Friday, October 28, 2016

Things I Love Thursday: Up North Edition

I've lived in Michigan for my entire life, so I know its going to sound crazy when I say this, but it's been over a decade since I've traveled any further north than Grand Rapids. When my mother in law called me a couple of weeks ago to see if I wanted to join her for a mini 'color tour' and a visit to the Gwen Frostic studios in Benzonia, MI I didn't hesitate at all before saying yes.

I was really lucky to have had an incredible art department in High School, including bookmaking courses which I took as many of as they would let me. Our bookbinding courses also covered some side projects where we learned things like photo transfers and linocut or block printing. (You can see a lot of the resonance of those early classes in some of my current work). One of the examples my teacher shared with us was a book of block prints by Gwen Frostic. At the time, I had no idea who Gwen Frostic was, and probably didn't remember her name past that semester, but her nature inspired work gave me all sorts of good feels, and I carried a vague memory of that with me for years to come.

When I first moved to Kalamazoo, I spent many a weekend driving around Southwest Michigan going to estate sales on weekends. Since I was majoring in creative writing, and have always been a huge reader, I would paw through the bookshelves at all of the sales looking for beautiful old copies of books I loved. At one of these sales, I accidentally came across several copies of Gwen Frostic poetry volumes, which are printed on deckled edge papers and vellum, some with sheer overlays, and chock full of her gorgeous natural imagery. I didn't know these books existed, and was instantly in love. I have gradually found a few more since then, and probably own 6 or 7 volumes in total.

It wasn't until 2-3 years ago that a friend clued me in to the fact that Gwen Frostic Studios is still open and running (though sadly the artist has long since passed). Her home in Benzonia is just a few hours north of Kalamazoo, and is truly a magical place to visit. Her house and studios are built into a hill, with a sod roof, and look very much like a real life hobbit house. There is a beautiful bubbling fountain just inside the door, stone walls, wood beams, and tiny pieces of colored glass embedded in the walls. The concrete floors have animal footprints running through them!


You can purchase all sorts of treats in the shop, including some of her books, a multiple sizes of calendars, with a new sew of images every year, cards and postcards, wrapping paper, notebooks, and more.


I ended up buying a lot of Christmas gifts, a ton of cards because I couldn't decide which ones I wanted, and a previous years Calendar. The one thing I was a little disappointed in was that there weren't any larger prints that could be framed as all art. The out of date Calendar I bought is a bit larger, so I am going to take it apart and frame a couple of the prints from it.

When we left Gwen Frostic, we saw a sign for an 'Alpaca Boutique' anyone who knows me, knows I am over the moon for Alpacas. It turns out my travel companions are totally fine with random stops along the way, so we visited some fluffy friends and came away with a few pairs of the worlds softest socks. I didn't manage to get any pictures of the babies, but this particular farm had 11 new babies this summer alone!

















When we left the Alpaca farm it was time for afternoon coffee, so we (myself, mother in law, and grandmother in law) headed to one of their favorite spots for a snack: The Cherry Hut.


Everything about this place was super cute and retro, and I was really excited to see that their paper place mats are custom made for them down at the Gwen Frostic studio! I also didn't mind enjoying a hot mug of coffee and one of their famous slices of Michigan Cherry pie!

After the Cherry Hut, it was still early enough in the day that we thought we might be able to make it up to the top of the peninsula above Traverse City, and enjoy more of the gorgeous fall colors. We drove up along the coast, all the way to the top of the Peninsula and got out to walk along the beach in front of the Mission Point Lighthouse. The temperature had dropped pretty dramatically, but the skies were mostly clear and the view was fantastic!


After the light house we drove south again, stopping at a roadside stand to buy lavendar infused honey, at a vineyard with a view, and eventually ending at out AIRBNB in Irons. All in all it was a perfect one-day road trip that I can't wait to do again.

Possibly my favorite part of the trip was actually a brief stop we made at a farm market on our way back to Kalamazoo on Sunday. I couldn't believe how much produce they had, and the prices were INSANE. I got a blooming potted mum and three decorative pumpkins for our front porch, an entire bushel of assorted squash for eating, and TWENTY POUNDS of parsnips for under $13.00 total. The place was in Newaygo, an hour and half drive from home, and I plan to make a trip there every fall!


I used a ton of the Acorn squash for a catering job last night, which hopefully I will post about next week. If you ever have the opportunity to duplicate my trip, I hope you do! It was an easy two day trip, packed full of beautiful views.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Fall Friends, New for 2015

I designed a full range of forrest creatures for fall this year! There are a few returning friends from last year (the squirrels made from vintage polyester fabrics, the big badger, and the little wool owls) but otherwise everything is brand spankin' new! Here's the full lineup:

From left to right: Owl made from vintage wool fabrics, 'Bigger Badger', Hector the Hedgehog, Randall the Raccoon, Marsha the Mole (with glasses), Stuart the Squirrel, Marvin the Mole, North American Brown Bear, Larger Sweater Snail, Franklin the Fox, Sasha the Skunk, the mini sweater snail, cork and recycled sweater mushrooms, and Harold the Hare.



North American Brown Bear is made from vintage chocolate brown velveteen with real leather on the soles of his feet, his nose, and the inside of his ears.

Sasha the squirrel is made from vintage polyester fabric.


Franklin the fox is two contrasting faux suede fabrics. he has a leather nose and a colorful 'burlap' bow tie.

Harold the Hare is made from a vintage wool plaid blanket, with appliqued eye patches, and a hand made pom pom tail.

Hector the hedgehog! Faux fur and vintage wool, with safety eyes.

I still haven't gotten a great picture of the moles, but they are made from scraps of vintage wool, with pink wool noses and feet. Marsha has wood-framed glasses.

Randall the Raccoon is vintage black and white houndstooth wool. He has a black wool 'mask' a burgundy wool scarf, and a very dapper top hat!


Sasha the skunk is made from recycled black wool, with pink wool accents. She has a pink nose, and her tail his scented with lavender! 

The sweater snail was made using a scrap of recycled wool sweater, that I hand embroidered the facial features onto. Her shell is made of a long tube that knitted using a crank style knitting machine, that is then stuffed and hand sewn into a spiral.

This itty-bitty snail is made the same way as her large counterpart, but the shell is i-cord made with a hand held spool knitter. she is only 2.5 inches tall!

The fall friends will be available at all of our upcoming fall and holiday craft shows, starting with the Independent's Day festival in Columbus, OH the second week in September, and Art Hop at our beloved Bookbug here in Kalamazoo the first Friday in November!
If you would like to see our fall friends from 2014, you can find the post about them here, or want to place an order with us, check our our Etsy page. Feel free to send us an Etsy email if you'd like to order something that hasn't been listed in the online shop yet!

Farm Stand Update!

I've been gradually adding to the farm stand all summer, which is sometimes difficult since I committed to making the fruits, veggies, etc, ONLY out of recycled fabrics. This means that even if I really want to make cauliflower, it can't happen until I find something suitable that can be recycled into the object I'm wanting to make. The one exception to this so far is that the new pasta options are made from new eco felt, since I couldn't find something suitable in that color.


The fill farm stand now includes: rainbow trout, free range chickens and eggs, bowtie pasta and ravioli, clementines, mushrooms, bicolor sweet corn, kiwi fruits (which look a bit like potatoes in this photo), carrots, heirloom tomatoes in assorted varieties, slices of cantaloupe melon, Detroit red beets, yellow and green squash, eggplants, soft pretzels, strawberries, purple and green asparagus, pickles, and pineapples (my personal favorite). 


The chicken and eggs are the newest addition to the farm stand, having literally been made in between photo shoots yesterday! Our sweet hen is made from vintage houndstooth cotton, and a scrap of red wool from an old skirt. she has machine quilted wings and tail, and child safe eyes. The eggs are needle felted and made from raw un-dyed wool from a farm in Allegan, Michigan.


The bow tie pasta and ravioli are both made from new eco-felt, which is made from recycled post consumer plastics.



I really love the pineapples, which were made from a vintage woven wool table cloth, and have varying shades of handmade pom pom toppers. I weighted them a little bit in the bottom of each one so they truly feel like a real pineapple!


The crate of clementines is also new, and they were all made from a textured fleece sport jacket. 

Most of the play food can be found in our Etsy shop, and is only available in limited quantities. Since each variety is made from recycled fabrics, once they are sold out, they're gone forever!

Creature Feature!

I think I have more new projects in the works for fall 2015 than I have for any other fall season yet! I'm really excited to be branching out and working on some brand new accessory options, and hopefully a limited edition line of children's clothing and shoes this year. When I made the set of clothes and accessories for a baby shower gift a few months ago, I enjoyed the process so much that I couldn't go back to only making toys.

I started off by making a set of sleep masks with a creature theme. I've always been a huge fan of naps, but I also enjoy having a lot of natural light in my bedroom to help me wake up in the morning. Lately, I've found it difficult to fall asleep for a nap, since there is so much sunlight in our bedroom in the afternoon. I started using sleep masks and I LOVE them. There's no reason to have a plain one when it could be something cute, and why have just one when you could have a whole set?



The fox mask is made from a scrap of vintage orange wool, with machine embroidered eyes and a leather nose.

The owl mask is made from a scrap of vintage burgundy velveteen with appliqued scraps of vintage wool and large plastic buttons.

The cat is vintage wool fabric in sage green, with machine embroidered features and faux leather accents in ultra-pale pink.

The bear is a gorgeous chocolate brown woven vintage wool with machine embroidered eyes and real leather ear and nose features,

When I made the tiny little shoes for the baby gift this past spring, I got totally addicted to making mini shoes for mini feet. I have a lot of vinyl on hand from years of making coin purses, so I decided to design the line of animal shoes I've always wished I had in my own closet. I used the animal themes from the eye masks as a jumping-off point for what creatures should be featured in the shoe designs, and ended up with this set of 6 pairs:


The raccoons are vegan leather in silver with dark purple and white accents, and black rhinestone eyes.

The owls are burgundy vegan leather with accents in sage green, bright yellow, and eggplant purple, and black rhinestone eyes.

The fox shoes are a patterned vegan leather in orange, with bronze and beige accents, and black rhinestone eyes.

The cats are black vegan leather with gold accents, machine embroidered whiskers, and silver rhinestone eyes.

The bears are bronze vegan leather with gold glitter accents and black rhinestone eyes.

The bunnies are ultra pale pink vegan leather with magenta accents and black rhinestone eyes.

There are a few modifications I would like to make to a couple of the pairs (mostly I'm not 100% satisfied with the cat shoes, and would like to go back and revisit that design) and I have a handful of other animal shoes I would like to try out as well (I'm already working on frog shoes!); but I really love the first set, and wish they all came in my size! These will be up on Etsy soon, in a range of baby and maybe toddler sizes, as soon as I finish drafting the pattern for each individual size.

Block Printing!

I've been frying my brain the past few weeks developing new ideas for the fall and holiday show season, and I find that the best way to relax and unwind is to do some sort of methodical repetitive task. In the past I have enjoyed such things as washing dishes and folding laundry, but I recently re-discovered block printing, and it's totally my jam now. 

I started with making 'The Cat's Pajamas' because there's nothing better than an art project and a bad joke rolled into one. I carved my own stamp, modified an already existing pattern for the underwear, and drafted my own racer back tank pattern based on a hodgepodge of tops I already own and like. The grey set is made out of a fabric I bought at a discount fabric store on the east side of the state, and the orange set is made from an XXL men's golf shirt I bought at a thrift store and re-purposed.





I used a black and white four-way stretch knit for the waist band and leg openings, and then made matching cat face masks out of a glittery  sequined boucle sweater knit. The cat mask for the orange set is backed with a scrap of orange silk taffeta, and the other is backed in black quilting cotton. All of the garment seams were serged or finished with a double needle appropriate for stretch knits. I have lots of plans for more sets with other prints and patterns, and I'm hoping to have these up on Etsy within the next week.

The second stamp I carved was a saguaro cactus. I plan on making a 'prickly pair' top and bottom set with it, but in the meantime I started by taking apart a thrifted suede skirt and printing some panels that I used to make a fold over leather clutch purse. It's fully lined, and I printed it using a specialty stamp pad that's loaded with fabric ink. 






I'm keeping my eye out for more suede or leather garments I can take apart to make more clutches! I currently only have two of these bags available, and they will be for sale this Friday at The Go Roundss new album release show here in Kalamazoo. If either of them are left after that, I will toss them up on Etsy!