Monday, February 27, 2017

clap your hands say WHAT?

I just watched the Oscars last night, like millions of other people around the country. Although I wasn't aware of it until today, there was something else a lot of people were talking about, besides the craziness around announcing Moonlight as Best Picture.

What is up with Nicole Kidman's strange clapping style? It's pretty bizarre to see a person not making full contact with their hands, and we've all seen enough clapping emojis to know what it's supposed to look like. I have my own theory about what is happening here, and it doesn't have to do with Nicole Kidman being a weirdo.

It looks to me like this is someone who is trying to protect expensive diamond rings. She was dripping in diamonds last night! Most celebrities borrow jewelry from high-end luxury brands, usually their most epic aspirational pieces (did you see Ruth Negga's tiara??). I know if I had thousands, or millons, of dollars worth of diamonds on my hands, I'd be feeling pretty funny about banging them together too. You can see how she self-consciously twists the ring around her finger as it's getting lopsided from the awkward clapping.

What does this mean for the common person? Even if you don't have millions of dollars worth of diamonds, you might own an eternity band or a ring with an embossed pattern on the shank. To protect them from getting banged up during clapping, adopt a different technique and offset your palms so they are perpendicular. It doesn't look so awkward and you can still clap heartily. Here's looking at you, Nicole...thanks for the teaching moment.

image via

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Handmade Nation now

It's so funny that I felt compelled to write a post tonight, because I hardly ever do. What makes it funnier is that what compelled me is something that began around the time I first started this blog, a very different time indeed.

Waaaayyy back in 2008, back when Etsy was so young, back when I was just starting to explore this idea called MischaLee, there was a woman named Faythe Levine who was exploring this exploding movement, a reinvigoration of craft culture. She published a book that year called Handmade Nation, titled after her documentary which would be released the following year, in 2009. I excitedly scoured the internet and magazines during that time period, learning about all of the crafters doing their thing, reading craft tutorials and stories. I learned about her project while she was still making it, and I ordered the book immediately when it came out. She began screening the documentary after its release, and I missed every screening. Would you believe that I didn't watch it for the first time until tonight?? I ordered it on (another blast from the past from that era) when they sent me an email that it was soon going out of print. What the heck took me so long?

I'm not gonna beat myself up about how tardy to the party I am (by 7 years, haha), but it was actually interesting watching it now in this later context. I had so much nostalgia for the excitement and possibilites I felt when I used to see these women making their own careers and forging their own paths. I remember so clearly the aesthetic from that particular craft revival. Everything felt very punk, very kitchy, so DIY. It was incredibly cool seeing these people around my age bucking the norms and experimenting with what it means to be an artist or maker as a viable path in adulthood. I have a lot of craft books from this time, when it was really novel to see a craft book that wasn't something your mom or aunt would use to do a weekend project. These were young people recycling materials, making things with a modern feel, and rejecting the trends. I went to the first few Renegade Craft Fairs in New York, and would geek out seeing the makers whose blogs I read.

What struck me was how much has changed. The question was posed towards the end of the documentary of how the capitalist machine would affect the handmade movement over time. It felt very grassroots initially, but it has definitely become more mainstream through the last few years and taken on a new life. I've watched big companies jump on board to collaborate with indie makers, something that really wasn't happening much back in 2009. I've also seen big companies striving more to have more "authenticity", or to highlight handmade aspects of their designs. They speak more to the quality or roots of their brand more than ever. There are many more small collections and limited runs being released. One bad thing that has happened is indie artists and makers getting ripped off at a staggering rate.

The aesthetic has definitely evolved too. Things are much more polished. The handmade goods now have a bit less of that homespun character that initially charmed people. Now products are expected to be more perfect, they ride the line between a manufactured and a handmade look. Displays at craft shows are much more involved, everything is more professional. I think it has become much more competitive, so this is part of the reason. It is harder than ever to get into some of the big craft shows as a vendor. I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing, but I think while it's exciting as a customer, it also seems more intimidating to a person who might be interested in moving towards a maker life.

Watching Handmade Nation just had me pondering a lot of questions, although to be fair these are things I think about frequently. Will this trend continue to hold? Will small brands become more and more like polished, sanitized big brands until they are indistinguishable? How much growth can happen if you keep your company small? It sometimes seems limiting. People often shop small brands to "support real people" but big brands employee far more people. I wonder sometimes if it's really unrealistic to be so exclusive, especially when you consider how hard it is for a smaller business to provide things like health benefits. Is smaller really better? Is the current handmade movement too removed from its roots? Where do we draw the line for handmade? There are many people designing on a small scale and outsourcing production to specialized companies. I wonder where they fall in the spectrum.

None of these questions are meant to undermine what's happening today. I still love the handmade, indie, and craft movement. I love small businesses and support them every step of the way, and obviously I AM a small business. I just like to think from different perspectives and explore ideas. I'm curious to see where the indie road goes, so to speak. This culture that Handmade Nation covered has changed so much in just a few years, I can't imagine what else is in store. I will keep following my favorite makers and evolving with the times. I think it's so cool how the internet has really opened up the worlds of possibility for more people than ever, to forge their own paths, make their own careers, and connect to like-minded individuals. Not to mention the easily accessed exposure to new ideas that is at our fingertips. Amidst the insanity of the times (let's NOT talk about our current election) it's good to know there are still things to look forward to.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

an ending with a beginning

I'm sitting at my kitchen table with a laptop and a pile of notes that are being transferred into my sketchbook, on my second official day of self-employment. To say this is a weird feeling would be an understatement, and I'm sure this is just the beginning of a series of weird feelings while I adjust to a very different life.

I worked at Sephora for over twelve years. I started there when I was fresh from college, with the uncertainty of what my future held after school. I was freelancing as a visual merchandiser (which I really knew nothing about), and applying to every retail position I could find, in the hope that I could at least have a temporary job while I figured out what to do with myself. Needless to say, it took a long time to figure that out. In the meantime, I was learning everything I could at work. Skin physiology, ingredients knowledge, retail operations, the psychology of selling. I learned everything I could about how the store ran, experimented with products, dabbled in education, learned about merchandising. I basically did every training I was allowed to do, tried different positions within the store, and just explored the full breadth of the place. At Sephora there is a lot of opportunity, and I took advantage of that for a long time. I really tried to make it my career for a while.

I always did my making on the side, and have had an Etsy shop, in some form, since 2007. It felt good to have side projects that fulfilled the artistic part of me. It was just something fun to do, that I slowly (very slowly) got more serious about. Until it came to the point about 4 or 5 years ago where I just felt like I was hitting a wall with my jewelry making. There were things I wanted to make that could only be made if I took a class or something. And I found one. An apprenticeship program. It was much, much more than I'd bargained for, but I felt this insane feeling of determination, like I HAD to find a way to do it. It was expensive, but I knew I'd do whatever it takes to do it anyway. It was 8 months long, but I was ready for it.

I went in with an enthusiasm I hadn't felt in a long time, and even though it was hard to balance with work, and my money was SO tight, I finished it in 2013. I really felt like I'd found this missing life motivation that I'd been looking for. I had plans at that point to jump right into the industry, but I realized quickly that was a bit rash. So I just kept making, and working retail, and seeing where it would take me. And I made a few goals and didn't reach them. BUT. There were things I never expected that happened instead. Opportunities arose that I never planned for or could have seen. It was all very exciting. I messed up a lot, I made a bunch of mistakes, and I learned a lot. And I got really, really busy.

In the midst of all this, a lot of big things in my life were changing. The only thing that was staying the same was my job at Sephora. But I just couldn't handle it all. I'm an introvert, so being in public interacting with people all day is very draining. I didn't have anything left to give to all my passion projects. There was even more than ever before to balance, and I was doing a really bad job at it. The things I care about the most, including MischaLee, were getting the short end of the stick, while I plugged away at my day job like I always had. I loved the security of Sephora, but something was going to have to give. My life had started to feel like one of those nightmares where you're trying to run, but you can barely move your legs.

So for two years I saved and planned so that I could move on to a new chapter. Here I am, doing something completely outside of what I know, starting all over, trying to learn everything I can about something else. I don't know what's in store for me, but I'm just gonna do what I always do -- try as hard as I can, give it my all, and explore my options. I'm so grateful for everyone I've met along the way, the friends and family who have cheered me on and believed in me, the customers who have had to be so patient, and the hard, hard lessons I've learned (and am still learning). A future so foggy has never looked so bright to me before. I'm ready to see what's out there in the mist.

Friday, January 25, 2013

l'amour fou

I just watched this very inspiring documentary tonight about Yves Saint-Laurent. He really paved the way for so many things in fashion that we take for granted, was a determined and tireless worker, and an avid art collector with his partner, Pierre Bergér. It reminded me what respect and reverance art receives in France.

I go back and forth between thinking that art and creating art is a frivolous luxury of life, and feeling that it is a basic human need (it certainly feels that way for me!). I was also reminded tonight of how much our own minds are a hinderance, with self doubts and pressures placed upon us by us. This quality is one definition of being human, but it can be the catalyst for brilliant art. How wonderful and terrible all at once! It's complicated being alive, non? ;). You can always count on French movies to send you on an existential journey, haha.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


This really tickled my fancy tonight, enjoy! (P.S. - It features nude animated ladies, hope you can handle it:) )

Handmade Portraits: 24 Hour Woman from Etsy on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

summer breeze

Holy moly! Summer has already come and gone. It was a good one, both personally and business-wise. Here are some highlights:

Going to an anime convention in Chesapeake with my boyfriend and little sister. It was really neat seeing the costumes people had built for themselves.

Beach time! I got to spend a little time at Virginia Beach, and spent a few days at Myrtle Beach with my boyfriend, by the generosity of his coworker.

Deep sea fishing in Myrtle Beach (only slightly marred by sea sickness:), and boating on the fourth of July.

Hanging out with my best friend here in Richmond, and seeing the butterfly exhibit at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.

A few sales, including a wholesale order with Sardine Gallery in Brooklyn, just in time for Open Studios!

Lots of cooking delicious meals, and eating good food around town. I hit up the Vegetarian Festival too (Boka takos, anyone?).

Rearranging furniture and organizing my space in preparation for class (!!)

I'm actually about a month into class right now, time does fly. I'm learning so much, but I'm gonna reserve that for another entry, since this one is such a behemoth already. Maybe if I didn't wait six months to write each blog, I wouldn't have this problem!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

veritably vert

I posted the aforementioned peyote necklace in my shop today. I noticed a micro trend in my crafting as of late, see if you can guess:

Yep, it looks like I have Spring on my mind! I just looked up the word "green" in the dictionary out of curiosity, and there are SO MANY definitions. In addition to being a beautiful, copious color, it also represents so much about growth, life, abundance, new beginnings, freshness (and sometimes even envy and nausea, haha). I also have this attraction to snakes and snake-like imagery. Maybe I'm just wishing for my own garden of Eden. Or maybe it's directly related to the sprawling split-leaf philodendron and rubber tree plant taking over part of my living room. In any case, I welcome the inspiration!

Semi-relatedly, I have a family of finches nesting on my bedroom windowsill. They are situated right beneath the AC window unit, which worries me a bit with summer coming. But it sounds like the loud-mouthed babies (so loud) are getting bigger, so they might be gone by the time I need to cool off. It's actually fun listening to them chirping frantically all day, and then even MORE frantically when the mother comes around. I had a bus stop next to window in one of my old apartments, so birds are actually quite nice in comparison.