Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Greenjeans Recommends: An Inconvenient Truth

Two nights ago, Jae and I went to see An Inconvenient Truth, the new documentary about global warming by Al Gore, who evidently has been using his time very well since the 2000 election. The film was surprisingly engaging and definitely eye-opening and we stayed up until 3:30 in the morning talking about it. Jae said it was the best $10.75 he's spent in a long time.

It's worth noting right away that this isn't an anti-Bush film. It isn't Al Gore's attempt to save face after the election. And it isn't Super Size Me or even Fahrenheit 9/11. It is darker and more serious than these. There's nothing blatant about it that should upset conservatives politically speaking. It will, however, spur discussion and hopefully do a lot to raise awareness no matter how you vote.

That said, one of my first thoughts while watching the film was "Wow, the mainstream media really doesn't want us to know about these stories."
That might be the biggest strength of the film: delivering valuable information in a clear, concise way that you probably won't get all in one shot anywhere else. And when given in one shot, the information makes a much bigger impact on your conscience.

The other thing that struck me was how engaging Gore is, and how much looser and more human he seemed compared to when he was running for President. The film consists mostly of Gore presenting the slide lecture on global warming that he's been passionately giving and refining for about 20 years. And he has all of the attributes of an effective professor: he's articulate, he's confident without being cocky, he has a vast understanding of his subject, and he really wants to share his knowledge with you. He's even actually funny sometimes. There are also some biographical moments that contextualize his passion and make him seem much more likeable than I'd thought him to be. I enjoyed the time in Gore's virtual presence and left the film wishing I could spend more time learning from him.

As for the science presented in the film, I found it to be completely convincing, and not at all trumped up like a lesser filmmaker might have done. In a story like this one, there's no need to make things up -- the evidence is already so dramatic and irrefutable. Gore's projections for the future seemed plausible too (albeit fairly horrifying), though that's where critics will take issue. But there's not much to argue with when the science mostly consists of graphs tracking things like the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere or actual temperatures recorded over time. It isn't fuzzy math. It's straight up numbers. Very hard to argue against.

As for the content of the film, there is just too much to say. Nobody has to make a case for whether or not global warming is a real thing, though the film does lay out the science for those of us who were not sure how it all works. So many troubling and heartbreaking examples are given about the effects of global warming, though not in a manipulative way. For instance, because spring is arriving sooner in some areas, caterpillars are hatching earlier and there's nothing for mother birds to feed their young. Cities built thousands of years ago at an elevation above the mosquito line are being infested because with the rise of average temperatures mosquitoes can survive at higher altitudes. And we've all heard about polar bears drowning due to the break up of the ice floes in the Arctic. In addition, the film talks about how so many weather records are being set these days. The ten hottest years on record occurred within the last 14 years with 2005 being the hottest. Last year a region of India received 37 inches of rain in 24 hours. In other areas, rivers and seas that have served the ecosystem and communities for (hundreds of) thousands of years have dried up within the last two decades. If you want more examples, just read the Daily Grist any day of the week -- today's mentions both a severe 18 month drought in England and the negative effects of frequent hurricanes on things like mangrove trees in Florida.

The aim of the film is to put all these pieces together, and when taken as a whole not only does the situation look much more critical, but it also looks more manageable than I'd ever considered it before. For as he points out toward the end, it's not as if we don't know what to do about global warming. We do know what to do and we have all the technology to make a significant difference. It's really a matter of action.

There is so much more evidence, so many other stories and facts we don't hear about, especially things happening in other countries. They are too many to enumerate. And for that reason alone this film is worth seeing. In fact, I can't think of a single reason not to see this film. If you can, see it in the theatre and don't wait for the DVD. The footage of glaciers and arid plains is really spectacular, and the graphs and charts look great all huge. If we could, Jae and I would personally send every single person we know free tickets to go see it and screen it around the clock for a month at Greenjeans. And if and when you do go, bring a kid if you can. Kids will get it and it could make a very positive impact on them.

Watching this film won't save the planet. But it can educate us to more deeply understand the problem and motivate us to take action that will.

Visit www.climatecrisis.net for more information, including theatres screening the film.

Skeptical? Read "Did Al Get the Science Right?" in Salon.com
(click on "free pass" to read entire article if you're not a subscriber)

Other blogs discussing this film:


Friday, May 26, 2006

A Week Away from Greenjeans

Wow, it's been a while since my last posting! Where have I been? Well, this past week has been devoted to family as Jae's brother got married on Sunday and his family from Korea have been in town. Our friend Sarah has been minding the shop since Sunday, and today is my first day back in nearly a week, though it feels like it's been months!

It has been an incredibly eventful week. My sister and Dad stayed with us over last weekend so they could attend the (very large) rehearsal dinner and then the (incredibly lavish) wedding on Sunday. The wedding was splendid -- Sung and Amy had a choir boy sing for the ceremony at Grace Church downtown, and the reception was held in the utterly palatial metropolitan Club on 60th and 5th. (The Club's manager said it was the very first time that an Asian party had ever taken place there!) Everyone had a marvelous time. They are now on their honeymoon in Barcelona and Madrid. And cousin Kyu had to leave the wedding early to catch a flight to Tanzania where he had an assignment for work (he works for a non-profit trying to help end global poverty). So we've missed all of them this week.

In the days that followed the wedding, Jae and I helped entertain his family, taking them to the Met, to SoHo, and of course, to Greenjeans! Jae's cousin Kaewon is interested in branding and graphic design, and so we decided that he should be CEO of Greenjeans in Korea. He's going to start working on our on-line presence there once our website is done. Who knows? Maybe one day we'll have Greenjeans-Seoul!

Jae's family is quite a wonderful group of people, and we always have an incredibly fun time together. Last night, we had an early Memorial Day barbecue. There were about 15 or 20 of us, and Jae did much of the cooking. We ate pounds and pounds of succulent king crabs, steak and hamburgers and hotdogs (all organic of course), piles of fruit and salad, and lots of beer and vodka. After we ate, Jae's uncles and aunts sat around the kitchen table singing old Korean songs while all the cousins watched the great wedding video Jason made of our wedding. It was a wonderful, memorable night.

But it's really nice to be back at Greenjeans today! It has been a slow day, and will likely be a slow weekend what with so many folks away on their first-week-of-summer vacations. And that's fine by me -- we have a lot of work to catch up on here.

Next week I'll blog about some of the new work heading our way. So until then, have a great long weekend!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Choose: History of Craft or Great Enamel Pendants


Today's post offers two options: one's eye candy, the other's brain candy.

1) View an updated slideshow of enamel pendants (like this one -- so perfect for spring dressing) available at Greenjeans made by Alana Dlubak by linking to this previous post, or

2) Read an essay I wrote exploring the place of craft in today's society and economy.


Here's the essay:

History of Craft: An Initial Overview
by Amy E. Shaw

I've often wondered why there is such a distinction between the art world and the craft world in our society. Why is fine art so highly revered while fine craft hardly registers on the cultural radar? Why is there a hierarcy placing art above craft, and artists above artisans? Aren't both art and craft equally vital to an expressive culture? Don't they both have value?

As part of my exploration of these questions, I will from time to time post short essays in response to things I'm reading and thinking about. Starting today!

Recently I've been reading a collection of essays titled Objects & Meaning: New Perspectives on Art and Craft. Co-editor and independent curator M. Anna Fariello in her essay "Regarding the History of Objects" lays out a geneaology tracing the development and divergence of art and craft.

Until the Renaissance, art and craft were virtually synonymous. The turning point came with the publication of Giorgio Vasari's classic work The Lives of the Artists, which fostered a lasting sense of "object fetishism, creator worship, and primacy fascination." While painting found a place next to theory and criticism, "the three-dimensional arts became ideologically coupled with manual labor, domesticity, and physicality." The European Salons and art museums emerging in the 18th and 19th centuries institutionalized this division of high art vs. common craft.

The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century spurred a flourishing of craft due to the high-profile dedication of people like John Ruskin and William Morris, founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement in England. "Reacting to a workplace in which labor was fractured into meaningless tasks and to an environment filled with goods of questionable quality, the Arts and Crafts Movement began... as a counterrevolution... It represented a shift toward Eastern aesthetics, a corresponding reverence for simplicity, and an elevation of everyday experience from the physical to the spiritual." She continues, "Critic John Ruskin gave others courage to pursue the idealization of the household object and its private contemplation when he stated, 'Every artist was a craftsman and the simplest household object worthy of his serious effort.' Thus, one might consider English Arts and Crafts to be a privitization of the aesthetic experience."

The craft-conscious Vienna Secession, L'Art Nouveau in France, the German die Jungendstil, and the American Studio Craft Movement emerged at the same time. During this period, Western society developed an appreciation for craft as works of fine craft became available to purchase, view in exhibitions, and read about in magazines like Gustav Stickley's The Craftsman. Stores such as Morris' Liberty and Company in London and Tiffany and Company in New York provided the (wealthy enough) public with fine works of craft to use and admire in their homes. In fact, most of the names we associate with craftsmanship today -- Stickley, Charles Rene Macintosh, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the Roycrofters Guild, even Frank Lloyd Wright -- were products of this late 19th- and early 20th-century flourishing.

So what happened to the golden age of craft? Several factors contributed to its demise. The two World Wars and the Depression created economic hardships that dimmed attention to society's aesthetic concerns. But even more significantly, "it was that hand skill was made entirely obsolete by a new aesthetic," namely the International Style, characterized by a paring-down of form and preference for an industrial aesthetic that eschewed decoration.

Where Fariello's argument becomes really interesting is when she points out the role of the prevailing sexism of the mid-20th century in the demise of craft. "The fact that women continued to create craft objects contributed to the perception that the objects themselves were domestic... As America's citizens moved from farm to city, the concept of home became more physically and ideologically distinct from the workplace, as distinct as the widening separation of art and industrial design from studio craft." Arts and Crafts became "art" and "craft," "separated, and ranked one above the other. Inferior connotations were heaped upon craft, relegating it to hobby status and ignoring the fundamental value it had sustained for centuries."

She continues, "The craft object (and its corollary component, skill) was devalued aesthetically by art history, devalued economically by industry, devalued physically by architecture, and devalued critically by academia." Compared with art, craft is still a subject all but ignored by critics, only marginally addressed by musuems, and taken less seriously by society in general.

In America, craft experienced a revival in the 1970s, which I plan to discuss in a future post, but it never regained the celebratory status enjoyed during the golden age.

Today, people who envision new forms for domestic objects are most often referred to as designers. As a consumer society we are hungry for design, and we value it, as the success of such design-conscious stores as Target, Crate & Barrel, and Restoration Hardware attest. But it is rare in this day and age that a so-called designer actually makes the objects they design as they would have long ago. That lowly task is usually outsourced, often to laborers in third-world countries. Just look at the bottom of any Michael Graves teapot or Jonathan Adler vase for proof.

The appeal of handmade objects has also caught the consumer's eye in recent years. But again, those "handstitched" pillows at Anthropology and rustic-looking picture frames at Pottery Barn are by and large produced overseas by low-paid workers. We value the aesthetic, but the skill required to make these objects is vastly undervalued.

Is it possible to rekindle a widespread appreciation for fine handmade objects, for functional art to use in the home, while also revaluing the skilled manual work of the artisan? Are we only concerned with the look of a thing, or also with its substance and value?

We think so. Greenjeans is attempting to help make it so. But for now these questions, and all the others they raise, are unanswerable. At least within the scope of this blog entry.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

New Work by Matt Eskuche

If Matt Eskuche's flameworked blown glass had a soundtrack, it would be a mix of funky '60s lounge, 1920's Parisian caberet, and Ali Farka Toure. Mysterious and precious with a distinct sense of cool, his work hints at a retro futuristic look as well as the Vienna Secession, but ultimately creates an aesthetic all its own.

Eskuche, whose professional moniker is Ess Vetro (which means "eat glass"), lives and works in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, though he travels all over the world to teach and give demonstrations. His fine, unusual work is available in NYC exclusively at Greenjeans.

Cordial glasses ($44/ea.)

Peacock montage vase ($320); Small molecule ($80)

Large molecule ($120); Saturn cup ($80); Horizon cup ($90)
(Cups are about 7" tall and make great vases)

Nymph ($150)

Perfume bottles ($32-$130)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Organic Flowers for Mom

We hope you will come to Greenjeans to find a special gift for your Mom this Mother's Day (which is this Sunday, May 14). (Click here for some great gift ideas!)

In case you'd like to get her some nice flowers, too, pass on the mainstream competitors and consider going organic.
In raising organic flowers, growers use no toxic chemical pesticides so production is not only safer for the environment, but the flowers are also safer for farmers, for florists, and for you! Click here to read more reasons why to buy organic flowers.

If your Mom lives far away, the California-based company Organic Bouquet is offering a special on delivered arrangements for Mother's Day (pictured here). They look stunning and fresh, and if you order today and your Mom will have them in time!

If you're going to see your Mom in person, consider buying flowers for her at one of the many Green Markets around NYC or at a farmer's market in your area. Many local growers are going organic -- ask them about their growing methods.

Better yet, instead of cut flowers, consider planting her a little kitchen herb garden or window box with plants and flowers purchased at the farmer's market. That way she gets to see how much you love her all summer long!

And if you're looking for a nice vase or basket to present the blooms in, come on in to Greenjeans -- we've got you covered in that department!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Gift Ideas for Mother's Day

Your Mom loved it when you gave her things you'd made yourself as a kid. Nowadays, you probably don't have time to make her a pinch pot, but you can still give her something beautifully handmade with lots of heart from Greenjeans! Here are some suggestions for gifts your Mom will love:

A view down the street of a New Hampshire village by Jane Kaufmann ($125)

She'll find tons of uses for these woven baskets with hardwood bottoms by Ray Lagasse ($75-$180)

Ever-popuar silver and gold jewelry by Erica Schlueter ($36-$160)

Pretty celadon porcelain tea set by Kit Cornell ($225)

Fun porcelain juice cups, mugs, bowls, and plates by Mary Anne Davis ($16 - $66)

Colorful fused glass coasters by Trio Design to protect that coffee table ($25/pair)
We also have butter dishes, serving platters, and candy dishes by Trio

Carved wooden spoons by Dan Dustin that transform "slaving over a hot stove" into a more pleasant and artful experience ($45-$90)

Homey pottery vases just the right size for a desk or window sill ($15-$30)
Waterlily orb by Jane Kaufmann ($32)
Handbound book by Dennis Yuen ($36)

New pottery bowls for soup, salad, and cereal ($20-$40)

More lovely handcrafted jewelry by various artisans ($30 - $128)

"Super Mom" story sculpture by Jane Kaufmann (partial view, $250)
Remember, Moms love Jane's fingerpuppets, including Super Mom, Mom with Baby, and Gardener ($24/ea)

Canterbury Rocker by Brian Braskie in cherry, a very fine and special gift ($1150, 6-8 weeks lead time)

Stop in to find lots more jewelry, baskets, mugs, crockery, handbound books, and lots of other things Moms love!

We're open Tuesday-Sunday 12-7pm, or call to place an order.

And an early Happy Mother's Day to all you Moms out there from Greenjeans!

PS - This is our 100th blog posting! Woo hoo!

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Sunny, Musical Day in the South Slope

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood! It doesn't get any better than this: sunny, mid-70s, dry with calm breezes. Down the street the Jack Grace Band plays their wonderful bluegrass-meets-Parisian-cafe-flavored music out front of Music Matters, my favorite place to buy CDs. A small crowd has gathered, some sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck, basking in the sounds and the sun. (Here's a picture; wish you could hear them too!)

All up and down 7th Avenue, ladies stroll by in pretty skirts and bare arms in groups of two and three browsing the neighborhood shops. Men sit at cafe tables at Parco and the Tea Lounge reading the Times over iced coffee until their wives and girlfriends are done. Earlier today there were more children about, but now they're all in Prospect Park, playing on the swings and visiting the zoo animals. And inside Greenjeans it is cool and bright pleasant. We're listening to David Byrne's current playlist online and tapping our feet to the perfect sunny day beats.

O sweet spontaneous spring!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

New Artisan: Whit McLeod

Look what arrived at Greenjeans today! These are chairs made from reclaimed wine barrel staves by Whit McLeod, a furniture maker in Arcata, CA. All the chairs are built by Whit, his partner Kristy Kun, and two other craftsmen in their Arcata workshop. His patented folding design makes for a very versitile piece that looks as great in the living room as on the deck. They're affordable -- we're selling them for $160 each and will deliver them for free within NYC. They smell amazing -- a mix of earthy, woodsy, and piquant (a scent which will fade but opening the boxes was quite a pleasure!) And it is COMFORTABLE. Because, no matter what some designers want you to think, life is just too short for uncomfortable chairs.

Inspired by the Arts & Crafts Movement, Whit makes many other designs as well from reclaimed and salvaged wood (including douglas fir and redwood besides the wine oak). I love their Morris chair, and this end table with copper tiled top (see pix at bottom).

We have only the folding chairs in stock right now, but all other pieces are available to order. And as with most items at Greenjeans, you won't find 'em anywhere else in the area.

Their artisan's statement reads like a page torn from Greenjeans' philosophy book:

"We believe in the importance of a reverence toward our natural resources and strive to use the materials in a way that preserves and enhances the original workmanship of each piece. The straight-forward designs and honest construction found in the furniture of the Arts & Crafts Movement have therefore become the inspiration for our furniture. Through my original designs I feel we capture the heart of the Arts & Crafts Movement while preserving the provenance of the wood in a piece of furniture to be cherished for generations."

You can see why we were attracted to their work -- not only is it beautiful (the patina on the wood from age and use is luminous and lovely) and useful (all the pieces are solidly made and comfortable), but the McLeod's are obviously conscientious artisans who want to make wonderful work while leaving as small an ecological footprint as possible.

We are delighted and honored to welcome Whit & Kristy's inspired work to Greenjeans!

Wine Oak End Table with Copper Tiled Top

Wine Oak Spindle Morris Chair with Leather Upholstery

Wine Oak Dining Table