Q AND A WITH JEWELRY DESIGNER LOLA RICHARDS

LOLA RICHARDS and I met last year at the New Canaan Sidewalk Sale in New Canaan, CT.  We were one of the first to arrive at our spots on an unusually overcast and foggy morning.  Just as the other vendors were pulling in, the sky opened and let down so much rain, the streets were veritable rivers, objects of all sorts running with the current past our feet.  We were fortunate to have our tents set up and I remember exchanging a wave from our respective shelters.  When the rain let up, we introduced ourselves and found we had much more in common than our soggy shoes.  Lola’s jewelry shares a calming and spiritual sensibility that I was immediately drawn to.  Her use of color and texture are soothing to the eye and make for easy wearing with any outfit or style.  I meet dozens of jewelry artists on the road, but Lola Richards continues to stand out as one of my favorites.

What’s your first memory of being crafty?

My first memory of being crafty is opening the closet doors in our playroom as a child and seeing so many art supplies; I didn't know where to begin. My parents are creative so we were surrounded by all sorts of artistic catalysts. As a child I loved to draw and I dabbled in many other crafty ventures—needlepoint, hand quilting, candle making, paper arts and eventually beading.  As a child and young adult, I would find myself so engrossed in whatever I was creating that nothing else really mattered. Crafting became an outlet.

What’s your process?  How do you create?

While I still like to draw and doodle, I very rarely sketch out my designs before making them. Sometimes I have clear ideas and realize them easily right into production. Other times, it's not so easy. For example, if I have a really unique gemstone or component that I haven't used in a design yet, I'll meditate on it (or in other words, think really hard about it while I'm in the shower or while driving) until I come up with a few different designs. I'll then execute the design or designs and pick which I like the best. For as long as I can remember, I've designed pieces without boundaries, which has worked well for me. But recently I've realized that giving myself a few limitations can actually fuel more creativity, which is how my latest line was created.

Describe your workspace.

Ha! Well, I have an actual studio in our house with pretty pieces of art and pictures on the wall that make me smile. However, we live in a townhouse and the studio is three flights up from the main living area where our two boys spend most of their day. So, I've set up a temporary studio on our kitchen table and it's working out great; I can bead while I eat dinner! I am by no means an organized person and I thrive in a certain level of chaos. So, we clear off enough space to have dinner as a family then, it's back to work!

What do you want people to know about being an entrepreneur and your company, Lola Richards Designs?

I've always envisioned myself to be an entrepreneur. Even when I was making candles or stitching quilts as a kid I'd be thinking, "how can I make money doing this?"  Being an entrepreneur can be stressful, but it is extremely rewarding. If, like me, you're not great at time management, being self-employed can be a challenge—but when you're the only person you have to answer to, that can be a very validating feeling.  I put my heart and soul into everything I design for Lola Richards Designs. I make every single piece, string every bead by hand, take and edit all the photos, package and ship every order, and handle all marketing and social media. When you purchase something from me, you're going to receive a piece of jewelry created with intention. 

Where can we find more of your creations?

You can always shop online at www.LolaRichards.com.  I also participate in a number of events from the spring through the holidays across the tri-state area as well as New Hampshire and Vermont. The best way to find out where I'm vending is to follow my Facebook (Lola Richards Designs) or Instagram @lolarichards. 

Where do you find inspiration/who has been inspirational to you/what sorts of things influence your work?

I find inspiration in all sorts of places: nature, moods, music, gemstones, even food… may have something to do with the beads covering my kitchen table!  I've been inspired by many artists, but I have to say, my main source of inspiration has got to be my family and friends. They've supported my endeavors, no matter how quirky, and have always encouraged my creative entrepreneurship.

Tell us about being an artist and a mom.  What are the challenges?  What are the rewards?

Where to begin! Being a work-from-home-mom definitely has its challenges (my house is always a mess) but they are far outweighed by the rewards. One of my biggest challenges is time management. In addition to being super disorganized, I'm a bit obsessive, so when I have an idea or a new design I want to work on, I feel like I need to execute it immediately. It's hard for me to confine my creative time to naps and after bedtime because, let's face it; by bedtime I'm completely pooped.  When my first son was born, I went back to work after only 6 weeks. It was so hard; there was so much pressure. And I felt guilty ALL THE TIME. I felt like I missed so many moments that I’d never get back. I was able to make Lola Richards Designs my full time gig last year before my second son was born and it's been incredible. Being a working mom, either in home or out of the home, is hard. Society puts so much pressure on women to be amazing moms, incredible wives, magnificent hosts, and awesome at your job; but it’s literally impossible to kill it at everything. Your house can be a mess, maybe you haven't been out on a date in a year, your kids may be overdue for a bath and that's ok! Sometimes you need to just kick back with a glass of wine, goof around and have fun; your kids will thank you for it.

What are you working on for 2016? 

2016 is going to be amazing! My ultimate goal to be more organized.  The "business" aspect of this work is not really my thing, but I plan on educating myself more and using social media to my advantage. 2015 has laid an amazing foundation for my business. This year I'll be building on that, learning more, and having more fun!

 

 

Q AND A WITH ARTIST AND AUTHOR JACINTA BUNNELL

JACINTA BUNNELL is an artist and author residing in New York’s Hudson Valley.  Her collection of coloring books challenge readers to look differently at long-held notions of gender and sexuality in a way that is as skillful as it is lighthearted. While each book takes on a slightly different theme, they all broach seemingly complex subjects with a "kid lens", reminding us that things are not always as serious as we often make them.  With two more books on the horizon, take a peek into how these works came to be and with it, a closer look into the delightful world of Jacinta Bunnell.

Your coloring books have a very sweet, kid-centric spirit that is gentle and disarming, but at the same time, push the envelope on our ideas of gender and identity.  What was the impetus to create them?

Irit Reinheimer and I were doing childcare at the time we created our first coloring book in 2001. We both would complain to each other about all the books in people’s houses for the kids: the Disney crap, the princesses, the predictable gender roles, the lack of queer and trans people, the hetero-normativity, etc. Separately from that, we had created a list of free things to do in the Hudson Valley for ourselves (kind of like a friendship activity list) and out of the 25 things on the list, one of them was to make a coloring book or calendar that spoke to the lack we saw in children’s literature. We both had spent time studying gender from an academic perspective and as important as it was, we just didn’t talk like that. I have always wanted my books to offer a fresh way for people of any age to take a look at stereotypes and oppression. If you can get people to laugh at themselves and at cultural expectations, their hearts will be more open to looking at difficult issues. Once you have opened someone's heart with a joke, a shared smile or a good laugh, you are better able to do the hard work of liberation together. I want folks to come away with a deeper critique of children's media and the way it introduces strong influences we often take for granted. Though my work directly draws from feminist, queer and transgender scholarship and activism, I try to make it accessible to people of all ages via the familiarity of coloring books.  I want to provide media examples of real life: something other than the hyper-masculinity, hyper-femininity and compulsory heterosexuality that the media bombards us with. I want people to be proud of themselves. If you do not see yourself in print anywhere, how do you know you are not the only one that thinks, acts and feels as you do?

How did you go about getting the books published?

After several years of doing all the mailing and invoicing ourselves, Irit and I decided to seek out a publisher so that we could be freed up from the administrative end of things and continue to pursue our own creativity. Right out of the gate, our first book was selling very well to zine distros, catalogs and lefty/women’s/LGBTQ bookstores. We approached a few publishers and heard back from one, Soft Skull Press. They shared our vision and politics so we made the decision to move forward with them. I say this casually now but it was a REALLY BIG DEAL to me then. I had never imagined doing something so official with the projects I had worked on! All my subsequent books have been with PM Press. They are amazing and awesome and have such vision.

Did you get any pushback for addressing these issues in coloring books?

Sure, but nothing too overt. From the beginning, way before this whole adult coloring book craze, I’ve maintained that my books are for adults. If kids relate to them, super. I have always been someone who colors, well past the “acceptable” age-limit. 

What’s been your proudest moment surrounding the books?

Occasionally I receive letters from people who have trans, queer or gender fluid children, letting me know that my books help them feel less alone and give them tools to discuss things with family, teachers and friends. It is these letters that make me the most proud. When I read yearly sales reports stating that I have sold thousands of books, I almost can’t digest that. My imposter syndrome kicks into high gear and I have to convince myself that I am the one that made that happen. I think that comes from growing up working class. It is built into working class culture that you don’t talk about your accomplishments for fear of being called a braggart.

When did you first discover you an aptitude towards art? Who or what fostered that interest?

My mom was very expressive with flowers and vegetables in the garden, always put up her own wallpaper and reupholstered our furniture instead of buying something new. My aunt and cousin, who lived next door, were very creative and did a bit of oil painting. My step-dad could build ANYTHING out of wood. At any given time, one of them would either be caning an antique chair, arranging flowers, canning vegetables, building a garage or making beaded Christmas ornaments. No one ever spoke of any of it as art but IT WAS! There was no one around who identified as a working artist so I didn’t even know it was a thing people did. But handmade was the general rule in the homes of my close-knit family growing up. Every pie was from scratch; letters were written with practiced manuscript; and if something broke, you fixed it yourself. There also happened to be a fair share of drinking, drug use, gossiping and arguing all around me, none of which seemed particularly fulfilling to me, so I found my way around that through reading and making things.

Your yearlong art project, Shy as a Shrimp, was inspired by the artwork of children.  When the kids who inspired you came to your exhibit and saw how they influenced your art, what kinds of feedback did they offer you?  

Mostly they were like, “Yeah, I don’t draw like that anymore, I drew like that when I was three, that’s pretty bad...” I had used older artwork from the children because the art that is the most interesting to me is the art kids make when they are age two to six and just churning stuff out without much thought. Here they were, already passing judgment on their younger selves.

Do you think there’s any correlation between pain and creativity?

I have heard many artists state that much of their creativity is fueled by pain and loss. I’m pretty much the opposite. I just completely stop making things if I am too sad or upset. It took me a year to make a piece of art about losing my home and half of everything in it to a hurricane. When I am feeling content, at peace, rested and fully supported, I am much more creative.

 Jacinta's Studio

Jacinta's Studio

What did you learn about yourself and others after the devastation that occurred during Hurricane Irene?

I learned that I had an intense, incredible attachment to my STUFF, and that I had placed a lot of weight and comfort on all the pretty things I had collected over the years. With the destruction of much of that, what came in to fill the hole was this enormous outpouring of love and help like I had never known. My closest friends and family came and filled up their trucks with my clothes and washed the mud out, staying up late at the laundromat when they had kids waiting for them at home. They gave me their spare bedrooms for months on end while my partner and I searched for a new home. They donated money so we could replace furniture, electronics, rugs, bedding, books and other important things because our renters’ insurance did not cover flood damage. There are things that I lost that cannot ever be replaced, like my first teddy bear, handmade books and my family photos. I still think about those things often but in the end, you can’t take it with you, right? I honestly think that the less stuff you have to weigh you down, the more you get to connect with other people. We are so distracted by our things.

One of the first things you divulge in your bio is that due to unfortunate weather conditions, you got trapped inside a log cabin for a week with nothing to eat but your mother's fruitcake... tell us more about that.

 Jacinta's Mother's fruitcake recipe.

Jacinta's Mother's fruitcake recipe.

I tell that story partially to be a smart ass.  I pretty much roll my eyes at bios, resumes and the like.  I like to learn about people through the stories they tell.  It happened one winter. My niece Keetin was about 12 and was coming to stay with me for a week.  We had just traveled from my mother's house and she loaded us up with homemade spaghetti sauce and fruitcake.  I actually LOVE her fruitcake.  I have been eating it since I was a baby.  We unloaded the car, started a fire in the wood stove and... BAM! A snowstorm started.  As was typical for me at the time, I had no idea that a giant snowstorm was about to hit the region.  I had no television and lived in the woods.  I didn't have 4-wheel drive, so we got stuck in the house for about four days.  My niece has always been a terrific companion.  She is funny, kind, artistic and very ingenuitive.  She had low expectations, was just psyched to be away from her parents for a few days, and she didn't really care that I had no food in the fridge besides fruitcake and tomato sauce!  We also had a little pasta that we cooked up, but we were pretty hungry when the snow finally stopped.   

What are you working on now?

I just completed a body of work that is a collaboration between me and my step-father, who gives me these score sheets from this game called Thirteen, a rummy card game that was first brought to my family in the 70s from my grandparents’ retirement community in Jensen Beach, Florida. I add color and pattern to the score sheets. My family has played this game nearly every day for decades. It is a social connection for them, they laugh and tease each other, sometimes even fight. Tables have been turned over.  I am also the resident artist for Secret City on July 31 at Bearsville Theater and I am dreaming up something for this show. Secret City is such a cool, interesting project and I am highly honored to be asked to be a part of it. I have another two books I am in process on but I don’t always like to talk about them until they are done because they often don't end up quite how I imagined them in the beginning. I hold down several other odd jobs to make money, too. It feels a bit like twirling plates sometimes, but I like the diversity in my day-to-day life.  It provides me with great flexibility to live a creative, exciting life.

Jacinta’s coloring books can be found at queerbookcommittee.com.  For more information about her past and present art projects, including Shy as a Shrimp and Secret City at Bearsville Theater, visit JacintaBunnell.com.

2.15.2016 :: MORICHES BAY

The sun moved across the bay this morning melting the ice that formed on the surface.  From left to right, it was as if a brush was painting the landscape, turning blue to pink, solid ice to liquid and a cloudy sky to clear.  By 7:30, you could see the current ripple up again, pushing the remaining ice chunks towards the inlet. 

I've been met with so many encouraging words about these photos.  What I know is that it's not about the photography or even the dazzle of color the sunrises bring.  It's about the primal instinct we all have to feel connected to the natural world.  There's nothing more affirming then to wake up with the rising sun and feel completely in sync with life outside--because we are the life outside.  It is us.  Whatever that is and for whatever reason it exists, is the same reason we exist too.  In spite of all the technology, concrete, metal and machinery, we haven't escaped our true nature.  It's still awakens in each of us a sense of awe, reverence, connection and hope.  

On mornings like these, I think about the residents of Flint.   I think about the people north of Los Angeles living under a noxious, billowing plume of methane. I think about our neighbors in Pennsylvania whose water has been poisoned by the natural gas industry.  Then I think about how Moriches Bay and all of the bodies of water around Long Island have changed in the six short years I've lived in this house; the increase in algal blooms and fish kills, in dead whales and garbage.  You can work yourself into a tailspin over why, but when I do, it always comes back to money--money and an unwillingness to change.

Whatever your political affiliations may be, your religious beliefs or personal convictions, you've found yourself reading this because you were moved by the pictures above.  Ask yourself why and consider for a moment why it matters to you.  Write it down, share it with someone next to you, or in the comments section below.  Maybe it's one word, maybe it's a few; but whatever it is, acknowledge it and maybe from there, we can start to move towards a more conscious and connected union. 

 

Q AND A WITH JEWELRY ARTIST HOLLY SALADINO

HOLLY SALADINO is a jewelry artist living on the East End of Long Island.  I first discovered her work at Island Bead and Jewelry, a local store where I used to work and teach.  There was a board of her jewelry just to the right of the register filled with copper, wire wrapped pendants, bracelets and other intricate pieces.  I'd never seen anything like it in the store before and I immediately asked the owner whose work it was.  She told me it was Holly's, their new employee and another independent jewelry artist!  I knew I had to meet her.  To my delight, Holly was as interesting as her jewelry. Since then, we've collaborated on a project and enjoyed chatting with one another about supplies, techniques and approaches to selling jewelry.  Her website, DBJJewelry.com showcases a nice selection of her work, but where she really shines is Facebook and Instagram.  Keep an eye on this crafty East Ender because we haven't seen all there is from Holly Saladino.

What’s your first memory of being crafty?

I don't remember a time when I wasn't crafty! My mother would always have projects for me to keep myself entertained. As a kid, I had a shelving unit in my room that took up a whole wall and 85% of it was crafting supplies. I started making wire wrapped jewelry in 2011 when my boyfriend bought me a wire wrapped jewelry set as a Christmas gift. I immediately fell in love with the style and decided to give it a try; here I am five years later!

What’s your process?  How do you create?

In all honesty, unless it's a custom order or a sketch I've drawn out, I just go with the flow of the piece. I have a pretty embarrassingly large collection of gemstones. Whatever is calling to me that day is what I work with.

Describe your workspace.

Everywhere. My main spot is at home on my computer desk; what’s interesting is that my actual work area is only about a 1x2 foot spot. I have a gaming computer so it takes up space!  If I leave home and go to a place where I’ll be sitting for a while, I’ll fill up a tote bag with some basic supplies; quite a few of my pieces have been made on-the-go, either at craft fairs, the boyfriend's house, or even in the car or in-between classes at college.

What do you want people to know about being an entrepreneur and your company, DBJJewelry?

Being an entrepreneur is difficult but it's sooooo worth it. As everyone predicts, being your own boss is fantastic; at times. The rest of the time, it's hard work, determination, and sleepless nights, especially when you have an idea in your head and you want to get it done.  I take lots of pride in my work. Every piece of jewelry is made with genuine products, real gemstones, quality wire, and is exactly what’s advertised.

holly.jpg

What are your favorite projects?

My favorite projects are custom orders because I get to include a piece of the customer in the final product; it's never just what I've created. Having the ability to produce what is inside of someone's head feels more than amazing!

Where can we find more of your products?

A lot of my finished projects are for sale on my website, www.DBJJewelry.com.  Everything else gets posted to my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/DBJJewelry, and to Instagram at www.instagram.com/dbjjewelry/.

Where do you find inspiration/who has been inspirational to you/what sorts of things influence your work?

I find a lot of inspiration in other artists and works that I see posted in the big collection of Facebook groups that I'm a part of. With that said, I never copy another artist’s work.  That’s not inspiration!

Tell us about being an artist out on Long Island?  What do you like about it? What are the challenges?

Being an artist on Long Island has its good points and bad points. The good is that there are a wide variety of people to sell to.  With the affluent vacation crowd that comes out in the summer, there's always a chance you'll score a huge sale. The downside is local craft fairs cost a lot of money, and you have to have enough inventory to be able to offset those costs. Every piece of my jewelry is handmade from scratch, so it's a challenge to build up a large inventory of popular items like my larger sized pendants.

What are you working on for 2016? Do you have any goals?

I want to build out more of my website and get more items listed.  But, my biggest goal is an ongoing one, which is to continually improve my skills as an artist.

Good luck to you, Holly!

Thanks so much!

 

Q AND A WITH ARTIST, WRITER AND CONSULTANT, JANE COCO COWLES

Jane CoCo Cowles and I met on the Town Hall Green in Fairfield, CT one June a handful of years ago when she stopped by my booth to customize a bracelet. Her soft-spoken manner coupled with a trademark, knowing gaze caught my attention immediately.  I watched as she spent time picking her pieces, thumbing through charms and stones letting the right combination come together.  At the time she was in the midst of change, having left her law firm and apartment in New York City to start a new chapter upstate.  Over the years, I’ve witnessed Jane manifest that new life with the same, gentle intensity she used to create her bracelet. Now, she is a writer, artist and consultant.  She helps others turn their creative visions into realities while continuing to produce her own work, which, this year alone could be seen in a number of art exhibitions in the tristate area.  To view more of her art and/or inquire about commissioned pieces, be sure to visit her website.  Till then, enjoy our latest Q and A with Jane Coco Cowles.

What’s your first memory of being crafty? 

My mother hand quilted pillows. I remember going through her sewing box and piecing through all the different colored fabrics and patterns and trying to intricately stitch them together as she did. 

What’s your process? How do you create?

I am a lover of words. Often times, an idea comes in the form of a word or a phrase and I capture it in the form of an illustration. I do a lot of illustration on a MacBook Pro. I like to sit in my kitchen with my dachshund Pico and create. 

What do you want people to know about being an artist and running your own business?

Being an entrepreneur is bittersweet. You get to create a style of your own yet you are sharing the most intimate parts of your creative being with the world. 

Where can we find more of your products?

You can find my illustrations at Gena Lisa Lingerie in Nyack, NY or you can purchase them through or request commissions through my website, www.janecococowles.com

Where do you find inspiration/who has been inspirational to you/what sorts of things influence your work?

The human form, nature and classic fashion influence my style; think Audrey Hepburn, Chanel and Adolie Day. My style is classic, sweet and petite. 

What are you working on for 2016?

I am also a freelance writer. I have some writing projects in the pipeline and I am working with the village of Nyack, NY as their Communications Coordinator.  My latest illustrations are for a friend who is a yoga instructor. 

Thanks, Jane! Best of luck to you.

Thank you.

Q AND A WITH ERIN DOMAGAL OF WILD SEED APOTHECARY

ERIN DOMAGAL is the founder of Wild Seed Apothecary (WSA) a company that creates natural products that support the wellbeing of our bodies, minds, and spirits. Erin attended the University of New Paltz to study fine art and after graduation, stayed in the Hudson River Valley to support the ecologically sustainable cultivation and conscious use of plants.  WSA’s mission is to foster learning about the edible, medicinal, and aesthetic values of plants, and the relationship people have with them.   She wild harvests fields and grows her own gardens to craft the balms, tinctures, tonics and teas that make up her apothecary. WSA has something for everyone; my first purchase was a soup-to-nuts camping kit equipped with an all-natural bug repellent and anti-itch balm. My current favorite is her mouth rinse that comes in a perfectly sized cobalt blue bottle that I can throw right in my bag.  Unlike other mouth rinses, it doesn't make the insides of your mouth peel away and leaves it with you a pepperminty, non-chemically refreshed feel that doesn't obliterate your tastebuds.  Her product listings are thoughtful and smart, not at all overdone or over the top.  If you're looking for an easy entry into the world of herbalism, look no further than Wild Seed Apothecary. 

What’s your first memory of being crafty? 

There was a lot of art making in my house growing up, and certainly a lot of nature-related crafts (my mom was an elementary science teacher). We did a lot of Andy Goldsworthy-esq art, collecting seedpods and arranging rocks and leaves. I remember in second grade making plans to start a “stone business” which involved rubbing rocks together until one was very, very, very smooth. It didn’t really take off, but I still have that first super smooth stone.  And Queen Anne’s Lace (QAL) is the first herb I learned the name of as a kid, picking it from the fields that lined our house, fitting of course as its medicine is all about women’s empowerment. I actually still harvest QAL for my work from that same property.

What’s your process? How do you create?

Setting the stage for creating is key.  I make a tea or herb-infused seltzer, burn some sage and listen to music, everything from Fiest to Aloe Blac, Modest Mouse to Stevie Wonder. Or, if I need to seriously concentrate, Miles Davis radio on Pandora!

Describe your workspace?

My workspace is multifaceted. I make my products in a certified kitchen space, but spend a lot of time tending to my medicine garden and wild-harvesting in the fields and forests of the Hudson River Valley.  However, most of my time is spent in my office, at a table underneath a huge red window overlooking the creek outside my house from which I often watch the birds—including a great blue heron and occasionally a bald eagle!

What do you want people to know about herbalism and Wild Seed Apothecary?

The study and use of plants as food and medicine is an ancient practice that WSA is working to revive in contemporary culture. It’s not an attack on, nor a dismissal of allopathic (western) medicine, rather, a complementary practice for people’s lives. WSA is focused on tonic, nourishing recipes used regularly and seasonally to maintain health and connect people with plants!

 

Where do you find inspiration?

Nature has always been my primary inspiration—for my art, Wild Seed products, my understanding of how the world works and spirituality.

Can you explain what “wild harvesting” means?

Wild harvesting is the term used to describe picking herbs that grow freely in fields and forests, not cultivated by humans. Sometimes these are native plants and sometimes they are non-native or invasive type species, often they are plants considered to be “weeds” by the general public – St. Johns wort, yarrow, goldenrod, clover, plantain, dandelion, etc. An important piece of this practice is to harvest in a sustainable manner; choosing only plants growing in abundant numbers, not harvesting a majority of what is growing in a specific area so as to not harm the plant population, and to give thanks to the plants, the sun and the soil for their work.

What are you working on for 2016?

Revamping my website to include a shop (instead of just linking to etsy), and adding more info to the energetic and soul-centered parts of the wellness shares and seasonal products is definately top of list.  And as always, I want to continue to help people relate to how we heal ourselves in conjunction with herbs.

Tell us about your seasonal shares.

The Seasonal Wellness Shares combine eastern and western herbal philosophy with local herbs to provide a seasonally appropriate medicine chest. The share includes two tinctures, two skin care products, one tea blend, two specialty items, one plant card (hand drawn image with horticultural and medicinal info), and written information regarding the nuances of the season and how to use each herbal product. Many of the products are tonics and work to nourish the body and protect from common ailments of the season.  Each product is handcrafted using organic and (mainly) local ingredients.

Where can we find more of your products?

Online at WildSeedApothecary.com or etsy.com/shop/wildseedapothecary. Select products can be found at Rodale’s online organic shop.  If you want to catch me in person, I attend farmers markets in Chappaqua, Hastings On Hudson, Irvington, the SOL Market at Water Street Market in New Paltz, the People’s Cauldron in Rosendale, and select specialty markets in NYC and the Hudson Valley—check the calendar on the website for updates!

Thanks for telling us more about yourself and WSA, Erin!

Q AND A WITH SANDRA OLES OF OLIVER GREEN

OLIVER GREEN D-RING BELTS ::  Q AND A WITH FOUNDER, SANDRA OLES

SANDRA OLES is the owner and designer of Oliver Green Belts, a handmade, fabric, D-ring belt company headquartered in Norwalk, CT. I first met Sandra back in 2009 at a show in Fairfield Connecticut. We had the good fortune of being situated tent-to-tent and before long, chitchat gave way to meaningful conversation and eventually, an enduring friendship.  Sandra's dedication to building a brand emboldened with her unique and diversified sensibilities has inspired me over the years.  She is always ready to "talk shop" and is positioned to leave a legacy by building a company that prides itself on quality, American-made craftsmanship.  Enjoy.

 

What’s your first memory of being crafty?

I remember being seven-years-old and coloring those intricate black and white illustration posters with felt tip markers, as well as crocheting blankets and making pot holders. When I was 10, I had a little store in my basement called the Disco Spot, as well as regular yard sales where I would sell clothing, candy and teach locals about new cool new dance moves and music. In junior high school, I would paint my black boots with white paint to make them my own. In my twenties, I would make shirts, skirts, and thermal long underwear pants with safety pin bandanas over the pee-pee hole in the front (laughs).

What’s your process?  How do you create?

While I look at fabric, I can envision it in belt form and buy based on my ability to “like” the visualization.

Describe your workspace. 

My workspace contains shelves of fabric remnants, bolts of material, a ton of threaded spools, and my trusty television where I DVR all sorts of movies, documentaries and programs that work as a catalyst for me to craft even longer.  This is especially great when I have a craft show coming up and I need to work long hours to re-stock my inventory.

What do you want people to know about being an entrepreneur and your company, Oliver Green?

I began Oliver Green Belts about 10 years ago, believing that the public needed high-quality, sophisticated conversation starters and classic belts. I was right and now, years later, Oliver Green is going strong and I am still invigorated by creating exceptionally tailored belts. There are other hand made D-ring belts on the market, however, they haven’t become a brand and are unmatched to Oliver Green in quality, design and durability. 

What do you want to share with people about being an entrepreneur?

My first word of advice is to make your idea even if others are making similar items because your individual stamp of sensibility, workmanship, and personality behind your brand is YOU, which cannot be replicated.  Second is to have “stick-to-it-ivness”.  It is probably the single most important element, as it takes time to build awareness, perfect your marketing strategy and to find your loyal client base. Do not be afraid to approach retailers to carry your product. Match up accordingly and understand that they are entrepreneurs as well, and you are essentially partners who are helping one another to be prosperous.

What is handmade? 

Everything is handmade, even if it’s made in China. However, in a factory setting, each person has their task and doesn’t deviate from it, which creates a disassociation from the product’s final outcome. When someone makes their products alone, handmade is incredibly important due to the personal investment, financial commitment to reduce waste, and the overall sense of achievement and pride associated with the product. Handmade items tend to be better and more carefully crafted, unique and special.  I find it very satisfying when a customer buys one of my belts. I know I made it and it’s always marvelous when I get to be out in the field and receive positive emotional reinforcement and quality feedback from my regular clients and various people attending craft shows and specialty boutique bazaars. Being in front of your customer is invaluable and listening to them sell your products to newbies in your tent, or as I like to call it, my "mobile store", keeps me fueled for the not-so-busy months. This type of direct selling also creates a great opportunity to interact with and talk to clients, and maybe obtain new ideas as a result. 

What advice do you have for someone starting his or her own handmade business? 

You will spend long hours creating, producing or manufacturing your product and quite often, it will be alone. It’s helpful to love what you do, as the hours snap by quickly. Mounting product is a satisfying visual reward for me; I'm a results-oriented person and always seek a sense of completion, so this works well for me—as does vacuuming my home (laughs).  But, if you have an idea, can visualize yourself having fun while making something, you might want to consider creating a business out of your hobby or love of craft.

What's the most satisfying aspect of what you do?

I am incredibly happy to have created such a fun, inspiring, and creative business. I am also grateful for having an interesting sensibility that satisfies all different styles of consumers. I enjoy mixing a couple or even a few different looks within one outfit. A belt is such a great way to express yourself without fully committing. It gives the onlooker a glimpse into one of the many facets of your personality, interests and personal style which is why one should choose a belt that feels right for them and them only.

Where do you find inspiration?   

I find inspiration in the fabrics. I also find it watching my customers search for their individuality while picking a belt. I always want people to buy a wilder belt or something they can’t find anywhere else because it will be a conversation piece, fun to wear and will make them feel that they can assert an element of their personal interest or taste in a way that isn’t overly intrusive or makes them feel self-conscious. A belt is a small but major way to tell the world a little bit about yourself without it being the main component of your look. It can be whimsical, decorative, sensible, fashion-forward, or dorky. I love every element of sustaining a look with a belt and I wear all kinds of prints depending on the day, the look I wish to achieve, or my own “level of rebel” in any given moment. 

Where can we find more of your products?   

You can find my products online at www.olivergreenonline.com and my newer creations on Instagram. Not every new print makes it to my website, they are mainly for my craft shows. 

Thanks for your time, Sandra. 

Thank you!

ANNOUNCING NEW BRAND

Over the past few months, I've received a lot of inquires from friends and customers as to where all R.E.D.'s antique, vintage and found pieces disappeared to.  It is with great excitement that I introduce to you Merchant, a collection of antique accessories curated by myself and my longtime friend and now partner, Lindsay Hansen.  For years we've combed flea markets, estate sales and antique stores and now, we're offering our favorite and most-special pieces from those places.  We'd love for you to check out our new site www.MerchantBrand.com and "like" our Facebook page! We also specialize in repairs, so whether you want to restore something you already have, or find something you've been looking for, we're the team for you.  Reach out to us anytime at MerchantBrand@gmail.com. 

HOW TO WRAP FEATHERS

A large part of my design style is inspired by nature, specifically, natural palates that blend seamlessly from one color to the next.  Feathers are a great example of this; grays, browns and blacks that shift in hue so subtly that color feels infinite.  A self-proclaimed bird enthusiast, I've been collecting feathers for years and recently, started incorporating them into necklaces.  Wrapping can be tricky as quills can be brittle, but with a little practice, you too can turn these treasures into wearable talisman.  Here's how it's done.

1)  You'll need a few tools:  needle nose pliers, flat nose pliers and clippers.  Then, depending on what you want to wrap your feather in, gold or silver wire.  I like a basic 16-gauge craft wire, but sterling or gold-fill works too if you want something a touch more fancy.

2)  First, let out approximately two inches of wire from your roll.  In the middle, use your needle nose pliers to make a loop.  Then, cut the wire.  You'll know you did it right if the piece you cut looks like a bird in flight. 

3)  Insert the quill through the loop in the wire.  One end of the wire should run parallel to the spine of the feather, the other perpendicular.  

4)  With your flat nosed pliers, grab the quill and the loop of the wire together.  This will help hold everything steady while you wrap.

5)  Take the perpendicular wire and wrap it around the quill of the feather, as well as wire running parallel to it, three times.  This creates a secure hold that, if applied with moderate tension, will not slip when worn.  Wrapping the wire too tightly might pinch the quill and change the shape of the feather.  This is notably the hardest part of wrapping and could take a few attempts to get right.

6)  Once wrapped, snip the end that runs parallel to the spine, as well as the perpendicular end that you used to wrap the feather.

7)  Sharp clippers should give you a clean cut, but if not, a metal file helps smooth a rough edge.

Feathers can be hung on a necklace, from a rearview mirror or even from mobile.  Use them to make earrings, a dreamcatcher or for any project that needs a special touch.  Enjoy!