention all the many and varied projects going on at once. It was a very productive week and fun to have it chronicled on another blog.

evolution + Holday Fair Schedule

The key fobs are evolving. I rummaged up these little lengths of trim I've had stashed away for years and sewed them onto the leather key fobs. I am really, really pleased with them. I've been carrying my keys around on that that black one on the left with the red hearts and white flowers (I'll bet it's edelweiss) and it has changed my life. Every mom should have one. Maybe guys, too. It's like I suddenly have a free hand. I especially love not having to dig around in my pocket for my keys when I'm at school picking up the kids and inevitably getting out of the car to visit with the other parents or do some school-related errand. I ordered a bunch of different jacquard trims and recently scored some nice red leather. Can't wait to sew them up!

Also, the belts are evolving. For months now I've been trying to figure out ways of improving my closed-edge belt design. Quarter inch bias tape is the answer. See previous Breakthrough post for more on this. I spent the weekend going beyond beltlettes to making up full length belts. The first few Farmers Market ones turned out rather wobbly at the edges, but still nice looking. By midnight last night I had made 12 black Loteria ones in a row that were all firsts. Yay! I'm now looking forward to adding some really pretty fabric on the back. Some of these in the picture are going to Studio Place Arts in Barre for Celebrate, the annual holiday season member show. I'll be making that delivery tomorrow.

While I'm at it I suppose I should let you know where else to find the belts, key fobs, billfolds, HotHolders and other MAD goodies for gifting and self-treating:

Frog Hollow Galleries in Burlington and Middlebury

Art On Main in Bristol

SPA in Barre

Northeast Kingdom Artisan's Guild in St. Johnsbury

AVA Gallery in Lebanon, NH

For stores not so close to VT click here

I'll also be vending soon at the following holiday fairs in Vermont, where you can get all of the above plus your aprons, clothespin bags, big smiles and super friendly service (though I'm quite sure smiles and excellent service are also always on hand at the above mentioned establishments):

Nov 14 - 15 Orchard Valley Waldorf School, East Montpelier

Nov 22 Wellspring Waldorf School, Town Hall, Chelsea

Nov 29 - 30 Women's Festival of Craft, City Hall, Burlington

Dec 6-7 Burklyn Arts Council, Lyndon Town School, Lyndonville

Dec 19-20 Burlington City Arts, City Hall, Burlington

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Sometimes I am intimidated by my own projects.

I have a few ideas I've been wanting to develop into products. Not having it all figured out yet, and using materials and techniques I'm not very familiar with have kept these projects on the shelf and tumbling around in my head. But I recently got them out on the table and they are coming more into focus and progressing nicely. Yay!

One project I've been working on is a new belt style and a new way of constructing the belts. The little purple-edged beltlettes pictured here are the result of me finally practising edging them in seam binding. Sewing around the pointy tip is rather tricky. I made pairs of beltlettes in different widths so I can see how they fit with different buckle styles. The next step is to try a spray adhesive for keeping all four layers (front fabric, heavy canvas, stiff interfacing, back fabric) together while I'm sewing.

I've also been thinking about making things from repurposed leather. I plan to pick up dreadfully out of style jackets, skirts, etc. at the usual places I procure recycled materials. I've been studying some simple wallet styles and have decided to start with something even more basic, because I was kinda scared.

I've dabbled in leather before, but it was a couple of years ago. I made Kitt and Richard leather helmets to wear at the Open Fields Medieval Festival and I've made leather pouches for my trick-or-treating kids to collect candy into (we only take them around the small village of East Corinth so they aren't collecting a lot - not like the pillow cases we used to haul around when I was a kid).

But even with this bit of experience I was still nervous. It had been a while and I wasn't going to be just banging out something for my kids to wear in the dark. I'm aiming to make something nice that an adult will be willing pay money for in a well lit vending setting.

So I recently built my courage up by using a lot of leather and suede scraps on Kitt's Halloween costume. I paid special attention to how my tools are working with the leather I'm I'm very encouraged. I love my Bernina 1031. It is always so up for the challenge. It seems to like the tougher work that I give it, like quilting the five-layered HotHolders.

Now here is the result: my first wrist band key fob/key chains (but what am I going to call them?!). Ultimately I plan to sew a length of decorative trim down the middle where you see the stitching now. Not a boring one like my first mock-up shown here. The handle loop went on a bit crooked with that one too so I'm learning about gluing first. I've also tricked out a pair of pliers with soft fabric scraps and duct tape so the metal doesn't get scratched. The leather feels really nice on the wrist. I think I'll be able to pull this off.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

terra firma

I've been imagining an Etsy treasury with this theme for a while, and somebody made one. Spot my belt!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weekend Update

Here's a quick update. I'm feeling very inspired today and am eager to get back to the studio. I have some recycled leather stashed away that I am going to pull out. I've incorporated bits of it into my kids' Halloween costumes over the years - mostly creating Medieval style belt pouches for holding candy. I'm seriously considering making wallets now, and other larger bags, combining the leather from out-of-style jackets and such with vintage trim and bits of interesting calico.

Since bringing my goods to market I have struggled with the low percieved value that homey textiles have in our culture. One of the reasons I am attracted to things like aprons and potholders and quilts and want to make them for others is because they are such a part of our everyday lives. But I think that may be why folks have a hard time thinking they can be special. Also, we've been able to buy everyday clothing and linens made in Asia for ridiculously low prices for so long now that folks have no concept of the actual effort and skill that goes into making something from cloth.

I love woven cotton & vintage textiles, but since I am in this not just as a needed creative outlet but also to make a (albeit modest) living, I need to consider the practical side, too. I am so in love with the soft handmade silkscreened leather wallet I got from Bonspiel Creations. It inspires me very much. I've enjoyed my little leather projects. The thought of combining leather with bits of cloth as accents, and making objects with a higher perceived value, is appealing to me.

So...I've been having a wonderful domestic day at home and outside with my kids, who I missed while working away from home all weekend. On Saturday I staffed the Blinking Light Gallery all day including during the reception for my show. Here are some pictures of my most devoted friends and others who were in attendance. The show will be up until November 2nd. It looks very wonderful in the space if I do say so myself. So please stop by when you're in central VT, have a look, and leave me a comment in the adorable "found" fabric covered book there made by Montpelier's own May Day Studio.

Sunday I was at the last Norwich Craft Sunday of the season. I had the pleasure of being neighbors with Aaron Stein, who makes seriously cool art and wrist cuffs out of license plates, and happens to be a very nice person also. Aaron, if you are reading this, be appreciative of the fact that you are not a potter or a jewler ; >

Disclaimer of the day: I am very good at sewing. I am not so good at spelling. For some reason the eblogger spellcheck does not seem to be working today. If there are mistakes that I missed, please excuse me. Even better - post a comment about them!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Under the Influence

I've been wanting to put up some photos here of Grandma's work. This flower pot quilt is in the show. It was the second of three quilts she made for me, the youngest of 10 grandchildren. I had it on my bed as a teenager.

I'm also including the statement that is accompanying my current show at the Blinking Light Gallery, which is dedicated to her. Don't miss the artist reception this Saturday from 3-5. I'll be wearing a special apron and serving Red Rose tea and Grandma's most requested sweeties.
And this is a slippery-lined wool project bag she made and gave to me as a teen. I didn't appreciate it until I was in my 30s and I still use it to carry my knitting projects around with me.

It Skips a Generation

I am inspired by quilters from the 19th and early 20th centuries who produced beautiful and dynamic work from the limited fabric choices they had. Like quilters of my grandmother’s generation who recycled materials that were readily available to them, it is important to me to find and use beautiful quality materials that might otherwise be wasted. While I do use some new designer fabrics that I find particularly appealing, I try to use recycled materials as much as possible.

I especially like to use woven cotton button-down shirts and older fabrics resurrected from the cast off fabric collections of others. I strive for simplicity in composition; to marry fabrics in unexpected, humorous and beautifully harmonious ways, with attention to colors and associations evoked by prints. The fabrics I use sometimes depict scenes or characters that take the viewer to another time and place. I enjoy including an obviously recycled decorative element in my work when I can. I want people to experience the realization, “Hey, this used to be a shirt!”

As my work has evolved it has become apparent to me how much I’ve been influenced by the work of my grandmother, the late Marion B. Curtis. She worked with clothing scraps and other fabric remnants and had a unique way of combining prints and colors. Marion was born in 1898. She and my grandfather moved back and forth between Pawtucket, Rhode Island and Penobscot Bay, Maine, where they ran a summer guest house for their friends from Southern New England.

Grandma ran the kitchen and strictly oversaw a small staff of housework helpers. When she allowed herself a break she would sit in her special chair with a clear view of the road for easy tracking of local comings and goings. She never sat down without picking up a handwork project. A true Victorian, she held the philosophy “Idle hands make the devil’s work.” All 10 grandchildren received full sized quilts entirely hand pieced, tied and bound. These often included lovely embroidery work of which she was a master.

Grandma was very prolific and produced countless works in needlepoint, embroidery, felt collage and quilting. She died at age 92 in 1990. At the time I was an art student, struggling to impress upon my professors that my increasing desire to “paint” in fabric was something they should take seriously. I’m grateful for her example and continuing influence. I continue to discover her work with fresh appreciation.

Sarah O. Green October 1 2008

I apologize for this sideways picture. Not sure why blogger turned it...and I tried to provide a sideways pic that they could then straighten but...
I had to include it anyway because look at those individual stitches that make up the little dogs shaggy fur - wonderful.
This Mother Goose quilt was the first quilt Grandma made for me as a very wee one. So wee that my mother packed it away when I was three so I never had a clear memory of it. Mom presented it to me again last January on my 40th birthday. I imagine the embroidery patterns were bought as a whole set. Check out the wonderful 1930s storybook font.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Entire Wall

Here's a sneak peek at my one person show, "Under the Influence...of My Grandmother," at the Blinking Light Gallery in Plainfield Vermont. The show opens today and runs through November 2nd.

Please join me at an artist reception on Saturday, October 11th from 3 -5 pm. In keeping with honoring my grandmother in this show I'll be serving Red Rose tea and her most requested sweeties: Snicker Doodles, Chess Tarts and Sea Foam Chews.
Call the gallery for directions: 802-454-0141.

Pictured here with me is my lovely assistant, Betsy Maddox, grower of scrumptious organic veggies at Spring Chicken Farm (call her now to reserve a 2009 CSA share 439-6921) and a sailor of a knot-tier. I knew I was coming to the right person to help me hang this show! I brought a lot of work and it's a rather small wall so it's all up there in the style that the paintings are hung at the Louvre in Paris. Actually, I have plenty that still didn't fit. You can see them here.

We spent the morning yesterday hanging the show with clotheslines suggested by the gallery display wizard, Joyce Cusimano (brilliant call - she get's me), and premium hardwood clothespins.

The clothespins I'm using are nothing less than Klos-Klips, "the kind that holds tight," made by the National Clothes Pin Company in Montpelier, Vermont. I mean they are Made in Vermont. It's not just some "VT Company" with goods made outside VT or the USA even.

Up a ladder and against a wall - the perfect place to demonstrate the usefulness of my kangaroo pocket Laundry Day Apron - currently in the R&D department at Mountain Ash Design. Slated to hit the market Spring 2009.
Included in the show is a quilt by my grandmother, Marion B. Curtis, and a wonderful studio portrait of she and my grandfather, Philip. I have a dream of someday curating a show entirely of her work. She was incredibly prolific and worked in almost every textile medium. In addition to hand piecing quilts, making many treasured felt Christmas ornaments, and becoming a master of embroidery, she hooked huge rugs and wove wool into cloth on a large loom. She then sewed the cloth into smart suits she wore to town and church. When I think of all she accomplished...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Autumn Treasury

We are having one of the best foliage seasons in years here in Central Vermont. I don't work much with maple tree reds, but Ereda Jewelry managed to find a Virtuous Baby Quilt of mine to include in her Etsy treasury of Vermont artists. Check out some the wonderful talent here in the Green Mountain State.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Stores and Boutiques

HotHolders have been going out into the wider world as of late. If you are up and down the Eastern US stop by the following shops and boutiques to see their selection of sustainably handmade and mostly pin-up potholders and other fine wares. Visit them on the web, too.

The Portsmouth Fabric Company at 112 Penhallow St, in Portsmouth. NH. Get your Swiss Bernina sewing machines here and they do servicing, too. (I love my 1031. I've had it since 1992 and it just gets better every year. Is that possible?) They also have a wide selection of designer quilting fabrics. If you are at a quilt festival look for the upcycled clementine box of HotHolders at their booth.

Opening soon: The Revue Boutique and Gallery at 138 E. Gay St in downtown West Chester, PA carrying an array of "edgy, eclectic and eco-friendly products" with customer service to match. That's my record of their order pictured above. They especially love that my products are made from mostly recycled materials. Me too!

Buffalo Gal Vintage in St. Petersburg, FL. They buy, sell and trade in elegant, mint condition vintage clothing. After you select your gorgeous outfit, you can take advantage of their in house pin-up photography service. Pretty cool, huh? Their new shop just opened earlier this month at 1219 Dr. MLK Jr. St. North so go check out their classy offerings of vintage clothing, home decor, gifts and accessories. Visit their original location at 1246 Central Avenue, too.

Detail Gallery at 54 Baltimore Ave. in Rehoboth Beach, DE. "A gallery for the home." They have what want for every room in your house, plus a great pet section. Stop by and meet Mirabell, the "crazy Boston terrier," who is the shop mascot and graces cards and artwork by resident collage artist Michael Muller and also their recycled, reusable shopping bags.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Apron Power!

From Vermont's own Bread and Puppet theater in Glover. Sent in by Chris Esten of the Green Reaper, who is an amazing grower and maker of beautiful botanical art.
These women - their aprons are part of what makes you take them so seriously. The power of the maternal arch type. The apron is such a strong symbol of the domestic sphere, in all it's idyllic calm and nurturing. Worth fighting and protesting for. Don't spoil it!

Monday, September 1, 2008

What Women Want

Based on my sales at the Mad River Valley Craft Fair on Labor Day weekend, women want Full Aprons. And I mean full, with bibs to protect your clothes up top. Half aprons, which I love designing and making - so cute - are considered more of an accessory and are not nearly as practical. That is fine, for it is no hardship for me to design and make the full model, and I'm sure glad I made a lot for this fair because by the end of Saturday the rack was looking pretty thin and I took a bunch of the half models home and sewed bibs on them Saturday night. Sunday sales were great, too.

As I'm just starting year 3 in this craft business endeavor I feel as if I've finally been given a strong signal from the market about what product I should focus on. Yay! It's quite a relief, really. Also, it hit me over the head that I make a lot more money putting the effort in to going to a craft fair than I do staying home, even with my etsy shop (at this stage - ain't gonna give up on that just yet).

So the etsy shop is pretty low on aprons at the moment, but look for an adorable retro-inspired selection at the Norwich Farmers Market on these Saturdays in September: the 6th (coming right up), the 20 and the 27th.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Labor Day

Well, the chickens are in the freezer, I've updated my grandmother's clothespin bag design, and many other exciting things are going on in my life:

My bee-loving son just had a first time allergic reaction (alarming) to a sting (his umpteenth); my 15th wedding anniversary was yesterday and my man bought me flowers for the first time (!) (I bought him a DVD of local sugaring operations circa 1993 from the Topsham Historical Society); my best bud is due to give birth at home in two weeks and the baby has officially dropped and I'm to attend the birth of this child - probably the most exciting thing that I'll ever experience save the births at home of my own two kids...

...and I guess I have to mention this since it's most relevant to this blog...

My biggest craft fair yet this year, The Mad River Valley Craft Fair, is tomorrow and Sunday (link on my sidebar). Please come by and see my new wares. I've been "chained to the sewing machine" for days. No, it wasn't all bad. I have to go through some artist-angst every once in a while to move ahead. Working out new aprons designs, makin' some great HotHolders of compelling creatures other than the usual pin-ups. I also kind of got into a major clothespin bag production jag. I now have many lined bags in many fabrics, but only 20 hooks for the weeks to come. I always want folks to have the broadest choices possible so instead of choosing the 20, I'm going to set up a Clothespin Bag Kit station (assembly by yours truly if you like). Kit includes the purchaser's choice of bag, 4 buttons, and a hand forged wrought iron hook. I had them especially made by etsy seller brokenanvil after I could no longer get these Polish made three-holers pictured above. These new ones have four holes, just like my grandmother's did. I've also cleared out my etsy shop (save for many HotHolders). All previously listed items are comin' with me to the fair.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Check out this Etsy treasury collection by Night Owl Creations called "The Young Men on Etsy." It includes someone I recognise and lots of people I'd like to meet ; >

Then stop by Night Owl Creations and check out Tess's beautiful jewelry:

She is so multi-talented! I saw her last weekend in a local community production of Romeo and Juliette in which she played both the lead parts at different times. Inspired.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Farmers Market Billfold featured on Etsy Finds

I love Etsy more and more each day. In fact, I'm changing my whole business plan to commit most of my energies to selling on this remarkable online markeplace for handmade goods. Here's why: My work is exposed to an incredibly broad geographic market; I meet all kinds of nice people and have satisfying interactions with them; I don't have to create displays, load said displays and goods into my car, and DRIVE all over the place (not that I've been willing to drive much beyond VT anyway) to sell my wares; I'm participating in what feels like a MOVEMENT that I can totally get behind. What amazing wonderful energy and work that's going on by Etsy members. Yahoo!
I haven't been at it long, but lately I've been putting in a lot of effort on my shop
and there's been some interesting activity lately. Yesterday I got a "conversation" (inter-etsy messages. they are anti spam and take measures so folks can't get or use your email) from Etsy insider, Anda, who emails a daily Etsy shopping guide to a subscriber base of 15,000 people saying this billfold would be featured today. Wow. How cool!
I quickly subscribed so I could get the email, but I couldn't copy all the nice photos for you here. Anyway, her's part of her text:

"July 22, 2008 I need to go to the grocery store, but this trillion-degree July weather has made the thought of even stepping outside for one second an unthinkable concept. Until I summon enough fortitude to brave the miserable heat with an armful of canvas totebags, I'm peering into my fridge hopefully (did food automagically appear yet?) and browsing grocery-themed Etsy items for you, friend:

"Supermarket Chic Shopping Bag
This is one of those Finds that I had a little debate with myself about—should I buy it? Or use it in the email? Someone will definitely buy it first if I do...but this shop deserves the recognition...until I eventually end up not only featuring the item, but also building an entire theme around it. The race is on, who will own this? At NeverEver, $10.
View item / View Shop / Add to Etsy Favorites

"Farmers Market Billfold, Checkbook Cover
My parents would also call this a billfold. I don't write many checks in these Internet Age days of ours except to pay my rent, but I lam still a voracious coupon clipper and this little wallet is a perfect organizer for those. Found at mountainashdesign, $16.
View item / View Shop / Add to Etsy Favorites "
And a bunch more wonderful items were included too. Too subscribe to Etsy Finds go to

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Handyman HotHotder Giveaway on the Kitchen Corners blog!

Hello everyone. One of the coolest things for me about having a shop on Etsy over the last few months has been the exposure I get to all kinds of cool people with other interesting endeavors underway. Like Damaris and her awesome food blog, Kitchen Corners.

I am teaming up with her next week to give away one of the esteemed gentlemen HotHolders featured on my Etsy shop and represented by the group pictured here on the left.

Want to win the giveaway?

Here's how:

Just go to my etsy shop, browse the HotHolders, choose your favorite tool-belt-wearing, hard-hat-donning, work-boot-sporting ideal kitchen helper (I know you can't always see these handsome accessories, but you can tell these guys apart from the other shirtless retro beach boys by the building plans in the background).

Then go to the Kitchen Corners blog and leave a comment by midnight of Tuesday July 22nd telling which is your favorite gent. A winner will be chosen at random. I just listed several more HotHolders featuring Steve, Tommy, Larson, Oscar and Chad so there are many sweeties to choose from. Have fun!

Monday, June 30, 2008

It's been a while. Things get so busy for me in the summer, and unfortunately it's not with swimming and gardening dates. I don't have my production flow down. After almost 2 years I still feel very new at this. I spend a lot of time throughout the year doing research, getting marketing opportunities and materials together, etc., etc... And now my outdoor vending season is about to begin on July 6th (at the Norwich Farmer's Market) and I need new inventory!

I've been really inspired and recently started making clothespin bags in a new design. The construction is simpler but I'm very happy with how they look. Also on the docket are "Laundry Day Aprons" based on a traditional design I saw in The Apron Book by Ellen Anne Geisel: the whole front is one large pocket for holding clothespins. I've been using one I bought from a competitor (for research purposes, but actually I'm a total fan of hers: and it's a great aid at the clothesline. I'm hoping the societal change in attitudes about energy/fuel conservation will have more folks inspired to hang out their laundry this summer. Nothing makes a task more pleasant than using beautiful tools. That's where I come in - aiming to increase your domestic bliss. My signature hostess aprons trimmed with shirt collars will have a few new twists later in the season, too. Stay Tuned!

Other products new this year are billfolds (see illustration A, above) and small quilts. "Virtuous Baby Quilts" made from all post-consumer pre-loved fabrics and 100% organic cotton batting. Eco-parenting at it's most cozy and gorgeous! I have so enjoyed composing these quilts. Well, the layout is quite simple, it's choosing the fabric combination that I love, love, love. It's been sort of like putting a family together, or a band(!). Each fabric was formerly a piece of clothing or had similar significant history and definite personality and connotations for me. I'd love to do some of these as custom quilts for new babies out of special cast off clothing provided by loved ones. One of the great things is that these fabrics have been pre-washed several times so the baby's skin won't come in contact with any of the harsh sizing and dyes and other chemicals new fabrics have on them.

Prices have come down on a few items as I've decided not to offer them wholesale. In fact, I'm thinking about price structure in a whole new way after getting to know
I've been hanging out on Etsy a lot lately; looking around to see what else is offered, reading the success stories, figuring out how my products can fit into it all,and of course, constantly readjusting my own shop ( I'm very optimistic about the possibilities for Mountain Ash Design, especially when I read about folks who sell on Etsy full time. I've been finding myself less and less willing to drive around to vending opportunities. Putting more of my efforts into selling on Etsy is right in line with my low-impact-on-the-Earth mission for my business. I'll have to do a whole post on Etsy soon. I've become a real cheerleader.

This morning I'm waiting for a delivery of firewood and soon after that I'm off for a day of errands that might include buying a new dress - oh boy! It's been a while since I had a new dress, but Revolution in WRJ is offering a deal if you bring in a wedding invitation. I think today's the last day.
Have a great week and 4th of July and come stop by the Sunday Craft Fair at the Norwich Farmer's Market on July 6th!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Happy Dog

I love this bright spring green color so much. It's so great to live in Vermont at this time of year. I've been enjoying it at it's most joyful verdant expression on my walks with the dog these last few weeks. I think we may only have a couple more weeks of this effect as the sun shines through the leaves before they become thicker and darker green. This color has really inspired my work for most of the past year.

This wonderful bamboo fabric came from my neighbor (I had enough to also use in a few aprons). I've incorporated it, and some other choice pieces with variations on spring green, into some of the small quilts I've been making. Here are some pictures of the first batch of said quilts. The latest batch, including more green-and-blue than green-and-pink, is at the quilter's right now, but will hopefully be back in time for me to sew on the bindings and take to the consignment shop at the Vermont Quilt Festival June 27 - 29.

On the right:
Many interesting vintage and recycled fabrics and possibly the last stripe from my previous orange phase.

These green flowers were cut from what I can only think to call a Tiki shirt: It had the total vibe of a souvenir shirt you'd wear at the Tiki bar on a tropical vacation. Lost its shirt form along with a few other shirts to make this quilt, which is mostly borders around borders.

More along the pink-and-green theme, with some sweet equally Spring-like yellow flowers on the back, bordered in blue/yellow business shirting.

Are other folks excited about particular colors? Are there certain colors you are always looking for, drawn to, find yourself using or wearing? What's your ideal pallet?

News from the homestead (warning: the following contains several off-hand comments about chicken death):
Remember those cute little black balls of fluff I posted about in April? Here they are 7 weeks later - hanging out in the chill spot under the trees and getting a visit from the geese (guard animals). They are a pleasure to take care of: so good-looking and full of vigor and personality. Richard commented today, "I hope they're tender." This is an issue. The Cornish Cross Rocks ("staggering blobs of flesh" I call them) grew (the ones that lived) to be SO big and were mighty tasty and tender. Actually our "mortality rate" with them was about what the chick suppliers tell us to expect, only I want a zero mortality rate, until they are ready to harvest. On that day we can expect a 100% mortality rate! These hardier Kosher Kings might not be as tender. Our localvore/omnivore friends are all observing our experiment with interest. The chicken tractor is off to the right, on this little hill overlooking our place where we also put in a new garden this year. You can hear the birds singing in the woods behind.

... .... Care to comment on my mash-up of descriptions of idyllic rural life and morbid comments about farm animals? Can you relate? ...or no?
(It's okay if you can't. I'm certainly not here to preach a certain lifestyle, just to chronicle what's going on around here.)
So...Wish I would leave these food-raising tangents out of my craft blog?
Inquiring minds want to know!