Missing Greenjeans

October 14, 2010


Outback at NH ceramicist Kit Cornell's.

Well hello! My, it’s been forever.

Tonight I was thinking back fondly on my Greenjeans days. Actually, I think back on Greenjeans quite often. Tonight it’s because had a pang of missing my independence. (Maybe it’s because until last week I hadn’t been anyone’s full-time employee in 9 years, and while I’m glad, it’s also . . . different.)  I’m so absorbed these days with my job and overall totally love what I do. It’s challenging (always), satisfying (most of the time) and contributing to the greater good (most definitely), but I don’t always smile on my way in to work as I once did. It’s not dire, it’s just . . . different.

More acutely, I miss being engaged in the craftly experiences, encounters and debates that were a feature of the daily life I enjoyed for so many years. These days, I’m just not as tuned in, and I miss it. I miss writing about it and hanging out with artists and craftspeople. Being that engaged was completely absorbing and time-consuming in a great way. I felt that I was growing, learning, contributing to something wonderful, valuable and worthy. And I was completely interested in every single aspect.

Outside of my job now, it seems these days I have less time to pursue personal interests. (Not that I’m not interested in social justice and human rights — I passionately am. But it’s . . . different.)

Nevertheless, I do have seasons where I’m quite into tagging (see aes-tags.blogspot.com). I read lots of novels, mostly by foreign writers. Nanowrimo is in my sights for next month — I’m hoping to finish writing a novel I started a couple years ago. I’ve written a magazine article and done some other blogging. I go and see art when I can. And that’s all great.

Yet bottom line: I miss working in the world of the creative, the thoughtful, the slow, the beautiful, the personal.

The many benefits that come with where I am today can’t be beat. My job by any standards is pretty great. It wasn’t easy to get.

And yet, tonight at least, I think I’d trade it all in for a wood burning stove in an efficient little house near the coast in Maine, making my living with my writing in a different way, writing poems and plays and novels. Using my hands outdoors. Growing flowers. Painting furniture. Cooking with local ingredients. Sleeping under a down blanket because it’s just a little drafty. Getting my mail from a mailbox on a post at the end of the yard. Jae has a studio in the barn. . . Maybe set up a new shop/gallery in the local tourist town, rebuild the bridge between traditional craft and the craft new wave. . . .

Anyway! Such are my musings tonight. I’ve been so long off the blogs. Maybe I’ll come back for a visit once in a while…

How are YOU?


New Project: aes-tags

February 16, 2010

I recently started a new project. I was going to keep it a big secret but, well, what’s the fun in that?


The project is to write aesthetically or emotionally evocative phrases on shipping tags and tie them onto benches, sign posts, etc. around the city. Mostly I’m focusing on my neighborhood in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and Madison Square Park in Manhattan which I walk through every day on my way to work.

The project is inspired by my love for street art, public poetry, and tagging. I’ve wanted to start tagging but don’t want to deface property with a marker or a sticker. And since I’m more of a writer than a knitta, I decided to literally tag things.


Among the street writers in Dumbo.


So far I’ve put up 10 tags. I’m not interested in huge quantity. It’s more about creating one-of-a-kind object, waiting for the right time and place to find me, and then recording it.

You can follow along on the separate blog here:


If someone takes a tag, if it blows away, if it gets destroyed in the rain (though they seem to weather well), it doesn’t matter. If I see one has fallen into a puddle, I leave it be.

If one person notices a tag and has a moment of delight, then I’ve done my job. And I’ve had a good time doing it!

Read “Hands on Shoes” Online!

February 9, 2010

Here it is, available to read online! But you really should pick up a hard copy too — it’s such a good magazine.

Hands on Shoes by Amy Shaw

Feb/Mar 2010, p. 32-33

Cover of the Feb/Mar 2010 issue

Shoes handmade by the Cordwainers in Deerfield, NH

Boot handmade by CYDWOQ in Burbank, CA

P.S. – It isn’t noted in the article, but Jae took all the pics at the Cordwainers!

My Article in American Craft Magazine

January 17, 2010

Today I received advance copies of the Feb/March 2010 issue of American Craft Magazine, because it includes the story I wrote on handmade shoes! It’s on page 32+33, right where the subscription card is stuck.

I’ll post the full text once it goes live on the magazine’s site. Meanwhile look for it on the newsstands or in your mailbox!

Thanks again to the Cordwainers, CYDWOQ, and ACC for making it come to life!

Emerging Artist Residency at VCU

January 2, 2010

Here’s an exciting way to kick off the New Year — apply for an artist’s residency!

A juicy call for applications crossed my desk last week from the Craft and Material Studies department at Virginia Commonwealth University.

They are seeking applications from MFA students who have graduated within the last five years working in ceramics, glass, fiber, metal, or wood “in new and innovative ways.”

The perks are plenty: free studio space, free apartment, annual stipend, teaching experience, and a local exhibition. VCU is seeking TWO residents.

The complete details are on their website.

Deadline is FEBRUARY 15 — go for it!

And all the best for 2010!!

Merry Christmas Eve!

December 24, 2009

Five years ago today, Jae and I signed the lease on our little space on 7th Ave. in Park Slope that would become Greenjeans.

We miss Greenjeans sometimes, but we had a good run, and we wouldn’t trade the experience for anything!!

This year, I built us a Christmas “Tree” using the pine timber ends some of you might remember from our shop displays. The “tree” is decorated with little lights, a glass ornament by a NH glassblower, and polaroids a friend and I took of other people’s decorations around Bushwick many moons ago. The pine cone on top I picked up in France.

Merry Christmas Eve, dear readers. And Happy New Year, too!

Art Basel Miami Coverage

December 7, 2009

If you’re curious to know about the buzz down in Miami last week, check out Hyperallergic‘s awesome coverage of Art Basel Miami and, especially, all the super cool satellite shows.


So THAT’S a Found Curve…!

November 25, 2009

You may have noticed a new header on the blog here today. It’s a photograph of an actual found curve!

These trees are out in the field by the house in Northwood where I grew up. I used to “ride” them when I was little.

Back when the place belonged to my great-grandparents, my Uncle Walt had his garage out there. A wire ran from the road to the garage, and these three trees happened to grow up and around it. Must have been at least 60 years ago.

Now, as my Dad said when I took this picture last weekend, they’re as big as tontons (like is Star Wars? See pic below.) Thy are very mysterious to me still and I love them.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

One of a Kind Show & Sale Comes to NYC

November 18, 2009

I am excited to learn that the One of a Kind Show & Sale is coming to Manhattan’s Pier 94 on Dec. 11-13 (Dec. 10 preview night).This show is adding NYC to its roster after 35 years in Toronto and eight in Chicago.

I am hoping it’ll be a more…. diverse version of SOFA? A more upmarket version of the Renegade Craft Fair? A more experimental version of the American Craft Show?

Hard to say — can’t wait to check it out and report back to you!

Hello Craft is giving away free tickets to the show — enter to win by Nov. 30!

Day 2 @ American Craft Council Conference

November 16, 2009
Link to Day 1 Coverage (posted 11/14/09)
Free podcasts of the sessions can be downloaded on the conference blog.

conference2Rob Walker kicked off Day 2 of the American Craft Council conference in Minneapolis with his talk “Handmade 2.0.” Coming to craft as a journalist and culture critic, Walker views craft as a social movement and a niche market. In reference to the conference’s title, “Creating a New Craft Culture,” he said that he’s not sure if there is “a craft culture,” but maybe “craft cultures,” plural. I also liked how Walker described DIY/craft/handmade as “making goods speak to power.” To me he seemed to be putting his finger on the pulse of the weekend.

Walker also talked about marketing trends, debunking the notion that consumers will pay more for authenticity, ethics and quality. He spoke of thinking in terms not only of your story as the maker, but also of how consumers are also making their stories as they shop. He closed by offering his perspective that having multiple versions of what craft means is just fine because the variety of meanings provide multiple entry points to discovering craft. And that is a good thing for those in the craft business. (He also mentioned something called The Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving in 19th century Minneapolis, which I have to investigate.)

Julie Lasky followed with “Men in White,” a very cool presentation on the birth and evolution of the image of the designer. She traces designers’ sartorial style and self-image over time, from the well-dressed upholsterer of the turn of the century to the 1960s man in a white-lab-coat, to the black turtlenecked duo in the round-rimmed glasses of the present day. My favorite example that she presented was a clip from a 1954 film called Executive Suite in which a handsome furniture designer who works for an old family business takes a stand during a board of director’s meeting, condemning them for permitting the production of shoddy goods in the interest of higher profit margins. Interestingly, at the end she mentioned she’s not sure how much longer this category of work will be called “design.”

Next, Robin Petravic told the story of Heath Ceramics, the venerable, decades-old California institution that he and his wife took ownership– or perhaps stewardship – of recently. Petavic spoke of how, as designers, he and his wife felt a resonance with the hands-on, practical imperatives of Charles and Ray Eames. They wanted to make a change professionally and discovered Heath Ceramics was for sale, and it became the place where they could be more hands-on while still being designers. He talked about new forms they have created, and the old practices they preserve. They’re still doing old forms too. Petravic showed images of on-site production space, which to me resembled a bakery. As a story of harmony among craft, labor, design and business, be sure to catch this whole story when it comes on the ACC conference blog as a podcast.

Lydia Matthews took the podium after lunch for her talk “New Models of Marketplace” to articulate the ethical and ecological aspects of craft, which always resonates with me. She spoke developing a sustainable practice, and described how economic systems operate through various kinds of capital including social, cultural and ecological. She referenced Tony Fry and the intriguing idea that objects and things have ethics. She thinks we (as a craft community) could be more inventive in how we contextualize craft as well as be more conscientious about how things are sourced. She gave examples ranging from the Bamboo Bike Project to the Counterfeit Crochet Project, doing a great job connecting the dots of the many principles and values that comprise what we call craft. If I can get a copy of her last slide, I’ll post it – it’s very close to the map in my head when I think about craft.

Garth Clark gave the final talk of the conference, delivering somewhat of an evisceration of the craft world’s institutions (especially the ACC) – he has become known for his pull-no-punches assessment. Yet he also conveyed a renewed affection for the spirit alive in earnestly handmade work, sparked in him at Burning Man, surprisingly.

The main part of Clark’s lecture centered around contrasting two craft spheres, one which he refers to as “the palace” and the other “the cottage.” He described the years of 1980-1995 as “craft’s Versailles’s period,” an era dominated by high-priced, “pointlessly virtuosic” ojects d’art sold in rarefied venues to rarefied collectors. He contrasted this sphere to the cottage where, in his description, most crafters work and in which, he claimed, few in the ACC seems to care about. He advocated that we (the crafterati, if you will) become more engaged and concerned with grassroots making than mere aesthetics, and argued that paying attention to “the cottage” is what craft needs now more than anything. He pointed out that craft rooted in the cottage is what Eileen Osborne Webb had in mind for the American Craft Council to begin with.

Some in the audience thought Clark’s acerbic comments hurtful and unfair – and yes, he is rather like the craft world’s Simon Cowell — but I appreciated Clark’s ability to stir up the room, and took his comments with a grain of salt, appreciating the humor as well as noticing several important truths.

Sonya Clark (no relation to the prior speaker) concluded the conference with “Craft as Subject, Verb and Object,” a roundtable session based on a survey she conducted over the weekend. Garth Johnson, Lacey Jane Roberts, Andy Brayman and others joined her on the dais to share their reactions to survey results. (I will post the survey results if I can get them for you.) Her session made the point nicely that we are a composite of all that came before us both as individuals and as a community, and advocated that we do a better job of embracing our diversity.

Throughout the conference time for questions from the audience interspersed the sessions. One good question that came up twice and didn’t get adequately answered related to the fact that too often the only qualifying statement about why someone has selected a work of craft to use as a given example is that “it’s great” or “it’s beautiful.” Likewise, sometimes “she’s awesome” or “he’s great” are the sum total of qualifiers for a referenced artisan. I’ve thought the same thing and want to engage this matter more. I think there are clues in Glenn Adamson’s book Thinking Through Craft.

Another audience member asked, as craft proliferates without boundaries online, what should be done about “good/better/best?” This isn’t a bad question – aesthetics are a part of the larger conversation, but they are a part people didn’t seem ready to engage at the time.

Another question came up during Roundtable 1: What’s so threatening about DIY? One person said, “It’s like wanting civil rights and yet being homophobic.”

Several audience members tried to engage the subject of women and feminism in craft, but it never gained traction. This would be a good topic to follow up on next time. I wonder if there are any women’s studies scholars working on this topic?

The craft community seems to be craving engagement with more delicate topics like aesthetics and socio-economics. And the conference as a whole conveyed a sense of many craft communities meeting, getting more familiar with one another and finding common ground. I look forward to the conversations continuing!