Monday, December 30, 2013

sometimes things fall into place

I've been thinking a lot about changes I'm making to my business and how that will effect things in 2014, my resolutions are usually things like getting better organized, etc. My primary focus lately has been getting a better grasp on my crafty finances (especially not waiting until tax time each year to even think about it, ugh), and getting some killer photos of my new work. Because the new work will all be one of a kind I will be doing a lot of photographing and I really need a set up I can manage on my own, something simple within my limited skill set, but which produces good quality photos. When I look back on my early Etsy listings the photos are laughably bad, over the years I figured a few things out and I feel like my photos are ok, but I'm still a long way from the quality of the photos that I see on the Etsy front page every day.

So to recap: Resolution #1: crafty finances. Resolution #2: improve my photo skills.

Well friends, today some magic happened. First I noticed this class at Craftland.

More info on this class here...
I signed up immediately. Then, over on Instagram, I noticed my friend Sue of Giant Dwarf post about an 8 week online course focusing on lighting for photography!! And it's on sale, half off until tomorrow! YES! So, obviously I signed up for that too.

more info on this class here...

I'm going to start the photo class later this week, so I will post about about my progress here. So excited for 2014!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

On creativity...

Sometimes creativity is such a struggle, sometimes it flows so easily, unstoppable, and that's when you know it's true and good and real. When it just pours out of you and it's all you can think about. I think for any creative type that's the moment we're all searching for. I've felt kind of lost for the past few years creatively, burnt out after a couple of pretty successful years of etsy sales, craft shows and a handful of loyal wholesale customers. It was fun, but my heart just wasn't in it any more, but with no idea what to do next I just kept plugging along.

During that time I gathered inspiration in expected and unexpected places, I was inspired by friends and fellow crafters, but at times it was hard not to let jealousy get the best of me. It's hard to feel like you've lost your way and then see people that continually crank out fresh, new ideas. Then the more you try to force yourself to have an idea the worse the ideas are when they finally come. Sometimes, to amuse myself, I would write "have an amazing idea" on my to do lists. 

I never checked that one off. 

Then, suddenly, everything fell into place. Roads that I wouldn't have thought even traveled the same lands started to intersect. My creative vision sharpened and I finally had an idea. A good one. As it started to solidify I could see all the influences that had brought me to that moment so clearly, yet the thing itself is something totally different. I can trace the roots of the inspiration of this new endeavor back to a 1980's bananrama record, a page torn from an early 90s fashion magazine, a tank top I bought at one of the first craft shows I did by a maker that I can't even remember the name of, and other, smaller things, moments in time, brief seconds from a nature documentary. 

So now I'm fully immersed in this, I'm using skills that I learned 15 years ago in college (that feels so good!). My heart has always been in textiles and this feels like a real homecoming. To get started properly I needed to completely revamp the way I had previously been working. The new project involves dying and despite taking extreme care in my kitchen I quickly realized it was no place for mixing dyes and chemicals. Lucky for us we have a huge basement with a great, big work sink so I set up shop down there. I have a ground level view of our backyard and the meadow beyond, a real squirrel's eye view. What I really needed was a padded craft table like the long print tables I remembered from college. Something I could pin textiles to for dying.

The first photo shows my old drafting table in it's normal state. I bought enough carpet padding (second photo) to do two layers on top of the table. It cost 25 cents per square foot at Home Depot, a real bargain for only $6 total. I topped that with a layer of quilt batting, because I had some laying around. Next I needed a fabric cover. Initially I planned on going to Jo-Ann and buying some canvas, but I made a bittersweet decision to use the table cloth that I've been using at craft shows for the past 8 years. I've flung this piece of cloth over so many tables, in so many cities and it's been a great backdrop for my products. Now that my business is making such a huge shift it seems fitting that I will need a whole new look for shows so this seemed like a good use for this piece of fabric, even though it was sad to take scissors to it. The last photo shows after I had trimmed it with a few inches of overhang on each side and used a staple gun to secure it tightly to the bottom of the table. It came out so good and will be the perfect work surface.

And look! Those are my T pins from college! Hence why they have my name written on them. I'm so excited to be using so many items and skills from my past to create this new product. I'm still deep in testing and prototypes, but working toward to complete overhaul of my etsy shop and launch of new product on February first. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Coffee Talk

I can so vividly remember the first time I drank coffee. It wasn't to try to experience something grown up, but rather for the very same reason I did most of the things I did as a teenager - simply because my friends were doing it. Also, I was freezing. We stopped at the Dunkin' Donuts that was about a quarter of the way on our long, cold walk to school. At this time I was spending a lot of nights sleeping at other people's houses on school nights and going to punk shows. The friend's house that I would sleep over at most frequently lived on Smith Hill which was about 2 miles from our high school in Fox Point. We were such a strange mix of rebel kids going to punk shows (underage) on school nights, but then diligently waking up (on time) for school the next day, walking all the way in the cold. The fact that we were wearing the same clothes as the night before, the same clothes that we slept in that night, was of little concern. Each one of those mornings I turned my tights around so that the baggy knees were behind me, and that there's a metaphor for life, people.

So there I was, freezing, in a Champion sweatshirt (a poor excuse for a proper winter jacket), a miniskirt, tights (turned backwards) and boots. Not cozy boots, mind you, like the kids now wear, ice cold Doc Martins. A shaved head (no hat), sipping my new best friend, coffee - done up RI style - extra extra, because let's face it, that's where we all started, right?

We walked by the State House and I ripped down a poster from the show the night before, the sugary, hot drink in hand, my friends by my side, I was ready for school.

Here I am once I had wised up and acquired not only a jacket, but a scarf and hat, in the old, downtown bus station. Not pictured: coffee.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Honeymoon From Hell

I've heard it said that a honeymoon from hell pretty much seals the deal for a happy marriage. As far as I can tell this is true.

Last Tuesday was my nine year wedding anniversary. Despite having the dreamiest wedding ever we pretty much narrowly survived the honeymoon.
This looks like it could be a stock photo of a tropical paradise, but it's just one that I snapped from the balcony of our hotel room in Barbados.

The Day after our delightful Barbados wedding we bade goodbye to the friends and family that had traveled that long journey with us and boarded a tiny plane to fly the short distance to Dominica (the least developed of all the Caribbean islands) where we had an adventurous honeymoon planned. As we left sunny Barbados it began to rain. By the time we were nearing Dominica it was pouring, and as the tiny island came into view, lush jungle covered by dense fog, I was like, "Holy shit. We're honeymooning in Jurassic Park." The airplane landed on what was the shortest runway I have ever seen, in real life or a movie. In the airport someone remarked that it was lucky we had the pilot we did, because most would never try to land under these conditions. Already feeling like we survived something we headed off, a little giddy, to retrieve our rental car. The plan was to drive the rental car to the cottage that we had rented for the week, which was about an hour away.

That was the plan anyway.

It was early evening by the time we had gotten the car and set off on our journey and the sun was setting. It was still pouring. The streets were incredibly narrow, hard to believe that they're even two-way. In many places the road is on the side of a mountain so that on your left is a steep uphill and on your right is a sheer drop off into the jungle. I remember thinking that if we went off the road no one would ever find us. As our luck would have it the place we did go off the road was just a muddy ditch and not a cliff. It happened fast, a car was approaching us, speeding along, leaving us no room on the narrow road and so as to avoid a head on collision we swerved and crashed into the ditch. Freaked out, but unhurt, we stepped out into the pouring rain to assess the damage. Once flat tire, whole side of car caked with mud. Tom insisted I, the new bride, wait in the car. As much as I didn't want to cry it was hard to hold back tears as I watched Tom in this rainy, dark, unfamiliar landscape change the tire. Once the spare was on we managed to get the car out of the ditch (thank god for 4 wheel drive). We were so shaken up (and only a short 15 minutes into our hour long drive) that we decided to drive back to the airport, return the rental car and get a taxi to take us to the cottage. When we arrived at the airport it was closed. Closed! Airports close? Tiny, tropical island ones do. Getting lucky again the rental car guy just happened to see us driving towards the airport on his way home and turned around to see what was wrong. We told him we couldn't drive. We needed a taxi. He said there were none, maybe in the morning? We offered him cash to drive us himself. He was quick to agree, but would have to stop home on the way to tell his family why he would be so late for dinner. Feeling a little guilty but incredibly relieved, we set off. As we drove deeper and deeper into the jungle we were more and more thankful that we didn't have to navigate this route ourselves in the twisting, turning, pitch dark night. When we finally arrived at our jungle honeymoon hideaway we were greeted by our friendly German hostess, "Welcome to Rainbow Village!" She showed us to our cottage and, having had to pee since we left Barbados I made a beeline to the bathroom. Feeling great, finally at ease in our destination with a newly empty bladder - I flushed the toilet.

And it overflowed all over the tiny cottage.

After that was fixed and cleaned up we quite literally collapsed in bed and feel asleep, exhausted and soothed by the strange sounds of unfamiliar birds and insects coming in through the open windows. We awoke the next morning, our first real day in Dominica, to a breakfast of eggs and fresh avocado that was picked from trees on the property. It was a heavenly moment, but we were both still harboring unspoken doubts about this choice of a adventurous honeymoon.

Not having a car left us with no way to get around so we asked our host for her advice. She offered us her driver for the day, but he was also the school bus driver for all the village children so we'd have to work around that pick up and drop off schedule. Late that morning he picked us up and dropped us off at the jungle tram tour that we had planned for that day. Riding the tram through the jungle was spectacular. The flora and fauna were breathtaking, and that alone seemed to make the trip worthwhile, at least for those moments.
View from the aerial jungle tram. One of the thirteen photos we took in the day and a half that we spent in Dominica. This pretty well captures the whole, dense fog, lush jungle thing.
After the tram ride, we headed back to the deserted parking lot, alone, and not really sure when, or even if, our driver would be coming for us. I had an overwhelmingly sinking feeling. Despite the raw beauty of this place it just didn't feel like a honeymoon, which to me was supposed to be time to relax and really enjoy each other. We wanted adventure but we got more survival than we bargained for. I sat on the hot, cracked pavement and absentmindedly brushed my fingers back and forth across the leaves of a sensitive plant that, upon feeling my touch, closed all of its leaves.

Our driver did come for us finally and brought us back to our cottage, but not before we glimpsed some real crazy shit on the drive; including, but not limited to, a three-legged dog walking with a man who had a shotgun nonchalantly slung over his shoulder. When we got back to the cottage I said, "What if we just went back to Barbados?" Tom looked surprised, "Could we? How?" I wasn't sure how, but the hell if I wasn't gonna try.

The telephones in Dominica were not like the telephones here, sometimes you got a connection, but most times not. Add to that the fact that our cottage didn't even have a phone so we had to go ask to use our host's phone. First I called our hotel in Barbados. They were surprised to hear from me, but less surprised to hear that we weren't happy in Dominica. She told me that the hotel was booked, my heart sank momentarily until, through the crackle, I heard her say, "but just come back, honey. We'll figure something out for you." I was so happy I could cry. Next call: the airport. You know, the one that closes at the end of the day? It was getting close to what I figured was closing time and I could not get a connection on the phone. Finally, after 20 agonizing minutes, I got through. I explained the changes I wanted to make to our flights, she said it would cost me... I braced myself... it was about the equivalent of sixty US dollars.


By that time it was night again, and feeling like we survived another day, again collapsed in bed, but this time knowing that first thing in the morning we would be on our way back to our beloved Barbados. By noon the next day I was back lounging on the beach, toes in the coral sand, looking our over the most amazing blue-green sea, double fisting rum drinks (it was happy hour!) The most joyous feeling was permeating every fiber of my being.

This was the best example of "taking the bull by the horns" that I've successfully accomplished. Financially it was kind of a disaster to swich around our accommodations like that, and the German lady wasn't too thrilled with us leaving, but for us it was TOTALLY worth it. We would have plenty of times for adventures, but a honeymoon should be about relaxing and enjoying each other. So we high-fived each other, kissed, and sipped our rum drinks, all four of them.
Rich, Tom, me, Samantha, Vikki. 12.3.04

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Robot Paper Dolls!

I have always loved paper dolls and thought it would be fun to change it up a little - with robots!

Supplies needed

Good, sharp scissors
Bone folder (not totally necessary, but good for making nice, sharp folds.
Tiny hole punch (again, not totally necessary, but makes great details like eyes and buttons
An assortment of fun papers (I used some old wrapping paper, kraft paper, graph paper and a bright colored printer paper. (Be sure to trim all the papers to 8.5 x 11 if they're not standard printer size)

First you'll use my handy dandy template to print the guidelines onto the backs of your papers. Next cut along the dashed lines and accordion fold on the vertical guidelines. Carefully snip around the outline of the robot, the mouth and chest piece. Next punch out the eyes and buttons and then carefully unfold and flatten! A little bit of tape behind the hands can string these little buddies together. Hope you like them! 

Saturday, December 7, 2013


For a long time I've wanted to switch directions with my crafty business (heatherjeany). I love printing, but I just really feel like I need something new and fresh. I had this wish list of qualifications that I would want this (unknown) new direction to meet. Practical things like; good profit margin, not needing a large, dedicated workspace (ie something I could do at home, and preferably not in the basement), and something that I could work on in small chunks of time. I also had some loftier goals like wanting to use locally sourced materials (less online bulk supply buying), and this vague notion of wanting to take something old and breathe new life in it. I love the idea of taking old, forgotten things and making them into beautiful new treasures. For at least the past year I've had this overwhelming urge to visit this certain antique store, sure that I would find the answer to my crafty conundrum there. Every time I tried to go they were closed, but lo and behold I think I had the answer all along, right under my nose. I just had to shift my thinking a little. I'm super excited about this new endeavor and can't wait to share more details about it, I have a great feeling about 2014. For now it will be a secret because it's such a tiny sprout of an idea, but stay tuned....

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Help, Computer

Whenever times are tough I always have my personal short-list of the funniest things on the internets. My list is probably different from yours, but I'd love to know what your top 5 are, we could probably all use some laughs. Most of mine are from my far away past of being a textile designer, which was my dream job, but as dreamy as it was the fact remained that it still was an 8-5 office job, so when we all got computers (this was long before smart phones) all hell broke loose. It's incredible that we got any work done. Anyway, without further ado, let's go.

#1 G.I. Joe PSAs

I've watched all of these SO many times and it's one of those things that I feel like will make me laugh forever. I can imagine myself as a super old lady still laughing about body massages. It was my friend Mike who first turned me on to these, way back when they were only available on the Fenslerfilm website where they were just presented as a numerical list; 001, 002, 003, etc. Now they're all over the place. THANK GOD. I'm linking to the original site 'cause it makes me happy.
Favorite line: "Porkchop sandwiches!""Help Computer"

#2 X-Entertainment Advent Calendar

I can't remember how I originally discovered the X-E website, but when I saw that they were doing a daily story based on a Playmobil advent calendar for the month of December I was hooked. I would wait anxiously every morning for that day's entry to be posted. I followed along with the story with the same insatiable hunger that I imagine was felt by 80s housewives about General Hospital. So may twists and turns! What would happen next!! Here is a link to the history of their Playmobil advent calendar, I got hooked in 2002, but 2003 (while ridiculously annoying to read) is probably the funniest.
Key Characters: Mare Winningham(s) & Mista Snowman

#3 Teen Girl Squad

Homestar Runner came to me by way of one of my college best friends, Vic. Vic was my main source of studio couch naps, super strong coffee, Tom Waits, and crazy humor. Quotes from Teen girl Squad still make their way regularly into my daily speech. 
Best quote: "ARROWED!"

#4 Drinking Out of Cups

What the fuck can I say about this. Another bit of internet madness that has imbedded itself into my way of speaking on a daily basis. It's ridiculous, it makes no sense. It's perfect. 
Favorite line: "Not my chair, not my problem."

#5 the Viking Kittens

 Rather Good was another one of those websites I spent way too much time on when I was supposed to be designing textiles. whoops. This video was eventually removed from the site, I guess for copyright, but you can still find it floating around here and there.

I've been working on this post on and off all day and have "these are a few of my fav-o-rite things" stuck in my head the whole time. Thank god Led Zeppelin was there to erase it. 

So, what are your top 5? Maybe they're newer than 2002! hahaha

Monday, December 2, 2013

DIY painted floor

When we bought our house (a former chicken farmer's residence) in the summer of 2012 it needed a LOT of work. While the house it self was structurally in great shape, pretty much every surface needed attention, all walls, floors and ceilings. The most ambitious undertaking was the kitchen floor. The house is a typical 1930s cape, hardwood floors throughout, original unpainted wood trim, cute built in cabinets, etc. We managed to clean up and finish all the floors except the kitchen which was covered in a super gross linoleum. We took down a wall between the tiny kitchen and the dining room which did wonders to open up the space and set to work on that linoleum. We crossed our fingers we would find the same wood floor as the rest of the house when we started ripping that linoleum out, but no such luck. It was a wood floor, more like a sub floor made of planks, but not the same as the rest of the house. We considered all our options; putting in a new wood floor, tile, etc. but ultimately decided on paint. I had always loved a pained wood floor, and with my textile design background I was excited at the prospect of painting a patterned floor. I looked at lots of references online (so many good ones on Houzz!!) and started sketching on graph paper. I LOVE graph paper. We decided on a little geometric pattern of circles and I went to work measuring the floor and laying out the pattern on paper.
Here's a pretty good "before" picture, at this point we had just ripped out all the horrible old cabinets and moved out the appliances. On our side was the fact that it's a pretty small kitchen.
For the paint we used Behr heavy duty porch & patio. I measured out where the edge of the floor would land (since the pattern would stop when it reaches the pretty hardwood floor of the diningroom and laid down the first color, a creamy white.
These photos make the kitchen look ridiculously tiny, but in fact it is about 10' X 11' And man, did that white go down nicely!! Here's a pretty detail of the edge.

Now to keep the cat off of it until the next morning... Next step was the first of the two colors we chose for the pattern, we bought a gallon of a golden caramel color that we thought would compliment the natural hardwoods and then I mixed a bit of that with white to make the third color.
Here's where I ran into a major problem and almost ended up crying and drinking wine all night on the unfinished floor. I laid the pattern out by making a chalk line grid (you know those cool, snappy chalk line string things?) and then penciled in the circles using a template I made out of cardboard. I meticulously drew all those circles starting in the far corner. MISTAKE. When I got to the pretty edge where paint meets hardwood I realized that I was off on the pattern because I had started with a full circle instead of a half circle on the far wall. MATH. DAMN YOU! So, I resisted the urge to drink and cry and got a white eraser (you remember them from art school, right?) and I erased. the. whole. floor. Let me tell you it was an arm workout to be reckoned with. Then I redrew it correctly. then I pained it, freehand with a brush. Then I passed out for the night. Next, the last color!
DONE! Well sort of. After the final paint color we polyurethaned the hell out of it. In the year since this project was completed it's managed to hold up really well, I only wish we would have taken the time to actually do more coats of poly than we did (I think we did two). But I love it and get so many compliments on it. In the last year we've also done a full Ikea kitchen (our second), but that's a story for another time.....

Here's a photo of the painted floor, one year later + (nearly) finished Ikea kitchen.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Let's talk about CHiPPi, baby.

Today was an eventful day. December first, rainy Sunday, family day. We decided on New Bedford, The Whaling City, as our destination and walked the endless aisles of bathtubs, radiators, old doors, windows, sinks, mantelpieces, and random old junk that is New England Demolition and Salvage. When you own an old house like we do a place like NEDS is heaven on earth. There are signs posted everywhere that say No Pictures, but I (like I imagine everyone else) sneaked a few.

NEDS was fun and interesting, but the real highlight of our day came when we discovered something called the CHiPPi. Shrouded in mystery and instantly cringe-inducing with it's senseless mixing of upper and lowercase letters, the CHiPPi was not something I could ignore. I have a long history of loving to hate things and i had a strong feeling that this was going to be my new thing to love to hate. So let's backtrack a bit. We stumbled on the home of the CHiPPi (Mirasol's Café) while driving by, hungry and looking for a place to get a quick bite. As we waited for our food I was shocked by the volume of people coming in and all ordering the same thing. As a coffee shop owner, it wasn't the number of people coming and going, but the fact that 9 out of 10 of them all ordered the same thing! Something that wasn't even prepared individually, something poured out of a gallon jug! The people ordering were of all ages, all genders, all walks of life. Some even ordered it by the GALLON ($35!)! When our waitress brought our food, I excitedly (truthfully on the verge of a low blood sugar hysteria) exclaimed, "WHAT THE FUCK IS A CHiPPi?!?!?!" Somehow I managed to hold back the F bomb, but it was implied. She replied that it was their signature iced coffee drink and while she didn't know exactly what was in it she assured us it has "tons of caffeine." We spent our lunch in a giddy state of laughter over this mystery drink that looked like it was made with 90% heavy cream. It makes a Dunkies "extra extra" look like a black iced coffee. We decided that, as fellow coffee shop owners and caffeine connoisseurs, it was our duty to try one of these milky, caffeine and sugar bombs. I ordered a small ($3.50) and ran out to the car so we could taste test in private. We each took a tentative sip....


Like literally. I cannot stress this enough. It's coffee milk.

Determined to get to the bottom of this I started googling immediately. When I placed the order the woman at the counter helping me was very stand-offish and guarded when I tried to ask her exactly what was in it. I later realized that she totally stuck to the script. "Is it essentially an iced latte? Is there espresso in it?" "No, it's not at all like an iced latte." Her quick answer included the phrases "secret ingredient" and "signature iced coffee drink" and "tastes like melted coffee ice cream." just the same as the interview with the owner that I would later find when I started googling in the car. He even goes on to say it's a "complicated two day process" and even revealed the origin of the name.

"Before he opened Mirasol's Café on April 1, 2005, Richard knew he had something special when he found he could use CHiPPi as a way of rewarding and punishing his employees at The Newport Regatta Club during his time working as the banquet manager there.
"If you were late to work, no CHiPPi," recalled Richard. "You didn't finish your work? No CHiPPi." Richard remembers how his CHiPPi-loving employees knew they needed to get the job done, lest they be banned from drinking CHiPPi for the entire weekend.
The coffee concoction wasn't originally born with the name CHiPPi. That came later, when on one fateful night, Richard overheard a few of the dishwashers at the Regatta Club drinking Richard's special iced coffee and speaking to each other in a Mayan dialect from Guatemala.
"I kept hearing them say the word 'chippi' so I went over to them and said to them, 'I keep hearing you say chippi... what is chippi?'"
The dishwasher told him, "When I drink this I can go home and make chippi to my wife.""


He also reveals that they go through over SEVENTY GALLONS A DAY. SEVENTY GALLONS!

In the end I guess you have to hand it to someone who figures out a quick way to make a fortune like this. I mean he's not hurting anyone. Still, I would love to go down there and do a blind taste test with some straight up coffee milk. I bet none of those suckers could tell the difference. I also managed to resist my intense urge to rush back in there and yell, à la Charlton Heston, "CHiPPi IS COFFEE MILK! IT'S COFFEE MILK!!!!"