Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Fearless Flight of Dreams

The art of Cathy Nichols stirs strange emotions in me. I have nothing but admiration for the artist herself, of course, and nurture an almost childlike enthusiasm for her richly textured, vividly colored depictions of life just off the edge of reality. But as much as I love to get lost in the magic of these visions, I find it necessary at the same time to suppress a surging sense of injustice that for so many years before the Impressionists came along and shattered the old convention, painters toiled away in studios with little more than bowls of pears and brooding, pasty-faced nobles to inspire them. Nichols’ art, typified beautifully in the dreamlike Aloft, celebrates an open-aired freedom of expression we take for granted today. Set against the somewhat-surreal backdrop of a carnival at sunset, the young female subject of the painting is aloft—literally—as a cluster of balloons carries her skyward, far above even the ghostly Wonder Wheel turning jauntily beneath her. There’s a familiar mystique to the scene, even if we can’t recall ever dreaming it specifically.

Besides churning up some obvious “what if” allusions, paintings like these turn the wheels of art history, as well, recalling the wavy, curling strokes of, for example, Van Gogh’s The Olive Trees while also drawing on the pastel palette of landscapes such as Kirchner’s View of Davos. Still, Nichols’ work is all her own. And Wishing Willow is proud to announce that for one lucky reader, one of Nichols' newest pieces can be yours, too. Sanctuary, a lovely ode to Spring recently completed, really shows off the versatility of the artist. Where some of her other work might be termed evocative or even haunting, this radiant nature-collage is simply soft and sweet, employing foliage patterns that resemble fabric prints and layering pinks, peaches, and taupes as a springtime swatch.

Participating in this giveaway is a breeze: Visit Cathy Nichols' collection here, and then simply come back here to tell us your favorite print. Those who also subscribe to our newsletter will receive an extra entry. (Leave a second comment, and confirm your subscription. The winner will be chosen randomly.) You don't have to have a Google account to participate. Click "anonymous" to enter. The contest will end 10/08/08. Good luck!

**We have a winner! Amy who said: "Wow, I have a lot of favorites. sancturary, finding my true home, secret garden, coda, poem and hello friend!!! You might have just broke my piggy bank :)" Congratulations! Please email us with your contact info.***

Monday, September 29, 2008

Art, Charts, and the Swell of Inspiration

Visit any sailor’s nest, and tacked to the wall you will find maps: old maps, scrolled at the corners and faded from the oils of fingertips brushed lovingly across the favored lines a thousand times over, maps that with tack scars and meandering ink trails tell a story of wanderlust, high seas addiction, and unrelenting dreams. Most artists, like sailors, appreciate the power of “undiscovery” to fuel those risky ventures that make life interesting. Dana Robson, on the other hand, her enchanting cartographic art blooming with hand-stitched flora and fauna, lets the seas discover us. With subtle depth and a sparing use of color, her living oceans encroach upon their well-plotted coastlines and text blocks wildly, silently, as if to remind us that mankind will probably skip across the surface of Neptune long before we will ever understand the power and wonder of our own oceans. Whether it is the shore-hugging teal tendrils of The Bright and Ageless Ocean, or any of the other combinations informed by her Bay Area memories, Robson has given us a gallery as understated as a slow tide. Whether we slow down long enough to enjoy it, I suppose, is entirely up to us.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Character Matters

Say what you like about the allegedly Wilde-esque self-absorption of the contemporary artistic soul. Say it but don’t expect me to agree. As far as I’m concerned, in questions of eco-ethics and social conscience today’s generation of artists acquits itself splendidly—and if you don’t believe that, consider the grassroots example of Ash Hilton. A New Zealander with a passion for “responsible” jewelry craft, Hilton produces his fabulous rings with a priority on wasting nothing, even going so far as to offer a line shaped from “beached gold” collected right off his local shores. But put away those visions of Longbeard the half-mad beachcomber: Hilton is a thoughtful and talented craftsman, with simple designs such as the stately treeline of In the Pines serving to infer a rugged masculinity that sufficiently “roughs up” the long-stemmed elegance of its subject. Rings as stark and unpretentious as these, whether used to seal a modern marriage or just to accessorize a good jacket, are a great find for today’s man. But more importantly, anything made this responsibly is a marvelous gift for tomorrow’s world.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

If You Don't Noni By Now

There are certain décor combinations in our culture, like reception desks with phycus trees behind them, which are intuitively accepted without really being understood. Fortunately, others make sense on a more practical level. Take, for example, the zoologically-inspired ceramic art of Heather Knight. Mining an aesthetic resource that is all too often taken for granted (considering the growing threat of extinction under which reef-dwelling marine organisms now live), the hands that craft these delicate embodiments celebrate not only beauty, but also harmony, respect for our ecology, and an artistry in nature that is out-of-sight in more ways than one. Bringing a forest into your home is one thing. Importing a rarely-seen world of botanical textures into your living room, as Knight has made possible with striking conceptions like the 3-D Textured Wall Tiles, is a bolder step. How better to inject a new, sea-salt-fresh ambience into that home environment you’ve put off refreshing for too long? Browse the art of Element Clay Studio on Etsy to see for yourself, and be prepared for an experiment in marine education, style, and absolute fun.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Modern Boutique, Timeless Properties

Lisa Haskins, mother of two, online boutique owner, and full-time nice person, knows a thing or two about carving out an identity. In a dog-eat-dog retailing world increasingly inundated with competitors for the “mom market,” finding a way to run ahead of the pack is always a challenge. But there are no gimmicks behind the success of Queen Baby Bean, and the only performance-enhancing substance she would ever be accused of imbibing would probably be Fair Trade coffee served in a darling poppy-red mug. Instead, she relies on a more conventional set of sales boosters: an unfairly cute product line featuring neo-nostalgic finds like the Chalet Dollhouse; modern environmentally-friendly ideals; and of course, flawless service. There is no “big box” homogeny to her site, either—the only predictable aspect of this store is its unfailing uniqueness. These are just a few of the reasons Wishing Willow is pleased to feature Lisa’s generous giveaway of the Musical Band Drum Set.

What is it with our parental aversion to percussion toys?It couldn’t be the noise, since we happily put up with Blue's Clues jingles and the exultant victory shrieks of Dora the Explorer, at penetrating volumes, all day long. It can only be our fear of the unknown. Well, here’s something you might not have known: Drum and cymbal sets aren’t just ideal outlets for the Robin Williams instinct (everybody look at me!) common among children. These kits also hone hand-eye coordination, allow for rhythmic experimentation that works the left and right sides of the brain simultaneously, and set the foundation for a love of music, whether your kid is a future Keith Moon or not. And as a plus, these earth-friendly toys are also pretty darn cute!

Becoming eligible to win the Musical Band Drum Set is simple: Visit Queen Baby Bean, browse the site and let us know what your favorite item is in Lisa's shop. Leave your comments here on Wishing Willow. To get an extra entry, subscribe to our newsletter (Leave a second comment, and confirm your subscription. The winner will be chosen randomly.) You don't have to have a Google account to participate. Click "anonymous" to enter. Contest ends 10/2/08. Best of luck!

Super cool bonus: Wishing Willow readers will save 15% off their purchases at Queen Baby Bean. Use the promo code: willow when checking out. Promo code expires 10/9/08.

**We have a winner - Brook who said "Ramalama Ava Diaper Bag in Chocolate! Holy Moly!! It's absolutely beautiful!" Congratulations!** This contest has ended. Check out our other giveaways here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Electricity of Silence

"The space between/the bullets in our firefight/is where I'll be hiding, waiting for you." -Dave Matthews

Marriage reveals a fascinating corollary of domestic life: A house becomes as large or small as the dynamics of communication allow. Untitled (woman, man, couch) by Michele Bosak speaks poignantly, no captions necessary, of the electricity of silence. It isn’t only what we know that strikes a chord; moreover, it is what we don’t know that draws us into the awkward, tension-charged scene depicted over a sea of muted blue tones. Who is speaking? Who is listening? Or is body language the only dialect that matters? But the power is also in the medium, of course. Encaustic painting, an elaborate, time-honored process that employs pigmented hot wax as its primary element, appropriately underscores the ever-present burn hazard of sharing your space with another. Life is perplexing; married life is downright confounding at times. It helps to be reminded that the “big picture” not only contains the little moments, but also magnificently transcends them.

Visit Michele Bozak's Etsy shop Mimi to view her collection.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

International Delights

It’s stunning how often over the past few weeks I’ve come across a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that item. Whether that reflects the resourcefulness of contemporary designers or my own design restraints, I’m not sure. But for a case in point, here’s a delightful hypothetical: What if an Asian-themed garment top had to pass the Roman Holiday test (imaginable on the shoulders of Audrey Hepburn)? Leave it to an Italian designer to answer that question. The Kimono Knitting Mini Vest, apropos on windswept streets splashed with fall colors but even lovelier against a snowscape, is a wonderful find.

Connecting the traditional Japanese values of ideal beauty and elegant urbanity with the fearless Western extravagance of 100% Merino wool, Coccole Di Lana’s cozy creation would probably elicit sighs of envy just about anywhere. (What’s more, the woman finds time to fill custom orders! Check out the Bottone Scarf for a gorgeous example of what can be done with wool when a truly gifted designer is given the right blueprint. Sorry ladies, this one is taken!) You may not have ever associated a kimono cut with cool weather before, but isn’t there a first for everything? Maybe Gus Portokalos was on to something in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: “Kimono is from the Greek himona, is mean winter…”

Monday, September 22, 2008

This is Not Your Brother's Box Set

Suddenly, the "cube" in cubicle seems a little less square. Thanks to the creative mojo of Rosemary Pierce-Lackey, home decorators now have an avant-garde design option on the table that could just as readily grace a wall or prominent shelf, and an added option of custom color that makes Art By Rosemary a must-browse venue for art-savvy shoppers of every kind. Rosemary isn't a cubist, of course (Pablo Picasso would have had nothing to do with an art form this sensibly ordered), but anyone who with torn antique paper, a series of paint layers, and a box can bring to life something so visually pleasing as the Rhapsody 15.3 Mixed Media Set must at least qualify as a magician of sorts. Of course, what I personally respect the most about this artist is her success in one-upping the mantra of office motivators everywhere: After all, why think outside the box when you can make the box this pretty? To see more of these little wonders in full color, visit Rosemary's Etsy shop today.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fellowship of the Bling

Anyone over the age of sixteen can probably recall at least two jewelry fads that came and went (and returned, perhaps) in her own lifetime—rubber bracelets and mood rings, anyone? It is a rare talent, however, that can distill the best of several trends, melt them down creatively, and then rework them metallurgically into something entirely new. Alisa Miller’s reinterpretations, such as the 3 Circle Necklace, may recall the best of the Celtic Wave, but with all due respect to home shopping channels, there’s nothing QVC about them. Rather, with the high-end integrity of a sterling silver core, and with designs as unpretentious as a tastefully bold array of conjoined circles, they are the kinds of accessories that speak of confidence, strong self-identity, and openness to new life adventures. And if this kind of description seems intended to invoke the spirit of Tolkien, well, it’s in the modern sense—think Liv Tyler, ladies—rather than the creepy sense of those boys from high school who wore capes and elf-armor to Biology class. For a thorough introduction to the original craftsmanship of Alisa Miller, visit her shop on Etsy, and be sure to come with a mind as open as the lovely circles she bids us to wear.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Quirky Americana

Let me say at the outset that Jill Dryer certainly paints more than just Americana, as evidenced by her gallery of Mexican-themed earthy folk paintings such as El Sol and El Nopal, two contrasting favorites of mine that would pair beautifully together in a home. In all fairness, I must also point out that much of her art is far more modern and contemplative than quirky—her tribute piece Home in the Woods being an example of contemporary artistic maturity par excellence. But with that all that said, is there any image more startlingly off-balance (read: quirky) and quintessentially American than that of a redwood-huge wild guinea towering imperially over a stereotypical white Winnebago somewhere in the great wild woods? My impulse is to label Guinea Warrior as satire, but who exactly is being mocked? In the end, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes, artists just have fun. And unless we critics intend to forever stay too big for our art-lovin’ britches, we might as well loosen up and have fun right along with them. :)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Haus Ware

Form and function duel like warriors in a Wagner opera: The more intense the distinction, the more sure you can be that they are, in a sense, really one and the same. The first time my eyes took in the improbable Byzantine curves of the 7 White Matte Bottle Collection by Sara Paloma, I knew that no matter how well these stoneware vessels might pour, they can be no question that their purpose is to create an atmosphere all on their own. With a soft upward movement that draws to a point, calling to mind perhaps the minarets of the Near East, or alternatively, the irresistible, smile-inducing shape of soft-serve ice cream, Paloma has succeeded in crafting a set of bottles that could conceivably class up the loft or beachhouse-- but would be far more appropriate as a haus conversation centerpiece in a properly modern environment. The verdict: Form wins, but so do we all, simply by learning to appreciate the delicate, painstaking process by which something so superbly unique is finally achieved.

Visit Sara Paloma Pottery here to view her collection.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Polkadot Papoose Baby Slings

Pedometers. Calculator pens. Foam soda can coolers. Your "junk drawer" sticks and jams from the sheer volume of free gifts shoved upon you by your local bank or insurance office, reminding you with a groan each time you open it that nothing free is ever worth having.

Sound familiar? Take heart. There are still some free gifts worth not only having, but competing to win.

For a limited time, Polkadot Papoose, maker of handcrafted modern baby slings, is giving away one beautiful sling to a lucky participant. Placing your name in the hat requires nothing more than a moment of your time. To be considered for this free gift, simply visit Polkadot Papoose Baby Slings here, and tell us which sling style is your favorite. Yes, it's that easy! Readers will receive additional entries for 1) giving us your best reason for needing a baby sling and 2) subscribing to Wishing Willow. Comments may be entered here on Wishing Willow. You don't need a Google account to enter. Choose "anonymous." Leave your email address, so we can contact you if you are our lucky winner. You have nothing to lose, and one fabulous prize to win!

The winner will receive a Polkadot Papoose of their choosing. How fun is that? Contest ends 9.24.08. May the best babywearer win!

Wishing Willow readers will also save 20% on Polkadot Papoose orders. Use the promo code: willow when checking out. Promo code expires 10.17.08.

*** We have a winner! Joellen who said: I love the Sayuri because it can be used with a boy or a girl. With my first 2 kids, I didn't have a sling. But, I'm beginning to think with the 3rd one, things may be a lot easier to have more hands to deal with my little rascals. I think a sling would make my life a whole lot easier and make the adjustment to 3 less daunting =) ***

Thank you all for making this such a great giveaway. Check back soon for more great prizes!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Of Pipefittings and Prettiness

In an age of hemp and compost, it’s intriguing to find anyone, let alone a jewelry sculptor, whose material of choice is a thermoplastic polymer. But then, it’s all in how you look at it: What greener use of PVC can there be than to wear it? One glance at the Harvest Cuff, its mesmerizing faux-glass surface gathering light in intricate grooves, illuminating a pattern of overlapping seashell or chandelier, and it also quickly becomes evident that Kath Inglis of Wear No Evil is celebrating pure ingenuity with every hand-carved inch of her elegant bangles. This, I suspect, is where the future of jewelry lies, in products that capture the aesthetic of a traditional material yet inject a new element (in this case, elasticity) via technology that just wasn’t available in the old days of Bombay bungri. Bravo to Kath for a gutsy reinterpretation of an accessory worn by at least half a billion women worldwide, and pity anyone who fails to appreciate the sweet irony of salvaging something genuinely beautiful from the forge of chemical madness.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Organic Abstractions

I like to think of a surrealist as someone who hears Barack Obama speak of putting “lipstick on a pig” and immediately wonders how that image would play on canvas. In the narrowest sense, the art of youareconstance, its human commentary streaked with the bold rhetoric of chartreuse, apricot, and a hundred other unexpected hues, finds its mark as a somewhat abstract example of digital modernism. For me, however, it’s the surrealist spirit that seems intuitively most obvious in prints such as What is Likely to Happen When One is Full of Bull and the white space-mastering Squid in Blue.

Of course, as a sentimental favorite, Perching Ravens seems to capture the irony of its subjects’ haughty, monarchal sense of indifference—and oblivion to that irony-- about as well as any illustration I’ve seen. In the end, I love this kind of art because it transcends category. Agile and deep-knotted, humourous yet at turns layered with connotation, it is simply a remarkable gallery of images that even the snobbiest art critic will have a hard time soon forgetting…and that an online reviewer hard-biased against clichéd art themes can scarcely evaluate without descending into hyperbole. To enjoy the full complement of prints offered by youareconstance, visit her shop here on Etsy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Treasure Worth Keeping

In the ongoing narrative of a child’s lush imagination, toy chests are symbolic of an endless array of secret, splendid containers. Pirate’s booty, genie’s treasure, dragon’s spoils: in our storybooks they all spill lavishly over the edges of chests, as if the humble hollow of these boxes can barely contain such wondrous and mysterious cache. And since it isn’t only children who find charm in a box full of toys , I have to add my voice to those already celebrating the Owyn Toy Box by Mod Mom Furniture. Crafted by self-made artisan Kiersten Hathcock in her home garage, the Owyn and its leaf-lids, which fit like puzzle pieces, represent a design paradigm that pays subtle homage to the stylings of Eric Carle while still retaining a boutique, non-Pottery Barn individuality. If you’ve ever thought of bringing home a classical, organically produced furniture line that is as useful to you as it is inspirational to your little ones, the Owyn is the perfect piece with which to begin.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wild Wood

“Blackbird, fly,” Lennon commanded his muse, “into the light of a dark black night.” Every so often, an artist confounds us with the power of paradox. For me, connecting with Edward Foley’s marvelous images on bent plywood, such as Luckyday, has little to do with the pleasantly simple, almost playful silhouette of a bird trotting along under a singular swath of rain. Rather, it has mostly to do with the incompatible ideas: a creature with wings choosing to walk; a bird in the rain not seeking shelter; an ironic but unambiguous tale told through such a warped and unconventional medium. The latter, in fact, may be the most effective contradiction of the bunch.

Considering the unusual play of light, shadow, movement, and infinite illusions created by a few veneered ripples of wood, I find myself wondering: Why aren’t more artists producing wall hangings like these? My other favorite from Foley’s collection, Wigglewood, its slashing vertical strokes suggestive of stripped, emaciated birch trees and a wildness that defies the temperance and balance of Japanese art, might answer that question. If every artist had a sculptor’s feel, a carpenter’s craftsmanship, an artist’s eye and a storyteller’s intuition, we would never appreciate what Foley has done.

View Edward Foley's work here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lofty Heights

Frank Lloyd Wright walks into an Ikea store with a handsaw…if it sounds like a punchline’s coming, forgive me. It’s hard to capture the uniqueness of the Uffizi Bunk Bed without retreating into parable. My boys have to have this bed! With its Euro-compact ideology (taller, not wider), the Uffizi is ideal for those with lofty design standards, but loft-sized space restrictions. And with its magic geometry of cantilevers and quadrangular port windows, it’s a neo-Atomic Age art piece, as well. After all, who doesn’t want the neighbors to ask where you found that amazing bed? Well, the secret’s out. Now, if I can just convince my boys they need a bunk bed…

To view this and other great modern designs visit: www.argington.com

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Shades of Peacock

As I consider the merits of the versatile, volatile silk Aunt Judy dresses by Heidi Merrick, two thoughts fold together as naturally as the chiffon petals on the ruffle front these two exquisite dresses have in common. One, I am certain that whoever Aunt Judy is, she doesn’t spend much time knitting socks or rolling out dough for apple turnover. Two, it is difficult to imagine a pair of dresses anywhere that more effectively blends the virtues of latent sensuality, feathery elegance, and post-Stepford girl power as Merrick’s form-celebrating duo.

While the Aunt Judy Krinkle Chiffon could probably find limitless applications depending on accessories and styling, there is something about this particular shade of peacock that calls for a brassy, classy lipstick—think coral or perhaps amaranth—and a joie de vivre on the part of the wearer that outpaces the wonderful maturity of the color itself. Its less complex counterpart, the powder blue Aunt Judy Crepe de Chine, achieves a similar grace of adaptability, yet succeeds in a way that says “lady” as surely as the Chiffon purrs “woman,” the one seditious note in the former’s constitution being a hemline that stops well above the knee.

Boardroom or boardwalk, one can’t go wrong bringing Aunt Judy along. Props to Heidi Merrick for reminding all of us that “cute” and cultured really can be the best of friends.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Where Credit's Due

It’s not that I’m Alma Loveland’s only client. It’s just that she has a way of making it feel like I’m the only one that matters.

Let me back up. The first time my ideas and Alma’s incredible talent intersected was when I was researching graphic designers, and by word of mouth discovered the art of Loveland Miscellany (a husband-and-wife team). Quite honestly, finding this kind of talent for hire online felt a bit like stumbling across Marc Chagall selling his lithographs on a street corner: I knew instantly that my luck had been extraordinary. In the broadest of terms, trusting her to fill in the blanks, I spelled out my vision for Wishing Willow’s graphic. Twenty or so e-mails later, Alma had produced a gorgeous pastel-suffused banner depicting a girl who could be any age, anywhere, staring furtively into the breezy pink trestles of a willow tree—and I knew without a doubt I had chosen the right artist for this project (even before she had whipped out a set out of picture-perfect business cards for me with otherworldy effortlessness).

Most creative people, I have found by living with my husband for eight years now, are notoriously mother-to-child bonded to their work. Alma, on the other hand, seemed to take each of my suggestions in stride, responding to them by tweaking and shading and changing the girl’s dress style without complaint. In fact, she was even so kind as to call me “easy to work with” (I wonder if the barista who fulfills the six modifications on my latte would say the same). She is more than a competent designer; she is someone I trust and would recommend without hesitation to anyone seeking to add that special “something” to an art project. Thank you, Alma, for exceeding every one of my expectations. Here’s to you and your beautiful creations!

Make sure to also visit Alma and Mike Loveland's Etsy shop here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Doll Days Revisited

Designers such as Jess Brown know that the crucible of dollcraft is not the touch test, but the feel test. As early Americans proved in the swaddling of figurines with cornhusk and pine needles, fingertips are notoriously overrated in the evaluation of a doll. A fabulous doll, rather, is one that appears to feel, and inspire her owner to feel, an emotion true to the human condition. What I love about the Jess Brown collection goes far beyond the uniqueness of each design or the earthy sensibility of composing art from fabric remnants. The allure of her craft is in the nascent femininity caught in the expressions of the dolls: curveless bodies, teardrop-shaped heads adorned with nondescript faces, swordstitched dashes sufficing for eyes not yet opened to appreciate real evil.

While the temptation here is to link Brown’s work with an overall movement toward minimalism in toy design, or perhaps a cyclical revival of Folk Art, the truth is that the cloth doll genome maps out over centuries, as evidenced by the resurgence of dollmaking at the hands of Shoshone, Lakota Sioux, and other such tribal craftsmen. Brown’s special contributions to this tradition, however, are truly her own: bold, funny, and often intentionally incongruent design schemes, marked by unconventional hoods and hairpieces, clothing prints that are chic and mature, and a sense of time and place that is well-rooted without losing the whimsy that makes a girl fall in love with that doll in the window. Keep your Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids. Jess Brown knows who she is, and something tells me the rest of the world soon will, as well.

Visit Jess Brown Design at: www.jessbrowndesign.com

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lionhearts Aflutter

Like stumbling through a certain wardrobe of wonder in late Victorian London, grownups feeling their way through the sale racks of online sameness will suddenly rediscover a fantasy world at Wovenplay that bears little resemblance to anything else. It isn’t just the organic fabrics, fresh-wrung stressed textures reminiscent of old Allied army cloth, or graceful illusion of child’s craft (sorry, you couldn’t make this at home); it’s the mystical blend of courtyard commonness with rich imagination that makes creations like Moth so exquisitely brillig, as English kid-lit icon Lewis Carroll would have mused before dashing down his rabbit hole again.

Knight, for example, is what most boys’ playsuits aspire to be, but rarely become: a tunic-and-headpiece fit for dragon-slaying that won’t fall to pieces (as most parents’ well-intentioned cardboard “chainmail” always seems to do) en route to the treehouse castle. Little lionhearts, after all, want to be taken seriously by all but perhaps Guinevere; even more so, however, every mother wants to feel she’s outfitted the cutest warrior on the block. With a costume out there that conjures up the best of both worlds, I’m done trying to be Merlin, rolling out laughable paper helmets with homespun magic as my five-year-old eyes the whole operation suspiciously. From now on, I’ll trust the wizards at Wovenplay to ready my boys for battle.

Visit Wovenplay at: www.wovenplay.com

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Modern Antebellum

It isn't every product that channels antebellum Georgia and the Parisian society-scapes of Georges Seurat in the same breath, but designer Anisa Makhoul at Makool Loves You has found a way. The classic, almost equestrian lines of the Late for Tea Dress criss-cross multiple eras with delicate ease, evoking secrets between friends, misty afternoons, the unbridled spirit, and yes, even a little Scarlett O'Hara—all the while appearing incredibly wearable. The latter quality is the difference between clothing and costume—and at the end of the day, is why I'm convinced this dress would be just as much fun to own as it is to describe.

I love the Gray Sparrow Dress, on the other hand, for its simplicity—not in the sense of plainness, but in the sense of inspired reductionism. On its own, the dress is charming enough, gathered in slender handswept bunches that actually work by defying symmetry. But for me it's the sash, snaking regally/wickedly from hip to shoulder and accenting the modest gray with a perfectly timed splash of personality, that takes the piece from isn't-that-cute to wow status. I thought about where I would wear this dress, and decided that this is the kind of dress that would probably decide for me.

Visit these beauties at Makool Loves You or their Etsy Shop by the same name. Two great products, one great designer. We love you too Makool!