Tag Archives: Domesticana

My Owls and the Today Show…

Sooo… a wonderful friend wrote to me not long ago to suggest that I enter my embroidered owls in a contest being held by the Today Show. They were looking for the best in “Made in America Style.” The winner was announced and it’s fair to say that my little owls never stood a chance. They’re just in a different category of “hand made.”

Not wanting the 1,000 word essay that I wrote in the hour before the application was due go to waste, I’m  posting it here for your reading enjoyment. Hope you like it…

Rainbow Owls custom ordered for two lucky little girls.

My “American Maker” Story:

First, a little family history. My grandmother is a seamstress. Not in the way that most people’s grandmothers are seamstresses, though. She worked for Bob Mackie and Nolan Miller. So while my friends’ grandmothers were making dresses for their Barbie dolls, my grandmother was making dresses for Cher and Carol Burnett.

My abuelita came to this country as a Mexican immigrant with very little. And, like most people who grew up poor and having to do without, she was (and is) very careful not to waste things. So it really bothered her to watch scraps of beautifully beaded lace swept up with the trash at the end of every work day. In fact, it bothered her so much that she would collect these scraps and bring them home. To this day, she has dozens upon dozens of tiny jars filled with beads that she cut free from these scraps and then sorted in her limited free time.

As a child, I marveled at these little jars of “jewels” and would watch fascinated as they made their way onto Christmas ornaments and delicate table runners. My Abuela can make magic with other people’s “trash.”

When I picked up a needle for the first time since childhood, I was a graduate student in need of a hobby to help me unwind (and give me something to do during Minnesota’s brutal winters). I was far from my home in Los Angeles and terribly homesick. I think that sewing made me feel a little more connected to my home and my family.

Picking up a needle wasn’t easy. My grandmother had tried to teach me how to sew when I was a kid– but I wasn’t very good at it and she wasn’t very patient. So I abandoned the trade and, in the subsequent years, forgot almost everything she’d taught me. Now, more than twenty years later, I found myself buying a “how-to” book to teach myself some basic stitches and wishing that I’d had more perseverance as a child.

The first projects I remember being really proud of were felt sugar skulls. A friend of mine liked them so much that she offered to sell them in her boutique candy shop during the Halloween/Day of the Dead season. They were a hit. I couldn’t believe that people were actually willing to pay for something I had made with my hands.

Feeling gratified and encouraged by my modest success, I opened up a little Etsy store and started selling other pieces of my artwork. Everything I made was a reflection of who I was and of my family’s immigrant experience.

The felt owls that I have submitted for your review are inspired by the brightly painted owls crafted in Southern Mexico. Many of them boast a “sugar skull” tummy panel in homage to their Mexican roots. They are cut from 100% wool felt and are completely hand stitched and embroidered. Best of all, they are embellished with the beads and sequins that my grandmother “rescued” from Bob Mackie’s studio floor.

I like to think that these owls represent what can be done when you don’t give up on learning. I hope that you like them.

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Corner #1 (Part 1 of 4)

I think I may just do a little office/studio tour as a four part series. One post for each corner. It’s a tiny office but it’s crammed to the rafters with “stuff” so there’s a lot to look at.

So… without further ado: Corner #1

Click to enlarge

There have been some new additions to my little office these last few days. The first of which had me doing little happy dances when he arrived. Please allow me to direct your attention to the handsome little guy gracing my top shelf. I’m told his name is “Wolfgang” and he was made by the insanely talented Lisa of “Stuffed Silly.” I don’t have enough words to express just how very much in love I am with my little Frost Monster. I would tell you to go get one of your very own, but I think he was the last one in the limited edition series. Lisa tells me that she has other “monsters” planned, though. So I encourage you to check back in to her store later on to see what she’s been up to.

The second “new” thing to spring up is right under him and above the bottom shelf. Up until yesterday, I had a poster hanging there for a band that I was friendly with in L.A. but, if I had to be honest, never ever listened to. They were all very talented musicians and really nice people—their music just wasn’t my particular cup of Celestial Seasonings.

I ordered this gocco print from Jose Pulido’s shop a few months ago and never found a place for it. So, when I caught myself wishing that I had more wall space yesterday, I realized that “nice people” or not, that band poster was taking up valuable space and had to come down. I couldn’t be more pleased with the change. Pulido’s calaveras never fail to bring a smile to my face. They all have such a wonderful sense of joy and humor about them. These are qualities that I struggle to bring into my own work. It’s funny, I’m always so drawn to things that are whimsical and light-hearted and so much of my own work is so… (for lack of a better word) “serious.” I’m hoping that Pulido’s gocco print will inspire me to bring some of that whimsy into the things I make.

Let’s see—what else?

At the top right of the picture (sitting on the door frame) you can see a modified Little Odd Forest “Treeling” made from the pattern featured in Therese Laskey’s “Softies.” The original eyes were Freaking. Me. Out. so I gave him a set that weren’t quite so… ah… “intense.” The pattern is also available as part of The Softies Kit. If you’re just starting out, the book is a nice resource to have. I found it really useful in some ways.

To the left of Wolfgang, you will see “Brie Boy” (another Tim Burton toy), a photo of my mom at about five years old, a vintage camera brought back for me from Indonesia by my dear sweet cousin James and a handful of books designed to help me research a dissertation, edit a dissertation, write a dissertation, format my dissertation, etc. You can see that they are all collecting dust.

Below Señor Wolfie is an area of the office that sees a lot of traffic. I jump up to grab scissors, pens, pencils, or paintbrushes from this shelf several times a day almost every day. This shelf holds two more Tim Burton toys—“Staring Girl” and “Robot Boy.” They’re everywhere. I sort of get a kick putting them places where they blend into the background.

Framed, at the top left of the photo, is a menu from Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles. To this day, I have no idea who had the idea to pass it around, but it was presented to us (Glen+me) at our going away party [Held at Canter’s Kibitz Room, natch]. I doubt it contains a single sober signature. (Please don’t tell the nice folks at Canter’s that we have this. It’s been years, but I’d hate to get anyone in trouble—or get myself 86d. Hi, Bella!).

Cantinflas. If you don’t know, you’d better learn.

The Big Bird lamp has been with me since I was three or four years old. When the lampshade ripped in a college-related move, I was heartbroken. I found a replacement on Ebay six or seven years ago. So, two things: (1) What can’t you find on Ebay? And (2) Why do we get so attached to artifacts from our childhoods?

Remember when IKEA carried these great little chests of drawers? They were part of the Moppe line and they’re gone now. I love mine. They hold all of my paints and miscellaneous office supplies. Glen asked me for a Sharpie not that long ago and I directed him to the appropriate drawer. His eyes almost fell out of his head when he opened it. “Have these been here this whole time?! You have… so many.” [Sharpies are useful, yo. Besides, it could be much worse. I could hoard cats. And, when compared to cat hoarding, a drawer full of Sharpies is really no big thing.]

I painted the two chests that are visible here over ten years ago. I keep thinking that I should repaint them one day—but I’ve never quite gotten around to it. In the meantime, let’s pour one out for IKEA’s Moppe line. It was gone too soon. [P.S. If you’re reading this from the U.K., never fear! You lucky ducks can still buy them at local IKEA outlets.]

As long as I’m plugging IKEA [I swear that this isn’t a sponsored post], the shelves on the wall are IKEA, too. I have no idea what they were called. I only remember that they were lightly lacquered and required a fair bit of sanding (grrr). And, because I am Head-Chicana-in-Charge of details that no one but me will ever notice, I painted roses on the underside of each shelf.

You may think that it was a big old waste of time to do this—but I assure you that when I am sitting at my desk and I look up, those roses are right in my sight line. I enjoy them Every Single Day. Totally worth it.

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