Giveaway: The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar

Dear friends,

Today is a very special day. Today, I'm thrilled to host a book giveaway of my friend and fellow slow-fashion artist, Kristine Vejar's, gorgeous new dye book, The Modern Natural Dyer. Have you seen this beautiful book? It's been traveling through the Internet at rapid speed with guest appearances on beloved sites like Selvedge and Design Sponge and many other beautiful, virtual spaces. Each time I see this book featured in a new location I cheer a little bit, oftentimes aloud, I confess.

Kristine is a dear friend, a fellow fiber artist, a generous spirit, a thoughtful advocate, but also someone I respect SO much for the work she's done to build community and support slow fiber, slow fashion, and sustainable textiles throughout the Bay Area and beyond. She's the founder and owner of the ever-inspiring shop A Verb for Keeping Warm (AVFKW) in Oakland, CA where she sells yarn, fabric, sewing patterns, books, tools, offers workshops and special events, and where she conducted all the research for her gorgeous new book.

If you live anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area I highly recommend you sign-up for the AVFKW mailing list so you can attend the wonderful fiber events and workshops hosted in this magical space. Not to mention, you can purchase the book, the dye kits, a dye journal, and oodles of other wonderful crafty goods from the AVFKW website. (Hint, hint Christmas shoppers.)

The Modern Natural Dyer must be one of the most gorgeous craft books I've ever held in my hands. Is that an overstatement? Well, I don't think so. It's actually that pretty. I first got an early glimpse of this beautiful book this summer when Kristine joined me for my Social Textile Experiments on Market Street in our tiny art studio on wheels--Range Studio.

I saw the cover and I gasped. So pretty! Then I flipped through the photographs and I paused at each one to notice the dye projects, the raw materials, and the incredible composition and intention in every single photograph. The book exudes Kristine's refined sense of design, beautiful aesthetic, and also her incredible insight into the natural dye world. I want to make every project in this book!

The dye recipes are fantastic, the projects are inspiring and easy to follow, and the book leaves you feeling like you've just taken a course with Kristine without ever leaving your home. Gorgeous photography, stunning styling, thoughtful writing, inspired how-to projects, and brimming with in-depth information from the author's lifelong work with natural dyes. I actually have a pot of foraged walnuts soaking in my busted-up laundry room as I type--the beginnings of a natural dye project from this book.

Now, I have the very great honor of not just reviewing this book but offering one lucky reader one free copy. Hooray, a giveaway! And, if that wasn't enough, Kristine has also generously offered to send that one lucky winner a free dye kit of her/ his choice. (Choose from the four dye kits on the AVFKW site.) Yes, that's right. You can win a book AND a dye kit just because it could be your lucky natural dye day.

You just have to go over to the AVFKW website and decide which dye kit you'd like to call your own. Then come back to my blog (or my Instagram post, or both) and leave a comment with the dye kit you'd like to win. Maybe say something else about what you'd like to dye or why you think this work is completely and totally awesome and could quite possibly change the world! (Okay, that last part is just my personal pitch for slow fiber work. Eh hem.)

Next Monday I'll announce the winner in the comments section of this post. You can enter here on my blog or on my Instagram feed and I'll choose one winner at random. It's pretty much like your birthday and this blog post rolled up into one. Trust me, you want to win this book and this dye kit too. And if you don't win, or you can't wait to see if you might win, or you just know you need a second copy for a family member or friend, then head over to Kristine's website and purchase a copy for yourself. I bet you'll find something else over there you might want too.

I couldn't be happier for the author, the book, the contribution to the natural dye world, and this very important advocacy for sustainable fiber and slow textiles and more simply some encouragement for foraging for natural dye materials, raising dye plants in your garden, or even just purchasing the dye materials from AVFKW. Hooray for this work seeing its way into publishing and textile arts.

I'm convinced, the better we understand the process of growing, harvesting, spinning, weaving, dyeing, sewing, knitting, and otherwise making textiles the better our chances to do this work in a sustainable, thoughtful, ethical, beautiful, and FUN manner. This book is all that at once. Kristine, this book is a work of genius, my friend, 1000 congratulations.



Hope, Listening Close, and Moving Forward

Hope is my motto for November. It's the word I keep tacked in my brain as I slush through boxes and home renovations and stacks of laundry that might just swallow me if we don't get our formerly-split-pea-green-colored laundry room put back together soon. As I mentioned in the last post about moving to the Hudson Valley in October, I'm so very glad it's finally November. It means the boxes have all come inside and the first round of items on our to do lists have actually been achieved. But mostly, it means the shock of our move is subsiding.

People ask me if we're settling in and I have to pause a moment before I respond. Settling in? With two small children and a 200-year-old farmhouse to renovate and winter approaching (without appropriate winter clothing) and our dearest friends and all that's familiar some 3,000 miles away? No. No, we are not yet settling in. I do not imagine it will feel like we are settling in for many months to come. Though the boxes will be unpacked and the barn will be cleaned out and the rooms, one by one, will be repainted and re-patched and repaired. Instead I respond, "Day by day". My expectations have downshifted. Just put one foot in front of the other each day. And that seems to be working today so I'm going with it. I think of that Arthur Ashe quote:

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

But the thing I've identified as the most important in our journey from urban CA to rural NY is not the appropriate clothing for winter, the pacing of our newly painted rooms, the long list of things we will change in our old farmhouse as the years go by, or even the pacing of caring for small children, working, moving across the country and suddenly owning a home. It's not any one of these things that pushed our October into a state of overwhelm and sadness and ache. Instead, it was the culmination of all these things all at once. The pile up.

But October is over. Forever. That's the beautiful thing about the passing of time. And November is about hope. But I think that word is so overused that it's actually lost its meaning. Hope. Love. Dream. Believe. Joy. Trust. They all read like Hallmark greeting cards that I avoid at all costs though, admittedly, I see their necessity or their appeal in the hands and hearts of many. I get it. We want to access those feelings. We want to share that sentiment. We want to connect to those feelings in our selves and in the recipients. Yes, of course we do.

But those words are actually Big Huge Life words. Life changing words. Life affirming words. Life shifting words. And we've tried to boil them down to bite-sized chunks of feeling and meaning and connection. We're busy. We're tired. We need a quick emotional fix. Sure. But Big Huge Life words and feelings and needs and considerations are, of course, much bigger than bite-size and often quite messy. They are much more important than one mouthful and they require more attention and time and consideration. Hope: It's actually the stuff that life is built on. And it can be reductive, if not offensive, when these Big Huge Life shifting words get boiled down into bite-sized chunks. Maybe we need more than a nibble. At least I do.

When I think I can tap into these Big Huge Life feelings for bite-sized amounts of time and see any true redirection I'm always disappointed. Because, of course, I can't shift my life in one bite. I have to sit with all these feelings. I have to mull them over. I have to swim in them. I have to let them flood me from time to time and just sit there with all those feelings and notice. Sometimes I don't have to do anything at all but sit there and breathe deep and acknowledge. And from this place of noticing I can start to realign to the life I want to create instead. For me this often has everything to do with fear. But it also has everything to do with trust. That wonderful Georgia O'Keeffe quote keeps playing through my mind:

I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.

Yes! Thank you, Georgia. So, hope. Hope is what I've identified as the most important word for me right now. Hope that this house will eventually feel like my own. Hope that we will actually get all these old rooms patched and painted and ultimately repaired. Hope that we'll find meaning here. Hope that we'll find comfort and relief and a reflection of our selves here. Hope that we'll thrive. Hope that this place and this house and this transition will provide something we needed. Will provide the opportunity for something different. Something bigger. Something we could only imagine and now we're working to make come true. Something more closely aligned to where we see our selves headed. Something relevant and important and, ultimately, something good.

Or why else would we do it? Why would we change our locations, our relationships, our jobs, our homes, our havens, if we cannot see the shift lined with opportunity and meaning and importance? I don't think we would. I think we would just keep things very much the same. But sometimes we need to change our lives. Or our homes. Or our relationships. Or our work. Sometimes I don't just need a minor shift but an actual overhaul. Sometimes I need to take huge risks and have huge hope at the same time.

Because, I'm convinced, of the necessity of hope. Because we hope and we envision because we get down close to the roots of our lives and we see what's most needed there. We breathe slow. We get quiet. We look around with a flashlight and try not to freak out at what we find. We collect data. We gather information. We mine for details. And then we take all this important information and we try to find the direction forward. We try to see what needs to change and what doesn't need to change and we calculate and we consider and then eventually we act. I keep telling myself: Trust deep.

So with each painted room, with each patched hole, with each floor we sand or paint or oil I try to maintain hope. I try to keep my eye on that beacon of promise. I try to let all the fears and sadness and uncertainty flood me as it will. Let it come. Let it go. Let it wash in and out and in and out again. Mine it for data. Listen to the roots and try not to freak out at the findings. And then I try to keep moving onward.

Maybe because it's just my way through it. Maybe it's just the set of survival skills my particular constitution has gathered together over the decades to help me move my life forward. But maybe because it gives me hope. And maybe that's the flag I need to replace the little soft white flag of surrender I had to wave over my home in October. Maybe hope is the flag of November and maybe that's just where I need it to be. Not what I expected, but certainly, there is a life here for us waiting to be uncovered. Maybe it's just under the last room full of old linoleum, waiting patiently for its turn.



Culture Shock: Our First Month in the Country

As many of you know, on October 1st I moved to the Hudson Valley with my family after 10 years of living in Oakland, CA. The decision was fairly practical: We wanted to own our home and ultimately send our boys to a good public school. With the punishing cost of housing in the Bay Area, this didn't seem like an option for us in our beloved Oakland. So we set our sites on the Hudson Valley in 2012 and after three years of looking for a house, we purchased our 1820 farmhouse on July 15, 2015.

We were thrilled. We were relieved. We were filled with optimism about this new life waiting for us some 3,000 miles away in the country. I grew up in rural Upstate NY and went to college in the small city of Ithaca less than an hour from my hometown so rural life wasn't completely foreign to me though it was a few decades behind. When I was 22 and finished college I moved to San Francisco. And I lived there for three years. And then when I was 25 I moved to Brooklyn, NY and I lived there for another three years. And when I was 28 I moved back to Oakland, CA to start graduate school.

Fast-forward 10 years and 1 marriage and 2 children and several wonderful jobs later and it was time for a bigger place and to look further down the road towards schools and proximity to our extended family and overall cost of living and also career opportunity for two working artist parents. The Hudson Valley quickly rose to the top of our list as satisfying many of these criteria at once. Just two hours from Manhattan we could afford a 3-bedroom farmhouse with several outbuildings including an old carriage house (our future art studios) and several smaller structures. And there's a rural art community here that doesn't exist in many other rural spaces as a result of the influence from Manhattan. After a few visits to the region, we were convinced we could make a home here.

But as October 1 crept closer and closer from our July 15 house closing I felt increasingly more anxious. More concerned. More afraid. And I also felt sad. The Bay Area was such a welcoming and befitting community for us. We felt at home there. And leaving it was a big, huge, gigantic decision but one that felt inevitable.

So we packed our house, found somebody to drive our car, and boarded a plane with our two small boys to head to NY. September was nothing short of exhausting. Packing a family of four for a 3,000 mile move felt epic. Of course, many families have done it before us and many families will do it after us but it was still exhausting. Add our infant who doesn't yet sleep through the night and our very part-time childcare and we weren't sure we would make it. But, of course, we did.

But as a first-time homeowner and as the first-time I've ever moved with children, I only paced myself to that very moment when we would board the plane--much like a first-time mother only paces herself to that moment of childbirth somehow forgetting that the moment the child is born she is responsible for 24-hour care. I didn't think about the life that would be waiting for me to nurture it on the other side of that plane ride.

And so I gave September everything I had and then I got on that plane, completely unprepared for the challenges of October, and felt temporarily relieved while we were suspended in flight. When we finally arrived to our "new" 1820 farmhouse I was completely in shock. My husband found the house in January on a business trip and while we looked at 30 odd houses in this area over 3 years I never actually stepped inside this house. My new house. It was completely foreign.

Moving was exhausting but arriving was completely overwhelming. The barn was filled with mildewed cabinets the previous owners left behind. The garage was filled with old musty furniture and strange fish silhouettes on the walls that must have been used as decoration but were now just a faded fish mark on the drywall at the back of the garage.

And the house, though filled with beautiful potential and the "good bones" we saw in photographs, was one room after the other of needed updates. Some updates were bigger than others. Renovating a home with one preschooler and one infant after just moving across the country is quite a feat. Not to mention, it's even more disorienting to live among paint cans and ladders when you also work from home. We could not find respite.

I was sick five times in six weeks and twice required antibiotics. I was running on empty. I felt vacant. Hollow. Overwhelmed. Sad. Raw. Exhausted. And hinging on depressed. I felt like my body was something I was dragging around behind my head. I was so deeply exhausted that my chest was like a hollow cavity that held my heavy head on the top of my neck. Empty. I felt empty. Empty of all the things I knew and loved about my beloved California. I knew it would feel strange to relocate to a new place 3,000 miles away but I didn't know it would be so disorienting or depleting.

In addition to the exhaustion of moving, the exhaustion of an infant, the demands of a preschooler, and the need to keep nudging our careers along, we were also sitting in a house that looked nothing like us. I looked for opportunities to see myself in this new space but I just couldn't find them. I kept thinking that we had landed on a new planet and we were running a marathon. Not even to mention our new and utter dependence on our car was shocking. Though not isolated by rural standards--we have neighbors on three sides and we're only a 10-minute drive from the nearest small town--it was an epic switch from our recent life in America's big, beautiful, and walkable cities.

We only saw one solution: We had to slow way down. Down to snail's pace. One of my biggest challenges in parenting is my inability to do anything else. I've become fairly competent at using naps and limited childcare to accomplish great heaps of work with the time management focus that only parenthood can bring. But renovating a house cannot be accomplished during naps. It takes so much time to remove debris, prep walls, prime walls, paint walls, and shove boxes from one side of the house to the other. Not to mention, it's noisy.

So we started with a huge purge: Remove shag carpets, carpet pads, and the layers of linoleum and newspaper and random fabrics used as insulation. Remove everything from the barn--everything down to the drywall and the concrete floor. And remove almost everything from the garage. And then we decided we needed help. So we found a recent college graduate to help us paint 15 hours a week. And we came to the realization that our moment of rest and settling and complete unpacking was still several months away.

We made a plan: We would live downstairs and paint the upstairs and then we'd move upstairs and paint the downstairs; we'd also refinish the wood floors. We put a curtain up over the window in the full bath and pretended the chocolate tile bathtub didn't depress us every time we stepped inside it. Reluctantly, we put our dishes and our food into the crappy cupboards in the kitchen so we could make food and start some sense of "normalcy" while finishing the upstairs renovations.

We set our beds up in the living room--all of our beds--so that we could get off the cold, drafty floor and say goodbye to our air mattress.  We praised the split pea green laundry room every time one of our boys spilled something down their shirts as we could actually do laundry in the meantime. Thank goodness.

And now, four weeks later, we are still living in the chaos. Boxes line every room and furniture waits stacked in the barn. We've organized our suitcases by person so each of us can locate pajamas and knee socks and clean clothes each evening and again each morning. Eventually we'll renovate the bathroom, the kitchen, and the horrible split pea laundry room too. Eventually, we'll renovate the barn and the garage and the outbuildings. Eventually, we'll plant a garden and some fruit trees. For now, we just want white walls and smooth floors and to fill our dressers with our clothes.

But November has finally arrived. Finally! Marking our one month in this house. Marking the end of the month we moved. The end of the hardest part. The end of the very raw beginning. The end of the packing and the moving and the shifting and the arriving and the not-knowing and the shock and disturbance and sadness and grief of leaving a place we loved so intensely for over a decade.

And November marks the beginning of something new. It marks the beginning of settling in. It marks the beginning of seeing our new pace with house projects, searching for childcare, turning one eye back to our careers to secure work in this very new place, and also the first month of our brave 4-year-old and his new preschool somehow already filled with new friends.

Quite frankly, November marks the beginning of hope. Hope that we will not just survive here but that we might actually thrive here with enough weeks or months or even years under our belts. That this house and this land and this exact space on the planet have something to share with us. Something to teach us. Something to offer that we had no idea was coming. Shocking, disorienting, filled with longing and loneliness and ache this place will eventually give way to something beautiful.

Something that looks like the very hard work at the beginning of a very long and beautiful dream. The doing. The sorting. The sifting. The planning. The purging. The building. The very beginning of something that might be the most beautiful hard work we've ever done. Of course, it looks nothing like we expected. But the beginning of a new phase of growth. And ultimately, what might actually be the gateway to the next best thing.



Sashiko Mending Meets Slow Fashion and Studio Work

I've just updated my website with Sashiko Mending photographs and an entire mending portfolio. This thrills me beyond measure! I'm so excited to finally have this dedicated space to share samples of my mending work and to offer these images to other mending enthusiasts for inspiration. I've been working primarily with worn denim for the Sashiko Mending but I'm also branching out to use these same stitches to recycle denim into new garments and accessories--stay tuned. And taking note of the other garments in my mending pile that need some attention but are not made from denim.

I love this work. I'm shocked that I'm so passionate about mending two years later. If you'd asked the younger, admittedly edgier, admittedly more opinionated version of my creative self what work she'd be doing in another decade I promise you she would not have said, mending. Makes me giggle now.

But she wouldn't have been so excited about making a paper craft book for kids either and I was over-the-moon to publish The Paper Playhouse: Awesome Art Project for Kids Using Paper, Boxes and Books earlier this year. And I love this part. The part that surprises us. The part that pushes us beyond our comfort zone. The part that lets some levity and intuition and imagination into the process so we can stay engaged and activated as we work. As we live. As we move through this experience of living. As we grow.

So more mending work for me is on the horizon. Brainstorming about how to take this work to the next level, to go deeper, to push beyond what I've already learned. I want to keep creating more mending techniques--some more complicated and some even simpler--and I want to experiment with different fabrics, different garments, and then go ahead and try some recycled fabrics for new accessories too.

I love this work. Did I already say that? Forgive my repetition. It suits me. It surprises me. It excites me. It falls into the sustainable fiber arts world that inspires me the most. Using recycled materials and basic techniques to deepen our relationship to fashion and fiber and craft? Yes! Makes me cheer.

And now, I must stop procrastinating and pontificating about mending and start putting my studio into boxes. Many boxes. So many boxes. Oh my, the boxes! We move to NY in just nine days. So soon! You can follow along over on IG to see our transition from a very urban apartment in Oakland, CA to a very rural farmhouse in the Hudson Valley in NY. I won't be back here to blog again until we are moved and living among all the boxes in our 200-year-old farmhouse in NY. Wish me luck!



New Rhythms: From a Weekly to a Sometimes Blog


My weekly blog is now evolving to become a "sometimes blog". After eight years of posting here every Monday I am allowing for a more flexible schedule in the months ahead. When I started this blog eight years ago I worked in an arts office Tuesday-Friday and spent long days in my studio on Mondays. At the end of a long studio day I would post here each Monday evening as a recording of sorts. This was before marriage, before motherhood, before my current freelance work. For eight years, I let that Monday writing rhythm stay the same.

But now my studio time is more like 30-45 minutes several times a day, seven days a week, often interrupted by little boys, deadlines, emails, and the comings and goings of a busy family. My weekly schedule has changed so much. With the addition of our littlest babe in March and with the big move from CA to NY on the horizon, I'm now letting this blog evolve too. I'm hoping this will allow for longer posts with more intentional writing. And yet maybe it will allow for shorter posts with more announcements. I can't be sure. I just know it's time to let this space evolve with so much changing in our lives. To let it grow alongside me.

After eight years of posting here it feels embedded in my studio work. The beginnings of my book are in this blog. The beginnings of published articles in arts management and mending and sustainable thinking are in this blog. The beginnings of my website, my Etsy shop, and how this has migrated to my current Instagram and Pinterest accounts all started here. Many of my blog relationships have grown into friendships, kindreds, creative and supportive community.  For this I am so very grateful. I never knew the power this space would have to influence my work and my life. (Thank you, thank you, thank you.)

But while my rhythms have changed I do still want to keep this space as a space to write. A space to share. Just a different sharing from the daily short form of photos and captions on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Instagram has stolen my heart and it's my new favorite space to connect on a daily basis. But this blog has its special tug at my heartstrings too. Somewhere in the beginnings of my creative life I found my footing as a poet and a textile artist and while my work has evolved in so many ways I still keep my attachment to the written word. So this space stays a writing space. Just a "sometimes" writing space for now.

I'll be back soon. Likely with news of upcoming workshops and last California events before our big move in October. And then, of course, with photos of a farmhouse in the Hudson Valley that is patiently waiting to be my new home. New rhythms, new adventures, new horizons. 



Huge News: We're Moving to a Farmhouse in the Hudson Valley!


I'm thrilled to finally share this news with the world! We bought a farmhouse in the Hudson Valley and we're relocating to NY this October. The house is 200 years old, built in 1820, and it's complete with so many of the details I've always loved about old farmhouses: Hardwood floors, tin ceilings, wood stoves, a wraparound porch, and a palpable sense of history from the families that came before us.

There's also a separate carriage house/ barn that will be our future art studios. And the future of a small experimental artist residency program where we'll invite artists to join us to create new work. There's one acre of land that will be our future vegetable gardens, dye gardens, and small orchard of fruit trees.

We've dreamed of owning a home for nearly a decade; we've dreamed of running an artist residency program or co-working space for artists for nearly a decade too; and it will be wonderful to be within a few hours of our beloved families scattered throughout Upstate NY. We've dreamed of this for so damn long. But like all dreams it comes at a price. And the price is comfort. And the price is risk. And the price is releasing what's familiar.

We're taking the leap from a community we hold very close to our chests and trusting that our work and our friendships and our support system will blossom in this new location. That we'll forge new friendships. That we'll build new work relationships. That we'll create and seek and grow new opportunities relevant to this new time and space. That we'll flourish. That we'll be welcomed. That we'll create a new home.

But it's incredibly difficult to leave the Bay Area after 10 years in Oakland. Oakland feels like our home. And before that we were in Brooklyn for three years and before that in San Francisco for three years too. But Oakland is a very special place that has meant so much to me this past decade. When we moved back 10 years ago I started the MFA Poetry program at Mills College and started taking my textile work and book arts work and creative writing more seriously.

Since then we've been married, had two beautiful boys, published my first book, held amazing jobs in the arts, and managed to make a living as freelance artists and designers. I cross my fingers every damn day that we can continue to make this work. Of course, we'll also travel back to CA for work occasionally too--there are already some workshops and collaborations in the works. Stay tuned for details.

So this shift forces a new beginning. And that force gave us the courage to reach outside of our comfort zone. And after casually looking at real estate in the Hudson Valley for three summers we finally found OUR NEW HOME this spring. Well, my husband found it and I scoured photos and videos and talked to other friends in the area until I crossed my fingers and held my breath and said, "Let's buy it". But the truth is I've never actually been inside of it. I've never stood on that parcel of land. I've never been at that exact longitude and latitude on our dear planet. I trust I'll love it just the same.

We'll go in October. We'll fix up the farmhouse, renovate the carriage house into art studios, and navigate a rural community that I've visited various times but that I've never visited for longer than a few weeks at once. I grew up in Upstate NY but it's been a decade since I've experienced winter. Or high summer. And it's been two decades since I had to get into my car to drive to the store to pick up a gallon of milk or a dozen eggs. It's been two decades since I've lived within a couple hours of our families and I can't wait to share my boys with my mother, siblings, niece, nephew, and in-laws.

I never imagined I'd live my life in one location. I never imagined I'd stay in one home or in one city or even in one state for the bulk of my years. So leaving CA feels less like a surprise and more like a bittersweet change that always felt inevitable. Like the end of something so beautiful and so dear and so deep that I can't really wrap my head around its impact until I'm looking in hindsight. But something that I knew, at some point, would change.

I love this CA community more than I can express. The friendships, the colleagues, the collaborators, the arts community that has taken me deeply into its folds and dusted off my falls, celebrated my successes, fed my family when we had newborn babies, and exchanged fears and dreams over coffees, whiskeys, and wines. I grew up as an artist in this community, came into adulthood here, found myself in a world of creatives and crafters and thinkers that bore deep into my heart.

But it also feels like I'm teetering on this epic new beginning. A home. That we own. That has three bedrooms and a barn for our studios. That has a yard for a dye garden. That has great public schools for our sons. And I just have to keep moving towards this vision that I can't quite put my hand on because it doesn't exist yet. It's only existed in my imagination until right now.

But I just have to keep moving towards it trusting that I have everything I need to make this work. That I have enough. That I'll always have enough. And that this just might be the beginning of the most beautiful adventure yet. This just might be what it feels like to reach into the ether and catch the tail of a dream before it's completely out of reach. Like it just might be the feeling of reaching out to catch that tail and letting it steer me to my future. 

Beloved CA, you will be in my heart forever and ever. Hudson Valley, we'll be there soon. Upstate NY, we're coming home... all grown up but starry-eyed as ever.



Super Crazy Happy Book News


I'm so excited to announce that my book, The Paper Playhouse, has been printed in German! What a very exciting surprise. And a very great honor. To see my work printed in another language. And shockingly the German edition is doing wonderfully--what a crazy beautiful thing. I'm also insanely grateful that my book is in its second printing. That families are making my projects and posting images online. And that all this book news is swirling around my busy studio this summer. Forgive the cliche, but it's a total dream come true!

I've dreamed of writing a book since I was just a kid. A pensive teenager squirreled away in my bedroom writing poems and sketching in my journals. Or a younger child tucked into the shadows of our big beautiful backyard noting the birds and butterflies and flowers that bloomed around me. And then came a more complicated world of college and twenty-something living in cosmopolitan cities and studying poetry and book arts in graduate school. And a good complication too. A critical inquiry. A good exercise to take our instincts and question them in formal critique.

But... if you asked me I'd never guess that my first book would be paper crafts for children. But it's been such an honor to see this work out in the world. I'm learning to embrace the term "fiber artist" after resisting much categorization in my work. For years I simply said, "I make things" and then after several conferences and workshops I agreed to a triad "I'm an artist, writer, and crafter". All of these things are true. And yet the beauty of identity is that it's fluid. It's complicated. It's overlapping and intersecting and that's where it gets interesting. Thank goodness, yes.

But German! I'm honored. If you've already purchased my book I simply want to hug you. Not even joking. I want to hug you. Each one of you! And if you haven't yet purchased my book but you've been wanting to you can still purchase it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Quarry Books, in my Etsy shop, or order it through your favorite local bookstore. Or if you speak German you can order it in German too! Now, of course, I want to write more books. A second craft book. A book of poems and essays. A children's book. And so it goes. But today, I'm just grateful. Super crazy happy grateful.




Meeting Natalie Chanin, Quilts, and Creative Community

Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting the ever-inspiring designer, textile artist, and slow fashion pioneer, Natalie Chanin. I've long admired Natalie's work with Alabama Chanin, I adore her thoughts on sustainable fashion, and I proudly own many of her sewing craft books and have made a few of her projects. Her work is distinctive--hand stitched cotton jersey garments boldly embellished with applique, stencils, and various symbols often inspired by nature or by her native Alabama.

But I first became interested in Natalie's work because of her story--she was working as a designer in NYC and uprooted back to her native Alabama to launch a fashion business that depended on traditional crafting skills from her local community. She pays her stitchers a fair wage to make her designs, she's created a community based on traditional hand skills, and she's made beautiful clothing that isn't based on the fast fashion trends. All of this makes me cheer. And inspires me to continue on my own slow fashion journey.

I knew all of this before I bought her books, read her blog, or made any of her patterns. But in the past few years since launching my Make Thrift Mend project I've become more and more interested in artists and designers leading the slow fashion movement. Not just making beautiful clothing or pushing the edges of design (or more so pushing their designs outside of the fashion cycles and into something more sustainable and more interesting) but actually doubling as artists and advocates; assuming the role of activist for the sustainable fashion movement while continuing to create beautiful objects and garments.

So last week I joined the gathering at my friend Kristine Vejar's beautiful Oakland shop, A Verb for Keeping Warm, and tucked into the crowded room to meet Natalie, applaud her work, and listen to her and Kristine discuss their inspiration for symbols, stencils, prints, and other imagery in their designs. Natalie spoke of the inspiration she finds in nature but also in the deep sense of wilderness and wildness she experiences in her native Alabama. She also spoke about the long history of her work, joking that she didn't invent her techniques but instead insists her work started with the Mayans.

I also spent a second evening with Natalie when I gathered with a few artist friends at Heath Ceramics in San Francisco to hear her speak with Catharine Bailey of Heath Ceramics; to view her quilts on exhibition in Alabama on Alabama; and to take a short tote-making workshop. It was wonderful to hear these iconic and ever-inspiring women talk about their visions, mission statements, and how they approach collaboration in managing their businesses. It was humbling and inspiring to hear these two legendary women in the design world sit down in intimate and casual conversation. What a gift.

But seeing the quilts on exhibition in the Boiler Room at Heath Ceramics took on a special meaning for me. Five vintage quilts were re-imagined by Natalie and her team--dyed, appliqued, stenciled, and embroidered with Gertude Stein quotes for exhibition. Some of you might remember my first large-scale textile installation, The Dresses/ Objects Project. I letterpress printed Stein quotes to fabric and collaborated with artists to turn the fabric prints into dresses then the dresses into a large-scale installation. So seeing Stein's quotes integrated into Natalie's quilts felt particularly inspiring and resonate. To see this sharing of muses amidst the sharing of so many ideals with slow fashion, handcraft, and textiles.

It was amazing to spend a couple nights listening to Natalie speak, seeing her work, taking her brief workshop, and gathering with like-minded creatives. One day, I hope to take a weekend workshop at the Alabama Chanin headquarters. For now, I'm thrilled to have met her in person. If you have the chance to study with Natalie, do it! You won't be disappointed, I promise. And these gorgeous quilts have me thinking about upcycling some of the older quilts I've kept hidden in my stashes.




Public Art, Slow Textiles, and Social Experiments

Range Studio on Market Street with weaver, Meghan Shimek.
When I started my fast-fashion fast, Make Thrift Mend, almost exactly two years ago I knew I was embarking on an experimental journey. I knew that I wanted my shopping habits to change, that I wanted to deepen my relationship to sustainable fashion, and that I wanted to better my garment making skills but I didn't know exactly what the journey would entail. I knew I wanted to frame my fast as an art project, to push my work out of the studio and exhibition world and into the sphere of what's known as social practice. I knew I wanted to combine my passion for sustainability with my creative work and that I wanted to focus on making, mending, and buying secondhand.

Range Studio with printmaker, Jen Hewett.

Print samples by guest artist, Jen Hewett.
I didn't know that I would fall in love with visible mending and that I'd spend endless hours researching mending, stitching, darning, Sashiko, Boro, and opportunities for repair. I didn't know that natural dyeing was within my reach as a continued studio practice. I didn't know that I'd find some sense of healing between my usually juxtaposed rural upbringing and the urban spaces I've called home for nearly 20 years now.

I didn't know this fission existed so deeply or that this healing would begin with urban foraging. That as I led my family on urban adventures to collect eucalyptus leaves, fennel fronds, and sour grass flowers I would be reminded of the time spent in the wilderness when I was young. That I'd feel reconnected to my departed father. Or that I'd finally see the connection between my studies in sustainability and my textile work. I didn't realize this work would take on such depth. I didn't imagine I'd focus on teaching mending workshops or amass a collection of reading and websites focused on what I now know to call Slow Fashion.

Range Studio featured artist, natural dyer Sasha Duerr, working with sunflower seed dyes.     

Sasha Duerr working with natural dyes and seasonal flowers.
So when my husband asked me if I'd take a week's residency in our tiny art studio, Studio 1, when it was commissioned by the Mayor's Office of San Francisco I knew I wanted to focus on Slow Fashion. Again, I didn't know what that would look like. I didn't know what shape it would take. Having an infant in my life again meant my studio work would inevitably slow down for an undefined period of time until we found our new rhythm and until I had enough support to accomplish more than the bare minimum in my work. All this meant there would be no major projects this year. Instead this year would be about supporting the work I had in motion before my beautiful baby Jude was born.

But this week long residency provided a new opportunity. It provided the opportunity for a condensed collaboration. To foster new relationships with textile artists I adore and to deepen relationships with textile artists I already know personally but never get to see quite often enough.

And it also allowed this very contained amount of time for me to throw open my studio doors and let the world peek inside. I knew this was an opportunity for experimentation. I knew this was an opportunity to revisit my initial goals in creating the Make Thrift Mend project. And I knew this was an opportunity to push slow craft and slow textiles and slow fashion into the very fast paced downtown scene.

Featured artist, Meghan Shimek, weaving on her custom built loom.
I don't have any grand conclusions on what the weeks' residency meant. Not yet anyway. But I do know it felt important. I know it felt vulnerable. I know it felt radical in someway to sit in my secondhand linen garb somewhat hidden by the indigo dresses and mended jeans swinging in the doorway of our tiny studio as my fellow artists offered inspiring and incredibly generous demonstrations to the downtown crowd. It felt disruptive. It felt meaningful. It felt like I was offering a public slice of a very private journey. And that felt right.

But what I didn't expect was the overwhelming positivity I received every single day. What I didn't expect was to feel like people needed what I had to offer. What I didn't expect was to have some folks visit two, three, or four times over the week and to become familiar with my work or with the work of my colleagues. I didn't expect it to be so much fun. And I didn't expect it to feel so positive.

I guess I expected folks to be indifferent or even adverse and maybe they were but if so they didn't share it with us at all. What they shared with us was curiosity, gratitude, engagement, and a desire to infuse more art into their work. Some folks even told us we were a bright spot in their week. I was honored albeit a bit surprised. But ultimately I was grateful.

Indigo shibori dye by artist, Kristine Vejar, owner of Verb.

Range Studio on Market Street, working with indigo dyer, Kristine Vejar.
And now this has me thinking how my project might eventually lift off the Internet and out of my studio and classrooms and continue to engage with both the intentional and the incidental passerby. How it might again push at the edges of public art and social practice. It makes me remember that outreach and engagement and collaboration are central to my work. That making and creating are only part of my process but building community is also part of my experience as an organizer and as an artist.

For now this will continue to take the shape of workshops, writings, and casual convenings but it has me wondering about future opportunities in public space. About the role of the activist and artist to engage with the public and to share our thinking and resources on a larger scale. To consider ways of moving the work outside of my studio and into the community through partnerships, public art, or what I've started calling "social textiles".

Range Studio with Marie Hoff, member of Fibershed.

Sample of locally sourced fibers provided by Fibershed

It also jump started my mending work once again. The small pile of mending that had been pushed deeper and deeper under my studio table has resurfaced and taken center stage once again. And this is very exciting because it allows me to experiment with new stitches, new layers, new lines, new textures, and to allow the work to fail and succeed and fail until it shapeshifts into a new technique.

And this is how I know I'm working. This is how I know I'm actively engaged in the creative process once again. That I'm right where I need to be. The feeling of inspiration combined with a tinge of complication or not-knowing or even a practical design issue that needs resolution. It's that tension that holds the most power for me as a maker.

This journey in Slow Fashion is just that... my journey. And I'm honored to share it with you and with the kind strangers on Market Street too. For now, the journey simply continues. Holding fast to my intentions but also allowing enough space for the future to still be full of potential and failure and success and the glorious unknown. Ultimately it's the surprises and serendipity and discovery in this project that keeps me moving forward. Perhaps, it's the experiment that keeps the work alive.



Slow Craft and Slow Processing


I am still swirling with all the excitement from being an artist-in-resident in our tiny art studio, Range Studio, last week. My brain is still making sense of my experiment to infuse slow craft into the heart of the downtown San Francisco bustle. And to consider what this means to share slow fashion in the midst of the busy streets. To slow textiles down and to let them collide against public art. I'm still processing photos, completing invoices, catching-up on email, and convincing my infant that it's a good thing to return to more regular naps in his tiny bassinet.

Suffice to say I am slowing down my own studio process this week as I consider slow craft. As I play catch up. As I consider how to let all this excitement flood my studio without washing me out with the tides. I'm not interested in some artificial idea of balance anymore. I'm not certain it actually exists. Especially for busy parents and artists and indie business owners and busy humans anywhere. I'm more interested in working with my whole heart, parenting with my whole self, and letting the inspiration flood my whole studio anytime it might. But I'm also learning that sometimes slow craft is really about slowing down not just my stitches but my timelines.

So. To that end. I'll be back here next week with thoughts and images about my past week as an artist-in-residence. Thank you to everyone who participated, came to visit in-person, and also cheered me on from afar. You can see a bunch of photos on my Instagram feed. See you soon!