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Friday, April 20, 2007

Minimalism and Mud

"...for dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return..."

Can you believe it? These globes that look as though they are made of porcelain or marble actually consist of mud. Molded mud. They're called hikaru dorodango, or shiny mud balls, and the art of making them has been practised in Japan for centuries. They're featured in the new issue of Craftzine which focuses on Japanese crafts.

Each ball is made through a process of shaping the mud into a spherical shape with the use of water, allowing it to dry, and then rubbing the surface to make it shine (they're actually measured according to a shiny scale). I love the simplistic beauty of each ball, which retains the characteristics of the dirt from which it was made. Earth and Water. Art and Spirituality. Minimalism and Mud.

^Pics taken from
Also see:

And before you begin to see an activity like this as pointless, a Japanese professor by the name of Fumio Kayo has used dorodango to launch investigations into the psychology of children's play. Some things only appear to be pointless.


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Handmade High Fashion: Designers to watch

It's really astonishing, the levels of craftmanship and ingenuity you're only too lucky to encounter within the handmade/diy arena.

Elizaveta Yankelovich on etsy uses all sorts of ephemera you'd overlook in a thrift shop- from plastic stained glass ornaments torecords and even condoms and rolling papers (though you probably wouldn't find these in a thrift shop!) to make one-of-a-kind art you can wear.

Kick- ass in the "What? You're weird cause you're not wearing an oversized fruit!" kind of way. The American Apparel-esque models probably add to the appeal.

I was always a huge fan of Armour Sans Anguish, but this year the duo (Tawny Holt and Julie Edwards) really seem to be outdoing themselves. Take a look at this adorable dress, currently being sold off of BTC Elements, a boutique specializing in eco-friendly clothing. (All AMA clothes are made from reclaimed materials).

This dress captures the essence of AMA- whimsical, vintage-inspired, and not afraid to experiment with layers, types of fabric and texture.

They were recently hired to create bridesmaids' dresses for a wedding- be sure to look for pics soon on their blog. Also check out their tops made from reworked felted sweaters.

Seed clothing
, run by Amy Blea, is a company that tries to "get back to the art of sewing and creating and designing well-made fashionable garments". All garments are handmade and in limited editions.
I swear, the Doris dress inspired by Twiggy or Edie Sedgwick would make the coolest prom dress, period. Check Amy's etsy account for other designs.

Hope you enjoy, or at least find some form of motivation,



Piece of Art of the month will be changed soon, we promise!

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Oh, Joy!

Bettyjoy is a one-woman business started by Lucia that gives a whole new spin on the term cottage industry- it's run from her 'little cottage' in the North of England. I stumbled across her site and was impressed by the sheer variety and quirkiness of the items offered- a plethora of cool crafts made by consigners I'd never heard of or seen before. The thing that should really strike you about Lucia is that she seems like you, me, and everyone- a woman who, quite simply, enjoys seeing other people's creations and wishes to share this passion with the world.

Lucia picks her favourite 5 items from the shop (at present!) and tells us why she likes 'em so much.

Lego Earrings

These are fabulously retro and remind me of my childhood making lego houses and gardens. There are matching necklaces too – how fab!! Also by Swank – check out the lizards and lightbulbs earrings and the feathery earrings made from the lesser spotted tigeroo bird!!

Cassette Purse

This is a fantastic design – It reminds me of the good old days before CDs, when your tapes always got chewed up my the cheapo walkman your mum got off the market!! This purse is also really trendy now with the 80’s revival, there are tapes and synths everywhere- speaking of which, check out the patches by Ohgoshmassacre instore too- fab for jazzing up your bag/coat/whatever.

Custom-Made Shopper

I love all the items by Custom-Made but I think this is my fave. Its a really great fashionable shopper, great for carrying your college work in or to wow your work colleagues with. If you are feeling bit down or you think your outfit looks tired just make sure you have this bag with you to jolly it all up and you will be smiling in no time! The little cherry pin detail is really sweet too. I also love the ice-cream pins and hairgrips too – I love anything kitsch and bright. If blue or orange aren’t your thing check out the selection of bags by Sugarcane – I have my beady eye on the leaf and berry bag!!

Sugar Plum Charm Bracelet

This is a much more ‘grown-up’ item than the previous ones, but I absolutely adore the colors of the pearls and wearing this I actually look and feel sophisticated- a mean feat!! This bracelet is really versatile too and could be worn with a jeans and top outfit or to accessorise a much more glamorous outfit for a posh ‘do’. These items make really great presents and I know if I got one of these as a present I’d have a big smile on my face! By Stardust Jewellery.

Cutesypoo Skunks

These little guys are really kicking up a stink at Bettyjoy!! I absolutely adore everything Cutesypoo makes and these are no exception. The detail of the plush toys is fantastic, I love their eyes and eyelashes too! We had really gorgeous some bunnies and bears in before Christmas which sold out almost immediately. We also have other plush toys by different designers –the plush owls are a hoot and the dog with treats on a stick is totally adorable!

For more Bettyjoy, check out her Myspace and Etsy account.


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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sophisticated fashion on familiar streets

Being from Seattle myself, it has always been a treat to explore the streets. With Diesel on one corner and Starbucks on the next, it's easy to find inspiration in the various pieces men and women wear these days. Though runway models are meant to show off complex (and simple) pieces that are known to cost hundreds or thousands, it can be as simple to find similar pieces at the local thrift store or Target.

I haven't been to Seattle in almost a year, but it's still hard to forget the various handmade scarves and modified skirts that many women are seen wearing at the local record store. Pike/Pine is a blog that features these citizens. Many of these people are just souls wandering the streets. Their clothes radiate beauty and creativity to those who see them, and that is what the blog portrays. The captions may leave you to your own opinion, but that makes the photographs the true landmarks of the writer's talent. Being able to capture these magnificent subjects is something that allows the reader to feel inspired by creativity. If one more person feels the need to create a simple outfit into an original ensemble, then maybe they, too, can feel the spotlight upon their skin.


Saturday, April 14, 2007


Article from New York Times published earlier this year.
Link found via James Spooner's myspace (editor/director of Afro-punk: The Rock n' Roll Nigger Experience).

Published: January 28, 2007

WHEN Douglas Martin first saw the video for Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" as a teenager in High Point, N.C., "it blew my mind," he said. Like many young people who soothe their angst with the balm of alternative rock, Mr. Martin was happy to discover music he enjoyed and a subculture where he belonged.

Except, as it turned out, he didn't really belong, because he is black.

"For a long time I was laughed at by both black and white people about being the only black person in my school that liked Nirvana and bands like that," said Mr. Martin, now 23, who lives in Seattle, where he is recording a folk-rock album.

But 40 years after black musicians laid down the foundations of rock, then largely left the genre to white artists and fans, some blacks are again looking to reconnect with the rock music scene.

The Internet has made it easier for black fans to find one another, some are adopting rock clothing styles, and a handful of bands with black members have growing followings in colleges and on the alternative or indie radio station circuit. It is not the first time there has been a black presence in modern rock. But some fans and musicians say they feel that a multiethnic rock scene is gathering momentum.

"There's a level of progress in New York in particular," said Daphne Brooks, an associate professor of African-American studies at Princeton. She was heartened last summer by the number of children of color in a class she taught at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, where kids learn to play punk-rock standards.

There is even a new word for black fans of indie rock: "blipster," which was added to UrbanDictionary .com last summer, defined as "a person who is black and also can be stereotyped by appearance, musical taste, and/or social scene as a hipster."

Bahr Brown, an East Harlem resident whose Converse sneakers could be considered blipster attire, opened a skateboard and clothing boutique, Everything Must Go, in the neighborhood in October, to cater to consumers who, like himself, want to dress with the accouterments of indie rock: "young people who wear tight jeans and Vans and skateboard through the projects," he said.

"And all the kids listen to indie rock," he said. "If you ask them what's on their iPod, its Death Cab for Cutie, the Killers."

A 2003 documentary, "Afropunk," featured black punk fans and musicians talking about music, race and identity issues, and it has since turned into a movement, said James Spooner, its director. Thousands of black rock fans use's message boards to discuss bands, commiserate about their outsider status and share tips on how to maintain their frohawk hairstyles.

"They walk outside and they're different," Mr. Spooner said of the Web site's regulars. "But they know they can connect with someone who's feeling the same way on the Internet."

On MySpace, the trailer for Mr. Spooner's new film, "White Lies, Black Sheep," about a young black man in the predominantly white indie-rock scene, has been played upward of 40,000 times.

Rock was created by black artists like Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, and Elvis Presley and other white artists eventually picked up the sound. In the '60s, teenagers were just as likely to stack their turntables with records from both white and black artists — with perhaps a little bit of Motown, another musical thread of the time, thrown in, said Larry Starr, who wrote "American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MTV," with Christopher Waterman. But that began changing in the late '60s. By the time Jimi Hendrix became the ultimate symbol of counterculture cool, with his wild wardrobe and wilder guitar playing, the racial divisions were evident.

Paul Friedlander, the author of "Rock and Roll: A Social History," noted that Hendrix became popular just as the black power movement emerged. Yet his trio included two white musicians and his audience was largely white. That made him anathema to many blacks.

"To the black community he was not playing wholly African-American music," Mr. Friedlander said, even when Hendrix formed a new all-black band.

By the early '70s, "you began to have this very strict color line," Mr. Starr said. Music splintered into many different directions and, for the most part, blacks and whites went separate ways. Black musicians gravitated toward genres in which they were more likely to find acceptance and lucre, such as disco, R & B and hip-hop, which have also been popular among whites.

The next few decades saw several successful and influential black musicians who crossed genres or were distinctly rock, such as Prince, Living Colour and Lenny Kravitz, and rock melodies and lyrics have been liberally sampled by hip-hop artists. But rock is still largely a genre played by white rockers and celebrated by white audiences.

THE recent attention given several bands with black members — like Bloc Party, Lightspeed Champion, and the Dears — could signify change. "Return to Cookie Mountain," the second album by the group TV on the Radio, a band in which four of the five members are black, was on the best-album lists of many critics in 2006. Around the country, other rock bands with black members are emerging.

On an evening in December, at Gooski's, a crowded dive bar in Pittsburgh, Lamont Thomas, sweating through a red T-shirt that read "Black Rock," played the drums behind the lead singer Chris Kulcsar, who was flinging his skinny frame around the stage, and the guitarist Buddy Akita. The bass player, Lawrence Caswell, dreadlocked and gregarious, introduced the band, a punk quartet from Cleveland with the name This Moment in Black History.

"The funny thing is, a lot of people assume from the name that we're just white kids being ironic," Mr. Thomas said.

This may be because their fans, like the ones who attended the show at Gooski's, tend to be white, although there are usually one or two people of color, Mr. Caswell said.

Nev Brown, a photographer and writer from Brooklyn, said that at the indie rock shows that he has covered for his music blog,, he is almost always the only black person in the room. Some fans are curious about why he is at the show and try to talk to him about it.

"And then you get idiots, like people who think you're a security guard," he said.

Damon Locks, a Chicago-based publicist and singer in a hardcore band called the Eternals, said he is frequently mistaken for "one of the other three black guys" in the city's rock-music scene. "We joke about it," he said. "We've been thinking about getting together and starting a band called Black People."

That kind of isolation is one of the reasons Mr. Spooner, the documentary director, regularly showcases black and mixed-race rock bands at clubs. For a band to participate, the lead singer must be black. This caused some friction early on, he said. "A lot of white people were offended that I was saying, 'This is for us,' " Mr. Spooner said on a recent evening at the Canal Room, a club in downtown Manhattan, where he was the D.J. between sets for multiethnic bands like Graykid, Martin Luther and Earl Greyhound.

But, he added: "Almost every black artist I know wants to play in front of their people. This is bigger than just rocking out or whatever."

Mr. Thomas, of This Moment in Black History, said that white fans sometimes want to know why he is not rapping. "It's the stupidest question," he said.

Just as often, it is African-Americans who are judgmental. "There's an unfortunate tendency for some black people to think if you listen to rock music or want to play rock music, you're an Uncle Tom," Mr. Thomas said.

LaRonda Davis, president of the Black Rock Coalition, an organization co-founded by Vernon Reid of Living Colour in the mid-80s to advocate for black rock bands, said the resistance is rooted in group-think. "Black people were forced to create a community," she said. "We're so protective and proud of it, like, 'We have to protect our own,' and why should we embrace something that has always excluded us?"

Nelson George, author of "Buppies, B-Boys, Baps & Boho's: Notes on Post-Soul Culture," suggested that the rock 'n' roll aesthetic had been a major deterrent. "Black kids do not want to go out with bummy clothes and dirty sneakers," Mr. George said. "There is a psychological subtext to that, about being in a culture where you are not valued and so you have to value yourself."

But lately, rock music, and its accouterments, are being considered more stylish. Mainstream hip-hop artists like Kelis wear Mohawks, Lil Jon and Lupe Fiasco rap about skateboarding, and "all of the Southern rap stars are into the '80s punk look, wearing big studded belts and shredded jeans," said Anoma Whittaker, the fashion director of Complex magazine. At the same time, the hip-hop industry's demand for new samples has increased the number of rock songs appearing on hip-hop tracks: Jay-Z's latest album features contributions from Chris Martin of Coldplay and R & B artist Rihanna's current single samples the New Wave band Soft Cell.

"Hip-hop has lost a lot of its originality," said Mr. Brown of Everything Must Go, the East Harlem skateboard shop. "This is the new thing."

^Filmmaker James Spooner above. Picture from

Also check out: Reviews/selections of afro-punk bands as picked by Spooner.

Thoughts? Comments? I've never heard about Spooner's documentary, but this sure has piqued my interest. Anything that discusses race and music is a definite must-see in my opinion.

-Amanda C.Q.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

I spend enough time on ebay to know a good thing when I see it.

T-shirt surgery is all the rage on the indie fashion circuit, but if you're familiar with the whole-and I hate to use this word- scene, you know that there are lots who do it but few who do it right; to a high degree of professionalism. Ok, so diy is not supposed to be about attaining mass-produced perfection.. but you have to give props to people who put so much effort into the creation process that the end result is like, wow.

Valerie reconstructs threadless and band tees and sells them mainly through her ebay store. She also sells her handmade originals through her etsy store. Her style is vintage-inspired/ j-pop/punk like many indie designers nowadays, but there's a distinct uniqueness that marks her items as stand-outs from your average diy creation.

It's a highly competitive race trying to buy one of her items on ebay. Those ebay snipers who wait until the last minute to purchase something are vicious! I have never won a single auction of hers, but hope to soon!

She tells me that she may be updating next week, so add her store to your favourites now!

Do yourself a much-needed favour and check out her portfolio here for inspiration.


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Thursday, April 12, 2007

I'm selling my soul- why's nobody buying it?

On crafting forums sellers usually ask questions like, "Why doesn't my stuff sell?" You pour your heart and soul into creating knitted pot scrubbers or candles shaped like mixtapes only to find that nobody's interested. Instead of digging into your past to figure out what you've done wrong to deserve such bad karma, take some advice from a buyer who spends way too much time shopping for crafty goods on the internet for her own good.

Are you doing enough to spread the word about your online store on the Internet?

Some free places to advertise:

Post your link on Bust's Girl Wide Web.

Post ads for your store in livejournal communities, such as diymarketplace, tshirtsurg_sale, hotfashionsales (there are so many others... just do a search!)

Myspace. Create a myspace profile for your business. Use the 'photo' section to post photos of stuff for sale, or your best work that's already been sold. Add indie businesses you admire as friends. You can do the whole "Thanks for adding me, check out my business" thing, which users of myspace normally post in the comments of others who accept their friend requests to gain more exposure. While this may generally be considered annoying with regards to musicians who use the technique to market themselves, it's still an effective technique for indie buyers. If the ad for yourself that you post in other people's comments is eye-catching, you've got yourself a potential buyer.

There are some myspace profiles dedicated to exposing the best in indie craft/design. They take the format of a directory; when you add them you get to post an ad for your site on their particular profile. The one I check most often is Diy directory, which has interviews and featured items, (and mostly has links to incredibly cool handmade fashion-check it out!) but I'm sure there are others. Do a search and see what you come up with.

On Craftster, you can post a link to your site in the "Links" section. You can also post a tutorial for one of your projects in the forum. Although you can't mention that you're advertising it for sale (strictly forbidden and slightly unethical), I find that if somebody really likes something you've created, they'll private message you to find out where they can get it or check out your site. I've done it countless times myself.

Always have a link to your site available in your signature! Of course, this works for every forum- not just Craftster.

On livejournal crafting communities such as t_shirt_surgery or craftgrrl, you can mention, however, that you have an item for sale when you post a project.

Send an e-mail to an indie blog dedicated to diy product reviews asking to be featured. The popular ones are Modish, and Design*Sponge. You may even want to send samples of products for consideration.

Participate in The Sampler.

There are several other ways to promote businesses that I probably don't even know about. The Switchboards, Craftster and Supernaturale are always good resources for opinions, advice and comments on your crafty business.

If you spend some time using these sites to market your items, you'd be amazed at the difference this may make in sales. There are so many buyers who just spend their time browsing through these places, looking for cool new items to buy!

Coming Soon:

  • Are pictures of your items taken well enough?
  • and others!


    NB: don't forget to comment if you have any questions, ideas, recipes and/or salutations.

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    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    The Cinematics – A Strange Education

    They are a band from the faraway land of Glasgow, Scotland. With emphasis and influence dipping into various pots - The Smiths, Talking Heads, Television - they have shown themselves to be a delightfully entertaining band. I listened to several tracks, and I have come to admire the way they seduce their lyrics into manipulating themselves into a sort of masterpiece. After listening to Human, I'm reminded as to why I enjoy listening to European bands so much. Being in Germany myself, it makes me think of the beauty this continent holds. It's truly a beautiful feeling.

    One song that conjured up mixed emotions was Keep Forgetting, otherwise known as track eight on the album. A combination of guitars and drums make the track dance-worthy, but with lyrics like, Riot shields and plastic bullets / An eye for an eye / We'll keep pushing, we'll keep pushing / All our very modern ways, I'm left recalling the days of the WTO protests that occurred several years ago in my home state of Washington, specifically Seattle. With lyrics like that, it is no wonder they are so popular. They've hit the hard notes, and they're not afraid to stop just yet.

    I find the Cinematics to be a band that could set the way for many to come. Their lyrics are amazing, and their talent leaves me anxious to hear more. Their musical influences are strong in their own sound, which pays tribute to the old and the new. It is a kind memory that allows me to reminisce back to the days when I was just a teenager, with the hobby of going to shows, and basking in the beauty of the sounds leaving the mouths and instruments of struggling bands. Long summer drives and cool summer nights were the constant reminders bands like the Cinematics gave me. If these men can do that, then I applaud them. I hope to see many more who can do the same.


    Monday, April 9, 2007

    Understanding our Brave New World: Myspace, your space, whose space is it?

    I'm not really a big fan of Oprah. This is not because I agree with rapper 50 Cent, who defiantly (and perhaps, somewhat ignorantly)- proclaimed that she sold out. I don't believe that she sold out. But anyway, that's not the point.

    The point is that I should look at Oprah more often, despite the association I make in my mind between her talk-show and the pastime of middle-aged housewives. As I glimpsed a snippet of an episode entitled "America Speaks Back" sometime last week while channel surfing, something that was said really struck a chord. They were speaking about celebrity, fame, or something of the sort, when a psychologist made a statement that does not seem so prolific now as it did then- but I'll repeat it anyway. "In my time, celebrities were respected because they actually did something. I mean, just look at Paris Hilton!"

    Wow, I remember thinking. He's right.

    But of course, you knew that already. If you're reading this zine, chances are that you've already become disenchanted with the way 'mainstream society' perceives celebrity. Perhaps you see the media as a gigantic conspiracy; a way to extort more money from the common man. Perhaps you don't care about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's baby, nor do you care about what the next celebrity power-couple name will sound like (Personally, I'm waiting for Petelee- a neat portmanteau* celebrating Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz's hooking up, as seen on I suppose I'll have to keep on waiting). Perhaps you do.

    Then, I thought about one of my most favourite time-wasters in the world (after Facebook)- Myspace, and an article I read in the latest Venus.

    The article was about the rise in fame of e-celebrities- you know, the people whose profiles receive more views that the most ambitious pre-teen could ever dream of. People like Jac Vanek, and Audrey Kitching, and various other scenesters. Obviously, this seems to be the 'new' kind of celebrity, built to suit our technologically-saturated society. But what is it that these people do?

    Why is it that so many girls want to be them, and actually pretend to by assuming their identities? Just take a look at how many profiles/ fan-pages there are dedicated to these people- it's mind-boggling, really. I had the pleasure (question mark?) of browsing through a few, where the only things fans of aforementioned celebrities seem to admire about their hero/ines are "their friends" and the way they "dress". Excuse me while I lapse into msn-speak, but this warrants an OMG.

    Girls (and youth in general) have always been impressionable, as they try to create their own identities and while making their way to adulthood. The interesting thing is that it's no longer the Britneys or the Hilary Duffs or even the Avrils of the world that are making the impression. It's women who fit a tougher aesthetic- chicks covered in tattoos and piercings; girls who are too cool for television or teen magazines (though, ironically, we may be seeing more of them in said publications because everyone likes to cash in on a new teen trend) and Suicide Girls themselves. Perhaps, I may go as far to say that Myspace has spawned a new Internet subculture- one that is quickly worming its way into popularity and acceptance. Is it a good thing that girls who don't exactly fit what people seem to ordinarily consider 'beautiful' are becoming more popular? Or, is our concept of 'beautiful' and 'cool' simply changing, while our same sense of superficiality and materialism stays ever present? I mean, girls are obsessed with Audrey Kitching's friends, for chrissakes. As well as the fact that she's dated members of emo bands. Did I mention that already? Well- boo-ya! I just did.

    I'm not saying that people like Jac Vanek and Audrey Kitching do nothing to improve our society. I perhaps implied it, but it's something that still needs to be worked out in my mind. Vanek's simply a photography student, still in college, who took pictures of herself because she thought that she was her best subject. She, according to the article in Venus, never imagined that her profile would get millions of views. And I understand that- but this whole business still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

    Consider this- Social networking sites receive more members because of prominent characters like Kitching, and Vanek, and countless others. People want to be able to see their profile pictures, become their friends, and send them messages. And, of course, these sites- who I believe receive a great deal of money from companies for advertising (correct me if I'm wrong)- realize this. Just look at ads for Buzznet (if you're not familiar, think Hi-5, or facebook, or myspace). They're trying to get members by advertising that proclaims that if you join, you can be Audrey Kitching's friend immediately. You can be in her clique; in her circle, in a manner similar to myspace's Tom. People like Vanek and Kitching are the tools being used to market such sites. Girls who, in many ways, remind me of myself.
    Perhaps that is what irks me the most.
    *A beautiful word that I hope was used in a grammatically correct manner.

    -Amanda C.Q.- who, from now on, is spending more time watching Oprah and less time on the Internet (except for the zine, of course ;)
    ^Audrey Kitching. Do not know who took photo, but if you want credit/ want me to remove it, just contact me.

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