Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It *can* be easy being Green!

Happy Earth Day!

Get out your hemp sandals and organic cotton t-shirt! Jump on your hybrid shooter! Zip down to the farmers' market and buy locally grown tomatoes!

What? You don't have hemp sandals? No hybrid shooter? No farmers' market? Don't like tomatoes? What kind of environmentalist are you!? Oh.. the lazy kind?

Well, that is the beauty of being lazy in this day and age. It is actually EASIER than ever before to be a 'tree hugger'. It used to be HARD, tedious, stinky and soooo uncool. You had to like, grow your own veggies just to have simple, natural choices. You had to actually drive your recyclables to a dump, which is totally oxymoronic. You had to wear scratchy wool hand knit sweaters. You couldn't wear deodorant.

I found the following list in my grandmother's house. Dated circa 1991, you can see how difficult it was to be earth friendly 20 years ago.

“Helpful Household Hints for the person interested in conserving and recycling”

Wash used saran wrap and drip dry

Press used paper towels

Water down ketchup and mustard

Wash and reuse toothpicks

Wash, fluff and drip dry Q-tips

Sell all moldy bread to a penicillin factory

Deep fat fry potato peelings for handy dandy snacks

Take a bath with laundry-saves water and soap

Pressure cook old leather (makes good stew!)- for flavor throw in old stock!

(Author's note: KEEP reading folks, just gets better!)

Press clothes between mattress and box spring to save electricity

Save scrap mail for writing letters

Save bath and laundry water to wash car

Reuse tea bags at least 5 times a piece

Slice thin spaghetti lengthwise to make it go further

Save old egg shells for ashtrays

(Author again: And, to know you are a TRUE hippie!)

Save old newspapers, cut into 4” strips, perforate at 4” intervals for toilet paper.

I don't know about you, but by the time I was at the end of this list, I was on the floor, laughing my head off. Not only are some of these practices just gross and unhealthy (do they know how many chemicals are used in processing leather? yuck!) or possibly dangerous (paper cuts on the bum?, no thank you) but some must surely be outlawed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Isn't that why paper towels get thrown away- they are full of germs?)

See, even just 20 years ago, it was hard work to be an environmentalist. You had to shower with your clothes, eat watered down mustard and smoke to be able to use those egg shells.

Today, you can be an environmentalist soooo easily. Just be a consumer. As InSync used to say, “Buy, buy, buy.”

What? Oh, you think that is contradictory? You can't be a consumer and care about the environment? Well, we ALL are consumers, some more than others. And, in just our everyday life we can all make purchasing choices that push recycled materials, better energy options and a greater impact on the environment than washing out a Q-Tip ever could.

Each and every time you make a purchase, see if there is a better earth friendly option to buy.

~Purchase copy paper, envelopes, pens and pencils made from recycled materials

~Check out sneakers made from used recycled plastic bottles, like these

~If you don't/can't go to the farmers' market, look for 'local produce' signs at the grocery store

~Try Marcal's line called 'Small Steps', which are 100% recycled paper products. They are using the concept that it is 'small step' toward having a smaller carbon footprint. (I buy the bulk pack of t.p. at Staples. It comes out to be cheaper than the 'regular' type.)

~Don't take a bag for a small item or small amount of items.

~Look for organic cotton goods in such major retailers such as Walmart(t-shirts) and Target(sheets).

~Look out for bamboo clothing also! Silky smooth and made from a resource that has a fast renewal rate, bamboo fiber has been sneaking into more mainstream fashion.

~Buy that hybrid! Now that car manufacturers have been making hybrid for 10 or more years, the price of a used one has come down greatly. This used Prius can be bought for less than $6k. This used hybrid Civic is less than $8k!

~Or, splurge for that electronic car! The Tesla Roadster is only a little over $100k!

Once you have consumed, dispose properly.

~Pass on used but still wearable clothing to homeless shelters, thrift stores or the Red Cross.

~Post gently used furniture on freecycle or Craigslist. Or, donate to local shelters or community centers.

~Read up on your jurisdiction's accepted items for recycling. I know in Alexandria, they keep adding to the list of things they will take.

~Offer items to friends and family that might be able to use (but not old saran wrap)

~Get rid of your car totally. With ride share, public transportation and flexible borrowing programs, if you drive your car less than twice a week, chances are that you don't really need to own it. For example, Zipcar is a easy, affordable alternative to owning a vehicle.

See! I told you, EASY hippie earth friendly buying habits. NO leather tinted stew, with a side of watered down ketchup!

Happy happy earth day! ~Jen

Green Tip~ Don't beat yourself up!

Yes, with technology and eco commerce, it is easier than ever to have an eye on the environment in everyday life. But, it is just as easy to forget or be put in a position due to time, money and effort, not to.

First and foremost, I know I 'preach' a lot about what one could do or buy or go to or not do or not buy or no go to. All merely suggestions! I am not as 'good' as I could be, but also not as bad as I could be either. I figure that everyone does what they are comfortable with and just hope that means they are doing a little everyday.

If you want to do more, then just make some baby steps to begin with. Change what little you can, at the beginning. Do something small each day, it will become habit!

In the very near future, I will post a 'full disclosure' list of things I do that aren't environmentally friendly. It will make you feel better about yourself, really.

Here's a teaser~ When I go to 7-11 to get coffee, I don't bring a reusable mug. I just use a Styrofoam cup. :(

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

CLNS Fine Art Festival This Saturday!

I'm excited about this little festival that is brand new for me! Good things: in Bethesda, (where I don't do many shows), festival is being given as a fund raiser for a nursery school, lots of fun family friendly activities and sun being forecast. Bad things: can't think of any! perhaps not having enough to sell?!

The Details:

What: CLNS Fine Art Festival

When: Saturday, April 17, 10-5pm

Where: Cedar Lane Nursery School, 9601 Cedar Lane, Bethesda, MD


More: $3 entry fee

Hope to see you there~Jen

Green Tip~ Earth Day Month!

Remember to celebrate Earth Day on Thursday, April 22. At the very least, try to walk softly that day, recycle a water bottle, don't do take out in styrofoam and perhaps walk that day. And, then, try to hold that over into the next day and then the next day... more habits can be changed, when you put your mind to it.

Or, try to make some recycled crafts, such as these egg cup insects.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Artist of the Month~ Boxboy!

There are some people you know and you don't quite remember how you first met them. It is like that for me with Paul, the artistic mind behind Boxboy. I don't remember the first time I met him, because it seems his zany creations have always been a part of my world. Approachable, affordable and just plain fun, I hope these boxes become a part of your world too.

Q~How did you get started?

A~ I used to own a gift store in Knoxville, TN, called Objet d'art (I should have known then the store name was too fancy for the folk in East TN); I came into possession of a very old and beat up wooden trunk made in Central America. It occurred to me to try and decoupage it. Nothing inspired me to do so ... at the time Rosie O'Donnell was bragging about her pitiful attempts at decoupaging on her awful TV show (her decoupage was awful, too). She was NOT an inspiration. I just started cutting, pasting and varnishing. It actually turned out quite well, and I received many compliments on it. It eventually sold (at a way too low price) and my decoupaging took off from there. Over the years the boxes have gotten smaller and smaller, but I am always experimenting with new media and different techniques.

Q~Why do you continue?

A~I absolutely love what I do. Besides making a little money at it, it is therapeutic and it keeps me off the streets and out of trouble. Of course, I have never been one to flit about on the streets or get into any kind of trouble! It's a good BoxBoy line to use on customers, however.

I don't remember the last time I had a "real" job in the real world. At this point in my life, I am too old to be employed by the man and too set in my ways. What else could be better than sitting on the floor, doing the decoupage thing and listening to Tiny Tim sing "Tiptoe Through the Tulips"?

Q~What is a great success story?

A~To be truthful, when I hear from a customer who is just absolutely thrilled with a BoxBoy creation. This is even especially more true when the compliment comes from a fellow artist. I mean, I have talent in what I do ... there is an awful lot of crummy decoupage out there ... but when a person who can actually draw, paint, sculpt, etc., rants and raves about my stuff, wow!

One of my favorite BoxBoy moments occurred several years ago at Eastern Market. A very nice gentleman was searching for a special box to hold some of the cremated remains of his recently deceased lover. He told me his story and found the perfect box at my booth. What an honor for me. Plus, it made me weep.

Q~What is one of your greatest failures?

A~No one humongous failure in particular ... probably many mini-failures. I probably should be more aggressive in marketing my products. I really can't get too big as I am a one-person show and there is a limit as to what I can do numerically. Well why not hire apprentices (for lack of better terminology) or teach classes? Because I don't want to ... nobody can do it better than myself (not egotism, just the facts, ma'am).

I would love to travel to other cities and do some shows, but that is just not in the cards. The fact is I do well enough in the DC area to make ends meet, and that's fine with me. I am not greedy nor do I have any aspirations to get rich. I am the quintessential bohemian artist, and am glad to continue in that role.

Q~Where do you get your inspiration?

A~Honestly, I don't know. One of my artist buddies asked me once what artist(s) inspired me, and I couldn't answer the question. It may sound self-serving and self-indulgent (the latter term I borrow from American Idol judge Simon Cowell), but the inspiration comes from within. The ideas just pop into my BoxBoy brain, and I run with it. The idea make take years to come to fruition in the form of a tangible
product, but eventually it blooms, ripens and falls from the tree.

Q~Why do you make/create what you do?

A~It's all I know to do at this point in my life. Plus, people like weird, kooky things ... not that all of my creations are weird and kooky. I am glad to fulfill a need in the DC area. Somebody observed once that people seemed attracted to my booth at an outdoor show as if I was a magnet. Well, that's a great compliment. I am happy when my customers laugh at something they see, even if they don't purchase it. Then I have done my job.

Q~Where is your favorite place to sell? Or Favorite show?

A~I sell every Sunday during fair weather months at Eastern Market (the school playground side) and have done so since 1999. I love it for many reasons, mainly that it attracts visitors from all over the world and has an ever changing weekly audience. Plus, it is run by very professional personnel, as opposed to other markets in the area.

My favorite single shows/events of the year are Art on the Avenue in Alexandria in October and the Downtown Holiday Market in the District of Columbia in December. Besides being my best moneymakers of the year, they are just fun to do ... my fellow vendors have incredible goods there and everybody is so nice. I think we're all here to help each other, and those two shows epitomize that. Some shows/events, it's an "all about me" attitude by some vendors. These people I have no use for ... and I could name names, but I won't!

Q~What is one thing you love about your business?

A~That I have the freedom to do whatever I want on every conceivable level. I set my own work hours, I choose the designs I want to use, I decide when and where and how I want to sell, etc., etc., etc. BoxBoy is not a job, it's a year-long working vacation almost.

Q~What is one thing you loathe?

A~Well, I could write a book and could go in any number of directions. But I'll be honest ... I have no tolerance for people in my booth who have no sense of humor. ;) Oh, I'm used to the ignorant remarks of "$16 FOR A BOX?" I guess I take things too personally. Not everybody shares my warped sense of humor; so that's why I take the low road and when I'm in a bad mood ... when somebody gives me attitude ... I give it right back. I am not the most professional salesperson in the world, nor do I strive to be. But you know what, when you know the idiot isn't going to buy anything in the first place and you're never going to see the idiot again, why not get if off your chest? The last time I snapped was at the DHM in December just before our first snowstorm of the season. A lady picked up a box and asked, "Why is this $20?" I responded, "Because that's what the market will bear and this is how I make my living." She said, "Well, that's a fair answer." My next door neighbor was greatly amused by my honesty. Frankly, it was the mildest retort I had used in a long time. Maybe I am mellowing with age...

Q~What is your dream about your art?

A~Well, it's on a monetary level. This is my sole source of income. How I am able to support myself and indulge in my vices is beyond me, but I do it. I hope that people continue to be kind to BoxBoy and allow him to continue to do what he does. I greatly admire people who have full-time jobs then do their artwork as well. I am so very, very lucky.

Q~Where are you based?

A~I work out of my home in Fairfax County, Va, near Mount Vernon. My art studio is in my basement and I am surrounded by my compact discs, artwork from around the world and scary clowns dangling from my ceiling.

Q~Where would you live if you could live anywhere?

A~For some reason, I would love to live in rural New England in an old farmhouse. Fall is my favorite season and heaven on earth would be to live amid foliage in September and October. Also, I have also wanted to experience at least one winter in the north. After 60 inches of snow in DC this season, that desire no longer exists.

Q~What would you be doing if not this?

A~Excellent question. In my previous life, I was a journalist. That was never my calling, however, and although that trade could be picked up again, I have absolutely no desire to do so. An extremely complicated chain of events brought me to decoupage, so this is where I am meant to be and this is my destiny.

Q~What is next?

A~I think this is it. I have lived in many parts of the US, but I hope DC is my last stop. BoxBoy can't go on forever ... I think there is about 10 years left before BB retires. I choose to adhere to the Scarlett O'Hara philosophy of reality ... "I'll think about it tomorrow, for tomorrow's another day."

Q~ What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen sparrow?

A~Hey, I was a smart guy in school/college, but math was never my thing ... and it's still not. I never understood how "if x plus y equals z, what is the value of x?" could be useful in life. There are calculators for that.

Boxboy, and his warped sense of humor, can be found at many markets this year, as well as online. Click here for his website and here for his schedule.

Happy April Fool's! ;)