Thursday, July 31st, 2008
I was listening to an interview yesterday morning on Minnesota Public Radio with the author Ethan Canin. Kerri Miller asked him the typical question about where he gets his inspiration. And he said that something that always works for him is reading. What was interesting is that he said what he will do is pick up a favorite book and randomly open it and read a paragraph or two. This is all it takes to get him inspired. He emphasized that it always works for him.
It might seem obvious but for me this was a revelation. Inspiration in small bits. I am a person who is easily overwhelmed with too much information. My husband won’t grocery shop with me because I end up frozen in an aisle, trying to choose between 15 different brands of granola. But I’m also the kind of person who wants to see it all. When I get a new magazine I need to devour the whole thing at once (or at least try). If I come across a new to me design blog, I’ll go back through the archives reading every post, and inevitably when I can’t read them all, feel like I’ve left something unfinished.
There is so much inspiration everywhere I look, so many people doing interesting things it’s hard not to become overwhelmed. I need to remind myself to take it in little bits. Read one article and then put the magazine down. Go work for a bit, utilizing the energy from the inspiration.
On a related note, I saw a small show of Jennifer Davis’ work at SOO VAC last week. SOO is small gallery and they have an even smaller room within their space for special shows. That’s where this show was and it was the perfect place. I was really taken with the detail and craft in Jennifer’s paintings. They are so inticate and layered and fantastical in nature. I was quite happy to look for a long time at this small body of work and then leave, feeling grateful that there are artists that take the time to make such careful work.
Thursday, July 31st, 2008
linen + denim herringbone BIG simple summer bags
I got tired of filling orders so I made a few bags. They’re B I G and in my shop now.
Happy late summer!
Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
work shirt, UNIFORM Studio 2008 Children’s Collection
I think this shirt is the nicest thing I’ve ever made. I’ve finally conquered my fear of the button up shirt. I’ve made button ups before, but not proper ones. This one has a collar stand, cuffs with sleeve plackets and perfectly drafted set in sleeves. I think this is the first time I haven’t sworn when setting a sleeve I’ve drafted myself.
For me the classic button up shirt is just that – classic. And always the right thing for boys and men to wear anywhere. The denim in this shirt is lightweight, dark and stretchy – perfect for a simple work shirt and really what makes it for me.
When my ultra particular husband saw it he asked if I would make him one. Um, no. But that really is the ultimate compliment. It did get me thinking that it would be interesting to make a man’s shirt. Maybe I’ll tackle that this fall.
and yes, I’m still not over the one green button.
Wednesday, July 16th, 2008
I am not a gardener. I do think about landscape all the time as it is so integrated with architecture but I don’t “garden”. I haven’t had much success with indoor plants, and I don’t have the time for much of a garden outside. I have been trying since we moved in to our house (almost 8 years ago-wow) to make some sort of landscape that works with the mid-century style (and I use that term loosely -it was built in the mid twentieth century, and has some nice clean lines, but it isn’t a mid-century modern gem, as that term seems to conjure up).
I have all kinds of ideas about the design in terms of volume, scale, color, contrast and flow. My problem has really been (other than lack of funds to hire someone to execute it) the nature of the plants themselves. I am naturally drawn to plants, trees and shrubs that are quite architectural in shape and proportion but these types of plants are usually in warmer and/or drier climates. I visited some friends in Tucson right before we purchased our house and their front “lawn” consisted of gravel and one beautiful mesquite tree. The shape and silhouette of that tree will be forever imprinted on my mind. We also saw many palo verde trees in Tucson. In fact, these seem to be favorites of Rick Joy, a local modernist architect. I think this is the loveliest tree I have ever seen. Those green trunks!
Our yard when we moved in looked like the parking lot of a suburban strip mall. You know those “mall bushes” that are like little balls with tiny tiny leaves and can withstand enormous amounts of pollution? Spirea maybe? That was pretty much it. Slowly we’ve been removing everything one by one. But what to replace it with?
When I design a piece of clothing, I have an idea in mind about the cut, volume, shape and texture of the garment. I can work with the fabric and seams to mold it into shape. In my thinking about landscape design I have been looking for plants that already have a certain texture and shape to create overall volume and design, like the palo verde, but that will work in a mid-western climate. One by one I have been discovering plants that are sparse and airy, have interesting overall shapes, have unique leaves and textures and have colors that will contrast our almost black house, like silvery grey and chartreusey green. Things that won’t work in our climate I plant in pots. (more images of our garden here)
I never even considered shaping the plants themselves. Until this spring. There is one bush that we never removed because it was so large and old the task seemed daunting. On a whim I went at it with the pruning shears. I felt like Edward Scissorhands. I cut away all the dead wood and lots of the volume and all of a sudden it was like I was working with fabric. A shape started to emerge from under the huge ball of dead shrub. I could see the old, knarly branches and the individual shape of the leaves. And I started to like the way it looked. And it started to work with the architecture. I assumed it would die after all that cutting, but it didn’t. And now the leaves are a wonderful chartreusy green and it actually looks healthier than before. Here is a type of gardening I’m actually good at and I could get addicted to.
I talked to a guy at the local landscape/garden center about my shrub cutting. And he actually encouraged me to do more pruning. He said many plants benefit from aggressive cutting. He cuts his dogwoods back to the ground every spring so that they grow sparsely. Sparse? I like that. So I went home and began cutting some more. Right now I’m running out of material, so if you live in South Minneapolis you might want to keep an eye on your bushes….
Friday, July 11th, 2008
click on the image to see it larger
I love the variety of denim that is available these days. One of my favorites lately is the grey denim (pictured top left) which I’m using right now on some tie skirts. The selvedge edge is always very interesting. I like how it is slightly frayed on the grey, which gives it a different look from the original one I made in the dark indigo w/ the smoother edge (bottom right).
I especially love denims that have textural patterns like the herringbone one pictured above (top middle). I am working on some indigo coats with the herringbone right now and the texture works well with the simple, volumetric design. The original indigo coat was made with the denim on the bottom left which I love but I am unable to get any more (sigh).
This fall the first piece from my new eco-friendly collection U N will be an indigo coat in bamboo denim (top right). This denim is a lovely medium blue which is slightly mottled and has just a hint of a check. This denim is very soft and pliable but also has a bit of structure to it – like if you can imagine how netting behaves. It’s quite interesting and I’m pretty excited to work with it.
Thursday, July 10th, 2008
Yesterday I sewed 12 set in sleeves. As I sewed I started contemplating how much labor goes into the making of one of my fold jackets:
- 6 jacket pieces
- 6 lining pieces
- 4 facing pieces
- 6 darts
- 4 set in sleeves
- 28 seams
- entirely sewn in lining
- sewn in label
- 11 handsewn folds
- 6 handsewn snaps
- handsewn finishing
- pressing pressing pressing
- hangtag w/ sewn on extra snap
The cost of most things really comes from the labor. Often I will have an architecture client come to me and say, “let’s use inexpensive materials to save on costs”. Most of the time not much money can be saved in material cost. Other than the rare and exotic, the costs of materials don’t vary all that much within categories.
I think the same is true for quality handmade clothing. While fabric costs do vary more than say species of plywood veneer, quite a bit of the cost comes from the design, pattern development and labor of making each garment. (this of course is completely different from mass produced, factory made, big label clothing brands).
My friend Matt Eastvold, who is a custom cabinet maker, is the one who first opened my eyes to how much labor goes in to crafting well made things. His company, Eastvold Custom Woodworks has built many cabinets for clients of mine as well as some cabinets in my own home. We’ve had many conversations about how to reduce the costs of making furniture and cabinetry and it always comes down to eliminating steps and streamlining the process. Very rarely does it involve using a less expensive material.
Speaking of Matt – Eastvold Custom Woodworks is having a show and sale of their custom furniture this weekend. The opening is tonight in downtown St. Paul, MN from 4 – 7. You can get all the details here.
Maybe I’ll see you there.
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008
10 things for summer:
home mini golf (I know a certain someone who would faint if he received this for his birthday at the end of the summer)
cold coffee press
white sangria wine cube (yes it IS good. with ice and sliced nectarines. and normally I insist on a cork. If you still can’t get over the box, try this recipe).
table top grill
bird table and bird box
sublime outdoor furniture
that’s my son on the cover of the Walker Art Center June/July magazine. The image was taken at the opening of the Walker on the Green -artist designed mini-golf exhibition.