Friday, June 30, 2006

I Can See Clearly Now...

This has been quite a week for improvements at Greenjeans. First we had new display cases installed on Saturday. Then this morning we had the old tinted glass front window replaced with clear glass and what a huge difference it makes! We'd never liked the sketchy vibe of that tinted window, and it made it difficult for passers-by to see into the shop during the day. But NOW, holy moly, our window display practically walks out onto the sidewalk and shakes pedestrians' hands!

It's kind of hard to take a picture of a clear glass window, but as you can see I tried anyway... I also really like our summer window display. Makes me feel like I'm out on a shady deck somewhere. You know, the kind of deck that's decorated with felted wool pots and jewelry and stuffed bears... (Hmmm, sounds like somebody needs a vacation...!)

Also today, we received a package from the magazine Old House Interiors who have featured Mary Anne Davis' pottery on p. 24 of the July issue! (I thought they'd go for the Shaker chairs when I sent them the press release, but I guess old houses need color sometimes too.) It reads:

"Shades of Brooklyn: Add a burst of zest to the summer table with porcelain tableware in 12 candy colors, handmade by designer Mary Anne Davis. Prices for the dishwasher-safe pieces are $32 to $90 each. A four-piece place setting is $176. From Greenjeans, (718) 907-5835,"


Also, for the record we'll be closed Sunday-Tuesday. Sunday we're going up around Hudson, NY, to pick cherries and taste some local wines. Mmmm!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Travels Near and Far

It's summertime, and it seems like everyone is planning wonderful trips to interesting places near and far. For some the destination is a distant country (or several), for others the destination is right here at Greenjeans.

Among the latter, today I had an unexpected visit from my dear cousin Melinda who lives in my hometown of Northwood, NH (pictured here). She had taken her younger daughter Marcy to upstate New York for cooking camp and had a day to kill, so she intrepidly took the train into Manhattan and then even more intrepidly took the subway to Park Slope, and made it to the shop in one delightful piece! We spent a couple of hours talking and looking at beautiful work in the shop, until it was time for her to make the trek back. Besides my Dad and Sister, she's the only one of my family members who has been able to visit the shop, so she was here as a kind of good will ambassador. Such fun!

As for travels afar, two of our favorite customers who have become friends, Monica and Simon, are heading off tomorrow for a one-year backpacking expedition around the globe! They are starting in Dublin, then going to Italy, Greece, India, Cambodia, Australia, Japan, and just about everywhere in between before taking the Trans-Siberian Railroad from China to Moscow, and finishing things up in Europe. And to boot, they just got hitched on June 18, so this will be quite an amazing honeymoon! The only sad part is that they'll be relocating in San Francisco upon their return, but that's why we are setting up e-commerce...!

Today Monica and Simon came in for one last gift purchase and told me that the felted wool ball by Feltworks they got at Greenjeans (see picture) will be among the few things they take with them. Much to our honor, they want to take pictures of it around the world, so watch the blog for updates of the Adventures of the Felted Wool Ball! I'll link to their travel blog, too, for those of you who'd fancy taking a vicarious international trip.

As for Jae and I, we are traveling somewhere on Sunday for a day trip with Jae's Mom, but we don't yet know where. Storm King perhaps? Melinda mentioned that Marcy is going cherry picking tomorrow with her camp and that sounds like fun to me. Maybe we could go cherry picking and visit some vineyards upstate...? In July we're going to NH to bring back work for the shop. And in August we're going to Milwaukee for my dear friend Sam's wedding and to visit artisans Erica Schlueter and Janice Ho. Other than that, I'm hoping to get at least one beach day in this summer, which would be 100% more beach days than I got last summer!

In any case, we wish you all lovely trips this summer, whether they be to an exciting new country or just up to the Park for a little greenery and sunshine. Or, of course, to Greenjeans!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

At Last, The Display Cases!

Yesterday my Dad (Dick Shaw) and Jae installed the display cases that Jae and I designed and Dad built. They're made from 18" wide pine board planed by a guy in Deerfield, NH, tons of bumble bee yellow and pear green paint, and a whole lot of love. Next week we'll install halogen lights to brighten the cases and make things really pop!

This means that the beloved French door we'd found on the street and had been using to display things on is no longer living here at Greenjeans. It has moved on to grace the apartment of our friends Regan and Anders. We'll miss it, but not the sawhorses that held it up for so very long!

Also yesterday, Old Time Dave Talmage, an up-and-coming fiddle player who came down with my Dad from NH to see his girlfriend play a gig at the Living Room, gave us a wonderful in-store concert as Dad and Jae worked. I can't imagine a better situation -- new display cases, live bluegrass music, and love all around us! Here are some pictures, and come on by to check out the cases!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Review: The Renegade Craft Fair

On Saturday, June 17, my friend Steph and I ventured to McCarren Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for the 2nd convening of the Renegade Craft Fair.

Billed as “a unique DIY [Do-It-Yourself] event,” the fair offered nearly 200 booths of work made by an enthusiastic group of mostly younger (20-35) artists and crafters at a broad range of commercial and artistic development. It was started in 2003 by Sue Blatt and Kathleen Habbley, two women from Chicago who had taken “up crafts as a hobby after college and decided to try selling our stuff in local fairs. To our surprise, no events were catering to the burgeoning DIY craft community or even prohibited crafts all together. So we thought of organizing a fair of our own that tapped into this movement and provided a laid back, fresh venue for artists and shoppers alike.”

What We Saw

Most of the work for sale was image printed (tee-shirts, bags, baby onesies, note cards, buttons, magnets) or sewn (handbags, skirts, tee-shirts with felt appliqué). Bookbinding made a strong showing, as did jewelry. There were only a couple soap-makers (many fewer than I expected), two ceramicists, and a smattering of knitters, spinners, and stuffed doll makers. Steph noticed that everything seemed fairly portable as befits the needs of the urban consumer, and probably that’s why there wasn’t a lot of furniture or sculpture.

We were somewhat confused and disgruntled by how some booths were crammed with shoppers and some were empty, and it seemed to have much less to do with the quality or originality of the work than with how many publicity mentions from Lucky magazine and Daily Candy were stuck to the pole holding up the canopy. Yet we agreed that there was very little junk and we both saw lots of items we liked. Nothing was expensive, though I made the mistake of bringing only $30 in cash, limiting my take to a few Brooklyn-made note cards by Foxy & Winston (shown at bottom) and an instant-favorite tee shirt by Maryink sporting the designer’s take on the fair logo.

While the sunny faces, palpable community spirit, and outdoor invigoration felt very craft-fair-like, content-wise the Renegade Craft Fair bore little resemblance to the New Hampshire fairs of my youth in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. In place of potters, basket weavers, furniture makers, and bluegrass musicians there were hipster tee-shirt-, handbag-, and note card-designers, funky jewelry makers, and a motley group of bombastic “revolutionary cheer leaders.”

Yet as much as the Fair seemed like a ‘70’s country craft fair turned on its head, the predominant aesthetic trend represented there seems to draw directly from that era. Many of the work seemed to draw from a Partridge Family look and palette. Think Cat Stevens album covers and avocado-and-mustard colored living room schemes, then translate that into a tote bag (like the one by Maryink shown above), and you get close to the idea. It’s an appealing mix of nostalgia and postmodern clambake for the under-40 set who grew up with that aesthetic. As Steph writes, “It's interesting to see how things settle in the subconscious of an entire age group only to be expressed years later in slightly different form.” Indeed.

What We Thought

The overall sociological sensibility seemed to relate to the 70s as well. Steph observed that among the crafters there “seemed to be a lot of third-wave feminists,” and definitely not many “hippie-crunchy folks.” I’d call them instead “hipster hippies.” Peering into the fair’s demographic, Steph writes, “DIY is an interesting phenomenon for feminists to latch onto. It's a great way to express creativity but there's also such a strong anti-consumerism (mainstream consumerism, that is) ethos to it. They take traditional ideas, materials, methods, but then put a sort of rebellious spin on them. It's an interesting juxtaposition. And a statement about the mall-ification, mass-produced nature of our society.” To some extent I think that’s what craft has been about since the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the American and European Arts & Crafts movements (see previous posting on this topic). It’s pleasing to see the next generation in action.

This issue of where craft ends and design begins came up in my mind about halfway through the fair. Feeling like I couldn’t look at another clever appliqué-over-silhouette design, I turned to Steph and asked, “is screen printing a tee-shirt really craft?” At the American Craft Council fair, unless the artisan wove the cotton jersey and stitched the seams themselves (and I’ve seen nothing of the sort), you will not find a single printed tee shirt. But at the Renegade Craft Fair, unless it’s an abandoned chair someone found on the sidewalk then covered in pages from vintage magazines, you won’t find a single stick of furniture. Is “craft” big enough to accommodate both extremes?

Later that day, Rena from Rare Device stopped by to compare notes – she’d been at the fair as well. She put her finger on the button when she mentioned another craft fair in Seattle recently going “more indie.” That was it – indie! That was the word Steph and I had been searching for.

Craft is a large, flexible word. It is the umbrella concept under which you will find everything from indie to fine. I’d venture that at a certain point of technical proficiency and clarity of expression a crafter becomes an artisan. But other than that, craft is for everyone who makes it. If you’re not sure about that, then next year treat yourself to the Renegade Craft Fair and decide for yourself!

Highlights from the 2006 Renegade Craft Fair
(Some of these may be appearing one day at Greenjeans...)

:: Jeweler Kurt Van Maarth’s sturdy display case made from cardboard, duct tape, and plexiglass. His work – especially the skull belt buckle – is a highlight too.

:: Sew Betsy Ross’ packaged dress and skirt patterns--just like Mom used to get at JoAnn Fabrics, but hip

:: Jessica Rosenkranz’ beautifully bound small edition books (charming tiny storybook about a chicken).

:: Prints and note cards by Julie Meredith (girls on swings, riding bikes)

:: Strawberry Luna’s fabulous rock posters (Iron & Wine, Belle & Sebastian) - see above

:: Mat Daly’s woodblock posters for Renegade Craft Fairs past and present

:: Necklaces and rings made from silver casts of twigs and birch bark by Twigs & Heather

:: Scott Urban's custom wooden eyeglass frames

Friday, June 16, 2006

New Arrivals from Davistudio / Toward a Phenomenology of the Handmade

We received two big boxes of work from Mary Anne Davis (Davistudio) yesterday! Mary Anne took these pictures for her wonderful kiln-opening blog, and I've borrowed them to show you here. Most of the fabulous pieces shown are now available at Greenjeans -- come in and check 'em out!

* * *

Toward a Phenomenology of the Handmade

In grad school, I studied Heideggerian (or existential) phenomenology with Tom de Zengotita. I wrote about “barnness” for my thesis, trying to understand philosophically why people care to save old barns in NH. Since opening Greenjeans, I’ve wanted to explore a phenomenology of the handmade. This interest relates to my curiosity about the overlapping realms of art, craft, and design, which I began exploring in this earlier blog entry. Today the investigation continues…

It's always exciting to open boxes of new work, but often times it's really a very special experience because each and every piece is possessed of a very unique liveliness. This may sound overblown (especially since pictures gloss the work's tacticity), but if you've ever handled something skillfully handmade before you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about.
Mary Anne Davis' work is vividly imbued with this quality. When I unwrap a piece of her pottery it's like meeting a new person or seeing a new species of plant up close for the first time. I might know that what will be inside a curl of bubblewrap is a blue seed vase, but once that veil is removed the object shows me its particular interpretation of what it is to be a seed vase, revealing itself as the individual being that it is. This is part of what makes handmade work so incredibly different from machine-made items.

What do I mean by this? Well, like people, each of Mary Anne's pieces has its own particular quirks and characteristics. Some are perfectly formed and evenly glazed and unblemished. But those are the minority. Most pieces have a little something about them that makes them unique and lively: maybe the glaze runs thin along one side of a vase, maybe the mouth of an udon bowl is slightly oblong causing it to nest askew (though not uncomfortably) when stacked, maybe there are a few white pinpoints down the side of a juice cup where some air bubbles escaped. These are birthmarks that needn't be considered errors; on the contrary, they speak to the snowflake pattern of the soul. Mary Anne makes space for them, allowing each work to be its imperfect self, in keeping with the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi. If a crack emerges during firing, or a handle sits too low making a mug dangerously unstable, the fish gets thrown back in the pond since these traits impair the physical integrity and usefulness of the work and do not just automatically get covered by the philosophy of beauty-in-imperfection. But most of the time what emerges from the kiln is sound and saleable.

In the same way as when we deal with people, when we use these dishes we accommodate their unique set of quirks in order to have a good relationship with them. And in fact it is these quirks that make the dishes, like people, intriguing, different, beautiful, and even loveable. It is no wonder that Mary Anne is also involved in peace activism.

Mary Anne's pottery is more than just functional craft. It also enters the realm of art by the way each work negotiates the line between imperfection and defection (as described above), and by the way each work engages our curiosity and care. Speaking to this second point, when I handle her dishes at the shop or the ones I live with at home, I am always distinctly aware of them. They are never just objects, they are always calling my attention to them with the special way they feel, their colors and patterns, and their unique birthmarks. I know they are fragile (though not as eggshell-fragile as they may seem), and so I handle them carefully. I enjoy how the work invites this mindfulness, and am often amazed at how spiritual a little porcelain bowl or cup can be.

The machine-made dishes I also use at home, no matter how well designed, certainly do not effect me this way…

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Dispatches from Japan

Yesterday we received an exciting package from Japan: the new issue of Baby Life, a very beautifully produced lifestyle magazine for Japanese parents, with Greenjeans featured on page 9! (Also enclosed were some beautiful little paper ornaments with origami geisha and flowering trees on them -- amazing!) The Baby Life piece is by a woman named Yuri Numata who happened into the shop several weeks ago and fell in love with the handmade toys by Frank Ridley, turned wood rattles by Tom Dubois, and the silver spoons by Tamar Kern that we have here. Turns out she was working on a piece about kid-oriented shops in NYC, and she asked if she could feature us! I have no idea what the article actually says, (I hung it in the window anyway), but we are very excited for our first international exposure. Thank you, Yuri!!

Speaking of Japan, I read a piece in New York Magazine this week about something called the Peace Boat. For around $11,000 you can book passage for a three-month cruise during which you'll attend lectures and seminars on peace-related topics, visit countries ravaged by war and poverty in order to lend a hand rebuilding, and meet like-minded people for fun, education, and romance. It sounds like a great way for Japanese college kids and 20-somethings to spend their summer (and a serious wad of cash). There is talk of starting an American version, too. Says the cruise organizer, “We want to become successful in the cruise industry as well as the peace industry." The peace industry? Is that really happening? (See my earlier post about Branding Peace for more on this concept.) Hmmm.

Also from Japan, today I happened upon this frankly inspiring website for an organization called Japan for Sustainability. They write:

"After the Kyoto Conference on climate change in 1997, activities to address global environmental problems gained momentum in Japan and expanded across many sectors. Today one can see many initiatives by the central and local governments, industry, research institutes, universities, non-governmental organizations and individual citizens. We feel that every country has something positive to contribute, and that people in other parts of the world may find useful ideas from Japan, in some of its advanced technologies, systems and partnerships, approaches to information disclosure, and other developments.

"There may also be lessons from the past before the modern day Japan had a tradition of sustainability. The Edo Period, lasting about 300 years, from the early 17th to late 19th century, appears from today's perspective to have been one model of a sustainable society. During that period Japan was self-sufficient in food and energy, had low population growth and recycled almost all materials. One may find clues for a new type of sustainability in the wisdom, craftsmanship and lifestyles of the past."

That last sentence nails it as far as we're concerned.

In unrelated news, tonight we're going out for dinner with our good friend Amy at The Grocery, a Smith Street institution that somehow we've never been to. My mouth is already watering for farmer's market fresh ingredients and a nice bottle of wine...

Until later, arigato gozaimasu!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Loads of New Arrivals!

This week we received new work by, count 'em, NINE artisans, four of whom are brand new to Greenjeans!

Work by New Artisans:
(Look for introductions to these new artisans soon...)

:: Felted wool bowls, boxes, and balls (you gotta see these!) made in Ohio by Feltworks
:: Hardwood cutting and serving boards made in Pennsylvania by Buff Brown
:: Fresh silver art jewelry made in Boston by Melle Finelli (shown above)
:: Precious, mysterious ceramic jars made in San Francisco by Barbara Sebastian

New Work by Favorite Artisans:

:: Connie Verrusio - cufflinks (mini gears), earrings (film, mini gyroscopes), and pendants (silver castings of the insides of seashells)
:: Matt Eskuche - more black glass dogs (these are slightly bigger than earlier ones)
:: Wendy Stevens - stainless steel picture frames (up to 4" x 6") and barrettes
:: Kimberly Navratil-Pope - new designs involving plant fiber, silver, bakelite, and Cracker Jack boxes (not necessarily at the same time)
:: Sol Mate Socks - a fresh new batch!!

Recent additions also include work made by Brooklyn-based jeweler Alison Mackey who creates cheerful, wearable jewelry from photographs framed in silver under clear resin (her pendants are especially fabulous); and elegant botanical jewelry made in Madison, WI, by Janice Ho (her craftsmanship is mind-boggling).

It's going to be a gorgeous weekend, so come on by and discover what's new at Greenjeans!

Thursday, June 01, 2006


I am a nut for poppies. Few things send me over the edge like 'em. It's also one of my favorite floral motifs in decorative arts (the Art Nouveau artists did them especially well), and I aspire to amass a big (though picky) collection over my life. I don't think I could ever get enough of them. It's kind of embarrassing, but I can't help myself!

So when potter and blogger Mary Anne Davis posted this picture of the poppies growing around her house in Spencertown, NY, it swept me away! And I just had to share it with you all.

Nothing else today. These gorgeous poppies are more than enough...


Well, why not more? I'm actually home taking a day off today (finally!), and I found myself searching for images of poppies on the web after I posted above. Here are some of what I found:

Poppies beneath the Eiffel Tower, found here.

Reminds me of the field of poppies in the Loire Valley of France where the vermillion flowers first stole my heart. These are in Marseille.

I saw this, Coquelicots à Argenteuil painted by Claude Monet in 1873, at the Musee D'Orsay during my first visit to Paris when I was 17. It sparked instant Impressionism Fever that lingered well into college. (I even had a barrette with a printed image of this glued on it. Oy.) But whatever, who doesn't love this paiting?

In 1996, my Mom and I took a trip to Italy together. We rented a car and drove around Tuscany and Umbria, and saw lots of wild poppies like these growing along the stone bankings along the hill roads. I took some wonderful photographs of them (though this one's from this site). Maybe I'll be inspired to dig out all my poppy photographs and put them together sometime...

Found this fabulous cover of a volume of The Wizard of Oz illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger while doing an image search for a still of the poppy field scene from the movie. I wonder if there's a poppy blog out there... If not, I just might start one -- there are fantastic images out there!

Check out these poppy costumes from a Illinois high school production of the Wizard of Oz! Ok, there's definitely a blog idea here...

Evidently, there's a guy in California who makes handmade sculptural urinals. Wow. I can't believe it either. Do we need these at Greenjeans? (Click here for his site.) (Though on an aesthetic note, I am not as large a fan of the California poppy. It's nice but it's not the same.)

Thinking so much about poppies reminds me of when I was a kid the old men of the town would go around once a year and sell paper poppies to raise money for the VFW. (Do they still do this? Let's see... It's actually the American Legion... and they're made by disabled veterans. Who knew?) According to Wikipedia, the red poppy has to do with Rememberance Day (est. by King George V in 1919, we call it Memorial Day) where it's a symbol of honor to those who have fallen in war. (Read this haunting poem called "In Flanders Fields.") Huh. Imagine a public display of one poppy for each fallen soldier since 9/11 planted in the middle of the National Mall... Woulda been a good Memorial Day display... (Oh weird, The Stars and Stripes Forever just started playing on WNYC. Freaky!)

But growing in a field they're the best!

Technorati tags: