Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mary Anne Davis Trunk Show This Weekend

This weekend, charismatic potter and forward thinker Mary Anne Davis will be having her first trunk show in Manhattan. It's free and all are welcome.

(Click here to see pictures if you missed it.)

The event promises to be fresh and unusual -- a potter giving a trunk show? But Mary Anne is nothing if not one to break the mold and try new approaches.

I'll be there helping out for part of each day, so stop on over and say hi!

Here's the 411:

Rihga Royal Hotel
151 West 54th St. (btw 6th & 7th Ave.)
the concierge will direct you to the room

Saturday & Sunday (April 29-30)
11am - 5pm

It's supposed to be a gorgeous weekend, so come on out to meet Mary Anne and see her Spring/Summer dishware, fresh out of the kiln. And if you love what you see, all pieces will be available to buy on a cash-and-carry basis or by order.

For more information, call us at the shop at 718-907-5835 or Mary Anne on her cell at 518-610-1720.

See you there!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

When Investing in Energy, Follow the Money

I’ve been interested in learning more about investing in green energy lately. My exploration has been taking me down some shady alleys, and most recently into the realm of hydrogen fuel cell technology. These are some of the things I've learned...

This past weekend, during a blowout bachelor party for his brother at several undisclosed locations, Jae learned an interesting fact about investing, energy, and government from his brother’s friend, Ben (not his real name). Ben, a Wall Street trader, said that if you want to make money in the stock market, follow the sectors that government invests in. If government isn’t investing in it, then it isn’t going to bring big returns.

In terms of the energy industry, the government has its money in oil in the form of subsidies, infrastructure investment, reserves, tax breaks, and so on. Hence, oil will bring you big returns if you invest in it. But what does that leave for socially- and environmentally-conscious investors? Well, Ben said, you can invest in windmills and solar power all you want, but the government doesn’t have any money there so it’s not going to perform impressively in the short term. Period.

Ok, if that’s the case, then maybe we should all invest in hydrogen fuel cell technology, since that’s the solution Bush always points to whenever the high price of gas or global warming draws criticism. "I strongly believe hydrogen is the fuel of the future," said Bush on Earth Day, describing a vision of today’s children taking their driving test in hydrogen fuel cell cars. Hard to imagine the government reallocating funds from oil to hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) technology, but maybe Bush realizes we need alternatives since we’re so “addicted to oil.”

It didn’t take much digging to learn there is little risk to the oil industry if HFCs became standard issue since it takes so much energy to produce the technology. Evidently, no studies have been done on this in terms of the Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI), but it takes considerable amounts of energy to liquefy and refrigerate hydrogen so it remains in a liquid (i.e. useful) state, and also to produce the hydrogen in the first place since in nature it’s always found combined with other elements and therefore needs to be separated to be useful (click here to learn more). The energy used to do these tasks would most likely be fossil fuel-based, so by many estimates it takes so much energy to create the hydrogen fuel cells that the EROEI is dramatically decreased, and in fact it may be a wash.

Since HFC technology still relies heavily on fossil fuels, maybe that’s why Bush supports fuel cells instead of hybrid technology or fuel efficiency standards: he can without upsetting the status quo of King Oil. And compared with these other two technologies that are both on the fast track to marketability, many analysts say a hydrogen energy system will take decades and tens of billions of dollars to develop. So it’s a safe enough distance off to be no threat.

The question from an investment standpoint is, where are those billions of dollars going to go? Car manufacturers are one place, since automakers like GM are already deeply involved in HFC research on the government’s dime. According to the Times, “The General Motors Corporation and the Department of Energy have committed $44 million to a fuel cell demonstration project, with G.M. pledging to put 40 fuel cell vehicles on the road in New York, Washington, California and Michigan by 2009. The department has also signed fuel cell development agreements with the Ford Motor Company, DaimlerChrysler and the Hyundai Motor Company as part of a broader, five-year, $1.2 billion hydrogen initiative announced by Mr. Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address.”

Does that mean we should invest in car manufacturers? I’m not sure how “green” that is (though maybe it's getting greener -- click here). And besides, the government is investing some money in other alternatives. From the Times: “Bush's energy proposals for the fiscal year that begins in October call for $289 million for hydrogen fuel technology, up from $53 million this year; $54 million for coal plants that would capture the carbon dioxide they produce; $148 million for solar power, up from $65 million this year; $44 million for wind power, up $5 million from this year; and $150 million for ethanol from cellulose, up $59 million from this year.” By comparison, the funding for the National Endowment for the Arts in 2006 is $121 million…

I don’t think Bush has in mind any five-year, $1.2 BILLION initiative for wind, solar, or arts. So those areas probably aren’t going to yield “big returns” in the stock market. And we should probably be thinking in terms of smaller, more sustainable returns on investments anyway.

None of this is to say there's no use investing in alternative energy. On the contrary, some say that green is the new Internet. There are venture capitalists out there pouring money into alternative energy and "greentech" companies that can make for very fertile investment opportunities. "The green, sustainability movement is going mainstream," AOL-founder Steve Case told The Washington Post last year, and "we want to ride that wave." (Click here for article.) The World Bank is even getting on the bandwagon. In the case of green, since Bush administration seems to be so far behind, perhaps we don't have to wait for the government to invest before strong returns are possible. Those of us interested in investing green sure hope so!

One thing I’ve learned through this exploration is, despite Bush's lip service, if you want to follow where government is investing to make your big bucks, it’s gonna come back around to oil. And maybe the Wall Street trader isn't looking at the whole picture. Because two things are for certain: there's nothing about oil that's green, and if the government won't take the lead on green investing, it's up to us. And a few likeminded billionaries...

Friday, April 21, 2006

Going Green at Greenjeans!

In honor of Earth Day (which is tomorrow, April 22), I've made a window display with bunches of nature-inspired and green-colored works. Corny perhaps, but I think it looks kinda nice!

Here's a tour:

:: Sculpture of Mother Earth (holding a string of seeds) and large green orb with pink lilies by Jane Kaufmann (NH)

:: Leafy green fused glass platter by Trio Designs Glassware (Toronto)

:: Lime green porcelain platter by Mary Anne Davis (NY)
Happy Birthday, Mary Anne!!!

:: Jars of organic, preservative-free almond-oatmeal facial scrub by Dag Shaw (NH)

:: Felted wool sculpture with green cones on white block by Geoff Buddie and Chris Rom (OH)

:: Doat green table setting by Kit Cornell (NH)

:: Green bound books by Beth Reimer (Bklyn)

:: Long handled basket by Ray Lagasse (NH)

:: Teddy bear made from reclaimed houndstooth pants by Judy Geagley (KY)

:: Green resin and sterling silver bracelet and earrings by Lulu Smith (WA)

:: Enamel pendant on leather cord by Alana Dlubak (CA)

We have many more works from spoons to earrings made from reclaimed materials, and everything at Greenjeans is beautifully handmade by independent artisans in small quantities. (See yesterday's post about buying quality to help protect the environment, too.)

I can't resist posting this picture of our orchid, too. Jae's Mom gave her to us as a shop warming present when we opened last year. Here she is in her second blooming!

Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Buy Quality, Help the Planet

"Buy quality products that will last longer. Over time, you'll obviously buy fewer products that way."

That's one of the tips for helping to combat climate change offered by the Earth Day Network. And Greenjeans is a great place to buy quality products, all of which are handmade in very small quantities by thoughtful artisans.

From sturdy wooden toys made from untreated Maine pine and soft cotton toys made from recycled quilts to high quality furniture built to last for generations and studio-made tableware that'll beat your big box blues, Greenjeans is filled with beautiful works of art-you-can-use that are made to last.

Buying quality doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune (although you can if you like!). The wooden toys start at $7, little stuffed animals made from recycled blankets are $15, and handmade pottery (mugs, plates, bowls) start at $16. The Shaker furniture is definitely pricier, but it is also in museum collections, so the fact that it can be had at all is the bargain. In a few weeks, however, we will be offering wonderful chairs made from reclaimed wine barrel staves for $160, a price even Ikea would love.

In honor of Earth Day (which is this Saturday April 22), we will be showcasing as many green colored items we can find in the shop, so come by and take a look! (I'll post a picture on the blog, too.)

Meanwhile, click here to take a quiz to measure your impact on the earth's resources. It's a little vague, but it did help me to see areas of my life where I could do better.

And no matter what anyone else says to discredit our efforts,
every little bit DOES count!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Inspiring Treetop Spheres

I saw this today on the Grist List and it totally transported me...

If pre-fab homes are all the rage on the sustainability front these days, and treehouses never fail to capture the imagination, then this structure takes the cake. It's called a Free Spirit Sphere, and it's made in British Columbia. It's designed for sleeping, eating, and working, but I imagine a chain of four or five them connected by aerial walkways, and each one is a different room.

I love living in the city, but there's part of me that craves the option of solitude in the woods. Maybe I need one to hang someplace as a personal retreat...

The Free Spirit Spheres are handmade (of layered wood strips and clear fiberglass), and definitely tap into conscientious living. So maybe one day we will carry them at Greenjeans! (I think we'll need a space with a higher ceiling, though...)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

So Many New Arrivals!

In the last 2 days, hundreds of works by 7 artisans have arrived at Greenjeans.

Two of these artisans are brand new to the shop: Trio Designs of Toronto who make glossy fused glass trays, coasters, and bowls in scrumptious colors; and Judy Geagley of Kentucky who handstitches the most perfect bears, bunnies, and other friendly friends. (Judy's bunnies here would make great Easter gifts!)

Jae and I have spent hours unpacking, rearranging, and storing overflow, and now the shop is filled to the gills with gorgeous work to bring delight to you, your home, and the people you love. Instead of a slideshow (which doesn't work on older browsers), here are all the pictures to scroll through. It's a lot, but it's exciting to have so many new things to display!

Introducing Humpty Dumpty, Flat Cat, Chance E. Bear, Tattered Old Bear (small), and Little Flat Animals, all by Judy.

This is Dawg.

Tattered Old Bear and Chance E. Bear (small).

This plaid bear matches the decor!

More of John Zentner's piggy banks have arrived.

Shino pitcher and matching cups by John Zentner.

More pairs of mugs than you can shake a stick at!

Stacks of pottery bowls, which Jae is guarding like a fierce dragon. (We got a little punchy today dealing with all those boxes!)

Sponge-painted pottery by Jeff Brown. This is what I think of when I think "pottery."

Little House and Dragonfly wall piece by Jane Kaufmann.
Lime green serving platter and taupe seed vase by Mary Anne Davis.

Mother Nature by Jane Kaufmann.

Porcelain multicolored serving dish by Mary Anne Davis.

Large wool gathering basket (14" high) with leather handles by Ray Lagasse, full of new Sol Mate Socks.

Fused glass 5" candy dish (or ashtray) by Trio Design.

Fused glass Spring bowl (15") by Trio Design. So pretty and elegant!

Table Vase by Trio Design. Tall, stripey, and handsome in a metal frame.
Cleopatra and Elizabeth I fingerpuppets by Jane Kaufmann.

Fresh and funky fused glass platter (24x11") by Trio Design in scrumptious colors.

Coasters by Trio Design (like the ones we use at the shop).
We have 8 different designs. These are two of them.

New table setting by Jeff Brown in rich cobalt blue.

Whew! And don't forget we have a new batch of baskets (double pie basket, serving trays, wine basket, and more) by Ray Lagasse.

We'll be open all weekend, so come on by and check it out!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Studio Visit: Basketmaker Ray Lagasse

[Find Ray Lagasse's baskets in Greenjeans' Online Shop!]

Yesterday, Jae and I traveled to the west of New Hampshire to visit basketmaker Ray Lagasse (pronounced with the "e" at the end, as they do in NH). It was our second trip to his home and studio, and as we did the first time, we got rather lost trying to find his tiny road in the tiny town of Lempster. The nice thing about getting lost in rural NH though, is that you often see lovely country while you go back looking for the turn you missed 7 miles ago. Last time, we had to stop for a moose crossing the road!

Eventually we did make it to Ray's, and we had a great visit. Jae took some photos that I've put into a slideshow (click here). In the slideshow, you'll see the tub in which Ray soaks the reed and bands of wood to make them maleable enough to bend, stacks of hardwood drying outside that will be used for the interior bottoms and lids, a piece of rough spalted maple and a piece of rough tiger maple, brand new baskets drying under clamps, a tumble of old baskets that aren't for sale, and the new Lagasse puppies who bounded about with verve during our visit.

In a previous entry, I wrote about Ray's gorgeous picnic basket with dark tiger maple lid. Click here to see more pictures of his finished baskets and to read details about their unique design and construction.

But here's the back-story. Ray Lagasse learned basket weaving 12 years ago in order to teach this traditional craft form to children at the Stoddard Elementary School in western New Hampshire. He made his first basket as part of a course at the Audubon Society where he was, he says, “the worst student in the class.” He kept at it, however, and over time refined his craft to create baskets that beautifully wed functionality and individual style.

Lagasse’s baskets draw from traditional techniques, but are unique in the way he incorporates a beautiful hardwood base inside the basket and runners on the bottom. Sometimes he uses fine hardwoods for the handles and lids as well. He scours small local mills for these specialty woods, which include bird’s-eye maple, spalted ash, dark tiger maple, and cherry. He has also used antique chestnut barn boards that still show their nail holes.

Rather than work with a mold, Lagasse free-weaves his baskets, and he uses an Indian cross-stitch, instead of staples or nails, to bind the rim. The baskets are finished with brass tacks and rivets, and harness leather in some designs like the Wine Basket and Lidded Basket. Finally, each basket is rubbed with non-toxic lemon-bean oil that enhances the subtleties of the wood and allows the baskets to be food-safe.

A juried member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, Lagasse won the Living with Craft first prize at the 2004 League Crafts Fair, and is currently exhibiting at the Thorne-Sagendorph Museum at Keene [NH] State College.

So come on in and check out the fresh new batch of baskets that we brought back with us! From the generous 14x14x14" wool gathering basket with leather handles to the oblong bread basket just the right size for a baguette (or a stash of CDs), Ray's baskets are gorgeous, durable, and practical. They are the utmost in art-you-can-use.

Lots of New Items at Greenjeans

New work is springing up at Greenjeans!

Since Sunday, Jae and I have been in New Hampshire meeting with artisans and selecting new work from their studios for Greenjeans. We returned late last night and deposited all these boxes and baskets in the shop. We'll be rearranging things and creating a new window display tonight and tomorrow to show off all the new loot!

So come by this week and weekend to see fresh new pottery John Zentner and Jeff Brown, wonderful new sculpture by Jane Kaufmann, and a batch of new baskets by Ray Lagasse in new shapes and sizes.

A new shipment of Sol Mate Socks just arrived today, too, with new colors and lots of adult mediums!

Come check it out!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Postcard of a Snowy April Day

Today snow is coming down in huge wet clumps, making the sidewalks all slushy and blanketing everything in winter white once again.

I love snow on flowers, almost as much as I love flowers on trees, and so rather enjoy days like this. Here's a picture of the flowering tree (a pear tree?) outside of Greenjeans. Lovely!

We'll be able to put away our winter coats soon, but today let's bundle up and enjoy Winter's belated finale...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Craft & Healing

Over the past year and a half, as we've become more deeply involved in the craft world, Jae and I have become aware of an association between craft and healing that crops up from time to time. This association has manifested itself in our very own shop, although we didn't intend for Greenjeans to be a "healing place." We don't carry jewelry with property-attributed gemstones or anything deliberately to do with witchcraft or healing arts (though we do display magic wands by spoonmaker Dan Dustin, albeit with tongues planted firmly in our cheeks.) However, for some visitors, and probably even for ourselves, Greenjeans is becoming something of a garden filled with objects that offer more than just usefulness and beauty, but also some sort of healing.

This healing power (for what else would it be called?) seems to literally emanate from the hand-made objects that we display to sell, these beautiful objects made with skill and care, with a sensitivity to pleasing surfaces, textures, colors, forms. To observe a person sensitive to this power navigate the shop is quite remarkable, as different objects will elicit for different people exclamations of joy, discovery, surprise, admiration.

One time, a man entered the shop after having been caught by the "sound" of the Shaker chairs, describing how objects can be "heard" the same way music can been "seen." He lingered for quite a while, and he and Jae had an engaging conversation going over all the details and intricacies of the chairs, though I felt more than being so compelled by the chair's construction he just didn't want to leave the feeling the chairs gave him.

Another recurring visitor moves through the shop with a delighted smile, carefully touching almost everything she passes, unconsciously making a different sound for each sensation the objects bring to her. She explained once that she has an injury that prevents her from being able to freely use her arms and hands, but even without that information I could tell that interacting with all these handmade objects gives her a powerful charge.

Occasionally someone will come in, look around, ask if they can try out the rocking chair (to which we always answer yes), and suddenly find themselves experiencing an unexpected sense of relief and safety, lingering there in the chair in a state of amazement and near-bliss, rocking longer than they intended, and eventually getting up surprised by their own reaction.

Lots of people remark that "everything is beautiful" or something to that effect (which is always nice to hear), but some seem to have a more profound experience. There are the customers who struggle to contain how stirred they are by certain pieces of pottery and find themselves compelled to buy them. There is the mother who told me that plastic toys make her small child scream and cry, but that he plays calmly with handmade wooden toys like the ones we carry. Are these visitors just having an aesthetic experience? Or are they experiencing some kind of healing? Or is there a difference? The healing potential of making craft is one thing -- anyone who has ever thrown a pot or knit a scarf or stitched a quilt can attest to that. But does this healing potential extend to the user as well? I wrote a while back about if craft has the ability to extend one's life. Is that really about healing, too?

Interacting with objects carefully and sensitively made by other hands seems to be the key. I do tend to think there is the potential for some to sense a powerful connection to humanity, nature, and spirit by interacting with craft objects. I think this is a real connection and that objects can play a dynamic role in our experience of being. It is not just psychological projection onto a mute thing, as some might say. When the connection becomes one of healing I'm not sure. It think it varies from person to person. But one thing is for certain: interacting with and living with craft doesn't seems to hurt.