Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Most Beautiful Knives I Have Ever Seen

       One of the nerdy design sites I subscribe to had these up yesterday! Wow, these are nested cutting knives for the kitchen. As cooking is a spare time love, I have to say I fell in love and felt the need to share my nerdy side with all you today. Sadly...they're on sale for $700 on Amazon so my kitchen will be bare of such love for a while. Designed by Mia Schmallenbach and of course Made in France! Thank you! This is art and design done right. Have a great day everyone!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Acorn to Oak Handmade September SparkCon and Coursera

         This coming month we have two great events planned for the team on really opposite ends of the spectrum.

September 13th-16th: SparkCon: A number of team members will be at setting up shop at BazaarSpark in downtown Raleigh and showing for the 4 day event which is the largest arts and crafts event all year featuring local creativity and talent in the area. Whoot! So excited! Please come out and enjoy the wealth of beauty. This is the last week to register to be a sidewalk artist if you are interested in making something fun and new we would love to have you. Food, bands, exhibits, acrobats! It's a wealth of beauty. This is one of my favorite local shows. Especially, LLLavender by Lauren Smith for the Fashion Show. She's an awesome designer/group member. I really love her knitwear collections being more of a woven gal myself I like peeking into her mind. Please come have some fun! There's so much to do and try.

September 24th-November 5th: Operations Management on Coursera by Christian Terwiesch: This summer everyone in the team worked on learning various elements of the business or polishing them to brighter shine if they had prior experience. While some people are at the point that they are ready and off to the races or fall shows, other people need more help on the meta skills of managing their business. Since Coursera has started offering many of the top business university courses online for free (not sure how long this will last so please go ahead and sign-up). This will not make you a better artist, craftsman, or designer, but it will help you streamline and cut down on the time you have to spend doing the boring parts of your business. Nash is looking to get his MBA because we struggle with the not art part of the business all the time. Because we all want to spend more time making meaningful connections and works, and less time on paperwork. Hope to see everyone online or in person this month. If anyone is interested in doing a coffee study group for this class let me know. :-)

Have a great day! Looks like an exciting fall.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Textile Friday: Oxford, North Carolina Lace Factories

         Many people don't know, but up until the 1970s, North Carolina was a major lace producing area of the country. I find lace machines fascinating because they were some of the earliest textile machines invented that fueled the industrial revolution. Unfortunately, many of these beautiful machines were gutted by the medical industry in the 1990s in their failed attempts to try and produce living tissue and blood vessels from these beautiful pieces of art.
         Thankfully if you ever head to the sleepy town of Oxford, NC you can see two awesome survivors of this gut: Heritage Lace and Macra Lace. There's also the amazing abandoned Scranton Lace factory in Asheville, NC that closed in 2002 which supposedly is full of looms and equipment still. The Tribune did a wonderful video of it in January which I have enjoyed watching many times. I love lace. With the upcoming wedding, I find myself drawn to leather and lace more and more this season. Spools of lace have started popping up all over the studio. I am afraid Nash is being an incredibly good sport about the whole thing as I have started designing my own wedding corset and undergarments which dear reader you are thankfully saved from most of the Bridezilla effect by hardest self-control(I'm trying my very hardest not to gush too much.). Please forgive me if September the blog is full of chocolate cake tastings, piles of blue silk, and wedding invitations. Speaking of, does anyone know when invites are actually supposed to go out? I've been putting off and putting off hand labeling all those suckers, but the task is dancing on the horizon.
            Oh well, back to lace. The first lace factory is Heritage Lace which you can find locally at Southern Seasons in Chapel Hill. This is a family owned and operated business based on traditional European fine lace from Dutch Lace Farmers which includes an in-house design team so you can request custom lace designs on the fly. Free shipping, a newsletter you can sign-up for, and great end of the season sales. My favorite is a current lace dynasty shawl on sale for a mere $13.00. Yes, I am looking for a reason to buy it. One of the things that often surprises people is that Made In the US direct from factories is often the same price or less as Made in China. Department stores and retailers today with the exception of Amazon tend to take a lion's share of the profits around 80% from the total leaving 20% for the actual goods in question. Why not save the money and get yourself something worth keeping as a heirloom? Factory direct from your iPhone is a great way to shop these days.
             The other store up the street is Macralace which you can buy believe it or not off eBay. There's almost 3,000 items in the shop which I find overwhelming, but if you enter a specific search for lace it rapidly narrows down the selection to beauties like this. The two companies have comparable price points. These two companies are also a good example of the two strategies being employed by textiles companies in the race for the online marketplace. Setting up a killer website or using a popular service. I still haven't decided which is better. I love both of them and it's wonderful that we have such lovely textile supply companies within driving distance. The only thing I ever have to go out of state for is silk and I'm looking to drop that from my design menu next year if possible. Everything else made not just in the US, but made in our fair North Carolina. May your days be sunny and filled with beauty. And if you are also a lace hound like me, go check these guys out.

Hopefully see everyone at the Etsy Craft Party tonight at 7 pm.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

TTT: Working with Artists and Designers

         "Designers often have an idea but cannot translate it to paper or even put it into exact words. My job is to be skilled and experienced enough to understand their final goal and to be able to make it come to life."
                                                                                                             -Delores Kelly

          Sometimes you have weird conversations that make you realize you've grown up more than you thought the past few years. This weekend was one of those. Sometimes I feel I still have so far to go as I look at older successful designers and what they have manged to accomplish with decades of work behind them. I feel like a baby sometimes in the face of their experience. Things Take Time as my grandmother liked to say. Many fashion designers work 10 or 20 years before finally getting to international acclaim, most are in their 50s and beyond. Well, we all see our own human faults. As some of you know, I started this company hand-knitting scarves after storming out from my sales job to "start my own company to rival Ralph Lauren. Damn you arrogant bastards." I mean if he and his wife started with ties...I could certainly do scarves. Man, pride goes before a fall. Several months washed up later, I conceded defeat (you just can't live on that kind of money, hand-knitting nets people roughly $1 hr., you have to be really dedicated) and started facing the music of what really makes a profit. Art is lovely, but art should also be something other people want to buy at a fair price. Three years later I'm still facing and learning.
           As some of you know, most of the people in the building consider me a commercial designer or production artist. Me, I like think of myself as still building my lifestyle brand company by growing. I've done production line, patternmaking, cutting, alterations, repairs, sweeping floors, and emptying trash cans. Ideas are all well and good, but having a book full of sketches and no idea how to sew them teaches you the nasty gut kick of humility really fast. Since my goal is to create a brand that allows normal women like us to look our best, I don't mind getting my hands dirty with various aspects of the trade. Anyways, Nash (who sees all my faults and still loves me...so lucky on that one) pointed out that in the past year manufacturing has in some ways made it harder for me to speak with artists and designers as they often express the spirit of what they want and not the technical details. His point is taken as I've yet to have an artist hand me a techsheet. As having staff and working in an environment where I have to communicate my ideas it is both humbling to realize how much I assume the other person knows (which they may not) and how much information they need me to provide to actually produce their dream. So no more assumptions people. Have a great day!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Surprise Packages In the Mail

This week, a long overdue package arrived in the mail for Nash. He's started doing some of the cutting for Sparkcon in a few weeks! He's awesome like that! In one of those crazy blow-backs to the past, I found him a pair of Vintage THOR electric scissors on eBay. Yeah, now he can channel his Viking tendencies in fabric. Hope you are also having fun getting ready for the show in a few weeks!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Textile Friday: Project Runway Is Back!

                      Project Runway is back again for an stunning Season 10. It's a guilty pleasure to watch this show. I can't imagine the luxury most of these designers get to express their own voice which tells me at least that my commercial/brand work is overwhelming the process a little these days. Looking forward to Sparkcon a lot lately as it's a chance to open up and let the public see some of my private work.
                      My clear favorite this season is Dmitry Sholokhov. He calls himself a draper, but his stuff is lovely and very controlled for most drapers I know. He's a couple years older than me at 33 so his sewing is just drool worthy. I hope I will have half of his draping talent one day as I tend to lean towards flat patterning first and only approach draping second with eyes closed and a pained expression. Several of the judges have already commented on his sample making abilities. You can see their minds going, "How do I get him to be mine?" However, after the toss away last season with Anya over Viktor, I will reserve my opinions on this show. We'll see who actually wins vs. who is the most capable. Fashion, like life, is not always given to the most talented or able. I wish that had been covered in school that high test scores to not equal success in the real world. Still, I am hopeful. I just love seeing New York's garment district. Many of my sources, I have to drive around the State for, the idea of being able to walk into a store like Mood and just buy fabric like the selection they have is mind-blowing. Most factories around here specialize...you go to one place for one thing and another for something else. Even Mary Jo's in Gastonia, NC doesn't touch the garment district. Ah well, a girl's gotta dream. Well, I'm sitting back and watching this with happy popcorn on my one day-off a week.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Beautiful Custom Clothing: Part Two: Fitting the Canvas

                         After you finish doing the first mock-up or canvas, you have your first client fitting. This is important as especially with unusual body types, you will need more fittings. 3-5 fittings is typical for the industry. The most I have had to do is 12. Robyn required two canvas fittings here and she was pretty relaxed about the whole thing. You can see the first set in her hands. It generally takes 15-45 minutes for a fitting. Typically it takes me longer...I'm weird in that I like to make corrections on the fly and hand them back to the customer when drafting the master, but some clients DO NOT like to wait at all.
                         The major advantage and reason people do this  is how much better the finished look turns out. Most experienced patternmakers will bluntly refuse to make high-end garments without fittings. This is where you shave off the extra 25-30 lbs a tailored garment will take off of a ready-to-wear garment and reduce ease for a slimmer and taller look. A shirt you buy in the store will have an extra 4-6 inches to it. A tailored suit will have only 1-2, but move just as well. I'm giving Robyn the master block I created for her so perhaps we will get to see some more skirts on her in the future. I love skirts...I really think that they are something that most women could make at home provided they got a patternmaker to draft the master for them. If you notice the back, I put in side vents to flatter her waist and help her move better. Alright, next up...working in real fabrics.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Beautiful Custom Clothing: Part One Drafting the Master Pattern

             Alright, I've been really good for weeks holding my excitement and joy about this project in. My favorite comic book characters growing up were Batman and Wolverine. Nash is in the process of expanding the front office with a real drafting table and tools which means I can finally do custom women's clothing, including unusual designs and body types as it gives me space to work out the math. As a result, I hope to show you more beautiful clothing as tailored clothes make people look 25-30 lbs lighter and 2-3 inches taller. My way of adding beauty to the work. For there are many more beautiful women and men in the world than our modern short-cuts recognize. So this week we are showing you a project I loved doing which was making a custom Two-Face outfit for a client who was unusually well endowed. One of the frustrating things for women with larger than average curves in modern times is it tends to make them look fat or matronly instead of beautiful. Or really trashy. Sometimes you don't want to look like a hooker or a blob, but you...a really nice version of you. And that's when you come to see me.
              First, I take a bunch of measurements to determine your overall bodynshape. This is still an imperfect system as posture requires tweaking as few people stand the same way, but it's always a great place to start. Then I have to draft the master block pattern. There's probably 200 different major pattern systems out there, they all get you through the basics which includes a technical sketch, measurements, rulers, and drawings. You can also drape the piece, but I normally start with the flat pattern math and then adjust it to reality. Next you draw full scale patterns on oak paper in preparation to cutting out the first mock-up. This may also be called a canvas, blank, visual prototype, and several other names depending on what you are making. But the math is the important part.
          Once you do the math, you have to translate it into fabric because paper will never be an exact match for fabric. This part is normally straight forward and involves several hours of cutting and sewing to produce a finished piece or pieces. Seam lines will often be marked on them as well as any button placements. In my case, I did not mark the buttons as I plan to put them on last at the final fitting with the client wearing the outfit as it ensure the best possible fit. You see this in higher end outfits, but larger scale operations and lower cost places the buttons are marked and assembled before the final end to save time and cost.
           Just a note, block or masters will be saved in large houses and used from decade to decade. They are much easier to sew and change than home sewing patterns. That's why few industry houses ever bother with home sewing patterns. They're just too much work compared to real patterns. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

She Drives in Beauty

This morning the sun was breathtaking on the way to my work. Most beautiful dawn I've seen in years. I had another post planned, but this seemed worth sharing instead. I hope your day is always full of wonder.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Repair Jobs: Motorcycle Seat Recover

             In a perfect world, every designer is brilliant, without flaws, and everything made sews together perfectly. However, in the real world, we all know that doesn't exist. Very good shops have a 1-2% failure rate and poor ones have a 20-40% failure rate. That means that all things being equal, eventually if you sew you WILL be stuck doing repair work. AKA, fixing yours or others mistakes. Today, I am posting a repair job I completely struggled with. Figured it would do you my reader good to see that in the real world...sometimes upon taking apart a job you find instead of simply replacing a lower quality fabric with a higher one, the entire job  must be reworked before you can fix the item in question. When I first got started, I thought that lower price points had to do mostly with lower quality finishes, but being in the industry...it seems to touch every aspect of the manufacturing construction. If you cut corners in the final fabric, you also cut corners on the hidden elements customers can't see. Especially true if you move from Made in the US or Europe or Made in China or Asia. You need those guts to last you 15-20 years. An expensive looking bag without the interfacing and lining necessary will fall apart just as quickly with you having wasted your money to no purpose.
              Sounds pretty esoteric right? Let me demonstrate. The following is a "leather" motorcycle seat a friend gave me to fix for them as a favor-in-trade. Upon getting the seat, the entire thing was actually ripped up VINYL in pretty bad shape...I probably should have handed it back at that point, but what girl doesn't love a challenge every now and then? I honestly think that my guy friend's wait and ambush me on day's I'm feeling empowered for something hard.
               Anyways, upon taking it apart...the entire thing was a nightmare! Cheap foam under the vinyl was falling apart. No guts. No reinforcement at all. Oh my... Before I could even begin to fix the seat, I had to add a new foam padded core, top, and muslin cover. You can see it all pretty here with the sewn leather pieces below it all clipped together with clothesline pins. The thing looked like an old couch you neighborhood puppy got into in his chewing phase before.
              After you finish the foam upholstery, you have to cut out and assemble the leather cover. With heavier leather like this automotive upholstery leather, you need to pull out your sewing hammer and harness needles to beat and force any misbehaving points into shape before you sew them. Sewing hammers are great for working with bitchy heavy weight leather you need to sew right the first time without screwing up. Going from vinyl to leather is horrible in terms of pattern-making because leather stretches much less as it is more durable and less resistant to wear and tear. You also have to add seam lines for rider resistance so they don't just slip off the back end the first time they give the bike gas. And you will need to have a hole punch to sew those hard to reach places a machine can't get properly.  I don't know why, but most repair jobs I do involve at least some hand-sewing on my part. I think mostly because I'm assembling them in a different order than the original maker and haven't done a million seats.
           Finally, you are left with a finished seat cover ready for stapling and sending out the door.  Wow, that was a lot of work. Hopefully I can avoid any more repair work until after the Christmas season. I had to do a lot of boat repairs this spring (funny enough I don't think I bothered to post any of those on the blog). Maybe next year I'll get remember to post some of those. Not sure how many people like watching me restore old things to working order. But upgrading products are awesome.

Have a great day people!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Help Support Fellow Artists! Go Sirius B.~!

          One of the great things about what I do is seeing fellow designers and artists grow. Last year we got help on our Yoxi campaign for saving the environment by helping to reduce industry waste from the awesome band, Sirius B. This year, they are releasing their newest album and raising funds on Kickstarter! Go guys!
       I've been trying to figure out how to import their Kickstarter campaign for two weeks, but apparently my tech is failing me so I grabbed a fun video off youtube they've done and encourage you to check out their campaign on Kickstarter. It's really fun. These guys are just lovely laughs and happiness. For $8, you can get your very own digital copy. Nash and I are getting matching t-shirts as well. This is my favorite local Asheville bands. They're great. Alright, my little bit of happiness is shared with you guys for the week! This state has so much raw talent. I love seeing what everyone does!

    And keep up the good work guys! You all rock!


Friday, August 3, 2012

August 24th: Etsy Night of Craft 7-10 pm

       Yeah, it's time again for the annual Etsy Craft Party! A lot of you had a blast coming last year, we're rockin' it again. Roth is celebrating with $3 drinks (even the good stuff) and we're having a food truck come. Techshop RDU is also hosting so we are throwing out the red carpet! DELICIOUS fun! Based on the two big parties we threw last year, we decided our group prefers free wheeling and dealing with multiple tables set-up with projects for people to jump from one to the other and try or sample. Do what you want! A buffet of treats for the eyes and fingers. Please feel free to come hang out and bring a friend, we will have tons of supplies and projects to give away. You do not have to be a member to come. Children and families welcome.

You can sign-up here on meet-up! Please, please, please, sign-up. The more people we have come, the more free stuff Michaels is sending....so the more the merrier! :-)

Right now, we have the following planned, if you have an idea you want to add or suggest, shoot me an e-mail at: dsmcginn1@lisashay.com. Creativity welcome. :-) At the moment, I have our projects divided up by area, more will be added at we get closer. :-) Some people may recognize some of the awesome projects from last year, if you missed doing something last year, now is your chance to do it this year.  And try your hand at something new.

Location (Forge):

Blacksmithing (Nash Page): Watch traditional metal armour being crafted. Nash is the blacksmith instructor at Techshop RDU and Dream Coach. He will be giving away several small projects as well as generally just having fun. You are welcome to hang out with him and watch the process.

Sand Metal Casting(Evan Daniels): One of the great instructors at Techshop, Evan is going to be hanging out with Nash demonstrating metal pouring techniques. If you are interested in casting in metal, please drop by. You are welcome to bring a piece you would like done before hand, flat shapes that can rendered in two dimensions work best. Please contact Evan if you have specific questions about what you want to bring.

Location (Roth Brewing):

Wire Twisted Jewelry: Come try your hand in the bar with traditional wire twisting and bead-work. We will be inside at the bar making drop earrings and necklaces. Free free to try your hand at making a new look for back to school.

Friendship Bracelets: Try your hand at this classic. Because somethings are too fun not to do.

Leather and Wood Block Painting: From ancient times, the oldest paintings in many cultures are wood because of it's durability and beauty. Acrylic paints were designed to specifically speed up this process for WW II by making fast drying oil paints. Acrylic paints work wonderfully on leather and wood. Right now, you're seeing nail polish shoes on runways everywhere. This is a great way to make art your own. Come try your hand painting your own pair of shoes or the wood blocks we will have available for people to take home. A great way to breath life into well-loved shoes. Check-out these amazing shoes done by Nicole. I love this trend right now.

Knitting Circle: Bring your current or new project to knit or crochet on comfy leather chairs. A great way to pass an evening in comfort with delicious beer. Yarn and tools will be available if you have never tried it before, this is a great time to start.

Location (Techshop Kitchen):

Potato Stamps: For those of us who like working with knives and paint, this project is for you. Many people don't realize that your kitchen is a great place to make quick and easy stamps with stuff you have lying around. Potatos make a great medium for custom stamps that can be done quickly and easily to create one of a kind cards and looks. Martha Stewart loves doing this favorite for custom Halloween gift bags, I'm sure you can dream up your own creation.

Custom Paper(Shannon): Microwaves are awesome if you like paper crafts, you can make your own design, dry it, and then apply potato stamps to the final product. Lacquer makes the entire look permanent. A great way to quickly design works of beauty.

Location (Techshop Conference Room):

Craft Swap: Bring a supply, take a supply. This is a great way to clean out space in your closet and look forward to starting a new project. We will have supplies available for people to take home and also keep any left-over supplies for future meetings. :-)

Apron Art (Dara): Where would the perfect project be without a fabulous apron to complete it? Make your own apron and decorate it with glitter, rhinestones, and other art. Now, you know you can dress for the occasion. Because art is fun!

Wood Carving: Try your hand at creating custom works of art in wood. You can do wood carving with a hot iron or knife. The results are unique creations.

More to Follow! Have a great day everyone and look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Helmet Part 2: Cutting and Hammering Metal

             Alright, earlier this week we went over the basics of sketching or drafting a prototype and doing a mock-up. Eventually though, you have to move to the real stuff. In this case metal. After several mock-ups, Nash heads over to the machine shop to use a variety of shears of all sizes to mold the sheet metal into the basic shape outline before he starts hammering the pieces into shape. Each piece must be individually traced, cut, and double-checked for accuracy.
               Next, Nash takes each piece and begins to form it into shape with a series of hammers. The rough shape is generally worked with a large hammer and then he uses a rubber hammer against a leather head mold (yeah, project I got to sew for this part, my only real contribution to the design) to polish the shape out of the rough metal. You're left with a bunch of metal pieces curved in random directions unconnected to each other. They are pretty though with the metaled surface pitted and slight dents everywhere from the various hammers. It can take 3 hrs. to shape one piece into it's proper shape.
       Next up, check in as Nash begins to weld the helmet into it's final shape. I hope everyone is enjoying seeing this project take shape. :-)