Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Washington DC + Virginia Farmer's Market: A Pictorial Retrospective

I had a little vacation this last weekend to Virginia and DC to meet the brand new (and only) baby in our family: Kyle Marshall. While we were there, we detoured to all of the must-see sites including the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and the American History Museum at the Smithsonian. We got to see Julia Child's kitchen--my main goal for the museum stop!--Lincoln's top hat, and so much more. As a kid, I saw all of these sites (the ones that are old at least), but it was so much more amazing seeing all of them as an adult. Then a quick trip to a local, Virginia Farmer's Market and it was back home. Enjoy the East Coast photos!

washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market
washington DC and virginia farmer's market

Friday, June 21, 2013

Favorite Friend Friday: Michelle Jewell of Finkelstein's Toys

Michelle's plushies were some of the first products that we started carrying in our shop, from her line called Finkelstein's Center. We absolutely fell in love with her acorns and sticks (if you were a customer at our physical space--we're sure you saw and loved them!) and contacted her to carry her designs. Some of our favorite little plushy friends have traveled to us from Finkelstein's--and we are so delighted to have a brand new shipment in. Michelle is an amazing designer and a dear friend of Assemble. We're happy to have her as one of our Favorite Friends:

finkelstein's design center plushy friends and toys for assemble shop

Tell us a little bit about Finkelstein's Toys! How did you get started, and what made you want to make plushy friends?
I started making them three years ago after leaving my job to work for myself. I didn't just start making plush friends right away, I made lots of handmade items and presented them to my friends for a test run. The dolls and plush creatures were the most popular and also what I enjoyed making the most. I continued to make them, experimenting with different materials sewing styles and Finkelstein's grew from there!

finkelstein's design center plushy friends and toys for assemble shop

Where did you get the name, Finkelstein's Toys?
Most people think that Finkelstein is a family name but it's actually one of my dog Bernie's middle names, Bernard Pickles Finkelstein. I have no idea where it came from originally or why he has so many names but it stuck and became the name of my business.

Do you work only on Finkelsteins or do you have another job?
I operate Finkelstein's full time and I currently have three ladies who help sew while I work on custom orders and developing new characters.

finkelstein's design center plushy friends and toys for assemble shop

What is your favorite plushy--and what is your most popular?
My favorite to make is the dolls, I am able to get very detailed and it's fun to switch gears from the creatures for a while. My most popular plushy is probably the elephant. Elephants are seen as sweet and gentle animals, everyone read a book about a nice elephant when they were little so I think it makes them appealing. As far as plush buddies go, the elephants are also versatile between boys and girls so it's the easiest to give as a gift.

finkelstein's design center plushy friends and toys for assemble shop

How do you get ideas for new toys?
I get ideas in lots of different ways--I have a book of half ideas that I refer to when I feel stuck to see if one jumps out and turns into a creature. Sometimes my customers push my creativity through commissioned work, they'll request something I've never made before. I don't necessarily sketch every new character but I do sketch for fun and different creatures come from that process too. When I was little I would ask my mom to draw a bunch of lines or squiggles on a sheet of paper, my challenge would be to turn her squiggles into a picture. It was normally an imagined creature that was a hybrid with a human or machine, I'm basically still playing the same game. I save scraps of fleece and see what I can turn them into using only that much material, it's a good exercise in creativity and I don't waste material.

Where do you source your materials?
The consistent material that their bodies are made of is fleece, sourced from the fabric store. It's important for me to have a consistent base material so customers and stores who carry my characters know what they are getting. To make each piece unique we use up-cycled material either donated or purchased to construct their add-ons like their shirts, socks, bloomers and so on. I will occasional pick up small amounts of printed material from the fabric store if I really love it but I try to stay away from doing that too much.

finkelstein's design center plushy friends and toys for assemble shop

If you could sell your toys at one shop, what would that shop be?
I don't have a specific store that I strive to sell with but I do tend to be attracted to smaller boutiques and stores. I enjoy building relationships with them and seeing how dedicated they are to their shops and to the lines that they carry.

finkelstein's design center plushy friends and toys for assemble shop

Do you have any business or design role models?
I draw a lot of inspiration from people I know personally who are successful with their business: Ink Meets Paper, Rewined Candles, Proud Mary. Sometimes when I see businesses that are doing with they do really well I just assume that they have a lot of hands on deck helping to make it happen. When I look at my friends' businesses, I know they are wearing all the hats like me and I know how dedicated they are to making their businesses grow. They are the best role models because I can see how hard they work and how they continue to make their business better and its inspirational and motivating.

If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Tiramisu. I love it so much.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
London, England. An unexpected fact about me is that I am a huge EPL fan. I get up around 7am on Saturday mornings to start gearing up for the games during the regular season. I even plan my schedule around it when it falls on a weekday, it's crazy. I read sports blogs, I watch transfer windows, I yell at the TV, I wear the appropriate gear for luck, I watch training videos on my lunch break, the works! In addition to all the other things London has to offer, it would be very convenient for my obsession.

And what is your favorite time-wasting activity?
Well excluding the above mentioned which is probably where the majority of my free time goes, I waste a notable amount of time on DIY blogs and design sites. I love giving myself building projects and finding ways to change the space I'm in, I wish I had more time for it.

Check out our Finkelstein's Center Toys in our web store, here.

Images by Rebekah Collinsworth Photography and Sea Star Arts

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wish You Were Here! School House Craft's Summer Blogging Camp

Despite the absence of Emily (vacation to meet a new baby!) I had a great time at the School House Craft Summer Blogging Camp. Emily is the calm and articulate public speaker of our partnership, so it was time for me to face my fears of public speaking and join some pals to spread great tips and tricks of the trade to fellow bloggers.

school house craft summer blogging camp

On the roster was a “Balancing Life and Blogging Panel” with old friend Blair Stocker of Wisecraft, and new friends Megan Reardon of Not Martha and Arianne Foulks of Aeolidia. It is so interesting to listen to other bloggers/business ladies chat about their processes, challenges and ideas. I learned so much from the three of them.

Then, onto my roundtable discussion with a delightful group of new friends on “Styling your Blog Photographs” and a delicious gluten-free lunch of strawberries, snap peas, tomatoes, carrots and Fritos (yes!). I’ll put up some of the tips that we talked about next week, along with some helpful HTML hints.

school house craft summer blogging camp

After our lunch roundtables, it was on to the next panel. This was the one that I took notes for: “Monetizing Your Blog.” Phew! Marie LeBaron from Make and Takes, Melanie Biehle from Inward Facing Girl and Moorea Seal were all experts in something that I consider daunting and sometimes a big, old drag. Interesting that a whole new world to your blogging method can open up to you in just one hour.

school house craft summer blogging camp

All in all, it was a lovely, educational and eye-opening experience for all, and we forget how important it is to surround ourselves with like-minded, creative people more, instead of sitting behind our computer screen and shouting out into cyber-space.

A special thank you to Marlo Miyashiro and Andrea Porter for their amazing work getting the entire event up and running (and oh so adorable). I had a blast! We’ll see you in September!

Check out more School House Craft Blogger's Summer Camp blog posts here.

All images via our Instagram

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

We are away lately! Vacations, babies, sightseeing, Chicago, Washington D.C., swimming suits, hostess gifts and cooking for friends and family. It's been a whirlwind this last week! However, we've got news for you! Our stamp rubber is on it's way and we're working on your pin cushions. (We also have some lovely helpers working on them this week for you as well!) Let us live vicariously through you after we're back and sad from no more vacation--are you going anywhere this summer? Where, where? Is it warm? Sandy? Tell us!!! Puh-leeeasseee!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Favorite Friend Friday: Fine Artist, Joey Bates

We've known Joey Bates forever--and he is one of the most talented artists in the Pacific Northwest. His portraiture style combined with mediums like paper-cutting, gouache, (and even painting on windows!) is by far some of the most lovely and inspired work we have seen. Recently, Joey announced his plans to venture out to Iceland, and study land formations and glaciers in connection with his work. We first--donated quickly to his fundraiser, and second--asked him a few questions about his intriguing process. We think you'll be interested too:

joey bates and natasha
Left, Joey. Right, "Natasha" (graphite and gouache on toned paper)

Tell us a little bit about your process--how long does it take you to complete a piece?
I work pretty intuitively. There are times I feel like painting, times I feel like drawing and times I feel like cutting paper. It's hard for me to land on just one thing. I usually just jump into pieces; I don't do any preliminary sketches, but I gather reference material and go for it. I do end up scrapping a lot of work, I learn a lot from the pieces that don't work out.
As for reference material I look all over. For my portraits I work from people I know and usually take 100-200 images of them. Each piece can take anywhere from 8 to 30 hours for completion. The paper cuts usually take more time. I just finished the largest cut paper portrait I have ever done. It can be see in this video, by Christian Powers:

Joey Bates Profile from christian powers on Vimeo.

Do you have endless ideas or do you get "artist's block?"
I do get "artist's block." When I get blocked in regards to new work or new ideas I start doing nudes. It's really good to work through the "blocks." When I am having a hard time sitting down to work I go for a bike ride. I've always found that getting out there and riding around the city helps me greatly in re-centering and being productive in the studio when I get back to the studio.

Untitled Variant Limited Edition Print available through Joey's Indiegogo fundraiser

We hear you are trying to get to Iceland to study land formations! What turned you on to that specifically?
I am fascinated by Iceland. The land more than anything else there. The way the country was formed, how it is still forming and how it is continually changing (most of the time in small ways, but sometimes in explosive ways). I'm also intrigued by the way in which the ice interacts with and changes the land. The glaciers are moving at pretty rapid rates right now. It's insane to think of the way in which water erodes surfaces, what the land looks like now compared to what it looked like just five years ago. Land is amazing and this trip is just the start of a new body of work. The Indiegogo fundraiser is well under way!

What is your favorite piece that you have created?
Oh boy. I don't know. There are certain pieces I feel more affection for. I usually work on a piece and feel really good about it in process, then feel done and over it upon its completion. I think the piece I just completed is my favorite at the moment (the cut paper portrait mentioned earlier). It's currently untitled and not related to the new direction I'm headed with the landscape work.

paper cut hemlock by joey bates seattle
"Hemlock" by Joey Bates

Which artists do you most admire?
• Lucian Freud
• Andrew Wyeth
• Keith Haring
• Egon Schielle
• Gala Bent
• Robert Hardgrave

If you could have one celebrity buy a piece of your work, who would it be?
Oi. I don't know. A large part of me doesn't care for celebrity. I don't really gawk over anyone other than my girlfriend and the amazing people I know. I would love for celebrities to start buying my work, dig out of debt a bit. Ha.

If you could only eat at one local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?
There's a Thai place up north in Edmonds, Washington called Thai Cottage. The food is great and the staff is so amazingly nice. I could see myself stepping in every day feeling welcomed and good about where I'm at. I go every year for my birthday.

If you could live in any other location, where would that be?
Melbourne, Australia or Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I'd always come back to Seattle for visits. This is one of the most beautiful places on this planet and it's hard to think about leaving.

What do you do for fun?
Ride my bicycle, play MLB on the Wii (well actually I play the Wii to take a breather from long days at work), take walks with my girlfriend. I sound like such an old man, but we both live in great neighborhoods in Seattle: Ballard and Queen Anne.

You're stuck on a desert island which book do you want to have?

There is a book that has followed me most of my life in one way or another--Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach

Thanks, Joey! View Joey Bates' website here and donate to his fundraiser for awesome treats and cool prints here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Before & After: Super Sweet Vintage Milking Stool

I got this great vintage milking stool from the Scout Pop-Up shop a few weekends ago, and fell in love. I am 5'4 and can barely reach any of my high cabinets, and was tired of dragging dining chairs over to the kitchen, crawling onto the counter or asking for my husband's assistance--so I was in the market for a step stool. I know this one doesn't look that sturdy, but it definitely holds me very well (and that's all that matters, right?)

Spray-painted modern vintage milking stool

It was in need of a good coat of paint, so I grabbed some Krylon Dual Paint + Primer spray paint in Mandarin and went to town. The full "how-to" will be on Apartment Therapy on Thursday, but I wanted you guys to get a sneak peek beforehand. I love it!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Special Guest Post: Recommended Reads You May Have Missed in High School

It's summer time! And you know what that means--summer reading! Rather than take a copy of the most recent bestseller to the shore or on the plane or to your grandma's house, take Christian's recommendations below. Christian Powers is the English Department Head at Federal Way High School in Washington, and is an avid reader, writer and lover of literature. (And he also happens to be Andie's husband). We asked him what he thought we should be reading, and he gave us an earful. Thanks, Christian! 

If you were one of those kids who read every page of every book assigned in school, we all owe you a long, solemn standing ovation. That sort of thing isn’t easy—I’ll admit that I couldn’t pull it off, myself. But even if you take pride in your teen reading habits, I wouldn’t check those books off your list just yet: they might be worth another read.

Now that I have the privilege of teaching high school English, I get the opportunity to reread some of the perennial classroom classics (including a few I never got around to as a kid) and I’ve been thrilled to find some powerful and thoroughly engaging stories. I’m finding that perspective affects your reading of a book as much as the ink on the page, so if you’ve read these before, consider taking a look from your current vantage point. Furthermore, if you haven’t read these, keep in mind that none of them were written for a teen audience. These are all serious books, written by serious adults. Seriously. So, here are my thoughts on a few “high school books” that are probably more enjoyable now that you don’t have homework.

The Catcher In The Rye
When I tried to read Catcher In The Rye as a teenager, I couldn’t stand the entitled, whiny, and relatively clueless voice of narrator, Holden Caulfield. But when I tried again in my mid-twenties, it was a completely different experience. Holden is lost and pathetic, yes, but Salinger manipulates Caulfield’s voice so deftly, I couldn’t help but feel for the little guy. Holden’s innocence and ignorance create a space that allows the reader to see plainly what our sad narrator can’t. It’s a poignant rumination on the loss of innocence, and the awkwardness of being stuck between youth and adulthood without the guidance of understanding or hindsight.

If you’re unfamiliar with Mary Shelley’s novel, it’s time to remedy that situation. It's much different from what you might expect if all you know of this story is the flat-topped, bolt-necked green guy from cartoons. You get the French Alps, you get unattainable love, you get complete and utter despair, you get a complex novel of multiple perspectives and formats (including the monster’s perspective, after it learns to read and write from a blind man). Plus, you can feel terrible about yourself, knowing that Shelley was eighteen when she wrote a book that pioneered countless conventions and tropes of the sci-fi and horror genres.

As I Lay Dying
The only Faulkner I read in high school was the haunting story, “A Rose For Emily” (although the breathtaking “Barn Burning” should be his most anthologized). I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I didn’t fall in love with his work until well into my college years. As I Lay Dying is his only novel taught in schools, and I suppose that makes sense—in spite of its fifteen separate narrators(!), it’s one of Faulkner’s most accessible books. In the book, the Bundren family sets off to transport the body of their deceased matriarch to be buried in her hometown. The real draw is the subtlety in Faulkner’s portrayal of each character, which creates an emotionally intricate mess of a family—through a complexity that deepens and expands with each new perspective. Also, Renaissance man James Franco recently wrapped a big screen adaptation (his directorial debut), that is, by early accounts, not so bad. No matter what, I’m going to guess that reading the book first might come in handy this time around.

Of Mice And Men
Steinbeck’s simplest and shortest novel could be read in a single sitting, if you’ve got an open Saturday. It’s a riff on the author’s favorite subject: loneliness (hint—it takes place in near a town called Soledad). It’s a striking portrait of the lives of migrant workers in depression-era California that hinges on themes of friendship and mercy. The language is gorgeous and Steinbeck’s ear for dialogue is as sharp as it is in any of his books. It’s a bit of a heartbreaker, sure, but it’s also overflowing with wit and humanity.

To Kill A Mockingbird
This is such a formative book for many young people that it almost doesn’t need anyone’s recommendation. Don’t worry—it’s still amazing and will break your heart, every time. I’m actually disappointed if kids don’t cry in class when Tom Robinson’s verdict is read—I wonder if I should read it again, slower. I realized that there was so much I’d missed as a kid, including quite a bit of humor and charm. It’s about injustice and growth. It’s about choosing courage and kindness, even (or especially) in the face of helplessness. If, in terms of age, you were closer to Scout than Atticus when you last read it, read it again, soon.

The Great Gatsby
Now that Baz Luhrman’s adaptation has hit movie theaters, this book is suddenly a hot topic. But if you haven’t read it since high school (if at all), grab a copy. Narrated by the awkward outsider Nick Carraway after a whirlwind stint in New York, we get a fleeting glimpse of unbridled pre-crash American decadence. But in spite of the wild living, everything is always just out of reach for every character concerned. They try to lie, cheat, and spend their way to happiness, but it eludes each of them. There’s a pervading sadness pulsing through this book, threatening the hopes of everyone concerned. And it’s got some of the best sentences you’ll ever read.

Fahrenheit 451
Instead of the big scary government controlling of our freedoms (like Big Brother in 1984), Bradbury presents a much more frightening scenario. Society has gradually lost interest in personal relationships and the arts in favor of the fastest, loudest, and most immediate pastimes (like wall-sized TVs with shows that simulate reality, or tiny earphones that people never ever remove, for instance). Walking outside is suspicious activity, as is having an extended conversation. Oh yeah—and books are absolutely, totally forbidden. Ray Bradbury offers us an entirely unsettling dystopic vision that is more plausible than most others.

I don’t know if many people have been assigned this novel in schools, but it’s been on the AP list for a while, so I figured it was fair game. It’s the shocking story of a horrific act carried out by a desperate runaway slave, and the irrevocable consequences that follow. Toni Morrison is one of three Nobel Prize winning Americans on this list (along with Faulkner and Steinbeck), and it’s easy to see why she completely deserved it. This book will haunt you. I realize that my last sentence is a bit of a pun, but there’s really no better way to explain the effects of Morrison’s prose.

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