Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Poe in Heart, Rich in Meaning

There’s nothing wrong with Monet calendars. Nor, for that matter, is it a crime to love Ansel Adams posters, inspirational framed prints of windbreaker-clad climbers rappelling down treacherous rock faces, or tapestries featuring the “Footprints” poem. It is, however, but a day until the new year dawns. Isn’t it time we broke at least a little new ground in our choices of wall art? Meet edge-dwelling genius Vivan Mayser of Dear Dodo, a shop offering art prints and collectible crafts that can scarcely be described without words like provocative, thoughtful, unexpected, or unique. It isn’t only the vintage materials or the unassuming irony of the art, as in Elisa, Autumn Owl, Stork Stockings, and other quietly mirthful pieces; it’s the world in general that is created. Here we find lovely dreamscapes in pencil, Victorian-era child portraits such as Bunny Day, and the curiously entrancing silhouette of the Poe Sisters, raven-like both in raiment and in bearing. And if there’s another place on the internet where one can find a Moth Doll Brooch crafted from a tiny, century-old porcelain head excavated in Germany, it’s not on this side of the time-space continuum.

It’s easy to talk about adding a little novelty to our home environment, however. The difficult thing is mustering the courage to go ahead and do it. As a way of encouraging our Wishing Willow readers to take the plunge and actually challenge their tried-and-tired art motifs, Dear Dodo is offering a free print of the Poe Sisters to the winner of today’s giveaway. To qualify, visit Dear Dodo, then come back here to tell us about your favorite print. Tell us in a second post if you subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 1/08/09.

We have a winner! JewelryInfusions who said,
"I really love the 'Poe Sisters'. The stark contrast of the two images appeals to me, plus it has that psychiatrist 'What do you see in this image....' quality."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rockin' the Snow Cap

Not since Rocky Balboa ruled the bitter streets of Philly in a pork pie hat has headwear been as iconic as today. Brad Pitt’s trilby; Toby Keith’s cowboy hat; even the ongoing Ashton Kutcher-Justin Timberlake cold war over who made trucker hats mainstream cool; everywhere, it seems, someone is reaffirming the enigmatic appeal of hats. What’s a parent to do in such a culture? For starters, one might head over to Cite Fuzz, where fashionable hand-knit wool hats for boys and girls are offered in what seems like a thousand different must-have varieties, most sporting a consistent modern Euro-Aspen vibe, yet each in its own right somehow managing to achieve that “it” factor that sets a great hat apart from the rest. Be it the quiet confidence of the cotton Groovy Bebop Brim Hat, the sunny disposition of the cotton earflap hat in Pink with Bright Stripes, or the heart-capturing cute of the mini monkey flap hat in chocolate with red trim, Cite Fuzz makes it possible to cover your undeniably unique child’s head with something equally individualistic.

After all, it goes without saying that all children are cute, but is there anything more rewarding than clothing them in something that celebrates each’s own special kind of cute, and watching the personality, in turn, emerge? In keeping with this value, Cite Fuzz is graciously offering our Wishing Willow readers the chance to own a hat that spotlights that intangible aspect in children that brings smiles to our faces on even the dimmest of days. For those of you who never stop loving to watch your kids “monkey around,” an adorable Mini Monkey Hat (6mo - 24mo) can be yours by winning today’s giveaway. To qualify, visit Cite Fuzz, then come back here to tell us about your favorite style and product. Tell us in a second post if you subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 1/07/09.

We have a winner! besosforpesos who said, "Ok, so the honest truth is that the monkey hat is my absolute favorite...and that shot that you posted on this blog is ridiculous! That baby is so cute in that hat and I'm sure her hats are flying off the shelves! Ridiculously cute! Anyhow, I know bloggers don't like us choosing the same they review, so I checked her site and my second favorite is this little number Cotton Lipstick Bebop Brim Hat. Very sweet! I love the girly flowers that can be added on too. That's some talent!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Toys for the Moments of Tooth

When it comes to handling a teething infant, there are really two choices: one, take the initiative to provide something firm, chewy, and safe; or two, watch in horror as Junior makes a teething toy of whatever happens to be lying around. Babies don't discriminate when it comes to shoving objects into their mouths. As parents, however, we have reason to be choosy, and thanks to Starbright Baby there are some wonderfully fresh, fun teething toy options to consider, all of which are homemade, safe, and BHT-free (unlike the plastic teethers sold in many stores). The choices are up to you: For your princess type, Stella the giraffe might be the pick, stylishly decorated with retro circles the shade of bubble gum and martini olives. For the gamesman/enigmatic thinker you're sure is already contemplating physics in his crib, Skyler is an inspiring option, thoughtfully finished in checkerboard green to stimulate brain activity. Or, for a twist, one might even consider custom-ordering a giraffe sized for toddlers, clothed in a tailormade suit of your own favorite fabric scrap. The folks at Starbright Baby have made it devilishly easy to find something perfect for your little angel, and these gentlemanly giraffes might just buy you a few more hours of sleep each week along the way.

Starbright Baby is also generously offering a giveaway to our faithful Wishing Willow readers. The winner of today’s giveaway will be receiving an adorable teething giraffe from Starbright Baby's Collection ($14 value). To qualify, visit Starbright Baby, then come back here to tell us about your favorite style and product. Tell us in a second post if you subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 1/06/09.

We have a winner! Kama @ Today's Housewife who said, "I like Teething Giraffe - Makayla. This would be perfect for my son. He turned 3 months old on Christmas day and has constantly been chewing on his hands lately! I wonder if he's going to start teething soon"

Monday, December 22, 2008

The End of Handmade Children's Products?

If the title of this post seems a bit far-fetched and apocalyptic, think again. On November 20, 2008, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), known more generally as the Toy Safety Law. The grim specter of thousands of craft professionals going out of business now hangs like a Damoclean sword as the deadline for compliance, February 10, 2009, inches closer. Why? There are many reasons, but one stands out above the others: In order to comply with this law, most artisans who handcraft products for children aged twelve and under will be required to submit each batch of products for professional safety testing, at a cost of thousands of dollars per test. That’s right, thousands. Considering the fact that the vast majority of “sole proprietors” make less than ten thousand dollars in profit per year from their loving, time-intensive craft, it doesn’t take a CPA to tell you that these testing requirements will force almost everyone who handcrafts products for children to simply close up shop.

Who does that leave standing, then? Ironically, it leaves only the “big box” manufacturers who can absorb such prohibitive costs, the very same manufacturers who are most likely to import products from overseas factories that operate under dubious-to-nonexistent safety standards. Perhaps CPSIA should stand for Clueless Politicians Shafting Independent Artisans, because despite all this year’s political rhetoric about saving America’s economy through entrepreneurialism, it’s obvious who this law hurts most. It hurts you, it hurts me, and it hurts gifted individuals like Amber Dusick of Woodmouse. As someone who creates beautifully nostalgic toys using sustainable wood, non-toxic paint and beeswax, Amber should be rewarded for her eco-conscious ways, not flattened by the bureaucracy of a government that needs small businesses like hers to succeed. If you believe in fighting for people like Amber, and indeed for the future of the entire Etsy community and others like it, please join us in protesting this shockingly myopic law by writing your congressman today.

Learn more about Woodmouse Here and Here.

Please take the time to visit the following links to learn about this law and see what you can do to help:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Carded Optimism

Pleasing to the eye, intriguingly textured, and even a little nostalgia-forming. If the image that springs to mind is that of a sweet holiday treat, you’re getting warm in a hurry. The wordsmiths and graphics wizards of Sycamore Street Press, based in Thomas Edison’s home state of Ohio, specialize in literary soul food cooked on a most unconventional stove, a flatbed letterpress that gives each graphic printed on its greeting cards and prints a textured antique appearance and feel.

From heartwarming cards featuring French felines purring their thanks or artsy elephants trumpeting a birthday greeting to near-the-edges art prints like The Return of the Sea Freak, the team of Kirk and Eva Jorgensen seem far less boxed in to any one genre, and far more squarely in touch with the arrhythmic pulse of vintage printing connoisseurs, than would be possible for any mass manufacturer. That’s another way of saying that these people can take a few chances to make you smile, and they gladly take advantage of that freedom. Frame mats, calendars, even gift tags; the catalog available from Sycamore is a sweet obsession indeed, and well worth the time spent perusing its treasures. To find that card that makes the recipient say “where DID you find this?”, or, simply to browse Kirk and Eva’s eclectic, exceptional work, stop into their shop Sycamore Street Press on Etsy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Material Witness

It’s no small challenge to weave into words the properties of a scarf that’s been hand-dyed and hand-woven by Debbie Barrett-Jones of Billy Sue Textiles. One might turn to literary allusion, charting the transitional flow of multiple colors in each piece as a kind of Homerian epic, but this approach obscures the very real science behind the art. The name value of cashmere and tencel always loom, but the fact is, these primary materials of hers are only as remarkable as the hand that manipulates them. In the end, we find ourselves borrowing the words of the masters themselves, such as Michelangelo’s: “I saw the angel in the marble, and I carved until I set her free.” This is the glorious tension of all art, really: to capture is to liberate, and vise versa.

Folks around Kansas City might know a little something about Barrett-Jones’ ability to unlock the potential in fabric, being that she’s been commissioned to weave numerous textile pieces for public display, but her scarves, available on Etsy, were and are a Joy to discover. Tabbed with delightfully unpretentious product names such as Turquoise in the Middle with Red, Brown to Navy, and Just Around the Corner with Red and Orange Baby or Me, this line of scarves is every bit as luxurious, practical, and wonderfully unique as the crisp colors of the photos suggest, and considering the intermingling of colors within each scarf, the element of versatility is obvious. After all, who wouldn’t want a scarf that adapts to the fashion whims of every woman? For a larger introduction to Debbie's extraordinary textile stylings, visit Billy Sue Textiles.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cozies for the Toes-ies

We’re born exposed. Our extremities, from the first moment of chilling introduction to the world outside that lovely warm thing called a womb, curl in shock as we realize immediately that someone, somewhere, is going to have to put some socks on those cute little tootsies of ours or we’re in deep trouble. Maybe that’s why craft-savvy moms, such as Courtney Anne Chu of CourtneyCourtney, succeed where many others fail in pinning down the perfect clothing accessories for kids: Whose instinct to better trust, after all, than her own? Of course, to call the fruit of her labor “socks” would be a misnomer. Technically speaking, they’re booties; practically speaking, they’re a versatile and tradition-tested product that inspires even more hip-shaking, slide-down-the-hall fun than the name implies. Parents will love the fact that these booties can serve as socks or shoes, depending on the occasion (thus bypassing the Herculean task of immobilizing one’s children long enough to tie shoelaces). It’s the personality of the product, however, that sells it. With a delightful variety from which to choose, ranging from the nautical/modern flair of Surfer Cool and the pixie sweetness of Rainbow Red to the li’l tyke ruggedness of Mini Rugby and the dapper kid-cool factor of Schoolbus, the struggle isn’t finding a winner, but rather in settling on just one.

Visit CourtneyCourtney for a full “exposure” to these items as well as Courtney's colorful and incredibly fun line of children's clothing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Because Coffee is (Really) a Girl's Best Friend

As hard as it is to believe we’re closing in on another Christmas, it’s even harder to believe you’re still using that same old coffee mug. You know the one: Chipped at the lip, brittle from a thousand dishwashing cycles, uninspired in both shape and appearance. Before you ring in one more holiday season sipping from that “favorite” excuse for a real mug, it’s time you visited Jewel Pottery and picked out something worthy of your sacred coffee moments. Slip your hand around the curvaceous, just-right contours of the handle alone affixed to one of these beautiful stoneware art pieces, and it’s possible your fingers just might sigh contentedly. Breathe in the café aroma curling contentedly from the barrel belly of such deliciously stein-like mugs and you may well hear your coffee whispering its gratitude with every steamy wisp. Available in tasteful designs including Dragonfly, Guitar, and the unapologetically honest Yes I Will Die Without Coffee, these deep and substantial hand-thrown mugs are as different from the typical drinking vessel as a double-stuffed soft leather sofa is different from an aluminum folding chair. This season, unless you've resolved to give up the morning jolt altogether (yikes), resolve instead to house that morning jolt in something just as appealing as the caffeinated beverage contained in it. After all, your coffee deserves a little love, too.

Visit Jewel Pottery to view the entire collection.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Essence of Escape

A modern log cabin perched in the cleft of a snow-drizzled mountain. A coastal hideaway whose backdoors open to a gloriously unobscured view of the sea. A cottage in the pristine countryside. The dreams that propel our labors almost always center on a place, far from the scenery of our everyday lives, that tantalizes us with its possibilities. We may or may not succeed in fulfilling every dream, but in the meantime we can count on the power of artisans such as Chris of Red Leaf Bath and Body Products to transport us to exotic locales daily through the gateway of our senses. Drawing on an assortment of natural ingredients including many found in the average kitchen, Red Leaf specializes in compact, concentrated products offered in many different varieties, each of which bears its own soothing or salutary essence.

For the traveling man, for example, a rich-lathering Shaving Cube scented with Black Tea or perhaps Basil Lime might serve as a welcome alternative to the harsh motel wakeup call. For the woman who loves to simmer away her worries, a gift of Bubble Bath Dough infused with Lavender or Oatmeal, Milk and Honey may be just what the aromatherapist ordered. The discerning customer will notice instantly the uniqueness of Red Leaf’s offerings: A Very Concentrated Room Spray, a bar that lathers into shampoo, an all-day moisturizer that is sprayed on for superior coverage. Furthermore, one of the most useful aspects of this particular shop is its well-articulated product descriptions, leaving little question that just about anything sold here will be at worst refreshingly unconventional, and at best a revelation. As a clincher, Red Leaf is even offering a freebie to get your stock started: The winner of today's giveaway will receive their choice of Red Leaf's Award Winning Men's or Women's Soap and Shave Cube with a Chrome Stand in your choice of scents. To qualify, visit Red Leaf, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product and scent. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 12/18/08.

**We have a winner! Jennielee who said, "My favorite product is the long lasting linen spray and my favorite scent is the English Coast."**

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fragments of Self

For a cross section of the human brain, one might turn to a neurology textbook. Any cardiologist, likewise, could diagram the major valves and vessels of the heart in a few hasty sketches. For a picture of the way most of us actually think and feel, however, the closest we can come to capturing the strobe-like flashes of imagination and connection that play against the walls of our minds is to create a collage. It’s no wonder, then, that when someone as artistically inclined as Kathryn of Kitschy Hippo sets her mind to collage, the result is a work of art that sends splinters of memories and dreams through our consciousness, fusing the subliminal, as in On the Fence, with the sublime, as in Lightbulb Moment For a Bird or Cherry Tree. Considering the infinite variety of experiences we bring to the table, it’s a bit of mystery how such compositions can so consistently provoke contemplation among us, but they do, and the thoughts that emerge are often surprising.

Another obvious advantage of collage as an art form is that it writes its own rules. A piece like Sitting Pretty may represent exactly what the artist intends, but then again, it might inspire a flashback to something else: old schoolrooms, the ascetic environs of a factory, your mother’s years behind a secretary’s desk, perhaps. Three Little Birds might conjure the colorful reggae essence of the song that apparently inspired it, but on the other hand, it might just as well evoke the flora and fauna of a mythical world. To the question of meaning there is no wrong answer in collage, only a limitless number of honest answers. And if we are honest enough to admit that we find this art form just a bit irresistible, the following will be especially delightful news: Today's winner will receive the print Wishing For Paris to add to their collection. To qualify, visit Kitschy Hippo, then come back here to tell us about your favorite print. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 12/17/08.

**We have a winner! Marigold said, "As someone who's done the long distance relationship thing, I really love the "What If" print. It's gorgeous."**

Monday, December 8, 2008

Beyond the Paper Crane

By now, provided you’re one of the millions of folks worldwide who observe the odd tradition of hauling a freshly hewn tree into your home for the holidays, you’ve probably already begun to ruminate on the subject of decorating that tree. If you’re the neighbor who yearly sets out to shame the others with that plum and gold, shimmering ball-festooned edifice sprouting with pheasant feathers in the window where every passerby can see it, you might have overlooked today’s featured item. If, however, you can appreciate a more organic, sensible approach, you might consider origami ornaments this year. You heard right. Origami, a lost art, has returned in time for the holidays, courtesy of Suanne of Paper Affection. Employing the elegant movements of such styles as Magenta Arabesque and Lime Star Petite, while also building with more traditional boxy shapes such as Blue Modular Petite, Suanne demonstrates the many possibilities of this art form as yuletide décor and awakens us all to an old/new design paradigm.

If the ornaments are unique and fresh, however, the earrings that Suanne manages to produce are downright striking. Since origami is essentially papercraft, it’s expected that these earrings would have a delicate, almost weightless bearing to them. Even so, the precision and inspiration of the Aqua Brocade Earrings, Blue and Green Flipped Cubes, Origami Cherry Earrings and so many others in this collection prove that Paper Affection’s catalog is as long on substance as it is short on wasted material. And say this much about origami accessories: You will never lack for a conversation piece with such a lovely conception dangling from your lobes. Finally, to encourage us even more to explore the boundaries of this ancient Asian tradition both in our fashions and by our firesides, Suanne is offering a very special giveaway: The winner will receive a generous $25 Paper Affection Gift Certificate, good toward the purchase of any item in the store. To qualify, visit Paper Affection, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 12/16/08.

**We have a winner! Crystal said, "Awwww, How sweet the Winged Heart Necklace is...Love it:)"**

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Golden Touch

Children, don’t discard those secret hopes and not-yet-jaded spirits just yet. Your parents may not admit it, but there’s a significant element of truth to the fantastical stories of toys rising to life, as they do in legends running the gamut from Pinocchio to The Velveteen Rabbit. Here it is: Sometimes, we choose the toy. Sometimes, the toy chooses us. The fuzzy, felt-skinned friends offered by Kata Golda serve as a splendid sample group through which to test this theory, laboratory-style. Go ahead little girl, pick up the hand-stitched dog, spring-pretty in her skirt and blouse, and see if her tiny dark eyes like chocolate chips don’t implore you to take you home, best friends forever. Don’t be afraid, little boy, to hold that bear in the buttoned jumper close to your believing heart, and see if he doesn’t softly whisper a plea that he might be the toy that wins your smile this Christmas. Give Kata’s characters a window of opportunity, Mom and Dad, and that lamb with the beguiling eyes, rabbit in Sunday best, or darling little peep just might capture you as well.

Of course, any review of Kata Golda’s work would be remiss without a mention that it isn’t just her stuffed animals that carry this magic. With the same enviable ease with which she turns a few mousy bits of felt into a full-fledged finger puppet, she turns tea sets etched with animal life, cards announced by unassuming snowmen, journals sung to life by carefree birds and a score of other products into the kinds of keepsakes that never lose their place in our lives. The fact that Kata donates a percentage of every sale to elementary schools is really just a second layer of frosting on an already-delectable treat; these toys are appealing enough as examples of the kinds of toys that all of us as parents wish we could make. Well, maybe you don’t have Kata’s golden touch, but if your luck is golden, that might be enough: The winner of today’s giveaway will be receiving an adorable Mouse Finger Puppet from Kata’s collection ($24 value). To qualify, visit Kata Golda, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 12/11/08.

**We have a winner! Jenna who said, "I really like the Kid’s Messenger Bag. It is very cute!"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Orchid Soul

It’s often said that a little piece of the artist’s soul is left in every work of art. If that’s true, we can deduce that Karen Faulkner’s soul is one awash in vibrant ideas, passionate as the blushing pinks and plunging blues that invigorate her floral watercolors, and guileless as the straightforward, original designs for which she is known. While favorites such as True Blue Orchids, Purple Rain, and Holiday (anyone missing the 80’s pop theme here isn’t paying attention) present as uncomplicated renderings, they’re nothing simple about them. In fact, Faulkner’s gallery on the whole represents a kind of journey, building on the momentum of slender roses, clovers and peonies to finally peak with gorgeous radials such as Winter Maple and fascinating compositions such as Gourd Love.

James Whistler, himself no slouch when it came to watercolor, once said that "to say to the the painter that nature is to taken as she is, is to say to the player that he may sit on the piano." There can be no question that artists such as Karen Faulkner are unafraid to interpret the splendor of nature, as in Glorious Blue, in shades of ethereal mystery and often fascinating subtlety. In the end, however, it's the atmosphere that a watercolor flower creates that seals the deal. Nothing, after all, speaks peace to a home better than the feathery brushstroke that gives flight to the soul's visions.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Makeup that Makes (Perfect) Sense

Assembling the ideal makeup palette for one’s own skin tone, eye color, and personality is vexing enough . (Perhaps that’s why those smartly-smocked faux cosmetic scientists prowling the aisles of department stores are so effective in persuading/commanding us to let them experiment on us.) Throw in the qualifier of using only makeup that’s proven organic, natural, and pore-friendly, and suddenly the challenge of being properly made up for a day’s socializing reaches the level of quantum mechanics. Hope, however, is not lost. Thanks to the forward-thinking of Kate of Luire Mineral Cosmetics, it’s no pipe dream to imagine dipping one’s fingers into a makeup that’s mineral-based, meaning it’s actually therapeutic for the skin, while at the same time enjoying the confidence that comes from choosing a truly stylish and cleverly formulated product.

Engineered by a Missouri-based cosmetic craftmatician (not a real word), Luire is firstly well-marketed, distinguishing its bold yet complex eye colors with a-luire-ing names such as Shrinking Violet and Wishful Thinking, and appealing to our senses with fluidly poetic descriptions of each product. Secondly, however, and more importantly, these lovely little pockets of makeup magic are energized with hues that work to bring out the best in all of us. Whether your personality is Belly Dancer or Slow Burn, Fool’s Gold or Midori (my personal favorite), chances are you’ll find at least one tone that’s quintessentially you in this beautiful and unpretentious collection. You'll all be excited to enter this giveaway! Luire is kindgly giving away Four 5g jars of Peony Petal, Silver Sea, Under the Bridge and Lilypad, plus a full-size tube of Garden Party Gloss, all giftwrapped in a pretty silk bag. (A $25 value.) To qualify, visit Luire Mineral Cosmetics, then come back here to tell us about your favorite product. Tell us in a second post if you happen to subscribe to Wishing Willow, since our subscribers receive an extra entry in the contest. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. The winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends 12/10/08.

**We have a winner. Congrats janetfaye!**