Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ode to Vinyl and Ode to Juline

2010 has ushered in the fabulous world of vinyl records back into my life!

Thanks to my wonderful friend Juline and the The Record exhibition at the Nasher Museum at Duke University, Rico and I have been reconnected with those funky, almost magical disks and the textural reality of music being produced by a needle gliding along spinning grooves of plastic.  Listening to music on our record player just feels so different than plugging our iPod into the sound system, you know?  It makes me regret getting rid of all of our albums when we lived in Chicago back in the 90s.  But there you go.

Juline is a creative whirling dervish and is constantly introducing me to new projects, artists and crafts.  I'm so lucky to have her in my life!  I remember meeting Juline at her office at the Nasher, where I'd come to record the audio guide for The Record exhibition, and she was playing vintage big band albums on a record player.  Remember album cover art? I pawed through the stacks of mid century albums in her office, marveling at the variety of images -- singers in leopard leotards, paper cuts of trombones and martinis. So many little works of art on cardboard album sleeves!

Juline's felt record necklaces (modeled at the beginning of this post by yours truly) are exactly my kind of whimsical, playful jewlery!  Check out the embroidered centers of the necklaces.

Aren't they the coolest things?

I swear that I'm I'm not trying to hawk OJ Designs merchandise, but Juline's necklaces are available in our etsy shop, if you're interested! (In October, Juline and I started OJ Designs, a little craft company featuring our work.  In 2011, we hope to participate in more craft fairs and expand our etsy shop, which is very thin right now.)

A little more about Juline and her amazing creativity... this year she has brought so much into my life!  She inspired me start my hand sewn hexagon quilt project when she showed me her gorgeous quilt.  Juline is driven as well as crafty -- she finished her quilt with amazing speed, including the hand quilting.  My quilt top is ever so slowly coming together and she has already started on more hand sewn hexagon quilt designs.

She taught me how to make pzyanky eggs (a traditional Ukranian craft involving wax, dye and eggs) a few weeks after she learned how to made them herself, and then went on to make 40 of her beautiful eggs as a unique gift to commemorate the 40th wedding anniversary for her parents. This woman is a crafting goldmine and she is so generous with her friends, teaching us how to make new things and pushing and inspiring us to attempt what we never thought we could do! What a jewel she is.

Back to the vinyl... The Record exhibition is still at the Nasher until Feb. 6, 2011.  If you're in NC, I strongly encourage you to check it out.  Get out there and see this show!

My favorite pieces are by the artist Dario Robleto who used old Billie Holiday records to create buttons for vintage shirts.  You can read more about this alchemical and amazing project here on the Nasher web site.

"Turntable," by Fatimah Tuggar

And yes, that is my surprisingly sexy voice on the audio guide that you can download here.  (Scroll to the bottom of this page to click on the link.)  Once again, this is the work of the insanely talented Juline who edited the audio guide and managed to make me sound so hot!

Go vinyl!  Keep spinning us all around in 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

La Tour Eiffel pour maman

Resting up today after a wonderful Christmas celebration with our families.  It is a rare snowy day in Durham, NC.  I'm holed up inside, trying to stay warm and recover from excessive mimosa drinking.

I didn't make many handmade gifts this year. The one piece that I did make was an embroidered Eiffel Tower pillow for my mother.

Back in 2000, my mother and I took a magical trip to Paris and Barcelona.  We spent 10 days together, just the two of us.  I had so much fun spoiling her, handling every transaction, ordering for her in restaurants and cafes, negotiating our way around Paris with my hesitant French.

I remember waking up one afternoon from a nap and my mother was lying the in bed next to me, smiling, watching me sleep.  She said she was just enjoying watching her beautiful daughter sleep and that she was so proud of me.

My elegant mom in Paris

Another time, in Barcelona, I went back to the hotel to rest and my mother stayed out, visiting museums and shops.  When she came back to the hotel she told me that, on a whim, she stopped into a Giacometti exhibition, because she loves sculpture and because she wanted to be like me, open to art and experiences in unexpected ways.  She told me that, being with me in Europe, she understood how I saw the world and she appreciated and admired what she called my "free spirit" in a way that she never had back home.

I never felt as close to my mother as I did on that trip.  We laughed and confessed and roamed around the cities.  My mother's first language is Spanish, but somehow I wound up doing the talking in Spain.  It was such a treat to bring her into my world and her openness moved me immensely.

I made this embroidery from a pattern in A Rainbow of Stitches.  A flag waves from the Eiffel Tower - it reads, "I love Mom."  The sewing on the pillow is a little rudimentary.  I found a fleure-dis-lis fabric. I'm not a confident machine sewer, yet, despite having a beautiful machine.
Luna and me in my father's study
This was a lovely Christmas.  I think you can see how happy I am in this photo of me and my exhausted baby dog Luna.  Family is complicated.  Sometimes things just work out right.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


My little plush babies Eva and Mika find themselves watching an amazing fireworks display created by the fabulous Mo Fine.

I love this photo because it represents a collaboration of three of the most important people in my life: Me, who made Eva and Mika (hey, being important to myself was hard earned), Rico, the love of my life and photographer extraordinaire who so lovingly photographs so much of my work, and Mo, little pixie genius of Seattle, who worked her Photoshop magic to put my babies in is sea of fireworks.

Eva is my first ever handmade plush creature.  When I look at her, my heart breaks. I remember how excited I was when I saw her coming together.  I couldn't believe I was making a creature with my own hands that so captured my love and sense of play. The possibilities seemed endless.

Here she is without her head.

You know that you love your creatures when, even without their heads, they are beautiful to you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beware: Pixie Messenger Bags found in the woods

Pixies have been leaving their little messenger bags in the woods behind my house!

This is the bag that every stylish Pixie grabs before she sets out on one of her troublemaking adventures!  Inside is an official Pixie Journal where the little trickster plots her fiendish schemes.

A little secret... I am totally obsessed with my own version of pixies, which I call O’Pixies.  I have an entire fictional world constructed (in my mind and in my notebooks) about the O’Pixies Universe, including details for each of the six tribes that I created.  The little people are complicated and at times dark…

The O’Pixies take up such a large place in my imagination that it is almost hard to sort out all of the projects, stories and items that I want to create for them. It is actually overwhelming!  I will write more about the O’Pixies as the project continues, but for now, here are some of their tiny bags.

The Pixie Messenger Bags are a version of the my Ornamental Joy - Tiny Handbags pattern, the same pattern that I've used to make Mrs. Claus' Date Night Handbag and many other types of little wool purses.  I knit them and then felt them in the washing machine. 

I’ve made dozens of Ornamental Joy bags in various versions over the years. I've sold most of them at Center Fest in Durham or at my OJ Designs partner Juline’s Arts Education conferences.  They are a quick, fun way to use of scraps of yarn and other embellishments like beads and buttons.  Some people use them as Christmas ornaments, but I keep them around all through the year.

For these Pixie Messenger Bags, I embroidered little wool/rayon felt cloud faces and used a pastel pencil to give them rosy cheeks.  I embroidered around the handles in silver DMC floss.

I especially like the little snouty nose on this cloud’s face.

A proper tutorial is in the works for my blog.  The pattern was originally published in String Thing Theory, which my fiber arts group String Thing published on, but if anyone wants a copy of the pattern, please just let me know and I'm happy to send it. It is super simple.

But, be very careful with O’Pixies. They have a dangerous streak. Next to the little bags I found piles of tiny bones, some hair that looked suspiciously like Rico's and at least one tooth that was decidedly human. That is all I’m going to say.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

String Thing Ornament Swap-O-Rama!!

String Thing, the fabulous fiber arts group founded by my amazing friend Rebecca, had our Third Annual Holiday Ornament Swap today.  WOW!  I shouldn't be surprised, but I was just freaking floored by the creativity and generosity of all 11 crafters.

This was my second year organizing the swap and, as always, I was inspired by the variety of crafts represented and the quality of the ornaments themselves.  We had pzyanky eggs, basket-woven stars, Swedish paper stars, beaded and embroidered felties, crocheted pieces, knitted plush, colorful paper spheres, embellished glass balls, needlefelted woodland cameos, tatted snowflakes and, of course, my own felt ninjas.

Without further ado, in no particular order, take a look at these amazing ornaments!  (Warning, light is a little low, sorry!)

Kay made these gorgeous, needlefelted animal cameos.  I confess that when I saw the little rabbit, I knew that I had to have it for myself!  Her husband says the bunny looks a little angry and drunk, but that is right up my alley!  I only wish you could see the detail on these better, because they are just lovely.

Juline made pzyanky eggs!  I can't believe that she only learned this craft a few weeks ago, because her designs are just stunning.  She held a little workshop at her house on Thursday night, and I think I'm hooked. But it will take me a loooong time before I can ever make anything as lovely as Juline's eggs.

And here are some felties.  Sarah's happy gingerbread men!  These all have adorable fabric scraps on the back, which I failed to photograph.  Just looking at them makes me smile.

Lesley made snuggly acorns, which is actually part of (I believe) German holiday tradition.  (Forgive me if I got this wrong.)

And here are my String Thing Ninjas.  I think they look vaguely like zombies.

We saw some gorgeous paper crafts represented.  Naomi made these elegant Swedish stars.

And Monique made these fabulous paper orbs or spheres.  I'm not sure what the name of the tradition is for these pieces, but they are so cool!

And then we have knitted and crocheted ornaments.  Rebecca made these almost Victorian snowflakes.

And Sandy covered red balls with delicate iridescent knitted lace.  So pretty!

In addition to the Swedish Stars, Naomi TATTED snowflakes! I wish I got better photos of these, because they are so intricate and almost fragile looking.  Naomi had a mini tatting workshop a few years ago, and I have to confess that tatting is just beyond my stringy ability.  I don't know how she does it!

And Teresa made these beautiful wicker stars!  I desperately want one... hint, hint.

And finally, Kate, someone that I'm just starting to get to know, just blew me away with these amazing Angry Coal plushies!!  This is so TOTALLY up my alley, I just cannot believe it.  They are made from acrylic mohair yarn (allergy free) and have these fantastic expressions and eyebrows.  My coal man is going to be out all year.  I totally adore him!  (Sorry for the blurry photo.)

I can't tell you how happy and inspired I am by all of these crafters.  The thing is, most folks made these ornaments in something outside of their normal medium, and they are still just so wonderful.  I can't even begin to tell you about the beautiful things they knit and crochet... the lace, the fair isle mittens, the double knitted Chaos Theory scarf, the sweaters and hats.  I mean, they all make just BEAUTIFUL pieces.  There are several spinners in the group.  You should see their sumptuous yarns.  And they design knitwear and crochet patterns like you wouldn't believe.  And that is not to mention the sewing and quilting some of them do.  I'm just floored by the talent and creative energy of everyone in this group.  My favorite part of our Sunday morning get togethers (aside from laughing my butt off at all of our crazy conversations) is seeing what everyone is working on.


I know this is a long post, but I'm still flying from today and seeing all of the work my buddies created.  Makes this work week infinitely easier to get through.  The beige, RTP cube will have a much happier woman slaving away in corporate hell!

If you're on ravelry, come check out the Durham String Thing group so you can see more of their work.

Hot damn.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Creepy Cool Crochet at Rock & Shop Durham

On Saturday, Rico and I had a blast at the Rock & Shop in Durham. It was held at Full Steam Brewery and Motorco -- both super cool Durham venues.

I was so impressed by the crafters who were selling their wares.  I was particularly taken by the fabulous crochet amigurumi of NeedleNoodles and the work of Christen Hayden.

Take a look at my new monkey!

I'm calling him El Jefe.  Isn't he adorable?  Here he is hanging out in my cube at work, cheering me up with his playful soul.

I've always wished I could crochet.  It is just one of those things that I haven't taken the time to learn with any confidence, which is weird, because I adore amigurumi.  But alas, I haven't gotten around to it.

Christen Hayden is the author of the amazing book Creepy Cute Crochet: Zombies, Ninjas, Robots and More!

I really need to finally learn to crochet.  Her designs are so imaginative and playful.  I want to make my creatures in crochet, too.

Check out her flickr stream here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ever so slowly... progress

Being back at my corporate day job is proving harder than I'd hoped in terms of mustering any creative energy.  I drive home in the darkness and my mind feels dulled by the work I do.  I find I just want to sit on the sofa and drool, but it is only my first week back, so I'm hoping this won't last forever. That is just too bleak.

Stitching is the only thing I have the energy for, but fortunately, I LOVE STITCHING!

I've made some progress on my Do Not Enter embroidery.  Is it indelicate to say you love what you're making?  Too bad if it is, because this piece makes me oddly happy.  Even if I can't quite manage to start new projects or even do much sketching, just thinking about creating other pieces of embroidery gives me a happy jolt.

Aside from this embroidery, I have lots to work on in the next few weeks before Christmas... a present to finish sewing for my mother and five ornaments for the String Thing ornament swap next Sunday.  My goal is to try to build on my strength each week.  Drag my mind back from the drain of the beige, RTP, work cube to the fertile land of creative play!

Please send me your best wishes in these efforts, friends.  I can use all the help I can get with these terrible blues.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Do Not Enter, Fräulein!

Just a few close up shots on the progress of my German "Do Not Enter" embroidery.

I'm trying a new fill stitch for the big red circle -- backstitch as fill stitch.  I'm loving the woven quality of the stitches, although they are profoundly imperfect.  But the imperfections are part of the handmade process, no?  Each stitch is a decision and a test... can I get the next stitch into the exact center of the previous row's stitch?

Of course I can't!

Embroidery is weirdly moving to me.  Just thread going into fabric, but there is something so textural and primal about it.  And there are so many hazard signs and simple images to translate into fabric and floss.  I'm grateful.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Belligerent Ninjas from Hell & More Alien Creeps

These little pugilists don't know if they are good guys or bad guys.  They just know that they like to fight!

Meet BAM, POW and KA-POW, three wool/rayon felt ninjas. I had a lot of fun making them.  They are  very lightly padded.  Their eyes are embroidered and they sport cartoon captions that I made from art shrink plastic.

I also finished four more Alien Creeps. I've listed one in my etsy shop at

I don't know why I can't seem to make anything that is friendly and cute any more. Just a phase I'm going through, I guess.

I didn't wind up going to the Vega Arts Market today to sell my work.  I'm in a more homebody mode and I'm enjoying making things for friends and family.  I have so many Christmas presents yet to finish making!!

The Alien Creeps are really growing on me.

Tomorrow I'll post some updated photos of my German Do Not Enter sign.  The stitching on that piece is so involved... I love the methodical process of the fill embroidery.  Thousands of stitches, thousands of moments.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Making felties, new and old

My alien ornaments have been surprisingly popular. I've sold or had special requests for the ones I made, so now I'm making a few more for the craft fair at Vega Metals in Durham that I'm hoping to attend this weekend.

Rico says that when he sees them in piles like this, with arms and legs strewn about, he is reminded of an alien autopsy.  We're going to work on a series of Area 51-themed ornaments (and other mid-century alien) soon.  I like the idea of little alien pieces. He recommended that I make an alien with a post-vivisection scar on its chest.  Love that idea!!

I'm also playing around with a new feltie for my String Thing Ornament Swap.  Here is a first pass at the cut felt.

It usually takes me several tries before I'm satisfied with a design, so we'll see how these ultimately wind up looking.  Can you tell what they are going to be?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and my birthday. I'm headed to my parents' for a combo celebration.  So I'm going to try to spend several hours today working away in my little workshop.

I head back to work next week after several weeks of medical leave.  I'm very nervous about it.  Among other, more personal medical concerns, I'm worried about keeping up my creative mojo in that thankless, very uncreative corporate work environment.  Have to keep carving out time to make things or I'll go quite nuts!