Friday, February 27, 2009

Anyone for Tea?

I would quite like to sit and chat with this bear. I do love a well-read companion. I don't think he would eat me, do you?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dreams Walking in Broad Daylight

As a means of trying to comprehend the irresistible appeal of Lany Devening's sidewinding, dark-bright sense of place, I like to imagine showing it to an allegedly hip sixty-year-old sci-fi buff with whom I used to work in sales. “Jerry Lewis I get,” I can hear him saying. “Jerry Seinfeld I get. This, I don’t get.” And that’s the point. Devening, proprietor of an Etsy art shop that is quite unlike any other, blurs the distinction between fun and evocative—we’ll call it funocative—to render a set of themes that feel as deliciously dangerous as laughing with a loaded BB gun in one’s hand. A lonely shanty home billows with smoke under an otherwise blue New Mexico sky, the image wrapped in a heart-shaped frame. Four cloned children stride out of a 1950’s classroom, disillusioned by their classmates’ treatment of them. A dog on a porch anticipates the swell of a grasshopper storm.

Whether anyone, including the artist herself, knows the meaning of any of this is beside the point. It is art, the type that simultaneously ups both the IQ and the PQ (party quotient) of any dinner among friends. The fact that the words Lany Devening adds through the mouths of her silent subjects always seem just a little beyond anyone’s reach, well, that’s a good thing in this case. She is, in the end, another fantastic example of the kind of talent that lurks right behind the bushes in Etsy’s own backyard, or in this case right under the sweet dogwood shade of Carrboro, North Carolina. And if you happen to find her art as strikingly magnetic as we do, you’ll be thrilled to know that the artist is offering a giveaway as well. The winner of today's contest will receive a print of Minnesota, courtesy of Lana Devening. To enter, visit, then come back here to tell us about your favorite piece in Lany's collection. Tell us in an additional post if you subscribe to Wishing Willow, or follow us on Twitter, and "tweet" about the giveaway. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. Contest ends 3/05/09.

Be sure to also enter our giveaways here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Earth to Self-Control...Do you read me?

I'm already the proud owner of a Billy Sue Textiles scarf, though calling one of Debbie Barrett-Jones' creations merely a scarf is the understatement of the year. These scarves are the softest, most lovely textile art you will every lay your eyes or hands on. This beauty here is new, and I'm having a difficult time overcoming the temptation to buy it. I hope one of you, my loyal readers, will save me from myself and buy this one for yourself. It's 20% off for goodness sake! Help...

Visit Billy Sue Textiles to view Debbie's collection, and click here to read more about the artist.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Some Amazing Shoes (and Dresses) to Fill

Children have a way of seeing the possibilities in almost anything—a sword in a stick, a fortress in a cardboard box, a train tunnel in a toilet paper roll. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, then, when a child’s ability to envision the type of person or creature who would “fill” a particular article of clothing exceeds the imaginative power of many adults. Rosie Flo’s Coloring Book (Chronicle Books), a unique work given to the world of creative kids by English designer/mom Roz Streeten, honors this very phenomenon. By providing page after page of dresses sans damsels, Streeten sets her young readers free to flesh out the head, legs, arms of each picture—or, for that matter, to plant a beak, paw, or fin where a human appendage might otherwise fit. As a companion volume, Rosie Flo’s Garden Coloring Book picks up where the cherished original left off, and adds a few new twists—or fairies, gnomes, animals, and other garden dwellers, to be precise.

Finally, the third volume in this delightful set, Rosie Flo’s Animals Coloring Book, is themed entirely on the fauna of our world. Zebra-inspired gowns, pants tailored for monkeys, empty suits strolling beside bulldogs, this book is an invitation for animal lovers of any age to ponder the endless connections between our furry friends and ourselves, and to take our own lives a little less seriously. Whether as a welcome antidote for road trip boredom, an effective oil with which to grease your little one’s creative wheels, or a gift that’s just plain different, Streeten’s books are a timely throwback to the days when kids had time to imagine, and to let that image take on a life all its own. To order a personal copy of any of Roz Streeten’s books, visit Chronicle

Friday, February 20, 2009

C'est Beau

For my melancholy friends, I share with you one of the latest creations from artist Shira Sela. There's something so beautiful about the process of Healing. Don't you think?

Visit Shira's collection here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sterling Qualities

There’s a longheld stereotype that says jewelry reflects the character of its wearer. Bold, outspoken women hailing from in-your-face cultures tend to wear earrings the size of small hula hoops; artsy women are apt to decorate their wrists and hands with all sorts of rings and bangles as a way of subconsciously honoring the part of them they value most; modest women gravitate toward lockets and clasps; you get the picture. If the stereotype is true, we’d like to think that the organic, craft-loving consumers who tend to shop for jewelry on Etsy cherish the values embodied by artisans like Emily of Emily Warner Designs: substance, strength of character, subtle beauty and originality.

From the beautiful simplicity of the Hammered Circle Ring to the quiet confidence of the Beach Stone Bangle, from the deep, swirling earth tones of the Bezel Wrapped Chrysacola Necklace to the riveting plotlines of the Circle Drop Earrings, each of Emily’s fine designs seems to bring to life a powerful aspect of womanhood or of the neverending, ever-cycling creative story itself. Like the shimmer of Emily’s own Faceted Quartz Charm Necklace, the appeal of this shop is in the pride of craft that it represents. And as long as charm’s the word, those of us charmed by generous giveaways (which is all of us, of course) will find this one a real gem: The winner of today’s giveaway will receive a $40 gift certificate from Emily Warner Designs. To enter, visit, then come back here to tell us about your favorite item in Emily's Collection. Tell us in an additional post if you subscribe to Wishing Willow, or follow us on Twitter, and "tweet" about the giveaway. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. Contest ends 2/27/09. We have a winner. Congrats Suanne!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Revolution? Let’s Soap So…

Lightly soothing, softening up under gentle pressure, bubbling brightly at just the right moments… To stop and think of it, in times of stress a well-made soap is a lot like a well-rounded friend. Even smaller wonder that artisans such as Janell of Dancing Mooney, whose shop features soap injected with pure personality, are especially loved. With signature items such as the olive oil-based Green Tea and Lavender soap, its stirring fragrance locked into a series of layers as verdant and dark as the bed of a Scottish loch, its dressing of tea leaves as fine as a sprinkling of rare pipe tobacco, the store scores high marks in mystery and suggestion.

In the category of sweet’n’salutary, however, Dancing Mooney is no slouch either, with items such as the Vanilla Mint and Oatmeal soap encapsulating the very idea of class in a glaze-white confection comforting as honey porridge and spry as a young mint leaf plucked fresh from the garden. Bold as Bay Rum, inspiring as Ginger Peach, coastal-clean as Ocean Air, the myriad varieties of soap offered in this store stir the senses and light up the eyes, reminding us that even the oldest and most basic of bath items can be transformed into a work of art when placed in the right hands. And speaking of hands, you’ll be able to get yours on this irresistible product sooner than you think, should you be lucky enough to win this great giveaway. Dancing Mooney is sharing with you, our lovely readers, a bar of Green Tea and Lavender Soap to call your own. To enter, visit, then come back here to tell us about your favorite item in Janell's shop. Tell us in an additional post if you subscribe to Wishing Willow, follow us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter, and "tweet" about the giveaway. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. Contest ends 2/26/09. We have a winner. Congrats Leane!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Little Birdie Told Me

A while back we had the opportunity to feature Lulu Bug Jewelry (see it here.) I've had my eye on the Little Bird Necklace ever since. What a perfect little embellishment for the coming Spring. Isn't it sweet?

Visit Lulu Bug Jewelry to view the entire collection.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Louis Lives On

Pop Quizzity: In literature, what does it mean to truly value language? An answer could be gleaned, perhaps, from surveying the work of the word-coining master William Shakespeare or, on the other pole, of verbal uber-economist Ernest Hemingway. In children’s literature, however, the proof is in the pudding—or more specifically, in the texture of the pudding as it tickles the tongue, plays on the palette, and rolls down the roof of the mouth like a sliding rain. When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat (Chronicle Books), a word-wiggling giggling story of a young girl who is mentored by the Sultan of Scat himself, combines the playful prose of veteran children’s writer Muriel Harris Weinstein with the Coretta Scott King Award-winning talent of illustrator R. Gregory Christie to create a work that is an absolute pleasure to read aloud. Jazzy, smoky, melodic and happy, this dream yarn strings together lines of scat like links in a lip-loosening jingle, to the effect that anyone, young or old, who attempts to read it in a sober tone will find it impossible to keep the music embedded in Weinstein’s prose from bubbling to the surface. Even Christie’s colors are appropriately harmonious, beginning with a ragtime-rosy pallet of simple tones, and punctuated with spontaneous bursts of color at just the right measure. It is, at the end of the evening, a story of which Louis himself would have been proud, and more importantly, one which your children will want to hear again. To order a personal copy, visit Chronicle today.

Be sure to also enter our giveaways here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Found in Translation

“Art,” said Argentinian poet Jorge Luis Borges, “always opts for the individual.” Perhaps this adage helps resolve the mystery of how one of Argentina’s more artistic daughters, Paola Zakimi, though hailing from a land lush with fine wine, honey, and sunflowers, would see fit to focus her talent on the simplest of subjects: the human expression. With numerous paintings that center on the faces of children and young ladies, faces caught between fear and intuition, as in Rosita; naivete and anticipation, as in Retrato; and wariness and curiosity, as in Clara, the artist connects to us through the eyes of her subjects as if tuning us magically to the secrets of her heart. We may not know the story in each, but we know the story it tells to us, and thus the image pours out an infinite number of stories, like an Argentine waterfall endlessly replenishing the river beneath.

In addition to her way with faces, however, Zakimi carves out a considerable niche with her handcrafted art dolls. From the regal bearing of Anastasia, adorned in a hand-embroidered muslin dress dyed with jasmine tea, to the doleful countenance of the finely-detailed Koka Mola, each of the many originals in her gallery is captivating in its own way. And if all this weren’t enough to convince us of her gift, she shows quite a flair for watercolor as well in the charming My Lovely Tree. In summary, there is very little Paola Zakimi can not do. And if you happen to love her paintings, dolls, or other media, one thing you, our reader, can do is enter this giveaway. The winner will receive a free print of Sofi and the Fish, an endearing image of childhood in which Sofi, like an angel bestowing a blessing, reaches out of her boat to touch a curious fish. To enter, visit, then come back here to tell us about your favorite piece in Paola's collection. Tell us in an additional post if you subscribe to Wishing Willow, follow us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter, and "tweet" about the giveaway. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. Contest ends 2/21/09. We have our winner: Congrats Puffluna!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


It make sense that amigurumi, the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals, would appeal to almost everyone. We humans, with all our maddening parental instincts, can’t resist small, cute objects. How else could our last few generations explain the popularity of calculator wristwatches that perform complex mathematical functions (because hey, trig happens when we least expect it); mp3 players so small we lose them with our keys; and Pokemon? For Marcy Bridges, also known as Marcy Moon-Yen, however, the question is not whether Moon Buns, her signature li’l stuffed bunny, is cute enough—we all know the answer to that one—but rather, how can this doe-eyed work of doll genius get any cuter?

Bridges, a Chinese-American fiber artist working out of her Virginia studio, has figured out how to outfit the same palm-sized bunny in dozens of different colors, and even in a darling riding hood, without ever losing sight of the simplicity and innocence that put her product on the map. Handmade, kid-proportioned to emphasize the sweet childlike spirit of the craft, and conveniently sized for stuffing in purses or pockets as a carry-along friend, Moon Buns just might be the one “traditional” plaything that finally catches on in homes strewn with electro-junk and spent batteries. After all, our kids need someone like Moon Bun. And Moon Bun needs them, too. To help a little bun find his way into your home, Marcy has graciously agreed to send one Custom Forest Moon Bun. To enter, visit Moon's Creations, then come back here to tell us which of Marcy's creations fits your personality best and why. Tell us in an additional post if you subscribe to Wishing Willow, follow us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter, and "tweet" about the giveaway. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. Contest ends 2/20/09. We have our winner. Congrats Hazel!

Monday, February 9, 2009

From France, With Love

If we as would-be art critics have a tendency to reach for Picasso when trying to characterize an artist whose stylings lean a little cubist, it’s meant as the ultimate compliment, rather than a commentary on the artist’s lack of originality. Julia Freund is a great example. An immensely talented German-born abstract artist living in France, Freund at times renders a disjointed, collage-style composition that captures the mechanics of Picasso’s macabre social studies, but in spirit, she and the melancholy master are worlds apart. Unlike the disturbingly detached subjects of his Blue Period, her subjects, typified in So Many Strange People, are fleshy and visceral, knowable, suspended in space yet somehow full of life and thought. Even her inanimate subjects, such as the massive edifice in Babylon that rises above the jumbled city like a great kiosk plastered in Parisian newspaper, breathe out the lingua of possibilities, of conviction, even of truth, the latter of which Picasso famously denied was even possible in art.

At the same time, however, it would be rather gauche of us to paint Julia Freund as an artist with a social agenda, given that the overall feel of her gallery is more joyful than jarring, far more suffused with delightful ideas than stained with dogmatic assumptions. In fact, the variety of art is so remarkable that in turning from the highly developed style of Make Words Grow to the simple, child-friendly approach of something like A Slightly Melancholy Bear, one wonders if we’re even dealing with the same artist. But don’t take it from us, not when Freund’s wonderful gallery is right there for the browsing. And while you’re enjoying her work—which by the way, is always sent printed on actual canvas for you purists—you can also enjoy the giveaway the artist is offering to our Wishing Willow readers, one of the most generous giveaways in our history. Two winners each will receive a print of choice, with three additional winners each receiving The Princess and Her Frog pinback button set. To enter, visit, then come back here to tell us about your favorite item or print in Julia's shop. Tell us in an additional post if you subscribe to Wishing Willow, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter. To post without a Google account, just click “anonymous.” Be sure to also leave your email address. Contest ends 2/17/09. We have our winners. Congrats Guettel178, Sarah, Leah, Janil and Meninheira!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Putting off the Inevitable

So, I confess: I've been completely behind the times. But finally, for your convenience, I've added Wishing Willow to Facebook and Twitter, so you can have yet another way to get updates. In the future you will be able to earn extra entries in giveaways, by becoming a fan on Facebook, and following us on Twitter. Lovely eh?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sweetheart of a Sale

We had the privilege of featuring Karen Faulkner's lovely watercolors in December. I though you all would like to check out her Valentine's Day Sale. Among other deals, all her one of a kind Heart paintings are Buy One Get One Free. Really, you can't beat that! All her pieces are original, so grab a few before they're gone!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hand-some Tastes

“And now,” to borrow a Monty Python phrase, “for something completely different.” If you’ve ever wondered why soapmakers don’t use a little more creativity in their molding process—after all, there’s no law that says a bar of soap can’t be shaped like, say, a cowboy hat or a kidney—you’ll want to take a moment to visit Plastic Foliage, home of the aptly named Handsoap. Crafted into the actual shape of hands that range from the adorably pudgy, stubby infant variety to the larger, more developed toddler form , these soaps are as impossible to employ in the bath without an accompanying smile as they are sufficiently kitschy-creative-cool to make you the cultural envy of any houseguest who should pause to lather up at your sink. Plastic Foliage is also a lovely place to locate other “handy” items like the Happy Face Tote bag or perhaps a pair of Wrist Zips, which allow active people to remain hands-free by zipping away their coins and chapsticks in little pouches worn on the forearms. If your shopping is guided by everyday, conformist standards, this may not be the place for you. If, however, you’ve got a little personality in you and don’t mind showing it, browsing the goods at just might be the most fun you’ll have this winter.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Strange and Wonderful Brew

Color, as ingredients go, is to art what salt is to cooking. In other words, it’s hard to do without it, but a little goes a long way, and a reckless use of it can easily lead to disaster. Thank heaven, then, that when it comes to her brushes, chromatic wonder-girl Hadley Hutton knows exactly when to hold ‘em, and exactly when to fold ‘em (not a perfect use of cultural reference, but we all get the point). Certainly, there are moments, as in Summer Swallow, when the muted tones against which the subjects are displayed only serve to heighten the potency of the fleshy reds and soft blues utilized. In other pieces such as In the Tree and April, however, the wall-to-wall simmering stock of intermingling shades and tones is exactly what the art lover ordered, particularly if said art lover shares Hutton’s lifelong passion for color.

It isn’t only birds on branches that light up Hutton’s world, of course. There’s even a little winter magic afoot in pieces like Sweet Dreams, in which a pixie-like girl accepts the noble transport of a splendid bird in a vaguely pink-lavender setting, and an enigmatic message in the lower-body framing of Shipwrecked, among other cryptically composed pieces. Whatever the themes may be—love, loss, or the priceless and often-overlooked majesty of the hidden corners of nature—Hadley Hutton makes it work by reminding us again that the world around us is full of color for the simple reason that our eyes prefer to see it that way. Like all gifted artists, she translates the images we know into what we can imagine them to be. And in so doing, she helps us appreciate the world in a way we might never have otherwise been able to conceive of doing.

To view the entire Hadley Hutton collection, click here.