Product Showcase – Pets

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday period and are enjoying a fun 2011 so far. This week I’ve rounded up some great handmade items to celebrate a wonderful part of our lives – our pets. My two cats were feeling a little neglected during the holidays as we spent the week away from home – and they certainly let us know, by making a huge mess of the house to welcome us home. But we can’t help but forgive them as soon as they jump into our laps and look at us adoringly. Here’s to those furry friends who drive us crazy, but who stick with us through thick and thin!

I love Gemma Correll’s illustrations, many of which feature a pug based on her dog, Mr Pickes. Gemma describes the print above as a comment on internet culture using her favourite characters, a cat and a pug. Gemma’s illustrations decorate a range of products in her shop, including prints, cards, stationery, T shirts and tote bags.

This print from erasercarver is of the artist, Carrie’s two rescue cats – who coincidentally resemble my two kitties! The initial sketch was made the first time Carrie found them curled up asleep together. She wanted to capture the peace that they had finally found in her home. Carrie uses interesting processes to produce her prints: “This is a four colour reduction print, where the lino block is destroyed during the carving process. Starting with the lightest colour, areas are cut away from the carving material to create the lightest base layer, then a run of prints is taken. The next layer has more cut out from the material, and more prints are taken and so on, and until the final black layer is cut and printed.”

Sara Norwood’s work blurs the boundaries between textile design and illustration. Each item Sara makes tells a little story in some way. She has always been fascinated by animals, and they appear in her work repeatedly. “I am inspired essentially by everything around me, ranging from nature to urban life. I am a big kid at heart and admire anything a little magical or off-beat.”

Artist Helen Dalgairns has had animals in her life since she was a child and thinks that cats have taught her how to properly relax, as they do this well! Helen’s impression of cats is that they are self indulgent creatures and only do what they want to do. “Anyone who has lived with a cat knows that they relish the sun and throughout the year my cat Neo always finds some sun rays and once found she does not move for anything, expect for some food. This illustration is based upon this purely self indulgent activity,” explained Helen.

Indira drew this print for her two year old daughter, who loves their neighbour’s dachshund. Indira’s work is inspired by daily life, nature, people and colours and I love the clean lines and bright colours used in her work.

I’d love to hear your funny pet stories – go ahead and share them below!

Chrys Bonnay-Lewis

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Chrys Bonnay-Lewis: Totally cosmopolitan cups, traditional celadon glaze on porcelian and fired in salt kiln (makes the glaze sparkle). Made by me from wheel-thrown prototypes, slip-cast in porcelain and then assembled. Each nubby is individually applied.

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Celia Greiner Woodworking

One thing leads to another. Or so the old saying goes. Your grandpa might have told you that when you were small, and maybe then you weren’t entirely sure of it’s meaning. Maybe you still aren’t, we’re not here to judge, but one thing can be agreed upon and that is that grandpas tend to be pretty wise. How many times have we started out with the intent to do one thing, and ended up doing something entirely different? Plenty of times. Just this morning I walked into my kitchen to get a notepad and walked out eating a fudge pop. Go figure. But we absorb our experiences and they become part of who we’ve become. So, no matter how different our doings are in the present, things we did in the past continue to influence our decisions and outcomes. I saw this concept come into play in a most real way the day I got to visit and speak to artist Celia Greiner at her shop, Celia Greiner Woodworking.

“I started out a painter,” Celia tells. “I studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I began to notice that in my work I was seeking ways to make my paintings more dimensional. I was very interested in perspective, but not just rendered perspective. I wanted to build my paintings and create actual 3-D. So I started painting on Masonite; making built paintings.

“But then I began to run out of ideas, and also I had become disillusioned by the art world. So I decided to learn woodworking so that I could make functional objects. After dabbling at it, I realized that in order to make furniture, I’d have to do it full time. So I attended the Worcester Center for Crafts for two years and began making furniture and sculpting with wood.”

Celia’s artistic bent is certainly expressed in her furniture designs: chairs with curvilinear detailing, waved benches, a table reminiscent of clover, roots and all. “Furniture must be touchable. How it feels in your hand is the most important thing. I find purely rectangular pieces kind of boring and easy to reproduce. Rounded edges feel good and draw the hand.”

Celia credits her dad as having helped influence her aesthetic by exposing her to nature at an early age. “I’m definitely inspired by nature. As a kid, my dad would point out plants and creatures. He’d always refer to the beauty and efficient design found in nature. A creature has only the parts it needs. You look at things and you absorb them, and later they come out. I’ve done some rectangular commissions, but when left to my own devices, I naturally go more organic and sculptural.”

Sometimes there is a fine line between being a craftsperson and being an artist. Celia plants herself firmly on the artist side of that continuum. She’s created some pretty far out furniture pieces, such as the Siren Chair, a red-tipped, tentacled, fantasy piece which is in a private home now. “I’ve toned down some of the elaborate shapes in my furniture pieces,” she chuckles. “Now I prefer to reserve those kinds of forms for my sculpture.”

Unlike her furniture, which is all about the tactile, Celia’s sculpture is created mainly for visual impact, with texture as a no less important part of the formula. “I like to juxtapose the smooth with the rough. One emphasizes the other. Normally you don’t touch sculpture, so you’re forced to imagine the feel of it. That gives it some life.”

As much as I loved Celia’s furniture, I found myself, and my camera, drawn to her sculpture. I kept returning to one piece in particular, called Icky. It’s a floor piece, crafted from stained poplar with steel wire, and it’s beautiful . . . and repulsive. “I’m interested in exploring why we are drawn to somethings and flee from others. Why are we attracted to something that has a smooth texture, and repulsed by yuckiness? What if both elements were present in the same piece? You kind of find that in Icky.”

“I’m a sculptor who makes furniture. I’ve been commissioned to design some pieces in more of an Arts and Craft style. Lots of straight lines and rectangular forms. But while in school I found that you can make so many shapes with wood. So I’m always trying to get away from rectangular forms, and move towards the shapely.”

Celia designs first, then picks her woods: poplar for flexibility, ash for graininess, she also experiments with cork and other materials. All of her wood comes from the urban forest, a sustainable resource. Notably, she uses water-based, low VOC, eco-friendly finishes in keeping with her personal philosophy of producing high-quality, hand-crafted pieces as an alternative to the things that can be found in malls and factory outlets.

“I’d like to see shopping become less of a past-time. Shop when you need it. Buy good-quality, well made things that will last a long time. I’m all for the handmade movement. I appreciate people who put a lot of thought into what they do. Buying handmade helps you to get to know the maker and respect them through their work.”

Celia’s personal design philosophy is one that all of us could take and apply to anything going on in our lives. Whether you’re painting, sculpting, crafting, or trying to get your big break on Broadway. “Be honest with yourself. Simplify. Be concise. And don’t be afraid to show some personality.”

Celia Greiner Woodworking, BY APPOINTMENT: 3039 West Carroll, Chicago, Illinois, 60612, USA.
Phone: +1-773-209-3535

On the web: http://www.celiagreiner.com

Moonlight Bindery: handcrafted books in Alexandria, VA

Katie's studio

I have met many creative people in the Washington DC area who own and operate a handcrafted business, but Katie Wagner is unique among them. She is the owner and creative soul behind Moonlight Bindery, where she makes hand bound books for all occasions. Her educational and employment background is in…believe it or not, bookbinding and book conservation! This is unlike the typical DC area crafter, who might be an accountant who likes to make jewelry, or a lawyer who bakes cupcakes for birthday parties on the side.

Katie has been interested in bookbinding since college. She took classes in book conservation at the Smithsonian Institute, and has studied under Tom Albro, former Chief of Conservation at the Library of Congress. Suffice to say she knows a thing or two about making books, making them beautiful, and making them last.

While working in the conservation field, Katie occasionally made decorative books for friends and family, but didn’t start Moonlight Bindery until August of 2007, when she opened her Etsy shop on a whim. After enjoying brisk holiday sales, she began applying to area craft shows, including the Crafty Bastards show hosted by the Washington DC City Paper. Her experiences with Etsy and shows like Crafty Bastards showed her that people in the DC area and in general were hungry for unique, handmade items, and she knew she was on to something.

coptic bound book

Katie’s product line has evolved over the years, and now she offers two basic types of book: coptic bound and case-bound. The coptic bound journals, like the Build Your Own Cover books made from LEGO base plates, are sewn together by hand. Katie folds the paper to into sections, and then cuts them to size. She punches holes in the sections and then sews each section together by hand. For case-bound books, Katie uses pre-printed text blocks (e.g. the printed innards of an address book or agenda/planner), and creates a decorative cover using boards, bookcloth, and anything else that strikes her fancy from her collection of lovely materials. After the case-bound books are assembled using archival, acid-free glue, they spend a while in Katie’s cast-iron nipping press to ensure a lasting bond.

cast iron nipping press

Using these two processes and a variety of materials, Katie can make an essentially endless array of books. She is inspired by the materials she uses, and not just traditional bookbinding supplies. In addition to LEGO base plates, she has used handmade papers, paste paper, fabric, chalkboard oil cloth, felt, maps, custom-printed bookcloth, and even Hershey’s kisses wrappers to make books!

chalkboard oil cloth case-bound journal

Katie is also inspired by her customers, and loves to work with clients on special projects. She can even add foil lettering to the final book using her hot stamp machine, for personalized items like wedding or baby photo albums. She always purchases her special materials – felts, fabrics, and fancy papers – in small quantities, so her books are always unique. Looking at some of her custom creations, I can’t help but covet the idea of a travel journal made from a map of the place I’m going to visit!

book made with map of Europe

Although sometimes people don’t think of books as possibly handcrafted items, Katie has found that people respond very well to her products. β€œThe DC area is full of libraries, and as a result, people who value books,” she says. Those people really treasure the idea of a handmade journal or photo album. Most of the time at craft shows, she is the only bookbinder, and people really do appreciate the effort that goes into each item. Katie has found that even people who have taken bookbinding classes would rather buy from her than make their own!

Bookbinding may be an unusual craft, but it is in Katie’s blood, and she didn’t even know it back when she took her first conservation class. Her great-great-grandfather was a bookbinder who emigrated to the US from Denmark. His picture sits in her studio as inspiration, and as proof that Moonlight Bindery was meant to be!

marbled paper case-bound book

You can find Katie’s handcrafted books in her shop and at local craft shows.