Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Eye on Artisans - The Chameleon's Attic / Dancing Bears Tea House

This week's featured artist is another wonderful member of the Homefront team. Patricia has two shops. The Chameleon's Attic, an eclectic mix of handmade envelopes, toothbrush rugs, and much more; and Dancing Bears Tea House where her husband and herself create tasty tea blends. Her spunky sense of humor, helpful advice, and constant support of myself and the other members of the team has earned her a top rating in my book. Add her beautiful crafted and creative products and you've got someone you've got to get to know better in your sights. Enough from me, let's hear from her:

What are your favorite materials to use?

I'm a very textural person, I like how things feel. When I'm searching for fabrics to use in my rugs I have to touch everything. I love the feel of soft cool cottons and they make a beautiful rug. Sheets are so fun to work with in a rag rug; you never know what the prints will translate to until you start to work the rug. Textured fabrics like loose weaves, wools and denim are a great way to add dimension to the rugs.So I like all those wrapped up in recycled fabrics. I like to work with recycled fabrics because there is so much out there. I never have a problem finding what I need in colors and textures. Not only do I end up with a great creation but, I'm also repurposing an item that may end up in a landfill.Trust me there is a lot of great fabric out there to be repurposed.

Which crafting tool could you not live without and why?

I could never be with out my locker hook, it travels with me. It's the most multi-use tool I have. It looks like a crochet hook with a needle eye on the other end and longer. I was driving across Kansas and stopped at a quilting shop. They had this great locker hook rug. I stayed for a couple of hours and the wonderful ladies taught me how to make their beautiful rugs. These rugs are not anything like the rugs I make but they were beautiful and I was fascinated with them. I picked up a few of the locker hooks and brought them home with me. Now I use them with my toothbrush rugs and so many other things. I'm still mastering the locker hook rug and hope to add them to The Chameleons attic soon.Oh, and they would make a great tool in mummification to remove brains!

You use a lot of recycled materials, where do you get them all?

I love working with recycled materials. Most of the materials I use in my rugs are sheets. From time to time I use jeans, cotton shirts, and a lot of flannel, a few curtains, and some table linens. Most of my fabrics come donated to me by friends and family. They have learned nothing is to be tossed out before I get to rummage. Last week my mom even mailed me sheets she wanted to get rid of. She used them to wrap a breakable vintage vase she sent. I got the vase and a sheet! I've already made it into a new rug. My husband is in on the search as well. The guys at work bring him all their old jeans and t-shirts. I wish they would bring me their old camo blouses; wouldn't that make a great rug? When I'm short on materials I scavenge the thrift shops. I wait until they do a big holiday sale and hit 4 or 5 shops in one day and I'm set for a few months.My paper selections started just for fun. I needed some envelopes for a special event at school and I wanted them to be very science like. I had this out of date science encyclopedia set that was falling apart. So I made the pages into envelopes. It was so fun and they were a huge hit. So I added them to the shop. Now I search libraries for books they are tossing out due to damage and I repurpose them in to new novelty paper products.The notebooks are all made from post consumer products. I gather cereal boxes, cake boxes, what ever I can find to make my covers with. I also use the covers from some of the books I make envelopes from. Again, most of these come from family and friends. The holiday notebooks are primarily made from used greeting cards I've received in the mail. I did get a lot of unused cards dropped off to me after the holiday’s season last year. LOL I'll use what I need for my Christmas card list and make a few notebooks too.

What got you into making tea?

I am a huge fan of iced teas and breakfast teas. My husband is a true Southerner and drinks sweet tea and after a year in Okinawa he developed an appreciation for Oolong and green teas. Together we have very specific tea pallets. The problem is we don't like the same things. We started blending our own teas to suite our tastes. Then they became a family project for Christmas gifts (we've tried to make a move to handmade gifts). Eventually it was my husband who pushed to open our tea shop, Dancing Bears Tea House. We would love to have a Brick and Mortar tea house but, we just didn’t know if our blends were good enough. Etsy gives us an outlet to try the blends and get feedback. It's something we love to do together. It's time we spend chatting over making a new blend, doing taste tests. I think my husband pretends he is a mad scientist and I am his side kick.

Are there any other artisans you really admire right now?

I honestly admire every artist on Etsy. I think anyone who takes a chance and puts the creations from their own hands out there for people to view is admirable. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there like that.There are several artisans I admire but, I have to really say the person I value most for their artistic ability is my mother. She can do anything in any medium and create something wonderful. I grew up with her sculptures and paintings all over our house and she made sure I had every opportunity to try new mediums or take classes when she did. We've learned needlepoint, cross stitch, macramé, pottery and even photography together. My mom's artwork is what I want displayed in my house.

Anything else you'd like to say?

Do you remember the commercials that came out a few years ago with the kids dressed in bland colors and bland expressions, reciting pages from dictionaries and financial pages? They talked about broadening your child’s education with art. Well...something like that. Anyway that’s how I feel about crafting. If I didn't have that outlet I would be bland and colorless. I want to be full of color and expression.

Creating anything with your hands engages all of your mind body and heart.

Thank you, Patricia, for allowing us this look into you as an artist and your lovely creations.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Yarn Chick - Now offering patterns!

I'm excited to announce that this week I started offering patterns of my creations in my shop. The first two patterns I'm selling are of my amigurumi apple and pear. Available only in my Etsy shop, they can be purchased seperately, or as a set to save a dollar. They are nice easy patterns, great for someone who is at least an advanced beginner and is wanting to try their first amigurumi plushie. Super cute as a teacher appreciation gift too.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Eye on Artisans - Levans Photography

A new member joined the Homefront team (Etsy street team of military spouses) recently and I've had the pleasure of chatting with her in our forum.

Her photography really caught my eye, and since she's new to Etsy, I thought I'd share her with you. She thankfully agreed.

Born in England, and married to an American soldier, they are currently living in Germany. This gives her access to some subject matter some people can only dream of seeing in real life. She has a way of capturing everyday objects in a unique and beautiful way that is wonderfully appealing.

Where do you derive inspiration from?

In terms of photographers my biggest inspiration in style has come William Eggleston (the father of colour photography) and Martin Parr (great photographer but a complete ---hole to talk to) but generally I just see stuff. My husband always comments on how I'm off taking a photo of a piece of dirt or something, when ever we're travelling I'm always way behind everyone else taking photos. Right now I'm trying to do some conceptual stuff like with the camera's on the park bench, and my inspiration for this comes from seeing the amazing work produced by other photographers and wanting to have a go.

Do you take your camera everywhere?

I do sometimes, but I hate leaving it in the car all the time, especially since american cars can get targetted over here. If we go somewhere for the day or anywhere travelling it goes everywhere with me, but not to and from base. Saying this I have got home before and immediately gone out with the camera to photograph something I noticed on my drive and wished I had my camera with me.

What is your favoite technique or style?

I'm not sure I have a favourite but generally I like to shot things straight on so the subject matter is flat to the camera. Placing my camera on the ground or very low to it can make for an insteresting angle, and I love straight lines. Also I tend to like my subject matter off centre, not big on symmetry in my photos. But saying all this it doesn't apply to everything, some stuff you see is just perfect from where you're standing.

Does your life as a military spouse affect your life as a photographer?

Completely!!! I was working in a high school as a photography technician the year before I got married and shooting sports photography for a company on weekends. Then we pcs'd to Germany and I got a job working at Chilis and my photography was kind of put on hold. I would still take photos when travelling but that was it. So last year I saved up for my Nikon D300 (it's so pretty) and this year I bought my new laptop. My new years resolution was to start a photography business, and hopefully slowly I'm getting there. If I can get it up and running it's the perfect business for me to move with as I can do it from home, and bartending can supplliment it for the moment. As any military wife knows there are times when you just get left in the background, not intentionally but you're the support system, going wherever they go and having a career of your own is hard. Overseas job opportunities are limited so you have to work with what's available, but hopefully this (etsy, 1000markets etc ...) will allow me to follow my dreams wherever uncle sam takes us.

Is there another artisan of any craft on Etsy that you admire?

You know I admire so many of the different crafts ... I now want to learn to sew and have a go at making soap. Both of these could turn into epic failers but at least I'll have tried. There's so much creativity on here, everywhere you look someone has done something to make you go wow. From crocheted hats to graphics to the other photographers out there. It's slowly becoming my new shopping addiction, and it's all unique and different.

Anything else you'd like to talk about?

I love the old cliche of "one moment in time" that a single shot can suggest one thing whilst a frame seconds later another. I love that photography allows me to explore the world and notice things I would never have seen before. And I love that you could ask 10 people to photograph the same object and no 2 photos would be the same. So I guess you could say that my photographs are a glimpse into my world, kinda like you're seeing exactly what i'm seeing at that moment in time.

Thank you Laura for allowing me this interview.

Visit her Etsy store for more beautiful fine art photography.

Levans Photography

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cro-Shay - A Brief History

How can one truly understand their skill unless they know its history? I asked myself this today and realized I didn’t know the history of my own obsession…crochet. So I have done some research to satisfy my own curiosity, and thought I’d share with you what I found. This only covers a very small amount of what I read and accumulated in my mind, but I think they are the most interesting facts about this craft.

According to Wikipedia, the term crochet derives from the French term croc or croche meaning hook. Crocheting, often confused with knitting, is similar to that craft in that it consists of pulling loops through other loops to create a fabric out of yarn or thread. Instead of knitting needles, a crochet hook is used, and one loop is active at a time, rather than many like in knitting.Although there are many theories about where crochet started, there is no real evidence of its practice before the 1800s in Europe. The earliest written reference to the craft is in The Memoirs of a Highland Lady by Elizabeth Grant in which shepherds knitting is mentioned. That work was written in 1812. Other theories and references have been found, but no concrete evidence of its invention. Many believe it was probably invented much earlier, but using a finger bent like a hook instead of an actual tool. Because of the crafts’ simplicity of its basics, theorists think it must have been used much earlier than we think.

During the 1800s, hooks ranged from bent needles in a cork handle, a very primitive and inexpensive version used by poor Irish lace workers during the Great Irish Famine; to more expensively crafted silver, brass, steel, bone and ivory hooks that seemed to be more decoration for the lady’s hands than a useful tool. Nowadays there are several different types of crochet hooks in many different sizes, depending on what you are creating. An uncountable number of different stitches and patterns can be created using crochet.

Fashions created in crochet have changed numerous times since its discovery. Queen Victoria even became fascinated by it, starting out purchasing many pieces, and then ultimately learning to crochet herself. Crochet can be used for so many different styles; it has become a very versatile craft to learn. From brightly colored yarns made into dishcloths, scarves, stuffed toys, hats and more to bright white thread looped into beautifully ornate doilies and wraps, everyone is sure to find a crocheted item that suits them.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pairs of pears

I recently made a crocheted pear and its my new favorite desk buddy. I made it after making apples for my son's teachers. Aren't they cute? They are available for custom order in my Etsy shop.