Sunday, July 29, 2007

Leaders of the DIY Movement Speak at ACC Salon

On Thursday night, the American Craft Council hosted the second in its Summer Salon Series on the topic of the DIY renaissance and marketplace interventions. It was a fascinating evening, and so interesting to hear the stories of two remarkable women on the front lines of the DIY movement.

Reverend Callie Janoff of the Church of Craft and Cal Patch of Hodge Podge Farm spoke about their experiences championing the handmade in the face of art school and the fashion design world, respectively. Their stories shed light on the origins and character of the DIY movement, and also provided inspiration to anyone who has ever started a craft project and never finished it!

It is not contradictory to say that Callie Janoff embraces craft as a verb, and has less reverent concern for objects of craft per se. She knew as an art student that making art would not likely earn her a great deal of money, and anyway she disliked the idea of her work being bought and sold. She was also interested in the idea that art didn't have to be an object. So she made work that was intended to fall apart, or that existed only as an experience in time, like a conversation or jamming with her rock band.

During this time, a professor in a critique told her that she was making craft and craftsmanship an issue in her work. Over the years this insight proved prophetic: Callie would eventually find that craft can be a spiritual practice with the power to forge a sense of community and camaraderie. She experimented with time-based art events, for instance holding cupcake picnics in Central Park. And she even mounted an exhibition of unfinished craft projects to emphasize that whether or not the maker completes the work, the act of making is the essential strength of craft.
Callie (in green above, and that's Cal at the right) became an ordained minister online in order to perform wedding ceremonies, and co-founded the Church of Craft after meeting kindred spirit Trismegista (Tristy) Taylor who shared her understanding of the power of craft to forge community, lift the spirit, and nurture the soul. Reclaiming the word Church (not to mention the word Craft) and using it without irony, today Church of Craft convenings take place all over the world providing space for people to come together and work on craft projects in a spirit akin to sewing circles of old. By nature of its very existence and perpetuation, the Church of Craft reinforces the values that inform the DIY movement, as defined by Callie: accessibility, connectivity, empowerment, and the subversion of authorship.

These values are also present in the work of Cal Patch. Cal went to school for fashion design, landing a job designing clothes for a popular clothing company after graduation. While she loved the creativity of the work, it distressed her to see row upon row of cheaply made reproductions of her carefully handmade clothes, and after many years she felt she was, as she put it, "selling her soul to corporate America." So she quit her job and opened a space on the Lower East Side where she sold one-of-a-kind handmade clothes made by her and people she knew. It was a huge risk, but it paid off, and after a while designers took notice, and today more and more small shops are supporting DIY designers like Cal.

Retail wasn’t so much her thing, but she loved giving classes in her space, and so she opened Make Workshop, which she described as “hipster craft school.” She continues to make one-of-a-kind clothes for her label Hodge Podge, and she teaches knitting, quilting, felting, crochet at places like Brooklyn General Store and Etsy Labs.

Cal spoke a lot about how her background has influenced her work, especially growing up in the 1970s, which were, as she put it, the heyday of craft. She would do things as a kid like paint rocks and weave ribbons in barrettes, and go around her neighborhood selling them. (Differently than Callie, Cal confessed having no problem with selling her work!) Being a Girl Scout and earning those little embroidered badges was another big influence, as was her Grandmother who practiced all kinds of craft. She also mentioned being into the Sunshine Family, a sort of alterna-Barbie family with their Craft Van and greenhouse. So Cal has always been steeped in the lifestyle of craft. (I have written about the 1970s influence on DIY in this blog -- click here to read.)
Cal and Callie wrapped up their talk speaking about how the DIY movement parallels the slow food movement and the green movement, both of which have roots in the 1970s, and how the currency DIY has gained in recent years is partly a backlash against mass production. They spoke of the role of recycling in craft, as well as creative commons and open source approaches, and the way craft today is so strongly an issue for so many artists. As Callie summed it up at the end of the talk, craft is about what you do, not what you buy.

Once again, the ACC Salon drew an overflow crowd of magazine editors, makers, writers, publishers, and others interested in where craft is headed. Both preceding and following the talk, we all got to mingle over glasses of wine and an abundant spread of noshes, enjoying each other’s company and trading business cards. Kudos again to the ACC and Lily Kane for putting this series together!

It is also always a treat to be in the ACC’s incredible library that is stocked to the gills with books, catalogues, and magazines having to do with craft. It is an endlessly fascinating resource, and it’s open to the public!

Be sure to mark your calendars for the third and final Salon when I will be presenting with Rena Tom of Rare Device about blogging the handmade. It’s Thursday, September 20th from 6-7pm – RSVP to or 212-274-0630. Hope to see you there!

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Photos courtesy of the American Craft Council
Posted by Amy Shaw

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"The DIY Renaissance" Event at ACC TONIGHT!!

Tonight the American Craft Council hosts the second event in its Summer Salon Series!

Join Reverend Callie Janoff of NYC Church of Craft and Hodge Podge clothing designer Cal Patch for a discussion on how they’re converting, inspiring, educating and creating the next wave of craft lovers.

It takes place from 6-7 pm, with a reception to follow. The ACC is located at 72 Spring Street in Manhattan.

Call 212-274-0630 to RSVP.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rena's Last Day

One day two years ago, not long after we opened Greenjeans, a sweet, pixieish girl walked into the shop to introduce herself as our new neighbor. She had rented the storefront a few doors down to open a small curated design shop called Rare Device. We were excited that another little indie shop was opening on our block, and tried to pass on the little bits we'd learned in our experience running a business in neighborhood so far.

We could have seen each other as competitors, but instead became friends. Since then, we've shopped at each other's stores, attended each other's opening receptions, and warned each other that the crazy drunk guy is skulking up the sidewalk again. Rena likes getting people to meet each other, and she hosted the first Business Lady's Cocktail where lots of amazing young local business owners got to meet and build camaraderie.

She also has a great eye for spotting fascinating small objects and clever jewelry, and she has introduced us all to a roster of designers and makers creating things that really do make life a little sunnier. Personally, I've found many treasures at Rena's, some of my favorites being my fennel soap, my tree silhouette skirt, the black glass saki set I gave to Jae, and my little leather acorn keychain/box, not to mention my luscious yellow vegan handbag that I've toted all spring and summer, and a particular fringed silk scarf printed in purples and greens that I have just about worn out. I've also always admired the engaging and intimate way she arranges all these many things and more inside her shop.

Fortunately, Rare Device will remain our neighbor, with the lovely Erin of Sodafine taking the managerial reins and adding her wonderful clothing collections to the mix. Rena is searching for a new spot in her soon-to-be home of San Francisco and I'm sure she'll create a wonderful space there as she has here in the South Slope.

I am excited for her new adventures, and am sure she will do wonderfully as her business expands. And she will be back from time to time, certainly for our joint presentation on "blogging the handmade" at the American Craft Council's salon on September 20.

Jae and I wish her and Derek all the best as they take on the Left Coast. But at the end of the day, I sure will miss her!!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Photos of Summer Succulents Exhibition

Last night we threw an opening party for our summer exhibition, Summer Succulents! The show features nearly 60 works of jewelry inspired by succulent plants by eight jewelry makers from around the country: Valerie Mitchell, Janice Ho, Chelle Kraus, Laura Su, Melle Finelli, Kristina Kada, Alison Mackey, and Lisa Crowder. The show also inaugurates our brand new window gallery and will be on view thru the end of August.

The party was a success -- everyone had a lovely time mingling and enjoying the work on view and the fresh snacks and drinks we'd made while deciding which pieces to snap up. More people have been coming in to see the show today and stake their claim (since purchased pieces will stay in the show until it closes). I dislike red dots, but the little blue stars are coming out!

Here are some photos of the show. If there's a piece that you'd like to have, give us a call or send us an email, and we can do a transaction by phone. Again, the piece must stay in the show until the last week of August, but we'll mark it with a blue star for you! Pieces will also start appearing in our online shop next week. Enjoy!

Here are some pictures from the opening party (in addition to the one at the top):

And here's how the front of the shop looks now!

This new glass table Jae designed really opens up the front of the shop and invites in more clarity and light. We usually have a very frontal window display, but we arranged the show to be visible from both inside and outside, so rather than use a lot of levels we kept it mostly flat. I must say I am quite pleased with the way my displays turned out. They're just cork boards covered in microsuede and they were very easy to make.

All of the succulent plants in the show are from the wonderful plant shop Root Stock & Quade down the street. Thanks again, guys, for participating!

Thanks also to everyone who came to the opening and helped make it such a great night!

And thanks again to all the jewelry makers for contributing their work. We're so excited that this show is finally up!

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Posted by Amy Shaw

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Summer Succulents Opens Tonight! (6-9pm)

Our exhibition Summer Succulents opens tonight, Thurs. 7/19, and YOU are invited!

We haven't thrown a proper party at Greenjeans since our grand opening two years ago, so it's gonna be a good one! You can see we've made a big batch of white peach sangria (pictured here) -- very succulent. Not to mention peach spritzers (sans alcohol), fresh berries, zesty artichoke dip for veggies and melba toast, and a creamy salsa dip, the recipe for which our friend Kevin whispered to us today promising great things...

The exhibition, which we will finish installing tomorrow, features jewelry inspired by succulent plants by eight independent jewelry designers and makers: Valerie Mitchell, Janice Ho, Chelle Kraus, Laura Su, Melle Finelli, Kristina Kada, Alison Mackey, and Lisa Crowder. None of the work in the show has been seen before at Greenjeans, and much of it was created especially for the exhibition.

There are some stunning pieces, all of them available for purchase (and free to admire). Prices range from about $50 to $750. (Purchased work may be collected after the exhibition closes on August 30.)

We will get them up online as soon as we possibly can, though we ask for patience -- in our life outside of Greenjeans we are in the process of moving, and everyone knows how disruptive and time-consuming that can be! Nonetheless, I know you'll want to see pictures, and I want to show you, so hang in there.

The poetic designer and lovely friend Judy Lee of five and a half designed our exhibition poster, cutting succulent-like shapes from found paper. Here's a detail:

We have extras and are thinking of giving them in exchange for making a small donation to one of the charities we work with. Haven't figured this detail out yet, but the poster is fabulous!

And this picture shows our new display tables!! They replace the old temporary table that was in the front window until, well, 2 days ago. Jae designed it, had the legs fabricated by a metalsmith in Bushwick, and got the glass cut and beveled. It has opened up the front of the shop SO much, creating the gallery space we've been craving.

Come see it tomorrow night! And if you can't make it, the show will be on view both in the shop and from the window thru August 30.

Also note: we will be starting our Summer Hours next week, closing Mondays and Tuesdays thru Labor Day.

Thanks to everyone who helped us organize the exhibition, especially Root Stock and Quade for providing the succulent plants. And of course, there would be no exhibition without the artists and their passionate work that we're so excited to be showing! Cheers!

Posted by Amy Shaw

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"South Slope Design Mecca"

Today, Hrag Vartanian, a great friend and one of the best culture bloggers out there, composed and posted a wonderful piece about Greenjeans while actually hanging out in the shop!

As I furiously work to get things ready for Thursday night's opening of Summer Succulents (remember: it's 6-9pm, and you're invited!), I will leave it to Hrag to give you a dose of Greenjeans for the day. Check out the rest of his blog too -- it always delivers.

A million thanks, Hrag!

[Link to post]

Photo by Hrag Vartanian

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Posted by Amy Shaw

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Strange Fruit Performance in Brooklyn Bridge Park

On Saturday around sunset, Jae and I went to Brooklyn Bridge Park to see Strange Fruit perform a piece titled "Swoon!" Strange Fruit is a performance troupe from Australia whose work combines dance with mime and clowning (I love that stuff) but with a twist -- they perform strapped to 20-foot tall flexible poles! Forget stilt acts -- this was really above and beyond (yuk yuk yuk)...

I think the work speaks better about itself than I can, so here's a little iMovie I put together for you. As I filmed, I thought it must have felt amazing to be one of the performers, swaying and twirling high in the evening air alongside the majesty of the Brooklyn Bridge... wow! It was a treat for all of us!

Turn on your computer's sound, and enjoy! (Video is 2:32 long.)

Untitled from AesBklyn and Vimeo.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

DIY Windmill in Malawi Kicks!

This is the most kick-ass and inspiring story I've seen in a long time --

This young man in Malawi DIY-ed himself a windmill to power lights and radios for his entire village. He had no formal training or aid from an NGO or microlender. Nope, he did it the old fashioned way: he went to the library and studied the books he found there, and then through trial and error made it work. I love it!

Of course, there are probably lots of stories like this around the world, but usually it's the not-so-good news that gets reported. I read about it on the Grist List, and they read about it on the new-to me blog Inhabitat.

Chalk one up for personal ingenuity!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Gleanings from the Blogosphere

Every now and then, I like to post things I find during my blog wanderings. Here are some nuggets that have captured my attention recently...


Don't miss this amazing arial event on Saturday in DUMBO when Australia’s Strange Fruit Productions presents Swoon! in Brooklyn Bridge Park!

Fusing "theater, dance, and circus, using the unique elevated medium of sway poles," (aweSOME!!!) the company will put on three 20-minute FREE performances at 4:00, 6:00, and 8:00 pm. DUMBONYC posted about it moments ago... (seems we're both late-night bloggers!)

Genius Gray Water Recycling Idea

Sew Green, the green-minded craft and DIY blog based in Australia, posted this great suggestion, a real forehead-slapper: place a bucket in your shower to catch whatever water falls into it (a lot) and use it to water your flowerbeds! It's so smart and I can't believe I've never heard of it before.

I'd use it to flush my toilet -- just pour a bucketful of this "gray water" into the toilet bowl and it'll trigger the flush without using fresh water to fill the bowl. (Once I get myself a good bucket, I'm going to implement this at home fo' sho'!)

Another Australian craft blog, Whipup, posted a photo of this delightful Car Cozy.

The knitter and artist, identified as "Bronwyn," is a Canberra native, who previously created a house cozy (which I'd love to see but amazingly didn't find an image online). It's like a more domestic version of Marianne Joergensen's Tank Cozy!

It will soon be on view at Canberra's Craft ACT: Craft and Design Center, which sounds like an intriguing place and has a great website.

Vintage Belt Floormat

Here's a very DIY-able design posted on Craft magazine's must-read blog. (You can buy it too.)

I find the idea of leather flooring oddly appealing, maybe because it resembles wood but feels softer and warmer.

Tee Shirt Skirt

Craft also posted a tutorial to make this cute and comfy skirt from tee shirts, that even I could make...

Bee Keeping in NYC

Local honey is supposed to be good for seasonal allergy sufferers and general health. But New York City honey? You betcha! Apartment Therapy wrote about it recently. Anyone tried it?

Sushi Bar Video

Not Martha always finds fascinating stuff relating to food and craft on the web. This is a film made by a digital camera set on a rotating sushi bar in Tokyo!

Speaking of sushi, there's an absolutely absorbing piece by Nick Tosches (whose writing I so admire) in the June issue Vanity Fair. I found it illuminating, but evidently it quite annoyed some hardcore foodies...

Ousting the "Designosaurs"

In an effort to bring environmental consciousness to design education, some folks have created Okala, a "robust 18 week course of modules designed to be integrated into existing ID classes." Wendy Bawler wrote a wonderful piece about it for WorldChanging New York that provides a glimpse into a key design world debate.

Heading to Manhattan to hit the divine Mood Fabrics tomorrow to pick out material to use in the display for Summer Succulents, our up-coming jewelry show. Remember: the opening is Thursday night! (I'll post again about it soon...)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Rhymiest Day of the Millennium (so far)

Say it out loud: "Seven Eleven Oh-Seven." Isn't that lovely?

I think it may be the rhymiest day of the millennium, so far anyway!

Just wanted to mention that...

Monday, July 09, 2007

July Newsletter delayed...

So sorry, but the July edition of the Greenjeans Gazette that was supposed to go out this morning won't be ready until tomorrow morning... We've been experiencing some technical difficulties.

If you're not a subscriber but would like to be, send me an email!

Til tomorrow...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Last Call on the Cracker Jack Necklace!


We've had this fabulous one-of-a-kind piece in the shop for a while, and in a week it's going back to its maker, Kimberly Navratil-Pope in Bozeman, Montana.

So I wanted to post about it to give those of you who've been coveting it one last opportunity to own it!

The necklace is made from bits of Cracker Jack boxes set under glass in silver bezels, with bamboo coral beads (which are derived from dead coral found on the beach and dyed red). Kimberly constructs every little bit of the piece, including each bezel, each little bundles of silver "sticks," and the toggle clasp.

We are offering it at $538. To learn more about the piece or to purchase it, call us at 718-907-5835.

To see newly arrived work by Kimberly, scroll down or click here...

New Arrivals! (Stuffed Animals, Jewelry, Books)

Some lovely new work arrived this week for you! It's not all on the website yet, so if there's something you'd like to order, shoot us an email or give a call (718-907-5835).

Have a look!

A fresh batch of stuffed animals from Kentucky made by Judy Geagley. Some old favorites (Humpty Dumptys, chenille Heart Bunnies, flat sweater elephants) and some new friends (Elle the Elephant, Alley the Cat, and Old Yellar the Bear). ($15. - $74. each)

Earrings and a pendant made from luminous Italian tessera (colored glass backed in gold) set in silver bezels, made by Kimberly Navratil-Pope in Montana. ($58. and $140.)

Detail of Kimberly's gorgeous Italian tessera necklace. She described how wonderful it is to wear this chunky piece, because the silver gets warm against your skin. Plus it looks incredible on. ($440.)

These earrings are made from Japanese paper and gold foil set under glass in silver bezels. Kimberly, whose photo can be seen in the background, constructs every little bit herself. ($132.)

A different take on the classic hoop, with more Japanese paper and foil pieces in the background. (hoops $42.)

And we're fully restocked on all titles we offer by Brooklyn's own Enchanted Lion Books (inc. "This is a Poem That Heals Fish" and "The Magic Horse of Han Gan." ($14.95 - $16.95)

It's a hot weekend, but it's nice and cool in the shop... Come by for a visit!

Monday, July 02, 2007

"Buying Into the Green Movement" in the NY Times

The New York Times printed an article today, "Buying Into the Green Movement," about how eco-consumerism is an oxymoron perpetuated by marketers and the media leading the mainstream public to think that if they're buying something labeled "organic" it's all good. As a retail shop that promotes sustainability, I thought it would be fitting to respond.

It's a good thing that American consumers are starting to understand about the advantages of low-watt light bulbs and organic fruit. But one message that doesn't seem to be getting through is that we need to generally consume less, and we can't simply buy our way out of environmental problems.

Of course, sometimes we do have to buy things. And sometimes we simply want to buy things. And that in itself isn't necessarily bad. What I don't understand is the idea of throwing away something that's perfectly good in order to replace it with something made from "green" materials. Or of companies marketing things as "green" that require more energy to produce than their "conventional" counterparts. Baffling.

We at Greenjeans obviously don't advocate zero consumption. That's impossible anyway. But we do advocate for slower consumption, and making more mindful choices. We believe in the power of dollar voting to change the nature of consumerism entirely. And we try to offer as many items as possible produced within a 150-mile radius to keep things local.

As we state in our FAQ:

"We believe that whenever possible people should buy high-quality things that will last for generations, not seasons. The less “disposable” merchandise we buy, the smaller our ecological footprint will be. We esteem the value of the handmade and the possibility of returning to slower consumption patterns.

"Also, it is our persistent goal to operate with a double bottom line: to make a profit and to be socially and environmentally responsible. We believe that capitalism can be used in the service of changing the world, and in our own small way that is what we’re trying to do.

"More tangibly, many objects in the shop are made from recycled or repurposed materials such as old wine barrel staves used to make folding chairs, old quilts used to make stuffed toys, and old men’s shirts sewn to make the curtain at the back of the shop. The artisans who make these objects are talented craftspeople using traditional skills in an unconventional way to produce beautiful functional art.

"Remember that shopping doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Every time you make a purchase, you are also casting a dollar vote. You are voting for a product, as well as how that product is produced, transported, marketed, and sold. A dollar spent at Greenjeans is a vote for integrity, sustainability, small-scale production, and independent small business."

I'm glad the Times printed this article. It's important for us all to be reminded that living sustainably is not as easy as we're sometimes led to believe, but instead relies on each of us to be well-informed, conscientious consumers.

(Photo sourced here.)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Review of Studio Craft show at the Met

This summer (if you haven't already), be sure to catch "One of a Kind: The Studio Craft Movement" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through Sept. 3). With about 50 works by highly respected American craft artists in the Met's permanent collection, the show includes furniture, ceramics, glass, metalwork, jewelry, and fiber.

Getting on board with the heightened relevance of craft in culture today, the wall text states: "Today's studio craft artists are no longer labeled simply 'craftsmen' as the lines between craft, design, and fine art have blurred."

As exciting as it is to track what the next generation of artisans is making and how artists are using craft media, it is also important to be aware of the history of these movements, and to appreciate how many craft artists have been avant-garde for quite some time now.

Among the many lively and interesting works in the show, here are some highlights:

(The Met's press office was able to send me images of only a few works I wanted to mention from the show, so in some cases I have provided images of similar works by the makers I found particularly interesting.)

Made from wide strips of birch bark and sewn together with silk thread, this basket by Donna Look from 1988 has great shape, color, and texture, like a big seed pod. (Exhibited piece similar to shown).

The show included another cool basket by Ed Rossbach titled "Happy Days" (1991) woven from wide strips of paper and wood, then painted in watercolor with applied images of Mickey Mouse. It reminded me of Cy Twombly's paintings. Alas, I can't find a decent picture of something similar...

"Hard Grid" neckpiece (1991) by Flora Book made from long silver tubular pieces and monofilament. Although the styling in this photo doesn't really exploit the potential for this flexible piece, I love dramatic structural jewelry like this, and she is among the masters of the form.

I saw my first Magdalene Odundo piece in at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston last fall and instantly loved it. These big dark ceramic pieces are like an ancient bell, a pregnant body, a ritual mask, an exotic bird... (Exhibited piece similar to shown.)

No survey of American studio craft would be complete without a big hulking Peter Voulkos piece. This was a particularly nice example, for some reason titled "Noodle" (1996). (Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Sheila Hicks' "Linen Lean-To" (1967-68) is a huge wall piece (86" wide) that struck me as very clean and cool... and very '70s. (Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The poster image for the show is this piece by Richard Marquis titled "American Acid Capsule with Cloth Container" (1969–70). (Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Made from leftover glass in a Murano studio, the piece references the antiwar/counter-culture movement of the time.

As with most works of craft, the actual pieces look MUCH BETTER in person than in photos, so treat yourself and go see the show! (And remember to catch the Costume Institutes's Poiret show, walk through the new Greek & Roman galleries, and enjoy the roof garden while you're at it!)

(Link to the New York Times review of the show here.)