TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Setting New Year's Resolutions for Your Art Business

The end of a year always brings a time of reflection for me.  What happened during these past twelve months?  Did I accomplish anything?  What worked?  What didn't?  Where do I need to improve?  I think about these things, as many of us do, both in terms of my personal life and in thinking about my business.  And, that leads to those resolutions that may or may not become concrete in the upcoming year.

My business has been evolving.  This past year was the worst one, in terms of sales, that I have ever had.  The recession hit the whole world and I was not surprised to see activity dwindle.  Fortunately, I had a good commission with Sidney's Ties and was able to work with other peers on technical work they needed done on their online profiles.  Doors open and close, new opportunities appear and over time, these become defined into new directions.  Rayela Art now has three arms: my own sewing creations, the product I sell on Etsy, and increasingly, as a technical assistance provider.  I've worked hard at learning how to promote my business online and that has translated into developing skills that many artists and small importers balk at.  So, I can help them look at how they can improve their business and then set up the structures they need and train them on how to keep them up.  The challenge then becomes how to juggle these three interests as they all demand time and continued attention in order to grow.

Resolutions?  Yes, I have some.  For the purpose of this post, I will list ten:

  1. Time management.  I have to make better use of my time, especially for my own art work.
  2. Learn photoshop.  Right now I use photoshop elements.  I have the software for Photoshop, but just haven't taken the time to learn it.
  3. Make little documentaries.  I started learning how to edit videos this past fall, but haven't followed through on it.  The goal: one short a month.
  4. Increase my web building abilities.  I can build simple ones, but need to fill in some gaps to have more design control.
  5. Get back on eBay.  I closed my eBay shop and have to get back on there.  I moved a bunch of things around between stores and never got back to redoing my eBay store.
  6. Write more posts here.  I have been slacking off and just need to get into the groove again.  The goal: three meaningful posts a week.
  7. Re-do my logo.  I love my snake, but not how I drew it.  I need to re-work it so that it looks like I want it to.
  8. Network locally with small businesses.  There are meetings I can attend.  I have been too much of a recluse and need to get out there and interact with the business community where I live.
  9. Increase my products on 1000 Markets.  There I can only sell things that I make, so I have to just do it!  It means sitting down and doing several runs of bags, hats, pillows and other things that I make.  I have lots of new ideas and just have to focus on getting them made.
  10. Stay healthy.  Too much sitting has been taking its toll on me.  This may seem like a personal resolution, but not feeling well affects how well I can focus on the business.
If I can look back at the end of 2010 and see that these ten goals were tackled with consistency, I will pat myself on the back.  You may notice that I did not have a financial goal.  I have found that it is terribly hard to predict how my business will grow or suffer from year to year, but believe that I am doing all I can to bring in customers and if I can keep focusing on the bones of the business, the money will follow.

Interested in learning more about what I do?  I just re-did my website to reflect more of my role as a technical assistance provider.  Hop over there to learn more and to see my sewing projects as well.

How about you?  Any resolutions for 2010?  Self-employed artists have a tough time managing their talent and their purse.  Would love to hear about how you balance all of this out!

Happy 2010!
May the Muse be with us all!!!

We'll finish this off with an irreverant Jib-Jab look at 2009:


Sunday, December 27, 2009

20% Off on Textile Stamps!

Vintage Textile Stamp or Block from Afghanistan

Textile stamps or blocks have been used for centuries in many forms around the world.  The simplest form, which many of us may have played with as kids, is a carved potato that can then be stamped on paper or fabric with acrylic paint.  The ones I sell on Etsy are from Afghanistan, rejects from workshops there that no longer have a use for them.  Most have nicks or imperfections that make them unusable there.  Artists here extend that life, liking the distressed look that these imperfections lend to the design.  Clay artists, especially, can always clean up the design with their tools when the clay is still in its leather working stage.

Afghani textile stamps are made from hand carved pear wood.

The stamps are my best selling item on Etsy.  I buy them from a friend who imports from Afghanistan, sight unseen, and normally offer them here and on my website at 10% off before I start listing them.  This time, several factors led me to increase the offer to 20% off:

  • The stamps in this batch are more worn than usual.
  • Many of them have wax and dye residue that will demand extra cleaning.
  • I have a new camera and the photos I took are crappy.
  • Most artists prefer the smaller stamps and this batch was mostly large sizes.
So, in hopes that I won't have to re-photograph all of them and that they might move faster with the added discount, I'll lower my profit margin.

Example of a textile stamp with wax and indigo dye build up.  The stamp can be cleaned out by using soapy water and a stiff brush.  Little nicks can be repaired with wood filler.

I went over all the stamps with a stiff wire brush, but just don't have time to do a detailed clean-up.  I can give a 25% discount on purchases over $200.  I'd rather move these and use the money to buy another bag, hopefully in better shape!

My belief is that all of these crafts will become harder and harder to find in the future.  As countries industrialize, these hand made processes quickly disappear.  Afghanistan will take many years to move in that direction as its infrastructure has been almost completely destroyed by years of war and drought.  But, social instability also disrupts traditional craft production.  When purchasing these beautiful tools, we all become connected to centuries of craft traditions, handed down from mother to daughter, father to son.  When I look at these nicks and cracks, I see a life well lived and it brings me comfort.

Afghan textile stamps normally depict Persian or Islamic designs, like this one, or floral motifs.  Animals and people are very rare as they are not allowed in Islamic art.

Interested?  Here is how it works:  Go to my website where you will find all the images posted.  Each stamp is numbered and priced.  Email me with the ones you are interested in and I will get back to you with the total.  It can get a little crazy as there is no shopping cart there.  It try to keep images updated but sometimes I have to wait while a customer makes up their mind.  First come, first serve.

Stamp away!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Season's Greetings from Rayela Art!

Wishing you a beautiful Christ Mass and all that you dream of in 2010!!!

-Rachel and the Monsters
(Mitchie, Juba, Laila and Sheba)


Monday, December 21, 2009

Rayela Art and HeART of Healing Gallery Bring the World of Textiles to Paducah!

Handmade ornaments from Thailand, India and Indonesia

Dr. Christi Bonds and I, Rachel Biel, have a passion in common: textiles!  Both of us are members of Paducah Fiber Artists, a group that meets monthly for show and tell, potluck and support.  Both of us quilt.  And, both of us love textiles from around the world.  Christi, a medical doctor who practices Integrative medicine, has an alternative health clinic in the heart of LowerTown's art neighborhood.  A large gallery room was dedicated to this love of textiles, housing HeART of Healing Gallery.  I had a booth downtown at 212 Broadway and was working two afternoons a week at Christi's gallery.  We decided that it would make sense to move the gallery downtown and free up the space for more health related programs.  We now have both of our booths across from each other, separated by an aisle.  It looks like one big ethnic textile shop! 

HeART of Healing Gallery's new space 
at Antique Galleria, 212 Broadway in Paducah

Rayela Art's booth faces HeART of Healing's

The booths work really well together as we have different specialties.  HeART of Healing Gallery has grown an impressive collection of molas made by the Kuna Indians in Panama.  Most are unfinished panels that can be framed or made into pillows, bags, or incorporated into quilts.  But, there also many mola blouses, an unusual find in most mola circles.  The blouses have panels on front and back and are set into the traditional gauzy floral fabrics so loved by the Kuna women.  These people are tiny, tiny, so most of us will have to enjoy these blouses as textiles, although I suppose they could be altered to fit some of us more Nordic types.

Kuna mola blouses from Panama

Another major focus found at HeART of Healing's booth are scores of vintage Japanese kimono, both long and short.  Christi originally bought these for the fabric as many quilters enjoy working with it, but we have found that our customers also love wearing the kimono.  So, cut it up or put it on, it's up to you!

HeART of Healing's closet of Kuna blouses and kimono.

Kimono + windchimes = good feng shui at HeART of Healing!

Rayela Art's focus moves to Central and South Asia: textile stamps from Afghanistan, ralli quilts from Pakistan, and Suzani embroidery from Uzbekistan. 

Rayela Art's textile stamps are always a big favorite!

Ralli quilts: use them on your bed or hang them on a wall.

Rayela Art also carries tribal and vintage clothing, 
kilim rugs, Indian spreads and other textiles.

Uzbeki coat and sarong from Bali, both Rayela Art.

Both of our booths also have plenty of small gift items, jewelry and interesting crafts that are bound to find their way to someone's home.  HeART of Healing also has a nice display case filled with African beads and some nice sculptures, not pictured here. 

HeART of Healing: Chinese cosmetic pouches, 
Oaxacan carvings, and more!

Rayela Art: Chinese statues and Moroccan lamps.

HeART of Healing: bamboo woven porcelain, 
bone carvings, Quan Yin, and jewelry.

Rayela Art: natural seed jewelry, tribal necklaces

Between the two of us, anyone who loves cultural textiles and crafts are bound to find something they like!  Nikki May of IList Paducah was kind enough to mention us in her tour of historic Paducah's hot shopping spots.  We invite you to travel the world with us, sharing in this wonderful gift of creativity and talent that connects all craft and textile people to each other!

Both Rayela Art and HeART of Healing Gallery have shops on Etsy.

Learn more about us on our websites:

HeART of Healing


Thursday, December 17, 2009

40 Acres Art Gallery Displays Quilts by African-American Quilters

 Marion Coleman, Susan #3, 2006
Stitched fiber collage portrait, 63 x 53 inches

by Donna Hussain

A collection of quilts sewn by African-American quilters from northern California has been on display at the 40 Acres Art Gallery in Sacramento, California for the past two months.  The exhibit of quilts, titled Amazing Wonders, was curated by Kim Curry- Evans, the gallery’s director, who worked with many individuals and organizations in the community to plan and promote the show. Most influential was Dr. Patricia Turner, a Professor of African-American Studies at UC Davis, who met with Mrs. Curry-Evans while working on a book on African-American quilters (later published as Crafted Lives).  The meeting sparked the idea of an exhibit of quilts by African-American quilters from northern California at the 40 Acres Art Gallery.

Patricia Bass Bailey, African Sawtooth, 2008, cotton fabric and thread, 
African embroidery designs, 53 x 53 inches

Given the large number of accomplished African-American quilters in the area whose work met the artistic standards of the 40 Acres Art Gallery, the final selection of quilts for the show was difficult.   Wall space in the gallery limited the number of quilts that could be placed on display.  Mrs. Curry-Evans wanted to show the cultural and artistic vitality of Africa-American quilters and a wide range of quilt-making styles.  In addition, she was cognizant as the gallery’s reputation as a teaching gallery. She wanted all of the quilts to be learning experiences for viewers.

 Sherry Byrd, Bars Medallion, 1992
Synthetic velvet, hand pieced and quilted, 99 x 78 inches

In a visitor’s booklet on Amazing Wonders, Dr. Turner has written an essay that explains how the quilts on display “offer not only insights into the culture of quilt making, but also provide valuable launching pads for discussions about African-American culture.” For example, Connie Horne’s quilt Fiber of Slavery: Strong Women Picking Cotton invites the viewer to consider the historical evidence that few women slaves were domestic workers.  Most shared in the physical demands of fieldwork along with their male counterparts.

Connie Horne, Fiber of Slavery - Strong Women Picking Cotton, 2007
Applique and machine quilted with toon and hand dyed fabric, fabric paint, 
42 x 36 inches

 In contrast is Kate Wisham’s Obama Quilt which illustrates the strides forward of African-Americans in contemporary American society.

 Katie Wishom, Obama Quilt, 2009
Collection of cotton t-shirts, machine stitched, 79 x 52 inches

Angie Tobias’s quilt Bars Medallion is drawn from the collection of Eli Leon, who claims that the bold asymmetrical stripes of the quilt demonstrate ”that African-derived aesthetic impulses and preferences for irregular patterning, bright colors, and horizontal strip constructions remain embedded in the creative imaginations of many black quilters.” This statement is certain to evoke heated discussion.

 Angie Tobias, Bars Medallion, 1984
Satin fabrics, hand pieced and quilted, 65 x 47 inches

The 40 Acres exhibit has been well received by the public.  Unfortunately the exhibit at the Sacramento gallery will close on December 23rd.  However, Amazing Wonders will reopen at the Richmond Arts Center in Richmond, CA in January. If you live in the Bay Area, do attend the show.  As Patricia Turner writes in the 40 Acres booklet, “Each of the quilts … reflects the hard work and vision of someone both talented and disciplined, someone able to bring to fruition a complicated and time consuming process.  Taken together, all of the quilts in this exhibit speak to the aesthetic dexterity, spirit and tenacity of African-American quilters.  They offer multiple lessons for all of us.”

 Johnnie Wade, Star Medallion, 1989
Cotton and cotten blends, hand pieced and quilted, 71 x 88 inches

The quilt exhibit Amazing Wonders will be on display at the Richmond Arts Center from January 26–March 13, 2010.  More information can be found at: http://www.therichmondartcenter.org/

LaQuita Tummings, Goddess, 2009

Hand quilted and hand appliqued, incorporation prismacolor pencil, 
33 x 31 inches

California quilter, Donna Hussain, has exhibited in major quilt shows around the country, authored books, and is a regular contributor to Fiber Focus. Click on her name to see all of her past articles.

The photo shows Donna with her husband, Pascha.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Kuchi Nomads: Today's Trail of Tears

 Kuchi Woman and Child, Wild Bohemian World

Often lumped together in the same group with the Banjara and other nomads, the Kuchi of Afghanistan are mostly Pashtun, linked together through culture and tradition, more than by ethnic roots.  I recently purchased a bunch of Kuchi beaded patches and have them listed in my Etsy store


 Kuchi Patch available through Rayela Art on Etsy

A nice slide show of Kuchi People:

My business, Rayela Art, focuses on ethnic textiles and remnants and I am always interested in the cultures these pieces represent.  And, as usual, a depressingly familia drama unfolds of poverty, injustice, lack of access to basic resources, and violations of both cultural life and the land.  Although I have had quite a bit of exposure to what goes on in Afghanistan through friends and the media, I will not claim any expertise on the plight of the Kuchi.  Instead, I found an article written by the Afghan Embassy in Japan that provides an excellent picture:

"The nomadic Kuchis are potentially the largest vulnerable population in Afghanistan. For centuries their semi-annual migrations with their herds of sheep, goats, donkeys, and camels led to important contributions in terms of skins, meat, and wool to local communities. More than 80% of Afghanistan's land is suitable only for sparse grazing making this sort of seasonal migration ideal. After the war against the Soviet Union, the subsequent years of foreign-imposed war, drought, and ethnic tensions, however, the number of Kuchis, as well as the size of their herds, has dropped dramatically.

The Kuchis were once celebrated in the west as handsome, romantic nomads adorned with silver and lapis jewelry. Traditionally, they have lived by selling or bartering animals, wool, meat, and dairy products for foodstuffs and other items with villagers. As they move from pasture to pasture, the Kuchis are able to escape the limits on the size of local herds, a restriction villagers are subjected to.

Since the fall of the Taliban, life for most Afghans has improved. However, this has not proved true for the Kuchis. Since the 1960's, 70's, and early 80's, the Kuchi population has shrunk by 40% and many of them reside in refugee or displacement camps. The reasons are numerous. The demise of the Kuchi tradition is the result of continued war, destruction of roads, drought, air raids, Soviet bombing and other war-related causes. These problems were further compounded by the fact that the drought from 1998 to 2002 caused the loss off 75% of the Kuchi herds. Pastures have still not recovered sufficiently. In addition, landmines and other unexploded ordinances have restricted the areas available for grazing. War also forced many Kuchis to flee their summer grazing lands in parts of central Afghanistan. When they returned, they found that locals in the areas had converted much of their pastures to farming lands.

Consequently, some Kuchis have given up their nomadic lifestyle and have taken up residence on the outskirts of cities, working as laborers. Many express a desire to return to their traditional role, but many aid agencies, however, concentrate on short-term economic and humanitarian aid, rather than the sort of long-term aid the Kuchis would need to rebuild their herds."

The situation is so bad that many Kuchi have ended up in refugee camps where life continues to offer misery and hunger:

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) also has an excellent report detailing both a Kuchi profile and the issues they face.  Here are some of the highlights:
  • Typically, there are three types of Kuchi: pure nomads, semi-sedentary and nomadic traders. The majority are semi-sedentary, living in the same winter area year after year. The purely nomadic Kuchi have no fixed abode, and are dependent on animals for their livelihood; their movements are determined by the weather and the availability of good pasturage. Traders constitute the smallest percentage of Kuchis; their main activity being the transport of goods. The semi-pastoral Kuchis are gradually tending towards a more sedentary way of life. The majority do so because they can no longer support themselves from their livestock.
  • The Kuchis constitute a great part of Afghanistan's cultural tradition. For centuries, they have migrated across the country in a search of seasonable pastures and milder weather. They were the main traders in Afghanistan, connecting South Asia with the Middle East. The livestock owned by the Kuchis made an important contribution in the national economy. They owned about 30 per cent of all the sheep and goats and most of the camels. Traditionally they exchanged tea, sugar matches etc. for wheat and vegetables with the settled people. They also acted as moneylenders and offered services in transportation along with additional labour at harvest time. Kuchi have been greatly affected by conflict, drought and demographic shifts. Therefore, it is only a small number of Kuchis who still follow their traditional livelihood of nomadic herding. Despite their history and their previous endowments the chronic state of instability in Afghanistan has left them among the poorest groups in the country.
  • With the development of the road system in Afghanistan in the 1950s and 1960s and the formation of road transportation companies with fleets of trucks, the traditional Kuchi camel caravan gradually became obsolete, greatly impacting the income and lifestyle of the community. The situation for the Kuchi became even more tenuous after the war and during the droughts of 1971-1972 and 1998-2002. These droughts are attributed with being responsible for the death of 75 per cent of the Kuchi animals.
  • During the Taliban regime, Kuchi nomads (being of Pashtun origin) were encouraged to settle on land that was already occupied by other ethnic groups. The lack of overall policy regarding land tenure and pasture rights by the authorities created prolonged disputes over the land and resources between the settled Afghans and the Kuchi. The traditional system of pasture rights seems to have been eroded and replaced by the power of the gun.
  • Kuchis who have livestock are often unable to drive their flocks to their traditional summer grazing pastures in the central highlands. Very little of the foreign assistance extended to Afghanistan by the international community has arrived to aid the Kuchis. Few assistance agencies work in the insecure areas in which they are located, and most donors emphasize short-term economic and humanitarian aid rather than the longer-term assistance the Kuchis need to rebuild their herds. As a result, most of the Kuchi today remain jobless and illiterate.
There are some efforts in progress trying to address these problems.  For example, the Afghanistan PEACE Project, a collaboration of USAID and other NGOs, have put together an assessment of pastoral needs for different areas in Afghanistan.  The major barriers they see for the Kuchi are access to water for themselves and their herds, access to veterinary services, and conflict with villages, warlords and among themselves as they compete for pasture and these resources.  None of these problems have a quick fix and most likely, the end of a proud heritage of living on the land will soon come to an end.

I feel a link to these people and to the other groups I represent when I handle their textiles and crafts.  Ironically, the Kuchi pieces I bought came from an American who is based over their with the US army.  There are many groups who would like to do much more in Afghanistan through handicraft production, but the country is still so dangerous, that most of the fair trade products are centralized in Kabul.  My hope is that someday, the Kuchi also will be able to access some of these services and make a living through the wonderful textile and beading skills they already possess.  I would like to wipe these tears away and when I look at the beaded patches, instead of a tear, each bead represents a bit of hope.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion for Rayela Art: Free Shipping!

A friend posted on Facebook that the lines had been forming in front of Best Buy early yesterday and that there were even many tents...  It always strikes me as such a testament to our screwed up values when people will suffer the weather or discomfort for the cause of discounts or sports, but we can't get people out for causes like human rights, the environment, or peace.

Big heavy sigh....  

On that note, here I am facing the big buying season of the year, hoping that I, too, will have some brisk business in my shops.  It's the big contradiction of my life:  I want to live simply so that others may simply live, and yet I love stuff, buy it and sell it.  Stuff that nobody really needs.  My comfort lies in that I truly believe that helping keep handcrafts alive is part of the fundamental picture of supporting self-sufficiency and encourages the arts to flourish on all levels.  Understanding the source of raw materials, how they can be used and allowing self and cultural expression to make a mark is the spiritual side of stuff.  Or, so I believe.

Kuchi Beaded Patch, Afghanistan

Most of "stuff" I carry are traditional textiles and remnants from ethnic groups around the world: Kuchi, Banjara, Kuna, Miao, and other minority groups.  Many of them face terrible odds against surviving as a people as we force industrialization, relocation, and war upon them.  These pieces of fabric represent long histories that may not be around for much longer.

Molas look fantastic when they are framed!

My target audience in buying is geared towards other fiber artists and sewers who can incorporate these bits and pieces of living history into their own work.  But, they also make wonderful gifts.  What can you do with a beaded patch like the one above?  The easiest thing to make it into a finished gift is to frame it.  If you sew, you can add it on to a bag, hat, book cover, or any fabric background, thus personalizing a simple commercial object.

Ralli Quilt from Pakistan

I also carry larger finished pieces like ralli quilts and suzani textiles.  These are perfect gifts for college kids who like tribal art or for anyone who enjoys these textiles.  Do you have a world traveler on your list?  Then you surely will find something in my store for that hard-to-buy-for person!

Rayela Art can also be found on 1000 Markets.  There you will find the things that I have made: Hats, bags, pillow covers.

After the Holiday season, I will focus on more of my own work, but first I have to finish listing all of the bins of "stuff" that are still going to go on Etsy and eBay.  (I am in the process of re-organizing my eBay store and as of today, it is empty, but will soon be back on track...)

Now, for my shameless self-promotion:
Mention this blog post and get free shipping in the US on any purchases through December 5th.  Overseas customers, I'll refund $5 off your shipping cost, but don't forget to mention this post!

And, to all of us, I offer up my sincere hope that we may all experience great joy and bountiful love in this season!  This can be a time for great stress and depression for many, but my hope is that we may all have peace and love in our hearts, today and every day.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks for Our Broken World and Hoping for Peace

Today is Thanksgiving here in the United States.  A day when most of us spend time with people we love, eat too much and hopefully think about all that we have to be thankful for in our lives.  It's a messed up world.  War, hunger and destruction all over the place.  Yet, there are pockets of hope, people coming together from many cultures, faiths, traditions, all calling for and working towards the basics that make life bountiful: safety, housing, food, education, and protection of our environment.

These videos are representative of some of these voices.  I know that I have many, many things to be thankful for and one of them is all the wonderful relationships that have come through this blog and other cyber networks.  We may live far from each other, but we may also keep each other close to our hearts.

May you be surrounded by peace and love in your corner of the world!  Happy Thanksgiving!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Deerwoman Designs Uses Beads from Afghan Tribal Arts

Carnelian, Jade and Turquoise Necklace 

Normally, I try to keep this blog's subject matters closely tied to themes that address textiles or fiber art.  But, I have two friends who have small businesses where beads dominate the scene.  Anita Ghaemi of Deerwoman Designs makes the beautiful jewelry shown in this post and Abdul Wardak of Afghan Tribal Arts supplies her and other jewelry makers and bead stores around the country with his hand-carved, natural beads from Afghanistan.  Actually, beads do not really stray far from the textile/fiber art road, as many of us love to incorporate them into our pieces.

Abdul has been my buddy for a long, long time now.  We used to be partners in a Chicago Gallery, Dara Tribal Village.  After I moved to Kentucky, I continued to sell online and he travels around wholesaling his products from Afghan Tribal Arts.  I have been helping him develop an online presence.  Abdul is a wonderful storyteller, but can't spell worth a dime.  He now has a store on Etsy and I have just loaded a bunch of his beads there. 

Flat Oval Jade Beads from Afghan Tribal Arts 
now available on Etsy!

These beads from Afghanistan have been hand-carved from semi-precious stones like jade, carnelian, lapis lazuli and onyx.  Afghanistan has long supplied artisans all over the world with its vast mineral natural resources.  The coveted lapis lazuli, only found there and in Chile, made its way into glass work, inlay, mosaics, and illuminated manuscripts in the Middle Ages.  Today's bead market has changed a great deal since those days as synthetics, dyes and cheap imitations undermine the value of these natural stones.  We decided to list the beads on Etsy as strands instead of selling them as single beads partly because it is easier for me to keep track of his inventory this way.  So, a strand can cost between $10-$100, depending on the value of the stone, the cut and its length.

Deerwoman Designs uses lapis heishi with sterling silver spacers 
and semi-precious stones as focal beads.

The cost of the beads can be quite an investment, yet the beauty of these stones are easily seen when compared to their cheaper competitors.  Unpolished stones like these take on a deep luster as they are worn, absorbing the oils of the skin.  And, to those who also look for the healing properties found in the stones, minerals and fluids have greater exchange values in the raw state.

Jade heishi beads from Afghan Tribal Arts.

The bigger stones usually take center stage over smaller, simpler ones.  Yet, examine Anita's necklaces closely and look at how she uses the tiny heishi beads to emphasize the larger focal ones.  Glass seed beads, a much cheaper option, would also look fine, but don't you think that these natural heishis complement the larger beads perfectly?  Artists like Anita help us see these components in a new way, illustrating how an assortment of stones can be made into wonderful wearable art!

Deerwoman Designs also makes great use of tribal pendants.  I have listed a few, but have several more in line, waiting for their turn.  For example, this Turkman pendant would be quite the eye catcher as the main jewel on a beaded necklace:

Turkman pendant from Afghan Tribal Arts.
A gazelle, once abundant in Afghanistan, carved into turquoise.

A Turkman pendant adorns this strand of mixed 
stones by Deerwoman Designs.

Afghan Tribal Arts has a website with samples of beads that are usually in stock.  Go take a look and if you see something you really like, send me a request.  Copy and paste the photo into an email so that I can have a visual.  Abdul makes regular stops by my house and if he has the beads you want on his van, I can add them on to the Etsy selection.  We have decided that instead of adding a shopping cart to his website, we would use Etsy as the retail platform.  If you have a tax id # and want to buy in quantities, you can also send me wholesale requests and I will pass those on to him.  (My email is on the top right hand corner of this blog.)

A beautiful lapis lazuli necklace by 

Deerwoman Designs has a retail store on Artisans Market and on Etsy.  You can also follow her through her blog.



Monday, November 16, 2009

Print Your Own Fabric with Karma Kraft!

Have you ever wanted to design your own fabric?  I've thought of many ideas that I would have liked to explore, but never really researched it.  I received this email today, introducing Karma Kraft, just such a printing operation.  There is no minimum yardage requirement and the prices and quality seemed fair.  They also offer a variety of fabrics, including organic cotton and silks.  The only downside that I saw is that they are a North Carolina operation (formerly a center for producing textiles in the United States) operating out of China.  I would have been even more excited if they were a US operation...

The email is reprinted below:

New Website Allows Users To Design Their Own Custom Fabrics and Patterns.
KarmaKraft.com proving popular for novice crafters, professional designers and more.

(Raleigh, North Carolina) – It’s a unique online service that has been used to create custom fabric for innovative clothing, pillows, wall art, handbags & purses, bedding, table linens and even surfboards. KarmaKraft.com is a design-oriented digital fabric printing company that allows anyone to upload their own fabric design online to create digitally printed 58-inch custom fabrics. 

“You design it, we print it,” says KarmaKraft.com founders Susan Lu and Scott Jeffreys - in three simple steps:
1) Upload the design to www.KarmaKraft.com
2) Select the desired material or product you want
3) Purchase as much or as little of the custom fabric as needed

What makes KarmaKraft.com different and unique?

KarmaKraft.com eliminates the costly set-up fees and minimums that are imposed by traditional printing methods. KarmaKraft.com also eliminates the need to understand Photoshop or other advanced computer-aided design (CAD) systems to get a design printed. Upcoming designers, homemakers, small business owners, and graphic artists now have the ability to print their own design with no color limitations, on a wide variety of fabric qualities such as cotton, linen, silk and more.
KarmaKraft.com can help anyone from novice crafters to professional designers create their own signature designs. They even offer custom cut and sew services to make items like pillows, pet beds, scarves, tablecloths or personal apparel and more -- all with custom-designed fabric. KarmaKraft.com even offers a “Designer Gallery” under the “Fab Favs” section of the site where designers can post their fabrics designs: http://karmakraft.com/fabfavs.aspx
KarmaKraft.com uses reactive dyes for their cotton, linen and silk qualities and disperse dyes for the polyester. Most digital printing companies just use textile pigment dyes for their product. Printing with reactive and disperse dyes makes the fabric more vivid in color, washable and softer in hand than other digital printing companies offering pigment dyed fabrics.
The KarmaKraft.com custom fabrics range from $20 - $32 per yard and there is no minimum order requirement. KarmaKraft.com’s professional cutting and sewing services range from $10 - $18.
For more information go to: www.KarmaKraft.com


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Toms Shoes: Buy a Pair and They GIVE a Pair!

Need a new pair of shoes?  How about a comfy pair that will also serve a good cause?  Toms Shoes modeled their slippers on traditional alpagartas indigenous to South America.  The story goes like this:

In 2006 an American traveler, Blake Mycoskie, befriended children in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One. Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff later that year with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by caring TOMS customers.

Since our beginning, TOMS has given over 150,000* pairs of shoes to children in need through the One for One model. Because of your support, TOMS plans to give over 300,000 pairs of shoes to children in need around the world in 2009.
Our ongoing community events and Shoe Drop Tours allow TOMS supporters and enthusiasts to be part of our One for One movement. Join us.

Blake talks about how the idea came to him:

Similar slippers have been standards throughout the world.  We know that they are comfortable.  Our feet like them!  And, not only is Toms helping barefoot people around the world get some basic, comfy shoes, the materials they use also help follow green practices.  They use recycled plastics and natural materials like hemp.

Toms shoes!  Attractive footwear with a social mission!
Visit their website to shop and learn more.

People like Blake give testimony to the difference one person can make when they commit themselves to address basic needs people have.  We cannot all make such a huge impact, yet we can all participate by sharing the good news and encouraging others to join in.  Blake can only make this impact because thousands of others have seen the vision and participated through their purchases, volunteer work and vocal support.  Kudos to all of you at Toms Shoes!

Toms Shoes is all over the place!  Find them on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube.


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