Saturday, December 30, 2006

Greenjeans Year in Review (and what's to come in '07!)

As 2006 comes swiftly to a close, we wanted to take a few moments to reflect and share with you some highlights from the past year at Greenjeans, our first whole year in business.

All told, 2006 was a great year for us. We grew, we learned, we met scores of wonderful people, and we became even more firmly committed to our mission.

Our understanding of that mission developed as well. We have come to see that Greenjeans is a place where the old school and new wave craft movements can harmoniously co-mingle. It is a place where ideas about sustainable and ethical business practices are put into action. And it is a place where people can come in, browse at ease, and have an experience with beautifully handmade objects. We feel really good about what we're creating here!

This year we added 22 new artisans to Greenjeans, doubling our roster from 2005: local soap maker Amy Bzdak, James Bettinger who makes fun bottle openers, Buff Brown of the popular cutting and serving boards, wool felters Russell and Mary Ellen Chamberlain (FeltWorks), Austin jeweler Lisa Crowder, enamel jewelry artist Alana Dlubak, Brooklyn children's book publisher Enchanted Lion Books, funky metalsmith jeweler Melle Finelli, Toronto-based Renato Foti (Trio Design Glassware) who makes the very popular candy-colored fused glass coasters and trays, stuffed toy maker Judy Geagley from Kentucky, fine and fancy jewelery maker Janice Ho, Japanese puppet master aya*shii, Julie Jerman-Melka of the sensitive river rock jewelry, Kristina Kada-Madden (Satomi) who makes stylized floral pendants on hand-knotted kumihimo cords, film-gel and silver jewelery maker (and new Mom!) Eija Lindsey, photos-under-clear-resin jeweler Alison Mackey, Whit McLeod of the popular wine barrel folding chairs, Jay & Janet O'Rourke of the handsome polished wooden boxes (Jay O'Boxes), Barbara Sebastian who makes the fine porcelain jars with robin's egg blue interiors (these are the sleepers of the shop), local candlemaker Jason Thompson, Marianne "The Sock Lady" Wakerlin (Sol Mate Socks), and local editorial illustrator and sculptor James Williamson.

It wouldn't have been possible to add so much new work without the handsome display case my Dad built for us, and the proper glass lighted case we had shipped from California. These replaced our French-door-on-sawhorses display table -- remember that?

We gave back to the community by donating items to various local charity events including one benefiting the playgrounds in Prospect Park. Through our first annual Holiday Card Project for Charity, we raised over $600 for Millennium Villages (a project of Millennium Promise), and garnering attention from customers and media alike.

Venturing away from 7th Avenue, we took an adventure to northern Vermont to visit the Bread and Puppet Museum. I traveled to Houston for the American Craft Council's conference "Shaping the Future of American Craft." We took a day trip to Hudson, NY to see what all the buzz is about there. And we spent a week adventuring in Wisconsin and Illinois.

And of course, I did lots of blogging! Click here for a sampling of highlights from the blog over the year.

Looking forward to 2007, we have lots of exciting plans in store. We'll be starting a monthly newsletter, launching the website with e-commerce, offering gift registries, introducing more book titles to the shelves, blogging for Worldchanging, and adding new artisans and items including wedding bands, jewelry boxes, and Shaker peg boards. Let us know if there are other items you'd like to see at Greenjeans and we'll see what we can do!

Last but not least, we would like to offer thanks to the many people who have made this year such a pleasure and a success. Thank you to all the artisans whose fine work never fails to impress. Greenjeans wouldn't exist without you! Thank you to our friends and family who have supported us, cheered us on, advised us, and helped us (huge props to Jason, Meagan, and Dad!!). Thank you to our wonderful neighbors (especially Rena, Temah, Sergio, Shalome, Eileen, Sammy, and Lori) who help to make the South Slope such an awesome place to run a business. And last but not least, thank you to each and every one of our customers for your patronage and your care. We are sincerely grateful.

And on that note, we would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year filled with peace, love, joy, abundance, and delight.

Many blessings, many thanks, and we look forward to seeing you next year!

Photo sourced here

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Greenjeans in World Changing

Many thanks to World Changing's New York editor Emily Gertz for this wonderful recent article about Greenjeans and our holiday card project, ("Millennium Goals Get a Boost from a Brooklyn Business")! (So busy we were that we just saw it yesterday...) No one has ever written so well about our ideas and business model, and we really appreciate it!

We met Emily a few weeks after we opened in March '05, and knew right away we'd met a kindred spirit. Lots has happened since then. World Changing has launched a fantastic book (that we hope to offer soon at Greenjeans) and has grown so much that it offers local editions now.

Thanks to my blog writing, I've earned a spot on the roster too! Starting in January, I am going to be blogging 2x/month for World Changing, posting about conscientious business practices and sustainability and such. I'm psyched!

Thank you for the opportunity to write, and for the great article, Emily!

photo by Emily Gertz for World Changing

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! And a Joyful Festivus for the Rest of Us!

It's Christmas Eve, and we are merrily wrapping up what has been an overwhelming holiday shopping season! We're pretty tuckered out and ready for a long winter's nap, looking forward to a couple of days of rest in New Hampshire. But we'll be here at the shop until 5pm to help those last-minute shoppers find beautiful gifts for their loved ones.

Here are our hours for the next couple of weeks:

12/24 (Christmas Eve): 12-5 pm
12/25 – 12/27: Closed
12/28 – 12/30: 12-7 pm
12/31: 12-6 pm
1/1 – 1/2: Closed

Regular Hours Resume Jan. 3rd:
Tuesday – Sunday, 12—7 pm

Things should settle down a bit for us after the first of the year, and I'm looking forward to having more time to write blog posts again!

Until then, Merry Merry and Happy Happy, and many blessings all around!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Paul Auster on Rascals (Missing Tiger Redux)

In follow-up to my last posting about the missing Tiger finger puppet, I offer this passage from The Brooklyn Follies, the latest from celebrated local novelist Paul Auster. Funny/strange enough, I read this passage the night after we discovered the apparent theft. (The novel takes place in Park Slope, making it doubly relevant.) It's interesting food for thought, not to mention marvelous prose.

We haven't recovered the Tiger, and probably won't, but perhaps instead we can find some solace in the notion that the spirit of the rascal has graced Greenjeans.
. . .

"I've always had a soft spot for rascals," I said. "They might not make the most reliable friends, but think how drab life would be without them."

"I'm not sure Harry's a rascal anymore," Tom answered. "he's too full of regret."

"Once a rascal, always a rascal. People never change."

"A matter of opinion. I say they can."

"You never worked in the insurance business. The passion for deceit is universal, my boy, and once a man acquires a taste for it, he can never be cured. Easy money -- there's no greater temptation than that. Think of all the wiseguys with their staged car accidents and personal-injury scams, the merchants who burn down their own stores and warehouses, the people who fake their own deaths. I watched this stuff for thirty years, and I never got tired of it. The great spectacle of human crookedness. It keeps coming at you from all sides, and whether you like it or not, it's the most interesting show in town."

Tom emitted a brief noise, an outrush of air that fell midway between a snicker and a guffaw. "I love hearing you spout your bullshit, Nathan. I hadn't realized it until now, but I've missed it. I've missed it a lot."

"You think I'm joking," I said, "but I'm giving it to you straight. The pearls of my wisdom. A few pointers after a lifetime of toiling in the trenches of experience. Con men and tricksters run the world. Rascals rule. And do you know why?"

"Tell me, Master. I'm all ears."

"Because they're hungrier than we are. Because they know what they want. Because they believe in life more than we do."

"Speak for yourself, Socrates. If I wasn't so hungry all the time, I wouldn't be carrying around this giant gut."

"You love life, Tom, but you don't believe in it. And neither do I."

"You're beginning to lose me."

"Think of Jacob and Esau. Remember them?"

"Ah. Okay. Now you're starting to make sense."

"It's an awful story, isn't it?"

"Yes, truly awful. It gave me no end of trouble when I was a kid. I was such a moral, upright little person back then. I never lied, never stole, never cheated, never said a cruel word to anyone. And there's Esau, a galumphing simpleton just like me. By all rights, Issac's blessing should be his. But Jacob tricks him out of it -- with his mother's help, no less."

"Even worse, God seems to approve of the arrangement. The dishonest, double-crossing Jacob goes on to become the leader of the Jews, and Esau is left out in the cold, a forgotten man, a worthless nobody."

"My mother always taught me to be good. 'God wants you to be good,' she'd say to me, and since I was still young enough to believe in God, I believed what she said. Then I came across that story in the Bible, and I didn't understand a thing. The bad guy wins, and God doesn't punish him. It didn't seem right. It still doesn't seem right."

"Of course it does. Jacob had the spark of life in him, and Esau was a dumbbell. Good-hearted, yes, but a dumbbell. If you're going to choose one of them to lead your people, you'll want the fighter, the one with cunning and wit, the one with the energy to beat the odds and come out on top. You choose the strong and clever over the weak and kind."

"That's pretty brutal stuff, Nathan. Take your argument one step further, and the next thing you'll be telling me is that Stalin should be revered as a great man."

"Stalin was a thug, a psychotic murderer. I'm talking about the instinct for survival, Tom, the will to live. Give me a wily rascal over a pious sap any day of the week. He might not always play by the rules, but he's got spirit. And when you find a man with spirit, there's still some hope for the world."

. . .

May the Solstice bring you Peace, Joy, Love, and Light

Technorati tags:

Image of Paul Auster sourced here

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

APB - Missing Tiger!

Sometimes a person falls so deeply in love with a work of art that they just HAVE to have it for themselves. Even if they can't afford to buy it. Such has been the motivation for any number of art thefts over time.

Including an apparent theft from Greenjeans.

This morning I noticed that one of the five finger puppets by Japanese puppet master aya*shii was missing from its black pedestal up on the high shelf where we have them displayed.

The tiger. Is. Missing.

I can't believe it.

I guess thefts happen from shops all the time and we're no exception. Last holiday season a seashell necklace went missing and we just figured it was collateral damage. C'est la vie of the shopkeeper.

But I am furious, of course. Who the bleep would steal from us? Why?? If someone wanted the tiger so badly we'd have been happy to work with them to pay over time. They didn't have to steal it!

We have no idea who it could have been or when it might have happened. It had to have been an adult since the shelf is up high. Maybe it happened during the very busy weekend (when 4 of us were in here working). Or maybe it happened yesterday when Jae was here by himself. We just don't know. But I am sickened by the whole thing.

At the same time, I can kind of understand how someone might be so seduced by the tiger's beauty -- his hand stitched suede jacket, his mane of white fur -- that they just couldn't help themselves. And maybe I need to make some lemonade here -- if people are stealing from us, we must have desirable things here! But still. C'mon!! Stealing's just plain wrong!!

So I am broadcasting to all our readers about this theft. If anyone has any information about the tiger, we urge you to contact us, anonymously if you want, to offer us any leads. If someone knows the tiger's whereabouts and can return him to us, we will accept him back with no questions asked and no penalties levied.

In the meantime, we continue to be very busy with holiday shoppers and are doing our best to restock sold out items (more socks and more cutting boards are coming tomorrow or Thursday!) and make good gift suggestions. People say the shop looks great and mostly it's been a lot of fun. We're geared up for a busy week and a solid weekend to wrap up the holiday run.

This whole tiger thing, though, has taken the wind out of my sails a bit today. I suppose I should just have faith that either he'll show up or that he's gone to a new home where he will be coveted and loved beyond compare! And maybe thievery, like imitation, is the sincerest form of flattery.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Consumer Culture: Dubious but Delightful

Sometimes things that we know are dubious also give us great delight and joy. Take the unseasonably mild weather we're having. It makes one worry about the trees and the glaciers and it doesn't do much to generate holiday spirit. But it is also delicious.

Last night, our run to deliver packages to customers took us into Manhattan and we decided to make it into a date. We ate at the brightly lit diner on the corner of 71st and 3rd where burgers, a side of broccoli, and a black-and-white milkshake refueled us after a rigorous day. The agreeable night air drew us to Fifth Avenue which is sumptuously done up in all its holiday glory, especially at Bergdorf Goodman's.

To me, Bergdorf's holiday windows (pictured here) are some of the best public art in town and we make a point to see them every year. It's theatre, it's sculpture, it's fashion, it's craft, it's shopping, it's practically performance art. And it's free! (Alas, I didn't have my camera, but there is a marvelous Flickr set of pictures here by "James" of If you can't come see the windows in person, these pix shouldn't be missed.)

Shopping is another dubious thing that can bring delight and joy. Yes, holiday shopping is heavily consumerist and capitalist and corporate/fascist and is able to create materialistic gluttons of us all. But it certainly can be delicious as well. I'm not a big shopper myself, but I do like to go out and visit good stores, peruse the wares, glean display ideas. Often I'll find a piece of furniture or pair of shoes that set me alight. And I'll admit that when I entered Uniqlo (a new store from Japan priced like the Gap) I wanted practically everything I saw. (How the heck do stores do that?) I usually don't buy. (I splurge on nice food instead.) But I love to look and pick things out, carrying them home to the dream house in my mind. Although I probably should start my Christmas shopping soon...!

One way to make good with your shopping is to be conscientious of your dollar votes. (Click here to read what I wrote about that last holiday season.)

Back at Greenjeans, we're at T-10 days and counting. Holiday shopping is in full swing and we're incredibly busy. This weekend my little sister will be helping us at the shop, and we'll certainly be needing it (knock wood)!

Here are a couple pictures of the shop taken during this mild, overcast day. It may not quite feel like the holiday season, but we're trying!

Happy Hanukkah!
Elise takes a break from holiday shopping in the Child's Rocker.

Gifts and holiday cards awaiting new homes

Presents neatly wrapped in tissue paper or nestled in recycled paper boxes. Even the twine "ribbon" is recyclable!

Packages boxed and prettified ready for delivery

Even the chairs seem to be longing for proper December weather!

Things made from wood or felt have been the biggest sellers so far this year. But we predict that we'll be wrapping up a lot of jewelry as the men come out to do their last-minute shopping...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

In Defense of the Bottle Opener

This weekend we debuted a new item by upstate New York furniture-maker, James Bettinger.

Made from reclaimed wood, it is a wall-mounted bottle opener complete with a compartment for catching the bottle tops and a drawer for easy emptying.

Though well-made and unique (we wouldn't offer it if it wasn't!), it may tease the borderline between "fine craft" and "kitsch." But as one customer responded to that assessment today, "Is beer kitschy?"

Really, what guy wouldn't love one of these puppies mounted near the backyard barbecue or in the garage? It would be as perfect in a Brooklyn loft studio as it would in a basement workshop, or even on the porch next to the shotgun. You know, depending.

The bottle opener was first presented to us a couple weeks ago by Bettinger's daughter who lives in the neighborhood. I wasn't sure what to make of it at first, but as she told me about how much her guy friends love it and how it's just a fun thing that her Dad came up with to dispatch his scraps, I warmed to it.

I wasn't sure if it was right for Greenjeans though. I showed a picture to Jae and told him the story, and he wasn't sure either. But after a while we came to see that it's a great idea, it's different from anything we've seen before, it's handmade from reclaimed materials, and it's just plain groovy and fun. Each one is made from different combinations of wood and some sport old metal bottle openers imprinted with the names of favorite brews. Bettinger even numbers each one! How could we resist?

So, with tongue somewhat in cheek, this holiday season we offer Bettinger's inventive bottle opener, and we bet that you or the beer- (or bottled soda-) loving man in your life would appreciate it, use it, and enjoy it for many many years to come. ($65.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

New Artisan: Amy Bzdak (& More Holiday Cards!)

We are excited to announce a new addition to Greenjeans: all-natural soaps by local artisan Amy Bzdak. Amy uses a base of saponified palm oil and adds skin treats like cocoa butter and coconut oil. She gently scents them with essential oils of ginger (on the shelves now), grapefruit and wintergreen (curing in her kitchen right now and arriving here next week). Some shavings of orange peel add a nice texture. And I love her home-grown labeling! The approx. 6 oz. bars, (or "Oil Cakes" as she calls them) last a nice long time and are priced at $6 each. These soaps are great for every day use, and would make super stocking stuffers!

Amy's soaps join those by Fran Dunston (Leona Hurnice), another local soapmaker whose work we've had in the shop for over a year. Fran makes excellent glycerine soaps as well as delicious Lemongrass Body Wash and a super soft and non-greasy Unscented Moisturizer. Her Loofah Soap, which is a round glycerine soap with a slice of loofah suspended inside, has been particularly hard to keep in stock. Like Amy, Fran works out of her kitchen cooking up pure and wonderful soaps for you.

And we still have a few jars of 100% organic Facial Scrub made from white clay, ground almond and oatmeal, poppy seeds, and orange peel by Dag Shaw (Dag's House). (Yup, she's my little sister, and she works out of her kitchen, too.)
The full line of handmade, all-natural bath and body products at Greenjeans.

Amy wrote a nice bio of herself where she explains why she makes soaps by hand. I think all of our soap makers would agree with her point of view.

"To me, soap making seemed very basic and accessible. I was taking a lot of fine art classes and felt alienated from more purposeful and self-evident work. You would never have to explain why you make a bar of soap...

"Also, I do not like to propagate an industry that deliberately misleads its consumers. Many well known and supposedly upscale makers of beauty and personal products add unneeded chemicals to preserve the shelf life and give their products ridiculous amounts of lather.... Putting superfluous chemicals on your skin and scalp just seems insane to me, for your skin is the porous passageway to your veins and organs.

"I like being my own little cottage industry. Whether in a small town or big city, I can be found holed up at home trying to sustain a hands-on approach to life."

On a less sudsy note, the holiday cards keep comin' in. In total so far, we have received 281 cards by 20 artists, with more on the way! So if you're needing some nice greeting cards for the winter season (they're not all overtly "holiday" themed), consider buying one from Greenjeans and supporting a great cause. New arrivals are pictured below.

Amy Bzdak made these funky cards from vellum and handmade paper. Inside they say things like "I want to grow old with you." Awww!
Tim Johnson (photograph: "Winter Woods")

Tim Johnson (photograph: "Winter Window")

Tim Johnson (photograph: "Solstice Shadows")

Once again, thank you to all the artists participating in our Holiday Card Project, and thank you to all the customers who have purchased cards!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Baby, it's cold outside!

Baby, it's cold outside! Wasn't it just last week when we were enjoying 70-degree weather? It's in the low 40s this evening as I write, and temps will dip into the 20s before morning. Well, this really is more reasonable for December in NYC, n'est pas?

Today, in between unpacking boxes of new arrivals, I have been trolling iTunes for some alternatives to The Nutcracker which I love, but after a while...

I found some great Peggy Lee holiday tunes, including the hilarious "Little Jack Frost Get Lost" that she sings with Bing Crosby. Passing over the usual fare by Nat King Cole and the ubiquitous Bing, I opted for "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo" and "Cha-Cha All the Way." I am addicted to old-school mambo beats. Nothing puts me in a better mood!

So here are some pictures of new arrivals, as well as a picture (at the top right) of the amaryllis we've had growing at our apartment. Jae bought it a few weeks ago with one stalk in bloom, and after that finished we noticed another stalk growing. Every day it has filled out more and more, and 2 days ago it started to open up! It's quite a mystery, watching things grow.

Our big basket of Sol Mate Socks is full again! We have every size in every colorway.

New slipcast porcelain by Mary Anne Davis in holiday-flavored colors. The new batch is a tad heavier than what we've had before. It is still extraordinary, but it feels less fragile. (We still have some pieces from previous batches in stock, too.)

Juice cups in lavender with a deep inky blue inside. Seed and pod vases in red, gold, green. Eight-inch bowls in deep reds and golds...

I LOVE this bowl! It's deep lime inside and inky blue outside. (about 8" diameter)

Holiday Cards by Mary Anne Davis (collage of Japanese origami paper and paint)

Holiday Cards by Greenjeans' own Jae Kim (pencil, watercolor, and sumi ink)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

More Holiday Cards

More artist-made holiday cards have arrived over the last few days. They're all so unique, and your purchase of them support a great cause! To see others, click here.

Corrie Beth Hogg

Jennifer Lawrence (the silk ribbons are laced through the card)

Merrilyn San Soucie (these quilted pieces are brighter in person!)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Decking the Halls, & New Items (including candles!)

Tonight we stayed very late at Greenjeans. We rearranged the shop, put out a bunch of new items, and stored things that needed a break. And we re-hung the gorgeous ornaments we have in the window so they’re more visible. Jae and I are in full game mode and want to be hitting the ground running into the holiday season.

Now, well past midnight, we’re home yet still at work. We’re tired, but it’s a great tired. We’re upbeat and happy. Maybe we’re nuts, but we agree that our job rocks and we wouldn’t want to do anything else!

I haven’t had much time or attention for writing essays lately, though those will surely return in the New Year. My mind is on shop keeping. Until the holidays are over, we’re keeping the shop open 7 days a week and staying late Friday and Saturday nights. At home, where I do most of my writing, the dishes often will sit undone over the next few weeks, the laundry probably won’t get put away, and the momentum we’d gathered cooking at home likely will be lost. We’ll try to remember to get enough rest and eat good food and take breaks once in a while, for we always aspire to sustainability. And only when the shopping is done and we’re home with our families on Christmas Day will we allow ourselves to take note of how tired out we are! And then we will rest for a few days. And then, replenished, we’ll open again and welcome in the New Year. (Can anyone believe the year’s almost over?? Yeesh.)

Here are some pictures from tonight. Happy December!

New artisan Jason Thompson makes beautiful candles that are all about light and color. They're unscented and burn very long. The designs on the front are made by dropping colored wax into the candle form, allowing chance to dictate the (always great-looking) results.

Jason's smaller candles are emblazoned with phrases from the sweet ("i'm with you") to the irreverent ("YOU ROCK!")

We have new sets of saki cups/mini vases by John Zentner, including these three snow white wood-fired examples.

New temoku crockery by John Zentner from the first firing of his newly rebuilt kiln.

A drawing by Timothy Johnson displayed with tea bowls by Kit Cornell.

Frank Ridley's ever-popular Red Baron flies high over the desk.

Jane Kaufmann's Snowman finger puppet seems to be double-fisting the eggnog already. Glassware by Matt Eskuche.

New shawls and scarves by Brookyn weaver Susan Weltman.

A new batch of chenille Heart Bunnies and infant-friendly sheep and elephants (made from recycled sweaters) await new homes.

And remember to come check out our artisan-made holiday cards. Most are one-of-a-kind and 100% of the selling price goes to charity.