Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Holiday Cards are Great Little Artworks

As you may have read in a previous post, this year Greenjeans commissioned 20 artists to make unique holiday cards especially to benefit Millennium Villages, a great project that helps communities in developing countries escape extreme poverty. Price range from $3.50 to $6.00 each, 100% of which goes to the charity.

From the subtle and abstract to the merry and bright, these cards are really small works of art, and would make great little holiday gifts. More will be arriving in the coming days, but here is some of what's on the shelves now. (We also have cards made by Anders Bergstrom and Regan Grusy pictured here.)

Thank you again to all the artists who participated in our project!

Judy Lee

Jane Kaufmann

Alana Dlubak

Erica Schlueter

Shawn Liu

Melania Semerad-Radulescu

Jody Smyula

Rebecca Davis

Kimberly Navratil-Pope

Melle Finelli

Dennis Yuen

Jennifer Weiers

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Me and Greenjeans on Clinton Kelly's Website

Want to know what to wear? At least where jewelry is concerned? Well, if you're Clinton Kelly (of What Not To Wear), you come to Greenjeans!

A few weeks ago, CK scout Nancy came into Greenjeans looking for material for their newly-launching site. She photographed me wearing a pair of Large Orbit earrings by Boston artist Melle Finelli ($140). How flattering!

To see me in my quick moment of glory, go to and click on "Good Stuff" (the light green bar at the top). Scroll all the way down -- I'm the first entry on that page, "Art Smart." You'll see props to Bird, the fab lady's boutique down the street here in the South Slope, too.

Thanks, Nancy! And good luck with the CK site!

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Nut has been Cracked

Well, Thanksgiving is a wrap and I'm back in Brooklyn after nearly a week in N.H. Back just in time to crack the nut! (More on that in a minute.)

We brought back from our trip new pottery fresh from the studio by John Zentner and Jeff Brown, as well as new work by Jane Kaufmann, including several small orbs.

Small-batch, artisan-made holiday cards are also coming in, and 100% of the selling price of these goes to charity. Click here to see the fabulous batch local bookbinder Dennis Yuen just completed.

So that's my Black Friday pitch. Today is Black Friday, so named because it's the day that large retailers start turning a profit, or go "into the black," for the first time of the year. (Retailers generally make 50% of their annual intake during the last quarter of the year). That's why so many big stores open at 5am and offer lots of specials -- they're all competing viciously for the bucks on this big day.

At smaller shops like Greenjeans, Black Friday isn't as dramatic -- we didn't open at 5am, that's for sure! -- but it is special for us for another reason: today is the day that we "crack the nut."

That's the phrase Jae came up with today meaning we start in earnest to accept the fact that The Holiday Season has officially begun. And with it, the sort of holiday-flavored things it behooves a shop to do, like put up some pretty lights and decorations (we go for subtle here) and play holiday music (not so subtle).

This year on our holiday turntable we'll be spinning The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky (get it?), Duke Ellington's wonderful jazz version of that classical suite, and some good old fashioned crooners singing Christmas carols (Dino, Frank, and Nat will surely be among them!).

We're also starting our Holiday Hours, opening 7 days a week (that's right, Monday too!) 12-7pm (or later) until Christmas Day.

So! The nut has been cracked! And as you start your shopping engines, we encourage you to think local (wherever your locale) and remember that every dollar you spend is a vote. Let the wild rumpus start!

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Photo sourced here.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

"Design was born out of craft..."

This piece is from the always ahead-of-the-curve Metropolis magazine (September 2006). I'm a big fan of the first line here... and the project described sounds outstanding. Kudos all around!

“ 'Design was born out of craft,' says Enrico Bressan, co-director of the Los Angeles–based manufacturer Artecnica. It’s a bond that the company has been reinvigorating with its Design with Conscience campaign, which puts high-profile international talents in touch with local craftspeople in developing countries.

"The project began in 2004, when Artecnica paired husband-and-wife team Tord Boontje and Emma Woffenden with glassmakers in Guatemala to produce the TranSglass collection of vases, cups, and jugs from recycled wine and beer bottles.

"Shortly afterward the company forged a collaboration with Hella Jongerius and Aid to Artisans in Peru. Jongerius’s four-piece collection, mixing black ceramics and pink beadwork (pictured above), was two years in the making and won an Editors Award at ICFF in May.

"Not content to rest on its laurels, Artecnica is already working on a new project through Aid to Artisans, connecting Stephen Burks with craftspeople in Peru and South Africa; the resulting collection will debut at the New York International Gift Fair in January.

"Ultimately the campaign is not just about creating products with an interesting backstory. 'We get a product we can be proud of,' Bressan says. 'But at the same time we have to create the economics where we can give back to the designers and to the craftspeople.' "

by Mason Currey for Metropolis

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Photo sourced here

Thursday, November 16, 2006

As We Know... (Well-Crafted Political Satire)

Through music, video, and considerable attention to detail, artists have created some brilliant satirical pieces about Donald Rumsfeld, our accidental poet laureate and former Secretary of Defense. Today let us appreciate some of their well-crafted political satire. (I will stop with the diversions and get back to craft writing soon...)

Happy laughing, gentle readers! (And happy trails, Rummy!)

:: The brilliant, hilarious video Rumsfeld Gets Cute at the Podium, from the Craig Ferguson show.

:: Musician Phil Kline put some of Rumsfeld's obtuse statements to modern, atonal music. The results are addictive. (Click on "Three Rumsfeld Songs" in the playlist at the left to hear generous clips. My favorite is #2.)

:: Poet Hart Seely also arranged some of Rumsfeld's actual quotes into poems, and then musician Bryant Kong put the poems to music, this time sung as arias by a soprano. The "poems" (which are all real quotes from Rumsfeld) are given here, too.

:: Don't believe those songs are the real quotes? BBC Radio 4 offers a whole bunch of links to actual Rumsfeld soundbites. They are simply astonishing.

Do you know of any other Rumsfeld satire? Let me know! I'm collecting...
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Photo sourced here

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cool Sightings in the Blogosphere

Today, as I work on scanning the AMAZING artist-made cards we'll be debuting later this week for our Greenjeans Holiday Card Project, I've been cruising around the blogosphere and finding some great stuff to share. Enjoy!


Attention knitters! The National WWII Museum in New Orleans is collecting donations of handknit scarves to give to veterans. Knit your bit! (ref. Craftzine)

Attention urban anarchist crafters! Dig this groovy cross walk decal on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.
(ref. Brooklyn Record. Photo by Vivre)


I read a review in Bust this month of a book called "Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power" by Psyche A. Williams-Forson. From the publisher: "Chicken--both the bird and the food--has played multiple roles in the lives of African American women from the slavery era to the present. It has provided food and a source of income for their families, shaped a distinctive culture, and helped women define and exert themselves in racist and hostile environments." It sounds fascinating to me.
(ref. Bust Magazine)

Read some more:
Australia's magazine Artlink has an issue out now called "Handmade: The New Labour Movement." The excellent website Craft Culture has reprinted five articles from the issue, ranging from the contemporary knitting movement to the craft industry in South Africa. (Why don't we have a magazine like this in the States???)

Stop & Go:
I am recently interested in traffic lights vs. stop signs. In Brooklyn's Boerum Hill, residents and drivers are complaining about the newly installed traffic lights that increase horn honking and transit time. Maybe Brooklyn should take a lesson from the Dutch, who recently took away traffic lights in one town in an effort to reduce accidents. And it's working! But maybe Brooklyn doesn't have room for the round-abouts (aka traffic circles) that replaced them. I still like the idea of courtesy saving lives, though. (ref. Brooklyn Record and Treehugger, resp.)

Muse: I love this blog, called Poetry Thursday, kept by a charming group of poetesses. It offers great links and it just may inspire the poet in you. (Photo sourced here.)

Nanowrimo update: Speaking of writing, I'm at 14,267 words and counting... To read an excerpt, visit my profile page here. (And remember: it's unedited!!!)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

New Arrivals, including BOOKS!

Yesterday we added a new category to Greenjeans -- books! We've wanted to offer a small, carefully-selected group of books here for a long time, but it wasn't until Claudia from Enchanted Lion Books -- a small children's book publisher in DUMBO -- came to visit with her new releases that we found the way to start.

We are starting with three books by two amazing author-illustrators. "Monday" and "Prince Silencio" are by Anne Herbauts of Belgium. They are curious stories with painterly illustrations.

"Monday" has a cut-out cover and uses different weights of paper to help tell the story. "Prince Silencio" explores ideas of noise and silence through vivid pictures and a simple story. We love them both.

The third book is "The Magic Horse of Han Gan" by Chen Jiang Hong, a Chinese artist who has been living in Paris for the past twenty years. The story is of a painter of horses who lived 1,200 years ago. Using the real history as his foundation, Chen creates a wonderful story about the artistic process, the imagination, the horror of battle and the call of peace, with these experienced from the horse's point-of-view.
Moreover, Chen uses the same technique as used by the artist of his story 1,200 years ago, which is drawing with China ink on silk. This book was just selected by the New York Public Library as one of the 100 best books published in the US in 2006.
Here are the books in the shop. In the coming months we will be adding books for young adults and adults, as well as more children's books. So come on by and check them out!

As if that weren't enough, here are some more recent arrivals:

Today we just received a new batch of jewelry from Lisa Crowder of Austin, TX.

We're restocked with felted wool balls in loads of colors by FeltWorks, the perfect domestic cool weather playthings for kids and adults alike.

Holiday ornaments are starting to arrive as well, though we're going to hold off on displaying them until next week. But here's a sneak peek of new glass ornaments by Matt Eskuche of Pittsburgh.

Finally, congratulations to Shawn and Judy (shown here selecting mugs by John Zentner) on their wedding! We wish you every happiness, you two!

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All photos by Greenjeans

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Democracy Returns, & "It's Hard Work"

Well, the Democrats have finally done it, they've achieved a majority of seats in BOTH the House and the Senate! (More about the busts pictured here in a minute.)

Since Tuesday night, people I've talked with have all expressed a sense of relief, an opening up, a burden off their shoulders. A friend stopped by tonight with her Mom who threw her hands up and declared, "We live in a democracy again! We have options! It feels great!" Another friend summed it up this way: "For the last six years we've been watching our country slide closer and closer to being a fascist state, so yeah, it's a huge relief!" (I guess I haven't been talking with too many Republicans the last few days...)

It's all very exciting, and though we don't know what will happen next, there is a great sense of hope in the air. We'll be watching closely...

And I want to say this: there has never been a better time to call your representative and tell them what you want them to do! Over the next several weeks, incoming congresspeople, as well as incumbents, will be setting their priorities for 2007 and beyond.

Let them know what you want them to focus on! Is it immigration? Global warming? The war? Education? Health care? Speak up! Y'know, now that they might actually be able to DO something about it. (Click here to find out how to contact your reps, and here for more detailed info about how to most effectively communicate with Congress, including committee leaders, who will all be Democrats soon...)

So wheeling back 'round to craft, what better time to introduce you to a recent arrival I've been meaning to blog about? (I'm talking about the bust now.) Made by local artist James Williamson and titled "It's Hard Work" this limited edition piece is a spoof on the traditional plaster presidential bust. (I remember the ones of Roosevelt and Lincoln on top of my grandparent's piano.) The rendering is based on photos of 43 squinting in the Rose Garden. On the back you can see "the device" through his jacket. Cast in two-part epoxy resin and finished by hand (James does them one at a time by himself), it is for sale at the shop right now for $100. Come and get it while it's hot!

And here's to Democracy! Woo hoo!

Photos: Top by me, bottom by James Williamson

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"What Do You Make?" (In search of my own craft form)

Being the co-owner of a shop of fine handcraft, I get asked a lot, "What do YOU make?"

My usual response is "I make the shop!" This is both true and allows me to not admit that I myself am not much of a maker-of-things.

Or am I? In my continuing quest to understand "what is craft," today I thought I'd come at it from a personal standpoint and see if that offers some new insights. Because if it's true as some say that crafting is a human tendency, then I must make things. So, what DO I make? What is my craft?

Let's start with what I'm not. I'm not a potter, not a wood-turner, not a jewelry-maker. I've been taught to knit, but it never really took for me. I got a nice sewing machine for Christmas two years ago -- it was all I wanted -- because I aspire to reinvent clothes I don't wear anymore, but I have completed only two modest and lackluster projects.

It's not for want of ideas. I save DIY instructions from craft blogs, I tear pictures from magazines of funkified chairs and dressers, I even have my own sketches and notes for designs. But alas, I am surrounded with so many potential projects and precious few finished ones.

I could chalk this up to being busy with other things like running a business. But that would be disingenuous. It's not like I spend every waking minute on Greenjeans. And I don't watch that much TV.

So, what do I do with myself the rest of the time? Shouldn't I be making things?

Last night, while cruising the 'net, I came across something on Get Crafty that inspired this whole post today: "Your Craft-Q Quiz." "This quiz," the page said, "is designed to help you figure out which craft is right for you." It was like a beacon in my stormy craft sea. At last! I thought. Someone will tell me what to make!

So I got out my paper and pencil and recorded my answers to the eight questions, not sure where they were leading, but confident that they would guide me in the right direction.

And then I looked at the results. And you know what? Turns out I've been crafting all along, I just didn't realize it.

The quiz basically told me (in about eight different ways) that I might like cooking. How about that? I happen to love cooking! I love making crepes, I love making new kinds of soup, I love getting new kitchen gadgets (my cordless immersion blender is the BEST), I love planning menus for dinner parties, I love putting together left overs into delicious new combinations. I've even gone out on focused excursions searching for, say, the perfect madeline pan so I can spend the day trying to master a new recipe after being inspired by a scene in a movie.

Not only that, but dining out is one of my (and Jae's) favorite things in the world to do. And it's not like I'm some glutton. I enjoy it for the experience -- the flavors, the textures, the marvelous improv theater of the restaurant setting. I think you could say, for me dining out is an opportunity to enjoy someone else's craft work.

I rarely think of cooking as craft, but of course, it is. It may not last as long as a fine piece of furniture, but for me good cooking is all about quality, integrity, skill, and love, as is good furniture or good glass-blowing or good toy-making.

And for that matter, good writing, too.

For that's the other thing I make: writing. When I answer the question "what do you make?" I sometimes add that "I'm more of a writer." I suppose this phrasing diminishes the idea that writing, too, can be craft. But I certainly approach it that way. I can sit and work on a piece of writing for hours and hours on end without a break. I write every day, sometimes at length (not just, but including, on this blog). I'm doing my third NaNoWriMo this year, writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November, and plan to do NaNoEdMo in March when I'll spend 50 hours editing the novel. I make extra money doing freelance editing and I love every mind-bending minute of it. (I'm darn good at it, too.) I even still write letters, the kind you put stamps on.

And come to think of it, there are all kinds of apt craftly metaphors you can use about writing: knitting together ideas, weaving threads of thought, building the argument, sewing it all up at the end. It all makes my mouth water.

I remember reading a great piece in the NY Times once where the writer speaks of polishing off a paragraph while the onions caramelize for soup, or reworking some structural problem while the rack of lamb roasts, going back and forth between stovetop and laptop, shifting mental and manual gears through a productive day. Yup, that sounds about like heaven to me!

So next time I'm asked "what do you make?" I will say with confidence, "writing and cooking."

And I can still add that I make the shop. For shopkeeping, and even housekeeping -- might not those be craft forms, too? I think possibly so. But that's a topic for another time.

Photo: Me (Amy Shaw) working on my 2004 NaNoWriMo at the kitchen table. (Note: I now write without the ashtray! We still have those unfortunate chairs, though...)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dr. Garbage!

The New Yorker reported in Talk of the Town this week that my dear friend and former professor, Robin Nagle (the smiling lady on the right), has been named Anthropologist- in- Residence at the Department of Sanitation here in New York!

For many years Robin has been researching garbage in New York, specifically the work of san men. She teaches a great class at NYU called "Garbage in Gotham" and is working on a book called "Picking Up."

Robin is brilliantly bookish, but she's not one of those ivory tower types. As part of her field work, she not only rode the trucks with the official san workers to get a sense of the work they do, but also trained to become a san worker herself, earning her CDL and passing the physically rigorous qualifying exam to be considered for hire by the DSNY. I was privileged to work as her research assistant for two years (although I didn't get nearly as down and dirty as her), and I can tell you, garbage is a fascinating and revealing subject (and one that I love to talk about, as some of you, perhaps unfortunately, know!)

So a big mongolicious congratulations to Robin!

(And I'll be sure to let y'all know when the book comes out...)

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Monday, November 06, 2006

A Creative Day in the USA

Tomorrow, there will take place a major interactive performance craft project conducted in this country of ours, the United States of America. Every citizen (*every citizen!* Its hasn't been that way for very long, folks) gets to participate by adding their piece to a humongous collective compendium of citizen preferences. They call these pieces "votes." And whoever gets the most votes gets put into office to make mighty important decisions on our behalf.

Now, many of us are saying, yeah but the votes don't count, the machines are rigged, etc. Well, here's the thing: why do you think those accused of rigging the machines don't deny it?? Because they know these doubts are helping to discourage the voters who would otherwise vote against them.They don't want those voters coming to the polls, so they allow the conspiracy theories to run rampant.

But here's another question for you: if the votes are already rigged, then why are candidates and political parties collectively spending so many BILLIONS of dollars trying to influence voters? BECAUSE YOUR VOTE ACTUALLY DOES COUNT. Go figure.

Now, as if it isn't cool enough that we get to vote in this country, here's an enticement to sweeten the deal: Take your camera to your polling place, take some photos, and post them on the website of the Polling Place Photo Project (that I read about today on SuperNaturale's blog). This project is "a nationwide experiment in citizen journalism that seeks to empower citizens to capture, post and share photographs of democracy in action. By documenting their local voting experience on November 7, voters can contribute to an archive of photographs that captures the richness and complexity of voting in America." This is a great idea, because some polling places are kind of chaotic, and this project can help to remedy that.

So tomorrow stands to be a very creative day for every citizen of the country! Not only do you get to contribute your part to the building of American democracy, but you also get to engage your inner photo-journalist and post your experience of voting!

If you're already planning to vote, that's great, you ROCK! If you want to take it one step further, bring along a friend who's maybe thinking they weren't gonna bother.

And if you're not sure where your polling place is, click here and enter your zip code to find out.

Be a participant!
Be your bad-ass creative self!

Photo of voting in 1945 sourced here

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Greenjeans in the Press

Greenjeans has enjoyed some nice press mentions recently and today we wanted to share the love with you.

:: Brooklyn Record goes batty for Greenjeans

:: Rosen Group's Market Insider newsletter highlights Greenjeans in their November Blog Spotlight

:: Not For Tourists Guide to Brooklyn lists Greenjeans among the fabulous shops of 7th Avenue in Park Slope

:: Time Out New York Kids features Greenjeans among the kid-related shops in Brooklyn's burgeoning South Slope.

From Time Out (pictured right):
The Good is in the Wood
The antique chair and table that stand in place of a cash register counter, plus the collection of folksy furniture, glassware and toys, make Greenjeans seem more like a workshop than a store. Co-owner Amy Shaw says wooden toys by Frank Ridley are big sellers ($7.50-$125). While kids might not appreciate it on an aesthetic level, the tiger maple rocking chair by Shaker-furniture maker Brian Braskie ($560) is a functional work of art. (Tracy Perez, photo by Alexander Milligan)

Many thanks to everyone who gave us a shout-out!

And congratulations to the runners of today's New York City Marathon!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Potter's Story: Rebuilding the Kiln

Technical difficulties have delayed today's scheduled launch of Greenjeans Online (even after we stayed up all night getting things ready. Now I know how NASA feels. Well, sort of...). So today instead I will share with you some pictures from the source.

Potter John Zentner from Northwood, NH, (my hometown) recently undertook the long, laborious project of rebuilding his kiln. (That's the "after" picture above, all tight and spiffy.)

John started work on the project this summer, and fired for the first time in the rebuilt kiln last week. He took pictures documenting the project and wrote descriptions of what they show. Not being a potter myself, I learned a lot about kilns from John's emails. I share his story with you so you can learn too! (To learn more about kilns generally, click here.)

The potters who built this kiln 30 years ago, Jeff and Laurie Lalish, were parents of my good friend Tras. Growing up we were forbidden from going near the mysterious hulking kiln. The first time I ever saw it in person was when we visited John's studio last year... (Click here for an earlier post about John and his kiln.)

The "before" picture. "Kilns need to be re-built because of age. This one was originally built 30 years ago and it was getting too 'relaxed.'. I was afraid to fire it again unless it was re-built. The arch was sagging and the back wall was bowing inward."

"These are the skew back bricks that hold and support the arch bricks. They will be re-used."

"The bricks that make up the arch (top) of the kiln have been removed. You can see the wooden arch support that is itself supported inside the kiln. It will also be used to put the new arch bricks in."

"This is the old flue opening leading from the firing chamber into the chimney. You can see that it was settling and bowing inward."

"Here all the insulating soft brick have been removed and these bricks are hard firebrick. Hard brick are used at the base of the kiln and to just above the burner ports for greater support."

"In this top view of the wall, you can see how much the two layers of the wall have separated."

"The new walls are in place, the arch support put back in and the new arch has begun to be put in."

"The new chimney with skin of insulating mortar and then finished with regular red brick and a flue liner mortared on top."

"I got to the point where I couldn't see inside the chimney to put any more brick on. I may take the flue liner off and finish with brick in the future."

Rebuilt arch with insulating mortar in place.

The kiln fully loaded for its first firing after the rebuild.

After the firing. "The first firing was very, very good. First firings of new kilns usually point to needed adjustments but this firing was great top to bottom!!!!"

Some of the finished products:

Congratulations on completing this project, John! We're excited to see it in person when we come up later this month!