Keep Your Eyes On Your Own Paper

IMG_4186    I was thinking yesterday while hammering at the bench. That kind of unfocused train of thought which sometimes results in a burst of creatively or the sudden connection of two seemingly unrelated things.
I remembered third grade. Our teacher was an eccentric woman with large black bouffant hair and purple eye shadow from lid to brow. She wore lots of silver jewelry that jingled as she walked through the classroom and she drank chocolate soda at lunch, which to a third grader was the pure embodiment of everything delicious we weren’t allowed to have (and to my adult self is the epitome of the 1980’s food industry). She was intense, with a sharpness about her that was magnified on days when her migraines set in and she wore a tight band (‘Rambo’-style) around her head all day and winced at us when we spoke.

3rd grade me, looking awesome in my gunne sax dress.

3rd grade me, looking awesome in my gunne sax dress.

I remember her for all those things, but mostly for an off-handed comment that she probably doesn’t even remember making. As she handed out tests (licking her thumb and index finger between each one), she would go over the rules. Last name first, first name last, use number-two pencils only, and keep your eyes on your own paper. Most of my childhood test-taking memories involve elaborate attempts at preventing cheating. We would hunch over our papers with an arm covering our work, or use the test to cover each row of penciled in bubbles as we went along. There was even one teacher who would construct tri-fold cardboard on each desktop to keep wandering eyes at bay (and unwittingly allow us to count on our fingers with no shame).

But that day one boy managed to get an eyeful of another boy’s test and a quarrel broke out in the classroom. She didn’t waste any time getting to the bottom of it, in front of the entire class.
“What’s this about?!”
“He looked at my test!” (breathless with outrage).
“Why were you looking at his paper?”
“To get the answer.” His voice barely above a whisper.
She wrinkled her brow in what could have been confusion or disgust.
“But…what if he was wrong???”

That stuck with me. Why assume that someone else knows what they’re doing any more than you do? Like a lot of growing-up lessons, it needed repetition.

Fast forward ten years to my first yoga class. I looked around the room constantly to be sure I was doing it “right”. Eventually I found my rhythm and stopped checking to see if I was touching my toes while everyone else was reaching for the ceiling. No longer fearful of doing it wrong, I became interested in doing it better. I wasn’t aggressive or rude, but I spent the class in a silent peripheral-vision competition with whoever was on the next mat.
I was missing out on the entire point of yoga. There was nothing calming about my practice. No inner growth. Not until a beloved teacher started a class one day with the suggestion that the class “keep your practice on your own mat”.
She explained that we were not there to compare ourselves with anyone else (for better or for worse), or even with ourselves. We should instead aim to listen to our bodies and honor what was within us that day.
Heidi Kristoffer said it best, “It is irrelevant what anyone else is doing. No two bodies are in the same place ever. My body is never in exactly the same place ever. Just because something felt great yesterday does not mean that it will feel great today.”

Again that message stuck with me.

Slowly I broke the comparison habit and started focusing on my own body and my own breath. I learned so much by ignoring not only the other people in the room but even who I was last week. Instead of forcing a pose just because I’d accomplished it before, I eased into my movements, listening to the response from my body that day. And I learned to enjoy the ebbs and flows of my practice. I saw my growth from a further perspective, comparing years of work instead of class-to-class.
This mentality has served me well as a business owner. Instead of poring over the numbers as they climb and fall each day, I ignore the bottom line and do what my creative urge calls for. Then at the end of the month, I step back and look at the overall growth. And during the slower retail months (July, especially in our shop), instead of panic at the decrease in work, I look at the whole picture of the last few years and see the annual pattern. Then it’s clear that July is actually a gift. (A welcome respite before the holiday season!)
We are all the products of our own experiences and life lessons. But I don’t think it’s ever too late to trust our own answers and keep our practice on our own mat. Worry less about what you accomplished last year and focus on what you would like to accomplish today. Maybe last year you could run a marathon and today you can only make it around the block. Do it anyway. A year from now you might have the perspective of looking back on today as the day you re-started your training and set the wheels in motion for something fantastic to reveal itself.

Recapping, Catching Up, Hello 2014!


Personally and professionally, 2013 will be a hard year to top. We had several amazing magazine features. Ryan left the corporate world behind and joined me. We partnered with Nordstrom, launching both a Wedding Suite and an At Home collection. We shared our story in Etsy’s Quit Your Day Job feature. Milk & Honey products appeared on The Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda (I even got to make them both a personalized spoon!). Our products appeared online more than ever before, including The Huffington Post, Refinery 29, Martha Stewart Weddings, Whole Foods, and The Daily Mail Uk.We’ve been busy bees to say the least!

Personally, I’ve striven throughout 2013 to find some semblance of work/life balance. It hasn’t always been easy, but I have found that by making a conscious effort, the scales are starting to even out. When I was asked (a month before the busy retail season) to be”room mom” for Nate’s third grade class, I agreed- something I never would have had time for before. Nothing there has changed- I still don’t have time for it (as the late monthly newsletters to parents can attest). The difference is, I made a conscious decision to make time for it- knowing full well that my even best efforts would not be perfect. I’d love to tell you that I’ve made time for the gym or even a few yoga classes, but I haven’t. In my search for balance the kids come first. So for now it’s work, family, and the occasional 90-second plank on the studio floor. Baby steps.

The kids are so curious about our work that we often let them "help".

The kids are so curious about our work that we often let them “help”.

This year the Holiday rush was twice as busy as last year. In addition to the shop we participated in a Wit & Wonder pop-up at 25 Nordstrom locations. Days started early and stretched late, eventually running together completely. I’ve never asked “What day is it?” on such a regular basis. After things settled down, we decided to close the store for several weeks. When we closed shop and the studio fell silent, life slipped into an easy, slow tempo for the rest of 2013.

  In the past, New Year’s Eve meant huge parties or elegant dinners. But this year we elected to invite over some close friends and family, pour some bubbly and put our feet up. The year slipped away peacefully with the ball drop on the television, the children laughing with their noisemakers, and a New Years kiss from Ryan.

When we re-opened the shop this year we were refreshed, rested and ready for everything that 2014 will have in store for us. We’ve already sent some pieces to be photographed for a major magazine spread (shh… can’t say which one yet!). We’ve been working on another collection with Nordstrom (hint- MUCH bigger!). But mostly we’ve worked to retain the bit of balance we found last year. We still work seven days a week, but with a new-found mindfulness. Instead of business as usual come Saturday morning, we have our coffee with the kids as they watch cartoons. We’ll work for a bit while they play, then shut it down in time to spend the rest of the day as a family. As I said in my interview with Etsy, you may never find true balance; but as long as you’re actively seeking it there’s a good chance you are doing okay by everyone.

A Little Autumn Luxe (In August)


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autumn luxeThe sun may be shining and the leaves are green, but in just 1 short week the children go back to school! We’ve been busy with the annual preparations. Clothes need sorting (they grow so fast!), with outgrown items donated and new items washed and hung. Every store has aisle after aisle of back to school supplies. I used to love this as a child, though the gene must be recessive because all I get out of my own kids are grimaces and scowls. For me, the smell of pencils and the reams of clean blank notebook paper held the promise of things to come. (It’s only fair to point out that this excitement lasted about two days into the school year, at which point, like my children, I was also scowling at being in school).

All the back to school bustle got me thinking about how much I missed that for myself. And so I thought of some fun things that I might like to usher in the new season with. I may not need ball point pens or 3-ring binders (let’s be honest, I used Trapper-Keepers), but surely I could find a few small luxuries to invoke that childhood excitement gleaned from the changing seasons. Narrowed down from a very lengthy virtual shopping spree, my top picks are:

1. A black cat ring made with 6mm black spinel and argentum sterling silver. A subtle nod to Halloween and just thoroughly adorable. I haven’t ordered this yet, but I made sure it wasn’t a one of a kind before posting it here because I must have it. From Etsy shop Every Bear Jewel.

2. Custom order cashmere leggings, available in a variety of colors and extra long and slouchy. At my height (6′) and inseam (37″), this shop had me at “custom” and “extra long”. I have a black and a brown pair being made as I type that will be shipped from Israeli shop Duende74 just in time to pair them with over-sized sweaters for the morning carpool.

3. Speaking of that morning carpool, how great would it be to sip coffee from this Bird’s Eye Maple and Mahogany travel mug. Hand turned on a lathe and completely one of a kind by Washington state shop Sageland Studio. One of my favorite gifts for people are things they would love to own but can’t bring themselves to spend the money on. A handmade wooden travel mug certainly falls into this category (hint hint to any family members reading this post).

4. I almost didn’t post these because it pains me to think that someone might see this post and get them before I can. Hand formed and hammered ancient bronze covered in sparkling crystals that are hand wired on the frame. Hand wired glass pearl flowers hang from the center and the colors are absolutely perfect for autumn. I have another set of KarynShonkDesigns earrings (a summary blue and green pair) and I get stopped by people every time I wear them. I need to start carrying Karyn’s cards in my purse when I wear her work.

5. Cashmere throw blankets. I mean, what more do I even need to say? Absolutely a luxury item that is on my dream list, not my sofa. But it’s good to want things, right? Sigh, I may not be able to curl up with my tea and a book under one of these hand knit Italian cashmere lovelies, but maybe someone out there has the means and if so, I am jealous of you and please have me over so I can use your blanket. Available in ivory, oatmeal or charcoal from ibbiknits. Oh, and there’s a flap so that when you fold the blanket and tuck it into the pouch it becomes a pillow.

6. Autumn brings a change in the way we cook in our home. Grilled fish gives way to heartier fare and one of my favorite cold-day dishes is my crock-pot chili. It’s torture to work from home and smell the simmering goodness for 8 hours, but so worth it come dinnertime. This year I’ll be using this Ancho Chili from Oaktown Spice. Owners John Beaver and Erica Perez grind and mix their signature spices by hand every week for optimum freshness. Available from Provisions, the new shopping section of the acclaimed cooking website Food52.

Of course, shopping aside, the best part of any season is the time we spend together and in autumn that means apple orchards and pumpkin patches, among others. But a little retail therapy to deal with the plummeting mercury never hurt anyone. What about you? Any fall splurges planned?

Let Them Eat Cake. Just… not out of this stand for a while


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I credit my “Let Them Eat Cake” etched glass stand as being the piece that launched the entire company. I wanted one, you see, and there were none available in the world. So I did what any rational person would do. I learned the art of hand etching glass so that I could make it myself. I opened my Etsy shop on October 3rd, 2011 and just one week later I sold my first Let Them Eat Cake stand. Since then I have sold over 70, and given several as gifts. It has always been my single favorite item in my entire store, and yet, I am putting into semi-retirement.

Why on Earth would I do this to my favorite piece? Because the last five times it sold, I could literally feel my shoulders slump a little. I’d already added a disclaimer to my hand etched pieces that they no longer had next day shipping, instead limiting myself to a single etching day per week. Glass etching is a hobby not without risk, and the set-up and clean-up process had become daunting once my store became busier. Here is a glimpse of my etching attire: IMG_5496bIn order to avoid silicosis (from the American Lung Association: “silica dust can cause fluid buildup and scar tissue in the lungs that cuts down your ability to breathe. Silicosis cannot be cured, but you can prevent it if you take specific steps to protect yourself and your family”), I wear that heavy-duty breathing mask. To prevent glass shards to my eyes, I wear eye protection. Earplugs complete my ensemble. After etching, I have to change my clothes (to avoid spreading glass dust), wash my hair and wet wipe the entire etching area. The finished glass piece is entirely safe, as I wash away every trace of glass dust before double boxing and mailing off the stands.

All of this was a breeze during slower times. But now I have my days planned almost to the minute to fulfill orders, keep the shop stocked and still finish work at a time that allows for activities with the family. And so I’ve decided that, although profitable and enjoyable, the cake stands would be the straw that broke the camel’s back once the holiday rush starts this year. They will be disappearing from my shelves sometime mid-August, so if you’ve wanted one but have held off, now is the time. I can promise you they will be back. While I don’t know exactly when that will be, it would definitely not be until Spring at the soonest.

Ryan’s cutting boards have opened the floodgates of inspiration and we have had a blast thinking up new ideas for them. As creative conversations tend to do, ours will start with a cutting board idea and by the time we’re done, one idea has led to another and I have ten new spoons planned. With the hand etching out-of-the-way for the time being, we will have much more time to work on new pieces, like spoons: IMG_2396milk and honey

and cutting boards:il_fullxfull.483798806_30s4As well as some very exciting (but still secret) projects on the horizon. I usually gauge my decisions by my gut feeling the moment I make up my mind. If I am uneasy, I take that to mean that more thought needs to go into it. But the moment I decided to shelf the cake stands, I felt a weight lifted and a slightly giddy feeling about the time I would reclaim for new projects.

Of course, I could have just quietly deactivated those listings in a couple of weeks instead of blogging about it. But I feel like the Glass Queen of my shop deserved a proper send off, rather than an unceremonious beheading.

Welcome Ryan!


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Eric Kelley Photography

Eric Kelley Photography

Fourteen years ago, my husband and I worked together. We weren’t married then, and truth be told I’m not sure he knew I existed at the time. He was a bartender and I served cocktails on the weekends while I was in school. Getting to see him made work that much more fun. Nothing passes the time quite as well as being a smitten girl with a crush. And now, eleven years of marriage, two children and ten million I love you’s later, we are working together once again. Ryan has joined me at Milk & Honey!

He’s been such an important part of my business for a long time now. His unwavering support of me and genuine pride in my successes has quashed any self-doubt I might have felt in the past two years. At night while he cooks dinner, I pour the wine and we talk about our days. So often when I have an idea that I can’t quite pin down, he is the fresh set of eyes that immediately sees what needs to be done. When I get overwhelmed in the busy seasons, he will calmly write out a game plan for me (ranking my tasks by time frame and cross-referencing by importance…), a sort of rough draft to my work day that I can’t seem to create while under pressure. His significant background in business has been invaluable to me as well. Accounting is not my strongest suit, and I find taxes a bore, so he has lent his expertise which allowed me more time to focus on creating. Just as in our marriage, our differences have complimented each other in business as well.

Eric Kelley Photography

Eric Kelley Photography

This past week, Ryan took time off from his 9-5 job to learn the complete ins and outs of running an Etsy shop, but more importantly, to finish work on his first line. Because lately, his own artistic streak has re-emerged. His grandfather worked with wood, creating everything from children’s toys to furniture and Ryan learned from him as a child. Ryan would drill holes and sand the scrap pieces of wood while his grandfather worked on larger projects. This background has given him the foundation to take his creative ideas and turn them into something tangible that you can hold and enjoy. His work is as functional as it is beautiful and I can’t wait for it to launch this week to share his talents with our customers.


Eric Kelley Photography

So what does this mean in terms of change? Very little, beyond the addition of Ryan’s fantastic product lines. If you’ve ever peeked at my Etsy ‘About’ page, you would have noticed him listed as occasional administrative help. When things got busy in the shop, Ryan would jump in to return feedback, make post office runs and fill out sales tax forms. Now you might also hear from him directly, answering your emails or returning your phone calls. All hand stamping will still be 100% created by me (I love doing it too much to share!), as well as anything that involves sewing (my grandmother was the seamstress, his grandfather the wood worker). You won’t see a change in the products I already make, but you will notice beautiful new products showing up here and there, and you will know by reading the product descriptions exactly what was made by who.

Eric Kelley Photography

Eric Kelley Photography

We are a family company now, and I am still slightly in shock that my beloved pastime has grown to the point that it allows Ryan and I to work together, side by side again. I know that it would never have been possible without Milk & Honey’s amazing customer base, so I thank all of you for making it possible for us to continue to create for you, together.

And now, for no other reason than I could not narrow down my favorites from our recent photo shoot with the wildly talented Eric Kelley, here are a few more shots of Ryan and I in idyllic Charlottesville, Va. 009622-R1-006009626-R1-013009622-R1-010e009628-R1-004009622-R1-009009626-R1-002

I’m a Nordstrom Vendor? I’M A NORDSTROM VENDOR!!!


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IMG_9189Yup, that was pretty much the way my mind processed the information. From the first email from Etsy to the moment my line launched, I morphed from wondering if this was really happening to screaming it from the rooftops.

Several months ago I received an email from Etsy, letting me know that I was one of 5 designers personally chosen by Nordstrom to be included in their Etsy and Nordstrom Present collection. That began 8 weeks or so of behind the scenes work to make the collection,  phone interviews with Etsy for their wholesale platform, and to wade through what seemed like hundreds of pages of compliance and procedures to get set up in Nordstrom’s system as a vendor. I had to keep mum the entire time, which was painful because as soon as I realized I wasn’t dreaming I wanted to tell the world what was happening.

The collection launched two weeks ago, and I was able to travel to the Washington DC Nordstrom to host a trunk show of my collection: IMG_0785photophoto(1)

It has been a surreal experience and I am so thankful to the many people who worked together to make it happen. I’ve met some great folks at Etsy and Nordstrom through the work we did on the project and I am incredibly proud (as if you can’t tell) of how it turned out.  The very first day things began to sell out in store and online, so I’ve put some extra hours in at the butchers block to say the least.

I realize this is absolutely, 100% a “yay me!” post, and I hope you’ll indulge me that. I talk so little about work outside of the blog and my business Facebook page that when I mentioned my line was picked up by Nordstrom, a long time friend asked “What do you mean? What line? What do you sell?”. I promise less self-aggrandizing posts in the future, but for now… Ahhhh! My stuff is for sale at Nordstrom!!!!exn - Copy

Tempus Fugit

via LisaRussoFineArt

via LisaRussoFineArt

I’m going to be honest with you: I do not have time to write this blog post. I did not have time for breakfast today either and ended up downing a handful of triscuits when I went upstairs for a glass of water. I have a major partnership in the works with two shipping deadlines imminent, as well as a large PO (purchase order) to fulfill for one of my best wholesale clients. And of course, the regular orders to fill from my shop and emails that have gone unanswered and… well, I think you get the point.

I have been working in overdrive to be sure that I don’t let anyone down. And then yesterday I shelved everything for 24 hours. It was Mother’s Day after all. After sleeping in (that’s 8am or so) I went downstairs and was met by my children’s happy faces. They gave me kisses and wished me a Happy Mother’s Day. We snuggled on the couch together (Ryan was still out on his morning run), and they both asked if they could present me with the gifts they’d made in school.

Nathan went first, and gave me a framed haiku he had written for me. He chose words that he thought described me and I beamed as I read his choices, which included “hilarious, creative, loving”. Then Lilly gave me her gift, a laminated sign that read “All About My Mom” which featured a picture her teacher had taken of her and a series of fill in the blank sentences. It was me, in the eyes of my five-year old. Some of the sentences were adorable such as “My mom is _____ years old” (which she had filled in as ’25’, bless her heart), and “My mom weighs ___ pounds” (she chose ‘5’ pounds). Some of the sentences swelled my heart, such as “My mom really loves _____” (‘big hugs and kisses’ was her answer).

Then there was the sentence, “My mom always says_____”. Lilly’s answer was ‘not right now’. And the sentence, “If my mom had the time, she would love to____”, and Lilly’s answer was ‘read me Alice in Wonderland’. We began reading Alice together about 2 weeks ago, and yet have only managed about 3 chapters so far.

Working from home when there are children afoot, I face different challenges than my office-working peers. I could be elbow deep in chemical tarnish remover only to hear a small voice call out “Mom??? Can you come hook up the wii?”. My answer? Not right now. Sometimes, less than an hour before dinner the same little voices want to know, “Mom!? Can you come make me a sandwich?” The answer? Not right now. Seems like a logical response on a case-by-case basis. But seeing it in writing, it took on a completely different meaning and became a lump in my throat that I was careful not to convey to my sweet and honest little girl.

I told myself that I just had to make it through the busy Holiday season and then things would slow down. Then there were several amazing offers that I accepted, once again amping up my daily to-do list. Now it is May, and I am still going at the same pace as I was in December. And two little children are six months less little. I could start by replacing “not right now” with “soon”. But isn’t that the same thing, really? I could tell myself that this is just Mommy-guilt and remind myself of all the time we DO spend together and the wonderful things we do… but if it were enough, would those three little words have been the ones she believes she hears most often? Has Not-Right-Now become such a mantra that even when I am not working at a frantic pace, it is slipping out here and there? I don’t know.

What I do know is that starting yesterday, I have shifted from the passenger seat to the pilot’s seat in the flight of my time. I don’t expect it to transition smoothly overnight, but I printed out calendars and set time slots for the Has-To-Be-Dones, that breaks everything up into manageable chunks throughout each week. I set specific tasks that can be done at exact times which will add up to huge amounts of shop work being taken care of a little a day.

While it is impossible to run a company during school hours only, I do have to accept that it is unfair for me to work until 7:30 most nights. Since I get an earlier start than most (no morning commute save the walk into the studio), I should be able to end the day with my 5pm mail drop off and sit down to a chapter (or ten) of Alice in Wonderland with my little girl.

Now when the voices trail down the studio steps, asking for me in those small ways that add up to a childhood’s worth of memories, my answer will not be “not right now”. It will be “I’m here. Come sit with me while I finish this up, and then we can______”. And I will be the one filling in the blank, with stories or walks or just being there. Right now.

Mother's Day, 2013

Mother’s Day, 2013

Farmers Market Season!


A few things: 1. We’ve actually been to the farmers market several times now 2.  I only remembered my camera the first time 3.  I took terrible pictures that day. Apologies in advance. For instance, the sign above was hung over an awesome food stand (Super Fresh Carts – s’mores and grilled cheeses) and at one point a gentleman was wandering around the market dressed in a head-to-toe suit of armor made completely of these recycled bottle tops. And I didn’t take a picture. Ugh.

Which brings me to the point of this post: Farmers Markets and why everyone should patronize them (and I mean patronize as in the “Frequent as a customer” definition, not the “Treat with an apparent kindness that betrays a feeling of superiority” definition). Richmond has no shortage of great markets, but most people tend to choose the ones closest to home and we are no exception, so we head over to the South of the James Market. They hold a smaller winter market and next week switch over to the larger summer market, held in Forest Hill Park. Here’s a link for Richmonders who want to check it out.

IMG_5999The first thing I saw walking in was this food truck. See the slogan? Let Them Eat Crepes! I’ve never met Monique from Monique’s Crepes, but I’m fairly certain we’d get along smashingly.

IMG_6000Here’s the general gist of the winter market. It’s a smaller affair with just this main stretch of vendors and a little cul dec sac at the end. We decided to just stop in each tent to have a look, then come back and buy our favorites. If you are a Farmers Market rookie like we were, learn from our mistake. We passed the Bonnyclabber Cheese Company from Sullivan’s Pond Farm and tried a variety of delicious artisan goat cheeses. One was coated in charcoal that was handmade on site. It tasted like a million creamy campfires dancing in your mouth (or something), but when we came back just thirty short minutes later, they were completely sold out. Not just of the charcoal goodness, but nearly their entire stock. Every trip since, we bee-line right to Goat-Cheese-Man (as I call him) and then to Forest-Pig-Man (also my naming. It doesn’t sound offensive until I write it down, I swear), as they seem to be the ones who sell out fastest. While we’re on the subject of Forest-Pig-Man, here is why I call him that:IMG_6018I mean, he literally sells pigs from the forest, so I think it’s an aptly given nickname. Especially because there are other meat vendors as well and I prefer to think my dinner had a happy existence before ending up on my plate, so I always differentiate which Pig-Man I want to shop with. As if you needed more convincing, they even have a poster showing one of the pigs enjoying his forest life: IMG_6017Well, now I feel a little guilty admitting that might have eaten that happy piggy, but in all seriousness, the treatment and respect of animals (food sources or not) is important to me, so I feel good about buying our meats here.

Also on our dinner plates? Fresh produce:


Ryan made some of those Brussels Sprouts with some sort of bacon balsamic reduction.

Local Honey and local pollen (a few grains a day will combat spring allergies):IMG_6007All natural steaks and ground beef: IMG_6016Virginia Wine (but of course!):IMG_6013And something really special. Yarn (I secretly love to knit), wait for it…….:IMG_6009Made from THIS sheep!:IMG_6010It was the first time in my life I got to meet the sheep who created my yarn. So now when I’m feeling all cozy in my knit cowl, I can think of this guy and smile. I really should have gotten a picture of him the week after this, because he had been shaved down quite a bit and his owners gave him a Mohawk. Coolest sheep in the Richmond city limits.

There were also lots of great jewelry artists there: IMG_6001

By Half Past Noon

By Half Past Noon

And at the end of the day Ryan bought me a necklace I was drooling over: IMG_7951Market Days are the best. The only thing better is coming back home with our haul and hanging out in the kitchen while Ryan cooks dinner:

I'll bet you can tell I took my studio pictures the same day as the farmers market! ;)

(I’ll bet you can tell I took my studio pictures the same day as the farmers market)

..after opening a bottle of Virginia Wine, natch!

Studio Tour

IMG_6626Well, obviously my studio isn’t the kitchen, but I thought it was important to lead off with this photo for a few reasons. One is that Ryan gets home from work while I’m still wrapping things up and he usually opens a nice bottle, pours me a glass and sets to work on that evening’s dinner. No, he not a Stepford husband, he just happens to be an amazing cook and the entire family prefers his grilled duck breast with balsamic reduction over my boiled pasta noodles & Prego, hands down. I also started in the kitchen because that’s where the door to my studio is.

The entire house is sunlit and bright, with the exception of the finished basement. That is my lair. As you descend the steps from the door in the kitchen, you can look up to catch your last glimpse of natural light… IMG_7255The basement is divided into two sections, the finished area where I work, and an L-shaped unfinished area that surrounds it, where the washer/dryer and storage is. Coming down the steps and looking to your right, you’ll see this: IMG_7256See my little window up there? That’s it for light, but I’ve got space for days which makes up for the miniscule Hopper window.

If you come down the steps and turn to your left, you’ll see this: IMG_7257My stamping area and supply room. I’ll admit, I vacuumed the floors and tidied loose papers before taking these pictures, but there is no tidying the supply area. Boxes, bubble wrap, mailing tape, packing peanuts… it just takes over despite my best efforts at shelving and organization. The butchers block is where I do all my metal stamping, wearing those highly fashionable pink earmuffs. When I started in stamping, I didn’t bother with them, but after walking around with ringing in my ears for a week straight, I realized that they were a must.

My collection of steel stamps are on the shelf to the left, and if you were to turn around from where you are looking in that picture, directly behind you is my silver closet. To some it may look like something off of an episode of Hoarders, but to me it is a thing of beauty: IMG_7258This is the current haul in a constantly rotating inventory. And yes, every last one of those boxes is full to the brim. I Love (with a capital ‘L’) vintage silver. I would roll around in it, but I’d probably injure myself, so instead I just open the closet and sigh happily.

Closing my magical silver closet and heading into the main section of the studio, you would look back and have this view: IMG_7259The two doors you see lead out into the unfinished L-shaped portion of the basement. My work table gives away my not-to-subtle fabric addiction as well as a peek at some coffee-sack totes I’m working on for an upcoming craft show.

If you walked over to the work table and all that delicious fabric, then turned around, you’d see this: IMG_7260Yes, more fabric of course, but also a comfy velvet couch which is the best upgrade I’ve ever added to the studio. In our old house it was an isolated area. But now that couch is usually home to my children, who keep me company by reading or playing video games there. Also in this picture you can see my knitting basket by the couch. I put that there because I had the notion that in my down time I could curl up on the couch and work on knitting (something I do just for me, not for the shop). But that cream-colored cowl peeking out of the basket was supposed to keep me warm this past winter and sadly it’s not even halfway complete.

Turning slightly to your right, you’ll find my desk, which is also where I do much of my packaging. I keep my finished pieces in the bookcases along the adjoining wall, so it’s easy to find someone’s order, print the label and wrap everything up right there at the desk. IMG_7261Speaking of those bookshelves… here are the rest of them:IMG_7262In addition to my ready-to-ship silver, the bookshelves are a monument to nearly every crafty idea I’ve started and keep thinking I’ll return to. I could probably stock a craft store with the contents of the far right unit. Now, if you look to the very right of that picture you’ll see one of the two doors that leads to the unfinished area. This is where I do my messy work, like polishing silver (the smell is…. pungent) and etching glass. In the main area here there is white carpeting, but out there, its bare concrete, so I can safely rinse down the area after etching  (breathing glass dust is not a good idea). But I’ll warn you… this is an unfinished space: IMG_7263Yeah, not quite as cheery out here, but I adore my antique butchers block and it is great to keep the messy work separate.

And that’s it (for now). I have some new things in the works that will likely lead to some re-arranging and reconfiguring, but for now this is where I go to work. At the end of the day I go upstairs and close the door. And when I hear the click as the lock catches, it’s like the sound of someone turning off the “Open” sign.

Life Is Sweet

IMG_5759I spent so much of this year on improvement (see here and here, for example) that now I think it’s time to soak up some of the sweet rewards. We’ve moved to a new home and I couldn’t be happier here. The entire lower level is now my studio space, with separate areas for sewing, metal stamping and glass etching. Upstairs is a roomy Colonial Revival with hardwood floors and tons of light. I’ve turned an extra bedroom into my walk in closet. Life is good here.

Spring had started to show its face. My sister came down for dinner this past week and brought bread from a locally owned bakery and a jar of daffodils. The dogwoods are covered in buds and our new block was dotted with forsythia. Here is a photo from yesterday in my kitchen:IMG_5627And here is the same windowsill this morning: IMG_5808SNOW! We got several inches of snow today, to the children’s delight and my chagrin. I am not much of a winter person and would take that top picture to the bottom one any month of the year. Well, except December. It should snow in December, but that’s it.

As is customary in Richmond, the entire city shuts down at the first sign of a flurry, so Ryan came home early from work and we all spent the day enjoying the snow (I enjoyed it exclusively from within the warmth of the house). Here was the view from the front porch: IMG_5810Now I am winding down my work-day while Ryan cooks homemade spaghetti (with a pork/lamb mix meatballs) and opens a bottle of meritage. Yes, life is very sweet today.

And while the details are still in the works, there is more sweetness to come. I’m working on an exciting development which I hope to share soon. I have been hard at work and there is still much to do before I can make the announcement. For now though, I can smell the sauce simmering and hear the children’s laughter trailing down the stairs. It’s time to turn off the computer and close the studio door for the night. Balance, at last.