Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Green Living: Maggie Hand Painted

We often think about the effects of waste and pollution on the planet. No one likes to visit a park and find trash on the ground, or see empty water bottles floating by in the pond. We think about the animals and plants that we want to protect. This is obviously a very important cause. But sometimes we forget that people are affected too, that there is a very human side to environmental problems. We are strongly connected to the earth. We are only as healthy as the air we breath and the water we drink.

No one knows this human side better than Maggie Miller, owner of Maggie Hand Painted. I asked Maggie to tell me why her life and her art has to be green.

'I'm a supporter of [the green] movement not just because it is important to our planet but because of the health implications...I have no choice but to create and live in [a green way] for health and personal reasons...I acquired an immune disorder which has debilitated me. It almost took my life [and] that was no [laughing] matter. For the past couple years it has affected my breathing, [given me] serious skin reactions [and] chronic fatigue. I could no longer paint or work with the materials I used to work with.'

'I had to change my home environment to 100% green in order to stay in my own home, change all my cloths to avoid skin reactions, and change how I created my art. I could no longer paint in oils and use all the products I was used to. [I] had to research green alternatives. I educated myself on green living; [particularly] green living for people with immune disorders- what they could and could not have in their homes.'

'Art was a big factor. People don't realize the gases [that] oil paints and varnishes release [in the air and] on your walls. So I decided to turn all of [my] art into a green process, making it accessible to all of my clients, especially those with immune disorders [like me].'

'Every material I use, [including] paints, varnishes, [and] fabrics have to be organic, recycled, [and] nontoxic because I cannot touch or breath anything that will affect my health.'

'My company is undergoing a complete green certification process, [all the way down to] my energy source. Once complete, I will receive my certification seal to be posted on my main website. [My materials are] all non-toxic, organic, or recycled. [Even] the paper I use is made [from] sugar cane.'

'My mission [is] to educate my clients about the green process[es] [I use in my art, and] the importance [of] supporting artists/crafters who create in [an environmentally friendly] manner. [It not only it helps] our planet, it helps [artists] make a living and supports our economy.'

'My plan for the future is to expand my product line and introduce a new eco-green linen line, and a soap line from my family's soap recipes. Maggie also plans on opening a store front...'It is getting crowded in my home studio and I need a place for designers to see my line of furniture, which I'm most know for. I have yet to list those on my Esty shop but you can see my furniture on my main website.'

Check out Maggie's website and her Etsy shop.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fashion and Beauty: Libunnyfoofoo

Lets play a little game...I want you to think of your favourite accessory. It could be a lovely piece of jewelry, a tie, a bag, a scarf, whatever. Now, use your imagination and think of that accessory as having a personality. Is it bright and cheery? Funny? A diva? Or very sensible?

It's kind of fun to think of our wardrobe pieces having personality and character. Really, we wear our accessories as an extension of ourselves. We want to show our personality to the world through our favourite pieces. It may be kind of silly to imagine our necklaces and hair clips talking with an accent, or having a bee hive hairdo, but when we have a connection with our accessories we're more likely to value them- the materials they're made of, where they come from, and whose hands made them. With value comes respect. Respect for the hands at work, as well as the materials that came from the earth.

Keep our little game in mind as you read my interview with Erin Farmer, owner and creator or Libunnyfoofoo: Handmade, one of a kind, eco friendly headbands, head pieces, hair Bows, and hairpins. Erin is giving poor old, forgotten jewelry supplies a second chance!

'I'm trying to give some really cool vintage [supplies] (jewelry and trim) new life and keep [them] out of the landfills. Almost all my supplies are used, given, recycled, vintage, broken or unwanted in some way.'

'My mother is my biggest inspiration. As a little girl I would sit by her side as she crafted and [I would] look through a box of old buttons that I loved. At Christmas the tree was covered in garlands, strung from vintage necklaces, brooches and earrings as well as a new handmade ornament for every year. So that's where it all comes from.'

'Over the last two years, my father had become very ill and I had become unemployed. We set up some yard sales and one of the things left over was a bag with old jewelry and beads. I wanted to make something beautiful and useful that I could wear, but I'm not really into jewelry. Then I came up with the headband idea. Soon I had 30 headbands, more than I could ever wear and I set up shop.'

'I feel [that] everything sold today is so mass [marketed] at sterile. None of it has any soul and the marketing is so aggressive. You could make or reuse almost anything you can buy, it just takes effort and that's the hard part, even for me.'

'If I need something I try to think of a way to get it without buying something new. Freecycle, craigslist, and Ebay are a big help in this department...Recently I bought 17 pounds of junk jewelry off Ebay. Along with a ton of stuff I can use for my headbands, I got lots of beads and necklaces. [I've] been experimenting with upcycling and repairing the vintage necklaces and earrings so look for that in the next few months, along with more wedding style headbands for the spring.'

'I have the world's best husband and three loving cats that keep me going when I'm feeling down. Many thanks to them, for bringing my life such joy...As for my green live style, I live in a fantastically old 1917 house that I love. It has a huge backyard that we fill with vegetables and flowers and fruits every year. We do a ton of canning and are members of our local CSA. This year we are even keeping bees and have built a bat house to put up on the roof. In the basement we brew beer and sake and mead. My husband bakes the best bread. We have two big compost piles in the backyard and I am a heavy recycler.'

'What I love about Etsy is that every time you buy you are directly impacting another human being in a positive way. Everyone who has bought one of my headbands has also [brought] me hope and happiness. Just try to remember that feeling the next time you see something new and shiny and on sale [at a big box store].'

You can check out Erin's handmade head wear at her online shop, Libunnyfoofoo.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fashion and Beauty: Betsy & Bess

Second chances are hard to come by, especially when marketers are pushing harder and harder for us to use it once then throw it away in the name of convenience, or heaven forbid, germs! So I'm always pleasantly surprised when I find a designer who puts the environment first and takes the time to reuse old materials, keeping them out of the landfill and full of love.

I had the chance to speak with one upcycle designer Elizabeth, creator of Betsy & Bess. I adore Betsy & Bess' shop slogan, "Eco friendly purses, handbags, and accessories, made from repurposed, upcycled, and recycled materials, down to the zippers, buttons, and pockets. Nothing goes to waste!" and I think Elizabeth's point of view is also very refreshing.

'I love working with any materials that need a second chance. At the moment I'm in love with wool.'

'I construct my items out of repurposed fabrics from used clothing and other textiles, as well as other found materials, such as belts and metal rings. I also reuse shipping materials and recycled paper products when sending my product to the customer.'

'I love the fact that my actions have a low impact on the environment, and I love helping others achieve that as well...My main philosophy is to reuse whenever possible...I do not use paper products (other than toilet paper, of course) in my home. If I could find a way to effectively reuse packing tape, I'd do it!'

'My mother taught me to sew as a child. My mother is a talented seamstress, and I would often help her with her projects, cutting out pattern pieces, covering buttons, standing perfectly still for what seemed like hours while she pinned a hem. It wasn’t until later that I really began enjoying the craft she had taught me and started sewing for myself.'

'I am inspired by designs that are practical and adorable. I think a purse should be functional, convenient, and also attractive. I always keep this in mind when constructing my bags. I also love vintage bags. I am inspired by their details.'

'When I’m not sitting at a sewing machine, you can find me teaching English as a Second Language to elementary school students. I also enjoy playing the piano, and have two wonderful, monstrous Dobermans whose company I enjoy immensely.'

Check out Elizabeth's full collection of eco-friendly purses, handbags, and accessories at Betsy & Bess. I personally love the Farm House lunch bag, featuring a handsome rooster, and repurposed from a place mat!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fashion and Beauty: Canned Jewels

Can fashion accessories be inspiring? You bet they can! Phyllis Zuckerman, owner of Canned Jewels, not only turns trash into treasure, she's raising money for charity with her recycled creations. I'm so excited to share Phyllis' story with you. Her story is not only moving, it is a beautiful example that small things (like pop tabs) can have a big impact.

'I have two daughters with complicated medical needs. We have had to travel to, and stay at Ronald McDonald Houses in Hershey, PA, Chicago, Cleveland, Delaware and Cincinnati. One of the fundraisers for Ronald McDonald House is collecting soda tabs. We collect, our friends collect, and their friends collect.'

'Soda tabs aren't just for opening sodas. They are a major fundraiser for many non-profit organizations. Aluminum recyclers pay between 35¢ and 70¢ per pound based on the market price of aluminum. There are approximately 1267 tabs per pound. The tab of a beverage can is pure aluminum, unlike the rest of the can which contains an alloy of metals and paint.'

'...I wanted to do something with the soda tabs that was lasting. I started by making keyrings and eventually expanded to making bracelets out of the soda tabs and jump rings. I give a portion of each sale to Ronald McDonald Houses...The most I use is 28 tabs in one bracelet. Ronald McDonald houses gets 20% of the sale or $4.00. It is win/win for everyone!'

'My children inspire me. They have been through so much. My college freshman has Spina Bifida. We “forgot” to tell her that the doctors said she would never walk. She walks, drives, shops, etc...This summer she is going to be a lifeguard.'

'My high school freshman has a rare digestive disorder called Eosinophilic Gastroenteritis. It basically means her body is allergic to food. She gets an amino acid based formula through a tube in her stomach. That is how she eats. She is also hearing impaired and has tremendous joint pain. She misses weeks of school at a time, and still manages to be on honor roll. She plays softball, swims, and surfs.'

'[In the future], my husband and I would like to start selling at craft fairs...My life outside of Etsy is filled with more medical knowledge than some doctors have. Someday I hope to trade in all that medical knowledge for healthy kids, so I can create full time.'

Check out Phyllis' pop can tab creations at her online shop.These recycled creations are for a good cause.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fashion and Beauty: Made by MJ

Here is the question I bet you're all dying to know....
'Can I be fashionable and still be eco-friendly?'
The answer? Emphatically YES! ...But it will take a little more time and work. You've gotta shop around, and you've gotta do your homework. Beware of products that sound green but don't deliver.

Bummer right? Well, sometimes it can be frustrating, I will admit, but it can also be an adventure! An eco-find is a beautiful thing. And when you know that good environmental practices went into making and selling the product your shopping suddenly turns into a treasure hunt!

I'm here to help on your hunt for green fashion and beauty. I spoke with MJ, owner of made by MJ, to find out what inspires her one-of-a-kind eco designs.

'I have always [been creative], both my parents are artists. MJ started out making bags as gifts but has now branched out, expanding her collection to include purses, totes, iphone/ipod and blackberry cases, cosmetic bags, and diaper bags, to name a few. I'm inspired by nature [and] love working with colourful [fabric].'

'I use upcycled and recycled fabrics as well as eco felt in all my projects...I just don't like seeing great fabrics getting thrown away just because they are slightly used.'

Now, eco felt is a really cool product! It's made from 100% recycled, post-consumer plastic bottles. I didn't even know that was possible before today. Hooray for learning.

In the future, MJ would love to create her one-of-a-kind bags, purses, and cases full time. You can help support this eco artists by checking out her online shop!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Green Living: Lindsay's Lovely Candles

When you see something as delicious as these cupcake candles, pictured above, it's hard to believe that the three R's (Recycle, Reduce, Reuse) went into their production. What I love about these cute little candles is that they show us that practically everything we do in life (even making fun purchases) can become a little greener. Cupcake candle, you inspire me!

I had the chance to talk with Lindsay of Lindsay's Lovely Candles, to hear how she makes her candles in an environmentally conscious way.

Lindsay got her creative start back in 2007. 'My sister had a great idea to start making soaps, candles, and body products for extra [money]. We made [just] about everything bath and body you could think of.' When it came time for Lindsay to move away from her sister, she wanted to continue creatively on her own. '[At that time], I realized what I was really good at, making candles.'

I can tell that Lindsay's creative juices get revved by making candles. She gets excited by new fragrances and inspired by upcoming holidays. 'Holiday's are my favourite. It's so fun to create [candles] let's say for Valentine's Day; I [experiment with] romantic perfume, or red and pink [colours].'

'I try to use recycled wax whenever possible...its fun to turn old candle [wax] into new and delicious smelling candles! [Also], I always reuse packing materials- bubble mailers, boxes, packaging. Not only is it easier on my wallet, but it's great for the environment.'

'I hope that [in continuing] to grow my business, I can find more ways to keep it green.'

From production to packaging, small business and large can take a cue from Lindsay's Lovely Candles by incorporating the 3 R's every step of the way.

Check out more of Lindsay's Lovely Candles, and additional crafts in her online shop.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Holistic View: And All That Was Left Was Love (Part I)

Sacred Tree, Nature Photograph- Treasures by Teala

Recently, I decided that I would start meditating. Like most things that I vow to practice regularly, I haven't been as diligent as I originally planned. When I do practice mediation, it is usually a very positive experience. I'm going to share one particular meditation session I had, in part to share with you the potential feel-good benefits of meditation, but also to (hopefully) inspire myself to take my meditation practice a little more seriously. Now I'm certainly no expert, I've never taken a class or read a book on meditation, so if you have some pointers please use this as a forum to share!

This will be a two part story. Here is part one...

I want to build myself up to meditating for an hour. It is on my bucket list (which I should share with you sometime, I have some funny things on my list) and I'm very goal oriented. I LOVE to cross things off lists. It's such a good feeling. I decided I would start meditating after yoga. Often, yoga sessions end in shavasana, or corpse pose. You lie comfortably on your back, arms and legs slightly splayed out, fingers naturally allowed to curl inwards, jaw unclenched, the breath flowing in to you. Although it is quite comfortable, it is a pose, you don't fall asleep in shavasana. Shavasana allows you to feel your body and absorb the benefits of your yoga practice. Once at the end of my yoga class, my teacher walked us through a guided meditation where we were to imagine our favourite tree, with a door. My teacher told the class to walk trough the door into a garden, leaving your past behind you.

I decided to repeat this guided meditation at home, after yoga. I began my meditation practice in shavasana with that same visualization exercise. I imagined my favourite tree, a willow tree. On the trunk of this tree, was a door with a lovely gold handle, which I opened. On the other side of the door was a beautiful, calm garden. Now my mind took over. I wanted to walk into the garden, but it was such a peaceful, serene, wonderful place that I didn't want to bring my worry in to the garden. So I took off my worries, like taking off a jacket, and left them at the door.

But I wasn't ready to enter the garden yet. I felt this lump of anxiety in my throat. I had more layers to take off before I could enter the garden. I let go of my doubts. I felt instantly lighter. But could still feel negative energy inside of me. I reached deep into myself and removed my fear and my anxiety. I let go of my pain and my anger. And yet more negative emotions welled up. I systematically scanned my body, ripping out nasty, angry chunks of myself with my fingers, throwing them on the floor.

The words sound horrific, but I wasn't filled with dark empty holes. The places where I had ripped out negative feeling beamed with this beautiful golden-purple light. I continued stripping away layers of myself until I reached my core- a soft, glowing energy. I had removed all the superficial layers of myself until there was only one thing left. My mind knew clearly what this basal entity was. I heard only one word from my inner mind- Love. When I stripped away everything negative, all that was left was Love. I was now ready to enter the garden.


The above photograph, Sacred Tree, is avaiable to purchase, along with additional original photographs and handmade jewelry, from my online shop, Treasures by Teala.