500 Handmade Dolls: Modern Explorations of the Human Form
“Contemporary and unique, these handmade creations range from representational to abstract, from skillful realism to provocative surrealism—and they’re made from every conceivable material, including beads, gourds, and polymer clay. Juror Akira Blount, a pioneer in the “art doll” movement, incorporates vines, twigs, and carved wood in her fabric dolls; with their expressionless faces and closed eyes, they appear absorbed by inner worlds. Dutch artist Marlaine Verhelst’s porcelain designs seem to have sprung straight from a medieval painting. Chris Chomick’s strange and slightly scary figures feature amazing detail and elaborate costumes. Dollmakers, crafters, collectors, and anyone who loves beautiful objects will love the amazing diversity showcased here.” → more info
Eastern Market, the legendary open-air arts, crafts, and antiques market on Capitol Hill, is absolutely full of gems. The market is huge, and visitors will find something a little different every weekend, but there are also some pretty amazing regulars. One of those delightful fixtures is Mann Made Designs, an eighteen year veteran of the Market.
Mann Made Designs is the brainchild of full time artist Jimmy Mann, a Florida native who has been making things out of silver, aluminum, glass, and whatever else strikes his fancy since 1989. The Mann Made line is brimming with pop culture references, bold color, and clean, modern lines.
While I was browsing the booths at Eastern Market, Jimmy’s colorful jewelry for women is what caught my eye. Bright, apple green on just about anything is like a magnet for my eyes, but combined with sleek sterling silver? In such an elegant, yet still playful setting? It was like he made this pendant just for me!
The designs at Mann Made go far beyond pretty things for ladies. Jimmy creates an extensive line of cuff links, ranging from the whimsical and irreverent to the elegant and classic. How to categorize the cuff links made from Pabst Blue Ribbon beer bottle caps is probably up for debate in some circles, but there’s no doubt they are popular.
In addition to his collection of cuff links and ladies’ jewelry (including pendants, earrings, rings, bracelets and watches), Jimmy also directs his considerable talent with metal smithing and his eye for color towards creating wall art.
He combines recycled aluminum and stainless steel and patches of bright color to create three dimensional works that are simple and modern, but quite dramatic. All the wall art is made to order, so that means you can request custom colors to match your decor!
You’ve always liked art. In fact your favorite memories from summer camp are the arts and crafts classes. You’ve made dozens of friendship bracelets. You can latch hook a rug like nobody’s business. You still have that composition book with the black and white marble cover, from when you went through your poetry phase in junior high. You painted watercolor unicorns and action figures. You sculpted miniatures of the entire cast of “Saved By The Bell” out of clay. But, you grew up. You got a job. You became responsible. But it’s still there, somewhere inside of you. You wonder, what would my life be like right now if I’d pursued art?
Well, you’ll be happy to know you have some options. You could pay the $35,000 per year to go to a private art school, or, you could mosie on down to Gallery’s Choice in Downers Grove, Illinois and learn oil painting, stained glass, jewelry making, watercolor painting, mosaics, copper enameling, acrylic painting, lampworking, origami, or silk painting. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
The owners, Rose and Bill Jarecki, along with their daughter, Katie, are living testaments to what life can be like when a person follows their dream. Having gotten an MBA and spent fifteen years in corporate marketing, Rose decided to leave that life behind and follow her dream of living an artistic life. She is a self-taught glasswork and silk-painting artist who has pieces displayed in the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.
The shop has been open for five years in Downer’s Grove and in that time has gone through some radical changes. Giving up half their retail space, for one. I asked her what made her decide to partially turn her art gallery into a working art studio. “I noticed other artisans getting discouraged and not making the money selling their work as they’d hoped,” Rose explains. “Customers have changed their focus when it comes to the arts. More and more people are saying, ‘I don’t want to buy it, I’d rather experience it, make it myself’.
“And if they do want to buy something, they want it to be custom and unique. Not something that’s been sitting on a shelf somewhere. The most successful artists are the ones who respond to the customer’s wants. So we made the decision to dedicate 50 percent of our retail floor space to classroom and studio space.”
I asked how business has changed since going from being just a retailer, to a retailer and art learning center. “I really feel that we are giving back to the community,” she says. “We are very family oriented with a hands-on approach. We’re doing both chilldren’s and adult’s classes, but I especially love being able to give kids the support I always had as a kid. I was allowed to try anything. We’ve had over 5,000 Girl Scouts come through our doors. And we make sure that students have some success right away, in order to encourage them to not be afraid to try different, maybe more complicated techniques.”
It’s not just kids who keep the shop busy. Gallery’s Choice hosts “Girls’ Night Out” events, birthday parties, and couples’ stained glass classes. And, I have to mention that I was impressed and surprised at how much shelf space had been given to display beginning artists and art students. “People are more sensitive to keeping business local. So, the community seeks us out. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t really matter, as much as you might think, if a piece is made by a beginner versus a long-time professional. Customers are telling me, ‘I don’t want a print or a replica. I’m tired of going to the mall.’ I’m hearing that on a daily basis. If a piece speaks to a person, they buy it and the value is that it’s been made by hand.”
The response to Rose and Bill’s hands-on approach has been tremendous. I can’t help wondering if we can expect their model to be the new direction for art galleries and shops. But, Bill feels there’s room for different art experiences. “We like to make art more accessible for people, that’s true. But, there’s definitely room for our type of shop, as well as the high end galleries. In fact, people come into our place and learn to make and buy art, and then they are not afraid to go to the high end shows. If they take a stained glass class here, then they can attend a retrospective on Louis Comfort Tiffany and feel comfortable. They are now interested and not intimidated. They feel they understand the work better, they can speak with knowledge about the medium and the process, and can better appreciate the genius of the masters.”
Increasing their class offerings has certainly transformed the business, but Gallery’s Choice remains, very much, a gallery with dozens of local artists and artisans on display. “In the beginning it was just my work. I was kind of scared to let other artists show here,” Rose admits. “Coming from a business and not an art background, I struggled with wondering if I was good enough, but it was about getting over that. Artists just found us through word of mouth. I’m glad, now, that I had the confidence to let other artists show their work alongside mine. It’s been wonderful. We’ve found such a high quality of work. Jewelry, fiber arts, glass makers, etchings. And we get tons of referrals from customers as well.”
And now, Gallery’s Choice is using the social networking site Facebook in order to give the public a chance to see some classroom experiences, new artists and upcoming programs and events. I asked Rose if giving up half the sales floor has affected the number of artists they are able to show. “Oh, there’s always room for one more,” she replied. “We aim to keep our gallery accessible. We are a self made environment.”
Gallery’s Choice, 1014 Curtiss Street, Downer’s Grove, IL, 60515, USA.
“The Moustache Merchant” archival art print by Penelope and Pip
At first, it was easy to ignore; but, as November started to take on steam, I began to notice that several of my male acquaintances, including my fella, had curious, patchy bits of stubble gracing the usually-smooth area above their upper lips. One or two lapses in grooming would probably have gone unnoticed, but this was starting to look like a facial hair conspiracy!
Support your ‘stache! Weather-proof moustache wax in scented or natural by Mans Face Stuff of Portland, OR
Upon further investigation, I discovered that my friends were taking part in a global follicular fund-raising effort called Movember. To show their support for prostate cancer awareness, all that they had to do was make a commitment to grow a moustache for 30 days and encourage their friends, family and coworkers to donate to the cause and (literally) change the face of men’s health.
Modern, organic moustache teething toy (above), handmade from hardwood by Little Alouette
Movember was started in 2003 by a group of friends in Melbourne. While talking over a few pints in a pub, the “Mo Bros”, as they’ve become known, decided to bring back the ‘stache and do something for men’s heath. Although there was no money raised that year, the 2004 event attracted over 400 participants and raised an impressive $55,000 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
Moustache necklace (above), hand-cut from recycled leather by Crooked Sister
Since then, the movement has ballooned to a quarter of a million moustachioed participants and over a million donors. In 2009 alone, $47,000,000 was raised for the global beneficiary partners. I was proud to hear that Canada’s campaign was the second largest (after Australia), raising close to $8 million for Prostate Cancer Canada.
Hand-thrown porcelain dog bowl by Julia Custer at Handmade Green
How can you participate? Well, for some of us (ahem) it is physically impossible to grow a Selleck-worthy Movember moustache of our own, but we can get in on the fun by cheering on the participants, making a donation, hosting or attending a Movember party or event and sporting a faux-stache as a symbol of solidarity.
Cozy, unisex fleece neckwarmer with leather moustache by Ha Ha Bird
As you can see by the fabulous, handmade goods in this article, there is a handlebar for every member of the family…even Fido. And, to help clean things up on December 1st (once the “after” pictures have been taken, of course), I’ve included a luxurious, organic shaving cream.
When it’s time to say “goodbye”…Organic cedarwood and orange shaving cream in recycled glass bottle by Twig & Leaf Botanicals
For more information on Movember, or to donate, please visit the global Movember site and choose your region.
Vintage Rhinestone Earrings
These lovelies are from my JULIA collection, a line that is characterized by opulence, intricacy, and elegance. These pieces can be worn individually as single statement pieces, or combined together for a look of true indulgence. Classically elegant and so very vintage-chic, the pieces in this collection will undoubtedly… details »
Day of the Thread iPad Covers
Our products are cute, cozy, 100% hand-crafted iPad covers that help protect the iPad from scratches, dust and wear while sporting a stylish and unique flair. Each iPad cover has a durable flap that folds over and buttons down securely.
Fascinator made of three organza blooms with ostrich feather centers over coque feathers and a pouf of black French veiling. Attaches with an alligator clip for easy placement and tangle-free removal.