Monday, March 31, 2008

Prepping (Neurotically) for My 1st Outdoor Market

When I started this blog three years ago, my intention was to record the experience of setting up shop and starting a business.

Lately I find myself negotiating a new channel in this Greenjeans adventure, one familiar to many of the makers we work with, but totally foreign to me: figuring out how to prepare for an outdoor market!

The Brooklyn Flea starts this coming Sunday, and as much as I wish I could just relax about the whole thing, it is causing me a bit of anxiety. In fact, today my brain feels like a bagful of tent parts dumped on the ground with no assembly instructions.

Questions abound: Does our tent need sides? Where do we get weights for the legs? How do we jack up the 30" tables so they're 40" tall? Where can we get a banner printed with our name on it? What kind of fabric do I want to cover the table? Is it worth spending $20 on a great antique crate from Ebay to use in my display if it costs me $50 to have it shipped? Stuff like that.

I know there are a million tips and strategies for creating successful booth designs, and appreciated the timeliness of the recent issue of the Crafts Report that has a lot of good info on this.

Because part of me wants our booth to be a gorgeous perfect thing right off the bat. I want it to be cleverly designed, comfortable to browse, and dosed with the right amount of je ne sais quoi to entice people to happily part with their hard-earned money.

On top of that, the perfectionist in me has teamed up with my self-consciousness and built an inner monster that is preoccupied with presenting the "right" image and catching the eyes of shoppers, bloggers, and media photographers. I've been told to expect a good deal of coverage of the Flea, and I'm dreading the possibility that we'll look totally... lame.

However, the realistic side of me knows that good booth design take time, and trying too hard at any look looks worse than anything. Besides, this is a brand new venue and I don't really know what to expect in terms of the space, the crowd, the other vendors, or what people will want to buy, so there are a lot of wildcards that I can't reasonably prepare for.

In cases like these, I know it's best to think simple and work with what I've got. Forget about walls, and focus on table displays. Don't worry about offering jewelry until I find a safe way to show it. Definitely do a banner sign, but maybe I'll make it myself so I don't have to order a rush job. Forget about spending money on stuff that may not be what we need. And above all else, don't take ANY of this too seriously!

In other words, I want to embrace the looser, freer format of the outdoor market and not be overly self-conscious about Greenjeans' first appearance "on the road." The whole reason I wanted to do this in the first place was because it sounded like fun, not because it would stress me out.

Perhaps that is my real guidepost: forget fussing over all the details and just play with it, let it be easy, let it be fun --

-- and save my analytical brain for when it's time to put the tent together...!

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.
Image of Brooklyn Flea site sourced here, and Scream sourced here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Benefit Sales, Shop Openings...

Some noteworthy news and events that have recently come across my desk:

Art Auction to Benefit Stoked Mentoring
Saturday April 5, 6pm
Find great affordable works of art (such as the newly-minted "Stroller" by Anders Bergstrom, pictured here) and help support this cool organization that provides outreach to at-risk teens through skateboarding and snowboarding.

Made in Clay Benefit Sale at Greenwich House Pottery
March 27 - April 30
This annual benefit features extraordinary functional ceramics by over 50 artists from across the US. The juried Members Showcase is displayed on the first floor, and the Invitational Jane Hartsook Gallery and The Storefront.

Metal and Thread Grand Opening
March 29 4:00-evening
Check out this brand-new shop by textile and metal artists Denise Carbonell (whose two small quilts we exhibited in Under-Cover) and Derek Dominy at 398 Van Brunt St. in Red Hook, Brooklyn (pictured below). (718.414.9651. View their work here.)

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gleanings for Greenjeans' 400th Blog Post

I just noticed that this is my 400th blog post!!

No trumpets or cake, just a few gleanings to share with you today...

DIG this lampshade that slowly knits itself when you turn it on (Nadine Sterk's Sleeping Beauty lamp on exhibition in The Netherlands, courtesy CraftZine, pictured here).

KUDOS to Brooklyn Flea organizers Eric and John for the fabulous spread in New York Magazine and the Daily News anticipating the market. (Come see us there starting April 6!)

GET INSPIRED by the new issue of American Craft Magazine. This month's theme: craft and the industrial complex. I am especially excited about the lead article, which you can read here. (And I'll be responding to it very soon...)

BUILD YOUR SUMMER READING LIST! After posting the other day about "The Craftsman," the new book by Richard Sennett, I cruised around Amazon a while and made a list of books, most of them fairly new, I want to check out. Thought I'd share it with you!

They all appeal to my persistent interest not only in craft, but also in material culture, labor, and studies of the everyday. (I'm a huge fan of de Certeau and Bachelard for any of you philosophy / critical theory people out there...)

Thinking Through Craft by Glenn Adamson

A Theory of Craft: Function and Aesthetic Expression by Howard Risatti

Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft by Laurie Britton-Newell

NeoCraft by Grace Cochrane

The Culture of Craft: Studies in Design and Material Culture by Peter Dormer

Evocative Objects: Things We Think With by Sherry Turkle

The Object of Labor: Art, Cloth, and Cultural Production by Joan Livingstone

What are YOU looking forward to reading?

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

NY Times Hearts Art Handlers

As a former "gallerina," I have always known that the hottest thing about the art world is, hands down, the art handlers.

Well, the New York Times seems to have finally caught up with me (and practically every other woman I know in the gallery and museum field):

This weekend they have a fabulous spread of the beautiful art handlers of New York in the Sunday Magazine -- click here to see it online!

Not only are art handlers hot, they also tend to be really nice, down-to-earth, and fun. They're usually (but not always) guys, and usually (but not always) aspiring artists or musicians.

And not only have I always had a soft spot for art handlers, I actually married one! (And though Jae is not in the biz any more, he does contract out from time.)

So congrats to all the art handlers (including our friend Hendrick pictured here)! The Times might be over-looking your considerable skills with tape measures, box cutters, hanging hardware, and cardboard, but you all look absolutely great!

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.
Picture by the New York Times.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Craft Debate Catches Huge Wave

If the explosive wave of discussion ignited by Bruce Metcalf and Andrew Wagner's talk at the recent SNAG conference hasn't already swept you up, then book yourself some time off, grab your board, and get into it -- this seems to be what we've ALL been waiting for!

(Well, maybe it's boring to some people. But that's ok too.)

I am waiting to read the original talk before I respond, although I've been chomping at the bit for days to respond to what others are saying, my brain buzzing with thoughts and reactions. And I did refer to the discussion in my post last night on craft and security.

In the meantime, tonight I tried to map it a bit (before realizing that there's the start of a list on Conceptual Metalsmithing too!):

Bruce Metcalf and Andrew Wagner's presentation at SNAG “D.I.Y, Websites, and Energy: The New Alternative Craft” (I will post a link as soon as it appears somewhere online.)

Annie of Imogene's personal and thoughtful response to the presentation posted on March 9 and started the ball rolling. There are some 80 comments posted so far by people from every corner of the vast and complex craft world. This comments section has become a melting pot for a rich discussion covering many topics that people have a lot to say about.

Andrew Wagner has responded within the comments section of the above, as well as here on American Craft Magazine's blog. Bruce Metcalf has also written a number of responses in the comments section.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, Gabriel Craig has responded substantially to the talk on his blog Conceptual Metalsmithing, as has Megan Auman, both of whom attended the conference. Also weighing in: Extreme Craft, Handmade Detroit, Toronto Craft Alert, and Murketing. Mediabistro has picked it up as a story. There's a somewhat related piece in the Washington City Paper where Raina Hassan of Crafty Bastards goes to the ACC's American Craft Show to check out the indie additions.

I'm sure there is more and I'm happy to keep compiling if folks want to send me relevant links. I'll post more that I find too.

This is a really exciting moment for the craft world. It's a spontaneous conference that we all are invited to with a platform for everyone to participate. Go bloggers and comment-writers! And I second Gabriel's motion that the ACC should set up an online forum to keep this all together and allow us this much-needed portal for wide-reaching communication.

Much more to come...
Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.
Image sourced here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On Craft and Security

While working on a freelance research project tonight, I came across an article in this month’s Museum News titled “Memorial Mania.” I started reading to see if it was relevant to my project, and ended up reading the whole thing.

The article is an analysis of public feeling surrounding terrorism memorials in post-9/11 America. Very well written and full of fascinating examples, it investigates our collective obsession with memorials at this socio-psychological moment.

This moment happens to correspond with the most recent craft movement and the perceived resurgence in interest in craft, which many, including myself, would probably say started with the post-9/11 kitting craze. But more on that in a minute.

To try to understand the current "memorial mania,” author Erika Doss considers the predominant notion informing our era’s memorials, “that trauma can be represented and must be cured, hence the affirmation of hope, healing, renewal and closure in design elements such as reflecting pools, waterfalls, manicured lawns, clusters of trees and ‘beacons of hope.’”

Doss continues,

"Sigmund Freud defined anxiety as a reaction to danger, a fear of ‘being abandoned by the protecting super ego.’ Manifested in nervousness and confusion, anxiety is an untenable state of insecurity. It is often abated, or controlled, in comforting and safe spaces—in the familiar setting of the home, for example, or in the routine and order of the workplace. The anxious insecurity generated by the violation of these safe spaces is then especially jarring, and efforts to restore them are quick: Less than a month after Sept. 11, for example, the Department of Homeland Security was created to “coordinate the executive branch’s efforts to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks within the United States.”

Here I paused and the thought emerged, not to give too much credit to Freud, but is my long-time interest in topics of memory and home (both personally and academically) a reflection of my own occasional-to-persistent state of anxiety and insecurity? Is my involvement most recently with craft—which may be indelibly linked to the safe realm of home—a reflection of my own attempts to feel safe?

Then further thoughts…

- Knitting was a huge reaction to September 11. And the resurgence in craft has been happening ever since. Are we all just trying to make ourselves feel safe?

- If craft is about security and safety (at its core, even if it’s trying to be subversive), then how do you challenge it? If craft is associatively a realm of security, being somehow related to the home and to tradition, at least the American mind, what happens when someone rocks the boat? What happens when our homes, or our countries, are violated, when our security is breached? How do we react? Is it the same with craft?

- And if craft IS about security and safety, then what are the economic implications of that? Is it possible to make a living by making, selling, and promoting… safety? (Is that what we want to be doing…?)

Maybe not for everyone, but I’d wager that for many people craft is about safety, whether the craft-related person is aware of it or not. And maybe that is the source of the enormous resistance to change and critique characteristic to the field.

Take the response to the rise of “indie craft” and the recent changes to American Craft Magazine. While many are embracing the new and taking on the challenge to established norms, many others in the craft world seem not only disinterested in being challenged, but get dramatically provoked and lash out against the new. Their reaction is as though challenge itself threatens to destroy people and their world.

Another example is the recent firestorm over a talk given by Bruce Metcalf and Andrew Wagner at last month's SNAG conference, which has sparked an impressive debate online over essentially these issues. (I haven’t read it all to respond directly to it yet, but it starts here and here.)

In a recent email exchange about this debate, a colleague suggested something about fear being the biggest thing holding craft back. I responded that I couldn’t agree more: fear its boundaries will be breached, fear that the past will disappear, fear that criticism and new ideas will bring down the house, fear of the new, fear of questions, etc.

Jae and I have often wondered if craft simply doesn't want to be shaken up. If craft is the realm of the safe in the same way that art is the realm of risk. (And design looks risky because it's obsessed with the new, but is really about safety...?)

There I go again, parsing the differences. But there ARE differences, and I think understanding them can help us to better understand craft, what's holding craft back, and how to help craft evolve.

There are differences too in the way craft perceived in the U.S. compared with places like Australia, Japan, the UK, Germany, and Scandinavia where it seems craft is a much broader, more dynamic, and more highly-appreciated field.

What is it about the American psyche that it is so dismissive of craft? Part of the reason I think it's so cool (although many vehemently do not) that American Craft Magazine is now covering international craft is because it allows us, as Americans, a glimpse into how other countries perceive craft. Which might be instructive for those of us interested in making American craft truly thrive.

Which brings me back to the current socio-psychological moment. We are living in a time where we can hardly escape from the narrative of safety. It is on the news, in car commercials, in museum exhibitions and public policy debates.

At this same moment we are experiencing a resurgence in craft, and its affect on the narrative of craft has become hotly contested.

Why must craft be kept so safe? What do people feel is at stake?

The established craft world need not abandon the nest. But it must be willing to stretch its comfort zone and evolve as a field and a market, or it will forfeit its cultural relevance and fade away.

If on the other hand we allow craft to take some risks, and take risks ourselves, we might find that a rising tide lifts all ships, and that abundance lies beyond the harbor, out in the wide open sea.

Posted by Amy Shaw, Greenjeans.
Image: Tank cozy by Danish artist Marianne Joergensen

Sunday, March 16, 2008

South Slope Buzz and Parade

The South Slope -- our neighborhood in Brooklyn -- has been catching lots of attention this week!

On Friday, the free daily AM New York printed a long piece about our fine nabe listing many of the great shops (including Greenjeans - thanks!), restaurants, and bars that make this a happenin' place to be.

The latest Park Slope Courier ran a piece about the South Slope Soiree, a monthly gathering of folks mostly in their 20s and 30s who live south of 9th Street and want to build a sense of community.

And today, Brooklyn's St. Patrick's Day Parade made its annual procession from Prospect Park down 15th Street and along 7th Ave., enlivening the South Slope with the sounds of drum, fife, and bagpipes, as the whole neighborhood took on a fun celebratory vibe. I ran out and took these pics...

Go South Slope!

I'm guessing these are Irish Setters...

High School kids dressed up for the festivities flash peace signs as they march along.

Some serious drum and fife action here!

Posted and photos by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Making Triangles for "The Postcard Says" Project

Judy and Shawn of Five and a Half recently launched a neat project called "The Postcard Says." They sent out 400(!) postcards with a task described on the back, and recipients do the task and take pictures of the results, then send them in to be posted to the project's website.

Not one to turn down fun mail, I signed up and a week later received a postcard inscribed with the following instructions:

"Use your body parts to make as many triangles as possible. Ask a friend to do the same. Share notes. Take pictures of your favorite poses."

I immediately thought it would be fun to do with my friend Mia and called her to plan a Triangle Day.

Three weeks passed, dates got rescheduled, but finally today we got to spend the afternoon together in Prospect Park and make triangles, with some assistance from stuff we found around the park. We made more triangles at her apartment and later tonight at a restaurant with Jae. You can see them all in the Flickr set.

It was really fun to play instead of work for a whole afternoon -- I forget that good play does wonders for the work-addled spirit -- so thanks for inspiring that, guys!

Click here to see the rest of our pictures ---

(Note: Sign-up for the project is now closed, but they seem to have future projects in mind. Pictures will start going up on the project's website next month...)

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.
Photos by Amy Shaw and Mia Miller.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Book: The Craftsman

I learned today on Craft Research that there's a great-sounding new book out called The Craftsman by Richard Sennett.

The top image is the UK cover. The US cover is below.

Check out the review right here, (on a new-to-me blog, none the less!)

I hope to get my paws on a copy to review it too...

Anyone had a chance to check it out yet?

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Studio Visit: Tom Dubois, Wood Turner

On March 3, 2008, Jae and I traveled to the little coastal town of Eliot, Maine, to visit with wood turner Tom Dubois. We've carried Tom's work at Greenjeans almost since the beginning, but I'd never taken pictures at his workshop until last week!

Click here to view the Virtual Studio Visit pictures. We don't have his work on the website yet, but you can come see it at Greenjeans.

Tom is a licensed psychologist by trade, but keeps a workshop for wood turning, which is his passion. He writes, “In shaping wood I imagine that the spirit of the tree is found and released in a new form, and in each piece I try to bring out the inherent character of the color, texture, and figure of the wood. Every vessel is a celebration of the wood from which it is made."

He continues, “There is a timeless beauty and universality in certain vessel forms. My shapes and forms are sometimes influenced by my wife who is a painter, and I am often inspired by the work of artists in other media such as pottery and glass.”

Tom works with different kinds of wood from all over the world, much of which he purchases on Ebay. The hunt for interesting samples, he says, is addictive. But the process of making a piece is long. After shaping the wood into a rough form, or blank, it must be seasoned, or left to breathe and dry, for at least one year.

Then Tom takes it up again and uses lathes and chisels to shape, or turn, the wood. He finishes the wood with various methods, from giving it a good rub of linseed oil and wax, to applying a hard varnish, to leaving it as it is. Some pieces are topped with small aluminum finials, which Tom also fabricates by hand on his metal lathe.

It is always a pleasure to visit with Tom, who shares his home with wife Anne, who is a wonderful painter, and their hilariously playful corgi Morry. We look forward to next time!

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans. Images by Greenjeans. Top to bottom: Tom with an unusual root burl; Tom handling a work-in-progress; new work arranged atop his piano in the house; the view out his workshop window.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

It's Greenjeans' Birthday!

Greenjeans turns 3-years-old today!!!

It's hard to believe that on a cold, sunny day much like this one (but, well, 3 years ago) we made the big push to finish the first manifestation of our shop and gallery, opening the doors that afternoon to our very first customers. I am always amazed at how sparse the space was then! (That's a shot taken day one, below left, and then more recent pictures further down.) Yet still we managed to start catching people's attention and even made some sales.

Looking back three years later, I'm simply overwhelmed by how much has happened and how we've grown. We've met scores of wonderful people, overcome loads of challenges, worked an absurd number of hours, and traveled from the woods of Maine and the farmlands of Wisconsin to downtown Baltimore and back to Brooklyn. Oh yeah, and we got hitched!

Inside the shop, we've grown from 4 artisans when we opened to nearly 60. The sawhorses and reclaimed French door that served as our original display table is gone, replaced with beautiful custom display case built by my Dad and a nice glass-topped table designed by Jae. But we still sit in the antique pressed wood chairs at the red painted table that my parents had when they were first married, and we still write every receipt by hand.

This year will be an important one for us. We've built a strong foundation, but now we have to bring Greenjeans to the next level, letting more people know we're here and developing a broader customer base. It's very challenging, and sometimes harrowing, but we are more than up for it because we thoroughly believe in what we're doing and our passion for craft and for artists and artisans has only grown over these three years.

We feel so fortunate in the amount of support and encouragement we've received from the craft community, as well as the ever-increasing loyalty of our wonderful customers in Park Slope and beyond. Three years ago, we would never have imagined we'd accomplish so much. Thank you!!!

So what are our plans for the coming year? Well, first of all, starting next month we'll be taking Greenjeans to the streets with a booth at the much-anticipated Brooklyn Flea, where we'll show work by different artisans every week and offer some special deals. We're also making it easier for folks planning their wedding to register at Greenjeans, and we're assembling a juicy collection of artisan-made wedding bands. We will continue making exhibitions (the next one a thematic jewelry show coming this summer), and scouring the country for the best handmade work we can find. Oh yeah, and blogging! (I'm 10 posts shy of 400...)

Tomorrow we'll take on the next chapter. But today, we're just going to enjoy the sunshine and visits from our wonderful customers and friends on this special day! Thank you again to everyone who has helped make it possible!

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans. Top photo by Isaiah L. Others by Greenjeans.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

New Arrivals! (Turned Wood, Orbs, Pottery, Socks)

Late last night we returned from a two-day trip to the north country. We brought back a carload of new work by Jane Kaufmann (lots of small orbs), Kit Cornell (gorgeous bowls and mugs), and Tom Dubois (dramatic one-of-a-kind turned wood vessels, pictured here). I'll post images of Jane's and Kit's new work as soon as we start unpacking the boxes...

I also took a number of photos at Tom's house and workshop and will post a brand new Virtual Studio Visit with him in the coming days!

Also, we are restocked with Solmate Socks (pictured below). There are two new colorways: Tulips (pinks and greens) and Covered Bridges (earth tones). You know how fast they go, so come in soon for the best selection!

Stay tuned -- we also received a package from Germany today with some very special new jewelry, including clever design-it-yourself wedding bands. Man, these are gonna be HOT!

Posted and pictures by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Admiring the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, OR

Today we received the latest newsletter from the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon.

I don't usually get so excited by a newsletter, but their exhibitions and programs all sound so creative and interesting, we wish we lived close by!

There's just something about the place that makes us feel like they're getting it right and doing something very important for the future of craft.

For example, one of their current exhibitions, The Living Room (closing March 23), offers a fresh take on how to present craft objects in a museum setting. Curated by Namita Wiggers, "objects in traditional museum cases are exhibited next to works incorporated into a constructed contemporary domestic setting. This third and final installation examines eco-modernism, linking eco-consciousness, a philosophy of re-use, an organic palette and the impact of Orientalist philosophy on mid-century modernism." It sounds absolutely fantastic!

If you're in or around Portland, make a point to check out the museum (and its brand new building) sometime and let us know about your experience. Or if you already love the MCC, leave a comment here to share with those of us who live far away what your favorite thing is about it.

You can sign up to receive their newsletter yourself here, and check out their wonderful website,

Posted by Amy Shaw. Image sourced from the newsletter and here.