Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Food, Culture, and Monoculture

Food security and the threat of monoculture have been on my mind since watching an old episode of The West Wing last night. I'm also thinking about the food-related art and craft I've been seeing lately. Tracking all this food stuff would make a good blog. Is anyone already doing this?

I've been reading about how genetically modified (or "transgenic" if you're trying to sell it) high-yield seeds and chemical fertilizers can be great for improving conditions in poor, drought-prone regions of the world. But can't these seeds also present problems, like wiping out native strains of crops and costing a lot more to purchase, making farmers more money-dependent? (Sometimes the seeds are designed to be used only once, and the resulting crops are seedless, so farmers must always buy new seeds.) I need to learn more about all this...

As if reading my mind, has a piece today by Alex Steffen offering links to the dozens of articles on food that they've published. He writes, "How can we fill our plates without eating up our future?" Worth spending some time with this if you're interested.

Swinging from monoculture to visual culture, at the Armory Show and SCOPE this week, I noticed a good handful of food-themed work. Not much about seeds or growth, but plenty about consumption and rot. Veggie men sculpted from real and fake vegetables popped up in a couple of places. I can't find images, but they recall those old Giuseppe Arcimboldo paintings like "Summer" shown above. There was also a withered and molding apple core under a plexi vitrine.

Years ago at Art Basel Miami I saw work from a project by Japanese artist Makoto Aida called "Edible Artificial Girls." He imagines a future when naturally grown food is so scarce that scientists have to invent artificial foods.
The scientists even make pain-free "girls" that can be eaten like sushi. The feminist in me parches at this whole notion, but another side of me loves it.

Craft Magazine's blog has shown some fun examples of food-themed craft lately, too.
Here we have some knitted food by "pezdiva" who also made the knitted breakfast at the top.

And here some felted wool fruit by Brookelynn Morris.

I'm not up for starting a new food-themed blog, but if you know of any good ones, please post a comment about it!

Now it's definitely time for lunch... I could go for some rigatoni in this delicious-sounding bolognese posted on the blog Not Martha today.
Jae and I have been on a serious meat-sauce-and-pasta kick this winter, but we haven't ventured to make our own yet. Been mostly relying on Frank's and John's, our two fave Italian eateries in Manhattan. (Frank's has a killer veggie salad, too.) I don't think either of them are very organics-focused, which is another reason for us to cook up our own... (Photo sourced here.)

P.S. Speaking earlier of Worldchanging, to read my most recent posting on an event with Al Gore and Jeffrey Sachs at Columbia last week, click here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New Arrivals: Socks, Bowls, Scarves...

Wonderful new work has been arriving over the last few weeks.
Have a look!

We're fully stocked again with Sol Mate Socks! I love the new purple, lime, and yellow colorway for spring, aptly dubbed Crocus (adults pair $16; kids pair-with-a-spare $18).

Hand turned wooden bowls with bark details by Tom Dubois ($105-$195) and bright new ceramic bowls by Kit Cornell ($55-$100).

Washington D.C. artist Ming made me this amazing crocheted scarf! It's a portrait of our (late) beta fish, Charlie. She will make a portrait of your pet, too, from your photos for around $150. Click here to see the fabulous cat portrait scarf she made for our mutual friend...

I got to wear it all over the Armory Show and SCOPE yesterday -- tres chic!

This fabulous piece by Renato Foti would be great as a coffee table or side table. The top is thick, colorful fused glass and the base is watercut steel, all designed and made by the artist ($1550).

Pairs of generously sized mugs by Kit Cornell are back in stock, along with some lovely new teabowls ($25-$28).

Beautiful Shaker-style wooden totes by David Emerson are great for holding mail, CDs, and projects ($80-$145).

More new bowls by Kit Cornell in doat and chun ($200) and Albany slip ($55). Also some wall pieces by Jane Kaufmann ($38 each).

More of Tom Dubois' hard-finished turned wood bowls in cherry ($155) and cherry burl ($135).

If you'd like to place an order but you just can't wait for us to get this wonderful work up on the website, give us a call (718-907-5835) or send an email to Thanks!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Report from Armory Show & SCOPE in NYC

Today we trekked to the west side of Manhattan to take in the Armory Show and SCOPE New York, the two big annual international contemporary art fairs in New York that ended today. (I guess the BMAC and American Craft Council shows last week weren't enough for us!) We noticed more craft-influenced art showing up at both fairs, providing contrast to the preponderance of slick, glam art products that teemed through the more big-ticket Armory Show especially. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

The Armory Show, held at Pier 94, was very well produced, more luxurious and up-market feeling than in previous years. Last time I'd been was a couple of years ago and I noticed a lot of differences. Galleries are showing more paintings this year, and a more savvy, perhaps commercial, awareness of fashion interests--there were skulls aplenty and a lot of the bright rich yellow that trend forecasters have been predicting for spring. Photography seems to be fully integrated as a viable contemporary art form now.

Work dealing with the environment stood out in many booths. Mierle Laderman Ukeles, a New York artist who deals with garbage, landfills, and garbage men, had a great installation in Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. Titled "The Social Mirror" (above), it's a real garbage truck in all its hulking glory with the sides covered in mirrors. At the back of the truck ran a video about Ukeles' work, including the piece where she shook the hand of every sanitation worker in the city. Elsewhere, polar bears figured into at least two prominent works I saw in other booths, food was a popular subject overall, and anything botanical seemed to stand out as relevant to the growing environmental consciousness, too. (By the way, thumbs up for Al Gore's big win at the Oscar's last night!)

While there was plenty of good work to see, no single piece jumped out at me as really *something,* and overall I found the work tending toward the commercial and spiritless. I felt at one point like I was walking through some huge big box store filled with art products. Jae described it as tuning through stations on the radio looking for a great punk song and not finding any.

In the late afternoon we hopped in a cab and went to Lincoln Center for SCOPE. Started as the alternative fair to the Armory Show, SCOPE has grown into something interesting and worthwhile in its own right. "Half the attitude for half the price" I said to Jae as we passed through the entrance, which was tricked out to feel like some hot rock club.

My favorite piece at SCOPE was Jason Metcalf's House on Wheels, a little house in which sat hunched the artist busily making tiny clay sculptures. A sign on the roof said something like “insert $2, get a sculpture.” At the back was a slot to insert your $2, which I did immediately. The artist slowly pulled my dollars through and then playfully pushed them back out like vending machines always do. (I had to feed them one at a time.) I watched along with other curious fair-goers as he molded coils and little balls of clay together with his furious fingers. One woman bent down and asked if he had enough air in there. He seemed to be just fine. A moment later, my little sculpture appeared in the tray below a tube leading out from the house, encased in a little plastic pod. The house was on wheels so the artist could scoot around to other locations in the fair too. So cool!

Throughout both fairs we noticed art made using craft techniques. I liked Nina Braun’s knitted sneakers (above) at Galerie Heliumcowboy Artspace (Hamburg), and Jeong Jeong Ju’s handbuilt clay and video “Korean Pavilion” (below) at Brain Factory (Seoul). There were "paintings" made from stitched together fabric, other "paintings" using embroidery to describe forms, and a few sculptures using painted porcelain to distinctly reference fine craft. And at Mike Weiss Gallery's booth were Tom Fruin's rad wall quilts pieced from found dime bags, cigar wrappers, and other druggie detritus (shown at top). Good stuff.

What Jae and I noticed in attending the four fairs is that there's a lot more young blood at the art fairs, yet a greater sense of authenticity at the craft fairs. But what I also noticed is that craft is definitely having an effect on the art world. And as we experienced especially at the ACC fair, more young blood is interested in participating in the craft world. It will be interesting to see what happens...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Report from ACC and BMAC Shows

What a week! Our trip to Philadelphia and Baltimore for the big winter craft fairs was a blast and we've returned full of fresh ideas and great memories.

On Monday we caught the final day of the Buyer's Market of American Craft in Philadelphia, otherwise known as the Rosen Show, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. There we had to make quick work of visiting and placing orders, but we did get to meet with some of our favorite artisans including woodworkers Buff and Sharon Brown; jewelers Chelle Kraus, Julie Jerman-Melka, and Kristina Kada; and fused glass artist Renato Foti.

Switching gears, Tuesday night I attended an event at Columbia University with Jeffrey Sachs and Al Gore that I wrote about for Worldchanging. (For some reason it's not up right now, but check this link here for the piece tomorrow.)

Wednesday morning we drove to Baltimore to spend three days at the American Craft Council show. We noticed a lot more youthful energy and innovation there compared with previous years, which we are very excited about. Besides highlighting new and emerging exhibitors by giving them their own section, this year ACC included student work too.

Talented undergraduates from Kendall College of Art and Design showcased inventive and well-built pieces such as Timothy Maddox's chest of drawers sandblasted with graffiti, Dustin Farnsworth's kinetic barrel sculpture/atonal stringed instrument, Jeff Thomas' wooden conveyor belt chair, and Chulyeon Park's sculptural white steel chaise. I would love to see more student showcases in the future -- it's great experience for them and inspiring for everyone!

There was plenty of master work to admire alongside the new. We met Cliff Lee, a master potter who throws incredibly rich porcelain vases that look as though they came right out of a Chinese royal palace, (including one in Imperial Yellow that I got to hold in my hands). We are privileged to be offering Cliff's stunningly beautiful porcelain tea bowls glazed in oxblood red at Greenjeans now. (He only makes 24 a year and we have 6.)

We also visited with Keith Lebenzon who hand-makes the animal hair paint brushes with bamboo handles that Jae loves to use in his studio. He picked some out to offer at Greenjeans, too, so if you're looking for a really remarkable brush for pottery or painting, come check them out!

There's never enough time to socialize during the fair hours, so Wednesday night we threw a little party in our room at the Renaissance Hotel. How cool it was to see Matt Eskuche (the up-and-coming flamework glass artist) talking shop with Susan Pratt-Smith (the well-established dichroic glass artist). A lovely cadre of jewelry makers (Erica Schlueter, Lisa Crowder, Janice Ho, Kimberly Navratil-Pope and her aunt Jo) mixed and mingled with potters Bryan McGriff and Ryan Greenheck, while Lori Beck, director and founder of Ohio Valley Creative Energy, talked about her work to create hotshops and kilns powered by landfill methane. (I'll be writing more about her work in a later post.) Andrew Wagner, the enthusiastic new editor of American Craft Magazine, was there hobnobbing with everyone and putting a bug in my ear about doing a Greenjeans zine (I'm thinking about it, Andrew!). And our good friend Lily Kane (who is the Director of Education at ACC) was there, too, making all kinds of connections and stirring things up with her boundless energy and great ideas.

Back in the shop this weekend we're busy processing all the notes and cards we took. It's so nice to be back in the shop. Our travels were fun, but it felt so good to cross over the Verrazano Bridge back into Brooklyn late Friday night. Like Dorothy said, there's no place like home!

Since we can't take pictures on the floor of the fair, here are some from our party... (The one at the top is Matt Eskuche at the left, then Andrew Wagner, Lily Kane, and Susan Pratt-Smith.)

Left to right: Erica Schlueter, Lisa Crowder, Matt Eskuche, Bryan McGriff, Janice Ho, and Jae.

Looking up to glass artists Susan Pratt-Smith and Matt Eskuche

Lisa Crowder and I, and Lori Beck at the right. Dig our definitely NOT handmade frat house cups!

Tune in tomorrow for some news from the shop and pictures of new arrivals... and maybe a comment or two about gowns worn to the Oscars (which as far as I'm concerned is the only reason to watch!)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

First Auction Ends Tonight!

While Greenjeans is closed Feb. 19-23 and I take a hiatus from blogging, check out our new online shopping options: Greenjeans Online and Greenjeans Auction House!

Our first ever auction ends tonight at 9pm! Since we don't run sales at Greenjeans, this is your opportunity to get great deals on amazing, first-quality furniture, pottery, handbags, jewelry, toys, and more!

Some of the 12 items in this first auction are pictured here, like this gorgeous curly maple end table by Geoffrey Ouellette, the youngest member ever of the prestigious New Hampshire Furniture Master's Association.

The 2nd auction launches tonight, featuring more beautifully handmade goods that you'll love.

We're donating 10% of auction proceeds to the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, so your bids are for a good cause as well as a good deal!

Also check out Greenjeans Online, where you can browse some of the many offerings found in our Park Slope shop and order them online. We're offering free shipping on all orders over $50, and a flat fee of $5 for orders under $50 through March 18, so do take advantage!

I'll be back on the blog next weekend when I'll be reporting on the Buyer's Market of American Craft in Philadelphia and the American Craft Council show in Baltimore.

Until then, stay warm, and good luck bidding!

Celadon Bowl by Kit Cornell

Fused Glass Tray by Renato Foti

Riveted Necklace of sterling silver and 18k gold bimetal by Erica Schlueter

Slipcast Porcelain Pod Vase by Mary Anne Davis

Turned Wood Pearwood and Purpleheart Box by Tom Dubois
Large Orbit Earrings in sterling silver by Melle Finelli
(as seen on Clinton Kelly's website, modeled by your's truly!)

Stainless steel and leather riveted Washington Bag by Wendy Stevens

Space Age glasses by Matt Eskuche

To bid on these items, go to Greenjeans Auction House!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Scarves that Change the World

We are very excited to introduce new work by Hiroko Kurihara, a California-based designer and artisan who makes incredibly appealing scarves and blankets from luxurious, responsibly-sourced lightweight wool. The colors are rich, the sewing superb, the texture soft (not at all scratchy), and the designs... let's just say if you can look at these and not develop immediate cravings to have one for yourself, you're a lot stronger than me!

Hiroko's scarves and blankets are about a lot more than just their beautiful look, though. Through her Blanket Share Project, Hiroko makes and donates a scarf or blanket (made from recycled polar fleece) to a homeless person for every blanket and scarf she sells. By partnering with homeless shelters in the vicinity of the shops that carry her work, she is able to extend her goodwill to people in need all over the country.

(We have not finalized which homeless shelter to work with in Brooklyn, but are considering the women's shelter at the armory on 8th Ave. between 14th and 15th Streets, which is up the street from the shop.)

Likewise, for each of the "Branch" scarves she sells, she plants a tree. Talk about bang for your buck!

Decisions, decisions...

From left: branch, sauntering squares, flow (bricks-n-chestnut), at the fringes, and flow (pacific northwest coast)

To read more about Hiroko, her beautiful business philosophy, and to see more designs, click here. We have scarves at Greenjeans right now (priced $80-$215). If you are interested in blankets, we will soon have a samples at the shop; all blankets will be done by order.

We are very happy to welcome Hiroko to Greenjeans!

Also, just a reminder that 12 items in Greenjeans Auction House are live for bidding until Sunday at 9pm!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Mr. B., and Comments on Craft

I love reading others make honest efforts responding to the question "what is craft." I like to write my own thoughts about it, too, but hearing other points of view is exciting. From curators to cabinet makers to five-year-olds, there are so many interesting answers to hear, I almost collect them. I like to agree or disagree, but mostly I like to just think about them.

Last week David Fleming wrote a cool thought piece on "what is craft" for the Furniture Society's wonderfully unstuffy blog [link]. He moves from funny flailing at the question ("My feeble brain is bruised from bumping up against the word “craft”...), then cuts to the marrow:

"It is a way of doing things; it is the skill, knowledge, and experience that go into making something; it is the care and expertise with which the work of making something is done. In that sense, it is an element of all objects that are made - the maker being more or less a master of it."

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, Dennis Stevens wrote a post provocatively titled "Art vs. Craft: Who's winning?" on his blog that seems to have struck a nerve judging from the number of considered comments it drew! [link]

Good stuff!

The photo here is of our friend Mr. B. He came in with his Mom the other day and, in between getting held and working on his playing-while-sitting-upright skills, he took a rest in Brian Braskie's children's rocking chair. Is he delicious or what?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Craft on the Streets (and the catwalks, and the rails...)

Monday being our weekend, today we were officially closed. But Jae was at Greenjeans organizing and doing accounting all afternoon, and I was home writing for a new freelance project. Day off schmay moff.

I also got a chance to catch up on my blog reading. Besides having it reinforced to me that Garth Johnson's "Extreme Craft" [link] is one of the coolest blogs ever... (does that make me sound like a total craft nerd?)... I found these three wonderful things in another one of my favorites, Craft: magazine's blog [link]. I love the publicness of this craftly work, and the inherent anarchistic anachronism of it (what a funly bad sentence!).

Also, a reminder that the first Greenjeans Auction [link] is now underway, so check it out, too...

Good stuff!

Fashion designer Benjamin Cho gives new meaning to the word knit dress with his Fall 2007 runway show in NYC last week. I love the make-up, too. [Link]

On the 15th of every month, Michael Swaine sets up shop in San Francisco's Tenderloin District. Pushing a homemade cart mounted with a treadle-operated sewing machine, Swaine offers his services as a street tailor, mending whatever garments people bring to him. Swaine's ongoing performance piece began as part of "The Generosity Project: Strategies for Exchange in Contemporary Art." [Link] Imagine the possibilities for your wardrobe...

In the spirit of Knitta, across the pond artist Ulrika Erdes spruces up train seats in Sweden by adding her own cross-stitch pieces to create random acts of embroidery. I love this. I think I love her, too. [Link] (These photographs were part of an exhibition at the Östra Grevie Folkhögskola.)

Style note: I'm trying something different with the links tonight. Like it? Hate it?

That's it for tonight. Jae's bringing home some vegetables, which I crave a lot during these cold, short days. (I'm weird that way.) Then maybe we'll be able to take the night off for a movie after all...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Releasing "Artisan" from its Corner on the Market

Every chance we get these days, we add new pieces to the online shop and prepare for our first online auction (that starts tonight!). And for each item we add, I have to write a description. I get to write about every piece of jewelry, wooden toy, basket, sculpture, and piece of furniture.

The descriptions include some words about the artisan. Or is it artist? Or maker? I have been using "artisan" across the board, almost as a matter of point. But lately as I've been writing these descriptions I find myself sometimes reaching for the words "artist," "maker," and even the much maligned term "designer/maker."

Consider Jane Kaufmann, whose Heart Lady is pictured at right. After I describe her work as sculpture, I want to refer to her as an artist. Is she an artist? Artisan? Maker? Maybe I should just say "sculptor." Or maybe she's all of these things (though of course it's silly to list them all!)

What about in the case of jewelry makers? Every one of Alana Dlubak's enamel pendants, like the one at the left, is like a small painting. No two of her designs are the same. She uses die-cut copper plates in four different shapes to support her enamel designs. They're strung on colored leather cords or strings of big, nicely-selected semi-precious stones. Is Alana Dlubak a designer? An artisan? A jewelry artist?

I know that this is a well-worn debate, yet each time I encounter these questions the debate becomes fresh to me again.

A lot of people say these distinctions aren't important. Yet I find I have a persistent interest in how the names do matter, maybe because I love the mot juste. Don't the words carry different connotations? Different sensibilities? Doesn't using the word "artist" color the subject differently than if I'd used the word "artisan?"

There is a difference. And we would do well to celebrate and embrace these differences, excluding no one from our love for craft.

To whom this difference matters, and why... that's something else. That gets into economics, politics, sociology, spirituality. Or maybe it's just semantics.

In any case, I am going to try an experiment. Over the next several weeks I am going to freely use "artist," "artisan," designer/maker," and any other term in this suite of meanings, and see how it sits. I am releasing "Artisan" from it's corner on the market at Greenjeans! Check the online shop, this blog, and the auction house, where these terms will start flying at will.

And let me know your thoughts!

Email is Back

Our email is working again. Fire away!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Our Email is Out of Order Today

Our email server is down and we have not been receiving any emails at all today. If you have tried to send us an email and it got bounced back to you, that's why.

Unfortunately (and frustratingly!!) NONE of the emails that were sent after the server went down will be delivered to us. So kindly hold off on sending or re-sending any emails today since they don't know when things will be back to normal.

Or give us a call at 718-907-5835.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. I will post again when email is back in service!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Valentine's Day Locket Show

Through Valentine's Day (Feb. 14th), come to Greenjeans to view a collection of ten one-of-a-kind lockets by four brilliant jewelers. All are here for you to admire, and also available for purchase.

Have a look!

Made by Julie Jerman-Melka in Ft. Collins, Colorado, this locket incorporates a small hollowed-out granite stone with a hinged sterling silver "lid" set with beautiful semi-precious stones. A slim gold latch safely holds a lock of hair or other sweet remembrance inside.

Erica Schlueter of Verona, Wisconsin, crafts her jewelry from sterling silver and bi-metal (silver-backed gold) and assembles it with tiny rivets. The texture in the metal is created when Erica runs the metal through a press with fabric. Scroll down to see how this locket works...

Erica's locket open. We all love the Blues Brothers, but this photo can be replaced with one of your own. (Instructions included.)

This highly-detailed locket by Kimberly Navratil-Pope (Bozeman, Montana) features a lovely vintage image of a Japanese woman. The image cannot be removed, but who would want to?

Lockets by the fourth jeweler, Eija Lindsay of New Paltz, New York, will be arriving soon. I'll post about them mid-week!

We have lots of other wonderful jewelry and gifts in store for your Valentine or for yourself, so come in or visit Greenjeans Online and fall in love!