Monday, April 30, 2012

May 22nd: Father's Day Woodworking Night

Hi Everyone, I am excited to say that we will all be getting together from 7-9 pm at Todd Hartzell's studio and gallery to learn more about Woodturning and the Woodturner's Guild. Rye Gewalt has designed some AWESOME kinetic moving stars for everyone to try their hand at making. These are built using basic geometry and math to move them which is pretty cool in my book. He is planning to have some kits available for the Holiday Christmas show for anyone who is interested in making more. They will be free and open to all Acorn to Oak members and their family to take home for Father's Day.

For those of you who aren't familar with woodmaking, this is a great way to get your feet wet with demonstrations and easy DIY projects. I hope you all have a wonderful week as you get geared up for the summer.

Acorn to Oak Handmade
5825 Triangle Drive
Raleigh, NC 27617

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Open Studio This Coming Week

Hey Everyone, we are getting ready for the Arts and Craft Show May 8th from 6-9 pm and having an open studio the 4th-7th.

To celebrate we are running 25% off everything in our online store with the coupon code:


I hope that you are also having fun getting ready for the coming week.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Textile Friday: Uncrippling Ourselves in Modern Times

      The oldest tailor joke is probably about a guy going into a store to buy a suit. There's probably a thousand versions of this, but the one I've found that is closest to my grandfather's version goes like this:

     "This guy walks into the Ye Olde APL Tailor Shoppe. And wanting to buy a suit, the tailor pulls one of the rack, and has him try it on.
    The guy says to the tailor that the jacket doesn't fit right, one arm is much longer than the other.
    'No problem", says the tailor, 'Just hunch up your shoulder on that side, and it'll look fine.'
    'The lapels are uneven.' says the guy.
    'Oh, that. Well, push it over with your chin.'
    The guy also notices that the pants aren't the same length.
    'Hitch up your hip on the longer side, and it'll be fine. Now, my! Doesn't that look great!'
    The guy gimps out of the tailor shop wearing his new suit, and passes two old ladies walking the other way. After he passes, the one says to the other: 'Oh, that poor old man. Did you see how crippled up he was?'
     'Yes, but doesn't his suit fit him well?'"   ~Robert Bernecky in Quote Quad

      In general, it's agreed that our modern clothing and footwear weighs 20-40% more and provides 20-40% less mobility than our grandparent's clothing in the 1950s. And that's the expensive "quality" stuff. BBC did a great example article on this a few years ago you can see here. We've gained a lot through modern production methods, namely cheap affordable clothing. In volume, my wardrobe rivals a countess or lord of the 1850s. But, does it really free me to look my best? In our quest for disposable beauty, 86% of the population no longer has clothing that actually fits them. Myself included.
       Knowing a problem exists is not the same as fixing it. I've watched ill-fitting clothing slowly creep into the wares I sold at Belk's department stores for almost a decade. It's what made me decide to get into manufacturing. And they are symptomatic of a trend you see in any major department store: Dillards, Macys, etc. Everyone is guilty. The masters and experts of my parent's and grandparent's generation say it's been happening since the late 1970s and early 1980s which is almost 30 years. I should add here that JC Penny is considered the only noted exception by some judges, I leave the truth of that to people who actually have spent more than 20 years in the business.
        After 3 years of moving over to the manufacturing side of house, I have come to agree that newer designers, cutters, and sewers tend to allow a lot more "slop" in the system than older ones. The bull's eye gets much much smaller for acceptable pass/fail standards the more experienced the craftsman (or woman). I've got my own cheat sheet I've built to understand what a designer's actual ability is when they are talking to me, but I won't bore you with the numbers. Mostly, it's a technical way of saying sloppy. In short, it is as if moving up a level of trade skill involves recognizing and embracing these tighter demands.Some people never recognize these levels, but doing so helps you grow.
       Which brings me to computers. Computers are a huge crutch for beginning designers, manufacturers, and tradespeople. But to quote one of my favorite patternmakers, "Computers don't make your designs better, they just help you get there faster."  But no computer, no matter how shiny, is real substitute for ability and I think we as a nation are learning that the hard way after the technology boom of the 1990s. And manual (analog) ability often takes a lot of hard work to get to. Thankfully, there's a lot of great masters in my area willing to share their thoughts and ability so begins the hard task of moving up the ladder from journeyman to master. I'm reading a lot, doing a lot, and you dear customer get to benefit from better products all around. Hopefully, we can all answer this question together as American manufacturing comes home and we rediscover what being skilled labor means. I look forward to the future with you and hopefully we'll all have suits worth wearing that don't make us look like cripples. And set us free.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

NCSU Art2Wear

      Tonight, I had the most fun getting to see my old intern produce her spring collection for NCSU's Art2Wear Fashion Show. Her steampunk princess look was very tongue-in-cheek. You could see all her models smiling as they walked down the runway in their looks. Especially the wings at the end which were more flying Leonardo Da Vinci than Victoria Secret model. This is fashion show was probably the most fun I have had in a while, mostly because of how much whimsy the students had doing their pieces. Students take all types of risks in their collections that you rarely see in established designers and it makes for a lovely evening as you can take a break from the seriousness of ready-to-wear.
      One collection featured a collection of dresses made from bubbles, another oversized bones, and some moss and necklaces of glass blown filled with water portraying the elements. It's fun to see designers take themselves less seriously.
       Anyways, congrads Ella and best of luck in grad school in the fall. I'm sure you will go far in the theatre.

Monday, April 23, 2012

May Events: Acorn to Oak and Animazement

         Wow, it's hard to believe that April is almost over. It's been a wonderful, difficult month, but entirely worthwhile. May is just around the corner and we are gearing up for the summer shows. One, is our own dear Spring Arts and Craft Show on May 8th. I hope that you get a chance to drop by and enjoy seeing our gifts to you from our hands to yours.

Acorn to Oak Handmade Studio
5825 Triangle Drive
Raleigh, NC 27617

May 1st: E-textiles Class at Splat Space 7-9 pm

Some of you may remember this class from last month, due to a last minute flu on one of the presenter's parts, we have rescheduled it for May 1st. Can't wait to see everyone there to learn about using Arduinos and e-Textiles systems (Lilypad and Aniomagic) in your clothing.

May 4-7th: 4 Weekend Open Sewing Studio

Want to learn about sewing? Have a project you've been trying to get off the ground? Drop by our friendly sewing studio open house for the weekend. Myself and other local fashion designers in the area will be around to give you assistance on your latest project or projects. We hold this event twice a year both for up and coming designers and home-sewers looking to branch out and try new equipment/techniques. Dust off that curtain project or outdoor grill you've been trying to make a cover for. We hold open sewing studios once every 6 months. This event is free and open to all Acorn to Oak Handmade members.

May 8th: Acorn to Oak Arts and Crafts Handmade Etsy Show 6-9 pm

 Want to buy unique and handmade items produced locally in your area? Come check out the designer talent in the area at our semi-annual arts and crafts show. Includes: limited edition oil paintings, one-of-a-kind glass work, worked metal jewelry, handmade textiles, knitted and crocheted accessories, soap, and other fun items. Sharing our beauty with you for one evening.

May 22nd: Beginning Woodworking with Todd Hartzell and Rye Gewalt 7-9 pm

This year for Father's Day, all Acorn to Oak members are invited to try their hand at woodworking both turning wooden designs and creating kinetic wooden moving toys. This is our early father's day event and designed to help members get their fingertips wet in an evening. You are welcome to take home anything you make and the event is free and open to all Acorn to Oak Handmade members. A warm thanks to both these masters for opening their studios and designs to us.

May 25-27th: Animazement

Come to a three day open weekend celebrating Japanese and asian art. Dara McGinn will be guest lecturing in the artist room Friday and Saturday from 1 to 3 pm on making custom plushie animals and creating hand and block painted silk scarves and kimonos. We will also be in the dealer's room all three days for you to purchase our designs.

          It's nice to see the summer shaping up and look forward to an exciting season with you all. Have a great day. Check in tomorrow for more fun.

Last Week for 2012 Acorn to Oak Handmade Dues

        Just a reminder that this is the last week for Acorn to Oak Handmade $20 dues if you have not paid already. For everyone who has already paid, thank you! If you are planning to attend the lectures or events over the next year, you can pay with Paypal on the link below. The last day to pay is May 1, 2012. Please check out specifics on the forum page.

2012 Membership

Friday, April 20, 2012

Allegra is this Week's Blog Winner!

              Yeah, I am so happy to announce that this week's circle skirt winner is Allegra Torres! Congratulations.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Textile Friday: Advice on Starting A Small Business

             "Many people think that the most important part of a startup is the initial idea (you often hear ‘I want to start a company but don't have any ideas'). What they don't realize is that coming up with ideas is actually the easy part—the hard part is executing on them." ~Dave Gilboa in "Goop"
              Today is my birthday and I would like to give you a gift of the most important article that I have read in 3 years since starting a small business. I know I normally post about textile topics on Friday, but it's been one of those weeks where I've been reminded of the stark difference between ideas and reality and wanted to give you the best wisdom I have read this year. Apt advice is rare and often overlooked due to it's simplicity. The longer I am in business, the more I come to believe that an ability to understand if a thought is worth executing is the difference between chasing a fantasy and building something of value. And it gets down to a fundamental question that must be asked: "Is there any real value in producing this idea?"
              I hope this gives you value today. Especially to my fellow designers and small business owners. So go read the article and ask yourself, "What do you believe is worth producing? How do you measure your creative spark?" It is a question I am forced to answer again and again in this business. I hope reading this article helps as much as it has helped me. And happy Friday, today I am 31.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

$10 Silk Scarves All This Week

This week it's my birthday and to celebrate, we're putting our silk scarves on sale for $10 through Friday. We have several colors available. The perfect gift for yourself or someone you love. Have a great day and check in for more details. I am so excited about Redress Raleigh this weekend. One of my two favorite fashion shows in the area. General admission is already sold out. Hope you got your tickets early.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Free Skirt Giveaway- Size 2

     Another awesome skirt I found cleaning up our space from the 2009 spring collection. I totally fell in love with this fabric. It just floats on the body and the poly-silk pattern of leaves is a personal favorite. The ties already sold and I thought the skirts as well, but it appears I overlooked one little lady. Hopefully someone can benefit. To enter simply post your name in the comments section and I will pull one name on Friday.


Sizing: 2 women's women's clothing, circle skirt.
Wash Care Instructions: Dry clean only or hand wash in cold water, hang dry.
Fabric: poly-silk

Made in the US of fabric from North Carolina textile mills.

Monday, April 16, 2012

April 21st: Guest Lecturing at the Visual Art Exchange

        This week, I will be downtown speaking at the Visual Art Exchange on Saturday, April 21st at 3:30 pm on selling online, specifically on Etsy and our local Acorn to Oak Handmade Team which is dedicated to helping local artists and craftsmen make a living selling online. A lot of people as me why I created a local team for this purpose and why I mention Etsy repeatedly as a good venue for up and coming artists to get started on making a living.
         Mostly, it gets down to money and time. Of the 24 some places I opened an online shop the first year I had a design company, the only place I ever sold art or crafts online was Etsy. There's a saying that without money, artists disappear. I don't know if it's true, but I do know that hunger is a great driver both into and out of a given field. As a designer, in a wonderful co-op, surrounded by great talent, I feel it is part of my job to help my fellow friends and companions grow. Since 1994, online sales are the only venue that's growing. That means for the last 20 years, the only pie that's growing is the internet pie. Having spent a decade in sales before starting Li Sashay, I can tell you that the internet is having a pervasive, eroding effect on traditional sales outlets. Traditional sales associates are being slashed out of the process as it becomes cheaper and easier to market to the online crowd. Why give 70% of the profit away when you can reduce it to 5-8% online?
        And therein, lies the problem, most artists find when they set up their webpage. You can set-up a store now for under $100 a yr. that will be interesting, well-designed, and protected. It will not however, get you traffic or sales. It is simply too easy and the bar too low for most people to be effectively heard online at this venture. Even with buying advertising on google, facebook, or starting a blog is generally useless for getting direct sales. So where can you be heard? In general there are three main selling platforms: Amazon, eBay, and Etsy for an artist to be heard on from a financial aspect. Of these, Amazon and eBay are so big, they are controlled mostly by larger corporations. 38% of eBay's income comes from a mere 14 companies. That leaves 1 place for an up and coming artist to be heard effectively: Etsy.
      No system is perfect, of the available platforms, this is the best at this time for getting traffic if you make unique or handmade items. Two years ago, a person needed between 25-50 items in their shop to make consistent sales. Today most people have increased the number to 100-300 items in a shop to sell effectively. I would place the number closer to the 200-300 mark if you want daily sales. For many part-time designers...this may represent a year or two of work, but still doable if you are willing to be patient. Etsy is a great place to get started and I highly recommend it. Alright, stop in Sat for the full lecture if you want specifics. I will have hand-outs with websites, names, and contact info for people who are looking for details. Hopefully this will help some of my fellow artists in the area. I won't claim to know it all, but am happy to offer up some wisdom from what has and has not worked for me. Please be aware that there are much more talented designers and artists in the area making a lot more than I am on Etsy at the moment. If you want to know more, I suggest talking to/contacting some of the other forum members if you want to find a good mentor or coming to one of our Tuesday night meetings.

Visual Art Exchange
309 West Martin Street
Raleigh, NC 27601

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fabiola Anderson is this Week's Jacket Winner!

             Alright it's Friday and as promised, Fabiola Anderson is this week's winner for our 2010 Fall Collection jacket. I hope you get to enjoy wearing it. Fabiola, come by the studio any time to pick it up. Have a great day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Summer 2012 Collection

                 It's almost summer and I can feel the warmth lapping in the windows. This season, we're going to escape the grind with some of our favorite classics and new looks to surprise and excite. Each week, you will get to see a look I designed with accessories broken down over the week and the final look on Friday. All our dress samples are designed and draped for our form standard woman's size 8 dress form. If you are a store owner and interested in carrying a particular look in your shop, please contact me directly to discuss size runs.
                Today you can see our classic tote redesigned this season with one of a kind fabrics and pockets. Each tote is one-of-a-kind with custom pockets, handles, and fabrics. I love creating something unique for you, my customer.
                 Check out our Etsy store to see what we have in stock today. We will have new totes all this summer for $10.00-18.00 each based on fabric and complexity. A simple great gift for yourself or someone you love. Welcome to summer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Day Thirty: Sample Sale

      Well, we're finishing up the winter collection super late this year. I meant to be done in February, but with the move we're happily finishing up a little late. I also have a great surprise, to celebrate the last day we're hosting a discontinued sample sale this week. Fun one of a kind looks or styles I've done over the past two years, mostly in a standard size 8. I hope you will be able to take advantage of these deals as we clear out space for our new designs this season. One of the pieces I'm letting go is this fun over the top cropped jacket I designed that was inspired by Lionfish. I love the ocean and wild coral reefs. It's a generous size 8 or 10 depending on how tight you want to wear it. A great fun piece for a collection.
      We're giving it away free this week. If you want, respond in the comments section and we'll give one lucky reader a chance to score their own look.

Have a great day. See ya tomorrow as we start to release our new collection.

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 14th: Beginning Sewing Class 1-4 pm

   This week, we are doing the first of a two part cross-over event with Splat Space in Durham. For those of you in the Acorn to Oak Team, you are probably already familar with this fun hackerspace located in the heart of downtown Durham on Martin St. The first half of the event will be a beginning sewing class run by Jeff Crews, the same man who taught me how to sew on home sewing machines a few years ago. I like and respect him a lot and I'm sure everyone will enjoy learning from him. He's very good and has a work project of teaching people to make tool belts lined up. The second part will be a May 1st meeting on eTextiles.

The address is:  

Splat Space
331 West Main Street
Durham, NC

This event is free and open to the public. Anyone can attend and feel free to bring a friend.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Day Twenty-Nine: Shiny New Business Cards

            Alright, I broke down this week and made something for me...with the shiny new laser. Awesome new mirror business cards. Yes, you read that new joy these days is mirrors. It seems like every season I have a new material that speaks to me and this season, it's this one. Sadly photographing mirrors is harder than it looks because the mirrors want to reflect you in them instead of showing off their shiny surface. These are so much more awesome in person. I will be mailing them out with all our orders this spring for people to play with. Nash and I have been quoting Firefly all week with "Shiny, Captain." Gotta love Kaylee. Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Day Twenty-Eight: Linus Quilts

    So I finally got around to finishing our quilt tops from our Etsy meeting a few months ago. I know some of you have been wondering what happened to all the quilts pieces everyone cut and the answer is that they became these...really cool quilts. :-)We had roughly a dozen when all was said and done. Who knew it took so many yards of fabric to make a couple of quilts? Thanks everyone who helped out. That was way more work than I expected and everyone was awesome troopers. I must say, I got a new appreciation for how hard quilting is. Well, here ya's a couple of mine. Can't wait to do this again next year. Yay!

Have a great Easter Friday!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spinning with HooksandEyes Recap

       Tuesday night was awesome! We had the best guest speaker, Theresa. Some of you are more familar with her Etsy shop, HooksandEyes. If you want to buy awesome local yarn in the area, check her out. She has a lot of great yarn not listed so contact her directly if you're looking for something. While Theresa spins year round, her shop fills up mostly in the fall when people pick up knitting. She spins fun things like cotton, wool, and bamboo. She also sells at the local arts and crafts market. Honestly, it was one of the most fun talks for me in a while. I've have always secretly wanted to learn how to spin, and getting to make a drop spindle was the absolute best. We all took cut up dowel rods and old CDS to make our own drop spindles.
      This set-up takes about 5 mins. The next 2 hrs. were spent trying and happily failing at learning to spin yarn. You can see Theresa's beautiful yarn on right (hint hint any yarn shops in the area that are interested in carrying local yarn give her a call). Mine looked like a lumpy mass of...well, it was supposed to be yarn for a scarf for Nash, but it really looks like rug yarn instead. There's definitely an art to this. So how do you spin?
     First you take a fluffy pile of batting and you tear off roughly in a thin 1 ft. section. Next, you draft it by pulling the yarn (this really needs to be seen in person) according to the staple of the thread.  You end up with this super fine puffy thread. After drafting, you apply twist. First you roll a section down your pant leg, then once you have a section of twisted yarn roughly 10-14 inches long, you tie it around the bottom of the spindle below the CD.  It will look like the photo below if it is resting on your knees. I'm pretty uncoordinated, but Theresa could spin it in the air really fast which was amazing. Me?
     Well, I wrapped it around the top of hook and proceeded to keep rolling the spindle away from me on my pant leg picking up twist as I went. Twist is apparently what makes thread in the first place. This is apparently close to a form of spinning that is done by Navaho Indians to make their thread. They have huge spindles they rest on their legs to spin, don't ask me how. When you twist up a section of thread, you unwrap the thread from around the top hook and feed the spindle below to build up the thread. Once you get done, you upwind the thread either onto a special device like the one Theresa is hold at the top which measures the length of the thread or use a partner's hands to wind a skein. I would show you that part, but mine is SUPER ugly. Instead I will show you the pretty one up top. Apparently, you can learn to spin in 3 weeks and I'm told 2nd graders successfully spin after a few hours. Me, I'm glad I know someone who can feed my yarn addiction.
            Hope you enjoyed reading this and maybe you can try your hand at spinning too. It's a lot of fun for all my rumblings about being uncoordinated. Have a great day and check in tomorrow.