Every time that I sit on my couch I think of artist Sonya Young James. She is a textile designer and fiber artist based in Atlanta, Georgia and she inspired me to make a wool, hand-felted throw that hangs over the back of my couch.
The throw has been on the back of my couch for some time now so it now more “matted” but when I first finished the piece it was much more fluffy as you can see in the photos below.
I hand-felted and needle felted the entire piece with roving wool and sheep curls. I purchased all the wool that I used from an Etsy store called La Tea Da Designs based out of Southern California. Felting is a process that I really enjoy because I like the smell of wool, warm soapy water, the repetitive motion of needle felting and the magic that transforms loose wool combined with a bit of soapy friction into one solid piece.
Although I made a bunch of pompoms as well they didn’t seem right for my throw so I didn’t include them. However, they make great hairpieces for kids.
Below are photos of five of Sonya’s finished pieces that first inspired me to make a wool, hand-felted throw:
Her wool throws are warm, inviting, and somewhat quirky. I fell in love with them instantly and knew I had to try to make one, too. I researched Sonya’s work and found that she documents a lot of her process in her Flickr account. I particularly love the photos where she’s felting the wool by dragging it behind a van and drying her finished pieces out in the sun. Sonya is a “maker” and it’s obvious that she’s a true lover of nature and all its wonderful shapes, colors and textures.
And lastly, this is not one of Sonya’s pompoms below, but how cute would this addition be on your couch!?
While I was taking apart an old photo album from grade school and carefully cataloging all the photos I was reminded of something very important that I want to carry into the New Year. I looked at the back of each photo to see the personal messages, dates and names and I found a common theme. In a personal note on the back of the photos many of my friends mentioned that they looked “horrible.” It saddened me to read this over and over. As I flipped the photo to see their image they looked bright-eyed, innocent, smiling and full of potential. I didn’t see anything horrible whatsoever. But some kind of self-esteem demon worked its way into our 12-year-old brains. I’m sure that I said similar things on the back of my photos, too.
I still know many of these women today. They’re doing amazing things with their lives and they have chosen professions where they motivate and inspire others to be the best version of themselves. I truly hope that the voice of the self-esteem demon is barely audible now.
I also found this ridiculous photo below. My face might not say it, but I know that I am in my happy place in this photo, which is why I saved it. I’m sure that’s the same reason that my mom snapped the photo, too. I’m in the green bathing cap and I just finished an open water competitive swim in Lake Michigan. I am also the one who place a big black X over the girl’s butt to the right. Clearly something about her body made me feel embarrassed and I felt that an X with a Sharpie marker would ease that feeling. The truth is she has an amazing swimmer’s butt and there’s no need to feel shame about our bodies or how we look. We are all beautiful.
In 2015 I will strive to:
The stickers above are from an art project that was launched in 2003 by artist and designer Matthew Hoffman. He printed a few of these stickers that read simply “You Are Beautiful” and gave them to friends and colleagues who found the phrase to be inspiring and infectious. Demand for the stickers quickly ramped up and soon he was printing thousands of them. They began appearing all over the city on bus stops, street signs, elevators and countless other hidden but visible locations. Later the stickers were accompanied by many outdoor art installations in Chicago and eventually the message began appearing around the world in public spaces (some commissioned and some guerrilla style).
I must have brought some of these stickers home from an art show while I was living at my mom’s house and forgotten them there. Years later she found one, and without even knowing its significance as an art movement she placed the message on her bathroom wall right next to the mirror. It has remained there for years. She’s never been one for having stickers of any sort on anything, so this was big for her.
Seeing this message in her home is so heartwarming. I know that each of her children and grandchildren see this message every time they pay a visit and I hope they let the three simple words soak in- you are beautiful.
I don’t generally eat at Taco Bell. In fact I take the “Do Not Enter” message from their drive thru literally and never go in.
However, I must admit that I’m very tempted to go inside the Taco Bell at the corner of College and Prospect in Fort Collins, Colorado. If I go in I will not order anything from the Dollar Cravings menu, but I will stand around and admire the architecture. This particular Taco Bell is nested in a Spanish Colonial Revival home that was built in 1930.
I was so confused when I first saw this house with a Taco Bell sign in front of it. It didn’t look like the standardized franchise design that I recognize. Even my young nephews have brand awareness of Taco Bell and were perplexed when my sister showed them the photo of the Taco Bell house. They laughed and asked sincerely, “Do the people that live there eat Taco Bell everyday?”
To answer their question, “Yes, the people that “live” there eat Taco Bell everyday. But, they don’t even have to go inside their house to eat Taco Bell, they can order it through the custom built drive thru and eat it in their car if they want.”
According to an article by Edward T. McMahon, “Have It Your Way: Fast-Food Restaurant Design,” Taco Bell had a small eatery near this house and originally proposed to demolish it to build a larger restaurant in its place. The city of Fort Collins proposed to convert the house into the larger restaurant instead. As McMahon states, “Taco Bell initially rejected the proposal, but subsequent negotiations led to the adaptation of the existing house with a sensitively designed rear addition for the kitchen and a drive-thru lane.” And there you have it, folks! If you must go to Taco Bell, then please go to the one that saved this vintage Fort Collins home because it’s the only one truly living up to their slogan, ‘Think Outside the Bun.’
This brings to mind a project that my brother Sean worked on in Chicago that also won preservation awards. Sean is a superintendent for Leopardo Construction and a few years back they worked on a revival project in the Wicker Park neighborhood. Sean helped lead the project to rehab the shuttered Noel State Bank at 1601 North Milwaukee into a flagship Walgreens.
The former bank is a Revival-style building of the classic Corinthian order and was completed in 1919. It closed in 1931 and then, according to Lynn Becker’s article, “From drugs to dollars to deli: the story of Walgreens and the landmark Noel State Bank” (from the blog Architecture Chicago Plus), “the building became Fairfield Savings, and then Midwest Bank and then, in 2005, empty, which is how it remained with the exception of rare events such as a party thrown by Nike in 2010.”
Walgreens and the contractors spent over two years rehabilitating the building and finally opened its doors to the public in 2012. I went to check it out when I was in Chicago earlier this year. It’s absolutely gorgeous. That’s not something I’d usually say about a Walgreens store, but in this case it’s true.
And by far my favorite part is the “vitamin vault” on the lower level. The gigantic bank vaults were too cost-prohibitive to remove so they are now part of the store layout and design. Here is a photo of my mom in front of the vitamin vault.
The Taco Bell in Fort Collins and the flagship Walgreens in Chicago are examples of smart design solutions that weave together past and present and show respect for endangered scenic heritage. Both companies are well deserving of their historic preservation awards. I just might go into the Taco Bell and buy a Waffle Taco after all. I’ll ask the staff if I can sit on the front porch while I eat it.
My graphite portrait of Red Cloud is complete. It has been three years since I completed a drawing and this one took me almost exactly one year to finish. That’s a long time to spend with a single sheet of 22″ x 30″ paper so I feel especially pleased to wrap this project up. My competing hobbies have a lot to do with this drawing taking one full year to complete. Sometimes I’d only spend five minutes working on the drawing and then get lured away for weeks by all the lovely distractions that Southern California has to offer.
The motivation for this drawing began as a special request from my husband for a portrait of Red Cloud- the Lakota warrior and statesman who led successful confrontations with the United States government in the mid to late 1800’s. After studying historic photos of Red Cloud I fell in love with his handsome face and committed to creating the drawing as a gift for my husband. When this portrait is displayed in our new place I will let it serve as a reminder that strategic leadership and perseverance can defeat great obstacles.
To celebrate completing a big project, Alex, Jude and Michael helped paint some arrows that we salvaged from my husband’s archery practice. The kids loved the project and were extremely concerned that I borrowed their painted arrows for a few days to take photos.
“Are they dry yet?”
I also celebrated by purchasing a chunky, beaded necklace from Seaweed + Gravel in Encinitas, CA. After staring at Red Cloud’s bone-beaded vest for several months I guess I had beads on my mind. Many, many, many, many beads. Seaweed + Gravel sells a collection of vintage, re-purposed, and new items and they have beautiful portraits and photos of Native Americans throughout the store. This includes a mural of Sitting Bull on the exterior wall by Muralchemy. Sitting Bull led many war parties against the U.S. Government in support of Red Cloud. They were two incredible forces to be reckoned with.
I like the closing remarks that I read in an interview with Seaweed + Gravel’s Co-owner, Dave Patri,
“Do, Make, Say, Think.”
I have made a few coconut oil-based deodorants from scratch in the past but I was disappointed that they turned into a runny mess the moment that the temperature rose above 72 degrees Fahrenheit. While in Los Angeles I found a sample of Fat + The Moon Deodorant Cream at ReForm School and realized that the key ingredient for solidifying the deodorant is beeswax.
I found the perfect, beeswax + coconut oil based deodorant recipe on a blog called Becoming Peculiar. I asked my two nieces, Dara + Keira, and my friend Renee to test out the recipe with me this past weekend. We spent Sunday morning making unique, herbal blends of deodorant and even designed our own labels so that we could give some of the jars away as gifts. This was a great project to work on together, especially because it drives home the power you have within your own kitchen to make clean, healthy alternatives for body care.
The homemade deodorant recipe and some photos from our day are below. As an added bonus, the essential oils that you use in your recipe will fill the kitchen with their delightful scent while you’re heating the batch.
Recipe for Homemade Deodorant
- 1/4 cup arrowroot starch (or corn starch, but arrowroot starch is nice if you have sensitive skin)
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 3 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 Tbsp grated beeswax
- 5 drops tea tree oil (*essential ingredient due to its antibacterial properties)
- 5 drops of some other essential oil (i.e. bergamot, clary sage, grapefruit, etc.)
Begin by melting coconut oil and beeswax together over a double boiler. Rest a heatproof bowl inside a small saucepan of water and heat it gently, stirring constantly, until the beeswax and coconut oil are melted.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir it all together into a runny paste. Pour the deodorant into two 2 oz. jars (alternately you can also use an empty deodorant container). The mixture will begin to thicken right away so you’ll need to work quickly. Allow the open jars of deodorant to cool to room temperature.
When the deodorant has fully cooled, secure the lids and make pretty labels for your jars.
Give one away as a gift and keep one for yourself.
To use: Warm a bit in your fingers and apply to your pits.
I am a huge fan of Jill Bliss. For those of you who are not familiar with this lovely lady, she is a professional artist & designer, and in her own words she is also an “amateur photographer/ homesteader/ explorer living simply within the nature of the Pacific NW Islands.” She is an all around top-notch lady! I purchased a Jill Bliss notebook years ago and have slowly been filling the pages with doodles, to do lists, recipes, and other ramblings. Despite that I use the notebook as a productivity tool, it lay dormant for an unknown amount of time tucked under a miscellaneous pile.
After a particularly rough week I turned to what always makes me feel better- exercise. I reached for the Jill Bliss notebook because I remembered that I jotted down a series of yoga stretches each accompanied by its own stick figure drawing. After flipping through the pages I realized that even when I manage to fill every page in this notebook I will keep and cherish it for years to come. I love the way that Jill’s delicate drawings interact with my doodles and endless lists. The notebook is a way of recording small wins, losses, or ideas that might otherwise slip through my memory and Jill’s illustrations add value and whimsy to each page.
Jill, thank you for sharing your talent and helping others unlock, understand, and celebrate their potential.
I’m deeply saddened by the departure of a co-worker friend. Today was the first day that I did not have her by my side at work. I miss her support, her laughter and her impeccable eye for detail. I saw that her name tag was still up, her cube empty, and I felt hollow inside. I was tempted to take her name tag but the facilities personnel would probably discover me clinging to it desperately. Her departure leaves an empty space and I honestly felt like crying today at work. At least she is moving on to an exciting opportunity and I’m very proud of her! It’s amazing how having someone that you click with can make the toughest work load seem light. Not too long ago we took a moment to escape from a hectic-microsoft-excel-overdosed-day and enjoyed the view of a double rainbow outside our office.
On another day she left a banana sitting out on her desk and I drew a sweet little face on it to greet her when she arrived. She snapped this photo below.
And she also helped rekindle a favorite hobby of mine- making burlesque-esque costumes! She asked for some assistance with a Halloween costume that she knew she wanted to wear again, but it needed a few more finishing touches. Here are some shots of her Katy Perry-esque bra (I sewed and glued on the furry “icing” with some remnant fabric). We could not stop giggling when we saw this costume come to life. I want to make more of these and I’m thankful that she rekindled my passion for this craft. Thank you AEL!
Recently I also came across some photos that another friend posted on a social network site of some burlesque bras that I made for her a few years back. I was so pleased to see that not only are they still being used for burlesque performances, but also that they’ve held up to the wear and tear over the years (they’re 3 – 5 years old)!
Making more burlesque costumes will definitely keep my spirits up!