Saturday, September 30, 2006

Today at Greenjeans - Wonderful Visits & New Work

We had lots of wonderful visits today at Greenjeans. It's a gorgeous day and everyone is out and about enjoying the neighborhood.

Early in the afternoon, two friends named Amy and Andrea came in to look around, and fell in love with the stunning dichroic glass drop earrings we have by Susan Pratt-Smith. As it turns out, they have been friends since age 7 and are now celebrating their ??th birthdays. So they decided to purchase a pair for each other as a birthday gift. I love that! And I know Susan would too.

Something I've wanted to do for a while now is take pictures of some of our customers just for fun. Amy and Andrea are my first subjects! See them here showing off their fabulous new birthday earrings! (Thanks, ladies!)

Later in the day, local jeweler Alison Mackey came by to bring some fresh new pieces for the shop. (That's Alison at the left.) To make her work, Alison starts with photographs she takes and sets shaped details of them in sterling silver bevels, then seals them with clear resin. Her pendants and earrings, most of which are double-sided, are bold and pretty and they feel like seastones in your hand. Here are some pictures of the bounty of new pieces at the shop now.

It has been a great day, but we have to close promptly at 7 to catch an 8:00 curtain at City Center. Jae and I have been going to the Fall for Dance series there, seeing amazing performances by a multitude of different dance companies from around the world for a mere $15 a ticket. Good stuff!

Thursday, September 28, 2006


People visiting Greenjeans often comment about what a pretty shop we have. Today I'm totally feeling that. So, accompanied by Nick Drake's album "Bryter Layter" on constant repeat, I've taken some pictures of how the shop looks today. Sometimes it's nice to just enjoy something pretty!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

New Artisan: aya*shii

This week a remarkable batch of work arrived from Japanese puppet maker Aya Ishii, known as aya*shii in the puppet world. They are so fabulous I can hardly even describe them!

Every puppet Aya makes is different. The ones she sent to us include a punk bat with a white fur mohawk, a circus-flavored tiger in a red suede jacket, and a green bunny in a polka dot dress who is so flirty Jae has a crush on her. Click here to see images of all eight.

The craftsmanship of these puppets is extraordinary. Aya carves their heads from cherry or camphor wood, paints them perfectly, and details them with fur, whiskers, and eyelashes. She then sews their clothes from different kinds of fabric and leather. Each one is beautifully lined in suede.

We have eight of Aya's magical finger puppets here at the shop. They're the only ones for sale in the U.S. (She also sells them in Tokyo.) These are works of art and will retail at around $200 each. So if you love puppets, or you love unusual artwork, come and get it while the gettin's good!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It's Peace Day. Come register to vote at Greenjeans!

September 21 (Thursday) is the International Day of Peace.

This year, instead of hanging a cascade of paper cranes or peace signs, I opted to do something a little different. At the suggestion of Jane Kaufmann who is herself a deeply devoted peace activist, I'm taking a more political view of peace, asking:

What would Buddha do?

The answer? Buddha would be mindful and Buddha would endeavor to be the change he wants to see.

So Buddha would VOTE!

And if Buddha wasn't registered, Buddha would REGISTER TO VOTE!

So, I'm holding a voter registration drive. It's quick, it's easy, and it's your ticket to claiming your voice as a citizen of this country. I have voter registration forms here at the shop and will even mail them in for you. And if you register at the shop this week we'll give you 10% off your purchases.

You can also download NY State's form by clicking here. Or click here to register in another state. It will literally take you 5 minutes, so do it now!

Back to voting. Don't be ashamed if you're, like 96 years old and still unregistered. It's never too late, and it's always very hip to become an active citizen. And let's not play that tired old but-I-don't-want-to-get-called-in-for-jury-duty line. We're all grown ups, aren't we? Don't we believe in the greater good? Anyway, if you need to get out of jury duty, just say you believe in TORT reform.

Now I'm going to get on my soapbox a bit here. There is a vitally important election coming up on November 7th that can shift the balance of power in Congress. Those who want to maintain the status quo will definitely be at the polls on the 7th--they are great at mobilizing the voter base. Those seeking change aren't so great at getting out the vote. Often these voters feel that their vote doesn't count. That the voting machines and systems are rigged so their vote is useless. But you know what? There's really only one thing that is 100% guaranteed to work the way the status quo wants it to: voter apathy on the part of their opposition.

So if you want change but you don't vote on the 7th, you are playing directly into the hands of those who want to keep things as they are. It's your decision: let them win, or fight for change. If all who want change vote on the 7th, there will be change.

I also wanted to mention that Doctors Without Borders is staging a mock refugee camp exhibition in Prospect Park Sept. 20-24, another good idea for a Peace Day excursion.

Ghandi said you must be the change you want to see.

Be the change! Register to Vote!

top photo: site of Bamiyan Buddha after Taliban destroyed it in 2001
bottom photo: Borobudur stone Buddha in Java

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Visit to Hudson, NY

Yesterday, Jae and I took a day trip up to Hudson, NY. We've been hearing this town is a destination cultural center with lots of galleries and such opening up. An art jewelry gallery that we admire is located up there too, giving us even more enticement to go. Plus we wanted to score some farm fresh apples! So we ventured forth into the warm late summer day to check it out.

The drive took a little over 2 hours from Brooklyn up the beautiful Taconic Parkway. On the way, we stopped at Eger Brothers Farm where we stocked up on the freshest apples, gorgeous red peppers, green beans, okra, nectarines, grapes, watermelon, pears, zucchini bread, and the most complex and succulent white peaches I've ever tasted.

Our farmer's market fix sated, we proceeded into Hudson. I took a bunch of photos that you can view here. Click the picture for a description. (If you don't have a Flickr account, you may log in as "greenjeansguest1" and password "brooklyn1".)

We found the town to be quaint and quiet (it being an off-season Monday), redolent of Belfast, Maine, or Portsmouth, NH. We parked the car in the shade and started walking up Warren Street which is the main drag, passing dozens and dozens of beautiful antique shops, boutiques, and art galleries. Many were closed, but they offered great window-shopping.

We stopped for lunch at Swoon, an airy, pleasant cafe with tin ceilings painted silver and paintings by local artists on the honey-colored walls. Our Cuban panini sandwich, heap of local organic baby greens, and cold beer (Belgian for Jae, British for me) hit the spot.

At the cafe we read about an equinox event called "Riverfire: An Ancient Celtic Fire Festival" coming up Sept. 23. The idea of an ancient Celtic fire festival excites me, but we won't probably make it back.

Eventuallly we made our way up to Ornamentum, the art jewelry gallery. We took our time examining the fascinating and unusual baubles and brooches created by jewelry makers from all over the world -- Vietnam, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Korea, the US. I especially loved the brooches made from small pieces of driftwood inlaid with tiny pearls and uncut diamonds by a German artist whose name I can't remember. There were also amazing gold pieces involving finger prints by Gerd Rothmann and rings and cuffs with salamanders and ants suspended in clear acrylic by Ted Noten. And the little gold coathanger earrings shown above.

I fell for a pair of little oxidized silver earrings with gold posts cast in the shape of a violet blowing in the wind (or that's how I see them) made by New York artist John Iversen that instantly became my new favorite earrings. We talked with Laura, the owner of the gallery whom we'd met briefly this past spring at SOFA NY. Later on, her adorable blonde 2-year-old came running in followed by her husband and gallery co-owner Stefan.

Hudson closes down at 5pm, and so after our visit to Ornamentum, window-shopping was the only option. We admired the impressive red art deco doors of the Mark McDonald gallery that we were told is one of the most important modernism galleries in the world. We caught a glimpse of a singer practicing inside the Hudson Opera House. We peered through the glass at the many vacant spaces in the midst of reconstruction (this is definitaly a growing area). And we marveled at a variety of strange and wonderful chairs, tables, and unidentified objects in the windows of some of the 150 antique shops in the town.

At last we reached our car and drove away from Hudson feeling satisfied and edified. Hudson is a great day trip, but be aware that many businesses are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and shops close at 5. The trees are just beginning to show signs of fall color, so going up in the next few weeks would be prime. We hear there are nice inns up there too...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Esquire Magazine Reveals the Future of Craft?!

The other day I was reading through an old issue of Esquire Magazine (for the articles, I swear!), and I came upon something that made me realize how ahead of the curve the contemporary handmade movement really is. Unlikely perhaps, but read on.

In a typically cheeky-yet-informative piece titled the “5 Minute Guide to Oil,” the magazine asked some hard questions: “Can we get oil from someplace other than the Middle East?” (Basic answer: Yes, but it’ll run out around 2025) and “What is Peak Oil?” (The recognition that oil is a finite resource and once supply outweighs demand in about 20 years it’s gonna hurt.)

It also asked the question “Should we be scared?” (Essentially, yes.) By way of responding to this question, it offered a Saudi saying that, once I read it, set off a flashbulb in my brain. It may be scary in terms of oil, but its ramifications for craft are inspiring. The saying goes like this:

“My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son rides in a jet. His son will ride a camel.”

Opting to ignore the chauvinism for a moment, “Exactly!” I exclaimed to myself, as I excitedly grabbed for the Aug/Sept issue of Bust Magazine at my side. I love this issue for the wardrobe-altering sewing instructions it offers. And I love how empowering the magazine is generally to anyone craving a little DIY self-sufficiency from the global economy.

My thought was that perhaps in some ways, Bust magazine and many other recent cultural phenomena—a resurgence of stitch-and-bitch gatherings, Church of Craft events, many DIY books and magazines, the blogs kept by potters and bookbinders, and so on—are sort of preparing us to ride the camel before we really have to. Today we can knit a warm scarf at our leisure while riding in a jet. This struck me as quite profound.

Among some of the people who make things by hand for a living there is an attitude of knowing a secret. This secret has to do with having access to a way of life most of the rest of us have abandoned for the (perceived) convenience and variety of the global marketplace. It has been only a few dozen years since we American consumers started sending our dollars overseas in exchange for the goods we use everyday. 100 years ago, our good were made much closer to home, even in the home. Imagine sewing and mending clothes for yourself and your family, or building your own house out of the trees on the land, not because you want to but because that’s what you have to do to survive.

Fossil fuels like oil and coal had a lot to do with changing all that as it became feasible to power factories and transport goods across great distances. Today, we usually don’t think twice about picking up some new dishes on sale at Crate & Barrel, or ordering a pretty throw blanket from Pottery Barn. But where are these items made? And who is making them? How are they getting here? And who is profiting from the money you paid for them? Is this better than the locally handmade option?

There are plenty of questions about labor fairness and corporate bottom lines to be considered here. But today I’m interested in the matter of energy, fuel. Oil. On what sort of power are factories in China and India run? What powers the shipping of items from these factories to us? What fuels the trucks from the ports to stores? How do we get to the stores? How do the stores keep their lights on? For the most part by far, the answer is oil.

There is an opposing argument that says it is actually more costly in terms of amount of oil per, say, head of garlic to drive a small truck down from upstate than it is to steam a cargo ship from China and then drive a tractor trailer truck with a bulk load across the country. And it may be argued that small-scale production is not as energy efficient as large-scale production. And surely there is a numbers game that may be played here.

But what will happen if we suddenly don’t have the oil needed to fuel our consumer economy? What will we do? We will go back to riding camels. That is to say, we will return to relying upon local producers to supply our needs: skilled local potters, shoemakers, furniture builders, toymakers.

There may come a day when taking a pottery class is less about finding a creative outlet and more about making a living producing tableware for the local market. Imagine a day when the artisans of the world are flush with plenty of locally-based work and the globalized corporations are shutting down because they can’t fuel their vast needs any longer. I'm not saying we should rush things. But it is a vision like what I think some craftspeople see on the horizon.

What do you see?

(Read a response to this post in Design Diary.)
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Imaged sourced here

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Craft & Art Crossing Over

Contemporary art and craft are finding all kinds of ways to crossover these days. I could wax philosophical about it, or I could share some compelling examples. Today I'm opting for the latter.

A few days ago our friends Morry and Dennis stopped by with an amazing portrait of their grey tiger cat. But it isn't a painting, a sculpture, or a photograph. It is a fully functional scarf and hat crocheted by their incredibly talented friend Ming Yi Sung. (The piece is modeled here by tres chic cousin Jason.)

Ming Yi is a master crocheter and artist based in Washington, DC, who, besides making beautiful presents for her friends, crafts incredibly elaborate installations, wearable sculptures, and other objects entirely out of crocheted yarn. The work really speaks more eloquently than I could, so I've put some pix below. Check out her excellent website, too, for lots more images.

Another example was mentioned to me yesterday by Corrie Beth Hogg, who is herself an example of an artist bending the edges of craft. (See her website here -- we have her Little Animals here at the shop, with a new batch coming soon.)

She mentioned reading in Bust magazine about a group of women in Texas who go out under the cover of night with their yarn and knitting needles to make, for instance, cozies for stop signs and car antennas. They're called Knitta and they're in NYC too! Check 'em out at (Thanks, Claire, for writing in with the name!) (paragraph modified 9/13/06).

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. What else is out there challenging the norms of art, craft, and design?

Unrelatedly, the Adventures of the Travelling Felt Ball has been updated -- see it in Ireland and Italy here!
Ming Yi's "Creation of the World"

Ming Yi Sung's "Fish Out of Water"

Ming Yi's "Tree Sweater"

Corrie Beth Hogg's Little Animals

Cozified ketsup bottle in Brooklyn by Knitta
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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Suggestions for Peace Day Window?

As some of you may know, September 21 is the International Day of Peace. To mark this day, we at Greenjeans want to do a special window display to keep up through the month of September helping to raise awareness about the day. Thing is, I'm not sure what to do!

To give you some background, the ultimate vision for this day is that it would be a day of armistice and cease-fire, an actual day of peace for all humanity. In the meantime, it is a day when people around the world hold vigils, concerts, teach-ins, and all sorts of other events to bring people together to connect in the spirit of understanding, love, community, and non-violence.

Ceramacist Mary Anne Davis, who is on the U.N.'s IDP committee and has taught me about the day, suggested we work with school children to make dozens and dozens of paper cranes to hang in the window as a tribute to the Cranes for Peace project. (She was going to contribute to the window, but then got a huge commission for dinnerware at a very fancy restaurant and can't take on any more commitments until it's done.) And we also will display some wonderful bowls with the names of peace activists painted inside made by NH potter Kit Cornell. But other than that, I'm not sure what else to include!

Do you have a suggestion for what a window display for peace might look like? If so, please send me a comment or email. I'd love to integrate as many ideas as possible, so brainstorm away!

Thank you so much for your input! And maybe we'll even offer a discount that day for anyone who brings in a paper crane!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Labor Day Blues

It is a rainy Labor Day weekend and business couldn't be slower. This is quite normal for a shop in a residential neighborhood like Park Slope in late August, and we are in good company with the other businesses in the area, though many are, wisely, closed for vacation.

But when things are slow like this, my mind tends to drift toward doomsday scenarios. I entertain my doubts a little, knowing that a little doubt can be healthy, and having faith that soon enough things will pick up again. And since I imagine most business owners experience these doubts from time to time, I decided to blog about where my mind is at today.

It is said that an idle mind is the devil's workshop, and so I try to stay occupied. I polish some jewelry and change some displays. I work on writing new text for ads and the website. I troll magazines and blogs for inspiration.

But instead of filling me with confidence, these attempts only bring more doubt. The magazines and blogs inspire only insecurity. The writing sounds weak and uncertain. The choices I make rearranging pieces seem like bad ideas. I feel like everyone is more clever than me, every business is more successful than ours.

And then I wonder, why aren't people coming in? Is there something we're doing wrong? Maybe people don't like what we offer for sale. Or maybe they come in and because nothing is familiar, nothing is "famous" from being in a flashy magazine or in higher-profile stores, they walk back out. I always thought that having a shop full of things you can't find everywhere else is a good idea. But maybe not. Maybe people want what they know and aren't as willing to take a chance buying something "unproven." Are we barking up the wrong tree?

Jae, naturally, disagrees with my doubt-full thoughts. He reminds me that it is pouring rain outside and everyone is on vacation. And he says it's the shops that are doing something different that make it big. I reply that, on the contrary, it seems to me it's the mainstream players who make it big. He says nothing, understanding that there's no reasoning with me on a day like this.

And so it goes. I spray some nice citrusy room fragrance around the shop and fluff up the stuffed animals. I file away some sales receipts. I try to imbue all my actions with good energy and positive thoughts.

Then I take a step back and realize that as slow as August has been, and despite the fact that we were closed for a week earlier in the month, we brought in 2.5x more this August than we did last August. And what is that? That is growth. That is progress. That is success. That is maybe even encouraging.

So doubts may come and doubts may go, and that's just fine. I do my best to ride out the tough times and enjoy the good times. Because at the end of the day, there is no doubt in my mind that this is the best job I've ever had, the job that utilizes more of my aptitudes and skills than any other before, the job that brings me (on most days!) the greatest sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. And that certainly has to count for something. Does it mean Greenjeans will become the wildly successful international sensation I sometimes dream for it to be? Who knows. But so long as we stick to our sense of what is right, what is beautiful, and what is true, I think we’ll be just fine. I can go ahead and doubt that if I want to, but for now I think I’ll go with it!

Image found at