Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Jar Runneth Over



http://www.talkless-saymore.com/2013/01/02/the-jar-of-good-things/
From Talk Less, Say More Blog, click above to jump there.

Have you seen this directive online? I did, December of 2012. I thought it would be a great way to celebrate the good things that happen in life, but I often forget happened. I also thought that it would be a way to 'hunt the good stuff' everyday, find *at least* one thing that day that was positive.

I set out to do this for the whole of 2013. I put out an antique milk jar on a shelf at eye level, in the kitchen, next to a spot I walk by about 200 times a week, so I  would see it EVERYDAY. I cut stripes of brightly colored paper so all the good things had a happy place to live on. I was mindful during the day to search out the good stuff in my everyday life. I would try to jot the one thing down at night. I made up a rule for myself: at least one thing per day. Not just when good things seem to happen, but *everyday.* I was set. I was ready for The Hunt!

Some days it was so easy. 'Long lunch with an old friend', 'Worked on the project for a new client', 'Spa world', 'Made some yummy homemade soup', 'Met my friends' new baby!', 'Delivered project to client' are just a sampling of the types of things I would write down. Even as I walked and talked though my life, I might think "this will be my thing for today". It was working. The jar started to fill with happy, colorful life. I was hunting -and finding- the good stuff.

Early in the year, I had a particularly great day where six fantastic things happened. I was overwhelmed by having six individually good things to write down! Was this too good to be true? Was this a look at things to come in the future? Could my life be counted on to create many more than one good thing a day? 

The answer was no.

Some days, it was all I could do to find one thing. During stressful periods, it was down right hard. I fakebook like a pro, but I felt that this would be lying to myself to fudge my 'good thing'. I remember one day that I wrote down "Nothing truly bad happened today" because that was the silver lining I could find.

I hit a rough patch in July, right as the heat of the year was ramping up, I was winding down. I had a sudden break up that left very little mental energy to Hunt. I listened to "Summertime Sadness" by Lana Del Ray more times than was healthy, wanted to wear red and have big hair (humidity obliged).  I felt that I tried, but just didn't care about the project anymore. How many times can one be 'happy' that she got through the day without crying? So, I loosened my hold on my rules and didn't force myself to find one good thing per day. 'Got through the meeting without yelling at anyone', 'Didn't cry today', 'Only played sad songs for one hour' were a sampling of the good things from this time. The fill line in the jar leveled out and stayed pretty stagnant for a while.

Looking back, this was the most pressing time to be practicing hunting the good stuff. When you can't see it right in front of you, you have to dig a little deeper to find it. That's what I should have been working on. But, I just didn't care.

As time flowed, I came back around to The Hunt everyday. I let it slide if I forgot for 3 days straight, but might triple up if things were going my way. The project didn't feel oppressive and false, but a positive thing again. I was more relaxed about it and felt it becoming more natural. I have always been a 'let's look at this another way' type of person, so I just had to tap into that, especially in a productive way. 

End of the year craziness ensued and there was little time to even jot one line down, but I continued through the end of the year. I didn't remember the part of the directive that stated you should read all the awesomeness on New Years Eve. For some reason, I thought it was that you should read one of the good things from last year each day of the next year. So, when I went away for New Year's Eve, I didn't bring all my papers with me and actually didn't figure this out until I just looked for the photo above.


My jar runneth over. L-R, current year's jar, last year's jar and little happy bits waiting to be documented

I came home thinking I would read one slip of paper a day. I wanted to transfer the little bits into a different jar and use the same one for the current year, trying to fill it up more this time. However, when I moved the paper, the jar I selected, the only one I could find that was seemed remotely big enough, was not, in fact big enough. As I planned to slowly empty this container, it didn't seem important that they didn't fit.

Later, it struck me as poignant that when viewed by one standard, the larger jar, my life last year didn't have as many good things as I would have liked. Viewed from a different standard, the smaller jar, my jar runneth over with good things.

My universe is small, my reach quite literally the people I hug. My jar can be as big or as little as I make it. I just have remember that no matter what size, no matter how 'few good things', my cup will always run over with the good stuff I will continue to hunt, because I will make it so.


Ready to join The Hunt?


Happiest New Year ~Jen

Monday, December 16, 2013

Jingle Mingle ~ Studio Holiday Shopping Event


Jingle Mingle
Studio Holiday Shopping Event


Please join Jen-A-Fusion on
Thursday, December 19 from 3pm to 9pm in
Torpedo Factory Studio 320 to celebrate the season!


Relax.
Raise a glass.
Shop.
Breathe.
Munch.
Smile.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving a Gift Less Ordinary

I live a life less ordinary and at this time of the year, I try to balance the kinds of gifts I give. The people on my list are not cookie cutter, why should they be given cookie cutter gifts? If you are reading this- if you are one of my customers- you probably aren't filling everyone's stocking merely from the corporately owned stores. However, perhaps you are stuck wondering where to go to find alternatives to mass produced goods. Below is a list of some great ideas that will help you think outside the (big) box, this holiday season... and all year long....

1. Local Art Centers

While it seems a little self serving, (I am writing this, after all!) I *have* to remind people about my two studios, and many others, that will have some one of a kind, handcrafted work available.



This coming Friday, November 29 at the Workhouse Arts Center, there will be a Black Friday Holiday Celebration. This annual event is a family friendly way to  meet with the makers of the pieces and get a special gift for a special someone. In addition, there will be food vendors, a Santa sighting and  Christmas musical performances. Demos, plenty of free parking and extended hours (9am-7pm) round out our offering.  My work can be found in Building 9, Studio 912.  For more information, see the Workhouse website.

On the following Friday, December 6, the Torpedo Art Center will be hosting the annual Holiday Open House from 6:30-9pm. There will be artists to make connections with, help with the 'hard to buy for' folks on your list. This is a perfect date/shopping night with food and drink sprinkled around the studios. Leave the kids at home, grab your honey and head to Old Town. Make sure you check out the super gift shop for very cool stocking stuffers for the design minded. My work can be found in studio 320 on the third floor.  For more information, visit the Torpedo website.
 
These centers are great resources for the whole holiday season. They can both be rented for a party in a beautiful setting, a wonderful place to explore with out of town family, or just a break from the crazy end of the year rush.

Here is a short list of some DC local art centers for more unique shopping experiences where you often get to met the creators:

~Arlington Arts Center

~Art Enables

~Gallery Underground

~Monroe Street Market

~Pyramid Atlantic Art Center 

~Union Street Market (While not a true art center, there are handcrafted goods galore, plus lots of great gifts for foodies)


2. Craft Fairs and Markets

In so many European cities, the center of town gets transformed into a winter wonderland of little stalls with twinkle lights and music. In its 9th year, the Downtown Holiday Market brings the joy of outdoor holiday shopping to DC. The list of vendors rotates from day to day, so each and every visit is a new and unique experience. Fine art, handcrafted accessories, food made fresh, antiques and fair trade gifts are all on display every single day for 25 days.

Jen-A-Fusion will be in booth #56 from Friday, December 6 through Thursday, December 12th. I've been at this market every year since the beginning and it has become a tradition for me to do my own holiday shopping! So much that I often go back on a day I'm not vending, just so I can walk around and truly enjoy myself. I can't wait to see my market friends and what they are making and carrying this year!

While the above is the biggest and the best (in my opinion!) holiday craft show in the DC area, there are a TON of events like this in pretty much every neighborhood. Places of worship, schools and non profit organizations often hold shows where part of the profits go back to the hosting venue. Shopping at these shows keeps your dollars in your neighborhood.

For example, I will also be at the Del Ray Artisans Fine Art & Fine Craft Holiday Market for their second weekend of festivities, Friday, Dec 13- Sunday December 15. Come shop inside with an intimate group of craftspeople. Pick up some baked goodies and a poinsettia. Chat with friends, relax. More information here.

Here is a very small list of events. There are many, many more to visit!


3. Thrift Stores, Antique and Charity Shops

While some people might turn their back on giving a 'used' item for a gift, these stores are places off the beaten path to scout for individuals with specialized tastes. I have a friend whose mother collects salt and pepper shakers. She has scored some very nice and unique sets at antique shops. Higher end thrift stores often have brand new items with tags still on. Consignment shops, which are picker about what goods they bring in, might have a designer section with a vintage Hermes scarf for grandma or the perfect pair of pearl earrings for your niece. Part of the fun of these places is the search! Try to find an independently run store that is attached to a church or non profit, so you know your purchase is helping another person, not just another company.

This holiday season, my work can be found at Community Forklift in Edmonston, MD. This is a 'home improvement' store that carries salvage, surplus and recycled building materials. They have carved out a space in their very unique store for the Green Gift Fair. Artisans that use eco friendly materials have work on display. Many of the pieces are made from supplies found at the store. For more information, check out their website.   Or, check out the store itself! You might lose yourself for hours there...


4. Museum Shops

Museum gift shop catalogs have been a holiday staple for years and now with online shopping, you can buy from a gift shop in a city you have never visited. However, if you live in an urban area, hit them up in person. There are many stores I've seen that have very cool gift ideas which are quite specific. Shopping for a history buff? Stop in the shop at the National Archives. Know a design freak? Try the National Building Museum. What about a science geek? Take a peek at the National Aquarium's wares.


5. Fair trade and socially conscious shops

Fair trade had the sad reptuation of badly made items. Thankfully, there are several organizations that are making great changes to that misconception. Ten Thousand Villages is one of my favorites that I always stop in at the holidays. They carry a large variety of gift items from cookbooks to wooden toys to organic chocolates and bath salts. The prices are reasonable and you can rest easy to know that the person that made this item was paid a fair wage.

Busboys and Poets, one of my favorite local restaurant chains, often hold small, fair trade shops. There is always something cool and different to browse while waiting for your DC Tap Water. Red Persimmon Imports, a mainstay vendor at the Eastern Market, has opened a boutique at 3800 Howard Ave, Kensington, MD. I can't wait to visit and see all the wonderful handcrafted goods that the owner, Katrina, helps design in Indian.  I love her cotton scarves and wear them year round!


6. eBay, Craigslist and Freecycle

Collectable antiques abound, as well as super cheap deals when people clean out their garage. Want to get your uncle a rare baseball card to fill his collection? Look here. Think your cousin would like their favorite childhood lunch box again? Scan the listings. Wonder if you can find a classic Radio  Flyer Red Wagon for your new niece? You can, but it is death trap. Rethink that one...


7. Your own closet

Again, many folks might find this completely gauche. However, I think regifting is just another type of recycling. Perhaps you got a scarf last year that just is not you, so it was never worn. Sitting sadly all alone in the back of the closet, it is lonely and unfulfilled. You know your friend Sally would love it. And, it would love Sally. So, off to Sally it goes to live it's destiny.

This is also a good way to gift family hand me downs that might be too valuable to give outside the family. Extras from a birthday party. A bottle of wine brought for a party can become a hostess gift. If the other person could use and like it more than you, why not?


8. Handcrafted Online Marketplaces

Most people who are craft-heads and love to made and buy hand crafted know about Etsy, the leader of the online marketplace for handcrafted goods. However, many people might not realize that they are just one of dozens of such websites. Each has it's own look and focus and might take time to get to know. Here is a short list of some of the sites available for artists to list their work. This might not be the most up to date, but does seem to be quite inclusive. Many of these online business will be running Cyper Monday deals, so check to make sure you get your discount!


9. Charity donations

Donating to a cause in the name of a person very passionate about it is a thoughtful way to acknowledge their devotion. Families of child with medical issues might not need another stuffed animal but would appreciate a donation made in their name to a reputable organization that does work in the field. Likewise, a co worker who lost a loved one would be touched by the same gesture. It is personal and effective, without giving a 'thing'.

Confused about who to give to? So am I, that is why I'm not endorsing anyone here! There are a few sites that might help you decide. Give Well and Charity Navigator both rate organizations based on many factors and can help you evaluate who to trust. Just in time for Giving Tuesday (December 3 this year), which is a day focused on charity, service and community. Many institutions might have special matching funds for that day, so check before you make a commitment. Also, if you work for a large company, see if they have a matching program as well. Make those dollars count!


10. 'Experience' gifts

This fairly broad category is termed 'experience gifts' because they are based on an event, rather than a material possession. Tickets to a concert or play, classes, reservations to see a comedy show, gift certificate to a spa or massage. A chance to go to Medieval Times. Has your husband mentioned several times a new restaurant he would like to go to? Get a gift card. Does your boss think she's Tom Cruise from 'Cocktail', but with all thumbs? Give her a bartending course. Check out Living Social and Groupon for many of these activities, as well as skydiving, cooking, wine tasting and painting parties. 


11. Make your OWN

Use those Pinterest boards for more than drooling! Get thee to Michael's and get crafting! Make yummy  jam and wrap it up in some burlap for a casually elegant gift. Create personal stationary for your friends with all that paper you keep buying (and doing nothing with...) Stamp away bookmarks for your book group. What have you been waiting to make? Make it for all your friends and impress the heck outta everyone.   

You knew I was going to have to reference Martha here, right?? See what she thinks you should/could make this season.


12. Snack Friday

Why not totally ignore holiday shopping this week and participate in an alternative called "Snack Friday"? This time of year is hard on the services that help out the less fortunate, the period right after Thanksgiving especially. Make an effort to buy extra non perishables to donate. No soup kitchens in your area? See if there is a group taking donations. Churches, schools and other civil groups will be in full force right now, especially with the major weather events happening in the world.

One lesson I was taught loud and clear as a child was that no matter how little I thought I had, there were others with less. A truly important thought to remember right now.  


Whatever, however, wherever you spend your dollars this holiday season and throughout the year,  balance it out. If you must MUST do black friday at the mall, do Small Business Saturday. Make a commitment for every $10 spent at a big box, spend $5 at a local 'mom and pop', like the Del Ray Variety Store, which is stocked with very clever items for gift giving.


I found this article while looking around for this blog post. It is a short check list of critical thinking points to figure out how best to go forward with a major purchase. Even though it focuses on furniture, the same process can be applied to every purchase made. Worth a moment to read.


Not ready to give up on over consumerism in mass produced levels that promote waste? Don't worry, we work on new year's resolutions next! ;)

Happiest of holidays to you and yours. Have an extra slice of pie for me! ~Jen

Friday, August 2, 2013

All the News that Fits in August

 

 Work Available at the Torpedo Factory 


From now until the end of August, my work will be shown in Studio 226 at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, 105 N. Union Street, Alexandria, VA. I will be staffing the studio on Mondays and Fridays, but you can come visit my work, even if I am not there.

Meet My Studio Mates!

I am sharing the space with three very talented artists. Below, see some of their work.

Poppi

Poppi is created Dawn Benedetto and much like herself, is bright, fun and guaranteed to make you smile. The work is made mostly from sterling silver components that pair with glass or Lucite beads. This work is for the folks that love COLOR. Her work can also be seen in her online store.

Glass Beads POP
Petal Rings are made with elastic so they fit many different sized hands.
One of a kind cuff links



Alicia Roman

Alicia Roman's work take minusale bits and combines them in inventive ways. Gears and old books become a pair of earrings. Sample credit cards become a barrette. Resin encase stones and make them shine. Read more about her here.

Love these star burst earrings!

Made from drum laminate

Resin seals pieces in their suspended imagery

range of emotion

 Jenae Michelle is the artist behind range of emotion. These works of art made out of vintage fabrics that might otherwise be discarded. Her purses and bags are hardy enough to use everyday, special enough to save for a lifetime.  See more work online.

This one is ready for the Fall!
This one is ready for a ball.
Button Lust, you know you have it.



Please come to meet these works, and artists, in real life.  Studio 226 is on the 2nd floor, near the top of the spiral staircase. We are open 7 days a week, hours vary by day.

Featured Artist at the Workhouse

For the month of August, I will be the Featured Artist in Building 9 at the Workhouse Arts Center. I will be showing a huge collection of aprons! Aprons are your dry cleaners' enemy, but your pants best friend. Like a mother, they protect you, allow you to abuse them and are back for more. :) 

Come on August 10th for The Second Saturday Art Walk and  check out my work, along with all the featured artists. There are many things going on during the day and into the evening, so be sure to leave enough time to look at everything. We are open late until 9pm. For more information, check out the Workhouse website.

I think that is it for me for August. OH, and getting ready for lots of shows in September. I'll be back out there under my tent around the DMV, so come say hi, why don't you?!

Have a safe and artistic end of summer~Jen

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

To Dye For!

Unlike a great movie with Nicole Kidman, this is does not involve murder of any kind!



I think I am becoming obsessed with dyeing. Or, thought of dyeing. I recently bought a very expensive white sweater with the sole purpose of dyeing it. Now, I am a little afraid of actually doing it! I stopped and realized I don’t have a ton of experience and perhaps I should experiment a little more before I have to chuck the thing. 

As the fates would have it, I acquired a pair of brand new pants that were well, basically, nude. Thus, I would look nude in them. I also remembered that I needed to practice dying fabric, so why not practice on them.

(I'm sorry about the blurry self portraits in a not very well light hallway. I will try to be better about getting good afters in the future!)


The before




 The inspiration



The after!!





The thread wasn't cotton and did not dye at all, thus became a contrasting stitch. I like it. There was even a decorative panel in the calf and it calls attention to it. 


I even had socks that matched the purple at the ankle. OCD, much?


I’m super happy with the way these came out! I used regular RIT liquid dye in purple and it was (fairly) easy to do. I took a PVC pipe and wrapped the legs around the pipe, starting at the bottom/ankles. I dipped the top/waist into the dye bath and unrolled the legs into the bath as needed. I did learn a lot and I’m glad I decided to practice. I actually think I’m going to do more tonight!

A few things: I was worried that the pants would shrink too much if I did a boiling hot dye bath the whole time I soaked them. They have a little spandex, but I was still worried, as they are a skinny pants style. So, I boiled the water and the dye, turned off the burner and then proceeded into the dyeing process. I did add some liquid dye to the bath while it was going, which is a usual no-no, but who cares, it looked too light and they are my pants. ;P I timed it about 60 minutes, turned the pipe a little to create a softer fade of dye, not lines.

I LOVE the way they look! I was concerned that I might not have a lot to wear with them, but as a purple lover and a clothes horse, I actually have a ton of tops that will match a little too perfectly. My guy saw me today, with my purple laptop and purple cell phone case and joked that I was wearing my ‘gang colors.' Yes, but with my tie dye shirt, my gang is full of artists!

The pants actually wore well today, even bagged out a little in the butt after sitting a bunch. I'm sure I can get them to shrink a little in the wash. They are the prefect length for flip flops and a tank top later. 
 
What are you doing to rehab some clothing you like but don't love?

Off to dye more! ~Jen