DIY Alert's blog
Scarlet Star Studios is one of those very special places in Portland where the creative process is revered, and the muse is always invited.
The Studio is the creation of Gretchin Lair and Sven Bonnichsen, a highly-creative couple who work in visual and literary arts, as well as animation, theater, and music. You can participate in an Artist's Way Creative Cluster, or take a workshop, or stop by for the monthly Free Collage Night. The space is even available to rent for your next creative gathering.
Enjoy this interview with Gretchin, and be sure to take a look at the Scarlet Star Studios schedule of events.
How did you come to open Scarlet Star Studios? When I fled San Diego to fabulous Portland in 2003 I was looking for an Artist's Way group to join. When I couldn't find one I decided to start my own! With the support of an equally creative partner, that's now grown into a lively studio that offers a wide range of opportunities for art exploration. Mars was at its closest approach to the Earth when I first moved here and impossible to miss in the night sky, so the "scarlet star" that welcomed me to Portland seemed like a good omen.
What kinds of event and classes happen there? Our events are for anyone who wants to be more creative or try something new in a safe, inspiring environment. Artist's Way Creative Clusters are what I love most to offer, since they allow for emotional growth over time to overcome fear or whatever else is keeping you from making art. To maintain creative momentum I also offer a free collage night every month, a different "guided art" night every month, and I host workshops taught by gentle & talented instructors. Earlier this year we hosted an Edible Book Tea, where people brought edible sculptures inspired by books!
Why do you think it's important for people to access their creativity? Because it makes us more human. Because it makes us more aware. Because it makes us more compassionate and active and appreciative. Because it's something we're all born to do. Because it's pleasurable. Because imagination is more important than knowledge. Because art is a language and we each have something to say. Because it's the only way dreams become reality. Because nobody can do it for us.
What kinds of making do you do, when you're not fostering creativity in others? I love anything with words. Theatre, poetry and calligraphy have all been different manifestations of that desire, but I also love the printing arts (especially letterpress & gocco) and recently have been making jewelry with words, too.
How do you define the difference between Art and Craft? I am at heart a creative advocate, so I want people to -create-, no matter what form it takes. But I especially want to encourage people to create things that are personally meaningful and truthful for them, so I love this quote from St. Francis: "He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist." For me, art is about story and heart. It is an expression of Self. Art doesn't need to be pretty to be worthwhile. Craft is skillful and useful, but when it is done in the spirit of self-expression, then it, too, becomes art.
What are some of your favorite creative spots in Portland? Anywhere that supports making stuff, and especially those places that support creative self-expression: Art of Your Life Church of Craft Trillium Artisans Write Around Portland IPRC The 100th Monkey Studio Collage SCRAP
I ran across Chatty D at Crafty Wonderland earlier this summer, and really loved Jennifer and Natalie's take on "T-shirt surgery," using awesome graphics from vintage tees and interesting hand-stitching. Chatty D makes garments for women and children. (And these would then be the coolest children around.) Enjoy this interview with Natalie, and see more at the Chatty D website.
How did you begin creating one-of-a-kind T-shirts? During one exceptionally boring summer home from college, a friend and I found a couple of old t-shirts at a local thrift store that we fell in love with. The only problem was that both of the t-shirts were too small. Determined to wear the t-shirt designs one way or another, we came up with the idea of cutting out the graphics and sewing them onto plain t-shirts we already owned. Adding the colorful thread and unique stitch evolved after making several more t-shirts that summer. I got compliments all the time on the shirts, but it wasnt until my family gave me a confident push did I even consider making the t-shirts to sell.
You've managed to find so many cool graphics for your shirts! What kinds of images do you gravitate toward? Im very picky about the t-shirt images I use. I can spend hours in a thrift store looking through racks of t-shirts and only find three or four that I really like enough to buy. I love vintage-looking graphics, ones that look like they were well loved by the previous owner. Unique looking artwork and slogans from local restaurants and shops is also a favorite of mine.
With all your designs being one-of-a-kind, I'll bet some of them are hard to let go of when you sell them. What's one of your all-time favorites? I definitely have a hard time letting go of many of my t-shirts, but my favorite shirt is definitely the second shirt I ever made (and still have) that was printed an old faded periwinkle t-shirt reading Newport Rodeo with a picture of a bucking bronco. I sewed it onto a simple black t-shirt with thick black criss-cross stitching.
What is your take on the difference between "Art" and "Craft?" Art is creative while craft is technical. Art is a physical and creative expression of imagination while craft is skilled and deliberate. The graphics I find are separate pieces of art that I combine with my craft of sewing to create new pieces of wearable art.
What are some of your favorite creative spots in Portland? Portland has a ton of great thrift and second hand stores, where I get most of my inspiration and creative ideas. I also like to check out the various art walks around town.
Woo! It's a new semi-regular DIY Alert feature! From time to time, we'll give you an inside look at some of our favorite crafty spots in Portland -- of which there are soooooo many.
The Knittn' Kitten may be a bit of a drive for some of you. It's at 7530 NE Glisan - and it's 100% worth any amount of travel to get there.
"The Kitten" as it's affectionately known among people who frequent it, is a craft supply thrift store. Owners Ethel Stark and Rome Church (a mother-daughter team) comb estate sales, garage sales, and the infamous Bins to find cast-off crafty stuff, and they re-sell it at unbelievably low prices.
Here are just a few highlights from a recent visit:
Vintage and new fabric abounds -- both yardage for sewing projects, and smaller pieces for quilting. Prices range from less than a buck for the small bits, to $3.00 - $5.00 for yardage pieces.
There's also lots of assorted yarn available for the knitting and crochet-lovers, as well as needles and hooks in all sizes for just a couple dollars. Skeins are priced from $2.00 up to $4.00 each, and you'll find everything from Red Heart to novelty yarns to wools and alpacas and more.
If you're a fan of trims, ribbons, lace, seam-binding, or ric-rac, you can find all of these in abundance, and usually for a dollar or less. I swoon . . . .
You can also find loads of buttons, conveniently sorted by color and style for just a couple dollars a bag. Beads, too! Everything from Czech glass to plastic pony beads for the kids. Not to mention, intriguing little bits of wedding floral, and vintage sewing boxes, and embroidery flosses, and . . . wait. I need to take a deep breath.
Oh -- patterns, too! Vintage and recent ones. And, all kinds of vintage craft magazines.
And by the way, The Knittn' Kitten also offers knitting and beading classes! Contact them for more information.
I could go on and on here . . . but you should get down to The Kitten and see for yourself. Tell 'em DIY Alert sent you. And try to leave at least a few things there for my next visit.
You may have seen Handmade Julz at some local craft fairs over the summer -- you know, that awesome table display involving the rice? Julie makes bright, beautiful graphic jewelry, surounded by playful wire-work. She's a graphic designer as well as a jewelry-maker, so the graphics in her pendants, bracelets and rings are all her own work. Visit her website to see more!
So how was Handmade Julz born? How did you come to combine your graphic work with jewelry? Handmade Julz was born about 3 years ago. At that time, I was decorating the stems of wine/martini glasses with wire and colorful beads as well as making magnets with small glass gems. In my small apartment things got mixed up on my table so with the combination of all of these pieces around each other I came up with the idea to make my first ring. It was a wedding gift for my friend Suzy, using a piece of her beautifully illustrated invite.
Soon after, I began creating lots of rings that my wonderful mom so graciously offered to try and sell at shows where she was selling her coffee. She came back to me saying that I needed to find a way to make my rings adjustable because a lot of people were wanting to buy them as gifts, but didn't know if they would fit. I figured out a way to make the rings adjustable and also began working on bracelets and necklaces. In the beginning, the images that I was using under the glass were croppings of vintage postcards, but later realized that I should be creating and using my own art as the focus to create a more unique product. After 6 months of creating my jewelry, I started working on a website and 6 months after that launched handmadejulz.com
What kinds of things inspire the images you create for your jewelry? I am inspired by so many things! I love texture, color, patterns, nature and cuteness! My latest images were inspired by all of the wonderful fresh fruit and veggies we have here in Oregon. I usually create images that I would like to wear myself. My boyfriend Brian is also an artist, and he's created about 8 of the images for the site for a different style. When an idea for an image comes to mind I just write It down because I am constantly surrounded by things that I am inspired by.
And people can order customized pieces from you -- tell us about that.
On my website, every order is a custom order. You first choose the piece of jewelry that you would like whether it's a ring, bracelet or necklace. Then you just let me know the image # and wire color that you would like for that piece. I can also create a piece of jewelry with any image that a person sends me for an additional $10.
You've had your business for a couple of years now. What would you say is the most important thing you've learned along the way That's a hard question. I have learned a lot in 2 years. I have learned that the internet is definitely great for business. It's great to have amazing friends and family like I do that have really helped spread the word about my jewelry. I have learned to just be myself and really let my personality come through in the products that I am creating and also in any form of communication that I have with customers.
I've learned about many useful sites like sitemeter.com which lets you track visitors to your site for free! Indiecollective.com, indiedesignerlabels.com, and BUST Magazine's Girl Wide Web are all sites that independent designers can post their sites on to get more traffic, which I have found helpful. I have also learned that the quality of your product is important because your customer will notice a difference. And most important might be the realization that there is never enough time in a day!
How do you define the difference between "Art" and "Craft?" Interesting question. I feel that for myself, and many others out there, they are one in the same. My artwork is incorporated into my craft. Typically though, I think of 'craft' serving more of functional purpose than 'art'.
As a recent transplant to Portland, what are some of your favorite creative spots here so far? This city is great for creativity. I love it! I think that for me just getting out of the house or spending time with friends is when I come up with new ideas. This summer my favorite creative spots have been my studio and also going to Mt. Tabor and to Laurelhurst Park and working there. Coming from Texas, I wasn't ever able to do that during the summer!
Here's yet more evidence of Portland's crafty magnificence.
A big group of PDX Etsy sellers have designated this weekend (all day Saturday and Sunday, Aug 25 and 26) as their BOGO Sale. That's BOGO as in "Buy One, Get One" . . . Free!
If you head over here, you can find links to all the participating Etsy stores, and begin to take advantage of the Crafty Goodness. As of Friday, some vendors already have details on their BOGO offers posted, so you can stake out your shopping territory early.
. . . And I should add, I got just magnificently distracted trying to pick out a few images for this post. So many distractingly pretty things!
What a great way to fill the time before Sunday's Church of Craft meeting. :-)
I love the clocks Mary Potts makes - they're colorful and whimsical, and way more interesting to look at than my little digital computer clock. Mary also makes wall art and recycled art, along with her husband. Check out their website, Infinity Arts Gallery.
How did you first become interested in making art clocks? My husband, Justin, was the one to come up with the idea of making clocks. When we began our company 7 years ago, he was making mandalas out of a bunch of old records and, looking at the hole in the center, saw the potential for making clocks. The first clocks were all made from 12" vinyl, 10" and 7" records, cd's, gears, washers, egg poacher pieces and other thrift store finds. Eventually, we discovered mdf (fiberboard), which opened up the potential for shape and size. We really had no idea how far we would go making clocks, but we've found great satisfaction making functional, affordable art.
How do you go about designing a clock? How much do form and function influence your creative decision-making? I love doodling designs in my sketchbook. Typically, I design all of my clocks on paper first, then I play with colors. I'm a total minimalist usually when it comes to designing. I am primarily interested in the combining of colors and shapes to pull each clock together. As for form and function, that's easy! When making a clock, the function is inherent in the design to begin with - I like having a structure like that to work within. The form can then follow in an infinite variety of ways...so long as the clock ticks and the pendulum swings.
What kinds of things inspire your work? It seems that everything I set my eyes on becomes fodder for my creative process. I am attracted to the minimal and the repetitive in other people's designs and I'm inspired by shapes and designs in the natural world - flora in particular. Of course, I am inspired by my husband's and my son's art because it is all around me all the time.
What is your take on the difference between "Art" and "Craft"? This is kind of a fun question to answer, in particular because I am a self-proclaimed student of cultural evolution and the role of women in history and religion. Historically, in patriarchal, male-dominated societies, the term "art" was reserved for predominantly male arts such as sculpture, painting, and architecture, whereas the term "craft" covered predominantly womanly arts (lesser arts, as they were deemed) such as pottery and weaving. Even though the terms have evolved beyond their superior/inferior roots, they are still extremely arbitrary. If I'm thinking about art and craft In an idealistic way, I think that art is purely an outpouring of creative inspiration, whereas craft is created with a specific end very much in mind.
What are some of your favorite creative spots in Portland? Being very much a hermit, my most favorite creative spot in Portland is my home studio, which looks out to an acre of northwest forest and foliage. Aside from that, I enjoy perusing gift and home decor stores representing local artists, the Portland Art Museum, the pottery section at New Seasons, garage sales; and I love to sit with my sketchbook at the Haven Coffee shop on SE Division.
I love softies with personality! And I love them even more en masse. Noelle Withington makes an utterly charming display at PDX craft fairs, bringing a mountain of her colorful, happy friends. Visit the Noelle Doodle Etsy Store, where they will make you pancakes and all your problems will be solved.
How did you come to be a maker of stuffed friends? I began creating these guys about 4 years ago. I usually make all of my Christmas presents, and one year I made an octopus with 7 legs for my best friend's daughter. She really liked it, and I received lots of positive feedback about it from other people. So I began making other octopuses here and there for other kids, if they had a birthday or something. When I moved here in August is when I first realized that there was a market for handmade stuffed animals. There was really not much of a craft scene where I'm from ( Jacksonville FL), and I was really impressed by the what was going on in Portland. It was definitely a wake up call for me to show off my lil' friends to the world.
I love looking at your website, because each one of your creations has a name, and a hobby. Did you give your creations names and hobbies, or did they tell you? The personalities are usually just stream of consciousness. I think of little oddities that will be fun to read. Sometimes I do base the descriptions on people I know. I made one creature that looked a lot like my friend Ryan. I named the doll Ryan and in the description I wrote "I lost an eye once, but it came back", which is something that actually did happen to my friend (long story).
Do you have a favorite among all the stuffed friends you've made? Most recently I made a chicken named Becky. I especially like her because I didn't intend for her to be a chicken, she just sort of evolved into one. Sometimes I have a clear idea of the creature I am going to make and sometimes I just cut out random shapes and see what happens. It's a lot of fun when I get a great product in such a natural way.
What do you think is the difference between "Art" and "Craft"? I see art as something that exists purely for its aesthetic value. Its main function is to be visually stimulating. Craft, on the other hand, is aesthetically pleasing or interesting as well as functional. It is art that has a practical use.
What are some of your favorite creative spots in Portland? I have lived here such a short time that I not yet chosen my favorite creative spot. I do love going to craft fairs like Crafty Wonderland and Handmade Bazaar to see all the great things other people have come up with.
This week, we're checking out an innovative crafty business called Velo Fiori. Proprietress Tara Tamaribuchi-Gibbs makes very stylish reflectors you can wear to keep you safe when you're biking or walking after dark. What a great idea! See more at the Velo Fiori website.
Your business, Velo Fiori, has an interesting name. What does it mean? "Fiori" means "flower" and "velo" means "speed" in Italian. In French, "velo" also means "bicycle." Velo Fiori could be "fast flower" or "bicycle flower." Or "fast bicycle flower."
How did you get started making stylish reflectors for safety? I started making the reflectors in February. I first was inspired by the increase in bicycle commuting in Portland and the need for fashionably progressive active wear. Online, I purchased several different kinds of reflective fabrics and tapes and played around with them. I also shopped at several different fabric stores in Portland to get ideas. At first, they were pretty flimsy. It has been an ongoing progression to get them where they are now. I am still finding ways to improve upon them and have more designs in mind.
Who can stay safer by wearing your reflectors? Anyone -- men, women, children and pets -- who are outside at dusk or night can benefit from reflectors. As these are fashion reflectors, anyone who is concerned with expressing personal style might feel physically and fashionably safe and visible. I have some idyllic situations in mind -- a dinner picnic, camping, riding your bicycle while night clubbing, playing in the street or at a park, looking smart as you pin it to your suit lapel and ride home from work, going for an evening run. Also, if you are in a slightly rural area, like in Hood River or Yamhill County, the reflectors would be useful as such areas don't have many street lights.
What makes your pieces reflect light? Each piece features an industrial grade of 3M Scotchlite reflective fabric. It is composed of retroreflective lenses that illuminate a bright white when light shines on it.
What is your take on the difference between "Art" and "Craft?" Art and craft can be ambiguous and distinctive. It really depends how the artist or crafter or artisan identifies themselves and their work, as well as what century they live in and their culture / region of the world.
In the contemporary art world, a successful formal artist has something to say, and conveys his or her ideas very well. A good artist can be traditionally crafty, but skills are making objects are not necessary for certain kinds of mediums -- such as art that you cannot sell in a gallery, like performance, happenings and installations. Some artwork is based on an artist's idea, but it might take a crew or an entire community to crystallize it. Contemporary art can be something that someone can't buy, but crafts are usually objects to be sold. Crafters inherently are skilled and pragmatic. They work towards making something that someone would want to purchase and use. They can have a message to relay, but messages are not mandatory for their crafts to be useful.
But here again, the lines between craft and art blur. Artists have used craft to convey their ideas, like Miriam Schapiro in the early 1970s, using quilting as a traditional women's work to celebrate feminism. Today, with the popularity of craft, there are many young artists using embroidery, crochet, sewing and paper arts to share personal ideas instead of broader social messages. Much of their work is process-based. There is a cool new book out this year: By Hand: The Use of Craft in Contemporary Art documenting this ongoing movement. The artist I was most moved by is Robyn Love, who knits cozies for such public objects as statues, parking meters, headstones and light poles.
What are some of your favorite creative spots in Portland? Ideas tend to come to me when I'm trying to fall asleep or when I'm doing something really mundane, like taking a shower or brushing my teeth. So perhaps some of my favorite creative spots are the bathroom and the bedroom.
I first saw Geri Jarvis' work at Crafty Wonderland, and was blown away. She takes all manner of tiny plastic toys, and cuts parts from them, and embeds them into plastic bottle caps, with the occasional word or phrase. And they're simply amazing. See more at her Etsy store, or email her if you'd like a personalized pendant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How did you arrive at the unique combination of materials you use? This is a long story but, briefly, I guess that ultimately the idea of using small toys in a jewelry form came to me by way of my sister, Jackie Hoyt, a Portland artist. She makes these fantastic shadow boxes using antique toys. (Check out her work at Mary Lou Zeek's Gallery.) I kept thinking she ought to try something on a smaller scale, like jewelry. Over the last few years Ive been making jewelry out of tree branches, stones and hand dyed ribbon. I love the idea of using any kind of discards, even natures discards. Anyway, my hands began to hurt from all of the sanding so I decided to give it a rest for awhile. Not one for sitting still, I began thinking about the jewelry/toy idea again and thought if my sister wasnt going to do it, then maybe I should give it a try. I just couldnt figure out how to pull it all together in a neat little frame. I kept thinking about metal, but I hadnt taken a jewelry or metal smith class since college. Then one day I was looking at a plastic bottle cap, thinking "this is about the size of a frame I would need," and a few days after that it hit me that not only would it be the right size, it would be the right material too.
I love the fact that the materials in your pendants were once destined for the landfill! Why do you like to use reclaimed materials in your work? Well you know what they say; one mans junk is another mans treasure! Yes, I do like the idea of giving an item a second chance. It makes me sad to think that so much is thrown away, and that someone else might really be able to save whatever it is with just the tiniest bit of TLC. I grew up with a thrifty mother and Goodwill shopping was part of her routine. She knew how to stretch a dollar and turn rags into riches.
The only problem was that at the time I was completely embarrassed by this fact. Now of course I admire it and wish more people would do it. Anyway, one thing I would like people to understand when they see my work is that I am not cutting up any toy that was in perfect shape. The toys are dirty, and chewed on and the doll hair is always completely trashed. Ive also noticed that children seem to like to draw on their toys, little artists in the making perhaps! As far as the bottle caps, I like the idea of saving them and saving the earth, and it is now my turn to embarrass someone else. Kudos goes to my husband, who must put up with the lengths I will go to reclaim a bottle cap. For instance, Tuesday is the night my neighborhood puts their trash out at the curb and yes, I do actually rummage through my neighbors recycle bins taking caps off bottles! I also frequent the bottle return area at Fred Meyer and take caps off bottles in the plastic recycle bin at my gym. I am sure people think I am some kind of crazy person. Obviously my friends and family also contribute to the cause, and unfortunately there isnt a day that goes by that I dont find at least one on the ground. Do you start a pendant with a specific design in mind, or does it just come together as you're working on it? Good question. I do start with a plan, but sometimes a mistake will lead me in another direction. I use a pour-on varnish product and because of the drying time there are usually several pours to each cap. The process can take several days so there are plenty of chances to change my mind. I usually work on several pieces at a time and layer smaller items in as I go. Sometimes I will have one word, or phrase in mind when I start the piece, but will change my mind as I near completion. Sometimes I am immediately inspired just looking at a toy, or the face of a doll. So far the ideas continue to come to me, thank goodness! What do you think is the difference between "Art" and "Craft?" This is your most difficult question so far! I think I use the term "artist" and "craftsman" interchangeably. Earlier I referred to my sister as an artist, but I also consider her to be a craftsman. She is an art major, as was my father. I started out with the intention of being an art major, but ended up majoring in liberal arts after determining for myself that I didnt really have much talent, comparatively speaking anyway. I think that during college, and probably for some years after that, the term craftsperson probably would have been offensive to me. Now, after all of these years to think about it without the influence of professors and family, I am not sure that I can really make a distinction between the two. Once I would have said that craft has a function, but clearly you can walk into any gallery and find pottery, jewelry, furniture and even clothing that is functional yet can evoke an emotional response, and that I might even consider a work of art. I think it is a shame that the term craft is sometimes equated with cheapness and I would encourage people to start attending shows like Crafty Wonderland and give craft another look because they might just be pleasantly surprised. What are some of your favorite creative spots in Portland? Personally I draw a lot of inspiration at the Goodwill Bins. I look at everything with a sense of possibility. I look at the other regular shoppers there and am inspired by them as well. Not only are some of them artists/craftspeople but there are also others that are saving items that might otherwise go to the dump. There are many people who will shop at a second hand shop but wouldnt set foot at the Goodwill bins. Little do they know that what they are buying at the resale shop actually came from the bins. Anyway, you have to feel good that someone is taking the time to sort through that stuff and save it. Also I just recently visited The 100th Monkey Studio and was very impressed by what the owners have done there. I am planning on making a donation of some craft supplies I probably wont use again and would encourage all parents whose children have outgrown their puff paints and glitter to consider The 100th Monkey Studio as an alternative to the garbage can. I also like Alberta Street quite a bit and always find inspiration at the summertime art festivals like Art in the Pearl. There really are so many talented people living among us here in Portland!
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